Friday, January 25, 2008

Milwaukee to have a statue of the Fonz

Yes, I am completely serious:

It's now official: the bronze statue of the Fonz will be added to downtown Milwaukee's landscape later this year. The $85,000 needed to create the life-size statue of "Happy Days" TV show character Arthur "Fonzie" Fonzarelli has been raised, according to an announcement today by Visit Milwaukee, the group leading that effort.

The sculpture, which is planned for the plaza south of E. Wisconsin Ave. and west of N. Water St., near the Chase Plaza office tower, will likely be unveiled around Labor Day.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Doyle Looking For Statewide Smoking Ban

But alcoholics need not fear! Taverns will be delayed for a whole year! And why am I still not enthused? Apparently the state thinks that one whole year of being able to light up in bars is consolation for those who like to frequent their liquor with a good smoke.

Madison - A statewide smoking ban would not apply to bars and restaurants for the first year, under a measure advanced Tuesday by a Senate committee.

The ban for other workplaces and public buildings would begin in January 2009, with bars and restaurants following in 2010, under the compromise.

The prospects for the measure are uncertain.

Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle said bars and restaurants should not get a special exemption. A statewide smoking ban is a top priority of Doyle's.

Because Doyle is the biggest nanny-state socialist our poor state has ever had for Governor. As with all infringements upon liberty, this one comes with a pathetic excuse for our health and the aesthetic value of a "smoke-free" state.

"Close to half the states in the nation are moving toward smoke-free public places," said Canter, who noted that statewide bans have become law in neighboring Minnesota and Illinois.
Thats right folks. All the cool kids are doing it, why not us?

"The Legislature should act so that Wisconsin does not become the ashtray of the Midwest,"
That's cute. So now we're afraid that a mass exodus of smokers is going to come here to smoke in our bars? Bring em! Better for us! Or maybe he meant that it would ruin our AMAZING reputation by imposing further state control over the rights of businesses. We already have problems attracting business. Why should the state be hostile to the few we still have?

The compromise, approved 3-2 by the committee, would:

• Ban smoking in workplaces and public places - except for bars and taverns - on Jan. 1, 2009.

• Ban smoking in bars and restaurants effective Jan. 1, 2010. Sen. Pat Kreitlow (D-Eau Claire) asked Senate committee members to give bars and restaurants 15 additional months - until April 1, 2011 - to implement the ban, but his proposal was rejected.

• Allow hotels and motels to set aside up to 25% of their rooms for smokers. Owners of hotels and motels with three or fewer rooms could designate one of them for smokers.

• Exempt businesses operated by manufacturers, importers, wholesalers and distributors of tobacco products, including tobacco leaf dealers and "tobacco storage" facilities. American Cancer Society lobbyist Alison Prange called that exemption a major loophole that could lead to "cigarette bars" in the state.

God forbid businesses meet a demand by opening bars for smoking.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

FDR was an evil son of a bitch

So sayeth Glenn Beck. You know there are times when I want to slap this guy, but I couldn't agree more at the moment:

Why is business suffering in Wisconsin?

The Journal Sentinel gets a clue:

Executives Richard Armbrust of The Oilgear Co., Jeff Joerres of Manpower Inc., Paul Purcell of Robert W. Baird & Co. Inc., John Shiely of Briggs & Stratton Corp. and Tim Sullivan of Bucyrus International Inc. engaged in an unusual session during a Public Policy Forum luncheon Thursday that was notable for its frankness.

Taxes are too high, they complained. Health care costs are out of control. The public school system is broken and doesn't align with the skills needed by employers. Business success isn't celebrated.

[...]

Wisconsin and the Midwest is in a global fight for its economic life, and its business climate isn't competitive in fundamental ways. Armbrust's point was that other regions - other countries - are competing hard and understand the importance of economic development.

No shit, really? Get a clue Wisconsin, you can't have your cake and eat it too! Quit spending and taxing and maybe we might have some opportunities. All of the bullshit flying around Madison about helping poor people and the social welfare are only exacerbating poor economic conditions and both the politicians and the public are to blame.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

First Corporations, Now Chimpanzees?

Thankfully, no.
VIENNA, Austria (AP) -- Austria's Supreme Court has dashed hopes by animal rights activists to have a chimpanzee declared a person, a statement suggested Tuesday.

The court recently rejected a petition to appoint a trustee for the chimp, named Matthew Hiasl Pan, the Vienna-based Association Against Animal Factories said, and subsequently vowed to contact the European Court of Human Rights over the matter.
Animal rights activists just get crazier and crazier. Do any of these people understand what rights are?



Would he have the right to bear arms?


What's next: rights for robots?!

