Monday, October 31, 2005

Poster from

Online drivers licenses raise privacy issue

All this talk about drivers' licenses and photo IDs got me to wondering: How secure is your driver's license info and photo? Can anyone get access to it for identity theft or other purposes?

You will be surprised at what I found. See for yourself.

Reporter crusades for photo ID cards

More editorial commentary from the Journal Sentinel's Greg Borowski, who seems to have gone from reporting on election problems to crusading for photo ID cards for voters.

Last week, he felt compelled to offer his own comment when reporting on Rep. Gwen Moore's comments at a House "hearing" ginned up by Rep. Mark Green to boost his campaign for governor. [See earlier post, No Drivers License? No Problem. No Vote. ]

Now, in a story decrying the lack of action of needed election reforms since Borowski and the Journal Sentinel investigated problems a year ago, he offers this:
A probe headed by U.S. Attorney Steve Biskupic and Milwaukee County District Attorney E. Michael McCann was launched in January. In May, the two said they had found clear evidence of fraud in the city, but emphasized it did not involve an organized effort.

They said more than 200 felons voted illegally in the city and there were at least 100 other cases in which someone used a fake name or false address to vote, or voted twice.

So far, 14 cases have been filed in federal court, 10 involving felons who illegally voted while still on probation or parole and four involving cases of double voting. In addition, two cases were filed in Milwaukee County Circuit Court involving false registration cards submitted in voter registration drives.

Of the felon-voting cases, four people are awaiting trial, one was acquitted, one was found guilty at trial, and three reached plea agreements. Officials have been unable to locate the 10th to pursue charges.

In the double-voting cases, one resulted in a hung jury, one was dismissed when the individual was found incompetent to stand trial, one resulted in a plea agreement and the other is awaiting trial.

By its very nature, voter fraud is difficult to detect and hard to prove in court. It is one thing to determine that a fake name was used, and another to learn who used the fake name.

"We need to rely on the records," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Rick Frohling. "There has been a lot of coverage about human errors and the integrity of the records."

While Republicans have cited the cases of fraud in the photo ID debate, many Democrats have argued that the number of cases is so small that a major change, which they say would burden the poor and elderly, should not be implemented.

At a hearing in Milwaukee last week by a U.S. House committee, critics of such a requirement cited the smallest measurement of the cases - the number convicted - to say the problem is not severe.

That approach, though, ignores how other crime is measured. Cases of burglary, for instance, are not measured by only those where a prosecution leads to a conviction.
None of the many Republicans present thought to make those bold-faced comments, so Borowski supplied them himself. That's full-service reporting.

It is true that burglaries are measured by how many crimes are committed and reported, not by how many people are convicted.

But even if you take the worst case scenario and assume that there really are 100 cases of people using false identities or addresses -- I doubt there are even that many actual fraud cases, and that many of the 100 are clerical errors -- bear in mind that 277,000 people voted in the city in the last presidential election. That's .03 of 1 per cent. If you throw in the 200 felons, it is still less than one-tenth of one per cent. (Everyone agrees that photo IDs would not stop felons from voting; other steps are being taken to correct the problem.)

We would like elections to run perfectly. But an error rate of one-tenth of one per cent cannot justify putting into effect a new requirement -- photo ID cards -- that are guaranteed to prevent some people from exercising their right to vote. Many of them, we know, will be the poor, minorities and the elderly -- those who have no driver's license now and will be less well-equipped and less likely to satisfy the photo ID requirements.

I am surprised that the Journal Sentinel, which consistently editorializes against photo IDs, continues to endorse it in its news stories.

Perhaps the belief is that if the newspaper is to win a prize for exposing the problems in the system, it is necessary to show that some changes were made because of the newspaper's investigation. (I write that as a former newspaper editor who knows that competition for awards can drive coverage.) Let's hope that's not what's going on here. But if that's not it, what is it?

Borowski's original investigation into problems with Milwaukee's voting systems and process provided a real service and highlighted areas that need correction. Photo ID cards, for which he now seems to have become an advocate, is a political issue, no matter how hard the Republicans try to dress it up as something else. Its goal is to reduce the Democratic vote, especially in Milwaukee. Borowski and his newspaper should not want any part of that.

(Borowski shared the byline with Stacy Forster of the paper's State Capitol bureau on this one. If it turns out she wrote the part I questioned, I will be surprised.)

Not about the war? Of course it is

Right-wing bloggers and Bush apologists spent the weekend assuring us that the Libby indictment was "not about the war," using a quote from the prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, to back up their claim.

From the transcript of Fitzgerald's news conference:

FITZGERALD: This indictment is not about the war. This indictment's not about the propriety of the war. And people who believe fervently in the war effort, people who oppose it, people who have mixed feelings about it should not look to this indictment for any resolution of how they feel or any vindication of how they feel. This is simply an indictment that says, in a national security investigation about the compromise of a CIA officer's identity that may have taken place in the context of a very heated debate over the war, whether some person -- a person, Mr. Libby -- lied or not. The indictment will not seek to prove that the war was justified or unjustified. This is stripped of that debate, and this is focused on a narrow transaction. And I think anyone's who's concerned about the war and has feelings for or against shouldn't look to this criminal process for any answers or resolution of that.
So Fitzgerald, in a very lawyerlike way, explains the indictment. In a narrow sense, he's right; the indictment isn't specifically about the war. But the whole case is.

Fitzgerald's investigation was to try to find who leaked classified information that Valerie Plame was an undercover CIA agent.

We got to that investigation because the Bush administration misled the American public about reasons to go to war in Iraq, citing false evidence of weapons of mass destruction. When Joe Wilson blew the whistle and told the truth, the Bushies moved quickly to smear him, which for complicated reasons included outing Wilson's wife as a CIA agent. Then, when Fitzgerald investigated, Libby lied to him and tried to cover up the role of the vice-president's office, if not the veep himself, in the Wilson-Plame affair.

So make no mistake. It's all about the war.

To say that Libby's indictment isn't about the war is like saying Nixon's resignation wasn't about Watergate.

If it all had come out on one day, and he had told the truth, he might have survived.

The coverup -- and the steady drip ... drip ... drip ... as the truth came out --forced him from office.

Drip ... drip ... drip.

Petri speaks up on torture; others silent

Rep. Tom Petri, is among 13 Republican House members backing an anti-torture amendment to the defense appropriations bill. The amendment, by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a former prisoner of war, was added in the Senate on a 90-9 vote but was not in the House version of the bill.

The bill is in a conference committee, and Petri joined 12 other Republicans in signing a letter asking that McCain's amendment be included in the final compromise bill.

"Inhumane treatment at Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib has tarnished our reputation as defenders of human rights," said Petri. "We need to be absolutely clear that we mean what we say when we call for civilized behavior.''

The McCain amendment would place limits on the military's treatment of detainees abroad. Incredibly, President Bush has threatened to veto the bill if the amendment is included in the final version.

Wisconsin's three other Republicans -- Mark Green, Paul Ryan, and F. James Sensenbrenner -- have been silent on the issue. Maybe they are pro-torture?

Changing the subject

Hurrying another Supreme Court nominee into the spotlight is an indication that Karl Rove & Co. still know how to play the game.

They are well aware that the news media -- for reasons I have never understood -- can only cover one story at a time. Hurricane Katrina replaced Cindy Sheehan, and Harriet Miers replaced Katrina. The Fitzgerald investigation and indictments replaced Miers.

Now their hope, which may well be realized, is that the new Supreme Court battle will eclipse the media's focus on Scooter Libby, Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, and the rest of the Gang of Liars who got us into the Iraq war under false pretenses.

Unless and until there is a new development from prosecutor Fitzgerald, the strategy is quite likely to work.

Garden State race in 2005 could be

prelude to Badger State race in 2006

The New Jersey governor's race, in its final days, continues to offer a possible preview of the Wisconsin governor's race in 2006.

As you read the description of Doug Forrester's position on stem cell research, simply substitute Green for Forrester. Mark Green, like Forrester, says he's for "stem cell research" but not public funding. Like Forrester, he's trying to hide the fact that he means adult, not embryonic stem cell research. Like New Jersey, Wisconsin voters support embryonic stem cell research, while the anti-choice wing of the state GOP does not.

My DD blog reports:

NJ-Gov: Forrester and Stem Cell Research
by Scott Shields

The Forrester campaign is in crisis mode, trying to deal with the fallout of the Carl Riccio ads that have hit the airwaves hear in New Jersey. His lack of support for embryonic stem cell research has always been a problem for Forrester, as New Jersey voters overwhelmingly support it. However, the anti-choice wing of the state's Republican Party does not. And in order to win the gubernatorial nomination earlier this year, Doug Forrester needed their support. Rather than taking a principled stance against embryonic stem cell research, Forrester has tried to play both sides of the issue, claiming that he supports stem cell research, but not public funding for it. He's been much more quiet about the fact that the stem cell research he has supported is adult stem cell research, not embryonic. There's a huge difference between the two (see the non-political Wikipedia's 'stem cell' entry for more information).

On Friday, Forrester claimed to have a miraculous change of heart and now claims to completely support embryonic stem cell research and even the public funding of it. But he sounded like a complete and total buffoon in the process. The Star-Ledger reported his bizarre transformation.
Earlier post: NJ stem cell ad sign of things to come?

