Sunday, December 27, 2009

Halftime Snarks

Even against a team that had no sacks in its last two games, Aaron Rodgers is earning more money on his back than Sunset Thomas.

Does Mike McCarthy get a dopamine rush from throwing that red flag? I can think of no other explanation for his seeming addiction to making bad challenges. Maybe Chantix would help...

A Tipping Point in Iran?

As many analysts anticipated, the annual Ashura holiday in Iran (the commemoration of the martyrdom of Imam Hossein -- grandson of the prophet Mohammed -- and his followers at the hands of the Ummayyad regime) has inspired renewed protests by the green opposition movement that emerged after Iran's bogus elections in June. The intensity of the protests may have been boosted by the week of mourning for respected opposition cleric Ayatollah Montazeri.

The news coming out of Iran is brutal. According to this website, these are the most intense protests to date. Several people have been killed by security forces, and there are numerous examples of protesters fighting back and winning local clashes against the regime's thugs. There are also unconfirmed reports of police refusing to fire an protesters.

The government suppressed the massive demonstrations that occurred six months ago. Fear and a sense of helplessness kept more and more people inside, and the size of the protests waned. However, they seem to have come back now with a vengeance.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Wisconsin Threat-Down for Santa's Reindeer

Threat Number 5 - Cougars. A DNR camera photographed a cougar in Dunn County last week. The big cat recently killed a whitetail fawn, which it stashed under a pile of cornstalks and periodically returned to munch on. A reindeer could feed that cat for a month. However, a full grown male reindeer weighs between 220-700 lbs., much too big for a cougar to take down. Not much of a threat.

Threat Number 4 - Wolves. Some hunters in northern Wisconsin blame the state's increasing wolf population for this year's poor deer harvest. It's true that wolves are very good at hunting deer, and some wolves have been known to kill even moose. However, wolves are opportunistic hunters, and even a reduced whitetail population offers them much easier opportunities than eight healthy reindeer who will stand their ground together (since they are all harnessed to the sleigh). Not much of a threat.

Threat Number 3 - Bears. Because no threat-down would be complete without bears, and Wisconsin's bear population is growing. But black bears rarely prey on adult deer, so they are not really a threat to Santa's reindeer.

Threat Number 2 - Hunters. There is a holiday deer hunting season in the CWD management zone from December 24 through January 3. Santa may want to outfit his reindeer with blaze orange vests just in case they are still out after sunrise. While reindeer are visually distinct from whitetail deer, the occasional hunter with buck fever has been known to shoot an elk or even a cow, so better safe than sorry.

Threat Number 1 - Snowmobile Thrill Killers. Unfortunately, the law has not done enough to deter this despicable practice. Santa should take advantage of J. B. Van Hollen's published opinion and openly carry a firearm (loaded with lumps of coal) in his sleigh for personal (and reindeer) protection.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

No Bingo :-(

I feared that the city council bingo cards were too easy to fill. But after reading through the invaluable Laptop City Hall liveblog, Brenda Konkel's excellent commentary and the highly amusing Isthmus "Live Blog" (actually live chat), I can find no evidence that any Bingo combination was achieved.

Unfortunately, I was unable to watch the meeting live, so I do not know if any council members were wearing red and green, or if Bruer was in his seat when the meeting started. The cards were actually designed for the night of December 8, when snow was in the forecast, and before I knew Alder Pham-Remmele would be absent due to the death of her mother, so a few of the squares were unachievable to start with.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Friday, December 11, 2009

Iconic Nightspot on the Block

Oh, if only some philanthropic tycoon with money to burn would buy the Gobbler and re-open it as a celebration of Wisconsin's cultural heritage. Where are the Johnsons and the Menards when we really need them?

When I was a child, my grandmother used to let me play with a colorful plastic swizzle stick from the Gobbler. She enjoyed the occasional outing there with some of her friends, and she described to me the wonders of the place -- the bright colors, the revolving bar, the fancy drinks.

Alas, I never had the opportunity to visit the place myself. I had to settle for virtual visits via the various online tributes.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

'Tis the Season

It's a good night to order a pizza.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

More Fun and Games for Tuesday Night

Dustin Christopher came up with an amusing drinking game for those of us watching Tuesday night's City Council meeting at home.

In the interest of giving people more choices, here is an activity that can be adapted for either teetotalers (are there any of those in Wisconsin?) or competitive drinkers:

City Council Bingo

Here are half a dozen cards that you can print out and distribute at your Council-watching party, or feel free to create your own:

Friday, December 4, 2009

They Should've Gotten Michael York to Cut the Ribbon

Which of these pictures are from the brand-new City Center complex in Las Vegas, and which are scenes from the 1970s sci-fi film Logan's Run?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Hoist By His Own Petard

Last night, the Madison Landmarks Commission blocked the Hammes Company's bid to improve the Edgewater Hotel (with the help of $16 million in TIF money). Daring to adhere to the actual language of the city ordinance, the commission declined to give Hammes a variance for the project.

Now Hammes has to choose whether to ask the City Council to overrule the Landmarks Commission. It would take a 2/3 super-majority of the Council (14 out of 20) to do so. Hammes has already spent money on a Lambeau Field junket for neighboring fraternities in order to get them on board, as well as a dog-and-pony show for the public at the Brink Lounge. Too bad they didn't foresee the need to grease the wheels of the Landmarks Commission.

Mayor Dave is hoping they don't give up. On his blog today, he had this to say: "...the decision of a handful of unelected individuals on the Landmarks Commission can only be overturned by a supermajority (14) of the twenty elected representatives of the people on the Madison City Council. This is fundamentally undemocratic."

Just who appoints those unelected individuals in this fundamentally undemocratic system anyway? Oh, that's right...

Alder Bridget Maniaci was the only Landmarks member willing to issue a certificate of appropriateness (which, I believe, would preclude the need for a variance). While she is that district's elected representative on the City Council, she is also the Council member (and probably Landmarks Commission member) most personally beholden to the Mayor, as he recruited her to run against former alder Brenda Konkel and threw all the weight of his endorsement and connections behind her candidacy.

In hindsight, I wonder if he knew the Hammes proposal was in the cards even before the Spring election season. Brenda Konkel would have been a thorn in the side of the Hammes Company.

In the end, though, it was a few citizens appointed to a "fundamentally undemocratic" body by Mayor Dave himself who spiked his wheels.

Update: The Hammes Co. will appeal to the City Council.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Money Down the Drain

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation is so proud of their new $22 million rest room project near Portage. They got the feds to pay for 90% of it, so I guess it can be considered a stimulus project, kind of like the old CCC facilities built during the Depression.

I had the privilege of using this fancy new facility during my Thanksgiving travels. The ceilings are very high, which means it is probably expensive to heat. The ladies' room felt noticeably chilly. The automatic toilet flushed three times while I was sitting on it. It flushed twice more while I was pulling up and fastening my jeans. I wonder how much more water this facility will waste compared to the old one.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

To those who are travelling, drive safely. To those who are overseas, thank you for your service, and I hope you will spend next Thanksgiving at home with your families.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Will Pope Benedict Bring Back the Interdict?

Pope Benedict has made it very clear that he wants to turn back the clock on several matters of church policy and politics. He is backing away from many of the Vatican II reforms. He is aggressively competing with the Anglican communion for priests and parishioners. The Catholic Church in the United States also seems more aggressive in its involvement with secular politics than at any time in the recent past.

The Catholic Church partnered with the LDS Church in a campaign to promote California's Proposition 8. It has brought pressure to bear on Washington, D.C. regarding recognition of same-sex marriage (threatening to close down its charitable service organizations in the District if they are not allowed to discriminate against homosexuals). It is actively opposing health care reform legislation unless it includes abortion restrictions (effectively saying that everyone, regardless of their own religious beliefs, should be forced to live according to the dictates of Roman Catholic doctrine).

Whether or not you think it is a right and proper thing for the church (any church) to get involved with politics is a matter of subjective belief. Right now, I am more interested in the tactics the RC Church is using, and the other tools that Pope Benedict may choose to deploy.

The Bishop of Rhode Island has banned Rep. Patrick Kennedy from receiving communion because of his support for abortion rights. Note that Kennedy is not an abortion provider, nor is he accused of procuring an abortion for someone else, or encouraging anyone to have an abortion. He is being punished by his church because he does not support the notion of secular law enforcing church doctrine.

Kennedy is not the first politician to be denied communion for supporting abortion rights. I find it interesting, however, that the RC Church has not withheld communion from politicians for supporting the death penalty (also contrary to RC doctrine) or the elective invasion of Iraq (which caused the death of many innocents).

