Saturday, December 31, 2005

-- Don Wright, Palm Beach Post, via Cagle.

Bush's New Year's resolutions

There are lots of resolution lists for the Pres floating around the Internet, but this one from author Seth Greenland is my favorite. I think it's the PS that put it over the top:

The following was obtained by perfectly legal surveillance of President Bush's personal e-mail account.

Dear Vice,

Thought you'd get a kick outta this. My New Year Year's Resolutions for 2006. Why don't I just declare 'em law! (Al Gonzales said I could!). Please note – these R just 4 U.

10. Suspend habeas corpus and claim it is yet one more way I am just like Abraham Lincoln.

9. Stop mincing words. Call Democrats traitors (they are!).

8. Get someone at CIA to come up with cute Can-you-hear-me-now?-style slogan so people won't be in such a lather about wire taps.

7. Ask Bono to talk to Chinese about canceling our debt.

6. Encourage John McCain to take up shark wrestling (Meeting with him? That was torture!).

5. Get Halliburton to rebuild New Orleans – in Baghdad. Riverboats on the Euphrates! Indian Casinos on the Tigris! Mayor Ray Nagin in a combat zone! What's not to like?

4. Find someone to execute (Boy, I miss Texas! Can I be governor again when I'm done up here? The Democrats there liked me, although they're probably traitors, too).

3. Pardon Karl Rove (I'm just anticipatin' here, heh-heh).

2. Get Dad to tell Mom to shut the fuck up.

1. Pray extra hard for the Rapture so I don't have to worry about #s 10-2.

Let me know what yours are, ok? Maybe I can have 'em declared law, too.

Your buddy, George W.

P.S. This doesn't have anything to do with New Years but have you noticed that if you turn off the sound on Saddam's trial and play "Dark Side of the Moon" by Pink Floyd, it's kinda cool? When he talks, it's sorta like he's dancin', only slow, and funny-like.

Investigating everything but the real crime

So now the Justice Department is investigating who leaked the information that President Bush was breaking the law with unauthorized wiretaps of American citizens.

What next?

Based on today's NY Times story, it seems like the next logical step would be an investigation of who leaked the news of the investigation of the leak. The bold-faced language suggests someone else has leaked a secret. Meanwhile, no one appears to be investigating the real crime -- Bush's illegal wiretaps.

WASHINGTON, Dec. 30 - The Justice Department said on Friday that it had opened a criminal investigation into the disclosure of classified information about a secret National Security Agency program under which President Bush authorized eavesdropping on people in the United States without court warrants.

The investigation began in recent days after a formal referral from the security agency regarding the leak, federal officials said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the secrecy of the investigation.

Paul Soglin thinks the Bushies may come to regret the latest investigation, which has the potential to blow up in their faces. Soglin says:

It does come as a surprise that this NSA-requested investigation by the Justice Department is going forward in light of the fact that this could reveal the true nature of the criminal activities of the Bush Gangsters. This may take on all of the characteristics of the Nixon administration's handling of Daniel Ellsberg's leak of the Pentagon Papers. It certainly smells like it.

--Rex Babin, Sacramento Bee, via Cagle

2005 was good year for Russ Feingold

Wisconsin's Sen. Russ Feingold had a very good 2005, as he emerged as a player on the national stage, according to a couple of pieces of year-end punditry.

Ron Brownstein's column in the LA Times says Hillary's obviously still the one to beat for the '08 nomination, but adds:

The most significant development in the Democratic presidential race this year was that one potential candidate to Clinton's left and one to her right each took a step past the others in their bracket.

On the left, the potential candidate who improved his situation the most was Wisconsin Sen. Russell D. Feingold. By all conventional measures, Feingold is a very dark horse. He's little-known nationally, he's Jewish and he's a senator, a combination that doesn't scream electoral viability. (The number of sitting senators elected president, two, doesn't much exceed the number of Jews, zero.)

Yet over the last year, Feingold has not only raised his visibility but done so by attaching himself to a specific agenda with a clear Democratic constituency. After voting against the war in Iraq in 2002, Feingold this year became the first Democratic senator to endorse a timeline for withdrawing all U.S. troops. And after casting the lone Senate vote against the Patriot Act in 2001, he helped lead the recent Senate filibuster that blocked the law's permanent renewal.

These high-profile positions are raising Feingold's stature in the same grass-roots and online liberal communities that propelled Howard Dean to the forefront of the 2004 Democratic race. Feingold is fanning the embers with an extensive Internet operation that has included stints blogging on popular liberal websites like Daily Kos. Considering where the potential candidates started, "Feingold has definitely come the farthest," said Joe Trippi, Dean's 2004 campaign manager.

The candidate on Clinton's right who made headway is Gov. Mark Warner of Virginia, Brownstein writes. Chris Cillizza of the WashPost says that Warner had the best year, but Feingold is not far behind:

* Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold (D): When Feingold was the lone senator to oppose the Patriot Act in 2001, he was seen as a laughing stock by many political observers. No one was laughing earlier this month when Feingold led the opposition to reauthorizing the controversial law amid revelations that President Bush had authorized the wiretapping of U.S. citizens without court approval. Feingold's willingness to put himself out on a limb also paid dividends earlier this year when he became the first prominent Democratic politician to propose a timetable for American troops to withdraw from Iraq. Both of those positions endeared Feingold to the party's liberal left, which is looking for an heir to the grassroots movement built by former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean in 2004.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Happy New Year from the Bushes.
You can read Laura's holiday letter here.

Bush asks review of Liar's Club contest;

White House says he should have won

The White House called Friday for a review of the 2005 Burlington, Wis. Liars Club competition, which overlooked some whoppers from President Bush and awarded its top prize to a local man.

"We hope it is just an oversight, but clearly President Bush is the Liar of the Year," White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan said. "And if he's not, I am, or maybe Condi. Giving the award to some guy with a funny story is a travesty."

"There are many to choose from," McClennan said. But the Bush lies he suggested as worthy of the top prize could be either:
"We abide by the law of the United States and we do not torture,"


"Now, by the way, any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires -- a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way. When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so. It's important for our fellow citizens to understand, when you think PATRIOT Act, constitutional guarantees are in place when it comes to doing what is necessary to protect our homeland, because we value the Constitution."
Liars Club officials said that the wiretap lie, while compelling, was disqualified because Bush said it in 2004. Only 2005 lies were eligible.

"The 'we-don't-torture' lie is another matter, since it is a fresh, December 2005 lie." McClellan said. "We are asking the club to correct the results, before we are forced to take it to our Supreme Court -- I mean the US Supreme Court -- and have the results overturned."

"There is another reason the Bush lies were not considered for the top honors," a Lions Club spokesman said. "The Burlington Liars Club competition has always been a contest for amateurs. That means no politicians, who are professional liars."

Before the Bush appeal, the club had named Bill Meinel of Burlington the winner with this story:

"My son's high school grades went from all A's to all D's. This happened right after he had his wisdom teeth extracted."

The Racine Journal Times reports:
John Soeth, president of the Burlington Liars Club, is one of the annual contest's two judges; Vice-president Mitzi Robers is the other. They had just under 400 entries from throughout the United States come in for the 2005 contest.

Meinel's lie, he said, was "exactly the kind we're looking for that sounds very logical, and at the end, they aren't very logical. They're obviously a lie."

He and Robers are the only two active members of the club, though thousands have become honorary members over the years.

"It's the perfect organization to belong to," Soeth said. "Two members, no meetings, no bylaws, no dues. There's nothing. The club is a lie, too."

According to the Burlington Historical Society Web site, the club started in 1929 when an enterprising freelance reporter made up a story about handing out a medal for the year's best lie and sent it out for publication. Like Meinel's winning lies, there was a kernel of truth to the story: The reporter and several other Burlington residents would get together and tell tall tales. But the club was not official until after the fabricated story got picked up by papers throughout the country.

The club's notoriety has spread, and each year hundreds of people send their best lies in for review.

The Burlington Liars Club will be accepting entries for next year's contest through mid-December 2006. To enter, send the lie and $1 to Burlington Liars Club, Box 156, Burlington, WI 53105

Quote, unquote

"Politicians — and American citizens — have to decide what their real goals are in this debate. We can enact policies that pander to a growing public resentment of illegal immigrants, but do little or nothing to actually stem the flow of such people across the border. If that's our goal, the Sensenbrenner bill is a fine start.

"But if we seek comprehensive legislation that enforces immigration law logically and rationally and without major disruption to the economy — and without further marginalizing people already condemned to be legal, economic and social outcasts — we can do far better."
-- Atlanta Journal-Constitution editorial, House immigration bill crosses line.

