Recent Comments

Label Cloud

Pay no attention to the people behind the curtain

Powered By Blogger

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Bonfires in 3 ... 2 ...

by folkbum

I imagine that Clear Channel DJs will be organizing boycotts and burnings of Ted Nugent's music now, right?

Does anyone still listen to Ted Nugent? At least the Dixie Chicks can still put out a hit record.

MJS Editorial Board happy to jump on take-her-out-of-context bandwagon

by folkbum

Here's the lede from this morning's top Milwaukee Journal Sentinel editorial:
Discussing the nation's air security system Sunday on ABC's "This Week," Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said that "The system has worked really very, very smoothly over the course of the past several days." Who is she trying to kid?

Flight attendants and passengers, not the security system, stopped an alleged terrorist's apparent attempt to blow up an airliner over Detroit on Christmas Day. It was their watchfulness and refusal to become victims that won out, not the security measures at the airport.
The problem here is not that I think there was no failure. By any measure, last week's terrorism-turned-crotchburning was a significant warning shot, at least letting us know that the government STILL hasn't figured out that they should flag people who buy one-way transatlantic tickets with cash and check no baggage. I mean, duh.

The problem is that Janet Napolitano never claimed that the "security system" worked. She wasn't trying to kid anyone. Jake Tapper, the ABC talking head who interviewed Napolitano Sunday morning, headlined his blog post about their conversation, "Napolitano: System Like 'Clockwork ' After Attack, Not So Sure About Before." The transcript also shows Napolitano clearly talking about the system of reactions:
Once this incident occurred, everything went according to clockwork, not only sharing throughout the air industry, but also sharing with state and local law enforcement. Products were going out on Christmas Day, they went out yesterday, and also to the [airline] industry to make sure that the traveling public remains safe. I would leave you with that message. The traveling public is safe. We have instituted some additional screening and security measures, in light of this incident, but, again, everyone reacted as they should. The system, once the incident occurred, the system worked.
I can understand the desire to point fingers here--it's easier to blame an individual than a system--but Napolitano is not at fault, and wasn't trying to pull one over on anyone.

At the very least, point fingers at the people who designed the post-9/11 databases that are so unwieldy that a phone call from a father is lost in the weeds because literally thousands of other data points are given equal weight in a given week. Or point fingers at Republican senators who refuse to allow a vote on a leader for the Transportation Security Administration, not because the nominee is a terrorist sympathizer or anything, but because they fear TSA employees may want to unionize. Or blame Republicans--that would be pretty much all of them, including MJS darling Paul Ryan--who voted against funding the TSA altogether a few weeks back.

Napolitano? She's a convenient scapegoat if you want to take her words out of context. But to do so not only is sickeningly dishonest for the editors of the state's largest daily paper, but also deflects criticism away from where the real problems lie.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Is this the fault of FOX News or something?

by folkbum

It may be because I get my news from a variety of non-TV and non-talk radio sources, but I find the untruths and misplaced righteous anger in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's letters sections lately to be just stunning. Take tomorrow's, for example. Here's part of the top one:
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has taken us for fools. I take a great deal of offense. Regarding the failed terrorist attempt on Christmas Day, she said, "The system worked." [. . .] President Barack Obama has taken the approach of ignoring Muslim extremism, pretending it does not exist, while apologizing profusely for what the United States used to be before he came on the scene.
Where is this coming from? I mean, it would be one thing if there were truth to it, but there's not. Not at all. Consider, for example, that Napolitano did not say that "the system worked" before the attack; it's pretty clear, if you read the transcript or watch the video, that she's talking about the system of reactions and dealing with the incident's aftermath, making sure that travel was not disrupted on such a busy day and that subsequent travel was safe. This letter writer, like many in the news and righty blogs of late, is baldly taking her out of context.

And about Obama? Obama has not been silent about "Muslim extremism" at all. He talked about beating such extremists through the use of force in his speech accepting the Nobel Peace Prize, for Pete's sake. And as it turns out, we've been coordinating with the Yemeni government for the last month to attack extremists there--Yemen is where the plot was hatched. The difference is that Obama isn't on TV crowing about it. Yeesh.

Here's another letter from the paper tomorrow:
Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) held a news conference and announced that 60 Democrats were leaders. The current health care debacle is a prime example of leadership gone wrong.

The bill was conceived behind closed doors, not to be seen by anyone until the time to vote. The vote was taken in darkness, at 1 a.m. The bill contains many hidden agendas, and the cost is unclear.
Again, I have no idea where this stuff originates before it finds its way into the minds, fingers, and keyboards of the ignorati. The Senate's bill was not "conceived" behind closed doors. The bulk of it is, in fact, the bill from the Senate Finance Committee, which did its work in the most widely watched CSPAN episodes of the year. The controversial parts of the compromise were aired in public, as Senators--notably, Joe Lieberman--bellyached about the bill's contents all over the TV even before the draft was final. Reid's version of the bill was available online for a number of days before the vote, and the vote--one vote, that is; the vote that approved the bill happened in daylight Christmas Eve morning--was at 1 AM because of the arcane rules of filibustering, filibustering done by the Republican opponents of reform. The costs are not unclear, as all versions of the bill have been scored by the CBO and countless independent agencies as well; neither, by the way, is the funding mechanism unclear, something that Republicans had no concern for when they passed bills like Medicare Part D ("It was standard practice not to pay for things," one Republican Senator said about that time).

In essence, you've got the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel printing letters from people who don't just hold opinions I disagree with. No, they're printing letters from people who base those opinions on outright falsehoods, whose conclusions are supported by fictional evidence. Where these falsehoods are coming from, how these lies and fictions are making their way into the wider gestalt, I have no idea. But it would be nice if the editors of the state's largest daily newspaper would at least refuse to print such untruths in their letters sections, or if they must, run notes that offer the truth to offset the fiction.

21 predictions for 2010

by folkbum

I'm not always good at these, though the last time I did it, I got a lot of them right. So here, in numerical order, I present 21 predictions for 2010. Come back in a year to see how I did.

1. Scott Walker will win the Republican nomination for governor and ...
2. ... he will be one of the very few Republican candidates nationwide next year for whom Sarah Palin is invited to and actively campaigns, which means ...
3. Tom Barrett will be Wisconsin's next governor ...
4. ... but he will face a legislature in which at least one of the houses is back to Republican control.
5. Democrats will not lose control of either the US House or the US Senate.
6. Barack Obama will sign a health care overhaul bill, and may even have that done by the State of the Union and ...
7. ... both Republicans and Democrats will campaign on the health care bill, Republicans claiming it will be a disaster and Democrats claiming it's historic while complaining that Republicans will be on the wrong side of history on this one.
8. My own personal non-campaign for governor will continue to gain steam over the course of the year, and I will not win any party's nomination, which is just how I want it.
9. Russ Feingold will be re-elected to the US Senate--if you'll allow me to go out on that limb.
10. Michael Moore's Capitalism will not win an Oscar ...
11. ... but Up in the Air will win several. (I saw it last weekend. It's good. Go see it.)
12. Unemployment will be slightly lower by the end of next year, but still over eight percent.
13. The Chevy Volt will be the new Prius. Which I suppose will make the Prius the new Geo Metro.
14. Zombies will not attack anyone. In real life, that is. I can't promise about any more Victorian novels.
15. They still won't get rid of the penny.
16. We will actually meet the mother on "How I Met Your Mother." Finally.
17. Furlough days for everyone!
18. Seth Zlotocha will start blogging again. (Okay, that's more of a wish than a prediction. But we need his voice for the 2010 campaign.)
19. At least one more local rightie blogger will pick up some of the Wingnut Welfare by joining the ranks of the McIver Institute (they seem to be adding one every six months or so). We liberals will continue to do this for free.
20. At least one Republican will announce both that he is running for president in 2012 and that he is dropping out of the race.
21. No more than 14 of these will turn out to be right.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

What's next?

by folkbum

Seems like the terrorists' ultimate plan is to make sure every airline passenger in the future flies naked, stuffed into individual dog crates, and forced to watch their stupid movie.

