Archive - August 2005

Grass for Cash

Smoke gets in your eyes

See Dick Run?

No left turns?

The nanny state

Grass for Cash II

Make jurors pros

ID, please

No left turns? Take II

Cash for slash

Markets and smoking

Problems with gas?


Weather peeves

Getting burned in Hawaii

Second homes on the range

ID, please - take II


Inside 9- II

Freshman are people, too

Bus - stop!

Gates of Fire

Grand Canyon's Bass Trail -
Visitors Discouraged

Deconstructing Liberal Nonsense

Convention Center Madness

The Failure of Government


Wednesday, August 10, 2005

     Smoke gets in your eyes - The Flagstaff City Council recently extended the "no smoking" ban to areas outside of bars.  The argument about the "health and safety" of the public would seem especially suspect given that we are about to have more controlled burning in the national forest.  If smoking outdoors is unsafe to non-smokers, how can we possibly justify these prescribed fires?  And, during the winter, there is often a haze of smoke from wood burning stoves.  Will the city next ban these?  Even worse, I suppose, is that they will offer a tax rebate to get rid of your current stove!

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

     Grass for Cash - How can the Flagstaff politicians possibly justify the rebate program for homeowners that tear up their grass?  Since maintaining a grass yard is not cheap, this program smacks of a transfer from less-wealthy residents to more-wealthy residents.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

     The nanny state - Item:  Man gets workman's comp even though, at the time of his accident, he failed a drug test.  The legal ruling seems sound - the law is what it is.  But, this is a great example of the "moral hazard" problem - if people are not held responsible for their bad behavior, then their bad behavior is encouraged.  And, that means it will cost more to the rest of us.  It illustrates one big problem with government - regulations designed to protect the innocent can hurt us all.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

    No left turns? - The Daily Sun had a couple of interesting articles on traffic conditions in Flagstaff, and a good editorial today.  It seems odd that the rule is that you can't use the center lane to wait and merge to the right.  Consequently, it is "lawful" to make a right-hand turn, get into the center lane, wait, and make a U-turn.  That increased complexity would seem to come with an increased probability of an accident.  One may argue that merging from the left is not acceptable, but there are plenty of exceptions.  Consider the I-40, eastbound, merge onto I-17, northbound; not only do you merge from the left, you do so after being obscured from regular traffic while in that tunnel!

Thursday, August 11, 2005

    See Dick Run? - There is some buzz about Dick Cheney running for president So claims Bob Woodward (of Watergate fame) at a talk in Aspen, Colorado.  I can't imagine it.  Although he'd make a fine president, our presidential choices are usually about the lesser of two evils, not the better of two angels.  Still, I can imagine Cheney offering to serve as the Vice President for the next GOP standard bearer.  The notion that you can offer substantive continuity through the Vice President's office sounds like an oxymoron, but you never know.

Friday, August 12, 2005

     Grass for Cash II - The "grass for cash" issue, again.  Today's Daily Sun editorial supports the general idea, but notes the loophole that a homeowner could just let their yard be taken over by weeds.  On the local news blurb on KWMX, my favorite station, it was mentioned that only the first 50 takers would get the rebate.  [I think it was 50, but I may not be remembering it correctly; anyway, it was not that many.]  Still, it is just an example of government failure.  Here, the prime culprit is water pricing.  If water was priced competitively, then it wouldn't matter how people use it - they figure out for themselves whether it is worth the expense.  You may be rich and decide you don't want a grass lawn, or you may be poor, but want your own small plot of the green stuff.  That's how it works.  The notion that it is cheaper to pay people to rip up their grass than it is to drill another well is absurd.  Why not just outlaw grass altogether?  Wouldn't that be even cheaper?  Well, yes, according to the logic of the Daily Sun.
     But, here is another question - isn't replacing a grassy lawn with rocks (or, even with weeds) likely to contribute to global warming?  Isn't the grass helping to extract CO2 from the air, partially offsetting our emissions?  And, if we are pulling water from underground, it wasn't really doing anything there.  Perhaps the headline in the paper should read, "Flagstaff Promotes Global Warming."

