Wednesday, April 29, 2009

What's the Most Important Year in American Cinema in the Last 20 Years?

I'm having an ongoing feud with a friend of over this issue, so I thought I'd throw it out there for public consumption...

Friend X says its 1993. His evidence:
  • Schindler's List marks a turning point in Steven Spielberg's career away from movies primarily about childhood or childhood fantasies/fears to more profound "grown up" themes. It's also the point where Spielberg's movie start becoming more stylistically innovative.
  • Groundhog Day becomes an instant cultural touchstone. Has never been touched since; no sequel talk and I'd imagine no one would dare try to remake it (... any time soon, at least).
  • Philadelphia is the first big studio movie to deal with AIDS/gay issues openly and marks the moment when Tom Hanks stops being "just" a comedian and starts becoming this generation's Jimmie Stewart.
  • Tombstone offers a timely rebuttal that the "old fashioned" western isn't dead just a year after "Unforgiven" made one helluva case for its demise. May have saved the "traditional" Hollywood Western.
  • Dazed and Confused launches the careers of dozens of actors and actresses (in addition to it being one of the best movies ever).
  • And -- most importantly -- Jurassic Park ushers in the CGI era for film-making, arguably the most important technical development in movies since the advent of sound.
Not bad -- very strong case in my opinion. Obviously there were other movies made in '93 that could be mentioned, but were going to give you the Cliff's Notes version of the argument here.

But I'm still leaning toward 1999:
  • The Matrix upends sci-fi by combined postmodern philosophy and classical religion with a dystopian epic. Spawned dozens of imitators and parodies of it's innovative "bullet-time" shots, a few wholesale rip-offs, and completely overshadowed the year's highest grossing film...
  • Star Wars: Episode I. Let's face it, if ever there was a passing of the science fiction torch, 1999 was it -- especially since, just like George Lucas, the Wichowski Brothers haven't made a decent movie since the one that made them famous. In a lot of ways, 1999 was just as remarkable for the movie that didn't make an impact almost as much as those that did.
  • The Blair Witch Project takes the reality show/ psychological horror genre / guerrilla film-making / shaky cam use to another level. Again, another film that was endlessly parodied. (Notice how "The Matrix" and "Blair Witch" almost single-highhandedly rejuvenated the unforgivable parody franchises that owe their lineage to "Airplane!" but were never nearly as funny: "Scary Movie," "Date Movie," "Epic Movie," etc.?) Took the shaky-cam style first used to notably effect in Saving Private Ryan to it's logical extreme and has been used by countless horror and action movies in the last decade. [Plus, if anyone wants to take me up on this "The Blair Witch Project" may be the best post-9/11 movie ever made. That's right, I said post-9/11 even though it was released two years earlier. Go ahead, try me...]
  • Eyes Wide Shut: The last Stanley Kubric film (he also died in '99) still befuddles critics, but really marks the passing of Kubric's meticulous use of some of the most beautiful Steadicam shots ever used in film (in sharp contrast to Blair Witch and many of the films it inspired).
  • Fight Club: Need I go on?
  • Election: Small movie that appeals mostly to politics junkies, but there are many in this crowd who feel this is the best movie ever made about American politics
  • The Sixth Sense: Still one of the best twists to any ending on film. A thoughtful, meticulous and intensely spiritual movie ... that has been mocked and imitated to little avail, including by the the director himself.
  • Being John Malkovitch: Genre-bending film as much about the dichotomy between fame and obscurity as it is a metaphysical meditation on the nature of consciousness itself. First time Charlie Kaufman and Spike Jonze team up and includes the single strangest chase scene in all of cinema, period.
  • Office Space: The quintessential cult film that takes an absurdist approach to looking at professional malaise and paradoxically gazes far deeper into the phenomenon than any movie since, including...
  • American Beauty: A film that was much heralded at the time but has not aged well. In many ways it tries to examine the same slice of Americana that "Office Space" does, but is the more serious evil twin. Funny how that works out...
But it was also a big year for genre films. Take animated movies for example:
  • South Park: Bigger, Louder & Uncut: Apparently Steven Sondheim called up creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone to tell them South Park was like the best musical he'd seen in a generation (or something to that effect) and we have no reason to disagree with him. Compare it to "The Simpsons Movie" for a moment, or rather don't, since there is no comparison.
  • The Iron Giant: First Brad Bird animated flick -- not his best best, but contains the first signs of the genius to come in "The Incredibles" and "Ratatouille."
1999 also marked a great year for "teen" dramas:
  • American Pie: marked the return of the teen gross-out sex comedy woefully unseen since "Porky's."
  • 10 Things I Hate About You: The single best adaptation of Shakespeare to modern day America, yet captured on film. Other films tried to follow suit, but none had the charm.
  • Cruel Intentions: If this movie doesn't get made, "Gossip Girl" never makes it on TV.
  • Varsity Blues: Total crap, but eternally parodied to magnificent effect and likely the impetus to get the story right through the various incarnations of "Friday Night Lights" (even the bad movies somehow had a life after the theater in 1999).
Other notable films that had a lasting impact:
  • The Straight Story: a touching, poignant G-rated Disney film directed by ... David Lynch?
  • The Virgin Suicides: another passing of the torch film to a new generation of film-makers, etc. This time from father to daughter in the Coppola family
  • Magnolia: PT Anderson's "Boogie Nights" follow-up that's like a 2 1/2 hour long kick to the nuts. We'll argue that with "There Will Be Blood" Anderson took one of the 1/2 dozen story lines woven into "Magnolia," isolated it, focused on it and created one of the best films of decade.
There's a few others we could mention, and we could also go on at much further length with all of the film mentioned above, but we're going to maintain that 1999 is the most important year in at least the last 20 years.

