Friday, December 21, 2012

The NRA Jumps the Shark

Owning an assault rifle did not make Nancy Lanza safer in her home.

Having armed citizens in the crowd did not stop Jared Loughner's killing spree.

Yet, the NRA keeps peddling the same snake oil that an armed society is a safer society, this time washed down with a chaser of unfunded mandate for our cash-strapped schools.

Too many children are already killed accidentally by guns in their homes (or in their parents' cars). Having more children in close proximity to guns at school on a daily basis will inevitably result in more tragedies.

All the NRA cares about is boosting gun sales.  It's only a matter of time before they advocate arming schoolchildren.

Am I the only one who thinks that Wayne LaPierre could have modeled for the creatures in They Live?

Sunday, December 9, 2012

'Tis the Season

I've had this song stuck in my head since Friday, so I thought I would share it. It seems especially appropriate today, as Madison is seeing the season's first light dusting of snow (we had some flurries last month, but nothing that accumulated).

At first, I assumed the video creator was not from around here, since "ShopKo" (a discount store chain headquartered in Green Bay and found in the Upper Midwest) is misspelled, as is "Negaunee" (a city in the Upper Peninsula), but since they also misspelled "cheer" and "Santa Claus" I can't really make any geographic assumptions. I traded in my own rusty Chevrolet last year for a newer used Ford, and it's been many years since I've driven a car as beat-up as the one described in the song, but this always brings back memories of skidding on the snow back when I was a much less experienced and responsible driver.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Bye Bye, Bielema

I was almost giddy when I heard that Bret Bielema took the Arkansas job.  If he lost a third Rose Bowl in a row, you know the boosters would have pressured Barry Alvarez to fire him, and the cash-strapped UW would have had to spend millions to buy out his contract, like 14 other schools that have collectively spent $31 million this year to fire their football coaches.

Instead, Arkansas will pay $1 million to Wisconsin.  Well played, Barry.  Well played.  If you manage to coach the team to a victory over Stanford, no one will feel that you're ridiculously overpaid.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

RIP, Larry Hagman

Actor Larry Hagman has passed away at the age of 81. He was survived by his wife of 59 years, as well as their two children and five grandchildren.

As a child, I loved watching syndicated reruns of I Dream of Jeannie.  As a teenager, my whole family watched Dallas on Friday nights.  I don't really remember Larry Hagman playing any other roles than Major Tony Nelson and J.R. Ewing, although I know he got some other work over the years.  He recently returned to the role of J.R. for TNT's reprisal of Dallas.  It won't be the same without him.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Giving thanks

I am thankful that we are able to see our parents on this holiday weekend. The prognosis is cautiously optimistic that we will be able to spend Thanksgiving 2013 with them as well.

I am thankful that my neighborhood retail establishments have mostly survived the Great Recession. I'll be doing some local shopping today (and avoiding the mall like the plague).

I am thankful that my own health is relatively good, and that my husband's employment allows me to consider various career options without worrying about losing our house, cars or health insurance.

I am thankful that I have electricity and heat and a habitable house, unlike those displaced by Sandy.

I am thankful that, as serious as the fiscal and political challenges our country faces are, we do not have the severe economic problems of Greece or Spain, or the severe political problems of Egypt (where people are once again protesting a dictatorial government).

I am thankful that most of our troops will be coming home from Afghanistan, hopefully by Thanksgiving 2013 (and most of them have come home from Iraq).

I hope everyone had a safe and happy Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Good Riddance, October

Last month brought unexpected downsizing at my workplace and news of a parent's serious illness.  I haven't been checking blogs (or blogging) much lately, and that will probably continue for a while as I concentrate on my family's well-being.  If the Mayan Apocalypse-mongers are right, none of this will matter, but I suspect I should work towards a better 2013 instead.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Even the Real Refs Hate the Packers

In other news, the Packers defense still sucks, and Graham Harrell still isn't ready for prime time.  We would have been better off putting an eye patch on Rodgers and keeping him in the game.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Quote of the Day

"The Onion freely shares content with Fars and commends the journalists at Iran's Finest News Source on their superb reportage," Tracy said in jest.

Onion editor Will Tracy's response to an Iranian news agency citing this Onion article as fact.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Behold, the Power of Twitter

Twitter has been credited by some for helping to boost the 2009 protests in Iran and the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings, particularly in Egypt.  Now, it may have hastened the return of the NFL referees.  I doubt that the league offices would have received 70,000 voicemails if the phone number hadn't been tweeted (by Wisconsin State Senator and occasional Daily Show guest Jon Erpenbach, among others).

In the past few days, Packers offensive lineman T.J. Lang has surpassed Justin Bieber as the all-time re-tweet champion.  Of course, if Lang and the rest of the O-line had done a better job protecting Aaron Rodgers in the first half of the game, the debacle at the end would never have happened.  So, I guess he does deserve a lot of credit for ending the lockout.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Return to Oz

I was shown up by a rookie
'Cause our O-line played some hooky
And left me in a bind.
We'd have beat up on Seattle;
I'd have won the Monday battle,
If I only had a line.

The Seahawks fans are noisy;
You can hear them clear in Boise,
And I thought I'd lose my mind.
I'd have had more of their silence
And less of Irvin's violence,
If I only had a line.