Monday, August 15, 2005

     No left turns? Take II - There continues to be some confusion about using the center lane to merge right into traffic, after having turned into that lane from a side street.  One recent letter to the editor in the Daily Sun quoted from the prevailing regulations.  I had thought such a maneuver was perfectly legal, and I recall looking up information on this point about five years ago.  So, I revisited the Arizona Driver License Manual and, on page 40 is the description of using the "Two-Way Left Turn Lane."  While one statement here seems clear - "This lane is only for use of vehicles turning left in either direction," the very next sentence states, "This lane provides a safe area to slow before a left turn off of the street, or to speed up after a left turn onto a street."  Well, therein lies the conundrum.  While it appears that the lane can only be used for left turns, speeding up after having turned into this lane can only be for the purpose of merging right.  The manual is how the state interprets the relevant statutes, so I think it is fair to conclude that the center lane can be used this way. 

Addendum (8/23) - While the Driver License Manual states that it is "not a proper legal authority and should not be relied upon in a court of law" (p. 24), the actual statute (ARS28-751-4b) states: "A driver shall not drive a vehicle in the lane except if preparing for or making a left turn from or into the roadway or if preparing for or making a u-turn if otherwise permitted by law" (emphasis mine).  It is crystal clear to me that one may use this center lane when you are turning into the roadway, i.e., turning left from an intersecting road (or a driveway, et al.).  The Driver's Manual quote from above ("This lane is only for use of vehicles turning left in either direction.") is not a statement in the statute cited.  What the statute (4a) does state is that you can't turn left from some other lane, when the center lane is present.  Now, we will likely all agree that is sensible, even though I observe many vehicles failing to do this when I am on Butler, heading west past the interstate, and a driver wants to turn left into the Mobil station.  This is especially true when the vehicle is a truck hauling a trailer or a boat.
     The purpose of the statute would seem to be related to part 4a - clarifying the requirement that you can't turn left from other than the center lane, when it is provided.  A related purpose, it seems to me, is to note that this lane cannot be used for driving and/or passing traffic; it is only to be used for turning and merging.
     It may be that the statute could be more explicit, but I cannot fathom how anyone can, upon study, conclude that the center lane cannot be used for a merge to the right, after making a left hand turn onto the roadway.  Otherwise, the statute would have omitted the "into" phrase.

Update (8/31) - Today's Daily Sun has a front page story recanting its earlier interpretation of the center lane.  Some lawyers for the city wrote to say that it can be used to merge right, and that the statute is clear about this.  The problem is that the misrepresentation of this rule had gone on for so long that many (including those in law enforcement) just took for granted the notion that the lane couldn't be used to merge right.

Monday, August 15, 2005

     ID, please - Arizona voters approved a measure to require identification when voting.  Why is anyone against that?  How can anyone back a system so open to fraud and abuse . . . unless they want to engage in that kind of fraud and abuse?  Is there some kind of civil liberties issue here?  Absolutely not.  As much as I lean libertarian, I can't imagine supporting a voting scheme that is not fair and honest.  If you don't want to vote, fine.  If you do want to vote, bring your ID.  I looked up some info - Arizona has about 2.7 million registered voters as of April, 2005, yet as of July 1, 2005, there were 3.9 million driver licenses issued.  Add to that the number of state IDs issued and you must wonder who it is that doesn't have sufficient photo ID for voting.  We already have restrictions in place for voting - after all, you do have to register beforehand and you can't register late.  Adding to this the ID requirement is not onerous, and, in fact, helps to insure the integrity of the system.

Monday, August 15, 2005

     Make jurors pros - Last night, on MSNBC's Live and Direct, Rita Cosby talked with some disgruntled jurors from the Michael Jackson trial.  I am not especially interested in their specific complaints, but it called to my mind a notion I have kicked around for some time - make juries semi-professional.  That is, create a test that anyone, who would like to serve on a jury, can take.  It would be based on knowledge of how the law functions . . . like what "preponderance of evidence" means, how courtrooms function, what roles attorneys, witnesses, judges and jurors play in all this, etc.  The idea is to get a jury that actually understands what they are doing, why they are doing it, and what boundaries they face.  Add to this an all-volunteer nature to jury selection and I think you'd have a much better system.  We can probably speed up trials, cut down on the jury impaneling process, limit the number of challenges made, and pay jurors more.  [Well, if it is all-volunteer, a wage sufficient to attract enough jurors will be have to be offered.]

