Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Ideas that will go Nowhere

Shorter Robert Techlow: E.A.A. sucks, sweet corn is tasty.

Techlow doesn't like the crowds, with all of their gawking and their traffic and their strange, foreign ways. He doesn't see much of the economic benefit himself apparently (though -- surprise! -- he's required to work that week), so he'd wish it would just go all away. But if there's one thing that gets him about E.A.A. it's that he can't express himself:

I have to be on the road and deal with these visitors as they watch the sky instead of the road in front of them behind them or along side them during my work day, I hit the horn I get the middle finger and since I drive a company vehicle I am not allowed to respond to it in kind.

Yup, you read that right: he's pissed because he can't flick other people off.

So how does he vent his frustration? By literally praying for the sky to rain down on the rest of the town's parade:

Oh well, I'll deal with it like I have in the past and hope for rain.

Why not kick a few orphans after his rain dance while he's at it?

Sheer Genius!

It takes a lot to write a sentence this fiendish:

"Gerald began - but was interrupted by a piercing whistle which cost him ten percent of his hearing permanently, as it did everyone else in a ten-mile radius of the eruption, not that it mattered much because for them 'permanently' meant the next ten minutes or so until buried by searing lava or suffocated by choking ash - to pee."

Sir, I doff my cap to you. Rest of the story here.

Riverside Rivalry

Michelle Monte comes up with a nifty little phrase to describe the great North side-West side rift in this city: the “compass culture.” Not bad. Hadn’t heard that one before. I approve. After a little bit of comparative urban analysis (Oshkosh and Sheboygan) she looks for her own diagnosis of the problem. Here’s a version of a comment I left on her site.

I understand why she selected the methodology she used to examine the situation and I appreciate her conclusions but there are a number of factors the she chose not to explore that may help to demonstrate why this issue is more complicated than most people may realize.

First, Monte starts by examining the geography of the city, which is absolutely the correct way to start. Unfortunately, she begins by searching for the city’s contemporary center of gravity. That center has changed too frequently over the years to ever establish itself as being a culture, population, or commercial hub from which the city grew concentrically.

The real place to start is with the Fox River. Oshkosh wouldn’t be here were it not for the Fox River, it has always existed around the river, and it is something we will always have to contend with even as it begins to become less vital to the city’s economy as Oshkosh transitions away from a manufacturing economy.

The river is a huge psychological impediment as historically has always been. This goes back to the old Athens-Brooklyn days of the 19th Century and is something that maintains itself to this day. I vaguely recall stories of roving gangs during that time that would duke it out for the honor of their respective side of town. I get a visual not unlike Martin Scorsese’s “Gangs of New York” but in Oshkosh and with German immigrants.

Part of this phenomenon was a transportation issue. I’m pretty sure there was only one bridge linking the two sides of the city during the Golden age of the lumber years during the 1860s, 1870s, and 1880s. That means an entire generation would have likely had to gone well out of its way to get from one side of the city to the other, and some of that precedent seems to have been passed on from generation to generation through the years.

It’s kind of strange but for a long time the West side of the city was the “poor side,” while the North side was the enlightened home of the landed. In the 1060s, 1970s and 1980s this began to change dramatically. There was almost a magnetic reversal of the poles as the lumber mills began closing, the city began to decline economically and really had that feeling that it was teetering on the precipice of becoming a full-fledged member of the Rust Belt. That didn’t happen, but what did happen is the actually began to divide itself in to three distinct sections (something that Monte alludes to).

The first section I’ll call the Old West Bank. This encompasses the west side between the Fox River and Highway 41. This has traditionally been a working-middle class section of town and likely will remain so (with the obvious exception of some of the more recent developments south of Ardy and Ed’s). In a lot of ways – and especially with regard to the school boards redistricting effort – this part of town complicates the demographic make-up of the city for counterintuitive reasons (more on that below).

The second section I’ll call the West Side and is everything west of Highway 41. This is pretty much what everyone refers to when they say “West Side” these days when they want to load that phrase with all of the social and economic meaning they can find. This part of tow has experienced the most commercial and residential growth in recent years: from Wal-Mart/Festival Foods/Lowes to the hospitals to Carl Traeger school to the many subdivisions, etc. This has been great and is the kind of growth Oshkosh should hope for continue to strive for.

This has largely happen because the area west of 41 was really the only place left for the city to grow due to some absolutely asinine city planning on the North side, which is exactly what you think it is: everything North and East of the Fox River.

Growth on the north side is next to impossible in the way it has occurred on the west side. Instead of being able to grow beyond the highway the north side has painted itself into a corner by essentially forbidding any grow and/or development north of North high school. The reason for is simple: the landfill, the prison county park and the Winnebago Mental health basically form a barricade that keeps growth from expanding in any meaningful sense north of Highway 41 and East of Lake Butte des Morts. No wants to live next to a prison and no one wants to live downwind from the county dump (neither of which should have ever been built so close to an urban area). WMH is s different story since it’s been there forever. County Park would have been a wonderful place to develop around, but also complicating matters is the Industrial park just to its south.

So the city limit of Oshkosh’s north side is pretty much Smith Street. That right there is really enough to choke off growth on one side of the city, but there’s another huge obstacle to growth on the north side: the University. A huge swath of the north side has been essentially reserved for student housing. This is mostly in parts of town that are actually historic areas but have been left to rot by “landlords” who can rent cheaply to students and never worry about marinating their properties. From an economic standpoint this doesn’t help since 10,000 (1 in every 6 or 7 people living within the city limits) is almost by definition beyond poor (being students and all, they likely have some degree of debt to pay off). This happens in almost every college town, but is exasperated on a cultural level by the lack of integration between the city and UW-O. That’s been changing in recent years, but for a long time the area around the university was essentially an island and unless you worked there or went to school there, you really had no other business there.

The student housing situation is changing too. The new apartments being built between Wisconsin and Jackson Streets (appropriately within crawling distance of Molly’s… Woo-hoo!) may free up some more territory in old student housing neighborhoods that someone will buy and renovate and punt off to a family or two. Who knows?

So while the west side has grown and prospered, the north side has stagnated and even declined. (The loss of the hospital and the frustrations over the downtown redevelopment have only added to the problem on the north side.) In the middle is the Old West Bank, really just doing what it’s always been doing for years now – and can you really blame them for wanting to keep their wagon hitched to the West Side after all of these years?

Redistricting may be a necessity to balance out the utility and efficacy of the high schools, but it will not solve the soft animosity each side of the river has for the other.

In fact, it’s as Monte said it’s really not that much of a deal among the actual students, who know each other from activities like soccer in the summer, etc. Among high school graduates who eventually go off to college the rivalry becomes merely playful, if not null and void all together, when they finish their studies.

The rivalry is on its way out, but it will take a while – in my estimation at least a generation. Maybe two. That may seem like a long time, but you have to remember that we’ve also come a long way from the days of roving gangs. Think of it as the globalization of Oshkosh – and as the world gets smaller, so too will Oshkosh.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Thank You, John Birch Society

For your contribution to American political discourse.

MORE: Gideon Rachman dissects the conspiracy theorist phenomenon in FT.

There is Justice in the World

One of the more curious truisms I've heard in recent times is that there are two irrefutable arguments for the estate tax: Paris Hilton and My Super Sweet 16.

Apparently the word has gotten around.

Does this mean people will still refer to her as an "heiress"?

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Cross-Posting Extravaganza!

