The World According to Nick
Politics, News, Photography, and Triathlons... What don't I talk about?
Tuesday, 31 July 2007
Vote Thompson '08!

Which one you ask?  Perhaps Fred Thompson...

Or maybe even Tommy Thompson...

But what if the Thompson Twins don't satisfy your lust for Thompson Presidential mania?  I know what we need... we need a third Thompson to really spice things up.

How about Ed?  He did get 10% of the vote for Wisconsin Governor in 2002:

Word is floating that Ed Thompson, who has served as both mayor and city councilman in Tomah, Wisconsin (and got over 10 percent of the gubernatorial vote in 2002 running with the LP), may end up seeking the Libertarian Party's presidential nomination next year.

Ed Thompson running as a Libertarian... just what Ron Paul needs to look normal again.  The only thing that could be more confusing would be if each one was running for a separate party instead of just two out of the three.

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The Quotable Instant Messenger

Sometimes I wonder why my friends IM with me anymore.  At least I always ask permission first.  Names withheld to protect the innocent...

Nick: Is Flickr Addiction a known condition?
Friend: yes.
Friend: Stalkr

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A Bit of Blogging Advice

Every now and then a new blogger will ask me for advice on how to get more notoriety in the blog world.  Many more popular bloggers than I have written much on the subject, and they're not hard to find using the power of Google.  Instead of repeating their advice, I'd simply suggest you go hunt them down.  Despite 3+ years of blogging, I can't say as I've been nearly as successful as I'd like.  But there is one piece of advice that I'd like to share with new, up and coming bloggers, since in all my years of blogging, I really only think I made one mistake.

Never... ever... under any conditions... start your blog name with a W... or a Y or a Z for that matter.  Pick a name that starts with A, B or C.  You'll thank me later.

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Vomit

Seriously... I threw up a little in my mouth when I read this.  Do Not Read this with a full a stomach.  I don't know what we're supposed to do about people like this.  I certainly don't believe in Pre-Crime.  But in this case, I am very thankful for Freedom of Speech.  I've said it before, and I'll say it again.  I don't believe in suppressing any speech, no matter how awful.  If it does nothing else, it allows the truly hideous and dangerous among us to announce themselves to the world so we know they exist, and can watch them closely.  Without free speech, this monster would be doing the exact same things he does now... but nobody would know it.

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Biking Overload

I know... I know... ya'll are probably pretty sick and tired of all the biking pictures.  But what can I say?  First my ankle was screwed up, and then my back... so I wasn't able to train nearly as much as I would've liked the last couple of weeks.  And when you can't get out and actually spend two hours biking in the sun on a weekend, the next best thing is to watch others do it instead.  Here is the last Flickr set, this time with pictures from the Whitefish Bay Criterium on Sunday... which was the final stage of Super Week.  I've included some of my favorite shots below.  You can always click on one to see a larger version.  And I promise, this is the last of the bike shots for a while.

DSC_0046     DSC_0040

DSC_0060

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Monday, 30 July 2007
The Quotable Coworker

This is the tail end of a conversation I was having at work.  Names withheld to protect the innocent as always...

Me:  I'd be careful not to say that out loud too often.

Nick:  Of course not.  That's definitely not something I'd say with women around.  They'd probably lynch me.

Me:  And they wouldn't put the rope around your neck either.

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Monday Music

This is another absolutely fantastic track from the new Evans Blue album.  It's called Kiss The Flag.  As described by the band:

This song is not anti-war nor is it pro-war. It simply tells a story of a soldier who goes to fight and eventually dies for his country. It is a song for the ones who are left behind and have to deal with the pain that follows. However YOU feel about that situation, is all that matters.

It's a fantastic song, and part of a truly great album.  I suppose you can consider this to be somewhat of a Rorschach test.  Your view of the song comes directly from your view of the war.

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Sunday, 29 July 2007
Flickr Overload

This weekend I've taken more pictures that I can remember ever taking before.  First on Saturday I met the very talented local designer Phelony Jones on Brady Street to watch her work walk down the runway at the Brady Street Fashion Show.  You can see all the photos from the show in this Flickr set, but here is a sampling.  Click on any picture for a larger version.

Phelony Jones Presents     Phelony Jones Presents

Then I headed down to watch the Downer Ave. Criterium.  This is the second to last race in the Super Week series... with one more tonight that I'll be watching in Whitefish Bay.  Until then, here is a sampling of race photos from my Flickr Set:

DSC_0136

DSC_0081

DSC_0159

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Friday, 27 July 2007
What You Don't Expect To Happen When You Call 911

I wrote about this briefly a few months ago, but I recently received an email from the woman who's home was raided with many more details.  She included a PDF flyer with details of exactly what happened when her home was mistakenly raided by a drug task force... after she called 911 asking for help because there were drug dealers outside!  Here are some of the disturbing details from the flyer:

On Friday, February 16, at 1:00pm, there was a frightening incident at our home, involving police. My husband Bradford, one of our freelancers, Wade, and I were working in our living room when the doorbell rang.  Thinking it was the mailman or something, I answered the door to find two strange men, whom I didn't know. They did not immediately identify themselves. They were fighting on my front step over money, and one of them stated that the other one was looking to buy drugs from me. I was shocked, and called Bradford to the door for assistance.
...
A very short time passed after I made the 911 call from our home phone, and I heard a bunch of abrasive yelling outside, so I opened the door to see what was happening. When I opened the door I was met by a guy with a gun in my face, saying, "GET THE FUCK ON THE GROUND!!" Needless to say, I was terrified, and immediately complied. I did NOT know if he was a "good guy" or a "bad guy". I thought we were being robbed or something. AFTER I was on the ground he said, "STAY ON THE GROUND! I'LL SHOOT YOU IN THE FUCKING HEAD!!!"

As it turns out... the police are the ones who threatened to shoot her in the head... for calling 911 from her own home.  But as if that's not bad enough:

I was brought into our kitchen and requested to use the bathroom, to which the female officer replied, "Well THAT'S not gonna happen!" We were all detained in our kitchen while 10 officers searched our home. Then, the female officer searched me, without asking for my consent. Here's the embarrassing part. Despite my
need to use the bathroom, the female officer forced me to spread my legs to be searched, which caused me to wet my pants. This was and is very embarrassing and humiliating.
...
Then the three of us were all interviewed separately. Afterwards, the officers left our home as quickly as they invaded it, smiling and saying, "It's Miller time!", on their way out.

The local police are not providing any information to this couple after a drug buy went bad, and the dealer randomly choose their house.  The police officers who detained and searched them were non-uniformed detectives who were in an unmarked car.  What's unclear is whether the "buyer" was actually a confidential informant working for the police, who randomly chose that house.  Given the number of these stories I've read, I wouldn't be surprised if that's the case.  They didn't even identify themselves as police until everyone was cuffed and the house was being illegally searched.  All this after the home owners had called 911.

This family is just thankful their children weren't home.  And had a SWAT team been involved, instead of just overzealous detectives, things could have proved even more deadly.  Just another hard day fighting the War on DrugsTM I guess.

Update:  I just received email confirmation from Nicole that one of the two people participating in the buy was indeed a confidential informant working with the police, and that the dealer he was buying from randomly chose their house.  There is absolutely no excuse for what happened here.  I'd like to say that I'm shocked, but I've read about far too many stories like this.

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Flickr Friday

Nothing special again... just a random hodge podge of recent shots.  I figure to be taking a ton of pictures this weekend, so look for more in the coming days.  As always, you can click on any picture to see a larger version.

Woodpecker     Iris

Rooms Clean Quiet     Danger - Men Cooking

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Thursday, 26 July 2007
What Is Scott Walker Afraid Of?

The Milwaukee County Board has passed a proposal for an advisory referrendum on a 1 cent increase on the sales tax:

The board voted 10-6 to ask voters their opinion on a penny sales tax boost, which would raise $120 million a year. Under the plan, half the money would be used for property tax relief; $22 million would pay for county parks; and $18 million would go for transit. In addition, the remaining $20 million would be sent to the 19 municipalities in the county to offset police and fire costs.
...
The vote marks the third time the board has agreed on a sales tax increase. County Executive Scott Walker vetoed both earlier attempts and is expected to veto this one as well.

Fraley has this statement from Scott Walker posted, which says in part:

My objection to the $120 million sales tax increase is based on two issues: jobs and truth.
Sending out the message that taxes will go up $120 million in the county will drive more jobs and more residents out of the county. This is a job killer.

I agree that this tax boost would not be good for Milwaukee and should fail.  He doesn't say expressly whether he will veto this referendum, but it sounds like he will.  This would be a shame.  I wrote about this the last time this came up, but I can't seem to find the post at the moment.  But I know my thoughts on this haven't changed.  Republicans love to push the idea of a Tax Payer's Bill of Rights, and yet whenever a voter referendum like this comes up in Milwaukee County, all the Republicans want it vetoed before it gets to the ballot.

One of the hallmarks of TABOR is that voters decide whether they want their taxes increased.  In order for that to occur, we actually need to be asked.  You never know Scott, we might shock you and actually say no.  I know that's how I would vote.  But I actually want the opportunity to be able to vote no.  Because frankly, I think a referendum on a tax increase failing carries a hell of a lot more weight than your simple one man veto.

I would much prefer that this were a binding referendum, so that a no vote would actually mean no... but an advisory referendum that flips the finger at the County Board will do quite nicely as well.  And what if the voters of Milwaukee County vote yes to the tax increase?  Well... then we can't blame legislators for bad policy... we can only blame ourselves because we voted for it directly.

Referendums should only be feared if you are afraid of the voters Scott.  So what are you afraid of?

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Wow

Its amazing how one simple sentence can make my blood boil so quickly.  Generally I enjoy what Mike Nichols writes... but this sent me over the edge:

We already have a mechanism in this state, the thing is, for income redistribution. It's called the state income tax. Income redistribution is a valid function of government, and one that is openly debated in Madison all the time.

Income redistribution is a valid function of government?!!!!  THE HELL IT IS!!!

What's funny is that the overall theme of the post, about how MATC is taking money from suburbs without providing them representation, is very good.  It would be even better to point out that it's an unelected board.  But that one sentence just destroyed it for me.

Update:  Mike has added a comment clarifying what he said in his original post:

I guess I'm guilty of using too much jargon. Wealth or income is redistributed all the time. Basically, that's what happens when people are taxed and, for better or worse, money is shifted elsewhere for schools or poorer municipalities or people directly receiving various sorts of government assistance. Many people often argue those programs or subsidies are too big, but it's pretty rare to hear somebody say they shouldn't exist at all.

