Category Archives: Culture

Spanish Terror Cell Was Prepared for Bigger Attack

Scary stuff. This is a good reminder that trying to stop attacks like this by going after the weapons is a fool’s errand. In this case, they were using a vehicle and mundane gas containers. Stopping these attacks means finding and stopping the murderous people and ideologies behind them.

A 12-strong terror cell that carried out two attacks in Spain this week had collected 120 gas canisters and was planning to use them in vehicle attacks, Spanish police say.

Canisters were found at a house, said to be used by the cell, that blew up in the town of Alcanar on Wednesday night.

Police are still hunting for the driver of the van that hit dozens of people on Barcelona’s Las Ramblas, killing 13.

On Sunday, a Mass was held in Barcelona to mourn the victims.

In addition to the 13 killed on Thursday afternoon on Las Ramblas, a woman died in a second vehicle attack early on Friday in the town of Cambrils. Five suspected jihadists were shot dead by police in the second attack.

Emails Increase Doctor Visits

Interesting.

Emails between patients and doctors lead to more office visits and don’t improve health, contrary to the intent of the increasingly popular exchanges, according to a UW-Madison study.

A likely reason for the additional office visits: Patient conditions are too complex to explain by email and doctors want to avoid liability, so they often bring in patients who email — even for minor problems for which patients would not have sought an office visit.

“These emails basically work as a trigger because they’re not as comprehensive as a face-to-face interaction,” said Hessam Bavafa, an assistant professor of operations and information management at UW-Madison’s Wisconsin School of Business.

The findings, published in the journal Management Science, could lead health care organizations to rethink or improve “e-visits,” which have become widely available in recent years, including in Madison.

I suspect that the humanitarian fear of getting a diagnosis and treatment wrong, coupled with the fear of legal liability, is primarily driving this behavior. In the age of FaceTime and similar technologies, it seems that a quick, live video conversation would reduce the inconvenience and cost for everyone.

McCarthy Teaches History of Anthem

Good for him.

GREEN BAY — Mike McCarthy doesn’t know if anyone on his sideline will join the ranks of NFL players using the national anthem as an opportunity to protest.

But if they do, the Green Bay Packers coach can say this for certain: They will do so with a knowledge of the history of the anthem and an understanding of how important he believes it is.

[…]

McCarthy said he addresses the anthem and his expectation of proper decorum during it with the players via a preseason presentation. He said this year’s demonstration came just before the team’s annual Family Night event on Aug. 5.

“It’s something that I’ve done each and every year here since I’ve been the head coach,” McCarthy said. “We have a PowerPoint presentation that you update (each year), and you always try to deliver the message clearly to the team.

“Our approach has always been to give the history and the understanding of what the national anthem means, and why it’s played before any National Football League game, particularly how (the tradition) started after World War II. I go through the whole history and the importance of what it means to you personally.”

Study: De-escalation Policies More Dangerous For LEOs

Interesting research. I wonder what the impact of de-escalation policies are on citizen injuries/deaths.

WISCONSIN DELLS, Wis. – A research project shows that law-enforcement officers working for agencies with de-escalation policies are far more likely to killed or injured in the line of duty.

The study looked at metropolitan law enforcement agencies around the country; some have de-escalation policies while others do not.  It used data from more than 75,000 officers over a five-year period.

De-escalation policies require officers to slow things down and attempt to lessen or avoid force on all calls.

“The agencies without de-escalation policies, the number of officers killed and assaulted were dramatically lower than the agencies with de-escalation policies in place,” said Brian Landers, author of the study.

Landers, a former police officer, is chair of the criminal justice department of Madison College.   The research was done for his master’s thesis.

“I’ve had officers tell me that they are forced with decisions out on the street that goes against every facet of training and instinct of officer safety from fear they are going to be disciplined because the policy is telling them that they should not use force,” said Landers.

[…]

“Overall an officer working in a de-escalation agency, by my study, was twice as likely to be killed in the line of duty and 10 times more likely to be injured in the line of duty.”

Trump Says Both Sides to Blame in Charlottesville

Yup.

US President Donald Trump has again blamed both sides for the violent unrest in Charlottesville, Virginia, which left one protester dead and others injured.

