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Thursday, July 31, 2008

Esperanza Unida's shafting of their workers goes on and on

via Global Girl - How about no more air-trips to Turkey for the Esperanza Unita's executive director, Robert Miranda, until Esperanza Unita pays their workers?

From today's MJS: Esperanza Unida's payroll problems continue under Miranda's administration:

Mark Freund, a former welding instructor and manager at Esperanza Unida, said he wasn’t in a position not to get paid, or to get paid late.

After repeated delays, he complained to the state Department of Workforce Development when his paycheck was 19 days late. After finally getting his check July 21, he said, he agreed to be laid off. But pay problems continue at the south side job training agency, where remaining workers still don’t get their checks on time. ... Maria Franco, hired a year ago as fund development administrator, said Esperanza owed her $1,000 in back pay, and $500 in vacation pay for about a month. Franco, who has worked for other Latino nonprofits, said she agreed June 27 to go on layoff, but returned the next week to finish her work. She said she was handed a three-day suspension for insubordination and escorted out. Later she received written notice from executive director Robert Miranda that she had been fired. ...“I don’t talk about disgruntled workers or their allegations. It’s a personnel matter,” he said Wednesday.

Miranda did confirm that staff members were not paid on schedule last week.

Maybe if Miranda, and his attorney, and his Board Chair, were not spending so much time disparaging progressives in Esperanza Unida's frenzied quest for electoral office, they would not be screwing over their workers so badly.

Cast One Last Glance at DOJ Scandal

by bert

Now that no one cares anymore, the Justice Department issued a report Monday that substantiates and details the damage that Alberto Gonzalez and his overzealous, inexperienced, ideologue lackies did to the many worthy missions of this agency.

Because I know folks are fatigued, I won’t list the verifiable violations of federal law, Civil Service rules, and DOJ polices that are in the report. I’ll spare you also the appalling quotations of Monica Goodling, the inexperienced go-getter who was placed as White House liaison for the agency (yes, this sentence was passive voice). But if you are gratefully thinking that this report closes the book on this scandal, you are forgetting something that remains undone.

We need, before we walk away appalled but relieved that the ugly truth finally saw the righteous light of day, to do one more thing. We need to remember the right-wing pundits and how they defended the Bush White House and Alberto Gonzalez on this.

Remember the claims? Any employer has the right to pick their own workers, they said. Or: every administration brings on board its own team. Jay Weber on WISN-AM emphatically stated that this scandal is completely made up by the liberal media and other Bush haters and there is absolutely nothing there. Remember?

That never held water for me, but then I tend to read down deeper into the news stories than most right-wing radio listeners, evidently. What stuck in my craw were the cases – Carol Lam of Southern California and David Iglesias of New Mexico – of federal attorneys who were pushed out in part because they were investigating corrupt Republican politicians. Duke Cunningham, anyone?

Others are incensed that ideology took precedence over fighting terror.

So, before we finish with this matter involving the DOJ* we need me to drag these old talking points out into the harsh light of day. Right-wingers count on the tendency of folks to forget their claims by the time their statements are shown to be lies. We now see that the claims that this was a made-up scandal and that the agency was blameless were b.s.

Ho-hum. What else is new, right?

A similar vindication came late in the Lewis Libby/Valerie Plame scandal, where again we were first told this was a nothing burger. The fact is, when you look back across the wide landscape of the Bush-era scandals, there's a whole lot of fecal fibs drying out there between the sagebrush.

*Except in terms of public attention span, this is far from over. There are more internal reports to come, certain White House workers are defying congressional subpoenas, and the question remains of how to proceed with the knowledge that Alberto Gonzalez lied under oath to Congress.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

John McCain endorses Jim Doyle's windfall profit tax

by folkbum

Remember how the right wing bloggers and the radio squawkers and Republican lawmakers all howled in laughter when Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle proposed a windfall profit tax on oil companies? "It will never work," they said. "The oil companies will pass the costs on to us, the consumers," they cried.

Doyle's response? Basically, It will work because we say it will, and the oil companies wouldn't dare be so crass as to stiff us with the bill.

(For the record, I opposed the idea then and I still do.)

But guess who just stepped up to suggest that public shaming of oil companies is an effective deterrent? My headline gives it away:
STEPHANOPOULOS: Not a single economist in the country said [a gas-tax holiday would] work.

MCCAIN: Yes. And there’s no economist in the country that knows very well the low-income American who drives the furthest, in the oldest automobile, that sometimes can’t even afford to go to work.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But they all say that . . . the oil companies, the gas companies are going to absorb … any reduction.

MCCAIN: … they say that. But one, it didn’t happen before, and two, we wouldn’t let it happen. We wouldn’t let it — Americans wouldn’t let them absorb that.

STEPHANOPOULOS: How would you prevent that?

MCCAIN: We would make them shamed into it. We, of course, know how to — American public opinion. And we would penalize them, if necessary. But they wouldn’t. They would pass it on.
Let's see if Doyle can get McCain up here to campaign for the windfall profits tax ...

Primary =/= Democracy

by folkbum

One thing I've been wanting to get off my chest for a while, prompted by the story of Debra Bartoshevich's being stripped of her delegate status to the Democratic national convention in Denver in August. I was reminded of it last week when Lance "Two Columns a Week My Ass" Burri noted the planned stripping; he quoted a Racine Journal Times story on the matter which includes this complaint from the now-ex-delegate herself:
"If they decide to strip me of my status, they decide to do something un-American," Bartoshevich said. "It’s not democracy. It doesn’t stand for unity, which the party wants."
There are so very, very many things about that sentence that are just flat wrong. Take the "unity" line. Bartoshevich does not represent party unity, since it is and has been clear that she intends not to vote for the Democrat in November. That's like the opposite of unity.

But more importantly, party candidate selection is not Democracy. It never has been; some day, perhaps, it will be. But the parties make their own rules for how to select candidates, and those rules have little to do with one person, one vote. In fact, based on the way delegate selections are weighted in different places around the country, there are people whose votes count less or more than others' in the same state.

The problem (for some people) is that as major-party candidate-selection processes have moved out of the back rooms and into the limelight, they have taken on the appearance of (small-d) democratic processes, though they are not. (Minor parties don't even pretend to be democratic; how many Greens voted for Cynthia McKinney in a primary? And, relatedly, how many Greens are chuckling to themselves about how the Bartoshevich affair shows that Democrats are falling apart and losing touch with The People?)

In the end, Bartoshevich has no one to blame for this herself. John McCain will be bad for the country. Barack Obama is not some kind of demigod in whom the future of all humanity rests (despite the efforts of those who will never vote for him to elevate him so), certainly, but he will be a better president than McCain. If Bartoshevich cannot see that, then, frankly, I don't want her in my party or at my party's convention. And that's not un-American--it's reality.

Monday, July 28, 2008

I'm sure it breaks Sean Hackbarth's heart

by folkbum

But it sounds like Alaska Governor Sarah Palin has taken herself out of the running for McCain's vice-president. Well, the scandal will take her out of the running, at any rate.

Alaska has been Republican since the beginning of time or something. But its high-profile Republicans--Palin, Rep. Don Young, Sen. Ted (a series of tubes) Stevens--seem to be falling apart this year.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Who's The Real Troop Hater?

by capper

I had the opportunity this morning to talk to a wife of one of our brave soldiers fighting in Iraq. She was upset because she had to talk to another one of his friends who were worried because they hadn't heard from him in a year. She said that he had dropped out of contact with everyone but her and his parents.

She further told me that her husband, who wanted to work in law enforcement or with the border patrol, no longer even wants to do this, because he is afraid of having to shoot another person. She also told me about her father, who was a veteran from Vietnam, who spent every Independence Day in a closet crying, scared from the noise of the fireworks. She also shared a story of another friend, home from his fourth tour of duty, saw a paper bag in the road while driving. He started screaming, "IED" and did a U-turn over the island in his Olds, and went tearing down the street for about a mile before his wife could get him to calm down.

She told me that her husband has told her that things are much, much worse than the media would let us know. And the right wing pundits' presentation would be laughable if it wasn't such a sick distortion of reality.

