Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Doyle Under Investigation by Oprah's Book Club

Chicago - Modern day slattern deity Oprah Winfrey went on offense against Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle today, accusing him of not being honest with her legion of unshowered viewers. Doyle, worried that voters will avoid him like a thrift store jock strap in November, went on Winfrey's show to clear his name.

Doyle has come under criticism recently for allegedly not telling the truth about his involvement in awarding state contracts to state donors, for inflating the effect of his supposed "property tax freeze" and for claiming he one played the part of "Rerun" on the 70's show What's Happenin'.

Oprah's viewers were riveted as they watched the interview play out while stuffing their fat faces with Cherry Garcia, polishing the nails on their nasty feet, and narrowly escaping a visit from child protective services for one more day.

Doyle has been able to duck law enforcement punishment up to this point, claiming insanity and impotence as his defense. To prove his case on the show, he attempted to set fire to his pants, but accidentally burned campaign chair Marc Marotta, whose lips were attached to Doyle's ass at the time.

Midway through the interview, a teary Doyle admitted to selling off state government to the highest bidder. He admitted specifically to giving the state travel contract to Adelman Travel not only because they gave his campaign $20,000, but because they threw in a shiny pair of wings to wear on his shirt that he thought were "totally cool." Doyle said the contract was given out by a civil service employee who he didn't know, hadn't met, wasn't sure she actually existed, and was pretty sure that if she did exist, likely smelled like potato salad. Potato salad immediately issued a press release denying any involvement.

Doyle's challengers pounced on his legal problems immediately after they became known. Unable to sell off state contracts, Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker claimed he would be running a clean campaign, which explained why he currently had received contributions of $11.93, an unbreakable comb, and a copy of "The Gap Band's Greatest Hits" during the recent fundraising period.

Following the show, Oprah sentenced Doyle to three years of watching her own show. It was a rare chance for Oprah's viewers to see a political figure, as most of them think Geena Davis was "totally" wrong to invade Iraq. Oprah's Book Club has become a national juggernaut despite the fact that the last thing read by 97% of Winfrey's viewers was their child support check.

Reached for comment on the episode, Oprah's viewers' children said "Where's daddy?"

In completely unrelated news, Wisconsin blogger Jessica McBride was imprisoned for overdosing on too many exclamation points in one post. Cops began to be suspicious when exclamation points started disappearing from Wisconsin keyboards, only to find out McBride had been sneaking into homes and stealing them. As part of her probation, she will be forced to stop signing her name with a little heart over the "i."

SIDE NOTE: If I ever do anything that involves four exclamation points, it better not be something I can tell my wife about.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Doyle's Genius

Governor Doyle may have outfoxed us all. Apparently, he thinks it is a good idea to have Lt. Governor Barb Lawton be front and center in defending him. The strategy: show people how bad it would actually be if he gets thrown in jail before November and Lawton has to take over. If I were prosecuting Doyle, I would drop all charges immediately, apologize, and indict him on November 8th.

Pat Summitt: The Greatest?

Let me get one thing clear right out of the gate: Pat Summitt is the greatest women's coach of all time. There isn't even a legitimate argument to be made for anyone else.

But does she deserve to be compared to the great names in men's college basketball history? Of course not. Ever since Summitt won her 900th game last week, ESPN has been on a mission to point out how she has won more games than Dean Smith, Adolph Rupp, and Bobby Knight.

ESPN should be ashamed of themselves for even making such a comparison. To somehow equate men's basketball with women's hoops is ludicrous. The only thing they really have in common is that they play roughly the same amount of games during the year. But because everyone needs to feel warm and fuzzy about themselves, Summitt always ends up on lists of "greatest coaches."

Put simply, it is much easier to dominate a field in which there is such a shallow pool of talent. Whether you think it's good or bad, the bottom line is that few girls play basketball, and even fewer ascend to the level of Division I ability. So many more boys play basketball, there's enough talent to stock virtually all 300+ Division I teams, while teams like Tennessee and Connecticut can parlay their past successes to horde pretty much all the worthwhile talent in the country.

Summit racked up a lot of her wins when women's basketball was a complete afterthought in intercollegiate athletics. In fact, the only reason it isn't now is that federal law prohibits it. Many schools didn't even have teams when she was rolling through her schedule, and playing basketball wasn't exactly an attractive option for little girls growing up.

Now you may argue that there are a number of men's teams that are usually near the top of the polls. But let's take Duke for instance - a program that is second to none in success over the past 20 years. Duke has won one national championship in the last 13 years (in 2001: they won two consecutive in 1991 and 1992).

By comparison, Tennessee went one twelve year stretch where they won six national championships. Connecticut has won four in the last five years. Aside from UCLA's dominant men's teams of the 60's, those are runs that would be unheard of in men's basketball today.

That's not to say Summitt's 900 wins, or even Texas' Jody Conradt's 800 wins, isn't immensely impressive. But let's not let get crazy with political correctness. Just go down to any high school or college gym and see how many boys are playing pickup basketball and compare that to how many girls are playing. That should tell you all you need to know.

Male Survival Guide Pt. 1

Here's just a tip that I had to learn the hard way this weekend. Don't even consider singing this song to yourself at home while your wife, girlfriend, or other significant other is present. Seems self-evident, but I made the fatal error.

Morrissey - You're the One For Me, Fatty

You’re the one for me, fatty
You’re the one I really, really love
And I will stayPromise you’ll say
If I’m in your way

You’re the one for me, fatty
You’re the one I really, really love
And I will stay
Promise you’ll sayIf I’m ever in your ...

All over battersea
Some hope; and some despair
All over battersea
Some hope; and some despair
Oh ...

You’re the one for me, fatty
You’re the one I really, really love
And I will stayPromise you’ll say
If I’m in your way
You’re the one for me, fatty
You’re the one I really, really love
And I will stay
Promise you’ll sayIf I’m ever in your ...


All over battersea
Some hope; and some despair
All over battersea
Some hope; and some despair
Oh, oh ...

You’re the one for me, fatty
You’re the one I really, really love
And I will stay
Promise you’ll say
If I’m ever in your way

You’re the one for me, fatty
You’re the one for me, a-hey-hey

(I screwed up the A-heys at the end, which is what I think got me slapped upside the head.)

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Bush Hires Earl Hickey to Turn Presidency Around

WASHINGTON (AP) - In a surprise move today, President Bush announced that he would be hiring Earl Hickey of "My Name is Earl" fame to turn around his administration's karma. "This is an important day in our nation's history," said Bush, who plans to make Hickey's hiring the centerpiece of his State of the Union message on Tuesday.

Bush said he had hoped Hickey's advice could help turn around his sagging poll numbers. At the height of his presidency, Bush's favorable rating was 104%, as he garnered the support of nearly every living human plus unanimous support from unborn fetuses. Currently, Bush's favorability rating is mired in the low 40's, which experts claim put Bush somewhere between "shampoo" and "Tony Danza."

In private meetings previous to the announcement, Hickey had consulted Bush to "make a list" of things he had done wrong that he could fix to improve his karma. Through investigative reporting, the York blog was able to find out some of the items on Bush's list.

"Number thirty four - return the pigs I stole as a fraternity prank at Yale."

"Number sixty five - to make up for ordering the assasination of former President Palmer, add dental coverage to Jack Bauer's benefit package."

"Number seventy seven - make up for starting a difficult war that I wasn't prepared for, bungling the post-war operations and costing the lives of American soldiers."

"Number one hundred and four - give Condi back her Suddenly Susan Season One DVD."

Fortunately for Bush, he was already able to scratch off number twenty three (Harriet Miers) from his list. Not only did he pull Miers' appointment and replace her with Samuel Alito, he also hit Miers in the head with a shovel and buried the body, which makes up for about ten percent of that debacle.

At the press conference, Bush apologized to Carrie Sylvester of Youngstown, Ohio, for wiretapping one of her phone calls. "My apologies to Mrs. Sylvester, who clearly didn't want her husband to know she was sleeping with the guy who cleans her pool," said Bush. "In order to cross her off my list, I will make sure she gets $2 billion in Medicare dollars to purchase an ointment to clear up that little 'problem' she has developed as a result of her trysts," said Bush. Shortly after the press conference, Sylvester set herself on fire.

Bush was set to name Jenna Elfman deputy of karma relations, but was disappointed when he found out she was no longer "Dharma."

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Lara Jill Miller - Still Gettin' it Done!

I had such a good response to my offhanded comment about Lara Jill Miller yesterday (the "kinda-hot but still seems gettable" daughter from Gimme a Break), I thought I would follow up with an update on her career.

Here is a link to her website, which includes this memorable description of her current career:

Lara is an example of how the combination of talent, perseverance and diversity can lead to long-term success. The public certainly sees (and hears) it - she has a strong fan base, and nearly every day Lara is recognized on the street, her name a frequent buzz on many popular web sites. With her solid credits and great acting chops, she will impress and delight you.

Apparently, she now does a ton of voiceovers for kids' shows, which might explain why I feel like I need to smoke a cigarette after I watch "Higglytown Heroes."

And here's another fan website with photos that show that she is clearly still getting it done:

While I clearly love Lara, if you are writing a fan website dedicated to her, there is likely a government program available for you.

