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Pay no attention to the people behind the curtain

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

BOTW

Welcome, Forward Report readers! I hope you'll stick around after this week is over. Take a stroll through my archives (at the bottom of the page) and leave comments if, when, and wherever you like.

Anti-Gay Marriage and Civil Unions Amendment, the folkbum recommendation: Vote NO November 7

Shall section 13 of article XIII of the Wisconsin constitution be created to provide that only a marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in this state and that a legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized in this state?

I'm going to be blunt here for a second: For a significant part of the "yes" crowd, this amendment is all about the butt sex. They don't like it, and this is a chance to register that disgust.

For a significant part of the "no" crowd, this is about same-sex marriage (or, perhaps, civil unions). They want it legalized, and this is a chance to register that desire.

The amendment is actually about neither of those things--if it passes, the butt sex will still be legal, and if it fails, same-sex marriage will still be illegal. Even if we get what we want, we won't get what we want.

For a small, teeny, tiny slice of people in the middle, this vote is actually about the scope of the amendment's wording, whether it's too broad and overreaching or just broad enough to stop those activist judges. It is on them--I'd guess maybe five or seven percent of voters, total--that the burden in this election falls; this amendment will succeed or fail based on their choice in the voting booth.

For me, the choice is easy. I'm part of the "no" crowd as described above; I believe there is no reason (and I have argued this exhaustively over the last two-plus years) to deny gay and lesbian couples the rights and responsibilities (and the title) granted automatically to heterosexual couples through marriage. Whatever horror stories partisans try to spin about Scandanavia or Massachusetts, no conclusive evidence exists that the sky has fallen where gay marriage is legal (see this post, for example).

For many bloggers on the right--Dad29 is a good example--the choice is easy. You know by his constant references to "homosex" marriage and his insistence that Mark Foley's predatory nature is normal for gay men that his understanding of the issues doesn't get far beyond what parts go where. And, as nice as Dad29 may be in real life, his is an attitude rooted in bias and prejudice against people who engage in that behavior--behavior which both hurts no one and, as with sex in any "heterosex" marriage, is not what truly defines a relationship worth recognizing. See, for example, this story of two men whose connection is not rooted in sex at all. But Dad29's irrational obsession with the butt sex would deny these men a satisfaction for "the need for mutual love and affection."

For Julaine Appling, the point-woman for the "yes" vote here in Wisconsin, the choice is also easy, and she is well-poised to harness the discriminatory impulses of those who hate the butt sex. Cory Liebmann has documented her ultra-discriminatory history:
Appling attended Bob Jones University in the 1970s, receiving three degrees. During the time that Appling attended Bob Jones University, they refused to admit African American students. Bob Jones started admitting married African American students in 1971 and single African American students in 1975. This is also a university whose chairman refused to fly the campus flag at half-mast when Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. Chairman Bob Jones, Jr. called the civil rights leader an "apostate." The University that Appling chose to attend also banned interracial dating until 2001. Prior to that year, the University said that it would expel students who dated or married "outside their own race" or "espouse, promote or encourage others" to violate those rules.

It is clear that Julaine Appling's education at Bob Jones University is informing her thinking on discrimination. University officials held that its ban on interracial dating and marriage did not discriminate against anyone because it applied to all races equally. Compare this with a statement from Appling's organization, which, after saying that the amendment would not discriminate against anyone, continues to say the following: "all Americans have the right to marry, subject to certain conditions that apply equally"
There is a more intellectual flavor of proponent, too, the Rick Esenbergs and Owen Robinsons of the world, convinced that a yes vote is all that will save us from the courts--"black-robed mullahs," in the words of another blogger. Esenberg, in particular, has spent three of his last four posts (as of this writing) telling us how what happened in New Jersey (their Supreme Court pulled a Vermont, ordering that the state offer either marriage or civil unions to same-sex couples) is The End Of The World And Could Happen Here Any Minute Now And We Must Pass This Amendment To Protect The People From The Courts.

It's this argument that, on the one hand, is far more persuasive than people who don't like the butt sex or people who insist on forcing their religious views on the rest of us. But on the other hand, this is also the most ridiculous, since the "will of the people," which supposedly would be subverted by the courts--was subverted by the Jersey court, they say--is against the sentiment of half this amendment. Let me rephrase: Their argument is that the will of the people (as expressed, for example, by a vote on an amendment like this, or through their elected representatives) should not be overturned by a court. And if same-sex marriage were imposed, that would be the case.

But a solid majority of Wisconsinites are in favor of offering civil unions to same-sex couples: A 2004 Badger Poll (.pdf), taken when the amendment was first up for discussion, found that an amendment that made no mention of civil unions--in other words, banned only marriage--polled at 64%, well above the 53% the amendment as written polled (these results were mirrored in a St. Norbert poll earlier this year, which I haven't been able to Google up, but is referred to here). A Badger Poll from earlier this year (.pdf) found support of civil unions--outside of the context of the amendment--had support of a full 60% of Wisconsinites. If what happened in New Jersey happened here, it would finally force the legislature to confront the fact that most of us here feel that same-sex relationships do indeed deserve protection, rights, and recognition, whether we call it marriage or not. In other words, a civil unions ruling would make the legislature actually implement the will of the people--hardly the End Of The World scenario Esenberg and his ilk would have us believe.

Another, even more silly argument from that side, is that if the amendment fails, the next day there will be court cases demanding legalized same-sex marriage. I doubt that, in part because Wisconsin's law against same-sex marriage has been challenged and stood previously. But we also know from experience that even if the amendment passes, there will be court cases galore. Everyone who's honestly looked at this recognizes that the "yes" side is just as prone--if not moreso--to using the courts to get what they want. The Alliance Defense Fund, for example, already has a history of filing suit here in Wisconsin to stop same-sex partner benefits. This was the same Alliance Defense Fund tapped by John Gard and the legislature to defend the state against the suit to provide partner benefits at the UW.

Finally, it's also important to remember that this amendment, like the death penalty referrendum, relies on Republicans' belief that voters are rubes. If they really cared, they could have had this amendment on the ballot 18 months ago, but they chose to delay protecting the people from the evils of gay marriage long enough that it would boost turnout for Mark Green. In fact, some on the "yes" side were a bit giddy at the news from New Jersey, figuring it would galvanize and energize Republican voters (and they accuse us of making this partisan!).

In the end, as I said at the beginning, the vast majority of us will be voting on ths amendment not based on the subtleties and ramifications of its wording, but rather on the broader notions it represents--either we don't like the butt sex or we don't see why our gay and lesbian friends should be denied equal rights just because they're born loving differently than we do. Clearly, I fall into the latter camp, and I encourage you--even if you don't like the butt sex, even if you have been tempted by the silly arguments of the Esenberg camp--to vote no next week. An amendment denies the legislature the ability to implement the popular civil unions; an amendment provides the impetus for those who hate the butt sex to fill the courts with lawsuits for years to come.

And an amendment which denies rights to citizens has never been done before here in Wisconsin. This is not the time to start that tradition, either.

Vote no on November 7.

Monday, October 30, 2006

If the choice is so clear, don't muddy the water trying to explain it

In the first of a promised series on editorials about where the candidates for governor--Republican Mark Green and Democrat Jim Doyle--stand on "the issues," the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel today discusses the education platforms of each candidate. This issue happens to be one I know well, as a teacher and follower of education politics. And though I think they reach the right conclusion--Doyle is the better choice on education--getting there is a challenge.

In a sad effort to be fair to both candidates, the editorial board ends up offering their readers mush--it's about as shallow as your average Jessica McBride column. In an age when too many people feel there is no difference between candidates of either party, the editorial board does a disservice by blurring distinctions in a both-have-good-points haze.

It starts well enough, entitled "Education: It's about deeds," it gets underway reminding everyone that "when it came to putting money on the line for educational programs in Congress, Green has come up short--raising the fear he would repeat that pattern as governor." Indeed, on everything from fully funding No Child Left Behind to making student loans more affordable (as college gets less so), Green has failed to stand up for the side of education. And remember, this isn't just about putting money into the hands of those greedy teachers unions; no, this is about making sure families have access to opportunity and local schools don't have to make the difficult decision between testing and, say, art classes (ramifications ignored by the editorial).

