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Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Cactus Has the Pricks on the Outside

By Keith R. Schmitz

Many of us have had our suspicions about Hummer owners As for me Hummer almost ruined The Who playing "happy Jack" over their commercial showing a kid stealing this and that to build a kiddie Hummer and then running off the track to win the soapbox race.

But now this:
People who drive Hummers receive almost five times as many traffic tickets as the average driver, according to a new study.

The study found those who drive the leviathans get 4.63 times as many tickets as the average driver, something the researchers attribute to the feeling of invincibility that comes from driving a rolling bank vault.

The study suggests such an attitude is unique to Hummer drivers and doesn't apply to everyone in an SUV, because the the Hummer was followed by the diminutive Scion tC and xB. People behind the wheel of those cars were 4.6 and 4.03 times, respectively, as likely to get tickets than the average driver. The researchers attributed that to the fact the average Scion driver is in his or her early 20s. Other vehicles on the top-10 list included the Toyota Solara and Subaru Outback.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Deep Thought

by folkbum

Michael Steele will do for the GOP's relationship with African Americans what Ken Mehlman did for the GOP's relationship with the LGBT community.

An Analogy

by folkbum

Hans von Spakovsky : voting :: Laurie Mylroie : Iraq

• von Spakovsky appears deep in this previous post; it's testing time at school again, if you couldn't tell

Ald. Donovan and Me

by folkbum

After my op-ed was published last Sunday, I waited anxiously for the responses to start rolling in. Yesterday and today saw letters to the editor published in the paper reacting to what I wrote. Letters editor and long-time friend of the blog Sonya Jongsma Knauss has often noted that though the paper does not run every letter it receives, it does try to run letters proportionally to the size of the response--i.e., if the letters are running 2-1 pro-con on an issue, they'll run 2 pro letters for every 1 con letter they run.

So far, the pro-con ratio for me seems to be 3-1, with four letters having been printed. Thursday's letters included a complimentary one by an MPS teacher; today's letters include a blast from the past, a friendly letter from an old Dean campaign ally I haven't heard from in years. (Also note that blog contributor Keith Schmitz is in the letters today, comparing tax cuts to chocolate. Chocolate lovers everywhere will be sending hate mail in 3 ... 2 ...)

But Thursday's letters also included something from Milwaukee Alderman Bob Donovan:
I wholeheartedly agree that Milwaukee has a good many issues in need of fixing. Not the least of which is a disgracefully high level of poverty in our inner city. Yet where I disagree is in his premise that poverty is the cause of the failure of Milwaukee Public Schools.

Let's get real. While I have no doubt that numerous social ills, often associated with poverty, place incredible challenges on MPS, until that system stops playing the blame game and this community fashions a school system capable of meeting all of its challenges, will anything meaningful change?
This blog is no fan of Donovan, and if he knows we exist then I would imagine that he's no fan of this blog. I called Donovan out by name in the long post here that my op-ed was adapted from; I also went after him in January's Compass column which ran across some of the same territory. He has every right to respond to that kind of direct attack, I get that.

But reading Donovan's response (I'm a little surprised he didn't put it in a press release), you get a picture-perfect view of what's wrong with people who have his attitude. It doesn't matter what the cause of any given problem is, the solution is solely the responsibility of MPS. My kids don't come to school? My fault. They don't do their homework? That's on me, too. They fight in the cafeteria, hallway, or classroom? No doubt I caused it. They vandalize cars in the parking lot? All me. (If you think I'm kidding about the extent of this attitude, read the comments to this thread at Badger Blogger--big fans of Ald. Donovan. Seriously.)

It frustrates me to no end, every day of my professional life, that I cannot snap my fingers and make my students' lives outside of school easier or more conducive to learning. But I can't. And I similarly cannot, with the resources that I am provided, do enough to overcome the challenges of their outside lives and catch them up to where they need to be.

This is the bane of every urban district in every major city in America. No one has, to use Donovan's terms, fashioned a school system capable of meeting all the challenges, capable of overcoming rampant poverty and its deleterious effects for the bulk of the students. The success stories are few and far between and, generally, damned expensive. (Here's one I read about recently.)

But Donovan's bloviations here also prompted the fourth of the letters to the editor, which came in this morning's paper:
Milwaukee Ald. Bob Donovan sees little or no correlation between poverty and poor performance by students in Milwaukee Public Schools []. He apparently feels that the system and teachers are to blame when children don't attend class regularly and fail to do the assigned work. He says crime rates have nothing to do with poverty.

This from a guy who has mercenaries patrolling three parts of his district because, apparently, the Milwaukee Police Department isn't doing as good of a job as expected by the citizens living there.
I believe the proper reaction is, as the kids say, "Oh, snap."

"I'd say he needs some more time in traffic court."

by folkbum

This is not about Lena Taylor--you can tell by the pronoun, although I think the same is true for her--but about Jefferson County judge Randy Koschnick, who is running for the state Supreme Court against Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson. What prompted the declaration that Koschnick needs time in traffic court? His own decision to just make the law up as he goes along:
Incredibly, Koschnick managed to get reversed in presiding over a traffic citation. In County of Jefferson v. Demler, Judge Koschnick determined that the County's failure to subpoena a witness was excusable neglect. Now, the standard for excusable neglect is well-known and long established. But Koschnick gave the County a free pass, without explanation, when the County was negligent in failing to subpoena a witness. (If you're a judicial conservative, you don't make the law up, you follow the gosh darn standard.)

In finding that Koschnick erred, the Court of Appeals noted that Koschnick failed to provide any legal basis for his decision. [. . .] As a result of Koschnick's error, the traffic citations were dismissed.
I realize that when you're SCOWI CJ like Abrahamson, it is hard to get overturned on appeal, what with there not being many higher courts to appeal to and all. But it should be pretty embarrassing for a judge to be overturned on a traffic ticket because he just makes stuff up.

And note who the complainer is here--Super Id, a self-described Republican and fan of Atlas Shrugged. If Koschnick could potentially be losing that demographic, well, congrats Justice Abrahamson.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

What's the Rush?

By Keith R. Schmitz

First a joke.

What's the difference between Rush Limbaugh and the Hindenburg?

One is a big flaming Nazi gas bag. The other is a dirigible.

