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Pay no attention to the people behind the curtain

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Sensenbrenner Watch: Volunteers Needed

When I helped put together Sensenbrenner Watch a little over a year ago, I did so with the hope that a group of other regular volunteers for Democrat Bryan Kennedy would keep the place humming. I'm busy neglecting my own blog most of the time, and I don't actually live in the district.

Over the past twelve months, I've invited a handful of other people to try to keep the place up. Sadly, S-Watch has pretty much languished, with no new posts since November.

We've got an election coming up, people, and we need some help keeping F. Jim's antics in front of the voters.

So here's the deal: Email me if you're a Democrat/ liberal/ anti-Sensenbrenner activist in the 5th CD who wants to keep S-Watch regularly updated, and, if you are willing to make a commitment to use the blog only for good (never for evil), I will turn over a key to you.

The important thing is to get the net- and grass-roots energized and organized for November. In this off-year election, it's all going to be about turnout, and the more sources we have telling people the importance of beating Sensenbrenner, the better.

(Note: S-Watch is blog*spot hosted, but sensenbrennerwatch.com will redirect you.)

Monday, May 29, 2006

Memorial Music Monday

The War Game

There was no note but if there was, it might have said:
"Forgive me for the things I’ve done, things there’s no forgiveness for. The things I’ve heard the things I’ve seen the things I've said have been so mean, but the men I've killed won’t haunt my dreams no more. In the jungles there’s no why, no right or wrong just live or die, and a lot men, a lot of friends died right next to me. You can’t blame charlie for this crime if you don’t blame me for mine, after all, he was under orders just like me.

"Father cousin brother son in charlie’s eyes they’re all the same, in columns lost and won, when you’re playing the war game.

"I didn’t come home to be spit on, or to be told that I was wrong, or to confront an angry mob. I just wanted to be with my wife, to try to start a new life, but it turns out I didn’t come home to a job. I raised my daughters the best I could, did what all good fathers should, but I still don’t think I spent enough time. They couldn’t understand my pain, they didn’t share my shame, once a week as I stood in that line.

"Father cousin brother son in Uncle Sam’s eyes they’re all the same, in columns lost and won, when you’re playing the war game.

"So I went back to the church, to try to heal decades of hurt, but I didn’t think god would want me after all this time. But my brothers made me secure, made me feel almost pure, and I felt god was back on my side. So this one last thing I do, I don’t do it to hurt you, it’s an exercise of my faith. So please, pray for me, pray the lord my soul to keep, because I’m off, I’m off to a better place.

"Father cousin brother son in god’s eyes they’re all the same, in columns lost and won, when you’re playing the war game.

"When you’re playing the war game, it’s not a game, it’s just a shame, a shame grown men would act that way. When other men are just marks on a map or page or charts, they don’t even know our names. And just a telegram or note is all they send, always by rote, to let our families know we’ve died. We’re not numbers, will you see, not survivors and casualties, we’re human beings with a life --

"Father cousin brother son in war’s eyes they’re all the same, in columns lost and gone, when you’re playing the war game."

There was no note but if there was, it might have said:
"Forgive me."


This is one of the oldest songs of mine that can go in the regular rotation if I need it. I wrote it back in 1995 after a relative, a Vietnam vet, became a casualty of the war, 25 years later.

You can download or listen to the song here.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

I'm this many!


On this day in history, three years ago, I started experimenting with this form called blog. Thank you all for sharing the experiment with me.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Weekend Reading for Democrats

And it may take you a weekend: Kid Oakland has a long but spot-on post about how Democrats should be like Dolphins, but are really like carp:
Central to this definition of the worldview of a Carp is the dual belief in both "scarcity" and "the imminent loss of what you already possess."  Ring a bell?  From the current debate over the 50-State strategy, to the legendarily careful tactics of the DCCC and the DSCC, to the timid efforts of the Kerry/Edwards campaign to go out of their way to offend absolutely no one in 2004, to, yes, the Gore/Lieberman's failed tactics in Florida in 2000...Democratic strategy has been anchored for decades now in the concept that there's little out there for us to win and much for us lose.  Of course, the mindset that says, "better not lose what we've already got" in the face of relentless attacks from sharks is a sure way to lose even more.  (For more of this debate, try this discussion on MyDD.)


I can't think of a better summation of the frustration that DNC Chairman Howard Dean's supporters expressed in the last Presidential election or the rage that spreads through the netroots every time the Democratic party seems to fall back into this mode of thinking.  It's clear that the current Democratic Party believes in scarcity; we're afraid to lose and we're sure that "making mistakes" will only lead to further losses.  We're acting like Carp!

Read it.

Voucher Schools: The Hits Just Keep Coming

Yesterday a fifth school this year in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program was cut off officially by DPI for cheating taxpayers:
In an order kicking the [Sa'Rai and Zigler Upper Excellerated Academy] out of the program, state officials said they noticed in March that student applications submitted by the school appeared to have forged signatures. [. . .] Zigler denied that the school had forged any signatures, calling the state's accusations "a smokescreen" to cover up the fact that "once again, we are a black school being targeted."

Earlier this month, leaders of a half-dozen voucher schools accused the state Department of Public Instruction of targeting black schools for closure, a claim that Deputy State Superintendent Tony Evers says he categorically denies.

After suspecting forgery, department officials asked for the original student applications for the families attending Sa'Rai and Zigler using vouchers. But, according to state officials, the school submitted only 39 out of 90 original student applications, and failed to provide any evidence that it had checked W-2 or other forms to ensure that the families met the income guidelines of the program. To be eligible, family income must not exceed 175% of the poverty level.

State officials allege that, in one case, the school accepted voucher money for a student in a family of three with a total income of $50,900, but the maximum income for a family of three to be eligible in 2005 was less than $29,000.

But Zigler argued that the department decided to give his school the boot to avoid paying Sa'Rai and Zigler $57,000 he claims is overdue.


What's interesting to me--and what could probably have been predicted as the DPI begins to crack down on the schools that are breaking the rules--is the way this is becoming a racial issue. The accusations started at the beginning of this month when DPI cut off Woodson Academy, also for forgery, even though that school had been in the program for more than a decade. (It also had been in trouble off and on for that decade.)

The vast majoity of schools not run by minority personnel or organizations are the religious schools, those run by the archidiocese or the Lutherans. These are long-established schools without as much need to inflate their numbers (considering how many non-voucher students they can draw). They also tend to be run by people with years of experience in school administration and monitored closely by an overseeing organization.

The new schools that have been started, while they definitely fill a void in the community (the need to fund them by shorting MPS is an entirely different question), do not always have the history, the experience, or the oversight behind them. They also don't have a natural base of students who can pay outright instead of needing a voucher. That creates a dangerous situation--whether those schools are run by African Americans or not.

