Friday, March 17, 2006

Checkmate! All politics are local.

I was lucky enough to buy a house with an extraordinary view of the FlatIrons (foothills of the Rocky Mountains for you non-locals). Between us and the mountains is an open farm which until recently had nothing but a few horses on it. Very beautiful. There is a fair bit of open space around here as well which I hope remains.

Shortly after moving in I noticed an ad in the local paper from the Township looking for additional members of the planning commission. I went down to Town Hall and spoke to a nice lady about the possibility of getting onto said commission. Things were going swimmingly until I gave her my address and she looked it up on map on her wall. "Sorry", she said, "there are already 3 people who live on the same ridge as you that are on the commission, but thank you for your interest." OK, so I wasn't the first person with the same view who decided that protecting said view was important. As it turns out, there are 22 houses with more or less the same view and 3 of those 22 have commission memberships in a township of thousands! I got the names and addresses of the others and at the first block party made a point of finding them and having a chat. Apparently the farmer wants to sell his land to a developer and put hundreds of houses between me and my mountains. Not to worry, I am told, the commission is stacked against him.

We have enjoyed living here for a few years now in basically the same status quo until a few weeks ago. My wife got a call from a neighbor. What did we think about the sign the farmer put up indicating he was starting a pig farm. As wives do, mine somewhat hysterically, came to get me from my office. With binoculars I found the sign across the hill. It is something like a half mile from our homes. There is a little building and a small pen and a couple of water troughs. "And?" was my reply. Like I could possibly care about 10 pigs that far away from the house. I couldn't even see the sign without binoculars, let alone read it. Let the man raise a few pigs.

If you haven't given up yet, hang with me, the funny part starts in the next paragraph. A few days ago two donkeys showed up just on the other side of the road behind the house. Donkeys? What the heck does he want with two donkeys? Is there a business in breeding donkeys? I suppose there is, but can you make money at it? Oh well, if he wants donkeys, let him have his donkeys. Donkeys aren't cool as horses but they are ok to watch frolic through a field.

Later in the day a bunch of guys showed up and proceeded to attempt to shoe one of them. Now, for you city folks, shoeing a donkey is not like shoeing a horse. Most young horses fight being shoed the first few times then decide it isn't worth the trouble. Most adult horses can be shoed in an open field by one guy who knows what he is doing. You tap a knee and the horse will give you the hoof. Donkeys, with few exceptions, never get calm about somebody messing with their feet. So if you are going to shoe a donkey you put him in a shoeing pen. The inside of the pen is not much wider than the donkey and there are well placed boards to prevent the animal from kicking you, assuming you know what you are doing and the pen has been built properly. These guys had a shoeing pen that was 8 feet wide. So right off I am thinking, this is not a good idea. As I watch them get to work they start on the donkeys left hind leg. This, also, is not a good idea. Start front, move back. It is harder to get kicked when you are on the donkey's side than past his hind quarters. So by now I have my binoculars out. This is going to be entertaining! After 4 or 5 rounds of the donkey pulling his leg back under him the guy who is supposed to be doing the shoeing calls for help. One of the other men there is called back to help him hold the leg. He proceeds to hold the leg at about the knee, leaning across the back of the donkey. By now the woman holding the donkey's head has gotten bored and is letting the donkey do a bit of looking around.

So, here is the picture. 5 or 6 folks in a much too big pen. One woman up by the head allowing the donkey to look back his left side. One guy trying to shoe the left rear leg and another guy straining to keep the leg still with his head crossing the midpoint of the animal at the rear. Two other guys I can see just standing around and giving clearly unhelpful advise. If you aren't laughing yet, you have never seen a donkey or a horse kick somebody. The donkey is clearly lining up his shot. I go get the video camera. I am going to be on Letterman, I can feel it in my bones. Video camera now set and two sets of binoculars out so somebody else can laugh with me. I am now having trouble watching because the tears in my eyes from laughing so hard are getting in the way. The holder just keeps leaning farther and farther across the animal.

At this point, the other donkey who has been happily frolicking through the field comes over. Nose to nose with each other the "free" donkey seems to be saying "Dude, beautiful day, come play with me!". Then he looks back at the shoeing fiasco and back to his buddy. "Dude, are you gonna let them do that to you?"


Thankfully, nobody got kicked. On the humor front, they worked at this for more than an hour and as far as I can tell (and I checked the tape) they never got a single shoe on the donkey. We haven't seen them come back to attempt this again so I suspect we have two new shoeless donkey neighbors. They seem happy with their new home, so all is well.

