Monday, August 31, 2009

Pirate Season!

It's back!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Friday, August 28, 2009

Fighting Bob Fest

We got a request by Random N00b for our thoughts on Fighting Bob Fest, the now annual meeting of progressive folks in Baraboo. So here it goes:

No, I don't go, nor do I plan to in the future; but I wouldn't rule out the notion entirely. My primary criticism of FBF is that it has a tendency to sacrifice quality at the alter of quantity. Check out this year's schedule. Speakers get only 20 minutes. That's just not enough time to speak on anything of substance. Ideally, speakers would get at least an hour followed by a Q & A session. 20 minutes, however, is more than enough time to pander to a sympathetic audience. When that's the case I don't need to go to the event to know what people are going to say. Bob Fest is a pep rally and those don't interest me.

That being said, we're surprised that Bob Fest does not get more attention. Last year there were 10,000 people in attendance. That's twice the number of Tea Partiers at the capitol this April and five times the number of people at Net Roots Nation. It's an event that probably should be covered by C-SPAN, but isn't because it takes place in Wisconsin.

Bob Fest has a lot of potential -- it could be like a progressive Lollapalooza , put it needs to offer more than just platitudes to ideological fellow travelers.

Dude, is that Jeffery Lebowski?

[via Wonkette]

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

How Not to Make a Book Cover

This is apparently the actual cover of Glenn Beck's forthcoming ... printed diatribe:


Is Beck mocking those who portray him as a totalitarian fear monger? Why the Stazi uniform? Why not just go full Nazi? Why the unflattering facial expression?

I honestly thought this was a tome mocking Beck when I saw it.

MORE: I nearly forgot:

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Truth From the Gut
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorHealth Care Protests

Do You Want to Read Something that will Inspire the Fuck out of You?

Then read this.

The Grand as Oshkosh's Mirror

When the Grand first opened in 1883 Oshkosh was a boom town. It was the second largest city in Wisconsin and a popular destination for ambitious entrepreneurs and immigrants from the east who saw endless opportunity in the city's potential. Oshkosh was no different than the California gold rush towns of the prior generation, only instead of gold it was Northwoods timber that seized the imaginations of the new settlers.

Over the following 40 years the Grand stood as the city's foremost symbol of what today could be termed "soft power." It was a mandatory destination for the biggest and best touring acts of the age and proof that a small town with a funny name at the edge of civilization could do what it took to bring the best of what the world had to offer to our downtown and in that capacity the Grand's most important function was to serve as the window through which Oshkosh viewed the rest of the world.

In the 1920s the lumber industry's influence on Oshkosh began to wane at the same time the advent of cinema began to radically change the way Americans entertained themselves. Live theater fell out of fashion and became next to financially impossible by the time the stock market crashed in 1929.

Oshkosh never really recovered from the Great Depression. The city has never seen the kind of growth that it experienced in the last decades of the 19th century and fell into a stagnant malaise that lasted for much of the middle of the 20th century. Accordingly, the Grand fell into disrepair and ownership was passed on to a series of sketchier (yet colorful) characters until by the end of the 1970s it became clear to everyone something needed to be done with the building.

By that time, the last of the lumber mills were leaving town or closing up shop and the last vestiges of what was the Sawdust City were nowhere to be found. But Oshkosh was in the process of reinventing itself and the restoration of the Grand was an important symbolic parallel to a city-wide effort of renewal. In the 20+ years since the Grand has been a bridge the city's past while remaining a projection of Oshkosh's hopes and ambitions.

More so than any other person, building or institution in Oshkosh the Grand has been a mirror onto the soul of the city. When Oshkosh thrived, so did the Grand; when Oshkosh stagnated, the Grand did as well. There are few buildings like this anywhere in the world. Most "statement buildings" achieve fame and then decline. The Grand has been reanimated over the years by the people of the city and deserves to helped through its current crisis.

Most importantly, it has a promising vision for the future and an important role to play in civic life. The leadership of the Grand has demonstrated in recent years that it does not merely want to "put on plays." The Grand now features musical acts, films (indoor and out) and a rotating cadre of artists in residences that work with students to enhance their artistic education. The Grand knows it has a responsibility to reach as many people as possible in the community and has gone out of it's way to do so.

Two years ago, if a tornado or earthquake or flood -- or some other freak occurrence of nature -- would have wiped out the Grand in a single moment, it would have been deemed a tragedy that would have gutted a significant source of municipal history and pride from the city. That's exactly what's happening today, only the means of destruction isn't anything nearly as dramatic, it's merely the corrosive effects of time. However, this affords us the opportunity to do prevent the tragedy before it can occur.

