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Pay no attention to the people behind the curtain

Monday, March 31, 2008

One More For The Road

by capper

I know many of you, like me, will be glad when tomorrow is over with. There will be a respite, even if temporary, from all the slimy political ads and even more so, I will (hopefully) be able to move on to other topics.

I know many more experienced politicos than I that have told me that it doesn't look good for Taylor to win, but there are some things that make me believe otherwise.

First of all, the polls must be pretty close, otherwise Walker, and his chums on the local talk radio shows would have been crowing about it all week long.

Secondly, he must be feeling nervous, or is simply indirectly acknowledging the truth, when he doesn't defend the state of the County, especially the parks, the transit system, mental health, or HOC. Instead of dealing with County issues, like Senator Taylor is doing, Walker is pulling at straws like school choice and abortion, neither of which the County Exec's office has a thing to do with.

Thirdly, this whole thing about taxes. He cannot criticize anyone for wanting to raise taxes, since he has already shown that he is ready to drop the tax bomb on the taxpayers himself. Nor does he mention that part of the reason the state is having problems is due to faulty economic policies of Bush, who he is trying to emulate. (To his credit, Walker at least hasn't tried to invade Walworth County for their oil.)

It was also Walker, with his pal, the governor of the 90s, TOMMY, who created the deficit that we are still trying to pay off. Like a spoiled kid, he wants to have his party, but is trying to a pull a political version of a "dine and dash." He tried to do the same thing to the County with his failed bid for governor in 2006, and if he were to win tomorrow, I would expect him to keep it up and try it again in 2010.

But even if taxes did go up a little, like they have over the last gazillion years, I doubt it would be more than a buck or two. To portray it as like a bunch of barbarians were going to come and pillage and loot everyone in Milwaukee County is trying to play to people's basest fears. That is the sort of contemptible politicking that got us into the Iraq War and gave us all these years of the Bush administration.

People stood up to that kind of fear and smear campaigning in the fall of 2006, and now is not the time to let up against that type of lowly power-grabbing.

Please remember to vote on Tuesday.

I Don't Think So, Scotty

by capper

I know that this sort of thing happens all the time, but I still think it's funny. This was forwarded to me from the Walker Taylor campaign:



It reminds me of the time the RNC kept sending me letters asking for money, since I was a good card-carrying member of the GOP. I just kept returning the envelopes stuffed with clippings from the paper on the latest Republican scandal until they stopped.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

by capper

Just wanted to provide an update on my ongoing saga regarding the mutant winter we have had.
You may remember, I had a really bad weekend five weeks ago, when this happened:




Well, at long last, things are starting to look up, and I finally got my vehicle back. I was a bit concerned as that I didn't really have much of a choice in body shops up there, but the guy did a really good job. He paid enough attention to detail that he even hung up my Packer stuff up the same way I had it:



We also had the first contractor in to give us an estimate. To do the garage, including the door, the roof and repairing and reinforcing the roof over the trailer, should be within our range, with the money that we got from the insurance company, and some bucks we had squirreled away from my grandfather's estate.

I also learned some things that will help us save some bucks. I learned how I can get the roof down safely without risking life and limb. I also learned how to fix the roof, but I don't have the right equipment. To buy the lumber, the hardware and the tools would cost about as much as having someone do the job. Plus having someone else do it means I have someone to yell at if it goes wrong.

The only real negative to the weekend, was that the western side of the roof has totally caved in now. The Lambeauni went from this:



to this:



The snow is slowly melting, but only to refreeze every night and form a miniglacier in the middle of the garage. Hopefully, we'll be able to get in there in two or three weeks.

As far as my progress at being the next St. Francis of Assisi...well, they're not feeding out my hands yet, but the flying squirrels did let me get close enough to them for this shot:


The little buggers are fun to watch. They zip around like they've stumbled on someone's meth lab just before coming to eat their dinner.

One out of one folkbums recommend

by folkbum

It's time to make the recommendations for next week's elections. I don't think any of it will surprise you, but it's kind of, you know, expected.

Wisconsin Supreme Court: Vote for justice Louis Butler--if for no other reason than Judge Michael Gableman has just looked dumb throughout the campaign. From his repetition of attacks on Butler that he can't back up to his deliberate misreadings of Butler's opinions, Gableman hasn't demonstrated the kind of intellectual deportment I would expect of someone serving on the high court. Additional reading: Emily Mills, Clyde Winter.

Veto Referendum: Vote yes. Sure, Jim Doyle pieced something together to save my job a couple years ago, but think about the abuses under Tommy Thompson ...

Milwaukee County Executive: Vote for Lena Taylor. Look, Taylor has run a crappy campaign, as everyone--including me--knew she would. But the alternative is four (maybe two, but jebus help us if it that happens) more years of Scott Walker. Walker has placed ideology and his own ambition ahead of the health (metaphorical, financial, and occasionally literal) of Milwaukee County. Walker is Wisconsin's answer to Grover Norquist--he believes in nothing so strongly as the notion that someday Milwaukee County will be too weak to fight back when he finally tries to drown it in the bathtub. From transit to parks to mental health to the courthouse, Walker has allowed--nay, demanded--Milwaukee County devolve, roll back, cut back, shrivel up and die. Taylor is a hard-nosed, speak-before-thinking, take-no-prisoners kind of politician, and she may not have the ideal temperament to lead (as opposed to legislate). But she believes in Milwaukee County, and she believes that with a change in leadership and attitude Milwaukee County can lead the state again. I say give her that chance--it's a damn sight better than Walker's let-it-die attitude.

Other races on my ballot: Vote Barrett over Shaw for Milwaukee mayor. Vote Larson over Kraeger in the 14th County Supervisory district. Vote Zielinski over Reid in the 14th Aldermanic district. Both Dallett and Norman seem like perfectly reasonable candidates in the contested judgeship race--take your pick.

... ADDED: The Real Charlie Sykes asks in comments, The real questions are Coggs or McGee, Flaherty or Kovac, Witkowski or DeBraska, Puente or Hamilton. Well, since he asked: Coggs, Flaherty, Witkowski*, and Puente (no sense voting for someone who doesn't live in the area he wants to represent).

* Last week Debraska's campaign sent me a mailer, even though I am not in that district. It should be a little concerning when a candidate doesn't know the boundaries of the district he's running in.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Friday, March 28, 2008

Club for Growth is even smaller than I thought

by folkbum (not an attorney--anyone who is who sees errors should let me know right away)

This started as more updates to my previous post, but it's a little long for that. I'll start with a recap:
  • Bob Dohnal files a complaint (.pdf) that Justice Louis Butler is illegally using corporate resources (the Milwaukee firm of Friebert, Finerty, & St. John (FFSJ)) for his campaign.
  • The Wisconsin Club for Growth follows that up with an "email update" all about the complaint, and including links to "evidence."
  • One piece of evidence is a list (.pdf) of 35 cases before the Wisconsin Supreme Court involving attorneys from FFSJ.
  • The list includes two cases--petitions, really, in the same case--brought by a John D. Finerty. CFG claims this is the same John D. Finerty who for a time served as Butler's campaign treasurer; it turns out to have been John D. Finerty, Jr., a completely different attorney at a completely different firm. (Even though I contacted WICFG, they still have those cases on their list.)
From there, I kept looking at the list from CFG. (I searched Supreme Court opinions and WSCCA.) It has a number of other problems:
  • It lists single cases multiple times. For example, 2004AP003179 is listed six times, all under the name of attorney Matthew O'Neill. Several other cases are listed under multiple attorneys' names, if more than one attorney was involved--like 2005AP002224, which is listed under three different attorneys' names.
  • The list includes cases Butler recused himself from. According to an email from a senior advisor with the campaign, six cases on the list--including some listed more than once under different attorneys' names--were cases Butler recused himself from.
  • When you eliminate duplications, the wrong Finerty, and recusals, you get a list of eight--down tremendously from 35. That's some incredible shrinkage for a group called Club for Growth.
When you start reading those eight cases, you find other problems with their list:
  • One case does not seem to have anything to do with lawyers from FFSJ. 2005AP1042 is credited by CFG as involving Robert H. Friebert, but his name is nowhere to be found. In addition, Butler's concurrence in that case takes a turn that you would think CFG and its ilk would like: "[I]t remains the role of the legislature," he writes, "not the judiciary, to rewrite legislation where necessary to implement positive public policy goals." Isn't that kind of the opposite of the judicial activism Butler's opponents accuse him of?
  • One case, 2005AP002224, was a "voluntary dismissal."
  • Several cases featured Butler seeming to rule (usually concurring) against the FFSJ attorney in the case. These are 2003AP001225, 2004AP000377, and 2005XX021704 (the Brian Burke case, where the court upheld the recommendation of referee Rick Esenberg to suspend Burke's license).
That gets CFG's list of 35 cases down to three--three--where a conflict of interest might have shown. How's that for shrinkage? Club for Growth, in what has to be among the most underhanded moves of all the underhanded moves we've seen so far this election, puts out a list of conflict-of-interest cases that is at best 90% crap. At best. Ninety percent. Crap.

