Monday, December 24, 2007

Putting Christ into Christmas not enough.

Hi folks,

Happy Christmas everyone... but a word.

All this yammering about putting Christ back into Christmas is giving me a migraine. A majority of contemporary Christians still seem unwilling to put Christ into Christianity.

So just as a reminder:

When Jesus said "Blessed are the poor" he didn't mean we should make more of them.

[Matthew 5:3, Lk. 16:19-31, Matthew 5: 38-49, I Tim. 6:6-19 ]

The problem, as Chesterton said, is not that Christianity has been tried and found wanting, but that it has been found difficult and never tried at all.

Dream in heavenly sleep everyone.
Tomorrow, you'll have to get up.


Thursday, December 06, 2007

Ozaukee school children saved from virtual education.

Hi folks,

Education as commerce? From the Journal-Sentinel:
By Amy Hetzner

Court rules against virtual school

A virtual school based in the Northern Ozaukee School District plans to appeal a court ruling that it violates several state laws and ask for a stay of an order that would prevent it from receiving payments for non-district students enrolled at the school.

The ruling against Wisconsin Virtual Academy "threatens every online school program in Wisconsin," WiVA Principal Kurt Bergland said. "There's thousands of kids and teachers and families in all those schools that are now involved with this, whether they realize it or not."

The decision by the District 2 Court of Appeals in Waukesha, which was released today, overturns a previous decision by an Ozaukee County judge.

"As the law presently stands, the charter school, open-enrollment and teacher certification statutes are clear and unambiguous, and the District is not in compliance with any of them," Judge Richard Brown wrote on behalf of the three-judge panel that decided the case.

The ruling is a victory for the Wisconsin Education Association Council, the state's largest teachers union, which argued that because the school essentially operated out of students' homes throughout the state and used parents as primary educators it violates statutes regarding teacher licensure, charter schools and open enrollment.

Yep, this ruling is a threat -- a threat to 'educational professionals' trying to pry tax dollars from the pockets of parents in Ozaukee County. Mainly, this ruling threatens to guarantee those kids a decent education.

Virtual education is expensive and, as its industrial processes intrude into the classroom, [did we miss seeing Pink Floyd's Brick in the Wall?] makes huge profits possible for those who run it as a business, specifically K12 Inc, the hatchling of -- I'm embarrassed to say -- a member of my own discipline, former Secretary of Education Bill Bennett.

[Bill, "Virtues?" You must've stopped reading the Nicomachean Ethics after Book 2. You really needed to read all the way to the end.]

We were more than adequately warned about this kind of snake oil in Cliff Stoll's 1996 book Silicon Snake Oil. Kindergarteners need finger paint and sand boxes, not flat panel displays. Kids need to learn the moral lessons of kick-the-can, not Halo III. The fact that an appeals court was able to rule so easy tells us something.

But here's my real conundrum: what does it say about a country where the teacher's union has to sue to protect educational standards?

For those of you who don't want to read Aristotle have a look at Josef Pieper's Leisure: the basis of culture.

Virtual education is an easy way to educate fewer students, less well, while using 100's of millions of dollars in infrastructure.


Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Too much stuff.

Hi folks,

This was fun and nicely put together. Linear systems in a finite field don't work... for long.

From Annie Leonard at the Tides Foundation.

More grist for the mill.


Saturday, December 01, 2007

Tandy pulls 95 jobs out of West Bend

Hi folks,

What Gehl brings with one hand, Tandy takes out with another.

From the Business Journal of Milwaukee.

Tandy Brands to close West Bend warehouse

Tandy Brands Accessories Inc. will cease distribution operations at the company's West Bend facility during the third quarter of fiscal 2008, eliminating 95 jobs, a company spokesman said Friday.

The decision is part of Arlington, Texas-based Tandy Brands' ongoing efforts to streamline operations.

Distribution from the company-owned, 264,000-square-foot warehouse, part of the former Amity Leather Co. business, will be transferred to either Dallas or Yoakum, Texas, or outsourced to a third-party, Tandy Brands said. Most of Tandy's distribution operations at the Wisconsin site will cease by the end of January.

A note in passing: the difference between the new jobs at Gehl and the old jobs at Tandy is four years of college.


Friday, November 30, 2007

Evel Knievel: final jump.

Hi folks,

The past is disappearing over the western horizon.

Yesterday, it rode off on a Harley.

Ciao Evel.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Judge Z again, supremely trying cases with personal conflict.

Hi folks,

From One Wisconsin Now:
Even as she remains the focus of an unprecedented conflict of interest ethics investigation, Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Annette Ziegler is set to hear arguments Thursday in a case where she has numerous conflicts of interest. The case involves a dispute between the state and the Neenah-based Menasha Corporation.

Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, which spent $2 million on Ziegler's behalf in her recent election, previously filed an amicus brief siding with Menasha. In the same race, Ziegler also received a contribution from the company's former top executive.

The case before Ziegler and the Court, Wisconsin Department of Revenue vs. Menasha Corporation, 2004AP3239, involves the eligibility of a business for a state sales tax exemption.

Annette Ziegler has a dog in this fight and must recuse herself from the case. In response to the conflict, One Wisconsin Now has begun an online petition drive calling for Ziegler to recuse herself in the case. Sign the Petition Today! After you sign, don't forget to forward the petition to at least five friends.

Apparently, the appearance of conflict no longer matters to Americans or, more shockingly, to Wisconsinites. Where's Fighting Bob when we need him?

Maybe I am shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!

That's probably it.

Mp aka Louis Renault, Prefect

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Judge Ziegler: admission and admonition.

Hi folks,

Admission is good for the soul and Justice Ziegler has been exemplary, since being caught.

More is incoming, but most recently the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is reporting:
Posted: Nov. 16, 2007

Madison - Stung by a drawn-out ethics inquiry, new state Supreme Court Justice Annette K. Ziegler has begun routinely disclosing campaign contributions she received from parties with matters pending before the court.


In a separate investigation covering some of the same cases, the Judicial Commission concluded Ziegler should be publicly reprimanded. Ziegler has agreed that punishment would be appropriate. The panel of appeals judges will make its own recommendation to the Supreme Court.

And from the Wisconsin State Journal:

Although the panel earlier asked the two sides to discuss additional cases and other ties between Ziegler and West Bend Savings Bank, those issues weren't probed Monday. Presiding Judge Ralph Adam Fine also appeared to signal he was unlikely to come down hard on Ziegler. He described her acknowledged violations as "not even a blip on the screen" compared to wrongdoing by other Wisconsin judges, including those who've been disciplined for lying to investigators and falsifying documents.

Ziegler attorney James Troupis acknowledged "a judge is assumed to know the provisions of the code and know its applicability in a given case." But he said Ziegler inadvertently violated the code when she handled cases involving West Bend Savings Bank, where her husband is on the board of directors.

Two of the three Court of Appeals judges — Fine and Charles Dykman — appeared puzzled about how Ziegler could overlook such a "bright line" rule. It requires judges to announce their conflict of interest or remove themselves from cases in which they have close ties to one of the parties.

If it's a blip, that means it still showed up on the radar. These 'mistakes' are important because they mar the appearance of being just -- something just as important for our public officials, especially our Supreme Court Justices, as actually being just.

What's next?


Monday, November 19, 2007

5,000 Soldiers Deserted Army in 2007

And we're not even to Christmas yet.
NPR : Nearly 5,000 Soldiers Deserted Army in 2007:
by Nancy Mullane
November 19, 2007

Army desertion rates are up 80 percent since the United States invaded Iraq in 2003. The actual numbers of deserters are still low — less than 1 percent of the entire force — but they show a steady increase over the past few years. The Army says nearly 5,000 soldiers deserted in 2007, a 42 percent increase from 2006.
42 percent more seems like a lot. Too bad those soldiers couldn't get into the Alabama Air Guard.


