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Pay no attention to the people behind the curtain

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Outrage Machine in 3 ... 2 ...

by folkbum

It seems that a major print publication has once again identified a Republican who holds non-partisan office, but who has done something stupid, by party affiliation. As the outrage machine likes to tell us, they never do that to Democrats.

Abstaining from Intelligence

Keith R. Schmitz

What do you call people who have their kids follow abstinence only sex ed?

Grandparents.

More and more studies are finding that yet another conservative fairy tale fails to play well in the real world. As usual this is a their answer to a complex problem that this simple, straightforward...and wrong.

Many of you recall the Bristol Palin interview on Fox News a few weeks back, where she maintained her mother's approved mode of sex education is "not realistic at all."

People are taking back their government and reinstating common sense. The Pittsburgh School Board this week voted to replace A-O with comprehensive sex ed and no doubt more will follow.

In the usual case of money well wasted, the Bush administration spent $176 million the last year W had the budget on this bit of alchemy.

Unfortunately things have not changed in the House of Representative, oddly the Democratically controlled House, which despite the Senate Finance Committee’s recommendation to cut $28 million in funding for abstinence-only until marriage initiatives cut only $14 million. Why the lapse of guts is hard to explain, and why the party does disappoint from time to time. A penny spent on this program is a penny too much.

Write David Obey and tell him to rethink this bit of miss-allocation of funds.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Haloscanned

by folkbum

UPDATE: I believe you can make comments now. I just can't go in and fix your typos for you.

Haloscan is having its quarterly (ish) FUBARing at the moment. If you have something really important to say, go bother capper.

But for the Grace of God

By Keith R. Schmitz

I am getting tired of reading the smug, callous and yes, brutish accusations against those who have found themselves in a fix -- often a terrible fix -- during this housing crisis. You know. Calling those left with the short end of the stick losers, lazy and worse.

You don't have to go far to find stories about people who are at the risk of losing their house because the loss of a job, a gash in their pay, a major medical hit, death of a spouse or other economic calamity. I'll start you off with this article from Time.

This is not only ignorant, but in some cases whistling past the graveyard.

Wonder why Obama is so popular? A vast majority of people have jobs, but realize that it could be yanked out from under them in a flash.

The cold icy fingers of the bad economy are finding their way into every neighborhood, even the gated ones.

For those sitting on the side lines patting themselves on the back about their wonderful initiative and their self-assurance that they are better than these people; be grateful the government, your government, is on the job trying to solve this mess that your beloved former president left you.

Or else you too could become a statistic.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Powerful Poor

By Keith R. Schmitz

One of the cherished myths of the sullen and resentful on the right is that programs such as the Community Reinvestment Act caused the housing crisis. Fed chair Ben Bernanke ain't buying it.

Fixing the Internets

by folkbum
Woman pleads guilty to election registration fraud
By Larry Sandler

Feb. 26, 2009 12:50 p.m. | A Milwaukee woman has pleaded guilty to election fraud for submitting dozens of fake names and addresses to city election officials the Community Voters Project, which turned her and the evidence over to the D.A. during a voter registration drive.
The hard work of fixing the internets will, apparently, continue indefinitely.

Compromise Suggestion on Taxes

Keith R. Schmitz

Many GOP critics accuse the Democrats of taking the African-American vote for granted. 

I think the same is true the other way around when it comes to small business. The GOP IS the party of big business, and if they were sincere about small business they would advocate better anti-trust enforcement, serious solutions to healthcare and administration of the Small Business Administration to help small business. 

A good example is the GOP's willingness to let the Big Three automakers go into bankruptcy, delivering collateral hits to their small business suppliers. As a small business, the GOP certainly does not speak for me.

As usual they are holding small business hostage when it comes to our economic turnaround. The point being made is that if taxes are increased on those making over $250,000 year would be a hit to small businesses. 

My good friend on the right Mike Frederick pointed out in the NY Times last week that he would have less money to plow back into the business if his taxes are raised. Though I dispute that only a minority of small business people are any where near $250M per year, point taken.

Actually the solution could be rather simple. Why not design a credit for someone who owns a small business based on their number of employees. As usual, some will find ways to fake their way around it, but audits could extract the fakers.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Wooldridge Brothers: Days Went Around

by folkbum

Once again, I marvel at the Power of the Blog™. It only took six years of blogging, but I have finally found myself on the receiving end of that mythical Free Stuff, and no doubt now that the floodgates are open, I will be deluged with books and CDs and so forth. Any minute now.

What broke open the floodgates is the excellent new CD by the Wooldridge Brothers (web, myspace), a pair with strong Milwaukee roots and a definite midwestern sensibility in how they roll. Days Went Around is a fun romp, and worth a listen.

The CD opens with "Thumbs," an upbeat number that draws a pretty clear line between the txt generation and us normal people. "It's a new day/ in a new age/ and I'm lost," it begins, and includes the very important declaration, "When you say I luv U/ please spell it right." The theme kind of comes back a couple of tracks later in "Connecting to Aphrodite," a short Elvis Costello-y tune about a guy "looking for Nirvana in a plastic box."

Other standout tracks include "Hey," which showcases Scott Wooldridge's piano playing; and "Coffee Spoons," which borrows a line from TS Eliot and wraps it in a new clever lyric and some of Brian Wooldridge's jangly guitar. "This Rain" is probably my favorite, though--a near-perfect 3-minute pop song with a catchy melody and a classic play-out fade.

