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Pay no attention to the people behind the curtain

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Congratulations, Senator Franken

by folkbum

Finally.

Let Us Count the Ways

By Keith R. Schmitz

The state of Wisconsin budget just signed by Governor Jim Doyle is a reflection of torturous decisions. Of course what really helped the process was the shrill screaming that emanated from the GOP and the rad right that seemed to dominate the "discussion." For months we have been treated to charges of torrents of taxes and job killing regulations. Of course their needle seems to be stuck in that groove.

Nobody by any stretch is happy. For me, in a recession government is the employer of last resort and we should have found ways to keep state workers on the rolls full time. Studies have shown that putting a dollar into the economy through government jobs has greater yield than not taking that dollar out through taxes.

The Wisconsin Technology Network is not a Doyle cheerleader by any means, but kudos for having the fairness to find aspects of the budget that benefit business and growth. Doyle by no means hates Wisconsin business, as well as Democrats in the state legislature, or Democrats for that matter, a good number who are in business and doing very well at it.

We simply don't like a having a government that brings out the worst in business or steamrollers the other stakeholders in the state.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Activist court overturns precedent, law; sides with empathetic plaintiffs

by folkbum

The Ricci decision is out. Let the howling commence.

Also from SCOTUSBlog: "The fact that the Court’s four more liberal members would affirm the Second Circuit shows that Judge Sotomayor’s views were far from outlandish and put her in line with Judge Souter, [whom] she will replace."

Sunday, June 28, 2009

RIP, Billy Mays

by folkbum

Look. Is there some sort of cosmic pause button we can press here to keep people from dying for a few weeks? It's getting a bit overwhelming.

Also, here's an "On the Media" from a few weeks back that I quite enjoyed about the pitchman trade. Seems fitting to revisit it now.

Update: I wonder where Tim Cuprisin got the idea to link to OTM? Hm?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Bad day to be a 1970s icon

by folkbum

RIP, Farah Fawcett and Michael Jackson. Is Gabe Kaplan next?

Simple Answers to Simple Questions

by folkbum

Q: What made Sonia Sotomayor so wise?
A. She did everything John Roberts did, but backwards and in high heels--and in a second language.

Sullivan-Vukmir 2010 race: Just like 2006?

by folkbum

When Jim Sullivan ran against then-incumbent State Senator Tom Reynolds in 2006, Reynolds's bizarre personal behavior and ability to alienate his Republican colleagues allowed Sullivan to win a squeaker in a fairly conservative district. I think most observers agreed back then that had Rep. Leah Vukmir challenged Reynolds in a primary, she would have won and made the Senate contest a little tighter.

But in the three years since then, Vukmir has managed to damage her reputation among members of her party, just like Reynolds. From Milwaukee Magazine's best and worst leggies story (the "worst" section, that is):
Rep. Leah Vukmir (R-Wauwatosa): Her champions rank this former nurse and educational reform advocate among the Legislature’s best. “Very, very bright and really bones up on the issues,” says a conservative lobbyist. A Republican operative credits Vukmir, 50, for making her case “in a more appealing way than some of the other archconservative troglodytes.” He even sees her as poised for a leadership position.

But this is the minority view. “Vukmir should be a star but is an absolute dud,” says another Republican. By withholding her vote and claiming the “more conservative than thou” pose, Vukmir forced her caucus to cut deals with the Democrats and give up more ground. “She just has no strategic sense,” he despairs, adding that Vukmir is despised by most fellow Republicans.

“It’s all about Leah,” grumbles a current Republican staffer. “Given the choice of reaching a compromise or having an issue to campaign on, she will choose the latter.”
There are also pretty persistent rumors from multiple sources about Vukmir's personal life as well. (Heck, given how far out of the loop I tend to be, you've probably heard them, too--and you know it is the kind of thing that might have a bearing on her job were she elected to the State Senate.)

So we might well be looking at a kind of replay of 2006 once Vukmir makes it official later this morning. Sullivan, well liked in his district (and now a successful incumbent with a solid track record), up against a Republican who can alienate her party and whose personal behavior may become a distraction in the campaign. In that case, I'd put my money on Sullivan again. (And you can, too, literally, through my ActBlue page.)

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Sticks out

By Keith R. Schmitz

Spotted a great bumper sticker while biking up KK.

"Faith is a journey, not a guilt trip."

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

RIP, Midwest Airlines

by folkbum

They say it won't be that different, but we all know better.

RIP, Ed McMahon

by folkbum

He's riding in heaven's prize patrol now.

Monday, June 22, 2009

MIA

by folkbum

Okay, look, sometimes we like to joke about how leaders at various levels seem to be missing in action when they fail to act to our liking about some pressing issue or another.

So what do you do when your governor actually is missing in action?

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Father's Day

by folkbum

To any and all fathers in attendance here today.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

That's not what I saw

by folkbum

When I got home from my morning at Marquette yesterday, I mentioned that at lunch--the program I teach with offered us a working lunch as part of the teacher orientation day--the dining hall was full of Teach for America kids. I think my exact words were something like, "It looked like the yuppie cloning machine had been stuck on high."

