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Friday, July 31, 2009

On the short list of songs I wish I'd written

by folkbum

Why Are They There?

By Keith R. Schmitz

I've raised this question before with no response, so let's float it again. Bet the comments will register 0.

It is clear that private health insurance takes billions of dollars out of our health care system to pay for their buildings, big salaries and shareholders. It is also clear that health insurance companies stand in the way of people getting health care. The simple-minded will tell us that this is the best health care system on earth and everyone has access. Just go out and get it.

But in this country access takes dollars. If an insurance company denies coverage up front in terms of pre-existing conditions, or pulls a surprise, welshes on their agreements and jerks coverage because of some ginned up technicality, that can be a death sentence and certainly send a torpedo into family finances. These families then have to watch their relative die while their financial future ebbs away as well.

No one in their right mind really loves the health insurance companies. Many will say in polls that they are satisfied with their coverage, but what looms in the back of their minds is that this coverage can disappear if a job is lost, a real possibility for many of us.

People on the other hand who enjoy Medicare are truly happy with it, partially because they know it will be there when they need it. As for another public health care plan, one independent source -- the Rand Corp. -- says it is working very well.

So for those of you who are spreading horror stories about pending public health care plans and lies about systems in other countries that are clearly working better than ours, let's focus on what we have.

Despite what many of you fantasize, I believe capitalism can be the greatest system on earth, so long as there some level of control.

Why do you think we need to keep private health insurance in our medical delivery picture?

You're on.

Let's not bay at the moon about the socialism in the Obama proposals that does not exist, but give us a full throated defense of what to many of us appears to be a parasite.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

We Are Not Amused

By Keith R. Schmitz

It is becoming pretty clear lately that FOX "personality" Glenn Beck, like a pinball machine, should have a label on his forehead that reads "for amusement purposes only."

Tom Petri (R-No Comment) refuses to identify himself or answer birfer question

by folkbum

Mike Stark of FireDogLake has been tracking down Republican Congressfolk and asking them on camera the simple yes-or-no question of whether they buy into the birfer madness or whether they acknowledge the simple truth that Barack Obama was born in the United States.

Some startling revelations ensue: For one, Republicans in significant leadership positions, like Missouri's Roy Blunt, seem perfectly happy to jump on the loony tunes birfer bandwagon.

Closer to home, Wisconsin's own Rep. Tom Petri not only seems uninterested in answering the question, but he will not even identify himself to Stark. Embedding of the video has been disabled, but you can view it on YouTube here; Petri appears at the 2:00 mark.

What's Tom Petri afraid of? All he has to say is "I'm Tom Petri of the Great State of Wisconsin, and I believe President Barack Obama was born in the United States." It's not hard to do, as evidenced by some of the other Republicans--like Indiana's Mike Pence--who boldly state the truth about Obama's birthplace on camera.

Is that the kind of representation Wisconsin's 6th district deserves? The duck-your-head and hide-from-the-truth style?

No longer local, not yet a legend

by folkbum

Carley Baer.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Remember when this town had two daily newspapers?

by folkbum

It's starting to seem less and less like there's even one.

More seriously, I wish the best of luck to those now adrift, particularly Alan Borsuk, from whom I learned a great deal, even when we butted heads.

McIlheran Watch: Birfermania

by folkbum

Shorter Patrick McIlheran: We may have the racist conspiracy freaks on our side, but the imaginary Democrats in my head are the real crazies.

Reminder: CSz tonight

by folkbum

7:30 PM tonight at Comedy Sportz, me and a bunch of other amateurs try our hand at competitive improv comedy. Come laugh at us!

Also: Tunes.

Paul Cebar, local hero.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Might As Well Face It We're Addicted to Manna

By Keith R. Schmitz

Bill Maher Friday night hauled out the nail gun and hit a lot of them on the head with his new rule that not everything in America has to make a profit.
Prisons used to be a non-profit business, too. And for good reason -- who the hell wants to own a prison? By definition you're going to have trouble with the tenants. But now prisons are big business. A company called the Corrections Corporation of America is on the New York Stock Exchange, which is convenient since that's where all the real crime is happening anyway. The CCA and similar corporations actually lobby Congress for stiffer sentencing laws so they can lock more people up and make more money. That's why America has the world;s largest prison population -- because actually rehabilitating people would have a negative impact on the bottom line.
Or about news (remember Network?)
(U)nlike in Cronkite's day, today's news has to make a profit like all the other divisions in a media conglomerate. That's why it wasn't surprising to see the CBS Evening News broadcast live from the Staples Center for two nights this month, just in case Michael Jackson came back to life and sold Iran nuclear weapons. In Uncle Walter's time, the news division was a loss leader. Making money was the job of The Beverly Hillbillies. And now that we have reporters moving to Alaska to hang out with the Palin family, the news is The Beverly Hillbillies.
But especially health care:
Because medicine is now for-profit we have things like "recision," where insurance companies hire people to figure out ways to deny you coverage when you get sick, even though you've been paying into your plan for years.
Yeah, profit is a good thing when it comes to running most businesses. But for thinking people it is becoming clearer and clearer that in certain sectors of our society, blind pursuit of profit makes thinks work less well, and in the process making us less well.

