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Pay no attention to the people behind the curtain

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

More MPS School Board News

by folkbum

• District 2: While it may be embarrassing for Joe Dannecker to have the names of the schools in his district; it's completely another one to run afoul of campaign finance laws:
Oddly, [Progressive Majority Wisconsin's] crack research team hasn’t been able to find six campaign finance reports Spence was required to file with the Milwaukee Board of Election Commissioners since 2000.
For someone who campaigns on integrity and transparency, these failures are not insignificant.

• City-Wide: Ken Mobile checks Bruce Thompson's finance report, and thinks Thompson may have been fibbing a bit at a candidate forum earlier this month:
A finance report that was filed February 11, 2007 with Milwaukee’s election commission indicates that during the recent reporting period Thompson raised $15,950.00. Of that figure, $8,375.00 is from outside of Milwaukee and $3,300.00 is from out of state.

Interestingly enough, the question was asked during a School Board Candidate forum in Bay View on February 7th about his campaign finances. [Read my take on his answer here; listen to the audio at Terry Falk's site, track seven, with Thompson speaking first.]

Now, according to his finance report, Thompson is acting as his own Treasurer. I am sorry; I can’t buy “hasn’t done that analysis yet for this year” nonsense when he filed his report just four days later. After all, his campaign finance report is a list of who’s who of pro school vouchers and contains large contributions from many private sector CEO’s. Over 52% of his funding comes from outside of Milwaukee and over 21% comes from out of state. Many of these contributions where made well before the February 7th candidate forum; I guess he wasn’t in step with his finance report or had a momentary loss of memory.
Ken has more specifics about who some of those donors are. I'm not surprised by those numbers--or the names and occupations of his donors--but if he was obfuscating at the forum, he deserves to be called on it.

On the other hand, though, the emails that I get from Thompson's campaign pretty clearly list someone else as his treasurer. Here's a screen shot:Thompson TreasurerThat was from an email I received on February 9, right between the forum and the filing of the campaign finance report. So I'm not sure what to make of all of it, and whether the treasurer discrepancy wil end up being a problem. I know Thompson's campaign manager; if he wishes to respond, I'll accord him space.

Guess who's coming to Drinking Liberally?

by folkbum

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett:
The Mayor is scheduled to appear at 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday, February 28. Please show up early if you can. His office said the Mayor will discuss "the State of the City" with us. You can read his 2007 State of the City speech here, and please bring your questions for him as well.

Drinking Liberally is Milwaukee's social club for folks of the liberal persuasion. There's no cover charge or membership fee (although voluntary donations to help the national organization offset their costs are gratefully accepted!). People of all stripes come together at Drinking Liberally for a lively evening of socializing and social lubricant.
I may be late--I have a thing at 6:30--but I hope to see you all (and the mayor) tonight at Club G.

AirTran is not right for Milwaukee

by folkbum

Jim McGuigan is a smart guy and is usually right about a lot of things, and I often find myself nodding in agreement with his opinions. But the other day he asserted that the proposed AirTran buyout of Milwaukee-based Midwest Airlines would be "not bad for Milwaukee." I have to disagree. After expressing concern over Midwest's stock price, Jim writes,
The problems with [Midwest] aren’t just that the CEO, Tim Hoeksema and their other honcho, Carol Skornicka haven’t performed for the company--the problems are that they are focused on things other than their core business. Skornicka, a former Republican Governor Tommy Thompson appointee has dragged the company into politics, joining with Republicans to bash Democrats when the Republicans were in power of both the Governors mansion as well as the State Senate. CEO Tim Hoeksema has done his part too and a quick search of campaign finance reports shows that he’s been a big contributor to Republicans.

Midwest has lined up for years asking for handouts from Wisconsin also. Are we to now believe that this has been a good thing? We have used out tax money to help Midwest. [. . .]

Let’s take a quick look at what Midwest has done though in the past few years. Carol Skornicka pushed the failed “Blue Shirt” public art project only to have it implode in a public relations frenzy. Skornicka silently faded into the limelight and no one even knew she was part of the committee that suggested it. During a massive layoff masterminded by Skornicka and Hoeksema, they chose as their first department to axe, the quality improvement department. They then axed many other experienced employees and greatly reduced the amount of planes they fly that had their wide leather seats which made them a passenger favorite. They eliminated meal service, instead opting for a pay-per-meal option and kept only one of things that made them popular--the in-flight chocolate chip cookies. They [have] also had major labor disputes.
I can't dispute any of these things, but it's worth asking whether AirTran offers a better deal or not. That Midwest followed every other airline in the business to stop offering meals is disappointing, sure, but you won't get free meals on AirTran, either. And while not every Midwest flight has those wide leather seats, none of AirTran's flights do. The Midwest Connect flights are being upgraded to bigger, more comfortable planes of late, too--even they come with cookies now. And AirTran has its own history of labor disputes, particularly back when it formed from the remains of ValuJet--remember them? Couldn't be bothered with basic safety precautions so they had to change their name? Yeah, that's AirTran.

Jim's a partisan, and so am I. And while there's no question that those at the top of Midwest have given to Wisconsin Republicans (though Skornicka liked Kathleen Falk), AirTran is no better in that regard. And I'm not sure what Jim's thinking is behind his tax statements. Yes, Midwest has gotten tax breaks. But do you think AirTran, which would view Milwaukee as a critical hub, wouldn't also seek a break or two?

AirTran Stock TanksStock price isn't everything, Jim (though the graph on the left--of AirTran's stock in the last two months--might be convincing). There is a real, if intangible, value in having a hometown company. Milwaukee would be a hub to AirTran, not its home. All the generosity of Midwest's charitable and civic activities would be lost. And while a few more flights and a handful more jobs may sound like a good offer, there isn't anything AirTran can do--not even their vow to keep serving those cookies--that can replace having Midwest at home in Milwaukee.

These people looked deep within my soul and assigned me a number based on the order in which I joined

by folkbum

For Mike Mathais:

Whatever happened to Steve Guttenberg, anyway?

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

How well does Dannecker know his district?

by folkbum

Joe Dannecker has represented the 8th district on the Milwaukee Board of School Directors for eight years. This is his third campaign for the seat. And today, when I got home from a hard day of protecting our nation's youth from the plagues of ignorance, I had a little present from him.

An email I got a few weeks back described this particular piece of literature, and its delivery before the primary:
Joe Dannecker showed up at my door tonight. His opening line? "Sorry to show up like this." He handed me a flyer, which lauded his support for banning cell phones at MPS (which, as Terry has pointed out, had already been done, but never enforced). It also lauded Dannecker for his support for several MPS schools, including "Ronald Regan" (sic). Apparently, school board members are not subject to the same spelling and history standards as MPS students. The flyer also failed to include any contact information, so someone had scrawled a telephone number in magic marker next to poor Joe's name.
Here's a telling piece of the one I got today:

Dannecker FlyerAnd, indeed, there was no information on how to contact the sitting board member. Residents of the district--particularly Joe's neighbors in Bay View--might also wonder where, for example, Bay View High School is on that list.

So, how well does Joe Dannecker know his district?

(And, yes, I've sold my soul to Terry Falk and everything.)

Monday, February 26, 2007

Monday Miscellaney

by folkbum

  • Unsolicited plug: Guido G's Pizza, 13th and Morgan, 383-7776. Best. Pizza. Ever. Blows the chains out of the water.

  • See why Ken Mobile is fast becoming one of the best new local bloggers.

  • Speaking of Jessica McBride, one thing has confused me for some time about her WTMJ blog: When you click on this header----you get redirected to . . . Charlie Sykes's blog. There's probably something to that.

  • Get your hands off me, you damn, dirty ape! (Or, more elliptically:
    McArthur Parker: Have you ever heard of "Planet of the Apes"?
    Troy McClure: The movie or the planet?
    McArthur Parker: The brand new multi-million dollar musical! And they want you to play . . . the human!
    Troy McClure: That's the part I was born to play, baby!)

  • All snarkery aside, this seems to be a tremendous misapplication of justice:
    Julie Amero was a substitute teacher who found herself in a pickle while teaching a class of 12-year-old boys.

    The school computer in her classroom, which she had been told not to turn off under any circumstances, and which had no virus protection, spyware protection, and was running a 9-year-old operating system, started popping up porn ads. Not just one or two, but loads.

    When Julie tried to click them off by hitting the little X on the top corner, more popped up. And more.

    With the kids clamoring for a look, Julie tried to block the screen from them, but there were too many, so she ran out to the teachers' lounge and asked for help.
    And for being a victim of Windows 98, she could get 40 years in prison. There's plenty more to get you angry at the link. And it's not a joke.

