Monday, April 24, 2006

Plan would let counties raise sales tax for transit - 04/24/06 - The Detroit News

Plan would let counties raise sales tax for transit - 04/24/06 - The Detroit News

Note: The Detroit News doesn't archive their stories, so if you're going to read the article you should do so quickly.

Starting with the local Mirror weekly and commented earlier here, local democrats are promoting taxes for projects without a policy or a plan. Unidentified Mass Transit (UMT). The perfect tax. In the computer business it's called vaporware.
Monday [April 10] night, the city of Ferndale passed a resolution urging state legislators to place a question that could improve Michigan's transportation system on November's statewide ballot."
Today, the Detroit News is reporting our own state senator, Gilda Jacobs, is lobbying to increase Oakland County's sales tax -- 'cause we need higher taxes.
"State Sen. Gilda Jacobs, D-Huntington Woods, said she'll ask lawmakers this month to authorize a referendum to change the state Constitution so counties would have the option of raising the state's 6 percent sales tax to 7 percent to pay for regional transportation and roads.

"It's much more palpable, and it's not that much more money," Jacobs said. "We need to keep this discussion going to improve the quality of life and help the economy."
The state already found $600 million to widen 18 miles of I-75 through Oakland County. Widening I-75 won't lessen Michigan's gas consumption or urban sprawl. Considering the state already has the ability and resources to attempt highway projects why not the vision and resolve for mass transit?
Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson declared it dead on arrival and said Oakland won't raise taxes for transit."
Thank goodness there's some adult supervision in government. Why would Oakland or any other Michigan county vote to put itself at an economic disadvantage compared to other nearby counties?

Ferndale's own city manager, Tom Barwin, supports the tax and wants us to believe it's as much about job creation as it some unidentified mass transit plan:
"If we let the people weigh in, we have a chance to get this done," Barwin said. "We've got no leadership and the politicians have been blocking the public from deciding if it wants better transit."

Barwin pointed to studies claiming the taxes -- and eventual construction of a light rail system -- would create at least 10,000 jobs a year.
If we let people weigh in they'd tell politicians to stop wasting money widening highways and come up with a plan. If we had leadership in Lansing they'd use the existing gas tax formula to fund mass-transit.

Mass transit starts with a plan, not a tax. Michigan citizens shouldn't allow their taxes to be raised for UMTs. If gas prices continue to rise Michigan citizens may eventually get serious about mass transit and insist on a serious plan from Lansing. $3/gallon isn't nearly high enough to take action or motivate residents living 20 or more miles away from work to act differently. Most residents will figure out how to afford their commutes. Perhaps what needed more than high gas prices is LA-style traffic jams. People rarely move toward comfort, but most move away from pain, and long commutes and gas prices aren't yet painful enough.

Until then it's wishful thinking, but let's not let wishful thinking become a very real tax.

I was joking about the Gregorian calendar thing

Last December when I wrote,
"The Gregorian Calendar needs to go. It could be argued the whole Y2K thing could have been avoided had Pope Gregory's invention been dispensed with earlier. Apparently, no known computer glitch is known affecting the Year of the Golden Dragon."
I didn't expect to be taken seriously. Now I'm reading the most Politically Correct people represent years by replacing BC and AD (Before Christ and Anno Domini) with BCE and CE (Before Common Era and Common Era).

I was joking!

It's too late now and I hope I'm not blamed for it. As a computer programmer I hope no one takes my suggestion of using the Chinese calendar as a mission statement to satisfy some diversity goals. Of course, from a jobs standpoint imagine how many programmers would be needed to make that fix. It would make the Y2K bug look like a single weekend in the calendar of life.

Is it too late to take back that suggestion? Is the sarcasm not coming through?

Flying Flags Proudly - Vive Mexico?

Flying Flags Proudly - Vive Mexico

Craig Covey is Ferndale's Mayor Pro-Tem (FMPT), CEO of Michigan Aids Prevention Project (CEOMAPP), and a gay white male (GWM). He's excited all those nice supporters for undocumented worker amnesty programs have spirited, cheerful marches but laments their detractors are a bunch of misbehaving poo-poo heads.
"[It's great] to finally see citizens and visitors in America demonstrating their beliefs in an energetic and public way. For too long public protest has been muted and stifled and limp. People need to get out of their easy chairs and off their couches, and get out of their cars.