So my hope is that she Googles her name at some point, finds this blog, and sends me an e-mail. She can have all the space she wants to explain to her fans here in Wisconsin what's going on in her life, what her likes and dislikes might be, and what Nell Carter really smelled like. Hopefully Nell and Ol' Dirty Bastard are living together in harmony in heaven.

"The FUNNIEST global-warming-themed Exxon-related Internet movie of 2006 (so far)."

Believe it or not, here's an actual e-mail I received from my homies at "Exxpose Exxon:"

From : Amelia Field "afield@mrss.com"
Sent : Thursday, January 26, 2006 6:41 PM
To : "dennis-york@hotmail.com"
Subject : Watch Exxon "Toast the Earth" as it celebrates $32 billion in profits


I’m writing to share latest from the Exxpose Exxon campaign and to thank you for your previous support when you posted about the campaign on your blog. Check out this short FLASH (http://www.ExxposeExxon.com/movie) released today by the Exxpose Exxon campaign in anticipation of ExxonMobil’s fourth-quarter profit announcement this coming Monday, January 30th. ExxonMobil made an estimated $32 billion in profits in 2005 – the largest profit EVER recorded by an American corporation!

This might make a humorous addition to your coverage of what promises to be ExxonMobil’s latest outrage. It’s the FUNNIEST global-warming-themed Exxon-related Internet movie of 2006 (so far).

Please feel free to write with any questions or concerns. I’m also happy to provide background materials on the campaign and flash movie.


Amelia Field
On behalf of the Exxpose Exxon campaign

They are obviously referring to this post I wrote, where I ripped State Representative Terese Berceau for accepting an environmental award from the Sierra Club while owning between $5,000 and $50,000 in Exxon-Mobil stock.

But they actually think that because I criticized Berceau, that I actually support their group. Let me put it simply - I am ecstatic that Exxon will report $32 billion in profits. It means they will have more funds for oil exploration, drilling infrastructure, and research on alternative fuels, all of which will keep the cost of my gas down in the long term. I hope at least $1 billion of that profit goes to one executive who uses the money to buy his wife a nice fur made of one of the poor polar bears in their crappy movie.

Boy, with all the laughs found in their movie, I can't wait for their next one - just like I can't wait for an armadillo to crawl into one of my ears and start eating my brain.

Clear enough?

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Video Blogging - Wave of the Future

So I have convinced myself that this whole writing blog posts is for suckers. Video blogging is where it's at. Unfortunately, I found someone who doing video blogging exactly the way I would do it. I mean, he's got me down, word for word. I can't top him, so why duplicate his efforts?

He's "The Kid from Brooklyn," and you can view his artistry here. Click on the Super Bowl Tickets link first (I hear he's paying top dollar). His erudite observations about Brokeback Mountain, Jewish Women, and Muslims are mini-seminars on sensitivity.

Warning: Language is fantastically foul. And I laughed for an hour straight.

I'm a Uniter, Not a Divider

In these contentious times, I am always happy to bring together bloggers of all political persuasions. That is why I am happy that bloggers from McBride to Xoff agree that I had no business showing up in a Capital Times article as a "source." And I agree with them. I mean, what the hell? Was Pauly Shore unavailable for a quote on the governor's legal problems? Did the "kinda-hot but still seems gettable" daughter from Gimme a Break not return their call?

Even Spivak and Bice have picked up this major controversy. Although I'm technically not a source in the article, as I don't really provide any meaningful information (which is consistent with my blog), who knows who I could be? I actually think my bigger scoop was when I revealed that Adelman got the contract despite providing travel exclusively by rickshaw.

Anyway, this is a strange precedent. I have to go now - the Washington Post wants to talk to me about the Alito confirmation vote. Then I have a conference call with "Windsurfing Nuns Weekly."

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

What Doyle's Adelman Statement Should Look Like

So as you have likely heard, one of Jim Doyle's employees at the Department of Administration has been indicted on two federal felony counts for her role in the state travel contract awarded to Adelman Travel.

Virtually every blog you read from now until the end of the week will weigh in on the Doyle travel scandal, and nearly every angle will be covered. Rather than repeat much of what will be said (better than I can) about the case on other blogs, I wanted to challenge myself to a little mental exercise. I wanted to see if I could actually put together a proposed statement by Doyle in his defense. I think you can more accurately judge the merits of a situation when you put yourself in the other guy's shoes, and I'm kind of curious as to what kind of PR guy I would make. Call it "The Xoff Home Game."

So here's the statement Doyle should make (or at least the best my little brain could do):

"I was deeply troubled when I heard news that an employee in my administration has been accused of criminal conduct. Georgia Thompson has been a good employee for many years, and she hasn’t been found guilty of anything. I would hope that we would wait to hear all the facts of the case before we damage the reputation of a good state servant. The Department of Administration will continue to cooperate fully with the investigation, and I am confident that in the end, I will be able to correct any problem that has occurred.

Since I took office, I have made clean government a priority in Wisconsin. One of the first bills I signed into law was 2003 Assembly Bill 1, which specifically prohibited official state action in return for campaign contributions. I have publicly supported meaningful campaign finance reform to lessen the effect money has on the political system.

If true, the allegations made by the U.S. Attorney show the damaging effect money can have on politics. As I announced two weeks ago, I have put together an ethics reform package that would seek to limit fundraising during the budget and toughen enforcement of campaign laws, among other reforms. I have ordered my campaign staff to do a full accounting of contributions I have received, and to return any contributions made by individuals who have bid on a state contract, including the contribution from Craig Adelman.

Trust in elected officials is what makes our democracy the greatest form of government in the world. I will work to see that the public can be fully confident that my administration is being run with the interest of Wisconsin citizens as its only consideration."

Several thoughts:

I don't believe a word of any of that. It is purely spin. I will most likely agree with every blogger that wants to send Doyle up the river without a trial. I wrote it without seeing any comment from the Doyle team, so any resemblance to what they say is purely coincidental.

No political consultant doing crisis management would allow their subject to make a statement that long. The shorter the statement, the better.

I think it'll be a while before Doyle makes any official statement, if he's smart. Expect his surrogates to be quoted in the short term.

The $10,000 contribution from Craig Adelman has now guaranteed a half a million dollars' worth of ads run against Doyle. Hope it was worth it. This would be like a married guy sleeping with his secretary for one night, then coming home to find his wife had packed his bags. It may have been good one night, but wave goodbye to your marriage.

Any attempt Doyle makes now to position himself as a campaign finance reformer will likely ring hollow, as he was the driving force behind killing a major (and horrible) bill relating to campaign finance in the State Senate this session (SB 46).

For more early reaction on the indictments, go here, here, here, here, and here.

Lincoln and the War With Mexico: Fahrenheit 1846

I'm still slogging through my Sandburg biography of Abraham Lincoln, and I was stunned when I read the portion dealing with Lincoln's opposition to the Mexican-American war. Read some of these statements and tell me this exact debate from 1848 isn't taking place in America as we speak in 2006.

As you know, President James K. Polk began the War with Mexico in 1846 as a response to border disputes between Mexico and Texas. Democrats unanimously supported the war, while the Whigs (of which Lincoln was one) tended to oppose the war, seeing it as unnecessary, greedy, and a plot to divert attention from the administration's problems in dealing with settlement of the Oregon territory.

Democrat Stephen A. Douglas, on the floor of Congress, defended the President's decision to go to war in 1846:

"Gentlemen have the hardihood to tell us that the President has unwisely and unnecessarily precipitated the country into an unjust war and unholy war. They express great sympathy for Mexico, profess to regard her as an injured and persecuted nation – the victim of American injustice and aggression. They have no sympathy for the widows and orphans whose husbands and fathers have been robbed and murdered by the Mexican authorities; no sympathy with our own countrymen who have dragged out miserable lives within the walls of her dungeons, without crime and without trial; no indignation at the outrages upon our commerce and shipping, and the insults to our national flag, no resentment at the violation of treaties and the invasion of our territory. I despair of ever seeing my country again in the right, if they are to be the oracles.

Douglas quoted Frederick the Great, “Take possession first and negotiate afterward,” and declared “That is precisely what President Polk has done. He has taken possession and proposed to negotiate.”

By the time Lincoln took his seat in Congress, the war with Mexico was nearly over. Over 27,000 American soldiers had died in the conflict. Mexico had succumbed, but questions arose about what the U.S. would do with the land it had conquered.

In 1848, Lincoln took to the floor of Congress, “declaring that the war with Mexico was unnecessarily and unconstitutionally commenced by the President.” He spoke of his impression of how he and others believed they ought to behave while their country was engaged in a war they considered unjustly commenced. “When the war began, it was my opinion that all those because of knowing too little, or because of knowing too much, could not conscientiously oppose the conduct of the President in the beginning of it should nevertheless, as good citizens and patriots, remain silent on that point, at least until the war should be ended.”

Now, he was forced to break his silence; the President was telling the country, continually, that votes of the Whigs for supplies to the soldiers in the field were an endorsement of the President’s conduct of the war. Then too, the President was holding back documents and information to which the public was entitled.