  • I know you've probably already seen the Conservapedia by now. If you haven't, you should take the time to get to know it before it is completely overrun with graffiti--it's hilarious enough now. (Here's some of the less funny parts.) But here's what gets me: On the main page, they claim to be at least in part a response to the "anti-conservative bias" on Wikipedia. Among their examples of Wikipedia's bias, they include things like "Wikipedia often uses foreign spelling of words" (particularly British spellings), and that biographical entries are often gossipy. Neither of those seem particularly biased against conservatives. I don't get it.

  • Al Gore won an Oscar, unless things go wrong for him at the Supreme Court.

  • Just a reminder: Atheists (if I may be so bold as to speak for all of us) are opposed to neither morality nor religion. The problem is forking over my tax dollars to pay for expressions of that religion. How is that hard to understand?

  • Here's one for all you people who can't write three words in a row without slipping into some sort of "Democrats and al Qaeda share talking points" hoopdedoo.

  • Stoller explains why the adulterating, drag-wearing, gay-rights-loving, pro-choice Rudy Giuliani might still win:
    Like a lot of us, [Josh Marshall] thinks that Republicans base their political judgment on issues, ie. gay rights, abortion, national defense, taxes, etc. He makes the same mistake that a lot of Democrats make, assuming that conservatives think the way that we do. They don't. They are authoritarians. Gay marriage, abortion, taxes, national security, none of it really matters to them. What they are looking for is an authoritarian to look like he's taking charge, and the way an authoritarian takes charge is to attack liberals and stomp on people who aren't like them. Giuliani did this in New York, so he's a rock star in Alabama.

Iraq, In Convenient Chart Form

by folkbum

Although I tend to agree with those who say that a candidate's ideas about Iraq right now are not all that relevant (really, even their ideas a year from now will be woefully out of date by the time a new president takes office in 2009), the New York Times has the rundown of where all the major party candidates stood in 2002, where they are on the "surge," and what they think about withdrawal, all in convenient chart form. It's worth a look.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Pop Quiz: Sykes, Iraq, and Selective Outrage

By Bert

This past week, while discussing a news item related to the Iraq War, radio talk show host Charlie Sykes used the adjective “disgraceful.” Which of the following news items was the one that Sykes thought needed to be condemned:

A. The quilty plea of a U.S. soldier in Iraq who participated with three other soldiers in the rape of a 14-year-old Iraqi girl and the murder of her and her family.

B. The hypocrisy of Dick Cheney, who applauds Tony Blair for starting to pull British troops from Iraq, but who says U.S. lawmakers who favor a U.S. withdrawal lack intestinal fortitude and want to help Al Qaeda.

C. Opposition to the war expressed by U.S. lawmakers.

D. The needless nature or incompetent leadership of the war itself, which in the past week cost the lives of another 14 U.S. soldiers, and who deserve better.

Time is up. Please put your pencils down now. The correct answer is in the comments.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

You Know It's Serious


You know it's serious when the City of Milwaukee can't even afford to use all the necessary letters.

McIlheran Watch: Waiting for denunciation

by folkbum

I would also accept it from Dad29 or Rick Esenberg, or any one of the dozens of other Right Cheddarsphereans who had their undies bunched about two bloggers hired by the John Edwards for President Campaign. What will they say about a campaign chairman?
In 1997, shortly after I finished grad school, I started working at Americans United for Separation of Church and State. My very first project, literally in my first week, dealt with a Republican member of South Carolina’s Board of Education, who wanted to impose Christianity on public school students. When one of his colleagues on the board alluded to concerns about religious minorities in the state, this board member said, on tape, “Screw the Buddhists and kill the Muslims. And put that in the minutes.”

The guy’s name was Henry Jordan. I got to work trying to force his resignation, but to no avail. I helped drum up some media interest, but the GOP establishment in South Carolina stood by Jordan, the response from local voters was tepid, and he kept his job looking out for the educational needs of children.

This week, my old friend Jordan got a new political gig.
Republican presidential candidate Duncan Hunter on Thursday named … former state Rep. Tom Marchant and Dr. Henry Jordan campaign co-chairmen.
I suppose you could say that John Edwards has about a billion percent better chance of winning the Democratic nomination than Duncan Hunter does of winning the Republican nomination, and therefore Hunter doesn't merit the same close examination of his staff. I suppose you could also say that McIlheran, Esenberg, and 29 are Catholic and, therefore, don't pay attention to people who hate other religions. I suppose you could also say that the double standard remains firmly in place, so I shouldn't hold my breath.

In any case, I feel I should at least get the Duncan Hunter "screw the Budhists and kill the Muslims" story out there for you--an elected official speaking in his capacity as an elected official (as opposed, you know, to a couple of bloggers on their personal blogs) now chairing a campaign for president who suffers from far worse religious intolerance than any campaign employee we have seen yet in this election season. Let the denunciations begin.

So obvious it shouldn't need to be said

By Bert

But a New York Times review of this new Fox News comedy show "The 1/2 Hour News Hour" says it anyway:

Almost 30 years after the Reagan revolution, conservatives have to tilt pretty far to portray themselves as marginalized and downtrodden. Republicans controlled the House and the Senate until only recently, and they still run the White House, but the impulse to paint themselves as a persecuted minority leading a cultural war against the Hollywood-led liberal media dies hard.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Brother Bob and the Public Schools

by folkbum

Since every time I take a day off of work it costs the taxpayers money, I declined to infiltrate Charlie Sykes's annual (and unironically named) "Insight" event held Wednesday morning. That means I missed, among other things, Sykes's almost certainly deliberate misinterpretation of a statement by Ald. Michael McGee, which makes for a funny enough story by itself.

But there were plenty of other bloggers at the event to record the haps for posterity, including Badger Blogger Patrick, whose write-up you can read at your leisure.

One thing in particular stood out to me as I read Patrick's report, though, his summary of the education panel from that morning (Patrick's italics):
Panel three was about education in Milwaukee. Charlie was joined by MPS Superintendent William Andrekopouls, the MJS education reporter Alan Borsuk, WEAC President Stan Johnson and Messmer High School’s Brother Bob Smith.

I think that the biggest problem we have in MPS is that we don’t have a Brother Bob Smith’s in every MPS school. He made a comment that really stuck out, he tells his kids to “make the right decisions, or make them somewhere else.” Brother Bob is awesome!
Brother Bob seemed like a nice enough guy the one time I met him, but I lack Patrick's awe, and I do not share Patrick's conviction that not having a Brother Bob in every MPS school is "the biggest problem," not by a long shot.

But Brother Bob's statement there, and Patrick's adulation of it (no doubt the rest of Charlie's crowd ate it up, too) is actually a pretty good demonstration of how the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program--the "voucher" program, as it's commonly known--is not, in fact, on a level playing field with the Milwaukee Public Schools: See, in MPS, we simply do not have the luxury of telling students that they are welcome to make their bad decisions elsewhere. The voucher schools, of which Messmer is a prominent example, have the ability to remove disruptive or difficult-to-educate students. Remember that the next time you see Messmer's statistics, or those of any voucher school that can in practice pick and choose who attends. The students removed from those schools then end up in the public schools, where they remain disruptive and difficult to educate.

And when those students fail, drop out, score low on tests, or get into fights at or near school, who takes the blame? The public schools, of course. If we had the opportunity, as Brother Bob does, to invite students to make their bad decisions somewhere else, MPS could produce incredible results. But we cannot remove them. There is nowhere to kick them out to. We are the last line of defense for many of these very lost kids, and our results show it.

Maybe it would be instructive for Brother Bob Smith to spend a few years in MPS, so that he can try to find a "somewhere else" for our public school students to go. Let him see what it's like to face the mountain of documentation and paperwork that it takes simply to move a single disruptive student from one public school to another. Let him try to figure out what to do with the disruptive students that get shuffled into his public school because some other principal got that mountain of paperwork done. Let him just try to tell students that their presence is not welcome, and watch the parents, the DPI, the media, and the lawsuits descend on his public-school life.

So it isn't just a lack of advances in that whole human cloning thing that keeps MPS from having a Brother Bob in every MPS school. It's the harsh reality that we must teach everyone who comes through our doors--a harsh reality the Brother Bobs never have to face.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

McIlheran Watch: I Told You So Edition

by folkbum

In the run-up to last fall's spanking election, Patrick McIlheran dragged out one of his favorite dead horses (rumor has it, his is the largest freezer down there at JournalCorp): Voter ID. He was helped with the beating by serial liar John Lott, who spackled together some kind of hooey study about how stricter voter ID laws would somehow increase voter turnout.

It only took me a few moments with teh Google to find out that Lott's fevered imaginings did not match reality at all. At. All.

But don't take my word for it, despite the newfanglediness of the technology I employed to solve the puzzle. Trust real researchers at real universities who haven't, unlike some John Lotts I could name, been caught fabricating stuff.

Cory at the One Blog points us to a New York Times write-up of the study (.pdf):
States that imposed identification requirements on voters reduced turnout at the polls in the 2004 presidential election by about 3 percent, and by two to three times as much for minorities, new research suggests.

