Thursday, December 29, 2005

Excerpts from Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years

It being a slow news week, I thought I'd share some of the more interesting parts of a book I'm reading now. Here are a couple excerpts from Carl Sandburg's biography of Lincoln, The Prairie Years. This should be interesting reading for anyone that thinks that the good old days were days of clean and honest politics, and some of the parallels to today are stunning.

Here's how Springfield ended up becoming the Illinois State Capital:

Lincoln led the "Long Nine" in finding the votes in the legislature to pass a bill moving the capital of the state from Vandalia to Springfield. Other counties besides Sangamon were hustling for the location; it went to Springfield mainly because of the patient and skilled manipulation of Lincoln. A few members voted for the bill because they liked Lincoln, but most of the voters came through trades, deals, "log-rolling." "You scratch my back and I'll scratch yours."

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When a bill came up in the legislature to throw off to the territory of Wisconsin the fourteen northern counties of the State of Illinois, he fought to defeat it. He wanted Illinois to have Chicago, a port on one of the Great Lakes within its borders, connecting the West with the East. If the measure had won, it would have left Illinois depending on the Ohio and Mississippi rivers for water transportation, with its main economic outlets toward the South, with its future tied closer to the South. The bill was beaten by a vote of 70 to 11.

What if this bill had passed? Can you imagine Chicago, Wisconsin? This is why Lincoln was a genius - even he knew that Packer and Bear fans could never live together.

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Here's one that should sound familiar:

Among Illinois Whigs there were regrets. They carried their national ticket, but lost the state to the Democrats. This put a new color on a case they were interested in. Months earlier they had charged the Democrats with fraud in voting; thousands of Irish workmen in the canal zone had started a test action before a circuit judge who ruled that foreign born inhabitants must be naturalized before they could vote. The Democrats took the case to the Supreme Court, knowing that if they lost thecase they would lose thousands of votes.

Then came the newly elected legislature into session, with a Democratic majority holding power through the ballots of the canal-zone workers. This was the hour Stephen Douglas, register of the land office, seized; he wrote a draft of a bill; he made a speech in the rotunda of the capitol asking the legislature to pass the bill; the bill passed and became law; it threw out of office four circuit-court judges, set up five new supreme court judgeships, and arranged for the legislature to appoint nine new judges, who would be the supreme court of the state besides doing the work of the circuit-court judges who were thrown out. The bill passed the senate by a vote of 22 to 17, and the house by a vote of 45 to 40. By this move the Democrats saved the canal-zone vote for their party, appointed Democrats as clerks in half the counties of the state as provided in the bill, and placed Stephen A. Douglas, who could no longer be register of the land office under a Whig national administration, on the bench as a supreme court judge.

During this session of the legislature there were bitter feelings between the Whigs and Democrats. The voting was often close. Once when the Democrats wanted a quorum and the Whigs didn't, the Democrats locked the door of the house so as to keep the quorum in. Lincoln, Joe Gillespie, and another Whig raised a window and jumped out and hid.

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And here's a lesson for all the sissies that run for office now:

Besides wit and personality, a man had to have bulldog courage and a “constitution like a horse" to stand up in the game. When Stuart was running against Steven A. Douglas for Congress in 1838 the two Shucks grappled, and "fought like wildcats" back and forth over the floor of Herndon's grocery till each was too tired to hit another blow. When Stuart came to, he ordered a barrel of whisky for the crowd.

Lincoln, a while later, sending news to Stuart in Washington, wrote "Yesterday Douglas, having chosen to consider himself insulted by something in the Journal, undertook to cane Francis [the editor] in the street. Francis caught him by the hair and jammed him back against a market cart, where the matter ended by Francis being pulled away from him. The whole affair was so ludicrous that Francis and everybody else, Douglas excepted, have been laughing about it ever since."

I am 100% for a policy where politicians can challenge newspaper editors to a fight in the middle of the street. This needs to become law in 2006.

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There's also a great story of how Lincoln agreed to marry the sister of a friend of his, if his friend could get her sister to move to Illinois. She did, and the sister turned out to be homely and obese. So Lincoln mulled over whether he should keep his word for a few months, then decided to ask her to marry him. When she said "no," he was shocked. It had never occurred to him that she may not want to marry him! So he was hurt by a woman he never wanted to marry in the first place. He wrote a letter to his friend, ending with:

"Others have been made fools of by the girls; but this can never with truth be said about me. I most emphatically, in this instance, made a fool of myself. I have now come to the conclusion never again to think of marrying, and for this reason: I can never be satisfied with any one who would be blockheaded enough to have me."

Amen.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Lincoln Bleg

"Bleg?" Is that the right word for when you ask your readers for something?

Anyway, part of the reason I haven't been posting much is that I have been working my way through Carl Sandburg's Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years, which I checked out from the library. In reading it, I wanted to do some highlighting and take some notes (yes, I am a complete dork), so I'm looking for a copy to buy. Problem is, it looks like in most modern versions, The Prairie Years and The War Years have been condensed into one volume. I can't find just a version of The Prairie Years by itself.

Any suggestions on where to look? E-mail me or post a comment below. And yes, I will bore everyone with the details when I'm done reading it. A lot of great stuff.

UPDATE: Thanks to those who helped me look - I think I found what I was looking for. I'm glad I did - I checked the condensed modern version at Borders and it leaves out huge sections that I found most interesting.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Jenifer Finley Falls Off Her High Horse

In the grand scheme of things that matter to me, Jenifer Finley's recent employment situation ranks just below the accumulation of dry toothpase at the base of my toothbrush. But when political appointees start to make grand statements about how pure they are, I get suspicious. So I did a little digging.

As you recall, Finley recently savaged Vrakas for presenting a budget that wasn't "fiscally conservative" enough. She said, in a statement released on Christmas Eve entitled "I Can No Longer Sit Silent":

"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 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."


Vrakas' sin was that he "allowed" a property tax increase of $2.5 million for county services. Conservatives saw this as a property tax increase, when Vrakas actually lowered the tax rate. So people were paying a lower rate, but because their property values increased, the effect was to increase revenue to the county by $2.5 million. This same game of semantics happens every budget in every local government.

Now let's look at the 2004 budget proposed by Finley's husband, former County Executive Dan Finley. According to a September 2004 article by Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter Scott Williams, Dan Finley's 2004 budget increased taxes by $3.3 million, for an increase of 4% over the previous year. In fact, Finley actually used this $3.3 million tax increase as evidence that Wisconsin doesn't need a Taxpayer Bill of Rights, since he called the 4% increase a "freeze."

In 2003, Dan Finley introduced a budget that increased taxes by $3.5 million, for an increase of 4.4% that year. In 2002, it was $2.9 million, for an increase of 4% over the previous year. You get the picture.

So now where again was Jenifer Finley's high minded rhetoric about conservative values when her husband Dan was proposing tax increases greater than what Vrakas proposed? Was she issuing press releases saying she could no longer remain married to a man who couldn't propose "a conservative budget?" Can she "no longer sit silent" because she did so for so many years while her husband jacked up taxes? What were all these great spending cutting ideas that she foisted on Vrakas that she never was able to talk her husband into?

This is why I think Jenifer Finley's whole act is a charade. I have no special insight into the situation, but I imagine she did something to make her presence in Vrakas' office unbearable. Vrakas canned her, and now she's out to get her pound of flesh from him. Regardless of what happened between herself and Vrakas, she knew the conservatives would jump at the bait in her defense if she threw the tax increase chum out there in the water.

Regardless of what you think of Dan Vrakas' budgeting and hiring practices (the latter are obviously awful), firing Jenifer Finley was the right thing to do. Waukesha County is better for it. It is time for everyone to "heal and move on," which Finley ironically urged everyone to do in her Christmas Eve Massacre letter as she was knifing Vrakas in the back.

Oh, and James Wigderson has a great post summarizing the blogosphere's take on "Finleygate," complete with valuable links.

Thomas Sowell is My Homey

Okay, that might be stretching it. But a while back, I did write a post about how paying our elected representatives more would improve the quality of our politicians. Today, Sowell wrote a column agreeing with me. Or I agree with him, or something like that. Anyway, it's kind of cool to make the same point as someone whose intellect you admire and respect so much, especially since I can barely spell the word "intellect."

