Friday, February 28, 2014

Consultants to the Rescue

I recently had an encounter with a city employee whom I thought had retired. Well yes, he had, but he has come back as a consultant. I was razzing him a bit about the double dipping, and then he said it saves the city money. I dropped the matter with him but I wondered how such an arrangement could save money for the city.

I think I have got it. It would indeed be cheaper to have a retired worker and a "consultant" who doesn't get another pension etc... than it would be to have a retired worker and a new worker, as the new worker comes with pension and health insurance expenses. I get that.

An even cheaper alternative exists apparently. Since Racine now hires "consultants" in lieu of city workers, why not lay off all of our city workers and give them first crack at coming back as consultants?

Thursday, February 27, 2014

On Discrimination and Equal Protection

In light of the recent Arizona controversy involving the freedom of businesses to discriminate on the basis of deeply held religious beliefs, I thought I would weigh in with my own, I think, decidedly minority point of view on business discrimination.

A few years back we rehabbed the second floor of our commercial building, adding two apartments above. This rehab represented by far the largest investment in our lives and we certainly wanted to be very discriminating (not in the racial, orientation etc... sense, of course) in selecting tenants, as everything we had worked for up to that point was on the line. It occurred to me that I should understand very clearly the law as it pertained to illegal housing discimination. So I headed over to the Fair Housing office in Racine, you know, the folks who will come after you if you illegally discriminate. Unbelievably, they we unable to clarify the law for me, instead sending me to some website or brochure produced by the Agriculture Department. And no, I am not making this up.

At about this time I figured I was on my own, vulnerable to a lawsuit if I rejected a protected applicant for the apartment. As it turns out, we did reject a few people for reasons that I wouldn't have wanted to explain in court. Word of mouth info and intuition definitely came in to play and I don't suspect those explanations would go over so well in a courtroom. Anyway, thankfully the rejected applicants were white and I did not fear or experience retribution. I now wonder what might have happened if I had rejected a black tenant with "intuition" as my rationale. I suspect I could find myself trying to prove that I wasn't a racist, an impossible proposition for anyone.  When one is accused of racism, the innocent until proven guilty rules seem not to apply.

The answer in my mind to the problem is to let anyone discriminate for whatever flipping reason they want. I know, that sounds awful. Let me explain. As a businessman, I am entirely dependent on customers for my livelihood. I could theoretically have disdain for every category of human imaginable,  but I would need them for my business to prosper. The market would severely punish a business if it openly and blatantly discriminated. What would happen if it were legal and I put a sign in my window reading "No N-words Allowed!" Not only would I lose my valued black customers but I would probably lose all my other customers as well as they would be rightly repulsed by my racism. The left, always keen on creating regulations, always underestimates or utterly fails to understand the power of a free market to regulate the behavior of businesses.

Now it is amateur lawyer time. Do laws prohibiting business discrimination violate the concept of equal protection under the law? Consider the following: As a business owner, suppose I announced that I will hereafter refuse to serve black customers. Big trouble with the law, right? Now suppose the NAACP organized a boycott against me because I was white and because blacks should support black owned businesses. Perfectly legal, right? Why is that not illegal as well? Where is my equal protection from racial discrimination? People can freely patronize or reject businesses for whatever reason they want, and this is as it should be. In the interest of equality, I believe that the same protection should be available to business owners.

And what would happen then? Absolutely nothing! In the exceedingly rare case where a Christian photographer doesn't want to work a gay wedding, for example, the gay couple will easily find another business more than willing to do so. And businesses could proceed according to their values without worrying about crippling lawsuits.

And lastly, I noted above that my perspective on this matter is likely very much in the minority. And while this point is unrelated to the subject above, isn't the inclusion of minority perspectives the bulk of the rationale for affirmative action? Celebrate diversity lefties!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Government Discrimination

Two stories, one local, one national, seemingly unrelated.

Arizona Governor Brewer just vetoed a bill that would have allowed religious business owners a measure of protection from lawsuits concerning discrimination. So a baker could refuse to make a cake for a gay wedding, for example, without fear of a lawsuit.

In Racine, Mayor Dickert and numerous others are being sued in federal court for racial discrimination against minority bar owners. I don't actually think the city is discriminating against minority bar owners so much as they are discriminating against young black bar patrons. Bar owners are collateral damage.

So what do these stories have in common? The short answer is discrimination. In the AZ case, the government considered granting private sector businesses the right to discriminate if they were adhering to deeply held religious convictions. Full confession - I haven't delved deeply into the AZ issue. The Racine case is a much more egregious case of discrimination that has been perpetrated by government for nearly a decade now. The Racine case should be getting the national attention but it won't because Racine is a heavily Democratic city.

