Happy New Years - To You and Yours

May your champagne be chilled and your evening cozy.

Mac has a timely set of posts rounding up the year that was.

Best wishes for 2006 from LIB!

The Onion - providing a scoop weeks in advance

Well, not exactly - but close:

Exhibit A: (via Althouse):

Saturday, December 31, 2005: "Bono: My campaigning upset U2"

Exhibit B:

Dec. 7, 2005: "Rest of U2 Perfectly Fine with Africans Starving".

I rest my case.


Beam Me Up: The Antics of Jim Traficant

GOP3, in a review of Democratic corruption, mentioned former wildcard Congressman Jim Traficant of Ohio.

In my mind, there has never been a more eccentric, whacked out, free-wheeling representative in our nation's legislature. His infamous innuendo-filled one-minute floor speechs on random topics seem like the work of some writer from Comedy Central.

I happened to sit across from Traficant once a few years back in the underground tram that links the House offices and the capitol during a vote. He reminded me vaguely of an odd cross between Johnny Cash and a silverback gorilla wearing threadbare 1970s clothes (see here).

Prior to - and during - his 2002 removal from the House of Representatives, Traficant let loose some of the most colorful and entertaining rhetoric to grace C-SPAN.

Some excerpts from his final speech:

"Have I changed my pants? No. Deep down my colleagues know they want to wear wider bottoms; they are just not secure enough to do it. I do wear skinny ties. Yeah, wide ties make me look heavier than I am and I am heavy enough. Do I do my hair with a weed whacker? I admit."

" No American should fear their government and this guy does not. I am ready to go. Expel me. It will make it easier for them to really jack me good."

"I am not going to shut up."

"Mr. Speaker, do I go last, since I am the subject of the demise?"

He also touched on a few of his perennial favorite topics, which reveal his bizarre, almost Pat Buchananesque position as a hyperbolic maverick in some strange backwater of the Democratic Party. His favorite targets to rail against? Janet Reno, the IRS, and China:

"I called Janet Reno a traitor and I believe in my heart that she is."

"I think that Red Army Chinese general giving money to the Democrat National Committee was an affront to our intelligence."

"I will be damned if someone is going to rape one of my constituents."

Here are some hilarious highlights of his classic floor speeches, which are even more entertaining than Question Time with Tony Blair and his massive book o' facts. Many include his trademark Star Trek exclamation, "Beam me up!":

" Art, Madam Speaker? My ascot. Let us tell it like it is. The truth is the art world has gone from Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel to Lorena Bobbit's pristine scalpel."

" I yield back the fact that there is no 5-day waiting period on Chinese nukes. Think about that."

"Enough is enough. America is going bankrupt at warp speed and Uncle Sam is buying the rocket fuel."

"...my workers, standing in unemployment lines, losing their homes, losing their jobs, and the White House is roaring like a titmouse over bananas. Beam me up, ladies and gentlemen."

"Beam me up. I yield back the fact that the Taliban are a fly on our face, but China is a dragon eating our assets. Think about that."

"I yield back those stumbling, fumbling, bumbling, nincompoops at the IRS."

" I yield back what should be the next endangered species in the United States of America: The Internal Rectal Service."

" China is going after Taiwan, North Korea is escalating tensions, and Janet Reno is doing Saturday Night Live. Beam me up here."

"Think about it. In America, you cannot pray in school, but now, the IRS can raid churches. Beam me up. America is going to hell in a hand basket. I yield back the Gestapo attitude that just keeps growing in our Federal Government."

" Unbelievable. What is next? Rectal Diaries? Men are dropping like flies in America from prostate cancer and Broadway is promoting vaginal titillation. Beam me up. I advise all New York men to sleep on their stomachs, and I yield back all the STDs on the East Coast." - on The Vagina Monologues

" Unbelievable. Kill the babies but save the trout and the tit mouse. Beam me up. In fact, beam me up, Scotty."

"The EPA should be handcuffed. Beam me up. I yield back all the flatulence in China paid for by the EPA."

"Unbelievable, Mr. Speaker. In the name of art and freedom of expression, these stumbling, bumbling, fumbling judges in New York have institutionalized perversion."

" Beam me up here. I say the nincompoop over at EPA who suggested this policy should go to a proctologist for a brain scan. Flush this."

" Unbelievable. It is so bad, if a dog urinates in a parking lot, the EPA declares it a wetland. Beam me up, Mr. Speaker. I yield back 2,800,000 words in our Tax Code."

" What is next? Are they going to ban the Hail Mary pass in football? Beam me up. A Nation that outlaws God, so help me God, is inviting the Devil."

" Beam me up. The White House will not wise up until there is a full-blown rice paddy on the east lawn of the White House. Somebody is smoking dope."

"...it is time for Congress to strap on the six-shooters and tell the President, `Make my override. Veto this.' Let us straighten those bums out. Beam me up."

"Beam me up. I say Chirac and France should shove their complaints up their assets, and we should stop funding and paying for the liberation of France."

" Beam me up. I say with this study the Pentagon has reached the apex of their condominium."

"Beam me up. If this is a success, then General Custer at Little Big Horn's victory must have been called a victory."

Traficant is currently in prison.

Right Under Our Noses

Chinese spies convicted right here in Manitowoc, Wisconsin.

Eat that, naysayers.


Like, cool, man

I am 27% Hippie.
Wanna Be Hippie!
I need to step away from the tie-dye. I smell too good to be a hippie and my dad is probably a cop. Being a hippie is not a fashion craze, man. It was a way of life, in the 60’s, man.


Should the DNR Do That?

I heard a commercial on WIXX radio this afternoon encouraging Wisconsinites to check off the endangered species donation box on their tax forms (its the one with the little loon icon).

The commercial featured relatives of Wisconsin naturalist Aldo Leopold explaining why it was important to particpate in the voluntary program. Saving endangered species seems like a worthwile cause.

At the end of the commercial, however, the announcer noted that the sponsors of the message included a foundation AND - my ears perked up after this - the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

Should the DNR be using taxpayer dollars to sponsor commercials encouraging folks to pay more on their taxes to fund programs it likes? I don't think so. Perhaps the funds are coming from the Endangered Resources Fund itself - but if so, the commercial should specify and not name the DNR proper.

It seems like a handy way to circumvent the whole point of the check-off program - it's voluntary. Public agencies shouldn't be pressuring people using money that could, ironically, be going to the programs funded by the check-off program.

The DNR also has a free poster that people can not only print out on their own, but also pick up at service centers that encourages check-off donations. Who paid for those?

Creative Seg. Fee Abuse Shot Down in Eau Claire

Good riddance.

Thankfully, the chancellor at UW-Eau Claire stopped the student government's attempt to hike student fees to augment professor pay.

As posted here earlier, such a scheme is ridiculous.

Finding Christianity in The White Stripes

This Christmas, I tore open the wrapping paper to find an album by The White Stripes in my hand. While I don't have as many qualms about gift giving as some, I did feel a need to look at the cd through a religious lens. Why?

Because Get Behind Me Satan, as the title itself demonstrates, is an album with a very Christian - even arguably Catholic - subtext.

Now, I know what you're thinking. Holy water and the Pope were not the first things that came to mind last time you heard the deep bass of Seven Nation Army on the radio. But bear with me.

First, the album title, Get Behind Me Satan, comes straight from the New Testament. The gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke all contain some version of the command, which Jesus utters to Peter, admonishing him.

