Sunday, July 31, 2005

My Weekend on the Couch

This weekend, I committed myself to a horizontal position on the couch. If felt adventuresome, I would get up and move to the bedroom. I had morning and mid afternoon naps that were interrupted by other naps. My wife referred to me as an "apiring invalid."

Despite my comatose state, I was able to take in some television viewing. Some thoughts:

I know infomercials are low hanging fruit, but there are certain individuals that clearly should be in prison for the content of their ads.

Most notably this guy, who claims to be a former homeless person who has the stock market completely figured out. His scam is "trend trading," which is a formula he has devised to tell investors when to get in and out of the market. He acts as if "short selling" was his idea alone. This trading practice is extremely risky, and involves actually making money on stocks when their value goes down. But in the case of normal stocks, all you can lose is the money you have invested. With short selling, you can lose an infinite amount of cash if the stock rises and rises.

So you're telling me thousands of high priced Wall Street advisors haven't figured out this scam but this New York dirtball has? Wouldn't your Schwab advisor just order his system and pass it on to you if it actually worked?

This is something I have thought about with Matthew Lesko (another member of the "should be in prison" infomercial crowd.) You've seen him - he runs around Washington D.C. in a green suit with imprinted question marks like a crackhead on meth and promises to find government programs to just give money away to everyone. My first action as a Congressman would be to order this idiot's book and eliminate every program he promotes ($350 billion by his count).

Anyway, back to Michael J. Parness, the dirtbag behind "Trend Trading." His infomercial features Lisa Guerrero - it's a long way down from "Monday Night Football," isn't it, honey? His website features this classic line:

Michael, 40, after returning to school, finally graduated Summa Cum Laude from Hunter College in New York City, and holds a Bachelor of Science degree in English. He lives on Manhattan's Upper West Side where he continues to rule the freakin' markets every day!

Please, give this man your money.

Informercial #2 pushed the incredible "Velform Sauna Belt." For those of you who haven't seen this, it is a belt that you put on, plug in, and sit on your ass for an hour. It gets really hot, and makes you sweat. They promise that you will lose an inch or two in an hour. I thought it was suspect that the only website I found for it is based in the U.K.

Of course, the models they have demostrating the Sauna Belt need to lose weight as much as I need a third nostril. They show a computer graphic of a 300 pound woman watching the pounds melt off after she straps on the belt - within an hour, she's a supermodel! Of course, it displays all the hallmarks of a terrible infomercial - the unsettlingly happy hosts, the promise that it is "portable," the people doing sit-ups that look like they are receiving a simultaneous colonoscopy, etc.

Before I get off this topic, I have to mention my all-time favorite, the "Body Blade." The body blade is essentially a stick that you wave back and forth to get fit (see website for a demonstration). It is positively the biggest scam ever to grace a TV screen.

I then flipped over to the Women's British Open golf tournament. It's funny that for the men's tournament, it's wall to wall coverage the whole weekend. For the women's, they televise about an hour of it on tape-delay. The announcers are the fourth string team over there at ABC - apparently Cookie Monster and Captain Crunch were unavailable to provide commentary.

For those people who have caught Michelle Wie Fever (accompanied by a rash), they are looking in the wrong place. Paula Creamer, only 18, has already won on tour twice this year, while Wie hasn't won anything except a praying mantis look-alike contest. I also have to admit that Creamer wouldn't have caught my attention if she wasn't a little cutie, which almost makes womens' golf watchable. Get an eyeful now before she gets that trademark LPGA leathery sheen and mustache look (guaranteed to look like M.T. Promises from "The Great Space Coaster"by age 23).

Women's golf has a special challenge to gain American viewers, due in large part to the influx of Asian talent to the game. You can't deny their talent and skill, but you wonder if American audiences are going to embrace a Top 10 leaderboard full of South Koreans every week ("Birdie" Kim had to change her name because she was one of SIX "Kims" on the LPGA Tour). This, however, is a gold mine for my buddy who used to get "Orientails" magazine discreetly shipped to his apartment in a brown paper bag. He ended up marrying a woman that looked more like Secretariat than Lucy Liu.

I also had the misfortune of catching the movie "Mr. 3000" last night. The movie, as you may remember, features Bernie Mac as a former Milwaukee Brewer who, nine years after he retires, has to come back to get three more hits to reach 3000 for his career.

Aside from the ridiculous premise of the Brewers being competitive as recently as 1995, Bernie Mac has one of the most preposterously horrible swings in the history of movies. Only John Goodman's swing while playing Babe Ruth could have been worse, and he has an excuse because he's not left-handed (Ruth obviously was). Of course, watching Tom Cruise play catch with his son in "War of the Worlds" almost made my eyes bleed it was so awkward.

Mac's character, Stan Ross, is a despicable, self-absorbed character from beginning to end, despite us being forced to believe he learned some sort of lesson after the climactic final scene. I'm no Mensa candidate, but let's just say"Titanic" was less predictable than this movie (spoiler alert: the ship sinks).

I know through the plot line, we're supposed to see what a nice guy Ross is on the inside, blah blah blah. But think about this if you were a Milwaukee sports fan observing this from the outside: A 47 year old player comes back to play for the Brewers after retiring in the middle of a pennant race nine years earlier after he thought he got his 3,000th hit. He then goes 2 for 70 (or whatever it ends up being, including 0-for-32 to start) in his selfish push to get his personal milestone. The entire time, he behaves like a petulant, self-absorbed jackass, flying all over the country (?) during the season to promote himself. I, as any fan, would be killing this guy on talk radio the whole season. But for some reason, the fans in the movie are 100% behind the move. Just ridiculous.

As you can already predict, the movie comes down to the final at-bat (spoiler ahead). Of course, there's a man on 2nd base in the final at bat of the final game for Ross, and he chooses to put the team before himself and bunts the guy home for the win, sacrificing his chance at his 3,000th hit.

Let's think about this - you have the count 3-0 with a man on second, and you're batting .032, or whatever it was. There is absolutlely no chance you're swinging (or bunting) on the fourth pitch. The truly unselfish thing would have been to take the walk. But instead, he does the thing that gets himself the most attention and accolades. And how often do you see a runner score from second base on a bunt, anyway, especially with the game on the line?

I know, details, details. It was nice to see Milwaukee get some decent publicity.

A final note: If someone just gave Phil Hellmuth his own TV station, I would watch it more than any other channel. I mean, seriously - we can't cancel Oxygen or WE or any of that other garbage to just watch Phil walk around and go nuclear on people? This would be top-notch entertainment, and when it happens, I expect royalties.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Bush to World: Can You Hear Me? Then Let Me Turn it Up!

In case President Bush wasn't clear yesterday, he wanted to reiterate his feelings toward Ted Kennedy.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Doyle's Selective Veto Memory

As you may have read by now, Governor Doyle has taken his partial veto authority to new heights when signing the most recent state budget. In shifting over $400 million to the general fund, Doyle pieced together single words from multiple unrelated sentences to increase appropriations, which may be unconstitutional.

How did Doyle feel about expansive partial veto powers in 1992, as Attorney General? You may all remember (who doesn't?) his official Attorney General opinion where he criticized then-Governor Tommy Thompson for using his veto to stitch together a transfer of $10 million from the Local Government Property Insurance Program to the general fund (OAG 26-92).

