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Pay no attention to the people behind the curtain

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Vote-suppressing, Pro-Hillary Group Operated in Wisconsin

via MAL Contends

A voter-suppression group operating in North Carolina, exposed in the journal Facing South (see also Talking Points Memo), was operating in Wisconsin before its primary on Feb. 19 as part a national voter deception strategy targeting black households and those likely to vote against Sen. Clinton.

And with the same apparent motive: To suppress voter turnout and minimize the margin of an expected Clinton defeat.

The story, broken by Chris Kromm, and aired on CNN, exhibits another example of Hillary Clinton borrowing from the Karl Rove playbook; and Hillary can expect a serious backlash.

Writes Kromm:

Who's behind the mysterious 'robo-calls' that have spread misleading voter information and sown confusion and frustration among North Carolina residents over the last week?

Facing South has confirmed the source of the calls, and the mastermind is Women's Voices Women Vote, a D.C.-based nonprofit which aims to boost voting among 'unmarried women voters.'

What's more, Facing South has learned that the firestorm Women's Voices has ignited in North Carolina isn't the group's first brush with controversy. Women's Voices' questionable tactics have spawned thousands of voter complaints in at least 11 states and brought harsh condemnation from some election officials for their secrecy, misleading nature and likely violations of election law. ...

In Wisconsin, state officials singled out Women's Voices for misleading and possibly disenfranchising voters, stating in a press release [PDF]: 'One group in particular -- Women's Voices. Women Vote, of Washington, D.C. -- apparently ignored or disregarded state deadlines in seeking to register voters,' sending in registrations past the January 30 deadline and causing 'hundreds of Wisconsin voters who think they registered in advance' to actually not be. ...

... Bob Hall at Democracy North Carolina said in a statement:
'This is another in a long line of deceptive practices used in North Carolina and elsewhere that particularly target African-American voters. In our view, this phone message plainly violates North Carolina law. We ask the Attorney General, State Bureau of Investigation, and the State Board of Elections to investigate, expose, and prosecute the sponsors of these calls.'


[UPDATE by folkbum: The WVWV response; perspective from Matt Stoller and Chris Bowers; and note my official skepticism that there was any tie between the Clinton campaign and WVWV, as that would be both fairly easy to prove and so incredibly illegal.]

Update II: See WVWV staff bios and Kos by stefanielaine for additional Clinton connections; also see DKos, Women's Voices has not answered our investigation: ["First, it's important to note that Gardner's statement in no ways refutes, or even addresses, any of the basic facts put forward by our investigation."]. Let the stonewalling begin.

Via Kos by stefanielaine

(John Podesta) actually responded, which I didn't expect, though his response was less than satisfying:

Podesta:
Believe me, you were no more shocked than I was. WVWV has a strong record of registering disenfranchised people so that they can participate in the political process. Over 400,000 in this cycle. With respect to North Carolina, remedial action is being undertaken. While I believe the calling program there was a mistake of judgment and execution, and not an attempt to disenfranchise voters, as a board member, I have asked for a full accounting of the circumstances of the North Carolina events.


stefanielaine

It's great that he's asked for "a full accounting of the circumstances," but seriously, I don't understand thinking this is all a big coincidence. So, my response: Thanks for responding, John. I'm glad to hear that you've requested an accounting of what's happening in North Carolina but frankly North Carolina is just the tip of the iceberg - WVWV has apparently executed similar "lapses in judgment" in Virginia, Arizona, Wisconsin, Florida, Michigan, Colorado, Louisiana, Kentucky, and Arkansas, usually immediately before those states' primaries. I have an incredibly difficult time believing this is anything less than voter disenfranchisement - if their intentions were good, why wouldn't WVWV identify themselves on the call? Why target black voters? Why use a fictitious identity for the call, and why else use the name Lamont, if not to immediately establish the caller's racial identity? Why choose the week before an election to suggest to these (largely black) voters that they may not be registered to vote? From my perspective, the odds of all these factors being coincidental is virtually nill. But I look forward to the full accounting, which I hope you will encourage WVWV to make public.
Thank you. Stef

He's Back

By 3rd Way

Today is a good day. Thomas Friedman has returned to the NYT opinion page. I will never forgive him for his support of the Iraq invasion, but he is one of the few pundits whose writings I make sure to read.

His latest column blasts our energy policy and the pandering of Clinton and McCain with their gas-tax holiday nonsense.

He rightfully describes it as "so ridiculous, so unworthy of the people aspiring to lead our nation, it takes your breath away".

Rev. Wright: What digby said

by folkbum
[Obama] is a guy who has written a book about being abandoned by his father and here comes father figure Wright, so self-centered that he apparently couldn't accept that his own star burned less brightly than the younger man who was very possibly on his way to becoming America's first black president. James Carville famously called Bill Richardson "Judas" recently for endorsing Senator Obama over Hillary Clinton. I would say Wright has a much greater claim to the name.

We don't know how much Obama has been politically hurt by this. But we can be sure that the right wing will flog it with everything they have in the fall. They can't run on issues and their candidate is second rate (although he's the best they can hope for, which says something.) They can only win by attempting to destroy the Democratic candidate. And as bad at governing as they are, they are very, very good a character assassination. Wright seems intent upon helping them--perhaps so that he can drag Obama down into his martyrdom with him, I don't know.
Obama's in trouble here not because he believes what Wright believes--the evidence is clear that he does not--but rather because Wright is using the attention he's getting now to crush Obama's spirit. That's a pretty depressing thing to watch.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Rev. Wright Isn’t Running for President


The Rev. Wright has offended a lot of people lately—including liberal commentators.

Rev. Wright, who made a series of interviews/addresses the past week, has “devolved into self-pity and self-glorification (Walsh),” has been “inflating his importance in a pride-goeth-before-the-fall kind of way, (Robinson), is ”living a narcissist’s dream” (Herbert),” and so on.

It’s worth noting then that whatever one believes of the ex-Marine’s oratory, Rev. Wright is not running for president and absolutely nothing has been presented to suggest that Obama is/has been/will be carrying on Wright’s views in any policy.

That’s likely because Wright has not made any policy pronouncements.

He just likes to spout off at what makes him angry; maybe some talking heads like to do the same thing at times, maybe we do too. But Marines and black preachers can be a bit heavy-handed, unlike the judicious and thoughtful folks on cable TV.

John McCain and the corporate media love smearing Obama when a smear looks doable; and doubt persists about whether a black man like Obama can ever really love our country like a white man/woman can.

No doubt that McCain has never uttered an intemperate remark or said anything objectionable during his tenure in elected office, and McCain will be held to the same standard and scrutiny as Obama’s retired pastor by the muckraking American corporate media.

The American media do not exactly have a first-rate record when it comes to discussing matters of substance in presidential elections. This sad history ought to be the focus of liberal commentators.

But for now, even Salon is asking: What should Obama do about Rev. Jeremiah Wright? And not: What should Obama do about the inane corporate media and our vapid political culture.
Now is the time for Obama to make a major address on the real needs of real people v. corporate media obsession on the inane. Regain control of brand and make the foolish react to message of change and substance.

Congrats to WAMI winners

by folkbum

Among the WAMI winners last night were Peter Mulvey, who is quite simply the best songwriter in Milwaukee at the moment (and on whom, I admit, I have a bit of a boy-crush), and the Moon Gypsies, some of whom I've known since forever and even had play at my wedding reception when they were the Common Faces.

Congratulations to all the winners, of course, but I felt I should highlight those two.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Hell Is For Children

by capper

When I worked in the foster care system, Pat Benatar's song was my unofficial anthem. It helped me remember why I put myself through the pain and the stress that went with the job. I had suppressed that memory until recent events brought it back to the forefront.

Today's news regarding the horror in Texas shows that more than 30 of the teenage girls that were removed from the FLDS complex are either pregnant or were pregnant during their childhood. To make things even worse, the officials are having a very hard time straightening out who is who, and how each person is related to each other.

I have only had a few instances during my professional career in which I have personally seen situations like that, with the teenage girls being pregnant and sexually abused, and relationships and boundaries being blurred, if not outright eradicated, but no where to the same number of people involved. I am reluctant to even write my suspicions, as that they are that horrible, but I hope with all my heart that is not the case here, for the children's sake.

