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Pay no attention to the people behind the curtain

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Riley Charged with Multiple Voting

I had a long day. So I'm late to the party:
Donovan Riley, who dropped out of the race for a state Senate seat after allegations arose that he voted twice in the same election in 2000, was charged today by Waukesha County District Attorney Paul Bucher with voter fraud.

Riley is scheduled to make his initial appearance in Waukesha County Circuit Court on Sept. 11 [facing] a single count of felony election fraud-voting more than once.
How much of a cynic am I to believe that Paul Bucher is scheduling this hearing for the day before the primary so that he can get a little extra face time for his own election bid?

If Riley is found guilty, then he should face the music. I've written before about how voting is among our most basic responsibilities--it's not just a right--and should be taken seriously. What Riley is alleged to have done undermines that process and, perhaps worse, undermines other voters' faith that the process can work.

Primary Endorsements

They start coming this weekend. Any last bags of cash need to be delivered to the folkbum household by the end of business Friday.

That is all.

Don't Blame Doyle for Wage Drop: Blame Republicans

The Right Cheddarsphere is atwitter over this story from yesterday:
Feeling pinched financially? If you live in Wisconsin, you're not alone, because median household income in the state declined by $2,226, to $45,956 in 2004-'05, according to U.S. Census Bureau data released Tuesday.

The stunning drop meant that Wisconsin scored the third-largest decline, behind Virginia and Kansas.
Taking their cue from Mark Green, quoted later in the story, the righties are all over Doyle on this issue. A couple of examples:
  • Peter DiGaudio writes, "[I]ncome earners in Wisconsin have experienced a major drop over the past two years on Diamond Jim’s watch. A decrease of $2,226 dollars or a drop of 4.6 percent. Only two states were worse: Kansas and Virginia. Combine that with taxes of all kinds going up and you have a recipe for people leaving the state."
  • Owen strikes a similar refrain: "Our taxes didn’t go down at all over the same period. In fact, they went up." (One of his commenters expresses mock disbelief that "Doyle’s minimum wage stunt didn’t work." That would be the minimum wage increase that didn't happen until this year, and, therefore, doesn't make the study.)
  • Elliot predicts this post of mine: "I can’t wait to see how Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle’s people manage to make this George Bush’s fault."
  • Decidedly non-righty Tony Palmieri still blames Doyle: "Doyle has given Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce everything it wanted. Never before in the history of Wisconsin have big corporations, whether in or out of state, had as much of a friend in the guv house. Not even in the dog days of Tommy Thompson did big business call the shots like they do now."
Trouble is, they're pointing the finger in absolutely the wrong direction. Doyle, certainly, is in an unenviable position, and this story perfectlt fits the Journal Sentinel's one-paper front-page war-on-Doyle world-view. But, what is happening in Wisconsin is probably just a more profound represntation of what is happening nationally.

In other words, the bad news Wisconsin's workers are getting is not Doyle's fault, but the fault of Bush and the Republicans in Congress.

Now, I know what you're thinking: Jay, you're saying to yourself, isn't that just your Bush Derangement Syndrome talking? In fact, no. Here's a graph, courtesy of The Big Picture, from a report by the Federal Reserve:


You'll have to click to get the larger version if you can't read that, but the dark line at the bottom of the graph is worker compensation as a percentage of US Gross Domestic Product. The lighter line at the top is the percentage of corporate profit as a percentage of US GDP. Notice what happens in 2001: The corporate profits line heads up, and the compensation line heads down. Was Jim Doyle elected in 2000? No. Could the fall in Wisconsin's wages be be responsible for such a sharp drop in compensation nationwide? No.

Consider this New York Times story from Monday:
With the economy beginning to slow, the current expansion has a chance to become the first sustained period of economic growth since World War II that fails to offer a prolonged increase in real wages for most workers. [. . .]

The median hourly wage for American workers has declined 2 percent since 2003, after factoring in inflation. The drop has been especially notable, economists say, because productivity--the amount that an average worker produces in an hour and the basic wellspring of a nation’s living standards--has risen steadily over the same period.
Can Jim Doyle possibly have managed to get average wages to drop nationwide since 2003? No.

Clearly something bigger is happening here. The graphics accompanying the story lay it out: Wages are at their lowest share of GDP ever. Two things to note: First, nationally, we're working better than ever; however, we're not seeing the rewards for our hard work. Second, though the Census Bureau notes that per capita median income is up, mean hourly wages are down. That might seem to be a contradiction, but what it really means is that the rich are getting richer and us working stiffs aren't.

More from the NYT:
Average family income, adjusted for inflation, has continued to advance at a good clip, a fact Mr. Bush has cited when speaking about the economy. But these gains are a result mainly of increases at the top of the income spectrum that pull up the overall numbers. Even for workers at the 90th percentile of earners--making about $80,000 a year--inflation has outpaced their pay increases over the last three years, according to the Labor Department.
That is just an absolutely stunning statment: You have to be in the top 10% of earners over the last three years to see your income beat inflation--and we're not in a recession! How many of you are in the top 10%? I'd bet very few. When you click through to the Journal Sentinel's graphic, you can see clearly what the the Census Bureau means when it says that "Real median income of households rose in the Northeast (2.9 percent) and in the West (1.5 percent) between 2004 and 2005. Income remained statistically unchanged for the South and Midwest." How many of the top 10% of earners live in Wisconsin--or the Midwest generally--compared to the Northeast and West, where wages grew faster?

Probably the single most appalling statement from the NYT article, though, was this one:
Total employee compensation--wages plus benefits--has fared a little better. Its share was briefly lower than its current level of 56.1 percent in the mid-1990’s and otherwise has not been so low since 1966.

Over the last year, the value of employee benefits has risen only 3.4 percent, while inflation has exceeded 4 percent, according to the Labor Department. [. . .] In another recent report on the boom in profits, economists at Goldman Sachs wrote, “The most important contributor to higher profit margins over the past five years has been a decline in labor’s share of national income.”
There is absolutely no arguing the point--the economy is "booming" because you and I are seeing our compensation fall. Do you follow? What has pulled this country out of a recession and restored business growth is an economic policy that incents business to screw labor. Our boats aren't rising on this tide; they're being deliberately torpedoed.

I have no problems with companies making a profit. I don't even always have a problem with companies making obscene profits, the way, say, Big Oil or Big Pharma do. But when that profit comes entirely at the expense of those who need to buy their products--can you live without gas or your prescriptions?--there is a moral line they've crossed.

What could Jim Doyle have possibly done in the last three years to encourage Wisconsin employers to share the wealth? Palmieri's critique of Doyle as already business-friendly is a common one even among Doyle supporters, let alone Greens. Wisconsin's corporate taxes are about as low as we can make them without their complete disappearance. Even allowing business to destory the environment in an effort to create jobs is meaningless if the business won't share the joy with its workers, if the only ones profiting are the ones who do so at labor's expense. Even Green's plan to personally hand out checks to business will do little to change the fact that business is not rewarding labor for higher productivity and is, instead, keeping the profits to itself.

What about what the Right Cheddarsphere wants--tax cuts? Cutting the tax rate for that top 10% of earners just might draw a lot of them to the state, which, you know, would certainly increase that average income figure. But it still wouldn't do a thing for me or you, unless you happen to be in the yacht business.

This is not to say that we need to reject every BuySeasons.com that comes along that doesn't offer high wages. (In fact, I think next year's number will be better given the minimum wage increase that did happen this year, to go higher in 2007, meaning low-wage workers will probably see higher growth than the middle class.) This is not even to suggest that we instigate some kind of mad socialist scheme where we track down anyone in the state who is in the top 10% to make them hand over their booty to us average joes and joe-ettes.

What I am suggesting is that the blame lies at best in non-partisan "national trends," not in the Governor's office. At worst, as the data suggest, we can identify Republican economic schemes applied nationally that have encouraged the trend of growth for 10% and struggle for the vast unwashed masses. And who was it who was sitting in Congress that whole time, mindlessly supporting every economic policy to come out of the Bush White House that told business to screw you?

