October 18, 2008

Election season wisdom from all over

What do Thomas Jefferson, Will Rogers, Voltaire and Pericles have in common? None of them lived through this interminable election -- and yet they all had something wise to say about it. Here, to help keep you sane through the final 20 days of election attack ads, some words of wisdom about the process we are enduring. (Note: These all came from the Internets -- sent to me by a friend -- so take 'em with a grain of salt.)
A government which robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul.
-- George Bernard Shaw

If you don't read the newspaper you are uninformed; if you do read the newspaper you are misinformed.
-- Mark Twain

Suppose you were an idiot.
And suppose you were a member of Congress....
But then I repeat myself.
--Mark Twain

I contend that for a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle.

-- Winston Churchill

A liberal is someone who feels a great debt to his fellow man.. . which debt he proposes to pay off with your money.
-- G. Gordon Liddy

Democracy must be something more than two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner.
-- James Bovard, Civil Libertarian (1994)

Foreign aid might be defined as a transfer of money from poor people in rich countries to rich people in poor countries.
-- Douglas Casey, classmate of Bill Clinton at Georgetown University

Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.
--PJ. O'Rourke, Civil Libertarian

Government is the great fiction, through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else.
-- Frederic Bastiat, French Economist (1801-1850)

Government's view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.
-- Ronald Reagan (1986)

I don't make jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts.
-- Will Rogers

If you think health care is expensive now, wait until you see what it costs when it's free!
-- PJ. O'Rourke

In general, the art of government consists of taking as much money as possible from one party of the citizens to give to the other.
-- Voltaire (1764)

Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn't mean politics won't take an interest in you!
-- Pericles (430 B.C.)

No man's life, liberty, or property is safe while the legislature is in session.
-- Mark Twain (1866)

Talk is cheap... except when Congress does it.
-- Unknown

The government is like a baby's alimentary canal, with a happy appetite at one end and no responsibility at the other.
-- Ronald Reagan

The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of the blessings. The inherent blessing of socialism is the equal sharing of misery.
-- Winston Churchill

The only difference between a tax man and a taxidermist is that the taxidermist leaves the skin.
-- Mark Twain

The ultimate result of shielding men from the effects of folly is to fill the world with fools.
-- Herbert Spencer, English Philosopher (1820-1903)

There is no distinctly Native American criminal class... save Congress.
-- Mark Twain

A government big enough to give you everything you want, is strong enough to take everything you have.
-- Thomas Jefferson

What this country needs are more unemployed politicians.
-- Edward Langley, Artist (1928 - 1995)

October 17, 2008

Krupp encouraged: WSJ says race is 'competitive'

Marge Krupp (or her campaign staff) reads the Wall Street Journal. Well, old Wall Street Journals anyway: She sent out a press release today, Oct. 17, quoting an article that appeared in the Journal on Oct. 3.

But, no matter. She found solace in it anyway, as her race against 1st District Congressman Paul Ryan approaches the finish line, less than two months after it officially began.

Click to enlarge

The money quote for Krupp, in an article about Ryan's vote in favor of the $700 billion bailout bill, said this: "Mr. Ryan is being pilloried in Wisconsin, where he's in a competitive race."

Read those final five words again: "...he's in a competitive race."

Marge extends that quote, with one of her own: "One thing is clear, with the election less than 20 days away, voters are angry, we are in a competitive 50-50/Democrat-Republican toss-up district and Paul Ryan is in trouble."

Really? Voters angry about the bailout, yes. Ryan in trouble, eh?

I feel sorry for Marge: She won the right to actually run against Ryan on Sept. 9, when she beat two-and-one-half opponents (one guy dropped out, remember, but was still on the ballot) in the Democratic primary. That gave her exactly 56 days to mount a campaign against Ryan.

Meanwhile, Ryan has had 10 years in office to prepare his own campaign. And has proven by the onslaught of TV ads he's been running the last couple of weeks, that he has oodles of money. Has anyone seen a single Marge Krupp ad -- anywhere? Print, even? When she first announced her candidacy, Krupp estimated it would take $2 million to run effectively against Ryan -- and she could raise it. The Federal Election Commission shows her total contributions (9/30/08) as $140,089, with $36,882 coming from herself; Ryan (10/15/08) collected $1,758,038. The FEC says Krupp has $26,408 on hand (with $32,873 owed), while Ryan has $813,262 with debt of $26,332.

The 1st District may indeed be a toss-up when it comes to the top of the ticket -- but Ryan has had no trouble commanding more votes than the top of the ticket: In 2006 he beat the (admittedly lackluster-squared) candidacy of Democrat Jeff Thomas 62% to 37%, while Bush-Kerry was a fractional percentage toss-up. Many Democrats had hopes this year, given ... well, given all of the disasters thrown at us by a Republican administration, but so far have seen little reason to cheer in the 1st District race.

