Archive for August, 2009

Muckraking still exists

August 31, 2009

The investigative spirit of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel will bring a tear to the eye of any first amendment-loving American.

A Jaguar convertible sits in the driveway of Latasha Jackson’s million-dollar mansion in Menomonee Falls. Built on a hill with a sprawling back deck overlooking a pond, the 7,600-square-foot home features an indoor swimming pool and indoor basketball court.

Jackson is not an Olympic swimmer, a professional basketball player or a celebrity of any sort. She is a day care provider in the city of Milwaukee.

She built her fortune with taxpayer funding from the Wisconsin Shares program.

Tricky Paul Ryan

August 31, 2009

Paul Ryan making headlines at Wispolitics with some insight into the health care reform bill that even liberals are beginning to assume is dead:

U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (left) predicted House Democrats would move forward with a health care bill including a public option that he said has a chance to pass despite concerns raised over summer recess about the bill.

“They can’t bring a bill to the floor that doesn’t have a public option because a majority of the Democratic caucus is dramatically in favor of a public option,” Ryan, R-Janesville, said on Sunday’s “UpFront with Mike Gousha.”

The key to getting enough votes is whether so called “blue-dog” Democrats will remain on board with the public plan, Ryan said.

But he predicted that House leaders may be able to get Dems in line similar to the way they did when cap and trade legislation looked to be short on votes before it ultimately won House passage.

“I think the odds are they’ll probably have the chance to pass this,” Ryan said. “This majority is very good at exercising discipline within its ranks and passing controversial legislation.”

He expressed skepticism about the health care cooperatives being talked about in the Senate, saying they are not like co-ops most people are familiar with and amount to a “public plan in everything but name only.”

Ryan also commented on the town hall meetings taking place, saying that they reflected concern not only about health care, but the growing role of the federal government overall.

While Ryan said he believes the public option would lead to rationing, he rejected the notion that the bill would create “death panels” and said exaggerations aren’t needed to fight the bill.

There are two ways to receive this supposedly frank analysis of health care reform (I sure hope it’s frank):

1. Paul Ryan is a reasonable, honest man who cares more about keeping his constituents updated with affairs than scoring political points for his party. House Republicans made a horrible blunder in allowing him to become the de facto head of the party’s health care opposition.

2. Paul Ryan is a shrewd politician who is wagering political capital on cool, condescending disapproval of the Democrats over angry, foot-stomping demagoguery. By admitting defeat he simultaneously accomplishes two goals: he appears moderate and honest and he very effectively communicates the danger of the Democratic majority.

As you can probably guess, I am a subscriber to the second theory. The same congressman who has been busy proposing radical right wing alternatives to virtually every major piece of legislation is not a moderate and he does believe in using whatever rhetoric necessary to convince the American people to embrace him over his opponents. Why else would his proposed health care bill be three pages long and not include any explanation of the costs? Paul Ryan may be smart enough to be a policy wonk, but he is not on Capitol Hill to be one. He is there to be a politician. He is there to be the next Newt Gingrich.

Many politicians are so confined to their talking points that the bullshit they spin comes out looking like bullshit to a large proportion of listeners. By slightly dressing up their bullshit, Ryan and his team come out sounding much more convincing, and moreover, their words get attention. Rather than go the normal route, “I believe the American people, once they see what is in this bill, will not allow their representatives to go ahead…” he plays the martyr card, much in the way of his political ancestor Dick Nixon, “You know I hate to say it but I gotta be honest with you…the good guys might not win this one.”

On the other end we got Tammy Baldwin playing the same game.

U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin expressed confidence health care reform would pass, but said while she would have given passage 75 percent odds last month, she’s now down to 55 percent certainty.

“I’ve seen over the pass several weeks just how strenuous the opposition to change really is,” Baldwin, D-Madison, told UpFront. “There are stakeholders who profit mightily from what the status quo is and are resisting it at all odds.

“I do think we are going to prevail and pass legislation providing health care, high quality health care, for all Americans, but the road is going to be steep.”

I hope they’re both right.

Sigma Chi faces “reduced sanctions”

August 31, 2009

That’s the headline UW is putting out. Is the emphasis on “reduced” or “sanctions”?

In May, the university’s Committee on Student Organizations levied sanctions on the chapter, 221 Langdon St., that would have kept it alcohol free through most of the 2009-10 academic year, and called for a set of specific educational and philanthropic programs.

However, the chapter successfully appealed one of the charges, arguing that its due process rights were violated.

Upon review by the Offices of the Dean of Students (ODOS) this week, the appeal on the bar incident was granted. As a result, the length of time the chapter will be on probation was reduced to seven weeks, expiring on Oct. 16. During that period the organization may not have alcohol at any chapter events. In addition, it will work with the dean’s office to improve the chapter’s “Derby Days” event in 2010.

