Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Stupid American

Today I was selling my wares at a multicultural/international event at a university. Next to me was vendor who was talking to a customer for quite some time. He was from Milwaukee but appeared to be of middle eastern origin. His customer was speaking amiably and enthusiastically until he asked her where she was from. Her reply was "I'm from stupid America."

And this pretty well sums up the multicultural mindset. Celebrate other cultures, denigrate our own. Stupid indeed.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

On Progressives and Aversion to Truth

Lately I have been discussing characteristics of liberal progressives, noting a general hostility toward Israel and an ideological litmus test for friendship. Today I add aversion to the truth to that growing list of negative characteristics.

I just read Kay's Blue Racine where a full throated progressivism is on daily display. Today Kay is outraged at some anti-abortion advertisements that state that the womb is the most dangerous place for a black baby and that a potential black leader is aborted every 21 minutes. Kay did not attempt to refute the ads. Rather, they just seem to make her angry. Of course, it is not the deaths of millions of black babies that makes her angry. It is that someone dares to tell the truth.

But it is not just abortion truth that outrages the far left. The terrorist problem in the world and the US is almost entirely a Muslim phenomenon. Crime rates are higher among blacks than most other ethnicities in the US. Lower tax rates often result in more tax revenue. Bad teachers exist in public schools. Single parent families contribute to social ills when compared to two parent families. These and other truths simply can't be tolerated on the far left.

Monday, March 28, 2011

On Progressive Insularity

Over the years, I have on numerous occasions been rejected personally because of the views that I have, hold, explain and espouse. But I have no similar political litmus test for friendship. It seems to be a one way street, and the further to the left, the likelier one is to limit their potential friendships in this manner. It is these folks on the extreme left that don't simply think that conservatives are mistaken and can be won over with persuasive argument. Attempts at argument have not persuaded the conservative who has heard it all before and reached other conclusions. The liberal then concludes that the conservative is therefore evil in some or multiple ways. Never will they consider much less conclude that their own arguments are ineffective, simplistic or mistaken. It then follows that said conservative must be shunned, ridiculed, rejected, boycotted etc.... because they are evil.

The unfortunate result of this childishness is coarsened rhetoric and an insularity that explains why these folks never seem to think they are wrong or outside the mainstream. Heck, all their friends agree with them.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

On Firing Lousy Teachers

I had a wonderful conversation with a public school teacher yesterday. There was much agreement between us, so I won't reveal her name, lest she be ostracized by her more militant peers.

Of particular interest to me was our discussion on the problem of ineffective teachers. For starters, she acknowledged quite readily that there are some teachers that need to go. But she seemed to defend to some degree the current method to remove lousy teachers, a method created via collective bargaining. To me this should have caused her a bit of cognitive dissonance because on the one hand she recognizes the need to get rid of lousy teachers while on the other hand she defended a process that makes it all but impossible.

My own view is that an education system that is unable to root out lousy teachers isn't really "for the children" and ought to be an embarrassment for teachers serious about educating children.

Of course there is no utopian solution to the problem. That said, there must be a method for firing, not relocating, lousy teachers. That power should be held by an administrator who is in turn held accountable for his/her decisions. It is true that an administrator might wrongly fire a teacher, or worse, do so for nefarious reasons. Again, this should lead to the firing of an unprofessional administrator. And so on up the chain of command.

This task is much harder when the organization is a political one and harder still if the organization is large. Smaller units, say, individual schools, held responsible for results would be a step in the right direction. Of course this takes power away from the teachers union. That is what should happen because it is the teachers union which created a system that makes it all but impossible to fire a lousy teacher. The union too should be held responsible for their lousy results.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

On Liberals and Israel

I was asked by my son yesterday why liberals tend not to like Israel very much. This was a very difficult question for me, as I don't really understand the liberal animosity towards Israel and I don't want to unfairly represent the liberal position. After a bit I suggested he ask a friend of his who proudly claims to be a communist.

The young communist answer was that Israel was a militaristic country and that liberals don't like war, though he acknowledged that Israel was living among hostile neighbors.

I thought this was an interesting answer. Granted, it was provided by a ninth grade communist, but I don't think he was off the mark in portraying a liberal take on the issue. The problem with this view, if accurate, is that it unfairly focusses on the militarism of Israel, without which it would certainly be wiped off the map.

