Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Brats!


Over the weekend here in Madison at the yearly "Bratfest" we consumed 181,710 of those tasty, yummy sausages. That's about 20 miles worth! As an interesting note, a local radio station reports that of the 20,000 Boca brats (vegetarian) ordered, only 8600 were sold - I think veggie brats are equivalent to fascism and that those producing them should be stopped immediately. Certain people in my household have tried to substitute veggie brats and burgers to me with absolutely no success. As Emeril likes to say, pork fat rules!

If you want to taste good ones, order some up from here or here. If you order from Klements be sure to get a pound of their smoked sausage too - one of the best mass produced sausages around. I am lucky because it is in stores around here locally. If you order brats, I recommend the fresh ones - simmer them in (cheap) beer with onion for 5-10 minutes, then grill them for 5-10 minutes. A little mustard and onion on there and you are in the money! Or if you are a purist you can just put the raw brat on the grill and cook away - but keep an eye on the grill - the fat dripping off can cause flareups.

I have found that of all of the local brands (trust me, I have tried them all), Klements seems to be my favorite. I believe it is because their sausages are all just a bit more spicy. They also sponsor the famous sausage race at all home Milwaukee Brewers games - and no, we don't want any of your damn veggie sausage in our race.

The photo above is from this site, which also has some interesting things about Wisconsin on it. Those unfamiliar with the brat may wish to click on that site as well. That last sentence may seem funny to those in the Midwest, but trust me - folks in Texas, California and New York really have no idea what a brat is or what they are missing.

One of my favorite foods of all time is sausage. I absolutely love hot dogs, brats, smoked sausage, andouille, Polish, Italian - give 'em all to me. I guess I could never be a muslim - as if.
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Sunday, May 29, 2005

Memorial Day


Psst...hey bud - come over here for a minute. You got a spare 10 minutes or so? Great. Lets light up - you know how they say - smoke 'em if you got 'em. Keep the head down, though.

Look pal, I got a message for you - it's from me and all of my brothers and sisters that have been in the US Armed Forces over this last 250 years or so.

The message is this - don't forget about us.

We don't need much. No need to buy us a car or send money - just don't forget. Memorial Day is coming and I hope you can make it more than just a day off to get things done around the house. Go to a cemetery and decorate a vet grave with a flag. Go to a parade and give the vets a nice round of applause. Or just stand there for a minute or so and give us a silent "thanks". Even that is enough. But don't forget us.

Without us, this land of the free wouldn't be that free.

It would be tyranny or worse, like so many other places. Without the armed services there wouldn't have been a Constitutional Convention, where so many of the principles of freedom were thought out and put into place so we can all live with basic rights.

If there were no armed services, the Japanese, when they invaded Alaska in World War Two might have just kept right on going down to the West Coast and invaded Washington, Oregon and California. There is a distinct possibility that the coastal cities of the US may have been bombed by planes and bombarded by ships - but screw that. We love this place too much. Thank God for us - so many of us died - but it was worth it. Even if those assholes in places like Berkeley and San Francisco like to make fun of us. They call us names like low hanging fruit and think we're dumb. Fuck 'em though. I will still die for their right to say things like that.

When my buddies came back from 'Nam they were spat on - what an insult. As if they had anything to do with that mess over there. Oh yea, I bet those who spat never gave a damn about all of those poor millions who were slaughtered after we left.

Yes, we did beat Hitler that monster. Imagine if he would have won - don't think for a second that scenes like this and this and this would not have been repeated in the States. Think about that for a moment this Memorial Day.

Oh yea, one more thing. Next time you read about or hear about some "torture" going on in one of our jails, take it with a grain of salt. Putting a pair of panties on some guys head to get a little info isn't my definition of torture. But this is and so is this. And if I had my way I would put salt and pepper on a copy of the koran and have it for dinner if it would save your family from getting blown up at the next mall you go to. Yes, I would do that and a lot more for you - and I don't even know you from Adam.

Don't forget us Monday, pal. Hey, my smoke's done and so is my break. As you were.
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Dividend Paying ETF (DVY)



Recently congress changed the tax laws that punished companies that paid dividends. Dividends were essentially subject to "double taxation" - the corporations paid tax on the dividends before they paid them out to shareholders and then the shareholders paid tax on them AGAIN (as ordinary income) in their own returns.

The effect of this law was that it didn't make sense for most companies to pay out dividends from a financial perspective. The change in the law said that dividends were essentially going to be taxed at a lower, 15% rate to investors, which mitigated most of the double taxation impact.

