Thursday, May 31, 2007

Subprime Political Proposals

Take a focused look at the functioning of any given part of the economy and the inefficiencies, bungled decision making and questionable ethics will scare any rational individual to doubt. In close up human nature is seldom artistic but in aggregate the dynamics of the market keep things in (sometimes wobbly) balance.

The Subprime Mortgage "Crisis" Will Fix Itself: Hardly a day goes by without someone's proposing how to make the bad situation in subprime mortgage lending even worse. Legislators at all levels of government are contending for ownership of the most destructive idea. Finalists in this legislative race to the bottom include punitively stiff lending standards, foreclosure holidays and taxpayer-financed bailouts. I would like to propose a far simpler, fairer and effective course of action: let free people sort it out for themselves.

A regulatory solution is a one size fits all mentality that consequently stifles the free market's innovation and creativity and in the process restricts competition by raising entry costs. Friedrich Hayek, 1974 Nobel Laureate in Economics, referred to this as the "pretense of knowledge" syndrome infecting central planners. More order and fairness comes out of the spontaneous interaction of thousands of voluntary free market transactions.

Any government actions that “eviscerate contractual agreements” weakens the principled rule of law that is the foundation of the American economy. There are times when the best approach is to let the pain play out so the mistakes are not repeated. The S&P 500 hits an all time high today which I take as evidence the portion of US housing market in trouble is only a limited aspect of the overall domestic economy, and the equity markets truly are reflecting the liquidity of the entire world. If we can keep the politicians from sobering up long enough to legislate counterproductive solutions, then life will continue on a little bit wiser.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Governmentalized Medicine: A History

Where the Welfare State is on the march, the Police State is not far behind”. The quote is attributed to Melchior Palyi (1892-1970), who fled from a position as chief economist at Deutsche Bank in 1933 upon the rise of the Nazi socialists. Eventually settling in the United States he holds positions at many schools including the University of Wisconsin. Hungarian by birth he is in his early 20’s as WWI begins the traumatic transition from old Europe into the modern industrial societies.

As a capitalist banker, he is astutely aware of how money and government interact and becomes a voice of warning against the dangers of the welfare state. As universal healthcare emerges as a top priority in American political debate it is good to remember the idea has deep roots and a long historical record to defend.

Medicine And The Welfare State: The essential idea of the Welfare State is as old as known history. Its concept and mechanism—the systematic dispensing, through political channels and without regard to productivity, of domestic wealth—were at the very core of the Greco-Latin city states, of the medieval city, and of the post-Renaissance absolute monarchy. In the city republics, ancient and medieval, it meant bloody civil wars. Their constantly recurring violent quarrels about constitutional issues disguised bitter class warfare to seize the power that was dispensing all benefits. Most of them went on the rocks of their internal struggles for economic privileges.

Bismarck’s fundamentally significant role in modern history is rarely understood. … What Bismarck did accomplish was to revolutionize the old authoritarian school by giving it a quasi-democratic twist and by basing it on a superbly organized, technically well-trained, and thoroughly disciplined bureaucracy. His police-welfare (or welfare-police) state had firm roots as none had had before. The substance of a military monarchy was wrapped in a parliamentary cloak. Share-the-wealth popularity was to be dispensed legally by an all-powerful and efficient administration. … “To his mind the State, by aiding the workers, should not only fulfill the duty ordered by religion, but it should obtain in particular a claim on their thankfulness, a gratitude that was to be shown by loyalty to the government and by loyal pro-government votes in elections.”

Two basic types of governmentalized medicine resulted. The Prussian bureaucrat created the obligatory health insurance of a comparatively limited scope. What the Russian Bolshevist has bestowed might be described as compulsory health security of an unlimited medical orbit. Perhaps they should be distinguished as governmentalized vs. socialized medicine. In the one, the beneficiaries are “insured”; in the other, they are “registered.”

Palyi witness in the first half of the last century the effectiveness in which the desire for political power achieves control of populations by offering hope for the suffering of disease. Once individuals trade responsibility for the care of their bodies to the government they also subject their bodies to the authority of the state. History repeatedly demonstrates this exchange is fraught with peril for human liberty.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Has Europe Found the Thermostat?

I am not so brash as to declare the Bush Administration brilliant, but at least they are maintaining a modicum of common sense in the face of environmentalist nonsense.

A Tangled Web: Pleased to see that the United States has rejected the European Union's ludicrous pompous all-encompassing target on reduction of carbon emissions. President Bush's environmental adviser James Connaughton, chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, said the United States is not against setting goals but prefers to focus them on specific sectors, such as reducing dependence on gasoline and cleaner coal. "The U.S. has different sets of targets," he said.

Quite right. Naturally, Nancy Pelosi has been doing her best to undermine the position of the Bush administration on this eco-wackery. But here's the thing, when dear Nancy had the chance to vote in FAVOUR of Kyoto, she refused to do so. What has changed? It strikes me that this is really all about the political Left (and that includes Angela Merkel by the way) adopting a de-industrialization combined with increased government control of our lives strategy and then wrapping it in the comfort blanket drivel of "saving the planet."

The source story dutifully explains the environmental “plan” being advocated by adult politicians. It’s all about targets, goals and deadlines.

Yahoo News: Germany, which holds the European Union and G-8 presidencies, is proposing a so-called "two-degree" target, whereby global temperatures would be allowed to increase no more than 2 degrees Celsius — the equivalent of 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit — before being brought back down. Practically, experts have said that means a global reduction in emissions of 50 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.

Some Europeans apparently believe they know how to work the global thermostat. If only the Americans would cooperate, then human control over planetary temperature could proceed. Human control with precision less than 2 degrees Celsius which is greater than I can achieve between rooms of my own home. Until someone shows me they can adjust the total free energy in a closed system using only parts per million of CO2 concentration adjustments, I’m not going to support a return to the impoverished populations of the middle ages. Seriously, turn off the computer and build a clear Plexiglas box, take some pellet gun cartridges and prove something in the real world.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Free Speech in Venezuela

Pieces of paper make worthless shields. We have the worlds best parchment defense in our constitution but our everyday lives have been shaped by individuals willing to take action to insure those words have legitimacy. Happy Memorial Day.

