Setting the Record Straight

While it took me until now to notice (didn't really see any traffic coming from the link until today), I think it's important to clear up a mischaracterization of some LIB content.

Jay over at Folkbum ripped one of my old posts about State Supreme Court Candidate Linda Clifford back on January 8th. But he obviously failed to read the post thoroughly after he found it at the top of his search list - he errs in his reference, saying I called Clifford "Wisconsin's own Souter." I did not - I labeled Justice Patrick Crooks with that moniker - or certainly intended to, as can be discerned from the context. And yes, he has certainly taken on a less conservative cast in key decisions in the past few years, most notably on liabilty cases.

I have no beef with Folkbum's decision to fisk a number of blogs and try to fend off criticism of Clifford; that's his right to his opinion. I do have a problem when my position is factually misrepresented.

Incidentally, mine was a pretty factual post - any statements about Clifford in the piece were sourced with links and pretty much devoid of opinionated commentary. Legal stances are trickier things to distill than political stances; Justice Scalia, for example, is far more libertarian on some aspects of the law than most people realize. I try to keep an open mind and get some nuance while taking a look at the candidate as a person.

Anyway, I think Folkbum central argument ignores Clifford's almost "Falkian" failings - her lack of experience as an actual judge stands to give Annette Ziegler a fundamental advantage parallel to that enjoyed by Van Hollen in the fall, if the point is pressed home. There's also the ominous harpsichord, too...

Something New at the Old Fashioned


Live blog-o-rama

Expecting a Coulterish disaster, I went to see Dinesh D'Souza at the Union.

Professor Sharpless introduces him, citing "a level of vitriol" rarely seen, kicked up by D'Souza's latest book, and asks the audience to "allow him his views without interruption."
After the speech, there are microphones so you can post your critique - hopefull not in the ally.
But what about on my blog?

So Dinesh comes on. He's kind of an awkward looking guy, and the audience applauds warmly. As the night goes on, I decided that this is the kindest audience I have ever seen toward a conservative speaker in Madison. There was no heckling at all, or any attempt to shout him down. Good job, Madison!

And what does he talk about?
We're now years into this war on terror [smattering of applause] - we've had some valuable reconsideration about Iraq, but there needs to be a reconsideration of... the war on terror more generally...
We are no more fighting a war on terrorism now than we were fighting kamikaziism in WWII... terrorism is a strategy.
These are bold claims, but he makes them in a disarmingly charming and honest manner, and the audience seems to be willing to hear him out. But before he examines the problem of the war on terrorism, he looks backward to see how it came about. He finds neither the major liberal or conservative explanations enough:
If you look at liberal foreign policy, it gave radical islam control of its first state and emboldened them [toward 9/11].
He blames Carter's advisors, and "the left" generally, for dropping support for the Shah of Iran: "In trying to get rid of the bad guy, we got the worse guy." This is a point he alludes to later, in talking about possible outcomes of backing down in Iraq.

He blames the left again in the Clinton administration, for backing down during the various events (the Khobar Towers attack, the USS Cole, etc), further emboldening al-Qaeda and proving to Bin Laden that the US was a "paper tiger."
In retrospect, I admit [Iraq was a mistake].
He says we should have focused on Iran.
Muslims have choice between Islamic tyranny and secular tyranny in Iraq; the US is attempting against history to put a new card on the table - call it Muslim Democracy... In Iraq, we are not trying to impose democracy everywhere, we are trying to impose democracy somewhere.
Then he turns fully to Iraq. Regarding finding out what Iraqis think about what's going on in-country, he imagines interns for Pew knocking on doors in Baghdad:
They've got an elected government we can consult.
He claims that the Shias and Sunnis have not been fighting for centuries:
This is all an ethnocentric projection. "The Sunnis and the Shias are a little like the Protestants and the Catholics..."
His basic view of the Iraq war seems to be that it is a good thing, and that the only way America can lose is by a loss of will - a point which is hardly new, but which he goes through very well. America has vital interests in the region - an argument from the realist school which he seems to focus on - but the idealism of the venture is not lost on him, and he seems to think it a good idea.

The closest he gets to blaming the Left for 9/11 is through is argument about a general softness on security, and now through a sapping of will to fight. He makes the point in a very roundabout way that seems calculated not to cause offense - or certainly not the kind of offense the title of his book implied, anyhow. Overall, very well done.

More Tuesday music...

...and sometimes breakin' up is hard to do. At any rate, read my review of the New Kentucky Quarter show over at Dane101.