"but it's pretty rare to hear somebody say they shouldn't exist at all".  Hi Mike.  My name is Nick... and I'm a Libertarian.  We believe funny things like that.

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Wednesday, 25 July 2007
I'm Getting All Verklempt

Talkst amongst yourselves.  I'll give you a topic.  Rhode Island is neither a road, nor an island.

Discuss.

Via the always wonderful I CAN HAS CHEEZBURGER?  And if you want, you can see my I CAN HAS CHEEZBURGER submissions in this Flickr set.

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Just Say No to Performance Based Budgeting

There was a time in my life, when I was a good lil' Republican (I'll pause for a moment to allow you to pick your jaw up off the floor as you imagine such a time), and I used to think, like all good lil' Republicans do, that performance based budgeting was the cure for all our ills.  It does make a lot of good sense on paper.  At a simple level, it appeals to our parental instinct to treat government like a child (as opposed to the other way around which is more common), and not give your child his or her allowance unless their chores are done properly.  It works for parents (most of the time).  Why can't it work for government?  The simple answer is that in the government/citizen relationship, we give up power to government in order to perform certain tasks.  Parents on the other hand never cede power to children.  They merely delegate, and retain dictatorial rights at all times.

Anneliese Dickman at the Public Policy Forum blog writes today about performance based budgeting for the City and County of Milwaukee, and I would recommend against these ideas.  The budget is an awesome draw for agencies and government workers.  Tax dollars, which are forcibly collected at gunpoint from citizens, are an incredible carrot, and when dangled in front of government agencies, will cause those agencies to do whatever they have to in order to at it.  More importantly, they will take the easiest route to get that money.  This generally has grave consequences for the citizenry as the easiest route is rarely the one intended by policy makers, are almost never the best one.

One excellent example of performance based budgeting run amok is the War on DrugsTM.  In the 1990's, fresh from the Republican Wave of Change and the Contract With America, Congress began tying federal funds for police forces to the number or drug arrests they made.  The more drug arrests they made, the more money they got.  You could even get grants from the Department of Defense for assault weapons and phased out military gear so that your small town police force could have it's very own SWAT team.  And now because there was money to be used that could help your police budget, making arrests because more important than finding and fighting crime.  Even if no charges were eventually filed, drugs would be confiscated, and arrests would be recorded so that the money would keep flowing.  Non-violent offenders will be gone after instead of dealers and violent offenders because you can catch more non-violent offenders for less cost and risk, which does more to satisfy the federal requirements.  As has been seen throughout the country, this has deadly consequences as SWAT teams are deployed in appropriate situations, killing innocent people.  CATO has published a very comprehensive white paper on this topic which is worth your time to read.

The lesson is clear.  In order to get that money, government agencies will find ways to meet the stated performance indicators, but rarely do they meet the intent of the indicator.  Reports will be falsified.  Dummy data will be created.  If arbitrary dates are set to get something done, "that date will be met", but the work won't have been done.

Performance based budgeting is really about laziness when it comes right down to it.  Instead of actually working with agencies to determine what and how they should do things, and then determining what that will cost, people would much rather tell agencies to "figure something out, and if it works, we'll pay you."  The end result is the same lack of oversight that Republicans are complaining about today.  The only difference is that the money got shifted differently.

There simply is no replacement for actual oversight and hard work.  More importantly, it's much easier to oversee something the smaller it gets.  If we would stop entrusting government to do more and more, it would be much easier to manage.

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Bonus Track

I was going to save this for next week's Monday Music, but this is just so awesome, I couldn't wait.  Evans Blue released their new album yesterday which I got last night, and it is phenomenal!  I highly recommend that everyone go out and get it immediately.  Here is one of the new tracks from their album The Pursuit Begins When This Portrayal of Life Ends... it's called Q (Best One of Our Lives).  Enjoy.

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Tuesday, 24 July 2007
Ron Paul Out In The Wild!

Today while I was biking after work, I happened to see my very first presidential yard sign for the upcoming election:

Ron Paul for President

It was for Ron Paul!  Not Hillary, or Obama, or Romney, or Giuliani.... but Ron Paul!  Speaking of which, the New York Times had a very nice, rather long, profile of him the other day which is worth reading.

Does it mean anything that the very first sign I saw was for Paul?  Probably not... but its worth noting anyway.

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Dog Bites Man Story

Talk about a fantastic headline:  "Tiny brain no obstacle to French civil servant"

Via Hit & Run.

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Tag... You're It

Tee Bee tagged me to list eight random things about myself.  The only problem is... I did this once before.  So I went back through the old list, and they still all apply... and I thought it was damn funny when I did it.  So instead of coming up with a whole new list of eight things, I'm just going to copy the old list.  I of course will start numbering at zero again since it's a perfectly good number that shouldn't be wasted:

Random Item 0:  I used to have a lop eared bunny named Buster.  And yes he was named after the cartoon character.  Had I gotten a girl bunny, she would have been named Babs.

Random Item 1:  When I have ice cream at home, I eat it out of coffee mug.  I like the convenience of having a handle, and not getting my hands cold holding a dish.

Random Item 2:  I have three older sisters, all of whom were born in Wisconsin and now live in California.  I was born in California and now live in Wisconsin.

Random Item 3:  I've never broken a bone, and never had any sort of major surgery.  Yep, I have my tonsils, adenoids and appendix.

Random Item 4:  I've never been roller skating, roller blading or ice skating.  I don't have any particular aversion to these activities, it just so happens I've never done them.

Random Item 5:  I once met Richard Moll who played Bull Shannon on Night Court at the top of the Sears Tower in Chicago as a kid.  Somewhere I have a picture where you can barely see my head, and he is resting his arm on my head.

Random Item 6:  I have memorized the lyrics to a lot of Neil Diamond songs. It's not because I was the member of a Neil Diamond cover band either. This fact I can blame squarely on my mother, who absolutely loves Neil Diamond, and who only played his tapes in her car when I was growing up. Love him or hate him... if you hear Forever in Blue Jeans enough times as a kid, it'll sink in.

Random Item 7:  I always carry a pocket knife with me.  I swear I'm one of the few people around who does any more, and all my friends know I do, and know to come to me if they need a knife for a minute.  It always makes me sad when they can't figure out how to close it again when they're done, since it has a locking blade.

Alright... this time I will tag some other people just to keep things fun.  So I want to hear from Ally, Jenna, Dean, and Matt.

Responses:

From Dean.

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Sweet!

Finally!  I hope this actually goes somewhere.  I'd love to see some new blood take over this seat:

In a novel approach to bipartisanship, two Concordia University professors said Monday that they are planning a collaborative campaign for Congress.

Political scientist Jeff Walz, 40, will seek the 5th District congressional seat as a Democrat.

Historian James Burkee, 39, will run as a Republican.

But the two scholars, who have joined forces in recent years as speakers and commentators, will appear together on the campaign trail and combine their promotional efforts.

"We are going to run against each other but with one another, if that makes sense," Burkee said.

Each will be vying for the U.S. House seat held by longtime Republican lawmaker Jim Sensenbrenner of Menomonee Falls.

It's an interesting approach... and I'm not sure it will work.  But, at least it seems to be a concerted effort to break the stranglehold that Sensenbrenner has on that seat, that he realistically no longer deserves.  At the very least, it might make him actually try to justify to the voters why he should get to go back to Congress.

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I Am A Writer

One of the reasons I enjoy 100 Word Stories so much is because it forces me to attempt a certain economy of language that normally I don't bother with.  If the topic is something I'm interested in, and you let me, I'll ramble on until you slap me across the face.  But because I also like to ramble, and I enjoy the satisfaction of putting down complete sentences, I have a hard time with text messaging, and to a lesser extent, instant messaging.  Because I can type relatively fast, I have no problem putting down full complete thoughts in IM.  Though I think it drives the people I talk to a little nuts when I do.  There is nothing more frustrating than thumbing out a long message, only to fat finger the "end" button and have it all go away (iPhone owners may take this moment to brag in 3... 2...1... go).

I certainly don't like the language that has cropped up to support it either.  "c u l8r" just doesn't do it for me.  I want to write more, but end up going with the flow just to get it out.  Half the time I leave a text conversation not knowing exactly what was said.  Short messages leave too much to interpretation in my mind.  Sometimes I hit send... and think... "Crap... that's not what I meant!"  That drives the engineer in me nuts.  That's not to say that texting doesn't have it's place.  There are times when talking on the phone isn't convenient, or it's too loud, and texting works great.  I'm all for it then.

It turns out by admitting this, I'm starting to really show my age...

"I only use e-mail for my business and to get sponsors," Martina Butler, the host of the teen podcast Emo Girl Talk, said during a panel discussion here at the Mashup 2007 conference, which is focused on the technology generation. With friends, Bulter said she only sends notes via a social network.

"Sometimes I say I e-mailed you, but I mean I Myspace'd or Facebook'ed you," she said.
...
Butler replied that she uses Facebook on her cell phone. "I need (Facebook) everywhere I go, but I log into e-mail only once a week," she said.

More and more, social networks are playing a bigger role on the cell phone. In the last six to nine months, teens in the United States have taken to text messaging in numbers that rival usage in Europe and Asia. According to market research firm JupiterResearch, 80 percent of teens with cell phones regularly use text messaging.

Exactly when did talking on the phone go out of style?

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Monday, 23 July 2007
A 100 Word Challenge

How does one write a story about Harry Potter, when you've never read any of the books or seen any of the movies?  I always find a way.

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All Your Gambling Dollars Are Belong To Us

The State of Wisconsin would like to remind you once again that gambling in the state is illegal... even though Texas Hold'em is becoming even more popular:

But the prizes mean a lot to law enforcement authorities, some of whom are cracking down on poker tournaments as the card game rides a new wave of popularity in Wisconsin and elsewhere.

West Allis city officials recently shut down tournaments at two local taverns, notifying the organizers that any prize of value would render their games illegal.
...
According to state law, illegal gambling is defined as any chance game in which "one stands to win or lose something of value."

But, the State of Wisconsin would also like to remind you that you're more than welcome to play Wisconsin Hold'em through the Wisconsin State Lottery to cure your gambling fix.  And according to this memo from the Legislative Fiscal Bureau, there are requests to increase advertising for the State Lottery by as much as 63%.  So gambling is harmful enough to be illegal, but the state wants you to do more of it.  And in the mean time, to ensure that pesky private enterprise doesn't steal business from the state, we'll just go ahead and make it illegal for you to compete, and throw you in jail if you dare resist.

