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Saturday, August 30, 2008

They're Back -- Harry and Louise

By Keith R. Schmitz

For those  of you old enough to remember, Harry and Louise were a fake couple on the TeeVee, trotted out by the insurance industry to scuttle Hillary Clinton's health care plan.

Now they are back on the tube, this time on our side.

The Cheney Precedent, indeed

by folkbum

On Alaska Governor Sarah Palin:
Over the weekend, the Anchorage Daily News discovered a whole new reason Governor Palin is the perfect person to be the next Dick Cheney:

She can look you in eye and tell you black is white.

Especially when there's oil involved.
There's also this from Karl Rove about Sarah Palin:
"I think he's going to make an intensely political choice, not a governing choice," Rove said. "He's going to view this through the prism of a candidate, not through the prism of president; that is to say, he's going to pick somebody that he thinks will on the margin help him in a [swing state]. He's not going to be thinking big and broad about the responsibilities of president."

Rove singled out [a] governor [. . .] as an example of such a pick.

"With all due respect again to [the governor], [she]'s been a governor for three years, [she]'s been able but undistinguished," Rove said. "I don't think people could really name a big, important thing that [she]'s done. [She] was mayor of the [a small city]"

Rove continued: "So if he were to pick [the governor], it would be an intensely political choice where he said, `You know what? I'm really not, first and foremost, concerned with, is this person capable of being president of the United States."
Okay, I'm just kidding. Rove was really talking about Tim Kaine, Governor of Virginia who made it to the short list but did not actually become the Barack Obama's running mate. Instead, Obama apparently made a non-political choice--to use Rove's formulation--one who instead would be a good vice president as opposed to a good campaign move.

One of the things I found most interesting last week about the selection of Joe Biden is that in 2016, after (let us hope) two terms of an Obama administration, Biden will be too old to run for president. Obama's selection of Biden does not leave any kind of legacy in terms of who would be the next presumptive Democratic nominee. Again, that's a giant signal that Obama was less concerned with the politics of the selection that with its practicality.

There is no question that the choice of Sarah Palin over the other possible candidates was primarily political. Even in the effusive commentary from the righties locally, there's praise less for Palin's strengths as a pol and more for the way the pick changes the campaign. Whatever. We'll give Palin this week and then see whether, after the convention is over, the shine can stay on that apple.

Friday, August 29, 2008


by folkbum

If I were to have put money on any one candidate that John McCain would not pick, it would have been Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. Three reasons: 1) She deflates McCain's most effective attack against Obama, the idea that he does not have the experience to be president. 2) She is under investigation, literally, right now (even if it all turns out clean, the Alaska Republican Party right now is a hotbed of indictments and corruption and picking someone up from the middle of all that seems ... odd). 3) McCain apparently had met her in person exactly once.

Barack Obama's selection of Joe Biden had none of those pitfalls--it wasn't Chris Dodd, who's got something mortgagy that can get played to death in the media; it wasn't Evan Bayh, whose voting record is a lot closer to McCain's than Obama's is; it wasn't Sam Nunn, who was far outside Obama's circle; and so on. In the end, Obama selected a friend, a long-time (well, four-year) ally, someone with the chops and wide-ranging expertise to both challenge and support Obama during key deliberations. In the end, I suppose you could say Joe Biden is exactly the opposite of Sarah Palin--which makes it strange that so many of the conservatives who nodded sagely that of course Biden was a reasonable pick for Obama are now ga-ga for Palin.

But in the end what strikes me most is the way the selection of Palin, who is a very far right-wing ideologue, is being celebrated because it connects McCain to his base. My initial reaction, once I knew it was ferreal, was to compare, in my head, Sarah Palin to Wisconsin second-district Representative Tammy Baldwin.

I know, I know, Palin is the only governor of Alaska and Baldwin is one of 435 Representatives. But consider: The population of the 2nd CD is about 670,000 (2000 data) and the population of Alaska is also about 670,000 (2000 data). Palin is a far-right social conservative, and Baldwin is a far-left (by American standards) social liberal. Neither has much foreign policy experience. Palin is a mother of five with a hard-working husband, while Baldwin is, um, not legally married. They are extremely similar cases for decidedly opposite parties.

But what would the reaction have been from the media or the right-wingnuts had Obama gone to his left for a relatively unknown pol like Baldwin? Certainly not the great outpouring of praise and adulation that McCain has gotten for his pick today.

Ah, well, such are the vagaries of the press and the wingers--it's okay if you're a Republican to pick an extremest to succeed you. Indeed, with the Cheney precedent, I suppose now it is expected.

A Woman, Just Any Woman Please

By Keith R. Schmitz


For the literal out there -- JOKE ALERT

h/t Andy Borowitz

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz) used the announcement of his vice-presidential pick, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, to blast the experience of his Democratic rival, Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill), arguing that Sen. Obama has never been the mayor of a 5,000-person town.

"The Presidency of the United States of America is the toughest job on the planet," Sen. McCain said. "And my friends, the best testing ground for that job is being the mayor of a 5,000-person town in Alaska."

Sen. McCain unleashed a savage attack on Sen. Obama, claiming that his Democratic opponent would be "at a loss" when faced with the challenges of running a 5000-person municipality in Alaska.

"Let's say a constituent calls you and says that a caribou has wandered onto his front lawn," he said. "My friends, Barack Obama wouldn't know what to do."

He used the hypothetical situation to draw a sharp contrast with his vice-presidential choice: "Sarah Palin would take out her gun and shoot the caribou."

Mr. McCain said that an understanding of foreign affairs, Congress, and other issues that a president has to deal with is "overrated," adding, "That's what ‘Presidency for Dummies' is for."

While saying that her "vast experience" was the main reason he selected Gov. Palin, Sen. McCain said that she also had the other three qualifications he was looking for in a vice president: "She is pro-life, pro-drilling, and willing to housesit."

Shock and Oh

By Keith Schmitz

(Denver) Was over at Sam's Diner on 15th to again have breakfast with the Morning Joe crew when the news about McCain's pick of Sarah Palin for Veep. 

We at the table got to Pat Buchanan as he passed by and of course popped the question about Palin. Pat said the pick shoots the experience that McCain has been trying to make.

Later caught up with Chris Hayes of the Nation. Not only did he think the pick as bizarre, but desperate.

Back in the room watching the introduction, every clay pigeon McCain flung up could be easily shot down by what we heard last night at Invesco.

Nice woman I'm sure. But what is quite clear is that the McCain camplaign has been thrown in a flurry over the convention week and had to come up with the political equivalent of an accordion, with plenty of buttons to push.

Sarah Palin has a compelling story, but every aspect of her personal background points up to glaring deficiencies in McCain's program? She will be able to give a good speech for sure and claim maverick status, but it remains to be seen when the roof comes crashing in from McCain's lobbyist heavy campaign staff.

Mile High Euphoria

By Keith Schmitz

Remarkable night. Barack Obama dug deep and came up with a speech that was loaded with answers about the questions about his background and ability to lead. 

Having been there, the electricity was transmitted to the 70,000 plus crowd by a breath-taking speech, which was the best of Obama's career and perhaps one of the great speeches in American politics (pardon the gushing). There is no way the McCain camplaign will be able to counter the spectacle and heavy meaning of this event. 

More than theater, as fine as it was, heading out of Invesco last night were some where around 30,000 Coloradans who are ready to go, work for Obama and win their state.

But of course, the GOP are the masters at the game of lowered expectations.

There's Pawlenty to love about this

by folkbum

The buzz around the intertube-weblings is that John McCain has probably selected Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty to be his running mate. Here's what we know:
  • Tim Pawlenty has never even won a majority in his own state
  • Tim Pawlenty polls horribly in neighboring states that McCain needs if he wants to win
  • By selecting Pawlenty, McCain is turning his back on [pick one: Mike Huckabee, Ron Paul, Mitt Romney, other] and the millions of voters who supported him in the primaries over John McCain
  • By selecting Pawlenty, McCain is turning his back on Hillary Clinton and the 18 million Americans (more Americans than voted for any Republican) who feel that it is Hillary's time--not to mention the Clinton-turned-McCain crowd (Debra Bartoshevich and the nutballs at No Quarter)
  • By selecting Pawlenty, McCain shows that he's [racist/sexist] because he purposely overlooked all the many qualified [minorities/women] in the party
Okay, I admit, some of those are just repackaged critiques of the Biden pick (reuse, reduce, recycle), but if the shoe fits ....

