Witness a machine turn coffee into pointless ramblings...
30 November, 2011
So Long Leine's Fireside Nut Brown
Word is that Leinenkugel is dropping their winter seasonal, Fireside Nut Brown, after this year's batch. It's apparently going away to make room for another beer as yet to be determined.
While Fireside was never a regular purchase for me, I have had it and it's not bad. Like most of their brews, the stuff is kind of watery - lacking a real malt backbone. And it's not that potent so I have to wonder why it is their winter seasonal. Hopefully the Big Eddy series will get some more exposure by being introduced full-time.
Wisconsin Senators Vote For Indefinitely Detaining U.S. Citizens
Matt Rothschild has a disturbing article about the National Defense Authorization Act, S. 1867 which, if passed, would give the government the power to throw U.S. citizens into Gitmo.
Section 1031 of the bill gives the President and the Armed Forces enormous power to detain people they believe were involved in the attacks of Sept. 11 or supported Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or “associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners.”
That section empowers the President to detain such persons indefinitely without trial or to try them before a military court or to transfer them “to the custody or control of the person's country of origin, any other foreign country, or any other foreign entity.”
Sen. Mark Udall of Colorado introduced an amendment would, according to Human Rights First:
...would have removed three troubling sections of the defense authorization bill, proposals that the Obama Administration has warned could result in a Presidential veto. One section authorizes the military to indefinitely detain without charge individuals – including American citizens apprehended on U.S. soil – who are suspected of involvement with terrorism. A second section forces law enforcement officials to transfer a large category of terrorism suspects into military custody, against the advice of counterterrorism professionals. A third section will further institute restrictions on the transfer of cleared Guantanamo detainees.
Much to my chagrin, both Wisconsin senators voted against the amendment. I expect a jagoff like Ron Johnson to be all gung-ho and vote against it but so did Herb Kohl.
Don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out, Mr. Kohl.
Prof. James Leary is, to my mind, one of a triumvirate of big names that really put the history of Wisconsin into the popular realm. John Gourda chronicles Milwaukee's past, Jerry Apps works to keep the state's rural past alive, and Leary is a folky anthropologist who eschews the well-worn symbols such as beer, cheese, and barns for equally pervasive but often ignored cultural markers such as Wisconsin folk music and jokes. Gourda covers Wisconsin's largest city, Apps works in a general rural/small town frameworks, but, as near as I can tell, it is Leary who looks at Wisconsin in the context of Upper Midwest region. Such is the case here with his So Ole Says to Lena: Folk Humor of the Upper Midwest.
Having grown up in Chicago, I was familiar with Polock jokes. (E.g. – "How did the Germans invade Poland? They walked in backwards and said they were leaving.") But, after moving to west central Wisconsin where there were mostly Olsons, Nelsons, Johnsons, Skogstads, etc., I soon encountered Old and Lena jokes such as this one in Leary's book.
What was that one about Ole and Lena? Oh, they were going to get married.
And they asked Ole, they says, "Are you a...what nationality are you?"
He says, "I'm a Swede."
He asked Lena, "What are you?"
Says, "I'm Norwegian, but I have a little Swede in me, too. Ole couldn't wait."
While there are plenty of Ole and Lena jokes in this book, Leary provides a comprehensive survey of jokes of various stripes here. Let me backtrack for a second and note that the book's introduction is by W.K. McNeil of The Ozark Folk Center. It's less than 20 pages long yet has 42 footnotes. He describes jokes as "complex, many-sided folk narratives" and provides a short history of academic joke collecting. Generally speaking, humor has been ignored until recently by scholars and some of the work that has been done in pretty shoddy. Furthermore, it would seem that Leary is breaking some new ground here as Upper Midwestern humor looks to have been given short shrift but Leary provides the remedy to this problem.
The jokes here were recorded by the author himself over the course of many years in the 1970s and 80s and are presented in chronological order of nationality as they appeared in Wisconsin. That is, American Indian tales come first followed by French, Cornish, and so on. Once ethnic jokes are dispatched with, we move on to those relating to vocation such as logging and farming. Humor directed at townsfolk and hunters & fishers round things out.
Leary annotates the jokes as necessary, explaining homophones, place names, and pointing out recurring motifs such as "Drunk as usual". Leary explains how jokes can deal with many topics. One common one is how they are windows into times when traditional culture meets change. I personally like the Ojibwa joke about Wenabozho, a mythical being, going to see a psychiatrist. Lots of humor is directed by one ethnic group at another so you get examples such as Norwegians telling "dumb Swede jokes".