This line from the paper this morning surprised me, then:
A quick glance around the room reveals a racially diverse group.
Here's Michael Sears's photo accompanying the story; maybe you can see the "diverse" faces in the photo better than I can.(Click through to the paper's story at some point for the bigger photo. Or, heck, go out to the newsstand and buy one. Newspapers are a dying medium, so it surely will be a collector's item some day, worth at least as much as a Bryan Clutterbuck rookie card.)

Or maybe the "diverse" nature of the group stems from the fact that there are alumni from both Notre Dame and Wesleyan.

Look, you all know how I feel about TfA. I suppose it's better, in many ways, to give these beleaguered Ivy-Leaguers jobs this way than letting more of the clog them unemployment lines. And, as lily-white as I am, I should hardly be talking. But Milwaukee's teachers do not currently reflect the look of the students very well, and this isn't going to bring us any closer.

I do wish these kids the best of luck, and hope they stick around longer than just a couple of years.

The dumbest comment on the McFly affair to date

by folkbum

And I'm proud to say it was made right here in the comments section of this very blog!

Regular (and blogger in his own right) Dad29 came by last night to say, "Frankly the biggest story is 'who sent the letters/emails?'--unanswered by Bice." (Original Bice story here, for the one or two of you who haven't read it yet.)

This is dumb for two reasons: One, it suggests that somehow evidence of a transgression (and a Class E felony!) is somehow more important than the transgression itself.

Two, and this is the key, the statement perfectly encapsulates everything that went wrong with the treatment of (alleged) lawbreaking by the Bush administration in the last decade. Wiretaps being done without a warrant in violation of the law? Who told you that? CIA black sites scattered across Eastern Europe? Let's get that reporter's notes! There are photographs out there showing detainee abuse? Stop their release!

Well, okay, the last one also applies to the current administration.

But this is, perhaps, the most frustrating thing for me in considering the way in which government, at many levels, has been running lately, and the way in which people who ought to be (for want of a better term) watchdogging it are falling down on the job. So much attention is paid to the evidence or consequences of the evidence of wrongdoing that no one ever gets around to prosecuting the criminals.

This is not, in any way, to say that McFly should be prosecuted. It's just that this dodge--who leaked the evidence?--is so irritating to me that I have to comment on the larger pattern, using this minor matter as the catalyst.

---
Updated to add: Jessica McBride has made me popular again (according to SiteMeter's graphy thingy):

Friday, June 19, 2009

Brushes with Greatness

by folkbum

Spotted walking down Wisconsin Avenue on the Marquette campus today: Dan Laabs from "Hometime." I resisted the urge to shout "Hometime! Hometime!" across the street at him. He seems to have a kid thinking about or planning to attend MU. Either that, or all that construction on campus is getting so bad they have to call in the TV professionals.

Also: Learned recently that through my association with The Nields (I ate dinner with them at Arby's when I was 20 and could convince myself that that was cool) that not only am I a mere one degree away from Kevin Bacon, I am also apparently just two degrees away from President Bartlett.

Some Need a Cold Shower

By Keith R. Schmitz

In the spirit of "drill baby drill" the right, because they do things because they are political not because they are smart, have been pushing on The President to push on the Iranian government. At least that's Friday's Hot Read.

The question is, have the sweating conservative politicians and pundits asked the protesters? Here's why. Looks like Obama might be ready to swat another fly.

Side note, archetypal southern politician Saxby Chambliss the other day countered an assertion that through we meddled in Iranian politics years ago and risk turning off the Iranians, "nobody today would remember that." Bet you Chambliss is still fighting the Civil War.

Whoa

by folkbum

So my storm-phobic dog wakes me up in the middle of the night, and I pull up the news to see the damage (wunderground tells me there's been tornado warnings about). I was not expecting to see this kind of damage.

***

COLD LIGHT OF MORNING UPDATE: Generally, I let people's personal failures lie, unless there is something that makes such a failure something more than mere human weakness; otherwise, it looks like public reveling in others' private misfortune. (For example, I took no pleasure--and personally made no mention on this blog--of the earlier-than-expected Plain grandchild.)

But two things prompted the above comment. One is that McBride has broken a very strict commandment of journalism. She is for the most part now a crime reporter for Milwaukee Magazine, reporting not just on Chief Flynn in recent months but also on topics like the possible upper-Mississippi serial killer who murders drunk college kids and tosses them in the river. If this is her beat, she's crossed a big red line.

Two, Flynn's arrival in town was heralded, far too much so, by the morality squawkers on line, in print, and over the air. He was coming in to clean up the town, this Good, Upstanding, Irish Catholic (another factoid from McBride's writings on Flynn) man was going to put Milwaukee criminals on notice, the squawkers said, and they celebrated his every victory. A high-profile man whose base of support expects--nay, demands--fealty to the straight and narrow has gone off track, and reaction will be interesting to watch. Will they demand his head, as they did with John Norquist? Will they let it slide? (Of course, many of these same morality-police righties are proud to be called "Charlie Sykes Storm Troopers," and Sykes himself is not such a role model for marital fidelity.)