(Of course, I could be wrong and it could be Mitt Romney, the dog-abusing shape-shifter who thinks McCain lacks the temperament to be president. That won't be any fun at all, except for noting that McCain and Romney together probably has a higher net worth than many of the red states that will vote for them. I'll have more comment after work this afternoon once the selection is official ....)

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Why is Ann Althouse etc.

by folkbum

I am required by contract to ask the question "Why is Ann Althouse Wisconsin's most widely-read blogger?" at least twice a year. It's been too long since I have moved to fulfill that part of my contract, so I'm tossing a post together tonight.

I did not ask the question last March, though I sorely wanted to and even have a text file somewhere with the links saved, when Althouse went off on Hillary Clinton's "3 AM" ad. (Watch it on YouTube, here, if you have forgotten it.) There were lots of reasons not to like that ad--for example, the suggestion that Barack Obama is too dumb to know what to do in a crisis; I trust Obama to have the best minds for any emergency on speed dial (perhaps even Senator Clinton herself) and to handle whatever comes up pretty well. It's what all presidents do, the current one excepted, of course.

Yet what Althouse chose to criticize about the ad was, instead, pajamas. Specifically--in two separate posts, no less--she claimed that an image of a sleeping little girl was filmed and arranged on screen just so in order for three letters from the words on her pajamas (the N, I, and G of "Good Night") were on screen. In essence, she claimed--in two separate posts, no less--that the Hillary camp cut an ad calling Barack Obama a nigger.

I think you can see both why I wanted to ask the question related to those posts and why I chose not to goad her any further, especially after it was revealed that the ad used stock footage that was almost a decade old, and not any kind of Reifenstahlian racist camera tricks.

But I ask the question tonight because I note a distinct absence on her blog today of that kind of sleuthery related to a new John McCain ad. (Watch it on YouTube, here.) This is a screenshot of the crucial moment:

You'll note that the McCain campaign has clearly cropped the background at an odd angle, eliminating the first and last letters of the word "change," which, of course, spells HANG. Now, the cropping to get that word seems much more deliberate--though until I hear otherwise, I'm willing to give McCain the benefit of the doubt--and the idea of hanging accompanying a photo of an African American man recalls an all too real and all too horrific time in America's recent past.

The threat of lynching is much more disgustingly violent than a mere epithet. Yet Althouse, who spent an awful lot of time and effort--in two separate posts, no less--on an imagined epithet hasn't applied her keen analytical skills to the McCain ad at all. Where are you when we need you, Ann?

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Deep Thought

by folkbum

"mickey," a conservative par catastrophe, used to comment here from the IP address, until he was banned from multiple local right-wing blogs this past spring for being a bit of a jerk and gave up here, too.

"gus" currently comments here from the IP address and is also currently commenting all over the local right-wing blogs, being a bit of a jerk.

I'm not going to say for certain that they're the same person. I just report. You decide.

Mission Accomplished -- Democrats Unified

Keith Schmitz

(Denver) -- Dabbling in the news myself, I know how this business demands conflict.

Unfortunately, this convention is not giving it to them so they have to make it up.

I have yet to make it to the Pepsi Center, being a guest to the Denver and credentials as you would well imagine very much in demand. So to date we have been catching it in group TV watching parties, though we will have the thrill of reaching the Center today.

But one advantage over watching it home is afterwards, catching up with the delegates. And last night the story from all the Hillary delegates is that their hero, who has richly desired the title, brought them on board with the Obama campaign.

I didn't just ask. I probed and all they said was basically "we have to go to work to elect Barack Obama."

Went to a DNC strategy session with Howard Dean, David Plouffe and others from the Obama campaign. According to Dean, "we are coming out of this convention unified, with 99.9% of the delegates behind Obama."

"It seems that the folks on cable don't have much to do," observed the Governor. "Anyone who wants to whine and moan will make it on TV."

Later, went over to the very well attended SEIU health care session and Hillary capped it off with a speech. We ALL rose to our feet to welcome her.

One last thing. We now have lots of concern trolls wringing their hands over Obama's decision to not invite Hillary onto the ticket. Who knows why? But I think we should all know Obama wants to win, and somehow Hillary did not work into the equation. That's politics and as it has been said politics is not beanbag.

Van Mobley from Concordia suggests that McCain should "exploit" Obama's "blunder" of not picking Hillary, and that McCain should pick woman. yeah, that should bandage over his inability to vote for a single woman's health care bill over his entire career in the Senate.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Self-Inflicted Wounding

Keith R. Schmitz

Not often the name Bartoshevich would be imagined as a household name, but that's what the McCain camplaign hopes to have happen with this new ad, featuring the former Clinton delegate from Waterford.

Of course conservative are chortling, but like Ann Richards would say, with McCain's abysmal record voting for woman's health care, "this would be like a chicken voting for Col. Sanders."

Or as Joe Conason puts it:
Still more confounding is the threat by some of her supporters to defect to John McCain. His campaign’s latest commercial features a grinning Clinton supporter who praises his “maverick, independent streak” as well as his "experience and judgment," and promises that “it’s ok, really” to vote for the Republican. Is this the politics of revenge? Is it the cult of personality? Is it stubborn idiocy?

Whatever else it may be, it is not OK. No, it is emphatically not OK to mislead Senator Clinton’s supporters into lining up behind a candidate whose positions are the opposite of hers, whose judgment on many issues is woefully deficient, and whose maverick independence is no more than a memory.

Senator McCain too deserves to be taken at his word—which makes it all the more astonishing that anyone who claims to have voted for Senator Clinton would consider voting for him. He has declared his firm opposition to reproductive rights and promised to appoint Supreme Court judges who would restrict those rights. He would continue the US occupation of Iraq and may well expand the war to Iran and beyond. He opposes universal health care and denounces Social Security as a “disgrace” that should be privatized. He dropped his principled opposition to the regressive Bush tax cuts and his support of immigration reform to pander to the Republican right.

Speaking of right-wing Republicans, their encouragement of the intransigent Clintonites is a clue for the clueless. The sudden affection lavished on Senator Clinton by neoconservatives and other assorted wingnuts could hardly be more transparent or insincere – or predictable as soon as Senator Obama, their erstwhile favorite, secured the Democratic nomination. Pundits who beseeched Democrats to join the Obama campaign as a crusade to destroy the Clintons now demand respect for her. But their insincerity is blatant. They merely want to exploit her most disappointed supporters, whose eagerness to cooperate in that strategy is mystifying.

Deep Thought

by folkbum

If John McCain had released an ad with the script "Hillary's right" about, say, nine months ago, the right wingnuts would have called McCain a Communist and a member of the "Democrat Party" while scuttling off to write another check to Fred Thompson.

At the Democratic Convention -- Coffee Talk with Rev. Rivers

By Keith R. Schmitz

Being big fans of Morning Joe, Lana and I were planning to make it over to the remote broadcast over at Sams #3 diner on 15th St. here in Denver. Our hotel was just that close, and having caught that Howard Dean was up we had to shoot over to see if we could catch the Governor. We made it.

Great line-up of guests including Sen. Jim Webb, the affable mayor of Denver John Hickenlooper and Tim Russet's son Luke. Got to joke with Willie Geist about the Brett Favre trade. As McCain campaign guy Rick Schmidt was ambling out wished him luck, and added "sorta."

Had a nice chat with MSNBC commentator, the Rev. Eugene Rivers about Michelle Obama's speech last night. Though he rode Obama a bit hard during the primaries, Rev. Rivers felt that Michelle had definitely turned the corner of public opinion. According to Rivers, "after last night, no one can question Michelle's love of America or her authenticity."

That of course leaves out the McCain camplaign.

Rivers also felt that based on the McCain's status as underdog, the camplaign feels they have no alternative but to attack.

On that note...

As a follow-up, this from Andy Borowitz:

New McCain Ad Attacks Obama Kids
Cute, Not Ready to Lead, Ad Claims

In what might be his most controversial attack ad in a campaign dominated by them, presumptive G.O.P. presidential nominee John McCain today launched a new TV spot attacking Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill)'s two children.

According to political insiders, a negative ad targeting a rival's offspring is highly unorthodox, especially when the children in question are under the age of ten.

But after the two Obama kids scored in their performance on national television last night at the Democratic convention, "we had to do something to give the American people some straight talk on those two brats," Sen. McCain said today.

In the ad, which is being broadcast in key swing states, an announcer intones, "They're the cutest children in the world - but are they ready to lead?"

