A university is just a group of buildings gathered around a library. ~Shelby Foote

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Come to Wisconsin: Redux!

Okay, I went on a rant a few days ago. I stand by all of the rant, but I should note that I do still like my state a lot-- there are many good things here. It's just that a lot of individually small issues have been piling up, and I think that's a shame. So there's that.

Now-- tc took exception to much of what I wrote, and contrary to his belief that I won't want his reactions in the future, I am happy he did so. Debate is healthy-- if it is truly debate and not just memes being tossed back and forth. Mostly that's what passes for debate these days. tc also has a somewhat annoying tendency to lump any and all conservatives together in the red-state, anti-intellectualist close-minded moralist crowd, which is unfortunate (just as it's eqully unfortunate that many conservatives lump all liberals into the unpatriotic, intellectual elitist snobs with no idea what the regular people believe camp). Because I think that makes him automatically resistant to even considering that someone with a different viewpoint than his could have a valid point.

Doubly so, if someone should have the audacity to agree with someone on talk radio. Talk radio hosts are nigh onto the devil for many liberals-- so, again, everything they say must be opposed. Which is poppycock-- Rush Limbaugh has some good ideas. He has some stupid ideas. Likewise down the line with more local folks-- in my living area, Mark Belling and Charlie Sykes. There are a few talk show hosts who merely pander to the lowest common denominator-- Michael Savage, for example-- but they are merely Jerry Springer on the radio.

As I have said before and no doubt will again, no one party or one philosophical approach has a monopoly on good ideas-- similarly, bad ideas and approaches don't come from only one perspective, either. Which is why compromise is NOT a naughty word.

But I digress.

Okay, tc's points with my responses to them:
Okay, let's go.

Concealed carry. What is the big deal here that we need this? Why is this needed by any stretch of the imagination? What possible positive effect can come of this addition to our Bang Bang Rights?
Actually, this is the least of my concerns. Why I lead with it, I'm not sure. Because I was on a rant, I suppose, and didn't really worry about structuring it a whole lot. I honestly don't care one way or the other. BUT. Considering that 46 of our 50 states currently have concealed carry, the inflated worries touted by opponents that Wisconsin will suddenly turn into Tombstone with shootouts in the supermarket and motorists attempting to blow each other away seem rather ludicrous. Ridiculously so, actually. Why hasn't there been this sort of mayhem occuring anywhere that concealed carry is legal?

And, there is in fact statistical data showing that concealed carry does actually deter violent criminals. Unfortunately, the actual study is copyrighted in the Journal of Legal Studies, so I can't just post it here, but in 1996, John Lott and David Mustard did a study on crime and concealed carry, and then published their results and conclusions in January of 1997. Both gentlemen were professors at the University of Chicago. To be upfront-- Lott currently contributes to National Review, and Mustard is actually an economist. Regardless, the study was published in a well-respected, scholarly journal, fully peer-reviewed, so it's not crackpot analysis or statistical mumbo jumbo.

I can't post the whole thing, but here's the summary:
Using cross-sectional time-series data for U.S. counties from 1977 to 1992, we find that allowing citizens to carry concealed weapons deters violent crimes, without increasing accidental deaths. If those states without right-to-carry concealed gun provisions had adopted them in 1992, county- and state-level data indicate that approximately 1,500 murders would have been avoided yearly. Similarly, we predict that rapes would have declined by over 4,000, robbery by over 11,000, and aggravated assaults by over 60,000. We also find criminals substituting into property crimes involving stealth, where the probability of contact between the criminal and the victim is minimal. Further, higher arrest and conviction rates consistently reduce crime. The estimated annual gain from all remaining states adopting these laws was at least $ 5.74 billion in 1992. The annual social benefit from an additional concealed handgun permit is as high as $ 5,000.
Factor in that the majority of Wisconsites seem to favor concealed carry and I have to ask-- why are you so opposed to it, tc?
MMSD and the Lakes. I have a friend who was involved with the engineering of the Deep Tunnel project, and a sister in law who has done biological work on Lake Michigan. Not saying that I'm incredibly knowledgeable on these issues, but maybe I've gotten a bit of info that doesn't get floated on Charlie Sykes radio rants.