Any ways thanks to the GOP and those who love them, tap dancing isn't dead. Such as it is in a letter that ran in today's Journal Sentinel:
Leonard Pitts' Jan. 27 column "Limbaugh's calculated rage" read like it was from one (of many?) who doesn't listen to Rush Limbaugh but feels free to criticize something without knowing the context in which the comment was made. If Pitts did know the context, he did not share that with his readers. It was this: Limbaugh believes President Barack Obama intends to try to grow big government and move the United States toward a European-style socialism. Limbaugh wants the president to fail to be able to set policies in place to do that.
As some of you may remember Milwaukee had a couple of Socialist mayors, church-going all, and things ran better here than during the past eight years under a less so socialist president.

Been to Europe? Unless people are putting on, and they are very bad at that in France, Europeans under crushing socialism don't seem so glum.

But what about this concept of the country succeeding, but Obama's policies failing?

Huh? Right now we will be pretty much operating on what will be Obama policies, so the success of this country is not mutually exclusive to Obama's programs. That would be like removing the core of an apple without breaking its skin.

But since when has logic been part of the Limbaugh nation, once referred to as the Republican party?


by folkbum

It is a sad day for comedy writers everywhere. The rest of us, I think, are relieved.

By the way, I love this photo of Blago. The AP photographer really captured that "Well that didn't work" look.

He's Not Gettin' a Dell

By Keith R. Schmitz

Now we've gone and pissed off the head of the KGB.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Bold = Tax Cuts for the Unemployed

by folkbum

Did I say bold? I meant dumb:
County Executive Scott Walker issued the following statement regarding tonight’s State of the State Address:

“The workers at Harley-Davidson who just heard that they are getting laid off need help now. The best way to truly stimulate the economy is with bold tax cuts that put more money into the hands of consumers."
They don't take taxes out of the unemployment checks, Scott. I'm terribly sorry you missed the chance to learn that for yourself last year, but any time you want to quit your job to test your theory, be my guest.

Man-Savage, indeed

by folkbum

Barry Orton, about friend-of-the-blog Ben Masel, suing:
Previously unreported details that came out at the trial included the fact that officer Michael Mansavage first missed Masel and instead peppersprayed his partner John McCaughtry, who was holding Masel by the arm at the time. Apparently, once McCaughtry and Mansavage had wrestled Masel into a face-down position on the ground, with McCaughtry's knee on Masel's back, Mansavage then peppersprayed Masel in the face. Mansavage also threatened to use a Taser on Masel for not putting his arm behind his back to be handcuffed fast enough, when the arm was, in fact, trapped under Masel's body.
News today: hung jury. Suing the Powers That Be for violating his civil rights is Ben's primary source of income; I hope take two is more successful for him.

Shovel Ready BS

By Keith R. Schmitz

Always a marvel to watch how purposely planted mis-information courses through the conservative body politic like ptomaine poisoning.

Local right wing sheep herder Charlie Sykes has this charming little habit of drive-by dropping bits of invective. This is sorta like one of the features on the Crazy World of Arthur Brown's performances where his roadies would stir up the crowd by dropping rubber bands on them and shouting "worms."

At the end of a January 26th post slamming the economic stimulus proposals, Sykes salts the end with the comment, "Apparently, Democrats also want to bail out ACORN." This links to his whacko gal pal Michelle Malkin, she the defender 0f America against the threat of keffiyehs.

Malkin parrots Cong. John Boehner's (R-Crybabyland) charge "that the left-wing voter fraud/illegal alien/housing entitlement racketeers at ACORN “could get billions” more in federal taxpayer funding from the Democrats’ stimulus bill."

She makes the jump from "apparently" to "to the victors go the spoils. Stolen from the pockets of your children and grandchildren." As if her Bush buddies have left kiddie pockets unmolested.

Limbaugh also carries the water on this point. At this point I have run out of high-blood pressure meds and you'll have to find the rest of the yodeling yourself.

Media Matters spoils the party and points out:
Limbaugh's claim that pursuant to the economic recovery plan, $4.19 billion "is going to ACORN" is false. The false claim is based on a misrepresentation of a provision that would appropriate $4,190,000,000 "for neighborhood stabilization activities related to emergency assistance for the redevelopment of abandoned and foreclosed homes as authorized under division B, title III of the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008." The provision requires that money to be distributed through competitive processes.
Competitive bidding? Wow! What a concept!

We certainly saw nothing like this during the conduct of the "reconstruction" of Iraq or the rebuilding of the Gulf following Katrina. Maybe Malkin and others of her ilk expect that this is the typical way to conduct government.

But for those of you who fret there is going to be this flood of stimulus ear marks should get used to this bizzare competitive bidding behavior on the part of the Obama administration. Bear in mind they won on a campaign that was rolling in cash yet compelled us volunteers to find donated canvassing space and whose staff largely worked for free.

Habits are hard to break no matter the party.

UPDATE -- The Brawler delves into more of Sykes' lies about the stimulus. 

Brace yourself.  A lot more of this will be rolling down the chute as the GOP gets desperate as they see their fantasies come to an end.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A Welcome Return

by folkbum

Ken Mobile is blogging again, and making a lot of sense.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Cutting out the Muddle Men

By Keith R. Schmitz

Let's throw this one out for batting around.

Health insurance companies have been with us since roughly World War II, when wages were frozen and companies had to come up with an alternative perk for their employees.

The war ended but the health insurance companies have lived on, becoming a major player in our health care system, with combined revenues for the top five insurance groups of $404 billion and profits hitting nearly $17 billion. Bear in mind we spend $2.5 trillion on health care in this country.

Not surprisingly as unemployment rises and while many companies are dropping this high priced coverage the numbers of policies written is declining. Net premiums written for these companies though grew an average of nearly 6 percent even as total members declined by almost 2 percent. Total revenue and net premiums written for the health industry as a whole grew 8.7 percent and 8.5 percent, respectively.

Availability of insurance to cover medical procedures has probably led to the rise in the cost of medical treatment. I am old enough to remember when a doctor made house calls. Something I feared since it often meant an injection in the backside.

No more as physician time has become too expensive, and it has risen because health insurance companies were able in part to make the payouts that grew the salaries.

No doubt about it. We have the best health care system on earth in terms of technology but one of the worst when it comes to access. Basically if you can't afford treatment there is a possibility you don't get it, because health insurance companies for many have become the gatekeepers.

As much as bold capitalist types tout the empowerment of "consumer health care," none of them have answers to the problem of health insurance companies employing armies of experts just to deny claims or even prevent people in the first place from getting coverage due to pre-existing conditions. Maybe I'm wrong on this point and would love being corrected.

Health insurance companies introduce waste into a system that suffers enough from productivity issues. Every medical office has to have at least one FTE to deal with the insurance paperwork and physicians are continually on the phone fighting denials of claims, taking away valuable time from patients.

