Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Another Open Letter to Brad Cole

This letter was submitted to the Carbondale Times (which never printed it) on March 28, 2007, and to the Southern Illinoisian on April 11, 2007.

Mayor Cole,

During your 2003 campaign for Mayor, the Carbondale Times published a letter from me informing you that using the American flag in political advertising was against Federal law, and was disrespectful to the flag and to those veterans who fought and died under it. I presume you read my letter, because the offending sign was taken down shortly thereafter. 4 USC Sec. 8, entitled “Respect for the Flag,” states: “The flag should never be used for advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever.”

Nonetheless, once again, a massive banner—apparently the exact same one that prompted my letter in 2003—displays your name next to a gigantic American flag. The fact that you did not destroy that sign after you took it down in 2003 shows that you were only cynically responding to negative publicity, not acting out of genuine respect for our flag and our country. Now you bring it out again, presuming that we have forgotten, in the interim, that it is both illegal and disrespectful to use the flag in advertising.

There are no enforcement provisions for this Federal law; no Flag Police will show up at your door. The law merely lays out what is proper treatment for our flag. As a National Guardsman and a Desert Storm veteran, I have served proudly under our flag for many years. It disturbs and upsets me to see elected officials gratuitously and disrespectfully using the symbol of our Nation for personal political gain.

Shame on you, Mr. Cole.

Jim Syler

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

What Can Carbondale Do?

Rhetorical question from a reader:

We have good health care, low land cost, somewhat easy access via rail, hwy, air, I don't know how energy costs compare, decent internet infrastructure (in town), a large variety of things for "quality of life" in employees off-time and proximity to St. Louis, memphis, nashville, springfield, Evansville metro areas... I think we've got access to a fairly higher educated workforce with the presence of SIU and JALC. All pluses...

So, what does Carbondale need to do to get something like this [link below] perhaps in the Business Park (east, reed station rd.. Isn't that area is developed to be wired? I'm 98% sure that somebody had redundant fiber runs to the park from both north and south, I saw the south run dug as I drive old 13 every day)?

How about this Job Change for Furniture Makers, Courtesy of Google?

or this?

ACS had good run with a data center but their contracts didn't continue.

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Monday, March 26, 2007

Carbondale City Council Debate Scheduled

Sunday’s two-hour mayoral debate at First Christian Church was both entertaining and informative. Sponsored by the Arbor District Neighborhood Association, candidates had the opportunity to ask each other questions and respond to audience queries.

The association will follow–up the mayoral debate next Sunday with a similar session for Carbondale City Council candidates from 3-5 PM in the Fellowship Hall of First Christian Church, 306 Monroe Street, Carbondale.

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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Electricity, markets and monopolies

The big news story nowadays is Ameren’s recent rate increases, permitted by the expiration of a 10-year rate freeze. Today’s Daily Egyptian details Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn lambasting Ameren’s rate hikes, dishonesty and poor service, and advocating “strict, no-nonsense laws” to remedy the situation.

Just what we need: More laws.

When I first heard about the prospective rate increases last year, it seemed to make sense: What with inflation (deliberately caused by our government...but that’s another post), enforcing the same prices for ten years is surely going to harm a company, perhaps to the point that they will no longer be able to provide reliable, quality service. Certainly, this is precisely what Ameren is claiming. However, after seeing the actual increases in people’s electricity bills (including mine!), I’ve changed my tune.

Damn them bloody capitalists! Their just tryin ta rip us off! We need more goobermint intervenshun!

Except…it’s not the capitalists’ fault. It’s ours.

Or to be precise, it’s our State government’s fault. Lt. Governor Quinn’s finger should be pointing squarely at himself, at the governor, and particularly at the legislature. Why? Because Ameren is essentially a state agency. To be precise, Ameren is a state-sanctioned monopoly.

Monopolies are bad. Enforced monopolies are worse. The justification for having enforced electricity monopolies is that power generation and distribution is something called a “natural monopoly”; in essence, it is claimed that one company can do it more cheaply than two or more, and that if you allow competition, prices would be higher than if you didn’t.

True enough, in theory. Especially for power delivery, it would seem that having two or more sets of power lines running everywhere would be more expensive than one. But this logic ignores the essential evil of monopolies, especially enforced monopolies. A monopolist has essentially no incentive to lower price or improve quality beyond a bare, necessary minimum. This is true whether the monopolist is highly regulated or left to his own devices. Regardless of how much regulation or oversight you impose on a monopolist, he will still try to get around the rules and raise prices, or if he can’t do that, cut costs while not dropping prices. This is known as the “golden watercooler effect.”

So what’s the solution? Simple: allow competition. Repeal Ameren’s state-enforced monopoly, and let other businesses provide electricity to Southern Illinois businesses and residents. Would this instantly drop prices? No. But it would have the long-term effect of lowering prices and/or improving service, even if no other company actually comes in. Why? Because the existing company, no longer having a state-enforced monopoly, will be afraid that if their price is too high or their service too poor, other companies will come in and try to undercut their business.

What’s more, a free market in any industry nearly always has the long-term effect of lowering costs, and therefore prices. In a few years, with sufficient (read: unregulated) competition, we would have the lowest sustainable electricity prices possible given the location and the existing technology, with ever-lowering prices (discounting inflation) as technology improves.

Bottom line: The only way out of our electricity problem is to cut Ameren loose from its state-privileged status, to fly or fall on its own.

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Arbor District Mayoral Debate

Residents of Carbondale’s Arbor District are sponsoring a mayoral candidate debate on Sunday, March 25th from 2 – 4 PM in the Fellowship Hall of First Christian Church. The debate is open to neighborhood residents.

The Arbor District Board states that it "wants to know where the mayoral candidates stand as leaders in the community." The debate will be followed by audience questions.

Sandy Litecky, President of the Arbor District Neighborhood Organization, will moderate the debate and Q&A session.

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Saturday, March 17, 2007

Weird Egypt

Finished rereading Jim Jung's Weird Egypt: The Case for Supernatural Geology. Available at Rosetta Stone Bookstore, it's a good memorial to a life lived well. I never had the pleasure of meeting the man but from from what I've read in the book and his columns in the Carbondale Times, I'm sure I would have enjoyed talking with him.

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Sunday, March 11, 2007

Holy Academic Freedom, Blogman

Has this made the local papers yet? SIUC Sociology Prof "Caves to Legal Pressure on Abortion Paper – Allows Christian Student to Graduate":
"A professor at the Southern Illinois University has backed down from her refusal to grade a Christian graduate student’s paper on post-abortion syndrome in women, allowing the student to complete the course and graduate, an SIU official told today.

The response comes just two days after attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund Center for Academic Freedom sent a letter Wednesday protesting to SIU officials that Christine Mize, a Christian graduate student in social work, was wrongly given an “incomplete” by her professor, Dr. Laura Dreuth Zeman, who was punishing her for her Christian views."

Saturday, March 3, 2007

How Much is Ameren Costing You?

How much did your latest electric bill from AmerenCIPS increase compared to 12 months ago? Take the survey today?

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