The Brothers have, as I mentioned, Milwaukee roots, going all the way back to the Squares, a band some of you probably remember from the 1980s and 1990s (they were before my time in town), and there are some familiar names in the credits, even to a guy like me only peripherally connected to the local music scene. The CD was mostly recorded with Ric Probst, who recorded Peter Mulvey's last album. One song was recorded with Jon Leubner, who is the engineer of choice for a number of my friends, including the Moxie Chicks. melaniejane makes an appearance on cello.

The Wooldridge Brothers have a Milwaukee CD-release show at Turner Hall on March 6. Sadly, I'll be down the road at the John Prine show (working on that project of People To See Live Before They Die), but you could do a lot worse on a Friday night than go check out the Wooldridge Brothers' show.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha

by bert

In these tough times we’re in right now, I think it’s important to just stop and laugh once in a while.

Take what was going on yesterday. From what I could tell, there were a lot of folks in a bad mood. And the problem was poor people.

The most visible face of the day was this guy Rick Santelli on CNBC. The constantly replayed video clip showed him clearly upset and calling the people in financial trouble “losers.” Santelli led the commodity-trader guys standing around him to boo bitterly when he mentioned “the neighbors that can’t pay their bills.”

Charlie Sykes clearly relished this clip and ran it first thing on his radio show Friday. Like a bass plug at dusk, this clip lured callers to Charlie, people from places like Fox Point, who were audibly angry at those other people not paying their mortgages. Sykes, while himself using the term “deadbeats,” did something funny when he injected parenthetically like audio fine print that not everyone in financial trouble was to blame. And he mentioned unscrupulous lenders.

What’s funny is Sykes didn’t give examples of those unscrupulous lenders. God forbid he'd take calls on the topic. He could have mentioned Countrywide Financial for instance, which just this week settled a lawsuit brought by Wisconsin, one of many states suing the company for deceiving those customers who got mortgages through them.

What’s also funny is that Countrywide was not too long ago a heavy advertiser on Charlie’s WTMJ radio station. Remember hearing their commercials on the radio all the time? Countrywide used those WTMJ airwaves to promote refinancing and purchasing of homes.

Friday those same airwaves were deftly maneuvered by Charlie to paint a picture of a country, the United States, that sickens him and his callers, that is infested with losers and deadbeats. Rush Limbaugh likes to call them “human debris”. Jay Weber over on AM-WISN prefers “scumbags.”

Let's remember, the right wing has always been defined by the contempt and fear it feels toward poor people. They really like Ayn Rand. And now they really like Rick Santelli. But it is rich that they pick this precise moment to pull out and polish up this tired “hate-the-poor” thing and take it for yet another spin.

We all know which side plays for keeps when it comes to class warfare. They've got their Bernie Madoff, Allen Standford, and John Thane of Merrill Lynch with the $35,000 commode. If you heard about the shenanigans at World Bank on "60 Minutes" last Sunday, you know how these lenders were operating. Like Digby said, no one was holding a gun to these guys' heads to make loans.

But, isn't it absurd that in the midst of these salvos of cheating, robbing, deception, and greed that yesterday all their broadcasters were in effect bursting in to the other side's infirmary and wagging their finger at those on the gurneys?

The only proper response is just to stop, think about it, and laugh.

Tom McMahon Goes NY Postal

By Keith R. Schmitz

The local right wing regards feels Tom McMahon is cute and clever.

There is that cutesy picture of him on the site with what looks to be an ice bucket on his head.

Then there are his too clever by half four block presentations, simple minded statements of complex issues that conservatives can understand and love. It has been tempting to parody them.

You don't have to dig too deep to see the hidden meanness and this disgusting post drops the mask.

It's a comparison of OJ and the President.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Two legs good. Four legs bad. GOP "Consistency" on Deficits

By Keith R. Schmitz

Why are the only hard news interviews seemingly on the Daily Show?

The other night Jon Stewart put New Hampshire Senator John Sununu on the griddle over the new found GOP religion on deficits (emphasis mine).
Stewart: I'm not an economist, but let's say I start out with a surplus and I say lets have a tax cut to stimulate the economy, lets make it 1.2 trillion dollars and that surplus turns into a deficit. Why would I at that point go, hey you know what could fix that? A tax cut.
This GOP view seems to change with administrations, and as usual right wing talk radio carries the water.

Remembering back a few years ago a combination of boredom and lack of knowledge about my high blood pressure led me to tune in Mark Belling one afternoon during the Bush administration. He was challenging his listeners to come up with a reason why deficits were bad. Since he was not exactly broadcasting to the Wharton School of Business no answers were forthcoming.

It occurred to me that rewinding to the early years of Bill Clinton when again I was bored and not knowledgeable about high blood pressure Belling was then exhibiting his brand of mental unhinging on deficits.

Clinton goes on to build that surplus $1.2 trillion surplus, despite his "distractions" and GOP railing about "tax and spend" Democrats.

Now rather than tax cuts for the wealthy and a boneheaded invasion of Iraq to bequeath to our grandchildren there is deficit spending intended to help out our economy and average people. GOP defines these deficits as wasteful.

Two legs good. Four legs bad.

Maybe the GOP should change their web site URL address to Expediency.com.

Update: F. Jim proves more of the above point. Someone please explain (and I'm sure someone will) why blowing money out of a confetti cannon at the Defense Department does not constitute reckless spending?