Even back during the discussion of--and eventual passage of--a requirement that all the voucher schools get accreditation, I knew that it would hit the minority-run schools hardest, since almost all of the non-minority-run schools already have accreditation. This fight is only going to get uglier.

Friday, May 26, 2006

MPS School-Closing Hearings

I know I have quite a few Milwaukee Public Schools teachers and parents who read the blog regularly, so I will mention these and encourage you all to attend. Over the last year, many people were taken by surprise at the news that Juneau High School, in particular, was targeted for closing. Everyone who feels you might have a stake in this needs to get involved in the process (.pdf) now:
Adding dollars to classrooms, cutting excess space

MPS would like to hear your input on the process to trim excess space in the district by closing some schools. Please come to one of the community meetings listed below and share your thoughts as we begin the second year of the process.

Wednesday, May 31, 5:00 p.m., Bell Middle School, 6506 W. Warnimont Avenue
Thursday, June 1, 5:00 p.m, Milwaukee High School of the Arts, 2300 W. Highland
Avenue
Monday, June 5, 5:00 p.m., Bay View High School, 2751 S. Lenox Street
Tuesday, June 6, 5:00 p.m., Burroughs Middle School, 6700 N. 80th Street
Wednesday, June 7, 6:00 p.m., Gaenslen Elementary School, 1250 E. Burleigh Street
Monday, June 12, 5:00 p.m., MPS Central Services, 5225 W. Vliet Street

No determination has been made at this time as to which schools could potentially close. This is the second year of the initiative to address MPS’ over-capacity. The district is about halfway to that goal. If you cannot attend the meetings, please call (414) 777-7800 to register your thoughts on our hotline.

Friday Random Ten

The with a capital T Edition

1. "Trouble in My Head" Melissa Ferrick from Willing to Wait
2. "Trouble" Shawn Colvin from A Few Small Repairs
3. "The Trouble with Poets" Peter Mulvey from Glencree
4. "Trouble" Kat Eggleston from Second Nature
5. "Wrap Your Trouble in Dreams" Jennifer Kimball from Oh Hear Us
6. "I've Seen Trouble" Bill Camplin (as Döet) from Love Songs and Other Trios
7. "Howling at the Trouble" Richard Shindell from Sparrows Point
8. "The Trouble with Normal" Bruce Cockburn from Anything Anytime Anywhere
9. "Trouble and Care" John Gorka from Old Futures Gone
10. "Troubles" Mark Erelli from Hilbilly Pilgrim

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Things to do in Milwaukee when you're liberal

  • You can crash the Badger Blog Alliance Spring Fling on Saturday, June 3. Well, crash is a bit strong of a word, since they are actively inviting us lefties. I don't know if they want us for target practice or what.
  • If you're a dude (I think dudettes can go too), you can join Women's Choice Wisconsin for Dudes for Choice on Monday, June 5. It's after work at the Wicked Hop, with cool music and money going to a good cause.
  • If you want to support the possibility of Air America's coming to town--and it seems almost a certainty, now--you can go to the Hi Hat Lounge on Brady Street next Wednesday at 7:00. Sign up at the link there for updates.

What else is on tap? Use the comments here to promote your thing, and maybe I'll add it to the front page here.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Sorry for the silence

I posted quite a few things on Monday to get them out of the way; work is eating up too much of my time, plus I have a deadline this week for a class I'm taking. My usual several-thousand-words-of-BS-a-week is currently being spent writing a paper, not blogging.

In the meantime, well, just be the best you that you can be.

Or something.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Episode 697,462: A New Hope

We've been yanked around before (repeatedly) here in Milwaukee, but Scott offers us solid hope that one day soon, there will be balance in the force Milwaukee's talk radio market.

Monday, May 22, 2006

He asked for it: Education is not like TV sets

Paul Noonan seems like a smart enough guy. In our previous tussles on education (see links at the top of this post, for example), he's proven a worthy opponent.

The other day, he actually tried provoking me:
When I think about whether a certain product should be left to the private sector v. the public sector, I usually think about TVs and freeways. TV's are products that are purchased by many individuals who benefit directly from owning the TV. Freeways, on the other hand, have many secondary beneficiaries [. . .]. In general, I think that most things should be left to the private sector, but if I believe that a certain product closely resembles a freeway, (national defense, certain infrastructure, sewers, etc.) I am more inclined to let the government have a role. The government still doesn't do a great job with many of these responsibilities, but the alternative is to not have these products and services at all.

We treat education as a freeway in this country, but I think it is clearly more like a television. Parents have an interest in purchasing a fine education for their kids, and so it seems that the best way to provide education would be in the free market.

This is the logical and philosophical argument for keeping the state out of schooling. What I never hear from those who are in favor of public education as it currently exists, such as Jay Bullock, is any logical or philosophical justification underlying their arguments. Jay is a champion debater, but he hits you with a thousand bb's, whereas I tend to hit with one giant missile. He'll drown you with information, little examples of public school successes or failures of privatization, but there is no underlying coherence to his arguments.
That's my style of fighting all right--The Blog of 1000 BBs. I will teach it to anyone willing to learn for a mere $600.

More seriously, I need to diffuse Paul's giant (and misguided) missle. While I may sometimes lack underlying coherence (it's there; sometimes you just need 3-D glasses to see it), Paul lacks common sense. Aside from the reductionist false dischotomy proposed by Paul's little thought experiment, he implies that there are no "secondary benficiaries" to free, quality public education. That there is no interest except on the part of parents in educating a child. That no one but individual families sees any positive or negative effect whether their children get an education.

I thought about spending the evening Googling up quotes like the classic one from Thomas Jefferson (“I know of no safe depository of the ultimate powers of society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education”) and trying to point out how much importance the people who founded this country placed on education. But, you know, Horatio Caine is busy trying to nail the guy who murdered his wife, so, frankly, I don't have time for that.

Let's instead go on a bit of a thought experiment of our own: What happens when Americans start treating education like TVs? Well, first of all, we know that the wealthiest buy the biggest, newest, flattest-screen TVs, while the rest of us get by with much less. Given that the top 20% of Americans have something like 84% of the nation's wealth, that leaves quite a few of us who will be buying shoddier models.

Moreover, consider what the market has done to TVs in the last few decades. This commentary was merely the first hit in a long Google list:
But Sony don't appear to be the only company affected by this general decline in standards. [. . .] To make things worse, much of today's consumer electronics is considered "disposable" rather than repairable.

