Saturday, April 30, 2005

Cieslewicz and the COWS for Urban Rail

Any one who wants a serious understanding of what’s happening with city government in Madison needs to understand why Mayor Dave Cieslewicz talks with Joel Rogers ninety minutes before his orientation meeting with the new Alderpersons. To put it succinctly, Dave is the actor and Joel is the director of an overtly socialist production they are staging in capital city. Mayor Dave calls it: “Making Madison the Most Progressive City in America.”

In the Mayor’s orientation talk I expect he discussed his Urban Rail Plan for Madison since this is critical to the overall goal of the New Urbanism the COWS want to impose on the city. In his one page overview, Cieslewicz mentions the Portland, Oregon urban rail system nine times with effusive adoration. Not everyone who lives in Portland shares this enthusiasm for pretty little trains as covered in these two posts from

Portland's MAX: “As I live in Portland, home of MAX, which we voted against twice, only to see highway funds diverted anyway, creating the cesspool of traffic jams that make us the most car-unfriendly city in America... I have complained at length about the misallocation of funds that is "Light-Rail" and expressed my confusion at the Lefties love of their choo-choo's.”

Portland's Interstate MAX: Problems between theory and reality.

“First, Interstate MAX will not be "fast." It takes 30 minutes to travel from the Expo Center to Pioneer Courthouse Square, a speed of roughly 15 mph. This offers no improvement over the No. 5 bus that currently runs down Interstate Avenue.”

“Second, Interstate MAX will be no more "reliable" than bus service. The January ice storms showed that light rail is vulnerable to total shutdown under extreme winter conditions, just when transit service is needed the most. Buses routinely come to the rescue when trains fail.”

“Third, Interstate MAX will not improve access to jobs and housing; it merely replaces an existing bus route.”

“Light rail is often touted as a congestion-relief strategy, but in fact Interstate MAX has already made traffic much worse; TriMet reduced North Interstate Avenue from four lanes to two lanes to obtain rail right-of-way. Traffic has increased on nearby parallel routes and few of the displaced motorists will use Interstate MAX.”

“In recent years, rail advocates have changed arguments, conceding that light rail is not really a transit strategy but a means to increase density in neighborhoods. Why is that desirable? People have steadily migrated from central cities to the suburbs for more than 100 years. The notion that light rail can reverse this trend not only ignores a broad consumer preference for low density, it also ignores the historical role of trains, which were used to move people out of overcrowded cities to new streetcar suburbs.”
Ideology that runs counter to the evidence of history needs to be questioned. The background is covered in prior post: COWS Running Madison and prior post: COWS Philosophy plus prior post: COW Thinking. Madison is a great city but past performance does not guarantee future success.

Friday, April 29, 2005

Unfilmed Scene

Lola is grinding up small baggies full of coffee in blatant violation of the foundation rule that coffee beans must be ground only moments before brewing. When challenged she replies that there is one bag for each day, plus a spare, because travel trumps the daily grind. I raise the possibility that San Diego probably has coffee, to which she replies, yes, ... hotel coffee.

She brushes the residual dust off the edge of the counter and into her hand which is held above the open dishwasher door. For a moment I picture her filling the detergent bins with Tanzanian Pea Berry powder in true belief that washing dishes in coffee would be an improvement over plain water. Lola dismisses my brainstorm but I file it away in memory and it may be an experiment to perform while she is away on business. After all, she has no expectations of returning home to a clean house.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Calcium Supplements Flunk

The British publication The Lancet is one of the oldest peer reviewed medical journals and studies they accept to print usually achieve the standards necessary to be considered “serious” medical research. This particular study has every major requirement for modern medical investigation: double blind, placebo controlled, long term (5.5yrs), large scale (5,292 people), multi-center (21 hospitals), and paid for with government funding supplemented by two different drug companies. Well, surprise, surprise, Calcium Supplements Are Unable to Prevent Fractures.

At the risk of being wrong, I am going to make an all inclusive universal assertion that the two most contentious subjects in human discussion are health and eating. After all, sex is good and killing is bad and sane people won’t spend hours in a tizzy defending the opposing point of view. Refined sugar, organic milk and shark cartilage, however, will drive large numbers of people to dogmatic points of view beyond the realm of evidence because they are self-obviously true. The press release is pretty standard but the comments on the findings are from all over the typical reaction spectrum.

Personal financial concern: “Much of what happens to us in our old age is directly related to how well we take care of ourselves early on and I would like to know if I'm wasting money on supplements in my 30's.”

Contempt and skepticism: “Aren't the editors of the Lancet aware that many suppliers use calcium citrate and di calcium phosphate? … There is no excuse for this kind of sloppy reporting.”

Anecdotal evidence proves the conclusion wrong: “After breaking bones in my left foot I took a course of both 'Oral Vitamin D and calcium'. When the X-ray plates were examined by the specialist at Christchurch Hospital, Dorset. He asked for the X-rays to be taken again, as the mend was so good and so fast he couldn't believe the X-rays were mine.”

Product plug anyway: “We have no financial holdings in this company but your readers might want to know that this combination is sold in the U.S. as Posture-D.”

Yeah but drugs don’t work either: “It has been my impression with much internet research that the new "bone building" medicines do not decrease fracture either. They may induce higher bone density but there has been no change in fracture stats.”

It’s the shoes: I propose that something simple is being overlooked in osteoporosis. Specifically, women suffer from osteoporosis disproportionately more than men. Could their higher-heeled shoes have anything to do with it?

You should have listened to your Mother! “I guess there's no substitute for exercise and eating your greens. All you supplement people should throw these dopey hopes that they will save you out the window and go exercise.”

It’s your crappy lifestyle: “According to the research I have conducted, Osteoporosis can be attributed to the high intake of animal protein, lack of sunlight, lack of exercise, too much junk and sugary foods, too much salt, smoking, alcohol and stress.”

It’s a capitalist plot by Coke and Pepsi: “Is this another ploy of the drug companies to market more drugs? Osteoporosis is the result of demineralizing of the bones. A drug will not reverse this. A major factor in demineralizing is the drinking of carbonated beverages. The phosphoric acid in the pop leaches out the minerals, causing severe imbalances over time.”

It’s the cows! “Were the participants in the study continuing to ingest dairy and meat products during the testing period (possibly under the impression that they needed to rebuild their bones using such things)?”

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

How Old is Horicon Marsh?

