Saturday, December 31, 2005

It's All Connected, Somehow.

Uranus Hz offers up a series of quotes to end the year over at But What Do I Know? beginning with George W. Bush :
"I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

The post sums up the reasons that so many of us feel betrayed by the direction our government is headed.

The same blog Uranus Hz coins a new word for 2006, Bushwellian. Crime isn't a crime. Reporting the crime is the crime. When you consider this alongside the Socks Scandal Investigation it begins to bring focus to the ideas of some of our lawmakers. (H/T to Xoff)

2006 is our chance to bring about some substantive changes. Let's elect ourselves a little backbone.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Notes On Two Passings

Sometimes the links are harder to see than others. Aaron reminds us that Michael Vale, the Dunkin Donuts baker passed away at the age of 83 from complications of diabetes. It's fun to remember that in addition to Fred, the Baker, Vale was also the jeweler who sold the diamonds to Laurence Olivier's demented dentist in Marathon Man.

Last week also saw the passing of the man responsible for another of America's great dietary obsessions. Joseph Owades passed away at 86 in Sonoma, California. Owades was the chemist and brewer responsible for the travesty and tragedy that is Light Beer. Owades was a a sucessful food chemist and had more wins than losses in a long and varied career in the brewing industry. But we can't forget that he was responible for Gablinger's Diet Beer.

In a perfectly icky toast to both these fine Americans we should have an apple cruller and a Lite beer while watching Dustin Hoffman have some dental work done.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Carnival of the Badger XX- The List To End All Lists (For 2005, At Least)

Welcome to the twentieth edition of The Carnival of the Badger and Happy New Year to you all. I guess I can say that without upsetting too many people, even though Chinese New Year won't be here until February and the Jewish New Year was three months ago. The changing of the calendar leads most folks to making lists. We are inundated with lists of best, worst, most unusual and most significant. This week the carnival looks at a few of the lists that are floating around right now while starting a list or two of its own.

First up, and so first on our list of Badgerland Bloggers, is Jay Bullock from folkbum's rambles and rants. Jay takes us back through a post he wishes had been written differently in "Shut up," he wrote, and almost immediately regretted it .

James Wigderson's Library and Pub got into the spirit of the carnival by submitting a list of his own. Check out the Top Ten Things Political Consultants Don't Want To Hear from his list.

Science Magazine announced their Greatest Breakthroughs of 2005 and an old favorite came out on top. Evolution was called the greatest of 2005. Other breakthroughs included research in planetary exploration, the relationship between genetics and abnormal human behavior, the new field of cosmochemistry, fresh evidence of global warming, and an engineering approach to molecular biology and superconductivity. Elliot over at From Where I Sit takes a look at one of Wisconsin's science breakthroughs from 2005 and why the Big Apple may object to the Flying Bratwurst.

The trouble with year-end lists is that everyone gets to write one. Someone named Jurgen Fauth has written his own Top Ten List of 2005 Films. His top three? 1) Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith 2) Downfall 3) Munich. Somehow The Lords of Dogtown missed his list.

Brad V, writing at Letters In Bottles, wants to know how his own funds are being used in one of December's top news stories. Are student funds being used by Voces de la Frontera?

The Wisconsin Historical Society took their own look at the news stories of 2005 to see which had the greatest history-making significance. The passings of Proxmire, Nelson and Rehnquist were their top story. Fred of Real Debate Wisconsin takes a look at the top news stories of 2006 and offers RDW's predictions for the coming year. He calls it cliche. We call it classic.

Now that Christmas is over, the debate over which toy was the best of 2005 should be finished. Dipika Mirpuri gave her list of Top Ten Girl's Toys and decided that Playmobil My Take-Along Doll House was the best. The Happy Circumstance took its own poll and decided that Playmobil also had the worst toy of last year.

Bill at The Xoff Files has a story on the Best Pagan Holiday Celebrated By A Wisconsin Governor. At my house we had the airing of grievances but ran out of time before the feats of strength because of the length of the lists.

Brian at Fraley's Dailytakes makes a list of things to do now that we have more extra time to kill than we knew. He asks Whatchya Gonna Do??? If you don't want to do any of those, how about a good TV show? The NYT has their list and House and Katrina both are on it.

Korbel Mike writes on The Spring City Chronicle about how tough it is to sort through the lists we already have and wonders how we got into the Medicare Part D fix we're in.

Brent, Milwaukee's Layton Park Blogger decided to start a list of his own and sent in two posts this week. His first is a list of questions about evolution and False Gods. His second wonders What the @#$% is going on in Milwaukee? Patrick at Badger Blogger weighs in with updates on that same story.

PC World magazine has their own list of The 50 Greatest Gadgets of the Past 50 Years. They list the Sony Walkman and the Apple I-Pod as 1 and 2. My guess is that they never got a chance to rate the Banana Guard. Aaron at Subject To Change shows us a new gizmo to make us slightly safer that has nothing to do with DHS. Go figure.

Ben B at Badger Blues comes to us with some thoughts about the latest news in the FISA scandal. He writes about Our liberty in the hands of an angry president. In the meantime Eleanor Clift writes about the Biggest Political Lies of 2005 in her Newsweek column.

Peter at Texas Hold'Em Blogger offers a 2005 update on a Jeff Foxworthy list, You Might Be A Redneck If. USA Today Weekend offered up a Year In Quotes Section with some that may become classics in years to come. Patrick Swayze is quoted regarding how he makes the choice of which movie to do next to further his career. “You have to be willing to say no to the ungodly amounts of money people have to produce crap."