"Monday in Atlanta, however, a small group of counter protesters burned a Mexican flag. While they have the right to protest and speak their minds, it was disconcerting that they had to take the next reactionary step to burn the flag of Mexico."
If he thinks that was energetic he should see By Any Means Necessary's (BAMN) protest against the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative (MCRI). Over-turning tables, breaking windows, and throwing rocks is definitely "..demonstrating their beliefs in an energetic and public way."

Covey's research low-balls the number of undocumented (that's a euphemism for illegal) workers (UWs) are actually from Mexico, The Urban Institute (TUI) published a report saying:
"Mexicans make up over half of undocumented immigrants—57 percent of the total, or about 5.3 million. Another 2.2 million (23 percent) are from other Latin American countries."
Covey's statistic don't need to agree with TUI's (A nonpartisan economic and social policy research oranization), but prepositional hairs are sometimes worth splitting. It may be only 57% of illegal immigrants are FROM Mexico, but another 23% likely come THROUGH Mexico. In other words, a perfect border may have eliminated 7.5 million illegals, or 80% of the total.

In 2004, the Washington Times reported California (one of six states with the greatest number of undocumented workers) spends over $10 billion on healthcare, education, and incarceration for cheerful protestors. And why shouldn't they be cheerful with welfare like that? Heck, they have 10 billion reasons to be downright giddy from California (CA) alone!

More poo-poo heads are sure to rain on their parades. According to The Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) the citizens of California, Arizona, Texas, and Florida are paying $1183, $717, $725, and $315 respectively per-household on healthcare, education, and incarceration of illegal, whoops--I mean, undocumented workers.

It's always fun to ignore the costs of illegal immigrants from a Ferndale easy chair and couch the concerns of fellow US citizens outside Michigan while flying the Mexican flag with self-righteous pride. It's even more satisfying when the poo-poo heads are paying for it.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

A New Crime Fighter, for $10 in Hay and Oats - New York Times

A New Crime Fighter, for $10 in Hay and Oats - New York Times

New York is bringing back it's mounted patrol in a big way.
After decades of being viewed as a quaint 19th-century throwback, horseback policing is undergoing a resurgence in cities like Honolulu, Las Vegas and Oklahoma City. Law enforcement officials have come to appreciate the tactical and economic advantages of a mobile crime-fighting force whose members cost one-fifth the price of a Crown Victoria cruiser.

Daily maintenance? About $10 a day for hay, grain and bedding material. "Sure beats the price of gas," said Lt. David Gaynor, who oversees the stables in the Bronx where horses are tested and trained. "And they don't give off carbon monoxide."
Did Detroit get it wrong? According to American Police Beat they did.
Detroit disbanded its 112-year-old mounted police unit a couple of months ago. A local businessman, Bob Raisch, is raising donations to try to bring it back.

"They're the best crowd-control device ever invented," Raisch said. "More than that, it's just the feeling of security and well-being and sophistication that a mounted policeman conveys to both citizens and visitors."

But those advantages cost lots of money. Horses require food and veterinary care, and run up boarding costs and expenses.

With gas prices climbing to record highs, Sgt. Jay Postlewaite, the head of the Lexington, kentucky, mounted police unit, thinks horses are a bargain when you compare the cost of fleet maintenance to the price of taking care of an animal.

"Over a 10-year period you're still going to pay less to maintain a horse than a car," he told the Associated Press. "Where the car tends to depreciate with time and wear, the horses actually get a little better with time and experience."

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Set a higher goal: Truly equal education - Rochelle Riley, The Detroit Free Press

The Free Press' Rochelle Riley wrote a great opinion piece in Sunday's (4/16/2006) edition suggesting incredibly superficial solutions to poor districts' education problems. The editorial shows symptoms of attention deficit for reasoning beyond skin color syndrome, commonly shortened to just Attention Deficit for Reasoning (ADR).

It starts off well-intentioned enough suggesting Michigan level the playing field between districts by equally distributing chemical labs and algebra classes between better-to-do districts (like Farmington and Bloomfield Hills) and not-so-better-to-do districts (Detroit and Pontiac). Ms. Riley mistakes the accouterments of education for education's substance.

