A university is just a group of buildings gathered around a library. ~Shelby Foote

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Man They Grow Up Fast

My daughter had her first communion a few weeks ago. Very nice ceremony. Here's a pic of her with Jenn's folks:

UPDATE: By the by-- this photo could also serve as "View From My Window" as well. Caledonia, Wisconsin, about noon.

Global Warming

Gregg Easterbrook, better known to many of us as Tuesday Morning Quarterback, had a very interesting piece on global warming in last week's NY Times. Basically, it argues that global warming is occuring (the evidence is very strong that it is), that it is likely at least partially a result of man's activities, and that the Kyoto Protocols are precisely the wrong way about addressing the problem.

Instead, he makes a case for a "tradable credit system" wherein those who reduce emissions and utilize new technologies are rewarded and those who don't must either buy credits from those with extras, change what they are doing, or pay stiff fines. Essentially, you set up a market driven system. Similar systems have worked with acid rain and with smog-- air pollution problems seem to lend themselves well to this kind of set up.

Another aspect to like about the credit approach is that it will encourage the development of new technologies-- really the only point I could find that supported signing Kyoto. With companies under market driven pressures to reduce emissions, companies that can step into the gap with technologies that do precisely that will flourish.


Friday, May 26, 2006

Happy Birthday!

To me. Getting closer to 40. Bugrit. Ah well, such is life. For my birthday I got a new wallet-- precisely what I needed and had asked for-- what luck! Of course, to make use of it, I had to transfer all the crap I had accumulated in my old wallet. Quite a trip down memory lane.

Things I kept: pictures of my family (some that seem quite old now, including a picture of Jennifer and me back when we were only engaged, and I still had a mulletesque length of hair in the back. Yikes!), a card I got from the hospital when my son was born (20 inches, 8 lbs. 5 oz.), half of the credit cards I had (the rest were expired ones), my library card, my UW-Parkside ID, my social security card, my Wisconsin Historical Society membership card, a few "club" punch cards for local restaurants, my Milwaukee Zoological Society member card, insurance cards, driver's license and my ticket from Disneyland (for $56 I was keeping something with me, by goom).

Things I jettisoned: Half of my credit cards (the expired ones), an American Bridge Association card showing the .13 points I had won in the one ABA tournament I had entered (kept that thing for 17 years-- no idea why), a Blockbuster Video membership card I hadn't used in at least 5 years, two different Am. Library Assoc. cards (both expired, and I am no longer an ALA member given their increasingly political involvement), expired membership cards to Sam's Club and Gamestop, an old UWP ID, an expired ATT calling card, two "club" punch cards for restaurants in California-- where I haven't lived for over 7 years, and a receipt for a gift I bought my wife two years ago.

Such is the stuff one accumulates during your life. Kind of weird to look back on some of that stuff-- cool, but oddly disconcerting. Life is, in large measure, what happens to us while we're making other plans. Not always a bad thing, quite often a very good thing, but still disconcerting and dizzying to think about where you thought might wind up, where you could've wound up, and where you actually wound up.

Of course, the price for being somewhere else is that you wouldn't be where you are-- that's always the kicker to the "grass is always greener" view of the world.

My point? Don't really have one. Just that it was an interesting meander down memory lane here on my birthday, so I thought I'd share.

Have a good holiday weekend everyone, and remember to honor and thank all the men and women that have given their lives so that you can collect membership cards, and photographs of your family, and all of the other little things in life we all take for granted.

Peace out.


Thursday, May 25, 2006

Mr. Bush, build this wall!

With apologies to Ronald Reagan. But as evil and antithetical to everything America holds true as the Berlin Wall was, a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico might be good and representative of what we claim to believe in. It would need to be coupled with a nearly total overhaul of our immigration system so that legal immigration is made far, far less difficult that it is now, and in which current illegal aliens can earn citizenship, but it would go a long way towards eliminating illegal immigration from Mexico.

And it might even be good for Mexico. Imagine that. By building a wall between our two countries, Mexico will finally have to begin to address its own economic shortcomings without being able to rely on sending its workers to the U.S. where they then send much of their pay back to Mexico.

I'm hard pressed to think of a real downside to building the wall other than cost. And given the costs that illegal immigration puts on our society and its institutions, I'm hard pressed to think that the cost of building a wall would be substantially greater than not building a while. Quite likely, it will end up being a positive in a cost/benefit analysis.

Mr. Bush, Build This Wall!


The View From Your Window

Is a series of posts that Andrew Sullivan is doing over on his blog. Digital pictures sent in by readers literally showing the view from their window. Oakland, Virginia, Ghana, England, Azerbaijan. Fabulous. Just amazing how much is captured in simple snapshots of the world we all experience yet is so phenomenally diverse.

Also amazing that it's even possible to do. Think about it. People from all over the globe, taking a picture of their world which they then send to this one guy in Washington, D.C. He takes them and posts them in an online environment that allows thousands of other people to see them from all across the world.

Can you imagine the looks people would have given you back when George Washington was still leading the country if you had said, "In about 225 years we'll be able to capture images of places from all over the world and share them with each other nearly instantaneously?" The whole concept of instantaneous would be foreign back then. Photographs weren't around-- if you wanted an image, you drew it or painted it. It tooks weeks and months to transfer information from country to country, much less from continent to continent.

We live in amazing times, my friends.


There goes #9

Or maybe the Ten Commandments don't apply to Pat Robertson. Probably Pat heard the Lord tell him it was okay to bear false witness as long as the profits from the sales went to the ministry. Turns out he is also a bit of a cheater.

So, Robertson cheated to leg press 1000 lbs, and he lied when he claimed to leg press a full ton. Can't say I'm shocked.