In a statement on Monday, he had condemned white supremacists.

But in New York on Tuesday he also blamed left-wing supporters for charging at the “alt-right”.

He also defended the time it took to make his statement, saying he had wanted to establish all the facts.

Mr Trump had been accused over the weekend of failing to condemn the far right specifically.

Heather Heyer, 32, died and 19 others were hurt when a car was driven into people protesting against a far-right march in Charlottesville on Saturday.

Mr Trump said that the car driver was a disgrace to himself and his country.

The whole response to Charlottesville has been a prime display of the hyper-polarized cultural environment we are currently in. The same people who say that we must take a nuanced view and response of phenomena like Islamist Terrorism or Black Lives Matter, which we must, are enforcing a rigid binary response to Charlottesville. What we are supposed to do, according to the media and the Left, is categorically condemn the white nationalists as the bad guys here and that’s it. Any suggestion of a more complicated story than “racist white Americans caused a riot that killed people” is to be included among those racists.

Trump is trying to present a more comprehensive response to what happened. It appears that we had at least four broad groups at work here. First, we had white nationalist and Nazi bigots. Second, we had Antifa anarchists and communist provocateurs. Third, we had relatively normal people protesting the removal of Confederate statues and purging of Southern history. Fourth, we had relatively normal people protesting the racists white nationalists and Nazis.

Primarily, we had the first and second groups enter into the day with the intention to provoke violence and they succeeded. There’s a lot of fault to go around and it is possible to condemn the Nazis and white nationalists with all possible vigor and still condemn the actions of the Antifa movement which has repeatedly sparked destruction and violence. One does not detract from the other.

The side issues around this are also worth exploring. Were the police properly deployed to keep the competing protests separated? It appears that the driver of the car was on anti-psychotic drugs. We have seen that be related to violence before. Are we properly helping the mentally ill?

Instead of focusing on whether or not Trump sufficiently condemned the white nationalists (he did), wouldn’t it be a more useful exercise to try to understand the undercurrents of our culture that led to what happened in Charlottesville?

Eliminating Down Syndrome By Killing Everyone With It

That’s one way to eradicate it.

With the rise of prenatal screening tests across Europe and the United States, the number of babies born with Down syndrome has significantly decreased, but few countries have come as close to eradicating Down syndrome births as Iceland.

Since prenatal screening tests were introduced in Iceland in the early 2000s, the vast majority of women — close to 100 percent — who received a positive test for Down syndrome terminated their pregnancy.

While the tests are optional, the government states that all expectant mothers must be informed about availability of screening tests, which reveal the likelihood of a child being born with Down syndrome. Around 80 to 85 percent of pregnant women choose to take the prenatal screening test, according to Landspitali University Hospital in Reykjavik.

We used to call killing an entire people because they are different “genocide.”

Trump Condemns Racists

Indeed.

US President Donald Trump has spoken out against racist violence after the killing of a protester in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Saturday.

“Racism is evil and those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs,” he told reporters.

He said the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis and white supremacists were “repugnant” to everything Americans held dear.

Microaggressions

My goodness

In the document, posted to the school’s student health services web site, microaggressions are defined as ‘brief and commonplace verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or not, that communicate a hostile, derogatory, or negative slight or insult toward a targeted group.’

The guide gives plenty of examples of seemly innocuous situations that they deem microaggressions, including traditional ‘male’ or ‘female’ bathrooms,  because ‘trans and/or gender nonconforming folks don’t feel safe or comfortable in either’.

Professors who don’t ask what gender pronoun someone wants to be called by are guilty of microaggression too.

Even classroom seats can be a microaggression because they are ‘too small for many people’.

Apparently there are multiple kinds of microaggressions too, which the guide helpfully breaks down into three categories: microinsults, microassaults and microinvalidations.

How can anybody possibly function in an environment such as this? You are expected to feel constantly offended by the microaggressions being committed against you while simultaneously feeling perpetually guilty for all of the microaggressions you have committed. It is a completely unhealthy and socially destructive construct.

Opioid Deaths Increase 38% In Milwaukee

Wow.

The Medical Examiner’s Office says more people are trying opioids and the drugs are getting stronger.

