Thursday, October 29, 2009

Bidding farewell to Bader

If ever you're in need of an excellent (if painful) example of what not to do as a talk radio host--or journalist, or blogger, etc.--then look no further than the recent and still to fully play out saga of WTAQ radio host Jerry Bader. In a broadcast shortly after Lt. Governor Barbara Lawton announced that she was dropping out of the gubernatorial race, Bader made the bold-faced accusation that her reason for doing so was related to a lesbian extramarital affair. Bader stated over and over again that he was "reporting factually."

But of course he was doing no such thing. It was, in fact, a complete fabrication and quite the slanderous piece of reporting to boot. Lawton was, rightfully, pretty angry about the whole thing, and Bader has since retracted the piece and been suspended from his job for two weeks.

Not before several conservative bloggers and talkers gleefully spread the false information as far and wide as possible. Since it came out that the whole thing was a giant fraud, most have either removed their posts entirely or posted retractions and apologies.

The whole thing is a sad but solid example of how stories can spread like wildfire on the internet, regardless of their validity. The fiasco could also be examined for how not to go about sourcing and reporting information. Call it Bader 101.

I have to agree with Lawton that I don't think a mere two week suspension is enough punishment for the guy, and hope that the station takes further action. They should, really, if they hope to avoid being part of the inevitable slander lawsuit filed against Bader by Lawton.

And those who repeated the nonsense should perhaps take a moment or two to examine their own motivations for doing so. Maybe the desperate champing at the bit for any "negative" news about people with political affiliations they don't like isn't such a hot idea after all. Maybe we could all stand to adopt a little more patience, critical thinking, and due diligence.

It's a lesson Jerry Bader is (hopefully) learning the hard way.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


There comes a time in every bloggers life (well, maybe just the really dorky ones) when the siren call of gainful blogging employment must lure them away from the pajama-clad solitude of their personal sites.

This is only half true of me.

I will officially begin blogging on behalf of Isthmus' Daily Page website as of Nov. 1, but I will not be abandoning The Lost Albatross in the process. I mean, this place has just been too good to me. I can't quit it. And anyway, I can't seem to get out of this chair....

So this is how things are going to go down: The vast majority of my pontifications about local politics will find a new home at TDP, and I humbly ask that you come check them out. You can read Dave Blaska's bizarre rants while you're over there, too, if you're so masochistically inclined--but TDP has lots of other good, less fugue state inducing things on offer, too. Everything else I want to ramble on about in a public forum--things like arts, culture, sports, self-promotion, and thoughts on national/international current events, will go on living right here.

My sincere thanks to everyone who has read and supported TLA over the years, and I do hope you'll stick around and even check out my new venture. I will do my best to keep it interesting.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Filth and rocking for monkeys

But not at the same time! Lord knows monkeys can be a little messy sometimes, though - but we still love them! So much so that my band, Little Red Wolf, is playing a benefit show this weekend on behalf of an organization that's looking to help working monkeys retire in peace.

First, however, there's something a little more bizarre on tap. Tonight at the Inferno (1718 Commercial Ave.) it's FILTH, an evening of R-rated art, live music, body painting, and burlesque. Me? I'll be part of the live music, which is really as it should be, but please do come to check out the whole shebang. Here's the lowdown:
"...a bizarro-underworld reply to bloodless, libido-less art and music events everywhere." - THE ONION

We are pleased to announce a one-night only special art and music event, headlined by the very great Liz Mares from Chicago, and Madison's own industrial hardcore noisemeister Caustic, at the Inferno Nightclub on Friday, October 23 at 9 pm.

The artists:

LIZ MARES is one of the rising stars of erotic photography. Working mostly in black and white polaroids and 120mm film, her playfully frank depictions of female sexuality cause a stir wherever they're shown, and are avidly sought by collectors both in the US and internationally. Fresh from showing at this year's prestigious "Dirty Show" in Detroit, Mares is here to promote her new book "Masque" and treat the good people of Madison to a dozen or so never before seen prints. You won't see work like this anywhere else in town.