Cougar Show at the High Noon

While the two opening bands were somewhere between hit-or-miss and fair-to-middlin', Cougar rocked a full house at the High Noon with something different.

Led by a drummer who could shift from delicate complexities on the set to an all out massive attack - in good old Youngblood style - the band succeeded in creating an atmosphere of music.

Fortunately, it wasn't too ethereal. It was hard not to feel the bass even as images of clouds floated by in the background - especially on the first two songs ( the second titled "Strict Scrutiny") and a new song called something like Keep Famous.

Time Magazine called Radiohead the saviors of rock when they reached international reknown in the late '90s - Cougar represents a way forward, too. By drawing together sounds of Radiohead with acoustic, computer, and cello and the frenzied audio assault of Youngblood percussion and occasional Bloc Party guitar, it's clearly something new.

They call it emergency rock.

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Dinesh D'Souza at Union Theater Tonight

"Hey everybody -- In less than 24 hours, Dinesh D'Souza will be speaking at Memorial Union. Again, his lecture starts at 7:30 PM. The pre-program is at 4:00 in the Main Lounge at MU - and should be a good time as well.
If you don't have tickets yet, don't worry. There are still enough available that you'll be able to pick them up at the MU box office tomorrow no problem. After 7:20, if there are still seats available, we'll start letting people in without tickets."

D'Souza served in the Reagan administration and authored Letters to a Young Conservative, so it promises to be a good show given the campus political climate these days. Perhaps the photo above is a preview - we'll see.

I'm intrigued to hear what Dinesh has to say these days. Letters was a decidedly level-headed introduction to a sort of classical conservatism with a witty edge, but without much brimstone. His latest book seems to indicate a more blunt approach in his politics:

"His most recent book, which will come out in January, is "The Enemy At Home: The Cultural Left and its Responsibility for 9-11."

Hmmm...While I have not yet read the book, I hope D'Souza hasn't abandoned his eloquence and reasoned approach to a reactionary Coulterish desire to snag a book deal and speaking engagements.

I hope to make it to the Union for a chance to decide for myself.


A different approach to an old debate

This is an amazing article on Down Syndrome by George Will. His son, Jon, has Down Syndrome and his perspective is quite amazing.

I normally don't like talking about abortion because it is a very personal choice that has tremendous psychological and emotional consequences. And more often than not people react very emotionally to the subject. This article is different. It avoids the religious arguments that do nothing but turn people off and instead focuses on the moral dilemma of screening for such birth defects as Down Syndrome.

It's not preachy and Will approaches the issue from a different direction than normal.


Back from Ice Carving


I was back home for the annual ice carving competition yesterday. Our team, which has been carving for about a decade together, placed third overall in the city-wide competition. This year, we chiseled and scraped our 400-pound block of ice into a castle - complete with moat and drawbridge.

You can see another shot of us carving here (third photo) courtesy of the Manitowoc Herald Times Reporter.

If you've never taken a crack at ice carving, you should - it's fun,challenging, and memorable.

Here's the finished, award-winning product the morning after the ice dust settled.


A couple of quick hits

Attention! Today through March 6, there is an exhibition of Soviet propaganda posters on display in the Union.

Also! Check out the new blog in town - the Critical Badger. Not a lot of stuff up yet, but he's just getting going, and it's part of an independent study class he's doing, apparently.

Someone Is Trying to Keep Colbert Off the Square

An evening with J Taylor

Every time I walk past J Taylor's on the Capitol Square, I'm intrigued - it always seemed like the kind of place that I'd love. And like any good treasure hunt, it was arduous to get into - the hours are a bit odd, only 6 people are allowed in at a time, and the door is always locked; one must ring the bell to get in. But once inside, it's a wondrous place:

An odd collection of religious images...

...tons of cool old books...

...a cool collection of canes...

... and a tower of photographic devices.

Pandemonium and Pan Flutes

I saw Pan's Labyrinth last night, and I'm not quite sure what to say.

Fairy tales are, in their oldest forms, usually terribly violent. Wolves gobbling down lovable pigs or, worse, lovable children, are usually the least graphic elements.

The Spanish Civil War was equally so. (Of course, what would one would expect from a proxy war between Hitler and Stalin?)

But when a movie comes along advertising to be a "Gothic fairy tale" in the modern age, even when set during the Spanish Civil War, one doesn't precisely expect gut wrenching and sustained brutality.