Said Attorney General Doyle:

The Governor's partial veto of section 1117g of 1991 Wisconsin Act 269 did not result in a complete and workable law. The partial veto, therefore, was invalid. Because the Governor's approval was not necessary for the bill to become law, the invalidity of the partial veto results in the law being enforced as passed by the Legislature...

I must conclude that section 1117g after the partial veto is not a complete and workable law... I must also conclude that an otherwise incomplete and unworkable law cannot be made complete and workable through the Governor's veto message...

If the Governor is allowed to create ambiguity, or worse, through the use of the partial veto and then, through his veto message, allowed to accomplish a result which he could not accomplish through the exercise of partial veto, the April 1990 amendment to the constitution becomes a nullity.

Under Wisconsin's Constitution, a governor's partial veto is valid if it results in a complete, entire and workable law without reference to the Governor's veto message. Although reference to an executive message may be permissible when construing ambiguous executive action, Medlock v. Schmidt, 29 Wis. 2d 114, 121, 138 N.W.2d 248 (1965), it is not proper to use the Governor's veto message to give meaning to a law which otherwise would have no meaning. I conclude, therefore, that the Governor's partial veto of section 1117g of 1991 Wisconsin Act 269 did not result in a complete and workable law.

In fairness, I will grant that Thompson's veto was egregious, and the language he put together didn't quite work. But it pales in comparison to what Doyle is trying to pull off. With the Supreme Court and the governor both unilaterally making law, it seems like the voice of the people - the Legislature - are the only ones shut out of the people's business.

UPDATE: I couldn't find an online copy of this AG opinion - if anyone has any suggestions, let me know.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Anatomy of a Disaster: The 2004 Magnum Campaign

“Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” is one of the best movies of the 1980s, and not only because it featured Ruprecht the Monkey Boy. As you may recall, it involves two hucksters who prey on rich, single, and gullible women to swindle them out of their cash. Michael Caine is brilliant as Dr. Emil Shüffhausen (from the Shüffhausen Clinic in Lichtenstein), who attempts to pry fifty thousand dollars away from a supposedly naïve heiress.

Dr. Emil Shüffhausen, meet Dave Magnum.

Magnum, a wealthy Republican from Portage, was recruited in 2004 by the Republican Party to run against uber-liberal but popular Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin in the Dane County area. Unfortunately for Magnum, his race highlights the dark side of politics. When political operatives saw Magnum, they began licking their chops, much like my dog does when I eat popcorn.

There are many races around the state that simply aren’t winnable. Just because a race can’t be won, however, doesn’t mean that there isn’t a tidy profit to be made by running one of those races. Political consultants often descend on naïve wealthy people, pitch their candidacy, and rake in the consulting fees as the campaign goes up in flames. Generally, the only people telling these people that they can win are the ones that directly profit from the campaign.

In 2000, John Sharpless came close to beating Baldwin, but the district borders changed by the time 2002 rolled around. In the 2002 election, Baldwin disemboweled firefighter Ron Greer, beating him 66% to 34%. Greer, the sworn arch-enemy of the left wing who may be just to the right of Rasputin, didn’t spend much money and never really had a chance. Make no mistake - Greer's 34% is the base Republican vote in the district. Courtney Love could run on the GOP ticket and get 34% (and she killed Kurt).

Enter Dave Magnum, a radio station owner with a lot of money, no political experience, and no name identification. Knowing what a challenge it is to raise money in the 2nd Congressional District, Magnum was a perfect target for the Republican Party – he was more moderate than Greer, had boatloads of cash, and was willing to spend it as a candidate.

Magnum’s federal campaign finance reports show a badly mismanaged, top-heavy campaign that shelled out nearly $117,000 in consulting fees and staff salaries – almost as much as Ron Greer spent in his entire 2002 campaign. Magnum used four different consulting firms. His reports show that he either contributed personally or lent his campaign $349,000 of his own money, which comprised 52% of all the funds raised by his campaign (his FEC filings are sloppy and incomplete, for which he has been warned seven times by the feds).

The most valuable expenditure a campaign can make is one that directly contacts a voter – whether it’s via TV ad, radio ad, literature mailing, yard sign, or phone call. To his credit, Magnum did spend plenty in these categories – including a $268,000 television ad buy (some of his TV ads featured him longingly staring at a picture of his deceased wife, which shows you the quality of consulting he was getting).

When you go item by item through the campaigns’ expenditures, however, it reveals a campaign that either didn’t know what it was doing or a campaign that never really expected to win.

For instance, Magnum paid $1700 a month to rent a campaign headquarters ($6800 total), and nearly $12,800 to furnish it, including furniture, computers, supplies, internet access, campaign software, and cable TV (cable TV!) Anyone that has run a campaign will tell you that there are always friendly business owners that will give you a great deal on a headquarters, usually in a public right of way. You just have to do a little digging.

The Magnum campaign also clearly liked to eat. His campaign spent $2,500 on food for staff over a 4 month period. Magnum’s campaign also spent over $3,500 on cell phones for his staff. Details on how either of those expenditures convinces voters to vote for Dave Magnum are unavailable.

Magnum's campaign also suffered from Magnum himself. His calm, cool demeanor and slow, deliberate radio voice euthanized exciting political events. His rehearsed radio voice is enough to make NPR seem like Def Comedy Jam. Local pickpockets figured out they could walk out of a 15 minute Magnum speech on Social Security with 100 wallets. Bland and uninspiring, he never provided a single reason to elect him. He never laid out a consistent message, which is suprising given how much advice he was paying for.

You probably already know what happened in November. Magnum was trounced by Baldwin, losing 63% to 37%. On election night, he said "I'm an optimist. I was going to feel like I won either way tonight." Ummm.... yeah. I think Enron might be looking for a new auditor with just that type of can-do rosy outlook.

I opened the Wisconsin State Journal editorial section the other day to a column written by Dave Magnum, where he took the highly controversial position of being tough on sex offenders. To me, this was about as welcome as a recurring rash after a spring break trip to Tijuana. Wispolitics.com followed up several days later with a report than Magnum was considering another run for Congress, and was being courted by – you guessed it – a consulting firm.

Magnum might be a great guy, and this column contains quite a bit of tough love. I’d like to see a Republican win this seat as much as anyone, but it will take the right candidate receiving the right advice. Spending almost $700,000 to get 2% more of the vote than the clearly unelectable Ron Greer is simply not acceptable.

I saw a depressing sign at a Brewer game the other night that said "Brewers! - Let's get to .500!" It's a sign of low expectations when the most you can hope for is to win 50% of your games. My suggestion for the next Magnum campaign slogan - "Dave Magnum - 36% with a bullet!"

In 2006, the consultants will be lining up to take a whack at the Magnum Money Pinata, hoping his personal wealth falls to them. My only advice – don’t answer a call from Dr. Emil Shüffhausen.

Rejected possible title for this post: Magnum Pee-Yoo!

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Erpenbach Not Running Again?

A couple weeks ago, I mentioned rumors that former Senate Minority Leader Jon Erpenbach wouldn't be running for office again. His campaign finance report filed last week won't do anything to dispel those rumors. (.zip file)

Erpenbach's fundraising ground to a halt in the first half of 2005. In a time where legislators running in 2006 are making their big fundraising push, Erpenbach raised $150 in contributions, $100 of that from conduits. As you may recall, Erpenbach was fined by the State Elections Board (yes, there really is one) for "loaning" the State Senate Democratic Committe $21,000 in the last election, which essentially amounts to money laundering. His report reflects the $21,000 contribution made back to his account to correct this error and the $500 fine he paid.

