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Pay no attention to the people behind the curtain

Monday, December 31, 2007

2007

by folkbum

Well, it could have been worse.

Here's to a better 2008.

Ninnie State

By Keith Schmitz

Even though smoking is bad for your health, the Journal Sentinel attacks our intellectual health and insists on running the sullen optimist Patrick McIlheran in every nook and cranny they can find.

In today's journey to wonderland Paddy Mac has perceived that pressure is being brought to bear on public smoking. All around the world places that would seem to be habitable to smoking thanks to their edge -- Ireland, Italy and now France and soon close to home Illinois -- are telling their residents smoke 'em if you got 'em but not in public. Even places they admire such as Singapore for their punishment by caning has told people to stub them out in public. Like all primal life forms McIllheran becomes tedious when he is cornered.

Hey, I enjoy an occasional cigar and I own a shisha pipe I brought back from Egypt, both of which are rather relaxing to puff on at home. But like all responsible adults I recognize smoking is an obtrusive act.

Why should a condition of employment be that someone's clothes reek from tobacco or worse, their lungs are exposed to carcinogens? For that matter why should other customers have to put up with this as well?

Unlike the letter printed in this morning's paper printed above Paddy Mac's smirky head, which expresses the opinion that people aren't really for these bans? Well, sorry Eva, people do want these bans.

There is the problem. As usual in the radcon fantasy world empirical research about the harmful effects of smoking along with polls showing support for bans are ignored or mocked. The world, however, pretty much agress with this but do not ever use this argument with conservatives. It somehow emboldens them.

As usual they summon up their philosophical nothings -- "if you don't like working in a bar that allows smoking go somewhere else," or "it's a business' right to run their operation the way it wants" or the favorite -- "nanny state." All of which in so many words translate into "we don't give a crap about people."

The question is why do they persist in resisting a law that is common sense? They talk about their rights but what about the rights of others to snort non-lethal air?

It's probably more partisan than that because for them, that is usually what it comes down to. Take your pick. After all, tobacco companies dump a lot of money into Republican coffers.

Or it could be like a lot of other causes for their opposition. Democrats are for responding to climate change or limiting access of everyone to guns so to prevent them from having these or other victories, they are agin it. They are so worried about protecting their way of life, whatever that is, that giving an inch is not in the program.

The ironic thing is this crowd is way too visceral with their hierarchy of needs rarely getting beyond the second level, so in this and many of their arguments they definitely gild the lily.

But visceral they are and they bluster on despite what the public really wants and what science proves to be an imperative, explaining why Wisconsin has changed from being the progressive state to where we are now -- the regressive state.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

We Are At War

by bert

I can't explain why, but media and blog reflections on the ending year fall short of conveying what is and has been most important. Here are the Wisconsin soldiers killed in the past year.
UPDATE: Good for the Journal Sentinel editorial board for acknowledging Jan. 1 that the wars still go on, and the cost paid by Wisconsin soldiers last year. (They also pointed out some casualties my source -- U.S.casualties.org -- did not reveal. These have since been added).







Specialist Matthew T. Grimm of Wisconsin Rapids












Lance Corporal Andrew G. Matus of Chetek











Private Jon B. St. John II of Neenah








Staff Sgt. Robert J. Basham of Kenosha











Lance Cpl. Harry H. Timberman of Minong











Private Nicholas E. Riehl of Shiocton











Sgt. Jesse B. Albrecht of Hager City












Sgt. Scott Brown of Brookfield













Sgt. Tyler J. Kritz of Eagle River











Navy Chief Petty Officer Patrick Wade of Manawa











Marine Corporal Matthew R. Zindars of Watertown











Captain Derek A. Dobogai of Fond du Lac












Specialist Keith Nurnberg of Genoa City













Specialist Rachael L. Hugo of Madison











Sgt. Louis A. Griese of Sturgeon Bay











2nd Lt. Tracy Lynn Alger of New Auburn

Friday, December 28, 2007

Time for giving

by folkbum

Just a reminder, campaigns all have to report their contributions as of December 31, which is sooner than it seems. You should be sending some late holiday gifts their way. You can find many deserving candidates through the ActBlue link, above.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

An Honest Question

by capper

There has been a growing hubbub about the Plan B bill that the state legislature wants to pass. The bill would basically require hospitals to inform victims of rape about RU486, which would prevent a pregnancy. It does not require the rape victim to take the medicine, nor would it allow the hospital to withhold the information about it.

To get a flavor of the controversy, you can see the right's point of view as offered by Patrick McIlheran or Dad29. For the left side, I would offer Pundit Nation and Kay as examples.

But I have a hypothetical, but honest, question for those on the conservative side of this issue. First, let's take some conditions as a given. We will have to suspend our personal beliefs on whether RU486 is an abortion pill or not, when life begins, etc. For now, let us pretend, for the sake of the discussion, that the conservatives have their way, and a woman who is raped, and impregnated during that rape, is forced to carry the baby to term.

She has this offspring of the rape and/or incest. Will the right expect her to raise it and love it, even though it is a constant reminder of her victimization, for the next eighteen years? If they do expect this poor woman to raise the child, are they going to support her and the child for all those years. After all, she did not get pregnant willingly or by accident. She was raped, it was forced upon her. Would they be willing to pay the huge jump in taxes to have their wishes fulfilled?

What if she is forced to raise this baby, but holds anger and resentment towards it, for what it symbolizes to her. Would they condemn her for mistreating the baby. Will they demand she treat it appropriately, and not abuse it in face of jail time. In other words, would they want the woman to carry the fetus to term and raise it, but if she takes her anger, her frustration or has some episode of PTSD, and harms the child, they would then put her in jail, because she was raped. Isn't that like triple or quadruple victimization of the woman?

Now, let's pretend the woman was married. Will they force her husband to love and raise and support the child, who is the constant reminder that his wife was raped and impregnated by another man. Before answering, please take a long minute to try to place yourself in his shoes. Imagine the feelings of helplessness, frustration, self-blame for not protecting her, blame on your wife for "letting herself get raped". These are all feelings that husbands of rape victims have expressed in real life cases. Also ask, will they be willing to pay the higher taxes to support this child that is not his. What if he can't cope and wants to divorce his wife. Isn't that against the teachings of the Church as well?

And for a third scenario, what if the woman was forced to carry the baby, but wasn't forced to raise it. What would happen to that child then? Foster homes? Orphanages? Left out for the wolves to eat? Forced to make it learn to survive on its own? Or would they be willing to pay for the foster homes and orphanages? And if the answer is "By God, of course, we would pay for these babies to be taken care of and raised properly!", then my question is, why aren't you willing to pay for the unwanted, neglected and/or abused children we have in society now?

Now, as a disclaimer, mrs. capper and I are leaving for a little New Year's jaunt to our home away from home, in dem nord woods dere, hey. I won't be able to respond to any of your comments for several days, but I would genuinely like to know people's opinion on these questions.

And have a safe and happy new year.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Comfort Food

by capper

Decembers for the last few years have been very depressing for me. Two years ago, our neighbors and close friends, were killed in a car accident. Last year, the woman who "adopted" me after my own mom passed, died, of the same cancer, in almost identical manners. The holidays make me think of them, and I get sad, and like most people, start craving comfort foods.

Unfortunately, chocolate does not usually give me the emotional fix I need. The foods I crave are things from my childhood, that my mom or my grandma would make for us. I will spare you from some of the more, shall we say, interesting dishes. They are very common in Italy, but most people here get a little disgusted by some of them.

One of the foods that we found a few years ago was povitica, a Croatian dessert that is swirled bread. Grandma capper had been gone for 15 years and it had been at least 25 years since I had tasted any. Then we saw an ad for Strawberry Hill's Povitica, and thought we'd try it. The first bite took me back to my grade school days. (I hope she forgives me, but I think theirs is even better than the ones she made.) The best part was when we gave some to Grandpa capper. The povitica is expensive, but the tears of joy in his eyes as he too had memories flooding back was worth every cent.