Mouseland. A reminder.

Hi folks,

Some of you are probably not familiar with Tommy Douglas, one of the last century's great Canadian populists but, what with the political party apparatus laying track and running our elections, a story of his kept coming back into mind. I never voted in a single election when this story wasn't front and center in my mind. You can swap Canada for the US here without missing a thing.


As told by Tommy Douglas in 1944

It's the story of a place called Mouseland. Mouseland was a place where all the little mice lived and played, were born and died. And they lived much the same as you and I do.

They even had a Parliament. And every four years they had an election. Used to walk to the polls and cast their ballots. Some of them even got a ride to the polls. And got a ride for the next four years afterwards too. Just like you and me. And every time on election day all the little mice used to go to the ballot box and they used to elect a government. A government made up of big, fat, black cats.

Now if you think it strange that mice should elect a government made up of cats, you just look at the history of Canada for last 90 years and maybe you'll see that they weren't any stupider than we are.

Now I'm not saying anything against the cats. They were nice fellows. They conducted their government with dignity. They passed good laws--that is, laws that were good for cats. But the laws that were good for cats weren't very good for mice. One of the laws said that mouseholes had to be big enough so a cat could get his paw in. Another law said that mice could only travel at certain speeds--so that a cat could get his breakfast without too much effort.

All the laws were good laws. For cats. But, oh, they were hard on the mice. And life was getting harder and harder. And when the mice couldn't put up with it any more, they decided something had to be done about it. So they went en masse to the polls. They voted the black cats out. They put in the white cats.

Now the white cats had put up a terrific campaign. They said: "All that Mouseland needs is more vision." They said:"The trouble with Mouseland is those round mouseholes we got. If you put us in we'll establish square mouseholes." And they did. And the square mouseholes were twice as big as the round mouseholes, and now the cat could get both his paws in. And life was tougher than ever.

And when they couldn't take that anymore, they voted the white cats out and put the black ones in again. Then they went back to the white cats. Then to the black cats. They even tried half black cats and half white cats. And they called that coalition. They even got one government made up of cats with spots on them: they were cats that tried to make a noise like a mouse but ate like a cat.

You see, my friends, the trouble wasn't with the colour of the cat. The trouble was that they were cats. And because they were cats, they naturally looked after cats instead of mice.

Presently there came along one little mouse who had an idea. My friends, watch out for the little fellow with an idea. And he said to the other mice, "Look fellows, why do we keep on electing a government made up of cats? Why don't we elect a government made up of mice?" "Oh," they said, "he's a Bolshevik. Lock him up!" So they put him in jail.

But I want to remind you: that you can lock up a mouse or a man but you can't lock up an idea.

That man knew were his towel was.


Thursday, November 15, 2007

Getting your flu shot this year? Got Mercury?

Hi folks,

It's always something.
JS Online: Most flu shots contain mercury, but few know it

About 80% of all flu shots distributed in the United States contain a mercury-based preservative called thimerosal. Thimerosal consists of 49.6% ethyl mercury, an anti-bacterial, anti-fungal that allows manufacturers to sell the vaccine in large, multi-dose containers without fear of contamination.

A typical 0.5 milliliter flu shot contains 25 micrograms - or 50,000 parts per billion - of mercury.

The EPA classifies a liquid with 200 parts per billion of mercury as hazardous waste. The limit for drinking water is 2 parts per billion.

Using the standards set for methyl mercury consumption - the kind that's in fish - an average 130-pound person getting the flu shot would exceed the daily limit by more than four times. A 22-pound baby would get more than 25 times the amount of mercury considered safe. And doctors are recommending that many babies and children get two flu shots this season.

Tiddly pom.


Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Some West Bend Referendum Fallout.

Hi folks,

Just to catch us up. The telephone blitz from the Americans for Prosperity (sic) lobbyists turned out not to be illegal after all... which is good. Here's some of the Journal article

Group's calls to West Bend are legal

Official says message about schools came close to violating law

Posted: Nov. 5, 2007

West Bend - A national group advocating lower government spending did not violate state election laws when it sponsored computer-generated telephone messages for West Bend School District residents about a proposed $119.3 million school building referendum, Washington County District Attorney Todd Martens said Monday.

The message from Americans for Prosperity did not expressly promote or oppose a particular vote on the referendum in today's special election, so the group was not required to register to campaign on the issue, Martens said.

The district attorney responded to a request from It's Time, a West Bend group supporting passage of the referendum, to investigate whether the message violated state law. The calls were placed Friday.

"I believe the language in the call comes dangerously close to express advocacy," Martens said in a letter to It's Time. Martens, in the letter, urged Americans for Prosperity and its state director, Mark Block, "to scrupulously adhere to the requirements of Wisconsin elections and campaign financing law."

"The communication in question obviously opposes the referendum question," Martens said.

"Although it appears that some of the information in the call is misleading and a distortion of the true financial impact of the referendum on taxpayers, the veracity of the political speech is not the issue in determining whether Americans for Prosperity is required to register as a political committee," according to Martens' letter.

This was quite a learning experience. Apparently, distorting facts in order to sway voters is not legally the same thing as advocating the position you're attempting to sway voters to vote for.

I love this country.


Saturday, November 03, 2007

West Bend Library threatened with liberty by religious group.

Hi folks,

I guess public institutions do have to advertise religious events:

Wisconsin Library Finally Allows Posting of Pro-life Event Flyer

West Bend, WI ( --
After the pro-life law firm Liberty Counsel intervened on behalf of a West Bend, Wisconsin resident, a library director agreed to allow a flyer announcing a pro-life event to be posted in the library along with other community announcements. Mary Weigand wanted to inform others about an annual Life Chain event, but the library director refused to allow the flyer and insisted that the library policy prohibited religious material. Weigand contacted Liberty Counsel. After receiving Liberty Counsel's demand letter, the library director apologized to her and allowed the flyer to be posted on two library bulletin boards in time for the event. Mathew D. Staver, Founder of Liberty Counsel and Dean of Liberty University School of Law, commented, "When libraries or other government facilities create an open forum such as a community bulletin board, it is impermissible to discriminate against religious viewpoints."
Good news for all of us. Now we can count on Liberty University to defend library flyers posted by socially conscious Lutherans who want to schedule prayer vigils outside anti-tax seminars, and maybe even a Muslim students alliance that wants to protest racial profiling outside Mitchell International Airport.

Unless, in America, some animals are more equal than others.

[whew... did I actually need to add that link?]


West Bend school referendum, Is an out of state anti-school group breaking the law?

Hi folks,

Something from the Journal-Sentinel on out of state interlopers brought in to sway the referendum vote:

School referendum backers think telephone campaign violates law

Posted: Nov. 2, 2007

West Bend - A national group advocating limits on new taxes and government spending jumped in on a local school building referendum election Friday, just four days before voters go to the polls.

Americans for Prosperity, which maintains a state office in Milwaukee and has offices in other states, sponsored computer-generated telephone calls that began blanketing homes in the West Bend School District on Friday afternoon, according to local residents.

Several members of a local referendum support group have asked the Washington County district attorney's office to investigate the telephone campaign as a possible violation of state election laws. State laws generally require groups to register with municipal or school district clerks before campaigning on a ballot issue. [my italics]


School District officials confirmed Friday that no individual or organization had registered to campaign in opposition to the school building referendum.

Hmm. So, we have an out-of-state group that jumped into a local issue and decided not to bother following the law? They have friends in the district, though, including our good friend Owen Robinson, over at Boots and Sabers. I know Owen is a big supporter of Americans for Prosperity -- although how you can vote against the single biggest booster of economic prosperity in a globalized economy (improving the educational infrastructure) and still claim to be in favor of prosperity, doesn't make any damn sense to me.