Today, along comes Chalan Harper, reporter for the local township paper. She rang our doorbell this morning and chatted with my wife for a while. My wife then came up to my office and asked for me to come down and talk to her. Chalan was both professional and very pleasant. She has been covering the story for months. Apparently the guy plans to put hundreds of pigs on the property. He is just starting very small so they can figure out what they are doing. He may put a bunkhouse back by the pigs. Etc, etc. What do I think about it? "Well", I say, "you either have to let the man sell his property to a developer or you leave him zoned agricultural and you have to let him have his pigs." She then asks the money question. "Would you rather him have pigs or sell and have more housing behind you?" I think to her surprise and much to my wife's astonishment "Frankly I would rather have the pigs."

As some background, I grew up on a farm where either we or one of our neighbors grew or raised just about anything that can be raised in the midwest. Our next door neighbors raised pigs all of my life. My dad raised some while I was in college. Pigs are smart and remarkably clean when allowed to be. Pig farms that "stink" are full of very unhappy pigs. As long as he has happy pigs we can be good neighbors.

Chalan then asks us how we think our neighbors will react. My wife responds "I think most of them will be afraid their property values are about to plummet!".

My answer, "She is right. Checkmate! He gets to sell to the developer."

Bad for me, eventually, but very good for him. And really, not so bad to me. The developers plan is to put in large estates worth much more than my home. That has to be good for my property value. It takes years to get water contracts around here so I assume all will be status quo for a while.

He did nothing illegal or even offensive. He looked out for his economic interests in a very smart, calculated and savvy way. Very American. Hats off. Now is the time for the commission and the rest of us to make a deal we can all live with and let him sell his land or buy it at some reasonable price and keep it open.

BTW, according to Chalan the donkeys were bought to protect the pigs from coyotes, which are pretty prevalent out here. That hadn't occurred to me but it makes a ton of sense. Donkeys are very aggressive about protecting their territory. They can be very vicious. Only a starving coyote would risk being kicked by a donkey to get to a pig. Donkeys are not much more expensive to keep than a dog and a whole lot easier to fence in.

I wait with baited breath to see Chalan's latest article on this topic. I get the feeling she could actually make it big as a reporter. This isn't a big story nationally or state-wide but it is a big story for those of us who live in this little corner of the world and she has clearly spent a lot of time and leg work to be well informed and get input from all the people impacted. All politics are local and good reporters usually start out there and work their way up through recognition. We need more of those and I wish her all the luck in the world.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Katherine Harris to stay in Senate Race

And spend all of her $10M inheritance on her race. Good for her.

New Michigan Billboards

If I were considering a career in politics in the state of Michigan I would be ordering billboards now to put this on. How stupid do you have to be to stand up on the Senate floor next to this sign, matching outfit and all? My campaign would be "I am not a complete idiot and apparently our current Senator is! I promise, if elected, never to do anything this embarrassing to our state. I further promise never to act like Chucky or Russ". (HT: Hugh)

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Democrats busted again

Russ Fiengold, D-Wisconsin, introduced a censure resolution in the Senate today. The Republicans immediately moved to bring it to a vote and the Democrat leadership declined.
"This is a political stunt, a political stunt that is addressed at attacking the president of the United States of America when we're at war," Mr. Frist said. "The president is leading us with a program that is lawful, that is constitutional, that is vital to the safety and security of the American people."

Democrats quickly rejected voting on the censure resolution, accusing Mr. Frist of trying to ram it through before senators would have time to consider it.

"I don't introduce a censure resolution lightly," Mr. Feingold said later. "I'm shocked that the majority leader would show such disregard for such a serious matter by trying to hold a vote ten minutes after it was introduced."
As if we haven't all been looking at this issue for a month. As if debate on the Senate floor is going to change anyone's vote. As if this isn't a failed political stunt. The program is clearly legal and rational and supported by a significant majority of Americans. His resolution is clearly a political stunt that is going to go down in flames.

The Republicans of today can always count on the Democratic whacko lefties to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. I don't say this with pleasure. Our government would be much better if we had a real choice instead of a bad choice and a very clearly worse one.

This is Funny!

Prof. Bainbridge finds a business owner who clearly leans right and has a great sense of humor.

I support Katherine Harris too!

