Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Unionism Adaptations

The American labor union movement announces an major agreement that removes some of the barriers to the blending of private and public sector unions.
AFL-CIO and NEA Solidarity A historic agreement provides new ways for the 2.8 million members of the National Education Association (NEA) and the more than 9 million members of AFL-CIO unions to work together to strengthen and unify the union movement and meet the needs of working families. The new AFL-CIO/NEA Solidarity Partnership agreement, approved by the AFL-CIO Executive Council Feb. 27, 2006, allows local affiliates of the NEA to affiliate with the national AFL-CIO and join the AFL-CIO at the local and state levels.
The AFL-CIO terms this is a historic moment and it may be in the same quiet way that the tide quietly stops rising and begins to flow in a different direction. The Education Intelligence Communiqué comments on the minutia of the agreements and on the larger picture of the changing nature of union control and influence in America. The big picture starts with the 2001 Bureau of Labor Statistics annual report.
“the percentage of American workers belonging to unions fell to 13.5 percent, its lowest share since World War II. Not only did the percentage decline, but the absolute number of union members fell by 200,000, even while the economy boomed.”
While the decline in overall union membership is widely recognized, the grip of unionism on the government is underappreciated.
The most unionized sector of the entire U.S. economy (at 43.2 percent) is local government -- a category that includes police officers, firefighters, and, of course, public school employees. Though the released BLS data do not separate these occupations, a reasonable estimate of the percentage of local public school employees who belong to unions is somewhere in the 70-80 percent range.
Unions exist for one purpose which is to protect the income of the members. Unions are faltering in the free exchange private sector economy and thriving in the demand tax public sector.
Should present trends continue, we will see in our lifetimes the total number of public sector union members overtake the total number of private sector union members. We may also see a labor force in which public school employees are the only growth sector in union membership. The implications of such a trend are enormous. First, we will have a private sector almost devoid of unions, being regulated by a large plurality of unionized government employees, whose unions’ membership growth will be directly tied to the size of government itself.
If the conservative movement is sincere in the desire for reducing the size and economic burden of government, then it must move to restrict the spreading influence of unionized public employment. The AFL-CIO is offering itself to the Teachers Unions because they realize those tax funded unions are the best chance for preserving the private sector labor union movement.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Why Mommy is a Moonbat

Madison resident Jeremy Zilber has been an internet joke since self-publishing Why Mommy is a Democrat last November. Last week he provides a Progress Update on his adventures in childhood indoctrination.
Its primary goal is to encourage Democratic parents to discuss their political beliefs with their children in an open, honest, and positive way. It also serves to remind adult Democrats what it means to be a Democrat, i.e., what our party truly stands for. Finally, the book is a fundraising tool, with at least 5% of the profits going to Democratic candidates and party organizations.

Am I hoping to sell more copies by getting bloggers to discuss it? Obviously I am. But I'm also trying to promote our party, which is something we should all be working together to accomplish.
Zilber promotes his book as a way to help children understand core Democratic values which he defines as “fairness, tolerance, peace, and concern for the well-being of others”. He may not realize it but he actually nails the essential core value of the current Democratic Party, which is without a doubt fundraising. Raising money by dinners, social events, pledge drives, mass mailings, auctions and raffles are all considered noble endeavors. Non-profit profits are the lifeblood of the progressive movement and I always find it ironic when their activists complain about low sales.

All types of blatant child oriented propaganda are easy targets for satire so start here for the links to the links.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Victory In California

The fastest car doesn’t win a NASCAR race. The first car to the finish line wins the points, the trophy and the check. Speed is only one aspect of racing and the reason crowds are bigger on race day than for qualifying is because of the competition between teams of machine makers and drivers. Sometimes the winner is the fastest car but usually the winner comes from the best overall team effort.
mattkenseth.com: Matt Kenseth led 40 laps today at California Speedway to capture his first victory of the 2006 season, and the first Nextel Cup points victory in a Ford Fusion. Kenseth started 31st but quickly moved up through the field. No other California winner has come from so deep in the field.
Qualifying for the 31st starting position for today’s Auto Club 500, Matt immediately drives past the majority of the field and after a two tire stop on lap 90, Kenseth’s team earns the lead of the race. Looking exactly like the Killer Bees of a couple years ago, the over the wall crew for the 17 team consistently turn out phenomenally quick pit stops that keep the car at the front of the field the rest of the afternoon.

The Associated Press story incorrectly refers to this win as a gift because two of the fastest cars in this long race blew their engines in the last 100 miles. Matt’s 11th Career Cup Victory was absolutely not a gift because neither Greg Biffle nor Tony Stewart yielded anything to anyone. Matt won because his engine was both fast and dependable, and because his pit crew turned out 4 tire stops in the 13 second range and because the driver drove the optimal lines around the 2 mile track.

The message the 17 team was delivering at the circus show that is the Daytona 500 was largely missed when one of the clowns went dangerously crazy. The message that Matt and his crew are ready for their second Cup Championship was definitely delivered today.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Lasagna with Wisconsin Cheese

Lola has invited 30 people for Lasagna lunch tomorrow. In light of this fact, it seems like a great time to point out the conventional wisdom about healthy low fat diets is crumbling in the face of the facts. Millions of dollars worth of purchased research data simply do not support the "eat right for health" message of the public health community. Tech Central Daily has the roundup of what massive amounts of actual data really demonstrate.
Eating Some Crow on Fat: After all, these studies found that significant increases in fruit, vegetables and grains, along with reductions in fat, did not change CVD and cancer outcomes. Eating a diet consistent with national guidelines is eating a low-fat diet -- the same diet that eight years of study and almost half a billion bucks found did not work.
Somehow humans survived and multiplied before government bureaucrats and grant funded academics became convinced they were wiser than the general population about what to eat. Lasagna with lots of Wisconsin cheese and sausage is simply not a health problem.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Al Askari: The Challenge to Fight

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, President of Iran, student of Ayatollah Khomeini, is preparing for the coming of the hidden one, the expected one, the promised one, Muhammad al-Mahdi, who God has hidden away since the day he vanished from the Al Askari Mosque in Samarra. The same shrine bombed by terrorists on February 22, 2006, at 6:55 a.m. local time. Most all Iranians and well over half of all Iraqi believe in the messianic true heir of the prophet Muhammad. This is the historic challenge to the Shia Muslims to fight.