There's no question that Ryan is taking heat over his vote in support of the bailout. In her column, headlined What Leadership Looks Like, Journal writer Kimberley Strassel praises Ryan for his vote and condemns Wisconsin Congressmen Jim Sensenbrenner and Tom Petri for their "righteousness." She wrote:
For his sin of acting to forestall economic mayhem, Mr. Ryan is being pilloried in Wisconsin, where he's in a competitive race. He's been accused of abandoning his conservative principles, of "caving" and "bailing out" Wall Street. He received 3,000 calls last week and wryly notes the "only one in favor came from Hank Paulson."

...This has left Mr. Ryan alone to defend his position back home. It hasn't helped that his colleagues are spinning this as bravery, crowing that it was they who listened to constituents and they who acted on free-market principles. Never mind that these principles were nowhere in evidence back when it mattered. And never mind that should America crash, it will be the free market offered up as sacrifice to the regulatory mob.

It also hasn't helped that John McCain came out blaming this on Wall Street's "casino culture." Having initially placed this at the foot of the business community -- rather than at the foot of a political class that encouraged corporate excess -- Republicans fed into the left's line that this is a "bailout" of greedy executives. This has left grown-ups like Mr. Ryan struggling to explain the need to stabilize the financial system overall, and to protect Main Street from shedding its own blood.

Mr. Ryan is now busy sending out charts of Libor spreads to radio talk-show hosts (no joke), intent on explaining the seriousness of the crisis, and hopeful his credibility will see him through. "The best outcome is that [those of us who voted yes] take a political hit but avert a crisis," he says. How's that for leadership?
(Libor, by the way, is the "London Inter-Bank Offer Rate. The interest rate that the banks charge each other for loans, usually in Eurodollars." Aren't you glad you asked?)

Say what you want about the bailout -- and the Stock Market's collapse immediately after it passed, and since then, certainly echoed the public sentiment -- the question for us is this: Is Ryan's 1st District congressional seat up for grabs, "competitive" in Krupp and a Wall Street Journal writer's word, in what appears -- three Wisconsin polls last week gave Obama 10-point leads -- to be shaping up as a Democratic presidential year , at least in this state?

We'll know in less than three weeks. But I, for one, am unconvinced.

Modine building new plant in Austria

If you needed proof that U.S. jobs are going overseas, look no farther than Modine for a local example.

The Racine-headquartered manufacturer of thermal management technology, which laid off 20 managers here and cut post-retirement medical benefits less than three weeks ago, announced today that it is building a new manufacturing plant -- in Austria.

The company says it broke ground in Kottingbrunn, Austria, in September, it said, "to meet increasing demand for condensers from European automotive customers. Production is scheduled to start in the new facility in July 2009, with work being moved, in phases, from Modine's existing facility in Berndorf, Austria, by November 2009. In addition, the company has committed additional financial resources to expand its North American condenser manufacturing capabilities.

The company's statement continues:
"Modine has enjoyed a strong reputation in condenser technology dating back to the issuance of our first parallel flow (PF(TM)) condenser patent in 1986," said Paul Byrne, Modine's Managing Director - Global Powertrain Cooling Products. "Recent developments in condenser technology, including our Origami(TM) next generation heat exchanger tube, have strengthened our competitive position and heightened the need to enhance our global capabilities and continue to expand our refrigerant-based product line."

To fully leverage opportunities for its global condenser business, Modine has established a Refrigerant Components team within its Powertrain Cooling Group. Under the leadership of Dr. Stephen Memory, who has been appointed Director- Global Refrigerant Components, the new organization will be responsible for driving global standardization and new-product development activities for condensers and other emerging refrigerant component and system opportunities, as well as leading the company's North American condenser application engineering activities.

"Shifting our condenser-focused activity to our powertrain cooling initiatives fits well with our strategic business focus," said Byrne. "We are committed to developing front-end heat exchangers either for sale as individual components or as part of higher value-added integrated modules. This newly established center of excellence for refrigerant-based components and systems will position us to design and produce condensers that will satisfy increased customer demands for better performance and lighter weight."
On Oct. 1, when the job cuts here were announced, Modine said it was "restructuring" U.S. operations to increase cash flow. The 20 jobs eliminated accounted for 15 percent of its managers in Racine.

Textbook mom says she won't vote for Obama

The Racine mom who started the controversy over an excerpt written by Barack Obama in her middle-schooler's text book said she can no longer support Obama for president.