Also, homegrown: We can't let art students learn about Andy Warhol anymore, because they might put one of his paintings on a ball, which is also a terrorist win, or something.

Friday, December 25, 2009

FriTunes: Have a Happy Holiday of Choice

by folkbum

But if today is your holiday of choice, here's one for you:

Antje is playing at the Wisconsin Singer Songwriter Series in a couple of months, if you're interested.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Charts of the Day

by folkbum

1. How the health care bill helps:

2. What consensus looks like (via):

3. Keep in mind tonight:

US Senate passes tri-partisan health care bill

by folkbum

Again, it's not the bill I would have written, but it makes general moves in the right general directions. And it's truly multi-partisan (despite what the pooh-poohers are saying), having gotten Aye votes from Democrats, a Socialist, and a guy from the Connecticut for Lieberman party.


by folkbum

Haloscan is being folded into a new thing, Echo, so the comments features here are changing. There's some good stuff--like threaded comment discussions now being possible. But things will be weird and might be changing as I get the hang of it.

Carry on.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Perhaps Inevitable

by folkbum

Fred Dooley--yes, that one--throws in his lot with the whites-only, Holocaust-denial crowd on climate change.

Update: Fred finally removed the post--and I removed the link, as it is now dead. Good for Fred.

One thing he (like many of his compatriots on the right) needs to learn is that the debate from the right has been hijacked by its most extreme elements, and anyone who wants to be taken seriously needs to start double- and triple-checking what they embrace and link to, since as we have seen with this climate stuff most recently that anyone with a keyboard and an agenda can peddle a pack of lies and get it spread the proverbial halfway around the world before the truth realizes it's not satire.

That the subhumanly vile (Holocaust denier Nick Griffin, in this instance), the unashamedly ignorant (Ste. Sarah de Wasilla, speaking about anything), and the freakishly paranoid (gold huckster Glenn Beck) are now indistinguishable from the vast majority of commentariat on the right is says something downright depressing about the state of the conservative movement in this country.

McIlheran Watch: The wronger he digs, the deeper he gets

by folkbum

I am not a scientist. Patrick McIlheran isn't, either. But I read and check my sources carefully. For example, today in a blog posting, McIlheran cites energy-industry spokesman climate scientist Patrick Michaels to try to claim that peer-review is a bit more like Heathers than like Real Genius. Michaels has an op-ed in the Murdoch Finance Daily Wall Street Journal. I'm quoting the op-ed; the part McIlheran also quotes is in bold:
Messrs. Mann and Wigley also didn't like a paper I published in Climate Research in 2002. It said human activity was warming surface temperatures, and that this was consistent with the mathematical form (but not the size) of projections from computer models. Why? The magnitude of the warming in CRU's own data was not as great as in the models, so therefore the models merely were a bit enthusiastic about the effects of atmospheric carbon dioxide.

Mr. [Michael] Mann called upon his colleagues to try and put Climate Research out of business. "Perhaps we should encourage our colleagues in the climate research community to no longer submit to, or cite papers in, this journal," he wrote in one of the emails. "We would also need to consider what we tell or request of our more reasonable colleagues who currently sit on the editorial board."

After Messrs. Jones and Mann threatened a boycott of publications and reviews, half the editorial board of Climate Research resigned.
Michaels establishes a clear timeline: He published in Climate Reearch -> Mann raised a stink about his paper -> Mann organized a boycott of CR -> the editors quit because Mann intimidated them. It fits the "climategate" narrative neatly and thoroughly reinforces McIlheran's deny-a-riffic worldview. It is, however, wrong.

In January 2003, Climate Research published a literature review by Drs. Willie Soon and Sallie Baliunas (working at the Harvard‑Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, not a climate-research outfit). Almost immediately, the people who wrote the literature reviewed by the Soon and Baliunas--and a host of others--started noticing things that weren't right, and writing to the journal. Other editors of the journal also complained (the duo submitted to the most overtly anti-global warming editor). In March 2003, Mann wrote the email in question; no boycott ensued, and, in fact, Mann also said, "the last thing we want to do is bring attention to this paper, which will be ignored by the
community on the whole." Sure, Mann's email also mentioned Michaels, but in passing--the conversation is clearly sparked by and about Soon and Baliunas. In May 2003, Cox newspapers--now McClatchy, one of the few purely journalistic endeavors left in publishing--dug deep to find that the paper had funding from the American Petroleum Institute and oil companies like Exxon, which raised more questions with the editors. This was followed in July by a statement from Mann and a dozen other scientists in another journal. Finally, at the end of July, a bunch of the editors resigned from CR because the publisher refused to let them respond without the consent of the one hinky editor, who of course refused.

Notice, none of the hubbub was instigated by anything from Patrick Michaels. The resignations and furor had nothing to do with any kind of bullying from Michael Mann, at least according to the contemporary accounts and the first-person accounts of the editors involved.

(Michals keeps writing, and McIlheran keeps quoting, to blame Mann and others for the resignation of a skeptical editor at Geophysical Research Letters, a resignation that had nothing to do with pressure from anyone: "I stepped down as GRL editor at the end of my three-year term," the guy wrote. "My departure had nothing to do with attempts by Wigley or anyone else to have me sacked.")

Now, I'm willing to cut McIlheran a little bit of slack, here, because one would like to think that Michaels knows his own biography well enough to, you know, write honestly about it. But here's Michaels, exaggerating his own role as Defender Of The True Discourse despite, of course, his own tainted past and his willingness now to play fast an loose with documented fact.

But that doesn't mean that McIlheran doesn't owe us another retraction and correction. Given that it took him two weeks, and an uncorrected-in-print-or-online op-ed in a Sunday paper, before he admitted he was wrong about one fundamental aspect of "climategate" (it was a "subtlety" that "slipped past" him), I expect this big fat error will go unmentioned, too.

Quote of the Day

by folkbum
The article [naming Dick Cheney "person of the year"] ran in print, which made it difficult for [John] Bolton to dot the i's with little hearts.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Thinly Veiled Sarcasm on Taxes (Hint -- the Right Won't Enjoy it)

By Keith R. Schmitz

The commies over at Fast Company have cranked out this chart showing how we take it easy on corporate income:

Of course we know what a hell hole Luxembourg is. But in fairness, the US is carrying the defense costs for many of those nations.

As they say at GEICO, "think of money you could be saving."

Saturday, December 19, 2009

60 votes?

by folkbum

Sometimes it's nice to wake up to good news: Democrats seem to have 60 votes to break a filibuster, and certainly more than 50 to pass something. The House will go along, Obama will sign it, and the Dems will have a bill that seems to do this:
* Reduces Deficits -- estimated to save over $130 billion first ten and roughly $650 billion second ten
* Expands Coverage -- over 94 percent of Americans under 65 years of age, including over 31 million uninsured
* Reduces Costs -- most Americans will see their health care costs reduced relative to projected levels

Makes health care more affordable for Americans by expanding small business tax credits
* $12 billion increase
* Begins in 2010
* Expands wage thresholds for tax credits

Demands greater accountability from insurance companies/ creates more choice and competition
* Medical Loss Ratio 85/80 percent -- Insurance companies will be forced to spend more money on care and less money padding their bottom line.
* Starting immediately children cannot be denied health coverage due to pre-existing conditions
* Insurance companies who jack up their rates will be barred from competing in the exchange.
* Give patients the right to appeal to an independent board if an insurance company denies a coverage claim
* Health insurers will offer national plans to Americans under the supervision of the Office of Personnel Management, the same entity that oversees health plans for Members of Congress.
* Provides significant resources for Community Health Centers
Again, not the bill I would have written, but as I argued earlier this week, there's a bit of a moral imperative here and a very, very small window to get this done. I am moderately hopeful, although Lierberman could still screw it up, I suppose. (For more on why this is a good idea, even as a relatively weak bill, see Kevin Drum and Ezra Klein.

