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Sunday, May 31, 2009

Why would a terrorist assassinate someone just because of his job?

by folkbum

And why is that the terrorist undoubtedly considers himself pro-life?

Steve Benen paraphrases Amanda Marcotte to point out the irony: "Tiller performed therapeutic abortions for women who wanted children." In other words, hundreds of women could safely have a child later because Dr. Tiller saved their lives or their fertility.

And they killed him for that.

Privacy Fail

by folkbum

I have a Steve Jobs-obsessed friend, who emails along this story (my emphasis):
Apple CEO Steve Jobs is once again appearing at the company's Cupertino headquarters, unidentified sources claim. Evidence comes from a photo, showing what is believed to be Jobs' Mercedes SL55 AMG sitting in a handicapped spot within the company parking lot. A key identifier is the license plate; Jobs has a rare government exception, allowing him to use a barcode instead of letters for the sake of safety and privacy.
Yes, because having the only freaking car in the state with a bar code for a license plate doesn't make you stand out AT ALL.

Friday, May 29, 2009

White Boy Nichols Denies Racial Profiling

Update: Threat and Humiliation: Racial Profiling ... , Amnesty International. Wisconsin's protection from racial profiling: None. Not yet.

Mike Nichols has made it clear: There is no racial profiling in Wisconsin and certainly not in Milwaukee suburbs.

Collecting data that might support or disconfirm this conclusion is a waste of time.

Nichols is shocked, shocked by Pedro Colón's (D-Milwaukee) "startling accusations" that dark-haired, dark-skinned people are pulled over while driving with dark hair and dark skin.

You might think Colón and Rep. Tamara Grigsby's (D-Milwaukee) (pictured above) defense of a new requirement approved by the Joint Finance Committee mandating police tracking of the race of the people they pull over is a no-brainer.

But not to Nichols who can't be troubled with innocent people being persecuted. [See Bill Christofferson's Should we admire prosecutor who sees crime where there is none in which Nichols defends the prosecution of the innocent Georgia Thompson. See also The proven-innocent Georgia Thompson and Biskupic tried to 'squeeze' Georgia Thompson for additional background on the prosecution.]

Writes Nichols at the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute (WPRI):

I think this is going to be interesting because it sounds like Pedro Colón doesn’t just have one name [of a minority being pulled over], he has lots of them. After all, he says, 'all the guys' complain. Everyone knows what’s going on. That’s 'just the way it is.'
In reality land every dark-skinned, dark-haired person who I know takes it as a fact of life that police pull you over if you're dark-skinned and dark-haired in a white community. It's a humiliating and abusive experience that's painful to talk about.

How far removed from reality is Nichols that he doesn't know this? That he smirks and repeatedly ridicules the notion in his column?

But a rigerours empirical investigation is called for, i.e. collecting data. As Nichols demonstrates many lily-white Republicans are clueless that racial profiling actually occurs.

Nichols demands names and data. But data is exactly what Colón and Grigsby are mandating. So what is Nichols' objection with collecting data?

Noting the race of the person next to the sex on a statewide basis is not a hardship for anyone who cares about defeating racism.

You just have to wonder how someone like Nichols can be so isolated to what is common knowledge in minority cultures and progressives fighting racism. Is this guy really that dumb?

GOP Chock Full O'Nuts

By Keith R. Schmitz

Craig Crawford writing in CQ Politics hits so many nails on the head:
Speaking as a white male, I'm tired of nuts representing my kind. "Identity politics" is the latest war cry from the angry white male camp led by the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Newt Gingrich, Pat Buchanan and George Will. (Some locals will come to mind).

During the last presidential election I was chatting with a white male friend who was planning to vote for Barack Obama but asked, "How can a black man with such a weird name ever get elected?" I replied, "Because we don't run this country by ourselves anymore."