The mom, who agreed to an interview in exchange for anonymity, said she initially supported the Illinois senator. But after learning more about the issues she started to reconsider. Now, she's completely turned off to Obama because of the "sneaky" nature of the excerpt that appeared in her son's text book.

"It seems so underhanded," she said in a phone interview. "At this time, there would be no way I would vote for Obama."

The mom kicked off a wave of protest against the Racine Unified School District and publisher Houghton Mifflin Co. over a 15-page section in a middle school literature text book. The excerpt is from Obama's autobiography, "Dreams from My Father."

The Racine mom said she was most upset about a photo that showed Obama giving a speech at the Democrats' 2004 national convention. On one of the campaign signs in the photo you can read the web address for a website supporting Obama.

"That photo shouldn't be in there," she said. "There should be nothing political in the book."

The mom did call and complain about the textbook to the School District, but did not identify herself as the person who wrote the initial email. She doesn't want any personal attention on the issue, which has spread nationally through news wires, blogs and Fox News.

The mom said she would like to see the 15-page excerpt removed from the textbooks. She does not favor throwing out the books, because it would be too expensive.

In response to the issue, Racine Unified is reviewing its textbook selection guidelines.

Here's the post on Real Debate Wisconsin that started it all.

October 16, 2008

Take time to enjoy the view...

Huddle up! Local Republicans rally McCain-Palin volunteers

The local Republican Party added us to their mailing list and sent out this football-themed pep talk to its local volunteers:
Racine County embraces the football season in the final 2 weeks of the campaign.

The Racine McCain-Palin Victory Center announced today that the campaign season has hit the 2 minute warning!

What this means is this Saturday, October 18th, is our last Super Saturday before the biggest push of the season…and we need everyone to get off the bench and huddle up.

We have a game plan for Saturday. We need all of our reserve players to come out and devote a minimum of 2 hours of time in the field between 9:00 am - 6:00 pm and here is how you can contribute to the team:

Yard signs!! You’ve seen them around town and we need to get another 500-600 out. Additionally we have some large signs that will require 2 people with a truck!

Doors!! We have “walk books” so you can choose the distance and neighborhood you are able to walk! We will also be combining this with a lit drop…no knocks for the lit…just a drop.

Phones!! Call our Victory Center and reserve a time and phone just for you. We have plenty of phones and numbers that need your attention.

Our location:

In Racine
6500 Washington Ave

Red Apple site of latest school computer theft

Another Apple computer was stolen last night from a Racine school, making 69 such thefts in recent weeks, with a total value of about $60,000.

The district sent the following note to all employees this morning:
Unfortunately, another school was broken into last night. The extra police patrols around our schools discovered a broken window at Red Apple very early this morning, and one new Mac flat screen computer was stolen from an office. It appears that the additional security measures that have been implemented limited the loss.

The first line of defense against computer thefts is staff driven protection measures including drawing of shades, moving computers into areas that have alarms during the nights and weekends, and the other security measures that were mentioned in previous e-mails. Please continue these security measures until further notice.

At this point, no new computers will be installed into schools until the investigation is complete or additional security measures to protect computers have been implemented. The district is in the process of exploring additional security measures to guard against thefts.

If you have any information on any of the thefts, please report it to Crimestoppers. All staff is asked to continue to cooperated with the police investigations and the security measures.
Police discovered the theft about 1:30 a.m. when an officer found a broken window at the school. The Journal Times reports that the missing computer belonged to a staff member, and not the school district.

The power of Dooley

Wow. Fred Dooley is totally inside the heads of Racine Unified, the JT (and now apparently me too!). The Real Debate Wisconsin blogger has the district reviewing policies after he posted an anonymous (and unsubstantiated) complaint from a Unified parent upset about Barack Obama being included in a school text book.

The JT continues to follow on this story, reporting today the district will review how it selects textbooks and how it handles complaints about textbooks.

The JT story also notes that the district has yet to receive a complaint about the book. So let's review ...

1. Fred Dooley writes a post from an anonymous parent upset about excerpts from Barack Obama's autobiography in a middle school text book. He calls it "indoctrination."

2. The story spreads around to other blogs and media.

3. The JT reports Dooley's story claiming a parent complained about the book without talking to the parent (or even confirming they exist).

4. Unified will now review its textbook policies and how it handles the complaints.

5. The JT reports this review, while still noting no parent has complained to the district about the book.

6. Fred Dooley laughs and laughs and laughs.

Another $16K for KRM ...

Organizers of KRM are raising $1 million for another study for the proposed commuter rail system. Racine's share of the study's cost is $16,667, according to a letter written by Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission Executive Director Phil Evenson.

