Saturday, March 26, 2011


The headline is of course paraphrased from a famous and chilling line in the great Orson Wells' War of the Worlds. A city, and perhaps a civilization has been destroyed by horrible alien creatures and a lone "Ham" radio operator gives the universal call "CQ" for anyone to answer his call and, finally, in desperation, he calls out "Is there anyone there? IS there anyone?"

What brings this to mind is that a friend of mine told me recently that there were two factions at odds with each other in the Republican Party in Wisconsin. There's the upstart "TeaBag Movement" and then there are the old, tradionalist Republicans. At present the TeaBag Coalition seems to be in control of the party both in the State of Wisconsin and in Washington D. C. . It is said that the traditionalists are simply "using" the TeaBaggers to get control of the legislators and from there they will exercise "sensible", traditional conservative those of Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan.

I have trouble believing this.

Not trouble believing that the traditionalists are using the Teabaggers, but that they actually believe they are in fact in control the monster they've created.

From several sources and friends who are more traditional Republicans, I hear that they are privately troubled and disgusted by the antics of a number of newly-elected Republican Governors and the failure of the House of Representatives leadership (Boehner) to rein in the fire-eating freshmen Congressmen who owe their office, in a large part, to the TeaBaggers.


Are you really disgusted?

If you are then why, oh why do you let these crazy bastards get away with the bat-shit crazy laws they're implementing in D.C., Wisconsin, Ohio, Maine, South Dakota...actually about 13 states in total have implemented or tried to implement the same anti-union, anti-workers rights stuff that came out of A.L.E.C.. It's a brilliantly coordinated plan and I believe the traditionalists were caught just a "flat-footed" as the Democrats were.

My traditionalist friends are telling me that if the TeaBaggers go too far they'll step in an take control again so my question for them is this...JUST EXACTLY WHAT IS TOO FAR? I am begging my traditionalist Republican friends to do what only they can do at the moment: Purge the party of the radicals; restore sanity, order and reason to the process of government. If you don't, then in a very short time, there will be deep wounds in the flesh of our citizenry that may take longer to heal than those wounds inflicted by the War Between the States.

I have to ask myself why haven't the Traditionalists stepped up yet?

I have a fear that there are no "traditionalists" left out there...I think the monsters of the Tea Party have devoured them (or, like Zombies, eaten their brains) which is an obvious reference to the fact that the traditionalists actually LIKE what the TeaBaggers are doing...or maybe they are just in hiding.

So I put out this call to the they there at all...



Is anybody there?

Is there anybody?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

....just a thought....

March 14 of this year brought a reminder from a few of my fellow "nerd" friends that the day was "Pi Day".

I hear crickets.....

Okay. We'll start with the basics, the first being a relatively painless revisit to your 8th grade geometry class. Pi is the mathematical symbol for the ratio of the circumference of a circle to the diameter of the circle. It is represented by a symbol that looks sort of like Stonehenge (how ironic) and it is ALWAYS THE SAME is always equal to 22/7 or 3.1416. Look at the first three numbers: 3....1....4 or 3/14...March it?

Being as old as I am is sometimes a blessing because I actually lived through things which the current generation, and even my son, now refer to as "ancient history". Well it's not all that ancient when the space race with the Soviet Union was launching (pun intended) itself straight for the moon and talk of conquering space, exploring distant worlds and looking for intelligent live in the universe was the hot topic of conversation at the local coffee shops and late night road trips with your buddies....well, my buddies anyway.

Here's where Pi comes in: There were people who argued at the time that the rather costly and dangerous proposition of sending expensive hardware and human beings into space was wasteful and unnecessary. They proposed that if we really wanted to see if there was any intelligent life in the universe there was a much easier way to do it.

It was a well-accepted scientific proposition that the radio and television signals we were sending out even at that time would escape the earth's atmosphere and travel unimpeded through space forever. While the strength of the signal would diminish, it would still be discernible to anyone (or anything) who might care to listen. Hence, there was a program launched called "Pi in the Sky". It was absolutely elegant in its simplicity.

There was a radio antenna set up which beamed a constant numeric signal. I'm sure I'm simplifying it but it was a simple series of pulses that were something like: *** * **** * ******
3 pulses, 1 pulse, 4 pulses, 1 pulse, 6 pulses...3.1416.

Brilliant. Humans have known about Pi for a couple of thousand years. Any civilization advanced enough to build devices to detect a radio signal, would be advanced enough to get the significance of the pulses. Neat huh?

Okay if you're not a nerd like me I forgive you.

But what if somebody had actually picked up the message? Would they have cautiously tuned in to find out more about us?

That brings up a terribly disturbing thought....if an alien being listened in to our electronic communications going out over satellite or radio/TV tower, what would they think of us? How would they perceive us?

Would they consider us to be deficient in science or technology?
Would they consider us to be warlike and aggressive toward not only one-another but to anybody who was "different?
Or, would they, like the magnificently warped and creative mind of Rod Sterling portrayed it, consider us as LUNCH?

I may write more on this later. There is a rich field of inquiry to be farmed here.

Council meeting follow-up

Unless you are one of the two or three people who follow this blog you probably have no idea what I was talking about on the post concerning the Tuesday night council meeting.