But let's look at those three cases: 2004AP003238, 2004AP003179, and 2004AP00319. Butler was in the majority on all of those cases, and had he changed his vote--i.e., had FFSJ actually bought Butler with their "work" for him--it would not have made a difference. In all of those cases, at most only two justices dissented--that is, Butler was not the tie-breaking vote in any of those cases. (And in all of those cases, he sided with the more "conservative" side of the court, as well.)

Further, there is also no evidence--if CFG has some, I'd like to see it--that Butler did not inform the opposing parties that he had some affiliation with FFSJ. And those parties were not slouches--they included Northwest Airlines, for example, whom I would presume to have counsel smart enough to raise the issue if they thought there was a real conflict.

So that's what Club For Growth gets shrunk to--three cases where if there were a conflict of interest, it wouldn't have mattered.

Perhaps most upsetting in all of this is the origin of the complaint itself. Dohnal and his enablers, all slaves to the notion that a dimwitted but loyal Gableman is better than an independent Butler, are working on the presumption that Louis Butler is stupid. Somehow, they think the guy who was so good with the law to be called, affectionately by his friends and now pejoratively by his enemies--"Loophole Louie" has now lost all ability to follow the law. Butler is a smart man (reading through his opinions, concurrences, and dissents this morning was more intimidating than reading the parts written by the other justices, I tell you what), and to suggest that he is too dumb to follow campaign finance law and basic ethics is idiotic itself. But, then again, coming from Dohnal and CFG, I suppose that's what we should have expected.

Many thanks to the illusory tenant, who helped me through some rough patches in this analysis.

Pedro Colón Sweeping Away the Cynics and Naysayers

by Michael A. Leon

What can bring together the Milwaukee mayor, the DA, and virtually the entire City legislative caucus in a divisive election season?

Pedro Colón running for City Attorney.

Reads the Shepard-Express endorsement:
(Mu)ltiple conversations with Colon, and really listening to his plans for the office, have won us over. We enthusiastically support state Rep. Pedro Colon for city attorney on April 1. We also understand why District Attorney John Chisholm strongly supports Colon. ...

Rather, Colon’s ideas would take the city attorney’s office into the 21st century by working with other levels of government, especially on reducing crime and nuisance properties; training police officers to respect the rights of citizens while making arrests; fighting to fix the school choice funding flaw, which currently penalizes city taxpayers; finding fair solutions for residents who have had their driver’s licenses taken away; and personally advocating for the city when important lawsuits arise.

Unity and action are playing well this election season, though a small number of naysayers still insist the key to better public policy resides in sitting on their duffs.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Gableman surrogates don't know how to Google

by folkbum (note updates--and see additional post here)

The righties have been giddy the last couple of days over a complaint (.pdf) filed with the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board by Bob "What Hoppened" Dohnal. The complaint seems to revolve around the fact that, for many years, Justice Louis Butler listed as his campaign address the address of a Milwaukee law firm, one of whose partners, John D. Finerty, was, for those same years, his campaign's treasurer. (This has not been true for much of the last cycle--at least as far back as I have emails from the Butler campaign.)

Whether or not this complaint has real merit remains to be seen--the fact that Finerty seems to have volunteered his time and the Butler campaign has paid the law firm a small sum to, I assume, cover the costs of what little time others at the firm may have spent sorting the Butler campaign mail, for example, into the right box for Finerty to deal with on his own time to me suggest some smoke but no fire. Of greater concern is the notion that Butler may have heard cases from attorneys at the firm without notice to other parties involved. However, this seems only truly damning if attorneys other than John D. Finerty were involved in the campaign, or if Finerty himself had cases before Butler. The former is not easily proved--guilt by association is weak circumstantial evidence--so if the latter could be proved true, there would be your smoking gun. (UPDATE: Attorney Jeremy Levinson also has done work for the Butler campaign, and, according to a campaign source, Butler has recused himself from some of Levinson's cases.)

Among the groups championing this line of attack is the Wisconsin Club for Growth. It was apparently the subject of their Wednesday "email update." I don't get their emails (believe me, I get enough spam promising "growth"), but Brian Fraley was kind enough to repost the whole thing on his blog. WICFG included this list of "evidence" in the case against Butler:
• The fact that the Friebert law firm served as Butler’s campaign headquarters since 1999.

• The fact that Butler’s own campaign stationery used the Friebert office as its official address, to accept campaign contributions and other campaign-related mail

• The fact that the Friebert law firm used its own stationery to file documents relating to the Butler campaign.

• The list of cases before the Supreme Court that involved Friebert attorneys, including John Finerty, Butler’s own campaign treasurer.
None of that evidence indicates that a single attorney besides Finerty worked on or for Butler's campaign (some, though not all, have given the Butler campaign money). But it's that last bullet point that would be the mushroom cloud of evidence here, right? That the Wisconsin Supreme Court heard cases brought by one of their own Justices' (former) campaign treasurers would be damning indeed. And, in fact, if you click on the .pdf document that the last bullet point originally linked to, you find a long list of SCOWI cases, grouped by attorney, including two different habeus corpus filings in the case of Sandra Lea Benedict v. Eau Claire Area School District under the name of attorney John D. Finerty.

Bang! Boom! Crash! Case closed! QED! Or, perhaps, ROTFLMAO. See, had Club for Growth done a cursory Googling, they would have found that Benedict was filed not by John D. Finerty, Sr., of the Friebert, Finerty, & St. John law offices, but rather John D. Finerty, Jr., of Michael Best & Friedrich--who lists the case prominently on his biography page.

John D. Finerty, Jr., has never, to the best I can find, worked for Justice Butler, nor has he ever even given Butler a penny in campaign contributions.

I know Wisconsin Club for Growth has the internet--they send out emails, apparently--so why they couldn't do that search, I don't know.

So all that's left is the circumstantial: One attorney at Friebert, Finerty, & St. John volunteered his time as Justice Butler's campaign treasurer, and has not set foot in the Supreme Court to argue in front of Butler and crew. The Butler campaign has paid Freibert for clerical time spent. No other Friebert attorneys' names seem to be associated with the campaign beyond routine contributions, easily found through WDC, something any opposing attorney could find in his sleep and raise at trial if necessary. (I would prefer had Butler disclosed it--though were every Justice to disclose every time a contributing attorney appeared before them, parties could be stuck at the courthouse for hours just listening to the disclosures. What I'd really prefer is public financing of court elections!)

(Update: The exception, as noted above, is that Jeremy Levinson has also done work for Butler, but Butler did recuse himself in some cases. I'm trying to sort out now whether any of the cases Butler recused himself from still made WICFG's list. At any rate, their key piece of evidence in the press release and their "email update" is Finerty--but they've got the wrong Finerty.

FURTHER UPDATE: The more I read CFG's list, the more it looks like sloppy work all the way around. For example, the list looks long because they have listed the same cases multiple times if more than one attorney may be associated with it. Also, many of the cases listed, when you check them out on the pages of wiscourts do not actually have attorneys from Friebert, Finerty, & St. John listed on the case. More to come as I keep looking.)

I don't make the final judgments, of course, but Dohnal's track record of complaints lately is poor and the "evidence" for this one seems thin where it is not outright false. This seems to me more like a last-minute ploy to generate negative press right before an election, rather than anything serious.

UPDATE: Attempts to contact the Wisconsin Club For Growth using the email address provided on their "contact" page bounce back with a "no such recipient" error. If you wish to contact WICFG, you should instead use staff@wicfg.com, which so far, at least, has not bounced.

