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Thursday, May 31, 2007

A Good Day to Have a GoogleNews Alert for "Jay Bullock"

by folkbum

Because not only am I featured in Wiggy's column (where I co-star with Cindy Sheehan, of all people), it turns out that I also transport autos around Europe:
One of the most unusual and highly specialised fleets in the UK has taken delivery of four new Euro 5 compliant Volvo FH-440 4x2 tractor units - part of a total order for six.

CARS, the initials stand for Classic Automotive Relocation Services, store, transport and arrange shipping for some of the most valuable and collectable cars in the world. [. . .]

CARS Director Jay Bullock says that the company chose Volvo and Euro 5 for safety and environmental reasons and the fact that Volvo had Euro 5 compliant engines readily available to order. Presenting a high-quality company image is also vital to the operation, he says. “Not normal is our business! Our customers demand very high quality service and the image of our vehicles is very important.”

“The Euro 5 Volvo’s are state-of-the-art and we have good personal service from the Dealer. If one of our customers asks us to collect a three million dollar car at a certain time, we have to be there. These trucks could be meeting an Antonov cargo plane at Stansted one day to unload the cars belonging to the competitors returning from the Beijing to Paris rally and delivering a unique, classic car to a collector in Barcelona for a film shoot the next. We need top class trucks with best in the business back-up. That’s why we chose Volvo.”
I am looking for a new car. I'd be happy with a Volvo . . .

(Two things about Wiggy's column: He tries to make this blog a year older than it is. And I may respond more later, but I'm under deadline for my own column . . .)


I wrote most of a draft of this post this morning, but, screw it. Just go read this. It's better than I was doing.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Among other things

I'm updating the Blogroll. If I'm missing you, tell me.

I'm also testing a [GASP!] three-column template, if you care to offer an opinion on it so far.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

McIlheran Watch: I think I'm owed an apology

by folkbum (UPDATED below)

I'd like to see Patrick McIlheran spin his way out of this:
An unclassified summary of outed CIA officer Valerie Plame's employment history at the spy agency, disclosed for the first time today in a court filing by Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald, indicates that Plame was "covert" when her name became public in July 2003. [. . .]

The unclassified summary of Plame's employment with the CIA at the time that syndicated columnist Robert Novak published her name on July 14, 2003 says, "Ms. Wilson was a covert CIA employee for who the CIA was taking affirmative measures to conceal her intelligence relationship to the United States."

Plame worked as an operations officer in the Directorate of Operations and was assigned to the Counterproliferation Division (CPD) in January 2002 at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia.

The employment history indicates that while she was assigned to CPD, Plame, "engaged in temporary duty travel overseas on official business." The report says, "she traveled at least seven times to more than ten times." When overseas Plame traveled undercover, "sometimes in true name and sometimes in alias -- but always using cover -- whether official or non-official (NOC) -- with no ostensible relationship to the CIA."
McIlheran's not the only one, of course, who sputtered and blustered for the last three years that Valerie Plame was not covert, and, therefore, Scotter Libby was railroaded. But his bluster was plenty loud, and loaded with falsehoods (and how!).

He seemed bothered that I insisted on accuracy. But I do, and when last we left the matter, he not only seemed convinced that Scooter Libby did nothing wrong (though Libby admitted to giving Plame's name to reporters), but that Plame wasn't really all that covert. Let's see if he corrects the record.

UPDATE: I should add this:
Special counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald has made it clearer than ever that he was hot on the trail of a coordinated campaign to out CIA agent Valerie Plame until that line of investigation was cut off by the repeated lies from Vice President Cheney's former chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby. [. . .]

Despite all the public interest in the case, Fitzgerald has repeatedly asserted that grand-jury secrecy rules prohibit him from being more forthcoming about either the course of his investigation or any findings beyond those he disclosed to make the case against Libby. But when his motives have been attacked during court proceedings, Fitzgerald has occasionally shown flashes of anger -- and has hinted that he and his investigative team suspected more malfeasance at higher levels of government than they were able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt.

In Friday's eminently readable court filing, Fitzgerald quotes the Libby defense calling his prosecution "unwarranted, unjust, and motivated by politics." In responding to that charge, the special counsel evidently felt obliged to put Libby's crime in context. And that context is Dick Cheney.

Libby's lies, Fitzgerald wrote, "made impossible an accurate evaluation of the role that Mr. Libby and those with whom he worked played in the disclosure of information regarding Ms. Wilson's CIA employment and about the motivations for their actions." [. . .]

Not clear on the concept yet? Fitzgerald adds: "To accept the argument that Mr. Libby's prosecution is the inappropriate product of an investigation that should have been closed at an early stage, one must accept the proposition that the investigation should have been closed after at least three high-ranking government officials were identified as having disclosed to reporters classified information about covert agent Valerie Wilson, where the account of one of them was directly contradicted by other witnesses, where there was reason to believe that some of the relevant activity may have been coordinated, and where there was an indication from Mr. Libby himself that his disclosures to the press may have been personally sanctioned by the Vice President."
McIlheran and his ilk have been insisting for three years that the Libby case, the whole investigation into who leaked a CIA agent's name to the press and why, has been pointless. But here it is clear both that the investigation was necessary and that Libby's obstruction made it more difficult (as obstruction often does) for FItzgerald to get to the bottom of what happened. To suggest now that he was a scapegoat, or that he should be pardoned, is ridiculous.

Monday, May 28, 2007

It's not a happy blogoversary

So I've been at this four years, today. Woo.

I'm in one of my periodic what's-the-point-of-blogging slumps, which is a big part of why this space has been quiet for a few days. That, and work in and out of the house, car shopping, quality time with my charcoal grill . . .

But it's also Memorial Day, and it's mind-boggling to me that, since this day last year, we have nearly 1000 new American dead to remember. How can a blogoversary compare to that?

We have, it seems, a whole mess of Republicans running for president intent not just on killing thousands more in this damned war, but in fully buying into the lies that got us here. How can I celebrate that?

We're learning this Memorial Day even more about just how outrage-inducing indeed these memorials truly are, how utterly unnecessary each and every one of the thousands of deaths. And for four years, this blog has been a witness. It's not something to be proud of, to be happy for, to be excited over.

This Memorial Day, every American should be ashamed of where we are, how far we've come, and what price we've paid these four years.

Hence, the silence.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

What are you really looking for?

by folkbum

Someone today in Medway, Massachussetts (halfway between Boston and Woonsocket, if you didn't know) found this blog today googling sesquicentennial observances toilets. I'm proud to say I was result number 8.

But I have to ask: What was he really looking for?

How far out of the mainstream is Jessica McBride?

by folkbum

I almost feel bad for piling on, but this is too easy not to take the shot. Tuesday, McBride blogged about the proposed immigration bill, the deal struck between Congress and the president:
How far out of the mainstream is the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel editorial board?

So far out of the mainstream they think the amnesty immigration bill is "ugly" and "un-American."

No, not because they think it's too lenient. They think it's too tough!
The "they think" link takes you to the editorial where, indeed, they write that "ugly is too kind a description" for the bill. They cite, for example, the lack of a provision that would allow families to be together and changing how businesses sponsor employees through the H1-B program. Mostly, though, there's this:
It will entail a historic repudiation of that quintessential American value: that people who come here from other countries to labor to make this country richer and stronger deserve a chance to formally become one of us through legal residency or citizenship.

The guest worker portion of this measure says that only their sweat and toil are worthy. The mostly Latino workers themselves are not. [. . . ] The re-entry part is problematic because immigrants will have to be convinced that there is no risk in leaving. If they discern risk that might separate them from their jobs and their families, they might opt to remain in the shadows.