The spot uses visuals to link the two Obama kids to other famously cute kids, such as the young Drew Barrymore and the Cabbage Patch dolls.

The commercial goes on to blast the Obama children for "smiling and giggling but refusing to state their position on offshore oil drilling."

While some critics questioned how well the ad would play in living rooms across America, Sen. McCain defended it, telling reporters, "It played very well in all of my living rooms."

Day 1.5 at the Convention

By Keith R. Schmitz

Unlike other posts you may see about the Democratic National Convention in Denver, I am here as a guest and not as a delegate or with blogger/media credentials, so mine will be from a different perspective.

Hit town on Sunday. Don't get me wrong. But as a guest you are on your own somewhat for a political junkie such as I, this town is a buffet of events and goings-on. You just have to figure out what you are going to do.

My wife and I joined up with some 5,000 delegates/media/guests at the Convention Center and partied until 8:00. My wife crashed and after a break, I headed up to the Progressive Democrats of America. Heard California Congress member Barbara Lee talk about health care, chatted with John Nichols about impeachment and listened in on Tom Hayden. As a shocking contrast I wandered into the cigar/martini party hosted by the New Mexico Democratic Party. This is a bttleground state and in talking to the folks in the room they are ready hit it hard for Obama.

Monday was all politics, all day long. Did breakfast with the Wisconsin delegation and from those I talked to people seemed happy with the Biden pick and Hillary supporters generally soothed and on board.

After breakfasy, Lana and I again had to figure out the day. We had a couple of mis-fires, showing up for events that needed pre-registrations. At one point to get around I came across the free bike program and hopped on a two-wheeler to check out some event.

But one of the nice thing about a town with decent mass transit like Denver, we at least didn't waste too much time going from event to event.

We caught the Unventional Women conference at the performing arts center. Hosted by former ambassador Swannee Hunt, got to hear a great loine-up of women politicians including Barbara Boxer and a number of other senators. During the early session with Nancy Pelosi, Code Pink busted into the proceedings.

In the afternoon we hit the Big Tent event which was hosted by Air America and Google. What a line-up! For as much as we could hang for we got to hear Paul Krugman, Jonathan Alter, Arianna Huffington, David Sirrota, Jane Meyer (author of the Dark Side) Ted Sorenson, Markos Moulitsas, Michael Eric Dyson and Thom Hartmann. Rachel Madow popped in briefly.

Watch this spot for YouTubes from the day's events.

Had nice chat with Victor Navasky, founder of The Nation. He explained to me that he saw the internet as channeling readers into the print edition.

On the streets, ran into Ted Sorenson, and we talked about JFK's Wisconsin primary.

After hanging out at the MSNBC set behind the Union Station, we headed over to the convention cneter (not the Pepsi Center where the Democratic Convention took place -- we're being let in on Wednesday). With about another 1,000 people watched Michelle Obama hit it out of the park. On the way back into the hotel, Lana got hit up by a reporter from News Radio TMJ and she got to endorse the great job Michelle did.

More action tomorrow.

Monday, August 25, 2008

PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE let Pawlenty be the VP Nom!

by folkbum

When last we checked in on Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty's chances to be John McCain's running mate, we found that Palwenty was the worst possible choice, poll-wise, for McCain in Wisconsin. (Note the distinct lack of Biden in that polling.)

Today we find Pawlenty dissing Joe Biden as Obama's choice:
Pawlenty, on a three-day, two-state swing through Pennsylvania and Ohio that included Saturday stops at a sportsmen's club to discuss the Second Amendment and the economy, thought Obama picked the wrong running mate to support his campaign of change. [. . .]

Pawlenty said he believed Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, would have been a better choice for Obama.
Aside from exhibiting the Petraeus idolatry that we have come to expect from chickenhawks like Pawlenty, he also demonstrates a distinct, shall we say, overwhelming ignorance of what ought to be common knowledge. Military personnel not only are supposed to remain (actually, they are required to remain) apolitical in uniform, but active-duty personnel are forbidden from campaigning for or holding public office.

Pawlenty would be an awesome running mate: a blunderer who tanks McCain's polls in neighboring states, who has never even won a majority in his own state--what's not to love for Democrats?

(On the plus side, even if Tim Pawlenty is not tapped to be co-pilot of the Straight-Down Express campaign, we can always ask him why he didn't criticized John McCain for not choosing Gen. Petraeus.)

Debra Bartoshevich: John McCain's Chanel Suit

by folkbum

I watch way too much TV. Hence, when I see Wisconsin's Debra Bartoshevich in the news AGAIN as The Hillary Democrat Voting For McCain, I cannot help but think of "Scenes from the Class Struggle in Springfield," a classic episode of "The Simpsons." In that episode, Marge Simpson finds a Chanel suit at an outlet store for an incredible steal of a price. Wearing it, she gets noticed by the crusty uppers of Springfield society women, who normally would not have given Marge a second glance in her usual green tube of a dress. Problem is, there is only the one Chanel suit, so Marge wears it too often, and then starts altering the pieces, and finally she can't pretend anymore and rushes back to the outlet store for another Chanel.

But there is no other Chanel, no matter how many racks she paws through.

Quick: Name another "Clinton Democrat" who supports McCain. Can't do it? That's because a Bartoshevich is hard to find. (The crazies at No Quarter are still at it, and, no doubt, cheering the ad Bartoshevich is appearing in for McCain.) It seems to me that if the Clinton-Democrat-voting-McCain phenomenon is real and widespread, there would be more than one Debra Bartoshevich in the outlet store.

Additionally: Eve Fairbanks has a better analogy:
It is, in fact, the political equivalent of a prank legendarily pulled at my high school in which students procured well fewer than 20 live chickens, numbered them 1 through 20 with magic markers (leaving some numbers out), set them loose, and then sat back and gleefully watched as hapless school officials ran around the school searching for the remaining missing chickens that had never actually existed. Nobody knows how much truly dangerous anti-Obama sentiment exists among former Hillary supporters or how many Hillary delegates will vote for John McCain in November (this past June, McCain said that the woman in today's ad, Wisconsin nurse Debra Bartoshevich, was the only Hillary delegate they knew of who was committed to pull the lever for McCain). But I guarantee some of us in the press will spend today haplessly running around looking for more of them out here, to fill out our stories about this ad and the angry-Hillary-brigades-hit-Denver storyline.
(Mental note: Buy chickens and a map to St. Paul for next week.)

Steve Benen also points out that Bartoshevich apparently doesn't read my blog. When I first posted about her here, I couldn't believe that she would support someone as anti-woman and anti-choice as John McCain. And indeed, at today's press conference, Bartoshevich revealed that she has no idea what McCain's position is on choice:
Bartoschevich, who claims to be a pro-choice Democrat, was asked about her concerns about reproductive rights under another pro-life Republican president. "Going back to 1999, John McCain did an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle saying that overturning Roe v. Wade would not make any sense, because then women would have to have illegal abortions," Bartoschevich said.
Has anyone at the McCain camp bothered to tell Bartoshevich that McCain's position in 1999 was just a temporary dip into the pro-choice pool, and now he's accepting without challenge a Republican Party platform that would prohibit abortions even in the case of rape or incest--something McCain fought against back in 2000?

Now, I know that people enjoy attention, and Bartoshevich has certainly gotten her (and a few other people's) fifteen minutes of fame. But she is being used, badly, by a party and a candidate that stands against everything her preferred candidate--Hillary Clinton--stands proudly for. She needs to get out. Now.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

What Frank Rich Said

by bert

McCain's trigger-happy temperament and reactionary policies offer worse than no change. He is an unstable bridge back not just to Bush policies but to an increasingly distant 20th-century America that is still fighting Red China in Vietnam and the Soviet Union in the cold war.

More here.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Tim Sheehy, jealous of the GMC, forms his own club

by folkbum

Two years ago, the Greater Milwaukee Committee partnered with some other community leaders and the Milwaukee Public Schools to create a new, long-term strategic plan for the district. Here's some news about it, and here's what I wrote about participating in the process at the time.

The GMC is, among other things, a business association, which makes it in some ways a rival to the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce. The MMAC, headed by Tim Sheehy, has been pretty solid in its support for schools in the past--voucher schools, that is. Sheehy and team have long been critics of MPS and supporters of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program that sucks extra tax dollars out of Milwaukeeans' pockets and deposits those dollars, often, into the hands of charlatans or thieves.