The cost, and often poor availability of spare parts, combined with high labour rates means it's often just cheaper to buy a new VCR, TV or cellphone than it is to have the old one repaired.
The Wal-Martinization of America--and the world--has resulted in vast availability of inexpensive product, but you get what you pay for. Is it worth $40 a year to buy a new DVD player every time your cheap one craps out, or should you spend five times that for one that will last ten years? When you think about education, your answer--whether as a parent or as an outside observer--has to be to get the long-lasting one.

But the market doesn't do well at getting the high-quality merchandise to the 80% of us who lack the resources to buy it outright. One of my favorite stories ever is "The Man Who Said No to Wal-Mart." Consider this passage:
Selling Snapper lawn mowers at Wal-Mart wasn't just incompatible with Snapper's future--Wier thought it was hazardous to Snapper's health. Snapper is known in the outdoor-equipment business not for huge volume but for quality, reliability, durability. A well-maintained Snapper lawn mower will last decades; many customers buy the mowers as adults because their fathers used them when they were kids. But Snapper lawn mowers are not cheap, any more than a Viking range is cheap. The value isn't in the price, it's in the performance and the longevity.

You can buy a lawn mower at Wal-Mart for $99.96, and depending on the size and location of the store, there are slightly better models for every additional $20 bill you're willing to put down--priced at $122, $138, $154, $163, and $188. That's six models of lawn mowers below $200. Mind you, in some Wal-Marts you literally cannot see what you are buying; there are no display models, just lawn mowers in huge cardboard boxes.

The least expensive Snapper lawn mower--a 19-inch push mower with a 5.5-horsepower engine--sells for $349.99 at full list price. Even finding it discounted to $299, you can buy two or three lawn mowers at Wal-Mart for the cost of a single Snapper.

If you know nothing about maintaining a mower, Wal-Mart has helped make that ignorance irrelevant: At even $138, the lawn mowers at Wal-Mart are cheap enough to be disposable. Use one for a season, and if you can't start it the next spring (Wal-Mart won't help you out with that), put it at the curb and buy another one. That kind of pricing changes not just the economics at the low end of the lawn-mower market, it changes expectations of customers throughout the market. Why would you buy a walk-behind mower from Snapper that costs $519? What could it possibly have to justify spending $300 or $400 more?
Pretend for a minute that Paul compared education not to TV sets but to lawnmowers. Do you have faith in the market to offer the best education to the most people at an affordable price?

I'm not suggesting that the feds, the state, the city, or anyone else start subsidizing lawnmowers. Whether or not I toss my cheap lawnmower when it breaks is of no concern to the greater community: Only a handful of people ever have to look at my lawn. But my child--well, I don't have children, so, let's say your child--if your child has had nothing but a disposable education, your child would be little more than a burden on society. Multiply that by the many tens of millions who cannot afford--or don't care enough to find--non-disposable education for their children, and you have not the greatest country in the world, but the dumbest.

And imagine that this sentence is not about lawnmower consumers but about education and parents: If you know nothing about maintaining a mower, Wal-Mart has helped make that ignorance irrelevant. This scares me not as a government employee who might get muscled out of a job, but as an American who has to share the country with the children of parents like that.

Do I love the highways as they are? Not really. And I'm not fully content with education as it is, either. But I wouldn't trust the people who bring you cheap DVD players and disposable lawnmowers to keep our commercial traffic humming along. Neither would I trust them to look out for the best of society when it comes to education.

And, hey, exciting news: Horatio's going to Brazil!

Senate Republicans abuse literature, too

There will always be a need for English teachers; I will never be out of a job.

And I'm not just talking about fixing the kids who want to know R U a sk8r boi? or whatever, but also Republicans in the United States Senate.

I caught this one on the Sunday Morning shows:
The Senate defeated a proposal Wednesday by Sen. David Vitter to strip provisions from a major immigration bill that the Louisiana Republican described as amnesty for illegal immigrants but which proponents call an opportunity for "earned citizenship."

Vitter's amendment lost 66-33 after a spirited debate in which Vitter and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., sparred over the definition of "amnesty."

"Tens of millions of Americans," Vitter said, know that legislation that would allow many of the 12 million illegal immigrants in the country to eventually become citizens fits the dictionary "definition of amnesty."

McCain said that when the American people learn that the Senate bill would allow undocumented residents who learn English and pay back taxes and a $2,000 fine the chance to "get at the end of the line" of those seeking citizenship six years down the road isn't amnesty at all.

"Call it amnesty, call it a banana if you want to . . . but the fact is it is earned citizenship," McCain said.

"Methinks thou dost protest too much," Vitter said.
I'm all for Republican implosions, but that's not what caught my ear. It was Vitter's methinking. The reference is a painful misquoting of Gertrude's line in Hamlet III.ii, "The lady doth protest too much, methinks."

Much worse is this one, which came to me via NPR one day last week:
A few minutes earlier, the Senate had voted 83-16 in favor of construction of the fence and 500 miles of vehicle barriers, the first significant victory in two days for conservatives seeking to place their stamp on the measure.

The developments unfolded in a volatile political environment. The White House struggled for a second day to ease the concerns of House Republicans who contend that President Bush favors amnesty for illegal immigrants, and demonstrators massed a few blocks from the Capitol demanding immigrant rights.

CBS News correspondent Sharyl Attkisson reports immigration activists didn't stop at the foot of the U.S. Capitol Building Wednesday — they walked right through the doors and into the offices of members of Congress.

Members of the "We Are America" coalition, who hope to use the demonstrations as the foundation of a political movement, won an on-the-spot audience with Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., who told Attkisson: "I think it could change minds because it puts a human face on it."

Construction of the barrier would send "a signal that open-border days are over," said Sen. Jeff Sessions. "Good fences make good neighbors, fences don't make bad neighbors."
This is abuse of one of America's greatest poets, Robert Frost. Frost's poem "Mending Wall" ends with the line, "Good fences make good neighbors." But if you believe only the literal meaning of the words, you clearly have not read the rest of the poem. The poem opens (and repeats), "Something there is that doesn't love a wall." The rest of the poem describes the speaker and a neighbor's attempt to repair a stone fence that nature--darn that nature!--keeps tearing down. The neighbor mindlessly parrots "Good fences make good neighbors," but the speaker doesn't understand why. He says,
Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.
These are the lines Jeff Sessions needs to ponder.

Cognitive Dissonance

From Glenn Greenwald:
So, to re-cap the rules: (1) When a pro-war politician gives a pro-war speech as part of a graduation ceremony, and students in the audience heckle and boo him, that shows how Deranged the Angry Left is--because they heckled a pro-war speech. (2) When an anti-war politician gives an anti-war speech as part of a graduation ceremony, and students in the audience heckle, walk out and even riot, that also shows how Angry the Left is--because they "provoked a near riot" by pro-war students.
I could never be a conservative, because this--believing two contradictory things at once--is too much work for my lazy head.