But the lack of a path to legal residency for the temporary workers makes certain that they will remain in those shadows. Under this measure, they could only be temporary workers for two years, renewing twice but only if they spend one year outside the country between each stint. This only assures that these two-year workers will prefer to remain here--undocumented and exploited.
This is the part that McBride seems to have a problem with, the complaint that the measure is "too tough" to be useful. She and the rest of the conservative noise machine find any path to a legal status to be "amnesty" and, therefore, "too lenient." It will only take you a few seconds with google and a pair of hip-waders to find outrage at GOP lawmakers supporting this plan in the swamp that is conservative blogosphere. (Sean Hackbarth has an example.)

Problem is, McBride and the conservative bloggers are the ones "out of the mainstream" on immigration. This is a pretty common theme, I've noticed. I remember it from last year about this time when Russ Feingold was asking for a censure of President Bush and every conservative blogger in the state insisted he was "out of the mainstream" or selling out to the "drum circle left." Yet when you looked at where the general public was really at, Feingold was dead on with public opinion. Those bloggers just assumed that because Feingold disagreed with them, he must have been on the fringes, while never considering that, perhaps, it was their own attitudes that were on the fringe.

The same thing is true for immigration, if you look at the actual poll numbers. Responses vary based on the wording of the question, but you get a sense that in general, the kind of strict closed-border, deport-them-all policy McBride and Co. would favor is decidedly not what the public would want.
  • From a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation Poll done May 4-6: 53% oppose building aborder fence, 50% oppose a guest worker progam without citizenship as a possibility, and a whopping 80% favor some path to citizenship for illegal immigrants here now.
  • From a USA Today/Gallup Poll in the field April 13-15, 2007: 76% prefer a path to citizenship, either leaving and returning (42%) or staying (36%).
  • From a Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg Poll taken April 5-9, 2007: 55% say guest workers should be a part of an immigration bill, 40% say only border security.
  • From another USA Today/Gallup Poll done March 2-4, 2007: 59% think illegal immigrants should be able to stay if they "meet certain requirements"; only 24% say "deport them all."
I haven't come down one way or the other on this immigration bill. I think, generally, trying to round up and deport 12 million people will be a much more expensive and time-consuming process than is ultimately worth whatever gain might come from it. I also think it would be better to have people who are here visible and, therefore, not so concerned about who might discover them that they would be willing to kill a Kenosha sheriff's deputy, for example.

But what is certain is that McBride cannot claim that the Journal Sentinel editorial board is out of the mainstream here. She is.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

One for all you union-bashers

Buried in an editorial about the news that the state's--and the Milwaukee Public Schools'--scores on WKCE math tests moved up a bit is this tidbit:
Notably, schools in Milwaukee that received extra resources through a National Education Association grant had bigger gains than did MPS as a whole. The lesson: Resources spent wisely make a difference.
The NEA ponied up its money, from its dues-paying members, in an effort to close the achievement gap. It seems to have helped raise scores overall. (We won't know until the disaggregated data are available whether the gap closed.)

But where was the Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce with its grant to raise achievement? Or the Club for Growth? Or School Choice Wisconsin? Or any of the other groups or individuals who regularly bash the unions for not caring about kids or education?

I thought so.

Stone Phillips has been let go by NBC

So says Tim Cuprisin. No word yet on what it was Phillips said about Eugene Kane to get himself fired.

Monday, May 21, 2007

A final McFiasco post

by folkbum

This is a post mostly just to gather the last few thought strands about the whole mess. I'm not saying I'll never write about anything related again; don't get me wrong. But this is some important stuff you shouldn't overlook.

Some of you who read me by accident (or because you live with me) may be wondering what the big deal is. And it is a big deal. Fact is, Friday (when McBride was fired) and today (when everyone got back into the office to find that McBride was fired) have been two of my highest-traffic days ever. I'm talking numbers that rival recent election days. (Unfortunately, I don't get paid unless [DEPENDENT CLAUSE REDACTED TO SATISFY GOOGLE'S SENSE OF PROPRIETY].)

But why? I can't help but be reminded of Seth Zlotocha's question of so long ago. (Actually, it was only February, but the fact that it feels like so long ago kind of proves his point.) He wondered whether the kind of blogging we do actually helps or hurts, since the most excitement, the most buzz, comes from this kind of intensely partisan and ultimately small-potatoes issue. Seth, admirably, has kept silent on the entire McFiasco, choosing instead to do really important work on matters that, someday, will make a difference in the world. And here I am explaining, repeatedly, in comments all over the Cheddarsphere that no, I don't particularly care about Eugene Kane and any part he may or may not have played in the drama.

So, why? Because it's about us. The keys are flying off our keyboards over this mess because, regardless of whether we're liberal or conservative, Jessica McBride is one of us. Even we bloggers who would not agree with her if she posited that the sky were blue on sunny days have to look at what she does, and what we do, and see, in fact, some similarity. You can think she's horrible at it, but at the end, the it is this. In any small group, gossip about the group is inherently perceived as more important than discussion of things outside of the group. Children dying in the streets? Nah, let's talk about McBride. Troops dying in Iraq? Nah, let's talk about McBride. Incompetent justice department? Health care crisis? Underfunded schools? Nah--did you hear the one about McBride . . .?

I'm not saying we shouldn't have done this. In-group policing is a key part of belonging to a group, after all. I'm just trying to explain why this, of all topics we could have thrown down about over the last week, is the one that got the attention.

[UPDATED to add: McBride, as well, has been upfront about admitting the relationship between conservative bloggers and the megaphone of talk radio. And that liberal blogs lack such a megaphone. I have always given McBride credit for that, when Sykes and Co. deny, deny, deny.]
Most of the interesting commentary from the weekend was collected at WisOpinion today. Mike Schramm forever has his finger on the pulse of the blogosphere, today being no exception.

Two posts you absolutely must read--and I'm not kidding, people, this is mandatory: Nick Schweitzer's explanation of why McBride and her supporters in the McFiasco cannot blame Eugene Kane. Nick said it better than I could, and in language even the dimmest bulb could understand. Also, you must read Jason Haas's account of attending Jasmine Owens's funeral. UPDATED to add: Check out Erik Opsal's omnibus post, too.

Some on the right (encouraged by hints among McBride's excuses) are raising the suggestion that the McFiasco is purely the result of someone with a personal axe to grind against McBride. First, as I suggest in the comments to my previous post, if we ignored every blogger with an axe to grind, we'd never have anything to read. James Rowen can speak for himself on the matter of whether his grapes are sour (I suspect they are not). But as one who, in the words of a certain Marquette University professor, "carries water" for Jim on the matter, let me explain: It matters not who first noticed that a thing was done. It matters only that thing was done, and, in this case, the thing was wrong in itself. If we cannot call something wrong because of the origin of that knowledge, then we have lost something critical about our ability to think and discuss rationally.

It's also important to remember that pretty much none of us asked for McBride to be fired, only for an apology. Her firing precludes--or perhaps is a substitute for--that, so after all is said and done, we axe-grinders didn't even get what we wanted. The only one I see calling for McBride to be fired now from UWM is Michael McGee, Jr., who as I'm sure you're all aware, speaks for practically no one but himself. Certainly not me, certainly not Jim Rowen. (Aside: Would McGee ever get any exercise if he weren't constantly chasing that spotlight around?)