ONE MORE UPDATE: 1. Brawler has a compendium. Not kind to the parties involved. 2. Dan Cody is nicer. 3. Wiggy sure picked the wrong week to stop sniffing glue blogging.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Another blow to the Milwaukee County budget

by folkbum

I do hope you're all reading capper's blog, a much more thorough repository of all things MKE-CTY than you'll find here. But I got wind of a problem today that maybe even he doesn't know about.

You may recall the audit of the Milwaukee Public Schools the other month, which, among its cost-saving suggestions, wondered why MPS got such a small discount from the Milwaukee County Transit System relative to peer districts and transit systems. I have wondered the same thing myself sometimes. High school students who live a particular distance away from their schools are given bus tickets or weekly passes to ride MCTS twixt home and school. That's about to change.

As it turns out, MPS seems to have worked out a better deal with yellow bus companies in the city, according to information sent to schools this week. My source tells me that starting next school year, MPS is diverting $3 million of its transportation budget away from MCTS and into yellow bus service for the vast majority of high school students in the city. Almost all of the district's comprehensive high schools will be MCTS-free for 2009-2010 and beyond.

This was a bit of a double-edged sword for the county, of course. Had it negotiated a better deal, it would see declining revenue, sure. (Unless MPS got such a good deal from the county that it moved more kids to MCTS and away from yellow bus services, that is.) But the county and MCTS has been pretty steadfast in what it charges MPS, and its failure to budge finally broke the camel's back.

$3 million may not seem like a lot, but when the Board and the County Executive talk about a maybe-gonna-happen $5 million payment from UWM as a life-and-death kind of situation, MPS's cut is going to sting pretty bad.

(UPDATE: Thanks to a thoughtful emailer, here's the original JS story that covered the Board decision to make the cut. I remember that story, but I did not remember the busing part.)

We Can Do It -- Community Bands Together to Start up a Book Store

By Keith R. Schmitz

The disappearance in few months ago of the venerable Harry W. Schwartz bookstore tore a big hole in the fabric of community of life in the Milwaukee northshore.

Around for 17 years, the store became a gathering place for residents to browse books, sip coffee and bump into neighbors. Plus, the store didn't do too bad despite Amazon. Like many stores, it was more than the products it sold.

There are number of ways to fix this, but in the true spirit of this community a group of us are banding together to form a bookstore co-op in the style of Outpost and the Seminary book store chain in Chicago.

We have about 400 people interested in becoming members. If you want a piece of this action, go to www.openbookcoop.com. 

We will be having an informational meeting on July 1st at 7:00 pm in the Hubbard Park River Club. The park is at 3565 N. Morris Blvd. in Shorewood and is accessible through the pedestrian tunnel on the west end of the parking lot.

Drinking Liberally tonight

by folkbum

Join me! We have much to celebrate, including my one day of summer vacation, which is tomorrow.

Monday, June 15, 2009

On books: We don't need a public option!!!!!

by folkbum

I can't believe we're back to this point again. It seems like every ten or fifteen years this book issue rolls around, and the socialists/ collectivists/ communists/ leftwingwackopinktardliberals are once again insisting on overhauling America's book system--the best book system in the world!--for no good reason.

OUR BOOK-DELIVERY SYSTEM IS NOT BROKEN--American advancements in technology keep improving it, in fact--and I don't want those big-government knuckleheads controlling what I can and cannot read! SAY NO TO SOCIALIZED READING!

Any kind of "public option"--and Barack Obama was out at the American Booksellers' Association conference in Chicago today adamantly defending a "public option"--is going to bankrupt us and drive bookstores everywhere out of business. Authors will be told what and how much to write by government bureaucrats and all of us--ALL OF US!--will have our access to reading materials SEVERELY CURTAILED.

Some history is probably in order, for those of you who can't remember the last time we had to fight the LIEberals on this one. The last big fight was HillaryRead. Sure, there was the Readers' Bill of Rights more recently, but that was barely a blip in the long fight against Socialized Reading. HillaryRead was Hilllary's first big project in the Clinton White House. The Clintons had been elected, in part, by promising that they would reform the book-delivery system in this country. Hillary, behind closed doors and in consultation with some of the hardest-left socialists in the country came out with their proposal to give everyone access to GOVERNMENT-FUNDED BOOKS.

Never mind the taxpayer, nosiree, just ram all that new government spending down our throats why don't you. Despite the fact that at the time in America we had a robust, market-driven book delivery system, including local and national book-selling chains, Book of the Month Club, Quality Paperback Book Club, and much much more, KKKlinton thought it would be better to adopt "Canadian" or "European" style LIBRARIES.

That's right--LIBRARIES. For ALL OF US. We'd all get a little card (they were calling it a "library card") and we could all go to these (I shudder to think of it now) "LIBRARIES" where anyone, rich or poor, employed or slacker, could take home books FOR FREE.

Too good to be true, you say. IT IS TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE.