If you said "Mark Green," you'd be right. Now, if only you could be paid for being right . . .

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Suckers

Barbara O'Brien once explained that her blogging M.O. was to read conservative blogs every morning until something made her mad enough to want to write about it. It's not a bad way to go. I often do that with the daily paper--I disagree, for example, with both of this week's Democratic primary endorsements. But I have lower-hanging fruit to fry this morning: Conservative Wisconsin Bloggers.

Today's lesson in conservative bloggers making me mad starts at Fred's place:
I got this from my friend Tony in Rockford, [Fred writes]. Makes ya think...

There were 39 combat related killings in Iraq in January. In the fair city of Detroit there were 35 murders in the month of January. That's just one American city, about as deadly as the entire war-torn country of Iraq.
Immediately my BS detector started going off. I don't remember the casualty totals for US troops in January--nor do I know what the murder rate is in Detroit--but anyone with a passing knowledge of statistics can see that this is a bogus stat. For one thing, how do you compare troop deaths in Iraq to overall citizen deaths in a city--in other words, shouldn't we count civilians, too? What is the difference in the size of the populations? According to Iraq Body Count, there were 650 deaths in Baghdad alone in January 2006, and an average of at least 1,000 people a month over the 42 months of combat there. Thirty-five US soldiers--two from Wisconsin--were killed just over this last weekend.

Even taking the numbers "Tony in Rockford" provides at face value, the violent death rate for US troops in Iraq ends up at about six times the murder rate in Detroit.

Of course, when I and others pointed out the statistical fallacies in the comments over there, we were accused of "playing with numbers." The Game, another local conservative, linked approvingly to Fred's post--after we had already debunked the Detroit analogy--and then said that I was "spinning": "[Y]ou are comparing a single city to an entire country," he accused me. Hm, I thought. Since "Tony in Rockford" started it, perhaps Game needs some reading comprehension lessons.

Sadly, this email from "Tony in Rockford" didn't end there:
When some claim that President Bush shouldn't have started this war, consider the following:

a. FDR led us into World War II. Germany never attacked us. Japan did. From 1941-1945, 450,000 lives were lost ... an average of 112,500 per year.

b. Truman finished that war and started one in Korea. North Korea never attacked us. From 1950-1953, 55,000 lives were lost ... an average of 18,334 per year.

c. John F. Kennedy started the Vietnam conflict in 1962. Vietnam never attacked us.

d. Johnson turned Vietnam into a quagmire. From 1965-1975, 58,000 lives were lost ... an average of 5,800 per year.

e. Clinton went to war in Bosnia without UN or French consent. Bosnia never attacked us. He was offered Osama bin Laden's head on a platter three times by Sudan and did nothing. Osama has attacked us on multiple occasions.

f. In the years since terrorists attacked us, President Bush has liberated two countries, crushed the Taliban, crippled al-Qaida, put nuclear inspectors in Libya, Iran, and North Korea without firing a shot, and captured a terrorist who slaughtered 300,000 of his own people. The Democrats are complaining about how long the war is taking. But it took less time to take Iraq than it took Janet Reno to take the Branch Davidian compound. That was a 51-day operation..and if you consider how long it took to democracize Japan and Germany after WWII, the time in Iraq since the war ended is not that long either. We've been looking for evidence for chemical weapons in Iraq for less time than it took Hillary Clinton to find the Rose Law Firm billing records. It took less time for the 3rd Infantry Division and the Marines to destroy Saddam's Republican Guard than it took Ted Kennedy to call the police after his Oldsmobile sank at Chappaquiddick! It took less time to take Iraq than it took to count the votes in Florida!

Our Commander-In-Chief is doing a GREAT JOB ! The military morale is high!

The biased media hopes we are too ignorant to realize the facts.
Because I debunked the first paragraph in the comments at Fred's and Game's blogs, I thought that would be enough to show them that "Tony in Rockford" was off his marble. The whole point of Tony's email, as far as I can tell, is that because the casualty rate for US soldiers is less in this war than in others, Bush is a flippin' genius or something. Exhibit A in Tony's opus magnum was the Detroit analogy, which was total and utter BS. Then he goes through every war since WWII, lists casualty rates, and tries to create equivalence where there is none. For example:

WWII: Germany attacked our allies, and was itself allied the a country that did attack us. There is no equivalence to Iraq.

Korea and Vietnam were both parts of (an admittedly failed) strategy of aggressive defense of our allies against the spread of Communism. We were asked to go into those wars and were members of coalitions doing the fighting. As we learned later, containment--a strategy Bush has chosen not to use--worked better to defeat Communism. And if, as Bush is trying to make us believe, Islamic Fascism is what we're really fighting against in the Middle East (as we fought Communism in Asia), then we attacked the wrong country: Iraq was secular and, while a dictatorship, not in any danger of ideological expansion the way Communism was. There is no equivalence to Iraq.

Clinton's going into Bosnia (notice how "Tony in Rockford" conveniently neglects to tell us how many American troops died in that one . . . because it's one!) was to stop an active genocide. Such genocide was not happening in Iraq. Saddam was a bad guy, and had killed many Shi'ia and Kurds, but not at the time we invaded. There is no equivalence to Iraq.

And the Clinton-bin Laden thing is a myth.

In letter f, "Tony in Rockford" rambles on about a bunch of things. Included there is any number of outright falsehoods:
  • The Taliban was not "crushed"; it's making a resurgence.
  • al-Qaida is not "crippled"; Osama is supposedly on dialysis, but from the number of bombings since 9/11 (Mali, Madird, London, and so on) and foiled plots you'd never know that we "crippled" their operation.
  • Any nuclear inspectors in Iran and North Korea certainly aren't earning their paychecks.
And then he throws in some gratuitous Clinton- and Kennedy-bashing that I won't dignify.

There is a legitimate point to be made about the relative lengths of our occupations after WWII; however, neither Japan nor Germany fell into a civil war while we were there.

Clearly, though, "Tony in Rockford" is either a liar or seriously misinformed.

There are two very frustrating things about this email from "Tony in Rockford" and the reactions to it. One is that because it fits in with the ideology, both Fred and the Game (and some other commenters) were willing to ignore blatant falsehoods and errors of logic that would embarass a staistically-savvy fifth grader. They're willing to lie--or at least let other people lie for them--to make their points. The truth has no value any more, apparently.

The Game, for example, has absolutely no compunction about posting Ann Coulter columns that are full of lies. And that he knows contain lies. It isn't just that later I or someone comes along to debunk them, but the lies in Coulter's column (which you can read--of you have the stomach for it--in full here) have been debunked repeatedly for him before--lies like "[Democrats] oppose the National Security Agency listening to people who are calling specific phone numbers found on al-Qaida cell phones and computers." Even the dimmest among my conservative readers know that's not true.

It infuriates me that these otherwise probably pretty smart bloggers knowingly propagate lies.

The other frustrating thing about the email from "Tony in Rockford" is that it's nothing but an old hoax chain email forward that they fell for. I hit Snopes as soon as I saw it--it had all the hallmarks of urban legend--but Snopes's article doesn't actully debunk the lies and distortions within the email. Still, had Fred even an ounce of integrity and common sense, he would have figured it out and not posted it. But instead, he was suckered.

In the end, that makes for a great analogy for a lot of the blind idiocy that I see from the right: They've been suckered. Some of them know it, and are mad; others are willing to keep piling on more and more lies to try to make themselves feel better. Like the bully who teases others because he himself is insecure, it seems that if you lie about what Democrats believe--or about federal judges--then maybe it doesn't hurt so much that you've been suckered by this administration.

UPDATE: Check out Mother Jones magazine's Lie-by-Lie timeline. It takes Flash, but you, too, can relive the memories of how so many people got suckered.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Failing Fordham and the Journal Sentinel

(Bumped from the misc. list below.)