Erpenbach also reports $4,158 in expenditures, mostly made to - Jon Erpenbach. Erpenbach reimburses himself for phone bills, golf, and meals. If you happened to be at Cheeseburger in Paradise on May 2nd, you may have seen him there spending his contributors' money.

While Erpenbach didn't have a Republican challenger in 2002, he still should be raising money to stave off a challenger in 2006 (Republicans won't win that seat without a five star candidate anyway). At the very least, he should be raising cash to send to send to other legislative candidates to help them out (legally).

My prediction - look for Erpenbach to assume a job in the executive branch making twice what he is now in the Senate. Sondy Pope-Roberts then becomes the favorite for that seat, despite disappointing fundraising numbers herself for 2005.

In related news, blueberry pancakes are fantastic.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Sufjan Stevens - Casimir Pulaski Day

On Sufjan Stevens' new CD "Illinois," there's a song that, as a friend put it, will "cut you into a thousand pieces." If you can listen to it without getting a little misty-eyed, then you are a stronger person than I.

To me, it perfectly captures the feeling of losing a loved one (in this case, to cancer.) It reflects the emptiness when you see a little trinket or dig up a small personal memory of someone you've lost. Just a great song (you can download the mp3 here). The lyrics:

Golden rod and the 4-H stone
The things I brought you
When I found out you had cancer of the bone

Your father cried on the telephone
And he drove his car to the Navy yard
Just to prove that he was sorry

In the morning through the window shade
When the light pressed up against your shoulder blade
I could see what you were reading

Oh the glory that the Lord has made
And the complications you could do without
When I kissed you on the mouth

Tuesday night at the bible study
We lift our hands and pray over your body
But nothing ever happens

I remember at Michael's house
In the living room when you kissed my neck
And I almost touched your blouse

In the morning at the top of the stairs
When your father found out what we did that night
And you told me you were scared

Oh the glory when you ran outside
With your shirt tucked in and your shoes untied
And you told me not to follow you

Sunday night when I cleaned the house
I find the card where you wrote it out
With the pictures of your mother

On the floor at the great divide
With my shirt tucked in and my shoes untied
I am crying in the bathroom

In the morning when you finally go
And the nurse runs in with her head hung low
And the cardinal hits the window

In the morning in the winter shade
On the first of March on the holiday
I thought I saw you breathing

Oh the glory that the Lord has made
And the complications when I see his face
In the morning in the window

Oh the glory when he took our place
But He took my shoulders and He shook my face
And He takes and He takes and He takes

Friday, July 22, 2005

Thanks - and Why Bloggers are Like Rappers

I don't have anything particulary good to share with anyone today (as if any of it is), so I thought I'd take time out to thank some people who have helped this blog get off the ground. Apparently, Charlie Sykes has acquired a computer virus that keeps linking to my articles. Bill Christofferson, Charlie's arch-nemesis in the Wisconsin Blog World, has been very encouraging from the start. Others who are frequent readers and occasionally link to my posts are Jessica McBride, Dean at the Thoughtful Conservative, Jib, John McAdams, Random10, Real Debate Wisconsin, and Dad29 (that guy is everywhere!)

What I've realized is that the blog world is very much like the rap world - one person gains fame an notoriety, then begins linking to others who then start to pick up readers. As I'm sure you remember, N.W.A. begat Doctor Dre, who begat Snoop Dogg, who begat Eminem, who begat 50 Cent, and on and on. In this spirit, figure my next move is to host a "Girls Gone Wild" video.

So, anyway, thanks to everyone who helps keep good news alive. I don't do a lot of linking to other blogs, so I wanted all of you to know that I read you constantly, and you all do great work.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Supreme Speculation: The John Roberts Guessing Game Begins

With President Bush’s selection of John Roberts as Sandra Day O’Connor’s successor on the U.S. Supreme Court, the hysteria regarding Roberts' views will now commence. Roberts became a federal judge in 2003, and little is known about how he might decide pivotal cases on the Court, but that will not keep interest groups from speculating.

In the upcoming days, you will see a substantial amount of speculation about Roberts’ temperament as a jurist. Much of it may turn out to be wrong. As a guide to what might be before us, I decided to look at the rhetoric surrounding another Republican-appointed Supreme Court nominee with a paucity of written opinions, David Souter. Some of the rhetoric may sound awfully familiar as Judge Roberts’ nomination moves through the U.S. Senate.

In 1990, President George Bush appointed David Souter, at the time a little known New Hampshire State Supreme Court judge and former State Attorney General, to the Supreme Court just three days after Justice William Brennan retired. Widely considered a conservative at the time of his nomination, Souter has morphed into a reliable vote for the left during his tenure. Did we know what was coming?

At the press conference held to announce Souter’s appointment, Bush said:

“His opinions reflect a keen intellect as well as wide balance between the theoretical and practical aspects of the law. Judge Souter is committed to interpreting, not making the law. He recognizes the proper role of judges in upholding the democratic choices of the people through their elected representatives, with constitutional constraints.”

Q: Did you ask Judge Souter his views on abortion? Do you know what his views are, and affirmative action, and all these things that have become so controversial - the major issues of the day?

A. No, and I had one meeting with Judge Souter. I was very impressed, but in my view it would have been inappropriate to ask him his views on specific issues… I did not, and would not, as I think I've said before, when I talked about - not just here but at other times - the litmus test approach. I wouldn't go into that with him.

Q. Does that mean you do not care what he thinks?

A. It means I have selected a person who will interpret the Constitution, and in my view not legislate from the Federal bench.

Q. You're not certain in your own mind how Justice Souter will vote if Roe v. Wade comes before the Court next term?

A. What I'm certain of is that he will interpret the Constitution, not legislate from the Federal bench…

…And when you see the background of this man, I'm confident the Senate will share my views. You're looking for fairness, you're looking for equity. I wrote down a bunch of words to help me make the determination, and I wish I had them, because they're all along those lines - experience. And I did say that I'd like somebody that will interpret the Constitution, not legislate.


Following the nomination, interest groups began to immediately formulate their opinions of Souter. Liberal groups decried the selection, pointing to cases Souter prosecuted as Attorney General of New Hampshire in which he urged that demonstrators arrested at the Seabrook nuclear power plant be given more than suspended sentences. He also argued, unsuccessfully, that it was constitutionally permissible to fly the American flag at half staff on Good Friday and that New Hampshire could force residents to carry the state slogan, ''Live Free or Die,'' on their license plates.

The liberal People for the American Way unearthed a document written by Souter in which he referred to abortion as “the killing of unborn children,” which prompted Kate Michelman of the National Abortion Rights Action League to say, “ the use of rhetoric commonly used by anti-choice extremists is profoundly alarming.”

