Summertime, and the livin's easy

...And made easier by the fact that I don't have a job yet, so I get to spend a good part of my days relaxing outside.

But hey, it's summer - what should you, the interesting, interested Letters in Bottles reader, be doing with yourself? Funny you ask - I have some answers.

The Isthmus Jazz Festival is beginning tomorrow - and it's on the Terrace, for free! So you have zero excuse for not being there. I'd especially recommend MadiSalsa on Saturday night - the show promises to be fantastic.

However, I'll be missing that to see Tapes 'n' Tapes at the Annex on Thursday.

And with the Isthmus talking so much music lately (especially with WORT's Under the Radar, vol 1 out), I'll end this with a list - my summer mix tape. Feel free to add to it in the comments...

Tsar, I Don't Wanna Break Up: as Tony Pierce will attest, Tsar's music is made for cruising around with the top down in the summertime.

In the Summertime, Mungo Jerry's version is the standard, but all I could find to download is the far less-good Shaggy version.

Boom Shake the Room and Summertime by Will Smith and DJ Jazzy Jeff: I'm not proud to admit that these are in my playlist. BUT! One of my fond summer memories as a kid is laying in bed late at night and hearing cars passing by playing these songs, so they've kinda become a part of my summer nostalgia. And this is the Fresh Prince's new defintion of summer madness... aw yeah.

Alex Neri, Chase the Sun: crappy Euro dance tune that somehow nonetheless is fun.

Beck, Que Onda Guero: does this need an explanation?

July, July! by the Decemberists: it never seemed so strange.

Janis Joplin, Summertime: perhaps the best song entitled Summertime ever.

The Lovin' Spoonful, Summer in the City: tell me this isn't the first song you think of when you think of summer, and I'll call you a liar. From that opening drum, this song is the standard.

Beck, Girl: actually somewhat creepy if you listen to the lyrics, every summer should have a "sun-eyed girl".

Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band, Tenth Avenue Freeze-out: I often wish I lived in Bruce Springsteen's world, and this is a good example of the reason why. When the change was made uptown/ And the Big Man joined the band/ From the coastline to the city/ All the little pretties raise their hands/ I'm gonna sit back right easy and laugh/ When Scooter and the Big Man bust this city in half - seems almost an apt description of the upcoming Jazz Festival.

The Decemberists, California One/ Youth and Beauty Brigade: nice and relaxed, this should be on any road-trip list, so it makes the summer list, too.

Sublime, Summer Time: I'm glad I don't have Sublime's girl problems, but a great song nonetheless.

The Grateful Dead, Uncle John's Band: this song says to me, "go sit on the Terrace and share a pitcher with some friends. Life is good."

Belle and Sebastian, A Summer Wasting: pretty much describes my life right now.

So, what should I add (or detract) from the list? Discuss.


Memorial Day in Manitowoc

A few pics from a day up in Manitowoc. One of the most moving moments of the day was talking to a veteran of the U.S.S. Redfin, a submarine built in Manitowoc that saw service in the Pacific during World War II. Thank you to all veterans out there for serving the call to duty and especially those who gave their lives.

A giant 21 pack?

County officials prepare to salute the nation's veterans with a parade as the Manitowoc County Courthouse looms in the background.

An Edsel!


Pictures from a Madison Marathon

Here are a few Mad City Marathon shots from my vantage point at Randall and Mound. While today's weather was fantastic for onlookers, it must have been hell for runners.

A significantly shorter run from the Greenbush down to the race's conclusion at Brat Fest and back was plenty for me!

LIB reader Jon E shows he's got what it takes at Mile 15.

Half-marathoners pass the temple on Randall.

Onlookers cheer the runners as they round another corner in the mid-morning shade.

Event staff did a great job. Whether it was towing last minute obstacle vehicles to cheering on participants (especially the little guy in red on the left side of this shot), the event seemed to run smoothly.

Only five more miles to go!


B.S. Alert

I smell something rank.


Who owns Dracula's castle? Well, as of Friday, it won't be the Romanian government anymore:
The castle, worth an estimated $25 million, was owned by the late Queen Marie and bequeathed to her daughter Princess Ileana in 1938. It was confiscated by communists in 1948 and fell into disrepair. It will be transferred on Friday to Dominic van Hapsburg, a New York architect who inherited the castle from Princess Ileana decades after the communists seized it, minister Adrian Iorgulescu told a news conference.

Van Hapsburg is a descendant of the Hapsburg dynasty which ruled Romania for a period starting in the late 17th century.

I'm sad to say, although I lived within a few hours' journey of the place for the better part of a year, I never got there. I hear they were giving midnight tours. I hope that will continue - I'm sure one could make a killing [vampiric chuckle] off the tourists.

Of course, as a diehard Hungarian nationalist, I've peeved on two accounts: firstly, that a Hapsburg is coming out on top on this, and secondly (and perhaps more importantly), that Transylvania is still in stupid Romania's possession at all. Stupid Trianon.