But then the editorial dissolves into a puddle of he said-he saidishness and on-the-other-handisms. Take this line: "Clearly, school financing has to be overhauled. Both have said they would examine ways to do this." Horse hockey! Green has stammered out answers in response to pointed questions; Doyle actually convened a panel and put forward a proposal that died between his office and the legislature. (No, I didn't like the plan; but it's absolutely not a he "would examine ways" sort of thing.)

And the editorial again misses what I see as the two biggest red flags in Mark Green's education plan--the deceptively dangerous "70% solution" (dismissed with "it's unclear what it would take to reach Green's target") and the end of collective bargaining for teachers, which still has received no journalistic coverage anywhere that I've seen--not even from the teachers unions! (A fuller discussion of all of Green's plan is here.)

Though the editorial ends by noting that Doyle seems to be winning on education, at least, it does nothing to highlight what is indeed a stark contrast between where the two men stand on K-12 and higher education. The two paragraphs about the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program--the voucher program--are perhaps the perfect example:
Green's proposals on Milwaukee's voucher program are mixed. He readily supports the program--that's good. It has expanded educational opportunities for needy families. He wants to include private schools (not children) in the suburbs--not a bad idea. He also wants to lift the income cap--a worrisome step. The program must stay targeted at the needy who otherwise lack school options.

Doyle is no big fan of choice. But he was a key to expanding the program, giving it desperately needed breathing room. He deserves credit for this compromise, and, we'd note, his objections were aimed at getting more legislative support for smaller class sizes. A good thing, too.
Let me put that into English for you: Mark Green supports unfettered expansion of an unregulated and unproven system that puts taxpayer dollars into the hands of people who are not accountable to the taxpayers in any way--tax dollars that place an undue burden on the city of Milwaukee and are, in fact, partially responsible for the levy increase we learned about a couple weeks back. Governor Doyle supports working within the public schools to improve the education of all students, and (unmentioned by the editorial) bringing some measure of accountability to the private schools that take tax dollars. (His "compromise" was not strong enough on accountability--see, for example, here and here.)

That is a significant difference, and the paper plays it as "both have good points to make." No, they don't. Vouchers are, without question, the single biggest flashpoint issue in education in this state, and the two candidates will take radically different actions in office regarding the MPCP--not to mention their very different reactions, I suspect, when the incredibly pro-voucher legislature reconvenes. I recognize that the paper's editorial board and I disagree on the voucher question; but their downplaying here of the significant difference of opinion on the expansion of and need for accountability in the program does not, in fact, serve the voters' interests. Particularly when many of the voters they reach are directly impacted--through the tax implications, if nothing else--by the program.

I don't know what issue the editorial board will tackle tomorrow, but I hope that they do a better job of drawing the line between the two candidates--muddying the waters over what ought to be a clear choice helps no one make up their minds about this election.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

WI-05: Bryan Kennedy 2, F. Jim Sensenbrenner 0

Bryan Kennedy online | Kennedy's ActBlue Page

2-0. That's the score in the endorsement race so far. Endorsements, like yard signs and, sadly, blogs, do note vote. But it is a sign when two of the four papers that reach Sensenbrenner's district have said we should abandon the blowhard. (The WSJ hasn't endorsed yet, and, sparse as their website is, I don't think the Freeman has yet, either.)

The Capital Times, the more liberal of Madison's two dailies, had this brief paragraph Friday:
U.S. Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Menomonee Falls, has become an embarrassment. It's not just his silly immigrant bashing, it's also his overly partisan chairmanship of the House Judiciary Committee and his arrogant refusal to even consider the ramifications of Bush administration assaults on basic liberties. Democratic challenger Bryan Kennedy, a college professor with Capitol Hill experience, would make an excellent replacement for this disappointing incumbent.
Those are not surprising sentiments, as they're shared by a wider and wider segment of the district's--and the state's--population. And it reminds me of a shorter version of my own Kennedy endorsement two years ago.

Of greater note is the endorsement in tomorrow's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. I won't reprint the whole thing--it's pretty long and detailed--so you should, as they say, read the whole thing. However, here's a juicy excerpt:
Two years ago, we recommended Jim Sensenbrenner for another term representing Wisconsin's 5th Congressional District. Today, we simply cannot. Sensenbrenner has been wrong on too much, from an immigration policy that puts him at odds with much of his own party and the business community to failure to exert meaningful oversight over White House domestic spying policies. [. . .]

Give Sensenbrenner credit for pushing to renew the Voting Rights Act and for bucking the administration on ethics reform. He was right about the risk for fraud in relief money sent to the Gulf Coast for victims of Hurricane Katrina. But those are meager accomplishments.
In the place of those ellipses, the editorial board submits a list--seemingly dozens of items long--that begin with "Sensenbrenner was wrong." For most of you, I probably don't need to go into those details. You know them as well as I do.

No doubt the Freeman (and possibly the WSJ, though they endorsed Jim Doyle this week) will overlook all those things Sensenbrenner was wrong on, and recommend that voters return the blustering buffoon to office. But it's worth remembering that Congress must change, and soon, and this country's leaders must turn things around. If that doesn't happen, we'll keep heading inexorably toward the cliff precipitated by thoughtless foreign policy, reckless domestic spending, and corruption of the highest order. Sensenbrenner is a part of that inertia; Kennedy will be a great help toward a Democratic majority in the House, which can put the brakes on that inertia.

It's time for change in Washington--and Sensenbrenner is most emphatically not a change. Remember that November 7, and vote for Bryan Kennedy.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Busy Weekend Open Thread

It's convention weekend and all, and I'm not going to be able to post as much as I wanted. There's still a lot to do and write about before the election, and I wanted to keep going with my November 7 ballot recommendations. Won't have time to do it this weekend, though.

So I'm trying an open thread. Talk about whatever (or whoever) you like below. What do want me to write about when I can get to it?

Friday Random Ten

The unexpectedly busy weekend Edition

1. "The Pioneers" Bill Frisell from Good Dog, Happy Man
2. "Be Here Now" Willy Porter from Dog Eared Dream
3. "This Just Doesn't Seem to Be My Day" The Monkees from The Monkees
4. "Manhattan Bridge" Blues Traveler from Save His Soul
5. "The Eyes of the Beholder" Lucy Kaplansky from The Tide
6. "Easier Than Sorry" The Story from Grace in Gravity
7. "Montpelier" Girlyman from Remember Who I Am
8. "Hypnotist of Ladies" They Might Be Giants from Apollo 18
9. "Undone" Mark Erelli from Hope & Other Casualties
10. "Time" Tom Waits from Rain Dogs

Bonus YouTube: Peter Mulvey, "Sad Sad Sad Sad And Far Away From Home":

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Death Penalty Referendum, the folkbum recommendation: Vote NO November 7

Should the death penalty be enacted in the State of Wisconsin for cases involving a person who is convicted of first degree intentional homicide, if the conviction is supported by DNA evidence?

There are many different reasons to vote against this non-binding, advisory death penalty referendum, not the least among them (for me, at least) a resistance to state-sanctioned killing. If there is killing to be done, it will not be in my name. I may be a godless, soulless, artless liberal, but I believe that every human life--from murderer to Iraqi civilian to Michael J. Fox--has value, and I have no right to say when that value becomes zero.

But beyond that, the people behind this referendum are using it, using voters across the state, for their own ends--exploiting them, as some might say. Those ends have little to do with the wording of the referendum question. For one, the referendum is timed to create the largest impact on turnout: Originally scheduled by the State Senate to drive up conservative turnout in the September primary, by the time the Assembly got a hold of the measure, Scott Walker had dropped out, leaving no top-ticket Republican race in the primary. So the Assembly changed the date to November, figuring higher conservative turnout then couldn't hurt.

The people behind this were also hoping the timing would correspond neatly to the trial of Steven Avery, a trial that has been delayed by developments since the legislature's setting of the measure. As originally conceieved by supporters, the ballot question would have asked about multiple murders (as reflected in some of the initial official analysis), but after Avery allegedly murdered his single victim--and his case became very high profile--that changed, too. The supporters, again, used what they had for the greatest political gain.

And it's clear this week that regardless of the actual wording of the referendum, supporters in the legislature will do whatever they want, anyway. Renee Crawford points us to an article in Sunday's Wisconsin State Journal where the lead sponsor of the referendum makes it clear (my emphasis):
Sen. Alan Lasee, R-De Pere, the referendum's lead sponsor, cautioned against reading too much into the resolution's wording.