No word on if Mr. Robertson will take Clay Travis up on his offer (towards the bottom of page 1). But it's only been a few days.

By way of comparison, this guy, who has been a competitive weight lifter for over 25 years, tore a calf muscle doing a 1600 pound leg press. As noted in the Travis article linked above, the Florida State University record for the leg press is 1335 lbs. And according to this page (admittedly, an advertising piece), the senior (over 50-- Robertson is in his 70s) world record in the leg press is 1305 lbs, set by Gary van Vorst in 2001 (page 6 of the pdf document).

So, Robertson claim to have leg pressed 2000 pounds-- a full ton-- is ludicrous.


Tuesday, May 23, 2006

When the Government Lies

Hooked ya, didn't I tc? No, I'm not talking about George Bush or the NSA or Dick Cheney or any of that. This is closer to home, and it's doubly galling because my school district-- the agency charged with imparting education and analytical thinking to my children-- is willfully and disingenuously twisting the facts to benefit themselves.

I hate that.

Here's the deal. In the spring of 2004, the voters agreed via a referendum to raise an extra $6.45 million for the school district for the July 2004-June 2005 fiscal year. That comes to about $33 extra per $100,000 in valuation for your property, or roughly $50-$70 for most district residents. As of July 1, 2005, that referendum expired, so last spring, the school district threw a big enough tantrum (we'll cut sports, we'll hold our breaths until we turn blue, we'll show up at your summer parties and complain!) that voters agreed in June 2005 to renew that tax increase from the year before. This was after the referendum was defeated the first time through in April.

All of which was really annoying. The district asked for the money, the voters said no. So, the district just asked again. What part of No didn't they understand?

But even more annoying, was that the district sent out mailers claiming they weren't increasing our taxes. They were asking for $6.45 million more than the state mandated limits allowed, but it wasn't an increase because it was merely the same amount as last year's increase. So, the amount they asked for hadn't actually gone up. Never mind that the amount we'd be taxed was $33 per $100,000 of valuation more than we'd have to pay if the referendum failed. I will grant you that there was no increase of the increase, but to claim that there was no increase is a lie.

And it worked. The referendum passed-- the second time, after they hit on the idea of billing a continuing increase as not an increase at all.

So, naturally, this year, they decided to try again. The district is asking for a contiuation of the $6.45 million dollar referendum, and they bill it this way:
There will be NO INCREASE in your school taxes as a result of this referendum, since it replaces dollar-for-dollar the expiring June 2005 referendum amount of $6.45 million. [Their emphasis]
Which, I'm sorry to say, is a lie. A lie they repeat FOUR times in the flier. As of July 1, 2006, that referendum expires, and my school taxes go back to their base amount-- about $45 less than what I paid in 2005. The NEW referendum asks me to agree to increase my school taxes back up to the 2005 levels.

That's an increase.

To say it isn't is either a lie, or math so bad it would make the Journal Sentinel proud. Either way, I won't be voting to increase funding to a school district that is either stupid, a bunch of lying liars, or both.


Monday, May 22, 2006

Mea Culpa?

I had an interesting exchange of emails with Jack Montag (remember him?) over the weekend, and since I've been musing on it, I figured it's probably blogworthy. He sent me a link to this article with the subject line "This article sums up a lot of how I feel...". Given that I respect, though often disagree with, his opinion, I gave it a look.

As I noted in my reply email, it's a good article, and I also agree with much of it-- I think we have lost our focus in the War on Terror, and I think the post-invasion planning for Iraq was woefully inadequate to nearly non-existent. Rumsfeld should've been fired, and Bush's cronyistic tendencies have cost both the country and the world. And I agree whole-heartedly about Bush's domestic agenda embarrassments-- apparently neo-conservative means "spend, spend, spend, cut taxes, spend, spend, and then establish a few really big entitlement programs." Who knew? Unsurprisingly, I also agree with the article's belief that the Democrats have been completely and utterly useless and that "...the Democrats have allowed crackpots, leftists and demagogic cowards to snipe from the sidelines while taking no responsibility for anything."

Further, I really, really, really agree with Mr. McIntyre that the two-party system is badly broken and I'm quite ready to chuck it. We need dynamic, inspirational and, above all, smart leadership right now, and neither party seems capable of finding, much less supporting, such a man or woman.

I disagree with Mr. McIntyre that Iraq was the wrong move (I think it was the right move, or at least a good move, but it was poorly planned-- beyond the initial invasion-- and poorly managed), and I actually rather like the President's immigration proposal. Calling him the worst president ever seems over the top, as well, though I'd feel fairly comfortable putting him in the bottom half-- maybe the bottom quarter.

But okay, on most issues I agree that Bush has been a disappointment. Perhaps Kerry would've been better, but that's rather unknowable-- perhaps, under Kerry, we would've abandoned Iraq by now, and rather than having a new, duly elected, government in place there right now, the whole country would be awash in sectarian and ethnic bloodshed of a scope to make the current violence seem like the good old days. Perhaps, under Kerry, the terrorists would've been emboldened enough to have attacked us again. There is no way to know what might have happened.

Which is why this statement from Jack has been sticking in my craw, a bit:
If Bush hasn't lived up toany of what you expected, if you feel that he has lied to you to an unacceptable degree, if his actions have left you with concern that things are worse then before Bush, and you truly feel (as I do) that we're left with the "worst of both worlds" [higher spending and a sharp shift to the right on social issues], then you should apologize for having voted for Bush. You can't see into the future any better then me, but if the current reality is far below what you signed up for and Bush is beyond redemption, then I think that it's time to admit that damage has been done and apologize. To paraphrase his own black and white language, you're either supporting him, or not. It's no secret that I find him totally unworthy of a single shred of support.
I do feel that Bush has mislead me, if not outright lied, and I do think I've gotten the worst of both worlds in the sense of increased spending/debt coupled with increased societal intolerance and government sanctioned interference. But why, exactly, I should apologize for voting for him is rather beyond me. I'm willing to say that I probably made a mistake, and if I had it to do over again I probably would have written somebody in (I don't think I could vote for Kerry) rather than voting for Bush, but why should I have to apologize for my vote?