He said of President Polk: “Originally having some strong motive to involve the countries in a war, and trusting to escape scrutiny by fixing the public gaze upon the exceeding brightness of military glory – that attractive rainbow that rises in showers of blood – that serpent’s eye that charms to destroy – he plunged into it, and has swept on and on till, disappointed in his calculations of the ease with which Mexico might be subdued, he now finds himself he knows not where.”

“The President is in no wise satisfied with his own positions. First he takes up one, and in attempting to argue us into it he argues himself out of it, then seizes another and goes through the same process, and then, confused at being able to think of nothing new, he snatches up the old one again. His mind, taxed beyond its power, is running hither and thither, like some tortured creature on a burning surface, finding no position on which it can settle down and be at ease…”

Lincoln took a beating back in his Illinois home district for his anti-war position, which was seen as Anti-American.

From Sandburg's book:

Back in Illinois were political enemies murmuring that Lincoln was revealed as a Benedict Arnold in his “spot resolutions” [against the war]. The Belleville Advocate for March 2, 1848, came along with a report of a meeting in Clark County of patriotic Whigs and Democrats who adopted this declaration: “Resolved, That Abe Lincoln, the author of the ‘spotty’ resolutions in Congress, against his own country, may they long be remembered by his constituents, but may they cease to remember him, except to rebuke him – they have done much for him, but he has done nothing for them, save in the part they have taken in their country’s cause.” The Illinois State Register was telling its readers of newspapers and public meetings that declared Lincoln to be “a second Benedict Arnold.”

Lincoln lost his next election, in large part due to his opposition to the War with Mexico, and settled back in to practice law in Springfield.

While this post isn't necessarily a reflection my own views of our current war, I thought it was interesting how the same issues emerge during wars of any era. I'm sure I'll hear from somebody explaining the obvious differences between the wars and the justification for each. But the parallels between the politics and rhetoric of each war are profound.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Joe Parisi: Constitutional Scholar

When bloggers are running out of ideas to write about, they need to look no further than State Representative Joe Parisi to find inspiration. Parisi has outsmarted us all again. I recently made fun of Parisi's bill to allow felons to vote. Apparently undeterred by that stink bomb he unleashed on the State Capitol, Parisi is back with an even worse bill that demands comment.

Parisi is introducing a bill that caps the total amount of expenditures a campaign for State Senate or State Assembly can make. From Parisi's office:

TO: Legislative Colleagues

FROM: Representative Joe Parisi

RE: LRB3032/1 - Relating to imposition of disbursement and self-contribution limits applicable to candidates for legislative offices.

I am introducing a bill to create a new disbursement limit for candidates for the office of State Senator of $100,000 and a new disbursement limit for the office of Representative to the Assembly of $50,000. The bill would also required that these limits are binding upon all candidates for those offices regardless of whether they accept grants from the Wisconsin Election Campaign Fund.

If you're a campaign finance nutjob, this sounds like a great idea. There's only one small impediment holding this bill back - it's called the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

35 years ago, Congress passed the The Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971, which imposed these exact types of total disbursement limitations on campaigns. The Act also imposed individual contribution limits and other limits with regard to contributions.

In 1976, the Supreme Court ruled on the constitutionality of these limits. While the contribution limits were mostly upheld, the disbursement limitations were unambiguously shot out of the water as violating the First Amendment. Read the following passages from Buckley and tell me if you think the Supreme Court is unclear as to the constitutionality of total expenditure limits:

From Buckley v. Valeo (1976) - My emphasis in bold:


A restriction on the amount of money a person or group can spend on political communication during a campaign necessarily reduces the quantity of expression by restricting the number of issues discussed, the depth of their exploration, and the size of the audience reached. This is because virtually every means of communicating ideas in today's mass society requires the expenditure of money. The distribution of the humblest handbill or leaflet entails printing, paper, and circulation costs. Speeches and rallies generally necessitate hiring a hall and publicizing the event. The electorate's increasing dependence on television, radio, and other mass media for news and information has made these expensive modes of communication indispensable instruments of effective political speech.

The expenditure limitations contained in the Act represent substantial rather than merely theoretical restraints on the quantity and diversity of political speech... In sum, although the Act's contribution and expenditure limitations both implicate fundamental First Amendment interests, its expenditure ceilings impose significantly more severe restrictions on protected freedoms of political expression and association than do its limitations on financial contributions.

Other expenditure ceilings limit spending by candidates, 608 (a), their campaigns, 608 (c), and political parties in connection with election campaigns, 608 (f). It is clear that a primary effect of these expenditure limitations is to restrict the quantity of campaign speech by individuals, groups, and candidates. The restrictions, while neutral as to the ideas expressed, limit political expression "at the core of our electoral process and of the First Amendment freedoms."

The First Amendment denies government the power to determine that spending to promote one's political views is wasteful, excessive, or unwise. In the free society ordained by our Constitution it is not the government, but the people - individually as citizens and candidates and collectively as associations and political committees - who must retain control over the quantity and range of debate on public issues in a political campaign. [424 U.S. 1, 58]
For these reasons we hold that 608 (c) [the statute mandating total campaign expenditure limits] is constitutionally invalid.

The contribution ceilings thus serve the basic governmental interest in safeguarding the integrity of the electoral process without directly impinging upon the rights of individual citizens and candidates to engage in political debate and discussion. By contrast, the First Amendment requires the invalidation of the Act's independent expenditure ceiling, 608 (e) (1), its limitation on a candidate's expenditures from his own personal funds, 608 (a), and its ceilings on overall campaign expenditures, 608 (c). These provisions place substantial and direct restrictions [424 U.S. 1, 59] on the ability of candidates, citizens, and associations to engage in protected political expression, restrictions that the First Amendment cannot tolerate.


The court makes it clear that limiting campaign expenditures blatantly stifles free speech. But let's look at one more reason Parisi's bill is so bad.

Let's just say, for argument's sake, that total expenditures were capped. Who do you think would have the advantage in any campaign? That's right - the incumbent. (I knew my readers were smart.)

Incumbents always have the edge when a campaign starts. They have the name identification, they have huge office accounts that they use to bombard their constituents with bogus "surveys" and other literature, and they have lists of donors at the ready. Often times, the challenger has to raise and spend more than the incumbent to overcome these built-in disadvantages. By Parisi mandating equal spending, it gives incumbents an enormous advantage, as a challenger can only spend a certain amount to criticize their job in office (also known as "political speech.")

So beyond being unconstitutional, Parisi's bill is intellectually backward. Any politican working to stifle criticism of themselves doesn't deserve the office they hold. How could anyone even think of introducing a bill like this before checking the case law on this? It's not like Buckley was a small case - it's probably one of the most prominent cases of the last 40 years. Parisi introducing this bill would be like a State Assemblyman introducing a bill outlawing abortion, and saying "gee, I wonder why nobody's thought of that before?"

I expect an e-mail from Parisi thanking me for teaching him a lesson he should have learned before he introduced this acrid bill. Although I hope he doesn't stop with the embarrassing bills - they are great material.

And of course, we are still going to be subjected to endless editorials about how Republicans are wasting everyone's time with their legislative agenda. This when we have Democrats who are too lazy to do even the most basic research on their bills.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

New Doyle Toupee Under Federal Investigation

Madison - Federal prosecutors dropped a bombshell today when they announced that Governor Doyle’s new hairpiece would be subpoenaed to testify against Doyle in an ongoing ethics investigation. The hairpiece has been granted partial immunity in return for full cooperation in the investigation of several of Doyle's ethical problems.

“During many of the shady deals Doyle was involved in, it was only Doyle, the donor, and the toupee in the room,” said U.S. Attorney Stephen Biskupic. Doyle has come under federal investigation due to a travel contract awarded to Adelman Travel, after he received a $10,000 contribution from Craig Adelman, the company’s president. “What struck us as strange is that Adelman won the contract despite providing travel exclusively by rickshaw,” said Biskupic.

“I have at no time ever worn a hairpiece, and I don’t know anything about any crimes,” said Doyle in a prepared statement. A year long investigation, however, has produced one anonymous, brave witness who is willing to testify that Doyle is, in fact, wearing a toupee. "Yeah, it was definitely a wig," said the witness. "During one meeting, he was hungry, and he reached up and pulled a peanut butter and jelly sandwich out from underneath his hair. That was the first tip off," he said. Strangely, no photographs of Doyle before 2005 were available.

According to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Omega Travel beat out Adelman by 21 points in the grading for state contracts, yet the contract was given to Adelman. Things went bad for Adelman when Omega blocked a field goal in the third quarter and ran it all the way back to give them the 21 point lead.

The York Blog has uncovered much of the toupee’s sordid past, including an eight year stint in Riker’s Island in the 1970s for plagiarism and beating a PETA volunteer nearly to death. He received 20 years for claiming that he had written passages of “Anna Karenina,” but the sentence was reduced by 12 years for his brutal beating of the PETA activist.

The toupee also did a short time in prison after admitting to stealing a kishka. He was eventually hunted down and captured by an angry mob of Polka fans, who had been demanding to know his identity for years.