On a more personal note, I have to admit that my own experience with Wisconsin humor is consonant with the picture that Leary paints here. When I first moved to Wisconsin, Norwegians were usually the butt of ethnic jokes. It's like you could just swap the word "Polack" for "Norwegian" or "Stash" for "Ole". About a year after I moved to Madison I met a Finnish-American who was a co-worker. He worked hard and drank a lot – a trait you find in Finnish jokes. (He took to the description "blue-faced drunken Finn" from John Dos Passos' USA Trilogy.) And he liked saunas so I was very amused by the Finnish joke in the book called "The Cannibals' Sauna". During one conversation in which Stoughton came up, this Finn told me something along the lines of "There's just a bunch of Norwegians on acid down there." Lo and behold Leary includes the following:
What do you get when you cross lutefish with a hit of LSD?
A trip to Stoughton.
The book also includes a variation of a tall tale I heard more than once living up nort – that of the hunter whose gun wasn't working so he had to jump from a tree onto a buck and kill it with his bare hands. Lastly, I'll note that it was interesting to see how jokes that rural folk made about town folk morphed into jokes that Cheeseheads make about FIBs.
Leary excludes the humor of African-, Asian-, and Hispanic-Americans as these groups haven't been in Wisconsin long enough or in large enough numbers. But there will no doubt be a companion volume at some point in the future when the jokes of these cultures lose their "Old World skin". I can only recall one Hmong joke that I heard when living up by Eau Claire. I think it was one of the city's high schools that had a bulldog mascot and the joke was "Why did the school take down the bulldog statue? Because too many Hmong pulled up thinking the school was a restaurant." Ba-dum bum. Surely there are jokes out there that aren't nasty like this one.
So Ole Says to Lena was not only funny, but I also appreciated that it filled in the picture of how Europeans settled the Upper Midwest generally and Wisconsin specifically. We tend to think of the story as simply that a bunch of Germans and Scandinavians came over and farmed but there were rivalries brought over from the Old World that persisted and you can get a glimpse of them in folk humor. The same can be said of how American Indians adapted to their fate when the territory was overrun with pale faces and how their traditions ran headlong into the dominant culture. So Ole Says to Lena is not overly academic, the introduction aside, and is some fine reading for denizens of Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Michigan's UP. (Along with some folks from Illinois, Iowa, Lower Michigan, the Dakotas.)
It was a bummer to read the news that La Rocca's is closing shop here in Madison and moving south to Oregon. (The town not the state.)
This is too bad as I liked their food. Best of luck to the La Rocca family. Hopefully this family restaurant won't suffer the same fate as Bev's - leave Madison for a small town and then go out of business shortly thereafter.
I also hope that some place interesting moves in. The neighborhood could use a good ethic eatery. I know Linda Falkenstein is pulling for Bolivian food but I'm hoping for a Polish restaurant. It'll probably be a cafe.
Diaz begins by attempting to discredit Madison's former mayor by citing some development failures of his administration and noting that Epic's move to Verona was squarely at odds with Cieslewicz's Richard Florida-inspired views. The crux here is Cieslewicz's disagreement with the idea that Madison and Janesville are optimal Thrive partners for economic development:
So why are Madison and Janesville both part of the same “region” as defined by the private-public economic development entity called Thrive? There is simply no good reason for it, and the wrong definition of the region is hurting Madison and Dane County, while it isn’t doing much for the other seven included counties either. Thrive is a fine idea, and a good organization led and staffed by bright people, but it’s fatally flawed by its size.
After attempting to argue that Cieslewicz is not the most knowledgeable person to be commenting on the issue, Diaz says:
The difference between Madison and Janesville are much smaller than the difference between Madison and the whole world. We are in a global economy, regional cooperation is a good thing. So Thrive, keep doing what you’re doing.
The first sentence hangs on how you define "difference". Sure, Madison and Janesville are geographically close to one another, are bound by a common language, et al, but these are not the things Cieslewicz was talking about because they aren't that important when it comes to Madison deciding where to pin its economic future. Yes, Madison has fewer "differences" when compared to Janesville than Shanghai, but so what?
