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Pay no attention to the people behind the curtain

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Pop Goes The Weasel

by capper

Saturday is Groundhog's day. As you may or may not have known, Milwaukee has no groundhog. The resident groundhog at the Milwaukee County Zoo, Walnut, passed away last summer, and no replacement was brought in. This was even though there was more than seven months to find a suitable successor.

And as we all know, this has been a less than fun winter. In fact, as I write this post, the Weather Service as just changed the snow advisory to a winter storm warning, with 6-8 inches expected, and even more by the lake.

To help ease people's fear that this winter will never end, Scott Walker has taken bold and decisive action. No, he didn't get us a new groundhog. Instead, he privatized the service in a no-bid contract to Weasels'R'Us. The new mascot you will be seeing Saturday is Wally Weasel (pictured on the right).

Unfortunately, there were a few setbacks to Walker's plan. First, the contract turned out to be more expensive than planned, and much more expensive than it would have been to let a County-owned groundhog do the job. To make up for the expense, Walker cut sixteen busroutes, and denied food stamps to 439 people.

The other unforeseen consequence is that Wally won't tell us what kind of winter we will have yet to face. Instead, if he sees his shadow, we will have eight more weeks of Walker. If he doesn't see his shadow, then we will only have to face 56 more days of him.

We are also waiting for verification, but there is suspicion that Ma Brawler will be asking for an independent investigation for the posibility of nepotism.

Walker Has No Shame

by capper

Way back on December 28th, the Walker campaign sent out an email in the guise of being a letter from Walker's wife, Tonette. The email reads (bold emphasis hers, colored emphasis mine):

I know how busy you are in the middle of the holidays, but I encourage you to read this important message. As the wife of Scott Walker, I know how hard he works for Milwaukee County and how passionately he cares for the prosperity of our great community.

Scott understands the enormous tax burden we face, and with each budget that he has submitted, has kept his promise to hold steady the property tax levy. He also works diligently to create an environment that retains and attracts jobs and residents. We have made incredible progress over the past six years, and Scott continues to work to restore safety, affordability, and pride to our community. Now, the old political machine in Milwaukee is back in action and working to stop our efforts. Our main opponent has publicly stated the need to spend $1 million to smear Scott's positive record of reform. In fact, outsiders such as Governor Doyle and special interest groups in Madison and even Washington, DC are gathering loads of cash to influence our election in April. They desire a politician they can control and want to go back to the time when the County Executive wasn't held accountable. We cannot let this happen, which is why your help is so important.

Will you join Scott in standing up against the political machine that is working to undo all the progress we have made?
I ask that you consider contributing $250, $100, or even $50 to help Scott's campaign. The liberals will stop at nothing to defeat Scott, and we must have the resources needed to set the record straight. Your contribution today will ensure that he is able to spread his positive message of growth to all corners of the county. Please help us by clicking here.

Thank you for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

Tonette Walker

Now we return to today, and in the political blog of JSOnline, we see this:

Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker today reported a campaign fund balance of $567,058, more than 4 1/2 times that of his challenger, state Sen. Lena Taylor.

Taylor (D-Milwaukee) reported a cash balance of $124,192. Both figures covered the second half of 2007.

The figures were provided by the campaigns, who also were filing them with state and local elections boards.

Walker, who has held his job since 2002, raised $350,418 for the period to $128,712 for Taylor.

Oh yeah, those evil outsiders are just pouring the cash into Taylor's campaign.

It's bad enough that Walker is a proven liar, but does he have to drag his wife down with him?

If you want to help get this liar out of office, please contact Senator Taylor's campaign through this link.

From the "Giving Credit Where It's Due" File

by folkbum

I'm no fan of Peter DiGaudio--most of you know that. However, he has done something nice for me, and I'm taking a time out from our regularly scheduled liberal fantasia to say a public thank you.

Yesterday, capper linked to this thread at Badger Blogger, about the Thomas Paine Democracy Network. I made a comment there, and one of the Cheddarsphere's--well, there is no nice word to describe him; let me try again. One commenter there, pcd, as he so often does, decided to throw caution, logic, and English grammar to the wind to accuse me, of all things, of sock puppetry.

I may be a fat, bald, pinko commie tool, but I do not, in fact, stoop to the level of, say, John Lott.

The confusion seems to come from the fact that Blogger knows me as Jay Bullock and Haloscan and WordPress know me as folkbum. I don't think there's anyone who reads me regularly or irregularly who would possibly think of those two identities as separate. I mean, if you look at the header of this blog, there's nary an inch between the the two names equating them. This very post, as all my posts, has the folkbum byline atop it and the Jay Bullock attribution (from Blogger) below it. Most importantly, you'll never find me posting under both names, anywhere, at the same time, trying to act as two different people--the definition of sock puppetry.

In the linked Badger Blogger thread, pcd even attempts to attach another commenter's comments to me--those of "Roasted Peanuts," who's been a regular at Badger Blogger as long as I can remember.

Anyway, Peter has been working tirelessly to disabuse pcd of the notion, and for that, I thank him.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Your Tax(Freeze) Dollars At Work

by capper

In today's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel , it is being reported that Milwaukee County could be on the hook for $80 million dollars. The reason for this is due to ongoing violations of a court order to clean up the county jail and to adhere to the state law regarding processing people that have been arrested and are to be booked.

In 2001, the courts found the jail to be in violating people's civil rights due to the deplorable condition and the long lengths of time before they are being processed at the booking part of the jail. In the course of the next five years, the Sheriff's Office has violated the stipulation they agreed to in regards to how the prisoners are being treated by some 16,000 times.

Sheriff Clarke, who is responsible for jail operations, bears the blunt of the blame for this problem. It is up to him to find a way to meet this stipulation. Perhaps he was too busy writing memos telling his staff not to leak those memos, which of course, ended up getting leaked any way. Or maybe he was just to busy preparing his defense for the numerous other lawsuits his department is facing--from its own staff.

To be fair to Clarke though, one must wonder how much of the blame goes to Scott Walker, who has repeatedly cut the Sheriff's Office's budget. It is hard to do a job when you don't have the proper equipment, training or resources needed to do it.

So now it appears for the price of a few dollars per year, the county might be on the hook for tens of millions of dollars. The question must be asked: Does this fall under Safe, Affordable or Pride?

For a more in-depth (and better written) review of the matter, with links dating back a considerable amount of time, please visit Milwaukee Rising.

Billboard Update

by capper

First, let me say that I noticed I forgot to include the promised link to the web page for the Thomas Paine Democracy Network. Here is the link. I apologize for the inconvenience.

As I stated in my previous post on this matter, the campaign for Senator Taylor denied any involvement. To verify this there is also a posting on Wisopinion.com Wispolitics.com (my error):

TAYLOR CAMPAIGN SAYS ANTI-WALKER BILLBOARDS NOT HELPFUL

A spokesman for state Sen. Lena Taylor's Milwaukee County exec campaign says a billboard campaign against incumbent Walker launched by a third-party issue group is "outside the control of the campaign"and not helpful to her bid.

"We've seen how races get hijacked by outside groups, and that's bad for candidates and it's bad for voters," said Taylor's campaign manager, John Zapfel. "This is something that we don't think helpsLena."

But Walker campaign spokesman Tim Russell said the Taylor campaign has also benefited by polling conducted by Progressive Majority on itsbehalf and that the Taylor campaign has picked up on and used the themes and information the outside efforts have generated.

"Their claims that from their perspectives it doesn't help them don't ring true to me,' Russell said.