She, and others like her, would feel better if Detroit's Western International High School had the same number of chemistry labs and algebra classes (4 and 20) as Farmington High School (11 and 22). Of course, the way she writes the difference seems greater:
"For instance, to match the 11 chemistry labs and 22 algebra classes offered to Farmington High School's 1,430 students, the state would have to add seven chem labs and two algebra classes at Detroit's Western International High School, which 1,402 students attend."
And according to Ms. Riley, Pontiac Central High School's student performance and drop-out rates are the result of having five fewer foreign language classes than Bloomfield's Andover High School. She is more familiar with each school's curriculum than we are and her insights suggest fixing under-performing districts' education problems are as simple as a few missing selections in the course catalog.

Her editorial actually had little to do with education but was instead directed at affirmative action and her opposition to the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative (MCRI). Her thinking on education is worth considering on its own because it demonstrates flawed reasoning that makes suspicious her understanding of the MCRI.
"Affirmative action programs have always been the best way to overcome both past race and sex discrimination and the immoral, but legal, affirmative action program for white men that existed for centuries."
For as long as affirmative action (as we know it) has been in place we have to wonder how effective it's been. Thomas Sowell has written two books on the subject, Vision of the Anointed and Affirmative Action Around the World and has found the results of such programs don't warrant their continuation and their support masks either more serious problems or propagate the myth they're needed when they've outlived their purpose. Rather than having faith in themselves affirmative action prefers minorities place their faith in quotas, ratios, incantations, high priests, and Jessie Jackson.

Sowell's thorough research both for what's happening today with affirmative action and what happened throughout history shows many well-intentioned government-sponsored programs are not innocent misdirections of resources. They're examples of M√ľnchhausen by proxy politics. Research showing good intentions don't yield good results is unwelcome when we'd rather just feel good about ourselves. But sticking to programs that don't work is dishonest and betrays those that need help.

More skin-deep analysis from the editorial:
"If you think that affirmative action policies are unfair, imagine being a child forced to learn in a secondhand school with secondhand books, knowing that one day you'll compete with someone whose school has the best of everything."
Five more language classes won't bring more jobs to Pontiac or Detroit. Two more algebra classes won't change families' attitudes toward education or lessen discipline problems in the classroom. Many schools in India and China have even fewer resources than Detroit's high schools and still they're taking our jobs -- low and high-wage. Many of those students have fewer material possessions than even our big cities' poor, but take their studies more seriously because they believe education is the path to prosperity from poverty. This is one of the important messages in Thomas Friedman's The World is Flat: it's not how or what-with these students are studying--it's why they're studying, and there's nothing superficial about that. Those same Indian and Chinese students are going to take jobs away from Detroit and Farmington graduates alike. Outsourcing doesn't discriminate. Indian's care little if the job they took came from Pontiac or Bloomfield Hills.

But from a progressive's way of thinking it's more important to feel good than to do good. And you darling--mmm... You must feel marvelous.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Local voters may decide transit tax - - Michigan

Local voters may decide transit tax - - Michigan

I'm unsure what Ferndale's city council was thinking when they passed a resolution supporting a county-wide sales tax increase to 7% at a time when the economy is sputtering and there isn't a single plan for implementing mass transit that would benefit the county, much less the city of Ferndale.

The biggest transit plan we've heard about is $600 million to widen 18 miles of I-75 from Eight Mile to M-59. That's a plan only an oil company would love. With gasoline approaching $3/gallon and the region's infrastructure stretched to its limits widening I-75 does little for citizens but great things for real estate developers. In fact, it's irresponsible. Irresponsible with taxpayers money, irresponsible to further stretch already stretched infrastructure, and irresponsible for promote longer commutes in single-passenger vehicles while soldiers are fighting someplace America would have limited interest in if it weren't to protect our oil supply.

Lastly, it's irresponsible of our city council to support any tax increase for a mass transit system that doesn't exist in real life, doesn't exist in blueprint, and only exists in our imaginations.

