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Pay no attention to the people behind the curtain

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Inventing the Lockerbie Chronology

by bert

War mongerers routinely mangle history. But there is one whopper I just heard told again -- while driving the Great Divide on family vacation -- that irks me enough to bust them on it.

Here is Rush Limbaugh just last Friday propping up an invented Libyan chronology.

It was the fear of God (or fear of Allah) that was put into the mind of Khadafy. Don't forget, he's already sitting there quaking in his boots because Reagan bombed his tent, after Khadafy was widely held responsible when Pan Am flight 103 [this transcript fixes the on-air fact Rush fumbled for the right flight number] went down over Lockerbie, Scotland.

Jonathan Green of WTMJ radio also claimed a couple of years ago that Reagan's bombing raid against Qaddafi was a response to Lockerbie. I remember this because it irked me enough then to write to him.

It would be comforting if this sequence of events were true, because it would then resemble the plot of a Hollywood Western: A dark-skinned terrorist kills 270 innocent Pan Am 103 passengers, including 189 Americans. Then a sheriff with a white hat and balls of brass whips out his F-111s to exact justice. Problem solved, thanks to the manly application of military strength.

But, don't let them get away with this crap!

The easily verifiable truth is that the U.S. bombing attack on Libya, called operation El Dorado Canyon, took place on April 14 and 15, 1986. This raid was revenge. It was in response to the death of a single American, a soldier killed earlier that April in a Berlin nightclub bombing. But it was not in response to the 189 Americans killed at Lockerbie, Scotland, because the bomb inside Pan Am flight 103 blew up more than two years later on Dec. 21, 1988. Libya eventually admitted its people were responsible.

This whopper is a piece in a larger mosaic. The White House and its AM radio suck-ups don't bother with facts on their way to ruining the U.S. for their own sake. Frank Rich, in his book The Greatest Story Ever Sold, gives us this big picture:

Remember that White House aide, quoted by Rich in his introduction, who said that a “judicious study of discernible reality” is “not the way the world really works anymore”? For him, the “reality-based community” of newspapers and broadcasters is old hat, out of touch, even contemptible in “an empire” where “we create our own reality.”

My point is that they can try to create or invent all the history they want. But we the people are not always as stupid as they think we are.

Confidential to Fred from Racine

I know, Fred, you've been trying to put your finger on what hypocrisy would look like surrounding the Democratic candidates and debates. Well, Fred, here's a dose of true hypocrisy for you. I mean, yeah, it's about Mitt Romney and all, but at least now you know what you're looking for.

Monday, July 30, 2007

RIP, Tom Snyder

Like Bob Costas, Tom Snyder actually asked good questions. That's sorely lacking on TV anymore. I've been missing Tom Snyder for years.

MPS: Bigger, not Smaller

by folkbum

Alan Borsuk this morning blogs a question about the Milwaukee Public Schools:
Maybe it's worthwhile to single out for further discussion comments by State Rep. Jason Fields (D-Milwaukee) and busines leader Sheldon Lubar from a roundtable discussion several days ago hosted by the Editorial Board of the Journal Sentinel. [. . .] The discussion turned quickly to the need for higher levels of educational success in Milwaukee.

Fields said: "We all agree that it should be about valuing kids, it should be about the child's education. But once we leave here, we get into these political battles between opponents, but everybody's saying it's about the kids, it's about the kids. But if I go back and say, 'Listen, we need to break up MPS; we need to make it smaller,' I'll get raked over the coals for saying something like that, even though we all know at this table that's probably the best idea. . . . Let's quit the talking, and let's just figure out the solution."

Lubar responded, "Jason, you're on the same page I'm on. I would love it if Mayor Barrett would request the governor, make a request and say, please, I want to take over the authority for running the public schools system so it isn't run for the teachers, and it isn't run for political reasons, and we do break it down into manageable systems, and delegate down to the principal." [. . .]

Is Fields right? If they were being candid and setting aside politics, would community leaders agree that MPS ought to be broken up?
I don't know what community leaders would say. So far, no one has commented on that post to suggest what they would say. But I know what I would say.

No.

Here's the biggest problem with making MPS smaller: You can cut it into as many pieces as you want--two, three, eight, forty-two--but you'll continue to run into the same problem. There will be one district that includes some near-north side neighborhoods (like the 53206 zip code, which Gretchen Schuldt wrote about here), and that district will take over MPS's spot as the worst district in the state. The factors that make MPS a poor-performing district almost exclusively exist outside of the school system itself.

Additionally, slicing the district into bite-sized pieces would cut students off from specialty programs at schools like Bradley Tech, School of the Arts, Rufus King, and Riverside. (You could make Riverside's attendance area its own district, among the East Side-UWM neighborhoods, and it would be among the best districts in the state.) The likely demise of the Chapter 220 program--in some recent constitutional and budgetary doubt--would make it almost impossible for poor students to move across districts to those schools. (Chapter 220 paid for transportation; inter-district choice does not.)

No, the answer is not smaller. The answer is bigger.

This is not a a new idea. Here's what I wrote 18 months ago:
What if we merge MPS and the surrounding public school districts into one? I'm not necessarily envisioning a five-county-sized district, but, with the end of transfer limits, as noted above, we almost have one without a merger by default. Codifying it, though, would provide exactly the kick in the pants needed to bring the region on board for really, seriously, and comprehensively addressing the problems that MPS's test scores and other performance measures highlight.

Think about it: How is your average North Shore resident going to feel when suddenly his child is no longer attending one of the top districts in the state, but one that, when you combine performance data for all the schools now in it, is no better than fair-to-middlin'? How likely is it that high-and-mighty radio personalities or bloggers will look down their noses anymore when the district their children attend school in has a suddenly mediocre graduation rate? It will certainly put things into sharper focus for those who, having been glad to be on the outside offering criticism, find themselves on the inside having to make the tough choices.

And the benefits would exist across the spectrum: Suburban students looking for an International Baccalaureate program, for example, now have access to several; sports programs can develop even greater dynasties; that Gates money can be shared outside of city boundaries.
One of the great truisms of the "free market" is that bigger is better. You never hear about McDonald's deciding to spin off its Idaho division, for example. No; instead, you only hear about Sirius and XM merging, AirTran taking over Midwest--bigger is better. Not perfect, mind you, but generations of free-market businesspeople may be onto something.

Think of it: Those surburban districts must be doing something right. They provide better results, often cheaper. If a business were doing that--offering better results cheaper than their competitors--they'd be in a good position for a takeover. So why not try some consolodation?

There are benefits beyond what I outlined last year, including money to be saved on services right now that are being duplicated. Making a number of smaller Milwaukee districts all responsible for the variety of kinds of services that schools must provide would be like throwing money into the wind.

So that's my answer: Let's aim instead for something like a Milwaukee County Public Schools. I think the efficencies, the accumulated apparent expertise of the suburban districts, and the kind of commitment it would (I hope) create among the suburban parents and legislators all make good reasons to consider the idea. I don't have the kind of research monkeys it would take to put all of the various factors into perspective. But I'm sure the idea has to be feasible and perhaps it would even make more sense if we had all the numbers in front of us.