Maybe that needs to change, then

by folkbum

Power of the blog! Ask a question:
Why isn't Bob Donovan running for school board?
And get an answer:
Milwaukee's City Charter prohibits an elected official from seeking an additional elected office. Believe me, I looked into the possibility.

Alderman Donovan
Alderman Robert Donovan | 02.19.09 - 9:28 am | #
Given the frequency with which it happens all over the state that folks hold two elected offices at a time, it never occurred to me that Milwaukee would have a prohibition against such a thing. It seems like an unwarranted and unreasonable restriction to me.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Reminders

by folkbum

A reminder that the Wispolitics Budget Blog is indespensable indispensable this time of year.

A reminder of just how close we came to disaster.

A reminder of the Really Big Show Saturday night. You'll be there, right?

A reminder that Mathias, Evers, and Abrahamson need your help now that the primary is over.

A reminder for reader Andy that he doesn't need to spend $3000 on appliances. (I got my first dishwasher for $10, if I remember correctly.)

A reminder to commenters here: I have never banned anyone only banned one person from this site. Ever. In six years. But if your comments have a very high profanity-and-insult-to-content ratio, you'll be gone. That is all. (This item updated.)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Saddle Sore

By Keith R. Schmitz

Once again another Republican gets the wrists slapped for unauthorized music use.

This time it is GOP Congressional Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA), the southern version of Pompadour Paul Ryan.

Cantor released a music video last week using Aerosmith's "Back in the Saddle" to definitively announce "The House GOP is back" because of his party's unanimous opposition to the stimulus.

Cantor's clip has since been pulled from YouTube after a copyright infringement claim filed by Stage Three Music, which owns the rights to the song.

This of course, is not the first time off the GOP being too clever by half and paying for it. If you recall last year the Wilson sisters got ticked when Sarah Palin used Barracuda at rallies. There are many other instances.

For a party that prides itself on being business experts, they seem to know precious little about copyright laws.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Why isn't Bob Donovan running for School Board?

by folkbum

I'm serious. Milwaukee Alderman Bob Donovan seems hell-bent on remaking the Milwaukee Public schools in his own tough-guy image, and yet he's not taking advantage of the opportunity that exists right now for him to put himself in a position to change the schools.

The Milwaukee Board of School Directors is a part-time gig, and plenty of other people do it while holding down a steady job. The seat where he lives is up this year. He obviously has the support of a lot of people in his district, and experience campaigning. If he were to win, then he would be able easily to introduce whatever resolutions he wants to change whatever schools he wants through the channels that already exist instead of trying to weasel his way in through the mayor or the governor or some other entity that actually has no control over the local schools.

In other words, he needs to stop trying to bully the district; he needs to put his money where his mouth is and run.

In the meantime, we all have to wonder exactly what's going through Donovan's head when he writes sentences like, "As it relates to MPS, the collective leadership in Milwaukee is, with few exceptions, the emperor who has no clothes, naked before us and revealing nothing but shortcomings." I, for one, have never imagined the, um, shortcomings of Milwaukee's leaders. But whatever, Bob. I await tomorrow's press release.

Shovel Ready Nonsense -- State of the County

By Keith R. Schmitz

Many others have feasted on pieces on this turkey known as Scott Walker's state of the county speech, due in part because all you need to know about this candidate for governor is right here.

Essentially, while others a pursuing nuclear physics in terms of economic, the County Executive is practicing alchemy. The mantra of tax cuts proves the observation that when you are a hammer the world looks like nails.

Here we have as a major emphasis of the speech his fantasy plan for a sales tax holiday. Yet he brags about the bond rating for the county versus that of the state.

So how can he propose lopping off a major source of revenue, with no suggestion of where the money is going to come from to make up the gap? Certainly the proposal from some that the state pass combined reporting for corporations as an offset will not be in Walker's quiver.

Also disturbing is asking county workers to bear the burden of "streamlining" government through job cuts and "reforms" in collective bargaining. With consumer spending making up 70% of our economy it is hard to see how emulating the private sector's means of first resort will help improve this economy.

Usually in deep recessions such as this one you see governments being a means of putting people back to work. I know Walker wants to substitute county workers with private sector employees, but these positions will no doubt be underpaid with few or no benefits.

We did tax cuts for the past 30 years and they have flunked the audition. Stagnant middle class growth, America falling behind in health and education in a highly competitive world, crumbling infrastructure; all have been a result of "starving the beast." We have instead starved the best.

If this stimulus is done right, emphasizing "done right," we stand the chance of not only turning this economy around but also shrinking the deficit through a growing economy. But not doing a stimulus, which features government investment in our economy, ensures we can expect to head towards a depression.

Vote Today

by folkbum

It's primary day for the spring non-partisan elections. Your humble folkbum recommends the following candidates:

State Superintendent: Tony Evers
Milwaukee County Circuit Court: JD Watts
Milwaukee Board of School Directors, District 4: Michael Mathias
Milwaukee Board of School Directors, District 7: Felicia Owen

Update: Finally, I'm number one at something!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Sykes and Selective Outrage, pt. XVIII

by bert
It's fair enough that Charlie is going after the state and its lavish $4.6 million in state aid that it gave to the crew that filmed "Public Enemy" around Wisconsin. Charlie called this "corporate welfare on steroids." Mention of steroids turns my mind immediately to baseball. And now that I mention it, I don't recall Sykes' show opening up with both barrels about the taxpayer money going for Miller Park, even though the sales tax revenue going to the stadium exceeded $26 million last year alone. And what was that bailout money on that went to Associated Bank?