The Grand is important for countless reasons. It keeps people circulating through downtown. It gives the community an artistic outlet to express themselves a unique venue. It's a rich legacy from the city's past. But most importantly, it's a reflection of the better angels of Oshkosh's character. How we treat the Grand ultimately tells us about who we are as a community and it would be nothing short of a civic travesty to let that essential element of the city crumble on our watch.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Let The Progressive Die Gracefully

Apparently The Progressive magazine out of Madison is in the midst of some epic financial troubles and may be forced to close shop. The magazine has a rich history in Wisconsin and has published an impressive series of writers over the years, including an essay by Leo Tolstoy just before he died. Normally these elements would strike a chord of deep homerism in The Chief; but in this case it's time to put The Progressive to bed.

The Progressive has been rudderless since the end of Vietnam. Its articles are too short to discuss anything in depth, too shrill to be taken seriously, and are usually unsatisfying exercises in myopia. The monthly content is utterly predictable and repetitious (The U.S. is responsible for every bad thing that's ever happened in Latin America -- we get it already!). And even for as much as we like Russ Feingold, the flagrant shilling that The Progressive does for Wisconsin's junior Senator is enough to make anyone uncomfortable (seriously, should Feingold be the next Supreme Court Justice or merely Attorney General?).

It has exchanged smugness and self-righteousness for any hope of insight or profundity. A perfect example of just how futile this editorial strategy is can be seen in the way The Progressive squandered its opportunity to become a strong voice of opposition when other left-leaning opinion magazines like the New Republic endorsed the war in Iraq. Instead of laying a calculated case against the war, the magazine engaged in the type of knee-jerk pacifism that can be found on the placards of most anti-war demonstrations. That's not what opinion magazines are for.

Ever since Molly Ivins passed away The Progressive has lacked a regular featured author worth reading. It's current stable of contributors is nothing like the crop of authors it could once claim. Think about it: when was the last an article in The Progressive added to the national debate? The answer was in 1979 when the magazine devoted an entire issue to describing how a hydrogen bomb works. There's been 30 years of not much since. In that time The Progressive hasn't been in the business of promoting progressivism, it's been in the business of preaching to an aging and dwindling choir.

The single most damning piece of evidence that The Progressive is not equipped for the future of opinion journalism is the magazine's embarrassingly awful website. While other opinion publications like The Atlantic and National Review are basically content sweat shops that churn out over 100 blog posts a day, a busy day at The Progressive never is more than three posts -- and usually it's just one post. And some of those posts are absolutely hideous. Making matters worse is the fact that nearly all of the content available in the print version is behind a firewall online. So it should come as no surprise that The Progressive is barely linked to by other bloggers (seriously, the mag's Technorati links are a fraction of the New Republic's, a magazine with a comparable circulation, but more dedicated web presence). It no longer has any influence as a driver of public opinion, even among the left.

Worst of all is that it's hopelessly mired in the past. Instead of looking to the future by proposing innovative solutions to the ills of mankind, The Progressive seems committed to nothing more than assigning blame for those ills. This shtick gets very old, very quickly and does nothing for the ideas the magazine espouses.

Daniel Stout (via WisOpinion) makes a good point when he asks "I’m wondering if The Huffington Post, Talking Points Memo, The Daily Kos and others have been part of the problem." The answer is clearly Yes, but it's not just because those platforms exist online whereas The Progressive still lives on in print -- it's because those sites are so much better at what they do than The Progressive that they render the magazine obsolete.

If The Progressive had an ambitious plans for the future that involved expanding its stable of bloggers, bringing in young writers willing to forgo the big (or any) paycheck just to get some publishing experience and make a concerted effort to aspire to being more than merely the bathroom reading of Dennis Kucinich voters, then I would say would say it would be worth saving. But there are no signs that the magazine has plans to evolve with the times. Oddly enough, these are all more "democratic," "people-powered" ways of improving the product -- one would imagine that for all of the editorializing The Progressive does on the nature of "true" democracy that they would have incorporated these very principles into their business model.

Of course Wisconsin will lose something when the The Progressive finally shuts its doors -- and it will be sad for many people when that happens, but it won't be any more awful than watching the magazine decline into utter obsolescence.

We do Requests

It's almost the end of summer. Our energy level is low, while our apathy level is high. Give us something to work with.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

LaRouche! LaRouche! LaRouche is on Fire!

When did followers of Lyndon LaRouche decide to reanimate the rotting corpse of their so-called movement and decide to inject themselves so vocally in the Health Care debate?