As for me and The Happy Circumstance, I'll nominate my candidate for the Worst Smoke-Stopping method I've seen lately and then dedicate this whole list to Marderos Nersesian. For the last 12 months he has been the champion liar of the Burlington Liars Club. The 2005 champion will be announced on Saturday. I'm sure he or she won't be the biggest liar of the year but they'll have a certificate that says they're the best and that was good enough for the Scarecrow.

That brings to a close the twentieth and final Carnival of the Badger for 2005. Thanks to all who submitted a post for this list of lists. Send Nick a note to let him know when you'd like to host the carnival yourself.

Have a safe and prosperous New Year. We'll see you on the other side.

Another Sad Plea Bargain

Former state Rep Bonnie Ladwig has just pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of using her position for personal financial gain. She blamed the culture of a "permanent campaign" in Madison. The 66 year old faces up to a year in prison for the offense but the Dane County DA has recommended only a $4,500 fine plus restitution.

In return for her plea bargain Ladwig agreed to testify if called as a witness in the felony trials of former compatriots Scott Jensen and Steve Foti.

After watching the blogosphere wet itself over the downfall of Chuck Chvala and Brian Burke I have been surprised at the relative quiet surrounding Ladwig. Granted, one misdemeanor is small potatoes compared to the two Dems but there has been little blood in the water surrounding the fast-approaching trials of Foti and Jensen. Is that because one side has more restraint than the other? I doubt it. Is it simply burnout on the whole story? Scott Jensen hopes so. He's asked for a change of venue thinking an outstate jury will be tired of the story.

I hope it's not because we've come to expect no better. It's just disheartening to see so many leaders on trial. It's time to stop rolling in the mud of the trials and to make substantive change to the way campaigns are funded and run.

Stop Smoking The Very Hard Way

I took the time to thank my beautiful wife for her patience and understanding as I struggle to kick nicotine. For the last thirty five years I have enjoyed the chemical bliss brought on by the soup of compounds that nicotine triggered in my body. I finally got tired, though, of clearing my throat every time I wanted to speak so I decided to give up the cigarettes in September.

I have managed to drop from 40 per day to the point where I have taken fewer than 20 packs in 11 weeks, and that includes one very bad week when I didn't even attempt to put on a patch. The cravings still hit once in a while but it's getting easier all the time to say, "No."

Which is why this story from The Milwaukee Channel caught my eye. A 26 year old woman faces up to 20 years in prison after stabbing her husband in an argument over his smoking.

My doctor warned me to ask my wife for a pledge to not leave me for the first 30 days after I started to stop. He didn't say anything about watching out for the knives.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

The Carnival Is Coming

The Happy Circumstance will host the Carnival of the Badger XX. Get your submissions in by 8 PM on Wednesday night December 28. Use either of the usual submission methods here or here to get your best from the last week into the final carnival of this misbegotten year.

Follow this link to Nick's blog for more information.

A Non-Starter

Can we all agree on this one? Declare it a non-story now and be done with it? It's not the brand of galloping stupidity that we've seen before nor is it venality on parade. Can we just laugh it off and move on?

Some state lawmakers have been buying, yes buying at face value, tickets to sold out UW games that were offered by the UW Ticket Office from hold-back or return stocks. Nobody got anything for free. Bucky got a full house. The UW makes a couple of friends. It's all good, no harm, no foul, no quid pro quo. Get over it.

The State Ethics Board has told all concerned to knock it off to quell any whiff of impropriety. Okay, I can live with that. Quelling whiffs is what those people should be doing. The purchasers of the tickets sat on both sides of the aisle so this is a partisan non-starter. There is no ox to gore without goring one's own.

Let's just let this one go.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Try This For What Ails You

See your doctor to ask why you need Panexa. Ask him for more.

Wisconsin State Journal Shifts Columns Line-up

WSJ editor Ellen Foley in a column on Christmas Day wrote one of her occasional columns about the state of her paper. Among the announced changes was the decision to drop the New York Times News Service from the paper for reasons of cost. The service costs, in Foley's words, tens of thousands of dollars each year and often gets stories to the Journal too late to use in all editions.

The immediate upshot of this is that Journal readers will lose the NYT line-up of columnists. Maureen Dowd? Gone. David Brooks? History. Thomas Friedman or Frank Rich? Yesterday's news. We'll live out here in the heartland, of course. The Janesville Gazette has both Molly Ivins and Bill O'Reilly with the added benefit of a letter col that pits the readers of one against the other.

What's troubling is the decision by the Journal to make my morning paper a little less relevant by cutting itself off from one of the largest news gathering services in the world. Nevermind the op-ed, the NYT staff gets to places and stories that other organizations simply cannot. How will the Wisconsin State Journal take up the slack left by the departure of the NYT service? They probably won't. The change in columnists will be masked by the addition of others of several political stripes and the news will just make do without one of the most pervasive news-gathering teams ever assembled.

At least we'll have our thrice weekly Poker column. That's not been put in the line of cost-cutting fire.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

A Legitimate Question

Miss Laura is a precocious 4 year old and my niece. Yesterday she was taking her bath when her Mother asked if she knew why we celebrated Christmas. "Did you learn that in Sunday School?" Sue asked.

"It's the birthday of the Baby Jesus." Laura was certain of her facts but wanted to know more. "How old is she?"

Christmas Morning

The house is peaceful. I'm still the only one up. The coffee is fresh and good. I like living this way. Last night, all day yesterday, the house was full of laughter and conversation and I love that, too.

There was a lot of laughter last night as we opened gifts and shared cashew chicken. So many good books changed hands here last night we may have to take a week off to catch up. It's goood to see people exchange gifts afteer listening to see what the others want. Not much generic gift filler here.

That's all. It's a warm fuzzy morning and I wanted to share it. Today will be full of family as well. Different house, different faces, same good feelings.