Molly Ivins: Here we go again

AUSTIN, Texas -- The first time as tragedy, the second time as farce. Thirty-five years ago, Richard Milhous Nixon, who was crazy as a bullbat, and J. Edgar Hoover, who wore women's underwear, decided some Americans had unacceptable political opinions. So they set our government to spying on its own citizens, basically those who were deemed insufficiently like Crazy Richard Milhous.

Molly Ivins tells it like it is in her latest column, and concludes:

Either the president of the United States is going to have to understand and admit he has done something very wrong, or he will have to be impeached. The first time this happened, the institutional response was magnificent. The courts, the press, the Congress all functioned superbly. Anyone think we're up to that again?

MVP! MVP! (Most Valuable Progressives)

John Nichols, who writes for the Capital Times and The Nation, lists his MVPs -- Most Valuable Progressives -- for 2005. Hint: One is a Senator from Wisconsin. Nichols' MVPs.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

"He lied to the American people and broke the law'

We'll leave the comment on this ad, which ran full-page in the New York Times on Thursday, to Badger Blues.

A great way to help hurricane victims

Two CDs that found their way into Christmas stockings at our house offer both some great music and a way to help Hurricane Katrina victims.

One, Our New Orleans, features Allen Toussaint, Dr. John, Irma Thomas and many more New Orleans-connected musicians -- even Randy Newman with a philharmonic orchestra doing his classic "Louisiana 1927." Proceeds go to Habitat for Humanity. All of the cuts were recorded for this album. It's my favorite find of the season.

The other, Hurricane Relief: Come Together Now, is a double CD that touches a range of musical bases and popular artists -- Louis Armstrong, Dr. John, Coldplay, Norah Jones, Wyclef Jean, John Mayer, James Brown, Aaron Neville, Bonnie Raitt, R. Kelly, Barbra Streisand and Elton John and more. Proceeds to the Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity, and MusicCares.

Do yourself and Katrina victims a favor and get one or both.

Leibham's Wal-Mart links questioned

Did State Sen. Joe Leibham, R-Sheboygan, get $1,000 in contributions from the family that owns Wal-Mart because he supports school choice -- or because he used his influence to get Wal-Mart a meeting with the state DOT?

Sadie Says, a Sheboygan-based blog, raised that question recently. Now the Sheboygan Press is asking. Sadie has the story.

Brief history of conservative movement

Badger Blues offers this Brief History of the Conservative Movement:


“I’m from the government, and I’m here to help you.”

HAW HAW HAW! AW HAW HAW HAW HAW! Thassa good one! Yee-haaa!


“I’m from the government, and I’m here to spy on you and perhaps indefinitely detain you without charges.”

That sounds reasonable.

Plale to get primary challenge from the left

State Sen. Jeff Plale, D-South Milwaukee, seems likely to get a primary challenge from the left, Eye on Wisconsin reports. Plale, elected in a special election in 2003, just squeaked through a primary then against the more liberal Joel Brennan.

It's a district that runs from Milwaukee's liberal East Side, through Bay View to the more conservative suburbs like South Milwaukee and Cudahy. So, whatever you do, someone's unhappy. Plale's votes on abortion, concaled carry, and stem cell research have made him a target for a challenge from the left.

Jim McGuigan of Watchdog Milwaukee had written about the challenge earlier, and, somewhat surprisingly, comes to Plale's defense.

A truly thoughtful conservative

Dean Mundy, who writes a blog called the Thoughtful Conservative, is also one of the new community columnists who writes op ed pieces for the Journal Sentinel.

Munday, who says he is a self-employed missionary and a Christian fundamentalist, says on his blog that, "I like to think of myself as open-minded about most things. I have bed-rock beliefs but would probably be pragmatic if ever actually elected to office."

He writes today of the constitutional amendment to ban gay marriages -- and why he doesn't support it.

Between today's column and what he writes on his blog, Mundy truly has earned the Thoughtful Conservative title. I hope a positive review from me doesn't ruin his standing on the right.

Sensenbrenner plays Patriot Act roulette

An editorial from the Times-Union, Albany NY:

For one brief moment, it appeared that a bipartisan handful of courageous senators had won a major victory in the often heated debate on renewing the USA Patriot Act. Then, in what seemed a flash, that victory was rendered to little more than a holding action, largely because of one man, House Judiciary Committee Chairman R. James Sensenbrenner Jr., R-Wis.

As a result there will now be only five weeks for Congress to resolve differences over the Patriot Act and vote on its renewal -- not the six-month extension the Senate agreed upon after the bipartisan group refused to allow the Patriot Act to be extended without adding necessary checks and balances.

Five weeks is far too short a period. The last thing Congress, or the nation, needs right now is another game of "chicken" over who will blink first on renewing the most controversial provisions of the Patriot Act. A thorough and thoughtful debate is needed, but Rep. Sensenbrenner would have none of it.

So the chicken game will continue. President Bush played it to the hilt earlier this month, as the Dec. 31 renewal deadline loomed. He blamed Senate Democrats for placing the Patriot Act's future in peril by questioning some of the powers the White House sought to make permanent under renewal legislation. But the bipartisan group of senators refused to be intimidated. They served the nation well.

These senators aren't soft on terrorism. They want the White House to have the powers it needs to combat al-Qaida and other extremists who seek to destroy the American way of life. But they also want to protect a vital part of that way of life -- specifically, the cherished individual liberties guaranteed under the Constitution.

Some of the provisions in the Patriot Act would sacrifice basic freedoms in the name of national security. One example: Government could seize business, gun, library and other records without having to first show that they are connected to a terrorism investigation. The very concept of the balance of powers would be turned on its head.

The new deadline for congressional action, Feb. 3, is inappropriate for another reason: It's the same date the Senate will begin hearings on the newly disclosed secret government spying operations authorized by President Bush in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. For four years, the government has often monitored Americans' phone calls, e-mails and other communications without first securing a warrant, as required by law. The White House claims it has the power, as well as the responsibility, to do so. That's pretty much the same argument that the administration has used in urging Congress to permanently extend the Patriot Act.

Both issues are far too important to be settled in haste. This is the time for careful deliberations. It's time Republicans in the House and Senate joined Democrats in driving home that message to Rep. Sensenbrenner.

Feeling threatened? Fire away;

Shoot First law next on NRA agenda

Wondering what's next on the NRA agenda if they ever get concealed carry on the books in Wisconsin?

Wonder no longer. Sure as night follows day, it will be a Shoot First law.

Florida's had one since Oct. 1. It basically makes it legal to shoot anyone, anywhere in the state of Florida, anytime you feel threatened.

While useful for criminals who need an easy defense, the law (surprise!) is actually fairly dangerous for Florida residents and visitors. The Brady Campaign has been at the airports, handing out leaflets warning tourists to be careful around Florida's armed residents, in case they take a raised voice or a hand gesture the wrong way.

The Gun Guys say:

The gun lobby's arguments seem to get more and more ludicrous as we go along. They say that this law, which lets home and carowners legally shoot first without requiring them to consider retreating as a possibility, is merely a safeguard for their supposed "right" to keep and bear arms. When did the second amendment include a right to kill? Does the Constitution have an amendment we don't know about that makes it legal to kill other human beings for acting in any way that may be percieved as "threatening"?

This bill probably will lower the crime rate, because a certain amount of killings that would have been declared illegal will now be seen as completely legal, but one thing it won't lower is violence... {W]henever a trigger is pulled, for any reason, consequences are faced on both sides of the barrel. Killing in self defense? Guess what, America. It's still killing. Legal or not, it causes all kinds of pain either way.
Colorado has the law, too. Here's what happened last week, the Gun Guys say:
Last year, Gary Lee Hill was attacked in his home by four people, including a 19-year-old named John David Knott. Afterwards, Knott and his fellow criminals headed for the car, and drove away from Hill's house down the street. Hill, meanwhile, grabbed a gun, and, while Knott and the passengers were driving away from him, Hill shot them in the back and killed Knott.

By any reasonable set of deduction, this is murder. Knott had exited Hill's house and was clearly presenting no viable threat any more to Hill. Yes, Hill had been attacked, but he had all the legal recourse in the world. Since time immemorial, humanity has held that if you kill another human being, and it's not in self defense, you have committed murder.

Until the NRA came along.

Because under the "shoot first" law they passed in Colorado (and Florida, and soon, the rest of the United States), what Hill did isn't murder. It isn't even illegal. He was threatened by Hill at some point in the past, and so the NRA's law granted him the "right" to shoot Knott in the back. Taken to extremes, Hill could have shot and killed Knott years later, and it would have all been completely legal, as long as Knott had threatened him at some point in the past. Because of Colorado's "shoot first" law, Hill was, this past weekend, acquitted of the murder of John David Knott.