As a result, many companies are re-thinking their dividend policies. Companies that never paid dividends previously, like Microsoft, are now paying dividends, and Microsoft also did a big one-time dividend out of their massive cash hoard (better than paying for those stupid dinosaur head ads that I hate).

Paying dividends and thinking hard about whether to re-invest the cash available in the business or to pay it out to shareholders has a salutory effect on companies. I know that companies are now seriously considering giving this cash back to shareholders rather than plowing it into acquisitions or expansion, and even if they choose not to give this money to shareholders they know that there will be heightened scrutiny if their plans go awry and they could have given this money back.

There is an ETF with the ticker DVY that invests in companies that pay dividends. These companies are mainly financial institutions and utilities but is expanding as more companies pay dividends. You might want to check them out if you are tired of paying taxes on interenst income, although with any stock the change in the principal value (underlying stocks) may more than make up for the dividend stream.

Note that this graph really doesn't tell the whole tale because in addition to the increase in the value of the underlying stocks (reflected in this graph) along the way there has been a substantial pay out in dividend income (taxable at the lower rate), as well.

Here is an article about the trend towards dividends...
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Hancock ready for Memorial Day


In Chicago they have a tradition of changing the lights on top of our large buildings whenever there is a major holiday. I saw a show on TV about how they change the lights in the Hancock - apparently it is a big job they have over 500 8 foot light tubes to change along with the color panels. In any case, it looks great, and this is the view from the Hancock from my porch. Posted by Hello

Gardening 250 feet above the ground



Dan often writes good posts about his gardening / lawn maintenance efforts and is proud of his yard. Here in the city, my yard is of course non-existent. My wife does believe in gardening and we went out and did some container gardening for plants that are going to live on our porch 250 feet off the ground. They look great!

I hope I don't get too much grief for the Cubs shell it was a gift for my birthday - I am one of the few Cubs and Sox fans around...

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Friday, May 27, 2005

Religion And Health

On the radio driving to work today the topic was an article that linked the regular practicing of religion in the US to better overall health. Note the article doesn't cite the studies, just says that there is a correlation. I don't really want to dive into the nuts and bolts of the surveys to see if they are done properly, rather just give my take on the topic.

The theory says that if you believe in a higher power that you have less stress and feel better about the world around you and are therefore healthier. I immediately thought of an angle that the folks on the radio didn't touch that I feel is very important in trying to connect the dots between practicing religion and better health.

First, you have to understand that if people are going to church in the US it is more than likely a Christian church - that is, Catholic, Lutheran, Baptist, Methodist and the like. All end up doing basically the same thing, just in a different way. Things like love your neighbor, help the poor, don't kill, don't steal and more all apply to any Christian type of religion.

Once you understand this, it is easy to see where I am going with my theory. If you go to one of these churches every Sunday, it is far more unlikely that you will be doing drugs, smoking, becoming an alcoholic, robbing stores, fighting or abusing yourself in any other way (unless you are of the opinion that Christianity is mind poison). Simply accepting the lifestyle of a traditional Christian rules out many of the hazardous or unhealthy things ("the body is a temple") that you can do to yourself in this world.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Amnesty International Knows NOTHING about History

In this article (it pains me even to post to it, the article is so stupid) compares our Guantanamo Bay facility where we process terrorists, would-be suicide bombers and other assorted lunatics with the GULAG. In fact, they call it the "Gulag of our Time".

I'd have to say that is the single most ridiculous thing I have heard since Putin claimed that the downfall of the Godless, evil empire of the Soviet Union was the greatest tragedy of the 20th century.

Let's do some comparison:

Prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay - 540
Prisoners held by the Gulag - millions

The Gulag was an unbelievable atrocity from the time it was set up by the Communists in the 1920's on through the 80's when it was finally dismantled. Millions of innocent people, from prisoners of war (both Soviet and German, the Soviet's tended to be very harsh on their returning POW's) to political dissidents to various ethnic groups (ever wonder why the Chechens are so angry at the Soviets?) were sent here in Sibera to work and most likely die.

Although I am usually good at analogies it is difficult for me to express how much this stupid statement is out of line, to compare Guantanamo Bay, where there are 3 meals / day, medical attention, and not harsh torture, starvation and show trials - in no way does this represent the Gulag, and it would have to go on for about 60 more years, as well.

