7.31.2005

Someone Call The Daily Cardinal...

It appears as if the editor in chief of The Badger Herald here on the UW campus wrote an article that appeared on Townhall.com. So, what about it, you ask?

Well, the article, which is pretty good, says he writes for The Mendota Beacon. Ouch! Unless someone has made some hiring decisions without my knowledge, Mac does not work for the campus conservative paper. And I don't think he'd exactly like being portrayed as a Beaconite. He's always welcome to come and write for us, though :) Highly amusing.

(HT Timmyscape, thanks, buddy!)

UPDATE: Talked to Mac re above. Merely a fluke that will be corrected soon; he's staying at the Herald.

"Be Prepared "

Critics have been lambasting the Boy Scouts for all the mishaps at the National Jamboree. One blog put up the headline "God Declares War on Boy Scouts." Some have even ridiculed the organization's motto, Be Prepared.

As an Eagle Scout, I've pondered the motto a bit. As a survivor of several week-long forays into the northwoods wilderness, I feel the motto has two aspects. Be prepared means not only bringing along bottled water for hot weather, but also being prepared to find a way to get by if you don't. Organize things in advance to reduce problems, but expect that you'll have to adapt in the field.

Pig Roast Down in Monroe, Wisconsin






A candy cane barn in Swiss country near New Glarus.







Top down with some KofC buddies heading south.







Some Monroe Pride at the Apostolate for the Handicapped Pig Roast.








The roasters.





The Pig Roast during the pie charity auction; a rhubarb pie went for $255. Monsignor Tom Campion and State Assemblyman Brett Davis were on hand for the festivities.

Hope

This is good news about the next generation. Suprisingly, the author of the piece equates "conservative" with "normal" at one point in the article.

Here Lies Kyoto

Random10 just whispered the message - I'm glad to learn that the Kyoto Treaty is dead.

Not a fan of the economic suicide pill myself. Especially since China wouldn't have been under any of the restrictions. There used to be a great LTE to the Sheboygan Press on the web from high school days, but it seems to have disappeared - now that the Press is charging for archived articles.

7.30.2005

Catholicism

Bill Wineke's column today in the WI State Journal encourages readers to listen to religious moderates, not zealots. He compares Islam and Evangelical faiths to the Catholic faith, specifically the presence of lack of an overall focal leader in the faith. It's hard to make out his overall argument, but his headline admonition seemed a bit odd to me.

Moderation in all things, yes. But in faith itself? As a Catholic, I call to mind many Saints, Martyrs, and priests whose very zeal was a testament to faith: St. Sebastian, St. Andrew, St. Therese of Avila, Father Ambrose Oschwald, St. Francis of Assisi, Oscar Romero, and St. Stephen, to name but a few.

The Holy Father, as successor of Peter, is indeed a spokesman for the Roman Catholic Church, Eastern Rite Catholic Church, Armenian Church etc. But his role is to unify in common beliefs as best as he can what is truly a vast and diverse faith community. With about a billion people connected to the Church in some way, he, at the very least, sets out the ideals of the faith. Wineke points to the rift between the hierarchy and the laity in Catholicism, but fails to realize the startling and lively nature of the faith.

Right here in Madison, the diocese has a rather "conservative" leader, Bishop Morlino. Yet St. Paul's Catholic Center on the UW campus, a movement promoting "Evangelical Catholicism" thrives. One party could probably do without Vatican II, one embraces it. In the end, a healthy middling ground is reached and the Church moves along with losing its own past;
the zeal I spoke of earlier ultimately moderates a world faith.

Importantly, conservative in a Church sense is different from conservative in an American political sense. The label was plastered on Pope Benedict XVI as he assumed the Papacy, but his conservative perspective, as a Catholic, most likely means he not only supports a ban on abortion and euthanasia, but also broadly supports efforts to help the poor and downtrodden. While I question whether the government is the right vehicle to achieve social welfare programs (as compulsory aid is not heartfelt), the balance is very reassuring to me; I believe John Paul II showed the power and beauty of this age-old Catholic message in the modern world.

JPII's slow and trying death was inspiring; I would not have had the transition any other way. He evangelized with his actions even as he died; he refused to give up despite a multitude of obstacles. In the very end, he was running on faith alone.

Next month, I will be making a pilgrimage to World Youth Day in Cologne, Germany. Pope Benedict XVI is set to be there with literally millions of Catholics from around the globe. It will be one of his first major trips abroad, and I will get to see a German Pope on his home turf. The Cologne Cathedral should be breathtaking, too. I cannot wait.

A Fitting Wisconsin Tribute

Conservative Punk?

Somehow, this site has compiled a list of over a dozen bands that qualify as "conservative punk." Very interesting. I guess a conservative punk would be more rebellious than any other kind, as he would be rebelling internally against the rebels (?) I guess I can empathize here in Madtown.

The site also urges people to boycott China for a variety of reasons. Sign me up.

Tower Talk

The blogosphere is echoing with talk of the proposed Calatrava tower in Chicago. I agree with Life in the Big City on all the concerns about terrorists:
"As far as the risk of terrorism, so be it."
Like Buzz down in Chicago, on seeing an iconic skyscraper on the famous Lake Michigan skyline, I couldn't help but think back to Frank Lloyd Wright's bold plans for the Mile High. The proposed Calatrava tower gives Wright a nod with it's terraced pedestal (you can see it in the previous link). Oddly, the new tower's pedestal is a travesty in the eyes of Blair Kamin, the Trib's architecture critic.

Chicago is quintessential skyscraper country; reminds me of a Sandburg poem, Prayers of Steel:
...Drive me into the girders that hold a skyscraper together/ Take red-hot rivets and fasten me to the central girders/ Let me be the great nail holding a skyscraper through blue/ nights into white stars.
The city would do well to step away from its majority of regrettable Mies van der Roh boxes and this building would be a welcome leap.

7.29.2005

Much Confusion I Sense

Just how many miles do we have here in Madison surrounded by reality? Really, bottom line: there's still a void here to address.

(* Notice of all the numbers bandied about, the only one that seems way out of whack is the one tossed out by this Steve's perennial favorite, Susan Lampert Smith).

Also, I thought opposition to the Kelo eminent domain ruling was a bipartisan thing? The votes say otherwise. What gives, Wisconsin Democratic Delegation?

Lastly - T.S. has found the blog?!

Rare

By george, I think I actually agree with Alderman Austin King on something. Last time that happened was the county gambling referendum.

Equally amazing: I also concur with something political the Sheboygan Press Editorial Board had to say.

New Eats on State Street


State Street in Madison is now home to the second Ian's Pizza location! Actually, this one is "Ian's Pizza and Salads." Since it's close to the state capitol building, I suppose that's a smart move to appeal to the lunch crowd. The new restaurant is located in the former "Peacemeal" restaurant and immediately next to the State Street Arcade. Cheap tasty pizza in a fun atmosphere is now within a three minute walk of both my home and my workplace - life is good.