Thus far, politicians have not been swayed by this tactic. I have not heard of any who have changed their positions in order to get back in the good graces of the church. This may be because most Americans, even Catholics, are uncomfortable with the idea of the Papacy (which is, after all, a foreign government) giving marching orders to their elective officials.

Historically, however, the RC Church had a much more powerful weapon to use against rulers who defied Papal orders. A local interdict was sometimes imposed against an entire jurisdiction -- banning the sacraments and effectively excommunicating everyone within its borders -- until the leader bowed to the Papal will.

It hasn't been used since the days of the counter-reformation (perhaps because the RC Church was afraid to lose market share to the Protestants). However, Pope Benedict has shown himself willing to preside over a smaller but purer flock. Will he go so far one day as to place Kennedy's Congressional District under interdict until he is voted out of office?

Time will tell.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Time to Remake Smokey and the Bandit?

Anyone old enough to have seen Smokey and the Bandit may remember that the plot revolved around a bet/dare involving the illegal transport of a regional microbrew with a cult following across state lines from Texas to Georgia in time for a special event.

The beer in the movie was Coors, which became a nationally-available brand not too many years after Burt Reynolds first drove that TransAm. I thought that movie plot was a quaint relic of the past, in today's age of widely available craft beers.

It seems I was wrong. Some latter-day, real-life Bandit is running Spotted Cow to a bar in New York City that is known for Wisconsin alumni events.

Does that mean that, a decade from now, Spotted Cow Light will be the drink of choice of college kids across the nation?

Flying Monkey Captured?

Downtown may be safe again for girls from Kansas (and their little dogs, too). Police have arrested 24-year-old Sean Longabaugh, who is suspected of assaulting another bar patron on Halloween while wearing a flying monkey costume.

On a less humorous note, the victim, former basketball player Darin Schubring, was seriously injured in the assault and remains hospitalized.

If Longabaugh is guilty, I hope that he gets sent to jail, and that the other inmates throw poo at him.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Aaron Rodgers in Oz

I'm the second-leading rusher,
Can get away from pressure,
If I have a little time.
I would throw more to Driver,
Improvise like MacGyver,
If I only had a line.

I'd help the Green Bay Packers
Look less like lazy slackers
And make the fans feel fine.
I'd win the division,
Star in ads on television,
If I only had a line.

I've no reason to be hating
My season QB rating;
My stats are just divine.
I'd hand off to our fullbacks,
Instead of taking more sacks,
If I only had a line.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

More Questions About the Edgewater TIF

I read the account of the city council meeting where the $16 million in TIF funds for the Edgewater was kept in the capital budget.

It was reported that the property tax increment from the new development would be approximately $750,000 to $1 million per year. That is very important, since the city cannot count room tax and sales tax revenue toward the TIF payback calculations (since Edgewater will be poaching business from other downtown hotels, whose room and sales tax collections for the city will therefore decrease).

It wasn't clear, however, whether the $750,000 to $1 million property tax increment referred to the city's share of the property tax bill, or to the total property tax bill. This is also important, since the county and school district get a cut of the annual property tax bill (but are not ponying up for the TIF money).

I don't think the $16 million makes sense as an investment for the city in future property tax revenue. The payback will be long, and interest must be paid in the meantime on the $16 million the city will borrow to finance the project.

It may make sense as an economic stimulus measure, to create some construction jobs now and additional service jobs later. If that is the justification for the investment (and it was certainly the reason for organized labor's support of the project), then Alder Satya Rhodes-Conway's attempts to insert some union-friendly requirements on the project make a lot of sense. After all, if taxpayers are forking out money to buy jobs, we should be sure they are family-supporting jobs that will go to area residents (rather than minimum-wage jobs that will be filled by trucked-in immigrants who will send or spend most of their paychecks back home).

How long will it be, though, before Inn on the Park comes to the city to ask for TIF money to remodel and expand, in order to compete with the newly-refurbished Edgewater? Inn on the Park is also past its prime. Will the city be able to deny them a level playing field? Should city government pick winners and losers in a soviet-style planned economy? How many hotels can we afford to remodel?

Woeful Wolverines

I can't remember the Michigan Wolverines ever having a season this bad. The amazing thing is that they still hope to go to a bowl game if they beat Ohio State next weekend (which would leave them with a 6-6 overall record but only 2-6 in the Big 10). It's probably a moot point -- I expect the Buckeyes to thrash them soundly.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

In Memoriam on Veterans Day

To my grandfathers, who both fought in World War II and survived to return home and raise families.

Grandpa T was drafted by the army. He served under General Patton. He rarely talked about the war, but he did give some editorial comments when we watched the George C. Scott movie on television. Yes, he said, Patton really did stand in the open and fire his handgun at that German plane. At the time, every man under his command was hoping the crazy bastard would be shot.

Grandpa W joined the navy when he was 17 (with parental permission). He served in the Atlantic and Mediterranean theaters. He felt better about himself and his life during the war than at any time after his homecoming. His ship was later decommissioned and sunk during an atomic test in the Pacific, which seemed like a metaphor for his troubled life.

Rest in peace.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Cetacean Gang Warfare

I came across this bizarre story in the news today:

Monterey Bay researchers say dolphins are causing porpoise deaths

An organization called Okeanis has been observing the same group of 600 dolphins for almost 20 years. In September, they captured video of a group of dolphins ganging up and brutally killing a porpoise.

The dolphins corral the porpoise, ram it with their beaks, scrape or rake it with their teeth and drown the porpoise by jumping on top of it. The dolphins then bring the carcass up to the Okeanis researchers, watch them bring it on board and then swim away.

What surprises me most is not the attack, nor the techniques used to kill the porpoise, but the fact that the dolphins then brought the carcass to the researchers. Did Okeanis lure them to do so with a fish reward? How many other interactions have they had with these dolphins in the course of their years-long "observation" of these supposedly wild creatures? The Okeanis website does not give much information on their methodology.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Bay of Pigs Throwback

The creamsicle uniforms and the streaker weren't the only blasts from the past in Tampa Bay today. The play on the field was epically bad, from both teams and on both sides of the ball (or all three, if you count the Packers' special teams). I expected to see Bart Starr on the sidelines.

Football Weather

Today in Green Bay, it's 64 degrees, with 10 mph winds. Perfect football weather.

Too bad the Packers are in Tampa Bay, where it's 82 degrees. At least it's a dry heat (by Florida standards) -- only 42% humidity.

Monday, November 2, 2009

There's No Place Like Home...

Only in Madison on Halloween...

'Flying monkey' allegedly punches man; victim in critical condition

Anyone who's seen The Wizard of Oz knows that flying monkeys are dangerous and should be avoided at all costs.

The flying monkey is still at large. I wonder if Stephen Colbert will do another "Monkey on the Lam" segment. It seems appropriate, since the case that inspired the series also happened in Madison.

UPDATE: The victim, Baraboo native and former UW basketball player Darin Schubring, is still in serious condition (recently upgraded from critical). Police are following up on some leads (apparently, the assailant was part of a group Oz-themed costume party). The flying monkey must have some pretty long arms to smack the 6' 10" Schubring in the temple.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

No Joy in the Hoosier State

Not only did the Boilermakers get TP'd by the Badgers yesterday, but the Hoosiers looked for a while like they might win their game before the Hawkeyes cruelly dashed their hopes.

It must be a tough weekend to be a football fan in Indiana. Maybe the Colts will make it up to them.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Halloween Prank?

I'm beginning to think that an area high school football team is dressing up as the Purdue Boilermakers for Halloween, and that the real Purdue squad are all nursing hangovers after a night on State Street.

Bielema's Toughest Challenge Yet

With a 24-0 lead going into the second half, this will be the toughest test yet of Bret Bielema's run-out-the-clock-and-piss-away-the-lead strategy.

Can Bielema's Badgers piss away a 24-point lead against a Purdue team that doesn't understand the basics of clock management? It will be an uphill struggle, for sure.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Not a Drop for Maine's Youth

The State of Maine recently decided that a British soft drink called Fentiman's Victorian Lemonade, which contains a trace amount of alcohol (less than .5%) is an "imitation liquor" and thus cannot be sold to minors.

One wonders if they keep root beer and gingerale away from impressionable youngsters in Maine (not to mention vanilla extract and mouthwash).

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Lawton's Springboard to a New Career?

It was reported today that Barbara Lawton's car was vandalized while parked in her residence's security-locked underground garage back in June. The story was not considered newsworthy at the time it happened, but this week anything Lawton-related is guaranteed to generate hits.

Mentioned in passing was this little nugget:

A staff employee at Lawton's state Capitol office on Thursday said that Lawton was en route to New York to attend an invitation-only event in her official capacity.