This is lunacy, as we've said all along about the "shoot first" bill. The NRA's law effectively legalizes killing. Even the sponsor of the Colorado bill called the Hill case a "miscarriage of justice."

But it's not a miscarriage of the law. What does it mean when the NRA passes a law like this, one that allows killers to run free in the streets? What does it mean when, at the cost of citizens' safety, they make it a priority to get this law passed in all 50 of our states? It doesn't mean they have the best interests of American citizens in mind, we'll tell you that.

Because they don't. This law is dangerous. It's violent, and unnecessary. "Shoot first" is a travesty of the American justice system, and passing it, in any state, is a license to murder.
What's that? You say it hasn't been proposed in Wisconsin? Of course not. It doesn't make sense to have a Shoot First law until you have a law that lets you tote concealed weapons. Shoot First is the next step. There is still a good chance that Gov. Doyle's veto of concealed carry will be upheld, which will keep the NRA occupied for awhile. One can only hope.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Judge slows Jefferson Wal-Mart railroad

Plans to rush through an annexation in Jefferson to pave the way for a Wal-Mart superstore were halted Wednesday by a Jefferson County circuit judge. The court order will prevent any annexation action for 45 days while another case, involving the Jefferson City Council's refusal to consider a direct legislation petition, is decided.

Michael Horne has details on today's court action on his Milwaukee World blog.

And here is an earlier post with background, Wal-Mart railroad coming down the track

-- Daryl Cagle, MSNBC

Questions for Tom Reynolds

Conservatives are praising State Sen. Tom Reynolds, R-West Allis, for his sponsorship of the bill ending Wisconsin's automatic annual increase in the gas tax. They're suggesting he's rehabilitated, after some bad press that made him look like the wackjob he is, just in time for a reelection campaign in 2006.

There are, however, a few lingering questions for Reynolds, including his association with an anti-Catholic organization that spews bigotry in its publications -- which Reynolds prints.

Paul Soglin gives the background and asks why the news media don't ask Reynolds to explain himself.

Good questions.

Vrakas-Finley dispute painful to watch;

ongoing furor is politician's nightmare

This is a very slow news week, especially for politics, so reporters and bloggers in Wisconsin owe a real debt to Waukesha County Exec Dan Vrakas and his short-term, now departed chief of staff, Jenifer Finley.

By firing a volley every few days, they have managed to keep the story of Finley's departure/resignation/firing in the news for two weeks now. And there are enough unanswered questions that it's guaranteed to stay around awhile longer.

Vrakas, who has been pretty tight-lipped, even when Finley fired off a Christmas Eve greeting that basically accused him of being a sellout who didn't keep his promises, fired back today.

"Things weren't working" with her as his chief of staff, Vrakas told the newspaper.

In other words, it was her job performance, not her unhappiness over budget policy, that precipitated her departure, according to Vrakas.

"I asked Jenifer what she wanted to do about it. And I accepted her resignation," Vrakas said. In other words, he gave her the opportunity to resign rather than be fired.

Vrakas even threw in a letter of recommendation as part of the deal. But Finley's public statements since she left the office will make any public official think twice about hiring her.

Even now, Vrakas refuses to get into the messy details or publicly criticize Finley, although she has not hesitated to rip him. The JS reports:

Asked specifically what difficulties led Finley to resign six weeks into the administration, Vrakas declined to elaborate, saying he does not believe in criticizing other people publicly.

"It just wasn't working out," he said. "I don't know that it's necessary to assign blame."
Vrakas is taking the high road.

Finley, who is married to the only other county executive Waukesha has ever had, should know that political staffers come and go all the time. They serve "at the pleasure" of the elected official. When it's not working, for whatever reason, the official is free to make a change.

I hate to keep using John Norquist's time as mayor of Milwaukee as an example, but it illustrates the point. In almost 16 years in office, he had something like eight chiefs of staff. None had as short a tenure as Jenifer Finley, but they came and went with some regularity. Sometimes it was their idea, sometimes it was Norquist's, and sometimes it was mutual. But you never read more than a short story about anyone's departure, and it usually was in the context of who was coming into the job next.

Tommy Thompson, too, had a series of chiefs of staff during his years as governor, with never a murmur about why people came and went. They just did.

It all has to do with something called loyalty. A friend of mine who has served a number of prominent elected officials calls it honor.

Whatever that quality is, Jenifer Finley doesn't have it.

The Finley-Vrakas situation is a politician's nightmare. It's not even fun to watch.

Now the county board says one of its committee's may hold a hearing on the matter, guaranteeing more news coverage and more controversy.

Vrakas has handled this whole episode badly, starting with the first, terse news release that raised more questions than it answered. But, given the way it has played out, and Finley's decision to pour gasoline on the Yule log, it is hard to know what Vrakas could have done to prevent this public conflagration. It will eventually burn itself out, but the damage to his new administration will smolder for some time. And that's unfortunate.

Dennis York offers another take. Jenifer Finley falls off her high horse.

Deb Jordahl, a self-described GOP activist, says: Don't go away mad, Jenifer -- Just go away.

Cory Liebmann at Eye on Wisconsin calls it Days of Our Lives (Waukesha Edition.)

GOP investigated Clinton's cat but

only plans'oversight hearing' on spying

From Pensito Review:

Compare and contrast:

1995: Rep. Dan Burton (R-IN), then chair of the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee, investigated whether taxpayers were footing the cost of stationery and postage for the fan club dedicated to President Clinton’s cat, Socks. (They were not - and it turns out Barbara Bush’s dog Millie had a fan club too.)

2005: Two weeks ago, President Bush admitted he willfully flouted a law that requires him to get warrants before wiretapping U.S. citizens. His justification for ignoring the law appears to be nobless oblige. In reaction, Republicans in charge of the Senate Judiciary Committee announced on Friday that they are planning “oversight” hearings into the matter.

The president has admitted he broke the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) hundreds of times. Isn’t it a bit late for “oversight?”

Most outrageous statements of 2005

Most outrageous statements of 2005, courtesy of Media Matters:
Former Reagan administration Secretary of Education Bill Bennett: "[Y]ou could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down." [Salem Radio Network's Bill Bennett's Morning in America, 9/28/05]

Pat Robertson: "If [Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez] thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it." [Christian Broadcasting Network's The 700 Club, 8/22/05]

Bill O'Reilly to San Francisco: "[I]f Al Qaeda comes in here and blows you up, we're not going to do anything about it. ... You want to blow up the Coit Tower? Go ahead." [Westwood One's The Radio Factor with Bill O'Reilly, 12/8/05]

Bill O'Reilly, agreeing with caller that illegal immigrants are "biological weapon[s]": "I think you could probably make an absolutely airtight case that more than 3,000 Americans have been either killed or injured, based upon the 11 million illegals who are here." [Westwood One's The Radio Factor with Bill O'Reilly, 4/15/05]

Rush Limbaugh: "Feminism was established so as to allow unattractive women easier access to the mainstream of society." [The Rush Limbaugh Show, 8/12/05]

Rush Limbaugh on the kidnapping of peace activists in Iraq: "I'm telling you, folks, there's a part of me that likes this." [The Rush Limbaugh Show, 11/29/05]

Ann Coulter: Bill Clinton "was a very good rapist"; "I'm getting a little fed up with hearing about, oh, civilian casualties"; "I think we ought to nuke North Korea right now just to give the rest of the world a warning." [New York Observer, 1/10/05]

Ann Coulter: "Isn't it great to see Muslims celebrating something other than the slaughter of Americans?" [Syndicated column, 2/3/05]

Radio host Glenn Beck: "[Y]ou know it took me about a year to start hating the 9-11 victims' families? Took me about a year." [Premiere Radio Networks' The Glenn Beck Program, 9/9/05]

Tucker Carlson: "Canada is a sweet country. It is like your retarded cousin you see at Thanksgiving and sort of pat him on the head. You know, he's nice, but you don't take him seriously. That's Canada." [MSNBC's The Situation with Tucker Carlson, 12/15/05]

American Family Association president Tim Wildmon: Liberals "don't have the kind of family responsibilities most people have, and certainly not church responsibilities." [American Family Radio's Today's Issues, 5/11/05]

David Horowitz on Cindy Sheehan: "It's very hard to have respect for a woman who exploits the death of her own son and doesn't respect her own son's life. ... She portrays him as an idiot." [MSNBC's Connected: Coast to Coast, 8/16/05]

