Saturday, December 31, 2011

We Wish You the Merriest

Happy New Year, everyone.  If you go out tonight, have a designated driver.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Proof that Chris Rickert is Completely Out of Touch

I don't usually read the Wisconsin State Journal columns of professional apologist Chris Rickert anymore, unless a particular headline sparks my curiosity. When I do read them, they usually leave me scratching my head and wondering about the alternate universe in which he lives. But this one takes the cake. The headline online is different than the one in yesterday's print edition, which said something like Nail's Tales Should Stay Where It Is.
"Nails'" reminds us that art is to be pondered and maybe even reviled - and maybe reviled for reasons we don't understand.

I think Rickert may be projecting his opinion of his own columns.  Most of the time, it seems like his point on almost any issue boils down to "I don't understand why people who have paid more attention to this issue than I have are so upset about it; they should just accept the status quo like I do."  I don't find that particularly thought-provoking or controversial; I just find it eye-rollingly irrelevant.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Little Drummer Boy

Reminding us that the best Christmas gifts are those of our time and talents, here is the late, great Johnny Cash.

Merry Christmas everyone, and Happy Festivus.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Winter Wonderland

Most of December was unusually snowless, but this morning Madison awoke to a sea of white. It will likely be gone by Saturday, but at least there will be a white Hanukkah.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Rest In Peace, Vaclav Havel

Yesterday, a great man passed away at the age of 75.  Vaclav Havel went from political prisoner to President and helped the Czech Republic become a stable modern democracy.  He will be forever linked with the Velvet Revolution, one of several such transformations that swept the former Soviet bloc in 1989.

For those of us old enough to remember, here is Jesus Jones' musical diary of that time.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Taxpayers won't pay for Edgewater project

This is an instance where Mayor Soglin has delivered more than he promised. During the campaign, he said it wasn't possible to stop the Edgewater TIF handout, but he would ensure that nothing similar ever happened again.

However, the developer's own failure to deliver has doomed the project. All along, Dunn relied on special favors and exceptions to the rules (both TIF and shoreline zoning) while withholding required details about the project.  Now they are threatening to sue.

Soglin said Dunn would have "a real tall mountain to climb" to win a suit because the developer has failed to produce a detailed financial plan and a construction contract, two essential pieces of paperwork for any city financing deal.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Monday, December 5, 2011

Congratulations to the NFC North Division Champions

Aaron Rodgers has led the Packers to clinch the NFC North Division.  I always knew he had it in him.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Quote of the Day

We’ve had it backward for the last 30 years. Rich businesspeople like me don’t create jobs. Middle-class consumers do, and when they thrive, U.S. businesses grow and profit. That’s why taxing the rich to pay for investments that benefit all is a great deal for both the middle class and the rich. 

So let’s give a break to the true job creators. Let’s tax the rich like we once did and use that money to spur growth by putting purchasing power back in the hands of the middle class. And let’s remember that capitalists without customers are out of business.
Venture capitalist Nick Hanauer, who also said "An ordinary middle-class consumer is far more of a job creator than I ever have been or ever will be."

That's the same argument I tried to make a month and a half ago. Maybe it will have more weight coming from one of the 1%.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

I Guess Collecting Signatures During the Holiday Season Isn't So Difficult

Back in July, the Democratic Party of Wisconsin was floating the idea of delaying the recall effort against Gov. Walker so that the resulting recall election would coincide with the regular November 2012 elections. Their arguments for this position were concern that holding a recall election in April, which coincides with the Republican Party's presidential primary, would improve Walker's chance of surviving the election and the excuse that collecting signatures in the winter, during the busy holiday season, would be too difficult.

I always thought this was a clumsy effort to use the recall's coattails to help other Democratic Party candidates in November 2012.  I assumed that it would actually be easier to collect signatures during the time when people are out in public in large numbers, shopping and attending Badger football games. That seems to be the case.

There is still a lot of work to do, but things are on track for a Spring recall election.  Now, whether the Governor keeps his job has a lot more to do with the appeal of his eventual opponent than the timing of the election. Time will tell.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Remembering the Queen of Exotica

Three years ago this month, Yma Sumac passed away at the age of 86.  Most Americans are not familiar with her work. In the 1950s, she came to this country from Peru and recorded many songs in the genre now known as "exotica" (the kind of music one listens to while drinking libations garnished with umbrellas and tropical fruits). She was called an "Inca Princess" (though I suspect that was as fictional as her stage name).

What made her so remarkable was her incredibly flexible voice (which could reportedly span five octaves). At the low end of her range, she sounded like a Tuvan throat singer.  At the high end, she left Ella Fitzgerald's glass-breaking Memorex commercial in the dust.

This is my favorite Yma Sumac song:

I didn't discover her work until the 1990s, and it took me a while to really appreciate it. She has continued to influence modern pop musicians. The Black Eyed Peas have sampled her. In 1981-82, Adam Ant recorded two albums that had obvious Yma Sumac influences.  Go back and listen to Prince Charming, Stand And Deliver, and Friend or Foe after you've listened to Goomba Boomba and this classic Sumac track:

She was still working in the 1980s, and she still sounded amazing.  Here is a 1987 appearance on David Letterman's show:

I hope you've enjoyed this little bit of the tropics on this chilly and rainy Wisconsin day. If you've traveled for Thanksgiving, have a safe trip home.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Be careful out there

Many years ago, I heard a comedian refer to shopping the after-Christmas sales as "gladiating for bargains" -- and that was long before the Black Friday door-busters inspired shoppers to trample and assault each other in Wal-Mart parking lots.  This year, a California woman took some inspiration from Fox News' assertion that pepper spray is basically a food product and used it to beat the crowds.

Before you enter into the fray, remember that Consumer Reports says that most items are actually cheaper after Cyber Monday. Is it really worth endangering yourself for a shot at one of the mere handful of deeply-discounted televisions? Of course, if it's really the thrill of danger you're after, by all means shop today.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Ugliest First Down Ever

The Packers' coaching staff needs to work on teaching Tim Masthay to hold onto the ball for more than a few steps.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

'Tis Almost the Season

I'm not yet in the mood to write new posts about the post-Thanksgiving holidays and/or the War on Christmas. However, I see by the decorations in the mall and the ads on television for "Black Friday" sales that people are starting to think about it.  So, for those who want a jump start, feel free to revisit these posts from last year:

A Brief History of Christmas

A Brief History of Christmas, Part 2

Alternative Holiday Signs

Here's a bonus War on Christmas trivia question: name the insurgent who led a successful raid against an occupying army on Christmas Day, taking advantage of their holiday hangover.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Buying Shares to Have a Voice

The Sisters of St. Francis have developed an interesting strategy to try to influence corporations into being more socially responsible. They use their retirement fund to purchase the minimum number of shares needed to introduce resolutions at the annual shareholder meeting and use that leverage to gain private audiences with the CEOs. Other orders have done likewise.  However, they do not have enough leverage to really bring about change.

I wonder if it would be possible for a consortium of progressive stockholders to actually gain control of a major corporation. They would need to keep their purpose and connections quiet, to prevent a spike in share price and courting of a "white knight" to prevent a takeover.  The big question is, which corporation should be the target? The nuns went for Goldman Sachs. Given that bank's influence on our nation's economic policies (the firm is such a revolving door for future and former Treasury Secretaries that it has long been nicknamed Government Sachs), it's probably a good place to start.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Thank You.