I hope those scab officials
Are choking on their whistles;
They've gone too far this time.
But if our offense hadn't tarried,
There'd have been no Hail Mary,
If I only had a line.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

A Martyr for Democracy

For some time before September 11, tension had been simmering between various factions in post-revolution Libya. The weak transitional government has abdicated responsibility for security to armed militias, many of them Islamist.  One of those Islamist militias, Ansar al-Sharia, is widely held to be responsible for the attack that killed U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens.

Chris Stevens was held in high esteem by Libya's revolutionaries, whose cause he supported last year. His death outraged many Libyans and may have inspired the populist demonstration against the militias that took place in Benghazi on Friday.

There were counter-demonstrators, but they were far outnumbered. The clashes killed at least 11 people and wounded 70. A day later, the Libyan government banned all militias and armed groups that are not under government authority and are working to cobble together a national security force.

There is no way to know what Libya will look like in a year. It may be taken over by Islamist militias in the end.  Or, it may install a secular democracy on the Turkish model.  There are no strong leaders, no Libyan Kemal Attaturk, but this weekend has shown that not all Muslims are anti-American, not all Muslims want to live in an Islamic theocracy, and many Muslims are willing to stand up and fight against the extremists in their midst.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

An Undeserved Win

The Badgers' offense looked terrible again yesterday.  I can't remember seeing them look so bad as they did in the first half, and I'm old enough to remember the Don Morton era and the winless Jim Hilles season.

Putting Joel Stave in at quarterback was an improvement, but the Badgers only managed to move the ball when Stave was occasionally allowed to throw it.  Giving it to Montee Ball every time to run out the clock with a few minutes left was stupid.  Bielema has pissed away leads this way before, but he never seems to learn that his Woody Hayes crap does not work in the 21st century.  And last year's debacles against Michigan State and Ohio State apparently did not teach him how stupid it is to gift your opponent with a timeout when they are marching back to score with the clock running down.

I thought Utah State would make that field goal in the final seconds and pull out the win.  And they totally would have deserved it.

It also seemed to me that Montee Ball was having trouble with his balance.  He couldn't seem to keep his feet under him once contact was made, making it easy for Utah State to trip him up.  I can't help suspecting that he isn't fully recovered from that concussion he suffered when he was mugged over the summer.

Bielema and Matt Canada need to admit that Danny O'Brien has no business starting.  They should have realized that two weeks ago.  Also, Montee Ball is not going to be a Heisman contender this year, nor is he going to break Barry Sanders' single-season touchdown record.  Stop trying to pad his career by giving him the ball most of the time.  It isn't working, and getting dropped for a loss will not help his stats.

I have a feeling that the hapless O-Line coach will not be the only one to lose his job this season.

Friday, September 14, 2012

The Bears Should Develop Their Own Celebration Moves

...instead of mocking those belonging to Packers' players.  How many more times was Jay Cutler sacked by Clay Matthews after a Bears player mocked his beast move?  Matthews didn't need to do the move again; his attitude was summed up when he nonchalantly examined his fingernails after sacking Cutler yet again.

The Lambeau crowd could be clearly heard chanting "The Bears Still Suck" (although the NFL Network broadcast team ignored it, and they quickly went to a commercial).

A couple years ago, in the run-up to the Superbowl, a Bear mocked Aaron Rodgers' championship belt move after sacking him.  Not long after, B.J. Raji got a pick-six and added his own flourish to the same move.

Taunting is a sign of weakness.  A confident team has no need to publicly disrespect their opponents.  I hope Jay Cutler remembers that the next time he's tempted to spout off and diss the defensive backs that he is about to face.  How'd that work out for you, Jay?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Best Thing Since Schoolhouse Rock

I've long believed that we desperately need high school civics classes to teach students how to be informed consumers of political ads. Americans should view all of them skeptically, asking who is paying for them, what their agenda might be, and checking the veracity of claims.

However, in this age of SuperPACS that sprout like dandelions and have misleading names, it can be difficult for even political junkies to keep track. 

Thanks to a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and a collaborative class project at MIT’s Media Lab, there is now an app for that.

The SuperPACApp works like Shazam; you let it listen to an ad, and it identifies the message and source, providing links to information about that SuperPAC and nonpartisan sources to factcheck the ad's claims.

The app is free, but it is not available for Android, more's the pity.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Oh, Canada (sigh)

The Badgers need a new Offensive Coordinator.  Matt Canada clearly isn't up to the task.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Blast from the Past, UW Campus Edition

Who knew that Tunnel Bob was still around?  A whole generation of UW students probably thought he was just an urban legend.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Paul Ryan's Delusions of Grandeur

A couple weeks ago (I'm rounding), Hugh Hewitt interviewed Paul Ryan.  While talking about the marathons that he used to run, Ryan said that his personal best was "Under three, high twos. I had a two hour and fifty-something."

The Fact-Checkers Who Shall Not Run the Campaign did a little research and discovered that this was, in fact, false.  The one marathon that Ryan ran (at age 20) took him just over four hours to complete.

Ryan admitted that he misspoke and even added that: "my brother Tobin—who ran Boston last year—reminds me that he is the owner of the fastest marathon in the family and has never himself ran a sub-three. If I were to do any rounding, it would certainly be to four hours, not three. He gave me a good ribbing over this at dinner tonight."

