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Friday, October 30, 2009

Ryan pitches health insurance scare tactics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


by folkbum

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

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Props to Arnold for this one

by folkbum

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


by folkbum

Why haven't those idiots gone Galt yet?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Vast majority of Americans now a "formidable liberal interest group"

by folkbum

Dana Milbank, this morning: "For Reid, [introducing a bill with a public option] was an admission of the formidable power of liberal interest groups."

Recent polling:
  • USA Today/Gallup Poll. Oct. 16-19, 2009: If Congress passes a health care bill, do you think it should or should not include a public, government-run insurance plan to compete with plans offered by private insurance companies? Should, 50%
  • CNN/Opinion Research Corporation Poll. Oct. 16-18, 2009: Would you favor or oppose creating a public health insurance option administered by the federal government that would compete with plans offered by private health insurance companies? Favor, 61%
  • ABC News/Washington Post Poll. Oct. 15-18, 2009: Would you support or oppose having the government create a new health insurance plan to compete with private health insurance plans? Support, 76%
  • CBS News Poll. Oct. 5-8, 2009: Would you favor or oppose the government offering everyone a government-administered health insurance plan -- something like the Medicare coverage that people 65 and older get -- that would compete with private health insurance plans? Favor, 62%
  • Ipsos/McClatchy Poll conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs. Oct. 1-5, 2009: One of the points being debated is whether or not the government should create a public health insurance plan as an alternative to private insurance plans. Public plan is necessary, 53%
  • Quinnipiac University Poll. Sept. 29-Oct. 5, 2009: Do you support or oppose giving people the option of being covered by a government health insurance plan that would compete with private plans? Support, 61%
  • Pew Research Center Poll. Sept. 30-Oct. 4, 2009: Would you favor or oppose a government health insurance plan to compete with private health insurance plans? Favor, 55%

Monday, October 26, 2009

If nominated, I will not run

by folkbum

If elected, I will not serve. Even if it means no one runs ...

More seriously, I was looking forward to campaigning for Barbara Lawton. I think a lot of the so-called "serious people" on the right assumed she was a lightweight who would never connect with voters. I disagree. Today's news is surprising and disappointing.

... adding, it is supremely disheartening that in a blue state like this, the two likely candidates remaining--unless Ron Kind changes his mind (which is not the end of the world)--are the also-rans from eight years ago. Where the hell is our leadership development?


by folkbum

Comments may not be working right, and this site might be slow to load, too. Happy Monday!

Seems fine now. Flame away.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Signs of the times

by folkbum

1. One of the best, longest-standing, and most important bloggers on the planet is about to get evicted; if you can help--I can't, times being what they are--you should.

2. We've been turning away the neighborhood kids and I had to rake the leaves myself today because my labor is free. Ugh.

WTMJ, WISN: Pimples of the GOP Party

by bert
Predictably -- and right-wing radio shows are always predictable – the talk shows of our local AM stations WTMJ and WISN spent last week hammering the White House’s criticism of Fox News.

What's provoked their push-back was that President Obama’s staff members said in interviews since last Sunday that we Americans, and especially other reporters, should all just stop pretending Fox is journalism.

Dan Peiffer, an Obama spokesman, said "we simply decided to stop abiding by the fiction, which is aided and abetted by the mainstream press, that Fox is a traditional news organization.” Anita Dunn, another White House flak, stated the obvious when she said Fox News is an arm of the Republican Party.

If Fox’s defenders had an argument it was that you can’t confuse commentators in the evening such as Beck or Hannity with the serious, balanced journalism the Fox channel presents during the day. I had to laugh, recalling the teabagger protests last summer when Fox reporters were literally cheering on and pumping up the protesters. I also seem to recall that Hannity never makes those distinctions in declaring all media except Fox as inthetankforObama.

I think it is rich that the local radio is acting all shocked at such an accusation, that a news organization would carry water for a political party. Because I know what folks like Dunn would conclude if she listened to these stations around here. She would see very quickly that, while too insignificant nationally to be an arm of the GOP, WTMJ and WISN are at least pimples of the party.

The local stations, like Fox, pretend they have “news departments” apart from their talk shows. At WISN in the morning the straight news guy is Ken Herrera. True, many times Herrera will just deliver a straight news story, say the spillage of animal offal on the freeway.