To all of those serving in the armed forces, and all of those who have completed their service, thank you (today and every day). K, I hope you're home for Christmas this year.

Friday, November 4, 2011

The Economy Must Be Improving

Great Wolf Resorts actually turned a profit in the last quarter.

This is a company that was so badly run, it built its huge Lake Delton waterpark resort without convention space to put heads in beds. When it finally realized that hotels with convention centers can be highly profitable, it built one in Sheboygan, which doesn't even count as a "second tier" convention city.

While rivals Chula Vista, Kalahari and Wilderness Resort managed to do decent business during the recession, thanks largely to convention business, Great Wolf temporarily closed their flagship resort and eventually sold it.  The company pushed out the Board members who wanted to provide actual oversight rather than rubber stamp inflated management compensation and continued to borrow to build new resorts like Las Vegas developers during the boom years.

If Great Wolf, which is deeply in debt and heavily dependent on discretionary spending by families rather than corporations, is now turning a profit, things must really be turning around.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Not All Communications Are Better in Electronic Form

I get my bills from Madison Gas & Electric electronically. They include "electronic bill stuffers" (basically PDF versions of the glossy brochures and flyers they stuff into their paper bill envelopes).

Behold their natural gas scratch & sniff card.

Really, MG&E?  For an electric utility, you seem surprisingly unsophisticated when it comes to electronic communication.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Don't Be That Guy*

Wisconsin's new concealed carry law takes effect on Tuesday. It will take slightly longer for the first permits to be issued, as the rules for training courses were just completed.

Keep in mind the axiom that Bad Facts Make Bad Law.  It will only take a handful of screw-ups by permit-holders to make voters pressure the State Legislature to reconsider.  It won't matter that the same kinds of screw-ups have been committed by non-permit-holders for years; everything will be viewed differently when people are carrying legally. The proponents of concealed carry have long claimed that everyone will be safer when law-abiding citizens are allowed to arm themselves, that it will be a deterrent to crime, and that no one but a violent criminal has anything to fear from legally-armed citizens.

So, in order to fulfill that promise and keep Wisconsinites from turning against legal concealed carry, here is some advice to those who obtain permits:

1. Keep your gun safely stowed in a proper holster or compartment in your bag rather than loose at the bottom of your purse or stuffed in your waistband.

2. Don't assume your gun isn't loaded.

3. Don't count on a self-defense plea if the circumstances are shady.

4. Do not use your gun to settle a domestic dispute.

Really, this should all be common sense. Unfortunately, I have noticed over the years that the people with the least amount of common sense often feel the need to be armed.

And to the opponents of concealed carry out there, relax.  Your odds of being shot by an idiot or a stalker really haven't increased significantly.

Finally, I find it highly ironic that the same Republican office-holders who tried to argue several months ago that the State Capitol must be closed to the public for security reasons because a handful of bullets were found on the grounds now think it's OK for the public to bring guns into the Capitol.

* I am using "guy" in the colloquial Midwestern, gender-neutral sense (as in "you guys"). Wisconsin has plenty of armed idiots who are female.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

British Monarchy Enters the 21st Century

The British commonwealth is finally ending the practice of male primogeniture, meaning first-born daughters will now inherit ahead of their younger brothers.  The Scandinavian monarchies made that change decades ago.

While the change, which has the support of Buckingham Palace, has officially been prompted by the recent marriage of Prince William to the former Kate Middleton, I can't help noticing that Queen Elizabeth's daughter, Princess Anne, is older than Prince Andrew.  Thus, such a change could move Sarah Ferguson's spawn farther from the throne. 

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Wisconsin Loses Another Iconic Character

Ed Thompson has passed away after a lengthy battle with pancreatic cancer. (h/t, Blogging Blue)

I voted for Ed for governor in 2002.  I thought he could do less damage than either the incompetent Scott McCallum or the corrupt Jim Doyle.  I also hoped that he (along with former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura) would help poke holes in the partisan duopoly of our nation's politics.  Alas, that was not to be, and the brief flowering of viable third-party challenges collapsed under pressure from the major parties, as well as the impatience of those smaller parties for following a long-term strategy of building viability by consistently running candidates for lesser offices all across the country. The Green Party had actually been following that strategy before it decided to skip ahead several levels and hitch its wagon to Ralph Nader's vanity presidential campaign in 2000.  The Reform Party never really made the transition from cult of Ross Perot's personality.

Although I often disagreed with him, Ed had a loud voice that made sure his unique point of view was heard. Anyone who believes in a free marketplace of diverse ideas must miss him just a little bit.  It is doubly sad that cancer has taken both Thompson and Ben Masel in the same year.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Just Call Him Randy Hopalicious

In the latest episode of the dark comedy that is Randy Hopper's life, the recently-recalled ex-state-senator was busted for driving erratically on Highway 151.  He refused a breathalyzer test but failed field sobriety tests and was charged with OWI.  His reportedly-pregnant girlfriend Valerie Cass was a passenger in the vehicle. I assume she was not drinking if she is pregnant, so it would have saved everyone a lot of grief if Hopper had let her be the designated driver. But the middle-aged Hopper was perhaps unwilling to let a 26-year-old woman drive his car.  Hoist by his own patriarchy.

Maybe he'll blame it on the mind-numbing ordeal that is driving on Highway 151.  Even former Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager couldn't face the trip to Fond du Lac without first fortifying herself with a couple goldfish-bowl-sized glasses of wine.

Shades of 1982

The Brewers have once again fallen to the St. Louis Cardinals in the postseason.  I wish I could say I'm surprised.  At least the Packers pounded the Rams yesterday, so St. Louis sports fans can't feel completely superior.

Friday, October 14, 2011

We Are All Job Creators

One of the latest memes making the rounds of the right wing is that only rich people are job creators. "I've never been hired by a poor man" is the sound byte. Perhaps not, but I have been hired by non-profit organizations and cooperatives, which had a distinct shortage of rich people. Members of my family used to tend bar in a neighborhood tavern that didn't even make enough money to support a family of three (the mom ran the bar while the pop worked a day job -- they lived in a modest ranch house near Oscar Mayer).

When you buy locally-produced goods and services, you are creating jobs in your community. You don't have to wait for largesse to trickle down from the highest tiers of society (most of those golden showers will fall overseas anyway).

If you have an IRA or 401(k), you are a stockholder and/or a bondholder.  Read those annual reports you get in the mail and find out what companies' stocks and bonds are held by your mutual fund(s).  Do you recognize the companies?  Do you know what they produce?  You may want to move some of your money into companies that are investing in U.S. production.

Remember that the super-rich are not the only investors in this country.  We are all job creators.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

PSC Prohibits Plale Purchasing Privileges

OK, so that's grammatically incorrect. I should have said revokes rather than prohibits, but I couldn't resist the alliteration.

There was an episode of The Sopranos where Tony and his crew went after a small businessman who welshed on a gambling debt. They raided the man's sporting goods store and took whatever inventory they could easily sell, then used company credit cards to buy plane tickets and other big-ticket items.

I've often thought that episode provides a useful metaphor for what Scott Walker is doing to the State of Wisconsin, turning civil service jobs into overpaid patronage positions, hiring high-priced private lawyers at taxpayer expense rather than giving the work to the Justice Dept., and privatizing whatever he can for the benefit of his donors.