Sound about right?

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Administrative Savings

One of the things that liberals generally argue when they push for socialized medicine is that it will magically generate all this extra money in "Administrative Savings".  I wonder if these are the types of savings they are thinking about:

The U.S. Department of Agriculture distributed $1.1 billion over seven years to the estates or companies of deceased farmers and routinely failed to conduct reviews required to ensure that the payments were properly made, according to a government report.

In a selection of 181 cases from 1999 to 2005, the Government Accountability Office found that officials approved payments without any review 40 percent of the time...

In a letter responding to the GAO report, the Agriculture Department said that the payments were not necessarily examples of fraud or abuse and that auditors did not prove any specific cases of cheating. The department's field offices defended the practice of routinely paying dead farmers' estates without fully investigating the claims, citing staff shortages and competing priorities. The agency also said that any overpayments would amount to less than 1 percent of farm subsidies paid between 1999 and 2005.

To the liberals who I know read my blog, but hardly ever admit it... be honest with me.  Name one existing efficient government program.  I'll give you even more credit if you can name an efficient program that is so large as to cover an entire state, or even better, the nation.  Using garbage collection as an example hardly seems fair.  And if you can't name one that can... why do you think that health insurance will magically become the first?

Via The Volokh Conspiracy.

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Monday Music... Back to the 80's Edition

Thanks to my darling sister Sarah I have a love of a lot of 80's music... especially The Police.  Here they are live in Atlanta singing one of my favorites... King of Pain.

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Rectory Takes On a Whole New Meaning In This Story

I don't know why I find this story funny exactly, but I do, and so now I share it:

The Chicago Sun-Times reports that a Chicago priest pleaded guilty Friday to stealing nearly $200,000 from parishioners so that he could give cash and gifts to a gay stripper.
...
During a search of the rectory, police say they found nude photos of Sosnicki, including one that showed him sleeping in the priest's bed.

I blame gay marriage.

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These Kids Won't Be Allowed to Live In Franklin...

...or in a several other area communities if the current trend keeps up.  They might also be forced to have funny green license plates on their cars, when they're finally old enough to drive that is:

Two 13-year-old boys from Oregon were charged with felony sex abuse -- later downgraded to misdemeanor counts of sex abuse and harassment -- after they swatted female classmates on the buttocks while running back to class after lunch earlier this year.

According to the felony complaint, each boy was accused of subjecting the girls to "sexual contact by touching a sexual or intimate part" of the body "by means of forcible compulsion." If convicted, The Oregonian says the middle-school students face up to 10 years in juvenile jail and will be forced to register as sex offenders for the rest of their lives.

I wonder if because their victims were minors as well... whether they'll be consider pedophiles and child sex offenders too.  But hey... at least we're doing something.

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Not Far Off I'd Say

How to Win a Fight With a Liberal is the ultimate survival guide for political arguments

My Conservative Identity:

You are a Free Marketeer, also known as a fiscal conservative. You believe in free-market capitalism, tax cuts, and protecting your hard-earned cash from pick-pocketing liberal socialists.

Via Boots & Sabers, who ironically enough is labeled as "an Anti-government Gunslinger, also known as a libertarian conservative."  How is he labeled as a libertarian and I'm not?

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Sunday, 22 July 2007
How Do They Get Elected In The First Place?

Congress' approval ratings have sunk to another new low, at 14 percent.  Bush by comparison is at 32 right now.  During the last Congressional election, the people were so fed up with Congress, that they re-elected 93% of the House, and 82% of the Senate that was up for re-election that year.  And that was referred to as a "Democratic Wave of Change".

The entire House of Representatives is up for election every two years.  It's designed to most closely represent the people, which is why it has to be elected so often.  Hell, my representative (Jim Sensenbrenner) has been in Congress as long as I've been alive.  He's been in Congress so long, that he no longer has to even try in order to get elected.  I don't think he even bothers to buy new yard signs.  A handful of people put up a 10 year old sign, and that's good enough.

What is wrong with us?  How are these people, who we so obviously hate, getting re-elected year after year?  After all, we are the ones re-electing them.  Are people so stupid as to think that their representative is great, while the rest are the problem?

As a Libertarian, I'm generally against term limits.  After all, you should have the right to vote for whomever you want.  But I'm starting to come around to the concept.

Update:  Ann Althouse links to this graphic at the New York Times.  It shows that voters are 56% less likely to vote for someone who has never held elected office, and 45% more likely to vote for a long time Washington politician.  So the odds really are stacked against the challenger.  Obviously this is not a revelation, but its good to see real numbers.  I like numbers.  Apparently you'd best believe in God if you want to get elected, be younger than 70, not gay and not a Muslim.

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The Quotable Chiropractor

So while I was at the Carl Zach Cycling Classic yesterday, I took the opportunity to utilize the services of a race chiropractor who had setup shop along the route...

Her:  So what am I working on today?
Me:  Lower back.  I had a race on Saturday, and on Monday it went into spasm.
...
Her:  So what category are you?
Me:  Actually, I'm a triathlete.  I did an Olympic distance race Saturday.
...
Her:  So I'm guessing you lost a lot of weight training to do triathlons then?
Me:  Actually, I lost some of it before, and the rest training.
Her:  I noticed the stretch marks, and that was my polite way of asking.

That's the one thing nobody ever mentions about losing a significant amount of weight.  You could end up with more stretch marks than a pregnant woman.  It doesn't offend me to ask though... its just part of who I am... though I wish it wasn't.  But she did a fantastic job.  I woke up this morning and got out of bed without an audible groan of pain for the first time since Monday.  There's still some soreness, but that will gradually go away.

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At The Carl Zach Cycling Classic

I was in downtown Waukesha yesterday for the Carl Zach Cycling Classic, which is part of Super Week... otherwise known as the International Cycling Classic.  It's a great series of criterium bike races in Northern Illinois and Southern Wisconsin.  I took a ton of pictures, which you can see in this Flickr set.  Here are some of my favorites.  You can click on any of them for a larger version.

DSC_0005 DSC_0011

 DSC_0063

DSC_0173

DSC_0180

If you like what you can see, there are three races next weekend in Milwaukee.  I'm going to try to make the Downer Ave. race, and also the Whitefish Bay Classic.  The full schedule is here.

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Friday, 20 July 2007
Quote of the Week

This week's best quote comes from Electric Venom regarding the news that Dick Cheney will be taking over while Bush has his colonoscopy:

No word whether doctors expect to find a more coherent policy about the Iraq war up there.

Whether you think we should stay in Iraq in general or not... this is still spot freakin on.

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Blogging Pet Peeve

I seldom do this, but the sites that are using Snap (usually Wordpress blogs with a special plugin) are really starting to bug the hell out of me.  They're just as annoying as pop up ads.  Turn them off now.  I don't need a popup preview of every link that I happen to hover my mouse over.

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Flickr Friday Vanity Edition

Today's Flickr Friday features... well... me.  I have some pictures up of me at last weekend's Lake Michigan Triathlon, and also at last month's Lake Mills Triathlon.  Special thanks to Fleet Feet Sports in Madison for providing me with the originals from Lake Mills.  As always, click on the images to see a larger version.  And just out of curiosity, do you all enjoy the weekly Flickr Friday?

Lake Michigan Triathlon - Bike     Lake Michigan Triathlon - Finish

Lake Mills Triathlon - Swim

Lake Mills Triathlon - Run

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Thursday, 19 July 2007
Why Hasn't Fred Thompson Officially Announced Yet?

Eugene Volokh may have figured out the real answer...

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The Quotable Instant Messenger

As always... the names are changed to protect the innocent.

Friend: i have been screaming slightly more than normal today
Friend: just one of those days where it frustrates me i guess
Friend: usually i have done a good job giving up hope

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A Preview of Healthy Wisconsin

Yes please... let's put the government in charge of taking more of our money.  I'm sure they'll get it right:

For the past year and half, Betty Ives has watched her Social Security checks shrink as the government deducts premiums for prescription drug coverage she is not receiving. Ives estimates she is out more than $1,000, and has been unable to get anyone to solve her problem.
...
Ives is one of about 138,000 seniors nationwide who are stuck in bureaucratic gridlock as Medicare Part D premiums are erroneously deducted from their Social Security checks. An additional 141,000 owe money, and can't get the money to be deducted from their checks.
...
"I called Medicare. I called Social Security. I called everybody," said 78-year-old Peter Stotzheim of Fond du Lac, who said he and his wife, Frances, are owed more than $1,000 in wrongfully deducted premiums. "They said they would get back to us and they never got back to us."

As I've said before, insurance companies have one major incentive to get it right.  If they don't, then they will lose their customers.  Government agencies have no incentives to get it right.  If they get it wrong, they can keep taking your money by law, and if you refuse, they can send the police after you.

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Problems Are Fixed? I Don't Think So

In a comment regarding an earlier post on Milwaukee County Election Fraud, where I said "its just shocking how little care the Milwaukee County election officials seem to take with one of our most basic rights", Jay Bullock responded with "Use the past tense--seemed, etc. Sue Edman has done a remarkable job cleaning up the place."  If you think things are still in good shape, take a look at this video from after the polls closed last fall and tell me things are getting better.

Find out more at Washburn's World.  Full disclosure on this one... I helped John cut together this video from the raw footage he took.

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The ACLU - Protecting Your Abridged Rights Since 1920

My friend and coworker John was telling me about this poster he had from the ACLU that they made in honor of the 200th anniversary of the ratification of the Bill of Rights.  He's got a great story behind the whole thing, but I think the poster itself is just hilarious.  I insisted that he bring it in so that I could take a picture of it and share with the rest of you.  Please do click on it to see the larger version so you can pick out the details:

Bill of Rights

Some interesting things of note.  You'll notice that there is no mention made of the 2nd, 3rd, 7th, 9th or 10th Amendments.  Right there they forgot half of them.  Then they included amendments that aren't even in the Bill of Rights (not that those aren't important as well).  But above and beyond forgetting half the Amendments, they forgot many of the rights included in the ones they did mention.  The 1st Amendment secures 6 rights, but they only mention 3.  Same goes for other amendments as well.

So this is what the ACLU thinks is important.  Nice to have a visual reminder of that now and then.

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Wednesday, 18 July 2007
He's Got a Good Point

USA Today has an article on the MRAP (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle):

Years before the war began, Pentagon officials knew of the effectiveness of another type of vehicle that better shielded troops from bombs like those that have killed Kincaid and 1,500 other soldiers and Marines. But military officials repeatedly balked at appeals - from commanders on the battlefield and from the Pentagon's own staff - to provide the life-saving Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle, or MRAP, for patrols and combat missions, USA TODAY found.