Oh yeah. First Howard Dean comes to town and now Vermont sends us this: A Ben & Jerry's has opened on State. Let's just say I'll be frequenting that establishment about as much as I do Fair Trade Coffee...

Zimbabwe?

A suspected terrorist with ties to the 7/7 London bombings was detained in Zambia after crossing the border from Zimbabwe. Does that qualify as harboring or supporting terrorists under the Bush Doctrine laid out in advance of Afghanistan?

Besides driving white landowners off their ranches, making urban blacks into refugees, rigging elections, and now potentially harboring terrorists, Zimbabwe's president Mugabe also made a state visit to China. In the emerging U.S. v. China Cold Waresque framework, Zimbabwe looks a lot today like Afghanistan, Vietnam, and Namibia did to the U.S. and Russia a few decades ago. Problem is, China has no qualms about human rights when it is seeking influence or raw materials. We've already seen this with Karimov in Uzbekistan.

7.28.2005

Bat in the Apartment!

Crazy! We just got a bat out of the apartment using a clothes box, some chairs, and a leftover Bob Welch for Senate yard sign. I think it flew in the door right as my roommate and a friend walked in - everybody hit the deck immediately. After three zany failed attempts, we got it outside. Hopefully it will kill a few mosquitoes yet tonight. Funny - I just finished reading Dracula...

Mendota Beacon Exclusive: New Motion in Lautenschlager Case

Check out this exclusive story over at The Mendota Beacon.

Yes, Peg recently filed to have the whole domestic partner benefits case thrown out. But the MB also has the full brief filed today seeking to intervene due to Lautenschlager's conflict of interest. The brief details her conflicts of interest (we highlighted some earlier here) and has verbatim excerpts from a transcript of Peg's speech at Pridefest.

It's a bit overdue!

7.27.2005

Could've Fooled Me

People are drinking less beer.

Domestic volume is down, and Anheuser-Busch, in particular, is struggling a bit. The company's problems reflect what this Economist article denotes as a slump in the industry stateside. Key among them are increased competition, mostly from SAB Miller, and a trend by drinkers toward other types of alcohol.

But globally, claims like the one in this article, that China's rise is an economic opportunity only, seems to accurately describe the world scene for big brewers intent on gaining market share. Competition in places like China shows a much more vigorous beer market:

Anheuser-Busch, best known for its top-selling brand, Budweiser,
bought Harbin,China’s fourth-largest brewery, for $720m, after
outbidding
SABMiller. And earlier this year the American company
upped its stake in
Tsingtao, another Chinese brewer, to 27%.

Now that SAB/Miller overtook AB for second place overall, I think it's time to watch for a sleeper to come from the back of the pack...New Glarus, anyone?

Where I'd Like to Be Right Now...


The Memorial Union Terrace Awaits

Good and Bad

Good
+ GM concluded its successful employee discount offer after boosting sales and forcing other automakers to respond in kind. As a Chevy man and a fan of American products, I'm happy.
+ The UW Regents agreed to halt the now infamous practice of backup positions for UW administrators.
+ The Great Dane has a great summer beer called Crop Circle Wheat.

Bad
- CUNA of Madison is helping set up better banking in China
- The Chinese government laid the smack down on arts and entertainment in that country
- The death of Boy Scout leaders in Virginia is sad; the ACLU's attempt to kick the Jamboree off of Fort A.P. Hill is even more disheartening

Thanks, Lakeshore Laments

Shortly after we added their always-pithy site to our blogroll, Kevin and Kurt at Lakeshore Laments responded in kind. Kurt's a fellow KHS Student Council Prez. from back in the day.

Kevin looks at the bizarre and despicable actions of one of Governor Diamond Jim's minions who had the gall to deliver a bag of over 1,000 used medical needles to Speaker Gard's office. Or, as RedMeat aptly puts it: "Doyle jumped foursquare on the incivility bandwagon and dispatched one of his office toadies to drop the hazardous medical waste off on the Speaker’s desk." I don't think the College Democrats would even stoop to that level.

Who is WI Supreme Court Candidate Linda Clifford?

Besides the incumbent, Patrick Crooks, Wisconsin's Own Souter, Linda Clifford of Madison is the only announced candidate in next year's State Supreme Court race. I don't believe the 40-year precedent of incumbent wins applies this time around. Sykes is on the warpath. WMC is running ads. People are actually going to be paying attention. Clifford's bio page from her law firm Godfrey and Kahn:

Linda M. Clifford is a shareholder in the Madison office and a member of the firm’s Board of Directors. Her practice includes civil and administrative litigation and appeals involving energy, telecommunications, media, and municipal and state government issues. She regularly represents the Wisconsin Industrial Energy Group, Inc., before the Public Service Commission on energy regulatory matters. She also has an extensive appellate practice and handles immigration matters for the firm’s clients. On a pro bono basis, she has attained asylum for refugees from Iraq, Ethiopia, and Kazakhstan persecuted on account of their ethnic, political and religious affiliation.

Before joining the firm, Linda served from 1974 to 1977 as an Assistant Attorney General in the Wisconsin Department of Justice where she enforced Wisconsin environmental protection laws and litigated constitutional and state and local government issues.

Among her many bar and community service activities, Linda served the Dane County Bar Association as its president in 1993-94 and was a member of the Office of Lawyer Regulation District #9 Investigative Committee for nine years. She recently was appointed by the Governor of Wisconsin to serve on the State Historical Society Board of Curators.

Linda graduated in 1974 from the University of Wisconsin Law School where she was a member of the board of editors of the Wisconsin Law Review. She is a trustee of Beloit College, from which she graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1970.
In addition:
- She's represented the ACLU in a recent case involving Iraq
- She was one of Doyle's top 9 finalists for replacing Justice Sykes on the WI Supreme Court
- She is considered a "political liberal," but gave money to Crooks' '96 campaign effort
- She's an old friend of Doyle's who hosted a fundraiser for him with her husband
- She gave a total of $5113 to Doyle's '02 election effort
- She plays harpsichord

7.26.2005

The Wal Mart Quandary

Wal-Mart - sparkling star atop the capitalist Christmas tree or evil monopoly killing downtowns?

The Marquette Warrior, judging by this post, feels the former is more accurate. I am not quite as sure, however. Conservatives today seem to relish the task of serving as Wal Mart apologists. Ha ha, I'll defend a huge anti-union corporation that causes most of our trade deficit with China - that'll confound 'em. But I think there's more nuance to the debate than simply throwing out the standard "rational capitalistic" analysis.

Wal-Mart gets ahead by using existing rules to its lawful advantage and taking market principles to their logical extremes. I don't have any problem with that in a free market. If blue collar factory workers in Manitowoc, Wisconsin want to subsidize the export of their jobs to Mexico or China, then so be it. But a straight up objectivist view of Wal Mart's ascent fails to value other intangibles, like a sense of place, self-reliance, national pride, national security, and the tradition of family businesses. These conservative values are at odds, it seems, with the largely economic concern for lower consumer prices and product consistency. The two thrusts of thought conflict with one another in a global geopolitical sense as well.