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Who Is Making All That Oil Money Again? Part II

Everyone is aware of the continuing dog and pony show politicians are engaging in to blame oil companies for their recent profits. In fact, here is an example of this charade just today. But this little clip showed up in Wispolitics today that points out the benefactors of these profits might not be who you think (read more here):

Ironically, pharmaceutical and energy companies - which politicians have accused of gouging the public - have contributed the greatest gains to the state's $70 billion public pension fund, according to figures through Sept. 30, the latest available from those who run the fund. Retirees often depend on the checks they receive from the agency that administers that fund - the State of Wisconsin Investment Board (SWIB) - to pay their medical and utility bills.Through the first three-quarters of this year, energy and pharmaceutical companies - including Exxon, Chevron, British Petroleum and Amgen - have added more than $345 million to the State of Wisconsin Investment Board's portfolio.

So we have a Democratic governor and state senators who complain incessantly that oil company profits are evil, when in fact those same profits are going to benefit state employees. So instead of dragging oil executives to a phony hearing that accomplished nothing, why can't Doyle, Decker, and Robson write a bill that sends those profits back to Wisconsin consumers? They are perfectly capable of shifting those poisonous profits out of the state's retirement fund and into the hands of Wisconsin's citizens, who have been "gouged." They can't control how much private stockholders (like Russ Decker and Fred Risser) profit from oil companies, but they can certainly control how much the state is willing to benefit.

Of course, they're not truly interested in doing anything substantial, they are only interested in the occasional insultingly puerile press release.

Paul Barrows' Dream



A photo from today's Capital Times.

I'm sure their parents are proud. If my daughter goes through a "feminist" phase in college, I will go through a "withdrawing her college savings account" phase.

A note to college guys: If you see either of these girls at any time, or any woman wearing an "I Love Emergency Contraceptive" t-shirt, OFFER THEM A DRINK. IMMEDIATELY. In fact, you may want to carry around a flask of Midori Sour in your pocket, in case of emergency.

Monday, December 19, 2005

UW Begins Search for New Dean at Local Hooters



Madison – University of Wisconsin System President Kevin Reilly today announced the UW’s plans to begin a statewide search for their next dean at area Hooters restaurants. “Only someone that sits at the bar at Hooters all afternoon can truly improve the quality of individual we’re looking for to lead our universities,” said Reilly while wiping sweet baby back barbeque sauce off of his mustache.

The UW System has recently received a great deal of negative publicity stemming from the behavior of their administrators. Paul Barrows, the appropriately titled Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs at UW-Madison, has been removed from his position for alleged sexual harassment and for running through the women on campus like he had a week to live. UW-Whitewater Dean Lee Jones has been accused of using $50,000 in money for his own personal uses, and other UW employees have spent time in prison for sexually assaulting young girls and stalking young boys on the internet.

"There's no question we need to improve the ethical conduct of our university leadership, because it can't get any worse," said Reilly. "We know we can raise our ethical standard by hiring individuals that sit around, drink beer, and slap scantily clad waitresses on the buttocks all day," said Reilly. "Regular Hooters customers have done their part for the educational system, as they personally fund the cosmetology college tuitions of thousands of trashy white women," added Reilly.

Eager to interview was Frank "Bootyquake" Kowalski, a large mustachioed man wearing an "Amateur Gynecologist" t-shirt. "I ain't much for learnin," said the flatulent Kowalski, as he fell off his bar stool. "But I know I can dean the sh** out of that place," he said, finishing off his 5 Wing Flappertizer meal.

"I knew a guy that went to college once," said Kowalski. "His wife caught him in bed with his girlfriend and she set him on fire. After that, I said no way - no college for me," he said.

"I can see why the UW sees Hooters breastaurants as a hotbed of people with good character," said assistant Middleton branch manager Pat Cleveland. "We are the ultimate family restaurant - good food, clean fun, and if you're lucky, you might get to see a little butt crack," he said. "I can sum up the positive, community-oriented atmosphere at Hooters in two words: No homos," he said.

Reilly said that if the Hooters search is unsuccesful, he will continue his search at strip clubs, massage parlors and 2 Live Crew concerts. Paul Barrows, who accompanied Reilly to Hooters, found the Breast and Thigh Sampler platter to be particularly enticing.

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SIDE NOTE: In doing the rigorous research for this post, I noticed that Hooters donated $225,000 for the Hurricane Katrina Relief Fund. That's nice of them, but don't they have an abundance of floatation devices they could have donated?

DOUBLE SECRET SIDE NOTE: I'm folding up shop here at the blog for a couple weeks to enjoy Christmas and New Year's. I may post something if I'm uniquely inspired, but it will be sporadic, if at all. If you're "jonesing for York," I have plenty of columns from months back that nobody ever read, so be my guest.

Paul Bucher - The Prince of Darkness

Let me just say up front that I have absolutely no stake in the Republican Attorney General primary, and I have no idea who I’m going to vote for. Not that it would matter – I would think a candidate would rather have an endorsement from NAMBLA than me. All I know is, whoever wins the primary, I will be voting for in the general election.

That being said, I was struck by the contrasting styles between the two candidates when I watched the Wispolitics.com webcast of their recent debate. While J.B. Van Hollen seemed likeable and reasonably knowledgeable, Paul Bucher was combative and irritable. He looked angry that he was even there, and fidgeted with his watch, his pen, and his glass of water throughout the entire event. His answers were short, fast, and tight lipped, and he abruptly dropped his microphone each time he finished talking. After each answer, it looked like he wanted to end with “does that answer your question, jackass?” before biting the head off a terrier. When I finished watching the webcast, I looked around hoping I hadn't just been prosecuted for something.

I was first struck by Bucher’s prickly style when I was one of the seven people watching “Here and Now” on public TV a few weeks ago. The Fabulous Frederica Freyberg asked both candidates whether they would use the film of Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager’s drunk driving arrest against her in the general election. Van Hollen said that he thought other groups would probably be using the video, and that he wouldn’t authorize his campaign to do so. Bucher essentially said (and I am paraphrasing), “Hell yeah, I’ll use it,” almost foaming at the mouth at the chance to embarrass Lautenschlager even more than she has done so herself. If he does use the ad, I respectfully ask him to pay CBS to run it on a one hour loop in place of “The Ghost Whisperer.”

Now, I totally get Bucher’s demeanor – he sees the Attorney General’s office as a position where you don’t mess around. He sees being friendly and approachable as antithetical to an office where you have to be red assed. And he sees this as an opportunity to contrast his style with not only Van Hollen, but his two Democratic challengers, as well. Unfortunately, given his performance on the webcast, the only thing he is contrasting himself with is a human being.

Of course, I’m a law and order guy myself. I obviously think the Attorney General has more important priorities than suing cranberry growers and handing out giant checks to senior citizens. But voters also elect their legislators, who actually write the laws that the AG enforces. And what these voters want is someone like them, who they can talk to and relate with. A little charm goes a long way when electing lawmakers, and I think the same would be true of an AG candidate.

Not that Van Hollen is without flaws, either. Granted, debates these days aren’t really heavy on details, but he could offer a little more insight into his practical experience. He is young looking, so he could make a little more effort to seem a little less easygoing. But on the whole, I think Bucher needs to move in Van Hollen’s direction a lot more than vice versa. I think both of these guys are electable, but Bucher would do himself a big favor by making more of a personal connection with voters.

UPDATE: Jessica McBride offers a spirited defense of her husband here.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Chvala vs. Erpenbach - the Update

I don't really pretend I'm any kind of ace investigative reporter, but it appears that at least in one case, I had it right. Last week, I wrote a post pointing out that the pattern of behavior by newly minted felon Chuck Chvala hinted strongly that Chvala was out to get State Senator Jon Erpenbach. During the court proceeding, Chvala repeatedly referenced Erpenbach and his aide, former Chvala staffer Julie Laundrie.

