Sunday, December 26, 2010

Good King Wenceslas

In honor of St. Stephen's Day, here's one more holiday favorite, sung by the Irish Rovers.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

A Brief History of Christmas Part 2 -- Christmas in America

After the Protestant Reformation, Christmas celebrations in non-Catholic nations became much more sober and church-based, shedding much of the trappings of the ancient solstice festivals which the early church had absorbed. The Puritans did not celebrate Christmas at all, since there was no biblical basis for a December celebration, and they considered it nothing but Popery (not far from paganism, in their view). To this day, some Protestant sects (notably the Seventh Day Adventists) do not celebrate Christmas.

The New England colonies were largely founded by Puritans, and some had laws on the books in the 17th century forbidding Christmas celebrations. Most colonists, however, followed mainstream English post-reformation Christmas traditions.

The German states did not shed their old Yule traditions, keeping their tannenbaums and hot mulled wine. During the American Revolution, England employed Hessian mercenaries to help subdue the rebellious colonists. General George Washington was an educated man who knew that the Hessians would have a raucous celebration on Christmas Eve. He led his troops across the semi-frozen Delaware River and attacked the Hessians' quarters on Christmas Day, while they were hungover from their traditional Christmas Eve overindulgence. It was a significant victory for the Continental Army.

Although the American states became politically independent from England, we continued to evolve together culturally. When Victoria became Queen of England in 1837, she was courted by (and soon married) her German cousin, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. Albert brought German Christmas traditions to the royal court, and it became fashionable for everyone in England (and eventually in the United States as well) to have a Christmas tree.

Merry Christmas to you and your family, no matter how you choose to celebrate it.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas Island

I couldn't find an actual performance video of this song, which is a shame. It's a favorite in my family, and it expresses both my love of early 20th century American musical styles and my longing for tropical climes at this time of year.

Although, to be honest, I'd rather spend Christmas in Hawaii or Tahiti than Christmas Island.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Very Liberace Christmas

My younger readers may not remember Wisconsin native Liberace. He was a talented classical pianist who was also a flamboyant showman. Not since Sally Rand had a performer so successfully turned a highbrow art form into lowbrow entertainment.

Here is the musician who dressed like a human Christmas tree all year round playing a Christmas medley:

The Christmas Song

For me, this song will always belong to Johnny Mathis. Here's a performance from 1974 -- which should be obvious from the loud plaid jacket and wide striped tie he is wearing. His voice soars above the ugly fashions, though.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Santa Baby

Here's a fantastic performance by the late, great Eartha Kitt. She really brought it in response to Madonna's cover. Her voice was like a hot buttered rum.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home)

Here is the great Darlene Love's 1995 appearance on David Letterman's show (an annual tradition that is possibly Letterman's greatest gift to our nation).

The song is more poignant 15 years later, as so many of our loved ones are still overseas serving in Iraq or Afghanistan. Please come home, K.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Jingle Bells

Here's more seasonal fun, from the Secretary of Retro, Brian Setzer. I'm pretty sure that snow is fake, though. That's probably why he had to substitute a '57 Chevrolet for the one-horse open sleigh.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

It's a Marshmallow World

Southwestern Wisconsin may get a little more snow today.  Southern Wisconsin has already had an official blizzard, and it's not even officially winter yet.

Fortunately, Dino and Frank can make anything seem like fun.  So put some booze in your hot chocolate and enjoy.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Matt Flynn in Oz

I'm a pretty decent back-up;
The yards and points I'd rack up
And come back from behind.
I'd throw more to Jennings,
Move us up in the standings,
If I only had a line.

The fans would be less nervous,
And coach would be less churlish
And for Rodgers wouldn't pine.
I'd beat up the Lions,
Keep our playoff hopes from dyin'
If I only had a line.

Our defense would be rested,
Instead of being bested,
And on victory we'd dine.
I'd be an inspiration;
They'd forget my interception,
If I only had a line.

Who Were the Samaritans?

Most Christians are familiar with the parable of the Good Samaritan.  As modern Americans, we tend to think that the point is that a stranger went out of his way to help someone, when his own people passed him by because they didn't want to get involved. We may think an appropriate modern analogue would be a tourist in New York City coming to the aid of a mugging victim, while his own neighbors ignored his plight.

However, many of us misunderstand the significance of the story because we are unfamiliar with the history of the Samaritans and their relationship with the Jews of Jesus' time.

When Babylon was conquered by the Persians, the exiled Israelites were allowed to return home.  However, the returning Jews found their homeland partially occupied by the Samaritans, who claimed to be the descendants of Israelites who never went into exile.  They also claimed that the Samaritan faith (as defined by the Samaritan Torah) was the true ancestral faith, before it was altered by the experience of exile.  The Jews, however, believed the Samaritans to be descendants of other subject peoples who were moved to Israel by the Assyrians.  The Samaritans were not allowed to participate in the building of the second Temple, and so they built their own. The two groups occasionally fought wars, and the Samaritan Temple was destroyed by a  King of Israel a little over a century before Jesus' birth.

The Samaritans suffered persecution under rule by the Romans, the Byzantine Empire, and the Muslims who conquered the region in the Middle Ages.  Many fled, and others converted to Islam.  There is a tiny remaining population, divided between enclaves in modern Israel and Palestine.

I think that an accurate modern analogue to the story of the Good Samaritan would be to imagine an Orthodox Jew (one whose religion is identifiable by his clothing and hairstyle) visiting Jerusalem, where he was mugged and left for dead, then ignored by other Jewish passersby.  Imagine that a Palestinian came to the man's aid, protected him from hostile neighbors and paid for his hospital stay, then paid for his transportation back home.

We cannot appreciate the significance of the parable unless we understand the historical context that made the story so very difficult for Jesus' audience to imagine.  No one should be judged by their ethnic group or religion.  Each individual should be judged on his or her own actions.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Must Be A Cold Day In Hell

Infernal foot of snow bearing down on area

Just what does infernal snow look like anyway?  Dante was surprisingly uninformative in that area.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Mayor Dave Is Running Against Governor Brown Bag

At a news conference yesterday, Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz lashed out at Governor-elect Scott Walker for killing the rail project that would have injected $810 million in federal stimulus funds into Wisconsin's economy.  Rather than being used for deficit reduction or road projects, as Walker implied would happen, the money will be sent to other states for their rail projects.

In addition to criticizing this particular Walker policy decision, Cieslewicz said:  "If this is an indication of how he is going to run the state, we are in for a long four years."

With an election coming up in April, nothing will energize Madison's left-leaning voters more than bashing Scott Walker.  If he keeps it up after the election, however, I will wonder if he has ambitions of moving to Maple Bluff in four years.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Finally, some good news

Daniel Craig will return as James Bond. (h/t Screen Rant).

It's either an early Christmas (or Saturnalia) present, or a fabulous Channukah present (depending on your personal beliefs).

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Blackwater Fails to Gain a Letter of Marque

About a year and a half ago, when Rep. Ron Paul was suggesting that Congress resume issuing letters of marque and reprisal, I speculated that Blackwater might go into the privateering business.  It turns out that they had already made moves in that direction.
In late 2008, Blackwater Worldwide, already under fire because of accusations of abuses by its security guards in Iraq and Afghanistan, reconfigured a 183-foot oceanographic research vessel into a pirate-hunting ship for hire and then began looking for business from shipping companies seeking protection from Somali pirates. The company’s chief executive officer, Erik Prince, was planning a trip to Djibouti for a promotional event in March 2009, and Blackwater was hoping that the American Embassy there would help out, according to a secret State Department cable. 