Many in the bloggosphere are calling this a clumsy, Palinesque lie (one that is self-aggrandizing and easily disproved).  However, the Ryan campaign pointed out that the race was over 20 years ago, and the candidate spoke according to the best of his recollection.

In an episode of Seinfeld, serial liar George Costanza once explained how he beat the lie detector by saying: "It's not a lie if you believe it."

I am inclined to give Paul Ryan the benefit of the doubt regarding his marathon time.  I think he has believed for decades that he ran a sub-three-hour marathon.  He remembered it that way because it made him feel more important and accomplished, just as he remembers pulling himself up by his bootstraps rather than being born into privilege and going on the government dole after his father's death.

So the next time Paul Ryan says something outrageous and factually untrue, don't be so quick to call him a liar.  Remember the words of George Costanza.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Friday Morning Quarterbacking

I am now less concerned about Graham Harrell's ability as a back-up quarterback than I am about our lack of depth on the offensive line.

Then again, maybe the difference wasn't so much playing with Green Bay's starters as it was playing against the Kansas City Chiefs.  Height-challenged rookie Russell Wilson looked like a Pro Bowl contender against the Chiefs last weekend, prompting Seattle's coach to name him as the Seahawks' starter for the season opener (and leaving poor Matt Flynn to remain as a back-up quarterback, albeit at a much higher salary than he enjoyed in Green Bay).

Maybe the Chiefs aren't that bad.  Maybe Russell Wilson really is a superstar NFL quarterback in the making, and Graham Harrell is a reliable back-up for Aaron Rodgers.

Hope springs eternal in the pre-season.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Dark Knight Rises Copycats?

It was expected that last month's shooting at the premiere of The Dark Knight Rises might inspire copycats.

Last weekend, an Ohio man was arrested after he brought a gun, ammo and knives into a screening of the movie.  He was seated in the center of the back row, with a large duffel bag (he may as well have worn a sign that said "sniper wanna-be").

But in a less violent case of life perhaps imitating art, one of the movie's odder subplots was eerily echoed at the beginning of August when a brokerage firm found itself the victim of rogue trades supposedly caused by a "glitch" in the firm's newly-installed software.  The brokerage made a large volume of bad bids, other brokerages exploited their errors, and the firm found itself nearly bankrupt in a day.  The broader market was not affected, seemingly, as share prices did not swing significantly.

(Spoiler Alert) - in the movie, the villains break into the stock exchange (literally), and install their own software to execute a high volume of trades, targeting just one firm (Wayne Enterprises) in order to wipe out most of its worth and allow a corporate takeover.  They do this to gain access to a particular corporate asset that they can weaponize.

I was surprised that the ExtremeTech article did not mention, while discussing the feasibility of breaking into the stock exchange, that it is not actually necessary to do so.  Plenty of brokerage firms with lesser security than the NYSE have the ability to execute high volumes of trades electronically, and the article's comments do point that out, but the commenters assume the market would stop trading and all erroneous trades would be reversed.

By the time I saw the movie, and by the time the article was posted, however, the debacle at a brokerage coincidentally named Knight Capital was in the news.  Their trades were not reversed, and the company barely survived with an emergency credit deal.

Of course, Knight Capital was not deliberately targeted (at least, not that anyone can tell).  There would be no real motive, except to make a bit of money at their expense on the day of the software disaster, and I believe those profits were split among many firms.  It's not like Knight had a coveted corporate asset that they would not sell unless they were in dire straits.  Then again, maybe they did.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

What's in it for Ryan?

The cheddarsphere is abuzz with news that Mittens has chosen Wisconsin's own Eddie Munster lookalike Paul Ryan as his running mate.

This is believed to be a sop to the Koch-funded power-brokers who now control the Republican Party.  Romney's vulnerabilities among the base are primarily due to his policies as governor of Massachusetts, especially the model for the Affordable Care Act.  How better to combat that than with the architect of that manifesto of social darwinism, the Ryan Budget?

Romney's other vulnerabilities include his inability to relate to the 99% and the perceived "weirdness" of his Mormon faith.  While Ryan can't help him with the 99%, at least having a Wisconsinite with a taste for fine wine on the ticket will give Romney a designated drinker for those all-important cocktail parties.

But it's hard to understand why Ryan would risk his powerful position in Congress for a VP run.  Yes, he can run for both offices, and Joe Biden managed to win re-election to the Senate and election as Vice President simultaneously.  However, Wisconsin independent voters with recall-induced election fatigue may not relish the idea of a special election to fill Ryan's vacant Congressional seat in the event the Romney-Ryan ticket wins the White House.  Rob Zerban's chances just got significantly better.

Romney is by no means the favorite in November.  The election is very tight, and the Ryan pick will not help Romney with independents.  Is Ryan merely positioning himself for a presidential run in 2016?  How'd that work out for Sarah Palin?  Come to think of it, she's doing pretty well for herself as a Fox News personality.  So is Mike Huckabee.  Maybe Ryan's positioning himself for a career change to media pundit.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Kelda Roys Can't Fool All of the People Even Some of the Time

I scratched my head when my Assembly Rep., Kelda Helen Roys, threw her hat in the ring to succeed Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin, since it was already widely known that the far more experienced and respected Assembly Rep. Mark Pocan planned to run for Baldwin's Congressional seat. It would have made more sense if Roys were a State Senator mid-way through her term, because she could have built name recognition for a future run while still staying in the State Legislature.