That GMC and MPS have formed a partnership seems to have made MMAC feel left out. Today brings news that MMAC has retreated to its own treehouse to talk about schooling in Milwaukee and they've said no girls allowed no MPS official allowed:
A new group calling itself the Milwaukee Quality Education Initiative has joined the accelerating, behind-the-scenes conversations about the future of the city’s schools, and is hosting a retreat this weekend at the Wingspread Conference Center in Racine.

The group’s goal is to brainstorm ways to improve K-12 education in the city, including public, voucher and charter schools, Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce President Tim Sheehy said Friday. [. . .] The Wingspread retreat’s 25 participants, whose names weren’t disclosed, included no elected officials or MPS staff, Sheehy said.
The article goes on to include some details about the activities of this sketchy group; the only other named figure is voucher proponent Howard Fuller (surprise!), though I could hazard a guess at some other names of anti-public education activists in this city whose MO fits this profile. The article also dovetails nicely with the editorial board's contention today that "[i]t might even be time to dissolve MPS and start over." Nothing would make the market-idolaters in the MMAC happier than to have their mitts on MPS's budget.

Problem is, of course, there is little that MMAC's private-is-best routine can do to change the overall performance of students in Milwaukee, whether they're in MPS or in for-profit diploma factories. This is because, as I have said time and time again, the problem with the Milwaukee Public Schools in not a schools problem, per se, but a Milwaukee problem.

The New York Times Magazine, in a story that ran at just exactly the wrong time for me to blog about it at the end of last month, writes about class-based integration programs as an idea to replace race-based integration programs that the US Supreme Court has recently deemed no longer constitutional. Here's a chunk from the middle of that article:
Test scores may not be the best way to assess the quality of a teacher or a school, but the pressure to improve scores, whatever its shortcomings, is itself on the rise. And if high test scores are the goal, it turns out, class-based integration may be the more effective tool.

Researchers have been demonstrating this result since 1966, when Congress asked James S. Coleman, a Johns Hopkins sociologist, to deliver a report on why the achievement of black students lagged far behind that of white ones. The expected answer was that more than a decade after Brown, black kids were still often going to inferior schools with small budgets. But Coleman found that the varying amount of money spent on schools didn’t account for the achievement gap. Instead, the greater poverty of black families did. When high concentrations of poor kids went to school together, Coleman reported, all the students at the school tended to learn less.

How much less was later quantified. The Harvard sociologist Christopher Jencks reanalyzed Coleman’s data in the 1970s and concluded that poor black sixth-graders in majority middle-class schools were 20 months ahead of poor black sixth-graders in majority low-income schools. The statistics for poor white students were similar. In the last 40 years, Coleman’s findings, known informally as the Coleman Report, have been confirmed again and again. Most recently, in a 2006 study, Douglas Harris, an economist at the University of Wisconsin, found that when more than half the students were low-income, only 1.1 percent of schools consistently performed at a “high” level (defined as two years of scores in the top third of the U.S. Department of Education’s national achievement database in two grades and in two subjects: English and math). By contrast, 24.2 percent of schools that are majority middle-class met Harris’s standard.
In other words, until we change Milwaukee--where three quarters of all students receive free or reduced lunch--it will be nigh on impossible to change the schools. Even if we blow up the district and start over from scratch, it will be very difficult to create widespread success in schools with high concentrations of poor students.

To be clear: I am not claiming--and the researchers who have produced the data over the last 40 years to show that poverty is a much higher predictor of educational success than just about anything else aren't claiming this either--that poor students cannot learn. If I believed that, I wouldn't be so tired from working as hard as I do during the school year. The NYTM article gets into some of the theories about why low-poverty schools do better, as well as why poor students outperform demographically matched peers when moved into schools with less poverty. There's also some discussion about the few-and-far-between high-poverty schools that do buck the trend. It's obvious that under the right circumstances, poor students can excel--and the easiest way to achieve those circumstances is through class integration.

So, two last points, and then I'll let you all have at me in the comments: One, I argued a long time ago that a radical (and possibly successful) idea for improving Milwaukee students' achievement would be to merge MPS with surrounding suburban districts. I don't have the numbers in front of me to figure out what the proportion of F&RL students would be in a Milwaukee County Public Schools, but it would be lower than 75%--in other words, a Milwaukee County Public Schools would allow more opportunities to provide class-based integration. (Richard Kahlenberg finds examples of programs like this that have created success.)

Two, I don't doubt that MMAC in general is interested in increasing prosperity in Milwaukee. However, they seem (from my perspective here on the futon) much less interested in finding ways to reduce poverty in the city than in finding ways to fatten the wallets of the business class. If they truly wanted to see a difference in Milwaukee students' test scores, they would be more concerned about changes in Milwaukee families' lives.

Are "Conservatives" Ever Consistent?

by bert
Don't you love how the right's newly extruded attacks on Obama's VP candidate draw from Joe Biden's long years of Senate experience? One of our commentators (always welcome!) named Gus says "lock and load" to fellow anti-Democrat rank and file members because "Joe the hair plug arrogant, plagarist [sic], angry, lib Senator has been added to the team!!" Here's some drone from National Review Online illustrating the same attack strategy:
The candidate of hope and change selected a running mate who was first elected to public office when Obama was 9 years old. He was elected to the Senate when Obama was 11.The bottom of the ticket running on change has been in Washington forever.

Yea, bert, but wasn't the knock on Obama that he had not logged enough time in Washington yet?

Well, yea, but what's obviously happening is that these attacks come no matter what, unattached to any real ideas or even sense of intellectual decency. Inexperience: Not Ready to Lead. Experience: An insider with lots of baggage.

Thus conservatives have no discernable principles at work. The funniest example of this is the fact, which Jay covered, that the message machine had two barrels locked, loaded and ready to fire on Obama's visit to Germany, so that Obama could be bashed if he visited U.S. soldiers there, and bashed if he did not.

Other inconsistencies pop up when you compare one electoral season to another. Glenn Greenwald, a relatively serious blogger, has a nonetheless hilarious take on McCain's houses and the wealth he enjoys through marriage.

Greenwald gives us, from 2004, all of the attacks from Rush, Ann Coulter, Michelle Malkin, etc., on John Kerry, labeled the male gigolo, for marrying a rich woman. Rush said then of Kerry: "He worked his way up from a blue blood to a platinum American Express card, and it doesn't have his name on it." But now Rush says of McCain: "This house business, this is such a nonstory."

Greenwald, by the way, wrote a book about this principle-free, double-barreled, inconsistency from the right. The word "hypocrite" is in the title.

Pulling the spark plugs out of the engine

By Keith R. Schmitz

The Wisconsin Right wing has been in a lather this week that outgoing public servant UW Chancellor John Wiley would have the effrontery in giving the royalty at WMC a parting shot for being -- surprise -- partisan.

The UW system is a distinctively Wisconsin institution, and to attack the system is to attack the state. We don't have to just simply settle for how Wiley has been savaged by the know-nothings, but the on-going attempt to continually punish the UW by the likes of State Reps Nass, Mike Huebsch and others.  

Isn't the WMC supposed to be promoting business in the state? It is bad enough that they continually trash our image of being a good place to do business. That is not to suggest we have no problems, but as Paul Soglin has pointed out, WMC joins business groups in other states to claim they all have "the worst" business climates.

If you want proof of the effect the UW can have on the economy, travel up Highway 12 on the west side of Madison and see all the development -- a product largely of the UW tech transfer park on that side of town. That park by the way is headed up by a former member of Tommy Thompson's cabinet.

For evidence of how "pro-business" that the WMC isn't, look at how it stood by and did nothing when the very promising stem cell program was attacked and threatened with extinction by Wisconsin Right to Life and its flunkies in the state legislature.  For an organization that believes that everything has to be put on the altar of economic growth, they were no where to be found when the torch-lit mobs where going after the stem cell program.

But WMC wouldn't dare touch W-Right to Life, because this "spiritual" organization contributes to the GOP voting bloc. What a couple of frauds.

Economic growth is not about mindless tax cutting. If it was the economies of Scandinavia would be going into the toilet. 

But let's be clear. The WMC would rather see the UW system wither and die than to touch their precious incomes and spend money on such things as attracting professors. Right now our U-system is among the lowest paying in the Big Ten. But any thing that defies the goals of the WMC has got to suffer.

The WMC is not about state of Wisconsin economic growth. This is merely a club that is about THEIR economic growth. 

Friday, August 22, 2008

Obama-Biden 08

by folkbum

I'll learn to live with it.