But at other times you'll see him serving as the sort of Ed McMahon to talk-show-host Jay Weber. I remember Herrera, for example, gushing his enthusiasm for Sarah Palin, agreeing with an equally aroused Weber about how awesome she was going to be on the day Palin was announced as John McCain’s V.P. candidate a good year ago.

Even worse is another WISN fill-in Nick Reed, who does both straight news and fills in for other hosts. One afternoon Reed is going off forever against Doyle or Pelosi, blah, blah, blah. Then the next day he’ll be the guy reading a story at the top of the hour about state government.

Does anyone remember when, as part of their straight news, WISN would run a feature during their straight news called “good news from the front” that would try to sell the wars under George Bush with fluffy features about schools being built in Karbala, or an election, etc.? That feature stopped about when Bush’s term stopped. Hmmmm?

When it comes to their competitor WTMJ and its supposed journalism, it's hard to know where to start. What contaminates any claim that WTMJ can make that it engages in actual news is the damage wrought by the influence at that company wielded by show-host Charlie Sykes, who is an open GOP operative and MC of GOP fund-raisers.

Like the tick on a rat, Sykes is the carrier of GOP infection afflicting WTMJ’s news. The exposé by former WTMJ news and programming guy Dan Shelley documented how Sykes would rant and throw his weight around. Here's an excerpt of Shelley's article:
Another tense moment arose when the Harley-Davidson 100th anniversary was captivating the community – and our on-air coverage – in 2003, but Charlie
wanted to talk about school choice for seemingly the 100,000th time. He literally threw a fit, off the air and on, belittling other hosts, the news department and station management for devoting resources to Harley’s 100th coverage. “The Green House” newsman Phil Cianciola countered that afternoon with a joke about Charlie riding a Harley wearing loafers. Charlie complained to management about Phil and wouldn’t speak civilly about him in my presence again.

Cianciola was fired from WTMJ recently, by the way.

Although Shelley claimed in this article there is a sort of church-state barrier at the station between news and talk, I see a lot of leakage. Routinely, the news portion runs sound bites from folks who had been “interviewed” by Sykes.

But the problem is that Sykes does not interview. His questions lovingly caress the likes of Dick Cheney, Scott Walker, or Jim Sensenbrenner. While, if the interviewee is an enemy, Sykes uses questions to bludgeon them. For example, while interviewing then County Chair Karen Ordinans, Sykes attacked with interjections such as “I mean, hello??!!”

A print reporter would not run as a quote for an article about Taco Bell the line “think outside the bun” -- or quote "you're in good hands with All-State" while writing about insurance -- as if those quotes came from an interview with company executives. So why should WTMJ news re-run supposed interview bites that in fact were situated within the 3.5-hour commercial for the GOP that Sykes orchestrates every weekday?

So, no, I’m sorry, the White House is obviously correct here about even more than the Fox News they were talking about. And so they shouldn't back down.

Saturday, October 24, 2009


By Keith R. Schmitz

Here's a shock. Being German by heritage we are not known necessarily for our generosity.

But when it comes down to it, many of us are community-minded.

Here's a fresh example. A group of wealthy Germans is petitioning Chancellor Angela Merkel to increase taxes on those with personal fortunes of more than 500,000 euros ($750,000). The effort is an attempt to alleviate the budget crisis and target the money to social services.

As one member of the group put it:
The gap between the poor and the rich in Germany has widened during the last 15 years. One of the reasons for this were past governments' tax reduction policies that favored businesses and the rich.
When we keep hearing from the right that the money isn't there to do social programs or infrastructure programs, or whatever, the money is there.

We just have to go and get it.

We Have Run out of Excuses

By Keith R. Schmitz

For those in this country who are worried that the Chinese are not going to do anything about climate change and therefore we will become uncompetitive if we do, looks like the Chinese will be in fact going after the problem.

And for those of you in the peanut gallery who though you only believe the likes of sociopaths like Dick Cheney, Rush Limbaugh and John Bolton; and who will be skeptical, the proof is that the Chinese will be looking to make money off of their push.

That, for a country like ours that gives credence to nonsense such as creationism and intelligent design rather than legitimate science, plus in the virtue of exporting jobs overseas, that is the bad news.

Congrats to Stacie and Jason

by folkbum

Five and a half years ago, I got an email from some guy in Madison about becoming the blogger for the new alt-weekly newspaper he and his friend Jason Haas was starting up. I passed, but recommended an old college friend, Stacie Rosenzweig, for the gig, which she accepted.