So the question is, what would happen to us as a country as if health insurance companies were subtracted from our health care equation? Are these companies barnacles on our economy that need to be scraped off or do they serve a valid function?

Answers such as the government doesn't do anything right is a great ideology but not an answer.

Though we would feel for people in the health insurance industry loosing their jobs, for many that champion health care insurance companies there seem to be little concern about workers loosing their jobs on the altar of free trade.

So have at it.

UPDATE -- One irrelevant reply on this topic. Looks like insurance companies have no place in the health care system.

McIlheran Watch: First Amendment is "a certain narrow-minded secularity."

by folkbum

I have received a few responses to my op-ed in yesterday's paper, most positive, many from fellow teachers. The Cheddarsphere has tended so far to leave the column alone, though I did get a rise out of one of my more regular sparring partners who was, in fact, mentioned in the piece.

I wrote, as part of a list of "solutions" to MPS's problems proffered by a variety of folk, "editorial columnist Patrick McIlheran [. . .] wants to put God back in MPS." I did not think this controversial, because, after all, I based that on what McIlheran wrote himself two weeks ago:
Frankly, I think it would be hard to teach morals and ethics without some reference to God, however understood. That’s why I send my kids to a school that’s free to mention Him. It’s wonderful that about 20,000 Milwaukee children can do so under the school choice program.

That still leaves 80,000 in MPS which, because of a certain narrow-minded secularity in American political culture, can’t mention God. Pity.
I do not think I was stretching; I have a hard time believing any reasonable reader could see those words and not come away feeling he thinks MPS needs God. Apparently, McIlheran disagrees. Last night, he wrote, "Bullock is wrong when he assumes I want to put God back in MPS." He goes on to explain that what he really meant was that he wants to take all the kids out of MPS and put them into private schools where God (or the deity of parents' choice) is woven into the education. That's so much better.

As one who works with the students in question daily, I do not believe that what they lack is religion. Occasiaonlly the worst offenders will talk of what they did and who they saw at church last weekend, just before they send a stream of profanity across the room disrupting the class. (I am not making this up.) I doubt, sadly, that many could spell atheist or secular, let alone embrace those principles for themselves.

(Aside: Saying MPS students need religion is in some ways like saying they need self-esteem. Are you kidding? Most of my students already have incredibly high self-regard, often vastly overestimating their own abilities and prospects for the future. The boys are all convinced they will be NBA stars and the girls are convinced they will win "American Idol" some day. I do not need to stroke their egos or boost their self-esteem!)

What disturbs me now in retrospect about McIlheran's original piece, the one that said it was a "pity" that God was being left out of MPS, is that he dismisses the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States as "a certain narrow-minded secularity in American political culture." I am sure that when James Madison, et al., were crafting the words that barred an establishment of religion, the last thing they expected to be called was "narrow-minded."

There is a probably apocryphal story about a certain ex-president referring to the Constitution as "just a [. . .] piece of paper." I doubt he said that, but it seems clear that there is a certain strain of conservative who values his own sense of the way things ought to be over the way things are, and whatever gets in the way is mere formality and not actually prohibitive.

But regardless of whence people personally get their sense of right and wrong (McIlheran links to some discussion in his post; fellow atheist Scott Feldstein was writing about this recently, too), we are country of laws that derive not from divine inspiration but from a secular notion of individual rights. The right to be free from others' religious imposition is an important one to me, and somehow, absent God, and following a fully secular education in integrated, relatively urban public schools and a non-religious private college, I turned out just fine. I demand nothing less of my own students today, and I don't--I shouldn't--need to threaten them with eternal damnation to get them to behave in class.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Mathias for School Board

by folkbum

(Very late update: Apparently, the fact that the post below includes a typo and a colloquialism is a source of great amusement to simple-minded conservative trolls. Apologies if you were sent here expecting to be see some horrible and unspeakable human failure.)

Milwaukee's fourth school board district has been without representation since at least the first of the year and without effective representation for some time before that. The incumbent is running a quixotic (though less noble) write-in campaign and is likely to be defeated soundly in the primary.

The February 17 primary offers the voters some choices; my recommendation is Michael J. Mathias.

I've known Mathias for some years now as a member of the progressive blogging community here in Milwaukee. He is smart, her is a hella good writer, and he has a big heart and thoughtful mind. He has kids in MPS schools, including one with special needs. I've had a few conversations with him recently about this seat, and he has both a solid grasp on the issues and a sense that there is still a lot more to seek out and learn. He will not merely fill a seat on the board; he will be a tireless advocate for progress and the well-being of our children.

The astute among you will note that Mathias is not the candidate endorsed by my union, and you would be right. The thing is this: MTEA has endorsed a member of the union, which is not a bug surprise, but it could be bad thing. If she is elected and she remains a substitute teacher (and, given the comparatively low pay of the board, I wouldn't blame her), she will not be able to serve as a full member of the board, as she would have to recuse herself from any votes on contractual matters.

Mathias will have no such restrictions on his voting. Isn't it time the fourth district had full representation?

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Welcome "Crossroads" Readers

by folkbum

The long version of what you read in Sunday's paper can be found here, with much discussion already underway in the comments there. Join in!

Also, check out the Bay View Compass, my usual printed home.

... adding: One thing I would adjust slightly from my original post is my paraphrase of Fernandez's plan (I'm sure someone will come by here to complain) to clarify that she wants to replace the MPS board, not merely to empanel a group to make binding recommendations. My critique remains: We are not far past the last attempt at "big idea" gathering, which she seems to ignore.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

In this season of goodwill and glad tidings

by folkbum

There are those who could use a little bit of help. One of those, digby reminds us, is Barbara O'Brien. She holds a special place for me because she edited the only book that I am in (so far), which was the first book-length academic examination of political blogging. Consider chipping in.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The saddest part about Drinking Liberally tonight ...

by folkbum

... was not that the Sugar Maple was packed to near overcapacity for the whole evening and it was hard to move around at times. No, it's that the capacity crowd of gleeful, exuberant, celebratory Democrats could barely muster the energy to make a solid effort at throwing slippers or hats or gloves at a guy in an orange jumpsuit and a George W. Bush mask. It took Teh Man many tries to convince someone to do it, and the winner (for this was a contest! with prizes!) could only muster a (I kid you not) "Fer cryin' out loud, get out of here already!"

Jason made a valiant effort to drum up the crowd for the pelting, but it was really kind of embarrassing to watch.