Now this does bring back memories of when Hillary complained about lack of high tech body armor for the troops, and then many troops came back and said they didn't want it because of the added weight and loss of mobility.  But this seems to be more valid, if for no other reason than the source is commanders on the ground.  Rogier van Bakel has taken this one step further and asks a good question:

I wish the paper had published a little sidebar comparing the glacial pace of the armored-vehicles procurement program to the speed with which the White House will get its fleet of 23 brand new executive VH-71 helicopters. The birds are to be used to transport the president as well as visiting dignitaries.
...
 If the fancy presidential helicopters end up costing taxpayers eight billion dollars, that's the equivalent of 16,000 MRAPs, an amount several magnitudes greater than the number needed under the most dire Pentagon scenario. And if the White House had decided to order just four or five executive helicopters, instead of 23, the savings would still have been more than enough to build sufficient numbers of MRAPs to protect every single U.S. service member sent on motorized patrols in Iraq.

What say you Mr. President?

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A 20,000% Tax Increase?!

No, I didn't misplace the decimal point.  The Federal Government is proposing a 20,000% increase in the cigar tax:

It's no mathematical error: The federal government has proposed raising taxes on premium cigars, the kind Newman's family has been rolling for decades in Ybor City, by as much as 20,000 percent.

As part of an increase in tobacco taxes designed to pay for children's health insurance, the nickel-per-cigar tax that has ruled the industry could rise to as much as $10 per cigar.

This one shocks the hell out of me.  Not because of the size of the increase mind you.  The government has no qualms about such things.  They have the power to kill you for not complying, why should they worry about the amount?  No, I'm surprised because I largely believed cigars and pipe tobacco would always be exempt from general tobacco legislation.  Not just because I smoke a cigar from time to time, but rather because legislators do.  And if politicians are known for one thing, they're known for doing what's in their own best interest.  And Lord knows, they'd never raise the taxes on things they enjoy.

Of course, seeing as how Republicans have no problem making prostitution illegal even as they have a habit of going to them for certain services, and Democrats serve endangered species at wedding parties they throw, I guess I shouldn't be all that surprised.  Either way, this is a pretty stupid move.  They're going to raise the price of cigars so high as to pretty much put cigar makers out of business, which means that no money will come in to pay for their pet project.

Via Professor Bainbridge.

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Thank God He Doesn't Work for the IRS

My coworker John Washburn is probably one of the most meticulous people I've met in a long time.  And even after more than two years of roadblocks trying to get information from the State regarding the 2004 election, he's still as passionate about it as ever.  He's finally gotten a hold of some of the records, and out of the first 100 wards he's looked at in Milwaukee County, he's discovered that they counted more than 1000 ballots than they gave out.  This is probably just the tip of the iceberg too.  At best, its shoddy record keeping.  At worst, it's evidence that the ballots boxes were stuffed illegally.  I've also seen some of the records and video he has, and its just shocking how little care the Milwaukee County election officials seem to take with one of our most basic rights.

I would be very afraid if John ever worked for the IRS.  Being the good Libertarian that he is though, there is no chance that would ever happen.  I'm glad he's on our side.

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This Seems Fitting Somehow

I made this last year in honor of Global Orgasm Day.  But somehow, it still seems to have relevance now that the Senate is voting on whether to pull out or not...

Iraq - Don't Pull Out

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Tuesday, 17 July 2007
Linking Campaign Financing to Health Insurance The Wrong Way

There is an interesting editorial talking about how we need to have public financing of elections in order to remove corruption from insurance companies and finally get the Healthy Wisconsin we apparently all want.  While an interesting premise, it is completely wrong, and ignores basic history of how government works:

Health care is looming as a major issue in the 2008 elections, but a root cause of soaring health care costs is being ignored both by the public and the press, at least until now. I’m referring to a very conflicted system of political campaign financing.

Think about it. Had the insurance industry not been a major contributor, we'd have fixed our health care system years ago. Its biggest single problem is the huge portion of total health care costs – about 31 percent, according to a group called Physicians for a National Health Program and others – that are consumed by the insurance and billing bureaucracy without ever providing direct patient care. Costs for marketing, broker sales commissions, actuarial costs, gatekeepers, high executive salaries, increasing shareholder profits, even the high costs of their lobbying and campaign contributions are passed on to the patient (and in most cases employers, who have been taking their jobs offshore to avoid the costs).

Eliminate that waste and we could expand health care coverage to 100 percent of our people for the same dollars we spend to cover just 85 percent today.

The basic premise of the editorial is that the insurance companies are lobbying to keep their stranglehold on the market, and that if we were to eliminate their dollars, then the problems would go away.  Wrong.  Companies lobby with government because government controls more and more of what we do, and how we do it.  It is that simple.  Lobbying efforts and money spent has dramatically increased over the last 20 years.  In fact, it has increased along with the size of government.

But what is the cause, and what is the effect?  Government regulation causes increased lobbying.  Simply put, if government has the power, then people are going to spend their money to direct that power in the direction they want.  By encouraging stupid schemes like Healthy Wisconsin, which will give significantly more power to an unelected board in Madison, and you are only going to encourage corruption as insurance companies try to vie for that money.

The solution to campaign corruption and increased lobbying isn't to regulate it any more.  The solution is to shrink government back to levels where there is less need to lobby for anything at all.  The larger government becomes, the more of a magnet it will be.  It's just that simple.  If you want insurance companies to answer to the people, then you need to give the people (and by that I mean individuals) back their power.  You need to let people individually buy their insurance.

If you do that, insurance companies will have to provide good services and lower prices to compete because they can't simply write a relatively cheap campaign donation to Governor Doyle.  If you give all the power to one person, or a small group of people, then it's easy for them to be corrupted.  Spread that power across the entire population, and that corruption goes away.

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Russ Feingold... Thy Name is Oxymoron

It's ideas like this that just make me laugh out loud at how wrong Congress is:

When a nearby farm can provide fresh produce to a school down the road, both our farmers and our schools benefit. In the upcoming Farm Bill, there is an opportunity to give our farmers a chance to grow more of what is served in our school lunch programs.

Congress should include provisions in the upcoming Farm Bill that build on the Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act and the Department of Defense Fresh Program to ensure that our children have access to healthy food at school, ideally from local sources. At the same time, we also need to remove barriers to local healthy foods such as changing procurement rules that now sometimes prevent local schools from purchasing from neighboring farmers.
...
Improving farmers’ access to local schools, underserved communities, and farmers markets will take an investment from Congress in an infrastructure that builds lasting partnerships among farmers and the local schools and organizations they serve.

Why does a government body thousands of miles away need to get involved in getting two entities that are less than a few miles from each other to do something?  Odds are, because Congress has already put up legal road blocks to prevent this from occurring.  And what is with a national infrastructure for local sharing?  Are you kidding me?!  So instead of just removing said roadblocks, and removing all Congressional regulation, Russ wants to replace one regulation with a different one.  Why?  National government forcing local governments to work with local businesses, and calling that increased local control.  I love when oxymorons simply appear before your eyes.

If local schools and local farms want to work together, great.  But what if they don't?  Why should Washington D.C. force them?  We live under a federal government, not a national government.  Get that through your head.

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Something Doesn't Compute

So why is Mitt Romney opposed to gay marriage then?

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Nothing Makes You Feel Old...

... like really hurting your back for the first time.  There's the pain, the inability to move without pain, and that thought that keeps going through your head saying "But this has never happened to me before!"  Shouldn't this have happened on Saturday?

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Monday, 16 July 2007
Random Observation

I figured out a long time ago that I'd never end up on Charlie Sykes' blogroll.  Blogrolls don't mean that much anymore anyway, so it's no skin off my back.  But still, I find it rather interesting that Jessica McBride's new blog isn't anywhere to be seen on his either...

And yes I know I'm blogging a lot today.  Apparently I have frustration to get out... it's cathartic.

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Putting Words In His Mouth

One of the things that bothers me most about the anger towards Ron Paul is that it's over things he's never said.  His biggest problem is that he's really just a libertarian, and therefore he attracts the more "out there" questions.  The latest invented controversy is over his declaring that we're in danger of a staged terrorist attack.  The problem?  He never said we were in danger of such a thing.  The interviewer did, and then Ron Paul started talking about the danger we face in losing our civil liberties, which is a pretty straightforward libertarian fear that always exists:

Think what you will of libertarian Texas congressman Ron Paul, but I’m crying foul over this post to the Politico’s "Crypt" blog: "Ron Paul warns of staged terror attack." Paul simply did not say that the government is planning a fake terror attack, and to say otherwise is journalistic malpractice.
...
What I did hear was an unhinged radio host ask Paul a wide-ranging, minute-long, wacky question about terrorism, Bush the "dictator," and neo-cons that ended with "How much danger are we in of some new Gulf of Tonkin provocation?" Paul begins his answer with, "Well, I think we’re in great danger of it - we're in danger in many ways." But as he continues, Paul says nothing about a staged terror attack or the Gulf of Tonkin. Rather, he goes into his usual schtick, complaining about the "great danger" involved in the loss of "civil liberties" and the evils of U.S. Iraq policy. Then he speaks to the likelihood of a real terrorist attack - not a staged attack:

"I would say that we're in much greater danger than we've been, even four or five years ago, whether it's overseas or even by terrorists here at home, because I just think the policies are seriously flawed."

This is how you know someone is getting too popular.  People who disagree with him are inventing controversies, about things he never said.  Ron Paul's star must be on the rise, otherwise he wouldn't be worth the trouble.

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Wauwatosa... Helping Business Wherever It Can

A new Alterra is going to be opening in Wauwatosa where Lockers used to be on 92nd and North Ave:

The Wauwatosa Community Development Committee this week recommended approval of a conditional-use permit to operate an Alterra Café in the new Locker's Pointe condominium/retail building at Swan Boulevard and North Avenue.

Alterra wants the 1,675-square-foot café to be open from 6 a.m. to midnight daily with outdoor dining on the north and west sides of the building. The committee, however, recommended, 7 to 1, that the interior of the café only be open until 11 p.m. and outdoor dining hours not exceed 9 p.m., contingent upon approval of the patio layout by city staff.

Other items of concern to the committee that will be taken up before final vote on the conditional use permit are the patterns and color choices of the outdoor patio table cloths, and the style of cement to be used for the patio.  One alderman suggested that failure to stock enough Cowboy Cookies in the cafe could jeopardize their permit too.  "We just want to help them run their business as best as possible," the alderman said.  "That's our job.  To help businesses grow.  Hopefully they'll allow us full access to all the financial planning documents when their permit comes up for renewal, so that we can assist in choosing all their bakery products to fit the needs of the community."