The new study is needed to submit KRM to the Federal Transit Authority in mid-2009 for additional money to proceed to the preliminary engineering stage of the project. Basically, that means doing all of the work needed to begin construction.

The study is funded by local, state and federal governments. Along with Racine, Kenosha and Milwaukee are contributing funds, as are Racine, Kenosha, Milwaukee counties. The funding formula is 80 percent covered by the federal government, 10 percent by the state and 10 percent by local governments. Racine County is also being charged $16,667 for the study.

As a KRM supporter, the money is a no-brainer to me. But with Rep. Robin Vos in Caledonia, I wonder how much sense it makes to keep pushing studies. Vos is set against KRM and the multi-million dollar investment in his community. As long as he opposes it, there's little chance Republicans in the Assembly will back KRM, and Gov. Doyle has shown no interest in fighting for the project.

But the studies must go on! Here's a question: If we would have taken all of the money spent on studies over the years and simply built KRM, would it be running by now?

October 15, 2008

Mary Beth Danielson: Meet Your Ancestors - at the Racine Public Library

Mary Beth Danielson with a young girl in Guatemala.

By Mary Beth Danielson

I had only been in Guatemala a few days on my first tour to visit MayaWorks weavers in their homes and communities, when I began to understand a powerful reality.

When you visit what is often referred to as “the Developing World”, “the Third World”, “the Emerging Nations” -- the journey you are on is not distance-covering, but time-travel.

If you want to celebrate those European, Asian, African, or New World slave cultures from which most of our great-grandparents emigrated – go to a poor country today. But don’t go for the great beaches, cheap shopping, bird watching, or digital camera vista-gathering. Instead, seek out ways to respectfully encounter the ordinary people who live in these money-poor countries.

This is why. If you do this, you will meet the people you come from. You will learn something about who your people were, and why earth’s poorest human beings today are, in fact, your next-of-kin.

This is also true. In most instances you will not feel pity nearly as much as you will be astonished at how smart, energetic, uncomplaining, funny, generous, and inventive people are when they have no one to lean on but themselves, their families, friends, and close community.

You will be, I guarantee, jealous of their bright-eyed children who help without whining, giggle constantly, who pour themselves into every opportunity to attend school and advance their lives. You will be stunned at the skinny 14-year old who will work in a field all morning alongside his father and grandfather, come home for a lunch heavy on tortillas and devoid of meat, who will then wash his arms and face in a basin of water, then go to school all afternoon.

Children of MayaWorks artisans at a school event. Without the modest but reliable income their mothers earn working for a Fair Trade organization, many children would would have to stay home to help the family instead of attending school.

You will visit homes so crude you might mistakenly call them shacks. Except you meet the hard-working, big-dreaming people who cook, eat, and sleep in these rudimentary shelters, and you realize that what makes a home beautiful might be something you need to rethink.

The past few weeks we have been nerve-wracked by the rollercoaster of our First World.

What’s not making the front page is this. While we are losing security and spending power -- third world nations are being hit with inflation running at 25-40%.

In other, much poorer nations, right now, people who could feed their families last year -- can’t feed them now.

We are making more economical culinary choices. More meals at home. Chicken instead of pork chops. Hamburger instead of roasts.

If you were already eating rice, tortillas, and broth – where do you cut back?

So here is an invitation to all of us -- You are invited to two evenings at the Racine Public Library.

The library, with input from the MayaWorks organization as well as our Racine’s new Fair Trade HOPES Center, is hosting PBS’s Frontline Social Entrepreneurship series. This is a series of seventeen 11-15 minute programs portraying successful entrepreneurial enterprises in poor nations.

Come and learn how local solutions to local problems are working all over the world. These low-budget, high-impact endeavors are fascinating models showing how people can and do make their lives more secure.

Come and watch the spirit of your ancestors played out in modern times.

Wednesday October 29, 6-8 p.m. Take a video tour of Guatemala, Uganda, Nepal, India and Cambodia. Discussion will follow, moderated by Racine’s newest social justice entrepreneur, Ann Pratt, OP, Director of HOPES Center.

On Wednesday evening, November 12, 6-8 p.m. we will welcome MayaWork’s new executive director, Jeannie Balanda as well as Board Member Phyllis Nickel. Come to hear how Fair Trade impacts the lives of hundreds of Maya weavers and their families in Guatemala today. Guatemalan refreshments will be offered at this celebration.

And in case you are someone who misses Mary Beth Danielson’s column in The Journal Times, she will be at both events. Door prizes will be given both nights featuring new writing, by her, for you.