Official Milwaukee numbers are in through June and that time frame saw a 38% increase in opioid deaths from 2016.

The ME’s office says there are more strong synthetic opioids with no medicinal value in the market than ever before and they keep seeing one in particular causing deaths in the area.

“The latest one that we’ve identified cyclopropyl fentanyl. And that one seems to be making a good mainstay here in the area. We’ve had a good number of cases that contain that both mixed with other opioids and a number that are mixed with cocaine. So the number that could be impacting is broad and great,” says Sara Schreiber, Forensic Director.

The ME’s office says there have been about 200 opioid related deaths in Milwaukee County already this year.

West Bend School Board earns detention

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online. Here you go:

You can see the signs all around. The Wisconsin State Fair is in full swing. The first Packers preseason game is this week. You can’t drive three blocks without finding the stand full of delicious sweet corn for sale. The signs are undeniable. Summer is coming to an end, and that means that school will be back in session in a few short weeks. But while the kids have been enjoying their summer, the West Bend School Board has been very busy running roughshod over any semblance of good governance.

In less than a week, the West Bend School Board abandoned the search for a new principal for the West Bend High Schools, restructured the administration into two high school principals and appointed two people to be those principals. Let’s look at the timeline.

Sometime late in the day on July 19, the School Board gave notice of a special meeting to happen the next day at 5 p.m. Special meetings are rare and usually only called for emergencies, but the opaque agenda referenced “review and consideration of high school administrative assignments.”

At the meeting on the 20th, two board members were absent and the attendance was sparse. Board President Tiffany Larson read a lengthy prepared statement saying that they wanted to create two high school principal positions out of the one. After a short 35 minutes and only board member Monte Schmeige asking any serious questions, the majority rammed through the decision. West Bend now has two high school principals. Several things are untoward about this.

First, this was the first time the issue had been addressed at a public meeting and the school board was already acting on the move. There had been no public outcry for the change and the issue of two principals was not even mentioned in the superintendent’s list of concerns identified after canvassing the community, teachers, parents and students. The School Board acted on a significant change to the district’s structure in a special session with no notice and without inviting any public discussion.

Second, Larson and Schmeige both referenced that the board did discuss the issue of two principals in a closed session earlier in the week. Closed sessions are only allowed to discuss very specific things like personnel issues and legal matters. Also, the agenda for that closed session did not reference a change to the organizational structure. Such a discussion in closed session would appear to run afoul of Wisconsin’s Open Meetings Law. One of the principles of good governance is for our elected representatives to conduct their business in public view.

Third, the decision appears to have been made with no research, thought or planning. Nobody on the board asked the superintendent for his input during the meeting. The board did not share any cost estimates (yes, it will cost more), reporting structure, job descriptions, ideal candidate qualifications, etc. Either the board acted rashly in utter ignorance of the impact of their decision, which would be an abominable act of incompetence, or they had vetted these issues in private, which would have been a violation of the principle of open government.

Two business days after the special session in which the School Board created the two principal positions, the board appointed two district assistant principals, Ralph Schlass and Darci VanAdestine, to be those principals. Once again, the board has acted in complete opposition to any sense of good governance, transparency or propriety. And in this case, they have likely exposed the district and the taxpayers to significant legal liability.

Normally an employer like the school district would initiate a defined and legal hiring process whereby they post the positions, solicit applications, filter down to final candidates, conduct interviews and then make a selection. The purpose of such a process is to ensure that the employer finds the best possible person for the position and to make sure the process is fair, thus insulating the employer from accusations of discrimination. By scrapping a real hiring process in favor of a snap appointment, and by completely bypassing the superintendent and human resource processes in place, the School Board has made itself the hiring manager and is engaging in exceedingly risky behavior.

Why were Schlass and VanAdestine selected? Is the board clairvoyant that they know these two people to be the best possible people to lead the high schools? Do any of the board members have a personal relationship with either of them? Were minorities given a fair shot at the jobs? What process was used to decide on these two? Who was involved in that process? Given that the board members did not discuss who to appoint in open session and these two were presented as a fait accompli, when did they decide on these two? Why were other district employees not considered? Did either of these appointees have any disciplinary issues in their current roles?

