Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Oshkosh City Council Live Chat !!!

Consider this the joint Oshkosh Common Council/Winter Olympics/Simpsons open thread.

Click here for the agenda.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Eugene Kane and the Mississippi Mad Man

Eugene Kane has an odd column on the yet another unfortunate drowning of a drunk La Crosse college student in the Mississippi River. I call it odd because he makes a rather dramatic speculation based on nothing more than the circumstances:

For me, I have difficulty conceiving that someone - drunk or not - would willingly be drawn at night to the banks of a river with a deadly reputation.


It's disconcerting to hear of yet another drowning in La Crosse after all the publicity about the dangers of the fast-flowing Mississippi River. It's also tough not to at least wonder whether an evil person on the prowl is responsible for the deaths or if it is just irresponsible drinking.

(emphasis added)

Kane is right: with so many deaths occurring so similarly to people that seem to fit a certain profile, the people of La Crosse really do have a responsibility to ask some hard and potentially disconcerting questions.

What Kane omits to tell his readers is that the city of La Crosse has done just that over the years.

There have been education projects, student and community patrols, numerous investigations, motion sensors, and all have never once turned up a shred of evidence of a killer lurking along the riverside. Kane seems perfectly willing to ignore this. To a certain extent, I don't blame him:
I've covered the Jeffrey Dahmer murders and the recent serial killings of prostitutes in Milwaukee, so it's a safe bet any story about black students drowning in the same river after a night of drinking would have my alarm bells ringing.
Had I devoted a great deal of time trying to learn as much as I could about Jeffery Dahmer as a young reporter, I probably would be pretty quick to pull the serial killer trigger too, but that's a personal bias Kane has to get over. The fact of the matter is that that there are far more reasonable explanations that, for lack of any physical evidence that suggests a serial killer, should be taken more seriously that some urban myth.

1.) Booze. Nearly everyone pulled from the river isn't just drunk, they tend to be shit-faced. In every case this is the mitigating factor. Young people who don't have much experience being that drunk -- regardless of what they may think or say -- will do things that don't make sense. Often times they will take risks for no other reason than they have been warned not to do something and their inhibitions have been impaired by the alcohol ... like walking down by the riverside, something they likely have been repeated warned not to do and is thus an easily retrieved idea even in a drunken stupor. The end.

2.) Young men -- especially college kids -- are more likely to leave bars drunk and alone, than any other type of pub patron. We've all been there: the gang wants to go some where else, but one straggler has been chatting up a young lady and has invested too much time to give up now ... there's going to be little to convince him to leave. Chances are he'll strike out because he's too drunk (or get drunker because he just blew it) and he's on his own.

3.) There is a complete lack of forensic evidence among any of the victims that suggests a struggle or even contact with another human being. Something would have turned up: a fiber, a footprint in the snow, something under the fingernails of the victims, an eye witness across the street -- but to date nothing has turned up. This is the inescapeable flaw in any belief in the Mississippi Mad Man.

4.) Urban Planning. The bars in downtown La Crosse are right by the river. A lot of people like to use UW-Oshkosh as a kind of control study as further circumstantial evidence for a serial killer -- both UW-O and UW-L are roughly the same size and have notorious drinking cultures -- but most college bars in Oshkosh aren't by the Fox River and when students leave them they will go to dorms or student housing in a direction away from the river. We've heard of kids using the riverside in La Crosse as a shortcut home in some instances.

5.) The River. The Fox River in Oshkosh freezes rather quickly once the temperature gets below freezing. If someone fell into the Fox River, they will simply fall on ice. Obviously, people in La Crosse are falling through the ice. That's not going to happen in Oshkosh for several months during the year.

6.) Interim. Adding to (3.), UW-O has an outrageously long winter break that lasts from the middle of December to the beginning of February -- perfect falling-through-the-ice time of year. Most kids just aren't around campus during those six/seven weeks.

There are others, but Kane never once thinks of bringing any of these up or supplying his readers with empirical evidence.

There is no reason to believe in the Mississippi Mad Man. He's an urban legend. Psychologists would call the MMM's existence a form of collective denial by a community that doesn't want to admit it has a youth drinking problem. Kane would be doing his readers a much better service by getting to the root of the problem rather than dabbling in figments of a city's imagination.

Oshkosh City Council Live Chat!!!

Tomorrow 6:00 PM.

Be there to heckle and comment on the Oshkosh Co. TIF vote!

We know it's short notice, but we didn't think we were going to be able to pull it off this week.

We'll try and get the council members binders posted as soon as we can.

