4.30.2007

The View from Brewtown: In Honor of a Miller Park Victory














After a Brewers win over the Cardinals earlier this evening, it's time for a look at Miller Park, courtesy of Adam R, who hails originally from east of Eden.













Outside inside.













Have they connected the toilets to the sewer system yet or do they still flush straight into the Milwaukee River? Or, with the wonders of the Deep Tunnel, does it really matter?














Mixed omens for the season?

Bromide Obama

In several posts, I've noted Barack Obama's "Wilsonian" rhetoric, its "eloquent" yet "vapid" heights, and its subtly nefarious implications for government's role in our lives.

Ben over at Badger Blues takes an informed, engaging look at Obama, using David Brooks' recent column as a springboard and peppering it with some historical insights.

Althouse, however, illuminates my exact thoughts about why the Bromide has gone down so smoothly:

"It's not the evasiveness that's special. It's the eloquence. The supposed eloquence. I don't consider evasive speech eloquent myself. But clearly, Obama in his windy, inspirational mode has impressed people. At least for now."

Brooks sums up Obama's rhetorical schtick best as one "That's either profound or vacuous, depending on your point of view."

Now I know why

The Guardian Angels have always creeped the daylights out of me - mostly in a vague way, the the weird paramilitary vigilantee-ism they evince is my biggest problem. But I couldn't put an exact finger on it. The libertarian in me said that this was just people being involved in their community, while the political scientist in me noted that vigilante groups undermine faith in the police system and can lead to real deterioration in civil society. So I was a bit conflicted, and quite creeped out in the meanwhile.

Now I know I have a good reason to be creeped out:
But a check of the Wisconsin Court System online database Sunday afternoon showed Jeff Callen, 39, the leader of the Madison chapter, was convicted of a felony charge of issuing worthless checks in 2000.

And according to a 1995 State Journal story, another graduate, Ronny Reynolds, 34, splashed acid in the face of Jesse Doughty on July 11, 1995, at a Portage area gas station because he blamed Doughty for the death of an uncle. Doughty was permanently blinded in his right eye. Online court records show Reynolds, who said he had "visions" leading up to the attack, was found guilty of felony mayhem but not responsible due to mental disease or defect, which is not considered a conviction.

Almost Aral

Gadgets

Nifty.

4.29.2007

May Day Immigration March in the Works

It looks like there is another march in the works here in town, according to LaComunidad, a Madison Spanish-language newspaper that features the headline "El 1ro. de mayo: Grand Marcha en Madison" on the front page of its April 19 edition. Here's my translation of a few bits of the article:

The Union of Immigrant Workers (UTI) and many other organizations are preparing a march on the Capitol on Tuesday, May 1st at noon. The event is part of the demonstrations nationwide calling for a reform that really offers a solution to ALL the immigrants of the country...

Besides the marches, the national pro-immigrant organizations have called for a Second National Boycott on the first of May that consists of not working, not buying or selling anything, and not going to school. It demonstrates that we are a vital part of this nation's workforce and also displays our economic power.

The article goes on to say that the day's events on the Square and at Brittingham Park will commemorate the 130th anniversary of the "martyrs of Chicago" and the International Day of the Worker. It also mentions that County Board Supervisor Ashok Kumar introduced legislation to recognize the day . Here's the operative language approved unanimously on April 19:

*NOW THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED *that the Dane county Board of supervisors does hereby recognize May 1st as "International Workers' Day" (El dia del trabajo) to recognize their right to work, their right to a living wage, their right to humane and safe working conditions and their right to be protected from abused; and**

* BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED *that the Dane County Board of Supervisors encourages employers in Dane County to respect the rights to take part in the May 1st activities without a punitive resource."

Now, maybe it was reported incorrectly, but "protected from abused" and "without a punitive resource" don't make sense to me.

I really can't tell whether Tuesday's march will rival last year's April 10 rally or not.

Yesterday, a man handed me a small slip of paper as I walked with a friend near Library Mall. It outlined a march protesting violent crime, which is set for May 1, starting on Willy Street and moving up to the capitol.

I immediately wondered if this wasn't a somewhat disingenuous pretext to get more people marching on the Capitol Square on a day well-known for labor protests. Alex Gillis, writing a second piece in LaComunidad more recently, calls for students of Latino workers to get involved as well.

Grist for the rumor mill (+ bleg)

While shopping for sandals the other day (bleg: if you know of any good leather sandals that would last me two years in Azerbaijan, let me know!), I was accosted with a friendly "nice shirt!" Surprised that anyone recognized my "New Kentucky Quarter" shirt, even in Madison, I took note, and fell into conversation with a fellow who introduced himself as the brother of TNKQ's bassist.

After lamenting the impending doom of everyone's favorite twenty-five cents, he informed me that the band had a set of four songs (which I'd noticed them performing live in the last few shows) that they were looking toward recording. So, hopefully (well, maybe anyway), there may be one more, four-song EP release from TNKQ before they finally call it quits!

"Gather Ye Rosebuds While Ye May"

Forever Stamps

With postal rates going up on May 14, the USPS has introduced Forever Stamps.

Since rates are now set to increase slightly on a more frequent basis, the Forever Stamp is good for first class postage "forever," reducing the need for make-up stamps. I bought a few the other day. As an investment.

Consumers could squirrel away forever stamps for months or years; they essentially would gain value every time rates increase.

Assuming a modest annual increase of 1-2 cents in the first-class rate over the next few years, buying a sizable bulk stock of Forever Stamps at today's rates could save costs, depending on individual opportunity costs - and, I suppose, inflation rates over the upcoming years when you plan to use them.

And then there is the question of why anyone would ever buy a regular first-class stamp again if it costs the same as a forever stamp but its value could never grow.

To hoard or not to hoard?

4.28.2007

Well that's interesting

After Brad's recent kibitz got me in the mood to read back through our coverage of the first "blummit," I noticed something funny:
Rep. Pocan - plans to use podcasting and blogging in his campaign on the college campus in his district.

Well, I guess it was a nice thought - too bad his most recent post dates to February 22, 2007.

Kibitzing About "The Blummit"

Jesse Russell from Dane101 hit up the WisOpinion Wisconsin Blog Summit II today in Milwaukee, writing up the first in a four-part series with his thoughts about it. While we weren't able to take him up on an offer to go along, he wallops a number of nails right on the head.