The state's largest daily paper followed up yesterday's love note to the MPS superintendent--literally re-imagining him as the hero in a spy movie--with another in its series on how the Wisconsin DPI is failing miserably. I found this part the most interesting:
In the Fordham report, Wisconsin's academic standards in five areas were given poor grades: A "C" in English, a "D" in math and "F's" in U.S. history, world history and science. The overall grade of "D-" was down from "C-" when Fordham did a similar report in 2000--although [Deputy State Superintendent Tony] Evers noted that Wisconsin's standards have not themselves changed over that period.
That's my emphasis there on the sentence that should have sent up red flags all over the newsroom and editors' desks. It clearly raises questions about the Fordham's study's methodology. I'm not sure what they are specifically; Xoff, on the other hand, has a pretty good idea. He cites Gerald Bracey's analysis of the 2000 study:
The problem with the evaluations is a simple one: the states’ rankings for quality of standards are inverse to their performance on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) and on the Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS). That is, the same states that have done the best job in the eyes of the Fordham report’s authors in implementing high standards have shown the poorest performance on widely accepted national tests for student achievement, and vice versa.
Seth does a bit of an update of Bracey's work:
Out of the fifty states plus the District of Columbia, there were 9 that received a grade of B- or higher in the Fordham study. [. . .] Wisconsin was given a D- in the Fordham study. Yet, when we take a look at the NAEP reports [. . .] on student performance for 2005, Wisconsin ranks higher than all of the nine states [with a B- or higher] except Massachusetts.
Seth's got the links to prove it, so click through if you doubt me.

I commented on this series about the DPI's supposed failure back in June, doing some of this same kind of research to show that the doom-and-gloom proclamations from out-of-state "think tanks" don't match reality here on the ground. This should not be new news to anyone. (Note that the other stories in paper's series are conveniently linked in the sidebar of the current story.)

Alan Borsuk has access to all of the same data--probably a lot more--that Xoff, Seth, and I do; he should have been able to put the Fordham and other studies into much better context than he did. Instead, he protests that his story is balanced (my emphasis again):
But the three education advocates interviewed Monday [. . .] come from varying places on the political spectrum [. . .] Fordham is politically conservative, but the Education Trust and Education Sector are each harder to peg politically. However, both generally favor the approach to raising student achievement that underlies No Child Left Behind, which became law in 2002.
Yes! We talked to three people on the same side of the issue! But they were different people! That's balance!

It's crap, is what it is.

I'm not suggesting that there is no room for improvement, either in the Milwaukee schools or state-wide (we need to recapture the number one ACT spot back from Minnesota!). If I thought we were as good as we were going to get I'd quit teaching and move on to something else that sorely needs improvement (like journalism?).

Instead, I'm suggesting that biased or unreliable reports about Wisconsin's performance don't deserve front-page, unrebutted status. In June, I noted that the week before the study saying how badly Wisconsin was doing--another front-page story--the paper had buried on page 8B the story of our state's fourth-place score on the NAEP science exam. Some of us think that our successes are front-page news, not these questionable-on-their-faces think-tank "studies."

Tuesday bits and pieces

  • I've finally let Keith go from his guest-posting duties. Thanks again to him, grumbleberries, Ben Masel, and Steve Paske for their help over the last month, and while I was away on my Great Alaskan Adventure Vacation. I kind of liked having a spare person around, so if you're a regular reader wondering what it might be like to blog, send me an email, and we can talk.

  • My only Emmy comment: Jamie Pressley was robbed.

  • At what point do conservatives start to admit that the Bush administration has completely trashed civil rights? Two US citizens have been denied the right to return home, with no charges filed, no legitimate suspicions, and no court authorizing it.

  • It really seems to me that if the anti-Doyle for Governor campaign has been almost entirely premised on the idea that he is too involved in decisions about spending tax money that should remain apolitical, then the pro-Green for Governor campiagn ought not advocate making the process explicitly political.

  • Besides the mindset list, Beloit seems to be popping up all over the internet.

  • John Gard: Liar. UPDATE: BIG liar.

  • Did everyone catch the Journal Sentinel's love note to the Milwaukee Public Schools superintendent yesterday? Nothing like setting the guy up as the hero in an action/ spy movie to show how unbiased you are.

  • And I should mention that the Superintendent nearly ruined a whole day of my Great Alaskan Adventure Vacation. There I was in Skagway checking my email at fifteen cents a minute (or something close to it) and what do I see? News of a contract settlement.

    That wasn't what upset me--it will be nice to work under an unexpired contract for the first time in five years. No, it was the last paragraph of the story:
    "This certainly was a lot different from last time," said Andrekopoulos, noting that the previous process took about two years. He called the recent round of talks "true negotiations," since they were focused more on the needs of the classroom.
    My head nearly exploded! Some of you may not have been around during the last round of "negotiations." But it was his administration and his negotiators who refused to discuss anything at all related to the "needs of the classroom" until the union caved in to his demands on health care. The union held firm, and his short-sighted single-mindedness drove a wedge between him and those he is supposed to be leading--and drove the contract talks to contentious arbitration.

  • [This item moved to its own post, above.]

  • The McIlheran Watch has been outsourced. It makes for a good column when you leave out the facts that would make it look bad, it seems.

  • Anyone for a stem-cell snuff film? That might become the "Silent Scream" for the blastocyst-activists. Or a rallying cry for those who believe in the potential for cures lost when a test tube hits the garbage can.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Where do I go to file a complaint myself?

Somewhere, Bob Dohnal is sweaty and smoking a cigarette:
The campaign manager for state Sen. Tom Reynolds (R-West Allis) filed a complaint with the State Elections Board today accusing Wauwatosa City Clerk Carla Ledesma of illegally altering the voting record of opponent and Wauwatosa Ald. James O. Sullivan to indicate he did not vote twice in the September 1998 election as the Reynolds camp has charged.

Ledesma defended her actions today, saying she changed the record in recent weeks to correct an error and maintained she "did nothing wrong. I don't categorically go around changing voter records," said Ledesma, who insisted she was not asked by the Sullivan campaign to make the change. "I have a poll list that clearly shows he did not vote" in Wauwatosa in September 1998, Ledesma said. "Yes, I corrected the record."

Reynolds' campaign had contended that Sullivan also had voted in Whitefish Bay, where he used to live and where his father, who shares his same name, also lives. State Elections Board spokesman Kyle Richmond said local clerks are authorized to correct election records, as long as they document those actions.

Richmond said the Elections Board had no authority to investigate fraud under the statute cited in the complaint by Reynolds' campaign manager, J.J. Blonien. He said the board will forward the complaint to the Milwaukee County district attorney's office.
(My emphasis.)

Jim McGuigan's got the paperwork to prove that Blonien's full of it here. I'm really really looking forward to this blowing up even more in Tom Reynolds's camera-shy face. Though he may think that any publicity is good publicity, it's starting to get embarassing.

But what was more intriguing to me was the notion of filing my own ethics board complaint. At first, though, I thought I should send an email off to jerome.blonien@legis.state.wi.us, and ask Jerome how he's managing to file all his pointless complaints between bouts of work for Reynolds's State Senate office staff.

As it turns out, I just skipped the step of emailing Jerome and filled out this form. It might not be a bad idea if all of us did.

(And send Jim Sullivan some love!)

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Wikipedia as Weapon

There's a story in Monday's paper about how the rivalry between Milwaukee's Lake Express car ferry and Manitowoc's Badger car ferry has spilled over onto Wikipedia.

It shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone anymore that the Wikipedia can be used this way; if you've been reading the blogs long enough, you've probably heard one charge or another that someone somewhere is using the anyone-can-write-it privilege for less than noble reasons.

So for kicks I headed on over to see what my enemies had to say about me, but, sadly, I don't have a Wikipedia entry. In fact, I tried a number of the bigger bloggers here in the Cheddarsphere and found that only one of us had an entry: Paul Soglin, which is mostly about his career, not his blogging.