Later today, Stacie and Jason are getting married. L'chaim!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Tenuousness Lyrical Love

by 3rd Way

One of the many charms of the blogosphere is it's inhabitants proclivity towards promoting their musical tastes. My blog reading habit has turned me onto some musicians I may not have found otherwise, but I fear most musical posts are skipped over by the average reader. Blog-centric communication is likely most successful when the content is literary and visual opposed to aural.

Tonight I decided from now on I will start to share selected lines from musicians whose lyricism moves me enough to make me want to share with others.

To kick off my new tradition I wanted to post some lines from Andrew Bird's "Tenuousness". I really wish I would have seen him when he was in town last weekend.

Love of hate acts as an axis
First it wanes and then it waxes

(So procreate and pay your taxes)


When Copraphagia was writ
Know when to stand know when to sit

Can’t stand to stand can’t stand to sit and
who would want to know this
Click click click

I had to go "click click click" to find out what copraphagia means. I guess those that consume what Beck and other Fox commentators expel could be described as Copraphagians.

FriTunes, with show reminder

by folkbum

A reminder that tomorrow night (Saturday, 10/24), I'm playing a double bill with my and fellow songwriter friend Chris Head. The show is at the Coffee House on 19th and Wisconsin in Milwaukee, it starts at 8 PM, and it will cost you a measly $5.

I won't be doing many covers--in such a short set I can get away with playing all originals--but I will do my version of this classic:

But I do it ... happy. I never understood why a love song such as this needs to be a dirge.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Once again, the teachers have to MOP up

by folkbum

It never fails: Time after time, I write here about what could be better about schooling in general and the Milwaukee Public Schools in particular. Comments are, well, few and far between. And, time after time (at least lately), I detail why a coup, a forced takeover of the Milwaukee Public Schools by the mayor is both unnecessary and a bad idea. Comments are, well, along the lines of "Well what's your plan, idiot?"

You can see why I get frustrated about this.

Now, though, there's a solid, complete competing plan, written by teachers for the district and the classrooms that they know better than anyone else. It's being called the Milwaukee Opportunity Plan, and it's being presented by the local and state teachers unions.

To be clear: I had nothing to do with the development of this plan; I didn't even know it was coming until I saw the news yesterday afternoon. But I have read through it, and, let me tell you that it is head and shoulders above anything the mayor, the governor, or the daily paper--all the big takeover proponents--have put forward. (The paper's answer to "where's the plan" was, in fact--and I'm not making up this quote--"In our book, getting a traditionally ineffectual board out of the way is a plan." Please!)

And also to be clear: I do not believe that this plan is going to make all the bad go away and turn MPS into a rainbow factory full of ponies and kittens. The MOP proposals here are research-based, seem sensible, and no doubt will have an effect. But all of these things, like most other reforms proposed or implemented in the last two decades, will create at best small gains at the margins. I will argue now as I have consistently since I started writing on the matter that the problems of the Milwaukee Public Schools are generally Milwaukee problems, and not schools problems. As long as our students struggle with poverty, crime, unstable families, homelessness and transience, and poor health, our job is going to be incredibly difficult. It's not that I don't like this plan--I do, much better than the no-plan of mayoral control--but I don't have faith that this alone is going to significantly close the achievement gap or get MPS off the District Identified for Improvement list.

The MOP is comprehensive but straightforward, and covers all of MPS's problem areas. This includes separating leadership of the district into a CEO and a CAO (A for academic). The board is already leaning that way, through the creation of an Office of Accountability that put some of the financial operation more directly under board control. Which is not to say that MPS doesn't handle its financial operations well--it wins awards, after all--but overseeing a billion-dollar budget and the education of 83,000 students is tough. I mean, I wouldn't want to have to do it. Having someone whose only job is to keep an eye on the day-to-day operations means more efficient budgets, and that should ameliorate one of the biggest knocks against MPS.

The MOP also includes a governance change at the board level--though one again already proposed by the board--of redistricting the board to eliminate the city-wide seat and giving the near south side its own representative. There are plenty of more proposed changes to the bureaucracy, too, including some to bring the district in line with national norms, something we don't always follow and that got us dinged in the McKinsey audit last spring.