And in another case of child maltreatment, word comes from Marathon County that the parents of Madeline Kara Neumann have each been charged with a count of second degree reckless homicide.

This is as it should be. Even though the parents have the right to worship as they choose, and they have the right to raise their children as they see fit, this is outweighed by the child's right to life. This appears to be a feeling shared equally among the left and the right. (Ironically, the right loses this feeling when it comes to having to pay for the medical attention.)

As sad and as revolting as these two stories are, equally sad is the fact that the usual suspects will overlook the horror and try to spin it as some sort of persecution of the faithful.

US Supreme Court Finally Cracks Down on Boss Tweed

by folkbum

And it's about damn time, I say! Boss Tweed's reign of terror has ruined New York City politics for far too long:
States can require voters to produce photo identification, the Supreme Court ruled Monday, upholding a Republican-inspired law that Democrats say will keep some poor, older and minority voters from casting ballots. [. . .]

Several critics pointed to a footnote in [Justice] Stevens' opinion to show how far back he went — 140 years — to describe the corrosive effects of widespread fraud at polling places, a reference to Boss Tweed's influence in New York's municipal elections in 1868.
Unfortunately, at the same time as the high court clamped down on Tamany Hall, it found a solution to a problem that just does not exist. As I have documented time and time again here (just read down), there is a concerted, genuine, partisan effort by Republicans going on across the country to erect barriers to voting among groups that traditionally vote for Democrats. In state after state, Republicans have stood in legislative chambers, in front of homes, behind podia, anywhere they could find room to stand, really, and repeated the same lies: In-person voter fraud is real, rampant, and destroying the integrity of our elections.

It's the same. Damn. Speech. Everywhere across the country. The Republicans hold retreats and pass around talking points for how to get it done. And it has nothing--nothing--to do with protecting the vote. (If it did, the most common form of voter fraud, which is fraud by absentee ballot, would be at the top of the priority list. It is not--most absentee voters tend to vote Republican.)

The number of contemporary cases of in-person voter fraud the law's supporters were able to present to the court? One. Out of hundreds of millions of votes cast in the last couple of decades. One.

Yet SCOTUS validates the lies. Welcome to John Roberts's America.

MPS to make up snow days

by folkbum

I figure it'll hit the news eventually, but MPS parents (and teachers!) need to know now:
April 28, 2008

Dear Fellow MPS Staff Members:

We would like to share information on snow days with you.

We received two letters from the Wisconsin Department of Instruction stating that DPI will issue no waivers to any districts who have inquired about the need to make up forloss of instructional time due to snow days when schools were closed this year. DPI administrators have told us we must make up two days in the calendar, or risk losing more than $3 million in general equalization aid.

Because of the two bad-weather days, we are below the requirement of 175 days of instruction and also lack the appropriate number of instructional minutes. We cannot simply add time to the school day to make up this time.

As a result, the MPS student calendar will be adjusted to make up two snow days.

All schools: We will use the May 14th banking day as a student attendance day. In addition, we plan to use the emergency makeup day that had previously been negotiated in contracts. This would mean that the last instructional day will now be June 13th, a Friday. The records day that had been scheduled for June 13th now will fall on Monday, June 16th.

We will very quickly begin messaging our parents. You can expect to see flyers available for school sites in all languages, a news release for media, and information on the MPS portal. We know that we can trust those of you who have regular contact with our families will help us get the word out.

Thank you,
Superintendent William Andrekopoulos

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Milwaukee Children Are Still Not Being Protected

by capper

Ironically, at the end of Child Abuse Prevention Month, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported today that the Bureau of Milwaukee Child Welfare still isn't doing its job. Today's article focused on the Bureau's inability to provide services to families in which one or both of the parents have mental health issues. This is not surprising, as that the Bureau has a long history of not providing services to families, which needs to be done for the children to be reunited with their families, or to find a permanent alternative home. These services are required by state and federal laws, to protect everyone's rights.

The Bureau has historically done such a poor job of protecting our children, and an even worse record of responding to these problems, that three years ago they created the Office of the Milwaukee Ombudsman for Child Welfare, which was to oversee their performance. But they aren't even doing their job, and shuffle the majority of the cases that they're supposed to review back to the Bureau.

The sad part is that the system is so fouled up that I don't know if there is an easy fix anymore. I used to advocate that the system should be returned to Milwaukee County, which, while not perfect, did a much better job than what's been happening the last ten years. Unfortunately, I can no longer advocate for such an action, and still remain ethical. Given how badly Walker has destroyed the transit system, the parks, mental health services, corrections and the courts, I would be even more afraid for the children's well being if Walker would have control of the system. And I would be remiss if I did not point out that Walker was part of the legislature when this fiasco was slipped into the 1996-7 state budget.

The only realistic solution to start solving things would be to finally fire Denise Revels Robinson. She came to Wisconsin, after ruining Minnesota's child welfare system, and has been in charge for the entire ten years of the Bureau's existence. And despite repeated reports of failures to protect her wards, and just running a totally ineffective system, she issues a statement that she is aware of the problems, but feels that the Bureau has improved and continues to work to improve. But it never does.

It should also be noted that another person who has had her finger in the mix, from introducing the whole ill-planned fiasco to the budget, to being on the "advisory panel" that is supposed to be monitoring things, is Senator Alberta Darling. But she has already admitted that she has done a lousy job of things. She should be sent packing as well.

"limp-wristed girlie men, weenies, pansies and sissies"

by folkbum

Issues, much? But, you know, best of and so on.

Leave it to the professionals, indeed

by folkbum

When Brian Fraley wrote that "Blue collar white catholic swing voters, who may have been warming up to [Barack] Obama at one point, are running away from him in droves," and I calmly pointed to the exit-poll data to show where that was wrong, he eventually resorted to a sad kind of argument from authority:
Jay, I realize that while I’ve only been doing this for 16 years, you teach in MPS and stayed in a Holiday Inn Express last night, but let me try to explain.
First of all, Fraley should know that a teacher's salary cannot provide posh Holiday Inn Express kinds of lodgings--more like Motel 3-and-a-half. Second of all, he never answered my questions, which were simple and direct. What evidence did he have that these voters were leaving Obama, let alone "in droves"? Why was he not making a similar argument about Hillary Clinton, that black voters were "leaving" her "in droves"?

I mean, she lost the "black vote," if you want to call it that, by far more than Obama lost the "white vote." Obama won 90% of blacks and Clinton won only 63% of whites. (In Ohio, Obama won only 87% of black voters--clearly they are "running" away from Clinton!)

As I said, Fraley could not answer the question except to pat me on the head (electronically) and to say, "Trust me, I'm the professional." This was a theme picked up on by an ex-professional, James the Son of Wigder, in a post he actually had the nerve to title "Some things are best left to professionals":
I was really laughing when I saw Brian Fraley's response to an attempt by Jay "folkbum" Bullock to spin Pennsylvania for his candidate.
Wigderson did not read very carefully, since he didn't catch, apparently, that Obama was not "my candidate." He also didn't bother to offer an answer to my questions, either, or to explain to me how Fraley's statement that "blue collar white catholic swing voters [. . .] are running away from [Obama] in droves" was anything approximating the truth. Neither could say anything more than that Obama had lost a state primary that he was never predicted win, and that he lost constituencies in that primary that he was never predicted to win. And yet, somehow, that's the equivalent of voters "running away from him in droves."

Thick as thieves, these "professionals."

So let me offer a counter argument from authority, from the "professionals" at Real Clear Politics, who, more than anyone else out there, are providing thorough and invigorating coverage of the primary. Their numbers are cited far more often than just about anyone else's when it comes to primary and delegate analysis. Here's the "professional":
We might expect Obama to have improved relative to Ohio in the southeast [of Pennsylvania, the Philly area]. However, this does not appear to have been the case. When we control for race, income, and age, we get roughly the same results in Ohio and southeast Pennsylvania. The same goes for southwest Pennsylvania [Pittsburgh].