Pan's Labyrinth is, in turns, the most lushly beautiful, and perhaps the most sustainedly brutal, movie you will see in some time. It really is stunning - the color has incredible depth, and the costumes and set design oscillate gorgeously between fantasy and reality. The fantastical scenes are absolutely real, with Guillermo del Toro rendering a lavish world out of thin air. And the last scene is one of the most powerful I've ever seen.

The "real-life" scenes are equally gorgeous, but here the emphasis may be more on "gore". Scenes of sustained torture, amputations (using bone saws and vodka, natch), and various other traumas of the war are lingered upon. Del Toro could have shown a fraction of the brutality he actually showed, and made his point.

All in all, the visuals and story are really wonderful, but if you go, be warned - the movie is tremendously violent.


Although neither Brad nor I (nor Mike, to my knowledge) were really planning on moving to the new Blogger ("now out of Beta"), I didn't have any choice when I logged in today, so, um, welcome to the future!

I'm a tad nervous about the recent "forced choice" upgrade to Blogger Beta the new Blogger, but we'll see how it goes!


Speaking of Prohibition...

Mike H alludes to the colossal blunder in his vigorous post below opposing the proposed smoking ban.

Well, here's a sampling from Wisconsin's 1918 Prohibitionist Party Platform (man, they stood for all sorts of things* - Opiate would get along well):

"We, the Prohibitionists of Wisconsin in Convention assembled, recognizing Almighty God as the source of all government, do hereby adopt the following declaration of principles: [...]

The business of manufacturing and selling intoxicating liquors is hindering the prosecution of the war and delaying our victory [...]

To insure the safety of our democracy and the proper development of our national life, prohibition should be made permanent. To this end, we urge the ratification of the Prohibition amendment to the National constitution as soon as possible."

*See the new LIB "Storage Shed" for a complete pdf of the 1918 Prohibitionist Platform - straight from the 1919 Wisconsin Blue Book.

The Shed is part of LIB Version 2.0's long range vision (since we plan to stay at Blogger for the time being). There's even some original accordion music stashed in there - check it out.

The Road to Hell is paved with Good Intentions

Why don't we just ban cigarettes completely? After all, that is in essence what Gov. Doyle and Sen. Risser want, isn't it?

If smoking is so horribly damaging to those who do it, and if second-hand smoke really can kill you, why is it even legal for stores to sell this deadly drug? Can anyone think of some other product that kills so many that is still sold so easily?

Think about it for a minute. With the rhetoric coming from the Governor and others in the legislature like Sen. Risser, it would seem that cigarettes are the worst, most deadly plague on society in our history. If they are truly serious about a statewide smoking ban and a tax increase that would be the 4th highest in the nation, then why not take it one step further and ban cigarettes?

Well, all that tax revenue that the evil smokers generate would disappear and we all know that once a government finds a reliable source of tax revenue they will never give it up. Besides, smokers are the one group that politicians can routinely use as whipping boys without any fear of a backlash from them or the public at large.

However, the hypocrisy of the Governor's proposals is not what troubles me the most. What really gets me is that it is now okay to tell legal adults engaging in a legal activity (smoking is for the moment still legal remember) when and where they can light up. Sure, I don't like the smell of cigarettes, in fact it drives me nuts, but I make a conscious choice whether or not to go to a bar that has smoking in it. It is the choice of the bartender or waitress whether or not to work in a heavy smoking environment. It should also be the choice of a privately owned business whether or not to allow smoking in that establishment.

This is simply not the role of the government.

Ask yourselves, what's next? Certainly the act of cigar smoking (something I enjoy) will be next on the chopping block, but then what? Alcohol is certainly a dangerous drug. Many thousands of people are killed each year in alcohol related incidents, should we reinstate prohibition? After all people die from alcohol who never even drank (think drunk drivers). Who knows, many people find certain perfumes and colognes offensive, some people even have violent allergic reactions to the scents, surely perfumes and colognes must be banned as well.

You may think that all of this is pure nonsense, but really where does it all end? At what point do we say enough is enough? When will government regulate so much of what we do that we really have no choices?

I don't think that 5 or 10 years ago anyone thought it would be possible to even consider banning trans fats. Think about it.


A Dane County Driftless Gem

Shots from a day hiking trip to Donald County Park, southwest of Madison near the hamlet of Mount Vernon.

Mount Vernon from the heights.

Hmmm...what is that?


Will Protest for Euros

Here's taking Steve S's much beloved "Babe Theory of Politics" to a whole new level...