Before the Deep Tunnel project, you know why there was no news about waste dumping? BECAUSE IT HAPPENED ALL THE TIME, AND THERE WAS NO MITIGIATING FACTOR. Whenever weather dumped excessive amounts of water into the system, it just sluiced directly into the river and the lakebecause there was no place for it to go. Creation of the tunnel system has actually decreased the annual amount of untreated runoff because in more moderate storms, the water can be stored and treated. When it is necessary to dump the water (and to my knowledge, this has always been within guidelines established by the DNR)
Dismissing opposition as "Charlie Sykes radio rants" is petty and disingenuous. Sykes is not always right, but he usually backs his points up with data and analysis-- and haven't I heard you decrying ad hominem and strawman tactics in other places, tc? Just saying.

And yes, you're right. Before the deep tunnel, things were worse. But the fact that the deep tunnel system is an improvement over nothing at all is not exactly sufficient justification to say that it actually works very well. The same argument could be made for just about anything.

The deep tunnel project cost the taxpayers roughly $2.5 BILLION, plus another half a billion or so in upkeep and improvements, since its construction in the mid '90s. We've gone from an average of about 8,500 billion gallons dumped to an average of about 1175 billion gallons dumped annually. I'll grant you that a roughly 86% improvement is not bad-- but for about $3 billion is that good enough (and we'll just discount the fact that those numbers come from MMSD-- which has something of a vested interest in making them look as good as possible)? Is that much comfort for the folks who want to use the lake but can't because all the beaches are closed?

As to being within guidelines. If so, why is Peg Lautenschlager, the Attorney General for the state of Wisconsin, suing MMSD for dumping? Um, and why did "the state Department of Natural Resources asked Lautenschlager's office to prosecute the district and the communities it serves after the May 2004 storms."?
DNR rules on piers. No real point, just an anecdote. When I was in high school, I was a draftsman at an engineering firm; one summer my boss's son also worked there for a while, until he was injured. He was injured diving off a pier. He dove into the water, and impacted on the bottom with his head. His spine was fortunately not broken, but two vertebrae were compacted and he was unable to turn his head afterward. All I'm saying is that sometimes, it's easy to point out some rules that may sound unreasonable, but there actually may be sound reasoning behind it. I'd like to know more before I discard it as ridiculaous, but I know the DNR is a favorite whipping boy.
Well, of course there is a balancing point to find between safety, aesthetics and the freedom of property owners to use their property as they see fit. Regulations are needed-- but the Wisconsin DNR seems to really, really like regulating things. And, thinking about it, limiting the building of piers to water only 3 feet deep or less, means that nobody will ever be able to safely dive off a pier. So, the young man in tc's anecdote above would be almost guarenteed to hit the bottom in the glorious 21st century Wisconsin.

Will this deter many from diving? I suppose so-- but do you really think that nobody will ever dive off a pier in the future? How many parents realize that it is now illegal to build a pier out to a safe diving depth? So, I find the DNR's justification for the restritcion-- safety-- somewhat dubious. And as a fun and exciting extra "benefit" from the new rule, the DNR may have just mandated that water quality in our lakes actual gets worse:
Today’s boats with inboard-outboard drives--often built in Wisconsin-- require about 36 inches of depth; by establishing a 3-foot standard, the propellers are churning the bottom. By what theory is that beneficial to the environment? IT ISN’T. It is terrible for the environment. But that’s what the DNR standard provides. For the environment’s sake, you want to get the out-drives away from the shore, not closer.
The DNR does many excellent things in Wisconsin. Our state parks are marvelous. They are doing good work with educating our children on the fun and importance of outdoor recreation. Regulations on hunting, fishing and trapping are necessary in a state where those activities are common and enjoyed by many. That doesn't mean I can't point out stupidity on their part when I see it.
Buying influence? Why that's something that simply wouldn't happen in a Republican-led State! except for the $600,000 sent to Thompson by mining interests, or the $377,000 given him by Real Estate industry, or the $350,000 he got from road-building folks. Here's another anecdote: When I first started an independent architectural firm, I discovered that the selection committee for State architectural contracts was told to supply 2 firms to Thompson's office for any contract over $50,000; his Secretary of State, Scott McCallum, would then select one. It was tacitly acknowledged that the deciding factor at that level of the process was how much money had been donated to Thompson and the Republicans.
Sigh. I figured this would be tc's response to my point on the corruption in Wisconsin politics. I was hoping it wouldn't be. Of course there are examples on the other side. Plenty of them. That hardly makes the practice acceptable. Indeed, it makes it even more disturbing, since it would appear to be inherent to the system at this point.