Impressive. It’s encouraging that a group of students can use legal terms like “due process” to challenge a university sanction. If anything, the case displays the importance of granting students the right to legal representation in disciplinary cases – a right the board of regents does not seem to hold in high regard. Fraternity misconduct and individual misconduct are obviously two very different beasts – the former involves a group that is part of a cosseted national organization, usually well versed in how to deal with these “unfortunate incidents,” whereas the latter is usually an overwhelmed, stressed person with very little knowledge of his means of defense.

Nevertheless, the decision shows the dean’s office acknowledges how easily even the already-meaningless  university alcohol regulations can be misapplied. It shows that although anyone familiar with the term “fraternity” knows that everybody involved was “guilty,” university officials can still be held accountable for prosecuting the “culprits” properly.

Brunch Links

August 31, 2009

Should be a beautiful day in Madison, WI. You’ll probably bump into a few freshmen – they’re drunk, disoriented and in awe of everything they see, especially the spray paint artist who does the Pink Floyd album covers on State St. Today’s brunch comes from a diner I stopped by on my trip to Minocqua this weekend. $2 Old Fashioned and a waitress still wearing a Favre jersey (it’s not purple). What a great state. Sunny with a high of 70. Getting a little chilly.


People who work for Paul Ryan just might be pyschopaths. Who’d have thunk it?

Drunk driving laws may change soon. Drunk driving will not.

Steve Nass asks Attorney General to look into abuses by Dept. of Family and Children. The attorney general, by the way, comes out against giving felons the right to vote. Big surprise.

Stock up now or quit. Cigarette tax goes up 75 cents tomorrow.

John Sylvester on Barbara Lawton for governor: “Several days later, I shared my support for Lawton with a prominent Madison politician and was shocked by the dismissive response.”

This letter to the editor in the Oshkosh Northwestern illustrates the paradox of the American taxpayer: people desperately want government services but think it is practically immoral to finance them with taxes.

Sen. Neal Kedzie encourages the expansion of “Rustic Roads” – country roads protected by the state to encourage sight seeing.

O Minocqua, where hast thy trains gone?

August 30, 2009

A trip to Minocqua, WI (Oneida Co, pop 4,859) wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the town history museum. I was thoroughly impressed by the two rooms of local lore – so much so that I donated the only remaining dollar in my wallet to the cause. I especially enjoyed some of the original maps of the area drawn and labeled by French explorers. Although the explorers documented all the local flora and fauna, I did not see anything about des blaireaux (badgers).



The town was started as a commercial hub for lumberjacks in the area after a railroad station was established. It connected the north woods to Milwaukee and the rest of the country.

The town had a horrendous fire in 1912 that required that firefighters be called up by train from Wausau.

In 1959 passenger rail service was stopped.

In 1981 the rail line was abandoned forever.

How ironic. Now, in the 21st century, we’re desperately trying to grapple with the consequences of the infrastructure we substituted for the railroads, and trying to get trains back on the agenda. Maybe one day, as an old man seeking a peaceful place to retire, I will be able to once again take a train from Chicago to Milwaukee to Minocqua.

Link of the day

August 29, 2009

Lost Up North today. But thought you’d like this:

Barbara Lawton is going to run…but not ready to declare it. Bizarre.

Brunch Links

August 28, 2009

Going Up North today. I don’t actually know where, it’s my girlfriend’s uncle’s place, in Minocqua. Lots of good stuff in the Cap Times today, including an editorial urging Obama to use Ted Kennedy’s eulogy for a “call to action” on health care. Wouldn’t it be funny if the State Journal argued the opposite? No such luck, although an interesting editorial on the unaccetably slow process of granting patents in the state.

Don’t ever trust a man in blue, he just may be an impersonator. I guess female cops are OK though.

Barrett looks more and more like a gubernatorial candidate. Falk still doesn’t.

An assembly bill will bar companies from discriminating against job applicants based on credit history. The bill is sponsored by the sane rep from Whitewater, Kim Hixson.

As a citizen, I abhor Gossip Girl politics, but as a blogger, I love it (bottom of the page).

Lucky’s: A bar with a lot of tvs

August 27, 2009

I was at Lucky’s for the first time in a long time yesterday evening. I had come for the famous Lucky’s trivia, which I was surprised to learn is run by an outside contractor. Really? Isn’t there one guy on staff who can look through Wikipedia and come up with some 20 questions?

Lucky’s is a big bar. It’s got two big rooms and there is a notice above the urinals that boats more than 50 tvs in the bar. It’s not hard to believe – there seemed to be every baseball game possible going on, including my beloved Phillies.