There's Spin, And Then There's Desperation

by capper

The Walker camp must be feeling a bit put upon lately. They can't seem to find ways to get around the reality of how bad of a job he has done. In their desperation, they have resorted to not spin, not even desperation, but flat out lying.

A prime example of the desperation being felt on the right is the post by Brian Fraley. He seems to have a bit of a problem being quite honest and frank when comparing the Internet chats hosted by JSOnline.

Fraley complains that Taylor only answered nine softball questions while Walker answered nineteen diverse questions. Too bad the facts don't back up his allegations.

First of all, lets look at Walker's chat. JSOnline chose to transcribe 20 questions, not nineteen. Out of those twenty, Walker refused to answer one, stating he was out of time. Two of them weren't questions at all, but just expressions of adulation by two deluded individuals. One question, by some person named Calvin, didn't have to do with County business, and would have been more appropriate for when Walker decides to run for Governor again. Three of them have to deal with his failure to complete college. One of the answers he gave was shown by yours truly to be a lie. On another question, Walker tells us how great it is to live in Indianapolis (um, Scott, this is Milwaukee, not Indianapolis).

SIDENOTE: The Brawler points out that it would be fabulous to emulate Indianapolis, in which the underdog challenger pulled a most amazing upset over the sitting incumbent, who all thought was a lock for re-election.

So, when one eliminates the non-questions, the non-answers and the nonsense, we are left with, at best, 11 questions answered by Walker. And most of those I have already deconstructed throughout the last few months.

Senator Taylor has 15 questions posted, not nine. It has also been observed that at least one of the questions had been eliminated by JSOnline. Now, Taylor did get three really weird softball questions, so that leaves her with 13 questions answered. That is two more than Walker answered.

Out of those 13 questions, two are attacking her as being a career politician (which she correctly points out that Walker has almost four times the years as a politician) or for bills she introduced in the state legislature (which she again answers decisively). Another four go after her on taxes, which is Walker's only talking point. So, Mr. Fraley is wrong about the number and the type of questions that Senator Taylor took on.

He apparently realizes that he is not being honest, so he continues his attack by linking to a video in which Senator Taylor shows a brief moment of confusion and another clip that is so highly edited, that no one knows what question she is answering. (It is obvious it is a specific question dealing with benefits. The retirees are understandably nervous, as that Walker has been seeking frivolous lawsuits, going after individuals and their contractually and legally protected benefits, however extravagant they may be.)

But even if they were accurate representations, I would take a couple minutes of confusion over six years of incompetence and hypocrisy any day.

In the interest of fairness, Fraley did get two things correct.

His post is pathetic.

And the election is next Tuesday, April 1.

ADDENDUM: The Taylor campaign is denying any political ties, but could this be the Republicans' version of tire-slashing?

More Pension Problems

by capper

The pension scandal that had rocked Milwaukee County six years ago, and that has recurred under Walker's watch, is back in the news. Apparently, Milwaukee County has been overpaying many retirees. They haven't added up the numbers, but officials report the cost could reach $1 million. Walker said that they are going to go after these retirees for a refund.

I wonder how much those lawsuits are going to cost us.

Walker will also have a hard time putting the entire blame on this on someone else. Of course, Walker is not responsible for anything that happened before he took office. Nor would even I hold him responsible for anything right after he was elected. He did have a big mess to contend with. But even though he was notified of these sort of problems years ago, he didn't take action until the end of last year, just when he was gearing up to run for the re-election he promised he wouldn't do.

Furthermore, it looks like some of these problems were allowed to happen, and all of them to continue, due to his very own actions (emphasis mine):
The new county filing with the IRS is one in a series of admissions designed to head off a full-blown audit of the county's regular retirement system and preserve its tax-exempt status.

It says the county's retirement office lacked procedures to identify and comply with certain pension ordinances and rules or conduct necessary annual reviews. The county blames understaffing, outdated computer software and turnover in outside auditors retained to assist the Employees' Retirement System with audits and actuarial services.

I guess this goes to prove the adage, "You get what you pay for."

And let's not forget that it was Walker that suspended an investigation he had called for, regarding this whole pension mess. I wonder what he is trying to cover up now. Besides the fact that due to his time in the state legislature, and a reciprocal agreement between the county and the state, Walker is entitled to all of these benefits he is lambasting.

Oh, Really Now, Mr. Walker

by capper

In this morning's paper, they cover the last two debates between Senator Lena Taylor and Scott Walker. The debates have gone as they have been recently. Senator Taylor points out the problems that have occurred under Walker's watch and the need to fix them. Walker smirks and blames someone else.

The thing that caught my eye was the last paragraph of the article:

"I've kept all the promises I've made," Walker said. "I think they should judge me based on my record."
After cleaning up my morning cup of coffee that I spewed all over the kitchen upon seeing this, I had to laugh. He is such a tool. He apparently forgot his promise not to even run again, which he broke. He forgot his promise not to go gung-ho on privatizing everything he can, allowing chunks of the county to go to the highest campaign-donor bidder. Yup, he broke this one too. He also made a promise to not follow Ament's example of cronyism. Ooopsie.

In fact, looking at the promises he has made, and giving him the benefit of the doubt for the items I haven't had time to research more thoroughly, and giving him the further benefit of granting him the debatable ones, he barely kept one third of his promises, none of them the major ones either.

Would this make him a lying hypocrite, or just a hypocritical liar?

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Walker: Mental Health Fiasco

by capper

In what has become a recurring theme for Scott Walker, Tosa Ranger, he has been giving us less and less services for our money. He wants to continue to do the same with mental health services.

I have pointed out that Walker has mismanaged mental health services for the entire duration of his maladministration. He has been cutting out beds from the Milwaukee County Mental Health Complex (MCMHC), until they are less than half of what they used to be. He has also continued to cut outpatient services for the mentally ill, on a yearly basis.

This has led to all sorts of problems. There has been a staffing crisis at MCMHC that has led to several workers and patients being hurt. The cuts in outpatient services has led the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel to run a whole series of articles of how mentally ill people were living in squalor, being neglected, and sometimes even dying due to the lack of help.

This trend of not providing adequate services to the mentally ill has led to many other problems.
It has caused the municipalities to pay tons of overtime to their police officers, as they babysit people in psychiatric crises, because MCMHC has no room for them. It can cost taxpayers even more money to house them in jails and prisons, and have to give them the necessary treatment there, only to have them commit more crimes when released, due to the lack of community-based support. And these two examples don't even mention the cost to any victims that might have been affected by a person in crisis. The list can go on and on about how Walker's mean-spiritedness is costing us a lot more money than he claims to be saving.

Walker has been pushing to waste more of our tax money and cut services again. He is pushing to move MCMHC to the old St. Michael's Hospital. This is a bad idea on many levels.

One it would cost a lot more to renovate St. Mike's than to bring the present building up to code. Secondly, to make the move, it would require eliminating at least two units, meaning sixty less beds in a system that is already in crisis due to not having enough beds. (As of yesterday, they had a waiting list to just get help in the psychiatric crises unit. They were turning people away, because they weren't violent enough.)

Another problem is that St. Mike's doesn't have the physical layout that works best for mental health care. When I just got out of college, I worked at First Hospital-Milwaukee, which had been a medical hospital in a former life. Due to the lay out of the building, there was no clear line of sight down the halls. It was very dangerous to staff as that it gave a lot of hiding places for patients. It also made it very difficult to monitor patients who were a danger to themselves and others.

One of the reasons that Walker is giving for wanting the move is that the current facility is being underused. I will ignore the obvious observation that it is being underused due to his closing several units, and the Child and Adolescent Treatment Center in that last several years. I would only point out that there would be good ways to use that available space.

One would be to move the Adult Services and the Department of Aging to the empty spaces. It would allow county workers to have easier access to the mental health complex, to Children's Hospital, and to Froedtert Hospital. This means that clients receiving services from Milwaukee County could have greater access to their workers, as that they often go to these other places anyway. This would keep these clients, who are often disabled and/or elderly from having to make extra trips all over the county.

Also, consolidating all these agencies in one location would save money. Currently, the Department of Aging is located in the Reuss Federal Plaza. By moving this department, not only would it save the county money on renting the space in Reuss (which I understand to be not inexpensive), but also on the money that the county pays to provide parking for clients and workers alike. It would also save money by not having workers travelling all over the county to get from one facility to the next, allowing them to be more productive and provide better service.

