Sunday, July 31, 2005

Lawyers, guns and money

"Just Put Down That Law Suit, Pardner, and No One Gets Hurt."

Greg Palast, author of best-seller, "The Best Democracy Money Can Buy," writes in The Guardian about why Congress felt compelled to act to protect gun makers from lawsuits.

Among his observations:

First, the score. Gunshot deaths in the US are way down - to only 88 a day. Around 87,000 lucky Americans were treated for bullet wounds last year; 32,436 unlucky ones died, including a dozen policemen by their own weapons. For Americans, America remains more deadly than Iraq.

Anti-immigrant politics are short-sighted

"Ugly doses of racism and xenophobia are glaringly evident in the open political hostility toward millions of illegal immigrants living in this country," Joel McNally writes in a Capital Times op ed.

But politicians and political parties who try to use anti-immigrant backlash for political gain will come to regret it in the long term, he says. Hope he's right.

Mark Green, meet Jessica Simpson

Rep. Mark Green has been to Iraq a couple of times, he'll have you know, and the worst thing about the war in Iraq isn't all of the people, military and civilians, getting killed there.

No, Green says that the worst thing is that we never hear any of the good news!And that is bad for morale, here and there.

Well, Jessica Simpson, one of Xoff's regular sources, went to Iraq, too, with her hubby.

And you know what?

When they showed her visit on a TV special, they didn't show any of the bad news!

So, as you can imagine, she is quite upset -- maybe not as upset as Mark Green, but upset nonetheless. She wants to know where that footage went.

Simpson says, "It was unbelievable. They didn't show a lot of what really went on with the enemy attacks and the shelling. There was so much stuff that went on and somehow the tapes got mysteriously misplaced."

Wonkette has the rest of the story.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Whatever turns you on, I guess

F. Jim Sensenbrenner is one weird duck. The Wall Street Journal reports:

Last-Minute Deals Put CAFTA Over the Top

“The 217-215 tally officially recorded at 12:03 yesterday morning ended months of arm-twisting, wheedling, deal-cutting, pleading for party unity and chiding to put the national good ahead of parochial interests, all to push the Central American Free Trade Agreement, or CAFTA, through the House of Representatives. In the days leading up to the pivotal vote, administration officials joined the lobbying, at times granting personal favors or indulging personal pique.

How else to explain the pact with Wisconsin Republican James Sensenbrenner? While other lawmakers leveraged the looming vote for highway money, fund-raising commitments from party elders or side deals to protect textile producers, Mr. Sensenbrenner made an unusual request: a chance to gripe at Thomas Donohue, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.”[Wall Street Journal, 7/29/2005]
No word on what he wanted to chew on the Chamber about.

-- Pat Bagley, Salt Lake Tribune Posted by Picasa Click cartoon to enlarge

Quote, unquote

"The [concealed carry] bill plays Russian roulette with the lives of everyday citizens. It's a clay pigeon for Republicans who know that Democrat Doyle will veto the bill again. [State Sen. Dave] Zien and his Republican posse, rather than gunning for a serious anti-crime bill, will instead go fishing this summer, trolling for the gun lobby votes, hoping that an unwitting public will swallow the bait - hook, line and sinker."

-- Lois Moore in an op ed column in the Journal Sentinel.

Clinton, McCain can't win -- or can they?

Why Hillary Clinton and John McCain are winning the presidential buzz sweepstakes. David Shribman, executive editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, explains:

They're not as unalike as you think. They're not really from the states they represent. They're not really in the mainstream of their own parties. They're not really what they seem to be.

But they are the most intoxicating figures in American politics today -- and together they personify the problems the political establishment has as the 2008 campaign approaches and underline the power the conservative movement possesses.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Retaliation against deputy backfires

--Stuart Carlson cartoon, Journal Sentinel

Imagine how surprised Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke is to find that he has accidentally sentenced himself to ride the bus to the inner city, where he does a door-to-door patrol (at least while there are reporters around.)

His ill-conceived "plan" to curb violence in Milwaukee's central city has been shown to be a total sham since he ordered a lone deputy, who dared to criticize him, to conduct a one-man patrol. In an attempt to put out the media firestorm, Clarke has insisted that sending Deputy Michael Schuh out on patrol was part of a plan. As further proof, Clarke has spent some time on the beat himself the last two days.

That has pretty much had the effect of adding fuel to the fire, and keeping the story alive. Even the radio talkers have turned on him, although Charlie Sykes did make a feeble attempt today to say it's time to focus on the real problem, the murder rate in the inner city.

Clarke may have finally done himself in and exposed himself as a petty, egomaniacal dictator who can't take criticism and is willing to put one of his men at risk to get even.

The cartoon, and yesterday's editorial were right on the money. Clarke has badly wounded himself, and it may be fatal to his political ambitions -- or even keeping the job he has.

FINAL THOUGHT: Someone asked me today what I thought would have happened if Police Chief Arthur Jones had pulled this stunt.

UPDATE: DAMAGE CONTROL. Clarke says he will assign Schuh a partner, since the publilc seems to want that. Surely he'll be able to find someone else who's ripe for retaliation. Clarke apparently tired of showing up in the central city himself, after two days. Schuh correctly calls it "damage control."Story.

Feingold: Energy bill eases

access to bomb-grade uranium

Blogger Russ Feingold at DailyKos:

There were a lot of reasons to vote against the final version of the fiscally irresponsible energy bill in the Senate today. The bill does little to help consumers or lower gasoline prices and reduce our dependence on foreign oil. That's not to mention the billions of dollars in tax breaks and other subsidies to the oil and gas industry, which is reaping record profits while consumers are paying more and more at the pump.

But one thing that happened to the bill in the conference committee was particularly startling to me today. A provision was tucked into the 1,700 page energy bill conference report that would ease export restrictions on bomb-grade uranium. This was a provision I and a majority of my colleagues in the Senate opposed last month but it was included in the final bill.

Group asks ethics probe of Sensenbrenner

The Alliance for Justice, a DC-based advocacy group, has asked the House Ethics Committee to open an investigation of Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, alleging that the Wisconsin Republican violated ethics rules by attempting to influence a decision in an appeals court case in Chicago.

In a letter dated Wednesday, Nan Aron, president of the group, requested the investigation, the Appleton Post-Crescent reports.

As you may recall, the Chicago Tribune reported July 10 that Sensenbrenner had demanded that the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago give a longer prison sentence to a drug courier. Earlier post.

Frist sees the light, supports stem cell bill;

"It's not a matter of faith, but of science'

Sen. Bill Frist, the Republican majority leader who has been trying to round up the votes to stop a bill expanding stem cell research, has decided to support the bill.

The AP reports:

Frist Breaks With Bush on Stem-Cell Bill

The Associated Press
Friday, July 29, 2005; 9:44 AM

WASHINGTON -- Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist on Friday threw his support behind legislation to expand federal financing for embryonic stem cell research, breaking with President Bush and religious conservatives in a move that could impact his prospects for seeking the White House in 2008.

"It's not just a matter of faith, it's a matter of science," Frist said on the floor of the Senate.

Frist, a heart-lung transplant surgeon who opposes abortion, said modifying Bush's strict limitations on stem cell research would lead to scientific advances and "bridge the moral and ethical differences" that have made the issue politically charged.

UPDATE: Frist explains his decision in Good Morning America interview .

With friends like Mark Green,

our veterans don't need enemies

As a combat veteran, I am more than a little tired of politicians who run for office as great patriots because they are for war. That goes double for the Chicken Hawks who never served themselves but have no hesitation about sending someone else's kids off to war.

Which brings me to Congressman Mark Green, the non-veteran, founder of the Victory in Iraq caucus in the House of Representatives, the guy who says we shouldn't even talk about when we might bring our troops home, the guy who says things are going great in Iraq, and morale among the troops and the population is really high, but the news media never tell us the good news.

Granted, more US casualities, terrorist attacks and suicide bombings in that country, more than two years after President Bush declared victory, do seem more newsworthy to the media than the work our troops are doing to rebuild the country. That should come as no surprise.

A bigger surprise is how Green, who has visited Iraq himself a couple of times and presents himself as the troops' best buddy, has failed to support those troops.

Wisconsin has about 3,500 troops in Iraq and Afghanistan right now, and almost 500,000 veterans in the state, according to the VA and Defense Department.

Nationally, 500,000 veterans and members of the National Guard and Reserve are locked out of the VA health care system because of arbitrary enrollment requirements put in place by the Bush administration. That includes 7,937 in Wisconsin.