Radio host Neal Boortz on the execution of Stanley "Tookie" Williams: "[T]here will be riots in South Central Los Angeles and elsewhere. ... The rioting, of course, will lead to wide scale looting. There are a lot of aspiring rappers and NBA superstars who could really use a nice flat-screen television right now." [, 12/12/05]

Pat Buchanan: "Our guys" in Iraq "have got every right to have good news put into the media and get to the people of Iraq, even if it's got to be planted or bought." [MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews, 12/1/05]

National Review editor Rich Lowry: Given EPA-mandated "small-flush" toilets, "[h]ow is it possible to flush a Quran down the toilet?" [Young America's Foundation speech, 8/5/05]

Neal Boortz, suggesting that a victim of Hurricane Katrina housed in an Atlanta hotel consider prostitution: "I dare say she could walk out of that hotel and walk 100 yards in either direction on Fulton Industrial Boulevard here in Atlanta and have a job. What's that? Well, no, no, no. ... Well, you know what? [laughing] Now that you mention it ... [i]f that's the only way she can take care of herself, it sure beats the hell out of sucking off the taxpayers." [Cox Radio Syndication's The Neal Boortz Show, 10/24/05]

Focus on the Family founder and chairman James C. Dobson: Same-sex marriage would lead to "marriage between daddies and little girls ... between a man and his donkey." [Focus on the Family radio program, 10/6/05]

Accuracy in Media editor Cliff Kincaid: "Have you noticed that many news organizations, in honor of former ABC News anchorman Peter Jennings, have embarked on a quit smoking campaign? So why don't our media launch a campaign advising people to quit engaging in the dangerous and addictive homosexual lifestyle? ... It appears that the homosexual lifestyle is as addictive as smoking." [Accuracy in Media column, 12/14/05]
Maybe we'll try for a Wisconsin list next year.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Ridgeway a casualty in Christmas war

Christmas came to the small town of Ridgeway, Wis. this year complete with a police escort and tight security for an elementary school holiday concert, Susan Lampert Smith reports in her Wisconsin State Journal column.

Ridgeway was one of the communities singled out by the Liberty Council as being a combatant in the war on Christmas, and soon was denounced by Jerry Falwell, Bill O'Reilly and an unheavenly host.

It was, of course, much ado about nothing. But it certainly ruined a small town's Christmas.

-- Working for Change. (Click on cartoons to enlarge)

E. Michael, we hardly knew ye

"Who is Mike McCann?" seems like an unlikely headline about a guy who has been Milwaukee County district attorney since 1969.

But Joel McNally, in a Shepherd Express column, both asks and tries to answer the question.

McCann earns high marks from McNally for political courage, whether standing up against the death penalty or trying earnestly to solve the problem of where to house sexual offenders when they are released from prison.

In 37 years in the job, with one more to go before his announced retirement, McCann has drawn fire at times from both the right and the left. McNally offers some insights, and suggests that McCann is someone who will retire with a clear conscience.

'This is not a scientific poll'

O'Reilly? I mean, "Oh, really?'

Fox News Poll Analysis

Matt Stoller on MyDD asks: Can anyone find the methodological problem with this online poll from Fox News?

(via Newshounds)

Redefining the GOP gov primary:

Walker the longshot, Green the favorite?

A rather remarkable story in today's Journal Sentinel redefines the Republican primary campaign for governor.

Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker is cast as the longshot underdog -- the one some party leaders are quietly trying to get to quit the race -- and Rep. Mark Green as the establishment-backed frontrunner.

What's really remarkable is that Green and Walker accept and seem to welcome that description of their race, as it is laid out by reporter Dave Umhoefer.

Walker sees himself in the mold of Lee Sherman Dreyfus, the unknown chancellor at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, who knocked off establishment favorite Rep. Robert Kasten in the 1978 Republican primary and went on to beat Gov. Martin Schreiber to become governor.

But Walker is no Dreyfus, even if he does have Dreyfus' daughter-in-law, Susan, in his corner.

Dreyfus was a charismatic candidate, a crackerjack speaker, who ran as a populist outsider against the Republican establishment, which endorsed Kasten. "Let the people decide!" was the Dreyfus cry as he traveled the state in a broken-down school bus with some young musicians he called the Rag Tag Band. His trademark red vest also made him a conversation piece.

Candidates and campaigns have dreamed and schemed for 25 years plus about how to reproduce that Dreyfus phenomenon, but no one has come close. Some of the Dreyfus tacticians, like Bill Kraus and Bob Williams, are still trading on the 1978 experience, which they have never been able to replicate either.

If Walker is in for keeps, as he insists he is, he's going to have to find another shtick. Walker's an attractive candidate and decent speaker, but he's no Lee Dreyfus.

Both candidates dismiss their negatives. Walker insists that being from Milwaukee won't hurt him outstate, despite 150 years of evidence to the contrary. Green doesn't see that being a member of Congress has any downside, despite the fact that voters' have given Congress a job approval rating in the 30s for most of the last several months. The growing scandals among Republican members of Congress will cast a shadow over Green, as will his financial contributions from the indicted Tom DeLay and his unyielding support for the war in Iraq.

Both candidates say they will play nicely and not be negative, but if they are in a close race next summer don't bet the farm on that promise.

Green claims to be ignoring Walker and focusing on Gov. Jim Doyle, but when Umhoefer told him Walker said Green might be hurt by his Congressional ties, Green shot back:

"I've resided in Wisconsin longer than Scott's been alive. That smacks a little of desperation."

So, it appears it wouldn't take much of a spark to set off the fireworks.

For Wisconsin Democrats, this is going to be fun to watch.

AFTERTHOUGHT: Do you suppose Walker could be adopting the underdog role in anticipation of the year-end campaign finance reports, which become public in January, knowing that he will show up badly in the cash on hand comparison with Green?

County reveals contract evaluators' names

Score one for the public's right to know.

Milwaukee County has reversed itself and released the names of those who evaluated proposals that led to the awarding of millions of dollars in social service contracts.

The county had earlier refused to provide the names to the Story Hill neighborhood website, but Gretchen Schuldt, who edits the site, reports:

County releases evaluator names

Dec. 27 -- Milwaukee County released the names of evaluators of proposals for millions of dollars in behavioral health contracts after raised concerns about the policy that kept the names secret.

County Behavioral Health Division Administrator Jim Hill said he had misgivings about releasing the names, but decided to do so in deference to "my strong, career-long support for the public's right to know the public's business."

The issue arose when sought records related to the award of a $1.2 million community service program contract to a division of Phoenix Care Systems Inc.. Phoenix officials are donors to County Executive Scott Walkers' campaign fund.
The names of evaluators are on the Story Hill website.. There appears to be no good reason they were not released in the first place.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Infidel Doyle celebrates pagan holiday

More than one person has been heard to say, in discussing our governor,that they don't really have much an idea about who Jim Doyle the person is.

His public image is pretty serious, not warm and fuzzy. "Does the guy have a sense of humor?" they ask.

I'm not sure whether this helps or hurts. Will it make him seem more like a normal person, someone you would like to watch Seinfeld with, or some kind of goofball? (This is not an online poll. That is, however, the Festivus pole at right.)

In any case, the gov has just celebrated Festivus. It's not really a pagan holiday; it's a Seinfeld holiday. And I can just imagine Doyle's list of grievances; he's probably still airing them.

The Capital Times has the story.

And Tom Sheehan of the LaCrosse Tribune has the Festivus interview yada yada yada.

-- Internet Weekly Report. Hat tip: Yellow Dog Blog.

Jenifer Finley didn't fit into staff role;

Will she run for county exec next time?

The mysterious Dan Vrakas-Jenifer Finley saga is finally beginning to make some sense.

Questions and speculation have swirled since Vrakas, the newly elected Waukesha County exec, announced that Finley, spouse of the former county exec, was leaving her job as Vrakas' chief of staff.

Neither of the principals has been willing to talk about it, Finley hasn't been in the office for weeks, and has reportedly been working at home on some final reports Vrakas asked her to finish before her departure.

From today's story:

"I resigned because Mr. Vrakas did not present a conservative budget," Finley says in her statement. She says she had presented several suggested cuts, including eliminating the Waukesha County Board lobbyist job and ending the vacant project/program analyst position, but Vrakas rejected both ideas.

"Ultimately, he whittled down the (2006) budget cuts to what I consider an unacceptably low amount," Finley wrote.

WisOpinion has her entire statement posted. Here's part:

I can no longer stay silent about my resignation.

My original preference was not to discuss the reasons for my departure on a public platform, because I had hoped to keep things publicly positive. However, I can no longer remain silent about my resignation because Mr. Vrakas has mishandled the management of my resignation � and he needs to be accountable as a public servant for it.