Incidentally, I have asked the School Board president for insight and filed several open records requests to answer some of these questions. So far, nobody has seen fit to illuminate the process. The school board seems intent on obfuscation and obstruction despite duplicitous protestations to the contrary.

It is entirely possible that having two high school principals is better than one and that Schlass and VanAdestine are the best people to lead our high schools. But the citizens of the West Bend School District will never know. The School Board’s insistence on abandoning any normal, deliberative, competent, open process has robbed the public of ever knowing for sure and has disavowed any expectation of good governance.

The final act in this bad school play is that the School Board is planning to ratify the contracts for Schlass and VanAdestine at the regular meeting on Monday. They still have the opportunity to correct course and allow for an open, fair, and legal hiring process to commence. They should seize that opportunity.

 

Backlash Over Swastika Shirt

Yeah, some symbols shouldn’t be “reclaimed,” whatever that means.

A US clothing company has come under fire after T-shirts appeared online featuring swastikas in a move aimed at reclaiming the symbol as one of “love”.

The attempt to rebrand the Nazi emblem as a symbol of “peace” was criticised on social media as the public refused to support the campaign.

Days after the design appeared, it was replaced with an “anti-swastika” print.

tspring

On Decency

Dave Zweifel is taking issue with Wisconsin Republicans emulating President Trump’s style of name calling. He says, in part:

Alas, this hasn’t been confined to Trump. Probably because of his success, other Republican operatives are emulating their leader’s coarseness — none more so than right here in Wisconsin.

No sooner had longtime campaign finance reform advocate Mike McCabe announced he was taking out papers to run for the Democratic nomination for governor than state GOP spokesman Alec Zimmerman quickly branded him as “Phony Mike McCabe.”

A few days earlier when Milwaukee-area businessman Andy Gronick announced his intention to do the same, Zimmerman quickly peppered him as an “out-of-touch con artist.”

Why take the time to outline why Republicans believe the candidates aren’t qualified to lead Wisconsin government when it’s so much easier to just call them names?

I might suggest that if Zweifel is going to take the high road and condemn political name calling, he also read the Democratic Party for Wisconsin’s website for some prime material for his next column. For example:

Following Kevin’s announcement for U.S. Senate, wrought with lies and excuses, KevinForWisconsin.com is updated to reveal the real Kevin Nicholson: a fake conservative and billionaire puppet. In addition to the new site content, voters across Wisconsin will be directed to the site via online ads on social media platforms and a search engine.

Kevin lied when he claimed he left the 2000 Democratic convention convinced he was no longer a Democrat because five years later, he registered as a Democrat in North Carolina. Kevin also lied when he said his military service was why he stopped being a Democrat because he voted in the 2008 Democratic primary for President in North Carolina after he returned from Iraq. He lied again when he said he voted “no preference” in-person in the 2008 Democratic primary, but election records showed that was impossible because no one in his precinct voted that way. And that’s just the start.

“Kevin Nicholson is an out-of-state billionaire’s puppet who lies to gain support,” said Martha Laning. “The people of Wisconsin need to know the truth: this Liar for Senate is only doing the bidding of his sole backer, an out-of-state billionaire, not the people of Wisconsin.”

Goose and Gander and whatnot…

“Nobody Kill Anybody” Weekend Ends Early

Sad, but all too predictable.

(CNN)Going into the weekend, Baltimore activist Erricka Bridgeford had a simple hope and request: Nobody kill anybody for 72 hours.

It was too much to ask for in a city on pace to record its highest annual homicide toll, a place still reeling from the racially-charged riots that followed the 2015 death of Freddie Gray at the hands of police.
A 24-year-old man was fatally shot Saturday afternoon, some 40 hours into the grassroots ceasefire.

“Nobody Kill Anybody Weekend

Maybe Milwaukee should give this a shot.

(CNN)Baltimore activist Erricka Bridgeford’s message is simple: Nobody kill anybody for 72 hours.