Second, the album cover is heavy with religious imagery. As one observer points out:
"The cover: obvious religious references, Meg holding an apple like Eve, Jack holding something (is it supposed to be phallic?), with their backs to each other, fingers almost touching a la Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel, all under the ever-listening microphone (God? Fans?)."
Meg, as the equivalent of Eve, certainly seems to be holding what is supposed to be the forbidden fruit from the tree of knowledge found in the book of Genesis. What Jack, who then must be portrayed as Adam, is holding is hard to tell. Could it be the serpent itself? The rib used to make woman? The white cricket bat Jack had in an earlier cover? The white microphone hanging above them could well serve as a symbolization of God - omnipresent and omniscient.

The arrangment of the hands and fingers behind the backs is an obvious nod to Michaelangelo's famous portrayal of the creation of Adam. This raises further questions, potentially, about whether Meg or Jack is supposed to represent the Creator.

The album booklet yields further allegory. On one page, Jack is again portrayed with the white microphone overhead. But now, a statue of the Virgin Mary with a crucifix has replaced Eve. Is this some strange re-working of the Madonna and Child?

Finally, at the end of the booklet, among those thanked are God, truth, and three Catholic saints, including:

St. Theresa of the Little Flower
St. Rita of the Impossible
St. Sebastian of Endurance

All three are Saints one might ask for intercession during difficult times. Now, the list also includes Tenzing Norgay of Mount Everest fame and pog, so I'm not sure how seriously to take any of it.

The group's website, too, in its message section, features a quote some ways down from a Capuchin monk and the prayer to St. Michael the Archangel.

All in all, the album seemed unusually heavy on its Christian/Roman Catholic references.


Game plan

In the run-up to exams and Christmas, I missed this:
The House passed a one-month extension of the Patriot Act on Thursday and sent it to the Senate for final action as Congress scrambled to prevent expiration of anti-terror law enforcement provisions on Dec. 31...
Passage of a one-month extension would require lawmakers to debate the issue early in 2006, and is certain to require concessions to the Senate critics who are seeking greater privacy protections. [emphasis added]

This is a very clever move politically for the Dems. Kevin says
What this causes, in the short-term, is a scuttling of Senate Democratic plans to further weaken the bill. It also proves that of the two men, you fear angering Sensenbrenner much more than you fear angering Feingold.

Debating the PATRIOT Act in '06 moves the debate much closer to election season. That's a time when Democratic negativity about the bill can be spun much more effectively - and in a way that makes it difficult even for state politicians to avoid the issue. Republicans at all levels will have to be very on-message in order to uphold the Act, and that's something I haven't seen from the GOP a lot lately. For their sake, I hope they can do it.

Good news from another front

"It's getting better all the time" indeed: the port of New Orleans is already functioning at half capacity:
"It all came out as kind of a joke when someone told me, 'You won't have a ship in this port for six months,'" port chief Gary LaGrange recalled. "My response, with a lot of bravado, was we'll be back at 70 percent within six months."

So far, so good. The port, a major entry point for imported steel, natural rubber and coffee, received its first post-storm ship Sept. 12, two weeks after Katrina. Just over three months later, the port is running at about half capacity, LaGrange said in an interview.

And of course, this is largely without the help of the government, and being led by the evil capitalists. I'm sure Ayn Rand would be proud, and Comrade Lenin flummoxed. And as with any good capitalists system, jobs are abounding for those willing to work:
But many hurdles remain: finding enough truck drivers to haul and deliver containerized cargo, and enough longshoremen to handle bulk loads; getting cruise ships that handled 700,000 passengers annually back on schedule; and keeping finances in line with diminished business.

It's good to see that things are coming back on-line so quickly.


Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night

I hope everyone's Christmas has been lovely - I managed to escape the island to home, where the food is delicious and the beds cozy, for a very lovely celebration. Good gifts were given and gotten, and being back with the fam. was (is) great.

Before you all wander off to bed, full of whatever Christmas feast you've had, spare a thought for one of the most interesting historical moments in a war - the Christmas Truce of the first year of World War One:
Nobody knows where the Christmas Truce of 1914 began. Nor is it certain, even today, whether the truce began in one spot and spread, or broke out simultaneously in many places, the convergent evolution of numberless human hearts...
The mysterious beginnings are fortunate. For want of the name of the first person (probably German) who proposed fraternization, or the place where it occurred (probably somewhere in Flanders), the Christmas Truce has acquired the aura of a miracle. In lacking a hero or sacred site, it has kept a single emotion at its core -- the desire for peace of the most literal and personal kind.

May your Christmas be full of peace, happiness, and plenty!


Silent Night, Holy Night

"Stille, nacht, heilige nacht..." at St. Mary's Church in Marytown, Wisconsin.

Culvers in Plymouth, Wisconsin knows the reason for the season - and they're willing to say so.

Losing Latin America

Patriot Blog recently asked a legitimate question: Is Washington losing Latin America?

It certainly seems that way. U.S. influence in the region appears increasingly marginal. With the recent election of socialist coca famer Evo Morales in Bolivia, it seems as if an anti-U.S. axis is developing. The cast of characters is growing. Chavez in Venezuela. Castro in Cuba. Lula in Brazil. Overall, South America is drifting left.

What has precipitated this shift? One reason may lie in a greater economic independence from the United States. Increasing Chinese economic ties in the region give South American nations greater latitude in trade options - and more freedom to thumb their noses at the yanqui.
"China may be poised to become one of Latin America’s foreign economic engines, if its promises become realities...Trade between China and Latin America increased nearly sixfold between 1993 and 2003, and it has more than doubled in the past three years alone, to $26.8 billion in 2003."
CAFTA may serve to shore up connections with Central American nations, as argued by some representatives, including Congressman Sensenbrenner. South America, however, needs to be addressed. The United States has long maintained a unique position in the Western Hemisphere and it should continue to do so in the face of Chinese incursions. The Monroe Doctine, after all, emerged first and foremost to rebuff encroachment by Asian powers from the Pacific side, namely Russia, not European powers on the Atlantic seaboard.

As for Morales' recent victory, it looks like another sad step in Bolivia's tortured political history, most of which stems from Bolivia's loss of its seacoast in the War of the Pacific back in the 1870s and 1880s.


Cheney Likes Cash - Big Time

He's often linked to Darth Vader. But Vice President Cheney, according to his ipod selections, is more closely tied to a different man in black.

Donald Downs: First Amendment in Quotes

As promised, here are some quotes from Donald Downs, the High Priest of Free Speech himself:

"I tend to be romantic about it." - on the First Amendment

"It's like the First Amendment is a person."

"This mishmash makes sense."

"I love America."

"When I see a flag being burned, I'm offended."

"The T-Voization of America." - warning us against it

"Keep an open mind, but avoid open-mindlessness." - paraphrasing G.K. Chesterton

"I'm Catwoman. If I marry you, I can't be Catwoman anymore." - to great laughter, advising us to 'be what we are'

"To be a politician, you've got to be quasi-psychopathic."

"We must accept some prejudice - eliminating it can only be done through the authoritarian dogmatism of absolute justice." - on J. Rauch's statement "let a million prejudices bloom"

"In mammon we trust?"

"Isn't some taboo necessary?"

"I'm glad we took a bite of it." - on Adam and Eve eating the forbidden fruit

"The more rational religion, the less it lives in us."

"What about poetic truth? Great literature is probably the best window into human truth."

"You don't have a right to have your ideas accepted - some ideas are wrong."

"The mind needs emotion."

"It's a natural inclination." - on patriotism, ultimately to the Constitution

"Maybe we need a limited horizon, or, like Nietzsche's last man, in gaining comfort, we lose our nobility." - on the limits of Rauch's liberal science model

"Absolute freedom is the death camps."

