I appreciate Charles Sykes' rather even-handed article on the upcoming marriage amendment ("Not The Right Thing to Do? 3/10/06). I thought he did a good job inviting both supporters and opponents to speak with a civil and respectful voice.
However, he concluded by suggesting that gays "will have to be more tolerant," and Christians "who want respect and tolerance for their faith need to distance themselves from extremists." The assumption in his thinking seems to be most or all Christians support the amendment and oppose equal rights for gay and lesbian people.
In fact, many Christian people and congregations root our opposition to this amendment in our faith and in our belief that Jesus calls us to acceptance, tolerance and generosity. Some of us would even say that Jesus demands that we offer an "extravagant welcome" to all people. My church is not alone in taking a public stand against the amendment. It is important to keep in mind being Christian and being gay are NOT mutually exclusive.
Rev. Winton Boyd
Orchard Ridge UCC
Charlie Sykes raises many questions. He says the first sentence is "straightforward enough" when it comes to banning marriage for gays. "Murky" is how he describes the second and final sentence. Is he saying it is all right to discriminate against people as long as it is easily understood?
Sykes goes on to say that if gays want more tolerance and acceptance, they will have to be more tolerant themselves. That is similar to what was said about African Americans during their quest for equality. He wants people who are being treated shabbily to accept their treatment and not refer to those guilty as bigots or as hateful.
If Charlie Sykes were treated as a second-class citizen, would he embrace those who put him down?
Timothy J. Dean
I can't help but comment on the incongruity of Charlie Sykes' opinion piece and Dean Robbins' review in the same issue of HBO's "Big Love." With respect to the polygamy portrayed in "Big Love," Robbins writes, "We feel sympathy [for the polygamists] even as we recoil in horror." In contrast, Sykes writes, "Gays who wish to marry don't want to tear down the institution of marriage. They want in on it."
What irony! If gays just want "in" on marriage, and get in by way of a court decision, so too will bigamists and polygamists want "in" on marriage.
Joseph T. Leone
Thank you, Nathan Comp, for your article about the American Transmission Company's efforts to construct high-voltage power lines throughout the Madison area ("Nimbyism or Righteous Cause," 2/24/06). I think it's important for the public to know that this issue is much larger than Dane County and our concerns about potentially cancer-causing power lines being constructed near our homes, schools, businesses, and farms.
These lines are part of a much larger effort by a private, highly profitable corporation to transmit electricity from hydroelectric dams in Manitoba to the Chicago area. Where I live, in Waunakee, the proposed power lines are not being constructed to provide power to our community. Our local utility company already does that. We're simply the unfortunate neighbors of a proposed "electrical interstate highway."
The proposed power lines would emit electromagnetic fields that many medical experts believe increase the risk for leukemia and various other cancers. I know that I am not alone in believing that they greatly diminish the beauty of our communities and open spaces.
Our state Legislature and governor have handed power to a private, for-profit entity to take land for its own purposes. Local governments are forced to allow ATC lines through their communities, even if the citizens and elected officials oppose the lines.
Ruth Conniff claims that we are "living in the age of fundamentalism and jihad," and follows with a laundry list of Islamophobic slurs designed to batter liberals into passivity in the face of the neocon Cheney regime's war crimes ("Those Old-Time Liberal Values," 3/3/06).
Conniff's lies include: Her citing the 9/11 blood libel on Islam (see David Griffin, Steven Jones, Nafeez Ahmed, Paul Thompson, etc. for conclusive evidence that 9/11 was an inside job; or start with Scholars for 9/11 Truth: st911.org); her silly claim that Muslims merely objected to the cartoon portrayal of the Prophet's face, rather than the offensive "Muslim equals terrorist" blood libel; and her use of the term "jihadist" to imply that the virtually unanimous resistance to Zionism and imperial aggression among all sectors of the population of the Middle East - Christian, atheist and agnostic as well as Muslim - is deplorable "Islamic fanaticism."
The real terrorist fanatics are the neoconservatives, cult followers of a Hitler clone named Leo Strauss. The neocons took the false-flag terror "strategy of tension" from Operation Gladio and similar operations (see Daniele Ganser's NATO's Secret Armies) and started fabricating bogus "Islamic terrorism" to create a post-Cold War enemy, as the BBC documentary "The Power of Nightmares" suggests.
Just as most "left-wing terrorism" during the Cold War was fabricated by intelligence agents working for NATO and commanded from the Pentagon, so are the recent large-scale "Islamic terrorist" attacks, including 9/11, plainly the work of Western intelligence agencies, commanded by the neocons who now control the Pentagon.
Resistance to false-flag terrorism, neocon imperialism and Zionist ethnic cleansing has nothing to do with religion, except insofar as religion may give us the courage to resist oppression.
I read Jason Joyce's obituary for Kirby Puckett with interest, as I, too, admired Puckett's ball playing ("In Memory of Kirby Puckett," 3/10/06). But I grew irritated as Joyce described the baseball star's "fall from grace" and "his post-career misbehavior." Joyce concludes by noting that fans need "to realize that the athletes we admire are as human as anyone," as if any semiconscious newspaper reader or television watcher needed to be advised of that fact.
What is sad is Joyce's only brief acknowledgement of the "misbehavior": accusations by his ex-wife "of physical and emotional abuse," the emergence of mistresses, and an arrest without conviction of dragging a woman into a bar restroom. Being human does not refer to the inhumane and criminal conduct of physically and emotionally abusing anyone. Maybe Mr. Joyce's inability to "get it," as well as his good fortune, is that he's never "been there."