"Come and see the corruption inherent in the system! Help, help, I'm being disenfranchised!"

Come on, tc. I cited one recent example. Did I anywhere in the post say, or even imply, that such things were limited to Democrats? No. It just so happens that at the moment a Democrat occupies the Governor's mansion. If you can't get a little righteous indignation worked up over the pathetic state of Wisconsin's current political environment I despair of you being able to see anything clearly. This is an issue that EVERYONE in Wisconsin should be furious about.
Malpractice. Interestingly enough, we used to subscribe to the Wall Street Journal. One of the things we discovered was the at the paper was extremely well written and very reliable. except for the Editorial page, which was amusingly at odds with the rest of the paper, espousing the more radical and fringe business-oriented malarkey that was often at odds with information contained within the paper elsewhere. A new study, reported by the WaPo, indicates no correlation between malpractice awards and increasing malpractice premiums (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A22197-2005Mar9.html). also here: http://www.braytonlaw.com/news/legalnews/072905_medmal.htm. In fact, a study by Americans for Insurance Reform shows indications that the increase in insurance costs is more directly related to the insurers themselves, compensating for insurance price wars in the 1990s.
Interesting article. I hope it's right, and I think focusing on insurers is certainly a worthwhile objective. Interestingly, just today Doyle signed into law a revised version of the medical liability cap. Bear in mind, the limit is only on "pain and suffering" awards, not on "economic damage" awards.
County Board members. I'm not sure I understand what the issue is here.
Representative democracy in action, is what I see. I presume that since Bruce
Murphy and Charlie Sykes have picked up on this issue, that there is some way
that fewer county board members will benefit corporations and the well-off, but
I don't know how, so I'm going to claim agnosticism on this one.

The issue is money. Public (ie, taxpayers') money. County board members are not volunteers (well, a few may be, though I doubt it, but most aren't). And I'm not saying they shouldn't receive some reimbursement for their efforts-- but do we need to be reimbursing so bloody many of them?

Waukesha's county supervisors get over $9k a year-- and there are 35 of them. That's $325,000 annually from Waukesha County's residents. The Board meets twice a month, though two of the last five meetings have been cancelled for lack of business. By way of comparison, Los Anglese County has five supervisors. 5.

Now five may actually be a bit too few, but has anybody EVER served on a committe larger than 10 or so where you really needed all of those people? Where having all those extra folks didn't just make it harder to actually do anything?

Wisconsin's state senate only has 33 members, for goodness sake.

Once again, tc, just because Charlie Sykes and Bruce Murphy are against something, it does not mean that whatever it is must be bad or antithetical to progressive thought. Tolerance, open-mindedness, opposition to ad-hominem attacks, distaste for strawmen arguments. Stay with me here. This is in fact another issue that conservatives and liberals can agree upon.

The amount of money is not huge when you look at county budgets that run into the millions, but I find it hard to escape the conclusion that much of the money is just wasted. You can accomplish the same thing with a 10 or even 15 person board as with a 35 person board-- and save a couple of hundred grand in the process. What's the downside? A couple dozen county supervisors will be out of a part-time job. I can live with that.

Especially considering that most, nearly all, of the opposition to reducing county boards is coming from... wait for it... county boards.
Sounds to me like the Oracle program was selected, under cotnract was subjected
to a pilot program, and did not meet the goals, so was terminated properly. Let
me give you another anecdote- from the point of someone who runs on of those
companies that does that 'work' you refer to. When we looked at computerizing
our drafting operation, we looked at a CAD system, and selected one station as a
start. after working with it for a while, we discovered that the limitation of a
single system was a bottleneck, and we made a decision to go to a different
system that was less pricey, to allow us to integrate more systems at the outset
to eliminate the bottleneck. Costy of learning this: about 9 grand. Sometimes,
something that meets your needs on paper doesn't do the trick in meatspace, and
you need to alter your approach. Now if they decided to go with the Oracle
system even though it didn't meet the goals, now THAT would be something that
would alarm me.