Mondays take my joy

by folkbum

I want it back.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Your required health care reading for the weekend

by folkbum

Ezra Klein in the Washington Post offers a history lesson that puts the current debate in stark perspective.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Friday already?

by folkbum

They've got a new record out.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Paul Ryan channels Ronald Reagan, circa 1961: You've come a long way, baby!

by folkbum

I'm not really sure the modern GOP should be feeling good about itself, considering the fact that its leading opposition voice on health care is recycling 40-year-old predictions that have turned out not just to be false, but hilariously so.

Here's Ryan, writing in The American Spectator, invoking the Founding Fathers to bless his diatribe:
The Founders' highest hope in declaring independence from Britain, fighting the Revolution, and writing the Constitution was to secure human freedom. They established a "new order of the ages" for Americans to govern themselves in freedom, as individuals and as citizens of communities, states, and nation. There were to be no classes such as kings or nobles, clerics or intellectuals like those who ruled in old Europe by a supposed higher right. Popular consent alone would grant the power to govern Americans, and then only for a limited time between democratic elections.
Here's Reagan, via the magic of YouTube, railing against Medicare (his side lost that fight), also invoking:
In this country of ours, took place the greatest revolution that has ever taken place in the world's history, the only true revolution. Every other revolution simply exchanged one set of rules for another. But here for the first time in all the thousands of years of man's relation to man, a little group of men, the Founding Fathers, for the first time established the idea that you and I have within ourselves the God-given right and ability to determine our own destiny.

This freedom was built into our government with safeguards. We talk democracy today. And strangely we let democracy begin to assume the aspect of majority rule as all that is needed. Well, majority rule is a fine aspect of democracy provided that there are guarantees written in to our government concerning the rights of the individual
Public health has always been a government priority. The unquestioned power to quarantine for contagious sicknesses in order to protect the community's health has been used for centuries. Selling unwholesome food and drink, carrying on industrial trades that infect or pollute the air, as well as neglect, unskillful management, and experimentation by doctors and pharmacists have traditionally been treated as crimes and grounds for civil lawsuits. Immunization programs to protect populations against disease have long been accepted as a legitimate government service. [. . .]

I believe this [Ryan's description of "socialized" medicine] is morally and politically abhorrent to all Americans.
One of the traditional methods of imposing statism or socialism on a people has been by way of medicine. It’s very easy to disguise a medical program as a humanitarian project. Most people are a little reluctant to oppose anything that suggests medical care for people who possibly can’t afford it.

Now, the American people, if you put it to them about socialized medicine and gave them a chance to choose, would unhesitatingly vote against it.
America is now being pushed headlong into enacting a massive federal government-run health care program. [The House-passed] plan will undermine the excellence of American health care and displace those who are happy with their insurance coverage. (Surveys show that 80 percent or more are satisfied with their current arrangements.) It will stifle the energy and ingenuity which have given this nation's science and technology the edge in global medical research and innovation.
It is presented in the idea of an emergency that millions of our senior citizens are unable to provide needed medical care. But this ignores the fact that in the last decade, 127 million of our citizens [...] have come under the protection of some kind of privately-owned medical or hospital insurance. [. . .] Now in our country under our free enterprise system we have seen medicine reach the greatest heights that it has in any country in the world.
Their plan will insert the government between doctors and patients. This would constrain the freedom of medical providers, limit patient options, and restrict the right of patients to make personal health care decisions in consultation with their doctor.

Their plan will vastly expand the reach of government into the private lives of Americans and increase dependency on the state. Rather than help to expand people's choices, it would provide more direct benefits and establish more limitations, gatekeeping, and red tape.

The Democratic plan's bureaucratization of health care is not compassionate. Impersonal agencies, whether of governments or insurance providers, make decisions about how to heal patients not according to needs but according to budget-driven calculations. Bureaucratic indifference replaces compassionate caregiving by loved ones under a free market with a spectrum of health services. Today's bureaucratized market badly needs reform to make personalized health care possible. But their plan moves in the opposite direction.