But for now, that's my answer. MPS needs to be bigger, not smaller. Smaller is, in fact, probably the worst way to go.

Speaking of Budgets . . .

by folkbum

There is that whole state budget thing. It my never get resolved.

But just in case you think you know when it might happen, the folks at the indispensible WisPolitics Budge Blog are running a contest:
Enter the WisPolitics Budget Pool and win a WisPolitics ADD-ON or SILVER Subscription!

When will the Legislature formally pass a budget compromise? Provide the date and time of the final vote that sends the budget bill to Gov. Jim Doyle and win!

For example: August 20, 8:45 p.m.

Send your entry to webmaster@wispolitics.com. Please include your guess, your name and your phone number.

The deadline for entries is July 31, 2007 at 5 p.m.

WisPolitics will announce the winner after the budget is passed to Doyle. In the event of a tie, WisPolitics will award the person who made the prediction first.
My prediction: September 14, 2:15 PM. But I also think that might be optimistic.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

It's Budget Time Again, Kids

by capper

Budget times are almost as emotionally stirring for some people as are the major political elections. These are heady times when almost everyone has an opinion and are more than glad to share it with anyone who will listen.

Now is our chance to express our opinions to Scott Walker regarding the upcoming budget for 2008. There has been three community meetings scheduled. They are:

Monday, August 6, 2007

Wilson Park Senior Center

2601 W. Howard Ave.

10-11:30 a.m.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Brown Deer Public Library

5600 W. Bradley Rd.

2-3:30 p.m.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Washington Park Senior Center

4420 W. Vliet St.

6-7 p.m.

If you are like me, and will be either working or vacationing at those times, you can call Walker at 278-4211 or email him at countyexec@milwcnty.com.
Walker has already stated that he doesn't trust the people to make their own decisions regarding the proposed referendum for a one cent sales tax increase. Apparently Walker feels the same way about the people's input for budget priorities, as that the information regarding the meetings came from a county board supervisor. Walker hasn't announced anything yet, that I could find.
So, whether you support his position of putting the almighty dollar before the quality of life for the citizens of Milwaukee, or you oppose his misplaced priorities and value helping people more that a couple of bucks, please come to a meeting or contact him by phone or email. If you don't, and you don't like the results of the next budget, don't complain to anyone but yourself.

Pension Scandal Redux

by capper

UPDATE: Walker speaks! Also there is talk of examining all buybacks, but everyone is still too busy with CYA to get anything done yet.

In this morning's MSJ, there was a report about the latest scandal to hit Milwaukee County. The basics of the story is that, since 1990, the pension board has been letting county workers buy back time from previous stints with the county. This practice has let hundreds of workers gain potentially substantial gains in their pension benefits, including the addition of the pension enhancer that rocked the county's budgets in 2004, and led to the recall of former County Executive Tom Ament and seven county board supervisors.

Even though it means at most, about $65 million out of a pension fund worth more than $1.6 billion, this has caused an uprising of outrage and understandably so. So far there is only a contingent of right wing bloggers that have posted on this, including Patrick at Badger Blogger, Reaganite at The Croc, and Steveegg at No Runny Eggs and others. I believe that this is only the beginning of the outrage, and that for the next several weeks and months this will be fodder for many bloggers as well as talk radio.

But there are some things that I question about this scandal. The article reports that this has the potential to cost the county millions, but this is based on speculation, including how long people who have gained by the buy backs will be collecting pensions, as well as how many will be able to keep these gains, as that there is a move to disallow some of the buy backs. The number of those disallowed could be ten. Ten out of hundreds. Why aren't the rest at least being examined?

Also, there is a reciprocal relationship between different counties and different levels of government regarding seniority and pensions. This could have some major impacts on a lot of the elected and appointed officials. Walker was elected to the state legislature in 1992. This would make him eligible for the life time free health insurance, which is by reports, as good, if not better, than the one he might be eligible for from the state. Sheriff Clarke was a cop with the city of Milwaukee since 1978, per his bio. This would put him in line for not only the health insurance, but the increased pension enhancement and backdrop. Walker's recent appointee, Tom Nardelli, could be in for the same benefits. This is just the tip of the iceberg.

Another thing that I noticed is that Scott Walker wasn't mentioned in the article. The problems were noted 12 years ago to the county, well before Walker's time, but nothing was done. It was noticed again two years ago, during Walker's time, when the board took some action by putting an end to the buy backs general guidelines. The article also states that the Journal has been investigating this for the past six months. I cannot believe that Walker did not know about the Journal's investigation, or that he was unaware of the problem that the board took action on two years ago. Given Walker's past behaviors and comments about the pension scandal of 2001, I thought he would have something to say, but there was not one quote from him, yet.

Then it hit me. Walker is facing increasing resistance from the county board and from the public in general, after year after year of budget cuts and service cuts that have affected almost every county resident in some fashion. Now the county board has proposed a referendum to increase the sales tax by a penny, and even some people on the right are in favor of letting people have a chance to speak on this issue. To make it a trifecta, Walker will be running for re-election in the spring (even though he promised he wouldn't), and some of the names of potential opponents could give him some stiff competition. The buy back scandal could give him the same grass roots uprising that he had when he successfully won after Ament's pension scandal.

Walker, like many professional politicians, knows the value of timing. Walker skills at this was demonstrated in the last election, when he knew about, but withheld the information about the huge deficit the parks had that year. It only came to light after he was re-elected, and then he scapegoated Sue Baldwin who had reported the deficit to him months earlier. This leads to the question, "When did Walker find out about this, and why didn't he act on it sooner?"

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Losing Yet Another War

by capper

First, we have four and half year of dubious news on the war in Iraq, with predictions that Bush's war games could go on for at least two more years. Then we find out that things in Afghanistan isn't going so well, and al Qaeda is building up to pre-9/11 strength.

Now, we find out that due to the feds, the war on drugs is going to go up in smoke, with delays in federal funding for drug rehab services, and an expected drop in overall funding. Not only will there be more people going without services for longer times, but it will also increase the crime rate, as the addicts start getting desperate for a fix. This also shows some real fiscal responsibility, causing taxpayers to shovel out money seven times faster, as reported here:


Conor Williams, a spokesman for the Milwaukee Innercity Congregations Allied for Hope, said untreated addictions lead to jail and prison, where the costs are significantly higher than treatment. A 1994 Rand Corp. study showed that $1 spent on addiction treatment saves $7 in law enforcement and jail costs, he added.

Mr. Williams goes on to state that if Milwaukee County could bail out the Milwaukee Public Museum, it should be able to find a way to find the money to help provide these services.

But Mr. Williams, and those of us who agree with his sentiment, should be painfully aware by now that the Republicans are not interested in helping anyone, except themselves and their pals.

Things to do

  • If you sign up and buy stuff from this website, I get points. (That's my referral link--don't lose it!) Then you can sign people up and get points, too. No, it's not a pyramid scheme, and the points are mostly for bragging rights. Although there's something about a car . . .