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Finding creative ways to keep

hurricane relief donations flowing

Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma have come and gone, but the need for help and donations will continue for a long time. As the nation's short attention span wanes. The Houston Chronicle offers some offbeat ways to help, including one, the Blame Game, that is close to my heart. You can read the story here, for more details on the items listed.

Here are some unconventional ways to contribute to hurricane victims. (Of course, you can always donate to the Red Cross directly at .)

• Celebrity auction: Here's your shot to score a signed Aerosmith guitar or to name a character in a James Patterson novel. Various auctions are being held, with proceeds going to Katrina victims. Go to

• Human target: Feel like embarrassing someone for a good cause? For the rest of the month, University of California-Santa Barbara student Park Williams will sacrifice his dignity by performing stunts in exchange for your donations, which go to the Red Cross. Go to

• Bibs, beer steins and bags, for a cause: Want to show your support for evacuees? Check out Cafe Press items dedicated to Hurricane Katrina, from hoodies to doggie T-shirts to messenger bags at

• The Blame Game: This game takes a jab at the government's reaction to the Katrina evacuation by taking players through a winding New Orleans game board where they can't win; $10 at .

• Teri Hatcher T-shirts: She may be busy, but Desperate Housewives' Hatcher took time out from her schedule to create a T-shirt line, with profits benefiting the Red Cross. Go to .

Quote, unquote

George W Bush ... A man of principle, a man of honor. On the first hour of the first day...he will restore decency and integrity to the oval office.

-- Dick Cheney, Aug. 2, 2000, speech to the Republican national convention.

Iraq veterans ask for change of course

The nation’s largest Iraq War Veterans group, Operation Truth, launched a nationwide television advertising campaign Thursday, calling for a change in course in Iraq, and an exit strategy that honors the sacrifice of the 2000 American troops who have been killed in the ongoing conflict there.

The ad can be viewed on the web by clicking here.

MoveOn is also airing a new commercial asking "How Many More?"

Miers does in Doonesbury

A week of funny Doonesbury strips was one of the casualties of Harriet Miers's "decision" to "withdraw" her name from consideration.

But never fear. Slate has posted them here for your enjoyment.

Hat tip:Widgerson Library and Pub.

Libby's defense: 'I forgot'

Kevin Drum of the Washington Monthly's "Political Animal" blog:

LIBBY'S DEFENSE....Scooter Libby's lawyer has outlined Libby's probable defense against Patrick Fitzgerald's perjury charges: he forgot.

As lawyers, we recognize that a person's recollection and memory of events will not always match those of other people, particularly when they are asked to testify months after the events occurred.

I sure hope Libby has a backup plan. Granted, pleas of faulty memory are pretty common in court cases, but Libby has a high bar to overcome:

His first interview with the FBI was only a few months after the events in question. This isn't a matter of being hazy on a few details years after the fact.

It's been pretty well documented that Libby was obsessed with Joe Wilson. This wasn't just a sideshow for him, it was something he spent a lot of time on.

Libby testified that his knowledge of Valerie Plame's CIA employment came from reporters. This was false, but it isn't just a matter of Libby's testimony not matching that of the reporters who supposedly told him about Plame. Fitzgerald also has a bunch of evidence showing that Libby actively pursued information about Wilson and discussed his wife's status with numerous people within the White House. That's a lot to forget.

Libby repeated his false story on four separate occasions. He didn't just alter a few details here and there, he made up a detailed cover story and stuck to it rigorously in front of both investigators and the grand jury.

I sure wouldn't want to try to put lipstick on that pig in front of a jury. If that's all Libby's got, he'd better get on the phone with Fitzgerald pronto and start trying to cut a deal.
This, from the AP, is Fitzgerald's summary:

"At the end of the day what appears is that Mr. Libby's story that he was at the tail end of a chain of phone calls, passing on from one reporter what he heard from another, was not true. It was false. He was at the beginning of the chain of phone calls, the first official to disclose this information outside the government to a reporter. And then he lied about it afterward, under oath and repeatedly."

Saturday, October 29, 2005

-- Marshall Ramsey, Jackson MS Courier Ledger via Cagle.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Mothers, don't let your babies

grow up to be Scooters ...

What is it about these Scooter guys that gets them into trouble?
Scooter Libby, top, at least resigned as Dick Cheney's chief of staff after being indicted on five counts of perjury and obstruction of justice for trying to cover up the facts in the Valerie Plame investigation.

Scooter Jensen, bottom, three years after being indicted on three felony charges for corruption and abuse of his public office, is still serving in a leadership role for Republicans in the State Assembly.

Apologies to Phil (Scooter) Rizzuto

No driver's license? No problem. No vote.

This from Greg Borowski's story in the Journal Sentinel, on the Congressional "hearing" on election problems in Wisconsin earlier this week. He's writing about a photo ID requirement for voters:

Backers, including a member of a national election reform commission that recommended such a provision, said it would help restore confidence in the election system, assist poll workers and help guard against some forms of voter fraud. Critics said it would unfairly hit the poor and minorities, with U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Milwaukee) declaring flatly it would "have the effect of disenfranchising over a quarter of a million eligible voters in our state."

The figure was based on a study of people without driver licenses. However, such a statement assumes that none of them would obtain a photo ID and ignores provisions that exempt some elderly from the requirement. Backers of a photo ID requirement noted that plans in Wisconsin, vetoed by Gov. Jim Doyle, would have provided free IDs to those who could not afford one.
So Borowski decides to referee Moore's comments and offer some editorial comment of his own.

He assumes, it appears, that everyone without a driver's license -- all 250,000 of them -- would simply run out and get a photo ID card. If they didn't, they would lose their right to vote.

Of course, he doesn't think they would all get the IDs. Let's say half of them did. Then there would "only" be 125,000 people who would be denied the right to vote. And that, apparently, would be acceptable.

We know who the people are without driver's licenses. This from an item I did in June:

The UW-Milwaukee Employment and Training Institute did the study, which found:

Among black males between ages 18 and 24, 78% lacked a driver's license, the largest percentage of any demographic in the study. Other groups in which a majority lacked a driver's license were black males of any age (55% lack a license); Hispanic women of any age (59%); and black women, Hispanic men and Hispanic women between ages 18 and 24 (all between 57% and 66%).

By contrast, only 17% of white men and white women of voting age in Wisconsin lack a driver's license.

You don't have to be a genius to figure out that the groups most likely to be disenfranchised are those who vote heavily Democratic.

Yes, the bill would let them get a different kind of photo ID from the state. But the fact remains, that it would create one more barrier for those people if they want to vote. Advantage: Republicans.

All of the "voter fraud" talk is a mere smokescreen. The photo ID bill is pure, partisan power politics at work.It's also inaccurate to say that the federal election reform commission has endorsed what has been proposed in Wisconsin for photo IDs. The Carter-baker commission has endorsed something called REAL ID, a very different and very expensive proposition. We'll discuss that another time, but, as one Wisconsin lawmaker said, that is a horse of a different feather.

Meanwhile, in a related matter, the WashPost reports:

Voter ID Law Is Overturned

In a case that some have called a showdown over voting rights, a U.S. appeals court yesterday upheld an injunction barring the state of Georgia from enforcing a law requiring citizens to get government-issued photo identification in order to vote.

The ruling allows thousands of Georgians who do not have government-issued identification, such as driver's licenses and passports, to vote in the Nov. 8 municipal elections without obtaining a special digital identification card, which costs $20 for five years. In prior elections, Georgians could use any one of 17 types of identification that show the person's name and address, including a driver's license, utility bill, bank statement or a paycheck, to gain access to a voting booth.

Last week, when issuing the injunction, U.S. District Judge Harold L. Murphy likened the law to a Jim Crow-era poll tax that required residents, most of them black, to pay back taxes before voting. He said the law appeared to violate the Constitution for that reason. In the 2004 election, about 150,000 Georgians voted without producing government-issued IDs.

AG's sewage lawsuit stinks

The Journal Sentinel weighs in today with an editorial on AG Peg Lautenschlager's wrong-headed lawsuit against the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District. Maybe there will be some political benefit to this stunt outstate, but it is playing badly in Milwaukee,, and opposition is bipartisan, from Mayor Tom Barrett to Republican radio hosts.

From today's editorial, titled,"Suit on dumping simply wrong":

State Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager filed suit Thursday against the taxpayers of Milwaukee County to get them to spend more money than they're already spending on sewage cleanup. The suit is disguised as a case against the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District, but the reality is that Lautenschlager
is demanding that taxpayers fork out more money to fix one aspect of a complicated problem that would result in a marginal improvement in water quality.

Lautenschlager is asking a judge to tell the district to upgrade its system to stop future dumping of sewage into Lake Michigan. But the district is already working to upgrade its system: It has allocated $900 million for sewer projects and is in the middle of a $58 million long-range planning effort aimed at identifying still other improvements. That's not small change, and it will result in improvements.

Can the district do more to reduce the amount of partially treated sewage that is dumped into the lake? Yup. ShouldUnited Water Services and district officials be held to account for any mistakes in operations or judgment that result in unnecessary dumpings? Absolutely. But if the idea is to build a new system aimed at stopping all dumping, that's a) probably not possible, given the nature of Mother Nature and b) prohibitively expensive, to the point of draining the budgets of municipalities and taxpayers in the district.