Tonight, while I was doing some shopping before heading up north (another source of comfort for me) I was at the grocery store. They had a pistachio pudding dessert that made me freeze in my tracks. It was the exact same dessert that Ma capper would make for my birthdays and other special occasions when I was a child. Since my dad's birthday is coming up, I used that as the excuse to buy some.Again the memories came flooding back. We talked for over an hour, just reliving her memory.

I still miss grandma and ma capper, and my friends, but am feeling a bit better (and heavier) now. So, what is your comfort food?

The County Executive Race

by capper

I wasn't really going to start on this until after the new year, but...

I sent an email to the Lena Taylor campaign website to see how last week's event with Governor Jim Doyle went, as the local media decided not to even mention it. But to be fair, they haven't mentioned Walker's either. John Zapfel, her campaign manager responded with an email saying things went very well (no, I didn't expect him to say it stunk), but their biggest concern right now is money. At the end of the year, the campaigns are to submit their financial reports, and it is expected that Walker will have a much stronger showing. This only makes sense, since he was already sitting on a war chest that is almost equivalent to what he spent four years ago on his last election for County Exec.

Now, even though I am still learning about the intricacies of political campaigning, it doesn't take a PhD in poli sci to know that money is what makes the political world go round. What is more pertinent to me is the trends and the positions. I will attempt to do my modest attempts at covering the latter after New Years.

For the former part, the trends, that is easy to cover. It has already been done for me. Progressive Majority Wisconsin had a survey done and the result were astonishing:

County Executive Scott Walker is in an very vulnerable position going into the 2008 election for County Executive. Walker’s support falls well below the 50% threshold that separates vulnerable incumbents from safe ones, and leads his challenger, State Senator Lena Taylor by only 7 points (35% Taylor, 41% Walker). About a quarter (24%) of the electorate is undecided. Walker’s lead is likely predicated on his sizable advantage in name recognition (Walker: 90% hard ID; Taylor: 33% hard ID). When this advantage is eliminated by examining only the 30% of the electorate that knows both candidates, Taylor actually leads by a sizable margin (55% Taylor, 31% Walker).

Walker’s re-elect rating provides a second indication of vulnerability. Only 38% of county voters say they will vote to re-elect Walker, while 27% will consider voting for someone else, and 19% would replace Walker.

You can read the whole report here (pdf) (and it's got all sorts of pretty colored graphs).

Now some people might dismiss the results because it was done by a "liberal" polling company. Walker apparently didn't. He immediately emailed a lengthy rant about it to his mouthpiece, Charlie Sykes, who promptly put the whole thing up on his blog. One thing that you won't find Charlie posting is the response from Kristen Crowell, Political Director of Progressive Majority Wisconsin:

Dear Charlie,

I thought I would weigh in since the County Executive was speaking about a poll that we commissioned. This poll was conducted among spring voters and did not "steer" the answers towards Senator Taylor in any way. It was not a "push poll" as is alleged, more an accurate picture of the electorate.The County Executive is nervous because this poll shows this picture of the voters today and this picture isn't pretty for him. The poll shows that voters want to replace Walker and will vote for Senator Lena Taylor, a Milwaukee native and resident running to unseat him.

Walker's charge that we are a liberal firm fronting for a liberal candidate is simply a smokescreen to distract your readers from the truth. The truth is that Walker never once got an approval rating over 50%, a terrible place for an incumbent to be only months before the election. We are a progressive organization, that much Walker gets correct, but in no way could this poll manipulate the minds and hearts of the residents of Milwaukee County. Residents, of whom only 31% strongly favor Walker, residents who 49% believe that Milwaukee County is headed in the wrong direction, and residents who will vote this spring.

Need I then bring up the 8th County Board seat? The seat that became vacant when Ryan McCue became the Mayor of Cudahy? The one where the Walker-endorsed candidate lost to Pat Jursik. That was in August, well before the campaign for County Executive started and even then voters weren't moved. Walker should be afraid, but he shouldn't be afraid of our poll, he should be afraid of the reality that he has created. Voters want someone new, he did that all by himself.
Oh, 2008 could be shaping up to be an interesting year. Not only this, but I think I heard somthing or other about a presidential race going on...

SIDENOTE: If you, like me, would like to see some improvements in Milwaukee County, some leadership in the Courthouse, and the people of the area actually getting something for their tax dollars, please go to Lena's website and see how you can help.

Subprime Loans: There's A Good Lesson To Be Learned From This

by capper

From today's MSJ, in the letters to the editor, from our own krshorewood:

SUBPRIME LOANS

There's a good lesson to be learned in this


Our economic ship is taking on water thanks to the subprime mortgage crisis. As usual, conservatives are throwing ordinary people overboard.

And, as usual, the blame goes beyond those affected by the failure of these loans. In between the folks who took the bad loans and Alan Greenspan - who as Federal Reserve chairman endorsed this wide-open, unregulated market - are the banks and mortgage companies that made these bad loans when they should have known better.

But they did. And these deals were repackaged and sold to other banks and investment firms. While hundreds of thousands of people will be losing their homes, the people who made these deals are making billions of dollars.

While many people took these NINJA - no income, no job and no assets - loans as a means of realizing the American dream, there were many others who could get good loans but were duped into subprime loans.

This brings us to the scheme on the part of conservatives to make health care "consumer-driven." With the complexity of medical decisions and, as we know now, a number of businesses ready to make a quick profit from people's ignorance, what's to stop this from happening with health care?

Keith R. Schmitz Shorewood

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

The Morgan Stanley Starbucks Verizon Wireless Miller General Billy Mitchell International Airport

by capper

Scott Walker must be looking for more publicity in the face of the upcoming election.

Today's MSJ has a story about how Walker, County Board Supervisor Paul Cesarz, and County Board Patricia Jursik met with with representatives from Morgan Stanley, who were pitching the idea of privatizing the airport. If you remember, Walker did tried to do a back door deal to do this a ways back, and it blew up in his face.

The story makes the proposition look rosy, saying that the county could see anywhere from $500 million to $1 billion dollars. That is a very tempting offer to a county that has been strapped for cash since the pension scandal, the second pension scandal, and Walker's repeated ham-handed attempts at creating a budget, which inevitably blows up.

But there are many unanswered questions in this story. For example, how long would the lease be for? If it is only a year, even I would urge Walker to take it. If it over 99 years, well then it's not such a great deal after all.

And what are the chances of it even happening? The article reports that Chicago has already put in a bid, and the feds are saying only one midsize to large airport could be privatized at this time.
Not only that, but come April, there might be a whole new slate of faces running the county government, besides Lena Taylor being the new County Executive. Even Walker himself said that nothing would be done on this until after the elections.

And the same questions arise, that were brought up from the last time Walker tried to privatize the airport. There are no answers yet about how it may affect airport operations, how it may affect people living in close vicinity to the airport, and what would happen if the private agency would fail.

I'll spare you the rehashing of the local endeavors of privatization of public entities that have flopped. Things like the Bureau of Milwaukee Child Welfare, the Public Museum and MMSD. And I won't go into a big, long spiel about how many time Walker has lied to the people of Milwaukee County about these wonderful things he does.

All I will say is: It may or may not be a good idea, and it might or might not happen, but why is this being reported without these answers, unless it is just Walker trying to get some attention. So much for the liberal media.

UPDATE: Even Ed Garvey and Owen Robinson agree with me. Will wonders never cease?

To Protect And To Serve

by capper

I have known and have worked with many police officers through the years. Most of the officers were committed and honorable men and women. They took pride in their jobs and did them well.

That said, 2007 has not been a good year for public relations and the police around the state and the country. We have seen the trials regarding the Jude beating, the generally poor perception of recently retired Milwaukee Police Chief Nan Hegarty, and the shootings in Crandon, just to name a few.

Now we see that Green Bay police have started a new policy of finger printing everyone they pull over for a traffic violation. (H/t to Owen for the story.) They claim it is to protect people from identity theft, but it smacks of something more sinister.

And from today's news we see this story:

A state police academy leader has disavowed the slogan of the most recent graduating class urging one another to "go out and cause" post-traumatic stress disorder.

Each class at the Idaho Police Officer Standards and Training Academy is allowed to choose a slogan that is printed on its graduation programs, and the class of 43 graduates came up with "Don't suffer from PTSD, go out and cause it."