A Ray of Sunshine in the Oscar Nominations

Of the five nominees for Best Picture, I'm backing "Little Miss Sunshine."

Granted, it's the only one of the five I've actually seen thus far (I'm still hoping to catch Letters and The Departed), but the movie was refreshingly enjoyable to watch.

The film's strengths shone on mulitiple fronts; the characters were memorable and inspired empathy (supporting actor and actress are up for awards), the cinematography was crisp, and the soundtrack (featuring LIB favorite DeVotchKa and a dash of Sufjan Stevens) was moving yet ethereal enough to avoid seeming maudlin.

Somehow, the story managed to approach the epic form in the mundane, featuring an oddball odyssey from New Mexico to Redondo Beach in a bright yellow VW van. A sprinkling of high philosophy added some spice, too - Nietzsche and Proust pop up unexpectedly, adding to the whimsy.

Overall, Little Miss Sunshine captures an insightful snapshot about modern life, subtly reaffirming the value of a balance between traditional familial bonds and the willingness to venture out as an individual, all in the face of increasing complexity and prospects of loneliness.

If you haven't seen it yet, watch it. And be sure to eat some ice cream when you do.

"And heck, they had a coach who was a doctor."

Bo Ryan answers questions about all and sundry in advance of the Michigan game and his court dedication in Platteville. An interesting exchange during the interview shows Bo is in the know when it comes to his UW sports forebears:

QUESTION #3: You seem to be someone who enjoys to talk about or know about history, and you’ve referenced it at different times over the years, about the history of the Wisconsin basketball program. What do you know about the 1915-1916 Wisconsin Badger basketball team?

RYAN: Well, that it must have been a hardy group of players, you know, especially the way they traveled then and what they went through. I would think they were a bunch of fine gentleman who represented the University well. And heck, they had a coach who was a doctor. What do our guys have? That team had it made. They got an economics major for a coach. Shoot, I’ll bet most players would want a doctor for a coach. So I’d have to give the edge to the 1914-15 team.

16, baby!

Via the Daily Page.

Music on the Horizon

Since I have a bit of a hiatus here before starting my new job on Friday, I thought I'd take a look at a few interesting shows in the near future.

A member of the instrumentalist band Cougar actually crashed at our house last night before heading out to a show in LaCrosse today. They're getting some buzz, and I remembered the Isthmus piece on the band and the fact that the group's drummer used to be with Youngblood Brass Band, who always put on a great show. Looks like Cougar's playing on Monday the 29th at the High Noon. One of my roommates says I have to go. They certainly have a cool website, if nothing else.

Another personal favorite, Copper Box, is slated to hit the Essen Haus on Friday, February 9th at 8:30. I know Thursday night is when the Haus is in its prime, but I have no doubt, after experiencing Copper Box's unique, young, and raucous mix of polka and rock at the Johnsonville Sausage Fest last summer in Johnsonville - yes, that's what it's called - that the crowd will be going crazy Friday, too. As they note on their site: "Dancing is allowed/tolerated at this show!" Be sure to request Comfortably Numb "The Pink Floyd Polka" if I don't do it first. It's awesome.

I know Steve has a favorite band coming to town in coming weeks - with a mutual favorite for opener as well. But I'll let him make his pitch, and maybe fill you in on the Jolie Holland show from Sunday night.



Dennis York:
For the next two weeks, however, this will be a celebration of condescending white guilt on display. Sports commentators will be able to announce to the world how happy they are that there are two black coaches in the Super Bowl, and the sins of all their ancestors will vanish. Certainly, celebrating the skin color of two head coaches will go a long way to helping African-American kids trapped in failing schools with single mothers barely staying afloat. As I've said before, America shouldn't be judged on how many black head coaches we have - we should be judged on how many black CEOs, computer programmers, and doctors we have. And we're not doing well.

But this will be the obvious story that will be drilled into us over and over. Just like last week, when we were led to believe that New Orleans is only liveable now because the Saints won a few games this year. So now that the Saints lost today, does that mean New Orleans falls back to being a hopeless, unliveable hellhole?

So it's time to celebrate, Black America - all your problems have now been solved with these two head coaches making the Super Bowl. Racism has officially been eradicated - because Chris Berman told me so. Hopefully, African Americans will be able to cope with the fact that one of these coaches will actually lose.

Madison Triptych

Three Madison photos: West Main from the top of the Dane County Courthouse (sort of a nice Algerian feel); the capitol in Block 89's floating glass and stone.