That’s a lot to ask for in a city on pace to record its highest annual homicide toll, a place still reeling from the racially-charged riots that followed the 2015 death of Freddie Gray at the hands of police.
So Bridgeford and other community leaders have been hitting the streets of West Baltimore, urging drug dealers and gang members to put their guns down from Friday through Sunday.
“This is about a culture shift,” she said. “It’s about helping people realize they have a choice in their decision-making. Not just about committing violence but about feeling hopeless that there’s nothing we can do about the level of violence in our communities.”

“their trade is the avoidance of responsibility”

Here’s an interesting missive from the book I’m currently reading. In discussing Oliver Cromwell’s innate nature as a soldier in contrast to a politician:

Further the soldier is, from the nature of his trade at one and the same time subordinate and in command.

With the courtier or the politician it is just the other way; the whole point of their trade is the avoidance of responsibility. The individual is to get as much as he can in the way of glory or occupation or (much the most important) money without showing his hand. If he shows his hand too much he is doomed, for he lives in the perpetual turmoil of competition against his fellows.

His action must never be direct; he must always be one of a committee, a unit lost in numbers; he must suggest, influence, bide his time, work by elimination. Direct action – which is violence – is the only thing especially odious to assemblies or courts.”

— Belloc, H. (1934). Cromwell (1st ed.). Philadelphia & London: J.B. Lippincott Company. p.114

The Biden Touch

Heh

“Even the love of my life, Joe Biden, is an awful offender of this,” the staffer told me, reminding me to never meet my idols. “He loves kissing and hugging women.”

Castille’s Imprisoned Pop Wants Settlement Money

In what kind of odd world do we live in where the unfortunate killing of a man becomes a cash windfall for his relatives?

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The father of Philando Castile, a motorist fatally shot by a suburban Minneapolis police officer last summer, wants a portion of the $3 million settlement reached in his son’s death.

Phelix Frazier Sr. is serving a life term in federal prison on drug trafficking charges. The Star Tribune reported that Frazier has asked a judge to give him $500,000, disputing claims that he was absent from his son’s life.

Castile’s mother, Valerie Castile, has petitioned the court for $2 million, with the remaining amount going to attorneys. A Hennepin County judge was expected to review the petition during a Wednesday hearing and will approve how the funds are distributed.

NAACP Issues Travel Advisory for Missouri

The NAACP has decided to render itself even more irrelevant by beclowning itself in this way.

(CNN)The NAACP is sending a strong message to people of color traveling through Missouri: Go at your own risk.

The organization is circulating a travel advisory after the state passed a law that Missouri’s NAACP conference says allows for legal discrimination. The warning cites several discriminatory incidents in Missouri, included as examples of “looming danger” in the state.
[…]
The advisory was issued after Senate Bill 43 — which makes it more difficult for employees to prove their protected class, like race or gender, directly led to unlawful discrimination — passed through the Missouri Legislature in June. Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens signed it into law soon after.
Greitens and other supporters of the bill have said it puts Missouri’s standards for lawsuits in line with other states.
By the way, this is what the law does:

Currently, under the Missouri Human Rights Act (MHRA), a practice is unlawful when the protected classification is a contributing factor in the decision to discriminate. This act changes that standard to the motivating factor. The motivating factor is defined to mean that the employee’s protected classification actually played a role in the adverse action or decision and had a determinative influence on the adverse decision or action. The person must further prove that such action was the direct proximate cause of the claimed damages.

In other words, it says that for someone to win a discrimination lawsuit based on being a member of a protected class, they have to actually prove that they were discriminated against for that reason.

Crazy… I know…

Defending Rights

Bob Hyatt, a lefty sports columnist for the Capital Times, has decided to take me to task regarding a column I wrote a couple of weeks ago about rights. Here is that column, which he quotes extensively. Let’s take a look at some of Hyatt’s feedback:

One envisions Robinson’s attempt to exercise such free speech “rights” (critical of government), or the possession of an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle with 30-round banana clip “right,” in North Korea, Russia, Iran, or any number of third-world dictatorships across the globe in order to back up his claim that such “rights” can be “exercised without any outside interference or assistance,” as he so eloquently argues in his definition of what constitutes a “right” and what does not.

