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Pay no attention to the people behind the curtain

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Earmarks -- A Pin Prick in the Fed Budget


By Keith R. Schmitz

Hey Barack, next time Senator McCain prattles on about ear marks, ask him if he knows how big the federal budget is and what else he plans to do with his time.

Here's help from Grasping Reality with Both Hands.

Love it when I brought up earmarks a while back and some of you whined about how $16 billion is a big number.

Would you like an eyedropper of ice cream with your slice of pie?


folkbum live and in person

by folkbum

You have two chances to see me, meet me, beat me up in the parking lot, whatever, in the next few days--one with music and one without.

Eating Liberally, Drinking Liberally's solid cousin, meets on the first Wednesday of the month. That means tomorrow, Wednesday Oct. 1, I will (probably--I have had this cold that is making life unbearable) be at the Beans and Barley Cafe, 1901 E. North Avenue, at 6 PM for the festivities. Join us!

Joyce Parker Productions, an occasional Saturday music series in Bay View, is hosting 2/3 of the Portage Road Songwriters Guild this weekend on Saturday, October 4. Come see me, Chris Straw (with Jon Pagenkopf), Chris Head, and Mark Plotkin. The show is free and goes from 3 to 4 PM. The venue's on KK between Lenox and Russell--2685 S. Kinnickinnic Avenue. I hope to see you there!

This is why I don't do fundraisers

Goal Thermometerby folkbum

As I type this, it's been six weeks since I pasted in this thermometer with a modest goal of $500 for Barack Obama and other Wisconsin candidates (if I'm missing someone I should be listing, let me know). And as I type this, there's just $175 in the pot.

But as I type this, it's also September 30, a reporting deadline for every one of the races involved. So click on the thingy and give. Any amount is great--even as low as $10--I will love you and so will the candidates.

Monday, September 29, 2008

The thing about Paul Ryan

by folkbum

I mean, besides his being a liar (which "one of his local banks" failed?!?).

Ryan's raising some eyebrows for having railed strongly against the bailout bill--even against the principles within the bill--but then having voted for the measure this afternoon. (The bill failed, about which I am ambivalent. It was a better bill than the blank check Paulson asked for, but it was not great. And the devil we don't know is yet to come.)

It's simple, really: Paul Ryan voted for this bill because John Boehner told him to.

Nancy Pelosi told Democrats to "vote their consciences." Boehner said roughly the same thing (GOP whip Jim Blunt was desperately trying to round up retirees to vote yes, too). The subtext, of course--and it was probably made more explicit behind closed doors--was that if you were in a safe district, you needed to vote yes. No one wanted to take the heat for passing this bill, but no one wanted to say that Congress failed to act at the most critical time our economy has seen in decades.

Which is not to say that every safe member voted for the bill, given that 350 or more of the current members are likely to cruise to re-election. Even here in Wisconsin, you had Sensenbrenner and Petri voting no. But neither of them will suffer from bucking party leadership. Ryan is a young pup yet, and despite what looks to be perpetual (for the next few years) minority status for the Republicans, Ryan's a rising star and will need the help of the national GOP to take on Russ Feingold in a couple of years (or to try for Kohl's seat two years later).

Internal consistency is not important here; Ryan's already made his street cred. With all the bluster out there in the ether (and the press accounts that paint the opposite picture to what really happened), Ryan's got his fiscal conservative bases covered, regardless of his actual vote.

Anyway, Ryan's opponent: Marge Krupp. Give there, or through my ActBlue page.

Many Risked Lives for Voting Rights

by Michael A. Leon

As the GOP and its allies disparage and even ridicule efforts to fight voter disenfranchisement efforts led by our own Attorney General, it's worth honoring those who risked their lives for seeing voting rights won for all Americans.

Below is a video of Madisonian Jim Zwerg, a Freedom Rider in 1961, giving an interview from his hospital bed after he was beaten in a Montgomery, Alabama bus terminal.

People like rightwing blogger Jim Wigderson (I won't link to the ignoramus) think this sort of civil rights stuff is funny, the fare of those Madison liberals. Many know better.

What goes on the minds of those hostile to seeing that as many people as possible get to cast their vote? I don't even want to know.

I do know that fools like Wigderson need to acquaint themselves of recent American civil rights history though I'm not sure it would engender an appreciation for those who often gave their lives to make the American dream a living reality for all, including blacks and even those who might not have a drivers license.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Congratulations to the local sports team

by folkbum

I am led to believe that the local sports team has proven itself superior to a number of other sports teams and has earned itself a berth in some kind of champion-determining system of contests to be held in the near future. Well done, sporting men. May your further exploits continue to bring additional glory to this area in which we live.

The McCain campaign really DOES think you're stupid

or "Hey! Look over there!"

by folkbum

For a long time, I have resisted the meme going around that John McCain's campaign was willing to throw all kinds of crap into the race on the theory that people are too stupid to notice that it's crap. I've resisted because, you know, not even I am that cynical. But, to paraphrase the Bard, some people have cynicism thrust upon them:
Inside John McCain's campaign the expectation is growing that there will be a popularity boosting pre-election wedding in Alaska between Bristol Palin, 17, and Levi Johnston, 18, her schoolmate and father of her baby. "It would be fantastic," said a McCain insider. "You would have every TV camera there. The entire country would be watching. It would shut down the race for a week."
Look, we're not talking about Princess Bristol of Wassilla, heir to the throne. If anyone were going to command every camera as Princess of the Realm it would have been Jenna Bush. But--and it pains me to say this--the Bushes did that one just about right, demanding and getting a private respectful ceremony.

Seriously, if the McCain campaign (and Palin family) goes through with this kind of plan, not only does McCain deserve to lose the race in a landslide, but the Palins ought to be arrested for child abuse. Bristol has got to be the most used and abused and exploited child since the kid who played Webster.

Only Lobbyists Speak for John McCain

by folkbum

It's a pretty amazing feat: The McCain campaign has spent the last several months going through a whole litany of names of people who, though connected in intimate ways with the campaign, actually do not speak for John McCain.

You might recall Phil "A Nation of Whiner" Gramm, sent by the campaign to speak to a newspaper editorial board acting as a surrogate for the campaign whose comments were disavowed because, they told us, he does not speak for John McCain.

Friday night, vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin was watching the debate in a bar in Philidelphia, and a cub reporter asked he a question about Pakistan. She answered with a statement of policy that was too close to Barack Obama's position, so today John McCain went on TV to tell us that Sarah Palin does not speak for John McCain.

And not too long ago, we had an advisor to the McCain campaign telling us that when John McCain himself is out there on the stump and says something, that doesn't mean that John McCain is speaking for John McCain. (I am sure I am forgetting many more examples of this.)

So who can we listen to? Apparently the only ones whose words we are allowed to take as gospel are those of his spokespeople and others running his campaign. You know, all the lobbyists.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Friday, September 26, 2008

Another page in the book of REAL sexism ...

by folkbum

... as opposed to the faux sexism that we who oppose the McCain-Palin ticket are occasionally accused of--sometimes at the hands on the very keyboard that typed this abomination:
Kathleen Parker (of NRO)--notoriously the BillyBoyKristol rag... [quoting Parker's assertion that Sarah Palin is out of her league] And after assorted moans, groans, whines, and perma-PMS-driven b-yotching, Kathleen unloads upon us her Sage Advice ... [quoting Parker's suggestion that Palin drop off the ticket] Ms. Parker, I have a suggestion for you. Find Mr. Parker and let him have his way with you just once this year.
I realize this is all a part of the continuing pattern, but now, clearly, we see it must be a pathological hatred of women.

Johnny Come Lately

By Keith R. Schmitz

It has been just announced that John McCain will be deep in the heart of Dixie at Ole Miss tonight to take on Barack Obama in the long awaited first presidential debate. At least the U of Miss didn't drop $8 million for an Obama solo and I will get to enjoy some glacomole.

No tension here, though perhaps McCain's debate prep was probably just as suspended as his campaign. His supporters better hope not.

At least he won't have that moose in the headlights look that his running mate had during the Couric grilling of an unprepared student taking a pop quiz.

Now the suspense is did his staff interrupt their part time lobbying long enough to cook up another stunt. Maybe McCain will have the word "soy bomb" written across his chest.

My money was on him appearing. Wish there would have been a pool.

George Bush -- Bleeding Heart Liberal

By Keith R. Schmitz

As a memory refresher, though the extra chunky pundit Jonah Goldberg and others on the right wing as usual are pinning this economic crisis on what they feel are those irresponsible minorities and poor people (they have such control in this country), it turns out George Bush has been their actual enabler.