The study, prepared by scholars at Rutgers and Ohio State Universities for the federal Election Assistance Commission, supports concerns among voting-rights advocates that blacks and Hispanics could be disproportionately affected by ID requirements. But federal officials say more research is needed to draw firmer conclusions about the effects on future elections.

Tim Vercellotti, a professor at the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University who helped conduct the study, said that in the states where voters were required to sign their names or present identifying documents like utility bills, blacks were 5.7 percent less likely to vote than in states where voters simply had to say their names.

Dr. Vercellotti said Hispanics appeared to be 10 percent less likely to vote under those requirements, while the combined rate for people of all races was 2.7 percent.
I suppose it depends on what it is that you think voter ID laws are really designed to prevent. I hardly think that 2.7% of all voters were hell-bent on fraud (double-voting and the like) and subsequently stymied; that requires believing that literally millions of people across the country were engaged in some sort of vote-stuffing conspiracy, and not even gullible folk like Kevin Barrett would fall for that.

On the other hand, many of us have been warning for a very long time that Republicans pushing so hard for such laws were primarily aiming to depress turnout among Democratic-leaning minority voters, which, as it happens, seems to be exactly what took place. They won't admit this, of course; but the number--even the suspected number--of fraud cases turns out to be incredibly insignificant compared to the increased disenfranchisement this study seems to show. And any attempt to gussy up restrictive laws in the language of fraud and abuse is mere cover for the motives they can't say--or write--in public.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Sick leave, briefly

by folkbum

I don't have a lot of time this morning, so I have to be quick: An initiative to kill Wisconsin legislators' sick leave has died, again, and the blame is placed squarely on Democrats this morning:
The Republican-controlled Assembly was poised to pass the measure late Tuesday but was held up by a procedural move by a Democrat. Meanwhile, Democrats who control the Senate indicated the bill is going nowhere in that house. And Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle said that with changes to the reporting process, the sick leave benefit should continue. [. . .]

Just before the Assembly was to take a final vote on the measure, Rep. Marlin Schneider (D-Wisconsin Rapids) objected and pushed it off until the Assembly meets next on March 1. The bill's author, Rep. Pat Strachota (R-West Bend), said she expects the bill to pass then.

Schneider declined to say why he had objected to a final vote, although he has been a vocal opponent of efforts to end the sick leave benefit. Schneider has more than $110,000 worth of sick leave accumulated, although the bill wouldn't affect what elected officials have already earned.
The issue has been a whipping post for the conservatives who live in your radio and in your computer, and this will give them plenty of fodder for the next few weeks. Never mind that the chief champion of the idea to tank the benefit is Democrat Sheldon Wasserman, and never mind that a Republican-controlled legislature sat on its thumbs about it for years before Democrats even had the kind of authority to stop it that they do now.

But more importantly, I think conseratives' reflexive hatred of all things Benefit--like sick leave and health care and pensions--is short-sighted in general and particularly stupid in this case.

Just thinking about legislators, never mind the "constitutional officers, justices, judges and district attorneys" who would also be affected by the measure, the policy is one that makes sense to me. Consider that if I were to run for the legislature and win next year, I'd be taking a pay cut (depending on how, um, flexible I was with my use of the "per diem" money). Many of the most-qualified people to be legislators--attorneys, academics, business leaders--would be in the same position. It would be a tremendous cut for your Charlie Sykeses and Mark Bellings, even your Owen Robinsons. And, face it, not everyone can be Bob Ziegelbauer and hold two elected offices at once. In other words, no one goes into state government to get rich, and no one comes out rich, either.

What the sick leave benefit offers legislators (and the others listed above) is not some grand cash payout upon retirement or the kind of golden parachute companies provide for a CEO who lost his company profit and market share (later, please, can someone explain how that even remotely makes sense?).

Instead, what the sick leave benefit allows retirees to do is pay for a part of their health care when they retire. That's it. That's the whole thing, the entire bug that has crawled up the behinds of the conservatives. It's true that some of the legislators have accumulated totals that seem astronomical; but the biggest of those stockpiles will never get completely used up, with the unspent balances remaining just that, unspent. The total real cost to taxpayers, no matter how often the Journal Sentinel repeats its $3.2 million number, is negligible.

But it makes it just a little bit easier to talk someone into serving the public interest. Knowing that the benefit is there may be enough for someone like me (though not me, since I don't want to) to take the plunge into public life and accept that pay cut.

Look, if Wisconsin's conservatives can can complain about how low pay is dangerous for the federal judiciary, then surely they can consider how a similar case can be made for those--and not just legislators--who serve the state as well.

If Linda Clifford's Math is Right


by folkbum

. . . when she says . . .
she was pleased with the results as well. "I think it's especially exciting I made it through the primary, despite the fact (Ziegler and outside groups) outspent me about 10 to 1, spending over half a million dollars on the votes she achieved," Clifford said.
. . . that means Annette Ziegler, the Club for Growth, the Chamber of Commerce, et al. spent about $3.25 for every vote received. (I know robocalls are cheap, but did I really need five or six in the week before the election?) Linda Clifford, on the other hand, spent less than 75¢ per vote.

Given that their filings show them at parity--and that undoubtedly, some third-party will be spending money on Clifford in the next month the way the anti-consumer and anti-choice goups will for Ziegler--Clifford's poised to get a much better return in the general than she did here.

In the meantime, there's no reason for you not to go show some love yourself.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

I voted

by folkbum

Very low turn out . . . I voted less than half an hour before the polls closed, and I was voter 54 in my ward, 119 in my polling place. Compared to previous elections, that's pathetic.

However, it was a good night. I have to say that it's nice to be at a winning candidate's election-night party for once. Congrats to both Bama and to Linda Clifford for making it through the primary.

But the big winner, in my mind, is Terry Falk: His 44% in the primary not only beat incumbent Joe Dannecker, but it was accomplished with limited resources. See, Terry's printer screwed up, and the mailer that was supposed to hit mailboxes Friday or Saturday never got sent. No one robocalled for him (Tricia Young had Progressive Majority Wisconsin's help). It was all done on foot and with real supporters making real calls to real voters in the last weekend. If Terry can double or triple up on the people power leading up to the April 3 general, he will win in a walk. Right now, the momentum is priceless, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't swing by and help pay for a mailer (different printer, natch) that will actually hit its target.

Aside: How is it that the Journal Sentinel can endorse a candidate for the seat (Dannecker) who didn't even respond to the questionnaire?

Vote Today!

by folkbum

Early but not often, since that would be wrong.

Remember your folkbum-approved candidates:
  • State Supreme Court: Linda Clifford
  • Milwaukee Public Schools City-Wide: Bama Brown-Grice
  • Milwaukee Public Schools District 3: Leon Todd or Stephanie Findley
  • Milwaukee Public Schools District 8: Terry Falk
  • Madison Alder District 15: Vicky Selkowe
There are about a billion candidates running for municipal judge down here, too, including at least two write-ins, I think. I have no idea what I'll do on that one yet.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Terry Falk Victory Party in Bay View

by folkbum

After you vote for Terry Falk on Tuesday, you can go hang out with him at his post-election party:

Terry Falk Election Party
7-10 p.m. Tuesday, February 20
Puddler's Hall
2461 S. St. Clair Street
Milwaukee, WI, 53207

Friday, February 16, 2007

OhMyGod! WeAreAllGoingToDie! IfLindaCliffordGetsElected!!!!!!

by folkbum

So I get home from work tonight to a blinking answering machine. When I press play, I hear a Serious Female Voice:
This is an important pulbic safety message . . .
Oh no! Maybe there's some nut on the loose with a gun!
. . . from the Wisconsin Chamber of Commerce . . .
Maybe the peanut butter can kill you!
. . . Judge Annette Ziegler has the exp--
Next! Puh-lease! Can we be for real?

Well, eventually I listened to the rest of the call. It was all "Ziegler is tough on crime" and whatnot, and, as you can guess by the title of this post, it was clearly designed to give the impression that, were Linda Clifford (you know, the one without the exp--) to be elected, chaos would break out all over the state.