Some choice quotes from pro-abortion groups in 1990:

Abortion rights advocates Tuesday escalated pressure on the Senate to reject Supreme Court nominee David Souter, warning of political reprisals against those who vote for him. We urge you to keep the faith of the American people and American women, women who will not forget who nominated the next justice and who confirmed him,said Faye Wattleton, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
USA Today, September 19, 1990

''To George Bush and others who would like us to think David Souter is a blank slate, NOW asks, 'Who are you kidding?' '' said Molly Yard, president of the National Organization for Women. She described Souter as ''almost neanderthal.'' NOW plans a ''Stop Souter'' rally Friday on Capitol Hill. National Abortion Rights Action League's Kate Michelman said Souter has to be rejected because he would not fully endorse a constitutional right to privacy - including the right to reproductive choice.
USA Today, September 19, 1990

"For the first time in history, the Supreme Court is on the brink of taking away a fundamental right: the right to choose," said Kate Michelman, executive director of the National Abortion Rights Action League. Her group urged the committee to "safeguard the health and lives of millions of American women by withholding their consent."
The Toronto Star, September 18, 1990

"He hasn't said what he thinks about the most important issue facing women today," said Donna Lenhoff, legal director for the pro-choice Women's Legal Defense Fund, as the hearing wrapped up yesterday. "We are very, very concerned."
The Toronto Star, September 18, 1990

In August of 1990, former Reagan nominee Robert Bork wrote an editorial in the New York Times that displayed optimism about Souter’s conservative temperament. He wrote:

The early signs about Judge David Souter are encouraging. He seems not to confuse judging with his own moral and political sympathies. If that proves to be so, he most certainly should be confirmed. If he is, the third branch of our Government will be well on its way to the function prescribed for it by the Constitution. Both our right to self-government and our liberties that the Constitution removes from majority rule will be fully protected.

Conservative groups also had their reservations about Souter, which ultimately turned out to be correct. Howard Phillips, chairman of The Conservative Caucus, said he was opposing Souter because of his service as a director of two New Hampshire hospitals that allow abortions. He also alarmed conservative senators. Senator Charles Grassley, an Iowa Republican, declared in disgust that his responses were those of a ''judicial activist'' (a judge who tries to legislate from the Bench).

Souter's Senate confirmation hearings went through without the future justice answering a single question about how he might decide an abortion case. It took him actually sitting on the Supreme Court to find out where he really stood.

As we now know, Souter ended up being an ardent friend of pro-abortion forces. Souter was a joint author of the most prominent abortion decision since Roe v. Wade, 1992’s Planned Parenthood vs. Casey. In that case, the majority opinion found that regulations on abortion would be unconstitutional if they imposed an“undue burden” on a woman’s right to an abortion. In that opinion, Souter wrote, “Our adoption of the undue burden analysis does not disturb the central holding of Roe v. Wade, and we reaffirm that holding.”

Souter has also been on the majority side of cases that upheld racial quotas in university admissions, banned the Ten Commandments on public property, struck down state sodomy laws, and a recent controversial case that reaffirmed the use of eminent domain by local governments to seize private property.

In the coming weeks, you will hear fiery rhetoric about how Judge Roberts is going to dismantle a woman’s right to an abortion. You will hear how he has a poor record with regard to civil rights. In the end, only one person knows how John Roberts will cast his vote as a Supreme Court Justice, and that is Judge John Roberts. For conservatives’ sake, let’s hope he holds his apparent conservative credentials dear.

Monday, July 18, 2005

The Five Best Democrats in Wisconsin

Inspired by all the talk of bipartisanship in the wake of Gaylord Nelson's death, I have taken it upon myself to engage in an unpleasant mental exercise – picking the best Democrats in Wisconsin. For the time being, I will ignore Ann Coulter's admonition that "there are some bad Republicans, but there are no good Democrats," and pick people who I believe most effectively carry the message of the Democratic Party. Xoff at Wispolitics.com , their in-house Democratic blogger, told me he would try to come up with a “Best Republicans” list, which I am sure he finds equally as unappealing.

Aided with the input of others, I set out on this monumentally difficult task to serve as a guide to who I believed best represented the Democratic Party in the state, in terms of honesty, integrity, and reasonableness. I made it my mission not to pick Democrats that I agreed with on certain issues, because then it would just become a list of “Most Conservative Democrats,” and who really cares about that, right? For that reason, I have specifically excluded pro-life Democrats, as they would quickly fill my list and make it meaningless. In fact, the more you disagree with me, the stronger case you have for being on the list.

The fun part of doing such a list is having to defend people that you normally would never support. When weighing possible additions to the list, it was akin to “would you rather be seen driving a Pinto or a Gremlin?” or “would you rather set fire to your own eyeballs or staple your lips to a zamboni machine?”

The parameters are as follows:

Honesty – Is this person genuine in what they believe, or are they overtly political? Do they say one thing and do another? Do they have ulterior motives behind their actions?

Integrity – How strong is their rhetoric? Do they criticize the other side constructively, or are they just partisan bomb throwers? Is there any moderation in their tone (not necessarily their positions) or do they merely criticize actions by Republicans as a knee-jerk reaction?

Reasonableness – Does this person strike you as someone that you could work with on issues and would give you a fair hearing? Even if they disagree, would they make an effort to understand your side?

With those criteria in mind, here is the final list from 5 to 1: (drumroll, please…)

5. Julie Lassa – State Senator, Stevens Point

Independent, and seems as though she would be easy to work with. Limits comments to what she believes in, rather than resorting to attacking Republicans. Broke with Governor Doyle and most other Democrats to override Doyle’s veto of “concealed carry” legislation, which shows she has a mind of her own. Vigorously defended her own integrity against ads linking her to Chuck Chvala. A leading contender for Dave Obey’s seat when he finally petrifies. Obliterated a Democratic primary opponent for her Senate seat (66% to 33%), despite her opponent spending over $400,000 and being backed by Doyle. Cute as a button.

Side note: The 2002 Alex Paul/Julie Lassa primary campaign was set to go down as the most disastrous primary in state history, until it was eclipsed two years later by the 2004 Mary Panzer/Glenn Grothman primary (80% to 20%). Seriously, this is like Mark McGwire breaking a 40 year old record by hitting 70 home runs, and Barry Bonds hitting 73 three years later.

4. Kathleen Falk – Dane County Executive

I had to type her name onto the list while holding my nose. Former Public Intervenor and potential Attorney General Candidate, currently serves an executive role in Dane County. Has positioned herself as a Democrat who understands the need for fiscal restraint – imposed her own “property tax freeze” parameters and has stuck by them. Very measured in her tone and rhetoric, and exudes professionalism. If she gets in the AG race, she will beat Peg Lautenschlager by a margin that resembles a U.S. versus Zaire Olympic “Dream Team”score.

3. Herb Kohl – U.S. Senator

How can one state have such two different Senators from the same party? While Russ Feingold is a self-congratulatory media hound with national aspirations, Herb Kohl quietly goes about his business. Has become the state’s most popular political figure, with Tommy Thompson gone. While Feingold serves his true constituents (nationwide editorial board members) Kohl bleeds Wisconsin. Proof to all the hyperventilating DC politicians that your popularity isn’t commensurate with the number of press releases you issue. Absolutely bulletproof – in the U.S. Senate as long as he wants to be. Will never receive another serious GOP contender in a state willing to elect Republicans statewide.

2. Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin - 2nd Congressional District

Can you remember the last inflammatory thing Tammy Baldwin said? A stalwart left winger who coats her positions in frosting to appeal to her constituents outside the Isthmus. Likely shares many of the positions that the looniest left wingers do (see her part in “Fahrenheit 911”), without the obnoxious rhetoric. From all accounts, a friendly, kind and genuine person. A regular at veterans’ events. I can’t imagine being any more diametrically opposed to someone, but for some reason I can’t shake the feeling that I don’t mind Tammy Baldwin being my Congresswoman. It just doesn’t make sense, and I might seek therapy as a result.