Sure, China's Wal-Mart-driven trade surplus with the U.S. leaves them with our bonds and dollars. Most conservatives argue that this is just fine. We get real product in exchange. But the argument is predicated on the assumption that the holding entity, China, is a rational, law-abiding player in the market. It is not; it has repeatedly shown it will not play by the rules. China wants China to get ahead as a world power first and foremost. Even the ability of a "strategic competitor" to heavily influence American markets through the leverage of sizable bond and dollar holdings should raise concerns about how long we will dilute national sovereignty under the defense of objective market economics.

Again, I believe the free market system is the best economic arrangement for a society, by far. Free people exercise their choice in the market; they shop at Wal Mart. The government should not step in with more regulation. I just find it regrettable that we, as individual citizens, do not seem to recognize some of the non-economic externalities of blindly cheerleading for raw capitalism. Overall, it seems to cheapen our existence. Although, with Gummi Savers at the checkout for less than 45 cents a roll, it 's hard to say that's a bad thing....

For a more patently libertarian perspective, you might try Mark's feisty, poker-loving, Objectivist blog, Opiate of the Masses.

One Emblematic Doyle Veto

With one fell swoop, the Governor managed to simultaneously quash the principles of local control, private property rights, and smaller state government.

The provision in question? A measure that would have prohibited DNR acquisition of land under the Stewardship Program in townships were 35% or more of the land is under public ownership unless the town board approved the acquisition.

One could argue that this veto is pro-environment. But what about Doyle's plainly anti-environmental veto to cut a requirment for the DNR to identify 10 state-owned wetland wildlife areas critical for waterfowl breeding, staging, and hunting in order to develop restoration goals?

In this budget, it seems all was sacrificed on the altar of WEAC.

7.25.2005

The Humanities Building - It's Brutalist, Alright



"Ay, tear her tattered ensign down!"

Whitney Gould of the Journal Sentinel makes a plug for The Humanities Building on the UW-Madison campus. DH, aware of my interest in architecture, alerted me to the story.

I don't know, Whitney. As much as I'd love the UW to have a rare complex of "Brutalist" style specimens, I have to say from personal experience that both Humanities and Vilas are some of the brutalist buildings in which to attend class. Most of the actual classrooms and lecture halls are underground in bunker-like locations with exposed concrete. Both structures also conspicuously waste the airspace over the sites they occupy.

Humanities is definitely unique; it has inspired a host of legends and rumors. Gould even printed one classic myth as fact - the building was not designed to resist protests! (*The previous link is a piece by Josh Orton, the same, perhaps, from the Gwen Moore for Congress campaign?). The edifice reminds me of someone trying to build the ancient Egyptian temple at Karnak using building materials leftover from the set of the final Planet of the Apes movie. I lived across the street from it's odd multitude of individual copper hipped roofs while in the dorms, and it certainly made for a strange foreground to the Madison skyline.

I took the picture above as the storms approached Madison earlier this evening; Humanities is the green copper roofline just below the white pillars of Bascom Hall on the hill. Vilas is the brown monster at the extreme left edge of the photo.

"Oh, better that her shattered bulk/
Should sink beneath the wave..."

Doyle Veto Pen Stabs Many

In the near future, I'll be taking a look at some of the more obscure provisions of the state budget vetoed by the Governor. There are many, like a partial veto that effectively killed a Gold Star License Plate for mothers whose sons died in combat.

The big ticket items tell only part of the story. For those, check out what looks like a series of posts at Boots and Sabers. I'll look for the devil, as the old saying goes, that's in the details.

More Lautenschlager Links to LGBT Groups

The Journal Sentinel's story on Peg's Pridefest Speech (Kevin at Lakeshore Laments delves into this) is not the only tidbit that demonstrates her glaring conflict of interest in the state's domestic partners suit.

Do a bit of digging, and you find Peg has a history of hanging out at fundraisers for LGBT pacs and doing speaking events:

Exhibit A:
Fond Du Lac: Action Wisconsin Fundraiser Snags Top Democrats - A February 10 Fond du Lac house party netted Action Wisconsin not only big bucks in its ongoing battle against the constitutional civil unions ban, but some of the area’s top Democrats, including Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager. About 50 people attended the fundraiser hosted by AW supporters Dave and Madonna Bowman.
Besides Lautenschlager, other top names at the party included Todd Schmitz, leader of the local Democratic Party; and County Board Supervisor Judy Goldsmith. Several area clergy also attended. Lautenschlager told the Fond Du Lac Reporter she was attending the house party as a private citizen. “Needless to say, this is an important issue facing Wisconsin,” she said.

Exhibit B:
National Coming Out Day celebrates the October 11, 1987 March on Washington in which 500,000 gays, lesbians, and their allies marched for equal rights in our nation’s capital.
Approximately 40 people were at the reception, which featured talks by Carmen Murguia of the Juana Vega Resource Center, OutVote Project Coordinator Saad Akbar Khan, and a funny, yet thoughtful speech by Peg Lautenschlager, Democratic candidate for Attorney General.

Exhibit C:

A wide array of pro-LGBT candidates won election in Wisconsin. All but one of the candidates HRL-PAC endorsed were elected to office.
"We were particularly thrilled that there were pro-LGBT winners in the races that we put most of our financial and volunteer support into, including the governor's and attorney general's races," said Paul Williams, HRL-PAC President. Both Jim Doyle and Attorney General-elect Peg Lautenschlager are strong supporters of LGBT rights.

Exhibit D:
New Harvest Foundation: “Funding South Central Wisconsin’s LGBT Communities Since 1984” New Harvest Dinner Dance: On Saturday, February 19 supporters of New Harvest gathered at 2005 Monona Terrace, Madison, WI to celebrate the accomplishments of the year. Ladies Must Swing provided the entertainment and Wisconsin State Attorney General, Peggy Lautenschlager was the keynote speaker

Exhibit E:
Wisconsin's LGBT Political Action Committee
HRL-PAC Academy Awards Party
HRL-PAC's Academy Awards Party was a wonderful success!
Over 100 people enjoyed the Oscars, a gourmet buffet and rousing political speeches at Milwaukee's Hi Hat Garage on March 23. Notable political attendees included Wisconsin Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager, Supreme Court candidate Ed Brunner, Sen. Tim Carpenter, Rep. Mark Pocan, and three of the four candidates for Milwaukee mayor. Your support made this HRL-PAC's biggest grossing fundraiser to date!

7.24.2005

A Weekend Out of Town



Graveyard for sale in Pine Grove, Wisconsin.



Mulberries - after I got to most of the ripe ones.



Bonfire in Millhome, Wisconsin.







Pears growing on my tree in Kiel - and sunblasted grass.