We doubt very much that, given the current tax climate, paying for a system that would end all overflows or virtually all overflows would sit well with taxpayers...

... Lautenschlager ... apparently wants taxpayers to spend billions more on a "solution" that won't make the waters very much cleaner. That's not serving the citizens of Wisconsin.
Earlier post: Lautenschlager grandstands,taxpayers pay.

A small explosion

Jessica McBride "reports":

"The MSM are now exploding - very belatedly - with stories about a potential Diane Sykes' candidacy for SCOTUS."
So far, it's a pretty small explosion.

In a search of 20.2 million blogs on Technorati, Diane Sykes shows up 20 times in the last three days and three of them are from McBride. Make it 21: Eye on Wisconsin gets in.

As for the mainstream media (MSM if you're cool), there is one mention in the NY Times along with a host of other names, and an AP story which the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel picked up.

She may be in the running and even be nominated. But spare us the hype.

UPDATE: Courtesy of The Note at ABC News, here are the newspapers'short lists:

Washington Post: Alito, Brown, Callahan, Clement, Cornyn, Luttig, McConnell, Owen, Sykes, Thompson, Williams

Associated Press: Alito, Batchelder, Cornyn, Corrigan, Luttig, Mahoney, Owen, Thompson, Wilkinson, Williams

The New York Times: Alito, Luttig, Mahoney, Owen, Sykes, Wilkinson LINK

USA Today: Alito, Brown, Corrigan, Gonzales, Jones, Luttig, McConell, Owen, Williams

Wall Street Journal: Alito, Brown, Cornyn, Corrigan, Luttig, Owen, Williams

Wall Street Journal editorial board: Alito, Brown, Jones, Luttig, McConnell, Owen, Wilkinson

Los Angeles Times: Alito, Batchelder, Clement, Jones, Luttig, McConnell, Owen, Sykes, Thompson, Williams

LA Times editorial board: Maureen Mahoney

Boston Globe: Alito, Batchelder, Gonzales, Jones, Luttig, Mahoney, McConnell, Rogers Brown, Thompson, Wilkinson, Williams

Chicago Tribune: Alito, Luttig, Owen, Wilkinson, Williams

This may not mean anything, of course. Whose list was Harriet Miers on? Only W's, the one that mattered.

Correcting the record on concealed carry

Racine Alderman Pete Karas read this editorial by the Janesville Gazette the other day, and decided the Gazette needed to get its facts straight before it promotes concealed weapons as a way to “ward off criminals” instead of what they really are: a danger to the community.

So he wrote a letter to the editor:

To the Editor:

I read with dismay your editorial entitled, “Residents deserve the right to carry guns,” which appeared in the Janesville Gazette on October 23. Although I disagree with your position on this issue – I find it hard to believe that more guns on the street will make our neighborhoods safer – I was most shocked at the inaccuracy of what your editorial presented as fact.

First, you mention a few of the limited places that the proposed concealed weapons bill will not allow people to carry concealed weapons. You neglected to mention the exceptions. The bill clearly states that one would be able to carry weapons in a school zone if just “passing through,” in taverns if they derive over half of their revenue from food sales, at sporting events that are not school or professional (a little league game is allowed,) or in Municipal Buildings unless there are metal detectors installed.

The second misstatement of fact is your statement that posting a notice will prevent permit holders from bringing concealed weapons into shopping malls or other private businesses. While it is correct that to not allow weapons in a store or other private business a sign must be posted, your editorial failed to mention that visitors to the inside of a mall, store or private business must be “personally and orally” notified of the prohibition upon entry. In addition, this bill does not allow any individual or business owner to prohibit the carrying of guns on the outdoor portion of their property, e.g. in yards, parking lots and outdoor markets. I find this an incredibly unreasonable portion of the proposed law, usurping the property rights of a business owner.

The third fallacy deals with your contention that if the legislature does not pass a concealed carry law, that the Wisconsin Supreme Court will chip away at the current concealed carry prohibition. This speculation, no doubt, comes from an opinion written by one justice in a decision last year which allowed people to carry weapons in their home or personal business and has widely been quoted by the authors of this bill. I suggest the entire decision and opinion be read, as it will be easily interpreted otherwise.

Fourth, the editorial mentions that if one is convicted of domestic abuse, a violent misdemeanor, a felony, or drunken driving they will not be allowed a permit. What you fail to mention, once again, are the exceptions. For example, it must be two drunken driving convictions within the preceding three years to be denied a permit and if the violent misdemeanor is three years old, the person may obtain a permit. Furthermore, virtually none of the prohibitions for people to carry a concealed weapon apply to out of state licensees who will also be allowed to carry guns in Wisconsin.

I would suggest that before your Editorial Board takes another stand on such an important issue, they actually read and research the bill that they are writing about. I believe that when even the supporters of the concept of carrying concealed weapons learn of the actual content of the bill, most will agree as I do, that this bill, as written, is unsafe policy for the people and businesses of Wisconsin.

Alderman Pete Karas
Racine, Wisconsin

Hat tip: Gun Guys.

NJ stem cell ad sign of things to come?

New Jersey Sen. Jon Corzine -- like Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle -- is a true stem cell champion.

Corzine's campaigning for governor, has been talking about stem cells, and now has launched a particularly powerful ad. It features a young quadriplegic man, Carl Riccio, who urges support for Corzine and for the stem cell research that might someday allow him to walk again. You can watch it here.

Don't be surprised if you see something like this in Wisconsin next year, especially if Rep. Mark Green, a consistent voice and vote against stem cell research, is the Republican nominee. A strong majority of Wisconsin voters, including a majority of Republican voters, back stem cell research. It promises to be a powerful wedge issue next year.

Spooky Sensenbrenner's in town

Keep the kids inside. Here for Halloween in the district, our own scary F. Jim Sensenbrenner. Show up with a Bryan Kennedy button and give him a scare.

F. Jim Sensenbrener's town hall schedule:

Saturday, October 29: 9 a.m. West Allis Public Library

Saturday, October 29: 1 p.m.Hartland Village Hall

Sunday, October 30: 7 p.m. Germantown Village Hall

Thursday, October 27, 2005

New nominee a done deal now

Well, this settles it. If ex-hubby Charlie and F. Jim both endorse her, I'd have to be for Diane Sykes for Supreme Court, wouldn't I? The only other assurance I need is that Harriet Miers likes her, too.

Speaking of soirees, Mr. Sykes...

Republican radio talker Charlie Sykes and I had a little exchange the last couple of days over the war in Iraq, started by his calling the observances and vigils to mark the death of the 2000th American servicemen "soirees."

He and other right-wingers claimed the anti-war people were somehow "celebrating" the 2000th death.

Actually, it was the Republicans who were celebrating inappropriately, as Dana Milbank points out in this Washington Post article:
A Celebration in Search of an Occasion

It was, perhaps, not the best possible time for the Republican Party to hold a soiree.

The war in Iraq reached a macabre milestone yesterday afternoon as a 2,000th soldier was added to the list of the U.S. dead. Consumer confidence took a surprise tumble to a two-year low, the Conference Board announced. Support for the GOP fell to its lowest level in at least 13 years, according to a poll released by the Pew Research Center. All of Washington, meanwhile, was waiting for Friday's deadline for a prosecutor to say whether he is indicting top White House officials.

And yet, there they were at the gilded Mellon Auditorium last night: the Republican Party's biggest donors, men in tuxedos and women in cocktail dresses, dining on Asian spoon canapes, orange carpaccio and seared mignon of beef, and listening to the soothing tones of a jazz band and a keynote address by President Bush. About 250 Republican Eagles -- those who have contributed $15,000 or more to the party -- and guests were in town for the Eagles' 30th-birthday dinner, which was expected to bring the party more than $1 million.

Of course, the event was scheduled when nobody imagined this would be the darkest political week of the Bush presidency.

Rubbing elbows with the scandal-plagued

The NY Times today profiles Susan Ralston, Karl Rove's assistant, as someone who's coincidentally shown up in key roles in two investigations. Before working for Rove, she was Gal Friday for sleazeball lobbyist Jack Abramoff -- and procurer of free tickets for Mark Green's guy, Mark Graul.

A quick refresher on the Graul-Abramoff ticket connection: Susan Ralston e-mails, and an earlier post, "Graul, lobbyist friend won't discuss freebies."

In Jefferson, war over Wal-Mart continues

You never know what will happen once local voters feel empowered and learn how easy it is to get some petitions signed.

In Jefferson, where Wal-Mart is knocking on the door, pro-Wal-Mart voters forced a recall election and successfully replaced Dave Olsen, who had voted against an annexation to pave the way for a superstore, with someone who backs the store. But the battle is not over yet.

Now, there's a new petition drive in Jefferson, which has enough signatures to give the city council two choices: Adopt a new ordinance regulating development or put the question on the ballot in a referendum. It's a process called direct legislation.

Wal-Mart's proposed development is clearly the target.

The Daily Jefferson County Union reports:

JEFFERSON — The Coalition for a Better Jefferson has forwarded a petition to the City of Jefferson seeking to require certain studies if a developer or landowner seeks to annex or develop properties that exceed 15 acres. . .

The ordinance ... would essentially outline additional planning steps designed to assist the city as it considers large-scale developments.