If you can do us one better, go nuts.

A Childrens Collection of Wisconsin Children Whining about Arlen Specter, Vol. II

More Kathy Carpenter:
Either way, the load is off the Republicans to carry this guy when he has betrayed the principles of our party. It is easy to say that he will betray the Democrat Party principles also.
Kevin Fischer:

Arlen Specter lied....

I didn't know he was still a Republican.
Patrick McIlheran:

Though Arlen Specter, the nominally Republican U.S. senator who today came out of the glass-door closet he’d been in for years, switching to the Democrat side, handily illustrates the objective way of measuring RINOtude.

Fox tells it:

“Quinnipiac University Polling Institute . . . conducted a poll last month showing Specter running far better as a Democrat than as a Republican.

“Democrats gave him a 71 percent job approval rating, while Republicans gave him 36 percent.”

So 71% of the time, you’re pleasing the adherents of the other side, while only 36% of the time do you make any sense at all to your own side. Oh, and Specter was critical to passing the “stimulus” bloat-up of Washington that attracted all of three Republican votes in all of Congress.

Yeah, that’s when the label is nothing but.

Good Riddance to Specter
The Conservative Casanova:
Specter is a bitter man who is motivated purely out of his lust for power. He saw the proverbial writing on the wall that conservatives were no longer going to support his reckless politics and therefore sacrificed his integrity in order to keep his job.

The Senator should enjoy his time in Washington while it lasts because he has enraged Republicans in Pennsylvania and their anger will spread like a brush fire across the state.
Their argument is essentially the same as Specter's: "The party left me and moved right".

This is political drivel as it is abundantly clear that the GOP was much more conservative during the days of Reagan and has exponentially moved towards the left of center. One needs to look no further than our most recent presidential nominee to recognize the amount of influence moderates now have within the party.

Tomorrow's Conventional Wisdom Today

Via VandeHarris:
Arlen Specter’s break from Republicans is the latest in a trip-hammer series of reversals that leaves the GOP more beaten and less popular than either major party has been in decades.

Amid gloating among Democrats and recriminations among Republicans, the Specter divorce is both symptom and cause of the GOP collapse — leaving the opposition party on the brink of irrelevance in Barack Obama’s Washington and facing few obvious paths back to power.
Those are two pretty sweeping graphs, not exactly worthy of the intense self-satisfaction many conservatives have been demonstrating in the wake of Specter's departure.

Making matters worse, the GOP lost out to the supposed Gaffe-o-Matic.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

More Theft from the MacIver Institute

This time from

This one is so shameless the Mac even steals the editorial disclaimer tacked on by Wispol.

Congressman Petri Mercilessly Lashes Out at Obama Administration for Plunging Nation into Socialist Hell from Whence We Shall Never Return!

Feel the venom:

On Wednesday President Obama will have been in office for 100 days, and commentators, politicians and pundits are taking the occasion to ask, "How's he doing?"

Rep. Tom Petri says he's doing "fairly well."

"He has set a positive and non-confrontational tone," Petri said. "He has achieved a number of successes - most notably the passage of a huge stimulus bill. And I think that success is reflected in the change in the public mood to being a bit more positive about the future of the country."

Petri added that he disagrees with the President on many things, but can't deny that he is effective.

Thus spoke Petri.

A Children's Collection of Wisconsin Children Whining about Arlen Specter

Mary Eden:
Specter has changed his party affiliation because he's desperately trying to salvage his political career. It's as simple as that.


It will be interesting to see how Specter functions as a Dem.

If he thinks that Republican Party has become too far-Right, I wonder how he'll manage among the extremists of the Democrat Party.


I see Specter's move as a positive sign for 2010. The Republican Party lost its way for a while. Now, it's in the process of reorganizing. The Paul Ryan Republicans are revitalizing the party and energizing a new generation of conservatives.
Chris at the Badger Blogger:
Specter is a coward and once again proved it today.

This is a great day for the GOP and Conservatives everywhere, Yes it will offically give the Socialists their Super Majority once Senator Stuart Smalley gets confirmed but hell they had that already with Specter and Snow et al voting with them anyway.
Term Limits an Idea that more needed now than ever.
The usually much smarter than this Letters in Bottles:
It might be a pretext, but if Specter is leaving primarily because of the stimulus vote - and not the GOP's social conservatism, foreign adventuring, anti-intellectualism, etc. - then I think it was time for him to go. That may sound rash given the GOP's heavily reduced position in the Senate. But opposition to the stimulus represents a legitimate focal point of opposition centered on fiscal conservatism and limited government that should be able to appeal to a wider range of individuals than the Bush-era GOP. It's a better least common denominator around which to form a revitalized party, as I think Rep. Paul Ryan, among others, has shown.
Kathy Carpenter:
Arlen Specter has behaved as a democrat for a long time, thank goodness none of my money will every make it into his campaign coffers.

Bye, bye Arlen
Good riddance! We need to get rid of EVERY RINO in elected office.

And while we're at it, get rid of every so-called Republican "pundit" that is a RINO, too. Meghan McCain is the first on that list!

I knew I never liked that guy.

The (Somewhat) Daily RAG:

So just last month Specter says he's sticking with the GOP because the party needs men and women of diverse beliefs and, when the political waters seem to get bouncy, he jumps ship. Michael Steele is right on that score -- Specter didn't just leave the GOP on principle.

If Arlen Specter wants to reform the GOP, there's a lot of work to be done. The harvest may be great and the laborers few but he'd be a man of greater integrity if he stood up for the principles of Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan instead of running from them.

I don't care if Specter is left-wing, right-wing or center-wing. Today he's chicken-wing.