These are only anecdotal stories, but the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) that our soldiers are experiencing is very common, and needs to be addressed with all sources available. And it is not surprising that our soldiers are suffering from PTSD. The National Center for PTSD has put out a guide (pdf) for family members of veterans, explaining PTSD and how to help their loved ones cope with it. Included in that guide is this chart showing combat experiences in 2003, on page 4:

We can also see the long lasting effects of combat in the story of Joseph Patrick Dwyer who killed himself because he couldn't cope. It probably explains why the media won't show us pictures (like these) of what it's really like over there. The outrage and demand for the troops to come home would be even greater than it is now.

Seeing this need, hearing these stories is heart-breaking, to say the least.

It also makes me wonder where the hell John McCain and the right wing blogosphere get off on criticizing Barack Obama as being unsupportive of the troops.

It is McCain who has only voted 30% of the time for giving benefits to help the troops, while Obama has a 90% rating. It is McCain that has no problem exposing our troops to harm for an indefinite amount of time, for an unjust war, mindless that neither the majority of Americans or Iraqis want our troops there. It is McCain, who personally experienced how deep the hells of war can go, and wears those scars with pride, that flip-flopped on torture, and is now just fine with it, as long as it's politically convenient.

But McCain and the right wingers ignore his own crappy track record, and try to criticize Obama for not visiting wounded soldiers in Germany. Of course, Obama was in a Catch-22 on this issue. If he didn't visit the troops, he's not supporting them. If he did visit them, he would be politicizing them, which they would have squawked about as well.

After all, Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had already issued an order that military personnel should not be getting involved in politics. McCain and company would have screamed bloody murder about it, ignoring the fact that McCain had already violated that directive himself.

Just another example on how the "Straight Talk Express" is anything but.

Another slow week from me

by folkbum

My summer job finished up, mostly, last week. The person I need to coordinate with to wrap up the details is on vacation this week, so I will still have an unfinished chunk of it hanging over my head for a little while at least.

At any rate, I look forward this week to sleeping. I will also try to get some things done that I haven't been able to do much of lately, like spend time with my wife. If you don't see me around, it means I have something better to do. Don't worry, I'll be back later.

Bay View Compass now online

by folkbum

Many of you know by now that I do a bit of moonlighting form this blog for my local monthly newspaper, the Bay View Compass. This weekend, the Compass went back on line for the first time in a couple of years. There is not really any back content just yet (there are plans to add more), but the last couple of months are all there. Check out the local news and features, as well as opinion and commentary from elected officials, blowhards (that's me!), and more.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Funny How This Works

By Keith R. Schmitz

This morning in the Journal's Drive-By Hits section on the op-eds, Paddy Mac carried again the complaint about Barack Obama's comment before a Hispanic audience that maybe we all should be learning Spanish.

Looks like el zapato is on el otro pie.

For the crowd, usually on Charlie's fun house, that complains that we are always subjecting minority kids to the prejudice of lowered expectations, how come what's good for the goose is not good for the anglo ganders, especially since this admonishment comes from a black man?

This is not hard folks. The language immersion schools are among the finest in the system and we should build more of them. My kids and many others went through the German program, and just about all of them can be mistaken by Germans as being native speakers.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Time To Go To Override

by capper

I wrote last week about the importance of the Milwaukee County Board to override Scott Walker's veto of the sales tax referendum.

Walker has, in the last week, offered up a lot of rhetoric in trying to persuade the Board in not going for the override. His rhetoric is full of false arguments, and a dose of hypocrisy. He claims that the sales tax would make Milwaukee County a "tax oasis", drive business out of Milwaukee County, wouldn't really provide tax relieve, and that the voters already had such a referendum when they re-elected him last April.

I wrote a piece nearly a year ago, at this here site, on the irrational argument of a sales tax making Milwaukee County a "tax oasis." And at that time, gas was relatively cheap at $3 a gallon. Now that gas is hovering around the $4 a gallon range, his argument is even more specious. His supporters try to argue about how much money they could save on a large purchase, ranging in the thousands of dollars. But in today's economy, how many people are going to be willing to make purchases that large on a regular basis? Not many, I'm sure.

In the same piece, I pointed out that the sales tax in Milwaukee County was already higher than that in surrounding counties, but that businesses were still thriving in Milwaukee. Having an even higher sales tax in Chicago doesn't appear to have shut that city down either. If anything, major employers, like Miller, are leaving Milwaukee, but it has nothing to do with the taxes. But transportation seems to have more of an effect on the issue.

Walker is absolutely incorrect when he says that the sales tax won't provide property tax relief. It will do so. Walker is hoping that people will confuse tax relief with tax prevention. It won't keep taxes from going up indefinitely, but it will ease the pain. More long-lasting tax relief would come from things Walker and his ilk oppose, like a rational approach to health care, developing alternative forms of energy and making corporations pay their fair share of taxes. The hypocritical part comes in when Walker argues that in the '90s tax relief measures still resulted in higher taxes. It is hypocritical of Walker to say this, as that a major reason for the increase in county taxes was due to the State government short-changing Milwaukee County (something that he still complains about), due to budgets that he and his Republican allies helped forge and pass.

Walker's assertions about the referendum already being held is as equally laughable as the rest of his arguments. Yes, he was elected by a respectable margin. But so were the members of the County board who are poised to override his veto.

The thing that Walker hasn't mentioned in his arguments about how much the sales tax would cost us, is how much more it would cost the county to have a failing transit system or a parks system that is in ruins. That would do more to drive away taxpayers and businesses alike.

It's not too late to call your local county board supervisor, and encourage him or her to override the veto. You can get the contact information for your Supervisor here, and if you don't know who your Supervisor is, you can find out by clicking here.

Cross posted at Cognitive Dissendence, with the slightest in modifications for coherency purposes.

The Cheddarsphere is significantly less awesome tonight

by folkbum

Renée Crawford, whom I met back in the heady days of the Howard Dean campaign when we were invincible and I was considerably less tired all the time, is hanging up the keyboard.

She will be missed.

The continuing Republican war on science

by folkbum

It's not all global warming denial (though that is teh funny) and trying to suck the science out of biology classes.

No, this is maybe worse: The presence of the Republican National Convention in St. Paul in a little over a month will shut down the Science Museum of Minnesota for the week. Won't somebody please think of the children?!?

Unrelatedly, as I was up late working, this song ran through my iTunes, and it reminded me of the current debate over how long we should stay in Iraq--the Maliki/ Obama timetable of 16 months or the McCain 5-100 year plan.

Also: I could watch this for hours.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Some One's Gonna Get Punched Out

By Keith R. Schmitz

Ouch. Being in PR I know how it feels to get rejected by an editor for a story pitch. But oh my God, Opinion Page Editor David Shipley of the New York Times had to turn down an op-ed countering the Barack Obama Iraq piece from John McCain:
Shipley said he could not accept the piece as written, but would be "pleased, though, to look at another draft."

We in PR always love this part:

"Let me suggest an approach," he (Shipley) wrote Friday. "The Obama piece worked for me because it offered new information (it appeared before his speech); while Senator Obama discussed Senator McCain, he also went into detail about his own plans. It would be terrific to have an article from Senator McCain that mirrors Senator Obama's piece."

Bloggers: A Jokester's Target-Rich Environment

by bert
I have to think not everybody reads the sports section. But you should read the funny columnist Norman Chad in the Journal Sentinel today anyway because he tees off on blogging.

If you're thinking of starting a blog, don't. The world needs more blogs like Madonna needs more Botox. . .

Blogging is writing about as much as working the pole is dancing.

It is a pity that Chad opposes blogging, because this highly skilled profession could use someone cynical and snarky.

The Look of Leadership

Keith R. Schmitz

Maybe John McCain wishes he could take back his goading of Barack Obama to go to Iraq.

The Illinois Senator is making his way through the world leaders this week, with a lot of press focus on the trip. He could screw up but the odds are not in favor of a miss-step.

In the meantime we have the White House reconfiguring "withdraw" and "time-line" to read "time-horizon." No matter how you slice it, this is means our troops leaving Iraq. In the meantime McCain stutters and stammers that we can't think about dates.

I'm not too confident though that a Republican administration would follow through on a departure. After all, there are those oil contracts to protect, and with the prospect that a Democratic administration could mean a lot of perp-walking for members of the Bush Administration the strategy for the GOP I'll be is promise them anything, but give them the screw.