Were this ordinance to pass, it would require these larger-scale developers or owners seeking annexation for their larger-scale properties to have four reports prepared as part of the process of consideration. The reports would include:

• An environmental impact statement, as defined in the applicable Wisconsin statute.
• A traffic impact statement prepared by an engineer selected by the city.

• An infrastructure analysis which considers the impact of the proposed development on the city’s sewer system, sanitary sewers, transportation grid, right-of-way, and other infrastructure elements.

• A community impact statement which reviews how the proposed development might affect the community overall.

This would look at things like how the development might affect the police and fire departments and other emergency services; the impact on schools; the wildlife, migrating birds, wetlands, or historical impact of the property as it exists; the economic impact on the city, including likely jobs lost and gained, the impact on the tax rolls, and other such considerations.

The proposed ordinance would require these studies to be done by independent, paid consultants, and it also would give the community a right to a hearing on any of these topics.

The city . . . could ask the developer to pay up front through an impact fee or could order a special assessment of the affected properties.

“The long and short of it is that taxpayers would generally not have to pay for the impact studies,” [John] Rhiel [of the committee] said, “but that these studies would give the community more of a three-dimensional picture of how the development would look at the end, rather than letting development happen step by step. . .

“This action partly came out of the experience the community had with the annexation request for the land that Wal-Mart was considering,” Rhiel said.

“A lot of people had a lot of opinions about what that development would mean for Jefferson, but we didn’t have a lot of facts, aside from Wal-Mart’s general reputation,” he said. “We didn’t have enough reliable information on how this specific development would affect this community.”

Rumors are already circulating that the new pro-superstore majority on the council, and the mayor, who supports the development, plan to ram the annexation through quickly, before the new ordinance could take effect. That could prompt more legal challenges.

Driving blind, as the deaths pile up

As a public service, here is a column the NY Times would like you to pay to read, but which deserves a wider audience:

Op-Ed Columnist

Much of the nation is mourning the more than 2,000 American G.I.'s lost to the war in Iraq. But some of the mindless Washington weasels who sent those brave and healthy warriors to their unnecessary doom have other things on their minds. They're scrambling about the capital, huddling frantically with lawyers, hoping that their habits of deception, which are a way of life with them, don't finally land them in a federal penitentiary.

See them sweat. The most powerful of the powerful, the men who gave the president his talking points and his marching orders, are suddenly sending out distress signals: Don't let them send me to prison on a technicality.

This is not, however, about technicalities. You can spin it any way you want, but Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation of Karl Rove, Scooter Libby et al. is ultimately about the monumentally conceived and relentlessly disseminated deceit that gave us the war that never should have happened.

Oh, it was heady stuff for a while - nerds and naïfs swapping fantasies of world domination and giddily manipulating the levers of American power. They were oh so arrogant and glib: Weapons of mass destruction. Yellowcake from Niger. The smoking gun morphing into a mushroom cloud.

Now look at what they've wrought. James Dao of The Times began his long article on the 2,000 American dead with a story that was as typical as it was tragic:

"Sgt. Anthony G. Jones, fresh off the plane from Iraq and an impish grin on his face, sauntered unannounced into his wife's hospital room in Georgia just hours after she had given birth to their second son."

The article described how Sergeant Jones, over a blissful two-week period last May, "cooed over their baby and showered attention on his wife."

"Three weeks later, on June 14," wrote Mr. Dao, "Sergeant Jones was killed by a roadside bomb in Baghdad on his third tour in a war that is not yet three years old. He was 25."

Three times Sergeant Jones was sent to Iraq, which tells you all you need to know about the fairness and shared sacrifices of this war. If you roll the dice enough times, they're guaranteed to come up snake eyes.

Sergeant Jones told his wife, Kelly, that he had "a bad feeling" about heading back to Iraq for a third combat tour. After his death, his wife found a message that he had left for her among his letters and journal entries.

"Grieve little and move on," he wrote. "I shall be looking over you. And you will hear me from time to time on the gentle breeze that sounds at night, and in the rustle of leaves."

In addition to the more than 2,000 dead, an additional 15,000 Americans have been wounded. Some of these men and women have sacrificed one, two and even three limbs. Some have been permanently blinded and others permanently paralyzed - some both. Some have been horribly burned.

For the Iraqis, the toll is beyond hideous. Perhaps 30,000 dead, of which an estimated 10 percent have been children. The number of Iraqi wounded is anybody's guess.

This is what happens in war, which is why wars should only be fought when there is utterly and absolutely no alternative.

So what's ahead, now that the giddiness in Washington has been replaced by anxiety and the public is turning against the war?

Even Richard Nixon's cronies are crawling out of the woodwork to urge the Bush gang to stop the madness. In an article for Foreign Affairs magazine, former Defense Secretary Melvin Laird, now 83, says the administration needs to come up with a clearly defined exit strategy, and fast.

Said Mr. Laird: "Getting out of a war is still dicier than getting into one, as George W. Bush can attest."

But President Bush, who never gave the country a legitimate reason for going to war, and has never offered a coherent strategy for winning the war, seems in no hurry to figure out a way to exit the war.

Soon after the Pentagon confirmed on Tuesday that the American death toll in Iraq had reached 2,000, the president gave a speech in which he said: "This war will require more sacrifice, more time and more resolve. No one should underestimate the difficulties ahead, nor should they overlook the advantages we bring to this fight."

Thousands upon thousands are suffering and dying in Iraq while, in Washington, incompetence continues its macabre marathon dance with incoherence.

Lautenschlager grandstands, taxpayers pay

Bruce Murphy must be psychic.

His online column for Milwaukee Magazine this week hits two topics -- "The Incredible Success of the Deep Tunnel" and "Is Peg Lautenschlager Dead Meat?"

The next day, AG Lautenschlager, looking for a headline, filed a lawsuit against MMSD, the sewerage district everybody loves to hate, falsely claiming that MMSD had violated its state permit because of sewage overflows.

She may not have gotten the reaction she expected. Even some of the right-wingers like Republican radio host Jeff Wagner -- who detests MMSD -- wondered aloud whether it makes sense for the state to file this suit.

You see, the state Dept. of Justice, which Lautenschlager heads, will pay the costs for prosecuting the case. But it's really Wisconsin taxpayers, of course, who foot the bill.

MMSD is a public body. The cost of its legal defense will be paid by -- you guessed it -- the taxpayers.

If Lautenschlager wins the case, she's asking MMSD to be fined. You know who will pay the fine, of course -- the taxpayers.

And she wants MMSD to spend more money, apparently, than the $900-million in capital expenditures already on the drawing board. And who will pay for any added projects? Need I say it? The taxpayers.

Lautenschlager tried to distinguish between the 28 communities served by MMSD and MMSD itself, saying she wasn't suing those communities, just the district. It is, of course, the taxpayers of those 28 communities who will pay the bill for her lawsuit against MMSD.

She hasn't made any friends with local officials, including a number of promiment Democrats like West Allis Mayor Jeannette Bell, who chairs MMSD, and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, whose mayoral campaign included a pledge to clean up MMSD.

They think she's grandstanding at taxpayer expense. And they're right.

(I should disclose that I am a former MMSD commissioner,where I learned the first rule of sanitary engineering: Shit flows downhill.)

UPDATE: In a strong letter to Lautenschlager, Barrett asks her to put up or shut up, basically, although he puts it more diplomatically in asking her to explain just what it is she would like MMSD to do and how much it might cost, pointing out that the money already being spent by "hard-working taxpayers . . . is not pocket change."

From the letter:
I’d like to commend you and your staff for the reasonable approach that has been taken with the twenty-eight Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District communities. I believe that working cooperatively with all parties toward a sensible and pragmatic settlement is in the best interest of taxpayers.

My reaction to your announced legal action against the MMSD and its 1.1 million customers is just the opposite. Quite frankly, I am disappointed.

In 2002, the MMSD entered into a court sanctioned stipulation that resulted in a $900 million tab for taxpayers. That agreement was approved by the Attorney General’s Office, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. There is little doubt that capital investments had to be made to improve the performance of the regional sewer system. At the end of 2005, more than $570 million in public funds will have been spent. Work on the remaining projects will be completed by 2010. Nine hundred million dollars is not pocket change. It comes from hard-working citizens who don’t hold most government agencies, or higher taxes for that matter, in high regard.

I have asked the MMSD Commissioners to hold a special meeting on Monday, November 7th. I asked for this meeting because I was not happy with the Commission’s action to increase the MMSD’s 2006 capital budget an additional 2%. And while I understand MMSD’s need to keep pace with meeting the stipulated demands, I want to reduce costs.

In order for the Commission to accurately plan for 2006 and beyond, please provide my office and the MMSD the specific actions and/or projects you feel are necessary for the MMSD to undertake in order to satisfy the compliance issues you have raised at your press conferences. I also would like to see all costs associated with those actions and/or projects.

In addition, please provide my office and the MMSD, a detailed account of what MMSD actions and/or capital projects your office has found to be delinquent in meeting the 2002 stipulation. This would include actions and/or projects the MMSD has completed, that are currently being undertaken, and those actions and/or projects that are planned.

As you are aware, there are one hundred twenty-three MMSD capital projects included in the District’s 2006 budget. It may be in the MMSD’s interest not to fund those projects if you are planning on expanding the scope and costs of any or all of those items. I assume that you would agree that you have a responsibility to MMSD and its ratepayers to inform them of the financial impacts of your action.