Blogger Beer:

Arlen Spector is now a Democrat. Big whoop. The Democrats and their lackeys in the media are characterizing this as a moderate not feeling welcome in an extremist party, but if they were honest they would have to characterize JFK as a right-wing extremist, which they don't.

Peter Digaudio:

Good. Don’t let the door hit you in the rear end on the way out. Spector has been a RINO for as long as I can remember. He was a key figure in getting the $1.3 trillion porkulus bill passed and has never been a reliable vote on anything.

Folks, this is not a bad thing. The Republican Party is much better off without Spector and his ilk who keep trying to drag the party further and further to the left and making it the “Me too! Me too!” Party.


Fact is, Spector is no moderate. Spector is a liberal far more at home with the lefties in the Democrat Party.

The real intellectual wing of the state conservative movement -- the Kevin Fischers, etc. -- seems to be too busy chickenheading Scott Walker as he begins his march toward self-imolation to comment on the move today. We'll be sure to include their remarks in volume II.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Great News

Go get 'em, Papermakers!

Riverfront Rot

Here's a prediction: if an old folks homes -- and lets call it what it is -- goes up on the Riverfront, people will leave town. This won't be a direct consequent of the property, but it will basically be interpreted a sign that Oshkosh has no interest in serious progress.

Just When You Thought Mary Lazich Couldn't do Anything More Stupid...

She continues to push the envelope:

Seriously, what's the point of getting into a pissing contest with Mark Belling?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

MacIver: Still Stealing Content

We've pointed out several instances of Wisconsin's newest "think tank" ripping off content from other new outlets ... and they don't appear to be stopping any time soon.

Today Mac prez Brett Healy just cut and pasted an op-ed by Juan Williams on the in-house blog without attributing a source or providing a link to the original online article.

This is theft and unspeakably lazy blogging.

Monday, April 20, 2009


Well, it's a start:
Palmeri said he hoped to have the new member selected by the first or second council meeting in May.
That's an entirely possible target date. It would certainly give the council enough time to choose a qualified candidate, but we're not so sure it would give the rest of the public time to ruminate on the matter. We want this taken care of no later than the end of June (but that's just us), so we're willing to extend the council some leeway here.

The real question here is whether the council can fill the seat by the end of May. That could prove to be more difficult.

Just a couple quick points about the article. One, this line needs some clarification:
A special election would cost the city $21,000, said city Clerk Pam Ubrig.
Is that a special election held in November or one held earlier, or is there any difference at all?

Second, does the NW have the phone numbers of council members King and McHugh? Neither of them appear to have been contacted regarding their thoughts on the matter for this or previous articles.

One suggestion: I'm not a big fan of "charticles" but in this case a simple chart or graphic that outlines what each council member believes is the proper course of action (and maybe which alternative(s) he or she finds unacceptable) might be very helpful.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Fast Food of Think Tanks

While Fred Dooley seems to have stopped appropriating the content from other web sites and news organizations, his blogging partner in crime, Mac President Brett Healy, appears to have missed the memo, copying this article from the Chicago Trib word for word on the Mac's blog.

Again, this is theft and inappropriate by any journalistic or academic standards, hardly befitting the work product of an institution that purports to be a "think tank."

The MacIver Institute has gotten off to a rocky start in the few weeks it's been up and running. Think tanks are supposed to provide food for thought. When the best think tanks are on fire in the kitchen, their meals are insightful, sometimes surprising affairs that please the palate in new ways while sticking to the ribs. Thus far MacIver's product has been predictable and pedestrian -- it's the fast food of think tanks.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

PANIC!!! Everyone, Run For Your Lives!!! We're All Going to Die!!! PANIC!!! PANIC!!!

This mind-blowing quote comes from the soon to be ex-Senator from North Carolina, Richard Burr:

During a speech on the economy last night, [Sen. Richard] Burr related his immediate reaction the week the crisis began.

“On Friday night, I called my wife and I said, ‘Brooke, I am not coming home this weekend. I will call you on Monday. Tonight, I want you to go to the ATM machine, and I want you to draw out everything it will let you take," Burr said, according to the Hendersonville Times-News. "And I want you to tomorrow, and I want you to go Sunday.’ I was convinced on Friday night that if you put a plastic card in an ATM machine the last thing you were going to get was cash.”

What would possess a sitting Senator to relay this story to the public is beyond me.

MORE: Potential campaign theme for Burr's re-election: "Burr '10: When the Going Gets Tough, I Start a'Hoarding."

Maybe there's room for him in Glenn Beck's Panic -- I mean Doom Room ...

Wherein We Pour Gasoline on the Fischer vs. Express Fire

Here's an interesting development. The Shepard Express has called out Kevin Fischer for his semi-annual "Stupid people shouldn't vote" post, something we noticed last November.

Fischer seems to take great pride in be identified with various other former recipients of the Express' "Jerk of the Week" award, thanking the paper thusly:
What a classy paper, tremendous writers, a terrific sense of humor, and such a prestigious award.

How good is the Shepherd Express? I'll tell you how good it is. It's so good they have to litter the streets of southeastern Wisconsin with copies begging and hoping that you will pick up a copy.........FREE!
Which is an interesting criticism to make since the Express charges exactly the same price as Fischer's own blog (i.e. nothing).

Fischer's clearly looking to prolong the fight here. In his very next post he decides to relink to the "infamous blog [post]" that so offended the Express. We think they should take him up on the offer. A public feud with someone in a position of power can only be beneficial to the Express. I'm sure that if they start asking questions about Fischer's employment, his responsibilities in the Lazich office and his questionable extracurricular behavior (that no Capitol staffer in Madison would even dream of getting away with), they'll find an interesting story ... or at least many instances of buffoonery worth of passing on to their readers.