"Maybe there's no way to be totally neutral?" - on church/state relations

"It was like a big grave." - on seeing the aftermath of the Sterling Hall bombing

"There's a pox on both houses - morale has never been lower...it's darker than it's ever been." - on the current relationship between the university and the capitol

"Freedom is not manna from heaven. Freedom needs to be defended." - on why he supports the military

"You can't have justice without competition."

Downs concluded the semester with a soaring, powerful lecture that drew on everything from Joan Baez to Scipio's advice on Carthage. Truly a great mind. And if this is brown-nosing, so be it.


Getting Ready for Christmas

St. Patrick's Church is beginning to look a lot like Christmas with a little help from the UW Knights!


UW Student Group, United Council Linked to Stepp Hecklers

Why are two groups funded by my UW student fees supporting the folks harassing Cathy Stepp?

First, some background. Fred over at RealDebate has been keeping tabs on the ongoing controversy over possible illegal activity by Voces de la Frontera, a chicano group dedicated to stopping AB-69, what they call a "racist bill", that would require legal citizenship to get a drivers license.

After intimidating her at her home, State Senator Cathy Stepp fought back and will support the common sense bill. And, as Jenna aptly notes, the federal REAL ID legislation gives the state no choice but to enact the bill. VDLF is also supposed to be a non-profit, and all this politicking/intimidating may run afoul.

Here's where my question comes in, though. Why are MEChA and United Council of UW Students, two organizations propped up by mandatory UW-Madison student fees, supporting Voces de la Frontera? Seg. fees are supposed to create a healthy forum of ideas on campus, not promote the intimidation of elected officials. On the group's site, UW-Madison MEChA is linked as "LINKS DE ORGANIZACIONES QUE APOYAN" on the VDLF website and UC is listed as "Representantes y organizaciones que apoyan." Basically, that translates to "supporting organizations."

MECha is a radical chicano group on college campuses nationwide. Here's the mission of the campus chapter here at UW-Madison (which gets tens of thousands of dollars per year in mandatory student fees), as outlined in the preamble of its constitution:
Chicano and Chicana students of Aztlán and allies must take it upon themselves the
responsibilities to promote Chicanismo and education within the community, politicizing our Raza, with an emphasis on Indigenous Consciousness to continue the struggle for the self determination of the Chicano people for the purpose of liberating Aztlán.
Politicizing our Raza? Liberating Aztlan? It translates roughly to returning Mexican lands conquered by the United States in the Mexican War of the 1840s to the rightful chicano inhabitants. Yeah, just a tad disconcerting. So are the many documents outlining the group's eerie philosophy:
"Cultural nationalism is a means of total Chicano liberation."
All of this makes one wonder what the underpinnings of VDLF are based on who's supporting them - and participating in some of their protests, the ones at the state capitol at the very least.

Here's the rather fishy looking goal of one of VDLF's statewide Issues Committees:
"Preventing Social Security Administration from Sharing SS No Match Letters With Employers"
Hmmm...Timmyscape, you had better investigate further make sure my student fees aren't being used to support illegal activity.

UPDATE: Texas Hold'em Blogger has a bunch of good posts dissecting who VDLF is and what they're all about.


"A Duel Will Settle This," or, Strategery backfiring

Much has been made lately about the recent attempt to tap phone conversations involving international calls to the US. Most of the coverage, though, has focused on the legality of the issue - questions of whether it conforms to FISA, is Constitutional, etc. What I think is more interesting is the strategy backfire that this reveals, and the implications.

President Bush, while doing a number of things I've quite liked over the years, has not been a very in-control president. In fact, he's really let Congress, and especially Repubican leaders in Congress, get completely off of his message. In his first term, Bush was fighting for No Child Left Behind, tax cuts, and, later, the Iraq War. But beyond these relatively few fights, he pretty much left Congress to its own devices. When they went on rants that had nothing to do with his agenda, he let it go. So long as he could corral support for the things he wanted, he didn't seem to care much what the rest of his party was up to.

Congress learned from this. They learned that they really didn't need the President. Their power wasn't closely tied to fighting for the President's agenda - the agendas of Congress and of the President only intersected at certain points.

Bush's agenda has been consistently secular - look at the issues he's actually pushed for and it should be obvious to all but the most ideologically blinded. The Congress, on the other hand, has been pursuing a decidedly less secular course, lacing their rhetoric with conservative Christian ideology. Which, as far as it goes, is their right. My point is, it's hurt Bush, and reveals a significant lack of leadership.

Now, with the wiretaps, he's hit an issue that Congress doesn't really like. And this is where Bush's lack of leadership is coming back to hurt him. Frankly, there were a lot of good reasons to leave the wiretap issue alone - it's damn easy enough to get a wiretap legally, anyway. But had Bush been more in touch with his own Congress, he would have had a better sense of where people were on this.

*A Duel Will Settle This, and other Mates of State lyrics, here.

First Amendment Discussion: In Quotes

Now that I've survived this afternoon's Political Science 470 exam, I think it's appropriate to look back on the raucous First Amendment discussion section run by fast-talking, straight-up libertarian TA, Rajen Subramanian. Here are the best of his quotes from this semester:

"I support the hegemon. Starbucks is good."

"Drink lots of coffee, drink lots of alcohol, and disagree." - on how to live a good life

"There are grad students in this program who want to form communist republics."

"Heck yeah, it's going to re-trench." - on whether the welfare state will re-trench

"Bob's mom is a whore." - in an example of offensive speech

"They need to stop having dumba--es run that thing." - on ASM

"I've been to bumblef---, Ohio where there are more Confederate flags than American flags." - on his visit to the American South as an Indian

"Brad writes for a crazy conservative newspaper."

On the whole, room 215 Ingraham proved a very entertaining and enlightening place to be every Wednesday morning. Next up in the semester in quotes: the high priest himself, Donald Downs.

St. Vince, Pray For Us

It's one sad day in Titletown.

I hope Favre comes back to the Packers for at least one more season - he deserves a better departing note than this year's rolling debacle.


Rockin' the Greenbush

It's time to take stock. The neighborhood's oldest blog reached the elderly age of one today.

What neighborhood, you ask? The Greenbush. Bounded by Regent Street, Park Street, Randall, and Vilas, the historic Greenbush neighborhood in South Madison is known for its Italian roots. Today, except for Greenbush Bakery, Greenbush Bar, Greenbush Properties, and Fraboni's, that aura has largely faded. A sculpture and a historic marker recall the greatness that once was.

But a new identity is emerging. The UW wants what one Madison librarian recently called "the student ghetto" to be professional, owner-occupied housing. But that's not what we're about here. The Greenbush, besides playing in Klief Park, tailgating before home games, and using St. James Church to find your way home, is all about blogging.

The small geographical area in Madison is home to quite a heavy concentration of blogging firepower. The little constellation of online talent includes, but is not limited to: Opiate of the Masses, Letters in Bottles, The Madison Freedom Fighter, Inelegant Observations, Addictive Substance, and even Rant of the Crazed Indian. And Timmyscape is just a block away.

Time to take over the Greenbush Neighborhood Association by blog? There's free wireless at Rocky's...

Your Take on Tailgunner Joe?

Daily Perspective defends Wisconsin's own Senator Joseph McCarthy in a recent post.

Besides a contemporary defense by William F. Buckley, other figures, like Ann Coulter in Treason, have also begun to re-cast McCarthy's actions as inept, but necessary.

One especially problematic aspect of our national abhorrence of McCarthyism is its ability to paralyze us against future parasitic threats against our country. People see McCarthy's crusade against Communists as the boy crying wolf - any modern assertions in politics that come close to resembling his campaign are quickly quashed, regardless of their merit.