You make your best guess based on what you know and what you believe, and then you see what happens. Am I responsible for all the things Bush does-- whether I like them or not-- just because I voted for him?

Let's turn it around for a minute. Would Jack and tc and all the folks at the Democratic Underground and dailyKOS, etc. be apologizing to me if Bush was having a brilliant 2nd term, Iraq was well on its way to representative government (which, it may well be, btw), the economy was strong (which it is), gas prices were low, inflation was low, unemployment was low, and there was demonstrable proof that the NSA surveillance program had stopped a nuclear bomb from going off in Times Square? Would they be saying, "Oops, we were wrong to vote for Kerry, sorry we didn't support the president"?

Or, how about this-- let's say Gore was elected, and we hadn't invaded Afghanistan, much less Iraq after 9/11. Al Qaeda is allowed to go their merry way, Hussein continues to funnel billions of UN funds into his own coffers, and his loveable sons continue to run rape rooms and torture athletes that don't live up to expectations. Would Gore supporters be apologizing to me after terrorists set off a nuclear bomb in London rather than conventional bombs?

All of which is just to say-- how do you know the alternative would've been better, and why should someone have to apologize for attempting to vote for the guy they think best represents their interests and beliefs? It strikes me as nearly as illogical as my generation apologizing to black people or native americans for the crimes perpetrated against them by my great-great-great-great grandfathers. If I hadn't learned from those crimes, if I hadn't striven to do better, then by all means an apology is the least you could reasonably expect from me-- but if I have, why is what happened 150-400 years ago, my fault?

So, what have I learned from all this-- because discourse without analysis and self-reflection is just blather? A few things.

1) The two-party system in the U.S. is in dreadful shape-- it tends to spit up the worst possible candidates, it is pathetically beholden to money and those with it, and it tends to marginalize those that attempt to reform it.

2) I do not, upon reflection, feel a need to apologize for any of my previous votes-- not for Bush, nor for Clinton (though in retrospect, I wish I had voted for Dole). I do, however, feel a need to not merely stumble blindly down the well-worn ruts of the current political system picking the lesser of two evils. I no longer believe that a vote for anyone other than a Republican or Democrat is a wasted vote.

3) If there is no popular voter uprising to throw the bums out-- if the two party system continues along the rotted status quo path it has been on for many years now-- then divided government is always better than one party having control of both the legislative and executive branches. For no other reason than that it will be able to damage less in that state. The only time I was even briefly tempted to vote for Kerry was when somebody (it might have been Jack-- I forget) made the case for keeping government divided. Congress keeps the President in check and vice-versa, and both sides actually have to work with each other to get things done.

Here's my current write-in ticket: Coburn and Obama. A Republican and a Democrat. A white man and a black man. One from a rural state, one from a fairly urban state. Both from fly-over country. Both young enough to have some idealism and fighting spirit left in them. Both politically savvy enough to be able to effect some actual change once they are elected, but both new to national politics and thus, not jaded, cynical and, most importantly, bought.

Coburn brings fiscal sanity, pragmatism, and a willingness to take on the system no matter what the odds. Obama balances Coburn's bible-belt background and brings an understanding of urban needs and challenges. Both are telegenic and well-spoken.

Coburn and Obama in '08!


Friday, May 19, 2006

Bet the House!

On Tiger Woods winning the U.S. Open. Seriously, I think Tigger is a near mortal lock to win that tournament, the "Phil Slam" notwithstanding.

Here's why:

A) Tiger Woods is still the best golfer in the world, desptie Mickelson's recent surge.

B) The U.S. Open plays to Woods' strengths better than any other major-- it is the longest, it has the toughest rough (which Tiger can get out of better than anyone else), and this year it's at Winged Foot, a course which rewards strong iron play.

But mostly, there's

C) It is played on Father's Day weekend and Tiger just lost his dad. That may seem like a bad thing for Tiger, a distraction that will prevent him from playing his best-- and it would be for most people. But Tiger isn't most people. He is an elite athlete in his sport, and elite athletes frequently have their best games when logic would dictate that they should be distracted and unable to do their best.

Michael Jordan had one of his best performances ever (38 points on the road, including a tie-breaking 3-pointer with 25 seconds left) in the fifth game of the 1997 NBA Finals against the Jazz despite being "really tired and very weak" from the flu. Brett Favre had one of the best games of his career the day after his father died. In the 1967 World Series, Bob Gibson pitched three complete games despite having had his leg broken just three months earlier. And don't forget Kurt Schilling's "bloody sock" performance in the 2004 World Series.

There are other examples, but my point is this-- the kind of things that slow down, or shut down, normal mortals don't always have the same effect on elite athletes. People like Jordan, Favre, Gibson and Schilling have so much drive, so much determination, so much competitive spirit, so much focus that things that would be distractions to others are often actually beneficial to them. They are able to force themselves to focus on the game in order to escape the distraction, and thus the distraction actually makes these already focused, driven and talented individuals even more focused and driven, thus taking their talent to even higher levels.

So. Before the U.S. Open, Tiger's heart will be heavy as he considers playing in his first major without his dad watching. After the U.S. Open, Tiger's heart will be heavy as he considers having completed his first major without his dad watching. But during the U.S. Open, he will be funneling all of his prodigious focus, determination and talent into his golf game so that he doesn't have to consider that not only is this the first major since his dad died, but it's also Father's Day weekend.