Thank you for your immediate attention to this request. I look forward to reviewing your information prior to the November 7th MMSD Commission meeting.

Walker slaps at Green by proxy

The gloves aren't off yet, but the Republican gov primary contestants are edging closer to getting into the ring, at least.

Scott Walker's e-newsletter -- using two Republican radio talkers from his home base of Milwaukee as proxies -- gives Mark Green a little slap:

This special edition of the Walker Weekly highlights two articles that appeared recently discussing the strength of Scott Walker's message. Both Mark Belling and Charlie Sykes offer a strong case for why you should join the Winning Walker team.

Mark Belling: "The voters want tax relief in Wisconsin and they will keep voting against those politicians that won't give it to them. Walker has the all-time winning Wisconsin issue in the tax freeze and his ability to produce four consecutive budgets with absolutely no increase in the property tax levy. The tone-deaf crowd in the Republican Party that is backing candidate Mark Green is oblivious to the appeal of Walker's message and will wake up next September in shock when Walker crushes Green in the GOP primary. Even after that result, the Madison crowd and the state media will argue that Walker's win is a "Republican thing." Walker will then beat Doyle. Will they hear us THEN?"

Charlie Sykes:"County Executive Scott Walker's budget includes a property tax levy increase of zip, nada, bupkus. Swept into office in the wake of the Ament pension scandal, Walker promised to freeze property taxes. Unlike Doyle's "freeze," Walker's comes without asterisks, loopholes, hedges, fudges, or backdoors. It doesn't rely on reassessments or sleight of hand. For Walker a zero increase means a zero increase. All of which makes Walker a double anomaly in Wisconsin politics (1) a politician who actually does what he says he will do, and (2) an officeholder prepared to actually make cuts in spending."

Belling's rant conveniently lets Walker send something around the state callling Green's backers "tone-deaf" without having to actually say it himself. But Walker's certainly spreading it.

Belling, by the way, has a long history of making bold pronouncements and predictions that turn out to be totally wrong, but he conviently forgets to ever mention them again. I am saving this one.

FEMA caves in to the NRA

From my buddies The Gun Guys:

FEMA has buckled under the NRA's increasing pressure, and, in doing so, endangered a camp of people who have already been victimized.

When the NRA found out weapons were banned at a FEMA-sponsored camp for refugees, they went beserk. They lambasted the group for "attacking the rights" of the evacuees, and demanded that weapons be allowed in the camp. That's right, they demanded that people who had already been victimized be put in another dangerous situation, living in close quarters with frustrated people who would be allowed to carry weapons.

On first glance, FEMA didn't do much more than promise an investigation to find out who gave the order. There is a policy in place, they found, to keep weapons out of FEMA sponsored setups, for reasons of public safety. Also, they did find out who exactly gave the order-- it was Col. Greg Phares of the East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Department. Phares isn't just the one who gave the order to keep guns out, he's also... an NRA member. He says (very calmly and clearly, as opposed to the NRA's vicious ranting) that because the walls of the camp are so thin, it would dangerous to have guns in the camp. There is already a security force in place, and (keep in mind an NRA member is saying this) there is no legitimate reason to have guns there.

And yet the NRA still ranted and raved.

And now, today, weeks after the initial allegations, FEMA has decided to allow weapons into the camp.

Never mind that everyone says it's a bad idea. Never mind that the Baton Rouge press told the NRA, in very clear terms, to "butt out." Never mind that the NRA isn't just a minority voice in this case-- it's not even local to the issue. FEMA buckled under their pressure.

Know another group that buckled under NRA's bullying. Try Congress. The gun immunity bill wasn't something the people wanted, or that even the gun industry was yelling against (although we're sure they funded some lobbyists). It was the NRA's yelling and whining that got that bill passed.

And, frankly, we're tired of the yelling and the whining. It's time for some common sense. Just because the NRA yells the loudest and has the most money doesn't mean they're right. In this FEMA situation, they weren't. And FEMA should have acknowledged that instead of folding just to shut the NRA up.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Bush backs down on Gulf wage cuts

President Bush has backed down on his plans to suspend the David-Bacon prevailing wage requirements for Katrina cleanup, under pressure from Dems and some Repubs.

Thirty-seven Republicans signed a letter opposing the cut, but unless they disguised their handwriting no Wisconsin GOP House members were among them.

DCCC Stakeholder has the story.

--Kevin Sears, Charlotte Observer

Harriet Miers blog: Telling it like it is

I can't decide if it's really her or not, but Harriet's own blog is hilarious. Check it out at



Okay first here’s some background. Especially if your wondering why its been so long since my last post. I was trying to put into words my thoughts about Specter and the 1989 questionnaire and everything, and honestly if I hear Roe V Wade one more time I'm going to announce that I'll just recuse myself. (Just kidding its important obv). And then I started to write a poem but it kept coming out really dumb. And then I had an idea for a song, like the Fiddler on the Roof song except it’d be “Abortion!” –but it’s a Hot Button Issue and I don’t want to be offensive. Also I couldn’t remember the tune.

Anyway the point is, I wrote this song, it goes to the tune of If I Were A Rich Man (which I’m not!!!).

If I were a justice
Ya ha deedle deedle bubba bubba deedle deedle dum
In my robes I’d biddy biddy bum
If I were a high court judge!
I’d… be a super jurist!!
Ya ha deedle deedle bubba bubba deedle deedle dum
If I were bum biddy bum confirmed
Yiddle-diddle to the Supreme Court.

I’d sign opinions with a heart on the “I”
Correcting old decisions that were wrong
But I’d never legislate from the bench!!!
And even tho I’d be the most junior justice
They’d make me feel like I belong
Especially that Souter, he’s a mensch!

If I were a justice
Ya ha deedle deedle bubba bubba deedle deedle dum
In my robes I’d biddy biddy bum
If I were a high court judge!
I’d… be a super jurist!!
Ya ha deedle deedle bubba bubba deedle deedle dum
If I were bum biddy bum confirmed
Yiddle-diddle to the Supreme Court.

The latest in high humor on the right

Charlie Sykes asks of me today: "Will he be having any cheese with his whine?"

Oct. 15 Jeff Wagner blog headline: "How About Some Cheese To Go With All That Whine, Mr. Dwyer?"

These guys should listen to someone besides each other once in awhile.

Madison father honors his son by

working to end the war in Iraq

Anyone on the right want to slime Ray Maida? Is he a moonbat? Does he dishonor his son's sacrifice? Charlie? Jessica? Who wants to be first?

From Melanie Conklin's column in the Wisconsin State Journal:

Calls are pouring in after retired Madison police detective Ray Maida was interviewed on ABC's "Nightline'' last week, talking about how poorly the U.S. military treated his family in dealing with the death of his son Mark, an Army sergeant in Iraq.

The family never received a call from his commanding officer. Three months after his death, the family learned the details of what happened from an interview in The Washington Post with Terry Rodgers, a soldier and close friend who was with Mark when a bomb exploded their patrolling Humvee. They had only six hours' notice that his body would be arriving at the airport in Milwaukee and also had a difficult time getting his possessions returned.

In the wake of the "Nightline'' show, Maida has been asked to speak around the country, including a request from to talk when the 2,000th soldier dies in Iraq.

"I just haven't returned the call," says Maida, his voice, understandably, alternating between weary and impassioned. "I can only speak about it once every few days. I can only do it in bits and pieces and then afterward I cry. But I want to share Mark's story." Mark, a 2001 Memorial High School graduate, was killed in May.

The "Nightline'' segment titled, "We regret to inform you..." was anchored by Chris Bury, a UW-Madison alum who was on Madison radio in the late '70s and is the show's main substitute anchor. Maida says the interview took two days and four hours of taping for what was originally intended to be a seven-minute segment.

"The guy who videotaped it said it was the longest interview they'd seen," says Maida, "and 'Nightline' decided to make it the whole show."

Maida and his son Chris, an Iraq war veteran, will be speaking Thursday, Oct. 27, sponsored by Military Families for Peace, at Union South at 7 p.m. They plan to have video and pictures of Mark's life, as well as stories from the large anti-war rally in Washington, D.C., last month, where Maida met Mark's friend from the Post story.

"The reason we speak," says Ray Maida, "is we met Terry Rodgers at the peace rally and he told us how the two of them had discussed how they were going to go to every get-out-of-Iraq rally they could when they got home."

Honor the fallen at a Wednesday vigil

Click here to find a local vigil. Here, too.

Today marks the day that 2,000 brave American servicemen and women have sacrificed their lives for the war in Iraq. Most of us cannot imagine what it must be like for their sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers. But as a nation, we can take a moment to send our gratitude and support to those families.

Democracy for America is joining with MoveOn and TrueMajority to host candlelight vigils across the country and offer our condolences to the families and friends of the American servicemen and women who have given their lives. The vigils will take place at 6:30 PM tonight, Wednesday, October 26.

These vigils aren't rallies or places to give long-winded speeches. They are moments to solemnly come together and mark the sacrifice of those who have died and their families.

The American Friends Service Committee also is coordinating events, discussed in an earlier post.