Lasee said the ballot question with its DNA clause is meant to poll voters on a general concept--how would they feel about the death penalty if safeguards could be built in to avoid convicting innocent people? It has never been his intent to limit the death penalty to convictions involving DNA evidence, he said.

He included the DNA clause to defang opponents. "It was my hope that this would dispel some of the fence-sitters from saying that the sky is falling and that someone is going to be wrongly convicted," he said.

Asked how seriously voters should take the resolution's language, Lasee said, "Voters can read into or out of it whatever they want. The bottom line is, 'Should the death penalty be reinstated, with or without DNA testing?'"
(Aside to John McAdams: You sound a little bloodthirsty in that article, too.)

I don't think I'm being too cynical here; it's pretty clear that the sponsors of this referendum don't actually care that much about justice, about the value of human life, or, for that matter, the intelligence of the voters themselves. Regardless of whether or not you are willing to sanction state-sponsored killing, you should be insulted by this. This state was pretty forward-looking to have abolished the death penalty back in 1853--150 years before the recent round of moratoriums. But that doesn't mean a thing to the reactionaries running the legislature. So tell them how much they are wrong, and vote no on November 7.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The Michael J. Fox ad, and reactions



I acually had the Fox ad for Missouri Democratic Senate candidate Claire McCaskill bookmarked, and I was going to post it, and ask if Fox might make one for Doyle. Well, he did--and before I got to my post.

You can't watch it without being moved. And it's not, contra Mark Green and Republican apologist Fred, dishonest. The ad declares that Green has voted to oppose embryonic stem-cell research. Which he has. Which he will do as governor--not vote against, of course, but not support in the way that Jim Doyle will, and has. Breakthroughs may not come in time to save Fox--adult stem cells are curing diseases now with a 20-plus year head start--but stifling the potential guarantees no cures will come.

Elsewhere in the Right Cheddarsphere, Michael James Caughill recognizes that the issue is legitimate, and, while lamenting the ad's effectiveness, doesn't think it hits below the belt. Jessica McBride, on the other hand, calls the ad "exploitive". Michael J. Fox, of his own free will and because he believes in a cause, makes an ad (several, actually, in key races--McBride throws out "copycat"), and he's being "exploited."

What's funny, then, is that McBride then launches into a tirade about "double standards":
The subtext is: That mean Mark Green/Jim Talent don't want Michael J. Fox to be cured! Mark Green could go get some Parkinson's afflicted guy who can hardly talk and who disagrees with embryonic stem cell research, I suppose. But then the media would say they were being exploitative.

The media never call the Democrats on it. If George Bush so much as runs a snippet of footage from 9/11, and they are all over him for that (not to mention if they air an ad about a law enforcement officer slain after a crime lab delay). Democrats are allowed to be as exploitative as they want. [. . .] Just check out the spokespeople adopted by the Democrats for various causes:

Cindy Sheehan = Iraq war.
Jersey Girls = Pre 9/11 intelligence failures.
Max Cleland = Iraq war.
Chris Reeve = stem cells.
Patty Wetterling (famous mother of a missing child who is running for Senate in Minnesota) = Foley.
They even have a Democratic candidate for Congress in Illinois who lost both legs in Iraq.
Yep, that's us Democrats . . . if only we'd had an orphaned quadriplegic deaf-mute gay leper, we would have run him instead of Tammy Duckworth, what with the exponentially higher exploitation factor. Seriously, if McBride is holding on to evidence that any of the people she's listed were employed in the cause against their will, then she should come forward.

Also, I wonder where McBride was when Michael J. Fox was cutting ads for Republican Arlen Specter in 2004. My searching says . . . nowhere.

But my favorite response to these ads comes from Missouri expatriate Barbara O'Brien:
Actually, I’d say the Fox ad is less an argument for morality than a test of morality. If you see the ad and feel compassion for Fox, you pass. If you whine about how tasteless, unfair, exploitative, or illogical it is, you flunk.
McBride (and Fred, and some of the Game's commenters) all flunk, too. And to explain why, I recommend this other good Barbara O'Brien post--read it, and follow the links, too.

In the meantime, consider compassion. Remember it on November 7.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Music Monday: Remembering Pat Tillman

I spent the weekend away, so I'm just catching up on a bunch of things. I'll post some tonight if I can.

In the meantime, an interlude: One of the reasons I was away was to see Ellis Paul in Madison last night. As I often do, I requested "Kiss the Sun (A Song for Pat Tillman)," which Ellis wrote after correspondence with an Iraq War veteran. As you consider your vote on November 7, remember that Mark Green voted for the abomination that this war has become, and as a founding member of the Stay the Course Victory in Iraq Caucus, Mark Green has stood behind the death of every single US soldier since. He stood behind this administration, too, as they lied to use Pat Tillman's death for their own purposes. No one asks him about it in the debates, but there is blood on Mark Green's hands.
Kiss the Sun (A Song for Pat Tillman)
When I was nineteen
I joined up with the reserves
Fought on weekends
Paid my college tuition
But out in the killing fields
you come to question all you learn
Is peace a truth
a universal truth
or some man made superstition

(chorus)
I dreamt I ran through Kansas wheatfields
slept in the shadows,
where the Rockies kiss the sun, they kiss the sun
I dreamt I could hear freedom's sweep
in Martin Luther King's speeches (Lenny Bruce, Woody Guthrie)
Wasn't he reaching for the promise of America?

I heard Pat Tillman died
in the hills of Afghanistan
He came for justice
not for greed, not for ego
His truth came through the fog
like the hometeam's marching band
Are you a warrior, or a savior,
or the great American hero?
(chorus)

My wife, she's writing
the war's on CNN
"It looks pretty bad from here..."
"You should see it from my end -"
I'm just a sentinel
Just a sentinel
Fighting an oilman's war
And I need to know, I need to know
Is that what Pat Tillman died for?
(chorus)
(Lyrics | iTunes)

As a companion piece to that, consider this letter by Pat Tillman's brother Kevin (via Michael J. Mathias):
It is Pat’s birthday on November 6, and elections are the day after. It gets me thinking about a conversation I had with Pat before we joined the military. He spoke about the risks with signing the papers. How once we committed, we were at the mercy of the American leadership and the American people. How we could be thrown in a direction not of our volition. How fighting as a soldier would leave us without a voice… until we got out.

Much has happened since we handed over our voice:

Somehow we were sent to invade a nation because it was a direct threat to the American people, or to the world, or harbored terrorists, or was involved in the September 11 attacks, or received weapons-grade uranium from Niger, or had mobile weapons labs, or WMD, or had a need to be liberated, or we needed to establish a democracy, or stop an insurgency, or stop a civil war we created that can’t be called a civil war even though it is. Something like that.

Somehow our elected leaders were subverting international law and humanity by setting up secret prisons around the world, secretly kidnapping people, secretly holding them indefinitely, secretly not charging them with anything, secretly torturing them. Somehow that overt policy of torture became the fault of a few “bad apples” in the military.

Somehow back at home, support for the soldiers meant having a five-year-old kindergartener scribble a picture with crayons and send it overseas, or slapping stickers on cars, or lobbying Congress for an extra pad in a helmet. It’s interesting that a soldier on his third or fourth tour should care about a drawing from a five-year-old; or a faded sticker on a car as his friends die around him; or an extra pad in a helmet, as if it will protect him when an IED throws his vehicle 50 feet into the air as his body comes apart and his skin melts to the seat.

Somehow the more soldiers that die, the more legitimate the illegal invasion becomes.

Somehow American leadership, whose only credit is lying to its people and illegally invading a nation, has been allowed to steal the courage, virtue and honor of its soldiers on the ground.

Somehow those afraid to fight an illegal invasion decades ago are allowed to send soldiers to die for an illegal invasion they started.

Somehow faking character, virtue and strength is tolerated.

Somehow profiting from tragedy and horror is tolerated.

Somehow the death of tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of people is tolerated.

Somehow subversion of the Bill of Rights and The Constitution is tolerated.

Somehow suspension of Habeas Corpus is supposed to keep this country safe.

Somehow torture is tolerated.

Somehow lying is tolerated.

Somehow reason is being discarded for faith, dogma, and nonsense.

Somehow American leadership managed to create a more dangerous world.

Somehow a narrative is more important than reality.

Somehow America has become a country that projects everything that it is not and condemns everything that it is.