I have observed the liquor license dance now for several years. It goes like this. Prospective liquor license holder is grilled in front of the licensing committee. Prospective license holder (hereafter plh) seeks to assure the committee and ultimately the city council and the mayor that he will not cause them any problems. The plh's are not stupid. They know very well what they have to say to the committee. The city is rightly concerned about huge, unruly crowds which spill out into the street after bar hours or migrate to a parking lot or whatever and continue the revelry. Occasionally really bad stuff happens like when three people were killed several years back in one such gathering. Anyway, the plh's need to assure the city that they will not be attracting large numbers of young black patrons. So they say things in code like "This will be an upscale establishment" or "We will not be playing hip hop music" or "we won't allow tilted hats or baggy pants falling down" etc...

Neither the city or the plh's can truthfully address a very real problem which is frequent and unruly crowds, nearly always entirely black, that do in fact cause problems for the city government and city residents. The plh's react predictably enough. They tell the city, in code, that they will not actively solicit black customers and if necessary actively discourage them.

The bottom line. If you want a liquor license in Racine, you must agree to discriminate. Now that should be a big national story.

Buy Low, Sell High Racine

I have a great new moneymaking scheme for the city of Racine. It might even help them pay for the cascade of lawsuits they are facing.

OK, here is the deal. We have tons of really stupid property owners in Racine that have no idea that they are sitting on gold mines. Thousands of them are selling their properties, or trying to, for far less than the property is worth.

The city has decades of experience in the real estate game. And they have an entire department that determines the value of Racine properties. All they need to do is buy the properties at the artificially low asking price and then quickly sell it at the real value, and pocket the difference.

Here is an example. Some idiot is trying to sell his three story downtown property for $98,000. He doesn't even know that it is worth $225,000, even though the city sends him the results of their expert analysis of its real value every year! The city could buy the property at $98K, then sell it for its real value and walk away with $127K!

If they did this with all the properties on the market for less than their worth, they could make tens of millions year after year.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

You Might Be a Racist Christian

The Milwaukee Journal recently published a cartoon of a family of three driving with a wintry scene in the background. Mom says "Well, this ice storm surely proves there ain't no global warmin'!" School aged daughter responds, "Actually, mom, warming disrupts terrestrial climate patterns, thereby producing extreme weather phenomena like the polar vortex." Then dad chimes in with "Hush gal! If I want science learnin', I'll open a bible!"

And in case you haven't gotten the message so far, mom is wearing a confederate flag hat, dad is in flannel and they are driving in a pick up truck.

So if you have your doubts about global warming, you must be a racist redneck Christian.

I can't wait to see the next gratuitously stereotypical cartoons at the MJS. Maybe we will have one with a black guy robbing a liquor store while eating a watermelon. Or perhaps one with some lewd sex acts performed at a gay wedding. Perhaps dozens of illegals spilling out of a pinata. Oh the hilarity!

Of course we won't see any such cartoons at the MJS, and nor should we of course. The MJS is surely sensitive enough not to perpetuate grossly negative stereotypes of blacks, gays or Hispanics. Perhaps it is time to extend the same courtesy to Christians, conservatives, or those who dare to question the global warming that has "paused" despite the dire predictions to the contrary.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Predatory Government

Remember predatory loans?

I never quite bought into that notion, primarily as there wasn't much in it for the so called predator. Homeowner walks, predator is stuck with a house worth much less than before. I would rather be the prey.

Not so with student loans. Loans are made in many cases to naive, financially illiterate youngsters who can't just mail in the diploma and walk.

Why aren't these considered predatory loans? My guess is because it is the government making the loans.

Sunday, February 09, 2014

Another Angry Liberal

Root River Siren has gotten herself more riled up than usual over an entirely benign economic analysis by Paul Ryan. 

The offending statement concerning Obamacare incentives:

"I guess I understand 'better off' in the context of health care. But 'better off' in inducing a person not to work who is on the low-income scale, not to get on the ladder of life, to begin working, getting the dignity of work, getting more opportunities, rising their income, joining the middle class, this means fewer people will do that."

Hide the kids. Here is the RRS response:

Wow. Just. Wow. According to Paul Ryan, poor people will not aspire to the middle class because they will have the luxury of portable health care - Obamacare will "induce" poor people to not work.

AYFKM? Are you fucking kidding me?! It is a statement so stunning, so breathtaking in it's vile, selfish ignorance - it is truly hard to comprehend.

This should be a torches and pitchforks moment for Ryan - but we have all grown so accustomed to him saying shit like this - hardly anyone notices. Ryan has rebranded himself lately as the "poverty" guy and this is what he thinks of the poor.

And my response:

Wow. Just. Wow. Root River Siren is so blinded by hatred for Paul Ryan that she can't think straight. Or maybe that is a permanent condition. This is econ 101 RRS. If you make it easier to not work, you get less work in the aggregate. The trade-off is detrimental for many in Paul Ryan's view as they will have less opportunity etc... that working provides in the long run. This is really simple, benign, economic analysis RRS.

