Sunday, July 31, 2005

A National Health Insurance Market


Three Wisconsin Congressmen, Mark Green, Paul Ryan and James Sensenbrenner are co-sponsors of U.S. House Bill 4662 entitled The Health Care Choice Act, which will expand the ability of competitive market forces to bring down the cost of individual health insurance by allowing a National market. This brilliantly simple proposal allows consumers to purchase any individual health insurance plan sold in the United States, regardless of where they live or which State authorized the sale of the policy. The full text of the proposed bill is at the following link.
HR 108-4662 The Health Care Choice Act: To amend the Public Health Service Act to provide for cooperative governing of individual health insurance coverage offered in interstate commerce.

This Act is enacted pursuant to the power granted Congress under article I, section 8, clause 3, of the United States Constitution. The application of numerous and significant variations in State law impacts the ability of insurers to offer, and individuals to obtain, affordable individual health insurance coverage, thereby impeding commerce in individual health insurance coverage.
American healthcare products and services are the best on the planet so America’s problem is not accurately about healthcare availability. The problem is more about how we pay the cost of healthcare. One major factor contributing towards the overall expense is that our system of third party payment insurance pools eliminates many of the competitive market forces keeping most of our other consumer purchases affordable.

The health insurance industry evolved from risk pooling concepts developed at the end of the 19th century. At that time pooled health risk could be reasonably assessed because there were real limits to the ability of physicians to cure disease. As medical knowledge exploded in the last half of the 20th century, the ability to cure or control individual health became not only possible but expected, and so did the associated expenses. Life Insurance rates are at all time lows because death is a one time payout event, but healthcare is often an open ended ongoing expense and that is the main reason health insurance rates keep going higher.

Opening up the individual health insurance market to all Nationally approved plans will not directly correct the lack of market competition on the underlying pricing of products and services, but it will allow consumers the right to purchase plans that meet their individual needs, and not some mandatory plan design imposed by their State of residence. In other words, it allows consumers to escape the artificial limitations of available State plans and to shop for the best value in a National market. The following article covers the basics and anyone who believes that increasing consumer choice is good for the public should support this legislation.
Cheaper Health Insurance: The idea behind the legislation, sponsored by GOP Representative John Shadegg of Arizona, is disarmingly simple: Allow Americans to buy health insurance from vendors in any one of the 50 states.

What's more, states like New Jersey and New York add two more ultra-expensive requirements: "Guaranteed issue" allows people to wait till they are sick and then buy insurance; "community rating" prevents insurers from charging different prices to people of different ages and health status. These may sound like compassionate ideas, until you realize they make insurance so expensive that millions of people are exposed to financial ruin because they aren't allowed to buy basic policies focused on catastrophic costs.

Critics also allege that freeing up interstate commerce will result in a "race to the bottom" in which fly-by-night insurers operating in poorly regulated states would be able to take advantage of consumers. But we've yet to hear which poorly regulated states they're talking about. The best analogy for what to expect here is probably our experience with interstate banking, which has indeed resulted in operators moving to friendly climes like Delaware and South Dakota but which has also proven nothing but a boon to consumers. A national market has allowed the growth of big, financially stable institutions that have earned consumer trust.
This is only a small step in gaining control over the cost of healthcare and the votes on this bill will be a good indicator of those who favor market based approaches and individual responsibility, and those who favor government regulation and taxpayer paid benefits.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Life is just a bad joke


Hey, it’s Saturday night. For anyone interested in an explanation of two Cow jokes, here is a link to Wikipedia: You have two cows: For a list of two cow jokes check You have two cows .... Serious thinking to follow later. Maybe.

Republican: You have two cows. Your neighbor has none. So?

Democrat: You have two cows. Your neighbor has none. You feel guilty for being successful. Barbara Streisand sings for you.

Feudalism: You have two cows. Your lord takes some of the milk.

Pure Socialism: You have two cows. The government takes them and puts them in a barn with everyone else's cows. You have to take care of all of the cows. The government gives you as much milk as you need.

Bureaucratic Socialism: You have two cows. The government takes them and put them in a barn with everyone else's cows. They are cared for by ex-chicken farmers. You have to take care of the chickens the government took from the chicken farmers. The government gives you as much milk and eggs as the regulations say you need.

Russian Communism: You have two cows. The government seizes both and provides you with milk You wait in line for hours to get it. It is expensive and sour.

Cambodian Communism: You have two cows. The government takes both of them and shoots you.

Chinese Communism: You have two cows. You breed twenty new cows cheaper than Americans can produce one. You export eighteen cows. You buy a Japanese car made by cheaper labor in the U.S. The American government declares your wealth a threat to national security so you sell your newest cows to the E.U. You buy a plane made by your new friends in France.

When Hillary Clinton is President: You have two cows. At first the government regulates what you can feed them and when you can milk them. Then it pays you not to milk them. Then it takes both, shoots one, milks the other and pours the milk down the drain. Then it requires you to fill out forms accounting for the missing cows. Finally you receive a tax bill to cover the expenses with an explanation that it is for your own good. Also included is an envelope for a 'voluntary' campaign contribution.

Friday, July 29, 2005

pssst: Kyoto is Dead, Pass it On


Islamic terrorists murdered their way onto the front pages of the world media at the beginning of this month. What was obscured in the fallout of their demonic inspired violence is the fact President Bush was very successful in moving the world’s major economies back in line with his vision. This article’s publication date is 8/1/2005 so I suppose this technically qualifies as good news from the future: G8 Leaders Move Closer to U.S. Position on Global Warming.
Leaders of the Group of Eight (G8) major industrialized nations concluded a summit meeting during the first week of July with a joint statement on climate change that heralded a significant shift away from the command-and-control regulatory focus of the Kyoto Protocol.

According to the joint statement, "uncertainties remain in our understanding of climate change." The leaders pledged "to put ourselves on a path to slow and ... stop and then reverse the growth of greenhouse gases," but to do so only "as the science justifies."

Nevertheless, the statement emphasized the path to greenhouse gas stabilization should focus on technological innovation and economic feasibility, rather than command-and-control emissions caps. Strikingly absent from the joint statement was any mention of the Kyoto Protocol.
The Kyoto Protocol is effectively dead and European socialists can bury another command and control government solution to an invisible scary monster. Allowing technology and innovation time to emerge and produce financially feasible methods of dealing with scientifically justified concerns is the rational approach. Don’t think the leftists will come around to this view because the driving desire behind socialism is the use of government power, and not the elimination of problems.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Moonbat Compassion


Thursday night summer doldrums have descended upon me and reading the blogsphere hasn’t really fired off the synapses. The only really provocative quote comes from a member of Progressive Dane’s Steering Committee. I’m not linking because true moonbat behavior is best observed when they don’t realize they are being watched. Anyone really interested should be able to find the blog with a simple Technorati search. That being said, I give you Progressive Dane Leadership opining about Madison’s smoking ban:
“And I'm happy to report, that it doesn't seem to have hurt business at the bars I frequent. The only bars it really hurts are the bars that suck anyways. So for any bar owner who is crying about the smoking ban taking away business, I'm sorry to say, but you suck. A good bar stays in business as long as it's serving alcohol and a nice/fun place to go.”
This example of classic liberal logik comes courtesy of Madison progressives who are concerned that local homeless shelters are not getting enough tax dollars, that bus fares which would cover operating expenses are oppressive, that global corporations are the reason there is poverty, and that mutually supportive local community is the highest social aspiration. Oh by the way, they know what they like and if you disagree, you suck.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Invasive Species Attack: Send Money


Hat Tip to DANEgerus, my favorite blog from Oregon, if only for pointing out that in adored and emulated Portland, the city sends buses to rescue passengers when winter weather shuts down light rail. Hey Mayor Dave, Got Winter? Today he points out the newest environmentalist action cause is INVASIVE SPECIES. The Washington Post proclaims It Sprouts! It Climbs! It Strikes Without Warning!
"Invasive species are the greatest environmental threat of the 21st century, bar none," said Tom Stohlgren, an ecologist at the U.S. Geological Survey's Institute of Invasive Species Science, who ranks it a greater problem than global climate change.”