McIlheran Watch: Lies that won't die

The conservative half of the blogeteria was in hysterics over the weekend based on a report out of Canada stating that Iran, bugaboo du jour of the martial right, had passed a law requiring Jews, Christians, and other non-Muslims to wear colored tags identifying them as such.

Trouble is, no such law was ever passed.

But the conservative Cheddarspherians are not backing down from their stories. Owen was in Appleton all weekend at Woodstock or something, which may explain why he hasn't taken down his post. Peter claims that he doesn't "see anything in the denials that convinces me the original story is inaccurate." He goes on to say that "just because someone in Iran says it isn't true doesn't mean it isn't true."

Had he read the links I and mr. mxp provided him in his comments, Peter would have seen that it wasn't just "someone in Iran" saying that the law in question never existed. it was, in fact, a Jewish representative from Iran's Parliament (plus plenty of other poeple in positions to know). Peter thinks he can get away with not retracting the story by saying "to me, this fits the evil that is eminating from these nutjobs." In other words, because this is the sort of thing Iran might do, I will believe it even if it is clearly false.

This is where our good friend Patrick McIlheran comes in:
It was my honor to be one of the panelists Sunday on “Sunday Insight with Charles Sykes.” On it, I mentioned the report from Canada’s national newspaper, the National Post, that Iran passed a law requiring non-Muslims to wear colored badges identifying them as Jews, Christians or Zoroastrians.

The day after the show was taped, National Post reported that Iran denied such a law was passed. A spokesman for the U.S.-based Iranian-American Jewish Federation also said that Jews in Iran said that no such measure was in place--though the spokesman, Sam Kermanian, “added that Jews in Iran still face widespread, systematic discrimination,” according to National Post.
You'd think that here, P-Mac would say "my bad" and move on. But the title of his post is "Retraction. Well, OK, not a retraction." And he quotes the parts of the National Post citing others who doubt the falsity of the story.

In particular is this line from Bush-buddy and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who must read Peter's blog: "Unfortunately," Harper said, "we’ve seen enough already from the Iranian regime to suggest that it is very capable of this kind of action."

I'm not saying Iran is all lollipops and roses for everyone living there, but we should not try to prop up lies when there are plenty of truths to tell. We've been down that road before--and it turns out to be very expensive. But Iran is the story suddenly being thrust into our consciousness, hawks apparently being bored with Iraq. And so any story that can be spun will be spun, and for many months now, no doubt, some people on the internet and perhaps even in real life, will defend a (potential?) decision to attack Iran by citing the law that never was. In the meantime, real tragedies--like the horror show in Darfur--will go unremarked.

For example, Daily Kos front-pager SusanG suggests we look closer to home:
As a long haul suggestion then, I would offer this advice to the coming-late-to-the-party faux feminists on the right: Forget Iran. Begin with Saudi Arabia. Yes, Iran is oppressive to women. But at least there women can vote, run for office and drive. In Saudi Arabia, they can do none of these things, and just last week word came down from their king that women are no longer to be allowed to have their pictures in newspapers.

Since we are (temporarily) on better terms with the Saudis, perhaps we can get our country's hand-holding president to whisper in a sheik's ear that public erasure of half its population is just ... not quite playing well in Peoria. My guess is, we'll have to wait for a Democratic president to play even the politest game of hard ball with the Saudis--and even then, only once we're on the road to energy independence.
So, add another one to the list of lies that won't die--like Al Gore's having claimed to invent the internet, or that cutting taxes raises revenue, or that Bush speaks Spanish.

(Update: Casper points out in the comments that his blogmate Cantankerous covered this on Saturday. I didn't see it.)

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Should I?

Last summer, we started running our community columnists and indicated that we'd solicit a new crop of writers in about a year. It's that time.

We chose 17 last year. This time, we're going to choose 20 or more to afford more flexibility.

We're seeking a range of people who reflect the region's ethnic, racial, geographic, gender, age and political diversity. That means liberals, conservatives and those who defy labels, and people from all over the Milwaukee metropolitan area.
The 700 words thing will be a bother. On the other hand, I can be as cool as Rick Esenberg.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

I'm on a diet

If I seem extra irritable, grouchy, pissy, or otherwise put off, that's why.

We did this diet once before, about three years ago, and I actually lost about 60 pounds. We abandoned it amid the stress of buying a house and moving and the Howard Dean campaign and all of that, and in the years since I put all that weight back on and then some. But this time I mean it.

(I'm so hungry.)

Friday, May 19, 2006

Friday Random Ten

The in the very merry month of Edition

1. "Mayfair" Nick Drake from Made to Love Magic
2. "What May Seem Like Love" Whiskeytown from Faithless Street
3. "May I Suggest" Susan Werner from New Non-Fiction
4. "Maybe It's Imaginary" Kirsty MacColl from Electric Landlady
5. "May" Richard Shindell from Reunion Hill
6. "I May Know the Word" Natalie Merchant from Tigerlilly
7. "For Emily, Wherever I May Find Her" Simon and Garfunkel from The Best Of
8. "Maybe, Just Maybe" Sons of the Never Wrong from Consequence of Speech
9. "Mayday" Kate McDonnell from Where the Mangoes Are
10. "May Day Cafe" The Nields from Live from Northampton

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Into the belly of the beast

If you don't hear from me in a reasonable time after this post, send a search and rescue party to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel offices--I have a meeting this afternoon with the dreaded MSM and may not come out alive!

</snark>

(I'm back unscathed. Call off the dogs.)

Now it makes sense

Over the last couple of days, we've heard denials from all the telecoms that they actually did not provide the NSA with information about every single phone call placed within the United States since late 2001, despite what the widely read USA Today article may have said.

Today we learn that, just days before the story broke, Bush signed a presidential memo that, in effect, would exempt the telecoms from liability if they lied to the people, the press, and their shareholders about their activities.

I mean, I suppose it could just be a coincidence . . .

Fraley's Daily Forward

UPDATE: WisOpinion has taken the link down. No word from Brian.

Diamond Dave caught this first, but I think it deserves wider play.