Presidents' Day Thread

by folkbum

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Valentine's Day Massacre

by folkbum

I've had a horrible winter, health-wise, and I've basically been sick in one way or another since, like, October. The latest round has been a chest-rattling, throat-mauling, soul-crushing cough thing. When I saw my doc two weeks ago, he and I commiserated as it seemed he had a similar bug, so he put me on the same antibiotics he was on and told me I should feel better soon. (Didn't happen.)m But since this was not the first time I'd had the bone-wracking cough this winter, he sent me for a chest x-ray. That's how bad I've had it.

When I saw the doc again on Friday, he said he was still feeling miserable, still coughing, still hurting, and the chest x-ray he'd had done for himself was, like mine, normal. We laughed a bit at the coincidence of having the same course of the disease--laughing which then led to coughing, which was kind of pathetic there in the exam room--and he put me on new meds that he said were helping his cough feel better.

And then he said he had sent out a pertussis test on himself--freakin' whooping cough--because he didn't know what else could be causing the symptoms he and I had. He didn't have the results yet.

Anyway, Saturday, the massacre. I'm still feeling miserable, coughing, and not sleeping well because the new meds are giving me nightmares--serious wake up heart-pounding freak-out nightmares. And I have a coughing fit that wrenches my back. I am afraid it has re-aggravated my herniated disc. I'm sitting up to type this, but it's the first time I've been anything but fully horizontal in about 18 hours.

And I'm still coughing every few minutes.

Just thought you should know.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Just For the Record . . .

by bert
Here was Ralph from Delafield, a caller to Jay Weber's radio show, which was this morning about how the left will soon silence all communications from conservatives, and from Juan Williams too:
"You can’t say I’m not a crackpot, and neither are you [literal transcript, swear to God], but you know, they’re really playing with fire. They really, really are. They’re getting very, very close to inciting a very violent counter-revolution. The thing about conservatives, we are out here, and we are armed."

Jay, very amiably, then added that he has been getting lots of emails with a similar message about a coming revolution.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

I'll give him an award, all right

by folkbum

This is currently the frontrunner for this year's Most Dickish Passage in a Daily Newspaper:
Sunday's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel proudly touts a big story and photo of the paper's editor winning an award from some magazine[*] for "editor of the year." It's similar to the paper's now months-long touting on page one of winning a Pulitzer Prize. Earth to Fourth and State: nobody cares. You may get all goosebumpy that the fellow members of your dying industry think you're great, but none of your readers care.

A few years ago I won the supposedly prestigious "Marconi" award for being the best medium market radio personality in America. I didn't show up for the award ceremony. I still have a tape of the guy reading my name and then looking around the banquet room in amazement that I wasn't there to bask in the "glory." They sent me the Marconi. I have since dropped it and there's a chip in it. It's sitting on my bedroom dresser with more dust on it than most mops.
Get it? I'm going to rub it in in my newspaper column that I won an award that I was too good for to point out that the newspaper industry is dying you stupid liberal fools. Now if you'll excuse me, I'd like to go back to watching the tape of the awards ceremony, which works much better than porn for me. What a wanker.

* The "some magazine" was Editor & Publisher, the industry bible. What a wanker.

Happy Darwin Day

by folkbum

Prediction: The creationist right will be furious that Google's doodle is honoring Darwin's 200th but snubbing "Reagan Day" earlier this month. Discuss.

LUNCHTIME UPDATE: Apparently, Kevin Binversie, determined to drive me some traffic today ([JOKE REDACTED BY YOUR HOST TO SATISFY THE HUMORLESS GOOGLE MACHINE) has taken offense that Google is not choosing to honor Abraham Lincoln on a day other than the one that by law we actually honor Lincoln on.

Lunchtime Aside: Should we atheists petition to get the Friday before Presidents' Day declared a holiday, too, in Darwin's honor? Would people start liking us if we gave them a four-day weekend?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Bonus Round

By Keith R. Schmitz

For $350 billion dollars contestants, Congressman Barney Franks asks the titans of the financial world, "What is it you'd do differently if you didn't get a bonus?"

What a stumper.

Morgan Stanley's John Mack is the only one brave enough to hazard an answer. But all he offered was a brief historical digression about how the bonus system became established at investment banks.

Buzzzzz! Wrong answer.

Quizmaster Franks concludes -- "So if there were no bonuses, we'd still get our money's worth."

Actually did they even give us our money's worth?

One of the most laughable charges we liberals get when questioning outrageous CEO salaries compensation is that we are afflicted with jealousy.

No, just pragmatic. Equal laughable is the belief on the part of many on the right that minuscule taxation is necessary because someday they might possibly be pulling down these princely sums.

Is that kind of like suicide bombers believing they will be greeted in heaven by 72 virgins?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Dick Golembiewski's Book--Buy It

by folkbum

Dick Golembiewski--occasionally known as Dick Nitelinger--was kind enough to swing by my communications media class today (ably taught now by my student teacher) to talk TV. This guy knows everything--we talked past, present, future, DTV, HDTV, robot cameras (they really are stealing your soul, I would bet), and more. I found it fascinating; my students, less so (teenagers).

Dick's written the book, literally, on the history of TV in Milwaukee. I got a chance to see it, today, and it is incredible. I didn't grow up in Milwaukee, but I imagine anyone who did (and who had a TV) would love to have the book, which is really a channel-by-channel history of TV--personalities, programs, plenty of pictures. Totally worth it.

