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.