A Sanity in Mad City post courtesy of the Dummocrats Daily Page covers a difference of opinion between “environmentalists” groups. The point of contention is whether a Chicago corporation should be allowed to build a large scale “wind farm” in close proximity to one of North America’s largest migratory bird stops. Wisconsin’s Horicon Marsh is the largest freshwater cattail wetland area in the United States. If you are “Green” inclined, then alternative energy sources like wind power generated electricity should be good, however, a number of people are convinced that current windmill designs are bird killers and bat destroyers.

This little tiff in the greenhouse is an excellent reminder that there are many subgroups in the environmentalist universe, with various priorities based on their individual cherished values. Sea Green and Forest Green factions tend to support each other in principle but each group has their priority cause to fight. Spring Greens, Lawn Greens, Emerald, Olive and Jade Greens all have their own little niches in ecology world. The Lime Greens, those predatory fruity fringe moonbats, are actually old fashioned Red Socialists in disguise.

How old is Horicon Marsh? The way a person answers that question can be a good clue as to what type of green values they hold. The answer can be found in the Horicon Marsh Environmental History. The story begins about 400 human generations in the past as the glaciers melted away on a warming planet. Environmental “activists” who believe that problems are local and can be corrected with limited local solutions are often worthy of our support and encouragement. Those activists who believe the problems on the planet result from global pathologies requiring universal changes in human behavior are the ones that constitute the very real “Green” danger to our free society.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Photos Not Taken

The sky is filled with heavy gray rain clouds, and when sunshine slips through and highlights the special chartreuse green of spring leaves against that thick dark background, it is exactly as if Van Gogh has momentary control of the universe. Lola assembles and bakes a pizza for dinner and as the early darkness sets in, I set out walking in the cool night air and feel the wind as it flows across my face. It’s a good night for an interlude with a bit of active meditation. Some time to digest the observations of the day.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Our Tax Dollars at Work: New eJournal !

The Bush Administration recently initiated a new project through the National Biological Information Infrastructure agency, a division of the US Geological Survey. The new endeavor is an Ejournal for Sustainability: Science, Practice & Policy. US tax dollars in partnership with private industry for the greater good of American citizens.
Volume 1 Issue 1 Spring 2005: “Sustainability: Science, Practice, & Policy is published as part of an ambitious government/private industry partnership between CSA and the NBII. The purpose of this project is to develop a Sustainability Science database that examines the countless interactions of all living entities, especially humans, with the Earth and its environment.”
Since this is a project of the Bush Administration someone in the chain of command authorized the project budget and someone reviewed and approved the articles for the initial publication. In general the writings are lengthy works of scholarship, however, a mouthful is adequate to savor the flavor of the piece.

Sustainable Consumption Approaches in France
“Finally, from a more operational perspective, the French case highlights the need for better synergy between the institutional world of green policymaking and the more holistic approach defended by radical groups. … Here, as elsewhere in the environmental debate, progressive institutional forces (ecological modernizers) would gain from supplementing their typically “cold” technical style (eg., eco-labeling standards) with a more direct confrontation of the core ecological contradictions of the capitalist system.”
Local Ecological Knowledge of Finland
“This paper is a study of the role of local ecological knowledge. To obtain data, planning officials, biologists, and representatives of resident and nature associations were interviewed in the Helsinki metropolitan area.”
Dutch Policies Not Working: More Overt Policies Needed
“Existing policy styles and instruments have not reduced significantly the environmental impacts of consumption. An explanation for this inadequacy resides in the technocratic origins of environmental policymaking and the pronounced tendency to rely on the presumed rationality of producers situated on the supply side of production-consumption chains. A central issue, therefore, becomes the organization of an overt politics of sustainable consumption.”
International Institutions and Reducing Consumerist Lifestyles
“International institutions over the past decade have begun to emphasize the need to reduce the environmental impacts of heavily consumerist lifestyles in affluent nations as a precondition for sustainable development.”
The Feature Essay: What's Needed Beyond Science
We have two big problems: blindness and addiction! Can we accept or acquiesce in denial of our “In Growth We Trust” addiction, an addiction that is delusional in its unwillingness to admit to limits in a finite world? Blindness and denial make impotent the body of scientific knowledge and block the use of helpful technologies.”

“When asking these questions, I realize that the sciences and technologies in themselves are not enough, … willingness to accept policies that really address our needs is indispensable. For both the religious and those who feel no special connection to any religion, there is environmental ethics, and for me, in particular, the philosophy called Deep Ecology. … We can only accomplish our goal, to change the behavior that undermines a sustainable future, if we change what we collectively think and want. That is, we will have to change the dominant worldview. … Do we, Homo sapiens, have the wisdom to do that?”
Do we, American Homo sapiens deserve our money back?

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Madison's Minimum Wage: Law and Logic

The City of Madison created a municipal ordinance that took effect January 1, 2005, raising the minimum wage for work done within the city limits to $5.70 an hour. The State of Wisconsin has established a minimum wage of $5.15 an hour which applies everywhere in the State, with the exception of Madison. A coalition of business and trade organizations filed suit in December, 2004 to block the ordinance, claiming a municipal government does not have the legal authority to supersede state authority by mandating an independent minimum wage requirement.

Last Thursday Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi ruled in favor of the City and dismissed the suit. The decision can be summarized as follows. While municipalities have no inherent powers, Wisconsin law allows cities wide latitude in governing their local affairs unless expressly prohibited by State law. Wisconsin Courts have established, by case precedent, a four part test to determine if State legislation has withdrawn local authority over specific matters. If the court finds an affirmative answer to any of the four questions, it must void the local ordinance.
(1) whether the legislature has expressly withdrawn the power of the municipalities to act;
(2) whether the ordinance logically conflicts with the state legislation;
(3) whether the ordinance defeats the purpose of the state legislation; or
(4) whether the ordinance goes against the spirit of the state legislation.
Judge Sumi found no evidence that the Madison Minimum Wage Ordinance violated questions 1, 3 or 4 of the test. The key to her decision in favor of the City rests entirely upon how she interpreted question 2, the potential for a logical conflict with state law. The Judge cites case precedent that defines logical conflict as “diametrically opposed”. She argues that because state law on minimum wage uses the phrase “not less than”, the state law establishes a floor for wages and not a ceiling. Since the Madison ordinance does not lower the floor, it is not diametrically opposed to the State legislation, therefore, it is not in logical conflict with the State.

The judge sympathises with the concern expressed by the business community that creating a patchwork of varied wage ordinances across Wisconsin is not desirable, and this decision will undoubtedly be appealed by the business community. The effort to prevent a “balkanization” of wage policy across the state appears to depend on how the courts ultimately define “logical”, and asking the courts to be logical is always problematic.