Chicago's CHRIS NEGRETE makes colorful polaroids and small format color film pictures that don't make a heck of a lot of sense, but are wickedly playful and funny. Photo booths, flippers, fire extinguishers, Christmas trees, and a seemingly unending obsession with ultra-tacky 1970's underwear. It's kind of hard to explain, really...but it's an awful lot of fun.

COLM MCCARTHY is best known to Madison audiences as a theatre and performance photographer, and creator of dark paintings and prints with local collectives Art Surge and Firecracker Studios. But he got his start in nudes, and tonight he'll be displaying some older work on metal, along with brand new work created especially for this show. Including the images used for the cover of the Caustic album, "This is Jizzcore" , which brings us nicely to....

The music:

Matt Fanale's industrial hardcore incarnation, CAUSTIC, requires no introduction to Madisonians. After touring the US extensively this year to promote his latest release, "This is Jizzcore", while still finding time to organize the Reverence Festival, one of the country's largest - if not THE largest - electronic music festivals, Fanale is finishing out the year by playing just for us - and you. He's even put together a band! And will be joined onstage by Little Red Wolf's Emily Mills and Null Device's Eric Oehler. Expect MUCH mayhem....and a theremin.

Out of the vast pool of great musical talents in Madison, WI comes something different. UNDERCULTURE. Three men, with completely different backgrounds in music, joining together to produce music with a fresh new feel. Utilizing their influential differences, they have put together a sound unheard of in any other band known. Impossible to put into any one genre, Underculture may be best described as Tom Waits meets The Sex Pistols, or Donavon meets the Cramps, or Tom Jones meets the Circle Jerks, ABBA meets the Dead Kennedys, or Jon Tesh meets the Butt Hole Surfers. Brazilian artist Paulo Andrade may have said it best: "I do not understand it, but it is ALIVE!"

And kicking it all off are Madison's own alt-country superstars, THE APOLOGISTS, who are likely to veer from obscure American folk ballads to the Gun Club, the Who, Johnny Cash, Television and back again without warning.

And between acts, the lovely ladies and one gentleman of Foxy Veronica's Peach Pies will be on hand to "kick your ass with sass" with some carefully chosen caburlesque routines, including a special body painting performance by local body artist extraordinaire Dawn Marie Svanoe.

And of course all of your favorite beers and cocktails will be served by the wonderful staff at the smoke-free Inferno Nightclub. All of this for a recession-friendly $5 cover. Doors open at 9pm, and the festivities kick off with the Apologists at 9.30. Strictly over 21. Come get filthy with us.
And because I don't keep nearly busy enough, tomorrow night--Saturday--at the Frequency (121 W. Main) my band, Little Red Wolf, is playing the aforementioned benefit for Primates Inc., which seeks to raise money to "increase the retirement of monkeys from research facilities and private ownerships by constructing a secure, indoor/outdoor primate sanctuary in southern Wisconsin."

It's a fine cause, and we're pulling out all the stops for this one by playing two whole sets of music. This will be the longest show we've played yet, so please come on down and help us power through the night by sending us energy from the audience. We promise to show you a good time! Show's at 9:30 p.m. and the suggested donation is just $7. Plus! Power-punk group The Daves will take the stage after us, and I'm told they're pretty awesome.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Berceau's beer tax bill better left on bar room floor

I don't suspect that Rep. Terese Berceau's proposal to raise the beer tax in Wisconsin will ever make it to the floor of the Legislature, let alone be signed into law by Gov. Doyle (who has stated his opposition to it already).

Still, her proposal to increase the tax on a barrel from $2 to $10 - but only for beers made in Wisconsin - raises some interesting questions and has prompted an overdue debate.

At first blush, it would be easy to think, "Oh the beer industry makes tons of cash, and their taxes haven't been raised in decades, so this shouldn't be a problem." Plus, part of Berceau's proposal is that the increased revenue that would presumably result from such a change would go toward funding enforcement of drunk driving laws. So what's not to like?

I'm 100% behind efforts to curb the number of people who get behind the wheel wasted or even tipsy. I just don't think this particular bill is the way to do it - nor do I think it's entirely honest to say that this is what it's really all about.