Here's the latest update on this from the local pro-school group,

“Americans for Prosperity” Phone Messages

If anyone received an automated TAXPAYER ALERT call – this is an outside group headquartered in Texas with an office in Milwaukee. They are attempting to sway the election. It is likely NOT a coincidence that they started this on the Friday afternoon before the vote next week. Our DA, Todd Martens, has agreed to investigate if this is an illegal activity over the weekend. This group is not registered as an action committee.

There are three major misleading parts to the message:

  • The use of OUR in the message from a group outside the community to seem like they are local. "for each child added to our district since the last time they hiked our taxes"
  • The use of the immeasurable "since the last time they hiked our taxes". What was the last time? The last referendum? The last time a building was built? The last time the general tax amount was raised? It is impossible to know.
  • To accurately measure cost per student, it would be necessary to determine the number of students that were educated in the buildings over 60 years and then divide that by the referendum amount. 60 Years is given as the average life of a school building in the US. In West Bend we get more life out of the buildings, our average is 84 years.

If you got the above mentioned call, please write a letter and fax it to the DA (262-335-4739). This group may not be playing by the rules that we have been following very closely. If you don't have fax, please bring it to Sara Fleischman's home (1142 Kinross Ct.) this weekend. It will be dropped off Monday at 8am.

It sure seems like a lot of people from outside of our district don't want us to decide how to spend our own money on our future. I wonder why that is?


Monday, October 22, 2007

This week in where?

Hi folks,

Just because I had no idea what's been going on in Chile lately, I looked. Guess what?

Chile to expand Antarctic claim after British move -

SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) -- Chile said Monday it will claim an extended portion of the Antarctic seabed to uphold its rights in the face of a similar step by Britain.

Britain last week said it is preparing a claim under a U.N. treaty that allows countries to claim continental shelf up to 350 nautical miles (402 statute miles) off their shores. The treaty also gives countries the right to search for oil and natural gas there.

Earlier treaties allowed countries to claim territory only 200 nautical miles from the coast.

The British claim would extend from the boundaries of the British Antarctic Territory, a land Britain first claimed in 1908, and would conflict with claims by Argentina and Chile.

And so it goes.


Friday, October 19, 2007

World War III? Ready, set, go.

Hi folks,

Okay, this is a bit off the usual Kettle Moraine trail, but World War Three would find us, even here. The President mentioned it the other day:
Bush warns of World War III? - First Read -

In his new conference yesterday, the Washington Post writes, “Bush forecast doomsday if Tehran builds nuclear weapons. ‘We got a leader in Iran who has announced that he wants to destroy Israel,’ he said. ‘So I've told people that if you're interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them from [having] the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon.’”

Anyway, I just wanted to get this little prediction out of my system.

We'll be in Iran before the next election.

W has set up this invasion much more cleverly than he did the invasion of Iraq. We went into Iraq based on his assertions that Iraq had nuclear weapons -- when he knew they didn't.

In the case of Iran, he's made it a lot easier... all we need to show this time is that Iran has the "knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon."

Technically, Wisconsin has the knowledge necessary to make nuclear weapons.... so, Iran should be a piece of cake.

And if that's not enough to distract us, his administration is trying to plunk down US missile sites in former Soviet satellite states -- a move Bush/Cheney knew would annoy/terrify the Russians. Remember that whole business about the Russians being paranoid and still under the thumb of former KGB officers? Yeah. They're reaction is pretty predictable.

Somewhere in that mix of scariness, Iran will look like an obvious decision.

Or maybe George believes that if he starts WW III, Jesus will come back in the H-bomb.



Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Bellowing and The Howling Class.

Hi folks,

And while I was getting all that "Mark Bellowing Belling" out of my system, it looks like the editorial board at the Journal, in the words of one of our local cheddarsphere bloggers, have finally eaten their Wheaties. A number of our local so-called neo-con whiners have been complaining about Wisconsin's recent slip in tax status down to #39. Boo hoo. And they've been screeching like baby owls about this as if it means no more chewy treats.

Unfortunately, out in the real world, tax rates aren't the only factor determining where companies locate their HQ's -- or any of their other divisions.... that only happens in the blog-universe, where no one has to use real numbers or have their arguments challenged and the satisfaction of whining never seems to end.

Anyway, the link and a snippet from the the Journal Editorial:

Editorial: The howling class

The howlers are barking over Wisconsin's business tax climate, and they have a point, but it would be more productive to build consensus for solutions.

From the Journal Sentinel
Posted: Oct. 15, 2007

Thirty-seven Fortune 500 companies call the Chicago/Milwaukee corridor home - eight in the Milwaukee region alone. Milwaukee is a national leader in business clout by that measure on a per-capita basis. There is a reason for that. It's still a good place to do business.

Um, and locally, let me mention Gehl Co. whose new R&D division placement was secured only partly with the usual tax breaks, but also -- and explicitly -- with the recognition of professional/educational resources available here. If things were really that lousy here, then why would 13.5% of the top 500 companies in the US keep their HQ's here?

Do the Howlers suppose that Miller stayed in Milwaukee out of nostalgia? If they do, they've been eating more than owl-caught mice.

Think about it, we're still ahead of California and New York in terms of tax status and yet some of the remaining 76.5% of major corporations have their HQ's in LA and NYC. Startling.

As usual, thinking about it ruins all the fun of whining.

I was never a fan of Coors, btw, but maybe Miller will straighten out their recipe.


Mark "Bellowing" Belling: not the king-maker of Washington County, thank you.

Hi folks,

Heeeee's baaaaaack sticking his nose into Washington County again.

Not content to let the good people of Washington County make up their own minds, Mark "Bellowing" Belling went on a little rant recently about the dangers of spending our money on educating our kids.

It is, of course, his job to improve his ratings by whatever means necessary. It's his living after all. Bruce Murphy's had to watch him for years, and this little explanation makes a lot of sense.

Mark Belling’s Folly

by Bruce Murphy | Tuesday 9/11/2007

Mark Belling is very smart and can be a savvy media analyst. That confuses people who think he must always have some basis for his opinions. Not really. Mark’s business is show biz. He’s an entertainer, as he freely concedes. He rarely does any reporting, rarely provides any balance on his radio shows and often doesn’t bother to correct his inaccuracies.

So, back to us, Belling bellows about our business in order to pump his ratings and he does it at our expense. Normally, that'd be okay -- but this is important.

The future of the kids who live here is important.

Belling's ratings aren't.

He doesn't live here, work here, or pay taxes here. He doesn't shop here, buy groceries, gas, or beer here -- unless he has a secret mansion on Big Cedar Lake somewhere. He doesn't have kids in school here, doesn't care about our interests or our future, or about what we think is best for our kids.

Still, he does have one thing most of us don't: a TV show.

For some reason, those Sunday morning TV guys always think they know what other people should think and do.

Having a TV show doesn't make him smarter than us, doesn't make him an expert on our kids, schools, education, or on the new global economy we have to get our kids ready for (even if he doesn't -- although I'd love to see his job outsourced to India... we could call it "Sunday Morning with Bangalore and Company") .

It doesn't mean he understands the relation between investing in education and its (huge!) economic payoffs. It doesn't make him an expert on local control of local issues. It doesn't even make him a decent example of common sense.

It makes him a big mouth on TV.

He stomped around Washington County using his TV show years ago when Glenn Grothman ran against Mary Panzer. Now he's acting as if that gives him the right to have his say in our neighborhood schools... and he's actually criticizing Glenn for going soft on... wait, on what again?

On a business savvy and tax-wise study that took some of our smartest and most fiscally conservative neighbors two years to finish??

Uh, right.

Let's not confuse a common sense approach to spending our money on our kids with Mr. Belling's bellowing for ratings.

I'm just thinking out loud, of course.