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

     Markets and smoking - KFC and Pizza Hut announced that their restaurants will bar smoking.  It illustrates the power of the marketplace, and why we should defer to it, rather than use the power of government to force the issue.  In fact, it seems rather absurd to have a vote, as was done in Flagstaff some years ago.  If most people want smoking banned in restaurants, owners will respond.  It is profitable to give consumers what they want.  That is what is happening here.  Wouldn't it have been better to leave the government out of this case?  Let government be used as it is intended to be used, not as a club to cow others into submitting to the will of a majority.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

     Cash for slash - According to the local news last night, the city is offering subsidies to property owners who thin their trees.  I have searched through the city's web site and haven't found any details, but I can't help but wonder if George Nackard acted too soon on his property!  I recall that his fine was related to the number of trees cut down, and that the city is demanding that he replace the trees that were cut, one for one.  Perhaps, later, he can apply for funds to cut some of these new trees down?

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

     Problems with gas? - Everyone knows that the price of gas is going up.  But, how high is it really?  Most people would say that it is higher than it's ever been.  That is both true and false.  It is true, in that the "nominal price" is higher than ever (about $2.55/gallon today); during the bad old days of the early 1980s the price of gas was lower; it averaged about $1.35 a gallon in 1981.  But, $1.35 buys a lot more in 1981 than it does now, because of inflation.  If we adjust for the effects of inflation, and restate gas prices in "real terms" we get a different answer.  Measured in 2003 dollars, the price of gasoline, back in 1981, was $2.79 per gallon.  That is still about 10% higher than the prices we see today, and that was the annual average price.  I put together a chart showing these real values from 1976 to 2003.  If prices were closer to their historical average (over the last 25 years), they would be closer to $1.50 a gallon.

     Update (9/03/2005) - Events have overtaken the analysis above.  The price of gasoline has climbed over $3 a gallon in Flagstaff, and, perhaps, everywhere else in Arizona.  So, now, the price is at its highest in at least 30 years.  Will it persist?  Alas, my chart can still be useful for answering this question.  Since I haven't heard any credible news that some structural change is behind this price spike, I cannot imagine that it will persist.  As long as the private sector is able to exploit existing oil fields, and drill in new ones, and as long as our refining capacity is restored and, heaven forbid (!) actually grows, this is likely to be a temporary situation.  The high price in the late 1970s/early 1980s persisted for a couple of years.  When the bottom fell out, it fell big time, and persisted for some time.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

     Iraq-naphobia? - What does "anti-war" mean?  Does it really mean that someone, wholly and completely, opposes the participation in any war?  If it does, it is absurd and meaningless.  War is a tool; it can be used for good or for ill.  To oppose all wars is to ignore the consequences of giving up.  Would we have been better off having refused to fight the Nazis and the Imperialist Japanese in World War II?  Is there anyone in the current anti-war movement that holds that position?  If not, then we are back to my point - war is a tool.  It isn't a preferred tool insofar as dealing with conflict, but it is a tool nonetheless.  We may argue about strategy, and we certainly will make mistakes along the way, but it is important to keep our eyes on the bigger picture.  I rather like the idea that radical Islamists made a huge mistake in attacking the U.S.  I am sure that, if they could do it all over again, they wouldn't.  They'd probably wait until we had another Democrat for president and assume we wouldn't offer any meaningful response.  President Bush, to his credit, has made a bold push to ensure the long-run sustainability of peace, not only for us, but also for the godforsaken people that live under the oppression of tyranny.