As I already mentioned, the tax would only apply to in-state breweries: ie, micro and craft brewers. Big conglomerates like Anheuser Busch and MillerCoors would get off scot-free, even though they're the companies most able to absorb an additional cost such as this. Meanwhile, smaller, local breweries would pay the price.

Chris Staples, one of the owners of Madison-area brewery Furthermore Beer, recently wrote a thoughtful piece about his opposition to the proposed tax bill. It was the first thing I'd read that made me really sit up and take notice of the issue, and to rethink my initial position on it. Staples makes it clear that he's not against paying their fair share, just that Berceau's particular bill is the wrong way to go about things. You can read the whole thing here.

Wisconsin definitely suffers from a schizophrenic relationship with alcohol. We have a long and storied history of producing some of the best beer, but we have an equally lengthy record of abusing the fruits of our labors. Better enforcement of drinking related laws is important. Greater focus on treatment and prevention is even more crucial. But we also need to make sure our politicians, for all their apparently noble gestures toward the aforementioned goals, are really working toward what's best for Wisconsinites...and not the big corporations with the least investment in our communities.

(photo by Chris_J on Flickr)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Why are bike lanes controversial?

I'm honestly befuddled, so if you've either been privy to the arguments against the lanes or are yourself against them, consider me all ears here:

The Madison Plan Commission Monday night approved the Northport-Warner Park-Sherman Neighborhood Plan but did not confront the most controversial piece of it.

Bicycle advocates have long envisioned turning four-lane Sherman Avenue into a two-lane road with dedicated bike lanes. One option discussed is a two-lane road with turn lanes, know in planning parlance as a "TWTL."

Several commission members proposed including that language in the plan to help slow traffic on the busy thoroughfare and make it safer for non-motorists.

But Northside Ald. Satya Rhodes-Conway urged the commission not to mention "TWTL" in the final document. She said it was the most divisive issue in the entire area and would jeopardize what otherwise was a good plan.

And apparently she was right. But I honestly don't understand why, of everything else that could possibly be contentious when discussing a major redevelopment plan for a neighborhood, bike lanes were what drew the most ire.

Sherman Avenue could certainly use some bike and pedestrian friendly revamping. As it stands, there isn't nearly as much bicycle infrastructure on the North side as their ought to be, and I know several residents who would benefit from a change to that fact. Heck, I travel to that part of town pretty frequently, and being able to ride safely would be a major boon.

My guess is this has to do with car commuters not wanting to share the roads at all with people on bikes. Which, if that is the case, is all kinds of ridiculous...but not surprising. In the move to make cities more alternative transportation friendly, the bikes vs. car battle rages on - with both sides harboring their fair share of irrational jerks. There is middle ground to be had here, though, if only both bikers and drivers were willing to make some concessions.

But then, backing down from an extreme position isn't something we Americans have proven to be very good at lately. It's long past time we learned how, though.

UPDATE: There's an interesting little discussion about this issue over at The Daily Page forums (minus the random outburst from the first commenter). Check it out.

(photo by on Flickr)

Monday, October 19, 2009

Hammes' ham fisted attempts to curry favor with frats

So does this strike anyone else as just a tad suspicious?
In the latest community lobbying attempt from both sides of the Edgewater debate to garner University of Wisconsin Greek house support, the hotel developer Hammes Co. bused members of fraternities to a luxury box at Lambeau Field Sunday for the Packer game.

While at Lambeau, Bob Dunn, president of Hammes Co., gave a presentation on the Edgewater plans, detailing some of the neighborhood concerns with the original proposed plans and offering some insight into potential redesigns.

Dunn also said he did not expect the free trip to jeopardize any objectivity from the fraternity members in their view of the Edgewater project. All he could do, Dunn said, was present the facts of the project and listen to the creative ideas generated.
Oh no, a free trip to Lambeau Field with luxury boxes and free spirits won't do anything to jeopardize objectivity.