The drink specials were considerably better than the ones on trivia night at the City. At the City, they advertise $2.50 Bud Light bottles, whereas Lucky’s was offering two-for-one Bud Light bottles – I believe for around $3. Much better deal. They also have $1 corndogs.

Thursday night is the night to be at Lucky’s. It’s virtually impossible to beat a $1 tap deal offered – although my brother once told me of a place in Philadelphia where they’d offer you the beer for half the price if you shotgunned it.

Edgewater politics

August 27, 2009

I had a very comprehensive discussion with Ald. Bridget Maniaci at the Old Fashioned about the Edgewater development. First I must note that I had an excellent bowl of chili, which was more than filling for one of the “lighter” dishes on the menu. Maybe I should have just gotten a cup. The onions on top were great, I wish they’d put more. When I asked Bridget if there were any good drink specials, she noted there were 2-4-1 rails on Tuesday night, which she said she enjoyed, albeit without the company of Edgewater developers, contrary to a rumor reported to Brenda Konkel. Maniaci defender herself on her own blog.

Maniaci sits on the Landmark Commission, which if you look through the entire approval process, is but one hurdle in a very long race. In fact, as Maniaci explained, Landmarks does no more than give out “Certificates of Appropriateness,” to projects, based on whether the development is “respectful” and in line with the neighborhood’s planning. The certificate isn’t absolutely necessary for approval, however, according to veterans of City Hall [Mike Verveer], it would be unprecedented for a project to go forward without the nod from Landmarks.

Nevertheless, Maniaci emphasized that the city zoning code needs updating. According to her, the code reflects the vision of a different era, when Madison was trying to develop a more “suburban” residential feel, which is where the restrictions on towers comes from. The code does not facilitate integration of residential and commercial interests, and, according to Maniaci, almost every commercial development needs to apply for a Planned Unit Development (PUD) exemption. That comes from the “Plan Commission.” Hence it is not surprising that there are imminent plans to revise the zoning code, and the city website has a zoning code rewrite page.

I couldn’t get Maniaci to commit to any position on the project, and she insists that she doesn’t know how it will ultimately fare before Landmarks or any of the other committees. However, she does believe property owners are unrepresented in Capitol Neighborhoods Inc. and points to other neighborhood groups that are more accessible to non-residents who have a stake in the community.

Here’s the tricky part though. CNI has faced the “openness” fork in the road before. Concerns over lack of student input caused State and Langdon to secede from the organization, led of course by former student alder Eli Judge. Now a pro-development group, the Mansion Hill Coalition, has formed in response to what it says is the group’s disregard for the interests of property owners and businesses. However, others I’ve talked to say CNI will unlikely change its current structure or membership rules because the leaders’ agenda does not involve development. Fred Mohs, a member of the CNI steering committee on the Edgewater renovation, is known to not be on good terms with the Faulkners, who run the Edgewater. Ledell Zellers, another member, is a very active preservationist. (I am trying to contact CNI members about the development to almost no avail)

Brunch Links

August 27, 2009

Great day to read the Sconz. Yesterday was another heartbreaker at trivia, this time at Lucky’s. The questions were considerably easier than those at the City trivia, so you really have to get all the questions right to win. Long story short, we didn’t win. But here was the last question: How many items did the Madison public library system lend out last year? Closest guess wins.

Showers and a high of 71.


I think this is a tragedy that reflects two dangers in Madison: drunk driving and mopeds. Although the identity of a moped driver who was killed in a crash with a car has not been released, if what I see every day is any indication, the person was probably not wearing a helmet. There are considerably more bicyclists who wear helmets than moped drivers. Something is not right.

$2 million training facility for cops during times of budget cuts? Does Mayor Dave want to bait the left as much as possible?

Doyle is off to a trade mission in Israel. Somewhere Sarah Palin is shaking her head, and hopefully tweeting about it.

I believe Eli Judge became the first Madison pol to take a position on the governor’s race when he joined Barbara Lawton for governor on facebook. So soon Eli? Uh oh, Kurt Gosselin’s a member too? Ron Kind will not forget this. Speaking of Kind, a Defeat Ron Kind blog has officially emerged, the slogan is “Ron Kind is cruel and unjust.”

Oh snap: “I want to know who’s establishing that list,” said Meadowood resident Lisa Kass, 57, who pointed out that one of the residents “rights” was to a quiet neighborhood after 10 p.m. on weekdays and 11 p.m. on weekends. But, she added, the document made no reference to people who run their lawn mowers and leaf blowers before 10 a.m. on a Sunday morning.

John Stossel, from 20/20 speaks to right wing audience about the dangers of health care reform. Seriously.