1. Spencer Coggs - State Senator, Milwaukee

On his way to being the pre-eminent African American political figure in state politics (if he isn’t already). Calm and reasoned, fights hard for liberal causes and ideals without using flame-throwing, over the top rhetoric like Gwen Moore, Lena Taylor, and others. Showed his independence by ripping his leadership over being left off the powerful Joint Finance Committee, a position he held in the Assembly. Senate Republicans are missing an opportunity to pick up an ally on certain social issues if they don’t reach out to Coggs. A Republican will never win his seat, so what harm does it do for him to look good in his district while helping Republicans on a vote here and there?

Just missed the list: State Representative Sheldon Wasserman, Milwaukee, and Mayor Tom Barrett, Milwaukee

Up-and-comer: State Representative Jason Fields, Milwaukee

Notables Not on the List:

Governor Jim Doyle - On my tentative list for a while, but I couldn't justify it with his actions on the tribal gaming compacts, which don't pass the ethical smell test. To have the tribes support your campaign financially to the extent that they did, then to turn around and give them an unlimited expansion of gambling in perpetuity is shady, regardless of whether you think there should be expanded gaming or not. Has not kept his word on not balancing the budget with tax increases, instead shifting the tax burden to property taxes. Otherwise, seems like a decent guy, despite his slipping poll numbers.

U.S. Senator Russ Feingold - I took a lot of heat for not including him on the list, as some have completely bought his line of being an "honest maverick." In the movie "Singles," Steve (played by Campbell Scott) approaches a woman at a bar, and tells her that he'd really like to meet her, but he really doesn't have a smooth "act." She promptly points out that his "not having an act" is his act. Feingold's not having an act is his act. He rolls up his sleeves and shows up at hearing session after hearing session, but his mind is clearly elsewhere. The only place more dangerous than being between Feingold and a microphone is between Ricky Williams and a bag of marijuana.

Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager - One word: Wow. Only elected official whose approval rating is lower than her blood alcohol level. From a previous column:

Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager’s comical attempt to personally prosecute North Woods Shooter Chai Vang has sparked more ideas for character rehabilitation for the AG. It has been announced that Lautenschlager will re-open the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial later this month. Lautenschlager also has plans to exhume the skeleton of Jeffery Dahmer to collect on some old parking tickets.

U.S. Representatives Ron Kind, Dave Obey, and Gwen Moore - No, Hell no, and God no.

Keep in mind I would, under no circumstances, support any of these individuals with my vote, and I would encourage everyone to vote against them if you get a chance. If you have any suggestions or want to rip me, feel free to e-mail me or comment below. If I get anything good, I'll post it. I'm actually most interested in hearing from Democrats, to see if I got it right.

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Other Lists:

As I said, in formulating my list, I solicited input from others. Discussions ensued, and my team of advisors submitted their lists to me. Here they are, with limited comments.

Advisor A:

5. Tony Staskunas, State Representative, West Allis
4. Bobbie Gronemus, State Representative, Whitehall
3. Julie Lassa, State Senator, Stevens Point
2. Peggy Krusick, State Representative, Milwaukee
1. Jeff Plale, State Senator, South Milwaukee

Comments: Note that Advisor A had no qualms about putting pro-life Democrats on the list (I think there are three). A quote: "Whether you are pro-life is inextricably linked to whether you are honest and whether you have integrity, so it is impossible to leave them off a list where you are judging those characteristics."

Advisor B:

5. Amy Sue Vruwink, State Representative, Milladore
4. Annette "Polly" Williams, State Representative, Milwaukee
3. Sheldon Wasserman, State Representative, Milwaukee
2. Mark Miller, State Senator, Monona
1. John Steinbrink, State Representative, Pleasant Prairie

Comments: Advisor B has a different tactic, saying that their favorite Democrats were ones that seemed nice but were completely ineffective in promoting Democratic legislation.

Advisor C:

5. Julie Lassa, State Senator, Stevens Point
4. Tammy Baldwin, Congresswoman
3. Jim Doyle, Governor
2. Kathleen Falk, Dane County Executive
1. Russ Feingold, U.S. Senator

Comments: Advisor C was more within the spirit of the exercise, but the pick of Feingold is inexcusable.

Friday, July 15, 2005

"Baghdad Bob" Now Employed at UW

UW Software Glitch Costs Taxpayers Millions - Report: Projected Shortfall Up To $28 Million

MADISON, Wis. -- A new University of Wisconsin System computer project is supposed to streamline operations by improving use and cutting costs, but a News 3 investigation finds that after years of work -- a massive computer upgrade is bogged down, offline and off budget, reports News 3's Linda Eggert in this I-Team report.

The "Lawson Project" aims to replace old mainframe technology with new comprehensive payroll software.

A News 3 investigation finds after years of work, and tens of millions of dollars, system officials still can't say when it will be powered up or how much it will cost.

"We have spent more money at this point than the people who initially envisioned the project thought we would have spent five years out, and we're not as far along as they thought we would be," said Don Mash, chairman of the steering committee for the APBS/Lawson project, which is an unprecedented endeavor that will impact every UW System campus and its 42,000 workers statewide.

"There's no 'go live' date," said Mash, who also insists the project is not off track. When News 3's Linda Eggert asked him if the project is on hold, he said, "Well, it is, and it isn't."

"Everyone who's implemented a APBS system has had major challenges," Mash said.

Still, News 3 finds continuing concern over the project's past and future. In February, private consultant Diane Haubner was hired to identify the remaining "risks" to launching the payroll project. She found 124 of them.

"It's a lot for the stage of the project," Haubner said.

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No long-winded speeches about waste at the UW System. For that, go here. I enjoy the Don Mash "keep moving, nothing to see here" strategy. But it is clear, the UW has become a pinata - taking a beating and leaking tax money.

New Super-Mice Plot World Domination

U research raises hope of reversing Alzheimer's (Minneapolis Star Tribune, July 14)

University of Minnesota researchers have reversed memory loss in mice with Alzheimer's disease, raising the tantalizing possibility that the same thing can be done in humans.
Their findings may also challenge long-held assumptions about how the debilitating disease destroys memory and intellect, resulting in dementia for millions of people.


What exactly were these mice forgetting? Where they put their car keys? Where they last saw the remote control? How to play Rachmaninoff's "Etude-tableau In D Major" on the oboe?

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Exxtra Thick Hypocrisy

So the Sierra Club, Wisconsin's most prominent environmental group, forms a group to attack Exxon for their perceived anti-environmental record. They call the group "Exxpose Exxon," and arm themselves with this press release. From the release:

“For years, ExxonMobil has intentionally put its own profits above a clean environment and the health of America’s families. As a result, we are asking all Americans not to accept a new job at ExxonMobil, invest in the company, or to buy ExxonMobil’s gas and products,” stated the ExxposeExxon coalition in a letter sent today to ExxonMobil CEO Lee Raymond.

Pretty much par for the course. But there's a twist.

