Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The Public Debate Monopoly

There can be no better example of media arrogance than Sunday’s Wisconsin State Journal story on the state’s open records law. I have actually come to be a fan of Phil Brinkman’s stories, but this condescending piece perfectly illustrates the contempt with which print media view the political process.

First of all, the article begins with:

Several former lawmakers have been ordered to jail for using state employees to work on political campaigns. But across Wisconsin government, public employees are still openly engaging in campaign work on state time and with state resources.
It is now officially a standing rule at the State Journal that every writer must begin their articles with that sentence, whether it actually pertains to the story or not. I’m actually fully expecting to see an article that begins:

"Several former lawmakers have been ordered to jail for using state employees to work on political campaigns. But after giving up five runs in the bottom of the third, the Brewers pulled pitcher Jose de la Rosa from Thursday's game against Pittsburgh."
The rest of the article goes on to describe the open records process, which is used heavily by media outlets to obtain information that they use to write their articles about government and politics. Throughout the years, newspapers have been rabid defenders of the open records process, to make sure they have full access to the most amount of information. In fact, Brinkman recently devoted a whole article to describing how heroic his paper was for their open records prowess. He likely now has a better parking spot at work as a result.

But what the article “discovers” is that – gasp! – actual real people might be taking advantage of the open records process as well. And this might include political campaigns, who use the information to – now get this – actually debate topics.

This completely confuses the State Journal, as they think they have cornered the market on what open records can and can’t be used for. Do an open records request for a story, and it’s legitimate. Do an open records request to find out whether Jim Doyle is selling off state contracts, and suddenly it’s “digging up political dirt.”

This fits perfectly with the print media’s distaste for the political process in general. In fact, the State Journal doesn’t even conceal its full-blown cheerleading for any number of campaign finance reform measures that generally limit fundraising and issue advocacy (otherwise known as political speech). When citizens and candidates don’t have the resources to tell their side of the story, guess who gets to be the predominant voice in the political process? That’s right – the newspapers, just the way they want it.

The open records law is a tool that can be used by anyone, for whatever reason they want. The law allows average citizens to hold their elected officials accountable, even if it has to be through politics. And it is a law that will help prevent the next “caucus scandal,” which means the State Journal will have to win its coveted awards covering something else.

Proud of Our Warrior


Given Dwyane Wade's ascendance to the top of the basketball world, I thought I'd look back at his beginnings as a Marquette Warrior, just to see how far he's come.

From the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, November 2, 1999 (his first mention):

It was really quite simple. Dwayne Wade telephoned his longtime Illinois Warriors teammate from Amateur Athletic Union basketball, Odartey Blankson, and together they reached the same conclusion. Marquette University was the school for both of them. So together, they made a three-way call to Tom Crean late Monday night to give him the news.

As a result, the Golden Eagles received their final two oral commitments from Wade, a 6-foot-4 guard from Oak Lawn Richards High School in suburban Chicago, and Blankson, a 6-6 guard from Hillcrest High, also in suburban Chicago. Wade and Blankson round out an MU recruiting class for next season that includes 6-9 center Scott Merritt of Wauwatosa East and 6-7 forward Terry Sanders, a former Milwaukee Vincent player now at Hargrave Military Prep School in Virginia.

Both Blankson and Wade, who have played with or against each other since the eighth grade, said they were being pursued by Marquette's Conference USA rival De Paul. But both opted for Marquette because they liked the persistence of first-year coach Crean, the chance to play at the Bradley Center and the opportunity to work out against the Milwaukee Bucks in the off-season during open gym. "I like the situation at Marquette," Blankson said. "Crean is really energetic. I know he is going to get it done."Blankson had been recruited by former MU coach Mike Deane and also by Notre Dame and Iowa State.

De Paul wanted Wade badly, and he liked the program and its players."But I felt I could fit in at Marquette better," Wade said. "I've been thinking about this for a while. Marquette is really trying to recruit good people."

Wade averaged 20 points at Richards, which made it to the Class AA sectional finals. He set a school record with 87 steals last season.

And the next day, this appeared:

Illinois prep basketball star Dwyane Wade has made an oral commitment to play at Marquette University next year. His name was spelled incorrectly in a story in the Sports section Tuesday.

Think they know how to spell it now?

Here's the first feature article on Wade in the Journal Sentinel, from February of 2000:

MARQUETTE'S TROPHY CATCH; Golden Eagles lure Wade from De Paul's grip
LORI NICKEL of the Journal Sentinel staff

Oak Lawn, Ill.-- It's good business to have Quentin Richardson serve as your leading scorer, rebounder and big buddy for recruits, especially when he's the hero for so many Chicago-area hopefuls who are suddenly turned on by De Paul.

But even Richardson's charm couldn't reel in Oak Lawn Richards star Dwyane Wade. Wade wasn't wooed by the promise of playing time by the Blue Demons. He wasn't persuaded by his coach at Richards, Jack Fitzgerald, who is good friends with De Paul women's coach Doug Bruno. He wasn't even convinced by Richards assistant coach Gary Adams, once Richardson's grammar school coach, to stay at home. "I went somewhere I felt the coaches wanted me and the teammates wanted me," Wade
said.

So he signed the letter of intent to play at Marquette."De Paul really didn't jump on me as hard as Marquette did," Wade said. "I talked to all the Marquette coaches almost every other day. De Paul kind of laid off me a little bit, then they came back. They were playing tag with me."Of Marquette's four-man recruiting class expected to arrive next fall, Wade was the sleeper given his advanced skills and impressive on-court attitude. He wasn't in any recruiting expert's top 100 class a year ago. But it's obvious now what a find he was for Marquette coach Tom Crean.

Wade averages 27 points, 11 rebounds, three assists and five steals per game, partly because he is the star for Richards (21-4, 10-0 in the SICA North Conference). But he also hustles whether the Bulldogs are up by one point or 20. The Marquette coaching staff will fall in love with his backboard radar. He is always going after the boards and he has huge hands for scooping up rebounds, especially offensive ones."I
know (those are) easy points. I watch Quentin Richardson do it all the time," Wade said.

At 6 feet 4 inches, he can jump, so he can play on the blocks. He's versatile enough to play the point when teams try to trap Richards' small point guard. Yet Wade might be only a partial qualifier next year. If he doesn't get the necessary standardized test scores, he will be limited to just practice next season."I understand what the colleges are doing with this ACT stuff," Fitzgerald said. "But if there's any reason why standards should not be what they are, he's the reason. He came from a very, very poor grammar school elementary district (in Crestwood, Ill.)."He's worked hard to improve himself in every area, and yet he's maybe not going to be able to play basketball next year. He could cut it in any curriculum, with the exception of maybe the Ivy League schools, you know what I am saying? You talk to any teacher on this staff and they love him. He comes to school every day, he's working hard."I feel bad
that he is in that situation. That he could possibly be labeled a Prop 48 every time he takes a free throw, I think it's sad and I think it's ridiculous, and I'm resentful of it."

Wade took the ACT recently and will keep taking it. He is the only one in the Marquette recruiting class who presents a concern for qualifying. Scott Merritt of Wauwatosa East and Odartey Blankson of Hillcrest High in Country Club Hills, Ill., already have qualified, and Terry Sanders of Hargrave Military Academy in Chatham, Va., said he was very close.

Wade met future teammate Blankson at the Blue Island recreation center in Illinois, and they called Crean together back in the fall to tell him they were both signing on. Blankson's Hillcrest High was one of the few to defeat Richards this year. Wade's only limitation has been his knees, which have been painful because, he said, he is having growing pains. His jump shot needs work to become consistent, as well. Wade was 3 for 22 in one game this season, although he still came away with 15 points and 10 rebounds."He's kind of a streaky shooter," Fitzgerald said. "He either hits it or he clangs it."Every day last summer, Adams, a retired public schools teacher, picked up Wade and brought him to the hot gym for 500 to 600 shots a day. Wade scored 48 points in a morning semifinal game of the St. Xavier Christmas tournament. Then in the evening finals that same day, he scored 41."I was hot," Wade said with a laugh. "That was the day Marquette came to the game, too."