Once a measurable standard is established at the state level, how far can a local government deviate from that standard before the deviation becomes illogical? In other words, would a mandatory minimum wage of $1,000,000 per hour be logically acceptable since it is above the statutory floor level? If no prior case has established a judicial standard to determine reasonable variation from the norm, then perhaps this case will establish that precedent.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Fuel Cell News: Bacterial Zapping

I know that Penn State is a member of the Big 10 but in my memory there is always an asterisk by its name. I suppose it has to do with being the eleventh of ten. Still I understand the difference between athletics and academics and kudos to the learning side for their work on An Electrically Assisted Microbial Fuel Cell in conjunction with the private business firm Ion Power, Inc.

The importance of this work derives from the role that Fuel Cells are expected to play in saving the planet from the "Oil Economy". It is a tenet of faith in the environmental movement that the use of any carbon based energy is bad for the survival of life on Earth. Burning wood is not good, nor is natural gas and oil is by far the worse carbon based energy source of all. The Green Movement is realistic enough to understand they need to propose some sort of energy to maintain society and a large part of their hope is in the ability of hydrogen to become a clean fuel.

The work at Penn State is an advance because their process increases the hydrogen output from organic material, or the preferred term biomass. The historical problem is that bacteria can only ferment carbohydrates, and then only to the point where waste products accumulate enough to stop the process. The breakthrough is the discovery that if you zap the microbes with a current of electricity, they “leap the fermentation barrier” and proceed to digest the former waste products, thus increasing the hydrogen production.

“Using a new electrically-assisted microbial fuel cell (MFC) … enables bacteria to coax four times as much hydrogen directly out of biomass than can be generated typically by fermentation alone.” … “giving the bacteria a small assist with a tiny amount of electricity -- about 0.25 volts or a small fraction of the voltage needed to run a typical 6 volt cell phone -- they can leap over the fermentation barrier and convert a "dead end" fermentation product, acetic acid, into carbon dioxide and hydrogen.”

Wait, stop, halt! To get more hydrogen to use as fuel for the environmentally clean energy hydrogen machine, one of the by products of the increased production becomes carbon dioxide? Maybe this process isn’t the Holy Grail for the leftists. Besides, if you look at their private sector partner, Ion Power, Inc., it turns out they exist as a tool of an oppressive, polluting global corporation.

“Ion Power Inc was founded in 1999 by Stephen Grot Ph.D to promote the use of NAFION®. As experts in NAFION ®, Ion Power will develop, manufacture, and distribute value-added products containing DuPont™ NAFION ® PFSA materials.”

Friday, April 22, 2005


Two days after Christmas 2004, NASA Observes a Giant Cosmic Explosion that was bigger and brighter than anything ever recorded. For a few milliseconds a burst of gamma radiation swept over earth, from a single eruption that released more energy than our Sun emitted over the last 150,000 years. The source was identified as Magnetar 1806-20 on the other side of the galaxy in an area where stars are born and die.
"The center of the Galaxy is 25,000 light years away, but some researchers have argued that SGR 1806-20 lies well beyond that. Its true distance is uncertain. The region of the sky surrounding SGR 1806-20 is very crowded with galactic star-forming and star-dying activity, so it is not yet clear whether there exists a young supernova remnant associated with SGR 1806-20."
The media paid almost no attention because the day before, December 26, 2004, an earthquake of historical intensity erupted off the coast of Malaysia and the resulting tsunami killed thousands upon thousands of people. Asking why something happened is a difficult question because cause and effect can not be known with complete certainty. At best we are left with our trust in the consistency of frequently repeated events, like sunrise follows sunset, and apples always fall down. The harder challenge is trying to understand why something rare and unusual happens. What causes a once in a lifetime event?

Dr. Paul LaViolette believes he understands why the massive Indonesian earthquake happened, and why 44.6 hours later, NASA witnessed a cosmic explosion of unprecedented force. His answer is that a neutron star about fifteen miles wide and forty five thousand light years away rippled the structure of space enough to shake and break mother earth. If its science fiction it is good story, but keep in mind that Galileo had some pretty weird ideas for his time.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Wisconsin is in Grave Danger

The Union of Concerned Scientists is an independent nonprofit alliance of scientists concerned about our well being. Founded in 1969 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, they are currently headquartered in Cambridge on Harvard Square. Their Board of Directors is filled with academics from prestigious institutions and they accept funding if you want to give them money. To demonstrate their concern, they put together an overview of Climate Change Dangers for Wisconsin. Please consider the top 10 threats to our State.

10. Climate change is bad for cows.
"High temperatures suppress appetite and decrease weight gain in livestock while warmer winters and less snow cover are predicted to reduce the quantity and quality of spring forage, and thus, milk quality.”
9. Lower morbidity and mortality rates at late season Packer home games.
“Cold-related health risks are likely to decline over time, as the frequency of extreme cold weather periods during winter decreases.”
8. The same amount of rain may produce a drier climate because the atmosphere won’t be able to rain out the increased amout of water that evaporates. … Well, maybe I’m too ignorant to understand the complex dynamics of this danger.
“Although average annual precipitation may not change much, an overall drier climate is expected because rainfall cannot compensate for the increase in evaporation resulting from greater temperatures.”
7. Wisconsin could grow more corn and beans.
“The growing season could be 4-7 weeks longer.”
6. More native birds!!!
“Greater resident bird populations, however, could increase competition for food and resources available for migratory songbirds and making it difficult for them to survive.”
5. Stupid small farmers won’t be able to adapt as well as big corporations.
“Climate variability will likely pose greater risk for smaller farms and thus may reinforce the trend toward increasing farm size and industrialization of agriculture in the region.”
4. Climate change is bad for Moose (and squirrel?)
“Moose, currently near their southern geographic limit, could be negatively affected by warming and increasing numbers of deer-carried parasites.”
3. Boats on the water will be closer to sea level.
“As lake levels drop, costs to shipping on the Great Lakes are likely to increase, along with costs of dredging harbors and channels and of adjusting docks, water intake pipes, and other infrastructure.”
2. Kites on Ice could become Kites on Slush.
“Thousands of visitors flock to Madison's Kites on Ice Festival traditionally held on Lake Monona. However, trends show a declining duration of ice cover on the lake from 114 days in the 1870's to 82 days in the 1990's. In February of 2002, the festival was moved several miles from its usual location to another part of the lake with safer ice.”
1. Wisconsin is becoming a bumpy Illinois.
“In general Wisconsin's climate will grow considerably warmer and probably drier during this century, especially in the summer. As a result of these changes, by 2030 summers in Wisconsin may feel more like current-day Illinois.”