WisOpinion--good non-partisans who often link to your humble folkbum--has spotlighted this post from Blogger Republican campaign strategist Brian Fraley. Now, I've met Brian and he is a decent, smart fellow, and this probably would not be an issue at all had WisOpinion not picked it up. The post begins,
An interesting point comes to mind when contemplating the immigration question. It is amazing that people from across the globe are clamoring to come here. After all, if you listen to liberals, we Republicans have screwed up this country, right?
Following that are quotes about how bad America sucks from famous liberals Bill Mahr, Michael Moore, Gwenneth Paltrow, Sean Penn, and more

The post is probably one of those email forwards, likely originating with rightwingsparkle, where the quotes are in almost exactly the same order as in Brian's post (she includes links to sources for all the quotes, making me think she's the origin), with the addition of some items from this page. Snopes doesn't have anything on this to verify the accuracy of the quotes--I checked.

As I said, I'm assuming Brian got this as an email forward--he's not the kind of guy (as far as I can tell) who would just cut and paste someone else's blog post. But, when posting a forward, he should have at least have indicated it was exactly that. WisOpinion may never have picked it up, then, but at least neither they nor Brian would be looking as foolish as they are now knowing what it is.

Meet Bill Tonight

That's Bill Elliot, who is running for the open 23rd Assembly District seat:
You are invited to an event for Bill Elliott,
who is running as a Democrat in the 23rd Assembly District.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006
6:00pm – 8:00pm

At the Home of
Barbara Becker & Slack Ulrich
9745 N. Lake Dr., Bayside, WI 53217
(Please Park on the east side of Lake Drive)

Suggested Contribution: $25, all donations gratefully accepted.

R.S.V.P.’s are appreciated but not required,
call 414.803.1694 or email info@billforwisconsin.com.

Hosted by Barbara Becker, Slack Ulrich,
and Bryan & Heather Kennedy
I won't be able to make it, but I hope some of you can.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Backward

A long time ago, on a blog far away (and long since defunct), I used to debate badly outgunned conservatives on a variety of topics. Once I even debated my arch nemesis, back before he had a last name, and I kicked his butt. One of the first battles there--not one I was on--was over the death penalty; you can find it all here (plus the archive of my head-to-head with Owen).

The Republican position in that death penalty debate was, essentially, "If we can employ every tool at our disposal to make sure that no innocent person is put to death ever, then we can kill with abandon and happy consciences!" The advisory referendum passed out of the Wisconsin State Senate today has a lot of the same flavor. Republicans want our permission--this thing is really only lacking the "pretty please"--to throw the switch if they can guarantee only really guilty, really bad people will die.

The Republican's opponent in that old debate--the late, eloquent, saintly, and deeply missed Dan Champion--could not stomach that argument. He saw through the idealism and perfect-worldism of his opponent to the core of what makes these extreme Republicans salivate for death:
In my book, God can go ahead and impose the death penalty whenever He chooses.

Um… just not fallible humans. That’s been my point all along: human failure. Human weakness. Human compulsion for revenge.

Ah, revenge. [. . .] As a retributory tool, death works wonderfully. The desire for revenge is the dark secret in all of us. It has, I suppose, been so since the beginning of time. It is human nature to resent a hurt, and each of us has a desire to hurt back. [. . .]

By exacting revenge on criminals as a society, that society drops to the social stratum of its dregs. We are then playing on the murderer’s terms, by their rules, and we cannot win. Official revenge is no better than Hatfield and McCoy revenge, and the results are no less odious.
Even if it is perfect, it is still wrong.

Wrong does not have factors you can control for, DNA evidence that makes it okay, or any level of permission granted by voters to obviate its wrongness.

Wisconsin is my adopted state--don't get me started on what's going on in Ohio right now--and I have on a regular basis been proud of much of what goes on here. The state's motto, "Forward," means something to me. It means, among other things, not going backwards. That sounds glib; I don't mean it to be.

Consider what Wisconsin Republicans have been up to over the last few years (no links--my head hurts):
  • They want to bring back the days of the Old West with concealed weapons
  • They want to stifle the most promising--and most profitable--lines of biomedical research
  • They want to bring back the death penalty, which Wisconsin saw fit to abandon in 1853
  • They want to kick gay and lesbian citizens to the curb through their hateful anti-marriage amendment
  • They want to dismantle the public schools and protections for victims of malpractice
  • They want to make it as hard as possible for non-white, non-landed citizens to vote
And so on. This is the face of the elected Republican party in Wisconsin: Bloodthirsty, reactionary, cruel, heartless.

This is why they fear Tommy Thompson, why they still haven't granted him a speaking slot at their convention: He's a big doofus, but he is none of those things. Neither are the voters of Wisconsin, and those voters would have shown Mark Green the door.

We need to start going forward again, with one voice against these people. Vote no on their backwards agenda; vote for forward in November.

Monday, May 15, 2006

The ess-pray ould-shay art-stay alking-tay in ode-cay

It's all over the blogs by now (liberal blogs, anyway--conservatives don't seem bothered by it), that the feds are using that new-fangled NSA domestic spying to un-free the press:
A senior federal law enforcement official tells ABC News the government is tracking the phone numbers we (Brian Ross and Richard Esposito) call in an effort to root out confidential sources.

"It's time for you to get some new cell phones, quick," the source told us in an in-person conversation.

ABC News does not know how the government determined who we are calling, or whether our phone records were provided to the government as part of the recently-disclosed NSA collection of domestic phone calls.
Add the first to the rest of the amendments downed by this administration--classics like the fourth and the sixth, for example. Can quartering soldiers be far behind?

Confidential to FedEx:

It should not be impossible to reach a live person from your phone system. Zero, pound, star, nothing could get me to a live person.

Confidential to everyone else: Screaming the door tag number or "help" into the phone doesn't make the computer do what you want it to any faster.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

In Dominionism News . . .

I always find Dominionist, creationist, and pre-millenialist things kind of frightening and fascinating, since I grew up around people who took everything between Genesis and Revelations quite seriously. I read The Late Great Planet Earth when I was in high school just because it was lying around.

Anyway, both J A Bartlett and Mustang Bobby have hair-raising posts on the subject in the last few days, both partly inspired by Michelle Goldberg's forthcoming book, Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism. MB, in particular, has some scary stuff from James Kennedy, too. Give 'em a read.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Run, Tommy, Run

Seriously, does Tommy! Thompson still have that many blank pages left in his scrapbook that he needs to keep generating press like this?