I'm going to err on the side of saying that my lack of a Wikipedia entry is a good thing. The rest of you, I suppose, can choose to be sad if you'd like. And, you know, you can start your own page if you want.

This goes on the vitae

Last night I was named "Mr. Cedarburg 2006." I have the crown to prove it.

Don't ask.

Common Sense and It's Not a Paine

By Keith Schmitz

It’s a little refreshing to see someone on the other side of us play with facts once in a while.

Case in point are the op-eds Serigraph CEO John Torinus that most of the time run in the Sunday Milwaukee Journal Business section. I don’t agree with him all the time. For example he has done some interesting things with HSA’s at his company. But I doubt if many business people have the depth of thought or consideration he posses to not make this just another burden on the middle class and another dodge for employers to compensate employees what they’re worth.

Today he utters Wisconsin conservative blasphemy by pointing out that while our taxes rank high, our spending puts us roughly in the middle level for states. I detonated back bencher Frank Lasee on that very point last week.

John points out:

As the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance has pointed out, we are about in the middle of the states when fees and other sources of revenue for the state are thrown into the mix. In other words, Wisconsin is about an average state when all revenues for state and local government are taken into account. Ditto for total spending per capita.


So we don’t have a spending problem.

But of course our state’s proprietor of “Fantasy Island” Lasee doesn’t want to have those figures enter into the discourse because it messes with his fetish.

John goes on to suggest raising fees, imposing higher consumption taxes and “holding the line” on expenses. As for the first suggestions, talk to your friends in other states who don’t have income taxes and ask them what it like to get a license plate or about their sales taxes. You gun-tottin’ types may not be too thrilled to see your hunting tags skyrocket. John leaves out that we have among the lowest corporate taxes, so how about raising taxes a tad on upper incomes to bring in revenues.

For those of you who contemplate bellowing the blues about paying more taxes note the operational phrase “on upper incomes.” Your Republican buddies treat you like rubes with the phrase “tax cuts” they leave out the rest of the statement which is “tax cuts for the wealthy.”

As for holding the line, what everyone seems to forget is there is a lot of back-pressure from rapidly increasing healthcare for public employees. For those you who plan to protest on this one, riddle me this. Instead of going after the “Cadillac” employee healthcare packages, why don’t we demand this for everyone? Trust me. You’re worth it.

As for John’s notion of cutting the estate tax in Wisconsin to spur angel investors, I don’t think these folks necessarily throw in the state pot to encourage the growth of risk ventures and are more likely to continue to salt it away for their heirs. Rather, I’d rather take a look at what other states who are doing well in germinating new companies such as Minnesota and see what makes their garden grow.

We all know this “death tax” concept is bogus. You pay taxes on the money you get. The dead person of course is in no way capable of spending this money. The heirs on the other hand are. There are just 600 families in Wisconsin paying any sort of estate tax the way it is, and even they are not left uncomfortable to say the least once they pay their dues.

By the way, like Frank Sinatra I am having a second retirement. In this case from this blog space. Thanks Jay for letting me take my shots here and for all you who showed up to comment, pro and con.

I invite you to dog my heels over at www.grassrootsnorthshore.org where I will be posting. For the next 65 days I will be working very hard to get Bryan Kennedy into Congress and to stop the Sensenbrenner embarrassment.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Riley Revisited: He took my advice

Inasmuch as he probably never actually read my advice. But still, Donovan Riley has dropped out of the 7th Senate District primary:
Late Thursday, Riley's lawyer Jeremy Levinson issued a statement from the candidate saying he was pulling the plug on his bruised and battered campaign.

"I am no longer seeking election to the State Senate," said the 69-year-old former hospital executive. "During the campaign, a question was raised about an election that occurred years ago. It is important for me to focus on helping address that question and doing so is incompatible with running a campaign.

"I intend to return to private life and retirement."
Jeff Plale should win re-election easily.

Friday Random Stuff

Friday Random Ten

The Last Weekend Before School Starts Edition*

1. "Meet James Ensor" They Might Be Giants from John Henry
2. "The Dream" Peter Mulvey from Rapture
3. "First Light" Béla Fleck from Tales from the Acoustic Planet
4. "Love Throws a Line" Patty Griffin from impossible Dream
5. "Untouchable Face" Ani DiFranco from Dilate
6. "Maryland Count Road" Eric Wheeler from Almost Like Tonight
7. "Things You Do to Me" Martin Sexton from Live at Gathering of Spirits
8. "Orange Juice Blues" Bob Dylan and the Band from The Basement Tapes
9. "Train" The Nields from Play
10. "Frankie" Sons of the Never Wrong from 4 Ever On

* For my newish readers, the FRT is the first ten songs that pop up on your iTunes/ iPod/ MP3 player-like device . . .

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Bravo Channel

By Keith Schmitz

Local labor activist Ellen Bravo popped up in the New York Times letters column yesterday.

Alas, “welfare as we know it” was ended by those who’d never known welfare or poverty.

For low-wage workers ineligible for unemployment insurance, welfare was how you made do when you got laid off or fired, including for being pregnant. It often supplemented inadequate wages.

For many, it gave a path out of violence. It represented a way to care for a newborn or a dying parent, get health insurance or avoid having to leave young children home alone.

Welfare recipients would tell you in a heartbeat that the system needed reform. But their wish list grew out of one goal: getting out of poverty. That was never the purpose of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, and it certainly wasn’t the result.

We’ll resolve the problem only if we name it correctly: the need to reform work and value caregiving.


This is a nice lead in to the perfect cynicism of Congressman Mark Green. Since I heard it in front of a group of businesspeople, I imagine he has picked up the theme of how our state programs has led to some of the worst poverty in the nation within the city of Milwaukee.

The problem is this is like an arsonist describing why your house is on fire.

Programs passed by the GOP have led to manifold problems for Wisconsin's poor, but in the world of these hammerheads all the world consists of nails and of course the remedy is...hold your breath...TAX CUTS!

Ellen Bravo of course describes one problem, which is the so-called "welfare reform" program. It is jay dropping burt last Friday Wall Street Journal editor Steve More equated this brain-child with the great Badger ideas of workmens' compensation and social security.

To end "dat welfare" was of course the cherished dream of barflies everywhere, brought to life by the lord of the barflies, Tommy Thompson. The trouble is this poorly thought through solution has thrust thousands of families deeper into poverty as Ellen describes. What's more this program gives scant chance for these mothers to work their way out of the pit.

On the male side we have the explosion of incarcerations, which never looks good on anyone's resume. Building prisons we didn't need was the one and only idea of Scott Walker that propelled this beautiful mind back to the legislature, thanks to his grateful constituency.

Of course we have the constant drumbeat every night on our local news of the string of homicides that take place in Milwaukee, far from the cul de sacs of New Berlin but yet it makes the easily afraid in these and other distant suburbs to send off crime fighters like Walker to Madison.

The only problem is it costs us -- and the convicts of course -- royally. Our cost of incarceration far exceeds that of our neighbors, but there is one thing our two GOP AG candidates will never tell you. Our violent crime rate is the fourth or fifth lowest in the nation.

On top of that we have businesses locating their jobs far beyond the Milwaukee bus lines.

The way we treat our poor and minorities is a shame in light of our PROGRESSIVE tradition, putting us right down there with the redneck realms in the South. There is no way we are going to hack our way out of this forest with tax cuts.

The Republicans' millions have bought nothing!

by folkbum

A while ago, my sworn nemesis Owen (though I swear the list of minor villains in this play is getting out of hand) gloated that Governor Jim Doyle's re-election campaign, with his allies, had spent $2 million and was only winning by ten points! "Great news," he called it. (There's an echo over there this morning.)