However, the would-be privateers were unable to attract any clients.  I guess we won't be drinking Blackwater spiced rum anytime soon.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Good Grief

While braving the holiday shopping hordes over the weekend, I noticed a couple of young parents browsing in the adult novelty section of Spencer's Gifts at the mall.  I knew they were parents, because they had two young children with them.  While the baby in the stroller was probably oblivious to the sex toys at child's-eye level, I wouldn't assume the same for the pre-schooler.  Just wait until he tells Grandma about the funny toys that Mommy and Daddy bought.  Maybe one parent should have had gone into the store alone to make the purchase while the other stayed with the kids out in the mall corridor.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Alternative Holiday Signs

I've always found the "Keep Christ in Christmas" signs to be a little weird.  They seem more like political campaign signs than proselytizing. They also reveal an ignorance of the actual origin of Christmas traditions.

My attitude may have been shaped by the fact that, in our neighborhood, the guy who put out the KCiC sign every year was the same one who spent the summer telling all of his neighbors when and how they should mow their lawn and tend their garden (he always had an emphatic opinion about home repair projects, too).

For the Christmas Originalists, Heathens, Secular Humanists and ancient history buffs out there, here are some fun alternative holiday signs that you can print out and display if you are so inclined.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

A Brief History of Christmas

It's getting to the time of year when a certain segment of the religious right -- the folks who think simple faith is preferable to studying theology and their own church history -- start whining about "The War on Christmas."  You will hear them complain about Neopagans and Secular Humanists co-opting Christmas for their own holiday celebrations.  Some of them will make statements about Christmas trees being inappropriate for anyone but Christians (or with any other name but Christmas tree).

There is no language in the gospels indicating that Jesus of Nazareth was born in December. In fact, the only seasonal clue -- the shepherds keeping watch over their flocks at night -- would seem to indicate that the nativity took place in the Spring, during lambing season (the only time of year in which shepherds spend the nights in the fields with their flocks).

Most cultures have some sort of celebration that is tied to the Winter Solstice.  The minor Jewish festival of Channukkah is overtly called "the festival of lights" and its theme is light lasting longer than expected.  The Jews' Roman occupiers celebrated Saturnalia, a multi-day festival that included family gatherings, feasting and the giving of gifts.

In addition to the official Roman state religion, many Roman soldiers practiced Mithraism, a mystery religion (meaning its doctrines were kept secret from all but the highest-level initiates) that originated in Persia. Our knowledge of Mithraism is sketchy (since it was a mystery religion that completely died out in ancient times), but we know it involved a god named Mithras who was born on the Winter Solstice and later sacrificed a celestial bull to save mankind from the darkness.

When Christianity became an official State religion of the Roman Empire, it began to compete openly with the existing pagan religions for followers.  Forcing people to give up their cherished holiday traditions is no way to win converts.  Thus, the church decided that Jesus was born on December 25 (the Bible didn't directly say otherwise, after all), and declared that the faithful could celebrate the Nativity with a Christ Mass and feast. The Saturnalia traditions were largely absorbed into the 12-day Christmas celebrations (culminating with Epiphany, which commemorates the visit of the Magi with their fabulous gifts).

Northern European pagans had their own Solstice celebrations.  The Scandinavian and German peoples burned a Yule log to represent the returning sunlight and brought evergreen trees (tannenbaums) inside, because they defy winter by remaining lifelike rather than dropping their leaves.  When Christian missionaries proselytized among the northern tribes, they let them keep their old traditions, attaching them to the new Christmas celebrations.

After about 1500 years, Christmas traditions are indeed venerable.  However, it is ignorant to assume that Christians have a monopoly on December celebrations, or that non-Christians have no right to decorate evergreen trees and exchange gifts.

In December, I will wish my family and Christian friends a Merry Christmas (or Feliz Navidad or Mele Kamikimaka, depending on my mood and how much I am longing for the tropics).  I will wish my Jewish friends and relatives a Happy Channukah.  I will wish my pagan friends and relatives a Good Yule.  And to everyone, I will wish Happy Holidays (because no matter which of the above holidays we celebrate, most of us celebrate New Year's Eve as well).

Friday, November 19, 2010

Scott Walker -- Liar or Idiot?

Federal Law Establishing Stimulus Grants for Rail Projects Only + Insufficient Votes in Senate to Override Presidential Veto = No Way in Hell Wisconsin's $810 Grant Can Be Used on Roads & Bridges

Did Scott Walker deliberately mislead people in order to attract train-skeptic votes and road-builder campaign funds?  Or did he really believe his own bullshit?  He told everyone that, with the support of Wisconsin's Congressional Delegation, the funds could be re-purposed.  Now, Wisconsin's Republican Congressmen are going through the kabuki theater of introducing a bill to do just that.  However, one look at the equation above will tell you they have no chance of success.

In contemplating Walker's inner thought processes, I am reminded of a quote from Homer Simpson: "Just because I don't care doesn't mean I don't understand."

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Spending Smartly This Holiday Season

As the holiday shopping season gets into gear, remember that buying cheap goods made in China contributes to our trade imbalance, the "creative destruction" of American jobs, and global carbon emissions (both from coal-burning power plants in China and from the container ships transporting the raw materials and finished products across the ocean).

It's almost impossible to avoid buying products made wholly or partly overseas.  However, if you are willing to make the effort to buy American where you can, this website is very useful.  With so many of our friends and neighbors out of work, the holidays will be merrier if you support local businesses as much as possible. Buy books and DVDs from a bricks-and-mortar store rather than online (if you sign up for coupons, it can be just as cheap). Give gift certificates for services.  Your grandmother doesn't need more perfume or dust-collecting knick-knacks, but she might enjoy a day of pampering at a salon or day-spa, or a dinner with the family at a nice restaurant.  Studies have shown that people who spend their money on experiences rather than things tend to be happier.

Many of us make charitable contributions during the holiday season. There are a great many very worthy charities that do a lot of good with those contributions.  There are also charities that spend more money on fundraising than they do on the programs that help those in need. The American Institute of Philanthropy does an excellent job of researching charities and helping donors get the most bang for their buck.  Their website lists top-rated charities in a variety of categories.  For a small donation, you can subscribe to their Charity Rating Guide, which gives more detailed information about how much various charities spend on fundraising and administration versus services.

Finally, if you are starting to make 2011 vacation plans, think seriously about visiting Las Vegas or New Orleans.  Both are terrific cities for visitors, and both have been hit harder by the recession than many other places. Las Vegas was ground zero for the real estate bubble, and New Orleans' fishing and offshore drilling industries took a big hit after the Deepwater Horizon explosion, just as the area was beginning to bounce back after Katrina.  Both places can be affordable vacation destinations if you avoid their peak tourist season and patronize the restaurants that target locals rather than tourists.

Monday, November 8, 2010

It's About Time

Wiggie's under scrutiny over increased violence

It appears that I missed reading about a couple of recent incidents. There was a knife fight in the parking lot on October 23, and a report of a customer showing a gun and a knife late on Saturday night (a day after the gunfire incident).

The article states: "Dane County Board Sup. David Wiganowsky — who twice ran for County Executive and recently said he may seek the post again when the current executive steps down soon — is scheduled to meet Tuesday with an assistant city attorney and police department representatives."

How long will it take Wiggie to complain that the investigation is politically motivated?  Of course, he may have a point.  There was plenty of reason to investigate his dangerous dive last year. My personal favorites were the 17-year-old girl who swung a baseball bat at another patron and the woman who assaulted two different men on different nights with a pool cue.

Dorothy Borchardt may have the solution. (h/t Brenda Konkel).

Maybe this investigation is part of the process to sell the City Council on the idea, or perhaps to lay the groundwork to seize the property and save the purchase price. Time will tell.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Gunfire at Wiggie's Again

It's been over a year since I read about a gunfire incident at Wiggie's. Clearly, they were overdue.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Happy Birthday, Adam Ant.