Somehow the most reasonable, trusted and respected country in the world has become one of the most irrational, belligerent, feared, and distrusted countries in the world.

Somehow being politically informed, diligent, and skeptical has been replaced by apathy through active ignorance.

Somehow the same incompetent, narcissistic, virtueless, vacuous, malicious criminals are still in charge of this country.

Somehow this is tolerated.

Somehow nobody is accountable for this.

In a democracy, the policy of the leaders is the policy of the people. So don’t be shocked when our grandkids bury much of this generation as traitors to the nation, to the world and to humanity. Most likely, they will come to know that “somehow” was nurtured by fear, insecurity and indifference, leaving the country vulnerable to unchecked, unchallenged parasites.

Luckily this country is still a democracy. People still have a voice. People still can take action. It can start after Pat’s birthday.
Remember this November 7.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Blogger Ethics

I got the same info that Scott got, and I've also declined to publish it. But Scott is right in raising the issue as a hypothetical: When a candidate makes a big deal about his morality, but is hiding a personal history that is not just youthfully indiscretionate, but morally repugnant, where do you draw the line?

Here's a different example: Gretchen Schuldt, whose blog I quite enjoy, has been hitting Tom Reynolds about his home electric bills, and how he may be paying them from campaign funds. (Tom Reynolds is not the candidate Scott and I got dirt on.) I haven't touched that, either, since, crazy as Tom Reynolds is (video here), that's not an issue that I see as a winner for our side. In fact, I think now that it's on TV, it makes the campaign against Reynolds look kind of, well, petty.

Dave Diamond, in fact, asks why Reynolds's action is different from what Bryan Kennedy is doing. (For the record, I think the big difference is the level of documentation Kennedy's done that Reynolds, apparently, hasn't.)

I've struggled with how to cover legislative races on this blog, and while I want to do everything I can to help elect Jim Sullivan over that nut Reynolds, I don't feel right about doing it on anything of lesser substance. On the other hand, Reynolds is Gretchen's state senator, and she has a much more personal stake in that election than I do, and I can't really begrudge her the right to wage that battle the way she wants to.

Republicans and conservative bloggers this year have not at all been afraid to play really, really dirty, either--much dirtier than anything Gretchen's done. (The SSDC memo is a good example--Republicans got their hands on it June, but leaked it to bloggers this week, and waited until the bloggers leaked it to file a state elections board complaint. Dirty.) But I think I have a line I'm not interested in crossing. I don't know if you all like that about me, or if you have never given it a thought, but, well, there it is.

Where's your line? Is my line in the wrong place? Talk to me about this.

WI-05: Race Profile, and Kennedy's Defense of the Middle Class

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel this morning, in its series of profiles of the local races, offers a shallow but accurate look at the 5th CD race. The story hits only two issues--immigration and the war in Iraq--and doesn't get into any of the things that should really matter to the voters in the 5th, things like F. jim Sensenbrenner's jet-setting on the dime of lobbyists or the other things that led Rolling Stone to call him the country's second-worst member of Congress.

The article also doesn't bring up what Laurel Walker did the other day--the history F. Jim has with Green candidate Bob Levis (photo here).

It also doesn't bring up that which the paper's two self-styled muckrakers think is important--that Bryan Kenney isn't rich like Sensenbrenner. I almost laughed aloud, in fact, reading this line:
Describing his critics as "elitists," Sensenbrenner said most people in southeastern Wisconsin want to combat illegal immigration through tougher controls on America's borders.
Elitist? I'm sorry, but Bryan Kennedy doesn't have an elitist bone in his body. I think F. Jim's got a case of pot-kettle syndrome.

That race profile is buried on page B6; however, today the paper has also run on its op-ed page a brief essay by Kennedy where he defends his campaign and explains why you don't see many middle-class folk like him running for Congress:
Polls have shown that Congress has never been so unpopular with the people it's supposed to represent [16% approval--ed.]. There's a simple reason for this disconnect: Congress isn't made up of normal Americans like you and me. We have a system "of, by and for the rich." Middle-class people are systematically discouraged from running for office.

Teachers, carpenters and Wal-Mart employees are unlikely to socialize in wealthy circles, which makes fund raising more difficult. In addition, the major political parties favor wealthy candidates who can finance their own campaigns.

The result of these realities is that the middle class is terribly underrepresented in the halls of power. Every election, we send the wealthy to Congress and expect them to fight for us. Some of them do. Most don't because they simply don't know how. That is why we need more middle-class voices in Congress.

Middle-class voices are stifled by millions of dollars from lobbyists and huge corporations. If we want to get anything else done, we have to remove the special interest money and corruption from our government first. I believe that middle-class people are better able to understand the problems most Americans face and that middle-class people will do a better job of fighting for the interests of average Americans.
I have a problem with Bryan's using disconnect as a noun, but I suspect that the other side of the Cheddarsphere will be most offended by normal. But I defy anyone to explain to me how F. Jim, his extemist policies, or his behavior of late is even close to normal. It's not--he's not. A Bryan Kennedy win in a couple weeks would be a victory for normalcy and sanity. Let's see if we can't make it happen.

Friday Random Ten

The arena football is coming back to Milwaukee! Edition

1. "The Captain" Kasey Chambers from The Captain
2. "Anything With Wings" Carrie Newcomer from Bare to the Bone
3. "How Long?" The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band from Acoustic
4. "Superhero Soup" the Nields from 'Mousse
5. "The Burren" Don Conoscenti from Extremely Live
6. "Voice of Harold" R.E.M. from Dead Letter Office
7. "Happytown (All Right with Me)" Dave Carter and Tracy Grammer from Tanglewood Tree
8. "Van Diemen's Land" U2 from Rattle and Hum
9. "Born at the Right Time" Paul Simon from Rhythm of the Saints
10. "The Needle and the Damage Done" Neil Young from Harvest

Thursday, October 19, 2006

ScandalGate

I wasn't going to write much about the leaking of the State Senate Democratic Campaign Committee's draft strategy memos to conservative bloggers, mostly because one, there's nothing in them that surprised me, and two, I don't want to give any credibility to the Right Cheddarsphereans who are shocked--just shocked!--that such a document exists, and that the party committee recognizes that it has allies among independent groups. (Like there isn't a GOP memo just like it somewhere, with WMC and Pro-Life WI and Julaine Appling in it.)

And then I read this:
Elections Board lawyer George Dunst said that at first glance, the relationship between the Democrats and outside groups appeared legal.
Dunst, if you recall, is the guy who gave Mark Green the go-ahead to violate state and federal laws by transferring money from his congressional campaign account to his state account.

We're so screwed.

We're Number Two!

F. Jim Sensenbrenner is so bad at what he does, he can't even manage to win the title of Worst Congressman. No, he clocks in at a sad number two:
No politician better embodies the zealotry of the 109th Congress than Sensenbrenner, chairman of the powerful House Judiciary Committee. His solution to hot-button issues is always the same: Lock 'em up. Sensenbrenner has proposed legislation that would turn 12 million undocumented immigrants into felons, subject any adult selling a joint to a teenager to at least ten years in prison, and incarcerate college kids for failing to narc on their hallmates. He also wants to prosecute anyone who utters an obscenity on the air. Big fines just aren't tough enough for indecent broadcasts: As Sensenbrenner told a group of cable executives last year, "I'd prefer using the criminal process rather than the regulatory process."

In addition to his assault on free speech, Sensenbrenner has also played a major role in curtailing civil liberties. He was the lead House sponsor of the Patriot Act, which gives the government broad powers to spy on Americans. Although the measure was intended to stop terrorists, Sensenbrenner insists it should also be used in routine criminal cases.

Sensenbrenner's iron-fisted rule of the judiciary committee was on nationwide display last year during a televised debate over reauthorization of the Patriot Act. When Democrats began discussing the treatment of detainees at Guantanamo, the chairman abruptly ended the meeting and cut off their microphones. When Democrats refused to leave the room, Sensenbrenner's staff pulled the plug on C-Span and turned out the lights. As The Daily Show host Jon Stewart put it, "He literally took his gavel and went home." [. . .]