"If WisPolitics plans to continue this summit each year (and I hope they do or even consider doing it twice a year around the state), I hope they will reach out to Madison and other areas in Wisconsin for panelists and truly make it a Wisconsin Blog Summit."

I know Steve S and I, who attended with Opiate last year and provided some exclusive, dramatic live-blogging, have similar thoughts to those expressed by Jesse: the summit is hardcore Milwaukee-centric and peopled with a lot of bloggers (many corporate) that don't necessarily lead opinion, interact with other blogs, epitomize/aggregate/hub a regional blogosphere, or even get read. Earlier this spring, we even joked about starting a counter summit here as a sort of protest (I ultimately ran Crazylegs as my little black armband for the day).

There is a strange dearth of out-state blogs in Wisconsin, with a few exceptions, as Jesse points out (Lakeshore Laments, until recently, was a notable exception*). Greater Milwaukeeland, admittedly, is home to more blogs and seemingly more blog readers than Madison.

But Madison has its own interesting, distinct blogosphere that tends to get overlooked. It's a different animal, really - and probably loses out for being less focused on state government issues than the Milwaukee crew, which benefits from being an older, more established outgrowth of the highly engaged conservative talk radio scene in Brewtown. In both cities, the local university blogospheres (primarily Marquette and UW-Madison) are phenomena unto themselves that were conspicuously absent from an official spot at the table last year, and apparently again this year.

Talking to Opiate of the Masses, Hippie Perspective, and Miles Per Gallentine at the Herald/Cardinal softball game the other day, I think it would be healthy to have another Madison Blogger Roundup, as we did with the student crew last year.

Off-blog events, as seen with the BBA, can help to build up a regional network and keep good blogs going. I think having the event in Madison next year - or a second one this year in Madison with a different format - would be a strong step forward in making the "Blummit" a comprehensive event.

* For its size, the small town of Kiel, Wisconsin has had a disproportionate influence on the early Cheddarsphere. Graduates of little Kiel High School include: Kevin, Kurt, and Beefy at Lakeshore Laments of the Sheboygan/Manitowoc area, Logan of Among Giants at Marquette, and me at Letters in Bottles here in Madison.

Crazylegs 2007

I trotted out this morning with a record 15,000+ participants for the Crazylegs Classic 8K. It was my first shot at running the race named for Hirsch the old gridiron star.

Logistically, the event seemed to run quite smoothly despite the crush of the hordes. The weather could not have been better - a perfect sun-kissed morning in spring. The course encompassed a nice taste of varied glacial terrain, running from the Capitol Square down along Langdon, up Observatory, out to Picnic Point, and back down Old University and Breese Terrace to the stadium gates.

Hitting the 50-yard line at Camp Randall, it was great to unwind with friends and take in The Mighty Short Bus with some familiar, fun southern-fried rock covers that went down smoothly with the water, oranges, and even some of that most potent of nectars, Michelob Ultra.

I did have a few minor gripes, though.

1. The 4-mile marker near the Octopus Carwash on Old University needs to be more visible - I never saw it at all.

2. Don't exploit the race to make political points. Turning off the Capitol Square, a group had big "Impeach Bush" signs and a lady near the finish had a sign saying something like Covance is mean to animals. Free speech, sure, but respect a little time, place, and manner common sense. Or at least make the banners humorous, something other than a downer.

A great memory by and large, though. I'd be up for a repeat of the experience, if I'm in town next spring.

4.27.2007

The old having-it-both-ways club

Apparently, Austin King was lying when he griped about the feds being able to search library records, because, dig this, he wants to keep tabs on everyone who buys a textbook (scroll down to the article "Book 'em, Dano"):
The ordinance, which after a round of referrals will come back before the Madison Common Council next Tuesday, extends the city’s existing ordinance for secondhand dealers to stores that make at least 25% of their revenue selling textbooks. It requires these stores, when buying used textbooks, to get a physical description of the seller, check his or her ID, and record a driver’s license or Social Security number.

Moreover, sellers must list “each textbook included in the transaction” on a Madison Police Department form.

Yep, no problem at all. And of course, this little bit of totalitarianism will have absolutely zero blowback on King, as he jumped ship before his little chip at the right to privacy became public knowledge. Clever play, Austin, clever play.

Amusingly, I'd say Sandy Torkildson, proprietor of A Room of One's Own, has it exactly right:
“The police,” she says, “don’t have a right to know what people are reading.”

Finally, somebody says it.

Former CentCom second in command, retired Marine Lt. Gen. Michael DeLong has an excellent piece in the New York Times today.

The former general lays out the reasons why the hype over Jessica Lynch was so bad a few years ago. He reminds us that the press and local politicians had more to do with the making of a "hero" than does the military.

After all, we all heard the story of the cute, West Virginia-born Lynch, but how many of us have heard the stories of the two Medal of Honor recipients in the War on Terror? How many of us know of the dozens of men who risked and gave their lives for the sake of their comrades and were awarded the Army, Air Force or Navy Cross - the nation's second highest medal for valor?

It isn't because the military doesn't acknowledge them. It's because the press and our politicians don't think it's important enough.

RIP Sgt. Robert Basham

Godspeed, Bash, godspeed.

I met him at Badger Boys State when we both attended in 2001. He was hard to miss next door in the City of Fairchild - fun, vocal, in the assembly color guard. I think we ran against each other for a lower level county office in the dark the tornadoes hit and knocked the power out at Ripon College.

Rest in peace.

Catfish Stephenson Live at The Up North


















You may have seen him on State Street near Steep n' Brew. But you should definitely check him out for a full set at The Up North on Thursday evenings after a stop at the Essen Haus nextdoor.













Finally able to catch him with a roommate who's a big fan, I was dumbfounded as the music bit at the marrow - here was a living paleo-blues time capsule. Catfish has an interesting story, a sort of steel guitar Johnny Cash figure with absolutely genuine music. He's best when he dives into the, rocking, rollicking, grit-twang 1920s-sounding blues.













He also plays at Brocach on the Square every Monday night. Take a listen.

















And if you dare confuse him with Cat Stevens, you will be pwned, MOAed, and put on this island's no-fly list.