Part of Owen's glee there was that Green had not bought ad time yet when that poll was taken. Leave aside the constant barrage of Green surrogates, the one-paper campaign the state's biggest daily has run against Doyle, and the hourly cries of "scandal" from the big talk-radio media outlets for just a second, and consider how absurd that statement is: Green's losing by ten points (eight in the latest non-partisan polling) is a success because Green hasn't spent any money! Owen can probably generate enough electricity to power all of West Bend with that spin.

But here's the kicker: The reverse must also be true. The millions spent by Republicans--including some pretty misleading ads by interest groups and two weeks of Green ads themelves--have not made a dent in Doyle's numbers. Consider the latest Survey USA governors' approval poll. You'd think that with all the negative attention given Doyle by the media, conservative bloggers, and the Green campaign, his negatives would be sky-high by now. If indeed Doyle is the most corrupt governor Wisconsin's ever had (debatable), shouldn't his rating be worse than it is? Look at the graph (click for a bigger picture):


The red line is the disapproval rating, the blue approval. While it may be true that Doyle isn't polling in the stratosphere for positives, he also is virtually unchanged in negatives since May, 2005. That means fifteen solid months of attacks on him, his administration, his character, and his ethics have produced nothing. Green may well be looking at that 48 or 49 number as his ceiling, since it's just not getting any higher. Now it's possible that if he can turn out all of those voters, and get them all to vote for him (two big ifs), he could win. But if just two months out from the election Green hasn't been able to budge those negatives, then I don't know what he can do in time to make it successful. Not that if I knew I'd be dishing, of course.

But it just seems mind-boggling to me that Republicans are giddy about not having been able to budge Doyle's negatives one bit after the constant enemy fire. Keep spending your money, guys! Good luck with that!

A Transcript of Pluto's Concession Speech

I don't know if you heard it yesterday, but Hesiod has the transcript. An excerpt:
I will continue to offer the astronomers a different path forward to make my Solar system and orbit a better place to live and work, and that's what I want to do for another six million more years.
Always a class act, that one. Sad to see him go.

And some about charter vs. public schools

Both Dan Cody and Paul Soglin have beat me to the punch in reporting that a new study shows public schools outperforming charter schools:
WASHINGTON - Fourth-graders in traditional public schools are doing better in both reading and math than students in charter schools, the government says in a report fueling fresh debate over school choice.

Tuesday's report said fourth-graders in regular public schools scored an average of 5.2 points better in reading than students in charter schools on the 2003 National Assessment of Educational Progress test. Students in traditional schools scored an average of 5.8 points better in math.

Charter school opponents said the findings show that the schools are a failing experiment that drains resources from traditional public schools. Charter school supporters called the report flawed and outdated and said charters improve public education by creating competition.

The Bush administration supports charter schools.

The head of the government agency that produced the report cautioned against reading too much into it.
Sounds familiar, doesn't it? That last line echoes the line we heard on the study showing private schools don't outperform public schools as much as they thought. I also like the assumption that "competition" is automatically better.

Well, we can just add this one to the pile of studies out in the last year showing that charters aren't a magic bullet either--one I mentioned in passing here and one that got more ink here.

This is all a little ironic, as I have spent a significant protion of this summer writing a charter school proposal that goes before the Milwaukee Public Schools board later this month. The key difference is that the charter I'm working on is what's known as an "instrumentality" charter. All of the things that traditional charters are cited as being weak in--underqualified teachers, underfunded programs, lack of accountability--don't apply in this case, as we will be required to follow every regulation that governs MPS. In fact, I and everyone else at the school will still be public school employees and the students will be public school students. I'm also not pretending that the charter school I'm working on will be a magic bullet, either, and I will not compromise on quality to save a few bucks here and there.

We'll see how it goes. For now, though, we have another reminder turning education over to "the market" is not the answer. What this country needs a total recommittment to the ideals of public education. Without that committment, we'll continue to suffer from piecemeal reforms propagated primarily by privateers and those who will never support a public sector. That is what creates a losing system.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

More on Public vs. Private Schools

by folkbum

Right Cheddarspherean Dad29 takes me to task this morning over a post of mine from last month. I wrote then about a Department of Education study released quietly showing that, when you correct for socioeconomic and other factors, private schools do not perform any better than public schools do. The feds held onto that study for months, added language dismissing its significance, and released it on a Friday afternoon hoping no one would notice. Clearly, this is because the results don't match the rhetoric from the Bush Administration since day one, which is that private schools are better.

Dad29 quotes at length from a Human Events Online story out a couple of weeks ago. HEO is a proud conservative publication (it's in the banner at the top of the page), so I was immediately skeptical. And for good reason: The HEO story was based on a study done by Harvard's Paul Peterson, a long-time voucher advocate and denigrator of the public sector.

Here's the original Peterson release; even after playing with the data enough to get the result Peterson wanted, he still wouldn't say it was the last word. His partner in the research said, "Our results are not offered as conclusive evidence that private schools outperform public schools."

Why would I think that Peterson is just playing around with the data? Because he has a history of doing exactly that to further his pro-voucher agenda (sorry for the long excerpt):
Peterson's research methods have proven to be completely unreliable, if not outright fraudulent, in both intent and execution. Important research by Peterson was never peer reviewed (or, rejected by his peers), and first published by the Wall Street Journal. Despite this lack of veracity, Peterson's results have been picked up and trumpted by the conservative movement across the country.

Take for example his research of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, begun in 1990. The State of Wisconsin's official evaluator of the program from 1990-1995 was John F. Witte, a Political Science professor at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Using rigorous social science methodologies, and submitting his work to peer review, Witte found essentially no academic difference between school voucher students and regular Milwaukee Public Schools students. Indeed, in some very specific areas, the public school students actually fared better than their private school counterparts.

But in 1996 Peterson reported a re-analysis of Witte's numbers that he had done along with Jay Greene and Jiangtao Du, titled "The Effectiveness of School Choice in Milwaukee: A Secondary Analysis of Data from the Program's Evaluation." Actually, the study had been released before Peterson's court testimony supporting the Milwaukee program, giving opponents no time to adequately analyze his conclusions in time for the court appearance.

[T]hree years later, researchers [broke] down Peterson's "research" pointing out that, in Witte's words, "...the problems with this result are so numerous that I don't think anyone really believes it." Of course, there were earlier clues to the bogus nature of Peterson's research. First, the study had been submitted to an academic journal for peer review, but had been rejected! After the rejection, Peterson initially published some of his results in the Wall Street Journal [. . .].

Witte broke down Peterson's research in a long article in the journal The Phi Delta Kappan in September 1999, an article that has since been expanded into a book just published by the Princeton University Press, titled "The Market Approach to Education: An Analysis of America's First Voucher Program."

The political nature of Peterson's research cannot be overstated. Peterson's results have been picked up and amplified--most often taken as gospel, with no rebuttal--by the think tanks, journalists, and other operatives within the conservative movement, including right-wing ABC TV News reporter John Stossel.
Got that? Peterson, despite the Harvard letterhead, has long been passing off bogus research on vouchers and private schools for almost the sole purpose of providing cover for conservatives to push their pro-voucher agenda. Even when the fed study I wrote about was first published, Peterson was in the press right afterwards spinning the study's results, knowing that the movement was looking to him to provide something they could use. A Dayton Daily News columnist found that ironic.

(Even beyond Peterson's own suspect work, he's responsible for at least one other unforgivable sin: Giving the world Jay Greene.)

I was in Alaska when Peterson's study was released, or I might have said something then. As it is, I don't really have to say much more, because Kevin Franck has done such a nice job here. That one's worth the read.

It's Mindset List Time Again

by folkbum

I'm not sure why, but Tom McBride, a professor of English from my alma mater, showed up in a dream of mine last night. It may or may not have been his way of telling me that his new Beloit College Mindest List is now out. Either way, it's time, again, to take a look at what the college's incoming class knows or doesn't know. Some of my favorities:
1. The Soviet Union has never existed and therefore is about as scary as the student union.