He might collapse under that pressure-- but history doesn't seem to indicate that pressure has that effect on Mr. Woods. My guess is that he'll have one of the best performances of his life, and then sob like a baby while he holds this little trinket for the third time.



Hey, did you know that the movie adaptation of The Da Vinci Code is opening today? Yeah, it's true-- there are only about 8.34 million ads out right now, though, so if you missed those, and all of the articles about the controversy, and haven't heard about it from your clergy, and haven't talked to anyone in over a month, I can see where you might have missed that fact.

If the movie really is truly this bad, and most of the reviews seem to agree that it is (well, except for Roger Ebert, and for me, that is pretty solid confirmation that it sucks), what happened? Ron Howard is a decent director, Tom Hanks is a terrific actor, and the book is popular and, according to those I've talked to, well-written.

Oh well. I wasn't planning on seeing the film anyway, so no big. Perhaps I'll get around to reading the book one of these years.


Thursday, May 18, 2006

Yo 'Sheed: Two Words



Actually, keep blathering on, and then go golfing as the Cavaliers do what absolutely no one, me included, expected them to do-- reach the Eastern Conference finals by taking the Detroit Pistons OUT. That would be so, so, sweet.

It would've been sweet even if Rasheed Wallace hadn't guarenteed victory in games 4 AND 5 (Detroit lost both games by 2 points), but he did, so it would be incredibly sweet if Lebron and the boys can finish off the Pistons. My dream NBA Championship match-up: Cleveland vs. L.A. Clippers (even if Sam Cassell is an alien).

Oh, and Steve Nash may have been the regular season MVP, but-- to date-- Lebron James has been the playoff MVP, hands down.


Wednesday, May 17, 2006

The Brewers' Ace

No, it's not Ben Sheets, it's Chris Capuano. The young lefty is 4-3 with a sparkling (why good ERA's sparkle is beyond me, but they always do-- very strange) 2.80 ERA through nine starts. he has yet to give up more than 3 runs in a game, and he has yet to last less than six full innings. His strike out to walk ratio is 4 to 1 (56 to 14). He may have the best pick off move in baseball, and he hits and bunts very well for a pitcher.

Last year, Capuano won 18 games. Sheets was 10-9 last year before being shelved with a shoulder injury (which is still plaguing him this year). Sheets has never won more than 12 games in a season, though the year he did win 12 (2004) he had a sparkling ERA of 2.70-- but that year he also had a losing record, 12-14. No run support, sure, but a team's ace finds a way to win, regardless of the run support. Don't get me wrong-- Sheets can be as dominant a pitcher as there is in baseball when he's got his fastball in the 90s and his curve ball dropping in from the moon. When he's on, he's lights out. But when he's not on, there's a pretty good chance that his team is going to lose-- and no pitcher is on all the time, every game.

If a guy that's never won more than 12 games in a season is your ace, you're a crappy team. And the Brewers were a crappy team for many, many years. No longer. We are at least slightly better than average, and we might be downright good if the injury bug leaves us alone. And we have an ace that has won more than 12 games in a season. Six more than 12, actually, and it wouldn't surprise me if he made a run at 20 wins this year.

So, can all the various publications and sports' "pundits" please, please, please stop refering to Ben Sheets as the Brewers' ace? He isn't now and only was in the past because the Brewers' pitching was god-awful. The fact that nearly everyone still calls him the staff ace is not only inaccurate, it's a slight to Capuano who, by every statistic you can find, is in fact a pretty darn good staff ace.

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn't give Brewers' GM Doug Melvin some kudos. While Wisconsin sports fans universally revere Ron Wolf for his historic trade with the Atlanta Falcons to get Brett Favre, Melvin's trade two and a half years ago is approaching that level of signficance. At the end of 2003, Melvin traded first baseman Richie Sexson, the Brewers' only true star, to the Arizona Diamondbacks for six other guys-- SS Craig Counsell, 2B Junior Spivey, 1B Lyle Overbay, C Chad Moeller, SP Chris Capuano, and RP Jorge de la Rosa.

Counsell lasted only a year in Brewtown, but Moeller and de la Rosa are still on the team. And Spivey played well enough in 2004 and part of 2005 that Melvin was able to deal him to the Nationals for Toma Okha, our #4 starting pitcher. Overbay played well enough in '04 and '05, that Melvin was able to deal him for Dave Bush, our #5 starting pitcher, OF Gabe Gross and minor league pitching prospect Zach Johnson. Oh, and as noted above that Capuano guy didn't work out to badly for us, either.

In total, then, Melvin got our staff ace, our #4 pitcher (possibly our #3 pitcher, though he's currently injured) and our #5 pitcher, a decent relief pitcher, a decent catcher, a decent back-up outfielder and a good looking pitching prospect for Richie Sexson. 3/5ths of a pretty darned good rotation, plus a long reliever, some utility guys and a prospect to boot.

Not too shabby.


Tuesday, May 16, 2006

OTIT: Synchronicity

Spooky. After I cited Ward Churchill in my previous post about Boulder's "hate speech" regulation, I find this article on the front page of the Denver Post. Seems Mr. Churchill is a liar, a plagiarist and a jerk, and his academic misconduct might well cost him his job.

Who knew?

Oh yeah, wait. Anybody paying even the slightest bit of attention.

For a heavy, heavy, dose of irony, consider this:
University administrators determined free-speech rights prevented Churchill from being punished for the essay, but regents voted in February 2005 to review Churchill's work.
The University of Colorado is in Boulder-- the place that is thinking about restricting free speech if it is "hateful."