Nobody called it identity politics when only white males had the power -- like when they wrote our originally racist and sexist Constitution (which could explain why the white male crusaders are so fond of "strictly interpreting" the Constitution as it was originally intended).

So what if President Obama picked Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court because she's a Latina who happens to be qualified? On the Supreme Court, as we've seen in the White House and beyond, it is about time for some politics of diverse identities.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

It's a grand old old old old old flag

by folkbum

This is pretty cool:
A recent fire in Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. School, 3275 N. 3rd St., turned up an unusual relic - an American flag dating from 1897.

The 45-star flag was discovered in the attic of the school that was built in 1894 and for a time known as Victor L. Berger School. The flag, with some tears and other signs of wear, was discovered after lightning hit the school's steeple and ignited a fire.
One of the advantages of the public schools is the long, storied history many of its buildings have. That history also means bad heat, bad plumbing, poor accessibility, and other problems, but, hey, every once in a while we find a flag or a painting or a WPA mural or something.

Also: How come we don't name schools after socialists anymore? Where's the Frank Zeidler Academy? The Daniel Hoan School? Come on, Milwaukee!

That would be 42, in dog years

by folkbum

When I started this blog six years ago today, we had a president with approval ratings in the mid-to-high 60s, two ongoing wars, and an iffy economy.

Thank goodness everything is different now.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

And he got one elected to the White House

by folkbum

Quote of the Day, from Karl "Turd Blossom" Rove: “I know lots of stupid people who went to Ivy League schools.” (Via.)

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

It's not swine flu

by folkbum

But whatever it is that I have is hanging on long past its welcome. I got through most of the day at school today, but went home when I was pretty sure I could not both stay upright and stay not vomiting. Urgent care guy gave me nausea pills, which I hope do the trick.

Funny thing is, I may be on Channel 12 news at 10--they profiled a student of mine today at school--and if they show me, DO NOT ADJUST THE COLOR OF YOUR SET. I really was that green. (The piece may also run tomorrow, instead.)

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Journal Sentinel: Clinging to the old business model

by folkbum

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel today gives prominent place to an op-ed originally run in last Sunday's Washington Post, and since reprinted far and wide, by Bruce Sanford and Bruce Brown.

Of course, not every op-ed in the paper reflects the opinion of the newspaper itself; however, given the topic of this one, its prominence in the paper version and online, and other evidence available, I suspect that the publishers and the editors feel the message of this one is worth driving home.

The gist of the op-ed is this: Newspapers are dying, threatening the very institution of journalism, and therefore Congress should create new revenue streams for them.

If you think I'm kidding about that, I'm not. The Bruces are quite explicit that innovations such as Google and blogging are the source of newspapers' declining revenues and those sources ought to be either restricted or start paying for online news content. The Bruces demand tax breaks for newspapers and advertisers who use them. They want even looser media ownership rules, because, apparently, "too big to fail" worked so well for banks and automakers.

The good thing for me about this op-ed's having been first published a week ago is that a lot of the heavy lifting against the arguments made here has already been done. See, for example, new-media mogul Markos Moulitsas, who (f-bomb alert if you click through) dismantles the argument that Google has anything to do with newspapers' falling revenue. (See also Duncan Black.) A guy named Mark Gritter lays into the ideas from the op-ed here, including one stupid idea that would essentially copyright facts, not merely content. Some other guy named Patrico Robles argues that the Bruces completely miss the point: Congress should be working to save journalism, not one medium.

There is no question that good journalism needs to be saved, and that newspapers have been and remain one of the most important places for that journalism to happen. I, for one, could not do what I do without the local newspaper. (That had been a point of contention for some bloggers, though, going back years.) I do not want to see the kind of journalism done down on 3rd & State dry up.

I have a great deal of sympathy for the challenges the local paper faces: online ad revenue is much lower than print ad revenue, even as circulation falls. Craigslist decimated the personal ads. Online sites like Monster hurt job ad revenues. (MJS was foresightful enough to team up with a job-serach site and a auto-trader style site.) With real estate and the auto industry in the tank, even those ad revenues have fallen. And now the state is letting local governments pull out their notices, too.