Its logic requires government rationing of health care resources.
But let’s also look from the other side, at the freedom the doctor loses. A doctor would be reluctant to say this. Well, like you, I am only a patient, so I can say it in his behalf. The doctor begins to lose freedoms; it’s like telling a lie, and one leads to another. First you decide that the doctor can have so many patients. They are equally divided among the various doctors by the government. But then the doctors aren’t equally divided geographically, so a doctor decides he wants to practice in one town and the government has to say to him you can’t live in that town, they already have enough doctors. You have to go some place else. And from here it is only a short step to dictating where he will go.

This is a freedom that I wonder whether any of us have the right to take from any human being. All of us can see what happens once you establish the precedent that the government can determine a man’s working place and his working methods, determine his employment. From here it is a short step to all the rest of socialism, to determining his pay and pretty soon your children won’t decide when they’re in school where they will go or what they will do for a living. They will wait for the government to tell them where they will go to work and what they will do.
And so on. The threats St. Ronald de Tampico leveled about government control of doctors, patients, and your children never came true. It is laughable now to think about medicare--with its lower overhead costs and sky-high patient satisfaction rates--as being the death knell of American freedom.

Reagan famously ended that recording with the oft-quoted line, "One of these days we are going to spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children, what it once was like in America when men were free.” (Ryan's version: "But where will Americans go when the U.S. also has socialized health care? There will be no place of freedom left to us.") Yet here we are, and leaders in the GOP are still earnestly delivering that same line hoping Americans will fall for it this time. It wasn't going to happen then; it's not going to happen now.

Also: Paul Ryan includes in his piece a long-debunked assertion about the Council for Comparative Effectiveness Research (CCER). He misstates fact in several ways. One, he claims that the CCER is "a new agency" that was "set up" by the stimulus bill passed in February. In fact, it was created in 2004, when Republicans controlled Congress and the White House. It also will not, as Ryan claims, "dictate the care providers may offer to beneficiaries, automatically denying treatments for certain categories of patients." There is no language in the stimulus bill banning or denying anything. (As much as conservatives are whining about Democrats' not reading the bills, it seems Ryan hasn't been reading them, either.

I suppose that makes it easier to lie and recycle Reagan's ridiculous rhetoric.


Aside: Isn't it funny that free-marketeer Ben Stein and the free-market zombies at The American Spectator are begging for donations? Seems that the market is sending them a message about just how popular they are, if their audience (and right-wing foundations support from folks like Scaife) can't keep them afloat?

Feels like blues today

by folkbum

Chris Smither

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

If real news headlines were more like Onion headlines

by folkbum
Home linked to marijuana growing operation burns overnight; neighborhood has munchies this morning

In Memory of the Late K.O.P.

by folkbum

Warning: Google searches for "Lost Fingers" should not be done in close proximity to breakfast.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Free folkbum, cash bar

by folkbum

This Friday, July 24, I'm performing my mediocre singer-songwriter act at the FIXX Coffee House in scenic St. Francis, starting at 7:30 and going until I run out of songs. You are all invited. This is a FREE show, but the FIXX has plenty of soup, sandwiches, coffee, tea, and wine to sell you.

A week from tonight, Tuesday, July 28, I'll be performing competitive improv comedy with a dozen or so other amateurs at Comedy Sportz in Milwaukee. This show also starts at 7:30, and I believe--though I might be wrong--that the bar will be open.

Your attendance at these events is, of course, optional; however, if you miss them, then you will be even further behind on the inside jokes.

Hell, I still think I could eat a horse

by folkbum

Monday, July 20, 2009

Joe the Plumber doesn't read Wisconsin's conservative bloggers

by folkbum

Because otherwise he would know better than to retire here to this tax hell.

And speaking of tea parties and conservative bloggers, it seems another one has gone Galt:

Actually around here, we call that going McBride. In Alaska, it's called going Palin.

Shorter Everybody

by folkbum

We don't need you!

Yeah, well, we don't need you, either!


You're allowed to comment on the music threads, you know.

by folkbum

Kim Richey.

Friday, July 17, 2009

RIP, Walter Cronkite

by folkbum

Another legend passes. And that's the way it was.

We started the week with ducks

by folkbum

Here's some more Duhks.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Faces Made For Radio, Voices Made For Blogging

by capper

Check out as kr and I talk about Milwaukee County First on the radio. We will be on Friday morning on WMCS 1290 AM with Joel McNally and Cassandra Cassandra.

