June 12, 2006

Geno’s Update: Welcome to the Club, Joey Vento — Philly Human Relations Commission Has Filed a “Discrimination” Complaint

JUNE 12: This post will stay at the top through Monday evening, now that the discrimination complaint is official. June 13: Actually it’s TWO complaints“The suit claims that the restaurant is guilty of ‘denying service to someone because of his or her national origin, and having printed material making certain groups of people feel their patronage is unwelcome’ …..”

More from Reuters on June 12:

The sign may violate the city’s Fair Practices Ordinance, which bans businesses from discriminating on the basis of nationality or ethnicity, (Human Relations Commission Acting Director Rachel) Lawton said.

“The complaint will say that the sign discourages patronage by non-English speakers because of their national origin and/or ancestry,” Lawton, whose agency enforces the city’s anti-discrimination laws, said before the official filing.

Geno’s will be given up to two weeks to respond and, if the agency determines the sign has violated the city ordinance, will be ordered to take the sign down. If the restaurant refuses, it will be subject to a $300 fine, Lawton said.

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UPDATE and CORRECTION, June 11: The report in the original body of this post from WCAU-TV says that a complaint has already been filed. The Philly Inquirer is saying that it hasn’t been filed yet, but that it will be filed Monday (bold is mine):

A city agency charged with investigating discrimination plans to file a complaint Monday that questions the legality of the signs, which Vento has said are directed at the Mexican immigrants in Geno’s South Philadelphia neighborhood.

“We’re alleging that the sign itself is enough of an unwelcoming message that it may violate the Fair Practices Act,” said Rachel Lawton, acting executive director of the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations.

Mary Catherine Roper, a spokeswoman for the American Civil Liberties Union, said the signs straddle a line between free speech and discrimination.

Geno’s “has a right to express its opinion, however offensive,” she said. “But there are specific limitations on places of public accommodation, because they are supposed to be available to everyone.”

The original post from Saturday, June 10 follows, along with an update and references to prior posts about a local (Mason, OH) situation that has been taken further already.
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Like I said in the previous post: It was too good to last.

The formal wrath of the PC police has indeed descended on Geno’s and Joey Vento in Philadelphia, as this incredibly sloppy WCAU-TV article carried by MSNBC.com reports:

English-Only Policy Heats Up Cheesesteak Controversy
9:37 p.m. EDT June 9, 2006

PHILADELPHIA – Order in English only. That’s the new rule (NOT true; see below — Ed.) at one of south Philly’s most famous cheesesteak places, and it is cooking up a lot of controversy.

Geno’s Steak owner Joey Vento has really touched a nerve with a little sign on his cheesesteak stand that says, “This is America. When Ordering Speak English.” Vento has been getting calls from all over the country.

“We got troops (that are) getting blown up, and here we’ve got this big, bad Joey Vento who’s got the audacity to try to teach people to speak English in America where the language is English and if you don’t know it, you’re not going anywhere,” Vento told NBC 10 News.

So, what happens to a customer who cannot or will not speak English?

“The bottom line is no one has ever been refused,” Vento said.

Vento said his workers are happy to help non-native speakers and haven’t turned anyone away.

NBC 10′s Bill Baldini went to the Liberty Bell to see how foreign visitors felt about Vento’s sign. He talked to men from France, South Africa and the Philippines. None of them had a problem with the sign.

Baldini also spoke to some of Geno’s customers.

“I do feel it probably should be the primary language,” one woman said.

“If I had a problem with the sign, I wouldn’t be in line (to order a cheesesteak),” said a man.

“You know what gets me? The papers, you’re all against Joey Vento because, you know, ‘Spanish, he’s against these Spanish people.’ Well, Daily News and Inquirer, say this. What part of the paper is in Spanish?” Vento asked.

Whether you agree or disagree, you know exactly where Vento stands. He has been on four national news shows talking about the controversy.

In Philadelphia, the Human Relations Commission has filed a complaint against Vento. His response? “I really don’t care.” (Correction above: The Philly Enquirer reports that the complaint will be filed on Monday. — Ed.)

I say the report is “incredibly sloppy” because the Philly Inquirer report Michelle Malkin used as the original basis for her first post on the topic said (about halfway through) that Vento “put up the signs when the immigration debate seized national headlines six months ago.” Not exactly “new” as WCAU claims — Zheesh.