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

State Patrol Day on the Beltline

Lola walks in from the garage and I immediately ask to see her speeding tickets. She says she missed out because the State Police were busy serving other customers. Madison has one high speed arterial that loops the south and west sides of town before connecting to the Interstate on the east. Dane County is one of the fastest growing areas of Wisconsin and daily rush hour traffic is increasingly crowded onto the beltline.

Mayor Cieslewicz prefers the word “density” to “crowding” and in most urban situations he considers density to be a good thing. When you are part of the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party, however, traffic is a bad thing for a city. In the utopian world of the New Urbanists, people will abandon their cars and crowd into public transportation. In the real world of Madison, Wisconsin people in their cars crowd onto the beltline and the congestion is becoming dangerous.

The beltline runs through multiple municipal jurisdictions creating a situation where no local government can justify using their limited resources on policing a regional traffic flow, and so they don’t. The result of having no probable consequences of violating the driving laws is that an increasing number of drivers are pushing the envelop of safety in increasingly tight traffic. The Wisconsin State Police finally decided to assume the responsibility for traffic law enforcement and announced that today they would dedicate seventeen units, including unmarked cars, in a crackdown on dangerous beltline driving.

The pros and cons of the crackdown were debated all day long. One group argues the problem is due to inadequate road design for the traffic volume and calls for millions of dollars of infrastructure development. Another group argues for better public instruction and calls for millions of dollars for driver education. I don’t hear anyone advance the idea that we can control the situation with no additional taxpayer expense by using the existing resources better. If the goal is to control rush our speeds, then simply have public employees drive their government owned vehicles as pace cars, with a few State Police squads positioned to respond when needed. Dane County is run by Democrats and I know that Democrats don’t watch NASCAR.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005


All of the ongoing discussions in American political discourse incorporate the concept of risk which is widely used and difficult to precisely define. The stock market has risks, war has risks, smoking has risks, walking to work has risks. The concept arises from our understanding that all actions have consequences and it is complicated by the reality that the consequence of any individual action is entirely dependent upon variables in the surrounding environment. In other words, it is impossible to know exactly what any individual action will produce, but over time, patterns of consequences begin to emerge.

I came upon this Book Review of “What Risk?” and think the general principles are worth keeping in mind, especially in the discussions where questionable science is being aggressively promoted in support of political agenda’s. Risk needs to be understood as products of actual measurements and not emotional fears. This is especially important in the debates over carbon dioxide regulation and smoking prohibition.

"Some general principles emerge. (i) Since all organisms have repair mechanisms against environmental damage, there are thresholds for all damaging agents. Therefore, extrapolation from high dose rates to very low levels does not make sense. (ii) Doses and dose rates should not be confused. (iii) There are very large species differences in response to damaging agents. (iv) Unrecognized variables lurk everywhere. (v) The costs of enforcing demonstrably false standards are huge."

"Nilsson's article on environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) concludes that the dangers are about one order of magnitude less than those currently used for regulatory purposes. The errors arise from misclassification of smoking status, inappropriate controls, confounding factors having to do with lifestyle, and, possibly, heredity. Looked at another way, a child's intake of benzo[a]pyrene during 10 hours from ETS is estimated to be about 250 times less than the amount ingested from eating one grilled sausage."

Monday, April 18, 2005

Learn To Think Like A COW

It’s a warm Monday night in Madison and around town police are responding to complaints about loud groups of juveniles and belligerent customers who refuse to leave. These are routine tasks and normal social issues in small cities and I imagine similar scenarios are occurring in towns like Wausau or Oshkosh or Eau Claire. Madison is a bit different from normal towns which may explain why Madison is being run by COWS, the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party. The COW view of the relationship between government and society is evident in the writings of Matt Vidal and the following reading list can help people who want to think like a Madison Liberal.

More Money In Your Pocket revives the old Marxist theory that concentrating power in multiple competing private organizations is more dangerous for the common man than concentrating power into a single large government, because private is bad and public is good.

“Ever since formally democratic governments have replaced monarchies, one of the main rhetorical tricks … has been to continually invoke the image of the free individual versus the authoritarian state. Freedom and state power, they say, grow in inverse proportion. … Meanwhile, as critics from Marx to Chomsky have pointed out, private power grows and concentrates in fewer hands. Global mega-corporations, which own or set the terms of business for most smaller corporations and businesses, increasingly control more aspects of life.”

George W. Bonaparte: The Renunciation of Leadership outlines a sincere belief that the Republican Party is intent on transitioning the American Democracy into a Military Dictatorship.

“In 1848, Napoleon Bonaparte's nephew, Louis Philippe, was elected to the French presidency. A few years later he staged a coup against his own government, setting up a military dictatorship. In two analytical pamphlets written soon after these world-historical events, Karl Marx wrote of the conditions that "made it possible for a grotesque mediocrity to play a hero's part." Although under much different conditions, we are again witnessing a person of grotesque mediocrity mascarading as a hero. With Bush's relentless drive for war, we have the dubious distinction of living in a similar world-historical conjuncture.”

Bush's Legacy: Dead Bodies, Dead Wrong, Dead Logic argues that it is the Republicans who have removed logic and reason from America’s political debate.

“In the wake of Bush's political tsunami, logic must be counted among the dead. Rational argument, along with accountability, has become as quaint as the Geneva Conventions. … Indeed, it may be Bush's crowning achievement that reason has ceased to be an effective component of political discourse in the US. Rather, appeals to emotion (fortified by lies, half-truths and image management) have become the primary form of persuasion in American politics.”

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Madison's own Ward Churchill

What type of scholarship does the University of Wisconsin-Madison consider worthy of receiving a Ph.D. in African Languages and Literature (Arabic)? I have not read Kevin Barrett's dissertation or listened to his oral defense of this work, but by awarding the doctorate, I assume the UW-Madison views his reasoned learning as equal to the rest of the faculty of the department. His peers may not be surprised that he now devotes his efforts in behalf of the organization he founded, The Muslim-Jewish-Christian Alliance for 9/11 Truth. Madison's very own Ward Churchill style academic devoted to proving The Myth of 9/11. It was all a Republican plot!

"The mainstream 9-11 thesis blames the success of the attacks on the combination of two factors: "angry Muslim fanatics" and an "overwhelmed or incompetent domestic security apparatus." The 9-11 Truth movement categorically rejects this thesis based on overwhelming evidence that 9-11 was "an inside job" as much as it was a foreign attack. The Kean-Zelikow Commission,s official U.S. government account of what occurred within our National Security Apparatus that led to the tragedy is egregiously untrue."