A real folk singer

by folkbum

I've always gotten the feeling that Larry Penn doesn't like me, every time I see him.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Billo's Bile Aims at Milwaukee Native

by bert
I see that Bill O'Reilly has gone after Rick Perlstein for an article Perlstein wrote in Newsweek. The article, overall, places in historical context the debates heard today about Sarah Palin and about conservative strategies. But, the part that drew O'Reilly's fire was the statement that today's right-wing pundits own the terror they have incited.
Now the violence is back. But this time, the line between the violent fringe and the on-air harvesters of righteous rage has been harder to find. This spring the alleged white-supremacist cop killer in Pittsburgh, Richard Poplawski, professed allegiance to conspiracist Alex Jones, whose theories Fox TV host Glenn Beck had recently been promoting. And when Kansas doctor George Tiller was murdered in church, Fox star Bill O'Reilly was forced to devote airtime to defending himself against a charge many observers found self-evident. . .
(Perlstein could have added as other recent victims the Unitarians killed in Tennessee, the Democratic Party leader Bill Gwatney shot dead in Arkansas, Jews targeted in more than one anti-semitic attack lately, and on and on.)

You can read the article and listen to Bill, and see that O'Reilly purposely mangles, and at the same time exemplifies, Perlstein's point.

Congratulations Mr. Perlstein for earning Bill's enemy status. I'm jealous.

Perlstein grew up in Milwaukee, is now based in Chicago, and wrote the acclaimed history Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America. Many already know this book; I have seen few other books earn more lefty blogger buzz in the last few years.

Last year I attended a reading by Perlstein at the late, great Schwartz bookstore on Downer Avenue, and am (still) reading the (big) book now. Its walk through the era(s) of Nixon throw an illuminating backlight on the rhetoric and tactics of right-wingers today. On top of insulting your intelligence and inciting the lower demons of our nature, what the likes of O'Reilly do for a living, we learn from this book, is old, tired, and utterly predictable.

Drinking Liberally: Milwaukee County First Edition

by capper

From the website for Milwaukee County First:

Milwaukee County First is a grassroots network of organizations and individuals from all walks of life, united to amplify their voices in the cause of stopping the decline of Milwaukee County, restoring its assets and services to their former first class status, and keeping Milwaukee County a place where people will want to work, to play, and to live.

Milwaukee County is a shadow of what it once was. Its parks, once a necklace of jewels, are now unkempt and overgrown. Its transit system, once a yardstick for the nation, is now fighting for its very survival. The social services and safety net that Milwaukee County once provided has been scaled down so much that the State of Wisconsin had to intervene to protect the most vulnerable of the county’s citizens. Its infrastructure is crumbling and years behind in necessary repairs.

The causes of this decline in Milwaukee County’s status are many, from the dire economic times we are in, to local leaders, past and present, who have put their self-interests before those of the people they serve. It is time, if not beyond time, for civic leaders to once again put the interests of Milwaukee County first. It is time to make Milwaukee County a first-class economic and social region for the State of Wisconsin and the entire Midwest. This is why residents from throughout Milwaukee County have come together to form Milwaukee County First.

Milwaukee County First is a registered 501(c)4 non-profit organization based in Milwaukee County.

Come and meet us Wednesday night, July 15, at Drinking Liberally. We will be at the Sugar Maple, located at 411 E. Lincoln Ave. tonight at 7 p.m.

Learn how you can help us help Milwaukee County, and let us know what issues you would like to see addressed.

See you there!

Hump Day Hum-Along

by folkbum

From before Farrar fired the band the first time. Or maybe the second time. I don't know.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Dare to Compare

By Keith R. Schmitz

It seems so unfair to pick on Sarah Palin since there is a lot less than meets the eye. But you still have supposedly serious people acting like she is a serious candidate, so when a dish is served it must be eaten.

That being said, as bad as she is when she stands alone put her up against Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotmayor and the Sarah Barracuda absolutely wilts.

Margaret Wente with the Toronto Globe and Mail splashes water on the arguments of the anti-Sotomayor crowd by comparing the judge against their hero ex-Gov. Palin:
According to leading Republican pundits, Judge Sotomayor is a hot-tempered, dim-witted bigot whose judicial activism (read nutty identity politics) could play havoc with the Constitution. Newt Gingrich, the former Republican House speaker, even called her a “Latina racist.” Amazingly, these are the same people who continue to insist that Sarah Palin is qualified to run for president of the United States. They insist she is the victim of a vicious smear job by the eastern media elites.
And for those who keep telling us that character counts and that there are 50 Rules:
Ms. Palin despises people who were educated in elite Ivy League universities. Judge Sotomayor, on the other hand, was smart enough to get into them. She put herself through school on scholarships, and graduated from Princeton with top honours. Ms. Palin, who finds homework disagreeable, has never doubted her own abilities for a minute. But Judge Sotomayor worries constantly that she's not good enough. “I am always looking over my shoulder, wondering if I measure up,” she has said.
As much as Palin and her undiscriminating (except sometimes when it comes to race) supporters whine about the people who have eyes and ears in the media and outside of the rad right, their real bane is George W. Bush.