But I'm the elitist

by folkbum

John McCain spends at least twice as much on staff to maintain his (7, 8, 10?) houses than I spent--well, borrowed--to buy mine:
The McCains increased their budget for household employees from $184,000 in 2006 to $273,000 in 2007, according to John McCain’s tax returns.

The additional cash supports an “increase in the number of employees,” said the McCain aide, who did not say whether the growing staff stemmed from the addition of new properties to the family’s real estate portfolio.
I highlighted the key phrase, because, as we know that Cindy McCain refuses to release her tax returns. Who knows if there are more payments to household staff documented on those.

UPDATE: Dan Cody's got the same idea.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Rapid Response FAIL

by folkbum

Almost 7 PM Central time? Come on! I mean, I read about McCain's inability to remember how many houses he had at like 7 AM this morning. I watched the Obama campaign's ad about it at something like 10 AM. I spent the rest of the day in between bouts of, let's just call it severe intestinal distress brought on probably by a bug or something I ate yesterday and reading the McCain campaign's various responses (it's hard to know how many houses you own when some of them are the servants' quarters, he was a POW, he doesn't live in all of them all the time, they're Cindy's houses not John's, lemme tell you about this Rezko guy, and so on).

And, eventually, the DNC's lousy "rapid response" email hits my inbox. Sheesh.


by folkbum

Joe Biden, that is.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

RIP, Stephanie Tubbs-Jones

by folkbum

She was a trailblazer. What a tragedy.

Feingold Calls McCain's Bluff

Keith R. Schmitz

John McCain, under the direction of the ultra-humorless Rick Davis, thinks he has struck gold with his "drill here, drill now" nonsense. So apparently this ploy has worked according to the polls during the dog days when people are sorta listening but not really.

But we all know what a steaming crock this is -- the notion that letting the oil companies loose to sink holes everywhere and anywhere will drop the price of oil significantly.

Truth is quite simply the oil companies for whatever reason are not exploring the leases they have already. Why is that folks?

So our own Russ Feingold along with Christopher Dodd (D-CT), and Robert Menendez (D-NJ) are continuing their push to ensure that, before the oil companies seek additional leases, they develop the 68 million acres of federal land they currently lease.

This makes sense.
The trio is attempting to offer several amendments to the energy speculation legislation currently being considered by the Senate. Feingold, Dodd and Menendez recently introduced the “Responsible Federal Oil and Gas Lease Act” and “Responsible Ownership of Public Land Act.”
Feingold goes on to say:
“With oil companies asking for more federal lands when they aren't producing oil on most of their current leases, it is time for Congress to step in and insist on some accountability,” Feingold said. “The quickest way to produce more oil is to develop lands already under lease since exploration is underway and much of the infrastructure, like miles and miles of pipeline, is in place.”
It is time Democrats to nail McCain and stop letting him get away with this non-solution.

Further, we should be asking "John, when are you going to start asking, no demanding that the oil companies stop holding back on putting more oil into the pipeline?" I wish every Democratic politician put it to McCain, and certainly whatever pit bull designate Obama picks as a running mate.

It's doubtful that Exxon and company are getting all environmental on us. If we looked deeper into the real reason why they are holding back it probably wouldn't be pretty. At the heart of this there are likely Enron type shenanigans that if some enterprising reporting would drill into into would yield a gusher that would spe into McCain's face. Could it be that they are holding back so their puppet at the top of the GOP ticket can get them more leases?

The reality is the oil companies know it would take years to build the infrastructure to pipe out the oil wherever it is found and that they are not pushing themselves now to build greater refining capacity. Any American who thinks that giving away more leases to these companies would lead to a drop at the gas pump is treating himself like a fool.

Why are these questions not being asked?

Every rational human being that deals honestly with politics knows that when a GOP politician claims they are pushing something for the good of the American people, you really know who comes first. We know that when Rep. John Boehner weeps on the floor of Congress. It would be nice if it would just BE that politician and not their corporate friends.

Bay View Area Schools Task Force makes its final recommendations

by folkbum

I so rarely get to break news, but seeing as I was the only "reporter" (update: apparently Chris Terbrueggen of the Milwaukee Post was there) in the room tonight when they voted, I figure I may as well.

The Task Force, which I've written about for the Compass (no link; the archives are still in progress), was put in place to try to figure out a solution or two or three to some intractable problems with Bay View Schools, notably a declining student population (and the consequent overabundance of unused space) and a lack of neighborhood students in Bay View schools, particularly Bay View High School.

After a number of options were presented, two of the options were chosen by the Task Force. The first is to merge two schools, Tippecanoe School of the Arts and Humanities and Dover Street Elementary in the Dover building. Tippe is currently a K-8, but the combined program, according to the recommendation, would just be a K-5, expected to feed into Fritsche Middle School. The merger would happen starting in the 2009-2010 school year. It is projected eventually to save the district about $174,000 per year. That option was selected on 34 of 35 ballots submitted by Task Force members.

The second passing option was to expand Fritsche while at the same time phasing out the current program at Bay View High School. In 09-10, Fritsche will pick up a ninth grade class while BVHS takes no ninth graders. The following year, Fritsche adds tenth grade, and BVHS is left with just 11th and 12th. In 2011-2012, Fritsche's expanded program moves into the BVHS building, with a tiny BVHS group of seniors hanging on. By 2012-2013, there will be just one 6-12 program in the building BVHS currently occupies. This would eventually save the district about $411,000 annually, with the possible bonus following the sale or lease of the Fritsche building. This option was selected on 30 of 35 ballots.

Of course, this was step one of a longer process; the next step is that the recommendations go to the administration to be written up as an item to go before the Board of School Directors at some point in the next couple of months. Then the Board will do with it what the Board will do with it. So the options as voted by the Task Force are far from final, and will be up for additional public comment and input.

I have been painted

by folkbum

I spent the day today at my new school with more than 320 volunteers from GE Health Care and other places around the GE family of companies (plus a whole bunch of students and staff) cleaning, painting, and landscaping. Well, okay, I didn't do any landscaping--but I did a lot of painting, and I have the powder-blue hands to prove it.

I would especially like to thank Andrew, Jeremy, Nick, and Pat who were responsible for my room. They did a fantastic job.

However, I would like to repeat a question I asked at about this time last year on a (now-dead) different blog: Why is it that such basic maintenance for public schools must come from volunteers? Why does society place such a low value on education and school funding that peeling paint, grime, and dead landscaping are the norm unless some very good and well-intentioned people make an effort on the scale of what we did today?

Or, to paraphrase a bumper sticker: It will be a great day when our schools have all the money they need and the military needs GE volunteers to build a bomber.

And no disrespect at all to GE and the volunteers I met and worked with today--they were all to a person good, generous souls, and GE itself deserves a tremendous amount of credit for organizing about 3000 volunteers city-wide today to do what needed doing. However, it will continue to bother me that MPS and other districts around Milwaukee have to rely on the generosity of GE for basic services.

RIP, LeRoi Moore

by folkbum

I always kind of liked the Dave Mathews Band--never enough to suffer the crowds to follow them or see them live, but enough to pick up their CDs over the years.

Among the appeal of the band, for me, was the unique instrumentation, where the lead instruments were fiddle and reeds. The death of LeRoi Moore, the band's saxophone player, will severely affect the way the band sounds going forward. I guess they've been touring with Jeff Coffin, of Belà Fleck's band, but Coffin can't keep playing with them forever--not unless the Flecktones bring back Howard Levy. Which, come to think of it, wouldn't be the worst thing in the world, either.


by folkbum

Long-time readers and readers whose memories haven't been ruined by all the paint they must be huffing all day to comment as they do (hi, gus!) will recall that my dad went through some challenges back in March. The diagnosis is now neurosarcoidosis. That is apparently an extremely rare thing, particularly without other sarcoid symptoms, which usually manifest in the lungs and are, in fact, what led to Bernie Mac's death a couple of weeks ago.

That diagnosis comes as my parents leave today after a solid month in Rochester at the Mayo Clinic, where Dad was poked, prodded, scanned, tested, and finally drilled and biopsied--a brain biopsy which set off more than 24 hours of seizures and unconsciousness.

Unfortunately, the neurologist who'd been treating Dad was in an accident over the weekend and wasn't able to see them before they took off today, but with an actual diagnosis in hand, Dad ought to be on his way to managing the disease.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Another Promise Bites The Dust

by capper

I've often heard the right complain about liberal politicians who would make unpleasant or controversial announcements late on a Friday afternoon. In their conspiracy-filled world, they thought the politician would be doing this hoping that the public wouldn't notice, or if they did notice, that they would forget by Monday.