Headlines

Zimbabwe Named 'Home of Eminent Domain'

UW-Whitewater Grad Knows Too Much


Cats Overrun Humane Society

Ok, so only the last headline is true (and it only ran on the print version of the Sheboygan Press article). Although that title inspired someone I know to envision cats with AK-47's and bandoliers storming the humane society, I found the story's lead even more hilarious:

"Meow. Purr. Nuzzle-nuzzle. Lick."

Another headline I should throw in:

WI State Senator to Meet with Chinese

Sources say Wisconsin State Senator Bob Jauch (D-Poplar) will be meeting with Chinese dignitaries in a few weeks. And the dignitaries "requested" approximately 10 copies of the 2003-2005 Blue Book. Hmmm.

Jauch also likes to travel to interesting places lately, including the Middle East (Jordan).

He also served as:

President of Wisconsin's United Council of Student Governments in 1971.

Just noticed

Reading the GOP3 blog, I just noticed that I know one of the guys who runs it from high school. Hooray!

And while I'm noticing things, I see the list of "restless natives" to the right is sadly short - let's add some names, shall we? How about -
Blogger Beer - a great name for any blog, and he has a great restaurant review up
Jiblog - man, I read this guy every day; I can't believe I haven't linked him yet
Dummocrats - well, duh
Random10 - who seems to be taking "blogger beer" seriously
the Appletonian - although not as great a city as Menasha, still a pretty good one (but I may be a little biased)

Update: heck, while I'm adding stuff, go check out Everyone Drunk but Me. It ran for 4 years in the Daily Cardinal, and is now being "reprinted" (as it were) online. It is the most charming and funny comic you'll ever read!

7.22.2005

Justice Crooks Running Again

Good luck. Most people don't pay attention to State Supreme Court races, but they'll have to this time. The left doesn't like Crooks historically and the right is fuming after his recent spate of unwise swing votes on hot button cases. Clifford of Dane County is all but in the race, but hopefully a palatable candidate emerges.

7.21.2005

National Museum of the American Indian, An Architectural Review

Like a red rock mesa or butte, it rises from a corner of the National Mall, reminiscent of the tableland cliff dwellings of the Anasazi at Mesa Verde in the American West. The structure’s exterior is everywhere undulating, wrapping in terraced bands of wavy, lightly rusticated dusty brown stone.

The visitor leaves the mall and does not immediately enter, as he would at one of the Smithsonians, through a blatant, utilitarian, or classical portico, but instead winds slowly past a waterfall and a meandering waterway, flanked on the left by a natural buffer of native foliage, including sumac. The walk slows the sometimes hectic pace of the mad dash to see the many attractions of the Mall and prepares the visitor for a deeper, more profound experience inside. After roaming along the length of the building, one rounds the corner, arriving at the entrance, but not until catching a pleasing view of the Washington Monument lined up with the path just traveled. The water feature ends by flowing into a sizable hole in the bottom of the shallow pool, evoking the ancient belief of a connection with other levels of time and existence prevalent in the cosmology of many tribes of the Southwest.

Inside, a vast circular Guggenheimesque atrium opens light, airy, and white, stark almost to the point of coldness. A bronzed screen hides the vastness initially and guides the guest into the oculus-topped atrium, increasing the impact of the voluminous space as Wright did in many of his buildings. The space, called "Potomac" is almost empty; few exhibitions, little accessible meaning – other than perhaps recalling the openness of the Sioux Great Plains and Blackfeet in Big Sky Country. And it is devoid of expected reference to Native American purpose and lacking, especially, a deep-rooted sense of connection to the natural environment one would expect in a museum devoted to indigenous peoples. The space seems too Calatrava for the theme; where is the intimate earthy sense of longhouse or wigwam, of hogan or teepee?

Galleries are reached only by a bank of elevators to the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th floors or a stairway wrapping its way up the curving inside of the atrium. Unfortunately, the sprawling gift shop overwhelms the first floor beyond the atrium, giving the impression of misplaced priorities. The content seems absent at first glance. Beyond the gift shop, an organic feeling corridor lined above with wooden sticks, similar in curving, glacial aura to the new Scottish Parliament building, leads to the theater.

Climbing the staircase is breathtaking; if only the staircase itself were more inspiring. The gallery levels, hidden as they are, are well done. Vibrant and interactive displays are arranged in a manner conducive to wandering. The content shows itself. Native Americans are portrayed from their perspective and in both their contemporary and historical contexts. A starlit vault in one gallery and the embrace of curving glass cases ensconce the visitor comfortably in the exhibits.

Interspersed among the galleries are aesthetically pleasing nooks and crannies. One, a landing on the fourth floor, just off of the rotunda, serves as a subtly lit rounded space, perfectly suited for quiet contemplation of artifacts and decorated earthenware. In another location, a serene cylindrical space, a haunting yet powerful pewter-tone sculpture incorporates a tree, animals, and human figures into the space. The two native American figures, flanked by a figure in pilgrim garb, gaze intensely at the visitor, an emotive connection that at last silently speaks the museum’s mission: we were here, we are here, and we will be here.

Despite its drawbacks, the new museum is significant addition to the National Mall. Open for less than a year, it is a must-see piece of architecture during your visit to the nation’s capital. Architect Info Here.

BV

Good News on the China Front

China has at long last "unpegged" the yuan.

7.20.2005

Night in Madison















Odd Wisconsin Legislation: Sprinklers, Asian Carp

Had a meeting at St. Paul's this evening - it was repressively hot.

Anyway, two interesting bills are heading toward the floor of the Wisconsin State Legislature.

One, AB-544, would force most privately owned buildings that serve primarily as college student housing to put in sprinkler systems. Public university dorms is one thing, but this bill includes fraternities, sororities, private college dorms, and private apartment buildings. It seems to overreach a bit for my tastes; let college students and property owners make their own risk judgments off campus. Unfortunately, a strange little bipartisan coalition supports it.

The other bill, AB-470 is designed to stop the spread of Giant Asian Carp - a bloated menace waiting to break into the Great Lakes if it hasn't already. Just think of it as a 100 lb + pal of the sea lamprey, zebra mussel, alewife, and plain old carp. And it whacks people, too!

Luckily, the bill made it out of committee. It should be amended to allow possession, transport etc, though - "in order to facilitate or hasten the destruction of said fish or eggs." Usually I don't care for much that "Snarlin' Marlin" does, but this is a notable exception.

Bush Gives O'Connor a Nod in Roberts Nomination?

As he made his nomination last evening, Bush managed to weave in the term "Majesty of the Law" during his brief remarks. A little nod to Sandra Day O'Connor's similarly titled autobiography? I could picture him finding that reference humorous, and, as he spoke, he almost seemed to emphasize the phrase for just that reason.

7.19.2005

Tires and Maytag Bid Up in Smoke

Whew - at least our washers and dryers are safe!

