Places to be

An e-mail from the CRs:
This Saturday, July 2 at 10:30 am, The Capitol City Band and Madison
Veteran's Council are teaming up to give a rousing "tribute to the
troops" -- a free concert on the Capitol Square- S. Hamilton Street
Walkway on the Capitol Square. Sarah Ulrich, the RPW Field Staffer for
the Southern Region of Wisconsin, and I are hoping to get a group of
local Republicans out to show support for our troops and will be meeting
up where W. Washington meets with the Square near Grace Church at the
park benches at 10 am. We are going to meet there and then about
10:05-10:10 head over to S. Hamilton. I have some signs from other
Support Our Troops events that I can bring and I will be wearing my "We
Heart Our Troops" shirt. It would be great if you are still in Madison
this weekend if you would come out for an hour or so to show your
support. If you have signs, bring them if you can, and wear your Troops
shirts or other patriotic garb.

Now you know, and, as they say, knowing is half the battle!

Lyin', Wiley, and Barrows - Oh My!

Will the firestorm atop Bascom Hill never end?

Looks like Barrows merely misrepresented himself in Texas. But now it seems as if Chancellor Wiley has been lying to the legislature - not a good thing, John. Have I ever really been much of a fan, though? Not since his comments in the December 13, 2002 issue of Isthmus Magazine where he said the University of Wisconsin populace was "too white" and "too small town." Now if the good Chancellor had replaced "white" with "black" and "small town" with "urban", he would have gotten the axe then instead ... oh, next week, perhaps...

Wiley is just one UW persona who's made incendiary racial commentary, though. Oddly enough, Paul Barrows' son, Tshaka Barrows, is another that comes to mind. A militant radical while on the UW campus, Tshaka built the rather notorious Multicultural Student Coalition into the leftist political powerhouse it is today by demanding obscene amounts of student fee dollars to the tune of $1million. The younger Barrows also led a fiery protest against activist David Horowitz and the Badger Herald, which had printed one of his controversial ads, several years back, telling the Daily Cardinal that "only whites can be racist." What's more, daddy Barrows then brought administrative pressure to bear when the Badger Herald refused to be intimidated by the protesters.

Paul Barrows was also intimately involved in the infamous attempt to make the University of Wisconsin to appear "more diverse." It was Barrows' insistence on a more diverse cover photo Commenting on a prototype photo to the head of admissions: "You can do better than that, Rob. Find something more diverse." The insistence ultimately led to a decision to doctor the photo of a brochure - even if he was quick to condemn the resulting product.

At this point, it's hard to say what will happen next - Rep. Kreibich launched another volley today, requesting information from Wiley on who shouldered Barrows' workload in his absence, possibly resulting in a loss of additional tax dollars.

Actually, Rep. K - here's a lead that might help in further investigative efforts.

Let's hope the good folks in the Assembly can get to the bottom of this soon.


Deserving it

Let's say you want to build a hotel. Let's also say, for argument, that you're upset about the Kelo v New London decision. What to do?

How about push to build a hotel on Justice Souter's home? Sounds like a very good idea to me!


Smoking Ban: An Angler's Perspective

The fish weren't biting for me tonight as the sun set over Picnic Point. The pier off the Limnology Lab is a great spot to be on a summer evening regardless. Plus, it's not far from the Terrace...

Otherwise, the State Senate may soon take up the State Budget. We'll see what Diamond Jim does with the most powerful veto pen of any state in the union...

When that's done, it's on to issues like the Smokefree Dining Act. The legislation pits two key interests of mine against one another: A. Smoking bans in private establishments are government encroachments, and therefore wrong. B. Banning smoking bans at the municipal level is yet another state mandate that runs contrary to local control, something conservatives, I thought, generally support.

Ultimately, I don't know if I would support the legislation. Smoking bans are silly - especially for quintessentially smoky hangouts like The Silver Dollar and The Plaza. For me, it's a given. Historically, bar=smoke. It is a personal choice to frequent a tavern or restaurant. Nobody is forcing you to pass a boot or eat deep fried cheese curds. Well, most of the time, anyway.

I guess I would let local governments enact bans - and feel the resulting backlash. Ultimately, if there are enough people disgusted with smoking in bars - and they actually act on their whining and complaining and stay out of the establishments - change will occur. Some entrepreneur will exploit the niche audience. Smoke-free bars will come about on their own. If they do not, people's concern for personal health has not risen to a level that would justify government intervention. Alas, I guess we'll never know in Mad-Town.