Dick's doing an event this Saturday at the central library, and if you want to know anything about TV, that's the place to be. I understand the books will even be on sale there.

(See MJS columns about Dick and the book here and here.)

Some Math

by folkbum

80 pounds of dog + 1 high-fiber diet + 2.5 months of snow cover on the backyard = my afternoon. And probably tomorrow afternoon. Maybe all week. Ugh.

Business Looking for the Defibrillators

Keith R. Schmitz

There is an automatic assumption on the part of some that business people walk in lockstep with the Republican party.

That notion of course has always been wrong, and lately more wrong. The US Chamber of Commerce is pressing for passage of the Senate version of the stimulus package. The reliably right wing National Federation of Independent Business is saying that the current version of the bill is not enough.

Guess there are no free market capitalists in economic foxholes.

Below is a copy of a letter (with some edits to keep the writer anonymous) from a friend a mine in which he emphatically pushes Senator Kohl to support the stimulus. My friend makes a lot of sense and with the vote in the Senate pending, lays out real business world reason why we need this plan to pass.
I am a small Wisconsin business owner. I am writing specifically to comment and note my support for President Obama’s stimulus plan.

Because of the current economic conditions and the slowdown my company has experienced, I’ve had to trim my work force in one plant from (12) employees to (6)—letting my Production Manager, a Draftsman, our Secretary and (3) shop employees go. In Wisconsin, I’ve had to eliminate (6) jobs on the manufacturing floor and fire my second Mechanical Engineer.

While times are very tough, I’m encouraged that we have as many projects quoted and pending as we do. We’ll continue to do what’s necessary to persevere and weather this storm.

But I’ve written about the stimulus package. The suggestion by Republicans that it’s more of the “tax and spend” ways of the Democrats is ludicrous. In these difficult economic times, this is exactly what the country needs—programs that will put people back to work, while working toward long term goals such as alternative energy. As well, the package will help those currently out of work by extending unemployment benefits and healthcare.

The Republicans do NOT speak for this business owner. The suggestion that the stimulus package needs more tax cuts is preposterous. First statistics show that providing tax cuts to businesses will not increase employment rolls. As a business owner, I can attest to this. I will not employ anyone else because of a tax break I might get. Why? Because we DON’T HAVE WORK! If our business is down, I cannot afford to hire anyone whether I get a tax break or not. We’re talking survival and cash flow.

As for individual tax breaks, how is a tax break beneficial for someone who is out a job?

Let’s put people back to work and get this country back on track. Please encourage our Democratic Senators to be more vocal in their support. I just read an article on Yahoo that suggested President Obama is “losing message war on stimulus plan”.

If I can help in any way, please let me know. I am very interested and energized as a result of President Obama’s election.

Monday, February 09, 2009

It's Talent Contest Time, Again

by folkbum

Once again, your humble folkbum has been lucky enough to earn a spot in the finals of the Coffee House's Mid-Winter Talent Contest. Seven other lucky folk and I will be rockin' the casbah on 19th and Wisconsin on Saturday, February 21.

I've been in the finals before, and I'm feeling lucky this year. Which is not a reflection on the rest of the field--I had a chance to see all the auditions this year, and the night will be jam-packed with talented acoustic performers. And me.

The skinny:
Mid-Winter Talent Contest Finals
The Coffee House
631 N. 19th Street (19th and Wisconsin), in Milwaukee
Saturday, February 21
8 PM showtime, doors open at 7:30 PM
$3.50 suggested donation (less than 50 cents per performer!)

Part of the score for the finalists comes from audience response--I need you there to cheer me on and, if necessary, throw underpants. See you there!

Tony Evers: "I would be an aggressive state superintendent"

by folkbum

Two things have kind of been bugging me about the present race for state superintendent: One, even though it is not really true, the best candidate, Tony Evers, is going to be portrayed--already has been portrayed--as a part of the problem, a status quo candidate who cannot bring any kind of change to a bloated state bureaucracy. Two, the great eternal challenge of a position like state superintendent is that it has little policy-making authority: The state superintendent does what the legislature tells him or her to do, not the other way around. Sure, there's some pull when the budgets get submitted, but ultimately, the DPI chief enforces the law, not makes it.

When I talked to Evers last week, it was clear to me that neither of those two things--his being a status-quo candidate or his being a weak figure in government--were the least bit true. "I would be an aggressive state superintendent," he told me, emphatically. And immediately he started off listing off the ways in which he's pushed during the last eight years for change--from increases in funding for 4-year-old kindergarten to leveraging more federal dollars for AP programs and more.

Evers, in fact, bristled at the idea that the state superintendent was dependent on the legislature and the governor for policy changes. He told me of how he worked with parents and local schools to build a rural coalition that was too strong for the legislature to look the other way, and how they won categorical schools aids to rural districts for the first time ever. "That's how the bully pulpit works," he said. "The dirty work of the bully pulpit is the most effective."

Now I know that in these times of hopey-changiness, it would be kind of insane to run as the candidate of no change. However, I don't think Evers is just making it up. If anyone can pull off well the kind of large-scale change that's coming in things like school funding, it's Evers. He has a track record of being able to get ideological opponents together in a room and making them compromise. For example, he brought legislators together to craft the compromise expansion and accountability bill for the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program a couple of years ago. Sure, it was in imperfect bill--and believe me, I was all over its flaws--but it didn't have to happen at all.