But Roys clearly thought she could beat Pocan in the primary. Her strategy seems to be built on a belief in voters' ignorance. Last year, she set the stage by parsing her words to lead folks to assume she is a lesbian. Her television ads paint Pocan as a corporate stooge who caved to Governor Walker's will, a ridiculous assertion that could only be believed by voters who have paid no attention over the past year and a half and get all their information from Kelda Helen Roys.

The dishonesty of her campaign has led formerly-neutral Assembly Rep. Janis Ringhand to endorse Pocan and Assembly Rep. Fred Clark to rescind his endorsement of Roys (the only one she had received from a fellow Wisconsin legislator).

What in the world was she thinking?  That burning odor you smell is all of Roys' political bridges going up in flames.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Tommy! and Uncle Ted

It sounds like a sitcom, doesn't it? I wonder if Tommy will claim he misheard Uncle Ted's offensive statements because his hearing aid was off. This could be Nugent's farewell tour, if his prediction of being dead or in jail next year comes true. Honestly, I don't understand why anyone listens to Uncle Ted's ridiculous political rants. As a member of the Amboy Dukes, he was too ignorant and naive to realize that "Journey to the Center of Your Mind" was about psychedelic drugs. If he couldn't figure out something so obvious that was right in front of him, how can he possibly understand complex policy issues?

Friday, July 6, 2012

Elon Musk: Hero or Villain?

I always assumed Elon Musk was more of a Bond villain, but a website makes a clever comparison between Musk and Tony Stark: Elon Musk: The Real Life Tony Stark
Created by:

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Another Miserably Hot July

Honestly, it's amazing that our founding fathers accomplished anything in July without benefit of air conditioning.

Oh, well.  At least we're not in Kansas.

Stay cool and have a happy Independence Day.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Queen for a Day

Between 1945 and 1964, a game show called Queen for a Day was broadcast, first on radio and then on television. It has been called a forerunner of modern-day reality shows, and also "one of the most ghastly shows ever produced."

Contestants were unfortunate women who revealed their tales of woe in order to elicit sympathy from the audience.  Whichever woman received the most applause from the all-female audience won the title of "Queen for a Day" as well as a selection of prizes.

I never saw this show, as it was canceled before I was born and most episodes destroyed (as was the standard practice of the day).  As a child, I heard some pop culture references to it, and I asked my grandmother about it.  I thought it sounded appalling and never thought anything like it would be revived.

Thanks to the Internet, particularly YouTube and Indiegogo, our society has revived Queen for a Day without perhaps meaning to.  The case of the elderly bus monitor who was cruelly taunted by middle school bullies, then rewarded with a vacation fund that quickly grew into a retirement fund, was spontaneous.  However, the publicity that has surrounded it will no doubt inspire others to try to use those websites to engage the public's sympathy and raise funds for their own causes. YouTube might as well start a Queen for a Day channel.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Requiem for a Lioness

Fifteen years ago, two unrelated juvenile lions were brought from South Africa (where they were born in captivity) to Madison's Henry Vilas Park Zoo in hopes that they would breed and help perpetuate the species.

The pair were named Henry and Vilas, and they were so prolific that they remained together for a decade and a half, during which time they produced eight cubs. The most high-profile birth was a litter of five cubs born in 2004. They were the zoo's star attraction during the summer of 2005.

Vilas stopped eating earlier this week, and zookkeepers discovered cancer that had spread throughout her body. She died on Wednesday. She is survived by her longtime companion, Henry, her last offspring, a male cub named Leo Pold, born last year and still residing at Vilas Zoo, and several grown cubs residing at other zoos.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Why I'm Voting to Recall Walker

These are my main reasons for voting to recall Governor Walker:

 1. He is destroying Wisconsin's economy. The claims of a surplus are bogus. He has pulled a significant amount of money away from Wisconsin consumers and given it to out-of-state corporate interests. That is why Wisconsin's job market is now doing worse than the rest of the nation. The kool-aid drinkers who believe in supply side economics (rightly called "voodoo economics" by George H.W. Bush back in 1980) refuse to believe this. The media's practice for the last three decades of treating all debates as mere policy disagreements with both sides having equal validity has raised a generation of Americans who are completely ignorant of how our economy actually works. Supply-side economics is bullshit. Demand-side economics is reality.

 2. He pulled an enormous bait-and-switch by campaigning on economic issues and instead pushing through union-busting, voter-suppression, incumbent-protection, and right-wing social engineering. Anyone who trusts a word he says is a fool.

3. He is every bit as corrupt as Chuck Chvala and Scott Jensen and the rest of the caucus criminals, as evidenced by the charges (and first batch of convictions) among his Milwaukee County aides. Judging by his administration's stonewalling of open records requests, Walker will use his criminal defense fund to delay justice as long as possible, much like Scooter Jensen did.