According to the Veterans Association, tens of thousands of U.S. soldiers suffer from PTSD, which causes nightmares, flashbacks and physical symptoms that make sufferers feel as if they are reliving trauma, even many years later. Crime, accidents and other trauma can cause it in civilians.
And they wonder why people have an inherent distrust of the police. Where is Officer Friendly when you need him?

Merry Christmas


Merry Christmas. Or if you'd rather, Happy Holidays. Or if really want, Happy Tuesday!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Saving the Number 9

by capper

I have already pointed out how Senator Lena Taylor has done more for Milwaukee County before being elected than Scott Walker has done in the past five years. She did this by getting millions of dollars from the state budget to help preserve as much of the transit system as possible.

Gretchen at Milwaukee Rising points out that it was Governor Jim Doyle that preserved the Canal Street bus line when Walker again refused to do his job.

Now it looks like it will be up to Governor Doyle and/or the state to ride to the rescue again. Taking a page out of Walker's book, Waukesha County Executive Dan Vrakas is refusing to find the funding for the #9 bus route. Seventy some families depend on this route for jobs to support themselves, but for the want of a $100,000 dollars, this route is due to be eliminated on January 1, 2008.

And has James Rowen points out, with Waukesha County and the State ready and willing to spend millions of dollars on an unnecessary interchange at the Pabst Farms, there must be a way for the two counties, the state and/or the businesses that get all the tax breaks to pony up this money.

Nothing says "Merry Christmas" like the threat of losing your ability to earn a living. I personally don't care who fixes the problem, but someone better get on it. Governor Doyle could easily get the funding here, but I like Gretchen's suggestion better-something about the thought of knocking Walker's and Vrakas' heads together appeals to my baser side.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Oh, Christmas Tree

by capper

Now that the state legislature has cleared up the important issue of what to name the dead tree/pagan symbol in the rotunda, I guess it's OK to share this story. This version has probably made its cycles around the Internet, but it is still funny. And be glad that someone sent me this version, because the verbal version is much, much longer...

When four of Santa's elves got sick, and the trainee elves did not produce the toys as fast as the regular ones, Santa was beginning to feel the pressure of being behind schedule.

Then Mrs. Claus told Santa that her Mom was coming to visit. This stressed Santa even more.

When he went to harness the reindeer, he found that three of them were about to give birth and two had jumped the fence and were out, heaven knows where.

More stress.

Then when he began to load the sleigh one of the boards cracked, and the toy bag fell to the ground and scattered the toys.

So, frustrated, Santa went into the house for a cup of apple cider and a shot of rum. When he went to the cupboard, he discovered that the elves had hidden the liquor, and there was nothing to drink.

In his frustration, he accidentally dropped the cider pot, and it broke into hundreds of little pieces all over the kitchen floor. He went to get the broom and found that mice had eaten the straw end of the broom.

Just then the doorbell rang, and irritable Santa trudged to the door. He opened the door, and there was a little angel with a great big Christmas tree. The angel said, very cheerfully, 'Merry Christmas, Santa. Isn't it a lovely day? I have a beautiful tree for you. Where would you like me to stick it?'

And so began the tradition of the little angel on top of the Christmas tree.

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Election Season

by capper

As if all the coverage of the presidential campaign wasn't a warning, today's MSJ gives another sign that elections season is fast approaching, if not already here. The story is about the pandering of state legislators to the NRA and their paranoid members. The state Assembly has already passed and the Senate is expected to pass a bill that would put severe limitations on authorities to confiscate guns from people acting poorly.

The bill was sponsored by Rep. Scott Gunderson (R-NRA's right pocket) who said, "I just think it's important that if there ever is a disaster similar to Katrina, that citizens are able to defend themselves, their families and their property and not be worried about government coming and confiscating their firearms." Yeah, right. I clearly remember the hurricane of '83 that wiped Sheboygan right of the face of the map. And if there was such a calamity to hit Wisconsin, I'd be a bit too worried to worry about whether my gun rights were protected.

As one might expect, the local gun enthusiasts are more than pleased with this. Dad29 has even put up a NRA film showing interviews and even a lady get taken down by police, because she wouldn't give up her gun. When I challenged Dad on that, he threw up the predictable straw man challenging me to prove that the NRA was less than honest with their propaganda. Well, I can't. Most states with CCW and under the NRA's thumbs also having laws that forbid the public knowledge of data such as how many gun crimes were committed by licensed owners.

So instead, I looked a little into why the cops were taking peoples guns. As you could imagine, I found tons of articles about Katrina and guns. About two thirds were by the NRA or gun enthusiast sites echoing the NRA verbatim.

The other third were stories about the chaos, the violence and the troubles faced by the police and the National Guard members that were trying to restore order, rescue workers being shot at by looters or by freaked out homeowners, and stores being pillaged for their guns.

I can't speak for Dad29 or any of the other gun enthusiasts, but if I am trying to help someone, I'd be less inclined to if they started shooting at me. And if I was trying to help restore order in the face of such devastating and unimaginable chaos, I wouldn't be taking time to see if the people shooting at me were legal gun owners.

But that's just me looking at the other side of the equation.

And before the rabid NRA acolytes come after me with their pitchforks and torches, I am not advocating for the complete abolishment of guns. First of all, the right would have more luck cleansing the country of illegal aliens that the left would be getting rid of all the guns. Secondly, I do own some shotguns and a rifle that I inherited, that I use at our place in the country. So far, I have only had to worry about a rabid raccoon and two rattlers in six years. No looters, no thugs. (And yes, I keep them unloaded and locked up.)

So why is the legislature taking going through the motions of passing an unnecessary bill? I can only think of two reasons. One, it's a step closer to concealed carry law, which I would oppose. Two, it's an election year and the NRA has deep pockets.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

The, um, Holidays

by folkbum

We are in a period known, generically, as "the holidays," which, for our purposes here at folkbum's rambles and rants, means less ranting and fewer rambles as some or all of our regular and irregular posters inevitably or evitably find time to spend with their families, friends, inner thoughts, or therapists and, therefore, may or may not be posting new items even though you, dear reader, think well enough of us to stop by and see what may be happening, regardless of how alone it may make your own families, friends, inner thoughts, or therapists feel.

Please enjoy the holidays, and may the peace you need find you as often as you need it this season.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Another Health Care Horror Story

by capper

Everyone knows that those socialistic health care systems, like those in Europe and Canada, cause patients to wait for unforgivable amounts of time. Patients in these systems can wait for months to get the necessary treatment, and sometimes even die before they get it. Or they are forced to pay for their care out of their own pockets and/or go to the United States to get their treatment.

Well, did you hear about the latest horror story? A teenage girl who needed a liver transplant in order to live was denied the treatment. Health care administrators called the procedure experimental. When they finally changed their minds and agreed that the procedure could happen, it was too late. Only hours after those heartless fools changed their minds, the girl succumbed and passed away.

The only thing is this. It didn't happen in Canada or Europe. It happened in Los Angeles. California. United States of America. From the article:

The family of a 17-year-old leukemia patient blamed Cigna Corp. on Friday for her death, saying the health insurance giant's initial refusal to pay for a liver transplant contributed to her death.

"They took my daughter away from me," said Nataline Sarkisyan's father, Krikor, with tears in his eyes at a news conference at his lawyer's office.

The Philadelphia-based insurer had initially refused to pay for the procedure, saying it was experimental. The company reversed the decision Thursday as about 150 nurses and community members rallied outside of its office in Glendale in suburban Los Angeles. Nataline died just hours later.

The insurer "maliciously killed" Nataline because it did not want to bear the expense of her transplant and aftercare, said family attorney Mark Geragos. He did not say when or in what court he would file the civil lawsuit.

Now, will the conservatives kindly please stop trying to cherry pick anecdotal evidence and get down to the serious business of fixing our health care system. Before more children die.