I resigned because I felt that Mr. Vrakas did not present a conservative budget. As Mr. Vrakas' former campaign chairperson, I feel that Mr. Vrakas promised but then did not deliver a conservative enough budget to the taxpayers. Mr. Vrakas ran as the fiscal conservative in this race and I believed in him. He argued to the taxpayers that he was more fiscally conservative than County Board Chairman Jim Dwyer. As his Chief of Staff, I presented to Mr. Vrakas a series of cuts and other actions that would have delivered significant relief to the taxpayers in the budget, among them eliminating the County Board lobbyist position and a vacant project/program analyst position.

Mr. Vrakas rejected my recommendations and many others that would have provided far more significant relief to the taxpayers. Ultimately, he whittled down the budget cuts to what I consider an unacceptably low amount. I do not believe the taxpayers of Waukesha County expected Mr. Vrakas would cut a few dollars off their property tax bills when they elected him. I will concede that we had a short amount of time to deal with the budget vetoes, but Mr. Vrakas could have, and should have, done more. I believe in fiscal conservatism that is supported by actions, not words or hopeful promises. Thus, I can not be part of an administration that is all rhetoric and no meaningful action. I also can not be part of an administration that does not live up to the campaign promises that I helped to espouse.

I hope that Mr. Vrakas takes this message to heart and next year delivers to the taxpayers the budget they expect.

It's not unusual for a staffer to have different opinions from the elected official for whom he/she works. Internal debates, discussions and disagreements about policy are common. But in the end, the elected official -- the one who's name was on the ballot and the one people voted to entrust with the authority -- makes the decision. And the staff supports it.

That's the difference between being the county exec and the chief of staff.

It's also the difference between being the campaign manager and the chief of staff. I served, at different times, in both roles for Milwaukee Mayor John Norquist, and when people asked how the jobs were different, that was my standard answer. In the campaign, I could do what I thought was in his best interests, even though he sometimes disagreed. In City Hall, I could offer my opinion, but he got to decide.

Sometimes, over time, a staffer may decide that there is a fundamental difference in philosophy that can't be reconciled. That's when it's time to leave.

But to quit the first time the boss doesn't do exactly what you suggest -- and then to publicly criticize his decisions -- is a sign there's something else wrong. (It is still not entirely clear whether she resigned or was asked to resign.)

Maybe Jenifer Finley thought she was the co-county executive. Vrakas obviously didn't think so.

Back to today's story:
Finley said that she had hoped to finish out her service working at the County Administration Building but that Vrakas ordered her to work from home and barred her from returning. Although her resignation was to be effective on Dec. 31, Finley had not appeared in the courthouse office since Dec. 8.

While remaining on the payroll, she was to prepare reports and recommendations for Vrakas, who has provided her with a letter of recommendation. But Finley's statement says that since resigning, Vrakas has failed to give her the necessary information to do the reports he requested.

"Since Mr. Vrakas and I have not spoken directly since my resignation regarding my job assignment and his expectations, I have come to the conclusion that my work serves no real purpose and that the taxpayers should not have to shoulder this unnecessary expense," Finley wrote.

Finley, who has turned in time cards to the county payroll office, says in her statement that she will not accept any money or benefits after Dec. 13.
So Vrakas and Finley aren't even speaking, and she has gone in six weeks' time from his chief booster to his chief critic. Now, she's referring to him as "Mr. Vrakas," not even as "the county executive," which would be customary for the chief of staff.

Vrakas was elected to fill Dan Finley's unexpired term, which ends in April 2007.

Jenifer Finley is probably wishing she had followed her first instinct and run for the post. She could well be on the ballot as Vrakas' challenger in 2007.

Conservative Brian Fraley puts JF on his do-not-hire list.

James Widgerson, who runs a suburban library and pub, wonders -- when he's not thinking about other people's sex lives -- if this was about the budget, why it took Finley so long to resign.

'Sensenbrenner immigration bill'

creates more problems than it solves

An op ed column from the Sacramento, Calif. Bee says Rep. F. Jim Sensenbrenner's immigration bill makes a lot of sense if you are a career politician from suburban Wisconsin, but very little in a border state that actually has to deal with the illegal immigration issue:

Immigration fights undermine support for social services


There's not much chance that HR 4437, the Border Protection, Antiterrorism and Illegal Immigration Act that the House passed last Friday, will ever become law in its present form.

The bill is as unworkable as it's punitive, faces too much resistance from an almost unprecedented coalition of labor, business, church and civil rights groups and hasn't a prayer of solving the problem it pretends to address.

As wedge politics at a time of increasing concern over illegal immigration, it makes perfect sense. It carries more than a faint echo of California Gov. Pete Wilson's support for Proposition 187 and his "they keep coming" re-election refrain in 1994. For a career pol like its sponsor, Rep. James Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin, who's held public office almost from the day he finished law school in 1968, and a scandal-plagued Congress, it may be perfect.

But in failing to deal with the country's appetite for cheap immigrant labor, or of addressing the complex problem presented by the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants -- many of them in families with millions of legal residents, many of them citizens -- the Sensenbrenner bill would create far more problems than it solves.

For two decades, the country has been toughening border enforcement, building more fences, adding thousands of Border Patrol agents and making it more costly and dangerous to cross. The result: Many more illegals, who were once part of the seasonal circuit _ north in spring, south in the late fall _ stay here permanently, sending for families and driving up an explosive growth in the illegal population, from roughly 4 million 15 years ago to today's 11 million.

Given the spike in Latino naturalization and voter registration in California-- almost all Democratic -- after the 1994 election, maybe a lot of the 239 House members who voted for Sensenbrenner's bill are expecting that the bill will be radically modified -- indeed, counting on it -- when the Senate takes it up next year.

For the past decade Republicans, led by George W. Bush, have been trying to repair the damage generated by Wilson and Proposition 187, the initiative that sought to deny schooling and virtually all public services to illegal immigrants. It's hardly news to say that Latinos represent a rapidly growing proportion of the electorate. California is no longer the dominant destination of Latino immigrants. They may now be settling even in Sensenbrenner's suburban Milwaukee district.

But Sensenbrenner's bill and the message it sends also ought to be a wake-up call for the left --not because the national backlash against immigration will result in mass deportations or in driving illegal immigrants still further underground and to the economic and social margins of American society, but because both the numbers and the backlash will make it ever more difficult to generate support for progressive public policy.

In the long run, the country benefits economically and culturally from immigration and always has. But given the nation's tax and public service structure, in the short run at least low wage immigrants put burdens on local and state social services -- schools particularly -- that their taxes don't pay for.

The taxes they pay -- Social Security in particular -- goes largely to the federal government, which is augmenting its budget with billions from illegal workers. The costs of emergency health and schools -- and the special challenges that immigrant kids represent -- goes largely to the states and local districts.

The left properly complains about the failure of retailers such as Wal-Mart to provide decent benefits, even encouraging employees to seek health care from Medi-Cal. But that's little different from -- and often identical with -- the larger cost shifting to taxpayers by virtually all employers of low wage workers. A sizable proportion of the lowest paid are illegal immigrants.

But the economic data -- always controversial -- aren't as important as the politics. Illegal immigrants are already denied most social services, including welfare and all but emergency health care, but the widespread belief that they suck up taxpayer dollars has enough evidence in the costs of schooling to support it.

The point, a point reinforced by a number of studies in other contexts, is that the more that the beneficiaries of social programs are perceived to be undeserving groups, the less likely those programs will get generous support. And illegal aliens, whether as code for Latinos or simply because they are people who are seen as having no legal right to be in this country, are prime candidates.

The more the recipients are perceived as "others," the less likely public services are to get strong public support. That perception overwhelms virtually all arguments that the nation's future, and California's particularly, will largely depend on the skills of those others.

The only solution to the immigration problem is a combination of a reliable identification system, tougher enforcement of employer sanctions and labor laws, a guest worker program and measures to allow the illegals who are already here to come out of the shadows. The Sensenbrenner bill is a measure of the fever; it is not a remedy.

WMC whitewashes lead paint industry

The lead paint industry is trying hard to rid itself of any responsibility for the serious damage it has done to the health of thousands of young Wisconsin children and their families. A lapdog Republican legislature has passed a bill that would make it impossible for victims to sue the manufacturers, as we reported in a previous post, Lead paint issue isn't about lawyers; it's about victims poisoned for life.

Lisa Kaiser looks at the issue in a Shepherd-Express article, "Who is Responsible for Lead Paint Poisoning?"