Merry Christmas to all, however you celebrate it.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

The Family Persists

It's 5:30 on Christmas Eve morning and I'm the first one up in the castle. In an hour or two the pace will liven and activity will reign for the following 12 hours. Until then I'm content to let Christmas Eves past wash over me.

When I was a kid we opened presents on Christmas Eve. Santa came while we were at the pageant at church. Seventy kids would recite the Gospel according to Luke, sing a few carols, one would throw up on my brother and then we'd take our bag of goodies and go home to a room full of wrapped presents. The bag always had an apple and an orange, striped peppermint ribbon, one candy cane and a handful of peanuts in the shell.

Christmas Eve changed as we got older. The brother married and went to his in-laws. I married and went to mine. Christmas Day became the present-opening day. Mom's house for a large Noon meal and an afternoon of gift opening. I added three beautiful children and my brother added the lovely Casie and we made a leisurely afternoon of it, stopping often to bag the pile of wrap in the middle of the floor.

After I became de-married the tradition changed again. The boys came over on Christmas Eve for an evening of Chinese food and a few presents before a guy's video night. That lasted a few years but has taken hold in better ways.

I fell in love for the last time and have remarried, to a woman who loves Christmas far more than I ever have or will. It's very clear at our house that Christmas is more about the giving than the getting and more about giving of one's self than of one's things.

Our house will be open and lively today. Drew and Lisa are coming this Noon to have lunch with us. If it works right, Kyle will be here before they head south to her parent's house. Nathan will be here this afternoon and Heather and Rick will be back from Milwaukee with the perfect granddaughter, Mikhaila, and her first Christmas Eve. Justin and Courtney will get here about six after a stop with her family.

My life is good. Five grown children and their families sitting on the floor eating Chinese, they are here because they wish to be here with their Mother and me. My beautiful wife is the one who makes this all happen. She brought the tree back into my house and brought Christmas Eve home. For that, I consider myself a lucky man.

Merry Christmas, all, and Peace to you and yours.

Setting Aside Any Thoughts Of Fairness

Paul Soglin over at Waxing America apologized, as well he should, for the impertinence of this post. I will do the same while being unable to resist passing it on.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Michael Andretti To Try Indy Again

This one only puzzles me a little. At 43 Michael Andretti is training hard to make a comeback to Indy, a venue that has not been kind to his family. Andretti-Green Racing has announced that Michael will drive the Jim Beam/Vonage car in May's running of the 500 mile event.

Michael's son, Marco, will be joining AGR in the #26 Arca/Ex car driven last year by Dario Franchitti. The Jim Beam sponsorship was left open with the departure from AGR of Dan Wheldon but Marco, at 18, could not drive a car sponsored by the liquor manufacturer.

Franchitti will take the wheel of the Klein Tools/Jim Beam car full time in 2006 and Tony Kanaan stays in the 7-11 car. Underappreciated Bryan Herta returns to the XM Satellite Radio car for the third year.

Michael's return means that Andretti-Green will have 5 cars attempting to qualify for the May Classic race. Apparently, the quick taste of milk he got as team owner last year whet his appetite for more.

Editor's Note: Per IndyCar guidelines issued in 2005 this story is required to mention Danica Patrick at least one time. There, I've done it.

Carnival of the Badger XIX

Sadie Says is hosting the Carnival of the Badger this week. It's a quick recap of Badger Bloggers from the past week. The diva gives us a dog's-eye view of the blogosphere.

Next week Carnival XX makes a stop here at The Happy Circumstance with a look at year-ending lists. Make sure to get your submission in by 8 PM on Wenesday night using any of the ususal methods. Visit Nick for more info on the Carnival and how to participate. Nick is also looking for hosts for upcoming Carnivals. Get your name on the list now.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Dick Cheney Saves Christmas From The Poor

Vice President Dick Cheney returned early from a diplomatic mission on Tuesday in order to be present to break a possible tie on the administrations budget cutting bill. Sen. Ben Nelson, one of two Democrats to vote for an earlier version of the bill was expected to change his vote on the House/Senate compromise bill.

The VP cut short a visit to Pakistan and bypassed Saudi Arabia to be certain that the safety net could be pulled from under some of America's most needy so that there would be funds available for the next round of tax cuts.

Following the vote on Wednesday Cheney is expected to hit the road one last time before Christmas. A Cheney spokesman said, "He has just enough time to make it to Whoville and snatch the roast beast before heading home to celebrate with his family. The Cheneys will celebrate by watching only the parts of "It's A Wonderful Life" with Lionel Barrymore onscreen and roasting a reindeer."

Update: The VP was called upon to break a 50-50 tie vote on the budget bill but in a troubling maneuver the Dems forced enough change to require the reconsideration of the bill by the House after their Winter break. Olympia Snowe, one of 5 Rs to vote against the bill called it, "A cynical piece of legislation that punishes our most vulnerable citizens."

Cheney was heard to exclaim, "Humbug," and kicked an elf as he left the Senate chambers.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Born To Run License Plates?

New Jersey legislators voted to create Born To Run license plates on Friday. They sang along with The Boss' version of Santa Claus is Coming To Town before voting to honor the Jersey so and the 30th anniversary of the rock anthem.

Years ago Born To Run was voted on for State Song of the Garden State.

I wonder when someone will read the lyrics sheet to the lege.

Sprung from cages out on highway 9,
Chrome wheeled, fuel injected and steppin’ out over the line
Baby this town rips the bones from your back
It’s a death trap, it’s a suicide rap
We gotta get out while we’re young`cause tramps like us,
baby we were born to run

Just wrap your legs round these velvet rims
And strap your hands across my
Together we could break this trap
We’ll run till we drop, baby
we’ll never go back
Will you walk with me out on the wire`cause
just a scared and lonely rider
It's a little too late to get out while we're young. Wendy is probably married with three grown kids and the suicide machines are long rusted hulks. Maybe they should just decide that Bruce is good and promote Clarence Clemmons to higher state office and be done with it.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

The Most Beloved Christmas Movie

It is, after all, a wonderful life.