Wade was named the player of the month by the Chicago Tribune for January and has led the Bulldogs to a top-15 ranking in both the Chicago Tribune and the Sun-Times. He is also getting Chicago player of the year consideration.

This six year old article confirms what the sports world is starting to figure out now, and serves as a lesson about hard work and dedication. It's pretty clear that coming out of high school, Wade wasn't considered a top-tier recruit. He couldn't shoot, had bad knees, and wasn't a good student. But he was good natured and hard working, and it eventually paid off. Through hard work over the years, he has made himself into a premier NBA player, and one of the league's most respected spokesmen.

And not to get too sappy about it, but Wade is really the type of player that reflects the Milwaukee ethos well. He's self made, hard working, humble, and the best at what he does. I can't think of another athlete I would rather call our own.

And yes, he will likely need a restraining order against me.

Are News Articles and Editorials Really Separate?

Yesterday, the Wisconsin State Journal announced in a front page, above the fold headline that recently convicted legislators may be able to collect the pensions that they had accrued during years of service. Today, in the most predictable editorial ever, the State Journal makes the shocking claim that they oppose these legislators being able to collect their pensions, something that was inherently clear given the story the day before.

Set aside, for a moment, the likely unconstitutionality of yanking these pensions away from the elected officials, regardless of how little they actually deserve them. Does the State Journal really want to set the precedent of pulling away benefits from workers who they believe don't deserve them, but have rightfully earned them over years of service? If a State Journal editor signed up for a job with a retirement benefit agreement in place, then worked for 20 years before being caught soliciting minors on the internet, would they think it was fair to have to give back 20 years of benefits? I doubt it.

What is noticeable about this editorial, however, is how often a paper will do some "investigative" journalism that is supposed to get a reader to think a certain way about an issue, then immediately follow up that story with an editorial that perfectly echoes the sentiment of the preceding article. In fact, in some cases, you have to wonder whether the editorial was actually written first, and they needed the story to give their opinion some cover.

For example:

On March 21st of 2006, Steve Walters of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel wrote an article informing readers that the legal bills of the convicted legislators would be paid for with tax money (something that had been known for about four years.) On March 22nd, an editorial appeared in the Journal Sentinel denouncing the practice of paying legal bills with tax money.

On April 13th of 2006, Patrick Marley of the Journal Sentinel wrote an article critical of legislators for exploiting a 30 year old law that allows them to toss their records when they leave office. On April 17th, the editorial board printed an editorial supporting the view that you were supposed to get from Marley's article that something untoward was afoot. In fact, the Wisconsin State Journal even jumped in the fray, criticizing the law and the legislators. Perhaps their vitriol is merely embarrassment for being the official state newspaper and clearly not knowing this law existed for 30 years.

On December 26th of 2005, the Journal Sentinel printed a story about State Senators voting by what are known as "paper ballots." Despite this being a virtually uncontested practice for 30 years, the article was clearly trying to get the reader to think this was some sinister plot to keep votes away from the public (despite the results of the voting being public record). Sure enough, on December 28th, the Journal Sentinel editorial board denounced this practice of "secret" voting.

Of course, editorial boards can feel free to editorialize about anything they want. But in these cases, and many, many, more, their editorials are clearly companion pieces to their supposedly neutral news articles. It lends the appearance that many times, they have made up their mind on certain practices or stories before the news is even written.

It's not even as if some of the things for which they advocate are even bad ideas. But it's pretty clear that they are advocating in their news articles, then using their editorials to drive their point home. Maybe their reporters appreciate getting backup from their editorial boards. Maybe they try to keep the story alive for a couple more days with an editorial. But this happens time after time after time, which leaves many readers wondering whether there truly is a bright line between the news and editorial departments. An editorial board shaping the content of the news department would certainly run counter to the mission of any legitimate newspaper.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Please, Please Endorse Jim Doyle!

In some elections, it's better to steer clear of some endorsements. If you're running in a Republican primary, you might want to call WEAC and make sure they don't endorse you, just as Dems might want to avoid having the pro-life groups rally to their defense.

In that spirit, I have found a group that I really, really hope endorses Jim Doyle for governor in the general election. So much so, that I have drafted a sample letter that someone may want to e-mail to the president of this group. For a little background on the Charity, Freedom, and Diversity party, click here, and cross your fingers waiting for that endorsement to come through.

An open letter:

Dear President Ad van den Berg:

I bring you great tidings from the United States of America. I hope this e-mail finds you in good spirits, hopefully after you just finished watching a "Home Alone" marathon.

I have found an American politician that I think your group can really get behind. His name is Jim Doyle, and he is the governor of a small little state called Wisconsin. You may know our state from the show "Happy Days." I think the The Charity, Freedom and Diversity party really has a kindred spirit in this wonderful elected official, and I urge you IN THE STRONGEST TERMS to endorse his candidacy. By doing so and donating large amounts of money to his campaign, it is virtually guaranteed that he will allow you to set up your own children's fun park, to the detriment of small businesses and Webelos in the state.

If your group is willing to reach out and touch something other than a seven year old boy, I encourage you to get involved in American elections. I see some real growth potential for your group here in Wisconsin. We encourage charity, we love our freedom, we are accepting of diversity, and we have a lot of swimming pools. I urge you to think beyond the extremely restrictive, draconian laws of Amsterdam, and think about Wisconsin as your next frontier.

I agree with you when you said that a ban on children having sex just makes them curious. I have noticed that our overbearing American laws that prevent citizens from sawing other people in half has made me more likely to do just that, just to see what it would be like. In fact, we in America had a specific law on the books barring anyone from having sexual contact with me until I was 30 years old. Apparently, every woman in the U.S. was aware of this little-known law, which contributed to my blindness for most of the 1990s.

I would also like you to know that I am the former U.S. Treasurer, and I wandered into $400 billion in unused American money that I need to transfer to the Netherlands. All I need is your bank account number and I will arrange for the funds to be sent to you.

Again, thank you for your vocal and unwavering support for Jim Doyle. You will be rewarded greatly for your endorsement, and I urge you to post the endorsement on your website as soon as possible so as many people as possible can see it. When you send money to the Doyle campaign, the checks must be a minimum of $100,000 per donor, and copies of the checks must be photocopied and sent to the Wisconsin State Journal, the sole arbiter in our state of what campaign activities are legal or not.

Stay Dutch,

Dennis York

Making a Donation to the Library

Thank God we have public libraries to provide us with all of our educational needs. For an illuminating example of tax dollars at work, check out this investigative report from a Cleveland television station. It's about five minutes long, but well worth your time.

I actually heard some people feel sorry for this guy, the way the reporter ambushes him. But if you feel comfortable enough at the library to fire off some knuckle children while my kids are around, I feel comfortable holding you up for public shame.

And if you think this doesn't happen at public libraries all over Wisconsin, you are willfully deceiving yourself.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

What I "Consider to Be" Editorializing

I realize I'm splitting hairs here, but I do have a small complaint with an otherwise fair article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel today. The article detailed the call from two Catholic bishops for Jim Doyle to rescind his support for embryonic stem cell research. Near the end of the article, it says:
The bishops wrote that embryonic stem cell research is immoral because it destroys what they consider to be life, but added that they were particularly troubled that Doyle has tied his support for the research to economic development.
"What they consider to be life?" Under any scientific standard, an embryo is a living being where none existed before. Now you can make your argument that an embryo can't feel pain, can't live on its own, can't think or whatever, but there's no possible standard by which you can claim that it's not a life.

Based on that premise, proponents of embryonic stem cell research are welcome to make the argument that terminating these embryos serves a greater good. In fact, that's essentially what Doyle is saying by urging research on discarded embryos. He's saying that the potential benefits from the research outweigh the value of the embryos, which is a fair enough argument. But let's not lose sight of the fact that that is the choice. We have to lose a life to potentially save many more.