Chickenhawks lead the cheers for Iraq war

It appears my use of the word Chickenhawk has stirred up some of the folks who think the only way to honor the dead in Iraq is to add to the numbers, instead of bringing the troops home. Good. The super-patriots could use a little shaking up.

What is a chickenhawk?

Chickenhawk n. A person enthusiastic about war, provided someone else fights it; particularly when that enthusiasm is undimmed by personal experience with war; most emphatically when that lack of experience came in spite of ample opportunity in that person's youth.

That from the New Hampshire Gazette, which finds these personnel at Chickenhawk Headquarters:

Name: George W. Bush (R-TX)
Born: 1946
Employer: The U.S. Taxpayer
Conflict Avoided: Vietnam
Notes: You know when a guy walks away from a National Guard obligation during wartime and gets away with it, he must come from "a good family." Not that his daddy had anything to do with his getting a Guard slot in the first place - oh, no ...

Name: Richard "Dick" Cheney (R-WY)
Born: 1942
Employer: The U.S. Taxpayer
Conflict Avoided: Vietnam
Notes: Says he had "other priorities." You bet he had other priorities. Imagine how early in life you must begin scheming to get away with what this guy has. He was too busy thinking about Halliburton to go fight Charlie.

Name: I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby
Born: 1950±
Employer: The U.S. Taxpayer
Conflict Avoided: Vietnam
Notes: I. Lewis "Scooter' Libby is Dick Cheney's Chief of Staff. He's had a string of no-doubt well-paying government jobs in State and Defense. He's also practiced law. In fact, he was Marc Richs lawyer for years. Yes -- the Marc Rich whose pardon from President Clinton was excoriated by so many high and mighty Republicans. Maybe if Scooter had been a better lawyer, his client wouldn't have needed that pardon. Speaking of legal questions, "Scooter"is alleged by some to have traded energy stocks while helping his buddy Dick Cheney cook up a new energy policy in secret. He's also suspected of having inserted the bogus "Niger yellowcake" reference into the President's State of the Union address. As if all that weren't enough, he's also a top suspect in the outing of CIA operative Valeria Plame. Clearly "Scooter" is a ballsy kind of guy, so it's a complete mystery to us why, when he graduated from Phillips Andover in 1968, he didn't enlist in the Marines or go Airborne instead of going to Yale.

Name: Karl Rove
Born: 1950
Employer: Baal
Conflict Avoided: Vietnam
Notes: This little cherub was born on Christmas Day, 1950. Karl "Bush's Brain" Rove ran George W's campaign, right down to the tiny detail of deciding Bush was going to run. The hardest part was convincing a horde of Republican skeptics that it could be done.

He is said to have said of his boss, he's "the kind of candidate and officeholder political hacks like me wait a lifetime to be associated with."

Now Karl's Senior White House advisor. If he really is "Bush's Brain,"and if the fondest wishes of former US Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV come true, one fine day Karl will be "frogmarched out of the White House in handcuffs.

Will history record that event as "Bush's Lobotomy?"

Name: Donald "The Don" Rumsfeld
Born: 1932
Employer: The U.S. Taxpayer
Conflict Avoided: Korea
Notes: When the shooting started in Korea Rummy here was either 18, or about to turn 18. Not to worry for him, though -- he spent the war at Princeton, wearing a ROTC uniform. Once the war was over he flew jets for the Navy for a few years. Defenders of Rumsfeld will say he's no chickenhawk -- he served, and it's not his fault the war ended before he got his commission. To which others answer, "plenty of farmers and mechanics and kids just out of high school served. Anyone as full of whatever that stuffing in him is, could have tried out for a battlefield commission."

My own nominee:

Rep. Mark Green, R-Wis., who served five days in the military before deciding he wasn't cut our for it and law school might be more fun and more profitable. Now a candidate for governor, he founded the Victory in Iraq caucus in Congress, supports total victory there, whatever that is, and periodically visits Iraq to report that everything is swell and morale is terrific. More about Green's military career.

The chickenhawks I mentioned in an earlier post -- Charlie Sykes, Michelle Malkin, the Madison Freedom Fighter -- clearly are not at the same level as Bush and his buddies. They are simply cheerleaders, while others orchestrate the killing.

But they also serve who only stand and cheer.

I don't mean to suggest that everyone who supports the war in Iraq is a chickenhawk. Far from it. Many veterans and their families still support it, although the numbers are dwindling. But those who seem to be the most enthusiastic and the most vocal about why we should continue the killing, more often than not seem to be of the Chickenhawk persuasion.

Bushwhacking the prosecutor

If you're a prosecutor who's brave enough to indict -- or even think about indicting a Republican -- you'd better wear some protective gear.

Ronnie Earle, who is handling Tom DeLay's case, got the full attack treatment from DeLay and his allies.

Now they've turned it on Patrick Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor handling the investigation of the CIA leak, which could bring some indictments against top White House officials.

The NY Daily News:

W pals bushwhack CIA leak prosecutor

WASHINGTON - As the White House and Republicans brace for possible indictments in the CIA leak probe, defenders have launched a not-so-subtle campaign against the prosecutor handling the case.

"He's a vile, detestable, moralistic person with no heart and no conscience who believes he's been tapped by God to do very important things," one White House ally said, referring to special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald.

It wasn't long ago -- but before Karl Rove and Scooter Libby looked like targets of the probe-- that President Bush praised Fitzgerald on the "Today" show.

"The special prosecutor is conducting a very serious investigation. He's doing it in a very dignified way, by the way, and we'll see what he says," Bush said. Indeed we will.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Green keeps packing 'em in

Just when I thought the crowds were beginning to thin a little, Mark Green's campaign sent me this Photo of the Week, with Green talking to the throngs at State Rep. Don Pridemore's fundraiser in Hartford. At this rate, he will have met everyone in Hartford by about 2018, and then can move on to the rest of the state.

John Stocks: post-Katrina update

John Stocks, a Wisconsinite with Gulf Coast roots, has kept us informed of his efforts to help family and friends in the New Orleans area, aided by the generosity of many. This is his report:

Lest we forget… Hurricane Katrina

The news media coverage has moved on but the impact of the storm on people’s lives still lingers….


I spoke with Stacey yesterday. She was on the road with Jerald returning to Dallas after inspecting her home in New Orleans. Stacey and her three girls (Eboni, Brea and Kasey) shared a rented home with her mother Elouise in New Orleans East.

The home is a total loss. Stacey was able to salvage a clock off the wall and her daughter’s piggy bank. Everything else was contaminated by the flood waters. The stench was unbearable. Mold and mildew have taken over. A black film covered everything in sight. The car remains in the driveway ruined by the flood.

The roof of Jerald’s apartment blew off in the storm. He was able to salvage some clothes from a closet that was sheltered from the elements. His computer and CD’s were stolen.

Letters and packages to Stacey and Jerald can be sent to:

Stacey Casimir
2175 South Highway 121
Building K 1134
Lewisville, Texas 75067


We flew Stacey from Dallas to Memphis to visit her daughters in Memphis for Eboni’s birthday. Here’s an email from her to all of you.

“The trip was wonderful. The kids were very excited to see me. For Eboni's birthday, we took them to "Kids Quest" which is something like "Chuck E Cheese". They really enjoyed themselves.

Thank you so much for everything.”


Letters and packages can be sent to the girls:

Eboni, Brea and Kasey
c/o Brett Casimir
P.O. Box 1314
Cordova, Tennessee 38088


Lois and Elouise are in Belle Rose, Louisiana living in the home of a cousin. They are actively looking for housing in the area. Housing is in short supply because of all the New Orleans residents living in the area. They hope to rent a place that is currently being remodeled by a family member. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.

Elouise has still not received financial assistance from FEMA. With the help of one of you, we have engaged the office of Congressman Melachon to help navigate the bureaucracy. Elouise and Lois lost everything to the floodwaters.

Lois has applied for jobs with the school districts of Assumption and Ascension parishes. I am hopeful that she will find something soon.

Letters and packages can be sent to:

Lois Ewell Phipps and Elouise Ewell Fernandez
171 Highway 1003
Belle Rose, Louisiana 70341


Courtney and Vachaun stayed in Jackson, Mississippi. According to Lois, they have moved into an apartment and Courtney is looking for work and a school for Vachaun. I will send an address along when I get one.


Henrietta have moved into a house in Mableton, Georgia. Debbie Ann is still looking for work in the Cobb County schools. Gerrard has found a job in a barber shop. These families lost everything to the floodwaters.

Letters and packages can be sent to:

Henrietta Brooks
102 Douglas Road
Mableton, Georgia 30126


Adam’s family is working hard to get back into their home in Slidell. Becky’s brother is just about completed the sheet rocking of the house. Adam thinks it will be a few more weeks before they can move back in. Adam and Becky wanted me to express my appreciation to all of you for helping them respond quickly and salvaging their home.


My father and his wife are putting their lives back together in New Orleans. Their home sustained some roof and exterior damage but it is fixable. They continue to focus on their patients well-being.


To date our hurricane relief effort has collected a little over $40,000. A little over $37,000 has gone directly to members of the Ewell families to help them restart their lives (food, clothing, housing, transportation, trips to New Orleans, etc.) in new communities (Dallas, Memphis, Atlanta, Jackson and near Baton Rouge) across the southeastern United States.

The balance was used to purchase a generator, rent drying equipment and transport this equipment down to Louisiana to save my brother’s home in Slidell.