Monday, October 15, 2007

White House: "More Study Needed" on Gore Nobel

Uncertain Principles: White House: "More Study Needed" on Gore Nobel

(WASHINGTON, DC) On the heels of reports from Oslo that the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded jointly to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and former US Vice President Al Gore, a White House spokesman issued a statement saying that "significant uncertainty" remained regarding the recipient of the prize.

"The President feels that at this time, it's too early to say for sure whether Al Gore has won the Peace prize," said White House spokesman Scott Stencil. "The science is just not conclusive yet. The President feels that more study is needed before we agree that this honor has been conferred to the former Vice President."

That should be enough of that.


Sunday, October 14, 2007

An amusement from Mr. Borowitz. Nobel Prizes and elections.

From The Borowitz Report .

Sunday , October 14, 2007
Get The Borowitz Report on your desktop RSS Feed

Supreme Court Gives Gore’s Nobel to Bush

Stunning Reversal for Former Veep

Just days after former Vice President Al Gore received the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts on global warming, the United States Supreme Court handed Mr. Gore a stunning reversal, stripping him of his Nobel and awarding it to President George W. Bush instead.

For Mr. Gore, who basked in the adulation of the Nobel committee and the world, the high court’s decision to give his prize to President Bush was a cruel twist of fate, to say the least.

But in a 5-4 decision, the justices made it clear that they had taken the unprecedented step of stripping Mr. Gore of his Nobel because President Bush deserved it more.

“It is true that Al Gore has done a lot of talking about global warming,” wrote Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for the majority. “But President Bush has actually helped create global warming.”

Even as Mr. Gore was being stripped of his Nobel, he received strong words of support from Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, who said that the former vice president’s Nobel win “shows that he is devoting his life to the right thing and should definitely stay the course.”

In an interview with reporters in Iowa, Sen. Clinton said that “Al Gore should remain dedicated to the cause of global climate change, at least through November of 2008.”

Sen. Clinton suggested that Mr. Gore could further research the source of global warming by immediately boarding a rocket ship to the sun.



Friday, October 12, 2007

A Nobel Prize for Vice President Gore.

Hi folks,

I wonder when President Bush will get his Nobel Prize?

In the meantime:
Gore: Award Puts Focus on Global Warming

PALO ALTO, Calif. (AP) — For years, former Vice President Al Gore and a host of climate scientists were belittled and, worst of all, ignored for their message about how dire global warming is. On Friday, they were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their warnings about what Gore calls "a planetary emergency."

Gore shared the prize with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a United Nations network of scientists. This scientific panel has explained the dry details of global warming in thousands of pages of footnoted reports every six years or so since 1990.

I'm waiting for someone to suggest that the Nobel Prizes are rigged. Any bets on how long it takes for FoxNews (sic) to do the expose?


Education equals an economically sound future.

Hi folks,

I had an anonymous contributor send in a comment on this topic in an earlier post (see Assembly budget cuts college for 200 back on July 30, 2007) and thought it required its own thread. Here's his/her message:
Hate to come into this so late, how about reviving this topic? It really needs to become "top of mind".

Just finished "Innovation Nation" by John Kao (don't want to tell anyone what to read, but I would say this is a "must read"). Currently reading "The Elephant and the Dragon" by Robyn Meredith. I am doing it for self-preservation - trying to learn more about the global economy to modify my investing style.

Here are a few things from "Innovation Nation": China's investment in education of it's population is projected to result in China have more English speakers by 2025 than the rest of the world combined. If current trends continue, by 2010 90% of all scientists & engineers in the world could be living in Asia. China & Indian turn out 6.5 million college graduates a year, five times as many as the US. Nearly 1 million are engineers, versus 70,000 US engineering graduates each year. Ever hear of the "Biopolis" initiative in Singapore? - they actually select doctoral candidates (about 500 are in the program) and pay for their graduate education, as well as a tax-free five-year living allowance worth $750,000 in U.S. dollars.

There is a certain momentum effect going on too - remember how social/political changes took off in the late 60's/early 70's? Well, globally we are going to see big changes real fast, and by the time the US catches on to that, it will be too late.

Sorry to go on so long - again, when you have time, I hope you can give this topic some serious discussion.

The numbers I've been given by people who study this sort of thing suggest that, in terms of education, the US is exactly where it was, in terms of manufacturing, in 1982. We were on top of the world with the dawn of India and China only a faint glow on the horizon.

It's 2007.

The sun is up.

MIT used to be the #1 engineering school in the world. Today, it's the second choice for Indian engineering students. The Wisconsin legislature continues to chop away at the UW System budget because they believe, apparently, that education is a bad way to invest our tax dollars. Wisconsin is already 34th in the nation in terms of percentage of workers with bachelor's degrees. At this rate, we'll fall behind Mississippi (we're already behind Texas) in no time.

We might be able to live with that. I'm not sure how comfortable we'll be when we fall behind Singapore, Taiwan, and the economic development zones around Pudong and Wuxi. Right now companies in China still have to bring in management from outside. Pretty soon they'll be producing their own and then -- they won't need us anymore.

We should all remember, with a slight chill, that this is what happened to France.

Maybe our cream sauces and fashion sense will be as good.


Thursday, October 04, 2007

Tommy Bartlett's new "Death of the Enlightenment" waterskiing show?

Hi folks,

Here's what happens when you stop funding education.

From : Wisconsin Dells Events
[...] after several years of collecting artifacts and models, Mielke hopes to bring an intelligent design museum to Wisconsin Dells.

"Everybody is getting one side of this," Mielke said. "We're going to show another side to what people believe about dinosaurs."

So, we'll have a museum in the Dells showing that P.T. Barnum was right. There's a sucker born every minute. We'll also have our own a museum, one outside of the South, marking the end of the Enlightenment.

Maybe the FIBs will like it.

Normally, we could chuckle about this except, despite Supreme Court rulings explicitly banning creationism and so called beliefs in "intelligent design" from being taught in high school science classes, people keep trying to get away with it. People keep running stealth candidates and being elected to school boards (most recently in Grantsburg, Wisconsin) which then try to teach religious material as if it's science.

This doesn't do religion any favors. It's tantamount to teaching high school students lies about how science works.

Maybe students would learn to lie to themselves -- which is what it takes to believe creationism is scientific rather than religious -- or that spending money on education is bad for the economy and a waste of our time as a state in the Union.

I wonder if the Chinese are teaching their kids that scientific explanations must always take a back seat to their personal beliefs?

Ah, and for more of which, drop over the John Hawks.

Just wond'ring,

Monday, October 01, 2007

Justice for Justice Ziegler -- Update:

Hi folks,

Not done yet, apparently.

I don't know. She looks happy here, and yet:

From LegalNewsline: New Wisc. Justice can't bury misconduct charges - UPDATE

New Wisc. Justice can't bury misconduct charges - UPDATE

Ziegler and the WJC appeared to resolve outstanding conduct issues against the new Justice when they agreed that she should face only public reprimand over earlier non-recusal charges, LNL reported earlier this month. But those charges did not include the West Bend Bank cases the Judicial Conduct Panel now wants to check.

And in the Wisconsin State Journal:

Panel widens Ziegler conflict of interest probe

A panel investigating conflicts of interest by Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Annette Ziegler signaled Wednesday that it plans to expand the probe by further examining Ziegler's ties to West Bend Savings Bank and her statements prior to this spring's election about those conflicts.

The three-judge panel ordered Ziegler and the Wisconsin Judicial Commission to provide additional information about a reported $2 million in loans Ziegler and her husband received from West Bend Savings Bank, where J.J. Ziegler serves on the board of directors. In their request for additional information, the judges cited media reports detailing potential conflicts of interest beyond those cited by the commission.

And so on.

And so it goes. Does anyone know if any previously sitting Wisconsin Supreme Court justice has ever been investigated for violations they've actually admitted?

