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Pay no attention to the people behind the curtain

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Spice Boys: Splitsville

by folkbum

Once again, I need to remind conservtives who claim to really want to "protect marriage" that the biggest threat is not gays, but rather, divorce:
For more than eight years, we've been writing the Spivak & Bice column two, three and, occasionally, four times a week. But our final column will run Feb. 19.

Cary Spivak then will join the Journal Sentinel's new investigative team, and Dan Bice will be writing a new solo column called No Quarter, which launches March 4.

It's been fun.
Well, at least they have their teammate Vikki Ortiz to rely on:
Upcoming Singles Events

I don’t have to look at a calendar to know that Valentine’s Day (dreaded singles holiday) is a mere two weeks away.

I can tell just by the flyers piling up on my desk -- promoting last-minute singles events before the Hallmark holiday. Ugh.

The good news is some of the events in the next few days actually sound kinda cool, or different anyway.

So I did a little digging today to find some details . . .
Here's the poll question: Who would you rather be the rebound of, Spivak or Bice?

RIP, Molly Ivins

by folkbum

Molly
1944-2007

My only regret is that she didn't live to see the end of the Bush administration.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Found Poetry

by folkbum

A new semester started for me today, and I have picked up a section of creative writing. Irony is one of my favorite literary tools, so I turned this news item into a found poem:
A News Van

A news van
remains partially submerged
in Big Muskego
Lake today after
it broke through
the ice Sunday
afternoon while out
for a story
about
ice
safety.
I think it works.

Vietnam is an open wound

by Bert

Here's what I posted on another blog I do sporadically, which deals more with the intersection of news and history:

Does anybody need a reminder that we are not over Vietnam, now thirty years later?

A new piece of evidence is the quantity of bile that is gushing in response to Jane Fonda's presence at the D.C. anti-war rally Saturday. You can see it in many blogs.

Those younger than 45 may not remember this personally, but I am sure many of these posts will rehash the one act by Jane Fonda that defines her for many, which is her visit as an opponent to the Vietnam War to Hanoi in 1972. There she spoke on a radio program about her opposition, and posed at an anti-aircraft gun installation. She has since expressed regret for participating in that photo.

Radio and cable television programs tomorrow [today, Monday Jan. 29] will surely devote beefy chunks of their airtime to topic of Jane Fonda as well.

I marvel at how selective this recall of the Vietnam era is in the preponderance of news chatter over the last several years. A few shreds of that experience are amplified, and even distorted, such as the mantra of how soldiers were spat upon at airports when they returned from service. [Radio host Jeff Wagner at WTMJ revived this image just last week] See here for research that challenges that construction of our public memory.

Meanwhile, so much else about that war and that time remains unspoken, almost on purpose.

Tommy! loves him some Iowa

by folkbum

Tommy! seems to be making good on his promise to be all up in Iowa's grill all the time. He's taking his plan for Iraq directly to the Iowan people (and Barry Orton approves), for example. And guest-poster Bert calls our attention to a story of Tommy! working the crowd at the UW-Iowa game.

So, everyone, keep Iowa in your prayers.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

An interesting (if not entirely inevitable) development

by folkbum

I'm not sure how this fits their overall "Continuing War on Blogs" strategy, but the newly-redesigned Milwaukee♦Wisconsin Journal Sentinel's Sunday "Crossroads" section now features a Best of the Blogs from Wisconsin column, right there on page J-2.

Congrats this week to Michael Caughill ("Elliot Stearns" is the pen name), Paul Soglin, Jessica McBride, Ed Garvey, Owen Robinson, and Denis Navratil for standing with me as the first beneficiaries (victims?) of this step (volley?) in the process (war?).

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Global Warming Answers

by folkbum

This morning I asked a serious question about global warming, and I got a few thoughtful answers. I wanted to know why conservatives are often downright hostile to the idea of global climate change. I don't think the answers I got are sufficient, but they deserve response from me.

First up, Dad29, in comments to that post, starts a trend. "Before 'solving' a problem," he writes, "make sure that it IS a problem; then determine whether the 'solution' will be efficacious, including unintended consequences." In the process, he denies that the noticeable changes in climate that scientists have observed are abnormal, caused by human behavior, or anything to worry about. I'm not sure what he does for a living, but when he consensus of the scientific community--the people who do do climate science for a living, is that Dad29's wrong on all three counts, I trust them, not him.

I said it was a trend; Rick Esenberg responds similarly:
It is one thing to observe an increase in global temperatures and even to accept the notion that human activity has something to do with it. It's quite another to buy into Gorean hysteria over what that means and what ought to be done about it. Contrary to Jay's assumption, there is no scientific consensus about that.
In other words, as Dad29 wrote, any "solution" to the problem may be worthless--or, at least, not worthwhile. In the process, Esenberg warns, there is a real danger of hysteria that will in the end only be costlyHe adds a "South Park" reference to make sure we get that point. This is echoed in an interesting post by Nick Schweitzer:
The fact that the problem exists and that human behavior contributes significantly to the problem is hardly proven science. The data is very much still open to interpretation. In fact, there has been a lot of cherry picking of data regarding what the climate was like centuries ago in order to "prove" the change. [. . .] What all of this has led to is a bad case of "do something syndrome". Before we actually know the scale, or even the real cause of the problem, people are all up in arms to just do something... anything. The problem, is that the scale of the problem (if it exists and we can change it) is so large that the cost of doing something is huge.
Schweitzer's "Do Something Syndrome" frame is clever and, indeed, representative of quite a lot of policy-making in Washington or Madison or any other capital you could name. But I don't think it, or the answers provided by Dad29 and Rick Esenberg, is an accurate way to describe the calls for action about global warming.