  • I got en email the other day from Herald Blogger Ken, who reminded me about Paul Hill Days. I don't necessarily recommend you go participate, but just in case, Illusory Tennant has the agenda.

  • This Sunday, you can join me and my friends Cindi and Rich Morgan for a house concert; one of my favorite folky/ singer-songwritery outifts, Son of the Never Wrong always puts on a good show.

  • Next Saturday (August 4), you can find me at the South Shore Farmer's Market (at South Shore Park in Bay View) for a performance by Peter Mulvey. If you've never seen him before, you simply must. This is a great free, solo acoustic show, which gets going around 10 AM.

  • And more guitar stuff:

    On Tuesday, August 7th the Old Town School of Folk Music will celebrate its 50 years in Chicago by giving the city a FREE, open-air guitar lesson with veteran Old Town School guitar faculty and special guests. All levels of players are welcome - especially beginners! Make sure to register -- we need everyone to register so everyone "counts." Bring a picnic and some friends with guitars!

    Tuning and check-in starts at 6pm -- lesson starts promptly at 7:30pm. The first 1000 registered participants are automatically entered in a drawing to win a beautiful Martin 00X1 guitar, accessories, and a free Old Town School group class!

I had some other things I was planning to list, but my browser crashed and I lost my open tabs. Sigh.

UPDATE! Bonus Peter Mulvey YouTube!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

RIP, Dennis Getto

Dennis Getto was a Milwaukee institution:
Dennis Getto, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's well-known restaurant critic, died of pulmonary fibrosis Tuesday.

He was 57. [. . .]

Getto was named restaurant critic with The Milwaukee Journal in 1982, continuing in that job at the new Journal Sentinel in 1995. He took his role as restaurant critic seriously, trying to be fair to both restaurant owners and patrons.
Keep the Getto family in your thoughts tonight.

Must Read on Health Care

By Keith Schmitz

The right wing here in Wisconsin is of course blowing a lot of smoke up your chimney that providing health care for everybody with something like the Healthy Wisconsin plan is unworkable, unAmerican, unwhatever.

Most people on the other hand, seems to respect personal money advisor Jane Bryant Quinn and in this week's Newsweek she lays out in in easy to read, common sense prose why universal coverage makes sense, and why what we are doing now doesn't.

She throws up the right's clay pigeon arguments against putting a coverage program in place and shoots them down. Here's my favorite:
Eeeek, your taxes would go up! Maybe not, if Sheils is right. Both the Congressional Budget Office and the General Accounting Office have testified that the United States could insure everyone for the money we're spending now. But even if taxes did rise, you might still come out ahead. That's because your Medicare plan would probably cost less than the medical bills and premiums you're paying now.

My question here is really what role do the for-profit players (except drug processors and med device manufacturers) play in the health care system other than driving prices up and driving people out of hospitals? If you are all buzzed up about the great return your IRA is getting on these investments, then try not to think about there might come a time when a medical problem might wipe all those savings away, something that is all too common in this country.

I'm getting sick and tired of seeing this group or that holding fund raisers to pay for someone's medical bills. People have better things to do with their time.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Getting Thrown Under the Bus

by capper

On the heels of the news that Milwaukee County Executioner Scott Walker wants to continue dismantling the parks, is the story of his efforts to eliminate another chunk of the transit system. I won't repeat what has been so effectively and eloquently stated by Dan, Gretchen and Cory.

The thing that stood out to me wasn't even in the main story, but in the side notes. It reads:

Paratransit service cut Instead of countywide door-to-door service, the Transit Plus van service for the frail elderly and disabled would run only within three-quarters of a mile of county bus routes. Transit Plus fares would rise from $3.25 to $4.

For those not familiar with Transit Plus, it is a transportation service, often contracted out to other agencies, that provide specialized transportation to the elderly, the physically disabled and the developmentally delayed people in Milwaukee County. These people are carefully screened and are not allowed services if they can drive or if they can use public transportation safely. Walker is now saying that if they don't live within three quarters of mile away from an existing bus route, they don't get a ride. This already covers a small part of the county, and if Walker gets all the other cuts he wants in the routes, the permitted areas grow even smaller.

These people don't use the rides to go to the mall or attend festivals. People use these rides to get to and from doctors' offices, to and from day programs and other basic necessities. Imagine Grandma trying to go over three quarters of a mile, with her walker, in the cold winter, or the hot summer. Developmentally delayed people not only suffer from cognitive limitations, but they also are often mentally ill. Does Walker think that this person can walk that far, navigating traffic, crossing roads, and do it safely? Does he think that most people would feel comfortable having these people walking through their neighborhoods? Most people get upset when someone wants to open a group home in their neighborhood, and now they face the prospect of these people walking the streets, just so Walker can have his single issue talking point for his next campaign.

We can only hope that the county board will do the right thing again this year, and put the needs of Milwaukee County and its people before a political posture and soundbite.



Friday, July 20, 2007

Don't take my assets, please!

by folkbum

Just FYI, Sara at Orcinus explains why that last post could get my house siezed. Nothing to worry about, I'm sure.

McBride Math, again

by folkbum

I have generally left Jessica McBride alone since The Unpleasantness, as I do kind of feel sorry for how she was treated by WTMJ-AM. I never asked for or expected he to be fired, and I think TMJ could have done a much better job handling the situation. But sometimes she makes it too easy, and I just can't stop myself.

McBride posted this pithy item last night:
Liberal logic
When Al-Qaida wasn't in Iraq, most Democrats in Washington wanted to invade it.

Now that Al-Qaida is in Iraq, most Democrats in Washington want to leave.

Who's taking their eye off the ball?
Question: How many of you think that McBride believed, in 2002, that there was no al Qaeda in Iraq? How many of you think that McBride listened to those opposing the invasion when they warned that creating chaos in Iraq would draw al Qaeda in? Anyone? Anyone? I thought so.

But this is not about McBride's past; it's about her math. We've talked about McBride's math before. A year ago, in response to overwhelming votes across the state in referenda to start withdrawing troops from Iraq, McBride decided to re-write the lede: "More voters in 30 Wisconsin communities voted Tuesday to stay the course in Iraq than wanted the troops to withdraw," she wrote. "It was purely a symbolic message, but a heartfelt one." See, that's funny, because there were 33 referenda that day, not 30. She decided to leave out the votes from Madison, Shorewood, and LaCrosse in order to get a majority of voters that day selecting "stay the course." (Even then, 22 of her 30 communities voted for withdrawal.)

Her selective math shows in the current questionable post: When she says that "most Democrats in Washington wanted to invade" Iraq, she's just wrong. If you look at the roll call, you'll note that 81 House Democrats voted for the Iraq War Resolution, and 126 voted against it. Twenty-nine Democratic Senators voted for it, and 21 against. (These totals do not include Vermont independents Rep. Bernie Sanders or Sen. Jim Jeffords, who both caucused with the Democrats and who both voted against the resolution).

That makes a majority (147 to 110) of Democrats in Washington who voted against giving the presidsent the authority to invade Iraq.