However, Walker appointee Jeff Plale and his staff seem to be literally copying that episode.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Johnsonville Looks for International Growth

A day after I tried to point out how corporations have more incentive to grow their markets overseas than to keep the U.S. economy strong, I noticed this article.

The relevant passage is here:
About 10% of revenue is derived from international sales, which have been producing high double-digit growth, said Michael Stayer-Suprick, managing director of the company's international business group and Ralph Stayer's son.

If "high double-digit" means 50%, then international sales will account for 15% of the company's revenue in a year. If that "high double-digit" rate of growth continues, it will take only five years for the majority of Johnsonville's revenue to come from outside the U.S.

No wonder the company is backing Scott Walker.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Trading Places with India and China

After World War II, the American economy embarked upon an era of tremendous growth and prosperity. This was fueled in part by new technologies that were developed for the military during the war, but mostly by a rapidly-growing population and pent-up demand for bigger houses and durable goods like automobiles and household appliances.

We have reached a point where our birthrate and population growth from immigration have slowed. We have also saturated our market with automobiles and appliances. Consumers in China and India, on the other hand, are just beginning to acquire automobiles in large numbers and move into less-crowded housing.

That is why large corporations are much more interested in doing business with China and India. Steve Wynn is blowing smoke when he says the Chinese government is more favorable to business. The real reason he prefers the Chinese market is because Macau has only a handful of casinos and proximity to millions of newly-wealthy Asian gamblers, while Las Vegas is saturated with competition.

When large corporations push tax-the-poor memes and schemes to end employer-sponsored health insurance and replace it with vouchers for individual policies, they really don't care that they are reducing the buying power of American consumers. Their future profits will come from overseas markets.

Once an entire generation of Americans has given up the "American Dream" of owning a spacious single-family house and a car for every adult, big corporations will again find the American consumer worth courting. Getting us to that point while expanding their markets in Asia is their long-term strategy.

Friday, September 30, 2011

The End of Hip Hop

This campaign video for Rick Perry is so bad that one wonders if it was actually planted by someone in Mitt "Bling-Bling" Romney's campaign. (h/t The Mahablog)

Of course, it could also be an attempt by these two lovely but otherwise untalented young women to find wealthy Republican sugar daddies.  Hope they have better luck than Stacie Long did.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Tiptoe Down the Sidelines

That was some very graceful footwork by Nick Toon on Saturday.  He should be nicknamed Il Ballerino.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Steve Nass Wants More Police Brutality

Rep. Steve Nass is blaming Capitol police for the escalation of protestors' behavior, claiming the "kid gloves" treatment encouraged disorderly and dangerous conduct.

Apparently, Nass would have liked the police to arrest not only those who were breaking laws, but also those who were peacefully assembling. If the police had treated the protestors like their counterparts did during the Vietnam War era, things never would have escalated.  Oh, wait...

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Trouble in Camelot

There is an apartment complex on the east side of Madison called Camelot apartments, with an adjacent strip mall called Camelot Square.  The bus shelter on Johnson Street that borders the property used to have a sign that said "Camelot Station" but I don't remember seeing that signage in recent years.

The property is older, and the neighborhood has had its problems.  I'm sure the name "Camelot" was not meant to inspire mayhem with swords.  Last month, store owners held a "Camelot Square Festival" to bring some positive attention to their businesses.

Sadly, more recent news stories have not been positive. There was a fatal shooting in the apartment parking lot last week, believed to be a drug deal gone bad.  And yesterday, there was a fire in one of the apartment buildings (no one was injured, fortunately).

I hope things turn around for Camelot.  I still stop by now and then to indulge my craving for Chocolate Shoppe ice cream.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Here's My Federal Jobs Program

Legalize Marijuana.  It won't create nearly as many jobs as we need, but it's a start. It will also save some scarce law enforcement resources that are now directed toward busting family farm operations and provide a new source of revenue for our cash-strapped state and federal governments.  It will also allow profits from Wisconsin growing operations to be reinvested in Wisconsin rather than siphoned off by Mexican drug cartels.

If Tammy Baldwin wants to make a legislative splash in Congress prior to next year's Senate race, she should be introducing legislation (or at least signing onto something from Barney Frank or Ron Paul) that would do away with federal marijuana prohibition.

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Waffle House Index

FEMA clearly learned some valuable lessons after Hurricane Katrina:
The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
FEMA's Waffle House Index
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Thursday, September 8, 2011

Shallow Thought for a Short Work Week

There is no one more attractive to voters than a blank slate non-politician, on whom they can project all of their hopes and dreams, imagining the candidate shares their own opinions and priorities.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Another Alternative Holiday Sign

I find it ironic that some of the same conservatives who complain about the secularization of Christmas are now complaining about attempts to keep Labor Day observances about labor and its organizers.  Just as John Stewart described the demonstrations at the Capitol in February as "the Bizarro Tea-Party," we now have a mirror image of the December holiday culture wars.

With that in mind, this sign practically created itself:

It's About Time

The Packers cut Brandon Underwood.  We no longer have to worry about his annual off-season embarrassing arrests.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Rick Perry's Prayers Fall on Deaf Ears

Texas Governor Rick Perry famously asked his supporters to pray for rain to end Texas' record drought. One named storm after another has either teased Texas or bypassed it entirely.  The latest is Tropical Storm Lee.
The water-logged Lee was tantalizingly close to Texas but hopes dimmed for relief from the state's worst drought since the 1950s as the storm's forecast track shifted east. Forecasters said it could bring drenching rains to Mississippi and Alabama early next week.
The most logical conclusions are either:
1. Prayer has no affect on weather; or
2. God hates Rick Perry.

However, I'm sure that Pat Robertson will somehow blame it on the Supreme Court striking down Texas' sodomy law.

Friday, September 2, 2011

About that Mascot Controversy

Many citizens of Berlin (the one in Wisconsin, but not to be confused with New Berlin) are upset that they are being forced to give up their traditional Indians team name. They are convinced that there is nothing offensive about a bunch of white kids pretending to be Native Americans; indeed, it is a tribute, to their way of thinking.

I wonder if they (or Rep. Steve Nass) thought the Galesville-Ettrick-Trempealeau Redmen were a tribute to Wisconsin's first residents.  Or that 19th century minstrel shows were a tribute to African American music and dance traditions.

For the record, I believe that the name Fighting Irish is also deeply offensive, and the NCAA should force Notre Dame to get rid of it just as they forced schools to drop other race-based team names.  I also think think the NFL should follow suit and retire the names Redskins and Chiefs.

On the other hand, Vikings are not an ethnic group but rather an occupation, like Pirates (or Buccaneers).

Thursday, September 1, 2011

A Surfeit of Thursday Night Football

Football is usually played over the weekend -- Friday night for high school, Saturday for college and Sunday for the NFL.  The NFL also has Monday night games and, occasionally, Thursday night games.

However, like a blockbuster movie, college football's opening weekend starts on Thursday night.  Tonight, the Badgers will take on UNLV in ESPN's premiere game of the season.  The inherent drama in this game will be the question of will the Badgers cover the spread? 