Evers is even now as we speak working with voucher proponents like Howard Fuller on bringing real accountability, what was missing from that bill two years ago, to the voucher schools in Milwaukee through a public-private school-by-school report card system. "If we will sill embrace choice as an unchallenged value," he said, giving no indication he would challenge it himself, "then we have to help people make the best choices."

When it comes to changes in school funding, Evers, doesn't have his own plan. However, like a few of the other candidates, he sees value in the work done by the Wisconsin School Finance Network, which is in many ways already a compromise solution.

When I asked him about the Milwaukee Public Schools, Evers pointed to the Milwaukee plan (.pdf) on his website. He is serious about both improving instruction in MPS and finding help for MPS's image and funding problems. Bullet point number one demands MPS "increase consistency of instructional practice across all schools," something independent-minded teachers often resist, for example, and he also talks about de-funding programs that don't work in favor of those that do. Several times as we talked he was clear that there must be accountability to the public--setting goals attached to the dollars spent, showing how well those goals were meant, and so on. He does not support dissolving the MPS board or anything like that, but he has all this accountability talk because, as he put it, "we've got to get to the point where the community trusts its elected leaders."

He's also got something called the Education 7 (or E7) he wants to organize, which would be the educational equivalent Milwaukee 7 (M7), the business group designed to promote the region. He wants to bring together educators from all levels in seven counties, public and private, to work together and promote the schools we have. "I don't think we do kids a service by making them think they could do better someplace else," he told me. And I had never quite thought of it that way, but he's right--nothing about the way MPS and its teachers and leaders gets disparaged does one thing to improve the district, but it does tell our students over and over that they are getting a sub-par education. That's not the way to turn a failing district around.

By now--heck, probably since the beginning of this post--you're probably thinking, Jay, why should we care? You're a WEAC thug so of course you're going to support the WEAC candidate. Think what you will; there is just one candidate for state superintendent right now who has a demonstrated record of coalition-building, working with the legislature, and fostering positive change in public schools across the state, and that's Tony Evers. He has my unqualified support, and deserves yours, too.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Cap, Don't Soak

by 3rd Way

John Cole astutely pointed out how the opening monologue from the 2000 film "Boiler Room" perfectly captured the get rich quick mindset that brought our economy to it's knees.

I read this article a while back, that said that Microsoft employs more millionaire secretary's that any other company in the world. They took stock options over Christmas bonuses. It was a good move. I remember there was this picture, of one of the groundskeepers next to his Ferrari. Blew my mind. you see shit like that, and it just plants seeds, makes you think its possible, even easy. And then you turn on the TV, and there's just more of it. The $87 Million lottery winner, that kid actor that just made 20 million on his last movie, that internet stock that shot through the roof, you could have made millions if you had just gotten in early, and that's exactly what I wanted to do: get in. I didn't want to be an innovator any more, i just wanted to make the quick and easy buck, i just wanted in. The Notorious BIG said it best: "Either you're slingin' crack-rock, or you've got a wicked jump-shot." Nobody wants to work for it anymore. There's no honor in taking that after school job at Mickey Dee's, honor's in the dollar, kid. So I went the white boy way of slinging crack-rock: I became a stock broker.


The biggest problem our economy has is shortsightedness. Too many people are interested in making a fast buck. An entire nation consumed with that mindset is a recipe for disaster. Nowhere is this get filthy rich quick at the expense of others mindset more problematic than on Wall Street.

As Robert Reich put it:

Wall Street compensation has been geared to short-term bets on high-leveraged investments, after which players quickly collect any winnings and run for cover. Many Streeters grew rich in the process but most of the rest of us are undeniably poorer.


The delayed compensation strategy Obama instituted this week was a step in the right direction to remedy that problem. The half million dollar salary might be a little too low to attract the most competent leadership for bailed out institutions, but something had to be done to assure that the money we give to failed companies isn't siphoned off by CEO's to maintain lifestyles lavish enough to make royalty blush. Obama's plan didn't institute any "caps" on pay (I would have a serious problem with the plan if he did). He just delayed the CEO's compensation to assure their pay is dependent on long term success.

I don't typically agree with Barney Frank, but I think he is on the right track with his notion that limits should be put on compensation for any firms issuing stock. If there is a minimum wage we should have a maximum wage. The maximum wage should be set somewhere between 300 and 700 times the minimum wage (roughly $5-$10 million/ year). Firms should be free to compensate beyond the maximum wage, but compensation would have to be in the form of stock that can't be redeemed for at least a decade.

Incentives for work and increased compensation should be universal throughout the workforce. All workers from CEO's to janitors should be working towards the same goal: long term success of their employer. Leaders of institutions should not be rewarded for short term success with compensation packages so large that it creates an incentive make huge sums of money in the short term while risking the long term health of the institution.

The long term success of this nation is dependent on us transforming our culture from one that values a get-rich-quick-scheme above all else into one that values others well being ahead of personal profit. Normally pursuing the profit motive has a near universal positive effect on others well being, but the way we compensate the highest earning individuals in this country is screwed up. If the boards of directors that should be overseeing the distribution of corporate profits aren't willing or able to remove the incentive for leaders to raid corporate coffers at the risk of other shareholders the government needs to step in and help ensure that executives managing the firms that keep our economy moving are looking out for the interests of the rest of us as well as they look after their own.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Soak, Don't Cap

By Keith R. Schmitz

As the phase goes, the rich are different from you and me. That's because in this country there are a class of people who are not rich and often far from it, yet think it is a great idea for a minority to make an ocean liner full of money -- at our expense. They celebrate it and they fervently defend it against any attacks. It puzzles the rest of us.