Here's just a short list of all the horrible problems with these "libraries" that were proposed by the Clintons:
  • The selection of books and magazines and newspapers in these "libraries" would be CHOSEN ENTIRELY BY GOVERNMENT BUREAUCRATS. If the bureaucrats don't like your writing--bam!--there goes your access to readers.
  • Those pink-livered GOVERNMENT BUREAUCRATS probably wouldn't give a second thought to exposing our children to alternative facts--like the fact that ghey people exist or that the Biblical version of creation is disputed by "scientists."
  • The "libraries" would be paid for WITH OUR TAX DOLLARS. That's right--any slacker welfare queen could walk into any "library" and take home a book that YOU AND I PAID FOR WITH OUR HARD-EARNED TAX DOLLARS.
  • Potentially tens or dozens of people could read just one copy of a book or a magazine in a "library," thereby robbing authors of their well-deserved royalty money. Everyone who reads a book without paying for it is STEALING.
  • There was the potential then to allow these "libraries" to expand beyond just reading material. For example, the Clintons were talking about letting people take home MOVIES and RECORD ALBUMS to watch and listen to. What if people started just copying these things? That further robs hard-working capitalists of their royalties!
  • These books and other media that the "libraries" were going to hand out? Guess what? YOU COULD NOT KEEP THEM! I mean, you go to Borders, you buy a book, and it's YOURS. You OWN it. This is AMERICA, dammit, and we should be able to keep things!
In the intervening years, thankfully, we killed HillaryRead and then elected a good Republican to the White House who would have none of that read-for-free stuff.

Well, except for his Medicare Subscription Magazine Plan--but we all know that that was really just a DEMOCRAT-LIEBERAL plan all along. And look at how much it's eating away at our budget! The US is spending more on Grit than it is on Blackhawk helicopters!

Now we elected this not-even-a-citizen (bet you won't find that birth certificate in any Honolulu "library"!) Barack Hussein Obama and he's at it again demanding a "public option" in any plan to reform our book system. PUBLIC OPTION is LIEberal code for LIBRARIES. Wake up, America! Socialized Reading is making a comeback

What's really bad is that in the intervening years since HillaryRead, the United States has led the world in the advancement of market-driven reading options. I mean, LOOK AT YOUR SCREEN! This is the internet, baby, and it is one of the best information-sharing tools the market has ever devised! Free-marketeers and capitalist engineers slaved away in obscurity and near-poverty for decades before getting the World Wide Web really up and running. But thank God they did! Now everyone (who can pay an ISP) has access to all kinds of free or cheap websites like this one! ([JOKE REMOVED ON ORDERS FROM HIS HIGHNESS SIR GOOGLEBOT])

And booksellers have been able to take advantage of this internet. There's Amazon, which has proven to be the 900 pound gorilla in this fight. They can sell you just about any book you can think of. There are also plenty of systems out there that print-on-demand books that you want but that aren't popular enough to keep in stock. Newspapers and magazines are positively THRIVING in this new era of internet capitalism! And independent booksellers, too! (I'm sure of it, even though I'm not going to check on those facts. It feels true to me.)

But what, the few COMMUNIST ISLAMIST PINKO LIEberals who may happen to read this may ask, what about people who can't afford to buy books on their own?

First of all, it's a BIG FAT LIEberal MYTH that there are so many people (they like to say 46 million) who can't afford to buy books on their own, and millions more, they claim (LIES!) who are under-read because they can't pay for enough reading material. The LIEberals like to claim that there are millions (nine million) of under-read children (whose parents are just welfare-queen baby factory slackers suckling enough already off the public teat). Boo-hoo! I say! I grew up lower-middle-class myself, and you know what? My family found time to read together. So poor people can just suck it because my anecdote trumps the LIEberals' "data."

So, conservatives, my brethren, we must rally! We must KILL the PUBLIC OPTION. KILL THE LIBRARIES! There should NEVER be any GOVERNMENT BUREAUCRAT telling us what we can and can't read! There should NEVER be a GOVERNMENT BUREAUCRAT telling authors and newspapers and magazines what they can and can't write!

Contact your Representatives and Senators now and tell them NO PUBLIC BOOKS! NO SOCIALIZED READING! NO LIBRARIES!

Feminist Mistake

By Keith R. Schmitz

Sarah Palin's feminist rage at David Letterman could ring true if she hadn't supported charging rape victims for the cost of rape kits while she was Mayor of Walsilla, AK.

Unfortunately for her supporters, there aren't many voters out there who are into phony.

Friday, June 12, 2009

McIlheran Watch: I was surprised to read this blog post

by folkbum

Of course, the only thing surprising about about it is that apparently he has an editor.

Quote of the Day

by folkbum

I had my upperclass students making movies at xtranormal.com for their final project. Here's a bit of dialogue:
Girl 1: Don't say anything, but I heard that he beat her so bad she died.
Girl 2: Are you serious?
Girl 1: Yes. That's why she hasn't been to school in a while.
Alternatively from a different movie:
Perp: If I run, will you do me like Rodney King?
Cop. Perhaps. (pause) Is it too late to ask for an autograph?
Sometime I can't tell if they do this on purpose.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

That makes two choice provisions Doyle should veto

by folkbum

I am not a fan of the Milwuaukee Parental Choice Program, and if I could snap fingers and have it disappear tomorrow, I would.