I can't say that they are necessarily wrong, with the exception that almost every politician, of either party, pulls the same kind of stunt. However, perhaps Republican politicians are better than the Democratic ones. I say this because of the stunt that Scott Walker pulled today, and I am not aware of one of the right wing watchdogs saying a word about it.

While all of Milwaukee was busy celebrating the Marquette Interchange, or the statue of Fonzie Lt. Commander Data, or the Brewers, or summer in general, Scott Walker thought he'd pull a fast one.

Walker took the time from emailing Charlie Sykes, complaining about how people are on him for emailing Charlie Sykes, to appoint a crony to his administration. From the All Politics blog at JSOnline:

Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker today said he hired his campaign manager to a county job as an assistant in Walker's office.

Tim Russell, a real estate agent who most recently served as Walker's campaign manager for his spring re-election, will be paid $75,982 a year. Russell is temporarily filling the vacant post of community liaison, but will likely shift to another job in his office soon, Walker said.

"Where he's at right now is just a place-holder" position, he said. Walker said he expects to use Russell to help with developing his 2009 county budget. Walker said he wanted to tap Russell's expertise and said he would maintain a clear separation between county and campaign duties.

It's Russell's third stint with the county. He formerly worked as operations director for Walker and as county economic development director.

Supervisor John Weishan Jr. said Walker's hiring of Russell was disappointing, calling it political patronage.

As Dan Cody points out, this is the definition of cronyism. Of course, Walker has a history of trying to repay favors to supporters, but never this disgustingly blatant.

And of course, just to remind you Walker supporters that may have forgotten, Walker had promised not to do this sort of thing:
Implement a program to eliminate cronyism and nepotism in county government, including a review of all management and supervisory functions under the executive. Within 60 days.

And this promise stemmed on a platform of promises demanded by the misnamed group Citizens for a Responsible Government. Yet apparently, this is no longer a big deal for them either, judging from their website. So much for their pretense as well.

Sunday, August 17, 2008


by folkbum

I'm not really sure what it says about the American right wing that, in fantasizing "A Christmas Carol" re-imagined for America, the Ghost of America Present is General George S. Patton (1885-1945).

There are a lot of other things I thought of writing about how this movie seems to sum up American conservatism (the idea that Michael Moore--whom they want to do bodily harm to--represents the American left, gay jokes everywhere, the paranoid fantasy that liberals want to eliminate Independence Day, and so on), but nothing, I think, captures the absurdity more than the notion that, in their minds, the world hasn't changed since 1945. That alone explains a lot.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

DPI to MPS: Spend More or Get Less

by folkbum

When the Milwaukee Public Schools was planning its budget a couple of months ago, they ran up against the fact that the state's school finance system was punishing MPS for choosing to tax and spend less in 2007-2008--punishing MPS by cutting state aid.

This week, the state Department of Public Instruction sent a memo to MPS related to the district's continued District Identified for Improvement (DIFI) status, which beginning this year slips to level three. Stephanie of the School Board Watch blog was in the audience when the memo was delivered to the Board's Innovation and School Reform Committee:
Members of the Innovation and School Reform Committee last night were presented with a memo from DPI that contained some surprising information. In light of MPS now being a level three (up from level two) district in need of improvement, DPI has issued various new requirements. [. . .] Members discussed the possible impact this could have on the budget, using the example of how extended instruction would be more costly. Director Morales discussed the memo in terms of it being "developmentally inappropriate" for young children and "financially inappropriate" for taxpayers.
An email circulating from Jennifer Morales adds a little more detail, but also this note:
I was chairing an Innovation and School Reform committee meeting tonight when I received a copy of a two-page list of new mandates from DPI to respond to our imminent DIFI-3 status. I almost couldn't go on with the meeting because I was so stunned. The superintendent has said he will be posting the mandates on the portal shortly so that the public can read them, but for now here are some highlights: [. . .]

Should MPS be unable to meet statutory or other deadlines identified by DPI, it will result in DPI withholding and/or reducing federal funds to MPS.

Beyond the unbelievable usurpation of Milwaukee's local control, these mandates will force us to do things that are not developmentally appropriate and further thwart our efforts to provide a diverse, well-rounded educational program.
I included just one "highlight," if you will, because the whole DPI memo is now available on the MPS website as a .pdf here, and I encourage you to read the whole thing. Some of what's there is expensive, including required summer school at every Title I school (read: just about all of them), extending the school year by at least 30 days at up to two schools, and extensive new IT data systems. The amount of extra funds MPS will get to meet these new requirements seems to be zero, and, as highlighted above, there is, in fact, the threat the MPS will have funds taken away if we can't pull it off.

In March I went to a DPI session on the district's DIFI status (Dani McCalin wrote it up for the MJS here; I wrote about it for the Bay View Compass but the archives aren't online yet), and State Superintendent Elizabeth Burmaster and the rest of the panel talked quite a bit about how they wanted to work with MPS, and that DIFI ought not be an antagonistic situation. I don't see how what DPI is doing here is anything but antagonistic.

Morales's email went on to note that the Tuesday, September 9 Innovation and School Reform Committee will be about the new DPI mandates. The meeting starts at 6:30 in the auditorium at Central Office.

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Troops Don't Support the Troops*

by folkbum

By now you've probably heard this news; US troops deployed overseas have given to Barack Obama's campaign at a rate of about six-to-one over John McCain:
According to an analysis of campaign contributions by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, Democrat Barack Obama has received nearly six times as much money from troops deployed overseas at the time of their contributions than has Republican John McCain, and the fiercely anti-war Ron Paul, though he suspended his campaign for the Republican nomination months ago, has received more than four times McCain's haul.

Despite McCain's status as a decorated veteran and a historically Republican bent among the military, members of the armed services overall--whether stationed overseas or at home--are also favoring Obama with their campaign contributions in 2008, by a $55,000 margin. Although 59 percent of federal contributions by military personnel has gone to Republicans this cycle, of money from the military to the presumed presidential nominees, 57 percent has gone to Obama. [. . .]

In 2000, Republican George W. Bush outraised Democrat Al Gore among military personnel almost 2 to 1. In 2004, with the Iraq war underway, John Kerry closed the gap with President Bush, but Bush still raised $1.50 from the military for every $1 his Democratic opponent collected.
This suggests that more and more of the people on the ground in Iraq, from our own forces to Iraq's own Prime Minister, are endorsing a withdrawal plan. (Ron Paul wanted troops out immediately, Obama says about 16 months, and McCain won't set a timetable.) The Republican ship on Iraq keeps sinking; pretty soon it will be just John McCain and a few blogging dead-enders clinging to scraps of flotsam. The sad thing is, McCain and his ilk have killed more than 4100 Americans and countless Iraqi civilians in their venture.

McCain's reality-denying bluster about the Russia-Georgia conflict (an opinion paid for by lobbyist dollars!) does not lead me to believe that he will care all that much to send another 4000 US troops to satisfy his machismo. The troops know what they're doing.

* I give up on the one-word titles. I couldn't even last a month ...


by folkbum

Bloggers don't win elections. Good candidates, with good funding, do win elections. I have never, ever done one of these thermometer thingies, but I thought I would give it a try. If you were planning to give to Barack Obama, any of the Democrats running for the US House from Wisconsin, or any one of a number of Democratic challengers for the Wisconsin Senate and Assembly, then please take this opportunity to do it.

I've set a modest goal of only $500 (may as well set that bar low!), which means just ten of you giving $5 to ten candidates would break that there thermometer. Thanks.

Goal Thermometer

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Law-Abiding Citizen Just Happens to Kill Party Chair

By Keith Schmitz

The gunman who killed the chairman of the Arkansas Democratic Party Wednesday was a Target employee who hours earlier had quit the discount retailer and scrawled graffiti on its walls.

Timothy Dale Johnson, who was shot and killed by authorities after he entered the Arkansas Democratic Party headquarters in Little Rock and fatally wounded chairman Bill Gwatney, had quit his job at a Conway, Ark., Target that morning, the retailer confirmed.

The story goes on to say:
Target said in a statement that Johnson, 50, did not have a history of problems at the store, where he had worked since November 2006.

"He voluntarily quit his job earlier this morning," the company said in a statement. "He had no history of behavioral or performance problems at Target. In the preceding days, he worked his regularly scheduled shifts without incident."
In case you need help finding the point, until someone pulls that trigger, he or she is a law-abiding citizen.