'Highway of blame' leads to shooting of rapper Proof - 04/14/06 - The Detroit News

'Highway of blame' leads to shooting of rapper Proof - 04/14/06 - The Detroit News

Frank Beckmann, Detroit News commentator and WJR AM radio host distributes blame for this week's shooting death of rapper Proof (Deshaun Holton) across the rapper, the club owners, liquor control commission, rap culture, rap lyrics, Detroit's budget and the cash-strapped police department, and a culture of violence inside the city.

Mr. Beckmann's list is too long. I agree the lists starts with Proof, but it also ends there. If early police reports are correct Proof was shot because he needed to be shot. No amount of bling and jaunt excuses behavior. Everything else on Mr. Beckmann's list is incidental.

Should the club still have been open at 4:30AM? No. But if no one stayed drinking the club wouldn't have stayed open. The club's liquor license should have been yanked long ago, but wasn't. Remember the INS approved visa application for 9-11 terrorists Mohamed Atta and Marwan Al-Shehhi six months after the attack. In the grand scheme of things a liquor license is small potatoes. It would be great if more police were available, but there already aren't enough to respond to 911 calls much less cruising blind pigs for bar fights.

Had any of the principles that morning made the choice to leave instead of agitate we wouldn't be discussing it. The club would still have a license it shouldnt', we'd still have too few police officers, we'd still have an unresponsive bureaucracy, we'd still have a derelict rap culture, and the city would still be too violent, but we wouldn't have a dead rapper and a seriously wounded soldier. More importantly, better considered individual choices and many more like them would cumulatively make Detroit a less violent city.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

No more nose rings in school? - 04/11/06 - The Detroit News

The Detroit School District may expand Mackenzie High School's dress code to the entire district's 129,000 students. Predictably, students, parents, and teachers are already complaining:
"Mackenzie sophomore Kent Wells, 16, said it constrains student identity. 'We don't get to show who we really are,' he said. 'I don't want to be like everyone else.'

That's the conflict that surrounds many dress codes, said Janet Hethorn, an associate professor of apparel design who specializes in youth style at the University of Delaware.

Students are told they need to value diversity, critical thinking and creativity, she said.

'Then we are telling everyone to look alike,' Hethorn said. 'We are giving such mixed messages to kids these days.'"
Ms. Hethorn sees mixed messages because adults don't know what the message is. Mackenzie High senior Candace Ogletree is pretty close:
"[Ogletree] says she has adjusted to the code. The issue, she says, is not with distracting clothing but students' attitudes.

'A child won't learn if they don't want to,' she said. 'It's not really about what you have on -- it's your mind.'"
And that's where diversity, critical thinking, and creativity belong in school, your mind. The message we need to teach kids is that their clothing doesn't make them unique. Clothing doesn't make you special. The influences that belong in school should come from reading, not FUBU. Creativity and critical thought are exercised and expressed through writing and solving mathematical problems, not body piercings and Abercrombie & Fitch. Students are members of a scholastic society that improves their lives and lifts their circumstances and prospects, something gang colors will not afford them.

Though the teacher's union has already taken a defensive position on dress codes for teachers it would be preferred if teachers wouldn't wait for their gang (er.. union) leaders and set an example by following the dress code without using it as a leverage for the next contract.

Promoting the myth that clothing expresses individuality is as superficial and wrong-headed as skin color defining your identity. We are all more than we appear to be on the outside. Reinforcing that with school dress codes may help that message get through to students, teachers, and parents alike -- and not just in Detroit, but throughout the state.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Christ Among the Partisans - New York Times

Christ Among the Partisans - New York Times

Garry Wills, a professor at Northwestern University posted a thoughtful and thought-provoking op-ed in the New York Times Sunday probing the relationship between Christianity and politics, specifically chastising any effort by political parties to shoulder the mantel of "God is on our side" as being blasphemous, or at least missing the point, and on that he and I are in agreement.

After reading the article you might agree with Mr. Wills, that Jesus wouldn't pursue a career in politics, and I'm inclined to as well. But I wasn't left wondering What Would Jesus Do (WWJD), as much as What Would Jesus Want Me to Do (WWJWMTD) or How Would Jesus Vote (HWJV)? Mr. Wills quotes scripture to suggest prayer belongs in a closet. I'm left wondering if he'd rather religion stayed in the closet forcing everything else out. But if we are religious and believe we're accountable for our actions to both God and government then we're compelled to act differently than if we feared no consequences, terrestrial or not, in this life or the next.