In the past, the GOP became real masters at playing the game of presenting a mediocre candidate because at that time, they could sell the idea that government didn't matter so why should the people the offered up who managed it. At the same time, they could present critics as being detached from "real America" who could admire someone who was not an Ivy League snob. Note W did attend an Ivy League school or two.

Now things have changed. Most voters have noticed that when you have a proudly incompetent candidate, you have a government that can make your life complicated.

Nobody seems to care when things are running smoothly but when the economy runs into the ditch, people do point fingers.

Sarah Palin cannot play that card of the defiant incompetent except among the resentful and those who believe that the role of government is to strictly protect the unborn.

But she could play the element of surprise and find a way to improve and bone-up as they say. Maybe, just maybe, she could become a wise gringa. But when it comes to Sonia Sotomayor, Sarah has a long way to go.

Small Biz Looking for Relief

By Keith R. Schmitz

For many this will be counter intuitive.

Wisconsin Citizens Action in conjunction with Small Business Majority released a survey that was taken of 200 Wisconsin small business employers. Unlike other so-called small business advocacy groups, Small Business Majority is not a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Republican party.

Granted many, but not a majority, of small business owners are Republicans. For the purposes of the survey, the 33% of those Republican owners reflects the political breakout of that group.

Quick highlights. Of those small business owners surveyed, most are not or cannot offer health insurance to their employees, and only 16% say their access to coverage is excellent.

About 62% are calling on the government to do some kind of health care reform and 75% agree with the statement that more people would start a business if it wasn't for the cost of health insurance. On the issue of reforming health care as a means of getting the economy back on track, 72% of small business owners are in agreement.

I have always felt that though many of them strive to become big businesses some day, small business owners have a lot more in common with the population at large. Unless we reform health care fewer small businesses will be sustainable, let alone make it to the Fortune 500.

Ceci n'est pas une poste du Sarah Palin*

by folkbum

C'est l'homepage du Conor Oberst.

* Andy may not get the joke.

Kudos to the Kohler

by bert
On Sunday the New York Times ran a glowing feature about the job that the John Michael Kohler Arts Center does up in Sheboygan. One New Jersey artist, Gregory Van Maanen, praised it with a little bit of submerged East-Coast chauvinism.
When we think of great museums, we think of places like the Whitney in New York. But this museum is fabulous. It's like the Whitney on mescaline. It's a very trippy place.
I agree. Sorry Milwaukee, but this place is easily the most happening venue in the state.

The Kohler center is best known around Wisconsin for its tremendous bathrooms, which designated artists get to design with support from the Kohler factory. But, as the article documents, its strength is supporting outsider artists -- the untrained, uncompensated, and often obsessed makers of images. (Many are cheeseheads; Remember the fellow Tom Every and his massive scrap-metal Forevertron by Baraboo?)

Whether you think you like art or not, I recommend you check it out if you're in the Sheboygan area. Or want a reason for a trip.

Monday, July 13, 2009

McIlheran Watch: Rowen on DUI

by folkbum

As I wrote last week, Patrick McIlheran's Sunday column in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel was both a trip into fake-reality land (he claims, despite a lack of evidence, that the government plans to mandate alcohol-sensing ignition locks on all cars that must be used every time) and a celebration of the "responsible drunk" who knows perfectly well for himself that he's sober enough to drive.

At the time that I wrote, I did not have access to the full column, just the provocative excerpt. Now I do have access to it, and it does not exonerate him at all. In fact, it implicates him: "I drink and drive," he writes, toward the end, explaining that after a beer or a glass of wine he doesn't think twice about driving and he'll be damned if his car is ever going to tell him he's impaired.

James Rowen of the Political Environment piles on:
Wisconsin's typically American legal limit, at 0.08 BAC, is more generous that in other countries, so we already get a break--but, really, why would we celebrate it?--that other more thoughtful folk deem unacceptable. Examples--in Hungary, Brazil and the Czech Republic, the BAC is 0.00; in Norway and Sweden, 0.02; Japan, 0.03; portions of Canada, 0.05.

And consider that people who fly airplanes are not allowed to take the controls within eight hours of having any alcohol, and are considered legally-impaired if they were to test at 0.04 BAC--because alcohol slows down reflexes and muddles judgement.