Hanging up the hat

Well, folks, that's about it. It's been a great run: when I started this blog, I wasn't sure if there really even was much of a Wisconsin blogosphere outside of Althouse. I've since come to learn that the Cheddarsphere is one of the most interesting places out there. I've made some friends, gotten in some arguments, and seen lots of new talent spring up - just check out the links to your right.

The new team is already stepping up, and I have faith that they'll continue this blog in the spirit in which it began. It would be unfair of Brad and myself to stay on here - this is, after all, a college blog, and more specifically, a UW-Madison blog. Although I don't doubt that both Brad and I will be pulled back to the blogosphere sooner or later, the post-graduation daze has left at least me looking elsewhere for a little while. The hat is always there to be picked up again, certainly. At any rate, I'm sure I'll linger to haunt the comments section here and elsewhere.

Thanks to all those who have come back to this blog on a regular basis - we've enjoyed your input, and the blog wouldn't have been the same without you. Please do stick around - the new team is great.

So until later - thanks for the ride. I'll leave you with an institution Brad began on this blog: where in Madison?

Unintended Consequences

The Isthmus is just brimming with unintended consequences this week.

The first, and most linkable, is a story about the plight of the mentally handicapped. The article notes that even according to Dane County Sheriff Gary Hamblin, "[the] jail is used to warehouse people who ought to be getting mental health treatment instead." How is this an unintended consequence? The deinstitutionalization movement (if I was a more vindictive person, I'd note that the cause was the darling of the left) pushed for - well, you guessed it - getting mentally handicapped people out of institutions. It was insulting to the handicapped, they said, and implied that they couldn't lead full, independent lives. The movement has been a complete failure. I hope Community Treatment Alternatives - the subject of the Isthmus piece - gets the funding it needs. It's the least we can do. There are other projects, too, that really help the mentally handicapped - one such is Valley Packing (full disclosure - I worked there for 3 summers. One of the best places I've ever worked). These programs really help - but they fight for funding (VP less so than most perhaps, but resources are always scarce).

The other brouhaha kicked up by the Isthmus is their coverage of the Mierda Verde punk scene. Frankly, both of the stories are examples of the Isthmus doing exactly what it should be doing - talking about local issues. But the paper has been taking a lot of flak for their reporting on this. But frankly, the editorial staff nails it:
It's not a newspaper's job to keep secrets. It's a newspaper's job to report on subjects that are of interest to the community. And the Mierda Verde folks are members of our community, subject to commentary and scrutiny the same as anybody else. That's life in a democracy.

You could also check out Aaron Kraus's reaction.

Recalling Syttende Mai!

With two roommates from Stoughton who used to be Norwegian Dancers, it was hard to avoid getting swept into the festivities that are Syttende Mai, or "Seventeenth of May" - a celebration of Norwegian Independence Day.

Stoughton's celebration of the anniversary is the largest in the world outside of Norway. And it takes on some distinctly Wisconsin flavor...

Check it out next year for some rosemaling, krumkake, and lefse if you didn't make it down.


Culture of Corruption

Four events occurred this week that reflect the culture of corruption plaguing American politics. Events that put one more nail in the coffin of the "Republican Culture of Corruption" argument used by Democrat Minority House Leader Nancy Pelosi and other partisans who like to distract us from what is actually a bipartisan American Political Culture of Corruption.

Democrat Mayor Daley of Chicago was once again put under pressure for political patronage as the federal corruption trial of four of his former employees began.

The Federal Government is continuing to build its case in preparation for an indictment of Ohio Republican Congressman Bob Ney.

In Louisiana (which along with Illinois, New Jersey, and Ohio is probably the most politically corrupt state in the union, and that goes for both parties) an almost exact repeat of the infamous Abscam is taking place. Louisiana Democrat Congressman William Jefferson is under investigation for accepting bribes and already a video has been taped by the FBI of bribe money being delivered to his home as well as two of his former accomplices pleading guilty to bribery related charges.

Democrat West Virginia Congressman Alan Mollohan is under investigation for suspiciously becoming a millionaire while bringing substantial federal money to friends and business associates in his district.

Despite such events taking place, the house ethics truce still remains strong, with no end in sight. At the same time no serious action has been taken by either party at the federal level to establish an independent ethics investigation committee or to reignite debate over the soundly accountable policies of the 1994 Contract with America, one such policy being Congressional term limits.

The American Political Culture of Corruption continues with no end in site… As does the erosion of trust in the US’ two major political parties and its governments... Meanwhile the parties will continue to use corruption as a means to unseat each other from power, but don't seem to ever plan on purging its roots.

Only bold leadership from a politician, who has no vested interest in the current state of affairs, will likely be able to end the ethical malaise of the status quo. The minute I see such leadership I will be sure to let you all know.


Graduating from Letters in Bottles

And so it concludes...

As of June 1, 2006, exactly one year to the day since I began blogging here at Letters in Bottles, I will be tossing myself into that great big sea that is the real world. It's been an amazing, rollicking, pioneering experience - a real treat.

