Archive for July, 2009

Weekend bar suggestion: Skip the Nitty

July 31, 2009

Power hour is a great deal. But the Nitty is not. How many drinks can you possibly get in that hour anyway when it takes five minutes to navigate through the sea of debauchery to get to the bar? A dollar for a weak screwdriver isn’t such a bad deal – but why not just make it at home, with friends? Obviously a significant portion of you choose to drink to the point where conversation is a daunting task, but that’s supposed to come later in the night, after you’ve had the chance to catch up with old chums.

The Nitty Gritty inhibits social interaction. The music is so loud the walls tremble – the shouting necessary to communicate will inevitably leave you with a sore throat to supplement your hangover.

Badger Herald mail-home, Eric Schmidt kind of right

July 31, 2009

That happened over a week ago but I didn’t notice until today. Highlights:

Jason Smathers, the editor-in-chief, gives a welcoming message to incoming freshmen. Last year Smathers’ welcome message (as managing editor) was an utterly unremarkable article that earned us a letter to the editor from a freshman girl who called the column “the most offensive thing [she’d] ever read.” She was probably a transfer student from Oklahoma because she took issue with his reference to drinking, rather than his admission that he’d been a teetotaler at the University of Wisconsin for two whole years. Which of these two bits of information is more offensive and threatening to the Madison way of life? I found neither offensive, until Smathers made mention of “Chianti and Limoncella.”

Kudos to Smathers for mentioning the Daily Cardinal in the article. Up until recently the Herald has had a strict “no mention” policy with regards to its campus rival. I believe the tradition was broken with former EIC Tom Schalmo’s departing words last semester. Rumor has it Schalmo thought about cutting the reference at the last minute but Sam Clegg, who had always supported my position on reversing the policy, encouraged him to stick to his guns.

Eric Schmidt writes an article about mental health, citing the “40 percent of you who will suffer from crippling depression in the next year.” Depression, yes. But crippling? Is that really what the report you read says? Doesn’t crippling suggest drastic consequences? Hyperbole aside, the numbers are telling:

This invites the most disarming statistic of all: Despite highly significant rates of mental illness among college students, UHS has only one licensed psychiatrist for every 10,000 students. Especially on a campus with the best psychology graduate program in the country, this is the moral equivalent of the Titanic not having enough lifeboats. People are drowning here too, after all.

Sean Kittridge’s article on the demolition of the Greyhound bus depot is entertaining and well-written, as usual, but he leaves any serious analysis of the project to the reader. Getting rid of that depot does not equal a decrease in public transportation, as Kittridge seems to suggest. At least not unless Greyhound decides to reduce their service to Madison because of the decision, which is unlikely. What it most likely means is an inconvenience for a certain amount of people, but I think the issue will be resolved, with Greyhound finding an alternative location.

Mayor Dave update

July 31, 2009

Mayor Dave wrote a pretty amusing response to a Rick Berg column the other day, in which he basks in the glory of showing the conservative columnist “the light.”

In the last issue of the Isthmus (you can still grab ten copies for your friends on newsstands today!), Berg grovels and begs my forgiveness for a blasphemous piece he wrote about a year ago after I returned from Freiburg, Germany. Having returned from the Mountain Top after a sister city visit there last June, I expressed my admiration for the city in general and the almost auto free Vauban neighborhood in particular. At the time, Rick wrote that I should have had another beer and left the crazy lefty-green ideas back in the Fatherland.

Hmm…was ist a guy named Cieslewicz doing calling Deutschland “das Vaterland”? In fact, this is the man who once extended his hand to Sara Mikolajczak, the former head of the College Republicans, and said “from one Pole to another.” Perhaps he is referring to Berg, who apparently is German.

Either way, Dave won on this one, not necessarily because the plan he cites is realistic in Madison, but because he made a right winger acknowledge that Europe is sometimes different for the better, rather than worse. It’s too bad Berg didn’t try to find out during his time in Germany why people all across that continent live so long despite their failure of a health care system. In wine-drinking France, in lager-chugging Britain, in vodka-guzzling Sweden – it must be something they put in the cigarettes.

Also, Dave’s post today focused on the Business Improvement District (BID), which is up for renewal today.

The BID does a lot of things for the downtown. It helps promote the area by supporting events like Maxwell Street Days, Cars on State and the Downtown Madison Holiday Open House. It produces the Downtown Madison Gift Certificate Program and the Downtown Madison Map and Guide. It does a tremendous job of fostering a welcoming environment downtown through its Information Ambassador Program – which helped nearly 28,000 downtown customers in 2008 alone – and enhancements to the area’s physical environment, dressing the downtown with flowers during the warmer months and holiday lights during our colder months.

Sounds OK, but I only want this association to go on if it’s agreed upon that the lights they put on State St are officially “Christmas lights.” That being said, even if they continue with the offensive “Holiday Lights,” Madison can still reap benefits from the blasphemy by getting prime time coverage on the O’Reilly Factor. Win-Win situation.