If we had to abide by those standards, drunk driving crashes would pretty much disappear.
Rowen also links to evidence of how impaired drivers can be with BAC of as low as 0.05 and reminds us of the social contract: We expect you to choose to be safe, he says, and if you can't live up to that, you may need society's help to get there. You should really read the whole thing.

Monday Music

by folkbum

May or may not be safe for work. I can't tell.

Garfunkel and Oates.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Getting Between Me and My Doctor

By Keith R. Schmitz

Despite my protest, my doctor last year put me under Vytorim. I thought their commercials sucked and were cloying. But it helped keep my cholesterol down with no side effects so I forgot about the sickening cuteness of their ads.

That was until my insurance company intervened and told my doctor he could no longer proscribe the same medication he took, so he put me on something called Niapan.

I have been hitting hard in the gym to trim off some weight, and after a few weeks it felt like my muscles were going to rip off my bones. Found out from a friend that this was one of the possible side effects of certain statins.

After bringing that up to my trusted physician, he switched me to another drug -- Crestor. You know, the one hawked by bistro singer Mandy Patinkin.

A few more weeks go by, and now the muscles in my left leg seize up, rendering my ability to get up out of a chair analogous to the Tin Man without his oil can.

Looks like I'm going to have to take off a couple of billable hours from my day to see my doctor. I'll no doubt have to give up another half used bottle of expensive medication and get put on yet another prescription, which may yet again prove bring on more episodes of muscle pain and backsliding on my quest to loose weight.

But hey, we have the best health care system on earth.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Wisconsin Gay Marriage Ban Challenge Draws Attention

Check out MAL's piece in The Advocate, a hard-hitting national magazine indicative of the growing power of the LGBT civil rights movement.

The anti-banning marriage case, William C. McConkey v. J. B. Van Hollen), makes one contemplate the day that discrimination against gays will be as much an imprecation as open discrimination against ethnic minorities.

Civil rights advocates in Wisconsin are hopeful for a Wisconsin Supreme Court decision late this year that will send the gay marriage ban the way of state statutes banning marriage between difference races that were overturned in Loving v. Virginia (1967), a case referenced in the appellant brief. But it is ambiguity and not concern for equality that will perhaps negate what many here regard as a stain on Wisconsin’s reputation as a pioneer in civil rights.

Palin worship and the rare reverse-Godwin

by folkbum

Shorter Dad29: When Sarah Palin lied about the "bridge to nowhere," it was just like lying to the Nazis about hiding Jews in your house.

Friday, July 10, 2009

McIlheran Watch: It's like he wants you to drive drunk

by folkbum

I hate to interrupt my season premiere of "Eureka" for this, but every time I think I can get out, he drags me back ... you know the thing.

Anyway, McIlheran is earning his "Preview Patty" nickname this weekend. I got this excerpt of his Sunday column--yes, the Sunday column, so no linkity-blinkity--in my inbox at a bit after 6 this evening:
You knew that your government is planning to put a blood-alcohol interlock on your car’s ignition, didn’t you?

“We’d rather not call them ignition interlocks,” said Susan Ferguson of the Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety, or DADSS, program. “It’s not a punitive device.” [. . .]

The devices won’t be perfect, so car-makers will err on the side of no-go. Suppose a driver measures at 0.079%, say, starts the car and runs over a pedestrian. Then the cops find that her blood-alcohol is really 0.09%. Which car-maker will want to face the victim’s family lawyer and explain tolerable error or the fact that blood-alcohol can go on rising after your last drink?

So in practice, cars will impose a lower limit--two glasses, not three, say. Ferguson concedes this: Her devices will be set with a safety margin. It’s better, she says, to erroneously stop an innocent than to erroneously permit a drunk: “We’re very keen not to let anyone over the limit drive.” [. . .]

Beyond these is the biggest question: Just why would your government presume--to the point of making you pass a test to drive your car--that you’re an irresponsible drunk?
The ellipses are his, so perhaps the real column corrects the implication contained in the opening paragraph, which is that you--responsible, literate, intelligent (you're reading this blog as opposed to, say, McIlheran's) you--will have to have a blood-alcohol ignition interlock on your car. The interlock, suggests McIlheran, will be mandated by the federal government, and all cars are going to have them and every driver will have to blow into one every time he or she wants to take a spin down to the custard stand. That includes you--attractive, sober, ambidextrous you.

McIlheran must think that you've been convicted of DUI, then. (I don't know if you can sue him for slander if he doesn't use your name in particular.) That's because the real story--what some might call the "truth," but others might call the "facts," and I include both because its important to tell both sides of every story--is that the draft federal highway bill under consideration in a subcommittee of Congress somewhere has a provision that ties a portion of federal highway money to states' passing laws requiring the interlocks on the cars of those convicted of driving under the influence.