Marta is a weaver for MayaWorks. She is at a loom in the courtyard of her home, which allows her to monitor her children while she works. Without Fair Trade standards, most women in the developing world must go to low paying work in factories, leaving their children at home, unsupervised.

You are warmly welcomed to these two friendly local evenings in the Racine Public Library – as we consider the global economy from the point of view of people in difficult places who are building justice, stability, and hope.

Obama textbook is stupid, but inconsequential

Update 2: The JT's coverage of this is funny. Their headline right now reads, "Text book mentioning Obama angers parent." The problem is the reporter doesn't know that. Fred Dooley reported an anonymous parent's complaint about the book. The JT doesn't even go that far. The reporter simply reports the district's reaction to the story. From what we know, there is no public complaint about the textbook, except from Fred's website (and Fox News, other bloggers, etc.)

The district has a well-reasoned response here. The gist: The text book includes excerpts from a contemporary minority leader who teachers hoped would connect with the remedial English students who use the book.

Original Post:

Fred over at Real Debate Wisconsin has been on us the past few days about excerpts from Barack Obama's autobiography and 2004 speech at the Democratic National Convention in an eighth grade text book used in Racine Unified.

It's a great story, and Fred did a good job of reporting it on his site, Real Debate Wisconsin. The story has taken off around the Internet and I hope a few people are clicking on his blog ads along the way. We would have run the same story.

Here's why: It's so frickin' stupid. Who put together this text book? How could they not see what was going to happen? The poster on Fred's site notes that the head of the publishing company is an Obama supporter. That's fine, but using school text books for a political agenda is really, really dumb.

That said ... let's be realistic. This will only be an issue until Nov. 4. Obama will win or lose the election on that day, and at that point he's either: 1.) President of the United States, and certainly worthy of a text book; or 2.) The junior senator from Illinois who has a nice life story. In either case, the text book is fine. (And, since the profile starts on page 847, I highly doubt the classes will get to it first semester.)

It's also worth noting this is an eighth-grade text book. The students can't vote, and I highly doubt a text book will sway their parents. It's true the students could vote again in four years, but again, Obama's political career rests on more than the opinions of 18-year-olds.

So, in summary:

1. This is really, really stupid on the part of the publisher (and possibly the district ... did no one see this coming?)

2. It won't have any effect on the election.

3. The text books will be fine to use in a couple of weeks.

4. Congratulations to Fred for running a story that brings a lot of traffic to his website.

October 14, 2008

St. Cat's students selling energy-saving light bulbs

Students at Saint Catherine's High School are selling energy-saving light bulbs to promote energy efficiency while raising funds for their Environmental Club.

Twenty-five students are participating in the Wisconsin K-12 Energy Education Program’s (KEEP) Bright Idea Fundraiser by selling compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs and LED holiday lights. This is the third year participating in the program.

According to Carrie Ziolkowski, program coordinator for KEEP, the objectives of the fundraiser are to promote awareness about the environment, energy efficiency, and health, while teaching students and residents how to save energy. Two dollars for every CFL and $3 per LED holiday light sold by students this year goes to the Environmental Club. The students also are providing the community with the opportunity to save money and energy, while improving the environment.

Last year the Saint Catherine's Environmental Club sold 130 bulbs and raised $346.00, saving Racine residents $3,378 in energy costs.

For information on how to order CFLs, email Melissa Warner. The fundraiser runs through Nov. 20.

CFLs reduce the amount of fossil fuels burned at power plants because they use less energy. This reduction results in fewer greenhouse gas and mercury emissions. If every Wisconsin household replaced just one incandescent bulb with an Energy Star qualified CFL, over the lifetime of those bulbs more than 102,000 tons of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide would be prevented from being released into the atmosphere. This is the environmental equivalent of removing nearly 14,000 cars from the road. CFLs use up to 75 percent less energy than conventional light bulbs.

KEEP is the result of a collaborative effort between the Wisconsin Center for Environmental Education (WCEE) and Wisconsin’s Focus on Energy program. The WCEE is a nonprofit organization, located in the College of Natural Resources at the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point. For more information on KEEP, visit its website.

Rainbow Quilters' show awash in color

The Rainbow Quilters filled the sanctuary of the Lutheran Church of the Resurrection with color on Saturday, as they presented their *BHL Quilt Show. (*Bring 'em, Hang 'em and Look at 'em.)

In all, there were 151 quilts on display, including 45 bed quilts, 77 wall hangings, 15 other items and 14 challenges.

Viewers' choice winners were:
  • Bed: Cecilia Sorenson
  • Wall : Darlene Slater
  • Other: Alyce Hermanson
  • Challenge: Judy Olmstead
In addition, 39 of the 46 one-square crayon challenges were sold. All proceeds from the show are donated to charity. Enjoy the pictures for a few minutes, and then get back to your sewing machines, ladies!