A Disturbing Truth

Courtesy of comedian Chad Daniels:

Packer fans are like Al-Qaeda, there are two or three in every city in

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Why Blog?

Richard Lawrence Cohen offers thoughts on his first blogaversary about what the blogosphere has meant to him.

I have used it in much the same way that I have used my APA for the last 15 years. It's a place to purge some stray thoughts, to polish my writing and maybe, just maybe to get a little egoboo when someone leaves a comment. If that comment sparks a thread on its own, so much the better.

Carnival of the Badger XVIII

Real Debate Wisconsin is hosting a Ho Ho Ho version of the Carnival of the Badger this week. Cruise on over to see what the Badger Bloggers have to say about Christmas, guns and the changing face of marriage.

This is a great way to find blogs that may not have crossed your screen before.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Somewhere, Dad Is Laughing

Most of thirty years ago Dad announced that he had had enough. Nevermore would he shovel. Both of us boys had moved beyond the point where we would shovel his drive and December that year was intolerable.

He went out after Christmas and bought a big honking snowblower. It was big and orange and hard to start but, by God, it moved some snow. It was a man's snowblower, loud and hard to maneuver, made to handle a foot or more of Mother Nature's worst.

Needless to say, it hardly snowed at all the rest of that winter. TV weathermen remarked on the unusual dryness of the first three months of that year.

Justin and I bought a snow thrower at Home Depot last Sunday and I told him the story of his grandfather's machine. He remembered his Uncle Steve having the snowblower until it finally gave up the ghost of Blizzards Past. We laughed about how we were saving Wisconsin from a snowy winter by buying a machine to clear my drive.

Um, we were wrong. It's snowing hard outside after a full day of snowing hard. There is little danger of my having wrecked a White Christmas for the little kiddies. The snow thrower works well and it's more than enough machine for my needs. Unfortunately, it's small and cute while my neighbor's is big and snarly.

I'm sure that Dad laughed today every time I turned the chute into the wind. It was a good thought that made dealing with the snow almost tolerable.


Most of us don't get the chance to leave a grand legacy. Few get the opportunity to leave behind the elegant idea that transforms the world or the edifice that endures for centuries. Our sphere of influence is much smaller and we must be content to share with those who travel through life with us. We interact with and influence only a handful of family, a few co-workers, or some small number of people in our town. The chance to pass anything on for posterity manifests in our ability to touch lives that will then reach out to touch others and make their lives better in turn.

My father-in-law passed away over the weekend and I've spent no small amount of time reflecting on what his legacy will be.

He left behind four daughters in four states. Each, in her own way, independent and strong. Each showing the strengths learned early in their life. Each one better for having lived in the household they did, learning the lessons that were made available to them by their parents and processing with one another. All four are now educators and have chosen to make life better for other families. They are very different in many ways but in this one way they share a life of passing on their passions and ideas.

I look at Jim's grandchildren and great-grandchildren and I can feel good about the future of our society. These are good kids, some of them no longer children, who will be the bedrock of our country and culture. When their names show up in the paper it is and it will be for some good thing, something we are proud to share. They have taken on the lessons, some unspoken, of their grandparents. They are respectful, loving and kind and those qualities are enough to see them through and make us proud.

It has long been said that a man is known by the company he keeps. When I look at this family that has taken in four sons-in-law made them a part of that family it is clear to me that Jim left a fine legacy. It will endure longer than any building and touch more lives than he ever dreamed.

Rest in peace, Jim. You've left the world a better place for having been in it. Your daughters have seen to that.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Sex And The City Meets The Surreal Life

Dennis York offers his take on Relationship Blogging and how the average American man should deal with it. This should not be missed by any single guy.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Things That We Know Have Always Been There

I'm sometimes amazed at the actual timing of things that we know have always happened.

Right now we are going through a discussion of Christmas traditions and Presidential observances of them. Some folks have their knickers in a twist because the White House Christmas card doesn't mention Christmas even though it hasn't seen that word used since 1992 during the other Bush administration. Wisconsin has had a Holiday Tree for nearly 20 years and the state hasn't been struck by divine retribution.

We just assume that presidents have always sent out massive quantities of cards but that isn't exactly so. LBJ sent out cards to 4,000 of his closest friends and supporters. Richard Nixon, realizing the political usefulness of the Christmas greetings expanded his list to 40,000. The traditon has grown through presidents red and blue to the point where Clinton sent out 400,000 and Bush43 is sending out 1.2 million cards this year. The fact that some are upset about the message on them means that his list could use some culling.

It was FDR who first sent out a Christmas card according to Mary Evans Seeley, author of Season's Greetings From the White House. The Kennedys sent out 2,000 cards in 1962.

Likewise, we all know that there has always been a Christmas tree at the White House. Nevermind that Franklin Pierce was the first president to introduce the Christmas tree to the White House in 1856 for a group of Washington Sunday School children and the first national Christmas Tree was lighted in 1923 on the White House lawn by President Calvin Coolidge. The Hoover library site has a gallery of Christmas tree themes from the White House.

Here's the kernel of my argument. Traditions are fluid. Observances and language change. A holiday is what we make it. My Christmas is not enhanced or diminished by the actions or words of John Gard, George Bush, Bill O'Reilly or anyone else. Target cannot ruin my celebration anymore than Wal-Mart could make it better. Well meaning but overzealous nannies have gotten us into this mess. In a rush to not offend anyone we have gotten to a place where everyone acts offended.