Paul Ryan to Cap His Spectacular Fall from the Conservative Firmament by Addressing Tea Baggers in Madison

Is there anyone having a worse month than Paul Ryan?

Four weeks ago he was the Republican ideas guy on all things related to the budget, the sexy policy wonk from the Heartland with the youthful vim and vigor to return Congress to spending sanity. He was a principled conservative who was firmly grounded in realty and empirical evidence.

But in the last month that reputation his been sullied. First there was the Bizarro Budget Without Numbers instant classic, a PR fiasco that was an extravagant disaster as far as roll-outs go. Then came the Bizzaro Budget With Numbers, which seemed little more than an amalgamation of right wing think tank fantasy proposals (a five year spending freeze? a flat tax?) that would actually increase the deficit more than the President's budget. It didn't help that the plan was released on April Fool's Day, either.

Now people are looking into Ryan's record as a champion of deregulation and his campaign's ties to the financial industry just as he's accepted the honor of giving the keynote address to the Hey You Damn Kids, Get Off My Lawn! Caucus in Madison tomorrow. Three weeks ago Ryan was standing wingtip to wingtip with the GOP Congressional leadership on national television, now he just gets to have a local talk radio crank introduce him to a crowd of fawning wingnuts. That shoud give you an idea of just how unseriously the Bizzaro Budget was taken: instead of fighting Obama's budget in Washington this week, Ryan is back in Wisconsin fighting Doyle's budget (it almost feels like a pitcher who gets sent down to the minors to rehab an injured arm).

Monday, April 13, 2009

More Tea Baggery

The Recess Supervisor has more details on just what a confusion of tongues these tea parties are becoming, and just in time for Andrew Sullivan to point out how they've been hijacked. I think this line perfectly sums up what's in store this Wednesday:
Sadly, I’m going to guess that “Pardon Scooter!” signs are likely to be the Tea Party versions of “Free Mumia!”
Agreed. Though we have to admit that "Pardon Scooter!" is actually a welcome sentiment when compared with "Burn the Books!" and "Succeed from the Union!"

All Together Now...

It's probably worth taking a quick look at where the new council stands on filling the vacancy. Here's what the NW put together on Thursday:
Esslinger said he would prefer to collect resumes from individuals who were interested in applying for the position. He said he believed collecting resumes would give the council a pool of qualified candidates to choose from.

However, Councilor Burke Tower said he thought the most logical option was to appoint the person who finished in fourth place during Tuesday's election.


Newly elected councilor Bob Poeschl said he prefers holding a special election but would like to see if there was a way to hold an election earlier than November.

Palmeri said he hopes the council can decide unanimously on how to fill the seat.

Palmeri has a post today that seems to suggest he's not much closer to decided how the council should proceed aside from the fact that it probably should not just appoint the runner-up ... I think.

That's four separate opinions in need of reconciliation and we haven't even gotten word on what King and McHugh are thinking yet. If you have some time to sift through the comment section of that particular article, it's one of the more commented NW pieces in a while. There's no clear consensus favorite among the masses either.

The only option that I think we can all safely remove from the table is the pre-November special election on account of cost. For as much support and attention as the "4th placer" scenario is getting, Steve Cummings probably doesn't have the four votes needed on the council to get approved. Kevin McGee talked a lot about precedent in the NW today, but we just don't see that making much of a difference given the personal politics of the situation.

So that leaves the council with some kind of appointment process. There will be a great deal of argument, from many corners, that this is the least "democratic" process. They will have a point, but will likely be the same folks who are unwilling to fork over the cash for a special election.

But there is a remedy, and that's transparency. The more transparent the appointment process is the more opportunity the public will have to offer their own advice and feedback and the harder it will be for council members to pull a fast one on the voters. If the council members screw the appointment up, then voters will know as the screw up is happening and will hopefully redirect the course of the appointment. If the council doesn't, then voters have the responsibility to hold them accountable next time they're up for re-election.

We suggested that Esslinger should select a possible appointment for the council to vote from the pool of applicants he plans on culling. If the people of Oshkosh are able to examine the applications just as he sees them (we've suggested they all be posted online), then he'll be under pressure to make a more enlightened decision, as opposed to just a political one. It really doesn't matter which member of the council gets the power to do this beacuse they'll all be subject to the same scrutiny. Choose an unqualified lackey over an extremely qualified candidate and people will notice. In this respect, it isn't just one person making the decision, but anyone who has an interest in the process get to lend their voice to it. We've settled on Esslinger for this responsibility because he's the mayor and someone's gotta do it.

We've outlined how this can all be done relativey quickly. Given the diversity of opinion among the incoming council over how to fill the seat, time will likely become a factor. If it's suddenly the middle of July and we're no closer to filling the seat than we are today -- which is entirely a possibility -- then we may as well just get a winner-take-all special election rolling for November.

Pro-Choicer to Speak at a Wisconsin Catholic College

Everyone act outraged!!!

In case you didn't catch it, McAdams actually links to Conservapedia to demonstrate what a "rather sleazy character" Carville is. Priceless.

In Other Words, Get a Foreign Car

So much for Buy American...

I'm Moving to Queens

I'm sold.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

How Esslinger Should Appoint the Next Member of the Council

So the NW has another editorial pushing for a Steve Cummings appointment to the council this morning. It's a lovely sentiment, but we're pretty sure it's not going to happen, so rather than continue advocating for an unlikelihood, maybe it's time to look at the reality of the situation.

The new council gets seated on April 21st -- nine days from now. If the council waits for a special election in November, the council will have six members for six months. That effectively creates a situation where what would normally be a three vote minority becomes enough to scuttle any given vote. That means Esslinger has to find three other votes until a full council is seated. By making an appointment to the council Esslinger essentially creates a second vote for himself, which means he only has to convince two other seats on the council to vote with him on any particular issue.