A YouTube video posted by the Thomas Paine Democracy Network, a 501c organization, shows several variations of billboards up in theMilwaukee area that address a county issue and end with the tag line,"I blame Scott Walker." The group is registered to Todd Rongstad, a consultant known for launching aggressive attacks. He was the subjectof a successful defamation lawsuit brought in 2004 by state Dem Sen.Julie Lassa over a mailer.

An e-mail sent to supporters by the Walker campaign told supportersthese "are the types of people that Lena Taylor and Jim Doyle are using to attack Scott Walker."

The campaign said the billboards show that outside groups are"preparing to open the floodgates in their attacks."

Russell noted that the source of the outside spending is unlimited and cannot be traced.

"This is not the way that we think campaigns should be run," Russell said.

Zapfel said it's likely other outside groups will crop up, and not just ones opposed to Walker.

"We just want to run a campaign for Lena to win no matter what these outside groups do," Zapfel said.

But Russell said Walker's raising and spending through his campaign,and he knows of no third party groups gearing up to support Walker.

"I know of nothing going on outside of that," Russell said. "In fact, I would discourage it."

*See the video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8vSUdN2jLEk
*See the group's website: http://thomaspainedemocracynetwork.wordpress.com/

Also, Michael Horne of MilwaukeeWorld left this comment on Sykes' posting on the subject:

I spoke to Lena Taylor about this. I also spoke with Les Johns, her advisor who volunteered, without asking, that the billboards came as a surprise to the campaign. I accept their word. I wouldn't trash Rongstadt too much, except perhaps for ideological inconsistency and unseemly opportunism. He's the best in the business at integrating images and succinct messages. However, this is not his best work. Scott Walker is such an easy target that I sense Todd isn't being challenged at all.

I also spoke with a Tory Griffin, from PEOPLE, the political arm of AFSCME. Mr. Griffin also stated that his organization has nothing to do with these billboards.

UPDATE: Daniel Bice of MSJ has added even more questions to who is responsible for the billboards.

"Congratulations [...] on the expansion of your ecological experience."

by folkbum

That's the conservative response to global warming. Warm-weather species moving north to where you are? Congratulations on the expansion of your ecological experience, they say.

Can you imagine a few years from now? Malaria spreading across Eurpoe and the midwestern US. Congratulations on the expansion of your ecological experience.

The shoreline moves to where, for example, millions of people used to live in Bangladesh. Congratulations on the expansion of your ecological experience.

Great Britain freezes because melting polar ice fills the waters around the islands. Congratulations on the expansion of your ecological experience.

Feel free to add more in the comments. I have to brave the -5 degree weather to get to work now.

More Fischer-ana

by folkbum

The story so far.

Conservatives agree (well, a conservative) I'm not crazy or a liar.

A citizen journalist puts a real journalist to shame. Twice.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The State Of The County

by capper

Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker gave his state of the county speech today. I could paraphrase it to saying "If it ain't working, don't fix it." JSOnline has their own version of it:

Walker says county is on right track

Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker lays out a cautious but upbeat agenda today in his 2008 "State of the County" speech, calling for progress on old efforts rather than unveiling any new approaches.

Walker says he'll keep pushing to shift the county's mental health complex to the vacant St. Michael hospital, to cut a deal to sell County Grounds property for the proposed University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee engineering center, to build a new airport runway and to shift work-release inmates to global positioning system monitors. He makes his remarks today at the Hope Christian Schools, 3215 N. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.

All those efforts are in the planning stages and with the exception of the runway expansion, all have generated some friction with the County Board. In a copy of the speech, however, Walker keeps the tone light and makes only scant mention of the board.

He hails the financial recovery efforts of the Milwaukee Public Museum by noting he and County Board Chairman Lee Holloway "stepped up" and jointly appointed a committee to draft a fix, which included an extra $14 million in county support over 15 years.

Walker mentions the board just twice, when he notes the net result of his annual budget tilt with county supervisors has been an annual tax levy increase of "just a little over 2%." That's been due to his insistence on keeping a steady levy, he says.

With the April general election less than three months off, Walker uses his annual assessment mostly to tout past accomplishments. He faces state Sen. Lena Taylor in his bid for a second full four-year term. He was first elected in 2002 after the county pension scandal.

"Overall, plenty of good things took place during this past year," Walker says. "It gives me hope for the future of Milwaukee County."

New construction was up last year, Mitchell International Airport hosted more travelers and AARP hailed Milwaukee as a great place to live, Walker notes. The county park system celebrated its 100th anniversary and a zoo fund-raising effort raised $30 million, Walker says.

Safety, a major theme of Walker's re-election campaign, gets a plug in his speech. He supported Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr.'s summer effort "to occupy the lakefront," for a second year, Walker says.


Senator Taylor's campaign also has her statement on Walker's speech:

STATEMENT ON WALKER’S STATE OF THE COUNTY ADDRESS

MILWAUKEE — John Zapfel, Campaign Manager for Lena Taylor, issued this statement today following Scott Walker’s State of the County address Tuesday
morning:

“This morning, Scott Walker painted a very rosy picture of the state of the ilwaukee County in his address. For those of us living here, we know the reality is different. Residents are underserved and county government is mismanaged. Our transit system is no longer cost-effective for riders – a result of service cuts and fare hikes. Our parks have all but deteriorated. Just this month, the Journal Sentinel called attention to inefficiency and low employee morale in both the public aid office and at the House of Correction.

“It’s time for new vision and new leadership to address the very real problems facing Milwaukee County, and as County Executive, Lena Taylor will help us get back on
track.”

Billboardmania

by capper

The Scott Walker Campaign sent out an email bulletin decrying:

We have learned that a group that calls itself the Thomas Paine Democracy Network has prepared a series of billboards that it will be spending tens of thousands of dollars on placing throughout Milwaukee County.

They then included this link to the Thomas Paine Democracy Network which shows some of the billboards in question. The Walker folks were also kind enough to include this brief video:





The newsletter ends with a plea for contributions and volunteers. It seems counterintuitive to me that if someone is running for political office, that they would want to say, "Hey, look! They're showing how I really screwed things up. Please support me." But then again, I've never accused Walker of being politically savvy.

The political action committee that put up these billboards is connected to Todd Rongstad, an infamous political activist with a spotted past history, including some unsavory attack ads and being sued for his antics.

Well, it appears Mr. Rongstad may not have learned any lessons. As Patrick Dorwin shows us, using some technological savvy that is way beyond me, that Rongstad had used the computer systems of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, at least in part, to produce the web site and the video. In the comments section of that same posting, a commenter named Calvin, also does some good research to find a link between the Rongstad family and how they might have gotten access to the school's computer system.

I sincerely hope that they continue their research and report any illegal activities to the proper authorities. Politics is dirty enough without this kind of garbage being tossed into it as well.

That said, Patrick is wrong on two accounts.

First, he writes:

...They all have little sayings, such as “Cutting Para-Transit Services for the Physically and Visually Impaired” and all of the ads end with “I Blame Scott Walker.” The fact is, para-transit was not cut, and as a matter of fact, the user side subsidy cost to the clients have not even been raised in years.
This is a false statement. Transit routes were cut. And seeing as that the para-transit routes follow the transit routes were then also cut. Patrick is also incorrect with his claim regarding the user side subsidy. While it is indeed true that the passengers of the para-transit system have not seen an increase in years, it is also true that Walker has proposed an increase in every single one of his budgets. Furthermore, it would be a sin of omission not to mention that fact that the main reason that the fairs did not increase, or that the transit cuts were not even worse, is the simple fact that Senator Lena Taylor had gotten millions of dollars from the last state budget to come to Milwaukee County, as event he Milwaukee Journal Sentinel was forced to admit.

The other false assumption that Patrick made, based on the inference made by the Walker campaign, is that Lena Taylor was behind these billboards.

