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Archive for May, 2009

Last Titanic Survivor Passes

She was only two months old when the most famous ship in his­tory went down and she escaped in her mother’s arms, but Mil­lv­ina Dean will go down as the H.M.S. Titanic’s last liv­ing sur­vivor.

Mil­lv­ina Dean was nine weeks old when the liner sank after hit­ting an ice­berg in the early hours of 15 April 1912, on its maiden voy­age from Southampton.

The dis­as­ter resulted in the deaths of 1,517 peo­ple in the north Atlantic, largely due to a lack of lifeboats.

Miss Dean, who remem­bered noth­ing of the fate­ful jour­ney, died on Sun­day at the care home in Hamp­shire where she lived, two of her friends told the BBC.

Her fam­ily had been trav­el­ling in third class to Amer­ica, where they hoped to start a new life and open a tobacconist’s shop in Kansas.

Miss Dean’s mother, Geor­getta, and two-year-old brother, Bert, also sur­vived, but her father, Bertram, was among those who per­ished when the ves­sel sank.

The fam­ily returned to Southamp­ton, where Miss Dean went on to spend most of her life.

She was 97.

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My Trip to Anacostia

Went over to “His­toric” Ana­cos­tia yes­ter­day and saw the Fred­er­ick Dou­glas home.  When I got there, a group of stu­dents and par­ents from Rochester, NY were giv­ing a con­cert; after which a local DC actor came out of the Dou­glas House and reen­acted some of the famed abolitionist’s speeches.

Here are some of the pics I took while there, as well as the walk to Capi­tol Hill after wards for lunch.

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Short Beats

I’m off play­ing tourist today view­ing parts of DC one should only see in the day­light, so here are my thoughts on the events of the day.

Stan­ley Cup Finals: Go Pens.  Truth­fully, I’m not a fan out either team and have friends as well as a pair of broth­ers who root for each of the respect­ful clubs.  My hope is the Pens win because they’re a good, young team which the league can mar­ket and help pro­mote itself.  Yes, Detroit could need a win as a com­mu­nity right now and the Wings maybe the only team capa­ble of giv­ing it to them, but “Sid the Kid” with a Cup win could mean so much more for an NHL in need of renewal (and a bet­ter TV contract).

Obama Dis­cov­ers Exis­tance of Intel­li­gence Agency on Trip to Five Guys: You have to read it to believe it.  Called up the only per­son in mil­i­tary intel­li­gence I knew (Kurt) about this news.  After a quick “No WAY!” after hear­ing how the new CIC didn’t know of the exis­tance of the NGA (An agency usu­ally con­tribut­ing to the POTUS’s daily intel­li­gence brief­ing) he men­tioned some­thing along the lines of the head of the NGA was going to speak at his com­mence­ment this July from the military’s National Defense Intel­li­gence Col­lege.

Small world indeed.

It’s Pork and I’m Proud: Ted Zig­munt, in his own words to WLUK 11 up in Green Bay on Wrightstown’s recy­cling bins.  Nuff said.

It’s Pork and I’m Proud, Part 2: My alma mater is get­ting $44.5M (in bonds, so don’t count on see­ing real money any­time soon UWEC) to replace the old Teach­ing School build­ing, Brewer Hall.  When I was there, no one gave a damn about doing any­thing to Brewer Hall.  All the focus was on the one build­ing on cam­pus most every­one used: the com­monly used Davies Stu­dent Center.

The big HA-HAtwo months ago, the State’s own Build­ing Com­mis­sion said it wasn’t needed right now and denied the money to start the project.

Inter­est­ing: Appar­ently wield­ing weapons, chant­ing slo­gans of hate, and being mem­bers of the New Black Pan­ther Party does not con­sti­tute voter intim­i­da­tion or wor­thy of a Jus­tice Depart­ment inquiry.

Good to know I suppose.

5 Years: That’s the amount of time the Trea­sury is say­ing it will take for GM to pay back all the money we as tax­pay­ers have given them to bailout the UAW.  I’m hav­ing trou­ble not laugh­ing at that pre­dic­tion either.

Well, that’s all.  Have a good day folks, I’ll see about get­ting some pic­tures of my trip up later in the day or tomorrow.

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A “Czar” Who Rules Over Nothing

As the num­ber of White House “Czars” keeps on climb­ing, some­times, a title is noth­ing more than a title.

Like the new “White House Cyber Czar,” who may have less secu­rity clear­ance than the clean­ing crew of the Oval Office.

Ear­lier today, Pres­i­dent Obama announced that he plans to cre­ate the posi­tion of a ‘cyber czar’ in the White House. No announce­ment about who will fill this posi­tion has been made yet, how­ever. Dur­ing his speech about this topic ear­lier today, Obama stressed that the focus of this new posi­tion will be to deal with cyber threats, but that the White House also plans a new edu­ca­tion cam­paign to raise aware­ness about cyber secu­rity and dig­i­tal literacy.