Maybe the Wisconsin Supreme Court is the kind of club that would've had Groucho as a member. If the Supreme Court doesn't mind justices who either intentionally flout the ethics rules for justices or, if it was a mistake, make dreadfully casual errors in ethical judgment, then why should we?

If a liar tells you he's a liar, is he a liar? Do you believe him?

Interesting puzzle.

We'll find out after November 19th.

Stay tuned.


Thursday, September 20, 2007

In honor of Talk Like a Pirate Day, some biography.

Hi folks,

In the interest of full disclosure and in honor of Talk like a Pirate Day yesterday, a few personal piratical details.

1) I subscribe to the Not enough Pirates theory of global warming, as clearly demonstrated by the data:

-- and, more personally,

2) my pirate name is Iron Jack Bonney. True, it only applies once a year -- or when racing in Perdido Bay, Florida -- but now you know.

I merely mention it in passing.


Sunday, September 16, 2007

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Alan Greenspan: speaking truth to power.

Hi folks,

The Wall Street Journal broke the story:
In "The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World," published by Penguin Press, Mr. Greenspan criticizes both congressional Republicans and President George W. Bush for abandoning fiscal discipline.
Hard to know how the so-called conservatives in Congress missed something this obvious. Mr. Greenspan noticed this too:
Republicans in Congress, he writes, "swapped principle for power. They ended up with neither. They deserved to lose."

We're seeing the same thing happen in Madison, I'd venture to add.


Northwest Passage Opens: Arctic Sea Ice Reaches New Low

Hi folks,

"Ah for just one time, I would take a Northwest Passage,
to find the hand of Franklin reaching for the Beaufort Sea."

Sigh. It was better when Stan sang about it.

For those neanderthals delirious with the dream of gold from trans-arctic shipping, your day is here.

ScienceDaily: Northwest Passage Opens: Arctic Sea Ice Reaches New Low:

"Northwest Passage Opens: Arctic Sea Ice Reaches New Low Science Daily

The area covered by sea ice in the Arctic has now (September 14, 2007) shrunk to its lowest level since satellite measurements began nearly 30 years ago, opening up the Northwest Passage – a long-sought short cut between Europe and Asia that has been historically impassable."


The Polar Regions are very sensitive indicators of climate change. The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change showed these regions are highly vulnerable to rising temperatures and predicted the Arctic would be virtually ice free by the summer of 2070. Still other scientists predict it could become ice free as early as 2040 due to rising temperatures and sea ice decline.

and so it goes.


Saturday, September 08, 2007

Justice Ziegler guilty.

Hi folks,

From The Badger Herald:

Commission calls for Ziegler to be reprimanded

by Jessi Polsky
Friday, September 7, 2007
The Wisconsin Judicial Commission filed a complaint Thursday formally reprimanding state Supreme Court Justice Annette Ziegler for misconduct involving a conflict of interest when she presided over cases involving her husband’s employer.


“I apologize for the unintentional error I made hearing cases where West Bend Savings Bank was a party in the matter,” Ziegler said in a statement released Thursday. “I have taken steps to make sure a similar mistake does not happen in the future, [and] I look forward to doing the work the people of Wisconsin elected me to do.”

What next now that her wrist has been ...?

I was going to say slapped, but this is more of a light tap than a slap...

From the Wisconsin State Journal

The Judicial Commission's complaint now goes to a three-judge panel to be appointed by Judge Richard S. Brown, the chief judge of the Court of Appeals. That panel will report its findings and recommend any discipline to the Supreme Court, which then will sit in judgment of its newest member.


In May, Ziegler also acknowledged violating Wisconsin's conflict-of-interest law by presiding over cases involving West Bend Savings. She agreed to pay a $5,000 fine and an estimated $12,000 in costs to the Wisconsin Ethics Board.

I wonder now whether Ms. Ziegler would have won this election had she been honest about her ethical failure in these cases. Probably not.

I wonder whether she would have run those howling-at-the-moon commercials portraying her as the victim of a mudslinging and ghoulish Linda Clifford who -- it now turns out -- was merely citing the ethical lapses for which Judge Ziegler was found guilty for which she was fined $20,000. Probably not.

I also wonder whether anyone will trust her when she checks her gut while sitting on our highest court? We'll see.

Maybe I've taken this whole thing too seriously. After all, ethical lapses in our elected officials aren't impeachable offenses or anything -- well, not any more.

And so it goes.

West Bend emu incident now news in Canada.

Hi folks,

It's nice to know that Forbes magazine rated the Gehl Corporation's decision to move it's R&D division to West Bend ahead of the Wal-Mart emu incident, but in Canada, no.

The Canadian Press: Escaped emu corralled in Wisconsin Wal-Mart parking lot with shopping carts

You know the rest.


Thursday, September 06, 2007

A rogue's gallery?

Hi folks,

Every once in a while I wonder why we can't do this too.

From the BBC: China's rogues gallery of graft
At a new exhibition in Beijing, there are some handy hints for officials wanting to stay on the straight and narrow.


Friday, August 31, 2007

West Bend School Referendum and Spring cleaning.

Hi folks,

I'm always surprised when the local paper actually prints anything I write to them, whether in paper or pixels. Here's a comment in pixels from The Daily News for 31 August 2007.

It's really an extension of some discussion that began over on Boots and Sabers when Owen, rather astonishingly, suggested that West Bend didn't have the discipline or need to clean up the crappy conditions our kids are forced to call their alma maters. You can find that discussion here.

Anyway, I dropped a note to the paper and the electronic version came out like this:

Columnist wrong about referendum

I have a bone to pick with my friend Owen Robinson about the West Bend School District referendum. He’s simply wrong about how important it is for us to suck it up and do the right thing.

The buildings where our kids go to class are 67 years old on average. The last building opened was the high school in 1970, 37 years ago. There's no insulation in the roof of Silverbrook and all of the buildings are chock full of asbestos. A lot of them have heating systems that are 60 years old and some don’t even have adequate sprinklers for fire safety.

The list of "things we should’ve done 20 years ago" goes on and on. All that helped me decide we’d better get to work and clean up the mess.

But there was a surprising plus. It struck me like this: "So if I’m responsible, my taxes for education will still be ‘lower’ than anyone else’s in the state? No brainer. Let’s go."

Owen seems to have miscalculated just how crowded things already are, something critical to understand why we have to do something now, and not duck this or hand it off to our children.

Owen suggests the referendum is a lot of hand-wringing for an increase of only 432 kids. He missed by almost 4,000.

The number of students using the schools has actually doubled since 1970. Today twice as many students walk through the halls as did in 1970, about 3,800 more. Add the additional 400 students projected over the next five years and the School District will be accommodating something closer to 4,200 more students than they originally built for.

Imagine doubling the traffic in West Bend, and then imagine we still had to use Highway P to drive into Milwaukee. Think how crowded that would be. That’s what the schools are putting up with. That’s what our kids are putting up with. I hate driving on Highway P.

So, imagine driving down the new Highway 45 and imagine the new Highway 45 still left your taxes at the lowest rate in the state.

That’s what the school district needs us to do. Add some extra lanes and still pay the lowest mil-rate in the state. It’s a great idea at a great price.

Not to do this is fiscally and -- and I know I keep coming back to this, but it's an occupational hazard -- ethically irresponsible to each other as neighbors. Americans have civic responsibilities. This is one of 'em and turns out to be a relatively inexpensive one.

The people who worked out what we need to do to bring the schools up to modern standards are conservative, hardheaded, pragmatic, and do not like spending their tax dollar any more than anyone else does -- and if this goes through they'll be paying a bit more of the share than the rest of us -- and they still insist that it's the best and most fiscally responsible route.

This too most certainly needs to pass.


Friday, August 24, 2007

Ban Vick from the NFL.

From my good friend Andy Montgomery, recently of Germantown, Wisconsin. I'm glad to say that Mr. Goodell is making the right moves.