This is my favorite 80s song of all time, Stand and Deliver.  Enjoy.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

16 Minutes

That's how long it took me to vote this morning. That includes the time to drive to and from my polling place. It would have been shorter, but the city once again scheduled construction over election day to block access to the Warner Park Community Center from North Sherman Avenue.

It did seem more crowded than I expected.  There wasn't a line, but the booths were mostly occupied.

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Enemy of My Enemy Is My Friend

There is an ancient saying that is translated into modern English as "the enemy of my enemy is my friend."

This philosophy is likely responsible for the popularity of Ron Johnson among the state's Tea Party voters.

Johnson has proven to be a liar and a hypocrite on the subject of entrepreneurship (he earned his money the old-fashioned way -- he married it), government-sponsored health care (he took his daughter to a state-university-owned hospital in Minnesota for her surgery and has encouraged his employees to enroll in BadgerCare) and Randian economics (he sought government-subsidized bonds and railroad tracks for his company and stimulus funds for the Oshkosh Opera House, on whose board he serves).  He has flip-flopped on the subject of gun control (originally stating that gun owners should be licensed like drivers, until he learned that position was anathema to his base). He has approved outright lies about Russ Feingold's record.

Feingold, on the other hand, is one of the Senate's staunchest supporters of 2nd Amendment rights (he even filed an amicus brief on behalf of McDonald in the recent McDonald v. Chicago case). He famously voted against the USA Patriot Act.  He often votes against his party, though as a liberal Democrat, he is in agreement with (and therefore votes for) most of their legislative agenda.

It is those liberal leanings which have earned the ire of the Tea Party.  If Feingold's only opponent on the ballot were Beelzebub, the Prince of Darkness would have their vote.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

If You Have More Important Things to Do than Vote

If you are too busy to vote on Tuesday, here are some more urgent things you might want to do with your time:

Tour the State Capitol while it still looks nice (and the public restrooms are still supplied with toilet paper).  If Scott Walker gets to author the state budget, building maintenance will likely suffer.

Renew your driver's license.  Again, Walker's budgets will likely include more furloughs for state employees and a reduction in services.

Make that doctor's appointment you've been putting off.  If Ron Johnson has his way, fewer Americans will have access to affordable health care.

Visit a state park.  If Milwaukee County's parks are any indication, Walker will slash the budget for trail grooming and other park maintenance.

Carry your side-arm (peacefully) in a public place. Have you not noticed that gun rights have actually been expanded over the past two years?  Expect a roll-back with law-and-order Republicans in charge.

Step up your job hunt.  All those jobs that Ron Johnson plans to create will be in China.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Were They Too Cheap to Get a Babysitter?

A Fond du Lac man may face charges (once jurisdiction is determined) after a home video showed his young children in the room during a bondage party in an unidentified hotel room.

What part of "consenting adults" does this man not understand?  Perhaps he thought the kids were too young to notice (or care) what was going on, or that they would sleep right through it.  However, the sound of whipping has to be distressing to a toddler, no matter its target.

If the "dominatrices" in the video were professionals, they should lose their livelihoods over this. I can't think of an appropriate punishment for the father involved, for fear that he might enjoy it.

I happen to know some responsible parents who enjoy bondage from time to time, and I think they would agree with me on this.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

America's Puritan Legacy

Jack Craver's comment on another post got me thinking about the issue of circumcision in America. He pointed out that, for much of the 20th century, there was no real scientific evidence for the health benefits of circumcision, and yet the vast majority of American parents had their baby boys circumcised based on the popular perception that it was healthier.

I agree that there was a certain amount of group-think going on. However, I think there was another factor that contributed to the overwhelming popularity of circumcision in this country as opposed to Europe -- Americans' puritanical attitude about the human body.  An intact foreskin requires more time and attention for personal hygiene.  American parents are squeamish about touching their children's genitals or encouraging their children to touch themselves. Circumcision allows for quicker and less intimate washing.

Now that studies have shown a major health benefit to circumcision (significantly decreased risk of HIV transmission), American parents can once again feel justified in imposing their puritanical preferences on their baby boys.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Will Henry Sanders Be the Next Dane County Executive?

This is pure speculation on my part, based on no inside knowledge.

Henry Sanders is a bright, charismatic and ambitious young politician.  Last month, I found myself wondering what office he would pursue next, since he did not become the Democratic Party's nominee for Lieutenant Governor.  He lives in Waunakee, so Mayor of Madison is out.

I found myself idly wondering if he might challenge Kathleen Falk for Dane County Executive in 2013.  But then I thought I remembered that she endorsed him for LG, and even co-hosted a fundraiser for him at the Brink Lounge over the summer.  He doesn't seem like a back-stabber to me, so I couldn't imagine him running against Falk after she supported his LG bid.

Now, however, I find myself wondering if she is stepping down to make room for him to run for her job in 2011, while he still has some positive name recognition from his recent campaign.

I don't think Falk will run for Herb Kohl's Senate seat in 2012, even assuming Russ Feingold holds onto his in 2010.  I suspect she will find a lucrative job in the private sector (perhaps as a bicycle industry lobbyist).

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

A Chance for Greater Understanding

"Yes, they have the right to do that. But that doesn't mean they SHOULD."

Do you agree with the above statement?  Does your (dis)agreement depend upon whether it refers to (A) the proposed Islamic community center a couple blocks from Ground Zero or (B) the five men who wore holstered guns into Culver's?

If your opinion is not consistent, you have the opportunity to put yourself in the shoes of the other side and try to understand the visceral emotions that cause Americans to disregard the Constitution in order to impose their preferences on the mainstream.

For the record, I disagree with that statement in each case, as well as in the case of the idiot Nazis who march in Skokie, Illinois.  In the Illinois Nazis' case, it would be accurate to say "They have the right to do that, but I would prefer that they didn't."

However, I do not get to impose my preferences on everyone else. Living in a free society means putting up with crap you don't like at some point, to ensure that everyone has the same freedoms that you do. Deciding that the preferences of a local majority should trump the rights of minorities subverts our Constitution.

Beware the tyranny of the thin-skinned.  You may agree with them on one particular issue, but sooner or later, they'll take offense to something you want to do.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Illiterate Clown Wins Brazillian Election

The ultimate political outsider was elected to Brazil's Congress.

Maybe it's time for Art Paul Schlosser to run for office.  This is not meant to imply that Schlosser is illiterate; just that he is a colorful character who is the antithesis of a career politician.

Couldn't Have Happened to a Nicer Guy

Vick leaves with rib and chest injuries

If dogs could read, they would be laughing.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

I Hope Jenny McCarthy Is Proud of Herself

Whooping Cough is sweeping the U.S. in a way that hasn't been seen in decades. In California, nine babies have died. Indiana has more cases than it's seen since 1986.

The most vulnerable victims are babies too young to be fully vaccinated, like the ones who died in California. In the past, they were protected by a firewall of vaccinated people around them.  That is why public schools require vaccinations -- not just to keep your kid from getting sick and missing school, but to keep your kid from spreading contagious diseases to those who are too young or too immune-compromised to be vaccinated.

In recent years, a discredited quack has spread misinformation blaming vaccines for the rise in autism diagnoses.  D-list celebrity Jenny McCarthy, whose son has autism, has bought into the quackery and used her celebrity soap-box to brainwash other parents into not vaccinating their kids.

Taking medical advice from Jenny McCarthy is a lot like letting Viscount Monckton influence energy policy.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Worse Than Woffard

I didn't think the UW could possibly find a weaker football program than Woffard's to bring to Camp Randall.  Clearly, I was wrong.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Questions Organized Labor Should Ask About the Edgewater Project

Investing a fraction of their promised $16 million in TIF funding, Hammes bought off the Building Trades Council of South Central Wisconsin with a pledge of $200,000 for work force initiatives. The local mainstream media reports that the agreement "makes the Edgewater a union project."