The third photo is one of the craziest I've ever taken. I was shooting generally toward the spire of St. Raphael's Cathedral when I noticed I could see myself double-reflected vaguely in the shot. On viewing the photo onscreen at home, the unique cross bars of the window frame happened to line up quite eerily. It is unedited except for being rotated to the vertical.


Let's join hands and sing "Koom-bi-ya"

You really have to love the logic used by Democrats when it comes to the War and oil. This comes from Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer. My personal favorite is this here:

"Mr. President, there are animosities between Sunni and Shiite people in the Middle East that have developed over centuries," Schweitzer said Saturday in the Democrats' weekly radio address. "Outsiders cannot resolve this conflict unless the Iraqi people want security and freedom at least as much as us... We can achieve energy independence in 10 years, create a whole new industry with hundreds of thousands of high-paying jobs, and you'll never have to send children and grandchildren to war in the Middle East again."

Now, if we were to follow that "logic" all we need to do is achieve energy independence and the Islamic extremists that have been attacking us for the last three decades will stop hating us. Well, I guess that's it. We can pull the troops out now!

We could, if we didn't live in the real world.

This notion that Iraqis don't really want peace and stability is the most arrogant, self-serving argument I have ever heard. Right. All the Iraqis I met and saw during my tour of duty really do enjoy living in fear of death squads and car bombs because hey, it's part of their culture.

Also, if Democrats are really serious about energy independence, why have they opposed drilling in ANWR and the Gulf of Mexico and building any new oil refineries? I am all for renewable sources of energy, but if independence is the goal I don't see any quicker way than that.

Their rhetoric may sound nice, but there sure isn't a lot of substance to go with it.

China Syndrome - Keeping Vigil

Imagine the Sino-U.S. relationship as a nuclear reactor. Many, although not all, observers have long seen it as a positive, an engine of change and growth with everything humming along productively. There have been a few minor alarms in the plant, for sure, but generally we've been focused on a more blatant problem - a Chernobyl in Baghdad, if you will.

Unfortunately, that lack of focus lends to instability in the reactor. Our failure to address China as a competing superpower only shifts both parties toward a dangerous China Syndrome. And letting the bottom drop out would be disastrous.

Someone I know well has outlined much of this before:

"As the United States remains transfixed by the global fight against Islamic terrorism, and as our nation graduates fewer math and science majors than India or China, it is time to wonder whether we missed our modern day Sputnik. We must wonder whether the significance of the Chinese spy plane incident of 2001 was overshadowed all too quickly by the events of Sept. 11, 2001. We missed our wake up call — and we did so at our own peril."

Now, with China flexing offensive capabilities against orbiting satellites and getting some play on the front cover of TIME as an international competitor of concern, it seems the klaxons may finally be sounding.

As we've seen in places like the Sudan, China, as it works to build influence internationally, has more flexibility when it competes with the U.S. for resources and political pull. It doesn't wring its hands over human rights, giving it greater access to Africa, as noted in this insightful NRO piece:

Sahr Johnny, the Sierra Leonean ambassador in Beijing, noted that: “They just come and do it. We don’t start to hold meetings about environmental impact assessment, human rights, bad governance and good governance. I’m not saying that’s right, I’m just saying Chinese investment is succeeding because they don’t set high benchmarks.”

Nor does the Chinese leadership seem to be hamstrung by domestic problems. Yes, China faces dramatic social obstacles and environmental dilemmas, but its system of government allows for a greater flexibility abroad despite all that because it is not directly accountable to the Chinese people.

In the end, focus on Iraq and Iran means less focus on the long-term, global scale competitor. While fallout from the Chernobyl in Baghdad has global implications, it's time to start addressing the even bigger potential disaster, the specter of Chinese aggression toward American interests.

Keep a geiger counter handy.


What to do with the Mifflin Street Co-Op?

No takers yet.

Anyone want to go in on a "Free Market Cafe" or something else fun?

We'd have to paint Adam Smith in over the big skeleton on the west side of the building, for sure.


A tradition dies

Well, here's sad news: the UW-Madison is no longer the top provider of Peace Corps volunteers:
The University of Washington grabbed the top spot with just four volunteers more than UW-Madison.

Washington had 110 volunteers compared to UW-Madison's 106.

UW-Madison still holds the No. 2 ranking overall, and Gov. Jim Doyle, who spent years in the Peace Corps, said that is good enough for him.