Here's Andy.

Mr. Goodell,

My name is Andrew Montgomery. I am a life-long football fan. I grew up in Milwaukee, WI, and lived there for over thirty years, and am a proud fan of the Green Bay Packers. I moved to Portland, OR in 1999, and brought my love of football with me. My wife was not a fan of football. She didn't mind the game so much, but held the belief that most of the players were nothing but rich men who used their money and perceived power to get away with poor behavior off the field. I told her that that may be true for some; there are bad apples in every bunch, and football is no exception, but there is much nobility and honor in football and the men who play it, and it can often be a worthy test of the goodness and honor of the players involved. With that in mind, she started humoring me by watching Packer games with me. To my delight, she actually started becoming more interested in the games, and was touched a number of times by the more recent moments in the history of Brett Favre--personal and professional.

And now we have this.

When Michael Vick was drafted, I explained to her why it was such a big deal. I explained that there weren't any quarterbacks in the recent past, nor the foreseeable future, that could have the impact on the league--and the GAME--that Vick could have. And with Favre's retirement growing more imminent, this would be more important.

She came to me yesterday, and she took time and great pains to tell me that if Michael Vick ever plays NFL football again, she'll refuse to watch. It doesn't matter if it's a game he's not in--if he plays for the NFL again, she's never going to willingly be exposed to it. She said "If they let him back in, I'll be convinced that it's truly only about the money."

Sir, I fully agree with her.

I understand all too well the importance of Vick to the game. I understand all too well the concept of "brand", and what importance star power is to a team, and the league. But respectfully, sir, if Michael Vick ever suits up for an NFL team again, you can take this game and shove it.

How despicable, sir! These men already make salaries that--on average--dwarf those of 99% of the working world's pay, yet we are expected to still think that football is a "working man's game"? That's been an insult to my intelligence for years, yet I've stayed a fan. I suffered through some of the most embarrassing episodes of criminality with teams past, where these men (often mere BOYS) simply buy their way out of trouble with settlements, yet I've stayed a fan. I've watched as a good, honest game got turned upside down by misbehavior on and off the field, yet I stayed a fan.

Sir, no more.

Michael Vick still does have a very important role to serve in the NFL, and that is one of an _example_, and by that, I mean an example to both NFL players AND the public that KEEPS THE NFL IN BUSINESS.

NO ONE should be allowed to play a professional sport after admitting to--or being found to be complicit in through criminal trial--such heinous behavior. This is no mere mistake in judgment. This is no "oops". This is behavior bred out of arrogance, elitism and false-power that is FOSTERED BY THE CULTURE OF PROFESSIONAL ATHLETES AND THOSE WHO SURROUND THEM.

I am sick of hearing the pundits and talking-heads blather on about how Vick is fairing worse in the public eye than if he were to have murdered someone. I find that a completely insulting straw-man argument. Mr. Vick has lied, repeatedly and blatantly, to the press, the public, and to YOU PERSONALLY, Mr. Goodell. He was counting on his money and his position to either keep him out of this trouble, or to mollify it. Unfortunately for Mr. Vick (and fortunately for those of us who value the truth, let alone the lives of innocent animals) Mr. Vick's associates decided that their own well-being wouldn't be answered for by protecting his complicity in--nay, his SPONSORSHIP of--this atrocity. I would thank those men if I didn't think I'd need to wash my mouth with soap after doing so.


You MUST assert that the league will not tolerate those who knowingly and willfully act in a completely unethical manner, and expect to simply pay some fines, sit out a game or a season, and then resume their careers as if nothing has happened. If the NFL does not take a stand on this issue, I believe that it will never recover from this. I am one fan, and I say that if he suits up for another NFL team, you'll never get me to watch again. I won't even watch Favre's last moments, no matter how much that--as a fan--may pain me to not be a part of. But I simply will not stand by quietly while you show tacit acceptance of the thuggery and criminality that is the growing undercurrent of professional sports. Not only that, but I will actively encourage others to give up the support of the game, and work very vocally to draw attention to the hypocrisy of the NFL, who, in the NFLPA's Personal Conduct Policy clearly states:

"The League is committed to promoting and encouraging lawful conduct..."

"It will be considered conduct detrimental for Covered Persons to engage in (or to aid, abet or conspire to engage in or to incite) violent and/or criminal activity. Examples of such Prohibited Conduct include, without limitation:

...racketeering; money laundering; obstruction of justice; resisting arrest; fraud; and violent or threatening conduct."

"Any Covered Person convicted of or admitting to a criminal violation (including a plea to a lesser included offense; a plea of nolo contendere or no contest....will be subject to discipline as determined by the Commissioner. Such discipline may include a fine, suspension without pay and/or banishment from the League."

Mr. Goodell, you are the ONLY person who has any power to do anything about this. Mr. Vick has cast his lot, and admitted his involvement. If you leave it up to the Atlanta Falcons to deal with as a "team matter" as you have done in the past, the entire world (and I personally) will find that to be a completely unethical, spineless cop-out, and I will personally hold you and the NFL accountable. If you do anything less than a ban, the world will know that the NFL doesn't have the guts to stand up for what's right--only what makes the league money.

This is the most serious criminal issue to ever affect professional football, make no mistake. So I'll cut through all the hyperbole and say this very clearly and succinctly to you Mr. Commissioner.

Do NOT screw this up. BAN MICHAEL VICK FROM THE NFL, or forever be known for simply letting money and power rule over the honor of a once-great tradition, and guarantee that I will never, ever watch another game of NFL football.


Andrew Montgomery
Portland, OR



Those who don't remember history: Mr. Bush on Iraq and Vietnam.

Hi folks,

I guess it's easier for people who don't remember Vietnam, or had friends and relatives die there, to rest easy about the President drawing positive parallels between that conflict and the mess he's left for us in Iraq.

Here's the gist of it from BBCnews.

Bush in Vietnam warning over Iraq

President George W Bush 22/8/07
President George W Bush has warned a US withdrawal from Iraq could trigger the kind of upheaval seen in South East Asia after US forces quit Vietnam.

"The price of America's withdrawal was paid by millions of innocent citizens," he told war veterans in Missouri.

He forgot, of course, that the price of America's participation was by over 50,000 American lives... but he still has 47,000 to go, so maybe after he catches up with LBJ ....

Frankly, you'd imagine that only some smug rich chucklehead who avoided the war by having his father pull strings, could even begin to say things like this to veterans who know better.

-- and no, not Mr. Quayle's father.

I'm only surprised he didn't revise the endlessly mutating lie about what we're doing in Iraq: frankly, the cynic in me was waiting for him to say that, since Vietnam is now the fastest growing economy in the world, we went into Iraq to provide that same benefits.

I'm sure someone will say that eventually... while they continue to cut veterans benefits.


Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Weather as News.

Hi folks,

It's been raining in southeastern Wisconsin this week. It's been raining a LOT. Some places are being flooded. Some of the places with floods are getting even more rain. The local television news departments -- I mean the weather people -- have been breaking in every 10 minutes with urgent and breathless updates about more rain.

Have you noticed the weather is now the only important part of local news? I was going to say the "most" important part but that doesn't seem accurate. Local news no longer covers local news: we never hear how the local city councils are spending our money and we certainly never hear a reporter ask "why" something might be happening. The only local stories we get are 'stories' about murder and mayhem and, to leaven the mix, wacky pets. The rest is whatever cool video the news director pulls off his satellite feed that he believes will keep you comfortably seated between commercials.

Maybe people aren't interested in reality anymore. I don't know.

I went nuts a few years ago after watching One Unnamed Local News-at-6 broadcast. I actually called the station. The first three stories were -- and you can't make this stuff up -- a cat up a tree, an incredibly cute kid with cancer (but in Oklahoma), and video of a car chase in L.A. I said something about their responsibility to let us know what was going on locally.

