Wednesday, September 29, 2010

There's this one thing that never works with me....

Inspirational messaging:

Speaking of inspirational messaging, Vice President Joe Biden yesterday said we must "remind our base constituency to stop whining."  Last week, Obama condemned "Democrats griping and groaning," and the day before he mocked Democrats who "just congenitally, tend to get -- to see the glass as half empty."  That was preceded by Robert Gibbs announcing that liberal critics of the President who complain about continuation of Bush policies "need to get drug tested," while Rahm Emanuel had previously shared his view that dissatisfied liberals are "fucking retarded".  Glenn Greenwald
 David Dayen has an excellent post on all of this:

I would just add that I've never seen a politician run an election with the message "Don’t be stupid, quit your bitching and vote for me."  This goes orders of magnitude beyond "Here are the stakes, my opponent would vote against everything you care about."  That at least has a certain time-tested quality.  That would make the election a choice and not a referendum.  But "vote for me, you simpletons"? 
There's a reason that strategy has never been employed: because it's so insane to think that open berating would inspire a voter to action.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

I like my credit union, have liked it (them) since I joined in 1954

I've been, happily, a Credit Union member continuously since 1954.  The St. Colman Parish Federal Credit Union on the near west side of Cleveland was my CU home for 46 years.  That's where I put my paper route earnings starting at age 11.  And I kept my share account active long after I'd moved away.
Now, I've been with Educators Credit Union since 1992.  I  recently mentioned to a bank officer at a Waukesha bank (that I was forced to deal with because my employer used their payroll service) that I am a strong partisan of credit unions and a long-time member.
This bank officer got a sour and censorious look as she lectured me on the fundamental inequity that had  her institution paying taxes, while ours is granted special and undeserved privileges and tax exemptions.  "All we want is a level playing field".
So, I lectured back:
    "My parents, my uncles and aunts never found a level playing field in the dark days of the Great Depression.  Bankers didn't want to hear from little people, didn't want to see them.  Bankers fought every decent and humane thing that the New Deal stood for.  That is your heritage.  You may claim the slogan of  'The Bank of Friendly Service', but there's no denying your heritage.
   "Credit Unions arose because banks didn't care about the financial needs/plight of ordinary working people and farmers.  They are remembered by that generation as heartless foreclosure machines.  Working class people did what we had to, elected FDR and supported the New Deal.  We welcomed the legislation that allowed federally chartered member-owned cooperative savings and lending institutions.
  "Do not, please, lecture me about level playing fields, unless you are willing to propose that we--credit union people--work with you, bank people, on a critical issue in banking.  Let's agree to demand with joined voices the re-establishment of the sensible principles of bank regulation underlying the Glass-Steagall Act that flowed out the New Deal's response to the Great Depression.  How about if we also agree to insist that "too big to fail" means "too big to exist" and "never too big for jail"?
    "Once we get that victory (and a few more) behind us, perhaps we can discuss your grievances and work together on level playing fields".

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Waukesha Council needs to think long and hard about who should lead the Water Utility Commission

The President of the Waukesha Water Utility Commission is ALSO the President of the Waukesha School Board.  He was nominated to serve on the Commission seven times by mayors of Waukesha.  And each time he was nominated, the Waukesha Council voted (I never heard a "nay" or an "abstain," in all those votes over the past 21 years).  And he has dutifully served each of those three year terms.  And he's angling to get another term.  As a citizen who has watched for all those decades, I thank him for his service--unpaid service.

But he should go.

The voters of the Waukesha School District (including a few who live outside the city limits) have elected Mr. Warren to be a member of the School Board six times. And for the school years '09-'10 and "10-'11 his fellow board members have elected him President of the School Board.

President of two of the largest and, arguably, most controversial enterprises in government in Waukesha County.
  • Waukesha School '09-'10 Budget:  $185.3 Million.
  • Water Utility 2010 Budget              $9.1 Million  But with plans to borrow/beg $165 Million for a major capital commitment and a daunting procedural mountain to climb.
Warren has been elected by his fellow board members to lead both of these crucial enterprises.

