Sunday, February 28, 2010

Inconvenient News Wished Away

Al Gore is back unflinchingly addressing recent inconvenient news about global warming.

"In addition, e-mail messages stolen from the University of East Anglia in Britain showed that scientists besieged by an onslaught of hostile, make-work demands from climate skeptics may not have adequately followed the requirements of the British freedom of information law."

Yes folks, this is all that Al had to say about the e-mails from East Anglia. Some scientists harassed by skeptics just might have inadequately "followed the requirements of the British freedom of information law."

Al's entire essay is called "We can't Wish Away Climate Change" and can be found at the New York Times.

We can't wish away climate change but we CAN wish away substantive challenges to climate change orthodoxy.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Have a Cow

Mayor Dickert is just the latest of folks who mistakenly elevate the importance of home ownership. Home ownership is definitely correlated with good stuff like reduced crime. Study after study is cited to prove the correlation. The mistake is to conclude that government should try to see to it that people should own homes. I think I can best make this argument via example.

I have an idea that is way better than home ownership. Cow ownership. Cows are cheaper than homes so government subsidy or outright purchase of cows for Racine residents will save lots of money.

Let us consider cow owners. I have no study to cite, but I suspect that cow owners break the law (with the possible exception of bestiality) at a lower rate than your average homeowner, not to mention renters. Cow owners have jobs and work longer hours than the public at large. Compared to non-cow owners, cow owners tend to stay in the same home for several generations in a row, adding stability to cow owning neighborhoods. Cow owners do well in school, have jobs, don't commit crimes, all while owning homes. I am sure there are other societal benefits to cow ownership that I haven't even considered, oh like milk. Can a house feed a family?

Let's face it. Cow ownership is much better for society than home ownership. But even if you are skeptical, realize that cow owners also own homes. So if your goal is home ownership for Racine residents, it will be far wiser and cheaper to buy a cow for every Racine resident. Then sit back and watch the unemployment and crime rates drop to zero, while the graduation and home ownership rates climb towards 100%.

Levie's Revenge?

There is an interesting article at the Racine Post concerning a policy proposal dealing with police/student interaction.

A Horlick social studies teacher named Al Levie was arrested a few years back for obstructing a police officer who wanted to question one of Levie's students. Levie fought the charges, won, then lost on appeal.

A previous Racine Post article quoted Levie on the incident. "This is an incident between the union and the administration" and "I'll have input into that issue" and "We as a district have to decide how we'll use police in the schools." The Racine Post also notes that Levie indicated that he "would start a discussion within Unified about the role of police in schools."

Now the recent Racine Post doesn't indicate whether this policy proposal was initiated by Levie, but Levie's own words suggest that he would initiate a Racine Unified policy response. As the president of Racine Horlicks teachers union, he would have every opportunity to do so.

The question before Racine Unified is whether to allow a radical teacher with a conflict of interest to determine RUSD policy. Al Levie is known to actively support in state tuition for people who illegally reside in the State of Wisconsin, a policy change that would favor lawbreakers over legal citizens from other states.. Additionally, he organizes his students to support this and other political objectives.

One response by Unified to this incident is the one possibly authored by Al Levie. Another would be to issue a set of guidelines for firing teachers who break the law at our public schools.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Shotgun Bipartisanship

A man approached me in the street and said he wanted my wallet.

Go %$#@! yourself, I said.

"Look, this negotiation will be more pleasant and productive if you don't force me to use my gun" said the man.

If you haven't already guessed, the preceding incident never happened. As it happens, I was thinking about President Obama's supposed bipartisan health care summit with Republicans. The president is bringing a gun to the negotiations. That gun is reconciliation, a procedural maneuver never before used to enact major legislation. To be sure, it is a concealed gun, the cameras won't see it and the newsies won't mention it, but everyone in the room will know it's there. If the Republicans don't act in good faith, ie handing over their wallets, and yours, then Obama et al will pull out the rec. This is not a negotiation. It is a political mugging.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Discriminating Thoughts

Some Carthage students attempted to prevent a speech on campus because, in their view, the speaker opposes homosexuality. The Carthage administration has, wisely IMHO, decided to allow the speech. Some Carthage students are protesting, claiming discrimination.

I am not weighing in here on the morality of homosexuality. Rather, I find it disturbing that large numbers of college students are unable to recognize the difference between disagreement and discrimination.

Free Racine readers who disagree with may assessment will be banned as I will not be discriminated against by the likes of you.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Joke of the Day

A debate on stem cell research at Kay's Blue Racine included the following exchange:

Sean: Is a brain dead 80 year old's life as valuable as that of a vibrant 25 year old mother?

