August 16, 2008

Nesting will move from Sixth Street

Sixth Street's retail landscape is changing again. Nesting is moving.

The custom home sewing and decorating shop that has been at 316 Sixth St. for two years will close on Aug. 28, and relocate to new quarters on the corner of Romayne Avenue and Geneva Street, near the Zoo.

Owner Cindy Miller said she needed a smaller space, "and I didn't want to be here for the road construction." Sixth Street, which was torn up for three months this spring for the first phase of utility line replacements, will be under construction again next year for the final part of the street's repaving and beautification.

Nesting's mission will not change in its new location. It can be reached at (262) 637-8100.

Flashinski reports campaign endorsements

Linda Flashinski, the Democratic challenger to Rep. Robin Vos, R-Caledonia, in the 63rd Assembly District, reports the following endorsements of her candidacy:
The Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters has endorsed Linda based on her “strong support of conservation” and her “commitment to Wisconsin’s natural resources.” The Progressive Majority of Wisconsin has endorsed Linda based on her “strong support of a multi-issue progressive agenda” and “the commitment (she) has demonstrated to (her) campaign.” The Wisconsin Social Workers PAC of the National Association of Social Workers has endorsed Linda for sharing the concerns “that affect human well-being.” The Executive Board of the Retired Professional Fire Fighters of Wisconsin has also endorsed Linda as have numerous labor organizations including the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO, the Racine County Labor Council AFL-CIO, the Racine Labor Coalition, AFSCME Local 67 and 67A, AFSCME Sub Chapter 133, CWA 4611, IBEW 430 and, Teamsters Local 43.

”It is a true honor to be endorsed by these groups,” said Linda. “I have been an advocate for the concerns that matter most to the people of Wisconsin, and these groups reflect the issues that we must move forward. When I am elected, I will work for health care reform, an improved economy, strong public education, an energy policy based on conservation and renewable energy sources, and vigorous protection of Wisconsin’s lakes, farmlands, air, and water. I understand the need for focusing our limited resources on those things that will most improve the quality of life for the people of Wisconsin now and in the future.”

August 14, 2008

Unified hiring Dr. James Shaw as superintendent

UPDATE, 8/18: As expected, the Racine Unified School Board today approved the contract it had delegated Board President Tony Baumgardt to negotiate with Dr. James Shaw. The new superintendent is scheduled to start work as head of the district by Sept. 1.

Racine Unified has all-but hired Dr. James Shaw as its next superintendent. All that's left for the board to do is meet in open session on Monday, Aug. 18, and formally approve the contract that Dr. Shaw has already signed -- that's his signature on the contract above.

The contract is for two years, which is as long as state law permits, beginning on Sept. 1, 2008, and ending on June 30, 2010, and calls for a salary of $180,000 per year (which comes to $150,000 for the school year running from September 2008 to June 2009). The contract also states that Shaw comes into the district with a "bank" of 60 days of paid sick leave, 20 paid vacation days, five professional days and a car allowance of $850 per month.

Because Shaw has "retired" for purposes of the Wisconsin Retirement Fund, the district will not pay anything into the fund on his behalf. Instead, Shaw will accrue $20,000 per year in deferred compensation if he remains here for three years. The district also agreed to pay his moving expenses here from Lake Mills, WI, and to pay $20,500 into his 403(b) retirement savings plan.

The last contract of Dr. Tom Hicks, the district's previous superintendent, called for a salary of $144,000 per year, plus $15,000 into his retirement savings account. The district reportedly was willing to offer Dr. Barbara Pulliam, its first choice for the post this year, a $170,000 contract.

Here's a statement issued today by Tony Baumgardt, Racine Unified Board President:
“The overall public response to Dr. James Shaw’s candidacy for superintendent has been overwhelmingly positive. The community seems to be very impressed with Dr. Shaw’s credentials and background and has indicated support for his candidacy. During executive session last week, the Board gave me authority to negotiate a contract with Dr. Shaw. Dr. Shaw has now approved the terms and conditions of the contract, and the School Board will be meeting in open session next Monday, Aug. 18, to vote on Dr. Shaw’s contract as the terms and conditions still need to be approved by the Board.

"Attached you will find a copy of the contract as it stands without full board approval and it is important to note that we have reviewed comparable districts that have recently hired superintendents in the state. I believe we are in line with someone of Dr. Shaw’s experience an expertise.