In some ways it was just a matter of time, I suppose. LaRouche and his devotees are the closest thing in America to an politico-ideological cult and are, therefore, kinda interesting. It's also one of the most odious and repellent. I'm sure it's just a matter of time before more traditional media outlets start to give them a little more attention (even though they deserve none) which could have to effect of legitimizing them in the eyes of the some.

That would be bad.

One of the strangest -- and more frightening -- things I can recall reading is this April Witt piece in the Washington Post on the LaRouche organization. It's long, but a great read. In the same vein (both pieces revolve around the mysterious deaths of LaRoushe followers) is this article by Avi Klein in the Washington Monthly on the LaRoushite's obsession with printed material:
What was really killing LaRouche's enterprise (in addition, of course, to its peculiar philosophies and inability to keep a simple balance sheet) was that its leader was clinging to a dying medium. Enamored by print, he had failed to exploit the Internet. The Web could have solved many of his problems. Compared to printed material, online propaganda is virtually free to produce, and the Internet offers limitless space for disquisitions on esoteric subjects. (If anyone was made for blogging, it was surely Lyndon LaRouche.)

I sincerely hope that the new found attention that LaRoushe et al. is getting -- which is probably the first wide-spread attention the gang has received in decades -- will encourage them to move their operation online where their message has a natural following among disenfranchised conspiracy theorists.

A few years back I was on the East Coast for business and needed to hail a cab. After a block or so the cabbie started giving me, his captive audience, the LaRouche sales pitch. This is the only time I have ever asked a cab driver to pull over so that I could hail another cab. While I did pay the guy what I owed him for the few short blocks of the trip, it's also the only time I've never tipped a cab driver.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Monday, August 17, 2009

The NRA is Sick

The NRA is pushing is Amy Geiger-Hemmer's disgusting blog post on it's Twitter feed:

MORE: Yeah, everything about this post is an epic fail on my part. Call it an urge to be too trigger happy after a long day. So move along, now -- there's nothing to see here ... except me being an incompetent douchebag.


Quite the trick:

Every one of those 534 members of Congress now has six (6!) lobbyists working on them -- and that's just for healthcare.

A total of 3,300 lobbyists have registered to drive the sizzling healthcare issue in Washington -- three times the brigade of lobbyists representing the entire defense industry.

And three more healthcare lobbyists join the ongoing fray every day.

They reported spending more than $234 million massaging and informing and persuading those legislators during the first six months of this year, way more than a million bucks a day, seven days a week.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

He Was Asking for It

That's essentially Amy Geiger-Hemmer's argument celebrating -- yes, celebrating -- the beating of Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett today. The post is a truly offensive, odious pile of shit in every respect. AGH's "point" is that since Barrett doesn't believe in concealed carry he deserved to get beaten up by lead pipe-wielding street punk.

Bravo, AGH -- you're a real class act...

As if that weren't enough, the author offers what appears to be condolences before -- I shit you not -- taking them back!
All this aside, I hope that the mayor recovers. No honest citizen who tries to aid another should have to suffer a beating like Mr. Barrett endured. And I do think that Tom Barrett is basically a pretty nice, decent guy. Something like this should never have happened to him. Maybe this incident will make him do some soul-searching and wish he had been carrying a gun.... (Remember the old saying: "A conservative is a liberal who has been mugged?" ) Gosh, what am I saying?!?....How foolish of me! Barrett is a true-blue liberal down to the core. He'd never acknowlege that having a gun may have served to protect him, his family and the victim being beaten. He won't admit that a speedy dial finger isn't quite the same as being armed. Barrett could have ended the incident with one quick flash of a weapon...too bad he didn't have one!

(emphasis added)
This is beyond the pale, even for a two-bit hack like AGH, a shrill harpy whose long-winded posts are usually little more that a recitation of the latest talk radio talking points with just enough local flavor to poison the neighborhood well of civic conversation. What she's apparently oblivious to is the fact that she's justifying a violent act on someone solely because the person holds a belief contrary to her own, which is the very thing democracy and open public discussion are designed to prevent. AGH clearly has no business being taken seriously in the court of public opinion. In fact, she deserves to be admonished.

AGH keeps a blog at Living Lake County, one of the Journal-Sentinel's collar county web-site spin-offs. If you have a minute, contact the editor and demand an apology from the Journal-Sentinel, Living Lake County and the author. Odious puss like this sorry excuse for commentary would never have seen the light of day had it come from a "professional" columnist and any publication that purports to "serve" its community has an obligation to keep senseless garbage like the kind bile AGH is spewing where it belongs: on shitty group blogs like The Right View Wisconsin.