I think the problem may be that the three see this as an issue driven by environmentalists. Not that I have anything against them, but even I think of environmentalists as being an awful lot like Jesse of "I won't eat anything with a shadow" fame. When they stand around and scream "Do Something!" I might take a mild interest in what they have to say, but I'm not going to go out of my way to please them.

No, what worries me about global warming is not the level-five-vegan crowd, but the scientific community. See, as much as Dad29, Esenberg, and Schweitzer may hope that there is no proven causal link between human activity and climate change, fact is that there is (thanks to Seth for that link; I was going to use this one from The Guardian):
The first phase of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is being released in Paris next week. This segment, written by more than 600 scientists and reviewed by another 600 experts and edited by bureaucrats from 154 countries, includes "a significantly expanded discussion of observation on the climate," said co-chair Susan Solomon, a senior scientist for the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. She and other scientists held a telephone briefing on the report Monday.

That report will feature an "explosion of new data" on observations of current global warming, Solomon said. [. . .]

The February report will have "much stronger evidence now of human actions on the change in climate that's taken place," Rajendra K. Pachauri told the AP in November. Pachauri, an Indian climatologist, is the head of the international climate change panel.

An early version of the ever-changing draft report said [. . .] "An increasing body of evidence suggests a discernible human influence on other aspects of climate including sea ice, heat waves and other extremes, circulation, storm tracks and precipitation."
And we needn't rely on a study that isn't out yet--most of the data in the report, it sounds like, is based on previously-published, peer-reviewed research. The notion that human behavior doesn't contribute to climate change is one clung to only by those with politics or paychecks riding on their denial.

In other words, Al Gore may make a convenient target as the face of the "Do Something Syndrome" crowd when it comes to global warming, but it isn't Gore's alarmist theatrics that ought to convince the skeptics. Rather, it's the studious, sober, and increasingly frequent calls by people whose names you will probably never hear again for us to take them seriously. To dismiss the issue--or the need to "do something"--as mere hype is dangerous.

Aside from calling my original essay a "rant" (I counted it among my "rambles," alas), Schweitzer's answer is, like Esenberg's, reasoned and even thought-provoking, especially in raising the necessity of balancing cost and benefit of taking action on global warming. But, in the main, I'm not particularly talking about them. Both seem to accept that something is happening to the climate, despite wavering on whether human activity has an effect of the speed or scope of that something and whether we need to change human behavior in response.

But in my reading of them, neither has ever exhibited the kind of outright hostility that prompted my original question, the personal attacks against anyone who deviates from the conservative party line or suggests that when a previously stable ice shelf breaks off into the the ocean it could be a sign. Those two weren't cheering on when a school district banned An Inconvenient Truth; they didn't call anyone names after 2006's calm hurricane season.

And that's what I'm really hoping someone can explain. It's one thing to debate the extent of our nation's response to global climate change; it's quite another to plug your ears and hurl insults anytime someone reminds you of cold, hard facts.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Terry Falk and Drinking Liberally Tonight!

by folkbum

Eight-district Milwaukee school board candidate Terry Falk wants to meet you tonight:
*Meet Terry Falk*
Candidate for Milwaukee Board of School Directors, District 8
Puddler's Hall, 2461 S. St. Clair St., Bay View
Wed. January 24th, 5-8 p.m.
Then swing by Club G for Drinking Liberally!

Global Warming Question

by folkbum

I did not watch the State of the Union speech last night; somehow, these things always seem to get scheduled during exam week and I have to give priority to that thing that pays the bills, you know? So I was busy reading mediocre exams while our mediocre president gave what was, by all accounts, a mediocre speech. I'll let Senator Webb, Senator Durbin, and Paul Soglin speak for me about the speech specifically, and I'll let occam's hatchet remind you of previous greatest SOTU hits.

But the speech does give me an excuse to ask a question that's been rattling around in my head for some time, and, if y'all don't mind, I would even appreciate a considered response in the comments below. It is this: Why are conservatives, particularly social conservatives, so invested in denying that global climate change exists?

There was a great deal of speculation in the run-up to the SOTU that Bush would finally recognize global warming and that people might be shocked at how "green" his speech would be. Turns out there was one measly sentence about global warming: "These technologies will help us become better stewards of the environment--and they will help us to confront the serious challenge of global climate change." Hardly a ringing endorsement of the last five years of Al Gore's life, but perhaps a step in the right direction. The right direction, of course, being an acknowledgement of reality.

But why should it be such a surprise--or even news--that Bush would mention global warming? There is no reason, other than the obstinance of many conservatives, particularly those in power, why this country hasn't taken the same steps forward that every other Western nation has in both recognizing that the problem exists and that our behavior contributes significantly to that problem.

Perhaps it's just because my greatest experience with the conservative right comes mostly from what I read in the Right Cheddarsphere that I haven't seen progress; for all I know, "green" fever has been sweeping the country and it's just taken a long time to hit the backwaters of conservative Wisconsin. But when global warming comes up for discussion, not only do many of the usual suspects deny that climate change exists, there is downright hostility toward the idea. (Don't believe me? Search for yourself--and that doesn't even turn up hostile hits from Fred or Peter's former and current blogs, whence the greatest venom spews.)

So I repeat my question: Why are conservatives, particularly social conservatives, so invested in denying that global climate change exists?