Consider what the article tells us:
  1. Katherine Skiba is still obsessed with Tommy! and can't stop stroking his ego. Please, Katherine, Tommy!'s like the class clown: If you just ignore him, he'll stop.
  2. Republicans have not invited Tommy! to the state convention yet, even though a long time ago he said he wanted to speak there and announce, well, something.
  3. What Tommy! might announce is a run for governor, which he thinks he can win.
  4. Tommy! has no real confidence in actual candidate for governor Mark Green.
  5. Mark Green, who says that he thinks Tommy! "rescued" Wisconsin, has no sense of recent Wisconsin political history. Remember that taxes are lower, as a percentage of personal income, now under Doyle, and Tommy!'s $3+ billion deficit when he left office would make a horrible platform to run on.
  6. Tommy! wants to run for president someday. And I want to be an astronaut.
Given a choice--you know, gun to the head and all--I'd rather have Tommy! than Mark Green; Tommy! was never beholden to the extremist wingnutty Republican faction that currently sets the Madison agenda. I'd love to see Tommy! go toe-to-toe with the Republicans on, for example, stem cell research.

But the big reason Tommy! should run is that it absolutely will remind people of what happened under his rule through the 1990s. While there may currently be a blur of "good ol' days" in a lot of people's eyes, Tommy!'s rule was not all, or even mostly, the sunshine and roses people think it was. The entire debate can begin and end with the question of what state's budget shortfall was when Tommy! left office. And we can have a real debate about taxes; were we better off back then? Paul Soglin pointed out the other day the utter transparency and weakness of tax hell arguments, and I think a head-to-head with Tommy!, who wouldn't fall back on the kind of gimmicky cop-outs Green would, could really make this fall's election about something more than cheap rhetoric. And Doyle--who bit big fiscal bullets to fix the mess Tommy! and Scott McClellan McCallum left him--wins by a mile.

Friday Random Ten

The Hello, MacBook Pro Edition

1. "Found Someone New" Susan Tedeschi from Just Won't Burn
2. "Brand New Baby" Mark Erelli from Hillbilly Pilgrim
3. "New Favorite" Alison Krauss & Union Station from New Favorite
4. "Pastures New" Nickel Creek from Nickel Creek
5. "Brand New Companion" Townes van Zandt from Live at the Old Quarter
6. "(This is) My New Vow" Jennifer Kimball from Veering from the Waves
7. "The New Kid" Old 97s from Drag it Up
8. "New Thing Now" Shawn Colvin from A Few Small Repairs
9. "New Slang" The Shins from Garden State
10. "New Blues" Phineas Newborn, Jr. from The Great Jazz Piano of

Thursday, May 11, 2006

I don't know what to do!

I mean, should I be excited about the prospect of an investigation into Jim Sensenbrenner's possible violations of federal law?

Or, should I be excited about Bush hitting twenty-frigging-nine percent in the new HI poll?

Really, what's a Wisconsin Democrat to do?

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

In NO! News--Big Victory for Fair Wisconsin

Among other big fights this fall--for Jim Doyle, against Sensenbrenner, and for the 8th CD--there is the fight against the amendment that bans gay marriage, civil unions, and any substantially similar arrangement.

Fair Wisconsin, the people who bring you the NO on the Amendment blog, have secured a big victory, one you won't hear about in the media, I'm sure (see update below). They announced today that they now have 72 county coordinators in the fight against the amendment:
“With six months until Election Day, we have assembled a massive grassroots outreach program with lead volunteers on the ground in every single Wisconsin county,” said Fair Wisconsin Campaign Manager Mike Tate. “These volunteers live in every corner of Wisconsin and come from all different walks of life. They are highly motivated and passionate about defeating the ban and keeping discrimination out of our constitution.”

The county coordinators will serve as leaders willing to be contacts for other volunteers in their area. They will also help to provide a local perspective on why more and more voters oppose the civil unions and marriage ban.
We need to recognize that the pro-discrimination folks will have massive mobilization as well. Fair Wisconsin's achievement here is huge and gives the good side of the force significant boots-on-the-ground capability.

Please contact Fair Wisconsin if you are interested in volunteering or donating to help the cause.

(Update: The media have covered it, kind of. Susan Lampert Smith mentions it in a bad column today, and the Wisconsin Radio Network did an item.)

Feingold in 2008

Brian Fraley has asked me to weigh in on his call for presidential favorites for 2008. So far, no Democrats seem to have contributed anything at all to his comments thread, and the Republicans there are vacillating among neo-Icarus Newt Gingrich, neo-Confederate George Allen, and concert pianist Condoleezza Rice--none of whom, of course, appeal to me.

I've made no secret around here that I would like to see Russ Feingold take a run at the presidency. For one, I think he would be refreshing on the campaign trail: His criticisms of the current administration are not partisan but ideological (i.e., Russ believes in the fourth amendment, and the president doesn't); his complaints about Congress are not petty politcs but concern over the fact that that don't do their jobs any more; and every campaign he has run has been a triumph of substance over mudslinging.

For another, I also think that Russ would make a great president. He clearly has a strong moral compass has not been swayed--unlike other senators I could name--by the trappings of Washington. As much as Dem bloggers have been writing lately about the pod people who make up the DC establishment (see, for example, Digby and Greenwald), Russ seems to be avoiding the problem. This is in part, I think, because he does actually take the time to visit every county in the state at least once a year (when was the last time a president visited every state annually?). Personally, I think we've had enough Wisconsin representatives "go Washington" already.

Russ believes in fiscal restraint (see, for example, his near-lone support of PAYGO rules), protecting civil liberties, and fighting terrorists instead of unnecessary wars of choice. He supports most other boilerplate Democratic issues, too (even if he is a "maverick"), such as protecting a woman's right to choose and ensuring that everyone is insured. His agenda would be basically my agenda (especially after I get that call about Chief of Staff, natch), and I can get behind that.

So, there you go--a whole slew of reasons for Russ Feingold in 2008.

Plus, Peter's head will explode.

Drinking Liberally Milwaukee--Tonight!

Today is the second Wednesday, so . . .

Details here.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Tuesday Excerpts

These are mostly a couple of days old . . . but I'm behind.

Gretchen Schuldt:
Let's get this straight. County Executive Scott Walker thinks that the Connector’s $300 million estimated price tag is too high, but he thinks that a $6 billion or $8 billion or $10 billion plan -- whatever it is now -- to build bigger freeways is "economic development."
John Conyers:
That was back when Congress did something called "oversight." You know, in our tri-partite system of government, when Congress actually acted like a co-equal branch. The Republican Congress decided to be a rubber stamp for President Bush instead. [. . .]

Oversight should not be a partisan undertaking. As we saw in the late 90's, when oversight is used out of anger or spite, or to gain partisan advantage, the American people express their strong disapproval.

Personally, I have had enough partisanship for the last six years to last a lifetime and I think we need to bring the American people back together.

But we also need to serve their interests. Congressional oversight is part of that. It is a check and balance, designed to protect the American people from too much power being concentrated in too few hands.
Steve Gilliard:
We divide history into neat segments which do not exist in real life. The New Deal made the fleets and armies possible. Berlin's skies turned black filled with airmen saved by government relief and flew in planes build by a government ready to do large things and ask for great sacrifices.