Is the talent pool so thin in Waukesha that one guy is needed at the top of the heap in both enterprises?  For decades?

Maybe, he's a genius?

Then, again, maybe he is a small town hustler with Madoff-sized ego, who thinks he has so much finesse and charisma and knowledge that he is needed for both these jobs, that nobody else can do them?

Maybe he's a genius?

Was it genius that led him, as the School Board's Chairman of the Finance/Facilities Committee to bring to the rest of the School Board a bright idea to get something for nothing by jumping blind into a nifty new kind of investment.  Shortly after the Board's Finance Chairman Warren led the group into this huge financial commitment, the investments turned out to be practically worthless, a turd in the punchbowl?

Some genius.

Giant Puffball. Is there a consulting mycologist out there?

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Dave Wagner--"Wags"--moved off to Arizona decades back. He was my authoritative source for mushroom advice. It was "eat" or "don't eat". Never a hint of equivocation.

This is the 44 Oz, Slurpee of mushrooms. Found it on the edge of an old railroad right-of-way this morning. Took a bit of bushwhacking to get to it, as it was down a slippery slope covered with thorny brush in a thicket that allowed for no sunlight. There it was, glowing like last night's waxing gibbous moon.

I think it is safe. Wonder whether it'll be tasty as a pot of mushroom soup.

UPDATE:  Consensus mycologist/gourmand opinion is that bigger is seldom better.  Edible is not equal to tasty.  It might or might not improve the compost pile.  We shall see.

Friday, September 17, 2010


State offers $25 million in tax incentives to Harley

Harley-Davidson Inc. (HOG) will get $25 million in state tax credits for keeping its factories in Wisconsin, the Department of Commerce said Friday.
The incentives are aimed at preserving more than 1,000 blue-collar jobs in the Milwaukee area and Tomahawk. They come four days after Harley employees ratified seven-year labor agreements laden with concessions but meant to keep production work in Wisconsin.
Harley had threatened to pull production out of the state if it could not get favorable labor contracts.
Other states lobbied to get the company's factories, offering generous incentives and lower labor costs.


Saturday, September 11, 2010

It is an odyssey only if it ends with return to the place it started...

It started last Wednesday at 10:00 am in Waukesha and reached the farthest point--ancestral home on the near west side of Cleveland--in just about nine hours. Tolls were about $38. Gas for the Pontiac-that's-actually-a-Toyota was about $33. Seventy-one bucks divided by 454 miles comes to just under sixteen cents/mile.

This cost is, of course, understated. I haven't included insurance, interest payments, license/registration fees and depreciation on the car. And the cost of all that frenetic widening and cyclical re-paving of the roadway ustimately figures into cost-per-mile.

Whatever the cost, it was pure pleasure to visit the family and introduce the new grandchild to lots of friends and relatives.

But here's the odyssey part. Most of our group of travelers were intent on Drang nach Osten, onward to  Dutchy country and the Jersey Shore to introduce the the little squirt to the anabaptist side of the family. I planned to return to the place from which we started. They were going farther;  I was heading back to Waukesha.

I got dropped off in downtown Cleveland, near the Jake, at the Megabus stop at midnight CDT. Gave my Bro. the bro-hug and hopped on a new double decker bus.  Found a seat and went promptly to sleep.

Woke up at 5:30, as we were approaching the Skyway in Chicago, caught the free Wi-Fi on the bus and checked my mail. Three hundred eighty miles. Had a 40 minute layover at Chicago Union Station. 

Boarded the next Megabus leg of the trip--to Milwaukee. Eighty minutes later I was at the Amtrak/Intermodal terminal on St. Paul Av. in Milwaukee.

Walked four blocks to 4th and Wisconsin and caught (fifteen minute wait at 8:20 am) the #10 Milwaukee County Transit System bus to Brookfield Square ($2.25).

Arrived at Brookfield Square about 9:00 am. The MCTS bus pulled up at the transfer point at just the moment the Waukesha Transit System bus also arrived (That's called articulated scheduling). I had a transfer that got me on the Waukesha bus for no extra dough for a thirty minute ride to Waukesha's downtown terminal.