Then again, McCain is talking redeployment of US troops from Iraq to the unraveling Afghanistan effort -- just as Obama has advocated previously. I'm not wild about the prospects of spending people and money in that country because of what Afghanistan did to Britain over a hundred years ago and the USSR more recently. As much as Reagan worshippers keep droning on about how the Gipper drank the Ruskies under the table, it appears Charlie Wilson's war and the Afghan fighters drained the Evil Empire.

For someone who is being portrayed as a rookie senator, more and more it looks like judgement rather than so-called experience is defining leadership.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Iraqi PM Maliki is an anti-American marxist droolbucket

by folkbum

(Note the UPDATE below--apparently repeated references in the interview cited below to Obama, timetables, and withdrawal were all "mistranslated." Or something.)

Or so it would seem from Nouri al-Maliki's statements:
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki supports US presidential candidate Barack Obama's plan to withdraw US troops from Iraq within 16 months. When asked in and interview with SPIEGEL when he thinks US troops should leave Iraq, Maliki responded "as soon as possible, as far as we are concerned." He then continued: "US presidential candidate Barack Obama talks about 16 months. That, we think, would be the right timeframe for a withdrawal, with the possibility of slight changes."

Maliki was careful to back away from outright support for Obama. "Of course, this is by no means an election endorsement. Who they choose as their president is the Americans' business," he said. But then, apparently referring to Republican candidate John McCain's more open-ended Iraq policy, Maliki said: "Those who operate on the premise of short time periods in Iraq today are being more realistic. Artificially prolonging the tenure of US troops in Iraq would cause problems."
Anytime anyone on the American left (or, increasingly, in the American center--for that matter, even on the American center-right) suggests a time-table or a definite date by which US troops should be home safe in their beds instead of being electrocuted by KBR, we get called all kinds of vile names, such as those you see in the title of this post. (I am afraid to look at the conservative blogs for fear of learning that I have inadvertently copied one of them.) We'll see if Our Man in Baghdad suffers the same fate.

What I quoted here is not the worst of it, for McCain:
Maliki has long shown impatience with the open-ended presence of US troops in Iraq. In his conversation with SPIEGEL, he was once again candid about his frustration over the Bush administration's hesitancy about agreeing to a timetable for the withdrawal of US troops. But he did say he was optimistic that such a schedule would be drawn up before Bush leaves the White House next January -- a confidence that appeared justified following Friday's joint announcement in Baghdad and Washington that Bush has now, for the first time, spoken of "a general time horizon" for moving US troops out of Iraq.

"So far the Americans have had trouble agreeing to a concrete timetable for withdrawal, because they feel it would appear tantamount to an admission of defeat," Maliki told SPIEGEL. "But that isn't the case at all. If we come to an agreement, it is not evidence of a defeat, but of a victory, of a severe blow we have inflicted on al-Qaida and the militias."
Perhaps you haven't noticed, but only one (increasingly small) side in this argument has been saying all along that leaving, or even setting a time to leave, is admitting defeat. I'll probably be told that in comments. I look forward to it, almost.

I predict one or both of the following to happen in the next week: 1) Nouri al-Maliki will suddenly not be the Iraqi Prime Minister any more; and 2) Barack Obama, if he meets with (Obama-supporter-lite) Maliki in Iraq on the trip Obama's currently taking to Europe and the Middle East, will be accused of treason by the right. They will demand, as they did to Nancy Pelosi, that he be arrested for conducting foreign policy without permission from the president.

UPDATE: After a panicky White House accidentally emailed its entire distribution list the text of the Reuters story about Maliki's statements, they must have settled on a strategy: The United States Central Command (CentCom) issued a statement from a Dr. Ali al-Dabbagh saying, "Prime Minister Maliki's statement was 'misunderstood and mistranslated' and 'not conveyed accurately regarding the vision of Senator Barack Obama, U.S. presidential candidate, on the timeframe for U.S. forces withdrawal from Iraq.'"

This is at least the second time in recent weeks that Maliki has explicitly called for a timetable for withdrawal of US troops and the US then walked back his statement:
BAGHDAD July 7, 2008, 11:17 pm ET · Iraq's prime minister said Monday his country wants some type of timetable for a withdrawal of American troops included in the deal the two countries are negotiating. [. . .] The White House said it did not believe al-Maliki was proposing a rigid timeline for U.S. troop withdrawals.
Anyway, I guess we have to believe the new version of the story that Maliki's multiple references to Obama, to "those who operate on the premise of short time periods in Iraq" and so forth in Der Spiegel were "mistranslated."

As Josh Marshall wryly notes (from the second link of the update): "I'm learning that it's very difficult to translate the nuances of the Arabic of Iraqi leaders when they're speaking at variance with the talking points of the Bush White House. Language is a funny thing."

The magic of context II: Obama explains his "civilian national security force." Pre-emptively. To the Military Times.

by folkbum

Earlier in the week, we learned that if you take a sentence or two out of context--as the right-o-spherians are wont to do--you can "raise" all kinds of "questions," even though anyone with two brain cells to rub together knows that the "questions" are ridiculous on the face and and downright sinister upon examination.

However, the outrage machine can be set to 11 because, you know, the object of their hate refuses to "answer" the "questions" or "explain what he means." Sorry, let me make that "DEMAND THAT THE MAN HIMSELF CLARIFY WHAT EXACTLY HE MEANS." As I should have said in that earlier post (having sadly forgotten the magic word), whallah!, pretty soon you have Barack Obama's secret plan to take away your guns and "re-educate" dissenters.

I wish I were exaggerating. The paranoia is that bad.

Thankfully, Barack Obama figured out, on the exact same day as he made his speech about service to the country in Colorado Springs, that he should elaborate on the idea. To the Military Times.

Actually, Obama doesn't make it explicit in the MT interview that he's following up on the ad-libbed line from his speech; in fact, I would bet the interview with the paper happened a day or a week before (but published on the same day) and, perhaps, it was the way he phrased things in the interview that led to his inserting the sentences in question into his speech. To refresh your memory, here's what Obama said that got the right-o's in a fury:
We cannot continue to rely on our military in order to achieve the national security objectives we’ve set. We’ve got to have a civilian national security force that’s just as powerful, just as strong, just as well-funded.
Now consider this from Obama's Military Times interview (my bold):
A: [. . .] I should add, by the way, that part of the change that I want when it comes to Army and Marine structures is the mix of training that we’re providing and mix of personnel that are in these forces. One of the things I have been so impressed with is the heroic job that our men and women in uniform have done basically on the fly having to train themselves on the spot to function as engineers or function as social workers or function as translators or political consultants. There’s just been a whole bunch of work that has been done that we haven’t prepared people for. They learn on the job, but if anything Iraq should have given us a template for the kinds of skill sets that we’re going to have to provide to our military. And that’s true in Iraq. That’s true in Afghanistan. That also means, by the way, that we’re going to have to, I believe, reconfigure our civilian national security force. In a way that just hasn’t been done.

I mean, we still have a national security apparatus on the civilian side in the way the State Department is structured and [Agency for International Development] and all these various agencies. That hearkens back to the Cold War. And we need that wing of our national security apparatus to carry its weight. When we talk about reinventing our military, we should reinvent that apparatus as well. We need to be able to deploy teams that combine agricultural specialists and engineers and linguists and cultural specialists who are prepared to go into some of the most dangerous areas alongside our military.

A: Absolutely, but the only problem with soft power is the term itself makes people think it’s not as strong as hard power. And my point is that if we’ve got a State Department or personnel that have been trained just to be behind walls, and they have not been equipped to get out there alongside our military and engage, then we don’t have the kind of national security apparatus that is needed. That has to be planned for; it has to be paid for. Those personnel have to be trained. And they all have to be integrated and that is something that we have not accomplished yet, but that’s going to be what’s increasingly important in our future to make sure that our military has the support that it needs to do what it does the best, which is fight wars.
In other words, Obama wants to do exactly what he said he'd do in that speech, exactly what I tried to explain he would do to the fingers-in-ears panic-knobs who were sure Obama had let slip some reference to top-secret brown shirts.*

It's easy to see how, I think, the phrase "civilian national security force," which is what Obama just described here as everyone who makes diplomacy easier, the world healthier, and America's image stronger, could be inserted into his speech right after the lines "And we'll also grow our Foreign Service, open consulates that have been shuttered, and double the size of the Peace Corps by 2011 to renew our diplomacy." In the Colorado Springs speech, the phrase comes after his description, in the MT interview, the phrase comes before. But in both places, he's talking about the same thing, and it has nothing to do with arming civilians and enforcing the Obamacode.