In return for his cooperation in the Doyle case, the hairpiece will be sentenced to probation and 100 hours of watching Jenna Elfman's new television show. He will also be placed in the hairpiece relocation program and assigned to Chuck Chvala, virtually guaranteeing nobody will ever see him again.

“As in any case, it’s not the crime, but the cover up that got him in trouble,” said Biskupic.

Get it? Cover up? Toupee? Never mind.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Music Notes

If Belle and Sebastian's "Dirty Dream #2" isn't one of your favorite songs, it should be. In fact, the state should mandate that 10% of all the CDs sold in the state be "The Boy With the Arab Strap." To see the video, click here. If you get a pop-up error message, just click on the Re-Launch link.

For all the Sufjan Stevens fans that have e-mailed me, check out a great 8-song live performance from July that he played for KEXP radio in Seattle. If you want to listen to the whole thing uninterrupted, click on the "Interview" link. There's also another good one from KCRW's "Morning Becomes Eclectic" here, complete with video.

Other places I routinely check for good online live performances are Justconcerts.com (a Canadian site) and Sounds Eclectic, which archives live shows from KCRW in Santa Monica, CA. If anyone else has more suggestions of good live sites, let me know.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Tax Cuts "Cost" Who?

It seems that half the time I want to do a post on something, the Fabulous Jenna at Right Off the Shore has already covered it. So rather than blather on about Mark Pocan's recent post about upcoming bills that "cost" the state money, I'll just link to her.

Pocan is quick to criticize Republicans for wanting to "spend" money on tax cuts, when they are less willing to do so for new government programs, such as aid for heating bills. Obviously, tax cuts deprive the treasury of money it would otherwise have had, but they also create incentives for the private sector to pick up the slack and foster economic development. In the case Pocan cites, businesses would get a tax credit to pay to further the education of their employees. Those damn Republicans! (Check out his juvenile comments he leaves on this post - comforting to know 60,000 Madison residents are represented by a nine year old, huh?)

Creating a new government program costs the state money, but also institutes a new state entitlement that will rarely ever be cut or eliminated. So while it may help people with their heating bills in the short term, it creates a new class of people who are dependent on the government to pay their utilities, which will cause more strain on budgets in the future.

So not all "spending" is the same. Clearly, tax cuts "cost" the government, while new spending "costs" the taxpayers.

SIDE NOTE: Jenna is too good to be true - a 19 year old sassy college girl who's a conservative? There's an 80% chance she's really a fat, hairy FBI agent named "Hugh" on a sting operation against conservatives. When you see in the news that a conservative blogger wearing buttless leather chaps was arrested after being lured to a hunting shack in Lodi, you'll know I was right.

SIDE SIDE NOTE: Anybody seen my chaps?

Celebrities Drug Habits Exposed

From a Green Bay Press-Gazette story on methamphetamine use in Brown County:

Whatever the reason, [emergency room physician Dr. Jane] Witman is glad meth hasn't yet caught on here.

"This stuff is bad, bad, bad," she said. "Meth addiction is one of the hardest to treat, and it's not a pretty sight. People lose their teeth, they get skin lesions, and they age phenomenally rapidly. … It can take a beautiful 17-year-old girl and make her into a hag in two years."
Britney Spears is on meth? You heard it here first.

FYI - "Bad, bad, bad" is a clinical, scientific term. It is slighter worse than "bad, bad" but not nearly as catastrophic as "bad, bad, bad, bad."

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

A Broken Clock is Right Twice a Day

I was reading this editorial by Jonah Goldberg from The National Review when I came across this throwaway paragraph near the end:

I find it revealing that a significant number of conservatives I know (and even work with) either oppose the death penalty on moral grounds or are inclined to. But they are consistently put off by the radical chic crowd, which has grown deceitful, narcissistic and married to agendas no conservative would ever sign on to.
As an opponent of the death penalty myself, this is something I have struggled with. I am firmly in the anti-death penalty camp, and I am unlikely to be persuaded otherwise. I hope we never see it in Wisconsin. As a skeptic of governmental power, I am especially wary of the government's use of the ultimate power - the ability to put its own citizens to death. I find nothing inconsistent with a conservative distrust of government and a belief that occasionally sentencing the innocent to die is inconsistent with a civilized society. (I part on this issue with the wonderful John McAdams, one of my daily must-read bloggers.)

But when it comes time to see my position represented in public, I never see anyone that even appears to have come to their position via thoughtful reflection. It's always some flaming lefty nutjob whose motives are far beyond the moral issues presented by capital punishment. It's always something about how our racist nation has framed a future Nobel Prize winner for the death of some policeman who was probably crooked anyway. And so it goes.

So should I be proud of my association with people I generally loathe? Should I sit back and let Mike Farrell do my talking for me? I'm certainly not ashamed of my position on the issue, but I am definitely ashamed of the company of people with which my beliefs group me. Next thing you know, I'll be seen emerging from a smoke-filled Volkswagen van before I give a speech at next year's Fighting Bob Fest.

I can imagine what it must be like for pro-life Democrats. How can any good Democrat stomach having their views on abortion represented by the likes of Tom DeLay, Pat Robertson, Ralph Reed and the rest? (I realize I'm going way back for the Ralph Reed reference, I just figured he has a special place in the hearts of Democrats). If you're a stringent Catholic Democrat, how do you rectify this arrangement? Can we get some kind of support group together?

SIDE NOTE: The death penalty issue is a good test example for how abortion law would look if Roe v. Wade were overturned. Overturning Roe wouldn't immediately outlaw abortion across the nation - it would be an issue to be decided on a state by state basis, as the death penalty is. Some states would have it, and Utah wouldn't. And for people such as myself who oppose the death penalty, it doesn't bother me that other states have it - I'm content with the fact that I live in a state that doesn't. Think pro-abortion groups would feel likewise?

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

White People Say the Darndest Things

I have a tip for white politicians that decide to pander to African-Americans on Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday: Stay home. You are embarrassing yourselves.

Test Case #1: Governor Jim Doyle, who in a speech celebrating Dr. King's birthday in the State Capitol, decided to equate black struggles to those of gays. From Wispolitics.com:

Gov. Jim Doyle spoke out against the so-called"Defense of Marriage" constitutional amendment during a celebration honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., calling it an act of "discrimination." “We should not enshrine discrimination in the Constitution of the state of Wisconsin,” Doyle said of the proposed constitutional amendment that would prevent same-sex marriage.

Where do you start with this? Here's a news flash to Doyle - if you took a poll in Wisconsin, I would bet blacks would be the demographic most favorable to the amendment to ban gay marriage. There isn't any "brotherhood" with gays. This isn't any "festival of the aggrieved" where all discrimination is equal. You think African-Americans need to be told what real discrimination is?

I believe public schools still teach about this little-known practice known as "slavery," where an entire class of American citizens were kept as servants. They were sold from owner to owner, often breaking up families in the process. They were beaten, lynched, worked to death, underfed, raped, and murded. Our nation had laws and Supreme Court decisions affirming that black Americans were property. Half our our nation's citizens decided they would rather fight to their death in a war than let blacks be recognized as free citizens.

Exactly what period of oppression would lead you to believe that gays have any claim to the same standing of discrimination as African-Americans? Did black leaders march and die for the right of Ryan Seacrest to have his own talk show? Wasn't the last meaningful gay march last weekend when candlesticks were 30% off at Pottery Barn? How exactly do you earn protected class status based on where your genitals occasionally end up?

Of course, I'm making light of a serious subject. I'm not suggesting for a second that gays and lesbians don't face discrimination or that we still don't have have progress to make in their full recognition of equal citizens. But you can't tell me for a second that African-Americans appreciate the "struggle" of gays being equated to the horrific systematic racism that has been prevalent throughout our nation's history. To do so is to disgrace the memory of those that gave their lives in the name of civil rights.

Test Case #2: New York Senator and Presidential Hopeful Hillary Clinton gave a speech on MLK Day where she said:

The House “has been run like a plantation, and you know what I’m talking about,” said Clinton, D-N.Y. “It has been run in a way so that nobody with a contrary view has had a chance to present legislation, to make an argument, to be heard.”

(See the video here.)

My plea to African-Americans to join the Republican party begins and ends with statements like this. Democrats take blacks for granted to the extent that they are willing to make offensive statements like that, without fear of any kind of backlash.

For anyone - ANYONE - to equate serving in the U.S. Congress with being a slave on a plantation is beneath the contempt of any thinking person. I'm certain there were a lot of slaves working under the hot sun in the cotton fields of Georgia that said to themselves, "Thank God I'm not in Congress. That sounds like a pretty tough job. Hillary Clinton has it rough."

For the record, Senator Hillary Clinton is fully capable of writing and introducing any legislation that she wants. She is also capable of making an argument in favor of that legislation, and she has every media outlet in the country willing to make sure she is heard.

How uncomfortable is it to watch this rich, lily white cracker ass stand up before a black church and try to speak to them on their terms? How insulting to blacks is it that she feels the need to speak to them in "their" language and use pandering metaphors that "they" will understand? Did she hire Bulworth as her campaign manager? When she goes to speak before a group of devout Jews, is she going to compare serving in the Senate to Auschwitz?