I called her campaign headquarters today, and I spoke with John Zapfel, her campaign manager.

I asked Mr. Zapfel about these billboards, and if the Senator's campaign was funding them. He told me that neither Senator Taylor, nor anyone involved with her campaign, are involved with Todd Rongstad, or with the Thomas Paine Democracy Network.

(Note: Given the nature of the first billboard shown on their webpage, it occurred to me that it could be AFSCME funding this. I have tried to get in contact with PEOPLE, the political activist arm of AFSCME, but did not get through to anyone yet. I will keep the reader informed of any further developments.)

I asked Mr. Zapfel about the Senator's position towards the billboard ads. He told me that the Senator and the campaign are not pleased with the involvement of outside actors in this campaign. He further added that it brought up unpleasant thoughts of last year's race for Supreme Court when WMC wielded so much influence in that race.

He further told me that Senator Taylor will not be asking for the removal of the billboards, as that she cannot influence the way that committee chooses to spend their money. He also stated that they are expecting other outside influences to weigh in against her campaign. He said that Senator Taylor's campaign will continue to use their strategy to win this race on the issues and her plans to bring a brighter future to Milwaukee County.

For those of you who feel that Senator Taylor should still distance herself from these billboards, I would also expect that you would demand Scott Walker condemn the racist remarks made by Mark Belling in his GMToday column dated January 23, 2008.

Well, I don't have cancer!

by folkbum

But yesterday afternoon the dermatologist froze a big chunk of my cheek off--to scare away a pre-cancerous area--and now I have a blister the size of Toledo.

Of course, if I'd known the solution involved freezing, I could have just waited until tonight and stood outside for a while.

.. updated to add: At this point, I should remind you that I got rid of that thing because I have health insurance to pay for preventive care. There are tens of millions of Americans who would have let the thing fester until their faces fell off because they couldn't afford the treatment out of pocket, or they wouldn't have seen a GP for a physical, and so on.

What makes me so much better than those tens of millions?

Monday, January 28, 2008

Invest in the Future

By Keith Schmitz

For anyone considering the future of progressives, there is one major reason why the Obama campaign makes sense.

It is quite clear as the campaigns move along, Barack Obama has been inspiring and activating the youth vote and bringing out volunteers under the age of 30.

While good news for his campaign, it bodes well for the progressive vote down the line. As the Reagan election proved, the new voters who turned out for him have been in the pockets of conservatives for a generation to come.

Should Obama take the nomination, it is clear that the campaign will put voters in the bank for Democrats and progressives for years to come.

Speaking of residency

by folkbum

I live near what must be the most-robbed bank in the city. I can't even remember how many times it's been robbed in the last year--must be at least four, maybe five. Sheesh.

Elsewhere on the Internets I ask about MPS residency

by folkbum

The fact is, Bearss signed the exact same contract that I did when he came to work for MPS, the same contract thousands of others have. He knew exactly what the contract said about living in Milwaukee as a condition of employment, and he admittedly engaged in a "don't ask, don't tell" dodge of that exact provision of the contract. [. . .] Would we be lionizing Bearss so much if he had broken some other part of the contract?

Sunday, January 27, 2008

A Packer Post You Can Sink Your Teeth Into

by capper

Ever since the Packers lost last weekend, there has been continuous coverage and analysis going on in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and around the blogosphere. Many reasons and excuses have been offered up to explain away the loss, of what seemed like a sure win. These included the Pack being out-coached, Favre getting too old, not enough attempts at running the ball, and so forth.

One of the biggest complaints was the lack of a pass rush by the Packers defensive line. Today's JSOnline Packers blog might have the reason for that lack of pressure by our front four. It wasn't lack of skill, but maybe lack of focus? Worried about other things, more important things?

Way too much information from Ruegamer
By Greg A. Bedard
Sunday, Jan 27 2008, 01:37 PM

Green Bay - Not sure if this story made the rounds when New York Giants center Grey Ruegamer was with the Packers. but it's worth repeating (and will be repeated and repeated during Super Bowl week:

Castrating a lamb with your teeth is a pretty simple procedure, really. Grey Ruegamer knows. “You grab the forelegs and pin them to the ground, and then you grab the back legs and throw them on their back,” Ruegamer said.

And when the, uh, target area is exposed, “away you go. It’s the way the Basques do it.”

Ruegamer, a former Arizona State All-American who will return for Super Bowl XLII with the New York Giants, became a practitioner when a family friend, who is Basque, asked for extra help on her working sheep and cattle ranch outside Las Vegas, Nev., where Ruegamer grew up.

A good number of Basques have settled in Nevada — there once was legalized gambling on jai alai, a sport played almost exclusively by Basques, in Las Vegas — and the rancher had about 200 head of young sheep that needed attention.

“I was hesitant,” Ruegamer said with a laugh. “But it is what it is. She needed help. There was beer. Good times. It was worth it.”


Can't say as I blame the defensive line at all on this one. I just hoped he remembered to brush and floss.

Are we seeing the death of negative campaigning?

by folkbum

I am the furthest thing from an expert on such matters, but I am noticing two trends related to the Democratic primary process so far.

1. The polls of primary states (New Hampshire, South Carolina) have been way off from actual results, while polls of caucus states (Iowa, Nevada) have been dead-on. This is the opposite of how things usually go.

2. The negative campaigning seems to be failing--and that may well be what has caused number one.

Consider New Hampshire: In the week before the primary vote, Hillary Clinton had an emotional moment--she teared up, but did not actually cry--at a diner. The media was harsh, and her opponents (and surrogates) were hardly less so. John Edwards let loose with "I think what we need in a commander-in-chief is strength and resolve," and Barack Obama laid a "you're likable enough" on Clinton at a debate. As a result of this pummeling, many of the voters in New Hampshire (17%) made up their minds in the last few days, and Clinton won those, even though the pollsters had shown all the momentum heading Obama's way.

Now consider South Carolina: The polls all showed Obama winning, but not by the massive margin that he did. One very real possibility for the discrepancy is that Obama took a beating in the last week from Clinton and her surrogates, including Bill Clinton. And, indeed, late-deciders went for Obama at an even greater rate than they did for Clinton in New Hampshire.

So what's the lesson? Democratic voters--as opposed to the Democratic activists (using the term, er, liberally) who show up to caucus--seem to have decided to reject negative campaigning. They are taking their cues from the attacks, yes, but to move in the opposite direction, against the attacker rather than the attacked.

Maybe now they'll address the substance of my post

by folkbum

In the post below, I included the line, "What we [bloggers] get most exercised about is stuff that a lot of people would consider dumb." I was not thinking specifically about any one thing, but here's a question for you:
Which of these do you think people in the real world would get most upset about?
A. a public figure who is both staff member for a state senator and a minor media player who regularly engages in rude, disrespectful, juvenile behavior on a NOW blog to the extent that the NOW editor has been complained to, the state senator has had an open-records request filed, and many of the figure's comments, some including such underhanded slime as a private citizen's contact information, had to be deleted
B. one word in one tangential sentence in a blog post about said figure
Hah! Trick question! The answer in the real world is most likely C, neither of these.

But since you're reading this, I will assume that you have read blogs before, so you probably already know that for bloggers, the answer is, in fact, B.

In a post last week about Kevin Fischer, the character described in choice A above, I wrote this sentence: "When a conservative has irritated both Wigderson and Dooley, you know there's something wrong with him." Note my choice of words there--irritated. I could have, but did not, walked out to one extreme there, with something more like upset, angered, horked off, blew the lids off of, or anything of that nature. I could have moved toward the other extreme: bothered, perplexed, flummoxed, puzzled. But I didn't. I went with irritated. Both of those bloggers had, at some point in recent months, taken the time out of their busy schedules blogging about such important matters as the Dallas Cowboys and the Unparalleled Threat To Humanity That Is Al Gore to take a swipe at Kevin Fischer. Regardless of how the two of them may have intended said swipe, both saw something Fischer had done and were sufficiently moved to note Fischer's behavior. And I called that irritated, in a sentence that was literally parenthetical to my argument.