So stop building the bunkers, my rightistatic friends. Ease up on the kung-fu grip you have around your guns and failsafe switches. Put the tin-foil hats back in the drawer.

And stop being so deliberately stupid.

(Hat tip to this amazingly brave and funny website.)

*A commenter inferred from the out-of context quote that Obama was planning to establish his version of the Stasi. Though the Stasi were the East German secret police, I accidentally called this a reference to Nazis. I would like to apologize to all the good Nazis I have slandered by confusing them with the Stasi.

Shorewood Covered in Shopping Bags

By Keith R. Schmitz

This morning as a slight mist that grew into a driving rain, scores of volunteers fanned out across the Village of Shorewood to drop a reusable shopping bag at the door step of every house and apartment within its one square mile area.

Sustainable Shorewood
is the group behind the effort. Made up of the members of the Village of Shorewood Conservation Board, which was formed last year by the village government, Sustainable Shorewood is looking to drive programs like this in the future.

This program is already getting national press, being one of the first such effort in the state and maybe in the country. One Shorewood resident was looking forward to his bag after his father called from Arizona after seeing the story on the program.

Plastic bags are a major fill in land fills. Many of them will take decades if not centuries to degrade. Just to give you some idea the local Pick and Save -- one the smallest in the chain -- uses about two pallets of plastic bags every week.

The really great feature about the Shorewood bag drop is this shows what can come out of a partnership of government, local business, and some great bottom up activism. The cost of the shopping bags was totally supported through donations by businesses, and the logistics was completely grassroots.

Jenny Achuthan, one of the organizers of the bag drop hopes other communities can learn from Shorewood's experience and organize a program of their own. Anyone who is interested is encouraged to reach Sustainable Shorewood through their web site.

The other wonderful aspect of this program was the involvement of Jenny and the other organizers who were under age forty. Most of the volunteers were families who involved their very young children in assembling the bag packages and going door to door.

Thanks to the efforts of the group, Shorewood has a start in bagging the plastic bag problem.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Confidential to "Recovering Democrat" in Maryland

by folkbum
For months I have asked where Obama’s money is coming from ...
Lucky for you, that information is available free on line. Check it out.
... Only a fool would believe that his record-shattering fund raising is an online miracle caused by a spontaneous flood of support from small contributors. Get real.
There are also other places online to "get real," as you call it, where you can learn that Obama has taken $0 in PAC money and has as many contributors giving less than $1000 as giving more. Thanks for writing, and I hope you "get real" soon enough!

UPDATE: Obama raised an amazing $52 million in June. But more amazing: "June is his second best month ever (he brought in $55 million in February). The stunning tidbit from June's totals is that the average donation has decreased, from around $100 in February to $68 in June."

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The magic of context

by folkbum

A couple of weeks ago, Barack Obama said this in his major policy speech about national service:
We cannot continue to rely on our military in order to achieve the national security objectives we’ve set. We’ve got to have a civilian national security force that’s just aspowerful, just as strong, just as well-funded.
Out of context, it sounds like Obama is calling for a multi-billion-dollar, million-strong force of armed civilians patrolling the streets finding those terrorists that JB Van Hollen believes are hiding behind of every wheel of cheddar.

This, of course, is driving the right-wing blogs nuts. Only NRA-approved candidates can demand an armed populace, you know.

But since I read those sentences on a right-wing blog, I had no reason to believe they were accurate. So I googled up that speech on service and found that, in fact, Obama had not included those two sentences in his prepared remarks. But he did ad-lib them, as he did many lines throughout the speech. You can see it on this YouTube of the speech, and the words above appear at about the 17-minute mark. Here, then is the full context of those lines:
As President, I will expand AmeriCorps to 250,000 slots, and make that increased service a vehicle to meet national goals like providing health care and education, saving our planet and restoring our standing in the world, so that citizens see their efforts connected to a common purpose. People of all ages, stations, and skills will be asked to serve. Because when it comes to the challenges we face, the American people are not the problem - they are the answer.

We'll send more college graduates to teach and mentor our young people. We'll call on Americans to join an Energy Corps to conduct renewable energy and environmental cleanup projects in their neighborhoods. We'll enlist veterans to help other vets find jobs and support, and to be there for our military families. And we'll also grow our Foreign Service, open consulates that have been shuttered, and double the size of the Peace Corps by 2011 to renew our diplomacy. We cannot continue to rely on our military in order to achieve the national security objectives we’ve set. We’ve got to have a civilian national security force that’s just as powerful, just as strong, just as well-funded.

And we'll use technology to connect people to service. We'll expand USA Freedom Corps to create an online network where Americans can browse opportunities to volunteer. You'll be able to search by category, time commitment, and skill sets; you'll be able to rate service opportunities, build service networks, and create your own service pages to track your hours and activities. This will empower more Americans to craft their own service agenda, and make their own change from the bottom up.
In context, it's clear that he's not suggesting hordes of armed librul avengers roaming the prairies looking for suspicious characters to send to the re-education camps. But, cleverly, by removing the context and drawing attention to what may, yeah, be a slightly hyperbolic assertion of how critical Obama thinks civilian service will be in the coming decade, you make people think Obama's on the verge of calling for a police state. Mission, as they say, accomplished.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

How Are Those Talking Points Working Out?

by capper

During the course of the last year, we have had a deluge of talking points from the right side of the blogosphere, all in an effort to sway the elections their way. We have heard about how property taxes and sales taxes are too high, that light rail is the devil's work, and that the KRM would be just a waste of taxpayers' money, to name but a few.

These talking points helped get Scott Walker re-elected this past spring. He even ran commercials on the subject of taxes, and how an increase in taxes would drive Miller out of town:

Well, I guess that didn't work out as promised. MillerCoors announced that they will be moving their headquarters to Chicago, along with a couple hundred high-paying white collar jobs.

But their move wasn't based on taxes (emphasis mine):
In addition to being a neutral site, Chicago presents a more attractive location than either Milwaukee or Denver for the marketing talent that MillerCoors needs to be successful, Long said.

Chicago also boasts O'Hare International Airport, the world's second busiest airport. O'Hare offers global air connections, an important consideration for a company that is partly owned by London-based SABMiller.

Long said those factors outweighed the higher cost of doing business in downtown Chicago, where a specific site for the headquarters has not yet been disclosed.

He said taxes were not a deciding factor in evaluating headquarters sites, which included Dallas as a finalist. Illinois has a corporate tax rate of 7.3%, according to the Federation of Tax Administrators. That compares with 7.9% in Wisconsin, 4.63% in Colorado and 0.5% to 1% in Texas.

Need I point out that Chicago also has a high quality mass transit system, that includes a rail component?

Even though their headquarters will be in Chicago, MillerCoors has promised to not only leave their brewery here, but invest heavily into it in order to expand production. With their headquarters there, and their brewery here, I wonder what they would say about having a nice, efficient rail system connecting them?

Meanwhile, due to insufficient revenues, our parks and transit systems are being found to be subpar. It is way beyond time for the people's voice to be heard, and the sales tax referendum needs to be allowed to happen, before we lose more businesses and people due to the poor quality of life Milwaukee County is becoming known for.

Contact your County Board Supervisor and urge him or her to override Walker's veto on July 24th. If you don't know who your supervisor is, you can find out by clicking here.

Drinking Liberally tomorrow; blogging slowly for the next few weeks

by folkbum

I am actually finding very little time to blog here, even though urban legend says teachers get their summers off. I will likely not even make it to Drinking Liberally tomorrow, but you should.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Is LeftyBlogs blinkered for everyone else?

by folkbum

How am I supposed to know what to think today if it's stuck in last week?

Half Cocked -- Church Cancels Gun Giveaway

Keith R. Schmitz

Get a gun, get saved.