Got it? Not you. Because you would never be convicted of DUI, since you're all very athletic chess grandmasters with clear skin and lustrous full heads of hair.

Claiming we're all going to have to blow before we go is par-for-the-course fearmongering by the pro-DUI lobby. For example, this website, which even has some sort of magical crystal-ball based future timeline which indicates that by 2019, the US will have "de facto prohibition" because the ignition lock mandatory on every car will be set at .03 BAC (.08 is the current legal limit). It's hooey, of course, but it's the kind of hooey that McIlheran peddles thrice-weekly.

What's unusual, even for him, is the blasé way he suggests that convicted DUI offenders can just be trusted not to do it again. It's surprisingly hard for me to find Wisconsin statistics, but from what I could google up, it seems about a third, give or take, of all arrests for driving under the influence are of repeat offenders. (Check out these pretty graphs from Ohio.) It should also be noted that Wisconsin is consistently last or near last when it comes to DUIs; MADD noted a couple of years ago that more of our traffic fatalities were DUI-related than any other state's.

And yet he wrote, according to the last line of the excerpt he previewed, that he can't believe the government would assume you were "an irresponsible drunk." I guess McIlheran thinks all the responsible drunks ought to be allowed to drink and drive.

It's also unusual considering that his newspaper's second-best chance for a Pulitzer this year (after the BPA dead horse) was the "Wasted in Wisconsin" series specifically about how big of a problem drinking and driving is here. (One of the stories, in fact, was about the "responsible" drunks who thought they were not impaired at all. Who needs an interlock device to tell you if you're safe when you instead have the inflated sense of self-esteem and strong feelings of invincibility that come with being drunk?) I would have thought that even if no one is checking his facts about interlock laws, someone down at 3rd and State would at least have enough sense to wonder whether putting such pro-DUI pablum on the op-ed page might just be offensive considering the dismal state of affairs reported on the news pages.

But, hey, what do I know. I don't get a column at the daily dinosaur. I'm just a guy with a meagre blog read by the wisest and most heroic people on the planet.

(Updated: More here.)

Friday: This will be in your head all day

by folkbum

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Why did the teabagger move to Bloomington?

by folkbum

To be as close to Normal as possible. Ba-dum-pum!

McIlheran is talking up the scattered "grassroots" gatherings that happened last weekend under the aegis of an energy-industry-funded anti-tax group, which apparently managed rope in 6,000 of the disaffected and turn them against things like the current energy bill.

So I did a quick googlin' to see if McIlheran had ever gotten so excited over the not-industry-sponsored Fighting Bob Fest, which manages to draw similar-sized crowd of committed activists every year to Baraboo. Any guesses on how often McIlheran lionizes those who demand equality, peace, universal health care, environmental protections, and campaign finance reform? Spoiler alert: He hasn't.

Patrick Cudahy workers' fund

by folkbum

If anyone wants to or can help out the workers jacked up by the fire (still kind of burning for a third day) at the Patrick Cudahy plant, the UFCW is taking money and food items. It also sounds like it wouldn't be the worst thing to drive down and eat lunch in Cudahy this week.

Also of grave concern:
[Fire Chief Dan] Mayer said fire damaged primarily a microwave area where the company prepares bacon.
The Great Bacon Shortage of 09 is just about to start, I can feel it. It will be a long, healthy summer.

Wednesday already?

by folkbum

Everyone needs a Gibson Jumbo.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Fixing the Internets

by folkbum

B&S: Doyle Lives Large Much Smaller than His Republican Predecessors On Taxpayers’ Dime

Tuesday Tunage

by folkbum

I mean, it's no Hitler yelling about fonts or Sarah Palin, but it's got a good beat and you can dance to it.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Mark Neumann Site Is Up, And It's Good

by Michael Leon

The Mark Neumann for Governor committee filed its GAB-1 Campaign Registration Statement with the Government Accountability Board last week.

But a modern campaign is a campaign only when it gets its website up. Mark Neumann's site is up and it is not too shabby, though it's still in development.

Good colors, not text-heavy, and easy-to-find information.

Constructive suggestions, Mr. Neumann.

The upper-right and bottom quadrants of a given web page (in green in the above graphic) should be comprised of low-priority information. EyeTrack studies show readers’ eyes don't see these quadrants well. So whatever info you put on these spots ought to be low-priority. Your upper-right is a high-priority “Donate” button. Move this over to the left an inch or so.

Also, an industry standard is that hyperlinks should maintain the page a reader is using and open to a new, seperate page.