Check out this speech from 2002. As you can see from the YouTube, Bush is such a bleeding heart liberal it is translated into the lefty Dutch language.

A Bailout Plan

by folkbum

As I said before, I am not interested in saving the banks, executives, boards of directors, and so on who caused the current crisis. Let them all fail, retire to the boonies, and be replaced by a new crop of (hopefully) smarter folk who will not leave us quite in the lurch so much. To that end, I am kind of relieved that so far there is no deal.

On the other hand, I'm sympathetic to the argument that, until the market finds its feet again, credit will freeze. And a frozen credit market has severe repercussions, from the housing industry through the auto industry, even down to student loans and the cost of milk.

So here's a plan. Remember, I'm not an economist but I am a bleeding-heart liberal. That's where this comes from. The main idea is that if credit is hard to get, then the federal government should be giving out credit. Here's how:
  1. Set aside a bunch of money--and since we're apparently allowed no to just make up a large number and call it "right," I might suggest something like $800b--and use it to fund low-interest (2.5%, maybe?) small-business loans. Administer the loans through the states; businesses would have to show that they were rejected by at least one real bank first. Since the loans are administered through the states, let the states keep the payments and interest, and mandate that those funds be used for local tax relief, education, and infrastructure upkeep and replacement.
  2. Set aside another $200b or so to offer as debt-consolidation loans to consumers who hold high-interest, non-mortgage debt that is greater than, say, 25% of their income. This could be used to make auto loans cheaper, for example, or credit to buy appliances or other durable goods. Banks can make loans at rate that they're comfortable with--10% or 12% or something--but then consumers could consolidate the debt at a lower rate (again, maybe 2.5%). Again, go through the states with the states keeping the proceeds, to be used for the same items as above.
  3. Offer more federally subsidized student loans and Pell grants.
  4. Partially offset the cost of these (if you're counting, now well over a trillion dollars) by a reduction in payments to the states that already cover infrastructure and education.
  5. Further offset the cost by imposing an electronic transaction tax, which is like a sales tax on any electronic movement of money, of something like 0.05%. This would barely affect the majority of us (if you buy $200 worth of groceries on your debit card, you'd pay an extra 10¢ in taxes), but would make the big banks and brokerages more cautious about doing massive deals. A mutual fund moving $2m in funds in one day would pay $1000 in taxes. A $20 billion merger would create $10 million in taxes. And so on.
Again, I'm not an economist, but I think this plan would keep much of the consumer and business credit operating that we'd need. It would create or save jobs. It will help people pay for college. It would cut local taxes and spur local investment. So ... tell me what's wrong with it.

Obama's lead in Wisconsin NOT a statistical tie or anything like it

by folkbum

A Research 2000 poll done for a Madison TV station and released yesterday shows Barack Obama winning Wisconsin over John McCain, 49%-43%. The poll, with its margin of error of +/-4%, might suggest to the ill-informed or hopeful McCain fans that the state remains in a "dead heat" or a "statistical tie" since the difference between the two--6%--is less than double that margin.

However, that's not how polling works, as Kevin Drum explains here:
In fact, what we're really interested in is the probability that the difference is greater than zero — in other words, that one candidate is genuinely ahead of the other. But this probability isn't a cutoff, it's a continuum: the bigger the lead, the more likely that someone is ahead and that the result isn't just a polling fluke. So instead of lazily reporting any result within the MOE as a "tie," which is statistically wrong anyway, it would be more informative to just go ahead and tell us how probable it is that a candidate is really ahead.
By those standards, Barack Obama has a 93% likelihood of being ahead in the state. A mere 7% chance that McCain is really even or ahead of Obama is hardly enough to suggest that this is a dead heat or a statistical tie right now.

In fact, if you look at the Pollster.com composites, you can see that early May was the last time any polling firm found McCain to be ahead in Wisconsin, when Rasmussen Reports noted a 47%-43% split in McCain's favor. Every poll of the state since, even during McCain's convention bounce, shows Obama leading. The current average at the site is Obama 48.3%-McCain 43.9%. That's a 4.4-point difference, over what must be thousands of respondents. Using the same math as above, that means there is a greater than 99% chance that Obama is currently winning Wisconsin. We are not in a dead heat or a tie, and to pretend as much is ridiculous.

(Usual caveats apply--don't get complacent, don't forget to give to Obama so he can fund his GOTV here, and so on.)

NO MORE CUTS

by capper

Once again, gentle reader, we see Walker's weaselly ways with the county budget, cutting services, cutting jobs, cutting the quality of life for every man, woman and child in the county that doesn't happen to be one of his top staff members or one of his political backers.

He wants to services to the elderly. He wants to cut services to the disabled. He wants to cut services to the poor. He wants to cut the frequency of buses while raising fares. He wants to cut the quality of the parks. He wants to cut the livelihood of hundreds of workers.

What he needs to do is just cut the crap that he keeps trying to pull.

Please join me and several hundred of my friends to let Scott Walker know that the people of Milwaukee County want no more cuts to the services that we need to be a safe, affordable and proud community. Please join us as we let the county board know that we are holding them responsible for correcting Walker's negligence and maliciousness.

Join us at a rally for "No More Cuts" on Wednesday, October 15th at 5 p.m. It will be held at Clas Park, which is on the south side of the Milwaukee County Courthouse.

Further details will be made as they become available.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

I'm Looking For a Sensenbrenner News Bailout.

by bert
I have not been a responsible news consumer lately, off fishing and working and things like that. Someone help me out here.

Where do I go to find the news items and the talk radio interviews about Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner and how he is denouncing the use of government money to relieve beleaguered investment firms? This financial crisis has been likened to a natural disaster, with metaphors like "tsunami" mentioned countless times. Sensenbrenner has to be out there crying at full throat against this , right, especially since there are not sufficient controls on how that relief money is going to be spent?

The congressman was protesting loudly three years ago, denouncing the $50 billion spent on the hurricane that killed around 1,500 people and left a swath of humanity across three states propertyless. His point was that the use of the money was not being capped and scrutinized, and he crowed later that he was a martyr persecuted by liberals as being heartless.

I realize Sensenbrenner is no longer Judiciary Committee chair, but I also am aware that commercial bankers are the second biggest source of campaign contributions to the congressman, at just under $20,000.

But the amount of taxpayer money at risk here is worth more than 10 Katrina relief bills, and the Bush Administration was asking for it without much congressional control.

That tells me that Rep. Sensenbrenner is loudly denouncing this proposal. I just must have missed it.

Wherrrrrrrre's Johnny?

By Keith R. Schmitz

It remains to be seen how much voters buy the notion that John McCain is a dynamic change agent during this economic meltdown. Does he have the right stuff?

Certainly Barrack Obama has put himself across as being calm in a Commander-in-Chief sort of way.

Meanwhile Hank Paulson, who was known as a high risk taker at Goldman Sachs, was force feeding us his "solution" to the economic crisis.

Paulson, by the way, headed up Goldman when they were right in the middle of repackaging subrpime mortgages. Kind of like Typhoid Mary telling you to take the medicine that she concoted for the disease she created. Do ya have a right to be a bit suspicious?

Not a bad political ploy cooked up by McCain in the face of tanking poll numbers to act like you are flying into the situation (see Sven's post below) to save the day. That means pesky debates and appearances on the Letterman show have to be swept away to stop the speeding meteor from hitting earth.

The trouble is that having a stable, growing economy takes constant attention and adjustments. Not stagy heroics. Average Americans can't retire on that.

Check out this timeline that leads us up to this collapse. GOP fingerprints are all over it.

The question is not only did McCain have a piece of the action but what, if anything, McCain did to stop it. The Brawler plays the clip from the Palin/Couric interview when Katie asks about where McCain in his 26 years pushed for more regulation, the empty dress Governor Palin came up empty.

Go ahead. Try and fill in the blanks. Chances are that as many of us have suspected that for all of his maverickness, John McCain is your garden variety, out of touch, conservative.

McCain Loses Letterman

by folkbum

If the media were John McCain's "base" at some point, people like Jon Stewart and David Letterman were the lifeline McCain needed to the vital youth and couch potato demographics. They both liked the senator personally, they both respected his maverickiness, they both relished having him as a frequent guest. But it was clear during Stewart's interview with Bill Clinton Tuesday night that Jon had had enough of the current iteration of John McCain, and last night--after being personally lied to by the senator about his campaign "suspension" stunt--David Letterman cut him loose, too. This is just cold, and you can tell Dave is really, really angry.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

No Pressure


By Keith R. Schmitz

Hank Paulson's approach in offering up his Wall Street bailout plan sorta reminded me of something.