He also enjoys the perks of office: No congressman has racked up more frequent-flier miles on junkets sponsored by corporate lobbyists. While he was enjoying the good life last year, Sensenbrenner took time out to make life tougher on working families, winning approval for a bill that makes it harder for Americans overwhelmed by debt to declare bankruptcy. The congressman refused to consider an exemption from the bill's restrictions for victims of Hurricane Katrina -- and even voted against the aid package designed to help them recover from the disaster.
Number one is one of our FLIB neighbors, Denny Hastert, in part because of the way he abused his earmarking authority to line his pockets. Which raises a question for some of my regular commenters here who enjoy smearing Harry Reid for such innocuous things as forming an LLC with a friend. Media Matters documented yesterday the way the media seems to have covered up for Hastert and his deal, though he clearly violated ethical guidelines (if not the law) to a far greater extent than Harry Reid ever did. New Rule: You want to criticize Reid? First call out the bigger sinner in your own party.

Two more links: Read the Rolling Stone cover story on this Congress and what makes it so bad, and then go show Bryan Kennedy, Sensenbrenner's opponent, some love.

Doyle breaks 50% in a poll

Via the UW Dems, I see that the last pre-election poll from WPR/St. Norbert College is out, and Jim Doyle looks good in the head-to-head:
The poll was conducted by Wisconsin Public Radio and the St. Norbert College Survey Center and showed that 51% of respondents said they would likely vote for Doyle, compared with 38% who favored Green. Green Party candidate Nelson Eisman was the choice of 1% of respondents, 4% favored another candidate and the rest weren't sure.

The telephone poll surveyed 400 likely Wisconsin voters from Oct. 9 to 16 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percentage points. [. . .] The random sample also included more Democrats than Republicans, [poll director Wendy] Scattergood said.
The possible oversampling of Dems slightly worries me. However, I haven't seen any polling on self-identification in the state lately; the results of the primary in September showed more Dem turnout, and the national trend of late is for more people to self-identify as Democrats. They may just be accounting for those factors. And I found this explanation compelling:
Scattergood said that in the St. Norbert survey, participants have their phone numbers randomly drawn by computer, and they are asked if they are likely to vote in the election. If not, the interview is ended.

She said the latest poll came out with a slightly higher percentage of Democrats in the sample, which could have some effect on the results but might show some Republicans weren't as definite about voting when they were contacted.

"Maybe they're a little bit disaffected and more likely to be staying home," she said. "If that's the case when we're contacting people and saying how likely are you to vote, they may be saying they're less likely." But that won't be known until Election Day, she said.
Moreover, this news reinforces what I've been saying all along: Mark Green just isn't pushing Jim Doyle below the same approximate level he's been at for more than a year. While this is the first time I've seen Doyle over 50% in a head-to-head, there's no question that the results match what we've basically been seeing in the race. (Also, as of this morning, pollster.com hadn't included this poll, so I expect to see the five-poll average inching back up for Doyle.)

Other results from the poll (here's the memo): Kathy Falk is up on JB Van Hollen, 44-38. The anti-gay-marriage-and-civil-unions-and-any-other-substantially-similar-legal-arrangement amendment is passing 51-44 (c'mon, people!). And, perhaps most surprising, the death penalty advisory referendum is up just 50-45; I've been dreading that it would pass easily, but that's really quite encouraging.

No doubt there will be more polls before the important one on November 7. Until then, you can still help Doyle and Falk and the other deserving candidates through their own sites (see the sidebar) or through my ActBlue page.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Spice Boys: Right on Schedule

As I predicted last week, Spivak and Bice continue their quest to dirty up the campaign of Bryan Kennedy. This morning, they break--well, no, I did that--pimp the news that Bryan pays his babysitter.

Perhaps I should let Bryan respond himself; he wrote to Journal Sentinel columnist Mike Nichols yesterday after Nichols repeated the Spice Boys' earlier smear attempts regarding the stipend Bryan's been paying himself, and Nichols put it on the web for us:
As I see it, our representative democracy has 3 options:

1. Middle-class people don't run. We continue with the same oligarchy that we have traditionally had because middle class people don't have family fortunes to fund unpaid leaves of absence to campaign full-time. (We can see what government of, by and for the rich has given us).

2. I continue to work at my state teaching post and state taxpayers support my family and me while I run for office. After all, that is what Jim Sensenbrenner has done. With the exception of his first campaign when his mother supported him from his vast family fortune while he campaigned full-time, every subsequent election has seen Jim Sensenbrenner draw a state or federal paycheck while he campaigns full-time.

3. I draw a salary that is less than my university salary (basically enough to make the mortgage, car pymt, student loan pymt, utilities and essentials) from money that has been donated by people who want to see me win.

It seems to me that no middle-class voices in politics does not serve us well as a people. Given the choice between being supported by state tax dollars or from voluntary contributions, most taxpayers would choose the campaign salary.

Respectfully,

Bryan Kennedy

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The Truth Hurts

A couple of months ago, the Jim Doyle campaign started running an ad ("Stands," link opens in Flash video) claiming Mark Green votes with President Bush 92% of the time. Yesterday's paper ran a story saying that wasn't true; Green's average was closer to 90% and the study Doyle used was actually about how often Green voted with the majority of his Republican Party colleagues--a slightly different animal.

But the page-one headline, and accompanying story, was indeed about Green's support for Bush 90% of the time. In fact, the graphic that went with the story showed that Green was the most reliable Bush supporter from Wisconsin's delegation, voting with Bush more often than his peers four out of the last five years--and above the Republican average for those same four out of five years.

This seems to have touched a nerve, starting with someone whom I will not name on a blog I will not link to. He wrote,
Doyle is a lap dog to WEAC and the Indian Casinos, but the MJS cant find time to talk about that can they? Its times like these that remind me why the alternative media such as blogs sprung up in the first place.

So you people over at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel when are we going to see the Headline

"Doyle votes with WEAC and the Indian Casinos 100% of the time"?
The kicker, of course, is that Doyle doesn't support the WEAC or casino line 100% of the time. As a WEAC member, I can think of a number of Doyle decisions that I personally and my union both disagreed with--notably his 2003-2005 budget and the "compromise" last spring on expanding the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program's vouchers. (Doyle, as I documented at the time, had been agitating for a similar compromise for some time.) Do I (and WEAC) still support Doyle? You bet, given what Mark Green has promised to do to public education in this state.

But it's odd how much the headline--"Green backs Bush on 90% of votes"--has raised the hackles. Why would Republicans be ashamed to have it known that Green supports Bush so much? Why is the response to a front-page headline that states a fact--one that, normally, a Republican Congressman might be proud of--so visceral and angry? (Fred calls the WEAC/ casino argument "brilliant," for example.)

I think the problem is that the truth hurts. Given the fallout from the Mark Foley scandal, Bush may no longer be the least popular Republican in the country, but the chart on the right shows how decidedly unpopular he is. In Wisconsin, Bush had (last month) a 39% approval rating to a 59% disapproval rating. [UPDATE: The October numbers are just out, and they put Bush at 36-62!]

In the end, I'd welcome the kind of comparison Fred calls brilliant. If this election were held in a vacuum, and you asked voters to support either the man endorsed by Wisconsin's teachers or the man endorsed by President Bush, Doyle would win in a landslide. Wisconsin's teachers have a mind-blowing 77% approval rating.

So I say, bring it. Let's see that headline in the paper. Mark Green, make your commercials about how Doyle supports teachers and our public schools. Please.

Monday, October 16, 2006

[Blank] Jobs

You can fill in the blank.

A couple things struck me reading this morning's relatively in-depth article on the economic development platforms of Governor Jim Doyle and Mark Green. One, if Green is elected, he had better hope that Democrats take back the legislature, because his ideas won't get past those Republicans:
Green's goal would be to reduce the number of economic development programs to 10 or fewer. Doyle's most recent budget proposal, for 2005-'07, included a plan to restructure the Wisconsin Development Fund, which would have eliminated several inactive and outdated programs. The Legislature did not include that restructuring plan in the final budget bill. [. . .]

A current state tax credit for "angel investors," who provide funds for start-up companies, would be expanded from $6.5 million annually to $20 million, Green said. It was Doyle who started tax credits for angel investors as part of his "Grow Wisconsin" agenda. Doyle wanted to offer $10 million in credits annually. The Republican-controlled Legislature scaled it back to $6.5 million a year.

Also, Doyle's 2005-'07 budget expanded a program that provides tax credits to businesses expanding or locating in areas known as "enterprise development zones." The $243 million program was created in 1995, and $123 million in credits had been used by 2005. But the remaining $120 million in credits couldn't be used in recent years because of a limit on the number of development zones in Wisconsin. Doyle used his veto power to lift that cap. [. . .]