Friday, February 19, 2010


Well, that's certainly one way to do it:

Pitts, a fourth-term Republican from Laurens, introduced legislation earlier this month that would ban what he calls “the unconstitutional substitution of Federal Reserve Notes for silver and gold coin” in South Carolina.

If the bill were to become law, South Carolina would no longer accept or use anything other than silver and gold coins as a form of payment for any debt, meaning paper money would be out in the Palmetto State.

Pitts said the intent of the bill is to give South Carolina the ability to “function through gold and silver coinage” and give the state a “base of currency” in the event of a complete implosion of the U.S. economic system.


Constitutional issues aside, Pitts’ bill faces another hurdle. Critics point out that silver and gold coins can’t actually serve as a form of currency.

“You can’t put a set value on a pure silver or gold coin because it’s actual value fluctuates,” one expert said. “You can say a gold coin is worth $50 but it would actually be worth whatever the market says it’s worth, based on supply and demand. In reality, what you have is a bartering good, not a form of currency.”

Still, Pitts said, a system based around bartering is better than a currency-based economy.

(emphasis added)

[via LGF]

Thursday, February 18, 2010

“Did anyone even know what homosexuality was in high school in 1975?”

Ladies and Gentlemen, behold the rhetorical wonder that is Glen Grothman.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

More Godfather Blogging

Can anyone explain to me why oranges are harbingers of death in "The Godfather"?

-- Vito is gunned down after buying an orange from a street vendor.
-- Vito uses the orange peel to make fake teeth just before he dies.
-- Don Fanucci takes an orange from a vendor just before Vito shoots him.

Can anyone come up with more instances?

What's up with that?

Monday, February 15, 2010

Micheal Corleone in Love (More Godfather Blogging)

One of the most frustrating aspects of the first Godfather movie is the "Appolonia Detour" the film takes right around the middle of the narrative. I don't know a single person who has not said after watching the movie for the first time "What the hell was that all about?"

From the very beginning of the movie, the audience is led to believe that Kay will be Micheal's love interest. Unfortunately, we're given remarkably few details about their relationship. We never find out how they met. We never meet Kay's parents (her nuclear family). She's conspicuously not Italian--her last name is the WASP-y sounding "Adams." She seems to be very much in love with Micheal, but it's never really clear how he feels about her.

At first Micheal seems to see her as a way out of the family business. During Connie's wedding. Kay bombards him with questions, anxious to learn everything she can about his family, but Micheal is reluctant to get into much detail. Eventually, he relents and tells the story of Johnny Fontaine and the bandleader. After that point, Kay's been allowed into the family. Micheal even insists on having her be a part of the family wedding picture.

At the same time, Michael is absent for most of the first quarter or third of the film. Tom Higgins goes to LA to shakedown the head of the movie studio, while Sonny is clearly the heir apparent. He's in on the negotiations with Sollozzo and the Tattaglia family and is also the family enforcer when it comes to Carlo's abuse of Connie. Micheal's so distant, in fact, that the way he hears about the assassination attempt on his father is from a newspaper. The fact that he's on a night out with Kay when this happens suggests she's the reason he's been so absent.

This is the last Micheal will see of Kay for some time--years, in fact. This should be considered odd. When he offers to kill Sollozzo, he is told he will have to lie low for a while, Kay's name is never brought up, and suddenly Michael is off to Sicily ... where he meets Appolonia.

From he audience's perspective, this relationship is more complete. We see when Micheal first meets her, we watch him court her, we meet her father, witness their wedding, are invited into their honeymoon suite, and watch her die in the car bomb. It's a hot, fast and tragic relationship filled with the kind of combustible energy missing from nearly every other love among the Corleones.

Is this just an aside that helps to showcase the complexity of Micheal's relationship with Kay? If so, it stands in stark contrast. When Micheal returns to America he will ask Kay to marry him in one of the most depressing proposal scenes captured on film. The film will conclude with Micheal emotionally shutting her out of "his" family by lying to her about Carlo and then physically shutting her out when the door closes at the very end. In "II," Kay will return the favor by having an abortion. Micheal will physically assault her and threaten to kill her if she leaves with the children. It's an awful marriage by nearly every standard. The only thing that approaches a happy or intimate moment between Kay and Micheal comes after the First Communion party ... which is subsequently interrupted by an assassination attempt.

The Appolonia Detour is important because it's teaches Micheal an important lesson about fear and love. Vito may have tried to teach his son to be feared and loved in balance, but Appolonia teaches him what it means to love. For Micheal, love means loss. When he returns to America he falls back in favor with Kay precisely because he doesn't love her and likely never did. If he did love Kay, he would have never volunteered to kill McCulskey and Sollozzo; or he would have kept in touch with her while she tried so hard to keep in contact with him; and, most importantly, he would have never married someone else.