That's still a relatively close vote, sure; but even many of those who voted in the affirmative on that resolution made it clear, unlike the way McBride phrases it, that they did not "want[] to invade" Iraq. Many of the Senators voting yes, for example, reviewed the provisions of the resolution that required President Bush to certify all kinds of things (things left uncertified when the bombing started) and hoping that war could be avoided. Few Democrats--maybe the Lieberman variety--approached war with Iraq as a positive development.

So McBride tries vainly to understand "liberal logic," as she calls it. The answer, of course, is that it's only hard to understand if you use McBride Math first.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Bush to Poor Children -- Go to Hell -- For Philosophical Reasons

By krshorewood

Our philosopher King George Bush on Wednesday made it clear that compassionate conservatism has its limits -- like he has hundreds of times before. From the Washington Post:
The president said he objects on philosophical grounds to a bipartisan Senate proposal to boost the State Children's Health Insurance Program by $35 billion over five years. Bush has proposed $5 billion in increased funding and has threatened to veto the Senate compromise and a more costly expansion being contemplated in the House.

"I support the initial intent of the program," Bush said in an interview with The Washington Post after a factory tour and a discussion on health care with small-business owners in Landover. "My concern is that when you expand eligibility . . . you're really beginning to open up an avenue for people to switch from private insurance to the government."
He is apparently ignorant that out of pocket for a good health insurance policy is around $1,000 a month, which is probably half of what many of the parents of these kids earn. And of course he is no doubt unaware that many of these parents are fighting to find any coverage if their kids have pre-existing conditions.

Bush philosophically has other places to spend the $60 billion over five years that the bi-partisan sponsors proposed to cover 6.6 million uninsured kids -- like the five weeks it takes to blow this money in Iraq.

Philosophically Bush hearts HSA's, and that is getting in the way of his endorsement of expanding the SCHIP program. According to the bi-partisan sponsors:

They also said that Bush should drop efforts to link the program's renewal to his six-month-old proposal to replace the long-standing tax break for employer-based health insurance with a new tax deduction that would help people pay for insurance, regardless of whether they get it through their jobs or purchase it on their own.
The really tough part is Bush probably doesn't actually know how HSA's work anyhow, he only knows that Karl told him these would be so neato to wipe away the clamor for government backed health care.

As Bush replied:
And I think it's going to be very important for our allies on Capitol Hill to hear a strong, clear message from me that expansion of government in lieu of making the necessary changes to encourage a consumer-based system is not acceptable.
The only problem George, many of these parents whose kids need this coverage hardly have the money to be any kind of consumer in the first place. Any notion that Bush knows what's going on in the lives of these people -- or really even cares -- is the definition of science fiction.

Aggression Not Standing


- via MAL Contends

In a clear-eyed piece in Salon, Peter Galbraith argues convincingly that the Iraq war is “lost.”

But Galbraith’s piece also reveals the extent to which American imperial assumptions underlie liberal criticism (to say nothing of neocon praise) of the Iraq invasion and occupation.

Galbraith quotes approvingly Senator Richard Lugar, a respected Republican voice on foreign affairs in Congress, from his politically important and what was regarded as an impertinent (to President Bush) speech on June 25, in which Lugar says that we must “refocus our policy in Iraq on realistic assessments of what can be achieved, and on a sober review of our vital interests in the Middle East.”

Writes Galbraith: “After four years of a war driven more by wishful thinking than strategy, (Lugar’s) is hardly a radical idea, but it has produced a barrage of covert criticism of Lugar from the administration and overt attack from the neo conservatives.”

But the term “our vital interests in the Middle East” need not be accepted at face value.

What about Middle Eastern nations’ (say the Arab League and Iran, for example) vital interests in America, an aggressive superpower supportive of authoritarian regimes, including two nations in the region with nuclear weapons of mass destruction?

America is nearing pariah status in most of the world for its aggression and disregard of international law.

Were the nations of the Middle East to adopt the imperial logic of the Bush administration that American natural resources, America’ military capacity, and past military aggression form a gathering danger to their security, and then declare onto their nations a self-defense right to invade America, what do you suppose would be the reaction here?

Outrage, of course. And rightfully so. But the same logic works both ways.

Consider Thomas Friedman, the quintessential liberal foreign policy analyst.

In yesterday’s New York Times (July 18) (registration required), Friedman writes:

I can’t imagine how I’d feel if I were the parent of a soldier in Iraq and I had just read that the Iraqi Parliament had decided to go on vacation for August, because, as the White House spokesman, Tony Snow, explained, it’s really hot in Baghdad then — ‘130 degrees.’

I’ve been in Baghdad in the summer and it is really hot. But you know what? It is a lot hotter when you’re in a U.S. military uniform, carrying a rifle and a backpack, sweltering under a steel helmet and worrying that a bomb can be thrown at you from any direction. One soldier told me he lost six pounds in one day. I’m sure the Iraqi Parliament is air-conditioned.

So let’s get this straight: Iraqi parliamentarians, at least those not already boycotting the Parliament, will be on vacation in August so they can be cool, while young American men and women, and Iraqi Army soldiers, will be fighting in the heat in order to create a proper security environment in which Iraqi politicians can come back in September and continue squabbling while their country burns.

Here is what I think of that: I think it’s a travesty — and for the Bush White House to excuse it with a Baghdad weather report shows just how much it has become a hostage to Iraq.


A "hostage" in Iraq, against its will?

No, an-imperial-minded aggressor sowing death and destruction (and denying that it’s occurring), and then shamefully neglecting the troops who fight the war.

A hostage? Despite what the pathological liars Cheney, Bush, and Rice tell the American people, no one is holding a gun to our heads.

An alternative: US foreign policy dedicated to international law and human rights, abiding by and championing the Geneva Convention and the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, for a start.

Calling for a regional conference to implement mutual security and liberty of all parties in the region would be nice too, and if Israel balks, cut them off.

###

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

McIlheran Watch: Good Columnist? No, Just a Mere Propagandist

by capper

Despite having some adoring fans, Patrick McIlheran again fails to prove himself to be more of an insightful columnist as much as a propagandist hack. In his blog, he has this posting, in which he is nothing more that a mouthpiece for Scott Walker.

First, he brings out the old dog and pony show about the county pension scandal. There are two problems with this. One, the sick leave and retirement enhancers were paid out three years ago, and are no longer an effect on the budget. The pension fund itself is of concern not from just the big hit on the fund from the exodus of retirees, but from the market crash following 9/11 and Walker's short-changing it year after year. By refusing to make the appropriate payments, Walker only excasperated the problem. Side note: Walker was warned of the mass exodus, but chose not to listen to the warnings. Who does that remind you of?

Then McIlheran goes on to show that the bustling metropolis of Mequon is looking at another tax freeze and links to the U.S. Census Bureau's website regarding that fine city to show that people want to move there. That made me wonder, how did Milwaukee County size up while under Scott "I should have been governor" Walker. The results weren't as pretty, with a loss of 25,000 people. Then, I thought, "Well, surely, Mr. McIlheran can't be all wrong. The population of the tax hell we call Wisconsin must have gone down under Doyle." Good thing I didn't put any money on old Paddy. Wisconsin gained almost 200,000 people. Not bad for a state whose taxes are so high that people are moving out in droves.