Notice what all of that is about there: Ad revenue. Readers alone have never been able to sustain newspapers. (Or any medium for that matter; how much money does, say, CNN collect from you when you watch?) The New York Times proved pretty spectacularly that readers won't pay for online content, so newspapers should not count on that supporting them, either. With falling ad revenues, newspapers need a new business model, not Congressional protection.

I don't know what that business model is. It may well be that it may not involve paper anymore for most of the stories newspapers do.

What I do know is that the world of journalism is rapidly being redefined, and the news organizations that can find new ways to succeed amidst the changes will be the ones not clinging to hope that Congress solves their problems for them.

A Torturous Debate

By 3rd Way

Folkbum alumn Capper links to the widely distributed video of talk show host and former torture apologist Mancow experiencing waterboarding. After going through with it he joined the growing group of warterboardees that confirm the procedure is indeed torture.

John Cole points out that being waterboarded in a controlled situation doesn't really compare to what was done to terrorist suspects.

Not to diminish Mancow’s experience, but if he thought that was torture, think what the real deal must be like. You are snatched out of nowhere, flown across the world, kept awake for days on end in a freezing room with little food, woken every time you fall asleep on your metal bed, thrown against the wall with that lovely procedure known as collaring, slapped, had dogs threatening you, yelled at and beaten, and so on and so forth. That goes on for a couple weeks to soften you up, then you are dragged by multiple burly men and waterboarded repeatedly. You have no dead man’s switch like Hitchens did, you have no “safe” word to stop the process, there are no cameras and friends there to make sure you are alright. These people have been abusing you non-stop for days or weeks, for all you know this is when they finally kill you.

At the end he points out the obvious.

Of course it is torture. I’m sick and tired of having this stupid damned debate.

The authorizers of torture need to be prosecuted. But I understand there is a sound legal argument that waterboarding doesn't fit a definition of torture Bush administration used to justify the practice, and therefore is not a slam dunk case. I don't buy the argument that the enhanced interrogation techniques used don't have lasting effects. According to Ellen Gerrity of Duke University the psychological effects of torture can often be worse than the physical effects.

"The psychological symptoms can often be worse in the sense that person can never recover from that, and may in the end, be in such despair and pain that they take their own lives, especially if they don't have treatment or support around them," she said.

Experts say torture victims can develop post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and symptoms such as social withdrawal, confusion and sleep problems.

Even if you don't think what the Bush administration authorized amounts to torture you should still be outraged that the individuals that committed crimes against our country will be never be prosecuted because the maltreatment they received during interrogation made the evidence against them inadmissible. There is no denying what was done to detainees amounts to "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment". Something needs to be done to assure future governments aren't tempted to go down the same dark path we just traveled. It wouldn't be hard to prove that the maltreatment detainees has prevented their prosecution. If we aren't going to prosecuted torturers for torturing we should at least prosecute them for tampering with witnesses.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The police non-emergency number needs hold music

by folkbum

So I learned while waiting to report that some sonuvabitch broke out a window in my car last night. I keep nothing of value in the car, of course, but man, that sort of thing sure ruins a morning, ain'a?


By Keith R. Schmitz

Here's a disturbing aspect of the decline in news staffs.

According to The New York Times as reported on the PoynterOnline site:
Lawyers opposed to the death penalty have in the past provided the broad outlines of cases to reporters, who then pursued witnesses and unearthed evidence. Now, lawyers tell Tim Arango, they have to do more of the work themselves and that means it often doesn't get done.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Democrats stand up to president about Gitmo

by folkbum

I just wish I could have written that headline oh, say, seven years ago.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Ambiguous headlines

by folkbum

When I saw the headline ...
Build-A-Bear Workshop fined for violating child labor laws
... I thought, "Wait, isn't that just their schtick?"

