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Monday, June 30, 2008

Oil Price Silver Lining

By Keith Schmitz

Just heard it speculated on Morning Joe that higher oil prices are going to increase the cost of importing goods from Asia and possibly making production in the US more viable.

Also learned last week that LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standards for buildings are encouraging purchase of materials to happen within 500 miles of a project.

Could there be a new economic paradigm?

These Guys Are Supposed to Protect Us?

By Keith Schmitz

Knew that the Bush administration's treatment of the CIA as a tool and doormat would bite us in the butt:
Deep policy divisions within the Bush administration and CIA opened the door for Al-Qaida to pose as great a threat as ever, intelligence officials say.
Making the professionals in the intelligence look like fools in the run-up to the Iraq magical adventure and the outing of Valerie Plame was due to take its toll in low morale, resentment and the eye being taking off the ball, not to mention the generation of articles such as these.

In the meantime McCain has lashed himself to this mast as he attempts to sail into the presidency.

Magical Misery Tour

By Keith Schmitz

The Fiscal Wake Up Tour hits Milwaukee today at Discovery World. The group, which includes the sagely Ann Rivlin who was former Director of the Office of Management and Budget, will be bringing dire warnings about the condition of our economy.

What they will be talking about before the members of the MMAC and any one else who cares to show up is that we are in sorry shape.

It is sort of Animal Farm in reverse. This time, instead of the piggy proletariat leaders selling out their followers to the other side, we are being offered up by those of the right wing.

Think of it. A major portion of our debt is being held by the "Red" Chinese. You know. Those evil folks that we have been taught to fear and loathe since 1949 mainly by Republicans.

It's not all Bush's fault, but certainly the trillions of dollars of debt built up by this administration over the past eight years has put us in the spot where the "Red" Chinese might be able to call the shots.

The Wake Up Tour will be telling us that who ever takes over after this election will have to make some tough choices. Of course one that seems totally inappropriate will be extending the tax cuts for those making high incomes who would feel the pain the least. At least John McCain thinks this would be wonderful.

If the US does not bite the bullet, we could have China, Saudi Arabia and other countries dictating our internal policy just like the World Bank does with any other third world country run by a tin horn dictator.

When Bush said he wanted to create an ownership society in this country, this is not what some of us had in mind.

Oh, let it be McCain-Jindal!

by folkbum

It's easy to see why conservatives might like Louisiana's Bobby Jindal. He's young, he's non-threateningly ethnic ("Big Tent! Democrats are the racist ones!"), and in his campaign for governor, he kind of came across as a pragmatic technocrat as opposed to a bone-headed ideologue.

However, since his election, we've learned that he's basically not anyone's dream candidate except maybe Democrats'. Consider, first we learn that he's performed an exorcism. Then he enthusiastically supports (and signs) a bill that puts in place a law exactly like the policy that was voided in the anti-"intelligent design" ruling in Kitzmiller v. Dover. (My favorite line: "Evolution is no more scientifically controversial than gravity, and Governor Jindal surely knows that -- he graduated from Brown University with honors in biology. His own biology professor reminded him recently that 'Without evolution, modern biology, including medicine and biotechnology, wouldn't make sense. In order for today's students in Louisiana to succeed in college and beyond, ... they need a solid grounding in genetics and evolution.'")

But this has to be a deal-breaker:
But yesterday on Fox News, it was Jindal who was displaying Katrina incompetence. Making a push for expanded offshore oil drilling, Jindal repeated the myth that Hurricanes Katrina and Rita caused “no major” oil spills in the state. Jindal called it a “great unwritten success story” [. . .]. Jindal is clueless about the reality in his own state. As noted in the Wonk Room, the Hurricanes caused offshore oil spills so large that they could be seen from space (check out a picture here.) The Minerals Management Service reported that 113 oil platforms were “totally destroyed”--a total of 124 offshore spills.

In fact, oil seeped onshore into southeast Louisiana, which saw 44 onshore and offshore oil spills. The EPA called the spills “worse than the worst-case scenario.” Even oil industry representatives admitted: “nature can always topple you.”

It’s hard to see how this is a “great unwritten success story.”
One of the least-discussed drawbacks of the "increase off-shore drilling" crowd's demands is the potential for environmental disaster, particularly from hurricane damage. It's among the biggest reasons why Florida has resisted efforts to increase drilling offshore there. And, look, I've seen "Deadliest Catch": There are hurricane-force storms as far north as Alaska. But for Jindal, perhaps, being more than $200,000 in debt to the oil companies allows him the selective amnesia to toe the party line.

As a bonus, I know this story is more than a year old now, but it has to be the most bizarre McCain story I have read to date:
Rank-and-file Republicans are disgruntled about McCain's support for campaign finance reform and gun control and his opposition to a federal ban on gay marriage. Conservative anger reached a boiling point in 2004 when McCain led the opposition to Prop 200, a state ballot measure restricting public services for undocumented immigrants. In the summer of 2005, months after Prop 200 succeeded with support from nearly 70 percent of GOP voters, [Republican state committeman Rob] Haney introduced a resolution in District 11 to censure McCain for "dereliction of his duties and responsibilities as a representative of the citizens of Arizona." After the resolution coasted through the district, it was introduced before the GOP committee of Maricopa County, Arizona's largest, encompassing Phoenix and Scottsdale (once home to Barry Goldwater).

At the time, McCain and his handlers were working to burnish his conservative credentials to win over wary Republican primary voters. [. . .] Although Arizona is somewhat off the national radar, Haney's resolution posed a threat to the McCain makeover. [. . .]

Not content to let the purely symbolic resolution stand, McCain recruited a slate of candidates to oust Haney and his allies in last November's state committee elections. McCain supporters formed a political action committee, Grassroots Arizona PAC, to bankroll this effort. Forty percent of Grassroots Arizona's funds were provided by two Democratic donors from San Francisco apparently enraptured with McCain and his "maverick" image, Gregory and Lisa Wendt, which added fuel to the flames of Haney's revolt. McCain's slate was formidable, including Fife Symington, a former Arizona governor coaxed out of retirement to come to the rescue of his old friend. So worried was McCain about being rebuked by his own party that he threw his own hat into the race, announcing that he would run for state committeeman.

When the votes were counted, McCain and his entire slate were resoundingly defeated. [. . .] McCain's botched revenge has solidified his reputation in Arizona's Republican circles as a divisive, untrustworthy and even dangerous figure. Haney hopes the general public meets this side of McCain before his penchant for angry reprisals is invested with the powers of the presidency. "This just shows that McCain is mentally unstable and out of control and vindictive," Haney told me. "If he is determined to go through that much trouble to attack a district committee chairman, what does that say about his ability to handle real political problems?"
Just. Wow.

Well done, Sprecher!

by folkbum

As it turns out, my favorite root beer also came out on top in the New York Times--another local business taking on the big boys and winning. Time to grab a frosty mug and a four-pack or two.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Updates On Bad Decisions

by capper

If one remembers, three weeks ago, I wrote about the bad decisions that Serb Hall had made. Two weeks later, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel finally got around the story. This past Friday, I thought I'd take a slightly different route home, and go past Serb Hall to see how they were doing.

I couldn't believe my eyes. At 5:45 p.m., when they are usually in high gear, and it's hard to find a parking spot, the lot was almost empty. I pulled in and I counted a whole 27 cars. The little lot directly next to the building was only a third full. The big overflow lots were empty. The drive-thru lane had three cars in it.

Later that evening, I called one of the waitresses at Serb Hall, with whom my family have become friends. She told me that she served four tables during her entire shift. That's it. Four tables. She also told me that half the waitresses have been laid off for the entire month of July at least.

I realize that Summerfest opened this past weekend, and that summers are usually slower for them due to festivals, cookouts and people going up north, but it has never, ever had that kind of impact before.

I only wonder how long they will continue on this course of folly. If they needed to raise the fish fry a couple of bucks, I'm sure they would have lost some customers, but the regulars would have still gone there. Other restaurants are going up in price, or switching to a different kind of fish, but I haven't heard or seen of any kind of decline like this anywhere else. The management at Serb Hall will either have to change their business strategy, or they will be killing off their Friday night fish fry.

