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Pay no attention to the people behind the curtain

Friday, March 31, 2006

Mara Liasson's "impeachment backlash"

Driving home, I heard NPR reporter and regular Fox News guest Mara Liasson offering her take on the Senate Judiciary Committee's hearings about Russ Feingold's censure motion, in a segment that NPR is calling "Calls for Censure Show a Divide in Democratic Party." Now, I've had my say about this already (twice), and Liasson was, in fact, careful to say that Feingold enjoyed the support of most registered Democrats in polls. She made clear that the divide in the party came not between the "activist base" and the mainstream, but rather between Democrats and their elected representatives.

However, in the discussion about the spinelessness (my word) of Senate Democrats, Liasson said something that made me yell at the radio. "It may be," she said (I'm paraphrasing), "that the Deomcratic leadership is remembering the backlash against Republicans from the Clinton impeachment."

"Impeachment backlash?!?" I screamed at her. "What backlash?"

I don't know if there's some kind of conventional wisdom out there that says that Republicans somehow suffered mightily at the hands of an angry anti-impeachment public, but I, having lived through the period in question, certainly do not recall any moment since, oh, 1992-ish, when Republicans were not pretty firmly in power. "Backlash my foot," I thought.

But, due to a conspiracy of global proportions against me such that I can neither blog nor Google from my car, I had to wait until I got home to verify the truthiness of my gut feelings. Turns out, my gut did not steer me wrong. Despite dire predictions before the 1998 mid-terms, the election at the height of pre-impeachment fever featured no backlash at all. The House had a shift of just five seats, a small number given historical trends. The Senate changed not at all.

Well, what about the 2000 elections, after the actual impeachment itself? Good question. Turns out, looking at the same links as before (since, you know, those charts start in 1789 and go until today), you can see that Democrats gained a single seat, meaning between the time impeachment talk began until when Clinton left office, a paltry six seats changed in the House. In fact, noted Congressional elections expert (he uses footnotes!) Gary Jacobson wrote,
Most prominent among the handful of incumbents who did attract vigorous opposition were Republicans from Democratic-leaning districts who had defied the manifest wishes of a majority of their constituents by voting to impeach Clinton. Three of the four Republican incumbents who lost fell into this category: California's Brian Bilbray and James Rogan, both representing districts where Clinton had won 55 percent of the major-party vote in 1996, and Jay Dickey of Arkansas, representing a district where Clinton had won 66 percent. But Republicans as a group escaped punishment for their widely unpopular move to oust the president by the simple fact that it failed. Most voters got what they wanted--continuation of the Clinton presidency--and saw no reason to punish Republicans wholesale for the attempt. Just as good times helped Clinton to survive the impeachment process, the strong economy probably helped protect the Republicans in Congress from any impeachment backlash by encouraging public contentment with the status quo.
The senate is a slightly different story in 2000, since Republicans lost five seats. But Jacobson explains it this way:
The Democrats' gains in the Senate did not, however, reflect any national partisan trend, but rather the absence of one. Turnover is typically higher in Senate elections. On average, Senate incumbents are about three times as likely to lose as House incumbents. [. . .]

Senators run on a six-year rather than a two-year cycle, which can also lead to different patterns of competition in House and Senate races. [. . .] The 2000 Senate elections were the first test for several of the staunchly conservative Republicans who were first elected on the strong Republican tide of 1994. Three of the five Republican losers in 2000 were members of this class--John Ashcroft of Missouri, Rod Grams of Minnesota, and Spencer Abraham of Michigan. All three were burdened with images that put them well to the right of their constituents. Thus part of the reason Democrats pulled even in the Senate is that the strong Republican tide that had prevailed in 1994 was no longer running. [. . .]

Overall, twenty-four of thirty-four states cast a plurality of their votes for Senate and presidential candidates of the same party, precisely the same as in 1992 and 1996. Consistency in Senate and presidential voting has returned to the levels that prevailed in the 1950s and early 1960s, in contrast to the 1968-1988 period, when typically only about half the states were won by the same party's Senate and presidential candidates.
So, again, what backlash?

And let's not forget the reason Jacobson suggests that Republicans did not suffer backlash: Impeachment failed, meaning Clinton stayed in office, which is what the public wanted. Today, given Bush's poll numbers, I think it's pretty clear that the public wants some kind of consequences for Bush. Thinking back to those polls a couple of weeks ago, cited in my own posts about Feingold's mainstreamity linked above, there is a sizable chunk of people--Democrats, Republicans, and Independents--who want impeachment or censure. Our Democratic leadership needs to stop running from its shadow here and start, you know, leading.

There will be no backlash, only praise.

Friday Random Ten

The actually random Edition

1. "Yellow Brick Road" Kris Delmhorst from Five Stories
2. "Softhearted Girl" Kate McDonnell from Where the Mangoes Are
3. "Why Won't You Tell Me What" Josh Rouse from Nashville
4. "Sugar Cane" Catie Curtis from My Shirt Looks Good on You
5. "When the Stars Go Blue" Ryan Adams from Gold
6. "Open the Door, Homer" Bob Dylan and The Band from The Basement Tapes
7. "Cherry Tree" 10,000 Maniacs from In My Tribe
8. "Kristian's Song" Ellis Paul from Sweet Mistakes
9. "Good Cup of Coffee" Vance Gilbert from Edgewise
10. "Don't Drink the Water" Dave Matthews Band from Before These Crowded Streets

Thursday, March 30, 2006

There's an election next week. I should make endorsements.

Apparently, some people think I have influence*. I don't know if I really do or not, but I'll throw out my endorsement here.

The only thing I get to vote for is circuit judge, and I'm voting for JD Watts. I'm still trying to sort out how I feel about agreeing with the daily on this one, but I know I've met JD a couple of times and have been impressed with his commitment to the law and to the people. In addition, Jim McGuigan reminds us that we also need to look at the company our candidates keep.

* Did you see that? A straw man!

Great Minds Think Alike?

Last night I quoted a John Gard fundraising plea, in which he wrote, "The control of the U.S. House of Representatives is at stake, right here in Wisconsin. A Dr. Kagen victory would help the Democrats win the House back." I said that the Democrats' winning back the House was exactly the right thing, and that "Kagen should start putting that sentence on all his literature."

Then this shows up in my inbox this morning:
Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us

If you don't click to enlarge, I'll just point out that the highlighted text there reads,
In his recent request for donations, my opponent (John Gard) stated:
"The control of the U.S. House of Representatives is at stake, right here in Wisconsin. A Dr. Kagen victory would help the Democrats win the House back." - Direct Quote
One person I would not want to be today: whoever it is who writes John Gard's fundraising emails.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

John Gard gets facts wrong about early TV ads

Not that I keep up with John Gard much, but, you know, I do try to keep tabs on those rabble-rousers out there in Waukesha County, including Wigderson. Wigderson, apparently, does keep up with Gard, and he notes today that Gard is upset about TV ads from Democrat Steve Kagen. Gard's press release reads, in part (his emphasis and bad punctuation),
One of my opponents, extreme liberal candidate Dr. Steve Kagen will begin running expensive 60-second TV ads starting next week!

This comes a full 168 days before the Primary Election!

This is the earliest ever on record for a Wisconsin Congressional candidate to be buying TV ads. Dr. Kagen wants to buy the 8th District seat with an onslaught of ads that shows the Howard Dean faction of the Democratic party will do whatever it takes to win this seat. The control of the U.S. House of Representatives is at stake, right here in Wisconsin. A Dr. Kagen victory would help the Democrats win the House back.
Reading that last part, of course, I'm thinking, right on. A Dr. Kagen victory would help the Democrats win back the House. Sounds good to me; Kagen should start putting that sentence on all his literature.

But, that's not what's funny here. What's funny here is that, in fact, Gard is absolutely wrong that Kagen's ads are "the earliest ever on record." I seem to recall (in fact, I blogged about it) 5th CD Democrat Bryan Kennedy was on the air with an ad last September. And, you know, Herb Kohl has been on the air for almost a month, but, I'll give Gard the benefit of the doubt that he meant "House candidate" when he wrote "Congressional candidate."

Of course, Gard uses the rest of his release to urge supporters to send him money ('cause, you know, he'd like to buy the seat, too, with his $500-a-head Dick Cheney fundraisers). While it's true that Gard can't self-fund the way Kagen can, Gard isn't exactly hurting, either, especially compared to his primary opponent, Terri McCormick.