Wherefore art thou, Marge Krupp?

A few days ago, we did a light-hearted post entitled Marge Krupp Found! Well, it turns out we were premature. She's lost again.

Krupp, the Democratic nominee, winner of the four-candidate primary last month, was a no-show at today's Racine Taxpayers Association forum for all three 1st District Congressional candidates. In fairness, Krupp never said she would appear at the forum; the Taxpayers Association said she never responded to the group's invitation. (Later Tuesday, Krupp told the Journal Times she had a family emergency and was unable to attend the forum.)

Nonetheless, Libertarian Joe Kexel and Republican incumbent Paul Ryan bookended her empty chair for an hour-long question-and-answer session. Few sparks were evident, as the two agreed on many issues.

Kexel said he is for "a smaller federal government, one that doesn't take sides, one that doesn't like debt. I fear for my children." What the country needs, he said, is "less federal government and more state and local government."

Ryan agreed, saying "I'm very concerned about our government and the its direction," and pointed out that 18.3% of GDP now goes to support the federal government, but in a few years, "the pathway of the trajectory we are on" will require 40%. He said the country now has $53 trillion in unfunded liabilities.

Here's some of the Q and A.

Q: How do you distinguish between wants and needs?
Kexel: "The free market is sufficient;" it's a personal issue. "Government has no say in it. Once the federal government gets involved, it skews it." Kexel blamed the housing bubble on the government's efforts to put even unqualified people into their own houses.
Ryan: "Wants are things that free individuals choose for themselves; where government gets involved is in needs." Agreeing with Kexel, he said, "Joe's right; the housing bubble was a want...fueled by crony capitalism."

Q. What's your position on the privatization of Social Security?
Ryan: "I am an advocate of privatized retirement accounts. We must stop the raid on the Social Security Trust fund." Ryan talked about his proposal to allow individuals to put one-third of their Social Security funds in "life cycle accounts," and said "there has never been a 20-year period where the market hasn't done better than Social Security."
(Note: At least, that's how I heard it. Congressman Ryan's aide Conor Sweeney says what he really said was this: "Congressman Ryan did not state that he is an advocate of "privatized retirement accounts." As he stated at the event on Oct. 14, Congressman Ryan is "an advocate of personal retirement accounts." Under his proposal (H.R. 6110), individuals would be given the option to either stay in the traditional government-run system or to enter a system of personal accounts. Under the voluntary personal accounts system, the accounts and investment options will be managed and overseen by a public Social Security Personal Savings Account Board – not a stock broker or private investment firm. People who choose the enter the reformed system will select from a handful of government regulated options—similar to the retirement plan the Members of Congress and federal employees use.)
Kexel: "The current system is a pyramid scheme. I recommend a privatized system."

Q. How can bonds be safe when government is out of control?
Kexel: "They may not be. The free market means you do your homework."
Ryan: "Bonds are the safest form of investment... but the full faith and credit of the U.S. government is on shakier grounds. Heaven help us if bonds can't be redeemed. Bonds are the safest ... well, next to gold, I guess."

Q. Are you in favor of reimposing the Fairness Doctrine (equal broadcast time for all points of view)?
Ryan: "No. The right to free speech is something the government should not be censoring."
Kexel: "I would vote against it. Balance will come if we let the free market deal with it."

Q. How would you educate all U.S. kids to compete on a global scale?
Kexel: "It's the parents' job, and local community."
Ryan: "Education is the moral responsibility of the parents. I've already come out against the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind. I'm against the federalizing of the curriculum in our local schools. Trust me the bureaucrats in Washington will mess it up."

Q. Are you for or against the war in Iraq?
Ryan: "I voted for the authorization...but the administration messed it up for two or three years." Specifically, he referred to Paul Bremer, the first U.S. envoy there after the invasion, and the debaathification effort. Ryan said the question today is, "How do we come home with a victory?" and insisted "we can't leave a vacuum in the middle east. It matters that we leave a strong Iraq standing." He said, "the surge has worked," militarily and politically.
Kexel: "I would never have voted for authorization. That should only be by Congress, not a president. Now that we're in, I want to get out as quickly as possible." He said, however, that he agreed with former Secretary of State Colin Powell's dictum: "You broke it, you own it."

Q. Should there be a declaration of war before invading Iran?
Ryan: "Yes. I believe in the War Powers Act. Iran is probably our most dangerous foreign policy issue."
Kexel: "Yes, we should have a full debate. The people have to decide, not a person, or a neocon party." He said part of the reason Iran and North Korea insist on developing their own nuclear weapons capability is "because of Iraq, the Axis of Terror designation" made by President Bush.