Last evening Hugo Chavez pulls the plug on a television station undeniably controlled by opponents of his regime. There is no surprise since Chavez announced his intention to pull the broadcast license a long time ago. Reports indicate thousands protest the closing of the 53 year old broadcasting operation and that the Venezuelan President has enough troops on the streets to make sure everyone understands his decision is final.

Fait accompli the debate turns to whether the action is that of a dictator suppressing civil freedom of speech or a legal and proper response to sedition. Daniel at Venezuela News and Views translates an editorial from left leaning French daily Le Monde suggesting the European socialists are wary of such flagrant use of power.

Le Monde: None the charges carried by the president against RCTV, in connection with his role in the missed coup of 2002 or the oil strike of 2003, was the subject of a debate in front of a court. The Supreme Court was solicited by RCTV whereas Mr. Chavez had already announced his decision, irrevocable. This political decision reduced pluralism and increases the concentration of audio-visual tools within the hands of the government. Whatever the administrative or legal arguments called upon by the president, it is a hard blow carried against the freedom of expression in Venezuela.

The independence of powers does not exist any more in Venezuela. The opposition fears that, after the media, the president will proceed in a similar way towards the trade unions, the nongovernmental organizations or the political parties. With Mr. Chavez, the Venezuelan democracy is threatened.

Needless to say the true believers in 21st Century Socialism see a liberation for the views of the poor from the monopoly of the wealthy, and victory achieved within the rule of law.

Don't Cry for Venezuela's RCTV: No, May 27 is not a sad day for freedom of expression in Venezuela, so don’t weep for Mr. Granier when RCTV’s license is not renewed. He can still broadcast through cable or satellite and he can still sell his programming to other stations. Instead, rejoice with all the independent producers and thousands of Venezuelan who will have access to the space one wealthy man controlled for years. May 28 will be a day of celebration in Venezuela. It should be a day for celebrating freedom throughout the world.

Is Free Speech Really at Stake? On process, they have a legitimate point. The government seems to have made the decision without any administrative or judicial hearings. Unfortunately, this is what the law, first enacted in 1987, long before Chávez entered the political scene, allows. It charges the executive branch with decisions about license renewal, but does not seem to require any administrative hearing. The law should be changed, but at the current moment when broadcast licenses are up for renewal, it is the prevailing law and thus lays out the framework in which decisions are made.

Of course laws are meaningless if not fused to a system that honors rights for the individual and due process to protect non-governmental parties to a dispute. In this instance no one is even pretending that preventing RCTV from broadcasting is anything but the unchallengeable command of a dominant strong man who doesn’t like being challenged.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Last Night in Vegas

You know the sound: the continual tinka tinka ching blending with babbling chatter. It’s a long walk south through the crowds and construction dust but Lola knows what she wants at the MGM Grand. So sitting at a counter in L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon we finish dinner with a fragrant Armagnac no longer listed on the menu. We have only four bottles left from 1986 says Fred, and you know we have a celebrity present? Yeah Fred, we know Robin Williams has been sitting immediately behind us this last hour. The high roller aspirations are so quintessentially “The Strip”. It's all fake dear but fabulously authentically fake.

Yet yearning for something authentically real we then grab a cab to get away from the all the manipulated and manufactured opulence. The driver is clueless but his dispatcher knows where to find Sand Dollar Blues Lounge. A subdued sign on the side of a two story building is all that marks the doorway. It’s as if the venue proclaims: I ain’t trying to find you if you ain’t trying to find me. Outside people are riding up on bikes and inside Andy Walo is filling an old black walled room with complex and inspired guitars riffs. Years of honing his skills in the Chicago blues bars shows as the band follows his lead through playful, soulful and intense emotions. The dancers and aficionados in the audience rightfully approve. It’s exactly the best place to end up in the darkness of the desert.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

I Concur

Without conveying the provenance, an extraordinary moment happens. After a prolonged conversation with a stranger from Janesville, he suddenly proclaims that the liberals are fascists. The oppressive truth of the socialist agenda is beginning to be understood by some of our independent non-political citizens. What is fair about a government that can tax a person out of their home? Nothing. It’s a good time for a break.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Sierra Club Sues UW Madison

The Sierra Club is suing the UW Madison for their use of a coal fired electric plant. Their claim is that it causes pollution. I drive a two mile perimeter around and through the land centered on the electric plant and see NO environmental damage. I recommend the UW Madison demands a mandatory jury tour of this section of Madison. If there is environmental damage at this spot, then it must not be visible to the naked eye. A cynic might say the Sierra Club is extorting funding from the State of Wisconsin.

Friday, May 18, 2007


Every child knows the image of piles and piles of precious coins. Thousands of gold and silver medallions spilling over the ground in some unseen secret place lost from the memory of any living soul. Instant wealth waiting to be found.

Treasure: The artifacts recovered from the site include over 500,000 silver coins weighing more than 17 tons, hundreds of gold coins, worked gold, and other artifacts. All recovered items have been legally imported into the Unites States and placed in a secure, undisclosed location where they are undergoing conservation and documentation.

It is believed that this recovery constitutes the largest collection of coins ever excavated from a historical shipwreck site. They were recovered in conformity with Salvage Law and the Law of the Sea Convention, beyond the territorial waters or legal jurisdiction of any country.