On the other hand, there really was a great crowd and a great vibe and way too many bloggers there to list all of them--including Greg Kowalski, whom I met for the first time tonight finally. Lots of fun and good conversation. (And Nick: Ally's a keeper.)

So it's back to work today

by folkbum

Although I keep thinking there's something else going on today that I should be paying attention to. No idea what it is, though. Long weekend made my brain soft. Consider this an open thread to discuss what's afoot today.

Oh, and don't forget to come to the party tonight.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Dick Chaney to Appear at Inauguration in Wheelchair

Let me get this straight

by folkbum

Two years ago we were supposed to be upset that our public servants weren't taking their sick leave, and today we are supposed to be upset that they are taking their sick leave? How come no one ever gives me a heads up that we're changing our position? I end up so far out of the loop ...

Bush Image Rehab -- It Probably Ain't Going to Happen

Keith R. Schmitz

It is time to look forward.

But the idea being floated out there that George Bush, who leaves office with an approval rating equal to that of liver, is going to be looked upon kindly by history is at best a futile hope. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel this morning managed to find four people from the Bush-friendly suburbs who feel that someday Bush will be given his due credit.

Of course we have no idea how people and certainly historians are going to think 25 years out and beyond. Bush is a comparatively young man. Jimmy Carter turned out to be a much better post-president than he was a president, and his image has been burnished considerably by his vigorous humanitarian activities.

But the people who love Bush the best seem to come down on Carter for showing up to referee elections round the world and working on houses for Habitat for mindless do-gooderism. We hear it all the time. It would be delightful and encouraging though if W. would head up some massive humanitarian effort. What he did about AIDS in Africa does show some hopeul sins.

So the notion is that Harry Truman left the White House with dismal ratings and now is revered lead to why not Bush? But there is reason to believe that the similarity of low public regard stops there.

Start just with the circumstance of simply bidding adieu to Washington. Truman was so broke he had to borrow money simply to move back to the family home in Independence. Bush is going to be relocating to a multimillion dollar domicile in a Dallas suburb.

Then rewind to Truman's background for a check on the character issue. Sure Truman and Bush both had businesses go belly up. Truman paid back every cent he owned on the haberdashery store. Bush got bailed out by his father and his friends.

Before that Truman served his country in World War I as captain of a gunnery unit in France, greatly exposed to peril. Bush got bumped into the National Guard by his family connections. Those of us under the threat of a low draft number knew what the National Guard was for and it was not a ticket to Nam. Then there is strong evidence Bush failed to perform his obligations with his air unit.

Leading up to the presidency, Truman got his boost to the Missouri US Senate seat through his association with the corrupt Pendergast machine in Kansas City. Truman appreciated the ride and was always loyal to his boss. But that did not affect his role as county judge -- a position similar to county executive. Truman assiduously worked to get projects such as the Jackson County courthouse built with competitive bidding and a close eye to expenses. Compare that to the no-bid contracts that poured out of the Bush administration for Iraq reconstruction.

Similarly Truman made his name nationally by heading up a bi-partisan Senate commission which rained holy hell on contractors and members of the military that tried to profit or slack off on the war effort. Again, you find no such effort during the Iraq effort.

Then look at how they got their low approval ratings. Take a walk through the Truman presidential library and witness the many really tough decisions that Truman made during his administration -- dropping the A-Bomb on Japan, the Marshall Plan, civil rights, recognition of Israel, the Korean War and many others. Much of this was forward thinking and made with the good of the country and the world in mind and because he did something that is sadly rare in American politicians -- bucked public opinion. I still have trouble imagining what the exhibits will laud at the Bush Presidential Library.

This is not to say Truman was perfect. There too was a lot of cronyism in his administration. Aha! A similarity.

But you will find none of this aspiration to greatness in Bush's decisions, or any evidence that he really made decisions. Truman's vice-president Alben Barkley was largely a seat warmer, not the behind the scenes manipulator played by Dick Cheney.

The idea that Bush has left the Obama holding the bag by passing off a bad economy is subject to debate and right now it doesn't look good for W. But his only claim to fame is that we have not been attacked after 9/11/01, as if his administration began on 9/12/01, overlooking that the perpetrator has been allowed to run free longer than Bernie Madoff. Though we have kept the lid on it here, the patience of Al Qaeda is long and terrorism has been on the rise outside of our borders.

The game of who is similar when it comes the presidency leads down a blind alley. Barack Obama is not nor never will be Abe Lincoln or FDR. But clearly for those of us who know of Harry S. Truman, George W. Bush is no Harry S. Truman.

America though is a country of second acts. Our best wishes for George W. Bush is that he finds the personal fulfillment of using his fame and connections to make a difference during his now free time.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

January Drinking Liberally is on TUESDAY

by folkbum

So if you want to come hang out with me, don't go showing up at the Sugar Maple at the regular Wednesday time. Details, via Teh Man:
“The End of an Error!”
Drinking Liberally Presidential Inauguration Party

7:00 PM onward on Tuesday, January 20
Sugar Maple (in the back room)
441 E. Lincoln Avenue, Milwaukee

Celebrate Barack Obama’s Inauguration
Honor the City of New Orleans
Remember those we’ve lost under George the Worst
Work and pray for the future

Friday, January 16, 2009

FAA and the Economy

By Keith R. Schmitz

As spectacular and potentially tragic as the breakdown of the US Airways plane flying over New York City and its brilliant landing in the Hudson River, the next thought is we have not seen a fatal crash of a major aircraft in years.

In no small part this is due to having the watchful of eyes of a regulatory agency -- the FAA.

My wife used to work for Midwest Airlines and from time to time I got to go back into the hangar. For anyone who flies this is a reassuring opportunity because you get to see first hand how strict and closely followed the maintenance procedures are.

On the other hand, look at the regulation of the financial industry. Here we literally have planes falling out of the sky just about every day.

We can point fingers about the cause and of course there is the GOP belief in delayed response, nailing the meltdown to Clinton or all the way back to Carter.

Whatever. The point is we need not only strong financial regulation but regulation that morphs as the best the brightest on Wall Street come up with new ways to game the system.

One thing that should be noted is that many of the people who work for the FAA are formerly from the airlines. The relationship is cozier than that. At every major airline there is an FAA office on site.

Though there is some bristling by the airlines from time to time of the regulations, there seems to be the recognition that having someone looking over their shoulder is keeping the planes up in the air.

Why? The penalties of an air crash can be harsh and swift for an airline. People will be leery about taking a plane with a line that has had one of their fleet go down. Market share suffers.