By an unfortunate coincidence, the Packers' final pre-season game will be played at the same time.  Really, NFL?  You had to schedule the Packers opposite the Badgers?  I noticed that the Packers also play on New Year's Day.  Fortunately, the major college bowl games will be held on Monday, January 2 instead.

Next Thursday night, the Packers will open the NFL season against the Saints.  The Badgers will be back to their usual Saturday slot.  Clearly, John Boehner is not a football fan.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Just in Time for the Release of Contagion

A mutant strain of bird flu is spreading in Asia.

This may put more butts in seats than the movie's all-star cast.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Is the Gold Bubble About to Burst?

The price of gold declined this week, leading many analysts to believe a significant correction will continue. "Briese believes a 33% correction from recent highs, to about $1,250, is quite plausible."

The proprietor of one Madison retail store that buys and sells gold warned a customer on Saturday that he will not receive the same price for his jewelry on Sunday, and the store has already made arrangements to sell off its entire stock of gold early this week.

Those who took investment advice from Glenn Beck and G. Gordon Liddy are in for a bumpy ride.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Rock the Casbah - Arab Spring Edition

Algerian rocker Rachid Taha was joined by Clash member Mick Jones in this 2006 performance.  I'll bet they're playing Taha's cover in Tripoli.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Letterman's Ratings Just Got a Boost

A jihadist blogger has issued a death threat against David Letterman for joking about the death of Al Qaeda figure Ilyas Kashmiri. While the FBI is taking it seriously, as is its job, this Boston Herald entertainment writer gives it the respect it probably deserves.

When David Letterman returns from vacation, I suspect his television audience will grow, as everyone will want to hear his own jokes about the death threat. Perhaps he'll joke about his "conversion" to Judaism.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Why Stop With Secretary-of-State and Treasurer?

2011 Assembly Joint Resolution 26 seeks to amend the state constitution to delete the offices of Secretary of State and Treasurer. (h/t, Blue Cheddar).

While this is no doubt being presented as a way for the state to save money, since the two offices have very few constitutional duties left, it would look much less like a partisan power grab if the resolution also sought to eliminate the office of Lieutenant Governor.  What useful purpose does it serve? 

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Gold Bug

In Ian Fleming's Goldfinger, the eponymous villain, heavily invested in gold, sought to increase the value of his horde by destroying the United States' gold reserves at Fort Knox.

It would have been far more lucrative for him to boost demand for gold, rather than reduce the supply, by destabilizing the world's economy.  Rather than employing a specialist assassin like Oddjob (who probably didn't work cheap and likely incurred very large equipment and cleanup expenses), he could have employed some lobbyists and creative investment brokers to invent complicated debt-based investment vehicles, then pull down the house of cards and watch the value of gold skyrocket as the world financial markets imploded and government bonds were downgraded.

Maybe the upcoming Bond 23 should be a remake of Goldfinger.  Of course, people may have trouble believing that a criminal conspirator could con everyone into driving up the price of gold.  Oh, wait...

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

This feeling is familiar...

Today I feel much the way I did last December, after watching the Packers lose to the Detroit Lions.  At the time, I thought there was no way they would make the playoffs.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

A Great Day in Wisconsin

It is once again possible to watch television without being bombarded by campaign commercials for Fred Clark and Luther Olsen.

Seriously, if you live in a district with a recall race, or in the Assembly district with the special election to replace Joe Parisi, remember to vote today.  You will be asked for ID, but if you forget to bring it, you can still vote this time; you'll be given information on what forms of ID are acceptable at the polls starting in 2012.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Arrogance of Privilege

A wealthy Chicago-area woman of retirement age decided to take her hobby plane out for a spin during President Obama's visit, without bothering to check on flight restrictions first, or even have her radio on during the flight.  When F-16s scrambled to evaluate a potential threat, she claims she thought they were just slowing down to admire her cute little plane (which recently won a prize at the EAA airshow). Once on the ground, she was forced to fill out a report with the FAA, and she complained that they listed her age.

I don't for a minute believe this woman is stupid or senile.  She is so accustomed to getting her way and not being required to follow the rules that most of us must follow that she fully expects to get off scott-free, with her pilot's license intact. Her attitude reminds me of Leona "Only the Little People Pay Taxes" Helmsley.  She claims that she usually checks online for flight restrictions before going out, but her computer wasn't working properly that day, so she skipped it.  I suspect that she rarely, if ever, bothers.  Another possibility is that her little flight was meant as a giant F-U to the adminstration, so she could laugh about it with her friends the next time she is entertaining.

What she did is exactly the sort of thing that terrorists do to test security before a big strike.  Can you imagine the outcry if the pilot of the small plane had been a man of Middle Eastern or South Asian origin rather than a wealthy older white woman?  Chances are, the pilot would be cooling his heels in a military brig somewhere while his background and actions were investigated.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Us Versus Them

When Norway was hit with two coordinated terrorist attacks on July 22, the media (and possibly law enforcement) were quick to assume a jihadist link. That isn't surprising. In the immediate aftermath of the Oklahoma City bombing, the authorities checked area airports for men of Middle Eastern origin. Fortunately, those early assumptions (in both cases) did not prevent the capture of the true culprits.

It is human nature to divide people into Us and Them, and to attribute evil to Them rather than Us. We draw the bluntest dividing line possible. It is easy and obvious to define foreigners and Muslims as Them.

However, Anders Behring Breivik is neither a foreigner in Oslo nor a Muslim. He is as Norwegian as Vidkun Quisling and a professed Christian who was inspired by the crusades. It is chilling how closely his crimes and motivation parallel the September 11 terrorist attacks carried out by Al Quaeda. While the number of victims was far fewer than on September 11, 2001, there were 19 terrorists who carried out those attacks rather than one lone bomber/gunman. The body count per terrorist is remarkably similar.

It seems to me that the real motivating force we should worry about is not Islam but rather intolerant fundamentalism. In the early 21st century, Islam harbors more intolerant fundamentalists than Christianity or Judaism, but that was not the case a few hundred years ago. A couple centuries before its revolution, France was torn apart by sectarian warfare between Protestants and Catholics. Heretics were burned in 16th century England, and witches were hanged in Massachusetts a hundred years later. These atrocities eventually led western European nations in a more secular direction, forcing mainstream Christianity to get along with its neighbors.

Islam is only beginning that journey. It can be seen most strongly in Indonesia, a country that has been mostly left alone by U.S. foreign policy. The Indonesian people have transitioned to democracy and moved away from Islamist rule to a more secular government, because that is how they wish to live.

Conservatives have pointed out a recent poll showing that 40% of British Muslims want to see shariah law enacted in the U.K. The obvious corollary is that 60% -- a comfortable majority in any election -- do not want shariah law enacted.

We should be making moderate Muslims feel welcome among us and make it easy for them to assimilate into western society rather than treating them like outsiders, so that they only find welcome among the jihadists.

If I must draw a line defining Us and Them, I want to draw it so I am on the same side as Muhammed Ali, Aasif Mandvi and Fareed Zakaria, rather than Fred Phelps, Eric Rudolph and Anders Behring Breivik.

Friday, July 29, 2011

The Daily Show Rock

This is the best Schoolhouse Rock homage I've seen since the episode of the Simpsons where Itchy and Scratchy were banned from television and Krusty had to show educational cartoons on his show.