In comparison, Shakey's, which is closing tomorrow, has been going crazy with business. From the WestAllisNOW community paper:
The Shakey's Pizza franchise could only have continued its West Allis location if it ended its buffet and switched to a pizza-only menu, owner Tom Miller said today.

"We've been doing this too long, and I think it would be too difficult for us to convert to a pizza restaurant and maintain the level of sales," he said.


Since the closing was announced, the restaurant has been packed every day,
Miler said. About a half-dozen people were waiting outside for about 15 minutes before the restaurant opened at 11 a.m. today.

About an hour later, empty tables were hard to find as the restaurant was filled with people wanting one last taste of Shakey's.

Here, the franchise is telling the owners that they should fix what wasn't broken. The restaurant owners were smart enough to know that that this wouldn't work, and took their money and ran. I can't say that I blame them.

Too bad the owners of Shakey's can't take over Serb Hall's operations. At least they know how to run a business, besides into the ground.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Scott Walker is Dumb. But I repeat myself. Literally.

by folkbum

Scott Walker has threatened to veto, for what must be the bazillionth time, an advisory referendum on raising the Milwaukee County sales tax to fund, among other things, parks, transit, and emergency medical services. In honor of that, I would like to reprint, wholesale, the post I wrote the last time he vetoed the referendum.
I don't know how else to put it. Scott Walker is just dumb.

Today he vetoed an advisory referendum on raising the Milwaukee County sales tax one cent in order to fund the public services he won't, and offer a little property tax relief on the side. If passed, this would not of itself raise taxes--it would merely advise the county supervisors whether the public is in favor of the increase or not.

If the public votes no, Scott Walker is vindicated in his and his suburb-dwelling radio chorus's constant no-tax crusade. He can rub the county board's face in their clear out-of-touchness with the voters. He can dance the jig of joy on the grave of the people who still believe that there is a place for the public--parks, transportation, schools, and so on.

If the public votes yes, then no doubt the county board will send along a sales-tax increase for Walker's signature. There, he's got two choices, both of which leave Walker a potential winner. One, he vetoes the measure then, claims his victory, and remains a hero of the pundit class. (The danger is that the board could override him.)

Two, he could sign the sales-tax increase into law. Would that violate the no-tax-at-any-cost ethos that Walker is so dimly the hood ornament for? Yes. But Walker gets a freebie here--after all, the people wanted it! And, perhaps most importantly for Walker, Milwaukee County services will finally get the funding they need! Walker gets to dodge the blame for raising taxes while at the same time fixing a lot of the problems people hate him for!

Walker looks obstructionist and petty with this veto. It will not help as much as he thinks it will with his said-it-wouldn't-happen re-election campaign. Not letting this referendum through is just dumb.

(I hope I'm not stealing capper's thunder too much here; I know how much he likes blogging about that ol' Walker: Tosa Ranger.)

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Today, He Would Be Called A Socialist

by capper

In light of the not-really-a-riot riot from earlier this week, a quote from Dom Helder Camara:
When I feed the poor, they call me a saint, but when I ask why the poor are hungry, they call me a communist.

The Less Than Super Superintendent

by capper

Ron Malone needs to be given his walking papers. It's that simple really.

Ron Malone is the superintendent of the Milwaukee County House of Correction (HOC). Over the past year, we have seen numerous inmates that have escaped from custody.

We have seen good correction officers being scapegoated for an inmate's escape, even though they don't know if he really escaped.

Malone has shown that he doesn't even know what the policies are at his facility regarding late nights. In fact, Malone, as superintendent would have to approve of any decisions regarding grievances, but denied ever seeing the grievances regarding the late nights.

There was an inmate that died from a drug overdose, which stemmed from the consequences of the facility being short staffed.

There have also been audits that have shown the HOC to be in terrible shape regarding security, morale, and overall policy.

Things were bad enough that County Executive Scott Walker had threatened to fire Malone if things didn't turn around in a few months.

Now, in the last day, we see that there has been an ongoing investigation into reports that ranking officers were sexually harassing female employees. From what I understand, the report does not cover the whole story, and that there are people being investigated who go above and beyond just the two lieutenants, and that the investigations have been going on for at least a couple of months. One would think that complaints this expansive and serious in nature, involving some of his higher ranked employees would have caught his attention. One might think that, but that doesn't appear to be the case:

Meantime, House of Correction Superintendent Ron Malone would not go on camera Wednesday night but tells TMJ4 he takes this very seriously.

He couldn't tell us without going back through the records, if there is an investigation.
He does, however plan to take a closer look at this Thursday and promised to follow up.
Malone is either trying, and failing, to cover up a whole mess of problems that he is fully aware of, or he is just plainly incompetent and/or obtuse to what is going on in his facility. Either way, he hasn't shown that he is deserving of the role as superintendent.

Fortunately, some of the members of the county board have enough sense to put a halt to rubber stamping his re-appointment as superintendent, and have referred his appointment to be sent back to committee for further review. Hopefully, they will get it right this time and not agree to his re-appointment to this position.

I won't even rip on Scott Walker for this one either. I doubt if he was aware of the investigations. He's been too busy running for governor promoting Milwaukee County on his bike ride.

What I learned from Wisconsin's conservatives this week*

by folkbum

When the Supreme Court of the United States overturns a state law duly enacted by the legislature of that state, it is an activist court making a bad decision by overturning the will of the people. Alternatively, when the Supreme Court of the United States overturns a state law duly enacted by the legislature of that state**, it has done a great service for the Constitution and our freedoms.

Also, when Supreme Court of the United States overturns a law duly enacted by the Congress of the United States, it is an activist court making a bad decision by overturning the will of the people. Alternatively, when Supreme Court of the United States overturns a law duly enacted by the Congress of the United States, it has done a great service for the Constitution and our freedoms.

* I went with this format since I figured "Heller High Water" was already taken by someone, somewhere. Also note that my wry irony about Scalia's "[i]t will almost certainly cause more Americans to be killed" rationale made the front page of Daily Kos, but some other guy got the credit, though I clearly beat him to the punch.

** For purposes of this post, we'll consider Washington, DC, a state, since the principle is the same.

Will SCOTUS Say This Is OK?

by capper

Many on the right side of the blogoshpere are eagerly anticipating the much expected ruling from the Supreme Court of the United States regarding a gun ban in Washington, D.C.

Given the recent rulings of this court, I personally don't have much hope for common sense to prevail. But I do find it ironic that on the day the right might be celebrating the re-affirmation that they can carry their precious handguns (in D.C. anyway), there are many people in Kentucky that will be mourning their loved ones killed by someone taking advantage of a similar law. And make no mistake, the killer's access to a gun was approved. From the article (emphasis mine):
Nevels said family members told detectives that Higdon kept a .45-caliber pistol in his car almost all the time, which is permissible in Kentucky.

I can't imagine how someone could defend this, as the reason for the murdering rampage was that he had to wear safety goggles and not talk on his cell phone while working-common rules in most factories.

I'm just waiting for similar stories to come out of Florida as well.

Another Deregulation Success Story

By Keith Schmitz

From the Center for Media Research
According to the Travel Industry Association (TIA), deep frustration among air travelers caused them to avoid an estimated 41 million trips over the past 12 months at a cost of more than $26 billion to the U.S. economy.

The study, conducted by the polling firms of Peter D. Hart Research Associates and The Winston Group, demonstrated that air travelers express little optimism for positive change, with nearly 50 percent saying that the air travel system is not likely to improve in the near future.

Roger Dow, President and CEO of TIA, said "... more than 100,000 travelers each day are voting with their wallets by choosing to avoid trips."

Dow noted that the 41 million avoided trips during the last 12 months rippled outward across the entire travel community:

Costing airlines more than $9 billion in revenue
Hotels nearly $6 billion
Restaurants more than $3 billion
Federal, state and local governments lost more than $4 billion in tax revenue
Conservatism. Making life better for business and consumers.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Feingold Reminds US to Stay Outraged

by bert

Good for Russ Feingold for continuing this week to protest against the warrantless wiretapping bill. Too bad no one is listening.

