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
of The Freeman. Click here to access the electronic version.

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.)


Wednesday, August 01, 2007

GWF Hegel on the language of blogging.

Hi folks,

I'm apologize, gentle reader, for subjecting you to this material. Reading Hegel can make your eyes bleed. It's like trying to do calculus before you've had algebra.

I write it but to cause catharsis. Read on at your own peril.

Lately, I've been thinking about how people talk to each other about politics -- badly -- and what happens to people who try to impose some quiet reason on such discussions -- they're ignored or gored, and not for being right or wrong, but for even trying to be reasonable.

Being reasonable spoils the fun. :^)

The philosopher GWF Hegel wrote up his political philosophy in a text he entitled The Philosophy of Right. This translation (by Knox) is barely readable but here's the point:

People have come to believe that politics is something you have to feel, not think about.

People seem, moreover, to believe that in politics and ethics you can't really know anything at all -- that you can only have opinions. This assertion reduces human beings to howler monkeys flinging feces at one another. You may have seen examples on the Sunday morning political shows. The early 1800s saw a mob of political commentators, just as we have now, pontificating on the stupidity of anyone who thought they might actually think their way through tough political or ethical issues and come to reasonable conclusions. Anyone who tried was ridiculed, lambasted, and shouted down as an impious moron.

Since reasoning couldn't provide a basis for understanding the world then what?

Hmm. Some things never change.

Mr. Knox translates Hegel's already tortured German like this:

It is no surprise that the view just criticised [that reason was useless in politics] should appear in the form of piety. Where, indeed, has this whirlwind of impulse not sought to justify itself? In godliness and the Bible it has imagined itself able to find authority for despising order and law. And, in fact, it is piety of the sort which has reduced the whole organised system of truth to elementary intuition and feeling. But piety of the right kind leaves this obscure region, and comes out into the daylight, where the idea unfolds and reveals itself. Out of its sanctuary it brings a reverence for the law and truth which are absolute and exalted above all subjective feeling.

The particular kind of evil consciousness developed by the wishy-washy eloquence already alluded to, may be detected in the following way. It is most unspiritual, when it speaks most of the spirit. It is the most dead and leathern, when it talks of the scope of life. When it is exhibiting the greatest self-seeking and vanity it has most on its tongue the words “people” and “nation.” But its peculiar mark, found on its very forehead, is its hatred of law.

Right and ethical principle, the actual world of right and ethical life are apprehended in thought, and by thought are given definite, general, and rational form, and this reasoned right finds expression in law. But feeling, which seeks its own pleasure, and conscience, which finds right in private conviction, regard the law as their most bitter foe. The right, which takes the shape of law and duty, is by feeling looked upon as a shackle or dead cold letter. In this law it does not recognise itself and does not find itself free. Yet the law is the reason of the object, and refuses to feeling the privilege of warming itself at its private hearth. Hence the law, as we shall occasionally observe, is the Shibboleth, by me us of which are detected the false brethren and friends of the so-called people.

Inasmuch as the purest charlatanism has won the name of philosophy, and has succeeded in convincing the public that its practices are philosophy, it has now become almost a disgrace to speak in a philosophic way about the state. Nor can it be taken ill, if honest men become impatient, when the subject is broached. Still less is it a surprise that the government has at last turned its attention to this false philosophising.


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