As to the complaint filed by Philadelphia’s Human Relations Commission, all I can say is “Joey Vento and Geno’s, meet Tom Ullum and The Pleasure Inn.”
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UPDATE: This might be a sneak preview of what Joey Vento has to look forward to — vandalism, as experienced by The Pleasure Inn in Mason, Ohio a couple of weeks ago. Tom Ullum, The Pleasure Inn’s owner, who has been in an eight-month battle with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission over his “For Service Speak English” sign, has temporarily replaced his other sign (“For Service You Must Be Legal”) with the one you see in the second picture:

FSSE HardHat

If you look closely, you’ll see the area where the window is broken to the right of the “For Service Speak English” sign.

Mr. Ullum’s humor in the situation is admirable. The same can’t be said for the creeps who did the damage, who, though no one can prove linkage between the language controversy and the vandalism, could possibly be seen in the circumstances as having committed a hate crime if linkage exists.

UPDATE 2: Professor Bainbridge reacts:

In a truly free country, we’d leave this sort of thing to the market. Geno’s would have the right to associate with those customers it chooses and those who are offended would have the right to stay away. We may have to give up that freedom so as to prevent some forms of invidious discrimination, but insisting on English hardly strikes me as all that invidious.

UPDATE 3: A June 14 Philly Daily News piece describes the early stages of the crucifixion procedure for Geno’s as follows:

The Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations has filed a complaint, citing Geno’s for discrimination. Vento has 15 days to respond. If he refuses to remove the signs, the commission will negotiate, and then, possibly, hold a public hearing that could be followed by an order to remove the signs. Vento could appeal to Common Pleas Court.

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Previous Posts:

  • June 10 — As in Greater Cincy, “For Service Speak English” Place in Philly Is Catching Flak
  • May 31 — The Pleasure Inn Has “For Service Speak English” Company
  • May 13, 2006 — Why Won’t the Ohio Civil Rights Commission Get Off Tom Ullum’s Back?
  • Dec. 19, 2005 — Update: Thought Police 1, Bar Owner 0; Bar Owners Showing Solidarity–1
  • Dec. 16 — Thought Police 1, Bar Owner 0
  • Oct. 9 — Questions for the Thought Police at the Ohio Civil Rights Commission and The Cincinnati Enquirer

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Wizbang Weekend Carnival Participant.

Guest-Worker Program (aka Amnesty) a Boon To Forgers? But I Thought….

This USA Today piece (HT Debbie Schlussel) indicates just that:

WASHINGTON — U.S. officials are beefing up efforts to stop immigration fraud partly out of concern that proposals before Congress could create a boon for document forgers.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement has created 10 anti-fraud task forces across the nation in addition to the existing unit in Washington, D.C. The task forces have opened 250 probes since they began work in April, says Special Agent Scott Weber, chief of identity and benefit fraud for ICE.

The rising concern over immigration fraud comes as Congress considers a plan to give many of the estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants a chance to stay legally as guest workers or residents, depending on how long they have lived and worked here. A new law could increase demand for documentation among immigrants seeking to prove their length of residency.

Immigration fraud is “a problem of epidemic proportions,” says ICE Assistant Secretary Julie Myers. “There’s no question it will be a tremendous increase in workload.”

I thought the biometric ID card would solve all of this (of course it won’t).

Y’know, if you’re all going to snooker us on the illegal-immigration issue, you’re going to have to start coordinating your dissembling a little better.

I also like how the press is creating a bit of a hope/expectation that some kind of guest-worker (aka amnesty) program will pass. Not if John Boehner and the House have anything to do with it (crossing fingers).

Here’s my idea for ICE Princess Julie Myers: Keep the task forces going even if there is no guest-worker program passed this year. And to all those watching over the ICE Princess: Let us know if she starts taking down the forces if we’re lucky enough to avoid the aka amnesty program before this year’s elections.
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UPDATE: Michelle Malkin has a post on the “matricula consular card” that supposedly ensures that illegals aliens are who they say they are. Her three-word reax, with examples supplied: “Ha ha ha.”

Is Jeb Bush the Best Governor in America?

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government,TWUQs — Tom @ 1:42 pm

Fred Barnes at The Weekly Standard thinks so.