"I want to thank those who participated in the small group interviews as well as the community forum for their feedback as well as the community for their support as we searched for a superintendent. I believe this is a positive step for Racine Unified and our community.”
Here's the story we wrote about Dr. Shaw's public visit here on July 29.

Home sales better here than most of state, region

Racine County home prices dropped less than one percent -- they were down only .8% -- in the second quarter of 2008, compared to 2007, but 14.6% fewer homes were sold than last year. The median price of a Racine County home was $163,600 this year, compared to $165,000 last year; 572 homes were sold in the second quarter, compared to 670 during the same three-month period in 2007.

Those figures come from the Wisconsin Realtors Association, which reported today on sales throughout the state.

Both of our figures were better than the state as a whole, and the nation as a whole. Wisconsin home sales fell 20.7% in the quarter; nationwide, home sales were down 16.3%. Wisconsin’s median prices fell 3 percent to $162,200 in the second quarter of 2008 as compared to the second quarter of 2007.

“It is clear that consumer concerns over the direction of the economy have kept a lot of buyers on the sidelines,” said WRA Chairman Michael Spranger. “Our hope is that buyers and sellers recognize that every market is unique and every market offers opportunities.”

“In a soft market like the current one, we expect some moderation in prices,” said William Malkasian, president of the WRA. “Given the relatively large reduction in sales volume in the second quarter, it’s encouraging that our prices here in Wisconsin have declined only modestly.”

Racine's median home price decline, in fact, was the least of all eight counties, and Metro Milwaukee, in the WRA's Southeast region. The median price decline in Walworth County was 6.7%, and in Kenosha it was 3.8%. Walworth's sales declined by 32.1%; Kenosha's by 25.3%. Complete county-by-county figures for the entire state are HERE.

The WRA, which represents 17,000 real estate brokers, sales people and affiliates statewide, says there is no consensus regarding buyer interest in the third quarter of 2008 vs. 2007, "but there is strong belief that sellers have become more motivated."

Wine tasting fundraiser at Spectrum Gallery

It's August and almost time for Spectrum School of the Arts and Gallery's second Wine Tasting Fundraiser and Silent Auction.

The event will take place on Aug. 21, from 6 - 9 p.m.: a wine tasting, silent auction bidding on art donations from gallery members, and camaraderie. The Gallery is located on Lake Michigan at the DeKoven Center, 600 21st St.

Pre-event tickets are $15, which includes all the wine tasting, the silent auction, and an open gallery of three rooms of various arts that will be open for enjoyment and purchase. There will be snacks and bottled water.

Check out

HALO offers a colorful place to rest your head

Small sample of HALO's hand-made pillow cases

Four hundred colorful, hand-made pillow cases will be on the menu when HALO holds its summer picnic on Sunday, Aug. 24, from noon to 4 p.m. at the homeless shelter, 2000 DeKoven Ave.

The picnic's main purpose is to celebrate HALO's third anniversary, which is coming up this fall, and to note the completion of its capital campaign projects. The Homeless Assistance Leadership Organization raised $2.4 million before opening in 2005 (a campaign led by Bill Walker), and the money has been spent building out the inside of the shelter and for operations during its first three years. Now HALO is operating in the black, on a $1.1 million annual budget, as per its first business plan -- its 110 residents and 55 more in transitional apartments supported by HUD, other government grants, the United Way and local foundations. The final capital project -- the planting of three trees and erection of a fence around the women's and children's play area in front -- will be finished this week.

The organization is looking to the future in a number of ways. One is this first fund-raiser, selling beautiful pillow cases made by residents and volunteers from the community, and an auction of specialty baskets at the picnic.

Another is to begin looking for its second executive director. Cheryl Buckley, right, who has headed HALO since its inception -- she was enticed out of retirement as a YMCA director (here, and later in Chicago) -- had agreed to a two-year term to get the organization built and on its feet. "I've now been here three and a half-years," she said. "They got double," she jokes. Buckley was unaware there was a three-year business plan in place when she agreed to take the job, but she stayed through to its completion. Now she and her husband, Peter, have bought a home in Cape Coral, FL.

"This time, I'm not going to say I'm 'retiring' again," she said. "I love to troubleshoot and create. We'll see what happens." HALO will begin looking for a replacement for her in September.

The pillow case project began with a resident of the homeless shelter, "a wonderful seamstress," who was sewing pillowcases for the troops in Iraq. Lighthouse Quilters Guild and other organizations were involved in similar projects. Later, Buckley said to herself, "wouldn't pillow cases be a wonderful project for HALO."