What is significant is the variable that captures counties in central Pennsylvania. This was surprising. The model indicates that, controlling for race, income, and age, Obama performed better in central Pennsylvania than he did in Ohio. Additionally, there is a modest statistical significance to the variables for the northeast and northwest segments of the state. However, when we use a more expansive definition of central Pennsylvania, re-classifying the counties in the northeast and northwest segments that abut the center segment as part of the center, this significance washes away.

What is the upshot of this? Obama did not improve relative to Ohio in Erie, Pittsburgh, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, or even Philadelphia. However, he did improve in the "Middle T" of the state. This improvement was not puny. [. . .]

This is not to imply that he did particularly well in central PA. Clinton still won the counties by an average of 25 points. The point is that, if this area were behaving like Ohio or the rest of Pennsylvania, she would have won them by something closer to 33 points.
That is nothing close to "running away from [Obama] in droves." Obama did better in Pennsylvania than he did in Ohio, almost completely across the board, even in demo- and geographical areas of Clinton's strength. But the McCain voters out there like Fraley and Wigderson--knowing, perhaps, that their guy runs really, really weak against Obama in places like Wisconsin--have to do everything they can to cut Obama down, even if it means fudging the truth.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Rewarding Incompetence: It's The County Way

by capper

Until last year, Milwaukee County ran the Private Industry Council. Due to lack of results, the PIC was taken away from the County and given to the City of Milwaukee. When the County ran the show, PIC was under the reins of Gerard Randall.

So now that PIC is gone, what does Milwaukee County do? They reinvent the wheel!

In a move by the County Board and approved of by Scott Walker, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that they are trying to recreate a version of PIC:
The county effort was advanced by Supervisor Elizabeth Coggs, who won approval for the task force and $125,000 in funding for it as an amendment to the 2008 county budget. At Coggs' request, County Executive Scott Walker agreed to not veto the measure, said Robert Dennik, director of the county's Economic Development Division. Walker was unavailable for comment. Coggs couldn't be reached.

The amendment creating the task force called for appointment of a five-person board. Randall was named to the task force by County Board Chairman Lee Holloway. At Coggs' suggestion, Randall also was hired to the consulting job.

Randall has a desk at Dennik's division, but takes his direction from Coggs, Dennik said. Randall's consulting job with the county is "kind of an extension of what he was doing over at the PIC," Dennik said.

So now we have the County and the City of Milwaukee doing the same thing. Not only that, they hire Randall, who blew it when he was in charge of PIC.

Not to mention that duplication of efforts is commonly viewed as a waste of tax payers' monies (emphasis mine):
This month, Randall was hired to advise a new Milwaukee County Task Force on Work Reform for Men. He'll be paid up to $8,000 a month over the next six months, according to his new contract.The 54-year-old Randall was named to head the Private Industry Council by former County Executive Tom Ament, after working as an Ament aide. He has also served as a University of Wisconsin System regent and political commentator. Randall didn't return phone calls.

Randall's contract calls for him to determine what the county's role should be in work-force development, identify areas in the city with the worst unemployment for minority men and come up with a plan for training up to 700 men over the next year. Randall also is supposed to craft a plan to improve youth employment and to look for state, federal or private money sources.

Yet, Donald Layden Jr., a member of the Workforce Investment Board and senior executive vice president of Metavante Corp., says those tasks overlap with the duties of the city board.

"This appears to be directly within the mandate of the Workforce Investment Board," he said. County officials should share their ideas with the city board rather than creating some parallel effort, he said.

The move comes in the wake of last year's political shuffle of the primary local job development agency. Barrett took over the old Private Industry Council after a growing sentiment that it wasn't operating effectively and it had seen its funding sources diminish. Barrett cited federal law in claiming his authority over what had been a county-dominated agency.

Mmm. The highlighted area appears to be promoting a collaboration between city and county governments to be more efficient and make better use of tax money. Now, where did we hear about something like that before? Oh, yeah...Senator Taylor said that when she was running for County Exec:
The Senator's fourth point is collaboration. She would work with the various cities in the County, the various school districts and neighboring counties to see where services could be combined to help defray costs.

The example she used for this point was cutting grass. The county has their own lawn mowers and people to operate them. Each city in the county, have their own people using their own machines to cut their properties. Each school district has the same thing going on as well. She said that she would try to join forces with the cities and the school districts to combine the pools of equipment and the staff members to run it, in an effort to help defray the costs, while maintaining a well-maintained community.

Go figure. Guess she wasn't so confused after all.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Just Because . . .

by bert
. . .the quesosphere contains too few Latin American affairs, I offer a news item that I think is being underplayed.

BRASILIA -- Rescue workers were losing hope today of finding a priest who disappeared off the southern coast of Brazil after drifting out to sea four days ago suspended from hundreds of helium-filled party balloons.

The link has video.

Eric Thompson -- Worst Person in the World, Wisconsin Division

By Keith Schmitz

Wisconsin has a dubious distinction, that being the source for the guns used in two of this country's latest campus gun tragedies, certainly among the most horrific.

Taking advantage of the Internets, Eric Thompson and his company TGSCOM supplied the firearms that enabled Seung-Hui-Cho at Virgina Tech and Steven Kazmierczak at Northern Illinois University to jump into the headlines by murdering a total of 50 people at those schools.

As a disgusting example of turning lemons into lemonade, rather than showing any shame or embarrassment for being connected with these incidents, Thompson visited Blacksberg, VA yesterday to speak at the Virginia Tech Students for Conceal and Carry on Campus event. In addition, he is working to provide holsters donated by customers and manufacturers to almost 30 colleges and universities for students participating in "empty holster protests."

If that isn't enough, in a spirit of twisted generosity Thompson announced he will be selling guns at cost for two weeks in an effort to arm citizens and in his mind, prevent future tragedies.

From the press release touting his "good work,"
He has become a leading advocate for allowing law-abiding, trained individuals to carry a firearm to protect themselves and the people they love.
Yeah right Mr. Thompson. Tell that to the families that lost the "people they love" on these campuses. Parents who lovingly raised their kids to become successful, functional adults only to get a phone call and hearing that a person they love was gunned down by someone who used a weapon -- purchased from you.

It would be nice to think that somewhere deep down inside you are capable of understanding this loss and not using this tragedy in a perverse way to glorify yourself to people who have some romantic notion about guns and how they can magnify their self-importance.

Gun violence is a serious problem in this country. Somehow the idea that when something is a problem that having more of it seems to be more than a bit off kilter, especially in a low crime state as Wisconsin, where our violent crime rate is sixth lowest in the country.

Everyone in the US has a right to own a gun and to free speech. But you sir have taken this to a level of buffoonery and in effect, you are literally spitting on the graves of these people that someone loved.

Eric Thompson of Green Bay. Today's worst person in the world.
(With apologies to Countdown with Keith Olbermann).

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Yeah, because when I want cogent commentary on the Democratic primary, I'll ask a Republican. Whatev.

by folkbum

There's nothing quite so insulting as what we in the business call a "concern troll." They're everywhere, these days, even if they don't know what they're doing, talking about Democrats and the nomination process. Just trolling away, sounding quite, quite sincere in their wish for the Democrats to nominate someone who can win in November. Who are these people?

McCain voters.

I know, I know, it doesn't compute on its face, or even, for that matter, several dense troll-packed layers down. What possible reason could Republican, conservative, McCain-voting bloggers have for tsk-tsking the Democrats over our rush to nominate Barack Obama, whom they see as the weaker candidate against McCain? Well, it's the same reason why the Republicans are planning to air some pretty ugly ads against only Obama--not Hillary Clinton: Obama is the presumptive nominee (no matter what Clinton thinks) and, frankly, they're scared pantsless of how bad for their side a McCain-Obama race would turn out.

Maybe not all of them got a memo, no. But you can bet it's the talking-point of the rightward set, circulated at all levels and bubbling forth in public for consumption from a number of otherwise-reasonable people.