The most amazing answer to that question comes from James Buchen of Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce Assn. (WMC):

“I think the folks who are responsible for the improper maintenance are responsible [for exposing children to lead],” said WMC’s Buchen, pointing the finger at landlords and homeowners.

And the companies that produced the lead paint?

“We don’t think they have any responsibility,” Buchen said.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

--Signe Wilkinson, Philadelphia Daily News, via Cagle.

Friday, December 23, 2005

In memoriam: Some giants left us in 2005

Political Junkie Ken Rudin of National Public Radio recalls the political figures who left us in 2005, including Wisconsin's two Senators, Bill Proxmire, left, and Gaylord Nelson,below. Rudin's "In Memoriam" column

Wanted: A Dem party with some guts

Jim Hightower, who's fond of saying the only things you find in the middle of the road are yellow stripes and dead armadillos, says the only thing he wants for Christmas is a Democratic Party with some guts. Read it on AlterNet.

I'm note sure Santa's the one to ask. But we've got to start somewhere.

-- Brian Fairrington, Cagle.

In good old GOP days, tax burden was bigger

Does the new study by the Wisconsin Taxpayer's Alliance show that Wisconsinites are being taxed to death, as Republican mouthpieces were quick to claim?

Not at all, says the Beloit Daily News in an editorial explaining what's really going on, and pointing out that in the boom times when Tommy Thompson was king,
the tax burden in relation to incomes --again, according to the WTA -- is 32 percent, substantially below the peak of 36.7 percent in 2000, when [Republican Chair Rick]Graber's party controlled the governor's mansion.

Conservatives sharply split over spying,

but you won't hear about it on talk radio

All is not well in Republicanville this holiday season.

The Wall Street Journal reports deep divisions among conservatives over the Bush administration's domestic surveillance and unauthorized wiretapping of telephone conversations.

For example:
David Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union, described the spy program as a case of "presidential overreaching" that he said most Americans would reject. Columnist George Will wrote in a Washington Post opinion piece that "conservatives' wholesome wariness of presidential power has been a casualty of conservative presidents winning seven of the past 10 elections."

Bob Barr, a Georgia conservative who was one of the Republican Party's loudest opponents of government snooping until he left Congress in 2003, says the furor should stand as a test of Republicans' willingness to call their president to task. "This is just such an egregious violation of the electronic surveillance laws," Mr. Barr says.

Sen. Arlen Specter, the Pennsylvania Republican who chairs the Judiciary Committee, has called the program "inappropriate" and promised to hold hearings early next year. Republicans joining him include centrist Sens. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska and John Sununu of New Hampshire, along with limited-government types like Larry Craig of Idaho.
You wouldn't know, if you listen to Republican talk radio in Milwaukee, that there is any debate about this issue among conservatives. The Wall Street Journal's article explains why:
Some conservative critics contend that the fault lines within the party are easy to trace. As with so much else, they say, the trail leads to Iraq.

"From the beginning, the folks who thought it was a good idea to go into Iraq have found good reason to think that all other Bush policies, from torture to domestic surveillance, are justified," said Robert Levy, a conservative legal scholar at the libertarian Cato Institute. "This is just one in a litany of ongoing events that have separated the noninterventionist wing of the Republican Party from the neocon wing."
And the neocon wing, of course, has the microphones and radio programs.

On the Iraq war, you'll find some strong dissent from Republicans on Bush policies, too. Check this Reconsidering Iraq site for starters, which says:
Prominent among the myths regarding the war in Iraq is the proposition that the pro-war interventionist position is universally supported by pro-American conservatives, and that opposition to the war is a left-wing position.

Overlooked is that some of the most principled opposition to current Iraq war policy comes from traditional, patriotic, pro-national defense, small-government conservatives, who object to current interventionist policy as over-reaching, counterproductive to our relationships with our allies, a factor aggravating creation of more terrorists, and resulting in an on-going heavy price in American lives and collateral damage.

Should public employees be executioners?

Does Wisconsin need to institutionalize killing and have public servants put people to death as part of their jobs? Milwaukee District Attorney E. Michael McCann says no. Jim Rowen explains why in a Milwaukuee Insight column about State Sen. Tom Reynolds' death penalty bill.

Crackdown on Capitol bloggers?

Is there a crackdown on anonymous blogs being written by Capitol staffers?

I Am The Force (whoever that is), thinks so.

One of the casualties, The Force says, is Capitol Curmudgeon, who had just started to write for a promising new blog. The perspective was conservative, but legislative Republicans were often the target.

The Curmudgeon's last post was Dec. 15. Another contributor has posted since then, but not the same kind of biting content.

The lesson? If you're going to be anonymous, don't tell anyone -- especially your boss in the Capitol.

I know I have said that if I ever start blogging about blogging someone should shoot me, but this post does not qualify.

UPDATE: I'm told that this post, "Assembly Late Night," on Playground Politics, which is also written by an anonymous Capitol insider/staffer, had the GOP Assembly caucus going bonkers, with calls for the staffer's head. The blog still seems to be in business, though.

Dan Finley's ex-staffer to replace his wife --

in Waukesha County government, that is

This from yesterday's WisPolitics' weekly "Milwaukee Notes" report:

It appears that Allison Bussler, former chief of staff for former Waukesha County Exec Daniel Finley will be returning to that position at the end of the month.

That is the official date Finley's wife, Jenifer, put in her unexpected letter of resignation as chief of staff for newly elected Waukesha County Exec Dan Vrakas.

There was talk of Bussler, who had been on maternity leave, taking the place of Jim Malueg, the county's emergency government director, who is retiring next month.

But Bussler was seen at the county's Administration Center recently while Finley will be working for the rest of the month, based on comments made by Vrakas.
And this from The Xoff Files on Dec. 15:

Nature abhors a vacuum, so I'll just toss in a piece of rumor. Since I have zero sources in Waukesha County, it's probably highly suspect. But I hear that Dan Finley's former chief of staff, Allison Bussler, is coming back. And that it wasn't Jenifer Finley's idea to leave.
Even a lind pig finds an acorn once in awhile.

Meanwhile, Jessica McBride, who used to report Jenifer Finley's every move and innermost thought a few months ago, continues to be McGagged.
UPDATE: In a cheap shot, some Waukesha supervisors are questioning whether Jenifer Finley should be paid for the Christmas holidays, because she's only worked for the county since Nov. 1. Standard practice, everywhere I'm familiar with, is that everyone gets the paid holidays, regardless of seniority, but have to earn vacation time according to length of service. Story.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

--Rick McKee, Augusta GA Chronicle, via Cagle.

New poll, with a twist -- spin attached

A new poll from Atlanta-based Strategic Vision tells you what every other poll has: It is going to be a tight race for governor in 2006.

The latest poll shows Doyle with a slim 46-44 edge in favorable-unfavorable ratings, not much different from another poll released this week.

But this one comes with some spin attached.

Strategic Vision, a Republican firm, issued a news release saying Doyle is "highly vulnerable."

If that means this is going to be a real horse race, they're right. But that's not particularly new.

Doyle and Mark Green are in a near dead heat in a In head-to-head matchup, while Doyle beats Scott Walker 46-39.

So, yes, Doyle is vulnerable. The only candidates even more vulnerable are Scott Walker and Mark Green, who do worse than he does in every poll.

I don't know who pays Strategic Vision to keep polling in Wisconsin, but I know they are not doing it out of curiosity or as a charitable contribution. So when you read their "analysis," read it with the same skepticism you would read one from the Republican Party.
Brian Christianson at Free Will characterizes it as Garbage in, garbage out.

Bush as Nixon

-- Mike Keefe, Denver Post, via Cagle.

Is Bush really Nixon reincarnated?

Ruth Conniff of The Progressive:

President Bush is looking more and more like Richard Nixon every day--between his secret plan to win the war and his domestic spying operation. Certainly Sunday night's "mistakes were made" Oval Office speech smacked of a Nixonian combination of self-pity and stubborn pugnaciousness.

All Bush needs now is an official enemies list. And who knows, maybe he has one. There's no telling who is a target of the White House/NSA eavesdropping program.
Read the rest.

Sheboygan, we have a problem

Scott Milfred of the Wisconsin State Journal wonders whether a bill by State Sen. Joe Leibham, R-Sheboygan, is the first step toward sending a bratwurst into space.

I believe I have found the prototype of the spacecraft.

A bill Scrooge would love

Eye on Wisconsin's Cory Liebmann says Republicans have given us class war for Christmas, thanks to Darth Cheney's tie-breaking vote. It would put coal in the stockings of the poor this Christmas -- if they only had stockings.

It robs the poor to give tax breaks to the rich -- the usual Republican formula.

God bless us, every one!

