Candidates beware: The electronic documents you share may reveal more than you'd care to.
Take, for instance, Nancy Mistele's 1,000-word speech announcing her candidacy for Dane County executive, which she delivered Dec. 10 from the steps of the City-County Building. (See "Nancy Mistele Fires Opening Shots," 12/10/08.)
Later that same day, Mistele sent the text of her speech to media and others, as a word document, from her personal email.
If you save this word file to desktop and check "Properties," then "Summary," an interesting thing happens: The listed title of the document comes up as "PUGH."
Pugh who? Jim Pugh, the spokesman for Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, the "nonpartisan" big-business lobby that backs mainly Republican candidates?
That's the fact, Jack.
"Here's the situation," explains Mistele campaign manager Jon Horne. "When Nancy was drafting her announcement, she considered input from Jim Pugh, who is a personal friend of Nancy's and has no position in our campaign. Nancy writes her own speeches, and her announcement was no exception."
Horne stresses that Pugh gave his input on his own time and "not on behalf of WMC."
Pugh did not respond to an email request from Isthmus for his, um, input.
Another peculiarity occurs in the two-sentence press release that Mistele sent out as a word document the day before her talk, giving the when and where of her announcement.
If you save and examine it, the listed author of this very brief and perfunctory document is "Rick."
Could that be Rick Berg, noted local conservative and valued Isthmus columnist?
You betcha! The day before the speech, Berg says he spoke to Mistele and asked whether she had put out a media advisory. She hadn't, so he sent her a template; thus his first name ended up in the DNA for this document.
"I just did it as a favor for a friend," says Berg, who has written favorably about Mistele's campaign, as is his right, as a conservative commentator. "I've talked to Nancy and others about issues I think they need to raise," he says, adding that he considered a bid for county exec in 1988, "so I have my own personal views on what needs to be done to make Dane County an even better place to live and do business."
But Berg stresses that he has no official role in Mistele's campaign and "did not review the final text of her speech."
"It's my impression that Nancy likes to do her own thing," he says.
We're in the monkeys
Wisconsin, thanks to Madison, leads the nation in the number of nonhuman primates used in experimentation.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees animal research, recently reported that 8,859 monkeys were used for experiments here in 2007, a 44% increase over the year before. Almost all were in Madison, with the largest share - 7,313 - at Covance Laboratory. The lab on Madison's northeast side also reported using 5,134 dogs, 2,639 rabbits, 863 hamsters, 332 guinea pigs, 261 pig pigs, 32 cats and no partridges in pear trees.
SAEN (Stop Animal Experimentation Now!), an Ohio-based watchdog group, says some primates used by university facilities are not reported. The group also questions the accuracy of claims that none of the monkeys used by the UW-Madison - or anywhere in Wisconsin - were subjected to the most severe category of pain.
"If humans were infected with AIDS, deprived of water for 16 hours, had devices bolted into their skulls or subjected to electro-ejaculation [which is pretty much what it sounds like], they would surely feel pain and/or distress," says SAEN director Michael Budkie, referring to some experiments at the UW, which reported having 1,500 monkeys on hand.
Red Letter Day
What possessed Madison's In Business magazine to prominently feature Red Letter News on a photo collage of area businesses?
The adult bookstore, long regarded as a blight on its east-side Madison neighborhood, appears, along with the Capitol, Oscar Mayer, U.S. Bank, Epic and the Avenue Bar, on the cover of the magazine's new 2009 Book of Lists.
Is porn a growth industry for Madison? Are 24-hour "viewing booths" a way execs unwind after a long day at the office, foreclosing on victims of predatory lenders? Did the magazine think "Adult Entertainment Center" is a place people go to play indoor rugby?
Publisher Jody Glynn Patrick, who acknowledges the cover has drawn "flak," says the art department was asked to put together a snapshot of well-known icons that reflect the diversity of Madison business. And, like good publishers everywhere, she's backing her staff.
"I'm not going to make a high moral argument for this," says Patrick, who admits Red Letter News is more prominent than she realized it would be. (The collage is a two-page spread folded in half, with the porn store on the cover side.) But she suggests business diversity is a meaningless concept if it includes only businesses everyone likes.
Good point, that.
Tree defenders prevail
Madison officials have revised plans for a ski trail in Door Creek Park on the city's far east side, in response to concerns raised by residents ("For the Love of Their Trees," 11/14/08).
On Dec. 10, the Parks Commission approved a memorandum of understanding between the city and residents. Earlier, the commission had stood firm on the plan, which residents and a hired arborist warned would damage the root systems of a number of oak trees.
"After further discussion," the memorandum states, "some adjustments were made to the trail alignment." It now will be farther from the property line and "landscaped with native shrub screening." Specific additional steps will be taken to protect the trees.
"It will have less of an impact," says Steve Pullara, one of the residents. He adds: "A good follow-up would be asking how the city may learn from this process," by not making citizens fight to be heard.
Now he's just getting greedy.