This should be a lightbulb moment for RRS. Paul Ryan actually cares about the people who will be harmed by Obamacare. Put down the pitchfork RRS. Read an introductory economics textbook. Caring about people - assuming that is what motivates you -  is insufficient if you promote policies that harm them.

1 Angry Liberal

As a conservative with a libertarian bent, I thought I had a pretty decent grasp of conservative political philosophy. And then I read Todd Johnson's recent letter to the Journal Times.

There I learned that "conservatives believe electoral success is a pass for political racketeering and authoritarianism" and I learned about the "corrupt conservative traits" such as "a righteous air of privilege" and our "natural bent for vendetta politics" and of the "ultimate danger," that is, the "conservative faith in a corporate state."

Sprinkled throughout his letter are numerous clever but frightening phrases such as "swaggering vulgarity," Republican flacks glibly defended this shifty shamelessness," "sheepish indoctrinated legislators," "scorched earth injustice" and so on.

Wow! Where do I hide from myself?

Mr. Johnson has a grossly distorted vision of conservatives. Space constraints prevent a full defense of conservatism, so let us instead consider the two issues that have lately embroiled our state and nation respectively, that is, Act 10 and the Affordable Care Act. Regarding Act 10, conservatives fought to curtail powers enjoyed by government sector unions that are not available to other groups or individuals, namely the power to negotiate directly with legislators and the compulsory collection of dues. Concerning the Affordable Care Act, every Republican in Congress voted against the first ever federal law that forces individuals to buy a product from private corporations. In both issues, it was conservatives who fought for individuals against threats to liberty emanating from government collusion with unions and corporations.

Certainly some will disagree with my conclusions. That said, I am reasonably sure conservatives are not vulgar, shifty, flacks merrily scorching the earth en route to a corporate run authoritarian state etc... or whatever it is that Mr. Johnson would say.

I can't help but wonder the point of Mr. Johnson's serial diatribes against conservatives. Is he trying to win us over to his way of thinking? Is this his way of maintaining a feeling of moral superiority over conservatives? Or perhaps he just wants to line us up and shoot us.

But just in case he is ever inclined to engage in respectful dialogue, I have a suggestion. Ease up on the Evil Republican schtick, take a deep breath, and maybe, just maybe, talk to an actual conservative.

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Walden Students for Global Warming

I see the folks at Walden High School have rediscovered their First Amendment right to advocate for policies detrimental to their professed interests. The Journal Times has photos of the students and, to the credit of the JT, the following: Last week, the U.S. State Department gave no major environmental objections to the controversial proposed pipeline that would carry oil from tar sands in western Canada to Nebraska, The Associated Press reported.

That would be the Hillary Clinton/John Kerry State Department. And it seems that the pipeline would result in the least environmental impact with the possible exception of leaving the oil in the ground. And since that isn't going to happen, it seems that the Walden students are inadvertently advocating for a needlessly larger carbon footprint.

Or perhaps they are attempting to accelerate the heretofore imperceptible global warming. If that is the case, then GO WALDEN!

Monday, February 03, 2014

Is LGBT Safe Zone Safe?

I am thinking about starting an organization. It will be primarily centered around sexual orientation. It will be open to all heterosexual men. It will be a social organization in part but will have a service component as well. We will call ourselves the Heterosexual Man Center of Southeast Wisconsin, or HE-MAN for short. The HE-MAN understand from experience the difficulties, the awkwardness, the stress, the isolation etc... accompanied with adolescent sexual expression.  It is no secret that some girls at RUSD schools are experimenting sexually. The HE-MAN believe we can safely offer the support, information and confidentiality that these girls need during a difficult time in their lives.

You are creeped out. You should be.

 No chance in hell that such a group would make inroads into RUSD.

But if your group is organized around homosexuality, it is a different matter. We are, it seems, not supposed to ask hard questions. We are just expected to believe in the good intentions of LGBT members. We will not subject them to the same type of scrutiny that we would the fictitious HE-MEN Center.

Why not? We ought to know by now with the scandals that have rocked the Catholic Church and the myriad of molestation incidents by school teachers, that pedophiles go where the children are just as alcoholics go where the booze is. The best place to be if you are a sexual predator is in an organization that is unquestionably trusted as was the case for years in the Catholic Church.

I want to be careful here. I have no reason to suspect any nefarious intent by our local LGBT group. Nor do I have any reason to conclude that they can ensure a "safe" environment for LGBT youth.

In other words, they should be subject to the same scrutiny that would befall the HE-MAN. And the fictitious HE-MAN group would get nowhere near RUSD.

And yet the LGBT Center of Southeast Wisconsin appears to be making inroads into RUSD schools. They are teaching teachers how to "provide support, information and confidentiality" to LGBT students and become part of a "safe zone" for LGBT students.

For all involved, including the LGBT group, I advise far more scrutiny of the LGBT group before they have any official connection with RUSD. The LGBT youth of Racine deserve a safe environment just as much as do heterosexual children.