The "Black Swan" project returns with their loot to the safety of a well guarded port. At this time, there are no verifiable reports as to the location of the individual known as Jack Sparrow.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Prioritizing Problems

Immigration? The politicians will come up with something far from perfect, inefficiently complex and probably counter productive to the goal of security under the rule of law. Hopefully the resilience of our free society will adapt without destroying those freedoms underlying the planetary supremacy of our economy. The pathway leading directly to massive hardship for the entire population will more likely emerge from our ruling class management of energy policy.

The Coming Explosion in Energy Prices: The problem with US energy is self inflicted and political in nature but the blame can be spread to both sides of the aisle. It has been a 30+ year slide into less and less independence from the vagaries of the global oil industry. During this time the only place energy companies have been allowed to explore is next to a dry hole (which conveniently allows environmentalist to claim there is nothing there to drill for, so why allow additional exploration), and the only place they have been allowed to build a refinery is NOWHERE. Very little energy investment or development has been allowed in the United States, whether it is ANWAR (in Alaska), off shore drilling, Nuclear Energy, New Refineries, Clean coal technologies, these things have become verboten.

As Energy development has become captives of the courts, trial lawyers and environmentalists, and politicians once again have betrayed their oath of fiduciary and sound oversight of the US energy policies. Politicians talk about energy independence, but really pay only lip service to the idea of reduced dependence on foreign oil. In fact, their actions say just the opposite, putting the lie to their words. Their talk is all illusion, turn it over in your mind and see through it. Vast US domestic areas of prime oil and natural gas territories remain off limits to environmentally safe energy development. To judge present day oil and natural gas production techniques to those of yesteryears is baloney. When Katrina struck did you hear of huge environmental catastrophes? OIL spills? NO. The only catastrophes were caused by the government’s corps of engineers.

I don’t want energy independence. The whole idea of pursuing a circumscribed bubble sealed off from the rest of the world strikes me as absurd. What I want is a world where commerce is free from extortion, corruption and self serving manipulations by the powerful. An economy where risk and reward allows private individuals to seek answers to problems. This idealism should not be taken as an “ends justify the means” strategic plan, but rather an orientation guiding the direction of the next steps.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Procedural Politics Gamesmanship

Someone needs to break down the differences between Hugo Chavez and Nancy Pelosi for me, because I see only similarities in their desire to disregard or discard any rules standing in their way of implementing their socialist visions.

Republicans Claim Victory in Rules Fight: Republicans claimed victory Wednesday in a flash-pan fight with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) over 185-year-old House rules that allow the minority party to block legislation.

Reports Thursday afternoon suggested that Pelosi would alter the "motion to commit," which allow the minority party to send legislation back to committee before the full House is allowed to vote on it. In a Congress where Pelosi has repeatedly blocked Republican attempts to amend bills headed for floor votes, the "motion to recommit" is often the only opportunity for Republicans to block or change bills.

Reports suggested Pelosi was frustrated with Republican success using the motion to recommit, and wanted to change the rule, established in 1822. But Chief Deputy Republican Whip Eric Cantor of Virginia wrote on his blog Thursday that "House Democrats just blinked" after Republican stalling efforts brought floor progress to a halt.

"House Democrats wanted to change the rules to make it easier to raise taxes," Cantor wrote. "They wanted to change rules on minority floor rights that have been in place since 1822. They failed."

It is so much easier to impose radical change when there are no minority rights. A power grab, ill conceived and poorly timed, manages to be countered by a display of Republican unity on principle – self serving as this one is – amazing. -- H/T The Right Side of Wisconsin

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

A Role Model for New Fairness

Earlier this week a story describes in some detail how House Democrats want to drag the decayed corpse of The Fairness Doctrine from the grave for some ritual voodoo. I expect the chanting of sacred words – equality – social justice – social responsibility – with perhaps some candles, fragrant oils, camera time and flash powder.

The American Spectator: According to two members of the House Democrat Caucus, Reps. Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer have informed them that they will "aggressively pursue" reinstatement of the so-called Fairness Doctrine over the next six months.

QandO Blog: Radical egalitarianism rears it's ugly head at the expense of the right of free speech. The government, via the Democrats, will attempt to regulate political speech in the name of equality.

If Nancy Pelosi is serious about establishing government “oversight” of broadcast content, she may want to design her new creation on a proven working model.

Radio and Television Social Responsibility Law: On December 7, 2004 the National Assembly passed the Radio and Television Social Responsibility Law (or Ley Resorte). The new law increases State control over radio and television programming and includes measures which go against accepted international norms in the field. These include stipulations in Articles 6 and 7, which limit the broadcasting of images and sounds based on concepts that are so ambiguous that stations have no way of knowing at what point they are breaking the law since such stipulations are subject to the arbitrary interpretation of the regulatory agency.

The law establishes within the regulatory agency a Directorate for Social Responsibility, which is composed of eleven people, whose main function is to oversee compliance with the provisions of the law and to impose sanctions on offenders. Sanctions include taking cultural and educational programming off the air, fines, the suspension of business licenses which allow stations to broadcast, and revoking their concessions. In practice, the Directorate is nothing less than a media censoring agency.

Of the Directorate for Social Responsibility's eleven members, seven are designated by the Government in representation of State agencies and none represents the broadcasting industry. This means that radio and television stations have no direct recourse within the Directorate to plead their cases or to appeal sanctions that might be levied upon them. In addition, the Directorate's chairman is the Director General of the regulatory agency, the National Telecommunications Commission (CONATEL), and thus a presidential appointee.

After all, it is our leftists that are always claiming America needs to look beyond our boundaries for precedents in international law. -- H/T Dad29

Monday, May 14, 2007

Windfall Milk Profits

Someone alert Governor Doyle there may be another source windfall profits to be taxed. “Milk prices at U.S. stores averaged $3.32 a gallon in April, up 2.9 percent from a year earlier, USDA data show.” Who knew world demand for milk is growing faster than world demand for oil.

Got Milk? Milk prices worldwide are rising at the fastest rate ever and won't be falling anytime soon because of growing demand in China and Latin America and dwindling government supplies.