QEA makes an interesting point about the role of Propel and Progress Oshkosh in the civic marketplace at the moment. The comment thread that follows predictably goes a number of different places, but here's my two cents:

It might be interesting to note to what degree the Chamber's waning influence (if Stew is right in his column) is a function of the new make up of the council as opposed to what has to be considered a lousy sales job by the Chamber.

The sale of the building to the city wasn't a very hot idea to begin with and that seemed to show by the lack of attempt to change people's minds on the issue.

Which brings me another point: there really isn't much of a "Chamber faction" on the council any more and that's largely the leadership of the Chamber's doing. Every time the Chamber's in the news these days it's usually because it wants something from the city and yet it hasn't given anything back in return.

When was the last time a new business opened up shop in Oshkosh through the assistance of the Chamber? Instead of encouraging new businesses to relocate to the city, or helping local folks with the entrepreneurial bug to open their own doors - the Chamber has been content to just work with what it has.

Oddly enough, that's the same problem that's been afflicting City Hall lately: both sides seem content to do the bare minimum, and when that happens expectations are frequently not met -- and when that happens expectations then often get lowered (and thus a vicious cycle).

Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe the Chamber is actually the Mother Teresa of the Oshkosh economy, nursing weak businesses to health and midwifing the next Microsoft at an undisclosed office park ... Maybe it's just a PR problem -- but if it is, that's part of the problem! They need to start selling themselves better.

I get the feeling that everyone on the council is to some extent aware of this, and that the Chamber will have to rouse itself from its laziness if it wants is way in the future.

This might mean it's a good opportunity to for the Chamber to either get new leadership or re-evaluate it's relationship with city government. Now would be a good time to finally develop a partnership with City Hall.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Origins of "Lame Duck"

From Carl Cannon's 7/27/07 National Journal piece:

The first lame ducks, those extraneous politicians christened as such, waddled into American history nearly 100 years ago, courtesy of the New York Evening Post. They made their appearance at the White House, but in refuge, not residence. It was there that Republican members of Congress who hadn't survived the 1910 midterm elections assembled in a hallway that the Evening Post dubbed "Lame Duck Alley." The defeated lawmakers were hoping for a presidential appointment from William Howard Taft, or, at the least, the fellowship of their fellow has-beens.

Now you know.

(And knowing is half the battle...)

More YouTube Debate Fallout

More excellent analysis, this time from a GOP operative, on the strategic importance of the YouTube debate:

This is not an emotional issue for me. It is rather a business decision about whether or not the Republican Party will be able to compete effectively over the next twenty years or so. The media business has had to respond to the brutal realities of the digital world; in his most candid moments, the editor of the New York Times talks about the death of the print edition. Is anyone thinking about what GOP, Inc. looks like 10 or 15 years from now?

[moving on...]

In 2004, the Democrats could have expected to be outspent by 2-to-1. In March 2008, it's the Republicans who'll have to brace for that fate. As Zack correctly notes, Democratic online fundraising has proven to be just as potent as Republican bundler programs AND Democrats now have bundlers of their own. (Sorry guys, but this was entirely preventable.)

This is the part where you're wondering, what in the heck does YouTube have to do with money? If I go on YouTube, will I raise tens of millions? You have to be kidding right? I'm glad you asked.

At the end of the day, the issue is not YouTube. The YouTube debate snub is the symptom, not the disease. If Republicans fret about a simple debate format, which is really just the modern version of the 1992 townhall debate, how in the heck are we going to be make the really bold, gutsy decisions to transform our campaigns so we can raise over $100 million online and recruit millions -- yes millions -- of volunteers over the Internet?

If our campaign operatives believe the comfortable lie that 95% or more of the action is offline, we will never have the vision or the capacity or the incentive to change. We will never announce our candidacies online. We will never do a Sopranos video. We will never successfully inflict a Macaca moment on a vulnerable Democrat. We will never raise any real money online. We will never build the kind of organically grown lists of 2-3 million that MoveOn or the Kerry campaign or ONE built. We will never have the courage to empower our supporters to power us out the rough patches, as John McCain could easily have done two weeks ago.

Wow. The very first post on this blog was about the new GOP internet director's reluctance to delve into the world of online social networking -- but if this is the sign of arguments to come then that policy will likely change.

MORE: from TPM.

Friday, July 27, 2007

What? No Eye Patch?


I think this is absolutely hilarious (and apparently might be the only person in the world who thinks it was funny):

Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England just provided an extremely unusual -- and totally dumbfounding -- moment at the retirement ceremony for vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Admiral Ed Giambastiani.

As England was speaking about Giambastiani, a man in a red shirt walked up to the deputy secretary and put a parrot -- yes, a parrot -- on England's shoulder. England said he wanted his remarks to be very personal and that was why "Sweetie Pie" was on his shoulder. But England did not explain the joke for the rest of us. The parrot stayed on England's shoulder for the remainder of his brief remarks.

England then brought out a digital recorder that had recorded a message to Giambastiani and his wife on ... in morse code. He played the recording and translated the farewell message for those of us whose morse code is a little rusty.

Gates joked about the moment when he stepped to the podium right after England, saying, "I can't possibly top that. I have no animals."

Parrots ... Morse code ... now this guy was a sailor.

Congratulations, Rep. Obey!

On appropriating the most funds via earmarks for a congressional district that's not represented by someone who goes by the title Madame Speaker:

The recipient of the most earmarked dollars in the bill: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., whose $4.1 million for San Francisco projects is slightly more than the $4 million that Appropriations Chairman David R. Obey, D-Wis., would send to his district if all of his earmarks become law.

Kids Think GOP is, Like, Totally Lame

Stupid titles aside, this is a profoundly disturbing trend for Republicans.

In the presidential race, "both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama lead Rudy Giuliani -- the most acceptable of the Republican offerings among youth -- by significant margins. The President’s standing is substantially worse, to the degree that is possible, than we find in the broader electorate. Moreover, the disconnect we see between the Republicans and our nation’s youth runs so deep, that it likely will not only outlive the Bush administration, but potentially haunt the Republicans for many years to come."

Whenever I hear about President Bush's staggeringly low approval rating I almost always ask myself just who exactly is the 29.6% of America that still has faith in this guy? The answer I usually give myself is old people and/or these folks.

Now part of this problem is a little overstated because people generally get more conservative as they grow older, but if Republicans can't get a decent foothold into America's youth then they may be looking forward to a generation's worth of hard times. And the amusing thing is that I can't think of one way they are trying to develop inroads into younger Americans.

I'm sure someone will bring up the College Republicans, but really, that's little more than an elitist supper club for future party apparatchiks. How many people do you think Nate Nelson has converted to the conservative cause with his determined leadership of the UW-O CRs during the last decade?

The modern conservative movement needed 40 years to get from Goldwater's insurgent presidential campaign to the now laughable talk of a "permanent Republican majority" during the years between the 2002 midterms and Bush's re-election. It took that long to develop a cadre of intellectuals at places like the AEI and the Heritage Foundation, a small army of legal professionals via the Federalist Society, and media outlets like National Review, Fox, et al -- and at this rate they might need another generation to re-develop their political infrastructure from scratch if they are going to continue down this path of self-destruction.

Oh yeah, and not showing up to the YouTube debate in September won't help.

MORE: A great article on internet fund-raising during the '04 race and why YouTube is important this time around:

If the GOP candidates do in fact bail on the People's Debate, we'll hear more of the excuses we've already gotten. From Romney: "I think the presidency ought to be held at a higher level than having to answer questions from a snowman." No matter that, in the very same interview, he went on to defend the Manchester, New Hampshire, "Machine Gun Fundraiser" against critics: "We have to lighten up a bit as a society..."