A small bore idea for gettin' the kids into church.
OKLAHOMA CITY, July 14 (UPI) -- An Oklahoma City church called off plans to give away a semiautomatic assault rifle at a weekend gathering of teenagers, the church's pastor said.

Plans called for Windsor Hills Baptist to give away the weapon as a way of encouraging attendance at the gathering but plans changed when one the event's organizers was unable to attend, KOCO 5, Oklahoma City, reported Sunday.

The church's pastor, Bob Ross, said officials anticipated hundreds of teenagers from as far away as Canada would attend.

"We have 21 hours of preaching and teaching throughout the week," Ross told KOCO 5.

The church Web site featured a video showing the shooting competition from last year's conference. A gun was given away last year, but this year organizers decided to highlight the giveaway in promotions for the conference.

Ross told the TV station the church was not "putting a weapon in the hand of somebody that doesn't respect it who are then going to go out and kill."

The gun giveaway has been taken down from the Web site, but Ross said the church will give the gun away next year.
Granted, just because someone has a gun doesn't necessarily mean they are going to use it on others, but this move in connection with a faith-based organization has all the cachet of handing out copies of Grand Theft.

WWJS -- what would Jesus shoot?

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Veiled threats lobbed in the border wars

by bert
It's time once again to open up the get-tough-with-illegals mailbag and, looky here, it's an unsigned letter to a nun. Sister Mary was working through the St. Bridget Roman Catholic Church to help families, most Latino, affected by the May raid on about 400 undocumented workers at a kosher packing house in Postville, Iowa.

Here's what, according to Sunday's New York Times , the anonymous man wrote to Sister Mary: "May you rot in hell."

Neat, huh? A fellow hostile to foreign slaughterhouse workers without proper papers is also in favor of damning to hell any nun who tries to feed the children of such workers. What does that tell you about all of those folks from Jessica McBride to Jim Sensenbrenner who want a hard line on immigration?

Before you answer, let's remember that lifting anecdotes from the news about bad people in order to score points in the border wars is already a favorite weapon of many folks.

Until today, they all fought on the side of our gutless nun-damner from Postville.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Alberta Darling: My Staff Will Not Be Outworked

by capper

Last week, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel ran a story about the political races that are forming up for this fall's elections.

Without a doubt, one of the biggest races on the local scene is the match up between state Senator Alberta Darling and state Representative Sheldon Wasserman. This is what Greg J. Borowski wrote about the race (emphasis mine):

In the Milwaukee area, the marquee battle pits Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) against Rep. Sheldon Wasserman (D-Milwaukee). In what could become an expensive battle, Democrats hope a win will add to their edge in the Senate.

“There is a huge mood in this country for change,” said Wasserman, who added, “This race will not be bought. It will be earned by someone knocking on doors.”

Wasserman said he has knocked on more than 17,000 doors (17,274 to be exact). Darling said she and her staff have visited 25,000 homes, including 10,000 since spring.

“I will not be outworked,” Darling said, adding: “People are looking for somebody who listens to them, hears them and works for them.”

It would be interesting to know just how many of those 25,000 homes Darling did herself, and if she spent any time with the people that live in those homes. It is also rather tacky to take credit for the work of others, even if they're volunteers for her campaign.

My personal impressions of Darling are not favorable, and she has spoken out of both sides of her mouth on more than one occasion. I remember that in the mid 1990's, she, along with Mia Farrow and a few other Republican Senators, spearheaded getting Milwaukee County's child welfare system privatized. On the morning that she came to speak to the county workers, in which she was going to thank and praise us for our years of devotion, the MSJ ran an article in which she completely smeared the workers, and not the fact that three different auditors found that the state had been shorting the system for years. Since then, the privatization efforts have only made things worse.

Now, more than ten years later, she even admits that she did a lousy job of it.

Cross posted at Cognitive Dissidence.

Friday, July 11, 2008

McCain and the Economy

by folkbum

You know, I've been compiling a list of links concerning John McCain's campaign and his economic and budget proposals. However, nothing sums up, for me, the total substance of the McCain campaign's economic stance than this stark fact:

The McCain camp sent Phil Gramm, the top economic advisor to the campaign, to the Wall Street Journal editorial board to advocate and explain McCain's economic plan. Just hours later, the campaign itself issued a statement that Gramm, the man who advises the campaign and was delegated to go advocate on behalf of the campaign to a friendly editorial board that would promote the campaign, does not speak for the campaign.

In a just world, that would end a candidacy (imagine, for example, if Obama had done it--or, worse, Al Gore). Apparently, though, our liberal media has instead been replaced with the press corps usually covering Bizzaro World, which is why "cut his nuts out" is the new "don't tase me bro."

Remind McCain: He's in Wisconsin Today, so Packers Again

by folkbum
Yesterday John McCain did an interview with a Pittsburgh radio station and told a story about his time as a P.O.W. in Vietnam:
When I was first interrogated and really had to give some information because of the physical pressures that were on me, I named the starting lineup -- defensive line -- of the Pittsburgh Steelers as my squadron-mates.
Wow! The people of Pennsylvania and Steelers fans everywhere will eat that story up. Unless of course they’ve read John McCain’s book, Faith of My Fathers, and wonder how he could forget writing:
Pressed for more useful information, I gave the names of the Green Bay Packers' offensive line, and said they were members of my squadron.
But hey, let’s cut McCain some slack’s easy to forget details after 40 years.

Iran -- Fighting Us with Photoshop

By Keith R. Schmitz

Seems that all the lather worked up by the Iran missle tests might have been unwarranted. Comments from a Harry Farid in the Scientific American.
Well, at first glance it looks like the second missile from the left and its trail was possibly copied in the original and then pasted in as the second missile from the right in the edited version. But I'm not so sure it's that simple a story. If we look at the trails from these two missiles, for starters, there's a black dot just under the second-from-right missile that's not there on the other one.

Then there's the smoke plumes rising from the ground. If you look at the smoke plumes underneath two rockets on the right, those folds of smoke on the right-hand side of the trail look pretty similar, too, though. But if you look very closely, they are not identical; the pixels don't line up exactly. This distortion could have happened when the JPEG file [a common kind of digital image] was compressed, so it could just be cloned image. Or, it may be that the same kind of missile can make a very similar-looking plume.

Something else to notice here is that in the edited version, the rockets look a little bigger and thicker. This means that they are closer to the camera or the ground. So, it's a possibility that that so-called edited and the original are actually different shots entirely, taken by two people who took the pictures almost at the same time but from slightly different distances from the launch.
It's a good thing there is not the same mental climate we had in 2002/2003 to go off half cocked for sure when the US chugged off to Iraq.
What is interesting is that it seems the Bush administration and Iranian Revolutionary Guard need each other to play to their respective bases:
"There have been several comments about our missiles' tests, especially by the United States, and all of them are wrong," said Ayatollah Mohammad Emami-Kashani at the Friday prayer ceremony in Tehran.

Iran's paramilitary Revolutionary Guards test-fired during the last three days several medium- and long-range missiles, including the Shahab-3 missile which is said to have a range of 2000 kilometres and therefore capable of reaching any part of the territory of Israel.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

And we're not drilling offshore now because ... ?

by folkbum

If you learn nothing else today, at least learn this: The oil companies have leases right now which give them permission to drill on about 68 million acres of offshore land:
Unfortunately, President Bush and Sen. John McCain are trying to sell us on the oil companies' old argument that repealing the 27-year old moratorium on drilling in protected areas offshore will lower gas prices. Americans need to put this tired debate to rest. Our security--both here at home and abroad--depends on it.

First, the oil companies in this country now hold 7,000 leases to drill offshore, yet only 20 percent of those leases are producing oil. That is 68 million acres for which they already have the rights to drill. Nearly 80 percent of our offshore oil is already available for leasing--approximately 54 billion barrels total. They could be drilling in these areas, but they are not.
Another startling fact: In the last seven years (you remember how cheap gas was in 2001? Even when you were getting gouged on the afternoon of 9/11/01, you only paid $2.59), "permits for new oil drilling leases increased by 361 percent." If you're doing the math, that's faster than the price of a gallon of gas has increased since 2001.

Having a lot of offshore sites to drill in and handing over more drilling permits hasn't seemed to keep gas prices in check. The next time you hear someone suggest that doing more of the same will get us a different result, remind them that that's the definition of crazy. Which, come to think of it, probably explains why we hear it so much from some people these days ...