Matt Dulak said that Lawton had been invited to a dinner of women venture capitalists by Springboard Enterprises. The firm connects female venture capitalists with women who are in the process of starting their own small business or interested in attracting capital for it. Lawton spoke at a forum for Springboard Enterprises on Oct. 1 at the Fluno Center.

There is a press release on the LG's website about that October 1 event.

Maybe she suddenly dropped out of the Governor's race because Springboard made her an offer she (and her family) couldn't refuse. If she accepts a highly-paid position as a "consultant" with Springboard Enterprises, I won't be surprised. It will be interesting to see how much the Lieutenant Governor concentrates on recruiting women-led life sciences companies to Wisconsin during the rest of her term.

She could hardly be criticized for it. After all, Gov. Doyle just proudly announced that several biotech companies are moving to Wisconsin (from the Twin Cities and the Boston area) thanks to some special tax incentives. He bragged about growing our biotech economy and bringing jobs to the State. Who could blame the LG for doing the same?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Funny Idea of Progress

The Hammes Co. has scaled back its plan for the Edgewater redevelopment, from $109 million to $90 million. However, they are still asking for the full $16 million in TIF funding that Mayor Dave Cieslewicz included in his capital budget.

"It represents progress," Cieslewicz said.

Really? Going from 15% taxpayer funding to 18% taxpayer funding for a private hotel project that is expected to cannibalize business from other hotels rather than bring more business to Madison is progress?

I'm surprised nobody's tried to sell Mayor Dave a bridge. Maybe it'll be in next year's capital budget.

Monday, October 26, 2009

I read the news today, oh, boy.

The Noon headlines contained the news that Barbara Lawton dropped out of the gubenatorial horse-race. The timing was a shock to her supporters, since she held a fundraiser last week and left people believing as recently as Saturday that she still planned to run. Speculation is that Tom Barrett will heed President Obama's call for him to run, and Lawton got out while she could save face. She cited personal reasons, and the media quoted other Democratic Party figures (like Peg Lautenschlager) emphasizing that she did it for personal and/or family reasons. That is the usual face-saving excuse for a politician dropping out of a campaign. There is really no way to know what is going on in Lawton's head.

A more shocking and tragic story involving state government (presumably unrelated) also hit the news today. The Director of the State's Bureau of Investigative Services shot himself with his service weapon in his car Friday night.

An earlier version of the Wisconsin State Journal story mentioned that he was feeling overwhelmed at work and that the mandatory state employee furloughs had not helped the situation. The story has been updated to remove any reference to the furloughs. It still mentions that he sometimes worked until 2:00 a.m. I sincerely hope that this man's death is not used by AFSCME or others in their political arguments against the spending cuts. His family deserves better than that. I especially feel for his wife, who found him in his car. There are few experiences that could be more horrific.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Things I've Learned Today

The Cleveland Browns appear to be even worse than the Detroit Lions.

The Vikings don't look so good against a quality opponent. At least Favre got to increase his all-time interceptions record. That one should stand for decades.

The Bengals aren't nearly as bad as I thought they were when they beat the Packers.

The Bears aren't nearly as good as I thought they were when the Packers beat them.

The Packers are still disorganized and undisciplined. They can't afford to get that many penalties against a team that doesn't absolutely suck. Let's hope they can pull themselves together for next Sunday's game.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Crystal Head Vodka - Trick or Treat?

Just in time for Halloween, Woodman's liquor store has a display of Crystal Head Vodka right next to the cash register. While the stack of novelty bottles caught my eye first, the monitor playing the Dan Aykroyd infomercial is what surprised me most. That explains the $50 price tag. I noticed that the vodka is made in Canada and is "quadruple distilled" and filtered through "Herkimer diamonds" (actually a quartz crystal).

I'm not sure which is tackier, referencing the Indiana Jones movie that we'd all like to forget to lend some sort of authority to the idea that the meso-American crystal skulls may be of extraterrestrial origin, or celebrating ancient Mayan traditions with distilled spirits.

The website touts the "purity" of the vodka as if this is a virtue. Filtered, clear alcohol is the cheapest to produce. It is the inclusions, or impurities, that give spirits their character. Of course, you need to use quality products and equipment to have tasty impurities. Rotgut can be rescued with filters and added flavoring. The Crystal Head infomercial does not say it is a small-batch, pot-distilled product, so I assume it is a mass-produced, column-distilled product (like Smirnoff) that is using a fancy bottle and celebrity spokesperson to dress it up as a premium product.

There are other vodkas that are filtered through diamonds, but it is unclear whether this is especially desirable, other than as a marketing gimmick.

This review compares the quality of Crystal Head Vodka to Grey Goose. Most of the commenters, however, say that once they empty the one bottle they purchased, they will fill it with better booze.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

NIMBY Neighbors Prefer Hole in the Ground to Target

Earlier this week, there was a neighborhood meeting to discuss plans for a new, smaller-than-usual Target store next to Hilldale mall, in the large hole that was dug for the aborted Whole Foods project.

While many welcomed it, there were, predictably, some loudmouthed NIMBYs who oppose another big store. Wake up, folks, you chose to live by a shopping mall. What the hell did you expect?

One man expressed concern with their product mix, saying he doesn't want another outlet for the People's Republic of China. Others urged Target to pay livable wages.

Most of the overpriced clothing sold at Macy's is made in China (Indonesia, India, Vietnam and Mexico are also represented). I knew a young woman who worked at one of those overpriced Hilldale boutiques, and she did not make a living wage. As for the size of the store, were they this concerned over the Whole Foods proposal? How about the big Borders bookstore nearby?

I suspect that most of their objection is actually not to the size of the store (a design that Target has used in a few other urban settings), the source of their products or the wages they will pay, but to their target demographic. Most of the stores at Hilldale are seriously overpriced to keep out the riff-raff.

This project is golden. Target even agreed to put the parking underground and pay for all of it without TIF money. The extra customers will occasionally patronize the other stores at Hilldale, so the whole area will get a boost. If it's not good enough for you, move to Maple Bluff (no big box stores there).

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Message for Bret Bielma

A football game has two halves. It is necessary to out-play your opponent in both of them.

A 10-point lead is inadequate until the final two minutes of the game (and sometimes even then). Playing like you just want to run out the clock and preserve a 10-point lead will usually cause you to lose it.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

It Depends What Your Definition of "Don't" Is

Cable channel G4 has a regular movie feature called "Movies That Don't Suck."

Last night's presentation was The Matrix Reloaded.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Attention-Grabbing Gimmicks for Dave Westlake

Apparently, Westlake has decided that "No Gimmicks" wasn't working for him (h/t, Zach W).

Since a little creativity makes a lengthy campaign more entertaining for all of us, here are some ideas that the Westlake campaign might want to consider:

1. Project Runway - Blaze Orange Edition. Get some students from Milwaukee Area Technical College's Fashion/Retail Marketing program to design your new campaign wardrobe. It will give the students some exposure and perhaps help them to find jobs in their field. Plus, it will show that you are prepared to reach out to urban youth. Get a kid with a digital camera to document the results and edit it into some campaign ads you can post on your website. If there is enough reality-show-style drama, the ads will draw attention to your site and maybe get some free media.

2. This Old House - T. Wall Edition. Find some T. Wall properties that have not held up well and chronicle the current owners' trials and tribulations with maintenance and repairs.

3. Print up a fake newspaper that says "Elvis Endorses Westlake" (after all, it helped Russ Feingold win a primary race against two better-known and better-funded opponents).

4. Foil a crime in a parking lot. Preferably one against an old woman and/or a young child. If you walk the streets while openly carrying a side arm, you may have the chance to not only be a hero, but stand up for our Van Hollen-endorsed 2nd Amendment rights as well. If you do it while wearing a blaze orange jumpsuit, however, you're likely to be shot by law enforcement, which probably won't help your campaign.

5. Create your own beer label. There are plenty of microbreweries that will contract-brew for another label. Years from now, those blaze orange Westlake Beer cans will be valuable collector's items. You don't have a license to sell beer, but you can try giving it away to supporters of legal drinking age. When the law steps in to tell you it's not legal (like that barber shop in Sun Prairie that was giving away beer to patrons a few years ago), you'll get lots of free publicity and goodwill.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

When Karaoke Attacks

Six underage women have been charged with assaulting a woman in a Stamford Connecticut bar after a dispute over her karaoke performance.

Should they be convicted, I hope their sentence includes 500 hours of community service, to be served by coordinating sing-alongs at a nursing home, with their grandmothers watching them to be sure they behave themselves.

At Muddy Waters in La Crosse, they have something called Gong Karaoke. Members of the audience can bang the gong to stop a performance they dislike (like on The Gong Show), but then they have to buy a drink for the rejected performer. Therefore, Simon Cowall wannabes are constrained by the amount of their drinking money.