However, that doesn't mean Democrats in the legislature need to be stupid:
Democrats who control the state Assembly voted Thursday to cap participation in Milwaukee's parents' choice program at 19,500 students for the next two years - about 500 fewer students than the number who now attend private schools at state expense.

If it becomes law, the change would reverse a 2006 compromise that would have allowed participation to grow to 22,500.
There are any number of things that could be done to draw parents out of the program and back into the public schools, but this is just a way to build animus where there does not need to be more.

Sen. Rep. Fred Kessler, whose idea this seems to be, has floated a much better idea, which is to spin off the MPCP into its own district, divorcing it from MPS and the Milwaukee tax rolls. He should be pursuing that, rather than this piddly little stuff that won't actually solve anything.

(The second thing that needs vetoing is the dumb bilingual provision. Sorry, Pedro.)

Shorter entire right-wing blogosphere

by folkbum

Torturing a guy--waterboarding, sleep deprivation, stress positions--to make him talk: perfectly acceptable.

Telling a guy he might have the right not to talk, at least not before consulting an attorney: treason.

clearly the result of living in an alternate reality

Even Lt. Gov. Lawton beats the pants off of Walker, Neumann

by folkbum

There is no serious indication that Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle is not running for re-election. There's also not any serious indication that he is, for that matter; I think we have all just been assuming that he will.

Research 2000, for Daily Kos (so, salt grains perhaps necessary), not only polled the Doyle match-ups against his likeliest opponents (Scott Walker, Tosa Ranger and Mark (Nickname Needed) Neumann--not to mention fantasy candidate Tommy! Thompson); they also polled Lt. Gov. Barbara Lawton:

Barbara Lawton (D) 44
Scott Walker (R)   35
Undecided          21


Barbara Lawton (D) 43
Mark Neumann (R)   35
Undecided          22


Barbara Lawton (D) 44
Tommy Thompson (R) 46
Undecided          10

I have to say, that's not bad for someone that the rightie bloggers insist is the least popular woman in state politics!

The full breakdown, including Senate numbers and fav/unfav for everybody polled, is here, and Lawton again proves remarkably popular for someone with a relatively low profile. If she could boost her numbers just among Democrats, for example, she would be almost as popular as Doyle, and more popular than Neumann. (She's already more popular than Walker, with a 35% favorability rating, over Walker's 33%.)

No one, of course, is more popular than Tommy!, but that's probably because absence has made our hearts fonder. And, after all, he was in charge during the 1990s boom time, and we'd give anything to return to that boom.

But the real story is Walker and Neumann, with their low scores, and low numbers against both Doyle and Lawton. And, yes, both guys hold Doyle and Lawton under 50%, which is generally a sign of weakness in an incumbent; and, yes, Walker still has 51% of the people in the state who have no opinion of him, so he has room to grow.

However, this poll confirms what even the right-tackular MacGuyver Institute poll suggested a couple of months ago: Doyle, though not the most popular guy in what should be a horrible set of circumstances for any sitting governor, is starting from relative strength against two weak opponents. The polling really does look like it did four years ago, and Doyle coasted to victory in 2006. Republicans need either better candidates or better lines of attack that anything they've used so far.

Reading Assignment

by folkbum

Frequent commenter here and former Milwaukeean Dan has a blog.

Conceal and Carry on Two Wheels

By Keith R. Schmitz

Did you happen to notice that the still unnamed bicyclist who shot the two city of Milwaukee police officers was concealing and carrying?

Kind of blows holes in the argument that if you carry a gun you are safer.

Here were not one, but two, well armed and trained gentlemen who have to spend some time in the hospital. If someone gets the drop on you, a gun isn't going to provide the protection you imagine and most who fancy themselves as the shoot-em up types would have no where the training these two officers have.

Bet you that if we had conceal and carry in Wisconsin, the bicyclist would have gotten a permit, so what we had here was a case of C and C de facto. Sure he did it, but why encourage more people to carry who might go off when confronted by the police, or get into an argument in traffic.

I think about an incident in Madison following Badger football, going down Wilson and not noticing a bicyclist dressed in black at dusk. The guy thought I had brushed him too close and pedaled like a madman to do god knows what if he caught up with me for many blocks. A gun would have not been a happy part of this crazy equation.

To the best of knowledge no conceal and carry permit comes with a psychological exam, and that is one part of the conceal that I fear the most.

Sure if you look hard enough there are cases here and there where people have defended themselves successfully. But the cost benefit of having so many guns flooding our society has not worked out in terms of situations like this one, or kids finding guns, suicides, settling arguments, etc. The stats aren't on your side, sketchy as they are. If the NRA didn't stand in the way of working up more stats the argument would surely be even harder.