Oh yeah.

McCain Campaign "Suspension": The Inevitable Result of Bad Decisions

by folkbum

The John McCain campaign has become just one hail mary after another. It's hard to take seriously. I've been reading the furious spin from among the local righties about this "suspension," but, come on--McCain lost K-Lo on this one. How bad does it have to be for K-Lo to think you have gone around the bend?

The first hail mary was McCain's demand for weekly town halls. It's a truism that the candidate with the upper hand never asks for more debates, since the danger is that if people see more of the guy who's losing, then they might realize he's not as bad as they thought. McCain has kept milking the town halls for months, blaming Obama's reluctance to give McCain that free TV time for, to cite one example, the reason why McCain had to start lying about Obama in his TV ads.

Hail mary number two was Sarah Palin, which almost looked like it would work. It did, indeed, re-energize the conservative fringe of the Republican base. No one can deny that. But once the shine was off the apple, Palin's numbers returned to negative McCain territory. McCain still has that base, of course, which will be valuable for trunout and GOTV stuff, but he didn't do anything to secure the middle that you always need to win.

And now there's the current business--McCain has "suspended" his campaign so that he can "focus" on the financial crisis. That became important today, obviously, and not last week when Lehman and AIG happened, or anytime after April 8, which was the last time McCain voted on anything in the Senate. Color me skeptical.

Consider how masterfully Barack Obama played this, though. He calls at 8:30 in the morning and says, "Hey, John, seems like you and I aren't far off on this bailout thing, so why don't we hammer out a statement of common principles?" This is all on the Q-T, mind you--no one knows about this but the campaigns until much later after McCain blew it.

McCain has two choices: One, he can agree to it. This is bad news for the aforementioned conservative fringe of the party. They just got their wish in Palin and McCain's new-found partisanship; the last thing McCain wants to do is suddenly look all bipartisan and re-open himself to charges of RINOism. Two, McCain can decline, in which case Obama puts out a release and McCain loses at the other end, in the middle, where independent and moderate voters are looking for evidence that McCain is still the maverick they remember.

So rather than run or take the safe pass, McCain hail marys again, and "suspends" his campaign to go back to Washington. He does stop off to see Katie Couric and Lady du Rothschild first--and he'll talk to Clinton's organization tomorrow--but he's, you know, not airing his ads any more. (How desperate is he to save money?)

The reason why McCain needs to do this? Because of hail marys number one and two. One, McCain is now looking to get out of the debate scheduled for Friday, which was destined to be about foreign policy but would inevitably include a question or two about the present crisis. Had McCain's town hall ploy worked, this wouldn't be an issue, since the debates in the present format wouldn't be happening.

Two, consider what would have happened had McCain gone with Mitt Romney for his running mate. Mitt Romney, the businessman. Mitt Romney, the Fixer. Mitt Romney, who single-handedly saved the Salt Lake City olympics. McCain-Romney's numbers would be skyrocketing right now. But Palin? She doesn't know any more about the economy than I do. McCain's attempts to reschedule the first debate for the night that the veeps would have debated is a naked attempt to save Sarah Palin the embarrassment of being revealed ignorant on national TV.

As much as the right has been criticizing Joe "I don't know when to keep my mouth shut" Biden this week as being indicative of Obama's poor decision-making skills, you have to realize that McCain is now suffering mightily from the bad decision-making all along. (Let us not forget that all of it is compounded by the fact that McCain's campaign is being run by lobbyists who themselves or whose firms are closely associated with a lot of the players now demanding rescue in the bailout.)

No football coach would throw a hail mary on the first play. Or the second. Or the twenty-fifth. Only, only at the end do you dare, and even then it's always plan C at best. I do not want a president whose decision-making instinct begins and ends with the hail mary.

Obama, on the other hand, who reached out, under the media radar, to say, "Look, this problem is bigger than Republican or Democrat, so let's work something out together," is showing the kind of temperament being the leader of the free world demands.

Happy National Punctuation Day!

by folkbum

I hope you've got your period costumes ready! (Get it? Period costumes? Oh, never mind.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Sheep Shot

By Keith R. Schmitz

It should be common knowledge that the NRA is actually a front group for the GOP and really doesn't represent true hunters. This band of lobbyists/faux populist group are in line with GOP talking points and therefore are against conservation efforts which insure more places for people to hunt.

Our friends over at Boots and Sabers are lauding the latest NRA attempt to pollute the political atmosphere.

This is of course to stir up fears that jackbooted thugs will be kicking in doors to grab guns.

But the one question people who love to hunt should ask themselves is what has the greatest likelihood?

Loosing my guns under a Democratic president or loosing my job under a Republican?

Yeah the leisure time is great, but buying the shells might be a little tough.

UPDATE: dad has laid down the challenge to come up with a better NRA ad. Here it is:

Not Solving the Problem

by folkbum

I don't have a ton of time this morning, so this will be quick. But it's also easy for me to say: Neither the Bob Donovan nor the Michael Bonds proposal for fixing the crisis in the Milwaukee Public Schools will work. (This Alan Borsuk blog post has more specific details about their respective plans than he could get into the article.)

Bonds's ideas will probably save a little money short-term. But a million here or a million there--which is all most of his plan amounts to--is a drop in the bucket. Implement his plan fully and in two years, tops, we'll be right back here talking about what to do to avoid a 15% increase in the tax levy. That's without even any discussion as to the educational soundness of his plan--not all of which seems like a good idea. (Parents want to send their children to schools across town because that's where they see success and safety, for example.) In other words, Bonds's proposal seems only to be about saving that little bit of money, and not about anything radical that would produce different results from what many see as a broken system of public schools.

Donovan's plan is much more sweeping and addresses itself to K-12 education generally in the city, not just within the public schools. It is not limited to just saving money, but to trying to address that perception of failure. However, his plan suffers from the delusion that a re-organization of the players in this game of shuffleboard will stop the boat from sinking. I am a freaking broken record about this, I know, but the problems of Milwaukee's schools, public or not, are not schools problems but Milwaukee problems. There are decades of data to support this fact: Schools and districts with high concentrations of poverty do not succeed at the same rate as other schools or districts. Period. If the demographics of the children of the city of Milwaukee do not change, the educational outcomes are also unlikely to change.

It's not true that Donovan's plan is completely oblivious to this; I think there is one piece that could work to stimulate the kinds of changes that might produce different results long-term. It is the "Milwaukee Guarantee," as he calls it, making sure every MPS graduate has a job. If that could truly reduce unemployment in the city (which for African American men remains at well over 50%), then we could see a long-term change in some of the factors that make education in this city difficult--poverty, poor health care, transiency, crime rates, drug addiction, and so on. But that's not something that will make a profound difference starting tomorrow if we passed Donovan's plan today (and the state would be the ones passing the plan, as the Common Council doesn't have the authority to re-organize a Class I district).

My alderman, Tony Zielisnki, actually gets closest to something that might create real change in the educational outcomes in the city with this:
Ald. Tony Zielinski proposed a pilot program for assigning students who are habitually disruptive in classes at a specific school to “an alternative program associated specifically with that school.” The alternative programs would put emphasize “family preservation support systems,” in which specialists would work with students with the goal of getting to the root of problems behind misbehavior in school.
I've suggested before that a better use of, for example, Gates Foundation dollars would be investment in the families of this city, not in re-arranging its school buildings; in other words, address the Milwaukee problem, not the schools problems. For if we can identify some of the most profoundly challenging families--and streets and neighborhoods--and get in there with appropriate and unrelenting social support systems and job training and family counseling and adult literacy programs and rehab, we might be able to turn around the in-school performance of those children. The difficulty, of course, is that doing something like what Zielinski proposes or what I would propose if I were in charge takes more money, more investment, not less. This recent round of hand-wringing began, recall, with the idea that there just isn't enough money available for MPS to maintain its present level of services, let alone provide more.

That the debate is open is a good thing; let us hope, though, that those with the power to do something about it make smart decisions rather than cheap, short-sighted ones.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Some more perspective

by folkbum

I am not an economist. Ninety-nine percent the time, I do not understand what economists are talking about when they talk, and the other half of the time everything they say goes over my head. Whatever.

But when I hear something like, "We need to spend 700 billion taxpayer dollars to buy a bunch of worthless debt so the people who got rich selling that debt the first time don't have to give up the private jet and the house in the Hamptons or face any other consequences for their behavior," I'm pretty confident that I both understand it and that it is a bad, bad idea.