I guess it would be about like saying that your common cold is the "Black Death" of our time. Or saying that you missing lunch is the same as the Famine caused by the Great Leap Forward. Once again this comparison is so disgraceful to the memory of the dead and so out of line I barely can reference it.

If you want to learn actual facts about the Gulag instead of idiotic rantings from ill-informed jerks at Amnesty International, I suggest you go here and order her book right away, and here is another interesting site.

Dan Adds:
Yes, everyone who is intersted in history should read Applebaum's Gulag. Be prepared for a very long and depressing read. AI is totally out of line with this article and should be ashamed of itself. Where is all of the outrage over actual gulags like the ones operating in North Korea, that awful prison camp? Actually the author of the article should be fired, but that will never happen. Maybe a more suitable punishment for the author would be spending some time in the research room with Applebaum reading the lists of millions of people who were starved, worked to death, diseased, raped, shot, beaten and frozen. Or maybe the author would be more interested in reading about the kids who were sent to the Gulags. Also mandatory reading are The Gulag Archipelago and One Day In The Life of Ivan Denisovich.

More: A great quote from The Belmont Club:
Anyone who has lived in the Third World or any of the places which Amnesty International purports to care about knows -- and I mean knows for a fact -- what police abuse, torture, arbitrary detention, etc. really are and that it cannot be compared in any wise to the "Gulag" in Guantanamo Bay. Moreover, anyone who has lived in such places knows that the last place where victims can find practical help is from Amnesty International.

Wednesday Photoblogging


A few more photos for you (click any photo for larger version) - the best part about these is that I didn't have to travel far - they are all from my yard.
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The work of art above was titled "stairs into the basement" by the artist.
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Maybe We Have Had Enough

Yesterday I wrote a bit about when the people will say they have had enough. Well, two of the three referendums for the Madison schools failed yesterday! The property tax payers here may have had enough.

Today on a talk radio show the topic was giving our Congress a grade. Almost all were "F" from all corners of the political spectrum. A fantastic point was that congress cares more about steroids in baseball than securing our borders. Maybe, just maybe, some people, at least, have had enough.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

When Is Enough...Enough?

Here are two stories that are not related...but they are.

Today, here in Madison there is yet another referendum put to the people by the Madison School District to raise property taxes so the schools can have more money. We just had one two years ago. I can only assume there will be another one in another few years. It is very entertaining listening to the school board members make their case.

Listening to them, you would think that if the referendum doesn't pass that we may very well have to just light the kids on fire since there will be no money to educate them. "Oh, we're sorry Mrs. Jones, the referendum didn't pass and we didn't have enough money for the fall semester so we had to incinerate several children and your little Abigail drew the short straw."

When will it end? When is it enough money? When will the people finally say to the lawmakers and policy shapers that it is time to stop taking all of their money? When will a taxpayer revolt begin?

I predict that the referendum will pass - again. It just isn't enough yet.

Last fall conceal carry legislation was passed in the Wisconsin legislature but vetoed by the governor. The legislature came one vote short in overriding that veto. That vote was none other than the man who actually crafted the legislation. He was a Democrat and he changed his vote to protect his Democrat governor. As if it wasn't bad enough for him to betray himself, the people in his district re-elected him to serve another term!

I guess it wasn't enough yet.

Both examples above are part of the overall unwillingness of the people to get involved in politics and hold the lawmakers' feet to the fire. All you have to really do is listen to the radio on the way to work and back and maybe read a paper over lunch and you can be reasonably informed. But, alas, it is not to be, not yet. It will take something drastic to lurch the masses into the political fray - like them beginning to lose their houses from skyrocketing taxes or another terrorist attack.

And I think that is sad.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Tilt-A-Whirl


I love fairs and carnivals. I think it is a way for the white trash Dan to get out and play once in a while. This weekend there was a small carnival at a festival near my house and I rode the Tilt-A-Whirl. It has always been one of my favorite rides.

