This weekend is the Minnesota Whiffer's League Fantasy Baseball draft. In the Marohn family, this is perhaps the second biggest event of the year after Christmas. I lost in the World Series last year and so I pick ninth out of ten teams. That would not be bad except I traded away my second and third round picks last season for pitching depth. What appeared to be genius then seems slightly less so now. With my franchise player on the injured list, despite his steroid use, I'm resigned to the notion that this may be a rebuilding year.

This week's news:

  • The disconnect between engineers and planners is nowhere greater than in the area of transportation improvements for rural communities. Armed with unimpeachable road standards apparently taken from the early versus of Genesis, engineers typically convince small cities that - for safety and to make a good, long-term investment - they need to build rural roads at highway widths, speeds and structural capacity. Planners and residents are almost always helpless to prevent it, despite inately knowing that the approach is obscene in cost and damaging to neighborhoods. This article is another example, yet our approach never changes. 

"We get a lot of calls about speed limits and people driving fast through neighborhoods,'' said Dave Berkowitz, Andover's director of public works and city engineer. If callers live in one of the suburb's many rural neighborhoods, "we tell them the speed limit on the road is 55 and it's set by state statute. They can't believe it.''

The article also identifies a fatal flaw in reactionary logic.  It is the "lower the speed limit" argument (if we just lowered the speed limit people would drive slower). If you want to test that theory, try driving 55 sometime on the interstate when there is nobody around.  When the road is designed for high speed, going normal speeds feels abnormal.

But there is nothing we can do because that's the standard, right? I believe it is Genesis 6:12, or something like that. 

  • As offensive as this plan is on the surface, isn't it in reality more efficient. The money gets to where it is most needed and everyone is happy. Do we really want to regulate agreements between two consenting bureaucracies? 
  • Lost enough yet? You know if we just double down....  
  • Rural people use more energy. So when limits are placed on carbon emmissions, will there be a redistribution of money from the center of the country to the urban coasts? (I couldn't improve on the first two lines of that story, but I can answer the question: Yes. A carbon tax is designed to tax inefficient development patterns hardest, which is much of modern small-town America). 
  • A few weeks ago we wrote about the small town ponzi scheme (actually, it was our most-read posting yet). It was really cool then to read Tom Friedman mention a ponzi scheme in much the same context. Friedman satirically quotes an article from The Onion, and I can't help quote his quote.

FENGHUA, China — Chen Hsien, an employee of Fenghua Ningbo Plastic Works Ltd., a plastics factory that manufactures lightweight household items for Western markets, expressed his disbelief Monday over the “sheer amount of [garbage] Americans will buy. Often, when we’re assigned a new order for, say, ‘salad shooters,’ I will say to myself, ‘There’s no way that anyone will ever buy these.’ ... One month later, we will receive an order for the same product, but three times the quantity. How can anyone have a need for such useless [garbage]? I hear that Americans can buy anything they want, and I believe it, judging from the things I’ve made for them,” Chen said. “And I also hear that, when they no longer want an item, they simply throw it away. So wasteful and contemptible.” 

  • Now the grand finalize of Andres Duany's talk to the planners of San Antonio. If you have not been watching these (and already finished them), start from the beginning and watch them all. It is well worth your time.