For all those who insist that Democrats don't have a plan,

well, we do. (In fact, we've had a better plan than the other guys for some time now.)

Here's a link to the the bullet points, which include such commonsense priorities as eliminating Osama bin Laden (remember him? tall guy? killed 3000 Americans?), guaranteeing that our troops have protective armor, and immediately implementing the Homeland Security recommendations of the 9/11 Commission (which, as the Hart-Rudman recommendations were through 2001, sit unimplemented by this administration).

Dick Cheney's response? Well, moving on from "they don't have a plan"--I swear they must be getting kickbacks from somebody as often as they say it--Cheney says that "they don't have any plans in their plan." I'm paraphrasing, of course.

It seems obvious to me, but maybe other people don't get it: If you don't like the way things are going, then put different people in charge. It is time.

Quarter Ends Friday

And I'm not talking about for me at school, although that is also true. I'm talking about the fundraising quarter for candidates, which ends March 31. My suggestions:

Bryan Kennedy
The Wisconsin fifth CD's F. Immigrants Sensenbrenner has been in the news a lot lately with his "Great Wall of Texas" idea and other vile anti-immigration legislation. Our best chance to beat him is Bryan Kennedy. You can contribue to Bryan through his website or through my ActBlue page.

Also, if you live in or near the area, you may be interested in stopping by for Bryan's office opening party:
Thursday, March 30, 6:00–9:00 pm
Kennedy Campaign Headquarters
400 E. Silver Spring Dr., Suite 203
Whitefish Bay, WI 53217

Wisconsin's 8th CD
Three great candidates are running for this open seat, Steve Kagen, Nancy Nusbaum, and Jamie Wall. If you can't make up your mind, you can always contribute to the 8th CD's general fund through my ActBlue page.

Doyle-Lawton
While it's unlikely that you'll get a state contract out of it at this point, there's still time to help J-Dizzle and B-Law.

2008 Presidential Candidates' Leadership PACs
If you're thinking that far ahead. Of course, I recommend Russ Feingold's Progressive Patriots Fund. I've also had good contacts from outreach folks at Tom Vilsack's Heartland PAC and Mark Warner's Forward Together PAC. More are listed here.

Your Local Party
It never hurts, right? For your Milwaukeeans, the county Dem party has a new website. Go see it before the new website smell wears off!

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Confidential to Spivak and Bice

I agree with you and all, but you don't have to be so smug about it.

Danger, Will Robinson!

I won't be around to post more thoroughly until later tonight, but just be aware that the wingnut warning system is detecting a huge front moving in, based on these:Before you venture out into the conservative Cheddarsphere today, get out your umbrellas and rubber boots--it's like a perfect storm!

Tuesday Linky Goodness

It's final exam week, so things might be a little slow around here . . . But, to keep you busy:

• The FEC voted to adopt the rules I wrote about last Friday. Unless Congress goes and does something stuipid (I know, I know), we should be all set for the 2006 election season.

• Sometimes I think Max Power, at the Wisconion, is a little shrill, but this was really funny--and right on target.

• In the gov's race news, we had Green's predictible "cheap campaign pledge" stunt--it happens in 100% of high profile races with one person at a money disadvantage, so don't let them tell you how innovative or courageous the move is. Seth has an excellent take on what Scott Walker will be looking at in the next couple of years.

Monday, March 27, 2006

cheddarsphere.com update

In just a week of being live, cheddarsphere.com is a moderate success. We're getting more traffic there than at this very blog; we have some site feeds running; and the forums are actually quite busy, with about a dozen posts a day.

Moreover, Scott and I are meeting with some People this evening about making it 1) functional, 2) attractive, and 3) so totally awesome you'll want to spend all your time there. Any last-minute suggestions?

And the wall came tumblin' down

Demolition starts tonight on Milwaukee's Whale Wall, which is attached to the Courthouse Annex parking structure. Well, actually, demo has been going on for some time on the inside, but tonight they start closing the northbound highway lanes and taking down the outside, too.

I'll miss those scrappy whales.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

It's Good to be the King

I wanted to post on this a few days back, but I didn't. In the meantime, of course, others, like Seth, locally, and Barbara O'Brien, nationally, have touched on it. I recommend reading both.

The gist of the story is this: After Congress finally came to a compromise on the latest incarnation of the U.S.A.P.A.T.R.I.O.T. Act, a compromise that included strict Congressional oversight and limits on the administration's ability to violate civil rights at will. The president was having none of it:
Bush signed the bill with fanfare at a White House ceremony March 9, calling it ''a piece of legislation that's vital to win the war on terror and to protect the American people." But after the reporters and guests had left, the White House quietly issued a ''signing statement," an official document in which a president lays out his interpretation of a new law.

In the statement, Bush said that he did not consider himself bound to tell Congress how the Patriot Act powers were being used and that, despite the law's requirements, he could withhold the information if he decided that disclosure would ''impair foreign relations, national security, the deliberative process of the executive, or the performance of the executive's constitutional duties."
In other words, Congress got punk'd.

I think Doc summed it up best:
So, once again, the president's view is, "Regardless of what the law says, I can do what I want, and I'll decide whether or not you should be told about what I'm doing."
This is why censure is not only deserved, but imperative.

More McIlheran Watch: The War at Home II

Not content to befoul the Sunday paper with his excuses for why his side will lose the April 4 anti-war referenda, Patrick McIlheran blogs about it today, as well.

He starts by minimizing the importance:
Something to note about the places holding anti-war referendums: A lot of them are small. [. . .] So, a simple count of how many places vote to leave Iraq now doesn’t take into account that in some of those places, the result comes from very few voters.
Then he makes the communist connection promoted by Jessica McBride, quoting her approvingly. I guess it wasn't enough to imply wacky fringeness in his column; he's got to make it explicit now.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

McIlheran Watch: The War at Home

And not that horrible Michael Rappaport show. (They canceled "Arrested Development" for that?)

No, Patrick McIlheran spends his Sunday column this week laying groundwork for the conservative response to the expected results in the April 4 anti-war referenda.

Aside from the abomination of using shoestring as a verb, P-Mac makes any one of a number mistakes. The first mistake is making it so obvious what he's doing: He throws out every single possible excuse for why Wisconsin will vote to end the war in Iraq sooner rather than later--everything from the voting patterns of the cities and towns involved (they were pro-Kerry in 2004) to the expected low turnout.

The second mistake is that all of those reasons are specious at best and libelous at worst. Let's look, with P-Mac in bold:
  • The referendums are only advisory, and, as many people have pointed out, common councils don't make foreign policy aside from lining up sister cities in Cuba.
    He's saying that whatever happens, it won't really matter anyway. But it will: Our leaders in Washington (and their apologists in the op-ed pages) don't seem to get it. A series of electoral defeats for an endless presence in Iraq may send the message, finally.

  • Spring elections are usually the haunt of enthusiasts, so a result will be determined chiefly by the dedicated and will be portrayed as the people having spoken.
    That means that if there is dedication on the pro-prolonging it side, they should win, right?

  • [Madison veteran Bill] Richardson and a couple other people are shoestringing a campaign, passing out lawn signs reading "Vote no to cut and run." [. . . H]e doesn't like the sentiments of citizens honestly tired of war to be manipulated to serve people with much harder agendas.
    This is the argument Jessica McBride has been flogging all week (see the latest here). Through a kind of Kevin Bacon-game logic, she's decided that everyone who tirelessly sought the signatures of their neighbors on petitions or stood up in city council meetings are being duped by the communists. Aside from the fact that there is no law against 1) being a communist or 2) agreeing with one on some matters, she's doing what my students might call "hating the player, not the game." There's a perfectly legitimate question here about whether the US should continue to keep our fighting men and women in harm's way, whether it's posed by the Boy Scouts or life-long peaceniks. If it were up to the powers that be--and, presumably, McBride and McIlheran--we'd get no say at all. To disparage those who worked to make these referenda happen as patsies is insulting.

  • Keep in mind what the referendums aren't asking. Voters won't be asked whether war is generally a bad thing. They won't be asked whether they wish the war were quickly concluded or whether Bush should have conducted it better. Any of these could find broad and deserved consent.
    In other words, the question was worded wrong. We're not going to get an accurate gauge of the public's will because they'll be busy answering some other question that I think we all know the answer to, he says, so the results will skew. I call this line of thought "managing expectations." It's baloney.