This is a no brainer.

So instead of worrying which one of the also-rans should fill the seat, we should perhaps start examining how the seat should be filled.

One way this could all be settled is by Esslinger showing up to his swearing in on the 21st and saying "I'm appointing X to the council, let's vote!" To the best of my knowledge, he has every right to do this. This may seem like an efficient way to correct the problem, but lacks any degree of transparency whatsoever.

Esslinger says he wants folks to submit resumes and that he'll make his decision from a pool of applications. He certainly has the ability to do that, but if he wants this process to have any legitimacy at all he's going to have to make the appointment out in the open.

Here's how we suggest he does this.

1.) Esslinger should come out with a target date for filling the seat and a deadline for submissions. We think May 15th or thereabouts is more than enough time to send resumes to City Hall and that the seat should be filled by the end of June. Sooner is fine, but if this process starts to take much longer it will likely be the result of far bigger issues.

2.) Applications should be open to the public. The city deserves to see who Esslinger thinks is qualified and who isn't. Ideally, we'd like to see all the submissions posted online. If one person is clearly head and shoulders above the rest of the field, then it should be obvious to most people and we can all move on to letting the council vote. Since we doubt such a candidate will emerge...

3.) Esslinger announces a group of "finalists." This will give the candidates a two to four week period to be interviewed by both the Mayor and the rest of the council and will allow each finalist's supporters to lobby the council members, write letters to the editor, etc. This will also give the rest of the city time to get to know each of the finalists though Q&A's in the NW and elsewhere. And all of this is good for the eventual appointee. Requiring the finalists to do a little campaigning will help them gain credibility in the eyes of the public. No one will be able to accuse the next council member of being just a lackey to the mayor, because he or she will have gone through a "mini-campaign" of sorts to win the position. (This works both ways; the mayor gets some cover by appointing someone who had to work for the gig and not just a relative or drinking buddy or whatever.)

In a lot of ways, this is following the same sort of formula the council uses in selecting a city manager. We don't feel it should be that complicated or protracted a process, but what has been outlined above essentially combines an appointment process with a special election and in so doing removes the transparency issues associated with the former and the prohibitive cost of the latter.

Of course, we'd prefer to see the rules changed so that there is never an appointment to the council, but since those aren't the rules right now, we'll settle for this.


James Dobson throws in the towel.


The Daily News has an article on the rescue of Captain Phillips from the Somali pirates that has a little zip to it. Enjoy.

I imagine the party aboard the USS Bainbridge tonight will be better than anything those sailors have ever seen while on shore leave -- and deservedly so.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Secession. Seriously.

Jesus, I had just pressed the "publish post" button on the last post when I ran into yet another example of the Crazy taking over.

This one comes courtesy of the Ol' Broad -- who brings of word of a meeting she recently attended:
This morning, the Mr and I attended a meeting. It can’t be billed as a Tea Party, but it was a small gathering of some very angry citizens.
On the agenda:
Just a few of the topics that were discussed included term limits, a possibility of secession (not just state, but county as well), the 2nd Amendment, the 1st Amendment, the 10th Amendment and the economy.
Just in case you missed it, let me run that by you again:
Just a few of the topics that were discussed included term limits, a possibility of secession (not just state, but county as well)...
Secession. Because they love America so much that they want to leave it. I don't know what these Tea Partiers plan on accomplishing, but never let anyone tell you they don't shoot for the stars!

There's Just not Enough Crazy

This is absolute madness. I mean sheer batshit insanity:

My digital cable converter is actually a brain washing device? Wasn't that part of the plot of Batman Forever? Can't you guys pick one of the decent Batman movies to steal your crackpot theories from?

Is this what these tea parties are all about? Since no one seems to know just why people are holding these silly little events I can only assume that they serve as a gathering point for the crazies to assemble. We should get these guys together with 9/11 Truthers and have a nutjob kook convention. I see that Glenn Beck had something to do with this exercise in civic derangement, which could explain a lot, but this goes way beyond even Beck's brand of fear mongering paranoia.

Just as an aside: I think my favorite part of the video is where the rep from the Constitution Party dukes it out with the rep from the Liberatrian Party. This is where third parties do their recruiting?

Friday, April 10, 2009

Why Your Dainty Little Tea Parties Will Fail

Pop quiz: what was the largest protest/rally/demonstration in American history?

Dr. King's March on Washington? No.

Million Man March? Nope.

The protests in New York before the Invasion of Iraq? O-3.

The answer, believe it or not, was an event called the March for Women's Lives. Doesn't ring a bell? Well, it did take place a long time ago -- all the way back in 2004. Still drawing a blank? Don't worry, because like everyone who wasn't there, no one gave a damn.

I bring this up because there appears to be a great number of Tea Partiers who are anticipating the cold shoulder from the dreaded "MSM." I can already hear all the whining that will take place on the 16th. "Why weren't we on the news?" and "The Liberal media didn't want the public to see what a huge movement this is!" or "The MSM just wants to keep pumping the masses full of Obamamania!" and a million other such sentiments.

Let me just preemptively ask you all to spare us the melodramatic outrage.

The tea parties will fail. They will fail because they suck. How do I know they suck without them actually having occurred yet? Simple: because right now they are a disorganized mess that are reminiscent of the World Bank/IMF protests that occurred in the late 1990s or even the recent G20 protests in London (minus the violence, of course).