While certainly it's true that there is a smalll segment of the scientific community willing to deny the existence of global warming, surely that cannot be reason enough for conservatives to cling to. There is no question that often minorities of scientists can be right; consider that a mere half a century ago, only a tiny few geologists understood or promoted plate tectonics, something we all take for granted now. But the trick in these instances is to watch the movement--once scientists were able to read about, understand, and verify through their own experiments the concepts of plate tectonics, the scientific community shifted rapidly and solidly into consensus about it. The same has, in fact, happened when it comes to climate change: The minority denying its existence are the last holdouts in a community that has long since left them behind. (They hold out, perhaps, because of who signs their paychecks.)

So if it isn't the science, what is it? I can kind of see a reason why an economic conservative might, for example, be unwilling to allow government intervention to change behavior. They could figure that "the market" will get around to changing once the malaria-ridden bodies start piling up in the new swamps around Rhinelander. But that, also, is not reason enough to deny the existence of climate change or to be so hostile to the idea.

And, yes, personal convictions can certainly affect the way one views science. From the right, for example, I fully understand--even if I don't agree--why religious folk are so opposed to the theory of evolution, as its implications reject the foundation upon which much of their religion is premised: God created the earth and everything on it, and to suggest that human life, which they believe is made in God's image, is a mere accident of biology is quite literally sacrilege. And from the left, there are good reasons--if not scientific ones--for liberal academics to fight against evolutionary psychology*; after all, it is only a short trip from "Men's brains evolved differently from women's brains" to "Men's brains evolved better than women's brains." And given our history with that sort of reasoning over the last couple of centuries, the warning bells are not unjustified.

But there is nothing--nothing--that I can see that justifies a rejection of climate change in the same way. What personal convictions are strengthened by such a denial? Unless it's possibly to assuage guilt over not driving a Prius--or perhaps leftover hostility to Al Gore--I can't imagine what it might be.

So, please, help me understand: What is it that drives them (or you, if you are one) not only to disregard what is painfully clear to the rest of us, but to vehemently and disparagingly attack anyone who says otherwise? What have you got invested in this denial that makes it impossible for them (or you) to either talk rationally about it or acknowledge the truth?

--

* One of the things that bothers me most about the "Intelligent Design" crowd is their insistence that schools "teach the controversy." They have manufactured a controversy out of thin air, and then demand that it be presented--clever. But in doing so, they ignore the fact that, at any given moment, there is plenty of "controversy" within the scientific community. Evolutionary psychology over the last decade and a half is a perfect example; we can teach "controversy" without having to resort to phony ginned-up pseudo-science.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Not "the dagger", but at least a jab

by Bert


Wayne Larrivee is best known on the radio airwaves around here as the play-by-play guy for the Packers broadcasts. During the games he is excitable, and he uses his signature phrase -- "there is the dagger" -- when (or if) the Packers make the winning play near a game's end.


On another of his many jobs, doing sports news in the morning for WTMJ, he displays a looser and funnier personality than during the game broadcasts. What was funny this morning on WTMJ is he took a jab at the station's political orthodoxy.


Mentioning the evening's radio schedule that included both President Bush's State of the Union address and the Democratic response, Larrivee added that it was surprising WTMJ was willing to air the Democratic response, given what usually what goes on around there.


Monday, January 22, 2007

2008 Thoughts

by folkbum

Katherine Skiba's got another big wet sloppy kiss for Tommy Thompson in this morning's paper, prompted in part, I'm sure, by the 2008 field's expansion over the weekend. (By the way, Kathy, it's not news that "Thompson likes his prospects." It would be news if "Thompson admits he's running a vanity campaign." Remember, you're looking for a man-bites-dog story.) Anyway, that story's prompted some thoughts from me about 2008. Let's start with Republicans.

I've said before--and will keep saying it until someone proves me wrong--that the Republican to be reckoned with is Mike Huckabee, former Arkansas governor. I say this for two reasons. First, aside from Huckabee, here's what the Republican field looks like right now:
  1. The Desert Flip-Flopper
  2. The Yankee Adulterer
  3. The Mormon Flip-Flopper
  4. The Southern Adulterer
  5. Kansas's Second Least-Popular Senator
  6. The Texas Libertarian
  7. Tommy!
  8. Duncan Hunter
You can see how Huckabee, a very conservative, very Christian, very unblemished-by-scandal candidate, would look appealing against all of them. He's personable, has a great biography (including a great weight-loss story), and has demonstrated his willingness to buck the anti-tax fiscal conservatives in favor of the social conservatives, who will do a lot of the heavy lifting in the primaries. His book (they all write books) was not your standard "Ain't I Great?" tome, but rather a call for small, positive action to make the readers' lives, and the world, a little bit better.

In short, he scares the crap out of me.

On the Democrats' side, I will repeat what I've said before about Hillary: I really, really, really want to have an election sometime in my lifetime without someone named Bush or Clinton on the ballot. Please. (Technically, 1976 was "in my lifetime," but I obviously couldn't vote then.) We don't--we shouldn't--have an aristocracy in this country; another eight years of a Clinton would make it feel uncomfortably like we do.

I have little doubt that Hillary would make a good president--and I think she can, indeed, win--so I will vote for/ volunteer for/ get excited about her candidacy should she be the nominee. But I don't think I'll be connecting the arrow next to her name.

As for Barack Obama, I will again repeat myself: I think so few people know much about about him, except his rock-star vibe, that they are projecting onto him what they want in a candidate, which is not necessarily what he has. On the other hand, being a rock star is a big part of the battle--there is little question that he's got the genuine charisma that catapulted Bill Clinton to the top in 1992. And, from what little I do know about him, I think I will also be quite pleased to be talking about a President Obama someday.

