12.31.2006

Attempt at a Retrospective

Looking back, I don't have as much bile as Isthmus does about the peeps and props that graced the stage that was 2006.

But I do have a few thoughts. Overall, the show was pretty good from here in the cheap seats.

For me, there was no shortage of scene changes - some dramatic and sudden like graduation, some more like subtle and lingering shifts in the lighting that couldn't be detected on the blog.

War abroad smoldered off in the background. Actors observed, partook in a great political battle here at home - some of us came out ahead, but all of us changed.

There were challenges. There were new friends. There was a deepening of old friendships. It was grand. Many photos were taken.

And the incidental music? Not a bad soundtrack if you ask me.

Then, as the curtain fell and we exited into the cold street, the ushers handed us this.

Geesh. That's going to require a resolution. Or at least a few glasses of champagne.

12.30.2006

It couldn't have happened to a nicer guy

I understand that Saddam Hussein is now dead.

I was busy getting drunk while Saddam was busy dying. And I think that's appropriate.

12.29.2006

Howdy



“The snows have fled; already the grass is returning to the fields and the leaves to the trees.”

- Horace

It's good to see Madison hasn't changed

Just as soon as I return to the blog, it seems, I get a nice reminder of how Madison hasn't changed at all.

In the cafe, the nice liberal boy with indie good looks is in the middle of what I'm sure is a very deep conversation about religion. Per usual, we're bashing Christians today, those danged bigoted jerks:
That's why I don't like Christians - they're trying to force their beliefs on everyone. That's why there's so many missionaries trying to change everybody!

I also learn, from overhearing this charming you lad, that one can be a good Muslim (which he insists on pronouncing "moo-slim") despite not following any of the strictures of Islam, and that Muslims would never try to change anyone.

Yep, it's good to be back.

Guess who's back with a brand new rap

Yep, we're coming back. If Brad hasn't shown up yet, he certainly will shortly. I've been blogging elsewhere a bit, but it feels good to be back "home".

A big thanks is due to Mike, who kept the blog going while Brad and I were out. We certainly enjoyed his posts, and I'm glad to say he'll be staying around to help fill things out.

LIB was originally a student blog, and probably some of that will continue. But it's hard to say exactly how things will shape up, now that Brad and I are curmudgeonly alumni (let me tell you kids, when I was a freshman, we didn't have any of these fancy new dorms, and by December there were snowdrifts taller than me - we dug tunnels to class, and woe betide anyone who got caught in a cave-in). But you can certainly expect the same mix of crazy photos, off-beat local Wiscinsin lore, music, politics and more.

So go get yourself a drink with an umbrella, pop open your hammock, and get ready - we're back, baby.

12.28.2006

Iraq another Vietnam? Only if we fail to learn.

I was sitting in the waiting room of a hospital today while my Grandfather was undergoing hip-replacement surgery, when I overheard a group of older people talking about current events.

Inevitably Iraq was mentioned.

Someone said that we are in "another Vietnam," another - who happened to be a Vietnam Veteran - said that no, this is worse. As much as I may hate to admit it, as of now they are both correct.

Now, I do not believe that Iraq is a lost cause. It can be won with the proper political will and commitment from the United States and our allies. However, the extent that Iraq is another Vietnam is in the political climate that we face. Popular sentiment is against the war and is fueled by a press that is all too willing to report on the negative side of the war at the expense of a truly balanced portrayal of what is going on over there.

The rhetoric of the anti-war activists is also similar to that of Vietnam. The anti-war left loves to talk about how terrible our involvement has been in Iraq and how many innocent civilians that have been killed since hostilities began. Never mind that the figures they use (in excess of 650,000 casualties) are totally unfounded, or the fact that those responsible for the massive civilian deaths that do occur are Iraqis themselves or terrorists from Syria and Iran. The bottom line for the anti-war crowd is the same as Vietnam: we are destroying a sovereign nation and slaughtering innocent civilians.

In this way Iraq is another Vietnam, and in another maybe worse.

When we abandoned Vietnam to communist forces the result was another nation lost to a dark and dangerous ideology, but the threat that Viet Cong guerrillas would follow our troops home did not exist, or was at least minimal. In Iraq the situation is very different. Should we fail in Iraq, we will not only lose another nation to the dark and dangerous ideology of Islamic Fundamentalism - whether Shiite or Sunni, it does not matter - but our enemies will not be content to remain in Iraq. No, they will continue on their quest for a worldwide conversion to their perverse idea of Islam.