McIlheran: Helping Rape Victims is Bad for the Environment

by folkbum

Maybe it was a failed attempt at snark, maybe Patrick McIlheran really believes this deep down in the cockles of his being, I don't know. But in the two-plus years I've been doing the McIlheran Watch, this is perhaps the most offensive thing I have read from the guy:
Plan B amounts to an extra-large dose of contraceptive drugs. If people worry about trace amounts of endocrine-disrupting chemicals in water, Plan B ought to be at least a little worrying, given that endocrine disruption is what it's all about.
Oh, I'm sorry that you just got raped, dear, and that you may be carrying the spawn of that son of a bitch, but we can't help you because of those wacky environmentalists.

I am almost physically ill.

For more, see capper, Michael, and Kay. UPDATE: Emily Mills makes a good point in comments below, and elaborates at her own place.

Holy Crap, There's an Election Soon

by folkbum

Hard to believe, but the Iowa caucuses are less than two weeks away. It's hard to believe in part because I just haven't gotten myself into the presidential race the way I did four years ago. I started blogging in 2003 because of Howard Dean (and have kept it up because of a lack of anything better to do), but this year I have not campaigned for a candidate, endorsed a candidate, given money to a candidate, or anything of the sort.

So it's kind of weird to think that, here we are, just moments away from the thing already. It seems to have snuck up on us, sprung up from behind a snow bank or something. And now we have to deal with it.

At any rate, I would like to offer my brief predictions and thoughts, for what they are worth.

Winners: If I had to bet--and I don't think I would, because there is no clear frontrunner in Iowa on either side right now, but if someone gave me two quarters and said, "Here, bet these"--if I had to bet, I would bet on Hillary Clinton and Willard "Mitt" Romney. I would bet on them just simply on the theory that, all else being equal, the candidate with the most money usually wins.

Democrats: There is tremendous pressure on the three leaders, all of whom have a real chance at winning. Clinton is a monolith: She has the money, a well-oiled machine, and deep support; she led in the polls for much of the fall, after all. Barack Obama will do well if the traditionally unreliable youth vote actually gets to the caucuses--but they traditionally don't, which will be his weakness. John Edwards is in year six of his campaign in Iowa, and has probably the best ground game.

The pressure comes from this: If Clinton wins, the game is pretty much over; she will run the rest of the table. Even if Clinton comes in second--I have a hard time seeing her third--the other two will have to work hard to stop her. Obama must come in first if he wants a chance at New Hampshire voters' confidence that he's a closer. A second-place finish won't kill him, but it will make his chances of winning anything before February 5 much slimmer. Obama in third, though, means the end of that campaign. Edwards must finish first or he will have to drop out--he's not got the support in any of the other early states and needs the momentum.

As I said, any of the three could win. And I will happily support any of those three in the general election come November. On February 19, when I actually get to vote, the nominee will probably be long since decided.

Republicans: The top two will be Romney and Mike Huckabee. Someone recently asked--I think it was the Recess Supervisor, though now I can't find the post--who could have predicted Huckabee's rise to frontrunner status. Well, not to brag or anything, but I did, a year ago. Huckabee's got a natural constituency among the religious conservatives who always, always go to the caucuses in Iowa. (They are the ones who stayed home in 2006 and allowed Democrats to make gains there--they were getting tired of faux-Christian Bush and the faux-Christian Republicans in Congress.) Romney is throwing around money in Iowa like Mardi Gras beads. John McCain will probably finish third, just because he's a better second choice for the Ron Paul and Rudy Giuliani supporters; McCain lacks the constituency of Huckabee and the walking-around money of Romney, and so cannot win. Thompson's fizzled, Ron Paul's counting on even less predictable caucusers than Obama is, and no one else is even registering in the polls. (Did anyone even notice Tom Tancredo's exit?)

So, Romney-Huckabee-McCain (probably) or Huckabee-Romney-McCain. Either of which sets up an interesting run at the next few primaries: Huckabee cannot win New Hampshire, and Romney probably cannot win South Carolina. Huckabee is leading in Florida and Romney's got family history in Michigan. Republicans may well get to February 5 with two candidates having won three contests each. Pass the popcorn, I say, because the Democrats' primary will probably be over by then.

The most interesting thing that could happen: Hillary wins big in Iowa, convincing New Hampshire independents--currently about 3-2 planning to vote in the Democratic primary--to vote in the Republican primary instead. That could only help McCain. What Obama or Edwards voter would support Huckabee or Romney? If McCain can win New Hampshire, we might hit February 5 with three Republicans winning two contests each (McCain won Michigan in 2000). Mm, mm, juicy fightin' goodness. (Watch, though--the media story, even as the Republican fight gets nasty, will be that Democrats are divided over Hillary.)

Thursday, December 20, 2007

You Are Entering a Dimension of Sight and Sound

By Keith Schmitz

Rod Serling was proof why early television had its wonderful moments. The New York Times this morning ran a piece about Serling's dark adaptation of the "Christmas Carol."

Read the article to pick up on the brilliance of Serling. Set against the background of nuclear warfare, the 90 minute television special featured Sterling Heyden, Eva Marie Saint, Ben Gazzara and lounge singer Steve Lawrence doing a heavy dramatic turn as a World I soldier as the Ghost of Christmas Past. Music was by Henry Mancini.

As fascinating as this program sounds, at this time there is no plans to offer it up as a DVD and certainly not as a rebroadcast. This is no "Year without Santa Claus" or Merry Christmas Charlie Brown."

There was something unique Serling added to the classic tale.
Serling’s biggest (and most bizarre) departure from Dickens is an original character, Imperial Me (Peter Sellers), the leader of a ragtag group of doomsday survivors. Clad in a pilgrim outfit and a 10-gallon hat bearing the glittering legend “ME,” he exhorts his howling mob to follow an every-man-for-himself philosophy.

“Each behind his own fence!” he yells in a twanging Texas accent. “Each behind his own barricade! Follow me, my friends and loved ones, to the perfect society! The Civilization of ‘I’!” When Grudge’s black butler (Percy Rodrigues) pleads with Imperial Me’s followers to obey the rule of law, a boy in cowboy garb shoots him to death.
Prophetic.

He'll Be Back

By Keith Schmitz

A few years ago Esquire in their Dubious Achievement Awards named Arnold Schwarzengger the "worst new Kennedy."

Now it looks like the family has rubbed off on Ahnold.

The EPA has rejected tough auto emission standards set by California and 15 other states and Conan is fighting back. "Anything less than aggressive action on the greatest environmental threat of all time is inexcusable," he said.
Though a recent bill is looking to increase mileage standards by 2020, the California standards are much more aggressive. Of course in the Bush administration we all know who comes first.

But that isn't stopping the Governator. Schwarzenegger plans to sue the federal government over its decision not to allow the California plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, he announced Thursday.

This of course makes Arnold the biggest RINO, but RINOs do have a trait of charging when provoked as Bush will soon find out.

So much for the protection in the Environmental Protection Agency.

Clarke Gets One Right

by capper

Sheriff David Clarke must read folkbum's, as he has realized that privatization isn't always the best way to go.

Just a few days ago, I posted about the folly of privatizing everything, and how it usually doesn't work out for anyone, but the private agencies and apparently the politicians that enact the privatization.

Now Sheriff Clarke is calling for an audit of the private agency that is contracted to provide security on the Milwaukee County Transit System:

Milwaukee County Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr. has called for an audit of Wackenhut Corp., claiming the company is doing a poor job despite its nearly $1 million-a-year contract to provide security on county bus routes.

In a letter to Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker and County Board Chairman Lee Holloway, Clarke asked for a "qualitative and quantitative audit" to be performed amid questions about Wackenhut's deployment levels.

"There has been little oversight of this program, and self-reporting has allowed Wackenhut to operate without accountability and in relative anonymity," Clarke wrote in his letter, dated Tuesday.
One million dollars for not doing their jobs...sweet work if you can get it. And what is the position of Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker? After all, he is the one with the campaign slogan of "Safe. Affordable. Pride." (SAP for short).

Walker could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Apparently, he is too busy preparing to schmooze with that so called social- and community-minded group, Americans For Prosperity. (And he complains of Lena Taylor getting help from special interests. Go figure.)