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Why Do Women Do That?

Someone brought in bagels to work this morning.  I happened to stop by the kitchen, and there were just a few left, along with the requisite 1/16 of a bagel sitting there.  You know it happens in every office.  A woman decides she doesn't want the whole thing, so she cuts one in half.  Fine.  Half a bagel is perfectly acceptable.  But then another woman comes in, and decides she doesn't want the whole half, so she cuts the half in half.  Why?  And for God's sake... why would a woman choose to take a half of a half, and cut that in half and leave the rest?!  By now it's just a bagel-bite, that nobody else is going to take.  Do you really think 1/16 of a bagel is going to make you fat?

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Why Does Governor Doyle Hate Poor People?

After reading this article regarding a proposed hike in the federal cigarette tax, I have to wonder why Governor Doyle would laud the exact same efforts in our fair state.  He must really hate the poor:

This past week, Senate negotiators agreed on a bill that would increase the federal cigarette tax by 156 percent (from 39 cents to $1.00) in order to raise $35 billion for the popular SCHIP program that gives federal money to states for children's health insurance. SCHIP is set to expire at the end of fiscal year 2007 (Sept. 30).
...
Not only are the payers of cigarette taxes poorer as a group than the payers of these other taxes, but there are fewer of them. In fact, the burden of the proposed cigarette tax hike on the lowest-earning 20 percent of households is 37 times heavier than it would be if the government raised the money with the federal income tax. Put another way, the proposed cigarette tax hike would hit the poor with the same force as cutting the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) by one-fourth.

And here I thought he was progressive.  Apparently not.  Via Hit & Run.

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Monday Music

Nothing much to say about this except... freaking fantastic song.  Turn up the volume on this one.  Happy Monday everyone!

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"Only The Good Things"

Thank God for the Onion...

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Saturday, 14 July 2007
So How'd The Race Go?

So Nick, how'd your first triathlon in Lake Michigan go?  You mean... my last triathlon in Lake Michigan?  That just about says it all doesn't it?  I did the Olympic distance this time around, which means I was swimming just shy of a full mile in Lake Michigan, in approximately 50 degree water.  I did the polar bear this year, and I think I can say that this was worse.  At least with the polar bear, you're in and out in a relatively short amount of time, and you're not doing much once you're in the water except swearing and jumping up and down.

When you do a triathlon, you actually have to swim in it.  And the slower you swim, the longer you're in the cold.  There was actually one whack job who was doing the swim in just a Speedo!  I'm not sure he actually finished though.  Several people gave up partway through and got pulled out of the water by lifeguards or the Coast Guard.  At one point, I was almost one of them.

Then something strange happened at the turnaround for the Sprint swim (which was only about a 1/4 of the way through the Olympic distance swim).  I stopped noticing the cold, and a calm came over me.  I was wearing a wetsuit, but it's sleeveless, so my arms were bitter numb (as were my feet).  But suddenly I found myself able to just swim.  I wasn't swimming great mind you, but I was going.  And suddenly it all seemed workable, even as the swells kicked up near a rocky area, and the wind started to blow harder.

And after 45 minutes in the cold, I was out of the water and carrying on with the rest of the race.  This race isn't all that superbly run.  They have about 5 different events all going together, and they intermingle bikers and runners through sections of the course.  Parts of the road were in awful condition too.  But in the end, despite a soar ankle by the end of the 10K, I had cut about 3 minutes off my previous Olympic time in Oshkosh (which only had a 3/4 mile swim instead of 0.9 miles).  Here are my results, and here are the results from the rest of the field.

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A Brief Conversation With God

Me:  So... God.  About that little prayer this morning...
God:  Hey, it was good hearing from you.  It's been a while.
Me:  Well, I've been pretty busy.
God:  Try running the world some day.

...

God:  So how did everything workout with the prayer?
Me:  Well, I wanted to talk to you about that.  I woke up this morning, and it was raining here, and it rained pretty much all the way to Kenosha.  But I do have to say, you kept the rain away from the race just like I asked.
God:  Well, I didn't want to discourage more conversation.
Me:  Right.  But God... what was with the wind?
God:  You never said anything about no wind.
Me:  But was it really necessary?
God:  Exactly how did you expect me to blow the rain clouds out of the area without wind?
Me:  You couldn't just snap your fingers or something?
God:  Come on Nick, you know I don't work that way.

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Friday, 13 July 2007
Milwaukee Bike Trails

Anyone who has tried to navigate the gigantic PDF files that Milwaukee County considers internet ready access to the Oak Leaf Trail map will tell you that they're behind the times.  So as a public service to county residents, I'm beginning to map out bike trails in Milwaukee County using Google Maps.  I'm starting with the Oak Leaf Trail, and plan on expanding it to include the Hank Aaron and others in the area.

This is not a complete map yet, but I hope to have it all done in the next week or so.  If you're interested, you can look at it here.  I'll post updates as the project moves along.  It is color coded right now with blue lines meaning that the trail section is off road paved, and green meaning on road paved.  I'd like to eventually add extra color coding denoting trail conditions, but that is for version 2.0.

The nice part about doing it this way is that if you have a Google Account (in other words a Gmail address), you can add this to your list of custom maps and have it on hand at all times.

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So Much For a Clean Screen

Dammit!  Just when I finished wiping the latte off my screen from the last funny post, I then had to go read The Dilbert Blog.  It's a take on the Bob Allen scandal in Florida that only he could write.  You've been warned.

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Phallic Flickr Friday

Does that look like what I think it looks like?  You can click to see a larger version if you want... not that size matters or anything.

Phalic Hen

I have some more flower photographs uploaded to my Flickr site if you're interested.  The rest are safe for work... I promise.  Here's another sample.

Hosta

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What's That Strange Beeping Noise?

You just can't make this stuff up.  Now if you'll excuse me, I have to wipe the iced latte off my screen.

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If You Think Not Having Voter ID Is An Issue...

... then you need to sit down and have a conversation with this guy some day.  I'm not saying that Voter ID couldn't possibly prevent some fraud... but the reality is that the poll system in the area, especially Milwaukee County, is so broken that anyone wanting to sway an election wouldn't need to go to that kind of trouble.  I'm not talking about paying for votes either.  That's spending a lot of money for relatively little gain, not that this doesn't happen too.  But someone could literally just stuff the ballot box if they wanted to and not get caught.  Not only would they not get caught, there is a high likelihood that nobody would even know it happened, to even know to look for the perpetrator.

It's that bad.

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Thursday, 12 July 2007
At The Races...

As you might recall, I was seriously thinking about Storming the Bastille tonight.  But, with my mild sprain, I've decided to rest up for Saturday when I'll be in Kenosha doing the Olympic distance triathlon there.  I'm realize I won't be at a hundred percent, and I'll be taping up my leg for good measure, but I'm doing it anyway.  This is only my second Olympic distance race, and it's the first race I've ever done where the swim was in Lake Michigan.  Hopefully it won't bring back memories of polar bears.  The bike leg is also different than any other I've done before since it's more criterium style, meaning I'll be doing 5 loops around the same short course, which makes it a more technical ride.

Cross your fingers for me.

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Pissing On The Constitution

Arizona has joined several other states in banning the sale in the state of a shirt with a particular political message.  It doesn't matter what the message is.  People in power have decided that they don't like what some people are saying, so they don't want you to say it anymore.  Even if you disagree with the message of the shirt, and singles to C-Notes says that the majority of people who read my blog do... what will they decide to ban next?  They might come after something you agree with next.  And if they do, who will back you then?  That's the whole point behind the 1st Amendment.  It's so damn clear that it should be beyond debate, and yet we continue to have to argue it every single day.

Makes me want to scream.  Via Hit & Run.

Update:  The Volokh Conspiracy takes a closer look at the real legal ramifications and constitutionality if you're interested.

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Right Facts, Wrong Conclusions

Every time I read one of Kane's columns, I see a lot of good stuff in there, but then he always has a way to screw it up just enough...

I have previously suggested the feds must view McGee as Milwaukee's own Tony Soprano. But when the federal government prosecuted local crime boss Frank Balistrieri and his two sons in 1984 on conspiracy and extortion charges, the defendants remained free on bail despite government concerns that they could intimidate witnesses.

Political kingpin Chuck Chvala, the former Senate majority leader who was convicted of felony corruption charges, wasn't imprisoned after being charged with extortion even though prosecutors expressed fears that if he were free he could intimidate witnesses.

He brings up McGee's charges.  He brings up the witness intimidation.  He makes apt comparisons to other cases in the past.  OK.  Fine.  But what are we supposed to do about it?  Kane would have us believe that the right solution here is to let McGee out on bail so he can freely intimidate witnesses, and possibly cause physical harm to them.  Why?  Because we've let others do it in the past.

So if we made mistakes in the past, that's justification to continue to make mistakes in the future, just to be fair.  And you wonder why things never improve for some people?  Some of us actually try to look to the past in order to learn from it, so as not to make those same mistakes again.  The philosopher George Santayana famously wrote that "those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."  That is a warning to all that ignorance has consequences.  But what does one say about someone who is not ignorant of the past, but still doesn't learn the lessons?

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Wednesday, 11 July 2007
Drinking Right Dispatches

Not much to say other than it was a small group for Drinking Right last night.  Ya'll missed a great live Jazz Band, and some great conversation where some of us were quite quotable.  But most importantly, you missed a once in a lifetime event... you missed Fred drinking a beer.  And I have proof!

Fred... With a Beer!!!

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Adventures in English Translation

Englishman:  I think I'll buy that car, it seems to be in pretty good nick.

Me:  Did someone say my name?

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I Don't Think It Means What You Think It Means

This is what is wrong with the Democrats... they think this is pork barrel:

Democrats said the Republican plan was awash in pork-barrel projects - such as a $2.9 million property tax break for restaurant kitchen equipment - and would cripple the University of Wisconsin System.

"This is Edward Scissorhands on meth - it's cut, cut, cut, cut, cut," Rep. Jennifer Shilling (D-La Crosse) said of the UW plan.

A tax break is not pork barrel.  That is actually letting some people keep their own damn money.  I'd argue that it would be better to let all of us keep some more of our money... you  know... like a flat tax or abolishing the income tax in favor of a larger sales tax.  But hey, we'll take what we can get.  And if giving you guys meth to cut our taxes is what it takes... then so be it.  I'll go find some crack or heroin too if you want.