John Edwards is at least a better-known quantity than Obama, and he's been making a lot of good moves so far in terms of talking about his issue--poverty. There is no question that Edwards's "Two Americas" frame is perhaps the most powerful one out there. And I really appreciate that he's been calling Bush's Iraq troop surge the "McCain Doctrine."

I really, really like Bill Richardson, though. He is, without question, the single most qualified candidate to have announced, from either party. He's been both a Congressman and an executive; he has cabinet-level experience; he has by far the best foreign-policiy credentials of anyone to run for president since, well, ever (he just brokered a peace agreement in Darfur, for example). He may be the only candidate that, were he to call me, I would pack up and move for. But he lacks Obama's charisma, Edwards's money, and Hillary's, er, Hillaryness. That makes it hard for him to shine among those other three.

As for the rest of the field--Joe Biden, Chris Dodd, Tom Vilsack, Dennis Kucinich, and Mike Gravel (Gore and Clark probably aren't running)--they will be inconsequential. Even if Vilsack does win Iowa--a big if--it will be dismissed as home-field advantage, and everyone will instead watch Nevada.

Perhaps the most interesting news is that California is looking to move its primary up to be second after New Hampshire. This helps both Hillary (she has the money to run there and everywhere else at once) and Richardson (if he can mobilize the Hispanic voters).

So those are my thoughts, with a little less than a year until Iowa gets us started. Any questions?

Scanning the Papers

I read a lot of news today. The snowy weather out the window made the Sunday papers even more pleasurable. Easily the most shocking datum I came across was that Norah Jones has gone to karaoke bars to do Guns N' Roses tunes.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

For Everyone Who Thinks I'm a Godless Heathen

by folkbum

You know the Bible 97%!
 

Wow! You are awesome! You are a true Biblical scholar, not just a hearer but a personal reader! The books, the characters, the events, the verses - you know it all! You are fantastic!

Ultimate Bible Quiz



I'm not sure which question I got wrong; possibly it was when I answered "no" to the "Do you read the Bible?" question.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Kagen's Critics Are Getting Help

by Bert

Reporter Craig Gilbert earns page 1A in the Journal Sentinel today for a story about the right-wing dogpile on U.S. Representative Steve Kagen. The gist is that Kagen is getting bad publicity, started by a story in a Fox Valley monthly newspaper called Scene, for disrespecting White House leaders such as poor, sensitive Karl Rove. The FDA also warned Kagen, a doctor, about using unauthorized drugs in his medical practice. Gilbert's story is, of course, more bad publicity.

Kagen may deserve this coverage, and I personally support publishing lots of negative real news ("real news" excludes Rush, Sykes, Folkbum guest bloggers, and other mere echo chambers) about politicians of any stripe.

But I seem to recall some recent bad publicity for another Wisconsin congressman, James Sensenbrenner. The Rolling Stone, a publication that carries more weight than The Scene , named Sensenbrenner the second worst congressman in the nation in a story last fall. I checked LexisNexis just to confirm my memory, and, sure enough, Sensenbrenner's bad publicity earned no story from Gilbert, page 1A or otherwise. (A J-S column by Patrick McIlheran did mention it in passing.)

[A late update from your humble folkbum: See this post for my original take on the Rolling Stone rankings. Jim McGuigan thinks the Journal Sentinel should be giving this kind of scruitny to Scott Walker, too. Thanks to Burt for bringing this up--Jay]

Friday Random Ten

The The Snow is Now Getting Old Edition

1. "Closer" Joshua Radin from We Were Here
2. "You Can Always be Gone" Catie Curtis from Truth from Lies
3. "Salt Peanuts" Miles Davis from Steamin' with the Quintet
4. "Clarity" Ellis Paul from American Jukebox Fables
5. "All in Time" Don Conoscenti from Paradox of Grace
6. "Too Little Too Late" Michelle Shocked from Mercury Poise
7. "Crazy Love" Erica Wheeler from Almost Like Tonight
8. "New Deep" John Mayer from Heavier Things
9. "Like Bonsai" Susan Werner from Time Between Trains
10. "Tecumseh Valley" Townes Van Zandt from Live at the Old Quarter

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Meet Terry Falk

by folkbum

folkbum-approved MPS school board candidate Terry Falk is having a forum next week:
*Meet Terry Falk*
Candidate for Milwaukee Board of School Directors, District 8
Puddler's Hall, 2461 S. St. Clair St., Bay View
Wed. January 24th, 5-8 p.m.
After you're done there, swing by Club Garibaldi (corner of Superior and Russell in Bay View) for Drinking Liberally.

The obligatory I'm-not-dead-but-I-just-don't-feel-like-blogging-right-now post

by folkbum

Time is running out, however, for you to participate in helping shape the Milwaukee Public Schools' strategic plan. The on-line comment period will close soon, so click that link, read up, and let your ideas be heard, please.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Sensenbrenner relies on bushisms

by Bert

Jim Sensenbrenner remains an eager defender of President Bush and the war in Iraq. The Waukesha Freeman told Monday of his arguments for the war at a town hall meeting in Oconomowoc. According to the story, Sensenbrenner makes the same embarassingly ignorant error of fact that our own president made in an interview July 14, 2003. Their explanation of the specific reason for the war was that Saddam Hussein thumbed his nose at the U.N. because he refused to allow in weapons inspectors.

"Although the U.N. passed 17 resolutions calling for Hussein to be open for weapons inspections, few countries were willing to enforce them, Sensenbrenner said."