And that's Ziegler's primary campaign theme: She, like JB "Batman" Van Hollen before her, is running for an office other than the one on the ballot. Lindsay Buechel in the La Crosse Tribune explains:
Annette Ziegler presents a misleading assumption about the race happening this spring. She states that being a trial judge makes her a better candidate. [. . .] The Supreme Court needs a seasoned practitioner who knows how the decisions it makes directly impact the people of Wisconsin more than it needs another trial judge.
Deke Rivers elaborates:
Ziegler keeps mentioning that she is the only judge in the race, and therefore better suited for the Supreme Court. But she seems to forget that our long tradition in Wisconsin has voters respecting diversity of profession when voting for Justices. Just a decade ago the majority of those serving on the bench came from outside the court system. As an example, it is clear that Chief Justice Abrahamson is a remarkable member of the Court. On the conservative side the same argument can be made for former Speaker of the Assembly Dave Prosser, who all must admit is a much-respected jurist. Therefore one can make a strong case for placing a judge on the bench with real life-problem solving skills. Clifford brings those skills, along with her decades of experience in government, private practice, and State Bar involvement with her as she seeks our vote. Her involvement in a whole series of federal and state cases makes her more than qualified for the job.
Being "tough on crime" is really not a bad qualification for a prosecutor or a municipal judge (notice, no one ever runs for DA with a "soft on crime" platform). But on the state's Supreme Court, you want someone who can provide a thoughtful approach to substantial matters across a wide spectrum of judicial theory. "Tough on crime" tells us nothing about a judge's ability to weigh matters of constitutional consequence; a strict lock-em-up, throw-away-the-key mentality is not necessarily a good fit on the high court.

To imply that if we don't elect her, that we'll have criminals leaking out of prisons and "public safety" will be endangered is absurd. And offensive.

Friday Random Ten

by folkbum

The President's Day Blowout Sale Edition

1. "Lowside of the Road" Tom Waits from Mule Variations
2. "Blue Divide" Richard Shindell from Blue Divide
3. "When Jimmy Falls in Love" Vance Gilbert from Somerville Live
4. "Paint the Sky" Darryl Purpose from Right Side of Zero
5. "Indian Dreams" Ferron from Phantom Center
6. "Surprise" Lynne Saner from This is Boston ... Not Austin
7. "Revelator" Gillian Welch from Time (The Revelator)
8. "Down and Dirty" Shannon McNally from Live at the World Cafe
9. "Drunk Lullaby" Redbird from Redbird
10. "Last Kisses" The Nields from Play

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Help Terry Falk This Weekend

by folkbum

No surprise, but the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel endorsed both Bruce Thompson and Joe Dannecker. But that doesn't mean you can't put yourself to work helping Terry Falk make it through the primary:
  • First, give. Terry's enabled PayPal at his website, so you can use your credit card or PayPal account instead of mailing a check.

  • Help make some calls: Call Terry (744-4598) or email (tfalk@wi.rr.com) if you can make it to a "cell phone party" for a couple hours Saturday, Sunday, or Monday.

  • Check out the BayViewNOW's write-up of the candidate forum that I reviewed here. And now the audio is available at Terry's website (where, recall, you can chip in a few bucks), so you can see who was more accurate, me or the Emm-Ess-Emm.

  • The Journal Sentinel also ran Q&As with the city-wide candidates this week. Even if you don't live down here in the 8th, or over in the 3rd (I recommend Leon Todd or Stephanie Findley, in that order), you can still vote in the at-large contest.

  • Most importantly, vote Tuesday: Even if you don't live in Milwaukee, everyone in the state can vote in the primary for state Supreme Court.

The Real Debate Wisconsin Money Quote: BBA Edition

by folkbum

"The Real Debate Wisconsin Money Quote" is an occasional series highlighting the nonsensical and offensive statements made at Fred Dooley's blog of that name.

Today, I'm cheating and pulling a quote by our man Fred that he didn't bother to put up at his own blog, but rather through his posting privileges at Badger Blog Alliance. Today, Fred voiced his disgust at Nancy Pelosi, who stated that President Bush lacks the authority to invade Iran without Congressional approval. Here's Fred:
Who the heck does Nancy Pelosi think she is? Last time I looked the Commander in Chief controlled foriegn policy and the military if George Bush decides he wants to invade Iran who is Nancy Pelosi to say no?
Fred may want to brush up just a bit:
Article I, Section 8. The Congress shall have power to [. . .] declare war, grant letters of marque and reprisal, and make rules concerning captures on land and water;

To raise and support armies, but no appropriation of money to that use shall be for a longer term than two years;

To provide and maintain a navy;

To make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces;
I hope that, should Fred manage to get elected to the Racine City Council, he reads those rules a little more closely than he reads his Constitution.

Annette Ziegler and Conflicts of Interest

by folkbum

Judge Annete Ziegler, running for Wisconsin's Supreme Court, has made a big deal of her experience on the bench, mostly playing up, as far as I can tell, a "tough on crime" stance that is not necessarily applicable for the job she wants (well, hey, it worked for JB Van Hollen). But it puts Ziegler's work on the bench on the table, which is good news for those of us who occasionally dig for dirt.

We already know that blog and activist scrutiny shamed her, late, into recusing herself from a case involving Wal*Mart, a company in which she owns a ton of stock. [UPDATE: Per comments below, her timing may not have been late at all on the Wal*Mart thing.] But there's more in the conflict-of-interest department.

Careful observers will note that Judge Ziegler filed the appropriate formage with the state to indicate that she might have a conflict when it comes to West Bend Savings Bank. For good reason: Her husband, JJ, is on the WBSB board, and has been since 2002.

Here's the kicker: Since 2002, Judge Ziegler has presided over nearly four dozen cases involving WBSB (just check). An intrepid correspondent of mine actually took a tour around the Washington County Courthouse and checked the casefiles on about a dozen of the most recent cases, and there was no evidence of notice given to the defendants in those cases of the possible conflict of interest. This, of course, leads to speculation that the three-dozen prior cases were also filed away without any mention of such notice.

Two questions: If Judge Ziegler had given notice to these defendants that her husband was on the West Bend Savings Bank's board, shouldn't that notice be somewhere in the case paperwork? And, two, even if, perhaps, she did notify the defendants--or if she assumed the defendants or their attorneys might by default check the state ethics website linked above to learn the news--why would these defendants accede to letting the case go forward under someone with such strong ties to the plantiffs? That's the sort of thing that suggests to me that the absence of a paper trail regarding that notification is probably representative of an absence of notice.

A further question: Why has it even come this far? In other words, should not Judge Ziegler have looked at the parties involved in these cases and without having to be asked recused herself because of the conflict of interest? I know that it took scrutiny before she did the right thing in the Wal*Mart case, and this is an issue that has gotten no scrutiny until now, but why should it take scrutiny at all? Shouldn't someone who thinks she's qualifed to sit on the state's highest court have a slightly greater sense of ethics, of right and wrong, than that?

Now, I know you may also be thinking that I'm relying too much on someone I've labeled "my intrepid correspondent." Fact is, this source has not yet steered my wrong in several years of providing me with information. Besides, the Washington County Courthouse records are public records, so you don't have to take my (or his) word for it. In fact, I would hope some enterprising reporter could take a drive over there and follow this story wherever it may lead, since it seems to raise a lot of uncomfortable questions for Ziegler about her conduct on the bench--conduct that she is using as the very basis for her campaign. It wouldn't be hard to contact the people who have lost these cases to West Bend Savings Bank, ask them how it feels to know that the woman who ruled against them is married to a member of the bank's board.

So, Judge Ziegler, what's the deal? What's the threshold for recusing yourself? What's the minimum it takes to inform the parties in front of you about a conflict? And how on earth can you stand on this record as qualifications for Wisconsin Supreme Court?

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Who said Xoff was retired?

by folkbum

Well, okay, technically, it was Xoff himself.

But he's been busy keeping the Sensenbrenner Watch for us:Thanks, Bill, for keeping the Watch.

Vote in One Week

by folkbum

Some election-related bits:
  • In Milwaukee, city-wide school board candidate James Koneazny has dropped out due to illness. His name will still be on the ballot, but don't vote for him.

  • In other school board news, Terry Falk is organizing "Cell Phone Parties" at his house for this weekend to support his run down here in District 8. If you can help out by bringing your cell phone and making calls to voters before the February 20th primary, call Terry (744-4598) or email (tfalk@wi.rr.com) in advance if you can make it for a couple hours Saturday, Sunday, or Monday. If you don't have a phone, you can use Terry's land line or work on a few other things there.

  • Also for some Milwaukee voters, it looks like the Michael McGee recall is back on, but on a different timeline, with an initial vote coinciding with the general election on April 3. A lot of very smart people that I know and trust are supporting Una Van Duvall for that position; I don't know enough to offer a full endorsement, but I just wanted to point out that she's garnered some impressive backers.

  • Annette Ziegler is first on TV with an ad in the state Supreme Court race. Though the spot is not quite as "tough on crime!" as her previous radio ad, I do have to wonder if her campain isn't taking a tip from JB Van Hollen, and running on the crime issue even though prosecutorial experience is not necessarily helpful on the high court. But I guess she, like Van Hollen, knows what her voters want to hear, even if it's not relevant to the job. I'm still voting for Linda Clifford.
Any votes in your neck of the woods you want to talk about?

Monday, February 12, 2007

Dear Boss,

by folkbum

I'd like to be helpful and point out this new study on the effects of something very near and dear to my heart (literally):
Office nappers now have the perfect excuse: New research shows that a little midday snooze seems to reduce the risk of fatal heart problems, especially among men.