If you are as tired of this garbage as I am, you should know there is something you can do. There is an event going on for Lena Taylor tonight. The information is:

Taylor for County Executive Fundraiser with Governor Doyle
Thursday, December 20, 2007
5:00 - 7:00 p.m.
Roots: 1818 N. Hubbard St., Milwaukee
RSVP to Sonja at 414-344-4529 or sonja@lena2008.com

If you are unable to attend, you can still help in a number of ways. Just visit her website to find out how: http://www.lena2008.com/Welcome.html.

Fire In Washington, D.C.

by capper

There has been a fire in the Eisenhower Building in Washington, D.C. which houses many historical artifacts and documents. It also holds Vice President Dick Cheney's ceremonial office.

There has been no confirmation that the fire was started by an overused shredder.

Huckabee: Live Long and Prosper

by folkbum

Everyone and their gerbils are talking about the Mike Huckabee ad which is supposedly the first TV spot by a presidential candidate ever to mention Jesus Christ. But when I look at the stills from YouTube:


All I really see is this:


Don't you see it too? The red sweater, the weird lighting that makes Huckabee look like he has Vulcan ears?

I am so going to hell.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Batman: "Let the Joker go."

by folkbum

Which is how I paraphrased the Journal Sentinel headline in my head as I read it:
Attorney general against retrial

Attorney General [and Republican] J.B. Van Hollen said that he hopes a plea deal can be negotiated that will avoid the retrial of former Assembly Speaker [and Republican] Scott Jensen, whose three felony convictions for misconduct were overturned in November.

Van Hollen said it would be in the best interest of all parties "if you can resolve the case without a trial," although the attorney general noted the final call will be made by Dane County District Attorney Brian Blanchard. [. . .]

The Republican attorney general's opinion is significant, because the state Department of Justice he runs was a partner in both the investigation and prosecution of Jensen and four other legislative leaders who were convicted of ordering or doing on-the-job campaigning. [. . .]

Van Hollen conceded that he could indirectly influence Blanchard's decision to retry Jensen by denying the district attorney resources he had during the first trial, including the courtroom help of Assistant Attorney General Roy Korte, one of the Justice Department's most experienced prosecutors. Korte and Blanchard jointly conducted the first three-week trial.

"I don't anticipate that we're going to use our assistance as a hammer for purposes of getting somebody to do our will. It may be that no resolution can be arrived at for any number of reasons," Van Hollen said.
True, JB "Batman" Van Hollen thinks a plea bargain would be the better option, over a retrial. However, we also know that Jensen refused up and down to take a plea deal when offered one--unlike his Democratic and Republican counterparts who pleaded out years ago. In fact, in all this time that Scott Jensen has been hemming and hawing and please-don't-send-me-to-jail stalling for time, former Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Chvala not only pleaded guilty to two felonies, but went to jail, served his time, and was released.

What are the odds that Jensen will fess up now--versus holding out for a new trial now that he knows the AG's office will back out?

Perhaps Van Hollen is willing to give Jensen a pass, seeing as how Jensen is not one of those terrorists Van Hollen imagined were hiding behind every wheel of Cheddar back during the 2006 campaign. But for someone who did run on a law-n-order theme, and who held out his own experience as a get-tough prosecutor as the chief reason to elect him, Van Hollen's sudden disinterest in crime committed by fellow Republicans seems awfully suspicious.

Post edited slightly for clarity. Twice.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Walker On Privatization

by capper

After writing my previous post about the privatization of the Milwaukee County child welfare system and what a disaster it turned out to be, I wondered what County Executive Scott Walker's position on privatization was (as if I didn't already know).

Well, the answer is: It depends on when you ask him. In 2002, when he was first elected to his current position, Walker had this to say:

Meanwhile, he has repeatedly said he will not look to turning large chunks of county government over to the private sector. Nevertheless, he can expect battles from the county's labor unions, most of which backed his opponents - first Milwaukee Ald. Tom Nardelli, then Ryan.

But just like with his promise not to run for re-election, Walker is singing a different tune these days. From the MSJ article covering his decision to run again:

We've got to get even more aggressive at being innovative," he said. He wants more consideration of privatization or contracting with other governmental units to provide services more efficiently, Walker said.

Maybe if he kept his word once in a while, and would display some leadership instead of pandering to his base, he wouldn't need to worry so much about poll numbers. But then again, his poor leadership is what is making Senator Lena Taylor look even better for Milwaukee County.

BMCW Enables Sex Offenders

by capper

I've already spoken about how the Bureau of Milwaukee Child Welfare has let down the children of Milwaukee County, and that I put the blame with the fact that it is privatized. I still stand by the position that by privatizing the foster care system, it has increased the cost to taxpayers, decreased services to the children and their families, and have made the situation worse.

In an article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel this past Saturday, we find that the Bureau is now allowing sexual predators to continue preying on children. They are doing this by not doing their job:

In November, the girl said she was tired of the abuse and reported it again, to someone who is not identified in records. This time it was reported to police, who reported it to the Bureau of Milwaukee Child Welfare. The criminal complaint alleges Lee-Kendrick had sexually abused two of the girls for years. The third said she was sexually assaulted when she was at a sleepover at one of the other teens' homes in January.

The social worker in the April case told authorities that a supervisor directed her to close the investigation several months before the recent charges without contacting police.

She said the supervisor told her that the closure was "in accordance with the administrative decision to close this case, as well as numerous other cases, during a time when (child welfare) investigations of referrals were purged due to overload," according to records filed in Milwaukee County Children's Court.

Closing the case without completing the investigation and by willfully failing to contact the police is in direct violation of BMCW policy and the law. Not only should have the worker contacted police, the child should have been interviewed by a trained professional (the Bureau had a contract with Children's Hospital to do these, and they were very good), but the worker should have made the effort to contact the alleged perpetrator, not just wait for him to call him or her. Even if he refused to speak with the worker, the other two things should have been done, at a minimum.

When I worked for Milwaukee County in the foster care system, and their was a large influx of referrals regarding the possible neglect or abuse of children, we were not allowed to close cases or screen them out. All workers would be assigned to do the investigations, not just the intake workers, regardless of their job classification.

When the State took over and privatized the system, this option of bringing in extra workers to help with the overflow of referrals was also removed. Now, only state workers can handle the investigations, and if there are too many referrals, as we can see from the article, they just close them.

Who knows how many children are being left in neglectful and/or abusive situations? We do know that there has been a massive audit of these cases, but now we must wonder if we can even trust the results of the audit.

I still encourage people to contact their State Senator and State Representative and encourage them to either deprivatize child welfare in the county, or better yet, just give it back to Milwaukee County, with sufficient funding this time, so that we can take care of our own children.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

RIP, Triticale

by folkbum

The Cheddarsphere has lost a member; Triticale passed away peacefully Thursday night. Nick and Patrick have details.

KBR, Sensenbrenner, and what time will tell

by bert

12/19/07 UPDATE: Ms. Jones testified today at the hearing of the subcommittee of which Congressman Sensenbrenner is a member. Sensenbrenner failed to attend that hearing, and has made no statement on this issue. I applaud the courage of Jamie Leigh Jones.

Speaking as a resident of the district of the Honorable Jim Sensenbrenner, I want to see over the next week or so if he is willing to to carry out the job he is paid to do. Will he play a visible role in responding to the rape case involving a military contractor in Iraq? Or will he stick to his playbook, keep his head down when it comes to the Bush administration’s outrages in the name of fighting terror, and work at nothing except obstructing Democrats in Congress?

Because this story involves sex and a pretty face, I believe that most people have or will soon hear from our news media about this particular outrage, even if most outrages spawned by the Iraq War remain underreported.

Jamie Leigh Jones alleges that fellow employees of the defense contractor KBR (formerly the Halliburton subsidiary) gang-raped her vaginally and anally in Baghdad in July, 2005. Two years later and nothing has been done. Her story, now part of a federal lawsuit, goes on to recount that when she reported the rape, KBR bosses ordered her confined under guard and warned her against reporting the attack.

She claims she was finally rescued from her employers' captivity after a sympathetic guard lent a phone to her that she used to call her father in Texas. A republican congressman, the Honorable Ted Poe, contacted the State Department, which is the agency that hired KBR. Another woman employee of KBR says that such abuse and harassment is a widespread problem.