Q. Do you favor a 9% increase in the Older Americans Act (Medicare reimbursement payments)?
Ryan: "I make a point not to comment on specif program levels...We're going to have a half-trillion-dollar deficit -- $438 billion right now -- We're going to need cutbacks." Ryan said, "My intention is to bring a balanced budget to the floor, as I've done before."
Kexel: "Cookie-cutter solutions do not work."

Q. How much border security is needed?
Kexel: "We should use all the force required. It seems insanity to worry about homeland security with a porous border."
Ryan: "I voted for the fence."

Q. What would you do with the Social Security trust fund?
Ryan: "Make it solvent. Stopping the raid is priority No. 1."
Kexel: "We made a deal with the devil. We should never have had Social Security within the government. If your bank did (what the government has done, using Social Security funds for other purposes), you'd probably sue them. We just broke the New York debt clock."

Q. Should CEO's pay be restricted?
Kexel: "Absolutely not. Companies should pay whatever they want, but we should not have bailouts either." He said the bailout "will create more inflation," and "we're teaching big business that the taxpayer is ready to pick up after you."
Ryan: "No, that's socialism." He said the bailout "was a very hard pill for me to swallow," but the economy is in a "one in 100-year episode" that he likened to "arteries clogged up." The government's intervention, he said, "is meant to prevent a crash, not to prevent a recession. The free market system is in jeopardy; it's an economic episode unlike any we've seen in our lifetime.
Both fear that inflation will follow.

Q. Would you suspend the war on drugs?
Ryan: "I do not support legalizing drugs...The border is a drug security issue too. And we must work on the demand side."
Kexel: "It's very important to have personal liberty. In reality, you can't stop a black market, and a black market creates crime. Most people aren't going to destroy themselves. Imagine a system where alcohol is banned. We tried that..."

October 13, 2008

Nice work if you can get it...

CORRECTION: WHOOPS! We made a rookie's mistake, basing this post entirely on the Journal Times' story (Oct. 14, Page 13A,). Just received a significant correction from Racine Unified: Stephanie Hayden, RUSD director of communication, writes: "Dr. Jackson Parker's salary will be based on the annual rate of $60,840, which is $14,040 for the period of October 1, 2008 until December 31, 2008."

As Saturday Night Live's Emily Litella would say, "Never mind!" Happy to hear it isn't so.

Original post:

Easy come, easy go!

The city's big spenders burned through $140,000 last night, according to separate stories in the Journal Times today.

First, the City Council's Finance and Personnel Committee voted to give $80,000 to the sexual assault victim of a Racine police officer, to settle her lawsuit.

Second, the Racine Unified School District voted to pay $60,000 to Dr. Jack Parker, who will work 20 hours per week for three months as deputy superintendent on some long-range projects not finished during his year as interim superintendent -- like the creation of a redistricting plan and plans to reform the district's secondary education and special education.

Translate that rate of pay for half-time work to a year of full-time work and it comes to $480,000!

Any way you figure it, Parker's pay rate is at least double that of the man who replaced him as superintendent in September. Dr. James Shaw's contract calls for roughly $210,000 a year: $180,000 salary, $20,000 deferred compensation in lieu of retirement fund contributions (if he stays for three years), and a $10,200 car allowance. Plus a one-time payment of $20,500 into his retirement savings plan.

Shaw presumably will also work more than 20 hours per week...

Parker spent last year as the district's interim superintendent after Dr. Jim Hicks was forced out resigned (at full pay for a year). Hicks, if we remember correctly, was earning $144,000 per year, plus $15,000 into the retirement fund and whatever other perks.

But, hey, it's only money... Compared to what the really big spenders in Washington doled out yesterday -- $250 Billion!! -- it's just a rounding error.

Newspaper endorsements: Will the JT be counted?

So, who do you think the Journal Times will endorse for president this year?

Editor and Publisher, "America's oldest journal covering the newspaper industry," today updated its list of newspaper endorsements for 2008. So far, the tally is 28-11:
  • 28 newspapers with a combined daily circulation of 2,758,429 have come out for Barack Obama
  • 11 newspapers, with a combined circulation of 1,349,721 have endorsed John McCain.
Well, that's already been out-dated: the Boston Globe, circulation 382,000 daily, just came out for Obama.

The Journal Times is owned by Lee Enterprises, and two of Lee's largest papers -- The St. Louis Post-Dispatch and Madison's Wisconsin State Journal -- are both in the Obama camp. The State Journal endorsed George Bush in 2004; the Post-Dispatch endorsed John Kerry.