Look at the pretty tree. Note that it has a place in the traditions of the people of our country. Now put some energy into making this a better place to live.

How Automatic Transmissions Make My Commute Worse

Random10 remarked during last year's Daytona 500 that Traffic Is Wonderful. He shows just how highly developed we are as a species through our ability to maneuver through traffic. My take on this is that the ability to catch a ball, round off a number or drive a car shows how finely tuned the nervous system is. Eye-hand coordination manifests in video games, traffic jams and major league baseball.

Random10's point is well taken, though, when he talks about the wonders of traffic and how seldom the system breaks down. The evolution of the automobile has made this much simpler. "It's not your father's Oldsmobile," is absolutely true. Power steering and brakes, ABS, traction control, electric starters and defrosters, and climate control all act to make driving more accesible and easier for everyone. It's not a big secret that some of us might not be driving if we still had to crank our cars. Automatic transmissions have opened the highways to even more folks in the same way that Windows made the computer mainstream.

The comparison from the Daytona 500 to the Friday night Beltline is apt. Matt Kenseth's car has made this same evolution. Curtis Turner would hardly recognize today's tube-frame, five-point-harness, roof-flapped and restrictor-plated monsters. Therein lies the rub for me.

Today, Mary Jane or Bob can get behind the wheel of one of the best engineered products in all of human imagination and set off for points unknown while eating a Steak McBagel and listening to the radio and checking the PowerPoint for this morning's meeting. Last Thursday morning in the slush and slobber left over from Wednesday night I met a minivan on the two lane. I could see her coming around the curve, throwing slush that indicated she was rolling a little fast for the conditions, the back end of her Voyager doing a schottische and all the while she was laughing on her cell phone.

My rant has long been that people don't focus on driving because it has become too easy for them. They are woooed by commercials that show cars that drive themselves through any weather and bring the family home safe. Drivers abdicate responsibility to machines and machines are, for the most part, forgiving. Now you can order a rear-view camera so that you don't have to get out to look behind the SUV.

Drivers should know their limits. Bob knows he could never drive a golf ball with John Daly. Mary Jane knows she couldn't stand on the baseline with Serena Williams. Put them behind the wheel, however, and they both become Dale Earnhardt. Skill unacknowledged, talent ignored, practice and attention eschewed, a gift pissed away, we blythely cruise through traffic unaware of the miracle that we are and the responsibility we share.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Carnival of the Badger XVII

Subject 2 Change has this week's Carnival and Aaron's taking the opportunity to settle a few old scores. Head on over to check out the best of Wisconsin blogging this week.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Laura Bush Offends Bill O'Reilly

It's not a big enough blow to the O'Reilly/Falwell Christmas Is Under Attack brigade that the 2005 White House Christmas card doesn't have the word "Christmas" on it now comes this news via Xoff that Laura Bush has fallen into the "Seasons Greetings" camp.

The official card has a Jamie Wyeth print of Barney and Beazley frolicing on the White House lawn and a quote from the 28th Psalm. Stuck on Stupid gives us pics to share. The Old Testament in a Christmas greeting is a little disconcerting but knowing that the card will send the bloviators into fits of apoplexy makes my holidays a little brighter.

Merry Christmas to all. Come see the juggling Christmas monkeys.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Christmas Is Safe For Another Year

Sunday night my beautiful Bride and I attended the Ecumenical Choir concert here in Evansville. For 29 years members of a dozen churches throughout the area have gotten together to raise their voices together to celebrate Christmas. This year’s concert was typical of them all. It was an hour and a half of stirring harmony and touching message. There was true emotion in those forty faces as they sang in celebration and praise in the best way they knew how.

And it dawned on me partway through the cantata that made up the second half of the concert. We don’t need Target to wish us a “Merry Christmas,” and we surely don’t need Bill O’Reilly to defend it. The spirit of Christmas is in what we make of it, not in the cynical ravings of the intolerant.

It is not so many years ago that Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell stood up to call for dollars, “Send in your money. Christmas is under attack. The big stores have over-commercialized Christmas and we need to put Christ back in Christmas.” Now that stores have taken the steps to stop using the name of the Savior to sell toasters and salsa the money machine has cranked up again. “Send in your dollars to save Christmas. The merchants are ignoring us”

I have some news for O’Reilly and his ilk. Christmas is not celebrated at CostCo or Wal-Mart. Retailers are structured only to worship the dollars that people of all faiths and of none bring through the door. If Target or Macy’s can bring in a few more sales by telling folks to “Gather Round,” rather than saying, “Merry Christmas,” they have the right to do so. They are no more compelled to celebrate Christmas than the firm of Scrooge and Marley was.

Christmas is not under attack. You have the right to shout “Merry Christmas” from your street side window if you wish. Your neighbor also has the right to celebrate whatever holiday she wishes to whether that’s Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or Festivus. If your neighbor wishes to sit in a darkened house and ignore the end of year festivities altogether he has that right as well.

My gall rose Sunday night to think of the disrespect shown to the holiday by those who profit from its sham defense. The spirit of Christmas is alive and well in the hearts of people. If they share it in a way that can make a lapsed Lutheran a little misty they don’t need talking heads on Fox News to defend it. The Spirit of Christmas is strong enough to last through the bloviation of its defenders. It will not be diminished by those who cynically use it to tap the wallets of people already led into fear. It certainly doesn’t require JC Penney to have a sign over the display of Packer golf towels to remain strong.

The Spirit of Christmas rises and falls on the voices of those who share it. Sunday night in Evansville it soared to the heavens.