It has been a month and a half since Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast. The road to recovery for these families will be long but much less hard because of all you have done. May the Great Spirit bless your days….

If you know someone who would like to contribute to this effort, you can send contributions to:

John Stocks
5608 Chestnut Lane
McFarland, Wisconsin 53558

Andrew Card, live and in person CANCELLED

Card is not coming. Gee, what could be more important? Hotline reports.

Republican Party release:

The Republican Party of Wisconsin is pleased to announce that the Honorable Andrew H. Card, Jr. will be the featured guest at its 3rd annual reception in Milwaukee. The event will take place [Tuesday], October 25, from 5pm-7pm at the University Club, 924 East Wells, in Milwaukee. The media is invited to cover Mr. Card’s remarks at the general reception, held in the main lounge on the first floor, from approximately 6:30pm to 6:45 pm. All cameras need to be preset by 4pm on Tuesday.
Invited to "cover his remarks?" Will there be questions? Can anyone in the Wisconsin media think of anything they'd like to ask the White House chief of staff? Or will they be led by the nose? Film at 10.

Majority thinks Iraq war was wrong

The Wall Street Journal reports:

A new Harris Interactive poll shows American sentiment about the situation in Iraq remains generally gloomy, with fewer than a quarter of Americans saying they are confident U.S. policies in Iraq will be successful.

For the first time, a majority of Americans (53%) feels that military action in Iraq was the wrong thing to do, according to the survey of 1,833 U.S. adults, compared with 34% who feel it was right.

At the same time, 66% of U.S. adults now say President Bush is doing a "poor" or "only fair" job of handling Iraq, while 32% say he is doing an "excellent" or "pretty good" job. That's little changed from a September Harris poll that found 65% rated Mr. Bush negatively and 34% rated him positively.

Sixty-one percent of Americans say they aren't confident U.S. policies in Iraq will be successful, slightly higher than 59% who lacked confidence in September. Additionally, only 19% of Americans surveyed believe the situation for U.S. troops in Iraq is improving, while 44% believe it is getting worse.

See the full results.

A penny saved is a dollar owed

Some people were having a lot of fun today with this exchange over the sewerage district's budget, and an amendment to raise taxes 4% instead of 2%, as reported by the Journal Sentinel:

"This amendment saves $2.5 million over six years," Dale Richards, a commissioner from Oak Creek who supported the plan, said Monday.

Another commissioner, Rep. Pedro Colón (D-Milwaukee), didn't buy that logic.

"Only in government would someone argue that raising taxes saves money," Colón said after the meeting.

Great sound bite.

But anyone who's even taken out a loan or a mortgage, or waited a year or two to buy something, understands that paying now is almost always cheaper than paying later.

That brings to mind the Milwaukee County budget, where County Exec Scott Walker, in the name of a tax "freeze," has put off paying $27-million into the pension fund this year.

That makes it look like taxes aren't going up, but there's a big catch. That little maneuver will cost county taxpayers an additional $69-million over the next 30 years, and "has the effect of passing debt on to future taxpayers," a study found.

Phony freezes are not free. They are very expensive.

Rosa Parks 1913-2005

Lest we think one person cannot make a difference ... Her mug shot taken Feb. 22, 1956 by the Birmingham Sheriff's Department. The Washington Post has a photo gallery today.

Right-wing spreads manure

and Sykes is there with a shovel

I wondered which Wisconsin wingnut would help shovel the pile of manure (read bullshit) that's piling up on the right-wing Internet, claiming that peace activists are planning "parties" to "celebrate" the death of the 2000th American service member in Iraq.

I don't know why, but I'm a little surprised it's Charlie Sykes. The ever-so sophisticated Sykes says the left is planning "soirees." Sometimes I give him too much credit. I thought this one, at least, was beneath him. Live and learn.

The observances, planned for the day after the 2000th death occurs, are being organized by the American Friends Service Committee, a group with a long and distinguished history of peace activism. That is the last group in the world that would celebrate any death. They are the Quakers. Their goal is to stop the killing.

The theme, in fact, is "Not one more death. Not one more dollar."

What Sykes has done is to pick up a piece of drivel that apparently began on a wingnut blog called Little Green Footballs, spread to Michelle Malkin, and then migrated to a Wisconsin site, The Madison Freedom Fighter, and to Sykes.

What seems to have added fuel to the fire is that Cindy Sheehan plans to participate. She makes them all even crazier than usual. Does anyone thinks that this grieving mother, who lost her son in Iraq, wants anyone else to die there? It is George W. Bush who says the way to honor Casey Sheehan is to send more people to their death, so that Casey will not have died "in vain."

I may try to attend a Milwaukee event. If I do, it won't be to celebrate the death of any American service men and women, nor the deaths of 100,000 Iraqis. Unlike Malkin, Sykes, and the Madison Freedom Fighter (an ROTC student), or any of the other chickenhawks, I've seen combat and death on the battlefield. It's nothing to celebrate. I'll go to lend my voice to those trying to stop it.

UPDATE: Honor the fallen at a vigil.

New candidate handles first

Republican nastiness just fine

Pat Kreitlow, the Chippewa Falls Democrat who has just announced his candidacy against State Sen. Dave Zien, R-Eau Claire, describes his first week on the campaign trail on his blog, Chippewaffles.

Kreitlow, who was a TV anchor in Eau Claire, offers an interesting take, and -- unlike most candidate blogs -- you know he's writing it himself.

Republicans are going to play nasty from the get-go, it sounds, calling Kreitlow, who's married to a physician, a "doctor's wife."

Zien, Mr. Motorcycle Man, probably doesn't have any women voting for him anyway. But that kind of tactic could guarantee it.

If it's intended to rattle Kreitlow, it didn't work. The blog entry makes it clear he takes it in stride.

Is it Bush or is it Onion?

The White House is worried that if the satirical Onion uses the presidential seal on its website, people might think the phony Presidential radio addresses it produces are real? That says a lot about Bush's Saturday messages. NY Times story.

Hear them yourself. Apologies to Memorex, but ask yourself: Is it real or is it Onion?

Rule would gag nonprofit groups

The first step toward a gag rule aimed at stopping non-profits from speaking up about issues is about to come to a vote in the House of Representatives, perhaps as soon as Wednesday.

The gag rule will be introduced as an amendment to the Affordable Housing Fund (AHF) in the Federal Housing Finance Reform Act (H.R. 1461) . It would dramatically restrict nonprofit advocacy.

While this rule would apply only to nonprofits seeking grants under a new Affordable Housing Fund (AHF), the provision sets a dangerous precedent that threatens the speech and association rights of all nonprofits. It would be the foot in the door.

The Nonprofit Gag Provision applies only to nonprofits, and would prohibit them from receiving grants if the organization:

Engages in partisan and nonpartisan voter registration, voter identification, and get-out-the-vote activities;

· Publicly “promotes,” “supports,” “attacks,” or “opposes” a candidate for federal office, which could be interpreted to include criticism of elected officials who may be seeking reelection;

· Broadcasts any ads – public service announcements, grassroots issue advocacy, anything – that refer to federal candidates within 60 days of a general election or 30 days of a primary; or

· Lobbies, except if the group is a 501(c)(3) organization it may lobby within permissible limits.
OMB Watch has more.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Talking in Republican circles

My favorite press release of the day, from the Republican Party of you-know-where, quotes its Chairman, Rick Graber:

“Our Election Day problems are so severe that even a House Committee is looking into it,” said Rick Graber, chairman of the Republican Party of Wisconsin.

The House committee, of course, came at the invitation of Rep. Mark Green, who wanted a chance to grandstand and try to score some political points on the photo ID bill that the Republican legislature passes a couple of times a week and sends to Gov. Jim Doyle for his veto. Green, you may have heard (50-50 chance, the polls say), is running for governor.

What Rep. Bob Ney, the committee chair and close pal of Tom DeLay, Jack Abramoff and Mark Green (only two out of three have been indicted so far), didn't come to Wisconsin to "look into" anything except how to help Green's campaign. Wanna know more about Ney? Try here and here.

Scott Walker's next budget plan

Quote, unquote

'Those who voted for George W. Bush were promised a mind like [Antonin] Scalia's for the Supreme Court. Instead, they've been given a mind like George W. Bush's.'"

-- Jonathan V. Last, of the conservative Weekly Standard, after learning that high-court nominee Harriet Miers had stated in 1989 that she couldn't recall "the last time I read a whole book."

Voter photo ID rule already in effect

Wisconsin Republicans can relax about requiring photo ID cards for voters.

The requirement is already in effect, at least at one Waukesha County polling place. It wasn't even necessary to pass a new law. All it took was a badly-trained poll worker.

Mike Murphy, executive director of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin -- and one of the few Waukesha County Dems who is out publicly -- was voting in the special election for county exec last week when he witnessed the new, illegal procedure.

When the young woman in front of him in line tried to register at the polls, the poll worker demanded a driver's license. No license, no vote, she said.

Murphy intervened and helped the young woman register, but it wasn't easy, as he explained in a letter to County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus about the incident, at the Oconomowoc public library:

Your poll official demanded that a woman trying to register to vote present her driver's license. When the voter said she had forgotten it, your poll official claimed that the woman would be unable to register or vote unless she could present a valid driver's license. No offer of a provisional ballot, no request for additional information - just a simple statement of no license no vote.

