Archive for March, 2007

Why I don’t have a tattoo

March 30, 2007

I’m not sure, but this may be un-American:

Five tattooed skulls stretch from Marine Cpl. Jeremy Slaton’s right elbow to his wrist, spelling out the word "Death." He planned to add a tattoo spelling "Life" on his left arm, but that’s on hold because of a Marine policy taking effect Sunday.

The Marines are banning any new, extra-large tattoos below the elbow or the knee, saying such body art is harmful to the Corps’ spit-and-polish image.

Slaton and other grunts are not pleased.

"I guess I’ll get the other half later," grumbled the 24-year-old leatherneck from Eden Prairie, Minn. "It’s kind of messed up."

When I was in the Army, I was occasionally drunk. I was occasionally near a tattoo parlor. I was never simultaneously drunk and near a tattoo parlor, one of the happy accidents of my life.

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Signs of the times

March 30, 2007

Asign A friend took this photo and e-mailed it to me because she was struck by the similarity of the Peters and Kelty campaign signs. But what I noticed most was how they are different. Possibly the similarity and the difference both say something about the men and their campaigns. What do you think?

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Gravely deplorable

March 30, 2007

The surrender strategy solidifies:

A defiant, Democratic-controlled Senate approved legislation Thursday calling for the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Iraq within a year, propelling Congress closer to an epic, wartime veto confrontation with President Bush.

Meanwhile, back in Persia, "deplorable" has been downgraded to "grave concern":

The UN Security Council has agreed a statement voicing "grave concern" at Iran’s capture of 15 British sailors.

It also calls on Tehran to allow the UK consular access to the personnel.

The statement is a watered-down version as the UK wanted it to "deplore" Iran’s detention of the Britons and call for their immediate release.

Just sayin’.

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Preparing the target

March 30, 2007

Getting ready for the next Katrina:

NEW ORLEANS (AP) – The leader of the city’s effort to recover from Hurricane Katrina unveiled a $1.1 billion plan Thursday aimed at jump-starting the sluggish revitalization work.

The plan focuses on 17 zones throughout the city, from busy Canal Street to the hard-hit Lower 9th Ward, city recovery director Ed Blakely said.

Rebuilding a major city below sea level that was devastated because it was below sea level. What a country.

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Free for all

March 29, 2007

I miss William F. Buckley’s syndicated columns. He still writes occasionally for the National Review, at least. Here, he neatly explains John Edwards’ plans to give us all "free" health:

Mr. Edwards speaks grandly about health coverage for 47 million people who do not now have it. But unless there is a diminution in the cost of health services, they will be paid for by somebody. If it is so that the 47 million without insurance are the identical 47 million who are the nation’s poorest, then it might be said that all we are really engaging in is more redistribution. There is a case to be made for this, and indeed, redistribution has been accepted for years. The wealthiest 5 percent of Americans pay 54 percent of all taxes, which means they are paying taxes that would otherwise be paid by the 95 percent of Americans whose tax rates are lower.

Therefore, Mr. Edwards is doing nothing more than to call for increased taxes on the wealthy. They used to call that socialized medicine, when it was instituted by Great Britain after the war. It crossed the Atlantic into Canada, which is a tidy country in which to get sick, provided you can afford to travel across the border to an American doctor.

I think we might have reached a critcal mass on universal health care. Too many people say they want it, too many politicians are promising it. Let’s see if Republican presidential candidates talk against the idea or offer a "light" version (which would soon become the heavy-duty kind, once implemented).

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Saying goodbye

March 29, 2007

An unusual funeral in Fort Wayne:

Misty would have been 10 years old. The chow mix died last week of renal failure, leaving Rosa Davis of Fort Wayne without her beloved companion. Her veterinarian, Dr. William C. Kerley of Anthony Animal Clinic, suspects that tainted dog food, one of 95 brands included in a nationwide recall March 16, contributed to her death.

On Tuesday night, friends and family of Davis gathered to remember the pet that meant so much to her.

Misty “was my first and only child,” Davis said.

Two men carried the body of the dog, wrapped in a black plastic bag, to the box, covering her with a pink-and-white blanket.