I, for one, am happy that the bishops are speaking up on this issue. Generally, if you have even the smallest moral concern about where this research might be headed, research advocates will start accusing you of being in the pocket of the pro-life groups (as if it is impossible to just morally be pro-life on your own). And it really isn't an economic development issue, as the Democrats have claimed. Prostitution would probably create a great deal of economic development, but we as a society have made a moral determination that it is impermissible. Now we have a fashionable science that might hire a few more researchers at the UW, and we're willing to pretend there's no moral component?

And to show the class the Democrats are willing to show on this serious moral issue, we have a straightforward statement from the Mark Green campaign, followed by a buffoonish quote from Democratic Chair Joe Wineke.

"Mark Green thinks that what the archbishop is saying to Governor Doyle is right on, and echoes what Mark has been saying all along," Green campaign spokesman Rob Vernon wrote in an e-mail.

But Joe Wineke, chairman of the state Democratic Party, said in a statement that Green was trying to hide his opposition to embryonic stem cell research.
Well, if he's trying to hide it, he's doing a pretty poor job. Sounds like someone's just trying to be argumentative just to be argumentative, doesn't it?

All the King's Men

I recently saw that one of my favorite political movies, All the King's Men (1949), was being remade. Apparently it is one of the six movies yet to be remade, so Hollywood jumped in. Unfortunately, the lead role is being played by Sean Penn, who will likely exude none of the charm that Broderick Crawford did in the original version.

In any event, you can watch the trailer here.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

UW Diversity Plan Aims to Attract More Midgets

(Madison)-The University of Wisconsin System today announced a new “diversity” plan that would allow admissions officers to take into account an applicant’s height when making an entrance determination.

“For too long, tall people have had access to higher education in this state,” said Larry Rubin, the system's assistant vice president for completely ridiculous bullsh**. “We want a campus ethnically representative of America,” said Rubin, before noting that he would have to kick 3,000 Asians off campus to make that happen. "The best way to eradicate prejudice is to practice it, just against the right kind of people," said Rubin.

One student that welcomes the change is Paddy O’Shaugnessy, a little person who believes his 1.7 high school GPA should be enough to get him into the UW-Platteville. “Regardless of intelligence, academic qualifications, or work ethic, what really matters is my height,” said O’Shaugnessy. “It is clear that I can’t be expected to actually study and learn, given the systematic discrimination against people under four feet tall throughout history,” he said.

The announcement was made during a nationwide push for more diversity in America’s workplaces. Last week, the National Football League instituted a rule that requires an Eskimo to coach at least one game per team next year. In a show of support, the NBA has given its MVP award to a little white guy that doesn't play any defense each of the last two years.

The UW System has taken its hits for lack of diversity in the past. In 2000, the UW-Madison was criticized for discreetly photoshopping a picture of a dwarf onto the cover of its undergraduate catalog. The university later had to reprint over 100,000 copies of the magazine at a cost of $64,000, because of the decision made by Diversity Dean Paul Barrows. Barrows was an expert at photo altering software, as he spent most of the time in his office cropping Lindsay Lohan’s head onto pictures of naked women riding horses.

In 2002, the UW-Madison spent $6,000 on a program designed to attract gay and lesbian students to their campus, in the name of “diversity.” “Is there any campus in the United States that is more accommodating to LGBT students?” said a homophobic white guy. “Getting gay students to go to Madison is about as hard as getting Britney Spears pregnant,” said the insensitive honky.

Detractors of the new program, all of whom are bigots, point to the fact that the problem isn’t that dwarves can’t get into statewide campuses, there just aren’t enough applications. They point out that there are lower expectations of dwarves in grade school, and that few dwarves are willing to leave their home environments to attend campuses like UW-Whitewater or UW-Oshkosh. In fact, say the racists, the UW launched the “Diversity 2008” plan in 1998, with only negative results so far. The #1 goal of this program was to increase the number of dwarf applications to the UW System.

In fact, UW-Madison has 45 diversity programs available to current and prospective students, including some that are so valuable, they are led by administrators who don’t show up for work for seven months and nobody notices.

Rubin said the influx of little people would also be a cost saving measure, as midgets require about half as many professors, and they can pack six to a dorm room, if they lay end to end.

"This reverse racism is unbearable," said white people, before they settled in on their comfy couches to watch the American Idol finale.

My Gift to You - Consider it a Virtual Backrub

If you're a fan of early '80's R.E.M. (who isn't?), check out this downloadable live show from 1984, courtesy of rbally. Great quality, and gives you a look at why R.E.M. is credited with essentially inventing modern alternative music.

Somebody Loves Me!

The Diamond Mine today gives me credit for... well, something. I would say it's a good blog, but he thinks I am respectable, which means he might be a little crazy. But seriously, go check it out. Apparently, I have shown him how exciting it can be to be an average smartass anonymous political blogger. In upcoming weeks, I will show him how to be fat, pasty, and have your wife hate you for blogging too much.

And as long as I'm saying good things about lefty blogs, go check out In Effect. Well written, well thought out. A daily read of mine.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Heroin Really Needs a Warning Label

Last week, a woman was found dead of a heroin overdose here in Madison. It seems to be a pretty routine (albeit tragic) story, but I ran across this interesting passage from the State Journal story:

Assistant District Attorney Mike Verveer said in court Monday that Prager is not only a defendant in the case but could be a material witness in what might become a "Len Bias" homicide case against the person who supplied the heroin that killed Schnitzler. People who supply illegal drugs that cause the death of a user can be charged with first- degree reckless homicide under the state's Len Bias law. That charge carries a penalty of up to 25 years in prison.
Now let me state up front that I have no tolerance for drug dealers, but this does seem a little weird. I supply something (albeit something illegal) to someone, and it is a crime. If I'm willing to take the risk of being a drug dealer, I should be able to look at the state law and figure out how much time I'm going to get. However, with this law, if someone I sell it to goes overboard and kills themselves with it, I'm then an accessory to murder? I had nothing to do with how the product was used - my criminal penalty at that point is completely out of my hands. How much jail time I get is incumbent on the actions of others whom I may never see again.

I don't believe we criminally penalize other products this way. In fact, the legislature is trying to make sure gun companies can't be sued for the actions of someone to whom they sell a gun, since what happens with the gun is completely up to the purchaser once they walk out of the store. If a friend gives me a baseball bat and I crack someone over the head with it, is he liable for what I did?

Obviously, an exception would occur if the drug dealer provided a drug laced with something that killed the person on the spot (and I'm not implying that there is such a thing as "responsible" heroin use).

I don't feel strongly either way on this, and I'm sure it was debated to death whenever the legislature enacted it. I have no problem with the law staying where it is, and I will likely be blown out of the water by a smart commenter and have to change my position (whatever it may be).

Just thought it was interesting.

Does Your Grandmother Think Madonna is Offensive Anymore?

The headline on the front page of the USA Today Life Section this morning breathlessly promised details of Madonna's "shocking" show last night in Los Angeles. The accompanying story lays out what was so "shocking"- a crucifix, some bad stuff about George W, and other run of the mill garbage that was lame in 1985 when she was doing it.

I was going to do a whole post about how lame and tired the whole Madonna act is, but I ran across this English concert review that says it a lot better than I can. It is just dripping with contempt for her ridiculous attempts to offend.

The world's most famous 47-year-old took to the stage, a mere 50 minutes late, determined to prove to all those willing to listen - and pay up to £200 a ticket - that she still had the ability to grab headlines.

She insulted George Bush, simulated sex and suspended herself from a giant mirrored crucifix, head adorned with a designer crown of thorns (provided by Cotter Church Supplies, LA) in an all-out attempt to get someone, anyone out there, riled...

And then it started to go a bit wonky. We know about the former Material Girl's newfound spirituality and devotion to Kabbalah, and Madonna seemed determined to Leave People With A Message.