Although the federal government is beginning to respond, several experts said the nation has not focused enough money and attention on the problem. The Geological Survey is spending $12 million, or a little over 1 percent of its budget, on nonnative organisms this fiscal year, and other agencies spend a similar portion of their funds.

"We are not dealing with it adequately," said John M. Randall, who directs the Nature Conservancy's invasive-species initiative.
Science will not ultimately support a theory of significant danger associated with a warming trend on Planet Earth. We live on a marble suspended in cold space and the ability to slow down heat loss into space is the reason life exists on the surface, and exists with greater biomass and biodiversity in the warmest climates. So now the eco-socialists will attempt to gain control over land and money by demonizing a large number plants and animals.

The core belief of this movement is that there are natural species in an area called ‘native’ species. The introduction of a new species into an area, therefore, makes the species ‘nonnative’. Native is good since nature is good. Nonnative is bad, especially if human activity can be blamed. This belief minimizes the importance of the fact that ecological communities have forever evolved and changed over time. The ‘native’ plants in Wisconsin are those found here when white European settlers arrived. Those plants in turn were invaders several thousand years earlier as the climate warmed and the glaciers melted, and moss and lichens yielded to grass and trees.

The extremist environmental movement is about condemning the effects of human life on this planet in an attempt to obtain power, money and control over human activity. In the purest sense, these advocates don’t really love nature because nature is a constant dynamic struggle between organisms. What they really value is gardening, because they desire human control over the composition of the diversity. Special places should be protected and humans should sometimes be part of the biotic mix on the side of the status quo, but it is financial insanity to fight mother nature everywhere.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Wisconsin's Unfrozen Summer


Madison's Mayor is a proud progressive liberal Democrat who can find outrageous actions and grievous injustice even in a State Budget signed by a Democratic Governor. The most egregious problems are the provisions for a property tax ‘freeze’, a word Governor Doyle uses ten times is his Statement on the Budget Signing. The Gov loves the using that word ‘freeze’.
Mayor Cieslewicz's Statement on State Budget Signing: "The budget Governor Doyle signed today is an improvement over the one sent to him by the Legislature, but it remains badly flawed nonetheless. … That said the governor's decision to approve the Republicans' mandatory service reduction plan (the so-called `levy freeze') will harm Madison's ability to provide basic public services and grow our economy. This proposal is the product of a Republican-controlled Legislature that has produced year after year of multi-billion dollar state budget deficits, while local governments honestly balance our budgets every year. For the state to tell local governments how to balance our books is like Enron executives telling the local grocery store how to stock its shelves.

While city government continues to tighten its belt, property taxes rise faster than inflation because more of our budget must be borne by the property tax. Fifteen years ago property taxes made up 54% of Madison's budget. Today, thanks to continually eroding state aids, property taxes make up almost 70% of our budget. In other words, what is truly driving property taxes is not increased spending, but cuts in state aids.”
In other words, the property tax ‘freeze’ is actually a Republican a mandatory service reduction plan, and it is unfairly imposed on responsible municipal governments by Republicans unable to control spending at the State level. The increase in Madison’s property tax is, therefore, the fault of Republicans not using State tax dollars to pay the bills for Madison. Mayor Dave even manages to reference Enron, which he hates, and local grocery stores, which he loves, in an awkward attempt at an analogy.

Owen's analysis at Boots & Sabers should help calm Mayor Dave down a bit.
“Doyle is telling everyone otherwise, but make no doubt, the property tax freeze is gone. Doyle completely wiped out the spending caps for schools and the technical colleges. Together, these two spending entities suck up a majority of the property tax burden. He also changed the caps for local governments to allow many of them to increase spending even if they are not growing. With these exemptions, Doyle has obliterated the property tax freeze.”
So take a chill pill Mayor Dave, it is summer in Wisconsin and nothing is frozen. Cities like Madison can still spend all the money they can acquire and the shackles aren’t that tight. You may want to accept this as a challenge to show that your administration can adapt and actually reduce total spending, unlike those Republicans at the State level.

Monday, July 25, 2005

The Case for Term Limits


A Hat Tip to Dummocrats for linking to the Wall Street Journal article advocating in favor of Term Limits for the Supreme Court. I support term limits for Representatives, Senators, Judges and Administrators and I have carefully considered all the hypothetical reasons why term limits would potentially be bad for the public. The following paragraph zero’s in on the key point: power, and the rotation of individuals into and out of positions of power.
“A major reason for justices doggedly hanging on to their seats is, simply put, power. The Framers of the Constitution never envisioned a judiciary as powerful as today's courts. But with that unaccountable power has come an erosion of the court's legitimacy. Many people increasingly question if elderly justices with thought patterns set a half-century ago can fully comprehend court cases that encompass the globalization of the world economy or file-sharing on the Internet. "The Founders could not foresee that increases in longevity would imperil the rotation in powerful office essential to representative government," write former law school deans Roger Cramton and Paul Carrington.”
In an extended discussion on her blog, Althouse argues for using social pressure rather than law to pressure elderly or incapacitated Judges from the Court. This would be a valid solution if you believe the problem with the Supreme Court is simply individuals overstaying their welcome. On the contrary, I believe the problem is that institutional stagnation and intransigence directly undermines the whole concept of citizen control of the government, and the source of the institutional problem is unlimited individual time in power.

The revolutionary concept in America is that all just power originates from the inherent rights of individuals, and for power to transcend oppression it must always be understood and exercised as a gift from the citizens. The Founding Fathers understood that power is both intoxicating and addictive, and the method they conceived to minimize abuse of power was to divide it among several institutions. What we are witnessing in our lifetime is the evidence that institutional distribution of power is no longer a sufficiently adequate check on the problems of power over other humans.

It is time that the division of power takes on a defined temporal component. If you believe that all government power is a gift from the public, do you also believe that the ownership of that power remains with the public? In other words, if power over the affairs of others comes from the inherent individual rights those being governed, then citizens can only transfer the utility of power and not the ownership. In my opinion, individuals holding onto power until it is wrested from them are acting in a manner consistent with the belief that the power is their personal possession. When the love of power is the primary motivation, the welfare of the public, by definition, is secondary.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Sunday Lunch in Milwaukee


Lola and I spend the night at an hotel in Glendale following Sprecherfest. After check out, we decide to drive into Milwaukee for lunch. It is a very hot Sunday morning and there is almost no pedestrian traffic outside along Port Washington Road or Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. It always amazes me how Milwaukee dramatically changes from neighborhood to neighborhood. Madison has a few poor areas but nothing on the scale of Milwaukee.

I understand the history of Milwaukee’s white flight to the suburbs, and the industrial employers moving out of the city leaving few jobs for a population without cars or drivers licenses or an educational system teaching children you need a license to get a job in 21st century American society. I know Madison’s affluence is dependent on tax dollars flowing into the city to pay for State employees. What I have not seen is tax dollars returned to Democrat controlled Milwaukee administrations making any meaningful difference over the years.

We find parking on Brady Street and walk the neighborhood searching for an interesting restaurant before settling upon Cempazuchi Comida Brava on the 1200 block. East Milwaukee has the same bumper stickers as those pasted all over Madison, like one proclaiming “Bush was warned about 9/11 and did nothing”. I thought the enchiladas were pretty mild as if not to offend anyone. In the kitchen’s defense, Lola points out that you can not un-spice cooking so bland is safer. Then she notes she ended up pulling hot peppers off her Cuban pork sandwich to tame it down. The peanut salsa was mighty tasty.

In the hot noontime sunshine we walk past a condominium complex being built for wealthy individuals. I warn Lola that both heat and zombies can suck the brains out of people. Personally, I wonder about people who believe purchasing the air rights at a defined height above a parcel of land, and a portion of the communal holdings associated with that parcel of land, is a sound financial investment. I doubt anyone living immediately south of Capitol Drive will be purchasing any of this investment grade airspace, although they will probably also vote for same party as the ones that do buy.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Sprecherfest


Lola and I are heading to Sprecherfest specifically to listen to Junior Brown and Robbie Fulks. The radar shows isolated thunderstorms scattered across the Dairy State but hopefully nature’s most abundant heat trapping atmospheric molecules will leave the music alone.