And we will hear campaigns claim that the "YouTube audience" leans left. But that's simply not true. First of all, common sense should tell them that any audience of tens of millions of people is going to be similar to the general population. And as Michael Bassik has documented at TechPresident.com, research data shows that the YouTube audience is anything but partisan:

YouTube actually attracts more Republicans than Democrats. Specifically, there are 3.3 million self-identified Republicans on the user-generated video site versus 3.1 million Democrats. (An addition 5 million consider themselves independent.)

But there is hope for the GOP yet: Several young campaign, consultant and new media veterans have launched a site for the grassroots to drag the candidates back into the debate even if they come kicking and screaming: SaveTheDebate.com.

More power to them!

EVEN MORE: This will not help:

One of the excuses that Mitt Romney is using to back out of the YouTube debate for Republicans is all the sexual predators on the internet.
"YouTube looked to see if they had any convicted sex offenders on their web site. They had 29,000," he said, mistaking the debate co-sponsor for the social network MySpace, which has recently done a purge of sex offenders from its rolls.

New American Mile Record

With all of the attention on game-fixing, dogfighting, doping in cycling, and the ongoing Barry Bonds story, I didn't find out about Alan Webb breaking the American record for the mile until my Sports Illustrated arrived yesterday. Webb ran 3:46:9 in Belgium on Saturday to break Steve Scott's 3:47:6 that had stood for 25 years. I can only hope there is no doping bomb on this one.

Pretty Much The Best Post You'll Read All Day


Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Last Thing We Need

More bad news:

A pair of whistleblowers alleged Thursday that the contractor selected to build the U.S. embassy in Iraq "kidnapped" foreign nationals to work on the $592 million construction project, luring low-wage laborers into a war zone under false promises that they would be working at hotels in Dubai.


The allegations have been vigorously disputed by both First Kuwaiti and the State Department inspector general, who investigated the claims.

"Let me spell it out clearly. I believe these men were kidnapped by First Kuwaiti to work on the U.S. Embassy," said Mayberry, who worked for the contractor for less than a week providing emergency medical services to construction workers. "They had no passports because they were confiscated at the Kuwait Airport. When the airplane touched down at Baghdad Airport, they were loaded into buses and taken away. Later, I found out they were smuggled into the Green Zone. They had no IDs, no passports, nothing."

Frickin' Cats

This is perhaps the only reason to re-up your subscriptions to the New England Journal of Medicine.

2, 4, 6, 8 ...

Somebody get this dude a frilled mini skirt and some pom-pons because Oshkosh's very own George Farmer is suffering from an overabundance of tax-cutting spirit:

In the words of Ronald Reagan (page 54 of "The Reagan Diaries" edited by Douglas Brinkley): "Tax increases don't eliminate deficits they increase government spending." Now, get off your couch or turn from your coffee and reach for the phone or computer and contact your state representative and senator (the contact info is in the newspaper) and tell them: "You already have too much of my money. Tax increases don't eliminate deficits they increase government spending." Come on say it with me loud and clear: "Tax increases don't eliminate deficits they increase government spending." Call your friends and family. Say it out loud, say it often: "Tax increases don't eliminate deficits they increase government spending."

Most girls I went to high school with wanting nothing more than to be on the top of the cheerleading pyramid. George Farmer, on the other hand, apparently wants nothing more than to be on the top of the Laffer Curve.

Go figure.

What, Exactly, is "It" ?

The opening words of Nick Nienhaus's July 27th letter to the NW:

Oshkosh government is at it again...

The opening line of George Famer's July 27th letter to the NW:

Well, they're at it again in Madison.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Tommy ♥ Ames

"If I don't win, I'll be shocked."

This Will Have to Make You Smile

For all of the stories that are told of well-meaning folks that get bought and sold in the Washington meat grinder, every now and then there are a few that demonstrate rare principle -- like this one from a great article in TNR on the Turko-Armenian PR blitz currently underway in the nation's capital:

Few niches of Washington lobbying are as lucrative as the foreign racket, which explains why more than 1,800 lobbyists are currently registered to represent more than 660 overseas clients. Thus the Turks have found no shortage of willing pitchmen. Turkey currently maintains expensive contracts with at least four different Washington lobbying and p.r. firms. The result is that unsuspecting congressmen and staffers frequently find themselves badgered by well-heeled Turkish emissaries. Not long ago, one lobbyist invited a senior congressional aide to dinner at his suburban mansion. When he arrived, the aide was surprised to find himself surrounded by Turks keenly interested in his views on the genocide bill. (This time, the hard sell backfired; the staffer indignantly retorted that he believed a genocide had taken place, causing the lobbyist's face to go "ashen.")

Let the Kids Play!

The New York Times runs yesterday's story from CQ, which inspires Bill Christofferson to call the idea "wacky" and advise the professors to go spend their time elsewhere. He of the late (and missed, I might add) Xoff Files suggests that the Democrats should get a "serious" opponent to run against Sensenbrenner and not get too wrapped up in the Burkee/Walz sideshow.

But, seriously, why bother?

There hasn't been a "serious" threat to Sensenbrenner pretty much ever in what is without question the most knee-jerk bat-shit conservative district in the state, not there will likely nor be one in the near future. So ...

Let the kids play.

Sensenbrenner can't be dragged through the mud because he's neck high in a pool of his own horse shit already -- and his constituents love him for it. Well, why not get two amiable guys to simply demonstrate just how big of dick the guy actually is? Sensenbrenner has demonstrated time and again that he lacks the requisite degree of shame to be considered a human being -- maybe it's time he be reminded what that most basic of human emotions feels like.

Sensenbrenner is the consummate Washington insider, so inside that he no longer fears appearing to be professional to those he's elected to serve. The contrast between that and two professors on a mission to elevate the debate should, and can, at least succeed in exposing the Congressman -- if not to his constituents, then at least to the rest of the country -- for what he really is: a walking parody of a man in power.

Basically, I'm all about the Burkee/Walz ticket because: (a.) It's asymmetrical warfare in a part of the state where a conventional Democratic party campaign is next to futile. (b.) It's an experiment. I like experiments, and especially when they don't work. And (c.) because I think it has great potential for sticking it to Sensenbrenner, if only in a small way that might result in him getting some jocoserious ribbing at the hands of his GOP colleagues back on the DC cocktail circuit.

And let's not forget the all important reason (d.): In essence, this is a Democratic campaign. Burkee, the Republican professor, will never ever ever never ever ever never ever never never ever ever ever ever never ever ever never ever beat Sensenbrenner in a GOP primary as a moderate Republican in the 5th district. Never. Ever.

If Christofferson's wants a more "serious" opponent, let's start hearing some names and let's get down to some recruiting. But so long as Waukesha County is, well, Waukesha County, this is probably the best option available.

Other news outlets to have picked up on the story: the Janseville Gazette, the Huffington Post, and these two guys.

1 in 4

Americans believe that Jesus will return to Earth ... this year.

[via the Plank]

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

You Know You're Screwed When...

... Wonkette plays your story straight.

This is genuinely revolting.

Existential Meltdowns

Rod Dreher of Beliefnet reflects on how the Iraq misadventure has challenged his world view and has come up with five points that look a lot different now than they did when the war started. The first four can be said to qualify as being primarily political, but #5 is something far more philosophical:

5. I have a far greater appreciation for how rare and fragile liberal democracy is, and a corresponding revulsion at the American assumption that it's the natural state of mankind. Which is to say, the war has made me rethink my ideas about human nature, and I'm far more pessimistic now than I ever was.

(emphasis added)

God help us if this war makes Hobbesians of us all.