A study commissioned by the Government that suggests robots could one day have rights was attacked by leading scientists yesterday as a red herring that has diverted attention from more pressing ethical issues.

It said that if true artificial intelligence were ever developed, such robots might have to be given similar rights to humans, including the right to vote. “If granted full rights, states will be obligated to provide full social benefits to them including income support, housing and possibly robo-healthcare to fix the machines over time,” it added.
I think I am going to be sick.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Economics or Psychology?

A Story in the L.A. Times mixes fields of psychology with economics, blurring the lines of rational and irrational. Based on the study question, I do not see any particularly correct answer.

Would you rather earn $50,000 a year while other people make $25,000, or would you rather earn $100,000 a year while other people get $250,000? Assume for the moment that prices of goods and services will stay the same.

Surprisingly -- stunningly, in fact -- research shows that the majority of people select the first option; they would rather make twice as much as others even if that meant earning half as much as they could otherwise have. How irrational is that?

Actually, not so irrational if you think about it. If the question is taken to mean that option B meant making $100,000 while living in a society where a median income was $250,000 per year, then option A might not be so bad. The individual would make "more" money, but that money would be worth far less than if, as in option A, they made twice the median income. Money does not necessarily mean wealth, and buying power does not hold equal at all times. In such an inflated society as option B, the par value for the dollar would be much less. Of course more is always better, but not when it fails in comparison to the average income of a given society. In this case, more was less. $50,000 in a society with a median income of $25,000 would mean more value per dollar as well as a better living standard, when one's income is double the median.

LA Times needs to check their economics.

However, if the study question were placed in today's socioeconomic averages, it would be more advantageous to make the $100,000 dollars, because buying power would not have any difference between dollars for each income. Less is less and more is more because the comparative value per dollar is equal.

This research goes a long way toward debunking one of the biggest myths in all of psychology and economics, known as "Homo economicus." This is the theory that "economic man" is rational, self-maximizing and efficient in making choices. But why should this be so? Given what we now know about how irrational and emotional people are in all other aspects of life, why would we suddenly become rational and logical when shopping or investing?

What is this, some kind of Marxian stump article? A choice in an economy works like this: i trade something for something else. Both parties will trade only if they believe to benefit from it. This may or may not be true, but at least I don't have someone else making the choice for me. Who is to say what is efficient and what is not?

This comes down to the fact that efficiency is relative to the values individuals ascribe to things and their projected loss/benefit weighed against real loss or benefit. Therefore efficiency can be justly described as relative in some sense of the word. I would like to see the author's explanation as to who exactly should be the judge of economic fairness or rationality? The state? Hardly so. I may not make the best decisions, but at least they are MINE.

UPDATE: I know that the article assumes that the prices of goods stay the same, but this is economically absurd if we are applying the test to society as a whole rather than a specific group.

T.O. Cries Postgame

Sweet tears of defeat. As a Packer fan, and professional hater of the Cowboys, I take much joy in this.

Bush Continues to Fund Terrorism

In a stunning move at the efficiency of our tax dollars at work, Bush continued to hand over weapons to "allies" in the middle east, amounting to the sum of $20 Billion this go-around.

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) -- President Bush, on his first visit to this oil-rich kingdom, delivered a major arms sale Monday to its ally in a region where the U.S. casts neighboring Iran as a menacing threat to stability.

Bush's talks with King Abdullah also were expected to cover peace between Israelis and Palestinians and democracy in the Middle East.

The administration was notifying Congress of its intent to sell $20 billion in weapons, including precision-guided bombs, to the Saudis. It is "a pretty big package, lots of pieces," national security adviser Stephen Hadley told reporters on Air Force One.

Saudi Arabia, an ally? The home Osama bin Laden? The home of most of the 9/11 hijackers? One of the greatest funders and sponsors of terrorism? From the Times Online:
Yet wealthy Saudis remain the chief financiers of worldwide terror networks. “If I could somehow snap my fingers and cut off the funding from one country, it would be Saudi Arabia,” said Stuart Levey, the US Treasury official in charge of tracking terror financing.

[...]

An analysis by NBC News suggested that the Saudis make up 55% of foreign fighters in Iraq. They are also among the most uncompromising and militant.

Half the foreign fighters held by the US at Camp Cropper near Baghdad are Saudis. They are kept in yellow jumpsuits in a separate, windowless compound after they attempted to impose sharia on the other detainees and preached an extreme form of Wahhabist Islam.

[...]

School textbooks still teach the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a notorious antiSemitic forgery, and preach hatred towards Christians, Jews and other religions, including Shi’ite Muslims, who are considered heretics.