I mean, $700 billion is more than $2,000 for every man, woman, and child in the country. If the feds were truly concerned about the state of the American economy and wanted to juice it with $700 billion, they could cut us all a check. (Isn't that the Sarah Palin way?) We could all get a $2,000 health care tax credit. Every college student could get four free years of tuition. We could double the budgets of the 50 largest public school systems for the next decade. We could give every Major League Baseball team a shiny new stadium (don't stadia stimulate local economies?). We could fund the war in Iraq for the next six years. We could stave off foreclosures for millions of homeowners for the next two years. We could fully rebuild New Orleans and Galveston.

Any of the above would be a better use of our money than the purchase of $700 billion of hot potatoes, especially when the people who currently own those potatoes knew--or should have known--not to buy them in the first place.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Things I wish I'd learned this weekend

by folkbum

How Dar Williams avoids the carpal tunnel; her guitar playing's all in the wrist. I was in pain by the end of the show just watching.

All in Perspective


H/T Streetprophets

Things I learned this weekend

by folkbum

Apparently, all I have to do to get to share the stage with Peter Mulvey is give him a bicycle with a custom gear rack.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Well I've Never Been to Spain

By Keith R. Schmitz

More fake news from Andy Borowitz

McCain Proposes Sending Troops to South America to Invade Spain
Vows to ‘Redraw the Map’


GOP presidential nominee John McCain said today that if elected he would send U.S. troops to South America in order to invade "one of America's deadliest enemies," Spain.

Sen. McCain accused Spain of "picking a fight" with the U.S. in recent days, but warned that their "aggression and bellicosity will not stand."

"Spain can run, but it cannot hide," he told his audience at a rally in St. Louis. "I am fully prepared to invade Spain, and if that means sending troops to South America, where Spain is located, then so be it."

The Arizona senator seemed momentarily caught off-guard when a reporter suggested that Spain might be located in Europe, and not in South America, but Mr. McCain soon shot back, calling the reporter's comment "naïve."

"That's the old kind of thinking that I'm going to change when I get to Washington," Sen. McCain said. "My friends, when I am President, I will redraw the map."

His running mate, Alaska governor Sarah Palin, agreed with Sen. McCain's placement of Spain on the world map, telling the St. Louis crowd that "Spain is much closer than any of us realize."

"If you stand on the southern border of Mexico and get up on your tippy-toes, you can practically see it," she said.

Good Point on Immigration

By Keith R. Schmitz

Thom Hartman yesterday on Air America had a great point.
We don't have have an illegal immigrant problem. We have an illegal employer problem.

The Classic

by folkbum

I almost f-arrr-got to post this (something else had my attention):



I hope everyone has a good TLAPD!

That's okay; I don't need the job

by folkbum

See what happens when you don't go to the meetings?
The Milwaukee School Board voted Thursday night to begin looking into dissolving the Milwaukee Public Schools system.

The completely unexpected 6-to-3 vote followed a gloomy assessment of the short- and long-term financial situation of MPS from Superintendent William Andrekopoulos and several board members.
The vote was almost certainly symbolic more than anything else, a giant water balloon aimed straight at the people who for several decades now have stood idly by as the competing demands of expensive mandates and revenue restrictions have blown apart this district's ability to maintain the most basic services a school district needs to offer.

The article details a few of the ways those competing demands are currently working, and it will not surprise my regular readers. There's the increasing costs of special education, for example. As non-special education students leave the district through Choice or Open Enrollment, and as MPS continues to identify more and more of the remaining student as special education eligible (after the DPI sold us out on the recent lawsuit, MPS is now required to more aggressively identify, test, and label more students), the district special education population is approaching 25%. In some high schools, it's already that much and higher. Not only is it more expensive to educate these students, less and less of the money needed to do so is coming from the state and federal governments who mandate by law the expensive services we must provide.

Not mentioned are the burdens of the DPI's District Identified for Improvement (DIFI) mandates, which will require everything from mandatory summer school to extended school years to doubled-up reading and math instruction (where will those math teachers come from?), and the threat of financial punishment if we can't meet those demands.

There was also no mention of higher energy costs, the continued state of physical disrepair in many of the district's schools (the most common complaint among the students at my new school: the state of the bathrooms), even the skyrocketing cost of paper.

And then there's the fact that, because a year ago MPS did not tax to the maximum extent allowed by law, the state is giving us less in aid for the present school year. To spend the exact same amount this year as last, we'd need to increase the property tax levy almost 10%. If we wanted to spend more--to account for the additional burdens we face--we'd have to hold the city upside down and shake it until everything falls out of residents' pockets.

Perhaps the board's vote will attract the notice of those who need to start paying attention--the legislature, the DPI, our congressional delegation. More likely, it will simply increase the rate at which the parents who can keep bailing on MPS. Those departing students leaves a harder-to-teach population behind, compounding every one of our most expensive problems exponentially.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Say What?

By Keith Schmitz

From CNN:
Lynn Forester de Rothschild, a prominent Hillary Clinton supporter and member of the Democratic National Committee’s Platform Committee, will endorse John McCain for president on Wednesday, her spokesman tells CNN.

The announcement will take place at a news conference on Capitol Hill, just blocks away from the DNC headquarters. Forester will “campaign and help him through the election,” the spokesman said of her plans to help the Republican presidential nominee.

Forester was a major donor for Clinton earning her the title as a Hillraiser for helping to raise at least $100,000 for the New York Democratic senator’s failed presidential bid.

In an interview with CNN this summer, Forester did not hide her distaste for eventual Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama.

“This is a hard decision for me personally because frankly I don't like him,” she said of Obama in an interview with CNN’s Joe Johns. “I feel like he is an elitist. (Emphasis mine -- or should I because of the blaring irony?). I feel like he has not given me reason to trust him.”

Forester is the CEO of EL Rothschild, a holding company with businesses around the world. She is married to international banker Sir Evelyn de Rothschild (!!!!!). Forester is a member of the DNC’s Democrats Abroad chapter and splits her time living in London and New York.
Elitist??!!! She's a Rothschild for Chissake! Who does this woman hang with? James T. Harris?

On one level it is possible to pull for the McCain campaign because of the heightening level of entertainment like this.

What's She Got Against Women?

By Keith R. Schmitz

For yet another example of John McCain's personnel skills in selecting Sarah Palin as his dream date, ABC News reports that the real reason Caribou Barbie fired Alaskan Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan was not because he had gone over her head in seeking federal money for an initiative to combat sexual assault crimes, before she had approved the program.

Of course that reason changes daily.

According to the intro by Talking Points Memo:
It now appears that the program in question is one that most elected officials would be wary of admitting they hadn't strongly backed. According to Peggy Brown, who heads the Alaska Network on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, Monegan wanted to use the federal money to hire retired troopers and law enforcement officials, and assign them to investigate the most egregious cases of sexual assault -- including those against children.

In other words, if Palin's new story is true, she fired Monegan for being too aggressive in going after child molesters.

ABC News reported yesterday that, although Alaska leads the nation in reported rapes per capita, Palin hasn't made the issue a priority as governor.

Monegan, however, appeared eager to change that. "He seemed to get the issue and really took it seriously," Brown told TPMmuckraker.
This, on top of that Wasilla when Palin was mayor was charging rape victims for the cost of rape kits before the state of Alaska put a stop to it. Just part of the drip, drip, drip of stories that is eroding into the McCain lead.

And we have over six big weeks to go.

Are You Ready for Some Journalism!!??


by bert
Today Sean Hannity of FoxNews gives us our second peep at the person who could be the leader of the free world. What's important here is that he be nice to her.

MPS outperforms Voucher schools on state tests

by folkbum

Thomas J. Mertz lets us know that the Legislative Audit Bureau's analysis of test score data from the first year of an "accountability" project has been released. (Full report--27 pages of .pdf.) Mertz reproduces this graphic, which pretty much says it all:

(Click for the larger version if you cannot read the numbers.)