UPDATE 1: Heavy rain moves over the grounds shortly after Robbie Fulks begins a late start to his set. The delay is due to the fact the bass player’s equipment simply didn’t work after the set up, so they are stalling to give him time to run home for backup gear. Several hundred of us in the audience settle into picnic tables under old oak trees to enjoy the afternoon. After half an hour, awkward begins transitioning towards uncomfortable so Robbie and the band decide to start the show without him.

Robbie is the entertainment, in part because of his irreverent and audacious stage presence, so the crowd is happy right up until the moment the downpour forces everyone into the 1500 seat German Beer Hall, with fully lighted stage, in Old Heidleberg Park. Fortunately, one side of the beer stand opens into the pavilion and the painted murals could be leisurely admired. I especially enjoy a panel with a young couple dancing entitled: Lovey and Bob Leuzinger. An hour later as the rain keeps falling, Robbie drags two microphones onto the huge center stage, and with one snare drum, one guitar and four band members they improvise a giddy finish.

UPDATE 2: We own a Junior Brown CD and yet I am not prepared for the astonishing phenomenon of witnessing a live performance from fifty feet away next to the mix board. First, a very old man in a gray suit and tie sets up a single snare drum and cymbal set. Next a bass player takes position stage left. They start a rhythm pulsing and Junior Brown emerges, placing his double neck guitar “big red” on its stand in the middle. When he is ready his fingers play those strings as well as any living human being, and his deep voice commands your attention as he sings about love and the law.

Over the course of two hours Junior Brown’s playing wanders through Hawaiian, Mexican, Texan and California Surf guitar styles with an intensity, complexity and mastery second to none. I have heard Junior described as the unknown country superstar and I concur. Just because the 21st century mass media marketing machine isn’t proclaiming someone brilliant, it doesn’t mean the brilliance isn’t there. Perhaps it is an issue with labels because Junior is more about the love of the guitar than the fuzzy definitions of county music. In this digital age so many people believe a recording captures music, and it does in the sense that a photograph captures an image. No recording is a complete substitute for reality so I highly recommend if you have an opportunity to attend a Junior Brown performance, do it.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Searching The Pool


I distinctly remember falling in love with Technorati the first time I played with it. Googling will find surprising little treasures, but there always seems to be so much muck and slime, soggy tires, rusted cans and broken bottles to sift through and discard when Google dredges up the information pool. If something is for sale, Google will find it sooner or later.

Undoubtedly my first experiments with Technorati also dumped out a load of superfluous debris, but in addition it came back with real people and real thoughts. It was as if Google found clumps of unprotected digital data, especially from commercial websites, but Technorati found a vibrant world of ideas. It appears I am not the only person to notice.
Technorati: A New Public Utility: If you think about it, Technorati has become a public utility on a global scale. While Google didn't invent the internet, it made it easier to navigate by organizing billions of web pages. … At its essence, Technorati may be a search engine, but its approach is vastly different. Google, for instance, views the web as the world's largest reference library, where information is static. Instead of the Dewey Decimal System, Google employs its PageRank technology, which orders search results based on relevance. Google uses words like web page, catalogs and directory, which are more than just words: They convey an entire worldview. … In contrast, Technorati sees the internet as a stream of conversations. This makes it much more immediate.
Now that Technorati has added advanced search capabilities I see it rivaling Google in the search world. When Google went public one contrarian analyst cautioned about betting the farm on the inevitable dominance of their search engine. He warned that Google’s revenue stream ultimately depends on the volume of its search engine traffic, and competition almost guarantees there will be improved products in the future. America is still an innovative capitalist society on a planet filled with copycats.

This is good news for Google because the history of human advancement is the continual addition of new tools. Beginning with the thin sharp stick, round throwing rock, strong branch lever, yadda, yadda, yadda, DeWalt Cordless Rechargeable Power Drill, new tools have always complemented each other. There is more than one type of screwdriver in your toolbox. Computer science needs to keep coming up with better search engines because my irrational desire for omniscience just won’t fade away.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Rants and Letters


No specific story captures my imagination this evening and so I am going to serve up Doghouse Rants because he is writing provocative posts about the Wisconsin political scene. I think he captures the frustration in the electorate that neither political party is doing anything to prevent the fiscal disaster of our continuing government spending.

This is the second blog this week making a case that Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk is emerging as the next strong Democratic candidate for the Governors Office. Just in case anyone believes Kathleen is not a pure government spending liberal, it is worth a quick look what she wants Jim Doyle to veto in new budget. The first is a Word File and the second a PDF file and both come from the Dane County website.
Kathleen Falk Letter to Jim Doyle: Please veto the following budget provisions as adopted by the Legislature: Provide adequate funding for W-2 services and administration. Veto the repeal of Comprehensive Planning and Smart Growth. Veto changes to the Land Information Office--$45,000 grant cap; lapse of LIO appropriation ($900,000) to general fund; and switch from a continuing appropriation to an annual appropriation. Veto the property tax freeze. Veto the TABOR provision.

Kathleen Falk Letter to Jim Doyle 2: We are writing today to express our opposition to AB 437 - Conveyance of publicly-owned property to a public utility for construction of transmission lines. This bill is detrimental to parklands and we urge you to veto this bill. … Introduction of a plan to make it possible for a private company to condemn local parkland, preserved environmental corridors, or even those identified for future purchase from willing sellers flies in the face of the public interest.
Kathleen Falk is pleasant, articulate and holds true progressive values, but those values are based on the principle that government is good for the population. Restraints on the government’s ability to raise tax revenue, and limits on the government’s control of the land are, therefore, bad. Politicians resistant to limits on money, control and power concern me.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

A Meeting in Chicago


America’s Union Leadership is gathering in Chicago for the AFL-CIO 2005 Convention. Scheduled activities begin Friday but official opening day is Monday July 25, 2005, featuring a procession of prominent Democrats to the podium. The marching order begins with Sen. Barack Obama followed in turn by Rep. Nancy Pelosi, Sen. Harry Reid, Sen. John Edwards and Sen. Edward Kennedy.

There will be formal presentations, resolutions and proposed amendments for the assembled delegates, but the long term consequences of this meeting may be forming in events outside the public eye. Socialist Worker Online editorializes that this convention could possibly be the last.
Will the AFL-CIO Split in Chicago? “WITH RUMORS swirling about backroom deals, boycotts, walkouts and splits, the AFL-CIO convention will take place in Chicago July 25-28. On one side is the Change to Win coalition--headed by Service Employees International Union President Andrew Stern and Teamsters President James Hoffa … The opposing camp, headed by AFL-CIO President John Sweeney.”

“Unable or unwilling to encourage the kind of militant rank-and-file activism that’s needed to revive labor, both factions are arguing over how best to downsize and rationalize the labor bureaucracy to ensure its survival--and are maneuvering over who will control what remains.”
The SEIU is the largest and fastest growing American Union and the primary organizer of health care workers and illegal aliens. Under Stern’s leadership the focus of his organization is as much about creating an army of activists as it is about benefits. Like many great Generals, he understands an army can be motivated by the vision of the spoils of victory. Like all ambitious conquerors, he will go the direction he believes will achieve his desire.
Andrew Stern: “Since his election to lead SEIU in April 1996, nearly 900,000 workers have united with SEIU, and with 1.8 million members, it has become the largest and fastest-growing union in the AFL-CIO. SEIU represents more immigrant workers than any other union and has been a driving force behind the AFL-CIO’s decision to support legalization for hardworking, taxpaying immigrants.”

“In a dramatic departure from past practice in the labor movement, SEIU now spends half its annual budget to help more workers unite in the union and gain a voice on the job. By training thousands of member volunteers to help organize movement-oriented drives”.
Behind closed doors in hotel rooms, the 2008 Democratic Presidential ticket of John Edwards and Barack Obama will be fine tuning campaign slogans like: Fair Wages and Free Health Care for EVERYONE!