KBR’s executives sent a message late this week claiming that Jones lied. The State Department says it lost the “rape kit” of physical evidence that medical authorities who examined Jones gave to KBR.

We know from the impeachment of Bill Clinton that Congressman Sensenbrenner is capable of moral outrage when members of our government cross sexual borders. Will he support a search for truth here and acknowledge wrongdoing if it is substantiated?

I am not hopeful. The Honorable Mr. Sensenbrenner tends these days to duck his head when his legislative-branch duty calls to act as a balance to the unhinged power of the executive branch. That’s because the executive is run by a Republican, so Sensenbrenner’s duty cuts into his ability to indulge his real love (no, not foreign junkets): party politics.

Sensenbrenner seemingly hid during a similar crisis earlier this fall. In early October Congress tardily took up the looming question of the role of military contractors, pushed into action by the Blackwater Inc. security workers who massacred 17 civilians in Baghdad in September and then drove away. The evidence condemning Blackwater’s behavior is solid, and even the war-loving politicians and pundits have chosen silence on this one rather than defend Blackwater.

So as Congress reacted by again proposing a bill to make such contractors subject to criminal prosecution, I called Sensenbrenner’s D.C. office, as a constituent. I wanted information on Sensenbrenner’s position on the question of whether these government workers should be immune from any punishment. I specifically asked the aide named Josh to have someone tell me what Sensenbrenner’s position was. Nothing came to me by phone or mail.

Through my own research, I found that Sensenbrenner ultimately voted Oct. 4 with many other republicans for the bill, H.R. 2740, that would subject contractors to criminal laws. He had voted two days earlier against “consideration” of that bill. I am not sure what that means about his real position. I guess I never will, no thanks to his office in my district that I help to pay for.

Sensenbrenner’s own Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing Wednesday on the rape allegations by Jamie Leigh Jones. Sensenbrenner’s colleagues in Congress had early last week issued press releases calling for an investigation. Notwithstanding, the case of Jamie Leigh Jones never came up when Charlie Sykes “interviewed” Sensenbrenner on his WTMJ radio show last Thursday. In fact – get this – the Iraq war as a whole never came up. Instead we got silence on the issue.

At those upcoming hearings Sensenbrenner has the chance to show that his political motives stop somewhere short of utter moral vacuity. I expect him to work actively and visibly to get to the bottom of this case.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Why Aren't We Doing This?

by capper

In an article in yesterday's paper, there is a report about a study comparing the differences between foster care systems in the Midwest. Specifically about kids aging out of the system.

In most states, including Wisconsin, kids that are in foster care are cut loose on their 18th birthday. If they haven't graduated from high school by then, the foster care order can be extended for up to a year or until they graduate, whichever comes first.

Illinois takes a different approach. They provide support for their foster kids until the age of 21 years, which is closer to the norm of a child that was raised in their natural parents' home. The study found this:

According to the report, youths who remain in state care until age 21 are 3 1/2 times more likely to attend college and more than twice as likely to complete at least one year of college than those who leave care at 18.

Each additional year in state care is associated with increased earnings of about 17%, the study says, and remaining in state care until age 21 is associated with a 38% reduction in the risk of becoming pregnant during late adolescence.

In other words, for spending a little money now, taxpayers can save a lot of money later on not having to pay for incarcerations, additional insurance for the kids of foster kids, and other associated costs to society. It also helps these foster kids have a better chance of succeeding and becoming more productive members of society, not to mention that it keeps from totally abandoning kids that have already been abandoned, emotionally, if not physically, by their natural parents.

And for the conservative readers, yes, this type of support can be and is offered by private agencies. Off the top of my head, I can think of Pathfinders and Walker's Point Youth & Family Center, which already offer similar programs, with wonderful success rates.

Yet besides what would seem like a no-brainer for politicians from either party, nothing is being done about this. It helps children who have already been abused and/or neglected, it saves money for the taxpayers, and it makes the community a better place. The only reason I can think of for our leaders' failure to act is two-fold. One, social services are rarely popular among the conservatives, no matter how much they may actually save. Second, foster kids usually don't have enough money to be politically influential.

So, why isn't the state-operated Bureau of Milwaukee Child Welfare providing these services? And if Governor Jim Doyle and his state agency can't see past their noses and campaign coffers, why isn't Scott Walker taking action on this? After all, it would benefit Milwaukee County citizens and taxpayers as well.

Cancer Continues to Suck

by folkbum

Most of the Cheddarsphere already knows by now, but I've had a long couple of days and no chance to write this yet:

Long-time Wisconsin blogger Triticale, whom I have met a few times, should be is getting worse:
I talked with Triticale's wife last night during Drinking Right. She phoned to tell us that although chemotherapy had helped the Leukemia, they discovered that he had significant cancer in the brain today, and that he only had a few days left. I offered her the prayers of the entire group to Tom and his entire family, and I ask my readers to do the same. A more gentle, thoughtful man, is hard to find.
Keep Tom and his family in your thoughts.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

What's The Story Of These Two Stories? Part III

I've already written about the problems that have been going on at the Milwaukee County House of Correction, the Community Correctional Center, and the reporting of these stories. Now, it goes from bad to worse.

In another article by Steve Schultze, we find that Corrections Manager Jones-Grams, successfully beat the charges against her and will be reinstated to her position. The charges against her, in a scapegoat maneuver by Scott Walker, Tosa Ranger, was that she "had allowed 'work-release inmates to freely come and go.'"

The review board, which is hand-picked and appointed by Walker, couldn't help but find that these charges could not be proven. Why? Well, the article gives three good reasons:

One thing the case has made clear: Inmates at the work-release center are not locked in. There are no cells and no locks on the dorm-like rooms inmates share at the center, a converted hospital at 1004 N. 10th St. Exit doors leading from each floor of the five-story building also are unlocked, because of fire regulations.
and

Testimony in the Jones-Grams case and a state audit this year also revealed that video security cameras at the center weren't recording anything and that supplies for printing inmate photos often were not available. That meant that inmate cards used to verify the identity of inmates often lacked photos.
and

Testimony from current and former county correction officials in the Jones-Grams case revealed that the center has had an average of three escapes a week since the late 1990s. Inmates gone more than 24 hours are written up as having escaped, with a referral made for an arrest warrant.

So, we find that despite a long history of problems of inmates escaping from the CCC, we have Walker cutting the funding so that it is even easier for inmates to take off and be on the loose to commit more crimes. He also blames officers for not doing their jobs, when he won't allow them the equipment or supplies that they would need to do those jobs. To add to this mess, there is all the overtime that has to be paid for the coverage needed to take the place of these officers while they are waiting for their hearings and for their jobs back, the cost of the hearings, and all the other administrative expenses for Walker's red herring hearings.

How exactly does this fit into Walker's "Safe. Affordable. Pride." campaign slogan? We won't know, based on the article:

Nola Cross, Jones-Grams' lawyer, said Jones-Grams was a political scapegoat.

Walker declined to comment.

And speaking of the article, it would have been nice if Mr. Schultze had told us why Ms. Jones-Grams, who was fired last, got her hearing right away, while the three front line officers have to wait another six months until they get their hearings.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Canadian Health Care to Be Covered on WPR

By Keith Schmitz

A few weeks ago James Clancy, President of Canada's 350,000 member National Union of Public and General Employees gave a very fascinating presentation on the origins of Canadian health care at Grassroots Northshore and how this country benefits from this people-centered system.

If you missed it, he will be on Kathleen Dunn's program tomorrow (12/12) at 10:00. In Milwaukee you can dial it in at FM 90.7. For a station near you click here.

Or you can download his talk at GRNS here.

WIVA and "Judicial Restraint"

by folkbum

That WEAC was a plaintiff in the suit against the Wisconsin Virtual Academy means The Usual Suspects lined up on the matter without regard to what the law actually says. WEAC must lose, they grunted, WEAC bad.

So when WEAC won its lawsuit--an appellate court ruled last week that the school violated, among other things, state laws defining charter schools--the Usual Suspects went nuts. WEAC win? Grr! Hulk smash!