The crowd sang “Amazing Grace,” blending their voices in harmony. Some of the women rocked children. One young woman held a dog.

Pastor Warren Staton Jr. of Victory Fellowship Church of God, 3601 Warsaw St., walked to the front of the half-circle, holding a worn red Bible.

The whole story is a good read, low-key but with an accumulation of observational details that help us experience the funeral. As for the event itself, you will either be touched or find it an example of today’s wretched excess. I confess to being in the former category. When my cat Pierre died a few years ago, I had him cremated, intending to scatter his ashes in the back yard he loved so much. But they’re still in their little tin on a kitchen shelf. I don’t know why, but it makes me feel good knowing they’re there.

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Flat in Brown County

March 29, 2007

Perhaps we need to be careful not to expect tourism to boost our economy too much in the coming years. One of the state’s top destinations is having troubles:

The town of Nashville provides a window to craftsmen and culture, but as Brown County celebrates its centennial as the arts colony of the Midwest and celebrates its founders, tourism has taken a downturn. The number of visitors has gone flat.

"We have figures showing a decline at Brown County State Park. We have food and beverage figures indicating the past two years have been in decline," said Warren Cole, Convention & Visitors Bureau Chairman

[. . .]

"I don’t know if I have a specific thing to attribute it to. The competition for any tourist destination in the state of Indiana is much greater than it used to be," said Cole.

To better track tourism in Brown County, they plan to start a research study, something they haven’t done here in about five years.

If a place like Brown County has to resort to the bureaucrats’ favorite too — a research study — things must be grim. I might know part of the problem. I used to go there a lot but gradually cut back on my trips over the years. The place is still gorgeous, but many of the arts and crafts have been pushed out by shops all selling the same kind of cheap junk from Taiwan.

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Cleaning up for company

March 29, 2007

We don’t mind a little scalping in Indiana; it’s good, healthy capitalism, if a little blue-collar. But we gave it up for the Final Four, and now we might have to put it on hold for one more event:

The City-County Council has voted to make it illegal to scalp tickets to the Super Bowl, part of an effort by the city to bring the game to the city in 2011.

I guess this is like smoking on the porch when the nieces and nephews visit or eating at the table when the inlaws stop by. Ya’ll come and stay awhile, and we’ll even clean up for you, but the minute you leave, the dogs come back out of the basement, and that tacky lamp you gave us goes right back in.

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Drunk and stupid

March 28, 2007

Enough intentional contrariness for one day; let’s try something less controversial. Granted that it’s reprehesible to get somebody drunk for the purpose of taking advantage of the loss of rational judgment, shouldn’t our standards be different if both parties are drunk and stupid?

A drunken woman can still consent to sex, the Court of Appeal ruled yesterday.

Three senior judges were giving reasons for clearing a 25-year-old man of raping a student, aged 19, after both had been drinking heavily.

Sir Igor Judge, sitting with Lady Justice Hallett and Mrs Justice Gloster, said sex would amount to rape if the complainant had lost her capacity to choose as a result of drink.

"However, where the complainant has voluntarily consumed even substantial quantities of alcohol, but nevertheless remains capable of choosing whether or not to have intercourse, and in drink agrees to do so, this would not be rape," he said.

The judges could not set a level of alcohol consumption that would negate consent, they explained.

If both are drunk and we call their sex rape, aren’t we saying that we should hold men but not women accountable for losing judgment under the influence of alcohol?

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March 28, 2007

Wonder if any of these will show up in Fort Wayne:

Despite the smoking ban – because of it, actually – Philadelphia now has "smoke-easies," a play on "speakeasies" that came to us with the Prohibition of alcohol. Prohibition was enacted in 1920, repealed in 1933 and largely ignored in between. I’m surprised at how many Americans meekly obey smoking bans.

This is about Philadelphians who don’t.

For reasons even the dimmest Nicotine Nazi would understand, I’m not naming names or giving locations of the "smoke-easies" I found.

Why do the owners risk fines?

I’ll call the proprietor Joe Friday, to honor his former trade. His smoke-easy is within walking distance of one of Philadelphia’s universities.

"It’s my bar, it’s my four walls, cigarettes are legal," he says. "Why can’t I allow my customers to smoke?"