Unfortunately, the giant pile of tires in Watertown was not - wow. The massive cloud of smoke was clearly visible from the observation deck of the state capitol building this afternoon. But that's a given, I guess, since even people in Janesville could see it, too.

Big Announcement Coming Soon...

Now that the SCOTUS suspense is broken, we've got another thing to get anxious about. What big news will The Mendota Beacon break tomorrow [Update: just spoke to our source* - the story will break Thursday or Friday]? Hmmm...tune in for a development in a controversial statewide story! - S & B

*wow - don't I feel all trenchcoat-and-fedora!

Update: So, the story is still developing. We'll still break it when it comes, but I'm beginning to feel a bit played. The whole thing sounded more exciting, the fewer details I had about it.

7.17.2005

Couldn't Resist


I saw this funny sign today in Greenbush, Wisconsin.

Photo Copyright 2005 Letters in Bottles

7.16.2005

Pondering Conservative Movements

Goldwater sparked it. Nixon attempted to dismiss it. Ford snubbed it. Reagan capitalized on it. The Bushes inherited it.

The modern American conservative movement is a deeply interesting phenomenon that definitely continues to shape politics today. A fantastic piece in the Claremont Review digs into the movement and takes a sweeping look at the development of a viable national force through the development of activism, thinktanks, philosophers, and a unified voice rooted in first principles. The author, William Rusher, reviews a book by Robert Mason and focuses on Nixon'’s interactions with conservatives, as well as his impact on the movement, but makes a grand overarching argument about why the Republican Party achieved electoral power.

I especially enjoyed some of the intriguing little tidbits sprinkled throughout: Nixon considered changing the name of the Republican Party to "The Conservative Party"”, Ford sealed his own fate by failing to appoint a conservative VP, and both Goldwater and Reagan had nascent campaigns rolling in 1960 and 1968 respectively. The author also ponders what would've happened if Nixon had been able to build on the colossal victory of 1972.

As someone committed to building some semblance of a conservative movement here at UW-Madison, I found many parallels between the situation of American conservatives in the early 1960s and the current plight/opportunity of student conservatives at the foot of the ivory tower on Bascom Hill. Like the national movement, I think there is hope for us in our Madison microcosm.

There have been earlier conservative efforts on the UW campus, though, even during the tear-gas clouded chaos of the Vietnam Era. It just hasn'’t been passed on. In lieu of institutional knowledge, an enlightening piece from the campus history anthology from a few years back lays out some interesting stories of UW campus conservatives starting in the Goldwater days. Even then, getting activists, thinkers, and media attention to jibe was difficult.

Really, anyone with any objective can work to launch and organize a movement. But the success of the conservative moment is not only a function of the group's organizing prowess, but also of the fundamental soundness of the ideas being advanced. Goldwater had the ideas right; it just took time to build a vehicle to get them out to the citizenry. Charles Kesler, in a different Claremont piece (they usually have good stuff), admonishes young conservatives - and rightly so -– that they must not forget the original sparks Goldwater provided. As he notes, it'’s "“as though the campfires are burning down."

The challenge for today'’s conservatives, especially those on campuses, is to keep the vehicle of organizational structure in fine working order while remembering that the vehicle'’s occupants, ideas, are the only reason the vehicle exists. We need to do some reading of Russell Kirk along with our sign waving. As we move further from the philosophical pit stop of the 1950s and early 1960s, we have to do a little extra work to remain familiar with the passengers because, really, electoral success without philosophical underpinnings is ultimately just sound and fury.

Supreme Court Surprises

What's up with the Wisconsin Supreme Court lately?

Specifically, what's happened to Justice Crooks? In three recent - and overly broad - rulings on medical malpractice caps, Miranda rights, and lead paint liability, a narrow majority of the court showed a severe lack of common sense. Crooks, usually a reliable "conservative" vote, tipped the scales in the trio of cases. Jessica McBride has appropriately nicknamed him the Badger State's own Souter. Charlie Sykes blasts the errant rulings - and rightfully so.

The national debate over the Supreme Court puts the court's role in perspective; it's at the top of the state government food chain. There aren't many options for the people or the legislature to use in these situations. Time to "address" the situation, perhaps?

WI Constitution
Section 13.
Justices and Judges: Removal by Address
Any justice or judge may be removed from office by address of both houses of the
legislature, if two-thirds of all the members elected to each house concur therein...


Since the above is unlikely to be attempted, much less succeed, we have yet another motivation to get Green or Walker elected governor next fall.

Madison: Morning in Pictures








































It's a perfect summer day for Maxwell Street Days on State Street, and downtown Madison is hopping.

Canoes went marching around Capitol Square. Senator Herb Kohl was out shaking hands at the Farmer's Market (looked like he had just arrived from working at an organic farm). Shops posted employees on ladders to watch/entertain sidewalk shoppers. An employee I know at Steve and Barry's was out folding shirts with gusto. Piccolo Guy was playing as usual. The various political causes of the left had their tables out to recruit. And Planned Parenthood had the nerve to hand out green balloons to toddlers. But on the whole, a good time.

Althouse has her unique perspective on Maxwell Street Days, too.

All photos copyright Letters in Bottles 2005.

7.15.2005

Get to State Street!

The Den, a quirky college general store of sorts with two locations at UW-Madison is closing for good. The University Square location is already shuttered.

The store on State Street is closing soon, but for now, everything there is a whopping 50% off! I restocked my fridge for six bucks!

There are also some great sidewalk sale deals at various State Street merchants since today and tomorrow it's "Maxwell Street Days." Lots of cds and Badger paraphenalia out there.

China's Nukes are Pointed at Us

At least some in China are not playing by the Sun Tzu rules and concealing the true intent of China's buildup. The article may merely outline what should have been apparent for some time now; China would/could use nukes against America over the Taiwan issue.

This will prove to be a turning point; Congress and the public are now aware of China due to the Unocal bid. This subsequent rash statement by a high ranking PLA officer comes at an inopportune time for the Chinese. The game plan is out.

Madison for Venezuela - Ummm....No

Last week's edition of Core Weekly here in Madison had a short, heavily-biased article on a "BuyCott" movement that would support the loose cannon leftist Chavez regime in Venezuela.

The organizer, Jeff Cohen, suggested everyone buy gasoline from Citgo because Citgo, wonderful company that it is, is "socially conscious" enough to buy "50 percent of its crude oil from Venezuela." The effort also encourages consumers to "boycott gas stations like Exxon, Mobile, and Shell." Supposedly, social programs will benefit.

Ok, so supporting Chavez is a good thing? And this is because...continuous social and political turmoil is a good thing for citizens? Supporting anti-American thugs is praiseworthy?

Well, then again, this is Madtown. Methinks it's time to BOYCOTT Citgo.

Rove Removal Case Unravels

Rove did not instigate, but was initially fed information on the CIA agent by the media, according to this article. He learned of a few components of the story from journalist Robert Novak, it seems.