Our enemy in this war is every bit as real and dangerous as the fascist powers we fought in World War II, yet their commitment to their cause is more fanatical than any enemy we have ever faced. The radical Muslims we are fighting in Iraq generally have no fear of dying in the fight, in fact it is preferred to die for their beliefs because they believe they will receive a greater reward in heaven. That type of fanaticism will not quit. It cannot be appeased and negotiation is useless.

If we abandon Iraq as we did Vietnam, the image will not be South Vietnamese hopelessly clinging to a helicopter as it leaves the American embassy. This time it will be the enemy that will go with us, emboldened by their victory to attack us as they did on 9/11, only with more force and frequency.

If comparisons to Vietnam are to be made, then let us learn the lessons of history and not abandon those whom we swore to protect and aid. The Iraqis have shown us that they want democracy. Their turnout in the national elections of '05 is proof of it. We cannot afford to fail them as we did the people of South Vietnam, nor can we afford to give this enemy a victory.

12.18.2006

Time's Cop-Out of the Year

Time's Person of the Year usually goes to someone who, for better or worse, has influenced news the most over the last year. This year, instead of making a tough and possibly controversial choice, the Time editors took what I would consider the cowards' way out - they picked you, and me.

They could not be more wrong.

The justification for their choice was that the "blogosphere" and websites like myspace and youtube are responsible for a shift in the way in which news is reported and even what news is reported. While these types of sites do make life more difficult for elected officials and celebrities, because if they do something stupid caught on film soon everyone will be able see it over the Internet; these sites do not make news - they simply comment on it.

Very few, if any, blogs actually report or break news. Instead they comment on events and make predictions as to how badly someone or some group is going to mess up the country. Is this worthy of Person of the Year? No.

The two men I believe should have been named Person of the Year are Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Shi'ite Cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr. Neither of these individuals are good men, both are in essence enemies of the United States, but both have influenced events here at home and in the entire Middle-East throughout 2006.

My personal pick would have been Ahmadinejad. While his politics are disgusting and his insistence that the Holocaust never happened are ridiculous, he has affected many things over the last year. Our foreign policy has been forced to change because of him and his government is likely funding much of the Shi'ite insurgency in Iraq.

Why wouldn't Time make a difficult choice like that? After all, Hitler, Stalin, Khrushchev, and Mao have all been named Men of the Year in the past.

Time, instead of actually making a newsworthy choice, did the easy thing and ran a feel good story so all of us can think that we are actually influencing news. Sorry, but a fanatic like Ahmadinejad with the potential of getting nuclear weapons still has a lot more influence over the events of our world than what anyone says on a blog.

It's too bad that Time doesn't seem willing to admit it.

Note: I apologize for not posting last Wednesday. I have been busy with finals, but will post as often as possible.

12.14.2006

Can we trust them?

The incoming chairmen of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees have pledged to continue the moratorium on pork barrel spending. It sounds good, but I am not going to hold my breath.

Sen. Byrd, the new Senate Chairman, is so well known for his overspending that there is no longer an official count of the number of highways, post offices, and schools named after him in his home state - though the number is estimated to be in the several hundreds. Why, after 50 years of being in the Senate, would Mr. Byrd change his ways and not push for more wasteful spending?

To be sure, the Republican party, and particularly Sen. Stevens from Alaska, were no better in terms of cutting wasteful spending, but why should we trust someone who is famous for his pork?

If there is one thing on which all of us can agree, it is that the voters last month voted for fiscal responsibility. Look at the incoming Democratic freshman. The vast majority of them ran on platforms of balancing budgets and less wasteful spending. The conservative "Blue Dog Democrats" are now by far the largest caucus in the House. It is certainly my hope that these "fiscal conservatives" make their presence known and keep a lid on federal spending.

Unfortunately, the leadership in both houses do not represent that commitment to fiscal responsibility.

I wonder if Speaker-Designate Pelosi will be willing to stick to her commitment to "pay-as-you-go" budgeting. I wonder if the Democrats will be able to withstand the temptation to bring home the bacon for their home districts. In fact, our own Congresswoman, Tammy Baldwin, brags about how much money she brings back to the 2nd CD. She even made it a key selling point in her bid for re-election. Will she, and others, resist the urge to bring even more federal dollars home now that they are in the majority?