In Wisconsin, more than 3,000 veterans must pay the disabled vets' tax, which takes a dollar from their pensions for every dollar they receive in disability benefits.

There is a backlog of about 500,000 claims in Wisconsin, including those from veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. The average wait for disabled vets here to get a disability assessment is 167 days.

Against that backdrop, how has Veterans Champion Mark Green performed?

Here's what his campaign website says:
Supporting our Troops – In 2002, Mark Green cast his vote in favor of a bipartisan resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq (H.J.Res. 114, President signed on 10/16/2002). Since that time he has consistently supported increased funding for our military – this includes higher pay, better armor, and the best equipment available for our brave men and women in uniform (H.R.1268, passed by House of Representatives on 3/16/2005). Mark Green has also visited Wisconsin troops in Iraq, Afghanistan, Walter Reed Medical Center and those home in Wisconsin.
That's really touching, but voting for the war and visiting the hospital should not be confused with supporting the troops.

Republican leaders have tried to cut health care benefits for our veterans, refused to expand health care for men and women in the National Guard and Reserves, and rejected measures to keep them safe when they are fighting overseas. Green has voted with the GOP every time.

When he's home for the August recess, traveling the state looking for votes for governor next year, veterans and their families might want to ask him about this record, although it pretty much speaks for itself:

Green Opposed Expanding TRICARE to National Guard & Reserve Volunteers. Green voted against expanding access to the military’s TRICARE health insurance program to all reservist and National Guard members. The proposal would have expanded military health care to provide access to members of the Guard and Reserve and their families for a low fee. [HR 1815, Roll Call #221, 5/25/05.]

Green Opposed $150 Million Increase for Military Personnel. In 2005, Green voted against a budget proposal to increase funding for military health care by $100 million and transitional job training for military personnel by $50 million. [HR 1268, Roll Call #76, 3/16/05.]
Green Voted Against Additional Job Assistance to Veterans Returning from Overseas. Green opposed efforts to provide extra job training assistance to veterans who are returning from overseas. Four out of 10 members of the Guard and Reserve forces lose income when they leave their civilian jobs for active duty, and many are self-employed or run small businesses. This means they face the daunting task of reestablishing their businesses after their release from active duty. [HR 27, Roll Call #47, 3/2/05; 109th Congressional Record, pg. H915, 3/2/05;109th Congressional Record, pg. H2074, 4/14/05]

Green Refused To Consider $2.6 Billion Increase in VA Health Care Funding. Green repeatedly voted to block efforts to increase VA funding by about $2.5 billion. Republicans finally admitted that they had underfunded veterans’ health care by $3.7 billion over the next two years. [H.R.2528, #223,5/26/05; H CON RES 95, #82, 3/17/05; H.J.Res. 107, #478, 9/29/04; Washington Post 6/24/05; AP 6/28/05] [Earlier post, "Green voted for vets' health care -- after he voted against it." ]

Dan Finley's surprise exit

Dan Finley, the Waukesha County executive who once had visions of being governor, says he is leaving political life for good to become the head of the troubled Milwaukee Public Museum, the Journal Sentinel reports.

It is a shocker, although former Lt. Gov. Margaret Farrow tells the Journal Sentinel that Finley has been saying for some time that he wanted to do something else with his life.

The task he's taking on is certainly a challenge and a total change of direction. I can only speculate about what happened to cause him to lose his appetite for politics. But many people will understand the desire to have one more, totally different career from the one they've had into their middle years. That may be the simple explanation for Finley, who says he hopes this will be the job he retires from.

The political bug may still have infected the Finley household, however. His wife says she may run for county exec. Story. And Jessica McBride/Bucher is already beating the drums for a Jenifer Finley candidacy on her blog. She mentions Mary Bono and Elizabeth Dole as role models, but Hillary Clinton doesn't make the list.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Nelson memorial service on C-Span Saturday

The memorial service for former Gov. and Sen. Gaylord Nelson will be broadcast on C-Span at 7 p.m. CDT Saturday, July 30, on C-Span's "American Perspectives" series.

The event, which drew 4,000 people to the Capitol, was the largest such service since a 1925 tribute to Robert M. (Fighting Bob) LaFollette.

Other resources: An excellent slide show by the Capital Times, and a good quality webcast from Wisconsin Public Television via WisPolitics.

If anyone still wishes to make a contribution as a memorial to Gaylord Nelson, the family has suggested the following organizations:

Gaylord Nelson Memorial Fund
c/o The Wilderness Society
1615 M Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20036

Gaylord Nelson Chair,
Institute for Environmental Studies
c/o University of Wisconsin Foundation
P.O. Box 8860
Madison, WI 53708-8860

Friends of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore
P.O. Box 1574
Bayfield, WI 54814

Gaylord Nelson Studio of WisconsinEye
P.O. Box 949
Madison, WI 53701

Finally, VHS or DVD copies of the service are available for purchase at a cost of $25 from Wisconsin Public Television. Interested people should contact Evey Fleming, WPT, 608-263-4575.

Senate GOP puts NRA ahead of troops

In case you missed it, Senate Republicans, fearing some unwanted amendments to the defense appropriations bill, moved the National Rifle Association's top priority ahead of the $491 billion defense bill, setting up a vote on legislation to shield firearms manufacturers and dealers from lawsuits over gun crimes.

Completion of the defense bill, which the Senate had been debating for a week, will now be delayed until fall. If you had any doubt about GOP priorities, now you know.

From The Gun Guys:

Does anyone support the gun immunity bill? Okay, let's qualify that. Does anyone who doesn't thinking owning a tank is a constitutional right support the gun immunity bill? We're just wondering, because just about every editorial page in America is trouncing the NRA's logic. We haven't read reviews this bad since Battlefield Earth came out.

"When this misguided immunity bill comes up for a vote, responsible senators must find a way to head it off or to summon the courage to vote no." The New York Times

"Outrageous." New Jersey Herald News

"That the Senate would turn away from important national security legislation to deal with a special plea from a powerful lobbying group is unsavory enough. But, just as important, the bill itself is both unnecessary and harmful." The Christian Science Monitor

"Politicians too often put the interests of the powerful gun lobby over the people they're elected to represent and protect. The U.S. Senate is poised to do it again." Detroit Free-Press

"Why would gun-makers deserve legal immunity and not the manufacturers, say, of lawn mowers? Answer: the NRA's political clout. The irony is that the Senate postponed work on a defense bill to consider gun legislation that will assure America's streets remain unsafe." Philadelphia Inquirer

" If the NRA and Mr. Frist had had their way, Bull's Eye Shooter Supply, the gun dealer that negligently allowed the Bushmaster rifle to reach the hands of Washington snipers John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo, would not have been successfully sued by families of six victims and the two victims who survived the ambushes." The Washington Post

"The Senate should turn back latest attempt to shield gun industry from legal action." Indianapolis Star

"Apparently, the National Rifle Association, which has pushed for this bill for years, has more clout in Congress than do the troops who are fighting for their country." Winston-Salem Journal
But the greatest quote of all comes from those zany liberals in Florida (can you smell the sarcasm seeping out of your monitor). From the Sarasota Herald-Tribune: "Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist doesn't need fancy electronic gizmos to keep track of his schedule. It appears the National Rifle Association does it for him."

To the Guns Guys' collection I would add: "This dangerous measure deserves defeat." Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

UPDATE: One piece of good news. The Senate did adopt an amendment by Sen. Herb Kohl to require child trigger locks to be included with every handgun purchase. It passed 70-30. Reuters report. JS story.

Taking it to Frist where it hurts

StemPAC, a new political action committee working to promote stem cell research, has its sights on Sen. Bill Frist, the Republican majority leader, who is stalling on scheduling a bill to expand stem cell research.
Click here to see the ad.

The bill passed the House with quite a bit of GOP support, and there are more than enough Senate supporters to pass it -- if it ever comes to a vote. President Bush has promised to veto it, and Frist is working frantically to keep it from ever reaching Bush's desk.

In hopes of getting Frist's attention, and maybe even getting him out of the way of a vote, StemPAC has begun running a television commercial -- not in Frist's home state of Tennessee, but in New Hampshire. That, of course, is where the presidential sweepstakes begin, and Frist would like to be president. Not a bad strategy. If it doesn't move Frist, maybe it will move some public opinion away from him. And that could get his attention.

Quote, unquote

Saddam Hussein is seeking a change of venue for his trial. Where on the planet could he possibly get a fair trial? Okay, maybe LA, but that’s it.

-- Will Durst, The Progressive.