Plus, I've managed to retain a surprising amount of information about the Dodd-Frank Act.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Dodd-Frank Update
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogThe Daily Show on Facebook

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Don, Mess With Texas.

Tropical Storm Don could bring some much-needed rain to Texas this week, although the actual rainfall may prove disappointing.  Maybe Rick Perry should pray harder.

At the very least, Don should provide some relief from triple-digit heat.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Lewis Black in Wisconsin

Since Dan was unfamiliar with the work of Lewis Black when he blogged about the coverage of his Las Vegas show, here is a classic routine (warning, R-rated language):

(h/t The AV Club)

Sunday, July 24, 2011

This Is "Breaking News"?

Amy Winehouse has joined the 27 Club. This has to be the least surprising celebrity death in years. It would have been more surprising if Winehouse had lived to be 28.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Shorter* David VanderLeest

Since just-defeated State Senate candidate David VanderLeest wants to extend his 15 minutes of fame with a ridiculous 10-Commandments-in-the-Courthouse campaign (h/t JB), we may not have heard the last of his ridiculous claims of persecution.

This about sums it up:

* For those who are unaware, "shorter" is a blogosphere term for a humorous paraphrase that captures the spirit of a statement, not a direct quotation.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Cheap Trick Survives Canadian Adventure

While performing at the Ottawa Bluesfest, Cheap Trick literally had the stage blown out from under them. Fortunately, the stage collapsed away from the crowd instead of on top of it, and no one was seriously injured. Two years ago, a similar incident at the Big Valley Jamboree in Alberta turned deadly.  Outdoor Canadian music festivals appear to be more dangerous than previously believed.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Quote of the Day

From Tim Morrissey:

Your simple act of voting sends a message far stronger than just determining which candidate will win.  Voting scares the hell out of a lot of politicians, whose job security depends on hordes of voters not caring enough to vote.
My father often told me that voting lets the politicians know we're watching them.

If you don't like any of your choices, write someone in. Staying home is not an effective protest; it just tells our representatives that they can count on you staying out of the process.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Let Them Drink Merlot...

...if they can't afford $350/bottle pinot noir.

Paul Ryan has been in Washington so long that he doesn't even understand why ordinary Americans find this tale of Beltway privilege so offensive.
"I was an economist so I started doing the envelope calculations and quickly figured out that those two bottles of wine was more than two-income working family making minimum wage earned in a week."

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

It's Past Time to Kick Brandon Underwood to the Curb

Classy. He continues to be an embarrassment to his family and to the Packers organization. How many times must he be arrested before the organization dumps him? Maybe they need to wait for a new CBA before they can trade or cut him.

I wish Mrs. Underwood well in her divorce proceedings. I hope she eventually finds a decent man to provide a good example for her kids.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Gloves will be a popular accessory this year

I predict that we'll soon start seeing the return of gloves as a fashion accessory for men, with padding to lengthen the ring finger.

This is why.

Monday, July 4, 2011

No More Kings

This video is a favorite from my childhood. It seems appropriate to play it today, even if it does perpetuate the myth that the Boston Tea Party was in protest of the tea tax.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Disturbing Trend Watch

QR codes are popping up everywhere. They work kind of like UPC barcodes, but they are designed to be scanned by smartphones, bringing up a webpage.

It didn't take long for the younger set to start wearing them alongside their tribal tattoos.  Apparently, there is a market for this new spin on body art. While they have a certain practicality as wearable business cards or permanent medic-alert bracelets, what happens when you change your phone number (or your prescriptions)?

I wonder how long it will take for some bible-thumping televangelist to start calling them the mark of the beast?

Come on, Arlene

Tropical Storm Arlene has made landfall in Mexico. The area is parched from a severe drought, so although there is potential for destructive mudslides in the mountainous regions, the rain is welcome.  Just yesterday, NPR did a story about the shrinking of Lake Travis near Austin.
In Austin, theyre praying for a hurricane, a nice slow moving category one or two, or a tropical storm, that makes its way up to Austin and then stalls out over the Texas hill country.
Arlene is too far south to do Lake Travis any good.  It is only the southern tip of Texas that may see rain from this storm.  Maybe next time, Austin.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Fire and Water

The rumors about impending nuclear disaster and a government-ordered news blackout at the Fort Calhoun nuclear power plant in Nebraska have turned out to be bullshit. Fortunately, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission did its job a couple years ago and ordered some flooding protection measures.

"Bottom line: The floods appear more annoying than destroying for Nebraska's nuclear plants," says nuclear engineer David Lochbaum of the Union of Concerned Scientists, a nuclear industry critic. "If the NRC had not found the flooding protection shortcomings (at Fort Calhoun) last year and compelled the owner to fix them, chances increase considerably that the floodwater would have gotten into places that disabled equipment."
On the other hand, the wildfire that threatens to overtake the Los Alamos National Laboratory could be cause for serious concern. Let's hope that the radioactive waste onsite is indeed stored in fireproof vaults.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Why Paul Ryan's Medicare Plan Is Doomed

Jon Huntsman is promoting it.  The moderate Republican (and former Obama administration ambassador to China) reportedly plans to make it an important issue in his presidential campaign. (h/t, The Paul Ryan Watch).

Republican politicians with career ambitions have been wanting to distance themselves from Ryan's plan for almost a month now.  Although Newt Gingrich was punished for telling the truth prematurely, even some Tea Party officials are now reading the writing on the wall.

Huntsman has just handed them a face-saving way to throw Paul Ryan under the bus.  The former ambassador is the Dick Leinenkugel in this race, a moderate Republican who served in a Democratic administration.  He will be painted as a RINO and run out by the week after the New Hampshire primary, and Ryan's plan will be buried with his political career.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Looks Like Monsoon Season Has Started

Western Wisconsin really got nailed by heavy rains over the weekend.  La Crosse got over five inches of rain in 24 hours.  That kind of rain used to be associated with subtropical states like Florida.  I don't remember Wisconsin getting those kinds of torrential rains before the summer of 2007.  Since then, we've gotten them almost every year (with the exception of 2009, if I recall correctly).  Gays Mills has finally taken the hint and is looking into relocating to higher ground.

We are extremely fortunate not to face the serious river flooding that many other Midwestern states have suffered this Spring.  It's too bad we can't build some kind of giant storm sewer system to divert all that surplus water to the parched western states. Too expensive to get it across the Rockies, I'm sure.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Bye-Bye, Biddy

UW Chancellor Biddy Martin, who first invited controversy (and pushback from faculty) with her plan to change the governance of UW-Madison's grad school, and then went all in on the "Badger Partnership" scheme to spin off the Madison campus, has decided to take her ball and go to Amherst College.

Don't let the front doors of Bascom Hall hit you in the ass on your way out, Biddy.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Claudette Colvin and Rosa Parks

There has been some debate around the Cheddarsphere in the past week over the usefulness of the tactics employed in last week's civil disobedience demonstration that disrupted a meeting of the Joint Finance Committee.

Some have cited Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the civil rights movement as proof that civil disobedience should always be supported by the left when it seeks to address social injustice.

There is a lot we can learn from Dr. King and the story of the Montgomery bus boycott.  A lesson that usually goes unnoticed is that all civil disobedience is not perceived equally.