We do need fiscal discipline in the federal government, and although the former Republican leadership was not successful can the incoming Democratic leadership do any better?

12.11.2006

Free college if you stay?

A commission that was designed to improve the UW-System's two-year campuses has come up with an interesting idea. As reported in today's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the commission is set to recommend that UW students be given free college tuition for a pledge to stay and work in Wisconsin for 10 years after they graduate.

It just may be the start of a good idea.

What is good out of this proposal is the acknowledgement of the "brain drain" happening in Wisconsin. We have a horrible retention rate for college graduates actually staying in this state. The more often we admit it, the more likely it is that something may actually be done about it.

The logic behind the proposal, I assume, is that if someone stays in the state for 10 years after graduating, then they will be more likely to stay permanently because hopefully they have started a family in that time and gotten some job security. Not a bad idea really, but it only begins to scratch the surface of the problem. It isn't enough to just offer free tuition, we have to bring in businesses and industry so that there is a reason to stay in the state to begin with.

The real problem that this state is facing is an overall tax and business climate that is not all that friendly. We still have very high taxes, which is a consideration for students who have no prior attachment to Wisconsin, and we do not have many businesses beating down the door to expand in the state. The solution to this is not necessarily lower corporate taxes, (even though they do help) but lower income taxes and fees. Businesses are hesitant to move here because their employees would have to pay such a high cost of living; which requires that the business pay higher wages than it would in other states.

Along with offering incentives to stay in state after graduation, we need to ensure that those graduates have good jobs waiting for them. In order to do that, we need to be business and employee friendly and that means lowering the burden of government fees and taxes on those who stay in Wisconsin.

12.06.2006

More Overspending by ASM...

The Daily Cardinal inadvertently brought to light a serious problem with our student government. In their story on the Finance Committee running out of grant money for trips for RSOs, the Cardinal quoted the chair, Sree Atluru, as saying that the committee overspends every year.

Why is this happening?

This is yet another example of fiscal mismanagement on the part of ASM, and I don't think it is going to get any better anytime soon. The problem is that we are giving too much money to too many groups. If a group needs funds for events or trips, they should be requesting that money in their budgets from the SSFC. If grants are given out, then they need to be competitive and follow strict guidelines for qualification.

The fact that this is something that happens over and over is even more distressing. Right now our student government sees itself as a funding group for the special interest groups that make up our RSOs. Instead, ASM should act as the gatekeepers of our money. Every semester we pay in excess of $300 for fees to the university. Those rates are set in large part by ASM not the administration or the Board of Regents. Our segregated fees are taxes levied by our student leaders. The members of ASM are accountable to us, the students, no to Chancellor Wiley or the RSOs they fund. It is time that they take their positions seriously because they are not using play money, they are using our hard earned dollars.

However, our student government just doesn't get it. To them it apparently isn't that big of a deal to overspend your budget every year.

12.03.2006

BCS a bunch of BS

I won't go too in depth on this, but how in the world can the BCS claim to be a legitimate way to determine the best college football teams in the country?

First, the Badgers got screwed. By the BCS' own rankings the Badgers rank 7th in the nation, yet because two other Big Ten schools are even better we get nothing. I have nothing against the Capital One Bowl, I think it really is a good Bowl. However, if the goal of the BCS is to have the best teams in the country play in five Bowl games, how then can the Badgers be kept out?

Oh, that's right. Political correctness has gotten so bad that only two teams from any conference can be represented in the BCS games. It doesn't matter if the top three teams came from the same conference, that number three team is just out of luck, the other conferences have to feel good too. Football is a game where winners and losers are determined if the best teams in the country come from only one or two conferences, so be it. Don't punish good teams for playing in a tough conference.

Also, Michigan - a team that I have a difficult time feeling sorry for - got screwed. The Wolverines and the Buckeyes are by far the top two teams in the college football. No other team played Ohio State as tough as the Wolverines did and they deserve a rematch. The BCS' own computer showed that at the very least Michigan and Florida (the team that will now get demolished by Ohio State in the Championship game) were tied for second. Instead, the Harris and Coaches polls decided that Michigan should not get a second shot at Ohio State.

If the BCS really wants to determine the best teams in college football, then the best teams should play each other. Rather than have a truly competitive Championship game and Rose Bowl then Ohio State should play Michigan and USC should be playing Florida. Now, all we are going to see is two blowouts that never should have happened.