I would think that someone who actually gets paid to do this would at least try to get his facts straight, or at least not make it so easy to call him out on it.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Leader and the Leaker

by capper

Despite what one may think of his plan, Milwaukee mayor Tom Barrett is at least trying to make progress in regards to mass transit and the $91 million that has been sitting stagnant for the past eight years. On the other hand, County Executive Scott Walker has been pouting about wanting the money to bail out the Transit System that he has been systematically destroying over the past several years. Now, Barrett is basically telling Walker to either grow up or get out of the way. This is being a leader.

In contrast, Walker, the would-be governor, is still putting on blinders to anything but a tax freeze. Every budget year, Walker demands cuts from all county departments, so that he may have a single-planked platform to run on, if he can ever put together a successful campaign. This year is no different. The first department to announce the proposed cuts is the Parks and Public Works. Walker has done this before, with less than stellar results. But when it came to the time to admit it was a bad decision, he foisted the blame onto others. This is being a leaker.

Walker seems to keep forgetting that he was elected to manage Milwaukee County, and not to be a perpetual gubernatorial candidate. The duties he is supposed to be doing include balancing fiscal responsibility with maintaining a quality of life, not offering soundbites on local talk radio. If he can claim to have a $7 million surplus from last year, and is able to bail out the privately-operated Public Museum, surely he would be able to maintain the appropriate quality of life services that the County is supposed to be providing.

Double Standards in Action

by folkbum

I was so excited to wake up this morning to read all the news stories about Mitt Romney's $300 makeover.

And then I woke up for real. Of course there are no such news stories. Stupid dream!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Randomness and Order

by folkbum

My blogging has slowed waaaaay down--I blame, oh, I don't know, el niño. Actually, it's that I've taken on additional responsibilities at the summer job, and it's keeping me busier than I expected.

Bert, capper, Keith, and Realism have been keeping things going, and I appreciate that. If anyone else wants keys to this place, lemme know. I'm handing 'em out like tote bags at a convention. (In particular, I keep trying to email regular commenter Kay to ask her, but her email seems broken. If you're reading, Kay, email me, please!)

In the meantime, here's some of what's interesting to me of late:
  • This almost literally made me cry.
  • Why do I care? What makes me think the sudden appearance of a bad idea in a McIlhearn column was anything more or less than normal? An entry in the WisPolitics Budget Blog detailed some of the policy items that Assembly Republicans had salted into their version of the state budget. Along with making Wisconsin a "Shoot First" state and changing the regulation of elevators was this little gem.
    Eliminate the ban on heated exterior pedestrian walkways not fully enclosed within a building, which has been in existence since 1980.
    It's not exactly the kind of burning issue that has filled the front pages of newspapers in Douglas and Iron Counties, is it? In fact the one newspaper writer-type person interested is our intrepid Paddy Mac.


  • It seems the GOP wants to have its cake and eat it, too, on this one. But, as with trying to eat a cake twice, you just can't take credit for cutting costs and improving on the services that those costs would've funded.

  • The GOP Assembly's budget is awful. Among the people who have said that more eloquently than I: Mayor Tom Barrett (.pdf), Seth Zlotocha, and Cory Liebmann. I know most of it won't stick, but it sure says something to me that the Republicans have tried to stick up for the taxpayer, but produced a budget that hurts, in one way or another, every taxpayer in the state.

  • Healthy Wisconsin is getting some decent national press. Unfortunately, it's getting some rotten local press. Anyone opposed to the plan should be required to read this report (.pdf):
    State dollars that Wisconsin invests in expanding coverage through Healthy Wisconsin and BadgerCare Plus will draw new federal money into the state—dollars that otherwise would not flow into Wisconsin’s economy.
    • The federal funds drawn in by Healthy Wisconsin and BadgerCare Plus will generate more than $1 billion in new business activity in Wisconsin.
    • This investment will also create nearly 13,000 new jobs in the state. These new jobs will be created in the health care sector and in other sectors as the new federal dollars circulate through the Wisconsin economy.
    Why don't Republicans believe in job creation? Actually, this might explain why WMC is quieter than expected.

  • Republicans breaking the law: Bush, Fred Thompson, and John McCain. That's just the last week or so.

  • Don't you just hate it when liberals attack people of faith for their religion? I mean, just listen to this:
    Liberal faith, which is to say a faith that discounts the authority of Scripture in favor of a constantly evolving, poll-tested relevancy to modern concerns -- such as the environment, what kind of SUV Jesus would drive, larger government programs and other "do-good" pursuits -- ultimately morphs into societal and self-improvement efforts and jettisons the life-changing message of salvation, forgiveness of sins and a transformed life.
    Oh, wait, that's not a liberal! That's Cal Thomas harshing on a religious liberal! Reminds me of another story from this week (Mike M. beat me to it) of Christian love from the right:
    A Hindu clergyman made history Thursday by offering the U.S. Senate's morning prayer, but only after police officers removed three shouting protesters from the visitors' gallery.

    Rajan Zed, director of interfaith relations at a Hindu temple, gave the brief prayer that opens each day's Senate session. As he stood at the chamber's podium in a bright orange and burgundy robe, two women and a man began shouting "this is an abomination" and other complaints from the gallery.

    Police officers quickly arrested them and charged them with disrupting Congress, a misdemeanor. The male protester told an Associated Press reporter, "we are Christians and patriots" before police handcuffed them and led them away.
    More here.

  • Speaking of patriots, apparently, if you're liberal, SIRIUS satellite radio doesn't consider you patriotic.

  • Three examples of "your liberal media" in action: 1 2 3
That's enough for now. Enjoy the week.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Kanavas on Cannabis

BY krshorewood

Story in today's Milwaukee JS talks about the events leading to State Senator Kathleen Vinehout's (D-Alma) support of the Healthy Wisconsin plan which passed the Senate but will be smothered in the state Assembly.

The article relates how Vinehout and her husband, who own a farm, made the choice so many have to make and went without health insurance for 23 months. During that time her son had an emergency appendectomy last fall and they ended up refinancing their farm to cover the $10,000 bill.

Chances are many of us have or could find ourselves in this situation if nothing is done about our for-profit health care system. But what's the reaction from the GOP?
"Senator Vinehout's story is heartfelt," said Republican Sen. Ted Kanavas of Brookfield. "But their plan is completely misguided. They've decided to blow up a health care system that is the best in the nation."

Instead, Republicans back what they call a "consumer-driven model" of health care reform in which Wisconsin residents would get more information, compare costs of procedures and insurance, and make informed choices that would cut health care costs.

Really Ted? A health care system that is the best in the nation? Maybe you meant to say the most expensive in the nation. Considering your tech background you seemed to be just what we needed and someone who gets it, even if you are a Republican because that is all we can expect from Brookfield.

But your votes against stem cell research, lukewarm support for the UW system and tax cuts at all cost show you want to be a made man in the eyes of your GOP Senate bosses and that you are unable to lead your constituents.