Nemo: Your 80 year old person example is strange. Is a brain dead person less of a person? Well, yes. A Brain dead person is dead. Dead people are not human...unless you count the President's "corpse-men" helping in Haiti...

Economic Effrontery

I watched President Obama's press conference today, the one year anniversary of TARP/The Recovery Act. TARP has created or saved some millions of jobs he said, and if you don't believe him, ask Will the windowmaker who had to start a second shift at his factory. Or ask Rob the roadbuilder who had to hire two new engineers. Or Sally the schoolteacher. You get the idea.

I don't know whether to be embarrassed for the president or insulted by him. Does the president really think these are persuasive arguments or does he just think we are stupid?

No mention was made about where the money came from to enrich Will, Rob and Sally. The money of course comes from borrowing and thus has to be paid off some day by Holly the hypothetical hygienist and Elsa the eventual electrician.

Now it may be that TARP was a huge success. But to make that claim, you need to acknowledge that the money borrowed from some to enrich others has been or will be worth the tradeoff. And supportive evidence would be nice. But instead the president just pretends that anything that has helped Will, Rob and Sally must be self evidently good.

I don't think President Obama is economically illiterate. I think he is just trying to pull one over on Americans.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

On Group Speech

The recent Supreme Court decision concerning corporate speech has liberals up in arms. "Corporations are not people" is the bumper sticker phrase that is used as a substitute for a substantive argument on the issue.

True enough, corporations are not people. But then again, lots of things are not people. Newspapers are not people. Unions are not people. The Chamber of Commerce is not a person. Neither is the PTA, the Republican Party, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Planned Parenthood.... you get the idea.

Do liberals really think that only individuals should have the right to affect elections and or policy decisions via advertisements or campaign contributions? Or is it OK that some groupings of people, such as those who own newspapers, have the right to try to sway public opinion, but that other groupings of people, such as those who own a technology company, have no such right? If so, which groupings of people have rights and which ones don't, and who decides?

Monday, February 08, 2010

Council Vote Theory

I have been away for a while and was unable to comment on the church/conditional use permit vote in the city council. For starters, they voted correctly in my view, and the vote was nearly unanimous. Of most interest to me was the vote of Alderman Greg Helding who just a day earlier was the spokesman for the city's position - throw the church to the curb, we've got better ideas. But when it came time to vote, Helding voted against his own stated position and the position of the economic development committee.

So what happened? Were Helding et al persuaded by the speakers during the public comment period? Are we witnessing a shift in principles away from government edicts and towards greater economic freedom? Was the council feeling pressure from media sources outside the area?

My own theory is that there is no shift in principles. The council responded to pressure and pressure only, as they always do. Nothing has changed. If they can get away with it the next time, they will.

Of course Greg Helding and the other aldermen may use this forum to offer an alternative explanation for the about face.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Church Gets Conditionally Screwed

Racine's City Plan Commission has voted to deny the New Life Christian Fellowship Church a conditional use permit; a move that, if approved by the full city council, would force the church to relocate from their present location.

As readers are certainly aware, cities accross the country have zoning laws. These laws are intended to allow cities the ability to designate certain areas for certain purposes. Racine has such laws on the books. However, a few years ago, under the leadership of former Mayor Becker, Racine passed a law requiring that businesses, churches, etc... get a conditional use permit. The full city council ultimately decides the issue.

The problem with the conditional use permit requirement is that in effect nullifies existing zoning law, at least that is how I see it, though I am not a lawyer. Alderman Helding more or less acknowledges as much. How so? Well, the City Plan Comission also recommends a "120 day moratorium on any new occupancy permits requested by noncommercial uses in commercially zoned areas," a move that would allow the city to "tune up" city zoning laws, according to Alderman Helding. Tuning up a law is just another way of saying that they intend to change the zoning law that presently exists so that the New Life Christian Church may be legally denied the use of their property.

I placed a call to the city attorneys office, hoping to learn whether the location in question is presently zoned for churches. No answer and I left no message but I will keep trying.

If anyone wishes to weigh in on this subject, you may do so tommorrow at city hall at 7 pm.

UPDATE: I talked to Matt Sadowski at the City Development Office today. If I understood him correctly, the city passed an ordinance pertaining to many of Racine's business districts, including the one in question. Under the ordinance, any change of use of a property could trigger the requirement of a conditional use permit. From the sounds of it, the ordinance transfers considerable power to the city development director Brian O'Connell, who may also waive the requirement.

My opinion is that this ordinance allows the city to repeal or enforce zoning laws arbitrarily. One reason to have laws is so that people can reasonably expect consistent treatment. So now, in addition to business plans, rental agreements and so on, add political favor to the list of requirements to opening a business. This ordinance needs to be repealed.