  • In these towns, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) beat Bush 67% to 33% the last time the voters got to have a say on the war. In only two did Bush get more than 60%. Given that, it's a decent bet that many of the referendums will pass.
    More managing, and irrelevant. Given the national numbers on Iraq, you'd be insane to predict failure of these referenda in even Bush-friendly towns.

  • When this is touted as a sign the nation wants to pack it in [. . .] keep in mind that it's [. . .] prompted by people who "want failure in Iraq," says Richardson, saying they're tired of war.
    It's nice that P-Mac puts this slander into the mouth of someone else (a good trick for you aspiring Ben Domenches out there), so he himself can't get blamed for lying about what people are really saying here, even if it's what he almost certainly thinks of us. In much the same way that Dick Cheney lies that Russ Feingold wants to protect terrorists, McIlheran creates a false impression that those of opposing the Iraq war are somehow joyous at the thought of losing, at the idea of thousands of dead Americans and tens of thousands of dead Iraqis, at the notion of indebting our children and grandchildren for this ill-fought war of choice. There is no solace there, only deep and abiding sadness. To say we want failure is to lie in the most reprehensible way.

    There's also some element of fiction in the notion that we want to "cut and run"--they tried that with Feingold, too, and with John Murtha. This is similar to the kind of fiction perpetuated by the Ozaukee County ballot question intended as a response asking people whether they support the war on terror. Of course we support fighting terror--a fight, flypaper theory to the contrary, not being carried out in Iraq.
McIlheran isn't the only apologist, of course. As more and more people realize that the incompetence we saw in the aftermath of Hurrican Katrina was not a fluke and was, instead, symptomatic of how badly this administration does everything, including Iraq, people who formerly supported the war effort are now taking two big steps backward. As the base of support for this deadly gambit wanes, the hard-core get harder. For example, the right Cheddarsphere is loving this Victor Davis Hanson essay today. Set aside, for a minute, that this is the same Hanson who wrote that we'd spend "no more $30 billion" in Iraq. Consider that he's so far drunk on the kool-aid that he can write this:
The insurrection broke out not so much because we had 200,000 rather than 400,000 troops in country; but rather because a three-week strike that decapitated the Baathist elite, despite its showy “shock and awe” pyrotechnics, was never intended, World War II-like, to crush the enemy and force terms on a shell-shocked, defeated, and humiliated populace. Many of our challenges, then, are not the war in Iraq per se, but the entire paradox of postmodern war in general in a globally televised world.
I'm not entirely sure what that means, but I think he's suggesting that no matter what we could have done in Iraq, there would have been no way to avoid the kind of insurgency (bordering on civil war) that we see now. Gee, I wish he would have figured that out three years ago and told someone in power who might have suggested that we give the inspectors more time to do their jobs.

The extent to which some will go to avoid having to admit that maybe, just maybe they made a mistake is quite amazing. In the end, McIlheran doesn't advocate a "no" vote exactly. He just guilts us with tales of Iraqis and purple fingers and, as if sending us on a time out, tells us to think hard about what our votes will mean on April 4. We have thought about it, Pat. For three years we have thought about it, and it's time we had our say.

Update: There's more.

Vote *Belle*

Even if you don't have *Belle* in your MKE Online office pool, you should still go vote for her in the semifinals.

That is all.

Disclaimer: This is an unpaid endorsement made of my own free will and not authorized or commissioned by any candidate or campaign.

Friday, March 24, 2006

This Blog will not be Regulated

Probably.

The FEC seems to have issued its draft rules clarification for internet communications. I am pleased (my italics):
How do the new rules affect bloggers?
Bloggers will not be regulated under the new rules. Uncompensated blogging, whether done by an individual or a group of individuals, is exempt from regulation under the new individual Internet exemptions. (§ 100.94 and § 100.155). These exemptions are extended to incorporated blogs that are wholly owned by an individual or individuals, are engaged primarily in Internet activities, and derive a substantial portion of their income from their Internet activities. Additionally, a blogger or blog may qualify for the media exemption. (§100.73 and § 100.132)
So I can continue on in my state of mind that I am, in fact, mainstream media.

The other nice rule is that I won't have to disclose or disclaim if a candidate (cough, cough, hint) hires me to blog for him/ her. I would, of course, disclose, but only after someone (cough, cough) does hire me.

Assuming the FEC adopts this draft. Which they should. Wouldn't want them to harsh on my media state of mind.

Walker, Tosa Ranger rides off into sunset


So long, Tosa Ranger*


As you've no doubt heard (and, if you haven't heard, shut down the computer for a while, for goodness' sake), Scott Walker is out of the governer's race:
Walker, who entered the race officially in January 2005, pinned his withdrawal on a failure to meet ramped-up fundraising goals designed to compete with Doyle’s expected biggest-ever campaign war chest.

"It became clear to me that our fundraising totals would only allow us to run a campaign in a fraction of the 72 counties in this state," Walker said. "In addition, our resources would be so limited that most of it would likely be spent on ads attacking our Republican opponent." He called that an "unappealing option for me" and one that would only bolster Doyle’s re-election hopes. [. . .] Walker said his campaign fundraising fell short of keeping up with Doyle’s record-setting pace, revealed in the late-January campaign reports. Walker said a new minimum goal he set for the end of March was "unfortunately" not reached.

Walker said he prayed on the decision this week before making it, much as he had before his January 2005 announcement entering the race.

"I believe that it was God’s will for me to run. After a great deal of prayer during the last week, it is clear that it is God’s will for me to step out of the race."
I have to say I'm surprised, given that just last night, Scott emailed me. Well, his campaign sent me the "Walker Weekly #56." Nothing in there about Jesus telling him to quit.

As soon as I heard this, it made sense to me why Ken Mehlman, of the Republucan National Committee was in town yesterday--to clear the field. But still, I wouldn't have called this, not at all. Tomorrow, when I'm not so tired and will need to procrastinate instead of grading papers, I will try to catch up with the right half of the Cheddarsphere, and see what they're saying.

Update: As long as WisOpinion is sending people here to read this, let me add one thing about what I would do now were I Jim Doyle: Make this about scandal. I know it sounds tricky, given the past few months, but remember that Mark Green was caucus chair while much of what Scott Jensen was convicted for was going on, and Green campaign manager Mark Graul is linked to Jack Abramoff. Doyle would do well to boot anyone with the smallest taint of scandal from his campaign staff, declare that the people have spoken and that they are tired of scandal, and dare Mark Green to clean house the same way. Write up a real ethics pledge, and a package of reforms that ought to include Arizona-atyle public financing of campaigns, and force Green to sign on. When Green waffles, he'll look bad, bad, bad.

I'm not saying Doyle is going to have a necessarily easy time trying to look scandal-free (to pre-empt Deb Jordahl), but if he gets out in front and sets the terms of the debate, he might have a good chance at it.

* Stacie is due all credit for this nickname.

Feingold, Berkman, Bowers, 'bum

I figure since this was a slow news day in Wisconsin politics, you'd be interested to know this . . .

I had a chance to call in and say "hey" to Chris Bowers of MyDD, who was on Dave Berkman's Wisconsin Public Raido show "Media Talk" this afternoon. Chris was on to talk about how and whether Russ Feingold can be helped by the "netroots" of the liberal blogosphere. The talk eventually got around to similarities and differences between Russ and Howard Dean, so, of course, I had to call in. My point was that Feingold seems to have the pulse of the people a little better (ironic, since Dean is an M.D.!); Dean was occasionally too far out in front. Dean was right, of course--as demonstrated by Glenn Greenwald here and here--but the Democratic electorate and voters in general weren't quite there with him.

As I've said several times recently, Russ seems to have struck at just exactly the moment when the Democrats (by which I mean voters, not senators) are behind him. That is a powerful statement of Feingold's electoral and campaign acumen, though not, judging by the response of his peers, his political acumen.

At any rate, I was much less eloquent on the air (isn't that always the way?), but you can listen to the whole hour online once the audio is posted. Look for the 3/24 edition of the show, not the 3/10 edition, which also has Chris's name, since Chris was scheduled and had to cancel that day.