I must thank Steve S first and foremost for the privilege to blog here. Throwing out ideas and observations in the context of a fun and stimulating interaction between two different worldviews - along with those of a host of additional commenters - has been a thrill. In under two years, Steve's creation has grown from an isolated online journal to a hub of campus dialogue and debate here in Madison - all under a quirky, wide-ranging, colorful umbrella. I know we both hope this blog, an infant institution, can continue as a center for lively discourse and novel news reporting.

To that end, we've taken a cue from GOPIII and decided to bring in a new crew. You may have noticed the new conributors listed at the top of the sidebar. Now, you will have not only two, but THREE individuals writing their letters on the topics of the day, shoving them in bottles, and tossing them up on the blog for your consumption, dissection, and edification. Between Mike, a student veteran of the Iraq War, David L, a veteran of campus and local politics, and Erick B, whose interests include "math, vocal trance, pool, meat, brunettes, and lowering seg fees," we feel the unique tenor of LIB will continue onward, although transformed, in a healthy trajectory. I hope somebody continues Steve's attention to the local music scene and fisking of Cardinal columns. And I hope somebody will carry on the LIB tradition of intriguing photography - and maybe even China bashing.

I'm not sure whether to continue blogging or not. It certainly has proven to be a versatile and fitting medium for me; mixing pictures, satire, live-blog reporting, news critique, and debate has been a novel experiment. As one blogger notes, the blogosphere is the ultimate meritocracy - if you keep putting up good content, people will return to the site. It's that simple. In the blogosphere, individuals matter and talent is respected. In the end, I'm a big fan of that overarching concept.

And being a blogger, as the stereotype would probably not suggest, has led to anything but a nerdy, awkward situation in life. It has opened the door to a number of great friendships and prompted action and interaction in the real world. Witnessing the growth of campus blogs, as profiled in our Lagoon link section, has been interesting; the circle of life in the campus blogosphere has been fun to follow - only a few other campus blogs, like Opiate of the Masses, have been putting along at a somewhat regular pace since before this one. Even in the last few days a new animal has emerged in menagerie.

But the blog has been about more than just a circle of friends in the Greenbush. I mean, National Review columnist Jonah Goldberg signed this thing and Dennis York e-mailed me once saying "You guys kick @ss!" We took pepper spray on State Street for the sake of good coverage last fall. And Austin King, President of the Madison Common Council, even takes the time to read our material. Sometimes.

The blog is an interesting creature, I've found - it can be a weakness, but also a political strength. Finding a balance, too - between regular posting and posting too much - has been key. Learning to deal with the consequences of a Wild West free for all on the comment boards has also been valuable; while the jabs hurt for a bit, the long-term health of the blog, open discourse, and the cogency of my own argument is certainly strengthened.

I'm hoping Steve S does a similar retrospective before he hangs up his hat (pun intended).

So, I'll be rounding things out in the next week or so, the future spreading out to the horizon before me. It's been grand.

GOP Convention Coverage

Kevin from Lakeshore Laments provides a great live-blog of yesterday's activities.

Owen at Boots and Sabers does a nice little number, too.

Sean has a bunch of interesting observations and experiences from the convention, including a Mark Green sit-down with the bloggers.

Jenna chimes in as well with a bit of commentary on the reception of various speakers on Saturday morning.

Nice work!


Why I Support English as the Official Language

Yo hablo un poquito Espanol. Pero...

I think English, the de facto lingua franca here in the U.S., should be designated the official language. It makes sense - the latest legislation making English the "national language" does not ban the use of languages other than English wholesale as some seem to imply - it's actually quite watered down:
By stipulating that the English-only mandates could not negate existing laws, Inhofe spared current ordinances that allow bilingual education or multilingual ballots.
Over the decades, American immigrant groups have maintained their languages in ethnic communities; my grandfather still speaks Walloon Belgian over 150 years after my Belgian ancestors came over to the new country. Attempts to curb the use of German in Wisconsin in 1891 with the Bennett Law met an overwhelmingly hostile reaction from the electorate, and the German language finally lost strength in the Badger State only after the World Wars.

Ultimately, groups need to assimilate into the American political culture in order to advance beyond second-class citizenship, and language is a crucial aspect of that change. One elderly gentleman I know grew up speaking Polish exclusively in northern Wisconsin; at school, he was forced to speak English. It was the best thing the teacher could have done, he now reflects. It gave him access to a full life as an American.

Making the transition out of mother tongue toward English is not easy. My great-great-great grandfather, Jean Ropson emigrated from Belgium and arrived in America, only to find himself drafted for service on the Union side in the Civil War. He was mustered in as "John Robinson" due to the language barrier, and his military grave marker bears the same derivation of his rightful name. Likewise, my grandfather said a child in his one-room school was liable to have his wrist slapped if he spoke "Belgian" while in class.

Mandating English in essential federal services is essential for long-term basic unity in our country despite obstacles, however - and it does not deny our nation's diversity.