When Grover Norquist talks about drowning the government and the conservatives talk of small government, they forget that it was large government which saved Europe from communism after WWII, the one that fought the Korean War. They want a large government to wage war, but a small one to run America and the two do not mesh.

We have an army taking autistics and gang members because there is no way Bush can ask for national service, even voluntary national service, from the majority of Americans. Most of those in the service want out when their enlistments end. The former NCO's and Officers on the blog are horrified by this.

But after 9/11, Bush asked for nothing. Not to save gas, not to enlist, nothing. So the burden fell on the willing and they are tired. Tired of war, tired of begging for food, tired of seeing their friends horrifically wounded. Once, military service was a way up and out for the working poor, a way to see the world. Most military jobs involve transportation or other kinds of service, only 10 percent, the stuff they show on TV, involves killing, and only a few are members of the elite Special Operators. But Iraq is so dangerous that any job can involve risk, and parents do not want their children taking that risk.

Bush has demanded nothing, and he gets nothing.
Tim Rock:
I am proud to be a flaming liberal. While taxes may be a wee high, I am not sorry to pay my fair share and help ensure government functions, roads are smooth and people in need are given a helping hand. In regards to a helping hand: Pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps is a favorite conservative phrase these days. Apply it to Halliburton and its greedy brethren and I’ll listen.
Kevin Drum:
The idle rich beneficiaries of the estate tax repeal are pretty obvious — you need to inherit an estate worth several million dollars before you even start to think about paying estate taxes — but the investment tax cuts are a little more subtle. Thus the handy chart on the right, which shows exactly who's favored by the GOP's cherished investment tax cuts. You can click for a more detailed explanation, but why bother? As you can see, the bars on the chart barely even register for anyone making less than a million bucks a year. That's the tax cut the GOP is making its highest priority.
Glenn Greenwald, reminding us that Bush is not a liberal:
A liberal is not merely someone who advocates increased government spending or new government programs, but instead, is someone who does so in order to achieve specific goals and ends. For that reason, to describe a president as "liberal," it is woefully inadequate to simply demonstrate increased federal spending and increased federal power. One has to know the goals and ends of this expansion.

George Bush has drastically expanded the reach, scope and power of the federal government (something which is un-conservative, at least in theory), but that power has been applied in plainly un-liberal ways, and towards decidedly un-liberal ends. For instance, his administration has run roughshod over federalism and states' rights principles and has sought to expand the scope of the Commerce Clause in order to increase the scope of federal power at the expense of the states (clearly the opposite of the crux of small-government conservatism), but has done so in order to achieve goals which are the opposite of liberalism.

The administration has wielded inflated theories of federal power in order: (a) to interfere in a state court probate proceeding so as to dictate the outcome of an individual's end-of-life decisions; (b) to prevent states from allowing their terminally ill citizens to opt for physician-assisted suicide; (c) to override state law allowing sick people and their doctors to turn to medical marijuana; (d) to federalize laws governing marriage (traditionally the exclusive province of the states) in order to ban same-sex marriages; (e) to empower the FDA to override objective scientific inquiry with religious convictions so as to ban the use of safe and effective pharmaceutical products and nullify scientific consensus on moral grounds; (f) to spend more money and increase law enforcement powers in order to combat adult pornography and gambling; (g) to fund new federal programs to teach Americans about abstinence, promote religious-based teachings, and proselytize about other favored moral concepts; and (h) to increase the power of the Department of Education to regulate and control the nation's public schools through reliance on standardized tests.

These are all instances in which the Bush administration has expanded the reach of federal power and increased domestic federal spending -- often by intruding into areas historically reserved for the states. That conduct is the antithesis of the belief of small-government conservatives in federalism, states' rights and restrained federal power. And yet, in no sense could any of these efforts to expand federal power be described as anything resembling "liberalism."
Barbara O'Brien
According to Howard Fineman on Countdown, the White House thinks the Hayden confirmation hearings will help them. The NSA spy program will be front and center, and the Bushies think that’s a winner for them. More dissociative thinking?

Monday, May 08, 2006

I'm just not feeling the blog right now

Or maybe it's blogstipation, since I have several long posts that I haven't written that are kind of bottling up the other stuff.

Plus, you know, work. So, tell me, what are you not blogging about today?

(And, if you can stand it, wade through the comments to this post, where some people are actually discussing policy. Suckers.)

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Really big show tonight

Really big.

Just a reminder that you can swing by the Coffee House tonight at 8 for the annual Portage Road Songwriters Guild's New Song Showcase. It's a scant $4 at the door, and you get to meet your humble folkbum.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Friday Random Ten

The End of an Era Edition
This is the last Friday Random Ten generated by the iTunes on my trusty old iBook

  1. "It's the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)" REM from Eponymous
  2. "I Just Don't Think I'll Ever Get Over You" Colin Hay from Garden State Soundtrack
  3. "Next Lover" James from Seven
  4. "That Day is Done" Elvis Costello from The Very Best Of
  5. "The End of the Tour" They Might Be Giants from John Henry
  6. "I Won't Cry Over You" Ellis Paul from Translucent Soul
  7. "I Am Done" Melissa Ferrick from Willing to Wait
  8. "The End of the Summer" Dar Williams from End of the Summer
  9. "All Over Again" BB King from Live at the Apollo
  10. "Harder Now That It's Over" Ryan Adams from Gold

Thursday, May 04, 2006

It's Here! It's Here!

I got my MacBook Pro tonight. I ordered it Sunday from Apple's web store; below is the FedEx tracking for the shipment:
I'm very pleased. Only 25 hours in clock time getting here (from Shanghai on a jet, I know), and less than five days from order to power on.

Of course, I spent two hours "transferring" data from my current, limping iBook which I can't now seem to find on the MacBook. I may have to do the transfers the hard way . . .

But I have to say: This thing is fast.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

An experiment

I'm linking to this post by Clint the Milwaukee Id10t, not because I agree that Jim Sensenbrenner should run for president, but to confirm Peter's hypothesis. We'll let Clint tell us later who sent him more hits, me or Spivak and Bice.

See, I told you it was a gimmick

A couple of weeks back, I wrote, talking about Republican efforts to pass a TABOR-style amendment to Wisconsin's constitution,
Legislators basically want to peg one number (and whether they call it "spending" or "revenue" you, the voter, are supposed to hear "taxes") to another, unrelated number. They want to create a constitutional correlation where no such correlation currently exists.