Thus, words of cod wisdom such as: "There's light even in the darkest places" flashed up on screen - which was nice enough, even if it sat oddly with her previously stated message to "turn the world into one big dance floor".

But Didactic Madonna wasn't finished-Up she went, suspended on a large crucifix, as images of child poverty flickered on the screens. The tour, incidentally, is estimated to gross $200 million. In the next segment she engaged in an energetic "fight" with a male dancer which involved a demonstration of her unnerving ability to bend her leg around the back of her head.

Next, a montage of world leaders was flashed up as Madge sang: "I've listened to your lies", images including Nixon, Pinochet, Hitler and Blair.

But Madonna had bigger fish to fry, in the shape of George Bush. She urged fans to perform a certain sexual act on the President...

The show ended - rather abruptly - with no encore and with the lights immediately going on, leaving us all looking at one another in a slightly embarrassed fashion, as though we'd just been caught doing something we shouldn't have been.


At this point, the only way Madonna could be shocking would be if she displayed any talent.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Bin Laden Surrenders to Dixie Chicks

Sorry for the lack of posting lately, but the mix of too much playoff basketball and a stack of books I'm trying to read has hampered things somewhat.

One thing specifically dragged me back, confused and dismayed, to my keyboard.

I noticed the cover of TIME Magazine this week:



Now, I'm well aware that one of the "Chicks" said something derogatory about George W. Bush a couple years ago, and had to fight off some bad publicity. But if I were putting together a list of 10 million Americans whose opinions I valued about the War in Iraq, the "Dixie Chicks" wouldn't make the list. How is this relevant to anything in any way? Was Nipsey Russell not accepting calls the day TIME wanted to talk about global warming? Was Tiffany Amber-Thiessen at the spa when they called to interview her about the relative value of the Euro?

I am racking my brain to figure out how news that belongs on page 24 of US Weekly somehow made it on to the cover of a magazine some believe to have some credibility (It was also in USA Today as well). Here's what I got:

1. The Dixie Chicks have a great publicist willing to gin up a phony controversy to sell their new CD.

2. TIME Magazine has a business relationship with their record label (Sony), and therefore has an interest in selling as many Dixie Chicks CDs as possible.

3. TIME Magazine actually believes this is a matter of national importance and deserves to be featured above all other news stories this week.

4. One of the editors got drunk and lost a bet, so he had to put the most ridiculous story he could think of on the cover.

5. This one is the most cynical, but I believe also the most plausible. TIME Magazine has a natural impression of country music fans that they are all backwards, intolerant religious conservatives who turn on their own when they step out of line, and that is why this is newsworthy.

I mean, think about it - musicians with actual artistic credibility rip on Bush all the time. In fact, I don't think I own a CD by a single artist I would be consider even to be a moderate. Yet somehow when Michael Stipe or someone pops off, it's never news, since their message is usually delivered to a willing audience. But suddenly when someone makes a political statement to those intolerant conservatives, it becomes a national scandal when those right wingers express their disagreement with the artist.

Plus, her "insult" to Bush was just lame. If you're going to take a shot at the President, do it with some panache. To wit:
LONDON - Morrissey, outspoken lead singer of '80s rockers the Smiths, has sparked an Internet storm with reported comments about U.S. President George W. Bush.Manchester's Evening News said yesterday it had received a record number of
hits after reporting on its website that Morrissey, 45, had interrupted a Dublin
concert Saturday with news of former President Reagan's death, adding that he
wished Bush had died instead.

-Ottawa Citizen, June 11, 2004
Or:

Radiohead singer Thom Yorke has sent out a Christmas greeting that includes a swipe at U.S. President George W. Bush's "new war."In a message sent out by the group's fan club W.A.S.T.E., Yorke wishes his fans a Christmas that is "peaceful and loving and spiritual," and thanked his fans for "still listening and sticking with us and understanding the records we make." But his greeting also carried a strongly worded condemnation of the war in Afghanistan."Violence breeds violence," Yorke said. "We need a world court, not a Republican with his hands covered in oil and military hardware, lecturing us on world security," he wrote in the message.
-Toronto Sun, December 12, 2001

Now that's insulting the leader of the free world. Take that, Bush!

I spent another 45 minutes typing stuff about Barry Bonds, Barbaro, and the movie "A History of Violence," but Explorer crashed on me, so it's all lost. This is all I have saved, as lame as it is. Don't worry, the other stuff wasn't any better.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Euthanasia on a Bun

You may recall my previous post about me trying to eat healthier.

Well, forget all that. I give you the "Hot Dog Rollup."

Or as my wife called it, in the spirit of the Da Vinci Code, "The Last Supper." I actually think I just put on four pounds looking at the pictures.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Jensen Sentenced: Now Safe to Walk the Streets

Dane County Circuit Judge Steven Ebert will decide Jensen's fate today. Recent legislative inaction argues for a stiff sentence to inspire the Legislature to pass ethics reform. The light sentences handed out to date have apparently failed to put sufficient fear in lawmakers' hearts. But it's too late to make an example of Jensen.

-
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Editorial, May 15, 2006

I have a general philosophy that people that are outraged by everything generally aren't truly outraged by anything. But when looking at the quote above, I couldn't believe a paper with any integrity would offer such an opinion.

The Journal Sentinel editorial board is upset that the Wisconsin Assembly failed to pass Senate Bill 1, which they constantly refer to the "ethics bill." They believe that the bill some how will keep special interests from influencing legislative action. However, they apparently have no problem with judges artificially inflating sentences to influence legislative action (known in some circles as blackmail), and in fact applaud the practice.

On Tuesday, Scott Jensen was sentenced to 15 months in prison and banned from the Capitol for five years, a sentence harsher than had been handed out to two Democratic legislators that accumulated a total of 38 felony counts, as opposed to Jensen's three felony counts. I'm not going to argue that Jensen was treated unfairly - other good blogs have covered that well. In fact, Jensen made a terrible mistake by taking his case to trial - a Republican politician in a corruption case has about as much chance with a Dane County judge as a burrito has with Prince Fielder.

Needless to say, when Jensen's tough sentence was announced, the Assembly didn't scurry back to pass the Journal Sentinel's pet bill.

Editorial boards and government "watchdogs" still somehow believe that the charges against legislators have some kind of connection with "ethics" bills that have been floating around the Capitol. Only an editorial board would look back at a six month period where three of the most powerful legislators in the state were sentenced to jail time and think that the system is somehow broken. In fact, the "system" worked exactly as it was supposed to. Complaints were filed, DAs investigated, and the cases were adjudicated. In fact, the one thing that may have sped the process up would have been the involvement of the Attorneys General during the process, Jim Doyle and Peg Lautenschlager. Instead, they both passed the hot potatoes to the locals to handle.

So what does this "magic bullet" bill (SB1) do? Well, not much. It eliminates the current ethics and elections board, and creates a Government Accountability Board, who then hires an independent investigator. This independent investigator isn't elected and reports only to the Board. Before the investigator begins their work, however, he or she must relay their findings to the DA in the county in which the violation was to have occurred. If the DA takes a pass, it's open season for the investigator, who can impose fines on private or public citizens, issue subpoenas, obtain search warrants, and prosecute offenses. God help us all if a rabid nutjob like Mike McCabe from Wisconsin Democracy Campaign gets that job.

What will most likely happen is that the DAs will take these cases and they will work their way through the courts. Which is exactly what happens now. But if the DAs believe there are cases that have no merit, this renegade independent prosecutor will be able to circumvent the entire court process and begin fining and prosecuting people, all because they choose to be involved in the political process. This may be the only area in state law where there will be a position completely unaccountable to voters that will enforce even the most minor of violations.

Can you imagine the Journal Sentinel editorials if the state set up an unelected, unaccountable investigator to go after, say, gang members? Or illegal immigrants? Or terrorists? It would make their outrage over wiretapping seem tame by comparison. Somehow, though, circumventing the legal process for elected officials, who by the way have to answer to the voters every couple of years, is just fine.