As Brenda Konkel astutely pointed out, we don't know what's really in the agreement (they won't let anyone see it).

I suspect the "union project" is strictly limited to the construction phase.  I cannot imagine that the Edgewater Hotel will become a union shop. I know of no other downtown hotel that charges union labor fees to exhibitors at trade shows, for instance, which makes Monona Terrace a more expensive place to do business in many cases.

Will the addition of taxpayer-subsidized new meeting space overlooking one of Madison's lakes cut into Monona Terrace's business?  Probably.  There is a finite amount of convention business that Madison can attract.  We are limited by our regional airport; no amount of shiny new hotel space will change that.

Will the increased competition put pressure on Monona Terrace to reduce its requirements for exhibitors to use union labor for set up?  That is exactly what happened with Chicago's McCormick Place. Earlier this year, the state legislature pushed through legislation that allows exhibitors to do more of their own set-up work, in order to make McCormick Place more competitive.  These reforms led a group of construction workers to picket a trade show over the weekend.

So, the main question that organized labor should be asking is: how many union jobs at Monona Terrace will be lost thanks to the Edgewater project?

Saturday, September 18, 2010

68 Pages!

Trying to prove that his ideas have substance, Scott Walker has released a 68-page jobs plan. To emphasize the sheer length of the plan, he has named it SCOTT WALKER'S 68-PAGE JOBS PLAN! (The caps and exclamation point are his).

Apparently, it was written in crayon on 68 leftover brown paper bags and dutifully transcribed by his genius campaign staff, one page per bag.

Does Walker understand that he doesn't get extra credit for killing more trees? Maybe if he had bothered to finish his college education, he would have learned to write concisely rather than pad his prose with pointless fluff.

(h/t The Chief and the Recess Supervisor)

Thursday, September 16, 2010

We Need New Booty

The Daily Show's John Oliver contemplates an alternate slogan for Ieshuh (Not the Whiteman's Bitch) Griffin.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Slogan's Hero
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Monday, September 13, 2010

Tea-Baggers Aren't the Only Ones with Guns

Talking Points Memo has a slide show from yesterday's 2nd Annual 9/12 Rally in Washington, D.C. (h/t Greenlee Gazette)

Notice signs in the first couple pictures. Slogans include "Rebellion to Tyrants Is Obedience to God" (a quote from Thomas Jefferson) and "By Ballot or Bullet Restoration Is Coming."

I don't for a minute think that these sign-holders have any real intention of taking up arms if they don't like the election results in November.  The rhetoric is meant to intimidate, because they assume that only right-leaning folks believe in exercising their 2nd Amendment rights, and that liberals are all anti-gunners.

I do know a lot of people on the left who have a visceral hatred and fear of guns. They seem to believe that keeping a gun in the house is inherently evil and dangerous.  However, that feeling is far from universal, even among my lefty friends. Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk and Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz are both known to be deer hunters (which means they each own at least one rifle and know how to use it). I grew up in a house full of guns and was taught early on to respect them and never treat them as toys (or assume one is unloaded).

I believe that liberals would all be better off if we would make more of an effort to make everyone comfortable and responsible around guns. Abstinence-only firearms education does not work, in my opinion.  It certainly won't protect your children from guns in their friends' houses.

I've honestly lost count of the number of guns in our house right now (they are mostly my husband's). I know I am not the only left-leaning Madisonian who has guns and knows how to use them.  The Tea-bagger fringe (a tiny minority of those at the rallies, but the most colorful for the media to photograph) who hold up signs with vaguely-threatening firearms metaphors are unlikely to actually take up arms against their democratically-elected government. But if they do, I'll be exercising my own 2nd Amendment rights in defense of my home and homeland and in support of our lawful government. And I doubt I'll be alone.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

We've Forgotten the Lesson of Flight 93

Nine years ago today, a group of Al Qaeda terrorists hijacked four large commercial jets, all filled with fuel for a cross-country flight.  The first three hit their targets, the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and the passengers did not realize what was going to happen until it was too late. Americans' previous experience with skyjackers led us to expect that the plane would land in some rogue state, the perps would negotiate for a ransom and a safe getaway, and the hostages would be freed. Thus, airline passengers were taught not to resist, to avoid getting anyone hurt.

Flight 93 took off late. When the terrorists took over the plane, they encouraged the passengers to make cell phone calls and learn what happened. They may have thought it would add to their fear and suffering and make them more docile (though it's hard to speculate what someone with such a crazy set of priorities was thinking). Instead, the passengers were determined that the terrorists would not reach their goal.  They managed to overpower the terrorists sufficiently to force them to ditch the plane in an empty field in Pennsylvania, far from the Capitol building, its presumed target.

Although everyone on board died, it is possible that thousands of lives were saved, including our Congress.  You can make whatever jokes you like about Congress, but losing one branch of our government would have been a serious blow to our constitution and our way of life. It could have turned us into a military dictatorship.

The lesson I took from Flight 93 is that terrorists would never again be able to hijack a plane, because the passengers would not let them get away with it anymore.  That lesson has been reinforced by the thwarted attempts of shoe-bomber Richard Reid (who was tacked by a couple of female flight attendants, then subdued with the help of nearby male passengers) and the Nigerian underwear bomber (who was also restrained by alert passengers).

For all of the security theater that takes place at airports these days, we are still the last, best defense against terrorism.  And yet, for the past nine years, our government and their media accomplices have convinced us that we must be afraid in our daily lives. We must give up our privacy so that the government can protect us.  We must be suspicious of those elderly Pakistani grocers on the corner. We must beat up a visiting Greek Orthodox priest asking for directions in broken English, because he has olive skin and must be a terrorist. We must keep those dangerous prisoners in Gitmo because their very presence in a U.S. supermax prison will somehow contaminate the community, as if they are radioactive.

Bullshit.  Flight 93 was hijacked by Al Qaeda's best and brightest.  Those men had trained for years for that mission, and at least one man (Zacarias Moussoui) was rejected as being too batshit crazy to be included.  They were still taken out by a group of unarmed but determined passengers. 

When we behave as though we have something to fear from our neighbors and we need to keep mosques out of town and allow the government to wiretap our phones in order to be safe, we dishonor Todd Beamer, Jeremy Glick and the other heroes of Flight 93.  We all have it in us to be heroes.  We have the power.  We should use it responsibly.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Some Religions Are More Equal Than Others

If this had happened at the FLDS compound in Texas, do you think the suspect would still be awaiting arrest?  When Texas authorities received an anonymous tip about a (fictitious, as it turned out) child bride who had been married against her will and abused by her husband, they swept in and removed 439 children from their families and warehoused them until the courts ordered them returned to their parents.

Sadly, the Grant County case is not a freak occurrence in the Amish community. It's not even the only one in the Midwest this year. Amish children are especially vulnerable, since the faithful are taught to shun the outside world and avoid the secular authorities. They also believe in forgiveness rather than prosecution.

But, by and large, Americans hold the Amish in high esteem, so we give them the benefit of the doubt.  Just as faithful Catholics give their church the benefit of the doubt when bishops protect abusers rather than their victims. Have any Catholic schools been shut down in the wake of those abuse scandals?  I haven't heard of any.

But if a religious group is not only in the minority, but also widely despised, a whole different set of rules apply.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Will Hammes Sponsor the New Urbanism Convention?

Mayor Dave is seeking an opinion from the city Ethics Board regarding whether it is appropriate for him to send out letters soliciting sponsors for a possible convention of the Congress for the New Urbanism. Madison needs to raise about $280,000 toward convention costs if it wishes to host. City Attorney Mike May pointed out a potential pitfall of having elected officials raise money for outside organizations: "One concern is that business entities wishing to ingratiate themselves may be driven to make contributions."