Solidarity Later: Molly Ivins on labor split

"You may think the AFL-CIO split is none of your beeswax, but if you work in this country, you owe labor, big time. And I'm talking to you, white-collar worker."
The irrepressible Molly Ivins on the current internal debate in organized labor, and what it might mean for those who work for wages in this country, union members or not.

Badgers toe party lines on CAFTA

The Bush administration scrambled to eke out a two-vote victory on CAFTA early Thursday.

"Although the deal was approved by the Senate last month, it was overwhelmingly opposed by House Democrats who contend that it is wrong to strike a free-trade pact with poor countries lacking strong protection for worker rights. Only 15 of the 202 House Democrats backed the accord, while 27 out of 232 Republicans voted against," the Washington Post reports.
The sausage-making wasn't pretty:

The last-minute negotiations for Republican votes resembled the wheeling and dealing on a car lot. Republicans who were opposed or undecided were courted during hurried meetings in Capitol hallways, on the House floor and at the White House. GOP leaders told their rank and file that if they wanted anything, now was the time to ask, lawmakers said, and members took advantage of the opportunity by requesting such things as fundraising appearances by Cheney and the restoration of money the White House has tried to cut from agriculture programs. Lawmakers also said many of the favors bestowed in exchange for votes will be tucked into the huge energy and highway bills that Congress is scheduled to pass this week before leaving for the August recess.

The Wisconsin delegation split right down the middle, along party lines, with the four Dems voting no and all four Repubs voting yes.

UPDATE: The vote was even closer. Rep. Charles Taylor (R-NC), a CAFTA opponent recorded as "not voting," has issued a statement saying he voted no. Is there one more out there?

Clarke tries damage control -- and fails

Day 3 of David Clarke's campaign to end killings in Milwaukee's central city:

Clarke, trying to mitigate the disaster he's created, takes my advice and goes into the central city himself, accompanying the deputy he sentenced to conduct a one-man foot patrol in Milwaukee's most dangerous neighborhood. Too late. The cameras and reporters were all there the day before.

[UPDATE: Radio news reported this morning that Clarke was on a bus on his way to Schuh's beat, apparently to walk it with him.]

And the deputy, Michael Schuh, says Clarke started off by reprimanding him for the way he's running the one-man patrol, although he was given no guidance, no partner, no squad car and almost no notice of the new assignment -- which came after Schuh wrote something critical of Clarke in a union newsletter.

The union, meanwhile, filed a federal lawsuit, which you can read about in today's story.

It says that Schuh, 55, "has suffered damage to his reputation, real and probable injury to his person, extreme mental anguish (and) physical suffering." It demands that Schuh be returned to his previous position as a bailiff. It also asks for damages and attorney's fees. Schuh's attorney, Jonathan Cermele, said Wednesday that He hopes"in the short-term .. .the sheriff will recognize that what he has done is inappropriate, and if he doesn't assign him back as a bailiff, he will at least provide proper police presence (for the new assignment)."

And a majority of the members of the Couonty Board signed a letter to Clarke, saying Clalrke should reconsider the blatantly shortsighted, irresponsible and potentially dangerous move of placing a deputy as a one-man foot patrol in the streets."

They blasted Clarke for duplicating city of Milwaukee police service and supporting a "senseless" approach to dealing with the area's homicide crisis. The letter goes on to call Clarke's actions "appalling, valueless, and completely unacceptable."

"On a personal level, we find it shameful and disgraceful that you publicly belittle a decorated Vietnam veteran on a disagreement that could have been handled within the Department," the letter adds.

All in a day's work for Fearless Leader David Clarke.

VIEW FROM THE INSIDE. This blog gives a sense how Clarke's deputies feel about his leadership style.

Who's needling now, needlessly?

I hesitate to mention this because it's one of those non-issues the right likes to stir up to keep everyone's attention off what really matters -- like the positive impact Jim Doyle's budget vetoes this week will have on countless kids and adults in Wisconsin. But I feel compelled to comment because of all of the dust that has been kicked up already.

The facts, briefly: When Doyle was in Door County for an event recently, a woman whose daughter suffers from diabetes gave a Doyle aide a package of 1,400 used hypodermic needles (a one-year supply) and asked that the package be delivered to Speaker John Gard. There was a note or letter to Gard inside, asking him to stop his opposition to embryonic stem cell research, which many believe could lead to a cure for diabetes.

A Doyle staffer delivered it to Gard's office. Doyle's press office says they called Gard's office first to alert them to the delivery. When Capitol cleaning staff refused to remove the package from Gard's office, Gard's staff called the Capitol Police.

Big deal, right? Well, to hear the Gard office tell it, Doyle "put his staff in danger, our staff in danger, and the cleaning staff in danger."

“This is a woman whose daughter has juvenile diabetes, they wanted to let their representative know what they’re going through every single day, so when the speaker casts his votes on stem cell research he knows what its like for their family,” Doyle spokesman Dan Leistikow said. “And instead of listening to them he called the cops.”

“Sending anthrax to people is not free speech either. There are people who get big money to dispose of medical waste,” Gard's staffer said.

What sort of danger did these needles pose to anyone? Calling them "medical waste" is clever, but my guess is that the way those needles are usually disposed of is that the family throws them in the trash every day. No one is going to "catch" diabetes. People do spread HIV and hepatitis by sharing needles, but unless Gard or his staff was planning to re-use them, that would not seem to be an issue. And the 12-year-old girl in question has diabetes, not HIV or hepatitis. (The anthrax comparison should get the spinster a raise from Gard, but in real life it has nothing to do with the matter at hand.)

Then there is the Capitol police officer, who called the woman who sent the needles and warned her that if she did something like that again she might be arrested. He neglected to say on what grounds. What charge would that be, exactly?

Here's the police report. See what you think. It may not have been the wisest thing Doyle's office has ever done. But people will die of diseases because Gard and Co. continue to block stem cell research. Gard and his staff won't die from looking at a hypodermic needle, or even 1,400 of them.

UPDATE. This gets sillier and sillier as conservatives try to keep it alive. Jessica McBride/Bucher says the woman who gave Doyle the needles is facing a worthless check charge, as if that is somehow relevant? (I guess her credibility is shot. Her daughter probably doesn't have diabetes, and the needles are from her heroin addiction?) If you look at the details on CCAP, you'll see the charge was dismissed on Wednesday.)

And she agrees with the Capitol police officer who says he could have charged the woman for disorderly conduct? I'm not in the law enforcement business, and McBride/Bucher is married to a DA, but I guess I fail to see how a Capitol police officer could charge a woman in Door County with anything when she was never anywhere near the Capitol and did not personally deliver anything to anybody there.

UPDATE: I am not in the habit of responding to comments and don't want to begin answering individual ones now. But some of them clearly suggest people have not read or understood what happened. The woman in Door County didn't send a package to anyone. She hand-delivered it to a Doyle staffer and asked that it be delivered to Gard. It was clear where the package originated and that it was not intended as any kind of threat or terrorism. She may not have used good judgment, nor did the gov's office. But I don't think she needs to be detained at Gitmo until we win the war on terrorism, nor do I think she needs to be confined to a mental institution. She was trying to get Gard's attention, and she certainly did that. I don't think this stunt is likely to change his mind, however. Can we move on now and stop the killing in Iraq, for example?

Great Lakes need Nelson's vision again

"Once it seemed we could only destroy the water in our rivers, but now we are organized, and mechanized, and automated, and now we are embarked on a systematic campaign to destroy the greatest source of fresh water on the face of the earth -- the Great Lakes themselves." -- Gaylord Nelson, 1965.
Nelson wasn't being an alarmist when he issued that warning 40 years ago. In large part because of his efforts, the tide of pollution in the Great Lakes was reversed, at least temporarily, and steps were taken to protect our amazing water resource. The Great Lakes contain 90% of the nation's fresh water supply and about one-fifth of the fresh surface water in the world.

Despite their mammoth size, the Great Lakes' eco-system is fragile.

Jim Rowen, in a Capital Times op ed, connects Nelson's legacy with the current US-Canada water agreement, which needs our attention.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Marines return to Iraq,

Bush returns to the ranch

William Rivers Pitt writes at

Even maniacs need time to reload, but it is a rare quirk in history when they all run out at the same time, and anyone who has spent any time around wars will tell you that a sudden calm, for no reason, is almost always a time to get braced.-- Hunter S. Thompson, January 20, 1986

The First Marine Expeditionary Force, which took part in the initial invasion of Iraq more than two years ago, is suiting up for another deployment to the war zone. For many in this vaunted crew, it will be their third deployment to that country since all of this began.

And George W. Bush is heading off for another month-long vacation in Texas.