Bush’s laundry list of accomplishments, especially on the pockebook issues, makes it hard to disagree with Barnes, especially if you limit the contest to the largest 50% of the states (go to the second page of the article for this list; bolds are mine):

  • Political leadership: Florida was a weak-governor state when Bush arrived. No more. It had cabinet government with six elected state officials besides the governor. Now the cabinet has been reduced to three members plus Bush, and power is not shared equally. Bush rules. He removed the bar association from a role in naming judges and now controls the selection process. He also eliminated the state board of regents, took control of the board of every public university, and gained the right to name the state education commissioner. And he’s changed the policy debate from how much government can do to how much it should leave to the people and the free market. “That’s his greatest effect,” says Robert McClure of the Bush-friendly James Madison Institute in Tallahassee.
  • The economy: It’s bursting at the seams. Florida is no longer totally reliant on tourism, agriculture, and the retiree industry. Under Bush, Florida has become the fourth largest high-tech state. Its bond rating has been hiked to Triple A. The economy, in Bush’s words, was “knocked for a jolt” by 9/11. He “went out to shamelessly promote” tourism, and state construction projects were accelerated. It worked. He stubbornly fought a high-speed train connecting Miami, Orlando, and Tampa. It was approved in a 2000 referendum, only to be rejected in 2004 at Bush’s urging.
  • Taxes: Bush has slashed $20 billion in taxes over eight years and enjoys the heartburn this gives the media and liberals. “I do love it,” he says. “Prior to my arrival, there may have been a tax cut or two, but normally the way to solve problems was to raise taxes.” This year, the legislature killed what Bush calls “the evil, insidious intangibles tax” on stocks and bonds. His tax cuts are all the more shocking in a state with no income tax but with a balanced budget requirement.
  • Education: Bush’s education reforms have been vindicated by scholarly studies. Jay Greene and Marcus Winters of the Manhattan Institute found testing to end social promotion in Florida schools had led to “substantial academic gains for low-performing schools.” A Harvard study concluded the stigma of poor student performance and the threat of vouchers caused schools to improve. The test scores of African-American and poor students rose significantly. One example: The percentage of African-American fourth graders reading at grade level doubled to 56 percent from 1999 to 2005.
  • Medicaid: Bush’s bold experiment, due to begin in less than a month, has important national implications. In Broward and Duval counties, Medicaid recipients will choose among 19 insurance plans. The program provides incentives to change behavior by quitting smoking, seeking preventive care, and getting dental exams. The aim is not to cut the cost of Medicaid but to slow its staggering growth: Florida’s Medicaid budget jumped from $7 billion in 1999 to $16 billion in 2006. If the Florida test succeeds, other states will follow.
  • Hurricanes: Bush is regularly consulted by governors on how to handle natural disasters and emergencies. What does he tell them? “My advice has been to be humble but strong,” he told me. “Emergencies are not about politics. . . . Giving transparent, clear information on a timely basis is expected because people are expecting strong leadership. I also have suggested that it is important to act decisively and worry about filling out the forms later.”

If it weren’t for his brother, there is little doubt that Jeb Bush would be 2008 presidential material. Maybe he still can be president, but not in 2008, both because he says he’s not running, and because the electorate will, for better or worse, not want to keep the highest office in the land in the same family for 12-16 years.

Ohioans can only hope that Ken Blackwell wins, and is taking notes about what the President’s younger brother has done.
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UPDATE: Chad at Black Swamp Conservative, in a comment below, tipped me to a Buckeye Firearms entry about Jeb Bush’s success at passing pro-Second Amendment legislation. The link’s author thinks the faux conservative leadership in Ohio needs a serious lecture from Florida conservatives about RTKBA. I absolutely agree.

As to Bush, I don’t suppose anyone would notice if he changed his last name?

Luskin on “Net Neutrality” — Bullseye! (Update: WaPo Agrees, with Caution)

Filed under: Business Moves,Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 11:31 am

From time to time, your humble servant has to admit that he doesn’t know it all (it’s easy once you get used to it).

The issue of “net neutrality” is one of them. I began leaning in the direction of neutrality until some people who are smarter than me on the topic started weighing in: NixGuy (link is to his latest, with previous posts indexed at the bottom); a Cisco VP; Steve Forbes; The Wall Street Journal, on serveral occasions; and now, last but by no means least, Don Luskin last Friday at Smart Money online:

Hands Off My Net

….. The Internet has been the greatest engine of economic growth the world has ever seen.

Now, for the first time, the continued expansion of the Internet is at risk. We’re about to kill the goose that lays the golden global eggs.

How? By regulating it.

Ever since the Department of Defense turned over the Internet for public use, it’s been a free-for-all. The result has been innovation on unprecedented scale and at unprecedented speed. But now there’s a move among a coterie of powerful business interests, lobbyists and politicians to change all that — to shut down the free-for-all, and turn the Internet into a government-controlled mediocrity.

Who can imagine what miracles the next 10 years of the Internet will bring? But now it’s all being put at risk.

The crisis has been triggered by the prospect of telephone and cable operators investing tens of billions of dollars to build the Internet of the future. With the technology they’re talking about investing in, the Internet will be able to bring high-definition images and sounds into your home, on demand. Not just movies and TV shows whenever you want them, but also “virtual meetings” with dazzlingly real telepresence that will replace the common phone call — and may end up replacing in-person meetings, too.