Ron Kind: Affirmative Action Case (or, Why a Woman will be the Next Governor of Wisconsin)

That's right: the handsome, athletic, Harvard-educated, middle-aged, white dude Congressman from La Crosse is Wisconsin's biggest affirmative action case this week ... and here's why:

There's really no other way to start this off but to admit that I know very little of Ron Kind's world. His district is on the other side of the state and I get very little information from that corner of Wisconsin. This is completely my fault since, short of Prairie du Chien falling off a cliff and doing a bellyflop into Iowa, I probably wouldn't care about anything in Western Wisconsin. Nothing personal, I just don't have any ties there.

That said, I'm still kinda surprised to hear Ron Kind's name being bandied about as a potential Democratic nominee for Governor. Kind may have his sights set on the gig for all I know, but why on Earth he would want it is beyond me. He's a congressman, and a fairly popular one at that. He strikes me more like the type of guy who would lie in wait for a senate seat. (BTW, I would love to see Kind-Paul Ryan senate race someday.) Maybe he wants it, maybe he doesn't -- I can't say for sure.

But I do get the impression that his name is being floated about because there is, shall we say, a dirth of sack among the potential Democratic contenders. I don't like playing the "gender card" but in this case I think there exists a certain degree of sexism at play in both how this story is being told and what people are expecting from potential candidates. Both Falk and Lawton seem to be afterthoughts in many of the media accounts I've caught thus far (except for Rob Mentzer, who's been Lawton Watching for some time now) and I can't help but wonder if various observers are including Kind just to get some gender balance in the discussion.

You know, because a woman could never realistically be Governor...

This is really a mistake that I believe has a lot do with Wisconsin lacking much female representation historically. Yes, there are Reps. Gwen Moore and Tammy Baldwin, both of whom are deft and able leaders, but they represent areas of the state that are distinctly unlike the rest of Wisconsin. Women are under-represented in the state Senate and Assembly and tend to get steamrolled (Judy Robson) or are crazy (Lena Taylor) or are embarrassments to their districts and elected body (Mary Lazich). Peg Lautenschlager is about the closet thing women in Wisconsin have had to a credible state-wide candidate in the past and, well, you know the rest of that story.

So in a way Wisconsin is kinda conditioned to brush off women as real threats to defeat male candidates for higher office, but in this case it would be a mistake to do so. Kathleen Falk is nothing if not tenacious. She knows how to throw a punch and will do it too. That will come in handy if she runs against Walker, who shows no signs of running anything but a negative campaign that is constantly on the offensive. Barb Lawton is an effective retail politician who can work a room with the best of them and knows when to turn on the charm.

Here's the bottom line: If you want to win Wisconsin these days, you have to win Wisconsin's women. Period. Both Falk and Lawton know this. If Walker is aware of this he sure does have a funny way of showing it. Obviously, Falk and/or Lawton would appeal to women by virtue of being women themselves -- and Walker would be in a position where he would have to ease up on his attacks lest women start to coalesce around his challenger, whom they perceive as being picked on by one of "the good old boys." That means Walker is suddenly put into a position that requires tight-rope walking, something he has shown little talent for in the past.

Women in Wisconsin are desperate for a leader of their own and they'll jump aboard the first candidate they see with the talent to play with big boys. Falk and Lawton are two tough broads that can crack skulls with the best of them. Anyone who underestimates them does so at their own peril.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Thursday, August 13, 2009

A Strange Side Note to Tom Petri's Omro Town Hall

Lo, through the mighty power that is Google we found this very odd comment left on FreedomWorks website:

We asked our Town Haller what the hell that was all about and THer was equally in the dark. Evidently, the meeting did take place in it's originally scheduled location and no one yelled "Jesus for the people!" during the meeting.

There are a lot of discongruent elements working here. First, FreedomWorks in one of the conservative organizations that are supposedly "astroturfing" the town hall meetings. Maybe they are, maybe they're not -- who knows? But their name is out there. Second, Tom Petri has never alligned himself with the Christian Right, nor the Christain Right with Tom Petri, so this seems like the work of an enthusiastic loner. Third, the religious make-up of Petri's district is predominantely Catholic and Luthern, not the evangleical brand of Christianity that would encourage someone to, say, shout "Jesus for the people!" in the middle of a town hall meeting. Lastly -- the location change? What's up with that? Never happened and would appear to run contrary to the whole purpose of turning the town hall meetings into tent revivals.