To see what I meant, go HERE and tune in at the 5:00 minute mark. It's only about two minutes long.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

About Libya....

Like most others, I am sickened that we find ourselves in another war...or, if not war, another "police action". I think the first non-war/war/police action was Korea in 1950. Then, of course the was the non-declared action in Viet Nam....then there was...oh hell...I forget...there have been so many.

Some of my liberal friends are debating if not straight out opposing our involvement in Libya and Conservative friends are torn between outright Obama-inspired denunciation of the war and rah-rah cheer leading that is so characteristic of "national defense" conservatives.

Even worse, some of the more thoughtful liberal sites on the web are telling us that there is great confusion on the part of our administration as well as that of our allies as to who is supposed to run this show, what the objective of the show really is, and, most importantly, how it will end. There is criticism of the Obama Administration in not being decisive in a timely manner as well as being militarily incompetent also. I concede that both criticisms have merit.

I've only heard two view points in justification of our involvement which impress me.

First, and probably most important, is that Ghaddifi (spelling of his name seems to be free-form art among the media)was slaughtering his own people. I don't particularly care WHO'S people they were, the wholesale murder of any group of people is unacceptable and should be stopped and an international coalition appears to be the only legitimate source of military muscle to do it.

In defense of this first point, I will only briefly mention that after WWII there was a lot of finger-pointing taking place over allegations that both the United States and her Allies knew of the genocide against Jews taking place in Eastern Europe by the Nazi regime and yet the Allies and United States did not intercede until their personal interests were attacked. From that point on prevention of genocide, or prevention of wholesale slaughter of a distinct population has been seen as a legitimate reason for intervention...preferably with an international coalition. As truly objectionable as any war is, this is about as close as one could come to one of St Augustine's "just wars".

The other reason was a rather strange one and new to me. I'm not sure what to label it but it had to do with using Ghaddifi as an "object lesson" in the middle east. It goes something like this: We are experiencing the "Arab Spring". A time when rank and file Arabs of many different nations find their way to overthrow the hierarchical rulers who have oppressed and robbed them for years and set up their own forms of governments (hopefully democratic). I subscribe to the idea that the International Community should demonstrate that brutal crackdowns resembling wholesale murder will not be tolerated. And I also acknowledge the slippery slope that develops from such a policy.

Let's just hope Obama can pull this off and get us out quickly.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Joseph Heller had it right...

In case you can't place the name, Joseph Heller was the author of one of the greatest American novels ever written: Catch-22. I often revisit the novel and spend time with one of my favorite characters, who, strangely enough is unnamed except that he is know as the Father of the famous Major Major Major. And as those of you familiar with the novel also know, Major Major Major enlisted in the Army as a private and, in the infinite wisdom of the military, they immediately promoted him to the rank of ...Major.

But the Father is a more fascinating character to me; more so than Major Major Major Major because as Heller put it, mediocrity was "thrust" upon him but the Father was far more a master of his destiny. Read the following passages and see if the Father doesn't remind you of some people we all know.

Major Major's father was a sober God-fearing man whose idea of a good joke was to lie about his age. He was a longlimbed farmer, a God-fearing, freedom-loving, law-abiding rugged individualist who held that federal aid to anyone but farmers was creeping socialism. He advocated thrift and hard work and disapproved of loose women who turned him down. His specialty was alfalfa, and he made a good thing out of not growing any. The government paid him well for every bushel of alfalfa he did not grow. The more alfalfa he did not grow, the more money the government gave him, and he spent every penny he didn't earn on new land to increase the amount of alfalfa he did not produce. Major Major's father worked without rest at not growing alfalfa. On long winter evenings he remained indoors and did not mend harness, and he sprang out of bed at the crack of noon every day just to make certain that the chores would not be done. He invested in land wisely and soon was not growing more alfalfa than any other man in the county. Neighbors sought him out for advice on all subjects, for he had made much money and was therefore wise. "As ye sow, so shall ye reap," he counseled one and all, and everyone said, "Amen.

Look at the themes Heller gives us in this short dissertation:

Freedom-loving, God-fearing,-Law Abiding, rugged individualist, creeping socialism, unearned(earned by not earning in Catch-22 tradition), wealth = wisdom, obedience to the words of wealth.

Just in case we missed the point, Heller added:

"The Lord gave us good farmers two strong hands so that we could take as much as we could grab with both of them," he preached with ardor on the courthouse steps or in front of the A & P as he waited for the bad-tempered gumchewing young cashier he was after to step outside and give him a nasty look. "If the Lord didn't want us to take as much as we could get," he preached, "He wouldn't have given us two good hands to take it with." And the others murmured, "Amen." Major Major's father had a Calvinist's faith in predestination and could perceive distinctly how everyone's misfortunes but his own were expressions of God's will.

For lack of a name provided by Heller, I'll just call our hero, "Father Major". Sit back and think for a minute. How many "Father Major"'s can you find among us?

