Archive for May, 2010

Not to beat this thing to death, but…

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on May 31, 2010 by Jim Rosenberg

Memorial Day weekend is a big deal in Madison.  They have “The World’s Largest Brat Fest” on the grounds near the Alliant Energy Center.  It’s huge.  Last year, they sold more than 208,000 bratwurst.  I think they’ll probably break that record over the four-day run this year.  Summer has come with a vengeance and this is a big summer picnic.  There’s no cover charge.  There are bands.  There are fireworks.  The brats are only $1.50 apiece, which isn’t bad.  There’s other stuff you can get, too.  There are complimentary rides on a fleet of golf carts to take you back to the parking area, if you don’t want to make the march. The money raised goes to a long list of worthy causes in the community. 

Of course, they also sell beer because hardly anything goes better than a beer with a brat.  But unlike around these parts, there are no beer corrals teeming with people pounding glass after glass in an environment set aside for that activity.  Instead, they wristband people who show their IDs at a check station on the way in (and you don’t have to get one if you don’t want a beer — I didn’t.)  Then people who want to get a beer can get it at one of the small vending stations and they continue on their way, enjoying the festival just like anyone else. 

Imagine that.  Tens of thousands of people and more brats sold than the total attendance number for the Wisconsin Valley Fair.  And no beer fences.  And it doesn’t matter.


Making the world safe for… whatever.

Posted in Uncategorized on May 26, 2010 by Jim Rosenberg

Do you see the problem with this situation?  Me either.  It’s a Downtown event known as Exhibitour, which has been held twice annually for years.  Various shops downtown open their venues up to feature various artists and then serve up hors d’ouevres and beverages to people who stroll between the stores.  There are sidewalk musicians.  It’s a really nice event — and not the kind of place underage people go to drink.  Check out the crowd yourself — either in the picture, or by coming downtown yourself on June 18.

It’s one of the events that I had in mind a few years back when we inserted a provision in the city’s ordinance to get a waiver from Wausau’s fairly oppressive alcohol rules.  You know — the one about “beer fences” that comes up every so often.  It’s a really simple provision in the ordinance that allows the chair of the Public Health & Safety Committee to sign off for well-controlled events where there is little or no danger of minors consuming alcohol.  The two prior chairs of that committee didn’t have a problem with those waivers.  There have never been any incidents.

The current chair doesn’t think there should be any waivers.   So NOW do you see the problem with the picture?  Hey, I’ll give you a closer look:

See?  There are wine glasses on the table.  Never mind that the event has gone on for years without ever having an issue.  Never mind that this is something that goes on in communities all over the country and all over the world.  Never mind that it makes far better use of the total space and the amenities available to host it by using the indoors and the outdoors.  Never mind that people like it better that way.  Never mind that we put a specific provision in the ordinance to deal with events like this. 

We’ve got a put a stop to this stuff to make the world safe for… whatever.  And that’s why nobody can be outside the store’s interiors with a glass of wine this spring, unless somebody changes their mind to match up with what has happened in the past.  

What happens when people can’t carry a glass of wine between storefronts?  Well, we crowd more people up to wine because everyone is required to arrive at each place with an empty glass.  Then, a lot of people tend to drink the glass empty before leaving — so they can fill it up at the next place.  They wouldn’t have to, but it happens.  And that is what setting up a negative environmental factor accomplishes.  Is there a compensating benefit? Well, certainly none that I can see.  And it’s not helpful when you’re talking about controlling alcohol problems.  It also cuts down on the street life aspects that have been so much a part of Exhibitour’s success in the past.  

But hey, we’ve got a rule to enforce. 


What’s with the Wisconsin lieutenant governor race this year?

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on May 25, 2010 by Jim Rosenberg

Assembly Majority Leader Tom Nelson is doing a media market tour today to announce his candidacy for lieutenant governor.  I’ve lost track of how many people are running, but I think there about four on the Dem side and four on the GOP side now.  That’s a lot of action for a position that doesn’t necessarily have a lot going for it in terms of authority. 

Lieutenant governor is a very strange race.  In the September partisan primaries, voters directly select the parties’ candidates.  That candidate then becomes part of the gubernatorial ticket, just like the Vice President of the United States does in the general election.  In that sense, the state process in Wisconsin is a little more direct than the federal system for veep, but the fact is that nobody goes to the polls in November thinking about the lieutenant governor. 

Actually, that might be an exaggeration.  There are probably family members and I suppose there is also the opportunity for something Palin-esque to enter into the picture, too.  But unlike a Presidential race, you can’t even blame the guv candidate for the lieutenant governor name on the ticket.   In some states, where the lieutenant governor is directly elected, it is possible to have the governor and lieutenant governor come from different parties.  (Now THAT sounds like fun, doesn’t it?)

I’ve always liked Tom Nelson and I’m sure he’d make a fine lieutenant governor — but it’s nothing like being majority leader of the Assembly.  On the other hand, the assistant majority leader right now is Donna Seidel — someone that Nelson joked to me was “dancing on his grave” this morning.  I’m not sure if that’s true, but it does raise some obvious and interesting possibilities when the dust clears in November.


Some context for the current bad times on Wall Street…

Posted in Uncategorized on May 21, 2010 by Jim Rosenberg

Rick Santelli and Steve Forbes want you to believe that the problems in the stock market lately have to do with what’s going on up on Capitol Hill in trying to regulate the financial industry.  Whether that’s true or not, the financial industry has proven in spades that it needs regulating.  The only question is whether Congress will do enough to actually restore faith in a segment of our economy that includes the biggest bailouts in the history of the planet and a band of too-big-to-fail robber barons who are only too happy to line their pockets while others go broke in their casino. 