No such effect exists on Wall Street. For a crowd that worships "personal responsibility" and "consequences," none of this exists in the world of finance. Failure is dealt with severely, with severely high salaries and bonuses no matter how much the company tanks.

Nothing gets learned because why learn anything if none of the captains of these firms suffer. Someone sticks up a convenience store for a hundred bucks and they get whisked off to the county jug instantly. Bernie Madoff made off with billions and he whiles away his time in his luxury roost.

It is befuddling that conservatives who are so worried about THEIR MONEY and cry to high heaven when a dollar of tax increase gets proposed don't want to see something done to prevent their money from magically disappearing every 15 years. The excuse is that regulation would gum up the engine of capitalism, but why should byzantine financial instruments or using sex to up sell NINJA mortgage packages be part of the equation?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

And there it is--MPS Closed Friday

by folkbum

Just announced at the MPS homepage.

Given that the actual temperature predicted for 6AM tomorrow is 5° less than the temperature at 6AM this morning, it makes sense.

Trouble is, this is the end of a semester, and I had projects and papers due before exams start Tuesday morning. (No school Monday for the MLK holiday). I'm not sure yet how I'm going to handle that.

I wanted to try one

by folkbum

h/t Brawler. The folks at Whallah! are free to use this with abandon. Or make your own.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

So the Liberal Media Doesn't Work

By Keith R. Schmitz

Yesterday I alluded that somehow people are going to have to figure out how to make on-line media for news pay off (though Jay did take us all out to dinner one night on this site's revenues).

Looks like someone has according to The Nieman Journalism Lab:
When people talk about aggregator models for news, they always bring up Drudge, Huffington Post, and The Daily Beast. But I wonder why more attention doesn’t get paid to Daily Kos, which adds a strong editorial voice, an affection for activism, and a huge and involved community to the typical aggregation model. And Daily Kos seems to have more of a news-y feel than it used to — something I suspect will continue past Jan. 20. Their newish Congress Matters site is stuffed full of news. Founder Markos Moulitsas Zúniga just announced 2008 revenues “easily broke $1 million” and allowed the site to have a paid staff of eight.

Fix Milwaukee First

by folkbum

The Milwaukee Public Schools face two intractable crises, concurrently. There is the crisis of finances, and the crisis of achievement. One fact is clear: We cannot solve both.

It gets worse when you consider that events are conspiring to bring both crises to a head at roughly the same time: The pressures of the No Child Left Behind law and its all-stick, no-carrot approach to education reform has led the state to declare, for three years running, that MPS is a District Identified for Improvement. Much more of that, and the federal law demands state action to alter the district in radical ways. And the current financial crisis leaves MPS struggling to pay its bills without bankrupting our cash-strapped state government and our city's taxpayers.

There is no good way out of this. To improve achievement enough to get the state off our backs, MPS would need a massive infusion of funds to almost literally tutor tens of thousands of students one-on-one, eight hours a day. To solve our financial woes, we would need to lay off staff, shutter buildings, kill programs, and strip administrative offices to bare bones. The two solutions are mutually exclusive and by themselves almost unpalatable.

I have said it before (most recently in January's Compass) and I will say it again: The problems of the Milwaukee Public Schools are largely not school problems, but Milwaukee problems. The schools, and the rigorous testing regime required of the schools, are the places where the ills of the community become manifest. The statistics about childhood poverty are staggering (80% of MPS's students qualify for free or reduced lunch), but not nearly so offensive to our sensibilities as the stunning fact that 60% or more of our high-schoolers cannot read at grade level. The fact that in any given year 3,000 Milwaukee children will be homeless for at least part of the time is awful, but not nearly so upsetting as the fact that barely half of our black male students graduate on time if at all.

My theory about why this disparity exists is pretty simple: There is no one easily to blame for the former statistics in each sentence above. For the latter numbers, though, there is someone to blame, and that's the schools.

Now, I am not saying, nor have I ever said, that there is nothing MPS could be doing better. I think there are things we could do differently. However, the evidence is clear from three decades of urban education reform (including nearly 20 years of throwing everything you can think of at the problems of MPS) that the gains to be made are marginal at best.

I have written before about the research that shows how in a school with half or more of the students in poverty there is only about a 1% chance that the school will be high-achieving. I recently learned of a new study that measured the physiological differences in the brains of children living in poverty (my emphasis):
In a study recently accepted for publication by the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, scientists at UC Berkeley's Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute and the School of Public Health report that normal 9- and 10-year-olds differing only in socioeconomic status have detectable differences in the response of their prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain that is critical for problem solving and creativity. [. . .]

"Kids from lower socioeconomic levels show brain physiology patterns similar to someone who actually had damage in the frontal lobe as an adult," said Robert Knight, director of the institute and a UC Berkeley professor of psychology. "We found that kids are more likely to have a low response if they have low socioeconomic status, though not everyone who is poor has low frontal lobe response." [. . .] "These kids have no neural damage, no prenatal exposure to drugs and alcohol, no neurological damage," Kishiyama said. "Yet, the prefrontal cortex is not functioning as efficiently as it should be. This difference may manifest itself in problem solving and school performance."
It's no wonder 20% of MPS students have been identified as special needs. It's no wonder that in some high schools, close to a third of the students are eligible for special education. And it's no wonder the cost of teaching poorer and poorer students keeps getting higher.

In the past few months we have seen an increase in the calls for something to be done by--or, more often, to--MPS, precisely because of the two crises I opened with. Yet, the single best way to improve both the financial status of the district and the achievement level of its students is to do something to--or, rather, for--the city of Milwaukee. If the status and lives of our children were different (the poverty, the unemployment, the poor health care, the unstable families, the moving all the time, and all of that), the results would be different, and far cheaper to achieve.

The problem, of course, is that, again, there is no one to blame for the problems of urban Milwaukee. There's no one agency or organization or prime mover to identify and change. God speed to David Riemer and his new group trying to something about it, though.

Instead, we're left with a bunch of people pointing at MPS and offering "solutions" that will ultimately solve nothing.

We have State Senator Ted Kanavas (who refused to talk to me in advance of that January Compass column), who wants to split MPS into eight smaller districts. In the end, we'll go from having the one worst district in the state to having the six worst and two more in the bottom 20. (Kanavas's op-ed deserves a longer, fuller fisking, but I just never had the time to do it when it was released. His proposal will die a quiet death in committee.)

We have Milwaukee Alderman Bob Donovan, who, depending on what day it is, wants to grant power over all schools in the city, public and private, to an education czar; or split off the schools in his aldermanic district into their own little entity; or have the city take control and divide the district.