Yesterday Laundrie released this letter to the judge in the Chvala case, accusing Chvala of exactly the type of intimidation and harrassment that I pieced together in my post. Laundrie, who is in a better position than any to know what Chvala is capable of, writes:

My selection as a prominent part of the plea agreement was not a simple chance. In fact I was told by the Assistant District Attorney that the agreement did not contain my name, but the defendant insisted that my name as a witness be included. In the filing of December 8th sentencing statement, the defendant again attacked and made accusations while reporting to the court his guilt. In addition, a former campaign contributor of the defendant has made accusations regarding me to the media. I can only assume that this campaign against me is an attempt to detract from the proceedings of the court and a way to publicly and privately hurt someone else. I see this as unrepentant and an act of intimidation. The defendant’s actions are unremorseful and disrespectful of the court.


There's a lot more to this story, and some enterprising reporter should start digging into the nature of the Chvala/Erpenbach/Laundrie relationship. If a dope like me can do it, anyone can.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

The State Journal - Wasting Everyone's Time

Special thanks to Xoff for reminding me what nauseating dreck the most recent editorial by Wisconsin State Journal publisher James Hopson is. Apparently you have to go pretty high up on the food chain over there to get truly awful editorials.

Hopson lazily argues that the Legislature is wasting their time by bringing up bills like the same sex marriage amendment and concealed carry. This is a common complaint by editorialists that simply don't agree with the subject matter of these bills. That would be the intellectually honest thing to say - explain why you oppose the legislation, rather than just accusing the Legislature of wasting their time. In fact, Hopson could have just saved his own time and just printed any one of the hundred Dave Zweifel columns from the Capital Times that say the exact same thing.

Truth is, the Legislature has passed 329 bills this session, but Hopson's newspaper has only seen fit to cover a few. Maybe if he were actually paying attention, he would realize the Assembly and Senate do more than just pass the bills he reads about over coffee in the morning. No bill takes more legislative time than the budget, but I don't hear him complaining about that one. The Assembly spent an entire day caucusing on the bill to require ethanol in gas sold in Wisconsin - I guess that wasn't a waste of time, seeing as how the State Journal has editorialized in favor of that specific bill. The Assembly and Senate spent a good couple of days on the gas tax indexing repeal - was that a waste of time?

Hopson may remember my post from October 31st (I'm sure he's a regular reader) where I talked about a bill in the Legislature to allow tax credits to businesses that employ the disabled. This is a groundbreaking bill that has inspired other states to try the same thing. Apparently, he thinks the Legislature doesn't have the time for such bills because they are all so focused on making the state's gays a little less fabulous.

Certainly Hopson remembers September 22nd, when the Assembly was scheduled to bring up a number of bills and veto overrides. The previous evening, Representative Pedro Colon failed to vote on a veto override that would have provided more funding for nursing homes. So he spent the entire next day on the floor pissing and moaning about missing the vote, holding up deliberations on the other bills Hopson thinks are so important. It got so bad that Assembly leadership had to cancel the whole day of work, as Colon and his cohorts were determined to pout about his missed vote. I would think that would be the ultimate waste of Legislative time, but somehow that little charade failed to make it into Hopson's article.

No, the only things that waste time for Hopson are bills that he disagrees with. Apparently he is unaware that the specific bills he targets are, in fact, important to some people - people that he sees on television, but would never have over to the Hopson estate for dinner. If you have ever laughed at a Jeff Foxworthy joke, you likely haven't been invited to a Hopson dinner party.

And the things he ridicules? Let's take a look:

He believes there should be no limits on stem cell research (which includes reproductive cloning), and that injecting ethics into the debate is tantamount to strangling a newborn.

He apparently thinks UW students shouldn't even have to consider having to pay for their own contraceptives, if they want to do the "bone dance" with Kurt in Daytona.

He thinks that there's nothing to see at the UW, everything's just fine. Please keep moving. Taxpayers are paying for the UW president's maid to have a lifetime backup job. Nothing to see here. Keep moving.

And what does he think the Legislature should be working on? School funding? Please, spare me. School funding has been studied time and time and time and time again by committee after worthless committee. It is addressed in each and every budget. Wisconsin has two options - spend more state money at the expense of things like medical assistance, or increase property taxes. Which does he favor? I'm sure he'd be thrilled with the Legislature's good use of time if they spent the next year on school funding and decided to cut aid by 20%. I'm positive he would think that was a good use of time.

His point about corrections says it all. He believes Wisconsin is too "enlightened" to have people in jail. Just wait for one of these felons to break into his house and "enlighten" him upside the head on the value of a good corrections system.

It's a sad state of affairs when the publisher of a newspaper has to come out of his cocoon to write such a putrid column. He owes everyone that read his column 3 minutes and 26 seconds of their lives back.

As a public service, I have provided a list of the 329 bills Hopson's paper can start covering if he thinks people are wasting too much time on the ones he doesn't like.

UPDATE: Future ex-State Senate candidate Pat Kreitlow takes exception to this post on his blog here. A couple of observations:

1. Still waiting on the Kreitlow school finance plan. Can't wait for his "creative" ways for you to pay more in taxes. I anxiously await the details. Maybe he can get some ideas from the governor's recent school financing study group that made virtually no recommendation other than to raise the sales tax. I guess Kreitlow thinks we need a new governor, since he doesn't seem to have any new ideas, either.

2. I assume his ridiculing of one minor bill means he is willing to make a pledge that he won't offer any of the crappy little local bills that you have to do to get re-elected? I look forward to drilling him anytime he introduces a bill that doesn't deal overhauling school funding.

3. If Kreitlow thinks I'm a mouthpiece for Republicans, he obviously doesn't read my blog very often. But if a state senate candidate in Eau Claire has enough time to mix it up with an anonymous blogger in Madison, good for him and the 40% of people that will vote for him.

4. Nice of him not to allow comments on his blog. Shows real guts. I hope that's not a harbinger of how he views constituent input.

DOUBLE SECRET UPDATE: Hopson's paper, the Wisconsin State Journal - and I'm not kidding - devotes a front page to discussing who would play Barry Alvarez in a movie version of his life. Waste of time, indeed.

My 10 Best Albums of 2005

For those of you looking for the political stuff, it will be back next week. For now, I wanted to do a self-indulgent look at the CDs I enjoyed the most this year. I’m obviously no expert, so I can’t do a definitive “best” CDs list, as I only really listen to what I buy.

I realize that it's likely my readership probably won't have heard of at least 9 out of these 10, so click on the album name for more details. And be sure to check them out.

So here we go….

Sufjan Stevens – Illinois

Every year I struggle with picking what my favorite disc was – but not this year. It’s a blowout. A compelling listen from beginning to end, Illinois is Stevens’ second installment in his tongue in cheek plan to record an album for each state (Michigan was his first). Combines sweeping orchestral numbers with intimate acoustic songs, all the while adhering to listener friendly hooks. And you might learn a little about the history of Illinois, too.

Twin Cinema – New Pornographers








Nashville – Josh Rouse

“Streetlights” is the best song I heard this year.






The Kingsbury Manx – Fast Rise and Fall of the South








Decemberists - Picaresque









Fountains of Wayne – Out of State Plates








White Stripes – Get Behind Me, Satan








Archer Prewitt – Wilderness








Foo Fighters – In Your Honor








Stars – Set Yourself on Fire

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Falk Details Courageous Battle With Halitosis

A teary-eyed Kathleen Falk today recounted her struggle dealing with a debilitating case of halitosis. "There were some dark days when I could barely show up to work, knowing my breath smelled like I just ate a homeless man's underwear," said an emotional Falk, dabbing her eyes.

Falk, a candidate for Wisconsin Attorney General, held a press conference in a Capitol hearing room this afternoon surrounded by thirty other halitosis survivors. The conference began after local emergency workers resuscitated the press corps after they passed out from the collective odor. “Let me serve as an example for all of those of you out there with stank breath that you can succeed in life with this affliction,” said Falk. “Whether you are born with acrid breath or you just sucked down a plate of tutto pasta with extra garlic, you have friends that are here to support you - and possibly offer you a Listerene breath strip,” said Falk.