The bill, you will notice, actually changes no laws with regard to actual campaign violations. Everything that is illegal now will still be illegal, and vice versa. So it is unclear how the bill would have changed anything with regard to the criminal cases that just wrapped up. I'm fairly sure Chuck Chvala knew extortion and money laundering was illegal, and allegedly chose to take part in these practices anyway. Without question, Scott Jensen thought what he was doing was legal, even though a judge thought otherwise. All the cases involved legislators ignoring current laws for which they could be prosecuted. Which would be the case if SB1 were to become law. The bill really does nothing but say "things that are against the law are now illegal."

Now I'm not a fool - obviously sentiment against politicians statewide is more negative than ever. Even Steven Avery is sitting in his cell saying "Thank God I'm not a state legislator." Steps to beef up the ethics and elections boards would be welcome. It is a fraud on the people of Wisconsin that the same two individuals who headed up those agencies during the time these crimes were committed are still in their posts. But the fact that people are blindly advocating "reforms" without knowing what those reforms actually do is troubling. Hey if it's reform, it must be good, right?

I am anxiously awaiting the Journal Sentinel editorial supporting an ethics bill that would lessen the influence of editorial boards. Or an editorial urging tough sentences on women who throw their newborns in trash cans, so maybe the legislature will finally get tough on infanticide. Until then, these "reform" efforts are nothing but posturing.

The Kid From Brooklyn on Gas Prices

Amid all the consternation and political maneuvering about gas prices, we finally have someone that is willing to speak some common sense. Check out the Big Man's gas price plan, but pay close attention, because it is a nuanced plan with a lot of high-minded concepts.

As always with The Kid From Brooklyn, the language is unsuitable for work, for kids, or for anyone that used to be a kid, for that matter.

I have absolutely no doubt that Mark Green will skate to election if he merely adopts the slogan "BRING BACK THAT FU**ING IRAQI OIL!" In fact, I can write their first press release:

"Doyle Fails to Sufficiently Stick it Up the Ass of the Fu**ing Oil Tycoons"

Oh, and by the way - 5 bucks to anyone that sends him a picture of Jenna.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Madison Police Release Sketch of Downtown Mugger


By Phil Brinkman, Wisconsin State Journal Reporter

Madison police today released a sketch of the individual they believe to be responsible for over 14 muggings in the downtown area this year. "The perpetrator is believed to be between zero and 400 years old, and stands between 6 inches and 12 feet tall," said Police Chief Noble Wray. Papa Smurf was immediately released from custody, as he is 542 years old and stands only three apples high.

It took weeks for Madison Police to release this vital demographic information about the perpetrator, as they reportedly were worried about the negative effects releasing a description might have on Stick Figure Americans. "The race of the mugger really isn't relevant," said Wray. "What's really important is that the victims are mostly white," said Wray, noting that nobody really cares if any crime happens on the poor Allied Drive, but it looks like the Hurricane Katrina relief effort when a crazy white girl gets lost in swamp.

"It's really nobody's business who might attack you with a deadly weapon," said Wray, adding, "we need at least 300 muggings to take place to really get an idea of who we're dealing with." Wray said there were no leads, but David Hasselhoff had been brought in for questioning - not because he's connected to the crime, just because he really wanted to meet David Hasselhoff.

The importance of Stick Figure Americans was illustrated last week during a rally known as "A Day Without Stick Figures," when they were urged not to come to work. Mass confusion ensued, as traffic and bathroom signs were rendered incomprehensible. In one particularly ugly incident, a group of third grade boys wandered into an unmarked Capitol bathroom to find Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager on the throne "issuing a subpoena."

Little else is known about the perpetrator, other than he strongly supports Kathleen Falk for Attorney General.

Dennis York Turns One


On this day in 2005, I set this crappy little blog up with the purpose of annoying everyone with semi-lucid, rambling and only occasionally coherent thoughts. It appears I have been successful (except for when I quit for a couple months). So here's a thanks to everyone who's stopped by and for those who helped me get this little idea off the ground. Of course, you people that helped me get started probably deserve more blame than credit.

To infinity and beyond.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Two Solid Gas Price Articles

Really good story by Jason Stein this weekend regarding all the gas price pandering at the state level (by both parties). Nice to have someone look skeptically at the information they're fed - I think he used to be a business reporter, so he probably gets how market forces work. From the article:
But economists are panning most of these short-term solutions, saying there's not much a state like Wisconsin can do about gas prices besides promote long-term solutions such as alternative fuels. What's more, they said, taking steps to artificially lower fuel prices may actually send consumers the wrong message - that they can keep blithely guzzling gasoline without cutting back.

Exactly. (Disclaimer: I am biased pro-Stein, as he spent an hour interviewing me for this story.)

And in that vein, I dug up this column from UW-Superior Professor of Environmental and Cultural History Nicolaas Mink, in which he illustrates the long term benefits of higher gas prices. He says:
I hope gas prices climb higher.

While the $3-per-gallon threshold certainly makes many rethink (and perhaps even question) their suburban automotive escapades, gasoline selling at $4, $5 or $6 a gallon, as it does in Europe, would radically alter American habits, culture and society for the better.

This line of thinking was what I was trying to illustrate with this post. The Democratic Party as a political operation may be trying to squeeze some good publicity out of the gas price issue, but I believe honest liberal thinkers would support anything that causes cutbacks in consumption and more conservation. Even a good conservative thinker like Charles Krauthammer advocated for increasing gas taxes to keep the price artifically high. On this issue, I think the Democratic party apparatus is out of step with its base.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Every Penguin a Wanted Penguin

I know I'm waaaaaay late to the party on this, but I just watched March of the Penguins and I have now officially caught penguin fever (my man-crush on Morgan Freeman notwithstanding). If the purpose of the movie is to show much more evolved and mature penguins are than humans, it did its job for me.

The pro-life message of the movie, whether the filmmakers intended it or not, is unmistakable. In a society where female humans form entire associations to fight for their right terminate their unborn children, female penguins brave cold, starvation, and predators to make sure their eggs hatch. Some are so distraught about losing their unborn chicks, they try to steal them from other penguins (which has all the makings of a Lifetime movie starring Tracey Gold). Needless to say, there won't be a National Association of Women Penguins.

Additionally, the male penguins take an incredibly active role in protecting the eggs from the elements. Virtually as soon as the eggs are hatched, the males take over the role of squatting on the eggs to protect them from the brutal cold, and stay on them for months while the females return to the ocean to feed. Contrast this to humans, where many fathers are out the door as soon as they can break free, if they're ever tracked down at all. Needless to say, you will never see a penguin on the Maury Povich show getting a paternity test - they take care of their bidness.

I'm obviously not the first person to point this out - the Catholic organizations were all over this from the get-go. And the New York Times thinks the film is a conservative conspiracy. Although I can honestly say I would now rather have an emperor penguin living in my house than any New York Times correspondent.

So when it comes time for President Bush or his successor to pick a new Supreme Court justice, I'm hoping it is a penguin. Honestly, if the Republican presidential primary came down to John McCain versus an emperor penguin, I'd have a hard time choosing.

I can see it now:

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Thumbs Up to "A Day Without Gays"

When I first read Susan Lampert Smith's column today, I rolled my eyes, as I do most of the time when I read "The Queen of Sensitivity." In it, she advocates for a "day without gays," in which gay people don't show up for work, to mimic the "day without Latinos" rallies of a couple weeks ago. This is supposed to show how valuable gay people are to our every day lives, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

But it dawned on me that this could actually be a fantastic idea, if only for the comedy and excitement it would present. You'd have legitimately sick guys from all over the state push, pull, and drag themselves into work to avoid being absent. There would be 100% attendance in offices statewide. You'd have men that get into car accidents on the way to work that would crawl out of their flaming cars, and drag their bloody stump of a leg all the way into the office to avoid missing work that day.