And to think that I heard Robert Novak speak here on the UW campus in the past school year - and, when I caught up with him afterwards, he signed a piece of paper for me that said "Hurrah for intellectual diversity, Robert Novak."

7.14.2005

Stranger from a strange land

Howard the Duck, or Screamin' Dean (take your pick of nickname), was in town yesterday. Because I have things to do - like work - I wasn't able to attend, although I think it would really have been a fascinating experience. Walking past the Orpheum before the show certainly was. So let's take a look at the coverage:

The lefty Capital Times calls Dean "furious" about Bush (and the Rove scandal) in the lead sentence. Meanwhile, the WSJ tried to put a friendly face on it: "Jabbing at both parties, Dean draws cheers".

Actually, the rest of the text of both articles is extremely similar, hitting many of the same talking points. Dean is probably right to compare today's Democratic party to the GOP in the '70s: each team had a candidate it though should win without a problem, but was dealt an important blow. So Dean is right that current Democratic strategy is in need of re-thinking.

But one thing really gets me:
"(Bush) doesn't care about freedom. He only cares about giving it to the Iraqis and taking it away from us," said Dean...

Think about that for a bit.

Kelo, applied - or, a booze-fueled rant

Tim asked me a while ago what I thought of the Kelo v. New London decision, but I never got around to posting anything about it. So here's the evolution of what I think:

1.) My libertarian sense (it's kinda like the Spidey Sense) tingled in a most malicious way. The decision seems pretty sleazy.
2.) "Wait," I thought. If communities are really democratic, things will work out in the end - or at least the worst cases will be alleviated.
3.) Oh, wait, nevermind.

So, we basically have to wait for an example to come up locally and see how Madison will respond. I'm not hopeful. But a case has indeed come up. And it's a pretty good case: skeezy sex store versus big shiny new thing. Here's the setup (and we'll leave out for now how much I dislike Susan Lampert-Smith):
Selective Video's days in its current locale are numbered. The city has created a tax-incremental financing district to redevelop the gateway to the Arbor Hills neighborhood into something less tawdry.

Mortenson Investment Group wants to build an $18 million "Landmark Gate" office and retail project there, but it hasn't been able to entice the video store owners into selling.

That's just about the perfect setup for a libertarian tussle: defend something you'd rather not. But I just love the idea that the move is already a done deal: your days are numbered, Selective Video, and there's nothing you can do about it. Your rights to your property really don't mean much at all. We're going to kick you out.

What, then, is to be done?
So the city of Madison might have to step in, condemn the property and find a new place for Selective Video to do business. That's the law.

Yep, the law's the law. Never mind that it's supposed to protect your property from others. Pity the poor city of Madison, who'd really rather not have to squash another business (they haven't killed enough with the smoking ban and the minimum wage increases). But Mad-town really just has to do this, you know, old chap, not much to be done about it. Must do one's duty.

But there's good news!
"We can't put someone out of business," said Mark Olinger, the city's planning and development czar. "We have to offer just compensation."

Whew, at least they have to offer just compensation. Never mind you can't really compensate for the hassle of having to move, etc. The city will toss you a few pennies, so never fear. To whit:
This means the public servants of Madison might have to don rumpled raincoats and try to interest some neighborhood into looking at dirty pictures. Or at least find a place for people to look at dirty pictures.

It's not going to be easy.

Under current zoning, adult entertainment establishments (i.e., dirty bookstores) can only locate in areas zoned for manufacturing.

Even more vexing - as Visions strip club learned when it looked to relocate earlier this summer - there are distance requirements. Adult businesses can't be within 1,000 feet of a school, church or - big problem here in Wisconsin - a tavern.

Olinger said Visions thought it had found the perfect location off of Lien Road, but learned the property boundaries were within 1,000 feet of the property line of the Holiday Inn, which has a bar. (Visions is classified as an adult entertainment tavern, which allows it into locations with C-3 commercial zoning, unlike the bookstore.)

Selective Video's owner isn't talking to reporters, but I'm guessing an industrial park location won't have the drive-by visibility of the current spot.

That's where the article effectively ends, except for a bit of Lampert-Smith drivel at the end. But the sound is disturbing. I'm no fan of sleazy bookstores, and Selective Video seems to be toward the top, but it is a valid business that should not be forced to sell. The Kelo ruling is one more tool in the bag of dirty tricks that Mad city can now use to kick business in the shin, if not the head.

7.13.2005

Cookies, Dean, Gaylord, and More

Good News:
+ The national deficit is being reduced more quickly than expected.
+ State legislators met to start drafting the Property Rights Protection Act to fight Kelo ruling.
+ There are poets out there who supported the Iraq War!
+ Vicki McKenna led some conservatives today in "welcoming" Dean to Madison.
+ I hit a sixty foot putt!

Bad News:
+ Rippin' Good Cookies is leaving Ripon, WI! Woe is us! And they're moving to...Illinois?
+ China is upping its bid for Unocal. At least people are catching on - this is all a bit sinister.
+ Representative Dave Obey played Amazing Grace on his harmonica in the state capitol today as part of a tribute to former Governor Gaylord Nelson - it was very strange, indeed.
+ Rehnquist is hospital; we could see two at once, which probably means at least one moderate.
+ Howard Dean is in town tonight for a fundraiser at the Orpheum Theater. All his acolytes were clogging up the already choked sidewalks on State Street earlier this evening.

7.12.2005

Getting Shanghai'd in the Great Game?

Several Asian nations appear to be lining up geopolitically with China. Russia's move into Beijing's orbit, the article notes near the end, is part of its effort to continue The Great Game, its historical Cold War of sorts against British influence in its southern periphery. See Rudyard Kipling's book Kim for a great story-based perspective on The Great Game.

India is deciding which axis to align with - America would benefit from a stronger partnership. Having the continent's three giants arrayed against us would not help our current efforts in Asia. If Wisconsin Governor "Diamond Jim" Doyle should've made a trade trip anywhere, it should have been to India, not China.

China - and any Asian country, for that matter - should be permitted to buy and control an American company. That's according to a piece by Jack Kemp today at Townhall. The Chinese simply aren't coming at things from the same perspective, though. An ever more nationalistic populace and government is not viewing economic decision-making in an objective framework, as Kemp seems to think. I agree with a few of his points - some Democrats have gone a bit too far in their criticisms of current China policy. But I disagree with the main thrust of his argument, at least in the case of this particular country.

Steve, any thoughts from your International Relations background?

UW-Madison Student Fees Rising - Again

Not only will tuition go up here at UW-Madison in the next school year, but also the bane of my existence...student segregated fees. Steve has done a good job chronicling the efforts to reduce them in the past year.

According to the State Journal, seg. fees will rise by $54 per year in the next school year. This will put the overall burden on a student at nearly $700. The one aspect of our tuition we nominally control as students - and what do we do? We raise it. And then some student leaders steal the fees. The increase and corruption certainly don't give student campaigns against tuition increases much moral high ground to stand on.