I don't know what it is that causes white politicians to lose their minds when honoring civil rights greats. One would think an appreciation of Dr. King's accomplishments would stand alone without injecting shameless pandering into the discussion. So I apologize on their behalf.

SIDE NOTE: In his speech, Doyle stated that he supported marriage between one man and one woman, and that no constitutional amendment was necessary because this concept is already clear in state statutes. So he supports "enshrining" discrimination, as long as it's statutory and not constitutional? Owen at B&S caught the same thing here.

Monday, January 16, 2006

There’s No Worse Time for “Reform” Than Now

Often times, our government is criticized for moving slowly to address societal problems. But the only thing worse than government acting slowly is government acting too quickly.

Put your ear to the ground – that rumbling you hear isn’t Kirstie Alley running away from a salad bar. That sound is elected officials running away from fundraising scandals at both the state and federal level. Soon, “campaign finance reform” plans will be passed between legislators more often than bottles of Grecian Formula. Our lawmakers rightfully acknowledge the lack of public confidence in their motives, but in their rush to rehabilitate their own images, they may hastily enact unnecessary changes that erode public participation in the election process.

Lawyers have a saying that “hard cases make bad law.” Campaign finance reform advocates (both of them) are using the opportunity of “scandal” in legislatures to push their reform agendas. Normally, finance reform isn’t anywhere near the top of the public’s “to do” list. The public sees campaign finance reform as about as necessary as “Big Momma’s House II.” What isn’t clear, however, is how the reformers' plans to restrict political speech actually deal with the problems that have been uncovered. In fact, the only thing evident is that the laws as currently written are working. At the state level, Democrats Brian Burke and Chuck Chvala, and Republicans Bonnie Ladwig, and Steve Foti have all been convicted, with Scott Jensen still waiting in the wings. Who could plausibly look at the current string of convictions and conclude that the current laws aren’t effective?

Furthermore, let’s look at what these legislators have been accused of: Brian Burke was accused of shaking down lobbyists in his office and filing false per diem reports. Chuck Chvala allegedly extorted money from lobbyists in exchange for campaign contributions, sent Capitol staffers out to run campaigns, and illegally coordinated campaign ads with special interests. Bonnie Ladwig and Steve Foti were found guilty of using their taxpayer-funded staffs to campaign, and Scott Jensen is accused of the same.

For the sake of argument, let’s lump all of these transgressions together (even though comparing Burke and Chvala to the rest are like comparing John Gotti to John Denver). “Campaign finance reform” as it is generally understood involves a complicated maze of fundraising limits, taxpayer money to run campaigns, and greater transparency by third party advertisers attempting to influence elections. How any of these changes would affect the crimes committed by Wisconsin legislators is unclear, at best.

How will taxpayer financed campaigns keep Brian Burke from falsifying his per diem documents? How will installing stricter contribution limits help legislative leaders resist the temptation to campaign on state time? Should we have a statute against extortion that ends with “and we really, really mean it this time?” Advocating for finance reform in the wake of these incidents is like advocating for less money in banks, so there is less temptation for crooks to rob them.

Instead of imposing a draconian new finance system, we need to look at what a good system of finance we have now. Unfortunately, the “good old days” of clean government that reform advocates like to cite likely never existed. Before our current laws of campaign limits and reporting were passed, campaigns were often funded by huge corporate financiers looking to earn government contracts and favorable legislation. All the contributions were limitless and went unreported (for an example of this, see the 1949 movie “All the King’s Men” starring Broderick Crawford). The days of “clean government” were the days of back room deals and special interests run amok. It wasn’t until 1972 that the system of contribution limits and reporting we have now was instituted, which means literally anything could have gone on before then without full public knowledge. (For a full history of finance reform law in Wisconsin, go here.)

Fast forward to today, where campaign financing is limited and transparent. Campaigns can raise money through any of three different ways; through individuals, through conduits (where individual contributions are bundled together by a third party), and through political action committees (special interest donations that are capped both in how much can be given and how much total one candidate can receive). In each of these three cases, all of these contributions are accepted and reported on campaign finance reports. So if anyone is concerned that their State Assemblywoman might be unduly influenced by a specific special interest, they are only a couple of mouse clicks away to find out exactly how much she has gotten from an individual, conduit, or political action committee.

It is because of these strict reporting requirements that the 2006 Wisconsin gubernatorial candidates can now criticize each other for money accepted by Jack Abramoff, the disgraced federal lobbyist. You’ll notice that nobody is actually accusing anyone of having committed a crime by accepting Abramoff’s money, just criticizing each others’ judgement for accepting “tainted” money from an unseemly source. This is the beauty of the current system. Ultimately, it will be the voters that judge the candidates on the wisdom of accepting Abramoff’s money, and the voters and media know that this money was accepted because of the reporting requirements that currently exist.

Of course, Governor Jim Doyle is also undergoing a separate investigation into the timing of campaign contributions and the distribution of state contracts, and whether the two are related. Again, this type of dealing, if true, is already illegal, and is known because of the reporting requirements already on the books. There is nothing being proposed that would have had any effect on this activity – giving money to try to affect contracts is illegal and will continue to be so under any new “plan.”

The current campaign finance system is better than any of the proposed reform changes because it still requires public participation in the election process. All the information is there for voters to make up their minds on specific candidates if they are willing to do their research. All the finance numbers are available to the press to report on how much is being given by who to what candidate, and what elected officials may be influenced by large giving by certain interests. If voters want to make allegations tying an elected official’s support of or opposition to a piece of legislation to specific contributions, they are able to do so – all the information is there.

For finance reformers, however, full transparency in fundraising isn’t enough. They see the whole process of fundraising as evil, and therefore want to all but end that practice, as well. Not only do they not want you to be able to contribute to a candidate of your choice if you support their ideals, they want to control how much you can hear from that candidate during an election and mandate how much of your tax money that candidate will get to run their campaign. Think back to the last campaign you lived through – are campaign ads really something you think need taxpayer support? Do we really need to subsidize mudslinging between candidates when we have other funding priorities? Campaigning is hard work, and one of the signs of a good candidate is one that is willing to do the unpleasant work of fundraising. By essentially socializing the campaign process, you are providing a government subsidy to many lazy candidates who are unwilling to do the hard work.

Also at issue to reformers are so-called “issue ads” which are paid for by anonymous third parties, many of them wealthy. These groups get together and buy ads supporting or opposing specific candidates and their identities are never known. In the past groups such as WEAC, Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, and the Indian Tribes have taken part in this “issue advocacy.” What reformers would like to do is regulate this type of political speech by requiring disclosure of the donors for these types of ads. This type of regulation of free speech (which was the main “accomplishment" of McCain-Feingold) will have the effect of chilling individuals’ right to debate candidates and issues. For reformers, less political speech is better.

There’s no question that those pushing for campaign finance reform mean well. Everyone is for “cleaning up the system.” However, the reforms advocated for by groups like Common Cause and the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign are an insult to voters and an assault on the First Amendment. Lawmakers are in an impossible situation – regardless of how offensive these proposed changes may be, they are unable to credibly argue against them, as they will be seen as defending the current system of corruption. So you end up with a never-ending charade of politicians saying they support "reform," when very few actually do. Nobody has the stones to stand up and explain why the current system is adequate, if given the chance to work.

Often times, reformers point to races where immense amounts of money are spent to show how “out of control” the system has gotten. What they often fail to mention, though, is that the amount of money spent has very little to do with the outcome of the election. Ask Alex Paul how much his $400,000 State Senate primary against Julie Lassa went in 2003, when she pounded him by a 68% to 32% margin. Ask Mary Panzer how her 2004 primary against Glenn Grothman went, when she spent $300,000 to lose 80% to 20%. Reformers consistently underestimate the ability of voters to make choices about candidates based on issues, trust, and likeability.

So myopic are campaign finance reformers, they don't even concede a fundamental right for individuals to support candidates with which they agree on issues. Reformers believe that monetary support for a candidate is almost always a payoff for some beneficial action that elected official has taken. Rather than believing individuals or interests support candidates with which they agree, reformers always accuse special interests of giving money in exchange for official actions. For instance, see the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign's "special report" on what they consider to be a "graft tax." The WDC essentially totalled up all the property, sales, and income tax exemptions in current law and accused business groups of paying off elected officials to gain these exemptions.

Set aside the fact that most people think tax exemptions are a good thing. They stimulate economic development in areas that the state deems important. Doing away with such "big business" exemptions would increase the cost of buying a home, of diapers, and food. But more importantly, is it inconceivable that business groups support candidates that support lower taxes because they honestly believe that a smaller tax burden helps generate economic activity? The WDC doesn't think so. They believe these common sense tax exemptions were essentially purchased by big businesses solely to better their bottom line, which simply doesn't make sense. So does money follow the candidate, or do candidates follow the money? Isn't that up to voters to decide?

