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.