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Wiggy Action Alert


It’s a quiet news day. The new Supreme Court Judge Nominee is a boy. Yadda, Yadda, Yadda. Monster big tire fire near Watertown. Stinky, Icky, Poo-Poo. Wigderson Library & Pub denied admittance to the WisOpinion Blog Index. OK, this merits action. Send them an email and let them know Wisconsin does not tolerate intolerance, indiscriminate discrimination, or combinations of both.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Monday Night Reality TV


Clicking around the cable channels this evening I briefly stop on live action coverage of the City of Madison Plan Commission meeting. My favorite Green Party Alderperson Brenda Konkel is talking and I briefly wonder if product placement money is the reason for the prominently displayed Diet Coke beside her microphone. You go girl. Drop a few pounds, and I say that as someone who could also stand an inch off the midriff.

As reality TV goes this is pretty lame entertainment but it is reality in real time. I don’t know if it is committee member “Adult City Resident 1” or “Adult City Resident 3”, but one guy keeps trying to say methodological and Designee Chairperson Nancy E. Fey visibly suppresses laughter every time he tries using the great big adult word. After another person strings together thirty words in a row without getting to a point, I flick the clicker for more promising programming.

There are people who love the actual political process, the players in the game and the tangled story lines of the personal soap operas. At the risk of sounding like a shill for Dennis York, I recommend reading his recent post where he ranks Wisconsin Democrats on honesty, integrity and reasonableness. Mayor Dave Cieslewicz doesn’t merit mention and I don’t know if it’s because he is not high enough on the depth chart, or if his ambition ends at the city limits. Make sure to pick your #1 before reading the results.
The Five Best Democrats in Wisconsin : “I have taken it upon myself to engage in an unpleasant mental exercise – picking the best Democrats in Wisconsin. For the time being, I will ignore Ann Coulter's admonition that "there are some bad Republicans, but there are no good Democrats," and pick people who I believe most effectively carry the message of the Democratic Party.”
Meanwhile elsewhere in the real world, Bernie Williams drops a routine fly ball; two Texas runs score and the NY Yankee’s still suck.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

A Small Victory In Court


There are several major politcal battles which need to be won in order to retain optimal individual liberty within limited government protections. One of these is establishing the proper use of science in the formation of public policy. A large amount of environmental science is a politically motivated and beautifully wrapped package of selectively picked cherries, so it’s good when Global Warming Believers Lose Appeals Court Ruling.
“An effort by a dozen states and several cities to make the Environmental Protection Agency regulate heat-trapping greenhouse gases as air pollutants was rejected Friday by a federal appeals court.”
Tracking the story back to the Environmental Protection Agency there is a post about the EPA Assessment of Global Warming Impacts. This government website recites the standard list of totally undefined and immeasurable potential things which may possibly someday be bad in the future. The following excerpts are not scientific analysis; they are examples of creative writing. In the last sentence they admit they don’t know what will happen.
Impacts: Rising global temperatures are expected to raise sea level, and change precipitation and other local climate conditions. Changing regional climate could alter forests, crop yields, and water supplies. It could also affect human health, animals, and many types of ecosystems. Deserts may expand into existing rangelands, and features of some of our National Parks may be permanently altered.

Most of the United States is expected to warm, although sulfates may limit warming in some areas. Scientists currently are unable to determine which parts of the United States will become wetter or drier, but there is likely to be an overall trend toward increased precipitation and evaporation, more intense rainstorms, and drier soils. … Unfortunately, many of the potentially most important impacts depend upon whether rainfall increases or decreases, which can not be reliably projected for specific areas.
There is one large file with long charts and plenty of subscripts and superscripts scattered around the text. Greenhouse Gases and Global Warming Potential Values (PDF) looks exactly like the type of scientific report that activists would include in supplemental support materials for lawyers, politicians or other citizen groups.
Global Warming Potentials (GWPs) are intended as a quantified measure of the globally averaged relative radiative forcing impacts of a particular greenhouse gas. … Carbon dioxide (CO2) was chosen as this reference gas.

Although the Earth’s atmosphere consists mainly of oxygen and nitrogen, neither plays a significant role in enhancing the greenhouse effect because both are essentially transparent to terrestrial radiation. The greenhouse effect is primarily a function of the concentration of water vapor, carbon dioxide, and other trace gases in the atmosphere that absorb the terrestrial radiation leaving the surface of the Earth. … Overall, the most abundant and dominant greenhouse gas in the atmosphere is water vapor. Water vapor is neither long-lived nor well mixed in the atmosphere, varying spatially from 0 to 2 percent.
Please note that water vapor is the “most abundant and dominant greenhouse gas” composing up to 2% of the atmosphere. Sometimes you can see it shaped like clouds and sometime you can feel it fall like rain. Have you ever heard environmental activists call for government regulation of water vapor emissions? The reason they ignore the role of water in the atmosphere is because the ultimate goal of the “global warming” movement is not saving the climate. The ultimate goal is political control of both the government and the economy.

Finally it is also important to understand that carbon dioxide is a natural component of the atmosphere. Pollution implies adding something not normally present in a mixture. If I pour pure water into a lake have I polluted that lake? If my breathing releases carbon dioxide into the air have I polluted the atmosphere? The two molecular building blocks of life, carbon dioxide and water, are never accurately or technically pollutants.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Madison Dems Support Dangerous Fantasy


Guilt by association means attributing guilt to a person without direct proof about that person, but in light of the known facts about the individual’s associates. The Dane County Democratic Party has a March and Rally in Madison posted as an official calendar event, and I don’t believe the leadership is ignorant about conspiracy theory they are supporting.

March and Rally in Madison: Jul 23, 2005 10:00 am: Meet at the intersection of King, Webster, and Wilson Streets (200 block of King St., across from Great Dane Brew Pub) - March up King St. to the Square. - Then around the block in the inner lane. - Then down Hamilton St. to James Madison Park (300 block of E. Gorham St). 11:30 am: Rally at James Madison Park. There'll be several invited speakers, then an open mic (2 min each). Bring signs calling for Impeachment, Downing Street Memo, Withdrawal from Iraq, and other outrages. This rally will coincide with major rallies taking place in Washington DC July 23-25. Volunteers needed to distribute fliers Wednesday at the Gaylord Nelson memorial noon at the Capitol and at the Dean event 5 PM at the Orpheum. Bring and lunch and picnic in the park after the rally. Contact: Dennis Coyier 839-5452 dcoy-at-execpc.com

The Dane County Democratic Party is supporting the Truth Emergency, or alternatively the DC Emergency Truth Convergence. This protest gathering is planned by various groups who believe the Bush Administration planned the 9/11 attacks to further an Imperil conquest of the world. One of the organizers is UW-Madison PhD recipient Dr. Kevin Barrett who “became” Muslim in 1992 and now runs a 9/11 truth group.
“A new era has dawned: David Griffin's incendiary but well-documented charges of Bush administration complicity in 9/11 have broken into both local and national mainstream media from Madison, Wisconsin! … If you missed this historic moment-- the biggest lecture hall on campus overflowing with over 450 people who gave Griffin a thunderous standing ovation for charging the Bush-Cheney regime with orchestrating the 9/11 attacks”.

We must seize this moment and push for a new investigation. Write and call the local media, your representatives, and anybody else who might be righteously angered to learn that the Bush regime slaughtered 3000 Americans in order to launch a bloody, interminable war they had already planned. And please come to Washington for the Truth Convergence July 22nd-24th! Kevin Barrett of MUJCA-NET will be leading a workshop on interfaith 9/11 activism on Sunday, July 24th:”
Kathleen Falk and Dave Cieslewicz and the Dane County Democratic Leadership know they are encouraging the kook fringe of the Democratic Party. They want people willing to believe the Republican Party is evil because it suits their political goals. Saudi Arabia lost control of their jihadists and the Democrats are in danger of loosing control of the hatred they are actively nurturing. I don’t expect to hear any local Democratic leader denounce extremist fantasy when it is voiced in their party, therefore they will deserve a portion of guilt when the hatred blooms into something awful.