There's one more long, long post in my head about anti-intellectualism on the right that is tangentially related, since it is inspired by this post defending McBride. A part of that defense seems to be a discussion of how Rush Limbaugh's "Barack the Magic Negro" song is not only not offensive, but hilarious. As Barbara O'Brien asks, where's the joke? Let that link be a primer and, in case I never write the whole post, enough of a response for now.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Don't Make McBride a Martyr

by folkbum

As I wrote last night, Dennis Miller on the radio instead of Jessica McBride isn't necessarily a "win." The temptation will be both to celebrate her disappearance from radio and to take credit for it. This is not wise.

As I went back through our various postings from this week, starting with Jim Rowen who broke the story on through to the fine folks at Whallah, almost no one called for her to be fired--merely for her to apologize. (Jason did, though he was the only one I found.) Mostly, we were looking for some recognition that she crossed a line--an apology. I haven't heard that the apology has happened yet, so for anyone to insinuate that we got what we wanted--as Patrick and others do here--is wrong. We didn't get that at all.

Additionally, as much as McBride's opinions may not have added one iota of diversity to the airwaves in Milwaukee, she was, at least, a woman on talk radio. Patrick, in the link just above, speculates that WTMJ "used this non-story as cover for firing a woman." Dennis Miller adds nothing to WTMJ-AM to make it look or sound any more like what Milwaukee looks and sounds like, and McBride's firing leaves WTMJ with a grand total of two weekly hours of local programming hosted by women, neither hour remotely political. (They do run Laura Ingraham's crappy show in the middle of the night.) That Miller would be the replacement does not speak well of whatever intentions WTMJ might have to make their programming more diverse in any way--not just ideologically.

Mostly, though, I want to be careful that we don't make McBride a martyr. Some on the right are already trying, even going to so far as to call those of us who asked for an apology "little fascists." (Of course, that seems perfectly in character for that blogger.) McBride will undoubtedly find something else to do. I'd just rather she do it as "McBride, mediocre radio host," and not "McBride, conservative martyr." No point in feeding that beast.

Support a Remedy to Violence in MPS

by krshorewood

All of us on the left and right are concerned about the violence MPS students and teachers have to deal with on a regular basis.

One organization has a solution to the problem that has a better affect on kids' lives than handcuffs.

For the past few years the Peace Learning Center has been working with MPS students to teach them a positive, non-violent approach to their interpersonal relationships. Through their programs they have reached over 2,000 students, equipping them to navigate there way through school to a more productive adult life.

On Wednesday, May 23rd there will be a fundraiser dinner for the Peace Learning Center at the Northshore Presbyterian Church in Shorewood.

Join Mayor Tom Barrett to recognize and support this positive force in our city.

Tickets are $25 and available by contacting the church office at 414-332-8130 during business hours to reserve your ticket, or contact Keith Schmitz ( / 414.963.0847).

This is your chance to show the community's solidarity behind programs such as these which are achieving real progress.

Along with Chinese diner provided by Royal Garden in Glendale, look in on a demonstration of the techniques the PLC use to help MPS students interact successfully.

The dinner is at 6:00pm and doors open at 5:30pm.

NSPC is located at 4048 N. Bartlett Ave, one block west of Oakland Ave. and one block north of Capitol Dr.

Friday, May 18, 2007

McBride out!

by folkbum
UPDATED! Twice! Thrice!!!

I would have let it go at an apology:
WTMJ-AM (620) will replace Jessica McBride in the 8 p.m. to 11 slot next Thursday, adding Dennis Miller's new syndicated talk show to its lineup when sports isn't scheduled.

Here's the statement issued by WTMJ this afternoon:

Newsradio 620 WTMJ Proclaims Miller Time!
MILWAUKEE, Wis. – Five-time Emmy award winner and four-time Writers' Guild award winner Dennis Miller will join the lineup from 8:00 p.m. – 11:00 p.m. beginning Thursday, May 24th on Newsradio 620 WTMJ. Tom Parker, 620 WTMJ Program Director made the announcement today.
The press release says this has been in the works a while--implying, therefore, that it has nothing to with the unpleasantness this week. I've sent some emails to try to learn more. We'll see how this develops.

Update: Jon Schweitzer writes:
The Dennis Miller thing is a permanent move. Jessica McBride will not be on the air anymore. The decision was made some time ago. We thought [today] was a good time to announce it.

We feel Jessica's viewpoints and opinions are very interesting and thought provoking. We are still discussing the possibilities concerning her blog and the website.
What this seems to mean: McBride was not ousted over the Jasmine Owens story or--sorry to break your heart, fellas--Jim's and Wallah's efforts.

There are probably more sides to this story, still. There will be a lot more written and said about it, including, I can safely predict, a significant part of the Right Cheddarsphere trying to blame us. Exactly those of us that Jon Schweitzer seems to be saying we can't actually credit for her ouster. Probably including me.

You can read the press release itself squeezed onto her blog page.

Update II: I feel the need to point out that this is not necessarily a "win," by the way. Dennis Miller has issues with good taste and the truth. Here are just two of his greatest hits.

Update III: More than just saying that today "was a good time" to announce McBride's departure--with whatever we could read into that--Schweitzer made it explicit to both Cuprisin and the Business Journal that the Jasmine Owens story accelerated the move that was, indeed, in the works. The Biz Journal actually implies that dropping McBride was a part of the array of changes announced this week on WTMJ and WKTI.

The Miller Show has only been running since late March, and currently only airs on one Wisconsin station. It will be running 11 hours after live on WTMJ.

As I was finishing this update, Cuprisin's Saturday Column was posted.

McBride and Clarke: People who need to apologize

by folkbum

A couple of stories that I haven't been following as closely as I should (I was in Madison much of the day yesterday):

One: It's bad enough that the recent foiled Ft. Dix attack plot has brought out Jessica McBride's inner dictator (which puts her in good company, as her new-found Milosevic-love is just like the Pinochet-love we saw when he died). Now, as Jim Rowen notes, McBride apparently thinks that the drive-by shooting of a four-year-old innocent is cause for laughter:
WTMJ-AM 620 rightwing talker and blogger Jessica McBride stages a fake interview with one of her frequent targets--Milwaukee Journal Sentinel local columnist Eugene Kane--and supplies chicken squawking sound effects as Kane's answers, since he didn't accept the interview invitation.

No surprise there, as McBride says the idea behind the kind of interview she wanted to do with Kane is to hammer a liberal on the air, so what, from the 'guest's' point of view, would be the point?

Here's her posting site [NOTE: link not included because the audio has been removed from the TMJ website], with the audio McBride supplies--and it seems as if you going to hear another juvenile but relatively harmless political radio rip...except that McBride uses those comedic sound effects for 'Kane's' answer to a question about the recent, horrific Jasmine Owens murder.

Jasmine is the little girl killed by a bullet to the head in a Milwaukee drive-by shooting.
Wow. Just, wow. I mean, I guess McBride is responsible for where she draws her own lines about what is and what is not appropriate. But in the hours after that murder, to use it as a cheap jab against a political opponent--with chicken-clucking sound effects--seems like it crosses almost any reasonable line.

And someone at WTMJ also seems to think it crosses the line, since, as I noted in the text I quoted from Jim Rowen, the audio that was available of this hard-to-believe moment is now gone--it's been disappeared from the site. I was mocked last week when I suggested that we liberals start collecting our own tape of these events if we want to mount successful campaigns againts these hateful hosts. Now you know why I said it: You can't trust these people to make the audio of their own career-threatening gaffes available.

The fine folks at the McBride-themed Whallah! blog are demanding an apology, and I think that's a good start. McBride's and TMJ's contact information can be found there.

UPDATE: Whallah has a lot more.