But it turns out it was teenagers working dangerous jobs in the stores.

Saturday, May 16, 2009


by folkbum

If 2016 is Schweitzer vs. Huntsman, who is a coastal elitist latte liberal like me supposed to vote for?

Shorter F. J. Tamel

by folkbum

A smoking ban is a bad idea because we might save smokers' lives--and who wants that?

("Shorter" concept created by Daniel Davies, perfected by Elton Beard, and awesometized by Sadly, No!.)

Friday, May 15, 2009

Here it is ...

by folkbum

You had to know this was coming:
Gov. Jim Doyle said Friday that falling tax collections will force him to propose new cuts of up to 5% in state spending for public schools and aid to local governments. [. . .]

In February, before tax collections in this fiscal year fell by $925 million, the governor had proposed a small increase in aid to schools for next year.

Now, with estimates of tax collections being reduced every week, Doyle said, "I think you're looking at almost every expenditure in the state - cuts of 5% or more. We would really like to find a way to keep (the cut) at 5%, or under 5% for schools."
Local governments have two options for dealing with this kind of situation: Cut services or raise taxes. (Despite the insistence of those living on Planet TeaParty, there is not much hay to be made trying to offer the same level of services more cheaply.)

Neither option is all that appealing. Local governments are going to have more difficult choices to make. In the case of school districts, it will almost certainly be to tax more rather than ask our teachers and students to get by on less. Local units of government will probably cut services, meaning fewer potholed filled, less access to the kind of help that people are likely to need in a recession.

For months, people Smarter Than Me, like Paul Krugman, have been arguing that the federal stimulus package was too small, and this is evidence thereof. Normally, I like to think of myself as a bit of a deficit hawk, even arguing, for example, that there's not so much a Social Security problem as there is a deficit problem at the federal level. In this recession, though, I've found myself turning more and more into what I might think if as a practical Keynesian. When the economy tanks, the areas in which schools pick up slack get strained (more students need free lunch, for example, or after-school activities while their parents are at their second or third jobs). Same thing for state resources like unemployment--someone has to process the forms and answer the phones, not to mention the cost of benefits themselves). In short, Krugman's right, and today's news (not to mention yesterday's news) confirms it.

Nothing about the present crisis is pleasant to consider. Severe reductions in services don't make it more pleasant going forward.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

That's it. You're out of the band.

by folkbum

Another form of entertainment stolen gleefully from the SadlyNaughts. It's my first effort ... be gentle.

Shorter Owen Robinson*

by folkbum

Now that a Democrat's in the White House, it's important that he follow the rule of law, not of men.

("Shorter" concept created by Daniel Davies, perfected by Elton Beard, and awesometized by Sadly, No!.)

* It's hard to do a shorter here, as the 20 words I used beat Owen's 4 words by quite a lot. Though I think, to coin a phrase, I "nailed it."

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Another GOP Exploding Cigar

By Keith R. Schmitz

The right wing has been salivating over the prospect that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi knew and approved waterboarding, somehow exonerating those in the Bush administration who wanted a return to the Spanish Inquisition. For sure they saw this as a distraction from the effort of the Obama administration to push through its reforms.

Again another setback for the GOP. They have been pushing and pushing and pushing the notion of Pelosi's culpability in supposedly approving waterboarding, making it OK. Now Majority Steny Hoyer is calling their bluff -- and more.

Here's the problem for the incredible shrinking party. According to The Hill, Hoyer is calling for the records on the Congressional briefings to be brought out into the sunlight.

Rep. Pete Hoekstra (Mich.), the top Republican on the Intelligence Committee, has pushed for hearings after engineering the release of CIA documents that say Pelosi, the panel’s ranking Democrat in 2002, was briefed on interrogation techniques used on a terrorism suspect who is now known to have been waterboarded.

But former Sen. Bob Graham (D-Fla.), who received a similar briefing at the time, has also said he wasn’t told that prisoners were being waterboarded.