Thoughts From the Treadmill: First Democratic Presidential Primary Debate

Bill Richardson - The man with the most to gain fell hard. Like Althouse, I thought he might make his surge in debates given his experiences. Instead, sweating like me, with almost Nixonian profusion toward the end, he sounded and looked a bit bewildered, came off a bit windbaggy. He also fielded an abnormal number of unenviable first, suspecting, and even editorial ("your strident...") questions from the moderator.

Christopher Dodd - Meh...he was there? Faded into the background. Other than making a distinction between civil unions and gay marriage and saying his vote for the Iraq War was wrong, I don't remember anything he said.

John Edwards - I laughed out loud as Edwards sat dreamily silent for long, long, long moment when asked if he had a moral role model, much to the confusion of the girl walking next to me. He said "no" at first. His eventual answer was pretty solid, but he seemed very off his game all night long, despite a home crowd. Where was the boyish enthusiasm, the mill-worker's son? He came off as insubstantial as he did in his whuppin' at the hands of Dick Cheney in the
VP debate in '04, but without the saving optimism. His bizarre avoidance of the taxation question was patently absurd.

Joe Biden - Squinty-eyed, strangely John Wayne-like, almost an Oklahoma accent. Kind of cantankerous. Seemed to talk the most of anyone all night long. Feistily anti-Bush, but in an LBJ sort of way, whereas Kucinich is in a Feingoldian sort of way. Running, I thought had gotten sweat in my eyes as he opened a question on Virginia Tech with "Shotguns, not pistols." Double take. This man will not be President. Maybe head of the party after Dean.

Barack Obama - Came off as stately, polished, a bit slick perhaps in his responses. Certainly got some softballs for questions. Adeptly worked divisive questions into positive "uniter" responses - turning a gaffe on personal environmentalism into an intro to his daughters - more touches of glittering generalities, almost teetering into the vapid rhetoric we've seen from him on the stump. Got his anti-Bush policy pitches in effectively, as with the Katrina/disaster response rebuke toward the end. His statement that the Confederate Flag "belongs in a museum," as apt as it may be, might cost him in the political realities of the South. More and more reminiscent of Wilson - a highly idealized vision, meteoric rise from professordom. On non-Iraq foreign policy (which sounded like a Jeopardy! category I would like) he was the only candidate, to his credit, to display an understanding of China's growing place in the world "not our enemy... not our friend...a competitor."

Hillary Clinton - Must've had a cold, or else her voice is deeper than I remember. Seemed somewhat tired or fatigued, but managed to hold steady throughout the evening. She was the one we were familiar with, the sort of storied, troubled collective aunt that many dislike. I hopped on the treadmill just as she was talking about her healthcare plan. She benefited from decent questions and didn't seem to swing up or down to any noticeable extent during the course of debate. She came out as somewhat more hawkish on immigration than I would've expected.

Dennis Kucinich - Surprisingly, appeared to be the most positive candidate of the evening, smiling constantly, confident in his rhetoric, certainly honed in on his particular avenues of attack on the major candidates given his experience in the presidential campaign arena. Lines up policy-wise with the "Democratic wing of the Democratic Party" to quote Dean. He seemed freed by his knowledge that he could not win in a primary, liberated and able to say what the vanguard of the Party would like to say and promote were it not handicapped by reality.

"Potted Plant" Gravel - Even more entertaining than Kucinich. The loony Alaskan Sharpton of this time around? "Who're you gonna nuke next, Barack?" Almost fell of the treadmill a few times clutching my side at the ridiculousness.

Overall - A relatively high level of debate despite the number of candidates and the limited response times. There were simply so many substantive issues raised. Some of the "show of hands" questions were hilarious, especially when the audience could see the candidates for commander in chief look around at the others before deciding on a course of action as if they were in third grade. Barack and Hillary did not do enough wrong to lose their spots as frontrunners. Here's the full transcript if you want to delve deeper.

4.26.2007

There was a debate tonight?

Althouse has an absolutely wonderful - and rather hillarious - take on the Democrats' first presidential debate. She really is a master of biting satire.
Richardson is asked if he would fund the troops if he were in Congress. He says "no." The war is a "disaster." He would "withdraw all of our troops" by the end of the year. But he'd apply "intensive diplomacy" that would have the three religious factions working out their problems. He'd have a "security conference" that would include Iran and Syria. And he'd have other countries take over the reconstruction and security. Okaaaay. He's for magic. Great.

What's Your Favorite Shipwreck Blog?

As we finally revitalize our sidebar, we've noticed a lot of deadwood, shipwrecks in LIB parlance, I suppose.

We'll likely incorporate a "Shipwreck Coast" or "Chittagong Ship Breaking Yards" category at the end of the sidebar for nostalgic purposes as a clearinghouse of dead blogs we knew and loved.


What's your favorite dead blog?

My top pick?

The Slanty Shanty

And, as of late, Lakeshore Laments, who closed up shop the other day.

RIAA File Sharing Suits: Will It Be You?

Who are the 53 individuals on the UW campus?

The RIAA's "John Doe" lawsuit asks that users associated with the 53 IP (Internet Protocol) address - a series of numbers given to a computer connection on the Internet - be turned over to the record companies named in the lawsuit.

John Doe lawsuits are a routine step that the RIAA takes to learn the identities of those whom it suspects of illegally sharing copyrighted music over the Internet. Generally, RIAA investigators monitor peer-to-peer file-sharing networks - in the UW-Madison case those were the Gnutella and AresWarez networks - and take down the IP addresses of those who are sharing files.

The 53 UW-Madison IP addresses accounted for 24,977 shared audio files, according to court documents.

That's not just a few kilobytes. Despite the UW's early refusal to comply, Federal Judge John Shabaz ordered the IP addresses and contacts of the file sharers be turned over to the RIAA today.

Given the potential technical difficulties of pinning an IP address with a distinct individual, I'm interested to see how many concrete students will actually be nailed even when the addresses are revealed.

Via Slashdot

I kinda hate that I agree with her...

...but Annie Laurie Gaylor seems to be right on this one:
A prominent critic of government involvement in religion is opposing a request to fly the Tibetan flag over the City-County Building to honor the visit of the Dalai Lama to Madison next week.

The Dalai Lama is a religious, not a governmental, leader, said Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the Freedom from Religion Foundation.

"Public officials need to be very careful what precedent they set even if they have the best intentions," Gaylor said Wednesday.