The desperate pleas by the GOP to keep the government from reforming this mess we call health care are only making you and the rest of the Wisconsin wingnuttery draw low sarcastic chuckles from the rest of our population -- the majority -- who know better.

This idea of "consumer-driven" health care is only a lame sideshow to divert from the real solutions. Many health care decisions have to be made in emergency situations, making the notion of "shopping" for health care idiotic, made even more so by the complexity of the purchase. Also love the lunacy that somehow a person can save up for cardiac surgery.

This is snake oil. The purest you can get.

The GOP can win the battle this session by blocking the remedies to this system that does not have you in mind. But they will loose the war in 2008 when smart Democrats who want to go to Madison in swing districts throughout the state nail their opponents to their opposition towards getting the insurance companies off our backs.

The system should exist to serve the people of Wisconsin, not the other way around.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Our condolences to Senator Dave Hansen and family

I can't even begin to imagine how terrible their loss is.

Exhibit 1: folkbum's rambles and rants

by folkbum

I've done a lot of things and met a lot people that I never would have had I not started blogging way back when. It has almost always been a positive experience for me, and there's very little of it I would trade in given the chance.

One thing I never expected, however, was to be dragged into court.

I haven't been sued or anything yet--don't get me wrong. But I discovered today that apparently I have been a key ingredient in an ongoing State Elections Board complaint filed against a different Wisconsin blogger. Some highlights as narrated by Owen's buddy Jed:
Sitter’s complaint stated as follows:
I visited Boots and Sabers blog located at: http://bootsandsabers.com/. When on the blog I saw under the heading “Promos” an advertisement that stated “Blogs for Ziegler” with a picture of a laptop showing “Annette Ziegler Supreme Court” on its screen. I believe this is advocacy for a candidate for an election. Nothing in this ad identifies who sponsored and paid for the ad. When I clicked on the ad I was redirected to Annette Ziegler’s website for her campaign for Supreme Court of Wisconsin.
Ziegler’s campaign then broke out the clue bat.
[. . .] 4. On information and belief, the practice of posting “Blogs for” pictures that link to a candidate’s Web site is a common practice by blog administrators to show support for a particular candidate. See example of “Linda Clifford” logo from the blog folkbum’s rambles and rants attached as exhibit 1.
[. . .] To get around the obvious fact that the “Blogs for Ziegler” button was the responsibility of no one other than your humble hosts, Sitter came up with this load of crap:
Judge Ziegler argues that the Boots and Sabers “Blogs for Ziegler” is not a paid advertisement and was not placed on the website by Ziegler’s campaign. Ms. Sitter concedes that no violation has occurred by Ziegler’s campaign if the website owner chose to “endorse” Judge Ziegler and place his or her endorsement on the website. See Wis. Stat § 11.30(4) stating, “This chapter shall not be construed to restrict… editorial comment or endorsement.”

Wis. Stat. § 11.30(4) reiterates that “[n]o owner or other person with a financial interest in a communications medium may utilize such medium in support of or in opposition to a candidate or referendum except as provided in this chapter.” Endorsements of candidates for office are an exception. However, promotions acting in support of a candidate are not. [. . .] The Ziegler promotion on Boots and Sabers website is an advertisement, not an endorsement, and therefore is a violation of Wis. Stat. § 11.30 by the owner of Boots and Sabers website or any party who paid for the promotion. [. . .]

The webblog folkbum’s rambles and rants endorsement of Clifford attached as exhibit 1 to Ziegler’s answer is an endorsement. It can be found with other endorsements under the heading: “folkbum’s rambles and rants officially endorses.” This communication would constitute a Wis. Stat. § 11.30(4) exception to the requirements of Wis. Stat. § 11.30. Folkbum’s rambles and rants blog has unequivocally placed its endorsement within a section designated for endorsements. Therefore, folkbum’s rambles and rants endorsement need not comply with Wis. Stat. § 11.30 reporting and “paid for” requirements.
There's a lot of legalese in there, but I think in the end both sides--the Annette Ziegler campaign attorneys and the attorneys for Monica Sitter--are using this blog as an example of how to do things it right. Sitter's side noted that I clearly separate paid ads from editorial content such as endorsements (when I finally get moved to the new template, they won't even be in the same sidebar anymore). Ziegler's people argued that whatever I did was cool. It kind of would have been nice to know all of this was going on, though. I was quite gobsmacked to see it last night for the first time.

In a way, I feel kind of dirty being used by Ziegler's people and in defense of my sworn nemesis; but Sitter's complaint is, indeed, crap. It's crap for several reasons, not the least of which is something I've maintained all along: Blogs, at least locally, are just not as powerful as some people think they are. Even though Owen has traffic to die for, the number of people--specifically, Wisconsin residents likely to vote--visiting his site is still very small compared to the number of Wisconsin voters generally. Moreover, the subset of his traffic last spring who didn't already have their minds made up about the Supreme Court race was undoubtedly much, much smaller. The amount of people swayed by that "Blogs for Ziegler" graphic was probably somewhere near zero, and had Ziegler's campaign actually paid for it, they would have been throwing money away. For me, the same is true, but on 1/10 the scale.

More importantly, though, I thought Sitter's complaint was crap because any attempts to restrict Owen or me (or any other blogger) from making endorsements and promoting candidates and causes we like would place bloggers into a category or media all by themselves. Broadcast and print media do not suffer from restrictions on who, what, when, or how they endorse, and bloggers should not be treated any differently. This was a key element in the fight bloggers fought a year or so ago and won at the federal level. You can read at the Net Democracy Guide what the Federal Election Commission expects of bloggers, including this:
Q: My blog is closely associated with several candidates. I link to campaign web sites and republish campaign material on my site. I even have links directly to the candidates' donation pages. Am I still exempt from the rules?

A: Yes. The rule is clear that these ordinary Internet activities do not constitute an in-kind contribution to a campaign or trigger other campaign finance requirements, provided that the blogger is not being compensated for these activities. If you are compensated for these activities, as discussed more fully below, the primary campaign finance obligations would rest on the campaign that is paying you.
Had Annette Ziegler been a candidate for federal office, everything Owen did would not only have been legal, it would have been explicitly explained as such in existing FEC regulations. However, because the state of Wisconsin has not considered bloggers and electronic media in its campaign-finance legislation, the question remains up in the air. Owen's case here is the test case, and the State Elections Board's Counsel George Dunst has recommended tossing Sitter's complaint. (And we all know what value Dunst's opinions have anymore, eh?)

All of this brought to mind an email I got last fall from James Wigderson, asking for my reaction to a potential post of his. He never pulled the trigger and published the post, but here's a taste:
I'm going to pick on Jay Bullock for a moment because I like the additional traffic. Defending his presence in a Jessica McBride column, Bullock declares his blog, folkbum's rambles and rants, is not affiliated with the Democratic Party. Fair enough.

Um, Jay? I count seven ads that are either uncoordinated independent expenditures or else undocumented campaign contributions. They are for: Steve Kagen, Bryan Kennedy, Doyle/Lawton, Kathleen Falk, Feingold for President, Fair Wisconsin and No Death Penalty Wisconsin. On top of that, Jay has a box asking for contributions to the Democratic National Committee and the sister organizations Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Not a big deal, except Jay charges for advertising. [. . .]