Friday, December 18, 2009


by folkbum

A post-view of last night's entertainment.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

From the Bob Donovan Files

by folkbum

In an op-ed complaining that the process of allowing a mayoral takeover of MPS is moving too slowly, Donovan writes,
Let’s face it, poor leadership in Milwaukee has left us behind so many other cities (Minneapolis, Portland, Seattle, Des Moines, and Denver, to name just a few) when it comes to economic growth, jobs, transit/transportation, and education.
Note, please, that none of the cities listed have mayors running their city schools.

Wisconsin Takes a Tumble in Tax Rankings

By Keith R. Schmitz

From today's BizTimes newsletter:

Wisconsin continues to fall from the ranks of the highest-taxed states, according to the latest report from the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance.

Over the past 15 years, Wisconsin’s tax ranking among the 50 states fell from third in 1993 to 14th in 2007, according to a new report, "Long-Term Tax and Spending Ranks," that the Alliance released today.

The nonpartisan research organization also said that, with state and local government revenues growing less here than elsewhere, the Badger State’s 50-state spending rank dropped from 13th to 26th.

Reasons given by the Alliance for the drop in both the tax and spending ranks included state income tax cuts in 1999-2001 and limits on school, municipal and county revenues in recent years. The study was based on Census Bureau figures from 1993 to 2007, the most recent year for which data are available.

Wisconsin’s rank dropped in nearly all major revenue categories during the 1993-2007 period. Wisconsin’s individual income tax was among the seven highest from 1993 through 2000. However, income tax changes, including an indexing of tax brackets and the standard deduction and a lowering of tax rates, helped push Wisconsin out of the top 10 after 2004. In 2007, state income taxes were 14th-highest nationally and claimed 3.2 percent of personal income, vs. 3.5 percent in 1993.

Although no major changes were made to the state corporate income tax over the years studied, Wisconsin’s national rank fell from 15th to 25th.

According to WISTAX researchers, the state’s property tax was consistently among the top 10 from 1993 through 1996, claiming between 4.7 percent and 4.9 percent of income. However, a $1 billion buydown of school property taxes in 1996-97 dropped the state’s ranking to 11th (4.2 percent of income). Since then, the state has limited school levy increases through revenue limits, and more recently slowed the growth of municipal and county property taxes with levy limits. As a result, the state property tax ranking has fluctuated between ninth and 11th nationally.
That's a nice level. Any lower and we become Mississippi.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Is no bill better than a bad bill? Or is it the other way around?

by folkbum

I ask because those seem to be the choices related to health care in Congress, and Left Blogistan is split on the subject.

Here's my problem: I am not a big fan of the individual mandate in the bill, particularly one that is divorced from any purchase option other than from the Usual Suspects in the (mostly) for-profit insurance industry. If you're going to require that people buy insurance, then you should at least make sure that they have the widest possible array of options. The public option, or the FEHB-style plan that was being floated just last week, provides a bit of amelioration against the problems that could be created by the individual mandate.

On the other hand, I think I side with the always-practical Nate Silver, that This Is The Only Chance We Have. Seriously; it took a year to get to this point, the point of a really crappy bill and a thoroughly fragmented base and Congress. Starting over will not get a bill passed next year in the moments before mid-terms. And make no mistake: In the next Congress, Democrats will not have majorities of the size it does today, even factoring in Lieberman and Nelson. If we don't pass a bill now, it will be maybe another 15 years of spiraling costs and exploding numbers of uninsured, and that's just not conscionable to me.

So I think I come down on the side of a bad bill being a better than no bill at all. Pass this, work on making better as soon and as often as possible, and at least get the ball of reform moving a little bit.

Shallow Thought

by 3rd Way

If those that militantly strive to keep Christ in Christmas are as devoted to their cause as they claim to be they should leave the use of the bastardized word “Christmas” to us heathens and return to "Christ's Mass", the original Christian name for the celebration.

Let's try an open thread

by folkbum

Yes, it's slow here. But I'm buried, spent last weekend at home dealing with family stuff, am under deadline for the Compass, etc. Suggested topic: ACORN is planning to use Global Warming as an excuse to take away your guns and register the polar bears to vote.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Nailing It on Climate Change Denial

By Keith R. Schmitz

Hey climate deniers, we've got your answer to climate change ignorance right here:
So, climate change deniers, let me get this straight: The same scientific community that has made this country prosperous and strong with innovations like the microcircuitry and telecommunications that power your blogs, the aeronautical advancements that whisk you to tea party rallies and the medical technologies that prolong your life (assuming your insurer covers the procedure) is now scheming to perpetrate an enormous hoax to ruin the American economy?

Such a broad-based, coordinated deception would be unprecedented in science’s history — but is quite common outside of science. A perfect example is the propaganda machine that has convinced you that, in this one case, science is plotting against us while the oil, coal and other polluting industries have the nation’s long-term interests at heart.

Over the years, various industries have launched coordinated propaganda efforts to deny now accepted facts like the cancer-causing effects of tobacco or that seat belts save lives. In fact, scientific findings linking any commercial product to an injurious effect, or imposing costs on business, have almost always met a wall of rejection by the industry affected.

If, this time, industry truly is fighting for our best interests by denying the role of pollution in climate change, and if science truly is defrauding the public on such a grand scale, then each would be a shocking development in the histories of industry and science.

Paul Kotta
Livermore, Calif., Dec. 9, 2009
Couldn't say it any better.

Friday, December 11, 2009


by folkbum

The talent overcomes the horrible mistake of playing on an Ovation, I think.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Quote of the Day

by folkbum
Americans like [Andy] Schlafly think Jesus was the first coming of Milton Friedman.

Condoms & Kids

by folkbum

The news is out:
After an hour and a half of spirited public testimony late Tuesday night and into Wednesday morning, a Milwaukee Board of School Directors committee voted in favor of a proposal that would allow for the limited distribution of male condoms in many of the city's public high schools.

The communicable disease prevention program--which passed the Committee on Innovation/School Reform in a 5-0 vote and now will go to the full board--was recommended by the admininstration to address the high rate of sexually transmitted infections among teenagers.
This is, of course, the age group that I deal with every day. I cannot speak to the prevalence of STDs among my students--I'll have to trust the research on that one that suggests they're widespread--but I can say this. Among the students I teach right now, I think I have more parents and parents-to-be than I have ever had before. Bot boys and girls talk freely about the children they have, and I have at least four pregnant girls right now. It certainly seems to me that somewhere these students are picking up on the notion that sex is okay and when they are doing it, they are doing it unprotected.

Which is not to say that MPS is encouraging the sex. Despite protestations and implications of the local righty commentariat (examples 1, 2), MPS does teach and reinforce the notion that abstinence at their age is the best and only reasonable course of action. In class yesterday, in fact, when students brought the matter up because they had heard the news, that was the first thing I added to the discussion--that none of them should be having sex anyway. Of course, they don't listen to me when I tell them that their essays must be written in multiple paragraphs, so I don't have a lot of faith that my insistence on their abstinence will have much of an effect, either.

But what I like in particular about this particular plan is that the condoms are not, in fact, freely distributed. There are plenty of places around town where the condoms are indeed just grab-and-go. However, should this plan go through, before any MPS student pick up a condom at school, they will have to talk to the school nurse about their intended behavior, its risks, and alternatives including not doing it. Ultimately, that may discourage some students from getting the condoms, sure; but I hope that the program will tie the acquisition of condoms to critical questions about why students want to engage in this behavior and whether it's the right thing to do. At least moreso than just having it lectured at them in health class every year.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

McIlheran Watch: Behind and not quitting

by folkbum

Perhaps to avoid the buyout, Patrick McIlheran accepted a rewrite to his contract that requires him to dig deeper when he's wrong about something, as he keeps doing on the SwiftHack--"climategate," as the kids are calling it. (See 1, 2.)