Curing a disease by inflicting the disease only works with small pox.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

To Die For

By Keith R. Schmitz

The Wisconsin State Fair takes artery clogging to a whole new level with chocolate covered bacon.

Maybe time for Vitorin to consider opening a booth.

Monday, June 08, 2009

More Depressing News

By 3rd Way

To keep this pity party going I thought I should report on something new I learned today from whatilearnd.com.

0.000000435%

is roughly the percent of GM that we each own.

$362 is what each of us paid for that equity stake.

That’s because $50,000,000,000 is the total amount the US Treasury has spent of GM’s survival. (That’s $30.1 billion for 60% of New GM’s equity + $20.6 billion that we spent trying to keep them out of bankruptcy.) And that’s just the beginning of it.

So $83,000,000,000 is what New GM would have to be worth in order for us to break even on our investment.

But $56,000,000,000 is what GM was worth at its all time peak in 2000.

And it’s only worth about $7,300,000,000 now.


I am certainly not a bankruptcy guy, but managing the bankruptcy of GM seems like a prudent thing for our government to do. I just wish there was a way to keep an important American industry afloat without throwing so much danged moolah at a failed enterprise.

This is also depressing

by folkbum

Just weeks after breaking my MacBook Pro, necessitating a purchase of a new MacBook, Apple phases out its unibody MacBook line in favor of a cheaper, faster, 13" MacBook Pro.

Well, this is depressing

by folkbum

The Cheesy Grill has folded. I only ate there two or three times since it opened, but I liked it every time. Good food, cheap, locally owned--and run out of business, undoubtedly, by the Sonic across the street.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Mudd and Norquist are wrong about vouchers--still

by folkbum

John Norquist and Susan Mudd, the former mayor of and wife-of-the-former-mayor of Milwaukee (and current residents of Chicago), have an op-ed in this morning's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel complaining about the new regulations that will be placed on private schools that receive tax money to educate children through the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, colloquially known as the voucher program.

These new regulations are essentially the same ones that I wrote about here, when another non-Milwaukeean, George Lightbourn of the WPRI, called them "onerous enough for the choice schools that they will be forced to opt out of the choice program." Actually, it's not even all of those regulations, as some of the proposals were stripped from the current bill making its way through the legislature after Democrats met with voucher leaders and compromised on some of the harshest of provisions.

You can read about the current version of the proposals through Alan Borsuk's reporting here, and voucher advocates' response to them (spoiler alert: they don't care for the regulation) here. The gist of the changes are these:
  • scheduling the same number of hours of instruction each year as required in public schools,
  • administering state standardized tests and reporting the results,
  • requiring all teachers and administrators in Choice schools to have a bachelor's degree, and
  • requiring bilingual education in schools with a threshold number of English language learners.
All of these things are currently required of every single school that uses tax dollars to educate children in the state, whether traditional public schools or charter schools, with the exception of the 110 or so voucher schools in MPCP. Every. School. In. The. State.

And yet, somehow this is going to torpedo the voucher program, according to the pro-voucher camp.

What's more, some of the most sensible and responsible of the requirements--in my opinion as an educator and education writer--were dropped. (Compare the list above to the list from my Lightbourn post, linked above.) Gone is the requirement that schools demonstrate their capability to educate (via accreditation) before we cut them a check or put our children in their hands. Gone is the proposal that schools that take and spend your tax dollars open up their meetings and their records for the public to see. Gone is the requirement that schools develop and internally consistent written policies for passing and graduating students. And there never was a provision to require voucher schools to offer accommodations for the special-education students they accept.

Mudd and Norquist, though, cannot believe how powerful is the hammer that is about to come down on the program, and, in a near-textbook example of unwarranted extrapolation, blame Jim Doyle and legislative Democrats for the end of western civilization as we know it:
Nonetheless, Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle has included in his biennial budget bill new regulation cloaked as "accountability." Democrats on the Legislature's budget-writing committee last week added funding cuts and requirements for bilingual programs to the new mandates. [. . .] Will this improve education? No. Private schools in the choice program will need to shift scarce remaining resources from educating kids to administration.

Our cities--indeed our nation--will not thrive if we, unique among all advanced industrialized nations, rely solely on an under-producing government school monopoly and deprive citizens of the freedom to choose the schools best for their children.
OMG! Schools will have to "shift scarce remaining resources from educating kids to administration"! Let's hope no one tells Mudd and Norquist about the new burdens coming down on MPS for not making AYP again!

Aside from the histrionics, Mudd and Norquist also offer up a number of questionable assertions and, just as bad, allow anecdote to become argument. They write:
Educational innovation is giving parents more of what they want. Before school choice, Milwaukee had two public and two private Montessori schools. Now there are seven public and eight private Montessori schools and one private Waldorf school, which our son, Ben, attended.