Green said states can pay too much to attract new jobs. But, he said, such incentives packages can be good investments based on the number of family-supporting jobs they help attract. [. . .] Doyle last year proposed $2.5 million in annual state grants for businesses moving to Wisconsin's border counties from other states. The Legislature did not approve that program.
Got it? Green wants to recycle a whole slew of Doyle's old ideas, ideas that in many cases were shot down by the very people now out campaigning for Green.

But what struck me even more in reading this is the extent to which the governor is expected to meddle in the process of development--an expectation that can only lead to a damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don't situation for anyone in that office. We already know, for example, that a tremendous double-standard exists for Gov. Doyle: If, for example, Doyle had leaned on the DNR about that whole Menard's flap, he would have been tagged as bending the rules for big campaign donors. Instead, he stayed out of it, Menard's built elsewhere (which probably had little to do with DNR anyway), and Doyle got tagged for not being aggressive enough in pursuing them.

Green, in this morning's article, trots out Honda. As we have discussed before, Honda was not coming to Wisconsin, no matter what we might have said or done. It wouldn't have made a lick of sense, and besides, the paper today tells us what it might have cost us:
For Honda, Indiana is providing $141.5 million in state and local incentives - or $70,750 for each job created. That amount includes money for future roads and other public improvements to accommodate additional commercial and residential growth tied to the Honda plant.
That's got to be more than the annual salary of those workers. Given how far away from scoring the plant Wisconsin actually was, can you imagine how much more it might have cost us? Is it, at those kind of numbers, worth it?

And here's the damned-either-way part: Had Doyle promised, say, $100,000 per worker in your tax money to subsidze the Honda plant, would he--could he--have gotten away with it? And what if there were campaign donations involved?

There are a whole lot of people who make good money complaining that neither political party is worth anything. Even the paper, in another of its annoying "kids, play nice" editorials, bemoans the lack of a focus on issues in this campaign. (They need a bit of a heal thyself moment.) But here we have a solid study on the issues, with seemingly no recognition that the whole concept--governors personally inserting themselves into the commerce of the state--invites at the very least the appearance of corruption, and at worst, a culture of actual corruption and putting business interests above those of the people, the environment, and the well being of the state.

And the irony is, that after all the negative press Mark Green has been able to stir up about Jim Doyle, Green's own plan--the part he hasn't stolen from Doyle--puts him even deeper into the mess:
Green would replace the Department of Commerce, the state's main agency overseeing economic development efforts, with a new public-private agency, called the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. That agency would be led by a non-partisan board, chaired by Green, made up of industry, labor and University of Wisconsin System leaders.

The new agency would be more flexible than the Commerce Department and able to respond more quickly to changing business conditions, Green said. Having the governor lead the agency would create a more visible contact for businesses seeking economic development help, he said.
Not that I want Green to win, but if he does, I can't wait for the first time this new agency meets, Green firmly at the helm, and a business with $10k or $20k or $50k of donations to Green sitting across from him, asking for handouts. Middleman eliminated, Green would do a true job on the state of Wisconsin.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Friday Random Ten

The Friday the 13th Edition
Boo!

1. "Lovers in a Dangerous Time" Bruce Cockburn from Anything Anytime Anywhere
2. "Revenge" Whiskeytown from Faithless Street
3. "Girl" Rhett Miller from This Bird Has Flown
4. "Bigger Than My Body" John Mayer from Heavier Things
5. "Promise Me" Lucy Kaplansky from Ten Year Night
6. "Tea Tale" Sons of the Never Wrong from Nuthatch Suite
7. "The Ballad of Me and Jones" Chuck Brodsky from Tulips for Lunch
8. "That's My Dad" JohnSmith from To the Four Directions
9. "The Love Letter" Carrie Newcomer from The Bird or the Wing
10. "Don't Fix My Faucet" Kate McDonell from Next

Thursday, October 12, 2006

WI-05: F. Jim's running scared, with lapdog help

I don't remember when the last time F. Jim Sensenbrenner faced a credible opponent. He may not, either, for that matter. But consider the facts:
  • Bryan Kennedy has raised more money than any previous opponent (you can still add to that).
  • A recent poll (why was there no good press about this?) shows that
    • Half (49%) of all WI-05 voters feel things in the country are off on the wrong track.
    • Democrats have gained 13% in self identified partisanship since 2004, with Republicans holding a much smaller 45% to 35% advantage than they held two years ago.
    • Only half of the district rates Sensenbrenner positively by half (49%) of all voters, which is a twelve point drop in his personal favorability ratings since 2004.
    • Sensenbrenner’s negative job performance rating is 46% negative.
    • In informed trial heats, Kennedy pulls within striking distance (Kennedy 41%, Sensenbrenner 51%) and closes the gap even further to 41% to 49% in a re-test of the trial heat after the voters hear a series of messages against Sensenbrenner.
    • Forty percent of Sensenbrenner’s support is weak and vulnerable.
  • Sensenbrenner has massively increased the time he's spent in the district, including agreeing to debate his opponent(s) for the first time in my memory, at least.
  • The power-licking Spivak and Bice, of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, have been pursuing Kennedy not for his policy positions--which by far represent those of the general public better than F. Jim's--but rather because Bryan is not a millionaire, like some Congressmen I could name, and actually put his family into debt in 2004 doing what he's doing now.
First it was the fact that Bryan couldn't afford to feed his children if he didn't pay himself a salary. Now comes a story to me from a reliable source that after last night's candidate forum, the Spice Boys--who skipped the debate itself--grilled Kennedy about why his campaign would be paying for child care.

Well, um, because it's legal, and necessary. When Kennedy and his wife were both working--Bryan's on leave from his professorship at UWM to, you know, run for Congress--they were able to arrange their schedules to minimize child care needs. Now, with Kennedy's irregular (and 22-hour-a-day or so) campaign schedule, it's just not possible.

And part of what put the Kennedys in debt last time around was making sure someone responsible watched the kids. Maybe people whose fortunes were made in tampons don't need help running for Congress, but we mere mortals do.

Again, this is all legal--and a necessary recourse for candidates of modest means. Kennedy's campaign has, from what I understand, checked repeatedly with the FEC for guidance on this, and they've given the okay.

And yet, for the Spice Boys, this is the stuff of juicy gossip columns. This is what makes headlines. This is what is worth writing up, not any of the things worth really talking about. Not Sensenbrenner's lobbyist-paid travel habits, meddling ex parte in federal criminal cases, foul treatment of committee witnesses and constituents.

How scared must Sensenbrenner, and the lapdogs willing to sniff every low place for a story, be about Kennedy's chances November 7, that they've hit the sleaze sauce so hard?

Rick Esenberg and the ADF

A follow-up to something I mentioned yesterday: Rick Esenberg has clarified his relationship to the Alliance Defense Fund:
First, I do not work for ADF and I will not take upon myself the burden of agreeing with every position taken by every client they represent if for no other reason that I am not aware of them. What I do with ADF is consider referrals from them of pro bono work. I was asked to blog on a law blog they have created. This does not mean that I become involved in everything they do or that they consult with me on anything they do. I think ADF is a fine organization that provides excellent legal representation to religious conservatives (on lots of issues that have nothing to do with gays and lesbians), but Rick is not ADF and ADF is not Rick.
Thanks to Rick for explaining his role; as I noted, given the paucity of appearances of his name on ADF's website, it seemed unlikely that the connection was strong.

However, Rick goes on in that post to say this, about the ADF and the possible consequences of the language in the second sentence of the anti-gay-marriage-and-civil-unions-and-any-other-substantially-similar-legal-arrangement amendment:
As to what position ADF will take on domestic partner benefits, I don't know. I think the question is too imprecise to even hazard a guess. I do know that they have taken the position that reciprocal benefit schemes are OK. What they are hinky about (and, I think, rightly so) is in creating statuses that are "marriage lite." They don't mind people sharing benefits (as long as its not part of a status like marriage) or entering into agreements under which they may assume certain obligations toward another.