Oops. The speaker might very well be vindicated and the GOP embarrassed. Life goes on.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Duke Energy to Build 'Mini' Solar Power Plants

Keith R. Schmitz

From Industry Week:
Duke Energy plans to build between 100 and 400 electricity-generating mini solar power plants throughout North Carolina over the next two years that will include panel installations at manufacturing facilities, the company said May 7.

The North Carolina Utilities Commission has permitted Duke Energy to proceed with its $50 million proposal to install solar panels on the roofs and grounds of homes, schools, office buildings, shopping malls, warehouses and industrial plants, starting later this year.

Collectively, the solar sites will generate enough electricity to power 1,300 homes, the company said. The electricity will flow directly from the solar sites to the electrical grid that serves all customers.
Small start? Yes. Smart step? Yes.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Fact-free blogging on Gitmo continues

by folkbum

Unable to change course from the old standy of FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt--as opposed to Füd, which is the restaurant inside the Shøp Ikea rip-off in Springfield), the Right has glommed onto President Obama's plan to close down the detention center at Guantanamo Bay. This necessitates moving the 240-ish people left there to somewhere else.

James Wigderson offers the latest fact-free rendition of the talking point: "Nobody wants them here, but that seems to be part of the Obama Administration's plan. And you can't just release them to fight again."

The problem, of course, is that no one is talking about releasing them to fight again, and there is, in fact, at least one place in America that would love to have Gitmo detainees:
President Barack Obama has 240 terror suspects he has said will be moved out of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, within a year. The city of Hardin [MT] has a brand-new empty jail. [. . .] The development authority in Hardin, a city of 3,400 people bordering the Crow Indian Reservation, built the $27 million, 460-bed jail two years ago and has been looking for tenants ever since. Its construction loans are in default.

The City Council voted 5-0 Tuesday in favor of a resolution supporting a proposal to house terror suspects currently detained at the U.S. naval base in southeast Cuba while they await trial.
So it is and will remain false to say that there is "no one" who wants these detainees in their backyards.

However, for a full dispelling of the FUD crowd, I defer to Jon Stewart:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartM - Th 11p / 10c
Guantanamo Baywatch - The Final Season
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Economic CrisisPolitical Humor

Screaming headline decries union thoughtfulness

by folkbum

The federal government is sending a fairly significant chunk of funds toward the Milwaukee Public Schools to be spent over the next two years. This money is part of the so-called "stimulus" package, which is designed to get money into communities, putting people to work and saving jobs--at least until the money runs out after 2011. The theory is that either the economy will be better by then and the jobs will be sustainable, or the projects funded will be temporary or one-time sorts of deals.

One of the district administration's proposed ways to spend the funds--these temporary stimulus funds designed to pay for new jobs or save lost jobs--is apparently to extend the school day for K through 8, upping the pay of K-8 teachers in return.

At first glance, you might think this is the sort of thing the selfish, greedy union bastards would love--more money for us! you might imagine them saying. Well, if your image of the union is that we're a bunch of selfish, greedy bastards then I suppose that makes sense. But that's not actually true of us. Instead, the union has pointed out that this proposal has some problems. Consider:
• Jobs saved spending money this way: 0. Jobs created spending money this way: 0.
• The funds are temporary; the teachers would take a pay cut in two years, the schedule would change back in two years, or taxpayers would be on the hook for the higher salaries in two years. None of those options sounds reasonable.
• More of the same is just more, not better. The extra time is supposed to be for math instruction, but there's no word on how we're going to better prepare our K-8 teachers--probably almost none of whom have math degrees or expertise in the subject--to be better math teachers.
Parents thought the idea was a bad one, too, and in fact support union-proposed ideas like smaller classes (which would also be unsustainable with stimulus funds, but at least wouldn't be more of the same) and finding ways to get disruptive students out of classrooms.
And then the superintendent lays this one on us:
In an interview, Andrekopoulos said he was concerned that employees are not acting like they will be part of solving the spending problems.