An article from The American Thinker about a month ago outlines the background necessary to understand the significance of the assault on the golden dome.
Ahmadinejad Awaits the Hidden Iman At the end of his speech at the United Nations in the fall of 2005, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made an invocation to Allah to bring about the speedy reappearance of the Hidden Imam. … The IRI (Islamic Republic of Iran) is, in actuality, an eschatological construct based on a messianic figure known as the Hidden Imam. With the ongoing pronouncements about the destruction of Israel and the war against the United States, all in the name of the Hidden Imam, it suddenly seems more important to know something about this whole concept.

Now unlike the Sunni caliph, the Shi’a Imam inherited from Muhammad not just his civil rule over the umma but also his prerogative of interpreting the Quran, his infallibility, and his sinlessness (that connotation of impeccability seems far lost today). The eleventh Imam, al-Hassan al-Askari, died in 874. He was succeeded by the twelfth Imam, the youthful Muhammad, who “disappeared” in 274/878 in the cave of the great mosque at Samarra without leaving progeny.

He is now known as the “expected one,” (al-Muntazar), the “promised one” (al-Mahdi”), or the “hidden one,” (al-Mustatir). The theology of the Hidden Imam is that Allah realized at last that the rightful successor to Muhammad was not going to be accepted by Islam at large so he had to be taken into hiding and kept there until he would re-appear to purify the umma and take the world for Islam.
A thousand years in the future, historians may look back and outline how in this narrow window of time, oil wealth and western technology aligned in a way that ignited the centuries of social and religious tensions within the Muslim Middle East.
Take Iran Seriously A Shiite scholar writes that among the many warning signs for the coming of the Mahdi, “a color will appear in the sky and spread to its horizons; a fire will appear for a long time in the east remaining in the air for three or seven days; the Arabs will throw off the reins and take possession of their land, throwing out the foreign authority…”
It is also possible that history will show that wise leadership and the desire for peaceful lives in the populace will absorb the insult and back away from the violence. Bill Roggio lists the Signs the Civil War Has Started.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Mad Cows and Market Controls

I admit I have only a very limited understanding of Mad Cow disease. The group of diseases termed transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE) is believed by most researchers to be acquired by eating a misfolded cell surface glycoprotein termed a prion. Most researchers believe this “infectious protein” is sufficient to cause disease, however, there are skeptics and I am not completely convinced a deformed variant of a normal cell structure explains the entire story.

What is clear is that Mad Cow Disease scares almost everyone in both government and the agriculture industry. The Wisconsin State Journal expresses concern about this potential problem and calls for increasingly stringent government standards.
Improve Safeguards Against Mad Cow Since 1997, the centerpiece of the government's policies to defend against mad cow disease has been regulation of what goes into cattle feed. Because mad cow disease is believed to be spread by eating infected material, the regulation focuses on banning cattle remains from cattle feed. However, the Jan. 23 confirmation of a Canadian case of mad cow disease in a 6- year-old cow, born after the current U.S. and Canadian cattle feed policies went into effect, demonstrated the importance of tightening the standards.
The Editorial Board must have had a sudden flash back to the government mandated mass slaughter of British herds several years ago, and trembled at the thought of those deep pits and merciless bulldozers across the Wisconsin landscape. I wonder if the editors considered that it was the environmentalist movement that may have triggered those tragic events by altering industry practices.
Prion Proteins and Acquired Dementia By far the largest epidemic of human transmission of prion disease has its roots in the industrialization of livestock production. High protein feed supplements produced from the bone and offal of sheep, pigs, chickens, and cattle have been in widespread use since the 1950s. Collectively called meat and bone meal (MBM), the supplements were first rendered (heated) and extracted with hydrocarbon solvents to recover the valuable animal fats. Although not understood at the time, these steps probably helped to denature any prions in the rendered MBM and eliminated its ability to transmit disease. The initiation of this epidemic, widely known as the bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) crisis or mad cow disease, came when environmental groups in Britain successfully pressured the feed industry to abandon hydrocarbon solvent processing of MBM in the early 1980s.
I’m not saying that government should not have guidelines to regulate free markets, but it is important to keep in mind that even policies of "good intention" can distort markets into unintended consequences.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Nichols Opposes Port Sale to Arab Company

There is a great deal of commotion today about a proposal to sell the management rights of several US seaports to a United Arab Emirates based company called Dubai Port World. Most of the concern centers on the potential that Islamic terrorists could use this as an entry way into the United States. The debate may have the potential to force some major Democratic politicians to acknowledge that there is a real threat to America that originates in the Muslim world.

The local blog reaction is split in that Kevin says this type of ownership arrangement should not be considered a major threat to security due to oversight provisions of US law enforcement. Jib, however, says he knows an idea is bad when Jimmy Carter supports it. In a similar way, I know it is an idea is good when John Nichols opposes it.
Palestine Chronicle: The problem with the Bush administration's support for a move by a United Arab Emirates-based firm to take over operation of six major American ports is not that the corporation in question is Arab owned. The problem is that it that Dubai Ports World is a corporation. … There are two fundamental facts about corporations that put this controversy about who runs the ports in perspective.

First: Like most American firms, most Arab-owned firms are committed to making money, and the vast majority of them are not about to compromise their potential profits by throwing in with terrorists.

Second: Like most American firms, Arab-owned firms are more concerned about satisfying shareholders than anything else. As such, they are poor stewards of ports and other vital pieces of the national infrastructure that still require the constant investment of public funds, as well as responsible oversite by authorities that can see more than a bottom line, in order to maintain public safety -- not to mention the public good of modern, efficient transportation services.