UPDATE II: Tim Cuprisin is also tracking blog comment. In response to a question about why he doesn't do more on McBride, Cuprisin says,

Her audience isn't very large and she generally doesn't say anything that you haven't heard on at least three other Milwaukee talk shows and dozens of national radio programs.
Best comment on McBride I've heard all day.

Two: Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke is kind of a local example of what some of my liberal blogging colleagues call the "codpiece effect," after George W. Bush's mis-wearing of a flight suit that created said effect--and the conservatives went all gooey for that, and Bush's tough talk. (You see the current round of GOP candidates trying for the same effect.) Clarke is like that: All talk, all bluster, but man do the conservatives just melt inside when they listen to his militant rhetoric!

Clarke was on talk radio the other day doing what he does best, trying to sound tough. Problem is, he often doesn't know what he's talking about. A case in point would be some of what he said about the Milwaukee Public Schools. Ken Mobile caught this first:
Sheriff Clark criticizes MPS for not making any referrals to the District Attorneys of Parents of truant students. “Parents are not being held accountable.” Clarke says, Clarke continues “look at how many referrals by MPS of parents being referred to the DA’s office for truant students, the answer is 0.”
Patrick at Badger Blogger has the audio, and this statement comes a little after the seven minute mark. And, as Ken points out, he's absolutely wrong--a Journal Sentinel article Ken found marked the start of a program to refer truants' parents to the DA back in 2004.

I work at an MPS high school, one with some truancy problems. I know the people who process the "DA letters," as we call them, on the truant students. I know the people who gather the data, the people who make phone calls and home visits to try to track these students down, and, yes, the people who send the names off to the DA's office for action. For Clarke to sit there and say that zero parents get referred for truancy is not just a lie, it's an insult to the people who do the difficult work at my school, and other schools around the district, of identifying and trying to track down truants.

Ken further points out that Clarke has cut youth services at the Sheriff's department, so he has no authority to speak from on how to help Milwaukee's children and schools. So Clarke also should be making apologies. Maybe he should go on McBride's show and they could apologize together.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

The Vote Fraud Myth: The media wakes; will Wisconsin's conservatives?

I thought I was clever when I called vote fraud the Republicans' Freddy Krueger, and started putting the pieces together that the whole thing was just people getting punk'd by Karl Rove. The traditional media has finally been picking up on the theme, too.

Yesterday's Washington Post, for example, has Harold Meyerson:
With the home office in Washington breathing down their necks, why did these experienced prosecutors fail to bring voter fraud indictments? The crime, after all, had become a major Justice Department concern. Starting in 2002, Justice required every U.S. attorney to designate a district election officer, whose job it would be to end this epidemic of electoral fraud. These officers' attendance was required at annual training seminars, where they were taught how to investigate, prosecute and convict fraudulent voters. The statutes were adequate; the investigators were primed, well funded and raring to go.

And nothing happened. For the simple reason that when it comes to voter fraud in America, there's no there there. Voter fraud is a myth -- not an urban or rural myth, as such, but a Republican one.
McClatchy newspapers has been doing a bang-up job on the vote fraud myth so far, and they had this last week, reinforcing the local angle:
Only weeks before last year's pivotal midterm elections, the White House urged the Justice Department to pursue voter-fraud allegations against Democrats in three battleground states, a high-ranking Justice official has told congressional investigators.

In two instances in October 2006, President Bush's political adviser, Karl Rove, or his deputies passed the allegations on to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' then-chief of staff, Kyle Sampson.

Sampson tapped Gonzales aide Matthew Friedrich, who'd just left his post as chief of staff of the criminal division. In the first case, Friedrich agreed to find out whether Justice officials knew of "rampant" voter fraud or "lax" enforcement in parts of New Mexico, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, and report back.

But Friedrich declined to pursue a related matter from Wisconsin, he told congressional investigators, because an inquiry so close to an election could inappropriately sway voting results. Friedrich decided not to pass the matter on to the criminal division for investigation, even though Sampson gave him a 30-page report prepared by Republican activists that made claims of voting fraud.
Read the whole thing; it looks like perhaps it wasn't Steve Biskupic's specious prosecution of Georgia Thompson that saved him from the rath of Rove, but rather Rove's fear of Jim Sensenbrenner.

Anyway, we now have the "30-page report" (the last 30 pages of this .pdf) that Republicans here prepared about vote fraud in Milwaukee. As Paul Kiel points out,
it was nothing but a collection of news clippings related to voter fraud allegations in Milwaukee... in the 2004 election.

Two things about that. First, it appears that Rove wanted the Justice Department to open a criminal investigation of two-year old allegations right before the 2006 election. But second, these allegations had already been investigated -- as part of the most comprehensive effort by a U.S. attorney's office to investigate voter fraud in the entire country. The U.S. attorney there, Steven Biskupic, launched a joint task force with local prosecutors to probe allegations of fraud in the 2004 election. Finally, more than a year after the election, Biskupic announced that the task force hadn't in fact found evidence of a conspiracy to steal the election. But prosecutors nevertheless prosecuted nearly twenty individual cases for a variety of voting-related offenses (Biskupic's office handled 14). No U.S. attorney office in the country can touch those numbers.

But that apparently wasn't good enough for Rove, who thought that Biskupic had been "lax" in his approach to voter fraud.
The most-commented-upon posts I've written lately have been the ones on this vote fraud myth. Many of those comments are from conservatives who can't seem to stomach the notion that they've been punk'd, that Rove has pulled one over on them, that the state's Republicans are using and abusing their trust. I don't know how much more needs to come out, how many more times we have to go over the story, how much clearer it needs to be. How much longer until, as those running from Freddy Krueger should, Wisconsin's conservative's will wake up already?

Ziegler's first skate

Who has time to review the whole sordid story? Well, you might, that's why I provided the link. But here's all you need to know now:
State Supreme Court Justice-elect Annette Ziegler agreed to pay the state about $17,000 in a settlement that said she violated the state ethics code by ruling on five cases involving a bank her husband helps run. [. . .]

By settling the matter, Ziegler avoids a hearing in the matter today that could have seen her called to the witness stand. Nonetheless, she remains under scrutiny as the subject of a separate investigation by the state Judicial Commission, which is looking at a broader group of cases.

In the settlement, Ziegler acknowledged she violated the ethics code by handling five cases in recent years involving West Bend Savings Bank, where her husband, J.J. Ziegler, is paid about $20,000 a year as a member of the board of directors. The state ethics code says public officials cannot act on matters in which they have a financial interest.

The board determined that Ziegler did not gain financially from her rulings.
Got it? No Ziegler under oath today. She won't be forced to detail in open court what her thinking was as she repeatedly violated the state's code of judicial ethics. She won't have to make any statements on the record that could be used against her when she runs for re-election in a decade.

There's still the Judicial Commission, but anything that Commission says will be non-binding unless acted upon by the state Supreme Court. While I think the Commission will probably scold Ziegler, I'm betting the Court will not do a thing about it. Ziegler skates once today, and will again when her new colleagues choose to let the Commission's recommendations slide.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Former Milwaukee Anchor, All Growed Up on MSNBC, Unfairly Maligned by My Distinguished Colleagues on the Left

You remember Contessa Brewer, right? Used to host the weekend news on channel 4 here in Milwaukee? Well, now she's a daytime anchor on MSNBC, all national and whatnot.

Today, during MSNBC's coverage of Jerry Falwell's death, she was handed a piece of copy praising Falwell from the parody web site, She later tried to correct the mistake, but still didn't seem to know that it was a parody site, and didn't tell viewers that the praise for Falwell there was not serious. You can watch Josh Marshall of the Talking Points Memo family of blogs discuss it, with a clip of Brewer from MSNBC on YouTube. mcjoan at DailyKos front-paged it, even Atrios talked about it. We all had a good giggle.