Exhibit A would be Rick Esenberg. He sidled into concern troll mode with a post early election morn, wondering, goshdarnit, what's making it so hard for that nice man to seal the deal with Democrats?
But don't Democrats have to be worried about a guy who can't put away such an empty suit? And no matter what the polls say about a race that hasn't started, it's hard not to conclude that Obama has left folks in places like Pennsylvania and Ohio unimpressed. You can make a fairly strong argument that, for a Democrat to win, Pennsylvania shouldn't even be in play. How do you get to 270 if, after McCain actually campaigns there, it's in the GOP column?
So many breathless questions, so much concern trolling. If there were a concern troll scale--like, say, the Richter Scale, or the Manly Scale of Absolute Gender--this would be peaking at a fairly solid 6 or 6.5, starting, of course, with his labeling of Clinton as "an empty suit." It takes a lot of, erm, concernes, as they might say en espanol, to paint someone who still can win a hot primary and run neck-and-neck with Obama with that kind of brush. Voters clearly don't see that suit as empty at all; in fact, one Clinton voter (*cough*me*cough*) highly resents the implication that I'm too dumb to pick an empty suit out of a crowd. But because Obama is presumptive nominee, such lies are not intended as lies per se; rather, they are to be read as an acknowledgment of reality, sort of a paternal pat on the head to reassure us that he, too, knows Obama's in the driver's seat of this race, something most Dem readers of Esenberg's blog figured out weeks ago. (NOTE: Had he gone with "an empty pantsuit," as many of his colleagues are wont to do, he would have slipped from concern trolling right into flat boorishness and lost credibility. That's what I like about Rick--he knows which lines to dance up to but not cross.)

Further, there are some other Esenberg concern-troll lies not meant to be read as such. For example, suggesting that Obama has not impressed the voters in Ohio and Pennsylvania. It feels true, again, because, well, Obama lost those states. But there are any number of ways to put the lie to it. For example, since the start of the elections this year, Obama has drawn more money in contributions from Ohio and Pennsylvania that Clinton has. Two-thirds of Ohio and Pennsylvania primary voters said in exit polls that they would be satisfied in Obama won the nomination--considerably more voters than actually voted for him. And while Obama may be behind McCain in Pennsylvania according Pollster.com's trendlines this morning, that's almost entirely because of Republican polling firm Strategic Vision, as opposed to non-partisan polling firms finding Obama ahead for the last month. Pennsylvania hasn't voted for a Republican since they voted against Dukakis--and they keep electing Democrats lately to state-wide office. It's nice Rick, that you seem to care, but, please, keep it and your falsities to yourself.

The Recess Supervisor makes a lot of the same concern-trolly points Esenberg does about Obama's losing to Clinton in states that will be important in November (apparently, McCain's losses in key Republican swing states like Colorado, Minnesota, and Louisiana don't matter). But RS's additional complaints concerns--not to mention his use of ultra-violent bullet points--put him onthe concern troll scale at about a 7.5 to 8. Here's some of his "concern":
Barack Obama outspent Hillary Clinton 3-to-1 in Pennsylvania and lost by ten. Shouldn't that be story? [. . .] Why won't the talking heads mention how Obama's narrow lead in pledged delegates and the popular vote owe largely to his running up the score in states in the Great Plains and the Mountain West that Democrats have absolutely no chance of winning in November? Are Obama's whopping victories in states like Utah, Wyoming, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, and Kansas really the stuff that Democratic superdelegates want to base their decision on? The voice of voters who will do NOTHING to bring them the White House come November? [. . .] Obama's spent a year trying to sell voters the yellow brick road, and it's starting to come up short. Swing voters aren't buying it.
Money: I think the story is that Obama is outraising Clinton three-to-one. How in the world can we expect Clinton to compete with McCain's campaign finance shenanigans if she can't raise money herself? That is my real concern as a real Democrat, not some phony ginned-up trollishnes of the Supervisor's.

"No chance" states: Montana, North Dakota, Kansas, and Nebraska have been electing Democrats state-wide lately. There will be close House contests in Utah. Colorado and Nevada--not on RS's list, but implied--will be battleground states in this cycle, based on changing Demographics if nothing else. As a Democrat, I want a candidate who can make those states more competitive. I want a Democrat who can have coattails in states like Utah or Kansas. I want Republicans to have to spend money to defend in those places, instead of in Ohio or Pennsylvania, and I want Nevada and Colorado to go blue this year. The Dems' win without the South strategy has always gone through the Mountain West, and if Obama can make it happen, that's a good thing.

The "yellow brick road": I see that RS has bought into the BS that Obama's campaign is some kind of fantasy of hope and change rather than a coherent and extensive collection of detailed policy proposals. It's funny--Esenberg calls Clinton the empty suit, and here the Recess Supervisor implies that it's Obama, instead, whose suit is empty. Is it too much to ask that the concern trolls settle on a single storyline?

But the concern-troll cake of the week has been taken by Brian Fraley, whose post yesterday goes off the scale completely. What makes Fraley bury the needle is not merely that he's demonstrably wrong in his concern trolling--and in total denial about it--but that he does it with a snippy I-told-you-so attitude:
After Obama’s ‘Bitter, Cling to Guns and God’ jab was made public I wrote:
If he actually said this condescending, elitist claptrap it will take all his vast rhetorical skills to talk himself out of the firestorm heading his way. And not because us rubes are going to merely cling to our guns and our religion. But rather, because he just insulted the largest block of swing voters in America.
Well, how did my prediction shake out after the first contest since his San Francisco treat? Well, look at how Hillary Clinton trounced Barack Obama in Pennsylvania’s rural counties and the northern suburban counties outside Philly. It’s not a matter of her winning there. Look at the numbers. The percentages are staggering. White middle class, and Catholic voters went to Clinton by unbelievable margins.
Lucky for us, we can actually look at some polling data to find out if what Fraley said here is true. We can compare what happened in Pennsylvania to what happened in neighboring Ohio, as the states share some demographic qualities as well as a border, and Ohio was the last major primary before Obama's "cling" statements were made public. (In general, Ohio's electorate is a little more amenable to Obama--more black voters and more younger voters than Pennsylvania--so that fact that Obama did better in PA is itself notable.)

Comparing CNN exit poll data (same company, same questions, already linked above) between Ohio and PA, you find that Obama actually improved this week! More whites voted for Obama in PA (34% OH, 38% PA). Obama gained among white men (from 39% to 44%) and white women (from 31% to 34%). He gained among those earning less than $50k a year (from 42% in OH to 46% in PA). He did fall among Catholics (from 36% in OH to 31%) but he gained among Protestants (from 36% to 53%)–and remember, his “cling” to religion comment was not specific about which religion, so it should have offended everyone equally. Fraley restated his claim in a comment even more explicitly: "Blue collar white catholic swing voters, who may have been warming up to Obama at one point, are running away from him in droves." And to prove it, he reiterates his point about Obama's losing Tuesday in areas that were Clinton strongholds. I don't see anyone leaving Obama "in droves," though. Maybe you can, and if so, I would appreciate it if you explained it to me.

And if you're thinking about concern trolling, please, keep it to yourself.

POST SCRIPT: Former Republican John Cole has a solid take on all of this:
I have had the tv on for 2 minutes and am already ready to scream as Joe Scarborough asks why “obama can not close the deal.”

Gee. I dunno. Because he is running against an exceedingly popular candidate who has a 16 year advantage building a political machine who just a few months ago was Mrs. Inevitable?

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Nixon's the One

By Keith Schmitz

The ground over Richard Nixon's grave must look like it has been freshly rototilled.

Barack Obaama has a supporter who has just maxed out her contributions for the primary election. Julie Nixon Eisenhower.

For Your Entertainment... Democracy

By 3rd Way

The pundit consensus going into yesterday's primary seemed to be that Clinton needed to win by at least 10 points to stay in the race. Even if she won by 15 points it would still be nearly impossible for her achieve a clean victory and take a lead in total primary votes cast, but stating that fact does not sell as must-see punditry. The pundits today are all opining on how Clinton made it to the all important 10 point mark and sent the race for the candidacy in to overtime.

I guess we should be pleased that the Democratic race is more interesting than American Idol. But I question why all media outlets today reported that Clinton won by 10 points, when she really won by 9. The media has a vested interest in extending this race all the way to the convention. A fracas at the Democratic convention complete with 1968 style demonstrations would draw superbowl-like numbers of viewers to network news.