Check your data. In fact, Hussein caved in to the threats that he would be attacked and allowed in inspectors in November, 2002. So inspectors were allowed in, but Iraq was attacked about four months later anyway.

Of course, there have been other defenses of the war besides this historical mistake about inspectors -- too many, really, to make any one of the defenses credible. Put that aside, though, for a moment and just think about the mental laziness of the leaders we have in charge both in the White House and in Congress during this war.

They are not mentioned in the Freeman story, but Congressman Sensenbrenner also lays some lapdog licks on Bush's latest plan, supporting the idea that escalating the number of U.S. soldiers is the best way to bring our soldiers home. I could also take on that argument here, but I am feeling mentally lazy this morning.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Friday Random Ten

The Don't you just sit there feeling sorry for yourself Edition
  1. "Cupid's Got a Gun" Nitty Gritty Dirt Band from Acoustic
  2. "If Love is Not Enough" Peter Mulvey from Rapture
  3. "I Can't Stand It" Eric Clapton from Another Ticket
  4. "Are You Out There" Dar Williams from End of the Summer
  5. "The River, Where She Sleeps" Dave Carter and Tracy Grammer from When I Go
  6. "Like Bonsai" Susan Werner from Time Between Trains
  7. "My Stupid Mouth" John Mayer from Room for Squares
  8. "Blue Sky" The Allman Borthers Band from The Essential . . .
  9. "Sister Clarissa" Michael Smith from Such Things are Finely Done
  10. "Chief" Patty Griffin from 1000 Kisses

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Vote Vicky

by folkbum

As a Milwaukee-centric blogger, I have basically paid zero attention to the spring silly season up Madison way. However, a post today at Forward Our Motto alerted me to the fact that a college classmate of mine is running: Vicky Selkowe.

I have no idea how many of my Madison readers live in the 15th, but if you do, I encourage you to check her out. And, based on the report of her opponent's speech to the Dane County Democrats I found there at Forward Our Motto, she seems to be head and shoulders above the competition.

Good luck, Vicky!

100,000

by folkbum

My SiteMeter will roll over sometime today. I added SiteMeter almost a year after starting this blog, so I'm sure I actually passed 100k real visits some time ago. But there's still a satisfaction in seeing all those zeroes.

UPDATE: The Lucky Visitor: At 11:28:31 am today, someone at Wraparound Milwaukee, clicking through from WisOpinion.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

A Reaganomics Reality Check for Rush

by Bert

It's laughable to think that any human could be as perfect as right-wingers make Ronald Reagan out to be. But I feel less like laughing when their hero-making also mangles history. Rush Limbaugh declared Tuesday that "Reagan was truly a hero" for lowering tax rates on the wealthy. For evidence, Rush painted a rosy landscape of the time in which we all lived under Reagan.

". . .but of course as we all know, the eighties was a boom time. It was a boom economy; the bottom didn't fall out."

Anyone from here in the Midwest who is on the far side of 45 years old can remember those days. This is when Allis-Chalmers closed in West Allis, when Parker Pen began to die in Janesville, and when dozens of other factory towns took a body blow to their prosperity. Farmers outside the collapsing factory towns also could see no sign of a boom back then. Remember the Jessica Lange movies, the Farm Aid concerts, the news photos?

Rush and other talking gasbags have tried many times to turn our memory of the 1980s into something it wasn't. Farmers who survived those times would call that putting lipstick on a pig.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Graul says Ziegler's not "partisan"; really, she's just hiding it

by folkbum

Well, we all had some fun with the Judge Ziegler photoshop contest. But the race for the open seat on Wisconsin's Supreme Court is actually a serious matter. People on the left and the right seem to recognize that the election this April (with a cursory primary before that) will have implications for years to come.

Supreme Court Justice is, technically, a non-partisan race. But like a lot of our "non-partisan" races, there are obvious partisan overtones. So far, they've mostly centered on Ziegler's opponent, Madison attorney Linda Clifford, and her being up-front about her politics. Democratic politics, that is.

This post at Letters in Bottles, for example, quotes extensively from Clifford's bio at her law firm to warn that she's "Wisconsin's Own [David] Souter." (And warns, ominously, that Clifford plays the harpsichord.) The Spice Boys can barely write a sentence about Clifford without throwing around "ties to Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle" or "lifelong Democrat" and so on.

I'm not entirely sure what the big deal is; Clifford makes no secret about her politics. I mean, check out Clifford's supporters page--it's Democrat after Democrat after Democrat among the hundreds listed there, including people like Tammy Baldwin, Jon Richards, Tim Carpenter, and Dave Hansen, people not known for their political moderation. Clifford just doesn't try to hide it.

Zeigler's endorsement page, on the other hand, has seven names on five endorsements. And I doubt that the list of citizens who support Ziegler's candidacy is really as, um, empty as her website would seem to indicate:And it's not just missing from Ziegler's site; while people will write about Clifford's contributions from "Doyle budget director David Riemer," for example, no one seems to be writing about Ziegler's contributors, like prominent Republicans Russ Darrow or John Torinus. While every story ever has to include information about how much money the Cliffords have raised or given to Jim Doyle, no one is writing about the money flowing from various Zieglers to Republicans--including from Judge Ziegler's husband and father-in-law to the Thompson-McCallum administration that gave Judge Ziegler her current job.

Bernard Ziegler, the father-in-law, gave many thousands before and after--though more after--Annette Ziegler got the post. Her husband's contributions follow a similar pattern. (Ziegler was appointed in May, 1997.) And while those two kept their wallets out of the Mark Green campaign, many in the Ziegler family businesses weren't so restrained.