Maybe that bar in Stamford should start holding Gong Karaoke nights.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Dave Westlake is Desperate for Attention

Dave Westlake -- whose campaign website promises "no gimmicks" -- has decided to wear blaze orange to every campaign appearance from now until the 2010 election.

I suppose it might make him feel safer at the October 17 "Open Carry" Tea Party at Lake Front Park in Hudson. Personally, I think it's unnecessary. No one's going to be shooting at deer in a park, especially in the middle of a crowded event. If someone gets clumsy and accidentally discharges a gun, blaze orange clothing won't make a bit of difference.

All jokes aside, I suspect Westlake's decision to wear blaze orange was inspired by Madison developer Terrence Wall's possible entry into the Republican primary race to challenge Feingold. Westlake wants to establish himself as a populist Republican instead of a country club Republican.

I doubt anyone will see Terrence Wall at an "Open Carry" Tea Party.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Will Life Imitate Art?

Madison's Sconnie Nation store has a new T-shirt design that will probably be popular.

I wonder, though, if Brett Favre will find it inspirational. He has already shown his willingness to profit from his waffling reputation with that Sears commercial campaign.

How long will it be before he decides to buy a Waffle House franchise in Mississippi?

Friday, October 2, 2009

I can't believe I agree with Alan Lasee

The State Senator from DePere has proposed a constitutional amendment to eliminate the offices of Secretary of State and Lieutenant Governor.

Over the years, most of the actual duties of the Wisconsin Secretary of State have been taken over by the Department of Administration. The office is more or less ornamental these days. Why waste the money and the space on the ballot to elect a figurehead who does nothing useful?

And speaking of ornamental figureheads brings us to the office of Lieutenant Governor. Other than waiting for the Governor to become incapacitated or to resign, the office has no other duties to justify the salary. There are plenty of other elected officials who could be given the duties of emergency governor (Speaker of the Assembly, Senate Majority Leader, or Attorney General, for example).

Yes, this could lead to the Governor's office changing parties if the Gov. resigns for a federal appointment. That is just what happened in Arizona, which does not have the office of Lieutenant Governor, when Janet Napolitano became Secretary of Homeland Security.

If Wisconsin's history is any guide, though, that is going to happen anyway; it will just wait a few years until the elected Governor's term is up. Both Democrat Martin Schreiber and Republican Scott McCallum were lackluster Governors who failed to get re-elected to the office they inherited. But neither party was willing to mount a primary challenge to a sitting Governor. In that way, the Lieutenant Governor actually handicaps his (or her) own party. A party might be better off losing power for a few years and then running someone who has a chance to serve a full term or two (or three).

Think about the kind of politicians who run for Lieutenant Governor in this state. Since the gubenatorial candidate does not pick his or her running mate, the Lt. Gov. will not be someone who was a rival in the primaries and could strengthen the ticket in the general election. Instead it will be someone who never ran for Governor but thought they might squeek by as Lt. Gov., since it is a pretty much invisible office that few voters care about. It is a refuge for lazy politicians.

That, more than anything, is why I believe Barbara Lawton has no chance of becoming Wisconsin's next Governor. If she was willing to do the actual work required of a serious statewide campaign, she never would have become Lieutenant Governor in the first place.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Equal Opportunity Violence at Wiggie's

Defying the stereotype that getting drunk and striking others with a pool cue is strictly a male pasttime, a 28-year-old woman went to town at Wiggie's last week and started swinging the cue around again this week before she was finally arrested. Apparently, the male victim from the 24th didn't feel the need to report the incident before, despite needing stitches.

That makes the fourth crime incident at Wiggie's to make the paper this year, and I'm starting to see a pattern. The male patrons seem to favor guns (either shooting them out the window or using them to rob a patron in the bathroom), while the women like some kind of wooden club (baseball bat or pool cue).

Maybe Dave Wiganowski should sponsor a women's la crosse team.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Camp Randall Was Just As Rowdy 25 Years Ago

I saw the following letter in today's Wisconsin State Journal:

Students: Be quiet and watch the game

I have regularly attended UW football games since 1967. In recent years, student conduct before and at games has eroded to the point that many fans are considering other activities on Saturdays.

During the recent high school band day, with a thousand or so high school students in attendance in addition to thousands of other fans, we were once again regaled by the students' chant "eat s---, f--- you." It's loud enough to be heard on national TV, and surely loud enough for young ears to catch. This chant occurs at every game. And as a loyal, ticket-purchasing fan, I'm offended by this student conduct.

Half the student attendees party until well into the second quarter, then stroll into their seats to shout obscenities. Their team, meanwhile, plays to a half-empty student section. Where's the loyalty?

I'm told by fans from visiting teams who walk through the beer parties on Regent Street and Breeze Terrace that they're subjected to the same foul language. The UW is better than that, and it is time they step up to correct the situation.

Phil Grimm, Madison

Either Mr. Grimm has selective memory, or he used to sit farther from the student section. As a high school student, I regularly attended Band Day back in the early 1980s. I can assure Mr. Grimm that we heard obscenities from the student section even back then (and witnessed cup fights, which we found highly entertaining).

As a college student in the mid-80s, I had student season tickets. The student sections tended to fill early in the first quarter, but that was because (1) most games started at 1:00 p.m. in those days (few Badger games were televised) and (2) students could bring booze into the stands with them. While it was not legal to do so, there were no searches, the legal drinking age was 19 (so most students could stop at the liquor store on their way to the stadium), and the rent-a-cops were more concerned about removing empty bottles to prevent breakage than ejecting the students who brought them. They were there to protect and to serve. During one game, the guys behind me literally brought enough (full-size) bottles to stock a bar. They all wore trench coats to smuggle them in. None of them got thrown out.

Obscene chants were just as prevelent back then, including "Who Gives a Shit? We Came to See the Band!" (shouted when the game wasn't going well for the Badgers). How's that for loyalty? Things finally got out of hand when, in either 1984 or 1985 if I recall correctly, fans started tearing up the fiberglass bench-covers and passing them. One asshole threw one over the top, narrowly missing a pedestrian below. He was sentenced to several weekends of cleaning toilets at the stadium the next Fall (which was really inconvenient, since he graduated and moved to California in the interim -- he had to fly back on home football weekends to serve his sentence).

And as for the complaints by visiting fans that they are subjected to obscenities on their way to and from the stadium, that's tame. Back in the 1980s, Iowa coach Hayden Frye was allegedly showered with peppermint schnapps by UW students as he emerged from the tunnel.

In short, Mr. Grimm, the UW is not better than that, and it hasn't been for over two decades. If you are just starting to notice now, I commend the efficacy of modern corrective lenses and hearing aids.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Helluva Catch

When Donald Driver made that 40-yard reception with just his left hand and held on all the way to the ground, I was impressed. But I also thought he was being a hotdog for not bringing his right hand up to secure the ball. Then I realized the Ram defender was holding on to his right hand.

Kudos, Mr. Driver. I'm glad I got to see that play before Fox's video feed went haywire.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Hoosier Daddy?

I can't believe Indiana came so close to beating Michigan today. Who'da thunk?

And are the Badgers really as good as they looked against Michigan State today? Maybe Dustin Christopher is onto something with his Gridiron Biowarfare theory.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Advice for Tea Party Organizers

If you want politicians, the media and the general public to take your concerns seriously and treat your tea parties like political demonstrations rather than wing-nut circuses, here are a few things you could do to help your cause:

1. Stop inviting Joe the Plumber to speak at your events. The man has proven himself to be a complete idiot on the subjects of economics and foreign policy. If you continue to treat him like a pundit, you will continue to be considered ignorant by the rest of us. You might as well invite Britney Spears -- she'll draw a bigger crowd, and nothing she says can be any stupider than many of JtP's past public proclamations.

2. Stop harping on Obama's birth certificate. That fake issue has been completely discredited. He did produce the birth certificate. He was born in the U.S.A. If you keep peddling that snake oil to the wingnuts, your events will continue to be looked on as medicine shows rather than political rallies. I've noticed that very few birthers were concerned about the fact that John McCain was born in Panama (I'm just sayin').

3. Invite Jesse Ventura to speak at your events. He shares many of your concerns with the growing U.S. tax-and-police state. He also has cross-over credibility and is truly independent of any political party or media empire (although he does have a book to plug).

4. Put some emphasis on issues that liberals can't (or won't) argue with. There is a lot of common ground on the subject of civil liberties (such as the current proposal to collect DNA from anyone arrested, before conviction). If you spend some time talking about the things you have in common with the ACLU, liberals will stop laughing and do you the courtesy of listening to what you have to say. They will be much less likely to tune you out when you bring up your other concerns if they have already treated you like fellow citizens deserving of respect.