Now might be a good time for Mayor Dave to call in a favor from the Hammes Co. After all, he's already done as much as he possibly could to aid their Edgewater development proposal, so no one can accuse him of granting favors in exchange for sponsorship of his pet cause.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Something to Think About

A long time ago, in a country far, far away, an artist made a statement that was considered offensive to devout followers of one of the world's major religions.  Around the world, demonstrations were held where the artist's free expression was condemned and his works were ritually burned.  The heated rhetoric damaged his career but did not change his views.

Years later, a man who believed he was doing God's work killed the artist.  Should the whole religious movement be held responsible? How about the clerics who condemned the artist's works and called him a blasphemer, directly influencing his eventual murderer?  Or should we hold the murderer solely responsible?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

GB Council Approves Velp Avenue Mosque

Does this mean that Green Bay is more tolerant than SheboyganProbably not.  However, it may have occurred to the city fathers that a number of former Green Bay Packers have Islamic-sounding names (Ahman Green, Na'il Diggs, Najeh Davenport, Jamal Jones, and of course Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila come to mind).  I don't know how many are actually Moslems (Green was named after former NFL great and well-known broadcaster Ahmad Rashad, for instance), but chances are good that the Packers will sign the occasional Moslem player.  It wouldn't do for local officials to make their families feel unwelcome.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Marijuana Farmers Stimulate Northern Wisconsin Economy

Last week, we learned of a major drug bust in northern Wisconsin.  A major marijuana farm was hidden in the Chequamegon-Nicolet national forest.  It is believed to be the work of a Mexican drug cartel. The cartels in recent years have begun growing their product closer to their markets, eliminating the need for risky border crossings.  The Wisconsin State Journal article made a point of mentioning that these Mexican growers bought supplies and equipment locally:
They followed one suspect to a Fleet Farm in Green Bay, where he purchased six pairs of pruning shears. They watched another man purchase 9 mm ammunition at a nearby Wal-Mart, documents said.
The marijuana was processed locally, at a house in Seymour. At least 12 men have been arrested in connection with the operation. An unnamed informant (who may or may not be among the dozen men facing charges) said he was living in California several months ago when he was recruited to work on a ranch.

I was amazed to learn that commercial grades of marijuana can be grown in Wisconsin.  I always assumed that, should pot be legalized, it would mainly benefit states like California and Hawaii.  However, this shows that there is a lucrative market for pot grown in the Badger state.

I will be interested to learn how many people were actually employed in this illegal operation.  Imagine if legitimate Wisconsin farmers could grow marijuana, employing local people and spending the profits locally, rather than wiring it to California and Mexico.  Imagine the sales tax revenue for the state.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Don't Forget Hippie Hanukkah

If you don't want to brave the heat, the rain or the traffic on Saturday to do your Hippie Christmas shopping downtown, you can always hit the local thrift stores for Hippie Hanukkah (it lasts for several days, and the gifts are more modest).

There are a lot of recently-made donations in the shops, thanks to people downsizing before they move.  If you need a winter coat, or a pair of leather pants (and who doesn't need at least one pair of leather pants in their closet?), now is a good time to look for it.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Interstate Etiquette

Hey, dickless wonder.

We all see the State Patrol car sitting in the turn-around.  It isn't a construction zone, and you're in the passing lane.  The trooper isn't going to pull you over for driving 70 mph on the Interstate.

Suddenly slowing down to 65 mph while passing a semi will create a safety hazard behind you.  It may also lead the trooper to suspect that you have (a) drugs in the car or (b) outstanding warrants.


Thursday, August 5, 2010

Sheboygan Built It, But They Didn't Come

In 2004, Great Wolf Resorts opened the Blue Harbor Resort waterpark hotel in Sheboygan. The City of Sheboygan helped out with $10.2 million in infrastructure improvements, a $4 million loan to build the hotel and an additional investment of $8 million to build a city-owned conference center (managed by the hotel) next door.

Last year, Great Wolf took a $24 million write-down on Blue Harbor, valuing the hotel at $6 million.  They also sued the city, arguing that their assessment was much too high and they had overpaid their property taxes for the past few years.  They reached a settlement, and the City of Sheboygan will refund almost $263,000 in property taxes.  The settlement money will come from the TIF district that includes Blue Harbor.

Meanwhile, Great Wolf is trying to sell the Blue Harbor Resort.

The moral of the story is that cities should be very careful about investing millions of dollars in hotel projects in the name of economic development and tourism.  Taxpayers should not finance real estate speculation.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

More Deportations Under Obama Than Bush

I found this interesting little nugget on the Wheeler Report page.  It is an employment law update from a Madison law firm.  It is not a press release or political blog.  It is meant to inform their clients and other employers (and attract business from those who wish to engage an employment law expert). In discussing the parts of Arizona's controversial anti-illegal-immigration legislation that were not struck down by the courts, Attorney Bob Gregg mentions:

Many are also unaware that the federal government has been involved in a major enforcement effort regarding illegal aliens. The previous Bush administration seemed to have had more of a hands-off approach; enforcement of the immigration rules was static and inspections and enforcement regarding employment of illegal workers steadily decreased. Starting in 2009, the new administration changed this. Deportations have dramatically increased. Under the Obama administration, there has been a 600% increase in enforcement, fines and prosecutions regarding illegal workers. This more vigorous enforcement of the laws has gone largely unnoticed in the public and media focus. Employers in Arizona should be aware that their state can now enforce the employment parts of the new law. Employers nationwide should be aware of the federal government's increased efforts to inspect records and take serious action regarding illegal workers.
Interesting.  I have seen various conservative commenters pooh-pooh recent enforcement actions as an election-year stunt.  However, it seems that this has been going on since 2009, the first year of the Obama administration.  If you rely on politically-biased media for your news, your perception will differ greatly from reality.  Much like the belief that Obama is going to take your guns away.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Scott Walker Is Missing the Boat

Target recently came under fire for giving money to a conservative Minnesota group that is supporting an anti-gay-rights candidate.  Facing threats of a consumer boycott, Target CEO Greg Steinhafel asserted that "Target's political donations are intended to support business objectives such as job creation and economic growth."

Now that the Supreme Court has opened up a new frontier of direct corporate contributions to political campaigns, I can think of a few companies that might be eager to support Scott Walker for reasons of job creation and economic growth:

Conney Safety
Cooper Safety Supply

If Walker's campaign moves quickly, they could probably score some dough to use in ads before the primary. Think of the product placement opportunities.

Monday, July 26, 2010

I Smell a TIF Request

The organizers of Madison's World's Largest Brat Fest have a grand vision to improve the John Nolen Drive corridor.

The city has been coy about the details of the proposal, but Economic Development Coordinator Tim Cooley reportedly told the paper via email:
"Today, you can travel from the Beltline to the end of Olin-Turville Park without ever seeing the lake, and with limited opportunities by the public for recreation and enjoyment of the area."
I sincerely hope he didn't mean to imply that the lack of lake views along John Nolen between the Beltline and the end of Olin-Turville Park is a problem that needs to be solved.  I can think of several ways it could be addressed, none of them good:
1. Re-route John Nolen Drive to hug the lakeshore along the length of Olin-Turville Park.
2. Cut down a bunch of trees (and level the hill) at the park.
3. Demolish the Sheraton.
4. Elevate John Nolen Drive and create an urban park underneath to connect the Alliant Energy Center with Olin-Turville Park.

I'm just fine with waiting until I reach the causeway to enjoy the lake view from my car.  A pedestrian bridge isn't a bad idea.  Some nice plantings along the road would also improve things without breaking the bank.  Let's see what they are actually proposing and how much it is likely to cost Madison taxpayers and schools.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Value of Minor Candidates

They can spur discussion of important issues that major candidates avoid talking about for fear of alienating voters.

They can give voters who feel marginalized a reason to go to the polls and participate.

And they can bring much-needed class and levity to elections that are often known for negative campaigning.