All of this is not just to point out problems with the way the media are reporting the race. The title of this post is all about Mark Graul, who cannot be called anything but Republican, having worked for Mark Green's congressional office before engineering Green's spectacular loss to a relatively unpopular incumbent. Graul is working for Ziegler. It was Graul, for example, who had to explain that it was just some over-eager staffer who did the photoshopping we all had a good larf about. Graul is trying madly to spin his candidate's partisan history:
Ziegler's campaign adviser Mark Graul, who was the campaign manager for the Republican gubernatorial candidate Mark Green, denied that the race would be partisan. He said Ziegler had a conservative view on judicial philosophy, which means she does not intend to legislative from the bench. [. . .] Graul said he didn't know whether Ziegler has a history of voting for Republican candidates.
That's laughable. Either Graul has no frickin' clue who he's working for, or he's lying through his teeth.

What's most frustrating is that the writer of the AP story--Scott Bauer, a regular on the Madison beat--didn't bother to fact-check this. He cops out by saying he couldn't get a comment from Ziegler, but he didn't at all need to rely on the judge herself when he has access to the same records that I did in coming up with the links all throughout this post. He lets Graul's absurd-on-its-face spin go by without a word, despite his having been careful to tell us of Clifford's support for Jim Doyle.

I'm not saying that the Spice Boys need to tsk-tsk Ziegler for the way money clearly tainted Tommy Thompson's decisions (since you know as well as I they'll only do that against Democrats). Rather, I'm asking for the media to notice when Graul is lying to them about his candidate's supposed non-partisan nature. I'm asking Graul himself to stop the lying, since it only makes him look stupid--or like a liar.

Mostly, I'm asking for someone, somewhere, to notice, perhaps, that while Linda Clifford is completely upfront and open of her partisan past, Annette Ziegler seems to be so ashamed of hers that she'll scrub her website and send out lackeys to lie for her.

Maybe I'm biased, but, for my money, that's the bigger story.

Bucher: My Wife Does Not Look Fat in That Dress

by folkbum

Waukesha County (Dissociated Press)--In response to a Waukesha Freeman essay written by his wife, Jessica McBride, former Waukesha County District Attorney Paul Bucher (left) called a press conference today to assure everyone that McBride "does not look fat in that dress."

McBride's essay, which was published over the weekend, was laudatory of her husband and his career as Waukesha County's "top cop."

"The guy’s curriculum vitae is something like 40 pages long," McBride wrote. "Meals on Wheels. DARE. Crimestoppers. Boy Scouts. You name it. One recent year, he stood outside the Pick ‘n Save ringing bells in the cold for the Salvation Army.

"He was that kind of prosecutor."

Bucher, clearly embarrassed by the awkward public praise provided by his wife, said he felt the need to do something in return.

"Jessica is such a great wife," he said at the press conference this morning. "There's nothing I wouldn't do for her, even lie if I have to."

After presenting a photo of his wife wearing the dress in question (right), Bucher made his declaration: "My wife does not look fat in that dress. She just does not. I'm serious."

Bucher's statement also included some more things he wanted to make sure his wife was aware of. "That leak in the basement," he said, "I'll get to it next week."

He added, "And I wasn't looking at that red-head, I swear."

Bucher took only a few questions after he made his prepared statement. Some of the reporters in the room seemed incredulous. "Look, I will not say anything else about it," Bucher said, after being pressed by reporters. "This press conference is over."

McBride could not be reached for comment.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Podcastic Prizecast

by folkbum

Aaron and I hosted a podcast with our photoshop contest winner, David Casper, this week. It was Thursday night; I thought I was getting over a cold, but it turns out that it was just warming up to try to kill me. I have felt like crap and barely had a voice since then--and you almost hear my voice disappearing as the podcast goes along.

Anyway, it's long--76 minutes. But worth every penny of the free download.

"Stay the Course" and other hogwash

by Bert

The Bush administration is getting ready to change again the often wobbling and waffling reasons why we are waging war in Iraq. In the New York Times on Saturday, a profile of a new military commander in Iraq, Lt. Gen. David Petraeus, included a paragraph about other changes besides personnel:

The overarching goal of the American military operation may be altered as well. Under General Casey, the principal focus has been on transferring security responsibilities to the Iraqi security forces, so American troops could gradually withdraw. Now, the emphasis will shift to
protecting the Iraqi population from sectarian strife and insurgent attacks.

I interpret this new goal as using our soldiers to act as a referee in a civil war. If this will be the new role for our soldiers, I hope that the president spells this out plainly in the speech about Iraq that he is expected to deliver Wednesday. But, I am going to predict right here that we hear phrases such as "cannot accept defeat" and "global war on terror" more often than we hear the phrase "civil war."

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Rahm Emanuel must go, part II

by folkbum

Last month, I called for Rahm Emmanuel to get out, based on what he knew and what he concealed--and how much he lied--about the Mark Foley scandal.

Today, I read this, and could barely contain my anger:
Early on in the process- in mid-2005- Dave contacted Democratic Party organizations throughout the district, as well as the state party and the DCCC in Washington. Everyone was enthusiastic and encouraging. Glen Rushing, the DCCC point person for the region, told Dave he was "just the type of candidate we're looking for." He offered to introduce him to Alabama Congressman Artur Davis, the DCCC-appointed mentor for Democratic candidates in the region, who following their first phone conversation offered to help him with his race. Rushing then promised to get him in touch with Florida DCCC chief, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, Emanuel's lieutenant for the Southeast.