-John Nichols, The Nation's Washington correspondent, has covered progressive politics and activism in the United States and abroad for more than a decade. He is currently the editor of the editorial page of Madison, Wisconsin's Capital Times.
Once again Nichols is quick to remind all of us that the danger in the world is not terrorism. The danger is capitalism and the profit motive.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Bush Talks Alternative Energy

Al Gore could be giving the same talk, word for word, as George Bush gave at Johnson Controls in Milwaukee. The President ticks off the complete list of alternative energy technologies with the message that America needs to develop them as quickly as possible. He paints pictures of hybrid cars with next generation batteries and hydrogen fuel cells, so city dwellers will not need gasoline to get to work. His description of the wonders of ethanol may have been written by a Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation lobbyist.

Props go out to nuclear, solar, wind and water and even coal gets consideration if we can only find a way to clean up the dirty stuff. Admittedly, Al Gore would not have included the throw away lines about keeping taxes low, and he would have probably thanked Congresswoman Gwen Moore for her extra special contributions to the Milwaukee vote totals. Behind the feel good, technology will save the American lifestyle pep talk, however, there is a distinct undertone of unease about the energy threat to our way of life.
Advanced Energy Initiative: I want to talk to you about the fact that I think we're in an important moment in history, and that we have a chance to transform the way we power our economy and how we lead our lives.
If everything is just hunky-dory there is no reason to embrace the chance to change with such zeal. The Bush administration is not filled with save the planet nature nuts, so you have to think that there are real concerns about supply coming from the oil industry.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Offensive Religious Left Words

The American religious left appear to have an ecumenical heart, wanting all religious individuals united in a type of self contented happy faith, regardless of any actual religious beliefs. California Yankee points out an example of this “don’t worry be happy spirituality” wrapped in anti-American liberal guilt. Cartoons aside, if you want to read something really offensive, click the letter link and read the whole thing.
American Churches Give Propaganda Victory to the Evil Doers In a statement that will surely encourage our enemies, a coalition of U.S. churches has denounced the war in Iraq and claims that the U.S. is "raining down terror" and entering into imperial projects that seek to dominate and control for the sake of our own national interests. … The churches' propaganda statement was disguised as a letter from the US Conference for the World Council of Churches to the 9th Assembly of the World Council of Churches in Porto Alegre, Brazil.
This apology to the world from the US Office of the World Council of Churches comes even as Iranian Clerics are establishing the religious opinions necessary to justify the use of nuclear weapons by an Islamic government.
Iranian Cleric Okays Use of Nuclear Weapons! Based on their interpretation of Islamic law, Iranian hardline religious leaders have licensed the use of nuclear weapon. For the very first time, Mohsen Gharavian, a student of Qom’s fundamentalist cleric Mesbah Yazdi has spoken about the necessity of using nuclear weapons as a means to retaliate and announced that based on religious law, everything depends on our purpose.

His words are the first official comments coming from the supporters and circle of radical cleric Mesbah Yazdi. No other cleric has had the heart to claim that Islamic principles allow the use of nuclear weapons. Still, it seems that government radical circles have embarked on fresh efforts to prepare the grounds to turn Iran's controversial nuclear program issue into a religious issue.
As much as western liberals want to believe that Islam is simply another branch of middle eastern monotheism, a hard look at what a Muslim should believe should scare even western liberals. A good way to zero in on true beliefs is to understand how a Muslim defines western misconceptions of the faith.
Ten Misconceptions About Islam: Islam is the name of a way of life which the Creator wants us to follow. We avoid the word religion because in many non-Islamic societies, there is a separation of "religion and state." This separation is not recognized at all in Islam: the Creator is very much concerned with all that we do, including the political, social, economic, and other aspects of our society. Hence, Islam is a complete way of life.

The root word of Islam is "al-silm" which means "submission" or "surrender." It is understood to mean "submission to Allah." In spite of whatever noble intention has caused many a Muslim to claim that Islam is derived primarily from peace, this is not true.
I completely believe that a great many of the world’s Muslims are ordinary people seeking peaceful lives with family and friends, however, I also believe it when Muslims point out that submission to religious authority is the bedrock principal of the faith. So when revered clerics call for disproportionate outrage and plan in advance the legitimate uses of mass murder, it is time to stop pretending that ecumenical overviews of our similarities make any difference given our differences.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Zero Degrees and Getting Colder

Right now in Madison, Wisconsin it is zero degrees Fahrenheit and getting colder. TCS Daily has several recent articles discussing global warming theory worth a complete reading. The first story alludes to what I consider the primary flaw of computer modeling which is treating the planet like a closed system. In other words, computer modeling ignores the second law of thermodynamics. Earth does not exist in a closed system.
The Climate Forest for the Trees: Some background information is in order here. Climate scientists look at the earth-atmosphere system as an integrated system that is generally thought of as being "closed"; that is not gaining or losing mass to outer space even if there is energy exchange between our planet and outer space.
The second addresses the problem of assuming that recent events differ from past events in unusual ways. Climate change advocates excel at attributing human causation to changes that are perfectly consistent with long term patterns of variability on Earth.
Ice Storm: So what we have here are two stories making a lot of headlines -- Greenland is melting and hurricanes are strengthening. Both things are true. And, again, looking at real data it is apparent that at this time they are both part of a natural cycle that has been going on for thousands of years.
The third article takes aim at the myth of consensus within the scientific community. True science is skeptical of everything and the duty of proof is upon those making claims to provide full disclosure of methods and data so that others can consistently and independently reproduce the same results. This is especially important when essential assumptions are dependent upon theoretical assemblages of proxy data and derivative calculations.
The End is Not Nigh?: This debate entered a new phase when Steve McIntyre, one of the foremost hockey-stick critics, who had long been ignored, if not ostracized, by the global warming community, was officially invited by the National Research Council of The National Academies of the United States to participate in a special committee. This committee was requested to summarize the current scientific information on the temperature record over the past two millennia, describe the proxy records that have been used to reconstruct pre-instrumental climatic conditions, assess the methods employed to combine multiple proxy data over large spatial scales, evaluate the overall accuracy and precision of such reconstructions, and explain how central the debate over the paleoclimate temperature record is to the state of scientific knowledge on global climate change. It was exactly the mandate which Steve McIntyre had been advocating all along.
The climate change movement is an attempt to use bad science to attain personal financial gain, political power and a social agenda that will cripple our economy and increase the dependence of individuals on the government. It is good to see portions of the scientific community confronting the misuse of science by political interests.