As the blogosphere becomes more visible, they will become increasing targets of scrutiny by campaigns looking to silence them. I strongly suggest any blogger that charges for ads take a serious look at the campaign finance rules before they plug their favorite candidates.
I wrote Wiggy back that I felt safe on the federal campaigns, given the FEC's stance, and that I was willing to risk it with the State Elections Board, figuring that I could argue that I was still following the FEC, and acting in good faith that way.

In addition, I pointed out in response, months before the SEB arguments detailed above, that I had clearly labeled the ads, and clearly labeled the endorsements, and didn't pretend one was the other. I've always tried to play it relatively safe with this blog, and drawing as bright a line between those two things just always seemed like a no-brainer to me. I'm not suggesting that Owen was wrong to label his endorsements "Promos," given that Sitter's argument there relied on an internet dictionary to make its point. (Really!) But perhaps a better choice of words would have, in the end, avoided all the mess.

Of course, there's still a chance I might get dragged further into this; I'm hoping my new favorite attorney would be willing to help, if need be. Either way, at least I get to go down in history as something: Exhibit 1.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Before They Were (In)Famous

by capper


This morning, after having the distinct displeasure of hearing part of Charlie Sykes' feeble efforts at maintaining support for the war in Iraq, and seeing jibberish like this, it made me wonder. Is it really possible that all of the people still defending Bush's decisions had, at one time, worked in a pet store together?

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

New Media vs Old Media vs Old Ideas

by krshorewood

Charlie Sykes so desperately wants you to think that Al Gore's Live Earth extravaganza this weekend was a washout in one of his usual drive-by blog hits.

If you go by television ratings that would be the case. Turns out MSN, which hosted the event on line, was a lot less bummed.
SUPERLATIVES ABOUNDED AS MSN RELEASED updated audience figures for Saturday's Live Earth coverage, which it dubbed the "most watched entertainment event in online history."
"July 7, 2007 was the greatest day in the history of MSN," declared Joanne Bradford, corporate vice president and chief media officer, MSN. That jibed with Live Earth Partner and former U.S. Vice President Al Gore's separate statement that "Live Earth is officially the largest global entertainment event in history."

More than 30 million Live Earth videos have been streamed so far by 8 million people, "a milestone in online history," according to Bradford. The figure includes 15 million streams during the live coverage, and at its peak "the most simultaneous viewers of an online entertainment event"--more than 237,000 people during Madonna's closing performance in the U.K. Other popular performers with the online audience included Kelly Clarkson, Metallica, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Rihanna and Shakira.

The Live Earth organizers also said that millions of pledges to improve the environment were made via the Web and SMS in 178 countries and 35 territories.

Yet another example of what we have known all along about Charlie. Think hard about any new ideas his Chuckness has brought to the table in his over ten years on the air in Milwaukee.

His career has always been about obstruction, not construction.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

True or False: War Opponents=Hippies?


by bert

Mary Ringgenberg is a 78-year-old resident of a puny town in Iowa, and she opposes the war in Iraq. If you've driven past the burg of Early at the intersection of Highway 71 and East Second Street in the past two months, you might have seen her holding up signs.
Ringgenberg has appeared at that corner in this town of 600 people for as long as 90 minutes almost every day since the middle of May, protesting the Iraq war the best way she could come up with. "I decided to do it because I can't stand it anymore," she says.
What's funny about this is I learned about Mrs. Ringgenberg around last Monday when in fact Rush Limbaugh was giving us his picture of what the opposition to the war looks like.
The anti-war movement as it exists in this country remains a bunch of relics from the 1960s. In fact, I think Live Earth was such a disaster, it may spell the end of all of these live everythings: Live Aid, Live 8. This was indicative of a format and a technique that's simply run its course. But when you can't even get a bunch of long-haired, maggot-infested, dope-smoking, blue-jean clad, tie-dyed wearing FM types out there taking advantage of this kind of an opportunity to preach against the war . . . I'm telling you, the American people are not experiencing a great uprising against the war.
He might at least be right that there is not in the U.S. an unavoidably visible mobilization of opponents to the war. (There was one of 'em at Summerfest, or so I heard). But they are out there, seething, and mostly ignored by reporters and Rush. Mrs. Ringgenberg, for example, is not very visible because she doesn't have Rush's golden microphone. She just has a sign and a house by U.S. 71.

Here she is on video.

Monday, July 09, 2007

When Is a Crisis Not a Crisis?

by capper

First, I would like to thank Jay for inviting me to be the 151st member of Team folkbum.

After the Juneteenth Day beating of Pat Kasthurirangaian, many people decried the senseless violence, and rightfully so. But then the right wing bloggers continued to decry the act, day after day. Then they decried those that they felt didn't decry the incident stridently enough.

Now that Summerfest has wrapped up its 40th year, the crime report is out. MSJ reports that 450 people were arrested with a total of 628 charges. While most of the charges are related to underage drinking or possession of a controlled substance, there were also arrests for battery, disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and obstructing an officer. Surely, there would be lamentations about the wild crowds, especially since crime was up by one and half times as that of last year.

But there were no cries for justice, no calls to close Summerfest, not even some gnashing of teeth or hair pulling. Instead, the only comments that the right had about this crisis that was Summerfest was that Ludicrus would be appearing, causing chaos throughout the city (Sorry, Charlie, never happened) or that Roger Waters wouldn't change his anti-war, anti-establishment attitude for them. One talk show host commiserated with a Waukesha County man on how unfair the police were for giving his underage daughter a citation for possession of alchohol. One would think that at the very least, seeing that 65% of the scofflaws were from outside of Milwaukee County, that they would call for a wall to be built around the county to keep these thugs out.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Fairness Doctrine as Foreplay

by bert

As right-wing apologists on the blogs and airwaves dutifully defend the get-out-of-jail free card for White House convict Scooter Libby, they also continue to flog this fairness doctrine non-issue at the same time.

For three weeks now radio hosts have been unable to resist the temptation to dwell on this very remote threat of radio regulations. One of their self-serving arguments is the right to free speech, which I actually agree should encompass right-wing radio just as it should allow Larry Flynt’s products. I will also agree that making diverse political views available is ideal, so I don’t want to shut up even the simplistic demagogues who hide behind call screeners.

But the amusing point made by right-wing radio folks is the pretense that what they do is worthwhile, even virtuous. Discussing the proposal for a renewed fairness doctrine has been foreplay in a right-wing radio orgy of self-love. WTMJ, the biggest stick in the state, has ardently stroked itself. I mean, can anything engorge the masturbatory gland of Charlie Sykes more than Charlie’s chance to pretend that he is a victim?

What’s laughable is to then hear in the same week the right-wing talk about the Lewis "Scooter" Libby affair. I don't see any reason to think the work of right-wing opinion-shapers is worthwhile or virtuous when they do such a shoddy job defending President Bush, which is basically what they are paid to do. The worst example of this shoddy work is using the Marc Rich deal to excuse the Lewis Libby deal. So the best they can come up with, now seven years into the Bush era, is the same tired “Bill Clinton did it too” card?