My opinion, after thinking a lot since I first blogged about it in March, is that the amendment would not prohibit an employer from saying that you can designate another person to share your health insurance. I can't tell you whether people employed by ADF would agree. They are smart guys and girls and form their own opinions.
That completely doesn't square with reality; in the post I linked to yesterday, Joshua Freker documents that time after time the ADF has gone after partner benefits, both in Wisconsin and around the country. Neither Josh nor Rick distinguishes that these challenges seem to be of public employees' benefits, not the private sector; but as a public employee (Milwaukee Public Schools), I can tell you that I don't want the ADF meddling in what my employer can and can't do, the way they tried to in Madison. And ADF-affiliated attorneys have challenged more than just bennies, up to and including domestic violence protections.

These are not abstract "Oh, gee, I don't know what would happen" sort of questions. Rick Esenberg, too, is a smart man and a smart enough attorney to know precedent when he sees it. He's waffling when he says he doesn't know what ADF might do. And his defense--that the ACLU might sue demanding recognition of same-sex marriage without the amendment--is not enough to cover that waffling.

The New Harry Reid Smear

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid made a profit from a land sale--and not even land that he used his leadership position to influence the value of, just regular old land.

Reid informed the Senate Ethics Committee about it, and didn't hide anything in his paperwork filed with the state of Nevada. His only possible violation of anything was that he didn't distinguish for the Ethics Committee that for the last half of his ownership of the land, he held it in a limited liability corproation (LLC) instead of as an individual.

The "story" was broken by the same Associated Press reporter who blew the boxing credentials story and lied about a Reid-Abramoff connection. There's also no fire in this new story--barely any smoke.

And yet our local righties have jumped on the story, demanding that we Democrats--who have taken stands against Congressional leaders covering up for sex predators in their ranks--call for Reid's resignation. Owen doesn't explicitly, but implies that it was Reid's status that earned him such profit. But Fraley calls on Dems to demand the resignation, as does Fred. The Game goes further, apparently applying that law degree he earned overnight to say, "Here is a story of actual corruption, actual breaking the law." What law? The law that public servants can't legitimately make a profit? I thought the Republican party was all about profit.

It's also, apparently, all about smears.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Don Holt Writes a Letter

October 7, 2006

Sheriff David A. Clarke
Re: Debate Challenge

Dear Sheriff Clarke:

Because the sheriff’s election is very important, the citizens of Milwaukee County deserve the courtesy of hearing, first hand, the fundamental differences and values that separate us. Don’t you agree? For this reason I challenge you to debate the issues.

The public has the right to know the status of some very serious issues.

The facts are:
  • You do not believe strongly in traffic enforcement, but rather voluntary compliance and have cut the patrol strength during the largest highway reconstruction project in Wisconsin’s history. Also, the freeway revenue is down.

  • Your booking process has required that detainees often spend over 30 hours waiting to be processed.

  • You discontinued park patrols and, without respect for input from the Milwaukee and suburban chiefs of police, you TOLD them they “will patrol the parks”.

  • Although you are a member of Milwaukee County Law Enforcement Executives Association (MCLEEA) you have not met with them in nearly over a year. The exchange of information by this group of professionals is key to county-wide law enforcement planning.

  • You proclaim to be “hard on crime” yet cannot site any example were you have made improvements in the last 4 years. In fact during the 4th Street Forum on 10-05-06 you admitted that we are worse off now than 4 years ago – “backsliding” – your own word!

  • You have cut DARE and TABS. During a debate moderated by Eric Von on WMCS you justified pulling out of the TABS program by citing some obscure study out of Washington D.C saying the TABS program was ineffective. It seems it was not the program that was ineffective but rather the management of the program as Racine’s TABS program reduced the truancy rate in their schools from 21.7% down to 9%

  • Many of your disciplinary actions and promotional practices have been challenged and overturned. You have retaliated against your employees for exercising their right to free speech. This has markedly affected morale.

  • You have touted the fact that you have had budget surpluses over the past several years. It appears that you are inflating your budget in order to show a return at the end of the year for political purposes. It is also noted that from 2004 to the current proposed 2007 budget there is a loss of total revenues of over FIVE MILLION DOLLARS. The citizens of Milwaukee County need to know why.

  • You have pretended to be tough on crime while pulling your personnel out of all interagency drug and crime fighting initiatives.
AND perhaps the greatest difference between us is ethical.
  • You have illegally used department funds to put your name on billboards during your last campaign.

  • You are illegally using your county owned vehicle, purchased with asset forfeiture funds, for personal and political purposes. (A complaint is pending before the Milwaukee County Ethics Board on this issue).

  • You have a double standard. You violate your own policies by wearing your uniform and firearm while serving alcoholic beverages.

  • You wore your weapon into an area of the jail where this is prohibited. You recently escorted a dangerous prisoner into the jail wearing your sidearm. This transgression was especially serious due to the past history of the prisoner – truly a foolish action.
I challenge you, David Clarke, to a live debate on radio and on T.V. The media times and dates are to be mutually agreed to.

Respectfully,
Don Holt
holt-dr@sbcglobal.net
cc: Milwaukee Media

Midweek Miscellany

  • I have parent-teacher conferences tonight, so I won't make it to Drinking Liberally. But don't let that stop you!

  • WisPolitics is having a contest!

  • Some light reading on the Menard's flap: Seth and Cory tell us that just knowing Menard's is building in Iowa and Ohio doesn't tell you the whole story.

  • If indeed Democrats do take control of the House of Representatives after this November's elections, according to Chris Bowers, it will be the first time since 1955 that the South has not controlled the House:
    The gains Democrats are making in this election are not the result of becoming more moderate. The gains Democrats are making in this election are not the result of doing a better job of talking to "values voters." The gains Democrats are making in this election are not coming from rebuking the party's liberal wing. The gains Democrats are making in this election are not coming from moving to the right on national security, immigration, or taxes. The gains Democrats are making in this election are not the result of recapturing "the Bubba vote." It is easy to tell that the Democratic gains in this election are not the result of any of those things, because Democrats have not done any of those things. We have, instead, built significantly improved political infrastructure, moved to the left, and rallied a broad, people-powered coalition against Republican extremism. [. . .] This will be the first post-Dixiecrat, post-Blue Dog, post-DLC, post-triangulation, post-moderation victory for Democrats in a long, long time.

  • Some more reading on North Korea: Josh Marshall provides a timeline and remids of us the salient fact: This is not Bill Clinton's fault:
    So Clinton strikes a deal to keep plutonium out of the North Koreans' hands. The deal keeps the plutonium out of reach for the last six years of Clinton's term and the first two of Bush's. Bush pulls out of the deal. Four years later a plutonium bomb explodes.
    Mixter asks, "Who was president in 2002?" I ask, at what point--2009? 2010?--does stuff start being the fault of the guy under whose watch this happened?

  • Among the scariest parts of the "Detainee Trials" bill passed a couple weeks back (and then buried under the Foleylanche) is the notion that, at his discretion, the president can declare anyone, even citizens of the United States, "ublawful combatants." You can be arrested for something as innocuous as donating to a non-profit, thrown in jail, and tortured. If it happened to Jose Padilla, it could happen to you:
    He stayed in a black hole, kept by his own government, for the next three-and-a-half-years with no charges of any kind ever asserted against him and with the administration insisting on the right to detain him (and any other American citizen) indefinitely--all based solely on the secret, unchallengeable say-so of the President.
    Even if you like George W. Bush, consider what President Hillary would do with that kind of power, the decide if you want that in the unsupervised and unchallengeable hands of one person.

  • A note about Blogads: I'm generally happy to take anoyone's money, of any stripe, if you want to support what I do or promote yourself. However, I did reject an ad this week--the first time I've done so--for JB Van Hollen. The ad was "Dems for JB," and I felt that anyone seeing the ad might mistake me as a Dem for JB. I am not; I support Kathleen Falk and, even though my influence is undoubtedly very small in the matter, will not do anything to give the impression that I think we should elect Van Hollen. I'm sure his money spends just like anyone else's, but I had to say no.

  • Yesterday, I wrote about how abusive and hostile the other side of the Cheddarsphere can be (my great sin, to be clear, was linking to someone else; that alone was enough to prompt a profane and childish explosion). One of the good guys, to me, has always been Rick Esenberg, who I don't think has a hostile or profane bone in his body. However, Fair Wisconsin's Joshua Freker Ferrets out something about Rick:
    The picture becomes clearer when we note that Esenberg has begun working with the Alliance Defense Fund, which has been at the forefront in pushing bans across the country. He contributes to their blog, Constitutionally Correct. [. . .] Esenberg works with an organization passionately opposed to providing gay families with any measure of fair treatment. So when he says that the Wisconsin ban wouldn't touch gay families' health care--when he offers an interpretation counter to the one put forth by ADF attorneys across the country--count me as deeply skeptical.