We have the editorial board of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, which has advocated both for city control (see the loyal opposition here and here) and possibly scrapping the district entirely.

We have Milwaukee Alderman Willie Hines, who thinks more values education will do the trick. And MJS wingnut Patrick McIlheran who wants to put Jebus back in the schools.

And now the State Superintendent candidates are on the move, with "virtual schools advocate" Rose Fernandez calling for a blue-ribbon commission to study the problems of MPS and propose a solution. Apparently, Fernandez missed MPS's "Working Together, Achieving More" project, bankrolled by the Greater Milwaukee Committee, which did pretty much what she is calling for: WTAM gathered business, civic, labor, school, religious, and community members together with anyone else who had something positive to offer to create a long-term strategic plan for the district that would be binding and full of accountability. It got a lot of press and is available online (38-page .pdf), but apparently the news never made it up to Fernandez that we just finished a project like she demands. (The big MPS news of the day, in fact, is that we have achieved one of the main goals of that strategic plan--a significant reduction in days lost to suspension.)

I don't blame people for wanting to "fix" the schools. Well, I do, actually; let me rephrase and say that I understand where the impulse comes from. Rose Fernandez isn't going to win the hearts and minds of voters by saying there is little to be done in, with, by, or to MPS to change the test results or balance the books. None of the other candidates will say that, nor will any of the candidates for MPS school board this spring. The mayor won't say it, the superintendent won't say it, and you sure won't hear school principals telling parents that.

But I will say it. I have said it. And as long as I have this little slice of bloggy goodness at my disposal, I will keep saying it. If you want to fix MPS--financially or academically--fix Milwaukee first.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Newspapers Caught in a Net?

By Keith R. Schmitz

According to recent by a study from the Pew Research Center, both TV and newspapers are loosing readership share to the Internet as a source for news.

The erosion is steady and relentless. Only radio and magazines -- what is known as "old media" -- have gained somewhat. And quite likely those sources are appealing to an older -- and sad to say -- dying segment of the audience.

As we have seen on many blogs and what has been floating around the Web, that has not been always a very authentic source. Some sites are reaching for the level of journalism that could be called professional. Talking Points is one of them and has been recognized by the media for their astuteness.

Nevertheless, many newspaper sites are doing brisk business, including our own Journal Sentinel. The only problem is that so far the secret to making money on the Internet by news sources remains a mystery.

This is could be a problem for our democracy. In order for the machinery to work effectively, there has to be a reliable form of communication. Even yahoo admits that without the traditional sources feeding into their sites, they do not have the means of news gathering.

Of course there will be some who will celebrate the demise because they regard the "mainstream media" as being biased. But if that stream dries up our form of government will be left high and dry.

It's a dilemma. The Internet if anything implies a free flow of information. But to get it, someone has to be paid to do the job on a regular basis. That as we know, is capitalism.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Tell Scott Walker: Milwaukee Needs A Stimulus

by capper

From the AFL-CIO Labor Council:

As you may have heard, Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker is using

Milwaukee’s economic crisis to advance his political agenda, rather than

leading the fight to turn Milwaukee’s economy around. He is saying publicly

that he, as the top elected official in Milwaukee County, would refuse to

seek out any federal stimulus dollars because it's against his political


But with years of deferred maintenance, soaring unemployment, a crumbling

infrastructure. .. We all know that Milwaukee County can't afford this kind

of stubborn foolishness when it comes to our future. Even the conservative

head of the Metro Milwaukee Chamber of Commerce said last week, if the

federal government is going to have a stimulus, Milwaukee can’t afford to be

left out.

Please join AFSCME District Council 48, Milwaukee Area Labor Council,

Wisconsin Federation of Nurses & Health Professionals, Wisconsin Fair Trade

Coalition, Citizen Action of Wisconsin and many others tomorrow at the

Milwaukee County Courthouse for a rally to tell Scott Walker that Milwaukee

County cannot afford to be left out of a national stimulus program!

What: Tell Scott Walker that MILWAUKEE NEEDS A STIMULUS

When: Tuesday, January 13, 2009, from 12:00 noon - 12:45 p.m.

Where: Milwaukee County Courthouse

Please consider taking a few minutes out of your busy day tomorrow to join

us and let County Executive Walker know that the needs of Milwaukee County

are more important than his political aspirations!

I know this is awfully short notice, but if you're off tomorrow, or can make it during your lunch break, please do try to stop by, and let Walker know that he needs to worry about doing the job he has now, before he even considers trying for a promotion he won't get anyway.

Crossposted across the cheddarsphere, because this is that important!

The Horse Won't Get Any Deader

by folkbum

But Dan Bice is still passing around the baseball bat to keep beating it. It would be nice if Bice started work on the current school board candidates, like the guy that (so I've heard) Spence Korté had to take out a restraining order against. That would be news.

The Right-Wing Blogosphere in a Nutshell

by folkbum
I think media should be abolished from, uh, you know, reporting.
... adding, non-video transcript here; note he's number 20 here.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Charles Morgan -- Civil Rights Crusader, Passes Away at Age 78

By Keith R. Schmitz

It is rare, especially lately, when you hear of someone living his life courageously as Charles Morgan Jr. Morgan recently died Alzheimer's disease.

I got to know his son Charles Morgan III in Destin, FL. They are a little short on Democrats down there but Charley is someone who has put the 50 state strategy in action locally before Howard Dean made it happen across the country. Last year he had Bill Clinton down for a fund raiser at his "Harbor Docks" restaurant and raised $100,000.

Then there is his father who had the guts to fight Birmingham's segregationist leaders in the early 1960s. This was a time when people who stood up to the establishment lost there businesses or had worse happen to them. Morgan, by the way, was white.

In an Alabama reapportionment case known as Reynolds vs. Sims, he won a 1964 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that required voting districts to be equal in population, a blow to the political power of rural legislators who until then dominated the statehouse.

The case was one of a handful that made the "one man, one vote" principle part of federal law and protected the political voice of voters in growing urban centers.

A University of Alabama Law School graduate, Morgan did political battle against Eugene "Bull" Connor and Birmingham's segregationist leadership early on, condemning the city's failures in a widely reported civic club speech after a 1963 church bombing killed four black girls.

According to Julian Bond, current chairman of the NAACP's national board, "(Morgan) was a giant who remade the South through the courtroom as Martin Luther King remade it through marching feet."

Morgan also defended Mohammed Ali against charges of draft evasion.