Of course, when reforms are enacted that limit political speech, influence will find its way into the political process in other ways. Take the Abramoff case, for instance. Jack Abramoff would set up fake non-profit front groups that would pay for travel and perks for legislators. And when that is outlawed, influence will find its way into the process in more clandestine, insidious ways that aren’t as transparent as the full reporting requirements we have now. The famous McCain-Feingold federal campaign finance reform bill passed in 2002; after which Abramoff spent millions on influencing public officials. In fact, McCain-Feingold didn’t do anything meaningful but require those phony “I approved this message” disclaimers in federal TV ads.

Needless to say, you will find an editorial in a local newspaper supporting polygamy before you will find one opposing any version of campaign finance reform. To see why, you need only to follow the influence. The less money that is raised and spent on campaigns, and the more limits on political speech there are in the political process, the more influence outlets that don’t have those restrictions will have. In other words, as political speech is pushed down, the influence of newspapers is pushed up. This isn’t necessarily a case of the news media being “biased,” it just merely shows that they are acting in their own self-interest. In fact, it has recently come under question at the federal level whether independent information outlets such as blogs are covered by the McCain-Feingold law which was supposed to limit “unregulated” political speech.

A Lexis-Nexis search of Wisconsin newspapers illustrates the length to which the print media are willing to lobby on behalf of themselves. In the last 5 years, the names “Jay Heck” and “Mike McCabe” (of Common Cause and Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, respectively) have appeared 1,655 times. Divide that by the 1,825 total days there have been in the last 5 years, and you end up with .9 of a mention per day for the campaign finance reformers. Can you think of any other issue that has warranted one mention per day for five years?

Another example: Hurricane Katrina was one of the most horrific human tragedies our nation has ever seen. Since August 31st, Wisconsin papers have mentioned “Ray Nagin” and “Kathleen Blanco,” two of the central figures of the disaster, a total of 26 times combined. In that same time, Heck and McCabe have appeared in Wisconsin papers 138 times. If newspapers actually spend half the time actually reporting on the finances of candidates than they do lobbying for campaign finance reform, we would all be able to make more educated choices about the people we elect.

All of this doesn’t mean that steps can’t be taken to reduce the effect of special interests on legislation. The most meaningful reform that can be made would be to actually shrink the size of government and eliminate government programs that our state has its tentacles all over. Over the past few decades, our government has accrued more fat than Alec Baldwin. And for each area the government controls, there will be moneyed lobbyists and interests attempting to influence the system to their advantage.

Other steps can be taken to level the playing field come election time. Naturally, incumbent legislators have a huge advantage in name recognition and voter contact. This advantage is exacerbated by the lavish office accounts they can use to mail what essentially amounts to campaign literature to their constituents. While constituent contact is necessary and helpful, many of these mailings cross the line into shameless propaganda. Legislators also are able to campaign all day, every day during the election cycle and still collect their state checks. Some poor schmuck looking to run for office and spend that kind of time on voter contact either has to quit their job, or take huge amounts of time off, often unpaid. There’s no way to rectify this, but it is worth noting.

Heavy-handed campaign finance reform plans send us in the opposite way we need to be heading. We need full transparency in our elections, which leads to more voter involvement, engagement, and political discussion. We don’t need the nanny state to dictate for our virgin ears and eyes what political messages we can or can’t handle, and we certainly don’t need to spend taxpayer money on campaign TV and radio ads. Whatever “reforms” are adopted will likely do nothing to address either the illegal activity that has taken place in the recent past, or any of the temptations that lay ahead for candidates in the future. We don't need more regulation - we need more meaningful citizen and media involvement. In the end, the upcoming push will be more about image reform than campaign reform, and we will be a poorer state as a result.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Reader Mail: Lead Paint

I haven't done any posting on the lead paint issue, but I got this e-mail that I thought summed it up well:

Did you see the release from Doyle when he vetoed the lead paint bill on Friday? Check out this quote, which makes it sound as though every day poor children face an apocalyptic doom of epic proportions: “Every day, lead continues to seep from paint on windowsills of Milwaukee’s oldest homes and into the blood, bones, and brains of this area’s poorest kids,” Governor Doyle said. So Doyle is basically saying that the blood and brains of poor Milwaukee children are being poisoned on a daily basis, and his fix for this problem is to allow trial lawyers to sue paint manufacturers – regardless of whether they made the paint in question. By having no agenda to address the poisonous carnage being inflicted on these poor kids, Doyle is basically taking the position that it’s OK to keep exposing them to a toxic neuro-poison as long as the well-heeled trial lawyers who fund his campaign are allowed to sue. Either Doyle is the most callous human turd to occupy the East Wing, or he is using poor children in Milwaukee as human shields in an effort to bluster for his campaign benefactors – the trial lawyers. Either way, it’s disgraceful.

PS: the lead is not “seeping” from the windowsills like an insidious monster from a B-movie horror flick – it’s being eaten by kids because their parents aren’t providing adequate supervision. What other household products should we allow people to sue for when they are ingested by unsupervised kids? Draino? Liquid Plumber? Anti-freeze? Paint thinner? Clearly, the blame lies with the manufacturer and not the derelict parent.

Reader Mail: The Anti-TABOR

William from Colorado disputes my assertion that the terrible AJR 71 has no chance of getting through the Legislature and passed by the voters. He writes:

On your blog, you noted the educational amendment to TABOR, Assembly JointResolution 71,and said it has little chance of passing. Au contraire! Our moronic state did just that. After passing TABOR, a few years later,under the usual "WE OWE IT TO OUR CHILDREN!" campaign, Colorado voters passed Amendment 23, which states:

* It requires the state to increase the base per pupil funding, and funding for certain specified programs (called categoricals) for K-12 by at least inflation plus one percent each year for ten years, and by at least inflation thereafter.

* It establishes the State Education Fund which receives the amount of the tax on one third of one percent of Colorado taxable income (about 7% of total state income tax). This fund is then used to meet the additional funding requirements of amendment 23 and other specified educational programs.

* It includes a "maintenance of effort" clause to ensure the solvency of the State Education Fund by requiring that current K-12 General Fund spending is not diverted. This General Fund K-12 spending requirement contains an "escape valve" which is activated when personal income growth falls below a specified level.

So this is the VERY thing you mentioned, and upon which the WI Amendment is no doubt based. Educational funding can never, EVER go down, no matter howmuch or how little income rolls into state coffers.This created a budget problem in Colorado in recent years, which this pastelection cycle resulted in the passage of Amendment C, which gave the state theright to KEEP funds that would have otherwise been disbursed under TABOR.Of course our (allegedly) Republican governor praised this as a good thing, promising things like road construction to alleviate the congestion Denver area drivers suffer daily.

However, immediately after passage, the Democrat-controlled legislature toldthe governor that, in effect, new roads would be built over their dead bodiesand that 100% of the monies now available would be spent on social issues.Now groups are crawling out of the woodwork to spend the new money, as one wouldexpect.As part of the pro-C campaign, it was said that if had not passed the Universityof Colorado would have faced draconian budget cuts (this whining done largelyby another alleged Republican, Hank Brown); instead immediately afterpassage the Denver Post revealed, in an article they ADMITTED they had heldoff publishing until after the election, that the University regularly wastedmillions of dollars on things like limosines for CU Regents.

So don't be so quick to dismiss AJR 71 as moronic; it's the law here in Colorado.


Thursday, January 12, 2006

Alito Grilled on Cat Fancy Subscription

Washington(AP) - Tense hearings took a nasty turn today when Democratic senators began questioning Judge Samuel Alito's 1985 subscription to Cat Fancy magazine. At issue was an editorial written in the magazine in March of that year that advocated for the highly controversial de-clawing surgical procedure.

"Look, I paid 15 bucks for the subscription," said Alito. "Just because someone sends me a magazine that I paid for doesn't mean I agree with its content," said Alito. "I mean, hell - just because I get Swank every month doesn't mean I crave red hot lesbian action," said Alito, adding, "...although it doesn't necessarily mean I don't, either." Following this comment, Alito's wife ran out of the room, crying.

Alito, who has served with distinction as a federal appeals court judge for 15 years, was pummeled for nearly nine hours with questions about his insensitivity towards Feline-Americans. Alito was only given three fifteen minute breaks, so California Senator Dianne Feinstein could go have more fat vacuumed out of her face.

Senators questioned his decisions in the controversial case of Cat v. Nip, Garfield v. Odie, and the groundbreaking M.C. Skat Kat v. Paula Abdul, where the rapping feline claimed he had an affair with the ear-splitting songstress to appear in her video. Alito claimed that he had many friends that were cats, and the Pussycat Dolls' song "Don't Cha" was his favorite song of last year.

Democrats also threatened to filibuster Alito based on his conclusion in the Aniston v. Jolie controversy in favor of Brangelina. "That is an outrageous affront to our delicate societal framework," said Senator Joe Biden (D-Delaware). He was able to call Jolie a "pillow lipped hussy" before his mandible fell off from overuse.

"The way Alito was treated was horrific," said anonymous blogger Dennis York, whose posts have been scoured for personal information that would reveal his identity. "Sometime between when I played for the Toronto Argonauts of the CFL and my time as a member of the Wu-Tang Clan, I realized that there isn't any justice," said York.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Everyone Take a Deep Breath

...please. There, doesn't that feel better?