Take a look at the second sentence. What can Janesville contribute to a partnership with Madison that will give everyone a leg up in competing in a global economy? Parker Pen and GM are gone and I'd bet that most of the suppliers to these industries are also gone. I don't have statistics other than an unemployment rate of around 9% to determine what Janesville would bring to a marriage; instead all I have are anecdotes. My mother goes to visit family there and has concluded that it's a city on life support. A friend has a sibling who works at a Rock County job center and this person has nothing but horror stories. So, while the plural of anecdote is not data, I am sticking with my story until someone comes up with some data that show how Janesville would be a good partner for Madison in a global economy.
If Janesville has something to add to our economic future, great. We here in Madison should be ready to partner with anyone. But in terms of focusing efforts, Madison needs more of this, an energy research consortium linking facilities and researchers in Milwaukee and Madison together. The southeast corner of Wisconsin accounts for about a third of the state's economic output with Milwaukee being the northern frontier of an economic mega-region with Chicago, a global city, at its center. That's where Madison should be seeking partnerships.
This is just rich. Vladimir Putin has won an award for promoting peace. It's almost as big a joke as Obama winning the Nobel Peace Prize.
After two wars in Chechnya, one conflict in South Ossetia and two of the deadliest hostage relief operations in modern history, the former KGB officer was named on Monday as the winner of the second Confucian peace prize.
It is unclear if Putin is even aware of the award which was chosen by an obscure cultural organisation, the China International Peace Research Centre, from a field of nominees including Bill Gates, Angela Merkel, Kofi Annan, Jacob Zuma and a Tibetan Panchen Lama imposed by Beijing.
The 16-judge panel said that Putin deserved the award because his criticism of Nato's military engagement in Libya was "outstanding in keeping world peace", regardless of the fact that it had no bearing on the outcome of the north African conflict.
And earlier this week I found some new labels from Milwaukee Brewing Company.
Hop Happy looks to be an IPA while Polish Moon is apparently a milk stout. No idea about Booyah. Anyone know if these are on tap at the brewery or at the Milwaukee Ale House?
A couple other miscellaneous things.
Firstly, a friend of mine who loves Ale Aslyum's Mercy Grand Cru told me that he thinks this year's batch is great and much better than last year's. I'll give the credit to Joe Walts because, if I don't, he'll never let me drink his homebrew again.
Lastly, I was in Palmyra earlier this week. I stopped in at the BP there for gas and found that there was a display in the aisle near the coolers for Potosi beer. Just a stack of 6-packs out to meet the customer. Despite how boring Jeff Glazer thinks Wisconsin breweries have been lately, I think it's great that one can get craft beer at gas stations in just about every podunk town in this state.
This past weekend I found out that my 12 year-old stepson has started listening to Disturbed. All I know about them is that they're a metal band from Chicago and that they did a cover of Genesis' "Land of Confusion". Prior to this revelation, he only listened to early Beatles ("Love Me Do", "Eight Days a Week", &c.) as far as I knew. I guess the testosterone is flowing.
With puberty immanent, I've been thinking about how to celebrate his first step into manhood. American WASPy culture doesn't have much in the way of rituals to celebrate entrance into puberty. A talk about birds and bees or a trip to the store for tampons is about all this culture can offer. There's no equivalent of Bar/Bat Mitzvahs for us gentiles. I had a friend who's Catholic family had him confirmed when he was around 12 but I'm not sure confirmation really counts. And we're not Catholic.
Looking around the Net, I see that some cultures initiate boys into manhood with a beating or a tattoo. While I think a beating would do the kid good, that won't fly. And neither will taking him to a brothel. I've gotta find something good and manly. I don't hunt so I can't take him deer hunting. I'd take him camping and let him do some fishing and maybe shoot a real gun for the first time but it's too late in the season.
I never had a Welcome to Manhood rite so I've no personal experience to draw upon. Maybe I could take him to a bar like Wiggies, buy him a root beer, and then take him to an R-rated movie.
Binny's Beverage Depot, a Chicago-area chain of liquor stores, is looking to into Wisconsin.
Binny’s CEO Michael Binstein says he’s seeking sites in other downstate Illinois markets and is preparing a push into neighboring Wisconsin. “We’re looking at moving into both Madison and Milwaukee,” Binstein told Shanken News Daily. “There are some exceptional opportunities in Wisconsin.” Binstein also disclosed clear ambitions to expand regionally and then nationally. “Once we set up the internal infrastructure to expand to Wisconsin, we can use that as a springboard to go national,” he said.
I've been to Binny's in suburban Chicago and they are quite the stores. A great selection of beer. While it all depends on the store and on distributors, I am hopeful that a Binny's here in Madison would have a decent German bier section, unlike basically every retailer in the city.