Friday Random Ten

The my calendar says it's spring but my window says it's not Edition

1. "Black Snow" Peter Mulvey from Rapture
2. "Snowman" The Nields from Play
3. "A Hazy Shade of Winter" Simon & Garfunkel from The Best Of
4. "Cold Wind" Willy Porter from Dog Eared Dream
5. "Winter Woods" Peter Mayer from Earth Town Square
6. "Winter When He Comes" Tracy Grammer from Flower of Avalon
7. "Cold, Cold Ground" Bill Frisell from Good Dog, Happy Man
8. "Cold as it Gets" Paty Griffin from Impossible Dream
9. "The Coldest Night of the Year" Bruce Cockburn from Anything Anytime Anywhere
10. "Winter in the Hamptons" Josh Rouse from Nashville

Thursday, March 23, 2006

This is the sort of thing we tried to explain to you

All throughout 2004. We did, we really did. It's the sort of thing that makes me alternately want to bang my head on the table and hang it in shame. Barbara O'Brien gives us this juxtaposition:

Let me tell you about what I think my job description is. I think my job is to confront problems, not pass them on to future Presidents and future Congresses. (Applause.) I know that's what the American people expect of their leaders. -- George W. Bush, August 3, 2005

Q Will there come a day--and I'm not asking you when, not asking for a timetable--will there come a day when there will be no more American forces in Iraq?
THE PRESIDENT: That, of course, is an objective, and that will be decided by future Presidents and future governments of Iraq. -- press conference, March 21, 2006

It's just . . . depressing.

Senator Fitzgerald demands more money to tackle schools crisis

Is Republican state senator Scott Fitzgerald coming around to the WEAC point of view? From his press release yesterday:
"Governor Doyle and the legislators who applauded his decision to add to the school system's dangerous overcrowding need to look themselves in the mirror and ask if they're really doing what's best for Wisconsin," Fitzgerald said. "We're at a crisis point in our educational system and if we don't do something soon, it's only going to get worse."

Yesterday, teachers at the Kettle Morraine School District rallied to protest a series of incidents. [. . .] Fitzgerald says serious action needs to be taken to address the problem.

"How many more teachers need to be overworked or driven out of the system before the Doyle administration recognizes that school overcrowding is a serious problem and takes action?" Fitzgerald said. "Refusing to consider building a new school or sending students away is madness. We've got a ticking time bomb in our school system that's waiting to explode, and failing to tackle it head-on isn't going to do anything but make the situation worse."
Oh, wait. My bad.

This press release isn't about schools, it's about prisons.

Apparently, prisons and their guards are more important to Fitzgerald than schools and the state's children; as co-chair of the Joint Finance Committee, Fitzgerald bears a lot of the responsibility for the Republican budget that would have shut down schools (like Florence County), caused layoffs and further crowded classrooms, and undermined the ability of districts to maintain their infrastructure. Thankfully, Governor Doyle was able to find the funds elsewhere in the budget to keep most of that from happening.

But, admit it, I had you going, didn't I?

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Wednesday Briefs

  • Don't forget Drinking Liberally in Milwaukee tonight. I may sign autographs if you ask nicely.
  • A propos to my long (sorry about that) piece yesterday about blogs and the "MSM," Chris Bowers suggests that, on the national level at least, there is no right-wing blogosphere anymore.
  • Is this Peg's revenge on Doyle for his pushing Falk into the AG race? Jack Voight is also on the ballot this November, and may be looking for distance from Doyle as well.
  • Those rosy studies showing that there are plenty of high-achieving, high-poverty schools? Bunk.
  • I learned two things from this story about Bush's reaction to Feingold's call for censure. The most exciting is that Russ will be on "The Daily Show" tonight. The other is that Bush keeps lying:
    "I did notice that nobody from the Democratic Party has actually stood up and called for getting rid of the terrorist surveillance program," Bush said at a news conference Tuesday. "You know, if that's what they believe, if people in the party believe that, then they ought to stand up and say it," Bush said. "They ought to stand up and say, 'The tools we're using to protect the American people shouldn't be used.' They ought to take their message to the people and say, 'Vote for me. I promise we're not going to have a terrorist surveillance program.' "
    As I said the other day, no one believes we shouldn't surveil terrorists. Not even Ward Churchill is saying that (I Googled to be sure). A better answer might have been saying he was willing to defend his program in a full investigation. Instead, he chooses to lie and stonewall.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Blogs, the "MSM," and Influence

I'm still getting all of my thoughts straight in my head about the Blog Summit. First of all, I recommend WisPolitics.com's own write-up of the event by blogger David Wise; you can also Google or Technorati what the rest of us are saying. After this one, in fact, I probably won't post on it again. But on to the thing that will get me in trouble . . .

One impression that keeps coming back is the tension in the room between the bloggers and everyone they perceived as "mainstream media." While it's true that there are days when I can't believe anyone would pay money for the daily paper, those are also the days I seem to quote most extensively from it. There is no way I would trade what we have now for a world without print journalists at all; nor do I seriously think that I could trust bloggers to do it all. Our role is becoming clear; we provide analysis, commentary, and help frame the debates. Occasionally someone does some original reporting, but I don't trust myself to do bias-free reporting, so I sure wouldn't trust that from the rest of the blogging class. Bloggers who think we are going to change the world are a little too full of themselves and, frankly, that showed at the Blog Summit. I had fun, met a lot of great people, but there were moments when I was a little afraid to be associated with what I heard.

The feelings seemed at least somewhat reciprocal; Lou Fortis, publisher of the Shepherd Express, described the assembled masses to me in some pretty colorful language. Two audience members who dared to question the overstated importance of blogs were savaged at the summit and have continued to be attacked by attendees on their blogs the last several days. It couldn't have been uglier had the Jets and the Sharks been locked in a room together.

Take the case of Mandy Jenkins, for example. She was the sole employee of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel to attend (the boys who are assigned to cover blogs didn't make it), but she came as a blogger, and not as a reporter--she does not write for the paper beyond the blog she has hosted there. When Jenkins tried to make the point that bloggers could not exist without the traditional media--and that most bloggers do not do the kind of original reporting that traditional media do--I could almost literally hear the hair on the back of every conservative neck in the room stand. Here, for example, is part of one attendee's take on what Jenkins said:
Blogger/reporter from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel Mandy Jenkins said that bloggers rely on standard news outlets for the material we post about, that we do little if any real reporting, and that one reason for that is people won't take our calls because we're not "real" reporters.

First, Mandy should pick up a copy of the MJS and count the AP and other news service pieces that are published versus what the staff and stringers are responsible for. She's overlooking the mote in her eye.
And it goes on, in quite the unpleasant tone. Worse is what happened to Jenkins when she tried to defend herself in the comments to this post. This is not the way to win friends and influence people.

Of the liberal bloggers who attended the event (and I count four right now: me, Scott, Ingrid, and Cory--Mark Pocan came in just in time for his session and left quickly afterward, so I'm not counting him; but if there were more, let me know), none of us, as John McAdams did, blast "mainstream media" as "a state of mind." Cory, in particular, demands that they do a better job; I complain about bias and inconsistency, as I did in this post last week. But conservatives are more likely to see the blogger/ traditional media conflict as one of ideology, a conflict on a grander scale than the reality of the situation demands. TeeBee, for example, whose post I quoted above about Mandy Jenkins, champions "Rathergate" as a great success of the blogosphere, leaving out that one, it was driven by professional Republican operatives feeding information to the bloggers and two, it was driven by a desire to distract from the larger narrative of Bush's having not fulfilled his National Guard responsibilities--a fact proved over and over by non-memo evidence. It was a partisan moment, not a blogs v. MSM moment. Other things championed by the (conservative) Wisconsin blogs as victories--vouchers, ethanol, the gas tax--actually have little to do with the blogs; I won't go into it now, but bloggers notching their bedposts over these things are giving themselves too much credit.

That is not to say blogs will never have influence; I think to a certain extent we do now--but only that certain small extent. Seth asked, in what may be the best and most concise phrasing of the question that needs asking, "If conservative bloggers are leaning against [the anti-gay marriage and civil unions] amendment, why did it pass with near unanimous Republican support in two consecutive sessions of the state legislature? Since the right side of the Cheddarsphere maintains close to universal support for the proposed constitutional amendment to restrict public revenue in Wisconsin, why is that amendment having such a tough time gaining Republican legislative support?"

Conservatives are eager to claim bigger victories than they deserve because of their partisan instinct, because of 30 years of perceiving themselves as victims. And it's not just bloggers, either; the Blog Summit's (arguably) biggest name, Charlie Sykes, framed the issue in the same way, allying himself with the bloggers in the audience who dream of being on his show rather than with the people who pay his bills. He knows what the audience wants--and the audience wants validation of their status as scrappy but victorious underdogs instead of a marginally effective mirror of mainstream conservative thought.