One thousand, seven hundred and eighty-four American soldiers have been killed in Iraq since the Marines first landed two years ago. Thirty nine of those deaths have taken place in the month of July. The civilian casualties in Iraq have skyrocketed. The man who has run the Baghdad morgue for the last 15 years, Faik Amin Baker, says, "Before the war we used to get maybe 250 bodies a month. Now it is 800 or 900 a month from the Baghdad area alone. The situation has worsened dramatically. We cannot cope."

And George is going on vacation, again.
Read it all.

Greenwashing Wal-Mart: It won't work

This from our friends at Grist, the online environmental magazine:

Between the Devil and the Deep Green Supercenter
Wal-Mart building two experimental green stores

Mega-giganto retailer Wal-Mart is conducting an experiment. No, not the world-domination experiment, a different one: It's constructing two "Supercenters" with green-building features designed to reduce energy and water use.

The first, in Texas, will have solar cells embedded in skylights; runoff waste water will be captured and reused; heat from refrigeration units will warm water for the bathroom sinks; waste oil from the garage and food-service areas will be burned in a radiant floor-heating system; energy-efficient LED lights will illuminate the low-paid, uninsured, non-unionized Wal-Mart "associates" on the floor below.

After three years, the results of the experiment will be assessed by independent agencies and shared publicly, and the most successful elements will be used in other Supercenters and likely in other big-box retail stores. "The No. 1 rule in retail is to get people in and have them hang around for a while," said Rick Fedrizzi of the U.S. Green Building Council. "In green spaces you have a sense of well-being." The move is, suffice to say, unlikely to mollify Wal-Mart's critics in the environmental and labor movements. LA Times story.

Green wants to debate deficit? Can't wait

Was that really Rep. Mark Green, lecturing Gov. Jim Doyle in a news release about budget deficits and fiscal responsibility?

Does Green think he's going to get a free pass or start with a clean slate as a candidate for governor, and never be held accountable for his record as a legislator at the state and federal levels?

The opposition researchers won't have to dig too deep to find a long record of Green voting for huge spending increases and record deficits -- first in the Assembly, as a member of the Republican leadership when Gov. Tommy Thompson was spending us into the deficit Doyle inherited, and later in the House of Representatives, where he has voted for Bush budgets, tax breaks for the rich at our expense, and the biggest deficit spending programs in history.

If Green wants to debate deficit spending and fiscal responsibility, Doyle and the Democrats will be happy to have him bring it on.

UPDATE: Dem Party release on the subject.

Doyle's "mainstream Republican" budget

It is a backhanded compliment, to be sure, but the Capital Times, a frequent critic of Gov. Jim Doyle, editorializes today in favor of sustaining Doyle's 139 budget vetoes.

The Cap Times basically says that Doyle did the best he could with what he had to present the legislature with a reasonable budget proposal -- one the paper calls "a mainstream Republican proposal in the tradition - if not the precise form - of those advanced by past governors such as Warren Knowles and Lee Sherman Dreyfus."

When the GOP-run legislature got through with it, it was a partisan budget filled with pork for special interests. The Cap Times had urged Doyle to veto the whole thing.

But Doyle's creative vetoes restored some sanity and fairness, leading the Cap Times to conclude:

[T]he vetoes the governor made have produced a better budget than the one he was handed by the Legislature. It is more in tune with Wisconsin values and, frankly, it is more in tune with mainstream Republican values.

Prediction: Those on the left looking for more reasons to pick a fight with Doyle, who's not liberal enough for them, will use the Cap Times "mainstream Republican" language against him.

The Clarke caper: Retaliation, pure and simple

Another day of the David Clarke saga, and another 42 column inches of newsprint, not counting the two photos, in the Journal Sentinel.

What do we know that we didn't know yesterday about Clarke's vindictive decision to send a lone deputy, Michael Schuh, on a foot patrol in Milwaukee's central city?

We know that Schuh's claim that Clarke is escorted by armed deputies when he goes to the airport is true, and that he has deputies check his home when he is out of town. Clarke says he ordered his house checked because he has had death threats. And deputies accompany him at Mitchell Field because he is unarmed, he said.

Most of us at Mitchell Field are unarmed, if we have any expectation that we will get through the metal detector and screening to board our flight. Does the sheriff think someone is lying in ambush at Mitchell Field, hoping he'll walk through some day so they can carry out their death threat? Or will they carry out their death threat at his home when he's out of town?

We also know that Clarke both agrees that Schuh's assignment is "high risk," but says Schuh should not be afraid. "This isn't about him," Clarke said, but about neighborhood safety.

Of course it's about Schuh, who got the one-man foot patrol assignment after criticizing Clarke in a union newsletter. It is retaliation, pure and simple.

Asked by the paper if he had retaliated against Schuh, Clarke didn't deny it, but simply said the courts would decide that. The deputies union has filed a complaint. Even given the uncertainties of any legal case, this one seems like a slam dunk. If Schuh's assignment is about neighborhood safety and not about him, where are the other deputies? Off patrolling the freeway, that's where.

And we know that Clarke continues to threaten retaliation against anyone who challenges or criticizes him.

"One cannot expect, internally, that if they make some criticism against the sheriff that they will never be reassigned, that they will be immune from accountability," Clarke said. Never be reassigned? How about immediately reassigned?

As to whether Clarke is putting a deputy in unnecessary danger, let's just quote from the story again:

"The Milwaukee Police Department assigns foot patrols in pairs in high-crime central city areas because of concerns about officer safety," police spokeswoman Anne E. Schwartz said Tuesday.

Finally, there is this: Clarke, showing that he isn't immune from danger as sheriff, tells of making an arrest in 2003 of a man with a butcher knife, after being flagged down by a citizen. "In an act of selflessness, I put the community's safety first and I expect the people in this organization to do the same." He added: "Where was my backup?"

It is not extraordinary to expect a 20-year police veteran, who is armed, to respond to an emergency if he happens to be on the scene. That's what Clarke did. That's his job, even if he happens to be the head of the department.

That is far different from the situation he's put Schuh in, where he deliberately is exposing him to danger with no backup officer. The sheriff's department didn't even let Milwaukee police know of Schuh's new assignment in the central city, although MPD certainly knows about it now and says officers will look out for Schuh, as will off-duty sheriff's deputies.

This is not about courage, although David Clarke would like to make it so. I don't doubt Clarke's courage, and I certainly don't doubt Schuh's.

Clarke is right when he says that people should not be afraid to walk down the street in any neighborhood in Milwaukee. But that's not reality. Just a few days ago I read the story about the homeowner in a gang-infested neighborhood who does his yard and garden work at 6 a.m. and goes in the house for good by 10 a.m. every day.

If Clarke wants to make those streets and neighborhoods safe, he should sit down with Police Chief Nan Hegarty and put together a joint plan to do it, instead of acting like a rogue cop who makes his own rules,, retaliates if anyone questions him, and puts his own men in harm's way unnecessarily.

Previous post: "Clarke could show real leadership by patrolling central city himself." Folkbum's view.

UPDATE: Even the conservatives, like WTMJ talker Jeff Wagner and blogger Jessica McBride/Bucher, think Clarke has stepped way over the line. When they won't defend him, he is in real trouble.

Room for more on Dohnal's enemies list?

Bob Dohnal, who publishes something called the Wisconsin Conservative Digest (not sure, but it sounds a little right-wing, doesn't it?), came to the defense of poor beleaguered Tom Reynolds, the state senator everyone seems to be piling on latelty.

In his column, Dohnal lashes out at all sorts of whiny liberals.

Don't you just love it when you hear the Liberals whine? Who could be more proud of yourself when you are attacked by Spivak and Bice, the Milwaukee Journal, Jim McQuigan, Tony Staskunas, and Jim Sullivan?

Is there a bigger bunch of Liberal Whiners in the state than that bunch?

Aside from the question of who does the fact- and spell-checking for the Conservative Digest (The Milwaukee Journal has been out of business for years, and McGuigan's name didn't have a Q in it the last I knew), you have to marvel at this:

Spivak and Bice, the muckraking liberals from Milwaukee County, are also wonders to behold. As dedicated Secular/Socialists they hate any Christian who is also a conservative, and that is the nub of it.

I'm not sure why he qualified their Christian-hating credentials. Maybe Dohnal knows a liberal Christian who Spivak and Bice like?

Their Socialist bent will come as quite a shock to all of the liberals the Spice Boys have skewered in their column over the last several years.

And now to my real beef: Why aren't Gretchen Schuldt and I on the list? We've done our best to bash Reynolds at every opportunity. Guess we will just have to try harder. I'm sure there are a lot of other volunteers who would like recognition, too.

