Great! The Glen Tree issue has provided me with a close-to-home example of the Law of Unintended Consequences that I can use to teach my Civics and Economics students.
Bob Geary makes a convincing case in last week's Independent Weekly that the reason for the spindlyness of the proposed Glen Tree tower is the developer's attempt to dodge through a maze of zoning codes (Citizen, Nov. 2). If he is right, we have a classic example of the economic Law of Unintended Consequences: Zoning codes that were created to add simple public regulation to development have actually caused the opposite. If constructing a 42-story building (rather than, say, an eight-story one, as suggested by Geary) is more cost-effective than rezoning the property, then the laws are clearly too inflexible. A more laissez-faire approach would have removed the Soleil group's incentive to construct Glen Tree in its proposed form.
Pave the way
The Oct. 26 issue reported on the problems with I-40 paving between N.C. Highway 54 and N.C. Highway 147 ("Cracks in the system"). Everyone seems to be blaming the DOT. I am no concrete expert, but Granite Construction did an obviously awful job in laying the final concrete layer, leading me to think they were incompetent as soon as they were finished.
Now the roller-coaster pavement is cracking. Between my garage and my driveway, there is a cut that goes all the way through the concrete to allow for expansion and contraction. It is filled with felt. Granite Construction's engineers and workers should have known that concrete highways need to have cuts that go all the way through. The fact that the specifications didn't explicitly tell them to cut all the way through the concrete is equivalent to having a roofer forget to use enough nails when putting on new roof shingles. Whatever your contract says, the roofer should know to use enough nails, and Granite Construction should have known to cut all the way through a concrete slab. A two-minute search on the Internet for "concrete highway construction expansion joints" yields a technical bulletin from the NHTSA that says that expansion joints should be sawn all the way through.
Gosh, if I were an engineer making a concrete road, I think I'd be able to find out that incredibly arcane information. Or maybe I could reference the 62-page report on concrete bonded overlay that was done in 2002 in Illinois: www.dot.state.il.us/ materials/research/pdf/143.pdf .
Egad, let's hold "professional" contractors accountable for their ignorance and stupidity. The DOT, while certainly negligent in their outsourced inspections, is not nearly as culpable as Granite Construction.
T. Bermudez makes a common mistake about evolution when he chastises "Scientism" in his letter to the editor (Back Talk, Oct. 26). He says, "Saying that it's 'totally random' indicates a scientific dead end." Not to mention scientific ignorance.
Evolution is the natural selection of random variations. As Richard Dawkins puts it in this month's Natural History, it is "nonrandom survival of randomly varying hereditary instructions for building embryos." Better versions of the embryos live to reproduce. Over vast periods of time, life diversifies as it seeks to survive in various environmental niches. If your school shortchanged you on this process, read Dawkins' book The Blind Watchmaker.
I'm amazed and grateful that all of my ancestors lived to reproduce, each and every one. You should be too. I'm fascinated by the evolutionary successes that have led to everything from maple trees to Emperor penguins to my pet cat.
Rather than having "oft-ignored shortcomings in the realm of scientific evidence," evolution is as well established as the theory that the Earth revolves around the Sun. Creationists are welcome to use the scientific method to try to find a shred of proof for their beliefs. They are welcome to teach their beliefs in church and at home. They can even study creationism in history or comparative-religion classes. But real science must be taught in science class. Evolution is key to understanding biology, botany and medicine. Ironically, using evolutionary theory may help us survive in ways ranging from preventing a bird-flu pandemic to attracting good jobs.
While it was nice to read that Bob Geary condemns the racist and genocidal statements of Kamau Kambon, a 1999 Independent Citizen Award winner, Geary only gets half the story (Citizen, Oct. 26). He writes, "Killing all the 'terrorists' (as [Kambon] calls white people) before they kill you isn't any prettier a sentiment coming from a black man than it is when George W. Bush says it." This kind of moral equivalence is nonsense. Kambon urged for the "extermination" of all whites, regardless of who they are. This includes infants, civil rights activists, and I'll wager a good chunk of the Independent Weekly staff. Bush, on the other hand, called for the extermination of no race of people. Instead, he called for war against al Qaeda, which murdered nearly 3,000 Americans on 9/11, and he called for war against Saddam Hussein, who approved of 9/11 and has close to a million deaths on his hands. Further, he has insisted that Americans work with Iraqis and Afghanis to build democracy in their parts of the world.
If Geary is against the war, fine. If he wishes to criticize the president, even better. There is much to criticize. Just please don't equate the ramblings of a genocidal racist like Kamau Kambon to the sentiments of President Bush, which are indeed much prettier.