Waste the Rainbow

River of red Skittles coats Dodge County highway:

A rain-soaked box aboard a flatbed pickup truck ruptured in Dodge County, coating a stretch of County Highway S in Beaver Dam with hundreds of thousands of red Skittles, the sheriff’s office reported Wednesday.

. . . .

The Dodge County Highway Department was called to clean up the candy-coated shells – packed with such yummy ingredients as sugar, corn syrup, hydrogenated palm kernel oil, tapioca dextrin, sodium citrate and carnauba wax – which were intended to be cattle feed because they did not make the cut for packaging, according to the sheriff’s office.

I’ll get back to you when I think of an appropriate punchline.

No, wait, I’ve got it!

So this is where Uncle Herb’s Flavored Milk comes from! Except they don’t call the flavored milk booth at the Wisconsin State Fair Uncle Herb’s these days.

Book Report: Wisconsin Place Names: A Pronouncing Gazetteer compiled by Harold A. Engel (1968)

Book coverThis book is a collection of Wisconsin place names with pronunciations for each. It has been published in three editions starting in the 1930s; this edition is from 1968, and it’s a product of the University of Wisconsin Extension Office. So it’s not unlike the provenance of David Burton’s A History of Rural Schools in Greene County, Missouri.

At any rate, I flipped through the book while watching a Packers football game, and I tried to say the names before I read the pronunciations, and I did fairly well, I think. Of course, the names are all said relatively like they look (and I’m steeped from my youth in saying Native American Indian place names). So it’s quite unlike Missouri place names, where even when you think you should know how to pronounce it, you’re wrong (see Boliver, Cuba, Nevada, and so on).

I did have a couple of disputes with it, though. Here’s a sample page, by the way, with one of the disputed pronunciations:

Wisconsin does not have an O sound in it; it is wisKHANsin. Also, there is no L in Mi’WAHkee.

But a quick and interesting flip through during the football game, as I said.

Basically, It’s A Monroe Press Release in USA Today

I found an article called Top 5 places for a Wisconsin cheese pilgrimage.

You know how I can tell it’s not a real top list? It does not include Mars Cheese Castle.

Instead, it identifies five places all in Monroe, Wisconsin to visit.

Given all the cheese in Wisconsin, this seems a rather tightly focused list. Almost as though the “journalist” merely regurgitated a list of places from a Monroe Chamber of Commerce brochure.

Not that there’s anything wrong with Monroe, Wisconsin, or its effective outreach that has gleaned national attention.

But, come on. All five destinations are in the same town? Who would fall for that? Right. People not from Wisconsin. Who read the newspaper.

Hail, Caesar! Media Perpetuates the Story of the Omnipotent Executive

I forget where I saw this link, but the Business Insider’s story is entitled Wisconsin Republican: Women Are Paid Less Because ‘Money Is More Important For Men’, and it’s about how the state of Wisconsin no longer has an equal pay law.

According to the Business Insider, this is Scott Walker’s doing:

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker opened up a new front in the GOP’s war against women last week when he overturned his state’s equal pay law, which made it easier for workers to sue their employers for wage discrimination.

Business Insider links to its earlier piece, entitled The Governor Of Wisconsin May Have Just Blown The Election For Mitt Romney, which puts the repeal on the governor of Wisconsin again:

The Democrats “GOP War On Women” rallying cry got a major lift from Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker today, with the news that the Republican darling repealed a Wisconsin law that made it easier for women to fight wage discrimination.

The Huffington Post reports that Walker quietly overturned Wisconsin’s Equal Pay Enforcement Act last night, bowing to pressure from the state’s Republican lawmakers. The equal pay law was designed to deter wage discrimination by making it easier for workers to press charges against their employers.

Got that? Walker overturned the law, and Walker quietly overturned the law. How did he do this? Fiat? Diktat? Executive order? We have to go to the Huffington Post story linked in the second story to learn how Walker acted unilaterally:

A Wisconsin law that made it easier for victims of wage discrimination to have their day in court was repealed on Thursday, after Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) quietly signed the bill.

The 2009 Equal Pay Enforcement Act was meant to deter employers from discriminating against certain groups by giving workers more avenues via which to press charges. Among other provisions, it allows individuals to plead their cases in the less costly, more accessible state circuit court system, rather than just in federal court.

In November, the state Senate approved SB 202, which rolled back this provision. On February, the Assembly did the same. Both were party-line votes in Republican-controlled chambers.

SB 202 was sent to Walker on March 29. He had, according to the state constitution, six days to act on the bill. The deadline was 5:00 p.m. on Thursday. The governor quietly signed the bill into law on Thursday, according to the Legislative Reference Bureau, and it is now called Act 219.