Friday, February 17, 2006

It’s Warmer In Florida

Settling in for a sub-zero Friday night, I’m surfing through the channels and notice legendary World of Outlaws Champion Steve Kinser’s IROC car is sliding on its roof down a long stretch of Daytona International Speedway. The race is halted as the tube steel frame is sawed open allowing Kinser to climb out and walk to the ambulance. After the extended clean up, Matt Kenseth leads the surviving half of the field to the restart. A few laps later after a couple full speed contacts he emerges the winner.
Kenseth Wins Wild IROC Race: Two-time defending Busch Series champion Martin Truex Jr., a Nextel Cup rookie this season made the first move. … "The last lap was definitely exciting," said Kenseth, the 2004 IROC champion who scored his third career win in the series. "Martin knew his only chance to win was to get down in front of me. He just hung a left to try to get to the bottom, which is the same thing I would have done. And neither one of us lifted."
The International Race of Champions is an annual four race event where 12 drivers are selected from various types of motor racing and placed into identically prepared cars. The IROC Rules attempt to produce pure driver vs. driver racing, or as Cristy Corle explains: “No spotters and crew, just mirrors and skill required.”

Any win in competitive motor sports is a difficult accomplishment and I am taking this as a very good sign that the 2003 Cup Champ is ready to be competitive. The edge of control skirmishing earns comments on the Matt Kenseth message boards.
That was, w/out question, the craziest IROC race I have EVER seen! Glad to see all involved are OK, especially Kinser, what a ride he took. Matt being unusually agressive out there, it was great! I honestly thought they were going to wreck each other and one of the other 4 remaining cars would end up winning!
Topping off the evening Mark Martin wins the NASCAR Truck series race. All in all a pretty awesome day of work at the track for those Roush Racing boys.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Conspiracy Theory Nominees

I have two candidates for the best Bush Derangement Syndrome Conspiracy Theory of the Day. This is a cut and paste exercise because I don’t want the links.

The first contestant spins a lengthy story line, pulling in multiple bits of evidence to prove that NATO intelligence, under the direction of the Bush administration, had the Danish Mohammed Cartoons published. The administration’s goal is to manipulate the European public into supporting a war against Iran. The kicker is the bold assertion that the Danish embassies in Syria, Lebanon and Iran were burned by CIA funded mercenaries.
http://www.rense.com/general69/moh.htm: The NATO intelligence provocation appearing in the guise of the scurrilous Mohammed cartoons published by the reactionary newspaper Jyllands Posten of Denmark, and then by a series of other European publications, has already done much to mobilize the armies, bases, and treasuries of Europe in support of the lunatic plan to the Bush-neocon clique for a nuclear sneak attack and punitive expedition against Iran over the coming weeks or months.

The evidence strongly suggests that the cartoon provocation was presented to Atlanticist oligarchs at the meeting of the Bilderberger group held from May 5 to May 8, 2005 at the Dorint Sofitel Seehotel Überfahrt in Rottach-Egern, on the shores of the Tegernsee lake in the south German federal state of Bavaria. … The first publication of the cartoons in Denmark followed in September 2005.

Danish embassies have been burned in Syria, Lebanon, and Iran. There are indications that some of these violent riots were not spontaneous, but were the work of mercenary rent-a-mobs stoked and steered by CIA, MI-6 and Mossad.
The challenger offers up the theory that the Bush Administration is moving to oust Cheney and appoint Condoleeza Rice as Vice President. The reason for this late roster adjustment is to insure the Bush goal of having Hillary Clinton elected president. Apparently the Bush family desires a Clinton in the White House and wants Condoleeza to be nominated because she will lose when Republicans refuse to vote for a black woman.
http://www.total411.info/2006/02/cheney-out-condi-in.html: A White House source has confirmed to this website that office gossip has Cheney possibly being eased out of the Vice-Presidency in the wake of "Cheney-shot-a-guy-in-the-face-and-heart-gate." His replacement? Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice.

It should be noted that "Condi '08" memorabilia has been pushed hard the last two years at the annual CPAC gathering of alleged "conservatives." A Cheney-out-Condi-in rumor was reported last year in WorldNetDaily as emanating from Capitol Hill sources. In light of the recent CBS News report that Cheney is in "meltdown" over Birdshot-gate, it might be time to give the Condi rumor another look.

If Rice was named Vice-President, it is more than possible that Republican primary voters, with their Pavlovian monarchal nominationg tendencies, not to mention fixed electronic voting machines, could very well nominate Rice in '08.

It is also worth pointing out that the onbly way likely Democrat nominee Hillary Clinton could win a Presidential race would be if her opponent were a black woman. The ascension of Rice to the Vice-Presidency would be the perfect way for the Bush Crime Family to set up their longtime cronies, the Clintons, for a return trip to the White House.
The left claims creativity as one of their valued characteristics so I am willing to give credit where credit is due.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Matthew Simmons Concerns

Matthew R. Simmons started an Investment Banking firm in 1974 with a specific focus on the oil service industry. This was the period of time when the first oil shock rippled through the global economy. Simmons & Company International has survived and adapted to the boom of bust cycle of the energy business so when Simmons expresses concerns about the near term ability to produce oil and natural gas, I pay attention. These are the concerns of a businessman and not the fear mongering of power seekers looking for opportunities to advance a social agenda.