That is what makes it so maddening--if not unexpected--for the single most influential media figure in the state to be called anything other than "mainstream."

A significant portion of Charlie's schtick--and a significant portion of the self-identity of those who hang on his every word--is that of victimized minority, oozing righteous indignation. It's that schtick that has made talk radio, particularly conservative radio, the biggest format out there. It's the schtick that made Rush famous, that made O'Reilly famous. Even in absolute domination, the victimhood schtick must be maintained; the New Yorker said of O'Reilly,
it's hard to be straight-ahead if you're essentially oppositional and the people you like are in power, if the guests you most want will not appear on your show, and if it's nearly impossible to demonstrate the existence of the trends you have made it your mission to oppose.
That's why he has to go on David Letterman and repeat what he knows to be lies.

But the schtick is misleading; there is no legitimate way that Charlie can claim somehow to be the minority when more people listen to him than anyone else. As I said several times to several people--including Charlie--at the blog summit, the one "blogger" who might have a real impact on the elections this fall will be Charlie Sykes, but not because of his blog. It will be because his is the biggest traditional media megaphone, and the traditional media still dominate. Period. Any bloggers who might feel influential will feel that way only because Sykes will amplify what they say through his megaphone--a megaphone reserved only for those who agree with him and his audience.

Talk-radio host Jessica McBride tries to defend talk radio as being not "mainstream":
I consider talk radio more akin to blogging than it resembles the "traditional/mainstream" media. I guess that's because, to me, it's about content, not ownership. I admit this is only one way to look at the phenomenon. But, for conservatives, there's been a media revolution that I would date to the Reagan-era deregulation of the media and repeal of the Fairness Doctrine. Before that era, conservative viewpoints largely were locked out of the dominant traditional media. The repeal of the Fairness Doctrine led to the growth of modern talk radio as we know it. Conservatives felt locked out of the pages of traditional newspapers and TV networks, so they turned to a different medium--radio.

In some ways, talk radio resembles blogs. It's opinionated. Its hosts sometimes come from different walks of life than traditional media columnists (such as Jeff Wagner, a former federal prosecutor). They offer an alternative viewpoint to that which prevails in the MSM. I.e. a conservative one. They are closer to the viewpoints of the conservative public (and empower them through giving an outlet to callers' voices) than is the MSM, in my opinion [. . .]
We could go around on what effect the death of the Fairness Doctrine may have really had, but, regardless, we can see that the primary distinction McBride draws between talk radio and the "MSM" is the "alternative viewpoint." This goes directly back to Scott's translation of John McAdams's observation that "mainstream media is a state of mind": Mainstream media is “whomever I disagree with.”

McAdams and McBride drop by that post of Scott's to defend themselves in the comments (aren't comment sections wonderful?). McAdams writes,
It happens that I do disagree with the liberalism of the mainstream media. But quite independent of that, there is a particular worldview there. Think of it as a system of psychological identification. People who like and feel close to the New York Times, National Public Radio, journalism schools and so on are “mainstream media.” People who are suspicious of all of those and critical of all of those aren’t “mainstream media.”

Working for Journal Communications (as Sykes does) doesn’t make one “mainstream media." Being contemptious of talk radio and bloggers does.
So the us-against-them mentality--though ostensibly divorced from ideology--still is the deciding factor. Ironically, I've found bloggers, particularly conservative ones, to be more intensely contemptuous of the "mainstream media" than vice-versa. (See Paul Waldman's description of Media Matters for America for a good primer on the liberal bloggers' relationship with the press.)

McBride's post on talk radio is not all about conservative ideology as the determining factor in mainstreaminess. She does tack on liberals as an afterthought: "Of course, liberal blogs are important too," she writes. How nice of her to remember us. But in another post McBride wrote after the Blog Summit, she also explains why blogs are not the deciding factor in politics just yet:
Blogs can be tip sheets for/frame issues for talk radio. Why do leggies and politicians care about blogs? On the conservative side of the spectrum, they care in part because talk radio hosts read blogs and use them as indicators of where the base is headed. And if blogs break a political story the MSM ignores, talk radio can lift it into a mainstream audience.
What candidates and legislators fear is not bloggers. What they fear is that biggest megaphone in the state, conservative talk radio. Even in McBride's attempts to be equitable to Democratic and liberal bloggers, she lays bare the difference in the size of our amplifiers.

Until there is parity in media in this state, liberal bloggers and liberal voices will never have the kind of pull that Charlie Sykes gets just going to work in the morning. That makes him a hell of a lot more mainstream than any blogger.

Feingold decidedly in the middle

The full version of the story noted just below about the ads running against Russ Feingold brings in the Newsweek poll on censure:
In a nationwide Newsweek Poll of registered voters conducted March 16 and 17, 42% supported censure and 50% opposed it. Among Democrats, 60% supported censure and 30% opposed.
What was that about the far-left of the far left again? A majority of Democrats and a sizable chunk of everybody in general seem on board; that's hardly fringe.

And the people up north seem to be in favor of censure, too:
While Feingold's censure bid caused a commotion inside the Washington Beltway and on the ever-expanding blogosphere, it was just one of many issues brought up by his constituents, who deal with real-life concerns such as farming, education, health care and Social Security.

But when Feingold made his case to censure the president, he received sustained applause from a crowd of nearly 100 people at the Belle Plaine Community Center in Shawano County.
Again, a crowd of people from the not exactly "liberal oasis" areas of the state--Madison or Milwaukee--showing support for the idea of forcing the president to follow the law. This is not the fringe!

Can you all stop saying that now?

Monday, March 20, 2006

Misplaced Republican Priorities

Does it strike anyone else as odd that the Republican National Committee is planning to run ads against just-elected Russ Feingold, when it can't even scare up a serious challenger to up-this-year Herb Kohl?

On top of that the ads are misleading in the worst way:
The ad describes Feingold as the "leader" of a group of Democrats "working against" the president's efforts to "secure our country" by monitoring terrorist communications and disrupting terrorist plots.
I'd like to see the transcript of any speech, press conference, or mutterings in his sleep in which Feingold said he did not want the president to surveil potential terrorists or protect the US from attack. Show me any Democrat who's said this. The spying in and of itself was never, ever the problem; the problem is that the spying is occuring oustide the bounds of the law and the president is thumbing his nose at the Congress, our Federal system, and the American people.

cheddarsphere-dot-com

I announce, with trembling pleasure, the arrival of . . . something . . .

Well, okay, it's just cheddarsphere.com. I kind of wish I'd had my stuff together enough to announce this at Saturday's BlogFest.

Right now it is not much, but my friend Scott Feldstein is hosting the prototype. What I'm hoping is that all of us, whoever we are and whatever we blog about, can use cheddarsphere.com as a hub for all the haps in Wisconsin blogs.

But the site is completely in flux, and I would like to see its growth happen kind of naturally and organically. I'm looking for your input, as my fellow Wisconsin bloggers. If you or anyone you know might want to get involved, we'll need creative people, technical people, and plenty of other kinds of people. The comments section below is for you and whatever you might have to contribute.

That is not to say that I don't have my own ideas, though. Here's some of what I was thinking:
  • Forums. There's some free open source stuff Scott and I have looked at that we'll try to have going just as soon as we have clever logos and whatnot (hint, hint).
  • I'd like to see RSS feeds from Wisconsin bloggers. And I'm not just talking about political bloggers, either; one thing Scott and I talked about after the BlogFest was how the event was only about political blogs. I would like to see all categories represented here--politics (in left, right, center categories) as well as arts, religion, sports, family, (pop) culture, beer, and so on. That would require some kind of code that would allow people to submit their RSS feeds, list their blog addresses, and categorize themselves.
  • News feeds from major and minor news outlets; I think you can snag Google news feeds for certain search terms (like "Wisconsin"), but if there were a way to keep up with what daily and weekly papers are talking about, that would be better.
  • A user-created calendar of events, so anyone doing or promoting anything can post it. I'm guessing some off-the-shelf software exists for that, too.
More ideas will come to me, I'm sure, as they will come to you. Just let me know.

Murder Most Swine

I know I'm going to catch a lot of heat for this, but I can't sit by any longer without saying something.

I believe Dennis Pork was murdered.

