This week's post comes to you from Andy Moore's beloved South Land. I am attending a conference in Mobile, Alabama, where the red beans and rice are delicious and the city's planning and development patterns are hindering my preparations for the Madison Marathon on May 24.
One of the first things I loved about Madison when I moved there more than 20 years ago is that, no matter where you were, you could step out your door and quickly find a pedestrian path of some kind.
Here in Mobile, I have not been able to find any bike or pedestrian paths. The sidewalks end and pick up again for no discernable reason. Tree branches cover many of the sidewalks that do exist, forcing pedestrians out into the streets.
Yesterday I found myself running several miles along railroad tracks where some of the gravel patches were as hard as concrete and others were the equivalent of a child's sandbox. My knees and ankles will "thank" me later.
I'm not suggesting that cities should be designed and governed for marathon runners' comfort and convenience. But when it is hard to walk from place to place that is often a sign that developers and advertisers have undue sway over the decision making process.
And as I duck tree branches on the sidewalks in Mobile, I find myself wondering if this is what Nancy Mistele had in mind for Madison when she complained about Kathleen Falk's focus on land use.
Much ado about beer
In these times of economic hardship, Wisconsin State Assembly Rep. Terese Berceau (D-Madison) and other Wisconsin legislators are proposing to increase the state's beer tax a whopping three cents per can.
Our beer tax is the third-lowest in the nation and hasn't been increased since 1969.
The Wisconsin Tavern League has responded with the kind of lazy, unfounded economic argument we have come to expect whenever the topic is taxes: A small hike in the beer tax will lead to people being tossed out of work.
"It will eventually cost jobs," Tavern League spokesperson Pete Madland told WISC-TV. "Any type of tax increase like this will do that."
Whose jobs? How? Why? Madland doesn't say and WISC-TV apparently didn't ask.
I guess it was decided long ago that whenever you talk about tax increases you can make any economic claim you want and it will go unchallenged.
For another case in point, WISC-TV tells us "the president of Capital Brewery in Middleton" says if the beer tax increase passes it "will be passed on straight to the consumer."
Does that mean the $6 bottle of beer at Miller Park will cost $6.03 if the beer tax increase goes through? Of course not, because the world doesn't work this way. Businesses charge customers as much as they think they will pay. But when beer goes up to $7 at Miller Park, the higher beer tax will be blamed and reporters will repeat this assertion as though it makes sense.
I demand a recount
I've never been able to figure out Newsmax magazine.
Quite possibly the most bizarre right-wing publication not published by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, the magazine and its website have odd fixations with the everyday comings and goings of Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter and Sean Hannity. Throughout the presidential election, Newsmax was a one-stop-shop for news about Barack Obama's birth certificate.
Somehow or other, Newsmax has put Madison at number two on its list of "Most Uniquely American Cities & Towns." We are second only to Wichita, Kansas (!).
Maybe Madison appears on so many of these lists that word has gotten out that you have to include us no matter what the subject.
I was somewhat relieved to find that Madison got its lowest marks for "wholesomeness" and "devotion to religion." The other criteria Newsmax used included hospitality, family friendliness, business friendliness, culture, community activities, scenic beauty and education.
The nation is trending away from reading newspapers and advertising in them. You might have read about this in a newspaper somewhere.
Ever since The Capital Times went from being a daily newspaper to an online news site and weekly Wisconsin State Journal insert, observers have placed the paper among national newspaper crisis's casualties.
While the Cap Times tries hard to dispute this, its most visible representative, columnist and gadfly John Nichols, has written an article about the crisis with former UW journalism professor Bob McChesney that is getting a lot of attention.
Nichols and McChesney's Nation magazine piece focuses on the reasons newspapers are vital to democracy and makes a case for government and taxpayer intervention to keep them alive. (Good luck with that.)
Meanwhile, the cover story of last week's Cap Times insert was about how UW students are still flocking to UW-Madison's journalism school even though the news industry has lost some 15,000 jobs in the last 18 months.