When most Americans are asked to name the first African-American person in Montgomery to refuse to give up her bus seat to a white person, they will likely say it was Rosa Parks.  That answer is incorrect.  Mrs. Parks was actually the third African-American woman in the space of nine months to be arrested in Montgomery for challenging its bus segregation law.

The first was an idealistic young student named Claudette Colvin.  After learning about Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth during Negro History Week in February 1955, she was inspired on March 2 to refuse an order to give up her seat, for which she was forcibly arrested.  At first, local civil rights leaders thought they had their poster child to fight the unjust law.  It was not to be.
Soon after her arrest, however, Colvin became pregnant by a much older, married man. Local black leaders felt that this moral transgression would not only scandalize the deeply religious black community, but also make Colvin suspect in the eyes of sympathetic whites. In particular, they felt that the white press would manipulate Colvin's illegitimate pregnancy as a means of undermining Colvin's victim status and any subsequent boycott of the bus company. Colvin was also allegedly prone to emotional outbursts and cursing. She was ultimately sentenced to probation for the ordinance violation, but a boycott and legal case never materialized from the event.
The next woman to challenge the unjust law was Mary Louise Smith. She was also considered and rejected by the movement as their test case, due to (untrue) rumors that her father was an alcoholic.

Finally, Rosa Parks made her historic decision, and the movement had its standard-bearer.
King recalled in his memoir that ‘‘Mrs. Parks was ideal for the role assigned to her by history,’’ and because ‘‘her character was impeccable and her dedication deep-rooted’’ she was ‘‘one of the most respected people in the Negro community’’ (King, 44).
VDLF has played the Claudette Colvin role in the #Wiunion movement.  The discomfort felt by other segments of the movement now is actually very similar to the discomfort felt by the Women's Political Council of Montgomery back in 1955.  They understood that not all civil disobedience tactics are equally effective, and that it is important to elicit sympathy from the political mainstream.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Lessons from Ralph Nader's 2000 Presidential Campaign

Back in 2000, Ralph Nader mounted a third-party run for President against Vice President Al Gore and Texas Governor George W. Bush.

While many on the left criticized Nader's run and cautioned that he would help Bush get elected by siphoning votes away from Gore, others felt that he would energize new voters and bring attention to important issues that would otherwise be ignored by the major party candidates.

I supported Nader's right to run (though I did not vote for him for a variety of reasons), and I was glad that he was advocating for a variety of environmental and social justice issues that were getting short shrift from both major parties.  However, I felt he was being dishonest when he repeatedly said on the campaign trail that Al Gore was not significantly different from George W. Bush.

I wonder how many of those who voted for Ralph Nader in 2000 can look back and honestly believe that Al Gore would have used the 911 attacks as an excuse to invade Iraq in 2003.  Or that he would have rolled back environmental protections and squandered our nation's budget surplus on tax cuts for the wealthy.

Nader ran a humorous commercial in which children expressed a series of cynical dreams for their future. One said: "I want to vote for the lesser of two evils."  The implication, of course, is that it is better to vote for someone you really want, even if they have no chance of getting elected, or just to stay home.  I have always felt that those who refuse to vote for the lesser of two evils are complicit in allowing the greater evil to come to power.

Nader actually said that, given a choice between a candidate (Gore) who would make voters complacent with small incremental improvements in environmental protections and one (Bush) who would wake up the left by making things worse, he would prefer the provacateur.

I am not sure what Nader meant by waking up the left.  If he meant that they would come out to vote the Republicans out of office in 2002 and 2004, then he was rather naive.  If he meant that they would donate a lot of money to Nader's organizations so that they could "fight" the disastrous Bush policies, then he was rather corrupt. Either way, those who believed his campaign bullshit were taken for a ride.

Most voters are turned off by the extreme left. Nader and his ilk (I'm looking at you, Dennis Kucinich) will never succeed in pulling the Democratic Party as far to the left as they like, because for every voter gained on the left, two in the center will be lost.

In recent months, I have seen the debates among anti-Walker activists over where the movement should go and what tactics should be used.  I would like to point out that influencing politicians is more like training a cat than training a dog.  You must be very patient and reward incremental improvements in behavior.  Any Hollywood cat wrangler will tell you that negative reinforcement does not work with a cat. While you must be careful not to reinforce negative behavior, you must be just as careful to recognize and reward positive behavior, even if it is only a fraction of the eventual behavior you want to see.

Quote of the Day

And all that stuff about camels getting through eyes of needles... with the tax breaks Ryan is giving the rich, they can breed miniature flying camels.

The Paul Ryan Watch contributor DownWithTyranny

Sounds like a lucrative new enterprise for Sokoblovsky Farms.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Life Line Screening Scam in Town

If you are a Madisonian of a certain age, you may have received a brochure in the mail from a company called Life Line Screening.  They are bringing their medicine show to town (for one day only!) at St. Peter's Catholic Church (I assume the church merely rented them a meeting hall and is not actually promoting this snake oil).

For about a hundred and fifty bucks, they will do several unnecessary ultrasound tests to check for a variety of ills. After they have had time to review the images, they will send you a letter telling you whether you should follow up with your doctor.

There are good reasons why Medicare and most health insurance policies do not cover such screening tests in individuals with no symptoms needing diagnosis. Not only is it an unnecessary expenditure, but such screenings do not improve the odds of living a long and healthy life. Yes, you may detect clogged arteries, but if you had no symptoms, there is a good chance that the treatment will be worse than the disease.

This is a good example of what is wrong with our for-profit health care system. Aggressive marketing techniques convince people (and their doctors) that they need procedures that will do little good and may do harm. How many of the fools who pay $150 out-of-pocket for the screening will learn that they have clogged arteries?  The letter will convince them that their money was well-spent, and they will go to their doctor (on their insurance carrier's dime) for further tests. A few of them may have unnecessary surgery; a larger number of them will start taking a cholesterol-lowering drug (which works by damaging the liver to suppress its production of cholesterol). Doctors are way too quick to prescribe those drugs, since their education about their safety and efficacy has been provided entirely by the drug companies.

Caveat emptor.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Quote of the Day

If you'd like to make an ass of yourself, just throw a hat upside down on the State Street sidewalk and start your rambling: you might even make some tips.

Oshkosh blogger Jb, commenting on the protestors who disrupted yesterday's committee hearing at the Capitol.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Dan Kapanke Has a Plan

He just needs to get those pesky public employees to sleep the day away on July 12.

Jon Stewart Schools Donald Trump

...on the subject of New York Pizza.

I have to wonder at the Donald's sense of hospitality in showing Sarah Palin such a sub-standard pizza experience. Did he think she was too ignorant to know any better?  Or did he feel she didn't deserve a good New York pizza?

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Tornadoes in Massachusetts

While not nearly as powerful nor as deadly as the Joplin storm, the tornado that struck Springfield (MA) today is noteworthy because New England is well outside Tornado Alley.

This is the first tornado in Hampden County since 2008 and the most powerful in over 40 years.

The tornado crossed the Connecticut River and caused at least one death.

This has been a bad Spring for tornadoes in the United States.  It seems that it will not be limited to the South and the Midwest. 

Today also marks the first day of the 2011 hurricane season. It's going to be a busy year for insurance claims adjusters.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

In the News

The Butcher of Srebrenica has been captured. I wonder who the anonymous tipster was. I'm not usually a supporter of capital punishment, but I would gladly serve on a firing squad to execute that monster.