Friday, July 15, 2005

1410 AD: The Battle of Grunwald


Five hundred and ninety five years ago today, July 15, 1410 The Battle of Grunwald forever changed the religious faith of Europe. On that historical battlefield the Teutonic Knights “a German crusading military order under Roman Catholic religious vows formed at the end of the 12th century in Acre in Palestine”, lead a massive army against an even larger group of Polish and Lithuanian fighters. It was the decisive battle culminating 200 years of border skirmishes between Catholic Europe and non-Christian populations east and south of the Baltic Coast.
“The Teutonic Knights achieved excellent diplomatic relations with other western countries, and developed a particularly good relationship with the papacy. They seemed destined to control and occupy the whole of Eastern Europe, and acted under a commission signed by the Pope, ordering them to Christianise the pagan lands in the Baltic Region. No matter how they behaved, they could always claim that they acted under Papal authority, and with the approval of God Himself.

Their first Christianising mission in the 13th century involved the Prussians, a tribe which controlled the amber trade along the Baltic. The Teutonic knights dealt with them in a most effective way: they eliminated them almost completely.”

The Teutonic Knights continued their occupations and captured Pomorze (1308-1309), Chelmno, Kujawa, Dobrzyn, and Kalisz in Poland. Every time Polish land was captured, the population was massacred, and Germans were brought to live in the captured lands. For example, in 1308 when the knights marched on Gdansk singing "Jesu Christo Salvator Mundi" they killed most of the Polish citizens, about ten thousand in number, and replaced them with German immigrants, who gave them full allegiance.”
By the late 14th Century the Krzyzacy (Knights of the Cross) attacks focused on Lithuanian lands and in 1385 Lithuanian Grand Duke Wladyslaw Jagiello married the Queen of Poland and two years later converted all his lands to Christianity. The conversion by decree was insufficient to deflect the all the political desires of the Teutonic Knights with their Papal backing and by 1410 the entirety of Europe picked a side and went to war. What one side calls Grunwald, the other calls Tanneberg.
July 15,1410 The Battle of Tanneberg: “The knights, on the other hand, with only 83,000 men were outnumbered two to one. Despite this handicap, the outcome of the engagement at what is known as the battle of Tannenberg on July 15, 1410 was by no means certain. Early in the conflict the knights made great advances, destroying the right wing of the Lithuanian forces but they were gradually beaten back. When their courageous Grand Master, Ulrich von Jungingen was killed in the center of the melĂ©e, dying from wounds inflicted in both the front and back of his chest, the fight was lost. In addition to their leader, they lost two hundred knights and forty thousand soldiers including the Grand Commander”.
For about 300 years Christianity included a warrior aspect. From the first Crusade in 1096 through the defeat of the Teutonic Knights in 1410 there was an influential Christian faction accepting the killing of non-believers as justified. The catastrophe which befell the Order this long ago summer day did not immediately purge Christianity of the false belief of divinely justified killing, however, it removed so much of the key leadership that the remaining adherents could never believe in their divine favor with quite the same certainty.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

The Sky Is Not Falling On Babies


Brace yourself for another round of the Chicken Little phenomenon in response to a report released today by the Environmental Working Group. In Madison the headline reads Study: Fetuses exposed to toxic chemicals. Across the country the headlines are all about danger, damage and death. The take away message is that industrial America is poisoning unborn babies and must be stopped.
Unborn babies soaked in chemicals, survey finds Reuters, Pollutants put fetuses at risk Front page, Kansas City Star, Study measures prenatal exposure to pollutants Newark Star-Ledger, Study cites chemical dangers Associated Press, Study Shows Babies Born With Polluted Systems Oakland Tribune, Toxic Elements Found in Infants' Cord Blood Palm Beach Post, Slew of Pollutants Found in Babies North Jersey Record, Numerous man-made chemicals are in blood of newborns, research finds Minneapolis Star Tribune, Toxic Chemicals By the Hundred Found in Blood of Newborns Environmental News Service, Toxins Found in Newborns Dayton Daily News.”
Changing industrial America is the expressed aim of the Environmental Working Group who point out that they are organized as an activist team with the goal of changing public policy. They accept money which should be mailed to them in Washington, DC. They also accept stock if you feel the need to divest ExxonMobile shares.
“Environmental investigations have been our specialty at the Environmental Working Group since 1993. Our team of scientists, engineers, policy experts, lawyers and computer programmers pores over government data, legal documents, scientific studies and our own laboratory tests to expose threats to your health and the environment, and to find solutions.

Our research brings to light unsettling facts that you have a right to know. It shames and shakes up polluters and their lobbyists. It rattles politicians and shapes policy. It persuades bureaucracies to rethink science and strengthen regulation. It provides practical information you can use to protect your family and community.”
Their latest attempt to create fear in the public and pressure the politicians into making radical changes to our industrial economy is entitled Body Burden: The Pollution in Newborns: Study Finds Industrial Pollution Begins in the Womb.
“Not long ago, scientists believed that babies in the womb were largely protected from most toxic chemicals. A new study helps confirm an opposite view: that chemical exposure begins in the womb, as hundreds of industrial chemicals, pollutants and pesticides are pumped back and forth from mother to baby through umbilical cord blood.”
In a nutshell this study tested blood from the umbilical cord of 10 healthy newborn infants and were able to find trace levels of chemicals in the parts per billion (ppb) or parts per trillion (ppt) ranges. Because certain chemicals can produce harm at high doses the authors are attempting scare the public into believing that any level of exposure is dangerous. Did I mention the blood was from healthy living newborn infants?

There are several basic principles of to keep in mind. Most importantly, all living creatures have repair mechanisms which means damaging chemicals have a threshold level they must exceed before the exposure overwhelms the repair process. Therefore, it is not appropriate to extrapolate the effects of high dose to low dose exposure. Secondly, it is extremely costly to establish and police standards of chemical exposure at levels well below any demonstrable hazardous concentration. Thirdly, science is not about speculation, it is about skeptical analysis of measured observations. Jumping to broad conclusions worded in emotional terms is a definitive characteristic of manipulation and not research. Did I mention the babies were healthy?

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Sierrra Club Hypocrisy


Madison Blogger Dennis York has been writing some very good posts these last three months and tonight I recommend his most recent entitled Exxtra Thick Hypocrisy. It seems the Sierra Club unleashed a broadside against oil giant ExxonMobil. The Sierra Club changed over the years from its founding in 1892 as a conservation group, into the current overtly political activist 501(c) 4 non-profit organization with millions of dollars to spend. The Sierra Club 2004 Political Endorsements pretty much demonstrate the organization is "effectively" acting as an operating arm of the Democratic Party.

The hypocrisy is that while the Sierra Club supports Democratic elected officials at all levels, many of these office holders own large blocks of stock in big companies like ExxonMobil. Apparently it is very hard to be a rich liberal without holding real assets in things like big global corporations. I find it especially amusing that musty old State Senator Fred Risser keeps his wealth, in part, in ExxonMobil, the world's largest and most profitable oil company which is also Sierra Club's evil mean bad company #1. Where are the student protesters?

As a side note, the following is Senator Risser's official website biography:
"Born and raised in Madison, Senator Risser is the fourth generation of his family to serve in the Wisconsin Legislature representing this area. He has represented the Madison area in the Wisconsin Legislature since he was first elected to the State Assembly in 1956. Senator Risser served for three terms in the Assembly before he was elected to the State Senate in a special election in 1962, and has been re-elected to the State Senate in every election since."
Forty three years of sitting in a chair in the Wisconsin State Senate with a blank look on his face. I don't know why but I am always reminded of some pleasantly ineffective first son of a minor feudal era duchy, thanking God for hereditary power. Then I think about term limits.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Fun with Find and Replace


Virtually unobserved in the background of interesting events yesterday, the Federal Government and various State of Wisconsin agencies signed an “alliance”, followed by a press release. Bureaucratic writing usually sucks because most of it is intentionally designed to simultaneously inoffensive, virtuous and devoid of meaningful content.

The official statement reads like it was written by committee and as a concerned citizen I feel the need to make my own alterations to the text. I feel very, very strongly that the word “alliance” has militaristic overtones with the potential to offend the sensitivities of peace loving Wisconsin citizens, especially those in Madison. Therefore, after careful review of many possible synonyms, I am replacing the word “alliance” with the word “friendship” to make this memo a happier group of words.
OSHA and Wisconsin State Agencies Launch Job Safety Friendship

MADISON, Wis. -- The U.S. Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and Wisconsin state agencies have launched a friendship aimed at preventing workplace hazards statewide. … "OSHA friendships are part of U.S. Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao's efforts to improve the health and safety of workers," said Kimberly Stille, OSHA's area director in Madison.