There is, as can be expected from a plan proposed by teachers, a lot to do with the classroom, too, including many of the things I talk about regularly here as well as some of the things being proposed by the current district leadership. This includes everything from re-establishment of alternative programs for chronically disruptive students to standardizing curricula across schools to combat the effects of high student mobility. (I generally don't like the latter idea; it is an admission of defeat regarding one of the city's biggest problems and it will gut the variety and diversity of our schools.) The plan includes better professional development and more mentoring of new teachers. The MOP also asks for an expansion of the union's TEAM program, which has proven effective at improving teacher quality (and helping many bad teachers find the door); eliminating the residency requirement; and changing the teacher pay system.

In addition, the plan offers a number of ideas that I have floated here in the past: incentives to MPS students to become MPS teachers; smaller class sizes at key grades, like grade 9; better principal training and leadership; and bringing back arts education for all young students--the data are clear that arts education early makes later education in other subjects easier.

There is also a set of reforms to the school day and the school year. Earlier this year, the administration proposed using one-time stimulus money to extend the school day long-term; the union pointed out that that was a bad idea. But here they are at the table with a long-term, sustainable, thoughtful plan for more time in school daily and extended school year opportunities for our lowest-performing students.

The MOP proposal begins with what is perhaps most important--parental involvement. I noted at the top of this post that I don't believe that this plan alone, or any plan that focuses on the schools rather than the wider community as the locus of reform, won't produce significantly different results. I really do believe that. However, I know that we won't get any results if we don't have the parents and the community on board with the changes we do make within the schools. And that's the key difference between something like the teachers' plan here and the takeover plan that might be imposed from above: Teachers know that reaching out to the community, rather than tearing the community apart, creates a better learning environment. Will this plan have any better luck than efforts currently underway to expand parental involvement? I don't know; this is a hard thing and has been for some time. But this at least starts with the simple proposition that the parents and the community have value and hold many of the keys to success--and they need to be our partners, not our enemies.

As I said, at the very least, this offers a starting point for the "Well, what's your plan?" crowd. The documents about the MOP are here; read and ask why this isn't worth pursuing at least as vigorously (although ...) as the mayoral takeover idea.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

RIP, Gerald Bracey

by folkbum

One of the most ardent supporters of public schools has died. Thomas A. Mertz has the sad news.

Said the guy whose contract negotiators refused to meet with the union between May and September this year

by folkbum
"The truth of the matter is we can't continue as an organization with these benefit increases and have viable programs in our schools," Andrekopoulos said. "We just can't survive this."

He called for unions and employees to cooperate in fixing the problem.

Monday, October 19, 2009

4th Street Follow-Up

by folkbum

I still want to say more about the content of the discussion of the 4th Street Forum I participated in last week, but let me say in brief that I had a great time and thought, overall, that it went well. (The camera seemed to add about 150 pounds, though.)

Two links for you: One, MPTV has the video posted here will have the footage posted here, soon. Look for "4th Street Forum" episode 805. Two, 88Nine Radio Milwaukee does teaser interviews with all the participants, and they're available here.

Is Gov. Jim Doyle calling Rep. Gwen Moore a liar?

by folkbum

Because if he is, he should just use those words, and not beat around the bush:
Gov. Jim Doyle said Monday the state must give control of Milwaukee schools to the mayor to put in a "good faith" application for federal economic stimulus funds.
Gwen Moore, repeatedly, earlier:
During our discussion on July 9, you [Secretary of Education Arne Duncan] discussed your goals for Race to the Top, as well as the qualifications and standards that states need to follow in order to qualify for funding. I commend you for your transparency during this process, as well as for your willingness to clarify points of particular concern for my constituents at our meeting. Responding to my query regarding requirements for governance of school boards, you unequivocally stated that mayoral control of the school board is not a prerequisite to compete for Race to the Top funds--a position made clearer by the fact that the proposed rule does not mention the type of local school board control required to qualify for dollars.
One of the two must be lying or pushing a personal agenda regardless of the truth. And given that Gwen Moore has the documentation on her side (seriously, read about the Race funds and look for anything about urban district governance), I tend to believe her. If the governor knows something she doesn't, he needs to put that on the table or he'll keep looking like a fool.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Friday, October 16, 2009

NFL Shoots Down a Blimp

By Keith R. Schmitz

Sort of missed the possibility of the pending spectacle of having Rush Limbaugh being part owner of the currently hapless St. Louis Rams for a multitude of reasons.

One of the shots I always hate is the obligatory camera on the owner's box. It would be great however seeing fans hurling food into the perch in order to "feed" Bouncy, Bouncy.

It would be great to listen to the protests of the minority players having to perform for one of America's leading racists.