This year's rally is different from increases in previous years because government surpluses are no longer available in dairy-producing countries such as the U.S., the largest exporter of milk powder, and the EU, the largest exporter of cheese.

U.S. inventories of butter, cheese and dry milk peaked at more than 2.7 billion pounds in 1983. The government that year spent $2.5 billion on surplus dairy products to support prices and farmer income. Today, the U.S. has no surplus after selling the 27 million pounds it held in 2005, USDA data show.

The 14 percent jump in milk demand during the past seven years outpaced the 13 percent rise in oil use, according to estimates from the International Energy Agency in Paris.

This whole supply and demand thing means dairy prices will probably continue to escalate over the next couple years because you just can’t instantly ramp up production by going to Wal-Mart and buying a dozen more heifers to plug into the pumps. Since feed grain accounts for about half the production cost of milk, dairy farmers have been reluctant to expand herd size as ethanol induced madness continues to drive up the price of corn.

So this summer as milk approaches $4.00 a gallon and those nuevo-rich dairy farmers are putting brand spanking new sets of Goodyears on their Ford F-150’s, expect the Governor to declare his outrage at putting profits over the needs of growing babies and pizza eating college students yearning to save the world. Then announcing a new excise tax to address the crisis.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Seeking Clarity in Dane County

This is a scary thought. A Dane County commission has taxing authority it has never used. Now that the Wisconsin State Journal has put the whiff in the air the minions of Governor Doyle may soon be on the scent. Failing to take full advantage of all approved tax revenue sources must surely be frowned upon by our current administer in chief.

Can Madison clean its lakes? Brett Hulsey, a member of the Dane County Board, praised the work of the Dane County Lakes and Watershed Commission, which he leads. The commission was formed by state statute in 1988 as a county agency charged with coordinating work on the lakes and has an advisory role to the county board and the county executive on lake and water quality issues. The commission has taxing authority but has not used it, according to Hulsey, because it has been successful in using grants and other county money.

One of the goals is to improve the clarity of the lake until people can see their feet while standing in two feet of water. It's a simple, straightforward goal, Lorman said, that everybody can identify with and which progress toward can be easily measured.

It is a good thing the Dane County Lakes and Watershed Commission has been fiscally prudent so far, working through grant funding, ordinance writing and volunteer cleanup projects. I suppose it would be environmental heresy to suggest finding the way to “two feet” of clear water by looking to nature.

Zebra mussels are filter feeders. An adult zebra mussel filters up to a quart of water per day, which multiplied by millions of mussels means that the mussels may be filtering all the water in a lake or stream in a day. … The filter-feeding activity of zebra mussels causes a related and frequently dramatic increase in water clarity in infested lakes and rivers.

Zebra mussels do have a positive impact on some native species. Many native fish, birds, and other animals eat young and adult zebra mussels. Migratory ducks have changed their flight patterns in response to zebra mussel colonies. Lake sturgeon feed heavily on zebra mussels, as do yellow perch, freshwater drum, catfish, and sunfish. The increase in aquatic plants due to increased water clarity provides excellent nursery areas for young fish and other animals, leading to increases in smallmouth bass populations …

The heresy being denial of the tenet that nature has ordained a specific place and range for each living thing. If a species is not listed on some pre-millennial census then it is an illegal alien in Dane County. Flora and fauna immigration law is taken very seriously here. Ironic isn’t it because the zebra mussels only want the work the resident mussels aren’t doing, like clearing excessive algae from the lakes.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Cockburn Turns on Algore

The left is in trouble as their shrill polemics about dangerous man-made global warming are about to blow up in their face. Aided by ignorant and unquestioning journalists in the main steam media, their 24-7 fear mongering has actually worked to focus attention on their claims and the claims simply are not holding up. It turns out the Sun warms the solar system and Mars and Neptune are slightly warming, as is Mother Earth.

Since the advocates of green socialism are heavily invested in their “destroy the oil economy” crusade, they simply can’t just stop and apologize for getting their facts wrong. Admitting their life changing and expensive proposed solutions address non-existent problems would kill all their credibility. The leftists want power for powers sake so they will never take the mea culpa pathway.

Instead, you need to apply the brakes from within the progressive movement and this means appointing an inquisitor with impeccable left wing credentials. It also means finding a scapegoat to bear all the blame thus leaving the movement pure and true. How else do you explain Alexander Cockburn taking on Al Gore in the socialist media?

Who are the Merchants of Fear? As a denizen of Washington since his diaper years Gore has always understood that threat inflation is the surest tool to plump up budgets and rabblerouse the voters. By the mid Nineties he positioned himself at the head of a strategic and tactical alliance formed around "the challenge of climate change", which had now stepped forward to take Communism's place in the threatosphere essential to all political life.

These are multi-billion dollar computer model programming bureaucracies as intent on self-preservation and budgetary enhancement as cognate nuclear bureaucracies at Oakridge and Los Alamos. They are as unlikely to develop models confuting the hypothesis of human-induced global warming as is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to say the weather is possibly getting a little bit warmer but that there's no great cause for alarm and indeed some reason for rejoicing, since this warming (whose natural causes I discussed in that recent column) gives us a longer growing season and increased CO2, a potent plant fertiliser. Welcome global greening.

When measured reality doesn't cooperate with the lurid model predictions, new compensating "factors" are concocted, such as the briefly popular sulfate aerosols of the 1990’s, recruited to cool off the obviously excessive heat predicted by the models. Or the existing, inconvenient data are water-Xboarded into submission as happened with the ice-core samples that fail to confirm the modellers' need for record temperatures today as opposed to half a million years ago. As Richard Kerr, Science magazine's man on global warming remarked, "Climate modelers have been 'cheating' for so long it's become almost respectable."