Loose Fruit Under the Family Tree- The Neil Bush Saga Continues

Not content with his failed savings and loan or his discredited educational software company, Ignite!, the Presidential brother is now travelling through Russia with Rev. Moon to raise funds for a $200 billion tunnel to Alaska. Click on the headline to head over to TPM Cafe for a report on the latest wackiness.

You all remember Ignite! It assumed that hunter-warriors don't relate well to books and are better served by an animated football game to teach the history of the Seminole Wars or a rap song to teach about the founding of the Republic. Try not to think about the Presidential brother selling test-prep software to schools in Florida where the other brother, the high-functioning one, passed laws setting the standards which made test-prep software desirable.

Now, Neil has been in front of the curve on some issues, notably the anti-Ritalin Scientology rant that Tom Cruise made famous. Neil and Lisa Marie Pressley were working Washington back in 2002 on that particular crusade.

Neil's ties to an ecumenical foundation in Switzerland that states its purpose as publishing Old Testament texts in Hebrew ties him to the new Pope as well as prominent figures in the Greek Orthodox and Muslim faiths. This article from Newsday spells that out. Neil's religious bent allows him to travel in the company of Catholics, Moonies and Scientologists with equal aplomb.

Neil has done quite well personally as a branch of the Presidential family tree. The Austin Chronicle takes us back to the good old days of the $1 billion failure of Silverado Savings and Loan. It's not a surprise any longer that you don't have to be elected to benefit from a Bush presidency.

Neil is just riding the wave.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Packer Fans Always Say "We."

Dick Russell has a poem explaining the difference between the fans in the Midwest. Even when times are tough, and they are, Packer fans always say, "We."

Saturday, December 03, 2005

How To Spot A Terrorist

A tip of the hat to Xoff for pointing us toward the Official Air Force Guide on "How To Spot A Terrorist."

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Badger Carnival Rocks on Leaningblue

Leaning Blue hosts the Carnival of the Badger this week and I'm in it for the first time. Follow the link in the header to see the best of Wisblogging this week.

Who's the Next Bully?

Over the wekend we went to see Good Night, and Good Luck, the Joe McCarthy vs Edward R Murrow retelling. Director George Clooney used archival footage of Tail-Gunner Joe rather than using an actor in the part and, still, the comment was made after a screening that the McCarthy character was too over the top.

If you click on the heading there's a link to an article by Bill Kraus that puts a little personal perspective on McCarthy. He takes time to remind us that even despots have followers, that they seldom get to their position of power without others to carry their water.

I wonder if, 50 years from now, our grandchildren will be in a movie house or what passes for one watching archival footage from this decade. Who will it be? Speculate on your own. There are enough candidates to go around.

Bullies never go away. They just look different after we grow up.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Breaker, Breaker. Anybody Got a Copy?

The whole Pajamas Media/OSM uproar prompted Xoff to make a request after the heavy-duty folderol Althouse found herself engaged in. I'm still new enough at this that the very act of blogging is something I'm willing to examine a little further.

I've done a little navel gazing of my own a come to a startling realization. Blogs are the CB Radios of the new millenium. Most everyone has one and if they don't they will soon. If they could figure out a way to wrap a blog ID and put it under a tree even your Aunt Mildred would have one.

But then, she's probably already posting some version of her hopes and dreams.

It's not so very different. Everybody gets a handle. Newbies get raked over the coals for violating unwritten rules of etiquette. A new community forms out of thin air. Sooner or later nobody remembers what it was you said. The loud ones get all the attention and thrive on good reactions and bad. The quiet ones sometimes have the most to say.

The CB phenomenon lasted the best part of 20 years before it died out. By that standard blogging has a ways to go yet. I'll jump on for the ride just like I did the last time.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

My New Hero

Over the weekend I bundled up my misgivings and attempted a trip to the mall with my Beautiful Wife, who wished to return some things.

I don't normally thrive in the mall. Too much stuff, too many people, too much bad behavior. The mall has all the bad smells of a hospital with none of the compassion. You may be able to tell that I was not in the Christmas spirit.

I had just taken a shortcut through the "Gifts" section of one of the anchor stores, a sad collection of wallets and scarves for the "Man who may or may not have everything, I don't know. I just need to cross him off the blasted list." Also there was a wall of World Series of Poker branded video games and tubs of WSOP merchandise. I'm not sure when the Flop, the Turn and the River took over from the Three Wise Men but it was fairly clear that Christmas 2005 would be the Poker Holiday for a lot of people.

I moved on to the belts and tried to not act too perturbed when I heard a young voice from over by the Wall of Poker. "Mom? Is this 'propriate? Mom, it's a money game. Is this a "propriate toy?"

I didn't listen for her answer. I was pretty sure I knew what it would be. I started grinning like the old fool that I am just because I had heard one child ask if something was an appropriate gift. He didn't whinge and creeb over it. He knew that some toys would have to wait for later and that Mom's answer was the final say.

My heart soared. There are holdouts in against the all-consumer society. We may have a chance.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Reality Check

Yesterday we went to my brother's house for the annual cookie baking ritual. My family has been chain-baking frosted Christmas sugar cookies for more than 50 years. We are well into our fourth generation of coming together to provide color and carbs for Christmas plates for family, friends and co-workers.

I asked my 15 year old niece to bring up The Happy Circumstance to share a piece with my mother. Mom liked in and asked, "Oh, you have a blog now?" in the same tone she would have asked about a new piece of furniture or the apperance of a dancing bear in the living room.

"Yes, I do."

"I do, too, Uncle Jim," Casie shared. And the conversation veered away from me with a gigantic whooshing sound.

Now I ask you. What is the point of having a blog except to say, "Hey, look at me?"

I know. I know. There are blogs for frogs, hogs and logs. I cruise some of the lists on Blogger and have found blogs that areonly about Scottish ruins, computer code, the death of the Internet and quilts. There are blogs about blogs and bloggers. One of my favorites, and my first daily read, is about community life here in town.