Friday, August 19, 2005

     Getting burned in Hawaii - An interesting story from the AP ran in the Daily Sun today about gas prices topping $3/gallon on Maui.  I find it hard to believe that prices (even in nominal terms) haven't been this high before.  I spent most of thirteen years living in Hawaii, from 1977 to 1990.  One of the first things I remember, when I moved there, was that the price of gas was quite cheap.  Then, I found out that the prices I saw posted up at the gas stations, were in liters, not gallons.  It takes 3.8 liters to make one gallon.  So, a price of about 78 cents per liter would get you to $3/gallon.  I suspect that prices, around 1982, may have actually been that high, but I don't have any verification.
     What is more interesting in this story is that Hawaii is about to embark on an exercise in regulating gas prices.  Politicians believe that Hawaiian consumers are paying unfair premiums for gas and have passed a law, set to begin on September 1, that regulates the wholesale price of gas.  Read some of the details here and here.  About all this shows is the truth to the adage that "the only thing we learn from history is that we don't learn from history."  The hullabaloo started when gas prices were running at about $1.80/gallon.  Today, prices are much higher everywhere, and, in fact, prices in Hawaii are lower than they are in California!
     If the law "works" we should see gas shortages, long lines, and even black markets popping up.  It amazes me that people think that prices are so arbitrary (like political power!) that, with the stroke of a pen, they can undo them.  Markets may appear chaotic, but, in fact, they are quite orderly.  Prices are an underlying reflection of a whole host of factors, from our desires to travel on vacation to the existence of refineries in Texas.  Any volatility in price is a consequence of volatility in these underlying factors.  Except, that politics intrude, creating volatility on its own - e.g., regulating summer and winter blends, mandating ethanol content, and, in Hawaii, controlling prices.
     At the same time, comments are being made that, with these higher prices, we will have to use government to force us to conserve on gas.  Suggestions range from mandating higher fuel efficiency for new cars, to subsidizing hybrids and spending tax money on alternative fuels.  Is it just really dark in here, or what?  When the price goes up, it is a signal to conserve.  If we (producers and consumers) ignore that signal, guess what happens?  Prices go up even more!  It is the nature of supply and demand.

Friday, August 19, 2005

     Weather peeves - There is one thing I really hate about how the weather is reported on the radio.  When the announcer is going through the expected highs for the day, invariably they will mention the temperature first and the city/place second.  As in, "75 in Flagstaff, 83 in Sedona, 79 in Camp Verde..."  The problem I have is that the numbers don't mean anything to me; the place does.  So, I am half-listening for "Flagstaff."  Of course, then I don't know what the number was - I don't have a rewind in my head that allows me to back up and fetch this data.  Instead, this information should be conveyed as place first, number second - "Flagstaff - 75, Sedona - 83, Camp Verde - 79..."  On TV it doesn't really matter how they say it, since you can see it on the screen.  But, on the radio, it is just irritating.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

     Second homes on the range - There has been a flurry of letters to the editor of the Daily Sun about the propriety, or not, of people buying second homes in Flagstaff.  On the left you have the usual suspects, and, as isn't always the case, a few rebuttals from the right.  While the socialist view is that it is all about greed, of course it isn't.  At least, no more so than everything we do in the normal course of our lives.  If you define as greed, any consumption above absolute self-sufficiency, then all of us are greedy.  It is a dead-end argument.
     What this is really all about is lifestyles.  Nothing more and nothing less.  Some people choose to carve out a lifestyle that includes a second home in Flagstaff, which they may, or may not, use with some frequency.  I met two women last week at Lowell Observatory who live in Flagstaff just during the summer.  I guess that makes them part of this despised group that own second homes in town.  They live in Phoenix during the winter, and who can really blame them for not wanting to live there in the summer!  Anyway, they seemed quite pleasant and they were interested in doing things around town - participating in the community as best they could.
     I do not begrudge anyone this lifestyle - if they can afford it, more power to them.  In the marketplace, you manifest your tastes and preferences (your lifestyle choices) by bidding on resources.  If you can't get everything you want - and, besides Bill Gates, who can? - you make tradeoffs.  You decide what you really want and what you can do without.  Many of us that live here (myself included) make a tradeoff in terms of income - we give up better paying jobs elsewhere for the lifestyle that Flagstaff affords us.  That makes us greedy too.  In a perfect socialist world (yes, I know that is an oxymoron), the state would ship you off to wherever it is that you would earn the highest income, since that represents the best "social" use of your labor.  And, that means most of us would end up living and working in Phoenix, or Los Angeles, or elsewhere.  And, only party officials would live in Flagstaff, but probably only for half of the year.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