I can see a guy calling his elderly mother's doctor:

"Yeah, Doc - I know she's wheezing quite a bit, and she's already gotten her last rites. But I really need you to prop her up for an extra day. If she says she's heading towards the light, just feed her another Brandy Old Fashioned - she'll be fine. I cannot miss work today!"

Some poor guy will take a little extra time getting into work to get his office donuts, and for a half hour his coworkers will be shaking their heads and saying things like "I knew the wife and four kids was just a show."

Productivity would be off the charts. The economy would boom. The Dow would hit 20,000. The only business to really take a hit would be golf courses (they'd be empty). Of course, all those sick guys at work would probably cause some kind of viral epidemic that could wipe out the planet, but at least everyone would know they're swingin' for the right team.

On a more serious note, I think this might actually cause some tension in the gay community. I'm sure that there are some more strident gays and lesbians who resent other gays who choose to remain in the closet. You'd have a ton of closeted gays who would refuse to take part, which could cause a rift between them and the openly gay community. Not to mention all the effeminate straight people who will have co-workers come up to them and say, "Um...weren't you supposed to be off today?" Awkward.

Finally, I was intrigued by the stereotypes Lampert-Smith uses in her column. Needless to say, if any right-wingers were to say gay people are hairdressers, wedding planners, caterers, and waiters, it would send the sensitivity police into a code red mobilization. But I guess as long as you advocate for their pet cause, stereotypes are acceptable. I just hope at some point she makes a list of aggrieved groups it is acceptable to paint with a broad brush and those that are not eligible.

My suggestion: "A Day Without Jim Doyle." Suggested date: November 8th, 2006.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

My Big Fat Apology

I have an apology to make. I’m gaining weight. You see, I have a reverse eating disorder – I actually think I’m a lot thinner than I am. For all I know, I could be one of those headless torsos they show on the news when they report that 75% of Americans are going to die of obesity within a year and I just don’t realize it.

I’m trying to do something about it, though. I’m busting my ass, dieting for over three hours a day. I figure a little exercise and a decent diet will keep my arteries from going on strike at some point.

But why would I actually want to lose weight? It’s not like I’ll look any better – that would take a magician, not a dietician. Everyone gets uglier after age 25, anyway. There are no exceptions to this rule. Think about it – who do you know that got better looking after 25? Nobody. (I win!) You can still be 30 and good looking, but there’s no way you are as good looking as you were when you were 24. Send me your pictures and I will scientifically verify this for you. There are some people that lose weight after age 25, but then everyone just remembers them as the “guy that used to be fat,” which doesn’t score you enough points to be worth the effort.

I could try wearing more flattering clothes, but I have no fashion sense at all. I know that when you’re fat, you’re supposed to layer clothing to draw the eye away from your “trouble areas,” but for that to work for me, I’d have to layer myself in an 8'x10' oriental rug. I have also considered lighting bottle rockets and throwing them at people that approach me as a diversion, but I figure there may be small legal problems with that strategy. I figure I can just hire a really fat guy to walk next to me wherever I go. I’m often tempted to buy expensive clothes, but figure I won’t look good in them anyway, so I stick with my current well-worn shirts that only occasionally have both arms still attached.

It’s not like I’m out of shape. I hate lifting weights – they’re way too heavy. But I can actually run quite a bit. My only problem is actually doing it. My eating habits are terrible. It’s not like I even really need to diet – all I have to do is eat like a normal human being and not like a Tyrannosaurus after a Grateful Dead concert. I actually consider myself eating healthy when I go for the single whopper with cheese and mayo, rather than the double whopper.

Plus, I never really have any incentive to eat healthy. On days that I exercise (usually coincides with a lunar eclipse), I figure I can eat poorly. On days that I don’t exercise, I figure I’m not going to lose any weight that day anyway, and I eat crap. All roads lead to me smothering something in bacon or sour cream. I feel like anything I eat at home is automatically healthy, so I down a half a bag of pizza rolls and call it a win. If I actually eat a banana, I patiently wait at my door for someone to come and award me the Nobel Prize for health.

I actually have a pretty elaborate process for weighing myself. You should always get on the scale as soon as you wake up (you weigh less in the morning), while you’re naked (clothes are heavy), and before you shower (water adds about a pound). While this will make you happy to weigh less, it is problematic when you are trying out a new scale at Sears.

In medieval times, being portly was actually a sign of wealth. Unfortunately, that’s not currently the case, as I would be Bill Gates. I could buy the Brewers with one of my extra chins. This is in stark contrast to my younger days, when I could eat a hippopotamus and not gain a pound. Of course, this was news to the hippo, as he wasn’t dead yet.

I realized it had gotten bad when I was watching an NBA game and the announcer said one of the players had gotten the flu and lost ten pounds in two days. I'm ashamed to admit, that I actually got jealous. I mean, I'm surprised this dieting fad hasn't caught on - who wouldn't trade two days of sickness in for three months of dieting and working out? I immediately went down to State Street Brats bar and began licking the toilet.

There are studies that actually show that men put on “sympathy” weight when their wives are pregnant (when a woman gets pregnant, it is essentially a fetal declaration of war on her body. Pinochet was more forgiving). If this is actually the case, I am the Mother Teresa of sympathetic husbands. In fact, I blame my weight gain on the sympathy I have shown for victims of the Hindenburg, for the extinction of the Spotted Owl, and Katie Holmes. In fact, when my wife gave birth, I’m surprised the doctor didn’t point to me and say “you’re next.”

This is the summer, though, that I’m going to get healthy. It will be nice to be able to walk around and not have to hold my breath and try to suck my gut in. One of these days, a caravan of cheerleader buses will drive by me, and I'll collapse, dead from lack of oxygen to the brain.

When I play with my daughter, I don’t want to keel over like Don Corleone in the orange garden. I figure the least I can do for her is make sure she has a dad around. Or at least stay alive long enough for her to pay my hospital bills when I do finally have my grabber.

ENOUGH OF JOHNNY LECHNER. REALLY.

So by now, you've all heard the story of Johnny Lechner, the "lovable loser," who has spent twelve years at the UW-Whitewater. He's been featured in both the state and national media, and was only marginally entertaining then.

Well, there he was this morning, on the front page of the state's two largest newspapers (the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and the Wisconsin State Journal), as he was announcing that he would be staying for a 13th year of college. Translation: he's going to milk this thing for all it's worth. Not to be outdone, the MJS is offering an online chat with Lechner.

We get it; he's got a publicist and feels the need to "announce" things to keep his name in the news, since he is unqualified for anything other than being a media hound. If his goal is to keep embarrassing himself and the UW-Whitewater, he has been a resounding success.

It is shameful that the supposedly serious media in this state would continue its complicity in this charade. I hope they're happy that they continue to be manipulated in the "Get Johnny Lechner Laid" sweepstakes.

I imagine his little stunt is less popular to the kids who legitimately want to go to college and succeed, and they probably resent his taking up a spot for someone who actually does want to go to college. Then again, if you can't get into UW-Whitewater, you may want to consider the possibility that college may not be for you.

The Last Straw for "24"

I'm too lazy to re-type my entire discussion with a buddy of mine about this week's "24," so I'll just cut and paste what we had to say. There are spoilers in here, in case you haven't watched it yet. My friend demanded to go by the name of Evil Grossmouth, the bad guy in this Wisconsin Dental Association comic book.

Dennis York: You're right - 24 was outrageous.

DY: There wasn't a single scene without a hole you could drive a truck though.

Evil Grossmouth: Was there not a 100% chance that the worm Miles was going to rat them out to the President? Anyone with a GED or a certificate from a welding college could have figured that out.

EG: That was where I lost it. And I love how Bierko's henchman is driving the van taking him from CTU, and they give us no explanation how they set that up.

DY: So Jack risks the lives of 50 plane passengers to secure the recording, gets back to CTU, then promptly hands it over to Chloe to go see Audrey for 15 minutes.

DY: PLAY THE F---ING TAPE!