"In this Nazi-like climate, with thousands of our Muslim brothers and sisters being tortured, martyred and disapeared to secret concentration camps simply because they are Muslims, a discrete silence strikes many as the best policy. (Personally, I disagree. Silence and denial did not work for the Jews in 1930s Germany, and it won't work for American Muslims now)."

I love the argument that there is no more freedom of speech in America so now is the time to speak out. Perhaps Dr. Barrett should check his facts with David Irving who has the evidence that the Holocaust never happened. Still a fact out of place now and then is no big deal when revealing the truth. Money to support this endeavor will be accepted and a check or money order can be mailed to: MUJCA-NET, POB 221, Lone Rock, WI 53556.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Be Assertive: Global Warming is Good

Over on another Madison blog, Sanity in Mad City , Bryan Smith has been doing an excellent review of the “evidence” both supporting and refuting the theory of global warming. I believe we have both reached the same conclusion that the environmental activism being justified by global warming theory has very little to do with science and everything to do with stopping the oil economy that fuels American economic leadership.

I have reached the conclusion that the voting public will not be persuaded by numbers. Studies, statistics, graphs, charts, computer models, historical data, measurements of ice cores or oxygen isotope ratio’s don’t mean a thing to the majority of Americans. The message the general public retains from all the talk is that something bad in going on with the atmosphere. The effective way to counter the anti-capitalist environmental movement is to stop talking about minute details and start proclaiming that global warming is good for the planet. The message should be simple and based on the common experience of all people.

There are two rocks the same distance from the sun. The Moon is without life because it has no atmosphere. The Earth has abundant life because it has an atmosphere that naturally contains both carbon dioxide and water. Through the process of photosynthesis sunlight fuses carbon dioxide and water into the building blocks of life, and there would be no life on Earth without these two molecules.

Heat disperses, as everyone who has heated their home in winter knows, and the higher up you go the colder the temperature becomes. Heat always rises and no process can stop the direction of heat loss from Earth, however, the rate of heat loss back into space can be slowed, much like insulating your home or wearing an extra layer clothes on your body. Without carbon dioxide and water in the air the Earth, like the Moon, would become extremely cold each night. The ability of the air to briefly retain a portion of the sun’s energy through the night is what keeps the planet within an ideal temperature range for life to flourish.

Finally we all know that life flourishes and thrives in the warmest climates. There is more life in the tropics than in the artic. There are more types of plants and animals in the hot jungles than on the frozen tundra. If the atmosphere is warming, which may or may not be happening, then the overall effect will benefit the planetary ecosystem. Can air ever slow heat loss to the point where the Earth becomes to hot for life? No. That has never been observed, there is no evidence it has ever happened and anyone saying that it is possible is wrong.

Friday, April 15, 2005

The CSI Flashlight Finds Cancer

I am going to go out on a limb and assert that most people believe that health is good and cancer is bad. I don’t have any grant money to do a study so I concede my assertion is a hypothesis and should not be presented as a scientific fact. Real science involves experimenting until consistent reproducible results are achieved, so when scientists announce the world's most sensitive cancer test it should be a system derived from and tested with experimental data, not something divined from software generated binary pixel blinkers.

The Optical Stretcher works because cancer cells loose part of their internal support structure becoming more elastic and easier to deform. So easy that a beam of light at the correct wavelength can impart just enough energy to stretch the cell wall as is passes through, but not so much as to destroy the cell. The sensitivity is a result of fact that the process examines each individual cell, one after another, and if any individual cell lengthens with the light it means cancer. Best of all, the procedure may be cheap and simple.

“Professor Käs believes that this high speed and the equipment’s low cost could even herald a shift towards cancer prevention. Dentists, for example, could swab their patients for mouth cancer cells even before a solid tumour develops.”
If cancer is bad and early detection is bad for cancer then early detection must be good. Of course if early detection suddenly discovers previously unknowable levels of cancer in people who think they are healthy, that could be bad. Statistically, moving a large number of people previously defined as healthy into a cancer positive subgroup probably isn’t going to be greeted with celebration by the media.

Once more I am going to go out on a limb to prophesize that when scientists announce the study demonstrating more people have cancer than previously believed, the media will demand that government do something to correct the problem. I also predict that there will be ample politicians vying for the right to fund cancer screening for the greater good of the people. The more our knowledge grows, the better our healthcare becomes at blunting natural mortality with the expenditure of resources. Anyone for a cancer screening with your root canal?

Thursday, April 14, 2005

What's In Your Mouth Governor?

Wisconsin Democratic Party leaders do have the political courage to take a principled stand on an unpopular social issue. Mayor Cieslewicz Proclaims and Governor Doyle Proclaims that on May 11, 2005 the first ever Root Canal Appreciation Day will be celebrated in Madison, Wisconsin. Make no mistake about it, Mayor Dave and the Governor care about every little detail of your health because they want what is good for you.

WHEREAS, better root canals will allow many more Wisconsin and U.S. residents to maintain healthy mouths, saving our citizens millions of teeth, and additionally, millions of dollars; and

WHEREAS, the time has now come to finally acknowledge the importance and worth of root canal treatment;

NOW, THEREFORE, I, JIM DOYLE, Governor of the State of Wisconsin do hereby proclaim May 11, 2005 ROOT CANAL APPRECIATION DAY in the State of Wisconsin, and commend this observance to all citizens.
Pay no attention to the saving "millions of dollars" component of their concern, they clearly want what is good for you as an individual. I’m not sure the same concern exists about what is good for the State. This is the same Governor who intends to again veto Voter ID Legislation because it requires better proof of eligibility prior to individuals voting. What the Democrats will not admit, perhaps can not admit, is that an election is a measurement of the will of the people and accuracy is the most important aspect of any measurement. The system in place now is like asking voters how may teeth they have and accepting the answer without actually looking in their mouth.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

It Looked Like Sipping Vinegar

After work I’m clicking through the channels playing skip the commercial when Lola announces that Dinner is ready. As we sit down to eat it is apparent that the roulette wheel has stopped on Chris Matthews talking with Leslie Stahl. I would normally blow by that paring in a finger twitch of an instant, but for the moment my hands are busy eating so I watch and listen. Oh My God, the angst! I’ve heard more hope for the future at black clad Goth gatherings in Lisa Link Peace Park on State Street.

I stopped watching 60 Minutes long before they started taking pride in discussing how their program developed creative camera techniques and clever editing to emotionalize their “news stories” for the audience. Learning how to do emotional news is a skill that Leslie Stahl learned to master. The following is from a story about a talk she gave back in the good old days.