We're all tired, I know. It's summer for god's sake. And this is just one old, rotting piece on a messy pile of constitutional outrages that were built up in the guise of fighting terror.

But Feingold, along with Sen. Christopher Dodd, is still out there this week on the Senate floor and in interviews with messages that are in effect paddling upstream. They are pushing against a strong current of indifference. (UPDATE: Note, for example, the buried wire story on this that the Journal Sentinel ran Thursday morning.) This shows that both men are working from principles, and not craven political posing. You don't pose when you know no one is watching.

At issue is the bill that will exonerate phone companies for opening communications to the executive branch of government without the (heretofore) required judicial permission, and will weaken protections of our privacy against one government branch's unilateral decision to snoop.

What sticks in Feingold's craw -- besides the fact that the existing rules to act fast and give judicial oversight would work fine against terror -- is that this administration knew the wiretaps were illegal, and just did them anyway.

Bush's defenders try to attack Feingold's position by saying Feingold doesn't want the government to fight terror. I remember Jessica McBride urging Feingold to watch the movie "United 93". But obvious to anyone is that the administration's motive is not terror, it is a belief in unfettered executive branch power and in the divine right of corporations.

Here's Feingold today during an interview with Amy Goodman's Democracy Now:

But I think a censure resolution [against George Bush] that essentially lays out the same case, that for the first time since Andrew Jackson says this president has
actually violated the laws of the land and has disregarded our system of government, is a very important step. I know it won’t happen. I know it’s not going to be brought up. But I do think it would be the appropriate step . . .
Feingold recognizes that our mass fatigue and a conservative media are working against a clear view of the damage wreaked by the Bush administration. In fact, lately sensing an opportunity, right-wing dead-enders have been working stealthily to exploit this indifference -- -- to try to burnish the lame duck's outgoing image while no one is looking. For example, Mark Belling last week called Bush's war on terror a "glorious victory".

So Feingold deserves credit for pushing back a little -- for lighting a candle rather than cursing the apathy.

About Time

by folkbum

Michael McGee, Jr., guilty on all counts.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Grandpa Must Be Spinning In His Grave

by capper

My poor grandfather must be spinning in his grave by now. I've written about my grandfather before. He was a simple man that had great pride in what he had, and took great pleasures out of the simple things in life. Things like spending time with his family and going out to eat. Especially if he felt the restaurant gave you your money's worth in both food and service.

Shortly after his passing three years ago, his favorite restaurant up north, Shoney's, closed down. Now there is none in the state. To me, it was not a great loss. Their food was bland at best.

Then his garage caved in during the winter.

Then Serb Hall started it's rapid decline, going from one of the best fish fries in town to fried sewage.

Now, another one of Grandpa's favorite eateries, Shakey's, is on it's way out. He enjoyed going there almost as much as he enjoyed his fish fries.

My family went there tonight, to have one more meal, for Grandpa. While there, I spoke to the manager. He told me that the restaurant was still making very good money, and business was still doing well, despite the lousy economy. He said that the reason the owners decided to close their doors were the unreasonable demands of the franchise, including signing a twenty year contract, and demanding that the restaurant be remodeled, including the removal of their trademark buffet.

Again, the short-sightedness and greed of some people have cost us another link to the past and to my grandfather.

All I can say now, is that the last remaining restaurant that Grandpa enjoyed better be paying attention, or there will be no more Cousins subs either.

Name That Tool

by capper

While cleaning out the garage up north, I came across many old tools of my grandfather's, that I have no idea what they are. I will ask you, the reader, to see if anyone can identify them, as I get their pictures up.

This is the first one, pictured closed:

And here it is opened:

When opened, the metal part can be put in any position and held by tightening the wing nut. The angled edge is flat, so it is not a cutting tool. Given my late grandfather's skill at woodworking, I would presume it has something to do with that, but that is just a guess. The entire length of the tool when closed is about six inches.

Does anyone have any ideas on what this might be?

PS: Yes, I found it very difficult to write this post, referring to tools and wing nuts, and not make some crack about Charlie Sykes or Patrick McIlheran.

We're Grandparents!

by capper

OK, not really grandparents. But my wife and I have spent more than a few days up north over the last couple of weeks to get things cleaned up from the winter season. We finally found and signed up a contractor to repair the roof of the house and the garage, and needed to get things prepared before they could start work.

During that time, we had some "additions to the family":
Baby Phoebe

Baby Robin:

The bad part about the robin is where its parents decided to build their nest-right in the wreckage of the garage:

The good news is that the baby should be all grown and out of their by the time the contractors are ready to start.

More Bush Favors for the Airline Industry

By Keith Schmitz

Remember all the brouhaha some years back about Bill Clinton's haircut on the runway at LAX? Sure you do but you probably don't remember that alleged tie-up of air traffic was a hoax given legs by the laziness of the "liberal" media.

Now it turns out George Bush ticked off 40,000 travelers when he blew through London on June 15th.

How many news cycles will be occupied by this story?

A Soclist Take-Over of a US Business

By Keith Schmitz

Florida Governor Charley Crist announces a new government initiative:
At a news conference Tuesday, scheduled for 10:30 a.m. near the imperiled "River of Grass", Governor Crist is expected to announce a $1.75 billion deal to essentially buy the U.S. Sugar Corporation, including 187,000 acres of farmland that once sat in the northern Everglades. If the deal goes through (and though the announcement will be taking place, the deal isn't set in stone), it will extinguish a powerful 77-year-old company with 1,700 employees and deep roots in South Florida's coal-black organic soil. It will also resurrect and reconfigure a moribund 8-year-old Everglades replumbing effort that is supposed to be the most ambitious ecosystem restoration project in the history of the planet.

"It's mind-blowing," said Kirk Fordham, the executive director of the Everglades Foundation. "Who would have thought we'd see this in our lifetimes?"

The purchase would give the state control of nearly half the 400,000 acres of sugar fields in the Everglades Agricultural Area below Lake Okeechobee, although sources said U.S. Sugar would lease back its land for several years. Environmentalists hope that eventually, the area will become storage reservoirs, treatment marshes and perhaps even a flowway reconnecting the lake to the Glades. This could help recreate the original north-to-south movement of the "River of Grass", and eliminate damaging pulses of excess water into coastal estuaries. That would be good news for panthers and gators, dolphins and herons, ghost orchids and royal palms.
Gotta love the initiative on the part of Charley Crist. Nevertheless, it would be hard to see Crist making it on the McCain ticket after a move like this. I know a lot of libertarians who must now be writhing.

What next?

The Milwaukee Anthropologist

by folkbum

Editor of my newsprint self, and proprietor of Platypus Found, Mike Timm has a new project, called the Milwaukee Anthropologist. The first topic, a minor question: What is Life?

Monday, June 23, 2008

RIP, George Carlin

by folkbum

I have a number of words I would like to say on the subject, but this is a family blog.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Pascal's Wager and Climate Change -- Do We Feel Lucky?

By Keith Schmitz

One of my favorite professors when I was chasing an MA in History at the graduate school at UWM was David Hoeveler.

Though he is known as a conservative, he opened me up to a number of the great American philosophers.

One topic was tossed around during one of his excellent seminars was what is known as Pascal's wager.

Here is how it is defined in today's New York Times in a column about economics:
Blaise Pascal, a French mathematical genius in the 17th century who spelled out the laws of probability more clearly than anyone before him. This was a thunderclap of an insight that, for the first time, gave humanity a systematic way of thinking about the future.

Pascal was both a gambler and a religious zealot. One day he asked himself how he would handle a bet on whether “God is or God is not.” Reason could not answer. But, he said, we can choose between acting as though God is or acting as though God is not.

Suppose we bet that God is, and we lead a life of virtue and abstinence, and then the day of reckoning comes and we discover that there is no God. Well, life was still tolerable even if less fun than we might have liked. Here, the consequences of being wrong would be acceptable to most people.

Suppose, however, we bet that God is not, and lead a life of lust and sin, and then it turns out that God is. Now being wrong has put us into big trouble.
Let's apply this concept to what to do about climate change.