The evidence is all there, but the M-S-M is too busy with basketball and the latest Brett Favre rumors to put the pieces togther. Consider:
  • Dennis Pork is one of only a few people who know Dennis York's true identity.
  • I have seen Dennis Pork handing out cigarettes to WisPolitics.com staff in exchange for votes in the Blogger of the Year competition.
  • The cloven-hoofprints in the mud next to the vans with slashed tires that I'd rented for my campaign vounteers to drive to Madison and bribe the WisPolitics.com staff with cigarettes are probably Dennis Pork's, though I'm sure now that he's dead, we'll never know the truth.
  • The photograph of his death scene seems staged. Consider: Dennis Pork does not have opposable thumbs, so how could he have used that razor?
  • WisPolitics.com severely edited the video of his acceptance speech (ostensibly to hide Dennis York's true identity), and now has pulled the video from its site. I believe that, had we been allowed to watch the rest of the video, Dennis Pork would have said he was being held hostage, and would be killed unless conservatives finally found a voice in the "mainstream media." He did, after all, begin the video by holding up a copy of that day's Wisconsin State Journal, about Mark Pocan's Pontiac, as if to prove he was still alive on that day.
  • Jeff Mayers is a ninja, and could have made it look like an accident.
Now, I know that some of this is circumstantial, but, as a blogger, I feel duty-bound to sieze on the smallest piece of evidence that supports what I believe while ignoring everything else, even if those facts might be contradictory to my opinion.

As I said, I believe Dennis Pork was murdered, and I will not stop until the Cheddarsphere can claim a conviction for the man who did it as a victory, like ethanol, the gas tax, and Nicole Devlin. In fact, I promise you that I will not rest--I will not leave my basement!--until Dennis Pork's killer is brought to justice.

Watch this space

Scott Feldstein and I are cooking up something that will blow the pajamas off the Cheddarsphere. We can't tell you yet . . . but when we do, we hope you'll love the idea as much as we do.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Happy Anniversary

It has never hurt so much to have been so right. Glenn Greenwald reminds us of all those who were wrong--2318 times wrong.

Some Briefs

  • Following up more on Feingold and censure, I'll note this story from today's paper:
    Doubts about the legality of the government's once-secret domestic surveillance program can be found among both liberal and conservative scholars and on both sides of the aisle in Congress.

    In other words, unlike his proposal for censure, Feingold's claims about "illegal wiretapping" are well within the mainstream of congressional debate on the issue.

  • Barbara Miner, in this week's Shepherd Express, has a good rundown of why the recent Milwaukee voucher expansion bill is a bad deal:
    The winners and losers are clear in the deal that lifts enrollment at Milwaukee’s voucher schools.

    Winners include Republicans, voucher schools and eager entrepreneurs hoping to open a private school regardless of whether they know anything about education.

    Losers include Milwaukee taxpayers, the Milwaukee Public Schools and anyone who cares about public accountability for tax-funded programs.

  • Joel McNally wonders if Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker's bad fiscal management is merely incompetence, or could it be sabotage?
    Usually, when a politician seeks higher office, he attempts to portray himself as some sort of financial miracle worker whose management success has earned him the right to take on ever more daunting economic challenges.

    Instead, Walker compares his operation of county government for the past four years to the growing financial disaster facing the nation's airline industry. [. . .] Walker's announcement is particularly amusing because, until now, the centerpiece of Walker's campaign for governor is that as county executive he has submitted a tax freeze budget every year.

    Well, guess what happens when a conservative politician freezes taxes year after year while the costs of government continue to go up? Looming financial insolvency verging on bankruptcy. You can dismiss it as incompetence if you want. But what if it's something even more diabolical? What if it's actually a clever plot to destroy government from within?

  • Conservatives can say what they want about "Bush Derangemnet Syndrome," but Barbara O'Brien has been tracking Liberal Derangement Syndrome.

Rick, Russ, and Censure

As promised, I want to look at Shark and Shepherd blogger Rick Esenberg's Saturday Op-Ed written to provide response--or, more accurately, balance--to Russ Feingold's essay defending his call for President Bush's censure, which itself was a response to the Journal Sentinel editorial I wrote about here.

It isn't that I think Russ can't defend himself--I'm sure he could--but he's busy being a US Senator somewhere, and I'm sitting here trying to avoid housework and paper grading. And Rick's essay, which is about as clearly stated a case as any I've seen, misses some points and raises disturbing questions. Here's how he starts:
Sen. Russ Feingold wants to censure the president for authorizing the National Security Agency to conduct warrantless surveillance of communications between people in the United States and people abroad believed to be al-Qaida operatives. In a spasm of oversimplification, Feingold likes to call this "domestic" wiretapping.

In light of its rarity and the potential harm to national security during time of war, censure should be limited to the most clear and serious presidential abuses. This case isn't even close.
"Domestic" may be one side's spin, sure, but it is not inaccurate: The NSA is listening in on calls where at least one party is in the United States, even a US citizen. Domestic means in the United States. Moreover, I have not seen a good argument how censure poses harm to national security. It's one of those standard tropes (like, "don't criticize the president in wartime") that Bush supporters have been using for four years to shut up any opposition. It is dangerously close to Dick Cheney's observation from election season 2004 that electing John Kerry would have left us less safe somehow. I don't buy it.
The more serious argument is that the NSA program violates the requirements of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Whether this is so is highly technical and turns on facts that have not been made public. Even if NSA surveillance is outside its terms, FISA contains a huge exception. Surveillance that is not conducted within its framework is permitted if "otherwise authorized by Congress."

Shortly after 9-11, Congress passed the Authorization for Use of Military Force [AUMF], stating that the president should use "all necessary and appropriate force" against international terrorism.
This is the old "AUMF" overrides FISA. First of all, I did a search of the FISA statute, and did not find the phrase Rick quotes. I'm not saying it's not there; I just couldn't find it with my eyes or the search tools I have available to me. I did, however, find this gem somewhere else: "the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 shall be the exclusive means by which electronic surveillance, as defined in section 101 of such Act, and the interception of domestic wire, oral, and electronic communications may be conducted." Did you catch that? The law requires FISA be followed to intercept communications in the US. I think it is reasonable to look at that, and look at how blatantly the president has admitted to skirting the law, and see that there has been a serious violation.

In addition, the AUMF was indeed not intended by Congress to authorize violations of FISA. This is one of those "after-the-fact" excuses I noted here, and this notion, in fact, is specifically belied both by members of Congress and the administration's actions at the time it was passed. But Rick goes on, this time into the courts:
In Hamdi vs. Rumsfeld, a Supreme Court majority held that the Authorization for Use of Military Force allowed the detention of American citizens as enemy combatants, overriding another law that said this may not be done unless "otherwise authorized by Congress."

While the resolution says nothing about detentions (as it says nothing about surveillance), the court reasoned that detaining the enemy is a traditional incident of waging war and thus was included within the Congress' broad approval of the use of force.
This is a bit of spin, too, as the government actually lost that case--the majority opinion held that the US had to follow constitutional guidelines regarding the detention of US citizens captured in war. In addition, the AUMF explicitly states that the president's war powers, under the War Powers Resolution, are in force; however, "even the war power does not remove constitutional limitations safeguarding essential liberties," the Hamdi court noted. I'm pretty sure the Constitution says something about "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures."

After a digression about World War Two movies, Rick continues:
Even if we could conclude that the NSA program violates the terms of FISA, the inquiry as to its legality is not over. The Constitution makes the president the commander in chief of the armed forces. If that power includes the right to monitor communications between Americans and enemy agents abroad, then any attempt to limit that authority, including FISA, would be unconstitutional.
As for FISA's constitutionality, the federal government has had nearly 30 years to challenge it. In fact, for 25 of those 30 years, presidents--including Reagan and the first President Bush--not only did not challenge the law, but did not violate it, either. Still, if the current President Bush believes FISA unconstitutional, the right choice is not to violate the law, but to change or challenge it. That he chose to disregard it smacks not of concern for national security, but of arrogance. More from Rick:
[W]e know that some in Congress have been informed of the details, and few, if any, are calling for the program's suspension. There has been no serious attempt to pull its funding. In other words, even those who want to criticize the president for the program don't want him to stop.
Telling only "some" in Congress about the surveillance was itself a violation of the law, and Rick maybe does not remember that at least two of those told (and as few as eight, of 535, may have been informed) objected--Rep. Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Jay Rockefeller (more from Think Progress today). Those told about the program could say nothing--not to propose cutting its funding, not to speak out to the press--because it was classified. Rick is being disingenuous if he believes silence about the program before its revelation last December is evidence of complicity.