EG: Or better yet -- MAKE A COPY OF IT. He gives it to her, doesn't tell her to copy it, but tells her to "clean it up" And he tells her to work alone and let nobody near her and then you see her siting there working in a goddamned conference room?

DY: When he was on the plane, he was on the phone with CTU - why wouldn't he play the tape for them over the phone? Then, if they got shot down, which he knows the president was trying to do, the evidence would survive.

EG: Also, to prevent the country from having to deal with the agony of a sitting president being charged with murder and treason, Logan decides to blow his own brains out? Yeah, that would have really prevented a scandal.

DY: And Mike Novek was already on the phone with the woman from CTU a couple times that day. All it would take would be for one of them to call each other during the plane incident, and everything would be cleared up.

DY: He would never think to call Jack? Or CTU?

DY: When he knows something is going on?

EG: The more I think about it, the more angry I get. Thanks a lot.

DY: Actually, the Bierko scene was one of the least outrageous to me. I was just thinking "Jesus, how many moles can there possibly be?"

EG: And none of the eight guards with him noticed him nod at the driver and the drive nod back? Nobody would have caught that?

DY: But when Jack left the recording to be with Audrey, who he had already been told was okay, I almost had an aneurysm.

DY: Or when Karen, Chloe, and Bill Buchanan are in the conference room and Karen decides she has to tell Miles what's going on. Everything is going totally fine, and telling him would do absolutely no good, but could jeopardize the operation.

EG: Of course. He wouldn't need to prepare anything to brief the AG about the president being a traitor and a murderer. Karen telling Miles was really the last straw for me. I almost turned the TV off there. I only kept it on because I was hoping against hope that she was luring him into the hallway so she could tell him she knew he was working with Logan and then stab him in the throat.

DY: I actually considered just not watching anymore after 21 hours.

EG: I thought about it too, but I can't do that. It's the same reason I'm sticking with Alias despite its awfulness -- I've already invested enough time in the thing, I ought to see how it ends.

EG: I just hope they finally set 24 somewhere other than LA next season. Seriously, after the last five years, why would any president, government official or person ever go to LA?

DY: And, gee, what was the chance that Logan was going to get a call from someone right as he was about to kill himself? And I'm sure calls that come in to the retreat from a cell phone go right to him at 4 AM.

EG: That's usually how it works. "Yes, I'd like to speak to the President. May I tell him who's calling? My name is Miles. One moment please, sir."

DY: "Please hold all calls except any unexpected calls I might get from people named Miles."

Not exactly Pulitzer material, but I had to complain.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Local Klan Election Features Contrasting Styles of Racism

Lodi, Wisconsin (AP) - The much anticipated race for Wisconsin Klan Grand Dragon between Orville Hornblower and Herbert "Stumpy" Williams has turned into a contentious race, with each candidate accusing the other of not being sufficiently culturally ignorant.

In a race littered with charges, counter-charges, and broken English, Hornblower has vowed to take a hard line stance, while Stumpy has pitched himself as practicing a more family friendly brand of racial and religious hatred.

Williams introduced his four part"compassionate racism" platform to appeal to middle of the road Klansmen. "Under my plan, we would give people at least 60 seconds' notice before we torch their house," said Williams, who also vowed that biracial residents would only be harassed every other week.

Williams emphasized personal responsibility and a good work ethic. "I once lost a job down at the grain mill to a colored fella," said Williams. "I didn't get mad, though. It just made me work that much harder to burn his house down," he said.

Williams believes he can find an audience by bringing racism home to the average American. "You know how when you're at the grocery store and you really want a bag of Ruffles potato chips, and there's only one bag left, and somebody grabs it right out from under your nose, even though you saw it first? It's just like that, except the potato chips are taken by the blacks, Jews, and Catholics," said Williams.

Meanwhile, Hornblower has called Williams a RINO (Racist in Name Only), and promised voters that he will reward them with truly vitriolic hatred of people of different religions and skin colors. "Racism really is a growth industry," said Hornblower. "There are Armenians, Greeks, Brazilians... groups out there that we really have never thought about hating before. Hatred really can be a limitless endeavor under the right guidance," said Hornblower. He also said he has evidence that Williams' great aunt once got a footrub from an Eskimo.

Both candidates agreed, however, that images of black men and white women together should not be condemned. "Naw, that's too hard core for me," said Hornblower. "Anybody that's uncomfortable with a public image depicting interracial affection is a little too extreme for the Klan," said Williams.

Record turnout for the election is expected, but only if Hornblower gets his cocker spaniel to vote. Last year, the vote was tied 1-1, but Williams was disqualified, as he failed to spell his name correctly on the ballot. "I got a third grade education, and I ain't afraid to show it off," said Hornblower.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Gas Prices: A Tale of Two Liberals

Madeline is a 58 year old single woman who lives on Milwaukee’s East Side. She’s a UWM psychology professor who gladly pays extra for a good cup of fair trade coffee. She volunteers at a local homeless shelter, helping people get back on their feet. Her Joan Baez records still speak to her. She didn’t think John Kerry reflected her views very well, but held her nose and voted for him anyway. Divorced for 20 years, she feeds her strong sense of self through her work and by continuing to raise her adult children.

Madeline walks to work, and takes the bus on the days it rains. She’s dismayed at how many people drive to work and school and strongly supports government investment in public transportation. She has contacted Mayor Barrett in support of light rail service. She supports increased gas prices because she knows that the higher gas prices go, the more people will be forced to find alternative modes of transportation. She knows that if gas rises to $4.00 per gallon, people who now drive to work alone will begin to be more creative with how they get around. They will begin to carpool or take the bus.

Also, she recognizes the benefit to the environment that high gas prices offer. The fewer miles people drive, the less gas tax will be collected, which means less road building. The fewer people drive, the cleaner the air will be, and the ozone layer won't be damaged at the rate it is now. She sees protecting the environment as a moral choice, and supports anything that gets us closer to a cleaner earth, since current conservation efforts have been ineffective.

Madeline is concerned about lower income individuals having to pay more for gas, but believes the government can set up a program to direct help to the people that need it. Instead of sending money for a war she disagrees with, she thinks we can at least help out the poor with gas prices or pay for their public transportation.

Doug is a married 35 year old father of three who works at the General Motors plant in Janesville, Wisconsin. He joined the United Auto Workers union fresh out of tech school when he was 22, and has been working at the plant ever since. He has been an active UAW member because he believes the union gives him the job security he needs, and he desperately needs to keep his job to feed his family. He knows the union has fought for better health benefits, hours, and working conditions. He values all of these accomplishments, as he likes nothing more than spending time with his family, and there's no way he could pay for his son's braces without the benefits.

Doug knows that the plant in Janesville dodged a bullet last year when GM announced it was laying off 30,000 workers, but none in Janesville. He worries that the Janesville plant is so reliant on SUV's, which use more gas than other GM vehicles. Doug knows that when gas prices rise sharply, people will be much more likely to buy smaller, more fuel-efficient cars, or hold off on buying a car altogether. When this is the case, GM's profits will fall off even further, leading to even more substantial layoffs than the ones announced last year. He fears that he could be among those that lose their jobs.

Doug has also talked to union members in other trades that worry about the ripple effect that high gas prices have on their business. When gas prices go up, it costs more money to transport goods, and when the prices of those goods go up, fewer people will buy them. When profits from things like plumbing pipes, electrical wiring, and groceries go down, employers will either look to scale back benefits or move right to layoffs. Doug doesn't want this to happen to him or any other union family that depends on their jobs.

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While these are two hypothetical people, they are two very real points of view. While Republicans at the state and national level try to come up with a solution to high gas prices (they have to, they are in charge), Democrats have been relatively silent on the issue, other than to reflexively criticize whatever Republicans come up with.