Today he's at it again, talking up F. Jim (before he F's you!) Sensenbrenner and the Congressman's plan to swoop into Copenhagen and Save Humanity From The Scientists. F. Jim feels empowered to jet off (I wonder who's paying for it?) because someone's been feeding F. Jim the same lies about those stolen emails that McIlheran has been eating:
The e-mails, Sensenbrenner wrote, "demonstrate that a cabal of supposed 'cream-of-the-crop' climate scientists were indeed successful in getting editors of journals that had published contrarian views fired and that they conspired to boycott journals that did not bend to their wishes--therefore ensuring that such views would not be adequately represented in IPCC Assessment Reports."
McIlheran is quoting from a--wait for it--Fox News report about F. Jim's upped dander. Sadly, McIlheran, who claims to be a journalist and claims to have actual experience journalisming and indeed works at the largest purveyor of journalism in the state, fails again at Step One: Checking the Facts.

Start, for example, with the fact that none of the email writers successfully canned a single journal editor. There is the case of Hans von Storch, who resigned in protest from the journal Climate Research when ExxonMobile managed to plant a paper denying global warming, and von Storch was not allowed to write an editorial noting the errors in that paper. (An assistant editor went with him, too.) Sensenbrenner clearly is wrong, and McIlheran just lets it fly.

Move on, for another example, to the fact that the email writers did not keep anything out of the IPCC report. That's two in one sentence that McIlheran doesn't bother to check. Or maybe, as he tried to claim the other day, this is all just a "subtlety" that "slipped past" him.

The rest isn't any better; that McIlheran is offering the same lies under other people's names doesn't absolve him of the responsibility to get the basics right--especially when the facts are easy to find.


by folkbum

Where I am, at least, Stormageddon Oh-Nine failed to deliver. There's about a half inch of rained-upon snow out there on the walk. Will be a pain to clear. AND no snow day.

However, good luck to those under the blizzard out west and north of here.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Factless McIlheran update

by folkbum

That is, McIlheran's the factless one, as we saw this morning.

To bring you up to speed: Yesterday, weeks after the facts of the matter became widely available, McIlheran runs an op-ed that gets a bunch of stuff wrong related to what the kids these days are calling "climategate," including the falsehood that the original data that the Climatic Research Unit used was all gone. The topper, of course, was that McIlheran claimed that head of the CRU, Phil Jones, explained--or perhaps predicted--in 1999 how to explain the "decline" in temperatures observed between 1999 and 2009.

In a blog posting today, McIlheran retracts some of that. Well, he doesn't retract it. He doesn't even bother to note that he was, you know, wrong about it. He says his lie was a--cough--"subtlety" that "slipped past" him. Seriously! Here it is:
Marc Sheppard at American Thinker points out a subtlety (one that had slipped past me) about the “hide the decline” imperative that researchers, trying to salvage the idea of catastrophic man-made global warming were under:
It wasn’t the decline in global temperatures over the past 10 or so years that needed hiding, Sheppard points out. “The decline Jones so urgently sought to hide was not one of measured temperatures at all, but rather figures infinitely more important to climate alarmists--those determined by proxy reconstructions.”
The Sheppard piece linked to proceeds to post graph after graph, produced by the scientists in question that show the proxy data next to the recorded temperatures for all to see! I think we should all want to play hide and seek with these guys, they're so bad at hiding.

And McIlheran repeats the other claim, too, that there's no way to check the data. At least, I think that's what this sentence is supposed to say: "And, now, the Climategate scandal--in which scientists at the forefront of the supposed “consensus” precluding further debate turn out to have manipulated data, suppressed contrary findings and in general behaved like activists rather than scientists--suggests that their predictions now are uncheckable, unfalsifiable--in short, not science but faith." Help me out if you can suss some sense into that. "Hide the decline" in grammaticality, if you will. (I loves me some dashes, but my general rule is no more than a pair in any given sentence.)

Or maybe the grammar checker is just a "subtlety" that "slipped past."


by folkbum

Take some time today to remember.

McIlheran Watch: Fact-checker needed, PLEASE!

by folkbum

Yesterday was Sunday, which means calumnist* Patrick McIlheran's op-ed tripe ran in the paper. As usual, it's cringe-worthy in its denial of reality and bending of facts.

McIlheran, like much of the wingnut contingent, is still going on about the thieved emails from the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit. To remind you all, the CRU is just one collection of scientists doing climate research, and even if everything they ever did turns out to have been cooked up in a late-night, pot-induced "wouldn't it be funny if ..." kind of scenario, there are still literally tens of thousands of other scientists doing independent research with their own observations and data in other parts of the world whose work still points in one, incontrovertible direction: Human activity affects the earth's climate.

But the emails are shiny and the new-scandal smell hasn't yet worn off, so McIlheran isn't ready to put them down. No matter that he seems to have absolutely no sense of what the science discussed in the emails means, he's willing to misread them and take phrases out of context to justify his pro-corporate, anti-Algore world view.

For example, he has repeatedly blogged in the last couple weeks about the jacked emails, and repeatedly gotten stuff wrong. He's written at least twice, for example, that "[t]he British center admitted it threw out its original data on which it pinned its predictions of disaster." Which is true--at some point in the 1980s the CRU moved from one office to another and opted not to haul its paper copies in the process. But McIlheran claims that means "other researchers, thus, cannot check the claims" of the CRU. Which is false, as the CRU does not do its own data collection, and all the paper it tossed 25 years ago was merely copies of data that exist other places and that, if you want, you can get for yourself.

McIlheran's falsity was corrected by commenters at his blog, but it doesn't seem to have helped, since he drops it into Sunday's column anyway: "Lest you think we can sort this out by re-running the numbers, it transpires that the center discarded its original data. Their predictions now are uncheckable, unfalsifiable--in short, not science but faith." Apparently it's McIlheran who's holding on to faith over fact--the faith that his preconceived prejudice against science outweighs the truth that the data are not missing at all.

And in Sunday's column he also includes this doozy:
The e-mails, leaked or hacked by unknown parties but acknowledged to be real, do not in themselves disprove man-made global warming. They do reveal these researchers, the experts who wrote the doom narrative, discussing among themselves how to manipulate data to make observations fit their predictions. One telling message from the unit's head is about how to "hide the decline" in observed temperatures, as global warming seems to have halted about a decade ago, something their models are unable to explain.
Leave aside for just a moment the fact that McIlheran doesn't know what "hide the decline" was actually referring to--or rather, he chooses to misrepresent what it means, because the accurate interpretation is not just all over the internet but also in the comments to his blog posts where he initially offered the bad reading of it.

Instead, consider that McIlheran chooses to apply "hide the decline" to the notion that, in his words, "global warming seems to have halted about a decade ago." I've included McIlheran's own links so that you can see for yourself just how baldly misleading McIlheran is being here. Really, there's no other way to describe it--McIlheran is blatantly lying to push his agenda (shocker!). How can you tell? The second of his two links notes that "the world grew warmer by 0.07 degrees Celsius from 1999 to 2008 [. . .]. And, say the British experts, when their figure is adjusted for two naturally occurring climate phenomena, El Niño and La Niña, the resulting temperature trend is reduced to 0.0 degrees Celsius--in other words, a standstill." So temperatures overall have flatlined since 1999 (in some places, temps are higher, of course, and in some places, they're lower, but we're talking global average.)

Now check McIlheran's first link, the one to the email from Phil Jones at the CRU. Note the date: "Tue, 16 Nov 1999." That's right, ladies and gentleman, Patrick McIlheran, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's "Right Wing Guy," just accused Phil Jones of describing a method for "how to 'hide the decline' in observed temperatures" since 1999--in 1999. How does McIlheran explain this? Is Phil Jones a witch, maybe, and McIlheran would like to throw him in the lake to be sure? Or maybe Phil Jones got a fortune cookie in 1999 predicting flatlined temps. Magic eight ball? ESP? Time machine? What? I really want to know!