But I don't think we're being fair, either to Brewer, or to her producer. When you google jerry falwell white house--as someone tasked with finding the White House's or president's opinion on Falwell might--the page is the second hit. The first hit, though, is a press release from this afternoon headlined "President and Mrs. Bush Saddened by Death of Jerry Falwell." It is reasonable to conclude, then, that the google search would have turned up the link as the top hit when the producer did his or her search.

Now, Brewer really should have been told that it was a parody--and should have told the audience that it was a parody. But she herself wasn't looking at the webpage. At most, blame the producer, not Brewer.

Am I feeling protective of the hometown girl* who made it big out there in the cold, hard world? Maybe. But of all the things to dump on the anchors for, this ain't one.

*Well, I'm pretty sure she's not from here. And didn't she used to be blonde?

The Best Two-Paragraph Argument for Universal Health Care I've Ever Read

From Ben Brothers:
At present, health insurance companies compete with each other largely on the basis of their ability to avoid paying for health care — denying claims, refusing coverage to sick people, collecting as many premiums as possible from healthy people who are unlikely to need care, increasing premiums to the extent the 47 million Americans are unable to buy into the system, and generally behaving in an immoral and socially destructive way.

If we mandate guaranteed issue with community rating, they would be forced to compete on the basis of efficiency and quality of service, instead of pool selection. And it’s hard to see how universal health care will work without those things.

Jerry Falwell, Dead

Steve Benen has a fact-based retrospective. I do hope, for his sake, that his God is not as wrathful as Falwell made Him out to be.

Monday, May 14, 2007

McIlheran Watch: I'll Let Brother Bob Answer

I'm a little behind, here. I got lazy, I think, while Patrick McIlheran was on vacation. But he came back last week, and threw this entry onto his blog (as a response to a Eugene Kane column). Of interest:
Kane contends that voucher schools "won't accept kids with the kind of disciplinary problems that are ruining public schools, making MPS the last resort for many students."

Not to be pushy about this, but ... wrong. I've pointed this out extensively, writing, for example, about children such as Lanisha Harris. She was expelled from MPS' Bay View High School, then taken in by a choice school, CEO Leadership Academy. [. . .]

But the plain fact is that choice schools do take in children who pose discipline problems in MPS. What they try doing, then, is fixing the discipline problems. Public schools do as much as well, though they seem hampered by rules and circumstances. Choice schools can try alternate approaches. The one thing they cannot and do not do is leave all the problems for MPS.
We've had this talk here before, and while it's true that in the application process, schools cannot legally apply any test to students--behavior, disability, race, religion, and so on--once the students are in a voucher school, they are there at the pleasure of the school.

Brother Bob Smith, who, aside from Tommy Thompson, may be the most public face of vouchers. The former Messmer High School president and current director of education for the Archdiocese spoke to a conservative audience this winter; he put it this way: Kids have to “make the right decisions, or make them somewhere else.”

That hardly sounds like someone willing to bend over backward to "fix" the discipline problems. McIlheran's anecdotes do demonstrate that not every voucher school has a quick trigger when it comes to booting behavior problems. But Brother Bob makes it clear that the voucher schools do not have to--and often choose not to--suffer so much from the kinds of problems that MPS cannot, by state law, avoid. So, not to be pushy about this, but Eugene Kane is ... basically right.

At least according to Brother Bob.

(We had a similar conversation a while back discussing McIlheran's contentions about special education and vouchers, contentions which also appear in the current suspect blog post.)

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Vote Fraud: The Ann Coulter Defense

As much as I've written about so-called "vote fraud" lately, you might be surprised to see me talking about actual perps. But it does happen--I've never denied that there are people who willfully and feloniously break the laws regarding voting.

For example, Ann Coulter. She registered and voted in the wrong precinct, knowingly, down in Florida. But it looks like she's going to get away with it. What's great is her excuse: She was being stalked!

That's right: Coulter apparently bought her house in her own name, but falsified her drivers license and voter registration forms to avoid a stalker--one who was so horrible, in fact, that he was apparently interviewed by the FBI for five whole minutes!

So, all you budding fraudsters and fraudettes: Commit all the vote fraud you want. Just walk in to any precinct anywhere, laws be damned, and vote to your heart's content. And when you get caught? Simple: Oh, officer, I was just voting over here to avoid my stalker. No, your honor, I wasn't trying to commit fraud; I was just worried my celebrity would attract attention in my real precinct. And so on. Maybe we could even get our legislators to write that stalking exception into the law!

It should be as good as gold. After all, if it works for Coulter, it ought to work for us normal schlubs, right?

Friday, May 11, 2007

Putting a Lot on the Schools

by krshorewood

Just got back from Toronto Friday night. As I was making my way down Concourse D at Mitchell for the first time in a long time I became crazy eager to find out how the Brewers did.

Ever since losing interest in the American past time from having Miller Park shoved down our collective throats and followed by a string of lackluster seasons, the rejunvinated team has given me Brewer fever. My burning desire was to get to my car radio.

That means tuning into "news" radio WTMJ. As we know the letters WTMJ now decodes into giving every crackpot idea a 100,000 watt platform. Tonight was no exception.

After spending a full day being exposed to the rather reasoned media in the Great White North, TMJ was my cold water bucket of reality.

Filling in for the always in control Jessica McBride was the new darling of the local right wing James T. Harris. The topic was violence in the Milwaukee Public Schools. Harris invited the sagely TMJ audience to phone in their solutions and they didn't fail to disappoint with the usual feel goods that were not too thought out to well.

The hour started out with a suggestion for putting God back into schools and progressed to having fathers around so they could mete out beatings. Hold the MacArthur genius awards.

This line of reasoning follows along on Harris' suggestion that detonated Jay to detonate the Milwaukee Public School system.

To say this is a well-meaning suggestion would be the height of cynism, but the real problem is when it comes to dealing with violence, the place to solve it is not in the school house. Because of conditions outside the walls of our places of public education the best we can expect is for teachers and administrators to manage the violence.

We all of course expect parents and kids to surmount the challenges that lay before them. Some do but many don't because of the size of the negative forces in the community. Now some people like James T. Harris leads an exemplary life and I'm sure he will tell you he does. But it's kind of like saying Harry Houdini could wiggle out of a straight jacket while being suspended upside down, so why can't all Jewish guys do it.

The problems in the inner city are huge, and tough if this sounds like excusing the population, but it is the economy stupid and so much more.

Take the damage our lock em up mentality in this once progressive state. Gretchen Schuldt lays it out in her blogpost on Violence, the schools and the community.

She cites a report from the University of Wisconsin on the inner city 53206 zip code.

In this state we have a penchant for putting to many people behind bars. Just to take one of the bullet points:

For the 30- to 34-year old age group, 21% of the men from 53206 are reported in a state DOC facility, another 42% were previously incarcerated in a state correctional facility, and only 38% were never in an adult state correction facility.

You can read the rest. The term bullet points puts it well.

Now of course the response of many, especially among our conservative bretheran, is if you do the crime you should do the crime. And like HL Mencken once said for every complex problem there is a solution that is simple, neat and wrong.

So in binary conservative world that is true.

There are alternatives. Let's shift our attention westward. Minnesota in 2005 had a violent crime rate (per the FBI) of 297 per 100,000. We in the Badger state we slightly better behaved with a rate of 241.5 per 100,000.

On the other hand, the incarceration rate in Wisconsin in 2004 was twice that of Minnesota?