Democrats have gone into PR overdrive with the gas price issue, offering "anti-gouging" legislation and criticizing oil companies' "record" profits. A day hasn't gone by over the last two weeks without a new Democrat plan or a politician threatening to send people to a ridiculous website to sign a petition to threaten oil companies into lowering prices (they could exert meaningful pressure by conserving their gas use, but apparently choose not to).

However, when you put politics aside, isn't there a wing of the Democratic Party that actually doesn't mind high gas prices? Don't high gas prices promote conservation and smarter transportation options? On the other hand, don't high gas prices line the pockets of big oil companies and sheiks with which we are at war?

Last week, the State Senate took up a bill (SB215) to repeal the state law that requires the price of gas to be increased by 9%, as it keeps small gas stations in business. There aren't many things that can be done at the state level to keep gas prices down, but this is the biggest one. That 9% markup costs the average consumer between 25 and 30 cents per gallon when gas is at its current levels. Yet when a vote on the bill was taken, every Democrat except one voted to kill the bill. Despite all of their huffing and puffing about "gouging" and the effect of high gas prices on working families, Democrats completely whiffed on offering real relief.

So when you see Democrats decry high gas prices, you should wonder if it really is in their best interest to do so. Every "anti-gouging" press release is really an "anti-conservation" press release. It appears that the Democrats' official position is that using as much gas as you want is a fundamental human right. The more you want gas, the less you should have to pay for it, environment be damned.

Are you Doug, or are you Madeline?

Saturday, May 06, 2006

"Nacho Libre" Trailer

The wife and I went to the movies last night and saw the trailer for the new Jack Black movie "Nacho Libre." I rarely like trailers, but I laughed so hard at this one, I can't wait to see it. It will either be classic or an epic failure, since I have such high hopes.

You can watch the trailer here.

Friday, May 05, 2006

MJS Finally Pays Tribute Where it is Due

It's about time the Journal Sentinel recognized the contributions of the true heroes of society. It is people like Rotation Slim that are out promoting real economic development (as well as contributing to the windfall profits of the syphilis ointment industry).

Slim was fond of whores; he had an affinity for them.

And who isn't?

I love that they refer to him as a "retired pimp." Is he collecting Pimp Social Security? Is there a retirement plan for that? When he needs his prescription drugs, does he go in, flash his pinky ring and cane the pharmacist?

A TPA Postmortem

So it all came to this. 11 votes, out of 33 State Senators. In the end, the TPA had about as much chance as a Boy Scout in Neverland Ranch.

Last night, the State Senate voted down two versions of the much discussed Taxpayer Protection Amendment to the constitution. The first version capped only state spending, which would have shifted the tax burden to the most hated tax in the state, the property tax. This version failed 12-20.

The second version was truly indicitave of what a disaster this process has become. They actually just threw up their hands and took a vote on the original piece of garbage that had been introduced in February, before people began pointing out its substantial unintended consequences and holes the size of Uranus. This was the version that disequalized school districts, that forbid the Miller Park district from paying off their bonds early, that included sewerage districts, that let the locals raise their property taxes to make up for lost state aid, and on and on and on. The senators that voted for this version couldn't seriously have been voting for the details - they were simply making a statement that they supported TPA in some form. This version went down 11-21.

So ends a TPA process that has been a complete disaster from the beginning. If there were a bill that leadership on which was serious about building consensus, State Rep. Jeff Wood and State Senator Glenn Grothman would probably be the last two people you would call on to foster good legislative relations. Instead, they pitched an amendment in February riddled with problems, then began to publicly negotiate via press release. All the while, legislators were hesitant to say anything publicly or even come to the negotiating table, for fear they would be "outed" as a "RINO." So in the end, the Legislature ended up with six or seven versions that never stood a chance, while the conservatives in the party were led along by the nose, being told that progress was being made. It took two years for the Legislature to completely shoot itself in the foot.

The only way that this process would have worked would have been to find consensus on a bill that had leadership's buy-in. The amendment that was introduced should have been the one that passed. Instead, there was no serious attempt by leadership to work with legislators on anything that stood a chance.

So ends a shameful legislative session where the State Senate actually voted down bills in the last days of session that would have allowed the freedom to smoke in bars, eliminated government mandated gas gouging, and killed the one bill that mattered to conservatives (TPA). In the past, no bills ever came to the floor and failed. This session, it happened almost every day. Senate Republicans now head into the election with virtually no reason to vote for them and no consistent message.

The conservative voters in the GOP will be perplexed and distraught that the vote ended up the way it did. They support TPA in concept, and can't understand why something can't be passed to limit state and local revenue. Truth is, state government just has too many moving parts. It's just not that easy to throw a wrench into an engine with a thousand moving parts and expect it to run. It would take analyzing the whole engine part by part, which would be so complex and detailed it couldn't possibly be done in the constitution. But now it is time for all those legislators that kept telling us that keeping taxes low is their responsibility to step up to the plate. It is now the obligation of the taxpayers to hold these people accountable, to make sure that they weren't just paying the voters lip service.

Somewhere last night, Mary Panzer opened a bottle of wine, sat back, and smiled. She held strong and refused to put her members through a torturous vote on a TABOR when she knew it couldn't pass. While it killed her in her district, State Senate Republicans picked up a seat. We'll see if they're so lucky this time.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

What's Better Than a Republican Linebacker?

Anybody else think it was cool that the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel made a point of mentioning that the Packers' first round draft pick, A.J. Hawk, was a pro-war Republican?

I, for one, favor Republican linebackers. I would much rather have a linebacker that will knock a running back's teeth out than one that will hold hands, sit down with him at the 35 yard line and talk about his childhood.



H/T In Effect

Dork Test

So does it make me a dork that I now snap my cell phone shut with a little extra vigor so I can be like Jack Bauer? It's awesome - I want my friends to call me just so I can can hang up on them.

Never mind, I think I answered my own question.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Exxon Tiger Rips Doyle Campaign's Excess Profits


Madison - The Exxon Tiger today ripped Governor Jim Doyle's campaign, accusing him of gouging campaign contributors seeking state contracts. "Doyle makes obscene profits on the backs of average taxpayers, who have to pay for more expensive state contracts when a big donor writes a check," said the Tiger.

According to Wisconsin Elections Board records, Doyle raised a total of $1.2 million from contributors between July 1 and December 31st of 2005, while spending only $421,000 to raise that money. Doyle's $800,000 profit amounts to a 200% profit over those six months. For calendar year 2005, the profit is even more stunning. Records show that Doyle raised $2.6 million, while spending $654,000 to raise those funds for a total profit of 300% in 2005.

Doyle has recently been critical of oil companies' quarterly profits of between eight and ten percent, holding press conferences even suggesting legislation to cap oil company profits, which he as Governor cannot even do. Doyle is apparently keenly aware of exactly how much money oil companies should make and spend on alternative fuel sources, oil exploration, infrastructure, and transportation.

The Tiger pointed to the Doyle Adminstration's recent legal troubles as evidence of their overcharging for the privilege of providing state services. "Clearly, the Adelman Travel group was gouged - Doyle could have actually given them the state travel contract for free," he said, pointing out that's how government is generally supposed to work. "It took almost a million dollars for the Tribes to get a sweetheart deal that was so ridiculous, the state Supreme Court threw it out," said the Tiger. "It would be nice to have a Governor that pays more attention to the taxpayers than he does his own windfall profits," said the Tiger.

The Tiger also noted that the Wisconsin Retirement Fund invests heavily in - you guessed it - big oil companies. "Even if Doyle could do something about oil company profits, he would be damaging his core constituency - government employees," said the Tiger. "If he is really that offended by oil companies, he could pull the state's investments and cut retirement benefits to over 70,000 state employees," he said.

"When the government takes 31 cents per gallon from you with the gas tax, it's called 'economic development,' and when an oil company profits a lot less per gallon for providing the service to you, it's called 'gouging," said the Tiger. The Tiger also called on the state to cease subsidizing Doyle's campaign operations with taxpayer funded campaign trips.

The Tiger was reached while on vacation in Wisconsin Dells with his partner, Tony.