Nanny Statism to the Nth Degree

In Boulder, CO, naturally-- home to hate speech impressario, Ward Churchill. Today the city council in Boulder will decide if the city will fund a "hate hotline." If passed, citizens in Boulder could turn in their co-workers, neighbors, or even family for crude language, bad jokes, or just plain old stupidity.

What a farce.

How do we define "hate speech"? Well, nobody is quite certain, but as David Harsanyi notes in his column, "And remember, only call if your attacker uses racist or insensitive language while beating you to a pulp. After all, according to hate-law advocates, it's not genuine hate unless the perpetrator makes fun of your heritage."

These types of legislation are quite possibly the stupidest, most damaging regulations imaginable. The staggering thing to me is that the ACLU is not sure where they stand on this-- but their biggest objection might be, according to Judd Golden, chairman of the Boulder ACLU,
...that there is no confidentiality, no legal confidentiality. So it's potentially chilling if people think they are providing this information in confidence and then that information were provided to the government or the government sought access to it. That would chill free speech.
Huh? Rewind a sec, there, Judd. The chilling effect could come because those turning others in aren't guarenteed of confidentiality? No worries then about the chilling effect a hate hotline might have on free speech? No worries that people might not want to protest, or advocate for a candidate, or attempt to make a joke because they might break the law? That's not a concern?

Good grief, it is hard to imagine the ACLU being MORE on the wrong side of this issue. Their position is so stupid they make Fred Phelps look smart-- or at least consistent. This is a God Awful terrible idea, and it really ought to offend everyone and anyone with half a brain and enough spine to realize that trying to legislate that people be NICE is a really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really bad idea.

So it will almost certainly pass.


Friday, May 12, 2006

A Study in Contrasts

Exhibit A:
Conservative Christian churches, and the Catholic Church in particular, are peeved at the upcoming movie The Da Vinci Code. They say it is misleading, unfair, and unflattering and that it falsely characterizes raw speculation as fact. Many Catholics are being urged to boycott the movie as a manner of protest, and the Catholic group Opus Dei has told Sony pictures that, "putting a disclaimer on the movie stressing it is a work of fiction would be a welcome show of respect toward the Church."
Personally, I think these types of protests are usually counter-productive, as they simply increase awareness and interest in the movie, thereby actually increasing attendance, but the effort is civilized and rational.

So, more power to them-- boycott all you want, complain all you want, protest all you want. In a sane, civilized, law-abiding manner.

Exhibit B:
Many Islamic sects are still peeved about the publishing of cartoons derisive of Islam and of the prophet Mohammed. They say the cartoons are misleading, unfair and unflattering as well insulting to Islam, since that religion forbids the portrayal of Mohammed in pictures. Muslims around the world are being urged to retaliate against Denmark, Norway and France in a video released last night on the internet. "Destroy their buildings, make their ground shake and transform them into a sea of blood," said al-Qaeda member Mohammed Hassan on the video.

Personally, I'd like to believe that this is just one isolated loon spouting death and destruction because he is powerless to actually effect any change. But given the past history of the cartoon fatwah, I see plenty of reasons to think that at least some Muslims will take the call to action seriously. And until they don't take the call to action seriously, I'm not sure you can make a case to take any claim that Islam is a religion of peace seriously.


Hot For Teacher

Okay, I figured that was a catchier title than "Parents' Knee-jerk Reaction." And, quite frankly, I never, ever, ever had a teacher in high school that looked like this (the link is fragile-- you may have to refresh to get there). I would've remembered that.

So, here's the story (you can watch the local TV coverage of the issue here-- scroll down a bit). Erica Chevillar is a first-year West Boca, Florida social studies teacher who posed (under the name, Erica Lee) for some racy photos back in college. A few years later, those photos come to the attention of the parents of Chevillar's students and, not unsurprisingly, there's a kerfuffle.

All of which is likely much ado about nothing, since Chevillar/Lee broke no laws and isn't planning on teaching next year-- she's going into real estate. But before we leave her to her new pursuit-- and I suspect she'll do very well in it-- I wanted to point out one particularly inane response from a parent:

Some parents feel the images are inappropriate for a teacher.

"She's very attractive and she's very pretty but she could be using her assets in a
different way."

Ummm... what does this woman think Chevillar is trying to do as a teacher? I mean, what "different way" was the parent suggesting for Chevillar? Movies? Prostitution? What? I can see being upset if she was posing while she was teaching, but the photos were taken several years ago. What better way to "be using her assets" than to educate children? Was the parent saying that no attractive people be allowed to teach because they might distract their students?

What a maroon.

UPDATE: John Neyrot may have the best job in America. Who says you have to suffer for your art?

Tommy Thompson... Turd?

It's kinda looking that way. Tommy was Wisconsin's governor for almost 14 years, from 1987 until early in 2001 when he was tabbed by President Bush to be the Health and Human Services Secretary. His record was mixed, imo, with kudos going to his strong advocacy for school choice and for his efforts to reform Wisconsin's welfare policies, and some significant Dohs! for his increases in state spending during the flush years of the late '90s that have since helped strangle Wisconsin's public sectors with huge benefit programs we can no longer afford to fund.

But he was incredibly popular in the state, winning election by significant to huge margins in all four gubernatorial elections. So now, perhaps bored in the private sector or lacking sufficient ego stroking there, he is musing about another run for the Governor's mansion. Which would be fine if he were to do it in 2010 (presuming Democrat Jim Doyle wins reelection this fall). But Thompson is eyeballing this fall's election.

The problem being that the Republicans already have a candidate for that office-- Congressman Mark Green of Depere. Green isn't my favorite candidate in the world, but he is a big improvement over our current Governor, Jim Doyle, and Green has put a lot of time, money and effort into his campaign effort.