... I happened to be standing there and was able to intervene and make sure this voter was able to exercise her rights. It wasn't easy, though. Your poll worker put up quite a fight, arguing for her own misguided interpretation of Wisconsin law.

I pointed out to your poll worker what is clearly laid out on the State Elections Board website:

As of January 1, 2003, the federal "Help America Vote Act of 2002" requires any person registering to vote to supply their Wisconsin Department of Transportation - issued driver's license or identification card number. If the elector does not have a Wisconsin driver's license or I.D., they must provide the last 4 digits of their Social Security Number, or indicate that the applicant has neither a driver's license nor a Social Security Number.

Although the Registration Form may ask for either the Driver's License number or the last 4 digits of the Social Security Number, a voter should not be turned away if they lack that information. If you cannot supply acceptable Proof-of-Residence, your registration form can be substantiated and signed by one other elector who resides in your municipality, corroborating your residency information.

It wasn't until after the voter pointed out that the registration form actually had the check boxes allowing you to write your Social Security Number, or indicate that you had neither, did the poll worker finally, and grudgingly, relent. Apparently, that was the first time this particular poll worker bothered to look at the registration form...

The focus of election officials in Waukesha County and across the state should be to help the citizens of Wisconsin cast their ballots, not finding ways to turn eligible voters away from the polls.

Nickolaus, in a reply to Murphy, agreed that the poll worker was not properly trained, noted that the training is the responsibility of local clerks, not the county, and invited him to be a poll worker at the next election.

The young woman he helped? She said she was voting for Dan Vrakas, the Republican-backed state legislator who won the race. Murphy didn't say how he voted.

Walker: Green should return money, but not me

There are two sides to every issue, they say, and Scott Walker manages to be on both sides of this one.

Mark Green, Walker's opponent in the GOP primary for governor, is under fire from Democrats for refusing to return nearly $30,000 he's received from indicted former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's PAC, Americans for a Republican Majority (ARMPAC).

"Walker would probably have given the money back," Bruce Pfaff, Walker's campaign manager, told WisPolitics, according to its weekly report to subscribers.

Walker himself has accepted some questionable money in the past, linked to Bear, Stearns rep Nick Hurtgen, who has been indicted for influence peddling in an Illinois kickback scheme.

So will Walker return that money? WisPolitics reports:

As for the Hurtgen-related funds, Pfaff says the contributions were made for the county exec's race and have already been spent. "If information becomes available later about campaign contributions (from indicted individuals), we'll return it," pledges Pfaff.

In other words, no.

Green claims he has spent all but $2,000 of the DeLay money and won't give that back unless DeLay is convicted. Walker says he's spent all of the Hurtgen money. Rep. Paul Ryan, who's also taken a boatload of DeLay money,says (a) it would illegal to return the money (not true) or (b) he's already spent it, whichever people are gullible enough to believe.

Another House member returns DeLay money

Ohio Rep. Steven LaTourette recently became the fourth GOP lawmaker to return campaign funds received from indicted ex-Majority Leader Tom DeLay, Roll Call reports:

LaTourette has donated $13,000 that he received from DeLay’s Americans for a Republican Majority Political Action Committee to Hurricane Katrina relief funds. The six-term lawmaker has not commented publicly on his decision to give up the money, but he is informing constituents of his action when they ask about it.

“As a former prosecutor, I trust that the legal system will work and Tom DeLay, like every American, should have his day in court and should be afforded the presumption of innocence,” LaTourette wrote in a letter to Aurora, Ohio, resident Palmer Peterson dated Oct. 11. “However, in order to remove any questions that may arise about these contributions, I have made a donation in the same amount to the Bush-Clinton Katrina fund, which will help with relief efforts in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.”

As it turns out, Peterson is more than just an average constituent — he’s a Democrat who is planning to run against LaTourette next year.

Peterson posted his original letter, as well as LaTourette’s response, on his campaign Web site, In a follow-up statement, Palmer said LaTourette “did the right thing.”

LaTourette is the fourth House Republican to return money doled out by DeLay since the former Majority Leader was indicted Sept. 28.

Reps. Jeb Bradley (R-N.H.) and Heather Wilson (R-N.M.) both returned the campaign funds they received from ARMPAC. Rep. Kenny Hulshof (R-Mo.), who along with LaTourette was booted from the House ethics committee at the beginning of this Congress, also donated his ARMPAC money to Katrina relief.
Meanwhile, Wisconsin Reps. Mark Green and Paul Ryan, who have received about $55,000 in DeLay political action money between them, continue to offer new excuses every day to rationalize keeping the money. They are making a political mistake, although Green, as a candidate for governor, is at much more risk that Ryan, whose House seat is quite secure.

What Karl told Jim about Harriet

So James Dobson, described by the WashPost as a "leading conservative Christian," may be summoned to testify on the Harriet Miers nomination.

At issue is just what it was that Karl Rove told him about Harriet in a phone call that made Dobson decide she was acceptable for the Supreme Court.

As far as we can determine, Rove did not tell Dobson that Harriet was a covert CIA agent.

But I'm not going to jail to protect him on this one. I'm ready to let it all hang out -- or at least go what Tricky Dick Nixon called the limited hangout route.

My source, a "former Hill staffer," says Rove told Dobson that Miers agreed with him that SpongeBob SquarePants is a homo, and she would never agree to let him marry one of the Teletubbies.

As far as I can determine, this is an Xoff Files exclusive.

Veterans Affairs secretary moves

to give himself more job security

The report below is from Gary Fisher, a Madison journalist who has covered the Board of Veterans Affairs and has an ongoing interest in its activities.

His report is the only one you're likely to see about Friday's meeting of the board, because no mainstream media representatives attended. It's one of those boards that only rates coverage when something unusual (that usually means something bad) happens. And then you read about it after the fact -- like when the board voted in secret to name a new secretary to run the department, managing to simultaneously break the law and dis the new governor, who had simply asked for a chance to meet the finalists for the position.

If you read between the lines of Fisher's report, you'll find that there's more than a little politics at work here. Secretary John Scocos, who has Republican connections and came to the agency when the GOP was in power, runs a very tight ship. Board members, for whom he technically works, are supposed to salute and get out of his way as he runs the agency.

But now there are beginning to be some Democratic appointees on the board, despite the best efforts of sitting GOP appointees on the board, and the Republican-controlled State Senate, to delay confirmation of Gov. Doyle's appointees to the board.

Against that backdrop, Scocos is moving to consolidate his power and improve his job security, since the board could replace him. At Friday's meeting, he asked the board to approve 17 changes in the department rules, all fairly confusing and legalistic. One board member spoke up and asked for time to discuss and think about them first, or the changes already would be a done deal.

So now that the introduction is longer than the story, here is Gary Fisher's report:

By Gary Fisher

A state agency with a $250 million budget for the biennium that impacts thousands of Wisconsin military veterans and their families is pushing for significant changes to the rules governing it.

Among the many changes proposed is one that would require a unanimous vote of the seven-member Board of Veterans Affairs to remove the secretary of the state's Department of Veterans Affairs from office.

The current secretary, John A. Scocos, would benefit with more command and control presence, and job security.

Veterans say, however, that changing the rule guarantees further politicization of an already politicized board.

Presently, the checks and balances take five votes to remove the secretary for misconduct or mismanagement.

At the WDVA board meeting Friday in downtown Madison, board member Marv Freedman successfully asked the panel for an opportunity to review proposed changes to the board's rules and procedures in a teleconference with other board members before final consideration at the regularly scheduled meeting in December. The board agreed.

The board raised Scocos' salary to $118,000 in August of this year, although he received the same percentage of increase as all department secretaries received. During that time, the board praised him with a letter signed by all of its members, which an observer of the veteran's community refers to as a "loyalty oath."

Vets say requiring a unanimous vote of the board to remove the secretary from office appeases Scocos' so-called "paranoid" management style requiring rubberstamp approval of the board he influences, and of a management system frequently calling for more reinforcement and changes.

Changing the rules would go a long way toward reinforcing Scocos' tenuous position, especially, now that a Democratic governor inhabits the East Wing of the state Capitol, a political fact that could change in the 2006 elections.

Freedman, a Vietnam vet, was recommended for Senate confirmation this summer by the Republican-controlled Senate veteran's committee . He is already serving, pending confirmation, because he was appointed to fill a vacancy.

However, former Assistant Senate Majority Leader Rod Moen, D-Whitehall, who retired after a 22-year Navy career and was also recommended by the committee, is awaiting full Senate confirmation to serve on the board. He would replace Kathy Marschman, whose term ended May 1, but who can continue to serve until her successor is confirmed by the Senate.

Senate Majority Leader Dale Schultz, R-Richland Center, has yet to schedule those confirmations in the waning days of the legislative session.

A replacement for another board member, Don Heiliger, has not been nominated by Doyle, although Heiliger's term also ended May 1. He says he will continue to serve until a successor is confirmed.

Scocos got his job amid controversy two years ago after the board voted in secret in October 2003 to appoint him secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs. The board kept its selection secret for several days before voting a second time days later in open session at the advice of its attorney.

Scocos replaced Ray Boland in November 2003 after Boland's 12 years as secretary of the department.

The department and board consist mostly of former and retired Army Reserve officers.