I'd have liked nothing better than to tell Gaylor to take a long walk off a short pier - after all, the case of the Tibetan flag is unique, given that flying it is really more a stand of solidarity against Chinese occupation than with a religious leader per se, and the phrasing of her gripe seems like just another busybody poking her nose in because she's a religious activist of some stripe - except that flying flags other than the US flag is quite against the rules:
But building rules say that only the U.S. flag should fly on top of the building. So de Felice and others are asking the City-County Liaison Committee to make an exception -- something that's never been allowed before, at least not in recent memory, a building official said.

Surrender Monkeys!

In a press release justifying his vote for the insanely bloated Iraq war funding bill, the Doctor/Congressman/Nutjob had this to say:
“It’s time to spend more of our tax money here at home,” Kagen concluded.
It really is so nice to know that Dr. Kagen is getting bored with spending money overseas. I realize that it must be tough for someone who can't wait to spend billions of dollars of other people's money.

In her own press release, Madison's own Tammy Baldwin could barely contain her excitement at voting to surrender in the face of a bitter enemy.
"On March 23rd, I cast a vote for the Iraq Supplemental Bill because, for the first time, it contained binding language to bring the war in Iraq to an end."
It is also reassuring to know that she still thinks that Congress runs wars:
The President has said he will veto this measure. In doing so, he will thwart the will of the American people and the majority of the United States Congress.
I know I should expect it by now, but when will the Democrats in Congress stop being such a bunch of surrender monkeys?

Mimicry

Posted by Picasa

4.25.2007

Moral Majority Mention

Stumbled across this today at The Claremont Institute:

Announcing the 2007 Publius Fellows

Darryn Beckstrom is pursuing a Ph.D. in Political Science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She currently holds a Family Facts Fellowship from the Heritage Foundation and works as Director of Research at the Wisconsin Family Council. Ms. Beckstrom is a former Chairman of the Editorial Board at Madison’s Badger Herald and a founding member of The Mendota Beacon. She has published numerous opinion editorials and is currently an instructor of Constitutional Law at the University of Wisconsin.

Ms. Beckstrom is also a one-time regular commenter here at LIB. Congrats.

Here comes the gun control....

I normally don't read the Daily Cardinal, but for some reason I did today and what I read absolutely astounded me.

This gem from opinion writer Kathryn Minnick is not only poorly written, but riddled with factual errors and faulty logic. One of my favorite statements from the column is:

The legality and ready availability of guns in the United States is a fundamental cause of Cho’s shootings and tens of thousands of ordinary homicides. Without guns, Cho would have had to resort to less efficient means or terrorist-grade mayhem to wreak vengeance. The former method probably would have left far fewer victims; the latter method would have required greater sophistication and should have tripped the radar of agencies looking for terrorist behavior. Cho—mirroring the story of The Three Bears—found in guns an easy, incredibly lethal tool that was “just right.”

Despite the painfully bad Goldilocks reference, it is absolutely absurd to say that Cho would not have killed anyone without a gun. Not to sound morbid, but there are many, many more effective ways in which to kill a large amount of people in an enclosed space such as a lecture hall. Apparently Ms. Minnick has never heard of pipe-bombs and other homemade explosives. Also, I cannot believe that someone would imply that "terrorist-grade mayhem" would kill fewer people than handguns. Has she been living under a rock for the last 6 years? I won't even touch the phrase "terrorist-grade."

Of course, for Minnick, the villain at VT was not Cho, of course not. The villain in this case is the NRA. That's right, the NRA. Apparently, as David Lapidus so eloquently pointed out yesterday, the over 99% of gun owners who are safe and law-abiding are just as culpable in the deaths of 32 innocent lives as the deranged psychopath that pulled the trigger.
The NRA has created a propaganda cloud around guns—similar in effect to the Bush Administration’s fog of lies surrounding the Iraq War. Just as the Bush Administration created a broadly accepted public belief that Saddam and 9/11 were linked, the NRA has manufactured a perception, also widely accepted, that guns can’t be blamed for gun violence.

Gosh, I guess that means that the two handguns waltzed into the lecture hall at Virginia Tech, chained the doors shut and opened fire on a class all by themselves! It would have happened without Cho's actions. It all makes perfect sense now. Also, where did the Iraq reference come from? Is Bush responsible for this too?

Please. Cho was the one who decided that he was going to kill innocent people. He decided that he was going to do anything it took to take as many people down with him. If it hadn't been guns, he would have found another way and the death toll could have been higher. Anyone who knows something about explosives knows it too.

Minnick's misunderstanding of Supreme Court rulings is on display as well. She cites two cases that allow congress to regulate firearms as an excuse to take away guns from law-abiding citizens. Not exactly. The cases give congress the power to regulate the sale of firearms but say nothing about taking them away. In fact, a recent Federal Appeals court ruling in Washington, DC asserted that there is a constitutional right to own a gun. It's hardly settled law.

Despite the many problems in this article, Minnick's conclusion is the worst.

The 32 bright, vivacious people tragically killed in Virginia deserve our best effort to change America’s gun laws and culture. If the pro-gun lobby silences or diverts our outrage, their deaths will have been for nothing.

I know that we all want to find some greater meaning in the tragedy of Virginia Tech, but sometimes the greatest tragedy is that innocent people do die in vain. The 32 people gunned down because of one man's rage died not because there are too many guns available, but because he decided that he was going to kill as many people as he could.

Although sad, preventing a future shooting is in recognizing the warning signs of the killer and doing something about it, not in taking all guns away.

'08 Prez Candidates as Stocks

If Obama is Google and Giuliani is Halliburton...then what about...


Fred Thompson? BRK-A - Expensive, probably a good investment, but hold.

Tom Tancredo? TAP - The Rockies have been tapped.

Dennis Kucinich? YHOO - The name says it all. Downgrade.

Ron Paul? SBUX - Cool company, still traded on Nasdaq, hasn't hit the big time yet. Or maybe TXN.

Al Gore? CESI - Green or bust. Hard to say if it will take off. One to watch.

Sam Brownback? The Timothy Plan - A Judeo-Christian values-based mutual fund.

Mike Huckabee? WMT - Bentonville is sitting at neutral in most analysts eyes.

John Kerry? WTF - Sell short.

Back Room Blog

Legislators blogging? Will this new blog really take you "behind the scenes in Madison" as promised?