I believe I first became aware of Simmons from a C-SPAN program about a year ago. He spoke of reviewing pages of boring and obscure technical literature about the Saudi oil fields, and coming to the conclusion the production processes being utilized were those consistent with flushing residue from increasingly empty chambers. The company website has a similar slide presentation about The Coming Saudi Oil Shock.

Last week Simmons gave a Harvard Energy Lecture addressing the overall energy outlook for the world. The 20th century was a miracle century for human life, but as every good business person understands, past performance does not guarantee future results. A hard truth about oil and gas production is that a steady flow can be maintained by adjustments in pressure, but sooner or later wells run dry. Rational adults deal with the facts of life and plan accordingly. Part of this planning must deal with how to preserve individual liberty when a free populace turns to government for economic protection.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

The Cult of Government Responds

The cult of government just continues to grow, and members apparently develop psychological coping mechanisms that absolutely prevent them from understanding that forced taking is at best a necessary evil. Like all cults, the belief that their work is good gets morphed into absolutes about their work being a superior form of good. Good old UW-Madison officially releases a “study” predicting dire consequences from spending restraint.

Analysis Critical of Proposed Constitutional Revenue Limits: MADISON - Proposed limits on the amount of revenue Wisconsin governments can collect would reduce public services, hamstring the state's future economic growth, and diminish local control, according to an analysis by a University of Wisconsin-Madison economist.

"If the costs of providing public services continue to grow faster than the inflation and population growth rates, the impact of the amendment would be to continuously reduce the level and quality of public services," says Andrew Reschovsky, professor of public affairs and applied economics. ... For a copy of the analysis, visit:


The essence of the professor’s argument seems to be that government services are the most essential contributors to the well being of both society and the economy. There is the subtle arrogance of elitism in thinking that government activity is more important than either private sector activity or the right of individuals to make their own decisions. The condescension shows up in the way household spending is compared to public service expenses.
While this limit may at first glance appear reasonable, it is important to remember that by design the CPI is based on a “market basket” of goods and services purchased by the typical household. Governments however, purchase a very different basket of goods and services. A substantial share of their budgets goes to pay for the services of highly-skilled labor, for example, police officers, teachers, and doctors. A significant portion of the budget of families goes towards the purchase of food, clothing, and various consumer durables.
Left to pursue their own desires, families will spend their money on food, shelter and play things, whereas the government needs to pay for important “skilled” individuals. I fully understand the need for police, but I also understand that the private sector has some good teachers and doctors. I might even go as far as saying that private education and private medicine is generally better than the results achieved by the tax paid providers.

A problem with advocates for the status quo big government system is exactly this belief that services need to be provided by direct employees rather than by contracted private labor. Madison has great water and parks departments, but there is no reason private plumbing firms and private landscaping companies could not bid for the labor now being done by direct employees. These types of reasonable approaches to government reform will never win the approval of those people invested in the existing power and payroll structures.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Federal Land Sale Proposed

Former Madison Mayor and devout Democrat Paul Soglin has his hackles raised over a Bush Administration Plan to sell off some public land.
Public Land Sale Proposed: The Bush administration Friday laid out plans to sell off more than $1 billion in public land during the next decade, including 85,000 acres of National Forest property in California.
Hizzoner reflexively considers any diminishment of government owned land ownership to be an environmental disaster for the country. This type of response is what logically follows from the belief that communal ownership through the government is better for environment, because private ownership is always subject to the temptation of exploiting the resources for profit. I’m convinced that true believer environmentalist Democrats secretly still desire the elimination of private land ownership.

According the DNR nearly 70 percent of the forest land in Wisconsin is privately owned, and outside of Madison I doubt most state residents worry the environment is collapsing. Admittedly most of Wisconsin’s forests were demolished to build Soglin’s lovingly remembered hometown Chicago, but nature is resilient and Wisconsin is again healthy and beautiful.

Equally troubling to the Democrat in him is the idea that Bush may have stumbled upon a way to bring down the national debt without raising taxes. It has always puzzled me why the discussion about federal revenue never seems to consider selling assets. I suppose that road leads to smaller government which politicians of all stripes find abhorrent.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

A New Approach in Antibiotics

A small Colorado Biotech Company named Ceragenix may have a found a novel new method to treat infectious disease, including the possibility of actually killing the HIV virus. The technology is based on building small positively charged molecules on a steroid frame that mimic the interactions of normal endogenous antibacterial peptides.
Cationic Steroids These compounds are aminosteroids that bear a positive charge and are termed "Cationic Steroid Antibiotics" or CSAs. … The compounds are polyfunctional and have activity not just against bacteria, but are also active against certain fungi (Candida), viruses (orthopox family) and many cancers as all these cells share in common the presence of negatively-charged phospholipids on the cell membrane surfaces. The CSAs are electrostatically attracted to these membranes and induce apoptosis by rapid depolarization of the cell membranes. Unlike most antibiotics, which are bacteriastatic, the CSAs are bacteriacidal.
Animals evolved in a world of microbes and over time developed physiological systems to identify and destroy infectious agents. Many small peptides with antibiotic properties have been identified but therapy with small amino acid chains and larger proteins is difficult. All amino acid strings are susceptible to enzyme breakdown in the body. In addition, large scale commercial preparation of pharmaceutically pure proteins is a difficult process. Very early pre-clinical laboratory work, however, shows that chemically constructed cationic steroids can produce the same antibiotic lethality as these natural peptides.

These small electrically charged molecules work by interacting with cell membranes in a way which shuts down their functional integrity resulting in cell death. What may be of tremendous potential is that laboratory work demonstrates that at least of one these designer steroids kills the HIV virus in cell cultures, because HIV is a type of virus dependent upon a surrounding membrane.
Viral Membrane: The membrane is an approximately spherical layer that surrounds the inner core. It is made of the same type of substances (lipids) as cell membranes. The "matrix protein", p17, lines the inner surface of the membrane. On the surface of the membrane are many "spikes" made of envelope protein (env). These spikes are important because they are used to latch on to potential host cells - without them the virus particle would normally just float around and not do very much at all.
This type of laboratory work occurs years in advance of a molecule approved for human use. Still the concept has potential to address one of the fundamental problems with treating infectious disease, which is how to kill infectious organisms while they are dormant and not actively multiplying. It has been HIV’s ability to hide away dormant that forces the infected into continual therapy.