I assume that this is some sort of childish slap at my courage and whether or not I would exercise my rights in a totalitarian regime. Perhaps. Perhaps not. But that doesn’t change the fact that they are rights. It is just that they are rights that are restricted by totalitarian regimes. Hyatt actually bolsters my later argument of how the coercive power of government can by used to squelch people’s rights.

Robinson predicates his definition of what constitutes a “right” on language in a founding document of this country: the Declaration of Independence — a document that does not hold the force of law, incidentally, and is a poor basis for defining what is legally a “right.”

No, the DOC is not law nor did I ever say it was. This is a convenient straw man. The DOC is a statement of philosophy, which is what we are talking about. Rights are inherent in the individual, or granted by your Creator if you prefer, and can only be restricted by government – not granted. This is a fundamental difference between how the Left and the Right views government.
Hyatt then goes on to complain that I cherry picked out of the DOC, which I did, and then proceeds to do the same. Interestingly, he started out by saying that I was off base to use the DOC as a source for defining rights, but then does the same thing. Curious. Anyway, he rightly points out that the DOC says that:
That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…
And then makes the illogical leap to:
Far from “rights” being inherent to one’s self, the declaration states that “rights” are in fact guarded and protected by a government with its people’s consent.
Yes, governments are instituted to guard and protect individual rights, but the rights are just that – individual. I’m not sure how Hyatt thinks that undermines my argument. In fact, it again bolsters that. Our government rests on the philosophical understanding that rights are the sole possession of individuals and that those individuals institute governments amongst themselves to protect those rights. The fact that we have government does not mean that rights are collective. The fact that we have government is to protect individual rights.
Hyatt then goes on to use more cherry picked language from the DOC to claim that it declares healthcare to be a right (again, I thought the DOC wasn’t a valid source document for this?). I’m beginning to think that this is the first time Hyatt actually read the DOC.
The Declaration of Independence makes the case FOR health care being a “right” under the governance of the people in its very first charge in the litany of grievances against then King George III.

“He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.”

“The public good” — a concept Robinson and his ilk somehow fail to understand — is absolutely within the purview of the governing body of this nation to MAKE a “right” if it so chooses.

And there is the fundamental flaw in his thinking. Hyatt thinks that government has the jurisdiction, or even the power, to make something a “right” just because a majority likes it. Not at all. A group of people can form a government that uses the violent power of government to tax the people and use the collective monies to then buy stuff that everyone wants, like healthcare. That is certainly something a government can do. But that does not magically make healthcare a right. And in fact, history has shown that government does a very poor job at efficiently allocating resources for the collective good except in a few rare circumstances. So while government can use its violent power to control and fund healthcare services, that does not make it a right. Hyatt continues:

Robinson may not like the fact that the government has, in fact, the consent of its people for things that he does not personally endorse, but that’s democracy for you — a messy system of upholding those “inalienable rights” that Robinson seems so fond of trying to define on his own terms to avoid sharing responsibility for the health of all of the people instead of just those who can afford it.

I wish I was trying to define rights on my own terms. In fact, I am merely parroting the old enlightenment philosophy upon which our entire American Experiment is based. Standing on the shoulders of giants, and whatnot.

In his own words, Robinson declares: “One certainly has the right to practice health care on oneself, as that right rests in the right to own one’s own body.”

I would agree with Robinson on that account, if I could just prescribe various treatments, medicines, and procedures, exercising my own self-contained “right” without the necessary consent of pesky licensed professionals called doctors, pharmacists and medical technicians.

Again, Hyatt unwittingly proves my point. He is saying that healthcare is a right, but it relies on the expertise of others that must be extracted by the police state. If it requires government to force people to provide it, then it can’t be a right. So healthcare can be called a right insofar as one is exercising itself on oneself to the extend of one’s knowledge, but forcing a doctor to provide services impedes his/her right to self determination. We have a word for when the government uses the coercive force of law to require people to provide services to other people… slavery. Is there a difference between the government forcing someone to till a field and the government forcing someone to set a broken limb?

Hyatt continues:

Furthermore, I am barred from acquiring the necessary knowledge and licensing because the government and an entirely self-serving guild, the American Medical Association — designed to protect the income of all those licensed professionals — decides not only who, but how many, can access the training necessary to practice medicine, even on one’s self.