Supposed we bet that man-made climate change is a real threat. The economies of the world re-gear themselves to make needed corrections -- support for alternative energy policies, taxes on traditional energy consumption, promotion of alternative energy industries, etc. Some countries are already heading in that direction.

Suppose then that we are wrong about global climate change. In the process and in the case of our country we have weaned ourselves off of dealing with touchy third world countries that are our current sources for energy, we will be spending much less on a defense program that is designed to defend these sources of energy, we have created industries within our borders which led to the growth of a new economic sector that could lead to higher paying jobs for many Americans, revitilizing our economy.

On the other hand we can suppose that the crisis does not exist and we continue to behave accordingly, yet it turns out that assertion is wrong. Then our country, and our world, goes to hell.

Then again there is one big difference between Blaise's bet on the existence of God and our current energy situation. Many of us believe that there is this entity in charge of the universe, but no scientist can actually prove it. That is what we call faith and that is all we have to go on. Isn't life fun?

As for climate change, there are legions of scientists who are proving that it exists and something like 95% of them have lined up on that side. Oddly the critics like to label these perceptions based on research as a "cult" or a "religion." But here the big difference is that faith is not at work here, research dealing with physical realities is.

All the results, as has been said, are not in leaving some among the minority of climate experts to claim the man-made climate change has not been proven. But like the watchman in the crow's nest of the Titanic spotting the tip of the ice dead ahead, those in the majority of the scientific community have a pretty good idea of what lies beneath the surface.

So the question is, how do we want to bet on our future?

Wow, how did I miss this story?

by folkbum
Investigators say [the men] were stockpiling a cache of weapons with plans to target local government buildings.

The FBI, in raids over the weekend, confiscated hundreds of weapons--including everything from hunting rifles, homemade bombs, rudimentary rockets and cannons.

Sources tell [our station]'s Marty Griffin the suspects made threats to blow up government buildings and carry out other extreme acts of [...] terrorism.
So how do the captured men look in your mind? "Swarthy"? Middle Eastern? Names like Mohammed or Ali or bin-Something? Did you think these arrests were maybe in Dearborn, Michigan, or someplace else that Islam has a well-established presence?

Well, you'd be wrong. The men arrested were Marvin Hall, Perry Landis, and Morgan Jones--right-wing militiamen from near Pittsburgh.

These are not, of course, the first right-wing white militia members arrested since 9/11/01. But none of those other arrests made the news, either. No, instead what we hear about are the bumbling wannabes conned by the FBI into thinking they could blow up the Sears Tower. Or more bumbling wannabes conned by the FBI into thinking they could blow up fuel lines to JFK. We hear about them, bumbling and conned as they may be, because they are of Arabic descent or Muslim. The really dangerous groups--the ones with the actual weapons and operational plans for death and destruction--don't get any play because, well, we're not supposed to be scared of white Christians. Just Arabs. See something, say something, right? As long as what you see is "the other."

More at Orcinus, where Dave Neiwert predicts it will get worse.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Charlie Sykes, WPRI spread outright lies about Al Gore, tomatoes ...

by folkbum

You expect to see sloppy smear work from the amateurs, the local puffbags who throw literally everything on the wall because, since they have no real reputations to protect, they don't care about the mess as long as something eventually sticks.

Charlie Sykes and WPRI are usually better than that. Not much better, mind you, because their selective manipulation of fact blurs the line between it and fiction: Sykes and WPRI are kind of like Demi Moore and the ghost of Patrick Swayze: Yes, they way they slobber all over each other is disgusting, but at least they started with some real clay. When the Bradleys are signing the paychecks, you gotta try to have a better reputation.

But it's hard. The falsehoods, in part because the slime-slingers have catapulted the outright fictions into the arena of civilized debate, hang there like salmonella'd tomatoes ripe for the picking, eating, and, well, depositing all over the floor.

Exhibit A, from C. Sykes under the imprimatur of WPRI: "Some environmentalists are blaming the recent tomato salmonella scare on global climate change." When you see the word "some" in a context like this, it should set off more alarms than Iron Man trying to get through TSA. Charlie's some? One:
The reaction to the rotten tomato story suggests that climate change alarmism is quickly changing from great-moral challenge-of-our-time to punch line. When a blog for “Discover” magazine reported the link between the bad tomatoes and global warming, the site was inundated with hundreds of derisive comments along the line of: “Are [you] F***ing kidding me!?! This is pure tripe. If you tree huggers had any sense of reality you would have learned NOT to blame every issue on global warming.”
Lucky for me, I have access to teh google. I was at first going to write that I didn't know what humanity ever did without teh google, but then I realized, yes, I do know. The answer is that humanity could apparently lie with impunity. Because Charlie Sykes must think that no one has teh google to look up this nutjob wacko global-warming-spouting freak: "Thomas M. Kostigen is The New York Times bestselling coauthor of The Green Book: The Everyday Guide to Saving the Planet One Simple Step at a Time, and a veteran journalist." Oh noes! A hippie freak! Run away!
I was interviewing a board member of Food and Water Watch for a feature I am writing, and he positioned the scare as an eco outbreak because with less space to farm, more droughts, and higher costs, GMOs are the logical choice for farmers who want quick crops from less land.

For the record the source of the tomato infection hasn’t been determined. [. . . T]he source of the E. coli in spinach turned out to be feces on the hoofs of wild boars that traipsed through spinach plants.

The source of tomato infections may turn out to be something as naturally errant as that. But with less room and climate change affecting crops, another outbreak is sure to come. GMO strands can only serve to exacerbate the spread.
That does not read to me like "blaming the recent tomato salmonella scare on global climate change." In fact, it sounds an awful lot like the opposite--that this guy is being as clear as possible that no one knows what caused the salmonella outbreak, and he certainly doesn't say warm weather caused mutant tomatoes intent on killing humans. To the extent that global warming is even mentioned in the post, it's the inarguable phrase "climate change affecting crops." Inarguable because evidence of a changing climate's effects (and our hippie friend Kostigen didn't even blame humans for the changes) have been observed in everything from the mighty wine grape to the humble potato. (Further, more searching of teh google turned up absolutely nothing else that associated salmonella-laden tomatoes with global warming--but I did find a different "Discover" blogger blaming Purell.)

But facts are pesky things, and Charlie Sykes doesn't care about them, especially when those facts are about Al Gore. He continues:
A Tennessee think tank reported that Al Gore’s home energy use surged more than 10%and that the apostle of conservation “burned through 213,210 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity, enough to power 232 average American households for a month.”
The lie is not that the Tennessee "think" tank said that. He's quoting them accurately. Here's the lie: Last year the "think" tank in question (the Tennessee Center for Policy Research has a street address in Nashville, which makes one thing in their name true) also released a report on Al Gore. Let's compare.
2007: In 2006, Gore devoured nearly 221,000 kWh—more than 20 times the national average.
2008: In the year since Al Gore took steps to make his home more energy-efficient, the former Vice President’s home energy use surged more than 10% [. . .]. In the past year, Gore’s home burned through 213,210 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity.
Now, I'm not a mathematician, but even I can tell that 213,200 is not 10% more than 221,000. In fact, I would say that it is less. (For further response from the Gores themselves, including information on how Gore cut his natural gas use by 90%, see here.) You see a lot of fools who cannot be bothered to check their sources, but generally not at WPRI. This is just plain embarrassing.

But we're not done!
Four dollar a gallon gasoline changed all that. When John McCain and President Bush came out in favor of lifting the moratoriums on drilling for the nation’s untapped billions of barrels of oil this week, congressional Democrats pulled out their usual talking points… only to find that they were channeling Jimmy Carter.

“We can’t drill our way of this problem,” they explained, as if we could instead tax, litigation, regulate, or demagogue our way out of spiraling energy costs.
Wait? Who said that we couldn't drill our way out of the problem? That's right--it was John H. Freakin' McCain:
[W]hen McCain was asked about offshore drilling during a campaign stop in Wisconsin, the presumptive Republican nominee noted that such resources would take years to develop, and that the U.S. should instead focus on alternative energy sources.
I don't know how they do it. How they live with themselves, how they can cash the checks. How they can get the image of Swayze and Moore out of their heads (sorry about that).