Finally it should be emphasized that the medical triumph over infectious disease is a very recent development and one we should not take for granted, for it may not last long. Nature has far more experience at adapting to change than we can even imagine.
In Praise of Antibiotics: Even in the early part of the twentieth century, therapy for infectious diseases was based essentially on patient isolation and chicken soup. … True antimicrobial therapy became available only in the 1930s with the discovery of the sulfonamides by Gerhardt Domagk. … Surprisingly, no infectious disease has been eliminated by the use of antibiotics, even though vaccines against viruses such as those causing smallpox, polio, and measles have proved very successful. Many of the bacteria that caused human suffering pre-1950 are still making people sick, and we have come to the woeful realization that the use of antibiotics has even contributed to the recent phenomenon of emerging infections.
The fact that all the agents of disease still lurk in the world should keep us humble.

Hat Tip to The World According to Nick

Friday, February 10, 2006

Ethanol Mandate Madness

Our elected State Officials are very close to imposing an Ethanol Mandate on all gasoline sold in Wisconsin. The Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau has links to resources about this issue. There is still some time to consider the wisdom government interference with normal free market activity.
Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation: ETHANOL needs to be a renewable fuel choice in Wisconsin. Assembly Bill B15 and Senate Bill 15 would provide a choice for ethanol fuel in Wisconsin by requiring fuel with 87 octane rating to contain at least 10 percent ethanol. Contact your legislators today and ask them to co-sponsor AB15 and SB15.
If ethanol “needs to be a renewable fuel choice” as the Farm Bureau claims, then I have no problem with allowing consumers a choice. It is Orwellian doublespeak, however, to then say you want to achieve choice “by requiring fuel with 87 octane rating to contain at least 10 percent ethanol”. An ethanol mandate is the exact opposite of consumer choice.

Mandatory means you are not free to behave differently from the government command. Mandatory means actions of the private sector must conform to government plans and control over the economy. Obedience is compulsory and obligatory in order to avoid punishment. Any Republican claiming to believe in individual liberty, economic opportunity and the superior results from regulated free markets, who votes for this mandate is a hypocrite of the first order.

Ethanol production is an established industry and a number of Wisconsin Ethanol Plants are operational. The industry does not require a government guaranteed market. The sales pitch for taking away market freedom and consumer choice is entirely built upon the valid fears of reliable oil supplies and fantasy notions that mineral hydrocarbon energy sources are undesirable relative to organic hydrocarbon energy sources.
Winners and Losers of Ethanol Mandates This study was sponsored by the American Petroleum Institute, although the views expressed herein are strictly those of the authors. In virtually no instance is there evidence that ethanol will improve US energy security, regardless of the theory or challenge being considered. Even the largest ethanol mandate considered here (8 billion gallons by 2012) displaces an insignificant volume of imported crude oil.
Even if every single environmental benefit claimed for ethanol is true, the volume of transportation fuel consumed in American far exceeds even the hypothetical production capacity of the industry. There are persistent disagreements about how much petrochemical material is required to produce a fixed unit of ethanol, but is clear that ethanol from crop production depends on oil based fertilizers, plus gas or diesel powered farm and transport equipment.

A California Assessment done back in 1999 discusses the fact that ethanol can not be transported by pipelines like the current oil and natural gas system. This means industrial ethanol production must be moved by trains, trucks or boats. The additional fuel cost for ethanol transport, plus the increased traffic and road load required to ship ethanol is not discussed much by the mandate proponents, but the industry website confirms the transport facts.
Transportation of Ethanol Most ethanol, about 75%, is transported by rail. Trucks are used to transport small quantities of ethanol shorter distances, and barges ship larger quantities longer distances. Rail is an efficient, reliable way to transport ethanol from the Corn Belt to its markets, often on the East or West Coast. From the time ethanol is produced, it can be at its market within a few days' or a week's time.
I also find it amusing that the environmentalist movement with their irrational hatred of carbon dioxide are granting a pass on these types of mandates.
Badger State Ethanol CO2 Production: Each year, Badger State Ethanol is capable of supplying over 140,000 tons of raw carbon dioxide gas via pipeline to a CO2 processing facility located adjacent to our ethanol plant.
Ethanol will not insure an adequate transportation fuel supply. Ethanol will not replace American foreign oil purchases. Ethanol will not save the planet, even if we assume the planet needs saving. If Senate Bill 15 passes and Governor Doyle signs away consumer choice and ends a competitive free market in Wisconsin, it will simply be big money politics as usual. Perhaps it’s time to buy some ADM.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

What Madison Considers Brave

Peace activists put their lives at risk in Madison. How very brave.
Artist Takes Down Lake Peace Symbol: The peace symbol created out of 53 evergreen trees on Lake Mendota was dismantled last weekend by artist Tom Barry and friends. "We risked life and limbs to take the trees off the lake," Barry said Wednesday.

He said it is important to teach children that peaceful discussion, rather than anger and aggression, should be utilized to solve conflict. "If we teach that to kids, down the road they'll be less susceptible to going to war," he said.
Symbolism and peaceful discussion are important when adults are dealing with children, but “play nice or time out” is not an effective deterrent for ambitious adults seeking power over other people. I am getting really weary of the childish understanding of the world exhibited by the anti-war crowd.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Republican Spending Spree Continues

Before the divide became red and blue there was a lot of talk that there wasn’t a nickel’s worth of difference between the Republicans and Democrats at the Federal Level.
Did Anyone Actually Read Bush's Budget? Education spending is through the roof: Even if Bush does convince Congress to trim back on education spending in 2007, the Department of Education's budget will be 80% bigger than when Bush took office. In the eight years Bill Clinton was in the White House, education spending climbed just 17%.