How would Jesus want me to vote on abortion? How would Jesus have wanted me to vote on slavery? How would Jesus want me to vote on immigration, welfare, or the preservation of marriage act? If God asks for our prayers and Caesar asks our opinion, aren't our consciences obligated to give our best to both?
If whatever we do for the least of us we also do unto Jesus, would we make Jesus dependent on our charity or teach him to live by the fruit of his labors?

As a Christian I don't believe God wants me to be the best Jesus I can be--he wants me to be the best Thomas Gagne I can be. He wants me to be the best husband and father I can be, and he wants me to be the best citizen I can be. I want Christ to be with me wherever I go for strength, guidance, and wisdom--and that includes the voting booth.

US immigrants mobilizing for major 'action' |

US immigrants mobilizing for major 'action' | Everyone's been estimating how many illegal immigrants there may be in the US. Most are around 12 million. If we wanted to deport or document them how would we find them all? It may happen that the INS won't have to find them. They'll all be marching in protest parades where INS representatives could easily locate them and do with whatever the law requires.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

St. Paul Minnesota's Much Ado about Easter

Everyone takes their turn: Next to go: snowpersons

This is an update my previous posting linked above. In mid-March St. Paul Minnesota's human rights director Tyrone Terrill and city councilwomen Kathy Lantry defended their order removing a modest Happy Easter display on the grounds they didn't want to violate the First Amendment's non-establishment clause. An odd turn of events in a city named St. Paul.

Had they only done their research.

Or perhaps they could have waited for April 9th's USA Weekend article explaining how the tradition of Easter exhisted before Jesus' resurrection.

But that's not important. What is important is provincially minded people equating the display of bunnies and baskets with Constatine the Great's legitimizing Christianity in Rome or Britain's King Henry VIII break with the Vatican and the creation of the Church of England.

And am I the only one that appreciates the irony of all this coming from a city named for a Christian saint?

Monday, April 03, 2006

BAMN borrows from Taylor's Liberia

By Any Means Necessary (BAMN) has been using some surprising tactics to keep the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative (MCRI) off the November ballot. True to their moniker, their outbursts have disrupted Board of Canvasser and other official meetings with shouting and up-ended furniture. Though nothing of their reasoning is especially noteworthy (though perhaps newsworthy) one of their tactics that is especially disturbing is their manipulation of children as foot soldiers in their war on civil rights.

Political consultant and blogger Chetly Zarko has followed BAMN's antics for months. BAMN has made a habit of using students in their protests from the beginning, and has marched them (OK, bused them) to Lansing more than once when they should have been in school. Just last week BAMN was connected to a student protest in Detroit presumably against the loss of a Free Dress Day. Eight students were arrested. On Saturday, April 1, BAMN showed up in Lansing again with 12 buses, 500 people including students to shout slogans and bang on windows (eventually breaking one). Their use of children is analogous to former Liberian president Charles Taylor's using children as soldiers in that country's civil war.

Though Taylor's recruiting children into his army with lethal outcomes is more reprehensible than BAMN's accessorizing their protests with students, both situations demonstrate the extremes desperate political activists will go to further their cause By Any Means Necessary -- even if it includes abusing children. BAMN uses children for its dirty work and as decorations, hoping their participation will pull sympathetic strings from politicians and voters alike.

Children are not adults. They haven't the education or experience to discern motivations or bias. Regardless what Denver-area teach Jay Brennish may believe they haven't internalized the processes of critical thought necessary to reason their way to informed opinion, or perhaps even to recognize it. Studies have shown
adolescent brains have under-developed frontal lobes, used for reasoning, and depend more on other parts of the brain controlled by emotion. This certainly makes them more easily manipulated than adults.

BAMN steals pages from the play-books of the most despicable regimes in modern times -- manipulating children to be foot soldiers as Liberia's Charles Taylor and others have done, and hiding behind and among them as terrorists hide behind and among civilians. These actions are criminal at one extreme and inexcusable at the other.

Though it's unlikely BAMN will be sued for violating children's civil rights it would be best if they voluntarily refrained from using them in future demonstrations, but that's unlikely since they are desperate and their tactics keep them in the press.