6. There has always been only one Germany.

11. A coffee has always taken longer to make than a milkshake.

19. "Google" has always been a verb. (This one is bittersweet, since I was at Beloit when Google launched!)

34. They have always known that "In the criminal justice system the people have been represented by two separate yet equally important groups."

51. Michael Moore has always been showing up uninvited.

74. Ringo Starr has always been clean and sober.
Read the whole list, and then, as I plan to, whine for a little while in the comments about how old you are.

And, for kicks, check out McSweeny's Beloit College Mindset List, Class of 1918.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Bryan Kennedy and Project 90: The 50-State Strategy in Action

by folkbum

So I had lunch today with about a dozen very nice and very influential people here in the greater Milwaukee area. Several of them are in the picture there on the right: In the background, you can see Bill Elliot, who is running for the open Wisconsin 23rd Assembly District. The woman up front is Bonnie Joseph, among the area's biggest Dem fundraisers. And the very happy guy in blue--of course!--is Bryan Kennedy. Not pictured is the reason we were all there at lunch, a guy named Walter Ludwig.

Ludwig, some of you may know, is a former member of Howard Dean's 2004 presidential campaign, as well as the head of a PAC known as Project 90. (He tells me their website should be back up by next week, but for now, there's no link.) What is Project 90, you might ask? Good question.

You may remember Woody Allen's quip that "90% of life is just showing up." Project 90 is a compliment to Dean and the DNC's 50-State Strategy: The idea is that unless Democrats challenge Republicans everywhere--in other words, show up--we will never build a base, never build a machine, and never get out of the doghouse. You know as well as I the very public (and occasionally venomous) dispute between Dean and the DCCC's Rahm Emanuel. Emanuel believes, as have DCCC chairs for decades now, that the best use of limited donor resources is to challenge the fewest number of the most winnable seats in order to take control of the House. There's also some defense to be played in some key Dem-held districts as well. Dean believes we should be playing offense, too, and wants to spread the resources beyond just 20 or 25 districts, and into all 435 of them.

This year, Democrats have taken Dean's message to heart, and we are, in fact, running challengers in 425 out of 435 districts. (One of the ten we're missing, I'm ashamed to say, is the WI-06, Tom Petri's district.) One of the 425 races is one that is near and dear to me--and should be to many of you--and that's the WI-05, the seat currently held by pompous fool F. Jim Sensenbrenner.

Bryan Kennedy is taking his second go at F. Jim, and this time--with national momentum going our way in the generic ballot--he's got a shot at taking down the incumbent. This is also a race that holds special appeal to Howard Dean himself. I left my notepad at the restaurant, so I'm kind of paraphrasing here, but Ludwig told us that Dean "hates Sensenbrenner with the fire of a thousand suns." In fact, Ludwig went on, he saw Dean at a fundraiser some time ago and, as Ludwig describes it, Dean broke away from the people he was talking to, bounded over to him, and demanded, "Have you got somebody running against Sensenbrenner? I hate him!"

And that's when Ludwig decided to check out Bryan Kennedy and get involved in the campaign. Ludwig is a guy who takes these things seriously: He sold his business to go work for Dean, and as he explained to me after the meeting, when Dean went out he looked for something else to do. He knew his work wasn't done, and figured out the best way he could to help, and started Project 90.

As has been widely reported, Project 90's research showed that in 2000, 2002, and 2004, Dems failed to seriously challenge fully 1/3 of all Republican seats, and that the Republicans in those districts were able to put about $63 million into the campaigns of their colleagues. In 2004 Ludiwg worked with just three campaigns, spending only $1.1 million. But he got the Republicans in those districts--two in Colorado and one in Oklahoma--to spend $7.3 million, money that would have gone to help embattled Republicans elsewhere.

The WI-05 is a perfect example of what Ludwig is talking about. Right now, F. Jim is sitting on a huge pile of money. In 2000, the last year I can find these data for, F. Jim sent $135,000 of his then-also huge pile of money to the RNC, to help elect other Republicans in that cycle. Every dollar we make F. Jim spend here in Wisconsin is a dollar that can't help in any of the other top races around the country, including the WI-08.

And Sensenbrenner is already showing signs of weakness, like he knows this year will be a tough one. Why else do you think he's been in the district every weekend lately? He never bothered with that kind of town-hall-and-rotary meeting schedule before. He may be an ass, but he's not stupid: He knows Kennedy has a number of additional advantages this year that he didn't have in 2004, and he's taking the threat seriously.

So should we!

This is where you come in: Project 90 is going to be helping out. Howard Dean, personally, wants F. Jim out of Congress. Democrats here in Wisconsin and in the district are jumping at the chance to see him really gone. Labor is solidly behind Kennedy, as are groups as diverse Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin and LULAC. But in order to push this race to the top tier, to fully take advantage of the tidal wave that many pundits say we could expect this year, this race needs the national spotlight.

Here's the deal: Wisconsin's partisan primary is Tuesday, September 12. But there is a fundraising reporting deadline tomorrow. That's right--Kennedy has to report pre-primary his intake, outgo, and cash-on-hand totals through tomorrow. A big jump in fundraising today will help his visibility, speed up early advertising, and make some noise about this race for the national folks who might otherwise let this fly below their radar.

Here's my ActBlue page, with Kennedy sitting right at the top. (ActBlue's running a promotion--if I get at least six of you to give at least $600 total, I get a copy of Al Gore's book!) You can also give directly to Bryan through his own ActBlue page.

The other thing you can do is spread the word: If you know people in Wisconsin or if you just know other people who hate Sensenbrenner as much as Howard Dean does, get them to contribute or volunteer.

I won't lie and say this will be an easy race; in 2004, Bryan lost by almost 30 points. But a little bird told me some time ago--I don't even remember who it was now, honestly--that internal Wisconsin GOP polling showed growing levels of disatisfaction with F. Jim. The people in the district--even some ultra-right bloggers in the district--are turning against the war in Iraq and against Bush. F. Jim's certainly upset a number of people with his petulant behavior at his now-frequent town halls. (Bryan likes to say that the best thing that ever happened to his campaign was F. Jim's decision to see more of the voters.) That gap can continue to close only with the help of people here and the kind of national attention this race really deserves.

You can also chip in to help out Project 90; between now and when the website is back online, you'll need to email Walter Ludwig directly.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Snakes on a Campaign

By Keith Schmitz

It would be nice if Mark Green could cut the crap on the embryonic stem issue.

In the real world, just about all cutting edge research needs some level of federal research. Cut the funding virtually cuts the throat of the project. We wouldn't have many drugs in the fight against cancer and other diseases without the federal government to fund the risky research.

The lying liars in the "pro-life" movement know that. Of course Green voted against federal funding to support it.

Simple test. Until Green comes out and explicitly states he is for embryonic stem cell research, and would push for its growth in the UW system we can assume he is pretty much against it.

The fact that he does not indicates the high level of popular support for the research and that Green knows it, so therefore the dodge and the BS.

Can the people who are so much against gay rights ever be straight with us?

A perfect example of what's wrong with our media

by folkbum

We political bloggers often spend a lot time writing about the horesrace, the blow-by-blow details of debates and jabs between candidates. We advocate loudly for the candidates we like, and cry foul when the ones we don't cross a line. Sometimes I think we do a little too much poking around with a stick, trying to get a rise from our readers and the campaigns.

I don't really have a problem with this--or my own engaging in it with wild abandon--because I don't consider myself a purveyor of news. If people come by here looking for news, they might find some; more often, this site is about my opinion and calling the other side out on its crap. Rehashing the ugliness of, for example, a campaign fight may well be key to that opinion or crap-calling.

However, I would like to draw your attention to the article this morning in the state's largest daily newspaper about the Milwaukee County District Attorney's race. Quick show of hands: How many of you can even name the candidates in that race, let alone what they stand for? Anyone? Okay, I see a couple of you in the back. But that's not very many at all, is it?