Oh. My. God. You would think the world had just ended. They made comments demanding a retraction and I updated the post to posit that my interpretation of their posts about Fischer was being disputed. Apparently, that was not enough. The two then took to their indignant keyboards (Wigderson and Dooley) to post a collective 750 words about my one.

In the process, the fact that Kevin Fischer, a noted public figure who associates himself with Sen. Mary Lazich at the top of every NOW post he makes (and he
apparently has admitted to writing many of the posts that appear under the senator's name at Lazich's own NOW blog*), is on occasion the very definition of a Blogger Behaving Badly, seems to have slipped right over Dooley's and Wigderson's heads. Here's Dooley:
I have no issues with his content and I find it charming how he gets revved up on something, he may post 2 dozens posts on the same subject a day.
And, for the sake of completeness, here is the entire comment Wigderson made about Fischer's behavior:
I don't yet have an opinion.
Got that? 750 words between them, and the best they can muster is that they find Fischer's antics "charming" if they have an opinion about them at all.

Wigderson was kind enough to name a blogging concept after me, the so-called Bullock Rule, which is something about how a blogger can redirect criticism of anyone's behavior by pointing out how the other side does it, too. I propose the Wigderson Dodge: When a blogger avoids commenting on the substance of the post if he finds one careless word he can take issue with instead.
--
Keep up with all your Fischer-ana at Whallah!

* If Fischer writes many of the posts appearing under Lazich's name at NOW, it makes me wonder if Fischer was actually the one who posted this post, which reprinted a letter from Rep. Steve Nass demanding a retraction and an apology from Rep. Jim Krueser for "despicable" statements. That would make for very delicious irony, wouldn't it?


Newsflash: You Are Not Poor

by folkbum

I mean, I don't think this ought to be much of a surprise, but I think it will be to some. I seriously think that often in the world of blogging, we forget that we do not actually live in the real world. What's important to us is not necessarily important to most people, for example. What we get most exercised about is stuff that a lot of people would consider dumb. We think out opinions matter. And so on.

The topic of the potential economic stimulus package that Congress and the president are pushing to try to save us from a recession has raised a side issue that I've noticed previously. Most proximally, it was Chris (yes, that same guy) complaining about the proposed give-backs here (spelling and punctuation intact):
What rebate once again they means tested the rebate so my family will not receive it.

I am sure that people who don't actually pay taxes will some how get this rebate but we wont.

Wealth redistribution is all this is plain and simple
I recognize that Chris is primarily complaining about income redistribution, but the fact is that his complaint sounds, to my plebian ears, more like whining. Two things to note:
  1. The proposed stimulus package starts phasing out "rebates" to people at the $75,000 level for individuals and $150,000 for married couples. That his household isn't eligible for the "rebate" suggests an income level over $150,000*.
  2. The total number of households in this country earning $150,000 or more is less than 6%.
As I noted in the comments there, it's hard to feel sorry for someone in the top 6% of households. Even moreso, it's hard to see how a $1200 check from the feds (or said check's absence) is going to significantly change his family's purchasing power. If a family earns $44,389 (the national median), then maybe $1200 would be a big deal. For Chris and family--while it would certainly be welcome, I am sure--it would be a drop in the proverbial bucket.

But it reminded me of several other threads I've seen recently around the Cheddarsphere, of people who just seemed flabbergasted that not everyone in the country earns as much money as they do. Here are two examples from the grandpappy of conservative Wisconsin blogs, Boots and Sabers.
  1. In a post about the "fix" to the Alternative Minimum Tax that went through last December, a commenter calling himself TD was very defensive about being labeled upper-middle class. Apparently, he was in danger of being socked by the AMT, and our good friend Scott Feldstein had pointed out in the thread that "the AMT was going to hit upper-middle class Americans." TD's own perception of his personal economy was such that he couldn't possibly be upper-middle class. And yet, the vast majority of households who would have to pay the AMT fall into the top 20% of households in income. I'm not sure where one draws the line for upper-middle class, but I would have to believe that the top fifth of households would be included there.
  2. There was a thread earlier this month in which Owen complained (while ignoring the real substance of the study that he posted about) that researchers labeled two groups in their study "wealthy" and "poor." The dividing line was set at, it seems, $37,000 for a family of four. That's nearly twice the federal poverty level, but, as we know from above, not much below the median household income of $44,000. Owen's beef was, it seems, with the semantics. But he wasn't complaining that a household at almost twice the FPL was still called "poor"; no, it was that people just below, at, and just above the median were suddenly "wealthy." But here's the newsflash again: People in the middle fifth of income in this country (about $35,000 to about $55,000) are not exactly poor.
Perhaps when you live someplace like West Bend, as Owen does, your perceptions of normal can get distorted. In the WB (see data here and
here), the median household income is about $55,000--at the dividing line between what nationally is the middle and the fourth quintile of income. It is, in fact, more $20,000 over the median income of my current zip code in the City of Milwaukee. It is more than $30,000 higher than the median income of the zip code we lived in before we bought this house. The number of people living below the federal poverty line in my old zip code is nine times that of West Bend. And my old zip code was not the worst in the city: One zip code over, and the median household income falls down to the poverty level. In West Bend, more than 60% of households earn more than $60,000 annually; in 53206, less than 15% of households do. That's still not the worst zip code in the city.

I'm not sure where, exactly, Chris lives. He is welcome to plug in his own zip code to the ZipSkinny website and see what he gets.

You should probably do your own, as well, and start thinking about how well you do relative to 53206, or to the FPL. It may open your eyes just a little bit.

* Chris has posted about his being a stay-at-home dad; it's possible that if he earns no income at all and paid no payroll taxes, then his family's income could be as little as $75,000 per year to meet his description of having earned too much to qualify for the "rebate." Even so, that places his income in the top %25 of US households. He wasn't clear on that point so, like a good blogger, I worked with assumed data that makes my point better. :) It should also be noted that the "rebate" is "phased out" at the higher incomes, so his family may still get a check, albeit a smaller one.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Wouldn't you like to know

by folkbum

Which bloggers are on Daniel Schorr's enemies list?
He is 91 and still cranks out his National Public Radio commentaries on an IBM typewriter. He eschews the Internet, openly disdains some bloggers and dismisses the whole "citizen journalism" idea.

Fair Market


By 3rd Way

Journal Communication's dastardly duo has once again joined forces. This time they are taking aim at one of our planet's do-
gooders. McIlheran and Sykes both linked to a piece that misrepresents Bill Gates as turning his back on capitalism. In reality Gates is putting his money where his mouth is by trying to create capitalists at the grass roots level. Through something he is labeling creative capitalism Gates vows to bring resources, education and market access to some of the poorest people on the planet. In the minds of the far right this somehow equates a rejection of capitalism.

This smear on the altruism of a great philanthropist reminds me of the claims continually made about Warren Buffett and his support for tax progressivity. Whenever the topic of tax progressivity is brought up the right counters by equating progressivity with unfairness and envy. In the case of Buffett they substitute envy for guilt. I will take Buffett's justification for progressivity by judging his own words:

"Ordinary people just drive on the highways; corporations send fleets of trucks. Ordinary people may get a bank loan for their mortgage; corporations borrow money to buy whole companies. Ordinary people rarely use the courts; most of the courts are used for corporate law and contract disputes. Corporations and their investors — those who have accumulated enough money beyond basic needs so they can invest — make much more use, compound use, of the empowering infrastructure provided by everybody's tax money.
The wealthy have made greater use of the common good—they have been empowered by it in creating their wealth—and thus they have a greater moral obligation to sustain it. They are merely paying their debt to society in arrears and investing in future empowerment.