Before I leave this post, I can't resist one last quote from Catch-22. This one describes Major Major Major himself and is one of my all-time favorites:

Major Major had been born too late and too mediocre. Some men are born mdiocre, some men achieve mediocrity, and some men have mediocrity thrust upon them. With Major Major it had been all three. Even among men lacking all distinction he inevitably stood out as a man lacking more distinction than all the rest, and people who met him were always impressed by how unimpressive he was.

Heller! You are magnificent!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Council Meeting next Tuesday night....

If you read the agenda for next Tuesday night there's really not much there. It's only if you read the minutes of the various boards, commissions, and committees that it gets interesting. There, you will find out what government is REALLY UP TO.

I'm not going to give anything away but I will take this opportunity to comment on the differences between, say, a COMMITTEE and, also say, a COMMISSION.

A committee is part of the governing body entrusted with oversight of a particular subject matter in order to provide the governing body with advice and recommendations about how to handle that particular subject.

But a COMMISSION is a different matter: A commission is given the authority to act in behalf of the governing body. Think of it in terms of the derivation of the term, commission, itself. Officers in the military are granted a "commission" from the Government to command it's troops in the field of battle. Likewise, a naval ship is "commissioned" to do the service of the Government in keeping the seas safe, etc..

The City has a number of independently operating commissions. The two most important ones are the UTILITY COMMISSION and the FIRE AND POLICE COMMISSION. The Fire and Police Commission has complete....and I do mean COMPLETE control over the fire and police departments. The only authority the City Council has is over the total, lump sum, budget of the departments and the construction of the buildings those departments are housed in...except we got that sort of weaseled away from us recently. The Commission can spend the money within it's budget any way it wants without Council approval.

The Utility Commission is the same way. They built a $36 Million dollar power plant with sham approval from the City Council.

The Convention and Visitors Bureau is granted by Statute and Ordinance the powers of a Commission. Hence, the Common Council has no say over the collection or expenditures of room tax dollars.

Are you beginning to see what's going on?


I'm probably going to raise hell with one of those commissions on Tuesday night....and...with a little luck, it will look like the picture above.

"Mr DeMille....I'm ready for my close-up"

Sorry......with apologies to a great movie, Sunset Strip, but this "trail camera" picture just begged for that line.

Another repost

This happened on March 7.....and I wrote it to reassure my friends....and probably enemies that I wasn't about to "check out" anytime soon.

Over the weekend I had some pains in my chest that I considered to be thre results of a chest cold which is pretty common around here at this time of year. But Sunday night the pain got so bad I couldn't sleep so, on the encouragement of my wife, Monday morning I called in to the "Nurse Hotline" provided by our health insurance company. When I described the symptoms, she told me to get to the emergency room immediately...and made it more emphatic after she looked up my history and found a big-ol heart attack in my past. I wasn't convinced so I called my Doctor's MA and talked to her...she told me to call 911!!!! I told her I would go into Urgent Care and she said don't waste their time, they'll just send you to emergency....

So I went in to emergency...telling them I thought this was silly and useless...they took an EKG and slammed me into the hospital...they scheduled me for a Nuclear Stress Test for this morning and treated me like a heart attack call all night long...constant monitoring, massive doses of NITRO..shots/pills for everything...

The stress test was a nightmare. It's pretty came out clean...I'm not having another heart attack and the weird reading on the EKG was probably a result of the damage from the first heart attack. Possibly I had bronchial spasms of some sort or another as a result of this crappy weather and 35 years of smoking a pipe.

I am home and can go to council and board meetings tonight so I'm back in the saddle....and not about to die.

Where I stand (reprint)

I wrote this originally in the first days after Governor Walker released his "budget repair bill" which effectively stripped all Public Employee Unions (except public safety unions ...police and fire primarily but also included the State Patrol) of all eligible subject of collect bargaining except for base pay and that would be limited to the CPI. My feelings about this matter have not changed...

I've been on the opposite side of the bargaining table with Unions all my professional career. I've never worked for a private employer that had a Union and I've never been a member of one. You would logically thing that I am a natural anti-union person.

I'm not.

I understand the need to keep a balance of power between labor and management. I've seen union workers abuse the system and I've seen management abuse workers with absolute impunity. Neither situation is acceptable.

I've had union stewards "question the legitimacy of my lineage" and I've seen more middle-fingers raised in response to my proposals more times than you would care to count. To be fair, those union stewards have seen the same from me from time-to-time during negotiating sessions. But we both accept that. It's part of the process. It isn't easy, nor was it meant to be. It isn't "gentlemanly" and it never will's a struggle for primacy of one faction over another and sometimes you win and sometimes you lose.

I've dealt with AFSCME who have always been tough dudes....I've dealt with IAFF (Firefighters) who are the most obnoxious SOBs I've ever dealt with and Police Officers who are about as tough as AFSCME.. We've called each other names, maneuvered around each other, threatened strikes or arbitration, lockouts, ...everything ..;.the whole nine yards....and somehow or another we came through it and THE WORLD DID NOT END because one side or the other won an arbitration.


To this day...I would put my life on the line for the right of those unions to manipulate, threaten, bluster, bluff and NEGOTIATE for working conditions, wages, vacations etc...I would NEVER think of taking away their rights to bargain collectively...and ...yes...that even goes for the firefighters...