I realize that the Journal Sentinel is getting down to a bit of bare-bones staffing, but is there not one single person there responsible for checking facts? Surely someone clicked on the links McIlheran included in his own submitted op-ed and saw the absurdity of this. How does something that obvious get through?

* coined by iT

Friday, December 04, 2009

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Monday, November 30, 2009

Parent Involvement series in MJS--first reactions (note updates below)

by folkbum

Many moons ago, I mentioned here that Erin Richards of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel was working on a series about parent involvement in schools.

It is running this week, finally, and it is good. (It seems I have a cameo in today's story.)

Yesterday's story, the first, has some sobering statistics about MPS and its failure to connect with parents. Here's something from it, featuring the blame-teachers-first mentality of our present administration:
But MPS has a spotty record, long operating a splintered outreach program that makes it easy to catch the same parents repeatedly and miss the vast majority that needs assistance. [. . .]

"(Teachers) still view themselves as individual practitioners," [Superintendent William] Andrekopoulos said. "We will try to work with them and resolve these issues, but we don't have any language in the (union) contract that says they absolutely have to work with parents."

But leaders in the Milwaukee Teachers' Education Association [MTEA] say the administration has never tried to engage the union at the bargaining table on the issue.
Blame the union, blame the union--and miss a key point. A teacher's work with parents is, in fact, a part of the evaluation process we all undergo (teachers are evaluated annually for the first five years, then every three years after that or as deemed necessary by the principal). Principals can identify problem areas in evaluations and require teachers to work on those. If word came from the top that every principal would be checking parent contacts during evaluations, you'd better believe the contacts we make (for indeed, we do try) would be better documented.

In addition, it's a fairly common thing for schools to include in their School Improvement Plans (all of which are public documents available from the MPS website; search for a school name and "school improvement plan" to see specific ones) better coordination and contact with parents. Service to the SIP is also a factor in teacher evaluations.

Finally, I would add that the amount of training I have had as a professional on dealing with parents is right about zero. No district or school inservices that I can recall had parent outreach as a topic. Teachers and the union don't set those topics. The one moment I do remember learning about better parent outreach came in an MTEA presentation for new teachers back when I first started in the district. I gathered with a bunch of other newbies in the basement of the MTEA building, on my own time, and heard suggestions from a panel of experienced teachers.

So why, again, are we blaming the union?

UPDATED to add two things: One, not seen yet (though it may be coming) in the discussion about parents and MPS is the fact that so many MPS parents send their children, particularly older children, to schools far away from home or even work. At a public meeting held for the community of my school regarding significant potential changes to the school, not one parent showed up to speak. Not one. Admittedly, the meeting was a bit short-notice (a different story entirely), but that not one parent was there is stunning to contemplate. (I addressed the myth of the Neighborhood Student in my last Compass column.)

Two, bills up for consideration right now to move away from elected leadership in the district to appointed leadership under the control of the mayor will just further remove parents from the process. Indeed, the leading bill, Colón-Taylor, would re-purpose the elected school board to be a buffer between parents and the real governance of the district. Given what we already know, thanks in large part to Erin Richards's collecting all the info into one place--about MPS's failures with parents, how is it rational that such a move is even being considered?

Friday, November 27, 2009

FriTunes: Almost forgot in my holiday stupor

by folkbum

Amy LaVere, who slaps a mean bass.

Possibly related: Jim Morrison returns to soothe a woman from the bottom of her iron.

Paul Ryan: Number 5!

by folkbum

Number five on the list of top Republican distortions, anyway.

Although I would argue he should also be number three, since he was caught using that fake statistic just two weeks ago.

Buy Nothing Day

by folkbum

So far so good. Although later I may go out to dinner at a locally-owned eatery.

Thursday, November 26, 2009


by folkbum

You betcha. Happy day, all.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


by folkbum

People want comment? Sure. In the form of a deep thought:
Deep Thought
Apparently climate-change deniers who have hacked access to fifteen years' worth of scientists' emails can't find a smoking gun more powerful than one scientist admitting that he substituted actual thermometer readings in place of proxy measures for temperature in one of his papers.

Classic Slice

by folkbum

If there is any flaw in the Classic Slice business model, it's that the slices are so big that the crust is cold by the time you get to it. Still, thankful for that.

"Now, there are some who would like to rewrite history—revisionist historians is what I like to call them."

--George W. Bush, June 16, 2003

"We did not have a terrorist attack on our country during President Bush's term."
--Dana Perino, former Bush spokeswoman, November 24, 2009

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Internet polls are meaningless

by folkbum

But just in case they aren't ...

... and, sadly, nowhere to write in anyone.

Apples to Horse Apples

by folkbum

There's an ugly internet rumor going around that Sarah Palin's poll numbers are as good as Barack Obama's. It's not true. (Graphs below are as of 11/24; click on them to be magically transported to pollster for current data.)

(And for kicks, you can play with the graphs to remove the outlier Rassmussen, watch the two get farther apart.)

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Meanwhile, Over at the Americans for Prosperity Meeting

By Keith R. Schmitz

Context matters. Except when it doesn't.

by folkbum

A moth or so ago--at the current pace of things, it may as well have been last century--then-current (now former) White House Communications Director Anita Dunn was flogged across the wingnutoverse because, in a speech that included quotes from the likes of Mother Teresa, she quoted a line from Mao Tse Tung that meant, roughly, "choose your battles wisely." Not a jarring sentiment in and of itself, but the context, we were told--after all, Mao was a Communist Bastard responsible for Countless Deaths and other Crimes Against Humanity And Decency--that context mattered, and Dunn's repetition of that quotation, however banal, crossed a significant line.

This week, those same futzes are all super-duper amused with themselves passing on the latest dimwit internet meme: "Pray for Obama," they say, citing a Bible verse, Psalms 109:8. That verse, if you haven't seen it, is "May his days be few; may another take his office" (depending on the translation). That's an ambiguous enough sentiment by itself to be not terrible. However, the context--reading the rest of the Psalm excerpted--makes it clear that this is one of a series of consequences imagined by the Psalmist after an enemy of his dies. The very next verse, for example, is "May his wife be widowed and his children be orphans." The whole thing is a prayer for death, not just a wish for a short term in charge.

So which is it, wingnuts? Does context matter, as in the Dunn case? Or does context not matter, as in your wish for Obama's assassination?

None of this should come as a surprise, by the way. Even just tracking the local hate-typists, you can see that in addition to thinking Obama's death a la Psalms is great, they think killing any Democrat is a hoot.

Laughing With Lyrical Love

By 3rd Way

The genius of the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee's decision to exclude the Islamic members of their group on a trip to the Mideast made me think of the lyrics to Regina Spektor's* "Laughing With".

No one laughs at God in a hospital
No one laughs at God in a war
No one’s laughing at God
When they’re starving or freezing or so very poor

No one laughs at God
When the doctor calls after some routine tests
No one’s laughing at God
When it’s gotten real late
And their kid’s not back from the party yet

No one laughs at God
When their airplane start to uncontrollably shake
No one’s laughing at God
When they see the one they love, hand in hand with someone else
And they hope that they’re mistaken


But God can be funny
At a cocktail party when listening to a good God-themed joke, or
Or when the crazies say He hates us
And they get so red in the head you think they’re ‘bout to choke
God can be funny,
When told he’ll give you money if you just pray the right way
And when presented like a genie who does magic like Houdini
Or grants wishes like Jiminy Cricket and Santa Claus
God can be so hilarious
Ha ha
Ha ha

No one laughs at God in a hospital
No one laughs at God in a war
No one’s laughing at God
When they’ve lost all they’ve got
And they don’t know what for


No one’s laughing at God
No one’s laughing at God
No one’s laughing at God
We’re all laughing with God

I like the idea of a jocular God, but I don't think God would be laughing with this interfaith group.

*apologies to Jay for featuring an anti-folk artist

Caption Contest

by folkbum

It's Superman! He'll save us!

(stolen from)

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Only if I get to pick which state

by folkbum

They've started the campaign, it seems.

