Archive for December, 2011

Why mix electronic and swing? Why the hell not!


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What a Wonderful World

Nature porn, via The Dish:


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Rick Perry Loves You

In an Iowa town hall meeting this week, Rick Perry was asked why he doesn’t support allowing gay people to openly serve in the military. In his reply, Perry stated (emphasis mine):

This is about my faith, and I happen to think that there are a whole host of sins, homosexuality being one of them”

That’s a perfectly acceptable personal opinion to have, but if only there were some document we could consult to see how this would work out as the rationale for public policy:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Oh, well, that was easy.



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How to fix congress? ctd

Ezra Klein points out that the current fight going on in congress over the payroll tax cut is not actually about the payroll tax  cut:

Rather, Democrats and Republicans are arguing over the price Democrats are willing to pay and Republicans are willing to accept in order to extend the payroll tax cut for a full year. Republicans want, among other things, the Keystone XL Pipeline and further cuts to discretionary spending. Neither of those things, you’ll notice, is “a payroll tax cut.” Democrats oppose resolving big environmental questions through a rider to a must-pass tax bill, and they’re against some of the cuts Republicans are proposing. Neither of those concerns, you’ll notice, are concerns about a payroll tax cut.

This is exactly correct and, as I pointed out here and here, has to stop. If it did, maybe this congress would not be enjoying the lowest approval rating in the history of congressional approval ratings.

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“There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody. You built a factory out there — good for you! But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for.”

— Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren, August, 2011

via Kevin Drum

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For some time now, a proposal by developer David Grasso for a music venue in the Fishtown neighborhood of Philadelphia has been the subject of quite a bit of legal wrangling. Plan Philly reports that City councilman Frank DiCicco originally sponsored legislation to allow the site to be zoned to allow the venue, and was successful. Later, when it became apparent that the project’s financing was going to fail, Councilman DiCicco introduced a bill removing the zoning variance. Why would the councilman seek to kill the zoning he fought for? Plan Philly:

“DiCicco still likes Grasso’s project, but he was concerned the financing wasn’t coming through. He did not want to leave the zoning in place when he left office if there was doubt that Grasso was moving forward, DiCicco said, because another developer might build something with that zoning that would be harmful to the community.”

The practice of changing the zoning of a particular site to suit one specific project is called spot zoning, and its whats going on here. Note that our esteemed councilman approved of the initial project enough to fight for its zoning variance. Then, when he thought the project may fall through, he tried to revoke that variance, because he was afraid another developer may “build something… that would be harmful to the community”. Or to put it another way, the councilman wanted to freeze the site while Grasso worked the kinks out, to prevent some other developer from snatching up the real-estate.

If the issue here was that someone may build something, DiCicco should not have fought for the variance. If, however, the issue is that DiCicco wants to support not some project, but this specific project, then this is exactly what he should do.

Either a venue in this spot is acceptable, or it isn’t, and the zoning of the neighborhood should reflect that. But using the zoning to promote one individual’s project and freeze out any potential competition is harmful to the neighborhood. Fishtown is looking more and more like an up and coming neighborhood, with a lot of interesting bars, restaurants, and venues opening and becoming popular. Thus, I think the zoning change is a good idea. But, it should be done in general and on the merits. Not like this.

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I was going to write a post about Newt, but that made my head hurt. So instead I thought it would be a good idea to write a post about another thing that makes my head hurt: Gin!

Last week, the PA state legislature passed a bill, that the governor is expected to sign, which will allow distilleries to sell their product on site. Breweries and wineries already have this right. This bill was pushed for by Philadelphia Distilling, makers of the oh-so-delicious Bluecoat Gin.

Philadelphia magazine has a good profile of the company’s founder, Robert Cassell, which is well worth your reading if you are interested in craft booze or local Philly products. More importantly, though, the piece serves to highlight the importance of involvement in government. Money quote:

[Cassell] got the bug for political engagement last year, while volunteering at a polling place in Chester County. “That day, there was, like, seven or eight percent voter turnout,” he remembers. “And I realized that if I got everyone from one block in that town to come out and vote one way, I could swing the election.”

I suspect that this is a bit of an exaggeration, though not by much. Voter turnout in local elections is often very abysmal, which means a small group of committed people really can accomplish a lot. Organizing on the local level is how changes like this one come about. Anyone who has attempted to enjoy a drink in Pennsylvania can tell you that the liquor laws are arbitrary and confusing. There was a lot of excitement over the past year around the potential abolition of the PA Liquor Control Board, but it looks like that won’t be happening.

Which is all the long way of saying this: If you want things to change, get to work.

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