Now, we already had an idea that this is what the data would look like. In February, the university researchers conducting the longitudinal study released their first report on exactly these data and concluded, as the table above seems to indicate, that voucher schools and voucher students do not automatically outperform the public schools. The key new information in the LAB's report released yesterday is the addition of the nationally-normed test data, which I'll get to in a second. But I do want to make a handful of quick points about the WKCE data:
  1. MPS has aligned its curriculum to the state standards which are, in theory, what the state test tests. Voucher schools may be doing a good job of teaching things not covered by the state standards--which may be either good or bad depending on how you feel about our standards.
  2. These data represent aggregates. Individual students will still thrive or fail in different environments for different reasons, and anecdotal evidence suggests that there are indeed students who "make it" at voucher schools who wouldn't have in MPS. There are also plenty of world-class students in MPS.
  3. These data are still the "baseline" year, based on tests given two years ago in November of 2006. They show that in year zero of the study, MPS outperforms voucher schools. We should have, any moment now, the researchers' report on the 07-08 test data, which may or may not show the same results.
  4. The WKCE data here (as well as the nationally-normed test data below) tell you nothing about how well an individual school does on the testing. Lucky for you, MPS has a full suite of downloadable "report cards" for each school (also available at the schools or central office on paper) so that you can see how an individual school performs on the state tests, and how those scores break down by race, sex, poverty, special needs, and so on. (From the MPS Portal, click on "Schools" in the left sidebar; each school's profile contains a link to the last few report cards.) Voucher schools are not required to provide that information to you or to the researchers for this study, so you have no way to know whether your neighborhood voucher school does any better with your tax dollars than your neighborhood public school.
  5. Speaking of special needs students, check out the ratios in Table 5; less than 10% of voucher students tested were identified as having disabilities, while more than 20% of the matched MPS sample were and more than 25% of the random sample were. And the random sample performed best!
  6. Test scores are not the best or only measure of student achievement, but they do provide an equal basis for comparison.
Here's the graphic of nationally-normed reading test scores at the voucher schools that submitted them:

(Again, click for a bigger image.)

I selected reading because it was the first graph (there's also math and science), not because it makes voucher schools look low-performing. The other scores are not any better--voucher students at these schools are generally performing well below the national average. (MPS does not administer these tests--by law, it administers the NCLB-approved state WKCE test--so there is no comparison.) This last point reinforces what I have been saying all along, so often that you can probably now say it with me: The problems in the Milwaukee Public Schools are not school problems as much as they are Milwaukee problems, something I tried again to get at a couple of weeks ago. Yes, there are things MPS can and should be doing better, and goodness knows I bust my own behind every day to help my students beat the odds. But the solution to low educational achievement in Milwaukee is not simply the dismantling of MPS or the transplanting of MPS students into private schools.

Who knows; maybe the long-term data will prove me wrong about that, although after almost 20 years of vouchers, you'd think that they would be beating MPS by now if they were really the solution.

(I wrote this post instead of a response to Patrick McIlheran's column this morning about a potential boarding school in Milwaukee. The success of such boarding schools in urban settings around the country reinforces my thesis above: If you remove students from a disruptive environment outside of school, they can learn better in school. Ironically, McIlheran has long been pro-voucher, though the data seem clear (to date) that vouchers alone don't do enough to create large-scale change. A 400-seat boarding school won't do much for the other 84,600 students in MPS, either.)

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Not So Special

By Keith R. Schmitz

From the Progressive:
Campaigning in Colorado today, Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK) promised renewed attention to kids with special needs. She declared, “Ever since I took the chief executive’s job up North I pushed for more funding for students with special needs,” and cited her own family’s experience with the issue.

It’s a stretch to say she “pushed” for any policy improvements. Though Palin did sign a law increasing special education funding in Alaska, “she had no role whatsoever” in its development, according to the bill’s author, Rep. Mike Hawker (R). Moreover, as governor, Palin vetoed $275,000 in Special Olympics Alaska funds (Page 100, SB 221 with vetoes), slashing the organization’s operating budget in half.
Surely there will be some tortured, half-ass explanation coming from the McCain campaign.

RIP, Rick Wright

by folkbum

My own favorite story about Rick Wright is that, after having been fired from the band but re-hired as a sideman, Wright was the only member of Pink Floyd to make any money on the tour in support of the The Wall, as the show was so expensive to produce the band lost money at every venue. Here's a part of Wright's "Echoes."

Monday, September 15, 2008

Used Journalists

By Keith R. Schmitz

Is this is the shape of things to come?

If there was someone who could lay claim to the title of pseudo liberal it was Richard Cohen of the Washington Post. As the Daily Howler so often said, "Can humans get dumber—or more disingenuous—than this hapless pundit?"

Turns out the McCain lying has become not only so baldfaced is that not only that the news media which plays fair and balanced can't ignore it, these violations of the Ten Commandments are bringing out remorseful confessions from Cohen:
I am one of the journalists accused over the years of being in the tank for McCain. Guilty. Those doing the accusing usually attributed my feelings to McCain being accessible. This is the journalist-as-puppy school of thought: Give us a treat, and we will leap into a politician's lap.
This was such a remarkable statement I had to check the web page again to make sure it wasn't a parody site.

Well, McCain had to do something didn't he? The Democrats offered up a tight, well-scripted convention with lots of affect and drama, and if the McCain campaign didn't top it somehow McCain would have to serve out his days in the Senate doing what ever it was he did and in an assortment of homes. Instead he comes up with a novelty candidate and then doubled down with buckets of lies to give her and him an image of being Potemkin reformers, not realizing there was a technology for recording it all.

Cohen goes on:
His opportunistic and irresponsible choice of Sarah Palin as his political heir -- the person in whose hands he would leave the country -- is a form of personal treason, a betrayal of all he once stood for. Palin, no matter what her other attributes, is shockingly unprepared to become president. McCain knows that. He means to win, which is all right; he means to win at all costs, which is not.
It is funny. Cohen was part of the pack that stuffed fake lies into the mouth of Al Gore and set him up like a bowling pin, giving us eight years of the worst governing this country has ever known.

That's why there is danger lurking in the strategy that the GOP thinks is a sure thing, though it still might be. Somewhere packed within the minds of Americans is the knowledge that lies got us into trouble in Iraq. Is it a good idea to give someone running for president the idea that this country will fall for more lies?

At some point what has saved mankind is that eventually your integrity catches up with you. Looks like it hasn't with John McCain, but if it has with Cohen and the rest of the press the damage the Senator has done to a carefully crafted image may be fatal and unsatisfying.

Lehman Brothers = Marx Brothers -- Now That Worked

By Keith R. Schmitz

There will be a flurry of conservative hair-splitting and excuses, but the disaster that is happening right now on Wall Street with the collapse of Lehman Brothers thanks to the subprime mess should among rational thinking people put a stake into the heart of the right wing notion of hands off when it comes to the market. 

John McAdams, for example, might want to can go back and erase off his site those posts where he proclaimed the concern over the subprime blow-up as "a fad." One can think of less deadlier fads, like bungee jumping.

Those of us who thought "letting the economy do what it does best" would fatten our portfolios and hasten our retirements are learning otherwise.

There is a long line of people to thank for this disruption, but let's hustle to the front of the line John McCain's actual economic advisor Phil Gramm. The Angry Snapping Turtle as Molly Ivins liked to call him, was responsible for dismantling many of the post-depression fire walls that kept things stable. Keep that in mind when contemplating support for this ticket.

Like HL Mencken once said, "democracy is a form of government that promises that the people get what they want, and they get it good and hard."

Nuff said.  

He's John McCain, and he approves this mess.

Stop Me if You Heard This One Before Part III

By Keith Schmitz:

Q:  How come unlike many female politicians, Sarah Palin doesn't wear pantsuits?

A:  Because her pants are on fire.

McCain, Keep the Change

By Keith R. Schmitz

Admittedly I'm not totally on top of things when it comes to politics (Jay leaves me in the dust on that account) but I believe I am better than average when it comes to following this contact sport.

So when I subjected myself to that form of torture known as the GOP convention, I kept hearing references by the parade of white people about John McCain's bold Congressional initiatives, standing up to special interests, program of reform, etc.

What was nagging was there was no there, there. Give us a laundry list of accomplishments. Hell, give us one thing. They certainly couldn't of course risk a rain of boos by mentioning McCain-Feingold, which would bring out the true colors of this "change" party.

Newsweek's Jonathan Alter raises, and answers, this point as well, poking some holes in the notion that John McCain is this dynamic force under the National Dome by comparing the record to that of Barack Obama:
Obama served eight years in Springfield, and has been in Washington nearly four so far. In the Illinois state Senate, he authored about a half-dozen "major laws" on issues ranging from ethics to education. The best example of his leadership style was bipartisan legislation to require the videotaping of police interrogations, which is now a national model. Obama brought together police, prosecutors and the ACLU on a win-win bill that simultaneously increased conviction rates and all but ended jailhouse beatings. In Washington he has his name on three important laws: the first major ethics reform since Watergate; a much-needed cleanup of conventional weapons in the former Soviet Union, and the "Google for Government" bill, an accountability tool that requires notice of all federal contracts to be posted online. Besides that, Obama hasn't been around long enough to get much done.