Sorry, Charlie. Hate to see you reduced to the level of your average smear merchant.

Apparently, there's so much...

by folkbum

... it's showing up on the plates at Serb Hall.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

By all means, drill

by folkbum

Here it is in a picture:

If you think this is a frickin' panacea, knock yourself out. I'll be busy supporting a candidate with a real energy policy.


Oh, and lots more here.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


By 3rd Way

How would comments like these be labeled if they appeared in threads on the right side of the Cheddarsphere?

Commenter #1.

Keeping America competitive requires affordable energy. And here we have a serious problem: America is addicted to oil, which is often imported from unstable parts of the world. The best way to break this addiction is through technology...

We must also change how we power our automobiles. We will increase our research in better batteries for hybrid and electric cars, and in pollution-free cars that run on hydrogen. We'll also fund additional research in cutting-edge methods of producing ethanol, not just from corn, but from wood chips and stalks, or switch grass. Our goal is to make this new kind of ethanol practical and competitive within six years.

Breakthroughs on this and other new technologies will help us reach another great goal: to replace more than 75 percent of our oil imports from the Middle East by 2025. By applying the talent and technology of America, this country can dramatically improve our environment, move beyond a petroleum-based economy, and make our dependence on Middle Eastern oil a thing of the past.

Commenter #2.

Suppose we do nothing, & we don't eliminate this $400 billion dependence we have on foreign oil. Some of that money goes to terrorist organizations & also contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. Then what kind of a world have we given our children? We Westerners care very much about our environment and we want to act. I have disagreed with the Bush administration in not being more active in addressing the issue of climate change, whether it be through cap-and-trade, through tax incentives for R&D for green technologies and many other measures that need to be taken. We are feeling here in California pollution from China. It is a global issue, and we have to address it globally.

Drilling Himself in the Foot -- Even Oiled up McCain Has No Where to Move

By Keith Schmitz

The president today is going to announce a push on Congress to open up off-shore locations for oil drilling. This is not smart on many levels -- it will take ten years to get black gold, the oil companies will only sell it overseas anyways, the price of oil will drop just pennies, conservation will do us better over the long term.

But unlike Kramer on Seinfeld Bush doesn't do levels.

He is also not doing John McCain any favors. Turns out Barack Obama has a post primary bounce, especially in Florida.

Turns out that bounce may go higher. There are some places where NIMBYism towards off-shore drilling won't play well. Florida is one of them.

Transit Fare Hike Rebate--In Pizza Form

by folkbum

This hit the inbox this morning:
Hi, everyone! I just wanted to invite you all to an event we're holding that I think you'll be really supportive of. The event is the Official kick-off of "Walker Rebate Wednesdays."

As you might deduct on your own from the title, we want to give a little something back to public transit riders. On Wednesdays at Transfer we will be starting a new special...20% discounts to any customer that arrives by bus (just show your bus transfer ticket or bus pass). We are also offering the discount to bike riders.

To get things started in grand fashion, we will have a bit of a celebration on Wednesday, June 25 at 7 addition to the discount, we hope to have some special guests, music entertainment and giveaways that night. We will be inviting groups that are "pro-public transit" and bike-friendly to visit or dine with us that opening night and are looking for a nice turnout. Please spread the word if you feel so inclined. Thank you!

- Penny Rossetto, owner
Transfer Pizzeria & cafe
101 W. Mitchell St.
I've only eaten at the Transfer once, but it was excellent pizza. They have a limited menu of non-pizza things should you be inclinced. But it's a really nice spot and easy to get to by bus from just about anywhere in the city.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Drinking Liberally Wednesday

by folkbum

We need to drink now, because John McCain will veto every beer.

As part of the drinking, though, I suppose we also could discuss how to elect Barack Obama, as Obama has pledged not to veto your beer.

When: Wednesday, June 18, 7 PM onwards
Where: Sugar Maple, 441 E. Lincoln Ave in Milwaukee's Bay View neighborhood. The Sugar Maple is just east of KK. They have 60 quality beers on tap, and it's smoke free.

Charge It Forward

By Keith Schmitz

Bruce Murphy on his news blog lays out the issue:
Here are the percentages by which UW-Milwaukee raised tuition over the last 10 years: 5.5, 6.8, 6.9, 15.8, 18.7, 8, 0, 6.9 and 4.9. Other UW system schools had similar increases. Small wonder that students are leaving with huge debts. This amounts to a massive tax shift to the next generation, yet no politician ever seems to oppose it.
One indeed wonders why.

Many families and young people are shouldering huge financial burdens to grab for the American dream. No wonder so many 20 year olds are getting politically active.

According to a recent poll, albeit by the University of Wisconsin political science department, 81% of respondents had a favorable regard of the UW system and 54% we strongly favorable. Ice cream isn't this popular. Most people recognize the worth of investing in the future.

Here is where our state politicians lack common sense and guts. Though our state legislature does have members with real or imaginary grudges against the UW system, it all comes down to allocation of money.

And Wisconsin seems to spend a lot of it on our corrections system, more per capita than many states.

Here's a fantasy. How about our lawmakers taking a good hard look at our prison system and finding ways we could use less of it. Other states such as Kansas are finding ways of keeping their residents out of the clink. Sure many of our lawmakers would come up against a lot of bone headed advertising about how they are soft on crime, but at some point incarcerations are cutting off our noses to spite our collective faces.

Sure we want to make sure crime doesn't pay, it doesn't have to translate into the same outcome for the rest of the population that wants to get a higher education.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Who Will Win This One? The Media or the Blogosphere?

By Keith Schmitz

As part of the struggles happening as changes in the new media rapidly move along, catch what the AP is looking to do regarding their stories (from the enewsletter The Daily Online Examiner):
Bloggers are trashing The Associated Press today for demanding that liberal site Drudge Retort remove seven posts with excerpts of wire service stories.
The AP sent the demands to Drudge Retort owner Roger Cadenhead last week. After news about the takedown notices spread, the news organization said it will develop its own policy about the acceptable use of its articles by Web publishers, according to today's New York Times.

But a copyright owner can't unilaterally define fair use -- a legal concept that varies from situation to situation. In fact, the very idea that the AP could set the parameters of fair use is preposterous: The fair use doctrine is itself an acknowledgement that people are legally entitled to use copyrighted content in ways owners don't like.

Yes, the AP is allowed to set its own policy about when to send takedown notices, but Web publishers are under no obligation to honor that policy.

Here, the original posts contained snippets ranging from 39 to 79 words. In some cases, the first sentence of the article was posted, but some posts cited other passages. All of the posts contained links back to AP versions of the stories.

As is their wont, bloggers have lost no time condemning the AP for its position. Media guru Jeff Jarvis called on bloggers to show solidarity with Cadenhead by reproducing AP stories "at length."

Techcrunch's Michael Arrington took the opposite approach: He announced a boycott of AP stories. "The A.P. doesn't get to make its own rules around how its content is used, if those rules are stricter than the law allows," he wrote.
So who prevails? The folks who buy ink by the barrel or the other side which literally pays for nothing but has use of the fastest means of communication ever?

This is a sticky situation. Even the top execs at Yahoo admit that without traditional print and broadcast media they will have no news content.

Somebody has to pay for the people who hit the streets but the question is how as evidenced by the bad times hitting the newspaper business. If there is no copyright protection when stuff hits the net, then were is this legality valid?

But regulations run opposite to the free wheeling nature of the internet. What makes posting an article on a blog any different than sending it around to your friends on your email list?

Without the old media -- as much as it may irritate us from time to time -- you have no democracy, and you have not as much new media.

folkbum v. Irony

by folkbum

As previously mentioned, I am pretty well-trained in irony, and Justice Scalia is really not the only person who's going to be dealing with a gigantic dose of it in the near future.

This week I go in for an exam of an even more invasive nature than our good friend Christian Schneider recently underwent. In order to have this procedure, I need to be, well, empty.

The name of the concoction that will create the emptiness? Golytely. I kid you not.

So, anyway, pretty slow blogging from me all week, for obvious reasons.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

And who will treat our mothers as real human beings?

by folkbum

(Not to suggest that mothers don't care about tax policy, of course.)