THIS storm has my name on it ...

by folkbum

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

McCain's Huge Blunder on Social Security

Josh Marshall has the goods on McCain's gigantic blunder on Social Security, absolutely humiliating McCain as uninformed and contradictory.

At a campaign event, McCain blasted the set-up of the Social Security system as a "disgrace," and demonstrated a complete lack of understanding of Social Security, in place since the 1930s.

Marshall is devastating. Watch this video; you almost feel sorry for McCain.

What's a Senate to Do?

By Keith Schmitz

With the vote today in the Senate over the FISA bill, Bush is holding the war on terror that he so cherishes as a hostage over telcom immunity. In other words, look the other way when the Bush administration sucks the life out of the 4th amendment.

If this free pass passes today this will be the triumph of telcom cash being poured into many pockets, knowing that they will be let off for a crime they may have committed, but we are not supposed to know what it is.

Every one knows that unless this measure is passed, there will be no way for this country to find out who in the Bush administration ordered possible illegal wire taps. It's like Al Capone running the courts in Chicago.

One shouldn't care which political party is perpetrating a crime, but that a crime could have been perpetrated. Isn't this what the rule of law is all about?

When a Senator raises the right hand, isn't protecting the Constitution supposed to be somewhere in the job description? Just asking.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Being Wrong About Iraq was Right, Being Right About Iraq was Being Unserious

by folkbum

There were many winners and losers after the fight over a taxpayer-funded killing game that children as young as 13 could play was shut down at Milwaukee's Summerfest. Among the biggest losers, I think, are the blowhards who spend half their lives yelling at us liberals to shut up, that we do not have any particular right never to be offended by stuff and the other half of the time complaining about the stuff that offends them. Including, apparently, the victory of such groups as Peace Action Wisconsin and Veterans for Peace over bloodlust and poor judgment.

That fight spun off a number of smaller battles across the Cheddarsphere, with many conservatives vowing never to go to Summerfest again and some even arguing, until corrected, that Summerfest had actually kicked the Army off the Summerfest grounds altogether. Affronts to good taste, rules of grammar, and common sense abounded. But one mini-drama stands out, between Mike Mathias and Rick Esenberg. Esenberg started it, followed by Mathias, and then one more round from each (MM, then RE) so far, with a few others joining in the fun, notably James Wigderson.

The Mathias-Esenberg skirmish is, in fact, a microcosm of a larger debate being played out in the national punditocracy. I think it's worth looking at more deeply, because what Esenberg and the like are doing is offering a grotesque version of heads-I-win-tails-you-lose, with the booby prize being the deaths of more than 4000 American men and women, not to mention countless innocent Iraqi civilians.

To illustrate what's wrong with Esenberg et al., I quote first (via tristero) from George Packer, member of the aforementioned national punditocracy, commenting on fellow pundit Christopher Hitchens's years-late epiphany that waterboarding is torture:
“If waterboarding does not constitute torture,” Hitchens concludes when it’s over, citing Lincoln on slavery, “then there is no such thing as torture.” This is powerful testimony, but another writer would have made it his starting point. The fact that waterboarding is torture forces certain questions on anyone who has supported the war on terror as vehemently as Hitchens and who, in the past, has been far quicker to criticize its critics than its excesses. This is the beginning of an argument with himself—not craven self-denunciation, but a genuine effort to draw out and clarify the hard trade-offs and ideological confusions that the past years have forced on all thinking people.
It seems innocent enough, but that last bit contains the nut of everything that is wrong about otherwise-reasonable people who supported the abortion that is the Iraq War. If you are a "thinking" person who supported the war, you did so only with great reservation, and now that you see what a mess it was, is, and will continue to be (whether you still support it or not), you can can admit faults only with the pain of someone wrestling his greatest inner demons. "Hard trade-offs and ideological confusions" are the hallmarks of all "thinking" people's opinions on the Iraq War.

The flipside, of course, is that if you opposed this war from the start, recognized that it would be bungled and mismanaged, knew that Dick Cheney was lying to you (his mouth was moving, after all), you could not have been a thinking person. Thinking people had to weigh the implications long and hard and make the difficult to decision to support invading Iraq.

In other words, if you were wrong about Iraq, you were right, because clearly you were a serious person and you made difficult sacrifices in deciding to support the war. And if you were right about Iraq all along, you were wrong, because you were too stupid to have been right.

Think I'm doing a disservice to Esenberg? I'm not:
[W]e need to persuade people that, while war is hell, those who serve are doing something that is not only necessary, but that can be done with integrity and in a way that fulfills the human need for accomplishment.

The critics don't believe that. War, to them, is just undifferentiated killing. There is nothing about what we fight for and how we fight that is distinctive. But, in a world where evil exists--where there are Nazi Germanys, Soviet Russias and Al Qaeda--that leads to the charnel house just as certainly as a mindless celebration of conquest.
That's from his shock-and-awe opening salvo. Clearly, Esenberg suggests, anyone who opposes war is unthinking, uncaring, unfeeling. He clarifies in his comments to Mathias's first post: "[P]eace activists did not understand the situation in Iraq," he writes. Esenberg's second post is a longer argument for the idea that people opposing the war just didn't get it (titled, even, "Being serious about Iraq"!), and includes an eerie, likely unknowing paraphrase of Packer:
I don't cite Herman's piece as necessarily establishing that the Iraq war was the right decision. I remember, at the time, being very uncertain about whether it was. But it--along with so many other post war reviews--reminds us that the demonization of Bush reflects, at best, a refusal to face difficult facts and, at worst, a cynical manipulation of a complicated issue.
The issue was "complicated," Esenberg says, and those of us who were thinking people were "very uncertain" about whether invading Iraq was "the right decision." (I would also note that Esenberg dives into non-sequitur: not one word of either of Mathias's posts contains anything like "demonization of Bush"--Mathias's first post doesn't even say the man's name, and his second only notes that Bush ignored both protesters and prominent opponents of going to war.)

Wigderson makes it worse, by asking what peace activists would have done in Iraq if not go to war. Mathias eviscerates him:
James asks: “What would they have done?” And the response is: About what?

Hussein was at the front of no invading army. He was launching no missiles against his neighbors. His support for terrorism seemed limited to sending funds to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers. The price that has been paid in lives and treasure for such an affront seems wildly disproportionate.
But of course, to the Esenbergs, Packers, and Wigdersons of the world, to do nothing was the unthinking response. To do nothing did not carefully measure out the "complicated" issue or "clarify the hard trade-offs and ideological confusions" of thinking people like them. To do nothing in Iraq, though the right thing, was wrong because there was no thought behind it.

This is simply not true. Saddam Hussein posed no threat to us, but al Qaeda did. That was my reason for opposing the war in Iraq, and I defy anyone to tell me how a) there is no thought behind it or b) it is wrong.

This graph, from the Center for Strategic and International Studies, via chart-master Kevin Drum, explains quite neatly why, in fact, I'm right; it's of US casualties in Afghanistan:

Is it any wonder that Secretary of Defense Robert Gates spent the whole of the recent NATO summit begging for help in Afghanistan?


Esenberg and Packer at least seem to want to live in the same reality as those of us who opposed the war; even though they will not acknowledge that such opposition was possible from anyone with a brain, their protestations over how "very uncertain" they were about the war allows that such opposition was at least a viable option. But there are some dead-enders who remain on another planet entirely, and they were brought out in the last few days by news that 550 metric tons of yellowcake uranium was moved from Iraq to Canada. Cheddarsphere ex-pat Sean Hackbarth, for example, veers off to write,
We now know Saddam had 550 tons of the stuff [. . .].That, my friends, is a nuclear weapons program. It’s not a stretch to assume that a dictator who had a history of using WMDs and had tons of material that could be processed into a nuclear or dirty bomb would want more. It’s not a stretch to make a big deal out of this [. . .]. If it weren’t for President Bush’s invasion Saddam might well be on his way processing that 550 tons of yellowcake.
We now know? We've known about this yellowcake since 1981, at least, when Israel bombed Iraq's nuclear program to smithereens (a program never restarted). Heck, given that we were allies with Iraq in 1981, I wouldn't be surprised if it turned out we gave him the stuff. We knew about this yellowcake in 1991, when the International Atomic Energy Agency locked it up and threw away the key. We knew about it through 1998 when IAEA inspectors made regular checks on it. We knew about it again in 2002 when the UN inspectors noted that it hadn't been touched. We knew about it in 2003 when US troops found it--still sealed. We've known about it every 18 months or so since then when some mention of it made the news. Now we know? That is a nuclear weapons progam? A different reality.