I think I like it because it is such a simple ride, yet gives a huge bang for the buck. For the unfamiliar, I will try to describe it. If you have problems in your inner ear or any other balancing issues, avoid this ride at all costs. First you sit down in the futuristic looking pods that resemble half of an egg sliced lengthwise. No need to look around for a seat belt or safety cord - there aren't any and they are not needed. Each pod is mounted on a circular rail track and these tracks are then mounted onto a rotating and undulating platform that turns counterclockwise. The rotation and undulation of the platform causes the pod to, at times, turn very quickly creating lots of centrifugal force, pressing you back into your seat. Lots of g-forces are also created and you can feel your insides "float" a bit - this is a weird feeling and part of the great fun of the ride. As you can see from the photos, this particular version of the Tilt-A-Whirl has been around the block a few times. Tilt-A-Whirl was invented in 1926! For more info on this most famous of all rides, click here, here, here, here and here.
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Saturday, May 21, 2005

Combat Mission Afrika Korps (CMAK)

Dan and I return turns every day on a game called "Combat Mission - Afrika Korps". From time to time we reference it in our posts.

This game is a WW2 tactical simulation that is extremely realistic. It isn't a "first person shooter" like Doom or Quake or Halo but more of a game where you plot turns and then the computer runs the simulation. If you are interested here is my combat mission site describing the game along with some of the scenarios I created.

Right now Dan and I are playing one of the scenarios I created called "Forest Frenzy". This game features Axis and Allied troops slugging it out in the forest where lines of sight are limited and there aren't a lot of heavy vehicles around. The photo shot above shows a hard fought trench where Dan's troops made a last stand to stop the Axis forces from linking up with reinforcements coming from the other side of the board.

I am pushing Dan hard on this now because the "luck of the draw" is giving me lots of reinforcements and I am trying to take over the positions before he counter attacks. Once you play vs a human, you never want to go back to playing the computer - humans are much more devious and strategic.

A Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Waste

My favorite day to drive to work is Saturday. I get to listen to the tin-foil hat adorned folks on this radio show. Last week there was a discussion about a missing tooth from the Loch Ness Monster. This week they talked about crop circles! Yes, those patterns in the wheat fields in England or elsewhere that were conclusively proven to be fakes and a huge practical joke. I thought that everyone knew that the crop circle thing was debunked years ago but I suppose if you are a true believer it really doesn't matter.

Friday, May 20, 2005

iPod update


Since this is an iPod performance update why is there a photo (credit here) of Lemmy from the band Motorhead above? Read on.

As I have said before, I use the iPod Shuffle that I bought for $99 from Amazon exclusively in my workouts in my basement and working in my yard. It is still performing wonderfully. The battery lasts much longer than I thought it would. It does, in fact hold 120 songs but that may vary depending on your song length. Obviously if you listen to symphonies it may only hold two or three "songs".

I like the earbuds but am used to them since my last walkman had them. The sound and volume are very good for a machine the size of a pack of gum. If you are working out intensely or do a lot of dirty work I recommend some sort of protective sleeve so your sweat or dirt don't wreck the iPod.

But back to Lemmy. During my workouts I seem to be enjoying my Motorhead songs the most. The ones I like best last about 2 minutes max and are what I call "take no prisoners" type songs. Fast and loud from beginning to end. The best part about Motorhead is that they don't really have a message or story to tell. Or maybe they do, I just can't make it out.

Check these lyrics from my favorite Motorhead song of all time, Bomber (you can sample it here, if you dare):

Ain't a hope in hell,
Nothing's gonna bring us down,
The way we fly,
Five miles off the ground,
Because we shoot to kill,
And you know we always will,
It's a Bomber

Scream a thousand miles,
Feel the black death rising moan,
Firestorm coming closer,
Napalm to the bone,
Because, you know we do it right,
A mission every night,
It's a Bomber

No night fighter,
Gonna stop us getting through,
The sirens make you shiver,
You bet my aim is true,
Because,
you know we aim to please,
Bring you to your knees,
It's a Bomber Posted by Hello

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Photoessay - Leaving The Restaurant


Click on any photo for a larger version.
I like these light effects on my Scotch and water. I didn't intend them and was happy to see them when I started reviewing the photos. Imagine the pioneers of photography with their 35mm cameras who had to wait until everything was developed before they could get any results.

After eating at this restaurant with my friend I decided to go for a walk and practice my photography a bit. Hope you like the results.
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Just look up!
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Sunset. Makes you feel small, eh?
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A little industrial art for you. This shot turned out much better than I thought it would. I have to eliminate the damn date in the corner.
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This shot of a tulip shows the inadequacies of my camera. Note the center of the flower is extremely crisp and detailed but the outside edges are a bit blurry. It may also be my technique but I am pretty sure I did everything right.