In the effort to take back Madison, this foolish attack on basic property rights and traditional lifestyles - almost as bad as Kelo - is yet another way to stoke the embers.


Someone Forgot to Pay the Eternal Vigilence...

American liberty sustained a few low blows today.

First, the horrendous Supreme Court ruling in Kelo v. City of New London sweeps aside the core historical principle of private property rights in America. John Locke is probably rolling in his grave. Yes, Anthony Kennedy and his liberal pals decided that the government knows best when it comes to using your property. Kevin at Lakeshore Laments has some good stuff on the powerful O'Connor dissent. He also highlights the Thomas dissent, which is a bracing 18-page foray in quality jurisprudence (and quite stunning for the normally reticent Thomas - see his terse dissent in Lawrence v. Texas). Private Property Rights Constitutional Amendment, anyone?

Second, China showed a few more of its cards. Bids for American oil giant Unocal and the venerable Maytag Company by Chinese companies have finally raised the all-too-real issue of Chinese aggression in the economic realm. TIME Magazine's focus on the possible threat of China displacing America at the top of the global heap is also a welcome sign that we might be waking up - even if belatedly. The lead page of the cover story asks is China's rise is "cause for celebration or anxiety?" My answer? The latter - most definitely.

On the positive side, though, I'd recommend the band I'm listening to now - Bloc Party. They're fun to listen to. - sort of the same vein as Franz Ferdinand.

Also, after last night's experience, I'd say a good Wisconsinite must try to attend at least one Sheboygan Brat Day in Madison during their lifetime. Maybe it's because I work for a legislator representing Sheboygan, but it was a good time out at Olin-Turville Park with lots of leggies, the Gov., baseball, and great weather. And yes, despite some concerns after a Tavern League event for legislators earlier this summer, it was legal. At $7 a pop it better have been. Plus, I sold a ticket to the head of the Ethics Board myself!


Story time

Back in late October - a week or so out from the election - one of the campaigns (not important which, anymore) needed a mailer put out, and asked the CRs for help. We reserved a time for them, and they duly distributed whatever lit it was they needed to get out.

We got a phone call a few days later. The mailer, it turns out, had a few problems. It told the dorms that they could vote wherever they wanted - which wasn't true. It also had bad information on the financing, but made it sound like the CRs had approved it. Needless to say, this was problematic, but it was clearly the campaign's fault, not ours.

Well, the university didn't see it that way. Lori Berquam, associate dean of students, used this opportunity to do as much damage as possible to us - in fact, we very nearly lost our status as as registered student organization. That would have meant we would not have been able to meet in campus buildings, or to recruit new members. She refused to listen to any reason, and wilfully ignored the clear evidence that although the campaign - and perhaps the "students for... " group on campus - should have been penalized for sending out bad literature, the CRs were as much victim of this as anyone. As it was, we didn't lose our registered organization status, but did have to put up with a huge amount of bureaucratic hassle and ridiculous punishments, in order to resolve the situation.

Luoluo Hong, the UW's dean of students, resigned last week. She is being replaced by Lori Berquam.


New Governor

No, I'm not talking about Green or Walker. I'm talking about Meneses. Ignacio Meneses, that is, the 64th Governor of Badger Boys State.

A native of Chile, Ignacio worked his way to the top with a mix of heart, humor, and hard work. It was great to see a young man from my own BBS city, Lewis, take the top honor of the week. I like to think my work as a counselor for the week paid off.

Coincidentally enough, I knew members of Ignacio's family prior to his arrival at BBS.

Viva Ignacio!


Badger Boys State

Things are in full swing here in Ripon, Wisconsin. I'm spending the week as a counselor with over 800 high school citizens of Badger Boys State, a mythical 51st state designed to teach future leaders from around Wisconsin about government in a hands-on fashion. It's impressive to see the variety of talents and abilities brought to bear here courtesty of the Wisconsin American Legion - inspiring public speakers, great musicians, top-notch athletes, and a dedicated counseling staff from all walks of life.

Thus far, the citizens have elected city level positions, like mayor and alderman, and party positions at city, county, and state levels. County elections are today and state officials will be determined by Thursday.

An array of top state officials will have visited by the time Saturday rolls around. We have already heard from gubernatorial candidate Scott Walker and Waukesha County Exec Dan Finley. Lieutenant Governor Barbara Lawton is slated for the inauguration on Thursday evening, as is Supreme Court Justice Ann Walsh Bradley. Speakers at schools of instruction include former Lieutenant Governor Margaret Farrow and members of the State Legislature.