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Doyle Criticized for Accepting Ride in Wonder Woman's Invisible Jet

A burgeoning scandal took full flight today as Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle admitted to accepting a free flight from superdonor Wonder Woman in her private invisible jet.

Doyle has been criticized recently for his acceptance of free flights from well-heeled campaign donors. While state law clearly states that the Governor may not accept gifts, Doyle maintains that a flight is not a gift, as no peanuts were served on board and the soda was flat.

(I actually wrote this afte a couple beers on Saturday night, before I even knew Doyle was on his way to Ireland on a big donor's private jet - hence the old link. I must be clairvoyant.)

See below post on why this post is truncated.

Hot On the Trail of Dennis York

Well, it appears that some media outlets may be exhausting their resources to find out who Dennis York is. I'm kind of wishing my blog was truly terrible - probably the first time I wished I was Brian Christianson (although I don't have any insightful Bert Blyleven stories for you).

It's really too bad, because you would all really be bored with the revelation. Like Deep Throat (which I promise I didn't star in), you'd say "who? All this for that?" So you will have gained my identity, but lost my blog.

As I said in some of my back and forth with Xoff, I really just started this blog to make myself and my friends laugh. A few jokes, here and there, sprinkled with some smart ass sarcasm. And if I made a political point here and there, it was just a bonus. I probably got carried away and said some things and took some shots at people that I shouldn't have (Phil Brinkman and Tom Sheehan are good reporters), but it was all in the name of fun. Instead of writing good columns like David Brooks, I started writing columns about turds and Mayor McCheese. Trust me, you should have seen all the posts I started to write and gave up on or I wouldn't post.

And suddenly, people started to read it. People started linking to it. And it freaked me out, so I retired for a while. I had the itch, though, so I started back up, and the readers came back with me. I was using a crappy hit counter at the time, that didn't register all the hits I was getting. When I switched to a new hit counter, it said I was actually getting three times the hits I thought I was, which scared me to death.

I have to say, it is bizarre to have people write and talk about you, even though they're really kind of talking about someone else (although I have been accused of being a racist and a homophobe, as well). Sometimes I would get to work and check the blog, and actually be disappointed that there wasn't a new post, before I realized it was me. After the State Journal article came out on Sunday, I asked my wife if she was going to brag to her friends that she gets to smooch Dennis York on occasion, which led to her rolling her eyes.

So I guess I have a decision to make. Dennis York to me is now kind of like a sidekick, or an old friend. I actually feel like I would miss him. Plus, it would almost certainly mean the end of the A&W Root Beer Bear's run for the governorship as a Republican (although I hear campaign ads are hard to buy with fish and berries). I never thought for a second someone wouldn't figure it out at some point, it just kind of sucks that it's getting to be about that time. I have to decide if I want to go quietly, or go out like Tony Montana with machine gun blazing.

Since I'm bummed out, I'll just post the picture and headline I had planned for the post I was going to do tonight. Just whatever text I had written at the time, you can probably figure out what I was going to write, anyway. Probably something about Doyle naming Aquaman head of the DNR's water quality division or something.

Monday, January 09, 2006

The Love That Dare Not Speak its Name

If Xoff gets any more passionate about Russ Feingold, he might go to prison under the Legislature's constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. We may have a real story if they happened to spend any time together herding sheep in Wyoming. Today he writes this love letter to Feingold because Russ was brave enough to utter the word "impeachment" with regard to President Bush.

Besides showing that drug use is alive and well among the left wing, let's assume Feingold gets his way and Bush is impeached. That would leave us with this:

Suck on it, Democrats!

"I wish I could quit you, Russ..."


Sunday, January 08, 2006

UW Scientists to Harvest Seniors for their Coupons

Madison - A promising new research practice at the UW reportedly allows researchers to terminate elderly citizens in order to harvest their valuable coupons. "This is a real breakthrough," said lead researcher Hank Willingham. "Not only are seniors in abundant supply, but it got me half off on a pair of loafers at Payless Shoe Source," said Willingham.

Governor Jim Doyle, a staunch supporter of the practice, accentuated the positive economic effects this groundbreaking scientific research could have to the state. "Harvesting these valuable coupons will stimulate purchasing in the state, as the coupons will be used by more active individuals," said Doyle, citing "Double Coupon" Tuesdays at Pick n' Save as proof his plan is working. In fact, Doyle has promised to build a research lab valued at $675 million to conduct this type of research. The building originally cost $750 million, bout Doyle used a 10% off any new construction coupon he recovered from one of the specimens.

"What the research does is take a lifeless cluster of cells that happens to be 80 years old and living at home alone, and terminates it, which yields limitless cost savings," said Jamie Thomson, nationally renowned researcher and host of syndicated show "Dance Fever: The Next Generation." "No longer do these coupons have to sit in a cigar box above the stove - they can be used to cure people of having to pay too much for a can of tuna," said Thomson. "By the time they reach a certain age, their quality of life can't be great anyway, which renders their lives meaningless," said Thomson, finishing a Philly Cheese Steak Hot Pocket he purchased for 25 cents off.

Researchers are dazzled by this new procedure, as there are a nearly limitless supply of senior citizen cell clusters to be used. Researchers usually scout out subjects for the research at area fish fries at 4:00 on Friday afternoons. "Yeah, I see them in here every Friday," said Joan Scheible, owner of the Stamm House in Middleton. "The guys in the white lab coats come and snatch up an old lady every week, but not before enjoying the best fish fry in the Greater Madison area," added Scheible.

The University of Wisconsin is also seen as a leading center for little known research known as "stem cell research," which purports to treat diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and coprophilia, as well as making low fat ice cream tastier and fixing the Packers' problems at right offensive guard. Stem cell research has no downside except for the fact that a human must be cloned and then killed to harvest the cells, but Thomson aid that no serious person appears to have any problem with that minor procedure.

The coupon research, however, has been criticized by some right wing nutjobs who obviously want people to suffer by paying twenty to thirty cents more for Jolly Green Giant frozen peas. "This research is obviously ethical, because the UW says it is - and who knows ethics better than the smart people at the UW?" said recently appointed UW Vice President of Ethics, Paul Barrows. "Who is in a better position to determine what procedure is ethical than the very organization that will benefit the most from its practice?" said Barrows.

Rising conservative star A&W Root Beer Bear disagreed. "A life is a life, no matter what stage it is in," said the Bear. "Look, nobody opposes the research or the benefits that come with it. But you can't rationalize the termination of human life based on what future long term benefit you may realize. It doesn't matter what the quality of life that human life may have had, or whether that person has been born or not. All we're asking is to slow down so people fully understand the moral and ethical issues we're dealing with, because once it happens, it's gone forever," said the Bear.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Gay Cowboy Fever Grips Madison

At some point, something has happened to you in your life where you knew it was coming, yet could do nothing about it. Being made to see “Brokeback Mountain” for me was one of these times.

Think about Hurricane Katrina – the people on the gulf coast had days worth of notice. They knew a Category 5 hurricane was about to hit the gulf, yet there wasn’t anything they could do so save their homes and valuables.

As soon as I saw the trailer for “Brokeback Mountain” with my wife, I knew the clock had begun ticking. As much as I ducked and dodged, I was certain I would be made to see this movie. Resistance was useless.

Why was I reluctant to see the movie? I think this quote by Larry David sums it up best:

"If two cowboys, male icons who are 100 percent all-man, can succumb, what chance to do I have, half- to a quarter of a man, depending on whom I'm with at the time?"

So we went to see it in Madison today. Needless to say, a movie about gay cowboys couldn’t have had a more receptive audience. It would be like seeing “Passion of the Christ” in Vatican City.

My wife and I saw “Capote” last week, so I figure I might go through the whole year without seeing a movie with a straight leading character. In fact, I plan on watching War of the Worlds one of these days, and I’m pretty sure any movie with Tom Cruise doesn’t break the streak. Plus, I’m praying for “Boat Trip II.”

After one of my friends ridiculed me for going to see the movie by delicately referring to it as “Fudgepack Mountain,” we got to the theater for the 1:30 show at Westgate theater. It seemed strange to me that in Madison this movie would only be playing in one theater, given the demand to see it here. When we arrived, the line there already wrapped around to the Milio’s sandwich shop, which is a good 100 feet long. I made a crack that by the time we got to the front of the line, it will be playing in the dollar theaters. A guy in line behind us referred to the movie as “Boneback Mountain,” which I think was inadvertent, but funny nevertheless.

When we made our way up to the counter, we were informed that the 1:30 show was sold out, and that we would have to buy tickets for the 3:45 show. They told us to show up at 3:00, as we would have to wait in line to get a seat. So the wife and I went to lunch and ran a few errands before we showed up at 3:00 to an equally long line. As it turns out, each show for the rest of the day was sold out, as well. (The attached photo was taken with my cell phone camera at about 3:15, and we were about half way to the front).

As soon as I walked into the theater, I bumped into a guy wearing a pin with a picture of George W. Bush with a circle and line through his face. I was unaware the Bush Administration had taken a stand on gay cowboys, but I now know this is an important demographic you do not want to cross.