 4. He doesn't give a damn if Wisconsinites have safe water to drink. I challenge Walker appointee Cathy Stepp to drink a nice tall glass of Jefferson County well water from the neighborhood near Herr Environmental. There are a great many other reasons, but those are the big ones for me.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Freedom of Choice

Far too many people in our society do not want to be bothered to pay attention to issues and vote. Many of the anti-recall arguments I have heard boil down to "I don't want to be bothered with this more than once every four years." I cherish my right to decide things for myself and my opportunity to cast my vote. I prefer freedom of choice to freedom from choice. It's ironic that so many of the "let's get rid of the recall statute" people keep using words like "freedom" and "patriotism" -- I don't think those words mean what they think they do. Now, since it's a beautiful Saturday morning, I want chocolate donuts for breakfast.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Goodbye, Doc.

Another great American music pioneer has died in 2012.  "Traditional Plus" artist Doc Watson, a blind virtuoso from North Carolina who played a variety of genres on both electric and acoustic guitar before achieving fame in the country-folk field in the 1960s, passed away yesterday at the age of 89.

He is reunited with his son Merle, who died in a farm accident in 1985.  Here they are performing Cole Porter's Summertime. Doc doesn't show off his own picking skills on this one, but his soulful singing talent really shines.

Monday, May 28, 2012

I thought Showtime Put "The Borgias" on Hiatus This Weekend...

I didn't bother to tape The Borgias while I was out of town because I thought they were skipping the holiday weekend. Now, when I get back home (and to my computer), I see snippets online about the Pope's Butler being thrown in prison in the Vatican for stealing documents from his desk, exposing corruption in the Vatican, and suspicions that a rogue Cardinal is behind it all.

It sounds like I missed an episode...oh, wait.  That's a news story that broke over the weekend about the latest developments in the 2012 Vatileaks scandal.  The references to a papal butler and a detention facility inside the Vatican made me think they couldn't possibly be talking about this century.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Karl Armstrong Has 99 Problems

The Sterling Hall bomber was busted for marijuana trafficking after Illinois State Troopers, during a routine traffic stop, found 800 grand that happened to smell like pot hidden under the floor of his RV.

A search of his Town of Madison trailer home did not reveal any drugs, but police seized computers and other records.

This raises several questions:

1. Karl Armstrong has been living in a trailer in the Town of Madison?  Really?  There goes the neighborhood.

2. There's still a Town of Madison?  I thought the City of Madison and Fitchburg divided it between them.

3. Chicago drug dealers employ 65-year-old men who drive RVs as drug-runners?  Are they marketing to aging Baby Boomers?

4. How long before this inspires a Hollywood comedy?

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Farewell to Maurice Sendak

He was a bit of a misanthrope, but a charming and talented misanthrope. He certainly didn't suffer fools gladly. This delightful interview appeared earlier this year on The Colbert Report.
The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Grim Colberty Tales with Maurice Sendak Pt. 1
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogVideo Archive
And here is part 2:
The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Grim Colberty Tales with Maurice Sendak Pt. 2
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogVideo Archive

Saturday, May 5, 2012


It was a somber Star Wars Day this year, as Adam Yauch, better known as Beastie Boy MCA, succumbed to cancer at age 47. He had been too ill to attend the group's induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

He will be greatly missed.

Friday, May 4, 2012

The Union-Busting Doge of Venelazzo Backs Walker

Campaign finance reports show that, between January 18 and April 23 of this year, Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson gave Scott Walker's campaign a quarter of a million dollars.

Of course, that's chump change compared to the $20 million he threw away on the quixotic Newt Gingrich presidential campaign.

It's not surprising that Adelson would be attracted to Walker's politics.  He has long been an adversary of labor unions.  Unlike the Las Vegas strip casinos owned by Caesar's Entertainment and MGM Resorts International, the Venetian and Palazzo are non-union properties.  Adelson also likes doing business with the authoritarian, free-speech-hating governments of China and Singapore.  He's currently lobbying the Spanish government to give him big tax concessions and exceptions to labor laws in exchange for building a big casino-resort (that would mostly employ foreign guest-workers). In a country with a 23% unemployment rate, his economic development promises may be tempting, despite the fact that he will privatize all the profits and socialize all the risk.

No wonder he likes Scott Walker.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Quote of the Week

Little known fact, David's brother Charles Koch is actually even more influential.  Charles pledged $40 million to defeat President Obama, David only $20 million.  That's kind of cheap, Dave.

Sure, he's all for buying the elections, but when the bill for democracy comes up, Dave's always in the men's room.  I'm sorry, I must have left Wisconsin in my other coat.

I was particularly excited to meet David Koch earlier tonight because I have a Super PAC, Colbert Super PAC, and I am -- thank you, thank you -- and I am happy to announce Mr. Koch has pledged $5 million to my Super PAC.  And the great thing is, thanks to federal election law, there's no way for you to ever know whether that's a joke.

By the way, if David Koch likes his waiter tonight, he will be your next congressman.

      - an excerpt from Stephen Colbert's remarks at the Time 100 event (h/t The Mahablog)

Friday, April 20, 2012

Happy Ben Masel Day

For my out-of-town readers, Ben Masel was a well-known local Madison activist, known for his NORML advocacy, his primary challenges to establishment politicians, and his lawsuits defending civil liberties against illegal actions by law enforcement. He took part in the Capitol protests last year even while struggling with lung cancer. He passed away on April 30, 2011, and shortly afterward the Madison City Council passed a resolution naming April 20 (4/20) as Ben Masel Day.