I'm fairly sure that the right-wing's message machine is not the second coming of Thomas Paine.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Behind Every Kalashnikov is a Real Kalashnikov

by krshorewood

Put in your orders to Eat Cake, the Kalashnikov has turned 60!

From the AP:
Hospitalized with wounds after a Nazi shell hit his tank in 1941, Michael Kalashnikov decided to design an automatic rifle combining the best features of the American M1 and the German StG44.

"Blame the Nazi Germans for making me become a gun designer," said Kalashnikov, frail but sharp at age 87. "I always wanted to construct agriculture machinery."

Since production began, more than 100 million AK-47s have been made — either at the home factory in the central Russian city of Izhevsk, under license in dozens of other countries, or illegally.

In a related story, thousands of people around the world failed to make it to 60.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

We Meant Surge, Not Purge

by krshorewood

Standing in stark contrast to the atrocities committed by Saddam Hussein, a little known aspect of life under this dictator was the treatment afforded Iraqi Christians. Not that life was rosy, but according to The Guardian,
Although they (Iraqi Christians) made up only about 3% of the population of prewar Iraq - 700,000 people - under Saddam they were a prosperous minority, symbolized by the high profile of Tariq Aziz, Saddam's Christian foreign minister. Highly educated and overwhelmingly middle class, the Christians were heavily concentrated in Mosul, Basra and especially Baghdad, which before the war had the largest Christian population of any Middle Eastern town or city.

In the George Bush world of untended consequences known as the Iraq occupation, things have taken a bad turn for the Christians who live there -- or in many cases used to live there. According to today's Boston Globe, Iraqi Christians are being expelled from their homes, something that is happening to many Iraqis as religious sects are making their neighborhoods homogenous.

The article goes on to talk about how more troops are being brought in to quell the harassment, but we are too familiar with the on-going game of Whack-a-Mole being played throughout Iraq.

As many fundamentalist Christians in this country cheered on the invasion of Iraq, Bush has done the impossible. Thanks to this president, someone who has had no qualms about advertising his piety, Christians throughout Iraq are dealing with what looks to be a worse situation than under the displaced tyrant prompting half of them to flee to other countries. The exception is here to this country where the Bush administration has put severe limitations on Iraqi refugees coming to the US.

Bush has fixed it so that in Iraq, Christians don't have a prayer.

SiCKO

We ventured into the people's republik of the East Side yesterday to see SiCKO. It was depressing.

Michael Moore presented case after case of Americans being turned away--sometimes literally dumped out of a cab--from health care. He interspersed that with case after case of no one going untreated in country after country all over the world.

As I said--depressing.

No doubt Moore played up what he wanted to--it was funny, for example, how all of the doctors in the other countries were so young and so handsome. But the film does serve to reinforce the notion that the way we do health care in this country is uniquely American. But also uniquely depressing.

And, for irony: I twisted my ankle on the way in. Nothing that Advil and ice isn't helping, but still--nothing like watching a movie about how the US insurance industry will kill you while in pain.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Monday, July 02, 2007

Bush Offers Scooter Libby "Amnesty"

by folkbum

UPDATE: Via mcjoan, it looks like Bush thinks the rules don't apply to him, either: "No petition for commutation of sentence, including remission of fine, should be filed if other forms of judicial or administrative relief are available, except upon a showing of exceptional circumstances." Libby's appeal is still pending, and there's nothing exceptional about it.

UPDATE II: I suppose Bush could have just said, " 'Please,' " Bush whimpers, his lips pursed in mock desperation, " 'don't [send me to jail].' " Scooter's lucky.

Well it seems that tax-evader Marc Rich's attorney has had his sentence commuted by President Bush:
President Bush commuted the sentence of former White House aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby on Monday, sparing him from a 2 1/2-year prison term that Bush said was excessive. Bush's move came hours after a federal appeals panel ruled Libby could not delay his prison term in the CIA leak case.

That meant Libby was likely to have to report to prison soon and put new pressure on the president, who had been sidestepping calls by Libby's allies to pardon the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney.

"I respect the jury's verdict," Bush said in a statement. "But I have concluded that the prison sentence given to Mr. Libby is excessive. Therefore, I am commuting the portion of Mr. Libby's sentence that required him to spend thirty months in prison."

Bush left intact a $250,000 fine and two years probation for Libby, and Bush said his action still "leaves in place a harsh punishment for Mr. Libby."

Libby was convicted in March of lying to authorities and obstructing the investigation into the 2003 leak of CIA operative's identity. He was the highest-ranking White House official ordered to prison since the Iran-Contra affair.
What this means, in other words, is that running interference so your boss doesn't get implicated in a federal investigation is now worth, at most, a hefty fine. I hope that loyal assistants in smoke-filled boardrooms everywhere are taking notice.

The title of this post is, of course, a shot at everyone (cough * conservatives * cough) who has been criticizing the failed immigration bill by calling the fine and probation required of illegal immigrants "amnesty." It's not "amnesty" any more than what Scooter got is a full pardon. Scooter just doesn't have to do the time for his crime. Ironically, this "amnesty" will earn Bush points with his 26-percenters that the immigration bill actually didn't.

Additionally: Bloomberg (the news, not the guy) reminds us that Bush pardons or commutes almost no one who asks for it. digby suspects the lack of a full pardon is so that Scooter can take the fifth if he testifies to Congress. And, kudos to Keith for beating me to it.

What Took Him So Long?

by krshorewood

Just in from the New York Times:

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Bush commuted the sentence of former aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby Monday, sparing him from a 2.5-year prison term in the CIA leak case.

Bush left intact a $250,000 fine and two years probation for Libby, according to a senior White House official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the decision had not been announced.

Bush's move came hours after a federal appeals panel ruled Libby could not delay his prison term in the CIA leak case. That decision put the pressure on the president, who had been sidestepping calls by Libby's allies to pardon the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney.

Libby was convicted in March of lying to authorities and obstructing the investigation into the 2003 leak of CIA operative's identity. He was the highest-ranking White House official ordered to prison since the Iran-Contra affair.


So much for the rule of law, CIA undercover and all that. Amazing that Paris Hilton did more time in the clink than Scooter. On the other hand she was much less of a security risk.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Your Liberal Media

by folkbum

in all the conversations lately about the fairness doctrine and whatnot, people--conservatives, anyway--trot out the chestnut about how liberal the traditional media are. Almost to a one, the Wisconsin conservatives complain about how much the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, in particular, is slanted to the left.

It's a knee-slapper, ain'a? Because the MJS barely even noted that the state's Democrats held their annual convention this weekend.

You know what makes me sad?

by folkbum

All the Democratic presidential candidates are raking in scores of millions of dollars and the BlogAds space to your right sits empty. Sigh.

For the record, I haven't given any of them money yet, though my inbox is choking with pleas. I think any of the top tier would make great presidents, and, given that my primary vote is likely to be useless anyway, I'm just sitting back and watching right now.

If you care to try to change my mind in the comments, go ahead. Make your best pitch.