Early in Morgan's career, he publicly deplored racial injustice and represented indigent blacks at no cost in his spare time while working at a corporate law firm in Birmingham. Then, in September 1963, the day after four young black girls died in the firebombing of Birmingham's Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, Morgan took the podium at the Young Men's Business Club.

"We are a mass of intolerance and bigotry, and stand indicted before our young," he said. "We are cursed by the failure of each of us to accept responsibility, by our defense of an already dead institution. . . . Every person in this community who has in any way contributed during the past several years to the popularity of hatred is at least as guilty as the demented fool who threw the bomb.

"Who did it? Who threw that bomb? The answer should be, 'We all did it.' "

The community reaction was swift and brutal. Crosses were burned on his lawn, polite society shunned him, and he received anonymous death threats. He eventually moved his family out of the city.

It is sad that acts of courage such as this have to be regarded as exceptional.

Friday, January 09, 2009

A Day that Ends in -y

by folkbum

So Patrick McIlheran is bashing the teachers union:
Doyle and several other governors say they want any federal stimulus to bail out their budget deficits with $250 million in aid to schools. Not for building new ones: No poised shovels here. It's just to fend off cuts, says Doyle. While federal spending on schools has risen 40% in the past eight years, without such further insulation, "we will see a great falloff in the quality of our schools," he said. [. . .]

Our state spends, per person, a bit above the national median. Wisconsin incomes are lower than average. The budget's a mess not because we're undertaxed but because the state chronically spends as if its taxpayers were richer than they are.

Fiscally insulating school spending does nothing about this. Even if the feds could bail out our state without robbing someone else, it simply would preserve a level of spending that we couldn't afford anyway. A bailout forestalls real change.

Real change wouldn't ruin our schools, either. Wisconsin school spending is driven by high labor costs. Salaries aren't so out of line. Benefits are, sixth-highest per pupil by federal figures. Not coincidentally, most school districts are locked into high-cost, traditional health plans, a primary seller of which is an arm of the state's leading teachers union, WEAC. [. . .] So why does Doyle want Washington to salvage states' bad school spending habits? Got me; I suspect he's being a pal to WEAC.
At least the man is consistent: He blamed UAW for the failures of GM, Ford, and Chrysler, after all, so why not blame the union for the bankruptcy of our schools.

Problem is, the union is not why Wisconsin's benefit costs are so high and why they have skyrocketed in the last decade or two--the high cost of health care, generally, is. From the paper he works for, so, you know, he should have read it:
The Mercer survey found that the cost of health benefits in the state averaged $10,037 for each employee--18% higher than the national average of $8,482. [. . .] This year, total health-benefit costs for Wisconsin employers increased 4% for each active employee, compared with a 6.3% increase nationally, according to the Mercer survey. The increases would have been higher if employers hadn't raised deductibles, co-pays and other out-of-pocket expenses.
I--a teacher!--am one of those whose "deductibles, co-pays and other out-of-pocket expenses" was raised last year. But consider the stat at the beginning of that blockquote: Wisconsin's health care costs are 18% higher than he national average. Not school labor costs--it doesn't sound like schools were even in the Mercer survey--but health care costs generally. I am not sure how WEAC is to blame for that.

In fact, studies have shown that WEAC is not to blame. Again, this is from the paper McIlheran works for:
High health care costs in the Milwaukee area stem from the market power of health care systems, according to a study by the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute.

The study contends that health care systems have increased their market power by employing physicians, which gives them a referral base for their hospitals, which makes it harder for would-be competitors to enter the market.
To be fair, the article does allow the systems comprising near-monopolies outside of the Milwaukee area to claim, without data, that they are not as expensive as Milwaukee area providers. However, it is clear that statewide, our health care costs are higher than average and it's not the fault of WEAC or public employees' unions.

So what to do about expensive education spending? Well, one thing would be to let the feds give us some money. (They already owe us 35 five years of promised special education money, after all.) Another thing would be to implement some kind of health care reform that would make it possible for not just schools but everyone else in Wisconsin to get health care at a lower price, something like--though not necessarily it exactly--Healthy Wisconsin, which could have been saving local school districts (and, hence, taxpayers) hundreds of millions of dollars had it been enacted two years ago.

But why talk about something that would help people when you can just bash the union? At least, that's Mcilerhan's ploy.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Heinemann's closing: I may not have noticed without the screaming headlines

by folkbum

People losing their jobs is never a good thing. However, after giving Heinemann's two or three chances over the years I've lived in Milwaukee (note: I still have never eaten at a George Webb's), I remained unimpressed. The food was expensive and uninteresting, and, most importantly, not all that great.

I know it's an institution and whatnot, but if you can't make the food good enough to bring back people like me who enjoy eating out (may as well let someone else wash the dishes, I say), then you're not going to succeed.

On a related note: I'm still looking for a good grilled chicken sandwich since the local Charcoal Grill went under. And not some frilly frou-frou nouvelle world-cuisiney chicken-ish thing, either--just a good grilled breast of chicken on a kaiser roll with some lettuce, mayo, tomato, and maybe a slice of cheese with a pile of tasty fries.

Cafe Centraal has the good fries, but no chicken sandwich. Any suggestions?

Running tally of blogs from which your humble folkbum has been banned

by folkbum

1. Real Debate Wisconsin

(Six years of blogging and commenting, it took, but I can finally start my list. I haven't even been banned by RedState, and they ban everybody.)

(Also, some history.)

In the Ideological Bubble

By Keith R. Schmitz

We have our once renowned parks system, transit system, mental health system and county courthouse crumbling and our county Executive Herbert Hoover Walker is telling the Obama administration thanks no thanks to the possible federal stimulus money.
The only federal economic stimuli Walker endorses are tax cuts, and he credited President-elect Barack Obama for recommending $300 billion in such cuts as part of a much larger stimulus plan.
"The last thing you want to do is put money in hands of government," if the goal is to pull the economy from recession, Walker said. This is intractability we can believe in.

The upside is that kids will get a history lesson about what burrowed us deeper into the Great Depression, which was the calcified notion that cutting taxes and a balanced budget would grow the economy. It's just that many of us don't want to experience it first hand.

It has been fashionable for conservatives to claim that FDR's policies prolonged the Depression. David Sirota in a recent column deftly shoots down that notion.

Apparently Walker thinks he is going to make it to Maple Bluff by appealing to that small -- but moneyed -- minority that still believes that doing nothing to stop the avalanche of the bad economy is the best policy. Just leave my income alone.

It will be interesting if the county board can do an end-around and does land a piece of the stimulus pie. If it doesn't, Milwaukee will sink further behind other big cities.