The friendship was signed by OSHA area offices in Eau Claire, Appleton, Madison and Milwaukee. ... The friendship will provide members and others with information, guidance and access to training resources that will help them protect employees' health and safety.

At conferences and public forums, friendship members will share information and forge innovative solutions to improve workplace safety and health. ... The friendship will promote and encourage participation in OSHA's cooperative programs. … The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has created more than 240 friendships with organizations committed to fostering safety and health in the workplace.
This is sweet. Our State and Federal Government employees should be friends. Friends don’t let friends get hurt at work. Friends get together and share their thoughts and teach each other new ways to do things. Sometimes the conferences are at really swell places where comrades can gather and take pride in protecting the working class.

Monday, July 11, 2005

The 1st Amendment Farewell Tour


Tonight’s hat tip goes to WIBA's Vicki McKenna. Madison’s own talk show host points out a tax revolt in the State of Washington, and a decision by Thurston County Superior Court Judge Chris Wickham that talk radio personnel are subject to regulation under Campaign Finance Reform Law. Is anyone really surprised a liberal judge faced with a tax revolt is willing find away around the 1st amendment?
The Olympian Article: “A Thurston County judge ruled this morning that backers of the anti-gas tax initiative cannot spend approximately $20,000 in Internet contributions until reporting the street addresses of the donors. … In a potentially more significant part of the ruling, Thurston County Superior Court Judge Chris Wickham said Initiative 912 sponsors must report the airtime of two talk show hosts as in-kind political contributions. … Wickham's ruling only applies to the airtime when the hosts were soliciting money.”
In all fairness, the citizens of Washington are deeply split over increasing gas taxes to pay for infrastructure improvements. KVI Radio hosts Kirby Wilbur and John Carlson unabashedly exhorted their listeners to support a ballot referendum entitled Initiative 912 to repeal the gas tax increase. Government advocates for the tax increase, lead by the San Juan County prosecutor and city attorneys for Seattle, filed campaign finance charges against Initiative 912 activists and the radio station personnel in specific. The specific State regulation creating the controversy reads as follows:
“RCW 42.17.020 (c) Contributions other than money or its equivalent are deemed to have a monetary value equivalent to the fair market value of the contribution. Services or property or rights furnished at less than their fair market value for the purpose of assisting any candidate or political committee are deemed a contribution. Such a contribution must be reported as an in-kind contribution at its fair market value and counts towards any applicable contribution limit of the provider.”
The key phrase is “money or its equivalent”, because once campaign finance regulates not only money but anything that can be expressed in terms of money, then government has the power to regulate virtually all activity. Money can’t buy love, but products and services are definable by price. Judge Wickham’s ruling in effect means that any activity associated with a political agenda is potentially fair game for regulation. Authorities simply need to define words and actions in measured amounts of the coin of the realm.

For example, if I give a campaign worker an organically grown Washington State apple, and a similar apple sells for $1.00 at Woodman’s Grocery Store, and I have already contributed my maximum individual cash contribution to that candidate, am I now a felon? What if I simply talk to the campaign worker for a minute and it is subsequently established my employer pays me $60.00/hr to speak in court. Is my brief chat with that campaign worker the money equivalent of an apple, and thus also actionable as a felony? How much is a can of worms at Dorn’s Bait Shop?

Two Washington State papers have editorials about the ruling. The Seattle Times gets it right and the Seattle Post Intelligencer gets it wrong.
Seattle Times Editorial: “See what is being done here. The judge is following a simple syllogism: All political contributions may be regulated; Speech is a political contribution; Therefore, speech may be regulated.”

Two years ago, when the federal campaign-finance law reached the U.S. Supreme Court, dissenting justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas warned that something like this would happen. We doubted it; it seemed clear to us that the law applied to ads, not editorial content. We thought Thomas was over the top when he said campaign-finance law was leading toward "outright regulation of the press. … Judge Wickham has made a step toward just that. It is a dangerous, unconstitutional ruling. The losers need to appeal it and the appellate courts need to reverse it.

Seattle Post Intelligencer Editorial: Wickham's third decision was more controversial, if no less correct, because it broached the distinction between editorial advocacy and direct campaign involvement. … But it is different when the on-air hosts are directly campaigning on their programs. They're acting as political activists, not journalists. … Carlson and Wilbur crossed the line, not by expressing their support of a public policy issue, but by having a vested interest in it.
In my opinion every citizen has a “vested interest” in public policy, and government employees uncomfortable with citizen control of the government need to be sent looking for private sector work.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Let the Witch Hunt Begin


A Hat Tip to Dummocrats for picking up the story about a Congressional investigation of global warming research . I first noticed this story a short while back and commented on it here. Former blogger and fellow global warming skeptic Bryan Smith from Sanity In Mad City expressed some doubt that the hearings would do any good. Since it’s a perfect summer evening and to save my self the effort of writing anything new, I will just post my comment to his comment as a new post. Ain’t the blogging life easy
Good luck! The alarmists are already crying 'witch hunt' and 'McCarthyism' and 'funding from the oil industry'. Skeptics will not get a say in the global warming argument until we experience a long stretch of cooling, which may or may not happen any time soon. It's frustrating as hell to just have your ideas dismissed for no reason other than they don't conform to the alarmists' viewpoints, but that's just how it is. # posted by Bryan Smith: 9:01 PM

You seem to be a bit more cynical than normal Bryan. I still have hope that the vast majority of working scientists are silent on the global warming debate because they have only paid passing attention to the inner details of work being done outside their immediate area of interest. Most scientists tend to simply accept published conclusions from work in unfamiliar areas. In my opinion, what needs to be done is to force them to affirm that the underlying data fully supports the conclusions.

If the government forces a public accounting about the credibility of the data collection, the statistical analysis applied and most importantly the role of computer projections in the conclusions, then there is hope that true scientists will realize how far this work deviates from acceptable methodology. I know for sure that if this type of public pressure is not brought upon this body of shoddy work the distorting influence of false prophecy will continue to cost all of us time and money. # posted by Random10: 3:05 PM
I am comfortable saying that “dangerous” global warming is science fiction. Please note the global warming alarmists are no long predicting a catastrophic Planet Venus type oven of death scenario. That conjecture is so totally unsupportable they stopped making the claim. The entire movement now uses the phrase “climate change” and attempts to cherry pick aspects of change from the recent past as proof that the hydrocarbon economy is “bad” for the planet. It’s not.

Junkscience.com has great resources for open minds. For example: Planetary Temperature and Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide (CO2) with the link to Climate and the Carboniferous Period. True science explains facts while fakers fast talk them away.
“One point apparently causing confusion among our readers is the relative abundance of CO2 in the atmosphere today as compared with Earth's historical levels. Most people seem surprised when we say current levels are relatively low, at least from a long-term perspective - understandable considering the constant media/activist bleat about current levels being allegedly "catastrophically high."

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Amazing: I Agree with the Cap Times


The Capital Times actually wrote an editorial I agree with. It turns out the Supreme Court has managed to find a way to unify the country in outrage over the Kelo decision.
Editorial: Seizing property: “Before the Fourth of July congressional break, the U.S. House voted 365-33 to express "grave disapproval ... regarding the majority opinion of the Supreme Court in the case of Kelo et al. v. City of New London et al. that nullifies the protections afforded private property owners in the takings clause of the Fifth Amendment."

All eight Wisconsin House members voted in favor of the resolution. And when U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, and U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Janesville, line up on the same side of an issue, it quickly becomes obvious that the political will exists to pass legislation to overturn this atrocious court ruling.”
I notice that the Editorial is unsigned so this may mean that Uber-Left Editor John Nichols could not bring himself to sign off on the concept of limited government power. Looking over the actual vote count it is interesting to note Rep. Nancy Pelosi didn’t vote. Perhaps her staff is still keeping her closeted away in a small room still trying to explain to the Democratic House Leader that a Supreme Court decision is not the will of God, or maybe she can’t bring herself to commit to limited government power either.

Final Vote Results for Roll Call 361: (Republicans in roman; Democrats in italic; Independents underlined)

Friday, July 08, 2005

Buy Your Gas at Citgo?