"If they are not part of the solution, there isn't a place for them to have jobs in the future," Andrekopoulos said. "People have to get to the place where they realize there isn't going to be more money here."
Whoa Nelly! The union is the one wanting to spend money? Let's look at what the proposal from the administration said again, just a few paragraphs earlier in the story:
The MPS chief said Thursday night that the union rejected adding 25 minutes to the school day for teaching math at all elementary and kindergarten-through-eighth grade schools. The union also rejected a proposal that would give all teachers six additional hours a month to work on improving programs in their schools. In both cases, teachers would have been paid for the additional time in line with their hourly rate of pay.
The administration wants to pay 4,000+ K-8 teachers for an extra 2.5 hours a week; the administration wants to pay all 6,000+ teachers in the district for an extra six hours a month of planning time; and the union is somehow the side in this that doesn't understand there's no money to spend?

Seriously, how does that make even a lick of sense?

So, anyway, what's the headline to the story? Is it "Superintendent rejects will of parents and demands more of same"? Is it, "In budget crunch, Superintendent proposes more money to teachers"? No, it's "MPS teachers reject longer day for more pay."

I ask again, how does that even make a lick of sense?

Friday, May 08, 2009

Shorter James T. Harris

by folkbum

Your black president hasn't created utopia yet, and we've already given him, like 100 days, so FAIL, and I hate Colin Powell.

("Shorter" concept created by Daniel Davies, perfected by Elton Beard, and awesometized by Sadly, No!.)

This makes my brain hurt

by folkbum

But it is so cool.

(Found in my inbox this morning.)

Thursday, May 07, 2009

It's Like Being Dumped by Newman

By Keith R. Schmitz

Sam "Joe the Plumber" Wurzelbacher, told TIME Magazine that he's so outraged by GOP overspending, he's quitting the party.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Fine Whine

By Keith R. Schmitz

Off the Wisconsin GOP web site:
Campaigning for governor, Jim Doyle promised to eliminate 10,000 state government jobs. To date, the administration has actually taken on an extra 3,000 jobs since Doyle took office. On the other hand, the private sector has LOST 69,4000 jobs on Doyle's watch.
Let's unravel this logic. We have lost nearly 70,ooo jobs in Wisconsin. The state GOP wants the state to throw 10,000 or even 13,000 of their employees out on the street?

The fact that we have 70M people out of work in the private sector has little to do with having 13M working in the public sector. Many other factors contributed to that job loss, including a good measure of GOP policies.

As in all bad recessions the government becomes the employer and purchaser of last resort. To listen to these acolytes of Grover Norquist would make the situation much worse. Except for the teabaggers, the American public at least knows better.

What's that smell? Nothing! Yippee!

by folkbum

Of course, it's not final yet, but Wisconsin is all set to give up the title of Ashtray of the Midwest. However, it sounds like the compromises are such that it is likely to pass and be signed into law.

And not a moment too soon. One of the most frustrating things about trying to live the cosmopolitan life here in the big city is the risk of reeking of smoke just because I wanted to some tasty food or to hang out with friends or colleagues. I call this a WIN!

(Ashtray image "borrowed" from here.)

Developments show McKinsey & Co. audit of MPS not a dragonslayer

by folkbum

I was asked last night about whether there really seemed to be a lot of "consternation" about the McKinsey & Co. audit completed last month of the finances of the Milwaukee Public Schools, and I suggested that no, in fact, there wasn't. There were some documentable errors in the report, for example, and the report seemed to be a bit out if date, in that some of the things it suggested MPS do are things MPS is already working on--like selling unused properties, implementing "performance-based" budgeting and re-centralizing of purchasing functions.

And it may well be that I don't really have my finger on the pulse of community or institutional sentiment about the report, and so I'm missing a flurry of something somewhere; or it may be that the swine flu hysteria has overshadowed hysteria over the audit.