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Smoking May Kill You... Or Save You

Once again I'd like to point out that the government is incapable of making broad reaching decisions that affect the lives of individuals.  Today's sample is this study that has shown that smoking may significantly reduce your risk of getting Parkinson's Disease:

"Although we found that current smokers and those who had continued to smoke to within five years of Parkinson's disease diagnosis exhibited the lowest risk, a decrease in risk (13 percent to 32 percent) was also observed in those who had quit smoking up to 25 years prior to Parkinson's disease diagnosis," it said.

"Other tobacco products also appeared to be protective. Men who smoked pipes or cigars had a 54 percent lower risk. The number of chewing tobacco users was small, but there was a suggestion of reduced risk associated with this product," it added.

Of course it may also give you cancer.  Then again, nicotine makes you feel good.  But this just goes to show that every decision in life has positive and negative trade offs.  Those trade offs are something that each individual should be able to weigh and consider for themselves.  For instance, if a person has a family history of Parkinson's Disease, perhaps smoking would be in that person's best interest.  In fact, maybe we should pass a law allowing them to smoke in restaurants and at work.  We can call it medical tobacco!

Via Nobody's Business.

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Tuesday, 10 July 2007
Thank You Barbara Lawton

As you might be able to tell from my last few posts, I've been getting angrier and angrier with each story I read.  Then I read Barbara Lawton's comments regarding the Live Earth concert:

"The science is in," said Lawton. "It's time to recast the challenge of global warming as an opportunity to create jobs and economic growth."

God... I haven't laughed so hard in a while.  I have tears running down my cheeks.  Thank you Barb for the most comically stupid statement I've read in a while.  I needed that.

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Drinking Right Tonight?

It is the 2nd Tuesday of the month... so normally I'd think Drinking Right.  But seeing as how Casper is MIA, and Sean is dropping the ball again, it's hard to tell.  Anyone wanna go get plastered?

Update:  There may be some people there...

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You Ignorant Stupid Politician!

These sorts of characterizations make my blood boil!  These sorts of outright lies, in order to increase the size of government, are exactly what have lead to rising health care cost!

Assembly Republicans, who emerged with a budget after numerous closed-door meetings, rewarded insurance companies and out-of-state drug manufacturers with their inaction on health care reform. The Assembly budget ignores cost savings efforts, but manages to include Health Savings Accounts, which act as tax shelters for those few wealthy enough to put away money for future illness.

Jon Erpenbach, you are either a complete fool, or an outright liar.  Pick which one you'd rather be.  First of all, characterizing the Assembly budget as "secret" and "closed door" after what the Senate did when it snuck in Healthy Wisconsin is laughably stupid.  We're way beyond the pot calling the kettle black.  You're just simply smoking pot now.

Secondly, calling a Health Savings Account a tax shelter for the rich... let's just say it's a good thing you're not in ear shot of me, because your ear drums would have burst by now.  Of course... they are a tax shelter.  But I can't think of a better reason to shelter your taxes than to pay for your own health care!  Why would you want to deny lower income citizens the ability to have a greater percentage of their dollar to pay for medical expenses?  It's not just for the rich either.  Anyone with a high deductible plan can put their money away tax free to spend on their health care.  All the money you will save by having a higher deductible plan will be yours tax free to pay for regularly occurring health expenses.  For some people, that could amount to hundreds of dollars a month that they can put away, tax free!  And if something catastrophic does happen, then you still have normal health insurance to pay for unexpected emergencies.

But that's what you're really scared of isn't it?  Hundreds of dollars every month that you can't get your filthy dirty hands on you bureaucratic son of a bitch.  Hundreds of dollars that decrease your influence every month.  Hundreds of dollars that give less incentive for companies to make corrupt deals with you.

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It's Because of the Racism!

This is horrible!  What can we do to fix this?!

Minorities are underrepresented on Milwaukee County juries, according to an audit report released Monday.

African-American adults made up nearly 24% of the county voting-age population, but they accounted for just more than 16% of jurors last year, the county auditors' report says. Hispanics made up nearly 6% of county adults but accounted for just more than 3% of jurors.

Whites made up two-thirds of the adult population, but they accounted for nearly 79% of the jurors last year, the report says.

The audit was requested by County Board Chairman Lee Holloway and prompted by the March 2006 acquittals in state court of three white police officers accused in the beating of Frank Jude, a biracial man. The jurors in that case were all white. Those verdicts led to "public outrage," the audit notes.

This must be because of the racist white lawyers who disqualify black jurors!  The jury pool was rigged!  Or.... maybe not... but as usual you have to keep reading way way down:

The audit finds that blacks and Hispanics were far more likely to fail to show up for jury duty than whites. Forty-five percent of blacks and 68% of Hispanics called for jury duty failed to report last year; 13% of whites failed to show.

So maybe if you'd actually shown up for jury duty like you were supposed to, you might actually have gotten a chance to affect the verdict.  Given the numbers that don't show, I'm surprised that as many blacks and Hispanics get picked as it is.

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There Oughta Be a Law

In over 20 years of biking, more than 15 of which have been on bikes with quick release wheels, I've never had a wheel come off:

TRENTON, N.J. Certain bicycles with quick-release wheels couldn't be sold in New Jersey under legislation approved Monday by the Assembly. The bikes allow wheels to be removed without tools so they can be quickly secured with a chain lock or transported in vehicles. Lawmakers said they are prone to accidents. Under the bill, it would be illegal to sell bicycles with quick-release wheels if the bicycle has a front wheel less than 20 inches in diameter. Assemblyman Paul Moriarty, a Democrat from Gloucester, said the bill mainly targets children's bicycles.

This my friends is what we call classic rent seeking with a healthy dose of nannyism.  For it seems that a bike company has a new technology out which is still quick release, but counts as a "wheel retention" device as to evade the language of the law.  So instead of the company trying to compete on the merits of their product, they will instead make everyone else's product illegal.

For the kids of course.

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The Quotable Instant Messenger Part Deux

Names are removed to protect the innocent once again... different friend than before...

Nick: But talking about boobs got me hits... go figure
Friend: probably did when we had the boobs post that one time too
Nick: Men are a predictable lot aren't we?
Friend: soft squishy and a source of sustenance
Friend: your first love
Friend: guess I can't blame you guys

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And Don't Think He Won't

Gotta love how the Journal mentions this as if it's normal and perfectly reasonable (emphasis mine):

After the Assembly passes the budget, Assembly and Senate leaders are to meet to broker a compromise budget they can send to Doyle - a process that leaders again warned might take several months. Doyle can then rewrite the final budget with his veto pen.

Although technically correct, it's thrown in there as if this is a normal part of the budget process that is without controversy.  Hopefully the compromise bill won't include the words Healthy or Wisconsin anywhere near each other, or we're screwed.

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Monday, 09 July 2007
Doesn't It Have to Be Dead In Order to Bury It?

That word is far from being dead...

There was no mourning at this funeral.

Hundreds of onlookers cheered Monday afternoon as the NAACP put to rest a long-standing symbol of racism by holding a public burial for the N-word during its annual convention in Detroit.

"Today we're not just burying the N-word, we're taking it out of our spirit," said Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. "We gather burying all the things that go with the N-word. We have to bury the pimps and the hos that go with it."

Isn't that putting the cart before the horse?  Don't you need to kill it before you can bury it?

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The Quotable Instant Messenger

I've withheld the name of my friend to protect the innocent...

Nick: Yeah... there was really no need for all the shoving or anything
Friend: it was probably over a girl with boobs
...
Friend: sorry, our lunch has me on a one track mind for jokes
Nick: You had boobs for lunch?
Friend: no i went to lunch with some sex starved married men where there were several pretty ladies
Friend: for WI that is
Nick: HA
Nick: You're turning into a California girl snob already
Nick: They don't call it silicone valley for nothing
Friend: indeed

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Impeach Bush!

Or more accurately... try to impeach Bush!

There's a reason the professional politicians won't touch this one, and it isn't that they're too stupid or venal to see it when opportunity knocks.

Impeaching either the president or the vice president will take up all the time of the Congress for the next six months. That means not getting things done that presumably most of my progressive friends would like to see. It also means not having any achievements to show the electorate next year except . . . impeaching Bush.

And impeaching Bush is a political loser.

I know, I know. He's EVIL. And the electorate hates him! Of course it's time to strike.

No. The electorate hates him for getting us into the Iraq mess. That's not illegal. The stuff that's arguably impeachably illegal, like Guantanamo, is the stuff the public likes.

As I read Megan's reasoning here, I'm having a hard time seeing the downside.  Congress will tie itself up with a political loser of a debate, and will for all intents and purposes be unable to pass stupid liberal laws which I hate anyway.  And the downside is... what?  Bush will be dragged through the mud?  He will be made ineffective during this time?  How is that any different than what's already happening?  He's acting impotent already.  Might as well do the same for Congress while we're at it, and make my libertarian heart jump for joy.  Bush would probably end up looking better at the end of a down and dirty impeachment debate then when he started.  It seemed to work for Clinton.

Of course, then we'll miss out on the opportunity for Cindy Sheehan to run for Congress...

Cindy Sheehan, the soldier's mother who galvanized the anti-war movement, said Sunday that she plans to run against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi unless she introduces articles of impeachment against President Bush in the next two weeks.

Sheehan said she will run against the San Francisco Democrat in 2008 as an independent if Pelosi does not seek by July 23 to impeach Bush. That's when Sheehan and her supporters are to arrive in Washington, D.C., after a 13-day caravan and walking tour starting next week from the group's war protest site near Bush's Crawford ranch.

I'll admit, this is a mostly cynical post, but the reality is... Congress has a lower job approval rating than the President anyway, and I believe that vast majority of items that Congress takes up are things they are Constitutionally forbidden from doing.  I'm really having a hard time seeing the downside to an impeachment debate.  I really would like to see Sheehan run for Congress though.  I'd love to see her actually face the reality of representing a majority of people, instead of a tiny crazy minority.  That seems to be an important reality that is simply beyond her comprehension.

Of course, I'd rather that Congress actually debated things that they had authority to do, and then did them.  Like abolishing Social Security, replacing the income tax with a national sales tax, or at least removing tax restrictions on buying individual health insurance.  But hey, that's asking a lot isn't it?

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Engineering IS Art

Here's a pretty cool story.  My alma mater, MSOE, is building an art museum on campus:

MSOE is constructing a full-blown art museum on its downtown campus - complete with curator, exhibit manager and a permanent collection of 600 European and American paintings, prints and sculptures that date to the 16th century.