If you're here, that means you have access to Google, and probably could do the hard work of looking up all three candidates. But even then, the information is sparse about who they are and what they believe in.

This is in part, I believe, because the media doesn't do the job of bringing you that information. In fact, a keyword search on the paper's website turns up less than a handful of articles on the DA's race so far: In one, there's the list of who's thinking of filing for office; in another, there's the list of who did file. The race draws a mention in this August 6th Spice Boys column, which, if you read it all the way to the end, says a little bit about what one candidate would do in office--the rest of the column is a he said-she said-he said among the candidates over who's to blame for a murder.

And in the page one (of the Metro section) article in question from today's paper, the reporter rehashes much of the same blow-by-blow the Spice Boys already covered. That's the part on page one, the part most people will read--if they bother to read at all an article titled "The gloves are off in race for DA."

Only after you dig inside the Metro section for the continuation of the story do you get any sense of what the candidates' platforms are--and that part of the story is fairly well done. But it's buried--a conscious decision on the part of either the reporter or (more likely) the editors. If you've done any journalism work--or taught journalistic writing, as I have--then you know the "inverted triangle" method of writing: The most important thing goes at the top (the lede), usually done in kind of a who, what, when, where, why, and how format. This is followed by key details and, often, a chronological retelling of what happened. The end of a story, then, is further details or less important information--the kinds of things that can be cut by editors pressed for space or ignored by readers pressed for time. Putting the actual platforms of the candidates at the bottom of a story shows just how important the people responsible for bringing you the news think they are.

Last week, Xoff identified the irony in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's recent sky-is-falling editorial, "Let's hear it for the thoughtful middle" (the link in Xoff's post is broken). "From these turbulent waters," the editors wrote about the ugliness of campaigns, "it's hard to spot any issues that most people care about [. . . I]t's wrong, and Americans are fed up." Xoff pointed the finger firmly back at them:
The news media [have] given up its responsibility to dig into issues and present the facts. Their main function these days seems to be "He said, he said" reporting, where the back-and-forth is dutifully reported, but no effort is made to find out who's right. That kind of coverage, of course, encourages the inflammatory statements and news releases.
The DA's race story this morning could well be Exhibit A.

[Update: In my inbox this afternoon from the Milwaukee County Dems comes the announcement of a forum with the two Democrats in the race, John Chisolm and Larraine McNamara-McGraw, to be held prior to the regular monthly meeting. It will go down at 6 p.m. on Monday, August 28, 2006, in the Pettit National Ice Center at State Fair Park, and the public is welcome. Also, Chisolm's campaign manager has passed along his website (which didn't show in the first 50 Google hits): www.chisholmforda.com.]

In the interest of serving the public, if any of the candidates for DA would like to send me information on their platforms and what they would do in office, I would be happy to publish that information.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Surprisingly, Jim J. Bullock isn't on here

Since all the kool kids are doin' it . . .



The Ricky Martin disappoints me. But Vincent D'Onofrio is cool.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Green Campaign -- Home of the Whopper

By Keith Schmitz

Had the pleasure of getting a double dose of conservatism yesterday, listening to Wall Street Journal editorial writer and Club for Shrinkage founder Stephen Moore, preceded by GOP gubernatorial candidate Congressman Mark Green.

Moore was a very engaging speaker and a rather nice guy, but at 56 I’m a little old for Fairytale Theater.

Nevertheless, couldn’t have gotten more for my entertainment dollar.

As for Green his speech was full of knee slappers and groaners, and here is one of my favorites.

Green made the comment that he supports capping government spending at all levels. Considering his voting record in Congress apparently Green doesn’t regard federal as being a level of government.

Green painted a picture of our state’s economy being so bad that you swore Prozac is funding his campaign.

For example, Green asserted that over the past two years only two states had worse job growth than Wisconsin, and those were hit by Katrina.

Huh? Maybe I misunderstood his concept of job growth and maybe I don’t understand numbers but check out the latest from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Run down the list. As of July, Wisconsin’s unemployment stood at 5.0%. Not too bad but many states did better. However, may states had higher unemployment than Wisconsin.

Maybe Green meant in the number of jobs created in the past year. Only 37,000 new jobs were sprung up in Wisconsin in the last year. Many states with larger population germinated fewer jobs.

Granted, Colorado, the TABOR paradise grew 72,000 new jobs but that is not exactly blowing our doors off or those of its neighboring states.

Our Midwestern neighbors did little better than us and Illinois in fact not as good.

As an extra bonus to cap off my morning State Rep. Frank Lasee told me how he was discouraging someone from moving into Wisconsin because of taxes.

These people are not exactly what you’d call Badger Boosters.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Things Bob Dohnal doesn't get

1. That "ethics" have to apply to him, too.

2. The war in Iraq is not the war on terror.

I've got to run, but feel free to add your own in the comments. I want to see this list up to at least fifteen by the time I get back.

The Lieberman Double Standard

by folkbum

I don't live in Connecticut; heck, I'm still a bit iffy about spelling Connecticut. But I watched last week's primary there with some interest--and, more intersting to me, I watched the Right Cheddarsphere's reactions to it as well. The title of this post probably gives away the punch line, but I'm hoping you'll stay with me.

The general tenor of the Right Cheddarsphere's response has been boilerplate "this is the end of the Democrats" rhetoric. Never mind that our demise has been predicted almost daily for the last decade or so--this time the "loony left" (or "wackadoo wing," my favorite) has sealed the deal. Here are some examples:
  • Peter DiGaudio calls Lamont "the appeasement candidate," complete with the claim that the winners were really "Islamic terrorists"; Peter also tells us that "the kooky moonbats that have taken over the Democratic Party."
  • The Game uses "wackadoo wing," noting helpfully that "Lieberman is the first casualty of the war against the war on terror." He also copies and pastes Ann Coulter--complete with the (c) 2006 tag--who looks at the Lamont win and longs for the days when Democrats were mere traitors.
  • Fred, on the day before the election, observed that "[t]his race is everything that is wrong with the Democratic party right now." At Badger Blog Alliance, Fred congratulated MoveOn and George Soros, calling Lamont's 48% in the primary "the looniest of the left."
  • Badger Blogger Patrick weighs in, calling the results a "victory in more ways than one" for Republicans.
  • Jenna is also convinced that a Lamont win "couldn't possibly help the Republicans more" in their chances of keeping the White House after 2008.
The exception I've found is Billiam, who comments in Keith's brief post below that "Republicans have more to worry about than this garbage. The people of Ct. have spoken. So be it." Not exactly ringing praise for Lamont, but at least it's a recognition that the small-d democratic process happened, and should be honored. (And he also chickens out on spelling Connecticut--my kind of man.)

Aside from the presumptuousness of telling Democrats how to run their party, these conservatives are engaging in a much more egregious offense: Bald hypocrisy. Scott Stearns of Brewtown Politico, in a very similarly named post to this one, notes one inconsistency:
It was amusing this week to see so many Republicans praising Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-CT) before and after his primary loss. In the meantime, Republican moderates like Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R-RI) are berated as RINOs (Republican in Name Only) when they don't tow the party line. Chafee himself is facing a primary challenger in Cranston mayor Steve Laffey.
I can count on less than one hand how many posts I've seen from conservative Wisconsin bloggers about the Chaffee-Laffey primary. This may be because the media are not driving the Rhode Island story in quite the same way that they did CT's--it was a challenge to dig up even one national story about the primary. It could also be because there's not the netroots swell behind Laffey (that I've seen) that there was behind Lamont, i.e., there's no one blogging it here because no one's really blogging it there or nationally.

But I, like Scott, think there's more to it than that. Seth mentioned this week how happy the right seems to be that Rep. Curt Gielow (R-Mequon), a "RINO" for the sin of thinking everyone deserves health care coverage, for example.