This is the fundamental truth that motivates progressive taxation."

Gates and Buffett know more about wealth creation than any of us ever will. These two men have implemented strategies for asset allocation to wondrous effect. If they think we get the best bang for our buck by providing services for all and paying for it by requiring more from those with the most I will listen. I will take the suggestions of experts over ideologues every time.

The strategies Gates and Buffett advocate for are pragmatic and support an equitable society by bringing the most prosperity to the most people. I hope that someday it will be irrefutably proven what works best and all the world's economies will adopt a similar brand of capitalism. This approach is not going to be winner-take-all capitalism nor statist communism. I like to think of it as a third way.

For your calendar-marking pleasure

by folkbum

As some of you may suspect, I play folk music. [pause for gasps of surprise] You'll have two, maybe three, chances to see me perform in the coming months.

First, on Saturday, February 16, I will be one of eight finalists in the Coffee House's annual Midwinter Talent Contest. I have been a finalist twice before (25 more times and Katherine Heigl will make a movie about it), and lost twice before. Will history repeat? Will me thousands of adoring fans (as I'm sure you'll all come to the show) sway the judges in may favor? Will I crack up on stage and start sobbing like a little kid? Find out at the show! Starts at 8 PM, admission is a mere $3.50. Follow the links for directions and other information.

Also at the Coffee House--the only place that will have me?--is the annual New Song Concert featuring the Portage Road Songwriters Guild, which is the songwriting group I belong to. That's coming up on Saturday, May 10. (Saturday, May 3, is the showcase for the winners of the Talent Contest. If I win, place, or show on Feb. 16, I will be playing that night, as well.)

Friday, January 25, 2008

Will You Believe Me Now?

by capper

A MUCH OVERDUE UPDATE: Gretchen Schuldt has also posted her views on this matter. It is, as usual, much better written and more concise than my post. (Sorry for the delay, Gretchen.)

Sometimes, I get the feeling that outside of three or four people, as soon as they see my name at the top, they pass over what I write. Other times, not so much.

I know that I've been hitting Walker fast and often, especially in regards to the House of Correction and the myriad of problems that have been occurring there for the past year or so. Maybe I've been overdoing it, but I felt it was a strong concern for the county and the community, so I kept at it. And I am not the only one to have strong concerns about the correctional system in its current condition. Zachary has also been adding his valuable insight to the problems, having had the same work experience there as I did.

Even then, some curmudgeons, like Dad29, would dismiss us as a couple of whiny liberals.

Well, would you believe the feds? In this morning's MSJ, there is an article that outlines a federal report about the conditions of the House of Corrections and the Community Correctional Center. It is, in its entirety, a pretty damning report. Some of the highlights:


Among his key findings:

• Security at the House of Correction "is very bad. The problems are many and they are widespread and deep." However, administrators were oblivious to "glaring security weaknesses." The report excludes specifics to avoid contributing to security breaches at the House, but those details were issued in a confidential side letter to Malone.

• An Aug. 3 inmate escape through a supply closet window was blamed on "chronic failures" and the fault of supervisors rather than correctional officers. The escapee spent over three weeks working to break through a security screen on a window in the closet, creating noise that was ignored. Other inmates tried to warn staff of the impending escape effort, but those warnings were not acted on.

• "Exceptionally deficient" fire safety was listed as the worst problem, and that problem was more pronounced at the work-release center. The aging building at 1004 N. 10th St., with up to 400 inmates on five floors, could quickly go up in flames with stairwells likely engulfed in heat and smoke before upper-floor residents could evacuate. The alarm system there has been broken for years.

• The House lacks tactical capacity to deal with a hostage situation or other crisis.

• The armory at the House was "dirty and badly disorganized." Drawers contained parts as well as years-old unopened equipment still in boxes. The lack of "intermediate force" weapons, such as gas grenades and rubber bullets, leaves the institution without adequate means of dealing with a large inmate disturbance. It has since been cleaned.

The report also throws a harsh light on Walker's ill-advised plan to close the CCC and put the inmates on a GPS monitoring system. The report says that there has been no planning at all for this. Sort of like Bush and his fiasco in Iraq, and we've all seen how well that has worked out for him.

Walker's response to this? He tells HOC Superintendent Ron Malone to fix everything in 90 days or be fired. What a guy. He creates a disaster of epic proportions and tells his underling to clean it up or be fired. That should be the textbook example of poor leadership.

The MSJ article goes on to say that the County Board is finally getting around to do what should have been done months ago, and what Walker still hasn't figured out, or is trying to cover up. They are calling for Malone and Sheriff David Clarke to submit reports with the facts on how all of these things keep happening, comparing our lock ups to those of other similar communities, and how to fix the problems we are having.

To his credit, Malone has expressed a ready willingness to cooperate. Clarke is still trying to figure out if his over-sized ego will let him take a realistic look at his office and its operations.

Time for Mary Lazich to put her foot down

by folkbum

A whole lot of people who work for the gubmint do blogging, including partisan blogging and other kinds of stuff that just generally doesn't fall under the purview of their gubmint jobs. Most of us, though, take care not to do it on gubmint time with gubmint resources.

For all I know, Kevin Fischer (one of the NOW bloggers) is just as careful as I try to be about doing his blog. Fischer's day job--when he isn't filling in for the equally vacuous Mark Belling when Belling fills in for the equally bloviating Rush Limbaugh--is working for State Senator Mary Lazich. I don't want to suggest that aides can't blog on their own time or that Fischer is breaking the law by blogging on state time. And certainly I'm not suggesting that Fischer's "free speech" be impaired. On the contrary, the more a buffoon like Fischer does his antics, the more he discredits his side of the argument. (When a conservative has irritated both Wigderson and Dooley, you know there's something wrong with him. UPDATE: See the comments for discussion of this point.)

But I do believe it's time for Senator Lazich to either have a heart-to-heart with Fischer about his blogging or else cut him loose. My good friend and yours capper--occasionally known as The King of the Hate Left--has this run-down over at Whallah!

There's an entire world of bloggers on the NOW sites that I just don't tend to pay attention to. But it looks to me like the personal attacks, nasty language, vitriol, and general priggishness just in the works (mostly the comments) of Kevin Fischer far exceeds what you generally find in the conservative blogs here on the Blogger-WordPress axis. Fischer makes his living on my tax dollars in the office of a prominent local Republican who has shown herself to be opposed to such priggishness (h/t Linda Richter).

Again, I don't want to shut Fischer up--and if I were running a campaign against Lazich I would just love to plaster Fischer's own words on a mailer about his boss. But there is something to be said for maintaining some level of propriety among those whose blogging habits are at least partially enabled by my taxes.

Additional reading: Pundit Nation, Kay's Blue Racine.

Also: It's not vitriolic, but it seems to me that copying and pasting an entire article out of the New York Times poses its own ethical issues.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Walker's Catch And Release Program

by capper

Walker has been really pushing his plan for closing the Community Correctional Center and putting the inmates housed there on GPS monitors. In fact, the last time he pushed for something this much, it was the first time he tried to do the pension loan program, which turned out would have been a sweetheart deal for a financial and political backer, Nick Hurtgen, who worked for Bear Stearns and who has since been indicted in federal court for kickback schemes.