Wait a minute: The executive branch of government did not act unilaterally, but merely signed a bill passed by both houses of Wisconsin’s legislature? That is, the elected representatives of Wisconsin debated and passed a bill, Scott Walker unilaterally declared war on Women by performing his duty and signing it?

Although the body of the article gets it right, the Huffington Post still pins it on Scott Walker in the headline, “Scott Walker Quietly Repeals Wisconsin Equal Pay Law”.

I realize that, with a Federal executive who ignores the legislature and the courts, that is, the co-equal branches of government, the whole Constitutional civics thing gets purposefully murky.

But can’t “journalists” bother to know the difference between signing a bill and an executive acting like a lone wolf? Or would that threaten the new order, where executives are more than figureheads and have sweeping powers that they should only use for good, or what passes for good in Democrat minds?

Republican Democracy Fails Again

Republicans take 4 of 6 in recall elections, hold Senate:

Democrats won two state Senate seats in Tuesday’s historic recall elections, but failed to capture a third seat that would have given them control of the chamber.

By keeping a majority in the Senate, Republicans retained their monopoly on state government because they also hold the Assembly and governor’s office. Tuesday’s elections narrowed their majority – at least for now – from 19-14 to a razor-thin 17-16.

If only there were some way the people could have voiced their opinions!

Aside from the election in 2010, the Supreme Court election, the recall elections….

(More from Wisconsonites Troglopundit and Ann Althouse.)

What Was Wrong With Trial By Combat?

Bill could change how Supreme Court chooses chief justice:

Wisconsin’s Supreme Court would be given the power to elect its chief justice under a constitutional amendment that could be introduced to the state Legislature as early as next week.

The bill authored by Rep. Tyler August, R-Walworth, would end a longstanding rule that gives the court’s highest seat to the person with the most seniority. Instead, the seven justices would gather to choose their own chief following any Supreme Court election.

They go by seniority? I thought they selected the chief justice in a fight.

(Link seen on Boots and Sabers.)

Urban Sprawl, Advance Team

As I told everyone I saw this weekend, Milwaukee is very odd in that its metropolitan area is small and drops off abruptly into farmlands. You can drive from the south end of the area to the north end of the area in a little over 30 minutes on the freeway. In St. Louis, by contrast, just starting from downtown (which doesn’t include the eastern suburbs because they’re in Illinois and although they like to pretend they count, they don’t), you can drive for well over an hour one its freeways and still travel through well-developed suburbs.

However, in that sprawling farmland just beyond the reaches of Milwaukee’s metropolitan area, there are signs that the development juggernaut is coming. This photo, taken along US 60 just outside of Jackson proves it. I passed fields, tractors driving on the side of the road, tractors for sale, and a sign:

Hand-lettered CONDOS sign
Click for full size

It isn’t the farmers moving into CONDOS in the middle of nowhere.

Based on my experience with the St. Louis area and how my former area in northwestern Jefferson County has grown, I expect the way of life of those people in Jackson and in Richfield and in Hubertus and around those parts will change drastically in the next 20 years. If Milwaukee has the population to support it.

It’s progress, I guess, but I’m still sad. Perhaps I should be like John D. MacDonald, Carl Hiaasen, et al, and write poetic crime fiction novels to lament it.

Schools Put It All On Black 31

A Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel watchdog report finds that some school districts have been funding pension plans and whatnot with risky investment schemes:

Five Wisconsin public school districts have made an investment gamble that could force taxpayers to finance multimillion-dollar bailouts.

The districts – Kenosha, Kimberly Area, Waukesha, West Allis-West Milwaukee and Whitefish Bay – have piled up debt in deals to help fund health insurance and other non-pension benefits for retirees. But as global financial markets have seized up, the districts have been told the value of their investments has fallen so much that they might need to come up with a combined $53 million to avoid default.

Ah, what the heck, it’s funny money anyway, right? The taxpayers always have more.

Sad Day for a Wisconsin Boy

Brett Favre Set to Retire After 17 Years.
Report: Gary Gygax, ‘Father of D&D,’ Dies at 69.

Seriously. What’s left for a Wisconsin boy? Governor Doyle and high tax rates? The Aaron “Mr. Glass” Rodgers era in Packers football?

You know, I once met Gary Gygax when GenCon was still in Milwaukee, as nature intended it. It was after TSR sued Game Designers Workshop into oblivion for including trademarked properties like elves and hit rolls into the Dangerous Journeys system. Gygax looked like an old biker and regaled me and a couple of friends with some stories about another system he was developing and some weird role-playing anecdote about carnivorous trees.