The other day, somebody in one of the local newspaper’s online comment sections was ragging about the “Obama recession.”  What an absolute crock that really is, when you look at some numbers.  On July 17, 2007, I wrote piece on how poorly the conservatives were taking care of the money.  I purposely did it when the stock market was setting records because it was obviously an unsustainable situation.  Take a look to see if I was right:

January 2001 –  S&P 500: 1450

July 17, 2007 –  S&P 500: 1,550 

January 20, 2009 – S&P 500: 805; Dow Jones Industrials: 7,949

May 20, 2010 – S&P 500:  1,071; Dow Jones Industrials: 10,068

So yes, Mr. Santelli and Mr. Forbes, it has been a bad few weeks in the market and about a 10 percent haircut since April.  You can decide for yourself who has fouls to give, but it sure as hell isn’t the financial industry.  It’s unfortunate that after today’s latest hammering, folks have made only around 25% over past 16 months under President Obama.   Do you really want to go back to the returns from 2001-2008 when you didn’t have all those nasty new regulations to worry about?  REALLY? 


There goes the neighborhood…

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on May 19, 2010 by Jim Rosenberg

I’ve been riveted to the coverage of the upheaval in Bangkok over the past few weeks and really, the past couple of years.  Above is a neighborhood market in which I spent quite a bit of time on my last visit in 2008.  It’s quite an event and while it doesn’t have the spiffy look of many other markets I’ve visited in the U.S. and Canada, it’s a gathering place and a totally fascinating place to immerse yourself in daily life close to the ground.

The lower photo is from Al Jazeera this morning and it’s the same roadway you see above.  There have been dozens of people killed in the current confrontations between the government and protestors over the last week and things have actually been pretty dicey since a few weeks after my last visit.  I had a long talk with a cab driver about things on my way to the airport as I was leaving the last time and it didn’t seem like it was going to be a simple problem then. 

The situation has grown progressively worse since that time.  This morning, the stock exchange and the state television station were on fire, along with other buildings in the central city.  A few stops down on the Skytrain from where these photos were taken is a high end shopping mall where we shopped a couple of years earlier.  It was destroyed by fire within the past 24 hours. 

The King of Thailand has been on the throne since 1946 and while he does not reign over the country, which is a democracy, he is revered by the Thais and can have a tempering effect when the opportunity arises.  Now 82 years old, it’s easy to wonder how much worse things might be without that unifying icon in the country.

Having been to a place seems to give us a special connection to things that are happening there and it’s something we notice a lot when we’re watching the news, Amazing Race or other programs that take us back.  I hope they get it sorted out there soon. 


Revise & extend: NOW, I would sign the “show me your papers” law…

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on May 17, 2010 by Jim Rosenberg

Interesting 180 over the last few days by GOP guv candidate Scott Walker on the Arizona immigration law after a bunch of online pummeling by right-wingers when he was in danger of sounding reasonable last week.

For the record, here are the statements and the dates…

* * *

Associated Press – May 14, 2010 2:35 PM ET

MADISON, Wis. (AP) – A conservative Republican running for governor in Wisconsin is taking a tough public stance against Arizona’s sweeping new immigration law.

Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker says in a statement that he has serious concerns about the Arizona law empowering police to question and arrest anyone they suspect is in the U.S. illegally.

His stance was the most definitive of any of the three major gubernatorial candidates, all of whom were asked by The Associated Press about the issue this week.

* * *

Sunday, May 16 statement from Scott Walker campaign:

“I sympathize with the people of Arizona who are victimized by violence, crime and property damage as a result of illegal immigration. After speaking with the sponsor of the new law in Arizona, State Senator Russell Pearce, I’m satisfied that the amended bill provides adequate protections against racial profiling and discrimination.  A police officer may only inquire about the immigration status of persons they have stopped, detained, or arrested for other reasons.

In addition, earlier decisions by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals satisfy my concern about any conflicts with the 10th Amendment. If I were Governor of Arizona, I too would sign the Arizona immigration bill.

As Governor of Wisconsin, I will sign legislation that strengthens our protection against illegal immigration and ensures that taxpayer funded benefits like Badger Care and drivers licenses are not available to those who are here illegally.”

* * *

Emily Litella: “Oh, that’s very different.  NEVER MIND!”


FOR THE RECORD: Arizona State Sen. Russell Pearce ended up being recalled and removed from office:

Good enough for Pat though…

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on May 16, 2010 by Jim Rosenberg

I recently ran across some pretty scathing comments about a book that were disarming in their candor:

• “Ridiculous crap” — a New York Daily News editor

• “Absolute crap” — a Huffington Post editor

• “Never, ever contact me again” — a Time magazine writer

• “Sensational rubbish” — a Newsweek editor

• “Seriously, get a life” — an AOL writer

The book? The Manchurian President: Barack Obama’s Ties to Communists, Socialists and Other Anti-American Extremists by Aaron Klein and Brenda J. Elliott.  And guess who had one of the co-authors listed on his show’s lineup to pitch the thing last week?  You’re right: Republican Party of Marathon County 1st Vice Chairman Pat Snyder (who also has a radio program on AM 550 — thanks, Midwest Communications.) 

Now, granted, the review is from the Southern Poverty Law Center, which is not exactly a non-partisan group.  Perhaps some of the people shown above who commented about it aren’t, either.  Heck, some would probably say I’m not.  But neither is Wing Nut Daily — and, of course, neither is 55 Feedback.  So I’m providing the review in the unlikely event that someone reading this may have actually heard the show and taken any of the discussion seriously: 

As always, we provide this information for entertainment purposes only.   🙂