Me gusta Ingles para todos. So do a bunch of other folks out there, like Marcial Rodriguez:
"People who don't speak English should learn English," he said. "You want to come to this country, you need to speak the language. If I go to Japan, I would need to learn Japanese."
And every immigrant's favorite, Rep. Sensenbrenner, made a cogent summary in a 1996 congressional debate on making English the official language:
I believe it is essential to have English as the official language of our National Government, for the English language is the tie that binds the millions of immigrants who come to America from divergent backgrounds. We should, and do, encourage immigrants to maintain and share their traditions, customs, and religions, but the use of English is essential for immigrants and their children to participate fully in American society and achieve the American dream.
Well said.


At Long Last!

A new blog for the Lagoon.

Schneeberg is on the scene (it means Snow Mountain in German).

Look forward to a mix of sports, humorous notes, and wise observations.

Welcome aboard, Mikey!


Sublet, Anyone?

Yes, I'm still trying to find someone to sublet for the summer.

Just think - it's an historic space here at the Slanty Shanty, and I'm willing to let it go for a rather decent price.

Free parking, laundry, and a spacious porch fronting on a park...

If you or someone you know is still scrambling, shoot an e-mail to the address on the sidebar.


Slanty Shanty Show Finale

It's here!

Crikey! She's a big one!

A cornucopia of guests tackles a bonanza of topics.

Thanks for the memories...

Get Ready - The Slanty Shanty Farewell Show

Coming soon to a computer near you!

We have a massive crew of over ten people on the air, including some newly-minted Badger grads - and some call-in guests - on the final installment of the show. It was a rollicking good time. We talk graduation, MATC-UW-Madison transfer agreement, and immigration.

Whew! Things get just a tad heated at points.

You'll also finally meet the other two inhabitants of The Slanty Shanty...



Reporting from the frontlines: graduation

Well, the 10 a.m. ceremony was quite nice. Speaker was a bit hippy-dippy at times, but rather better than I had hoped, so that's something. The walking was long, of course. This grad student got some quality napping in:

So how do I feel? Mostly, just kinda glad I won't be sucked back into the maw of Humanities.


Is There a Commencement Speaker in the House?

Because we certainly don't have much of one here at UW-Madison for the Sunday ceremonies:
Speaking at both Sunday ceremonies will be Odessa Piper, a champion of sustainability in American agriculture and a strong advocate for more wholesome, locally raised food.
For an institution of our size and caliber, we should have somebody speaking that most people have actually heard about.

I'm a fan of wholesome, locally raised food - I think I'm going to hit up the Farmer's Market tomorrow to stock up for the week. I just don't think the topic is sufficiently broad in scope or significance to serve as the topic of a graduation address at a major American university.

Look who Marquette got - much better choice.


There is no excuse for this

When the government wanted to check library records, I'll admit I made jokes. "Heaven forbid they find out that I checked out The Pokey Little Puppy the other day!" I was a little creeped out in the back of my head - but, I thought, it's more or less public record, so whatever.

When they wanted to tap phone conversations between a foreign phone and an American phone, I got a bit upset. "That's dangerously close to domestic spying, if it isn't the thing itself," I thought. "What's the deal?" I understood the rationale - that it isn't actually, technically, domestic spying, &c - but I was worried. Slippery slope and all that.

Well, now my fears have come true.

This is, frankly, despicable. This is exactly the totalitarianism that I laugh at liberals for accusing the administration of. See (as they like to say), we have this thing. It's called the Constitution. And last I checked, they need a warrant to listen to my phone conversations. Or even just check what phone numbers I've called. That's how it works. Just because the numbers I've called are listed on my bill doesn't mean the government gets to see it. They don't get to see a lot of the things I get billed for. And phone conversations are some of those things.

This only boils down to one thing: the government spying on its own people. And that cannot stand.

And furthermore, I have lost all respect for AT&T, BellSouth and Verizon. Those fuckers.

DaVinci Code: To Boycott or Not to Boycott?

There's quite a controversy brewing over the premier of the movie The DaVinci Code. Leaders of the Roman Catholic hierarchy are calling for a boycott due to the movie's blasphemous nature, while Tom Hanks, who stars in the film, is saying it's all hogwash:
"It's a damn good story and a lot of fun... all it is is dialogue. That never hurts."
Well, that may be true. Generally I've averse to censorship of fictional works, as repression tends to lend greater creedence to any claims of the targeted work. The history of banned books is instructive.

But in this instance, given the popularity of the Dan Brown novel AND the woeful state of Catholic religious education, I must admit I am concerned about the movie's impact. The movie will hurt the Catholic Church.

When Catholics themselves go into the movie more familiar with the noxious hodgepodge of fact and fiction in the Brown novel than with their own religion's theology and structure, viewers do not enter the experience with enough of a foundation in the truth to discern what is fiction.

Still, while I don't think I'll boycott per se - I won't make any special effort to see it either. I have not read the book, although I have read reviews, critiques, and praise extensively. Frankly, I've had more interesting and important things to read and do.