I did not know Ben Masel personally, but I always had a great deal of respect for his calm demeanor and his willingness to put himself in harm's way to stand up for a cause.  I wrote his name in on ballots for local elections from time to time if I really didn't like any of the choices, because I knew it would not be a disaster even if a bunch of voters did likewise and Ben accidentally won.  He was a competent and responsible adult who used his skills to advance causes that are frequently associated with young hotheads (and potheads). He has been missed.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Indulging in Schadenfreude

Former Calumet County DA Ken Kratz has filed for bankruptcy.

For those who don't recall, he was the official who abused his office by preying on vulnerable women, aided and abetted by the Office of Lawyer Regulation, which decided that was not a sanctionable offense until the public outcry forced proceedings against him.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A Fitting Tribute

UW-Madison’s Center on Journalism Ethics has renamed its Wisconsin Commitment to Journalism Ethics Award the Anthony Shadid Award for Journalism Ethics. (h/t, Dane 101).  Shadid, you may recall, was the UW-alumnus (and former Daily Cardinal editor) who died a couple months ago while covering the uprising in Syria (he suffered a fatal asthma attack while trying to slip across the border into Turkey). Sadly, he was not the last journalist to lose his (or her) life covering events in Syria.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Exercise Your Right

There's an election today. The Republicans are doing their best to limit your ability to have a say, between enacting (the currently blocked) voter ID law and gerrymandering districts to make them uncompetitive. Make the effort anyway. Bring an ID along, if you have one (just in case the court rules today to lift the injunction).

Don't bother commenting about the voter ID law being needed to "stop voter fraud". Cases of voter identity fraud are extremely rare. Most illegal voting involves felons still on correctional supervision (using their own names) or individuals voting in the wrong district (using their own names and an old or phony address). The ones who do the latter often have ID tying them to the address they are claiming. I believe that voter fraud and voter suppression are equally wrong; both dilute the votes of legitimate voters. A law that stops two incidents of fraud while disenfranchising 100 legitimate voters is an affront to democracy.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Rest in Peace, Earl Scruggs

History's most famous banjo player passed away at the age of 88.  He was always a class act, and his contributions to one of America's homegrown musical genres cannot be overstated.

Friday, March 23, 2012

I want to pitch a reality show.

It's called Real Quarterbacks of New York.  Should I call Bravo or ESPN?  Or maybe CBS.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

More Questions About Those New Orleans Saints Bounty Payments

This Sports Illustrated article points out "The bounties violated the league's $120.3 million salary cap as extra off-the-books compensation."

Was that compensation taxable income?  If so, did the players report it to the IRS?  If not, will the IRS levy penalties more severe than the NFL?

Sunday, March 11, 2012

You Can't Have It Both Ways

If you really want to prevent abortions, you need to stop stigmatizing single mothers and restore funding to Planned Parenthood (which allocates far more resources to pre-natal care than to abortions).

Of course, if you care more about punishing women for having sex outside of marriage than you do about saving those unborn fetuses you pretend to be concerned about, then carry on with what you're doing, social conservatives.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Legalized Murder

Last weekend, an underage drinking party in Slinger was busted. When the police arrived, the guests fled. Twenty-year-old Bo Morrison apparently tried to evade the police by hiding on a neighbor's porch. The homeowner came out of the house and shot him to death. He was not charged, since he claimed that he mistook the young man for a (presumably housebreaking) intruder. Wisconsin's new "castle doctrine" allows deadly force to defend one's home (which evidently includes the porch).

Drunken wandering and trespassing is a nuisance and a crime. However, it is not a capital crime. Should homeowners be allowed to impose the death penalty without due process, when they are not really in danger?

I was appalled when I read this story, but I took some time to think about it. I told myself that I should not judge a man when I haven't worn his shoes.  Then I realized that I have been in his shoes.

Over the years, numerous drunks have wandered onto our lawn and left behind beer cans and/or articles of clothing.  On one frightening Friday night, someone tried to open our front door and, finding it locked, went around and tried the back door (also locked). My husband and I stood near the phone, weapons in hand, to see if our mystery visitor would try to force the door or break a window. He or she did not.  It could have been an opportunistic burglar or rapist (there have been several cases in Madison of such criminals who take advantage of unlocked doors). More likely, however, it was just a drunk who confused our house for another or thought it was a good idea to go on an inebriated parade of homes. We waited to find out if there was an actual threat before escalating the situation.

We are not anti-gunners. There are several firearms (and one concealed carry permit) under our roof. But we believe in being responsible gun owners.  That man in Slinger is a murderer, in my opinion, who took the opportunity to act out a Clint Eastwood fantasy. Given the demographics in Slinger, he probably considers himself a Christian, and he may even be a churchgoer.  I wonder if he feels any remorse for what he has done.  I wonder how safe his neighbors feel knowing this man will shoot first and ask questions later.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

This Is Appalling

The New Orleans Saints paid bounties to defensive players who sent opponents off the field with injuries.

I was happy for the Saints when they won the Superbowl. I was glad that New Orleans had something to celebrate after the years of disaster, tragedy and economic contraction. I rooted for the Saints in their playoff games this year (not only because I was rooting against the Lions and the 49ers).

No more. They have sunk to the level of the Patriots in my esteem, even lower than the Cowboys (whom I actually began to pity this past season).