And so she put a note in the organization's newsletter, asking for material. Jim Deibler, owner of Sew 'n Save, donated some sewing machines and gave a workshop in their use to half a dozen shelter residents. Patterns were printed in the newsletter. Pretty soon, many volunteers were sewing: nuns, relatives of shelter residents, residents and even Buckley herself.

The pillow cases are colorful and professional; French seams abound (if you guys don't know what that is, ask your wives). They are being sold individually, at $10 each, and also in pairs of color-coordinated pillow cases. There are flower designs, stripes, solids -- even sports-themed pillow cases.

This is HALO's first fund-raiser since its original capital campaign, which drew donations from 255 companies, organizations, churches and individuals. Donors' names will all be enshrined on a large painted plaque to be hung in the shelter's entrance hall by the time of the picnic. The shelter also has been the recipient of funds collected during the Empty Bowls campaign, Splash 'n Dash and Young Professionals of Racine's Big Fat Wedding.

Everyone is invited to the hot dog picnic lunch and bake sale.

HALO's doors opened in November 2005 to men, and December 2005 to women and children. For more information, go to HALO's website.

Our story on HALO's second anniversary is HERE.

August 13, 2008

Peace walkers more than halfway to St. Paul

On July 18, a dozen members of Voices for Creative Nonviolence walked through Racine, on their way from Chicago to St. Paul, MN. They were in the early stages of a peace walk whose destination is the start of the Republican National Convention on Aug. 31. Kathy Kelly, Voices' founder, gives an update, as the walkers near Fort McCoy, more than halfway to their goal.

By Kathy Kelly

About six months ago, Dan Pearson, co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence, swiveled around in his office chair in our tiny “headquarters” to ask what we thought about organizing a walk from Chicago to St. Paul, arriving just before the Republican National Convention.

A dedicated group of volunteers joined Dan to plan a project, which, to me, is one of the best organized efforts I’ve ever encountered, all aimed at voicing a witness against war, particularly in Wisconsin, where 3,500 National Guard troops are on alert for a call-up to combat duty, in Iraq, in 2009. Generally, three to five “day walkers” will join our core group of nine walkers. We walk about fifteen miles each day carrying signs that call for an end to the war and for keeping Wisconsin National Guard troops home. The sign I carry on this walk reads “Rebuild Iraq, rebuild the U.S.” Another of our signs, decorated with the obligatory elephant and donkey, reads “We hold both parties responsible.” We began walking on July 12 and will arrive in St. Paul Minnesota on August 30.

Our “Witness Against War” walk is in Wisconsin, traversing traditional land of the Ho-Chunk Nation, also known in English translation as “People of the Big Voice.” In 1836, U.S. settlers, including farmers and miners, coveted this lush farmland and its rich mining resources and forced the Ho-Chunk to sell it all for a pittance. The U.S. government imposed repeated roundups and “removals” on them, resettling them from Wisconsin to Iowa, from Iowa to Minnesota, then to South Dakota and onward, in dangerous, and, for some, deadly forced transports. “In the winter of 1873, many Ho Chunk people were removed to the Nebraska reservation from Wisconsin, traveling in cattle cars on trains,” according to the Nation’s website. “This was a horrific experience for the people, as many elders, women and children suffered and died.” Some of the transports were imposed to remove the Ho-Chunk people from conflicts with other nations -- conflicts created by previous forced transports.

But after the removals by train, they walked back on foot to Wisconsin, to reclaim their former homes, It’s a tale of immeasurable suffering, but because of these walks back they are still here, as the “Ho-Chunk Nation” in this beautiful Wisconsin land where their ancestors were buried.

And we’re here too, walking on behalf of people in Iraq who’ve been made refugees to escape U.S. violence, and also the sectarian violence made inevitable by the U.S. government’s wholesale dismantling of their country, whether achieved deliberately or through incompetence we can’t know. We’re walking for people who, like the Ho-Chunk people, were told that if they didn’t cooperate with a U.S. project to seize their precious and irreplaceable resources, we would kill them.

The name of the “Ho-Chunk” nation means “People of the Sacred Language,” or “People of the Big Voice.” And when no-one was listening to them, they spoke to each other and chose to return, and strengthened each other for the return here where their action spoke louder than words and they eventually, after eleven removals and five weary returns, were ceded parts of their original land.