Bush's 2007 budget is an extremely modest attempt to rein in what has been one of the most prolific spending sprees in modern American history. Under Bush, overall federal spending has climbed 20%. And that's after adjusting for inflation. (By comparison, spending climbed 12.7% in real terms during the Clinton years.)
Kind of makes you wonder if Hillary Clinton will be elected by running as the proven fiscal conservative candidate in 2008.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

European Obsession with Security

The inquisitive mind of Michelle Malkin finds and links to a Theodore Dalrymple essay about The Old World.
Is Old Europe Doomed? The principal motor of Europe’s current decline is, in my view, its obsession with social security, which has created rigid social and economic systems that are extremely resistant to change. And this obsession with social security is in turn connected with a fear of the future: for the future has now brought Europe catastrophe and relative decline for more than a century.

What exactly is it that Europeans fear, given that their decline has been accompanied by an unprecedented increase in absolute material well-being? An open economy holds out more threat to them than promise: they believe that the outside world will bring them not trade and wealth, but unemployment and a loss of comfort. They therefore are inclined to retire into their shell and succumb to protectionist temptation, both internally with regard to the job market, and externally with regard to other nations. And the more those other nations advance relative to themselves, the more necessary does protection seem to them. A vicious circle is thus set up.
I can only imagine how the European wars of the twentieth century affected the minds of the survivors, and how the magnitude of loss and suffering in the population shaped the subsequent culture. It does seem plausible, however, that an excess of trauma could lead to an increased love of safety, and electorates that desire and approve maternalistic governments. The question of the moment is whether these societies of social security are viewed as vulnerable targets by poorer neighbors indoctrinated not to show fear.
Effects of Tawhid on Human Life: This declaration inspires bravery in man. There are two things which make a man cowardly: (i) fear of death and love of safety, and (ii) the idea that there is someone else besides God who can take away life and that man, by adopting certain devices, can ward off death. Belief in La ilaha illallah purges the mind of both these ideas.
The United States may have been fortunate that the immigrant pressure following the Civil War for the most part shared the social values of the country.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Shame and Guilt

Dr. Sanity has an interesting posting about a psychological difference between Western and Islamic Cultures.
Shame and Guilt: guilt is an emotion that rises after a transgression of one's own or cultural values. Guilt is about actions or behavior; while shame is about the self. There is an important psychological difference in saying to someone that their behavior is bad; as contrasted with saying that they are bad. The former leads to guilt; the latter to shame.

Islam has absorbed the dominant features of a "shame culture" from its Arab and tribal roots; while the West has become a "guilt culture". A guilt culture (i.e., the West) is typically and primarily concerned with truth, justice, and the preservation of individual rights. As noted earlier, the emotion of guilt is what keeps a person from behavior that goes against his/her own code of conduct as well as the culture’s.

In contrast, in a typical shame culture (i.e., Arab/Islamic culture) what other people believe has a far more powerful impact on behavior than even what the individual believes. The desire to preserve honor and avoid shame to the exclusion of all else is one of the primary foundations of the culture.
The reasoning concludes that while both shame and guilt affect individual behavior, in Islamic cultures where shame and honor predominate, there is no way Western Culture can avoid a conflict when challenged.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

On Offense and Free Speech

An uncountable number of words are being written about a dozen or so drawings printed in a Danish newspaper several months ago. The images depicting the Prophet Mohammed have been seized by elements in the Islamic world and are being promoted as objects that should offend Muslims.

The concept of Offense has three broad meanings in English. In one sense offense relates to legal statues and in a second to actions taken with competitions of various types. The third sense involves emotions and as such is problematic precisely because feelings are both ephemeral and immeasurable. To be offended is to react with displeasure, anger, resentment or any of the other negative emotions, and because the state of being offended is a response, it may or may not have any rational correlation to the triggering event.
On Giving Offense: The feelings in the offended person are usually those that arise as he or she thinks that they are being regarded with displeasure, disfavour, and/or disgrace; not necessarily in the mind of the offender, indeed, more often, what the offended person thinks may be in the minds of his or her friends and acquaintances.
For all practical purposes, words and pictures perceived to be offensive is determined entirely by the person claiming the offense, and thus the validity of the claim is always dependent upon the integrity of the claimant. Rick Moran writes a thoughtful post concluding, “I reject the notion that there is no responsibility attached to freedom of speech. For the “rational among us, it is simple, common decency to think of how one’s words will impact others before uttering them.” While I understand his call for empathy, I doubt that tempering western actions will have any effect on individuals determined to be offended.
Offensive Illustration: I again note that what we are seeing is a clash of core values not shared between two cultures. Islamic societies are wrapped up in the idea of "blasphemy," a concept that barely exists in the West. Western societies are wrapped in "Free Speech," a concept that barely exists in the Islamic world. One side sees absolute importance in the importance of the individual conscience; the other, in the importance of communal values.

The point remains that in the West, individual values start with Freedom of Speech. If that freedom is abridged, then the entire concept of democracy is endangered. No country will willingly ignore its fundamental values. Equally, religion in the Islamic world is not a separate–or even separable–issue from day-to-day life. It underlies, infuses, and covers all aspects of life. Therefore, anything that attacks an aspect of religion is seen, is felt, as an attack on the entire body politic.
John Burgess who writes the analysis above, goes on to make the case that there is not a monolithic simplicity to entire Muslim population, and like countless examples in America, there will always be a range of hypersensitivity to religious and moral doctrine.
Sticks and Stones: We do not particularly enjoy it when such things are done in rude, crude or socially unacceptible ways, but that's just too bad: hypersensitivity is the problem of the hypersensitive and, as they say in AA, "Feelings aren't facts."
Feelings are not facts and emotions are not hurts comparable to maiming and killing. Muslim writer Ibn Warraq gets it correct by reminding Western Culture of our own intellectual development.
Democracy in a Cartoon: The great British philosopher John Stuart Mill wrote in On Liberty, "Strange it is, that men should admit the validity of the arguments for free discussion, but object to their being 'pushed to an extreme'; not seeing that unless the reasons are good for an extreme case, they are not good for any case."
If freedom of speech is a fundamental and foundational value of our culture, then it must hold true across the entire range of expression. This is not the time to be afraid of words and images. It is the time to be afraid of those who are responding with sticks and stones.