Caught, immediately, the #9 Waukesha Transit Bus to my neighborhood, with a transfer and a quarter in the farebox.

Dropped off at the bus stop sixty paces from my front door at 10:15 AM.

Odyssey complete; (refer to the title of this post.).

o A little over ten hours--door to door.
o Five buses. Each of them spotless and comfortable.
o Fares ( Megabus pricing scheme: the earlier you buy a ticket, the cheaper it is; overnight travel cheaper than daytime)
  • Cleveland to Chicago--$15.00;
  • Chicago to Milwaukee--$16.00;
  • Milwaukee to Waukesha--$2.50
o Six hours of sleep on the trip.
o Three stimulating conversations with seat-mates.
o Wi-Fi for most of the trip,
o Total cost: $33.50.

The reason so many people hate and riducule and demand the end of mass transit is that they have no experience with it, NONE.

I'm lucky. I got used to having it when I was young. I still love its convenience, low-cost and conviviality.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Waukesha Freeman is a running joke; the editor's work is a sick joke...

This was the story 20 months ago:
WAUKESHA - The Freeman has again been honored as among the best newspapers in Wisconsin.

The Freeman won the second-place award for general excellence in the Wisconsin Newspaper Association’s 2008 Better Newspaper Contest. In last year’s contest, The Freeman won first place for general excellence, the highest honor the paper can receive in the state...

First-place awards went to Lee Fensin for Sports pages, Jenny Sharp and Bill Yorth for Opinion pages.

Makes me happy to know that I live in a city that has such a highly regarded newspaper. And an award-winning editor.

Here's something Bill Yorth decided belonged on the opinion pages of the Waukesha Freeman on Wed., September 1, 2010.

Three hundred years ago and later, when people came to America, they never called themselves European-Americans. They were proud to be called Americans. About 30 years ago, some people (were) not proud to be called Americans and wanted to be called Native Americans and African-Americans. They were painting all blacks Africans. Well, the people from Colombia, South America, don't want to be called African Americans. Same goes for people from the Caribbean, or Panama, or Central America. The whites from South Africa don't want to be called African Americans. Now, what if all the kids that graduate from high school and go to a college, let's say, Madison, should they call themselves Eisenhower Wisconsin or any other high school name in Wisconsin at Madison? No. They are proud of the college that they are going to and don't want to change the name.

Thanks, Mr. Editor. We residents of Waukesha are pleased to see you upholding the performance that so recently earned you a First Place in General Excellence, "the highest honor the paper can receive in the state..." for your superlative presentation of the Waukesha Freeman Opinion Pages.

The opinion was unsigned. The transcription of the opinion had to be the work of someone willing to stenographically get it into shape so that it could be set in type and printed. But, the final look and Imprimatur (the precise translation from the Latin is : "Let it be printed") came from the editor.

This opinion is entirely the product of the editor's judgment. Yorth decided this needed to be published. And he had to say "Let's run this".

A typical week at the Freeman finds Bill O'Reilly, Owen Robinsin, Ann Coulter, Mark Belling, Victor Davis Hanson, Thomas Sowell, Jessica McBride, Cal Thomas and Pat Buchanan featured. In the interest of balance, there are offerings from time to time by noted flaming left-wingers Maureen Dowd and Tom Friedman.

The Freeman is a running joke. Yorth's editing is a sick joke.

This is Waukesha. The guy who wrote "Americans" fits in perfectly on Yorth's opinion pages.
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Of the biblical allotment of three score and ten I have lived only three of them more than a bicycle ride from one of the Great Lakes. I grew up ten blocks from Lake Erie in the (once Irish/Italian ghetto, now newly-hip) "Near West Side" of Cleveland. I can still cycle to the Milwaukee lakefront in an hour and a half; but, a round-trip has always been more than I would (noror ever did) attempt. -0- I'm a "...somewhat combative pacifist and fairly cooperative anarchist," after the example of Grace Paley (1922-2007). -0- I'm always cheerful when I pay my taxes (having refused--when necessary--to pay that portion of them dedicated to war). -0- And I always, always vote.