It should be noted that while ‘czar’ might sound like an impres­sive title, in terms of the White House hier­ar­chy, this new posi­tion will only be that of a “spe­cial assis­tant to the Pres­i­dent,” and who­ever will fill this posi­tion will not have direct access to the Pres­i­dent and have very lit­tle author­ity and even less author­ity over budgets.

Accord­ing to Obama, whose announce­ment was not related to a sim­i­lar announce­ment many are expect­ing from the Pen­ta­gon about the cre­ation of a new “cyber­space war com­mand,” the Inter­net should be “open and free,” though we are not sure if he was wad­ing into the dark, muddy pool of net neu­tral­ity here.

Actu­ally, Obama likely was wad­ing into the muddy pool of net neu­tral­ity.  Here’s hop­ing his sup­port of that crack­pot idea is another bro­ken cam­paign promise.

Being a “Spe­cial Assis­tant to the Pres­i­dent” or “SAP” is about akin to being a store man­ager at K-Mart who once in a while gets to meet the cor­po­rate CEO.  This “Cyber Czar” will rarely if ever be in any meet­ings with the Pres­i­dent, and it must be said, will likely only meet Obama on his first day on the job, and then any White House func­tions like some of the var­i­ous hol­i­day office parties.

As a for­mer “Spe­cial Assis­tant” myself, I saw my boss every day.  “My boss” con­sisted of a Gen­eral Deputy Assis­tant Sec­re­tary as well as an Assis­tant Sec­re­tary inside of the Hous­ing Depart­ment.  The two of them over­saw an orga­ni­za­tion inside the agency and answered directly to the Deputy Sec­re­tary and Sec­re­tary of HUD.  I was lucky enough to run into Hous­ing Sec­re­tary Jack­son maybe four times total dur­ing the time both of us were there before he resigned last April.

I had a much closer rela­tion­ship with Hous­ing Sec­re­tary Pre­ston.  Most of that was because Pre­ston was a more open guy when it came to his sub­or­di­nates than Jack­son, but also he had Wis­con­sin ties (Janesville) so we’d occa­sion­ally talk about the Pack­ers and other things.  But such a rela­tion­ship between a Spe­cial and the Pres­i­dent inside the White House is highly unlikely.

The new “White House Cyber Czar,” or this poor SAP, will answer to a much higher-level staffer at the White House.  For­mer Direc­tor of the National Eco­nomic Coun­cil, Keith Hen­nessey wrote some­thing sim­i­lar about how the White House staff is typ­i­cally bro­ken up.

White House staff can be divided into two groups:  com­mis­sioned offi­cers, and every­one else.  As a tech­ni­cal mat­ter, a com­mis­sioned offi­cer works for the Pres­i­dent, and every­one else in the White House works for a com­mis­sioned offi­cer.  There are three lev­els of com­mis­sioned offi­cers.  Start­ing with the most senior, they are:

  1. Assis­tant to the Pres­i­dent (AP)
  2. Deputy Assis­tant to the Pres­i­dent (DAP), aka “Deputies”
  3. Spe­cial Assis­tant to the Pres­i­dent (SAP), aka “Spe­cials” or “SAPs”

[…]

The Deputies and Spe­cials also tech­ni­cally report to the Pres­i­dent, and they get their com­mis­sions from the Pres­i­dent (”Spe­cial Assis­tant to the Pres­i­dent“).  They report to him through an AP, how­ever.  As an exam­ple, every item on the President’s sched­ule had a “project offi­cer” who was an AP that was for­mally respon­si­ble for that seg­ment of the President’s day.  As a prac­ti­cal mat­ter, the Deputies and Spe­cials did much of the spade work to make that time seg­ment suc­cess­ful, with the AP over­see­ing the process and work­ing on strate­gic issues.

That pretty much describes my time at HUD.  As a “Spe­cial” there, I’d do much of the grunt work which became memos, charts, and reports which would go up the food chain and then maybe if need be, reach the HUD Sec­re­tary.  It’s how the sys­tem is set up and works in the Exec­u­tive Branch’s senior lev­els of management.

And now you know.

Any real cyber war­fare is going to take place at the same place it has for years: The Pen­ta­gon, likely under the watch of the Air Force.

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God I Love “The Soup”

This video is not for “Jon and Kate Plus 8″ fans.

This video is for those so fed up with the man­u­fac­tured crap storm over their TV show you want to throw what’s in your tool box at the television.

Jole McHale’s not as good as my all-time favorite host of “Talk Soup,” the skunk-boy him­self John Hensen, but he’s close.