[via AS]

My Sentiments Exactly

Joe Klein posits that the real test of the YouTube debates will be when it's the GOP's turn.

Meanwhile, ToT seems to think they'll be able to handle themselves just fine.

More Tilting at Windmills

Burkee and Walz already have a respectable internet footprint. Here are some highlights:

* A Wikipedia entry (the true sign that someone's made in America in this high tech age) on the political action committee that is being transformed into the organization for their campaign.

* An April '07 jointly authored Op-Ed in The Hill on the need for bipartisan ship.

* A January '07 Op-Ed in the L.A. Times by Burkee pleading for a president who doesn't have the surname Bush or Clinton.

* A February '07 Op-Ed in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel by Walz on President Bush's Iraq policy.

* A February '07 Op-Ed piece in in the S.F. Examiner on energy economics by both Burkee and Walz.

* An October '04 article in the WI State Journal on the role of faith in choosing presidents.

At the end of the first day of their campaign for congress, the Burkee and Walz announcement has been picked up by just a few newspapers: the Journal-Sentinel, CQ, the Post-Crescent, the Rhinelander Daily News, and the Racine Journal Times. More surely to follow.

Hop in the Sidecar, Sancho!

It looks like Team Walz/Burkee is out of the gate with a good jump. CQ has a brief profile on them this morning with more juicy details on just how they plan to spend the next 15 months:

"In a show of bipartisan comity rarely, if ever, seen before in congressional politics, Burkee and Walz will launch a joint campaign Web site at Burkeeandwalz.com and produce joint advertising, bumper stickers and yard signs..."


"Although only one of them can be elected to Congress, Burkee and Walz discuss their joint campaign in terms of what would happen if “we” win. They said they would continue teaching at Concordia as they served the district’s constituents, bringing back the idea of citizen legislators instead of career politicians.

"So far they have not contacted their state parties or the national party campaign committees, and they’ve said they do not intend to. Walz, a professor of political science at Concordia, described the campaign as a collaboratively run grass-roots effort they hope to keep 'outside of party support and outside of the party apparatus.'

[scene missing]

Seniors from Concordia University and the University of Wisconsin will staff the campaigns, and the congressional hopefuls said they have received strong support from their home university. “We often times hear about the apathy in America, the apathy among students, but to have two professors modeling good citizenship is . . . a valuable learning experience for our students and for our university,” Walz said.

Gary C. Jacobson, a professor of political science at the University of California San Diego and an expert in congressional elections, said he is not aware of such an arrangement in any past congressional elections, and gave the candidates slim chances in the general election.

“It’s a gimmick that will get them some attention but ... I don’t see how they could possibly expect to win,” Jacobson said.

Whatever happens, I think Burkee and Walz appear to have more of a plan than they're letting on to having at the moment. Unfortunately, I think their strategy primarily involves educating their students and the voters of their district more than any kind of actual electoral game plan.

But that doesn't mean they won't surprise voters. Sensenbrenner is about as pleasant as a root canal and last year the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel finally found the cajones to tell the Congressman as much (and in no uncertain terms) in it's endorsement of Democratic party sacrificial lamb Bryan Kennedy:

[Kennedy] will be a competent, thoughtful congressman who can restore a sense of dignity and balance to the 5th District. It's time for that after years of folly from Sensenbrenner.

Sensenbrenner has too often been an obstructionist to good policy. Given the reins of the powerful House Judiciary Committee, he had a chance to lead for the common good during a congressional session when few representatives had even a notion of what that meant. Too often, he didn't.

Sensenbrenner was wrong on immigration. His enforcement-only plan included making felons of undocumented immigrants and a useless 700-mile fence that will do nothing to solve this national problem. Worse for Republicans, his obstinacy split his own party and cost it a rare opportunity to significantly broaden its base.

Sensenbrenner was wrong on the USA Patriot Act. We need many of its provisions in this era of terrorism, but the version he championed strode upon the liberty of every American.

Sensenbrenner was wrong on Real ID, which will cost states millions of dollars to implement and which fixed something that wasn't broken.

Sensenbrenner was wrong not to dig deeper into the National Security Agency's domestic spying program. Sensenbrenner sent a letter to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales but didn't bother with the real spade work.

Sensenbrenner was wrong to waste taxpayers' money by taking more than $160,000 in junkets since 1994, not to mention the more than $200,000 in world travel paid for by lobbyists and think tanks over the past six years.

Sensenbrenner was wrong to push bills that would make it harder for police agencies to track illegal guns and to crack down on rogue gun dealers.

Sensenbrenner was wrong to indict Milwaukee as "fast becoming the murder capital of the U.S." and wrong to lash out at Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, calling him a "crybaby" for having the brass to criticize Congress. It's but one example of the congressman's increasingly belligerent and unproductive tone.

They may be longshots, but what others will want to throw away as a "gimmick" may have to potential to tap into a strain of anti-divisiveness that may sweep over the voters of the 5th district (though that's extremely doubtful given the demographic make-up of Sensenbrenner's current domain). Regardless of what happens, the Burkee/Walz ticket will likely be the most innovative contribution Wisconsin makes to political science this election cycle.

Insert Head Directly Into Sand

Ross Douthat on the Victory Caucus web site version 2.0:

The relaunched page for the Victory Caucus is intended to be "a one-stop-shop for anyone interested in learning about what's really going on in the war." To this end, it boasts two columns of links: One is headlined "Official US Sources," and includes releases from Centcom and DoD touting progress in Iraq; the other is headlined "Blogs and New Media," and includes links to military bloggers and freelancers like Michael Totten. There are exactly zero links to any of the media organizations that do the vast majority of on-the-ground reporting from the Middle East.

MORE: Oh, man, does this just get better. Here's Daniel Larison on same:

Eschewing their former role as advocates for and enforcers of GOP political suicide (as leading champions of anti-fundraising efforts and promoters of primary challenges against moderate “surge” dissidents), the Victory Caucus is reborn as the pure propaganda outfit that it was always meant to be. The great imitators of MoveOn have settled for their much more natural role of water-carriers for the Pentagon and the White House.

And Dave Weigel (via Yglesias),

As someone who snarked at the Victory Caucus and predicted its demise, I must note that the site has re-launched.
With this new design, we hope to come closer to our goal of being a one-stop-shop for anyone interested in learning about what's really going on in the war.
That wasn't exactly the goal of the old VC: This looks a bit like the old Command Post blog, except limited to war news. And it is a better business model than "drubbing anti-war Republicans," but I'm skeptical that it'll find a niche. If it does, I'll be the first to say so.

Yikes. Not exactly a vote of confidence.

The Yoko Syndrome

Chris Cillizza on the nascent Fred Thompson campaign:

Before he even becomes a full-fledged candidate for president, former Sen. Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.) is reshuffling his senior staff.

Tom Collamore, who had been functioning as de facto campaign manager for Thompson's bid, has been moved into a "senior advisor" role, according to communications director Linda Rozett. Randy Enwright, a longtime Florida operative, will take over the political operations for the campaign while former Sen. Spencer Abraham (R-Mich.) will serve in an as-yet-to-be determined capacity.

"We are preparing for the next phase and bringing on some new political strength," said Rozett, adding that Collamore had done a "good job of putting together an organization."

Rozett disputed reports that Collamore had been pushed aside due to clashes with Thompson's wife, Jeri. But, it's worth noting that washingtonpost.com's own "Sleuth" aka Mary Ann Akers reported last month that Jeri's central role in the campaign was rubbing some within the organization the wrong way. (In The Fix's look at Thompson's Inner Circle we noted that "no one has more say over Thompson's budding presidential campaign than his wife.")