But the MPS Board of Directors' Strategic Planning and Budget Committee meeting last night suggests that I'm right:
A financial audit of Milwaukee Public Schools released last month that pointed to waste in the system and calls for reform from state and city leaders failed to produce the same kind of urgency Tuesday night at a School Board committee meeting.

An overview of the report was the topic of the meeting, but missing from the discussion were Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, Gov. Jim Doyle and state Superintendent of Public Instruction Elizabeth Burmaster, all of whom Terry Falk, the chair of the Committee on Strategic Planning and Budget, had invited to talk to committee members. [. . .]

According to David Guran, one of the few residents who showed up to testify about the audit, the mayor's office said Tuesday that no meeting had yet been set for the MPS Innovation and Improvement Advisory Council that was supposed to form last month.
Not that I necessarily expect the governor himself to show up to an MPS board meeting, but the meeting was called specifically to discuss the audit (here's the agenda in .pdf form, including Terry Falk's letter to Doyle et al.) and you'd think that the people who demanded the audit would at least send a contingent to make their views and recommendations known to the board. But the fact that no one was there, and the fact that the big committee that is supposed to act in a non-binding oversight capacity on the MPS budget to ensure compliance with the audit's recommendations hasn't formed or met yet, just reinforces my belief that the audit was not the dragonslayer Doyle and Barrett hoped it would be.

First, the audit's findings were not so bad that Doyle and Barrett had reason to immediately call for a takeover of the district (see my earlier post here). The audit was able to cobble together $100 million a year in potential savings. That sounds like a lot of money--and it is!--but it is less than 10% of the overall MPS budget and a significant part of that savings came from foisting MPS workers onto the state dole for health care, which is not exactly the kind of thing that will save the state any money. If the audit had identified a larger number, or if it had identified $100m in pure waste as opposed to family-supporting wages and beniefits, then the report might well have given Doyle and Barrett impetus to act more forcefully and more quickly.

Second, perhaps more importantly, the audit is incredibly sympathetic toward MPS. The authors of the report make it clear that MPS faces tremendous budget pressures from many different directions--rapidly declining enrollment, a screwed-up state funding formula, an expensive health-care market in Southeast Wisconsin, and more--and that even if the audit's full recommendations are followed, MPS will still face significant budget crunches not very far down the road. While the audit does suggest that MPS needs an attitude adjustment when it comes to finances and reform, it also is pretty clear that reality will overtake the district whether administration gets ruthless (in some cases, heartless) in budgeting and collective bargaining or not.

In other words, even if Doyle or Barrett or the Milwaukee Common Council or some other institution takes over MPS, there still have to be significant changes external to MPS to make the district's finances viable long-term. Whoever is running MPS in two years will find themselves making the same arguments and facing the same difficult choices that the current board does now. I imagine that it's that reality that is keeping Doyle and Barrett far away, at least in public, from putting their own names on the line over MPS finances.

(NOTE: Thursday night, May 7, is the regular MPS Strategic Planning and Budget Committee meeting. The committee will consider the superintendent's proposed budget for the 2009-2010 school year. See the SPB agenda here (.pdf); find the budget documents here. If you have comments you want to make, this is your big chance.)

Thank You Brett

By Keith R. Schmitz

You are doing a great job of helping Wisconsin get over you.

Congrats to John Dickert

by folkbum

Way way way way way back in the day, when I was just starting as a blogger and was one of a handful of volunteer point people for the Howard Dean campaign in Wisconsin, John Dickert, Mark Goff and I had breakfast one morning at a Perkins to strategize about bringing the Dean campaign full force here in Wisconsin. He seemed like a good guy then, and I hope he does well as Racine's mayor now.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

RIP, Dom DeLuise

by folkbum

Now he can eat all the fricken chickasee he wants.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Daytime TV

by folkbum

I'm pretty sure I just heard Oprah say, "We scored a hook up for every person in America." I don't watch enough daytime TV to know whether that means what I think it means, but I may have to TiVo her show tomorrow to find out.