I and my companions here think of deliberate nonviolent action as a sacred language. Tomorrow we’re crossing the line into Fort McCoy to protest the cynical use of our young men and women, many of them seeking opportunities denied them in their communities, to kill and dispossess members of the Iraqi nation, to drive them into refuge in Jordan and Syria, to drive them into conflict the one against the other arming first this faction and then that with more and more weapons in the name of establishing “security forces,” so that we will have an excuse to occupy this oil-rich region for ages to come, whatever platitudes our leaders may offer now about eagerness some day to withdraw. Several of us may face several months in jail. Our leaders will continue to use these lands for wrongful purposes and we will keep walking back, until enough of our fellows join us that we are allowed to reclaim these lands, and our resources, to be the refuge and the comfort of all.

The United States is called a democracy. That means “People of the Big Voice.” A sacred language. But we as a nation are not yet ready to use our voices loud enough to be heard, or to use our feet, when our voices are ignored, in the sacred language of nonviolent direct action, in resistance to the greedy powerful few who would limit our choices to choices of war and claim all lands, heedless of the voices of the people living in them, for the purposes of greed. The world looks to us, much of it in genuine pain and anguish, asking when are we going to rescue them from our government, by expressing our wish for peace at long last in the Big Voice we have always claimed as our heritage?

Kathy Kelly co-coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence.

Published on Sunday, Aug. 10, by Reprinted with permission.

Pro volleyball championships here Sept. 6

They like us. They really, really like us!

For the third consecutive year, Racine was named “Host City of the Year” by The Corona Light EVP Pro Beach Volleyball Tour. The award was handed out during a ceremony at the National Championships in Chicago on Aug. 9.

Equally important, due to the success of the Racine event, the Corona Light EVP Pro Beach Volleyball World Championships have been moved from Kona, Hawaii, to Racine and are scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 6. The event will feature a $12,000 purse, the largest in EVP tournament history. It is free to spectators and is sponsored locally by the Racine County Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Wisconsin Department of Tourism.

“The players and staff of the EVP Tour love Racine. Besides the great playing environment, the staffs at the CVB and the City, including the Parks and Recreation Department, have made our event a national story. The beach town is volleyball crazy”, said Ross Balling, EVP Tour Commissioner.

Racine also won the award in 2006 and 2007 for the annual July volleyball tournament at North Beach, one of only two beaches on the Great Lakes to win the Blue Wave Award from the National Clean Beaches Council. The Blue Wave Campaign is America’s first environmental certification for beaches, whose aim is to promote public awareness and voluntary participation in beach sustainability.

Dave Blank, President and CEO of the RCCBV, said “The EVP Pro Beach Volleyball event has become one of the highlights of Racine’s summer. We look forward to having them here on our beautiful North Beach and it’s great to hear that they love to visit Racine each year. He went on to say, “Racine should be very proud to receive this award." Other cities competing for the prize were Fort Lauderdale, Virginia Beach, Santa Barbara, Chicago and Long Island. " It’s really an honor that goes beyond the beach-- it goes to the City, the restaurants and hotels, as well as the residents,” Blank said.

For further information on the Corona Light EVP Tour check out its website or that of the RCCVB.

For pictures of the July tour event, check HERE.

Feds: More Felner 'threads' being investigated

Was it really just June 5 that the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents appointed Robert Felner chancellor of UW-Parkside, at a salary of $205,000, plus free housing and a tenured faculty position?

A lot of information about Felner has come out since then -- none of it good -- and now there's even more.

The Louisville Eccentric Observer (LEO), a newsweekly at the home of the University of Louisville, where Felner was dean of the College of Education and Human Development, today sums up the story so far, since his "resignation" from UW-Parkside barely a week before he was to take office, and the continuing federal investigation into alleged misappropriation of grant funds, allegations of harassment and mismanagement and Felner's email messages revealing growing (and apparently justified) paranoia.

Some of the new information to come out in reporter Christopher Hall's article includes:

--The feds are looking at more than a mishandled $694,000 No Child Left Behind grant, as first reported, or the funneling of $450,000 from it to a defunct non-profit: Said David Huber, the U.S. attorney for the Western District of Kentucky: “There are other threads of this issue that are being investigated as well, and these other threads will continue to be investigated.” Huber said the investigation should be completed in four to six weeks.