I have an idea or two of where one might show up, but I’ll keep that to myself, for reasons even the dimmest etc. etc.

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March 31, 2008

March 28, 2007

1. Don’t go to war unless you have considered all other options, and there is no choice left.

2. If war is chosen, fight to win it as quickly as possible.

That seems the most moral course to me. But we keep getting it backward, getting into wars we have not thought through sufficiently, then fooling around with it until people turn against it, and we just call it quits. That wastes lives and gives us the reputation of not finishing what we start. If we think American values are important to advance in today’s dangerous world, this is not a good way to be taken seriously as a nation.

March 31, 2008 — mark that down as the date when the United States volunteers to lose another war:

The Senate defeated an attempt to erase an American troop withdrawal date from an Iraq spending bill this afternoon after an emotional debate about the powers of the presidency and Congress and the well-being of front-line soldiers.

By a vote of 50 to 48, the Senate allowed a withdrawal date of March 31, 2008, to remain in the $122 billion bill, which has yet to be acted upon. The majority defeated an amendment offered by Senator Thad Cochran of Mississippi, the ranking Republican on the Appropriations Committee, that would have removed the date.

The March 31, 2008, date is nonbinding, so the spending bill emerging from the Senate differs markedly from the version narrowly passed by the House last week that demanded a withdrawal by Sept. 1, 2008. Moreover, the margins in both chambers were far too narrow to override a veto promised by President Bush.

But this afternoon’s vote, like the one last week in the House, reflect the power of the new Democratic majority in Congress, and the Democrats’ determination to press their case against Mr. Bush’s conduct of the Iraq war.

The details of D-Day, including the date, were a fierecely guard secret. Of course, we were trying to win that war. If you’re trying to lose, there’s no real point to secrecy. And if we’re going to lose, we might as well lose now, before any more soldiers are thrown away. Let the dishonor begin.

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A mission from God

March 28, 2007

Our favorite band of merry religious warriors is on the march again, this time planning to picket a military funeral in neighboring Ohio:

COLUMBUS – Members of a Kansas church that pickets the funerals of dead soldiers say they would continue with plans for a protest yesterday in northeast Ohio despite a decision by a federal court upholding the state’s law limiting where they may stand.

The mother of the targeted soldier, Army Sgt. Robert Carr, was unfazed.

"He’s getting his hero’s welcome home. We’re going to bury him in a hero’s way," Christine Wortman of Warren told The Associated Press on Saturday. "It’s Robbie’s day, not theirs."

At least church members don’t say they they support the troops, just not their mission, since their mission is apparently to be mowed down in sufficient numbers for us to finally get the point that God is mad about the country’s submission to deviance. What’s he mad at Iraqis for, I wonder?

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It’s not the First

March 28, 2007

The Woodlan student-journalism imbroglio continues to get a lot of attention. Most of those weighing in make liberal use of the "C" word, including the two Franklin College profs featured on our editorial page yesterday. First there is John Krull, who is also the president of the state chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists:

Censorship is the lazy person’s response to dealing with thorny issues. Like most lazy responses to challenges, it doesn’t work. The school system’s leaders have not suppressed the message; they simply have divided their school system and wasted precious time and resources.

If the leaders of East Allen County Schools ever want to integrate lessons into their schools about the ways journalists balance rights and responsibilities, the Indiana Professional Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists would love to help.

Then there is Ray Begovich, who appears to express some sympathy for principals, but then comes down on them just as heavily:

Far too often, principals think the school newspaper is a public-relations tool for them rather than a learning tool for students. What happens when bad news or sensitive issues get reported in the student newspaper? Boom! The censorship sledgehammer comes slamming down.

And when that hammer hits, it pulverizes two ideals expressed in the Bill of Rights: freedom of speech and freedom of the press.

I hate to sound like a broken record, but a student newspaper is a school enterprise, which means the school bears the ultimate responsibility for what’s in it. If something libelous is printed, it will be the school that is sued. If something in bad taste is printed, it will be administrators who are taken to task. The principal, who reports to the school board, which is responsible to the public, is the logical choice to be the publisher. Everybody keeps saying these students should be given the same rights as journalists out here in the real world. Out here, we all report to a publisher, whose word is law. If we don’t like that, we can start our own newspaper. That’s also an option, thanks to evolving technology, today’s students have a much better chance of taking than their parents’ generation did. Don’t like the way the paper is run? Start an online one or a blog, and run it from home.