UPDATE: In the comments, Jonathan chimes in. I think it is Jonathan from Chicago Boyz, who has an amazing photoblog here. If you like photography, don't miss it.
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Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Thomas Frank in Chicago


Thomas Frank, Author of "What's the Matter with Kansas?" At the Chicago Council on Foreign Affairs Monday, May 16, 2005

Monday night I went to see Thomas Frank, author, at the Fairmont Hotel in Chicago. Mr. Frank is a very engaging and interesting speaker and he was talking to the faithful; I was probably the only Republican in the room.

Mr. Frank’s book is attempting to describe how the Democrats lost counties in Kansas, where he grew up, that are (by per capita income) some of the poorest areas in the country. In the “old days”, these people would have been reliable Democratic voters, but the party is getting trounced out there. Mr. Frank attempts to answer why this is occurring.

He says that it is because the Republicans have picked up moral issues, and cunningly, picked up moral issues that “rile up” their flock but really can’t be resolved. He says that the Republican thesis is that “liberals” are planning to take over everything and ban the Bible and install gay marriage everywhere and other extremist fantasies. He talks about the huge Republican media, which is talk radio and Rush Limbaugh, and the fact that the Republicans can get their news through their own media sources, blogs and Fox News and this reinforces everything that they feel.

Meanwhile, he says, the “Gini Coefficient” which measures income inequality is showing that American wealth is being more and more concentrated in the hands of the few. CEO’s make a significantly higher multiple of the average persons’ wage compared with prior years. He even pointed out that the Wall Street Journal, which is (to them) code word for the Republicans on business issues, is running a series of articles agreeing that class mobility is declining.

The Democrats, however, have basically given up on the “populist” message that they used to deliver, which is pretty much defined as “standing up for the little people”. The Democrats take money from the same corporations as the Republicans and basically offer the same economic message. Their main donors are the extremely wealthy and these people are interested in environmentalism and other liberal causes and don’t have interest in these types of “bread and butter” issues.

Mr. Frank got the crowd going with his impression of the Republicans’ talking about Democrats as “latte swilling Volvo driving university educated elites out of touch with the real world”. Of course this audience laughed, looking down on the “rube” Republicans, which is really kind of what the Republicans think they do when the doors are closed. The Democrats really look upon the Republicans as you’d look upon someone who is mentally damaged, they can’t really figure out why Republicans can’t see the light that they see, and don’t know how to explain it to them.

He had a discussion about a farmer in Kansas who was basically going broke. I have a lot of farmers in my family and it is true, they are always going broke. There was a famous postcard in Montana with 2 old guys in a bar and one says to the other “If I won a million dollars I’d just keep on ranching until it was all gone”. When Mr. Frank asked the farmer why he didn’t vote Democratic to try to help his economic situation, the farmer answered “why would that make a difference?” Mr. Frank agreed that the democrats aren’t making their case for economics and why people should vote for them if they are downtrodden or facing economic hardship.

At the end of the meeting, all of the faithful started asking questions, which were really questions about what the Democrats could do better to win. At this point I was kind of stunned; it is a decent paraphrase to say that Mr. Frank didn’t have much hope in the near term, except maybe in the long term things always change and what seems obvious today will flip on its head. He says that the Republican revolution began in the early 1970’s and has picked up speed; campaign finance that allowed corporations to give big donations really helped the Republicans (and caused the Democrats to get rid of their economic message to get access to that same money), and then Reagan came in and took it to another level. Bill Clinton was President but basically a Republican on economic issues and won on his personal charm; but the rest of the Democrats are now in the wilderness without him because the party has given up on populism.

Bizarrely, I agreed with Mr. Frank on most of his items. Here are some random observations:

- He complained about Bush’s foreign policy, but then basically summarized why it doesn’t matter (to me, or most Americans) – “we have the tough guy in there, that is all we can do”.
- The comedian Lewis Black said in one of his monologues “The Republicans are a party of bad ideas; the Democrats are a party of no ideas”. This discussion pretty much said the same thing, at least the part about the Democrats having no ideas
- My grandmother (deceased) WAS a “populist” of the type Mr. Frank describes. She grew up a poor “Okie” like the Grapes of Wrath and had a hard life. She gave a lot of time and money to running kind of a mission and always provided meals to people who were hard up because that was the way she grew up. She was extremely intelligent and well spoken but also very hard working. She felt for the underdog and that the rich had too much
- It is easy to contrast the “populist”, working class democrats with the effete, enviro-democrats that run moveon and all of the other protest groups. No big wonder why they aren’t exactly mobilizing the working class throughout the country
- He said growing up people thought of government as bloodsuckers or parasites, and people that owned businesses that they built were the real rebels. I don’t know why he dropped that line of thought – it is true

I try to imagine what the ideal Democratic world would be, if they had their way. I have worked at a lot of government institutions when I used to be a consultant and an auditor and they were run in just an awful fashion, totally reactionary and dilapidated. Is this the way to a better country, to expand their role? Does anyone really think that is the case? Is “more government” what the Democrats want? Or is it something else – no one knows, and that is basically what Mr. Frank is saying.