     ID, please - take II - The Daily Sun's editorial today bemoans the ID requirements being imposed on voters.  I sympathize with some of their arguments to keep the system simple.  But, their notion that driver's licenses are too easily faked is a red herring.  I presume that fake IDs are acquired for drinking purposes not for voting purposes, making that the bigger concern.  So, let's make it simple - you must have a valid driver's license or a state ID.  End of story.  And, perhaps . . . we could actually allow private firms (Staples, UPS Store, Wal-Mart) to issue state IDs to more easily facilitate their acquisition (bringing assorted proof of who you are and leaving behind a set of fingerprints).
     With regard to convenience factors, I do like having a mail-in ballot.  But, if I came to believe that the system was being abused, then I would rather go to a polling place (which is not necessarily free of fraud).  It seems that e-voting can be more secure than mail-in voting, as ID verification can easily be part of the log-in process.  Some day...

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

     Inside 9- II - The National Geographic Channel (which still does not show up on the Daily Sun's TV listings!) ran a fascinating two-part series called Inside 9-11 this past Sunday and Monday, to be repeated in the weeks to come.  It details not only the events of that tragic day, but gives a good accounting of the backstory leading up to 9-11.  There were so many people that died that we can't possibly learn all of their stories.  However, the stories of the victims and heroes that were highlighted in this documentary were compelling.  One thought that struck me was the Cindy Sheehan really should be at the door of Bill Clinton to ask why her son had to die in Iraq, not at the door of George Bush.  Clinton's refusal to take action, after repeated provocation, is exactly the mindset that Bush has rejected in his determination to fight back against those that would harm us as well as those that support them.  As an aside, Steve Emerson ,who was prominently featured in the early segments of this series, spoke at NAU this past spring.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

     Pseudo-research - NAU professor Cathy Small has been identified as the true author of "My Freshman Year," a research project where she pretended to be a freshman student, living in a dorm and enrolling in classes.  The purpose?  Well, there is a good question.  I can't really imagine a real research purpose here.  If it was just some cheap trick to write a popular book, like "Nickel and Dimed" that would be one thing.  But, the notion that this is research goes beyond the pale.  As a professor, we know, with certainty, that Small was, as one time, a freshman!  So, can't you just sit down and think about what life was like then?  I can.  I remember missing classes, going to parties and cramming for exams.  I remember the financial stress and life in the dorms.  It isn't that hard.  And, the idea that you must go back to school to learn what students go through ignores the fact that you can just ask them!  Indeed, it appears that she got some of her best material from students that knew she was an "undercover" professor doing research.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

     Freshman are people, too - Despite the exhortation of today's editorial in the Daily Sun to make "My Freshman Year," required reading on the mountain campus, I have yet to read anything about it that seems new to me, much less insightful.  As I noted previously, all university professors were once freshmen, myself included.  Studying mountain lions in northern Arizona, or wildebeests on the African savannas would seem to call for some time spent up close and personal.  But, freshmen are humans.  When dealing with humans, we have the advantage that we can actually talk to them!  Now, this may not be practical when dealing with a group that is totally alien to your own - like studying the inner workings of drug dealing gangs.  But, freshmen are people we (faculty) deal with every day, and, while there is a great deal of variability in their academic, social and ethnic backgrounds, we still came from the same group.
     Over the years, I have grumbled (with others) about how our students are different than students I went to school with.  There are two reasons why that is wrong . . .
     1) Generally, we (faculty) went to better schools than NAU; so we associated with a different sub-set of students - ones that were better prepared at the least.  Having taught at the community college, I can readily see this sliding scale of student abilities.  [Some CC students are excellent, and better than my best university students.  But, the variability at the CC is huge and a lot of students have very poor skills and seem ill-suited for college.]
     2) We suffer from the 80/20 rule at work here - 80% of our students are not a problem; they work reasonably hard and try their best.  The remaining 20% are problems and their poor work, lousy skills, and disruptive classroom behavior take up 80% of our time, energy and effort.  Consequently, our perception of students gets easily colored by the "bad apples."