This should be required reading for every woman--commenter Fair Play, for example, and Debra Bartoshevich, in particular--who would have voted for Hillary Clinton in November but now plans to vote for John McCain:
For anyone--male or female--who cares about reproductive rights, family planning, and women's health issues, the choice this fall is not even close.

And yet many voters have no idea how extreme McCain's position on these issues is. [. . .] Forty-nine percent of women in battleground states who currently favor McCain are pro-choice. Twenty-three percent of them believe McCain agrees with them on choice.

The good news is, 36 percent of pro-choice McCain supporters are less likely to vote for him after learning that McCain opposes Roe v. Wade and favors making most abortions illegal. That number hits 38 percent when those voters learn that McCain has also consistently voted against expanding access to programs that reduce pregnancy and the need for abortion, consistently voted in favor of abstinence-only programs, and against legislation requiring insurance companies to cover birth control. [. . .]

Since 1983, in votes in the House and the Senate (where he has served since 1987), McCain has cast 130 votes on abortion and other reproductive-rights issues. 125 of those votes were anti-choice. Among his voting lowlights:
He has repeatedly voted to deny low-income women access to abortion care except in cases of rape, incest, or danger to the mother's life (although McCain is now wavering on trying to put these exceptions into the party platform).

He voted to shut down the Title X family-planning program, which provides millions of women with health care services ranging from birth control to breast cancer screenings.

He voted against legislation that established criminal and civil penalties for those who use threats and violence to keep women from gaining access to reproductive health clinics.

He voted to uphold the policy that bans overseas health clinics from receiving aid from America if they use their own funds to provide legal abortion services or even adopt a pro-choice position.

Of his anti-choice voting record, McCain has said, "I have many, many votes and it's been consistent," proudly adding: "And I've got a consistent zero from NARAL" through the years. And last month he told Chris Matthews: "The rights of the unborn is one of my most important values."
I get the feeling, just having read about and things by some of "McCain Democrats," that a lot of McCain-leaning liberals have a vague sense that McCain is going to be somehow more reasonable or thoughtful, particularly on issues like reproductive rights, than his record suggests.

I remember listening to a Ben Merens show a few weeks ago, with a guest from, I think, The Atlantic or something like that, talking about McCain v. Obama. This was just after Clinton ended her run, and Merens was actively soliciting Clinton voters to call in and talk about what they would do now. One woman called in who described herself as a life-long Democrat, a liberal, and so on, but she would simply not vote for Obama. At some point the guest asked her about foreign policy: Did she think McCain would invade Iran? Of course not, she said. McCain's not crazy and the Democrats in Congress would never give him approval. The problem, as the guest pointed out, was that this woman's perception of McCain's sanity and his willingness to listen to Congress was totally at odds with reality and McCain's own rhetoric. How many millions more people out there have a similar warped perception of McCain?

I know that we're five months out from the election, and many "McCain Democrats" will probably come home. (Recent polling suggests that a bit of a "unity bounce" has already begun.) But to hear from Democrats now that somehow McCain will be better than Obama on our core issues is just insane. McCain is a conservative, he always has been. He's not going to magically become a pro-choice moderate with a sensible foreign policy. It will not happen. And the sooner these "McCain Democrats" stop lying to themselves and to everyone else, the better.

Who's going to cut your father's taxes?

by folkbum

There have been a number of analyses of John McCain's and Barack Obama's tax plans, both of which were out in the last week. I stole this graph from Kevin Drum, who stole it from the Tax Policy Center.

Looking at the graph, I'd suggest that an Obama presidency would benefit the vast majority of our fathers moreso than a McCain presidency. (I've seen other graphs like this, but didn't bookmark them, grumble, grumble, showing that, actually, Obama even offers a cut up to about 95%.)

My Brain, It Hurts

by folkbum

Let me get this straight: The guy who's made a significant name for himself defending the lone gunman theory against the paranoid and deluded has decided that the single best response to questions about his reading comprehension is to accuse Barack Obama of supporting terrorism--one of the most insidious and most common paranoid (Obamanoid?) delusions drifting through the conservosphere.

Well, whatever gets him through the night, I guess. (Hat tip, IT. My previous post on a similar topic debunking a different Obamanoid.)

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Wars Mah Bukkit

by folkbum

More coming:

I've been singing this all week (yes, I know we don't live in Louisiana):

What has happened down here is the wind have changed
Clouds roll in from the north and it started to rain
Rained real hard and rained for a real long time
Six feet of water in the streets of Evangeline

The river rose all day
The river rose all night
Some people got lost in the flood
Some people got away alright
The river have busted through cleard down to Plaquemines
Six feet of water in the streets of Evangelne

Louisiana, Louisiana
They're tyrin' to wash us away
They're tryin' to wash us away
Louisiana, Louisiana
They're tryin' to wash us away
They're tryin' to wash us away

President Coolidge came down in a railroad train
With a little fat man with a note-pad in his hand
The President say, "Little fat man isn't it a shame what the river has done
To this poor crackers land."

Louisiana, Louisiana
They're tyrin' to wash us away
They're tryin' to wash us away
Louisiana, Louisiana
They're tryin' to wash us away
They're tryin' to wash us away

(Post title reference.)

There are days when I regret my lactose intolerance

by folkbum

Well, really, that's most days. But I would like this as my last meal, undoubtedly because it would probably kill me.

Friday, June 13, 2008

RIP, Tim Russert

by folkbum

Some of them you just don't expect.

Scalia: The New Joe McCarthy

via mal contends - The hysterical dissent by the always colorful Justice Scalia in Boumediene v. Bush/Al Odah v. United States offers a glimpse into the fearful mind of the rightwinger in which can be viewed watery reflections of Senator Joe McCarthy.

[Pictured above-left are Center for Constitutional Rights staff and Co-Counsel, dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.]

Scalia, scolding five of his breathen, offers his dissent from the majority’s decision, including his terrified opinion that, "It (the majority opinion) will almost certainly cause more Americans to be killed."

Wow. I never knew that habeas corpus, due process, the rule of law, and the separation of powers were such dangerous dynamics to have in a country.

Damn liberals. And that goes double for you, Jefferson, Madison and Hamilton.

We ought to bring back loyalty oaths and raise Joe McCarthy from the dead to expose these Islamo-fascists sympathizers who are going to get us killed.

But today is a day for celebration for liberty as we smile at the fears of Scalia and his ilk who never could stomach the notion that "the Framers viewed freedom from unlawful restraint as a fundamental precept of liberty, (understanding) the writ of habeas corpus as a vital instrument to secure that freedom," or that quaint idea, in Hamilton's formulation, that the "... practice of arbitrary imprisonments, in all ages, is the favorite and most formidable instruments of tyranny." (Justice Kennedy)

As a commentator on this piece flushes out, those engaging in fearmongering combined with an implicit hostility to civil liberties tend to have as a goal the diminishment of said liberties.
Below-right is our famed Senator McCarthy pictured from the early 1950s, protecting America from the Communists and sympathizers among us (from McCarthyism, The Fight for America, 1952). You know, McCarthy even kind of looks like Scalia.

Scalia v. Irony

by folkbum

I'm not Constitutional scholar or lawyer, which means I don't have a lot to say about the decision in Boumediene v. Bush other than that it seems pretty consistent with the Court's previous rulings on detainees. It should not, then, have come as such a great surprise as it seems to have been for a lot of the right yesterday.

I am, however, well-trained in irony, which means I look very much forward to seeing whether Justice Scalia's "[i]t will almost certainly cause more Americans to be killed" rationale will mean he upholds the DC gun ban. At the very least, I think Justice Breyer ought to throw that line into his opinion, just to rub it in Nino's face a bit.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Again, a complete and utter lack of words

by folkbum

When last Dad29 rendered me speechless, he was busy blaming women soldiers for being sexually assaulted. Nowhere to go but up, right? Wrong:
We all know that the coathanger is THE symbol of "bad-old-days" abortions. It is iconic--desperate women had to do something--anything--to become un-pregnant.