In the largest study to date on the health effects of napping, researchers tracked 23,681 healthy Greek adults for an average of about six years. Those who napped for about half an hour at least three times weekly had a 37 percent lower risk of dying from heart attacks or other heart problems than those who did not nap. [. . .]

"My advice is if you can (nap), do it. If you have a sofa in your office, if you can relax, do it," Trichopoulos said.
So if you should happen to wander into my classroom and find me passed out, it's not because I'm irresponsible or trying to get fired; I'm just trying to stave off the inevitable Big One. It's probably in your best interest just to let me sleep.

McIlheran Watch: Why I do it

by folkbum

Warning: Verbose. But when am I not?

I have said it over and over and over: I don't want to silence the media. I don't want to force them to parrot a single (my) party line. I don't want them to roll over and play dead while the vastly superior intellects of the blogosphere do their jobs for them better, faster, and cheaper.

No. I recognize that the professional media have a vital and critical role to play in our democracy, and that I, as a blogger, could not exist without them. I don't have time to be a reporter, or to opine on every subject people who buy the newspaper or watch TV news may be interested in. (Any blogger who tells you blogs will someday replace traditional media has been eating too many Cheetos, or maybe not getting enough sunlight.)

What I do say, over and over and over, is that I want the media to be better. When I criticize the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, flagship of the state's largest media conglomerate, I do so not because they tell me uncomfortable facts or report stories I would rather keep under wraps. Instead, I do it because I feel that they are reporting with bias, manufacturing controversies, or applying double standards.

When I go after my favorite Journal Sentinel target, the reliably conservative Patrick McIlheran, it's not because I don't like him (he's probably a nice enough guy, but I've never met him) or that I merely disagree with him (there are many conservatives that I don't try to argue with) or that he's a bad blogger (he gets the medium far better than anyone else under the J-S's employ; sorry, Vikki!).

It's that, as a card-carrying, professionally trained, editorial decision-making member of the media, he has a responsibility to be truthful with the facts and aware of, if not avoidant of, double standards. When he's writing his op-eds and blogging, he has no obligation to keep his personal feelings in check (unlike, say, state capitol reporters who clearly personally despise those they report on). But he does still have an obligation not to distort the truth or judge some guilty while letting others skate for the same crime. When he does so, when he plays fast and loose with facts or repeats uncritically the GOP talking point of the day, he fails to live up to the responsibility that comes with a byline in the state's largest newspaper.

When that happens, someone needs to call him on it. That is one of the things that bloggers can do, so we (myself, the Brawler, Tim Rock, Mike Mathias, among others) do it. Not because we want to silence McIlheran, but rather because we expect better of him.

Which is why I'm disappointed in his continued response to the story about John Edwards's bloggers.

***

If you don't know the story by now, you can read McIlheran's original blog post, my two responses here, and, finally, his response to my criticisms.

Among the other disappointing things is how, within just a few dozen words, McIlerhan both acts breathlessly aghast that I would call Amanda Marcotte merely "coloful" or "outspoken" and refers to Catholic League president Bill Donohue as merely "mouthy." It reminds me of the time he described the often-violent anti-choice activist (I mean, people have written laws just for him) Matt Trewhella in the context of "putting daisies in gun barrels," saying, merely, that he "protests abortion."

While it's true that Amanda, on her personal blog, uses the kind of language that gets TV stations fined by the FCC and Catholics kicked out of heaven--language Bill Donohue won't use (though this pushes an envelope)--Donohue is anything but "mouthy." He is a naked partisan, forgiving Republican candidates and staffers for the same sins he will rail against in Democrats. See, for example, Think Progress, which points out how he defended a sex predator in the Bush administration. Check Media Matters for the story of how Donohue enabled Swiftboater Jerome Corsi's anti-Catholic attacks on John Kerry. Or read about plenty of religious and Catholic leaders who see Donohue as "a thug" and "marginal" and "bigoted." When confronted with his own statements, Donohue flips out--hardly the actions of a truly pious man, much more consistent with a partisan hack.

Donohue almost single-handedly created the Edwards-blogger story, and was certainly its most public face. Without Donohue, this story doesn't exist, isn't there for McIlheran to bite. Yet, rather than weigh whether there is a "there" there on this story, McIlheran is happy to smear the Edwards campaign at the behest of a vile, bigoted, "mouthy" partisan.

McIlheran also declines to comment on his apparent double standard. While Amanda Marcotte profaned (in several senses of the word) the Catholic church, she did so before working for John Edwards, on her personal blog, in a way that most people would agree was not designed to further the candidacy of any particular presidential hopeful. (It happened, usually, in defense of a pro-choice philosophy, or against examples misogyny.) On the other hand, blogger Patrick Hynes, after he was hired by John McCain, posted anti-Mormon smears clearly designed to dampen enthusiasm for McCain's adversary Mitt Romney, who is perhaps this country's most prominent Latter Day Saint. It may simply be because McIlheran is Catholic and not Mormon, but it does seem suspicious that he criticizes a Democratic candidate for hiring a blogger who has not written a single word about Catholics while under that candidate's employ, but won't criticize a Republican candidate who may well be directing his blogger to write anti-Mormon posts.

In fact, the title of McIlheran's post in response to me ("So, Folkbum, is 'mother...' how you want your religion referred to?") seems to make it sound exactly that personal: McIlheran is Catholic, and can't be bothered to complain when anyone criticizes some other religion. After all, the editorial board on which he sits green-lighted an op-ed just about a year ago that did, in fact, criticize what I believe in, in a remarkably offensive (if G-rated) manner. McIlheran didn't bother to comment. (And no comment on Tucker Carlson's wondering aloud whether Barack Obama is Christian enough.)

Moreover, McIlheran tries to turn this all back on me, demanding (taking a tip from the area's second-most widely read Catholic blogger, Dad29) to know if I agree with Marcotte. I never tried to defend her words beyond her right to write them. All I asked for--and feel free to re-read my post as often as you want--is fairness: Where is the critique of Donohue ("mouthy" doesn't cut it), or McCain and Hynes? If you are willing to forgive in Republicans what you rail against in Democrats, you are, in fact, being a hack.

***

That is not the half of it. The Brawler is tougher on McIlheran than I would be, but he raises valid points about McIlheran's willingness to defend religion (hint: it takes a back seat to partisanship). Tim Rock reminds us that McIlheran is not above slandering religions himself (a defense of "Islamic fascism," anyone?) and likes to cite Ann Coulter (1 2 3 4 5 6, for starters). Coulter, of course, recommends talking to liberals with baseball bats (if you have to talk to them at all) and poisoning Supreme Court Justices--and those are her tame ones. (Media Matters has her greatest hits.) The worst McIlheran is willing to say about her is that she's "mean," once again leading me to wonder why he is appalled that I'd call Amanda Marcotte "colorful."

More pertinent to this discussion, perhaps, is one Michelle Malkin, whom McIlheran also likes to link approvingly to (1 2 3 4 5 is enough for now). Malkin has actually called for the internment of American Muslims and helped popularize the term Islamofacist among the right, for example, but McIlheran, not being Muslim, may not care. (Again, see Media Matters for some greatest hits.) However, Malkin has done pretty much the exact same thing John Edwards is now so strongly criticized for doing: Edwards hired a profanity-using anti-Catholic blogger, and so did Malkin. A key team member of her un-ironically named "Hot Air" group blog is a guy who goes by the name (also un-ironically) Allahpundit. Allahpundit happens also to have a history of using profanity to defame Catholics (profanity at the link, obviously). Allahpundit also criticized Amanda Marcotte, as did Allahpundit's boss, Malkin, choosing the whole time to ignore what Allahpundit apparently believes about Catholics.

As with Hynes and McCain, Trewhella and Donohue, there is a goose-gander issue here; it's that McIlheran is more than willing to write about the goose when it serves his basest partisan itches, but he will never, ever write about the gander.

***

Look, I know it is not McIlheran's job to root out every example of anti-Catholic writing anywhere on the internet. (It's closer to being Bill Donohue's job, but he never seems to catch conservatives or Republicans when they do it.)

It is, however, McIlheran's job to be something beyond just a smug partisan hack who can't be bothered with double-standards or mis-statements of fact or writing something beyond what Rush Limbaugh or The Corner is talking about that day. If I wanted that, there are plenty of right-tilting bloggers who can turn a clever enough phrase while engaging in the basest hypocrisy. They are not members of the professional media. They have no obligation to their readers to avoid such sins. I may occasionally point out the error of their ways, but I don't expect them to wake up one day and realize they should, in fact, be following some minimum standards of conduct in their writing.