(Now I fear I’m going to hear it from the Greg Kin­n­ear fans…)

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Finally, Some Five Guys Love

Never cared much when Obama and Biden went to Ray’s Hell Burger last month.  As much fun as watch­ing MSNBC make a total shill out of them­selves was, the only ques­tion going to through my mind was “What, He Blew Off Five Guys?”

Few Wis­con­sinites know what “Five Guys” is, but I believe there’s one in Madi­son.  In short, it’s cho­les­terol in a bun, but it’s one tasty bit of cho­les­terol in what is my opin­ion the sec­ond best burger chain I’ve ever been at.

Noth­ing beats a Culver’s But­ter­burger.  Nothing.

So, it’s good to see the big guy go and give Five Guys some exposure.

WASHINGTON — For a health food nut, Pres­i­dent Barack Obama sure likes his burgers.

Pres­i­dent Barack Obama made a sur­prise lunchtime stop at Five Guys, a fast-food restau­rant in Washington.

The pres­i­dent ordered a cheese­burger with let­tuce, tomato, jalapeno pep­pers, and mus­tard as well as sev­eral other cheese­burg­ers to go. He also ordered a cheese­burger for Brian Williams, news anchor for NBC. The net­work was film­ing a day-in-the-life pro­gram at the White House.

The pres­i­dent snacked on peanuts, and chat­ted with sur­prised cus­tomers while he waited for his order.

There are “more prob­lems than we thought,” Obama told a man who asked him about his first months in office.

Early this month, Obama and Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Biden took a short motor­cade ride from the White House to Vir­ginia and ordered lunch at a small inde­pen­dent restau­rant called Ray’s Hell Burger. First lady Michelle Obama recently said she snuck out to a Five Guys restau­rant with­out any­one noticing.

An aver­age cheese­burger at Five Guys costs about $5.50 plus tax.

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This is a Test

One the road, so blog­ging is pretty lim­ited today. Sorry about that, this is how­ever, the first post I’ve done com­pletely from my BlackBerry.

So I got that going. Hope­fully, I can use this more in the future for text posts and the like.

KJB

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Only 6 Knew of the Commerce Clause

To hell with the U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion.

To hell with legal sum­ma­tions going back to 2007 which say doing it would lead to a legal fight the state will no doubt lose, these guys have a bud­get hole to “fix” and golf with big name donors to play today.

The Legislature’s bud­get com­mit­tee approved Gov. Jim Doyle’s plan to tax oil com­pa­nies to help pay for roads and allo­cated fund­ing for seven road and bridge projects.

Repub­li­cans wanted to strip the oil tax out of the state bud­get, say­ing it would result in costly lit­i­ga­tion and ulti­mately be passed onto con­sumers. But Democ­rats who con­trol the com­mit­tee let the pro­vi­sion stand.

An effort to remove the tax failed 6–10, with Rep. Gary Sher­man (D-Port Wing) and Rep. Jen­nifer Shilling (D-La Crosse) join­ing the committee’s four Republicans.

Doyle’s plan includes a mea­sure that says the tax can’t be passed onto con­sumers, but oppo­nents of the tax say that require­ment wouldn’t with­stand a court challenge.

Of course, this tax wouldn’t be nec­es­sary if dur­ing his tenure as Gov­er­nor, Jim Doyle hadn’t raided the state’s trans­porta­tion and infra­struc­ture to tune of a cou­ple of bil­lion dol­lars over eight years to ‘fill’ past bud­get holes and pay off his high-moneied backers.

Kudos to the Jour­nal Sen­tinel for pro­vid­ing this list though.  It’s always good to see pork being handed out on a par­ti­san basis in the JFC hear­ings.  Sun­light and trans­parency are always good for government.

Espe­cially one being run by this den of liars and thieves.

Sep­a­rately, the com­mit­tee voted 12–4 on party lines on a trans­porta­tion pro­vi­sion that included fund­ing for seven road and bridge projects that will help Democ­rats who face tough elec­tions next year.

The allo­ca­tions are for:

  • * Up to $1.25 mil­lion for Man­i­towoc Road in Bellevue.
  • * Up to $500,000 for Wash­ing­ton Street in Racine.
  • * Up to $430,000 for High­way X in Chippewa County.
  • * Up to $400,000 for State St. in Racine.
  • * $250,000 for a bridge on S. Reid Road in Rock County.
  • * $100,000 for Huron Road in Bellevue.
  • * $20,000 for a pedes­trian path in Rock County.

In order, the Democ­rats ben­e­fit­ing from these projects are: Ted Zig­munt of Fran­cis Creek, John Lehman and Cory Mason both of Racine, Pat Kre­it­low of Chippewa Falls, John Lehman and Cory Mason of Racine (again), Judy Rob­son of Beloit, Ted Zig­munt of Fran­cis Creek (again), and Judy Rob­son of Beloit (again).