I never met Brett Favre, though, and I actually foolishly turned down a chance to see him play the last year. However, I think that the conversations would have been similar.

Making the Bad Part of Human Nature Easy

One of the arguments against massive government databases is that the rank and file government bureaucrats will have the opportunity for personal mischief. Aside from the slippery slope argument that the presence of these databases will make it easier for future tyrants. But don’t underplay how much simple human curiosity will lead to systemic abuse:

A landlord snooped on tenants to find out information about their finances. A woman repeatedly accessed her ex-boyfriend’s account after a difficult breakup. Another obtained her child’s father’s address so she could serve him court papers.

All worked for Wisconsin’s largest utility, where employees routinely accessed confidential information about acquaintances, local celebrities and others from its massive customer database.

Documents obtained by The Associated Press in an employment case involving Milwaukee-based WE Energies shine a light on a common practice in the utilities, telecommunications and accounting industries, privacy experts say.

You think?

No Word On Left Handed Hunter Accident Rates

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel finds a truth in statistics:

An estimated 650,000 hunters, many with high-powered rifles, will saturate the fields and forests of Wisconsin when deer-hunting season opens Saturday. They will track game at a time when hunting has never been safer in Wisconsin.

But a Journal Sentinel analysis shows the percentage of accidents caused by hunters 21 and younger in 2006 was the highest since 1999. And in the past five years, those young hunters were more than twice as likely to cause hunting accidents than all other hunters.

Fortunately, judicious use of a calculator has given the paper its needed anti-hunting trope.

Obeying Tax Laws Not Fair, Say Tax Money Spenders

In Wisconsin, the state is going after Wal-Mart for using legal techniques to lower its tax obligations: Wal-Mart owes back taxes, state says: Paying rent to itself cuts millions off retailer’s tax bill:

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has avoided millions of dollars in state taxes by paying rent on 87 Wisconsin properties in a way that the state Department of Revenue calls an “abuse and distortion of income.”

As a result, state tax auditors say, Wal-Mart owes more than $17.7 million in back corporate income taxes, interest and penalties for 1998, 1999 and 2000. More could be due for later years.

The cause for this? The state is imposing its own standard:

Revenue Department lawyer Mark Zimmer argues that the world’s largest retailer is not paying its fair share of taxes that support public schools, local police and fire departments and the highways it uses to transport what it sells in Wisconsin. [Emphasis added]

Essentially, Wal-Mart is setting up its own entity to own the land that it uses for its stores; Corporate Wal-Mart gets to deduct the rent from its gross income so that its taxable income subject to taxation is less. Then, Landlord Wal-Mart pays Corporate Wal-Mart the profits as dividends, which are taxed less than the same amount as straight income would have been taxed.

Two distinct companies with different ownership wouldn’t draw the ire of the tax seekers; that it is, and it’s Wal-Mart, makes it look like easy pickings for the state of Wisconsin.

Hopefully, Wal-Mart and its REIT will prevail. A fie upon “creative” unelected officials who think their position gives them license to determine when “legal” isn’t “fair” and to use the people’s resources to extract more resources from the people.

Town Councilchair Quarterbacks Go Three And Out

Sometimes when a municipality decides that its ideas about how to design and run the business are better than the business owner’s, the business owner decides not to play:

Menards has dropped plans to build a warehouse store at the east end of Grafton near the I-43 / Highway 60 interchange, saying village officials insisted on too many changes in the company’s plans, a Menards official said Monday.

“We just went as far as we could go revising the plans, and finally we said it wasn’t worthwhile,” said Marv Prochaska, the company’s vice president of real estate. “At some point, you have to operate your business, and it was beyond the point where the deal made any sense.

“It was just numerous, numerous small things that all added up to way too much, and it just didn’t make any sense,” he said.

Look on the bright side, Grafton! That’s sales tax revenue you never had, so you won’t have to worry about what to do if the location started making less year over year.

In Case Of Catastrophic Failure, An Alarm Will Sound

Wisconsin to install monitors on 15 bridges:

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation will install devices on 15 bridges to monitor unusual movements, officials announced Tuesday, six days after the fatal I-35 bridge collapse in Minneapolis.

The devices, called accelerometers, will be placed on the 15 bridges in Wisconsin that have support structures similar to the Minneapolis bridge.

Accelerometers work much like seismometers, which measure movements of the Earth, and will gauge horizontal and vertical movements in the bridge supports.

Kudos to the state government of Wisconsin for spending tax dollars making a public gesture that won’t actually fix anything.

Perhaps if they installed cameras, too, so they could have pictures of the actual collapse as well, kinda like security cameras favored by police departments don’t prevent but allow government officials to watch governmental failures in progress from the safety of their offices.