So your linked headline, for example, "Press Release: Mark Neumann Enters 2010 Gubernatorial Race," should open to a new window; it does not now. Easy fix. The current code for the linked headline is (in part):

-- a href=""> Press Release: Mark Neumann Enters 2010 Gubernatorial Race --

Simply place the following code target="_blank" between the " and > charactersin the code (that are bolded in above graf and in red) and the reader will open up a new window.

Like as follows (try it and hit this following link): Press Release: Mark Neumann Enters 2010 Gubernatorial Race. ... Whallah, a new window.

Mr. Neumann, I want you to win the GOP nomination for governor and then I sincerely want the best man to win the general election. I disagree with you on much policy; but you are an earnest man and such men don't grow on trees.

Lots of more ideas. Contact me if you are interested on my working on your primary as a consultant at:

Monday Morning Music

by folkbum

If this doesn't get your week started right, I don't know what will.


Sunday, July 05, 2009

Welcome Mike Gousha Viewers!

by folkbum

(Updated: If you missed the show, our segment is online here.)

I'm quite certain that tens of thousands of people all across the state are waking up this morning and watching "UpFront with Mike Gousha" and, impressed by my madd debating skillz, are immediately firing up teh great gizoogle and finding this here blog.

Owen and I had about 4 seconds to debate about a million things, so I thought I would add a few things here that I didn't get to say.

I spent the most time boning up on the sate budget and was able to get the fewest of my talking points in about that topic. In fact, the more I read up on the budget, the more impressed I was with it.

Owen's a bit lucky that Republican talking points on the budget are easily reducible to the lazy conservative dog whistles: increased spending, benefits for gays, illegal immigrants, blahdy blah blah blah.

The truth about the budget is a bit more wonky and a bit more important to the actual real lives of people across the state. For example, the budget was done on time this year for the first time since 1977. In these difficult economic times--indeed, in worsening economic times, as the revenue news was revised downward several times since the beginning of the year--Democrats were able to come together and get a budget done on time.

It's also a budget that does not raise the sales tax, income tax (for 99% of people), property tax, or gas tax. State workers and state agencies took a big hit so that education and shared revenue could be spared the worst. The spending from General Purpose Revenue--the big pot of tax dollars the state collects from you and me--is lower, in real dollars, in actual total dollars spent, in this budget than in the previous one, but 2.5%. The total increase in spending (yes, $61b for 09-11 is larger than the $58b for 07-09) is almost entirely accounted for by federal stimulus dollars, not tax increases--and don't let the Republicans tell you any differently. The Legislative Fiscal Bureau estimated that the median home's property taxes would increase a grand total of just $94 if schools and municipalities taxed to the max under revenue limits.

Wonky, yes. But also worth being proud of--and not something that petty little issues like gay-bashing and immigrant-bashing should be allowed to overcome.

As for Jim Doyle, and whether he's running for re-election, I will reiterate what I said on the show: No one has told me any differently. However, Doyle has indeed been invisible lately, not even taking much credit for the budget. Some Democrats have expressed quite a bit of displeasure over Doyle's relative absence lately, and they have a legitimate beef. However, if you remember four years ago, Doyle was perfectly happy just to go about doing his job and letting his opponents beat each other up. I firmly believe the Republican primary will get ugly, soon, and I will be happy to watch that happen. So will Jim Doyle.

UPDATED to add something else: One other thing I wanted to say on the show but that I didn't is that the single toughest opponent Jim Doyle will face next year is the economy. It doesn't matter which Republican's name is on the ballot; if the economy is still in the toilet, Doyle's re-election is less secure.

ALSO: I'm watching Mark Neumann on the program this morning, and he's taking credit for the Clinton economy of the 1990s that he voted against consistently. Ugh.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Happy Birthday America!

By Keith R. Schmitz

Is this the year we declare our independence from health insurance companies?

Happy Independence Day

by folkbum

I will be counting fingers on Monday, so be careful.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Palin gets out of the kitchen

by folkbum

I just don't know what to say about this.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Must-Listen TV

by folkbum

I'll be appearing in a way too brief segment Sunday morning during "UpFront with Mike Gousha." Milwaukeeans can see it on channel 12 at 9 AM; others should check listings here. The program will also be archived and available online by early next week, too.

I'm up against (natch) Owen Robinson. I got in a few good shots, but I didn't have quite enough time to get to everything I wanted to.

Also, the regular make-up person was not available when we taped, so anyone with HD should probably watch blindfolded. That is all.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

RIP, Karl Malden

by folkbum

Karl Malden apparently did not get my request for a pause in the whole dying thing. However, at least he reached 97 and died of natural causes. You know, just to throw us off.