I am not alone in that opinion:
The Saints will now rank alongside the Spygate Patriots and cocky Cowboys among the most despised teams in the NFL. This story will follow the Saints for years. It's not going to go away after the league hands down its punishment...Their punishment will be harsh. It will be extensive. And it will be just.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Farewell, Davey Jones

I can't remember the first time I watched The Monkees; I was so young, that those memories are vague. But I always enjoyed their music, and Davey Jones was my favorite back then. Although I later came to appreciate Mike Nesmith's art-rock sensibilities, I never lost affection for Davey Jones.  It helped that he saw himself as an entertainer and never displayed the bitterness and outsize ego of David Cassidy and some other pop stars of that era.  He was always willing to laugh at himself and let us enjoy him as a nostalgia act. He famously guest starred as himself on an episode of The Brady Bunch, and later riffed on that bit in The Brady Bunch Movie.  This is perhaps my favorite Davey Jones performance:

Monday, February 27, 2012

Headline Writers Love Santorum

Headline writers have been having a field day with Rick Santorum's new prominence in the Republican primaries. We all suspected that those "Santorum Surges" headlines were written with a wink and a nod to Dan Savage.

Well, this one, from a Birmingham, AL news site, takes the cake, I think: Poll: Santorum comes from behind in Alabama three-way. (h/t, The Mahablog).

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Off to Exercise My Power one of Dane County's elite judicial electors (bwah-ha-ha).  I scouted out my new polling place yesterday; Fitzgerald is going to have to work a lot harder to keep me from voting. Kudos to the City of Madison for sorting out the new wards and mailing postcards to voters in the nick of time.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

RIP, Anthony Shadid

I never had the honor of meeting him, although our years at UW-Madison overlapped a bit.  His time in Wisconsin stayed with him.  Here is a quote from an article he wrote about a year ago for the Journal Sentinel (h/t Packergeeks):

I've worked as a foreign correspondent for 15 years, and I feel like the Packers were there on every assignment, from Cairo to Islamabad. On my way back from Egypt, after landing at JFK in New York, I listened in disbelief to the radio in the taxi as Terrell Owens snagged the game-winning pass with three seconds left. Three. In a brutal winter in Kabul, I logged on to the slowest Internet connection in the history of the Afghan capital to see that we had lost to the St. Louis Rams, 45-17. Next to a wood-burning stove, still in my sleeping bag, I asked myself whether Favre really could have thrown six picks. Six.
I think he deserves a mention in the Packers Hall of Fame for his outstanding devotion to the team in the face of extreme challenges.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Donovan Slack Auditions for the Onion

Politico's Donovan Slack got his her (thanks for the correction, Tim) undies in a bundle over President Obama's appearance in Milwaukee yesterday. Looking for some red meat to feed the wingnuts, she reported that the stage featured not only a U.S. flag, but an equally prominent one for "the local union, Wisconsin 1848" (the unintentionally humorous article has been pulled from the site, but a screenshot can still be seen here). (h/t, Dane 101)

Yes, that is the Wisconsin state flag that Donovan Slack criticized.  She probably didn't recognize it without the palm trees in the background.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Message for Nicki Minaj

Alice Cooper called. He wants his stage act back.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Space: 2099?

Screenrant reports that a reboot of the old sci-fi series Space: 1999 is in the works. It remains to be seen whether it will enjoy the success of the new Battlestar Galactica or the disappointment of the recent version of V by the same creators.

I think they should do a bit of stunt casting and get Newt Gingrich to appear, at least in the pilot episode. I don't know what role he should play. He actually reminds me more of Sire Uri in the original Battlestar Galactica pilot than any character in Space: 1999.  But the recent Saturday Night Live sketch "Newt Gingrich: Moon President" was hilarious.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

I never thought I'd see the day

...when the Madison Urban League would support separate-but-equal schools.

I believe that Kaleem Caire is sincere in his desire to help close the achievement gap, and in his belief that Madison Prep is a worthy experiment.  However, in his zeal, I believe he has made a deal with the devil.  I think he sincerely believes that he is using them to advance his agenda, rather than being used to advance their agenda.  I believe his confidence is misplaced, however.

Milwaukee's school choice voucher pilot program was another such bold experiment that was supposed to help low-income students get into better schools.  Studies have shown that, on average, the kids who used vouchers to attend private schools did no better than the kids who stayed in public schools.  Despite the lack of demonstrable results, Republican politicians are now pushing to expand the voucher program, both geographically and across income levels.

The conservative school-privatization proponents who support school vouchers and the Madison Prep proposal do not care about closing the achievement gap.  Creating a special charter school to focus on at-risk youth is only their opening gambit. The end game is taxpayer-subsidized white flight and a segregated education system where private schools, enriched by public money, are allowed to pick and choose their students, leaving our most vulnerable children behind in under-resourced public school ghettos.

Re-segregating our schools in order to address the achievement gap is, in my opinion, like introducing an invasive species in order to control an agricultural pest.  It may be wildly successful, or it may cause even bigger problems down the road.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Political Ads During the Superbowl

Generally speaking, political ads do not air during the Superbowl.  However, Chrysler snuck one past the network.  It's halftime for the Obama administration, and Clint Eastwood reminds everyone to have hope, because Detroit (and by extension, America) is coming back. The ad has been pulled off many websites, "due to a copyright claim by NFL properties LLC" but you can still see it here.