But Walker probably wouldn't like that idea. It makes sense, and would actually be the responsible thing to do. Plus, it would tick off the MVPs at Froedtert, Children's Hospital and the Medical College. And I'm sure he will be looking for their help for when he does his next failed attempt to be governor.

Walker's squandering our tax money is another great reason to vote for Senator Lena Taylor on April 1st.

Gableman misleads even as he laments that you've been misled

by folkbum

Right at the top of Judge Michael Gableman's JS Online chat today is question from a thoughtful conservative:
Q: Dean Mundy of Waukesha - Do you repudiate ads by those who are supporting your election and even your own campaign, that depict your opponent in a manner that most disinterested observers and even some supporters say is false and misleading? Why have you chosen to campaign this way?

A: Michael Gableman - I have quite clearly stated that I wish that third party groups would take their interests elsewhere to allow us to have a more positive tone in this election.
It's an excellent question, and Gableman takes a higher road in the chat than he did when he authorized the sleaziest ad from a campaign in recent memory. From the tone, you would think that Gableman would be all about the truth, honesty, and above-boardedness.

But if you thought that, you'd be wrong. From later in the chat:
My opponent has engaged in a consistent track record of judicial activism in which he has substituted policy considerations for the application of the plain language of the law. One example would be my opponent's decision in State v. Knapp, in which my opponent decided to overturn over 150 years of case precedent and to adopt a theory called "New Federalism" under which the rights of the criminals and criminal defendants are limited only by what the four who currently constitute the majority of the court say they ought to be.
If only that were true! But the fact is that there is pretty much not a single word of truth in any of that. For starters, calling Justice Louis Butler a judicial activist is a significant misnomer; yeah, it's the dog whistle Gableman supporters want to hear, but it is false. He also offers a novel definition of New Federalism; in fact, as I understand New Federalism, it's something conservatives ought like, as it is an attempt to re-decentralize a lot of the power currently vested in the federal government, including the control the Supreme Court of the United States exerts over state courts. The racist wing of the Republican Party calls it "States' Rights."

In any case, Knapp was not an expression of New Federalism, States' Rights, or any other Capital Letter Ideology. I defer to an attorney to explain:
[F]ar from ignoring either [SCOTUS precendents] Patane or Seibert, Butler devoted nearly one-third of the majority opinion's 46 pages to an in-depth discussion of both cases--in fact, the entire opinion can fairly be said to have been informed by Patane and Seibert [. . .].
You will have to read all of the post for the details; suffice it to say, contrary to what Gableman's supporters--and Gableman himself--would have you believe, nothing in Knapp deviates one iota from what SCOTUS precedent allows.

And, as long as I'm pointing you to the illusory tenant, he has this week done yeoman's work to eviscerate the claims of Gableman and his surrogates that Justice Butler is inordinately "pro-criminal." Go reward his efforts by reading and committing to memory the work he's done. Start at the top and just read down.

Hillary Says 8-Year-Old Bosnian Girl Was Actually Sniper

Lifted from Andy Borowitz

Bouquet of Flowers Hid Semiautomatic Weapon

Accused in recent days of embellishing her story of a brush with sniper fire in Bosnia, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton today said “don’t be fooled” by photos showing her being greeted at the airport by a pony-tailed 8-year-old Bosnian girl with a bouquet of flowers.

“That was no little girl,” Sen. Clinton told reporters in Gary, Indiana. “That was a covert ops midget sniper.”

The New York senator said that moments after the “so-called little girl” presented her with the flowers, she revealed what the bouquet had been hiding: “a tiny semi-automatic weapon.”

“Fortunately, I had the presence of mind to use some of the Tae Kwon Do techniques I had learned in preparation for the Northern Ireland peace talks,” she said.

Defending his wife against charges that she had yet again fabricated her exploits while First Lady, former President Bill Clinton told CNN’s John King that “Democratic voters have a clear choice this election: do they want a liar or a plagiarist?”

“Hillary tells some real whoppers, but at least they’re original,” he said.

In response to a question about whether he believes his wife’s account of the events in Bosnia, Mr. Clinton said, “All I have to say about that is Reverend Wright Reverend Wright Reverend Wright Reverend Wright Reverend Wright.”

Walker Goes Further Over The Deep End

by capper

The morning's paper shows that Walker is going further along with his folly of privatization. Even though his buddy, Chris Kujawa, who has been a beneficiary of Walker's previous privatization of parts of the park system, lost big in his election bid last year, and even though everyone of the candidates that he backed in this year's primary didn't survive to see the general election, Walker steams ahead like a mindless puppet.

Walker's solution, when he is not trying to foist the blame for his errors on other people, is to hack and slash the County and to sell off the parts to the highest campaign contributor bidder. This even includes the privatization of Mitchell Airport, a move that even some of his out of county fans (he apparently has very few in the county) find to be questionable at best.

I have written time and time again about Walker's inane policy decisions. This time, I will just refer to Erich Roden, a community advisor for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, who wrote this earlier this month:
Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker got a lesson in budgetary forensics last week with the resignation of half of his pathologists in the medical examiners office. Although his attempts to hold the line on unsustainable entitlements should be lauded, his perpetual devaluation of county employees should not. When it comes to vital governmental services, you actually get what you pay for. Let's hope he finally realizes this and leaves his budgetary philosophy where it belongs - the morgue.

Let's not forget that Walker's bid to privatize everything he can comes after his pledge not to privatize.

I say, I do believe it is Walker, not Senator Taylor, who appears to be utterly lost and confused.

No Excuse for Supporting Hillary Now

by Michael A. Leon

Update: A reader left this comment worth posting: "Hillary is a political succubus. She will suck the energy and will from this party until we are broken and defeated. ... Even if one does not consider the supposedly inflammatory nature of the Wright sermons, she took an opportunity to promote healing or at least thought provoking discussion, and instead parroted a line that even the conservative nominee and the man he defeated has abandoned. ... I have no doubt Hillary would have left her church and the place that introduced her to Jesus because it is abundantly clear that there is no belief, no ethic, no moral, or important relationship she would not gladly sacrifice in order to further her own naked ambition."

"And you know I'm just speaking for myself, and I was answering a question that was posed to me," said Hillary Clinton as she reads from her notes. TPM video of Clinton:


Does anyone have any doubt now that Hillary Clinton has crossed the line using racism in her pursuit of political power?

And Rep. Tammy Baldwin, a superdelegate pledged to Hillary, will you now disavow Hillary Clinton? Tammy, you know appeals to bigotry when you see them, and Hillary's is as ugly and potentially destructive as the national Democratic stage has seen in decades.

Clinton's latest tactic came in an interview with the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, during which Clinton suggested that Reverend Wright is guilty of "hate speech," and said, "He would not have been my pastor. You don't choose your family, but you choose what church you want to attend."

Obama's campaign has hit back immediately:
"After originally refusing to play politics with this issue, it's disappointing to see Hillary Clinton's campaign sink to this low in a transparent effort to distract attention away from the story she made up about dodging sniper fire in Bosnia. The truth is, Barack Obama has already spoken out against his pastor's offensive comments and addressed the issue of race in America with a deeply personal and uncommonly honest speech. The American people deserve better than tired political games that do nothing to solve the larger challenges facing this country," said Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton.

But Hillary is threatening the historic coalition with black America and her attempt to secure the nomination has to be shot down now and hard. I mean playing on racism, are we going to countenance this?

A piece in Kos eloquently calls for an end now to Hillary's appeals to hate. Personally, I think Hillary is considering a third-party run. From Kos:

Clinton is not only presumptuous, she is vicious and divisive and hurtful. She should be defending Barack Obama against unfair attacks, and defending and contextualizing the tradition of black sermonizing. In his speech, Barack Obama sought to educate and bring reconciliation. Clinton's response is to throw it all back in his face and suggest that there is something wrong with him for
attending his church. ...

If Clinton succeeds in pushing this racial polarization to the point that white people will not vote for Obama, the black community will never, ever, forgive her. ...

At this point it is absolutely imperative that the party leaders step in and stop the Clinton campaign from inflicting lasting damage to the relationship between the party and the African-American community. She cannot be allowed to even try to win the nomination this way, let alone actually win it.