Here is gubenatorial candidate Tim John with my favorite campaign commercial this year (h/t Zach W):

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Revisionist History from Monona Terrace

Today's Wisconsin State Journal had an article about the impending retirement of Monona Terrace Director Jim Hess.

The online version (but not the print edition) includes this little nugget about the highlights of Hess' tenure:
683 conventions and conferences - including a national conference in 2002 for mayors that required significant security and offered a big opportunity to showcase the center - with an economic impact of over $300 million.
Funny, I seem to recall that the security concerns pretty much kept all the attendees locked down in the convention center (and the public far away), turning downtown into a ghost town and bitterly disappointing the area businesses who had hoped to benefit from the convention. The city received very little economic impact for the money it had to shell out for security.  The fiasco helped to end Mayor Sue Baumann's political career.

I'm surprised that Monona Terrace's press release bragged about that unfortunate bit of history.  Of course, it wasn't in the print edition of the paper; no doubt there simply wasn't space. 

Monday, July 19, 2010

Sarah Palin Is Our Lewis Carroll

Sarah Palin has taken a lot of heat for coining the word "refudiate" recently.  She was also ridiculed for citing Shakespeare's coining of words.

I think it would be more appropriate to compare her to Lewis Carroll, whose word Jabberwocky gave us the verb "chortle" (a cross between a chuckle and a snort).

We already know that Palin is a poet at heart.  Her tweets have been called "Alaskan beat poetry" and recited by Emmy-award winning thespian (and former Shakespearean actor) William Shatner.

There are plenty of reasons to criticize Sarah Palin's statements.  Her inventive language, however, should not be the focus of criticism.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A. Because they would have needed passports to search for Eldorado

Q.  Why did three sixty-something Utah men go into Arizona's Superstition Mountains looking for the fabled Lost Dutchman goldmine?

Tragically (and predictably), the three men have gone missing.

Surprisingly, none of them was Joad Cressbeckler.

How long will it take before CSI does an episode inspired by this news story?

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Wiggie's Is Back in the News

Just a couple days ago, I was thinking how odd it was that Wiggie's had not had a news-worthy violent crime in several months.

It had been so long, that when I saw the headline Armed robber waited until others left tavern, I didn't jump to any conclusions.  In keeping with the usual IQ of Wiggie's perps, this genius posed for a clear, close-up surveillance photo before robbing the joint.

Stay classy, Wiggie's.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Jackson & Juneau County DAs Exhibit Posse Comitatus Philosophy

The term posse comitatus is Latin for "power of the county."  It originally referred to the legal authority of a County Sheriff to conscript civilians into an ad hoc militia for law enforcement purposes.

When capitalized, Posse Comitatus also refers to a far-right militia movement that believes that the County Sheriff is the ultimate law of the land. Posse groups sprang up all over the country after the Watergate era.  Wisconsin's own merry band of outlaws had their Sherwood Forest in Shawano County, around the community of Tigerton.  While there was some variation in Posse groups around the country, most were Christian Identity activists.

While the Posse Comitatus largely disappeared from public awareness after most of its leaders were imprisoned in the '80s, their underlying legal philosophy -- that County-level law enforcement trumps State and Federal laws -- is making a political comeback.

A few months ago, Juneau County District Attorney Scott Southworth sent a letter to several school districts warning them not to comply with the new State law requiring that public schools with sex education programs teach students about contraceptives. 

This week, Jackson County District Attorney Gerald Fox is pretending to be a constitutional scholar, claiming that the Supreme Court's recent decision in McDonald v. Chicago "immediately renders some of Wisconsin's current laws unconstitutional".  Apparently, there is no need for the courts to decide which regulations are reasonable; Gerald Fox has already declared the following to be unenforceable:
Section 167.31, prohibiting uncased or loaded firearms in vehicles;
Section 941.23, prohibiting the carrying of concealed weapons, including firearms;
Section 941.235, prohibiting the possession of firearms in public buildings;
Section 941.237, prohibiting the possession of firearms in establishments where alcohol may be sold or served; and,
Section 941.24, prohibiting the possession of knives that open with a button, or by gravity, or thrust, or movement.

So, Wisconsin's gun nuts need only move to Jackson County, where they can throw their uncased, loaded gun in their vehicle before driving over bumpy back roads, then carry a concealed gun or switchblade into a courthouse or bar.  While Black River Falls police chief Don Gilberg says he will still enforce state and local laws, J. B. Van Hollen calls such decisions "a matter of prosecutorial discretion."

Friday, June 25, 2010

Illy-T is My Hero.

Notice the elegant use of written English in this post.

Sigh.  It's almost as good as reading a Jane Austen novel.

The Problem with Mark Neumann's Education Plan

Remember choosing teams in gym class?  Two students were chosen as team captains, and each took turns selecting teammates.  As one of the slow, chubby kids, I was always among the last few chosen (unless I was team captain).  However, I had an even chance of ending up on the winning team. 

Imagine a system in which one team captain was allowed to select his or her entire team (and therefore, the other team, by default).  How evenly matched would the teams be?  Would the outcome even be in doubt?

Gubenatorial candidate Mark Neumann is an advocate of school choice. Lately, he has been touting the idea of expanding Milwaukee's private school choice program.  Under his plan, income and enrollment caps would be lifted, allowing all of Wisconsin's children to have access to voucher money.  Private schools that accept public funds would have to be held accountable for the same measures of academic achievement as public schools.  However, the private schools would not be required to accept all of the children who apply for admission.  Essentially, the private schools could pick and choose their students, leaving the at-risk population to the public schools.

Yes, there are a lot of low-income minority students currently getting a high-quality education in Milwaukee private schools, thanks to the school choice vouchers.  However, those are the students whose parents are motivated enough to jump through the hoops to get their children a better education, so they are not the most at-risk.  Also, it is only low-income children who currently qualify for vouchers.  How many of those cash-strapped private schools will still be eager to accept inner-city minority kids once the school choice program is expanded to everyone? Can you say taxpayer-funded white flight?  I knew you could.

Neumann also wants to do away with state teacher certification, allowing local school boards to establish their own standards.  That means the creationists on the West Bend School Board can start hiring graduates of any unaccredited bible seminary that satisfies their world view.

Neumann promises: "Within my first 60 days in office as governor  I will form a Blue Ribbon Panel that will be tasked with the job of transforming public education in Wisconsin with the goal of making Wisconsin children the Best Educated Children in the World.   I will personally chair the panel."

First of all, I never realized that Mark Neumann was such a fan of PBR.  I guess he's establishing his blue collar cred.  Secondly, I never realized that PBR was starting to sponsor educational events, but I guess I shouldn't be surprised, now that they've cornered the market on bicycle messenger rallies in the Pacific Northwest.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Confused By the Internets, CRG Jumps the Shark

Citizens for Responsible Government, Southeast Wisconsin's leading group of angry white folks (who converted outrage into action several years before the Tea Parties), have fallen victim to the law of diminishing returns.

Flush with success after their recall victories in Milwaukee and Waukesha Counties several years ago, they had ambitions of taking on Jim Doyle and influencing statewide government in 2006.  In a Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel article which is no longer online, but which was quoted in this Dailykos post, CRG co-head Chris Kliesmet explained the group's goals:
"Chris Kliesmet, the CRG Network's Milwaukee-based executive administrator, says the group aims to have ‘boots on the ground’ in all 72 counties and raise a war chest of $1 million from a membership base of 10,000 people. That's a long way to go from the current loose confederation of local operations, mostly in the Milwaukee area, operating with about $5,000 in the bank, according to a campaign finance report," Epstein and Johnson write. "To become the force Kliesmet and his partner, Orville Seymer, envision, they'll need to figure out how to transform people angry over very local issues like lake management districts and the removal of a high school football coach to a united, statewide political machine."
How's that working out for CRG?  Well, they seem to have scaled back their ambitions.  A spin-off group, Franklin Citizens for Responsible Leadership, was charged with campaign finance violations and had to disband in 2008.