Do those who accuse the principal of censorship think someone else — the journalism adviser, perhaps — should have the ultimate authority? That would solve nothing — it would still be a sign that Adults Are In Charge, proof that "censorship" is still being practiced. The only alternative left is to give the students complete control, with no adult having the final say over what is printed. If the bogus First Amendment arguments weren’t being thrown around, that would be seen as the insanity it is. Just put the students in charge of their own education, and send the teachers home.

Also without the First Amendment red herring, this would be just another personnel issue. Perhaps we want to argue that the principal wasn’t being a very good leader. He didn’t exercise enough oversight, letting the journalism adviser alert him to something controversial. Then, when he felt that trust had been misplaced, he overreacted by deciding to be picky about everything in the paper. But we can fault the teacher, too, for not realizing that telling people their religious beliefs were misinformed, as a way of urging tolerance for gays, might be a tad controversial, and for keeping the pot boiling after she was reprimanded. There should be no mystery why she was suspended — it’s called insubordination.

But that’s all based on speculation about the facts we have available, and there are probably ones we don’t know. In any case, it has nothing to do with student rights or the First Amendment.   

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Self-esteem watch

March 27, 2007

An innovative way to get those pesky test scores up:

State lawmakers appear on the verge of dumping the math and science sections of the 10th-grade Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL), and replacing them with a very different kind of test.

The idea is to do something about the fact that so few students pass the math and science sections. But the proposed remedy is generating a lot of concern because it could mean big changes in what students are expected to learn, and how they’re tested.

"We need to make sure that the cure is not worse than the ailment," said Marc Frazer, vice president of the Washington Roundtable, a nonprofit group of business executives.

Let’s just dump all the tests since they threaten the kids’ self-esteem anyway. That will guarantee that no child will be left behind. Leave ’em all there.

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But don’t call him a Commie

March 27, 2007

Boy, didn’t see this one coming, huh?

CARACAS, Venezuela – President Hugo Chavez said Sunday that his administration plans to create "collective property" as part of sweeping reforms toward socialism, and that officials would move to seize control of large ranches and redistribute lands deemed "idle."

The Venezuelan leader, speaking on his television and radio program "Hello President," said the government was "advancing quickly" with a concept of "social, or collective, property" to be included in forthcoming constitutional reforms.

"Collective property" — what an interesting concept. Let’s follow this one closely.

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Not dyeing to be president

March 27, 2007

In case you were trying to decide on Mitt Romney, this might help:

Don’t expect Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney to endorse hair dye products anytime soon.

The former governor of Massachusetts laid to rest Friday rumors that he dyes his hair black. His sleek dark coif, with just a hint of gray on his sideburns, is completely natural, he told reporters following a fundraiser in Milwaukee.

“I don’t dye it. I don’t color it and you can take a real close camera shot and see there’s a lot of gray mixed in with all that black,” said a laughing Romney.

He might either be a conservative who once pretended to be liberal or a liberal who is trying to seem conservative, but, by God, he has honest hair.

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Be still, my Earth

March 27, 2007

A Georgia legislator has discovered that evolution is another conspiracy we can blame on the Jews:

"Indisputable evidence – long hidden but now available to everyone – demonstrates conclusively that so-called ‘secular evolution science’ is the Big Bang, 15-billion-year, alternate ‘creation scenario’ of the Pharisee Religion," the memo said. "This scenario is derived concept-for-concept from Rabbinic writings in the mystic ‘holy book’ Kabbala dating back at least two millennia."

The legislator’s letter (he says it’s not really from him, but a political ally says he authorized its writing) refers us to the Web site of something called the Fair Education Foundation, where we learn that the Earth is fixed in space, which means it obviously can’t rotate around the sun. The sun, in fact, rotates around us. Oh, and the Earth is NOT billions of years old, but you probably already knew that.