But what about when the wolf is actually among the flock? Concerns about pervasive Chinese spying in Western nations - which numerous CCP defectors elaborate on - as well as Al Queda cells, fall in this category. The mere mention of the possibility of internal enemies immediately slams shut any debate on the topic - the spectre of McCarthyism rises up and spooks off necessary discussion and attention.

McCarthy was no angel, that's for sure. Wearing disdain for his excessive tactics as blinders in the public square isn't going to help us out in the long run, though.


*Photo: Wisconsin State Historical Society (linked)

Higher Ed & Religion - More Tension

The University of Wisconsin is not the only ivory tower sparring with religion.

An article in the Economist outlines the fight in the University of California over religious notions in the academy, namely "viewpoint discrimination" against religious ideas. Unfortunately, conservative Christian organizations feel they must resort to using the proven "progressive" victim mentality tactic to entrench themselves in public universities:
After all, before the liberal era of the 1960s, there were no such things as courses in “Women's Studies” or “African-American Studies”. Now, no prudent American university would be without them. It would be odd if conservative Christians did not leave similar footprints on the syllabus.
Jonathan Rauch brings up this same trend in his book Kindly Inquisitors:
"Intellectual authoritarianism, although once the province of the religious and the political right in America, is now flourishing among the secular and political left."
Now, the religious and political right are stooping too often to the same level as the progressive far left did when it forced speech codes onto campuses in the 1980s and 1990s. Problem is, hostile campus environments don't leave many other options for Christian groups. Ideally, public universities would call a truce in their battle with religion - all while axing their bogus lefty departments. We can do better than resorting to victimhood.


America's First Terrorist Threat

The War on Terror as The Barbary War all over again - some good historical food for thought.

Interesting arrival

Well, here's something interesting - the "nation's first libertarian student newspaper," run by students at Penn State. It's pretty heavy on editorial content, which isn't necessarily a criticism, except that this runs into their "hard news" a little bit. But it's their first issue - we'll give 'em a chance.

(via Dean)


The Ice Carving Cometh

Ice carving has been moved up by a week this year!
"Kiel Area Association of Commerce officials have announced that the annual Kiel Ice Sculpture contest will be moved one weekend earlier than its traditional February slot this winter. The official date for the upcoming Ice Sculpture contest will be Saturday, January 28."
This is good - otherwise I would've had to miss for the first time in years. And there are more awards to win. I wonder what we'll carve this year from the 400 pound block? In years past, things that have emerged from the ice include, but are not limited to, a hammer, Easter Island statue, oak leaf, sword in the stone, anchor and seagull, old Raider mascot, and a wishing well.

Any ideas? If you want to grab a chisel and join in next month, see the details here.

The Meaning of Coconut Grove

It's a nice place, really. The trees swaying gently in the breeze... The sound of the surf rolling ashore nearby...

And there are lots of interesting blogs lounging in hammocks there, too. Yours might be one of them. Worry not.

Here on the Island, we needed a place like The Coconut Grove. It's sort of the potpourri section. Almost everyone located there was not previously linked on our blogroll. They also did not square with Ships on the Horizon, as they were all in-state. They weren't philosophically aligned with or had a different focus than the Restless Natives. Some were completely anonymous. Some are satirical only. Some come from the honorable opposition. Some post very infrequently. They weren't from Marquette, either. All in all, The Coconut Grove is a grab-bag of interesting reads. It's an enigma. It's not a diss - unless you think it is.

But some folks in the Grove should be Fellow Islanders, you say? Again, worry not. The weekend's revamp isn't over yet. As you may have noticed, we added a few more blogs today, including Rob in Madtown (football focus) and Spotted Horse (check out the photos).

Student Court: UW Administration, Fee Process Biased Against Religion

It's official. In the latest round of legal wrangling over funding the UW Roman Catholic Foundation, the Student Judiciary found evidence of anti-religious bias by the SSFC, the committee charged with doling out student fees:
"In terms of the SSFC’s cuts to Petitioner’s budget, it is clear that the SSFC’s cuts were based on the religious nature of the booklets and bulletins. The SSFC cannot cut a line item merely because the line item is religious in nature; this would be clear content and viewpoint discrimination. From the record it appears that the only motivation behind the cuts was that they were likened to religious activities."
SJ got the first point right: anti-religious bias was present in the budget hearing. This raises an overall question about the ability of SSFC to be viewpoint neutral in funding matters at all. This case marks the third violation this semester by at least some members of the committee.

The court also addresses a second key point correctly: the University Administration, in sending a "suspicious" memo to the SSFC shortly before the UWRCF hearing, was trying to stop funding for a religious organization by expressing qualms it did not have with any other group:
"the memo has created a shifting standard, a standard which was heightened and only applied to Petitioner"
The court rightly questions
"the timing of the memo from the University administration. SSFC concedes that while the memo was written in 2004, the SSFC members this year did not actually receive the memo until about one week prior to Petitioner’s budget consideration. This timing is problematic because it seriously undermines the intent of the memo: if the memo was intended to inform SSFC members about segregated fee policy, then it should have been sent out at the beginning of the funding cycle. The memo’s release so close to the end of the budget cycle and so close to Petitioner’s budget is immediately suspect."
So, overall, the case makes some good points. It points out the near impossiblity of viewpoint neutrality in the current fee system and chastizes the administration for clear hostility to religion. There is one unfortunate aspect of the case, however.

The court all but ruled out the use of fiscal responsibility in making funding decisions, effectively granting groups an entitlement to student fees, putting the burden on SSFC members to prove groups don't need hundreds of thousands of dollars:
"Merely invoking fiscal responsibility is not enough to justify a cut or increase; instead, the invocation must be justified through further analysis of why the cut or increase does not correlate with the requested amount. Increasing Petitioner's coordinator positions may not be fiscally responsible because it does not correlate with an increase in programming or services, but cutting the positions without adequate justification beyond the invocation of "fiscal responsibility" is insufficient."
This last portion of the case is dangerous precedent; it essentially says that representatives can't look out for the overall burden placed on student pocketbooks. It also conflicts with a recent SJ case that found fiscal responsibility to be just fine, actually exonerating one representative for acting in a fiscally responsible manner.

* Disclaimer: I currently serve on the Board of the UW Roman Catholic Foundation.

O'er the Land of the Freezing

50 Gallons of Liquor, 70 Cases of Beer

Were you one of the 1,000 people on the list?

Sigma Alpha Epsilon, a fraternity on campus, got slammed for running an illegal tavern at its house on Halloween. Members now face a total of $94,000 in fines. 600 people were in the house when the fire inspectors arrived. Legal capacity? 99 people.

Questions about selective enforcement do start to present themselves given the general atmosphere on Halloween here...

Any thoughts, BadgerZach?


A Bit of Restructuring

You'll notice we're in the middle of some renovations here at LIB. Our blogroll is hopefully on the way to becoming more coherent, usable, and reflective of the parties that interact with this blog.

We've added some new links, too: Inelegant Observations and Patriot Blog here on campus. Homeland Security over at Marquette. BadgerZach provides a no-holds-barred look inside ASM. Even the honorable opposition over at Badger Blues gets a link. Oh yeah - and Jessica McBride.

The updating continues, so let us know if there are any obvious omissions.


The Proxmire Connection

With the passing of Senator Bill Proxmire, it seems everyone is coming out of the woodwork with personal anecdotes about their connections to the man.

While I never had the pleasure of shaking his hand, Proxmire did influence my life in an interesting way.