Results are not the issue. Three studies show that choice students graduate at higher rates than students in public schools. Research also shows public schools improving because of the competition school choice brings to bear. Even public school teachers have benefited; as performance has gained importance, Milwaukee Public Schools and the teachers union have focused bargaining more on pay and classroom conditions to retain skilled teachers and less on pension and severance issues for those about to leave.
Problems abound. For one, the "studies" do not say what Mudd and Norquist say they say. The studies of high school graduation rates (I've written about most of them before; click on the "Milwaukee Parental Choice Program" tag at the end of this post and they'll be in there somewhere) were flawed in various ways. Some counted the four-year graduation rate (many MPS students are on the five-year plan or finish at MATC); some did not account for differences in demographics or just the fact that students whose families opt out of MPS tend to be the kind of families whose children also graduate, on-time and easily, from MPS--not the kind of families that tolerate or encourage truancy and drop-outs.

Further, the first two years of state-mandated studies have shown that voucher students and MPS students achieve at about the same rates--which understates the far-too-frequent catastrophic failures of voucher schools (by my count, the state had closed six in this school year for various reasons). Plus, the state-mandated study, authored in part by long-time voucher advocate Jay Greene (who also did at least one of the graduation studies cited by Mudd and Norquist), that found that competition had improved MPS was flawed and showed, at best, "the practical effect of competition through vouchers appears to be small, if not negligible" (.pdf). Mudd and Norquist offer the classic post hoc argument for an increasing diversity in educational options within MPS, ignoring similar diversification has happened in places like Chicago, Minneapolis, and, locally, Madison, all without the threat of vouchers. (Mudd and Norquist also omit the Urban Waldorf School, an MPS school.)

Finally, Mudd and Norquist offer the anecdote of their son Ben's experience as being somehow representative of what voucher students across the city experience:
We chose Tamarack Community School, a K-8 school whose enrollment of 212 includes 141 choice students, because we value the way the school seeks to educate the whole child, first focusing on imaginative play and later teaching reading. Our son had the same teacher for six years. He learned well and earns superior grades at a demanding private high school in Chicago. Almost all of his former classmates are succeeding as well.
Believe me: There was probably nothing typical about the education of the mayor's son. I also have a hard time believing that the advantages of having two college-educated, relatively wealthy white parents had nothing to do with Ben's educational acumen. I have written repeatedly here about how poverty, more than anything else, is the best predictor of student achievement. Standard disclaimers apply: not every poor kid fails, and not every rich kid succeeds. But when you're the mayor's son, there are enough other factors at play to suggest success; if even half my current students had half the privilege of Mudd and Norquist's son, my job would be a thousand times easier.

Moreover, Tamarack School is hardly typical of voucher schools generally. Its long-standing program and time-tested curriculum (90 years or so since Rudolf Steiner started the Waldorf system) is a far cry from the kind of fly-by-night operations that usually populate the lists of schools applying to the program every year. If all voucher schools were like Tamarack, efforts to regulate the program more tightly would not be necessary, and the program would not have between a quarter and third of its students turning over every year.

Mudd and Norquist frame the argument as a specific attack against Democrats making these changes. Mayor in Milwaukee is a non-partisan office, but it was no secret that Norquist was a Democrat and they were active in the local party. The title of their op-ed makes it clear: "Disgracing our party's own ideals," it's called. There is a whole other post or two or three in knocking down the "liberal" argument for vouchers (as one Norquista described it, wealthy white families have always have had a choice where to go (as it turns out, they settled on the suburbs), and African American families shouldn't allow poverty to make that choice for them). I won't get into that here.

However, the internecine fighting sure perks up the Journal Sentinel's right-wing talking-point dispenser conservative Patrick McIlheran, who celebrates the pie fight on his blog today. Of course, he's also dedicated his column ths morning to bemoaning the same regulations as Mudd and Norquist, since these requirements are so terrible that it takes two columns to cover the enormity. (The balancing opinion, explaining why such regulation is a good idea, is provided by, well, nobody. The closest you get is what you're reading now, far removed from jsonline.) So, thanks, Susan and John, for throwing the Republican dogs some red meat. The Democrats you've left behind sure appreciate it.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

An oldie

by folkbum

It may seem a little lazy to post a re-run, but it's not the worst way I could think of to remember 65 years of a free Europe.
Our Grandfathers

Fighting the primal male urge to skip
stones out along the water,
he might say, "This is where
I landed," or, "This is where
my friend died."

Or amid the bustle of that South Pacific
cruise ship, he might cock his head
a little and say, "We heard
the plane coming in before
any of us saw it."

Or with a EuroRail pass clutched in one hand
and a large-print mystery in the other,
he might say, "It took us months
to get this far," about the swift-moving
countryside. "Months."

Or standing awkwardly by the flag,
back bent and knees newer
than the rest of him, he might
shift that rumpled hat from hand
to hand, remembering.

Memorial Day, 2004

Friday, June 05, 2009

Sometimes doing a Sista Souljah moment* is unavoidable

by folkbum

As it is in the case of Assembly Democrats' fundraising in the middle of doing the state budget.