Congress is growing a spine over Libya.  I'm glad to see both parties stand up for the War Powers Act. I usually trust President Obama's judgement, but I don't like any Commander in Chief to have dictatorial, unconstitutional powers. He had his 60 days. It's time to get Congressional approval for the action in Libya or end it in 30 days.

John Edwards will face criminal charges for misusing campaign funds to cover up an affair.  John Ensign should be very nervous.

Concealed carry advocates want no training or permits required.  For everyone's safety, I think we should start mandatory firearms safety classes in public schools. Imagine if we let everyone drive a car with no training or testing required.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Music for the Rapture

The song selection is obvious, but here is a terrific cover by Great Big Sea.

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Right Wing Should Handle Tommy Thompson With Care

The rumor that Tommy! will run for Herb Kohl's Senate seat in 2012 has not been met with enthusiasm by the wing-nuts.  The Club for Growth has gone after him for his support for health care reform.  Senator Ron Johnson has been less than encouraging.

If the current Republican Party establishment treats Thompson the way they have treated Newt Gingrich since he dared to criticize Paul Ryan's Medicare privatization scheme, Thompson may decide to ditch the Senate race and instead run a primary challenge to Scott Walker in a recall election. Anyone care to predict how that would turn out?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Erik Prince's Foreign Legion

Blackwater founder Erik Prince has found a more lucrative market for his mercenary business.  His new company, Reflex Responses, is providing security for the government of the United Arab Emirates, where he "hires a mixture of Colombian soldiers of fortune and South African vets of Executive Outcomes, the pre-Blackwater merc firm that fought nasty counter-guerilla wars in Angola and Sierra Leone."

I guess that's one way to keep the Arab Spring from spreading.  Perhaps the UAE feels that foreign mercenaries will have fewer qualms about firing on peaceful protestors than their own army, who may have relatives in the crowd.

Friday, May 13, 2011

We are experiencing technical difficulties...

If you tried to comment yesterday, your comment was temporarily removed by Blogger.  They claim that they will restore the missing posts in the coming hours. 

Here's their explanation.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Define the Set

This is somewhere between the sort of story problem you would find on the SAT and in The Onion's old "Cultural Idiocy" quizzes (I was recently reminded of the old CI feature because, 20 years ago, my friends and I used to do them together at the campus-area bar where we all hung out).

Can you identify the set to which all of these items belong? 
Half Dollar
Tennis Ball
Ping Pong Ball
Golf Ball

I'll bet that Tim Morrissey gets it first.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

She Swallowed the Spider to Catch the Fly...

The Wisconsin DNR plans to introduce three species of Chinese wasps in an attempt to control the Emerald Ash Borer.

Bringing in new invasive species to control an invasive pest -- what could possibly go wrong?

I heard the buzzing of a crop-duster overhead a few days ago, reminding me that gypsy-moth-spraying season is upon us.  I guess my neighborhood is among the lucky places in Dane County to receive a bath of soil bacterium that is supposed to kill the caterpillars.  I suppose it's better than the toxic soil vapors that folks near the Madison-Kipp plant have to deal with.

The joys of Spring in the Midwest.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Bin Laden Was Not "Assassinated"

With apologies to Chris Rock, who used similar words about Tupac in a stand-up routine years ago:

Osama Bin Laden was not assassinated.

John F. Kennedy was assassinated.

Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated.

Benazir Bhutto was assassinated.

That al-quaeda bastard was shot.

Seriously, do we say that John Dillinger was assassinated?  Or Bonnie and Clyde?

Ding Dong, the Witch Is Dead

A moment of celebration is in order. Sing it, Harry.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

It's Time to Get Out of Afghanistan

I have spent the month of April thinking about this. When we invaded in 2001, it was a war of necessity, in my opinion. The ruling Taliban had given safe haven to Osama bin Laden and his followers, who used their Afghan base to plan the 9-11 attacks on the U.S.

Unfortunately, the administration's ambitions to forcibly spread democracy through the Middle East led it to fight the Afghan war on the cheap and to severely underfund post-war security and nation-building, just as we did in the 1980s after the CIA helped Afghanistan expel the Soviets. Rather than repeating the Marshall Plan, we repeated Charlie Wilson's War.

During the 2008 campaign, Barack Obama argued for the need to wind down the Iraq occupation and instead devote more boots on the ground in Afghanistan and, if necessary, Pakistan. He has followed that policy. However, it seems like the window of opportunity to achieve our goals in Afghanistan closed in 2002.

Two events in April have underscored the futility of our continued occupation. At the beginning of the month, a UN compound in Mazar-i-Sharif was stormed by a group of ordinary Afghans without Taliban ties, and eight people were killed. The crowd was outraged by the burning of a Koran by a pile of human feces who claims to be a clergyman in Florida. It is notable that the Koran-burning did not provoke attacks on Westerners in more modern Islamic nations like Turkey and Indonesia, nor even in Saudi Arabia, the heartland of extreme fundamentalist Islam. The Koran-burning was a trigger and an excuse, but I believe the real reason for the attack in Mazar-i-Sharif was a deep hatred of western occupiers.

A few days ago, a member of the Afghan military, following a dispute of some kind with his U.S. allies, opened fire, killing eight U.S. troops and an American contractor before he was shot dead himself. He had no known ties to the Taliban nor Al Quaeda.

If the very people who are being served by UN workers in a relatively secure city hate them enough to riot and kill them, and the Afghan military whom we are supposedly training to take over the nation's security hates our troops enough to turn on them with little provocation, what can our continued occupation possibly accomplish? We are not just fighting the Taliban and Al Quaeda over there. We are fighting ordinary people who are frustrated by the corrupt kleptocracy we put in place there. Hamid Karzai rigged the last election, yet we supported him. How is that encouraging democracy? In Libya, we are dropping bombs to keep Quaddafi from killing the civilians who rose up against him, yet in Afghanistan, we are protecting Karzai from a similar uprising.

We need to bring our troops home from Afghanistan. Now.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

An Entertaining Economics Lesson

Too few Americans have studied Economics. It's taught less in high school than in past decades (along with other social studies classes), and it's a dry subject that does not invite self-study.

The folks at EconStories have produced this entertaining rap video that provides a lively lesson in the debate between the economic theories of John Maynard Keynes and F. A. Hayek. Take ten minutes and watch it.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

One Love

In honor of Holy Week, I am featuring the very small collection of religious-themed rock songs that don't suck.

Since not sucking is a subjective judgment, your mileage may vary. Feel free to comment, either on the religious themes of the songs, or the degree of suckage (or lack thereof). I'm still recovering from a family vacation, however, so I may not see your comment right away.

This is probably the most joyous religious rock song that doesn't suck of all time.

Saturday, April 23, 2011


In honor of Holy Week, I am featuring the very small collection of religious-themed rock songs that don't suck.

Since not sucking is a subjective judgment, your mileage may vary. Feel free to comment, either on the religious themes of the songs, or the degree of suckage (or lack thereof). I'm still recovering from a family vacation, however, so I may not see your comment right away.

I've always thought this song sounds like an account of the second coming, in modern times.

Friday, April 22, 2011

My Sweet Lord

In honor of Holy Week, I am featuring the very small collection of religious-themed rock songs that don't suck.