Anyway, Walker really, really wants this GPS thing to go through. However, it might not go as easy as he would hope. His first obstacle will be Sheriff David Clarke. In today's MSJ, there is an article in which Clarke expresses some of his concerns about the feasibility of this program:

Clarke said in an interview that serious unanswered questions about the GPS system remain. To be done properly, inmates considered for GPS monitoring should be carefully pre-screened, he said. All violent and drug offenders should be excluded, Clarke said.

A successful monitoring program also should have frequent drug testing, he said. And the program needs extra law enforcement help to round up inmates who set off alarms for straying from approved travel routes to school or jobs.

All those things cost money that hasn't been found yet, Clarke said.

Many of the inmates now housed at the work-release center would likely not make good candidates for the GPS monitoring, he said. The county already has a policy of excluding inmates sentenced for drugs, assaults, burglary or illegal possession of a gun from a different type of electronic monitoring now in use.

Abruptly shutting down the work-release center could create crowding problems if many inmates were placed at the House of Correction, rather than released on GPS monitors. Clarke suggested adding beds at the House of Correction to accommodate them.

*************************
Clarke said even with around-the-clock electronic monitoring, the inmates still could be dealing drugs or involved in other illegal activity without setting off an alarm. That's partly why he hasn't used it for jail inmates awaiting trial, Clarke said.

These are all valid concerns and do need be addressed before the County bulls its way along with this program. It also echoes some of my earlier concerns.

I would also like to know how this lame-brain scheme falls into Walker's campaign theme of Safety, Affordability and Pride. His plan would cost more, make people in the community less safe, and doesn't really give us any bragging rights. (What? Is he thinking, "Come to Milwaukee and see our criminals up close and personal. But don't worry, they're wearing bracelets."?)

Meanwhile, County Board Chairman wants to have psychological evaluations for all the inmates before they are put on the GPS system. This is so unrealistic, due to time issues, manpower and costs that it is not even worth discussing.

It is rather scary to think that of all of the current County leaders, Clarke is currently making the most sense. That should make more people want to consider supporting Senator Lena Taylor, so that we can get out of this chaos.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

White House -- Home of the Whoppers

By Keith Schmitz

Often times when people accuse Bush of lying us into Iraq the right wing howls to the moon that we all are simply "obsessed" over this and we should just get over it.

Well, maybe over a couple or even a dozen lies, but 935?

According to two non-profit groups:
(T)he Bush administration led the nation to war on the basis of erroneous information that it methodically propagated and that culminated in military action against Iraq on March 19, 2003," reads an overview of the examination, conducted by the Center for Public Integrity and its affiliated group, the Fund for Independence in Journalism.
According to the study, Bush and seven top officials -- including Vice President Dick Cheney, former Secretary of State Colin Powell and then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice -- made 935 false statements about Iraq during those two years.
The study was based on a searchable database compiled of primary sources, such as official government transcripts and speeches, and secondary sources -- mainly quotes from major media organizations.
935 mis-statements? Okay boys. Defend this one.

TeamBush might have believed what they were ladling out to the American public, to be extremely charitable. But to drive us into this swamp and then go on to incompetently and corruptly run this operation would for other governments that have a level of class and character lead to resignation out of shame.

Not this gang.



Tuesday, January 22, 2008

And Then There Were Ten

by folkbum

Well, Fred Thompson exited stage right today, which leaves, if we don't count Alan Keyes--and, really, who does?--ten candidates. That takes the number of theoretical match-ups down to a mere 25, with maybe 6 really possible. However, an even five folks on each side means I can pair one D up with one R; so here are some general election match-ups I'd like to see:
  • Hillary Clinton v. Rudy 9u11iani, wherein the voters can base their decision on who looks better in a dress;
  • Mike Gravel v. Ron Paul, in what you might call the Abraham J. Simpson Memorial Coot-Off;
  • Dennis Kucinich v. Willard "Mitt" Romney, so we can learn whether people would rather vote for someone who believes the Book of Mormon or someone who believes the books of Shirley MacLaine;
  • John Edwards v. Mike Huckabee, in a contest that will remind us more of a "Hee-Haw" skit than an election, and which will propel America into a depression over the collective realization that we remember "Hee-Haw";
  • Barack Obama v. John McCain, which will take on mythic, archetypal proportions, given that Obama is McCain's illegitimate son.
On another note, I want to ask the media to make an adjustment for the next Democratic debate. We know that the candidates are too nice to each other when they're sitting down, and they're too mean when they're standing up. So please, for the next debate, bar stools.

If anyone wants to predict the Dems in South Carolina this weekend, go ahead. My prediction is simply this: South Carolina doesn't matter. John Edwards will be third, and either of the two other candidates have good "so what if I lost" narratives that they can flog until February 5--when this thing will probably be decided.

Important MPS hearing tonight

by folkbum

This came through on the email this morning; you can get some background from the newspaper here.
Hello friends of MPS,

As you might have seen in the news, the MPS board took a needed step last week, the first step in a push back against No Child Left Behind's waste of our district resources. We voted not to hire a pack of overseers for the new federally-imposed DIFI bureaucracy until the federal government sent a check with dedicated funds to pay for these positions.

Not surprisingly, the money's been found and it's already in the district's pockets. (Ha!) An emergency meeting of the board's Finance and Personnel committee has been called for tomorrow night to approve the creation of this bureaucracy.

As a taxpayer and a mom who has invested a lot into the success of MPS and the children it serves, I'm sick of seeing our money go down the drain to meet increasingly more bizarre NCLB requirements. Because MPS has entered DIFI ("District Identified for Improvement") status, the feds are forcing the state to impose a series of interventions on us. Some of these interventions include creating a new bureaucracy to oversee the new mandated curriculum we'll be teaching during a new mandated school-day schedule.

Even if the feds were actually paying for these (and the many other) mandates -- which they're not -- it would still be wrong to approve these positions. NCLB is a distraction away from what really will help our children, like smaller class sizes and meaningful home/school connections.

If you can, please come tell the Finance and Personnel committee what you think:

Special Meeting of the Finance & Personnel Committee
Tuesday, Jan. 22nd at 6 p.m.
MPS Central Services * 5225 W. Vliet St.

Sorry for the late notice; I just found out about this this afternoon.

Jennifer Morales,
Member of the Milwaukee Board of School Directors

Monday, January 21, 2008

Looking On The Bright Side

by capper

OK, OK, I know things around here have been pretty rough lately. The extremely cold temperatures followed by the white fluffy death; the economy going down the toilet; ever increasing numbers of foreclosures; gasoline prices through the roof and it's only going to go up; incessant political yammerings from every direction. And to top it off, it got so cold on Sunday, that Hell froze over and the Giants beat the Pack (thanks for nothing, Jay!).

But cheer up, buddy. There is something to be happy about today. Today is the first day of the last year of the Bush administration.

Let's hope we never get this fooled again.

Small Town News

by capper

When Grandpa capper retired in the mid-70s, he and Grandma capper moved up to their land in central Wisconsin. At that time, there was a weekly paper from the nearest town, Iola, called the Iola Herald. It was put out by the Little Wolf Publishing Corp. and was just about what you would expect from a small town paper.

I'll never forget how I thought it was really cool, yet at the same time, unbelievably dorky, that they would publish under a section of town events, something like, "Grandma and Grandpa got a visit last week from their grandson, Little capper. Grandpa capper took Little capper fishing at Lake Iola, where they caught a bucketful of bluegills and two trouts." I mean, you know you're talking small town, when visiting your grandparents makes the local paper.

As time went by, the paper was sold, and a couple, Trey and Mary Foerster, bought the Herald and the Manawa Advocate, another small town weekly. They made a lot of changes to the papers, including merging them for cost-savings purposes. They also cut out the little town news that made it so hokey and yet charming.