Of course President Obama's suggestion about a cap on the salaries for people in the companies that we tax payers are bailing out brought out the howling -- and not necessarily from those who would be impacted by the sanction.

But on that point there is one good idea that was in the NY Times.

Reed Hastings the CEO of Netflix suggests that a pay cap is not necessarily a good idea, because if a company sincerely wants to get out of a hole they have to attract talented people.

So he suggests how about a hefty tax increase on those making over $1 million to 50%.

Just about all of us have a talent for something and bust our behinds. Grant you there are those who have remarkable ability for making things or making things work better and no one begrudges their reward. Warren Buffett. And he is now in the process of giving it away.

But for large part the way to make huge riches is through leverage. Once many corporate heads get control of the levers of their business they basically arrange it so large portions of the firm's revenue flow into their pockets. Now, exactly how does leverage benefit us?

I agree with Hastings in countering the argument of why would people work harder if they get taxed more. He suggests that people who enjoy the challenge of what they are doing will keep on doing it.

As the new age phrase goes, do what you love and the money follows.

As for those who are strictly in it for the money, society shouldn't enable that kind of pathology.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Précis

by folkbum

Shorter Wild Wisconsin: People who believe in science shouldn't be in charge of science teachers.

Shorter Badger Blog Alliance: A millimeters-small clump of cells is a human; a full-grown adult woman, not so much.

Shorter Dick Cheney: The first terrorist attack on US soil of the Bush administration was Clinton's fault. But the first terrorist attack on US soil of the Obama administration will be all Obama. (Via.)

Shorter Kevin Fischer: When people on the internet write under a name that is not their own, they are cowards. Except when I write Mary Lazich's posts for her.

("Shorter" concept created by Daniel Davies, perfected by Elton Beard, and awesometized by Sadly, No!.)

Power of the Blog

by folkbum

I came home today to find that the recycling had been collected!

I am still waiting for my million dollars.

"Walker: Tosa Ranger," Episode #96--The Takeover

by folkbum

Characters
Walker: Tosa Ranger
Milwaukee County Board
State of Wisconsin
Left Cheddarsphere, Right Cheddarsphere

ACT I
Milwaukee County Board: We have to fund these positions, or else people will go hungry and be denied benefits guaranteed to them by state law.
Walker: Tosa Ranger: [pounding shoe on podium] No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no!
Milwaukee County Board: We aren't listening to you and we will follow the law instead.
Walker: Tosa Ranger: Whatever. I'm going to St. Paul.
Left Cheddarspehere: If Scott Walker doesn't fund these positions, people will go hungry and be denied benefits guaranteed to them by state law.
Right Cheddarsphere: We love Scott! We love Scott!

Act II
Milwaukee County Board: You have to hire people to fill the positions we have funded, or else people will go hungry and be denied benefits guaranteed to them by state law.
Walker: Tosa Ranger: [pounding shoe on podium] Privatize, privatize, privatize, privatize, privatize!
Milwaukee County Board: Actually, state law says private employees cannot access the files that need to be accessed before people go hungry and get denied benefits guaranteed to them by state law.
Walker: Tosa Ranger: Whatever. Look over there! [dashes out the door]
Left Cheddarspehere: If Scott Walker doesn't fill these positions, people will go hungry and be denied benefits guaranteed to them by state law.
Right Cheddarsphere: Look over there!

Act III
State of Wisconsin: You have to hire people to fill the positions your Board has funded, or else people will go hungry and be denied benefits guaranteed to them by state law.
Walker: Tosa Ranger: Why don't you do it, then?
State of Wisconsin: Okay, we will.
Walker: Tosa Ranger: That's not fair! That's not fair! That's not fair! That's not fair!
Left Cheddarspehere: We told you so.
Right Cheddarsphere: That's not fair!

Roll credits.

(Note: This episode will re-run weekly for some time.)

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

How Refreshing

By Keith R. Schmitz

A president who admits...(regarding the Daschle pick)
"I think I screwed up," Obama said in an interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper. "And, I take responsibility for it and we're going to make sure we fix it so it doesn't happen again."

Quote of the Day

by folkbum

Digby: "Last night I happened to hear Dick Morris lecturing Sean Hannity about John Maynard Keynes which was a lot like the time I accidentally ate a hash brownie."

This Will Make Your Tummy Hurt with Laughter

By Keith R. Schmitz

A self-labelled Christian group asserts that attacking Sarah Palin is an attack on Christianity.

In their Top Ten Instances of Christian Bashing in America, 2008, the Christian Newswire gives us:
INSTANCE #2: Vice Presidential Candidate Sarah Palin Is Attacked

Alaska Governor, Sarah Palin, came under sharp attack by some in the mainstream media because she self-identifies as a Christian. The Washington Post published a cartoon by Pat Oliphant mocking Palin because she has a background as a Pentecostal/Charismatic Christian. A suspicious arson fire at Sarah Palin’s home church recently caused over $1,000,000 in damage.
Everybody duck!

h/t IT

Needle and the Damage Done

By Keith R. Schmitz

Time Magazine reports support for the death penalty is ebbing.

'bout time. America gets smart.

More on Education and Poverty

by folkbum

Far from refocusing the debate at a grand national or state-wide level with my JS op-ed, all I've managed to do is bug myself. Or, rather, allow myself to be bugged by those who will not get it.