Since not sucking is a subjective judgment, your mileage may vary. Feel free to comment, either on the religious themes of the songs, or the degree of suckage (or lack thereof). I'm still recovering from a family vacation, however, so I may not see your comment right away.

For Good Friday, here is a performance by George Harrison (with a little help from his friends) at the Concert for Bangladesh in 1971.

Thursday, April 21, 2011


In honor of Holy Week, I am featuring the very small collection of religious-themed rock songs that don't suck.

Since not sucking is a subjective judgment, your mileage may vary. Feel free to comment, either on the religious themes of the songs, or the degree of suckage (or lack thereof). I'm still recovering from a family vacation, however, so I may not see your comment right away.

By the incomparable Leonard Cohen. Enough said.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Turn, Turn, Turn.

In honor of Holy Week, I am featuring the very small collection of religious-themed rock songs that don't suck.

Since not sucking is a subjective judgment, your mileage may vary. Feel free to comment, either on the religious themes of the songs, or the degree of suckage (or lack thereof). I'm still recovering from a family vacation, however, so I may not see your comment right away.

This may be the only rock song with lyrics entirely (more or less, within the margin of translation) lifted from the Bible (I don't count Don McLean's folksy acoustic "Babylon" as rock, although it doesn't suck, and it's lifted directly from Psalms).

Monday, April 18, 2011

Spirit in the Sky

In honor of Holy Week, I am featuring the very small collection of religious-themed rock songs that don't suck.

Since not sucking is a subjective judgment, your mileage may vary. Feel free to comment, either on the religious themes of the songs, or the degree of suckage (or lack thereof). I'm still recovering from a family vacation, however, so I may not see your comment right away.

Here is the incomparable Norman Greenbaum with his biggest hit:

In case you were wondering, yes, Mr. Greenbaum is Jewish (but then again, so was Jesus).

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Jesus is Just Alright

In honor of Holy Week, I am featuring the very small collection of religious-themed rock songs that don't suck.

Since not sucking is a subjective judgment, your mileage may vary. Feel free to comment, either on the religious themes of the songs, or the degree of suckage (or lack thereof). I'm still recovering from a family vacation, however, so I may not see your comment right away.

The Doobie Brothers made a triumphant entry into "Rockin Down the Highway: the Wildlife Concert" with this classic song of praise.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Bread and Circuses

In the days of the Roman Empire, the (citizen) masses were pacified with basic food aid (the bread dole) and regular entertainment in the form of chariot races and, on special occasions, gladiatorial combat. This helped to maintain the status quo and kept people from getting worked up over income inequality and ruinously expensive foreign wars (which enriched the generals but burdened the economy with the cost of veterans' benefits).

In the U.S., we provide our poorest citizens with basic food aid, but that is being cut at the same time that unemployment is up and food is becoming more expensive. With an NFL lockout threatening the 2011 season and talk of an NBA lockout in the same year, we are also seeing a reduction in our circuses. The wealthy elite may want to rethink whether this is a good time for that. I can't help but wonder whether so many people would have showed up to protest at the Capitol if Scott Walker had introduced his budget-repair bill in January, during the NFL playoffs.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Paranoia Will Destroy You

The allegations of "left-wing violence" have been greatly exaggerated, and the Faux-News-inspired hysteria has led Republican politicians to live in fear. State Senator Dan Kapanke canceled public appearances based in part on an erroneous belief that someone had deliberately smashed the windshield of his car. It turns out that the damage was done by a stray rock thrown up by another vehicle -- a normal road mishap that many of us have experienced.

The email death threats were absolutely wrong, and the woman who made them is rightly facing felony charges. It turns out, though, that her motive may have been to frame another woman (whose identity she spoofed to make the emails) with whom she had a personal conflict.

Like the allegations of wide-spread voter fraud and the existence of palm trees in Madison, the left-wing-violence meme has taken root in the mythology of the tribe who take Sarah Palin seriously.  It seems to me, though, that encouraging your leaders to live in fear is not a winning strategy.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Turnout Matters

I'm feeling much less elite today. And I'm very happy about that.

Once again, the Government Accountability Board was asleep at the wheel, forecasting a 20% turn-out statewide, the average for a Spring election, despite the increased interest in this particular election.

Manitowoc County saw 31.4% of registered voters at the polls.

Over a third of registered voters in Marathon County showed up at the polls. Walworth County turn-out was nearly as high.

Rock County hit 42%.

Almost 43% turned out in Jefferson County, as well as Wood County.

Dane County turn-out numbers are not yet available, but they are expected to be over 50%.

While Justice David Prosser might possibly retain his seat if a recount nets him more votes, Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce can never again take for granted that they can buy a seat on the Supreme Court whenever they want to. Left-wing groups have just as much money to throw at campaigns. And while the Citizens United decision will allow more corporate money to fund political campaigns, companies will have to weigh the perceived benefits of donations against a potential PR backlash and boycotts.

Governor Walker says the Supreme Court race was not a referendum on him.  However, today he rescinded the patronage promotion of Brian Deschane.  He's also launching a YouTube channel to stay in touch with voters.  I can't wait for the parody version.

In the end, Scott Walker's most enduring legacy might be making young Wisconsinites think that voting is a cool and fun thing to do.  For that, we should all thank him.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Remember what day it is.

Don't forget -- it's Election Day!

Now you'll remember to hit the polls after work -- because this schlocky song by the "avant garde" successor to Duran Duran (formed after two of the Taylors left to form Power Station with Robert Palmer) will still be stuck in your head all day.

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Recess Supervisor Leaves Wonkette in the Dust

I thought this Wonkette post about the embarrassing hiring of Brian Deschane was some pretty funny snark.

However, this Playground Politics post gave me a much bigger laugh.  I guess it helps to be so intimately familiar with the making of Wisconsin sausage. I'm not sure which was funnier -- the quality snark about the patronage hires, or the suggestion that Glenn Grothman is the voice of reason on an issue. Kudos.

Remember to Vote Tomorrow

As Jesse Jackson said: "April 5 -- Come Alive!"

You can find your polling place here

Both Union Cab and Badger Cab are offering free transportation to and from the polls.  If you need to arrange a ride, please call Badger Cab (256-5566) or Union Cab (242-2000) today (before Election Day) and schedule a cab. (h/t, Brenda Konkel).

And remember that not voting has consequences.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Demonstrations as Street Festival Continue

Yesterday's demonstrations at the Capitol were more grass-roots (no stage or speakers) and tongue-in-cheek. A large group of people wore zombie make-up and carried signs making jokes about Scott Walker's brain (or lack thereof). It was a beautiful early spring day (sunny and in the low 50s). People came out and brought their kids (some of the "zombies" had "zombie" children in tow). There were many signs in support of JoAnne Kloppenburg's candidacy for Supreme Court.

This gentleman was the only one I saw with a pro-Prosser sign. As you can see, the anti-Walker demonstrators are pretty much ignoring him. There were no confrontations. I'm glad he felt comfortable visibly expressing his views.

There was an appearance by the ghost of Ronald Reagan (or maybe it was Zombie Reagan). It seems that even he opposes Scott Walker these days.

It wouldn't be a street festival without Art Paul Schlosser. He was a one-man band, with a kazoo as well as a guitar to accompany his original composition. Maybe this would be a good year to re-release his Vote for Me/It's a Joke CD.