If it weren't for the fact that I question just how much influence those fraternities will ultimately have on any final decisions regarding the Edgewater redevelopment project, this would be sending up quite a few more red flags than it already is.

The "we're just showing them another of our projects as an example" line of reasoning seems flimsy at best, especially when that other project of theirs just so happens to be the home stadium of Wisconsin's beloved Packers. How that sort of trip wouldn't be expected to impress college students (or anyone, really), I'm not sure.

Of course, there's probably nothing illegal about this. It just seems awfully...untoward.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Too late for a wake-up call, past time to get moving

This post is part of Blog Action Day 2009: Climate Change. Read a good, more light-hearted take on the subject over at Dane101.

The world is changing. That much is a given. But whether or not you believe that some of that change is due to human interference and is detrimental to our overall survival is an issue that has only grown more contentious as the evidence mounts in its favor.

For too many people on both sides of the debate, too, the argument has mutated into an ego contest: "I'm right, you're wrong, ie: a moron." But that isn't helpful to anyone, and certainly not our planet. This isn't about political parties or nationality. It's about the very long-term security and viability of our home: Earth.

I admit to allowing my temper to flare all too often when it comes to the topic of climate change. I've been studying the effects for as long as I can remember, and when the overwhelming majority of research and evidence points to massive disruption of the Earth's environment as the result of man-made pollutants, it's difficult to understand where those who so vigorously deny it are coming from.

It's easy to say that they just don't care, are selfish, deluded. And certainly, those people exist. But I think most folks are just confused, misled, and probably scared. Hell, I'm scared. It would be much less unsettling to just turn my head and say that everything we're seeing is merely the result of natural cycles, and that we've nothing to worry about. I would much prefer that be the truth.

But it comes down to simply not being willing or able to ignore the evidence. I've been fortunate to have had a very decent level of education in the sciences and scientific method. I've had good teachers who've explained the more complicated ins and outs of environmental science to me. Not everyone has had the luck I've had, though. And in the absence of good teachers, many people are left with politicians and the media as their source for information about climate change.

But soundbytes and talking points can't even come close to explaining what's really going on. They generally either come off sounding too preposterous and alarmist, or overly simplistic and ignorant. That's a major problem that needs to be addressed. We need far better general science education in this country, and we need people to point out the bull when they see it. We need accountability.

Americans especially also need to get over our deeply ingrained belief that the needs and desires of the individual should always trump those of the community. There's a balance to be struck. Individual rights and liberties are incredibly important, but they end when they begin to impede upon the rights and liberties of others. That's where the recognition of the importance of the greater community comes in. If enough individuals refuse to see that some of their actions cause harm to others, then we need to step up as a collective and stop them.

So you may not like littering laws, but the community needs to enforce them for the benefit of all. Interconnectedness. It's not just a hippie ideal. It's the reality on the ground of life on Earth. Our ecosystem is a delicate, finely tuned thing. And it's not as though we've only thrown a small wrench into its inner mechanics with our pollutants. We've been lobbing the equivalent of nuclear bombs at it for centuries now, and it's time to pass some serious nonproliferation laws.

Carbon dioxide is all well and good until it reaches extreme, high levels, at which point it becomes toxic. NASA scientists have already determined the the ideal maximum of CO2 in the atmosphere should be just 350ppm - but we've already outrun that, which means that it's time to make serious efforts at cutting back. Like a human body with sugar and fat intake, there's only so much CO2 the Earth can handle before things start going wrong.

And they've already started going wrong. The trick with climate change is that it isn't just about the average temperature of the planet rising bit by bit, it's also about wilder and more frequent extremes. More hurricanes. More draughts. Stronger storms. Hotter heat waves and colder cold snaps. The seasons shifting, little by little, from their usual patterns.

Right now it's all too easy for people living in better circumstances to ignore the very real problems caused by climate change. Because it's the folks who reside in poorer countries, and/or in places where there's less of a buffer between them and the environment, who feel the adverse effects first. There are even entire countries at risk of being wiped off the map because of rising ocean levels. Whole ways of life are threatened.