I doubt it. Now, if the Journal Sentinel got some young Senate and Assembly pages to blog anonymously...then you might have some material to work with.

As with other legislator bloggers, like Frank Lasee and Mark Pocan, I think we'll see rather tidy, pre-packaged material which will ultimately prove pretty mundane.

In the capitol's political climate geared toward re-election, the only ones leaking unfettered snippets of the often humdrum or salacious happenings under the dome seem to be the pseudonyms. See Dennis York, Playground Politics, and I Am the Force.

Interestingly, there's a high mortality rate in that club.

Cyrillic, Yooper, and Free Sour Cream

4.24.2007

Chris Garneau Coming to Madison

Okay...um, I thought he told me he wasn't coming...?

Brad V: You're slated for a show in Chicago in May. Lovely Wisconsin isn't far away. Any chance of a side trip to Madison for a gig? [...]

Chris G: I don't think we are hitting Wisconsin on this spring's tour.

But, yeah - it looks like there will be a Madison stop on Chris Garneau's tour in support of his new album Music for Tourists:

05.26.07 - Madison, WI - Cafe Montmarte

Booyah!

I'm going to venture, perhaps irresponsibly, that my mad interview skillz put Madison on the map.

Look out!

Just passing this along:
Madison Interactive - A group for people who work on public websites – both for work and for play – in the Madison area – is hosting its second free event. Whether you're uploading articles to a local media website or just tending a personal blog, we want you to join us and share your experiences. And to make it all even more interesting, we'll also be having a brief panel discussion with some local online music promoters.

Please pass this note on to everyone you think might be interested and leave a comment at http://madinteractive.wordpress.com if you're coming.

Panel Discussion Details:
MadInteractive Panel No. 2 - Music Promotion on the Internet

Location:
The High Noon Saloon

Event Time/Date:
5 – 7pm on April 30, 2007

Panel Time:
5:30 to 6pm

Details:
(Panelists, please show up at 5:20 at the very latest.)

Topic: Music Promotion on the Internet
The discussion will center around the importance of the Internet for music promotion and touch on the different outlets available for that promotion (websites, MySpace, SonicBids, etc.)

Moderator:
Jessica Thompson of contessasays.com

Panelists:

Roy Elkin from Broadjam
Matt Jacoby, founder and president of LocalSounds.org
Allen McGuire, founder of MadtownLounge.com
Nick Venturella (singer/songwriter, and also currently writing a book on the Independent Wisconsin Music Scene)

Brad informs me that "They had enough free appetizers to make supper out of it last time" he went. I completely forgot about the last one, but will try to make it to this ones!

Maybe he's mistaking a zombie for "not dead"

Charlie Sykes has a piece up over at the Wisconsin Public Research Institute regarding the future of conservatism. All I can say is, if this is his vision, conservatism sounds pretty dead to me:
Modern conservatism is at its best when it is Reformist and Reactionary—when it reacts against the initiatives and depredations of the Left.

But this requires the left to actually have initiatives, or be in a position to enact programs or policies that require intellectual and political opposition. During the last eight years, the left has taken a vacation from responsibility, leaving conservatives to play against themselves.

Ah, where to begin with how wrong this is? In order for a party to survive, it must have a positive vision of where the country is going - reactionary politics are necessarily short-term, and usually short-sighted as well. That's why today's Republican politics are so misguided - they've been guided by Sykes's reactionary principle for too long. Any team that relies on the other team making mistakes is bound to lose.

Sykes is right to differentiate between the GOP and conservatism, but this is largely beside the point at the moment - certainly the GOP isn't making a play for centrists. To run the country, a party must have a positive plan for the future. Any party that does not can function as a vocal minority - as a reactionary minority party - but can never properly run a country. Nor does it deserve to.

Someone still loves you, Boris Yeltsin

I know I'm a day late and a dollar short on this one, but I suppose I should remark on the passing of Boris Yeltsin. Unfortunately, all I've really got to say is, "Someone still loves you," and given that that's really just indie snark, I don't have anything much meaningful to say at all.

Certainly the man deserves credit - being the first democratically-elected leader of Russia isn't nothing. But the way in which he "democratized" Russia led to the gangster capitalism practiced by oligarchs today. And he's directly responsible for installing Pootie-Poot Putin into power.

But I did like what Althouse had to say.

The Decemberists Fire A Broadside at Madison

Much has been made of The Decemberists' sold-out show at The Orpheum on Friday. Rob Thomas from the Cap. Times sums it all up tidily.











Steve S also did a smashing job with his once-in-a-lifetime Dane101 pre-show interview with opener My Brightest Diamond:

Steve: So you're on Asthmatic Kitty records, you've got a song about rabbits dying, you've got a song about, if I read it right, bringing an old workhorse to the glue factory...

Shara: Saving him!

Steve: Aha! Saving him! Well, I was going to ask, "why do you hate animals so much?" But...

Shara: [laughs] The problem is that I love them!















While My Brightest Diamond's unique sound was stellar back at The Annex in the fall (and as Steve mentions in the interview, I loved her rendition of "Tainted Love"), she really hit her stride opening on Friday night for a monster crowd. Several people around me had never heard of her before and marveled as her near-Wagnerian voice and gritty guitar swelled effortlessly to fill the vast space. The Led Zeppelin cover "No Quarter" didn't hurt either. She seems to have, at least in this city, become the first lady of "openers for hard-to-classify eclectic alt. indie rock acts." Who's next? Cloud Cult?



















The Decemberists themselves were actually hit or miss in my book. I'm admittedly not a fan of most of their latest somewhat blase material ("Oh, Valencia" excepted - and the "Shanskville Butcher" was done to good effect), preferring the quirky vignette folk historicism of classics like "The Infanta", "Eli the Barrow Boy", and that leviathan of music, The Mariner's Revenge Song.



Now, when The Decemberists did 'hit,' it was like a broadside from a man o' war off Trafalgar. They saved "The Mariner's Revenge Song" for last, doing the near-impossible, sparking a large modern audience into an absolute riotous frenzy with a sea shanty featuring a lineup of accordion, string bass, mandolin, drum, and guitar. My video above captures the climax of the song after the band had been 'eaten' by a whale and lay dead on the stage, their instruments strewn about. The upper balcony was bouncing in an unsettling manner. It was all ridiculously good fun for our sizable crew upstairs.