This just in:
Cheney saves Christmas from the poor. The Happy Circumstance reports.

Leibham helps Wal-Mart,

Wal-Mart family rewards him

Bill Stephen of Sheboygan, who blogs as Sadie Says, raises some interesting questions about the connection between State Sen. Joe Leibham's help for Wal-Mart and $1,000 in contributions from the Walton family. Don't hold your breath while waiting for the news stories:

Sadie Makes The Sheboygan Press

Letters: Did Leibham's 'help' net campaign contributions?

I am truly amazed at the mainstream media's coverage of the Adelman Travel contract. They rarely mention that this contract saved taxpayer dollars and was the best price when the contract was approved.

They never mention that the head of the Omega firm from Virginia (which didn't get the contract) stated that he thought the process was fair. Instead they choose to focus on the fact that leaders from Adelman Travel in Glendale, Wis., donated to the Doyle campaign.

They also suggest the timing of the donations makes the governor unethical.

Well, perhaps we need to look a little closer to home for a comparison.

I'm sure you remember the ongoing effort to build a Wal-Mart Supercenter in the Town of Sheboygan.

On Feb 16, 2005, state Sen. Joe Leibham wrote a letter to the editor explaining that he had merely helped set up a meeting between town officials and Wisconsin Department of Transportation of the issue of access to the store from county Highway J.

He spends most of the letter trying to make the point that this was the type of everyday help he provides to his constituents, that it was nothing out of the ordinary.

He also mentions that he was asked on Dec 10, 2004 to provide this "help."

Is it purely a coincidence that on Dec. 30, 2004, he got a $500 campaign contribution from Jim Walton of Bentonville, Ark.?

Is it another strange coincidence that on Dec. 30, 2004, he also received a $500 contribution from Lynne Walton of Bentonville, Ark.?

Is it a coincidence that the Waltons are the same Walton family that owns Wal-Mart? Is it a coincidence that two weeks after providing this "help," Sen. Leibham received $1,000 from Wal-Mart heirs?

I would hope the media would provide equal coverage of this issue.


Lawmakers return Abramoff money;

DeLay money should get same treatment

The Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal has members of Congress "scrambling" to return contributions from the powerful lobbyist, who, it appears, is about to start talking as part of a plea bargain.

The AP reports:
Lawmakers Hasten to Return Abramoff Gifts

WASHINGTON (AP) - Not since the 1992 House banking scandal that led to the retirement or ouster of 77 lawmakers has a corruption probe like the one involving lobbyist Jack Abramoff struck fear in so many hearts on Capitol Hill.

Some lawmakers - Republican Sen. Sam Brownback became the latest - are scrambling to return or give away campaign donations, while others are the target of ethics complaints back in their home states by their political foes.
Those who took money from Abramoff are saying, "Gee, it's already spent" or "That money is long gone, so I can't return it" -- the Mark Green defense about why he won't give back about $30,000 in tainted money he's received from Tom DeLay's political action committee. Paul Ryan's made a lot of excuses about his $25,000 from DeLay, too.

Once again, the return of Abamoff money, even if it was given in past campaigns, demonstrates that "the money is spent" excuse is bogus.

Green and Ryan ought to do the right thing now and give DeLay back his $55,000, not wait until he makes his deal and starts to sing.

Campaign launched to censure Bush;

impeachment investigation proposed

Given Republican control of both houses of Congress, this is unlikely to happpen. But a few more revelations could push even some members of the President's party to act. We have seen in recent days that several Republican Senators will sometimes buck the White House and vote their consciences. The House, which would have to agree to censure or bring impeachment charges, is another matter, with Dennis Hastert, Dick Armey and Tom DeLay keeping members in line. But even in the House Bush has lost on some issues. Again, it would take more outrages or scandals. But who's the say they aren't coming? Meanwhile ...

The coalition, an alliance of over 100 grassroots organizations, has launched a new campaign called in order to support new legislation introduced by Congressman John Conyers that would censure President Bush and Vice President Cheney and create a select committee to investigate the Administration's possible crimes and make recommendations regarding grounds for impeachment.

H.Res.635 would create a select committee - modeled after Sam Ervin's Watergate committee - to investigate the Administration's intent to go to war before congressional authorization, manipulation of pre-war intelligence, encouraging and countenancing torture, and retaliating against critics, and to make recommendations regarding grounds for possible impeachment.

H.Res.636 and H.Res.637 would censure, respectively, Bush and Cheney for failing to respond to requests for information concerning allegations that they and others in the Administration misled Congress and the American people regarding the decision to go to war in Iraq, misstated and manipulated intelligence information regarding the justification for the war, countenanced torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment of persons in Iraq, and permitted inappropriate retaliation against critics of the Administration, for failing to adequately account for certain misstatements they made regarding the war, and – in the case of President Bush – for failing to comply with Executive Order 12958.

These two efforts are complementary - H.Res.635 seeks accountability for the Bush administration's monumental crimes, while H.Res.636 and H.Res.637 seek accountability for their coverups.

Ask your Congress Member to support these efforts!

Are there grounds for impeachment? You be the judge

US Constitution, Article II, Section 4. The President, Vice President and all civil officers of the United States, shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.

Here is the FISA law.

TITLE 50, CHAPTER 36, SUBCHAPTER I, § 1809. Criminal sanctions
Release date: 2005-03-17

(a) Prohibited activities
A person is guilty of an offense if he intentionally—
(1) engages in electronic surveillance under color of law except as authorized by statute; or
(2) discloses or uses information obtained under color of law by electronic surveillance, knowing or having reason to know that the information was obtained through electronic surveillance not authorized by statute.
(b) Defense
It is a defense to a prosecution under subsection (a) of this section that the defendant was a law enforcement or investigative officer engaged in the course of his official duties and the electronic surveillance was authorized by and conducted pursuant to a search warrant or court order of a court of competent jurisdiction.
(c) Penalties
An offense described in this section is punishable by a fine of not more than $10,000 or imprisonment for not more than five years, or both.
(d) Federal jurisdiction
There is Federal jurisdiction over an offense under this section if the person committing the offense was an officer or employee of the United States at the time the offense was committed.

TITLE 50, CHAPTER 36, SUBCHAPTER I, § 1811. Authorization during time of war
Release date: 2005-03-17

Notwithstanding any other law, the President, through the Attorney General, may authorize electronic surveillance without a court order under this subchapter to acquire foreign intelligence information for a period not to exceed fifteen calendar days following a declaration of war by the Congress.
UPDATE: Renee Crawford finds an interesting quote from F. Jim Sensenbrenner during the Clinton impeachment proceedings, and asks if it still applies.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

The phony war on Christmas;

Have a holly, jolly whatever

Another one for the "Suspicions Confirmed" file.

As you may have suspected, Bill O'Reilly and Frank Lasee notwithstanding, the stories you have heard of the war on Christmas are nothing but a bunch of wingnut holiday hype.

There is some commercialization of Christmas taking place, however, such as the O'Reilly Christmas store.

But back to the phony war on Xmas. Take the example of Ridgeway, Wis., which gained notoriety over claims that it had rewritten and secularized the lyrics to "Silent Night" for a school production.

The Washington Post tells the story:
By Neely Tucker
Washington Post Staff Writer

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, in considering the ongoing war on Christmas, let us begin with the evidence that Mathew Staver, president of the Liberty Counsel, calls "Exhibit A."

Said prosecutorial evidence is tiny Ridgeway Elementary School in Ridgeway, Wis. Youngsters are set to perform a play (pictured below) in which the lyrics to "Silent Night," which celebrates the Christ child's birth, have been changed to "Cold in the Night," which do not. The charge, leveled by both Staver's group and the American Family Association, is that this school rewrote a sacred song to erase Christ from Christmas.

Earlier this month, both groups fired off outraged press releases. TV networks reacted with segments. Conservative bloggers howled. The school principal got 1,500 e-mails. One unhappy Christian called Pat Reilly, the school board treasurer, a "spineless liberal [expletive]."

Here's Tucker Carlson of MSNBC, interviewing Staver:

"It is kind of heartening, I think, for Christians to see this, all this outrage, all this fear at Christmastime, you know, Christmas tree, Christmas carol, 'Silent Night'-- oh, that's a, you know, that's a subversive song -- because it means that Christianity isn't dead. It still has the capacity to scare people. It still gives people the creeps."

Giving people "the creeps" at Christmas is a serious thing, so we decided some actual reporting might be in order.

The first thing we found out, contrary to both news releases, is that nobody at the school rewrote anything. The song is part of a copyrighted play. Really in-depth reporting -- making two phone calls -- revealed the offending playwright and composer to be one Dwight Elrich. No one had talked to him until we called.