UPDATED to add, to the naysayers who think I would not be qualified: I believe that I am because I have common sense, and I have, I believe, the values that are reflective of so many other Wisconsin values. And I believe that what Wisconsinites are seeking is not the elitism, the kind of a spinelessness that perhaps is made up for that with some kind of elite Ivy League education and a fact resume that's based on anything but hard work and private sector, free enterprise principles. Wisconsinites could be seeking something like that in positive change in their leadership. I'm not saying that has to be me.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Deep Thought

by folkbum

If I'm an Outpost owner--and I am--can I ban this guy from the store?

Alternately, going after the comments: I did a google search [on] organic vs. nonorganic and all the articles I read will tout organic farming methods, manure vs other fertilizer, non use of pesticides, some even claim organic vegetables have a higher content of a certain nutrient. What I find interesting is that every article I read is very careful to explain (usually somewhere near the bottom) that organic is not healthier for you.

Because ingesting and inhaling and living in a world full of chemical fertilizers and pesticides is the healthiest thing ever!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Land of the Little People

By Keith R. Schmitz

The terror trials are coming to New York City and there is a possibility that a prison in North Illinois (with the lusty urging of the locals) will take some of the Gitmo inmates. And like clockwork the exploitation begins.

This morning tells us that in predictable fashion and like dogs salivating to Pavlov's bell, the GOP will look to exploit the ginned up concern in next year's midterms. And why not. They have little else to offer us and how can they when they hate government. Several GOP members in Congress have already jumped in on the panic.

So no surprise mistress-marrying, criminal crony promoter, 9/11 parrot Rudy Guiliani is whipping this issue like a rented mule. Locally one TV station did a 10:00 news promo the other night with the alarmist statement "are terrorists coming to Illinois near the Wisconsin border?"

The question is if we are the strongest nation on earth, how come those who spout that statement the most are acting like it the least?

FIXX in Three

by folkbum

Days, that is.

Paninis, coffee, soup, CD-release fever (less contagious than swine flu, and without the runny nose), and two hours of quality original music. Starts at 7:30 Saturday, at St. Francis's best strip-mall coffee house.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Real Job Killers

By Keith R. Schmitz

Health insurance companies.

Some tip of the iceberg stories about small business' struggles with health insurance coverage from the AHIP protests in Chicago today.

Alternative MPS proposal better, still not focused on children

by folkbum

Not a lot of time this morning, but a quick comment about Grigsby-Coggs: It offers the mayor a strong hand in helping to set the direction for the Milwaukee Public Schools (some budget, superintendent-selection powers), but retains the democratically elected Board. It's a compromise position, really, between status quo and the the "TEACH" Act from Taylor, et al.

However, as with the other proposals, this is mostly about shuffling the cards at the top of the deck a little bit, and generally not focused on where the rubber meets the road, if you'll permit me to mix metaphors. Seems to be some in there about better school-level leadership and better early math and reading curricula, but still mostly nothing that will fundamentally change the daily interactions between students and their learning environments--or change facts about students' home environments to make learning easier, more appealing, and better-supported within stable, healthy families.

But anyway. Time to go put my rubber to the road.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Hm. Maybe I should go after Tom Barrett every day.

by folkbum


You do know that speech is about suicide, right?

by folkbum

Steven Walters, writing today about moves by various politicos to take over or otherwise mangle the Milwaukee Public Schools:
Hamlet's Act 3 "to be or not to be" soliloquy includes this lament: "Thus conscience does make cowards of us all..."

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Great Moments in Sports

By Keith R. Schmitz

When the Bears lose, the fans are exquisite in their anguish. The Friday morning after the Bears lost to San Francisco thanks to QB Jay Culter gave up five interceptions the Sun Times ran a headline over a picture of Culter sitting dejectedly on the turf that read "Bay of Picks." Think of the fun if the regular news hole was given this kind of literary license.

Over at the Badger -- Alaska Anchorage Seawolves hockey match at the Kohl Center Friday night, the inventive UW fans showed their mass inspiration by taunting the loosing Seawolves with (imagine the Matt Unertl cheer from 1999) "I See Russia" followed by "Sarah Palin" followed by "Start the Dog Sled."

Who's going to challenge Tom Barrett from the left?

or, maybe Soglin should file papers after all

by folkbum

As noted here previously, Tom Barrett has spent much of the last few months--and any number of Democrats have on his behalf--dumping on Milwaukee by slandering and demanding control of the Milwaukee Public Schools.

No candidate from Milwaukee can be elected governor, you see, without making certain that they are not viewed as being of Milwaukee. At least, that's as reasonable an explanation as one can draw from Wisconsin's history of not having elected candidates from Milwaukee to statewide office since forever. (Someone who has lived here longer than I have--I started college here in 1992 and stuck around--can probably tell me the last time that happened. But if the Wikipedia can be believed, Lee Dreyfus was the last Milwaukeean elected governor, though he hadn't lived in Milwaukee for years at the time.)

So here's what we're going to end up with: three major-party candidates (Barrett plus Republicans Scott Walker and Mark Nuemann), none of whom will stick up for the state's major urban center, none of whom will advocate for the state's minority population, none of whom will argue that unless we reignite the fires of Milwaukee's economic engine, its idling could drag this state's recovery out for years. (Wisconsin's second major urban area, Madison, has an economy that just keeps racing along, it seems.) Walker will not run a pro-Milwaukee campaign, because he, too, is from here. And Neumann won't because it will not earn him a single vote in a Republican primary.

Sp who's going to challenge Barrett from the left? Who's going to run a progressive, pro-Milwaukee, pro-public education, pro-urban renewal campaign that will force Barrett (and, I would hope, by extension the Republican candidates) to pay attention to progressive issues and stay honest about the needs of Milwaukee's largest city and most desperate economic disaster-in-waiting?

If there is any lesson to be learned from the election two weeks ago in Virginia, it's that running away from the people and the issues that mobilized and energized Barack Obama's voters is a losing proposition. Creigh Deeds was the least progressive candidate from Virginia's Dem primary and he ran hard away from Obama's signature issues like health care reform. Obama voters stayed home, and Deeds lost miserably.

Barrett needs a serious opponent in this primary who can make sure that doesn't happen. Barb Lawton could have been that candidate (though she also had a reasonable chance to beat Barrett--I doubt any other candidate now does). Kevin Conroy is not that person. Kathleen Falk maybe is, but she might not have another statewide run in her. Tammy Baldwin is saving up to replace Herb Kohl in 2012. So that leaves ... who? Paul, are you listening?

Updated to add, from Thomas J. Mertz in the comments, this:
I think there is a larger issue here about who among the Democratic Party of Wisconsin's state elected officials is willing to act on "progressive, pro-Milwaukee, pro-public education, pro-urban renewal..." principles. You could add tax reform and many other things to this list. [. . .] We are at the point where the far right is defining the GOP agenda, the GOP agenda is defining the moderate Democratic agenda and the moderate Democratic agenda is being pushed or defended by "Progressive" elected officials. This isn't good.

What he said.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Deep Thought

by folkbum

If we wear out the whole "The world's gonna end in December 2012" meme now, what are we going to talk about for the next three years?

Friday, November 13, 2009

Leggies who blame MPS for its failures need to look first at what they've done--and not done

by folkbum

I generally like My State Senator, Tim Carpenter. But he, along with Sen. Lena Taylor and Rep. Pedro Colón, have an op-ed in the paper this morning defending their Milwaukee Public Schools takeover bill, and he's just wrong here.

The title of the op-ed is a compound imperative, and both parts are at least somewhat wrong: "MPS must improve; change in governance is necessary." First, I agree that MPS's results must improve; there is no question about that. I spend eight (sometimes ten or twelve) hours a day trying from my little corner of the district to make that happen. And while there are things that he district can and should be doing differently, there is nothing--as I have argued time and time again--that we can do inside the schools to produce large-scale, system-wide changes to the problems created by factors outside the schools. At best, tinkering inside the schools will provide small results at the margins, something shown over and over again by urban districts all across the country facing exactly the same issues MPS is.