One of the most interesting observations came from Cardinal Amato, and I think it makes a legitimate point about the strange social permissibility when it comes to attacking the Catholic Church with pop culture:
"If such lies and errors had been directed at the Koran and Holocaust they would have justly provoked a world uprising.

"Instead, if they are directed against the church and Christians, they remain unpunished. I hope you will boycott the film."
In the end, the movie will probably ride the Passion-like buzz to blockbuster status. I simply hope everyone chowing down on popcorn and Pepsi goes into the theater knowing that the bulk of The DaVinci Code can be cracked with ease - it's mostly a bunch of baloney.


Chat with the Whitewater "Hanger On" Tomorrow

You've probably heard of the 29-year-old UW-Whitewater student who's now returning for a 13th year. Well, if you want to talk to him in person and ask him just what's running through his mind, here's your chance:


Johnny Lechner

UW-Whitewater student

Johnny Lechner, 29, has been an undergraduate at UW-Whitewater for 12 years. Five days before graduation, Lechner withdrew his application and plans to stay at UW-Whitewater one more year. Lechner will answer your questions about his decision and his time spent at Whitewater in a live chat.

Just go here to the JSONLINE site at the time above. Or you can send in a question early.

Now Whitewater's a great place, but 13 years?

Here's what someone should ask: Is this all just a ploy to drive traffic to his blog?

Or a merchandising scam?

Where Did It Go?


The New Cuban Crisis - Oil, Not Missiles

This development is rather disturbing - and it might just represent the only argument to convince me to end the embargo and normalize trade relations with Cuba:
Plans for foreign oil companies, some from India and China, to drill off the cost of Cuba are prompting calls from lawmakers to ease environmental restrictions that prohibit coastal drilling in most of the U.S., according to a report Tuesday.

At a time of rising soaring gasoline prices caused partly by a lack of supply, legislators are fuming that Cuba is opening up its continental shelf for oil and gas exploration while most of the U.S. continental shelf outside the Gulf of Mexico, which extends 200 miles from shore, has been off limits for drilling since the early 1980s, the New York Times reported.

Adding insult to injury, the Times said U.S. firms were invited to bid on the Cuban contracts, but were barred by the U.S. government due to the country's longstanding economic embargo of communist Cuba.

"Red China should not be left to drill for oil within spitting distance of our shores without competition from U.S. industries," Sen. Larry Craig, Republican of Idaho, told the Times.
Indeed, it should not. China's increasing forays into the Western Hemisphere to secure energy resources should have our klaxons blaring. A blossoming relationship with Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, troops in Haiti, and now drilling in our backyard - China is making strategic moves that make me want to whip out the Monroe Doctrine, dust it off, and start waving it in Hu Jintao's face.

Unfortunately, with a President preoccupied on a thousand fronts with an approval rating below 35%, our country is in the worst possible position to address Chinese incursions with appropriate firmness. Short term, this may seem unworthy of great concern, but it's the long-term implications I'm worried about:
"The good fighters of old first put themselves beyond the possibility of defeat, and then waited for an opportunity of defeating the enemy." - Sun Tzu, The Art of War


Photo Caption Contest

Be sure to note the painted nails when you're crafting yours...


Another Fan from UWM

I don't want to belabor the issue, which should probably be hashed out on an elementary school playground, but it seems some Panthers are still restless over my Wisconsin State column.

Another fan of my work sent a facebook message that I post here, at the risk of further agitating the hornet's nest, for your amusement. Hey, we all need to vent a bit during exams...
From: Jessa Steinhoff (Wisconsin Milwaukee)

To: Brad Vogel

Subject: Wisconsin State: are you kidding?

Message: Wow. You should stop writing. I hope your major has nothing to do with journalism. You make your school look bad. Nice job dumb *ss.
First, yes, Journalism is one of the majors I will graduate with this weekend.

Second, no, I will not stop writing.

Third, shouldn't "dumb *ss" be a compound word - or at least have a hyphen?

Ah, that was cathartic.

Juries Can Disobey the Law?

Yep. I'm suddenly very well aware of this fact after turning in a term paper on jury nullification.

Juries, as you may or may not know, can actually enter a not guilty verdict in contravention of established law without fear of being overturned. In other words, they can determine law as well as fact in a limited context. I think that's okay - so long as it's not overused in the courts:
Ultimately, jury nullifications should be viewed as the “Ulysses’ sirens” they are; potent, potentially dangerous actions to be reserved for the rarest of situations (Downs Lecture, 2/2/06). The value of the legal mechanism has been proven at a number of points along the pathway of historical jurisprudence, but its continued relevance and significance requires vigorous vigilance against dilution, especially as practiced in the form of a Dougherty-style ban on requiring jury instruction on the power and prohibition on counsel informing the jury of its inherent ability.
So, rather than have a judge or defense attorney inform you of nullification powers as required by some law, I'm going to "leaven the juror pool" a bit and tell you here. An interesting tidbit to keep in mind if you ever get called for jury duty.