And as could be expected, Wisconsin in 2001 spent twice as much on prisons than our neighboors in Minnesota.

But of course Minnesota was not blessed with the politicians we have. People who came from relatively low crime districts who want to make a name for themselves by demonstrating what crime fighting heroes they are. These are made men in the whacky wing nut sense.

Aparently Minnesota has chosen to do other things with their law breakers than we do, at a lower cost to their state budget and to the lives of those who have run afoul of the law. Life is full of choices and it appears in Minnesota they have made some better ones than we have. But I've heard callers on wing nut Milwaukee radio say they don't care what it costs so long as these people as put away. This is not the Wisconsin I know or care to know put this is what becomes public policy.

Case in point. Thursday two students got into a fight during a high school rugby game outside of Toronto. One of them got knocked to the ground and subsequently died after lingering for a day in the hospital.

Open up the phone lines if this had happened here in Milwaukee and you'd hear callers cry for the offending 16 year old to be stuck away for life. But instead the the dying kid's uncle (a Mexican by the way) said, "We don't want to make another life miserable."

"And as devastated as my brother and my sister-in-law are, they really don't want to see anything wrong happen to this other kid that was involved," he said.

So we don't have to turn to the Amish for maturity and compassion in the face of tragedy.

Mind you there are other things going on in the 53206 such as a terrible dearth of job opportunities and the cumlative malfunctions piling up on the lives of these people, while some in our society choose to blame the unionized teachers for not fixing it.

But making a major portion of the men in that area unemployable for life because it just plain feels good to put people away isn't helping. And there is nothing a teacher or a principal can do about that in a public school or even in a private school.

Welcome Journal Sentinel readers

The post quoted by Tim Cuprisin this morning is this one, or scroll down to Tuesday, May 8. That way, you can catch the full context. And read the comments to that post, too, as there's quite a discussion going on . . .

More Quirky Bill Richardson Commercials

by folkbum

There are a lot of things I like about Bill Richardson--and some big gaffes that concern me, too. (And it always worries me when Owen likes the same candidates I do.)

But one of the things that appeals most to me is Richardson's willingness to take risks and do something different in the way he presents himself to voters--specifically in his advertising. I always liked that about Russ Feingold, too, and was really looking forward to a Feingold candidacy in part just for the commercials. In fact, I have a small cache of ideas for "Feingold 08" ads that I was just sitting on, waiting for the official announcement--clearly unusable now.

So, instead, I'll offer these to Bill Richardson's people. Well, you know, if anyone else wants to use them, they can, but I think Richardson's established the right tone for his campaign.

The three commercials below (I have ideas for a few more, but these are a start) all feature a group of three 20-something campaign volunteers that maybe aren't the brightest bulbs. They're the kind of guuys you might see in a Mountain Dew commercial; they look almost slackerish, but they wear their "Richardson for President" swag with pride. They mean well, even if they don't always get it.
1. "Fortune Cookies"

The lights come up on a typewriter in a back room of the Richardson campaign office. You see hands rolling a very small piece of paper into the typewriter, then typing "Richardson for President" on it. The hands yank the paper out, and put in another, typing the same thing, The camera pans back, and we see it's Slacker #1 at the typewriter. He hands the little piece of paper to Slacker #2, who folds it and stuffs it into a fortune cookie.

The door opens, and Bill Richardson is standing there. We see the room from his perspective--typing slacker, stuffing slacker, and Slacker #3 stapling closed the plastic on a re-wrapped fortune cookie, maybe with a few cookie crumbs falling from his mouth onto his Richardson for President t-shirt.

"What's going on in here?" Richardson asks, bewildered. Slacker #1 looks up from the typewriter: "The internet is down, man." Richardson gives the camera a look, and goes back through the door, shaking his head.
2. "Bus"

Close-up on our three slackers, happy, rough-housing, and painting--all of them have rollers, and we watch as they giddly apply red, white, and blue paint to something. One has a stencil set and is painting the words "Bill Richardson for President." The music is upbeat and the guys are having a great time--but we just can't see the full scope of their painting project.

Cut to the front door of the Richardson for President campaign headquarters. Richardson is being pulled out of the door by a person in a uniform who is obviously quite agitated. Richardson stops short, shocked at what he sees, and then says, "What's going on out here?"

Slacker #1, still close up, holding a dripping paint brush, says, "You asked us to paint your campaign bus."

Back to Richardson, who points off camera and says, "Yes. That bus!" The camera pans to where he pointed, and we see an untouched "Richardson for Governor 2006" campaign bus a few yards away. Back to the slackers, but in a wide shot: They're in front of a half-painted Albuquerque city bus at a bus stop. The passengers are all staring down from the windows. We realize now that the person in uniform is the bus driver. Richardson gives the camera that same look as before.
3. "Door Hanger"

The commercial opens with Slacker #3 as seen from the perspective of various opening doors--we figure out that he's out knocking on doors distributing campaign literature, which he has in an armful. No one says anything, but we see, from the inside of each house, the door open, Slacker #3 smile and offer a piece if lit, and then the door closes as he looks disappointed.

Another door--maybe the fifth or sixth now--opens and, rather than smile, Slacker #3 can't believe his eyes. We switch to his perspective, and there's a slacker woman, perhaps in her own Richardson for President t-shirt, also astounded by who's at his door. As the opening notes of, oh, "Let's Get it On" start to play, Slacker #3 drops his armful of literature on the porch.

Cut to Richardson walking down the street, waving, shaking hands, followed closely on either side by Slackers #1 and #2. Richardson stops short in front of a house, and says, "What's going on here?" We see what's stopped him, as the camera shows the porch covered in the fallen campaign lit. The camera pans up to the door, where a Richardson for President door hanger is swaying gently in the breeze.

Back to Richardson, who isn't sure what to make of the scene. Behind him though, the Slackers know exactly what the door hanger means, and they give each other a knowing look and a high-five.
Okay, so they're not great and they don't say anything about Richardson's qualifications. But they can all be done in 15 seconds and would be great to raise name recognition, right? They'd at least make for good viral video for the YouTube crowd.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Carpool, anyone?

by folkbum

So next Thursday I'm headed up Madison way for the Online News Association Regional Conference--co-sponsored by the Good People at I was wondering if anyone else from down here in the hinterlands of Milwaukee were going, and wanted to carpool.

My first choice would be to take the high-speed communter rail, of course, but, well, you know . . .

Send me an email if you're going and would like to share a ride.

Reflexive union-bashing is just lazy writing

by folkbum

Well, this turned out to be longer than I expected, even though what I'm writing about is not the part makes me angry from James T. Harris's call to shut down the Milwaukee Public Schools. It is, however, an issue I want to dispense with separately;
[O]n the whole, M.P.S. has de-evolved into a system that exists solely for the purpose of sustaining itself. By that I mean teachers' salaries and their Rolls-Royce benefits. There is power in the union.

The many dedicated M.P.S. teachers mentioned above--those not remaining solely for the purposes of sustaining and enriching themselves and their union--must do their jobs in the face of [problems omitted for brevity].
Harris is a relatively new blogger on the scene, and his arrival has been greeted with effusive praise by the right Cheddarsphere. But when I read something like this, it makes me wonder, as this kind of union bashing is really just laziness. Not just because it's cliche--and, jeebus help us, it's so tired--but because it betrays a level of ignorance about what's actually happening in the Milwaukee Public Schools and with the teachers union.