This is like getting left off the Nixon Enemies List. A lot of good liberals who didn't make the cut were never the same again.

Poll: Roberts up, Rove down

USA Today reports that Supreme Court nominee John Roberts, unknown a week ago, gets high favorable ratings in a CNN/Gallup/USA Today poll:

Roberts' favorable-unfavorable ratings are a muscular 46%-13%; 19% haven't heard of him.

In contrast, by 34% to 25%, Americans have an unfavorable view of Rove; 25% have never heard of him. Seen by many as Bush's most powerful White House adviser, Rove has been in the news lately because of an investigation into whether administration officials illegally leaked the name of a CIA operative to reporters.

The controversy hasn't gripped the public's attention. Just half of those surveyed say they are following the story closely; one in five aren't following it at all.

Even so, 25% think Rove broke the law in the case. An additional 37% suspect that he did something unethical but not illegal. Just 15% say they think he didn't do anything seriously wrong.

Those surveyed are split almost evenly, 40%-39%, over whether Bush should fire him. By 49% to 31%, a plurality says he should resign.

And the Democratic Party gets a 52% favorable rating, compared to 46% for the Rs.

Tommy's chip 'an abomination'

We (that's the editorial we, used so you think there are too many of us to fight) reported here last week that Tommy Thompson was having a chip implanted, and that some people thought that was the work of the devil.

Conservative/libertarian/whatever Geoff Metcalf takes Tommy to task for other reasons:

Former Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson is pimping for implanted microchips. Big flipping deal! Sigmund Freud advocated cocaine. Freud was an early advocate of cocaine, recommending it for a great many ailments, physical and mental, including, of all things, heroin addiction; latter, he reluctantly (and begrudgingly) admitted that this was perhaps not the wisest thing he ever did.

Thompson reportedly plans to promote sub dermal biochips, by having one implanted in his arm. Thompson’s promotion, linked no doubt by his joining the board of directors of VeriChip, is an abomination.

I’ve been complaining about sub dermal biochips since 1998. In addition to itching and moaning on the radio about the dangers of implanted biochips I have written tens of thousand words explaining the evisceration of the very concept of privacy. “Privacy—the very concept of privacy—becomes an anachronism”.

There is a long list of alleged ‘benefits’ of biochip implants. And like the list of 'benefits’ Freud touted for heroin and cocaine, they are wrong.

There's more. You can read it all here if you're so inclined.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Rove's nickname too vulgar for our ears?

Click on strip to enlarge

A dozen newspapers have found President Bush's term of endearment for his brain, Karl Rove, to be offensive. No,he doesn't call his brain "Karl Rove," although that's an idea. Rather, he calls Karl Rove by the affectionate nickname of "Turd Blossom."

Who could take offense at that? A nickname chosen by our most Christian president, the one closest to God?

Where does he get these nicknames? Some think they are Divinely inspired. Others say, "You can take the boy out of the frat house, but ...

In any event, some editors refused to run the strip, or edited out the word. It seems like that might have ruined the joke, though. Here's the AP story.

In the interest of striking a blow for the First Amendment, let me say this: Turd! Poophead! Double Booger!

Boy, it almost made me feel Presidential.

(By the way. the Journal Sentinel, which runs the strip on its op ed page, let it all hang out.)

Sensenbrenner takes on water,

so he throws aide overboard

A House Judiciary counsel who played a key role in Rep. F. Jim Sensebrenner's meddling in a federal drug case in Chicago has lost his job, the Chicago Tribune reports.

Sensenbrenner, as reported here on July 10, contacted the chief appeals judge in Chicago and demanded a longer sentence for a convicted drug dealer.

That, of course, is a big no-no. The Trib reports:

Sensenbrenner could face a complaint before the House ethics committee, because House rules prohibit communicating privately with judges on legal matters. In addition, general rules of litigation prohibit contacting judges on a case without notifying all parties, which Sensenbrenner did not do.

The American Judicature Society, a non-partisan group that works for judicial independence, criticized Sensenbrenner after the letter became public for "attempting to bully federal judges."
Sensenbrenner hasn't admitted any wrongdoing, of course. But his aide, who reportedly brought the case to his attention, is gone.

And that, friends, is the American judicial system at work, as chaired by F. Jim Sensenbrenner.

UPDATE: Sensenbrenner's challenger, Bryan Kennedy, has asked the House Ethics Committee to investigate. Kennedy's letter.

Confused about Plame/Rove affair?

Garrison Keillor clears it all up

Is all of this talk about Valerie Plame (whose alias is Mrs. Wilson) getting a little too confusing for you? Having trouble keeping track of just who said what to whom, and what the President knew and when he knew it, if he in fact knew anything at all?

Well, don't worry your pretty little head about it. Garrison Keillor, of Prairie Home Companion fame, also writes a mean political analysis, as you'll find in the Chicago Tribune today. Some excerpts, just to give you a feel for his insight:

I feel it's time for me to step forward and tell what I know about Karl Rove's conversation with columnist Robert Novak in which Mr. Novak reportedly told Mr. Rove that CIA operative Valerie Plame had been responsible for her husband, Joseph Wilson, going to Niger to debunk the White House's claim that Saddam Hussein was shopping for uranium in Africa to make nuclear weapons and that's why we invaded Iraq, and Mr. Rove said, "Yes, I've heard that too." Mr. Rove has been accused of revealing the identity of a covert intelligence officer. This simply isn't true.. .

Later, after some background, we get this:

I called Sen. Kerry to alert him and he said he had heard that too, and then switched over to French and said, "My wife is a suitcase," or words to that effect.

Could Teresa Heinz Kerry be carrying uranium in a suitcase? Ms. Plame mentioned the possibility to the president and found Mr. Bush oddly detached. "Yes, I heard that," he said, vaguely. The radio receiver was still on his back but the earpiece had fallen out. As a young man, under cover of the National Guard, Mr. Bush had masterminded a clandestine CIA operation that infiltrated a ring of draft-dodgers and gathered important information about them, such as which bars they frequented and how much they drank. He is comfortable in an undercover role. He has cut many trails through the brush at his Crawford, Texas, ranch and can slip undetected over the Mexican border while his double, an El Paso Realtor named Craig Selin, stands in for him at press conferences and other ceremonial events.

Give yourself a break and read the whole thing.

Clarke could show real leadership

by patrolling central city himself

Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke has been talking a lot lately about violence in Milwaukee's central city. Seventy-five people already have been murdered in Milwaukee this year, a 50% increase from 2004. Clarke is one of many voices saying that is unacceptable, and that the community must act to change the culture of violence.

Now we know Clarke's plan to stop the killings.

He is sending one white 55-year-old sheriff's deputy, alone and on foot, to patrol the central city.

Starting today, Deputy Michael Schuh's assignment is "to take a county bus to and from the neighborhood, contact every home and business, encourage cooperation with police and distribute a Sheriff's Department business card to those he contacts," the Journal Sentinel reports.

He does get to take a radio, and is supposed to communicate with the dispatcher every time he approaches a home or business. That will make it easier when Schuch needs backup, or when they need to recover his body. Schuh also will be allowed to keep his gun, I assume.

His new foot beat is bounded by North 10th and 27th Streets, between North Avenue and Burleigh. It's the kind of neighborhood where people roll up their car windows and lock their doors when they are driving through. If you think this is an exaggeration, swing by 10th and North or 15th and Burleigh next time you're in the hood.

Schuh, who says he will follow orders, is taking on a dangerous assignment. It's unheard of to send a law enforcement officer into such an area without a partner. Schuh is a Vietnam veteran, but he didn't go on one-man patrols.

What did he do to get this assignment? Schuh wrote an article for the union newsletter, criticizing Clarke. The newspaper reports:

Schuh penned an opinion column known as "The Sacred Cow" in the July issue of "The MDSA Star," the union's newsletter. In it, he said, he was responding to a written comment on roll call message boards that was viewed as questioning the
courage of some deputies.

Felber said that deputies were told Clarke authored the message-board comment, which cited Deuteronomy, from the Old Testament.

In the newsletter, Schuh addressed this response to Clarke: "If you are afraid or you have lost your courage and you need two deputies and a sergeant to escort you every time you fly in and out of the airport and patrol deputies to drive by your house when you're out of town you should resign and go home!"

Schuh said Monday that he wrote the column out of frustration over deputies' belief that Clarke too often blames them when things go wrong.

We have to put ourselves in harm's way so that the law abiding people we serve won't have to," Clarke said in a written statement about Schuh's assignment. Deputies might question the use of "we," given Schuh's description of Clarke's personal security.