The truth is they don’t even know anymore, and if they do they aren’t saying it (in a way that is manifestly different than the Republicans, at least). They just want Bush out.

And that is why the Democrats are being drummed out of power everywhere in America, from the House to the Senate to local elections to the presidency which controls the judiciary.

Unfortunately this isn’t happening in Illinois, because we have the most pathetic Republican party in the country, a party so bad that I don’t even care that the Democrats are in power. Our Republicans act just like Democrats, they raise taxes and are corrupt to the bone, and we can’t seem to field any candidates that aren’t a national joke. I don’t think that Illinois is a “blue” state, it is a half blue half red state where the Republicans are so insanely disorganized that they can’t even field a senate candidate from our own state.

It Is Only A Matter Of Time - We Will Miss The Chief


The NCAA may ban all indian nicknames for its member schools. Being a University of Illinois alum I have heard more than my fair share of this dispute from both sides. I was in school there when this whole "ban the chief" movement started. My opinion then is the same as it is now - keep the Chief. But the politically correct folks are going to win eventually. What a bunch of softies we have become.

The politically correct movement in the United States has turned us into a bunch of weenies. Locally here in Madison they are trying to change the name of a part of Lake Monona called Squaw Bay into something much less colorful. Apparently squaw is indian for a part of the female reproductive anatomy. Funny, if it were not pointed out to me I would have forever thought that squaw was just an indian word for female. Think about that for a moment.

Anyway, where is all of the outrage over the Notre Dame Fighting Irish? For gods sake they have a leprechaun running around on the field during the game - that is just about as racist and stereotypical as it gets. They were genocided just as well as the indians were if you look at the history of that island. And I can't find a record of all of the Irish killing themselves just like the American indians did although I am sure it happened (happens) in Northern Ireland over religion. You can even debate that the indians were genocided but that isn't what this post is about.

The bottom line is that there are virtually no indians left. Most have assimilated themselves into our society. Some are still stuck on the reservation. These are the facts.

Since there are hardly any indians around, whats to remind us of their culture, even their very existence other than sports team nicknames and a few burial grounds? If we don't have the Illini, Seminoles, Redskins and all the rest, how many reminders will I have that this culture actually existed here before us whiteys arrived? Zero. So you can see those who are offended by these nicknames are adopting the exact opposite strategy they need to to remind people of the culture and very existence of the indians. If you eliminate the nicknames, you eliminate this bit of history for all but the educated few that study now obscure events in history like the French-Indian War or the War of 1812 (one of my favorite topics) or the westward expansion of the US.

Why the guilt? Those who are politically correct seem to have a terrible guilt complex. Yes, the US Army killed some indians. Yes, Indians also killed each other. So what? It is history. Present day people and their grandparents share as much of the blame for the demise of the indians as they do for the fall of Rome. Which is to say, none. It happened, its over, get over it. Do kids who are born in Germany today share the blame for the Holocaust? Of course not. Should they know about it? Absolutely.

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Chill The Champagne?

I read and watch too much news. I get too excited when I read stuff like this. Here is a story written by someone nobody has ever heard of that says that the capture of bin Laden may be near. But then again, can the fact checking or journalistic standards of the Asia Times be any worse than, say, Newsweek or the New York Times? We can only hope bin Laden and Zarqawi get captured. If it happens, it is party time for me.

We have been capturing a lot of terrorists there lately - is it possible that they are squealing a bit?

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Milwaukee Art Museum



I went up to the Milwaukee Art Museum on Sunday. They had an exhibit on Degas and his sculpture. The real attraction is this building - they have elaborate "wings" that they retract at 5pm every day and a cool bridge that you can stand on over the highway and watch the process.

The museum had a lot of different stuff from different time frames - everything from modern art to old masters. There was even some armor from the middle ages.