This is poison of the worst possible kind. It will destroy the party's electoral viability more swiftly and more surely than anything I can think of.

I call on Speaker Pelosi, Majority Leader Reid, Chairman Dean, and the other leaders of the party to step in right now and call this contest.
The Clintons absolutely must not be permitted to do this. It must be stopped.

Myself, I call on Tammy Baldwin to step up right now and denounce Hillary Clinton. Silence is a betrayal to every progressive who has worked with you and the cause of justice.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

This why I hate people

(for lack of a better title)
by folkbum

A certain member of the right-wing Xenophobiasphere that I am not really linking to anymore nonetheless prompts this post. He celebrated a recent decision in Philadelphia that ruled a sign placed in a window of a cheesesteak shop was not overly discriminatory against immigrants or some such. Because, you know, the front line of the immigration battle is cheesesteak stands.

Here's the sign:



Here's the postcard I want to send to the guy:
Dear "Joey":

When making "signs," please use quotation marks "correctly." If you're going to "demand" that people speak only "one" language, then you should learn to use that one language "yourself."

"Sincerely,"
folkbum

Let's Split -- Torinus Has Trouble With Barack's Economics

By Keith Schmitz

Though John Torinus, president of Serigraph and former Milwaukee Journal editor is a Republican, he is a very forward thinking and reasonable guy. We need more Republicans like him and in many ways his insight and foresight are admirable. He is a glass half full type of guy though sometimes you have to wonder about what is in the glass.

Republicans who went after Barack Obama’s remarkable speech, “A More Perfect Union,” from last week on race and religion, did it on the basis of race and religion. Torinus used his special expertise in business to dissect the speech.

The headline (though it might have been written by a copy writer) was instantly over the top – “Obama speech was full of anti-business rhetoric” – because Torinus goes off to pick out a couple of passages that were at the most three minutes out of the total 37 minute run time.

Right off the bat Torinus indicts the speech from an economic point of view as being divisive.

Well, this was the point. Obama in addressing our differences in race wanted to point out that it is our economic problems that in fact unify us. The GOP has been playing the race card for years to water down the political impact within the working and middle class by using the diversion of racial differences.

Then Torinus goes on to open up a rhetorical Burger King drive-thru by serving up one whopper after another in going after Obama’s statement that we have “"a corporate culture rife with inside dealing; questionable accounting practices and short-term greed; a Washington dominated by lobbyists and special interests; economic policies that favor the few over the many."

First, the word "rife" is not accurate, not even to describe Wall Street. As could have been pointed out during his time in this state, no Wisconsin corporate executive in recent memory has been charged with corruption.
Not unless we rule out Dick Strong. Of course not everyone on Wall Street is engaged in inside dealing, but we have more than enough of it that we now have the sub-prime debacle that is sending shock waves through our economy.

As for questionable accounting, with a few notorious exceptions, the business world is on the mountaintop compared to the funny money used in government accounting. Point in case: the crazy-quilt patches on the Wisconsin budget working its way through the Legislature.
If that wasn’t the case, we wouldn’t have Sarbanes-Oxley. As far as the favorite conservative bogey man – government – the budget is victim of too much money in the legislative process. Something the GOP wants to keep in the process.

Obama is right about the infestation of lobbyists in Washington, D.C., but it isn't just business interests that lobby the good senators. There are plenty of anti-business lobbyists there, too.
True. But the big money is being wielded by the business lobbyists. Why else do we have the watering down of our government food inspections, a carload of business welfare and legislation custom-made for an industry or even individual company? Look at the recent transaction where John McCain’s lobbyist friends pushed through an Air Force contract for European aircraft maker Airbus over domestic Boeing.

His stance against policies that "favor the few over the many" raises the issue of a growing disparity between the very rich and the balance of the country. While a case can be made for a more progressive tax system, it has to take into account that the top taxpayers already carry a hugely disproportionate share of the tax burden. The bottom third pays nothing or next to nothing. The poorest get money back from the government.
That one is a half-pound whopper. You have to go back to the days of the Robber Barons to find a time when wealth in this country has been so under taxed, especially not smart when we have a war to fight.

Not only are the poor hit up for taxes and sales taxes take a large bite out of their incomes, the statement that the “poor get money back from the government” is totally bogus when considering the shredding of the social safety net in this country. Most certainly health care costs and high fuel prices gobble up what ever benefits bestowed on these lucky duckies.

In addition, Wisconsin has higher combined corporate tax rates than in any developed country.
Where did that come from? The taxes corporations pay in this state have diminished over the years to the point where now Wisconsin ranks among the lowest ten states in corporate taxation. The tax hell that conservatives rail about was brought to you in part because of the tiny wedge in the overall state pie.

As he concludes, Torinus points out “Obama's philosophy on race and religion is unifying. His philosophy on economics is far from collaborative.”

Let’s keep in mind that the GOP has worked to flip out the race cards faster than a pit boss for the vary purpose of divide and conquer when it comes to economic reform.

The last thing corporations and other members of the upper class want is “a more perfect union.”

I’m not talking labor unions necessarily. But that would not be a bad thing either.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

by capper

Walker must have a distinct phobia when it comes to telling the truth. The news came out yesterday that his campaign is lying about his most recent commercial. The fallout is still coming in on that lie.

Today, the lies keep on flowing out of his mouth and keyboard. Walker did an "online chat" for JSOnline, in which he handpicked most of the questions to give himself softballs. He did let a few tougher questions through, which I am sure he thought he had the answers down pat. But his lies are pretty easy to observe to anyone paying attention.

One of the questions had to deal with transit. Here is the question, and Walker' response (emphasis mine):

Q: Emily Mullen of Milwaukee - You claim to be pro-transit, yet as County Executive you have presided over significant fare increases and crippling service cuts. In addition, while in the State Assembly you never voted to increase the State's support of transit. How do you reconcile your record with your alleged support of transit?

A: Scott Walker - Emily, When I came into office as County Executive, the state covered about 44% of the costs of the transit system and the county tax levy covered 14%. That is now 40% from the state while about 14% comes from the county tax levy. In the future, we need to control costs and get stable support from the state. In the Assembly, I voted for some increases in transit spending, but they were not always as much of an increase as some transit advocates wanted to spend. I don't claim to be pro- or anti- transit. I just tell you what I want to do with transit in the future. To control costs, I want to consolidate transit amongst the four systems in southeastern Wisconsin. To stabilize state support, I want to capture the growth in the CURRENT sales tax collected on automobile related sales and apply it to transit statewide. In this budget, that would be more than $100 million with about 60% coming back to the Milwaukee area.
As I have highlighted, Walker claims to be neither pro-transit nor anti-transit.

If he is truly not pro-transit, why did he film this commercial?




But he didn't do just that one commercial. He also has a web commercial that is even titled "Walker: Committed to Transit". I don't know about you, but that seems to me to be that he is pretty much claiming to be pro-transit.

He also spouts about some plan that he has to fix transit. A plan that would take the sales tax from everyone in the state, to just support our transit system. A plan that has been repeatedly proven to be a non-starter from day one. Yet he is hypocritical enough to accuse Senator Taylor of not being realistic about the plan.

But then again, remember he also claims not to be anti-transit. Then could he please explain why he is using such a poor business design of raising rates and cutting services. Does he think that he is actually doing anyone any favors. Or is he really trying to kill transit? After all, he is overseeing one of the few systems in the entire nation that hasn't seen a huge jump in ridership. In fact, due to his incompetence, Milwaukee buses are actually losing riders. And let us not forget that when he had a chance to approve a tax-neutral plan that would have boosted ridership, like it has elsewhere in the state and the country, Walker vetoed it.

He also claimed not to be anti-transit just one day after he cuts more routes.

In summary, Walker denies being pro-transit, but then puts out to commercials touting how he is pro-transit. Walker in the same sentence, denies being anti-transit, but then has given us six years of methodically trying to dismantle it.

Not only is Walker incompetent and a hypocrite, he is a lousy liar. And he is not even very good at his lying either.

The Clinton Ice Capades

By Keith Schmitz

This is s knee slapper. Pardon the pun.

Why are Hillary and her intermediaries trying to destroy Obama, going so far to laud John McCain while disdaining Barack?