--Twenty years ago, Felner was suddenly removed as director of clinical training in the psychology department at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Emmanuel Donchen, then head of psychology at the university in Illinois, the man who booted Felner, told reporter Hall that he's surprised no one — either at the University of Louisville, or at the University of Rhode Island, Felner’s previous place of employment — ever bothered to ask about Felner before hiring him. "Over the 20 years since he left … nobody has ever asked me a question about Felner until today,” Donchin says.

Left unsaid -- but obvious -- is the fact that nobody from the UW-Parkside search committee posed the question either.

Read Christopher Hall's entire article HERE.

And thanks, once again, to Page One Kentucky for keeping us apprised of the latest developments in this story.

Our compilation of The Felner Chronicles is listed on our main page.

More good news ... Unified students improve ACT scores

For all of the criticism Racine Unified takes, there's a core group in the community that believes a different story. Instead of piling on the school district for its relative struggles on standardized tests and graduation rates, people in this group come to a different conclusion: Unified is a good school district.

You're probably asking, "How could that be?" We're talking about Unified, after all, the district that's mismanaged, has too many administrators, a corrupt teacher's union, bad students, crumbling buildings, old textbooks, an uncaring public and a reputation that scares away good students to private and parochial schools. (Does that cover all of the standard criticisms, anonymous commenters?)

But then you get a nice reality check. For the second day in a row, Unified has some great news to share. This time, the district's average ACT scores increased 0.2 percent to 21.3. The state average remains a point higher at 22.3 (no change from last year), but Unified posted some impressive gains.

Park and Case high saw their scores increase, on average, by 0.5 and 0.9 percent respectively. And, most impressively, the number of students taking the ACT increased from 677 in 2007 to 755 in 2008.

One of the easiest ways to increase average scores on a test like the ACT is to discourage poorer students from taking the exam. That way, the higher scores lift the average and make the district look better. In Unified's case, it got more students to take the exam and increased its scores.

So why do we care about ACT scores? Because they are a gateway to college. Just about anybody who wants to pursue a bachelor's degree takes the ACT as part of the application process. More students taking the test means more students looking beyond high school.

Unified is helping students study for the ACT. Here's a description of the pilot program started over the summer:
The District’s approach to preparing students for the ACT continued with summer school in 2008. The Princeton Review of ACT program was piloted in summer school with 65 junior and senior students in attendance. The three-week program was optional for students who had a grade point average of 2.5 or above. A number of students demonstrated score gains of 2-4 points with one student attaining a 7-point increase. District staff are planning to continue this option in 2009.
Like any urban school district, Unified has challenges. But here's a secret: For most students, Racine's public schools work. Opportunities are available, and thousands of students take advantage of those opportunities every year. Somewhere along the way, we've let people worried about property taxes and administrative costs control the dialogue on public education in Racine. Whoever the new superintendent is should turn the focus to what's going right in the schools and celebrate public education in Racine.

Let's be positive.

August 12, 2008

Unified students ace IB exams

Here's some good news from Unified ... 52 Case High School students passed 96 of 117 International Baccalaureate exams this spring. The passing marks - which come in some of the toughest classes offered to junior and senior students - equal college credit for the students.

The passing grades came in English, History, Calculus, Biology, Chemistry, Art, French, German, and Spanish.

Here's more from Unified:
Five of the students earned the prestigious Full Diploma Award. The award includes all of the following: taking six mandatory examinations in May, as well as submitting sample assignments earlier in the year, thus earning at least a total of 24 points (scores run from 1-7) in the six areas; writing an independently researched 4,000 word Extended Essay on a topic of the student’s choice; taking a course in the Theory of Knowledge for which a paper and a presentation are required; and fulfilling a two year Creativity, Action, and Service requirement.

These five students are Adam Barron, Aubrey Holzinger, Meredith Lukow, Sydonie Schimler, and Danling Yu, all 2008 Case graduates. Barron and Holzinger will be attending UW-Madison; Lukow, American University in Washington, D.C.; Schimler, Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin; and Yu, the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor.

August 11, 2008

Fibs (lies?) aside, Ryan has a good idea on drilling for oil

It's a good day to be an alt media reporter. While The Journal Times reporter is sitting at her desk right now trying to figure out what to write about Rep. Paul Ryan's public forum at the Flat Iron Mall today, I can start my story, well ... like this.

First, let me say Ryan was flawless as ever. He had PowerPoint slides, Encyclopedic knowledge on everything and a good rapport with the crowd. There's a reason this guy's name is being slung around for vice president - he's really good at his job.