Ahead of an Oct. 20 opening, workers last week installed the steel-frame dome that crowns a four-story atrium entrance at E. State St. and Broadway.
...
What makes the art so valuable to MSOE, Viets and Grohmann concur, is its single unifying theme: work and workers in hundreds of manifestations.

Among the oldest pieces are canvases that show primitive Flemish iron smelters and old German foundries, dark and dramatic with flashes of hot orange ingots. The collection covers a gamut of realism, impressionism and expressionism - glass blowers and miners; sweaty muscles in blast furnaces and pastoral images of farm fields; railroad yards and stone quarries.

Of course I'm a little biased, but I've always considered engineering to be art.  It is the art of taking cold scientific knowledge, and combining it with craftsmanship, in order to create a useful object for the real world.  Quality engineering is something you want to have in your home, and use every day.  It's a stainless steel toaster that you don't put in your cupboard when you're not using it.  It's an iPod (or iPhone) which you proudly wear on your belt.

Engineering is the art of combining form and function to make everyone's life better.  A good piece of engineering is a thing of beauty to behold.

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Please Don't Be an Ankle Sprain

Please don't be an ankle sprain.

Please don't be an ankle sprain.

Please don't be an ankle sprain.

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Monday Music

Today's selection is Dashboard Confessional, in honor of a great concert on Friday at Summerfest...

* This video was not taken at Summerfest though...

Update:  I updated the video... not realizing that the first one I linked to actually featured about 15 girls singing the song louder than the band.  Sorry about that... this one is better.

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Sunday, 08 July 2007
Why All Good Christians Should Be Libertarians

I understand that I'm biased, and think that everyone should be a libertarian, but I especially find it rather interesting that many Christians are not.  Many good Christians think that government should be in the business of prohibiting people from doing things that they find immoral, that are really just private choices that they make about how to live their lives.  I'm talking about things like doing drugs, using prostitutes, or having homosexual relationships.  You know... the big three that Libertarians think should be legal, that Republicans generally don't think should be legal.

Having read the Bible a number of times, I know that there are lots of things mentioned that people shouldn't do, and things that people should do.  God tells us how we should live.  And yet, people often times don't live that way.  Given my love for the Constitution, I've also noticed that the Bible doesn't exactly enumerate any rights that people have with God.  There is no freedom of speech, or press, or religion.  But there is one right that God gave to man... free will.

Now why on Earth would God give man free will, and then tell us how we should live?  Why wouldn't God just take the simple route, and hard wire in our minds, and in our souls, how to live?  The world would certainly be a better place.  I mean, take the 1st Commandment... I am the Lord thy God, Thou shalt have no other Gods before me.  That is perhaps the most important one, and yet it is also the one that is broken most often.

As usual, God knows something that the rest of us still have a hard time figuring out.  The first commandment is about loving God... and yet God knows that love without the choice not to love is without meaning.  Likewise, living a good moral life, if you have no choice but to do so, has no meaning.  And so God gave us one right... the right to free will.  We have the right to choose to not live as we're supposed to.

And that is the core of libertarian philosophy.  Free will to do with your life as you see fit.  Yes, that means that people may live an arguably immoral life.  But those judgements are not for us to make.  Those are for God to make.  Government's job is not to decide how to live a good moral life.  Those choices are for each individual to make, and reconcile with the consequences they may face in life because of it.

I know I normally don't break into religion on my blog... but it is Sunday after all.  Feel free to drop a dollar in my collection plate if you want.

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Not As Cut and Dry As You Think

Apparently everyone is getting a big charge out of this graphic provided by The Early Spin blog regarding the number of murders in India vs. the United States.

indiacrime

Apparently this is because Eugene Kane said this today:

He wanted to stress he felt the Juneteenth Day attack was not racially motivated, blaming it instead on out-of-control young people who would have attacked anyone. As someone raised in another country, he has become accustomed to the level of violence in America, which is unlike his native India, where a country half the size of America with more than twice the population has dramatically fewer murders each year.

People are saying that he hasn't done his fact checking... but I'm not sure if that's true.  I say this because when you look at these exact same statistics on a per capita basis, you see that the United States is #24 with 0.042802 per 1,000 people  while India is #26 with 0.0344083 per 1,000 people.  That's because India's population is more than 3 and a half times larger than that of the United States.  So India's murder rate is lower than the United States, even though they are a much more densely packed nation.  There are about 10 times the number of people per square kilometer in India vs. the United States.

Now then, I don't want to get in an argument about who's culture is worse here.  Certainly the concept of "honor killings" against women which is still common in India is both horrifying and beyond comprehension.  And murders, no matter where they occur, are awful and heart wrenching things which destroy societies bit by bit.  But before you start bashing someone for not having proper statistics, be sure yours are right.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to take off my Engineer hat again for the rest of the day so I can stop being pissed off by people misusing statistics.

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Le Tour de Non France

Generally I try to keep up with Le Tour every year.  I'm not totally religious about watching every stage, but seeing as how Versus replays the day's stage many times throughout the day, its pretty easy to catch a good deal of Le Tour.

I find it disappointing that there is hardly any news about Le Tour in the media here in the states though.  Armstrong is gone, and the Floyd Landis controversy is still fresh in a lot of people's minds, so I suppose it shouldn't be surprising.  But still, there are a lot of great Americans still in it.  George Hincapie, Dave Zabriskie, and Levi Leipheimer all have shots, to name a few.

You know that the Tour organizers feel this pain as well... because they're reaching out beyond France again this year.  The prologue and the 1st stage of the Tour aren't in France this year.  They're in England!  The prologue yesterday went through the streets of London, and the 1st stage today is from London to Cantebury.

I appreciate that the Tour is definitely becoming international, but many other countries host major stage race events, so why should Le Tour de France turn into Le Tour de Europe?

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Saturday, 07 July 2007
You Know You're Getting Old...

... when you tip extra and say thank you for being carded at Summerfest.

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Friday, 06 July 2007
Ahead of His Time?

Would Benjamin Franklin's Phonetic Alphabet seem as silly back then if they had SMS and Instant Messaging?

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Flickr Friday Fireworks

Wednesday night I went down to see the Wauwatosa Fireworks and setup with my camera and tripod in an effort to capture something decent.  You can see all of them here, but here are some of my favorites.  As always, you can click on any image to see a larger version.  Enjoy the rockets red glare, and bombs bursting in air...

DSC_0088

DSC_0028

DSC_0073

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People Wonder Why I Reflexively Oppose The National Guard in Milwaukee

It's reading things like this, and seeing that people in our society are not only becoming used to the militarization of our police forces, but encouraging it... it frightens me to my very core:

SWAT teams were originally designed to be used in violent, emergency situations like hostage takings, acts of terrorism, or bank robberies. From the late 1960s to the early 1980s, that's primarily how they were used, and they performed marvelously.

But beginning in the early 1980s, they've been increasingly used for routine warrant service in drug cases and other nonviolent crimes. And thanks to the Pentagon transfer programs, there are now a lot more of them.

This is troubling because paramilitary police actions are extremely volatile, necessarily violent, overly confrontational, and leave very little margin for error. These are acceptable risks when you’re dealing with an already violent situation featuring a suspect who is an eminent threat to the community.

But when you're dealing with nonviolent drug offenders, paramilitary police actions create violence instead of defusing it. Whether you're an innocent family startled by a police invasion that inadvertently targeted the wrong home or a drug dealer who mistakes raiding police officers for a rival drug dealer, forced entry into someone's home creates confrontation. It rouses the basest, most fundamental instincts we have in us – those of self-preservation – to fight when flight isn't an option.
...
Peter Kraska, a criminologist at the University of Eastern Kentucky, estimates we’ve seen a startling 1,500 percent increase in the use of SWAT teams in this country from the early 80s until the early 2000s. And the vast majority of these SWAT raids are for routine warrant service.

Read the rest for some more frightening statistics.  And if that's not enough for you, read this white paper on the topic.  And that's just with police SWAT teams.  Here is a map showing just a small fraction of these SWAT team abuses.  Now imagine what would start happening if we threw in the National Guard.

That's why I not only say no... I say hell no, no way.

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Thursday, 05 July 2007
Don't Get Diarrhea in Fort Lauderdale

This is just taking homophobia to all new levels:

Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jim Naugle is concerned about "homosexuals ... engaging in sex, anonymous sex, illegal sex," in the city's public restrooms, so he wants to spend $250,000 on a robotic toilet with a door that springs open after a few minutes.

"We're trying to provide a family environment where people can take their children who need to use the bathroom without having to worry about a couple of men in there engaged in a sex act," he tells the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

The local CBS affiliate reports that the toilets -- which could cost $350,000 a piece --  are designed to accommodate one person at a time and "are self-cleaning, self locking, and have a special timer that opens the door and sets off a siren if it thinks you've been in there too long."

The paper says Naugle has been on a crusade against indecency in the restrooms, even though local police say they're not aware of any reports about people having sex in the public toilets.

"There's no evidence, no reports or arrests made for any men having sex in any restrooms," Sgt. Frank Sousa tells the paper.

Lack of an actual problem has never stopped any politician from initiating a solution, which will then cause all sorts of newer, larger problems they can solve, all on the tax payers dime.  For the kids of course.

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It's Not Vanity...

It's progressive pricing.  After all, the rich should get taxed at a higher percentage than the poor... likewise they should be charged more to have their hair cut.  Seems like perfectly logical liberal thinking to me.

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Yet Another Government Rat Hole

As usual, the problem seems to be government legislation.  And what is the proposed solution?  More legislation of course:

The series, "Subsidies Without Scrutiny," found 40% of jobs promised by 25 firms that won $80 million in state aid over a six-year period failed to materialize. The series also found major shortcomings in state subsidy records, making job-creation promises difficult to track. And the state often lowered job goals rather than cancel subsidies or seek repayment.
...
Changes under study include accountability measures that would require clearer goals for subsidies and holding companies to terms of deals, such as job creation, lawmakers said. Some also hope to winnow the large number of programs - 40 in the Commerce Department and 152 subsidy variants in all of state government.

State Sen. Mark Miller (D-Monona) said he plans to introduce legislation this year with Minnesota-style reforms. One likely provision: Any subsidized jobs must pay a living wage, defined as double the federal poverty line. That would work out to about $20,000 a year for a family of two, he said.