The same is not true for Patrick McIlheran. When he goes to work every day down at Third and State, he sits among people who, in their professional conduct, strive--even when they don't quite make it--to follow some ethical and journalistic standards. I've met many of them, and the ones I've talked to all seem to be quite serious about both getting the details right and providing the full context of the stories they cover. The exceptions are few and far between, and I write about them because they are exceptions. I keep the McIlheran Watch because he is an exception.

***

In the end, perhaps the best take on the Edwards-blogger story I have read comes from a local conserative, Sean Hackbarth:
In a few days many of us will forget this story. We’ll only be reminded if Marcotte or McEwan write something outrageous. [. . .] Even before any controversy their voices changed. Go to Marcotte’s pre-story post on the Edwards weblog. She’s a semi-policy wonk. Nothing to be afraid of.

Which brings me to my defense of Marcotte and McEwen. People are capable of adapting to their surroundings. I wouldn’t talk the same way on a first date as I would with my male friends watching the football game at the bar. Our behavior changes when we are in a professional environment versus the safer confines of friends and family. Just as Edwards isn’t that responsible for comments left by people on his weblog I don’t think he’s that responsible for what Marcotte and McEwan said prior to being hired.
McIlheran, on the other hand, is responsible for what he writes, all the time. That's why I do this.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Donate to Terry Falk online

by folkbum

This morning's paper has a brief profile of the candidates down here in the Milwaukee Public Schools 8th district, which serves as a companion to Sarah Carr's earlier profile of the city-wide candidates. (I'm thinking about voting for Bama.)

But the big news today is that folkbum-endorsed Terry Falk is now able to take contributions through the web via PayPal (big link on his page, you can't miss it). The incumbent will benefit from a nation-wide conduit of pro-privatization cash, so Terry needs all the support he can get.

MPS and MJS: Is the worm turning?

by folkbum

I know that the reporters are not the editors, and the editors are not the paper, per se, but it seemed like for a long time, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel was in love with the leadership of the Milwaukee Public Schools. The paper has long cheered the smoke and mirrors of the superintendent (it was not that long ago when he was literally re-imagined as the hero of a spy movie), and cheered when the "reformers" took over the board again two years ago.

But I'm seeing a trend, that maybe the very public, very scary, and very embarassing news of late out of MPS has the team down on West State Street a little skeptical. For example, the same reporter covering the same territory as in the lauditory article linked above gave us this front-page story last week:
Like a banged-up player starting the second half, the high schools in the Milwaukee Public Schools system began a new semester Monday with a couple of fresh plays ready to go and, presumably, a bit of hope that things would go better than they did in a tough first half.

By Wednesday, however, the focus was right back on problems--this time, a fracas and a medical emergency at the end of a basketball game at Bradley Tech that brought police rushing from all over the city--and questions about the whole enterprise of high school in MPS were back in the spotlight:

Is the game plan sound? Or do we have bigger problems than we realized--problems with the plan, with the players, with the coaches, problems in the front office, problems in the whole arena?
Different metaphor, yes, but also different tone, different implications, and different sense of which way the wind is blowing for the superintendent down at the newspaper.

Then this popped up yesterday at the "School Zone" blog:
At a dog-and-pony show with much grandstanding and little substance, the Milwaukee mayor, schools superintendent, police chief, and assistant district attorney announced the debut of an effort to put cops full-time into a couple of Milwaukee’s schools. The event was held at Edison Middle School.

Reporters, city officials and spokespeople were there in abundance, but the school community (apart from the principal) was scarcely to be seen. The news conference was held in a small room, and then reporters were given a staged walk down a hallway. Two of the police officers involved in the effort strolled down the hallway trailed by a small throng of cameras and flaks. Like kids trying to cut class, reporters who took a step in the wrong direction were reprimanded. [. . .] There was something eerie and disconnected about being at a school performance that involved no teachers, no students, no parents and no staff besides the principal. Just reporters, bureaucracy and cops.
Some of us have been trying to draw attention to the superintendent's grandstanding and media manipulation, his dog-and-ponying, for more than three years (that blog was short-lived, so it won't take you long to stroll through the archives to see what I mean).

Doubtless, the editors will endorse the incumbencies of Joe Dannecker and Jeff Spence, who back the superintendent, and the candidacy of Bruce Thompson, whom the editors hated to see lose in 2001 (darn those voters). It seems like they should be trusting their own reporters, though, and looking for some substance behind the carefully staged-managed front.

Friday Random Ten

by folkbum

The Maybe it's Love Edition

1. "He Never Mentioned Love" Kirsty MacColl from Electric Landlady
2. "Crazy Love" Erica Wheeler from Almost Like Tonight
3. "I Know What Kind of Love This Is" The Nields from Gotta Get Over Greta
4. "What We Talk About (When We Talk About Love)" Jon Svetkey from YeahYeahYeah
5. "I Wanna be Loved" Elvis Costello from The Very Best Of
6. "Annie's Lover" Dave Carter and Tracy Grammer from When I Go
7. "My Love Has Gone" Josh Rouse from Nashville
8. "When Jimmy Falls in Love" Vance Gilbert from Edgewise
9. "Love Takes the Best of You" Catie Curtis from My Shirt Looks Good on You
10. "Blind Love" Tom Waits from Rain Dogs

Thursday, February 08, 2007

McIlheran Watch: Updates

by folkbum

Following up on my post this morning:
  1. UPDATE: Forgot to mention when I first posted this that Bill Donohue may have broken the law.
  2. Nothing yet from McIlheran on the anti-semitic and anti-Mormon blogger working for John McCain.
  3. The Edwards campaign is keeping the bloggers in question; good for him. The bloviators (including McIlheran) who raised the fuss weren't going to vote for Edwards anyway, so why should he have been cowed by them?
  4. BlogPac is collecting signatures to send to news organizations that promoted the story, along with this message:
    I would like to express my concern about the story your organization did yesterday on the Edwards campaign bloggers. It has come to my attention that you did not tell the whole story or offer the kind of context that would have properly informed your readers.

    William Donohue of the Catholic League, who is quoted throughout the stories expressing his outrage at the religious intolerance of the bloggers, is on the record in numerous venues expressing extremely vulgar and religiously intolerant views himself such as "Hollywood is controlled by secular Jews who hate Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular." In a story such as this, where characters are being assaulted, it is the duty of a reporter to vet the source.

    Furthermore, your focus on the Edwards campaign to the exclusion of others gives a biased view of the campaign blogger phenomenon as a whole and leaves the impression with the reader that this is the only controversial hire in this election cycle. This is incorrect. In fact, John McCain's campaign blogger Patrick Hynes is the subject of substantial controversy surrounding his failure to reveal his role after he was hired and his well documented religious intolerance, going so far as to say that anyone who doesn't believe that the US is a Christian nation is stupid.

    And it's not just his blogger. John McCain's campaign manager, Terry Nelson, was an unindicted co-conspirator in the Tom Delay TMPAC scandal and the man responsible for the racist 'call me' ad used against Harold Ford in 2006, an irrefutable fact which Nelson's boss John McCain has denied.

    No one disputes that covering the hiring of campaign staff is perfectly legitimate. However you don't serve your readers when you fail to provide context or perform due diligence on those who offer themselves as critics. I hope that we do not see a reprise of the trivial campaign coverage of recent years or more willingness to air unsubstantiated "swiftboat" style attacks.

    And I would expect that in the interest of accuracy and ethical journalism, you will devote some time and resources to covering the controversial staffers of the McCain campaign. As the presumptive Republican frontrunner, his blogger Patrick Hynes' questionable earlier internet writings expressing religious intolerance and his strategist Terry Nelson's questionable campaign tactics warrant an investigation.
  5. I love digby.

If only Tommy! had used his veto pen for this . . .

by folkbum

English teachers are hereafter granted a greater salary!

found word english on Page 42, Line 53, Position 6
found word teachers on Page 175, Line 87, Position 26
found word are on Page 176, Line 21, Position 15
found word hereafter on Page 182, Line 50, Position 24
found word granted on Page 182, Line 81, Position 18
found word a on Page 183, Line 14, Position 18
found word greater on Page 216, Line 40, Position 24
found word salary on Page 226, Line 15, Position 1

I admit it, the VetoMatic is cute. But nothing Jim Doyle did during the last biennium is as bad as what Tommy! did, which prompted, what, two, three lawsuits?

Show Prep: Charlie's Core Values

by Bert


One of the Core Values for the very principled Charlie Sykes is that corruption is bad. That is plainly seen by his valiant pursuit -- working as his show says "behind the lines" in a liberal-media occupied zone -- of Gov. Jim Doyle and his contributors.


Another Core Value is that we shouldn't squander taxpayer money. Like Mel Gibson playing the brave-hearted William Wallace, Charlie battles the liberal media in order to get these stories out: the Milwaukee County pension scandal, or aid to those who survived scathed by Hurricane Katrina, are bad.