Let me highlight a portion of your response, tc. "...we made a decision to go to a different system that was less pricey...." Fair enough. Let me ask you this-- given that the product you tested didn't live up to expectations, would you give that same company another contract, or would you now be a tad leery of that company, knowing that its approach has already been shown to be insufficient to your needs and vision?

I think you would. Only natural. So, while I am mildly miffed that the state tried Oracle (we'll leave out that it was a no-bid process for now) and found it wanting in the trial, and that this will cost the taxpayers somewhere between $900,000 and $2 million, I am much more miffed that the state is now handing the very same company a $29 million contract. How does that not bother you?

Okay, now add in the fact that both contracts were no-bid. No competition. The state had a $2.1 million and a $29 million contract and they didn't even bother to see if anybody BUT Oracle might be able to satisfy the requirements. Are you kidding me? I had a $60,ooo renovation project done on my archives last year and I had to get three bids-- even though there are only two companies in the state that do what I needed doing. If the state needed a building constructed in your area and just gave the contract to a competitor without even bothering to see if you were interested in competing for the job, that wouldn't bother you?

How about if that competitor was found to have contributed to the Governor's election campaign?
You, of course, are right about Russ. But I'm not going to get into that here.
I'll dive right into the smoking ban. I'm not a smoker, never have been, but my
parents both were. But I spend a fair amount of time in clubs and bars watching
bands, and the stench of the smoke on my clothes when I get home
is...unpleasant. Now, the tavern league claims that they will lose all kinds of
money if they can't let people smoke, but we visited Florida, a smoking ban
state (run by a Republican? do tell!) and the bars seemed to be doing pretty
fine down there. And it was a treat to come home from a night out without
smelling like an ashtray. As a matter of fact, we visited with a couple who were
smokers, and they seemed to be just fine with going outside to pound a nail or
two. Now, I'm a big fan of bars and would like to see more, not less. But I
think the Tavern league may be over reacting a bit.
So, you're okay with discriminating against people participating in a legal activity because you don't want to come home smelling like an ashtray? Oh, and the "go outside and pound a nail or two" option isn't acceptable in the currently proposed ban, since "The plan also would prohibit designated smoking areas "immediately adjacent" to outside public entrances."

There are smoke free restaurants and bars in Milwaukee already-- if you don't want to smell like an ashtray, go there. Encourage others to go there. But don't tell me you're against writing discrimination into Wisconsin's constitution and then say it's alright to discriminate against smokers.
Bet that's the last time you ask me for more reaction. Now I gotta get some dang
work done. I'm sure my clients will be just fine with you distracting me.

Heh. Nope, not the last time. I hope it happens more often. Jack was supposed to do this with me, but he decided he didn't like the format. Such is life.


Nice chat you guys are having. Realistically, every state has tons of issues just like this. Our dopey legislature in Utah passed a smoking ban on clubs and restaurants, and our dopey Governor signed it.

I think the dopes in the Utah legislature were trying to prove they aren’t a pack of right-wing zealots. And they actually are a pack of right-wing zealots, they just throw in these weird left-wing crap bills (like Hate Crimes) just to feel good about themselves.

Too bad they can’t be right-wing about self-responsibility and freedom. That’d be nice.

John, that was moderate, thoughtful and fairly impartial. Very nice.


Now, what have you done with the John H. we know and love?

Hmph. I am the very earthly representation of moderation and impartiality!
I wouldn't be so quick with the John Lott there Nick, and not just because he's an AEI scholar. Tim Lambert posts a very in depth referenced article which casts doubt on the survey which you cite, in fact there are doubts that a survey was performed at all, here: http://timlambert.org/lott/#survey

Regarding Lott's subsequent book, Lambert says: "In 2002, Ian Ayres and John Donohue analysed a more extensive data set and found that, if anything, concealed carry laws lead to more crime. Lott that using even more data confirmed the “more guns, less crime” hypothesis. Ayres and Donohue’s response (April 2003) was devastating—Lott’s data contained numerous coding errors that, when corrected, eliminated the results and, this was the second time these sorts of errors had been found in Lott’s data."

In fact, further review and subsequent studies cast doubt on Lott's published work, and subsequent studies have not been supportive. In fact, Lott posted under a fictitious name, Mary Rosh, praising his work and his teaching in an apparent attempt to provide a smokescreen of legitimacy as well as push sales of the book.