"The Tain" was not what I would've picked for an encore, but the band was probably smart to choose it - it calmed the feverish crowd down and facilitated a reasonable close to the show.














Colin Meloy's random monologue about Otis Redding climbing out of what he meant to call Lake Monona during "Sixteen Military Wives" was quality (and slightly ironic, as Redding's plane crashed into the lake in December). I won't forget the Civil War duet with Meloy and Worden soon either.



















All in all, well worth the while.

4.23.2007

Elsewhere

Over at Dane101, I've got an interview with Shara Worden (aka My Brightest Diamond). She's pretty awesome.

Sprung

Red Satellite Blues

What we didn't know about China's anti-satellite missile test:

What administration officials did not say is that as the Chinese were preparing to launch their antisatellite weapon, American intelligence agencies had issued reports about the preparations being made at the Songlin test facility. In high-level discussions, senior Bush administration officials debated how to respond and even began to draft a protest, but ultimately decided to say nothing to Beijing until after the test.

Why? Here's the reason given:

The events show that the administration felt constrained in its dealings with China because of its view that it had little leverage to stop an important Chinese military program, and because it did not want to let Beijing know how much the United States knew about its space launching activities.

The administration was also reluctant to conced to a ban on space-based weapons, largely due to it's ballistic missile shield program. I'm fine with continuing with the shield.

For me, the larger, disturbing question becomes this: what leverage do we have on China in any given situation?

I would point to the Iraq War as an overwhelming policy distraction as well. Rather than registering on the national radar as a bona fide crisis, as it would have in a time of general peace, the satellite incident joins a list of unheeded tokens of the Chinese challenge to America.

"the Uruk-hai of Tolkien readers"

I guess, having read The Silmarillion, I'm certifiably hardcore:

There are two kinds of Tolkien fans. There are the day trippers, the weekend warriors, who've read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings and seen the movies and let it go at that. Then there are the hardcore — the Uruk-hai of Tolkien readers — who have delved further, into The Silmarillion and beyond, who seriously grok the deep history and elaborate geography and endless mystical genealogies of Middle Earth.

True. But The Silmarillion was an admittedly pseudo-academic saga and doesn't rank anywhere near the top of my favorite reads list. I'm curious to see how the new oliphaunt of words will do (probably better since the movies came out):

Now there's a "new" work of Tolkien fiction called The Children of Húrin, cobbled together by Christopher Tolkien, son of J.R.R., out of manuscripts left behind by his dad. As it happens, it's got something for both of the Tolkien tribes.

More here from TIME Magazine - if you dare to delve deeper in Moria.

Busking on State Street

Busk: intr.v.
busked , busk·ing , busks

To play music or perform entertainment in a public place, usually while soliciting money.

I finally took the big step and took my accordion racket to the sun-loving throngs on State.

Maybe it's really a concertina (as a diatonic button accordion, it's got buttons on both sides), but it certainly proved a hit with a few passersby on Saturday afternoon.

I plunked down on my old orange Kiel Bottling Works crate outside the Chocolate Shoppe and went to town for a few hours, entertaining little kids in the long line for ice cream, old people eating their treats on the benches, and students with amused looks on their face. It was all thumbs up from a packed street.

A few interesting observations from the other side of things. First, the vast majority of people look at the cash box first - or exclusively as they pass on the sidewalk. This led me to wonder whether it's better to have a paucity of bills and coin to attract more or a good covering to show that other people thought I was talented. A balance is probably best - it turned out to be pretty lucrative in the end.

Second, what an enjoyable experience. All sorts of friends, acquaintances, fellow bloggers, and even long lost relatives ambled up during my stint. A few people talked for a bit about their interactions with accordions - relatives who were in polka bands.

One guy asked to try the instrument himself - I obliged and later found out, making my way to the Terrace, that he was a member of the band Peter and the Wolf setting up on the stage, which I didn't stick around for, not knowing of the group's must-see status until later.

It was rewarding to see people young and old dancing a bit here and there, smiling as they walked by, intrigued enough to stop and listen a while on occasion. It seemed to fill a niche in the street's musical selection. This is Wisconsin, after all.

I have a feeling I'll be busking some more this summer. As soon as the blisters on my thumb have calloused over.

BUSK ETYMOLOGY:
Earlier, to be an itinerant performer, probably from busk, to go about seeking, cruise as a pirate, perhaps from obsolete French busquer, to prowl, from Italian buscare, to prowl,, or Spanish buscar, to seek from Old Spanish boscar

4.22.2007

Cloud Cult - Worth a Second Post



















Go and see them. Go even if you're skeptical. Cloud Cult, as Steve S prophesied and subsequently reviewed at length, brought a sweet rockin' etherea to the Orpheum Stage Door on Thursday night. The unique mix of rock, classical strings, floating vocals, onstage art, and positivity refreshed - what an honest, honest band. And yet not wimpy at all.















Lead singer Craig Minowa infused the show with an engaging boyish openness, tying all the disparate threads of the band together.



















Two blank canvases morphed into completed works onstage as the show progressed. Light shows are one thing, but this was concrete. And somehow completely natural and unpretentious, integral.














After some initial drama over a crazed fan and the pregnant cellist's waterbottle (pretty bizarre), Cloud Cult didn't show a weak chink in the armor. With a suprisingly sparse crowd, it was an intimate experience. I kept wondering, though. Why not a better listing? The band has what it takes to captivate a much larger venue.



















Minowa played the entire show with one shoe off, one shoe on.














Sweet moon rising. A very genuine sound, the future of the Twin Cities incarnate.














Importantly, Cloud Cult proved they could transcend artsy stereotypes and rock out hard. Only the bartendress in back who was openly too good for my quarter tip for an overpriced can of PBR was harsher.


















The finished work.














Cloud Cult emerged real, deep, accessible, different, alive, destined for bigger things. Sort of like Death Cab for Cutie's cousin on steroids.















As for the opener, Milwaukee's Fever Marlene, as I said to our crew at the show:

Gregor Mendel would pin the duo as the audio phenotype of a strange cross pollination between Oasis, The Violent Femmes, The Black Keys, and the Hoan Bridge (which featured prominently in their backing video).

Not bad, really.