(emphasis added)

Emergency Landing

I suppose I could link to the NW article on the awesome highway landing made by a pilot en route to AirVenture, but this one's much more fun (and, frankly, has a better picture):

Boy, here's something you don't want to see while driving to grandma's house. It's a WWII-era airplane making an emergency landing on a busy Wisconsin highway, and the entire thing was caught on police video. The 1943 plane was on its way to an air show when it got engine trouble. The pilot, who has huge, huge balls, decided he would make an emergency landing on a highway full of cars. No one was injured, and the only damage to the plane was to the wings, as the plane clipped some signs during the landing. Sweet merciful crap, that is crazy. Hit the jump for video.

Is This Seriously the Optimal Scenario?

From the Corner's David Freddoso:

We used to have an unorthodox campaign-finance regime in this country called "the First Amendment." It would not be so bad to go back. It would, paradoxically, deprive Washington's lobbyist-gatekeeper class of all its power. After all, who besides a powerful lobbyist can come up with 100 people ready to max out with $2,300 for your Senate campaign, and then deliver them at a fundraiser? Is that cleaner than having an eccentric, wealthy donor give you $230,000, as some states currently allow? At least in the latter system, there is absolutely no question about others' free speech rights.

Nor is there any question to whom the elected official owes his or her power.

I don't know very many people who give money to political campaigns that I would call "eccentric," especially the kinds of dudes that would be willing to drop roughly a quarter of a million dollars on one Senator. In fact, the phrase that immediately springs to mind is "calculating." And why wouldn't these guys be looking out for a return on their investment if they're going to be forking over that kind of cash in non-tax-deductible funds?

Oddly enough, and I have only anecdotal experience to back this up, but I have spoken to a number of people who have confided in me that they feel more inclined to donate to a political campaign because of spending limits because, by their own rationale, they feel their money becomes just as important (if not more so) as anyone else's. That might not get a given candidate the money he or she might like to run with, but it may get more people invested in a campaign in ways they would otherwise would not.

Again, I can't link to any data, study, or article that would back me up on this, but I think it would be fascinating to see the results of a study that looked into the psychology of why people give and what they feel when they are giving under different campaign finance circumstances.

Say It Ain't So!

What's a weekly satirical tabloid have to do to stay afloat these days?

TGT out in August?

NJ's John Mecurio predicts (7/19/07) Thompson will call it quits next month:

Tommy Thompson: Thompson has said he'll stick around through the Ames straw poll, but his campaign's investment in that increasingly downgraded event has dwindled to the point of a formality. Notably, as of Wednesday, he hadn't committed to attend theTexas straw poll in late August.

Prediction: Thompson withdraws in mid-August, after a disappointing showing in Ames.

Tokyo Metro Co.

Appears to be exploring the Birth Control Pill market ...?

Quixote Rides!

This story would be interesting if it were in any other congressional district but the 5th, where on election day church bells ring to summon legions of the undead to the polls to vote for the 2006 Human Events Man of the Year Jim Sensenbrenner. (See highlights of his stirring, kick ass acceptance speech to a packed crowd at the annual American Conservative Union Conference in DC. What the audience lacks in numbers it makes up for in the cavernous echo of a few lonely, yet vocal, attendees.)

I can't imagine either Walz or Burkee having much of a prayer at being elected, but they might be able to pull off some solid media attention if they demonstrate a cordial, substantive, and professional report on the campaign trail that would likely contrast well with the cantankerousness frequently displayed by Jabba the Sensenbrenner. (And, for the record, let me just say that it's never been the Congressman's physical similarity to the intergalactic crime syndicate magnate that's led me to draw the parallel, but rather his Wisconsin accent, which is so thick that I often wonder if Mr. Sensenbrenner is not fluent in Hut (or at least one or two or of the regional dialects).)

I can't imagine the Concordia History Dept. will be as serious as candidates as they should be -- after all, they will have papers to grade, T.A.s to ogle, etc. -- but I think the structure of their campaign might set them up for the inevitable "moral victory" (barring an unforeseen drunken driving episode, or the like, a month before the primary). Plus they will be able to publish what will have to be a thoroughly enjoyable article in the Journal of Contemporary Political Discourse or whatever low-circulation academic pub will get them tenure.

Messrs. Walz and Burkee, we here at The Chief salute you and wish you God speed.

Monday, July 23, 2007

If One Twin's Named Moby...

Then it doesn't take much to figure out what the other should be named.

And You Thought McCain Took a Spill

Tommy Thompson takes a nosedive in National Journal's weekly candidate rankings (between the weeks of July 9th and July 16th) from the 5th spot to #9 ... right behind Ron Paul (whom the New York Times Magazine apparently gives much better coverage to).

How much do you think TGT hates Libertarians?

Dept. of Obvious Headlines

No shit...

Post-Debate Analysis

Andrew Samwick of Vox Baby:

First, candidates were under more pressure to address the specific question being asked to a greater extent than in prior debates. Being dismissive of Anderson Cooper doesn't cost a candidate anything, but being dismissive of "ordinary" Americans wouldn't score any points.

The Most Dangerous Game

Hunting people ... that hunt endangered animals ... and not with anything cool like an elephant gun, but with DNA stuff ...

Still, it's pretty cool.


This woman and this man are two very different writers but things like this make me wonder about the similarities of the folks who don't read either of them.

Four words: Laser. Mounted. Monster. Truck.

I've always thought of the HEMTT as being Oshkosh Truck's signature vehicle, and now it might get a lot cooler.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Brewers Blogging Vol I

Tim Lincecum looks like he's 12 years old and is pitching lights out today.

MORE: Check this out, Jack Taschner, a UW-O alum, is mopping up Lincecum's gem of a game.

Greetings, Professor Falken

Shall we play a game?

Beware the Arts Board Mafia!

Unbeknownst to me, the city of Appleton has a thriving arts community that is threatening to stifle the economic growth of the financial, manufacturing and service bases of the community.

Letters: Arts organizations should be able to fend for themselves

The first response that came to my mind when reviewing the current Sunday Post-Crescent articles on the Thrivent funding decisions were these.

I'm not the arts maven I might be. But I'll wager that, beneath all those tuxedos and ball gowns worn by the various choir groups, there's enough cash to sponsor their own programs.

I’ll take that wager any day of the week. Tuxedos? Ball gowns? Did Sotheby’s open up a branch office in the Fox Valley recently? I’ll concede that there are probably a few black tie events for the PAC during the course of the year, but I think it’s safe to assume that if a chorus or a choir is wearing what appears to be fine evening wear they probably got their threads from the same uniform company the waiters got their tuxes.

Once the tax-deductible largesse is removed from these programs (which is just another corporate dodge anyway), then the true value of the programs will emerge.

Yup. Let’s do that and see the massive “largesse” generated by arts organizations in what is clearly the cultural center of the universe…

More to the point, I'd like to be a fly on the wall in the room where such an important decision was made.

Like what? Should we hang this painting on that wall?

Might it actually be that funding was pulled for the art-as-entertainment industry because it has exploited and bowdlerized the nature of the arts experience here?

The author is misusing the word “bowdlerize” here, the definition being: “To remove material that is considered offensive or objectionable from (a book, for example).”

[Here’s a little piece on where the word comes from.]

“The arts-as-entertainment industry” really can’t be both exploitive and censoring at the same time.

They can pick up all those lions around town any time now.

Oh… I see. Someone spent money on something other than me. God forbid that other people should enjoy a change in landscape inspired by a collective community effort.