In 2001, I had the opportunity to serve as one of Wisconsin's Boys Nation Senators in Washington, a national extension of the popular American Legion Boys State program. Many know Boys Nation as the reason for Bill Clinton's famous hand shake with JFK. Anyway, while in D.C., I visited the office of Congressman Tom Petri, my home representative. To my surprise, Petri invited me to lunch on the spur of the moment.

I found out that it was tradition. According to Petri, who had attended Boys Nation himself back in the 1950s, Proxmire had taken him out to lunch during his visit to the nation's capital. So thanks, Senator Proxmire. As Petri quipped at the time, "I guess maybe there is such a thing as a free lunch."

My prayers go out to the family. Scott Walker mentions his Boys Nation experience today in his condolences on the occasion of Proxmire's passing. Daniel over at GOP3 is also an alum of the program.

The Best of Philosophy 211 - In Quotes

Here are a few quotes from the fall semester, culled from the lectures of Professor Rauti in Philosophy:

"I'm being a little verbose - just because I want to be clear."

"If Hitler had invaded Switzerland, he would've won the war." - in a fictional example

"Let's pretend A is true for a moment."

"The Pope is younger than Tony Blair." - in another fictional example

"If someone detests Bill, everyone does."

Summaries from more exciting classes over the weekend.

Purple Fingers: Reflections from a Soldier

Kurt over at Lakeshore Laments reports in from Iraq and provides a few thoughts after experiencing election day as a U.S. soldier on the ground:
"The local time here in Iraq is currently 11 pm. I’m thankful to say that the elections for the future of Iraq are over. As some of you remember; on October 15th we lost 6 U.S. military personal that day. 6 families in America will always remember the day the Iraqis voted yes or no for their constitution. If any US military were killed today it would be wrong for me to say that before any notification of the next of KIN."


Do I Smell A Rat?

Hey, it's exam time. Give me a break. Just be happy you're even getting pictures.


Very interesting. Maybe Planet Madison isn't so crazy after all.


In passing

While doing a research paper, I came across this:
The chief economists in [the Chilean governments of Frei and Allende] took their cues largely from the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and viewed with disdain the private enterprise orientation of the Chicago M.A.s and Ph.D.s.

The military junta that ran Chile after the 1973 coup was brutal and repressive, without question. But there may be a reason that Chile is one of the few true successful transitions to democracy in the South American world. I'll have more thoughts about Latin American transitions, and transitions in general, after exam season.

Student Court Chills Free Speech

This travesty - in which Not Quite Right was kicked off the student fee board - shows exactly why "viewpoint neutrality" is detrimental to free speech. Members' rights to speak on behalf of constituents are compromised, as are their rights to speak freely outside committee. Luckily, another rep. was found not guilty and deemed "fiscally responsible" by the court.

The judge who wrote the opinion based his opinion on quotes from her blog and hearsay e-mails in which other committee members berated the recently removed committee member. More later.

My Favorite Place to Study for Exams

The Paul Bunyan Room at the Union...yours?


Why smokers are cooler than you

Check out the Semiotics of Smoking (via). I especially like the lesson to be learned by the Decadent Schoolboy.

Personally, I'm a pipe smoker, so I'm better than any common cigarette-smoker.


This is great. "I'm half-dumb!" If I were an editor of a newspaper, I'd run it as an editorial cartoon. But I'm not. Anymore. Brad, I'm looking at you...

Tempest in a teapot

Did you know that, every day, I "publicly label [Madisonians] lunatics"? Yes, as anyone who talks to me knows, that's true. But you don't even have to talk to me - all you have to know is the joke that this blog riffs off of! All you have to do is read this Rob Rossmeissl opinion piece in the Badger Herald. Let's take a look:
Is it possible to make people believe you take them seriously after you publicly label them lunatics?

Well, I dunno. Would most liberal Madisonians take Green seriously anyway?
...Last week, in a campaign speech, Mr. Green branded the city of Madison “Planet Madison,”

Actually, it really can hardly be called a "campaign speech". He was talking to a bunch of College Republicans a year before the election. Yeah, in our hyper-political world, this is campaign season, but only in the most literal term of the word. Give the guy a break.
making evident his personal feelings about Wisconsin’s capital.

Le Gasp! His personal feelings? How dare he! He's a politician, not a human being!
...Unfortunately, the true burden of this debacle, while currently being carried by Mr. Green, would be transferred to the residents of Madison were he to be elected.

A silly quote designed as nothing more or less than a stupid chuckle - a joke everyone outside of Madison makes, as well as all the consevatives who live in the city - is now a debacle. Well, kinda downgrades the seriousness of the Iraq war for the liberals, eh? And now all the residents of Madison must face the consequences! No, it wasn't the "X [X being a generally city-sized area] square miles of land surrounded by reality" jokes. It wasn't the weird liberal politics or the student antics. It wasn't even the title of this humble blog. It was the debacle created by Herr Doktor Nogood himself - one Mister Mark Green!
Nobody living in the state’s capital could feel adequately represented in state government given the denunciation by the governor.

I don't feel represented by the current Governor. Nor the Mayor, for that matter. Nor my alderperson. You'd think Rossmeisl would at least buy me a beer to console me. But no - not so much as a call to say "I'm sorry". Not even one of those cute I'm-holding-a-sign-that-says-I'm-sorry pictures! Until Rossmeisl buys me a beer, I won't be happy.

Y'know, I was going to fisk the whole thing, but it really doesn't say anything new after that. So he could have really saved the column inches by simply saying, "Old joke repeated for the millionth time - columnist has no sense of humor. (Of course, neither does the mayor, but that's another thing altogether, I guess.)

Update: I've e-mailed Rob, letting him know my conditions. I'll keep you posted on how things turn out.

Update II: I got an e-mail from Rob. He asked that I not publish it, so I won't, although I wish I could have - he made some interesting points that certainly bear further discussion. Even offered me a beer. I was quite prepared to forgive him - except for one thing. He called me Chris. Wha? Rob: make it two beers and calling me by my right name.


Badgers Beat "The Gold"

I had to pinch hit this weekend for the Sports section at The Mendota Beacon. Here's my report on the Badger win over Marquette.

Thanks to Brandon from GOP3, who helped out down on the floor, for the photo.

"Thanks for Letting Us Use Your Holiday"

The Uncredible Hallq, in a post on the "Holiday Tree" points out toward the very end what I take to be the extraordinary tolerance of Christians.

What's at the root of this war over holidays, religion, and the role of government?

Christmas? Gasp! It's About Christ!

The Problem With Student "Services"

Timmyscape has a post on ASM becoming more conservative; it's true to the extent possible.

However, I think my cartoon speaks the proverbial thousand words.

Beyond Financial Aid

The State Journal is wringing its hands about financial aid today. They're not thinking outside of the box, though, about how to improve access to education.

Federal funding of financial aid may provide an incentive for state universities to raise tuition.

The current system needs to be shaken up. The average student now leaves college with $17,500 worth of loan debt. Here at UW-Madison, over $100 million worth of loans are in place based on government subsidies to lenders. Why don't we ever look at financial aid from the state as an intrusion of government, as we would with any other federal government subsidy or program? A return to the basics puts the current setup into perspective.

First, the federal government should not be involved in funding education, except in a few instances where it must provide incentives to meet national security goals.

Second, government should not be subsidizing loans through private lending establishments, and it certainly should not be giving out direct grants that do not require repayment.

The current system tramples on many cornerstones of the conservative ethic: the government is redistributing wealth, merit is not the basis of the aid, individual states are not in control of education policy, and personal responsibility is weakened, as individual students need not work to fund their education and thereby take ownership of the process.

How about this: the federal government - instead of spending $110 billion propping up financial aid programs and the bureaucracies required to run them - initially puts all of the funds and overhead toward outright reduction of the cost of tuition across the board at state universities.