In light of recent protests

The BBC has an excellent series (which is to part 2 of 3) on anti-Americanism:
She was a wonderful person, my mum, and so were her friends. Yet it always struck me, when she told me about these protests (and when, I freely confess, I attended them with enthusiasm as a youngster) that there was an odd one-sidedness to the game.

The protests against nuclear weapons, for instance, concentrated on American weapons. The anti-war rallies were against American-led wars. The anti death penalty campaign focused on Texas.

A pattern was emerging and has never seriously been altered. A pattern of willingness to condemn America for the tiniest indiscretion - or to magnify those indiscretions - while leaving the murderers, dictators, and thieves who run other nations oddly untouched.

But as they say, read the whole thing.

4.21.2007

Climate Change Protest - Madison Gas and Electric Power Company














I heard this protest before I even saw it.











It turned out to be a menagerie of interesting messages and costumes.



















I have a feeling the drumming had the MG&E execs shaking in their sooty snakeskin boots.


















My favorite character: the puffin dancer! Or maybe it was supposed to be the extinct great auk.



















The group was peppered with yard signs opposing the ATC transmission line planned for Madison.














Oh no! The polar bears...














...are drowning!

Madison Farmers Market Kicks Off
















































A smattering of new musical acts showed up at the inaugural market, including this low brass and drum ensemble anchored by my euphonium phenom friend, the incomparable Mark Carlson (foreground). They were playing a mean "Norwegian Waltz" version of The Beatles Norwegian Wood much to the delight of the gathered crowd.



















Some people just won't give up.














?

4.20.2007

Dancing with the happy hippopotomi

As predicted, Cloud Cult played an amazingly good show last night at the Orpheum Stage Door. If you missed it, you should really hang your head and cry, escpecially because there were disappointingly few people there at all - maybe 150, tops. The Cult deserve a far better showing.

The opening band, whose name I forget (maybe Brad can edit that in?), were quite good - two dudes from Milwaukee playing drum and guitar and rocking our socks. They had a fog machine going to excellent effect.

Then, amid a cloud of smoke, Cloud Cult took the stage. A few new things were readily apparent - cellist Sarah Young was quite pregnant, a violinist had been added to the lineup (although now that I think about it, she'd played with them the last time they were in town, to show off a few cuts from the then-unreleased Meaning of Eight), and Craig Minowa had decided to leave one shoe one for this performance. The show focused almost entirely on new material, and it was decidedly escellent, going a somewhat less balls-out rock direction than Happy Hippopotamus. They did, of course, break out a few fan favorites from the past, including the title track of the last CD.

There was even some drama - quite rare for an intimate show with such a dedicated band of followers. About three songs into the set, Sarah stopped the show and demanded that a girl in the front row be removed. Things got tense for a moment as the band insisted that the management "do [their] job" and remove a girl who claimed "I just drank from their water bottle!" It was a pretty obnoxious thing to do, I suppose, and the girl walked out herself after a moment. The band continued, and before starting into their encore, Craig announced that he was "still feeling good, no matter what that girl put in [his] drink."

All in all, an excellent show. Pictures to come!

Anchors Aweigh

4.19.2007

Why won't the mayor talk to Konkel?

Why won't nice-guy Mayor Dave talk to Brenda Konkel? I, frankly, have no idea. I am, however, endlessly amused by this whole thing (perhaps long-time readers remember my apparently futile attempt to pick a fight with Comrade Konkel).

So here are my completely uninformed guesses as to the reason:


  • She has a really crappy blog. Blogs are supposed to be concise and witty, and have, y'know, links. If she fails on each of these simple counts, what makes anyone think she's qualified to be responsible for actual city business?
  • Progressive Dane is a crap party whose stranglehold on Madison needs to end. Now, with the balance of power apparently tipping, Mayor Dave is trying to do exactly that.
  • This was all part of his evil scheme to trick Konkel into buying me a pitcher of delicious Optimator.

Personally, my bet is a combination of the above.

I am shocked - SHOCKED! to find SLAC-ers at my anti-war rally

The Critical Badger relates an e-mail from a freshman amazed at the presence of the ISO and SLAC at yesterday's anti-war rally:
The second problem that I had is that despite being advertised as an anti-war rally there was considerably more than that. Representatives from the International Socialist Organization were there and many people held signs critical of
Israel. They also chanted cute little ditties such as ‘From Iraq to
Palestine, Occupation’s never fine!’ This was supposed to be a rally against the
Iraq war. What do socialism and the Arab-Israeli conflict have to do with
Iraq? Representatives from SLAC were also present at the anti-war rally and passed out fliers against the UW-Adidas contract. What does an athletic contract have to do with
Iraq? I honestly felt offended by this mixing of agendas. In addition to this, I also felt that the rally was very poorly executed. (emphasis original)

I dunno - have you ever been to a protest in Madison before? You can't throw a stone in this town without hitting someone from SLAC or the ISO, and their presence at any leftie rally in town is pretty much the norm. I think the last time we had a protest with a single, unified theme was the Books not Bombs rally years ago.

Read the whole thing, though - beneath the naivete of the whole thing, it's a pretty good takedown of the entire leftie culture on campus.

Update: I very nearly laughed out loud when I read this:
“We are boiling, but we are boiling together,” said UW student Laurel Franklin, another CAN member. “We are boiling revolutionaries for change through counter-movements across the globe.”

heh.

We've got a really big show for you tonight

And I'm stoked. One of my all-time favorite bands, Cloud Cult is on its way to town for another show at the Stage Door. The new CD has been garnering good reviews. They played some of the songs from this CD at their last show in town, and they were just as good as should be expected.


The right choice

More alcohol is coming to Madison:
The Madison Alcohol License Review Committee has just approved the alcohol license for the new owners of the Majestic Theatre. Earlier in the evening they approved the license for Club One-Eleven which will occupy the former Que Sera space at 111 W. Main Street. One-Eleven will be operated by Glenn Jahns of the Shamrock and will, for the time being, only occupy the first two floors of the three floor venue. Each floor will have a 99 person capacity. The Majestic was approved for a capacity of 600. Both venues saw a large amount of community support rally behind them and limited opposition.

It's wonderful that the Majestic is going to be back in business - it's a fantastic space, and will, I'm sure, be a great venue when it re-opens.

I wonder if this doesn't put a strike against the downtown bar ban - after all, here are two more bars opening!