Then again, Chancellor Wiley and Paul Barrows don't help the tuition rates either.

Seg. fees have been used to fund a host of notoriously wasteful and tasteless activities on campus, including a "Sex Workers Art Show," a left-wing student newspaper, free condoms, a campus visit by Michael Moore, and trips to "diversity" conferences in places like Miami and New Orleans.

There are some legitimate uses for seg. fees, but when they also fund activities of groups like W.H.A.M. ("Women Happily Advocating Masturbation") and the International Socialists, I start to wonder.

The Mendota Beacon, our campus conservative paper, is, I'm glad to say, "Proud to Be Seg. Fee Free."

We'll see if the Robin Hood Slate, started in the past school year, can tow a more fiscally responsible line now that we have a sizeable contingent elected into office.

7.11.2005

Supreme Court Media Vultures


Back in Madtown!

Here are a few photos of the vigilant media crew outside the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., as promised.

At some point this week, I hope to show a few more pics of the new American Indian Museum that has been open for less than a year on the National Mall. It's a noteworthy piece of architecture, and I hope to give my take on it.

Also, check out the music of rockin' pianist Spencer Bates. I managed to hear him live at Mr. Smith's in Georgetown one night with some friends (Tori Amos, oddly enough, used to play the same gig). Everything from Outkast to John Denver, and of course some quality Bill Joel. Somehow, he makes them all sound fantastic unaccompanied on piano. Very cool.

From Washington, D.C.

Just checking in from D.C. The weekend has been a productive one. I learned a few pointers from Morton Blackwell, a veteran campaign strategist and grassroots educator.

Oh yeah - the news reporters and cameras are gathered like vultures outside the Supreme Court.

I'll try to get a picture or two on when I get back later today.

7.09.2005

But is forced collectivization next?

A bold move fromKos today: a large and bloody purge! His words:
Today I did something I've never done before (not even during the Fraudster mess), and wish I'd never had to do.

I made a mass banning of people perpetuating a series of bizarre, off-the-wall, unsupported and frankly embarassing conspiracy theories.

I have a high tolerance level for material I deem appropriate for this site, but one thing I REFUSE to allow is bullshit conspiracy theories. You know the ones -- Bush and Blair conspired to bomb London in order to take the heat off their respective political problems. I can't imagine what fucking world these people live in, but it sure ain't the Reality Based Community.

So I banned these people, and those that have been recommending diaries like it. And I will continue to do so until the purge is complete, and make no mistake -- this is a purge.
[emphasis mine]

This is one purge I can get behind.

Important details

Just as Dean is talking about how some will justify the terrorist attacks in London, Lorelei Kelly at Democracy Arsenal points out some important good news:
In addition to gathering over 170 prominent scholars (representing all Madhahib or major schools of thought) from all parts of the Islamic world as well as America & Europe the conference succeeded in attaining the signatures of all attendees on a document that spoke against the practice of labeling others as apostates, whether Muslim or non-Muslim. It also set specific Islamic criteria for individuals to issue religious rulings (or fatwa). The document defined the qualifications for issuing fatwas, since the so-called fatwas justifying terrorism are all being issued outside of the established schools of religious law and are in clear violation of their common principles.

[Read the whole thing.]

Democracy Arsenal is one of my favorite blogs, and probably my absolute favorite group blog, because it shows that the other side is thinking about strategy and big issues. I may not like the conclusions they come to, but I shouldn't, since I'm on the other side. But I'm still glad they're out there as an antidote to the Kos Kidz. They also point to info that is often useful, but sometimes overlooked by the conservative blogosphere.

7.07.2005

Jacking Up the Speed Limit in Wisconsin?

State Senator Tom Reynolds began circulating a bill draft today that would increase the speed limit on interstates in Wisconsin to 75 mph.

Yes, everyone goes that fast now. But will raising it just bump the common speed up to 85 miles per hour? We might as well just pull a Montana then and make every "I" an autobahn.

Should be an interesting piece of legislation to follow, though.

Terrorism Hits London

Wow. "The Secret Organization of al-Quaida in Europe" hits London (what kind of a name is that?). Perhaps this will change the British public's view of Blair and the War in Iraq.

7.06.2005

Tommy Thompson Working for the Chi-Coms?!

Who'dve thunk it? After serving as Badger Governor and Bush Secretary, it appears Tommy Thompson is now working for the lobbying firm "Akins Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld"- the firm currently representing a Chinese state-owned oil company in its bid to buy American oil company Unocal.

A column focused on the firm's mercenary flip-flop (it used to represent Chevron!) by Robert Novak does not stress the Elroy-CNOOC link, but merely mentions Thompson tangentially as a recent hire. Clinton pal Vernon Jordan also works at the firm.

Maybe it's because China is berating Congress for overwhelmingly (333-92) voting against allowing the Unocal acquisition, but the mainstream media is now beginning to see the economic, military, and political tentacles China has quietly been extending around the world.

One piece today highlights the advance into Latin America - yet another reason we need CAFTA to strengthen ties to the region. Africa, too, is being courted heavily by the Chinese according to Logan at SurvivedSars. Pub Philosopher notes a similar phenomenon in the British Press.

I noted my concern over these incursions - and China's rise in general - earlier this year in a China column for The Mendota Beacon.

Birds: Pitting Greens Against Themselves


This story on the slaughter of birds by wind farms in California will no doubt be cited soon in the fight over a proposed wind farm in the vicinity of Horicon Marsh, just south of Fond du Lac.

Death by turbine certainly creates an interesting conflict for those in favor of both renewable energy and happy wildlife.

While the problem might have a negative impact on some hawk populations, the sandhill crane population seems to have the ironic problem of overpopulation in certain areas. I happened to spot an unprecedented flock of 33 sandhills over the weekend near Reedsville. I snapped some pictures of them in a field as they took off (see above) - I'm sure the farmer was happy.

Recently, I've heard of cranes chowing down on 40 acres worth of early corn crop, much to the chagrin of the landowner.

Whooping cranes + wind turbines = bad news. Sandhill cranes + wind turbines = well, maybe just enough culling to do what farmers aren't currently permitted to do with a .20 guage. And, mind you, this is coming from someone who enjoyed reading Aldo Leopold's A Sand County Almanac and participated in an Annual Crane Count.

Former State Assemblyman DuWayne Johnsrude (R-Eastman) had pushed, several years back, to open a season on sandhills. I don't think the population's quite ready for that, but farmers should have more options on the table when their livelihood is threatened.

7.05.2005

Miscellania

Before we get to my weekend, go check out Tim Schulz's great blog. As he says, "step into the world of Timmyscape where real questions get asked, issues get pondered, numbers get crunched, and pragmatism reigns."

I missed the fireworks in Mad-town, but caught them at Summerfest on Sunday. Milwaukee did a stellar job, but that was only a second-tier treat compared to what came next: Moby. Much as I dislike the man's politics, he truly is an audiophile par excellence. And it showed Sunday night.