Thompson suddenly entering the race is pretty much like Foghorn Leghorn muscling his way into the race. "Pardon me son, but I say, I say-uh, let me through son. This is a race for grown-ups, don'tcha ya see son. That's a good lad-- why don't you go see how I'm polling up in the northwoods. Nice kid, but in over his head, don'tchaknow."

Could he be any more pompous, condescending and, well, turd-like?

Well, actually, yes. Here's a quote from good 'ole Tommy, "If I run, I win. I have no doubt in my mind about that. But then I have to govern." The hubris is breathtaking.

Honestly, part of me hopes Thompson enters the race and gets plastered in the fall-- that would be awesome. Except that then we'd be stuck with Jim Doyle for four more years, and frankly, Doyle has been an almost completely umitigated putz as a governor. I actually doubt Thompson will do it-- the rest of the Republicans in the state have to be about ready to tear their hair out, right now-- but even speculating on it to the press is exceptionally turdish.

And for a hoot, check out this interview with Mark Green regarding the possibility of Thompson entering the race. By my count, Kathering Skiba asked the same question-- is Thompson running for Governor-- seven different times in six different ways. Kudos to Green for very nicely deflecting each and every one of those questions. My favorite part of the interview:
Q: So you are completely confident he's not running for governor?
A: I am very confident about how things are going to work out.
Q: That's not answering my question.
A: That is answering the question; it's not in the detail that you'd like. But I feel very good about it.
Heh. Very nice-- my respect for Green went up a notch after reading this. My respect for Thompson, incidentally, has dropped about four notches already, and it'll drop all the way to -2 if actually does enter the race.


Thursday, May 11, 2006

Pork: The Other White Meat

I am considering writing-in Tom Coburn for President in 2008. Here's why. This too:

When Mr. Coburn picks a fight with one of his colleagues over spending, he
doesn't look for someone smaller than himself. Rather, he has always gone after
the biggest and strongest in the room: the men who have led the Senate
Appropriations Committee.

And this:

"Unless we control spending, the very things they want to do for people aren't going to be available," Mr. Coburn said. "What I hope to do is build a relationship with conservatives and liberals that recognizes that our financial status is so dire that we have to work together."

Mr. Coburn's mission also means he's not exactly a blind cheerleader for Republicans.

Asked whether there would be any advantage for conservatives if Republicans lost control of Congress in November's elections, Mr. Coburn replied, "We have a wonderful republic. How do we preserve that? I don't know the answer to that question, but I do know the collective wisdom at the polls most often is better than our collective wisdom here."

Pretty revolutionary. Works for me. I also appreciate that he kept his promise to only serve three terms in the House of Representatives-- he seems to actually believe, and stick to, what he says.

Some of his stances are of concern, such as his preference for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, though perhaps unsurprising for a conservative senator from Oklahoma, but overall I like most of them and can live with the others. Added bonus, he's not terribly old, and he's a physician to boot.


OTIT: Stupid Studies

Or, to quote a Mr. Bill Shakespeare, "Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."

Saw a piece on my local news last evening about a new way of determining if you're racist. It's called an Implicit Association Test (IAT), and it's all the rage at Harvard, where it was developed. The rationale for the IAT being a legitimate means of determining your implicit (ie, subconscious or without control) reactions to various concepts or people is that it is easier to associate things you implicitly like with words that are good and harder to associate things you implicitly like with words that are bad. The test determines which words you associate with what based on how long it takes you to respond. Okay, if that makes no sense go here-- that should clear it up.

Anyway, in theory the test measures how quickly you tend to associate a particular group (say black people) with good words or bad words relative to how quickly you associate a different group (say white people) with good words and bad words. Thus revealing if you subconsiously prefer one group over the other.

In theory. In practice, I found myself trying to anticipate what the next picture or word would be so that I could answer faster. "Five good words in a row, the next one has got to be bad," would be an example of my thinking during much of the test. Now, maybe I'm a freak (shaddup!), but I fail to really see how the test measured anything other than my ability to take the test.

My believe that the test is pretty much crap is supported by the results. I took the race test twice, getting "slight implicity preference for Eurpoean Americans over African Americans" the first time, and no discernible difference the second. I took the Arab test once (and the Arab test is especially stupid since it just uses names, no pictures, and the non-arab names are so strange as to make implicit associations with anything unlikely in my opinion) getting the slight preference for other people over Arabs.

Which is believable. I'd like to believe I have no preconceived stereotypes or "implicit" reactions to people based on color/nationality, but I can buy that I have a small knee-jerk preference for folks who look more like me. But then I take the Presidents IAT.


First test, I had no preference between FDR and G.W. Bush. Second test, I had no preference between Clinton and G.W. Bush. Third test I had a moderate (not slight) preference for G.W. Bush OVER Ronald Reagan.

Puh... leeze. First of all, I'd take FDR over Bush without a qualm, so for me not to have an implicit attitude seems unlikely. But secondly, I have no preconceived or well-considered conceptions of Bush being a better president than Reagan. I mean, I have Reagan listed at #4 on my top 10 presidents list. Bush would be in the bottom half, and possibly the bottom quarter of that list.

Finally, I take the Barry Bonds vs. Babe Ruth test. So-- I've already tested to a slight preference for white folks (Ruth) over black folks (Bonds). Plus, I detest Barry Bonds as a Jag and a cheat, while respecting Ruth for being a phenomenal athlete, if not a particularly nice person. Simply put, I like and respect Ruth a lot more than Bonds.

Given that, I would have expected the IAT to come out with at least a slight preference for Ruth over Bonds, and a moderate or even extreme preference wouldn't have seemed that odd when you combine my dislike for Bonds with my ealier implicit preference for white people over black people. Result? Little to no implicit preference between the two.