It is, in short, a gimmick, an election-year sop for the masses. It is not based on anything more than a desire to capitalize on well-founded tax dissent in this state for political gain.
The two key parts to that were the idea that you--the taxpayer--are supposed to think that you'll pay less in taxes if they pass the amendment, and the fact that any such amendment is nothing more than a gimmick.

Seth at In Effect has time, as usual, to do the research on the amendment actually passed through the Assembly last week. He discovers that the amendment is, in fact, nothing but hot air and empty promises:
According to the LFB analysis, under the Assembly-approved amendment, the state was $501 million under the limit in 1983-1984, the most under of all the years, and it was $1.7 billion over the limit in 1999-2000, which is the highest over of all the years. [. . . T]he tax burden was less in the year the state took in $1.7 billion over the limit than it was in the year the state was $501 million under the limit. [. . .]

Due to the complexity of public finance, it is impossible to accurately target taxes without necessarily creating the loopholes proponents of an amendment won’t accept.
To be fair, the "real" fiscal conservatives around the state and Cheddarsphere are displeased with the Assembly's version, and it won't make it out of the Senate--well, no version will--anyway, so this will be long forgotten by 2008 when the rush to do it again will be on.

But it illustrates what is perhaps the most important point I have tried to make with my TABOR posts of late: While there is real and justifiable anger over the rate of taxation in this state--particularly the property tax--as long as we have gimmick-obsessed people in charge in Madison nothing productive will ever happen to address that. As long as we have people--pretty much an entire party, now--running on the platform of "Vote for me! I can't control my own spending!," we'll never see real leadership on controlling costs and managing growth intelligently.

Gimmicks are never good governing.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Republicans in the legislature not ethical

And, according to Mark Pocan, more of them are unethical than are willing to vote for even a half-hearted revenue amendment.

According to the DayWatch:
Supporters fell 21 votes short because they would have needed a two-thirds majority to bring the bill to the floor. Five Republicans--Sheryl Albers of Reedsburg, Brett Davis of Oregon, J.A. "Doc" Hines of Oxford, Terri McCormick of Appleton and Mark Pettis of Hertel--joined all Democrats in favor of taking up the bill.
Remember that the bill passed the Republican-controlled State Senate with only eight votes against. I've written about it before here and here.

UPDATE: Carrie Lynch asks a good question.

For those of you whose calendars remain insufficiently marked

It is not too late to plan to come down to Milwaukee's Coffee House to see me and my pals in the Portage Road Songwriters Guild for our Third Annual New Song Concert this Saturday:

Portage Road Songwriters Guild New Song Concert
Saturday, May 6, 8:00 pm (doors open at 7:30)
The Coffee House, 631 N. 19th St, (at Wisconsin Avenue)
Cover: A mere $4.

It will be a good time and will feature, among other things, my debut on the mandolin, a march in 3/4 time, and--wait for it--an intermission.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Glenn Greenwald Rocks

I shouldn't really have to say that, but I will. Greenwald is a civil rights/ first amendment attorney, who has been focusing on the fairly regular lawbreaking by the Bush administration. He is doing work that needs, simply, to be done. His new book is the only serious, scholarly work examining where and how the Bush administration is deviating from tradition and from generally understood principles of constitutional law.

Now, I know what some of you are thinking: Oh, yeah, another moonbat with Bush Derangement Syndrome. Not true. Greenwald explains:
Contrary to [NRO columnist Byron] York's somewhat sloppy claim that the book "is an indictment of George W. Bush of the sort that has become commonplace on the Left in the last few years," the reason I wrote the book is precisely because the issues it discusses have been largely (and inexcusably) ignored in our national political discussions.

Over the last five years, our country has been gradually though incessantly changing in fundamental and radical ways. The things we see and hear our government doing are squarely at odds with how we perceive of ourselves as a nation and the values which Americans, by definition, universally embrace. We have watched while this administration imprisoned U.S. citizens on U.S. soil and claimed the right to keep them there indefinitely with no trial, no charges and no access to lawyers; routinely used torture as an interrogation tool; created secret gulags in former Soviet Eastern European prisons in order to detain people beyond the reach of the law or monitoring; and eavesdropped on American citizens, on U.S. soil, without warrants or oversight of any kind in patent violation of a 28-year-old law which makes warrantless eavesdropping on Americans a criminal offense.

Those scandals have received their fair share of attention, but this critical point has not: all of those scandals stem from the fact that we have a president who, expressly and out in the open, claims that he has the power to act in the broadly defined area of national security (which includes measures taken against American citizens on U.S. soil) without any "interference" from anyone--including Congress, the courts, and even the law. In sum, we are radically changing our system of government, and, in the process, have transformed ourselves from a country that, for decades, was widely respected as a restrained and principled superpower into an amoral, highly militaristic and aggressive state which is widely feared and despised.
In other words, he doesn't do garden-variety Bush-bashing; he's doing a systematic unpacking of the worst offenses of the administration.

Yesterday, for example, Glenn pointed us to this Boston Globe article:
President Bush has quietly claimed the authority to disobey more than 750 laws enacted since he took office, asserting that he has the power to set aside any statute passed by Congress when it conflicts with his interpretation of the Constitution.

Among the laws Bush said he can ignore are military rules and regulations, affirmative-action provisions, requirements that Congress be told about immigration services problems, ''whistle-blower" protections for nuclear regulatory officials, and safeguards against political interference in federally funded research.

Legal scholars say the scope and aggression of Bush's assertions that he can bypass laws represent a concerted effort to expand his power at the expense of Congress, upsetting the balance between the branches of government. The Constitution is clear in assigning to Congress the power to write the laws and to the president a duty ''to take care that the laws be faithfully executed." Bush, however, has repeatedly declared that he does not need to ''execute" a law he believes is unconstitutional.

Former administration officials contend that just because Bush reserves the right to disobey a law does not mean he is not enforcing it: In many cases, he is simply asserting his belief that a certain requirement encroaches on presidential power.

But with the disclosure of Bush's domestic spying program, in which he ignored a law requiring warrants to tap the phones of Americans, many legal specialists say Bush is hardly reluctant to bypass laws he believes he has the constitutional authority to override.
Other presidents have done the same thing, of course, but, as Kevin Drum points out, not to the scale Bush has. Bush--with a Republican Congress passing the laws, mind you--is averaging more per year than Bill Clinton--also with mostly a Republican Congress--did in his entire term. Glenn correctly comments, "That is why the President has never bothered to veto a law--why bother to veto laws when you have the power to violate them at will?"

I know that among my readers, some of the conservatives have already given up on Bush. For those who haven't, though, I really, really wonder how you can hang on with someone who has such an utter and irrefutable disdain for the law. And how 32% of the rest of the country can be there with you.