Typical bureaucratic, and generally liberal, thinking.  First, I would suggest that any company that needs subsidies in order to create jobs is probably on its way down hill, and therefore shouldn't be getting subsidies in the first place, because the company is unprofitable, or is likely to fail.  So Nick, are you seriously suggesting that we only subsidize successful companies?  Of course not.  If a company is successful, then it doesn't need subsidies to create jobs.  So Nick, what companies should we subsidize?  You seem to have missed the point.  We shouldn't be subsidizing any companies.  Duh.

The irony here (which is lost on those in Madison as usual) is that the government is going to give money to companies so that they can pay higher salaries for jobs where the employee might be getting government assistance.  So instead of the government giving the money directly to the person who needs assistance, we're going to give it to the company, who can then give it to the employee.  The employee then loses out because they just got taxed on their subsidized assistance.  After all, the government needs to take back it's fair share you know.  But now we feel like we've done something, because we've taken a person off of a welfare roll, and given them a job!  It's a fake job, with a failing company, but at least its something right?

How about ending the subsidy program all together, lowering the tax burden on companies in the state, and allowing them to create real jobs paid for with the higher profits that will be made as a result of less government intrusiveness?

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Democracy Does Not Mean Life By Committee

What is Democracy?  We all have the basic notion that it means "government by the people"... but what does that really mean?  We all vote on who is in charge, with each person getting a vote.  Yeah... we get that.  But then what are "they" in charge of?  Does Democracy mean that those who are placed "in charge" get to run our lives?  Do we have to just shut up and accept it simply because "they" were democratically elected?

How do we stand up and say... NO!  You don't get to decide how I plan for my retirement years.  You don't get to decide how I care for my health.  You don't get to decide how my children are raised.  Those are all private matters... and you have no right to decide those things by committee.  They don't affect you, and so you should have no say in those choices.

But of course, "they" are not only democratically elected... but "they" are also the ones who have the big guns... literally.  And as soon as you say no, "they" can come and throw you in jail, or worse.  The tyranny of the majority will always trample on the rights of free thinking men, and kill the ones that resist.  That is the power of Democracy.

Remember that now that you've celebrated your "Independence".

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Wednesday, 04 July 2007
Remember What This Day Is About

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their Creator, with certain Inalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security."

Stop and think about what your government does for you today.  Think about what your government forces you to do today against your will.  How much does your government take from you, and never return?  That is what this day is about.  How much do we now depend on government, making it impossible to shed what we have wrought?

"And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor."

This day is about limiting government, abolishing it, ensuring freedom for all, and the cost of doing this.

Here's to high treason.

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Tuesday, 03 July 2007
It's Just Politics As Usual

I don't know what to think about the actual merits behind commuting Scooter Libby's sentence, except to say that it's politics as usual.  Democrats are decrying this as another terrible crime against democracy by George Bush.  Of course, those complaints ring incredibly hollow given who Bill Clinton pardoned during his presidency.  Republicans are all saying that this was a decent and kind thing to do, and gleefully bring up said Clinton pardons as reason for Democrats to STFU.  Of course, those gleeful cheers ring just as hollow given that Republicans bitched and complained about those very same Clinton pardons when they were happening.

The end result is that nobody is beyond hypocrisy here.  Democrats are hypocrites for complaining about something they've done, and Republicans are hypocrites for doing something they've complained about.  Like I said... politics as usual.  Nobody is clean here, and nobody has the right to gloat.

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Ladies and Gentlemen...

I present to you yet another case of iPhone schadenfreude.  Is it wrong that I take such joy in these stories?

Some may say that it's just jealousy because I don't have an iPhone.  But the reality is, I could get one right now if I wanted one.  I can afford it, and they're available everywhere.  But the simple fact is, I don't need it.  There was a time not that long ago when I went out an bought all sorts of cool gadgets.  I have since learned that I shouldn't buy anything like this until the third time I want it.

If I buy it too soon, and I don't need it, I end up trying to make excuses to use it, and it eventually just goes wasted.  Then by the time I actually have a reason for it, there is something newer, better and cheaper out there that I'd rather have and I end up kicking myself.

I don't need an iPhone.  I don't need to be that connected to the world.  It's bad enough that I blog as often as I do.  I don't need to do it in my car, or while I'm trying to relax at Lake Park.  I like disconnecting myself from the world.  I like not being reachable.  I like not having the ability to reach people sometimes.

So that's why I laugh at the troubles people are having... because their stories all seem to be wrapped up in this obsessive want for an iPhone.

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Is It A Tax, A Fee, Or a Fine?

Who can tell any more?  They aren't even trying to distinguish between them in Virginia:

Starting today, Virginia drivers are in for one of the region's most egregious money grabs in a long time. Authorities are slated to begin imposing a jaw-dropping $1,050 "abuser fee" on drivers registered in-state who are caught speeding 20 or more mph over the limit. It was tucked into the state transportation bill and passed quietly by the General Assembly months ago, with very little notice.

And this doesn't just affect speeding violations either.  It crosses over a broad range of driving offenses:

"The purpose of the civil remedial fees imposed in this section is to generate revenue," the new law states. (Virginia Code 46.2-206.1)

Driving as little as 15 MPH over the limit on an interstate highway now brings six license demerit points, a fine of up to $2500, up to one year in jail, and a new mandatory $1050 tax. The law also imposes an additional annual fee of up to $100 if a prior conviction leaves the motorist with a balance of eight demerit points, plus $75 for each additional point (up to $700 a year). The conviction in this example remains on the record for five years.

You can see the entire list at the Virginia website.  Penalties will be even higher for people charged with reckless driving, driving under the influence, and driving with a suspended license.  What's amazing here is that they fully admit that this is not about penalizing offenders, or trying to make roads safe.  It is purely about making more money.  If it was about safety or punishing crime, then these new "user fees" would apply to out of state offenders as well.  But only Virginians will pay the new fees if caught.

I've long ago suspected that if government didn't make as much money as they did off of traffic violations, that the 55 mph speed limit would have gone the way of the dodo long ago.  Almost nobody obeys it, and there is very little need to.  Cars are significantly safer today than 20 or 30 years ago, and not just in a crash.  Suspensions and steering improvements make 55 mph laughably slow.  No... this is selective taxation.  It's like a reverse lottery ticket.  If you're unlucky enough to get pulled over, then you get to pay for some highway.

But who on Earth would come up with such an egregiously selective and arbitrary law?  The part of the story that few people seem to be catching onto is that the architect of this law is a Virginia state legislator who just happens to also own a law firm which specializes in... wait for it... defending people charged with traffic violations!

The self-described "chief architect" for this bill is Delegate David Albo. Albo boasts on his website that he's worked for 20 months to bring this bill into law. What his website doesn't mention is that when Albo isn't legislating tough new laws aimed at Virginia's motorists, he's representing those same motorists in court.

That's right. Albo's a lawyer. And not just any lawyer. The firm that bears his name specializes in traffic law, particularly in representing people charged with DWI and reckless driving. And yes, that's the firm's actual URL: virginiadui.com.

That's right... a lawyer decided that there just wasn't enough demand for his business, so he decided to get a law passed which would make more people want to fight traffic tickets!  This is rent seeking taken to a whole new and obscene level.  This act borders on the criminal in my mind.  This man should be recalled immediately.

I'm just glad I don't live in Virginia... but am damn scared that some folks in Madison probably think this is the next brilliant wave in government revenue generation.

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Monday, 02 July 2007
Monday Music... Kicking It Old School

I'm still on my old school kick from Friday.  Here is some old style torch singing from the 1930's.  It's been a secret enjoyment of mine for a number of years.  Some day I'll manage to get a hold of some original records too.

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Belly Buttons Are Still Sexy

Despite evidence to the contrary.  Either that, or Hugh Hefner has found Eve after supposedly being dead for thousands of years.  Seriously... this is taking air brushing too far.

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Hi. My Name Is Nick...

Hi Nick!

I'm addicted to superfluous punctuation.

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Imagine For a Moment...

...that Geico was selling health insurance like they sell auto insurance.  How cool would that be?  A company who advertises on the fact that they pay claims quickly and easily, and for a very affordable price.  Plus they have an adorable spokes-gecko.  That's what I want our health insurance to be.  How do we get there?  I've already laid out the plan.

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Teaching Them Young

Hey kids!  Who wants to learn how to break into your neighbors home, scare them into having a heart attack, shoot their dog, destroy their property, and then hope you got the right address?  OOoooo!  OOooo!  I do!  I do!

Welcome to DARE, where you get to learn all sorts of neat things:

The kids sat in Frances Willard Elementary School's library Thursday morning, waiting for their teacher.

She arrived about 9:10 a.m., dressed in all black, including a black face mask.

"Sorry I'm late," Rock Island Police Officer Dytanya Robinson told the Junior Police Academy class. "I've already been working two raids ... I've been sweating in this hot suit since 6 a.m."

The students were wide-eyed and curious. They wanted to know more about her job with the tactical unit -- and her uniform.

This pretty much sums up a lot of the problems that I have with the War on DrugsTM in this country.  For one, the ease with which communities create SWAT teams that don't need them, using terrorism and insanely rare Columbine style shootings as justification.  They always claim that these teams will only be used in emergency situations... and yet here we have a woman who went on two in one night.  Doing what?  Drug raids of course.  Rock Island has a population of 40,000 and had two murders in 2005.  I know... it's like living in Watts.

I absolutely love the part about how she wears a black face mask.  Actually, I hate that part... with a vengeance.  It makes me absolutely sick to my stomach.  Police officers don't wear masks.  They don't hide their faces from the community like thugs and criminals... and yet this is part of her uniform.  Her uniform is designed to maker her look like a criminal.

And we're teaching our children that this is how the police operate.  I suppose we can at least take some solace from that fact that we're not as bad as Iran:

Terrifying pictures, to be sure. For me, the most revealing thing about them is that the police feel obliged to wear masks while conducting a drug bust in the capital. tells you something about the relationship between the people and the state.

It certainly does.  So much for that not being like Iran thing.  Via The Agitator.

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Sunday, 01 July 2007
I Hope You Didn't Wait In Line...

For those of you who were obsessed with getting an iPhone, I hope you weren't stupid enough to wait in line:

Me: "You're probably all out of iPhones, right? I wanted to touch one."

AT&T Dude: "Sure, we've got 8gig and 4gigs."

Me: "Waaa? You're not sold out? Didn't you have campers here?"

AT&T Dude: "Yes, but they got their iPhones, and we have hundreds left."

Me: "What's this? Hundreds you say? Why'd they camp out."

AT&T Dude: "I dunno, I mean, it's cool, but you're here on the next day"

Personally I agree with Jeff Atwood.  I'm waiting until version 2.0, or a good imitator.

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