If Israel were to adopt the liberal position, that is, disarm and hope for peace, it would certainly be wiped off the map. This is eerily similar to the dreams and aspirations of so many of Israel's hostile neighbors.

Now I don't think for a minute that liberals want Israel wiped off the map. Rather, I think they refuse to see the world as it is. It is a dangerous place, especially for Israel. The preferred method of resolving grievances - negotiation, diplomacy etc...- simply can't work if one party to the dispute wants the other party to be dead.

Liberal fantasies don't help much in this situation.

Monday, March 21, 2011

No on RUSD Referenda

Last week I heard snippets of a radio interview with RUSD superintendent Dr. Shaw. I wasn't paying close attention to the interview but I do recall the repeated use of the word "reinvestment" as part of a pitch to pass the three upcoming referenda.

As a business owner, I know a bit about reinvestment. Most importantly, the word implies that you got a return on a previous investment such that there is something there to reinvest. Certainly this is not the case with Racine Unified. Obviously there is no money to reinvest, hence the need to pass the referenda. Re the educational return, again, the previous investments have not yielded results.

In my business as in all others small enough to fail, a series of bad investments would result in unpleasant consequences ending in the most unpleasant, bankruptcy.

As we consider RUSD's request for more money, we should ask ourselves whether we are indeed "reinvesting" or whether we are funding an operation that is making repeated bad "investments" that will ultimately bankrupt the "investors", ie, the Racine area.

Now suppose you agree to some extent that RUSD is a failure. Still, you wonder, what good will it do if we don't fund RUSD? Won't it be even worse than it is now? This is indeed the dilemma for the vast majority of people in Racine. They want a good school system, and they wouldn't mind paying for a good one, but they realize RUSD ain't it.

I have over the years grappled with exactly these questions. I have concluded that RUSD is simply unable to reform itself. It exists for the adults and their retirements and their health care. Real reform in education will not come from our public education "leaders." It will come from the public. It will come when we recognize that the lack of resources is not the problem at RUSD. It will come when we recognize that a government monopoly is not the way to provide critical services. It will come when RUSD no longer has a stranglehold on the education market in the Racine area.

Don't fund a losing operation that leads only to financial and educational bankruptcy. Ask instead for something better, like a school voucher system that will allow kids to attend private schools. Vote no on the latest series of school referenda.

Monday, March 14, 2011

He took er job

The Journal Times has a cool story about a middle school kid at Prairie who is helping other kids in math at the Racine Public Library.

We are in Racine, so look for a teachers union grievance any day now.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Unified Kickback?

The Journal Times has a commentary on the Unified headquarters deal. The JT points out that Unified paid $3.8 million for property last sold in 2008 for $2.5 million and last assessed at $2.95 million in 2010. The JT rightly points out that it was not such a good deal.

I will go a step further. Nobody spending their own money would agree to such a deal. The only way it makes sense is if there is a kickback of some sort involved.

On the other hand, if any credible accusations of the sort (mine is pure speculation and conjecture, admittedly) were to surface, the folks at Unified have prepared a great defense. That is, they always squander the taxpayers money, nothing to see here.

No Shame

The Journal Times has a photo today of five returning Wisconsin state senators, arms raised in triumph in front of the Wisconsin State Capitol.

Where are the crowds chanting "Shame... Shame... Shame" when you need them?

Friday, March 11, 2011

Progressive Values Explained

Piecing together the fragments of far left political orthodoxy can be a daunting task - don't try it at home. Leave that task to me.

When elections or school referenda come around, the left will stress the importance of voting. We must have an informed and active electorate to ensure the proper functioning of our democracy blah blah blah. We need to get kids involved in this process early, so we will take them out of school to urge people to vote, so long as they live in Democratic wards.

After the election, depending on the outcome, there may need to be retribution. Voting and political participation are good - see previous paragraph - unless we don't like the outcome. It is important to punish those who voted the wrong way. Let's boycott those businesses that gave money to the candidates that we don't like. This will demonstrate our love for working people.

This boycotting business can get a little tricky. Those Koch brothers have their greedy paws involved in virtually every business imaginable. Time to swear off butt wiping because a subsidiary of the Koch brothers owns a 12% stake in a paper company that subcontracts with a non-union trucking company that delivers to PDQ, whose owner gave money to a pro-marriage initiative in California... And lets not forget Culvers, M$I bank, their investors, Woodman's cause they are non -union, no wait they are good cause they are employee owned, Taco Bell doesn't provide a suitable pension for the Mexican tomato pickers and on and on.