Perhaps Amy P., commenter on this news at Dad29's alternate-reality paradise, sums up this worldview in support of the war and against anyone suggesting it was a mistake:
No doubt Barack "Uniter" Obama will simply raise the white flag and we'll all find the peace that comes through submission under shari'a law.
There are so many things wrong with that--from the notion that Saddam Hussein, secular dictator, would have subjected us to religious law to the idea that Barack Obama will not defend the country if elected.

It leads me to ask this: Who, pray tell, are the real unthinking, unserious ones? Who are those who refuse to acknowledge reality and instead accept an immature, naïve world view? It is certainly not those of us who opposed the war from day one. It is not those involved in Wisconsin Peace Action or Veterans for Peace who oppose convincing 13-year-olds that going to Iraq will be fun and worthwhile. I think it would behoove the Esenbergs and Packers of the world to note the difference, and save their disdain for those who deserve it.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Thank Your Sir, May I Have Another

by folkbum

Revisiting Rush: Pitiful

by bert
I have been puzzling over the profile of Rush Limbaugh since I read it yesterday morning in the New York Times magazine. The piece by Zev Chafets surprises you at first because you don’t expect the plaudits nor the sympathetic vignettes. Others have called the article a puff piece. Ann Althouse, for example, liked it almost as much as she apparently likes Rush himself.

But I no longer agree that the story is simply hagiography. Now I think that clever bugger writing the article meant it to work like a Trojan Horse: throw a monkey wrench in the right-wing’s mechanical attack on the NYT, and also send concealed ammo to those of us who recognize Rush as harmful.
In his own voice, Chafets will only praise, as when he marvels at Rush's skill on the air. But the author never takes a critical shot in the first person. Instead, in delivering the concealed shots that he does take, Chavets obeys the literary dictum to show, don’t tell.

Take for example John McCain, whom Limbaugh has railed against and ridiculed for years with clearly heartfelt hatred. The article lets Limbaugh try to explain why he is now going to support McCain. Chavets leaves unspoken the reasonable conclusion that Limbaugh is a craven, opportunistic hypocrite with linguini for a spine.

Another sneaky hit is landed when the article also shows us – and here Chafets does a skillful job of packaging this in a way Limbaugh and his dittoheads can not assail – that Limbaugh’s protogé Sean Hannity is owning him during this campaign. Hannity has conceived and nurtured the right-wing talking points that got traction such as the Jeremiah Wright connection. We readers have to see for ourselves that Limbaugh is coasting: fat, happy, and all fire in his belly extinguished.

The author is also clever in presenting parts that I and others see as negative but his fans will instead view as a plus. Anti-intellectualism is a core feature of conservatives, but I see as a defect Limbaugh’s animosity toward education and his failure as even an average student. The article also documents that Rush’s friends include Karl Rove, Roger Ailes, and Clarence Thomas. These are men of contemptible character who have only contributed harm to this country. The article also makes much of his show's ratings. That doesn't show me much about him, though. Baywatch, pork rinds, and Joseph Goebbels were also able to attract a large following.

More than anything, the article intended to plumb Rush’s psyche. What it renders, if you step back and look and even if you don’t begrudge him his wealth, is sad and pathetic.

Limbaugh failed at marriage three times. Without much comment, the article ran a photo of Rush snuggling up to his latest girlfriend Kathryn Rogers. As you can see in the photo above by John Parra/wireimage/Getty Images, she is pretty, blond, and much younger.

Limbaugh showed Chafets around a 24,000-square-foot home he shares with a cat. And then the two went out to dinner where seemingly affectionate waiters buzzed genially around them, we learn later that they anticipated Rush’s four-figure tip.

I might be deluding myself as I balance my wife and children packaged in our crappy little 1,900 square foot home. But against Limbaugh’s cars and jet and houses, I find myself more weighted with blessings. (His cat is probably better than mine; I'll give him that.) I sincerely think the loneliness of this vulnerable human is magnified by Rush’s lust for ostentation.

And I never know whom to pity more in those trophy-wife/fatcat items.

Obama, FISA and the Politics of Puffery

Update: Contact Barack Obama.
Update: See Compromising the Constitution and August 8, 1974 v. July 9, 2008.
***Bush is using the Nixon crimes-inspired FISA to immunize the very executive abuse which FISA was crafted to prevent.***

Barack Obama has taken much heat for his qualified support for the FISA capitulation to be debated and possibly voted on in the U.S. Senate this week.

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) (1978) was one of numerous post-Watergate reforms intended to check the vast executive power, in this matter of concern the power to wiretap and spy on American citizens under the invoked umbrella of national security.

A president wants to spy on Americans and claim national security rationales (misleadingly like Nixon and Bush), then a president has to answer to the FISA court as a check on the executive power preventing the president from becoming an Orwellian tyrant, dispensing with citizens’ rights at will, FISA mandates.

Bush, like Nixon before him when there was no FISA, is attempting to codify an unconstitutional executive program, violative of (among other liberties) the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable searches and the First Amendment right to engage in free speech, chilled when “(t)he price of lawful public dissent (is) dread of subjection to an unchecked surveillance power” [Landmark Supreme Court decision striking down Nixon’s claims of unlimited power to wiretap Americans under presidential claim of “domestic security;” UNITED STATES v. UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT, 407 U.S. 297 (1972)].

But one of the rare points of light in the new FISA bill (that addresses modern technological methods of communication), it is claimed, is the mandate that a court will be in place to check illegal executive branch monitoring of citizens, and that any monitoring must take place exclusively within the FISA court-approved sphere, effectively negating the power of a Bush-Cheneyesque, out-of-control presidency.

“The exclusivity provision makes it clear to any president or telecommunications company that no law supersedes the authority of the FISA court,” said Barack Obama in a statement of his support for the bill.

These things you say we have, we already have.

That’s one of the problems of the FISA bill. As Slate and others have pointed out, FISA is already the exclusive legal authority checking executive surveillance on American citizens that are made on national security grounds, and the new FISA bill, ironically, retroactively codifies the most flagrant FISA law-breaking since its inception.

Bush, and his conspirators in the telecommunications industry, have throughout his presidency utterly disregarded FISA and broken this federal statute in presidential acts of lawlessness unrivaled since Nixon.

Bush is using the Nixon-inspired FISA to immunize that which FISA was crafted to prevent. And the Democrats believe opposition to this disgusting act is too politically risky.

As Patrick Radden Keefe explains:

The Democrats' most pathetic bit of self-deluded posturing involves the inclusion of a clause suggesting that the new law represents the "exclusive means" by which 'electronic surveillance and interception of certain communications may be conducted.' According to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., this means 'the law is the exclusive authority and not the whim of the president.' But, then, FISA always said that it was the 'exclusive means.' And in 2001, pretty much on a whim, the president set it aside. …

From 2001 to 2007, the NSA engaged in a secret program that was a straightforward violation of America's wiretapping laws. Since the program was revealed, the administration has succeeded in preventing the judiciary from making a definitive declaration that the wiretapping was a crime. Suits against the government get dismissed on state-secrets grounds, because while the program may have been illegal, it was also so highly classified that its legality can never be litigated in open court. And now suits against the telecoms will by dismissed en masse as well. Meanwhile, the new law moves the goal posts, taking illegal things the administration was doing and making them legal. … Whatever Hoyer and Pelosi—and even Obama—say, this amounts to a retroactive blessing of the illegal program, and historically it means that the country will probably be deprived of any rigorous assessment of what precisely the administration did between 2001 and 2007.

The Politics of FISA

The political track for candidate Obama, who undoubtedly despises out-of-control chief executives like Bush and Nixon, is to project a nuanced presidential candidate laboring under the weight of his national security commitments, and then quietly help strike the absurd passages from the House-approved FISA bill under Senate consideration.