According to state lawmakers' ethics reports, in which they disclose their financial interests, four legislators have substantial stock holdings in Exxon. They are Republican Rep. Rob Kreibich, Democratic Rep. Terese Berceau, Democratic Senator Robert Wirch, and Democratic patriarch Senator Fred Risser. Listing Exxon on your report means you have to have between $5,000 and $50,000 in Exxon stock. Risser deserves special notice for his holding over $50,000 in Exxon. Many legislators hold mutual funds that invest heavily in Exxon and likely don't even realize it.

Of course, on September 1st of 2004, the Sierra Club actually gave Risser and Berceau awards for their leadership on the environment in a Capitol ceremony. From a Capital Times article:

"In accepting his award today, Risser said a good environment is essential for good jobs. 'Those people who make a distinction are wrong,' he said."

"Berceau said voting 100 percent for the environment was not difficult. 'It was the right thing to do,' she said, focusing on the link between a clean environment and health. 'We have more kids with asthma and more cancer, but we focus on curing instead of preventing.'"

Um... right thing to do, unless you personally profit from companies that pollute.

For a complete list of voting report cards for state legislators given by the Sierra Club, go here. You know the drill - what the Sierra Club deems important makes Democrats look good, and makes Republicans look like they actually sneak out at night personally to pour cyanide in rivers and lakes.

I will hold my breath waiting for a press release from the Sierra Club condemning Risser, Berceau, and Wirch for personally profiteering off an oil company that they call "deceptive" and "irresponsible," and say "intentionally put its own profits above a clean environment and the health of America’s families."

Still holding...

Turning blue...

Someone might want to call 911...

Thoughts on Gaylord Nelson

I watched the Gaylord Nelson memorial service on TV today, and wanted to share a few thoughts.

The actual ceremony was impressive. The speeches were kind, thoughtful, and moving. It looks like Marc Marotta got a noticeably raw deal in the seating arrangement. I learned a lot about a man who I actually met once (in 1999), and was nothing but kind to me.

Personally, I often live my own life knowing that I'm building towards something, but not really knowing exactly what. I know that I'm trying to achieve something, I just don't have clear cut goals. I figure that at some point my lack of desire, my body, or my wife will tell me when I'm done building, and I can move on into retirement, play golf, and let people who are my age now run the show. I can then look back and judge what I did, and hopefully it all adds up.

Gaylord Nelson lived a different life altogether. He had specific and lofty goals. He built and built and built, and never stopped. When doors closed on him, he opened them. Despite his enormous accomplishments, including his time as Governor and Senator, he kept working and attaining until his death. There was no time to sit back and reflect, as he always saw problems that needed fixing.

When we die, all that is left of us are the memories that we leave with our friends and families, along with our tangible living accomplishments. Your sprit stays alive in the positive experiences you provide others. The endless stream of kind words spoken at the memorial service today showed that Gaylord Nelson will be alive for generations. If I have friends remember me half as fondly as today's remembrances, I will think I did alright (although it is unlikely Walter Mondale will be attending my funeral).

These are lessons, I think, that resonate regardless of your political affiliation. If someone neglects drawing inspiration from someone's spirit and determination based on their political beliefs, then they really are missing out.

Now back to the off-color jokes.

A Conservative Case for the Little Guy

You’ve been to Best Buy – admit it. You’ve navigated the aisles there around the loud, fat woman on the cell phones. You’ve weaved your way around the teenage couple who has nowhere to go after school, so they decide to perform a joint tonsillectomy in the Rap/Soul section. You imagine the only reason someone needs to be that far down someone’s throat is because the cure for cancer is lodged in his esophagus.

You walk around, aisle after aisle, and soak in the technology. The employees that know anything about their products are likely hiding out in a cave in Afghanistan, as they are nowhere to be found. Finding a copy of “Lord of the Rings” is anti-climactic, because you feel like you’ve just lived Frodo’s journey to get to the right section (Drama? Comedy? Adventure? Adult? Golem is naked after all.)

The store takes up an entire zip code. It may be quicker to Fed Ex yourself to the washing machine section. They ask you for your phone number and your zip code, most likely to keep tabs on you for when Himmler returns from the grave to get his revenge. They will push an expensive service plan on you as if they were Sipowicz trying to break your will. There’s an 11% chance your credit card will go through within 3 swipes. You will get a 14 foot long receipt when all you purchased was a mouse pad (seriously, environmental groups need to take a stand on this issue – trees are dying needless deaths to supply Americans with unnecessarily long receipts. I see this being a big issue in the ’06 races.)

The sheer volume of product being sold from these large stores makes them revenue machines. They benefit local communities by providing lower cost products, employing a ton of people, and generating gobs of sales tax revenue (“gobs” being an official accounting term).

And guess what? I can't stand them.

When many of these “big box” stores are built, pro-business developers that push them on the community generally appeal to free market conservatism, using the points I discussed above. According to free market principles, lower cost products stimulate economic growth, which allows businesses to hire more people, which puts money in their pockets to spend. All of these are indisputable points.

Economic conservatism, however, is a coin that has two sides. For too long, conservatism has been used to defend grotesque excess, when it actually makes an equal case for economic restraint. It all depends on what an individual values – if you are looking for the cheapest product, Best Buy is for you. There are, however, non-economic costs to shopping there, in the form of large crowds, poor service, bad locations, etc. To me, there is a substantial benefit to avoiding all of these hurdles.

There’s a little CD store I pass every day on my way to and from work. The guys behind the counter know my name. When I go in, they alert me to the fact that an album from a band I like has come out. They suggest new discs based on what I like. They have a stand where you can throw on the headphones and listen to virtually any CD in the store before you buy. When you get a disc, they take the plastic wrapping and stickers off for you. If they don’t have a disc (or vinyl album) that you want, you can put in an order and generally have it within a day or two. They sell used CDs for half price.

Sure, I may pay a buck more per disc, but when I buy twelve, I get one free. When I buy music, I know that my money is going to help these guys stay employed and pay their rent, so they can keep helping me. To me, that is valuable.

Madison and the East Side of Milwaukee are rampant with residents that resist any and all types of commercialism. They would rather a blighted lot stay empty and infested with hypodermic needles than a Walgreen’s or Starbucks move in. All these people will allow in their neighborhoods are art galleries, organic food co-ops, and fair trade coffeehouses, so good properties stand empty. A lot of these people will defend Saddam Hussein before they will defend Wal-Mart. This is extremism that truly is bad for the economy. Regardless of the inhabitant, people need to be employed, tax revenue needs to be collected, and people need to be given a reason to walk the streets to shop.

As I said, I don’t begrudge Best Buy or Home Depot or Wal-Mart or any other big store from doing business in my city, and I’m certainly not a smarty-art extremist. Big box stores create government revenue that the York household doesn’t have to make up though higher property taxes. The trickle-down economic effects are overwhelmingly positive. People who don’t have the luxury of paying a little extra for their goods and services can get them at lower cost.

I just don’t prefer them. I value locally owned businesses, and getting the personal service that I do at these little stores is irreplaceable to me. I prefer to exercise my free market prerogative to spend my money where I find the most value, and that doesn’t necessarily mean economic value. I would never tell anyone not to shop at large stores, but I would encourage people to give their locals a try. You might be surprised. In many cases, the difference is like the difference between flying first-class and coach, for very little extra money. And because of your business, I will still be able to shop there.

Conservatism doesn’t always have to mean bigger – it makes an equal case for better.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

The Blog that Keeps You Safe

Okay, some of you might remember this column from last week (the one that set off parental filter alarms around the state). I didn't intend to cover this topic again, but this story is too funny, and proves that law enforcement in Northwest Wisconsin are Dennis York fans.