But the coathanger bespeaks a syndrome which may not be directly abortion-related. [. . .] It's a grown-up version of the 2-year-old's temper tantrum
I elided material Dad29 quotes--if you read it, it may well turn your stomach, too--that suggests not simply that women who self-induced abortions pre-Roe were just certifiable rather than in desperate straits to end their pregnancy. No, the quoted material also suggests that self-induced abortions didn't really happen that often anyway.

This is, simply, a lie. See, for example, this paper (.pdf) from the Guttmacher institute:
In 1930, abortion was listed as the official cause of death for almost 2,700 women—nearly one-fifth (18%) of maternal deaths recorded in that year. The death toll had declined to just under 1,700 by 1940, and to just over 300 by 1950 (most likely because of the introduction of antibiotics in the 1940s, which permitted more effective treatment of the infections that frequently developed after illegal abortion). By 1965, the number of deaths due to illegal abortion had fallen to just under 200, but illegal abortion still accounted for 17% of all deaths attributed to pregnancy and childbirth that year. And these are just the number that were officially reported; the actual number was likely much higher. [. . .]

Even in the early 1970s, when abortion was legal in some states, a legal abortion was simply out of reach for many. Minority women suffered the most: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that in 1972 alone, 130,000 women obtained illegal or self-induced procedures, 39 of whom died.
Even today in countries that ban abortion, women are self-inducing abortions. The coat hanger may not be the implement of choice (these days it sounds like ingesting herbs is it), but the history (and present) of self-induced abortion is real and dangerous.

I am reminded of this post I read just last week about exactly this issue, which links to an op-ed in the New York Times:
I am a retired gynecologist, in my mid-80s. My early formal training in my specialty was spent in New York City, from 1948 to 1953, in two of the city’s large municipal hospitals.

There I saw and treated almost every complication of illegal abortion that one could conjure, done either by the patient herself or by an abortionist — often unknowing, unskilled and probably uncaring. [. . .]

The familiar symbol of illegal abortion is the infamous “coat hanger” — which may be the symbol, but is in no way a myth. In my years in New York, several women arrived with a hanger still in place. Whoever put it in — perhaps the patient herself — found it trapped in the cervix and could not remove it.
Well, I guess there were words, after all. And there are more I will not say out loud, since this is a family blog.

Morning update: See additional comments from Zach, capper, and Michael.

Wait. What?

by folkbum

If only I had a blog with a "fun with screencaps" category.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

McIlheran Watch: "The left's trick has been to say that legal things are illegal."

by folkbum

Huh. And all this time I thought our best trick was to turn sure electoral victories into stunning defeats without either smoke or mirrors. But whatever.

The context: McIlheran quotes Thomas Lifson of the ironically named "American Thinker," who noticed that Barack Obama once said he would direct his justice department to prosecute criminals. First, of course, I have to question why the sudden turnaround on the whole "tough on crime" question--apparently it's a bonus when your preferred candidate is a Republican but it's a bit of a drag when the other side does it? I don't get it that, but expecting consistency among the right these days is a bit like waiting for the Great Pumpkin.

Anyway, here's Obama:
So this is an area where I would want to exercise judgment--I would want to find out directly from my Attorney General--having pursued, having looked at what's out there right now--are there possibilities of genuine crimes as opposed to really bad policies? And I think it's important--one of the things we've got to figure out in our political culture generally is distinguishing between really dumb policies and policies that rise to the level of criminal activity. [. . . I]f I found out that there were high officials who knowingly, consciously broke existing laws, engaged in cover-ups of those crimes with knowledge forefront [aforethought?], then I think a basic principle of our Constitution is nobody above the law--and I think that's roughly how I would look at it.
From this, Lifson gets something that reads as the exact opposite: Lifson accuses Obama planning on "putting [his] predecessors on trial for their conduct of policy."

That's right: Despite Obama's clear statement that he will differentiate between bad policy and criminal activity, Lifson writes that Obama will prosecute policy. And McIlheran, who apparently didn't bother to check what Obama really said before approvingly quoting Lifson's misrepresentation, has to get defensive in the comments, putting words into the mouths of both Obama and Will Bunch, the blogger who asked Obama the question:
[C]alling the Bush administration a band of war criminals [is not] at all new to the sort of anti-war crowd that Obama has long considered his base--the phrase is used endlessly on Huffington, Crooks and Liars, so forth. [. . . T]he original PDN blogger set up the context exactly: Daily News writer Will Bunch, who did the interview, appears to feel Obama's statement is exactly about viewing waterboarding as a potential war crime.
Neither Obama nor Bunch used the phrase "war crime" or anything similar in that original posting--you can read it for yourself. That is an invention of Lifson's, borrowed by McIlheran, who sputters that the phrase shows up on HuffPo sometimes so it must be in Obama's platform.

But then McIlheran follows up with the line that serves as the title of this post: "The left's trick has been to say that legal things are illegal," he says. Like what? I asked him. (That comment's not out of moderation yet--he doesn't keep the insane morning hours that I do.) But he offers hints; he specifically mentions waterboarding and warrantless wiretaps, both of which I thought were already pretty clearly illegal--you don't need "the left" to read the plain language of the FISA statutes or the US history of prosecuting those who have waterboarded. But I suggest it could also have something to do with Obama's plan to review the Constitutionality of everything that the Bush administration has been up to.

Besides, haven't we been hearing all along from "the right" that if we've done nothing wrong, we have nothing to fear? So then what's McIlheran so afraid of?

Also see Tom Foley, Esq.

Remind Me Again. Exactly Why Do We Need CCW?

by capper

A friend once remarked:
Remember…my friend, it’s better to have a gun and not need it than to need a gun and not have it.

I, and I believe a certain four year old girl, would respectfully disagree. From the AP link at JSOnline (emphasis mine):
A 4-year-old girl shot herself in the chest Monday after snatching her grandmother's handgun from the woman's purse while riding in a shopping cart at a Sam's Club store, authorities said.

A witness, Lueen Homewood, said store workers grabbed first-aid materials off store shelves to help the grandmother as she cradled the wounded child near the store's pharmacy, The (Columbia) State newspaper reported on its Web site.

The girl was rushed to a hospital in critical condition and was recovering Monday afternoon after surgery, said police department spokesman Brick Lewis. Hospital officials would not release her condition after the operation.

Lewis said the grandmother, Donna Hutto Williamson, has a permit to carry a concealed weapon and the purse containing the small-caliber handgun was in the cart near the child. The 47-year-old Williamson, of Salley, was not immediately charged with a crime.

Williamson, a South Carolina magistrate, was distraught after the shooting, her mother-in-law said.

How is this a good thing again? Who was protected?

Monday, June 09, 2008

Their Timing Is All Wet

by capper

Milwaukee County, like the rest of southern Wisconsin, has been going through an unforgiving deluge of rain over the last few days. Totals are nearly a foot of rain in Oak Creek. Many people are trying to pump out their basements, and salvage what they can. (I've also heard many stories today of insurance companies denying claims out of hand. Gee, why does that sound familiar?)

Then Milwaukee County, which established a hotline on Saturday, can't keep up with the flood of calls. They didn't plan on enough phone lines apparently.

Given those two facts, is today really the best day to be crowing about starting a new aquatic park?

"We don't have to have a solution for every aberration."

by folkbum

I saw the headline--"Welcome mat out for gender-neutral restrooms"--and thought to myself, Oh, geez, this one is going to bring out the perpetually offended to tell us that, well, they're offended.

I didn't even have to wait for the responses to start showing up on the blogs today, since the Journal Sentinel and reporter Scott Williams must have Julaine Appling, queen of the perpetually offended, on the speed dial for occasions such as this:
Organizers of the Web site to help transgender people find restrooms--say the number of gender-neutral facilities listed on the site has jumped from about 200 to more than 1,500 nationally in less than two years.

But moving away from traditional men's and women's restrooms has stirred opposition, too.

Julaine Appling, chief executive officer of the Wisconsin Family Council, said she was unaware so many places in Wisconsin had implemented the idea, including UW campuses that were the focus of a statewide effort by gay rights activists.

Appling said her organization believes gender-neutral bathrooms create an increased risk of sexual assaults by giving peeping toms and other predators easy access to potential victims.