One reason why Milwaukee county and other local governments are on their knees is because state aid has been cut off thanks to the economy and the other worldly Grover Norquist philosophy of starve the beast, implimented by glossy eyed minions. In a democracy we are the government, so we must be the beast and we are being starved.

At first FDR bought into balancing budgets and cutting taxes to stimulate the economy. But in The Defining Moment, Jonathan Alter's book on FDR's first 100 days, the author points out that what benefited Franklin Roosevelt and the country was he had a flexibility of mind and was not tied to ideology, therefore he was open to a number of options. Scott Walker is not so encumbered.

If Walker wants to make history the first bit of wisdom is avoid repeating it.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Pushing Back Against Late-Term Ignorance

by bert
Good ol' Capper, once a fellow Folkbum nestling but now soaring with his own blog Cognitive Dissidence, stirred up some ignorance-baring outrage at the blog "Right View Wisconsin" that I want to highlight. A "Right View" contributor named Amy was jousting with Capper with posts and counter-posts about Bush when she said this:
I laughed out loud while reading your [Capper's] baseless response. You say: "The media didn't question Bush when he claimed Iraq was involved in 9/11?" When did Bush ever make such a claim? He didn't. It was our media that tried to make it appear as though Bush said Iraq was to blame for 9/11 - a statement NEVER made by our president.

Her verbiage is an example of many forces hard at work right now burnishing what they hope will be a favorable public memory of the Bush presidency. The only reason I care is the little matter of a freakin' war that Bush started, for God's sake. (Another legacy-burnishing example: New York Times conservative columnist William Kristol just Monday tried to sneak in the subjunctive clause reading: "following on the heels of our success in Iraq" in a column supporting Israel's war on Gaza. Sorry Bill, uh uh.)

So I need again to push back against this nonsense. I guess it needs to be said that the White House wanted us to think there was a link between 9-11 and Saddam Hussein. To do it, I'll let another New York Times columnist, Frank Rich, do all the work:

The president now [in February, 2007] says his government never hyped any 9/11-Iraq links. “Nobody has ever suggested that the attacks of September the 11th were ordered by Iraq,” he said last August after finally conceding that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. In fact everyone in the administration insinuated it constantly, including him. Mr. Bush told of “high-level” Iraq-Qaeda contacts “that go back a decade” in the same notorious October 2002 speech that gave us Saddam’s imminent mushroom clouds. So effective was this propaganda that by 2003 some 44 percent of Americans believed (incorrectly) that the 9/11 hijackers had been Iraqis; only 3 percent had seen an Iraq link right after 9/11.

Though the nonexistent connection was even more specious than the nonexistent nuclear W.M.D., Mr. Bush still leans on it today even while denying that he does so. He has to. His litanies that we are “on the offense” by pursuing the war in Iraq and “fighting terrorists over there, so that we don’t have to fight them here” depend on the premise that we went into that country in the first place to vanquish Al Qaeda and that it is still the “central front” in the war on terror. In January’s State of the Union address hawking the so-called surge, Mr. Bush did it again, warning that to leave Iraq “would be to ignore the lessons of September the 11th and invite tragedy.”

Another good summary of this marketing campaign and the evidence in the so-called Downing Street Memo is the testimony posted here.

The Bush Administration formed the White House Iraq Group (WHIG) in August 2002 to market the war. The Administration waited to introduce the WHIG's product to the public until September 2002, because, as White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card told The New York Times,"[y]ou don't introduce new products in August."

That "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy" [as stated in the Downing Street Memo leaked from a British cabinet meeting] is confirmed by the multi-layered effort by the Administration to pressure officials within the Administration to find links between Saddam and September 11 and to manipulate intelligence officials and agencies into overstating WMD threats. Further evidence includes the forgery of documents purporting to show that Iraq had tried to purchase uranium, and the retribution exacted against those who questioned that lie (including Ambassador Joseph Wilson and IAEA Director General and now Nobel Peace Laureate Mohammed El Baradei). Just this week, the New York Times reported on a newly released State Department memo that, in early 2002, had debunked the claim that Iraq had tried to purchase uranium in Niger.

Does all this -- uranium from Niger, Downing Street Memo, "lessons of 9-11" -- ring any bells out there? Of course they do. It's not Bush Derangement Syndrome to remember stuff that happened.

By the way, what do you call those doo-hickeys inside the bells that makes them ring -- a capper, or clapper, or something like that?

With the GOP, Class Is Not In Session

By Keith R. Schmitz

If there is any question about the GOP having any concern for the economic health of this country let's say the Minnesota senate election may be erasing that notion.

In today's it has been reported that Democratic majority leader Harry Reid will not right now seat the apparent winner of that election Al Franken, even though the laborious hand count of over 3 million votes has him the winner.

If you recall elections past, when the results were in doubt during the the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections in Florida and Ohio respectively the GOP pleaded for us all to "move on" for the good of the country. In both cases the Democratic candidates did, for the good of the country although for the "good of the country" that meant George W. Bush as president. The irony is apparent here.

Now it might seem that function has been turned off within the GOP regarding now former Senator Norm Coleman's disappearing seat.

Don't ya think the good people of Minnesota deserve their representation in the Senate during these important debates coming up?

Senator Harry Reid might be regarded as a milquetoast for saying he will not seat Franken in the Senate, but it is quite likely he has heard things from his GOP colleagues in the cloakroom.

We now have an economic war to fight, and the GOP is threatening to hold it up with a time-wasting filibuster on behalf of Coleman if Franken tries to take a seat. Our crisis is telling us we need to move and move now or the Obama administration and optimism for the future will fizzle.

A filibuster will put a choke hold on these efforts. And we could safely say all economic measures proposed by this administration will be more carefully thought out than Henry Paulson's three page ransom note on the $700 billion bailout for his good friends on Wall Street urging urgent passage of the money that the bankers are not now spending.

Did Franken truly win the seat? We don't know. But the process played out and as we say in sports, if you have to blame the referee for the loss maybe the team didn't play hard enough or well enough to deserve the win in the first place. I felt that about the Gore and Kerry campaigns.

Better luck next time. But this time it is our luck that counts.

Friday, January 02, 2009

For the Jokes

by folkbum

When my students ask me what the real value of an education is, I don't always talk about the money (though it's true that more education generally means more money). I often tell them that it's so they can get more jokes. For example, I fear not enough of my students would be laughing all day at this, as I have been:

You have to know the history, the literature, the culture, etc., if you want to get all the funny there is.