I already noted Milwaukee Alderman Bob Donovan, but there were a few others. For example, Kevin Fischer. I do not regularly read Fischer, as I teach freshmen most of the day and don't need to deal with more of that. But Fischer is on lately about some bone-headed project of his whereby he sets about to prove the liberal bias of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. He managed to set the criteria so narrowly he can't help but win. (For example, Fischer writes of one op-ed, "[The author] writes about a bipartisan proposal that has the support of the MMAC" and then calls the piece "liberal." Sheesh.)

The day my piece ran, Fischer of course labeled it "liberal." Which confuses me a little: I remember fairly clearly being in college (unlike some of the people I went to college with, I suspect) and having these debates in my education classes about the proper role of education. I'm pretty sure that the "conservative" position in those debates was that schooling should not be the means to societal change. In my piece, I clearly argued that schools cannot, and cannot be relied upon or demanded to do so, adequately overcome the effects of poverty and other societal ills in the wider community. Which, as I suggested, is in my view a fairly "conservative" notion.

Whatever. Fischer signs off on his description of my op-ed with "It is also insulting to suggest poor children are incapable of learning because they're poor." I suggested no such thing, of course, but it should not really surprise you that Fischer is willing to willfully misinterpret what I wrote.

Monday's paper also featured another letter to the editor on the subject. Our writer here says, "Poverty is not and never will be the cause of poor Milwaukee Public Schools results. If so, we would not have, now or throughout history, the many, many citizens who came out of slum conditions to gain wealth, fame, notoriety or even a good middle-class life."

Like Fischer's deliberate mischaracterizing my piece to suggest I believe that poverty makes children "incapable of learning," this writer suggests that the many success stories of poor students overcoming the odds prove that there is not a strong correlation between poverty and poor educational achievement, and that, as the editors' titling of his letter put it, "poverty is too often an excuse."

Let me be absolutely clear about this: Poverty and its effects create a cluster of challenging conditions that schools, with their present level of resources, cannot overcome for all students at all times, particularly in urban or rural areas with high concentrations of poor students. Furthermore, it is ridiculous and to demand that schools be the institution to fix those conditions and to punish schools when they fail to do so.

And yes, of course there are exceptions, particular confluences of teaching, parenting, and learning that buck the general trend. But such exceptions are simply not easily replicable to all--if they were, don't you think we'd be doing it by now? But the fact is that there is not one single urban school district with high concentrations of poor students that is performing at anything like the rates its suburban neighbors do. No one has found that silver bullet.

And let me also be clear about this part: I am not suggesting in any way that poverty creates an inability to learn, just the conditions under which learning becomes very difficult. Consider this partial list of the effects of poverty on children:
  • poor children start school with significantly reduced vocabularies
  • poor children's brains develop differently
  • poor children are less likely to have private music, art, or foreign language instruction, all of which can increase IQ and achievement later in school
  • poor students are less likely to participate in organized sports, which can help children learn appropriate public behavior
  • poor students are more likely to have lead poisoning, asthma, diabetes, and other health problems that affect learning or school attendance
  • poor students are more likely to change schools more often
  • poor students tend to forget more over the summer vacation than do their wealthier peers
And that's just off the top of my head this morning.

Clearly, not every child who grows up poor has to deal with all of these factors, and experience suggests that many poor students will overcome disadvantages to graduate and succeed. But the data are also clear that in general that success is just plain harder to get. That's why I keep saying it's ridiculous that people expect MPS alone to overcome all of these deficits for all of our students, at least not without a significant change in the amount of and how we spend our resources.

And to be even more crystally clear: I am not suggesting, as MPS school board candidate ReDonna Rodgers commented here last week, that any of this is pretense to surrender, or "a nice safe excuse for doing nothing." If I believed that, I would not work anywhere near so hard at my job as I do, and I would not be so passionate about the issue.

Caught up?

by folkbum

My recycling still hasn't been picked up since before Thanksgiving, thankyouverymuch, despite claims that workers were just "two weeks behind in their collections." Luckily, the co-mingled side stays relatively manageable, what with all the aluminum scavengers about.

Monday, February 02, 2009

The difference between liberals and conservatives, part eleventy-billion

by folkbum

Here's what has the conservatives upset: "There isn’t any gray area here. Daschle was cheating on his taxes and only came clean when he realized that it would come up in his confirmation hearings."

Here's what has the liberals (me, too) upset: "But there's no need to withhold judgment on Daschle himself. He embodies everything that is sleazy, sickly, and soul-less about Washington. It's probably impossible for Obama to fill his cabinet with individuals entirely free of Beltway filth--it's extremely rare to get anywhere near that system without being infected by it -- but Daschle oozes Beltway slime from every pore."

They Don't Want to Be Stimulated

By Keith R. Schmitz

For some reason I get emails from the hilariously named American for Prosperity. Or is it Americans for the Prosperity of a Really Tiny Minority?

Maybe because I'm in business and they automatically think that if you are in business, you might be a Republican (with apologies to Jeff Foxworthy).

Any way, it is a great way to keep an eye on them, but on the other hand I just might learn something.

Just got their latest communication titled "no stimulus."

Really? Are they that dead?

Give to Wisniewski online, too

by folkbum

By overwhelmingly popular request, a link to the other blogger running for school board--Zach W (of Blogging Blue) for South Milwaukee School Board.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Give to Mathias online

by folkbum

Now all of you stampless or lazy people--like me--can PayPal your contributions to Mathias for School Board (endorsement post here). Just click through and give away!