This test isn't about implicit impressions-- it's about how fast your brain can accurately process data and then get one of your fingers to click a keypad. The tests are also kind of stupid because some of them have pictures and others just have words, thus "testing" two different parts of the brain, and therefore adding another variable into the results.

I wonder how much time and money has been spent on this pointless test (it's ongoing-- so someone is buying it)? And I wonder how a news broadcast covered this test as if it were a legitimate means of determining if you are a racist or not (that's how they billed the 2 minute piece they ran)?

Oh, wait. It's the mainstream media. Never mind about that second question.


Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Wednesday Random Bits

Nothing coherent here. No thoughtful analysis. No deep insight into the world, or the events of the day. Wednesday. Hump day. I got nothing.


Should you wish to insult someone in an elegant manner, then please go here, thou spongy weather-bitten flap-dragon!

Should you wish to examine Bill Clinton's recent foray into expanding our nanny-state, please go here. Oh, and if we are really worried about childhood obesity, wouldn't encouraging better diets and exercise be a good place to start?

Should you need a chuckle, click here. Or here. Or perhaps--tc excluded, since conservatives are categorically not funny-- here.

Poking around I found this. I'm not surprised by the ridiculousness of the poll (it's G.B. Trudeau, after all), but does Mr. Trudeau really believe that FDR was our country's second greatest president? In what strange world of misperception and incoherence do you have to live in order to believe that FDR was a better president than Washington? Than Jefferson? Good grief.

Finally, I leave you with this. I particularly like #5.


Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Stuart Scott: Man Ho

Watched the very end of David Blaine's bizarre fish bowl thingie last night. My basic question... Why? I simply could not see the point-- I guess the guy just likes to push his limits and be in the spotlight. So, he's a freak-- but a relatively telegenic freak, so whatever.

But what's up with Stuart Scott's adulation as commentator on the bizarre spectacle? Good lord, Scott could not stop gushing about Blaine, blubbering on about how even though he didn't break the record for holding his breath the effort was still tantamount to curing cancer.

The man gushed so much admiration for Blaine I just about went into hyperglycemic shock.


Monday, May 08, 2006

A Very Good Weekend

On Saturday my son scored four goals in his U-5 (ages 4 & 5) soccer game, and on Sunday my daughter received her first communion. The weather was excellent both days, and the smiles on my children's faces was enough to keep me grinning all weekend.

As an extra special bonus, Saturday night was the bowling banquet for the league Jenn and I are in, and her folks watched the kids... overnight! SaaaahWheat!

It is interesting to step back from myself from time to time and realize how much more important my children's success and happiness is right now than my own. This is likely as it should be, but I got as much enjoyment out of those four goals as I did out of any of the table runs I had in pool league this year, or my first five hundred series in bowling (yes, I'm not very good). And the smile of excitement and pride on my daughter's face on Sunday was irreplacable and warmed the cockles of my grumpy old heart.

It's all about the big B

Omar has a thoughtful, intriguing, and somehow both encouraging and despairing essay on the future of his country. But I think he's right-- securing Baghdad is the key to making things work in Iraq. Building schools, securing oil pipelines, eliminating terrorist strongholds are all important aspects of taking down Zarqawi and the terrorists that still plague Iraq, but Baghdad is the center. If the center cannot hold, the rest will likely fall apart (with apologies to Yeats).

Of course, recognizing that reality, and altering our approach accordingly, would require Donald Rumsfeld to admit that he's mucked things up rather badly. And unfortunately, I have no faith that Donald Rumsfeld has ever admitted he's mucked anything up, nor that he's capable of adapting to changing circumstances. I also have zero hope that Bush will come to his senses and realize that his misplaced loyalty to Rumsfeld is costing us lives, money and the possibility of succeeding in Iraq.

I mean, why would he start now?

Still, if Omar can still see a bright future for his country, we owe it to him, and the millions of other Iraqis who want nothing to do with either Baathist thuggery or Shia extremism, to make sure neither of those elements becomes the de facto ruler of the country.

UPDATE: Interestingly, Orson Scott Card puts forth a fairly vehement defense of Mr. Rumsfeld in his most recent column. And to be fair, Rumsfeld did do much of what Card cites-- the problem being that Rumsfeld seems to be so thoroughly enamored with the plan as created by Rumsfeld that he cannot adjust easily or rapidly to changing circumstances. That, and I think OSC might have actually been frothing at the mouth when he wrote that piece-- my goodness but he was vexed mightily.

That said, OSC's later points about TV and torture and media in general are pretty insightful-- until he starts frothing at the end, again.


Friday, May 05, 2006

More Birdie News

Unlike the redtailed hawks in yesterday's post, an pair of actually endangered fowl-- two bald eagles-- are attempting to settle in southeastern Wisconsin. Officials believe this is the first time in over 100 years that any bald eagles have attempt to nest in our fair state. Said officials are also asking the public to leave the two birdies alone, which seems reasonable enough.

Perhaps somewhat less reasonable, did you know that it is illegal to harass an eagle? Federal crime. I'm not sure how you harass a huge predatory bird living in a tall tree. Call it a chickenhawk? Tell them that the redtailed hawks down the road a ways are holding up a million dollar project with their nest and ask them why they haven't halted any construction?

It's also illegal to possess an eagle's feather. Folks living, playing, working in the area near the new nest who find an eagle feather cannot keep it, legally. According to Ron Eckstein, a wildlife biologist with the DNR, anyone finding such a feather should take it to a DNR office. The closest one to where the eagle's have put down roots is about a half hour away, in Plymouth.