Too bad Chicago didn't do anything this exciting with their recent public buildings. Most of them have been kind of a snore, since they created the controversial Thompson State of Illinois building that was prominently featured in the movie "Running Scared" with Billy Crystal and Gregory Hines (and Jimmy Smits from LA LAW - as an anonymous poster rightly pointed out).
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Saturday, May 14, 2005

See You In Hell

A quote from Victor Davis Hanson:
"Democracies, once attacked, are aroused from their somnolence to deadly and unpredictable fury."

When Does Advertising Cross The Line?

One of the luxuries of having your own blog is that you have your own "blogroll". A blogroll is that list of links you see on the left to different websites. I don't get paid anything to link to these folks and I visit a lot of them every day. Some are huge, some are small in the blogosphere. I was reading Lileks the other day and he is killing the "Friends of the Minneapolis Public Library" over an ad that they placed that features of all people Mao that terrible mass murderer! You can see the ad here. Adobe is required to view the ad and a bucket will be required to catch your lunch.

This instantly reminded me of the terrible advertising campaign we have had going on here in Madison for the last several years. Madison.com is the mother site for many things here in Madison, including the home page for the Wisconsin State Journal. Look at the top of that last link (what we call the masthead here in internet land). Notice the communism evoking star? That damn thing is everywhere! Here is the homepage for Madison.com - could it look more commie? You get the drift.

Well, the Minneapolis Library is getting taken to task for it's Mao ad - not that they are going to pull it - but nothing will happen to the people at Madison.com and the Wisconsin State Journal. I have written a letter but that one I am sure ended up in the trash can. Maybe no one understands or cares about what communism did to countless people (small sample here). That makes me sad. Maybe I will just get one of these and shut up.

I really don't think there is a more leftist (not liberal, leftist) city in the country than Madison except maybe Berkeley. What is so very interesting is that we are only 70 miles from Rockford, Illinois, a very conservative city - I moved here from Rockford 11 years ago and still can't figure out what happens to people in that 70 mile drive.

UPDATE: Wal-Mart gets busted for invoking Nazi's in one of it's campaigns.

Nightclubbing: Roots of Hard Core

I went with my wife to see Nightclubbing: Roots of Hard Core at the Gene Siskel film center in Chicago.

The first thing that is always odd to me is that Gene Siskel died while Roger Ebert lived... imaging going back in time to when their show began - who would have bet on Siskel for the dead pool vs. Ebert....

Back to the movie - it started with some random interviews with people about punk rock / hardcore circa 1979. One person mentioned that he thought TED NUGENT rocked the hardest but then he picked up the Ramones and had to think twice. Somone else mentioned the Cramps and said they saw them at a show where the lead singer had eaten a pizza and drunk a case of beer and just threw up on the audience, but no one seemed to mind.

The first part of the show had Johnny Thunder and the Heartbreakers footage from 1970's. Pretty interesting stuff, but the quality was AWFUL. Later they had the Bad Brains, who surprisingly stand up pretty well with music today.

Finally, they had the Dead Kennedy's with Jello Biafra singing. They were playing at the era of "Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables" with "Holiday in Cambodia" being their major song. In this song some girl from the audience comes out and basically assaults the singer and they wrestle for about 5 minutes - you have to see it to believe it. Doesn't seem the worse for wear...

The funny part is that I know all of the lyrics to "Holiday in Cambodia" and most of the DK songs to boot. I guess when I am in a rest home and forget all of my recent memories I will be able to rely on my full knowledge of DK lyrics. My wife kept nudging me to shut up as I sung along...

Here is a link to the Dead Kennedy's web site - apparently the band continually tours without Jello Biafra, their original singer.

Here is a link to the Heartbreakers site with the history of Richard Hell.

Here is a link to a site about The Cramps - apparently their official site is under way...

"So you've been to school for a year or two and you know you've seen it all...

in Daddy's car knowing you'll go far back east your type don't crawl..."

Another funny thing is the memories coming back about all of the wasted time thinking of band names and arguing about who was better. Since I wasn't close to the 'coolness' of NYC we had to debate whether Ozzy or Dio Black Sabbath was better. I remember seeing an article with an interview featuring Cameron Diaz where she said she liked Dio-era Sabbath, and I thought this was pretty cool.... just because that is a pretty ludicrous thing to throw out in polite conversation.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Literacy In The Arab World

The "theocratic" dictatorships in the Arab world keep clamps on their people very effectively. What most have done is set up a sort of pyramid where oil revenues come in at the top and trickle down to all of the peons at the bottom. The dictators in the Arab world have basically set up a sort of quasi-socialist society where benefits and "jobs" are given to many (especially their armies and the generals). The vast majority do not receive any benefits of the oil money - and live in conditions that would make most of us shudder.