Lautenschlager immediately shot back, accusing Falk of accepting excess contributions from Scope (otherwise known as “Big Breath”). Lautenschlager pointed out that Falk’s campaign has spent 63% of their funds on Binaca breath spray. "That is outrageous," said campaign finance reform advocate Jay Heck, who somehow was able to get a quote to the newspaper despite being trapped under a piano in in the Himalayan mountains, half eaten by a bison. It was later discovered that Heck actually donated $3.78 and a copy of his "Boner Jamz '03" video to the Lautenschlager campaign.

Critics say Falk's flagging campaign is trying to emulate the campaign of her opponent, Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager, who has served as a courageous role model to breast cancer survivors nationwide. Falk also responded to Lautenschlager's charge that she doesn't have any criminal prosecutorial experience. "As public intervenor, I was tough on crimes against the environment," said Falk. "I once successfully convicted a crime family of squirrels that were taking more than their share of nuts for the winter. They will never terrorize anyone's bird feeder again," said Falk.

“As attorney general, I will spare no public expense in trying to make myself look as good as possible,” said Falk, vowing to travel the state and hand out twice the number of giant fake checks to seniors who have been swindled by Publisher’s Clearing House as Lautenschlager. “When the Steven Avery trial commences, the public can rest easy that I will be there to improve my own image to the fullest extent possible, no questions asked,” said Falk.

Since the Democratic primary is expected to be hotly contested, Falk staked out her position on Lautenschlager's left flank. "I will work to make sure the right wing agenda of hatred is thwarted," said Falk, adding that she would require all unmarried individuals under the age of 25 to marry a member of the same sex. "I won't rest until you can walk into Denny's and get a free abortion with any purchase of the French Toast Slam with bacon," said Falk.

Falk also remained adamant that the campaign be run clean and focused on the issues. “My campaign is driving the straight and narrow, right down the middle,” said Falk. “We don’t plan on veering into the ditch of dirty politics, and I have made that ever-clear to my campaign workers,” added Falk. “Our vision is 20/20, and we will not allow our campaign to be impaired and swerve all over the issues,” said Falk.

Wow, Kent Woods Has Fallen Fast...

So I was thinking of doing some lame jokey post about Kent Woods and how now he's going to have to go get his "I Love TABOR" tattoo removed after his defeat tonight. Or how it was a mistake for him to rename his children "Taxpayer" and "Bill of Rights." So I searched Google Images for "Kent Woods" and this picture came up.

Please accept my apology before you click on the link. It's a big file, and it gets progressively worse as it loads.

Chvala Staffer Celebrates Milestone of Stupidity

Remember ex-Chvala staffer Paula McGuire's breathless account of what a great guy convicted felon Chuck is? The one where she recounts how Chuck emptied his own trash and allowed a Capitol janitor to sit in on a policy meeting where they all ate pizza? A great story, right?

Too bad it isn't true.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter Steve Walters actually talked to the janitor, who said it never happened. From the Journal-Sentinel Capitol Reporters' Blog:

She's one of the fine people who clean up after those of us who spend most of our days, and a few nights, in the Capitol. And, there's no reason to name her; she's afraid doing so would only end up getting her in trouble, in some way or another. Let's use the initial M. for her.

And, let's just say M. was astonished to find her name in the 47-page statement filed by the long line of people trying to get a Dane County judge to be lenient Thursday when he sentences former Senate Majority Leader Chuck Chvala (D-Madison), who accepted a deal that required him to plead guilty to two felonies for Capitol corruption.

Trying to convince Dane County Circuit Judge David Flanagan to not send Chvala to jail, Chvala's lawyer said in court documents last week that, "Chuck Chvala has a soft side to him" and then quoted one of his former aides as remember a touching Capitol incident proving just that:

"One evening when the state Senate was in session late into the evening, (M.), a custodial employee at the Capitol, came into our office to empty the trash cans. Chuck was in his office with his (chief of staff) and other senators discussing bills ... over a quick dinner of pizza. Chuck saw (M.) waiting apprehensively, unsure if she should enter his office to empty the trash. He immediately grabbed his trash can and went and emptied it himself. Chuck then invited (M.) into his office to have a slice of pizza and asked her to share her opinions on the pending issues..."

Touching, uh? You can wipe your moist eyes now.

Except M. doesn't remember ever sharing a piece of pizza and her opinions with Chvala at any point in her Capitol career. And, she agreed, if it would have happened, she would have remembered it.To be sure, M. remembers Chvala as always being "kind" to her, but the come-let-us-eat-pizza scene? Never happened.Makes you wonder how many of the other anecdotes listed in the 47 pages of pleas for leniency are, uh, half-baked. Or should they be called the Chvala Chronicles?

Ironically, Paula McGuire now works for the Department of Justice. Think there's any chance the Attorney General will investigate her own staffer for filing a false statement in an official court document?

So let's back up here: Chvala had someone testify to his "integrity and true character" by using a completely fabricated story to demonstrate it. Paula McGuire, you are an early entrant into the Irony Hall of Fame. No balloting necessary.

It says a lot about Chvala that his defenders have to make up nice stories about him. In fact, did Al Gore even run for President? I'm skeptical now.

Bravo, Steve Walters. Bravo.

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Note: I am told that Kevin at Lakeshore Laments had this up before I did - so thanks for the mention.

Dennis York Revealed!


Who knew I was a cop in Lawrenceville, Illinois?

I thought I'd get this kid a sweet fleece jacket before I told him he was adopted.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Milestone Time

Seeing as how the last post was my 100th, I'm going to celebrate by re-acquainting myself with Madden 2006 on the Playstation tonight. Do yourself a favor by checking out any of the quality blogs over on my blogroll.

Oh, and as long as I'm here, I saw "Syriana" over the weekend (at the behest of my left wing, Clooney loving wife). Who knew the Middle East would be such a peaceful, modern place without those evil Americans and their military industrial oil complex? On the plus side, the girl at the counter declared war on my arteries by putting a toxic amount of that plastic butter stuff on my popcorn. Coronary-licious.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Saint Chuck: Obeying the Law (Most of the Time)

I had the chance this weekend to peruse the nauseating testimonials supporting Chuck Chvala, submitted by Chvala's attorneys to make him look like a great guy. Those 20 felony counts of extortion and money laundering? Keep moving, nothing to see here. Here are some of the ones that stand out, with my comments in red.

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Michael Butera, the former Chief Operating Officer of the Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC), writes the court to explain how Sen. Chvala would stick to his principles on legislation:

Chuck was tough on the issues, We didn't always agree on policy or politics, but his actions were on top of the table and I always knew that his heart was in improving public education, the status of workers and those less fortunate. WEAC always wanted to end the Qualified Economic Offer and we tried legislatively over and over when Chuck was Majority Leader. It was a principled matter for him; that, it be a part of a broader statewide funding and tax system. For all the friendship and assistance, he stuck to his position. What he did was for the greater good of the State and his party's well-being, not his personal aggrandizement or to improve his relationship with us. To the contrary, his personal life and potential gain could have been his driving force, but it was never.

Yeah, Chvala and the head of the state teachers' union didn't always agree on policy. Give me a break. I can imagine some of these "disagreements:"

Chvala: "Should we compare Republicans to murderers or child molesters? I'm leaning murderers."

Butera: "I think child molesters is probably better."

Chvala: "Man, these disagreements are wearing me out. You drive a hard bargain, Butera."

Jason Kay, a lobbyist for AARP credits Sen. Chvala with the passage of SeniorCare:

I worked closely with Mr. Chvala for two years (2000-2002) when I was a lobbyist for AARP in the Wisconsin state legislature. During that time, I observed Mr. Chvala serve as the guiding force behind the passage of SeniorCare, one of the nation's best pharmaceutical assistance programs for the elderly. The negotiations over SeniorCare bogged down over a question of priorities. Assembly leaders wanted to use a large part of the available funds for a benefit structure that the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel referred to as a windfall for the drug companies. Mr. Chvala and his allies (including AARP) wanted to use the funds to create the best possible benefit for the largest possible number of seniors. Mr. Chvala prevailed. The result was that prescriptions became affordable for thousands more elderly Wisconsinites than would have otherwise been the case. However, I cannot recall Mr. Chvala ever asking me for political favors or contributions (AARP does not endorse candidates or give money to candidates).
Moreover, on other lower profile issues, I could generally count on Mr. Chvala to side with the elderly, consumers, and the working poor.