They still hope to get their chosen candidate, Scott Walker, into the Governor's mansion, but their efforts have met with limited success.  Last fall, they held a rally to encourage Walker to veto spending in the Milwaukee County budget that had been added by the County Board.  Check out this slideshow and notice how many of the attendees (presumably CRG's core constituency) are elderly.  That may have some bearing on their recent actions.

CRG's other co-head, Orville Seymer, has proven himself to be a hypocritical attention whore. After making snarky comments that got him ejected from a County Board meeting in 2006, Seymer sued Milwaukee County for $1 million, claiming he had been subjected to public humiliation and that his free speech rights were violated.

This same champion of free speech has now filed charges with the County District Attorney claiming that County employee Chris Liebenthal must be blogging on County time.  Seymer's evidence?  A bunch of blog posts on dates that turned out to be furlough days or Liebenthal's scheduled vacation days.  It was pointed out by none other than Owen Robinson, the warden of Wisconsin's asylum for the nuttiest of right-wingnuts, Boots and Sabers, that blog time stamps are meaningless anyway. But Robinson still thinks this is sufficient evidence to warrant an official investigation, costing the County time and money as Liebenthal's work computer is seized and examined.

As conservative (but not wingnut) blogger Jeremy Shown said on his thoughtful blog:
The fact of the matter is that if you have to resort to having the civil magistrate confiscate the computer of your rhetorical opponents, you have already lost. Can't the Walker camp come up with some smart folks to simply counter the pronouncements that Capper makes on his blog? Just read it for a while and it shouldn't be all that hard. Even I could, and I couldn't figure out that Capper and Chris Liebenthal were the same guy.

The old white guys seem to feel that Liebenthal can't possibly write so many blog posts during his free time.  Here is where the generation gap becomes apparent.  Baby boomers (and Gen-Xers, for that matter) do not fully comprehend just how much of their free time younger adults spend online.  Rather than reading newspapers and watching television, younger adults blog, tweet and post Facebook updates.

Also, men who began their careers in the IBM Selectric era tend to be hunt-and-peck typists (since typing used to be a skill reserved for secretaries).  They overestimate the time it takes to compose blog posts when you are primarily writing about stuff you know really well (limiting the need for background research).

Oh, and CRG also misspelled the link on their website that is supposed to point to their Num6ers Game blog, where their version of this principled stand on behalf of the taxpayers is chronicled.  Instead, it points to a "Mega site of Bible studies and information."  I guess the word "blogspot" is strange and exotic to the elderly scribes who are designing the CRG's site.  Or maybe Moses is volunteering his time.

Is there anyone under the age of 50 who can possibly take Citizens for Responsible Government seriously?  No wonder their more recent recall efforts have been less successful than their initial round several years ago.  Their constituency is literally dying off.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Happy Juneteenth, Everyone

As this article from the excellent Wisconsin Historical Society website explains, our nation's independence that we celebrate on July 4 did not make all Americans free and independent.  While originally observed mainly in southern African American communities, the civil rights movement of the 1960s spread awareness of the Juneteenth observance, which commemorates the June 19, 1865, landing of Union Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger at Galveston, Texas, finally freeing the slaves there two years after the Emancipation Proclamation.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Now We'll Never Leave Afghanistan

It was reported today that the U.S. has identified vast mineral deposits in Afghanistan, including cobalt, copper, iron, gold and lithium.

The most significant finds are probably the lithium and cobalt.  These metals are increasingly important for high-tech devices (particularly rechargeable lithium-ion batteries).  They are also relatively rare and disproportionately found in unstable, unfriendly countries (Bolivia for lithium, the Congo for cobalt).

Now, it seems that there are vast, untapped deposits of each in a country which the U.S. military currently occupies.  Our government now has a new incentive to yank the hands of Hamid Karzai and his cronies out of the cookie jar and send more soldiers to scour the hills looking for Osama. 

Just think of the opportunity that Haliburton squandered when they pushed Bush to divert resources from Afghanistan to invade Iraq (and its oilfields) instead.  They could have secured the rights to develop Afghanistan's vast mineral wealth at a fraction of the cost of the invasion of Iraq.  And as an added bonus, their army of prospectors might have stumbled on Osama's cave.

Friday, June 11, 2010

It's Time to Kick Brandon Underwood to the Curb

If the Green Bay Packers have any sense, they will trade or cut Brandon Underwood before the NFL preseason begins.

I'm assuming that Underwood told the truth when he said the sex in Lake Delton was consensual. The law enforcement response is consistent with this report.  I'm pretty libertarian when it comes to the acts of consenting adults.  I feel bad for Underwood's family, but it isn't the Packers' job to play nursemaid.

However, Underwood has demonstrated that he is an idiot with neither impulse control nor common sense.  He embarrassed his family, endangered the health of his wife, and put his teammates at risk of robbery, arrest and infamy.  The Packers cannot afford to keep him around.

And if Mrs. Underwood is wise, she will divorce his sorry ass while she can still get a decent child support settlement. His stock in the NFL is about to plummet.  With his demonstrated impulse-control problems, he is likely to piss away his money on booze, drugs and hookers long before he turns 30.

Of course, if Brandon Underwood's agent has any sense, he will check him into a high-profile rehab facility to work on his "sex addiction" and call a press conference so the player can make a public plea for forgiveness and express his belief that, with God's help and the support of his loving wife, he will turn his life around.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Dual DUIs for DeForest Drunk David Dull

When I saw the headline in yesterday's Wisconsin State Journal, I mainly glanced at the article to make sure it wasn't talking about anyone I know.  Unfortunately, multiple DUIs in a short period of time is not so unusual in Wisconsin; I see stories like that on a regular basis.

However, some of the details really set this one apart.  David Dull had a blood alcohol level of .434%.  At Noon.  On a Wednesday.  That takes some serious drinking.  Five days later, he was busted after driving away from a liquor store with a blood alcohol level of .382%.  At 3:30 on a Monday afternoon.  Clearly, he needed to buy liquor, since his BAL was under .40%

I assume that Mr. Dull is unemployed.  If there was ever a candidate for involuntary commitment to a rehab facility, it's this guy.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Recall: The Game

I've been following the saga of Juneau County District Attorney Scott Southworth from afar. He is currently the subject of a recall effort.  As a Dane County resident, I can only be a distant bystander. For those political junkies who, like me, find this story morbidly fascinating, I developed a game so we can play along at home. You will need to print out the gameboard and cards (click on each image to see the whole thing).  The cards can be printed on perforated business card stock.  There are 6 signature cards and 4 vote cards per sheet; you will need to print out 7 sheets of cards. You will also need one 6-sided die and as many tokens as you have players (I like the tokens from the Monopoly game).

The rules are simple.  Start on the space that says "Start" (top center of the board) and progress in a clockwise direction one die roll on each turn.  If the space says "gain signatures," place cards for that many signatures (there are 100 per card) in the signature pile.  If the space says "lose signatures," remove the appropriate number of signature cards (if there are not enough signature cards in the pile, remove all that are there; you cannot ever have a negative number of signatures).

Once all players have made a complete revolution around the outer ring, count up the signatures in the pile.  If you have gathered at least 2,000, progress to the inner circle for the voting round (if there are not at least 2,000 signatures, the recall fails and the game ends).

In the voting round, on each turn, you will place votes cards in either the incumbent or the challenger pile.  Once all players have gone a full revolution around the inner ring, count up the votes in each pile to determine whether Southworth keeps his job.

Have fun.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

The "Don't Be Evil" Empire Strikes Back

It seems that Google wants to patent the Wi-Fi snooping technology that "accidentally" collected data from users around the world.