The deputies union, to no one's surprise, is contesting Clarke's action, claiming it is retaliation.

Clarke will claim it's leadership. But ledership it's not. It's really a cowardly abuse of power, issuing an order and letting others deliver it to Schuh, then refusing to discuss it. Real leadership would be for the sheriff to lead that patrol himself. Maybe, if he realizes how much media attention it would get him, Clarke will patrol the central city on foot himself -- for about 15 minutes, until the cameras leave.

UPDATE: Jay Bullock, AKA Folkbum, offers his take: "Milwaukee's murders, Petty Tyrant Edition."

UPDATE 2: Second day post: "The Clarke caper: Retaliation, pure and simple."

On the whole, he'd rather not be in Milwaukee

Former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie, who has joined the White House fight for Judge John Roberts confirmation to the US Supreme Court. said in the NY Times on Sunday that the fight isn't all that bad. In fact it's not as bad as being in Milwaukee.

"I'm not in the airport in Milwaukee right now, which is nice," Gillespie said in the NYT story.

What that man needs is the full Scott Walker treatment, with free tickets to the Domes, Festa Italiana, and the golf tournament. He'd be begging to come to Milwaukee.

Walker will set his hair

on fire to get a TV camera

Walker: Running for gov, or running a lemonade stand?

Scott Walker, Milwaukee County exec and gov wannabe, is in danger of marginalizing himself in his quest to get his face in front of TV cameras.

His latest stunt was to stand outside the governor's residence when Gov. Jim Doyle was signing the state budget bill on Monday. Walker said he was there to protest Doyle's failure to sign a property tax freeze, although Doyle had just signed one into law.

What Walker was really doing there was trying to get his mug on TV in Madison.

As county exec, he has no trouble getting covered in Milwaukee, the state's biggest market. But he's not well-known in the other markets, and most TV stations are not too interested in covering the governor's race more than a year before the election.

So, Walker was off to Maple Bluff to take up a position outside of the budget signing. I wasn't there, but I would guess it probably worked. He will probably show up in a sound bite here and there.

Of course, if Walker had something to say about the budget, he could have said it in Wauwatosa, where Doyle came Monday afternoon for another budget-related event. But that, of course, would not have gotten Walker on TV in Madison, where he needs the exposure. That's the same reason he rode a motorcycle around the state to talk up Milwaukee (and his campaign), visiting every media market.

Two years ago, when Doyle signed the budget, a group of unhappy Hmong protesters stood outside the residence to support State Sen. Gary George and protest Doyle's veto of a middle-of-the-night George amendment to build a Hmong cultural center, in exchange for George's vote for the budget.

This year, Scott Walker stood out there.

It doesn't seem much like a gubernatorial strategy. Frankly, it seems a little pathetic.

Reynolds is poster boy for bad service

How bad a state senator is Tom Reynolds?

Well, aside from his loony-tunes views and penchant for saying things that make you wince, it turns out he also is very bad at taking care of the basics.

Things like answering his mail, returning phone calls, or responsing to invitations.

Gretchen Schuldt of Story Hill reports:

There was an audible reaction of surprise at a recent neighborhood meeting because someone got an honest-to-gosh response from Reynolds’ office.

The message, in reply to a resident’s e-mail inquiry about Reynolds’ position on a particular issue, said Reynolds has a policy against responding through e-mail to questions about his position on any particular issue. Gee, that was helpful.
No wonder he's a target even though the district skews pretty heavily Republican. Wauwatosa Alderman Jim Sullivan is already running as a Democrat, and State Rep. Tony Staskunas is thinking about it, too, Schuldt says.

Reynolds is the born-again fruitcake with a printing press who embarrassed himself in running for Congress, but found a home in the fringe of the Republican Party and won a primary against a moderate, Peggy Rosenzweig, as part of a purge of reasonable Republicans in the legislature.

Monday, July 25, 2005

From Posted by Picasa Click on cartoon to enlarge

Trying , and failing, to change the subject

PRESIDENT BUSH'S new Supreme Court nominee was a historic first after all: the first to be announced on TV dead center in prime time, smack in the cross hairs of "I Want to Be a Hilton." It was also one of the hastiest court announcements in memory, abruptly sprung a week ahead of the White House's original timetable. The agenda of this rushed showmanship - to change the subject in Washington - could not have been more naked. But the president would have had to nominate Bill Clinton to change this subject.

When a conspiracy is unraveling, and it's every liar and his lawyer for themselves, the story takes on a momentum of its own. When the conspiracy is, at its heart, about the White House's twisting of the intelligence used to sell the American people a war - and its desperate efforts to cover up that flimflam once the W.M.D. cupboard proved bare and the war went south -- the story will not end until the war really is in its "last throes."
Those are the first two paragraphs of a NY Times op ed by Frank Rich that is well worth reading in its entirety. Among other things, Rich suggests that AG Alberto Gonzales' handling of the Wilson-Plame issue has cost him a Supreme Court appointment.

What's up with Sensebrenner's madman act?

Is Rep. F. Jim Sensenbrenner off his meds?

Joel McNally's Capital Times op ed says the House Judiciary chair's behavior has gone from bizarre to bonkers.

(Earlier post on F. Jim.)

The old double standard at work

for Roberts and Lautenschlager

Let me get this straight:

Conservatives say John Roberts was just representing his client and doing his job as solicitor when he made arguments against abortion rights and said Roe v. Wade was not decided properly. That doesn't reflect his personal beliefs, they assure us. He was just being a lawyer and doing his job.

But, they argue, if Atty. Gen. Peg Lautenschlager personally favors civil rights for gays, she can't fairly defend the state of Wisconsin against a lawsuit asking the state to grant benefits to domestic partners of state employees. Worse yet, the Republicans say, she attended a Madison rally in support of gay rights in July.

The Journal Sentinel reports:

Lautenschlager said her appearance at the rally was "absolutely appropriate," and that she is able to separate her personal feelings about an issue from her duties. Suggestions that she can't do that are overly political and restricted to the issue of same-sex marriage, she added.

"What my point of view is on those cases - my personal point of view or political point of view - is often diametrically opposed to the position we take as a department," Lautenschlager said. "That's what lawyers do."
That is exactly what lawyers do, especially government lawyers, who represent the government's interests even when they disagree with it.

For some reason, the GOP can't seem to grasp that concept. When Jim Doyle was AG, they weren't satisfied to have him defend the state on school choice because he opposed choice, so they brought in Kenneth Starr, the special persecutor of Bill Clinton. In the domestic partner case, the legislature wants to use a wingnut evangelical law firm that will do a thorough job of gay-bashing.

But when it comes to Bush's Supreme Court nominee, John Roberts, we are supposed to believe that no position he took as a lawyer reflects his personal beliefs.

They can't have it both ways. Or maybe they can. Let's watch and see.

UPDATE: BUCHER CHIMES IN. Paul Bucher, the Waukesha DA who wants Lautenschlager's job, piles on and says Peg should step aside. Are we to assume that if he were elected AG that Bucher would only defend the state in cases where his personal opinion happened to coincide with the state's position? He may want to rethink where this is all headed before just chiming in to score political points. Bucher column.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Surprise! Lautenschlager does her job and files a strong argument for dismissing the case.

The great cream puff scandal!

Jessica McBride, apparently still trying to justify why taxpayers should send Scott Walker around the state on a Harley to hand out $19,000 worth of free tickets to events and tourist attractions, reveals that -- gasp! -- the news media take other freebies!!! (I've adopted her style, just for fun.)

McBride's amusing post reveals the long list, obtained by an open records request, of media outlets which accepted free cream puffs and clown noses from the Wisconsin State Fair.

She writes:

This is part of my effort to expose the media's mock horror over the promotional freebies Walker had the audacity to hand out to reporters and media organizations. I wondered: Did the State dish them out too? And had the same media organizations wringing their hands in horror taken other freebies? Media organizations should not take freebies. Period. Whether it's a cream puff or, yes, a clown nose. It's a bit shocking how many of them do.

But it's silly for them to pretend to be - horrified! - that Scott Walker would dare to hand out freebies. The fact of the matter is that Walker was participating in a common promotional practice. Now we could debate whether his gubernatorial bid changed the equation. Again, I get that. But it's completely disingenuous for the media to act like freebies are - shock! - unusual.

Nice try, but the issue never was whether the media were being offered or accepting freebies -- except in some media circles, perhaps.

Of course Walker's candidacy for governor "changed the equation." If Kathleen O'Leary, the state fair marketing director, were delivering cream puffs to media outlets across the state and then doing interviews about her campaign for governor -- which is what Walker did -- this would indeed be comparable.