Then something happened, something very dark and secretive, something people are just uncovering now. DCCC Chairman Rahm Emanuel found out something that could- and did- change the dynamics of the race in FL-16 dramatically. Emanuel became aware that Mark Foley- well-known for years Inside-The-Beltway, albeit not among his church-going constituents, as a very active (and very hypocritical) homosexual- was molesting the underage male congressional pages, and that he had been for many years. Did Emanuel call the police? Did he even call the staffers who are charged by Congress with looking out for the welfare of the pages? Doesn't look that way. What it does look like is that he called a fast-and-loose Republican businessman he knew, someone, like Emanuel, with elastic values and an even more elastic code of personal ethics. He offered him a congressional seat and all he'd have to do was switch party registration and become a Democrat. That man is freshman Congressman Tim Mahoney.

Suddenly there was a new DCCC point person, John Vogel, and he had no idea who Dave was. Rushing called and suggested Dave talk to someone named... Tim Mahoney. Dave did. And Mahoney offered him an intricate bribe to drop out of the race and run against Republican Bill Young in FL-10 instead. Dave Lutrin never had a single conversation with Rahm Emanuel. But Emanuel's paw prints are all over this operation. It's the way he worked in district after district, everywhere in the country, seeking to find business-friendly, quasi-Republicans who would soft-peddle their opposition to the war in Iraq and never mention "impeachment." Many of us have experienced first hand Emanuel's tactics in CA-11, FL-13, and IL-06 to name a few. Scared of career-ending retribution, virtually no Democrats have been willing to go on the record about DCCC practices that are at variance with internal party rules.
There's more at the link, and at FireDogLake, where Lutrin has been talking about it. Disgusting.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Good Wisconsin School News: What Page?

by folkbum

Update: Page A1. Good for them.

I thought about staying up until morning to learn the answer for myself. Instead I'll just let it hang in the air overnight. But some good Wisconsin education news hit the "NewsWatch" today:
Children in Wisconsin have the eighth best chance in the U.S. of succeeding in life, at least based on a scoring system created for a national report on the state of education released today.

In a separate kindergarten through 12th grade "achievement index" in the report, Wisconsin rated 10th in the nation.

Both results were included in the annual "Quality Counts" report from Education Week, a weekly publication widely read among educators, released on Wednesday. [. . .] The "chance of success" index was based on a comparative analysis of 13 factors affecting the lives of children in each state, including family income, educational attainment of parents, the percent of children in pre-school programs, the percent of parents who are fluent in English and the percent of adults who hold steady jobs.

Wisconsin scored above the national average in 10 of the 13 categories, including parent income and education and how children scored in fourth grade reading and eighth grade math. It scored below the national average in only one category - percent of three- and four-year-olds in preschool programs.
Again, my standard disclaimer: Just because we do well on some measures, we shouldn't rest on our laurels and goof off for the rest of the school year.

However, this is not a post about achievement, or what the ramifications of that or any one measure of it might mean. Instead, this is a post about the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's reporting.

I was reminded this week (in a post by Jo Egelhoff) about a Fordham Foundation study from last August, a study that gave Wisconsin's Model Academic Standards a grade of D-. The story about it was given a prominent page-one placement. The same is true of other stories this year that showed Wisconsin and our Department of Public Instruction in a bad light. However, as I noted in response to one of those, good news about Wisconsin's schools misses page 1A and lands, instead, on page 8B.

And as both I and others noted about the Fordham study itself, it doesn't square with reality, which seems like the kind of thing that should either be noted in a front-page story, or should keep a story off the front page altogether.

Hence, the question of my title. Here's good news; will it be 1A, or 8B?

Sykes Watch: The Death of Saddam

by Bert


Wasn’t Charlie Sykes sort of inconsistent once again on Tuesday morning’s WTMJ radio show? On the one hand, Charlie thought the Iraqi “government” made itself look bad by the tawdry way it executed Saddam Hussein Saturday. This is the quote from Charlie that I latched on to: “It’s not enough to say he [Saddam Hussein] had it coming.” In other words, even though Hussein deserved to die, there were better ways to get the same result.

I agree with Charlie on both the particular point that the way Saddam was executed makes the Iraqi “government” look bush league, and I agree on his more general point, which is that ends do not justify the means.

Now, let’s rewind the tape a bit. Just prior to complaining about the lynching-like execution of Saddam, Sykes said he agreed completely with a Wall Street Journal editorial that ran Tuesday. The editorial argued that the death of Saddam Hussein made the war in Iraq worthwhile:

“The 3,000 Americans who have given their lives . . . have done so in a just
cause that rids the world of a man who might have killed hundreds of thousands
more.”

Never mind the many more U.S. soldiers who will keep dying in Iraq now that we are rid of Saddam. Never mind other damage wreaked by this war: the hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths, the half trillion dollars spent, the worsening of terror threats against the U.S., the installation of an Iraqi government that also tortures and kills its citizens. At least in the case of the 3,000 soldiers already lost to their families, communities, and country, their deaths are a good value in exchange for Hussein’s death, according to the editorial, and therefore to Charlie.

The obvious reply is: There are probably better ways than this war to accomplish the neutralizing of Saddam Hussein. It’s not enough to say Saddam Hussein had it coming.

The Shorter Silly Season

by folkbum

The 2008 presidential campaign started roughly six seconds after Bush's re-election; it's started getting intense now (and jeebus help the people of Iowa). But we actually have a whole mess of elections before then, some coming up soon.