Actually, that’s not true. Hyatt can get all of the knowledge he wants. The information is largely available in all sorts of libraries and online. What he can’t do is practice healthcare on someone else without a license from the government.

Then Hyatt enters into scary tyrannical thinking:

Robinson’s self-serving exercise to confirm his own bias is not even supported by his own argument: “An individual can always exercise a right, but at the point that such exercise imposes upon another person, it ceases to be a right and instead slips into the realms of commerce or coercion.”

Such an assumed “right” does NOT exist in America — because its government does not support it — and without that support, such a “right” is meaningless — is no “right” at all — when I am forced by law to submit my time, my labor and my money to obtain the means by which I can treat disorders of my own body.

According to Hyatt, a right cannot exist unless the government supports it. Whoa. So do the people of Venezuela no longer have the right to free speech because their government doesn’t support it? Do the people of North Korea not have a right to assemble or religion because their government doesn’t support it? Wow. Hyatt’s philosophy of collective rights granted by government has been the foundation of totalitarian regimes since time began.

And Hyatt ends his screed with what I am sure he thought was a good point.

As an aside, one also wonders exactly where Robinson stands on the issue of practicing health care on one’s own body (and laws abridging such a “right”) when it comes to the contentious “reproductive rights” arguments — given the normally close opposition to such a “right” associated with the stance of those advocating the First and Second Amendment “rights” Robinson seems in favor of.

Does Owen Robinson care to inform us as to why women in many states are NOT afforded a “right” to practice medicine upon their own bodies as they see fit?

I got a couple of emails from lefty readers after that column was published making the same “point.” The problem with Hyatt’s argument is that it rests on the notion that an unborn baby is not a person – endowed with its own rights. So while a woman has a right to practice healthcare on her own body, that does not extend to killing another human being. In the classical example, I have a right to swing my arm up until the point it strikes another person. So too, a person has a right to one’s own body up until it harms or kills another human. At that point, we have a conflict of rights wherein we institute government to resolve the conflict.

I might suggest that Hyatt stick to sports, but this was an easy, fun exercise on a Wednesday morning.

West Bend School Board Calls Another Closed Session

The agenda of tomorrow’s closed session by the West Bend School Board has a few interesting items like this one:

3. Pursuant to Wis. Stats. 19.85(1)(f) to consider financial, medical, social or personal histories or disciplinary data of specific persons, preliminary consideration of specific personnel problems or the investigation of charges against specific persons, which, if discussed in public, would be likely to have substantial adverse effect upon the reputation of any person referred to in such histories or data, or involved in such problems or investigations, and take any such action, if necessary, based on its discussion namely: Initial review of results of exit surveys received from former central office administrators.

Also, in response to the potentially illegal and certainly intemperate actions by the board lately, former School Board President Rick Parks sent them this letter (subject to open records) urging them to slow down, allow public input, and follow normal board good governance protocols. He also makes the extremely valid point that as board members circumvent the normal hiring process and become active hiring managers, they are exposing themselves to some substantial personal liability for possibly violating hiring ethical standards and laws.

To:               West Bend School Board Members

From:           Rick Parks

Date:            July 30, 2017

Re:               Board Member Responsibilities in Hiring

It was not my intent to pepper you with unsolicited advice after my “retirement” from public life.  Public bodies make their own path, and at the end of the day, things usually work out.

But I do feel an obligation to the community, and to individual board members, to point out some areas to watch as you move up the level of board involvement in individual employee hiring decisions.

Based on the public statements I’ve seen, and the manner in which announcements have been made, it appears that the board has taken the lead on how administrative positions are organized and has even gone on to in effect become the “hiring manager” for filling some positions.  While directing organizational structures is not unusual for school boards, with the proper community discussion and vetting, moving on to decide which individuals will fill these roles, rather than the traditional process of ratifying selections that have been advanced by the administrator, is quite unusual.  It may be unique. This also exposes the district, the board as a whole and individual members to risks that may not be fully understood or contemplated.

My business conducts employment law refresher training about every two years for all of our Supervisors, Managers and Executives.  We just had one last week, conducted by a partner from Quarles & Brady, who has also been the employment law resource for the school district.  I thought I’d give you the benefit of some observations I made in the update that are relevant to your current process at the schools.