It is important to bring these businesses to their knees so they have to lay off the workers that we love. And we don't have to worry about failing businesses because those damn businesses aren't paying any taxes anyway, we'll show em dammit. The whole private sector is just so greedy, we should join Michael Moore, declare their wealth a national resource and take it, proving once and for all our selflessness and generosity.

Now kids, today we are going to talk about bullying. We must learn to get along and appreciate, even celebrate, our differences. Bullying is wrong, unless you disagree with the political agenda of the teachers union. Then we try to destroy the business that employs your mother. Oh I know, she is a sweet woman, she votes the right, er, correct way and everything, but she works for a company whose Chief Financial Officer gave money to Scott Walker, so she will have to be sacrificed, for you kids of course.

So, to conclude this lesson on liberalism, we value voting, democratic participation, a socially just marketplace, workers, diversity, fairness and getting along with people who are different than us, unless our pension deal is threatened.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Da Man

Scott Walker is da man!

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Poll Question

I have been paying fairly close attention to the Madison standoff. I have heard of numerous polls concerning whether unions should pay more for health care and pensions. I have heard of polls asking whether or not Governor Walker should limit collective bargaining for state employees. Both sides of the divide use the results to bolster their respective arguments.

I have yet to hear of a poll concerning the missing state senators. My own view is that this is not an inconsequential question. I can't imagine that leaving your job to prevent a vote would poll well with the vast majority of Americans.

I can understand why most of the media would avoid the question. But I can't fathom why Fox News wouldn't ask the question.

Anyway, I am just a tad puzzled by the lack of polling on this issue. My hope would be that it would poll terribly such that neither party would ever again try such a stunt.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

RUSD Spends $14,000 Per Student

The Journal Times has an article today headlined "Unified to lose $19.1 million." Scary stuff right? How can we possibly teach our children with per student spending that exceeds tuition at The Prairie School?

The JT article points out that Unified had a budget last year of $294 million. And over the years, student enrollment has held steady at about 21,000 students, that is if you trust the pizza party/principal head shaving on the roof/free ipod counting methods currently used to calculate student enrollment. Anyway, grab a calculator and divide the big number by the little number and you get $14,000 in spending per student. Shave $19 million off, recalculate and the per student spending exceeds $13,000. Prairie tuition is tad short of $13 K. And most private schools are far less expensive then Prairie.

These are numbers to keep in mind when the usual suspects cry foul and implore you to vote for increased spending referenda.

Friday, March 04, 2011

On Ideological Freedom

Like most people I suppose, I have been exposed to a mixed bag of political influences over the years. I have no recollection of political conversations at home as a child, but I do recall an emphasis on education (that I promptly ignored) and Catholicism that all of my siblings and I ignored. I went to high school at Prairie here in town and again have little recollection of political influences as little if any instruction pertained to politics. It was only in college that I began to concern myself a bit with politics and the political view was decidedly liberal. I was mentored by Catholic priest and former member of the US House of representatives, one Father Cornell, a Democrat. After college I got a master degree in school social work. I was a lefty but not particularly hard core. I was in my 30's before I before I began a gradual rethinking of my world view that accelerated when I happened upon a book by one Dr. Thomas Sowell who articulated clearly, methodically and logically many of the thoughts that were germinating in my head at the time.

I share this biographical information as it pertains to a conversation I had yesterday with a highly educated customer of mine. Her view, if I can summarize it accurately, is that I have returned philosophically to the "indoctrination" of my formative years. She had to be going on her way and our conversation ended amicably as always, but it did get me thinking.

Are we all just prisoners of a world view imposed on us during our formative years? I hardly think so. If I had been successfully indoctrinated, I would be a practicing Catholic professor somewhere. I have four siblings. Most of us have rejected Catholicism to one degree or another. We have absorbed I think the value of education. And most of us are left of center with one notable exception. Sounds like a thoroughly botched indoctrination job by my parents!

My own view is that I am an adult who has carefully considered the many influences that I have been exposed to over the years, rejecting some, keeping others and discovering entirely new ones on my own. What a sad existence to believe that you have no free will and that you are merely a slave of your upbringing.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

When Will It End Mr. President?

"When will it end?" The Journal Times asks this question today in their print edition, referring, of course, to the political standoff in Madison.