Short of the sky actually falling with a note attached that reads, "Due to human-caused climate change," I'm not sure what will convince some of the die-hard deniers. For some people, it's just too much to process. They argue that fighting climate change will result in unnecessary abrogation of rights and economic disaster. And they'll be right if we don't go about things with a clear head. But what they fail to see is that if we do nothing, in the long term, we'll end up with economic disaster and the dissolution of society anyway - only, on a much larger, more catastrophic scale.

We've missed our wake-up call. It's high time we got working.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Criminalizing drunk driving

Apparently there's a new proposal by a handful of state legislators, one that claims "bipartisan support," that would make a first drunk driving conviction a crime instead of just a traffic violation, as it now (ridiculously) is.

About friggen time.

I would, of course like to hear more specifics about the proposal before throwing my full support behind it. What would the actual penalties be? And more importantly, there's a second part of the proposal that would allow for "roadside checkpoints" to screen for drunk drivers. I'm all for more policing to actually catch people in the act, but the idea of checkpoints is always fraught with danger, especially if it involves so-called random stops. Because it's really difficult to enforce the whole "random" part of the deal.

Other than that, though, I'm hopeful that this will be a step in the right direction toward seriously dealing with Wisconsin's abysmal drunk driving enforcement policies. I certainly believe that prevention and treatment programs should be a major part of any effort to curb the practice, but we also need to make sure that offenders are getting more than just a slap on the wrist. I'm sick and tired of reading about people being pulled over for their fifth, sixth, seventh (and so on) DUIs. It's just plain ridiculous. Maybe turning the first strike into an actual crime will lead to people either wising up or being taken off the road all together before it ends in tragedy.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Universal health care...or death

I have watched with varying levels of hope, fury, and plain old dismay as the Health Care Debate of '09 has raged on. I'm sure it comes as no surprise to readers of this blog that I am a major advocate for universal health care, so I tend to get pretty antsy any time there's even a glimmer of hope for making it happen.

And what can I say? Obama got my hopes up. Now that both Democrats and Republicans--along with all-too many thoroughly duped regular folk--have been doing their utmost to damn the current effort to get comprehensive health care reform passed, I must admit that I'm feeling pretty pissed off.

The absurd expenses associated with decent care in this country, as well as the absolutely criminal practices of certain insurance companies, have impacted my life many times. Honestly, I would be truly surprised to meet anyone in the US who hadn't had at least one negative health care related event--whether for themselves or a friend or loved one.

And while the pols in DC squabble over "death panels" and bend over for their Insurance Company Overlords, real people are getting sick, going bankrupt, and dying in the good ol' US of A.

Well done! Letting the health care status quo go on is certainly one way to solve the problem of an aging population. Perhaps not a very good one--I'd argue, in fact, that it's pretty horrifying--but a lot of people seem to be pretty gung-ho about the tactic. Which is odd, seeing as how those same individuals seem to be the ones getting all riled up about "death panels" (which don't even exist).

But I'm not the only one who's figured out the preferred Republican health care strategy. Rep. Alan Grayson recently did a marvelous job of summing up the GOP's position when he unveiled a simple chart on the House floor that said, "Die Quickly."

That's about it. Opponents of real reform can argue until they're blue in the face that that's not what they want, and they're likely telling the truth, but the fact remains that, regardless of their intentions, the result of their policies (or lack thereof) is just that: Don't get sick. If you do, die quickly.

I believe that every human being, as an inherent right, should have equal access to quality, affordable health care. No matter what. There's pretty much no argument that could convince me otherwise.

On a personal level, I'm especially invested as someone who intends to someday become self-employed as a writer and musician (because, let's be frank, no one's looking to hire me for that full-time these days). That means I'll need to either A) get married to someone with insurance benefits, B) scrounge together whatever public state coverage I can manage, or C) go without. Don't get sick, and if I do, die quickly.

Frankly, I'm not all that enthused about the latter option. For the second, I can take some small comfort in the fact that Wisconsin does boast a few very decent public options. The Family Planning Waiver provides free reproductive coverage to women between the ages of 15 and 44, so my lady bits would be well taken care of. And there's Badger Care Plus (Core), which is the general health care plan I, as an adult with no dependent children, could get.