Happy Star Wars Day

By 3rd Way

I went all day long without realizing it was Star Wars Day.

May the fourth be with you.

Future Very Cloudy for Clear Channel

By Keith R. Schmitz

Looks like the economy might be swallowing another media entity, this time Clear Channel.

As we all know, this is the parent of WISN, home of such local screamers as Mark Belling and Vick McKenna.

Having laid off 2,810 employees since January and in debt to the tune of a whopping $22 billion, the former scourge of the Dixie Chicks is seriously taking on water. On a more ominous note, Clear Channel is dropping the Arbitron radio rating service.

The rest of the traditional media in serious trouble with the announcement today that the Boston Globe may be shutting down, though the self-aggrandizing hunger on the part of Clear Channel management for acquisitions might have fueled their problems. Hopefully this is a lesson for the future, though it is probably doubtful once things get back to a semblance of normal.

No wonder we have such a gloomy picture being painted about this economy with the messengers, liberal and conservative alike, feeling the effects much sharper than in previous downturns thanks to the new media.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

I ain't a-skeered

by folkbum

Last night I ate pork enchilladas at a Mexican restaurant.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

The only chip in the cookie

by folkbum

That's what my friend Vance Gilbert would say in this situation.

Catholics and Obama at Notre Dame

By Keith R. Schmitz

The right wing bloggers are of course bloviating over Notre Dame's invitation to President Obama to address their graduating class this year. The Fighting Irish must have thought they were an open-minded university or something. But boys will be boys and the righties have to have SOMETHING to complain about.

As usual, the media based on their occasional laziness or in the spirit of fake balance, are mistaking all this heat for light.

Turns out according to a recent Pew study, most Catholics are not so steamed and almost most have heard nothing about it. For good measure, as for the prime issue that conservative Catholics want to bar Obama over -- abortion; turns out mainstream Catholic opinion is in the mainstream.

Betcha we'll get one response that these are not real Catholics.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Not Innoculated Against Stupidity

By Keith R. Schmitz

Who knows how bad the Swine Flu invasion will eventually be? Are people being crazed about the prospect of a plague sweeping the country or right acting like too much is being made about this?

Nevertheless like many things politics pokes in.

With the debate we've been having over sick pay in the metro area this argument takes on a new complexion. The United States and Milwaukee in particular has no state mandated policy on sick pay. Here's where this issue could hit home.

In other countries when a worker starts to feel the aches and sniffles that may indicate the onset of that or another disease, there isn't this agonizing decision about staying home or dragging through a day or two of work.

Here, many people have to suck it up. Remember the lozenge commercial that ran recently of a woman working the frozen food aisle and an officer blows into the scene out of no where. Dumb concept, but the woman pleads the to fantasy officer that she's sick. But this is America, land of having to drag your sorry behind through the shift. And she's handling food.

There will be countless people that many people who we could encountering through this health incident handling our food, making our beds, taking care of our elderly parents. None of them can take the recommended three days off when symptoms become present, or if members of their family because this would be bad for business.

The Swine Flu outbreak could be overblown. Or, if you want something that is bad for business, this is it.

PRSG Saturday--songs galore

by folkbum

Don't forget that tomorrow night, the Portage Road Songwriters Guild presents its annual new song concert. 5Ws:
Who: Me, Eric Baer, Chris Head, Mark Plotkin, Chris Straw (of the Moxie Chicks), and Barb Webber (of Fair Webber).
What: Showing off the best of the songs we've written over the past year.
When: Saturday, May 2, 8 PM. (Get there early for good seats!)
Where: The Coffee House, at 19th and Wisconsin in Milwaukee.
Why: Because it will be awesome. A full evening's entertainment for just $5.