If Obama wins big in North Carolina in two weeks, as he is expected to, he should eliminate any claim Clinton can make about still having a shot at being the legitimate candidate. Nothing will stop her from making that claim, I just hope the media at some point starts reporting the hard facts about the numbers game and stops feeding this fantasy about a comeback kid.

Inventions about the Internet

By Keith Schmitz

Check out the May 2008 Esquire and if you can get past the laddie mag pictures you will find an fascinating interview with Vint Cerf.

Who is Vint Cerf? He IS the person who invented the Internet. This fine old gent now works with the yong whippersnappers at Google, but back in 1980 he developed the programming language that led to MCIMail, the first commercial email system to be connected to the Internet.

Happy now? It isn't Al Gore.

Oh, by the way, when asked about Al Gore, Cerf said,
(Gore) had seen what happened with the National Interstate and Highways Act of 1956, which his father introduced as a military bill. It was very powerful. Housing starts went up, suburban boom happened, everything went mobile.
May it be added that all this driving led to the rise of the automobile industry with eventually employed 50% of the nation. Cerf goes on:
Al was attuned to the power of networking much more than any of his elective colleagues. His initiatives led directly to the commericalization of the Internet. He does deserve some credit.
So what do we do to say thanks? Make up some nonsense about Al Gore saying he invented the Internet. This fantasy has been attributed to Maureen Dowd at the liberal New Your Times.

But of course this post won't stop those of you from repeating this stupid cant over and over. Facts with some you don't seem to have that kind of spell.

What nation posses such a mass of pin heads who rather than lionizing or even just thanking someone with such foresight instead turns him into an object of ridicule based on a fabrication?

Certainly not in our politics, where now so-called gaffs are constructed from out of context comments or in Gore's case, a comment he never made at all.

Oh yeah I forgot. You are overtaxed, your guns will be taken away and you are being fooled about climate change by a handful of "scientists" on the payroll of the oil companies. So let's build a flaming bonfire and put Gore on it.

No wonder we can't move ahead in this hillbilly nation.

Who Says You Can't Fight City Hall?

by capper

A good friend to folkbum's, Tim Rock of Other Side, had a minor incident yesterday when his daughter was hurt. Fortunately, it sounds like she will be OK, but it could have been much, much worse.

The issue is apparently about the city not making necessary adjustments to what has become an increasingly busy street. This street has many children that play in the neighborhood, and all of the speeding vehicles put them in harms way. This has prompted Tim to write to the city officials to demand action. Here is a part of his missive:

Well, yesterday, as I suspected would happen, an accident did occur. I was walking our infant daughter and our dog down the hill. My seven-year old was ahead on her bike (there were numerous other children on the road, but none were involved in the accident that occurred). A van came speeding by me in excess of the speed limit. Another car was coming in the opposite direction ... again, above the posted limit (did they not see these kids?). I yelled ahead to my daughter. She became frightened and lost control of her bike. She fell into one of the drainage ditches ... I guess fortunately. The van didn't swerve much ... it couldn't because both autos tried to squeeze hrough. The van slowed a bit and then continued on.

I ran ahead with my young daughter and dog to find my other child screaming. Upon investigastion I was taken aback to see a huge, ugly lump just above her right eye. I gathered her up, called her mother and after passing my daughter to my wife, took Abby to Children's Hospital where it was determined she had not suffered any brain damage or other debilitating damage. Fortunately.

My daughter just missed hitting her head on one of the drainage pipes. I shudder to think of the damage that would have caused her. Last night as I held her, tears came to my eyes ... but there was rage, too.


Tim did get a response, but an unsatisfactory one.

If any of the readers live in Brookfield, please contact your city officials and help get this situation corrected, before someone else gets hurt, or worse.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

And What Of The Survivors?

by capper

(I apologize in advance for the length of this post, but the subject matter is very important and complicated. I tried to be as concise as possible without sacrificing content.)

It seems that one cannot open the paper, watch the news, or visit the blogosphere without reading about someone being sexually abused or assaulted. Normal reaction to these stories are anger, outrage and a call for action. This is even more so when the victim is a child. People focus their anger on exposing sexual offenders, making sure that the offender is incarcerated for longer and longer sentences, and banning offenders from their community.

People will try to tackle the problem in the best way they can, which is usually to focus on only a small part of it. Some will worry about the stranger, when, as Nick Schweitzer accurately points out, is only a small fraction of the problem. The greater danger comes from the predators that are family members, or friends of the family. Predators will also try to maneuver their way into positions of authority, such as teachers, counselors, priests, law enforcement officers, or other roles as trusted authority figures. This leads to people being distracted to arguing whether a teacher as predator or a priest as predator is worse. That is like arguing whether it is better to get burned to death, or to drown. Either way the damage is done, and I'm sure that the victim would have chosen "None of the above."

But no matter what the person's reaction is, what steps they take, or where they choose to put the focus of their anger and outrage, they balk when it comes to the most important part of the situation: Taking care of the victim.

I have already pointed out that April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Appropriately enough, it is also Child Abuse Prevention Month. The numbers of people, and of children, who are affected by sexual assault is simply staggering. The affects on individuals who are victimized is even worse. It can and usually does affect them the rest of their lives, at least to some degree.

I have mentioned before that I have worked in the foster care system and in various psychiatric hospitals and group homes. I have worked with dozens if not hundreds of survivors of sexual abuse and sexual assault. I will not share their stories here, out of respect to the survivors, as well as confidentiality laws. Let it suffice to say that sometimes I still am disturbed by their stories, to the point that I can become weepy, or it affects my sleep. I cannot imagine the hell they are going through, on a daily basis. For a small taste of what a survivor of sexual assault/abuse is going through, please read this piece from Linda Flashinski, who works with young girls, often the survivors of sexual abuse, at Southern Oaks Girls School

What gets to me is that even with all the politicians, the community activists, radio squawkers, and bloggers who go on and on about their outrage, and wanting to extract society's revenge on the perpetrators, they almost always balk when it comes to helping the victim get the help he or she needs to deal with their trauma.

Most often, the victim is poor, and would need public aid to support the costs related to what could be easily years and years of therapy. Even if the survivor has access to private insurance, mental health coverage is often woefully inadequate. Any attempt to correct that situation is often subject to obstacles and attempts to block it.

Without the necessary therapy and support services, the survivor is likely to develop other issues, such as alcohol and drug dependence, thoughts of suicide, promiscuous behaviors (and the resultant pregnancies), eating disorders, criminal behaviors, and other similar activities that end up costing society more than the original therapy would have.

For more information on the symptomology of sexual abuse and assault, as well as how to interact with survivors of sexual assault, this site from Cool Nurse is one of the most comprehensive and quick reads that I have found. For more information regarding how sexual abuse/assaults affect boys, I would recommend this site by Ball State University. Here is another good site for how to prevent your child from becoming victimized, and how to help them if they should come in harm's way.

ADDENDUM: Besides children and the developmentally delayed often being targets for predators, the mentally ill are often targeted. Again, the cost to society can be huge, in more ways than one, as this news story out of Sparta, WI, shows us.

Do you think Jessica now calls him "Loophole Paulie"?

by folkbum
A judge today refused to dismiss five counts of misdemeanor sex assault filed against an acupuncturist who practiced in the City of Pewaukee and Delafield and scheduled the case for a July jury trial.

Samy A. Elawady, 63, of Wauwatosa, was charged in March with nine counts of fourth-degree sexual assault in connection with inappropriately touching the breasts of six female patients, according to the criminal complaint filed against him in Waukesha County Circuit Court.

Defense attorney Paul Bucher argued that five of the counts should be dismissed because the state failed to allege in the charging document that the touching was for the purpose of sexual gratification. [. . .] The former Waukesha County district attorney said two elements are required before sexual assault charges can be filed: touching and sexual gratification.
Hat tip to my wife, who read to me from this story just appalled that anyone would offer up such a defense for a serial groper. No surprise it comes from a serial GOPer.

Happy Earth Day

by folkbum

(Less blogging from your friendly folkbum crew saves trees. Or something like that.)