On the one hand, I recognize the anti-WEAC bias that leads to such rantings. On the other, though, the reaction to the court decision strikes me as utterly bizarre. It seems to me that the ruling last week is an obvious example of what the Usual Suspects might call "judicial restraint":
What the restraintist judge declines to do, according to most proponents of "restraint," is to read the law in ways that maximize his or her opportunity to impose his or her own notions of what is good or those that might flow from some extra-textual philosophy of governance. [. . .] What a restraintist judge promises to refrain from is the imposition of her own values in the absence of any authoritative command to do so.
In other words, even if the WIVA is successful (as it seems to be), and even if WEAC bad (as the Usual Suspects universally declare), the courts just can't rewrite the state charter school law to make the WIVA legal. The Usual Suspects, in fact, last winter led us on a virtual whirlwind tour of What Hell Would Befall Us unless we elected a "restraintist" judge to the Wisconsin Supreme Court. An "activist"--one who re-writes laws and precedent on the whim of her own notions of right and wrong--is evil incarnate and must be stopped, they told us.

I have previously argued--and likely will continue to as long as I have fingers to type--that the only really honest definition of "judicial activism" is "court decisions that I don't like." Which is why it's no shocker then that, not only are the Usual Suspects all up in arms over the ruling, they are even labeling the appellate court "liberal activist judges." (I'm sure that will come as a surprise to the conservative 2nd district court.) Rick Esenberg, who offered the definition of "restraint" cited above, is smart enough not to throw around the activist label; yet even he, as Mike Plaisted argues, dances delicately around the fact that WIVA violated the plain language of the law regarding charter schools, and instead nitpicks the court's words on parent involvement to suggest the court made a bad decision.

The fault lies not in WEAC bad or activist judges. The fault lies in state law, and over at the blog of my corporate masters, I recommend a fix. In the meantime, I suggest that those whose nightmares are filled with activist judges take two steps back and decide if, really, you want to start advocating for court decisions that advance your anti-WEAC agenda if it means rewriting the law. That smells an awful like pettiness--and hypocrisy.

Monday, December 10, 2007

A blogging farewell to Seth

by folkbum

I have not been writing much lately. Thankfully, Bert, capper, and Keith are around to keep new content coming your way, though.

Some of you may have feared I'd been Raptured or something but, rest assured, my fat atheist behind is still firmly planted on this earth. However, my output is low recently because I have not had the time, patience, or mental energy to do the writing and the research it takes to be a good blogger.

Oh, sure, I could pop in a couple times a day with a big chunk of quoted text and add a pithy, "This can't be good" or "Man, I hate Mitt Romney" or even "How dumb can Jessica McBride be?"

But I don't do that, in part because I like to think that the bar for good blogging is much, much higher than that.

That bar, for the last two years, has been set by Seth Zlotocha at In Effect. Seth has a researcher's heart, a talent for finding and arranging all the information he needs quickly and effectively. He has a teacher's ability to break even complicated subjects down into understandable and digestible ideas. He has an historian's eye for accuracy and a poet's way with words. And, most importantly, he has a persistence and doggedness--when he got a hold of a topic, he would not let it go until every falsehood was corrected, every permutation was explored, and everyone who read him was much, much smarter than when they started.

Seth was self-conscious, as a blogger, and soft-spoken the few times I met him in person. But his was a powerful and important voice on the left side of the Cheddarsphere. I am personally sad to see him see him semi-retire from blogging, and even more distressed as a blogger who relies on In Effect for some of the best and most in-depth commentary around.

I want to wish Seth the best of luck in graduate school, where the field of history will no doubt benefit from the contributions of such a talented man. The Cheddarsphere feels emptier already.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

The Church Of Saints Smith And Wesson

by capper

Over the weekend, Keith talked about the tragedy in Omaha and pointed out the flaw in the NRA's argument about concealed carry laws preventing more deaths than just outlawing the guns in the first place. There were the usual arguments in the comment thread going back and forth on gun laws and trigger locks and all that.

Then, I saw a story about two shootings that occurred today in Colorado. The first happened when a gunman opened fire at a missionary training center, killing at least two people. Later on today, a gunman opened fire at the New Life Church, killing at least one person and wounding several others before he was killed by a security guard. The report states that authorities are looking into whether the two shootings are related.

It is the second shooting that points out some of the errors in the NRA's arguments. From the story:

...About 12 hours later, a gunman fatally shot a person at a megachurch in Colorado Springs before a guard killed him, police said.

and later in the article, there is this:

Police arrived to find that the gunman had been killed by a member of the church's armed security staff, Myers said.

Even though there were armed security guards that were trained to be on the lookout for situations like this, one person was still killed and several others were wounded. If the shooter didn't have a gun, would the casualty count be that high? Maybe, maybe not. Murders have been committed by stabbing, bludgeoning, strangulation, etc, but not on a grand scale like we have seen over the last week or even the last several years. Furthermore, Europe, which has much stricter gun laws, still has incidents of mass murder, but not to the frequency that occurs in the United States.

The other thing that caught my eye was the simple fact that the church had armed security guards on duty. When we have some conservative bloggers consistently calling Islam such a violent religion, referring to it as the Religion of Piece (of arm, of leg, of torso), and pointing out that Christianity is nothing like that, why would a Christian church feel the need for armed guards?

Well, to be fair, the article does point out one possible reason:

New Life was founded by the Rev. Ted Haggard, who was fired last year after a former male prostitute alleged he had a three-year cash-for-sex relationship with him. Haggard, then the president of the National Association of Evangelicals, admitted committing undisclosed "sexual immorality."

Either way, one would have to wonder about the relationship between the church and the NRA, and what agendas are they trying to promote.

One Big Union

by folkbum

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Our local media, pt. 3

by Bert

The funniest quotation in the Journal Sentinel today came from Bob McGinn's interview with the former Raider Lionel Washington, now a Green Bay Packers assistant coach. Washington recalled Dec. 26, 1993, the day his supposedly tough team came to play at Lambeau Field. The thermometer read 0 degrees and the wind chill factor made it like 20 below.

"We left L.A. and it was 65, 70 degrees," said Washington, a Packers assistant coach since 1999. "Sunday morning, it was unfrickingbelievable. Guys weren't used to that kind of weather and they beat the crap out of us."

Final score, 28-0

Our local media, pt. 2

by Bert

I think it was Danielle Nottingham on Channel 58's newscast, but whoever was anchor last night said this after a segment on the anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack: "the attack triggered the beginning of World War II."

In the words of the old line from that Robyn Hitchcock song, tell that to the Polish.

Our local media, pt. 1


by Bert


Since I was rambling by, I thought I’d drop in for a couple of rants.

The scion of Milwaukee’s right-wing belly-achers, Charlie Sykes, routinely insults his listeners' intelligence. Take, for example, his defense offered more than once this past week of the crooked behavior of state Supreme Court Justice Annette Ziegler. Ziegler has presided as circuit court judge over civil cases involving banks where her husband works.

Charlie was outraged. And he snarled at media outlets for writing about Ziegler when reporters are not blasting a similar salvo at politicians such as Superintendent Elizabeth Burmaster for the influence that the teachers union exerts on her decisions.

If you’re cocking your head right now like a confused dog and saying “huh?”, you’re right in being befuddled. It's apples and oranges.

I may not relish the influence that organizations -- through their lobbying and their campaign contributions -- exert on politicians, but that sort of influence is an ingrained element of our government. Ziegler’s worst iniquity could not be more different. If Burmaster were a judge, or if she were ruling on whether her son or daughter should be given a diploma, or whether her agency should locate a new state building on land her husband owns, then we might be comparing apples to apples.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Merry Christmas from the NRA

By Keith Schmitz

Correct me if I'm wrong folks, but Nebraska is a carry and conceal state.

So where were all those guns in the pocket at Westroads Mall when dozens of families had their Christmas' and their lives ruined -- or lost?

With all of the people walking the floors you think there would have been someone packing heat. That's what Frank Lasee tells us all the time.

But you know what. The flood of guns that we not only allow into our society and into the hands of those who absolutely shouldn't isn't making us safer, only less civilized.