"I'm very proud to have been a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison -- to be one of those together with my wife to be Peace Corps volunteers. So I'm glad Washington is No. 1 this year. We'll be back," Doyle said.

If I wanted to snark, I'd say leave it to Doyle to settle for second best or I'm horrified to learn that I have something in common with Doyle, but really I'm just kind of bummed that my alma-mater has lost a position it held for a darn long time.

I wonder if I count as one of the 106 this year, or if, because I graduated last May, I missed the cutoff.

An interesting perspective

This is a fascinating perspective on international relief organizations, from someone who has been there:
My brief exposure to the world of humanitarian aid has made me a cynic, not sure of who I'm actually helping, and even more unsure of whether we're doing it right if we are indeed genuinely trying to serve our beneficiaries. Both the Sudan and this assignment in Aceh has so far felt more like I'm "saving development programs one office at a time". Having been trained (literally arse kicked) by the corporate world, I miss the professionalism, efficiency and accountability (to name a few essentials missing from my (I'll repeat) brief, and narrow experience in the running of an international NGO).

They run the world from here, you know

Last week there was some sort of choir competition held at the fascinating-because-I've-never-been-inside Masonic Lodge. So of course I took a gander inside:

It looked pretty innocuous at first! No overstuffed leather chairs, no wood panelling, and no clouds of cigar smoke filling the room...

Then I noticed the big door/safe in the "basement" - who knows what horrors lie beyond?


Stalagmite and Stalactites

Fire in the Hole

Even cooler than toothpick jousting with leftover Peeps at Easter:

A video on how to make common household grapes shoot arcs of plasma in your microwave.



This humble blog has never been a great fan of Brenda Konkel's, nor of her amazingly long-winded blog, but if you're a fan of car wrecks, you might want to check out this doozy. (via Dane101)

And then go read Paul Soglin's great inside account of what Progressive Dane is really like.

(Does that make two links to Soglin's blog in 3 days? Wow. Paul must be becoming more reasonable as he gets into blogging...)

Lights, camera... awesome?

After Zach Braff was only able to elicit a "meh" from Madison, another film seems to be giving it a go, and it's looking good so far:
Here is how you know the new independent film currently shooting in Madison is going to be good.

The hero, who attended UW-Madison and has gone on to become famous - though disillusioned - as a journalist, comes back to Madison looking for some of the idealism and hope that once fueled him, and what's the first thing he does?

He goes to the Plaza.

Good enough for me! Any good Madison-ite loves the place, y'know...

Speaking of film, the Beloit International Film Festival is gearing up for this weekend:
Consider it an antidote to mainstream box office boredom. Between Jan. 19 and 22, a collection of venues throughout the city will screen more than 80 shorts, documentaries and feature films. The festival is highlighting works of established filmmakers and showcasing new talent, too.

Anyone got a ride down?


Holy New Bagel Shop Downtown, Batman!

From BusinessWatch magazine:

"Local businessman Ian Gurfield will partner with Joe Gaglio to open Gotham Bagels at 112 E. Mifflin Street in the spring of 2007. The store will also offer soups, sandwiches, and salads. Gaglio is a culinary instructor at Madison Area Technical College and Gurfield owns Ian's Pizza."

I'm assuming this is the now-vacant former deli just behind Blue Marlin and across from the Bartell Theater.

A bagel shop would probably do well just off the Square. Best of luck.


The end must be nigh

That's the onlly explanation I can find for the fact that I'm agreeing with the dreaded arch-liberal Paul Soglin:
Since it is landlords who will feel the repression and the lash of the Madison whip, tragically, it is unlikely that the city's progressive community will speak up.

At first I thought his post title and lede were being ironic - then I realized that at least one liberal in this city is actually defending small businesses in Mad-town.

Will wonders never cease?

Making Tracks

So, is it worrisome now?

A while back, I was worried and irritated.

As I figured, it hasn't gotten better:
But it was not previously known, even to some senior counterterrorism officials, that the Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency have been using their own “noncompulsory” versions of the letters. Congress has rejected several attempts by the two agencies since 2001 for authority to issue mandatory letters, in part because of concerns about the dangers of expanding their role in domestic spying.

The military and the C.I.A. have long been restricted in their domestic intelligence operations, and both are barred from conducting traditional domestic law enforcement work. The C.I.A.’s role within the United States has been largely limited to recruiting people to spy on foreign countries.


The ramifications are interesting, I think.


New news

So, I've just recently found out that as of June 24, I will be teaching secondary-school English in Azerbaijan with the Peace Corps.