Friday, February 03, 2006

No More Good Money After Bad

So the Republican Party of Wisconsin calls me for money and I tell the solicitor that I am done throwing good money after bad. There is no TABOR, no Concealed Carry, no Liability Caps on unquantifiable emotions, no freedom of School Choice, no assurance of accuracy with Voter ID. There is, however, MANDATORY Sudafed ID and MANDATORY Ethanol in gasoline.

Googling around I find a method for making the spineless appear lifelike.
Marhue, L. 1983. Techniques to restore dried-up invertebrate specimens. In: Proc. of the 1981 Workshop on the Care and Maintenance of Natural History Collections, edited by D.J.Faber, Syllogeus no.44: 175-177.

Gives concentrations and soaking times for two different treatments;- the propylene glycol technique (50% solution for 24 hours, recommends not using ethylene glycol due to toxicity), and trisodium phosphate (0.5% overnight). Both found to be effective, no conclusions drawn as to best method. Also discusses using a few drops of surfactant in water (not tried but also said to be a successful method).
I do not find a way to insert a spine into those politicians that lack one.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Political Control of Continental Resources

Globalization means the entire planet is aspiring to achieve the wealth of the United States, even if they don’t fully accept the role limited government and personal liberty played in achieving our economy. World War 4 Report has a lengthy and detailed review of “the new race for strategic control of the continent's resources” in the Southern Hemisphere: South American Pipeline Wars by Bill Weinberg.
Now a race is on between a series of pipeline projects already being developed under the auspices of multinational corporations and the proposal unveiled at Brasilia: the first predicated on extracting resources from South America with the minimum return to the continent's inhabitants; the other on harnessing those resources to lift the continent's masses out of poverty.

The main pillar of the Chavez plan, in contrast, does not link the Amazon to the sea but crosses the Amazon to link the South American nations to one another. The proposed arteries that would reach the sea envision exports not to the US but to China.
The democratically elected socialist governments on the continent are poised to either re-direct or create from scratch an energy infrastructure they can use to fund their own wishes. With the possible exception of Venezuela, these governments are unlikely to sever existing business relationships with the west, however, there is a clear desire to develop markets with China, India and other growing world economies.

The steps being taken to control and exploit the continents mineral resources are not limited to oil and natural gas. Chavez is actively working to develop Venezuela’s coal fields and of course, mining is the quickest way to destroy support from the environmentalist left.
The proposed new pipeline links between Colombia and Venezuela would have to cross the Sierra de Perija, the mountain range which forms the Colombian border. This strategic Sierra is already slated by the Chavez government for new coal-mining concessions—which has led to the first signs of tension between the populist regime and indigenous peoples and ecologists.

"Coal today currently represents only 0.02 per cent of revenues for the national government," said Lusbi Portillo, a professor at the University of Zulia and head of environmental group Homo et Natura. "Coal is not very significant in terms of economic production. However coal is important to other countries like the US, which consumes more than 900 million tons of coal each year."

Lusbi Portillo argues that Venezuela's environmental movement has been paradoxically weakened under the progressive Chavez government. "It's like ploughing the ocean," says Portillo. "In an oil culture where we were taught that oil, coal and minerals make us rich, where can you go? PDVSA is supposedly ours now, it has been rescued from multinational corporations, this is what people believe, and this makes our work as ecologists even harder."
It is kind of lovely to watch the left struggle between the desire for a sustainable lifestyle, with social justice for the indigenous people, and the desire for the cash flow required for massive government programs to care for the needs of their subjects.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Is Senator Kerry Reading Impaired?

Pointing out that Sen. John Kerry is not the sharpest tool in the box is not difficult since he keeps going on national television to distribute the evidence himself.
Sen. John Kerry claimed this morning on NBC TODAY that 53% of America's children do not graduate from high school -- a claim that raised eyebrows in the NBC control room, sources tell the Drudge Report.
Perhaps, the Senator from Massachusetts misread information provided him about the graduation rate of Democratic voters.
Illiteracy Remains a Problem in the U.S. Date: 12/17/2005 A new federal survey of literacy in the United States should sound a warning, Michele Erickson, executive director of Wisconsin Literacy Inc., said Friday.

Nearly 800,000, 19 percent of Wisconsin residents age 16 or older, are not enrolled in school and do not have a high school diploma, while over 368,000, or 7.3 percent of residents over age 5, speak a language other than English at home. And while Wisconsin has the second highest high school graduation in the country for whites, it has the worst (50th out of 50 states) for African-Americans, the Center on Wisconsin Strategy reports.
To repeat, Wisconsin has the worst high school graduation rate for African-Americans in the entire United States of America. The ability to read and comprehend is crucial if this country does not want a voting public willing to accept absurd mischaracterizations of fact from the 24/7 verbal media.
Wisconsin Literacy Inc.: According to the U.S. Department of Education, the single greatest factor affecting a child's success in school is his or her mother's level of literacy.
Those of us who can read should continue to be appalled by Democratic Unions and Democratic Politicians refusing to open up the education process to those who would benefit most from school choice.
WEAC: To seek to escape public schools, which reflect the conditions of life in a community abandoned by the marketplace, is a natural human response. However, it is a personal and not a community solution. Government, in the interest of the public good, must act in a supportive way rather than abandon the people and the public institutions in our urban communities. The solutions are not to be found in private school choice but in vigorous support for the families and children who struggle daily to realize a measure of the American dream in Wisconsin's urban communities.
Of course the current Democratic Party is nearly exclusively based on the principal of maintaining their existing voting base, whether or not they have meaningful High School Diplomas.