Second, simply changing the governance of MPS--at least, changing it as proposed, which includes handing over vast power to the mayor of Milwaukee and weakening the elected board to the point of irrelevance--is not the solution. This is true for any number of reasons, not the least of which is that no proponent of a governance change has offered a single specific idea of how MPS would be different under new leadership, except to say that the leadership would be different. There's also the sad-but-true fact that districts under mayoral control generally do not see vast improvement, and the not sad but devastatingly true fact that voters in this city and this state roundly rejected municipal control of MPS at the ballot box last spring by defeating the candidate who endorsed it.

But what gets me about the argument here presented by Carpenter, Taylor, and Colón is that they blame MPS's failures on a lot of things that they, as legislators, have the power to change immediately without interfering in the governance structure of MPS.

For starters, I'll suggest the one thing they don't name, which is what I noted above and overandoverandoveragain on this blog: MPS students spend the vast majority of their lives outside of the system (between birth and the time she graduates at 18, a student spends just 15% of her life in school). As state legislators from the city of Milwaukee, these three have considerable power and authority to affect the other 85% of our students' lives. All of the things that correlate strongly to poor achievement, from poverty and homelessness to poor health care and transience, are things a legislature could be working on. These are not problems that will be solved by MPS.

However, here's the really galling part:
Additionally, for the past several years, MPS has had to rely on a one-time state budget amendment, one-time federal stimulus funds and even state borrowing from other funds just to remain afloat. This patchwork funding pattern cannot continue while outcomes are not improving. Due to the downturn in the economy, we have seen the state pull back on its commitment to fund two-thirds of educational costs.

To further complicate matters, the Milwaukee school choice funding flaw has burdened property taxpayers in Milwaukee, as has the open enrollment policy. According to the non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau, the net aid reduction for MPS in 2009-'10 will be $44.4 million and in 2008-'09, the net aid transfer out of MPS under the open enrollment program was $21.7 million.
These are consecutive paragraphs of the op-ed, unedited and unaltered. They really did just go there: They slammed MPS's budget situation and then fingered two state programs as being significantly responsible for MPS's loss of funds. These state programs, designed, approved, implemented, and maintained by the state legislature, suck funds out of MPS that then these legislators have the nerve to complain about needing to replace.

While yes, there have been some demographic changes in the city that have decreased enrollment, the primary culprits have been state legislators who say to students and parents, "We're not concerned with making sure MPS and the city it serves have what they need to succeed, so we'll just make it easier for you to go somewhere else." It's as if the state handed out coupons to Subway and then blamed Cousins for its declining sales.

If the legislature were serious about wanting to shore up MPS finances, they should stop handing out those coupons. End those programs. Stop offering incentives for the most-involved parents and the highest-achieving students to leave, and the financial (not to mention academic) picture looks better. We are, for example, supporting retirees from a 120,000-student district on revenues from 80,000 students--in large part because the state has facilitated declining enrollment. School climates have changed for the same reason. Special education enrollment ratios have ballooned. Buildings now stand half-empty that were once bustling hubs of neighborhood activity.

And, after this year's talk of dismantling the democratic leadership of MPS, the city is ready to blow apart at the seams.

There's a lot a legislature could do to help MPS, and, as Carpenter, Taylor, and Colón write, "show the federal government that we are serious about education reform and that Wisconsin is worthy of Race to the Top funds." Standing up to Arne Duncan, who is wrong about mayoral control, may not be the easiest way to do it. It would, however, be the best thing for Milwaukee and its children.

FriTunes, NaNoWriMo edition

by folkbum

Here's one for everyone celebrating National Novel Writing Month by actually, you know, writing their novels.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Deep Thought

by folkbum

Asking Sarah Palin for advice on how to be governor is like asking David Lee Roth for advice on how to lead a rock band.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veterans' Day, 2009

by folkbum

There is no greater duty than to defend the liberty of your contrymen. Thanks to all who have served, are serving, and will serve.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Final Bracey Report: Mayoral control "disturbing," "undemocratic and ineffectual"

by folkbum

One of the things that the late Gerald Bracey did for years is produce his annual "Bracey Report," which is a look at the various education reform efforts over the course of the past year, good and bad, with a careful examination of the data.

This year's report (.pdf), released today, is particularly timely for us here in Milwaukee and Wisconsin. Today, a group of well meaning but seriously misguided Democrats are introducing a bill, announced two weeks ago, that would strip meaningful control of the Milwaukee Public Schools from the elected board and place it in the hands of the mayor. (Details here.)

Bracey takes the idea of mayoral control on full force, and he is not kind to the idea. Using National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) data, Bracey looks at claims about New York's and Chicago's schools under mayoral control, and finds the claims of great success to be flat-out false. He comes very close to literally calling Arne Duncan, late of Chicago and now US Secretary of Education, a liar, and he is no kinder to Mayor Bloomberg and Joel Klein New York.

Bracey finds that the achievement gaps are wider, graduation rates are no better, and the regimes established under the mayors in those cities are oppressively undemocratic.

(As an aside: I still get angry thinking about the abomination that is No Child Left Behind, and that its existence is entirely premised on the utterly mythical "Houston Miracle" supposedly spearheaded by George W. Bush's first Secretary of Education Rod Paige. Now we have this "Race to the Top" premised on the mythical success of Chicago's schools under Arne Duncan. I thought history was supposed to wait a bit longer before repeating itself.)

Here's Bracey's conculsion:
A close look at the two most visible exemplars of mayoral control, Chicago and New York, yields results that counter the image created by those in control. 'Reforms' that are supposed to help children do better are primarily used to make the adults who control the schools look good. Performance on tests that are subject to manipulation show improvement. Performance on tests that are free of manipulation show no improvement and no closing of ethnic achievement gaps. In reading the literature about the mayoral systems, one repeatedly encounters words like bully, authoritarian, autocratic, arbitrary, intrusive, despotic, dictatorial, disenfranchisement, rubber stamp, exclusion (of parents) even 'Brezhnev-era Soviet Union.' [. . .] Now, Arne Duncan aids, abets—and requires—this version of reform with the lure of big government grants.
In short, Bracey is just the latest in long series of policy and educational researchers to raise serious questions about the efficacy of mayoral control of urban school districts. Every data-backed, peer-reviewed study I have seen of the question comes to the same conclusion: mayoral control doesn't change achievement rates of large urban districts. Given the significant downsides to making such a change in Milwaukee--including opening a racial rift in this city the size of which we haven't seen in decades--and the absence of any data suggesting city schools do better under mayoral control, it would behoove our legislators to reconsider the proposal on the table.

Yes, yes, I get the whole thing about "Race to the Top" money and whatnot. But as I have written before, chasing worthless reforms in pursuit of grant money is a proven losing proposition. It's demeaning and degrading and distracting, and, again, not worth the consequences. If what it takes to earn the money is ultimately to do further disservice to our students, the screw the money, I say.

I don't want to dance to Arne Duncan's music, especially knowing that the melody is a pack of lies to begin with. Our legislators shouldn't give in to the music, either.

Deep Thought

by folkbum

Not one of the local conservative bloggers who used unusually cold days in September to mock "global warming" has noted the recent unusually warm days in November.

Jay Weber does the talk-radio taxidermy

by bert
Here is another transparent tactic used by on-air pundits of the right wing in order to mangle the truth and score points. I call it talk-radio taxidermy. What you do is after a story is dead and gone, you doctor up the corpse to represent some scene that never was.

This tactic is most useful when your right-wing smears could not adhere to the living truth at the time. But maybe later, when memories fade, you can fool your listeners by posing and grooming this dead story to reflect what it never meant. The Iraq War is one example. You will continue to hear this year a persistent subordinate clause that "Bush achieved victory".

This morning, Jay Weber on WISN-AM was, I guess, trying to tell us that Barack Obama doesn't care about soldiers. You see, the retiree George W. Bush traveled within his own state and without the press to visit Fort Hood over the weekend. Good for George Bush. You see, Obama has not yet visited.