The first issue in Walker's ride -- even before anyone knew about the freebies -- was whether Milwaukee County taxpayers should foot the bill for him to ride around the state and increase his visibility and name recognition in his campaign for governor. Taxpayers paid it all -- his salary and those of the staff who went with him, hotel, meals, you name it.

The second question is whether Walker's giving something of value to a voter (like hundreds of dollars worth of tickets) violates state elections law. So far, no one has addressed that question. And Walker's freebies did not all go to the media, as outlined in a previous post.

Maybe a few of those clown noses should go to the county and state ethics and elections boards, who so far have found nothing wrong, in large part because they haven't bothered to look for themselves and have taken Walker's version of events at face value.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

W cast as idiot son

in Faulkner parody winner

"JACKSON, Miss. - A scathing parody that likens President Bush to the "idiot" in William Faulkner's novel "The Sound and the Fury" has won this year's Faulkner write-alike contest — and touched off a literary spat. . . The story portrays Bush in the role of Benjy, the mentally challenged son — or, as Faulkner himself said, the "idiot" — in his 1929 novel about the wreckage of a Southern family," the AP reports.

Read the winning entry.

Let me make this perfectly clear ...

-- Cartoon by Tom Toles, Washington Post

What did the President know, and when did he know it? NY Times.

Quote, unquote

"I voted for George Bush in November of 2000 because I was promised a President who would bring a new tone and a new ethical standard to Washington.

"So where are we? The President has flip-flopped on his promise to fire anyone at the White House implicated in a leak. We now know from press reports that at least Karl Rove and "Scooter" Libby are implicated in these leaks and may have lied during the investigation.

"Instead of a President concerned first and foremost with protecting this country and the intelligence officers who serve it, we are confronted with a President who is willing to sit by while political operatives savage the reputations of good Americans like Valerie and Joe Wilson. This is wrong and this is shameful.'

-- Former CIA official Larry Johnson, in Democratic radio address. Listen.

'Welcome back, Smart Growth'

Pat Durkin's column in the Green Bay Press Gazette sports section puts the Smart Growth issue into perspective:
All hunters, anglers, trappers and anyone else who cares about the resources, beauty and commerce of rural Wisconsin should feel relieved that Gov. Jim Doyle used his veto powers this week to restore the state’s Smart Growth Program.

Even so, one wonders why this program ever required rescue. As laws go, Smart Growth is one of the few that can be embraced by liberals and conservatives alike to justify their beliefs on how best to maintain rural Wisconsin’s values, culture and economic strength.

The law directs communities to use public forums and meetings to adopt comprehensive long-range plans for land-use and development by 2010. But halfway to that target date, along came the legislature’s increasingly infamous Joint Finance Committee. On a 10-6 vote in May, the JFC killed the program’s modest $2 million in grants to help communities create and adopt the plans.

Whew. Why not just go to the estimated 40 percent of Wisconsin’s communities already taking part in this process and kick their chairs and spit on their copy machines?

Some of us naively believe cooperative long-range planning is the only chance we have to maintain rural Wisconsin’s character and increase its economic strength. We can only marvel at the mental gymnastics required by the program’s opponents to transform Smart Growth into a big brother, anti-realtor, green-powered conspiracy against the little guy.

Let’s not forget that Smart Growth came into being in 1999 when Tommy Thompson occupied the governor’s mansion. No one ever worried that Thompson might stare down a bulldozer or lash himself into the treetops to make a statement against urban sprawl.

I would think a fiscal conservative would look at rural traffic jams and ponder how to get all those SUVs off the farmer’s back so he doesn’t have to wait so long to cross the highway and get back to plowing. Or maybe this tax-pincher should wonder how much school districts could save if they weren’t continually expanding bus routes and stopping each bus every 100 yards to pick up one kid per every 5-acre parcel of subdivided land.

As those thoughts marinate, the free-market philosopher might consider the road itself and ponder the mounting maintenance costs of bridges, gravel, cement, snow-removal and upgraded power lines as commuters replace farmers and cattlemen, and Marts replace tractor-supply dealers.

He should also question those folks who profess love for rural living but never noticed its seamier side until their septic backed up, the wind shifted, or they had to tote their own garbage to the landfill. Didn’t they realize rural living costs more time, money, patience, planning and routine labor?

Smart Growth isn’t just about managing urban sprawl or dictating which house colors won’t clash with scenic vistas. The reality of rural life is that everyone and everything is connected, whether it’s through wildlife, tourism, forestry, agriculture, forestry, housing or commerce. Only by working together to accommodate shared or competing interests can we have any hope of sustainable growth and thriving rural economies.

Most people who grow up in rural Wisconsin know intelligent, profitable land use requires interaction and planning. After all, the silent anarchy of inaction and neglect has never proven itself a good business model.

On sale soon at a gun show near you . . .


The long arm of the U.S. Army just got longer. The Army has just approved the M107 sniper rifle -- which will allow all sniper teams to reach out and touch someone from farther away than ever before. -- SoldierTech

Meanwhile, the House Judiciary Committee, including Wisconsin members Green and F. Jim Sensenbrenner rejected an amendment to the Patriot Act to stop the export of US-purchased guns to terrorists.

The full House defeated a similar attempt in June. Earlier post.

Specter's playing for keeps on stem cells

So says Margaret Carlson in an LA Times op ed:

One of her observations:

[Sen. Arlen] Specter, who has been battling Hodgkin's disease since February, is his own draw now. Never weaker physically, never stronger mentally, Specter says he is propelled out of bed each day by his work and by the hundreds of letters he has received from patients determined to see stem cell research expanded. His former chief of staff, David Urban, calls him the Lance Armstrong of the Senate: "If you close your eyes and don't look at his bald head and gaunt cheeks, but just listen to him, you'd think he was a well man at the height of his powers."

UPDATE: Specter threatens an end run, may attach stem cell measure to appropriations bill. Washington Post.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Tommy to get a Satanic chip implanted

This startling news from ZDNet:

Tommy Thompson, the Health and Human Services Secretary in President Bush's first term and a former Governor of Wisconsin, is going to get tagged.

Thompson has joined the board of Applied Digital, which owns VeriChip, the company that specializes in subcutaneous RFID tags for humans and pets. To help promote the concepts behind the technology, Thompson himself will get an RFID tag implanted under his skin.

Human RFID tags have emerged as one of the more controversial technologies in years. Civil libertarians theorize that the chips will allow governments or corporations to track people's movement and behavior. Some Christians have said the chips are so evil they fulfill a biblical prophesy about satanic influences.

Advocates, on the other hand, say the chips will contain personal information that will help medical professionals and others provide emergency treatment. The chip provides a form of identification that's tough to lose. By clicking the number found on the chip into a password-restricted database, paramedics can get an accident victim's medical history in the field. (One of VeriChip's scientists came up with the idea of using the company's pet RFID tags on people after watching rescue workers struggle to find the missing after the Sept. 11 tragedy.)

Prisons and jails are also experimenting with RFID bracelets and continual tracking to reduce inmate violence.

"We are all well aware of the need to enhance Information Technology in ealthcare," Thompson said in a prepared statement. "It is my belief that VeriChip is an important and secure means of accessing medical records and other information. I look forward to working with the company as it continues its growth."

Another bonus: If Tommy strays and ends up at the pound, they'll be able to call his owner and not have to put him up for adoption or put him to sleep.

StemPAC: Help us choose an ad

StemPAC, which was created to support sensible stem cell laws and research, wants your help to choose the web ad you like best.

It's really just another excuse to get you to their website, which is not a bad idea, either.

Enough crooks on the bench?

Random thoughts on Supreme Court race

Random ruminations on the decision of State Supreme Court Justice N. Patrick Crooks to run for another 10-year term, surprising the buzzards that were circling in anticipation of his retirement:

INCUMBENTS RULE. First rule of Supreme Court politics is that incumbents are virtually unbeatable. I have not checked to verify it, but my recollection is that the last incumbent to lose was in the late 1950s or early 1960s, and that he was blamed for a decision that let the Braves leave Milwaukee. That may not be entirely accurate, but it's a good story. The closest challenge I am aware of otherwise was Appeals court Judge Rick Brown's race against Justice Donald Steinmetz in 1990, when Brown got 48%.