This morning, the newly elected Senators and Assemblymen will meet in session for the first time. I'm looking forward to seeing some vigorous debate within and between the houses - I recall my own time in the Assembly as Parliamentarian as one of my favorite Badger Boys State memories. The guys have been brushing up on their parliamentary procedure in anticipation.

We've also started a Badger Boys State Alumni Association this year. We were priviliged to have a visit from a citizen of the first year of Badger Boys State, which was held in 1939 at St. John's Military Academy in Delafield.

Besides running for office, Badger Boys have a chance to participate in the program as members of the band, chorus, newspaper, and color guard. There's truly something for everyone.

I think it's pretty safe to say that I'm not the only one here having a blast!


Go away

It's too nice out. Even if it's raining, it's too nice out for you to be sitting in front of your computer. Go play outside!

Okay, fine, keep sitting there. Whatever. But at least put down the politics for a minute. You need a break, so listen, here's what you do: go read Tony Pierce. I don't just mean today's post - I mean the whole darn thing. Archives, links, the whole shebang.

If you do that and still want to go back to doing the whole politics thing, go read Mighty Girl, Sarah Hepola, Que Sera Sera, No Sword, Real Live Preacher, Wil Wheaton, and Lane McFadden.

Then go outside, for heaven's sake.



With the Dem State Convention this weekend, I'm not sure if I should be jubilant or dismayed about the prospect of a skirmish for the Democratic AG nomination. "Peg Leg" Lautenschlager, lately of cancer fame, has endured obvious tension with the Doyle Administration throughout her first term and now faces the threat of a Kathleen Falk push for the AG nod.

On one hand, it would be great to see them go at each others throats - the resulting catfight might hand J.B. Van Hollen a cakewalk of a race next year. I'm not a big fan of Lautenschlager's re-election plug: "I'm the state's top law enforcement official, but you should forgive me for getting blitzed after hitting up The Pub on State Street and subsequently getting arrested while driving drunk an un-reimbursed state vehicle - this, of course, sandwiched between cracking down on family farmers for cow-in-stream pollution and ignoring MMSD for billions of gallons of sewage in Lake Michigan." But as much as I disagree with and disrespect her, Peg is not nearly as far-left crazy as Falk would be in the position.


Dragon Down Under

Oh joy. Chinese diplomat defectors to Australia have outlined China's massive web of spies Down Under (Thanks, PelicanPost). Over 1,000 members of China's notorious "610 Office" have infiltrated the country by masquerading as anything from businessmen to students. 610 is the same friendly neighborhood organization that enjoys cracking and breaking elderly female adherents of Falun Gong.

Even if we knew of a similar network here in America - and we do - how could we possibly thwart it? First, the War on Terror largely blinds us to the significance of China's rise. And second, anyone who suggested an investigation today would be quickly labeled and derided as a xenophobic racist bigot, especially here at the oh-so-tolerant University of Wisconsin-Madison. Once again, our own hyper-sensitivity and self-styled enlightenment serves only to hamstring the U.S. in any competition with other more primal nations. Exhibit A - China.

What they don't understand about "no"

To recover from the last two ungodly long posts, here's a short one-

Owen at Boots and Sabers catches an interesting tidbit: the Madison school district doesn't have its priorities straight. Seems to me this is something we should pick a fight over - it's a very good segue from the "vote 'no'" campaign into a broader "what needs to change" camapaign.

10 things I hate about...

Well, maybe not ten. But have I mentioned how much I loathe Susan Lampert Smith? She wrote an amazingly simple-minded column some time ago, but now she's really outdone herself.

The column is called Beer barrels could save Wisconsin from Bible Belt. Her words, not mine. So let's take a look, shall we?
Ithink the Capitol needs more keg parties.

I don't know why the spacing is funny there. Maybe the editor had just gotten back from a keg party?

Anyway, I agree, but I'll do her one better: there should be more keg parties, period. And I should be invited to them. And given free beer for showing up.
I recently overheard a businessman in a State Street restaurant complaining that "space aliens" have invaded the Legislature. I know the feeling...

Yeah, me too. I mean, what planet to these crazy Madisonian libs live on, anyway? Oh, wait, anybody not from "the island" is as good as a space alien to the nuts here. I keep forgetting!
...And I wonder if there's a correlation between cleaned- up lawmakers and the pile of legislation that seems aimed at creating a Bible Belt-style theocracy here.

Apparently, though, space aliens can be uncovered by their use of simple logic, whereas simple Earthlings haven't heard of this concept.
Back when their party calendars were full, legislators didn't have time to fret about what the rest of us are doing.