And now, back to writing exams...


Talking TABOR, TPA as the Dust Settles

Just taking a brief break from paper writing. A pox on exams!

Dad29 outlines his desires for any future attempts at a TABOR or (TPA) Taxpayer Protection Act-type mechanism to reduce taxation:
1) TABOR should control spending, not revenues. Spending drives revenues, not the vice-versa. We know that our wunderkind Leggies (and Governors) CAN spend whatever they take in; it's important to stop them from spending.

2) TABOR should be based on a percentage of COLA in Wisconsin; we can look at .75. Reason? The vast majority of State spending is spending on personnel. We can protect them (to some extent) and still NOT increase State revenues.

3) TABOR should only control State expenditures. This is based on a very significant principle--that of subsidiarity. Locals and schools have elections, too; it's up to the localities to determine what is "right" in tax/expense for their own community.
The final point, especially, is interesting, in that it reveals the ironic rift between two rock-bottom Republican beliefs - lower taxes and less government control. The attempts to pass TABOR, whether in the Panzer era or the current session, seemed, fundamentally to come down to a debate within the Republican caucuses about which principle would trump the other. The appropriateness of constitutional enshrinement was obviously in play, too.

In the end, as Republicans move forward at all levels in Wisconsin (this is a good thing, it could be said, under the Dennis York notion that we still have something to unite the party and run on), they must keep the following simple principles in mind on every piece of legislation:

1. Government should take less money from citizens

2. Government should seek to reduce its own expenditures

3. Government should not alter its fundamental charter frequently or lightly

TABOR or TPA can be argued as fitting or not fitting the final principle, but other legislative mechanisms should hurdle that uncertainty. With luck, the GOP will have a strong tax freeze proposal, which should get over any constitutional qualms, to vote on when Governor Green takes office in January.


More Enlightened Response from UWM

A nice little facebook message from [B] at UW-Milwaukee about my column on the proposed name change (I've bleeped things out as best as I could):

From: [B] (Wisconsin Milwaukee)

To: Brad V

Subject: f*** you

Message: listen kid. i dont give two sh*** if you go to madison or not. i'm from madison area and i'm glad i got outta town. i had the grades and act score to attend madison if i wanted, but i didnt want to. i choose to move outta small town world and actually into a major city. why the f*** you care so much if we change our names? i didnt vote in support of the name change, i think we should remain uw-m. but who the hell are you to come out and degrade us like that. make you feel better? feel high and mighty now do ya lil fella? what a puss. you know what, that's exactly why so many people in this state hate madison. cause you think you're so much better than everyone else. go ahead, call yourself elitists. the nazis did. dick. f' off. and stop writing about my school you lil prick. nobody cares that you go to madison. your university does employ more felons then any other university in the state. go ahead, check the 2006 university census. it's right in there. #1 school of drunk idiots. congrats. do yourself and all of us a favor. write about something other than your insecurities.

A) It's called satire - unless I really hit on more truths than I realized and provoked someone else's insecurities...and B) Why do UWM people keep proving my point to me over and over again?

If you have a spare moment, I'd suggest facebooking him [link removed] and giving him a poke, just as we would to any annoying goalie at an opposing school.

UPDATE: This means war! Poke the authors of some of these posts at the UWM facebook group supporting the name change (which, I might add, failed in a student referendum). This kid should also learn that throwing the term "fa*s" around loosely on the internet is not a smart idea.


A parting shot

As promised.

The Cardinal is suddenly worried today that women don't know their place - how else to explain the pervasive belief, oozing out of every column inch of the story, that women should, for no apparent reason except gender, band together to fight off the evil marauding bands of men in government.
“It is very difficult to act when you have a feeling that people are looking at you through a gendered lens,” Sapiro said.

According to Sapiro, the public still is not entirely comfortable with women assuming powerful roles.

Yes - we certainly aren't comfortable with women leaders. Look at the dearth of women as Secretary of State! Oh, wait, sorry... I mean, look at how there are no women in Congress! Wait, no, hang on, I'll get it... ah, yes, that's the problem: I'd forgotten to put on my gendered-lens glasses today, so I was seeing people for people. I keep forgetting that I live in a feminist universe where I need to wear my gendered lenses every day, so that I can see that women are below me.

And lest you call me out for my prejudice, I'll note that someone else really (apparently) is prejudiced:
“Men tend to reach out to their guy pals and share information with other men and not women. I also don’t think that is intentional,” Berceau said. “It is because they are a different species.”

Yep. Different species! Oh, well - continuing on:
Berceau, a very outspoken leader on women’s rights, said there is no solidarity on women’s issues between GOP and Democratic female lawmakers. Instead, she said women tend to cling to their party lines.

Erm, why would there be solidarity there? Republican women obviously have a different take on the issue than the "outspoken" Berceau. Just as there was no monolithic communism, there is no one answer on women's rights - and people are entitled to their opinions. Me being the kind of person who sees people, rather than skin color or, say, gender, I assume that women are individuals capable of making up their own minds, and that women can - le gasp - disagree on things.