Ali al-Ahmed, director of the Washington-based Institute for Gulf Affairs, said: “The Saudi education system has over 5m children using these books. If only one in 1,000 take these teachings to heart and seek to act on them violently, there will be 5,000 terrorists.”

UPDATE: Congress is poised to affirm the arms deal.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Democratic-led Congress is unlikely to block U.S. plans to sell $123 million worth of sophisticated precision-guided bomb technology to Saudi Arabia, despite concerns from some members that the systems could be used against Israel.
Or the United States. Saudi Arabia happens to be the largest sponsor of home grown terrorists that attack United States troops in Iraq.



Supreme Court Refuses Medical Rights For Terminally Ill Patients

Without even bothering to take a look, the Supreme Court rejected an appeal over the right for terminally ill patients to use experimental drugs in the fight for their lives:

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Supreme Court refused Monday to review a ruling that terminally ill patients have no constitutional right to be treated with experimental drugs - even if that means the patient will likely die before the medicine is approved.

A federal appeals court, siding with the Food and Drug Administration, last year said the government may deny access to drugs that have not gone through extensive testing and received FDA approval. The process can take years.

The Supreme Court did not explain its decision to leave the appeals court ruling undisturbed. Chief Justice John Roberts did not take part in the action.

What a surprise! The one branch created to keep the constitution intact, effectively saving the rights of the people from authoritarian government, now sides with them.

Abigail Alliance was created by Frank Burroughs, whose daughter, Abigail, was denied access to experimental cancer drugs and died in 2001. The drug she was seeking was approved years later.

The alliance said all it was asking for "is a right for terminally ill patients with no remaining treatment options to fight for their own lives."

The FDA said the appeals court was correct and in line with other rulings "that have rejected constitutionally based demands for access to unapproved investigational drugs."


You heard it right, you don't have a constitutional right to drugs unless the FDA says so. It's funny that a conservative leaning Supreme Court doesn't hold to their affirmed beliefs to the right to life.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Way Too Close for Comfort

Today as many as eight tornadoes landed in the Kenosha County area:
Six to eight homes in the area of Highway 50 and Kenosha County Highway O in the town of Wheatland were either collapsed or heavily damaged by a tornado that ripped through the area between 4 and 4:15 p.m. today, according to Sgt. Mark Krueger of the Kenosha County Sheriff's Department.

Krueger said injuries were either minor or moderate, and no one was killed.

An undetermined number of cars were blown off the road at the same intersection when the tornado hit, Krueger said.
I passed through there on my way to Lake Geneva today, right before getting pounded with rain and hail. We made it through and stopped for a bit at a coffee place before turning around. Communication was pretty bad, and power was out in a lot of places, so we had no idea what we were heading into. Thankfully, we followed the back end of the fast moving storm back into the town, noting the damage that had been caused just minutes after we passed through.

A little too close for my tastes.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Irony at it's Best

The State of Wisconsin has implemented, as I blogged before, a digital list of tax delinquents throughout the state to be posted on the internet. Guess who showed up on the list?

Madison - The co-chairman of the Legislature's budget committee was stunned Friday to learn that his name was on the state Department of Revenue's newly expanded Internet list of delinquents who owe $5,000 or more in unpaid taxes.

"This is news to me," said Sen. Mark Miller (D-Monona), who was listed as owing $5,776 in unpaid income taxes. "I thought it had been taken care of."

And as if they didn't learn anything this time around, legislators are talking about implementing a shame list for individuals who owe child support:

In a related development, state Rep. Steve Wieckert (R-Appleton) said Friday he wants to change state law to post the names of anyone owing more than $500 in unpaid child support on the Internet site.

About $2.8 billion in unpaid support is owed by about 263,000 parents to more than 500,000 children in Wisconsin, Wieckert said.

"That is an enormous amount of money," Wieckert said in a prepared statement that noted the success of the Revenue Department's Internet list in getting tax delinquents to pay up.

I'm not even going to bother debating this one (sigh).

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Oil Over $100 a Barrel

First day of trading in 2008:



From the Associated Press:

NEW YORK (AP) -- Crude oil prices soared to $100 a barrel Wednesday for the first time, reaching that milestone amid an unshakeable view that global demand for oil and petroleum products will outstrip supplies.

Surging economies in China and India fed by oil and gasoline have sent prices soaring over the past year, while tensions in oil producing nations like Nigeria and Iran have increasingly made investors nervous and invited speculators to drive prices even higher.

[...]

Separately, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries said its member nations may not be able to meet demand as early as 2024, though OPEC also said that deadline could slide for decades if members increase production more quickly. Word that several Mexican oil export ports were closed due to rough weather added to the gains.