And who knows what other amazing innovations will come from that kind of capability? That’s why they’re called “innovations.” If I could tell you what they’ll be, they wouldn’t be innovations, now would they?

But whatever might possibly come from this new technology in the future, nothing will actually happen if the telephone and cable operators won’t put billions of dollars at risk here and now to get it done.

One way they can earn a profit is by charging different Internet users different fees depending on the kind of service they get.

….. The same thing happens right now. You pay more for DSL service than you do for dial-up service. And your network controls other elements of your usage, too. For example, your DSL service probably gives you a fast downlink speed and a slower uplink speed, because you probably receive more information from the Internet than you contribute.

Yet a group of today’s biggest providers of online content have banded together with consumer groups, lobbyists, and political-influence organizations to strip the telcos and cable operators of the ability to control how their own networks will be managed and priced. They want the network operators to spend billions to create a regulated public utility that they can’t control and may not profit from.

The interests pushing for this regulation have given it the Orwellian name “net neutrality.” They say that if the telcos and cable operators control their own next-generation networks, they’ll “discriminate” against certain users of the network. They say that the network operators need to make their next-generation network available to everyone on the same basis and at the same price, no matter how the network is to be used.

But “discriminate” is just the lobbyists’ word for “compete.”

And just what would be wrong with that?

Nothing, if you ask me. I like competition. I like the idea of being able to get something from Verizon that Microsoft wants me only to get from Microsoft.

Luskin’s piece moves me to be enthusiasically against “net neutrality,” as long as the hands-off approach is coupled with vigilance on the part of the FTC and the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division.
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UPDATE: The Washington Post agrees:

The weakest aspect of the neutrality case is that the dangers it alleges are speculative. It seems unlikely that broadband providers will degrade Web services that people want and far more likely that they will use non-neutrality to charge for upgrading services that depend on fast and reliable delivery, such as streaming high-definition video or relaying data from heart monitors. If this proves wrong, the government should step in. But it should not burden the Internet with preemptive regulation.

Bizzy’s AM Coffee Biz-Econ-Life Links (061206)

Free Links:

  • This may be an indication that consumers have less money to buy things with, but I don’t think so — The monthly payment ratio, the percentage of total balances the average credit-card user pays, has gone up a few points in the past several months, as higher minimum-payment requirements have started to kick in, and as those who are smart enough and able to pay more do so in response to higher interest rates.

    MonthlyPymtRatio0406

    I think it will take a much higher ratio to cause a negative impact at the cash register. And of course, if enough people pay their debts down significantly, they will have a LOT more money to go out and buy stuff without creating more debt.

  • On the war/Katrina relief supplement spending bill — I think the blogosphere deserves an assist on the elimination of the most of the pork, and of the unconscionable across-the-board “cutting” idea hatched in the Senate. The $94.5 billion measure is going to reach the President’s desk in nearly clean condition. But Captain Ed, Instapundit, and others are kidding themselves if they think Tom “There’s nowhere else to cut” Delay would have held as firm as Majority Leader John Boehner did. Sorry, folks; the Internet pressure was good, but Boehner deserves the lion’s (or elephant’s) share of the credit.
  • This does seem like working overtime to alienate your customers (HT Techdirt) — AOL recently started to display ads along with e-mail messages to its paying subscribers.
  • One of the most arrogant and underperforming companies on earth outdid itself at it annual meeting, and the seething hasn’t stopped:

    Weeks after Home Depot Inc.’s annual meeting, which featured no questions, no vote counts and no outside directors in attendance, shareholders of the nation’s largest home improvement chain are still seething.
    Home Depot has apologized, but its tone-deaf approach to its critics may boomerang.
    “You didn’t hear anything close to the level of anger being discussed about Home Depot before the meeting that you did after,” said Patrick McGurn, executive vice president at proxy advisory firm Institutional Shareholder Services Inc.
    If you missed the May 25 annual meeting in Wilmington, Del., here’s what happened: The only director who attended was Bob Nardelli, the company’s chairman, president and CEO. Nardelli refused to acknowledge comments, answer questions or stick around longer than 30 minutes.
    The company allowed shareholders to speak about their proposals, but it put a strict time limit on their comments, which were tracked by a giant clock.
    Shareholder activists had been planning to ask directors tough questions about Nardelli’s pay package, which totaled $123.7 million, excluding stock option grants, over the past five years. Nardelli was awarded the money while Home Depot’s stock sunk about 9 percent. In the same period, stock in its nearest rival, Lowe’s Companies Inc., increased 185 percent on a split-adjusted basis.
    ….. “I’m getting tons of calls,” said Richard Ferlauto, director of pension and benefit policy at the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, and a critic of Home Depot’s corporate governance.
    The callers, he said, are individual shareholders who are outraged and “Home Depot employees who say Nardelli runs the company internally the same way he ran the annual meeting.”