Here are some things that are interesting, at least to me, about the coming silliness:
  • Quote of the year (day 3 edition):
    Jefferson Davis [. . .] greeted people as they passed through Village Hall, and chatted with a campaign supporter who joined him on his visit there.

    "I supported him in his first run and I'll support him again," said William Brouse, the supporter.
    If Davis gets more than two votes, Rechlicz should demand a recount.

  • Every Milwauke Public Schools board district will have at least three contenders, meaning primaries all around. Three of the five seats will have no incumbent, which is surely what's sparking a lot of the interest. However, I'll tell you that the challengers to the remaining incumbents--Jeff Spence and Joe Dannecker--are not running because they like business as usual with the current (anti-union) make-up of the board. I'm also excited to see Leon Todd in the mix, since he always gets the party started. And it will be kind of interesting to see how board member-turned blogger (invitation only, sigh)-turned candidate Bruce Thompson uses the internets for his campaign.

  • Linda Clifford and Annette Ziegler look like they have some hopeless competition. Sorry, Joseph Sommers, but the loyalties already seem solid.

  • I got the same campaign press release everyone else did from Scott Walker. I thought about writing something this morning, but I couldn't think of anything clever to say about what was obviously a glitch in the Walker campaign's email servers, mistakenly sending out overnight something that should have been delivered, I don't know, last January 3. While the Charlie Sykes Stormtroopers couldn't get enough of Walker's empty and recycled rhetoric, several of the Good Guys were kind enough to remind Walker that, dude, it's over. Your silly season is long past, and you lost. And your "plan," which, especially the eudcation part, sounds suspicously like Mark Green's, lost by eight frickin' percent, already.
And that's all I got today.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Health Care Payment Defaults are a "Growth Business"

by folkbum

Conservatives' favorite health-care solution--high-deductible insurance plans supplemented by health savings accounts--is turning out to be a little more wrinkly than they might hope it to be:
The sharp increase in high-deductible health insurance plans is creating a headache for hospitals and other health care providers who are finding it increasingly difficult to collect the portion of bills due from individuals. [. . .] Recent changes in federal law allowing quicker funding of health savings accounts also might help individuals to pay, officials say.

The problem, however, is real for area medical providers. For example, in the first nine months of last year, the proportion of accounts receivable due from individuals using Advanced Healthcare grew from 22% to 29%. Advanced is a large physician practice based in Germantown. Other area providers report similar increases.
In other words, more people are starting to default on the payments due to their providers, payments that used to be made by insurance companies. Since this is a story from the business section of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the focus from there on out is on how bad this is for providers and businesses. There is no discussion of what the implications are for the patients--oops, sorry, that should be consumers, to use the parlance.

What it says to me, as a layperson, is that these kinds of high-deductible plans are not having the effect the conservatives desire. The idea behind these plans is that by giving, er, consumers more control over how their health care dollar is spent (in part by making them pay more of it out-of-pocket), consumers will eschew both unnecessary and unnecessarily expensive procedures. The HSAs help by setting aside a pre-tax lump of income dedicated to paying medical expenses.

There are all kinds of theortical problems behind these kinds of plans. (Seth is the expert.) But here we see the faults in practice, rather than in theory. And the practice seems to mirror what we already know about consumers--we don't always make the most informed or most affordible choices. I mean, forget about regular consumer debt, and realize that even before the coming explosion of these high-deductible-plus-HSA plans, more than 40% of us already have trouble paying our medical bills--including those of us with insurance. Put more of the costs into the hands of the patients--dangit, consumers--and two things will almost certainly happen: One, the predictions of increasing default as outlined in the Journal Sentinel story will come true; two, there will be a sharp increase in the already-booming medical bankruptcy field.

So my question is simple: Who could possibly think that a continued push for more of this a good thing? The answer, from the JS article:
As increasing individual responsibility for medical bills becomes more widespread, the market will find ways to adjust [. . .]. One sign of that is the formation last year of Health Payment Systems Inc. The Milwaukee company hopes to act as a collection agency for health care providers by paying them a discount for outstanding bills and then collecting the bills on its own.

As part of its service, HPS plans to offer consumers a detailed monthly statement of outstanding bills and other information, said Bruce Lefco, chairman and chief executive officer. "We are going to work particularly on the issue of educating the consumer," Lefco said. He sees it as a growth business.
Welcome to the growth industry of the year: Collecting unpaid medical bills. I guess that's good news after all.

It's a girl!

The Cheddarsphere is a little bit bigger today. From Tim Rock:
Quin Elyse Rock was born at 7:36 pm on December 31, 2006. She weighed in at 7 pounds 6 ounces and was 20.25" long (this being important information apparently).
Congrats to Tim and Kelly, and welcome to the world, Quin.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Judge Ziegler: We Have a Winner!

I promised that I would announce the winner today of our photoshop contest. I'd like to thank everyone who entered, and Aaron for co-sponsporing the contest. Without any further ado, the winning entry:That was created by David Casper of the blog Ask Me Later. We liked it because it played on the theme of Judge Ziegler's visits to various Justice Centers--here, she's vsiting the Justice League.

Honorable mentions should really go to Dave Diamond's "Star Trek," which was one of the most technically skillful; Patrick's "North Pole," which had a certain timeliness to it; and Puba's "Katrina," which, putting Ziegler in front of the lawless Superdome, also had a theme of justice to it. Update: Also, many thanks to WisOpinion for publicizing the contest early and for putting links to all the entries in one place.

Congrats to Casper, and thanks to Judge Ziegler for making our holidays a little more fun.