Jeff Cohen is the founder of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), an ultra left progressive organization that proudly “believes that structural reform is ultimately needed to break up the dominant media conglomerates, establish independent public broadcasting and promote strong non-profit sources of information.” In other words, he believes as a pure socialist that corporate media is a barrier to achieving socialist goals. Jeff Cohen is the mastermind behind the latest activist tactic circulating around Madison. It is a call for all those who profess to hate the Bush administration to Buy Your Gas at Citgo: Join the BUY-cott.
“Looking for an easy way to protest Bush foreign policy week after week? And an easy way to help alleviate global poverty? Buy your gasoline at Citgo stations.

Citgo is a U.S. refining and marketing firm that is a wholly owned subsidiary of Venezuela's state-owned oil company. Money you pay to Citgo goes primarily to Venezuela -- not Saudi Arabia or the Middle East.

Instead of using government to help the rich and the corporate, as Bush does, Chavez is using the resources and oil revenue of his government to help the poor in Venezuela. A country with so much oil wealth shouldn't have 60 percent of its people living in poverty, earning less than $2 per day. With a mass movement behind him, Chavez is confronting poverty in Venezuela. That's why large majorities have consistently backed him in democratic elections. And why the Bush administration supported an attempted military coup in 2002 that sought to overthrow Chavez.”
The problem as I previously discussed here is that Hugo Chavez is plundering the economy of Venezuela and using the cash to buy the votes of the poor in an effort to create a Fidel Castro inspired socialist state. While the world was focused on the Islamofascist murder spree in London yesterday, Hugo Chavez continued Attacking Democracy In Venezuela and demonstrating More Aggressive Moves by Chavez to Consolidate Power.
“Today an outrageous court hearing will take place in Caracas, Venezuela. Organizers of last year's recall referendum against President Hugo Chavez are facing potential charges of treason. Their crime? Taking a U.S. National Endowment for Democracy grant to advance democracy. It's not just political revenge from a victorious Chavez. It's also an attack on civic institutions and, if successful, opens the door to dictatorship and anarchy.”
Fidel Castro is intent that his legacy lives on in Latin America and he has found a ruthless heir to his vision: One great man leading a socialist society with a literate but docile population and without great wealth for anyone except the ruling party and the drug lords. The Dr. Evil brilliance of Hugo Chavez’s strategy is that he will let the existing rich get out and leave the poor to his tending. How else do you explain Chavez borrowing Venezuelan banking assets at 14% and depositing it back in the same banks at 5%. The rich will soon figure out it’s best to take the money and run leaving only peasants, civil servant lackeys and the occasional traitors.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

7/7


Other writers are saying things better than I am about the events of today.

Slate: By Christopher Hitchens.
This latest challenge is far more insidious, however, because the ambitions of the killers are non-negotiable, and because their methods so exactly match their aims.

Winds of Change: By Bill Roggio.
One thing is certain: the terrorist attacks in Britain will call into question the viability of the legal/policing approach to the War on Terror, as well as Europe’s immigration and asylum laws. Robert S. Leiken's article Europe's Angry Muslims in the July/August of Foreign Affairs explains the inherent problems with Europe's Muslim populations and the pervasiveness of radical Islamists in the European culture. If the latest terror attacks in Britain force Europe to take a tougher stand on the Islamists in their midst and lead to the dismantlement of the vast Islamists support structure, then al Qaeda miscalculated the impact of the attack.

DANEgerous: Islamofascism: By DANEgerus.
Cliff May: On the BBC today one British official was quite puzzled that the terrorists would strike during the G8, a time when world leaders were addressing “poverty, inequality and injustice.”

That presupposes that the terrorists care about “poverty, inequality and injustice.” How stupid do you have to be to believe that someone who takes money from a Saudi billionaire to buy bombs cares about “poverty and inequality”? How ignorant do you have to be to believe that to Radical Islamists “justice” means anything other than infidels choking on their own blood, their civilization burning and a glorious, renewed caliphate arising from the ashes?

If you don’t first accept there is a worldwide religious war against those who worship a divinity that rewards killing humans, then you will never completely understand the events of this period of time. Tenets of faith are not products derived from logic and will not be changed by logic. Killers seeking rewards in the afterlife are not the same as criminals seeking rewards of the here and now. Nothing in the actions of western civilization created the belief that God desires the killing of innocents. All guilt lies entirely upon the guilty.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Political Physics Suck


Gbfan vents some frustration with the Wisconsin Republican Party proposed State Budget, in a post also carried on the Badger Blog Alliance. I understand and share his frustration but I believe it is, in large part, a problem of inertia. The growth of government has gathered momentum over half a century and it will take a lot of force to stop that direction. The fact that growth has been only slowed is not ideal and certainly not good, but now more than ever it is important to keep pushing the brakes.

I hear a great deal of talk on both the national and state level that the Democratic Party is devoid of ideas and destined to continue their slide into political history, much like the Federalist Party of two centuries ago. I am not confident about drafting that obituary. The incredible idiots leading the National Democratic Party may well self destruct but there are new true believers waiting for the old codgers to fall and to open up the power positions.

The appeal of a strong central government to maintain civil order over a population has never totally faded from American politics and probably never will. The progressive movement does have ideas about health care and environmental control of land use that will get them votes from large urban populations. The progressives will continue the pressure to accelerate government spending and expand the reach of government power into the everyday lives of Americans.

Until the Republicans do a significantly better job of educating urban voters about the principles and values of limited government it will be very hard to reverse the growth of government. If any lesson is to be learned from the current budget it’s that the larger we let government grow the harder it will be to peacefully dismantle the excess.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Mayor Dave's Light Rail Sleight of Hand


Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz fundamentally believes that people should live in dense urban clusters and the New Urbanist Theory he believes is absolutely positive that light rail transit is the most efficient method for buzzing people around the human beehive. Mayor Dave is also an astute politician who knows the game of politics is about money, as is evidenced by this passing budget item on this evening's Common Council agenda.
Madison City Council Agenda July 5, 2005: 100. 01418 Amending the Capital Budget to use $300,000 of new Federal EDI funds for the Wexford Neighborhood Center Project (project 45 in the Planning and Development 2005 Capital Budget) and to create a new project 46, "Streetcar Study" in the P&D 2005 Adopted Capital Budget and transferring $300,000 of budgeted General Obligation from the Wexford project to the Streetcar Study project. Sponsors: Mayor Cieslewicz, Kenneth Golden, Tim Bruer, Robbie Webber and Judy K. Olson
Dave’s New Urbanist worker bees have found a way to shift $300,000 of Federal Tax Dollars to pay for his obsession with building light rail in Capital City. It’s a very slick shift because Mayor Dave wants to say the street car study won’t cost city taxpayers anything because it’s paid for by “federal dollars”. The Wexford Neighborhood Center still receives its $300K, but on paper the money now comes from “municipal taxes”.

Mayor Dave and his worker bees are liberal idealists and proud of the fact. The problem with true visionaries is that they often ignore real facts when those facts don’t support the dream. Even if the Mayor reads Rail Disasters 2005 (PDF) he would most likely find the reason for all the light rail failure in big American Cities as flaws in the overall urban design planning. Mistakes of planning his administration won’t make. This 29 page pdf file has the actual numbers on 23 major US cities with rail transit and the picture isn’t pretty unless you enjoy operating deficits.
“Using newly available data, this Rail Disasters 2005 grades rail transit systems based on their ability to increase overall transit ridership in their urban areas. To score an A, both transit ridership and transit passenger miles must be growing faster than driving, while F means that transit is stagnant or declining. The report shows that, of twenty-three urban areas that had rail transit in 2003, only three score better than a D.”

“When Congress first provided money for transit, it was exclusively for capital projects; cities were expected to raise the money needed for operating costs. … Not wishing to lose any federal funds, cities chose rail transit because of, not in spite of, its high costs. Once a few cities built rail transit, other regions became concerned that they weren’t getting their “fair share” of federal funds. This led to the current stampede for rail transit.”
Mayor Dave doesn’t want to miss his “fair share” of the federal pork, especially since he really needs the cash to build his model city filled with shiny new little trains.