Now today another significant story of corruption and stolen taxpayer money is revived. No, not Rep. Duke Cunningham. Charlie only ignored that despite his Core Values because bribes to the Republican lawmaker from defense contractors took place in Southern California. It was bad but it lacked a local angle.


Today the other shoe finally dropped in the case of the U.S. Army Reserves officer from Amherst Junction, Wisconsin, who was charged with corruption in late 2005. Lt. Col. Michael B. Wheeler was among the officers "managing" $26 billion in taxpayer money intended to rebuild Iraq. He was indicted Wednesday along with two other U.S. Army reserve officers for a scam that funneled $8 million to a contractor for kickbacks. (Those who, like Charlie, are concerned about the Muskego schools will recognize that $8 million can buy a lot of flat-screen plasma TVs).


So, it seems almost certain, doesn't it, that as we tune in to WTMJ-AM today to hear Charlie, we will hear him loaded for bear and going to town on this case of the Wisconsin reserve officer? I have no way of knowing his show prep, but I do know what he believes in deep down.
Appendix: I also think the Journal Sentinel is undercovering this story. For those interested, here below is more detail about the case that was in the Dec. 3, 2005 J-S story.

Since 1998, Wheeler has been a member of the Army Reserve 432nd Civil Affairs Battalion, based near Green Bay. The battalion was deployed to Iraq in April 2003 to help rebuild the government and public infrastructure.

The charges against Wheeler stem from an investigation into what officials describe as an extensive bribery, kickback and smuggling scheme based in the offices of the
Coalition Provisional Authority.

Wheeler is the third person arrested as a result of the investigation.Robert J. Stein Jr., a civilian occupation official, was charged two weeks ago with receiving up to $200,000 a month in bribes from an American contractor, Philip Bloom, to steer construction contracts to companies controlled by Bloom, who also is charged.

Wheeler is accused of using his military passes to avoid custom searches to smuggle some of that money out of Iraq.Stein and Wheeler also conspired to buy dozens of military-grade weapons on the pretext that they were to be used to protect authority offices in Hillah, the affidavit says.

Instead, they acquired the grenade launchers, machine guns, 20 fully automatic submachine guns, 12.45-caliber pistols and substantial ammunition, the affidavit says.Using his Army status to take possession of the weapons at Fort Bragg, N.C., Wheeler, along with Stein, took them to Stein's
home in Fayetteville, N.C.

Wheeler took some weapons home to Wisconsin, while others remained in Stein's garage, where federal investigators found them when they searched Stein's home Nov. 15, the affidavit said.

School Board Candidate Forum Audio

by folkbum

It's available here (my write-up is here), broken down by question. Question 6 is the fundraising question, where Dannecker seemed to really cross a line begging for money right there. The order of the answers for that question is Thompson, Penn, Brown-Grice, Falk, Dannecker, and Young. (That's always the order, but the starting person changed with every question.)

McIlheran Watch: The Edwards Blogger Kerfuffle

by folkbum

One GOP talking point this week is all about how John Edwards's presidential campaign hired a couple of--gasp!--bloggers, and those bloggers have a history of saying what they think. Well, of writing what they think. And publishing it for everyone to see. Patrick McIlheran, local Authorized GOP Talking Point distributor, lays it on thick:
Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) has hired a campaign blogmaster, just the thing for a candidate with young and hip hair. The background check missed something, though:

She’s got a real problem with Catholics.

Specifically, when Amanda Marcotte was writing on her own blog, Pandagon, about the church’s view of birth control, she started with a little joke that, in crude terms, involved the Virgin Mary, the Plan B contraceptive, a nasty description of the “holy spirit” and a reference to Catholic doctrine as an “ancient mythology” meant to justify misognyny.
P-Mac also noted Amanda's penchant for "vulgarity" and colorful intolerance of the anti-abortion postition. Those of us who have occasionally been reading Pandagon since the Jesse Taylor days, long before Amanda, are not surprised that anyone who blogs there is outspoken. Those of us who have been reading blogs since before, well, yesterday, are not surprised at the profanity. It's not something I do here, but, well, there is no list of seven words bloggers can't say. We can say them all, in any order or combination we want, should we choose to.

But it should also come as no surprise to you, gentle readers, that my problem isn't with the way McIlheran's delicate sensibilities have been offended by an outspoken advocate of her position. It's the way he's dumbly parroting the party line without considering the double standards, without recognizing the cognitive dissonance that must be overcome to complain about Amanda.

For example, among those leading the charge is the Catholic League's Bill Donohue; you might remember him as the one who famously said
Who really cares what Hollywood thinks? All these hacks come out there. Hollywood is controlled by secular Jews who hate Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular. It's not a secret, okay?
And that, my friends, is the tip of the porverbial iceberg--just google Donohue, and you can learn all about his hateful speech--less profane, but no less offensive--against Jews and homosexuals (or see, yes, Pandagon for more). Yet Donohue gets to go on TV to represent Catholics everywhere while Amanda may get fired from her gig as a blogger. Go figure.

Moreover, McIlheran cites the National Review as his source; the online version recently featured this picture of Valerie Plame (of leaked CIA identity fame) on its site:
They say C-word is a reference to questions about Plame's covert status--I'll let you be the judge of that.

And why isn't McIlheran looking into the world of Republican presidential bloggers? Glenn Greenwald tells us all about John McCain's blogger, Patrick Hynes:
Hynes continuously blogged about political matters, including ones involving McCain and the GOP field, while concealing that he was on McCain's paid staff. That was not the first time Hynes has been caught using deceitful tricks to manipulate the blogosphere into writing content on behalf of his undisclosed clients.

Immediately after the 2006 midterm elections, Hynes posted a photograph of Henry Waxman and said: "But a dude with a mug like this guy has really needs a nickname. Something that’ll stick. Nothing too clever comes to mind right away. If you have any suggestions, please leave them in the 'Comments' thread."

Hynes entered his own Waxman contest by adding an "update" to his post -- a You Tube clip from Seinfeld in which the word "Pig Man" is mentioned five times in roughly 10 seconds. Most of the other entries for Waxman's nickname on Hynes' blog centered around what Hynes' readers apparently think is Waxman's big nose, though some were just more commonplace profanity. Here were the first four entries: "Nosferatu!" "NOSEGAY." "The Nose Knows." "Henry ‘Nostrils’ Waxman." Those were followed by: "How bout 'Asshole'?" "Prick?" "His face frightens children and repulses women."

After the first set of vulgar and insulting comments, a commenter objected that Hynes' behavior was "juvenile" and, in response, Hynes egged on his readers more: "C'mon. You guys have given us six years of “smirking chimp.' Let us have a little fun." That's a great contest McCain's consultant is running. Does McCain countenance his consultant's calling Henry Waxman "pig man" and encouraging his readers to mock the size of Waxman's big nose (a standard, highly offensive stereotype) and to spray vulgarities at Waxman?
There's more if you, as they so often say, read the whole thing. When CNN asked McCain's campaign yesterday about Hynes's tactics, CNN was told that McCain was happy to have Hynes on board.

And what happens when purveyors of hate speech go to Washington? They get to meet with the president, of course.

All of this is left out of McIlheran's consideration of the case of Amdana Marcotte. (Much of it is even left out of the Time magazine story, though it seems they had room for many errors of fact.)

I'm not saying Patrick Hynes should be fired--any more than Amanda Marcotte should be fired--but I am saying that what she has written is certainly no worse than what he has, and if there's to be a drumbeat to purge inflamatory bloggers from presidential campaigns, or people who speak their minds from politics and punditry altogether--a purge McIlheran seems happy to be a part of--then let's do it without the double standards, shall we?

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Milwaukee School Board Candidate Forum Wrap-up

by folkbum

I attended the forum last night in Bay View, where all three of the candidates for the 8th district seat (incumbent Joe Dannecker, Terry Falk, and Tricia Young) faced off along with three of the candidates for the open city-wide seat (Bruce Thompson, Pam Penn, and Bama Brown-Grice; James Koneazny and Gloria Gaston were unable to attend).

I have a ton of notes on the questions, along with some grainy photos, and I'm trying to get ahold of some audio as well. But in the brief time I have to write this up, I'll just give my impressions of the candidates and note a few choice answers, related here in the order that they were seated on stage.
  • Bruce Thompson, city-wide: He arrived late, but because of an open house he was holding for his day job at the Milwaukee School of Engineering. Of the city-wide candidates, he certainly seemed the most poised and knowledgeable, which comes from his having served previously on the board, including two years as president.

    Thompson spent a lot of time reliving those years (including some variation of "when I was on the board . . ." in almost every answer, for example), mentioning several times, without a lot of detail, the "historic reforms" he and the board then were respsonsible for. He made a major misstep in that regard answering a question about the state's funding formula, asserting that "Joe [Dannecker] and I are probably the only ones up here who know what it's like to go to Madison to ask for money," when, in fact, both Bama Brown-Grice and Terry Falk had also done exactly that.