What’s really funny about this per­son­al­ized pork, beyond the open sin­gling out, of course?  It high­lights what a joke the fed­eral stim­u­lus pack­age is and the entire con­cept of “shovel-ready projects.”

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JS Editorial Board">Irony by the JS Editorial Board

Caught this from the Mil­wau­kee Jour­nal Sentinel’s “Across the Board” blog where all the edi­to­r­ial board mem­bers get to write their thoughts and feel­ings on the news of the day while it’s still fresh.

The pow­er­ful Joint Finance Com­mit­tee is becom­ing noto­ri­ous for mak­ing deci­sions out of pub­lic view. On Wednes­day, the budget-writing com­mit­tee was mak­ing sausage again — behind closed doors — for hours. It never met pub­licly, instead finally promis­ing at 10 p.m. that it would recon­vene before the pub­lic at noon Thurs­day. We back a bill pro­posed by Rep. Cory Mason (D-Racine) and sev­eral col­leagues that would require polit­i­cal cau­cuses to adhere to the state Open Meet­ings law. We’ll have more to say on this topic in an edi­to­r­ial in tomorrow’s editions.

Um…that’d be the same Rep. Cory Mason (D-Racine) who’s on the Joint Finance Com­mit­tee…spit­ting on spirit of the very Open Meet­ings law he’s sug­gest­ing with this week’s JFC hi-jinx?

That Cory Mason?

Just me be curi­ous, that’s all.

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Better Off Not Ted

I’m pretty sure Rep. Ted Zig­munt reads this blog, or at least he did and would occa­sion­ally com­ment in the pre­vi­ous ver­sion before I packed my bag for DC and he finally beat Frank Lasee.  So, I won’t at all be sur­prised if he hon­estly thought I’d let this pass.  (H/T Owen)

Hun­dreds of state employ­ees may get laid off, local gov­ern­ments are brac­ing for deep fund­ing cuts, and cell phone users may pay a new fee to help plug Wisconsin’s $6.6 bil­lion bud­get hole.

But $46,000 worth of new recy­cling bins may soon be on their way to the envi­ron­men­tally con­scious towns­folk in Wrightstown.

Late Tues­day, likely after most of the 2,000 peo­ple in the south­ern Brown County town had gone to bed, the Legislature’s bud­get com­mit­tee agreed to pro­vide the money for the new recy­cling bins.

Even the town’s trea­surer, Nancy Leick, didn’t know about the vote Wednes­day. But she said she was pleased.

The money will buy roughly 800 new 90-gallon recy­cling bins at about $60 each to replace old ones that can hold only 10 to 15 gal­lons, Leick said. With the new ones, town res­i­dents will be able to mix their paper, glass and other recy­clable mate­ri­als together instead of sep­a­rat­ing them.

It is pointed out in the arti­cle that under cur­rent law, the Town of Wright­stown gets to forgo the local recy­cling fee because of a com­bi­na­tion of local bud­get and state bud­get grant contributions.

So why is Wright­stown being sin­gled out?  Sim­ple, Ted Zigmunt’s got a bul­let on his back and Assem­bly Democ­rats want to buy off his vot­ers to keep him in the Assem­bly.  With Zig­munt gone, it makes hold­ing on to con­trol in the tight 52–46-1 cham­ber just a bit tougher.

Wright­stown is a pretty afflu­ent com­mu­nity for where it’s located and could eas­ily pay for new bins on their own — or offer pay­ment plans to locals need­ing assistance.

Zigmunt’s silence puts forth the old state­ment in pol­i­tics — Never under­es­ti­mate the power of doing noth­ing.

Rep. Ted Zig­munt, a Fran­cis Creek Demo­c­rat whose dis­trict includes Wright­stown, did not imme­di­ately return a mes­sage seek­ing com­ment. Spokes­men for the two Demo­c­ra­tic co-chairmen of the bud­get com­mit­tee said they did not know who brought the issue to the panel for consideration.

Sorry, but that expla­na­tion from ‘the spokesman’ is pure polit­i­cal excre­ment.  Unless there has been a change at the top, Co-Chairman of the Joint Finance Com­mit­tee Mark Pocan (D-Madison) is STILL the head of elec­tion efforts for State Assem­bly Democ­rats.  The sole rea­son they had a spokesman do their answer­ing is so that Pocan and Miller won’t get caught “offi­cially on the record” lying to jour­nal­ists about this.

Let’s look at this log­i­cally, it was a Democratic-written omnibus bill to pay for the Depart­ment of Nat­ural Resourcse.  It passed on a par­ti­san 12–4 Demo­c­rat party line vote, and Mark Pocan, HEAD OF THE ADCC, is telling us he doesn’t know how it got there.

Yeah, that rea­son­ing is about as valid as the Madi­son Democrat’s Cana­dian marriage.

Vote accord­ingly next Novem­ber folks back home.  Send Teddy back to Fran­cis Creek.

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