“Despite these obstacles, Stahl maintained that her early years with CBS were positive because they were “a huge learning experience.” She had made her share of mistakes as a rookie and had learned from them. One such mistake occurred when she was covering Ronald Reagan’s reelection campaign in 1984. Apparently, Reagan had proposed some budget cuts in federally funded nursing homes and benefits for the handicapped. While covering these events, Stahl was keenly aware of Reagan’s ulterior motives. So every time the camera showed Reagan’s affected support for nursing homes and the handicapped, Stahl would steadfastly remind her viewers of his budget cuts.”
Tonight, however, she is bemoaning the lost influence of the Main Street Media. The transcript won’t be ready until tomorrow but I’m certain she said in essence that the American public needs the educational guidance that big media has historically provided to the masses. More importantly as big media weakens, who will fill their role of checking the power of the big corporations? I suppose she was referring to the way 60 Minutes exposed the fraud and ethical shortcomings of that big company CBS.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

The Smoke War

Ok, I made a mistake. I work with a young UW Madison graduate waiting to get into grad school and out of politeness I asked him how his weekend went. He says he went to Luther’s for the first time so I asked him how the show was. He says the music was fine but he had real problems with the smoke in the air and can not wait for Madison to ban all smoking in the bars. I know better than to say anything but for some reason I do.

I tell him I have concerns whenever government adopts prohibition based solutions to legitimate social issues, and attempt to explain how I understand the difference between prohibition and reasonable regulation. In response, he asks me with sincere earnestness: then should business be allowed not to sell to blacks? This kid will probably have a tremendous career in the academic world because he has learned democrat logik.

Madison will ban all smoking in all workplaces this summer. The issue is important since the decision impacts on so many aspects of our continuing American Revolution. The definition of what is public and what is private. How can health be defined and where does responsibility for individual health belong? What limits should be placed on freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom to pursue happiness? Is it more efficient to administer the consequences of prohibition or the variables within a complex regulatory system? Most importantly, what prevents a tyranny of the majority?

Knowing and accepting the past is crucial to understanding the present, and for realistic planning for the future. The historical story is well told in Tobacco Battles in Wisconsin and the following excerpts sketch out the broad strategic and tactical outlines of this long legislative struggle.

“The late John Slade formulated a public health model of tobacco addiction where the agent (of the disease) is tobacco, the host is the smoker and the vector is the tobacco industry.”

"Wisconsin advocates from the three major voluntary organizations, the American Lung Association, the American Heart Association and the biggest of the three, American Cancer Society were strongly influenced by the coalitional effort on tobacco control conducted by their national organizations. Until 1981, the “Big Three” worked almost entirely independently on tobacco. "

"By 1986, health advocates began to mobilize for action that favored an institutional rather than an individual strategy. 1986 Surgeon General’s Report on environmental tobacco smoke, “The Health Consequences of Involuntary Smoking.” This report transformed the nature of the debate about smoking from one of “personal right” to “harm to others.”

"Wisconsin affiliates of the “Big Three” followed suit when in November 1986, they organized the first Wisconsin Conference on Tobacco Or Health. The conference focused on development of an “action strategy” for making Wisconsin workplaces smoke-free primarily through strengthening of the Clean Indoor Air Law. Specifically, they recommended expanding coverage to private workplaces."

"Successful activity to create state or local policies to provide clean indoor air was stymied from 1984 (and the passage of the Clean Indoor Air Act) until 1989 when the law was amended to extend the law to private places to employment. Eight years after the passage of the state law, Madison passed the first municipal smoke free restaurant ordinance in Madison in 1992."

"The ability of the industry and its primary allies to resist these changes in law and social practice has been instrumental in maintaining the social acceptability of smoking indoors."

Monday, April 11, 2005

Six Minutes of Monday

Settling into home for the evening I raise a window blind and reveal a love scene. A pair of Cardinals, a young couple judging by their size, perched together facing each other beak to beak on a thin branch slightly above a line of daffodils in vibrant yellow bloom. The male is crimson red and the female brown with russet touches edging her wings and tail as they share the food they found. After a few moments they drop to the ground and resume hunting for bugs in the leaves and grass as winds become brisk in advance of tonight’s storms.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

A Question of Honesty in Language

Around noon in the flowers I witness the first bumble bee and butterfly this season and ask Lola if I can call the pairing a bumblefly. She agrees that bumblefly sounds less threatening than butterbee, but cautions that words have commonly understood meanings which should be respected. Still, I fail to see the harm in making up words for amusement and suspect any real danger exists only when people play with the meaning of real words.

For example, when investors discuss securities it is accepted that the word means a record of ownership of stocks or bonds and when the Federal Government says that the Social Security Trust fund is composed of special securities it is uncritically accepted that there are real records of real debt obligations. The Social Security Administration comes right out and states the fact.

“By law, all income to the trust funds that is not immediately needed to pay expenses is invested, on a daily basis, in securities guaranteed as to both principal and interest by the Federal government. All securities held by the trust funds are "special issues." Such securities are available only to the trust funds."

In the past, the Trust Funds have held "public issues" (marketable securities available to the general public). Unlike marketable securities, special issues can be redeemed at any time at face value. Marketable securities are subject to the forces of the open market and may suffer a loss or enjoy a gain if sold before maturity. Investment in special issues gives the trust funds the same flexibility as holding cash.”
The great virtue of trust between people is that eliminates the need to spend time and resources establishing what is true or false in each others words and actions. Donald Luskin, however, looks at the above statement with a critical eye and makes an interesting argument that our Federal Government is distorting the meaning of the term securities when talking about the Social Security Trust Fund.

There's one very important thing, though, that makes the Trust Fund's Treasury bonds different from yours. You aren't an agency of the U.S. government, but the Trust Fund is. That means when you invest in Treasury bonds, they represent a debt owed by one party to another — in this case, the government to you. But when the government itself invests in Treasury bonds, those bonds represent a debt owed by one party to itself.

You can't owe money to yourself. What would it even mean to borrow 20 bucks from yourself today and promise to pay it back to yourself on Tuesday?”

Social Security plays an important role in the stability and fairness of our society, but it is not without problems and probably not the solution to poverty in the elderly and disabled that our computerized society would develop from scratch in this 21st century economy. Reform can take place in incremental steps and it may be politically achievable to create a legitimate trust fund composed of State and Municipal Bonds, but only if legitimate change is demanded by an informed public.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Biomass Collection Day

Based on personal observation, it appears today is spring yard work day, or since this is Madison, discarded biomass collection, concentration and redistribution day. Every time I rake up leaves and trim back plants, I’m amazed at how well photosynthesis works, taking carbon dioxide, water and solar energy and creating the organic building blocks that form the structural basis of life.