Check out this handy little video from the London Independent on the elements of protesting [via FP]. Yes, the narrator's name is Phil Collins, but don't hold that against him. Go through the narrator's check list of what characteristics make a good demonstration and see how many fit the Tea Parties. Let's go through them, shall we:
  • 1.) Very Clear Purpose
Can anyone explain to me what these Tea Parties are about in ten words or less? Is it the bail out? The Stimulus package? Unemployment? The budget? Pork barrell spending? Earmarks? Taxes in general? Socialism? Government spending in General? Wealth redistribution? ACORN? Some crazy ass conspiracy to subjugate the American people? Random, meaningless numbers? (All of those pictures came from just one earlier Tea Party, by the way.)

Pick one and stick with it, otherwise it's just a cacophony of competing voices trying to yell over each other resulting in just senseless noise. You can't protest "taxes" or "spending" or "borrowing" in general -- these are just ways of life. You can protest a specific tax or specific act of borrowing and/or spending. But that's not what's going on here. It's a messaging nightmare.

If you want to know what this looks like at it's worse go to YouTube and check out those awful World Bank/IMF protests. They're ridiculous, embarrassing affairs. Every aging radical, wanna-be hippie and sucker for activist chic went crawling to those disasters and the result was the Free Mumia people yelling over the Fulan Gong folks who were trying to get in on the fair trade folks and on and on and on. These grassroots tea partiers are getting perilously close to point of no return.
  • 2.) The Protest Demonstrates the Impotency of the Protesters as Much as their Potency (as it were ... hey, Collins' words, not mine)
Except in the case of the tea parties, it doesn't. No one's being denied their due process here -- and to make matters worse, the Tea Partiers actually had an opportunity to enact many of the reforms they are calling for during the course of 6 of the last 8 years. They couldn't get it done. Far from being shut out from power, Tea Partiers were actually in control until recently. That's not injustice, it's sour grapes.
  • 3.) Gives Voice to Something that's Already there in the Popular Feeling
That's hard to do when you have a dozen different messages competing for attention. Making matters worse, a majority of Americans support Obama's handling of the economy. The tea parties are expressing a minority view at best, and a fringe view at worse.
  • 4.) Protests in Democracies Effectively Demonstrate a Fundamental Flaw in that Democracy in so much as the Protesters are Excluded from the Normal Channels of Representation
See #2. Tea Partiers had their chance 6 months ago and couldn't get it done. That's no reason to cry over spilled milk.

I used to be a bit envious of conservatives because it seemed like they never had to protest anything. They either always got their way or understood that public demonstrations are the product of a by-gone era. Most liberals still don't get this (I'm convinced that has a lot to do with aging flower children who have a nostalgic desire to relive the glory days of the 1960s).

These days "events" like the tea parties are high risk and low reward propositions. What if only a handful of people show up? What if things get ugly? Oh, and by the way, what will be on the evening news later in the week? It's an awful lot of work and coordination for 90 seconds on the 6:00 news and an article in the local paper the next day. (I assume that all the whining about getting the cold shoulder from the "MSM" is what's supposed to keep the momentum going after the event, right?)

It's hilarious to watch conservatives suddenly discover the pitchforks and torches (or placards and banners) with such heedless abandon because their current trajectory will lead them inevitably toward the formation of the Right's version of the single most obnoxious political "organization" in the world: Code Pink.

CP is the gold standard of how not to make a political statement. It's impossible to watch any of their "actions" (or whatever you want to call them, I have numerous other words that could be used) without cringing. I like to think that that cringe comes from a deeper truth that the observer is aware of: that the protesters really aren't doing anything productive to change society, but are rather just looking to make themselves feel like they're doing something good. That's what they Tea Partiers will be doing next week, I just hope we don't have to hear about how "awesome" their little gatherings were for the next few weeks.

Who is Scott Walker's Favorite Republican President?

If you like an amusing read, check out Scott Walker's silly commentary on the GOP's need to "reclaim" Abraham Lincoln. It's absolutely one of the most vapid odes to the nation's greatest president you'll have the misfortune of reading. Hardly two grafs in to the piece Walker reveals that his actual intent is not to praise Lincoln, but to slam Democrats:
It is because Lincoln was a great Man and Great President that makes him such a current hot commodity, surprisingly among Barrack Obama and his Democrat Party. While it is not surprising that anyone would embrace Honest Abe over the likes of Jimmy Carter, Ted Kennedy, or Robert Byrd, both the Democrats and the mainstream media are attempting to cover up the most important Lincoln… Lincoln the Republican. It is time for Republicans to reclaim Lincoln from the Democrats.
Unfortunately, it's the Republican Party's own fault that Lincoln has been relegated to "second-class presidency" status within his own party. Check out this exchange that occurred during the debate for RNC chair earlier this year:

Not one candidate named Lincoln as their favorite Republican president, an absurdity made even more ridiculous by Grover Norquist's glib commentary that "everyone got that one right." Walker would have his readers believe that Democrats "stole" Lincoln's legacy from the GOP when in reality it was the GOP who gave it away. The scary thing is that if someone asked Walker the same question, he would almost certainly give the same answer.

Why doesn't someone ask Walker who his favorite Republican president? One answer only, he can't say how much he respects and admires Lincoln, but that it was really Reagan with whom he grew up with and inspired him to be a Republican blah blah blah. He gets to choose one.

So who's it gonna be? I think we all know the answer to that question, which makes Walker's sorry praise praise of Lincoln disingenuous and just another one of Walker's eye-rollingly transparent and foolish attempts at pandering to his base.

Praising Lincoln is a gimme. All it takes is a little honesty and admiration of his accomplishments, which are almost too mind-blowing to comprehend at times. It takes a special blend of obliviousness and arrogance to turn an homage to The Great Unifier into a polarizing tract designed to smear one's ideological opponents. If this is how Walker plans on running his campaign for Governor next year -- and there's little evidence to suggest otherwise -- then even the greatest leader America has ever known won't be able to help him.