"The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel referred to as a windfall for drug companies." Good God. Is this a testimonial or a piece of campaign literature? Chvala should get leniency because he took the same position as the MJS editorial board on an issue? Should Scott Jensen get leniency because the Waushara Argus likes his stance on school uniforms?

And I suppose passage of Seniorcare, which was proposed by Republican Governor Scott McCallum and passed by a Republican controlled Assembly, had nothing to do with Chvala making his own senators look good? There wasn't any political benefit?

Rebecca Young, a former legislative colleague of Chvala writes:

Senator Chvala was consistently supportive of legislation that helped those at the bottom of the economic ladder, I believe, because he genuinely felt that Democrats in the legislature had a special responsibility to respond to the interests of those who were most vulnerable - children, persons with disabilities, those in poverty or teetering on the edge. He was instrumental in successfully promoting lower class sizes in the lower elementary grades, in creating the Stewardship program to preserve environmentally sensitive land for future generations, in setting up Badger Care. Badger Care, for instance, is one of the most effective expansions of Medicaid in the country.

SAGE program (class sizes) = Tommy Thompson
Stewardship program = Tommy Thompson
Badger Care = Tommy Thompson

Apparently, if you opposed any of these broad expansions of governmental authority, your ass deserves to be in jail.

Warren Onken is arguably the most respected alderman ever to serve in Madison. Despite vast political differences, he admires Chuck:

In spite of a gap so wide in our individual political beliefs that could never be closed, we often found ourselves thrown together in trying to resolve neighborhood, City of Madison and many times personal problems involving our mutual constituents. I found Chuck to be caring, responsive, and very involved in doing what he could do to bring a sensible solution to these many issues. Chuck and I later became neighbors and I would define Chuck as the type of person you really want in your neighborhood. I know many years ago the tragic accident of Chuck's wife Tracy forced Chuck to become a single parent. As a neighbor I watched Chuck help his children grow and become solid citizens. Chuck was known as a scrupulously honest politician.

This one is probably the most objectionable. Chvala's wife's tragic accident didn't "force" him to become a single parent. He divorced his disabled wife and married a Capitol staff member who worked for his best buddy, Russ Decker (I am told Angelina Jolie wasn't involved.) What a great guy - just the type I would "really want in my neighborhood." Exactly what neighborhood is he living in? Wisteria Lane?

And exactly who knew Chuck as a "scrupulously honest politician?" Is he one of those honest politicians that has to plead down 20 felony counts for extortion and money laundering?

Joseph Strohl, a former Senate Majority Leader and now a lobbyist, relates:

I am also reminded from time to time by my wife of the evening Senator Chvala and his wife joined us at our home for dinner with several other political friends. Prior to leaving the dinner, Chvala pulled me aside and asked who to make the check out to for dinner? We said something like, oh don’t worry about it. He insisted no he had to pay for the meal and quietly wrote out a check for $25. That honesty is also a part of the Chvala legacy that I remember.

Here's a free public relations tip: When you have people write letters of support for you, it might not be the best idea to use someone who plays host to people in their house who allegedly beat, strangle, and threaten to kill their lovers. Joe Strohl may well be a wonderful guy, but I wouldn't put "judge of character" among his strengths. Hey, maybe Chvala can get Steven Avery to write him a letter, while he's at it.

And he paid for a meal at a registered lobbyist's house in accordance with state law? Man, what a guy. For the record, I didn't steal any Volkswagons yesterday. And the day before that, I didn't expose myself to anyone at the library. I expect full credit for being a law abiding citizen on these occasions. In fact, I follow the law at least five days a week.

And nice touch describing him as "quietly" writing out a check. Must have had a felt-tipped pen.


Michael Butera also remembers Chuck’s honesty.

As the new Chief Operating Officer of WEAC, I made the rounds of the Capital to say hello and get to know the leadership of the legislature. When I contacted Chuck, he asked that we meet for dinner down the street from his office on State Street I accepted. After the usual niceties of first greetings, Chuck looked me square in the eye and said I know you have had been a lobbyist in many states, but this is Wisconsin and I want to clear the air early - "I'm buying dinner." I remember vividly responding, "That's a first" I have told this story in many settings and in many states and it is always greeted with some amazement. In all of our encounters, over the period of time I spent in Wisconsin, we stuck to a rigid agreement to meet away form his government office and in his law office or some restaurant. I met with Chuck one night on the West side after he had played hockey. He was in all his hockey gear and a little sweaty, but we carried on our business in a professional and honorable manner. We each paid our own way. That is the way it was in every engagement.


What in the hell does any of this have to do with Chvala's criminal charges? Mental note - when breaking the law, always wear hockey gear, and be a little sweaty. Then you can always use that excuse at sentencing.

Dispatch: "Car 36, we have a possible breaking and entering on Maple Street, along with some spousal abuse and a possible occurence of plagiarism."

Cop: "What is the suspect wearing?"

Dispatch: "Hockey gear. And I hear he's a little sweaty."

Cop: "Copy that, Dispatch. I don't think there's anything to see there. I'll be at Taco Bell."

John Mathews of MTI vouches for Chuck’s honesty when fund-raising:

I also worked with Chuck to raise funds for numerous candidates, including himself. Not once did any conversation relative to fund raising take place in his Legislative office or on or from public property. Each such conversation occurred in my office, by cell phone from his car, or in his law office. Not once, in my experience, did Chuck connect fund raising with legislation.

He didn't have to. That WEAC money was automatic.

Sue Meinholz tells how Chuck would ensure that his own staff properly accounted for their time:
Each month I was the staff member responsible for putting in front of Chuck our monthly time accounting sheet that was used for years and years in the Senate. Chuck personally signed the monthly time sheets. It was common for him to ask me as the time sheet was put before him, "Has everyone reported their time accurately?" Chuck trusted us to be responsible, ethical and honest employees. We knew what was at stake and did not violate that trust.

Sue Menholz also has a great timeshare she'd like you to take a look at. I mean, please. If Chvala ever said that to his staff, I'll run naked across lake Mendota. Again.

Chuck Chvala, has a soft side to him. Paula McGuire, a legislative aid writes:

Although I will always admire Chuck for his political leadership, I learned more from Chuck by the way he conducted himself personally. Chuck frequently spoke about how we will be judged as a society by the way we treat others, but it was his actions in showing respect to others that showed me his integrity and true character. One evening when the State Senate was in session late into the evening, Mary Jo, a custodial employee at the Capitol, came into our office to empty the trashcans. Chuck was in his office with Doug Burnett and other Senators discussing bills pending on the calendar over a quick dinner of pizza. Chuck saw Mary Jo waiting apprehensively, unsure if she should enter his office to empty the trash. He immediately grabbed his trashcan and went and emptied it himself. Chuck then invited Mary Jo into his office to have a slice of pizza and asked her to share her opinions on the pending issues to be considered by the Senate. Chuck was a great Majority Leader because he didn't allow the position to inflate his ego; he didn't see himself as being too important to empty his own trash and he continued to value the opinions of his colleagues and constituents. Not only was Chuck accessible to constituents and staff, he went the extra mile to help anyone who asked, or those he saw in need. For example, Chuck would often ask high school students on Capitol tours where they were going to attend college. Chuck valued higher education, and he knew how competitive the admission process is, and offered to write sincere letters of recommendation. I remember one specific incident where his interest made the difference for that deserving student. Personally, I know what he did for my parents. My parents are people of modest means, who vote in every election, and truly believe in the Democratic Party. In 2000, Chuck Chvala offered his two seats on the stage of the Vice President Al Gore campaign rally on the Capitol Square to my parents knowing that this would be a highlight in their lives. He then made sure they met Vice President Al Gore following the rally, even though this made Chuck late for an important dinner. My dad still talks about the day, when a retired postal worker got to meet the Vice President of the United States. Chuck gave my dad that opportunity, and for that I am thankful.