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Cost of Freedom -- Now Discounted

By Keith Schmitz

Head on over to Boots and Sabers for a discussion that has started out over campaign finance disclosure and now has moved over to the issue of citizenship.

You will see some posts assert that freedom comes without a cost, beyond listening to Lee Greenwood bellow "I'm Proud to Be an American."

There are some enlightening insights into a certain line of thinking, and it is almost like reading John Dean's latest chunk from his oeuvre.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Growing in Wisconsin

by folkbum

I get a lot of email in a day. I'm not entirely sure how I end up on so many lists, but my spam filters generally keep the worst stuff safely sequestered in its own little circle of email hell.

But somehow the spam filter failed and let this one through the other day:



I've blocked out a lot of the particulars, including the email addresses not just of bloggers but of real people exposed because the sender here has no idea, apparently, what the BCC field is for. If you want to find the blog, two (conservative, natch) blogs have already blogrolled it, and I'm sure more Wisconsin-haters will be on board with it soon enough, so you can find it wherever.

The blog itself is nothing but a bunch of links to stories in news sources, with not commentary--not even an "interesting" or "heh" or "oh, crap, this one's going to hurt." Its blogroll is a who's who of who likes trash-talking Wisconsin, including media luminaries (dimunaries?) like Belling, McKenna, and Sykes.

Regardless, I've been doing kind of what this guy (assuming; the blogonym is gender-neutral) has asked for, and keeping some stories about Wisconsin business in mind the last week or so. I share a few now, since it seems this blogger missed all of them:
  • Menasha Packaging will expand its wide-web printing plant in Neenah by about 44,000 square feet and add a new press, the firm said today. The addition will mean a small number of new jobs, a spokeswoman said. Construction is expected to begin within a few weeks and be done by the end of the year.
  • The Carver Boat Corp. said Tuesday that it will spend $27 million to build a plant to make a new line of yachts in Green Bay and add 450 jobs.
  • Manitowoc Co.'s $2.1 billion offer for a British food-equipment manufacturer would create the largest company of its kind for products such as ice machines and restaurant fryers, Manitowoc CEO Glen Tellock said Monday. Combined, the two companies would have manufacturing plants in 10 countries and a customer list that includes some of the world's biggest restaurant chains, such as McDonald's and Subway.
  • The first Woodman's grocery store in Milwaukee County is open for business, bringing a new low-price competitor to the area. Woodman's is looking for more locations in the metro area.
And that's just a week or so of casual reading of the jsonline business coverage. Imagine what I could find if I cared to pore over the Business Journal, Small Business Times, other state papers, and so on.

Look, I know the economy is not great. If things were humming along, I think we'd all be a lot happier and (many of us, anyway) even more willing to part with our taxes this week. But to suggest that Wisconsin is somehow circling the bowl, and that any second now we'll all be suffocated by the vacuum of a mass exodus is ridiculous. It seems a little like watching NASCAR for the crashes--and it is certainly not constructive or productive in any way.

Let's Sing A Song Of Cheer Again

By 3rd Way

I have previously mused about the significance of song to our culture, and voiced a preference for "America the Beautiful". The Pope's arrival today made me take a closer look at a song that was sung, quite beautifully, by our Military Choir in his honor. After learning more about it I concluded it is time to pull the "Battle Hymn of the Republic" from the official playlist.

Is it just me or does anyone else find it unsettling when our President greets a religious leader with a gun salute and the singing of these lyrics:

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord:
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword:
His truth is marching on.

(Chorus)

Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
His truth is marching on.

I have seen Him in the watch-fires of a hundred circling camps,
They have builded Him an altar in the evening dews and damps;
I can read His righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps:
His day is marching on.

Chorus

His day is marching on.
I have read a fiery gospel writ in burnished rows of steel:
"As ye deal with my contemners, so with you my grace shall deal;
Let the Hero, born of woman, crush the serpent with His heel,
Since God is marching on."

Chorus

Since God is marching on.
He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat;
He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment-seat:
Oh, be swift, my soul, to answer Him! be jubilant, my feet!
Our God is marching on.

Chorus

Our God is marching on.
In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me:
As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free,
While God is marching on.

Chorus

While God is marching on.
He is coming like the glory of the morning on the wave,
He is Wisdom to the mighty, He is Succour to the brave,
So the world shall be His footstool, and the soul of Time His slave,
Our God is marching on.

Chorus

Our God is marching on.


This song also serves as the unofficial anthem of the Republican party, they sing it at the conclusion of their national convention. The unofficial anthem of the Democratic party is "Happy Days Are Here Again".

Happy days are here again,
The skies above are clear again,
So let's sing a song of cheer again,
Happy days are here again.
All together, shout it now!
There's no one who can doubt it now.
So let's tell the world about it now,
Happy days are here again.
Your cares and troubles are gone,
There'll be no more from now on!


The Democrats should play this up. Which party would a young voter rather belong to; the one that sings a song with an unsettling mix of militarism and Christianity or the one that sings a song of of joyousness?

I'm Sure It's Only Coincidence

by capper

I'm sure that it's only coincidence that on the day that Senator John McCain is coming to town to tout "his" economic agenda that the National Weather Services would issue a wind advisory.

My advise is to just stay inside and watch the telly:



On second thought, maybe I'll just step out for a drink after all.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Bad And Worse

by capper

A sign when your blogging is getting out of control:



And a sign when it's gotten out of control:

Drinking Liberally Returns

by folkbum

In the email today:
My friends, it's been a while. We've seen an ugly state supreme court race, the county executive still in power, and the presidential race bordering on the tedious and arcane. In this time, we need somewhere that we can come together to find commonality, camaraderie, and most of all, really good beer.

Thus it gives me great pleasure to announce that Drinking Liberally has returned to Milwaukee!

When: Wednesday, April 16, 7-9PM
Where: Sugar Maple, 441 E. Lincoln Ave in Milwaukee's Bay View neighborhood

The Sugar Maple, located at 441 E. Lincoln Ave., is just east of KK. They have 60 quality beers on tap, and it's SMOKE FREE.

We are happy to welcome our first special guest, Milwaukee Alderman Tony Zielinski!

Drinking Liberally is an informal social club. All are welcome, and there's no fee or cover charge. Come meet friends new and old, and have a good time.

While we do not endorse any candidates or causes, local candidates have found volunteers and supporters at Drinking Liberally. And you are welcome to bring literature and opinions to share. Also, teetotalers are welcome -- this is Drinking *Liberally* after all.

See you soon!

Jason and the Milwaukee DL crew
I will be there--the fat balding pinko commie drinking coke instead of tap beer.

Green Days

by folkbum

I almost never get blogads submitted, so it's always exciting when one comes along. The pretty blue ad there on the right takes you to an online petition that requires nothing more than your name and an email address. You can even opt-out of the emails the Sierra Club would surely send your way if you left the box checked. So if you support clean, renewable energy, click through. If you support this blog, click through. Heck, even if you just want to encourage the nut-fringe of the enviro-bat wing of the leftist loony brigade to waste their money on lame-oids like me, click on through.

Also of note: I got an email last night about a new project out of Marquette University called greenvoting for Wisconsin. While I am not thrilled with "greenvoting" as one word, the site looks like it could become a solid resource for people interested in environmental causes.

Finally, one other greenish-related item: The Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District is having a medicine collection day (.pdf) this Saturday, April 19, from 9 AM to 1 PM. (Note to MMSD web designers: Fewer pdfs, please!) There are sites in Milwaukee, Racine, Ozaukee, and Washington Counties for collection. It wasn't that long ago that there was a big study about how widespread the presence of many common meds is in our drinking water; disposing of extra or expired meds in an appropriate way can help reduce that problem.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Kentucky Shows Way Forward on WI Supreme Court Ruin


In light of recent Wisconsin Supreme Court races that were expensive assurances that the would-be justices will exercise bias over certain classes of litigants, here’s one progressive good government idea from Kentucky to which Wisconsin needs to catch up and follow.

From the Kentucky News-Enterprise: “Three Kentucky Court of Appeals judges will hear arguments on two civil cases at the (rural) Hardin County Justice Center Wednesday (April 16) to offer the public an opportunity to see the appellate court at work.”