When I first started blogging, I had this recurring fantasy that I would be recognized for my political acumen and invited to offer strategy to the Democrats my blog had single-handedly elected to run the state. Among the first pieces of advice the fantasy me offered in the fantasy strategy session was Don't screw this up by acting like politicians. People hate politicians, and when you look like a pol you lose the game. FAIL. Don't come crying to me when you get beat next year.

Fantasy me is now shaking my head at real them.

In real life, I have been a consistent advocate for campaign finance reform, against the stance of my union and bone-headed conservative bloggers and commentators. And, dangit, this is exactly why the whole system needs upending.

* For my younger readers.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

On the Topic of D-Day, Can We Clarify Something?

by bert

For the umpteenth time today I heard a gratifying but untrue version of the meaning of June 7, 1944. Here is the letter I wrote in the hopes of fixing it, sent to the oh-so-scholarly Heritage Foundation. Futile I know, but better to light a candle than curse the darkness.

Nile Gardiner, Director
Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom
Heritage Foundation
Washington, DC

Dear Dr. Gardiner:

I heard your interview this morning with our local radio host Charlie Sykes. There is one inaccurate point (among many) that the two of you stated as if historical fact that I must dispute. Call me an America-hater if you want, but I do not support creating self-serving fantasies when they do such violence to what actually happened.

You contend that America in World War II, with some ancillary help from the British, rescued Europe from fascism. This is the fantasy: that the U.S. military, more than anyone, defeated Hitler and saved Europe. My question to you is: Do the Russians -- including the 25 million dead, the heroes of Stalingrad or those Red Army soldiers who actually delivered the coup de grace in Berlin in May, 1945 -- play any role in this at all? Or, is the Russian contribution so far less than either the U.S. or British to not warrant a mention? Or -- here's another possibility -- is it forbidden to work at Heritage and also say something nice about communists?

While I believe the U.S. military did contribute significantly to the Allied victory in Europe, and, from a moral perspective, I believe the deaths of the over 100,000 U.S. soldiers and sailors there were heroic, I also don't think it contradicts either of those premises to acknowledge that the outcome of the war in Europe was not really in doubt by the time of the D-Day amphibious counter-attack in 1944.

The Battle of Britain in 1940-41 and the surrender at Stalingrad in 1943 were more important turning points.

Thanks for hearing me out sir.

Sincerely,

Bert, Director
Victor Berger Center for Mangled History

Folkbum Institute

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

RIP, Koko Taylor

by folkbum

There is no question that the sept- and octogenarian bluesfolk had a particular mystique. The show(wo)manship, in particular, of coots like BB King or the now-late Koko Taylor, is something borrowed and, I think, vastly improved upon, from big-band leaders of the generation before, like Louis Armstrong or Cab Calloway or Duke Ellington. I saw Koko Taylor in, I believe, 1995. I understand she hadn't slowed down one bit until just recently. Classy lady, and one of the last of a (literally) dying breed.

And She's a Racist?

By Keith R. Schmitz

For what seems to be an endless week or two, conservatives have been baying at the moon over a greatly puffed up statement made by Supreme Court pick Sonia Sotomayer supposedly revealing her "racism."

Used to be they could get away with this kind of nonsense to the point of getting a president impeached, because that was horrible, just horrible and we have to do something about it.

Now one statement makes Judge Sotomayer the grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. Talk about your bigger tent.

Now people have gotten wide and getting away with it is not what it used to be. Besides, many of those who bellow racism are quite likely very expert in practicing it themselves. Hence the laughability.

Now word has come up that one of the advisers to two of leading voices -- Tom Tancredo and Pat Buchanan -- has a bit of a race problem himself.
On July 7, 2007, Marcus Epstein had too much to drink and stumbled onto Georgetown’s scenic, shop-lined M Street, walking in no particular direction. At 7:15 p.m., he bumped into a black woman, called her a “nigger,” and struck her in the head with an open hand. An off-duty Secret Service agent was watching. Epstein “jogged away,” according to the agent’s affidavit, and when Epstein was finally chased down, he “continued to flail his arms while being taken into custody.”
It would be nice if these guys would pay less attention to fanciful racism charges and tend to their own house.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Milwaukee Proves too Highbrow

by folkbum

AirTran ends service from Milwaukee to Branson
Jun. 2, 2009 2:04 p.m. | If you're looking to fly nonstop from Milwaukee to tourism destination Branson, Mo., book those tickets quickly - AirTran Airways' direct service is ending after July 6, just two months after it started.
I guess there just aren't enough of us who need to see Yakov Smirnoff.

In Soviet Russia, newspaper links to you!

Monday, June 01, 2009

The Longest Day

Keith R. Schmitz

Ladies and gentlemen place your bets.

A lot has been made about Sonia Sotomayer's remark about "wise Latinas" from about eight years ago. The right, with not much to play with, has gone apoplectic and in the process turned off more independents. Drama queens seldom have appeal.

The White House kind of muffed slapping this thing down, but overwrought reactions are always hard to deal with.

Chances are once we finally get to nomination hearings, this will be the first thing on the agenda, she will have a statement and there will be some back and forth as the Senators or both parties have their say on it and then pooff, gone, along with the credibility of the right.