If you despise Al Gore, read the entire hit piece. No one knows how to push all the right buttons like a member of the family. If you are a proud supporter of progressive government solutions, it is time to remember that science is for the scientists, and turn the focus back to social justice.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Bobolinks and Power Grid Links

Last week while walking in the low density edges of town I see a dark weasel with a small yellow bird in its mouth, bounding across the large rocks lining a gully. Animated with the success of the hunt it races back and disappears down a burrow beneath a bridge. The next day I see a pair of Canadian Geese with their small brood of chicks floating in the retention pond and it dawns upon me the tiny predator is doing its small part in keeping Wisconsin’s expansive flocks in check.

It is dangerous to project human motivations on animal activity but I’m quite sure the weasel was completely devoid of concerns that the rocks, having been placed there by humans somehow made his chosen environment unnatural. I am also confident the last thoughts of the baby bird were not ruminations about how its tragic death was exactly like so many other chicks in the ancestral lines back to the pristine wilderness before Columbus unleashed the Europeans. There are no living creatures with fond memories of the way it used to be back in 1491 A.D.

WKOW runs an update on a small confrontation between environmentalist and development concerns. In the ongoing effort to upgrade our power system, American Transmission Company (ATC) wants to build an improved power line between the Jefferson substation on Highway 89 through Lake Mills to the Stoney Brook substation south of Waterloo. ATC asked to build the line along the existing Highway 89 electric corridor (Map) but the Public Service Commission instead directed them to break new easements through residential back roads.

Power Line Project Turns on Leopold's Legacy: . "It's very clear in my mind, and to the many of the locals here, this (highway 89) is the obvious choice. You put it down an established corridor, not down unestablished township roadways." "I think politics got its ugly hand in this decision," Dandoy told 27 News. "What happened here was Madison happened here."

More accurately, the Madison environmentalist mindset happened here. The Madison Audubon Society is doing a restoration project on lands on one side of Highway 89. Concerned about enlargement of the existing electric lines they astutely lobbied the Public Service Commission to change ATC’s preferred route. Now they are now attempting to keep a challenge to this ruling within the Dane County Courts.

Faville Grove Sanctuary: This restoration of a wet-prairie remnant is part of an extensive ongoing restoration effort of Jefferson County’s Crawfish Prairie conducted by the Madison Audubon Society (MAS). To date, MAS has acquired 265 acres in this project area and has worked to restore the hydrology and plant communities of more than half of those acres.

STTOP: The Madison Audubon Society has filed their own appeal in Dane County. There is very little doubt that this was a strategic move to control the venue, since the first judge to receive a petition in this kind of case gets to decide where the hearing will be. A Dane County Circuit Court Judge will decide whether this case will be moved to Jefferson County or remain in Dane County for all parties filing petitions. We believe that we have a strong argument, for obvious reasons, why the hearing should be held in Jefferson County.

Audubon Society attorney Dave Bender actually gets to the heart of the matter when he tells Channel 27: "Eighty to one hundred foot transmission line towers would have a negative aesthetic impact on the Faville Grove Sanctuary.” Nature does not have a concept of how it should exist and the Bobolinks, Dickcissels, and Eastern Meadowlarks are not concerned about aesthetics. This legal and political skirmish is about privileged residents of Madison wanting to do more than preserve land for the birds. This is about elites wanting to create a work of landscape art called pristine nature.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Thursday Musings

The same day U.S. Stocks Tumble Most in 2 Months on Slowing Economy Concern the western financial press takes notice that Hugo Chávez moves into banking. I’m not positing cause and effect but rather an observation that vermin have been feasting on the foundations of the mansion. I suspect the short term will be just fine, however, as the money players simply can not resist trying to beat the returns on cash.

Bill Roggio continues telling stories of Iraq that run counter to claims that murdering thugs hiding behind the false legitimacy of Islam are poised to conquer all of Babylon.

The Diyala Salvation Front: In early March, Al Sabaah reported the local sheikhs in Diyala were organizing against al-Qaeda and its Islamic State of Iraq, "which [is] spreading corruption in the province districts." Today, the speculation has become a reality, as "Arab tribesmen in Baqubah have said they will form a tribal alliance to cleanse the Diyala province of foreign fighters and those of the al-Qaeda terrorist network in Iraq."

Over 2,000 hardened al Qaeda fighters fled Baghdad and are operating in Diyala. An American intelligence official and a U.S. military officer informs us that al Qaeda is operating along the lines of Hezbollah's military structure in Lebanon. Recent al Qaeda attacks in the region bear this out. Al Qaeda is organized in small military units with infantry, mortars, anti-tank and anti-aircraft teams, as well as suicide and IED cells and the accompanying logistical nodes. Al Qaeda has been conducting a terror campaign to remove tribal leaders and others who oppose them, while waging a campaign of intimidation designed to cower the local population.

And while all American politicians sound devoid of grand visions eloquently articulated, there is a new voice on the larger stage speaking with the moral courage of fresh triumph.

The New France: Nation-states are no longer the sole actors on the international stage. New powers and new themes have emerged. My problem with realpolitik is that it limits diplomatic action in an effort to leave unchanged the reality of the world. "Stability" and status quo are their obsessions. But the pursuit of status quo is not a policy; it is akin to giving up. Stability for stability's sake is not how I conceive the world. The steadfast adherence to stability leads to turning a blind eye to cruelty and injustice. I add that today, all action is done under the informed and vigilant gaze of public opinion, both national and international. We cannot claim ignorance anymore, so we are loosing the possibility of remaining silent in the face of genocide or criminal behavior.

There are times I believe a period of economic hardship, or another close flash of the evil of violence, or disgust finally awaking the population in revolt against the lesser souls who claim to lead us would yield an eventual net positive. Then I think better.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

No Madison Airport

Those of you living outside the People’s Republic of Madison have no idea of the burden Madison residents must endure. Dane County Regional Airport is an economic and environmental burden that is both unfair and unjust to people who purchased homes on the east side. Little did they realize their lives were being condemned to an airport ghetto. It is time for this monstrosity to go.