“Hiring Managers” take on a significant liability for their organization, and in some cases, personally.  When the board moves to making these decisions they must understand and follow proper hiring practices.  When the board acts in a governance manner, by setting expectations that administrators follow all best practices in screening and selecting candidates, there is some defense that flaws in a hiring process fell outside the scope of how an administrator was expected to conduct the process. This could minimize or deflect liability if things don’t go well.  This almost certainly relieves a board member from personal liability for their decision.  By becoming a hiring manager you take on the full risk as a body and perhaps even individually.

As a hiring manager I’ll offer some freshly reinforced best practices each member of the board ought to observe:

  • All positions should be posted internally before being filled. In the case of the newly organized and established dual high school principal positions, you appear to have skipped over this requirement, which is troublesome.  While it might seem that posting for one principal for both high schools suffices, I would suggest it does not.  The feedback at the last board meeting revealed concerns and disappointment on this.  Why is posting so important?  Currently in employment law failure to post is a leading reason for successful discrimination lawsuits.  You expose the district and yourselves to risk when you do not do this.
  • When acting as a hiring manager each of you are responsible for conducting due diligence on individuals you intend to hire. This would include as a minimum:
    • Reviewing a comprehensive background check
    • Reviewing the work history and professional qualifications of each candidate, which for current district employees should involve your own review of their personnel file
    • Conducting an interview with all candidates
  • Excusing yourself from a hiring process if you have a personal relationship with a candidate. In tort law this is a broader standard than the current district ethics policy or even state statutes on conflict of interest.  It could include friendships that might promote favoritism in the hiring process.

None of this is an issue of course unless someone begrudges your hiring process and then takes the next step of pursuing litigation.  Unfortunately we’ve already seen some rumbles of resentment on the process of hiring high school principals, which could set the stage.

As a public board you also face the court of public opinion, even if events don’t move to litigation.  If the board takes on the additional responsibility of being a hiring manager, and skips over the required due diligence, the public relations impact of not properly vetting background checks (with even innocent flaws) or work history would be painful.  And we should never take comfort that information such as this would not publicly surface due to its confidential nature.  At this point there are many people formerly associated with the district that have deep knowledge about any internal candidate the board might advance as a hiring manager.  It would be naïve to think that the rumor mill would not advance any issues that may have been missed by lack of proper due diligence.  This would harm the credibility of the board and any candidates that might have flaws in their record.  Since some members of the current board have placed a focus on using ethical hiring processes a slip here would be especially damning.

Some parts of a best practices hiring process for the high school principal positions are behind you now and can’t be implemented.  It’s too late to post positions and go through a formal vetting and hiring process.  Realistically it’s also too late to interview candidates.  But the remaining due diligence is available to you all and I highly suggest you do the following:

  • Personally review background checks for each designee. Don’t delegate this.
  • Review the personnel file for each candidate.
  • If you have a personal relationship with any candidate, excuse yourself from the vote to approve their contract.

If all board members go through these processes and are comfortable with what they review, the routine process of approving contracts in the consent agenda on August 14th would be completely appropriate.  On the other hand, if even one board member has reservations based on their due diligence review, it would be appropriate to pull out these contract approvals and vote on them separately from the consent agenda.  This would allow that member(s) to be on record as not supporting the process and offer them some legal protection, and also some protection in the court of public opinion.

In open session this of course could not involve a discussion of why a contract was being approved or not approved, but all contract offers do contain the disclaimer that they are subject to board approval.  I don’t believe there would be exposure to liability for an individual board member, or the board as a whole, if a contract that had been offered were not approved.  This should have been part of any written offer.

While my professional life puts me in a position of interacting with attorneys that work directly for my company and are hired for specific purposes (including employment law) on an almost daily basis, I am not an attorney and can’t offer legal advice.  This is decidedly a friendly “heads up.”  Any board member that wishes to interact with the district corporate counsel for legal advice involving their board service is always free to do so.  If you have questions or concerns about what I’ve shared here I encourage you to do just that.  As for the court of public opinion, I did live with that for six years and have some understanding of how things work there.  It can be brutal.

Rick Parks