And it would be great to have someone who is a major promoter of out-off-control-capitalism being associated with an organization that may not necessarily socialistic, but is a great example of very well regulated capitalism. Working so damned well to boot.

This would have added another entertaining dimension that would have matched Howard Cosell in the broadcast booth.

All we get instead is classic conservative victimhood.


by folkbum

The Everybodyfields.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Weirdest. Amber Alert. Ever.

by folkbum

But at least the boy was eventually found safe.

What would it take?

by folkbum

I think I have made it pretty clear that I oppose the current effort--if you can call it an effort, as it seems, so far, all talk and no action--to place control of the Milwaukee Public Schools in the hands of the mayor. I think I have pretty well laid out my reasons: the public voted down a similar plan in the spring election for State Superintendent; the mayor hasn't managed to fix in the city the same problems he's gunning for in the schools; there is a real and dangerous divide already forming along racial lines over the issue that could tear this city apart; claims of success in other districts under municipal control tend to be inflated or illusory; the primary impetus for the move seems to be the erroneous assumption that we have to do it to get the "race to the top" funds the feds have promised.

But I'm not an unreasonable man, and I'd like to believe that if a solid case for a governance change came my way I could be convinced. I haven't seen that case yet, and I don't have such an aggrandized sense of self that I wait daily for the phone to ring with Mayor Barrett on the other line asking me what it would take. However, I feel that, since I have in my head been developing a list of, as it were, demands, it seems like I ought to share them.

And, since later today I go tape the 4th Street Forum episode on MPS reform, I'm running out of time to put this forward. So. What would it take?

First and foremost, as I alluded to earlier, Tom Barrett can't run for governor. Bruce Murphy, a pro-takeover guy, makes the case that it would actually be a great campaign point for Barrett for a variety of reasons. I disagree. In my earlier post, I make it clear that at least this Milwaukeean (and MPS teacher) sees this as part of a crap-on-Milwaukee strategy. Think of it as Barrett's Sista Souldja moment; out-state voters won't vote for a Milaukeean unless that Milwaukeean can blame Milwaukee as much as they do.

More importantly, Barrett's asking for a great deal of not just authority but responsibility to be placed in his office. If he's serious about exercising that authority and living up to that responsibility, he needs to make a commitment to see the process through. If he can't do that, I'm not sure how we can take him seriously.

Second, something needs to be in it for us. In places where municipal control hasn't been such a disaster that the voters haven't taken it back--I'm looking at you, Detroit!--the city has offered its resources to help. In the most complete written list of ideas the mayor has offered to date (at least, that I know of; I'm happy to see something else if it's out there) there is nothing from his side of the bargain on the table.

I would be happy to see anything, here, whether it's the city picking up the tab for stationing MPD resource officers in schools or a promise to put a public health nurse in every building. Something like partnering a city social worker with every school social worker would literally double the manpower in one of the most difficult--but most important--positions in MPS. Barrett could offer to bring city and school unions together to increase bargaining power for health care and pensions, or to supplement and expand the district's recreation division. Something. But we've gotten nothing from Barrett on that front, at all, in theory or in his recent budget proposal.

A simple and perhaps effective approach would be to pair the city's and the district's resources on combatting the kinds of problems highlighted in this report (.pdf) by researchers at UW-Milwaukee, which is all about neighborhood and community factors that affect children and their ability to succeed later in school--things like unemployment, early child care issues, child safety, crime rates, and housing challenges. These are things far outside of the control of the schools, but that have a tremendous impact on how hard it is for schools to do their jobs well. These are, however, things the city could be working on; a commitment from the mayor, accompanied by some real action on his part, would be a positive sign. (For more on the report, see the UWM page; BloggingMPS also has three posts up, with links to a video presentation: 1 2 3.)

Third, Barrett would have to do something to pre-empt the inevitable racial schism his proposal seems to be creating. He needs the African American and Latino communities to be partners with him if he wants schools to succeed, but lines are being drawn that call the idea of unity into serious question. The NACCP, MICAH, and other groups have been squarely against the takeover; even Pedro Colon, fan of reform, is unwilling to cede full control to the mayor. Barrett needs to bring them back if he wants to be successful here. Barrett can do this in a number of ways; one easy one would be to call together a council of advisors from the community. If he plans to appoint a nine-member school board, ask this council to give him five or six names, as he appoints the other three or four. Give this council a say in selecting the superintendent, too.