No Madison Airport: Madison and Dane County are making plans for the future. Plans for making Madison a better place to live. Plans to reduce suburban sprawl. But something is missing. The city's Comprehensive Plan removes thousands of acres in Madison from future residential growth where no one is allowed to live. This area could provide affordable homes to 40,000 more city residents who would inject their vitality into our community.

Why is this area considered uninhabitable? The Dane County Regional Airport. It has created an area unsuitable for people to live. Instead of the benefits of additional city residents, Madison gets an airport ghetto.

Inspired by former UW Madison Professor Joel “Killer” Hirschhorn, a brave band of visionaries intend to end this travesty of land use by moving the airport out of the city limits. These smart growth pioneers are very serious because they are so very smart.

"The concept of carefully examining relocating the Dane County airport to free up considerable land for close-in development that would reduce sprawl around Madison is a fine illustration of "smart growth" thinking. City and county officials should be encouraged by thoughtful citizens and business leaders to pursue analysis of this option."

Let your city and county representatives know its time to start planning a better future for Madison and Dane County. We need a study of the costs and benefits of relocating the county airport out of Madison.

Write County Executive Kathy Falk and let her know the Dane County smart growth plan and her Attain Dane plan forgot to evaluate the impacts of keeping the county airport in Madison. This omission will create, not discourage, more Dane County sprawl.

Write Mayor Dave Cieslewicz and tell him the city Comprehensive Plan is out of balance and needs to more aggressively create housing, especially affordable housing, within Madison. His plan forgot to evaluate the impacts of keeping the county airport in Madison. We need homes, not an airport ghetto. It's time for him to return to his sprawl fighting roots and start looking out for Madison residents.

Yes, tell Mayor Dave and Kathleen Falk it is time to rid Madison of convenient air travel. Our idealistic New Urbanists foresee 40,000 humans crammed into this land and working at the high paying jobs a far away airport will attract. Cost be damned citizens, it is our environmental duty to return America to a land of huddled masses yearning to walk everywhere.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Getting Worse for Iranian Women

It is no secret, to those who actually want to know, that Iran's Waning Human Rights disproportionately effect females. Ignoring oppression doesn’t make it go away.

Shrinking Rights in Iran: According to Human Rights Watch, Iran’s judiciary, which instigated the crackdown, is using national security laws to rein in Iran’s “burgeoning” women’s rights movement.

The problem, of course, is not limited to hemlines or haircuts. Human rights have steadily eroded across the board under the administration of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Disappearances and deaths by stoning are now common, according to the State Department, as are extrajudicial killings, restrictions on civil liberties, and “violence by vigilante groups with ties to the government.”

With talk of more normalized bilateral relations in the air, some reformists democracy activists remain skeptical Tehran would ever want to end its diplomatic isolation. “This would reduce state domination of an economy that is crippled by corruption and negligence, and loosen control of societal and political life by state institutions such as the Revolutionary Guards and their allies,” writes Iranian author Nasrin Alavi.

In this regard it is refreshing to see someone in the West actually articulate the fact that medieval mindsets are not welcome within our borders.

Nicolas Sarkozy: I respect all cultures throughout the world, but so that it is quite clear: if I am elected President of the Republic, I will not accept women being treated as inferior to men. The French Republic holds these values: respect for women, equality between men and women. Nobody has the right to hold a prisoner, even within his own family. I say it clearly, that polygamy is prohibited in the territory of the French Republic. I will fight against female genital mutilation and those who do not wish to understand that the values of the French Republic include freedom for women, the dignity of women, respect for women -- they do not have any reason to be in France. If our laws are not respected and if one does not wish to understand our values, if one does not wish to learn French, then one does not have any reason to be on French territory.

I’m sure Nancy Pelosi said words to this effect to Bashar al-Assad and I’m sure she will go to any mosque in America and affirm the same. Yes, I’m positive Pelosi believes people who don’t share French values should stay out of France.

AEI: Past practice shows that a strategy of speaking softly and waving a big carrot does not work with Iran. Tehran has become conditioned to expect reward for non-compliance. It is time we end that cycle.

Hey – where is Tammy Baldwin on this issue?

Monday, May 07, 2007

Globalwarmists Are Propagandists

H/T to Dad29 for finding a UW Madison Climatologist willing to call shenanigans on the hysteria about dangerous manmade global warming. Dr. Reid Bryson brings impeccable expertise to the subject and when he says: “You can go outside and spit and have the same effect as doubling carbon dioxide” it pretty well sums up the validity of globalwarmist alarmism.

Because the globalwarmists are a political movement, however, the actualities of science will not deter them from their quest to impose their version of green socialism on a gullible public. The latest example of a blatant propaganda move comes from England. On the quiet, schools are supplied with a teaching kit containing a DVD of “An Inconvenient Truth” and other one sided materials specifically aimed at children.

Gore Propaganda in British Schools Faces Legal Challenge: On Wednesday last week, yes the day before the British local elections when nobody was looking, the combined weight of the Education and Environment Ministries started to send out their Secondary Schools Climate Change Pack.

UKIP Peer Lord Pearson asked the government to halt the process, and having had the request rejected suggested that this pack also include the Channel 4 film “The Great Global Warming Swindle”. This suggestion too was rejected, despite the fact that it would have made the government's proposal legal under the 1996 Education Act.

Children continue to be taught the world needs to be saved. This is wrong. There are local environmental problems that need to be addressed but the biosphere is just fine and thriving. It is time rational adults start stating this fact loud and clear.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Sea Change in France

An impressive 85% of eligible French voters show up at the polls to vote for President. Nicolas Sarkozy wins the election and in his acceptance speech declares: “I want to issue an appeal to our American friends, to tell them that they can count on our friendship, which has been forged in the tragedies of history which we have faced together”. An overtly US friendly candidate wins with 53% of the French vote. This is good news.

