My hands are bloodied and bruised for I have been engaged in a pitched battle here at the Blaska Policy Research Center and Experimental Work Farm with my arch-enemy. No, not Bicycle Boy. Something far more sinister (if possible) and fecund: Rhamnus cathartica.
This enemy is well entrenched and endowed with effective defenses. Not for nothing is it better known as common buckthorn. I just hauled five trailer loads of this prickly pest to the Badger Road drop-off site, having missed the last brush pick-up of the season.
At first, I welcomed the rapid in-fill along my chain-link fenced lot lines, which I quit mowing years ago. Some very desirable vegetation moved in, including a Mountain Ash and a delightful viburnum, which even now is holding onto its merlot-colored leaves.
Buckthorn, on the other hand, is considered an invasive species. A pest. A weed that competes with more desirable plants. And boy did I get buckthorn.
Common and glossy buckthorn are small trees or shrubs that can reach a height of 20-25 feet. Buckthorn holds its leaves and keeps them green into November, much later than most vegetation. Only now are they starting to turn and drop. That makes them easy to spot.
The female buckthorn produces dense springs of black berries. Birds eat the berries. The berries contain a laxative, causing birds to evacuate the seeds before fully digested with a nice dollop of starter fertilizer. Pretty clever, eh?
My chainsaw made quick work of them but the interlopers fiendishly intertwined themselves with more desirable trees and bushes, requiring a tug of war to pull them away. It hurts just to think about it.
If you don't pour something toxic on the stubs they'll send up more shoots next spring. They might anyway so I've got to check.
A web site is devoted to the Wisconsin's most sinister invaders. It is maintained by the Invasive Plants Association of Wisconsin. Buckthorn shares wanted posters with garlic mustard (of which we hear much), honeysuckle (which once was sold at garden stores), Phragmites (a grass), purple loosestrife, and reed canary grass.
Law of unintended consequences: U.S. policies are subsidizing new energy crops that are likely to spread off the farm and wreak economic and ecological havoc, a federal advisory board cautioned yesterday. Will 'Energy Crops' Become the Next Kudzu?
The squire of Stately Blaska Manor would not place himself among the pantheon of environmental saints - people like John Muir, Gaylord Nelson, or Euell Gibbons, the guy that thought Grape Nuts breakfast cereal tasted like wild hickory nuts.
I would not place myself among such illuminati, but you may, if you like.
Blaska's Blog supports housing the less fortunate
Dean Loumos, Executive Director of Housing Initiatives, Inc. informs our alder here in the 20th District:
I am sending you this note (11/09/09) to inform you that we are interested in acquiring a building in your district. The building in question is located at 5838 Balsam Rd. This building is in foreclosure and only now being managed by Anchor Bank who want to sell it as soon as possible.
Our program develops permanent housing for people who are suffering from debilitating mental illnesses and cannot work because of it. However, all of our clients are more than capable of living independently and once we are able to provide them with housing usually they can maintain the housing with the necessary community support.
All of our tenants are connected to community based case management and also benefit from intensive property management that Housing Initiatives supplies. As we say often, we cannot guarantee that our clients will be perfect tenants but we can guarantee that if any of our tenants mess up we will take care of it immediately. This could include losing their housing.
Go for it, as far as I am concerned. Dean Loumos runs a good program with rules. As he says, break the rules and lose out. Mentally ill folks trying to get better? Can't be any worse than some of the morally ill tenants they would replace.
Redistributing the wealth hits home
Depend on Madison's liberals to bemoan "the broken school funding formula." Thank Richard S. Russell, a former employee of the Department of Public Instruction and frequent citizen commentator, for correcting such assertions. Russell told The Capital Times:
I was dismayed when reporter Susan Troller's article (made) the false dichotomy about "property values, not income or ability to pay" or the notion that the formula is "horribly broken."
First, few paupers live in mansions, and I'd bet zero millionaires live in trailers or tarpaper shacks. When you buy a house, you have to ask yourself whether you can afford to make monthly payments. Even in these troubled economic times, most people are still keeping up, which means that their property taxes reflect their ability to pay. Besides, isn't The Capital Times editorial position usually in favor of taxing accumulated wealth?
Susan Troller replied, in part:
My story, "Formula for disaster," makes the point that Madison's school district was uniquely hard hit by recent state school aid cuts, a direct result of the funding formula, which equalizes aid in Wisconsin among property-rich and property-poor communities.
Sue Troller goes on to talk about income levels, etc. But that is beside the point. The Madison School District is property rich. Neither Eau Claire or Whitefish Bay, for instance, has anywhere near the shopping centers and high-rise condos per capita. Madison home values traditionally rank among the highest in the state.
The State of Wisconsin, relying on personal income taxes, corporate taxes and the sales tax, then helps make up the difference, giving little or nothing to wealthy districts like Madison in favor of truly impoverished districts.
That's what Barack the Obama would call "redistributing the wealth."
Kind of hurts, doesn't it?!
The case that wouldn't go away
Of course, the Wisconsin State Journal has a huge investment in the conviction of Scott Jensen. Its series on the legislative caucus scandal was big stuff by Wisconsin standards. But its editorial Wednesday said the former Republican Assembly speaker's use of caucus staff employed by the taxpayers represented "a huge and unfair competitive advantage for Jensen and his cronies seeking election."
And that is what state law prohibits. The problem is that Democrats and Republicans in both the Assembly and the Senate had their own caucuses and they all did it. As is well noted, former Democrat(ic) speaker Tom Loftus wrote a book about it. [Was Tom Loftus a Felon?]
News reporters routinely rang up the four caucus directors to get their read on candidates and campaigns.
Where is the "unfair competitive advantage?"
Prosecutor Brian Blanchard acknowledges that the minority leaders in both houses did the same but he didn't prosecute them. Chuck Chvala, Jensen's Democrat(ic) counterpart in the Senate, copped a plea because he was facing other felony charges - things like taking bribes. Jensen took no bribes.
I'm sorry but the law is the law.
Screwed up cities:
U.S.Census Bureau, 2006 American Community Survey, August 2007