The simple answer to the question is that it will end when the state senators who have left their jobs return to them. But it ain't that simple.

I have noticed the nearly complete lack of criticism of the fleeing lawmakers by prominent national Democrats. Not a senator, not a house member, not Maureen Dowd, or Paul Krugman, or even the sports guy turned politico who used to work at MSNBC, have criticized the absent senators. And most importantly, President Obama too, has been silent on the matter.

Now it is not as though these folks aren't paying attention or that they are too timid to weigh in on a contentious political matters. President Obama has weighed in publicly at least twice in support of the government unions.

What to make of the silence from President Obama on down concerning the fleeing 14 state senators? Of lesser importance, fleeing your job probably doesn't poll well with Americans. Of great importance, President Obama AGREES with the tactic. If he didn't, he would say so, if not publicly then behind the scenes. And if he said so, would all fourteen Democratic state senators defy pressure from the President of the United States? Hell no!

For over two hundred years, we have decided matters of great importance through an established political process. We vote for representatives who in turn decide important matters with input, often contentious and raucous, from anyone who wants to weigh in. Admittedly, the governing bodies in power of both parties will sometimes use their majorities to rush things through the system to their advantage. The process can be ugly but we have tended to agree that it beats all other alternatives. And in the end, there is a vote, the matter is decided. If you lose, you resolve to convince voters to toss the other guys out of office at the next election.

But now the Democratic Party, from President Obama on down, is changing the way we decide matters. If we don't like how the vote will go down, we flee to prevent a vote. We break the established rules. We replace a voting process with protesters. It is an ends justifies the means approach to governing and it is ominous for our country. And publicly at least it has the tacit approval of the President of the United States.

Now back to the "when will it end" question. I don't know, but it could and should end with President Obama saying something like:

I support unions and collective bargaining. I am discouraged that the Republican Party of Wisconsin has the votes to diminish the collective bargaining powers of the state workers unions. As important as collective bargaining rights are, there is something of much greater importance. Voting. It is how we decide matters here in America. The state senators who have fled the state need to return and do their job representing their constituents. If they don't like the result of that vote, they can work hard to convince the people of Wisconsin to move in another direction. But the people of Wisconsin recently voted for Governor Scott Walker and he has the votes to move in a direction that you may not like. But as I like to say, elections have consequences.

Like I said, this is how the standoff could and should end. But it won't, because President Obama apparently agrees with tactics that undermine 200 plus years of political tradition in our country.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Economic Fantasies of the Left

From Kay at Blue racine: Well, I don't get your logic then. You want people to make less money so you can pay less in taxes and then those people will spend less in stores like yours and that benefits you how? I'm going to take a wild leap here and guess your college degree wasn't in accounting or basic economics type of areas?

So according to Kay, I should be opposed to Governor Walkers budget because it would be in my financial interest to do so. Notice the assumption that financial self interest should be the motivating factor here, that we should use the political process to get what we can get. And they call us greedy and selfish.

Now on to the economics. Kay's assumption is that if the government pays people more they will spend more, like at my store, and everything will be peachy. There is no apparent consideration of where the money comes from to pay the government union folks the additional money.

I wish Kay's economic illiteracy was the exception on the left. Unfortunately, this thinking is the norm in the party, trickling down to Kay from President Obama.

I have read somewhere or other that a bad economist will look only at all the wonderful things you can do with money, like ensure a fine standard of living for public employees. A good economist will consider the other potential uses of said money. Like Kay, the left only considers one side of the equation.

In contrast, I have to look a bit deeper. Where does the money come from to pay greater than the market rate for public employees? Well it comes from the profit making sector of the economy, ie the private sector. What will happen if too much money is pulled from the private sector? The private sector will have less money available to pay salaries or reinvest in other profitable, that is, taxable ventures.

Obviously there are a lot more problems with the Kay/Democrat economic theory. To name a few, there is a temptation to tax the hell out of the rich/most productive as though that would have no consequences on the economy. Or to simply print more money and pretend it retains its value - reality be damned. Or to borrow and keep pushing the problem down the road as though our creditors will keep lending and forget to collect.

It is true Kay, I don't have a degree in economics or accounting. But I do have a functioning brain and I can observe the obvious. The lefts fantasy economic theories have been tried repeatedly and have failed repeatedly throughout history. And they are failing here again.