Yahoo News: Sarkozy will take over from Chirac on May 16, and has promised to act quickly to enact key items of his manifesto. His campaign was based on the theme of "la rupture" -- a clean break from past policies which he blamed for creating France's runaway debt, high unemployment and festering discontent in the high-immigration suburbs. After legislative elections in June -- in which he will seek a clear majority for the UMP and its allies -- he plans a special National Assembly session to set off his reform drive.

These include the abolition of tax on overtime, big cuts in inheritance tax, a law guaranteeing minimum service in transport strikes, and rules to oblige the unemployed to take up offered work. On the social front he has pledged minimum jail terms for serial offenders and tougher rules to make it harder for immigrants to bring extended families to France. His right-wing programme was in sharp contrast to Royal's promise to extend state protection, create 500,000 jobs, and increase the minimum wage.

It is good to remember that a right winger in French politics is analogous to an American centrist Democrat. Still this result shows that much of the public understands that the government guaranteed easy life under socialism is unsustainable. The French do not want to give up the welfare state and will question and resist the restructuring process, but a majority concedes changes are undeniably needed.

Defeated Socialists search for scapegoats: It is the party’s third consecutive presidential defeat. The Socialists now face the question of whether they can ever regain power without ditching their anti-capitalist rhetoric, as the mainstream left has done across almost all of Europe.

Moderates attracted to her early campaign were disappointed by her manifesto, filled with generous spending pledges and little indication of how to fund them. Party disunity exploded into public view when Eric Besson, her economic adviser, quit saying she was “dangerous for France” and joined the Sarkozy campaign.

The left needs to give up their dream of good mother government and convert to the goal of improving the weaknesses within capitalism. Fausta's Blog and Captains Quarters have roundups of the world reaction to this sea change in Europe.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

A New Black Hole Cashbox

Change can occur at any speed. The revolution in Venezuela is transforming that oil rich nation with increasing velocity and there is also evidence this is only one front of a larger coordinated global revolt against the west.

Paradigm shift in Latin America: Though personally I don't believe in reincarnation or metempsychosis, it seems Late Saddam Hussein has started speaking out through the vocal cord of President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela. Years back Saddam did deliver a speech full of gravest admonitions that only the fainthearted Arabs are to bow down before the United States as the only power to decide the fate of the pan-Arab security. Chaves is also intoning the same admonitions to the Latin Americans to stand firm against the United States and its hegemonic instruments like IMF and World Bank.

Western Liberals view the events through their class war world view and see only positive progress as Chavez walks away from western financial institutions and calls for others to follow his path. In their view the actions represent liberation from capitalist "debt slavery".

Counterpunch: Unlike what the Wall Street Journal and rest of the US corporate media report or imply, Chavez and others on the "pragmatic left" aren't aiming to destroy capitalism, just tame it. … Hugo Chavez offers them a new choice having announced in March he intends creating a Bank of the South social democratic alternative to the repressive neoliberal Washington Consensus IMF-World Bank model.

Chavez intends to build a separate financial system which will be completely opaque to the auditors of all the European heritage institutions. A banking system where funds from Wahhabist charities, Iranian banks, Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia (FARC) cocaine cash and Taliban opiate profits can work together for common goals. Douglas Farah details the multiple areas of concern emerging down south.

The Growing Terrorism Challenges From Latin America: All told, Venezuela has spent some $4.3 billion on weapons since 2005, placing it ahead of China ($3.4 billion); Pakistan ($3 billion); and Iran ($1.7 billion). … Lt. Gen. Michael Maples, director of the DIA, said Venezuela’s agenda was to "neutralize U.S influence" in Latin America and predicted the buying spree would continue in 2007.

In Latin America Hezbollah (Shia) and Hamas (Sunni) have developed sophisticated but little studied financial structures, largely through the unregulated exchange houses and free trade zones in specific parts of the region, including Panama’s Colon Free Trade Zone, Isla Margarita in Venezuela, Ciudad del Este in Paraguay, the Aruba Free Trade Zone and others. The overarching structure that enables both groups to work along side each other is the international Muslim Brotherhood, the one pan-Islamist group that has for several decades served as a bridge between the two factions.

Non-state armed groups are able to operate with impunity in much of Latin America because the weak and corrupt central governments have not had an effective enforcement presence in many of these regions for years. … While during the Cold War Latin America and Africa received some considerable attention in the competition between the U.S. and the Soviet bloc, today these powers’ interest in both regions has waned -- often replaced by investment, high-level delegations and even military advisors of the People Republic of China (PRC).

Above all, waging war costs money. Without money there are no soldiers with weapons. There are no improvised explosive devices or car shaped bombs. With plenty of cash the enemies of America can find people willing to fight us indefinitely.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Socialist Desperation in France

There is an old saying that people vote their: (pocketbooks, party, resentments, aspirations, moral convictions, values, identity, or self-interest). Sunday’s vote in France will add another non-definitive data point to the electoral evidence. My choice in this specific vote is fears. People vote their fears.

Europe (finally!) gets the War on Terror: The words "cynical" and "immoral" were used by Sarkozy recently to describe the Boomer Left. Europe's vacation from reality is reaching its natural limits, and public opinion is sobering up fast.

With just hours before the decisive election the socialist candidate is trailing badly in the polls. In what some label desperation the left is waving the bloody shirt to the public. As time winds down Ségolène Royal accuses her opponent of being a threat to democracy and warns of violence if Sarkozy is elected.

Hillblogger 3: There is no doubt in my mind that while Royal's performance has enhanced her stature as a politician, someone to reckon with seriously in the not too distant French legislative elections, her "tantrums" and "woolliness" her debate with Sarkozy turned off many "centrist" voters. Even friends of mine who were hardline Socialists were unanimous - Royal blew it big time when she went on unprecedented name-calling attacks against Sarkozy, i.e., liar, immoral, dangerous, brutal, divisive, etc. Not at all presidential, they say.