    Biz Week had an astoundingly fluffy cover story (probably requires subscription) on Home Depot in March which brought a torrent of reader criticism for whitewashing. Home Depot is run by Nardelli and his cronies, for Nardelli and his cronies. Trust me, folks; what’s making the papers about Home Depot only scratches the surface.

India’s “Robin Hood” Hospital May Be a Model for Elsewhere

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 6:01 am

The description may be a turn-off to some, but be patient (excuse the pun).

This is a private effort that is successful now (hence its inclusion as a Positivity post), and because of its private nature, could be emulated in other areas without the dead hand of the state ruining things:

Entrepreneurial Hospital Pioneers New Model

In Bangalore, a state-of-the-art hospital staffed by Western-trained physicians treats anyone suffering from a heart ailment. It accepts patients regardless of caste, class, religion, and perhaps most surprisingly, their ability to pay for treatment. Yet it is solvent, and its founder would like to roll out a similar model beyond India—maybe even into Europe and the U.S.

What’s the secret?

According to HBS (Harvard Business School) professor Tarun Khanna, the success of the hospital, called Narayana Hrudayalaya, is due to the vision and tireless work of a compassionate surgeon, Dr. Devi Shetty, whose specialty is heart care for children. It’s also a story made of equal parts Robin Hood humanitarianism, entrepreneurship, and the Indian government’s newfound ability to allow entrepreneurs a free hand in trying to solve some of society’s most desperate problems, said Khanna.

Khanna, who is writing a case on Shetty that will be taught to HBS MBA’s in the fall, said in an recent presentation on campus, “Dr. Shetty and I are working together to try to figure out ways to institutionalize his hospital model and spread it. He would like to create similar hospitals specializing in, for example, urology, ophthalmology, gynecology, and so on. His ambition is breathtaking.”

“He has also started training doctors in Tanzania and Malaysia. His ambition is to cure the poor of the world for one dollar a day. He also thinks there is no reason this couldn’t work in the United States for the inner city poor.”

Shetty’s model is based on staffing doctors who are extremely well-trained and dedicated, yet are willing to take a 50 percent pay cut compared to what they would earn in the West.
Born and raised in India, Shetty went to medical school in Mangalore and trained in cardiac surgery at Guy’s Hospital, London. He returned to India in 1989 to co-found a state-of-the-art center in Calcutta, the B.M. Biria Heart Research Center, which soon added pediatric cardiac surgical facilities. It was India’s first hospital specializing in the treatment of heart disease. Mother Teresa later chose him as her own physician. Reflecting on his background, Shetty wrote on his Web site that he became a doctor because of the recurrent illnesses of his parents. As a child he lived in fear that he would lose his mother; his father, a diabetic, suffered several diabetic comas.

As an adult back in India, Shetty was greatly inspired by his contact with Mother Teresa. He wrote, “One day, Mother Teresa, who at that point of time was convalescing in the intensive care unit of the hospital, saw me examining a ‘blue baby.’ After a few minutes of thought, she turned towards me and said, ‘Now I know why you are here. To relieve the agony of children with heart disease. God sent you to this world to fix it.’ To my mind, this is the best definition ever given of a pediatric cardiac surgeon and perhaps the best compliment that I have ever received.”

Said Khanna, “When Mother Teresa died, he decided to start Narayana Hrudayalaya. It’s kind of a Robin Hood hospital. When you walk in with a heart ailment, if you can pay, you pay; if you can’t pay, you get treated for free. It doesn’t matter what your heart ailment is. Its operating metrics are better than all the heart hospitals in the U.S. But what’s more interesting—and this is a function of operating in an environment such as India where heart disease is endemic—it’s a genetic trait among Indians, and also there are so many people, so there are more heart ailments—is that Dr. Shetty has one of the biggest, if not the biggest, pediatric heart hospital facilities in the world.”

Shetty also directs telemedicine units that connect to remote areas in northeastern India, allowing physicians and technicians to communicate on acute care.

The last paragraph of the excerpt made me think of what Porkopolis blogged on Sunday about mobile robotic surgery, and how that idea could be integrated into what Dr. Shetty has inspired. What a combo that would be.