I Can't Wait to Go to Woodman's

Good call, indeed.

4.18.2007

Rockefeller Avenue?

What a sick f---.

Here's the video of NBC discussing and airing some of Cho's (unfortunate how he has already achieved first name familiarity) "manifesto" package, a confession tape creating during the interval between his shooting episodes.



Sadly, this is, in part, me giving him the attention he craved. But how does one assess the truth, the reality of the situation in its entirety without doing so? I shudder to think I'm encouraging would-be copycats, fanning the media flames that just got more fuel.

I've already read his twisted one-act play (it was juvenile, lacking in any redemptive worth). Did the work deserve my attention otherwise? Not at all.

The entire Virginia Tech Massacre scenario is churning out Catch 22 after Catch 22. How to keep campuses safe without infringing on liberties of the innocent? How to focus on potential problem individuals without damning individuals outside the societal norm without reason? How to note and act on clues in academic or artistic works without suppressing creative freedom? Arm more students or clamp down on gun sales?

And then there's the irony that the figure inspiring all this worthwhile public debate was mental giant enough to send his package to "Rockefeller Avenue" instead of Rockefeller Plaza.

And that wretched figure killed 33 people.

Question

There's a good one over at Boots and Sabers.

This is why we can't have nice things

Maybe we should have allowed the Halloween riots to happen as usual - apparently students need to work off some steam every now and again.

Prayer on the Square

What We've Got Here is Failure to Communicate

Now this is what I was talking about.

Fightin' Bob, True Progressive

"The Red Gym, on the UW campus in Madison [...] was the scene in 1904 for the Stalwarts' "bolt" from the Republican convention. Bob La Follette engineered the split by locking out his opponents, by setting up barbed wire around the entrance, and hiring UW football players to act as bouncers to anyone who was not of a Progressive turn of mind."

4.17.2007

Said Nestor to the Kings

A refreshing, thoughtful 'No.'

In his opening act as a member of the Madison Common Council, Alderman Eli Judge makes a principled and, given his personal story, powerful statement.

Looks like a nuanced, more even-keeled voice for the students here beside the curved prows.

You watch your phraseology

Is a war a war by any other name? The BBC points out that the phrase "war on terror" is being phased (phrased?) out of the lexicon:
"War on terror" is both a defining and declining phrase.

Its simple, some argue its simplistic, directness has come to represent the post 9/11 age and the worldwide campaign against al-Qaeda. But it was never accepted without qualification by many outside the Bush administration, especially when its meaning was extended to the counter- insurgency campaign in Iraq as well.

Now [Britain's Secretary for International Development Hilary] Mr Benn has gone public with a ban quietly initiated last year by the British government, one of President Bush's closest allies in this "war".

I've always rather hated the phrase myself. Like the "war on poverty" or the "war on drugs," it seemed more like a neverending boondoggle on which politicians could hang whatever misguided idea - and for which politicians could appropriate tremendous amounts of money - without any real definition. "Terror," after all, is pretty vague. Have the terrorists won if my little brother is still afraid of the dark (he isn't, by the way)?

Of course, in their rush to beat up Bush, the Dems don't look like they have much of an idea what to do themselves:
A leaked memo to staff on the House Armed Services Committee says they should "avoid using colloquialisms", including the phrase "the global war on terror".

Instead, staff are told to be specific in their references - to the "war in Afghanistan" or the "war in Iraq" or to "ongoing military operations".

Becuase, you know, "ongoing military operations" is really precise.

This seems like a bad idea

The Russians have decided to build a floating nuclear reactor:
Russia has started building the world's first floating nuclear plant, designed to provide power for remote areas.
The plant, costing £100m ($200m), is due to be launched in 2010.

Russia's atomic energy ministry (Minatom) announced that the base unit for the plant had been prepared in Severodvinsk, in Russia's Arctic north
.

Given Russia's penchant for security, this seems like it has lots of ways of going very, very wrong. And if it does, the fallout would go directly into the water the ship is floating on, as well as into the air.

Walk out for what?

Although I really should let the silly notion of a "walk out" against the war go unnoticed, I decided that it would be much more fun to ridicule the whole idea as senseless and idiotic to say the least.

First of all the whole affair is poorly planned. If the organizers actually wanted to make a statement, why is the walk out scheduled for 1:00 when no class is in session on campus? Think about it: classes either end at 12:55, start at 1:00 or 1:20. No class is actually going to be interrupted. It will just look like a few people are skipping class.

More important, however, is the belief that a handful of ticked-off, over-privileged lefties are going to affect policy. Here's a newsflash: They won't! They can try to lay claim to some of the "spirit" of the Vietnam protests, but that was a lot more disruptive and coordinated than what is going on now. You can't just wave a magic wand and the war will be over.

There is no major anti-war movement even here in Madison. One pathetic march up to the Capitol changes nothing. Those of you who are really against the war; how about you start staging a few sit-ins or actual disruptions of day to day life to bring about change. Nothing violent of course, but how about some real civil disobedience? Oh, that's right, that takes effort and time.

Remember that there is no draft this time, the soldiers in Iraq are volunteers and, unless you believe that we are all stupid, we know what we're doing when we sign up and re-enlist. You simply can't get a widespread movement when you don't face the prospect of war yourself.

And if you really want the moral high-ground on all of this, come up with something other than hatred for President Bush and Vice-President Cheney. Come up with some new material besides the tired old Vietnam rhetoric. New ideas will go a long way to helping your cause, but I don't think anyone has them.

Mammon, n.:

"The god of the world's leading religion.
The chief temple is in the city of New York."

- Ambrose Bierce

Take a gander at this sleek interactive perspective on '08 candidate fundraising from the NYT.

My thoughts? Romney has a surprisingly strong, balanced, nation-wide array. Tommy Thompson's odds look even more grim. The nation is leavened with a sprinkling of Tancredo, Kucinich, and Paul backers.

Obama's strong numbers - and cut into the presumed Clinton financial base - have made him a bit cocky or even messianic. His desire to contrast himself with President Bush continues to produce rhetoric that, while glowing and fresh, implies a massive increase in government spending and an increase in individual reliance on government.

Again, it's unfortunate to note that that wouldn't be much of a departure from reality of the Bush legacy, just a different face on a rolling trend.

Make Way