Long term, this new paradigm would be sustained by massively increasing tax deductions to cover any contributions to a person's college education costs. The elimination of financial aid programs at the federal level would eliminate the need for the tax revenue ultimately lost through the deductions. And state universities would gain the funds lost in elimination of financial aid through the increased personal contributions to students' educations.

Basically, the new arrangement would eliminate the middle man, federal government, to the benefit of all parties involved. Food for thought.

More good details on a move beyond financial aid over at Freedom Fighter.

Fruit of the Vine

Something The Moral Majority might be interested in?

What Not Playing Video Games Will Do For You


New Blogger in the Neighborhood

Care for some Inelegant Observations about life in Madison?

This new blog promises musings on monkeys, sports, booze, and fireworks. Hopefully these don't all show up in the same post. He has already raised questions about the propriety of shaking hands with the homeless and dished out some Humian philosophy. He, you say? Yes, I think it's safe to say, despite the anonymous format:
"Now, as I was leaving, the guy that was sitting at this chick’s table..."
His links show an interest in Shakespeare, Coltrane, and the Brew Crew.

Give it a once over - and tell him your friends over at LIB sent you.


Yeah, Shut Up

I think the North Dakotans are on to something.

If You Were a Talking Doll, What Would You Say?

If you pulled the string, here are the phrases you might get from me:

"Seg. fees are the devil."

"Where's Dave?"

"Let's burn that bridge when we get to it."

"If there's no absolute truth, then what are sifting and winnowing toward?"

"Hail, Mary, full of grace..."

"Well, what does Hugh Manatee have to say this week?"

I would probably whistle Led Zeppelin, Bach, Johnny Cash, and John Philip Sousa songs, too.


Baby, It's Cold Outside


Go Ahead, Feingold, Filibuster Away

If Senator Russ Feingold filibusters the congressional compromise on the Patriot Act, as he threatens to, he will no doubt share the fate of the last Wisconsinite to run for the top spot.

Yes, he may well pull a LaFollette in any run for the presidency in '08; his "progressive" pedigree will play well with Deaniacs, but few others.

Sure, Wisconsinites love a quirky, maverick senator. When it comes to commander in chief, however, loyalties change. Sure, a few Republicans crossed over to vote for Feingold in 2004, but they also voted for Bush when it came down to it. And the bulk of the state GOP is still miffed about not putting Cheddarland in the Red for W.

Go ahead, Feingold, filibuster away. Read a Middleton phone book for all I care. Just know that it makes you look increasingly unelectable, regardless of how disturbingly excited some people are about the prospect of obstruction.

Who Won the Cold War?

Reagan or John Paul II?

Stephen Colbert asked Peggy Noonan this question tonight on The Repor. He suggested that it might have been JPII's "karate chop action" that took down the Berlin Wall. Noonan then suggested that Thatcher be thrown into the mix.

I think it's safe to say all three figures stuck it to the U.S.S.R.

Prof Baugh Talks Blogs

Professor Baughman, chair of the UW Journalism School, is featured today in the Wisconsin State Journal. "Prof Baugh," as he is called, runs one heck of an entertaining lecture in his history of mass media course this semester.

Not only do we learn about the muckrakers and the rise of ojbectivity, but also about his cat, Karla, the drinking habits of President Andrew Johnson,the mascots of obscure schools across the country, and how Mrs. Baughman pronounces "offended."

Here's what he had to say about blogs:
Blogs are an interesting phenomenon to look at, but I don't think to date that they're as compelling as some people think. There's an insider quality to blogs - people who look at blogs tend to be political junkies or more cultural junkies. . . .
I agree that blog viewers tend to be political junkies, but I think it still gives blogs a unique role in shaping public opinion. If opinion leaders are tapped into the blogosphere, the vast bulk of the population doesn't necessarily need to tap into it to be influenced.

Right on, Benedict

Amen - a virtuous life is certainly anything but boring.

I know some might disagree...


The assault on Humanities

Humanities is one of my favorite buildings on campus, in large part because it looks like a bunker. (Incidentally, it's a very fun place to play lazer tag.) Well, someone has finally taken the Humanities-as-fortress idea to its logical conclusion: a full-blown military assault on the place.

Here come the soldiers over the wall! (Maybe they used the mopeds as assault vehicles - it happens enough on campus, anyway.)

Charging across the frozen ground.

Leading the charge.

There was also this mural nearby, created by Josh Newland. Neat!

The Real Problem in Sudan: China

Many here at the UW, especially on the left, are concerned about the genocide in Darfur, Sudan.

In fact, I know a few reasonable folks involved in Action in Sudan!, the group devoted to shedding increased public scrutiny on the atrocities committed by the Janjaweed rebels tied to the Sudanese government.

While some folks are concerned about American government pension plans that invest in companies that ostensibly support the Sudanese government, I see a larger problem than mere investment in Chinese companies traded on the U.S. market.

China supplies arms to the government of Sudan
. In fact, it is the chief facilitator of the genocide:
China is Sudan's largest supplier of arms, according to a former Sudan government minister. Chinese-made tanks, fighter planes, bombers, helicopters, machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades have intensified Sudan's two-decade-old north-south civil war.
Any funds garnered from U.S. traded stocks etc. are useless unless coupled with actual weapons to supply the rebels. China makes the fighting capacity of the repressive forces a reality.

China has also been the most notorious roadblock to any UN action to redress the problem, not that I have great confidence in that body's ability to handle the situation.

Rights activists need to pin the tail on the dragon, where it belongs.


Reading the Tea Leaves

As The Mendota Beacon and Daily Cardinal announced today, Adam Korn will be taking on Ashok Kumar for the District 5 County Board Seat here in Madison. The district is almost entirely student in makeup. As the Beacon alone pointed out, David Lapidus is also running.

But some photos of Korn on the front page of today's Daily Cardinal raise a few questions.

One shot from what appears to be a photo shoot shows Korn with his sleaves rolled up and laying in some crisp, fall leaves on the ground. The picture was obviously taken weeks ago - certainly not after the Cardinal made initial mention of Korn in yesterday's opinion section.

The second shot also seems out of place. The candidate appears with bare arms crossed, Lake Mendota open, no snow on the ground, and green leaves on trees in the background.

Both photos were taken by a staff photographer for the newspaper. But if the front page story on Korn's candidacy was first run today, on December 6, why did the paper do a candidate photo shoot back in what appears to be October - or early November at the latest?

Just how intertwined is the Cardinal in Korn's candidacy?

The Mendota Beacon - Latest Edition

It's not happy holidays, it's Christmas time!

Steve S on the contraception ban bill.

Raising your own student taxes? That's just stupid.

The case for nuclear power.

Some new contenders to take on Poo Kumar.

Happy St. Nick

Did you hang up your stocking?


Farewell Mendota Beacon - Out Tomorrow

The final edition of The Mendota Beacon for this semester hits campus racks tomorrow. Be sure to pick one up or check out the site when it's updated after 7:00 a.m.

For those of you who haven't heard already, it will also be my final edition with the paper. In January, I will begin serving on the editorial board of The Badger Herald.

I depart from the Beacon only because I know I leave the publication - in which I have invested a great deal of blood, sweat, and tears - in good hands with new leaders. Additionally, I would not be leaving except that the move advances the overarching goal that sparked the Beacon, namely providing a more conservative opinion voice on campus.