Now that there are no cocktail parties, they worry about the morals of women who take birth control pills and gays who want health insurance.

They get "ethics," we get "conscience bills."

The only legislator whose party calendar has been full lately is (ahem - Democrat) Peg Lautenschlager, and that hasn't exactly been a good thing. And of course, note the stellar logic at play. The tilt of the Congress has nothing to do with what people from the state want their representatives to do, it simply has to do with the fact that some people don't drink enough.

And may I ask what that last sentence even means? It seems it would be a good thing for our government to have ethics, in or out of scare quotes. And I'd like to be able to follow the dictates of my conscience, too. For me, that would mean filling prescriptions for birth control drugs, but I'm glad that not everybody has to. But Susan knows what's best for everyone, so I really ought to turn that pesky "conscience" switch to off.
It's a leap, I know...

Then why do you continue writing?
...But I was happy to hear that Senate President Alan Lasee, R-De Pere, thinks this no-fun Legislature trend has gone far enough and says lawmakers should eat and drink for free at civic group galas.

Oops. Here I thought Republicans were supposed to be the bad guys of this story. So am I wrong?
These are events - Sheboygan Brat Day, La Crosse Oktoberfest and Chippewa Valley Day - that bring folks from the borders of the state to Madison to press their causes.

Aaah! An invasion of space aliens! Quick, bust out the phasers and the proton torpedoes!
The granddaddy of them all is "Superior Days," an event that began 20 years ago when people from Douglas County wanted to bring the spotlight to the state's northwestern corner. It was so homespun in the beginning it seemed like grandmas with Nesco roasters full of casseroles were holding a potluck at the Capitol. But they were successful in getting a four-lane Highway 53 from Eau Claire to Superior, so other cities took note.

Okay, lemme get this straight. In the old days, people elected government officials, then had to make the trip down to Madison to bribe them with beer and fish to get them to listen. Now, the elected officials do what they promised to do on the campaign trail. And that's a bad thing? How is this? I'm a fan of parties - see above for that - but isn't this just a bit strange?
Now Superior Days and the rest are in trouble.

It all started with Sen. Russ Decker, D-Schofield, getting picked up for drunken driving on his way home from a Tavern League shrimp and beer party in March. The state Ethics Board fined the Tavern League for not charging lawmakers enough for the party.

Darn that Ethics Board! Always mucking up a good thing! And is that another Dem gettin' toasted and driving? Tsk, tsk. But screw that darn Ethics Board for taking away our good times!
Door County Legislative Day's fish boil had the sad fate of being scheduled for May 5, days after the ethics fine. Bill Chaudoir of Door County Economic Development said commercial fishermen caught whitefish that morning and drove them down to have a traditional fish boil in the parking lot of the Inn on the Park. Just four of 99 legislators came.

"We had a hard time getting them to walk across the street," Chaudoir said, adding that meetings earlier in the day with agency officials and lawmakers were well-attended.

So... the supplicants got face time with the "agency officials and lawmakers" they wanted to talk to, and then got to keep the fish? Sounds like a deal to me. Heck, if they were smart, they'd have put out a few signs and sold the boiled fish to passers by. In any case, I don't see the loss here. But that's okay, because we're finally at our stunning conclusion, which is derived from nothing else in the article whatsoever:
If fish boils and brat fries are outlawed, legislators will have all of that extra time to make sure we all become outlaws.

Poke your nose in a beer, not in my private life.

Unfortunately, my mind is so boggled right now that I can't think of a proper response to this. So I guess Sue wins this round. But I'll get you, Sue - next time, next time. *shakes fist from behind chair, pets cat*

Taking back Madison, pt 2

Everybody's got issues

In my last post on the subject, we discussed what kind of candidate to run for an office here in Mad-town (my conclusion: somebody a bit out in left field, who won't be seen as just another rightie stiff). Brad jumped into the fray as well, talking about Doug ("I'm not related to 'Fighting Bob'") LaFollete.

So, once we've got a candidate, where to next? Issues, of course - and everybody's got 'em. The problem is, they're mostly liberal issues, given with a liberal slant in the local media.

Then all of a sudden, along comes an issue that everyone (well, okay, not really - this is Madison, after all) can hate. The campaign for a "no" vote in the referendum was horrible, frankly. The opposition (that is to say, us) was disorganized, the slogan was horrible (honestly - "vote no for change"? What kind of knee-jerk reactionaries did we sound like?), and the activist turnout was pretty low. But somehow, word slowly leaked out. The WSJ wrote a very nice op-ed the day before the referendum urging a "no" vote on question 2, and by the time the votes were counted, we'd won.