There is even some (altered) footage of the Capitol protests in Madison last winter (you can see the difference between the original signs and Chrysler's genericized versions here).

If you watched the post-game presentation of awards, you may have seen another political ad here in Wisconsin. Apparently, someone named Hari Trivedi is running for Wisconsin governor as an independent (which will allow him to skip the primaries and get on the ballot in the general recall election). Although he will need to gather signatures to get on the ballot, he clearly has some money to put into his campaign. He appears to be a pro-business, social libertarian. He may be hoping to attract Republican voters who are fed up with Scott Walker but won't vote for a Democrat.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Lessons from Florida

Some observations from the results of yesterday's Florida primary:

  • Rednecks Prefer Gingrich - "Gingrich managed to win more than 30 rural and Panhandle counties, and finished slightly ahead, 39-36, among voters who considered themselves evangelical or born-again."
  • Negative Advertising Still Works - "The Campaign Media Analysis Group, which tracked ads in Florida, told CNN that 99 percent of the 3,276 ads run by Romney's campaign were negative, as were all of the 4,969 ads run by Restore Our Future, the super PAC backing Romney. Gingrich ran far fewer ads – 1,012 by his campaign, almost all negative, and 1,893 paid for by his super PAC, Winning our Future, CMAG said. Of those, only 53 percent were negative."
  • The Republican Party Is Over its Romance with the Tea Party - "Peter Lee of the East Side Tea Party of Orlando said the tea parties just could not support Romney, whom he said had not reached out to them. 'He's run his campaign as if he did not need us, and apparently he didn't,' Lee said."

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Scott Walker: Clueless, Incompetent Manager

An official statement from Scott Walker's campaign organization claims: “The Milwaukee County Executive's Office expressed policy was that county employees were not permitted to use county time or resources to conduct any political activity. Scott Walker expected everyone to follow the law and made that clear publicly and privately.”  (h/t, Capper)

I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and believe his claim. That means that several employees completely ignored their boss' clearly-expressed expectations and willfully violated his policies (and the law), while the boss remained blissfully ignorant.

It makes me wonder how well his current staff are following the laws and policies that are supposed to govern their conduct on the job. He seems to attract corrupt employees who take advantage of his easygoing, laissez-faire employment practices.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Gingrich Book Tour to Continue

Newt Gingrich's victory in the South Carolina primary means that he will continue his book tour (disguised as a presidential campaign) for at least another month.

Last year, most of his campaign staff resigned due to the candidate's refusal to actually attend campaign events (instead going on a cruise with his wife). He was unable to gather 10,000 valid signatures in the state of Virginia (where he resides) in order to get on that state's primary ballot, despite having paid canvassers to do so. In Wisconsin, half a dozen enthusiastic volunteers could get that many signatures in a single weekend. Clearly, this is not a serious campaign. However, it has helped Gingrich sell a lot of books, and it has ensured a few years of lucrative speaking fees, as well as a probable show on Fox News next year. That should pay his Tiffany's bills.

I wonder if Gingrich's major donors realize they are being suckered.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Batwoman Returns

Police broke up another parking lot fight overnight at the New Town Pub. Once again, there was a woman on the scene wielding a baseball bat. No word whether it was a pink, Barbie-themed bat.

Remembering Etta James

The great American vocalist, who straddled several genres, passed away at the age of 73.

Her voice was like hot chocolate with marshmallows on a cold winter night.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Equal Opportunity Violence on the West Side

Police were called to the New Town Pub overnight after a parking lot melee involving up to 20 women who had been bounced from the bar earlier. Once suspect was found in possession of two knives and a pink Barbie baseball bat.

Two victims received non-life-threatening stab wounds. Bats and sticks were also used, which seems to be a pattern among female bar hooligans in Madison.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

On the New Season of The Kiln Hillbillies

Outgoing Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour handed out pardons like candy at a parade, and Brett's brother Earnest was among the lucky recipients. He'd already served his time for killing his best friend by drunkenly driving into a train, but now he can go hunting again. That is, assuming he published his pardon request on time.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Sending a Message Without Lyrics

Back in the 1980s, there was a brief period when the UW administration decided it was inappropriate for the UW Marching Band to play "You've Said It All" (originally a country song, but far better known as a Budweiser jingle) at Badger games.

I attended a hockey game during that brief ban. During either pre-game or an intermission, the band played a brief concert. The announcer said something about how they would not be playing "You've Said It All" and instead would present the Oak Ridge Boys' classic "American Made."

The band launched into the tune, which was immediately recognizable to the crowd as the commercial jingle "Miller's Made the American Way." Everyone laughed and applauded, and the university lifted its stupid ban on You've Said It All, since Mike Leckrone made fools of them.

Much ado was made over the Pulaski High School Marching Band's performance at the Tournament of Roses Parade on Monday. The band played the old "Red Wing Polka," which happened to be the tune Woody Guthrie used for his song "Union Maid." Many assumed it was an intentional pro-union message. Everyone affiliated with the school denied it.

I do not believe the high school band members knew anything about the "Union Maid" connections. I do not know the band director's intentions, however. If "Red Wing Polka" was in the band's repertoire a year ago, then I believe the school's claim that they were just playing a polka. If the song was only introduced to the band after the protests began in February, then I wonder why they didn't pick a better-known polka. Though I suppose it's tough to find one that isn't directly associated with beer.