    If our ban passes, is Esenberg saying that ADF won't sue here? Or that he won't take part in such a suit? Somehow, I doubt it.
    Now, to be fair to Rick the connections I found Googling ADF's website for Rick's name are a little slim, but he is indeed attached to ADF in some ways. I think it is incumbent upon Rick to explain why ADF's history of pursuing cases based on the kind of weasel language our proposed amendment contains shouldn't make us wary of a "yes" vote. (Reminder: Vote no.)

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

To my readers: an apology, and a clarification

In my post last week about the proposal to arm teachers, I linked to a number of bloggers on the other side of the ideological divide who disagreed with me, with my premise that guns for teachers was indeed the Stupidest Idea Ever. I've turned off one of those links--redirected it to this post, in fact--because now, if you click through, you are greeted to a profanity-laden "update" insulting and demeaning you. (For a "bleeped" version of what it says now, check the end of this post at Playground Politics.)

So, gentle readers, if you clicked through and were greeted by that, I apologize. Clearly, that blogger's issues manifest themselves in hostile and really kind of scary diatribes (this is not our first run-in), and I'm sorry you had to see that.

I would also like to clarify: I never, ever link to people I disagree with in order to implicitly (or explicitly) direct you, gentle readers, to act badly towards them--abusive emails, nasty comments, etc.--since that is one behavior to which I will not stoop. I have no evidence that any of you have done such a thing; in any case, please don't provoke that blogger any further.

But you needn't worry now; I will not link to that particular blogger again.

A Quiz: Mark Green and Copyright Law

I promised you a quiz yesterday, remember? But today's quiz is not, sadly, on yesterday's assigned readings. Instead, it comes to us by way of the improbably named Snooglepoop, which asks, "Mark Green, felon?"

Go read the case Snooglepoop makes, and then answer the question (Mark Green, felon?). This is an essay question, but not timed. You will be graded on originality and--sorry, Chris--grammar and punctuation. Submit your answers in the comments below. And no cheating!

(Fred, you will lose points for talking photoshop.)

Monday, October 09, 2006

Monday Reading Assignments

There may be a quiz.
  • Dave Diamond gives us a statistics lesson, complete with pretty pictures.

  • The Brawler has a lesson on common sense; it seems that the last person you want to call a "bloodthirsty" lawyer is . . . a lawyer.

  • The Brawler also has a lesson in irony. It's hard to say what my favorite part is: That the person in question champions as meritorious blogs that are so patently offensive I can't stand to read them anymore, or that one blog she names as meritorious that is not on her blogroll is mine. Oh, or that she links to Little Green Footballs. That's good irony, too.

  • I'm hoping to do a longer piece on "All Children Matter" (working title: "I Can Thing of At Least Three Things Wrong With That Name"), but Xoff uses them in today's journalism lesson.

  • Josh Marshall is teaching history today, in advance of claims that Bill Clinton detonated the nuke in North Korea, or something.

  • There's also good history lessons available from Media Matters, who are tracking what the president calls "revisionist history" about the Mark Foley scandal. Glenn Greenwald and Georgia10 have more.

  • Kevin Drum has a basic lesson in economics for us: Buy Low, Sell High At A Rate Inflated By Your Meddling As Speaker Of The House.

  • And speaking of money, Billmon teaches us, in the wake of the Foley scandal, of the number one rule in politics and the mafia: Always the dollars.

  • A couple of lessons about F. Jim Sensenbrenner: One, he doesn't invest the way he preaches; Two, his beloved "fence" (the "Torilla Curtain," as it's being called) is probably nothing more than a cheap stunt.

  • Gretchen at Milwaukee Rising has story time about Tom Reynolds (the nutty Wisconsin one, not the one in New York who helped protect Mark Foley). She tells us about Reynolds's big money from the Wal*Mart heirs. But she leaves us hanging on the ending--all the support Reynolds gives back in return by voting for more private school vouchers (.pdf). It's what Sam would have wanted, I'm sure.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

McIlheran Watch: Is it OCD?

Or does Julaine Appling have compromising pictures?

There must be something to Patrick McIlheran's need to devote three Sunday columns in a row to the anti-gay-marriage-and-civil-unions-and-any-other-substantially-similar-legal-arrangement amendment. (Reminder: please vote no.)

Today's column is full of ridiculousness, but includes a paragraph or three on something I actually know something about, and I can tell you he's full of it. He writes,
We even have an example of gay marriage. Journalist Stanley Kurtz has written extensively on the Netherlands, blessed as recently as the mid-1990s with a low rate of out-of-wedlock childbearing. Then came a successful campaign for gay marriage. Unmarried childbearing, already rising a bit, did a hockey-stick bend upward. For eight years, it's outpaced the rest of western Europe.

This is mainly among opposite-sex couples, which shows how including gay couples changes the meaning for everyone. The change repurposed marriage away from bonding mothers, fathers and children, making it instead about a couple's love.

In which case, says Kurtz, why bother with the confining hassle of marrying? The law no longer prefers it. In fact, he says, more unmarried Dutch now say they're having children "as a test of their couplehood" - yet fewer ever marry. This inverts the purpose of marriage, making children an instrument to serve adults' emotional satisfactions.
Stanley Kurtz is a favorite among anti-gay-marriage people, as I learned during my very first "battle" as Iron Blogger Democrat (start at the bottom and read up), a battle I won handily on the subject of constitutionally prohibiting gay marriage. As it turns out, Kurtz's research on Scandanavian gay marriage--assuming he's not putting his partisan thumb on the scale--simply does not project at all onto the US. Here's one little bit that I wrote then:
His "study" of Scandinavian marriage was published in The Weekly Standard, not a peer-reviewed journal. He held anti-gay prejudices, based not in "science" but his own standards of morality (really, read some of his earlier writings), before he started. And there is no easy way to map the Scandinavian results onto this country, as the study shows that the easy availability of hetero- and homosexual civil unions undercut marriage; we do not have a history here of civil unions!
Indeed, I found opinion pieces of Kurtz's going back years before his "study" of Scandanavian gay marriage was undertaken. And I also found a piece from M.V. Lee Badgett at Slate about exactly this issue. Economist Badgett eviscerates the primary point McIlheran borrows from journalist Kurtz for his column. Here's just a taste:
The main evidence Kurtz points to is the increase in cohabitation rates among unmarried heterosexual couples and the increase in births to unmarried mothers. Roughly half of all children in Norway, Sweden, and Denmark are now born to unmarried parents. In Denmark, the number of cohabiting couples with children rose by 25 percent in the 1990s. From these statistics Kurtz concludes that " … married parenthood has become a minority phenomenon," and—surprise—he blames gay marriage.

But Kurtz's interpretation of the statistics is incorrect. Parenthood within marriage is still the norm—most cohabitating couples marry after they start having children. In Sweden, for instance, 70 percent of cohabiters wed after their first child is born. Indeed, in Scandinavia the majority of families with children are headed by married parents. In Denmark and Norway, roughly four out of five couples with children were married in 2003. In the Netherlands, a bit south of Scandinavia, 90 percent of heterosexual couples with kids are married. [. . .]

No matter how you slice the demographic data, rates of nonmarital births and cohabitation do not increase as a result of the passage of laws that give same-sex partners the right to registered partnership. To put it simply: Giving gay couples rights does not inexplicably cause heterosexuals to flee marriage, as Kurtz would have us believe. Looking at the long-term statistical trends, it seems clear that the changes in heterosexuals' marriage and parenting decisions would have occurred anyway, even in the absence of gay marriage.
Read, as they say, the whole thing; you can also read Badgett's discussion paper (.pdf) on the subject, which even makes his points in convenient chart form.

The title of McIlheran's column today is "The amendment's cruel? Alternatives are crueler." This implies that allowing gay marriage (which defeating the amendment itself would not do) would be "cruel." To support that, he turns to a partisan who can't even read demographic tables right. Therefore we must, McIlheran says, write discrimination into the constitution.

Seems to me, if we're going to go mucking up the constitution of this state, we need something stronger than that.