But hey, what do I know? I thought we shouldn't stereotype based on gender. Boy, do I have a lot to learn:
I think we [females] have a unique leadership style. We focus more on problem solving rather than finger pointing,” McCormick said.

There you have it, folks. Althouse is fond of noting that lately, it's okay to discriminate between men and women, just so long as you put women on top. So I guess everything is A-OK.

My Final Column on Campus

How does one summarize four years of college in a single newspaper column?

I did the best I could in my twilight piece for the Herald today, taking a rather unorthodox approach that comes across as some sort of James Joyce/William Faulkner stream of consciousness prose poem hybrid strung together with lyrics off the Sergeant Pepper's album:

...Whistling in Baughman’s lecture. Concealed carry passes the Senate, the phones light up in the office. Australopithecines. Hawking brats on the mall, one lonely dollar. Riding my bike through the picket lines. Dissecting free speech with Downs. Struggling through a glaciology lab. The polar waters of Lake Monona delivering a roundhouse punch to my body. Frisbee. It’s getting better all the time.

Yeah, pretty avant garde. And some of you might get a few of the inside jokes, obscure references, etc.

It's been one amazing experience full of life.

Thanks for the memories.

Stay tuned...

Well, it's my last day of class, and to my delight, there's a crappy article in the Cardinal that I can rant about for a few minutes. The Cardinal has been a friend of mine over the years, giving me lots o' things - especially their opinion writers - to rant about. So, stay tuned - once I get done with classes, I'll giver 'er a go.


Senator Risser Hits 50

Years as an elected official in the Wisconsin State Legislature, that is.

Yep, the big cake in the shape of the capitol today in the Senate Parlor - and the break from legislative activity - came to us because of a man who has been a representative in the building since before:

- Sputnik
- My parents' births
- The Edsel
- Castro's rise to dictator
- The Beatles came to America

Wow. Time for new blood, perhaps?


Old wounds open again as they try to rebuild the levees

I was sorely bummed that I had to miss the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival last weekend - especially as it included a performance by Bruce Springsteen, one of my favorite musicians.

It sounds like Xoff likes him too, as he quotes the Boss's intro to the song:
I think I saw sights I never thought I'd see in an American city. The criminal ineptitude makes you furious.

It's what happens when political cronyism guts the very agencies that are supposed to help American citizens in times of trial and hardship, and what happens when people play political games with people's lives.

Now, up to that point, Bruce is exactly right. But the thing he doesn't realize is, he's describing the situation in New Orleans.

Instead, the Boss dedicates the song to "President Bystander." Now, I get it. Nobody plays the everyman blue-collar guy like Springsteen, and taking a poke at the Prez. doesn't hurt his cred. But Xoff should know better. Could Bush have dealt with the situation better? Absolutely. Hell, Bush's whole political skill rests on empathising with people, and he didn't do that here. But the responsibility for the horrendous response lies firmly with local - not national - authorities.

Incidentally, go watch the video. Bruce puts on a hella show, no matter what his politics.

Casting Atlas Shrugged

Man, it's been rough not having my computer for the last 3 weeks. For example, I missed this great meme: whom would you cast for an Atlas Shrugged movie?


Hey - are you listening to the radio?

The Herald's Muckraking crew is on WSUM right now, and it's a pretty cool thing. They have a nice, laid-back feel for its last 15 minutes or so.

Anybody know who the commencement speaker is? Steel cage match between the Gubernatorial candidates? Excellent.


Celebrate the Greenbush Tomorrow

With a series of events at the Italian Workmen's Club on Regent (Greenbush Bar):

The Greenbush: Past, Present, Future
Tuesday, May 2, 2006, 9-5
Italian Workmen's Club, 914 Regent Street, Madison, WI

9:00 – 9:05

9:05 – 9:20
Greenbush Characters (Doug Moe, The Capital Times)

9:20 – 9:30
Video: "Greenbush to South Madison: The African American Experience" (Jocelyne Bodden, UW Student)

9:30 – 10: 00
African-Americans in the Greenbush (Billy McDonald, E.B. Mathews)

10:00 – 10:10
Video: "Voices of Triangle Residents: Looking Towards the Future" (Jocelyne Bodden, UW Student)

10:20 – 11:00
Service Providers Describe Present-day Greenbush (Jeanne Pien, Community Development Authority; Paul Ly, Bayview Foundation; Carlos Jaramillo, Meriter Hospital; Linda Weyenberg, Neighborhood House)

11:00 – 11:15
Unveiling the “Greenbush Tour” Web Site (Sara Ziemendorf, UW Learning Support Services)

11: 15-11:30
Greenbush Open Space Plans (Brian Siegel, UW Student)

11:30 – 12:00
Excerpts from Great Blue Articles About Greenbush Grocieries, Merle Sweet, and Longfellow School (Lulu, Micah, and Elena, Randall Students)

12:00 – 1:00
Picnic Lunch and Bocce Ball (Raul DeLuna, Meriter Hospital)