McCain served four years in the House and has been in the Senate almost 22 so far. But he, too, has authored fewer than a half-dozen major laws. Trying to fix immigration counts for something, but nothing passed. So while McCain deserves credit for the landmark 2002 McCain-Feingold campaign-finance reform bill, the only other major law on which his office says his "name appears" (Palin's standard) is the "McCain Amendment" prohibiting torture in the armed forces. But that has little meaning because of a bill this year, supported by McCain, that allows torture by the CIA. Under longstanding government practice, military intelligence officers can be temporarily designated as CIA officers ("sheep-dipped" is the bureaucratic lingo) when they want to go off the Army field manual. In other words, the government can still torture anyone, any time. McCain caved on an issue he insists is a matter of principle.
Alter questions the vaunted crusade against earmarks, in this case earnicks because "account for less than 2 percent of the budget." If you think symbols are sexy then you may get turned on by the bridge to nowhere, but Alter points out the project "is offensive but amounts to the cost of a few hours in Iraq (now THAT's pork!)."

Alter charges that "given his claims of two decades of "making change," his record of legislative achievement is surprisingly thin. Nothing big on the economy, education, health care, law enforcement or other major issues."

That has been the problem with this campaign all along, one with seven, long, weeks ahead -- a political eternity -- that could take a big mouthful out his behind. They have scored a lot of political points against Obama with largely scurrilous charges and we keep hearing about "what has Obama done, what has he passed" and every time we offer something up it gets minimized or dissed. But where's the beef from McCain? Try to think of one thing that he has done. His campaign has done nothing to remind you what those things are.

Based on the record, to compare McCain's to Obama's. McCain defenders need to come up with roughly one fairly decent Congressional measure based for every year in the Senate. Can they do that?

The Obama campaign is fittingly getting aggressive. Despite the scurrying and worrying of some Obama supporters and the concern trolling both by concern trolls and the media, there was nothing that this campaign could constructively do with Palin being the new shiney object for the press.

Now that the two week penalty box time is over, the Obama campaign is hopping over the rink wall and ready to hit the ice. With all the garbage McCain and Palin has thrown out there in the typical style of GOP hubris, there is no need for high sticking. Just unreel the facts and crack the bottle of bubbly on a fleet of YouTubes. In four weeks this past two weeks will be far in the rear view mirror.

The fun part will be watching McCain simmer as the lid on him builds the pressure inside. You could see it on Friday when Joy Behar on The View was charging the McCain campaign with lying. You could imagine him wanting to lunge at her..

For anyone smug or sweating over the election, bear in mind November is a long way away.

I wonder

by folkbum

If any families in, say, Cairo woke up yesterday morning to find a hate-filled DVD called "Obsession: The Reactionary West's War Against Islam" included among the ads and coupons in their Sunday paper? And I wonder of they had, whether the newspaper that delivered the DVD to their front porches would cover the story?

Your Liberal Media

by folkbum

Because it sure ain't mine:
Over the five-day period from September 5 through September 9, Fox News spent far more time airing unfiltered clips -- that is, clips of the candidates talking at campaign events uninterrupted by journalists' voice-overs -- of the Republican presidential ticket and its surrogates than of the Democratic presidential ticket and its surrogates, also airing a far greater number of Republican clips. Moreover, all three cable networks devoted more airtime (significantly more in the cases of Fox News and MSNBC) to, and broadcast a significantly greater number of clips of, the Republican candidates and their surrogates campaigning than of the Democratic candidates and their surrogates on both Fridays after the two national conventions.

Of the total time Fox News devoted to unfiltered campaign clips between September 5 and September 9, 78 percent was of the Republican candidates and their surrogates, with 22 percent devoted to the Democrats. Moreover, of the total number of these clips aired on Fox News, 81 percent were of Republicans. [. . .]

On Friday, September 5, all three cable networks -- MSNBC, CNN, and Fox News -- devoted more time to airing unfiltered clips of the McCain-Palin campaign than of the Obama-Biden campaign, with Fox News and MSNBC skewing significantly in favor of the Republicans. Fox News devoted 81 percent of its unfiltered clip time to Republicans and MSNBC 64 percent. CNN devoted 53 percent of the total clip time length to the Republicans.

Of the total number of clips run on the three cable channels on September 5, 93 percent on Fox News, 77 percent on CNN, and 68 percent on MSNBC were of Republicans.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Stop Me If You Have Heard This One (Part II)

By 3rd Way

Q: How can you tell Sarah Palin is lying?

A: Her lipstick is moving.

It all makes sense now

by folkbum

Clif at Sadly, No! explains it all:
Look, I actually think that of all the attacks on McCain, the one that he doesn't use email is perhaps the weakest. I prefer things like, he wants to raise taxes on the 60% of Americans whose health care is provided by their employers or that he doesn't actually know who we're fighting in Iraq or that his campaign has deteriorated into a series of outright lies and schoolyard bullying.

In fact, I think Obama has sadly fallen for the right's Indignation Defense--the art of taking every single thing a liberal says and being offended by it as a personal attack. (We must remember, of course, that liberals are not allowed to be offended, or so says one of Charlie Sykes's 50 Rules.) The lipstick thing, the houses thing, and even the email thing are not personal attacks (McCain's lack of interest in the technology that drives contemporary American commerce and society is a disturbing artifact of his being out of touch, not of his being a POW). But the right has perfected the swoon and faint.

Imagine, for example, a group of liberals selling boxes of John McCain rice ("McCain's answer to every question is 'For five years I ate nothing but rice--as a POW!' "), decorated with pictures of a whiter-than-white elderly McCain coming down the stairs of his wife's private jet in front of one of their estates, at a conference attended by Hillary Clinton and Harry Reid. We wouldn't hear the end of it; the bloggers would post a hundred times a day, the radio squawkers would devote weeks of programming to it, FOX News would ask why liberals hate America and if the next step was ritual sacrifice of goats to Baal.

Of course, no such thing happened; instead, it was conservatives selling Barack Obama waffle mix, full of racist imagery and exploiting the stereotypes the right's been spreading all year. Democrats, unfortunately, have not mastered the Indignation Defense, and so such things will go on and on and on. Which leaves Obama in a quandary: Republicans and the media won't talk about the issues and don't care when Obama does, but Obama can't say anything that generates press except things the right can swoon and faint over.

(Similar situation: Remember the right's swooning and fainting when a conservative Wisconsin blogger was threatened by a petty, power-abusing mayor? Think they give a crap that Governor Palin did the same thing?)

There's no good way to win this, and I don't have an answer. The best I can do, I guess, is keep pointing out how stupid the right looks when it mounts the Indignation Defense.

Stop Me If You've Heard This One

by bert
Flipping around the dial on the radio while driving yesterday, I heard Michael Savage seriously ask (it was more like a yell) why Hillary Clinton was never subjected to the kind of scrutiny that Sarah Palin is now suffering under.

Friday, September 12, 2008

More iPod blogging

by folkbum

So I haven't spent a lot of time tooling around the internetoblogosphere, but a couple of things about the mini version of Safari that I surf with have already popped up to bug me. For example, the little pop-up keyboard lacks directional arrows, which can make it tricky to navigate through the text I type.

There's also this annoying feature that when I have multiple windows open in Safari (there seems to be no such thing as tabs) it seems to want to re-load the content every time I switch back and forth.

Anyone have any ideas?

Chapstick on a weasel

by folkbum (NOTE THE UPDATE BELOW!)

And yes, I am talking about someone--John McCain.

We can talk all we want about the outright lies he propagates in his ads. We can talk about the fact that he seems to have taken a page straight out of the Sarah Palin playbook, hiding from the media who might just be tempted to ask about all the lies and the ooze seeping from his campaign. We could even talk about issues--like The Tax Hike That Dare Not Speak Its Name--though I doubt that would generate any comments at all.

Instead, I think we should talk about how he is a power-abusing weasel. After all, if reasonable conservatives--some might even call themselves "fairly" conservative, think they can lie with impunity about Barack Obama and take Obama's words out of context and twist them, then we ought to be able to talk about documented facts that show how McCain is, in fact, a weasel.

In 2000, and in the aftermath of 9/11 and in the run-up to the 2004 election, I really, really lamented that John McCain had not beaten George W. Bush. "At least," my enfeebled Democratic brain told itself, "John McCain wouldn't be quite such a weasel." In fact, one of the most compelling what-ifs of the whole President McCain scenario was that, all other things being equal, at least a President McCain would not have a Vice President Cheney, Dick Cheney being being worse than a weasel (a stoat? a radioactive mink with laser-beam eyes and musk glands that can shoot a guy in the face?). Cheney has made an art out of lying to our faces, stymying investigations, and pushing his agenda in the face of contradictory facts.