So, can this be instructive? Heck yes. Even most Madisonians have figured out now that they don't like paying more taxes. So let's use this. Let's start talking loudly about the root causes: teachers' unions! The tax issue is now one that we can use to our advantage, as it's already proven effective.

That will be the first step. By connecting teachers' unions and taxes, we can begin to propose alternate solutions to funding public schools, and begin to work on charter schools.

However, once we strongly connect tax hikes and teachers' unions, as well as the notion that these unions are hurting, rather than helping, our schools, we can branch out further. Unions generally - and business rights. That allows us to talk about the smoking ban (unless, hopefully, some proposed legislation is passed soon that would make smoking explicitly legal in bars statewide).

Issues link into each other and cascade. But Madison conservatives have a foothold now, and we give it up at our peril. It is critical to continue to push the issues we have - we need to continue our momentum.

Deconstructing Doug (LaFollette, That Is)

Who is Wisconsin's Secretary of State? Who cares? The current occupant of the office, Democrat Doug LaFollette, has overseen the ravaging of the consitutional office down to a ghost of its former self. His credentials as an environmentalist are often mentioned (he co-founded Environmental Decade, now Clean Wisconsin, in 1970, spawning liberal political careers for Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk and State Representative Spencer Black), but they have nothing to do with has crucial duties, which center on "keeping the Great Seal of the State" and affixing it to official documents. He is currently serving a term on the board of directors of the Sierra Club.

But who is Doug LaFollette? Why don't we hear about him? Why don't we see him out and about doing the ceremonial things at least (that's about all he can do with an enormous staff of 8.5!)? Well, he actually changed his legal surname to give himself a mythical tie to Wisconsin's earlier Progressive governors (more on that later). Even his own "progressive" friends find him a bit awkward. Republican legislators have tried - unsuccessfully - to eliminate the position of Secretary of State several times. A new legislative proposal for the current session was unveiled earlier this year.

We'll keep digging into Doug and discuss potential candidates to oppose the long-time incumbent in 2006. Lorge didn't do terribly last time around, but a reasonable candidate might be able to pull off a win if the governor's race turnout falls just right.


Beer and Cheese

Wisconsin's Milk Marketing Board is now playing up eight pairings of Badger State brews and the item in which we still outproduce California - cheese.

New Glarus made a slot or two, but Hennings Cheese, another personal favorite, did not. Some of their squeaky cheddar curds and a New Glarus Uff-da Bock really hits the spot!


Graduation and Paddling

Heading home for a weekend of graduations.

Hope to bust out the canoe on the mighty Sheboygan at some point.


Welcome, and adios

Welcome to Brad! Yes, Letters in Bottles will now have not one, not three, but two bloggers - we're just that good.

Meanwhile, I'm standing up in a wedding this weekend, so I'll be out of town, and probably out of Internet access. Back on Monday!

Washing Ashore

It's my inaugural post here on the island, thanks to Steve! I guess he finally got tired of me advocating that we begin "multisimulblogging" major events (coming soon, I'm sure). But to get to something worth blogging about...China.

Robert Kagan's recent op-ed in the Washington Post provides some incisive analysis of America's failure to recognize China for what it is - the foreign policy "dragon in the room" this century. Although made more eloquently, Kagan's core assertion - that America is like many other great powers that did not see their own successors unitl it was too late - lines up with the arguments of China Watchers like Bill Gertz and yours truly.

Unfortunately, conservatives seem to be split on China. Some see it as a great economic opportunity for the U.S., while others recognize it as a geopolitical threat to America's world leadership. I definitely tilt heavily toward the second perspective, which, oddly, aligns me with the Free Tibet-Falun Gong crowd. This social justice/anti-Communist view is seen in The Epoch Times, an interesting publication that has been sent randomly to my place of employment on occasion. They seem to be trying to take down the Chi-coms single-handedly with their "Nine Commentaries on the CCP." Personally, I think a capitalist China poses just as much of a threat to the US as a communist China. As seen in the oil markets, China's appetite for raw materials to appease a bursting middle class will no doubt affect worldwide markets and maybe even lead to wars over resources.

Enough with the global concerns, though. UW-Madison's frosh class will be treated to a interesting Daily Cardinal column on the worth of rural and small town life as they register for classes this summer. The Cardinal's Breezy Willis critiques the arrogance of urbanites as he reiterates some of the points I made in a Mendota Beacon column a few months back. I'm a big fan of the country (thanks, Luke Zimmerman).