It's a loaded term for half-cocked minds.

On McCain and Georgia Bull

by bert
John McCain’s supporters are spinning his stance on the Russian invasion of Georgia as if it proves that McCain owns Barack Obama when it comes to world affairs.

In fact, pundits and party operatives are so eagerly deploying this talking point that it suggests that many are giddy about the death and pain inflicted over the last week on thousands of mostly civilians in the Caucasus.

But, really, let's step back and look at this a minute.

First of all, McCain's camp is making a lot of the fact that he knows well the Georgian leader Mikheil Shaakshvili. Hell, the two even went jet-skiing together on the Black Sea. This is actually a blemish, because McCain’s ties to Georgia are spawned by the lobbying work of his campaign aide Randy Scheunemann on behalf of Georgia. This isn't foreign policy, it's political prostitution; Georgia is paying the McCain campaign to turn a trick. Some also question whether it wasn't largely Scheunemann who egged Shaakshvili on to needlessly provoke Russia.

Like McCain, I blame Russia for this. But I'm not trying to lead a superpower nation, and we have to expect a world leader to effectively mediate a crisis without standing openly in the corner of one of the combatants.

Second, McCain's handlers crow that since the invasion a week ago McCain has been in contact with Mikheil Saakashvili daily, and is now sending a delegation of senators over to the area. What a take-charge guy, hey? But let’s recall that McCain and his posse roughed up Obama for his European trip, as if Obama was acting too much too soon like an actual president. McCain is trying to make political hay while the sun is up, but he is doing damage to the U.S. by muddying its message and overstepping his role.

That said, I realize that President Bush was, in the crucial moments of the crisis, oggling Olympic beach volleyball players in China while French President Nicolas Sarkozy dropped everything and started shuttling diplomacy to Tbilisi. It's interesting that the right-wingers, including our own Charlie Sykes and even the Wall Street Journal, have had to force themselves to at least mildly criticize Bush in recent days in order to burnish their boy McCain.

The portrayal rattling around the pundit’s echo chamber contrasts a forceful, manly McCain with a girly, equivocating Obama. It turns out the two candidates' positions in their specifics are largely the same. But we're not talking about specifics here, or facts.

Sykes, for example, riffed away yesterday in the realm of hyperbole, unmoored by even a thread to anything Obama actually said or did, that Obama’s position was “can’t we just all get along.” And in the Journal Sentinel this morning columnist Kathleen Parker also worked entirely in fiction when she invented a wimpy letter from Obama and then said McCain would instead say: “hey Putin, don’t make me come over there.”

So, third, the strategy is to show McCain has bigger gonads. Predictable, eh?

Note that nothing is being made of McCain’s knowledge and wisdom regarding world affairs here. And I don’t know whether that’s because his handlers – true to columnist Paul Krugman’s sense that the GOP likes know-nothing messages -- figure that intellect and restraint don’t sell.

Or is it because they realize McCain is just not knowledgeable? After all, McCain is the guy who can't keep Iran and Sunnis straight, or thought that Iraq and Pakistan share a border. It certainly is not reassuring to know his speeches, as Keith showed us here, are lifted from Maybe McCain's campaign knows you can’t put enough lipstick on that pig. Rattle a saber instead!

McCain's bellicose instincts seem stuck in the Cold War to me. And he too closely resembles all these cockeyed geezers such as Dick Cheney or Donald Rumsfeld who wanted the power so they could settle their Captain Ahab-type scores.

I know saber-rattling works in politics, but shouldn't it be less effective after what we've been through lately?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


by folkbum

As a significant part of the Republicans' issue-free campaign of deceit and slander is the damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don't strategy: Regardless of what a Democrat does, it's a sign of weakness or incompetence. My favorite current example is the only attack the John McCain campaign has found that has any kind of teeth, which is the ridiculous idea that Barack Obama is too popular to be president. This line of reasoning would come as a shock to pretty much every president ever elected with a majority of the popular vote. (I realize this excludes the current one, but it describes pretty much all the rest of them.) (I also wonder if it's not a preparatory strategy to game the system enough for McCain to win the Electoral College vote but not the popular vote--though that outcome is among the least likely scenarios the math whizzes at 538 have identified.) So, Mr. Barack "Popular" Obama, damned if you do.

But also damned if you don't: The right has had no end of joy this past week on news that Al Franken, Democratic candidate for US Senate in Minnesota, drew a crowd of one for a town hall event. (The odds of Obama's attracting an audience of one seem really, really slim). By the right's logic, Al Franken is by far the most qualified candidate in that race, though of course expecting logical consistency is way too much.

So that's just my current favorite example. But it is nowhere near the only one. For example, you may remember the manufactured flap about Obama's not having visited wounded US troops in Germany. When told by the military that Obama's mere presence would be perceived as a campaign event, Obama decided he would not like to take the hit for campaigning with wounded US soldiers. And he was hit immediately for not caring about the troops, despite his visits with troops in Iraq and Afghanistan (accompanied by other Senators and Senate staff, hence not perceived as a campaign event. Obama was planning to see the troops in Germany alone with his foreign policy advisor, no press.) Of course, waiting in the wings was a script for the attack ad against Obama had he decided to go ahead and see the troops for, you know, campaigning with them.

The list can go on for days about the attacks on Obama: The flag pin, seating Michigan and Florida delegations at full strength, having a full floor vote at the convention, going to Iraq at all (never mind seeing troops there), and so on. I'm sure that if we put our heads together, we could come up with plenty of examples of these attacks on Democrats and liberals from here in Wisconsin (like the attacks on ACORN last week for doing the right thing). I don't know why they do it or what idiot gave them the advice that it was a good idea. It does not, in fact, make them look any smarter or sharper.

I am reminded of my high school days when I was on the (don't be shocked) debate team. In one meet, I was pro--I don't even remember the topic anymore--and the first con debater stood up and said, roughly, "The affirmaive side's plan will either A) increase unemployment or B) decrease unemployment." (It may not have been unemployment; as I said, I don't even remember the topic.) The kid then went on to detail why either situation spelled doom and gloom and the (hyperbolically speaking) end of the world. At the end of the round, which my team won, the judge offered verbal feedback, which was rare, and he lambasted the losing side for the stupid argument I cited here. Pick one, the judge said, and stick to it. If you can't make up your mind about what's right, he said, then I have no confidence in the accuracy of any of your arguments.

So what's the lesson in all of this? I suppose, mostly, that the Republicans' campaign strategy is being written by 15-year-old debate students. Congrats, GOP. Looking good.

UPDATE: Barbara O'Brien is writing in a similar vein.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


by folkbum

The notorious serial womanizer Rush Limbaugh, on John Edwards's affair:
It just seems to me that Edwards might be attracted to a woman whose mouth did something other than talk.


by folkbum

I realize that the vast majority of even Bush deadenders have moved on from what had long been uncritical support of George W. Bush and his administration. They revel now in pointing out how "liberal" Bush's policies have been (pause for laughter), and try desperately to remind us that John McCain is not George W. Bush.

But you just know what would happen if Barack Obama's Attorney General (Gov. Doyle? The top contender recently became, uh, unavailable) said this about violations his own staff committed: "Not every wrong, or even every violation of the law, is a crime." The calls for accountability would be deafening. From the right today? Nary a peep.

This is something a number of people have been warning about for some time, that as much as the media and the right-wing squawkers have been willing to ignore lawbreaking, lawbending, and lawrunarounding (including just today!), they will not tolerate even the barest semblance of any of that from an Obama administration. Amid sputtering about how presidential authority has long been allowed to stray from Constitutional allowances, they will demand that every letter of every sentence on every piece of paper out of the Obama White House receive the strictest scrutiny. A fourth estate that has shirked its duty for seven long years will suddenly awaken with fury.

Not that I would support illegalities, especially not on the scale of the Bush ones, coming from an Obama administration. But you know as well as I the ability of the right-wing noise machine to drive the media to drive the public's attention and the national discourse. And statements like Mukasey's "Not every wrong, or even every violation of the law, is a crime" will be forgotten in the rush.


by folkbum

Yes, Haloscan comments seem to be futzing up the joint again. No, it's not a liberal conspiracy to shut down conservative blogs. I recommend patience, and perhaps a good book. Seems to be working again. Consider this an open thread. Perhaps addressing the question, at what reader density can a blog successfully pull off a regular open thread?

Monday, August 11, 2008

Elitists (updated in a couple of places)

by folkbum
Above: Average Republican at home; she hates elitists.