But it turns out that I didn't know Dick, or, rather, John: McCain has been revealed to be exactly the same weasel the rest of the Republican Washington establishment is. Where to start? Why not Troopergate?

Butwaitaminnit, you say, Troopergate is Sarah Palin's problem! Well, yes and no. It's true that some of the most recent revelations (a pre-governor judge smack-down, and governor-era ethics advisor telling Palin to apologize for "overreaching" because the situation was "grave") make it look worse for Palin that it looked in August, but the right keeps dutifully explaining to us that there's no there there. And that may very well be true, and given that Palin was more than willing to agree to a unanimously-approved bipartisan legislative investigation as recently as a few weeks ago suggests that Palin had no fear that she'd be shown to be in the wrong. (Or, to rephrase and borrow from conservative dismissals of, for example, warrantless wiretaps: If she didn't do anything wrong, she should have nothing to worry about.)

However, just seconds after McCain, perhaps without really understanding what happened in Troopergate, tapped Palin to be VP, the cover-up started in earnest. Palin lawyered up and sued to stop the investigation. The star witness got cold feet, citing the bogus suit. Seven other cooperative witnesses also lawyered up and canceled their scheduled depositions. If there's no there there, the McCain campaign sure seems to be doing an awful lot of water-muddying to keep the world from learning just how much there there is not.

Then there are the rape-kit revelations. I can think of no other investigative technique that requires the victim of a crime to pay the investigation. The fingerprint lifting, the witness interviewing, the dumpster searching--that's all covered by the taxes we pay that lead us to expect the police to do a through job and find the perpetrator. Yet in the 1990s, as DNA technology was still new, it was a not-uncommon practice to charge rape victims for the rape kits.

In 1994, as a follow-up to the acclaimed and bipartisan Violence Against Women Act, Joe Biden--yes, that Joe Biden--worked hard to get legislation passed the required states not to charge for rape kits if those states wanted funds under VAWA. Among the "no" votes to this again-biparisan legislation? John McCain. And it would seem to me that one of the things a guy with a a history of verbal and physical abuse against women, particularly a guy with aspirations for higher office, ought to do is support the idea of not forcing women to pay for rape kits, but again just last year, McCain voted against funding that legislation.

I suppose we should not have expected anything positive on rape from a weasel who thinks women being raped by gorillas is funny.

Which brings us back to Palin. You have probably read by now that Alaska was the last state in the union to comply with Biden's 1994 rape kit legislation, finally passing a state law in 2000 to bring Alaska into compliance. The sole reason Alaska was out of compliance? The city of Wasilla (mayor at the time: Sarah Palin) was the only city left in Alaska that still charged women for their rape kits. Which means, as Alaska was the last state to come into compliance, Wasilla was likely the last city in the entire United States of America charging women for their own rape exams.

Now, that was a policy that pre-dated Palin. UPDATE: Turns out I was given Palin the benefit of a doubt she didn't deserve. New information today is that this was not the Wasilla policy before Palin was elected--charging for rape kits began under her watch, in a budget she signed! But she did not change it when she took office; she did not even change it during the legislative discussion about how Wasilla was out of compliance. The police chief she had installed (she fired the one who was in the office when she was elected, because he wanted to crack down on drunk driving--I know! And now she's set to be become VP!) was quite vocal about what a burden free rape exams would be on the taxpayer. Never mind what a burden it is to be raped and then to have to pay to collect the evidence of your rape. New slogan idea: "McCain-Palin '08: Pay For Your Own Damn Rape Exam."

And now the weaseling: A campaign spokesman is now running around saying Palin "does not believe, nor has she ever believed, that rape victims should have to pay for an evidence-gathering test." Another weasel statement belied by the facts!

(Aside: Apparently some of Alaska's women's rights organizations are quite vexed by Palin's firing of Walt Monegan, the Public Safety Commissioner whose ouster is at the heart of Troopergate. Monegan was a staunch advocate for women who were victims of crime and abuse like rape, and Palin's original pick to replace Monegan, who lasted all of two weeks in the job, was a man who'd been fingered, so to speak, for sexual harassment in his previous position. But women are supposed to love Sarah Palin!)

And to the last item, for today, anyway. I was not aware that in the 1990s Cindy McCain was addicted to painkillers until just this week. Which is fine by me--I don't think that drug abuse by a candidate's spouse should necessarily disqualify the candidate. (A possible addiction to gambling on the candidate's part might disqualify him, but that would require the press to investigate. Not gonna happen.) But here's the thing: Apparently, John McCain lied about it then (despite Cindy's having been in treatment in 1991 and 1992, McCain was saying that he had just learned of it in 1994 when the story broke in Arizona), and he also may have used the power of his Senate office to stifle any investigation. And then he and his wife leaned hard, for more than a decade, on a potential whistleblower to keep the guy quiet.

As I said, I used to think that McCain in 2000 was an explicit rejection of the politics of the weasel, a rejection of what we've come to know lately as Karl Rove politics. As it turns out, all that was simply a result of the fact that George W. Bush had managed to hire the likes Rove, Steve Schmidt, and Tucker Eskew first. This year, all of those men are working for McCain. Eskew, responsible for the "McCain had an illegitimate black baby" smear that sealed the deal in South Carolina in 2000, is now working for Ste. Sarah of Wasilla, so is it any wonder now that she as well, the next (and, presumably better, though she doesn't believe in evolution) generation of Republican leadership has started, since she was tapped for McCain's ticket, to act the weasel, too?

The abuses of power, the stifling of investigations, the flat-out denials that clearly contradict indisputable facts in evidence, and he's spread it to Palin in just three weeks. That's not "maverick." That's corrupt. And no amount of Chapstick will uncrack those lips. Or something.

The Hack Van Hollen

Update: MJS - There is a strong whiff of partisan politics from state Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen’s lawsuit on Wisconsin's voter list.

It was all of one week ago that Attorney General Van Hollen was making a speech to Wisconsin GOP delegates extolling the virtues of Sarah Palin, saying she will help expand the Republican Party (MJS, Greg J. Borowski, Sept. 4, 2008).

Now this McCain Co-Chair, Van Hollen, says with a straight face that he has no conflict of interest and that he does not act for partisan or political reasons.

Borowski's MJS piece notes that, "Van Hollen stressed Palin's pro-life credentials, terming her 'somebody who believes in God, who believes in family, who believes in life.'"

Van Hollen also called the Republican Party a "family".

C'mon, is this not at the very least an appearance of a conflict of interest?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Privitize the Profit and Socialize the Losses

By Keith R. Schmitz

Another one bites the dust.

Thanks to the regulations yanked away by the hard work of McCain advisor Phil Gramm, the walls are collapsing on yet another financial firm. This time the once venerable Lehman Brothers.

Bad on so many levels, but of course the worst is that the perpetrators of this debacle will trot out of there with multi-million dollar packages while others eat dirt and us taxpayers may get a piece of the reaction.

So oh please Charlie and the rest of you. I'd rather not hear your sermons on personal responsibility that bubble up when a poor person or a minority transgresses or acts abhorant. I'm am waiting for the denouncements that will never come against those corporate types who screw up and are royally compensated.

Yeah, us liberals dig that ethos of tending to our own houses and we use it on ourselves -- and our kids. But we also like to apply it to those at that level who can most afford it, though there are no punishments or lessons applied.

What's wrong with you people? Is it they can get away with these things because they are white and wear suits?

Is there something in the 50 Rules about this?

Perscription for Wasting Our Time

By Keith R. Schmitz

Would McCain rather lose our future to win an election?

We've all had eight years of our lives wasted with what you could call a pointless administration in charge. Pure ideologues who were out of touch with reality, and the recent scandal involving the Animal House over at the Denver office of the Minerals Management Service is yet another example of this smash and grab administration.

With McCain's pick of Sarah Palin for veep, it is obvious that this was not done with us in mind. No one in their right brain could argue that she was the best available person, but it is a wonderful gimmick isn't it?

Want evidence of the cynicism of the pick? The campaign is steering clear of any serious press probing that a real candidate would handle except for swatting at softballs to be pitched by the affable Charlie Gibson.

This is essentially what John Nichols calls putting her in a witness protection program. So the question is, so what if she could kill and dress a moose if she can't handle Meet the Press? There will be world leaders far formidable than this.

Former Bush speech writer David Frum puts its well on the NRO web site:
A question I am often asked when I give talks or lectures is: Why did the Bush communication effort end so badly? How did an administration that once commanded such public support end by losing all ability to make its case?