On the condition of anonymity, the way a member of the DNC put it to Jake Tapper with ABC is that the Clinton Campaign is pursuing the Tonya Harding option.

It's up to you to cast the rest of this movie.

Bending the Facts to Fit Your Frame

by folkbum

(Note: This is long. You can skip to the paragraph starting "To sum up" if you just want the gist.)

Justice Louis Butler may have gotten the nickname "Loophole Louie" twenty or more years ago while a vigorous public defender. However, it seems pretty clear that Wisconsin's right wing is more intent on using the moniker to suggest that as a judge, Butler seeks any possible out for every criminal defendant; hence, you've been subjected to some of the most vile and misleading advertisements ever aired in this state, and you've got rightie bloggers tripping over themselves to prove that Butler is soft on crime. (This is a stupid measure for a Supreme Court Justice anyway; they hear few criminal cases and even then, the ones they hear are, by design, cases where the State may have overstepped its bounds. I want to know how well Butler follows the law, not whether he blindly favors the State.)

And that's the set-up for a significant blunder by my arch-nemesis, Owen at Boots and Sabers. Whether he found McCoy v. Court of Appeals of Wisconsin on his own, or had it handed to him by someone à la Copiergate as Mike Plaisted suspects, Owen has badly misread the case and includes some flat-out falsehoods in his discussion of it. And, though he was corrected on it yesterday, he includes no update or other information to indicate that yes, he blew it.

McCoy is a case that Butler argued in front of the Supreme Court of the United States. (Number of cases Butler's opponent has argued in front of SCOTUS: 0.) At issue was not actually anything to do with Ellis T. McCoy, who was convicted of abduction and sexual assault and sentenced to 12 years. McCoy wanted to appeal that conviction, but, being poor, needed a public defender to do it--and that PD was Butler. Here's how the SCOTUS ruling describes the situation:
After studying the case, the attorney advised him that further appellate proceedings would be completely useless and that he had three options: He could voluntarily dismiss the appeal; he could go forward without a lawyer; or he could authorize the attorney to file a brief that would present the strongest arguments the lawyer could make in support of the appeal but would also advise the court of the lawyer's conclusion that the appeal is frivolous. Appellant selected the third option.

Appellant's counsel then prepared a brief that can fairly be characterized as schizophrenic. In his role as an advocate for appellant, counsel stated the facts, advanced four arguments for reversal, and prayed that the conviction be set aside. In his role as an officer of the court, counsel stated that further appellate proceedings on behalf of his client "would be frivolous and without any arguable merit," and prayed that he be permitted to withdraw.
So here's "Loophole Louie," explaining that there is no loophole big enough for McCoy to get through. (Note that the "schizophrenic" nature of the brief--called an Anders brief, after a previous SCOTUS ruling--is what is required by law; there was no "option four" that offered a straight appeal.)

Now you might wonder how a case in which Butler explicitly told his client he had no chance on appeal and explicitly told the court that his client had no chance on appeal would fit the right-wing frame of Butler's always working to put sexual predators back on the street. The fact is, this case doesn't fit that frame at all, and it takes some serious bending of the facts--and outright lies--for Owen to make it part of the "Loophole Louie" narrative.

Consider: Owen calls his post, "Butler Spent Taxpayer Dollars to Try to Enable More Frivolous Appeals." Owen should perhaps get some kind of award for Most Conservative Buzzwords In A Single Post Title, but set aside the marvel of engineering that had to happen to achieve that. Instead, consider how bold is the lie contained in that sentence. Yes, Butler's appeal to the SCOTUS was paid for by taxpayers--we all chip in to pay for (a shrinking and inadequate number of) public defenders who ensure that the poor can get the same vigorous defense that those of us who can afford attorneys get. But here's the lie: Butler was not seeking the ability to file frivolous appeals. Butler, in fact, wanted the opposite--he wanted off McCoy's case because McCoy had no chance of winning. But by law--well, by a rule of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, which has the force of law--he could not get off the case.

Butler could not get off the case, that is, without filing a brief explaining why he thought the appeal was frivolous. Under SCOWI rules, it is not enough for a PD to say, "this appeal is without merit," the PD must enumerate the reasons why. Butler did not do that enumeration--thinking about McCoy's 6th and 14th Amendment rights--and SCOWI sent him back to do it again. So Butler appealed--but he appealed not McCoy's case (which would have been frivolous), but the SCOWI rule.

The appellate courts and SCOWI upheld the SCOWI rule (surprise!), but ultimately SCOTUS decided it was worth looking at. This is where Owen crosses the border between fact and fiction again. Owen writes, "Butler took a case he knew to be wholly frivolous all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court." This is an outrageous lie, and, if I were Butler, I would consider libel action. Yes, Butler knew McCoy's case was frivolous, but he wasn't arguing McCoy's case in front of SCOTUS. Butler was arguing the constitutionality of requiring defense counsel to explain why a defendant's case is without merit--and that was not "wholly frivolous"! SCOTUS doesn't take frivolous cases in the first place; in the second, three of eight Justices (Justice Kennedy sat this one out for some reason not explained in the decision) dissented and agreed with Butler. I have to say, I hold a lot of sympathy for that position--in their words, "Not only does Wisconsin's Rule impinge upon the right to counsel, but--contrary to our admonition that 'there can be no equal justice where the kind of appeal a man enjoys "depends on the amount of money he has," '--it does so in manner that ensures the poor will not have 'the same rights and opportunities on appeal' as the rich."

In other words, a private attorney can drop a case because she knows it's hopeless and simply walk away. A public defender cannot merely walk away, though--he must also file the brief that enumerates why the case is hopeless. (The majority held that it may have been unfair, but it did not place an undue burden on anyone.)

It's this inability to walk away that led to an additional egregious error in Owen's original post. Owen quotes from the transcript of oral arguments, but leaves out some key context; I've bolded the parts Owen omitted:
QUESTION: Assuming you just applied Anders as written and you don't have this additional requirement of a lawyer explaining why he thinks it's frivolous, do you think the normal Anders case in which the lawyer files an Anders brief, in which he makes the--identifies the arguable arguments on behalf of his client and then says, but I think they're frivolous, do you think that takes it out of the adversarial process?

MR. BUTLER: The one thing that Anders did--I do not. I think the one thing that Anders did--

QUESTION: You think that is the same advocacy that the rich person that the Chief Justice mentioned would get? [. . .] It is the same advocacy that the rich client would get? Do you think his client is going to go in and make some arguable things, saying yes, but I think it's frivolous and I'd like to withdraw?

MR. BUTLER: No.
[. . .] I can't imagine a client paying a lawyer to go in and argue the case as totally frivolous.

QUESTION: What we've got is a case where the paying client, if he's got a conscientious lawyer, would say to him, you're going to waste your money. I'm telling you that in advance. It's not worth $5,000 to file this. Of course, if you want to throw your money away, I'll file your papers for you.

MR. BUTLER: That's correct.

QUESTION: What you're saying is that the poor defendant is entitled to have the state waste the same amount of money.

MR. BUTLER: That's correct.
Owen, quoting just the last part, comments (my italics), "Justice Scalia asked if he thought it was appropriate for state-paid lawyers to file frivolous appeals." Wrong! The context makes it clear that we're not talking about the permissibility of meritless appeals. We're talking about the "additional requirement" that Butler was trying to get out of. When Butler says "That's correct," he's not stating his own opinion, but rather he's confirming Scalia's reading of the Wisconsin rule.

Owen does the same thing again, quoting an exchange between Butler and Chief Justice Rehnquist, leaving out key context and making it sound like Butler is arguing that defense counsel "should have greater latitude to argue frivolous cases" (again, my italics). But reading the very next question and answer, it's clear that Butler is arguing no such thing:
QUESTION: Yes, but you would agree, I take it, that there are some appeals, I don't know how large a class it is, that even the best lawyer in the world has virtually no chance of getting--of succeeding on; whereas, it's not nearly as easy to evaluate that in the trial situation. Everybody agrees that abandoning a client or saying I think your defense is frivolous, therefore I won't represent you in trial, it just can't be done. It isn't done. It isn't a problem.