The patent application casts doubt on Google's claim that the collection of data was due to a programming error:

"As disclosed in the '776 Application, the more types and greater the quantity of Wi-Fi data obtained, decoded, and analyzed by Google from any particular user, the higher its 'confidence level' in the calculated location of that user's wireless AP," the changed lawsuit stated. "Collection, decoding, and analysis of a user's payload data would, therefore, serve to increase the accuracy, value, usability, and marketability of Google's new method."

And to think that U.S. cities are vying to become the pilot for Google's high-speed network.  Google may as well change its name to Skynet.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Who Will Ransom James Bond?

MGM Studios is teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, leaving even high-profile film projects like The Hobbit and Bond 23 (the working title for the latest James Bond film) in limbo.  No one wants to stake the money to make the films for fear of losing their investment in a bankruptcy proceeding.

Perhaps the studio should try a new business model.  It is only in recent times that art has been considered a profitable commodity.  In centuries past, wealthy patrons paid artists to create works that would please the patron.  With the Internet's ability to raise funds for causes, why can't the artist-patron model be adapted for the motion picture arts?  Donors could contribute towards movies they would like to see.  I for one would be willing to pony up to see Daniel Craig in another Bond film.

Monday, May 31, 2010

A Fitting Memorial

Last summer, I was moved by the obituary of monument-maker Kurt Pechmann, who first came to Wisconsin as a German POW and later settled here with his family.  He was grateful to the United States and its soldiers for the humane treatment he received, and throughout his life, he contributed to American veterans' memorials.

Now his son, Gerhard, is working on a memorial for Cross Plains American Legion Post 245.  The story ran a few days ago in the Wisconsin State Journal.  There is also a video interview, which I unfortunately cannot embed.  Please watch it; it's quite moving.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Guatemala Hit By Double Whammy

A few days ago, Guatemala's capital was coated in ash from a volcanic eruption that disrupted flights and forced hundreds of people to evacuate.

That disaster was eclipsed by Tropical Storm Agatha, the first eastern Pacific tropical storm of the season, which struck over the weekend, killing at least a dozen Guatemalans and forcing tens of thousands to evacuate.

No doubt Pat Robertson will have an explanation for Guatemala's divine punishment.

A Primer on the Use of Who and Whom

I'm clearly becoming a curmudgeon in my middle age.  I'm finding it increasingly annoying that no one seems to use the word "whom" anymore.  I'm not just talking about bloggers; I'm talking about print journalists and even novelists.

It's really not that difficult to understand when to use "whom" instead of "who." 

"Who" is the subject of a verb (the one doing the action).  "Whom" is the object (the one to whom the action is being done).

Here's a simple test.  Can you substitute "he" in place of "who" in your sentence and have it sound correct?  Do you need to substitute "him" instead?  "He" is to "who" as "him" is to "whom." 

I'll give a shout-out to any blogger whom I see use the word "whom" correctly.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Hollywood Names to Help With Oil Clean-up

BP can't manage to shut off its gushing undersea well.  The federal government seems impotent. Don't worry -- Hollywood is here to help.

James Cameron is offering his submersibles to assist with the clean-up effort.  Even more surprisingly, it seems that after completing Waterworld in 1995, star Kevin Costner invested in centrifugal oil separator technology that was used on the Exxon Valdez spill.  It has been fine-tuned over the past 15 years since he bought it and is about to be tried in the Gulf.

Stephen Baldwin is making a documentary about it.  It could turn-out to be very exciting film-making --  disasters have a way of finding Kevin Costner.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Pennsylvania's Own Caucus Scandal Spawns Twitter Anonymity Concerns

The State of Pennsylvania has recently concluded its own version of the caucus scandal that rocked Wisconsin politics several years ago (and hit the news again recently with the ruling that Scooter Jensen can move his retrial to Waukesha County, where the DA seems to have no enthusiasm for taking it up).

Shortly after the Democrats took control of Pennsylvania's state house (in November of 2006), Republican Attorney General Tom Corbett began investigating the practice of taxpayer-compensated legislative aides working on political campaigns.  However, it was mainly Democrats who were prosecuted.  Three (one Rep. and two staffers) were convicted in March.  The first sentence, against legislative aide Brett Cott, was just handed down this week (21 to 60 months in prison).

If Cott's name sounds familiar to Wisconsin political junkies, it may be because he is the former executive director of the Kansas Democratic Party who then went on to work for Chuck Chvala during the time of Wisconsin's caucus scandal.

In September of 2008, an anonymous blog called CasablancaPA began posting criticisms of Corbett's investigation and prosecutory choices. Corbett asserted that he investigated both Democrats and Republicans.  The blog pointed out that, during the second half of 2007, Republican legislative offices (both in Harrisburg and in the District) replaced all of their computers.

Before Brett Cott's sentencing hearing, Attorney General Corbett subpoenaed Twitter, in an attempt to prove that CasablancaPA is authored by Cott (h/t Capper).  The subpoena raised a hue and cry around the country, with accusations that Corbett is trying to chill critical speech and also accusations that he is abusing the grand jury process to obtain evidence to use in a sentencing hearing rather than to investigate a crime.  After the sentencing hearing, Corbett dropped the Twitter subpoena.  However, the ACLU has not dropped the issue.

Cott plans to appeal the sentence.  His attorney, Bryan Walk, said his client already has suffered greatly by being convicted of three crimes and will find it difficult to get a job. Maybe he should move to Wisconsin after he completes his sentence and ask Chuck Chvala for another job, in one of Chvala's private-sector businesses.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Google Trumps Facebook with Latest Big Brother Move

For the last few years, Google has reigned supreme as the real-world's nearest thing to George Orwell's Big Brother character from 1984.

In the past month, it looked as though upstart Facebook might surpass the former master. First, FB rolled out some creepy new features that shared public profile information with third-party websites. Then, a couple weeks ago, a bug allowed FB users to view their friends' private chat sessions. Translating for the older generation, it was like having your private landline suddenly switched by the phone company to a party line without your knowledge, allowing all of your neighbors to listen in on your conversations.

But this week, Google demonstrated that Facebook is still an amateur when it comes to secretly mining personal data without permission. Google recently admitted that, due to a "programming error," the company "accidentally" gathered -- and stored -- snippets of data from any unsecured WiFi networks in the vicinity while Google operatives were taking "street view" pictures for Google Maps.

Just how much data did the Chinese government mine when it hacked into Google's servers?  Also, why did it take three years for Google to notice that it had all that data?

Congress is investigating, so we can look forward to hearings in which computer-illiterate Senators attempt to question the "Don't Be Evil" Empire.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Maybe I Should Start a Pool

Which downtown hotel will be the next to come to the City for TIF for a remodel or expansion?

Will Inn on the Park or the Madison Concourse cry about needing to update their space to compete with the Edgewater?

Or will the Hilton talk about the need to add rooms to support Monona Terrace?

Will the next request be for more than $16 million?

How will the City be able to refuse? After all, if they give new proposals less preferential treatment than they gave Bob Dunn's, it will look like they were playing favorites.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Man on the Silver Mountain

Rest in peace, Ronnie James Dio.  You will be missed here on Earth.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

No Bad Dogs...

...only bad owners.  That was the philosophy of the late, great Barbara Woodhouse, an elderly, British dog whisperer for a previous generation.  I see her proved right on a regular basis.

If you regularly spend time and energy (and decibels) trying to retrieve a dog that obviously holds you in contempt, you might want to consider keeping that dog tied up instead of just letting him run loose through the neighborhood.  It would save you a lot of effort. While most of the neighborhood is more amused than annoyed, there are still a few elderly lawn worshipers on the block who are not above calling animal control.  It would be sad to see your dog end up at the Humane Society just because he's smarter than his owner.