Why Jason Shepard chose to define the Madison school system almost entirely in terms of the sometimes fractious nature of its governance, we do not know ("The Fate of the Schools," 3/24/06).
Not only does this ignore the immediate fact that most schools in Wisconsin are being driven to factions by a destructive set of budget constraints imposed by the Legislature but, more to the point, Madison's schools are so much more for the children who attend them.
We had three children go through the schools and now have a new one in third grade, and while there certainly is variation, our overall experience of staff is that of a group of professionals highly dedicated and extremely skilled at educating kids. The wonderful things being done to save the lives of so many challenged children are truly inspiring.
What troubles us more is the impression Shepard leaves that Madison's schools are deficient because of their relative ranking compared to the suburban schools in Dane County. This distortion, comparing schools without to those with problems is not worthy of Fox News.
Peter Anderson and Molly Plunkett
The editor replies: Why focus on governance? Because it was a story about the school board election. Why compare Madison's schools to suburban schools? Because families do when they decide where to live.
Randal O'Toole's recent column ("How to Drive Up Housing Prices," 3/17/06) is a misguided attack on smart growth planning.
O'Toole claims that smart growth planning is to blame for unaffordable housing. He cites a Coldwell Banker study that estimated house prices in cities throughout the United States. Yet he neglects to mention how these estimates were made and for what purpose. Local offices within the Coldwell Banker system estimated prices for "upper-end executive-style" houses in neighborhoods "typical for corporate middle-management transferees." This was not a scientifically valid study.
If O'Toole is concerned about affordable housing in America, why is he using price estimates for upper-end executive-style homes? A better measure of housing affordability is the median sales price. But even median house prices can be misleading because the land area of cities can vary dramatically.
Population growth increases demand for housing, and a city's ability to meet that demand through "sprawl" requires land - lots of it. The more a city spreads out (especially in land-rich western states), the more likely it is that low-density, rural-fringe housing will reduce median housing costs.
O'Toole also claims that housing in Austin, Texas, is more affordable because Madison promotes smart growth and Austin doesn't. Well, Austin does have smart growth planning. Austin's "Smart Growth Initiative" shares many of the same goals pursued by the city of Madison. Austin's land area is about 3.6 times larger than Madison's. O'Toole should have compared the median house price for Austin with the median house price for an equivalent land area in Dane County (including Madison and nearby towns and municipalities).
O'Toole claims "sprawl has benefits," but he chooses to ignore the costs. In formulating land-use policy, communities must consider benefits and costs. For example, urban sprawl increases commuting, which robs households of time and money. Sprawl also negatively impacts the environment, creating serious implications for public health.
O'Toole travels the country promoting an anti-planning/pro-sprawl agenda. But he incorrectly equates "zoning" with smart growth planning. Zoning in the U.S. emerged in the early 20th century to protect public health, safety and welfare by separating housing from incompatible industrial areas, and by ensuring that new housing development met basic standards. After World War II, zoning morphed into an exclusionary tool that protects residential property values but often segregates neighborhoods economically and racially.
Clearly, zoning reform in the U.S. is long overdue. Too many zoning (and subdivision) codes impose rigid development standards that not only encourage sprawl but prohibit other forms of development. Smart growth planning is part of the affordable housing solution. This comprehensive approach to building better communities provides people more transportation options - and more housing choices.
James LaGro Jr.
Professor and chair,
Department of Urban and Regional Planning
I grow weary of seeing Randal O'Toole presented as an economist, and worse, as an objective observer and researcher. Mr. O'Toole's choice of data, methods and analyses of transportation have been called in to question as, at best, careless omissions, and more likely intentional bias, by other researchers, including conservatives.
In his diatribe blaming smart growth for high housing costs in Madison, Randal O'Toole offers an astonishing way to lower housing costs: Make Madison a less desirable place to live.
Yes, Randal, if we simply allow houses to pop up anywhere, at any density, we might see a dip in the cost of housing, only because that housing will be less attractive, less convenient and totally at the expense of lost farmland or natural areas.
We will also see an increase in traffic congestion, a despoiled landscape, fewer farms, more soil runoff into our lakes as well as more used-car dealers, big-box retail stores and strip malls.
While we're at it, we'll take your suggestion and repeal Madison's inclusionary zoning law - denying the advantages of downtown living to all but the wealthiest of Madison residents.
Yes, Randal, we can drive housing values right into the ground. When we are done, we will look a lot more like any other of a million places that are nowhere because they look like anywhere.
The real answer to the high cost of housing in Madison lies more in reversing the dramatic shift in the tax responsibility from the industrial taxpayer to the residential taxpayer. We also need to return to the shared revenue formula's that provided decades of economic growth and prospering cities in Wisconsin. We all lose when the only goal is to reduce costs at any cost.
1000 Friends of Wisconsin
I found David Mollenhoff's story ("What's So Special About Madison?" 3/10/06) insightful and thought-provoking. But I am concerned that Madison may be clinging to past laurels and processes. Might we need a higher consciousness and heart-centered wisdom? Are we willing to transcend cerebral narcotics of blame, arrogance, victimhood, and righteousness...to soul-centered nourishment of gratitude, humility, faith, and compassion?
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