The Wisconsin State Journal wrote Sunday:
Far more than his opponent, Obama represents a new direction. He has shown he can inspire and lead people to action. And his relatively short time in corrupt, self-absorbed, terribly-failed Washington, D.C., may actually be a key strength. Obama is not stuck in the status quo of the Capitol crowd or its long-failed Congress.
Their Democratic preference this time provides no clue about which way the Journal Times will lean. In my day, (hot metal Linotype machines, thick editing pencils, newspaperboys on bicycles leaving the paper on your doorstep) the various Lee papers' endorsement choices were left strictly up to local management. The Journal Times has a relatively new publisher, Rick Parrish, appointed to the position last December, so we have no history to go on.

The real question here is not who the JT will endorse but rather whether the paper will endorse at all. Stay tuned, but keep in mind that more and more newspapers -- afraid of offending their shadows in this grim economic climate for print -- are coming up with reasons not to endorse at all. The JT has taken that route in recent elections.

And, of course, we all know that Wisconsin was almost evenly split in the 2004 presidential election:
  • John Kerry took 49.7% of the vote;
  • George Bush got 49.32%.
  • Ralph Nader took .55% and "others" .43%.
Racine County bucked the statewide trend: Bush won the county with 51.6% of the vote, to Kerry's 47.5%.

Editor and Publisher's complete list is HERE.

Bookmobile broken again, redux

The Racine Public Library's Mobile Library will be out of service for a portion of the day on Wednesday, October 15, 2008.

Depending on the length of time it takes to make repairs, the Mobile Library may resume service for stops scheduled later in the day. Patrons who normally use the Mobile Library are advised to call the Adult Services Department, 262-636-9217, for an update before planning a visit to the Mobile Library.

Materials due at the Mobile Library while it is out of service will be renewed, and fines will not be charged.

Racine Unified student records for sale

The Kenosha News reported last week that the names and addresses of Kenosha Unified students are public records that are available for a fee. Twelve organizations have requested the addresses from the Kenosha district this year.

We checked with Racine Unified and found a similar situation. Students' names and addresses are public records, said Spokeswoman Stephanie Hayden. The district charges 9 cents per record for access to the names and addresses. The records are available under the State Open Records Law, which means the district can do little to keep the records from the public. 

Since July, the following businesses and organizations have requested names and addresses:

The Prairie School - All McKinley, Mitchell and Jerstad-Agerholm middle school students

Racine Lutheran High School - All students in fifth to eighth grades.

Racine County Human Services Department - All students for the purpose of assisting with child abuse/neglect investigations

American Professional Driving School - All freshman, sophomores and juniors in the district to promote driving school

UW-Parkside - All juniors and seniors to recruit students.

L&B North Driving School - All sophomores to promote driving school

YWCA - All students at Wind Point, North Park, Brown, Red Apple, Fine Arts, Dr. Jones and Thomas for purpose of promoting before/after school programs at the YWCA

St. Catherine's High School - All middle school students to send application materials

Terikay Photography - Student Directory information of incoming seniors at St. Catherine's, Prairie, Lutheran and Walden for purpose of promoting photography studio

City already over budget on legal costs

JT reporter Stephanie Brien has a well-done story today on the city already exceeding its budget for legal fees. Brien found the city is already $10,000, and Alderman Tom Friedl is quoted saying that an additional $100,000 allocated for legal services last month probably won't last through the year.

It makes me wonder how the city so grossly underestimated its legal budget. Is this an unusually litigious year?

It looks so. The City Attorney's office spent $18,802 on outside lawyers in 2005 and budgeted $57,200 for outside legal services in 2006 and 2007. Budgeting $125,000 in 2008 was a significant bump ... just not significant enough.

Obama, McCain signs being stolen?

It wouldn't be an election without reports of political signs being stolen out of people's yards. This one is a little different because Obama's yard signs cost $7, which makes this a theft. (McCain supporters: If you've had signs stolen, let us know and we'll add your complaints to the list.)

Here's the report on the stolen Obama signs:
I've heard from friends who live on the north side that their yard signs for Obama have been repeatedly stolen; Sonja Becvar, who lives on the corner of North Street and LaSalle, has had hers taken more than twice, and she says that her neighbors on LaSalle Street have all had their signs taken, some in broad daylight.

Here's a report on stolen McCain sign:
We had three McCain/Palin signs stolen from our front yard last Tuesday night...I did call the police and filed a complaint. I had purchased the signs from the McCain website and they were $7 each. They have been replaced. We live in Franksville. ~Sandra Swantz