President Bush will ultimately veto such an amended FISA if passed, leaving the issue on the backburner as gas pushes five dollars/a gallon and middle America goes further in debt leaving FISA about as relevant and compelling a political story to struggling American families as the movie Jaws II.

The compulsion driving this maneuver, rather than just calling the House FISA bill what it is, is to prevent a harebrained national media (ever desperate to assist John McCain) from creating a campaign narrative (false though it be) of McCain and national security versus Obama and fuzzy Fourth Amendment (whatever the hell that is).

But Obama need not engage in this strategy, though he is not doing so casually. There is a long and distinguished tradition of American Constitutional thought on liberty and security that can inoculate Obama from even the most craven Republican and the most foolish of talking heads.

And Obama can, in essence, plausibly assert that anything Bush and his cronies tell you on anything is wrong. That would be the politically safe and Constitutional thing to do.

We'll see what happens this week.

For a more detailed examination on the unadulterated idiocy of the FISA bill, see Glenn Greenwald at Salon.
- via mal contends -

Sunday, July 06, 2008

The Good Done By George W. Bush

by capper

A lot of times, liberals will make uncomplimentary comments and remarks about George W. Bush. The right often dismiss this has Bush Derangement Syndrome*.

Well, this is just to let the right wingers know that we don't think Bush is all bad, just mostly.

Here is a list** of some postive things that Bush has done:
15. Well, he never accidentally shot anyone while hunting!

14. Dramatically raised the bar for future presidents who want to be considered "Worst President Ever."

13. Brought the tourists back to Guantanamo Bay.

12. Demonsterated that alcohol and drug abuse during one's youth has absolutably no effect on one's job performabication later in life.

11. Finally put all those scientists and historians and economists with their fancy book-learnin' in their place.

10. Took the pain out of long commutes by both making gas too damned expensive to afford and eliminating our jobs.

9. Shattered a glass ceiling by giving female soldiers the opportunity to point at POW penises.

8. Gave the rest of the world a chance to catch up with America.

7. He wrested a country from the clutches of a twisted, tyrannical megalomaniac. And Ashcroft will never forgive him for it.

6. Stood devoutly aside as the wrathful Lord exacted His vengeance on the depraved populace of New Orleans, avoiding such heretical modern responses as "humanitarian aid" or "giving a damn."

5. Helped with that whole superiority complex that Americans had going on.

4. Put a serious dent in our nation's brush-clearing problem.

3. Got a really good price for selling America to the oil companies.

2. Caught more al-Qaeda #2s than the Waziristani sewer system.

Number 1 Positive Thing President Bush Has Done...

1. Single-handedly convinced Frank T. Burvis, unemployed Klansman from New Orleans, to vote for a African-American Democrat for president.

*More thoughts on Bush Derangement Disorder can be found here.

**This list was recreated here, after some modifications, from a cross-posting that can be found at Cognitive Dissidence.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Now I'm cooking with gas. Literally.

by folkbum

I have joined the ranks of the Hank Hills. A couple of weekends ago we decided to chuck the old Weber charcoal grill, the one that was almost as much rust and ash-paste as it was animal bits and smoke residue. And we bought one of these babies.

We assembled it over the course of a couple of days and finally fired it up for a meal this evening. It was successful, and tasty. I even remembered to turn off the gas at the cylinder when I was done.

Anyway, mad props to the guys at Menards. When we pulled the firebox out from the bubble-wrap and corrugated, in hour 700-something of assembly, we found that the top had a one-inch diameter chip out of the enamel. We called Menards and that day and they pulled a new part out of an unopened box at the store and traded us. No questions asked, except to see our receipt. Good customer service is always a pleasant surprise.

Happy America Day

by folkbum

I want to see all of your fingers when you come back on Monday.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Once again: School finance is *(&^$)#&&#$ up

by folkbum

(UPDATE: See the Superintendent's full memo to the Board here.)

Quoting just one paragraph:
State aid to MPS has been decreasing in recent years for several reasons, among them declining enrollment. In addition, MPS is losing about $6 million in state aid because the board decided a year ago to not spend to the limit allowed under law, and under the current formula, the more a school district spends, the more state money it gets in succeeding years.
By being responsible to the taxpayers and not jacking up the taxes as far as they could last year, the Milwaukee Public Schools are being punished by the state. I mean, we knew it was going to happen we warned about it last fall. But that doesn't make it any more fair or any more right when it happens.

Also of note, the special-education settlement against MPS, under heavy pressure by the state and the Department of Public Instruction, which essentially requires that MPS do more testing and more diagnosing of expensive students that we don't get paid enough for. Push us to spend more, then cut our funds. Nice.

No, there's no option that will make anyone happy. If I could think of one that would, well, I wouldn't be at at the bottom of the MPS food chain, now would I?

SpongeJohn GardPants and the Mythical Chinese Oil Drillers

by folkbum

(I would not have used xoff's greatest gift to Wisconsin bloggers in my title had this not been an underthesea-related story.)

A month or so ago, Vice President Dick "Dick" Cheney was rambling on about something and let slip a complaint that the Chinese were drilling up OUR OIL right off the coast of Florida with the help of Cuba, those commie bastards. Okay, that's a praphrase. Here's what Cheney really said:
Vice President Dick Cheney, in a speech Wednesday to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, picked up the refrain. Cheney quoted a column by George Will, who wrote last week that "drilling is under way 60 miles off Florida. The drilling is being done by China, in cooperation with Cuba, which is drilling closer to South Florida than U.S. companies are."

In his speech, Cheney described the Chinese as being "in cooperation with the Cuban government. Even the communists have figured out that a good answer to higher prices means more supply."
That makes for a great story and it backs a significant aspect of the Republican philosophy of drilling our way out of the gas crisis (which John McCain, GOP candidate for president, suggests we both can and can't do). Gas prices are high, Americans are ticked off, and the dirtyhippielibrultreehuggers won't let us have OUR OWN OIL but China is taking it.

I bet you can see the problem coming. That's right--the story was just not true.
[N]o one can prove that the Chinese are drilling anywhere off Cuba's shoreline. The China-Cuba connection is "akin to urban legend," said Sen. Mel Martinez, a Republican from Florida who opposes drilling off the coast of his state but who backs exploration in ANWR.
Cheney's office even did the unthinkable and admitted that Cheney was wrong and that no, China was indeed not drilling for oil off the coast of South Florida. It's also interesting to learn that Mel Martinez is now apparently a dirtyhippielibrultreehugger,

Note the dates on those stories: The first, explaining that the story was false, was posted on June 11. It even got some pretty heavy play on the blogs at the time. So it's not to much of a surprise to learn that John Gard, career politician who lost to first-time candidate Steve Kagen in 2006, would repeat the lie in a June 4 press release (.pdf).

But it doesn't explain why, days after the lie was exposed, Gard was still walking around handing out this flier at county fairs.

Talking Points Memo got ahold of the flier (confidential to 8th CD tipsters: what am I? Chopped liver?), and made some calls. Our old friend Mark Graul dug the hole deeper:
At first, Gard campaign manager Ellen Nowak told us that these flyers had been scrapped. "We didn't print them that way," Nowak said, after the text was read to her over the phone.

Then she made the mistake of referring us to communications director Mark Graul, who confirmed the flyer's existence. But he said it wasn't about China, insisting that the "foreign nations" reference was to India, Brazil and other countries. "We now know that China are not drilling per se," Graul said, "but other foreign countries are."

Sadly, that's not true, either.
Sigh. A couple weeks before TPM had at Graul and co., the Green Bay Press Gazette, on their blog, not in the paper where it belonged, was on the case, with Gard standing by a weaselly version of the urban legend, that China was "exploring to set up" off of the Florida coast. That's not what the flier said, that's not what his campaign said when it announced its energy plan ( the references to China have not even been scrubbed from his website!).

It's a simple thing, John. Just man up and say, as the vice president did, that you were wrong. That you bought into a Republican urban oil myth (like the one about Katrina not causing any oil spills) and that you're sorry. It's not hard.

Wherein I criticize Obama

by folkbum

One of my six regular readers, Dan, complains that I never criticize Democrats. Well, I have a slate of posts in the pipeline criticizing Republicans, so let me offer Dan a bone.

Barack Obama is wrong on FISA. Russ Feingold is right.