I shouldn't have been surprised that Casie beat me into the blogosphere. Harper's is saying that a new blog is created every second right now. In the time I've been plugging at this 350 people ahve staked a claim on our attention and bandwidth. Weblogs have become the Beanie Babies of 2005, everybody is in on the game and we collect them just as avidly. And, just like Beanies, you'll never get them all so you have to pick your subset.

My favorites are the political blogs, some of which you can see in my Reading List. I check out DailyKos and TPM every day, sometimes every couple of hours for a quick fix. I'll read The Madison Freedom Fighter or McBride's just for another POV.

I've put no links in here on purpose. Track them down as you wish, or not. You don't need to read what I read to validate either one of us. If you stumble onto this and like what you see, leave a comment or share a link. It's wide open and brand new here. But, there is one thing the dancing bear needs to say.

Hey, look at me!

Friday, November 25, 2005

An Evening of Great Music at Evansville High School PAC

On Saturday, December 3rd E-Arts will host the UW Madison singing groups, The MadHatters and Tangled Up In Blue. Ring the Holiday season in with a touch of humor, family fun, and some great a-cappella singing at the beautiful Performing Arts Center in Evansville.

Tickets are now available for only $7 or a family four pack for $25. Tickets can be purchased from EHS Choir Students, Evansville Pharmacy, and Piggly Wiggly or by calling 882- 3570. Tickets are also available online at . Seating will be general admission with the performance starting at 7:30 PM. Coat check service will be provided by EHS Choir students. Just roll over the headline to order tickets.

The MadHatters are the premier men's a-cappella group from the University of Wisconsin – Madison. Since their humble beginning the MadHatters have seen their fan base explode, selling out their 2002 spring concert at the historic Orpheum Theatre, the Overture Center in Madison and performing at the acclaimed UW Varsity Band Concert in April of 2002. Word of this talented group from Wisconsin has even begun to spread nationwide since the release of State Street, the MadHatters' award-winning debut CD recorded along with the UW's premier women's a cappella group, Tangled up in Blue.

The female counterpart to the MadHatters, Tangled Up In Blue was founded in the spring of 1999. Since then, TUIB has performed across the Midwest, including Washington University in St. Louis, Northwestern University, and the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. In February 2005, TUIB competed in the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella, earning the title of Midwest semifinal champion and placing third in the regional final. TUIB released their first full-length album, Unraveled, in the Fall of 2004.

The concert will also host the AWARE Food Drive. Collection areas will be set up for your donations of non-perishable food and paper goods. Your donations to AWARE stay in Evansville. Come join the fun and help your neighbors.

A Lesson From Maddy

Maddy is in Second Grade now. It is possible that she is one of the best reasons to travel 75 miles for Thanksgiving dinner.

Yesterday she sat watching the Very Serious Euchre game at the Men's Table after the first round of plates had been cleared. There was a steady hum from the other room where the women were doing the business of the day, catching up on weddings, funerals and babies. The football game was on low in the front room and Google Maps was the entertainment of choice in the back. The gaggle of kids had taken the pack of dogs and gone upstairs to do whatever it is that kids and dogs do in a house full of adults too stuffed to chase them.

But Maddy sat by her father's side watching the Very Serious Euchre game. After all, if you only get together once a year then every game is the Annual Tournament. Maddy dutifully told us all of the things that she learns in Second Grade and spelled her hardest word for us. She also got Dad's help to say the hardest word she cannot spell. In short she was her usual charming self.

Between hands Maddy stood up. "While I'm up, can I get you anything to drink? Some more coffee or a glass of punch?" She stood ready to take our orders.

"No, thank you. I'm good. No, Maddy but it's kind of you to ask." General replies that we were not going to consume one more thing until the pumpkin pie came.

"Well, then. I guess I'll just sit down." And she did.

Bless her heart. She made a point to get up and then ask us what she could do for us "while she was up." Let's all follow her example. We can do more for each other without much effort. Look around. See what needs to be done and then get up.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Another Take On Thanksgiving- Other Families, Other Ways

Roll over the title to link to Richard Lawrence Cohen's moving thoughts about his own family on Thanskgiving day and how difficult it can be for some families to see what they share, for better or worse.

What Am I Thankful For?

A man in Ireland told us that, "If you can feel the cold of the bedroom floor on the soles of your feet it means that you'll have a good day."

Abraham Lincoln said, "Most men are just as happy as they make up their minds to be."

Today is a day we set aside to give thanks and to take stock of our blessings. Here are a few of he things that I am thankful for.

  • I have a family. I am blessed to have a wife, a brother, a mother, a grandmother (102 and still going strong), a whole mess of kids, the most beautiful granddaughter and an assortment of in-laws and outlaws who make my life better by their presence.
  • I have a job. It's not the job I thought I'd have by now but it's a fine job, respectable and challenging, working alongside good people.
  • I have a home. We don't live in a McMansion but we have a place of warmth and comfort to share and enjoy.
  • I have friends. My life is filled with people who share my interests and joys. I am seldom happier than when my house is full of people sharing a good day or night.
  • I can make a difference. I have been lucky enough to find ways to give my time and energy back to the community. I work with the Stateline Literacy Council and with E-Arts to open doors for others.
  • I live in America. I have the freedom to express my thoughts and access to the process to effect change.
  • I am "me." The creaks and groans of a body that's a half-century old let me know that I'm alive to feel the cold of the bedroom floor. I have a set of talents and skills that is unique and a supporting network that is unsurpassed.