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God’s helpers

March 27, 2007

Dispatches From The Culture Wars has an interesting discussion on whether Indiana’s In God We Trust license plates could be considered a violation of the establishment clause. Probably not, suggests one observer, saying it is "analogous to the same motto on the currency, which the courts have ruled is not a violation of the establishment clause." On the other hand, other specialty plates cost motorists extra, while the religious one costs only  what standard plates would cost. Therefore:

By treating this message plate with an explicit religious endorsement differently than other plates, the message is that the state prefers that message over all the other optional messages available. One could even argue that the message is being subsidized, indirectly, by being free as opposed to other optional messages available.

A friend’s father went to get new plates and was just given the In God We Trust plates without being asked if that’s what he wanted. If a lot of this has been going on, that could be one reason the plates have become so popular, and the state might have a little trouble if this ever goes to court.

UPDATE: In the comments, Kevin Knuth points out that there has been discussion on an Indianapolis blog about the BMV handing out In God We Trust plates without being asked. Here is the link.

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Pizza Hunt

March 26, 2007

Cool idea from Ohio:

CINCINNATI – Customers at some suburban pizza parlors are getting something extra with their pepperoni and mushrooms — wanted posters for parents accused of failing to pay child support.

The idea came to Cynthia Brown, executive director of the Butler County Child Enforcement Agency, while she was ordering pizza.

"It suddenly dawned on me that most people running from the law don’t eat out, they order pizza," said Brown, whose county is north of Cincinnati.

But they shouldn’t forget the taverns, pawn shops and payday loans places.

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Ten to one

March 26, 2007

The Chicago Tribune, reversing its long-held opinion, has come out against the death penalty:

We have learned much, particularly with advances in DNA technology, about the criminal justice system’s capacity to make terrible mistakes. These revelations–many stemming from investigations by this newspaper–shake the foundation of support for capital punishment.

Who gets a sentence of life and who gets death is often a matter of random luck, of politics, of geography, even a matter of racism. Mistakes can occur at every level of the process.

[. . .]

The system is arbitrary, and the system just plain gets it wrong. In the three decades since the death penalty was reinstated in the U.S., more than 120 people have been released from Death Row after evidence was presented that undermined the case against them. In that time Illinois has executed 12 people–and freed 18 from Death Row.

[. . .]

The evidence of mistakes, the evidence of arbitrary decisions, the sobering knowledge that government can’t provide certainty that the innocent will not be put to death–all that prompts this call for an end to capital punishment. It is time to stop killing in the people’s name.

The Tribune has identified the best reason to question the death penalty — it’s an awesome power to give the government, and mistakes the government makes in whom it executes can’t be undone. But the very reason it cites in changing its mind — new and better evidentiary techniques — is the same reason mistakes are less likely to be made.

Though we will never get to zero mistakes, we will get closer and closer. How close is close enough? William Blackstone said it is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer. In substituting life without parole for the death penalty, those 10 would not escape — they would just suffer less — and the innocent would still be around if their innocence is discovered. Pretty strong argument.

(Via The Indiana Law Blog)

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The great smoke-out

March 26, 2007

Kevin Leininger points out a definitions problem with the city’s new anti-smoking ordinance:

Romantic candlelight dinners could be a thing of the past. Wood-burning or gas fireplaces, too, along with any kind of food cooked over charcoal or an open flame.

City Council may not have intended to outlaw cherries jubilee and smoked ribs, but they have. That would be my argument, at least, if I was earning $200 an hour to challenge government’s latest effort to protect us from ourselves.

Where the law is concerned, definitions are key – which is why most legal documents contain a slew of them. The city’s ordinance is no different, defining smoking as “inhaling, exhaling, burning or carrying any lighted cigar, cigarette, weed, plant …”

So far, so good.

But then it adds, “… or other combustible substance in any manner or in any form.”

Supporters of the ordinance acknowledge the problem but say it won’t really be a problem. Nodody will really enforce it that broadly, says Don Schmidt. If it becomes troublesome, says John Crawford, then the language can always be changed. That seems a little cavalier, since they’ve got until June to fix the thing. Maybe they add a grandfather clause to take care of the restaurants that spent thousands of dollars to comply with the current version of the ordinance. But they’ve been a little cavalier about that, too.