Thursday, August 25, 2005

     Bus - stop! - As is usually the case, a dramatic shift in events must occur before change is possible.  One may, fairly, argue that it is best to follow the adage of "don't fix it unless it's broken."  For example, the attack on 9-11 caused us to change our attitude towards terrorists; rising home prices causes the city council to open up land for denser development; rising gas prices provides the spur to drilling in ANWR.  It is the nature of the beast, even if all those changes were perfectly reasonable before the catalyst began.
     So it is with school buses, featured in today's Daily Sun.  The Flagstaff Unified School District racks up 1.9 million miles a year in travel, for which the state pays the district about $4 million.  Now that gas prices are rising, there is concern about how to keep this system afloat.  Perhaps it is a good time to think about how the system can be changed.
     Clearly, the school system should have centralized schools and use buses because the state is willing to pay for this transportation.  If we don't use these funds for buses, we won't get these funds.  If we did just get the money, it is unlikely that we would decide to use it in such a wasteful manner.
     How can we change the system to achieve systemic improvements? Here are two suggestions, a good one and a better one:
     (i) Charge parents for using the school bus as a mode of transport for their children.  That I must contribute, as a taxpayer, to the education of children (regardless of whether I have any or not) is one thing; to require me to help pay for their transportation to school is untenable.  If we, additionally, allow for competition in this field, I suspect that we will see bus-to-school services being offered by a variety of firms with a variety of vehicle types at a variety of prices.
     (ii) Eliminate centralization of schools.  The re-emergence of local schools would not only have positive benefits on student learning, student behavior and parental supervision, but it would eliminate the need for an expensive transport system that doesn't contribute directly to education.
     As a school child (in Denver, Colorado), I almost always walked to school throughout my K-12 years.  The only time I rode a bus was in high school and that was on the city bus for which I had to pay.  Given that I lived in a family of three kids and a single, working, mom, that option was exercised only rarely.  I cannot ever recall being on a school bus except for field trips.  For that purpose, the expense of school buses really would be educational.

Friday, August 26, 2005

     Gates of Fire - Michael Yon has been posting truly amazing blogs from the front lines in Iraq.  He is an independent, self-financed journalist out to provide a narrative of the "monumentally important events in the efforts to stabilize Iraq."  If you haven't read his dispatches, do so and learn something about the men and women fighting for us and for freedom and stability in Iraq.  Here is brief passage from his Gates of Fire posting:


There was a quick and heavy volume of fire. And then LTC (Erik) Kurilla was shot.

 "What's wrong with you!?" I yelled above the shooting.

"I'm hit three times! I'm shot three times!"

Amazingly, he was right. One bullet smashed through his femur, snapping his leg. His other leg was hit and so was an arm.

With his leg mangled, Kurilla pointed and fired his rifle into the doorway, yelling instructions to the soldiers about how to get in there. But they were not attacking. This was not the Deuce Four I know. The other Deuce Four soldiers would have killed every man in that room in about five seconds. But these two soldiers didn't have the combat experience to grasp the power of momentum.

 . . .

 And then help arrived in the form of one man: CSM (Robert) Prosser.

A man came forward, trying to shoot Kurilla with a pistol, apparently realizing his only escape was by fighting his way out, or dying in the process. Kurilla was aiming at the doorway waiting for him to come out. Had Prosser not come at that precise moment, who knows what the outcome might have been.

Prosser shot the man at least four times with his M4 rifle. But the American M4 rifles are weak--after Prosser landed three nearly point blank shots in the man's abdomen . . . the man just staggered back, regrouped and tried to shoot Prosser.