[via CD]

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

One Last Basketball Post

Jesus, Pewaukee sure does like to do things the hard way:

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Be Careful What You Ask For...

With 26 of 40 precincts reporting Paul Esslinger is leading Frank Tower by about 750 votes -- so I think we can safely put this one to bed.

This doesn't come as huge to surprise to us here at the Chief. After nine years on the city council Essingler has nothing to show for his tenure except a string of polarizing incidents that do little in terms of moving the city forward, but are a great way of getting one's name in the paper. Tower's mild-mannered approach to governance was simply no match for Esslinger, who is not afraid to to get all up in the grills of his colleagues. We find this unfortunate, but, again, not surprising.

So what does this mean? Quite a bit actually. An elected mayor of Oshkosh was initially described as little more than a figurehead with ceremonial responsibilities beyond those of any other council person. As mayor, Tower walked a fine and cautious line trying to adhere to that principle, and likely for the better. Simply by virtue of being elected Esslinger destroys that quaint notion of the position now that he has the power to appoint another vote to the council. This will be Esslinger first test as Mayor, one that won't merely set the pace for the rest of his term in office, but will likely define it.

We personally feel this is a major flaw in the way the mayor is choosen in Oshkosh. By running for mayor, Esslinger didn't stand to lose his seat on the council whereas Tower did. Furthermore, a Tower win would have resulted in a continuation of the status quo in terms of council composition, but an Esslinger win now results in a radical shift in the council's make-up. The stakes of this particular race are tremendously off kilter, as we can now plainly see.

To that end, we feel Esslinger's first act as mayor should be appointing his replacement through any manner he sees fit. We don't agree with the makeshift "instant run-off" method endorsed by the NW -- it's no less arbitrary than Esslinger chosing a cousin for the job. The people of Oshkosh were asked to choose three council members, not four. Had four council seat been on the line, as we believe there should have been, this would have radically changed the way many people in Oshkosh would have voted. Esslinger chosing the fourth place finisher of tonight's election will only result in the verneer of legitimacy.

What needs to happen is the adoption of a "sore loser" policy. If the Mayor's office is going to be treated differently from other council position -- as is clearly happening -- it should be an all or nothing affair. If you run for Mayor, you can't run for council. If you're already on the council, you have to give up your seat to run for Mayor. Esslinger potentially wins two council votes by becoming mayor -- that simply should never be an issue during an election of this nature. This is a loophole that obviously needs to be closed and should be the second thing Esslinger should accomplish in office.

We admit these are not life and death issues, but will require the leadership needed by an effective mayor who plans on accomplishing much else while in office.

Following these minor, but necessary, changes to the council, Esslinger claimed (rather inconsistantly, it should be noted) that his top priorities are, depending on when he was being asked:
  • Public Safety
  • Sewage Treatment
  • Jobs
  • Infrastucture
By all estimates, Oshkosh will likely be heading into a troubled economic period in the foreseeable future. Crime increases when that happens. Tax revenues decline. Jobs become scarce. During his time on the council Esslinger never once spearheaded a movement to enhance any of these areas. He may have voted on this motion or that ordinance, but he's never led the charge on anything. We don't expect that to change.

Esslinger has always wanted to be mayor, but he's won the job at a time that requires real leadership, leadership that he has consistenlty demonstrated he is incapable of providing. We anticipate that he will look for guidance and excuses elsewhere. In fact, we think the city of Oshkosh should get used to hearing two phrases "The survey said the people want ..." and "There's nothing that the mayor can really do about ..." Surveys are fine tools, but what happens when a 30% plurality wants one thing and another 30% wants something else? What happens when 35% want something silly and 30% want something serious? Those are the moments when leaders step up and, you know, lead. We won't expect to be surprised when we don't see any of this during Esslinger's term.

But that's just big thinking. What should Oshkosh expect to see in the next two years? Not much. A lot of talk about this and that -- but in terms of specifics, not much.

Sewage Treatment: Little does Esslinger realize, but he's walking into a mine field here. If he wants to enhance the city's treatment capacities he will have to raise taxes and/or fees. If he doesn't manage to sell this idea -- as opposed to just bagging it in the face of opposition from tax advocates -- he will then be faced with where to begin the enhancements. Choose the west side and the rest of the city will be pissed because they have all the development going on already. Choose the south side and the rest of the city will be pissed because Esslinger lives there. Choose the north side and, well, you get the picture. All the sewage lip service Esslinger gave was basically an example of him having his cake and eating it too: it's a far more complicated problem than he is aware of, one that requires some degree of skill and salesmanship to negotiate. There's no evidence to suggest Esslinger has that skill, so we feel there's no reason anything will change on this front. Unless it's funded by federal stimulus money, don't expect it to happen in Oshkosh.

Infrastructure: Ditto the above. If you're expecting the street to suddenly be paved with gold, we are sorry to disappoint you. The NW put it rather succinctly in its endorsement of Tower last week:

What can you make of a politician who said he wants more money spent on infrastructure, but votes against the city's capital improvement program? Esslinger said he wanted more dollars earmarked for streets and sewers. Fair enough. But he did not offer a single amendment to accomplish that. All he did was offer an amendment to remove floating docks from Riverside Park.

After nine years on the Common Council, Esslinger should recognize that the time to chart out a comprehensive shift in public works projects isn't a "No" vote in November. It takes leadership in January, February and March to set goals and direct staff to begin planning to accomplish them.

That about says it all.

Public Safety: Watch for it to rise, but through no fault of Esslinger's. Crime rates rise during tough economic times regardless of who is in charge, but don't be surprised if an incident or series of incidents (invasion of the tire vampires, perhaps?) inspires Esslinger to flex his mayoral muscles through some meaningless grandstanding.