Spring Cinematheque Schedule Taking Shape and Other Cinematic Ramblings
I noticed recently that The Innkeepers will be playing at the UW Cinematheque next semester on 17 February. Looks like we have some good scares to look forward to.
The following month on the 31st Cinematheque will screen François Truffaut's The Soft Skin.
And then on 28 April the Cinematheque will usher in spring with The Makioka Sisters by Ken Ichikawa.
Hopefully Beyond the Black Rainbow will make its way here next year as well. It sounds like a real mindfuck kind of flick – check out the synopsis from the Tribeca guide:
Panos Cosmatos brings a bold, Kubrickian vision to the screen in stunning detail in this sci-fi fable of a young woman imprisoned in an experimental laboratory and the enigmatic scientist who is her captor. Set in a futuristic 1983, Elena finds herself held against her will in a mysterious facility under the watchful eye of the sinister Dr. Barry Nyle. Pushed to her limits, Elena is left with no choice but to navigate an escape from her labyrinthine prison, in the process revealing its hidden secrets.
Notice the shot here in the trailer of the tunnel. Makes me think Cosmatos is a Tarkovsky fan as well.
Thursday, November 10 7:00 pm: We Were Here (USA, 2011, 90 min., digital, dir. David Weissman)
Friday, November 11 4:30 pm: Paris is Burning (USA, 1990, 78 min., digital, dir. Jennie Livingston) 7:00 pm: Tomboy (France, 2011, 84 min., digital, dir. Céline Sciamma) 9:30pm: The Birdcage (USA, 1996, 118 min., digital, dir. Mike Nichols) 11:59 pm: Pink Flamingos (USA, 1972, 92 min., digital, dir. John Waters) Midnight: Dance at DMF. Plan B’s Video DJ Amos Smith performs for free at the Sett in Union South
Saturday, November 12 4:30 pm: For the Bible Tells Me So (USA, 2007, 100 min., 35mm, dir. Dan Karslake) 7:00 pm: Bloomington (USA, 2010, 83 min., digital, dir. Fernanda Cardoso) 9:30pm: 3 (Drei) (Germany, 2010, 120 min., digital, dir. Tom Tykwer) 11:59 pm: Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same (USA, 2011, 75 min., digital, dir. Madeleine Olnek)
Sunday, November 13 4:30 pm: Were the World Mine (USA, 2008, 95 min., digital, dir. Tom Gustafson) 7:00 pm: Beyond Gay: The Politics of Pride (Canada, 2009, 85 min., digital, dir. Bob Christie)
Good to see that Tom Tykwer's Drei will be screened. I like Tykwer but it's pretty far removed from the stuff that earned him his reputation.
US Bank President to the Little People: "Get over it."
U.S. Bank President Richard Davis was in the Twin Cities a couple days ago and spoke at a Minnesota Chamber of Commerce event. There were protestors outside but he mainly ignored them as everyone enjoyed their hot dish. However, his one comment about them was enlightening:
"'Everybody's breaking the rules, blah blah blah,'" Davis said at one point, admonishing the assembled business leaders to "get over it."
Who are these people wondering what the OWS movement's demands are? Let's start with prosecuting assholes like Richard Davis for what Yves Smith calls "bank looting".
1. Violation of REMIC (real estate mortgage conduit) rules, which are IRS provisions which allow mortgage backed securities to be treated as pass-through entities...Moreover, when the senior enforcement officer in the IRS was alerted last year, she was keenly interested. But the word that came back was the the question had gone to the White House, and the answer was to nix going after these violations...this is prima facie evidence of an Administration policy of protecting the banks.
2. Consumer fraud under HAMP. Catherine Masto of Nevada has already delineated this case in her second amended complaint against numerous Bank of America entities (in fact, the evidently clueless President could find a raft of other litigation ideas in her filing). All the servicers engaged in similar egregious conduct.
3. Securities fraud by mortgage trustees and serivcers. While the statute of limitations for securities fraud for the sale of toxic mortgage securities in the runup to the crisis has now passed, securitization trustees and servicers are making false certifications in periodic SEC filings. In layperson terms, the trustee certifies that everything is kosher with the trust assets. As readers well know, in many cases the custodians do not have the notes or they were not conveyed to the trust as stipulated in the pooling and servicing agreement (as in they were not properly endorsed through the chain of title).