So 46 states have concealed carry laws. So what? Bad ideas have swept the nation before, and will again.

I'm not going to be able to go over all these issues in more depth right now, real life constantly intervenes and my clients especially hate it when I bill them for "Blogging with/at Nick" . Maybe I'll go after them one by one. Maybe Jack will even come in behind me and we can tag team you folks.

I will, however, cop to the prejudice against Charlie Sykes (although not to the talk radio show= evil stereotype you pasted on me) I don't listen to Sykes- I have found the couple of times I've heard him, the combination of privileged white guy whining and his grating voice puts me on edge- but I've read some of his work, and I stand by my supposition that if he opposes something on his show, it's either detrimental to the Republican Party, corporate interests, or represents something beneficial to someone other than middle class white guys. He's as much a partisan bleater as anyone on the radio. He's not Michael Savage, no. But he's not exactly Mark Twain either. Now, note that my opinion in that has no bearing on how I feel abouthis listeners, and if you look at the way I phrased it in my original post, I took a swipe at Sykes position on the issue, and it's motivation, not at what his listeners may think.

I agree that compromise is not a naughty word, Nick, and wish you could spread alittle more of that idea on the right side of the aisle. However, I would maintain that for several years now, one party has had, maybe not a monopoly on bad ideas, but certainly a surfeit of them and the political arm twisting to try and make them reality, to the detriment of all of us. well, maybe most of us. If you've got a piece of Halliburton, are looking to inherit 10 million or more, or are worth more than a billion dollars, it's been pretty damn good.
Well, I didn't really intend for the Lott/Mustard study to be the definitive this is it refutation, tc. I just noted that there is evidence that concealed carry is a deterrent. I also noted I don't really care a lot either way.

So, okay, Lott is an idealogue and his study is likely flawed. Show me the evidence that crime actually increases with concealed carry. I did a search in UW-Parkside's Criminal Justice Periodicals database. The closest thing I could find was a study by John Donohue that concludes that the Lott/Mustard study was flawed and that there might actually be evidence that concealed carry increases crime.

But then again, Donohue's (who is the guy cited by Lambert on his website) study may also be flawed and indicative of precisely nothing. I direct you here: http://johnrlott.tripod.com/postsbyday/6-7-03.html

The survey Tim Lambert references is another issue all together. I believe the main point to be drawn here is that John Lott and John Donohue don't like each other much.

Also note that a more recent study by Kovandzic and Marvell, using a different methodology, indicates that concealed carry causes either no decrease in crime or a slight increase, but might still be worthwhile because of other societal factors.

But again, whatever. I wish I hadn't led with concealed carry-- because I really don't care much, either way.


If I over-generalized your distaste for Charlie Sykes to all talk-radio hosts, I apologize. But that doesn't really change the fact that opposition to something strictly because Sykes supports it is pretty much the definition of an ad hominem attack: Sykes likes the idea of reducing board size. Everything Sykes says benefits only Republicans and big business. Therefore this must be a bad idea.

Kinda lame, tc. I never used Sykes as the reason I would like to see smaller boards. I think the arguments I did make are reasonable and valid. Give me a solid reason to think that reducing boards is a bad idea and we can then discuss it.

As to my compromises being one-sided. Well, they probably are a bit. I'm biased, I admit-- I think a lot of recent liberal ideas (and those promoting them) are dumb. I think more conservative approaches would be better-- and I wish more people who claim to be conservatives actually were.

And I have tried to spread that idea on the right side as well. I deplore the big government "conservatism" of the Bush administration. And I've written about that on a number of occassions. I think Donald Rumsfeld should have been fired long ago, and I despise the rampant cronyism of the Bush administration.

If I seem to pick on you more than conservative commetators on my blog, it is probably two-fold. Yes, I tend to agree with them more, but also they (primarily mojo) don't just throw out "it's been good if you have a piece of Halliburton" tripe.

Oh, as to having a piece of Halliburton-- in Jan. 2001 it was trading at $37.45. It is currently trading at $71.25. It has been paying a quarterly dividend of $.125 per share during that time.

In other words, a good, solid stock, but not exactly what you want to tie your retirement to.

By way of comparison, Occidental Petroleum Corp., a stock held in a Gore family trust, has gone from $19.65 to a current high of $92.27 in the same time, and has paid out quarterly dividends of $.25 or more.
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