Saturday, August 28, 2010

Some Religions Are More Equal Than Others

If this had happened at the FLDS compound in Texas, do you think the suspect would still be awaiting arrest?  When Texas authorities received an anonymous tip about a (fictitious, as it turned out) child bride who had been married against her will and abused by her husband, they swept in and removed 439 children from their families and warehoused them until the courts ordered them returned to their parents.

Sadly, the Grant County case is not a freak occurrence in the Amish community. It's not even the only one in the Midwest this year. Amish children are especially vulnerable, since the faithful are taught to shun the outside world and avoid the secular authorities. They also believe in forgiveness rather than prosecution.

But, by and large, Americans hold the Amish in high esteem, so we give them the benefit of the doubt.  Just as faithful Catholics give their church the benefit of the doubt when bishops protect abusers rather than their victims. Have any Catholic schools been shut down in the wake of those abuse scandals?  I haven't heard of any.

But if a religious group is not only in the minority, but also widely despised, a whole different set of rules apply.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Will Hammes Sponsor the New Urbanism Convention?

Mayor Dave is seeking an opinion from the city Ethics Board regarding whether it is appropriate for him to send out letters soliciting sponsors for a possible convention of the Congress for the New Urbanism. Madison needs to raise about $280,000 toward convention costs if it wishes to host. City Attorney Mike May pointed out a potential pitfall of having elected officials raise money for outside organizations: "One concern is that business entities wishing to ingratiate themselves may be driven to make contributions."

Now might be a good time for Mayor Dave to call in a favor from the Hammes Co. After all, he's already done as much as he possibly could to aid their Edgewater development proposal, so no one can accuse him of granting favors in exchange for sponsorship of his pet cause.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Something to Think About

A long time ago, in a country far, far away, an artist made a statement that was considered offensive to devout followers of one of the world's major religions.  Around the world, demonstrations were held where the artist's free expression was condemned and his works were ritually burned.  The heated rhetoric damaged his career but did not change his views.

Years later, a man who believed he was doing God's work killed the artist.  Should the whole religious movement be held responsible? How about the clerics who condemned the artist's works and called him a blasphemer, directly influencing his eventual murderer?  Or should we hold the murderer solely responsible?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

GB Council Approves Velp Avenue Mosque

Does this mean that Green Bay is more tolerant than SheboyganProbably not.  However, it may have occurred to the city fathers that a number of former Green Bay Packers have Islamic-sounding names (Ahman Green, Na'il Diggs, Najeh Davenport, Jamal Jones, and of course Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila come to mind).  I don't know how many are actually Moslems (Green was named after former NFL great and well-known broadcaster Ahmad Rashad, for instance), but chances are good that the Packers will sign the occasional Moslem player.  It wouldn't do for local officials to make their families feel unwelcome.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Marijuana Farmers Stimulate Northern Wisconsin Economy

Last week, we learned of a major drug bust in northern Wisconsin.  A major marijuana farm was hidden in the Chequamegon-Nicolet national forest.  It is believed to be the work of a Mexican drug cartel. The cartels in recent years have begun growing their product closer to their markets, eliminating the need for risky border crossings.  The Wisconsin State Journal article made a point of mentioning that these Mexican growers bought supplies and equipment locally:
They followed one suspect to a Fleet Farm in Green Bay, where he purchased six pairs of pruning shears. They watched another man purchase 9 mm ammunition at a nearby Wal-Mart, documents said.
The marijuana was processed locally, at a house in Seymour. At least 12 men have been arrested in connection with the operation. An unnamed informant (who may or may not be among the dozen men facing charges) said he was living in California several months ago when he was recruited to work on a ranch.

I was amazed to learn that commercial grades of marijuana can be grown in Wisconsin.  I always assumed that, should pot be legalized, it would mainly benefit states like California and Hawaii.  However, this shows that there is a lucrative market for pot grown in the Badger state.

I will be interested to learn how many people were actually employed in this illegal operation.  Imagine if legitimate Wisconsin farmers could grow marijuana, employing local people and spending the profits locally, rather than wiring it to California and Mexico.  Imagine the sales tax revenue for the state.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Don't Forget Hippie Hanukkah

If you don't want to brave the heat, the rain or the traffic on Saturday to do your Hippie Christmas shopping downtown, you can always hit the local thrift stores for Hippie Hanukkah (it lasts for several days, and the gifts are more modest).

There are a lot of recently-made donations in the shops, thanks to people downsizing before they move.  If you need a winter coat, or a pair of leather pants (and who doesn't need at least one pair of leather pants in their closet?), now is a good time to look for it.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Interstate Etiquette

Hey, dickless wonder.

We all see the State Patrol car sitting in the turn-around.  It isn't a construction zone, and you're in the passing lane.  The trooper isn't going to pull you over for driving 70 mph on the Interstate.

Suddenly slowing down to 65 mph while passing a semi will create a safety hazard behind you.  It may also lead the trooper to suspect that you have (a) drugs in the car or (b) outstanding warrants.


Thursday, August 5, 2010

Sheboygan Built It, But They Didn't Come

In 2004, Great Wolf Resorts opened the Blue Harbor Resort waterpark hotel in Sheboygan. The City of Sheboygan helped out with $10.2 million in infrastructure improvements, a $4 million loan to build the hotel and an additional investment of $8 million to build a city-owned conference center (managed by the hotel) next door.

Last year, Great Wolf took a $24 million write-down on Blue Harbor, valuing the hotel at $6 million.  They also sued the city, arguing that their assessment was much too high and they had overpaid their property taxes for the past few years.  They reached a settlement, and the City of Sheboygan will refund almost $263,000 in property taxes.  The settlement money will come from the TIF district that includes Blue Harbor.

Meanwhile, Great Wolf is trying to sell the Blue Harbor Resort.

The moral of the story is that cities should be very careful about investing millions of dollars in hotel projects in the name of economic development and tourism.  Taxpayers should not finance real estate speculation.