Set aside the notion that any union's first priority is to take care of its members--if they didn't fight for fair compensation for their members, they wouldn't be much of a union, no? MTEA specifically and the teachers unions generally are deeply involved in making education better. AFT, NEA, and their affiliates do more professional development with their members than most other unions combined. The MTEA developed a mentoring program, seen as a national model, for improving poor teachers or accelerating their way out the door. The MTEA is an integral partner with the Milwaukee Public Schools in developing its long-term plan (the "Working Together, Achieving More" process).

Harris seems to think that many teachers (and he doesn't specify how many, but with words like "exists solely for the purpose," it makes me think he's saying most) are teaching just because it's a big fat paycheck with health insurance. This is laughable. It's beyond laughable. No one goes into this business for the money. No one stays for the money. It isn't that good--believe me, I wish it were. If teaching in Milwaukee were such a cash cow, we wouldn't be short of teachers, and, maybe, Harris himself would go back into the profession and join us.

More telling than what Harris wrote, though, was what he said on his radio show Sunday night--the podcast is linked from the post above. He had on Corey Thompson, an assistant professor of education at Cardinal Stritch. About halfway through the podcast, toward the end of the conversation with Thompson, the guest starts talking about "leadership issues" in MPS. In context, it sounds like Thompson wants to talk about where and how the district spends its money. But Harris interrupts, getting more animated at that moment than at any other time in the show. He just goes off, putting words in Thompson's mouth:
You know what you're talking about, Dr. Thompson? I'm gonna say it. You're talking about the union! The teacher's union is the leadership, the only game in town when it comes to a roadblock to improving, or any kind of help whatsoever in the public school system.
Harris offers no evidence, no examples. He names no names and identifies no roadblocks. There is nothing there but reflexive animus. And, to his credit, Thompson doesn't take the bait. Harris implies that Thompson weenies out because Thompson has to work with the public schools and can't bite the hand that proverbially feeds him, but Thompson steers the conversation back to reality.

At the end of the show, Harris takes a call from someone who mentions merit pay for teachers, and blames the union for blocking it. The caller offers nothing to suggest that merit pay would improve schools (or, for that matter, that it's been proposed for MPS; it's hard to block something that hasn't been offered). Harris doesn't suggest how merit pay would improve schools, either. And he can't, as such data don't exist, even in places that have tried merit pay.

Worse, though, the caller says a lack of merit pay leaves administrators unable to run their schools, because they can't "pick and choose" teachers, or reward or punish them: "There's no one running the ship," the caller says. Harris fully endorses that, but it again reveals a certain ignorance about what really happens in the schools. Administrators have tremendous influence over who teaches in their schools, and have a wealth of tools at their disposal for identifying and dealing with bad teachers. If administrators won't use those tools, that's hardly the union's fault. If administrators won't take leadership roles seriously, that's hardly the union's fault. Look, if the administrators can't run a school and manage their employees, maybe someone should suggest merit pay for principals!

In none of the reporting about the Milwaukee Public Schools--either Sarah Carr's current excellent series on safety, or in any of the past stories about performance or anything else--is there a suggestion that what's dragging down Milwaukee's schools is the teachers or their union. That doesn't stop people from making that association, I know (including Dad29, who bizarrely claims that MTEA is silent on the issue of school violence, despite the several quotes from MTEA staff and officers in the very article he links to). There's no demonstrable causal link between the MTEA and the problems of MPS. In fact, I'd argue that without union protection, you'd see even the most dedicated of good MPS teachers eyeing the suburbs more seriously.

So that's what it comes down to: Empty overheated anti-union rhetoric, lazy writing and thinking, tired tropes about merit pay and roadblocks. If Harris has something substantive to say about the union, with real examples and facts, then he should be putting that on the table instead.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

One Last Sykes/ McGee post

by folkbum

As I said at the WisPolitics BlogSummit a couple of weeks back (you can listen to the webcast), one of the things I dislike most about political rheotric is the false piety of a "Sista Souljah" moment, by which one only becomes credible after one has called out a member of one's own party for being too . . . something. Corrupt. Extreme. Tall. I don't know, however you want to put it.

I don't believe in those moments. Not that I think they don't happen, as they certainly do, but I don't believe that such a moment is necessarily a prerequisite for trustworthiness or credibility on any level.

On the other hand, I do firmly believe in refusing to condone behavior in any ally that I would not condone in an enemy, and I have done that with some regularity.

In either case--when I criticize the left or when I let the left slide--I find that I get slammed by, well, the left, whether it be over Linda Clifford or Michael McGee, Sr. And while I have long ago figured out that earning the respect of any given blogger is not worth changing my attitude, I still would like to point out something that one of them said:
Thank You Mr McGee

Not that I’d ever listen to your show, but thank you for giving the hater Sykes a taste of his own medicine. While in all honesty faulting a poor old lady (she did have to live with Sykes for a son) was a bit too much, putting the responsibility on Sykes was not. [. . .] I have to admit I was a bit perplexed when all these Condolence Dems came out in full force. I guess if they all personally knew Sykes or his mother it would make a bit of sense. [. . .]

The Sykes thing is what it is, sure I can search for the sympathy he never took the time to offer others in his words and deeds, but why bother. Certainly other victims are more worthy of what ever sympathy is left in my cold heart. The audacity of trying to compare calling basketball players nappy headed hoes to dissing someones dead mama seems out of bounds.

The basketball players did nothing to warrant such an epithet while Sykes had it coming.
Obviously I disagree with this: No one has that coming, the insult of you and your just-deceased mother. If you cannot disagree with someone civilly or on substantive grounds, then you have no right to expect respect for your vituperative discourse.

However, I think Nate's sentiment here reveals a deeper and more wide-spread sense of frustration on the part of many liberals--that McGee made an easy and swift target, while Sykes (and Belling and McBride and Wagner) can practice their slanted, biased, often false brand of radio jingoism with no consequence. I know--we all know--what McGee said on his show, because there is someone out there who makes it a part of his life's work to document McGee's show. This is no different from what Media Matters for America does on a daily basis with national conservative talkers and news programs; MMfA was the one who got Don Imus's comments on tape and into the public arena in the first place because they had a dedicated, paid staffer to listen to and document Imus's statements, as they do for Limbaugh, Savage, Hannity, O'Reilly, and more.

Yet we liberals here in Southeast Wisconsin lack a similar oversight mechanism. There is no "Media Matters for Milwaukee," no SykesWatch or BellingWatch (though this seems a good start to a McBrideWatch).

So the answer to Nate and anyone else who wishes to see what happened to Imus and McGee happen to Sykes and company is simple: Organize a systematic way to record and document what they say that is false, hateful, and bigoted. Belling makes it easy by podcasting his show--perhaps you should start there.

This is the blogosphere, people, and the great beauty of it, as I've said before, is that if you see a hole in the middle of it, you have the ability to form a SykesWatch-sized piece to fill that hole. In the meantime, calling someone a "neocrybaby" or demanding "Sistah Souljah" moments just makes you look petty. Aligning yourself with the rhetoric of the McGees makes you look cretinous.

Monday, May 07, 2007

I almost never get this angry

by folkbum

It's a good thing I have other things that need doing tonight, because this has got me swearing out loud. That almost never happens. Blogging is usually my release, not my stress.

No doubt the right half of the Cheddarsphere is trumpeting it as the latest golden turd to fall from the sky, extolling the no-nonsense attitude and secretly grateful it was wtritten by an African American so that liking the idea isn't racist.

A full response will come later after I do the jobs that pay the bills. Just know that any respect that may have been slowly building for this guy is now gone.