5. When you see some idiot at one of your events carrying a homemade "Obama = Hitler" sign, ask that individual what, specifically, Obama has in common with Hitler. Then explain why Hitler is in a class which invites few legitimate comparisons. You don't have to censor anyone, but at least try to educate the ones who are making you all look bad.

I disagree with many of your positions, but I think that one-party rule is bad for democracy. Watching the Republican Party become a shrinking, marginalized joke troubles me. Without a credible opposition, I shudder to think what the Democratic Party may become. Ideally, I would like to see several viable parties hold seats in Congress, with a coalition required for a working majority. That would keep the radicals in any party from ramming things down everyone's throats (because the minor parties would abandon the coalition in that case).

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Classic Videogame Comes to Life on East Wash

An idiot boy on a skateboard zigzagged across East Washington Avenue, by Walgreens, during rush hour today, acting like a live-action cross between the protagonists of the classic 1980s videogames Frogger and Paperboy.

Luckily for him (and my insurance rates), he didn't get splattered. It was a near miss, though.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Marcus Theatres Provides Metaphor for Cap and Trade Legislation

Last year, Marcus Theatres proposed a new, larger multiplex (with an Ultrascreen) to replace Eastgate Cinema. It would be in the same vicinity, just a bit farther east along the Highway 151 corridor.

The City of Madison felt that the development would not be in keeping with their policy goals of reducing emissions, since it would not be on a bus line, nor would it be pedestrian-friendly, requiring patrons and employees alike to drive there by car. Marcus must create a pedestrian-friendly development around their new cinema, with affordable housing options, if they want Madison to approve their plans.

The supporters of the project pointed out that most people drive to Eastgate by car already, and if the city makes it too difficult or expensive, Marcus will simpy build a few more miles east, in Sun Prairie. That will result in just as many car trips, but most of them will be a few miles longer (since Madison will still provide the majority of the cinema's patrons). How will that reduce emissions? It will, in fact, increase emissions.

That is exactly what cap and trade legislation will do. I am not a global warming denier. Neither can I deny the economic impact of cap and trade legislation. It will result in major increases in manufacturing costs (especially in Wisconsin, where most of our electricity is generated with coal). The result of that will be to move most manufacturing overseas to places with lax environmental standards, as well as lower labor costs, like China and India.

That will result in a lot more container ships making the trip across the Pacific and Indian Oceans. Container ships burn barely-refined fuel and spew great volumes of filthy smoke. China is burning exponentially more coal every year.

I have heard the argument that we have to take the lead and set an example for the developing world. I don't buy it. China has not emulated our example of the last four decades and created anything like the EPA, or OSHA. They are motivated more by short-term economic development concerns. They will laugh at our cap-and-trade legislation. Then they will build more factories and power plants and mine more coal in the cheapest, fastest way possible (interrupted only by the occasional fatal mine collapse).

The only thing that will stop the flow of jobs and container ships is if the growing pirate problem makes it less cost-effective to manufacture all of our consumer goods in China. Say, maybe the Pastafarians have the right idea about pirates and global warming.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Lions and Bengals and Bears, Oh My!

For a while there, it looked like the Detroit Lions might actually make a game of it. Didn't last, though. It's going to be another bleak year in Motown.

The Bengals, on the other hand, thoroughly embarrassed the Packers, proving the old adage that pre-season games don't mean a thing. Aaron Rodgers looked like a different (lesser) quarterback. All of his receivers had trouble holding on to his passes, even when he hit them in the hands. Did Rodgers put more on the ball in the game than he does in practice? Was he throwing knuckleballs? At least some of those passes looked like they were wobbling on the axis, rather than flying in a perfect spiral. I don't know if he's suffering from performance anxiety, or if the Bears injured his shoulder last week when they threw him to the turf.

While the Bears didn't look as good as the pundits predicted last week, they managed to beat the reigning Superbowl Champions, so I guess they really are the power in the NFC North this year.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Surprises at Dollar Tree

I stopped into Dollar Tree to buy paper goods for a party. Unlike some other "dollar store" chains, everything really is $1 at Dollar Tree. So imagine my surprise, while standing in the checkout line, to see the New Choice Pregnancy Test.

Evidently, there are women who trust a $1 pregnancy test, either because they are that poor or that foolish. Either way, it is a bit frightening to realize they are facing parenthood.

Even more frightening, however, was the New Choice Ovulation Predictor. There are two reasons why a woman would want to predict her ovulation: either she is actively trying to get pregnant, or she is using the rhythm method of birth control. In either case, it is unfortunate that a woman would choose to buy a $1 ovulation predictor instead of going to Walgreen's and spending $10 for a trustworthy one.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Really, Barry?

The Woffard Terriers? Why not just schedule games against Edgewood College and Upper Iowa University? At least you might fill some of the empty seats in Camp Randall Stadium with friends and relatives of the visiting team.

And why was the ball so damn slippery today? It's not like it was cold or raining. Did the UW ink a deal with KY to replace some of that lost beer advertising revenue?

Just Another Weeknight at Wiggie's

This is the third bizarre police call at Wiggie's this year. Is underage drinking really a bigger problem than violent crimes in bars? If so, what about that 17-year-old with the baseball bat? Will the ALRC ever investigate Wiggie's? It's like the wild west on Madison's north side.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

A Piranha? In Wisconsin?

Quick, everyone out of the lake. A fisherman on Lake Winnebago caught a carnivorous tropical fish that was (mis)identified as a piranha. One of the commenters claims it is actually a pacu, which is a similar (but larger) species. I don't know if johnsam is an icthyologist or just a bullshitter, though, so take it with a grain of salt.

Presumably, some jackass dumped the fish into Lake Winnebago, since the DNR says they can't survive our winters (so there couldn't be a breeding population in the lake).

Still, it makes one reluctant to swim in Wisconsin's lakes. Another commenter claims that piranhas don't really attack people, but that's what folks used to say about otters.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

R.I.P., Patrick Swayze

You were a hard-working actor, and you demonstrated to America that short ballet dancers can be butch. You will be missed.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Deja Vu

Does anyone else get nostalgic watching Badger football games with players named Toon, Borland and McFadden?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Maybe We Need More Bookies

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel ran an article yesterday about political contributions from the payday loan industry and how they might influence attempts to regulate the industry.

They quoted Rep. Pedro Colon (who received no such contributions) saying: "If you make these guys disappear, you'll have bookies making loans - because banks aren't going to make these loans," he said.

Actually, most people are better off borrowing from bookies or loansharks (assuming they pay the loan back on time) -- they charge much lower interest rates than payday lenders, and they may offer value-added services to good clients.

Many years ago, a relative of mine borrowed money from an unlicensed, locally-based financial services entrepreneur when she was a struggling single mother. She brought a list of her personal property that could serve as collateral. He let her keep her things, saying that anyone who took the time to itemize their property was a good risk. She always made her payments on time. When her crazy and hostile landlord locked her attic storage space, she went to the local financier in a panic, saying that she had lost access to all of the items she listed as collateral. He told her she was a good customer, and that his business was pro-family, and that he would talk to the landlord for her. She never had trouble with her landlord again.

You won't get service like that from a pay-day loan establishment.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

About that Sears Commercial

I laughed when I saw the Sear's commercial with Brett Favre looking at the new LED TVs. The salesman touts Sears' on-site price-checks, to help those guys who just can't make up their mind. Favre seemed sold, then said "I don't know..."

Yes, very funny. However, Sears is basically rewarding Favre for being an indecisive a**%#$^ who wastes everyone's time. I used to make a habit of shopping at Sears when I needed a new appliance or piece of luggage or bathrobe, because I knew they were struggling, and I wanted to see them stick around. Now, however, I don't think I'll bother.

Friday, September 4, 2009

New Romantic Poetry

With apologies to Samuel Taylor Coleridge:

In Madison did Mayor Dave
A stately library decree.
His reasoning was firm and brave:
On building costs we'll surely save
If we move now, said he.

A hundred-five-thousand square feet of space
With glass and steel will be built apace.
There will be sunlight bright shining in all year
And far more space for citizens to use.
On days with weather that is warm and clear
We'll all enjoy the patio on the roof.

But oh, that steep taxpayer burden which landed
Twice as hard as Edgewater's sixteen million.
A savage fee the citizens were handed,
An island of public debt on which we're stranded
With no rescue from a Frautschi or a Goodwin.

And when the old library is vacated,
With scavengers and wrecking ball both sated,
A brand new hotel hopefully will rise,
To further clutter downtown's shaded skies
With empty rooms and yet another bar.
At least there'll be someplace to park your car.

The ramp will not fill up with out-of-towners;
Our airport is not major -- what a downer.