Jobs: Don't plan on Esslinger cutting many ribbons in front of newly opening businesses any time soon. Jobs will come to Oshkosh, but it will largely have nothing to do with what happens at City Hall. If an enterprising journalist wanted to start a recurring column, he or she might want to keep a running count of how many jobs Esslinger creates during his tenure. We're talking about private sector jobs provided by companies that relocate or expand here in Oshkosh and that publically disclose Esslinger's role in the creation of those jobs.

Downtown Redevelopment: On hold until further notice. Expect the news today that Water City Grill is closing to be the beginning of a string of bad news for downtown. There will be hard times for Main Street on the way, but Esslinger has made clear that we've sunk enough into that part of town already, so ... you all are on your own.

Riverside: I hope everyone likes the sight of an expansive empty field where potentially profitably waterfront property could be located, because that's what we're all going to be getting for the foreseeable future. The riverfront seemed to be plagued by a lack of vision and awful proposals -- and that was when it was a priority of the council. There's no reason to believe any active effort will be made to change this.

City Government: At various times Esslinger will almost certainly recommend an increase in City Government, like he has in the past with the addition of a "Development Divison" to City Hall. These will come with little regard to expense or how they will be implemented and will be little more than Esslinger delegating authority that should be the responsibility of the mayor or other government employees.

The Office of the Mayor: Whereas Mayor Tower was careful to not to overextend the authority of the mayor's office, Esslinger will suffer from no such compunction. Expect him to try to expand the reach of the mayor without much consideration for the long term consequences. He's said so much himself:
My vision for the office would be to have a person that is elected by the citizens and has more influence. This person would also be in charge of going to Madison to lobby our state legislature to the needs of Oshkosh. This person should also have an office where citizens could contact him/her during business hours to help them with issues that confront them with city government.
That sounds like Esslinger wants to make this a full time gig. Expect him to try, but not get very far doing so.

Letters to the Editor: There will be tons, many over remarkably stupid distractions instigated by Esslinger. Likewise with editorials. This will go on and on and on until further notice.

Last, but not least, Esslinger can almost be certainly credited with the creation of a vehement opposition that will critique decisions and actions that would have otherwise gone unnoticed by Mayor of yore. That is his own damn fault. Esslinger egged on many people in Oshkosh and now those people get to sit back and snipe from the sidelines. Expect the criticism to be relentless and the demand to perform to be just as intense.

We here at the Chief expect nothing short of epic failure from Esslinger. We hope for otherwise, but have little reason to believe that's going to happen.

MORE: It's official -- the NW calls it.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

From the Mouths of Babes...

Guess they haven't gotten to Churchill yet in this kid's Intro to Foreign Policy class:

Is it my imagination or isn’t Great Britain is one if not our biggest ally? Ok may Israel is the biggest, but the good ol GB is a close second.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The MacIver Institute: Where "Free Market" Means Theft!

How's that for a catchy slogan?

Fred Dooley, the Mac's in-house blogger, has a post on the Institute's official web page that is nothing short of an unapologetic wholesale rip-off of an article that ran in the Badger Herald. Dooley links to the original piece, but then proceeds to post the entire BH article in the text below. All of it. Word for word. Dooley credits the author, but then essentially steals the traffic that would have otherwise gone to the BH by posting the entire article on the MacIver site.

That's a big time publishing faux pas that no serious professional blog would dare commit. It's considered theft. Posting a few paragraphs and including a link is general considered proper etiquette, but the entire article is not kosher. (Dooley is clearly familiar with this practice, demonstrating it right here.) Even reprinting extended excepts from an piece is allowed so long as there is borderline Talmudic commentary to accompany it. That's not happening here. If I were Alicia Yager or her editors, I'd be pissed.

If I were in charge of the Mac, I'd be pissed too. This isn't an isolated incident (see here, here, and here; here's an instance where Dooley doesn't even link to the original article despite copying it word for word on the MacIver's site). In each instance, Dooley essentially steals another author's content and doesn't even pretend to try to add any commentary of his own. And it's not like Dooley is siphoning the works of bloggers who are using the Creative Commons licenses -- the instances cited above not only appeared online, but also in print, which usually involves a copyright.

It's theft, unspeakably lazy blogging and the calling card of a hack.

Now, were this on Dooley's personal site these words would have never been written, but since this is on the official blog of an institution that purports to be a "think tank," I expect a little -- even just the token appearance of -- intellectual honesty. If the Mac can't even abide by the most basic principles of the "fair use" of intellectual property, how does it expect to have any legitimacy promoting it's agenda? Do we have to call into question how the institute gathered the data for any of the polls it released shortly after opening?

There's always been the possibility that the Mac was nothing other than a grazing field for aging Republican operatives to go out to stud, and if that's their thing, so be it. But if Dooley is going to be stealing other authors' content under the MacIver Institute's imprimatur, that's another story altogether, because unlike some hoser with a Blogspot account (see me, for example), the Mac aspires to have credibility in the public dialog. If it's going to be a part of that conversation, it will need to abide by the same rules that other journalists and academics have agreed to.

So here's my suggestion: the MacIver Institute should pay for the content that they have previously "appropriated" from other publications and issue a public apology. They should also adopt a style guide and adhere to it on their blog and any other publications issued by the Mac. This is not a small issue for a "think tank" that supposedly advocates from "free market" economic principles, one of which is presumably the sanctity of "private property." Intellectual property is private property -- a "think tank" above all places should know that -- and until the Mac recognizes that, its only function will appear to be theft.

MORE: Dooley did it again later today: the full text of another editorial copied and pasted onto the MacIver site, this time without a link to the original article. Again, coming from an institution that is supposed to be producing ideas, this is theft.