This was, I confess, naive.

The news director said -- rather tersely and with what I could only identify as the kind of edgy ridicule reserved for "people outside the business" -- that his channel "stood by its editorial decisions. "

I said something unhelpful like "you mean you actually made a decision to put those stories on the air?"

Yeah yeah, I know.

Anyway, I used to think sports was also pretty important, but it turns out that local sports coverage is becoming extinct. The Penn State Center for Sports Journalism released a report in 2006 that began:
Sports directors, anchors and reporters at local television stations in the top 50 demographic markets in the U.S. believe their segment on the local television newscast could become extinct.

According to a telephone survey of 216 sports personnel in major-market television news operations, many believe their role is diminishing and that “someday sports may not be part of the local television newscast.” Respondents are divided on how much ESPN, the Internet and regional sports networks may be chipping away at the relevance of the local sports report.

I'd just remembered hearing this somewhere, sometime, and Googled up "local sports coverage declining" a few minutes ago. The number of hits was surprising. Have a look.

Curiouser and curiouser.

So back to the weather.

It's been raining. It does that in Wisconsin when it's still too warm outside to snow.

The local NBC affiliate broke in to the NBC national Nightly News twice tonight to report rain falling from yet another rain storm -- this one just north of Racine. One time they even interrupted a story about flooding in Ohio.

Channel 57, the CBS affiliate, had a fixed banner across the bottom of the screen all night -- except during the commercials. Have you ever noticed that no weather reporter ever breaks into and interrupts a commercial with an "emergency" update?

That's interesting. -- oh, but while Channel 57 was eating up the screen with a miniature radar image to the left and a PowerPoint banner at the bottom that said "Flood warning for the following counties" and then listing them, felt compelled to add a big running header across the top of the screen, slicing through Gary Sinise's forehead during CSI: NY. The red streaming header warned people in exactly the same counties listed at the bottom of the screen that they were still under a flood warning.

I should stop thinking about things like this and simply accept the evidence: weather might be the only news any of us care about. Maybe it's the only thing that interests anybody because it's the only thing we can't predict. War? Economic distress? The Packers? There will always be wars and rumors of war. There will always be trouble in the Middle East and with the Russians. Brett Favre will always throw too many interceptions until he goes back to spending his time fishing off Gulfport. All are inevitable and, therefore, boring.

The weather remains the only unpredictable part of the news. Maybe Vince and Paul and Sally are our versions of tribal shaman, reading the bones and predicting the future.

I mention it in passing.


Finally. Chinese to be taught in West Bend Schools?

Hi folks,


But here's all I know right now. The Capital Times reported on Tuesday that:
This fall, armed with emergency permits that will let them teach Chinese while working toward full state licensure, the 18 fellows will spread out to private and public schools in Sheboygan Falls, West Bend, Hudson, Janesville, Milwaukee, Nicolet and Shorewood.
My italics. Wow, is this overdue. But it looks like this is for Holy Angels and not for the West Bend School system.

Here's a cached copy of the bulletin from Holy Angels I found on Google.
Holy Angels School has been selected by the Wisconsin Dept. of Public Instruction to participate in the Chinese Critical Language Fellows Program. A handful of Wisconsin schools will be working with the DPI in providing opportunities to develop Chinese instructional models. One of the participants in the program has been selected to teach at Holy Angels. Hai Yu has been hired and he brings a variety of experiences to the position, including the development of textbook materials in Chinese . Hai Yu also teaches at UW-Waukesha and the Milwaukee Modern Chinese School. He is looking forward to developing a program at Holy Angels to complement the German and Spanish elements of our World Language Program for all students K-8.
More as it appears.


Saturday, August 18, 2007

B & S on Market wages for government employees.

"To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail."

Hi folks,

Owen Robinson over at Boots and Sabers(BS) took exception to my observation that lawyers working for Governor Thompson's regime got pay increases significantly higher than UW faculty during the same era. I made the comment to demonstrate that the increasing disappearance of our tax dollars cannot be blamed solely on the educational system.

Glenn Grothman and Pat Strachota haven't yet been able to tell me where all the money is going. Hey you two, I'm still waiting.

Anyway, it all got started here.

Owen excerpted some of comments and off we went. It continued here under the heading of "Market Wages for Government Employees".

Yadda yadda yadda.

He and I don't disagree on the key point that a market level wage is appropriate for faculty -- but everything he said was based on a deeply flawed assumption . Specifically that:
Markets always work the same - even in labor wages for government employees.
This comment reveals an increasingly common misunderstanding of universities and the people who work in them.

I have a rant I'd like to share and I didn't want to burden B&S with more... well, more B&S. So I put it here instead.

Those readers familiar with the difference between "the value of a dollar" and "the value of a good life" may skip the rest of this note.


The notion of using "business models" (as if anyone can actually define this beyond "give me more money") to help 'fix' education, is circulating in State legislatures like chlamydia. They've all caught it, and we all know why: convenience.

"Business" assumptions about 'value' are based on the idea that all values are economic values. They don't work in all contexts because economic values are only one part of being human and not, as this assumption would have it, the whole of being human. More simply: money isn't everything. Most of us, having been dirt poor graduate students for so long, never bought into the idea that money can make us happy. Money merely improves the quality of your circumstances, not the quality of your life.

Aristotle dismissed the business model for determining when life is good with hardly a sidelong glance:
The life of money-making is one undertaken under compulsion [literally, violence], and wealth is evidently not the good we are seeking; for it is merely useful and for the sake of something else. [Aristotle Nicomachean Ethics I.5.viii]
Not, that is, for the sake of our selves.

So, using market value is tricky with academics. I wish I could get market value for my skill set, by the way, but if the state had to pay market value for philosophers the university couldn't afford us.

Friends in the discipline working outside the academy earn salaries, on average, in the 6 figure range. People are usually surprised to hear this but you have to remember that PhD's in philosophy really only know about: 1) logic and 2) how to work through impossibly difficult problems. That skill set opens doors to all sorts of weird places. One of my college chums spent most of the 1990's overseeing the development of the next generation of long distance switching software for Bell Northern. Two more, until they retired at age 40 to teach, were the top 2 traders on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

All three eventually traded in big salaries for the higher pleasure of teaching and the satisfactions of a life, rather than the satisfactions of a career.

Owen also raised the issues of job security and the benefits that go along with working for the university. He's right. It does give one peace of mind. We have the kind of job security most people don't -- but tenure really means I don't have to smile and nod when the boss (or the governor or president or even Senator Grothman) does something stupid or immoral.

But we don't just give tenure away -- it's a 7 year testing procedure. We evaluate our prospective colleagues on their competence and enthusiasm in the classroom, on how well they teach their students, on how well they meet their governance responsibilities (faculty oversee all aspects of running the UW from curricular decisions to allocation of funding for computer access), and on whether they actually demonstrate intellectual curiosity and growth. After annual evaluations by students and faculty colleagues over that time, people either earn tenure or get dumped. In terms of performance tests, it's pretty brutal. Much worse than anything I saw in management consulting or tourism (two early career possibilities).

Alas, it is possible that some idiot can fool his or her department for 7 years and slide in.... take Ward Churchill. He wasn't fired for what he said about 9/11 but for plagiarism as was appropriate. There are idiots, liars, and cheats in business too. I suspect Ken Lay hurt a lot more people than Ward Churchill ever did. But stuff happens. For us there are difficult but clear protocols to get rid of what the policies call "non-performing faculty."

Our job is to teach students how to examine their own assumptions to see whether what they believe is true. To do this, you have to ask a lot of unpopular and annoying questions, especially questions about society's assumptions. Nobody enjoys having their assumptions questions so, for that you need tenure and academic freedom. The first people killed by Hitler, Lenin (even before Stalin got warmed up), and Mao were university faculty. Those guys knew what they were doing. They had an ideological commitment that determined their actions.