That said, there's not much to write about. Ryan laid out his support for lifting bans on drilling for oil in Alaska and along U.S. coasts. This will lead to immediate drops in gas prices, Ryan said, because the futures market will stabilize (basically, long-term investors will know more oil is on the way). And, it will lower prices in the future.

There's nothing particularly special about these positions. Ryan is walking in line with the Republican party by pushing for an increase in U.S. oil production.

Ryan was careful with his words. Unlike VP Dick Cheney, he didn't say China was drilling for oil off of Cuba (which is simply not true). Instead, Ryan said China was negotiating with Cuba to drill for oil off the U.S. coast. That may be true. China has rights to drill for oil on Cuba's mainland, and they may be talking about building oil platforms in Cuban waters 50 miles from Florida.

But he also claimed that opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge would generate more oil per day than the U.S. imports from Saudi Arabia. Government estimates place the number way below that bold claim.

Ryan did note, however, that the government taxes domestic oil sales and could generate billions of dollars in revenue if it increased its production over the next 10 years. In turn, he wants to invest that money in job training and developing alternative energies. That's one of the best ideas I've heard from Ryan, who openly said the U.S.'s goal should be a fossil-fuel-free economy in his children's lifetime (they're 3, 5 and 6).

But then Ryan mentioned the "safety" of offshore drilling and claimed that oil rigs off the coast of New Orleans were untouched by Hurricane Katrina. That's simply a lie, and Ryan is too smart to know that's not a lie. To save a click on the link, Katrina destroyed 113 oil rigs, damaged 595 pipelines and spilled so much oil it could be seen from space. The GOP response is that that damage affected a small percentage of the 4,000 oil facilities around the Gulf and that none of the oil spills reached land - as if the environment stops at our nation's shores.

This energy stuff is important. McCain is battering Sen. Barack Obama on the presidential campaign trail with his pro-drilling stance - a stance shared by most Americans. It's turning into one of the signature issues of the presidential race, and Ryan did his part to reinforce the GOP's claims. They're persuasive in their arguments, which makes others silly. Of course there's a risk of drilling for oil in the middle of the ocean, so why try to sell everybody on the idea that's it's perfectly safe? I'd push the tax revenue idea and show how it could be used to train Americans and develop wind and solar energy, fuel cells, biofuels and the other emerging technologies that will get us out of this fossil-fuel mess.

Truthfully, it's a better idea than the elitist agenda of some environmentalists. Their strategy is push the price of oil up so high we're all forced to sell our cars and develop alternatives. That may sound like a good idea, but it's the poor and middle classes who will be screwed by that route. Let's hope the environmentalists comes up with some better ideas, and soon.

Kohl, named 'Best of Congress,' here Tuesday

Sen. Herb Kohl, D-WI, has been named "Best of Congress" for working families, and will be honored Tuesday by Working Mother magazine and Corporate Voices for Working Families.

Kohl will visit the SC Johnson Childcare Learning Center at 3901 Highway 31 in Racine. SC Johnson is consistently among Working Mother's top “100 Best Places to Work.”

Kohl was named “Best of Congress” after a review of his voting record, legislative record, advocacy for children and families, and office policies. Kohl is featured in the September issue of Working Mother, published today, and will receive the award at a ceremony in Washington, DC, on Sept. 10. This is the first “Best of Congress” award, a biannual award that will be presented to lawmakers who work to advance economically sound policies that support and create opportunities for working families.

Kohl is the author of the "Child Care Infrastructure Act," a law to provide tax credits for private companies and institutions to build on- or near-site day care centers to encourage employers to meet the rapidly growing demand for child care. He is being honored for his work to reduce the costs of health care, support education, protect food safety, reduce energy costs, strengthen child support enforcement, defend retirement security, protect the elderly and help rural families.

August 10, 2008

Racine dog show brings out best of many breeds

The Racine Kennel Club hosted 1,200 dogs Sunday during the first day of its two-day American Kennel Club All-Breed dog show, at Pershing Park. Best in show was a Smooth Fox Terrier.

On Monday, more of the same, as many of the same dogs compete once again against each other -- the only difference being a new set of judges. Two-day confirmation dog shows like this are commonplace, as dogs are judged against their breed's standards, seeking championship points. A second set of judges brings a different pair of eyes, and subjectivity. The show continues tomorrow from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Here are four pictures from today's event, showing a dog trotted around the show ring, getting a quick once-over by the judge, and finally a winner ready for his closeup. At bottom is a Rhodesian Ridgeback getting his picture taken with owner and handler for posterity (and maybe breeding advertisements).