Lastly, please don't pull at my heartstrings with pictures of little Johnny in his best bib and tucker while that sucking sound at the PAC gets louder and louder.

Lon C. Ponschock, Appleton

“Best bib and tucker”? This dude is straight out of the eighteenth century!

May we recommend amending your vocabulary to better communicate with those around you who are not crotchety members of the undead? Great. We think this letter would be a lot more efficient if it read as follows:

“I’m old! I’m cheap! My life is joyless and so should be the lives of all others! I survive exclusively on the sustenance provided to me by the tears of small children!”

We feel that would get your point across to a broader audience, Asshole.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Company Town

Now this is what I call a Corporation.

Get Your Laws Here!

Like the Code of Hammurabi, but for computer geeks.

Thou shalt enjoy.

That thing About Torture

You know, this thing about torture? Yeah, well, it's hopefully been taken care of ... finally.

"I have nothing to say on the record"

Nor, for that matter, do I, since the facts of the matter pretty much speak for themselves.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

What's Wrong With This Picture?

This letter that arrived in the NW's mailbox is peculiar -- to say the absolute least: someone from across the country chiming in to the local paper on an issue that couldn't possibly be more parochial and, not surprisingly, is entirely off base.

For your consideration:

Esslinger takes lead on getting council information

Thank you, (Councilor Paul) Esslinger, for expressing your concern about lack of information flow to the council.

Now if only the rest of the council would make (Community Development Director) Jackson Kinney and (City Manager) Richard Wollangk accountable for informing the entire council, as soon as pertinent information is received.

Today's situation about (Ben) Ganther and his problems is just the latest in a long string of situations that, over the years, never seem to shared with the council in a timely manner. Perhaps Mr. Kinney and Mr. Wollangk have been in their positions a little too long and their authority has gone to their heads. Whatever the reasons for not providing sufficient information to the entire council, it should be stopped immediately and those involved should be held accountable.

Frances Woldt Cottonwood, Ariz.

What a crock of shit!

First of all, why does the author seem to have the impression that Councilman Esslinger – and only Paul Esslinger! – has had a hand in calling for accountability? Did accountability suddenly become a controversial issue or something that requires an advanced degree (or relevant expertise) to implement?

Here’s some excerpts from last Sunday’s NW:

"It should be an expectation," said councilor Bryan Bain. "We've shown where information wasn't provided. We asked for changes to be made. Over time, it creates an impression that staff is trying to keep information from the council. When there's a perception like that, it's a problem."


Councilor Jessica King said the problem should be discussed by councilors at their next meeting, but questions if that's sufficient.

"At what point do we go into closed session to review the role of the city manager?" King said. "When is 'enough is enough?'"

(emphasis added)

And here is Dennis McHugh taking the whole matter to a place it probably doesn’t need to go.

So what exactly does Ms. Francis Woldt of Cottonwood, Arizona mean when she says “Now if only the rest of the council would make (Community Development Director) Jackson Kinney and (City Manager) Richard Wollangk accountable for informing the entire council, as soon as pertinent information is received”?

It sound to me like a good chunk of council is plenty pissed off about the matter and is indeed looking for accountability…

Which leads me to my crackpot conspiracy theory of the day:

This letter has the manufactured feel of a letter used to promote a candidate running for office during election time and given some of the heat Esslinger’s gotten for his last epistle to the masses (my take on that lovely opus is here), I’m thinking the councilman was in need of a little good press. So he calls up an old friend or relative for a chat, explains the situation and then drops a few subtle hints about how someone really ought to get his back on this one and maybe drop the old Northwestern a line…

Obviously, this is idle conjecture – and it’s wild speculation at that. I can’t prove a goddamn thing, nor am I inclined to devote all that much time into doing so, but this letter is pure bullshit. If someone has to import their support from out of town, then maybe it’s time to follow the followers.

Cranky Man Writes Cranky Letter

Garth Seiler, nut job-letter-to-the-editor All-Star, has his latest missive printed in the NW:

Suspect identification, war, stem cells prompt reply

I am writing in reply to some recent letters and articles in the paper. First, if Stew Rieckman believes what he wrote, and I think he does why stop at race? Why categorize suspects by height, weight and age, because you unfairly make all fat or slim, young or old, short or tall people in the community suspects, therefore to be consistent The Northwestern to have reported the robbery as being done by two human beings.

Sounds foolish doesn't it? Where he and the paper are wrong is by not giving the public all the information they can to help them to be as safe as possible.

What in God’s name is Garth ranting about? He seems to have selected one sentence from a recent NW article and decided it was worthy of criticism, but without any reference point I simply have no clue what he’s talking about.

A robbery, apparently – but which one? Oshkosh is a reasonably safe place, but it’s not like there hasn’t ever been a robbery in town before.

And if he wants to know why newspapers tend to identify the race of suspects the answer is a lot simpler than he might think: it’s because more often than not race is the only characteristic that can be readily verified. I know very few people – outside of carnies, of course – who can accurately estimate another person’s weight, largely, in my opinion, because we frequently spend so much time misrepresenting our own. No one needs a scale to determine what the color of someone’s skin is.

Second, (James) Genisio is angry at the war and the people he thinks started it, and cites the Pope. I wonder why he stands by Feingold knowing his vote against the ban of partial birth abortion. Why, no outrage for his vote Mr. Genisio?

Well, first of all, the war in Iraq and abortion are two entirely unrelated issues, Mr. Seiler.

And secondly, Genisio didn’t say the Pope had anything to do with starting the war. Here’s his exact quote:

It is time to listen to those who have been right even before the start of the Iraq War. Some, like John Paul II, are dead. But others like Senator Feingold and myself are still living.

Mr. Seiler would be wise to perhaps read more closely before going apeshit on someone.

Back to you, Garth:

Third, Mr. White blames Bush for terrorism. It is obvious he must have been holed up in a cave the last 14 years. He says Saddam was not that bad, Saddam killed in excess of hundreds of thousands and I do not believe he only killed the guilty. I wish just once as the usual suspects ramble on with their letters they would put the blame where it belongs on Saddam, he was the one who flipped the finger when given many chances to avoid conflict.

On this I have some sympathy with dear old Garth. Marc White’s letter tries to put forth the argument that Iraqis continue to die in ridiculous numbers in the current civil war just as they did during the reign of Saddam Hussein, so as any sort of humanitarian justification for the war is essentially a wash. He doesn’t do a very artful job making this point and Seiler seizes on White’s esspecially poor use of the word “innocent.” But don’t take my word for it, here’s the graph in question in White's letter:

You can still bring the living 9/11 perpetrators to justice without starting something that has no end in sight as of today. The U.S. supported "the butcher of Baghdad" at one time, and, as unbelievable as it may sound, fewer innocent Iraqis died with Saddam in charge. He's dead and the number of deaths keeps rising. He kept the lid on the Sunni and Shiite boil over we see now.

See what I mean? “The Butcher of Baghdad” sounds likes it’s being used ironically and the whole paragraph does have this Saddam-was-just-a-law-and-order-kind-of-dude feel to it. And if you’re going to make such a sweeping claim like “fewer innocent Iraqis died with Saddam in charge” you sure as hell better back it up with some statistics and authoritative citations. White’s heart is in the right place, but it pretty much protocol to admit that Hussein was a dick and sounds kind of suspect when you don’t.

Anyway, why don't we let Garth take us in for the landing:

Last, a thumbs up to Ms. Gellerup, the only thing she should have pointed out was every time people write a letter they say, "Bush is against stem cell research." He is against using human embryos, as we all should be.