1:00 – 1:30
Video about Greenbush Housing, PowerPoint about Gardening, and PowerPoint about Proposed Greenbush Museum (Sam and Soleil, Randall Students, and Emily Ehlers, Architect)

1:30 – 2:10
Future of the Greenbush (Jule Stroick, City of Madison Neighborhood Planner; Amy Roundtree, Greenbush Neighborhood Association; Gail Lobdell, St. Mary’s Hospital)

2:10 – 2:30
Greenbush Handheld Augmented Reality Game (Mingfong Jan and John Martin, UW Graduate Students, Educational Technology)

2:40 – 2:55
Greenbush Reunion Project (Raul DeLuna)

2:55 – 3:35
Keeping In Touch (Joseph “Buffo” Cerniglia and other former members of the Greenbush community)

3:45 – 4:15
Our Newest Neighbors: Smith Hall (Margaret Nellis and UW Students)

4:15 – 4:45
The Jewish Community in the Greenbush (Jon Pollack, MATC)

4:45 – 5:00
Video: "Bayview Meets the Old Greenbush: A Randall Teachers' Tour" (Jocelyne Bodden, UW Student)

It seems my folklore professor, Ruth Olson, is spearheading the event. Should be worth a brief visit at least. Keep on rockin' the 'Bush!

HT: The Daily Page

Maybe it's more than just a rag

There is another immigration rally today up at the capital - unfortunately, my camera is out of batteries, so no pictures. This one is smaller than the last one, certainly.

More interesting than the size, though, is the symbolism. The organizers have certainly learned a lesson from criticism of the first rally - especially regarding flags. I remember at the last rally that there were quite a few Mexican flags interspersed with American flags. Naturally, this drew a fair amount of criticism - if these immigrants were serious about becoming Americans, they should be focusing on American flags, rather than Mexican. The symbolism is important at rallies such as this, and should aim as much to prove that the immigrants are truly American as much as to oppose certain legislation. For all the left criticises wrapping oneself in the flag, it is a powerful symbol, and the immigrants have done a good job of embracing the symbol at this rally to strengthen their argument.

Now what about the Star-Spangled Banner?

Diversity, Diversity, Diversity

It looks like the multicults were out in force at last week's Plan 2008 Forum. And, naturally, they had some characteristically inane things to say:

Jennifer Knox, a UW-Madison junior and chair of Associated Students of Madison’s Finance Committee, said a system of penalties and incentives would make faculty and administrators stick more closely to goals set for diversity.

The Affairs Director for the United Council of UW Students, David Glisch-Sánchez, said that ethnic studies classes do not go far enough, and mandatory classes that confront prejudice are needed.
Ok, so faculty and administrators should be punished unless they obsess about student skin color and make decisions based on it? As for ethnic studies classes, they've gone too far. And as for confronting prejudice, why doesn't the UW simply introduce every student to Paul Barrows' son, Tshaka Barrows? His words seem to embrace the perpetuation of racial divides:

When he requested a show of hands from the audience and the panel to represent who sees the campus climate as a crisis, Wiley and Provost Patrick Farrell — second in command in UW administration — were the only two members of the panel not to raise their hands.

“The problem is I don’t walk into this room and taste or smell or feel a sense of urgency or crisis,” Tshaka Barrows said. “I didn’t when I first came into this room — five, seven, eight years ago — and I don’t now.”

And his father, Paul Barrows, encouraged "agitation" to achieve racial diversity goals:

“What wakes them up from their slumber or failure to take action and resonance is a good dose of agitation,” Barrows said.
The Barrows' words are classic multicultural politics: employ racial rhetoric to gain political power and create a false sense of crisis to justify your own positions.

In the end, continued obsession with skin color and ethnicity is the root of ongoing animosity, not a solution for overcoming it.

Catholic Fee Fight Gets Statewide Press

When will Chancellor John Wiley "pull the trigger" on funding for the UW Roman Catholic Foundation?

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel tackles the ongoing controversy today and rightly paints the UWRCF as spoiling for a fight:
The foundation, which describes itself as "unabashedly religious," is furious and vowing to sue. It insists that Wiley is discriminating against its religious viewpoint in violation of the Supreme Court ruling. It has the support of the Alliance Defense Fund, a national organization that helped launch the Southworth lawsuit a decade ago.

The decision from Bascom may be coming soon, which would move the fight into the next round:
Faced with a potential lawsuit and the scrutiny of angry legislators, Wiley is reviewing his decision. He is expected to deliver his final verdict as early as today.
Speaking with folks from UWRCF this past weekend (when I was replaced on the board in the annual election), the momentum for a true legal battle is in place.

Above all else, however, this controversy is placing the ridiculousness of segregated fees in the limelight for all to see. Some pressure for reform is actually reaching the chancellor's office:

"We've been receiving a lot of calls from students and regents who want us to exercise more vigilance on expenditure of student fees," Nagy said.

That's great. Now, if only the vigilance wasn't selective...