(I planned to finish it, but I've spent too much time on it already.)

Sunday, August 30, 2009

New Words for an Old Jingle

Hammes will rebuild the Edgewater (Water)
With the help of TIF, sixteen million
Thank you, Dave Cieslewicz
Screw Monona Terrace

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Ritual Goat Sacrifices?

Over a hundred goats have been stolen from farms in Dodge and Green Lake Counties this summer. Authorities are baffled. What are the goat-rustlers up to?

This seemingly-unrelated case in Winona, Minnesota may provide a clue. A woman painted a goat purple and shaved a #4 into its side. She trussed it up and put it in her trunk prior to slaughtering it. The goat was rescued, however, when the woman had to stop to buy a tire. Presumably, she obtained the goat legally (the article doesn't say). The goat has since been adopted by a Wisconsin couple after sheltering temporarily with a Winona veterinarian.

My theory is that the Wisconsin goat-thefts were perpetrated either by enraged Packers fans who intend to curse Brett Favre and his new team, the Vikings, or by desperate Cubs fans who are trying to lift the curse of the billy-goat. If a flock of goats are turned loose to graze in the friendly confines of Wrigley Field, at least we'll know where they came from.

A Lot of Alliteration Award

Rock County Family Finally Finds Flooding Fix

Too bad they don't live in Orfordville.

Golf with a Super Bowl Champion

The Chula Vista Resort in Wisconsin Dells is hosting a stop on the Green Bay Packer Super Bowl XXXI Reunion tour. For $125, you can participate in a Friday golf outing, and for an additional $250, you can have a Packer player on your foursome (while supplies last). For another $125, you can participate in a Saturday cocktail meet-and-greet with Mike Holmgren and LeRoy Butler, then have a steak dinner. The proceeds go towards breast cancer research.

Neither Brett Favre nor Jim McMahon will be in attendance. Mark Chmura will, though, so you might want to leave your teenage daughters at home. Or at least keep them away from the jacuzzi.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

When Did McDonald's Start Hiring 12-Year-Olds?

I swear that kid who waited on me looked to be 10-12 years old. He couldn't have been working there (or anywhere) for very long, but he was more efficient and competent than some of the adults who have been working there for years. He rang up my special order without hesitation, not needing to hunt for the proper buttons on the keypad, and counted out my change quickly and accurately.

Kudos, young man. Stay in school. With your work ethic and quick mind, you could go far when you grow up.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Can't You Smell That Smell? Woman Found Mummified in Wisconsin Garage opposed to decomposing on a Wisconsin toilet or on ice in a Wisconsin freezer. Honestly, what is it about this state that encourages people to conceal (or dig up) corpses?

Although the Dane County Coroner, John Stanley, believes she died of natural causes, he can't even tell how long she's been dead, so that doesn't exactly inspire confidence in his professional opinion. He works in a city with a major research university; can't he find an entomologist who can tell him how many generations of cockroaches have been feasting on human flesh in that garage?

And the County's mental health and social services also seem to have fallen down on the job. On July 17, a mental health worker went to the house to ask after the missing woman. The woman's nephew was already known to have under-treated schizophrenia. The mental health worker noticed a terrible stench coming from the basement; she did not go down there. That was wise; it's not her job to investigate a potential chamber of horrors. However, she presumably reported her observations to the proper authorities.

The man's mother (the dead woman's sister) had recently been removed from the home, partly because of the filthy conditions, and partly because of alleged elder abuse (reported by the neighbors). The dead woman's nephew denied killing his aunt -- apparently without having been asked -- to at least two different people, on July 31 and August 2. By this time, the man and his mother had, on at least two separate occasions, refused to allow someone to enter the garage.

Shouldn't the police have obtained a search warrant by that time? She'd been missing more than two weeks, her nephew had been less than cooperative, and his house was known to be squalid (usually grounds for the County to declare the property a public health hazard). Instead, it took the cops two more weeks to get around to properly searching the place. They did "check the house" on July 17 but didn't enter the basement, and they did not yet notice the odor of decaying flesh (it makes one wonder what the terrible stench the mental health worker noticed the day before was). It appears that the 70-year-old woman died in the filthy basement and was later moved into the garage. At least she wasn't made into lampshades.

No word yet on whether anyone cashed her most recent social security check (the usual motive for concealing the death of an elderly relative).

Instead of asking for money to hire more cops, perhaps Madison Police Chief Noble Wray should focus on better training for the ones he has. Here's another tip -- women are known to have a keener sense of smell than men, on average. Perhaps you should send a female officer along when you are checking a house for a possible missing or deceased person. If a police officer had noticed a terrible stench coming from the basement on July 17, perhaps that would have led to a search warrant in a more timely manner.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Creative Fundraising Ideas

Zach W over at Blogging Blue distilled a Journal-Sentinel article listing the amount of cash various Democratic politicians have on hand for a potential gubenatorial run. The gist of it is that Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett could purchase all of the other campaigns combined six times before running out of campaign cash.

As a concerned public citizen, I would like to offer the following ideas to help the lesser politicians catch up. I won't even charge a consulting fee to any campaign(s) that use any of them. Consider it my contribution to a free exchange of ideas (which will no doubt come back to bite me in the ass in the form of robo-calls at suppertime).

1. Set up a dunk tank at the Taste of Madison. Put a volunteer in a Dick Cheney mask in the tank. Support the troops by giving a free throw to any Iraq War veterans who happen by.

2. Dancing with the Pols. Tom DeLay has made it acceptable for politicians to dance in public for money. Have a "dollar dance" at the Cardinal Bar when it re-opens next month. It's a Midwestern wedding staple, so no one should be offended. If you charge $10 a minute to dance with the candidate, you will only have to endure about 16,000 Depeche Mode songs to catch up to Barrett.

3. Hold a fundraiser at a sports bar with a dart board. Place a big #4 on the dart board (numerals are in the public domain, after all) and charge people to throw darts at it.

4. Hold a "Win a Dream Date to the Frostiball" contest. Donors who contribute $100 or more are entered into a drawing to accompany the candidate to the 2010 Frostiball, with dinner at a fancy downtown restaurant beforehand.

5. Offer to host a debate between spokespersons for PETA and the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board. Place the podiums (podia?) inside a kiddie pool filled with mud, surrounded by a cage. Sell tickets.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Cleveland Was a Better Man than Edwards

I voted for John Edwards in the 2004 presidential primary. I thought his policies were mostly centrist and pragmatic, and that he was more charismatic (and therefore electable) than John Kerry. Still, I realized that his trial lawyer background made him likely to lie even more than the average politician, and I noticed that he had a habit of blinking way too much (which tends to make one seem less than trustworthy).

When The National Enquirer first broke the story about Edwards' affair with Rielle Hunter, I wasn't surprised. Mickey Kaus had reported the rumors, given traction by the bizarre suppresssion of the video footage that Hunter was hired to shoot for the campaign, months earlier. I hoped that Edwards was a savvy enough politician to learn from Bill Clinton's mistakes. I hoped he and Elizabeth would take the opportunity to usher in a new political era, where people stopped focusing on politicians' sex lives because most voters really don't care, and the United States freed itself from our unfortunate Puritan legacy.

When the Lewinski scandal broke, Clinton followed the politician's natural instinct to Deny, Deny, Deny. However, the cover-up proved worse than the initial transgression, bringing about an impeachment trial for perjury. In the end, the affair became public knowledge, and Hillary's belief in a "vast right-wing conspiracy" became a source of humiliation for both of them.

John and Elizabeth Edwards seemed like intelligent, educated individuals. They had made their family life and relationship a focus of John's campaign. They could have continued in that vein. Elizabeth could have given a press conference and said something like: "There is no doubt that my cancer treatments put a strain on our physical relationship. While, ideally, John would have chosen celibacy over adultery, he is only human. Out of respect for me and our children, he made every effort to be discreet. I would ask everyone to please respect our family's privacy and allow us to handle this situation in the best way that we can."

John could have said something like: "Out of respect for my wife and children, as well as Ms. Hunter, I will not comment on this situation except to say that I am making child support arrangements out of my personal fortune, and no campaign funds will be used. Any campaign donors who feel personally offended by this situation may contact the campaign and request a refund of their donation."

It would have been a brave stand for privacy rights. It would have played well with America's youth, who have much more libertarian attitudes about sex. And it might have even resurrected his political career. After all, Grover Cleveland survived a paternity scandal and won the presidency.

But, as it turns out, John Edwards is a spineless idiot, and Elizabeth Edwards is a drama queen. She apparently forgave him enough to remain in the marriage, but not enough to refrain from writing a tell-all book about her reaction to his affair. They deserve each other (and political obscurity).