In the end, I don't see all or, really, any of this happening. I'm actually quite surprised that Tom Barrett hasn't announced his gubernatorial run by now. But this is what it would take to get me on board. Until then, I remain opposed.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

4th Street Forum reminder

by folkbum

Pack your lunches and set your DVRs (I will not be singing):

Is there a winning formula for urban school districts?
If so, will Milwaukee figure it out?
The knowns and unknowns of educational achievement.

Each forum is taped in front of a studio audience for later broadcast on MPTV Channel 10.1. The audience can participate by asking questions of the panelists. The forums are free and open to the public. Attendees can bring their lunch.

FORUM DATE AND TIME: Thursday, October 15, NOON
WHERE: Milwaukee Turner Hall, 2nd Floor, 1034 North 4th Street (4th and Highland)

BROADCAST DATES and TIMES: Milwaukee Public Television will tape this forum for broadcast on Channel 10.1/10 - Friday, October 16, 10PM and Sunday, October 18, 9AM. It will also run on Time Warner's, "Wisconsin on Demand," (WIOD). This
year, full-length viewing of each program will be available at Refer to show number 805.

MODERATOR: SONYA JONGSMA KNAUSS, Editor,, Journal Interactive,


Education Columnist, Journal Sentinel

English Teacher at Bay View High School
Blogger on Education,

Research Director
Public Policy Forum,

Assistant Professor of Urban Education
Director, Institute for Cultural Research

4th Street Forum is sponsored by the Milwaukee Turners, co-sponsored by Milwaukee Public Television, and in collaboration with UWM Milwaukee Center for Urban Initiatives and Research.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Doing my job for me

by folkbum

I was going to post a hypothetical this morning, running something along these lines.

Imagine, I would start, if this article from today's paper were a little different, and instead of firefighters protesting budget cuts in their red union shirts, you has AFSCME protesting budget cuts in their green union shirts. What kind of reaction, I would have asked, you be getting from the usual suspects? (photo by Michael Sears of the MJS)

The joke, there, would be that the right-wing bloggers and pundits all hate government union thugs and think they should have their pay and benefits and workforce slashed, except for those government union thugs that they like and think ought to be given everything they ask for.

The sad--or happy, since it makes my job easier--thing is that I don't need to make it a hypothetical at all, since the oblivious tools at BadgerBlogger have demonstrated, in two consecutive posts yesterday, no less, exactly this joke. They even managed to get a picture of AFSCME workers in their green union gear. Perfect!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Mess America

By Keith R. Schmitz

Can the Miss America pageant make itself any more tragically irrelevant?

You bet!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Support the Vets

by folkbum

Earlier this month, I got an email from somebody, now long deleted and relegated to the dustbin of electrons and neurons, about Guitars for Vets. I didn't think anything of it at the time, but at last night's Peter Mulvey show, the group had a table and literature and swag.

The idea is that getting guitars into the hands of veterans, and teaching them how to play, helps their recovery. The group was started by a Vietnam veteran here in Milwaukee through the Milwaukee VA, and with the help of donors and volunteers has spread to other cities and is likely to keep growing.

If the economic circumstances of my household were different, I would be giving more than just my support here on the blog. But you can donate online here, or buy some of their swag for yourself.

Bonus YouTube: No one has yet uploaded anything from the Pabst last night, but here's one from this past spring at the Cafe Carpe. Not only was I at this show, too, that's my fat head in the bottom left of your screen:

Friday, October 09, 2009


by folkbum

A preview of tonight's entertainment:

President Obama Wins Nobel Peace Prize

By Keith R. Schmitz

Incoming bile.

After a week of celebrating the turndown of Chicago and America by the International Olympics Committee, we can look forward to a weekend of conduct unbecoming by the right wing thanks to the President winning the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts at making us (the world that is) safer.

But let's face it, when it comes to the turn of events,

The President is Bugs Bunny

The right is Elmer Fudd

Update from folkbum: Okay, honestly, this one surprises me, too. I mean, the conspiracy's secret website clearly says that this was supposed to happen next year, to cover up all the fraud we're planning for the '10 elections.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Acorns and Oaks

by bert
UPDATE: Jon Stewart is on it.

On a scale of depravity, how would you rank those federal contractors who gang-rape and imprison compared to those contractors who talk agreeably to actors pretending to want to pimp under-age immigrants?

Last week, as right-wing pundits were installing wall-to-wall astro-outrage over the airwaves based on the prostitute trick that some ACORN staff fell for, I was reminded of the case of Jamie Leigh Jones.