CROOKS' BASE UNHAPPY. That said, Crooks has some problems with his conservative base. Charlie Sykes calls Crooks "Wisconsin's own David Souter," and Owen at Boots & Sabers blog says, "We need a good conservative to run against Crooks." (And look at some of the comments on my initial post yesterday.) Crooks' sins are that he was part of two recent 4-3 majorities in opinions that overturned a cap on non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases, and allowed a lawsuit to proceed against lead paint manufacturers even though the victim did not know which company manufactured the paint that cause his injuries. Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce is up in arms, vowing to pass legislation to counteract the court's decisions. Whether the right will actually field a candidate to run at Crooks from the right remains to be seen. If that happens, and a moderate candidate stays in, it could change the dynamic. While the two conservatives slug it out in a primary, a reasonable sounding moderate could build a broad base and steal the victory. (We can only hope.)

THE COLLEGIAL COURT. Crooks' anti-climatic official announcement today, all of two sentences long, included this quote: “I have appreciated my nine years on the Supreme Court, serving with bright, hard-working colleagues, and I hope that the citizens of Wisconsin will give me the opportunity to continue as a Supreme Court Justice.” He didn't appreciate his colleagues quite as much in 1999, when Crooks recruited Sharren Rose to run against Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson. Abrahamson won 60-40, but her friends and supporters, who are legion, have not forgotten.

WHAT CHANGED CROOKS' MIND? At age 67, he seemed ready to leave the bench, but is telling people that the working atmosphere on the court really has improved since the years when there was almost open warfare, fueled by personality conflicts among the justices. Crooks says he is enjoying himself more, and technology has freed justices from being tied to Madison. Many of them work from home or even from out-of-state, and he intends to do more long-distance work.

IS THIS A 10-YEAR COMMITMENT? Does Crooks really want to serve until he is 77, or is he planning to keep the job until the day a Republican takes over the governor's office and could appoint his replacement?

WHERE ARE THE TRIAL LAWYERS? The trial bar's members have sometimes been major players in court races, but usually only when there is someone they see as a real enemy, like Steinmetz. Crooks' votes on the two recent cases may make them less likely to work hard to defeat him or write big checks to a Crooks opponent. But it seems unlikely they will actively support Crooks, and if they do, the conservatives will use it against him. Another question is whether Crooks' decision has cleared the field. The candidate farthest into the race is Linda Clifford, a Madison lawyer who has filed a committee and started raising money, without waiting for an official announcement from Crooks. She did not expect him to run, but knew he might, and is weighing whether to run anyway. Her husband, Keith Clifford, is a past president of the Wisconsin Academy of Trial Lawyers.

GOOD NEWS FOR JENSEN? Rep. Scooter Jensen (R-Still Not Convicted) would probably like to see Crooks sitting there if and when his case comes before the Supreme Court. Jensen, indicted on felony charges of misconduct in public office, raCrooks''s 1995 and 1996 campaigns,was paid $26,000 for the work, and contributed $1,600 to Crooks. But when a motion on the caucus scandal case involving Jensen and other legislators came to the court, Crooks didn't see any reason to recuse himself.

MESSAGE: I've always thought someone should run a campaign against him with the theme: "No more crooks on the bench. We have enough." Or "Get crooks off the supreme court" or "Do you want crooks on our supreme court?" Or something like that. Feel free to use them; no charge.

Paper outs David Clarke as a Republican

He won't say he is one, but David Clarke walks like a Republican, talks like a Republican, quacks like a Republican, and hangs out with Republicans.

You can't blame the Journal Sentinel for concluding that Clarke must be a Republican duck, as it did in a story today.

Clarke gives nominee thumbs up
Milwaukee County Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr. on Thursday urged Wisconsin Sens. Herb Kohl and Russ Feingold to support John G. Roberts Jr., President Bush's nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court.

"As a 28-year veteran of law enforcement and sheriff of Milwaukee County, I have a keen interest in who may get placed on the Supreme Court," Clarke said in a telephone interview. "I favor a nominee who is going to be a strict constructionist of the Constitution, who is going to apply the Constitution in the way the Founding Fathers laid it out, not like a living, breathing document that moves."

Earlier, Clarke joined other state Republicans at a news conference in front of the federal courthouse to urge Kohl and Feingold, both Democrats and members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, to give a fair hearing to Roberts, who now serves as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

Rove, Libby stories don't square with reporters'

Bloomberg reports:

Two top White House aides have given accounts to a special prosecutor about how reporters first told them the identity of a CIA agent that are at odds with what the reporters have said, according to people familiar with the case.

Hmmmm. Would perjury be grounds for dismissal?

"Karl Rove, without the baggage"

Pinch me, I'm dreaming. Aren't I?

A proposed new reality show, looking for the next James Carville or Karl Rove, would match upcoming political consultants, left and right, and the competition would include having them run negative campaigns against each other, the Washington Post reports.

The winner gets to spend $1-million on a candidate or cause in 2006.

"We're trying to find Karl Rove, without all the baggage," said series co-creator Ken Smukler.

Well, look no farther. He's right here in Milwaukee, and his name is Jim Villa.

When Scott Walker announced that Villa, his political consultant, was moving into the county exec's office to be his chief of staff, consultant T. Bob Murphy offered this assessment to the Journal Sentinel:

"He's sort of like the Karl Rove of Milwaukee, without the baggage."

Questions: Do you think that description has already entered the realm of cliche?

Will Villa compete on the reality show? Walker could certainly use the money.

Not a merit pay raise

State lawmakers give themselves 4% pay raises, but withhold increases for top UW System officials to get the UW's attention and let the university know they'e unhappy about a few things. Story.

As the Journal Sentinel says in an editorial today, the legislative salary hike was certainly not a merit raise. If it were based on performance, they'd be giving money back.

David Clarke's opus: "Middle Class Like Me"

Milwaukee County David Clarke is on a tear against blacks again -- well, he would say against violence in the inner city. But if you read his screed, sent to Charlie Sykes as usual, you might wonder what his point is.

Clarke and his admirers portray him as a conservative intellectual. Maybe he's just too smart for me. Read this, posted on Sykes Writes, and note my highlights:

This violence has nothing to do with racism, poverty, lack of jobs etc. There is another issue relating to this violence that people are ignoring. Another major cause is middle class flight. Ever since the eighties a steady stream of strong, intact middle class families is leaving the city. What remains then is the underclass and those who can't afford to leave. Middle class families create stability in communities and keep things like crime and violence in check.

Milwaukee's central city is spreading out and is in the midst of urban decay. This is something that is not easily reversed or even halted. This is something that blacks themselves are going to have to solve. Government and the do-gooder liberals are powerless to solve this.

What government should do is enact policies that strengthen families and fix K-12 ed. That's all they can and should do. I would imagine that some lib will call for the creation of yet another social service program costing millions of dollars-an anger management program. It's laughable.

So this has nothing to do with poverty. It just has to do with all of the families who are not in poverty moving away, leaving those in poverty behind. Am I missing something, or does that sound like it has something to do with poverty?

Clarke just can't understand what's wrong with these poor blacks. Why didn't they grow up in a middle class family like he did, with parents who would send them to private schools, like his parents did? Sheriff Clarke, needless to say, does not live in the inner city. He was lucky. He didn't have to try to pull himself out of poverty. (If Clarke ever got around to publishing his ideas in book form, it wouldn't be titled, "Black Like Me." Maybe "Middle Class Like Me.")

Who wants to be around all of those poor people? Certainly not Sheriff Clarke. Besides the violence, they don't dress nicely, either.

What on earth do you think David Clarke is talking about?

Premature withdrawal? Say again?

As Emily Litella, the Gilda Radner character, might say: What's all this I hear about premature ejaculation by our troops?

Mark Green, speak up! I know this war stuff can be exciting and stimulating, and that you've actually penetrated Iraq airspace yourself to see firsthand what kind of activity is going on there.

But premature ejaculation? I get e-mails every day about how to fix that. It shouldn't be a big problem for the Pentagon to get some quantity of that stuff for the troops to rub on their vital parts.

Oh, not premature ejaculation? Premature WITHDRAWAL? Like pulling out when you haven't gotten your rocks off yet?

Never mind.

Churches join debate on Great Lakes stewardship

The Wisconsin Council of Churches' policy director says Christians have no excuse for not caring about a proposed new Great Lakes compact that could allow some water to leave the lakes. In a Capital Times op ed, Peter Bakken says:

"As God's stewards we should push for water conservation measures and the protection of the entire Great Lakes watershed, and we should help restore the quality of the Great Lakes basin."
Even a heathen like me can say "Amen" to that sentiment.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Folkbum is blog of the week

With a boost from my non-endorsement, Folkbum won Blog of the Week honors on mkeonline.

We will face off in a later round. Let the mudslinging begin.