Interestingly, both carbon dioxide and water naturally tend to absorb thermal infrared energy which may explain why photosynthesis utilizes these molecules rather than silicon dioxide and calcium. A fundamental tenet of chemistry is that it takes energy to produce chemical change and it may be helpful if the molecules have a “natural” ability to capture energy. Perhaps this is why I have a problem in calling one of the building blocks of life a “pollutant” in the atmosphere. Futhermore if carbon dioxide is a dangerous pollutant because it can absorb energy, then why isn’t water vapor an even greater danger to the planet?

I wonder if anyone asked that question to the world’s first environmentally friendly carwash wash when Easy wash had its grand opening this week. Investors please note it is not too late to get in on the ground floor.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Friday Night COW Review

It’s April in Wisconsin, the spring election is over and the COWS are still running the City of Madison. Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz is an open adherent of the Head COW and his progressive social philosophy. Since it is Friday night, I don’t feel like going into great detail about anything but it is worth a quick review of COW thinking as manifest in the brief article entitled More Servants or a Better Society.

“There are other ways to make these jobs better — for example, by raising the federal minimum wage, passing local living-wage ordinances, and providing low-wage workers with more in the way of child care subsidies, tax credits, and other supports. Even in the absence of fundamental changes in industry structure, the adoption of these “high-road” strategies can help turn dead-end jobs into promising careers.”
The COWS still believe that society can eliminate poverty by paying everyone according to government policy initiatives and give them credit for holding fast to another old adage: If at first you don’t succeed, try try again.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Fun with Democrat Logik

I lifted the following post by a Milwaukee school teacher because it is an excellent example of how Democrats think. I’m not inclined to link to him but it is easy enough to find the post with a simple technorati search for the uncommon words.

As a follow-up to Stacie's Fighting Bob GuestBlog (if I can be so presumptuous as to follow-up someone else's post!) on the Voter Photo-ID pablum passed out of committee yesterday: Today I did a poll in my class of ninth graders. I asked if they--or any of their "friends"--had fake IDs or had ever successfully used fake IDs. Well over half raised their hands. Which makes me wonder, of course, how much more vigilant about these sorts of things septuagenarians working the polls will be than, say, bouncers at "the club" or clerks selling cigarettes.

Look, many other people have waxed plenty eloquent about how none of the irregularities that Republicans have gone all gasket-blown about would have been stopped by requiring a photo ID. Felons voting? That's fine, as long as they have an ID. Voters who vote without being checked off? Not solved by requiring IDs. Transcription errors in registering new voters? Not helped--since new voters need ID of some kind, anyway. People voting multiple times under multiple names? (NOTE: There is no evidence that this happened at all, just wild speculation.) Ask my students about that one.

In fact, the only thing that requiring an ID to vote prevents is votes from traditionally Democratic voters: the poor, the elderly, the transient.
The English Teacher is making the following argument. When solicited, a large number of teenage children believe that people will fraudulently represent themselves to get what they want, ERGO, attempts to stop fraudulent representation will fail and should not be implemented. In other words, people willing to break the law will not be stopped by law, therefore, the law should not be enacted. I wonder how he feels about gun control.

The important aspect missing from this “cheaters will cheat” school of defense is that cheaters will cheat when they believe they can get away with it. There are minor consequences in getting caught showing a fake ID to a cigarette clerk and no consequences, except to individual pride, for lying to a 20 year old nightclub bouncer. Being caught lying to the government, those people with the power to fine and jail transgressors, does make the risk of cheating to great for almost everyone. Children need to both learn risk assessment and risk aversion and they probably aren’t learning it from this teacher.

The Wisconsin Voter ID Legislation being proposed by Senator Liebham is a direct result of documented voting irregularities in Milwaukee County, and it is being written with language to guarantee all legitimate residents of Wisconsin can obtain a valid ID. I suspect the teacher would insist the election problems in Milwaukee County were from overwhelmed poll workers, and I suspect some of those poll workers had a Milwaukee Public School education.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Pierced Eyeglasses

One problem I have with the internet is that it constantly reminds me I am not a genius. If I had extraordinary cognitive ability to foresee the needs of mankind and visualize innovative solutions, then I would have come up with the idea of pierced eyeglasses. Feel free to be amused at the concept but keep in mind that dental implants at $2,000 or more a pop are buying vacation homes for a lot of dentists. There may still be time to capitalize on the idea since the creator of the prototype is quoted as saying:

“As for me I only have run of the mill tattoos and piercings planned right now”

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Spring Election Day in Madison

The climate changed again today with temperatures heating up into the middle 70’s by the sunshine and light breeze. In my unprofessional opinion, today’s atmosphere felt considerably better than the record low of 14 degrees merely 10 years ago. Consider for a moment what kind of trend line those two points generate. Then factor in the record high recorded for this calendar date occurred 132 years in the past. As a student, I always hated when data messed up my calculations. Still it was a beautiful afternoon to walk to the polls and vote.

Voting is what makes us citizens with a government rather than subjects of a government. The process of selecting the individuals entrusted with the government is the social activity that absolutely needs to be accurate and fair in that order. I suppose it is no surprise then that the State Democratic Party selected Election Day to begin a campaign of emotional fear mongering. Please admire the words they elect to use in their press release.

"The Democratic Party of Wisconsin today launched a significant effort to inform Wisconsin citizens about the increasing threat to their right to vote from Republicans in the Legislature. The voter ID bill being considered by the State Legislature would severely discriminate against seniors, the poor and young people by creating unnecessary and artificial barriers to exercising their constitutional right. For example, nearly 100,000 Wisconsin seniors do not have a driver’s license and would be denied the right to vote under this bill".
The Democrats are responding to the Republicans proceeding with Wisconsin Voter ID Legislation. This legislation is being driven by the concern, expressed by both political parties, that there are recent instances where the voting process appears less than accurate. Locally the concern is greatest in Milwaukee County where election guidelines were undeniably ignored. In contrast to the favored phrasing of the Democrats, the Republican press release verges on dull.
“We have worked very hard to ensure everyone wanting to vote will have access to the system under this legislation,” said Senator Leibham. “The opponents of photo ID keep bringing up concerns that have been addressed by this Bill. At this point you either support election integrity or wish to maintain a flawed voting process.”
In American we have a secret ballot but we do not have secret voters. If voting is the defining social function of our society then the process needs to be above reproach and able to withstand close inspection. All other considerations, like time in the line or the color of the ballots, are secondary to accuracy. Put simply, it is impossible to have fairness without first having accuracy. No portion of the population, the poor, the old or the indifferent, can achieve justice unless the validity of the voting process in the primary concern. And most importantly the integrity of the process can not be established by emotion, it must be measured and true. Validity comes from verification that each person who votes is a legitimate citizen, and that each legitimate citizen votes only once.