Only, Gov. Doyle made the announcement today that they're freezing new applications to the program after overwhelming numbers of Wisconsinites jumped on it since the plan went into effect three months ago. Doyle said they'd been getting between 500 and 600 applications each day. If that's not an argument for the pressing need for universal health care....

As for option A, let's just say I resent feeling even remotely pressured to get hitched simply to maintain health benefits. Que romantico! Hell, there are people in this country who can't even do that if they wanted to, just because a few curmudgeons get tingly in their underoos whenever same-sex relationships are brought up.

No one should lose coverage simply because they leave a job or get laid off. Further, no one should have to worry about breaking the bank over medical bills. But that's exactly what happened to my family.

Fourteen years ago, my mother took ill. It wasn't a "pre-existing condition." It was a rare, recurring cyst that decided to wreak some havoc in and around her brain. And though she fought like the dickens for two years, countless surgeries and treatments for the resulting infections, etc., couldn't prevent her death. In addition to the incredible grief, my family was also left with nearly $100,000 in bills. This even though we were "fully" insured, mind you. My father did his best to keep up with payments, but his minister's salary simply wasn't enough. Eventually, he had to file for bankruptcy. Thankfully, this happened before the new, oppressively restrictive Bush-era bankruptcy laws were passed, so the process went about as well as it could--all things considered.

Still, why did my mom getting sick and dying mean that we also had to suffer the added indignity of financial collapse?

If we as a nation continue down the same, tired road of fear mongering and kowtowing to moneyed insurance interests, that's exactly what will happen to our country as well.

(photo by Steve Rhodes on Flickr)

Friday, October 2, 2009

The good news for Oct. 2, 2009

Friday news dump time! All of it worthwhile. And hey, if you're in the Madison area tonight and are in the mood for some fine tunes and even finer ladies, my band, Little Red Wolf, will be playing a show at the High Noon Saloon at 9:00 p.m. - opening for Brighton, MA and Company of Thieves. We'd love to see you there! More here.

  • [Channel3000] Chicago loses out on its bid to host the 2016 Olympics in the first round of voting. A great wailing and gnashing of teeth can be seen and heard to the south. While I think it would have been fun to have had the cycling events up here in Wisconsin, I'm not all that bummed about the decision. Honestly, getting the games is always a mixed bag at best for the host cities, and we should really be focusing our time and money on things like education, the environment, and transportation (our lack of current light rail may have been a factor in the no vote, and I suspect the less-than welcoming environment for foreign visitors seeking visas was as well).
  • [Badger Herald] Erstwhile Dist. 5 Dane County Supervisor Wyndham Manning has decided not to run for re-election. The Herald handled the announcement with relative kid gloves, considering the pretty harsh criticisms their editorial board has lobbed at Manning in the past. Personally, the times I've met the guy he's always been friendly and approachable, but I've also gotten the distinct impression that he was perhaps unprepared for the full duties of this particular job. It is perhaps best, then, that he's recognized that a run for second term would be unwise.
  • [Wisconsin State Journal] A new club that opened on the outskirts of Middleton, Outer Limits, really wants to let their ladies show some skin to patrons waving dollar bills. And Middleton's efforts to stop them are, like, totally unconstitutional. Never mind that the club originally applied for and got their liquor license under the guise of just being a "sports bar." And never mind that they're skipping right past applying for a permit and going straight for the lawsuit. I actually think the "no nudity" laws we've got in Dane County are bull, but it doesn't help the cause when you act like douchebags about it.
  • [Yale E360] So those big bad beasties we're so prone to vilify and kill off? Things like wolves, bears, big cats and the like? Yeah, turns out depleting their numbers so drastically ain't such a great idea, as it leaves the so-called "mesopredators" to run rampant, and they can wreak some serious havoc on local ecosystems. Baboons, for instance, have apparently flourished so much in parts of Africa that they've been destroying crops and "menacing villagers" (which, though it sounds hilarious, is a bad thing).
The Lost Albatross