UPDATED to add: For those who would close the schools, remember this: "While reports of assaults on teachers and weapons possession are at disturbing levels in Milwaukee's schools, experts note that school is still one of the safest places a child can be." Chew on that, you heartless bastards.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Your Liberal Media, part 712,689,939

by folkbum

The Washington Post, Thursday:
Democrats Back Down On Iraq Timetable
Compromise Bill in Works After Veto Override Fails
By Jonathan Weisman and Shailagh Murray
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, May 3, 2007; Page A01

President Bush and congressional leaders began negotiating a second war funding bill yesterday, with Democrats offering the first major concession: an agreement to drop their demand for a timeline to bring troops home from Iraq.
The Washington Post, today:
Correction to This Article

A May 3 Page One article about negotiations between President Bush and congressional Democrats over a war spending bill said the Democrats offered the first major concession by dropping their demand that the bill it include a deadline to bring troops home from Iraq. While Democrats are no longer pushing a firm date for troop withdrawals, party leaders did not specifically make that concession during a Wednesday meeting with Bush at the White House.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Recall Michael McGee. Senior.

by folkbum

This is reprehensible:
WNOV-AM (860) talker Mike McGee [Sr.] aired another disgusting rant on his radio show Thursday, blasting WTMJ-AM (620) talker Charlie Sykes at a time when Sykes is mourning the loss of his mother in a fire.

McGee said "a woman that had a fool like that deserves whatever's comin' to her, 'cause she raised a sure enough idiot." He went on: "My instincts say Charlie Sykes killed his mommy. . . . He got tired a waitin' for that money."
Like Don Imus, McGee has a right to his opinions and to say them out loud as much as he wants. But he doesn't have a right to airtime, and WNOV should just put an end to it. It's not the first time McGee's crossed a line; he has to pay the station to air his show.

I mean, I'm no fan of Sykes, but there is no call for this. Time to get him off the air for good. [UPDATE: As I was typing this, McGee was pulled off the air "indefinitely." Good for them.]

Cinco de folkbum

Oh, I wish I looked half as cool in a sombrero as Mr. T!

More importantly, though, this is your friendly reminder that I'd love for you and yours to spend this Saturday night with me and mine as the Portage Road Songwriters Guild takes the stage for its fouth--fourth!--annual New Song Concert.

It will be a lot of fun, including my debut on the electric bass, and more egg shakers than you would think possible on one stage. You won't be all that disappointed!

So, Saturday Night, at the Coffee House, at 8 PM, for a mere $5 cover. And as long as we're talking about the Coffee House, I should also recommend their big 40th anniversary concert and fundraiser, which is two weeks from now on May 19.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

The obligatory "Eugene Kane's a bit of an idiot" post . . . sigh

by folkbum

I don't have the kind of visceral, lizard-brain reaction to Eugene Kane you regularly see from the right side of the Cheddarsphere. It could be in part because I know half of what he does is schtick--no less schtick than, say, Sean Hannity, but in a completely different flavor. The other half of what he does, though, is provide White Suburban Milwaukee with the only black voice they hear regularly, with the possible exception of Randy Jackson on "American Idol."

Kane was at the Blog Summit with the rest of us Saturday. He got a column out of it. You can read what everyone else says, but, note, they're angry. Be prepared for all that.

Here's what gives me a problem:
The half-day summit at Marquette University Law School was billed as the second such event, representing the growing impact of blogs written by both professionals and amateurs on current issues in the media, politics and society. Many at the summit--which was attended by approximately 90 people, according to the faceless and sometimes nameless writers who post blog items with stupefying regularity.

Many post multiple items a day, though few earn their living writing blogs or writing anything else.

I was invited to participate in a panel discussion on the need for more diversity in the blogosphere. Some bloggers were reportedly eager to make my acquaintance, although few took the opportunity.
Stupefying regularity? Gene, you shouldn't say such things about Tim Cuprisin . . . But, more seriously, though Kane points out that the summit was supposed to be a half-day (though it didn't last more than four hours), he arrived just before his panel began and was out of the room just after his panel ended. His panel-mates Jennifer Morales and Dasha Kelly stuck around--Kelly for the entire rest of the program. What kind of opportunity would that provide to meet him? Running after him through the hall, desperately trying to flag him down and, gasping for air, push out our blog name and pump his retreating hand?

In the end, Kane reminds us of exactly what John Kraus had mentioned earlier, that the real success of the blogs will come not from continuing to whale away on our keyboards, but rather from making the rubber meat the road. True success in changing the face of the media or the face of politics won't happen as long as you stay in your basement.

But at the same time, true success in building bridges with others and creating a dialogue between yourself and those who "regularly take pleasure bashing [your] column" won't happen until you're willing to take the time to let that outreach happen. Next time, Gene, follow your own advice, and get out of your own basement.

Condolences to the Sykes family

by folkbum

I don't ever listen to him, and I don't ever agree with him, but this is a terrible thing to have happen:
Katherine B. Sykes, the 87-year-old mother of Milwaukee radio talk show host Charles Sykes, died in a fire at her Mequon condominium today, according to a statement issued this evening by WTMJ-AM 620.

The statement reads: "WTMJ's Charlie Sykes confirmed that his mother, Katherine B. Sykes, died in a fire at her home in Mequon this afternoon. She was 87 years old.

"Kay Sykes was a warm, intelligent, and generous woman who took great pride in her son's work as a writer and broadcaster. She delighted in her three grandchildren and was very proud of their academic, athletic, and artistic achievements. She loved books, music, and nature. She lived a full life, and her family and friends will deeply miss her.

"Charlie wishes to thank his listeners for their thoughts and prayers at this difficult time."
The Sykes family will be in our thoughts this evening.

Breaking! Bay View Schools *not* merging! (Yet.)

by folkbum

I so rarely get to actually break news on this blog--since that's not it's main function. But on the side I've been writing for the Bay View Compass, where I follow school issues.

I won't say too much now--you'll have to pick up the Compass in a few weeks for the story--but the possible merger between two Bay View schools, Dover St. and Trowbridge St., is off for this year. April's Compass has the story of what might have happened (check Bay View area businesses for your free copy, or go here to learn how to subscribe), and the Journal Sentinel reported the possibility in a story Sunday (scroll way to the bottom).

But according to newly-elected eighth district MPS Director Terry Falk, the deal isn't going through, based on a conversation he had with the superintendent this afternoon. What happens for 2008-2009 is yet up in the air.

As I said, I'm saving the juicy stuff for the Compass, mostly because I haven't had time to follow it all up yet. But I thought I'd at least take this opportunity to share what very few others know (even the MPS spokeswoman hadn't heard the news yet).

Google Ads

by folkbum

The astute among you will have noticed that I've picked up Google's Adsense, so there are random links appearing to your right demanding your attention. For example, right now I see a link to United Press International about Iraq (easy to see how they connected that to this blog) and one about coffee (which is less easy to see, unless they're noting the times of these posts . . .).

I took the plunge after reading Feldstein (whose blog seems to be down right now for me) gush about how much money he's making at it. I've said over and over that I've never been in this for the money, but there are some things I'd like to do that will take money to do them (a real version of, for example). I've still never set up a PayPal button or even an Amazon wishlist, and I refuse to even consider making my blog look like a NASCAR racer the way some bloggers (*cough* Wiggy *cough*) have.

On the other hand, if you see something interesting, [CALL TO ACTION REDACTED TO MEET GOOGLE'S DRACONIAN POLICIES]. Don't feel that you need to refrain in order to keep from offending my ascetic sesnsibilities and seeming vow of poverty. And don't hesitate to buy a BlogAd either, while you're at it.

Related question: Any other Cheddarsphereans interested in forming a BlogAds network (or "hive," as they seem to be calling it)?