Monday, April 04, 2005

No Wrong Bad

Current mood: Sad
On the Tube: Illinois vs North Carolina for the NCAA Championship
Favorite Color: Orange
Least favorite number: -13
Whole or Half: Half
Favorite Quote: It ain't over till it's over.

Current mood: Clinically Depressed
On the Tube: North Carolina cutting things up
Favorite Color: Black
Least favorite number: -5
Whole of Half: Whole
Favorite Quote: I reserve the right to be irrationally bitter for the next month.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Mayor Cieslewicz Wants You To Be Thin

The elections for Madison City Council take place this coming Tuesday, and the result will almost certainly strengthen the control that Mayor Dave Cieslewicz has over city government. The residents of Madison can look forward to even more use of our taxpayer dollars for initiatives such as the Fit City Madison Health Initiative. Mayor Dave is unapologetically liberal and it is reflected in the program’s Mission Statement.

The Fit City Madison health initiative grew from Mayor Dave Cieslewicz’s desire to address the sky rocketing overweight and obesity statistics, the increasing number of people who are inactive, and the growing number of families making poor nutrition choices. The goal of Fit City Madison to improve nutrition and increase physical activity among all Madison residents. … Through the mayor’s leadership and the guidance of talented and committed groups and individuals, Fit City Madison aims to turn the tide of a public health epidemic and prevent it from taking a dramatic health and economic toll on Madison. Instead we will strive to make Madison the healthiest city in the nation.
First of all, this type of government “service” is a textbook definition of paternalism. None of the above statements can be made without an assumption that individual health is direct concern of the government and that the government knows best on how to achieve and maintain health. Fatherly advice to get off the sofa and walk around is not really problematic; however, it becomes a concern when it moves beyond suggestions and into expectations. Politicians are good at producing meaningless public service messages, but consider the specificity of action requested in Fit City New Release.

Fit City is also encouraging Madisonians to eat three fewer bites this per day, or about 100 calories.
Secondly, and more troubling, is the assumption the government has the right to make judgments about the quality and quantity of the food you eat. There is no way to make the statement about poor family choices unless the city has established a valid standard defining good and bad eating. As before, public officials establishing guidelines as advice is harmless to individual freedom and the potential for abuse of power begins only after the actions of individuals start to be judged against that advice.

Thirdly, it should concern free people when any authority claims an economic interest in their individual behavior. When a valid economic claim exists on an individual, then the force of government can legitimately be used to both compel compliance and seize compensation. The American Revolution rejected the idea that ordinary people are subjects of a government. It is also important to understand and accept that not every person values freedom to the same degree. Ceding responsibility over health matters to the government will always be enticing to many who are struggling financially.

The Mayor is extremely fond of the concept of health and making Madison the healthiest city in America is one of his oft repeated goals. To date, I have not seen anyone challenge Cieslewicz to define how this goal will be achieved. If it is a real goal, an achievable goal, then there will be a way to measure partial and complete success. If a goal is unachievable then it is merely a desire, and politicians are good at exploiting desires to gain power.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

The Tragedy of the Commons

Illinois and North Carolina will be playing Monday night for the NCAA Men’s College Basketball Championship. I was hoping that Michigan State would prevail over North Carolina to make it an all Big Ten Final, but while their loss is sad it is not a tragedy. There was actually good news today as discussed in an article by Jonah Goldberg in National Review Online. It turns out that the North American environment is, for lack of a better word, healing. Furthermore, this “healing” is most likely a result of our capitalist economic system.

For decades, environmentalists pointed to various calamities and boasted that they were identifying the problems, which is the first step for providing a solution. But they were wrong; environmental distress is a symptom of political and economic corruption.

America's environmental revival is a rich and complicated story with many specific exceptions, caveats and, of course, setbacks. But the overarching theme is pretty simple: The richer you get, the healthier your environment gets. This is because rich societies can afford to indulge their environmental interests and movements. Poor countries cannot.

Unsurprisingly, rich countries tend to have a better grasp of economics and the role of markets, private stewardship and property rights, reasonable regulations, and so forth. With the exception of some oil-rich states, they're also almost always democratic and hence have systems that can successfully assign blame to, and demand restitution from, polluters. In socialized economies, a "tragedy of the commons" almost always arises.

The Tragedy of the Commons is the phrase used by Garrett Hardin in a 1968 paper by that name. The article essentially argues that unrestricted individual freedom in unregulated areas inevitably causes problems for both the area and the individuals utilizing the area. The most effective social systems for mitigating the excesses of unrestricted freedom are those which utilize mutually accepted coercion within a society that allows personal freedom and individual ownership. In other words, excessive behavior can cause physical damage, and the most effective check on excess comes from social recognition and protection of individual property.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Bioparticle Pollution

One of the cliché’s of modern life has something to do with learning something everyday, and today Ruprecht Jaenicke from the Institute for Atmospheric Physics at Mainz University, Germany wants me to learn about Bioparticle Pollution. The professor claims there is stuff in the air and he has measured that stuff. This seems reasonable since I have personally experienced the phenomenon of sitting down in a chair and observing as the early morning sunshine illuminates the subsequent burst of dust and cat fuzz . It’s the pollution term that concerns me.

Humans and animals contribute as much to air pollution as automobile exhaust and industrial smoke do, a study has said. Dandruff, fur, pollens, cell fragments, skin particles, spores, bacteria, protein crystals and fungi shed by humans, animals and plants are present widely in aerosols in the atmosphere. Jaenicke failed to find any annual pattern to the concentration of the bio-particles. But he said that the concentration of pollens was higher in spring.
It’s not like I want to be skeptical about everything I read, however, if the existence of humans and animals contributes to air pollution, then air pollution must have been around for at least 400 million years since the first land animals appeared and started shedding dinner crumbs and busted exoskeletons to be kicked up by Devonian Period shore breezes. Perhaps the author means that pollution started when the flowering plants began shedding pollen and discovering the allure air borne sex some 140 million years ago.

Etymologically the word pollution evolved from the concept of inappropriate sex and only since the American Civil War has the word been utilized to imply inappropriate nature. Sex is what it is and nature is what it is and it is human judgment based on human values that confers good or bad to a situation. Perhaps it’s skepticism again, but I believe the word pollution was invoked because the “study” found human cells in the air which must be both unnatural and bad. After all there are “experts” who believe that humans are about to cause a world ending environmental apocalypse.