Somebody Get Donald Downs

Marquette Warrior takes an in-depth look at a Marquette student suspended for rather nebulous criticism of faculty and students posted on his blog. The university's response looks pretty sketchy in light of the thorough documentation marshaled by Professor McAdams:
"When the student had the temerity to ask for the hearing he had every right to, they ignored the expert testimony of their own ethicist, refused to hear the testimony of a faculty member who could discuss the prevailing norms of student blogging, and came down on the student like a ton of bricks."
I know it's a private institution, but First Amendment, anyone? Common sense at least?

GOP3 has the contact information for the dean if you'd like to tell him how foolish this overreaction looks to the outside world.


Governor Doyle's "Experts" on Malpractice Caps

Governor Doyle's decision to veto the latest version of medical malpractice caps was most likely a bone thrown to trial lawyers and yet another chance to stick it to the state GOP.

But the Guv tried to put a veneer of sound reasoning on his decision, citing an enquiry to a few UW Law professors. Is it possible that they might be a bit biased against the Republican, no, common sense position that medical malpractice caps are a desirable policy for Wisconsin?

One of the three served as Senior Staff Attorney for the southern California ACLU for a few years.

Also interesting is the fact that LIB's own Steve S wrote a story for The Badger Herald back in 2001 that covered a left-leaning forum where two of the consulted professors served as panelists.


The Internet is so cute...

...when it's tucked into bed and sleeping soundly. Aww.


Madison Morning

Wisconsin State Journal Gets It Right

Amen - the seg. fee hike by the Student Senate at UW-Eau Claire "deserves rejection."

Perhaps the ed. board read our earlier post denouncing the ill-advised move?

Viewpoint Neutrality? About that...

Charles Parsons at The Badger Herald has a heady piece on free speech and the end of the Bible study ban at UW-Eau Claire. Grab a frappuccino or some hot apple cider and wade through this column at some point this weekend - it's worth it.

He makes some interesting points about the academy's current obsession, viewpoint neutrality:
"At heart is a profound misunderstanding of viewpoint-neutrality by the UW System as a whole. UW chancellors, administrators and student governments have almost uniformly chosen the narrowest possible definition, a definition that stifles speech and chills expression throughout this fine institution. In their minds, viewpoint-neutrality creates a vanilla landscape where viewpoints are simply not expressed. A belief or ideal is acceptable only if it doesn’t come in contact with another.

But the Supreme Court never intended Southworth to be a noose around the neck of expression. Instead, when properly interpreted, the landmark ruling ensures that all ideologies are given a level playing field by mandating that organizations and individuals are judged independently of their ideology."
But Southworth has always been a noose around the neck of expression in application. It looks great on paper, hence the unanimous Supreme Court ruling in the case. As it has manifested itself on campuses, however, the so-called "viewpoint neutrality" doctrine has always proven itself, blatantly or otherwise, "a definition that stilfes speech and chills expression throughout this fine institution."

An oversight concept that raises itself up as the supreme objective end-all be-all will always impose its own nuanced biases. Those who utilitze viewpoint neutality in decision-making processes ultimately have to say what is neutral. Here in Madison, at least, certain "progressive" concepts, like social justice and mandatory acceptance of alternative lifestyles are deemed part of the overrarching framework instead of viewpoints themselves. House fellows must promote diversity, even though it is essentially the religion of multiculturalism.

Somehow, campus administrations never raised a stink about that. Instead, they encouraged it for the sake of political correctness. Viewpoint neutrality is a great concept. It is a disaster, however, when used as a governing and decision-making framework.

Viewpoint neutrality as applied is a sham; it functions as an undeserved shield for some ideas and a dangerous sword in the hands of illiberal individuals.


Those Dastardly Squirrels

All the more reason to use caution when hiking up Bascom Hill - don't straggle behind the pack, or they might get you!

Update: link fixed

Debunking the Myth of the "Underprivileged Soldier"

An eye-opening piece from the Heritage Foundation should have student groups like "Stop The War" eating its words/chants/rants.

Some excerpted facts:

+ According to a comprehensive study of all enlistees for the years 1998-99 and 2003 that The Heritage Foundation just released, the typical recruit in the all-volunteer force is wealthier, more educated and more rural than the average 18- to 24-year-old citizen is. Indeed, for every two recruits coming from the poorest neighborhoods, there are three recruits coming from the richest neighborhoods.

+ 98% joined with high-school diplomas or better. By comparison, 75% of the general population meets that standard. Among all three-digit ZIP code areas in the USA in 2003 (one can study larger areas by isolating just the first three digits of ZIP codes), not one had a higher graduation rate among civilians than among its recruits.

+ In fact, since the 9/11 attacks, more volunteers have emerged from the middle and upper classes and fewer from the lowest-income groups. In 1999, both the highest fifth of the nation in income and the lowest fifth were slightly underrepresented among military volunteers. Since 2001, enlistments have increased in the top two-fifths of income levels but have decreased among the lowest fifth.

+ Allegations that recruiters are disproportionately targeting blacks also don't hold water. First, whites make up 77.4% of the nation's population and 75.8% of its military volunteers, according to our analysis of Department of Defense data. Second, we explored the 100 three-digit ZIP code areas with the highest concentration of blacks, which range from 24.1% black up to 68.6%. These areas, which account for 14.6% of the adult population, produced 16.6% of recruits in 1999 and only 14.1% in 2003.


What's Up At the Capitol

A Christmas Tree and a fight over the Marriage Amendment.

More Incredible Stupidity at UW-Eau Claire

First they ban Bible studies, and now this utterly misguided farce.

The UW-Eau Claire student government, in its infinite wisdom, decided to increase student fees to protest what it sees as inadequate state funding of professor salaries. The decision is absolute lunacy. At least there were a few objectors:
"I'm worried that the state Legislature will love the idea of having students pay more and the state pay less," said Jacob Boer, a UW-Eau Claire senior who was among eight students on the Student Senate to vote against the fee last month. Nineteen student senators voted for the fee, and one abstained. "It's just going to lead to further privatization."

Students systemwide are already paying fees up the wazoo on top of an ever-increasing tuition. Fees have gone up dramatically in the last decade. The Board of Regents finally takes action to address the problem, calling for an audit of seg. fees, and then the deluded philospher kings at Eau Claire pull this assinine stunt that can only have negative consequences for students down the road.

As someone who has worked intimately with the cesspool that is the student fee process, I can say quite definitively that this decision by students to burden fellow students with additional educational barriers is downright noxious.

Don't even think about it ASM; I will fight this thing to the death if it comes within 20 miles of the isthmus.

Top 10 Christmas Songs of the Modern Era

1. White Christmas - Frank Sinatra
2. The Christmas Song - Nat King Cole
3. Blue Christmas - Elvis
4. Frosty the Snowman - Burl Ives
5. Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town - The Crystals
6. Little Drummer Boy - Neil Diamond
7. Silver Bells - Bing Crosby
8. Christmas All Over Again - Tom Petty
9. Here Comes Santa Claus - Alvin and the Chipmunks
10. Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer - Elmo & Patsy

Dissent if you dare...


Times I enjoy being a student

There are few better things to define the college experience, in my mind, than the following:

Sitting in the Memorial Union (which I really do enjoy), reading Lenin, Hegel, and Western Marxism as research for a paper, drinking a 16-oz Spaten Optimator, and listening to a "jazz jam". Pretty dang cool.

Alito blogging

In one of my (very) few forays into the very cool-looking but somewhat confusingly-laid-out Law School, I am watching a panel discussion on Alito's confirmation. Luckily, I get there early and snag a couple pieces of pizza - the room is packed, and it goes fast.

I'm also a bit confused - how to blog a panel that consists of six people, and not end up with a post that runs to multiple pages? Some of the most interesting legal minds of the university are here, and I'm sure they'll all have interesting things to say. So I'll try to be brief.