Then Prosser's M4 went "black" (no more bullets). A shooter inside was also having problems with his pistol, but there was no time to reload. Prosser threw down his empty M4, ran into the shop and tackled the man.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

     Grand Canyon's Bass Trail - Visitors Discouraged - It has been some time since I have been to the South Bass trailhead.  From what I hear, it may quite some time before I decide to revisit that area, despite its awesome beauty and allure.  After all, choosing where to go trek about in the Grand Canyon is like picking a selection from a dessert cart that is loaded with appetizing treats!  And, why pick one that costs you an extra twenty bucks?
     Yes, that's right.  Even though you have entered into the park (and paid your fees, or presented your pass), you must pay again to get to this trailhead.  The reason?  Well, the road (which has been around many, many years), doglegs its way through a corner of the Havasupai Indian reservation.  It didn't always do this - before the reservation was expanded in the 1970s, the road was in the Kaibab National Forest or in the Grand Canyon National Park.
     For years, I have seen this route become increasingly difficult to use.  A grate has given way to a fence and gate and the erratic attempts by some Havasupais to close this road has given way to a modern day extortion scheme - twenty bucks a vehicle (although one may try to haggle).  It is only by historical accident that you must follow this road some three to four miles through Havasupai lands in order to, once again, reach the park boundary.  I would write that it is highway robbery, but this road is hardly a highway - it is a dirt road, rocky in places, rutted and, during the winter, all but impassable.
     The park used to maintain a road into this area that was literally alongside the park boundary fence.  But, that has been closed for many years and the land designated as wilderness (yes, even though the Kaibab National Forest is within spitting distance of the road).  A few years ago, I learned that park officials had been interested in restoring a road that would cut off this dogleg, keeping all traffic out of the reservation, but nothing has come of that.  If you think the park service should be concerned about this issue, you can use their on-line form to send an e-mail, or you can write a snail mail letter to the park superintendent:

Joseph F. Alston, Superintendent
Grand Canyon National Park
P.O. Box 129
Grand Canyon, AZ 86023

    In a 1976 land use plan*, prepared in part by the Havasupai tribe, appears this passage:

     Public access to the Havasupai Traditional Use Area within the adjacent Grand Canyon National Park will be available onto those portions of it above the rim of the the Grand Canyon . . .

     While this is a bit convoluted, I read this to mean that access to the park, across these lands, cannot be restricted.  Either the park service should insist that this road be open to public use (without charge), or it should follow through with the plan to skirt the reservation with a road from Dodd Tank to the old Pasture Wash Ranger Station.

* This link is one single html page and very long.  There is a table of contents, which will show you the topics covered.  Scroll down about 75% of the way to the end to find the section on public access.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

     Deconstructing Liberal Nonsense - The Daily Sun has a new slate of virtual board members up and running, and it looks like Managing Editor Randy Wilson did another good job of picking folks from across the political spectrum.  One participant in particular, Ms. Linda Magnelli, looks like she will be producing comments that will be ripe fodder for my own commentaries.  A self-described "diehard liberal," she has already shown that logic and sensibility are irrelevant to most "liberal" arguments.  One may also add in honesty here, as well.  Today's topic dealt with Iraq and whether President Bush should set a troop withdrawal deadline.  Let's shred look at her arguments:

1) Bush has not articulated his decisions concerning Iraq - Maybe in her world.  In my world, Bush announced his intentions, sought U.N. authority (and got it), sought Congressional authority (and got it) and then acted on it.  I don't see how he could have been any clearer in this matter.

2) The Iraqis didn't ask for our help - Maybe not Saddam, nor Uday, nor Qusay,  nor any other of their murdering brotherhood of Ba'athists.  But, plenty of Iraqis wanted our help and appreciate it.  Former Prime Minister (and survivor of an assassination attempt by Saddam's henchmen) Allawi said this to the U.S. Congress: "We Iraqis are grateful to you, America, for your leadership and your sacrifice for our liberation and our opportunity to start anew."  I am sure that there are many Kurds and Shi'ites happy for our help, although they may still resent us for failing them in the past, when, at our encouragement, they opposed Saddam and we did nothing.

3) "We are in a dilemma far worse than Vietnam" - Aside from the fact that it was a Democrat that got us into the Vietnamese War (Kennedy), and that expanded that war (Johnson), and that it was a Republican that extricated us from that war (Nixon), the analogy is incredibly facile.  Over 50,000 Americans died in that war.  So, how can Iraq be worse?  Our opponents in Vietnam actually had a country (North Vietnamese) and had the support of a major superpower (the USSR).  Additionally, the elected president of South Vietnam was overthrown (with President Kennedy's acquiescence).  Nothing about Iraq is at all like Vietnam except that there is fighting and there is dying.  The whole "worse than Vietnam" argument is nothing but an excuse for not being able to muster any real reasons to oppose this ongoing fight.