A Minneapolis man accused of sexual assault while wearing spandex pants was bound over for trial during a preliminary hearing last Friday (July 8).

St. Croix County Circuit Court Judge Edward F. Vlack set an arraignment hearing for Michael Scott Long, 36, July 19 at 2:30 p.m. A $5,000 signature bond was continued. The courtroom was closed during the proceedings over the objections of defense attorney Daniel F.DeMaio.

During the hearing Assistant District Attorney Frank Collins informed the court the state could file intimidation charges against Long. Collins also was granted a request for an investigator to accompany a witness to her vehicle.

Long was charged with second-degree sexual assault as a persistent repeater following an incident Oct. 24, 2004, at the Country Inn Suites in River Falls.

The criminal complaint alleged Long hugged an 18-year-old female desk clerk several times without permission while wearing spandex pants and made lewd comments.

Long has been charged with disorderly conduct and lewd lascivious behavior following previous incidents in Hudson and New Richmond when he entered businesses while wearing spandex pants. Court records said he has indecent exposure convictions in Minnesota and Colorado.

Okay, point #1 - How funny is it that the guy's name is "Long" and the prosecuting attorney's name is "Frank?" I want this case to go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, so I can read about the "Long/Frank" case for indecent exposure.

Point #2 - What would possibly be the purpose in pointing out THREE TIMES in the story that the guy was wearing spandex? Still thinking? I'll give you another minute...

...because Mr. Long was clearly in violation of Wisconsin Statute 942.08(1)(a)!

I think I can humbly and accurately state that he would never have been caught without my groundbreaking essay. In fact, I now think it is likely I will be called to testify in this case. If I am, there is a 100% chance I will show up in court wearing full body length spandex (and a tie, out of respect for the court). I better not say any more, as it might taint my testimony.

I'm not a big fan of the death penalty, but in this case it should be utilized, just so Long can get his wish of being stiff in perpetuity.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Best and Worst State Government Reporters

I have run every report ever filed by these state government reporters through a complex formula to determine how good each one is. The indisputable results are as follows:

THE BEST

Frederica Freyberg – Wisconsin Public Television

Wisconsin’s version of Tim Russert, host of “Here and Now,” which unfortunately is viewed weekly by fewer people than viewed my last prostate exam. Fair interviewer, gives it to both sides, and understands the issues. Knows the difference between state government and the federal government, which for TV is a plus, but not a requirement. Handles the transitions beautifully between serious topics and people playing the fiddle with their feet. Has to speak very slowly for the show's target demographic, World War I veterans.

JR Ross – Associated Press

Solid, reliable, if unspectacular.

Stacy Forster – Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

Relative newcomer with an impressive research ethic. Doesn’t rely solely on information given to her by political combatants. Doesn’t cave in to spin from either side. Prolific – seems to write 37 stories per week.

Todd Richmond – Associated Press

See “JR Ross”

David Callendar – Madison Capital Times

Kind of a backhanded compliment, but is the fairest of the left-wing Capital Times reporters. That’s kind of like saying “he’s a good kisser for a guy with no lips.” I have no idea what that means.

THE WORST

Matt Pommer – Madison Capital Times

When I give a name to the annual “worst reporter” award, it will be named the “Matt Pommer Award for Excrement in Reporting.” A corpse who nobody realized died seven years ago, the Capital Times has pulled a “Weekend at Bernie’s” with Pommer and propped him up in the Capitol to “report” on events. Despite his assumption of room temperature, still manages to pump out semi-lucid left wing opinion pieces that are actually taken seriously in areas of the state that don’t know better. Only columnist ever to fit points about the War in Iraq, John Gard living in Sun Prairie, and global warming into the same column.

Phil Brinkman – Wisconsin State Journal

Automatically assumes the top slot when Pommer’s death is exposed (perhaps reported by Pommer himself). Brinkman, who thinks everyone is corrupt and writes stories solely to back up his point of view, could take a story about firefighters rescuing a cat from a tree and make it into a Watergate-style cover-up scheme. For example, reported recently that UW-Madison Chancellor John Wiley attended a fundraiser for State Senator Ted Kanavas, because Kanavas sits on the Joint Finance Committee and holds the key to UW funding. Sounds juicy, right? Except, oops, Kanavas actually wasn’t on Joint Finance and had nothing to do with the UW budget. Actually checking your facts apparently is too much of a hurdle. Often files a formal open records request without ever even calling and asking for the info first, which would get him the same info without him appearing like a moron. About as likeable as a parking cop.

Tom Sheehan – Lee Newspapers

Instead of writing actual stories, Sheehan could just file a report that says “I’m Tom Sheehan, and I am clearly smarter and funnier than you.” Relies more on dazzling us with his wit than actual reporting. Reports naked political gamesmanship as if it is actually meaningful. Writes for Lee Newspapers, which nobody knows what the hell is. Phil Brinkman just started writing for Lee, which makes the Sheehan/Brinkman pairing the worst since Jen and Ben in "Gigli." Reporters at Al-Jazeera probably say "man, that guy is sloppy."

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Steve Walters of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel fits into his own category, which is somewhere between “best” and “worst.” He’s been a reliable reporter since the formation of Stonehenge, but still falls for spin too often. He does very little investigative work – it seems like he’s always reporting on the obvious things everyone knows about anyway. Then again, he’s a couple years away from a fat pension – would you really bust your tail to get a hot tip on Tom Reynolds when you're going to be doing tequila body shots off some Aruban waitress in six months?

Interestingly, Walters collaborates on a lot of stories with Stacy Forster, which has "Lethal Weapon 5" written all over it - the old, grizzled reporter teams up with the hotshot rookie for one last job. There is a 90% chance one of them ends up dangling perilously above a vat of molten lava in the next month, with the other one rushing to save them. Maybe Phil Brinkman will be there to file an open records request with the bad guys.

Special awards go to Ryan Foley of the AP for “best up and comer,” and the folks at Wispolitics for “best anonymous reporting,” since a lot of their work isn’t bylined.

I know I’m leaving people out, but for some, that might be a good thing. I don't know nor have ever met any of these people, these are just my obervations and what I have heard from Capitol sources. They are likely all wonderful people. Take note – there’s really not a lot to say about the good reporters, because they just do their job without a lot of frills.

UPDATE: This post was written before I saw this ridiculous article by Forster and Walters today about the budget passing "in the middle of the night." I covered this issue at length a few weeks ago here and here.

Exactly what difference does it make what time the budget is passed? I'm sure hardware store owner Dave Warren was one of the millions of Wisconsonites listening intently on the internet all day for passage of the budget. What percentage of Wisconsin citizens knew the budget was on the floor that day? Less than one? Would Dave Warren have loved this budget if it passed at 3:30 PM?

Secondly, late passage of the budget is due almost solely to the minority party offering amendment after amendment to push passage into the night. The majority party would be out of there in five minutes without minority amendments. They do so because they know they will get a story exactly like the one written by Walters and Forster today - they just take it hook, line, and sinker. Stories like this only guarantee that the same charade will occur in the next budget.