Then came the doctored-up corpse. Weber said something today such as: remember when Obama was going to visit injured soldiers in Germany during his campaign and then called off the visit because reporters were not allowed to go along?

The more nuanced story is covered here with some integrity by the Talking Points Memo web site. The army changed its ground rules for the planned Obama visit to the Landstuhl base in the middle of Obama's European trip in the summer of 2008.

The Obama campaign seems to have concluded that to contest those changed rules or continue with the visit, if possible at all under the new rules, would send the wrong signals. If anything, the motive was to avoid politicizing such a visit. That's far from calling it off when they found they could not politicize it, which was what Weber wants the story to be.

The fact is that right-wingers relish the anger produced by the Fort Hood shootings. Because any pundit worth his or her salt should be able to find a means to refashion and redirect anger so that it aims toward blame of a democrat.

After this Fort Hood story also goes dormant, go back and tally the on-air minutes devoted to Obama -- who is sort of peripheral to this story -- versus the minutes devoted to Amy Krueger, Russell Seager, or Amber Bahr .

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Deep Thought

by folkbum

Reagan-era unemployment numbers mean we should be demanding a return to Reagan-era tax rates.

Friday, November 06, 2009

FriTunes, throwback edition

by folkbum

I have always loved this song, but what makes the video for me is the Wayne's World quality production. The zoom in up the nostrils shot is archetypal, of course, but it doesn't really make anyone attractive.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Tragedy at Ft. Hood

by folkbum

Puts whatever stresses and problems you have at your own job in perspective, no? Thoughts with them, please.

Maybe They Were Punked -- Again

By Keith R. Schmitz

Looking for light for what for them are the darkest of places, the right has been chaffing over the notion that their Stalinization program in the GOP led to a loss of the 23rd district for the Republican Party for the first time in over 100 years, based on what they call the mainstream media "meme." The claim is that a Democrat Michael McNulty held that seat in the late 1990's and into this century, so the MSM is in their minds, wrong as usual.

Turns out their breathless protests were based on something that appeared in all places, Wikipedia. Whenever they can, they will pick up a fumble and run with it, even when it is whistled dead because it leaves a trail of misinformation on the nets that their minions will pick up and repeat for months to come.
If they would have double checked their "facts" they would have found in places such as the contemporary report in the New York Times and in the Library of Congress that McNulty served in the 21st. The memorable Sherwood Boehlert won the 23rd in 1998.

By the way, Wikipedia moved McNulty's seat to the 21st.

Please play again. Thanks you.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Kill my wife, please

by folkbum

From a man who once had the gall to call me a misogynist.

Interesting--but generally disappointing--results last night

by folkbum

Most disappointing, I think, in Maine, where once again the reactionary forces of bigotry turned out in greater numbers than the forces of goodness and light, and repealed the state's same-sex marriage law. The civil rights efforts of this generation have been dealt another severe setback. (At the same time, Washington State seems to have approved fully equal rights for civil unions; good for them.)

The Virginia race suggests two things: One, Democrats will have to work very hard--and will need to recapture or somehow replace the personally inspirational figure of Barack Obama--to spur base turnout in 2010. It doesn't seem that the voters who elected Obama in Virginia rejected him last night; rather, they stayed home, and that's a different, but equally deadly, problem. Two, it suggests that contra the tea-party philosophy, Republicans who run away from the crazy (Bob McDonnell did everything he could to paint himself as a reasonable moderate) can win. Put that up against NY-23, where the in-all-but-name Republican went the Full Palin, and lost a seat that Republicans had held since 1850 to the moderate Democrat. (The other federal race, CA-10, also went to the Democrat. Two races does not a trend make--it takes three!--but clearly voters did not reject Nancy Pelosi, either, last night.)

In New Jersey, I think the lesson is that when things are sucky, it's difficult for an incumbent to win, even against a scandal-mired candidate. (I'm sure many Republicans believe this is the lesson of 2008.) NJ's economic climate is ugly--much moreso than Virginia's--and the vote there is clearly a rejection of current policies in a way that Virginia's vote, where there was no incumbent and the Democrat was not all that closely tied to his predecessor, was probably not.

More locally, the North Shore once again suggests it's not necessarily going to be receptive to the Full Palin--no tax is a good tax--in the future, either. Not that I love taxes or that I think the first answer to any question is to raise them, but the tea-party vanguard has at its core the polar opposite of that message, and it did not win last night in New York, in Whitefish Bay, or anywhere else.

And one final question remains, one year out from 2010: Who's our Democratic candidate for governor? I said it wouldn't be me, but clearly they must be getting pretty far along the list of people ahead of me who would all have to say no before it's my turn. I mean, seriously, guys. Someone's gotta step up.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

I'm not sure which was funnier ...

by folkbum

... my Comedy Sportz show or the County budget hearing. I suppose the budget thing was more sadly tragicomic, eh?

Special shout-out to the Audubon contingent who came out to the show. Good to see you all again!

Also: Regular blogging should resume again after my in-laws leave this weekend. Busybusybusy.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Your 24-hour warning: Funny ahead

by folkbum

Look, I know that you want nothing more than to laugh at me. Hell, many of you are probably doing that very thing right now from the convenience of your own home. However, if you would rather do it in person, for free, you can, Monday night. Come on over to Comedy Sportz Milwaukee at 7 PM. My improv classmates and I are putting on a free showcase performance, and we need an audience to suggest stupid and embarrassing things for us to do. Plus the bar will be open!

Well, somewhere out in the Midwest anyway

by bert

I get the overall point from the writer in today's New York Times about how jarring are the regional differences in Iraq versus those between two Midwestern states:
The invisible line that separates Iraqi Kurdistan from Iraq’s lower
provinces should be little different than crossing from, say, Michigan into Illinois. . .

But I guess Alissa J. Rubin or others on the East Coast wouldn't bother to know that Michigan and Illinois don't share a border. (To be fair, I don't spend much time out East and I'm never sure if places like Delaware and New Jersey butt up against each other???)

It reminds me of the famous drawing by Saul Steinberg from a 1976 New Yorker magazine cover.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Ryan pitches health insurance scare tactics

by bert
The insurance industry would not hold a gun to our heads in order to kill any reform of health care. That's because they've paid good money to have lawmakers such as Rep. Paul Ryan do that for them.

Here is Ryan this week on the floor of the House warning that premiums will more than double if the health-care-reform proposals that he and the industry dislike were to become law.

What a coincidence. Because, speaking of the insurance business, Ryan happens to feed at their lobby trough.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the insurance business is a close second in the ranking of industries as a source of his campaign contributions. His $57,550 worth of contributions in this election cycle from either individuals or PACs tied to insurance is about four times the average contribution the industry devotes to individual lawmakers. Ryan ranks in the top 20 of all recipients of insurance lobbyist largesse in the House.

Unfortunately for those pimping Ryan, this scare tactic doesn't work on people who are already shell-shocked by exploding insurance costs. Oh, no, not rising premiums!!

According to the National Coalition on Health Care, premium costs for both employers and workers has risen on average 131 percent over the last decade. A White House report finds some states with increases over that period as high as 150 percent.

So Ryan's threat, when you look at the numbers, boils down to a claim that me and my boys will keep doing to you what we have already done. The worse that can happen is more of the same.

Incidentally, Ryan has also used scare tactics about threats to Medicare in his dutiful service to the insurance industry and its fight against reform. Kelly Gallaher of the Racine area did a good job of exposing this.


by folkbum

Kind of a depressing song--Foucault is known for that--but if you want the funny, you have to come see me at Comedy Sportz Monday, 11/2, at 7 PM. That show is free and guaranteed to make you laugh.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Props to Arnold for this one

by folkbum

It's the sort of thing I would do if I were in charge, which is why I'm not running for governor. WARNING: Not safe for work, small children, or people who have never read blogs before.