Good for the new guy Al Franken for bringing some light to one of the many, many outrageous cases that don't help The Right, and therefore seem to sink out of reporters' sight (like the murdered census worker in Kentucky, for example).

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Remember when ...

by folkbum

... the Democratic National Committee issued a statement demanding that Sarah Palin be put "in her place"? Yeah, me neither. But it must have happened, since they keep telling us that it's Democrats who are afraid of strong women who aren't afraid to etc.

Monday, October 05, 2009

59 Milwaukee County residents support a mayoral takeover of MPS

by folkbum

You read that right--not 59 percent of, just 59 Milwaukee County residents support handing over the Milwaukee Public Schools to the mayor of Milwaukee.

At least, that's according to a new poll by the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute (done by the "public option" UW polling center):
According to the poll results, slightly more than half of the 112 Milwaukee County residents surveyed , or 53%, said they supported the proposal for a mayoral takeover of MPS, a plan proposed by Gov. Jim Doyle and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett in August.
When you do that math, that adds up to 59 people.

Now, I'm no statistician, but I do like to play one on the internet sometimes. I appreciate a well-constructed sample, and I have no doubt that the people at the UW aren't playing fast and loose with the data. But a sample size of 112 for a county of more than 900,000 people seems a bit of a stretch. Doing the math (using ARG's calculator), it turns out that this subsample has a margin of error of more than ±9%--not something to write home about.

Mostly, I'm suspicious because, in fact, the mayoral takeover has been put to voters, and it lost. It didn't come up in the last election of either Gov. Doyle or Mayor Barrett, but it was certainly on the table in the State Superintendent election this past spring between Tony Evers and Rose Fernandez. Both candidates put forward Milwaukee plans in the election, and Fernandez's plan was, while not a mayoral takeover, a similar concept. She proposed eliminating the current, elected school board and replacing it with a "turnaround team" made up of members appointed by herself, the mayor, and the county executive.

Fernandez lost by 14 points statewide. It was closer to 20 points in the City of Milwaukee.

What might have changed in six months to turn sentiment around? Nothing that I know of. In fact, in every public forum so far (like the one last week, and--I anticipate--the one tomorrow night) the public opinion has been strongly against the idea. The loudest support has been from the daily newspaper's editorial board and the business community, neither of which truly represents the parents and families in the cities.

Given the way community organizations are lining up against this--and the real risk of an unmendable divide in the community if it happens--it seems like 59 people don't make for a good reason to go ahead.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Great Big Sea at the Pabst

by folkbum

I was sitting on the other side of the theatre. A friend who snagged a set list confirms this cover was not planned. The way it takes Alan a minute to figure out the song is priceless.

Posts I shouldn't have to write

by folkbum

Every two years, dozens of cities submit applications to host the summer or winter Olympic games, and when all but one are rejected, life goes on as normal in those countries. Duh.

Olympics, 2
The IOC rejected the leftist, activist, union-thug supported brown guy and instead embraced the leftist, activist, union-thug supported brown guy.

Olympics, 3
I would like to retroactively blame George W. Bush for making us lose the 2012 winter summer games in 2005 because the world hated him and he ruined our reputation. Also.

David Letterman
He had sex with underlings? Really? In other news, dog bites man.

Roman Polanski
It shouldn't matter if he was convicted of rape, "rape-rape," or running a stop sign. He fled his sentence; he should have been brought back long ago.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

I'l Have What He's Having

By Keith R. Schmitz

Florida Democratic Congressman Alan Grayson has created a minor cable TV furor with his tongue-in-cheek dig that the GOP plan for health care is "just die."

In predictable fashion, the dish it out but can't take it GOP is crying like babies. Since the dawn of August we have seen a parade of Republican congress members lay wild charges about death panels, government control of health care, and of course, an apology from Joe Wilson that isn't an apology because he is fund raising off his disruption.

So now we have Freshman representative Grayson not only using his apology to dig the dig deeper, but bursting onto the set at CNN and audaciously taking on an entire panel and standing his ground.

I for one would like more reasoned discussion but we haven't seen it from the GOP. Sure supporters of health care from time to time have gone off the road, but we all know who has ginned up the hysteria. So for the time being, this the way the game is being played. Though well-framed arguments are great, it is overpowering the other side that carries the day. Just the way it is right now.

We need more Democrats like Alan Grayson.