Garth Seiler Oshkosh

Well, at least Seiler decided to end his pissing contest with Messrs. Rieckman, Genisio, and White by patting a fellow winger on the back. Betty Gellerup’s anti-embryonic stem cell research letter is standard issue drivel trying to doctor the distinction between embryonic and adult stem cells. Her letter is another example of something that looks more like a PowerPoint presentation than an argument and really isn’t worth the energy to dissect (at least at the moment). So suffice it to say that it sucks something fierce.

Is It Just Me...

... or did Lindsay Lohan just get a lot hotter?

'The Larson Test'

Thou shalt not duct-tape a fellow co-worker to a chair and lock him in a closet.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Why Can't I Ever Find Cool Shit at Garage Sales?

Read it and weep.

Best Lede You'll Read This Week

Some time in the next few months, the Sex Pistols will pass into the hands of private equity.

Kind of breaks your heart -- even when coupled with the absurdity of considering EMI to be "independent." The death of the music industry has been heralded for several years now and while some observers seem to lament the development (Frontline and Rolling Stone, for example), I couldn't be happier to see the old music business model fall by the wayside, if for no other reason than I think it will result in a return to a model that has largely been ignored for roughly 15 years.

The FT piece provides a hint of things to come:

Artists themselves are recognising the declining importance of album sales compared with the revenues they can make from live performances and merchandising. Prince agreed that 3m copies of his new album could be given away for free in the UK last weekend in a newspaper promotion by the Mail on Sunday. Music retailers protested that the 3m units exceeded their usual total weekly sales. But other artists are adopting a strategy – made famous by the Grateful Dead – of not worrying what their CDs sell for, because they calculate that the albums will stimulate interest in their tours.

Back in the early 1980s small punk rock labels would put out albums that would basically be used as promotional fodder for the tours the would go on. That's where the money was for them. It was brutal work -- lots of traveling, endless hours of down time, and a complete inability to establish roots in a community -- and eventually destroyed most of the working relationships among the bands that hit the road, but that was how many of those musicians stayed solvent. That put a lot of pressure on the bands to both put on a good show that people wanted to see (in many cases the easy part) and be able to plan tours efficiently. It was the latter that proved to be incredibly difficult due to lazy and/or unscrupulous venue owners/promoters/scene-sters. Hopefully that will now change with a good generation of business experience under the collective belts of most smaller venue owners (think of the Rave in Milwaukee, the Barrymore in Madison, First Ave. in Mlps., the Vic in Chicago, etc.).

Like all things, musicians, promoters, club owners, et al. will figure out sooner or later that of they want to make money they're going to have to make the concert going experience a little more than waiting an hour in line to get frisked by a 350 lb. skinhead only to stand for 3 hours in stale bear and fresh vomit slowly going deaf. Sure, I'll be nostalgic for those days, but even Vegas had to eventually clean up its act.

Like Telemarketing, But Only Slightly Less Annoying

An interesting story on the people who languish in obscurity so that Charles Franklin can wonk out out on poll numbers, Mark Penn can send his kids to college, and Bruce Reed can scratch his head at the whole endeavor.


That's a lot of cats.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Gentlemen, You Can't Fight in Here!

This is the war room!

Life Imitates DeLillo


[For the first time, see here.]

On Torture

Katherine Eban has garnered a good deal of praise for her article in Vanity Fair on torture techniques and medical ethics, but it should be pointed out that Jane Mayer was the first one to really touch on the subject with her truly chilling piece in The New Yorker ominously entitled "The Experiment." It wasn't the first time Mayer discusses torture in The New Yorker: a few months earlier she wrote a detailed work on extraordinary rendition simply called "Outsourcing Torture."

I find absolutely fascinating the pace at which this conversation is evolving -- it seems like it no one wants to talk about it at all. Any time a smart article on the subject comes out the right denounces the disclosure as being contrary to the interests of the war on terror (without ever mentioning anything about the potential for an act of torture to take place); while the left tepidly applauds the revelation of an abuse of power by the Bush administration, fervently declares torture to be wrong, then promptly forgets about it as quickly as possible. No one wants to have serious discussion about what is either going on or what should be going on in the dark places where civilians dare not to tread.

In my estimation there have only been a few serious attempts to engage this subject. Mark Bowden gave readers of the The Atlantic a primer with "The Dark Art of Interrogation" in 2003. Charles Krauthammer was roundly criticized for his article "The Truth about Torture," in which the specter of the "ticking time bomb" seemed to justify doing all kinds of things to people (even when there wasn't any ticking time bomb). Andrew Sullivan recently held forth on the use of the Bush administration's use of the euphemism "enhanced interrogation techniques." Yet the country isn't any closer to a national consensus on the matter than we were in the days after 9/11 when it became clear to almost everyone (whether they admitted it or not) that this was going to be a problem in need of a solution sooner rather than later.

The most evident proof of this occurred during the GOP presidential candidates' debate in South Carolina last May, when nearly each one of the candidates did their damnedest to demonstrate they would have no qualms approving of torture using every form of winking and nudging in their arsenal. They did this all while sharing the stage with someone who underwent 5 years of torture as a P.O.W. and who was the only one among them to denounce the practice outright. The incident was embarrassing to watch and will be examined by future historians in the same appalling light that currently colors our examination of black and white television footage of Southern sheriffs (in uniform, no less) dropping the n-word during documentaries of the Civil Rights Era .

The worst part about the peculiar silence on this issue is that we have the experience of other countries to demonstrate to us that having this difficult conversation will be far easier now than when such things as Truth and Reconciliation Committees need to be formed. America can not afford another Abu Ghraib, even if the next one doesn't have the graphic pictures to outrage the public. For my money, Mark Bowden arrives at what I believe to be the best moral, legal, and practical compromise given the current circumstances; but looking back at the South Carolina debates there are clearly a few folks that think otherwise, and at this rate we'll never reach a mutually agreeable conclusion.

Wisco Poll Numbers

From Taegan Goddard:

Political Wire got an advance look at a new Strategic Vision (R) poll in Wisconsin that shows Rudy Giuliani leading the Republican presidential race with 24%, followed by former Gov. Tommy Thompson at 15%, Fred Thompson at 15% and Sen. John McCain at 10%.

On the Democratic side, Sen Hillary Clinton is way ahead with 40% support, followed by Sen. Barack Obama at 24%, John Edwards at 14% and Bill Richardson at 6%.

President Bush's approval rating in Wisconsin is just 19%, with a stunning 73% disapproving of his job performance. Congressional approval is not much better at just 22%, with 68% disapproving.

Infer what you will.

Senatorial Math

Through a very circuitous route of free association, this piece at the Economist (and, please, do read the comments behind the link to the Times-Picayune) got me thinking: is there really anything that can be done in the U.S. Senate these days?

Just look at the math. Right now there are 51 members of the senate Democratic caucus. One of these member is Sen. Tim Johnson of South Dakota, who is currently recovering from a brain hemorrhage and has not gotten to the floor of the Senate during his rehab. That essentially makes the caucus 50 members. The GOP, on the other hand, holds the remaining 49 seats.

Then there are the members of the Senate running for President: Sens Clinton, Obama, Dodd, and Biden. Clearly they will have other things on their minds and probably won't be making it to some of the floor votes, committee meetings, legislative strategy jam sessions, etc. So now the Dems are really playing with only 46 members operating at full strength.

The same problem also has befallen the Republicans, but to a lesser extent. Sens. McCain and Brownback are currently on the campaign trail, thus bringing the GOP's numbers down to 47.