4. Widespread risk management failures as Sarbanes-Oxley violations. As we’ve discussed, Sarbox provides a fairly low risk path to criminal prosecutions. And we believe the SEC has been incorrectly deterred by an adverse ruling in the early stages of its case against Angelo Mozilo.
"A tax upon house-rents, therefore, would in general fall heaviest upon the rich; and in this sort of inequality there would not, perhaps, be anything very unreasonable. It is not very unreasonable that the rich should contribute to the public expense, not only in proportion to their revenue, but something more than in that proportion" (Adam Smith, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations)
While I don't mean to simply appeal to authority here, I thought it was a nice quote considering reports I've read today which detail just how little income tax many corporations pay. Andrew Leonard up at Salon looked at a new report from the Citizens for Tax Justice and the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy.
37 of the United States’ biggest corporations paid zero taxes in 2010...The list of companies that paid zero taxes is only the beginning of the travesties documented by the report. The authors looked at the tax filings from 2008-2010 of 280 of the nation’s biggest, most successful corporations. These companies reported $1.4 trillion worth of profit during a period when most Americans were struggling to stay afloat. The authors discovered that the average effective tax rate — what the companies really paid after government subsidies, tax breaks and various tax dodges were taken into account — was only 18.5 percent, less than half the statutory rate. Fully a quarter of the 280 companies paid under 10 percent.
But this isn't just the case with IBM and Verizon; it's nearly the same here in Wisconsin as Mike Ivey noted:
Now, the IWF is out with a report showing four nameplate corporations in Wisconsin are avoiding state taxes at the same time they are booking huge profits, cutting local workforces and handing out fat paychecks to top executives.
The four firms also booked a combined $29 billion in profits and paid $0 in state corporate income taxes -- save for Kimberly-Clark, which did pay in three of those 10 years, according to the IWF report.
FREE MONEY. Ordinary people have to borrow their money at market rates. Lloyd Blankfein and Jamie Dimon get billions of dollars for free, from the Federal Reserve. They borrow at zero and lend the same money back to the government at two or three percent...
CREDIT AMNESTY. If you or I miss a $7 payment on a Gap card or, heaven forbid, a mortgage payment, you can forget about the great computer in the sky ever overlooking your mistake. But serial financial fuckups like Citigroup and Bank of America overextended themselves by the hundreds of billions and pumped trillions of dollars of deadly leverage into the system -- and got rewarded with things like the Temporary Liquidity Guarantee Program, an FDIC plan that allowed irresponsible banks to borrow against the government's credit rating.
STUPIDITY INSURANCE. Time after time, when big banks screw up and make irresponsible bets that blow up in their faces, they've scored bailouts. It doesn't matter whether it was the Mexican currency bailout of 1994 (when the state bailed out speculators who gambled on the peso) or the IMF/World Bank bailout of Russia in 1998 (a bailout of speculators in the "emerging markets") or the Long-Term Capital Management Bailout of the same year (in which the rescue of investors in a harebrained hedge-fund trading scheme was deemed a matter of international urgency by the Federal Reserve), Wall Street has long grown accustomed to getting bailed out for its mistakes.
UNGRADUATED TAXES. I've already gone off on this more than once, but it bears repeating. Bankers on Wall Street pay lower tax rates than most car mechanics.
GET OUT OF JAIL FREE. But we do still have about 2.3 million people in jail in America.
Virtually all 2.3 million of those prisoners come from "the 99%." Here is the number of bankers who have gone to jail for crimes related to the financial crisis: 0.
Getting back to Mr. Davis, it seems he and his institution have no problem kicking people when they're down as this article at Huffington Post shows. U.S. Bank imposes some pretty hefty fees on the debit cards used by some states as a method for paying unemployment insurance.
Out of work and living on a $189-a-week unemployment check, Rob Linville needs to watch every penny.
The state of Oregon, where Linville lives, deposits his weekly benefits on a U.S. Bank prepaid debit card. The bank allows him to make four withdrawals per month free of charge. After that, he must pay $1.50 for each visit to the ATM and $3 to see a teller. Managing his basic expenses, including rent, bus fare and groceries, typically requires more than four withdrawals, he says. Unexpected needs -- Linville recently bought a sport coat for $20 to prepare for a job interview -- entail more. He's afraid to withdraw his full benefits in one shot, knowing that the bank could sock him with a $17.50 overdraft fee if he exceeds his balance. So he pulls out small amounts of cash as he needs it, incurring about $15 in fees in the last two months he says.