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Sexy beast

March 23, 2007

You probably already knew this, but editorial page editors are a sexy and exciting lot:

The Los Angeles Times is supposed to report entertainment news. Now it’s making the news with its own Hollywood scandal. A lot of eyebrows were raised recently when powerful entertainment mogul Brian Grazer was tapped as the first of what would be quarterly "guest editors" of the Sunday LA Times‘ classy Current opinion section. Well, woo-hoo. It turns out there was a romantic relationship between Andrés Martinez, the paper’s editorial pages editorr who assigned the gig to Grazer, and Kelly Mullens, an exec for the Hollywood PR firm 42West which just happens to represent Grazer’s production company Imagine Entertainment. I’m told that publisher David Hiller knew all about it and still didn’t pull the plug — even though the girlfriend’s PR boss Allan Mayer was the person who flacked Grazer to Martinez in the first place. Now Hiller has killed this Sunday’s Current that was put together by the producer rather than run a mortifying editor’s note.

"Romantic relationship." Love that term.

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One at a time

March 23, 2007

Boy, didn’t see this one coming:

U.S. sales of music compact discs plummeted 20 percent in the first three months of the year as downloading of songs continued to knock the underpinnings from record studio revenues.

Eighty-nine million CDs were sold from the start of the year through March 18 as compared with 112 million CDs sold during the same period in 2006, according to figures released Wednesday by industry tracker Nielsen SoundScan.

Purchases of digitized albums online failed to make up the difference — instead they dropped from 119 million during that time period in 2006 to 99 million during the first three months of this year, SoundScan reported.

Meanwhile, sales of individual songs in digital format on the Internet rose from 242 million tracks during those months last year to 288 million this year, according to SoundScan.

One song at a time, the ones you want and only those, instead of one or two you like with nine or 10 you don’t. Not a big mystery.

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Our migration problem

March 23, 2007

I wasn’t going to post on this, but it was being batted about on Pat White’s show yesterday, so I thought I ought to comment. A letter to the editor takes me to task on illegal immigration (or, as the president has taken to calling it, "migration"):

Leo Morris’ editorial briefs March 12 were so typical of our new rhetoric. He wrote, "They are right to be worried," regarding a raid on a company in Mishawaka for hiring "illegal immigrants" last week. Morris concludes his brief with "We will continue to keep saying what we always have : What part of ‘illegal’ are people failing to comprehend?"

My question is, do you really want all the "illegal" immigrants to leave Fort Wayne?

[. . .]

Fort Wayne would shut down in a day if we lost our "illegal" workers. They are an absolutely vital part of our economy, but we can keep them at slave rates (with the ever-present threat of deportation) by keeping the precious word "illegal" and having these bogus raids. The fact is, it is not that we don’t want them here; it’s that we don’t want them here legally.

Yes, a large part of the business community wants to keep illegals here and keep them illegal; it tends to hold costs down. That’s one of the factors driving the insane open-border movement. Another is the policy of granting citizen status to the children of illegals born here.

Fort Wayne would shut down? I doubt it. Labor would rush in to fill available jobs, but the costs of some goods and services would go up. We would also end the two-tiered system of employment that exploits people. Seems like a fair trade-off to me.

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March 23, 2007

They’re going to plan us to death, aren’t they?

Fort Wayne residents need to keep their driving expenses in check and local government should think about mass public transportation when considering development.

This according to Scott Bernstein, president of the Center for Neighborhood Technology in Chicago and a consultant who Thursday presented ideas on how to integrate practices in transportation, energy efficiency and broadband technology.

“Too much money is intercepted before home ownership,” Bernstein said.

He said housing cost is low in Fort Wayne, but too much driving and transportation costs decreases possibilities for home ownership. Bernstein outlined success in cities such as Portland, Org., Grand Rapids, Mich., and Austin, Texas, that are using “transit-oriented development” with a focus on light rail or street car transportation to spur economic growth.

I don’t know if he mentioned "urban sprawl" in his speech, but it sounds like that was what it was all about — the planning community just hates that and can’t accept that it’s the result of people choosing how and where they want to live. They have to fix it by herding everybody back into the pen.

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