Somewhere in Wisconsin, there is someone in a mental institution that doesn't deserve to be there... and yet Paula McGuire walks the streets a free woman. Where is the justice?

I am awaiting the trial when we catch Osama bin Laden. Osama's attorney: "Your honor, Osama was a kind man - he would often empty his own trash and offer pizza to his trainees. When the cave's janitors came in, he would often ask them the best way to deliver death to America. And he loved Al Gore!"

And doesn't the fact that he thinks he deserves to get credit for emptying his own trash signal that he does think he's better than everyone else? And what's with the continual misspelling of the word "aide?"

Chuck Chvala is a caring compassionate individual. He helped produce much important legislation. He has led an exemplary life. His character dictates a minimum sentence

I have always thought periods were an overrated punctuation mark. Why waste one on what might be the most important document of your life? Is Lionel Hutz his attorney?

----------------------------------------------------------------

There are more, but you get the idea. Apparently, Chvala got his application for the papacy in late, because he would be a shoo-in over that crank Ratzinger. I think my eyes are going to fall out, I rolled them so much while reading those accounts.

Weekend Notes

In what is probably the most transparent and crass political maneuver of the year, State Representative John Lehman on Friday announced that he would be introducing a bill to allow disabled veterans free admission to state parks. You may recall that Lehman is the same guy who spent three months in prison in 1971 for dodging the draft, before he was pardoned by President Gerald Ford. So the message he is sending is pretty much this - Sorry you don't have any legs since I decided I would rather go to jail than fight with you in Vietnam, but I'm all for saving you five bucks when you go to a state park.

Have you seen where McDonald's is now offering debit cards where you can deposit funds to be used at McDonald's? Whose idea is this - the national cardiologists' association? Is the heart attack business slowing down? Are we to the point now where people are too lazy to reach into their wallets and count out cash? If you need this card, there is a 60% chance you need a forklift to get into your car.

When a movie comes out on DVD and the ads promise it's the "unrated and uncut" version, there's a 100% chance the movie is horrible and an even better chance that you will be disappointed with the "urated and uncut" materials. If the movie was any good, the "rated and cut" version would do just fine. Can you see them trying to splice a cheerleader carwash scene into "Taxi Driver?"

Can't we find just one dying kid in the state that is willing to trick Brett Favre into promising he'll play one more year? In not, how about a hare lip? Overactive sweat glands?

Will the gay marriage ban as passed by the Legislature send Ahmad Carroll to prison for the way he molests other men that are trying to catch passes?

PETA is trying to ban the use of monkeys in commercials. Is there anything funnier than talking monkeys, or monkeys smoking cigars? I would propose the opposite - that all commercials should be mandated to have at least one monkey.

Good for Owen at Boots and Sabers on his editorial in the Wisconsin State Journal today on gas tax indexing. If I were ever to appear in the paper with a point/counterpoint editorial, the descriptive bylines would look something like this:

Bob Cook is executive director of the Transportation Development Association.

Dennis York has a keyboard.

Single Men, Unite!

While it seems like an eternity since I have been any part of a singles "scene," I have noticed a disturbing trend in dating lately. I was perusing some of the blogs at MKEonline.com, and I was shocked at how many women now consider themselves "relationship" bloggers. Apparently, everyone now wants to be like that woman from the Sex in the City show (which I have never seen), and thinks they have something to offer to the collective knowledge base of the nation.

If you are a single guy looking for love and you happen to start dating one of these women, I have one tip for you...

RUN!

And never go back. Look, you and I both know that sometimes you turn your underwear inside out and wear it for another day. We both know in desperate situations you have picked your nose and wiped it under your car seat. That's fine. But when one of these women gets a hold of this information, people in Bangladesh will be reading about your shortcomings. Once you start dating a relationship blogger, your dirty laundry will be available for all to see.

Dating apparently has become more complex than it was in the old days (when I met my wife, nobody really had cell phones, and only drug dealers had pagers). Now when you meet someone, you should have an application with you at all times. STD test? Check. Crazy ex boyfriend? Check. Secret blog where you will expose my proclivity for sticking my tongue in a bag of movie popcorn to eat it while my hands are full? Check.

Fortunately, many of them are so inane, they can only draw a few readers a day. But all it takes is one person to get a hold of the web address and suddenly your most private insecurities are there for public consumption.

Many of these women start blogging because they suffer some huge event in their life and feel the need to burden everyone else with their story. Take wedding singer Bex for example, whose husband went off to fight for his country in Afghanistan. This, of course forced her into the arms of another man. Her husband's family found out, so the marriage just ended. It seems that all of her loved ones are doing the sensible thing and not talking to her. (Her story is told in three separate posts, The Beginning, The Middle, and The End. A must read).

Since she's done telling her story, she has now resorted to posting junk e-mails she gets (and renaming her blog from "I Walk Alone" to "Le Coeur De Bex" after the necklace from Titanic - apparently unaware of how unintentionally ironic that is). But she has now moved to a small town in Maine to start over. I can imagine being the lucky guy she starts dating first, not having any knowledge that everything he does is now going to be part of her blog. Shouldn't there be some kind of public warning for men that lets us know when female bloggers move to our city? Like a sex offender directory?

There is a plus side of all this online hormonal therapy: if you are a married male and you hit a rough patch in your marriage, look at the bright side. You could always be single and lured into Bex' dungeon of love.

Side note: Before I met my wife, the longest relationship I ever had was 3 months, and that was with the "Rewind" button on my VCR.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Et Tu Chuck? The Hand From the Grave

I don't know what State Senator Jon Erpenbach's Christmas list looks like, but I can bet Chuck Chvala's name ain't on it.

Today Chvala, who is awaiting sentencing after being found guilty on two felony counts for his actions as former Senate Majority Leader, issued an apology to the court, presumably to lobby for less jail time. In this noxious, bilous document (more on that later), Chvala refers to Erpenbach by name twice, and specifically implicates Erpenbach in the illegal activity to which he confesses.

This isn't the first time Chvala has tried to pull Erpenbach into his morass. In fact, to see a man more obsessed with another man, you're going to have to go see a screening of "Brokeback Mountain." Chvala is trying to give Erpenbach the same treatment he's going to be getting when he heads to the Big House.

It all began back in 1998, when Chvala essentially used his state resources to direct Erpenbach to a win in the 27th Senate seat outside of Madison. In October of 2002, Chvala was hit with 20 felony criminal counts, including extortion, filing false campaign reports, and using state resources to direct campaigns.

Here's where it gets interesting. In the rush to fill Chvala's spot as majority leader, Senate Democrats picked co-leaders: Senators Russ Decker and Fred Risser take over. As the attached Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel article states, Decker was seen as Chvala's right hand man to guide the caucuses in his absence. But the article also contained this:

Although some speculated that Sen. Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton) might seek the job, he said he would not go after the influential post.

Let me translate that: Jon Erpenbach started calling around to see if he had the votes to be leader, and he did not. In the process of doing so, he may have exposed himself as a political opportunist, and may have said some unflattering things about Chvala.

Of course, in the ensuing weeks the Democratic caucus collapsed and the Senate Republicans ended up beating three incumbent Democratic senators, largely by using their ties to Chvala. This swing gave the Senate GOP an 18-15 majority, and relegated the Democratic caucus to the minority.

Sensing a need to clean house, Erpenbach then ran for minority leader for the Senate Democrats, and he won. A month later, however, his leadership was challenged, as described in this Journal-Sentinel news brief:


Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (Wisconsin)
February 4, 2004
Wirch drops challenge to Erpenbach

Madison -- State Sen. Bob Wirch (D-Kenosha) said Tuesday he dropped his challenge to his party's Senate leader, Sen. Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton).Wirch, who announced that he was considering challenging Erpenbach last week, estimated that that he had six of the eight votes required to be elected leader of the 15 Senate Democrats. Republicans control the Senate, 18-15."I was close," Wirch said.Wirch said his potential challenge grew out of a Senate vote that overrode Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle's veto of a concealed weapons bill.