From the Kentucky Court of Appeals webpage, a citizen reads:

Cases are not retried in the Court of Appeals. Only the record of the original court trial is reviewed, with attorneys presenting the legal issues to the court for a decision.

In Kentucky the 14 appellate judges (elected to eight-year terms, like the Supreme Court Justices) travel the state to hold oral arguments in various locales to, among other functions, educate the citizens of a largely rural state about appellate procedures.

That type of educational innovation and outreach is needed in Wisconsin where the candidates, third-party groups and much of the citizenry seem to believe the mark of a good appellate judge (such as a Supreme Court justice) is how often the judge will rule against the defendant appellant in criminal cases.

Wisconsin certainly measures up to Kentucky in Wisconsin’s webpage explaining the appellate system.

But this Kentucky initiative to reach out and explain the appellate judicial system, in place “for as long I can remember it,” in the words of a Kentucky public information specialist, demonstrates further how far behind Wisconsin has fallen in the integrity of its judicial appellate system and Wisconsin’s non-existent innovations (and many are needed) to ensure an informed citizenry as a check on the impartiality of justice in Wisconsin.

Show me an uninformed, depoliticized citizenry and I will show you rapacious, self-serving interests who will aggressively protect their interests with any legal means at their disposal.

Public financing is surely needed, but absent aggressive and innovative education on the role of the judiciary, good government initiatives will fail miserably.

I had to put gas in the Prius last night

by folkbum

I mean, really. The indignity!

But seriously: How hard would it be to put a display in every car like the one the Prius has, where you can get a real-time monitor of your mileage? Driving almost becomes like a game--how high can you keep the bar all time? Can I drive better in these next five minutes to beat the MPG of my last five minutes?

I wonder what kind of fuel economy would result from everyone's having a better handle on their consumption habits?

(Further questions abound: For example, how about a useful real-time monitor of your home energy usage? Seems like that ought to be standard, too.)

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Happiness is Warm BS

by Keith Schmitz

Just got back into town on Friday and saw this wonderfully convoluted letter from one Karl Schubert of Wauwatosa, commenting on his fear that if people admit themselves into a mental hospital they would be stripped over their hazy "second amendment rights" under certain proposals.

Here's the money quote from Herr Schubert:
If voluntarily checking into a mental hospital makes one ineligible to own firearms, this will have a devastating effect on mental health care. Gun owners will avoid treatment simply to avoid having their rights confiscated. If the Brady Campaign wants to avoid crazy people with guns, keeping them from getting treatment will not help.
Maybe it is their irrational attachment to an inanimate object that is evidence of their craziness. Even crazier is the suggestion that there is some therapy in allowing someone to nuzzle up with the nuzzle of their weapon (or in many cases weapons).

Certainly there is exhibited here a profound level of pathology, i.e. not giving a crap about the welfare of everyone else.

It makes good common sense that if someone has mental problems to limit access to a firearm which would magnify the level of tragedy if this person would snap. Who could argue that?

This leads to a question. Second amendment rights do deserve consideration. But for some people, where does the coinciding responsibilities enter into the discussion?

It's The Economy, Stupid!

by capper

Another Explanation For Poor Communication?

by capper

For all you Macophiles...

Friday, April 11, 2008

What We Have Here Is A Failure To Communicate

by capper

A couple days ago, Elliot Stearns posted the question, "Why does the Left in America hate America?" I posted a comment with an oversimplified view that there was a communication problem.

The next day, Jay put up a similar post, remarking on the loss of civility in people's postings and comments. This loss of civility has even caused yet another blogger, this time Patrick, to ban a commenter, mickey, who has a bad habit of making things personal with people with whom he disagrees. Owen Robinson, who also posted on the loss of civility had banned mickey a long time ago.

People, in general, often have a hard time expressing themselves in appropriate ways. In Jay's post, he mentions two bloggers who feel that this is the only way to get their point across. All they are really doing is blocking whatever message they wanted to express. If a person is insulted, they are not very likely to be receptive to the rest of the message. In my personal experience in real life and in the blogosphere, people are apt to me more receptive to what I have to say, if I don't call them a name or otherwise insult them. I, likewise, am more prone to pay attention if my dead mother isn't insulted, or I am called a name.

As I had mentioned in the comments thread at Elliot's site, I used to facilitate a anger management group for adolescent boys. The first thing I had to do was get them to understand what anger was. Anger is an emotion that is spurred by a real or perceived threat, harm or slight. The other normal responses to such a stimulus would be fear or sadness. However, in society, people are afraid to show signs of weakness so they try not to show fear or sadness. They chose, consciously or subconsciously, to go with anger.

The other thing I had to help these kids understand was to put what they deemed as threats or slights into proper perspective. Obviously, if someone is trying to cause you physical harm, you are going to want to fight to protect yourself. Someone calling you a name, or looking at you funny, is not on the same level, and does not merit the same response.

The hardest part was helping the kids learn to discern when they were feeling angry, what was making them feel that way, and thinking before acting and/or speaking in response to that stimulus. I think part of the reason that this was so difficult is that people don't like taking a close look at themselves in an honest fashion.

An excellent example of this would be the child that gets caught misbehaving, and then gets punished for it. First of all, the child is upset because s/he is being punished, which by definition is usually an unpleasant and averse situation. Secondly, the child, whether they realize it or not, is probably feeling shame for their behavior. But because shame is often considered to be a sign of weakness, it is covered up with anger. Then the child tells the parent that they hate them, or they take it out on their toys, etc.

Unfortunately, it seems that a lot of people have a hard time moving on beyond this point. The adult who is caught breaking the law yells at the cops and calls them names. He or she is upset due to the threat of punishment, and lashes out in anger.

The blogger who makes a dumb comment, and gets called out on it, lashes back, often in a personal matter. He or she is threatened by the loss of face or the feeling of shame.

I think one of the biggest threats that people feel is the fear of the unknown and the different. This is where racism, sexism and other forms of prejudice stem from. Instead of facing their fear of the unknown or the different, and possibly making some unpleasant discoveries about themselves, they chose to fall back on anger and lash out at people, hurling invectives and smears at a person, a gender, a lifestyle, a belief system or a race.

To get back to Elliot's question, I don't think that these people, in general, hate America. I think it is a specific part that they don't like, but in the heat of their anger, they get carried away and start saying or doing dumb things. The same can be said for the other examples as well.

Now, keep in mind these are not universal truths. Sometimes anger is justified, such as when someone is presenting an immediate threat, or when someone does something that goes against the norms and morals of society, like a rapist, child molester or murderer. Sometimes the person cannot control their emotions, due to a mental illness or traumatic brain injury.

Nor am I saying I am above any of this. I get mad too, and sometimes I say and/or do stupid things. I am just sharing my thoughts on the matter. Thanks for reading, if you haven't already gotten bored and moved on.

Cheney's Sunglasses

by capper

By now, everyone and their uncle has heard the silliness regarding Cheney and the reflection in his sunglasses. There was some wild speculation that it was a reflection of a naked woman or an alien, even though either of these would have sent his Pacemaker into overdrive.

This story has been pretty thoroughly debunked.

But no one has really caught the strange thing about this picture. Cheney is actually smiling. I didn't think he knew how to do anything but grimace and smirk.

Sometimes life smacks you in the behind ...

by folkbum

... and sometimes it's me in my Scion. No one was hurt, the other guy was able to drive away, and my airbags didn't even go off. And it was nowhere near Pete's near-apocalyptic experience; I was not very far away from that spot on the same interstate, but I didn't make the paper.

On the other hand, my car is not drivable, so I will be without it for a while. On the upside, my loaner is finally allowing me to assuage some of my long-standing Prius envy.

Anyway, thanks to the Milwaukee County Sheriff's department for their expeditious response, even if I did get a ticket (grumble, gruble). And everyone who passed us and didn't slow down or get over for the emergency vehicles deserves to rot in hell.