Also, Jason Joyce, where the hell did you weekly exegesis on Mayor Dave’s schedule go? Is this being outsourced to the Sconz or am I just incapable or searching your site?

Brunch Links

July 31, 2009

The theme today seems to be criticism of Gov. Doyle. I’m feeling good about today. The sky is blue and the forecast has Madison sunny all day. High of 80 and a low of 58. Today we have a brunch from Florence, Italy. The exotic assortment of packaged jams and white bread toast will have you fantasizing about bella Italia all day.

Wisconsin’s version of the “Birthers” have suspended their efforts to recall Gov. Doyle.

Bryon Eagon puts up some photos of the Wisconsin Institute of Discovery construction project.

AP: Wisconsin using money not to repair unsafe bridges, but on easier things, like repaving roads.

Cognitive Dissidence: Milwaukee County Sheriff wants to scale back program to help inmates find jobs. What should we replace it with?

The Cap Times files a lawsuit against Gov. Doyle in response to the administration’s seeming inability to comply with an open records request earlier this summer. The best part comes from Doyle spokesman and former Cap Times reporter Lee Sensenbrenner:

“When asked if the records were turned over in a timely manner, Lee Sensenbrenner, a spokesperson for the governor, initially dodged the question by saying he was surprised The Capital Times had the resources to file a lawsuit.”

Mike Hahn is skeptical of Doyle’s high speed train plan. An article by the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism raises a lot of questions about the high speed rail line, including the term “high speed.”

Bobby Jindal for WI governor

July 30, 2009

If there’s one paradox in Wisconsin, it is that a moderate state is utterly lacking moderate Republicans. On the national level Rep. Petrie is a relic of the days when the GOP was a party that included reasonable people. However, on the state level the Republican Party is the party of Bush, the party of McCarthy, the party of Walker.

Scott Walker seems determined to prove that Wisconsin belongs in the South. Not only is he a social conservative of the Bible-belt brand, but he’s joined Bobby Jindal, Mark Sanford and all the other clowns in opposing stimulus money for Wisconsin. Of course, like all Republicans who tried to score points on that issue, he eventually had to back off. Cory Liebman, from Eye on Wisconsin, has listed all the cities and towns Walker is speaking in, as well as how much federal stimulus money each place got.

Who can forget the beginning of the year, when Scott Walker first refused federal stimulus money for Milwaukee County? He was rightfully panned from all sides, even from some of his most adoring fans in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and in the Milwaukee business community. Eventually he created confusing and ever evolving criteria so that he could give any answer that a potential voter would want to hear on the subject.

This weekend the local media should force Scott Walker to fully explain himself. He should be forced to tell them exactly why their communities should send back their share of the federal stimulus money. Such a blatant act of journalism could actually start an interesting trend. A trend that could start what I would like to call the “Walker Anti-Stimulus Tour”.

Will Doyle run again?

July 30, 2009

Doyle, by all superficial criteria, is a perfect governor of Wisconsin. He’s cheery (at least in public), plump and he’s got just the right nasal touch to accent that reminds Wisconsinites that he’s one of them.

Unfortunately, however, the people of the Badger State are stubborn, and physical and linguistic characteristics apparently aren’t enough to guarantee Doyle their votes. Two different polls have shown Doyle to be at least relatively unpopular, with more people viewing him unfavorably than favorably in both instances.

Daily Kos/Research 2000Wisconsin poll conducted June 8-10 showed 43 percent of respondents viewed Doyle favorably while 48 percent were unfavorable. That was relatively Doyle-friendly, though, compared with a Public Policy Polling (PPP) survey conducted June 9-10 that showed 60 percent of respondents disapproving of Doyle’s job performance, with only 34 saying they approved.

Moreover, the latter poll showed Doyle losing to Scott Walker in a showdown. Given this information, I was under the impression last month that Doyle would not seek re-election, and would allow Lt. Gov. Barbara Lawton to declare her candidacy for the nomination. However, Doyle has continued to raise money, with the Cap Times reporting that his war chest is over $2 million – not a ton but certainly more than a lame duck governor would have. Contributors clearly believe Doyle is running again and the governor is doing nothing to dissuade these speculations. One Capitol staffer told me that people are pointing to phone calls Doyle is making to contacts in Washington D.C., to national interest groups, such as gay rights and women’s rights organizations.

Many Democrats, especially Lawton fans, are anxious for the governor to make up his mind. Three Republicans have already declared their candidacies and are out raising money, which Lawton can’t do as effectively unless she declares her governor. She’s already said she will not run for lieutenant governor again, therefore it’s hard for her to raise money without a campaign for higher office backing her up. One person told me that Doyle had better be running, because if he waits this long to drop out, “it would be a slap in the face to the Democratic Party,” as the Democrats would be caught off balance and behind the Republicans.