A couple of questions: One, what the hell kind of clout* do you have to have to score sheets of uncut one-dollar bills to use as wrapping paper? And, two, what the hell kind of nerve does it take to turn around (careful not to hit the racks of shoes or furs!) and complain that Barack Obama is elitist (technically, "too glitzy")?

(* Apparently it doesn't take that much clout. But still, wrapping presents in dollar bills bespeaks an elitist attitude, no? Via Dover Bitch via digby.)

This goes beyond stupid attacks on Barack Obama for visiting his grandmother (who does, yes, live in Hawaii--so do 1.3 million other Americans, including Obama's sister and her family). The current dumbness we see from the right in these attacks is part of a calculated, decades-long strategy to paint the Democrats, traditionally the party of labor (not capital) and minorities (not majorities) and a variety of other traditionally downtrodden groups, as the party of the crusty uppers.

You can trace the up-is-downism back through the last several presidential campaigns. Consider that the right seemed to take the most glee in attacking John Edwards (son of a millworker, you might recall) not for his politics but for his haircut--and I bet you a nickel you know how much that haircut cost, even though I didn't bother to remind you. The right also went after Edwards's house which, you won't be surprised to know, is larger than average. And what's John Edwards driving? An SUV? No real Americans drive SUVs, only elites!

They did it to Howard Dean, no poor man, of course, but he owned about ten fewer houses than John McCain and had been CEO of nothing, ever. John Kerry made his name originally representing the saltiest of the salt of the earth, US soldiers back from Vietnam who lacked the megaphone Kerry could command. Unfortunately, Kerry also made it relatively easy for the right to ply the elitist attack.

They did it to Al Gore who, as the son of a US Senator did indeed start a few yards ahead of the rest of us. But Gore, like Kerry, had devoted a lifetime to public service, and they were running against a man who had been given company after company to ruin as CEO in the business world. Gore and Kerry volunteered for service in Vietnam, and their opponent had strings pulled to avoid combat overseas. Yet the combat-avoiding former CEO was the man of the people in both of those elections, according to the right.

Now that Obama has the nod from the Democrats, the attack shifted naturally his way. The boy who was dragged around the world by an often-single parent, then scholarshipped into a prep school that changed his life for the better is the elite, they say. Never mind the couple with eight or nine or ten (is McCain even sure?) houses and $500 shoes, no, it's the Obamas, whose mortgage on their only house is about the size of Cindy McCain's Visa bill, who are the elites.

There are two words I would like to say to the people who advance that argument; this is a family blog, though, so I cannot. But there is no current issue that shows just how low, just how evil, the right-wing message machine has become than this. How anyone with an ounce of dignity can repeat such lies, I will never understand.

And yet it works: The Brawler, in a post earlier today, connects some related dots: Poor and minorities being sought out by those seeking their participation in the political process is a danger and it demands regulation, the right says. But any requirements that corporations try not to, you know, kill people is outrageous overreach.

Emily Mills has more dots: Pro-urban people who advocate for a clean environment, affordable green housing, and low-cost public transportation are labeled elitist by suburb-dwelling, bus-hating gas-hogs.

digby (is there nothing she cannot do?) connects more dots: The Bush administration will not allow anyone, not even the Secretary of State of Connecticut, into federally financed homes or rehab centers to register voters.

Update, to add another, for kicks: The Republicans, the party of heartland values, are having a hard time getting their people to visit the heartland: "In 2004, D.C.-based conventioneers could zip in and out of New York City by train. The 2000 convention in Philadelphia was an even shorter ride. St. Paul, by contrast, requires a flight halfway across the country from Washington [. . .]. That’s asking a lot of attendees, some of whom question whether, as a destination, the Twin Cities will be worth the aggravation."

And if I wanted to stay up all night, I could find dozens more examples of the right and the GOP finding ways to shut out middle-class, poor, and disadvantaged Americans from public life or from what they need to survive (like food, f'rinstance--remember the "riot" in Milwaukee last June?). And while the left hand does that, the right hand tells all those same people, It's the Democrats who don't like you and will screw you. Vote for John McNormal, and never mind how many private jet rides he takes.

It's abhorrent. It's shameful. And yet it is the GOP's top strategy right now for this fall's election. In a sane world, they would not get a single vote. In this world, they will get almost half.

McCain -- I Get My Foreign Policy Speeches from Wikipedia

By Keith Schmitz

We've all been guilty of it from time to time when we have, like a big test to cram for, to go to the reference works.

Behind a background of flags and fine paneled wood walls, presumptive nominee John McCain delivered a speech slamming the Russian invasion of Georgia to emulate in a mini way the Obama sweep through Europe and the Middle East a few weeks back.

But the effort one makes to look presidential can get seriously undermined when chunks of your saber-rattling speech is apparently from Wikipedia. If so, not a good idea.

Not a good combination of phoning it in and possible conflict of interest.

The tough part of running for a third Bush term is in case like this invasion, we don't have moral leg to stand on, the army to respond to it, or the luxury of Russia turning off the oil spigot if we do anything about it.

Sunday, August 10, 2008


by folkbum

We went to a concert tonight, the poster-boy for "whisper rock," Joshua Radin. We were probably the oldest people in the crowd who were not there chaperoning their children. Between sets, the vast swath of the audience was uplit from the all the texting.

My wife was knitting; I was doing a crossword puzzle.

What I get least, though, was all the flash photography. During the show. Before the show. Between sets. What's the caption going to be on your MySpace page? "This is just after he left the stage!" "This is the old guy doing a crossword puzzle that I just blinded with my flash!"

At least the music wasn't too loud. Being "whisper rock" and all.

No Vacation from Small-Minded McCain Camplaign

By Keith R. Schmitz

At long last does the McCain camplaign have no sense of decency?

Wrong question. They have had no sense of decency.

Barack Obama takes his family for a break to see his grandmother in Hawaii.

So what does the McCain camplaign do? More imbecilic mocking. From the Politico:
Even as Barack Obama takes eight days off from the campaign trail to vacation in Hawaii, where he lived for much of his youth, the Republican National Committee is again attempting to paint the Democrat as an out-of-touch elitist, this time in a mock “Barack Obama’s Hawaii Travel Guide” tweaking the Democrat for having attended an elite prep school there.

Barack Obama’s Hawaii Travel Guide,” e-mailed to reporters on Friday, lists four "destinations," among them the beach locals claim is the one where Obama was photographed in his swim trunks in a shot that ran in People magazine early last year, and "Punahou School, a coeducational college preparatory day school" that Obama attended "from 1971 to 1979. The school campus covers 76 acres at the edge of the Manoa Valley."
The piece does go on to point out that McCain in fact attended schools that were just as elite if not more so, though Obama went on the power of his brains and ambition. The strapping young McCain lad, not as much.

What a class act. The McCain camplaign has lied about McCain's energy policy, lied about Obama's tax policy, and now won't even allow Obama and his family take a simple vacation.

What ever character McCain had going into this campaign has been totally shredded and we are not even out of the last month of summer.

At least we can count on a large part of the voting population being engaged in this election here in Wisconsin, unlike the spring state supreme debacle where 7% of voters decided that we deserved to be controlled by the WMC thanks to having a lower caliber of justice sitting on the bench. Chances are the larger population is more discerning.


by folkbum

I think we should all be able to agree now that Mark Penn should never work in Democratic politics again:
Mark Penn, the top campaign strategist for Hillary Rodham Clinton's campaign, advised her to portray Barack Obama as having a “limited” connection “to basic American values and culture,” according to a forthcoming article in The Atlantic.

The magazine reports Penn suggested getting much rougher with Obama in a memo on March 30, after her crucial wins in Texas and Ohio: “Does anyone believe that it is possible to win the nomination without, over these next two months, raising all these issues on him? ... Won’t a single tape of [the Reverend Jeremiah] Wright going off on America with Obama sitting there be a game ender?” [. . .]

Penn, the presidential campaign’s chief strategist, wrote in a memo to Clinton excerpted in the article: “I cannot imagine America electing a president during a time of war who is not at his center fundamentally American in his thinking and in his values.”
I mean, the fact that Mark Penn managed to lose an un-losable campaign should have been the first clue; the fact that he was pushing for Clinton to start spreading the same bogus attacks that have been the bread and butter of the lowest scoundrels of the FOXNews-Rushbo set. Kudos to Hillary Clinton for not resorting to those tactics. And shame on Mark Penn for thinking that was the kind of campaign a Democrat should run.