Five of the 15 Democrats, including Wirch, voted to override the governor's veto. Erpenbach threatened to remove Democratic Sen. Russ Decker of Schofield from the Legislature's budget committee if he voted to override Doyle, which Decker did. Wirch said Decker was one of six supporters in a bid to oust Erpenbach.Other Capitol emocrats said Wirch had been encouraged to challenge Erpenbach by state Sen. Chuck Chvala (D-Madison), the former Senate majority leader who faces 19 criminal charges as a result of a corruption investigation.

So a month into Erpenbach's leadership, Chvala was already working to undermine his authority.

The Chvala trial dragged on and on, in large part due to the number of motions Chvala filed to have it delayed. In the meantime, Senate Democrats lost one more seat in the 2004 elections to bring the senate to 19-14, Republicans (Chvala chose not to run).

In October of this year, Chvala finally pleaded guilty to two felony counts in a plea deal with the prosecution. What is interesting, however, is that he decided to plead guilty to one of the counts that implicates Erpenbach in his illegal activity. Curiously, an article written by Steven Walters appeared in the Journal Sentinel on October 30th of this year that suggests Republicans might go after Erpenbach based on his ties to Chvala.

From the article:


"When former state Senate Majority Leader Chuck Chvala pleaded guilty to one felony last week, he did so in a way that gave Republicans an election-year opening against Sen. Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton)...

According to the criminal complaint, then-Senate Democratic caucus worker Julie Laundrie, whose job Chvala controlled, told investigators "she worked at least 90% of her time for Erpenbach during his election from her state office and on state time."

Laundrie also told investigators that Chvala called her "several times a day" at her state desk about Erpenbach's campaign, according to the complaint, which added: "Laundrie stated that she felt she would have lost her job in the caucus office if Erpenbach had not won his election."


Now, I'm not a GOP insider, but I would be shocked if Republicans planted this story. They don't really have a chance of winning that seat, and couldn't even find anyone to run against Erpenbach in 2002. Plus, they have several key vulnerable seats to defend around the state, and it would be nuts to sink money into a seat that's 60% Democratic.

So how did this story end up in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel? Who suggested it?

Finally, we are treated to Chvala's nauseating "apology" today, where he mentions Erpenbach by name twice in reference to one of his felony counts. He even throws in the fact that Erpenbach's staffer received a hefty salary increase for her campaign work, just to be a nice guy.

So what exactly is going on here? Is there any doubt Chvala is paying Erpenbach back for his disloyalty following the criminal counts?

On a final note, any judge that looks at Chvala's apology should immediately triple his prison sentence. It is an absolutely preposterous document that posits Chvala as an innocent bystander, unable to control all of the things going on around him. In fact, by all accounts, nothing could go on without Chvala's knowledge, and he was the meanest bastard to ever disgrace the halls of the State Capitol. He finishes up with this unbelievable statement:

"I am extremely sensitive to these charges because they not only devastated me personally, both emotionally and financially, but also because they have obscured my work and the work of other Senate Democrats for children, senior citizens, the environments and working families which achieved a Senior Prescription Drug program (senior care), lower class size for children in kindergarten through third grade (SAGE), healthcare for children, and increased investment in preserving sensitive land (stewardship) and even a do not call list to protect the privacy of children in their homes."

So Chvala really never stops campaigning, even when it sends him to prison. Fortunately, the next time he runs for anything, it will be for a "safe seat."

Why Mariah Carey's Success is Bad News

I have a friend who has an unnatural infatuation with Mariah Carey. Trust me, I can't explain it.

A few years ago, he started to get excited about her career bottoming out. Her records weren't selling, her movie was a bomb, her marriage was breaking up, and she was taking crazy pills. She was heading in a direction that many washed up famous women opt to take... an appearance in Playboy. In fact, in 2002, Vegas had 2 to 1 odds of it happening. Stock prices for airbrush companies surged. The nation waited, patiently.

Then, unexpectedly, Carey's career began to pick up again, culminating in today's announcement that she leads the field in Grammy nominations for 2005. This is terrible news for my buddy, as a Grammy nomination sets any Playboy appearance back at least three years. In fact, he has a better chance of seeing Drew Carey naked in that time.

So enjoy being clothed, Mariah. It's just a matter of time. As for me, I'm hoping this whole Christina Applegate resurgence is just a brief anomaly.

And yes, I am 12 years old.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Gay Marriage Doublespeak

The Wisconsin State Senate today for the second time passed a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and woman. The amendment now goes to the Assembly, which is expected to approve it, then it goes to the public for a vote, most likely in November of 2006.

Reasonable people can disagree about whether gay marriage should be recognized or not, but a line of argument being used by the Democrats strikes me as particularly puzzling. On the one hand, they argue that marriage is already defined in state law as between a man and woman (actually, it is not - marriage is defined as being between a "husband" and "wife"), so the amendment is duplicative. In the same breath, they argue that the amendment is bigoted and mean-spirited.

So if the amendment reflects current law, why is it so mean spirited and bigoted to codify it in the state constitution? Is current law then mean spirited and bigoted? If so, why aren't they trying to repeal the current legal definition of marriage? Incidentally, I would love to call their bluff and bring that bill to a vote, just to see 90% of Democrats vote against it.

This line of argument is reflected beautifully in a statement made by Attorney General candidate Kathleen Falk, when she said:

"This proposed amendment is unnecessary and divisive. Traditional marriage is already protected by Wisconsin statutes. This amendment attacks the many law-abiding Wisconsin citizens who seek to preserve or create legally valid protections for their long-term partners and, in many cases, for their children."

So an amendment that affirms current law is an "attack" on law abiding citizens? So is marriage between a man and a woman, or is it not? This from someone that wants to be the state's top attorney? (Incidentally, this column was written by John Nichols, who actually believes somehow that the referendum will fail when it comes to a full vote of Wisconsin citizens. Good luck with that one, John. Can you say "65%?")

Of course, opponents are arguing that the section of the bill that prohibits legal recognition of "substantially similar" relationships will prohibit domestic partners from receiving benefits. As I understand it, this hasn't been the case in other states that have passed similar constitutional amendments. The amendment only deals with legal recognition - it doesn't say anything about how benefits are distributed, etc. Governments can give out benefits based on virtually any criteria they want, as long as taxpayers are willing to pay for it. The private insurance market won't be affected in any way. Arguments about denial of hospital visitation and other issues are complete red herrings, as those are addressed in hospital policy and private contracts.

I was also amused by State Senators Dave Hansen and Roger Breske switching their votes this session from "yes" in 2003 on the amendment to "no" in 2005. As you may know, Hansen and Breske are both from competitive districts with heavy Catholic populations which overwhelmingly favor the amendment. The difference between now and then? They were both up for election in 2004. Amazing how some elected officials treat the wishes of their constituents when they don't actually need their votes anymore, isn't it?

That all being said, I actually think the advocates of gay marriage do make some valid points. I believe Action Wisconsin is 100% right when they criticize divorced elected officials when they trot out the old "sanctity of marriage" line. I guess I'm still too naive and simplistic when I believe that marriage should be preserved at nearly any cost.

And while I think "gay marriage" is an oxymoron, I don't feel particularly threatened by domestic partnerships. In a time when supposed "legitimate" relationships are producing unwanted children in broken homes with single parents, I don't know that going after other productive partnerships is really all that much of a priority.

The only problem is that the definition of "marriage" as it has been understood for all of humanity is now being twisted around by unelected judges with no constituency. The amendment as passed by the Legislature will give citizens of the state a chance to have a say in how they define marriage (although I'm betting even a constitutional amendment will be found by a federal judge to be in violation of the U.S. Constitution's 14th Amendment Equal Protection Clause.)

One final note: The fact that some groups are claiming that the amendment will invalidate domestic violence laws between nonmarried individuals is proof that these days, you can say absolutely anything and someone will believe it.

And by the way, when you signed up for Planned Parenthood, did you think you were getting this?