My answer is that the ultimate failure was encoded into the initial success. The president's communication team - of which (McCain team member) Nicole Wallace was an important part - shared the same disdain of "elites" that permeates so much of my pro-Palin correspondence. It was not just the media elite that they disregarded. (Who could blame them for that?) It was the policy elite too. When the president wished to advocate, eg a tax cut, he did not argue his case before the Detroit Economic Club or send a surrogate to Jackson Hole. He made a rally speech before cheering supporters. That made for effective soundbites and exciting images. But it abdicated any effort to make an argument that could convince people who were not predisposed to be convinced.
Here's the payoff pitch:
At first, this abdication did not much matter. The president was popular, the public was united. But once the administration encountered trouble and adversity, it discovered - it found itself disarmed. It had no advocates other than its own in-house communicators and the most committed partisans. There were pitifully few respected independent voices ready to join the discussion on behalf of the administration's policies. They could not convince, because they had not been convinced.

Speaking directly to the people works when the people are intensely engaged. But big publics pay only intermittent attention to politics and policy. When that attention is diverted, specialists and enthusiasts reclaim their usual disproportionate impact.

By that time however the argument may well have been lost among that portion of the public that is still paying attention.
In essence what Frum is talking about is we have been wandering around for all this time because the Bush administration never had the faith in its policies to defend them publicly.

I don't know about you, but I am getting too old for more nonsense like this. John McCain used to be a serious Senator after he got religion following the Keating Five. Now he is in the clutches of his ambition and it looks like from advice from Karl Rove on who to have as his running mate.

Cute and clever speeches may charm the disengaged voter and fire up the rabid base and bring a win in November. But this very unserious pick makes me worry about McCain's competence in other areas.

In Memoriam

by folkbum

Take some time to reflect today.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

iPod Blogging

by folkbum

I had one of those birthday thingies last week ("old enough" is all you get). My lovely and thoughtful wife got me an 8gb iPod Touch, complete with WiFi connectivity and the App Store and all that jazz. In short, I totally could be typing this out on the laptop in front of me, but I'm pecking it out on the iPod just because I can. This is not likely to replace my computer anytime soon.

Earnicks

By Keith R. Schmitz

The McCain campaign is making a big deal about how he is going to stand up to federal earmarks to save us from economic oblivion, conveniently forgetting the pounds of juicy, delicious pork requested by Sarah Palin (at least now we know her name as he said in the Twin Cities).

What's the big benefit? None according to John Cole:
The total national debt, as I write this, is $9,679,000,000,000.00 (nine and a half trillion).

The Budget for 2008 is close to $3,000,000,000,000.00 (three trillion).

Our budget deficit for this year is going to range in between $400-500,000,000,000.00 (four hundred to five hundred billion, give or take a few billion).

The total value of wasteful earmarks in 2008 (according to CAGW) will be approximately $18,000,000,000.00 (eighteen billion).

In other words, when McCain talks about earmarks, he is talking about 3% of our annual budget deficit, .6% of our annual budget, and a number too small to even report when discussing our national debt. Or, put another way, he is talking about two months in Iraq, something he wants to keep going indefinitely (or -- per me -- tax cuts for the wealthy).
In other words, let's roll up our sleeves and start pricking the budget.

Congrats to Sandy Pasch


By Keith R. Schmitz

Open seats always make for interesting elections, and in the 22nd we sure had that. We weren't lacking for attention this summer. Four people campaigning hard to take over the Assembly seat from Sheldon Wasserman who hopes to move up in the State Senate.

Very much neck and neck last night between candidates Sandy Pasch and Andy Feldman in the Milwaukee northshore as returns came in between 9:00 and 11:00. In the end Sandy squeaked by. She will go on to face the Republican in November.

Sandy will bring her great experience in health care to Madison, particularly in the area of mental health. No doubt she will do a good job representing us.

Tough loss for Andy, but he has a packed resume and will be a fine addition to our local politics.

Bridge to Nowhere Update

By Keith R. Schmitz

Talking Points Memo has a nice wrap-up of the Palin lie that she continues to beat:
Actually, Congress put the kibosh on the Bridge to Nowhere back in November 2005. Since Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) was then head of the Senate Appropriations Committee he was able to force a compromise in which the earmark for the bridge was killed but Alaska got to hold on to the money -- some $442 million of federal tax dollars.

Fast forward to November 2006. That's when Sarah Palin was running as a staunch supporter of the Bridge to Nowhere -- that is, after the feds had themselves already said 'No Thanks.'

In 2006, the Democrats took over both houses of Congress. So by the time Palin got into office it was clear that not only was the first Bridge earmark killed but that Congress was not going to be ponying up any more money. That meant that Alaska was going to have to pick up the tab all on its own. So since she couldn't pay for it with the federal pork barrel, in September 2007, Palin officially halted the project which was then a state project since Congress had said 'Thanks. But no thanks' two years earlier.

She couldn't say 'No Thanks' because Congress had already said 'Forget It'.

Still with me?

So the money Palin sent back to Washington? Well, she didn't. She kept the money for other bridges and roads in Alaska.

So, to boil it all down, Congress pulled the plug on the Bridge to Nowhere in 2005. Palin was still for it in 2006. And when she finally ended the project because Congress had cut off funding, instead of saying 'No Thanks' she actually said 'Thanks!' because instead of sending the money back to Washington she kept it all in Juneau.
So what does this all mean and why the todo?

Conservatives, if you truly want someone who is going to hold down spending this is but one example of where Sarah is not your gal. Leaving Wasilla $20 million in debt after getting buckets of pork is another example.

We are not talking concern trolling because us folks on the other side of the aisle don't like wasteful spending either. That's just one reason why we are against the money pit in Iraq (remember that issue?)

Yeah, politicians stretch the facts all the time but this one is so transparent and blatant it stands out as a major league insult to our collective intelligences.

So to paraphrase John McCain, would you rather win the election instead of cut spending?

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

McCain Ministry of Funny Walks

By Keith R. Schmitz

In an example of inadvertent hilarity, the McCain campaign has now opened the Palin Truth Squad.

What next? The Rush Limbaugh Drug Rehab Clinic?

Sarah Palin -- Welfare Mother

By Keith R. Schmitz

Finally some sign that the press might be prying open the lid on the Pandora's Box known as Sarah Palin.

Today Michael Kinsley on the TIME site takes a look at the job Sarah Palin as governor. She may have been runner up as Miss Alaska but she is the Queen of Pork.
Alaska also ranks No. 1, year after year, in money it sucks in from Washington. In 2005 (the most recent figures), according to the Tax Foundation, Alaska ranked 18th in federal taxes paid per resident ($5,434) but first in federal spending received per resident ($13,950). Its ratio of federal spending received to federal taxes paid ranks third among the 50 states, and in the absolute amount it receives from Washington over and above the amount it sends to Washington, Alaska ranks No. 1.
And for those of you who long for a tax cutter and turn red at every move from Jim Doyle, how would you like to have this kind of state government:
Alaska ranks No. 1 in taxes per resident and No. 1 in spending per resident. Its tax burden per resident is 21/2 times the national average; its spending, more than double. The trick is that Alaska's government spends money on its own citizens and taxes the rest of us to pay for it. Although Palin, like McCain, talks about liberating ourselves from dependence on foreign oil, there is no evidence that being dependent on Alaskan oil would be any more pleasant to the pocketbook.
And over the conservative blogs and among the pundits that are against the windfall profits tax:
One thing Barack Obama and McCain disagree on is an oil windfall-profits tax. McCain is against it, on the theory that it is a tax and therefore bad and also on the theory that it would discourage domestic production. Obama is for it, on the theory that if oil companies can make a nice profit when oil sells for $50 per bbl., they can still make a nice profit when it sells at more than $100, even if the government takes a bit and spreads the money around to those who are hurting from higher oil prices.

Although Palin's words side with McCain in this dispute, her actions side with Obama. Her major legislative accomplishment has been to revamp Alaska's windfall-profits tax in order to increase the state's take. Alaska calls it a "clear and equitable share" tax. The state assumes that extracting oil from the tundra costs about $25 per bbl. and takes as much as 75% of the difference between that and the sale price.
So conservatives, maybe you should rethink your choice. Sure politicians lie, but she has become the Babe Ruth of untruthfulness.

You all scream and clap when she blears out her lines about planes and bridges and chefs, but these are all fabrications and Barack Obama sponsoring nothing in the Senate. She would be a heartbeat away from the presidency, and it turns out she is not only lying to us but she's lying to you.