Firstly, let me say that my roommate and I had front row seats, just stage right of center. Standing on the bleachers, we could see the entire stage. Anyhow, Moby is generally an electronic artist, but Sunday night he had a band with him. That's right - he'd transcribed all of his electronic music into actual instruments. And then proceeded to totally rock out. The man has as much energy as Springsteen on stage - actually, Moby had a wireless electronic guitar, and cavorted madly about the stage with it. He did a pretty deep set, reaching back through a number of his popular songs off past records, plus some (only three, actually) from his latest album Hotel (disc one is great, by the way, but I can't quite get into the ambient disc two). He also played some amazing covers. At one point he confessed to the audience that there are times he'd like to be a cruise-ship musician "so [he] could play bossa-nova covers of popular songs", and then launched into a bossa-nova cover of Radiohead's Creep. My only complaint? The show was only an hour and a half long - and what's worse, it felt like it had only been five minutes. The whole thing was an absolutely fantastic concert, though - I wished he would have played for another three hours, but I guess we'll forgive him.

Fireworks...

Copyright 2005 Letters in Bottles

No, not the Supreme Court battle - the real ones, the ones made in China.

Bush says he will take his time with the SCOTUS nomination and wait until after the G8 in Gleneagles, Scotland. While I didn't get to stop and check it out, I did pass through the area around Gleneagles on the train in Scotland earlier this year - absolutely beautiful country.

Above's a neat shot from the festivities at the cottage in Door County over the holiday weekend. The cottage is on what I'd call Wisconsin's "Belgian Riviera" - many of the cottagers are locals with Belgian heritage, like my family. The neighbors, flying a Belgian flag along with Old Glory, were kind enough to bring over some squeaky cheese curds for supper. I also learned to play the classic Belgian card game, Kuyah (sp?). Good times.

7.03.2005

My life

This describes my life way too well. Except substitute "Pepsi" for "Coke".

7.02.2005

Democratic Strategy

I've been interested for a while in what it will take for the Dems to become a coherent party again. Partly because I think competition - true cometition - is good for our democracy, and partly because it can suggest even stronger strategies for the Republican side.

I mentioned a Kos piece a while back, and now there is another, more in-depth piece on how Dems should strategize (strategerize?):
What was important about Boeing’s creation of the jumbo-jet wasn’t simply that it involved long term strategizing, and the willingness of Boeing’s CEO to accept temporary failures. That’s process rather than product. It’s that it was an act of market making. Boeing didn’t go out and look at a given market structure, in order to figure out how best it could fit in. It realized that new technologies provided it with the opportunity to build a new market, in essence to summon customers (who had never realized that they wanted a jumbo-jet) out of thin air. And once it had built this marketplace, on its terms, it was able to dominate it for a very long time. Because it had created the market, it was in a position where it could define what Fligstein calls the “conception of control,” the rules under which competition took place, so as to secure a long term advantage.

In contrast, most firms most of the time are market takers. They try to fit themselves into an existing ecology, finding some secondary niche that isn’t too vulnerable to predators. They don’t have any ambitions to re-write the rules, but instead accept the market as it exists. They forego the massive profits that accrue to the market-making firm or firms in exchange for a more-or-less comfortable existence.

But Perlstein’s key point (and again, you need to read his book on Goldwater to properly understand this) is that the current conservative bias of US politics is itself a political artefact. It’s the product of an extraordinarily successful long-run initiative by right wing Republicans to reorient the political debate around a set of ideas that once seemed bizarre and unnatural to most Americans. The Republicans have largely succeeded in capturing the “conception of control” in the marketplace. They set the rules regarding what can be debated and what can’t in economic policy (protecting the poor becomes “class warfare”), and, increasingly in other areas of policy too. As long as that’s true, the Republicans are always going to be in a position of structural advantage, and the Democrats in one of structural weakness. Triangulation can help win temporary victories, but it can’t produce long term gains. Indeed, by forcing the Democrats to ‘accept’ rules of the game that they haven’t themselves set, it weakens their long term ability to bring through real structural change.

Megan McArdle at Asymmetical Information has a long takedown:
But as a political metaphor, this is silly. As a company, the folks at Boeing had no particular emotional vision of what planes should be like; they wanted to make whatever would sell. They became market makers only to the extent that they--and the companies they sold to--recognised an untapped market for mass air travel. Yet this metaphor is being advanced by people who want Democrats to resist the call of the market, to stick to principles rather than trimming their sails to the prevailing political winds in the hope that people will come their way. If the folks at Boeing had just followed their hearts this, Boeing would have made a bunch of super-fast, super-fun, super-small jets that appealed to the engineers designing the planes . . . and filed for bankruptcy a few years later.

The "If you build it they will come" strategy is what Barry Goldwater tried. That is not how conservatives "made the market". Conservatives, like Boeing, took a long hard look at political realities, and decided that no matter how much they wanted to, they were not going to be able to roll back the New Deal. Rather than continuing to launch a fruitless assault on institutions that a majority of the population supported, they started to look for ways to implement their agenda within the reigning paradigm, such as school vouchers and entitlement reform. In the process, of course, they did build a platform on which to reach for more aggressive goals, but it's still not clear that they'll achieve many of them.

My feeling on this is closer to the Crooked Timber bit: the Dems right now are terribly adrift. Megan is right to point out that "the business landscape is littered with the shattered hulks of firms that tried to make markets, and failed," but the Dems right now can't do a whole lot worse than they've been doing. Further, they really aren't going to "go out of business" any time soon - much as some predicted they would in the aftermath of the 2004 election cycle.

Broadly, though, I think that the point is that companies - and political parties - need a long-term strategy in order to be successful. The Democrats are playing reactionary right now, and, to their credit, it has been working. They've successfully blocked social security reform, Bolton's nomination to the UN, and a few other things. They played their hand well on the Schiavo issue, too. But that only gets them so far. To take power back from the Republicans, Dems need a forward vision, which they clearly don't have.

As for Goldwater, his campaign may have gone down in flames, but it also set in motion the rise of the GOP. Megan claims that after Goldwater, the GOP stopped trying to take down the essential structures of the New Deal, but I think that's disingenuous: the current debate on social security shows that Republicans are still trying, if not to completely disassemble the thing, to at least radically change the structure. Goldwater's candidacy showed Republicans not that their ideas were essentially bad, but that they needed a strategy of how to build their base and launch an assault on Democrats' strengths. This, of course, led to the creation of any number of think-tanks and institutions dedicated to the job of getting a conservative message out. That movement is still continuing.

For whatever reason, John Kerry's loss hasn't promoted the same introspection as Goldwater's did. Instead it's prompted more knee-jerking - especially with Dean being put in place as head of the DNC. That the Dems are holding their trenches at the moment is probably good news for them, after their 2004 implosion. But it isn't forward movement. They may have stalled the GOP offensive, but I suspect that will only be temporary unless the Dems put forward a new vision and strategy for the future.