We are becoming a society where the finger that flips off the guy in the other car can become the gun in the hand.

You can slice and dice the stats all you want. The rate of people who die from gun shot wounds in this country is higher than anywhere in the Western world, because these guys with arrested development think we live in the Old West world.

It boils down this. People who live else where are different nationalities, not different species. The difference is here because some like to mis-interpret the constitution have put their passion not in saving jobs, not in ending racism, not in fighting the increasingly evident onset of climate change, not in keeping us competitive, but in their immature notions that we have to protect ourselves from our government, or that someone won't allow them to hunt, or that they have to protect their homes themselves though that gun will more likely kill a member of their family.

As the Guardian of London dryly put it:
The killing is unlikely to result in a review of US gun laws. The Virginia Tech massacre failed to provoke a serious national debate, and gun laws are in the main not an issue in the presidential campaign.

In October 2006, a milk truck driver tied up and shot 10 Amish schoolgirls in their classroom in Pennsylvania, killing five of them before turning the gun on himself. For the most part such incidents create only short bursts of introspection.

For a crowd that says we have to sacrifice everything in homage to business, tell me how this will be good for business at Westroads Mall.

Merry Christmas NRA. Click here for your gift. Why don't you or Wayne LaPierre explain to the families of these victims why it was so important for Robert Hawkins to have that assault rifle.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Two Parables

by capper

About a month ago, Brian Fraley posted a story that was supposed to show the difference between heaven and hell. In his version, hell was a world with increasing taxes that caused people to starve, and heaven was where there were apparently no taxes or limitations on one's freedoms.

It reminded me of another story that has done the tours around the Internet. After a long time of looking, I found it. This story goes like this:

A holy man was having a conversation with the Lord one day and said, 'Lord, I would like to know what Heaven and Hell are like.

'The Lord led the holy man to two doors.

He opened one of the doors and the holy man looked in. In the middle of the room was a large round table. In the middle of the table was a large pot of stew, which smelled delicious and made the holy man's mouth water.

The people sitting around the table were thin and sickly. They appeared to be famished. They were holding spoons with very long handles that were strapped to their arms and each found it possible to reach into the pot of stew and take a poonful. But because the handle was longer than their arms, they could not get the spoons back into their mouths.

The holy man shuddered at the sight of their misery and suffering.

The Lord said, 'You have seen Hell.'

They went to the next room and opened the door. It was exactly the same as the first one. There was the large round table with the large pot of stew which made the holy man's mouth water. The people were equipped with the same long-handled spoons, but here the people were well nourished and plump, laughing and talking.

The holy man said, 'I don't understand.'

'It is simple,' said the Lord. 'It requires but one skill. You see they have learned to feed each other, while the greedy think only of themselves.'


I have nothing against Farley's version, but I like this one better. It strikes me as more hopeful and positive.

Christmas Gifts No-Nos

by capper

For Thanksgiving, I provided a recipe for Popcorn Turkey. This, unfortunately, led to less than desirable results. (Sidenote to Dad29: I hope that Mom29 and all the little 29's forgave you and have come back home.)

I have learned my lesson and will now present you with some suggestions of gifts that you should NOT, I repeat, NOT get your special loved one.

First, unless you have a very comfortable couch, I would recommend staying away from some lotions offered by Avon. Namely one that calls your loved one imperfect.

Secondly, unless you have a second significant other that will allow you to stay at their place, this is no way to say, "Here, honey, Merry Christmas!"

And for the third suggestion of something to avoid is telling that special someone, unless you have a secret apartment that your spouse and your lover don't know about, is that he or she has some serious Monkey Butt.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Be Careful Of Your Sources

by capper

In an column written by Eugene Kane, he discusses the late night hours which recently ended at the House Of Corrections. In his article, he has some quotes from Richard Cox, the former superintendent of the HOC. From my understanding, Mr. Cox was a well-respected administrator at HOC and a lot of officers were sad to see him leave that position. However, Mr. Cox has been out of the system for the better part of a decade, and it would seem that a lot of things have changed since then.

An example would be that Mr. Cox is quoted as saying there is only 29 individual cells. That is not accurate. There are about three times that number of individual cells. The column also has this:

"It's a dormitory-style facility," Cox said. When the lights go out, he said, it doesn't make a difference if the inmates are in their beds or congregating among themselves.
I can personally testify that is not true. I have spoken to a friend that still works at HOC and he said that there is a greatly noticeable difference since the late nights have stopped. There are less fights and less disturbances. The inmates that are less prone to want to stay up are also calmer because now they can sleep at night.

Perhaps it is due to the length of time of Mr. Cox's absence from HOC, or the probably longer time since he actually worked a dorm, but the nature of the inmates have changed over the past ten years. They are younger, meaner and more prone to bad decisions. The change in late nights helps the beleaguered officers maintain better control of their dorms and increases safety for the inmates and officers alike.

In a similar fashion, MSJ also has a story about Jack L. Hohrein, the Milwaukee County retirement manager. Mr. Hohrein has filed for the race for County Executive, and states that he feels that County Executive Scott Walker has gone as far as interfering with a criminal investigation by putting the brakes on an independent investigation of the latest pension scandal.

When I first heard this story, I followed up on it eagerly. As anyone who has read most of my postings knows, I am know fan of Scott Walker, and I wondered what kind of stunt Walker was trying to pull now.

However, at this time, I am not going to cover this story, outside of this post. Not because I suddenly like the Tosa Ranger, but because I cannot trust the source of the information. While Mr. Hohrein may be telling the truth, or at least believes he is, he is not a credible source at this time.

The article goes on and informs us that Mr. Hohrein is currently on paid suspension, pending the outcome of an investigation into a complaint of harassment. He also states that he "expects to be fired for speaking out" and that he feels he was only suspended due to comments he made about the investigation. This makes his motivation suspect and makes one wonder if he is coming out with this as an attempt to cover his problems and protect his position with the county.

Like I said earlier, he may be very well telling the truth, but without collaborating evidence, I cannot find him a credible source of information, and will only take his allegations about a cover-up with a grain of salt. But I will continue to follow this story just in case that grain of salt turns into a kernel of truth.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Refrigerator Magnet Witticism.

by capper

I feel like I'm angle-parked in a parallel universe.

Our Condolences To Tom McMahon And His Family

It is never easy to lose one's mother. We are sorry, Tom, to hear of your loss.

Walker Officially Breaks Another Promise

by capper

Remember earlier this year, when the conservatives made such a big deal about a pledge that Governor Jim Doyle made several years ago about not raising taxes. They kept repeating the "No Tax" thing ad nauseum. When confronted on the fact that the statement was from years ago, they said that it did not matter, a promise is a promise. An example would be such high thinking would be from Jessica McBride, in an exchange with Tim Rock:

Other Side said...
The quote you are using is from Governor Doyle's State of the State address back in February 2003 and was made in reference to to digging ourselves out of the Thompson/McCallum fiscal mess.

As a journalism professional, you might try to get all the facts and report them rather than just parrot talk radio. Your students expect more from you.
October 28, 2007 9:45 AM

Jessica McBride said...
Other Side, Your typical gratuitious(sic) nastiness aside, who cares when he promised it? He promised it. He made similar comments since then, as you well know, anyway.
October 28, 2007 11:11 AM


I would bet a lot of money that they will be changing their stance on this issue real soon.

Scott Walker has now officially declared that he will be seeking re-election for Milwaukee County Executive. This is in spite of the fact that he promised, not to run for a second full term as county executive. And before Fraley, Owen, Sykes and the other Walker supporters go into full denial mode, he did indeed promise. In fact, when you look at those campaign promises, he has broken many of those. He also appears to be in the hooks of special interests, when CRG (Corrupt Republican Goons) can make their own platform for Walker.

And before all the Walker lemmings get into line with their one-plank platform about holding the line of taxes, let's not forget that this year, even with the Milwaukee County Board doing their best to correct Walker's inept budget, it still blew up in record time. How much are all these inquests (and I'm certain there will be a lawsuit coming), faulty budgets, and broken promises really going to cost? I bet it's going to add up to a lot more than the six dollar tax increase in the 2008 county tax.