Finally, Rick writes,
Even if not required by law, why not get warrants anyway? It is hard to answer that because we don't know exactly what the NSA program, which is necessarily secret, entails. It might, for example, involve computer monitoring of large numbers of communications to which the traditional notions of probable cause are ill-suited.
This is very concerning to me, because, after a spirited (if wrong-headed) defense of what Bush is doing, Rick admits that we may not know what Bush is doing. If this is so, how can we defend it, unless we accept the doctrine that the executive is all-powerful, ineffable, and infallible? I refuse to do so. One of two things is true here; either the administration could have gotten warrants under FISA (99.99999% success rate, remember) and didn't; or, Bush is lying about the nature of the program when he tells us about the cell phones captured on the battlefield that have US numbers in them. Either way, Bush is pushing the bounds of what is acceptable.

In the end, Rick Esenberg misses a compelling part of Russ Feingold's argument that censure is necessary. Whether or not FISA is constitutional, whether or not a sympathetic Supreme Court eventually decides that Article II of the Constitution grants presidents more power than 220 years of history have seen, the president still deserves reprimand. I'll let Russ explain why:
Not only did the president break the law, he also actively misled Congress and Americans about his actions. Before the existence of this program was revealed, the president went out of his way in several speeches to assure the public that the government was getting court orders to wiretap Americans in the United States--something that he now admits was not the case. [. . .]

In this year's State of the Union address, the president implied that before he authorized the program, he couldn't have wiretapped terrorist suspects. That is simply untrue. Congress passed FISA in 1978 specifically to lay out the rules for wiretaps of terrorists and spies, and it has updated that law repeatedly since. FISA includes safeguards, which the president is ignoring, to protect the rights and freedoms of law-abiding Americans.

The president also has made a series of flawed legal and factual arguments to defend the program. He has claimed inherent executive powers that appear to have no bounds. [. . .] And he has said that past presidents have used the same authority and that federal courts have approved the exercise of that authority, when neither is true.
Rick didn't know that Feingold wrote that in his op-ed, as Rick didn't have it in front of him. But this is undeniable; while there is no great clip of Bush saying, "I did not authorize warrantless wiretaps of that woman, Ms. Lewinsky" to run over and over again on the news, there is a clear pattern of misleading the public--something he does regularly. If that does not deserve censure, I don't know what does.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

BlogFest 06 over and done with

For one, I didn't win Blogger of the Year. That would be Dennis York, whose acceptance speech can be seen here (opens the video).

For two, I didn't come to blows with Owen. Or Sykes, McBride, DiGaudio, or anyone, for that matter. I did, however, kill James Wigderson and stuff him in the bathroom trash can.

I got a chance to talk face-to-face to a whole lot of very nice people. I have some specific thoughts on some of the things covered in the sessions, but I won't get to them right now. Except for one thing: John McAdams said something that explains a lot, about a lot of things. In a discussion of the "mainstream media"--that dreaded MSM--he said "Mainstream Media is a state of mind."

State of mind.

(Feldstein accutely translated that into "MSM is anyone I disagree with.")

So, here's what I've decided: I am MSM. If all it is is a state of mind, then, well, I have that state. I am MSM. So you can all begin to treat me accordingly.

When do the paychecks start coming?

Busy MetaBlogging day

I will be out and about much of the day talking about blogging. If the WisPolitics Blog Summit has WiFi, I may liveblog parts of it. Either way, I'll post at least a small summary tonight.

In the meantime, it's off to Fox 6, where Brian Fraley and I will be doing the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet. Hope he memorized his lines . . .

UPDATE: Brian and I were on, literally, between the children and the dog. Never, ever follow children or animals. Sigh.

Friday, March 17, 2006

This whole thing just makes me angry

I should have waited until morning to read this article about the proposed new unelected Mitchell airport authority:
More than three years before the public knew about it, business lobbyists were drafting a bill to create a regional airport authority that would take control of Mitchell International Airport away from Milwaukee County government.

And a key priority in those behind-the-scenes talks was ensuring that neither the County Board nor county voters would have a say in the handover.
It gets mostly worse from there, so I'll probably be grinding my teeth all night.

However, I want to send major props to my County Boardsman, Richard Nyklewicz, who is doing the people's business here and fighting to keep the airport in the hands of the public, where it belongs.

For more background, see this previous post.

Friday Random Ten

The It's not stereotypical of the Irish, but rather of people like the idiots who put a garbage can through the back window of my car a couple of years ago because they got drunk on St. Patrick's Day Edition

1. "Drunk Lullaby" Redbird from Redbird
2. "Too Drunk to Dream" Whiskeytown from Faithless Street
3. "Daughter of a Drunk" Andrew Calhoun from Shadow of a Wing
4. "Drunken Sailor" Great Big Sea from Great Big Sea
5. "Women and Wine" Martin Sexton from Live at the Gathering of Vibes
6. "St. Patrick's Day" John Mayer from Room for Squares
7. "I Gotta Get Drunk" Redbird from Redbird
8. "Drink Another Round" Don Conoscenti from Paradox of Grace
9. "Rainy Day Women #12 & 35" Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers from Bob Dylan's 30th Anniversary Concert
10. "Might as Well Get Drunk" G.E. Smith & the Saturday Night Live Band from Get a Little

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Wake Up to Jay!

This Saturday morning, I'll be a guest (perhaps with another blogger to be named later), along with Brian Fraley, on Fox 6's "Wake Up to Fun!" to talk about--what else--blogs, blogging, and the first annual WisPolitics Blog Summit. Tune in (or, since it's Saturday, set your TiVo) at 8:00 AM and watch me embarrass myself on TV again.

(Now comes the part where Stacie makes jokes about me.)

Feingold *is* Mainstream

The national conservative media, national conservative bloggers, and the right half of the Cheddarsphere have been strutting around for the better part of a week crowing about how embarrassed they are by Russ Feingold, how far outside the mainstream he is, and how "fringe" he is. Here's just a sampling from the parts of the Cheddarsphere that I have seen:
  • tee bee: "It's official: Russ Feingold is tone-deaf, a step behind, and thinks throwing in with the crazy far-left will get him a seat on the '08 ticket."
  • DiGaudio: "Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Al Qaeda) couldn't be more alone if he were on a deserted island without Gilligan and The Skipper. [. . . W]e are used to him being a kook; now we are embarrassed by him. He isn't ahead of any pack. He is just on the kook fringe and playing to the peaNUT gallery (emphasis on NUT)."
  • The Game: "The MSM loves to call Bush and other people on the Right extreme or out of touch, or 'not mainstream.' What about Russ Feingold? [. . .] Russ was the only person to vote against the Patriot Act the first time....do you think having NO ONE agree with you make you out of the mainstream?"
  • Wigderson, in the Freeman: "Democrats in 2008 may look at the company Feingold keeps, his die-hard opposition to the Patriot Act, his obsession with the NSA surveillance program, his premature call for withdrawal from Iraq, and they may start looking in a different direction for a presidential candidate – one with some credibility on national security, instead of someone who panders to the fringe left and conspiracy theorists within the Democratic Party. Before then, we might remember the overreach and ambition of another junior senator from Wisconsin and ask Feingold, 'Have you no shame?' "
  • Jenna: "He is alone on this issue, and he will be championed by moveon.org and Kos folks--but that doesn't mean anything for a presidential bid. Will the left love him? Yep. Will he see tons of money roll in, that campaign-finance-reforming-Senator? Yes. Will he be able to win a general election with the far left? Of course not."
  • The vacationing Fred: "Like him or not, Russ Feingold is on the far left fringe of the left."
  • Wendy: "Russ Feingold: Leader of the freak parade that is the Moonbat Left."
  • P-Mac: "Do you trust the part of government trying to catch jihadists, or do you trust the one one-hundredth of the Senate that’s trying to gin up fear of the president?"
  • McBride: "After all, Feingold's increasingly far-left stances are defining the Democratic Party in a manner that helps Republicans."
  • Fraley: "Never intended to actually pass, the censure resolution has refocused the spotlight on Feingold, the "Maverick," and will help him with his presidential aspirations. [. . .] Feingold is not only raising money, he's building a list of the loony left."
  • Chris, to whom I am not allowed to link: "As Senator Quisling keeps bowing at the Moonbat Altar he is handing us the War Club we need to use to defeat him in 2010. [. . .] If we show those Blue collar Reagan Democrats along the River and Up north that Russ is a member of the Hollywerid crowd and a AntiAmerica Moonbat he will lose a lot of support."
  • And once again, my favorite, Rick Esenberg: "What this is [is] a hard left politician positioning himself to garner the support of the drum circle left."
I quote so extensively, not just because I like the copy-paste, but to try to show the magnitude of this argument from the right. Time after time after time, the right tries to marginalize anyone who raises uncomfortable questions about the conduct and activities of their golden-boy president as "far-left," "fringe," and "out of the mainstream." Well, here's a picture, so no one gets confused when I try to explain it words, later:


More Americans (though, admittedly, within the margin of error) would like the censure. And the language of the question is even neutral enough it ought to placate any of my rightly friends' concerns--it is a simple statement of fact. Now, I can see the complaints coming about the number of Democrats in the sample, but the right would still have to explain away how nearly a third of Republicans are the "far-left fringe of the far left"; are 42% of independents part of the "drum-circle left," too? Because, you know, that's a pretty big cricle. And, come on, 70% percent of Democrats favor censure--to suggest that Feingold is outside of the mainstream of his own party is just to flat-out lie; it seems more like our other Democratic elected officials (I'm looking at you, Herb Kohl) are fringier than Feingold is. (Update: A Newseek poll finds support for censure at 42%-50%, but I cannot find the wording of the question. Still, to suggest that 42% is "fringe" is absurd.)

Also consider the new SurveyUSA's monthly presidential approval survey, where Bush actually gets worse numbers than in the censure survey above. I realize this is the worst kind of apples-to-oranges thing, and Paul Brewer will be very disappointed when he sees me say this, but only eight states have approval ratings for Bush better than his no-censure number. Here in Wisconsin, Bush's approval rating is net negative 18%. Of course, disapproval is no reason to censure (and, indeed, Clinton's numbers were much better even at the height of impeachment); but it does put the lie to claims Feingold is more outside the mainstream of what people want, since the most recent SurveyUSA poll on senators landed Russ a net positive 18% here in Wisconsin--36% better than the president is doing!

It is not hard to believe that the right is pushing its "far left of the far left" idea. It is all they have, since they can't seem to accept the fact that 1) the administration is breaking the law; 2) the president is not popular; and 3) Russ Feingold is accurately reflecting the mainstream of the American public.

Memory Lane, Presidential Wrongdoing Edition

Remember this classic, from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel editorial board about Clinton?
Editorial: Impeachment is premature, unfair

It's easy to see Republicans' point in seeking impeachment against the president for perjury and obstructing justice. But their actions are ill-advised on a number of fronts, from the purely political to mere ineffectiveness. Let us suggest, however, that this time, Republicans are premature. This quest for impeachment, though no doubt driven by principle, has something of a tilting-at-windmills quality that will only distract from more urgent business.

Impeachment of a president has been done only once before. It was a doubtful tool in that instance. It is even more doubtful now. That's because it is occurring before there has been a proper vetting of whether the president has committed an illegal act.

Republicans are correct that President Clinton does appear to have perjured himself and obstructed the investigation into his wrongdoing. But an impeachment vote now could be self-satisfying for purely political reasons on both sides of the aisle. Its outcome, however, is preordained and will be a wholly unnecessary distraction from the real business at hand--determining if Clinton willfully and knowingly violated laws.
Of course you don't remember it, because the paper never wrote it. Back in 1998, the paper said "Let impeachment proceedings begin":
There are compelling reasons why the country would be better served if the shortcuts of resignation and censure or reprimand are avoided. [. . .] Instead, Congress--beginning with the House--needs to begin the impeachment process and conduct it responsibly and expeditiously.
They were ready to get on with impeachment. The paper did, I will admit, demand that the hearings be "dignified," but they seemed displeased that Clinton was let off the hook: "Yet, there can be no satisfaction with the Senate outcome among Americans who honestly believe the president acted like a fool and demeaned the high office to which they twice elected him," they wrote. "To its everlasting disgrace, the Senate could not even muster the courage to at least censure the man who brought such dishonor to the nation in what will forever be known as the Monica Lewinsky Affair."

Everlasting disgrace be damned, I suppose, when it comes to Russ Feingold's measure to censure President Bush for his admitted violations of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Even though the paper admits today that "the Constitution does not empower the president to ignore those laws he chooses," they will not stand up for the Constitution's demands that Congress exercise its authority on the matter. Instead, they write, "Censure is premature, unfair."

However, I suspect that somewhere Russ Feingold is smiling, since towards the front of the paper, he says that "It's doing what I had hoped. As difficult as this is, everybody is now talking again about" the president's breaking of the law. To be fair, even the Journal Sentinel is talking about it; the headline by itself on the editorial today (calling censure "unfair") doesn't quite carry the full weight of the demands the editors to make about the need for real investigation and oversight:
Congress has refused to entertain a meaningful investigation into National Security Agency wiretapping and has never adequately investigated whether intelligence was manipulated to rush a nation to war.

And, still, there is some hope that enough public outrage--perhaps spurred by midterm elections--or further revelations could finally cause Congress to find backbone instead of a way to make the law fit White House actions, rather than vice versa.

Congress has displayed breathtaking unwillingness or ineptitude on the wiretapping issue. That's why it's time it launched an independent investigation.
Calling Feingold's motion for censure "unfair," though, only provides fodder for the radio talkers and right half of the Cheddarsphere. It provides cover for people like Representative F. Jim Sensenbrenner, whose House Judiciary Committee can and should be investigating the matter. It provides an out for anyone who still wants to look the other way while this White House gathers power on an unprecedented scale.

Calling it unfair also makes the editorial board look like fools, since, if that was what Russ was really after--renewed calls for a genuine investigation--he just got it. He wins this round, even if censure never happens.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

WI-Sen: Debate!

Yes, in fact, there is a debate scheduled in the 2006 Wisconsin Senate race. Herb Kohl may not be there, but it sounds like the majority of his challengers will be. I probably won't make it (I don't want to make the drive to Madison), so one of you will have to go and tell me what happens.

Stupid Blogger!

Blogger's returning errors in Safari, so I'm going to try posting a little from Firefox, and see what happens . . .

Speaking of bloggers, it's not too late to register (it's free!) for Blogapalooza 2006, more properly known as the first annual WisPolitics Blog Summit.

Another Front-Page Blunder

Yesterday, Seth caught a mistake on page A1 of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
Here’s the first line of the article in question: “An analysis by the non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau released Monday says taxpayers could have saved up to $1.9 billion in state taxes over 20 years if revenue limits had been in place” (emphasis mine).

Interesting opener, I thought, considering the LFB report does not deal specifically with taxes and neither does the constitutional amendment it analyzes. The issue at hand for both is revenue.
Seth, who's been doing great work on the ins and outs of the TP Amendment, goes into why, exactly, the article both factually inaccurate why the LFB study should not be heralded the way it has been.

Today, the error is on page B1, which is the front page of the Metro section, in the headline "2 schools will be dropped from voucher program." The article in question is about two schools, yes, including Tucker's Institute of Learning, a school in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program. Tucker is being dropped by the Department of Public Instruction immediately, and demanding a refund, because there are questions about the attendance figures it reported. (Speaking of attendance, the MPS schools who now will take those students in will get--you guessed it--not one cent to cover the cost of educating them for the rest of the year.)

The other school, however, is an MPS charter school, Pheonix High School. Pheonix is not being closed now; it is just not having its contract renewed for next year. And it is not at all a voucher school.

Update: The title of the on-line story now reads, "2 schools will be dropped from voucher, charter programs."

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

I Wish . . .

. . . everybody coming here looking to disagree with me on the whole Feingold censure thing would read at least the bullet points that explain both why the domestic spying program terrorist surveillance program is illegal and why censure is reasonable.

. . . there was a reverse Google. You put in a website, and the reverse Google will tell you what search strings will return that website as the number one regular Google hit.

. . . I had a hybrid. I admit it. I have Prius envy.

. . . I didn't have to report that the "market" has failed yet again in the Milwaukee voucher program. DPI has stepped in to close Tucker's Institute of Learning. Once again, this should be the responsibility of the parents--parents who, because of the reluctance of Republicans and choice proponents to support real accountability, don't have the information or empowerment to close the school themselves.