Rather than say this is any kind of deal one way or another, let's just open the floor to anyone who has heard anything else about this. It seems very odd to us and therefore likely to just be mmisunderstanding of a single confused individual, but, hey, in the off chance it's not, let us know.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Frankenstein Fringe

A few months ago we warned Tea Partiers that they were running the risk of becoming the conservative equivalent of Code Pink -- and that was not a place they should aspire to go. Well, after the last two weeks worth of town hall meetings now being digested by the country, it's not just the Tea Partiers, but the entire conservative movement that is running the risk of becoming a marginalized fringe organization devoted to obnoxious public spectacles.

The problem conservatives may soon have to confront is whether they can stop this kind of behavior in the future or if they have created a monster that they will no longer be able to control. There's a direct evolutionary descent occurring to these crowds that began with the "He's a Muslim!" cries outside Palin rallies last fall and ends in a truly repellant place. Sadly, that place is looking more real every day.

There are people on the right who actually think all of the crazy town hall antics are signs that of an conservative revolution not unlike the one last seen in 1994. These crowds are not harbingers of great things to come, they're the last gasps of a dying movement that hasn't come to grips with it's impending demise. The only people who find the behavior at the town halls patriotic and noble are the like-minded folks on the fringe who are getting sucked into the feedback loop generated by all the YouTube videos.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Tom Petri! Live in Omro!

We had a very lengthy (and drunken) conversation last night with someone who went to Rep. Tom Petri's town hall meeting in Omro on Thursday. Said person had a lot to say about the substance of the meeting and the atmosphere ("passionate, but not heated"). Here were a few take away points from the conversation:

  • Although Petri was explicitly asked if he would be supporting the health care reform bill, he demurred by noting that the final version of the bill hadn't been locked down yet.
  • At one point Petri did volunteer how he believed health insurance should operate. Essentially, Petri believes that individuals should be in charge of their own routine care and insurance companies should pick up health care catastrophes. When asked to elaborate what qualified as "routine care," our Town Haller (THer) said that they were under the impression that this meant things like annual check-ups. Petri provided no further details and no one pressed the congressman further on this.
  • One person did ask Petri about the "death panels" and the Congressman replied with what can only be described as a stupefying answer. Instead of saying, "No, that's the craziest fucking thing in the world" (or some variant thereof) Petri responded by saying that the language in the bill gave the administrator of the hypothetical health care program the option to euthanize old folks. In other words: it could happen because the bill doesn't explicitly say that it won't. The THer was stunned, noting that the answer was clearly designed to use a rhetorical technicality to reinforce the erroneous belief that Uncle Sam is out to smoother Grandma in her bed. "I thought Petri was better than that," the THer said.

Take the above for what's it worth: a third-hand account via an extended lay-over in the drunk tank. If anything above doesn't sound true to you, feel free to correct us in the comments. We had a ton of questions that the THer simply couldn't answer because they were not discussed at the meeting. Nevertheless, that's not going to stop us from making an ill-informed judgment based on a single person's version of the story.

But, hey, it's more than I've read in the Northwestern! (No, seriously -- was anyone from the paper even there? We noticed they printed an editorial on town hall behavior the morning of the event, but haven't read a report on the meeting yet.)

Notice how we have declined to talk about the crowd and atmosphere of the meeting and have instead focused on the policy issues? Well the policy part of our discussion with our THer lasted maybe 10 minutes, while the rest of the hour was devoted to some rather perceptive (and often hilarious) observations made on the assembled crowd and experience in general. We're not even going to try and do them justice here, but we have asked THer to email us with a written version suitable for sharing ... If anyone's interested in that sort of thing I'd suggest leaving some words of encouragement in comments below.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Rep. Petri Would Love to Hear What You Think (if You Can Find Him)

Check out Congressman Petri's town hall schedule for the August recess:

That's 10 12 meetings, just enough to cover each county in his district once, all but one away from the population centers of the district, each only an hour long and all scheduled during daytime working hours. It kinda screams "I'm just going to hide under this rock and wait for this whole thing to blow over" -- only the rock is the Wild Rose Community Center. (Was there no free standing public building to hold a meeting in Borth?)

Frankly, we don't blame him for keeping a low profile given how ridiculous the town hall meetings have become, but it's, you know, kind of his job and everything...

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Support this Kid for the Love of God!

This kid rules. End of story.

Go to the link above and make sure this kid wins Inc.'s Best Lemonade Stand in America contest, then get up to Oshkosh and buy some lemonade.

And when you're done doing that give him a shout-out on your blog, write your local newspaper, tell your friends and family and so forth...

Just look at that lemonade stand ... mine was a folding card table and a crappy piece of folder paper (and chances are, so was your's). I feel like I should order a margarita at this place -- and that they might actually serve me one if I did.

Congrats, Wyatt! Your "What I did over summer vacation" essay will clearly be better than anyone else's in your class next month!

Monday, August 3, 2009