Let's just hope I don't come back a Zoroastrian!


Stop using soldiers as political PR

I watched the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on President Bush's new Iraq proposal on C-SPAN the other day, and it made me very mad.

The Democrats on the committee, joined by Republicans Chuck Hagel and Norm Coleman, all criticized the new strategy as "the worst foreign policy blunder since the Vietnam war" (Hagel's words). Coleman was largely confused, Kerry was trying too hard to be clever, Feingold was certain that the US government cannot concentrate on more than one thing at a time, and Boxer had no clue what she was talking about.

Which is really what ticked me off.

Senator Boxer spent almost all of her time accusing Sec. Rice and most of the rest of the administration of not understanding who truly makes sacrifices in this war. With all due respect, neither does Sen. Boxer.

She went to great lengths to describe the suffering of parents who have lost a son or daughter, and the horrible wounds from which many soldiers must recover. While much of what she said is true, she left out one crucial detail: WE HAVE A VOLUNTEER MILITARY.

Please, Senators Boxer, Kerry and Feingold, do not insult the intelligence of our soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines. We all know the consequences of our actions when we take an oath to protect and defend the United States. We made a conscious choice to wear our uniforms and, if needed, risk our lives or give our lives in defense of this country. It was not the result of a draft or conscription. No one held a gun to my head when I signed up, or when anyone else did.

The point I want to make is that, no Sec. Rice does not understand the sacrifice our soldiers make, neither does Sen. Boxer or anyone else who isn't in the military or the family of a member of the military. The important thing is that we, the people who wear our nation's uniforms and risk our lives in defense of that nation understand what is asked of us.

We know the risks when we signed up. Stop using the men and women who have died, Sen. Boxer, as a PR tool to gain support for your anti-war agenda. We are not helpless, unwitting victims in this war. Stop using the grief of our families for your own political gain and treat us with the respect that we have earned.

What the heck's going on in the basement?

A. Mining for a Heart of Gold
B. We found the X, and thus, the spot
C. Gimli and Bashful stopped over for beers
D. A new offensive against the Chinese


" - try and make him believe in a God, it is comforting "

At last, a glimpse into the final moments of Captain Robert Falcon Scott, ill-fated Antarctic explorer.

Must say, I think Shackleton's maxim on South Pole adventures sums things up a bit more concisely: "Better a live donkey than a dead lion."


The Big Absentee

Jesse from Dane101 asked a relevant question in the comments on my earlier post on the race for Madison's Eighth Aldermanic: "I'm curious to know your thoughts on what impact the elections being held during spring break could have on this election"

Alder King broached the issue in December and the Cap Times issued a screed condemning the university administration, as well as calling for a massive absentee ballot program.

A look at the turnout game is in order.

Generally, turnout in the Eighth is quite low during spring elections - even lower when there's some incumbency. Here's a look at the results for the '03 primary and the '03 spring general. Here's the '05 "Awesome Car Funmaker" primary and the general from '05.

While the district has extraordinarily high turnover, those heading to the polls are generally going to be well-educated, idealistic students tied into a campus social advocacy or political group. Organization in co-ops and sometimes Greek houses or specific high-rise buildings can come into play as well, as seen in the Kumar/Lapidus contest for county board (boy, it was a vigorous race).

So back to Jesse's question....I think the election during spring break stands to benefit Woods slightly, but not all that much.

I picture turnout somewhere between '03 and '05 levels; campaigns will work extra hard on the absentee front because they'll have to. But in the end, fewer students - and fewer potential district voters overall - will vote than if the election were held during a regular instructional day. Woods, given the support of King and Kumar, could gain marginal advantage from non-student hard-Progressive voters who are tapped into citywide machines.

In the end, the absentee war is where things will be fought, however. While it may be a different style of campaign than the Students for a Fair Wisconsin crew undertook in the fall, I still feel the nature of the cause and Judge's connection to it - and it's organizational muscle - can put it on par with the PD ground game in-district.

And now...an update on the facebook members horse race:

Woods - 388
Judge - 403


Two Things

1. Congrats to Steve on Azerbaijan! I'll let him tell you more later.

2. Go see Skip the Middleman at the High Noon Saloon this Sunday evening at 8 p.m. I happened to run into Skip himself at the Come Back Inn this evening during the down-to-the-wire win over Ohio State. Seemed like a cool enough guy (even though I thought he was 'Slim' for the longest time).

I know this isn't a typical Stevian local music scene recommendation, but hey, it's worth a try.