Sandcastles (and lighthouse, elephant, etc.)

Team Squand, with their 1st Place Lighthouse

Perfect weather, perfect sand, crowds of onlookers. The Racine Arts Council's Sandcastles Festival went off without a hitch today, with almost a dozen teams competing to turn sand and water into mud... and then into sculpture.

First place was worth $300; Second won $200, Third received $100 and Fourth $50. Fourth went to Schultz Engineering's Sundial.

Then the tide comes in, and washes away all the hard work at Samuel Myers Park. Ah, there's always next time.

Second place: Super Sand Gods' circus scene with elephant

Third Place: Fungers Bunch built a castle

It all starts this way...

Maybe we can build one next year, Daddy?

Caveat Emptor redux: Another deceptive JT ad

The Journal Times is up to its old tricks, running a deceptive ad aimed at taking advantage of unsuspecting readers.

Remember last January, when the JT ran a full-page ad selling an over-priced "Amish man's miracle idea" for cutting heating costs? We headlined our report Caveat Emptor, Journal Times' Amish Edition.

Well, that was then -- Wisconsin was in the ad's "frigid zone" -- and this is now, when Wisconsin is in the new ad's "sizzling zone."

The new ad is remarkably similar in all respects to last January's selling dressed up Chinese-made electric space heaters. The new ad, appearing for the first time in today's Journal Times -- and in other newspapers as well -- took up a full page (we've printed here the two-page version of the same ad we found on the 'net, since the JT didn't put theirs online). It touts a portable "air cooling breakthrough," also Chinese-made, that uses "the same electricity as a 60-watt light bulb."

The ad spends most of its copy and graphics playing up the $50 gas card purchasers will receive as a bonus. The biggest picture, as you can see above, is of a crowded gas station -- totally irrelevant to the product being sold. In fact, there's just brief mention in the ad of the price of this wonder: it's $228. Plus, what you don't find until you click through the ad's website and go to check out, an optional $28 for a two-year warranty. Plus $49 for shipping.

And then there's the cooler itself, "a work of engineering genius," the ad says, that uses "the extra cooling power of the the reusable glacier ice blocks." Translation: put these liquid-filled plastic containers in your freezer until they freeze solid, and then place them where the fan will blow air over them, lowering the air temperature by "up to 10 degrees."

Did we mention the price: $305? For a FAN! But hurry: You have just 48 hours to call our toll-free numbers and receive your FREE $50 gas card.

As a poster put it on the Consumer Reports website, "What ever happened to truth in advertising?" What, indeed. Or for newspaper ad departments showing a little common sense, rejecting the fast buck and exercising respect for their own readers.

Interestingly enough, the post referred to above is one of only a few I found on the internet specifically about the Cool Surge "eco-friendly cooler." Another, on, pointed out: "Since the whole system (fan + refrigerator to freeze the glacier ice blocks) is ventless, it makes your house warmer, not cooler. That is, the fan blows cool air in your face, while your refrigerator makes the kitchen warmer. On average, the house gets warmer."

But if there was not much online about the Cool Surge, there was plenty about the company behind the ad: Universal Techtronics of Canton, Ohio, sometimes referred to as Universal TechTronics.

A July 3 post on the New York Times' technology blog, Bits, headlined A sucker is converted every minute, reinforced my own doubts about this product. It pointed out, "The Cool Surge will cool you — if you stick your head next to the vents." But the Times' piece wasn't about the Cool Surge at all; rather, it was about yet another deceptive product ad from the company, for a "free" digital TV converter box. "The gimmick: the box is free, as long as you pay $88 for a five-year warranty, plus $9.30 shipping."

Oh, and you don't need it at all if you have cable. And, "Given that government-approved converter boxes sell for $60 or less, and a government-issued $40 rebate coupon is available for the asking, this deal obviously makes no sense."

The Better Business Bureau has called Universal TechTronics’ business practices “unsatisfactory,” and "a bait-and-switch tactic" preying "on consumers' lack of knowledge" with regard to the TV converter. MSNBC had a similar report on June 23. So did The Consumerist. And the Los Angeles Times.

So consider yourself forewarned when we see this next ad in the Journal Times!