MR. BUTLER: I understand your concern, Justice Rehnquist. That's why we are defending the Anders decision, because Anders came down with a compromise, that allowed the attorney on the one hand to try to remain that advocate while, on the other hand, recognizing the ethical duty of the lawyer not to knowingly file a frivolous appeal and pass it off as a meritorious.
Tell me, how can you possibly get from that the idea that Butler believes appeals are allowed to be as frivolous and meritless as they can be? It seems to me that Butler recognizes clearly that lawyers have the responsibility not to file frivolous appeals, and he is not in any way asking SCOTUS for permission to file them.

To sum up: Owen finds (or is given) a case Butler argued in front of the Supreme Court of the United States. Owen, believing the frame that Justice Butler is "Loophole Louie," looks for (or has pointed out to him) parts of the oral argument transcript that can be mis-read to support that frame. He then concocts a number of false statements about both the case in question and the arguments that Butler advanced in the case to claim that Butler's appeal was both frivolous and in favor of further extending the rights of defendants to be frivolous.

Now, I'm not a lawyer, and neither is Owen. But I can read the plain language of the decision and of the oral arguments. It is clear to me, as it should be to anyone, lawyer or not (I'm looking at you, Dad29), that Owen is just flat wrong here, all the way around.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Taxes, Lies and Videotape

by capper

Walker launched a new ad recently. He's been running a lot of new ads lately. It must be due to all that special interest money he is getting from Madison. And here it was the hypocrite Walker who kept saying that Senator Taylor was the one that would be getting big bucks. Like I said, what a hypocrite.

Back to the ad. It's well done with a diverse group of people, and Walker, talking about how they believe in Milwaukee, and how they believe in Scott Walker. This has been a common theme in political ads locally. (I wonder if Charlie Sykes will be getting on Walker for that ideological plagiarism, like he did on Obama.) Of course, I would be glad to say that too, if I were an actor and was being paid to say that.

Xoff has a detailed look at how Walker and his campaign got caught up in the lie regarding this commercial and how it was made. He even goes as far as to point out where we have seen on of the hired actors before, and how this sort of chicanery appears to be a Republican forte.

So, Walker is lying about who is getting big money and he is lying about the commercial that his special interest monies have paid for. But that is not the only lie we see Walker trying to peddle to us. His whole tax thing turns out to be a farce as well.

Walker has been promoting Family Care. He's been promoting it a lot. Let's ignore the fact that it is a state mandate that every county goes to Family Care, which is basically a plan based on the HMO-type of administrative costs. Or as pa capper said, and remember he is a self-proclaimed neocon, "Walker wants to charge us more so that people can die."

Walker boasts how it will supposedly eliminate the waiting list of developmentally delayed and physically disabled people who are in need of services. What it will most likely do, is just bump that waiting list along the line, as there are currently not enough service providers to meet that high level of demand.

What Walker has not been telling us is the cost. In a report to the County Board, Corey Hoze, Director of the Milwaukee County Department of Health and Human Services lays out the progress of the transition to Family Care. I received a copy of this report and have scanned the parts of the report that deals with the cost and some of the ramifications that Family Care will have on Milwaukee County. With a big thanks to James Wigderson on the technical advice, here are the links to page7, page 8 and page 9 of the report. Here is the pertinent part to cost:
...expenditures in year one would decrease by approximately $79.2 million, revenues would decrease by $80 million, and tax levy would increase by nearly $800,000 compared to DSD's 2008 Adopted Budget. The estimated tax levy increase is approximately $5.4 million in the second year and $5.8 million in the third year. These gaps do not include the additional tax levy required for the eligibility function as described below.

As you can see, Walker is poised to add $12 million dollars to the tax levy, just for this one program. $12 million dollars in new taxes from a guy who brags about holding taxes down. And not only is he planning on raising taxes, he is planning on giving us less services for the extra money we have to pay:
The budgetary limitations are due, in part, to the continued funding of discretionary programs for persons with disabilities primarily funded with Community Aids and tax levy. These programs include advocacy, supported living options, work and day programs, respite, recreation, transportation, and services to persons in need of short-term support to live independently in the community. Currently, approximately 700 individuals with disabilities are served by DSD through these locally funded programs under purchase of service contracts. It is estimated that 470 of these individuals may be eligible for Family Care services. Therefore, if funding for these programs became unavailable,participation in the Family Care program could permit these individuals to continue receiving services. However, as many as 230 of the individuals currently receiving these services may not be eligible for Family Care and would have services discontinued if funding became unavailable.

In addition to the above potential service reductions, the emergency shelter care programs may also need to be reduced or eliminated.

To recap, we will be paying more in taxes and getting less in services. Not only that, but now we will have hundreds of individuals that could be in serious trouble and a danger to themselves and/or to others, if they don't continue to receive the support services they need. I have already shown the cost to society of having untreated mental health issues and alcohol and drug treatment issues go untreated.

I wonder how all this fits into Walker's Safe, Affordable and Pride malarkey?

Ode To Spring

by capper

Here's an oldie I remember my family saying every year about this time of the year:

Spring has sprung.
The grass has riz.
I wonder what the hell
All that white stuff is.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

One Bright Side To The Winter

by capper

As I mentioned before, the past month has been pretty rough on the capper family.

There was one shining moment. Although it may seem trivial, I'm sure even Patrick at Badger Blogger would admit it was special. Like Patrick, my wife and I enjoy feeding and watching the birds, squirrels, deer and other critters that inhabit our neck of the woods.

After seeing the garage, and feeling sorry for myself for a couple of hours, I made myself get up and go out to fill all the feeders. SIDENOTE: To show how crazy we are, we have a squirrel feeder, three feeders just for the goldfinches (they love their thistle seed), a suet feeder, a bell feeder, three feeders for mixed seed and three feeders for sunflower seeds. We also have a ground feeder and a small trough for corn to keep the deer, raccoons and turkeys from the other feeders. In the spring we will put out our oriole feeder, our hummingbird feeder, and two other feeders that Santa gave us.

Anywho, as I was filling the feeders, the birds, who we hadn't been able to feed for three weeks, were rather hungry, and became quite noisy and active, encouraging me to move faster. As I was doing the sunflower seed feeders, two chickadees were bouncing from branch to branch just a few feet above me, chiding me that I still wasn't going fast enough. Kiddingly, I grabbed a handful of sunflower seeds and held my hand out saying, "OK, if you're than hungry, come and get it."

To my surprise, one of them made several passes at my hand, but veered off at the last moment. It got so close I could feel the wind from its wings. The second one was a bit braver. It took one pass before coming back and settling on my index finger. It looked at me for about ten seconds, gave out a series of chirps, took a seed and flew back up to the tree to eat.

Like I said, it was a trivial moment in the grand scheme of things, but it was enough to bring a smile to my face and give me enough strength to carry on. To have such a small creature put enough faith in me to trust me to eat out of my hand, well, that did a lot to help me pick myself up, emotionally speaking.

Next, I'm going to work on the flying squirrels we got up there...

My Continuing Discontent-One Month Later

by capper

I told you about the winter of my discontent that started a month ago. Since then, my vehicle was extracted from the garage and taken to the body shop. The damages to the vehicle came to $6,000. The body shop is having problems getting the necessary parts shipped to it. It took over two weeks to get the roof in. It has been put in, and is being painted. Unfortunately, the interior part of the roof (the liner, etc) has still not come in yet.

In extracting the vehicle from the garage, they had to literally pull the overhead door out with a front end loader. They were then able to prop up the part resting on the roof of my car and pull it out without doing any further damage---to the vehicle. The garage didn't come out as well.
To add to our discontent, the secondary roof over our trailer had its support beams crack. The roof is bowed pretty good, but at least it didn't collapse. The guy who plows our road came and shoveled it off before it got worse. (Yes, we did provide recompense for his risking his life and three hours of his day for us.)

Last weekend I got to go up there for the first time since the collapse of my garage. The weekend after the incident, the weather was crappy. The weekend after that we needed to get my wife's car fixed, thanks to the multitude of potholes.

It was a rough weekend. I went up by myself, as that my beautiful bride had to pull a shift of mandatory overtime on Saturday. We decided that I should go as that we needed to see what we were going to have to contend with. Here is a picture of the side of the garage:



This is what I got to see first when I pulled into the driveway:



As you can see, the entire side has caved in. Fortunately, we got most of the important stuff out before we had left. Unfortunately, we didn't get one major thing out:

There was so much snow and ice, I couldn't get anything safely out of there. In fact, just after I took the picture of the Lambeauni, another piece of the roof cave in and a part landed about five feet away from me. Needless to say, I got the hell out of there as quickly as I could. I'm not going back in until the snow and ice have melted.