Tammy writes why she supports Katherine Harris here. I agree, not only on my support but on the reasons why. I must admit that I was quite disappointed in her book but if you read past all of the details of her younger life and family that were uninteresting you were left with an impression that she is trying to do what she believes is the right thing in her public service and her personal life. This is rare today and I have never understood why the Central Command of the Republican party have been so dead set against her. I understand that they fear the backlash of lefty voters over her doing her job, very publicly, in the 2000 election. Are those folks going to vote for any Republican? I think not. Put her on display as a woman who stands up for the law and her job responsibilities. We all know that lefties abhor responsibilities but this woman seems to believe that the responsibilities of elected office are real. She should be a poster child and not an anathema.

I probably don't agree with all of her politics, but the thing is that we know little about her politics. She has been rigid in her quest to fulfill her responsibilities most of her public career and has spent little time in a position where her personal views have been shared. I'll take someone I don't agree with all the time who is trying to do the right thing over someone that I agree with most of the time who shirks their responsibilities and commitments. I firmly believe that if she had been in the Senate during the Clinton impeachment she would have been the only Senator to have read all of the evidence before voting. I have no clue how she would have voted but I bet she would have read all the evidence. None of the other losers we have there did. They took an oath at the beginning of the trial to do so and then they stuck their fingers in the air to read the wind and voted accordingly while ignoring said oath. Disgusting! Republicrats! A breath of fresh air from a woman who takes her job seriously would be welcome in my book.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Is it really Noah's Ark?

Many Christians and Jews, myself included, believe there really was a guy named Noah who put his family and some animals on an arc (read barge) and floated out a flood. We further believe that this arc came to rest somewhere in the Ararat mountains. Many believe it must have landed on Mt. Ararat itself while others, and that includes me, believe it may have landed on that particular peak or any other in the set generally called the "Ararat Mountains" at the time. Go have a look at the pictures in this story about some new satellite photos of a spot on Mt. Ararat in Turkey. I am not sure I am convinced but until the Turkish government lets scientists go to the spot we will not know for sure if that is petrified wood or just an interestingly shaped outcrop of mountain.

All religion aside, isn't high definition satellite photography amazing?

City to seize church by eminent domain

That is the title of this WND story. It begins:
The city of Long Beach, Calif., is using the power of eminent domain bolstered by last summer's U.S. Supreme Court ruling to condemn a Baptist congregation's church building.

The city wants to remove the Filipino Baptist Fellowship's building to make way for condominiums, the Baptist Press reported.
I thought Kelo was wrongly decided at the time. It is certainly un-American even if the 5 Justices in the majority are correct that it is constitutional. It is worth noting that one of the 5 (and one of the 4 in the minority) have retired and been replaced. I suspect that both new Justices would have been on the other side on this issue. I further suspect that even some of the remaining 4 who voted in favor have seen the destruction that this has allowed and the citizen outrage it has created.

Let us hope that John Eastman, attorney for the church, is correct in the following:
"In my view, the Supreme Court made a terrible mistake in Kelo, and I think they know that and they're going to be looking for a way to extricate [themselves] from that case," he said.

A church case, he continued, is the best challenge to the principle of that case, "where there is no economic output, so any economic development could then be utilized to take out the church under the Kelo theory."
I suspect the courts will rule in favor of the church. My question is how. The Robert's court could take Kelo on directly and admit that the earlier ruling was a mistake. It could, however, sidestep the issue and claim that the seizure is unconstitutional simply because it is a violation of the free exercise clause, which would help the church but not the thousands of taxpayers around the country being unreasonably attacked by their local governments. It would also leave a terrible precedent on the books.

Update on Rosa Parks Memorial

I seem to have missed a rule on the comments section. I reserve the right not to let organizations post their PR pieces on my blog. Over the weekend the "Rosa Parks Freedom Chapel" attempted to post a comment to my rant about them profiting over Mrs. Parks gravesite. I denied the posting of the comment but will give you a pointer to their official statement on their blog. I am unimpressed with their defense but leave it to you to make your own judgment.

BTW, had they simply attempted to post a short intro of who they are and a pointer to their PR statement on their own site I would have allowed the comment and posted my own followup stating I was unimpressed. I whole heartedly agree that individuals and institutions should have the right to defend themselves at the location where they were attacked. That is the single largest reason that I enabled moderated comments. This
(meaning blogs) is supposed to be, at least to some degree, about civil debate. My site is, however, not intended to be a landing zone for press releases posted by others. Some quick searching indicates that this organization searched for people (and there were many) who commented negatively on their actions and posted the same vanilla press release to them. Sorry, no dice here.

If someone there wants to have a discourse on the topic, we can certainly do that here.