Monday, July 04, 2005

The Whiskey Rebellion of 1794


America celebrates July 4th to commemorate the founding of the county by the Declaration of Independence, adopted that day in 1776, although the war which secured American freedom from European rule continued for seven more years. The birth date of self government, like the birthday of any person, only marks the beginning of long journey filled with challenges and changes. So on July 4, 2005 I thought it appropriate to briefly recall the 1794 Whiskey Rebellion which flared up in July of that long ago year.
“This 1794 insurrection was caused, in part, by the lack of federal courts (which necessitated trips to Philadelphia for trial), large numbers of absentee landlords, lack of protection from the Indians, lack of access to the Mississippi River and the high excise tax on whiskey. President George Washington ordered 12,000 to 13,000 troops to the Washington Pennsylvania area. This was the first test of the power of the new government”
From the moment of creation of the United States there was a cultural and political distinction between the cities of the east coast and the settlers on the western side of the Appalachian Mountains. British military forces remained in North America after the revolution, controlling Canada and disputing control of land in the west. The newly formed American Government faced with the need to defend theses lightly settled lands decided to tax whiskey distilled in this region to fund the military presence.

The excise tax was imposed upon the source of the whiskey, and the capacity of each still was taxed regardless of actual production or the production actually shipped for sale. Registration of each still was required in June each year forcing owners travel to distant tax offices. The Whiskey Tax became the issue through which independent minded western settlers vented their frustration with the new government. In addition to the unpopular tax there were also the concerns about security, commerce, land ownership rights and the newly formed judicial system.

As organized resistance to the Whiskey Tax developed, harassment and defiance of the tax collectors increased. President George Washington was forced to confront the problem. He responded by sending an army of almost 13,000 troops under the command of Gen. Harry Lee, the Governor of Virginia. Suspected insurrection members were detained and taken to Philadelphia for trial, but the following summer President Washington granted amnesty to virtually all the detained individuals.

As an episode in the evolution of our country the Whiskey Rebellion of 1794 was instrumental in shaping the future principles of American self-governance. This small revolt of frontier settlers helped blunt Hamiltonian Federalist Party efforts to create a single powerful central government and affirmed that America is an association of United States. Perhaps most importantly it set a very early precedent that citizens have the right to criticize a government that ultimately derives it’s authority from the will of the citizens.
“It did publicize some of the problems the settlers were having with the government, gave the newly formed government a chance to flex its muscles and, in a sense, redefined the word treason to permit disagreement with the government without being considered treasonous.”
It is also a good reminder that the American Revolution never ended. The struggle for individual liberty and justice within a limited and voter controlled government continues.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

An Electrifying Decision


Given that is hard to use a computer without electricity, there is good news from the Wisconsin Supreme Court. The court ruled last week in Clean WI vs WI Public Service Commission (PDF) that the Wisconsin Electric Corporation can build a new coal burning electric plant on land they already own in Oak Creek. The new production facility is needed to meet the increasing demand for electricity in the southeastern part of the state. Environmentalist groups lead by Clean Wisconsin had launched an all out multiple pronged challenge to stop the government from approving the project, and the court’s 174 page decision is a complex tour through the myriad of issues raised in this struggle to balance economic growth and preservation of the local environment.

There are two points I find encouraging in this decision. First, a large portion of the ruling involves analysis of how government agencies interpret their legislative guidelines, and I think it is wonderful the justices actually looked up the meaning of words in the dictionary. In addition I am pleased they used an American dictionary rather than looking for guidance from international linguistic sources.
“As noted, the rule itself provides no indication as to when different proposals are sufficiently distinct so as to constitute "alternative sites." The pertinent dictionary definition of "alternative" is "[a]llowing or necessitating a choice between two or more things." The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language 55 (3d ed. 1992). Additionally, "site" is defined as "[t]he place where a structure or group of structures was, is, or is to be located." Id. at 1688. Thus, the "alternative site" provision requires a CPCN applicant to provide information regarding locations where the proposed power plants are to be located sufficient to present the PSC with a choice.”
Secondly, I find it both ironic and deeply satisfying that the environmentalists are forced into arguing that flaws in computer modeling make computer projections questionable.
¶108 The PSC's decision that coal-fired baseload generation was appropriate was, in part, based on Electric Generation Expansion Analysis System (EGEAS) computer modeling projections (33) that demonstrated energy priority alternatives "[could not] replace the need for new baseload, coal-fired units to serve WEPCO."

¶144 Clean Wisconsin and Calpine argue that the PSC improperly applied §196.491(3)(d)2.-3. to the present case. Clean Wisconsin argues that the PSC failed to make required findings of fact and the EGEAS modeling failed to consider pertinent variables.
Truth in language and skepticism of computer generated data combining to insure that Wisconsin maintains enough electricity for me to keep blogging. Yeah!

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Brief Comments on Classical Liberalism


During this holiday weekend it’s easier to let other people do the deep thinking and so courtesy of On The Borderline via Badger Blog Alliance I recommend The Rise, Decline and Reemergence of Classical Liberalism by Amy H. Sturgis © The LockeSmith Institute, 1994. This article in not exactly light summer reading but I do want to point out her distillation of multiple conceptual lines in the following brief set of principles. “In this context, classical liberalism includes the following:”
1. An ethical emphasis on the individual as a rights-bearer prior to the existence of any state, community, or society,

2. The support of the right of property carried to its economic conclusion, a free-market system,

3. The desire for a limited constitutional government to protect individuals' rights from others and from its own expansion, and

4. The universal (global and ahistorical) applicability of these above convictions.
There is a distinction between principles and values. As humans we each value a variety of issues including personal safety, freedom from thirst and hunger, health and long life, a desire for knowledge and wisdom and the ability to appreciate the beauty within the world. The ongoing evolution of our society is in fact an ongoing evaluation of the success of the principles behind our decisions.

Personally I believe the above principles offer the best hope, over time, for the broadest dispersion of human well being, but I also understand the temptation for government power to impose quicker fixes for circumscribed populations. The task for Classical Liberalism is to continue to educate the global population while resisting the appeal of the imposed solution, the mandatory belief, the prohibited peaceful behavior, the tyranny of the majority, the tyranny of the powerful and the tyranny of the violent.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Mayor Dave and the Raingarden Solution


The last time the United States Geological Survey (USGS) caught my attention it was using US tax dollars to fund a new E-Journal with articles such as a French sustainability study addressing the core ecological contradictions of the capitalist system. Anyone interested should start with my Prior Post: New E-Journal for the details. The USGS came up again in a City of Madison press release yesterday announcing that Madison Receives $100,000 in Native Plants/Grasses for Raingarden development.
“Mayor Dave Cieslewicz today announced the city is receiving $100,000 from the Graham-Martin Foundation for the development of raingardens to reduce polluted runoff into local lakes and streams. Cieslewicz made the announcement at the newly completed raingarden at Warner Park.

The announcement comes as new evidence conclusively shows that raingardens are highly effective in reducing polluted runoff. According to a U.S. Geological Survey (U.S.G.S.) report released this week on two other Madison raingardens, runoff absorption was up to eleven times higher in raingardens than in conventional turf lawns.

The raingarden at Warner Park is technically known as a "bio-retention system". Unlike most raingardens, which capture relatively clean runoff from roofs, bio-retention systems capture polluted runoff from surfaces such as parking lots. Runoff from these surfaces can contain heavy concentrations of fuel, oil and heavy metals.”
This is good news in the sense that environmental measures using local methods to correct local problems are generally worthy of support. My concerns with the environmental movement are organizations such as 1000 Friends of Wisconsin and The Sierra Club that believe there are planetary wide global pathologies of human creation requiring fundamental changes in human behavior. If site specific planning can build natural barriers to mitigate the adverse effects of excessive runoff into Madison’s lakes, then local problem areas for water drainage should be identified and reasonable steps taken to modify the locations.

My fear is that the Cieslewicz administration has repeatedly demonstrated a love for the mandatory solution and the prohibitionist approach to problems. If the environmental extremist side of Dave Cieslewicz gets excited about this approach to cleaning up the Madison lakes, then Madison property owners may be looking forward to mandatory raingarden alterations of their land at their own expense.