American style capitalism is the antithesis of maximum government dependency at the core of socialism. Nicolas Sarkozy is realist enough to understand the cherished French welfare state will not survive assault by an outside world filled with poverty, anger and values intrinsically opposed to western concepts including individual freedom of thought.

EU Referendum: Nicolas Sarkozy who is, let us not forget, the son of a Hungarian refugee from the Soviets, has been talking about events in Chechnya in a way that is not entirely complimentary to Russia, pointing out that a great country ought not to be handling matters that way. On his return from a visit to Washington he said: “When I think that those who disapprove of my visit with Bush are the same ones who would shake hands with Putin, it makes me quietly laugh”.

French extraterritorial voters go to the ballots Saturday then national residents vote Sunday. The direction of Europe will be shifting.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

How to Report on Teachers Unions

A Teachers College produces a nice big Adobe file about how journalists should cover teachers unions. I suppose that makes as much sense as a Journalism School defining a curriculum to be taught. A wee bit o’ background courtesy of The Hechinger Institute.

From Contracts to Classrooms: Covering Teachers Unions: The notion that teachers should engage in collective bargaining – much less go on strike to get districts to meet their demands – was controversial. Resistance even came from the ranks of traditional organized labor. Champions of labor such as President Franklin D. Roosevelt argued that strikes by public workers were immoral. AFL-CIO President George Meany in 1959 even declared: “It is impossible to bargain collectively with government.”

The tension between the NEA’s “professionalism” and AFT’s “unionism” came to a head in 1961, when New York City teachers held a collective bargaining election. Essentially they were asked to choose whether to engage in collective bargaining. The vote, which came on the heels of a one-day strike by the 5,000-member United Federation of Teachers, came down decidedly in favor of bargaining a contract. Teachers in the city then overwhelmingly selected the UFT to be the official bargaining agent for all of the city’s teachers.

A year later, after the UFT struck over such bread and butter union issues as higher pay and free lunch periods for teachers, the union won the nation’s first major collective bargaining contract, including a $995 per year raise and a duty-free lunch period. In a profession undermined at the time by low pay and heavy-handed management, collective bargaining and teacher unionism took off like a rocket nationwide. By the end of the decade, even the NEA was forced to drop its longstanding resistance to collective bargaining and teacher strikes because the idea was so popular with teachers.

The rest, as they say, is history. “Critics charged that the teachers unions had used their clout to turn schools into job protection zones, rather than child education zones.” Yep, job protection is pretty much the key difference between professional associations and contract labor. H/T Labor Pains

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

A War of Ideas is a Political Process

Bruce McQuain of The Q and O Blog analyses a Jonathan Chait analysis of the impact the Netroots are having on the Democratic Party. One telling observation is that hyper-motivated moonbat activists are entirely focused on results. This mentality is so dominant that academic liberals who spend their time analyzing other analysts are held in contempt, if their efforts are not productive for the cause.

How successful have the Netroots been in driving the political debate? The prevailing sentiment here, however, is not a distrust of pointy heads. Rather, it's a belief that political discourse ought to be judged solely by its real-world effects. The Netroots consider the notion of pursuing truth for its own sake nonsensical. Their interest in ideas, and facts, is purely instrumental.

To Walsh and other journalists, the relevant metric is true versus untrue. To an activist, the relevant metric is politically helpful versus politically unhelpful. There is a term for this sort of political discourse: propaganda. The word has a bad odor, but it is not necessarily a bad thing. Propaganda is often true, and it can be deployed on behalf of a worthy cause (say, the fight against Nazism in World War II). Still, propaganda should not be confused with intellectual inquiry. Propagandists do not follow their logic wherever it may lead them; they are not interested in originality. Propaganda is an attempt to marshal arguments in order to create a specific real-world result—to win a political war.

A war of ideas, though, is not an intellectual process; it is a political process. As my colleague Leon Wieseltier has written, "[I]f you are chiefly interested in the consequences, then you are not chiefly interested in the ideas." The Netroots, like most of the conservative movement, is interested in the consequences, not the ideas. The battle is being joined at last.

In other words, seeking power is absolutely not the same task as seeking truth. There is nothing inherently wrong in seeking power, however, power can be achieved by either coercion or conversion. The activist left have no qualms about using their fully operational propaganda machine. If the right does not sufficiently counter punch then they will continue to lose more public support than necessary.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

The Basic Facts are Pretty Simple

There are grown adults with positions of responsibility saying there is no war on terror. I suppose it is all how you play games with the meanings of words. What I don’t hear is anyone denying there are responsible adults killing defenseless people.

Briefing: The number of incidents increased overall, largely due to terrorist attacks in Iraq and Afghanistan. The perpetrators of these terrorist acts do not represent nation-states and they have no authority, neither do they have any desire, to sign any sort of peace accord with us. As we've said before, this is not the kind of war where you can measure success with conventional numbers. We cannot aspire to a single decisive battle that will break the enemy's back -- nor can we hope for a signed peace accord to mark victory.

The Report also underscores the barbaric nature that the extremists we are fighting pose for us. The vast majority of the victims were innocent civilians and a majority of them were Muslims. Attacks on children were up more than 80 percent, if you can imagine, with more than 1,800 children killed or injured in terrorist attacks -- in 2006. The terrorists also targeted workers essential to civilized society. They targeted police. They targeted government leaders. They targeted teachers. They targeted journalists.

The 2006 Country Reports on Terrorism comes down to two simple statements. “Al-Qaida openly describes itself as a transnational guerilla movement” and “certain states continue to sponsor terrorism and Iran remains at the head of that list.” How to deal with this reality is apparently a matter of widely varied opinions beginning with ignoring it.