UPDATE: I just caught some local news that pointed out that the amendment might prevent some heterosexual unmarried couples from sharing benefits (it will not). But if it did, so what? Should we be spending taxpayer dollars to pay for the benefits of some guy shacking up with a female UW employee? If an insurance company is paying for unwed straight couples to share benefits, either your premiums or your taxes are too high. Is this a ploy to make same sex domestic partner benefits seem more reasonable? If so, it worked.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Condolieberman?

Jessica McBride states that Condoleezza Rice and Joe Lieberman would be her "dream ticket" in 2008, saying that "The Dems would have no idea what to do with that. "

I couldn't disagree more. The only tough decision for Democrats with that ticket would be whether they should camp out at the polls overnight to vote against them as early as possible or not.

First, how did Lieberman do in the 2004 Democratic primaries? Here's a hint: He lost to Al Sharpton in South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, California, Georgia, Maryland, New York, Florida, Mississippi, Texas, and Illinois. Al Sharpton! I know he may not have campaigned in some of those states, but damn!

Secondly, I assume Jessica thinks Condoleezza would be a tough vote for Democrats because she's a black woman. This, of course, assumes that Democrats are actually sincere in their concern for the rights of African Americans and women. They, of course, are not, unless you are the right type of African American or woman (see: Clarence Thomas). I would actually bet that Condi's negatives are higher among blacks than they are whites, as she is likely to be seen as "selling out" her race to work for the Bush Administration.

And before we put Condi in the White House, don't we need to know just a little about her views on domestic policy? There are a number of websites attempting to compile her statements on issues and, quite frankly, she may comfortably fit the old "RINO" tag that bloggers love to throw around these days.

So I don't know who my "dream ticket" would be. But I do know that most of my "dreams" have nothing to do with politics and everything to do with Natalie Portman rubbing my feet while I eat a corned beef sandwich.

Side point: Why does the RINO (Republican in Name Only) tag in Wisconsin generally apply only to state and local officials? Is George Bush a RINO? Where's that federal TABOR limiting how much states can spend? Why is Bush dragging his feet? Is anyone in Congress that voted for the Medicare drug benefit a RINO? Can we have some clarification on what the standards are?

Monday, December 05, 2005

It's Payback Time! Everything Must Go!

I was trying to think of ways to pay back the people who have helped me get this blog thing up and running, and I finally figured out a way. I'll sell their stuff.

Check out Amazon.com for books by Charlie Sykes and Bill Christofferson, and buy, buy, buy! I'm sure they will make for great stocking stuffers, and they may not be all that bad to read, either. I've read a couple of Charlie's, and Bill's seems to be getting a lot of Five Star reviews on Amazon.

In related news, I have heard that John McAdams has some leftover socks that he couldn't sell during his summer garage sale. A nickel per pair, first come, first serve.

Additionally, Brian Christianson from Free Will has his own line of women's underwear and scented love oils to hock. It looks like he's on the phone calling you, ladies...

And finally, if you are a fan of Wisconsin Politics, you absolutely must have a subscription to Wispolitics.com. Rumor has it that with every new subscription, Jeff Mayers will show up at your house with a canned ham and babysit your kids for the night.

So reward these folks for all the good work that they do, and for keeping you in the know.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Oh, Snap! The Biz Endorses Hillary

The waiting game is over. It appears Hillary Clinton has received the much sought after endorsement of Biz Markie for her presidential run. "The Diabolical Biz" DJed at Hillary's presidential campaign fundraiser this Saturday night at a Chicago nightclub.

For those not in the know, The Biz is most famous for his smash hit "Just a Friend," which revolutionized music 16 years ago. Since then, he is best known for his guest stints on several Beastie Boys albums.

The endorsement is likely to help Hillary pick up one key demographic: White guys who want black people to think they have been listening to rap for 20 years. I guess I can scratch The Biz off my list of fifth rate celebrities that may be Republican. Next up: Tina Yothers of "Family Ties."

In response, Republican George Allen has announced that "DJ Lower Marginal Tax Rate on Dividends," the fresh conservative rapper from South Central West Bend, will be headlining his next Wisconsin stop.

Hat Tip: Carlson

Weekend Movie Notes

I watched the movie "Monster" with my wife on Saturday night. You know, it's the movie where Charlize Theron wears tons of makeup to get all uglied up to play the role of lesbian serial killing hooker Aileen Wuornos, gracious recipient of six death sentences in Florida.

The movie provides a conundrum so profound, I thought I'd mention it here. During the movie, she runs around killing guys who solicit her for sex. At one point, there's a scene where she's standing, naked looking at herself in the mirror. At first, you think it's no big deal, because she's kind of gross. But then, the wheels start to turn slowly in your head, and you begin to realize...those are Charlize Theron's boobs!

The problem is, by the time you put two and two together and start to imagine what the real Charlize Theron would look like wearing those boobs, the scene is over, and, tragically, you've completely missed out on Movie Nudity History. Therein lies the conflict - you could just let the scene go by and pretend nothing happened, or you could take a chance on going to the remote control for a replay. This is an extremely high risk option, as it could result in your wife jamming the remote up your left nostril, causing causing lasting brain damage.

See the problems men have to face? Don't let women say they have it rough - we have to make some brutal decisions.

On a more serious note, I would encourage everyone to rent the movie "Murderball," which is one of the best movies I've seen this year. Don't let the title fool you - if you aren't inspired by this movie, you have a heart of lead.

It's the story of the 2004 U.S. Paralympic Rugby team, and probably isn't for the kiddies. It pulls off the rare trick of on the one hand making you thankful for being able bodied, but it also shows what an exciting and fulfilling life quadraplegics can live for years and years. Throw in some patriotism and a great soundtrack, and you have a winning movie. I'm serious - I can't recommend it more emphatically. If you don't see it, the only conclusion I can draw is that you hate the handicapped.

UPDATE: A reader reminds me that Charlize Theron is naked in "The Devil's Advocate," a movie so bad I must have purged it from my memory.

All I Want For Christmas...



Please, Baby Jesus, make it so.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Doyle Subpoenas A&W Root Beer Bear

Milwaukee – Emotions ran high today at a public hearing called by Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle to discuss alleged price gouging by the fast food industry. Doyle opened the hearing with a speech decrying A&W Restaurants’ latest quarterly report, which shows an 18% increase in profits, totaling $189 million. “A&W’s price gouging costs Wisconsin consumers $178 billion per day,” said Doyle, citing a study compiled by noted UW economist Don Nichols.

The Bear testified wearing his trademark orange sweater, hat, and no pants, and fired back at the committee (as a peace offering, Doyle also chose to wear no pants). “I’m not from Wisconsin, but I imagine they do teach basic economics in the public schools,” he said. “I could be out in the field figuring out a way to increase supply of root beer to keep the price down, but instead I’m stuck at this phony dog and pony show so the Governor can get a cheap press hit,” said the Bear. The Bear then asked if there were any actual dogs or ponies he could take with him, as they are important ingredients in A&W’s hamburgers.

“We’re an international company, so it’s a cruel joke on Wisconsin's consumers to make them think that somehow their situation is unique,” continued the Bear. “Instead of blaming the business that provides a necessary service, the Governor should be offering to make root bear cheaper by repealing the law that requires it be marked up to guarantee a certain profit. Or you could cut the state’s tax on root beer if you were sincerely interested in what you could do to help consumers. Furthermore, you could scale back excessive regulations that prohibit A&W restaurants from providing more root beer supply to consumers, which would cut the price dramatically, or you could provide incentives for the formulation of alternative sources of root beer,” said the Bear. “Any of these options would be a hundred times more effective than calling me in for this charade,” he added.

Department of Health and Family Services administrator Burnie Bridge aggressively questioned the Bear, pointing out that while it only costs A&W about five cents to produce a cup of root beer, they sell it to customers for over a dollar. “It is outrageous that A&W would continue to sell a product for the price that people are willing to pay for it,” said Bridge.

Bridge also produced photographs of the Bear and some high priced Washington lobbyists treating legislators to a night out at “The Bear Essentials,” a local gentlemen’s club. "We're bears," answered the Bear. "Sometimes we get tired of looking at the same tails," he added.



Following his testimony, the bear ate Secretary of Agriculture Rod Nilsestuen.

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I promise, no more fast-food related posts...