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

"Red Dawn" Will Stay Red

I've been morbidly curious about the upcoming remake of Red Dawn ever since I first heard about it last year. Will it take place in the present, the near future, or in some alternate version of 1985 (like The Watchmen)? If the present, who will the invaders be?

While the script has undergone at least two re-writes (never a good sign), reports are that, in the remake, the invaders are the Russians and the Chinese (h/t ScreenRant). I'm not even sure why they need the Russians anymore; it might have been scarier and more topical if it were the Chinese and the North Koreans.

Anyway, I'm still morbidly curious. Will it be a deliberate allegory on our invasion of Iraq? If so, it would be hard to top the original in that respect. Seriously, get it from Netflix sometime (or fire up the old VHS if you actually own the video) and watch it with these substitutions in mind:

Americans = Iraqis
Russians = Americans
Cubans = Brits

Vaya con dios.

Monday, August 10, 2009

This Seems Tacky, Even for Las Vegas

I was surprised to learn that the Atomic Testing Museum in Las Vegas held a "Family Fun Day" event on Saturday. I thought Las Vegas gave up the family-fun business model back in the 90s.

While I realize that a lot of families live in Las Vegas, and it is not inappropriate for an educational museum like the ATM (the only Smithsonian-affiliated institution in Las Vegas) to try to attract their business, it just seems wrong for "Family Fun Day" at the Atomic Testing Museum to be subtitled: "Journey Through Japan." Activities include Japanese dancers, sushi rolling and origami folding.

It might be more appropriate if the Atomic Testing Museum dealt seriously with the effects of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. However, the museum mostly avoids that by focusing on the bomb tests conducted by the U.S. government (especially those conducted in Nevada). It briefly mentions unfortunate health effects to workers and those who lived near testing sites but assures visitors that the government made every effort to minimize them, and that the tests were necessary to national security.

The short documentary film on Operation Crossroads does not discuss the devastation of the Bikini Islanders culture following their removal, nor the horrific effects of the unnecessary and deliberate exposure to radiation of thousands of U.S. Sailors.

The museum does not mention the filming of John Wayne's film The Conqueror and its legacy of cancer deaths among almost half the film's cast and crew.

With all of those omissions, holding a "Family Fun Day" celebration of Japanese culture at the Atomic Testing Museum is rather like having a production of Fiddler on the Roof at Germanfest would be. Hopefully, the folks in Wisconsin will always have more sense than that (at least outside of Washington County).

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Hey, Copps, WTF?!

Didn't you just remodel your northside store a couple years ago? I finally learned where everything is, and now you're remodelling again. Why? It's not like you've added space or got rid of the liquor or made other major changes. You're just randomly shuffling things for no good reason. Do you get a tax break during years in which you are remodelling? The only reason I shop there is because it's more convenient than Woodman's. I think they've about finished with their remodelling...

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Vengeful River Gods Denied Another Sacrifice

The La Crosse Tribune reported the following item today:
22-year-old man found drunk, lost and down by the Mississippi River

There have been numerous drownings in La Crosse over the years, some in the Mississippi River, some in the Black River. They are usually college-age men with a lot of alcohol in their system (one had a blood-alcohol level of .40). They are most common around Halloween or Oktoberfest, when college students from around the Midwest converge on La Crosse to get wasted. Each death was investigated and determined to be an accident (or, in one bridge-jumping case, possibly suicide).

Despite this, there are many people (some of them family members of past drowning victims), who believe there is a serial killer who preys on young men by getting them drunk and luring them into the water. Why else would they be so far from their apartments, having traveled in the opposite direction when they left their friends at the downtown bars? Maybe because being really drunk messes with your sense of direction. The issue is summarized in a tongue-in-cheek fashion by this music video.

I suppose one could believe that the serial killer drugged the young man yesterday to confuse him and lure him into the water, but the killer fled when police approached. Or that the police made up the story to cover up the fact that there is a serial killer (scroll down and read the comment from canuread) One could also believe that Barack H. Obama, Jr. was born in Kenya.

I have another theory. Wisconsin is known for crazy cults. I think there is a River God(s) cult that performs sacrifices during Oktoberfest and Halloween (both ancient pagan European harvest festivals). The cultists are townies, and they select UW-L students and out-of-town tourists as their sacrifices because they feel no sense of kinship with them (and don't know their parents). Since it isn't a single killer, that explains the differences in M.O. for each death.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Jury Rejects Pathetic Loser Defense

Nicholas Grunke, one of the three Cassville men arrested in 2006 for attempted grave robbery with necrophiliac intent, was finally convicted today (after an earlier mis-trial).

The defense tried to argue that he was just a shy young man with no girlfriends who wanted to pose the body in a nonsexual way.

Right. Because shy men with no girlfriends who exhume female corpses couldn't possibly mean any harm.

Asshole. I'm glad they caught him before he started preying on live women.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Bring on the Carnies with Needles

I just got back from the Dane County Fair. I had fun perusing the crap booths near the midway on my way to get my mini-donut fix. The oddest one I saw was "Tatoos and Body Piercing" -- not temporary tattoos (there was another booth offering henna tattoos), but permanent ones. I saw a tattoo artist who looked like an extra from Easy Rider working on a customer as I walked by. It boggled my mind that anyone would decide to get a tattoo or body piercing from a group of travelling practitioners at a carnival. It might make sense in the more rural counties where the kids don't have access to quality tattoo studios, but in Madison?

Also observed at the fair, a child in the 7-9 age range, saying to his parents: "I want deep-fried cheese curds and a cream puff." The younger generation is upholding Wisconsin's fine tradition of obesity.

Friday, July 17, 2009

It Could Have Been Worse...

I took an unplanned detour on my way to work this morning when I encountered this. From my vantage point, at the back of a line of unmoving vehicles, right by the exit ramp for I-90/94 West, all I could see were the emergency vehicles. I knew it must be a very messy accident, but I had no idea that a truckload of chelada-style beer (lime-flavored) was spilling onto the highway. I don't think the incident will help sales:

“Trust me, after smelling this — I was like bathing in it — I don’t want any of it,” tow team worker Sean Carnahan said early Friday afternoon.

Worker Nick Hagen agreed: “The smell is kind of overpowering when you get that much of it on the road.”

It could have been worse. It could have been Budweiser + Clamato.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

A Real-Life Version of "The Blob"

Fans of the 1958 Steve McQueen sci-fi/horror classic The Blob may be interested in this news item from Alaska that has nothing to do with Sarah Palin.

According to the Anchorage Daily News, the U.S. Coast Guard is investigating a large mass of black goo that is not an oil slick, floating north miles offshore. The blob seems to be killing the sea creatures that come in contact with it, including jellyfish and at least one unfortunate goose. It reportedly has a distinct odor (I wonder if it smells like rotting jellyfish and geese).

Theories include an algae bloom or "some sort of naturally occurring organic or otherwise marine organism," according to Coast Guard P.O. 1st Class Terry Hasenauer.

I was not aware that there are inorganic marine organisms. I guess one learns something new every day.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Power to the People

Newly-famous artist Shepard Fairey (who created the iconic Obama "Hope" poster) has created a portrait of Burmese human rights Activist Aung San Suu Kyi, in order to raise awareness of her continued house arrest.

Did he really mean to make her look so much like Yoko Ono?

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Will Adrian Zmed Get a Cameo?

The Onion A-V Club reported this week that The Weinstein Company will produce a movie version of T. J. Hooker, the 1980s cop show that starred William Shatner. Since I first saw it in The Onion, I hoped it was a joke. Unfortunately, the story is corroborated by industry mag Variety.

Is anyone actually nostalgic for T. J. Hooker? Besides Adrien Zmed, that is?

Saturday, July 4, 2009

What Will Sarah Palin Do Now?

Will she announce her run for the Presidency in 2012? Or will the former beauty queen and current defender of Family Values settle for being our generation's Anita Bryant?

Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Fruits of Observing the Geneva Conventions

Several years ago, I read Arnold Krammer's excellent book, Nazi Prisoners of War in America. One of the points he made is that our War Department made a conscious decision to follow the Geneva Conventions to the letter in hopes that the Germans would reciprocate with the American P.O.W.'s that they held.

While the Germans did not feed their prisoners as well as we did (possibly because war-torn Germany faced real food shortages), they treated American P.O.W.'s far better than the Russian P.O.W.'s in their custody.

Another benefit of treating prisoners humanely is that it greatly assisted our government's re-education (and de-Nazification) efforts. The long train ride across the U.S. to the prison camps did more to counter-act Hitler's propaganda than any debriefing from our War Department. Instead of a bombed-out nation struggling to survive, the prisoners saw miles of farmland and peaceful, prosperous towns where virtually everyone had an automobile. It is no wonder that post-war West Germany embraced U.S. economic and cultural practices so whole-heartedly.