3) President Bush cannot tell the truth - This is probably the same old worn-out WMD argument.  President Bush had multi-national intelligence agencies telling him this; President Clinton said the same thing; even Al Gore endorsed this conclusion (years earlier).  You would think a psychology major would know better.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

     Convention Center Madness - The Daily Sun is reporting that NAU will pursue the building of a hotel and conference center complex on campus and that the city will kick in some $2 million for the project.  It also appears that some private funding will be made, although I suspect most of the money will come from the state.  The obvious question here is: Why should the city contribute anything?  What purpose does it serve to use taxpayers money for this project?  Of course, the typical argument from City Hall is that this center will attract loads of visitors who will spend money in town and generate more tax revenue that can be used for the benefit of residents.  There are at least two problems with this argument:

1)  Why should the city be interested in raising tax revenue?  It is the primary purpose of government to establish, and enforce, simple rules that allow us to live peacefully among one another.  There may be a role to play in the provision of certain "local public goods" like roads and sewers (although water and trash could be privatized).  But, after that, government becomes the target of special interests that want all residents (or visitors) to pay for projects that benefit just a few, whether it be land for a YMCA or public art along Route 66.

2)  Why isn't the City Council concerned with impacts from such a project and demanding that NAU pay for infrastructure improvements, like they require from private developers?  If you want to build housing in Flagstaff, the City Council treats you like a pariah (well, except for Joe Haughey), and demands all manner of monetary and in-kind kickbacks.  Yet, the university entertains the idea of this conference center and the city can't wait to throw money into the project.  If this center attracts a thousand participants to some function, how will that affect traffic, parking, police services, etc.?

     The city government should stick to crafting sensible rules that protect private property interests and resist the temptation to meddle in these kinds of development decisions.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

     The Failure of Government - The purpose of government is worth extended public discussion.  While the founding fathers crafted a federal republic, and detailed what it could and could not do, it is up to every generation to revisit these basics.  All too often, we take the system for granted.  Lethargy is a far more potent force than we may want to believe.
     I favor a government that is as small and oblique as possible.  I want a government that achieves the basics and leaves it to the rest of society to fill in the gaps.  Should we have parks?  Public art?  Mass transit?  Water restrictions?  These are but a few of the host of issues that I believe can be, and should be, addressed outside of government.
     What government absolutely must do is enforce and protect property rights.  If it cannot do this, it has failed and our society will disintegrate into chaos.  If we cannot reap the rewards of our own efforts, why put forth the effort to begin with?
     In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, one of the dimensions we are seeing, especially in New Orleans, is looting.  This represents a failure of government.  We have no end of emergency preparedness agencies and organizations.  Why is it that they don't have a clue about the bigger picture of what should be done here?  The human tragedy is temporary, and, to a great extent, it was avoidable (the city was, after all, evacuated!).  Even from Arizona, Red Cross teams have been "dispatched" to aid in the humanitarian efforts in the wake of Katrina.  The private sector has the ability to respond to events like this.  I wouldn't necessarily give up the role played by the government in facilitating the evacuation, or the rescue of those stranded by the high waters, or the efforts to house and feed those left behind.  But, I would be willing to entertain a discussion of whether the government should be involved, and to what extent.
     More critically, the failure to protect private property is far more troubling.  This problem is aggravated because some people will stay behind to protect their property since the state won't.  So, the government fails on two counts.  I would think that a reasonable response to the impending hurricane would have been to station National Guard troops in the Superdome.  And, while they certainly can, and should, be used for relief efforts, a zero-tolerance, shoot first, policy of dealing with looters must be a primary objective.
     It is bad enough that the storm will have caused so much damage.  But, when individuals, or mobs, add to that destruction, then they are the enemy.  If the threat of force is credible (i.e., shooting looters), then that will not be a problem that adds to the misery of this circumstance.


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