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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-HA…two 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.


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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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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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