Krammer mentioned that many former P.O.W.'s returned to the U.S. years after the war, some as immigrants fleeing poverty, but many as tourists who brought their families to visit the country for which they had developed a great affection while they were prisoners here. Employees at one gift shop in Arizona near the site of a former camp could always spot the former prisoners, because they bought a postcard showing the view of the mountains as seen from the former prison camp (apparently the postcard was not sufficiently scenic to appeal to anyone else).

One former prisoner who later settled in Wisconsin passed away on Sunday at the age of 87. Kurt Pechmann was a stonecutter, a monument-maker by trade. The Wisconsin State Journal ran an article about him yesterday. This is what I found most interesting:

He helped build, often at or below cost, war memorials around Wisconsin. In 1986, when the Veterans Memorial Monument at Forest Hill Cemetery was vandalized, he volunteered his services...“Dad still likes giving back to veterans,” said Gerhard Pechmann, who now runs the family monument business. “It was, and still is, his way of saying thanks for what they did so we can have the freedom to do what we want.”

Somehow, I doubt that many former Gitmo or Bagram detainees will one day be saying thanks for what our soldiers did.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Schadenfavre Moment of the Week

I've tried to avoid this year's episodes of As the Quarterback Turns, but this graphic was on the front page of today's Wisconsin State Journal, and it made me laugh out loud.
The T-shirts are sold by Madison's Sconnie Nation, and they are available online as well as at the State Street store.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Thanks, Dad

For teaching me the importance of freedom and personal responsibility.

For teaching me the importance of voting, even when you do not like any of the choices (it lets the politicians know you're watching them).

For teaching to me to both respect and question authority (too many Americans think that questioning authority is the same as defying authority).

For demonstrating that someone without a formal education can make wiser investment choices than most of the MBAs in this country.

For teaching me that no nation can educate its people and keep them oppressed indefinitely. I still remember your prediction in the early 1980s that the Soviet Union would fall within ten years for that reason. You knew a lot more about the world than my social studies teachers.

Happy Fathers Day.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The End of the Beginning

The Iranian regime has taken the gloves off. They have deployed overwhelming force to block access to the planned gathering places in Tehran and are meeting the scattered thousands of protestors who try to get through with batons, tear gas and fire-hoses.

The protestors have taken a more belligerant turn as well. Slogans of "death to the dictator" are more common now, as is "death to Khameini". Over the past week, the focus of the protests has been on the disputed election results, and the opposition has been overtly against Ahmedinejad, not Khameini. But the Supreme Leader's harsh rhetoric during his Friday sermon has drawn a line in the sand that today's protestors seem willing to cross.

Shortly after the clashes began, official state media reported that a suicide bomber struck the Imam Khomeini mausoleum. There has been widespread speculation among Iranian tweeters that the government itself blew up the mausoleum in order to blame the protestors and justify harsher measures against them. The mullahs did something similar 30 years ago, setting fire to a crowded cinema and blaming the Shah. Western media has pointed out that the mausoleum bombing has not yet been independently confirmed.

I don't think Mousavi can stop the protests now, even if the government convinces him to do so. He is reportedly giving a speech now, but I have not yet seen reports of its content. The government's harsh treatment of its citizens has created new opposition. I do not believe they will be satisfied with a new election now. Nothing short of the removal of Khameini will satsisfy them. The mood has changed. Martin Luther King will give way to Bobby Seale.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Obama Respects the Prime Directive

Amadinejad and Khameini would love to be able to say that the hundreds of thousands of protesters in Tehran are simply U.S. puppets.

At times like this, I'm glad our President is more like Jean-Luc Picard than James T. Kirk.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Is Another Cold War Ending?

1989 was an exciting year to follow the news. No one saw it coming at the beginning of the year. Although Mikhail Gorbachev had instituted the policies of Glasnost (openness) and Perestroika (restructuring) in the Soviet Union, the Iron Curtain still seemed sound. Early in 1989, Poland instituted some reforms of its own. Although they were western-looking, the changes were not too radical. After all, Poland had faced a Soviet crack-down (which landed Lech Walesa in prison) far more recently than Hungary or Czechoslovakia. The Soviets did nothing. Heartened by that, Hungary (which had been mixing capitalist elements into its economy for years) took things a little further. Then Czechoslovakia opened its borders to the west, resulting in a mass exodus of East Germans via their (uncontrolled) Czech border.

Before a year had passed, Romania's Stalinist dictator and his wife were executed by firing squad (the day before newly-democratic Romania abolished the death penalty), the Berlin Wall was torn down and Germany was on its way to unification. The changes simply snowballed, energizing people who had been oppressed but highly educated -- a volatile combination for any authoritarian regime.

Now it appears that something similar may be happening in Iran. Friday's elections were not democratic by any sense of the word. Only a few candidates were allowed on the ballot. The real reformers were not even allowed to run. Many young people had boycotted previous elections because they knew nothing could really change with all political authority remaining with Iran's theocracy rather than its elected officials.

But over the past week, after Lebanon's elections (which dealt a serious blow to the Iranian regime-backed Hezbollah), the people of Iran seemed energized to make a statement with their ballots.

Before the polls even closed, text messaging was shut down in Iraq. Other forms of communication (like cell phone networks and many websites) were also shut down or filtered. The government began announcing election returns that favored the incumbent nearly 2-to-1, even in the hometown of challenger Mousavi.

The people of Iran called bullshit. Many of them took to the streets and communicated via Twitter (a new media which the government apparently hadn't yet shut down). As information trickles out, it is looking more and more like the election-rigging was arranged, not by the Ayatollahs, but by the military. It is also looking less like the quickly-squashed Iranian student protests of 1999 and more like the Iranian revolution of 1979.

The Iranian people are mostly young (a whole generation was lost in the war against Iraq). Most of them have no memory of the Shah and his oppressive American-backed regime. Hating the west is something the establishment tells them to do. They have been wanting (and have gradually gotten) more personal freedoms for years. They are among the most highly educated people in the Middle East.

Some of the websites that have been covering the events in Iran have gone down today. I suspect that may be due more to an unprecedented volume of Internet traffic visiting those sites than any hacking by Iran's government. Even Andrew Sullivan's blog, which has been providing a great deal of coverage and links to those other sites, has been loading very slowly for the past few hours.

On a lighter note, is it just me, or does the Iranian underwear model bear a striking resemblance to Paul Stanley?

Friday, June 12, 2009

Top 10 Tacky Jokes About David Letterman

I'm no fan of Sarah Palin. I think she is an opportunistic prima donna, as well as a liar and a hypocrite. However, I became increasingly appalled with Andrew Sullivan's obsession with her medical records. I do not believe that politicians have no right to privacy, and I am unconvinced that the voting public has the right to know about any potential health problem.

I am no fan of "family values" politicians using their children as media props. However, I do not believe that makes those children fair game for any subsequent media harassment or humiliation. The children do not choose to be props, and they should not be seen (by either side) as mere extensions or accessories of their parent(s).

David Letterman made a joke that was in extremely poor taste on many levels. While it can be argued that it was aimed at Bristol Palin, who has hypocritically chosen to make herself a spokeswoman for teenage abstinence, the fact that Bristol was not present at the Yankees game supports Sarah Palin's belief that the joke was really aimed at 14-year-old Willow.

The fact that Letterman (and undoubtedly many of his viewers) thought it was funny shows that much of America still thinks female sexuality is inherently degrading, and that a powerful female can have her social status undermined by the implication that she (or her daughter) is a slut.

I believe very strongly in the right to free speech. I do not think CBS should censure Letterman, or that any of his sponsors should be boycotted. I think even David Letterman would agree that he has made himself fair game, and that turnabout is fair play.

Therefore, I present my very own Top 10 List:

Top 10 Tacky Jokes About David Letterman

10. He didn't mean to be offensive -- Indiana's age of consent was 13 when Dave was growing up.

9. What can you expect from a man who attended school at Broad Ripple and Ball State?

8. That's what happens when a 62-year-old tries to be edgier than Conan O'Brien.

7. Dave loves the Palin clan, because their names are even funnier than Oprah and Uma.

6. Dave wanted to get back at Alex Rodriguez for scoring with Madonna.

5. Dave was just helping out a fellow Hoosier by hiring Bobby Knight as one of his joke-writers.

4. Dave can take the moral high ground, now that he's finally married his baby-mama.

3. Thanks to Viagra, jokes about sex get a rise out of Dave again.

2. Dave hasn't gotten this much attention since his bypass surgery.

and the number one tacky joke about David Letterman:

1. You can't expect good taste from a man who uses Stupid Pet Tricks to get dates.