Here is what we found out:

(a) Elrich was a music director for a choir at Bel Air Presbyterian, former president Ronald and Nancy Reagan's church in California, for decades.

(b) "Cold in the Night" is part of a children's play called "The Little Christmas Tree" (note title). The little tree sings the little song. The little tree is looking for a family to take it home, sort of like Charlie Brown's little tree. The play comes with a "Christian" page, which may be performed or not. In Ridgeway, where the play has been performed for years, it is sung with Christian Christmas songs, including "Angels We Have Heard on High."

(c) Elrich's other musicals: "What in the World Is Christmas?" (Answer: "Kids from around the world celebrating Jesus's birth.") "Christmas in Hawaii," "365 Days of Christmas Each Year!"

(d) "The Little Christmas Tree" has been performed in more than 500 schools and churches across the country for nearly two decades. Mostly churches.

Statement by the defendant:

"I'm just flabbergasted. I'm a choir director in a church! I do Christmas carols in retirement homes! I perform 'Silent Night' 40 or 50 times each year! I thought the play was a really charming, wonderful, positive story about love and acceptance . . . removing it from the Christian tradition was something I never thought anyone could ever come up with. We were telling a story about a little tree, so we used a familiar tune to help the kids get it."
Read the rest here.

The program went off as planned Tuesday night, as WISC-TV reported. Those are the Ridgeway kids pictured in the WISC story.

-- Daryl Cagle, MSNBC

Senate on Arctic drilling: No means no

Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska thought he had opponents of Arctic drilling over the proverbial barrel when he snuck approval of drilling into a defense appropriations bill. Senators wouldn't dare vote against the bill just because of the drilling provision, he thought, because they could be attacked for being "weak on defense."

Guess again. Drilling opponents sucked it up and blocked an attempt to cut off debate. The vote was 56-44, four votes short of what was needed to end a filibuster. The Senate Democrats are beginning to find their backbones.

The Washington Post has details.

More good news from Iraq

I've been trying my best not to be a Gloomy Gus about Iraq, and tell the bright side of the story like the Bushniks always want us to do. I mentioned this one recently, and I'm happy to report there is even more good news:

Iraq war might spark technology


WASHINGTON (AP) - Bend your elbow for a drink and your hand squeezes instead, crushing the cup: It's a frustration common with artificial arms. Charles Wayne Briggs got tired of forgetting if he'd left his arm in the elbow or hand position, and asked its inventors for a fix. Within an hour, they'd begun wiring a feedback mechanism that today lets amputees move the prosthesis a little more like a real arm.

It's a harsh reality: Artificial hands and arms aren't as advanced as replacements for lower limbs that have enabled amputees to take to the ski slopes and run marathons.

Upper limbs are harder to duplicate; think how many motions a human hand makes. But it's also an issue of demand. There are fewer upper-limb amputees - one for every four lower-limb amputations - half of whom forgo prostheses altogether.

The war in Iraq may spur change. With dozens of troops losing upper limbs, the Defense Department is funding research to develop a better functioning arm within two years, and a brain-controlled robotic arm that looks and acts like a real one within four years.

That's a huge scientific challenge.

But prosthetics specialists say the industry is poised for steady improvements like the one initiated by Briggs, a 62-year-old Texas amputee recruited to pilot-test new limbs - and soldiers will push those changes faster.

"Sadly enough, this war will contribute to the quantum leap," says Dan Conyers, a prosthetist with Advanced Arm Dynamics, the company hired to custom-fit upper-extremity prostheses for troops treated at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

Conyers sits surrounded by piles of artificial hands, elbows and full-length arms.

Most are electronic, with computer chips that move them in different ways when certain muscles flex. Some look remarkably lifelike, with cosmetic "skins" painted, freckles and all, to match a patient's remaining arm. Others are electronic pincers - still the most functional replacements for the hand, nature's most complex tool.

Conyers calls these parts his toolbox. His job is to custom-design, by mixing and matching body parts from different manufacturers, the most usable limb for each patient's specific needs.

It's a painstaking process that begins with making a cast of the patient's socket, precise measurements for the sleeve that holds the prosthesis in place. Maps of patients' nerve signals determine where to place electrodes inside the electronic limb. Only then comes the trial-and-error of learning which hands, elbows and arms offer best function.

There are some impressive new models: An arm with two microprocessors to operate both the elbow and hand simultaneously. A hand that opens and closes far faster than older models. Briggs' new arm, with an elbow strong enough to lift without first locking it in place plus the biofeedback - connections to his nerve endings that beep or vibrate to signal which joint is poised to move next.

"It's much more natural," said Briggs, of Abilene, Texas, who says that simple change significantly sped his movement, especially useful when flying his airplane. "Just think up or down, and once you've been trained, that's what happens."

Topping the wish list of Walter Reed amputee-care director Joseph Miller: multidexterity hands; ways to know the arm's position without looking at it; silicone sleeves to prevent perspiration and chafing; more rugged models.

Research is under way. For now, prosthetists like Conyers get creative. One soldier wants to again defuse bombs; a rubber coating from the hardware store coats his specialized hook so it won't slip. A machine shop built an adjustable rod for another's artificial hand when no prosthesis proved strong enough for his hobby, archery.

Military amputees receive multiple prosthetics for different activities, but "the majority of patients have to make do with one," notes Advanced Arm Dynamics prosthetist Chris Lake in Dallas. With electronic models starting around $40,000, Medicare pays for those deemed medically necessary.

Racist group takes up Racine issue,

says Stepp victim of 'Mestizo' violence

Much has been written -- but not here -- about an incident Friday night at State Sen. Cathy Stepp's home in Racine County.

A group called Voces de la Frontera, upset at Stepp's position on a bill to deny driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants, staged a protest at her home.

Stepp says she and her family were terrorized. The protestors say they were peaceful. You can read some of the exchanges and the latest newspaper story below.

Now, an openly racist national organization has taken up the issue.

The organization, National Vanguard, describes itself:
National Vanguard is what you've been looking for: an intelligent and responsible organization that stands up for the interests of White people.
Here's just a small taste of what they believe.
Although National Vanguard sees multiracial societies as untenable in the long term, we do not advocate the overthrow of the United States government, and we eschew violence or illegality of any kind in the strongest possible terms. We are simply recognizing facts when we point out that no civilization has ever survived racial mixing, let alone on the scale which has engulfed the U.S. since the 1960s.

Considering economic factors, the chaos being created by Zionist-inspired U.S. meddling in the affairs of other nations, and the certainty that multiracialism is a death sentence for any society that attempts it, it is inevitable that at some point the distribution of power and authority in America -- and the rest of the White world -- will change dramatically. We want to lay the groundwork for a healthy White nation to emerge from the chaos ahead. We need an organized effort to prepare as many White men and women as possible for that future. National Vanguard seeks to be that organized effort.
With that as background, here's the group's report on the Stepp controversy. A mestizo is someone of mixed blood. It's not clear to me why they use the term, except that it is undoubtedly meant to be disparaging. The rest speaks for itself:
Mestizos Mob Home of Immigration Critic
Aggressive tactics similar to Latin America

Mestizo activists of the Voces de la Frontera (Border Voices) raised fears of a possible home invasion recently when they mobbed the residence of a Wisconsin politician opposed to giving drivers' licenses to illegal aliens.

The "demonstration" erupted after dark on December 16 (2005), with hysterical Mestizos shrieking into the windows of State Senator Cathy Stepp's home in connection with her support for Assembly Bill 69, which would require proof of residence status before a Wisconsin license is issued. Four out-of-district Mestizo "activists" reportedly even came up to the door of her house, which is 500 feet off a road in a rural area. Stepp and her children were terrified as her husband went outside to confront the "protestors" and warn them that Sheriff's Department personnel were coming. Stepp has vowed to press charges.

Mestizo violence is increasing relative to immigration issues. A Chicago-area Minutemen meeting was shut down by baying Mestizos recently, while in Southern California numerous violent incidents haveoccurredd, some even targeting elderly Whites. A conservative activist was shocked speechless after a similar event in Texas.

The Wisconsin event reflects Latin American political culture, in which violence and intimidation of opponents is common-place. There is also a deep-seated "macho" hatred of women in Mestizo culture, which may have played a role in their anger towards Stepp, as an "uppity" White woman. Wisconsin, like Minnesota, was settled by Scandinavians, who have historically given women high status. In Denmark recently a patriotic female politician was subjected to an arson attack that could have burned her and her children alive, for daring to question Danish immigration policy.
The sheriff's department is investigating.

Voces de la Frontera statement

Stepp response