My wife and I got up there again this weekend. It looks pretty much the same. The snow has gone down only about an inch, but the ice is a lot worse. Also, a couple more boards have landed on the Lambeauni, from what I could tell.

From the "misery loves company" file, the local paper reports that a number of buildings, almost all them bigger, newer and more expensive than mine also fell from the weight of this year's record-breaking snowfall. These include a potato storage building at Anthony Farms, one of the largest potato growers in the state. They lost 1500 hundredweight of potatoes and it will cost them half a million to replace the building. A grocery store in Wausau and the Conservation Club in Iola also had their roofs cave in. About five miles from our place, a farmer had his brand new barn go down.

The Internet MUST Be Regulated--NOW!!!!

by folkbum

Remember back when the FEC wanted to regulate political speech on the internet? There were these fears that anonymous groups, some even paid for by lobbyists or corporations or campaigns, would create content and ads and videos that could undermine the democratic process. I remember that fight--I followed that one closely and I was initially relieved when the commissioners decided that speech on blogs and so forth was as protected as any newspaper or other news outlet that offered editorial content.

Well, I have changed my mind. I have seen one of those anonymous videos, and it is so awe-inspiring, so overwhelming, and so insidious, that it needs to be banned. I do not know how anyone can watch it and not be moved to vote for McCain.

Quite simply, it is so powerful that I am willing to surrender the autonomy I have on this blog over to the FEC just to be rid of this thing. You can watch it below, but I warn you--it is nearly too much to handle.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Seen on a sign about town today

by folkbum

CALL AHEAD TO RESERVE YOUR EASTER POLISH

And silly me; I thought you were supposed to dye the eggs.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Simple Answers to Simple Questions

by folkbum

Rick Esenberg asks, "But who's right?" The simple answer: Not Jessica McBride.* See iT and MP for the complicated answers.

This has been another edition of Simple Answers to Simple Questions.

*Could be paraphrased as Not Patrick McIlheran.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Walker Again Refuses To Improve Transit System

by capper

UPDATE: The county board overrode Walker's veto by a 16-3 vote. At least someone in County government is listening to the people.

We have seen time and time again that Walker does not want to help keep the Milwaukee County Transit System keep its wheels on the road. He raises fares and slashes routes (more cuts are coming this weekend), and then wonders why ridership is down, while ever-increasing gas prices is producing a boom in every other major metropolitan area. He has also fiddled around and did his usual grandstanding on working with others, putting $91.5 million at risk of being lost forever.

Now, today, Walker has vetoed the plan to put bike racks on the buses. This is after he has stated that he was for it as long as local tax dollars weren't used. He even tried to use the bike racks as a bargaining chip to get Milwaukee County out of a lawsuit that he created with his no bid contract to tear down the Courthouse Annex.

An email from Shea Schachameyer, of the Bicycle Federation of WI, sent out this email:



As I described on the phone, the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors have the opportunity to override the veto that Scott Walker made today on behalf of the Bike Racks on Buses program. The program, which has been approved multiple times by the Milwaukee County Supervisors has had overwhelming support from Milwaukee residents: we gathered over 17000 signatures and have letters of support from Congresswoman Moore, Mayor Barrett, the SE Regional Director of Health and Family Services, Robert Harris, and many others. In short, the program will:
  • Increase ridership
  • Expand service area
  • Increase the frequency of use
This program will not be another burden for MCTS to pay for. MCTS is in the process of applying for Federal funding to cover 80% of the capitol costs and we are working with them to raise local sponsorship dollars to cover the remaining 20% or $130,000.

I apologize for the short notice, but hope that you will support this program and in doing so will call Chairman Holloway, advising him to support the override of Walker's veto before the County Board Meeting, tomorrow morning at 9am.

Thank you!

Sincerely, Shea--

Shea Schachameyer
Bicycle Federation of WI
(414)431-1761 shea@bfw.org

(Please note: The email was slightly modified to remove Ms. Schachameyer's personal phone number.)

Ms. Schachameyer also sent along an attachment of a pdf, which I unfortunately cannot find on the web, and currently have no way of posting or linking to. (If someone can help, that would be appreciated.)

The attachment was of a newsletter that outlines some of the benefits that other cities across Wisconsin and across the country have enjoyed from putting bike racks on their buses. These benefits include increased ridership, expanded service areas, more frequent riders, better health of the community (both physically and economically), and a cleaner environment. It also provides federal and local studies that support these assertions.

For further background, there is this site that provides some of the history of the work of the BFWI, in regards to this issue.

So, as Ms. Schachameyer asks, please call County Board Supervisor Lee Holloway, and your own county board supervisor, and urge them to again override another one of Walker's mean-spirited, short-sighted, harmful vetoes, and to follow the will of the people of Milwaukee County.

This would not raise our taxes, and it would help the transit system stay at least at its current level, if not even improve. One just has to wonder: Why would Walker, who claims to support transit, and had at one time supported it, now be against it?

ADDENDUM: Here is the beginning of the pdf report from BFWI:


Efficient and affordable public transportation systems are essential to successful cities. Communities that invest in public transportation realize enhanced development and prosperity. According to the American Public Transportation Association, every $10 million invested in capital projects yields $30 million in business sales. Milwaukee is in need of economic development and more jobs--investment in public transportation can bring these changes. As outlined by Southeastern Wisconsin's Regional Planning Commission (SEWRPC), the Milwaukee County Transit System (MCTS) is potentially facing severe service cuts which would result in "a significantly smaller transit system...operating with shorter service hours and with less frequent service…, and [which would] offer less of an alternative mode of travel to the automobile" by the year 2010. Yet, despite this dreary forecast, it is possible for MCTS to gain economic stability as other transit agencies have done across the country. Bike racks on buses are an affordable and effective capital improvement to invest in. In fact, Florida transit agency, LYNX, found that for one-third the cost of a new bus they could reach more customers with bike racks and expand access to transit from ¼ mile walk buffer to a 1 mile bike buffer, allowing them to reach more customers.

Currently in the United States, there are over 300 transit agencies which, when combined, operate over 75,000 buses. 40,000 of these buses--more than 50%--are equipped with bike racks. Furthermore, out of Wisconsin's twenty municipal transit agencies, 40% have bike racks installed on their buses while and additional 15% plan to within the next six months. Unfortunately, it appears Milwaukee is not only falling behind on a national standard, it is falling behind on what has become a statewide standard as well.

Again, it makes one wonder how Walker can even keep a straight face when he claims that he supports the transit system.

Happy 5th Anniversary Iraq Invasion -- What No Party?

By Keith Schmitz

Today, if you did the labor of visiting the conservative local blogs you'd find they all one thing in common.

No comments on the fifth anniversary of the Iraq Invasion.

What? This of course is not the worst blunder in American foreign policy history because it's creators wanted to go there from day one they got into office.

Nevertheless, up until recently the blogs on the right prayed for this, cheer led this, backed their Jethro Bodine channeling president and thrilled when ever bogus "evidence" of the non-existent WMD's surfaced. Ah, the good old days of yesteryear.

Ah, the invasion that would rid of the "threat" of Saddam Hussein, that would create a paradise for the Iraqi people, that would be paid for by oil revenues.

The Iraq invasion. Now our brethren on the right treat you like an orphan to be abandoned on the door step.

Only problem is we are left with the bleeding from our treasury, a generation of soldiers who have to live with their personal nightmares and the families of those who didn't make it living without fathers, mothers, siblings children.

But we do have this:

ABC’s Good Morning America aired an interview with Vice President Cheney on the war. During the segment, Cheney flatly told White House correspondent Martha Raddatz that he doesn’t care about the American public’s views on the war:

CHENEY: On the security front, I think there’s a general consensus that we’ve made major progress, that the surge has worked. That’s been a major success.

RADDATZ: Two-third of Americans say it’s not worth fighting.

CHENEY: So?

RADDATZ So? You don’t care what the American people think?

CHENEY: No. I think you cannot be blown off course by the fluctuations in the public opinion polls.
Wow!