Our society has an ideological commitment too: the belief in a "free market." Market economics is the current big hammer, so it's no wonder that to the people swinging it everything looks like a nail.... even those of us who think the hammer is a narrow, limited, and simplistic approach to understanding the world.


Thursday, August 16, 2007

A goulash of political labels.

Hi folks,

Something from my stuff-to-post file leftover from earlier this year.

My politics haven't changed a lot since I was 18 (government should spend our taxes effectively, stay out of people's personal lives and, when I'm in doubt about what government policies are intended to do, I follow the money), but at some point during the mid-1980's political labels became so twisted up as to be completely unintelligible. Bill Clinton, a Democrat, sells out American workers via NAFTA. Ronald Reagan, a Republican, puts the country trillions of dollars into debt. In Europe 'liberal' and 'conservative' now mean the exact opposite of what they do in the US.

Adbusters Magazine is always fun. This particular article raises all sorts of useful questions about what it means to be liberal, and what it means to be the kind of neo-con who can only exist in opposition to this kind of liberal bogeyman.

Adbusters : The Magazine - #71 Beginnings of Sorrow /
The American Left's Silly Victim Complex

I also really liked this picture.



Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Going green saves green for West Bend.

Hi folks,

West Bend's school district has done a terrific job of saving energy and tax dollars by attending to environmentally sound economics.

From August 11th: JS Online: Energy Squeeze

"Over five years, our natural gas use decreased 29 percent," said Warren Schmidt, West Bend's director of facilities and operations. "But our natural gas costs rose 48 percent because the price of gas rose 109 percent."

West Bend also cut its electricity use by 14% but paid 13% more because electric rates rose 31%, he said.

Energy Education's Noel-Smith counters: "But think about how much more they would be paying" if they hadn't cut their use.

Districts agree.

So let's hear it for the folks overseeing our energy savings. It goes to show you that the best kind of thoughtful environmental protection saves money, too. Sam Johnson saved Johnson Wax tens of millions of dollars when he introduced environmentally sound practices into manufacturing back in 1975 (yes, 1975). Rather famously,
Johnson made the landmark decision in 1975 to eliminate chlorofluorocarbon propellants from the company's aerosol products, three years ahead of U.S. law and 12 years before the global Montreal Protocol. Under Johnson's direction, environmental management became a core strategic focus of the business throughout the 1990s, and significant waste prevention and reduction initiatives were launched. By 1995, manufacturing waste had been cut in half, and a third of the company's products incorporated recycled and recyclable packaging. [Cornell Alum News.]

I keep wondering why we can't shut down some of the streetlights in the middle of the night too, but I'm starting to turn into my grandfather -- you know, walking around the house, turning off lights.

A job well done goes out to Mr. Schmidt and all the people on his staff who keep tabs.


Thursday, August 02, 2007

Supreme Court Justice and Ms. Ziegler.

Hi folks,

Here we go.

Ziegler takes oath
of state Supreme Court
Newest member says she will go to work immediately

By AL DUNN - GM Today Staff
August 2, 2007

Annette Ziegler, left, is sworn in by Judge David Resheske, right, while her husband J.J. Ziegler, center, holds a bible at the Washington County Justice Center on Wednesday in West Bend. Ziegler was sworn in as a State Supreme Court Justice.

>> Click here to view photo slideshow

WEST BEND - On a Bible that belonged to her 102-year-old grandmother, a former auto workers union member in Michigan, Annette Ziegler swore the oath of the state judiciary Wednesday and became Washington County's first female Supreme Court justice.

Ziegler, flanked by her husband, J.J., was sworn in by her former colleague, now-chief Washington County Circuit Judge David Resheske, in her former courtroom.

The room was packed with relatives, friends, co-workers and the news media, which has chronicled her handling of cases currently under investigation by the state Judicial Commission.

The commission is investigating whether Ziegler violated the judicial code by ruling on cases involving a local bank where her husband is a director. The probe is also looking at cases Ziegler heard involving companies in which she owned $50,000 or more in stock.

Those allegations, which state Sen. Glenn Grothman, R-West Bend - who also was in attendance - categorized as "partisan nitpicking," did not dampen the enthusiasm of the standing-room-only crowd that packed the room. Those assembled delivered a sustained standing ovation when the swearing-in ceremony was finished, then once again when Ziegler concluded her emotional farewell remarks.

For full story, go to the electronic version
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This story appeared in The Freeman & the West Bend Daily News on August 2, 2007.

I suppose in some universe Ms. Ziegler's paying a whopping big fine for ethics violations has been spun into "partisan nitpicking" but it still looks like a simply and honest confession that she screwed up.

Should she keep her seat following the review, we must wish her well and hope that her friends' judgments about her are better than her judgments about what constitutes compromising herself as a judge.


John Torinus on name calling.

Hi folks,

One of our anonymous readers passed this along to me just after I put up the previous note on Hegel. John Torinus says roughly the same thing in clearer, more immediately relevant English.

The real gangs that patrol Wisconsin
Negative bloggers, radio cost the GOP the state


August 1, 2007

I looked up the word "gang" to see what it means, and it’s not the same in the new blogosphere as elsewhere.

There are gangs in the "hood" and there was the "gang of four" in Communist China. I guess it’s the latter that the bloggers are alluding to when they talk about the "gang of five" on the West Bend Common Council.

From where most of us sit, five like-minded alderpersons out of eight seats spells a majority. In blogland, apparently, a "gang" means a group who disagrees with the blogviator. You take issue, and you become a gangster.


Now there’s a recipe for intelligent public debate. Essentially, it’s name-calling, fourth-grade stuff.

The latest "gang" crime by the majority on the council was to select as a replacement alderman a man who has been elected by citizens of the city to the County Board.

He was chosen over a candidate who has never been elected, but volunteered his services.

Seems like a perfectly logical decision to go with a citizen who has a track record of public support versus a rookie.

The offer to serve by the volunteer should be much appreciated, but the majority has a right to use logic to make the call.

Majorities rule in a democracy. Making majority decisions is not gang behavior.

Besides, the minority of three on the council seems to be acting as much in concert as the majority of five (counting the mayor). That, by the same token, doesn’t make the minority a "gang of three."

It would be positive step for council dynamics, and therefore for the city, if the newly elected alderman could play a mediating role between the two factions.

And here’s some advice for the minority of three: if you want to get to a majority position, stop listening to the entertainers in the blog or talk radio space.

Following right wing pundits may make you feel righteous and filled with certitude, but it is a sure-fire ticket to being in the minority forever.

That’s what happened to the Republican Party in Wisconsin. It started dancing to the drums of the nay-saying conservatives, the name-callers (think "rhinos") and it went in short order from control of the governor’s mansion and the Legislature to a minority in the Senate and on the outs in the governor’s job.

You can’t just be negative in politics and expect to win. You have to put forward positive alternatives. That goes for the Legislature or the common council.

Most voters don’t like candidates with a nasty tone to their rhetoric. They vote in general for candidates who show some respect for their opponents and for the system.

If the minority aldermen want to be in the majority, they need to make a positive case. Knocking the other side won’t get them there.

Some of the over-heated critics have suggested a recall of Alderman Mike Schlotfeldt on the blog sites. That’s an over-the-top reaction to a vote or two where the bloggers disagree with him.

Schlotfeldt is a hard-working, intelligent official and doesn’t deserve cheap shots.

If the bloggers don’t like where he’s at on the issues, run against him in a regular election. That’s how we resolve issues in most cases. Only extraordinary circumstances justify a recall.

Enough already with the divisive and disrespectful tactics. They remind me of a gang mugging in the political sense.

(John Torinus is chairman of the board of Serigraph, Inc. in West Bend and a past general manager of the Daily News.)