Today is a good day to be alive. I would not trade the things that I have for power or fame or money. I am thankful for another day to be me.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

A Challenge To The "Religious" Right

A short piece in Cheers and Jeers on DailyKos highlights a speech by Rabbi Eric Yoffie, the head of the Union for Reform Judaism. The Rabbi takes offense with those who lay claim to a sole path to righteousness.

It's humbling to remember that there may be more than one path to Heaven. It is incumbent on each of us to remember that there is more than one way to get through this life.

When I hear some members of the "Religious" Right condemning others for not being Christian enough I hear the voice of the Pharisee, "Thank you, Lord, that I am not like that awful sinner." They forget that we are all sinners, trying to find our way through this world. We'll all do better if we help each other.

I have more than my share of the questions. I have very few of the answers. I'm learning to listen but there seems to be an awful lot of noise that makes them hard to pick out.

TheRabbi cut through a lot of the noise in this speech.

"We are particularly offended by the suggestion that the opposite of the
Religious Right is the voice of atheism. We are appalled when "people of
faith" is used in such a way that it excludes us, as well as most Jews,
Catholics, and Muslims. What could be more bigoted than to claim that you
have a
monopoly on God and that anyone who disagrees with you is not a
person of faith?
So we ask our neighbors on the Religious Right to take
note: We are
religious Jews, gathered in Houston to study, pray, and commit
ourselves to God.
And yes, we are generally liberal in our politics. But our
liberalism flows directly from our religious commitments. And we worry that you
don't understand what this means, or what it means for anyone to be a liberal
religious believer.

What it means is this: that we bring a measure of humility to our
religious belief. We study religious texts day and night, but we have no direct
lines to heaven and we aren't always sure that we know God's will.

It means believing that religion involves concern for the poor
the needy, and giving a fair shake to all. When people talk about God
yet ignore justice, it just feels downright wrong to us. When they
themselves in religion and forget mercy, it strikes us as blasphemy.

It means that "family values" require providing health care to every
child and that
God cares about the 12 million children without health
insurance. It means
valuing a child with diabetes over a frozen embryo in a
fertility clinic, and
seeing the teaching of science as a primary social
And it means reserving the right for each person to prayerfully make
decisions for herself about when she dies.

It also means believing in legal protection for gay couples. We
understand those who believe that the Bible opposes gay marriage, even though we
read that text in a very different way. But we cannot understand why any two
people who make a lifelong commitment to each other should be denied legal
guarantees that protect them and their children and benefit the broader society.
We cannot forget that when Hitler came to power in 1933, one of the first things
that he did was ban gay organizations.
And today, we cannot feel anything
but rage when we hear about gay men and
women, some on the front lines,
being hounded out of our armed services.
Yes, we can disagree about gay
marriage. But there is no excuse for
hateful rhetoric that fuels the
hellfires of anti-gay bigotry.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Have We Lost Our Way?

The former President says that America is on the wrong path. Here are my thoughts.

It is hard to not be discouraged when we see the state of government in 2005. It appears that we have descended into a Kakistocracy in which only the venal and selfish rule. The steady parade of mug shots and bald faced liars is damned disheartening. Sound bites and talking points rule the day.

It is vital that we focus on those politicians who can see a course that will guide America back to what it once was. There are still politicians who care about governance on both sides of the aisle. They need our support. We must be the driving force to take America back from extremists of all stripes.

Less than a generation ago America was a shining star on this planet, a place where any common woman or man could make their fortune. America stood steadfast as a respecter of human rights and freedoms, not only within its borders but around the world. Today we take our shoes off at the airport, talk about building fences and suspend habeus corpus for people who don’t look like we do.

Less than a generation ago we shone as a bastion of religious tolerance, of scientific innovation and of economic promise. Now we have slid backwards to a society where politics uses our differences to divide us both to keep us submissive and to trade on our fears for our votes. We are told to ignore those things which we know to be right and proper and to go along with those who lead us down an improper path for their own exaltation and reward.

Less than a generation ago political campaigns sold us hope and promise and adventure. We were to ask what we could do for our country, to be a part of the Great Society. Now we are fed a steady diet of fear. We are told to be afraid of those who are different from us. We are told that we are always in danger and only by meekly submitting can we live to see another day. If we constantly live in the ominous shadow of the dread unknown are we truly living a worthwhile life?

We are just now starting to hear voices that shout, “The Emperor has no clothes.” Listen to those voices and join the chorus and then do your best to be a part of the solution. Write to your Congressman and Representative. Send an e-mail to your Assemblyman or Senator to tell them when they’ve done a good job. When you see your Alder or Mayor at the market let them see that you care. Don’t let them pander to the extremes of Left or Right. Make sure that they understand that you care more about healing rifts than about driving wedges.

Governance is not a video game. There are no Final Battles against the Ultimate Enemy. Statesmanship is about finding the best course for the greatest good. It is about small steps on a steady path. We must take our government back from the lobbyists and big-money interests that make it impossible for politicians to both do the right thing and get re-elected. Too often political races come down to the interests of the few to the detriment of the many. We need to be the ones to fix that.

Apathy will kill Democracy most efficiently. Become a partner in your government. Vote, read, write. Show government that you want better, if not for yourself then for your children and grandchildren. America has wandered in the dark before and come back to see the light of truth shine on its face. It will happen again but only if we care enough to make it happen. There are men and women in office who want to be leaders for more than venal reasons. Seek them out and support them. Do your best to get them help. Don’t be content to complain. Be the difference.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

First Up

Why blog at all? It seems just a little narcissitic to me to presume that anyone wants to read what I think on any given issue. On the oher hand, I do have a viewpoint that I share freely. This is another way to put that viewpoint in front of people and to share their thoughts about it.

Give me the sense to not stick my foot in the conveniently open orifice and let's see what happens.