I still get the paper, just to keep up on local events, local ordinances, etc, that would be otherwise unavailable to me. For the most part, except for the few things that I have an interest in, the paper is useless to me. Out of the usual 24 pages or so in each issue, at least a third of it is dedicated to the local high school sports teams. The rest is advertising, a religious page, five pages of classifieds, and usually a couple of pages of "news stories" that are simply advertising for local businesses.

Sometimes they do have something interesting, like the events around that wild and wacky season, Potato Appreciation Month. I'm sorry, but I digress. My point is that even though the paper is not has quaint, it still has a small town feel about it.

Until this week.

As I sat down to peruse the paper, it was the subarctic temperatures that put a chill through me. It was the headline of the paper. It read:

Iola Herald purchased by Journal Communications Inc.

It is bad enough that the Journal owns the only daily paper here in Milwaukee, but also a TV station, and a radio station. They also own MKE, the CNI papers, and other publications and stations around the country. Now this. It keeps getting harder and harder to find accurate and unbiased news in this world.

Sheesh, with one of my last refuges from the chaos of the big city, I'll still have to put up with the likes of Patrick McIlheran.

Oh, how I sometimes really miss the good old days.

Taylor vs. Walker: The Debates

by capper

From JSOnline's political blog:

Candidate face-offs set in county exec race
By Steve Schultze
Monday,
Jan 21 2008, 03:57 PM

After a sluggish start to the campaign for Milwaukee County executive, a series of candidate debates and forums have been set.

The first formal debate between incumbent County Executive Scott Walker and challenger Lena Taylor scheduled so far will be 11:45 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Feb. 21 at the Italian Community Center, 631 E. Chicago St.

The debate is co-sponsored by the Milwaukee Press Club and the Public Policy Forum and will be moderated by William Holahan, an economics professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Admission, which includes lunch and parking, is $40 for press club members and $50 for non-members.

The candidates also are scheduled to debate at 7 p.m. March 5 at the Jewish Community Center, 6255 N. Santa Monic Blvd., in Whitefish Bay; and at noon March 11 at the downtown Rotary Club meeting at the War Memorial Center.

Walker and Taylor also have agreed to appear at a forum at 6:30 p.m. March 6 at Faith United Church of Christ, 4240 N. 78th St., sponsored by the Capital West Neighborhood Association.

Walker said last week he wanted to debate Taylor as frequently as possible. Several additional appearances are also being planned, said Tim Russell, Walker's campaign chairman.

Walker, a 40-year-old former Republican Assembly member, was first elected county executive in 2002 and re-elected in 2004. Taylor, a 41-year-old Democratic state senator from Milwaukee, has served in the Legislature since 2003.


Good thing there's that liberal bias at MJS, otherwise one would wonder why they've ignored the Taylor campaign asking for debates for weeks.

(Now if I can only get Jay to give me some of his pimpin' money, maybe I could go.)

Mark and Charley’s Performance Review

By Keith Schmitz

Gentlemen come in, have a seat and oh by the way, please close the door.

We are going to take the rather unusual step of giving you a joint performance review. On top of that, you haven’t had one so it is about time.

To be honest with you, we have to be somewhat critical about your lack of contribution to our organization, in this case being the Milwaukee metro area. Maybe that was misstated. Make that no contribution.

As you know, or maybe you don’t, for any organization to succeed it has to work together as team. Metro Milwaukee has a lot going for it; a hard working and smart labor force, a great place to raise a family, a collection of leading universities, great cultural and entertainment attractions, and bunch of other attributes. Yeah things are not perfect. Poverty is a big problem, so is crime and we need more people to move here.

But one reason why we cannot get traction on any of these challenges is the team is not pulling together the way it should. You two guys have seemingly done all you can to create derision between our stakeholders.

A level of disagreement is essential to the dynamic of any organization and is healthy but there reaches a point where it is not. You have taken it way over the top and fanned rancor within our team. Like any business, while incompetence can get you dismissed, so can a profound inability to work well with others.

That includes an excessively high level of disrespect to our leadership team past and present including Dick Abdoo, Don Richards, Mike Cudahy, Tom Barrett, Marcus White and most recently Steve Jagler. Basically the position of management is when you have serious people doing serious things you don’t get in their way with petulant diatribes.

As well as throwing body blocks in the path of members of the organization trying to positive things, you lack an appreciation for forward-thinking ideas, from light rail to diversity programs to stem cell research. You fail to consider to consider alternatives to the health care crisis that has been detrimental to our organization. You have never offered up positive ideas for attacking our local problems.

In business, a sense of proportion is important and here you display extreme deficiency. Instances where you have wildly overstated the issues include alleging wide-spread voter fraud, the need for conceal and carry, Wisconsin as a tax hell and internationally advocating the invasion of Iraq and in so wasting valuable resources for no apparent reason. Your perception of situations is clouded by a wall of preconceived notions higher than the Hoover Dam.

In short, gentlemen you have failed to provide value to the organization.

On the positive side, you exhibit good personal grooming habits.

Though our policy precludes dismissal, a copy of this review will be in your file.

We hope this evaluation leads to some improvements in your performance.

Please close the door on the way out.

Yes, let's invest in the market

by folkbum

What could go wrong?

Sunday, January 20, 2008

I love days like this

by folkbum

No waits at restaurants, quick lines at the grocery store. Sweet.

Oh. Go Pack. Or something.

Update: Kiss of death, I tell you, even in football. Go McCain!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Leave It To A Politician

by capper

I received this email today from a friend. At first, I thought it to be a joke, until I was able to confirm that it was for real. It is the world's longest and most verbose way of saying "Go Packers!":

WHEREAS, the Green Bay Packers thrilled a sellout crowd at Lambeau Field and a national television audience on Saturday, January 12, 2008 with their commanding and memorable 42-20 win over the Seattle Seahawks; and

WHEREAS, the win furthered the team’s playoff standing, giving fans reason to celebrate as the Green Bay Packers go on to face the New York Giants at Lambeau Field on Sunday, January 20, 2008 for the NFC Championship; and

WHEREAS, Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy added to his impressive coaching success by winning 18 of the last 21 games, and quarterback Brett Favre to his enduring legacy as the all-time greatest team leader and player during this outstanding season; and

WHEREAS, the Green Bay Packers have established themselves through superior teamwork and immeasurable heart, and demonstrated that neither rain, wind, sleet, snow or Giants will keep them from their goal; now, therefore,

I, Scott Walker, County Executive of Milwaukee County, do hereby extend my enthusiastic congratulations to Green Bay Packers General Manager Ted Thompson, Coach Mike McCarthy, the team coaching, personnel and administrative staff, all the Green Bay Packers players, and declare Friday, January 18, 2008 to be

Green Bay Packers Pride Day

throughout Milwaukee County, and I encourage all Milwaukee County employees to wear the team’s Green and Gold to wish them success in the NFC Championship.

Scott Walker
Milwaukee County Executive

(If I can figure out how to link to the original pdf, I will provide that as well)

What's In Your Wallet?

By 3rd Way

Gretchen of Milwaukee Rising did a quick study on the decline of housing prices in aldermanic district 7.  This inspired me to run an analysis of the housing prices in my hood.  Here in Bay View, the better east side of Milwaukee, housing prices have not falling as much as I feared they might have, but they have fallen about 4% from their peak.

In the first part of the year I bought my house (2005) the average price on 271 sales was $167,302.  In the first part of 2007 the average price on 145 sales was $161,588.

Meanwhile inflation is surging at a pace not seen since before the last Democratic administration and the stock markets have all dropped more than 10% in the last 3 months.  In this economic atmosphere it would be hard to convince anyone that the status quo is the best we can do. 