Red-tailed Hawk Update: Turns out the officials in West Milwaukee actually knew how to look at videotape and determine if a nest contains eggs. The Feds agreed that there were no eggs, so now destruction of the grain silo can continue.


Thursday, May 04, 2006

The Pack's Draft

This is a bit belated, sorry.

#1 A.J. Hawk was the right pick. It would be nice if he were a little bigger, but the dude has an instinctive feel for the ball that you can not coach and his athletic skills are very, very good.

#2 Daryn Colledge is a guy I know very little about-- but the only real knock on him seems to be his size. His size is fine for a zone blocking scheme (which Mike Whatshisname is installing).

#3 Greg Jennings is a guy I know very little about-- I just hope that Chad Jackson doesn't wind up being much, much better since we could've had Jackson.

#4 I really don't know much about any of the rest of the guys, but I am a fan of Ted "Magneto" Thompson trading down (with the possible exception of the trade with New England where we could have had Jackson) to get extra bodies. The Pack needs lots of bodies at this point.

There are tons of questions still remaining about the Packers-- can Favre still play at a high level? Will the zone blocking scheme and new draft picks help cover for the weakness on the interior of the O-Line? Was Charles Woodson worth what we paid for him? Will Ahman Green and/or Davenport return to anything like their pre-injury form? Can Rod Gardner do an adequate job of imitating Javon Walker?

But at least, for the first time since Magneto took over as GM, I get the sense that the team is at least moving in the right direction. Which is something.


Birds and Babies

Yesterday's Journal Sentinel had a good-sized story about how the demolition of an abandoned grain elevator had been halted by the discovery of a red-tailed hawk's nest within the building. It seems, at first blush, like a feel good tale of man pausing to acknowledge his feathered friends, and I'm all for accomodating nature when and where possible. Certainly many beautiful things have been lost in man's rush to build, build, build (or in this case, tear down in order to build something else).

The problem with this case is that the grain elevator is no longer stable-- workers did not notice the nest when demolition first began, and now the thing may have had it's structural integrity weakened enough that local officials fear strong winds (not at all uncommon in Wisconsin in the spring) could topple it. Right onto a busy road. Or a house or two.

Keep in mind the following-- the red-tailed hawk is not an endangered species, and the DNR agrees that if the building is taken down, the hawks will simply build a new nest somewhere else. The only problem is that there might be eggs or chicks in the nest. They would obviously not be okay if the building is knocked down.

Well, okay, that would be unfortunate-- but do we really want to risk human property and even life and limb for eggs or chicks that might not even exist? Personally, I vote no. Unfortunately, it's not up for a vote, or even a common sense executive decision.

As a migratory bird, the red-tailed hawk is protected by federal law. The village literally can't tear the building down until they get the OK from the feds-- even though a healthy storm front might bring the building crashing down. Which, I suspect, would also be bad for the eggs/chicks that may or may not be there (the village has video that appears to show that the nest is empty-- but the feds can't take their word for it. They have to see the video themselves. Ye gods).

So. To sum up-- the Village of West Milwaukee has already spent many hours and lots of money on these eggs (which don't actually appear to be there). The safety and welfare of the people driving on Miller Park Way and living nearby have been put at risk. All for the eggs or chicks of a pair of birds that isn't endangered and which the DNR agress will be able to build a new nest somewhere else without any difficulty.


One final question: Why is it that a bird's egg-- which will eventually become a baby bird-- is protected by federal law to the point of endangering other people with no regard to the cost, but a fetus-- which will eventually become a baby-- is almost completely unprotected by the law and subject to the decision of a single individual?


Monday, May 01, 2006

Justice for All Immigrants?

That was one of the slogans on sign carried by immigrants (for some reason, most news coverage of today's rallies declines to include the word illegal) during the rally today in Milwaukee. My feeling on immigration is, frighteningly, very similar to Hillary's-- secure the borders and work out a system where current illegal aliens can earn citizenship. But regardless of what your opinion on what is right and wrong, expedient or detrimental, if you're supporting the rights of illegal aliens, do you really want to be carrying a sign containing the word "justice"?

Don't. Think. So.

Justice is, after all, blind.

Justice does not care that you nearly died struggling across the desert to reach America. It cares only that you are here in violation of the laws of our country.

Justice does not care that you have a family depending on you for food and shelter. It cares only that the money being paid to you at your job is "off the books" and therefore illegal.

Honestly, sometimes it seems to me like those rallying in defense of our millions of illegal guests have absolutely no idea why anybody objects to their being here. Here's two big tips, free of charge, because I really would like to see all of our illegal residents become upstanding, law abiding, tax paying citizens:

1. Don't carry around a Mexican flag if you're living in the U.S. and supposedly want to be a citizen here (or at least remain here). Most folks seem to have gotten this one after the outcry following the protests earlier this year (though not all of them).

2. Don't make silly and completely unjustifiable claims to justice. If it were up to Justice, all of the illegal immigrants currently in this country would be headed back over the border with the point of her sword prodding them as they went.


Common Sense Prevails

Well, actually, it usually doesn't, but in the particular case of the really stupid idea of renaming the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee to Wisconsin State University, the students have voted overwhelmingly to keep UWM. Good for them.

Of all the times to float this idea, right now may well be the worst possible-- after two successful trips to the NCAA Basketball Tourney the last two years, UWM has finally gained some national visibility. Twenty years ago, maybe this idea made sense because back then nobody knew anything about UWM, but not now.

Now, it would be stupid and counter-productive. Instead, let's try building on the exposure that UWM has gained via the Big Dance. Whining that UWM is in Madison's shadow and proposing changing the school's name to something nobody has ever heard of and which has no connection to anything at all won't help. It will do the opposite of help.

Besides, Wisconsin State University just sounds bad. Too many syllables.






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