    Thompson dodged a question of where his funding comes from (at least, where it did in his previous campaigns, as he hasn't "done that analysis yet" for this year), noting that Milwaukee is recognized as a national model of reform (it became one "while I led the board"). As such, people from all over the country might be interested in the school board races. What he didn't say was that those out-of-state interested parties are all pro-voucher, anti-public school forces. While Thompson struck a positive note that MPS ought to be doing all it can to keep parents positive enough about the district that they don't choose a voucher school, he knows as well as the rest of us that he will undoubtedly be aided in this election, as in previous ones, by pro-voucher national interests.

    Thompson has also hired Eric Hogensen, who directed Steve Kagen's congressional campaign last year. Thompson may have been the only one on stage last night with anything other than an all-volunteer campaign staff.

  • Pam Penn, city-wide: Penn is a former library/media services specialist for the district. Her major campaign theme seemed to be that MPS is inefficiently using its resources. It's possible that she's got an insider's persepctive on this, and knows some places to find those ineffeicencies, but I personally have a long-standing suspicion against anyone running on a "waste, fraud, and abuse" platform for saving money.

    She also stressed throughout her answers the idea that MPS promotes bad attitudes, and that our students aren't learning things like honesty, respect, diligence, and forthrightness because these qualities are not in abundance among the adults. As a result, she said, "we don't give students opportunities because we don't think they can handle it." She also had some criticism for the current board, faulting them for not being public or proactive enough in trying to secure greater resources from the state for MPS--which I thought was odd, since she seemed to be saying all along that we don't necessarily need more money . . .

  • Bama Brown-Grice, city-wide: Bama is the only one who talked about herself in the third person over the course of the debate ("With Bama on the board, she will do her best to be sure that we provide all the things that child needs," for example). She also brought a different persona from either Thompson (professional educrat) or Penn (frustrated ex-employee), which is that of a community activist.

    She was the only African American on stage last night (her husband was the only African American in the audience), and she offered different kinds of answers than the other candidates, notably about the idea of putting police officers into schools. She acknowledged that right now, Milwaukeeans don't trust the police; adding them to schools will only decrease the public's appreciation for them. Her solution is to deputize school safety officers, giving them the authority to write citations, for example. Then rely on police only for emergencies--and expect police to be there quickly for those emergencies. She also hit the note of communication often, noting in her opening statement that she wants to be sure that "when things are changing, we'll know before the changes happen." That's something I hear about from parents and teachers all the time; decisions are being made away from the public eye and no one knows until it's too late.

    Bama played up her experience going to Madison to seek funding for Community Learning Centers (contradicting Thompson), as well as her connections to the grass roots of the community. She answered the fund-raising question by wondering why it should even cost a dime to run for school board--all we really need are votes, she said. I'm concerned about her enthusiasm for seeking more grants to supplement funding; grants are usually one-shot deals, often with strings attached. But her enthusiasm showed through, and I'm encouraged by that.

    Fellow blogger Ken Mobile was in attendance, and was also impressed by Bama.

  • Terry Falk, 8th district: It's no secret that I support Terry Falk in the race for this disrict, where I live. He stressed throughout his years both as a teacher and as a reform advocate--he was the driving force behind Juneau High School's going charter back in 1999, for example. He was also the only candidate on stage who chose to draw blood, making clear where Thompson's and Dannecker's financial support is likely to come from. While Falk's 2003 run against Dannecker was funded entirely from people in the state--70% from in the city--Dannecker took in 60% of his money from voucher advocates like the late Milton Friedman, the Waltons, and at least one de Vos heir. Dannecker used that money to far outspend Falk for a winning margin of just a few hundred votes.

    Falk also took a shot at Dannecker in his opening statement, noting that after his loss four years ago, he was approached to run for County Supervisor. Falk declined, saying that he wasn't running to just get elected to something; rather, he wanted to do something more than just teach to help education in MPS. Dannecker, of course, was tapped by John Norquist as an ally to run for the board after an unsuccessful attempt at a County Supervisor's seat . . .

    But Falk wasn't just all about taking Dannecker down a peg or two. He was very clear in his vision that MPS is one of the last vestiges of what's public in our community, and his concern that dismantling this public system is one step in a greater plan for privatizing everything that many people hold. Falk cited a concern with recent moves by the superintendent toward recentralization, fearing that would take even more money away from schools. (Though, honestly, with all the district currently requires from schools in "chargebacks," we're already getting socked by central office.)

    Falk also had an interesting answer to the questions of low expections, violence, and police in schools: What does it say to a student when she walks into a class with 44 other students? How much more likely is a chlid to be violent when he has to sit on the radiator because there aren't enough desks? If we had more adults, smaller class sizes, and better interactions between students, there would be less of a need for police in the schools, he said. My biggest class right now is only 38, so I suppose I shouldn't be complaining.

    Falk was also the only candidate to mention the high costs of health care as a factor in budgeting. He cited several times the research he did for Milwaukee Magazine, noting that metro Milwaukee pays consistently 20-40% above the national average in health care costs because of the monopolies in town. (He specifically named Aurora, but they are not the only culprit.) He called this "the biggest tax levied on this community," and I think he's right--bringing Milwaukee's costs down to the national average could save MPS $50 million annually. He's suggesting larger purchsing pools, having already approached some County Supervisors about the idea. It may just have been the nature of the forum's format, but no one else even broached the topic of health care costs.

  • Joe Dannecker, 8th district: Dannecker's theme was "balance." We need to strike a balance between oversight and autonomy, he said, and between the burden of taxation and doing everything we may want to do in the schools. (He was the only candidate to bring up taxes outside of the one specific question regarding taxes.)

    Dannecker seemed to echo the superintendent's statement last week that he wants to expand alternative programs for disruptive students: "We need to be willing to separate students by the kind of intervention they need," he said in response to the question about placing police in the schools. But, he went on, we should only use ingterventions that work--I guess that's more balance? He also spent a lot of time complaining about the "bureaucratic mentality" at central office, noting in one answer that we need to "do more centrally what we've done in the schools, and realize that good schools can be free from regulation." Balanced, right afterward, with a statement that "we need to have everyone on one vision." It made me wonder why he continues to support the current bureaucracy, one that has, especially among the middle and high schools, done nothing if promulgate multiple visions and sent reform scattered in a dozen different directions.

    In response to concerns about the current board's communication problems, raised by Bama and Penn (Joe was the only incumbent at the forum, so he had a lot to defend against), he admitted that there were issues around communication by the board. But he said it was primarily a failure to communicate to teachers, that apparently not everyone understands high expectations or that every child is capable of excellence. I don't think that's what the others were getting at, and it frustrates me that he lays the blame on us at the front lines. That is the particular bureaucratic attitude that I think needs to be changed.

    Dannecker also made sure to include at least one gratuitous dig at the union, noting that he knew of MPS teachers who left the district to start a non-instrumentality charter school (i.e., not one run by MPS employees) "because their union wouldn't let them do what they wanted to do in MPS." I'm not sure who he's talking about or what vague prohibitions he's hinting at, but I can't think of a single thing involved in setting up or running a charter school--something I've had a little bit of experience with now--that the union would have issues with. Charters, instrumentality or not, must follow state laws and guidelines; there is little in the MPS contract that would contravene the implementation of those guidelines.

    The sourest note of the night came from Dannecker; I don't know if he was joking or not, but in response to the question about where his fundraising dollars came from, he used that time to ask the audience for money. "Send me a check!" he said gleefully. "I'll give you my address afterwards." It seemed tasteless.

  • Tricia Young, 8th district: There's a lot to like about Tricia Young; she also seems to recognize that the current direction of the board needs changing, and her answers were certainly in the right place. But one thing that showed, in contrast to, for example, Bama Brown-Grice, was her lack of experience. Bama is a parent advocate, and a long-time activist. Young is also a parent, but making her first big attempt at activism through this school board race.

    Her major theme seemed to be the sharing of successful ideas. Her daughter attends an MPS (instrumentality) charter, she says, and she appreciates the autonomy of that school. She wants to take what's successful about that school and replicate it elsewhere. She stressed an emphasis on learning in the early grades--she said what a lot of people won't, that failure in high school (and manifested through truancy and violence) is often a result of a failure to learn in the early grades. When a student hits fourth grade and later, and realizes everyone else gets it but him, he will become far less engaged and become a problem for the schools.
I remain uncommitted in terms of endorsing for the city-wide seat. I'd really like to know more about Koneazny, in particular. Like Thompson, he has prior experience on the board. Unlike Thompson, he has endeared himself to people I generally align myself with, as opposed to, say, MMAC and national voucher advocates. But I do believe Bama Brown-Grice will bring a perspective sorely lacking on the board right now, that of community activist. There is no one currently sitting on the board with more roots and connections across the community than Bama would have.

Later: Audio.