While acknowledging that old-fashioned restrooms are inconvenient for transgender people, Appling said: "We don't have to have a solution for every aberration. To me, it is not worth the risk."
Oh for the love of dairy! How long before we see a ballot measure--or perhaps just legislation--catapulted along by Appling's organization to save the children and enfeebled from the "aberrations" lurking behind every stall door?

The safe2pee people list, by the way, exactly 15 such restrooms in Wisconsin, including one at that bastion of progressivity, a BP station. The horror.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Not a Prophet

by folkbum

Milwaukee talker James T. Harris, in his most recent blog posting, claims to be a prophet. The reason? He "predicted" some months ago that Hillary Clinton would not win the Democratic nomination for president. He celebrates: "I'm a Prophet! Hillary just dropped out of the race. Wow.... [. . .] I should listen to myself more often!"

Of course, it's easy enough to be a prophet on a yes-or-no question when you, at different times, predict both yes and no. For example, just a few days ago, Harris was adamant:
May I Have Your Attention Please?

Ahem. She didn't quit yet. She will never quit. You know that right? Never. Hillary Clinton is the political version of Fatal Attraction.

Look at her eyes.

She will never let you go. Barack, you know that right?
What a prophet! James, tell me something: Who's going to win the election in November? I'll give you two guesses.

Pop Quiz

by folkbum

Who wrote this?
It was a shameful thing to ask men to suffer and die, to persevere through god-awful afflictions and heartache, to endure the dehumanizing experiences that are unavoidable in combat, for a cause that the country wouldn’t support over time and that our leaders so wrongly believed could be achieved at a smaller cost than our enemy was prepared to make us pay. No other national endeavor requires as much unshakable resolve as war. If the nation and the government lack that resolve, it is criminal to expect men in the field to carry it alone.
Answer here. (Hat tip: digby.)

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Flash Floods

by folkbum

If you live in the Deep Tunnels, I suggest you seek higher ground.

I hope everybody has survived the weather.

Friday, June 06, 2008

The Suicide Of Serb Hall

by capper

A few weeks after getting married in 1999, my wife, my father, my grandfather and I went out for a fish fry. We had had our reception at Clifford's Supper Club in Hales Corners, and the food was OK, and we had heard their fish fry was really good, so we decided to try it. When we got there, we realized it wasn't going to work, due to my grandfather's difficulty walking, and the layout of the tables. So we climbed back in the car in search of different fish fry.

We had heard that Serb Hall was good, and it was always in the polls as one of the top favorites, so we thought we'd try them. For the next nine years, we never went anywhere else. We would go at least once a month.

My grandfather, who grew up in Italy, and came back to America in time for the Great Depression, was highly appreciative of good food at a good price, and great service. He would always look forward to his fish fries. Without fail, about three weeks or so after the last time we went out for fish, we would come to visit him, and he would say, "You know, it's about time for a fish fry." That was all it took. We all loved him and enjoyed seeing him happy, and so we would immediately call my dad and tell him it's fish fry week, and we would all plan accordingly.

We became such regulars that we didn't even have to order. When the waitress saw us at her table, she started to fill our orders. It was like being with family.

Even after my grandfather died three years ago, we kept up the tradition. Not only did we get good food, and excellent service, it was a chance for my small family to stay bonded, talk of the week's events, and remember my mom and grandpa.

Sadly, those days ended tonight.

We had heard that Serb Hall had drastically changed things, and not for the better. They had been changing since a new manager took over a few months ago. He would cut a corner here, trim a corner there. We were getting increasingly concerned about the direction that the restaurant was headed.

Despite the fact that they had dropped the all you can eat, my wife and I decided to try it. My father chose not to go and see what it was like. It was worse than we imagined. On the door to the dining hall, they have a giant blow up of their menu, with all the prices raised. The real kicker was the explanation for the changes (reproduced as on their menu, errata intact):

Welcome To Serb Hall's New Fish Fry

In the last few months, we have all experienced record breaking price increases in petroleum, food, and other related products. In particular, the wholesale fish market has been very volatile and we currently find it impossible to continue to absorb price increases for many of our seafood offerings especially Icelandic Cod.

We know from your comments that our food quality is the most important element of our fish fry's success and accordingly we have not changed our legendary quality or reduced our portion sizes. We have also added additional fish offerings at lower price points where possible to give you more of a choice while still maintaining our highest quality standards.

It is my understanding that these changes came about from the new manager, John S. Cwiklik, Ph.D. I don't know what his doctorate is in, but it sure isn't restaurant management or customer relations.

When I asked him why the changes, he iterated the increasing costs. I asked why not just increase the price, he pointed out that he did for the buffet, and that was still all you can eat. I pointed out that it was higher because of all the other things, and we didn't want all the other things. He just shrugged and walked away. Nice job, John.

My wife wanted to see our favorite waitress one more time and I wanted to leave.

While we were being ushered to our table, we notice that there were only six other tables with people at them. One used to have to wait a half hour, minimum, to get a seat, when they had the full banquet hall. Now it was a fraction of the size, and that was barely populated.

We ordered the pollack. While we were waiting, we overheard a table with two couples telling one of the hosts that the food was terrible, the portions small, and that they weren't going to come back,. Already feeling perturbed, and knowing I wanted to write this, I went to talk to these people. They repeated their complaints. "The food wasn't warm." "The portions were much smaller." "The vegetables were terrible. And who serves vegetables with a fish fry, anyway?" They also repeated that they had been regular customers, but that they weren't coming back.

Then our food came. It was served with a cover that had an eerie, and rather nauseating yellow-colored lid, much akin to the kind they use in hospitals to keep the food warm while it comes up from the basement. We had to send the poor waitress back for more lemon wedges and more tartar sauce. Half the plate was taken up by mixed vegetables. The rest of the plate was taken up by a small pile of fries, five small pieces of fish, one tartar bucket, and a lemon end that was wrapped up like a wedding favor.

The other two couples had been correct. There was not enough fish or fries. In a feat of exceptional culinary ineptitude, they had managed to take what was obviously frozen vegetables, and overcook the green beans until they were soft and soggy, but undercook the carrot coins so that they were still hard and one was ice cold. They apparently never heard the phrase: Stir occasionally while cooking.

Meanwhile, unknownst to me, some of my coworkers had been on the buffet side. They saw us on the way out and told us that they were very disappointed with the quality of the food there. They have been there a handful of times before, and said that they could easily discern a distinct drop in the quality of the food. Unfortunately for Serb Hall, these people are also the ones that plan the Christmas party for work. They would traditionally have it at Serb Hall. They told me that this stops, as well.

While we were waiting for the bill, we heard two other tables of people complain to the host, and state that they weren't going to come back. One of the women told us that she drove down from Oshkosh, just for the fish, and said that she was not only going to ask for her money back, but ask for them to pay for the gas she wasted coming down. Another couple said that they had been coming to Serb Hall almost every week, for twenty years, and that this was their last time, unless they change the way they do business.

We even heard a waitress complain out loud to her boss, in the dining area, that she would only work banquets from now on. She said that she is tired of the complaints, and cannot afford to work when tips are so small.

In just one hour, I saw what was a crowded dining area shrunk down to a quarter of its former size, and only being a quarter full. I heard of 15 people, including ourselves, that won't be coming back unless they straighten out their business plans. And they lost at least one regular renter of their banquet services.

I can understand the need to raise the price, with everything else going up, including oil, food and whatnot. I would be willing to pay a higher price for it, if they had only kept up the same quality that they had before. But the new manager has really fouled the place up, and they are now driving away business in droves.

I am going to write a letter to the board of directors sharing my feelings. I hope others are doing so as well. I also hope that the board reconsiders the path that they are allowing Mr. Cwiklik take them down, before things go too far.

I know that there are hundreds of other fish fries in Milwaukee, and I am open to suggestions of a good place, preferably on the south or west side of the county. But what really makes me upset is that what was a cherished family tradition of sharing lives, remembering lost loved ones, and just enjoying each other's company may now be irretrievably lost, just to cut some corners, or simply due to slipshod management.