That's civility for you

by folkbum

Anybody remember that episode of "The Simpsons" where Krusty the Clown is trying to resurrect his career--well, okay, one of the episodes where Krusty is trying to resurrect his career--and some other comedians are trying to help him figure out why he's not funny? At one point Kristy Krusty squints up his eyes, throws on a pair of glasses, stick sticks some fake buck teeth in his mouth, and does a horrible stereotypical--some would say racist--Asian accent. "Ah, so" he says, and does an extended bow.* The other comedians look on in horror.

That's kind of how I felt reading this, from the guy who wants to elevate the debate on the Wisconsin blogs. (But, hey, at least it's not a retard joke!) UPDATE: I didn't keep my browser window open or copy and paste the original, but John Foust (in comments below and at bootsandkittens.com) has the Google cache: "Always be suspicious of government official who seek to remove themselves from public scrutiny." Owen has edited the post to fix the pidgin-Chinese sound of his "fortune cookie."

On a more serious note, Nick Schweitzer has a thoughtful look at the women-in-the-military topic here.

* It was not just offensive, but it was stale--Jerry Lewis ran that bit into the ground 40 years before.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Smart Bush

It looks like at least one member of the Bush family may have learned a little something the from the follies of the elder members of the family. Lauren Bush (W's niece) is weighing her options before casting her vote this fall.

From New York Magazine:

"I think this election is very exciting. I mean, to have a woman and a black man as leading candidates is pretty amazing, and it's about time," she said. So does that mean she's going for a Democrat? "I'm going to vote for the candidate — I'm not going to vote for someone … you know … you have to look at the whole picture," she stuttered. So her vote's up in the air? "Well, my family isn't … Yeah, I'd say my vote is in the air. I don't want to talk about it."




Civility Revisisted, a blog post in three acts

by folkbum

Prologue: Remember where we started?

Act I: An email from a reader who wished to remain anonymous:
I think the growth of strong liberal voices in the Cheddarsphere contributes to Owen's perception of a decline in civility, not because liberals are less civil but because they're more likely to challenge his ideas. I remember when the dominant voices in Wisconsin blogs were mostly conservative -- Badger Blog Alliance, Owen, Kevin Binversie, Sykes -- and that overall the conservative blogs outnumbered the liberal ones almost 2-to-1. For awhile there it seemed like it was pretty much just you and Xoff on the other side. Now the raw numbers are almost even and with the addition of Rowen, Soglin, Whallah, Cory Liebmann and the Mikes (Plaisted and Mathias) the blogosphere seems more balanced and Owen's probably more likely to get a decent rebuttal to his posts instead of just a pat on the back. I don't deny that there's some civility lacking, but I also think bloggers on both sides sometimes tend to interpret legitimate criticism as a personal attack, just because blogging by nature is such a personal endeavor.
All true, especially that last point. When you spend a long time crafting an important post--the research, the writing, the editing--you can take it personally when someone tries to tell you how you're wrong. I like to think I'm good at knowing the difference between criticism of ideas and criticism of me, and I know which to respond to and which to laugh off.

Act II: The uncivil defend themselves.
Hermes: I hope my readers understand that I sometimes require them to humor my own indignations, condescensions, angry outbursts, and even occasional naughty words. [. . .] That's part of my idiom, my shtick. This is not a family-friendly blog! I'm not here to make you feel nice. I assume I have a mature, educated adult audience. I write about controversial topics. I write purposely to fire people up - to get them mad enough to go out there and grapple with issues, engage me in debate, and actively learn about the world around them.

Plaisted: I think sharp language that keeps the focus on what people say and what they do to advance their own political agendas and those of others is fair comment. I say this knowing that I have been attacked for my own comments and characterizations. I try to challenge and engage people on the other side on their terms about what they are saying and doing on subjects they have chosen to engage in.
That's on the left. None of the uncivil on the right have offered a defense, and some, in fact, have offered massive dumps of irony instead.

Act III: Blogroll watch. Vague or specific promises in some quarters--notably, these quarters--to clean the uncivil from the blogrolls have, far as I can tell, produced no changes. At least this blogger was already off most of their lists ... but surely the line has been finally crossed with that post?

There remain no words

by folkbum

Revised (original) shorter Dad29: Why do women in the military get raped? Because the Clenis violated Natural Law.

Actually, I lied; there are words: Go read Emily Mills's response.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

The show Mark Belling, Badger Blogger, the religious right, and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel didn't want you to see

by folkbum

In a fit of misoverestimation of my own talent, I once upon a time hauled my guitar, my many capos, my nasally voice, and a dozen songs into a Real Live Recording Studio and hauled out a professionally produced CD.

That recording studio was Walls Have Ears, which is located in an historic Oakland Avenue building on Milwaukee's East Side. The studio has both produced WAMI-award winning artists and records and been a WAMI-award winner itself. A relative unknown, I was able to afford such a swanky outfit because I was the learning-curve project for now-expert engineer Sandy Weisto. The project was then mastered by Walls's owner, Bill Stace.

For making my warbly self sound almost listenable, I owe both Sandy and Bill a tremendous debt, even though it was years ago.

The historic building housing Walls Have Ears is actually the Miramar Theatre, also owned and operated by Bill Stace. It has re-invented itself as a home to eclectic performances of all kinds, hosting plays ("Late Night Catechism" had two long runs there), music, films, and the best Tuesday-night open stage in town. (The open stage is run by Sandy; for two bucks you get an appreciative audience, 15 minutes on the big stage, and a complimentary CD of your performance.)

So I got my dander up a bit when I saw this a few weeks ago on my usual rounds through the Milwaukee blogs:
The Milwaukee Journal/Sentinel chose Good Friday to start running an ad for a play called Puppetry of the Penis. [. . .] The show isn’t until mid-April, but they have to run the ad this weekend to get the full shock value for their perverted show. Mark Belling spoke about this outrage today, he called and spoke to some vice president of advertising at the paper, he wouldn’t give a straight answer to anything.
The show is at the Miramar from April 15-20, as you may have noticed from the BlogAd running there on the right hand side of your screen. And as it turns out, all the bullying from Belling, the religious right, Patrick and others on the blogs must have done a number on that nameless "some vice president of advertising" since the paper caved and pulled the ads. I got this email from Bill a short time later:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 28, 2008

MILWAUKEE JOURNAL-SENTINEL CALLED IT “SILLY, NOT SALACIOUS” IN 2004 BUT NOW THEY ARE REFUSING TO RUN ADS FOR THE SHOW

After receiving complaints regarding a PUPPETRY OF THE PENIS ad which ran on Good Friday, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel is refusing to run additional ads for the show, which will appear at the Miramar Theatre in Milwaukee April 15-20. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel had no problems running ads for previous engagements of the show and ran an ad without complaint prior to Good Friday.

In keeping with the comedic tone of the show, return engagements such as Milwaukee, are being referred to as part of the “Res-erection” tour. It was an unfortunate coincidence that an ad featuring this language ran on Good Friday. Producer David J. Foster and William Stace, owner of the Miramar Theatre sent a letter to the editor of the Journal-Sentinel on March 25th apologizing to those who may have been offended, and explained that the same ad runs year round wherever the show is being presented, and was never intended to make light of the religious holiday. The newspaper declined to run the letter.

PUPPETRY OF THE PENIS is a comedy. It is not sexual and there is no swearing. And, we certainly make no references to the Bible, Christianity or any other religion. “We have even received a clean bill of health from the Bishop of Colchester, who said, ‘There is nothing wicked about the human body. I refuse to condemn this show.’”

PUPPETRY OF THE PENIS sent the Journal-Sentinel a revision of the ad with the words the “Res-erection Tour” removed. Instead, a quote from the Journal-Sentinel’s review of the show in 2004 (“Silly, not salacious”) was included. The newspaper still refused to run the ad. Speaking from his office in New York, show producer David J. Foster said “It’s a shame that the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel is being swayed by a small minority of people who are afraid of seeing the word ‘penis’ in the newspaper."
I don't think I'll be able to make it to a show (there are already a couple of other
things on my agenda for next week), but anything that irks Mark Belling has got to be a good thing in my book. So I'm helping Bill promote the show since your local daily paper--the same daily that gave it a fairly favorable review a few years back--apparently doesn't want you to go see it. I say, go; support local independent venues like the Miramar and show the bullies that they don't get to decide for you what is and is not appropriate entertainment.