The economic apologists of the current administration are going to be hard pressed to make the case that their policies have benefitted the middle class when we can review our net worth and judge the results for ourselves.  Fairly or not the months leading up to the election are the only ones that will weigh heavily on most voters minds.  We can look at our 401K statements, review the sales prices of our neighbor’s houses and check our groceries bills to prove that our cost of living is going up while the worth of our assets are going down.  There is no think tank study that McIlheran or anyone else can site to disprove that.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

More Silliness From Walker

by capper

In the same email that he has his "Vote for me, I break promises" propoganda, Walker's campaign also included this little tidbit:

Milwaukee County Parks: Strong, Vibrant

In case you missed it, a recent MKE Online article highlighted the beauty of our parks throughout the seasons. While you may not read these positive stories in the news, the truth is that our parks are running strong and continue to be one of our best assets. County Executive Walker will continue to fight for innovative ways to maintain our park services without raising taxes.

This surprised me on two accounts. One, I didn't even know MKE was still in existence, much less that anyone actually read it.

Two was that the parks could be described as strong or vibrant. But then, as I researched this, I realized I was partially wrong. The parks are strong and vibrant--as long as they are in an area that also includes Walker's base.

Here are some pictures, courtesy of Gretchen Schuldt, contrasting the baseball diamonds in Washington Park in the heart of Milwaukee and McCarty Park in West Allis.














Washington Park


















McCarty Park























Washington Park























McCarty Park





















Washington Park





















McCarty Park


For other pictures of those Strong and Vibrant Parks you can find them on Gretchen's blogsite, Milwaukee Rising, here and here and here.

A Sure Sign That Your Campaign Is In Trouble

by capper

Scott Walker has sent out another email from his campaign. It reads:

Reason #1 to Vote for Scott Walker

While many politicians make promises about taxes during elections, Scott actually delivers on his promises. He said that he would not raise the property tax levy from the previous year, and he kept his word in each of his six county budgets. In fact, several of his budgets actually cut the tax levy.

To further his agenda of tax relief, Scott needs your help to elect more like-minded individuals to the County Board. With a few more Supervisors who are willing to look out for the taxpayer, Scott can have even greater success in 2008 and beyond - which means we all win as taxpayers.

Let's parse this out. "Scott actually delivers on his promises." Does that include his promise not to run for County Executive in 2008 or not to privatize? Apparently not. (Don't worry, I'll be doing more posts on his other broken promises later.)

And regarding the tax relief, well he might have been accurate on the syntax, but is slimy on the semantics. Walker has known all along that the County needs to raise taxes. After the last budget battle, with a 3% raise in taxes, he called it a "good budget." He has also repeatedly pushed for a regional parks authority and a regional transit authority, both of which would have the ability, and would exercise that ability, to raise the necessary taxes.

We have also seen how well his budgets have held up. There was the fiasco of closing the pools early during one of the hottest times of the year. There have been yearly budget blow-ups where the County had to scramble to find enough money and/or cut enough services to not go over budget. This past budget even set a record by blowing up before the ink was dried.

What good is a promise that is harmful?

And for the request for more supervisors that see his vision? Well, he tried that already. It didn't work for Chris Kujawa, and it's not going to work now. People are getting sick of his neglect of his duties. They sure aren't going to help him make it even worse.

Guiliani May Be Hazardous to Your Health

By Keith Schmitz

No wonder the Guiliani campaign is tanking.

Today the New York Times reported the findings of a study suggesting obsessing over terrorism can take a greater toll on one's health than terrorism itself:
After the attacks of Sept. 11, the scientists monitored people’s fears of terrorism over the next several years and found that the most fearful people were three to five times more likely than the rest to receive diagnoses of new cardiovascular ailments.

“It’s amazing how enduring these feelings of fear are, but look at what’s been going on,” said Alison Holman, a professor of nursing science at the University of California, Irvine, the lead author of the study. “I’d be surprised if those terrorist alerts didn’t contribute in some way to the ongoing worry about terrorism in our sample.”
Here's the payoff pitch:
After controlling for various factors (age, obesity, smoking, other ailments and stressful life events), the researchers found that the people who were acutely stressed after the 9/11 attacks and continued to worry about terrorism — about 6 percent of the sample — were at least three times more likely than the others in the study to be given diagnoses of new heart problems.

If you extrapolate that percentage to the adult population of America, it works out to more than 10 million people. No one knows what fraction of them might consequently die of a stroke or heart attack — plenty of other factors affect heart disease — but if it were merely 0.0003 percent, that would be higher than the 9/11 death toll.
The article talks about that these people will rationalize away the real risk against the imagined one because of the prospect (albeit slim) of masses of people dying at once. Sort of when someone has a fear of flying and will take to the road, despite the reality that a long trip in a car presents greater odds of dying in a crash than sitting in an airplane seat.

So it turns out constant mentioning of 9/11 can spark these fatal anxieties. Someone stop Guiliani before he kills again.

Lying Officials Or Just Bad Journalism?

by capper

Jay wrote a post about the bad economic news that has been hitting the papers and airwaves of late. In his piece, he linked to an article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that discusses the number of applicants for food stamps and financial aid has jumped by ten percent while the number of economic support workers have been cut on a yearly basis by Scott Walker.

In the comments thread, I mention that I thought there were some errors in the story. Namely, that some of the improvements that were being planned had indeed actually happened.

To double check that I had my facts correct, I contacted some people familiar with the economic support program. These are people that are currently working for or recently left that department.

I asked them about the article. The part of the article which reads:

The Milwaukee County Department of Health and Human Services knows it has a problem and said it is trying to fix it.

The department is planning a modernization initiative that would allow people to handle their cases over the Internet and the phone, said Corey Hoze, director of the department of human services.

*****
In Milwaukee, the county also plans to go to digital documents. Each year, about 100,000 documents must be processed by the agency, Hoze said. That creates a big backlog for the county. Also, people often submit documents more than once if their cases aren't handled quickly, adding to the backlog. With the new program, documents would be scanned and saved electronically.

My contacts were able to confirm that they have been indeed using this system for the past year to year and a half. So why is the article written in the future tense? Is this the way the Corey Hoze presented the information to the reporter? Did the reporter misunderstand Mr. Hoze? Or is the MSJ trying to make it look better than it really is? Like a "Oh, it's bad now, but Scott Walker will fix it" kind of story?

Furthermore, the story quotes Hoze as saying that the County had to apply for two waivers so that people don't have to come in for an interview. This is an effort to save time from having to actually see the people and find out whether there is any fraud going on. To be fair though, the people I spoke to did complain that the story did not share that the County apparently recovered a large number of fraud cases last year.

I will be first to admit the obvious--I don't like Scott Walker. But my statements above aren't due to any sort of "Walker Derangement Syndrome". There are reasons why I am suspicious of the both Hoze and MSJ.

Hoze ran unsuccessfully for the 4th district U.S. Congress seat. He lost in the primary. Since then he has held a job under TOMMY in the federal DHHS and two positions in the Walker administration. This makes me wonder if he is acting just like another politician, trying to protect his boss, thus protecting his job or if there is something else.

It could be that the reporter simply misunderstood Hoze. Or it could be that the Journal Sentinel was trying to minimize the damage to Walker by minimizing the damage done by Walker. Heck, for all I know, they might have just been trying to play a gotcha game ont he county workers (one of Walker's favorite targets), but didn't put too much effort into it.

No matter what the cause of the false reporting, it is still false reporting. For what the MSJ is charging for their paper, the least they could do is report the news accurately and honestly, and not in the sense that Faux News presents themselves to be fair and balanced.