So how was the Madison crowd? Well, if I didn't know I was at a movie, I would have throught I was at a Pier One employee convention. I was actually a little scared that I would be outed as heterosexual - and if they knew I was a Republican, you would have read in the paper about a man being beaten in a theater by a gang wielding expensive shoes as weapons. So for my safety, I suggested my wife go sit on the other side of the theater. (It's like when I went to see "Supersize Me," I refused to carry the big bucket of unhealthy popcorn I had just eaten out of the theater, for fear some healthy person would sneer at me.)

So how was the movie? Pretty darn good.

It raised some interesting questions, and didn’t bludgeon you over the head with the answers. I kept trying to think of what I would have thought about the movie if I were gay, and I came to the conclusion that I may have found the movie a bit disappointing. The movie features two male characters who, instead of giving in to their love for one another, continue to lead lives in straight married relationships over the course of 20 years. Each has children. Is the lesson that it’s better to subvert your own personal desires for the purpose of maintaining what’s best for your children, or were they merely keeping their relationship secret because of the dangerous consequences of it becoming known? Wouldn’t the real gay empowerment message be for them to live the lives that they want regardless of the consequences?

Does the movie argue that having a gay relationship outside of your heterosexual marriage doesn’t count as cheating on your spouse, or does it adequately portray the damage that it can do? Is Heath Ledger’s character actually gay, or does he just have undeniable feelings for one dude because of how dynamic that one guy happens to be? Will gay people believe it sends the wrong message by assuming homosexuals can keep their desires and behaviors in check, or does it adequately portray how painful it is to hold it in? Am I now gay for seeing it?

So in the end, I would recommend this movie for anyone. It is a bit long, but the cinematography is brilliant. And if you don’t like it, you are most likely a homo.

UPDATE: Here's how an Associated Press story describes Brokeback Mountain:

"The film, starring Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal, is about two cowboys who discover feelings for one another. The two eventually marry women but rekindle their relationship over the years."

For the record, I discover feelings (mostly negative) I have about other men on a daily basis. Rarely do these feelings lead me to clutching another naked man in a tent.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Wisconsin's Prison Population About to Triple

There's really no delicate way to describe the court decision issued today by the District II Court of appeals, but I'll try.

In State vs. Steven A. Harvey the defendant argued that he hadn't committed sexual assault because he hadn't, um... "stimulated" the victim. In other words, he claims no sexual act had taken place because the victim (his stepsister - ick!) wasn't, um... "satisfied." You can read the actual text of the case, but I'm warning you - the details would even gross out the Minnesota Vikings. The case sounds like the hot tub at Paul Barrows' house.

The court obviously disagreed saying that a crime had been committed, even without the woman being "satisfied." This sets a dangerous precedent.

If you can now go to jail for failing to please a woman, we better build more prisons. The incarcerated population of Wisconsin will triple. If being unable to satisfy a woman is made a crime, I might as well go buy my own orange jumpsuit now, when there's less demand. In fact, given my history as a repeat offender, I might end up on death row. Starting tonight, I'm going to start practicing eating 50 eggs.

Fellow amateur comedians feel free to pile on - the jokes just write themselves.

The Anti-TABOR

I'm not the world's biggest TABOR fan, for reasons I'll discuss in subsequent posts, but I did stumble on a bill that is a likely candidate for "worst piece of legislation" for this session.

Assembly Joint Resolution 71 is a constitutional amendment introduced by State Representative Terry Musser at the behest of Wisconsin Property Taxpayers, Inc. Here's the plain language summary of the bill, which starts out innocently enough:

This proposed constitutional amendment, proposed to the 2005 legislature on first consideration, requires that, in any fiscal year, each city, village, town, county, school district, and technical college district (local governmental unit) spend no more in fees and property taxes than it spent in the previous year, increased by the percentage increase in the consumer price index, plus the percentage increase in property values resulting from new construction within the jurisdiction or taxing authority of the local governmental unit.

Okay, fair enough. Sounds an awful lot like some of the TABOR proposals floating around out there. But put down that McGriddle - there's more:

The amendment also requires that the state spend no less on school aid and shared revenue in any fiscal year than it spent in the previous fiscal year, increased by the percentage increase in the consumer price index, plus the percentage increase in property values resulting from new construction in the state.

You may want to read that again to let it sink in. Assuming CPI and property values go up about 3% each per year, the amendment would constitutionally guarantee a state spending increase of at least 6%, and possibly much more. Even if the state wanted to, it could not increase aids to local governments by less than approximately 6%. Musser is attempting to automatically increase spending on local governments by that amount via the state constitution. This when shared revenue is hardly ever increased (it has even been decreased in the past couple of budgets) and school districts have shown that they can get by on fairly modest increases (with the caveat that much of that revenue can be made up with higher property taxes.)

AJR 71 completely removes the option of spending fewer state dollars on local governments. Additionally, it sends the state in the exact opposite direction we need to go, which is to spend fewer dollars on local government and allow local governments more options to raise their own revenue - a tax-neutral philosophy that would provide more accountability that I discussed here.

This amendment has about as much chance of passing as my constitutional amendment proposing the Outback "Bloomin' Onion" be made the official State Appetizer.

SIDE NOTE: Have you see the Outback Steakhouses' new slogan? "No Rules, Just Right."

While I appreciate this renegade brand of vigilante food service, there are just a few "rules" I would like them to abide by. They are known as the City of Madison Health Code, and it sounds like I may have to send them a copy.

Also, enough with the goofy food names - my wife can't bear to order the chicken sandwich, because she has to say "Sweet Chook o' Mine" out loud. So I just make her sit in the car while I eat my Walhalla Pasta.

Terese Berceau - The Gift That Keeps On Giving

Some of you might remember Democratic State Representative Terese Berceau from one of my previous posts, where I pointed out that she received a "clean environment" award from the Sierra Club, while at the same time owning between $5,000 and $50,000 in stock in Exxon Mobil. Of course, the Sierra Club was part of a group called "Exxpose Exxon," who called Exxon"deceptive" and "irresponsible," and said Exxon "intentionally put its own profits above a clean environment and the health of America’s families."

Undeterred, Berceau is back better than ever today with her press release ripping Wal-Mart for attempting to sell goods at a low cost. She blames Wal-Mart for playing hardball with Rubbermaid, which lost a contract with Wal-Mart because they couldn't provide their goods for a low enough cost. In her release, she says:

"Wal-Mart’s obsession for ever lower cost, came at a dear cost to Madison jobs," she added. "Wal-Mart has grown from an economic player into an economic plague. Sure, you can buy some cheaper plastic item at Wal-Mart, but the lower cost results in lower wages and fewer benefits for their employees, and the loss of Main Street businesses and American jobs, as larger competitors and suppliers are forced to ship jobs overseas in order to compete. As a community, we end up paying for Wal-Mart’s low cost in other costly ways.

"Government and business leaders need to get serious about dealing with the harmful effects on our economy, our communities, and our citizens as a result of Wal-Mart’s corporate bullying and monopolistic muscle," said Berceau. "It’s time to quit blaming government regulation, taxes, unions and worker demands for the loss of local jobs. Here, we can place the blame where it truly lies - Wal-Mart."

Wow, that sounds pretty serious. I bet with all that venom against Wal-Mart, Terese Berceau wouldn't want anything to do with contributing to Wal-Mart's evil practices of providing low prices and forcing jobs overseas. Well, it appears I would be wrong.

According to her "Statement of Economic Interest" report filed with the State Ethics Board, Berceau owns between $5,000 and $50,000 each in both the Fidelity Contrafund and the T. Rowe Price International Growth and Income Fund. According to the prospectuses for each of these funds, they together own nearly $25 million in Wal Mart de Mexico Series V stock. This is stock that Berceau is personally profiting from - and to make it worse, it is ownership in Wal-Mart's Mexico operations! You think Wal-Mart pays its employees poorly here? Go down to Mexico - they probably pay their employees with tree bark.

What's even more disturbing is Berceau's apparent shock that businesses actually engage in the free market. This from someone that, according to her ethics statement, owns between $115,000 and $1.15 million in stocks, bonds, and mutual funds, and who apparently doesn't know how commerce works. Either she's from another planet, or she's just being disingenuous for a cheap press hit. Just about every business she invests in engages in the same type of tough price negotiation that Wal-Mart does in order to keep their prices down and their products moving.

Look, nobody likes businesses and their employees suffering. But businesses either closing or reorganizing is a vital part of our free market. The market values efficiency and low cost, and those businesses that can't provide it need to adapt. If we kept inefficient businesses running, all the lefties would cry that we're giving them "corporate welfare" to stay afloat. Yet they advocate more and more regulation of businesses that increase their fixed costs, and whine when those regulations push employers overseas to save money.

And they never look at it from the perspective of the consumer - it ain't people from Shorewood Hills shopping at Wal-Mart. It's people that need the costs savings on diapers and toilet paper to scrape by. She should try going to a Wal-Mart one of these days - it's not exactly the Nakoma Country Club crowd shopping in there. In fact, since she's a part owner, she should be treated like royalty.

I've written about State Democrats' Wal-Mart hypocrisy before, and this is just one more example to throw on the pile.

So don't thank Wal-Mart for those job losses, Terese Berceau. Thank YOU.