The first question is twofold: Should ideology or character be more important? What is your criteria for "judging the judges"?

Green goes first. "It doesn't matter what I think," she says, and says his confirmation will depend on his legal qualifications.

Schweber is leery of radicals who would overturn long-established precedent. Three conditios should be the Senate's power, radicalism, and certain personal beliefs. "Based on what I’ve seen so far, I think he should be [confirmed]… but I certainly would ask a lot of pointed questions."

"I kind of like radicals," says Downs. "In my opinion, the most important factor is judicial philosophy: it boils down to a judicial frame of mind – someone who’s not going to leap to conclusions... I also look for… the view of the role of the court in the political system." Alito "is very much bound by precedent. I predict that he’d be confirmed, and I’d say... he will be confirmed. If Dems want someone more to their liking, they need to start winning.” Touche.

Sharpless makes a joke - "I'm not a lawyer!" Then he goes on a bit of a rant. "One of the nice things about the longevity of the court is, it does free justices in theory from their political backgrounds." He says the process is a bit flawed: "The thing that bothers me is that we have to spend hours and hours listening to Ted Kennedy, who, last I checked, cheated his way through law school [and hearing very little from the judges]." He calls out Souter's immanent emanent (fixed on update) domain decision for very liberal reasons, too.

It comes to Althouse, and she seems a bit taken aback after Sharpless's rant - "um." If you read her blog, you probably know what she'll say: Dems "make law political. When that happens, when there is a liberal court, won’t believe that what the court does is law." She says the Dems need to talk about broader legal philosophy.

"The possibility of taking politics out of the confirmation process is doomed from the beginning," says Church. Politics should be brought in if a judge's decision could affect hot-button political issues. "The system has become too partisan," he says.

Now another two-parter: has the appointment process become too political? How has the failed Miers nomination affected Alito's chances?

Church is up again, and reiterates his point that the process - and the parties - are too partisan. He blames it on "well-funded interest groups". The Dems run too much risk of being obstructinist.

Althouse says, "Roberts was the perfect candidate. He was like the judge from central casting." She then lays out how clever a move politically the Alito nomination was: "Picking someone in that un-political way is the best political move."

Sharpless says he was troubled by the Miers nomination because of the lessons presidents will learn from it: "I think it’s going to continue this tradition... to choose appellate lawyers who’ve been federal prosecutors. I think that leads to a very narrow judicial mindset."

Downs says the message is "don't pick an intellectual" - but that it goes back to Bork, not just Miers. He derails the conversation by bringing up Lincoln's depression and bipolar condition - which leads others to point out that he was also gay. Suddenly there's a question of Nietzsche’s sexuality! But suddenly we get back to the point: Downs says that due to a lack of "sufficient underlying agreement" on American values, people can't agree on the court.

Schweber calls out an interesting Republican tactic - the "Southernization" of politics: Republicans pass "blatantly unconstitional" abortion laws, so that the courts strike them down, and the Republicans then promise their base that if elected, they'll get "good laws" passed. Interesting. He also brings up the idea - one that I share - that Miers was set up to fail, so that Alito would have an easier time.

Green follows up on that conspiracy theory. "I think Alito will stand more on his own."

And that be all. I'm not going to blog the questions, as this beast has gotten too long already.

Update: Welcome Althousians! Feel free to take a poke around - the world of UW-Madison is wild and wacky indeed.

Badgers Rule the Rink



American vs. European Conservatives

As Gerard Alexander asks in a great Claremont Piece, 'What happened to Europe?' Indeed, where are the Thatchers and Kohls these days? Merkel, on close inspection, would not be up to Reagan's standards for a staunch ally.

Alexander gets right to the root of the differences:
"Most Americans have hard values while the majority of West Europeans have soft ones."
He also provides some nice color commentary on the state of conservatism across the pond:
All this reminds one of nothing so much as the 1970s. The spirit of Jimmy Carter exited the American political stage decades ago, but, like Jerry Lewis, it remains a matinee favorite on the other side of the Atlantic.
Definitely worth a read.



A lot has been made of a recent letter from Kent Woods, who is running for Assembly in the 33rd district, to various bloggers.

Me? I just think it's cool that a politician is paying attention to bloggers. Instead of ignoring the blogosphere completely, or - worse - calling us pajama-clad losers, here we have a politican who is actually paying attention to the bloggers. If nothing else, Woods should be congratulated for that.

A new consensus?

Since President Bush has just recently returned from China, where he discussed trade issues, now seems like a good time to think a little bit about Sino-American competition, and how it's likely to play out.

Firstly, I don't think a military conflict is anywhere near likely. American capabilities are such that a single carrier group can defend Taiwan pretty easily. Further, given that both countries have stores of nuclear weapons, military conflict seems highly unlikely.

Economic competition, on the other hand, is more likely. The strength of the Washington Consensus is questionable, leaving the field vulnerable to a resurgence of planned or semi-planned economic systems. Venezuela under Chavez is an example of this - although Latin America more broadly seems to be hesitant to re-tread the import-substitution industrialization path, much less the populist one, especially given its relatively recent memory of dictatorship.

Africa is even more open to Chinese market penetration. Vikash Yadav notes that the "Beijing Consensus" is on the rise in Africa, citing Howard French:
There is increasing talk of a rival "Beijing consensus," which emphasizes innovation and growth through a social-market economy while placing less emphasis on free markets and democracy. Officially, China denies that it is promoting a competing program.
"Many of these countries in economic crisis get advice from these institutions that just can't work," [Liu Jianchao, deputy spokesman of the Foreign Ministry] said. "China has a certain development experience that is relevant to these countries, and my advice is derived in part from Samuel Huntington, whose view is that democracy is a luxury."
[emphasis added]

This certainly seems to square with China's "official" policy toward Africa:
While visiting the African continent in 1996, then Chinese President Jiang Zemin put forward a five-point proposal on establishing a long-term, stable Sino-African relationship of stability and cooperation that is geared to the 21st century. The five points include sincere friendship, treating each other equally, unity and cooperation, common development and looking into the future. The proposal has become the foundation of China's policy toward Africa. The new Chinese leadership, carrying forward the cause of the old leadership and forging ahead into the future, adheres to China's policy toward Africa, and pays attention to strengthening unity and cooperation between the two.

The Christian Science Monitor notes that there are plenty of authoritarian thug-ocracies for China to show a "sincere friendship":
Last year, China stymied US efforts to levy sanctions on Sudan, which supplies nearly 5 percent of China's oil and where the US says genocide has occurred in its Darfur region. And as Zimbabwe becomes more isolated from the West, China has sent crates of T-shirts for ruling-party supporters who will vote in Thursday's parliamentary elections.

And of course, China is also gunning for the Internet - because suppressing its own people just isn't enough fun for the People's Republic.

The Washington Consensus isn't dead - CAFTA and other Latin American trade treaties show that the Washington Consensus is working. However, it requires a populace that rejects authoritarianism absolutely. Many in Latin America don't love free trade as a theory - but they damned sure don't want to return to the "bad old days" of dictatorships and socialism.

Moreover, there's some evidence that China's economy is shakier than it lets on. That's not unadulterated good news - we need the Chinese to have the cheap consumer goods that we have now - but it also means that that Chinese economic threat could be undercut. China's rhetoric on the Washington Consensus model is clever - preaching "unity" and "equality" - but given history, there will be a time when the favors are called in. With the Washington Consensus, at least the negatives are taken up-front - the pain is early. When China calls in its favors, the pain will come later, and probably the countries that are paying up will not be able to. That will be the make-or-break moment.