However, I still believe there’s a chance for Doyle to do either. Let’s say he’s weighing his options:

If he ultimately decides to run for re-election, he doesn’t have to worry about a primary. No relevant state Democrat, especially not Barbara Lawton, is going to waste time challenging him in a primary. He still has more money in the bank than any Republican opponent, and even though Walker has raised more in the last few months, he and Neumann are going to use up a lot of it in a primary contest, while Doyle will be free to raise funds for the general election.

That Doyle might wait so long to announce that he is not running leads me to believe that Lawton is the only viable candidate expected to declare for the nomination. Or at least that Doyle believes that to be the case. The longer he waits, the less likely it is for somebody else to try and challenge Lawton in the primary. Even if Lawton is behind Walker and Neumann in fundraising and campaigning, she will have the privilege of being unchallenged in the primary and not having to waste time and money in an intra-party showdown.

So there’s my analysis. What do you think? Are there other Democrats you could see running for governor?

Brunch Links

July 30, 2009

Warm day with probable showers, high of 74 and low of 55 in Madison. Today President Obama is hosting Sgt. Crowley and Prof. Henry Louis Gates – and none of them will be drinking American beer. Today we’ve got a taco chula for brunch.

Cap Times: Doyle still mum on third term, but growing campaign war chest. Also, looks like Van Hollen’s getting some competition in 2010.

Brenda Konkel: Community Service Committee makes horrible decisions.

Cory Liebmann – The Walker anti-stimulus tour.

The Northwesterner: The state needs to repeal liquor license quotas.

Green Bay Press Gazette: State Democrats should have allowed more debate on domestic partnerships.

Open records by email, twitter next

July 29, 2009

Open records seems to be one of the defining themes of this summer in Wisconsin. Although the Supreme Court rebuked efforts to subject teachers’ emails to open records requests, it still ruled that the identities and records of state employees must also be made available to the public. Moreover, there is now talk in the legislature of subjecting UW student governments to open records laws. Now in Dane County, the Board of Supervisors will soon be making it possible for people like you and me – people who don’t understand why “address” doesn’t have an @ symbol – to file open records requests by email.

Sup. Carousel Bayrd, of Madison, worked with the county executive’s office and Corporation Counsel Marcia MacKenzie on a proposal that for the first time addresses electronic records requests in county ordinances. “That’s the way people communicate these days,” Bayrd said. “You want accessibility to the government to be the easiest thing possible.”

Considering that twitter has become major news networks primary source of information, it would make sense if the board allowed records requests there as well. Wouldn’t it be great:

@UWadm request BBielma text msgs to co-eds.

Another point that is not addressed. Why should the county not require these standards for all of its towns and cities? Does county government not have the power to do that or is it just shying away? It looks like I might have to go hit the books on the issue…unless one of my wise readers could settle the question right here.

Drunken state rep stands up for 4th amendment

July 29, 2009

It’s good to see Wisconsin be at the forefront of the fight for American principles – whether it’s Russ Feingold casting the lone vote against the Patriot Act (and the recent defense appropriations bill) or David Obey pushing for health care reform. However, it’s extra special when the state’s unique flavor of inebriation is injected into battles for noble causes.

Take State Rep. Jeff Wood, a Republican-turned-Independent from Chippewa Falls. In December Wood was arrested and pleaded no contest to his third OWI offense, as well as for possession of marijuana, which was found in his car by the arresting officer.

Wood is now asking a judge to reverse the conviction for pot possession, arguing that the state trooper did not have a warrant to search his vehicle. Wood is arguing that the search violated 4th amendment because the officer did not have probable cause to snoop around in his car. If the judge agrees, the marijuana found will have to be suppressed and the conviction would almost undoubtedly be overturned.

In other news, Wood is also seeking to have a 1991 OWI conviction thrown out because…it’s not explained.

Either way, this goes to show that electing drunken public servants may not be as detrimental to democratic government as many-a-Wisconsinite seems to think. Rep. Wood has the rare opportunity of truly standing up for our constitution in a way that Russ Feingold, despite all of his speeches and votes in favor of civil liberties, never will.

Brunch Links

July 29, 2009

A beautiful day in the Sconz. Should be sunny with a high of 78 and a low of 52. Good news from Iraq today. The Brew Crew got worked by the worst team in baseball again last night.

Feingold and Kohl criticize judicial hearings, calling them “theater.” One of the first interesting things I’ve heard Herb Kohl say in a long time.

Bryon Eagon appears in the AP, calling on the state to make online voter registration a priority.

Rep. Jeff Wood is challenging charges of marijuana possession against him, citing 4th amendment violations.

Forward Our Motto: The Dane County Board of Supervisors are up to no good.

Political Environment: How will the Doyle adminstration implement the Great Lakes

There will a hearing on sentencing reform at the Capitol. Experts are invited to speak – I can’t wait to see who the GOP witnesses are. There’s got to be a talk radio host who feels strongly about the issue.