Just poor, poor reporting.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Quick Observations, Part 2

I’m always entertained when people speculate as to who “won” the battle of the state budget. To settle it once and for all, we need have Jim Doyle on one side of a podium and the Legislature on the other side. With Virgil standing behind her fanning out $100 bills (like he used to do for the Million Dollar Man Ted Dibiase), Supreme Court Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson would then declare a winner, who would then get to hold the championship belt until the next budget amid trash talk between the sides.

I saw “Batman Begins” this weekend and it was so good, I was inspired to go out and fight crime. I immediately went to PDQ and sat there for 12 hours, waiting for it to be robbed. Unfortunately, the only criminal act I witnessed was the fact that they were selling boxes of Gobstoppers for $1.29.

Rumors are circling that former Senate Minority Leader Jon Erpenbach will not seek re-election next year. Erpenbach, as you recall, won the Olympic gold medal in the 200 meter backstroke last summer, beating out American favorite Michael Phelps. Phelps was clearly devastated when he was beaten by a paunchy 43 year old, who was actually smoking a cigarette and had a blood alcohol level of .32 as he swam. Erpenbach is looking forward to spending time training for the newest Olympic event, the "neighborhood pool fence jump."

Ever notice that on “The Wiggles” they never allow the Asian Wiggle to drive the Big Red Car? Is that because he’s a narcoleptic?

Is there a more under-covered story than Frank Boyle reportedly urinating in his pants at the police station when he was arrested for DUI earlier this year? Next time someone says "something doesn’t pass the smell test" on the floor of the Assembly, they might want to check Boyle’s trousers.

Last week, I shaved off my goatee. Yesterday, wouldn’t you know it, I was walking down the street and saw someone else wearing it! I tried to wrestle it off the fellow, but for some reason, he resisted. Finally, we exchanged library card numbers and went our separate ways.

I was watching the Brewer game a couple weeks ago, when Prince Fielder hit his first major league home run. Hysterical announcer Daron Sutton acted as if Fielder instead walked out to the middle of the field and converted bread to fish for the Miller Park crowd. Sutton, a former pitcher, clearly has seen plenty of home runs in his time, otherwise he wouldn't be announcing baseball games - he'd be pitching in them.

If there were ever an Olympic competition for spinning a bag of Wonder Bread to close it after use, I would win the gold medal every time. That is, until they found out I use steroids to get as good as I am.

If you're ever stuck an at airport and have to resort to people watching, there are two games that are sure to keep you entertained. Game one: "Gay... or European?" Game two: "Father... or lover?" And you have to pause between the choices. Funny every time.

One of the funnier recent developments has to be rappers getting into the soft drink business. This weekend, I tried some of Nelly’s “Pimp Juice,” then I sat back waiting for five strung out, syphilis infected street women to show up at my house, urging me to slap them around. Still waiting, nothing yet. My dog did hump my Playstation, so I’m holding out hope that it’s working a little bit.

I rewired my alarm clock so now when the alarm goes off, I fall asleep instantly.

Yep, I think this pretty much sums up Europeans. (Warning: absolutely NOT work friendly.)Apparently "Ding Dong Song (You Touch My Tra-La-La)" by Gunther & The Sunshine Girls is the #1 song in Sweden right now. And we base our foreign policy on what these people think? 5 bucks to anyone who can watch the whole thing through.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Time Magazine: The Supreme Court in Fingerpaint

Time Magazine doesn't even attempt to whitewash their biases anymore, and they never miss an opportunity to talk down to their readers. For example, take this diagram of the U.S. Supreme Court, where they color code (red for the red states, blue for the blue) the justices. Furthermore, they split them into dark colors (staunch) or light colors (moderate). And guess what? All the conservatives except Anthony Kennedy are "staunch," while all the liberals are "moderates." The text of the accompanying article even refers to Ginsburg and Breyer as "stalwarts of the court's liberal wing." Those two justices are probably fighting for next month's centerfold in "The Progressive" magazine.

Aside from this obvious bias, how pretentious is it to color code justices? Is that for those of us who get the Supreme Court confused with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? In order to make it perfectly clear for their puerile readers, they should have included cartoon icons next to the justices: A plate of steaming tortellini next to Scalia (the hot blooded Italian one), a two-for-one coupon at Payless Shoes for Ginsburg (the crafty Jewish one) a Coke can with a pubic hair on it next to Thomas, and so on and so forth. I would personally like to thank Time for boiling down the complexity and thoughtfulness of the Supreme Court to a color chart. Next week - our Iraq exit strategy mapped out in Legos.

Keep Your Laws Out of My Pants

I have a “bone” to pick with our state government.

Taxes are too high, overregulation is stifling our economy, we are at war, and the balance of the Supreme Court is in question. However, our news media has missed one crucial story that may trump the rest in importance. I bring you Wisconsin State Statute 942.08(1)(a), the definition of “public nudity,” which states:

942.08(1)(a)
(a) "Nude or partially nude person" means any human being who has less than fully and opaquely covered genitals, pubic area or buttocks, any female human being who has less than a fully opaque covering over any portion of a breast below the top of the nipple, or any male human being with covered genitals in a discernibly turgid state.

That’s right: boners are illegal in Wisconsin.

The thought police are on the prowl – how is it possible for any male to short circuit the direct line (the “Batphone, if you will) between his brain and his pants? I believe it is my right as an American to walk in public in any “state” that I feel is appropriate.

Suppose I want to go out and get my mail after a couple hours of watching MTV's "Spring Break Weekend." Would the cops rush up to my door and slap the cuffs on (or in this case, one small cuff)? Would I have to sit in a jail cell with murderers, rapists, and plagiarizers and have to explain that I was in there because a cable station decided to play “Charlie’s Angels” reruns in the afternoon?

Can you imagine the floor debate on the insertion of this law? Was it tucked discreetly into a larger bill? Did it con its way into state law by buying the statute books a few drinks and playing some Marvin Gaye records?

I imagine the floor debate went something like this:

Pro-boner ban representative: "Mr. Speaker, I rise in order to speak about a danger that is plaguing society. Kids these days with their rap music and boners are going to eradicate humanity. Keep in mind, I have no idea how children are made or that stiffies are essential to procreation."

Anti-boner ban representative: "Mr Speaker, I would like to rise, but unfortunately I am having trouble standing up right now without making an embarassing adjustment."

(This representative accepted lucrative campaign contribution from Swedish "pump" companies.)

This law doesn't discriminate on the basis of age. If you're an elderly Viagra user and your condition persists for more than four hours, you may have to consult an attorney before you consult your physician. For teenage boys, cops could round up sting operations at the same time the Kohl's womens' underwear ads are mailed. The Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue coming to my house would have turned into the OJ trial.

If you find yourself potentially in violation of the law, calm down, lock your doors and windows, and turn on the WNBA for five minutes. This is guaranteed to clear it right up.

This cosmic injustice must be corrected. Some brave legislator must stand up, tall and strong, and challenge the otherwise flaccid Legislature to repeal this law. My suggestion: Representative Jeff Wood.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Thanks, Greg

I want to devote a quick entry to thank Greg Bump and the folks at Wispolitics.com for their budget blog, which gives people who might not be interested in staying up through the night a chance to see how things really happen on the floor. I know it's his job, but that doesn't mean his work isn't appreciated and valuable. It really is great to have everything on record in an understandable format.

Side note: When Greg writes that everyone is so tired they want to jump off the Capitol dome, I suspect he is projecting his own feelings. Just a theory.