And since we're talking about the '08 Election, let's thrown in the 1/3 of the Senate that has essentially already begun running for re-election: 21 Republicans will see their terms expire while only 12 Dems are in the same boat. Of these 33 Larry Sabato considered seven to be competitive in February -- two (D)s (LA and SD), four (R)s (ME, MN, NH, OR), and one open (R) in CO.

(Since the retiring Senator from Colorado, Wayne Allard, won't have to worry about fund-raising and campaigning, we can assume he'll have plenty of time to spend in DC otherwise performing the duties of his office while he's not out looking for a lobbying gig and forget about him all together.)

So now we have a GOP caucus, free from distraction, that numbers 43 and a Dem caucus of 44. Some of the GOP occupiers of safe seat might have to go back home periodically to do some hand-holding with the voters -- either due to on-going corruption inquiries, as in the case of Ted Stevens, for example; or if his seat suddenly becomes very competitive, as may happen to John Warner if he doesn't retire.

Clearly, for any massively important vote, anyone mentioned above will drop what they're doing and head back to DC to do the very least that is expected of them by their constituents (i.e. vote on the floor), but chances are likely that there will be a good chunk of the Senate that will not have their hearts in the legislative game between now and November of next year.

Further complicating the matter, let's say everyone who Sabato thinks may retire actually does, a "best" case scenario which would mean that the upcoming retirees will be able to devote all of their attention to their legislative duties. Now we'd still have 11 Republicans spending a good deal of time trying to crush their token opposition and 9 Dems doing likewise. That leaves us with only an astonishing 32 full-time Republican Senators and 35 Democrats.

Oddly enough, the sum of those two numbers is 67, which is exactly how many "full-time" legislators in the Senators there should be during even numbered years (and particularly those years that don't feature a presidential election), but even during those most optimum of election cycles when this is the case there are still rarely as many as ten competitive seats featuring an incumbent. So instead of having at least 90 Senators to discharge their duties as legislators -- even in the "part-time" capacity of one running against merely nominal competition -- the country could have less than 70 for the next 16 months or so.

That's not good. 60 votes are needed to enforce cloture and 67 to override a Presidential veto. That means that on an appropriations bill that might have no significance to either a Presidential or Senatorial race next year, but huge significance to those it might actually help -- a bill that provides funds to a community health clinic in North Dakota, for example -- a vast majority, if not all, of the available Senators (or at least those not out campaigning) would have to approve. With the make-up of the Senate as ideologically divided as it is now, that's not likely going to happen.

So unless there's an Iraq bill that will likely get summarily vetoed or the nation has to sit through another Terry Shiavo redux, I wouldn't expect to see much get done in the sent until 2009.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Gambling Man

Frank James proposes a wager with William Kristol after the latter's head scratching op-ed in the Washington Post.

"Noted Author"

Tom DeLay?

*Cha-Ching!* (or lack thereof)

With former Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore now officially out of the race, former Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson is the official loser of the the 2nd quarter fund-raising sweepstakes.

MORE: Silly me, three "candidates" haven't checked in yet. My bad.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Rudy's Foreign Policy Team

Will include former Wisco Senator Bob Kasten ... and a small army of prominent neocons.

MORE: The Journal-Sentinel catches on a week after the fact.

"Megadeath Offers Thoughts on World Affairs"

Headlines really don't get any better than this one. Perhaps Dave Mustaine can serve as the Secretary of State in a Tom Araya administration...?

Akcess Denied?

Discussing his vote against the Akcess development project, Tony Palmeri brings up two points that would we would be wise to reconsider, if not dismiss entirely:

The main concern expressed has been that, especially since the developers themselves admit that in all probability 95% of the office tenants will be businesses already in town, the proposal in effect creates more empty space with little likelihood of filling it. Other individuals simply think an office complex is not appropriate for the waterfront for citizen access reasons (i.e. it's really not something the average person has any use for).
Unfortunately, it's hard to divine if these are Palmeri's worries, those of the people he's been speaking to, or (and perhaps the most likely answer) a combination thereof. These are reasonable qualms, but are not necessarily as negative as they would appear.

Let's examine the "access" issue first. The Riverfront is one of Oshkosh's most distinctive features and it is certainly reasonable for the city to allow people access to the river, but there's already plenty of available riverfront land for public use between Lakes Butte des Morts and Winnebago. There's Rainbow/Abe Rocklin (sp?) Parks, the land occupied by UW-O and FVTC, the Convention Center and Leach Amphitheater's strip, etc. None of this precludes a design that could incorporate a promenade-type design that could feature street level retail and/or dining that would be open to people who might not otherwise have business at an office complex. In fact, something like this should be pushed for to encourage pedestrian traffic through the area. So until a blueprint is released featuring a fortress-like structure to be used exclusively by the employees of whatever businesses decide to set up shop there, "access" shouldn't be an issue.

Secondly, I'm not so sure local businesses relocating to a central "downtown business district" is such a bad thing. Yes, in the short term there's a good chance that there would be "empty space" to be filled, but that might be the price of creating a dynamic business district that could eventually become attractive to companies from outside the city. If there is little reason to believe that the space won't get filled (and Palmeri might have a point here), then eventually the very nature of the space will change -- if a developer can't do something with a commercial space then sooner or later he'll punt it off to someone who'll change it to a residential property or something else. Space is not all that hard to fill if you're willing to put some work into it.

The real question here is where does the city want it's empty space to be? Right now the riverfront is empty. It shouldn't be. It's a great piece of real estate in an ideal location for an office complex. The location is ideal for the presumably white collar jobs that would be occupying the building. It's close to the university (hopefully a good place to do a little recruiting), it's got a great view of the Fox spilling into Lake Winnebago, it can be nothing but a boon to the downtown renewal effort, and it will help bring in local tax revenue down the line.

The business with the Chamber building is disconcerting, and if that's a worry there should be assurances that this isn't just some scheme to get the Chamber some new digs -- and those assurances should come with hefty incentives that they not be broken. But right now there's just a stretch of empty land that's not being used and very few people chomping at the bit with alternative ideas of how to use it.

If the riverfront proposal really isn't anything anyone is excited about, then the city should do what Alex Hummel recommended in today's NW: get aggressive about actively searching out a developer that offers up a brilliant idea.

If no one has the inclination to do that, then this might just be the only option the city's left with and at this point that sounds like an idea that few people are crazy about.

Art Appreciation

Who knew?

Maryland Crabs

From the Department of Awesome Things to Watch so Long as They Aren't Happening Here.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Round and Round

Kent Monte deserves some accolades for doing some grunt work with regard to the proposed roundabout at the intersection of Murdock and Jackson streets. His post on the matter really is a great example of someone keeping an open mind while delving into an issue -- something that doesn't always happen in the 'Kosh. For those who have not had the pleasure of reading the piece, please do so here -- and while you're at it check out the link Mr. Monte has provided to the K State site on roundabouts: it's pretty good stuff.

All of the traffic and safety issues aside, I like the idea primarily for aesthetic reasons. There really is not a very pleasant point of entry into the city -- especially on the north side -- and a roundabout would give Oshkosh an opportunity to welcome people with either a statue, a fountain, or something like a floral arrangement (in the shape of the "On the Water" wave, perhaps?). The Murdock/Jackson corner is kind of an ideal place to do something like that since it wasn't all that long ago that that stretch of Murdock Street served as sort of a de facto city limit. I don't think it was even thirty years ago that the old fair grounds used to sit where the Pick n' Save now feeds half the town. It's also one of the busiest intersections in town and one that plenty of people travel through on a regular basis.

With a little thought and care that corner has the potential to look impressive.