However, many that are educated in the Arab world (this isn't many) can't find real jobs to utilize their education. A perfect example of this is in Egypt where many well educated people can be found driving cabs. The manufacturing and/or service sector simply does not exist to support masses of people looking for work, whether they are educated or not.

There is virtually no manufacturing base in the Arab world (when was the last time you bought anything that said "Made in Bahrain or Egypt"?). So they have oil and a lot of people with not much to do. And they really don't do much. Average per capita income in the Arab world is only $2100-$2300 per year! Obviously the oil income is extremely concentrated at the top and they, I assume, let just enough out to keep the masses alive and content. So you have a huge mass of people just scraping by, with a few extremely wealthy elites keeping one eye on the oil markets and one eye on the populus making sure they are placated. The exploding population in the area is not helping this situation. If we ever could move to alternative fuels efficiently this area would literally detonate - but that is a different post for a different day.

Education is the last thing on the minds of this large mass of people who are living well below the poverty line. The main concern (as it would be with me) is getting a handful of rice or barley for the pot and making sure their kids are fed as well. Ironically, education is the only way out. It is the same for poor kids in the inner cities of the USA. If the inner city kids, like most in the Arab world, could get an education they may be able to hold a job, make some money and get the hell out of there.

The problem here, of course, is that there is an easier, faster way out. Inner city kids can deal drugs or involve themselves in other illegal activity to get quick cash and support themselves. This leaves them nowhere to go but down as they age. In the Arab world, the same thing applies. Kids hear extremist organizations promise cash or paradise in the next world and these groups drum propaganda into the childrens' heads at a young age. If the kids can't read (in either the case of the inner city kid or the case of the Arab child) how can they form opinions to counter either the gang or extreme Islamist stances?

This brings me to the lack of literacy in the Arab world. In my opinion it is one of the biggest challenges the people there have in trying to emerge from under the iron hand of dictators, clerics and nutcases. If you can't read the Declaration of Independence or anything else, how can you understand that your life and the lives of others are worth a damn? Some crazed cleric who tells you that America is Satan every day of your life certainly won't bother to read you the Federalist Papers or the Magna Carta. All he will say to you is that Jews must die, Americans must die and give me some money so your family won't get cursed. And you have to believe him because you can't read and/or don't have access to non state censored TV or books or newspapers.

How far from reality for most in the Arab world this concept must be:

...That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.
I understand that in many of the Arab countries the Declaration of Independence would be censored, but if you can't read it anyway, who cares? There is a reason that the students in Iran are the ones leading the moves there toward reform.

Half of all in the Arab world are illiterate. Women average even worse. A best selling book averages a run of about only 5,000 books. Five times more books are translated into Greek than Arabic. Experts say that within 15 years if something drastic doesn't happen there will be some serious and I mean catastrophic - problems in this part of the world - a virtual tinder box of illiterate, starving masses.

 Posted by Hello

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Internet 2

Since I have been writing in this blog I have been trying my level best to get caught up with the tech side of the internet. Internet 2 is currently under development. It is being done on the university level, with many institutions and corporations involved.

What does this mean to you? Not a heck of a lot in the near future. However, when it is up and running on a consumer level, the speeds you will notice will be astonishing. Imagine downloading a complete feature film in one minute. Think about importing the entire Beatles music catalog into your PC in 20 seconds. I am not kidding, this is real.

One thing worries me. Access. That is the age old question, isn't it? To this day most farmers have to use dialup - or lay out the big bucks for some sort of satellite connection. Cable companies won't go down easy. Nor will DSL providers. How will they get an Internet 2 connection to my house? I see satellite as a possible option - Verizon has a "go anywhere" card already that gives you connectivity anywhere they provide service on a wireless basis.

Like the song goes, the future is so bright, I gotta wear shades.

Henry - I Call Him Hank


This is Henry. We got him from the Humane Society a few days ago. I have been anti-pet for some time now. However the pro-pet lobby finally got the best of me and I gave in. I have to admit it is going well so far. He doesn't seem to want to jump very high (sofa only so far) and isn't destructive yet. Cat on the head while I was sleeping last night didn't go over too well, though. Basically all he does is eat, sh**, and walk up to you asking to be pet. That is OK with me. Posted by Hello

 Posted by Hello