But for some of the worst examples of this Right Chedarspherean hypocrisy, you need to go back to 2004. And I'm not just talking about the US Senate race in Pensylvania, either, where long-time incumbent Republican Arlen Specter beat conservative darling Pat Toomey by less than two percent in that primary. A stroll through the archives of some of the bloggers who were around then turned up Boots And Sabers' Owen, for example, "rooting for Toomey" and throwing around the RINO label (a label that DiGaudio still applies to Specter).

But the more telling race of 2004 was the race in the 20th State Senate District, where the conservative netroots went after the biggest RINO of them all, Mary Panzer.

As much as the Right Cheddarsphere couldn't believe that Democrats would go after Lieberman on one issue--the war--Mary Panzer was, as Owen said in November 2004, "defeat[ed . . .] because of her failure to pass TABOR." (Owen's August archives are like one long Grothman commercial.) Panzer's name continues to be evoked by the Right Cheddarsphere as kind of a rallying cry against RINOs across the state--even in the context of the Attorney General's race.

And the media coverage of the 2004 race, as well, is completely different: Unlike after CT last week, there were no articles in the newspaper or talk show hosts ranting against the netroots and the fringes taking over party primaries. Grothman's candidacy, and the work the conservative bloggers did for him, was supported by the media.

So even as they stand by and mock Connecticut Democrats for appeasing everyone from Howard Dean to al-Qaeda, they're more than happy to exercise the primary process to oust incumbents they don't care for. That's the kind of double standard that, for some reason, conservatives are allowed to hold. It's time we start calling them on it.

Friday Random Ten

The My In-Laws are Coming for the Weekend Edition

1. "Jagged" Old 97s from Fight Songs
2. "Here's to You" The Loomers from Shine
3. "Stand" REM from Green
4. "Driftless" Greg Brown from The Poet Game
5. "Mystery" Indigo Girls from Swamp Ophelia
6. "Love Song/ New York" Lucy Kaplansky from Lucy Kaplansky
7. "April Showers" The Marc Atkinson Trio from Marc Atkinson Trio
8. "Another Thunder" Carie Newcomer from Visions and Dreams
9. "La Costa Blanca" Josh Rouse from Subtitulo
10. "Be Careful" Patty Griffin from 1000 Kisses

Thursday, August 17, 2006

The Donovan Riley Thing

by folkbum

This is not an easy post to write; I don't live in the 7th State Senate district (I'm happily represented by an unchallenged Tim Carpenter), and I have friends on both sides of the Jeff Plale-Donovan Riley primary. On the other hand, this is probably the one race that, according to One Who Should Know Brian Fraley, I and other local Dem bloggers might actually have some influence in. But since I don't live in the district, I feel more uneasy about commenting on this race than I do about other races that more directly involve me.

So I have studiously avoided talking about the primary in the 7th for months. While I have believed all along--and have said so privately to Plale and others--that this year is not a year to challenge incumbents here in Wisconsin, I haven't written out the long post that's been mostly in my head on this race. I have been clear about that regarding the Kathleen Falk challenge to Peg Lautenschlager, but I haven't gotten around to writing that post about the legislature.

My reasoning is simple: If we hold seats like the 7th, and pick up more seats like the 23rd, the 5th, and another, then we get control of the Senate, and, therefore, control of the agenda. So while a Senator like Plale might vote too conservatively on issues like school vouchers or abortion rights, a Dem-controlled Senate would keep those issues from the floor, never putting Plale in that situation.

One reason I was waiting to weigh in specifically on that primary was to see if the Republicans could put up a credible challenger. A strong moderate Republican could possibly have beaten a liberal Donovan Riley in the general--and that's not really helpful if the plan is to take control of the Senate. Fortunately, Dimity Grabowski doesn't seem to be a formidable challenger, and Riley, given his strong grassroots support and name recognition (and Grabowski's lack of those things) could win in November. That would have definitely moved the caucus in the direction I'd like to see it go. I was glad I hadn't jumped in before, figuring that either way the dice rolled, Democrats would come out winners.

Until this week, that is. By now you've surely heard about the apparently serious allegation that Riley double-voted in the 2000 presidential election. I'm the last guy to this party, so just browse through the blogroll if you haven't heard about it yet. Riley's made it worse by issuing a pretty weak explanation for it (essentially, "I don't think I did it") and skipping the debate with Plale that was set for Wednesday evening (a "scheduling conflict," his statement said). It doesn't look good. Word on the street is that he's also lost at least one staffer in the last day or so.

The way Riley and his campaign have handled this is just bad. Compared to the way Jim Sullivan has dealt with a similar (and quite stale) allegation against him, Riley looks both like an amateur and unnecessarily suspicious. As Sullivan did, Riley needed to be out in front of the issue, and if he is innocent (which I hope he is), he should be producing, as Sullivan did, the evidence to show it. Without either of those things, and with missing the debate, the story is getting legs--and the conservative media here in the Milwaukee area sure know how to use legs. As uninspiring (and unknown) as Grabowski may be, an hourly hammering of Donovan Riley from up and down the AM dial and all over the daily paper would severely damage Dems' chances of holding the seat and taking control of the State Senate.

If Riley were really about the Dem agenda, really about what's best for the state's liberals, he'd bow out now.

Update: The light of day reminds me of one thing that I forgot to add to this post. I am very displeased that the allegations of Riley's possible wrongdoing were first brought up by George Mitchell. I can't stand that guy--he dissembles and blurs fact and fiction to promote his extreme agenda to fund religious education with tax dollars. I do not want to be on the same side as that man on anything. I know Plale will never distance himself from the Mitchells, but, jeebus, this tears me up.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Pack Attack

By Keith Schmitz

Sen. George Allen (R-VA), the Confederate Frat Boy who would someday seek to be president, is not only the master of obscure racial slurs but is also not much of a Packer fan as revealed in a book put out by his sister (from the Huffington Post).
Referring to George’s habit of terrorizing a Green Bay Packer fan in their neighborhood, Jennifer wrote that the fan’s mailbox often “lay smashed in the street, a casualty of my brothers' drive-by to school in the morning. George would swerve his Mach II Mustang while Gregory held a baseball bat out the window to clear the mailbox off its post. . . . Lately, the Packers fan had resorted to stapling a Kleenex box to the mailbox post to receive his mail. George's red Mustang screeched up beside us, the Packers fan's Kleenex mailbox speared on the antenna.” [Fifth Quarter: The Scrimmage of a Football Coach's Daughter, page 16]

During the last senatorial campaign in our our state, by the way, the contenders for the GOP shot at Russ Feingold when asked who they admired most in politics, all three said George Allen.

Further Proof that Al Gore is Satan

by folkbum

Kidding, of course. But ActBlue has a promotion going on that may arouse your suspicions:
As someone fundraising for Democratic candidates, you're part of the Democratic wave that's sweeping our nation--and you've already helped raise over $7 million for our candidates!

We know you're capable of more in these crucial last months before the election, and we want to help you maximize your impact this fall.

That's why we'll be sending copies of An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore's phenomenal new book (and companion to his phenomenal movie) to everyone who raises a total of $600 from at least 6 donors by September 6th!
Are you with me? 600 from 6 donors by the 6th, and I get an Al Gore book!

Here's my ActBlue page, which is chock-full of good races and candidates to support, including the WI-08 CD, which remains one of Hotline's top thirty hot races this fall. Sure, it's fallen to number 30, but still . . .

One other thing to notice about that list of races: None of the top ten, only one of the top 15, and only four of the top 30 seats up for grabs are Democratic seats. Even of the top 50, only ten are currently held by Democrats. And, with it clear that more terror threats don't automatically boost Republicans ratings any more, I'm felling slightly more optimistic about our chances in November.

You can help by giving.

At least they had the Andrews Sisters

By Keith Schmitz

You may not have noticed it, but according to Ironing the Flag as of about 8:00 last night we have been at it longer in Iraq than the "Greatest Generation" and FDR spent fighting the Nazis.

Of course WWII was against a real enemy.