It's been coming for a while, but I see that the Majestic is finally closing up shop as a nightclub. That's really too bad. I was only there once - to see Regina Spektor - but it seemed like a really fantastic place. And the new owners seemed to be moving in a more indie direction, booking some pretty interesting acts.

It's sad to see that the city can't deal intelligently with problems it has, but I guess I've known that for a little while now.

Update: Welcome Dane101 folks. Lord knows we love the traffic, and don't want to appear ungrateful, but really? WTF? I toss off a silly little blurb about something everybody already read about in the Isthmus, while Brad's horribly insightful look at the upcoming local race gets no linky-love?


District 8 Alder Race at a Glance

Who's the better candidate for District 8 Alder on the Madison Common Council?

What is now a race to replace Alder King is clearly on, given the facebook traffic in support of various candidates.

Two individuals have invited me to join the group in support of Lauren Woods, King's annointed successor (also the choice of student County Board Member Ashok Kumar).

One person invited me to join the group in support of Eli Judge, who heads the Students for a Fair Wisconsin organization. Judge apparently jumped in at the last moment.

Perhaps I was only invited to elicit comment here. Regardless, it's worth taking a look at, even if I no longer live in the district.

So how do the crucial numbers stack up in the facebook group race? Things are pretty stark:

Woods - 130 members
Judge - 253 members

Admittedly, the fluidity and validity of facebook groups makes this anything but scientific.

Either candidate, however, could mount a serious campus-based campaign on a number of fronts. As far as identity politics goes, Woods would be the first African-American woman on the council in history. Judge is openly gay. Either plays well in the district.

On the organization front, Woods stands to benefit from King and Kumar's existing apparati, and conceivably the Progressive Dane tie-in. Judge's intimate connection with the Fair Wisconsin grassroots crowd - hot off an active fall campaign season - seems to have something even better.

Handicapping the race at this point, Judge's iconic, overarching connection with the rather global phenomenon of Fair Wisconsin seems to give him an advantage. While King and Kumar bring a local insider strength and coattails to Woods' effort, Judge wins in the identity realm as symbolic of something motivational and dear to many students' hearts. Couple that with what should be a stronger, more recent grassroots organizational structure that has activated voters beyond the PD base and Judge gains a few more marks.

So, to answer my initial question: I don't know who's better, but Judge appears to have the electoral high ground at this point.

Oh yeah. Here's the list of candidates for all the Madison aldermanic seats.


A subtle act of war

I'm pretty sure that this was actually the opening salvo in the war between Earth and the Moon-Men:
The metallic, rocklike object that crashed through the roof of a home here was a meteorite, experts said Friday.

And our officials are trying to cover it up!

An equal and opposite reaction?

Abu Aardvark notes a really fascinating turn of events in Iraq - anger over Saddam Hussein's hanging morphing into anti-Iranian sentiment. He doesn't seem to be able to explain it, and I certainly can't - I wonder if Brian has any thoughts...

Speaking of Brian, he made an interesting catch relating to something I'd been thinking about recently.


Music you need?

The Isthmus has a list of music it claims you need, but I'm really not so sure.

Frankly, I haven't been to nearly as many local shows lately. Since I've graduated, most of my favorite local bands haven't been doing much. Machiavellian Machine - the absolute best band ever, but you've never heard of 'em - broke up. Spin Spin Coupling hasn't played in ages. Even the Kissers have been quiet until just recently.

Am I missing something?

Crime of the Year

Yes, I'm going to have to agree with the morning guys on 105.7 WAPL The Rockin' Apple - this one definitely sets a high hurdle (or maybe a rock bottom low) for all miscreants to come in 2007.

And, yes, it happened in dear old SheVegas.


A Change of Tune

Members of the Beloit Janesville Symphony Orchestra wait outside the chamber doors of the Wisconsin State Senate today as new members are sworn in for the 98th Session of the Senate - and the balance of power shifts to the Democrats.

Senate Minority Leader Scott Fitzgerald addresses those gathered from the rostrum as new Senate Majority Leader Judy Robson (foreground in red) looks on, having spoken earlier.

Outgoing Senate President Alan Lasee handed the gavel off to Fred Risser - who took it up for the third time since 1979 when the Lieutenant Governor no longer oversaw the Senate. Only Risser, Lasee, and former Senator Brian Rude have ever held the post since the constitutional amendment.

Besides staff, family, and media, figures like Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barett and Tom Loftus were seen in the outer fringes of the chamber.