Michael marries Kay because he knows that Kay loves him. Godfather's, like Machiavellian Princes, are to be loved and feared. They don't love or fear in return. Maybe that's why Coppola and Puzo sent Michael back to Italy to learn that lesson. Micheal rejects love for fear for that moment onward, and his tragic marriage to Appolonia is a big reason why.

[We put it another way here.]

Godfather Blogging, Part II (***Spoiler Alert***)

Does Fredo need to die at the end of Part II?

Part of the power of Corleone family's decent is that the patriarch, Don Vito, is such a family man. He makes the Machiavellian calculation that it is better to be loved than feared (or to at least balance the two). As a result, Vito lives a happy and fruitful life that is, paradoxically, epitomized by his death: playing with his grandchild in his home garden. "The Godfather" reminds us time and again that gangsters don't often get to die of natural causes. In this sense, Vito's is a happy death.

But when it's Micheal's turn to become Don, he makes the decision that it is better to be feared than loved. There are perhaps few scenes that contrast these decisions better the opening sequences of Part I and II.

In the first film, Vito agrees to help a lowly undertaker who is seeking vengeance for the rape of his daughter. The conversation the two men have is important : Vito never explicitly agrees to kill or harm the men who raped the undertaker's daughter. Instead, he offers his "friendship" and promises to give him "justice." It's a pretty heavy conversation between a very powerful man and a very common individual, who's name just happens to be Amerigo Bonasera, literally "America Good Night."

By contrast, the conversation Micheal has with Senator Geary in the beginning of Part II is essentially a mutual shakedown. Geary walks in thinking he can extort Micheal only to leave with Micheal extorting him. It's a power struggle between two powerful men. Being "loved" is not part of the equation.

But does this mean that had Don Vito been in Michael's shoes with regard to Fredo, Vito would have granted his brother clemency?

Towards the end of II, Michael and Fredo are talking about how Fredo was set up by Roth. Fredo says he didn't know they were going to try and kill Micheal, that he was just looking for respect; but in doing so he admits that he's jealous of Micheal. Fredo's weak and stupid, but the very thing that should save Fredo -- i.e. the fact that he's Micheal's brother -- will turn out to be the thing dooms him. Fredo will always be jealous of Micheal, and because he stands to inherit the family business from his younger brother should something ever happen to Micheal, Fredo becomes a permanent liability.

Therefore, Michael has no choice but to kill his brother.

It's also important to note that Vito was an only child. He never had to deal with intrafamilial power struggles. The first members of his "family" in America are Clemenza and Tessio. Interestingly enough, during Vito's last on screen conversation with Micheal before he dies he gives his son what will turn out to be two contradictory pieces of advice. First, Vito tells Micheal to stay close with his family; but then Vito tells Micheal how to identify the person in his inner circle that will eventually betray him to Barzini. This person turns out to be Tessio, one of Vito's "brothers" when he first arrives in America. In a sense, Vito is providing Micheal with instructions for fratricide.

"The Godfather" chronicles Micheal's fall from Grace, while "Part II" is the story of how Micheal destroys his own family. Fredo's murder is a heart-breaking conclusion to the movie, more so given the intertwining storyline accounting for how Vito built his family. The dual narratives also remind the audience that Vito wasn't an angel either and that the sins of the father will be revisited on the sons.

So in perhaps one way, Fredo was destined to die at his brother's hand from the very beginning.

The Billboard

Here's what I've found most odd about the "Impeach Obama" billboard now gracing our fair city:
The sign went up Thursday and will remain up for at least six months, at a cost of $1,000 a month.
So, the geniuses involved in this stunt apparently have $6,000 to just throw away on anonymous, non-business-related advertising expenses ... and yet it's the President's fault their small business is failing?

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Godfather Blogging

So the Godfather is on.

Every time I watch it, I ask myself the same question: What is Michael Corleone's breaking point? At what moment does he make the spiritual transformation from idealistic war hero who doesn't want anything to do with the family business to "the don"?

I think there are arguments that could be made for nine ten moments:

-- When he kills Sollozzo and McCulskey in the restaurant.
-- When Sonny dies.
-- When Appolonia dies in the car bomb.
-- When he returns to America (and asks Kay to marry him).
-- When he takes over the family after Don Vito's semi-retirement.
-- When he orders the assassinations of Moe Green et al, during his nephew's baptism.
-- When he kills Carlo (foreshadowing Fredo's murder as the first intra-family killing).
-- When he lies to Kay about killing Carlo.
-- When the door closes on Kay at the very end.

The entire movie is, in one respect, about Micheal's fall from grace. I'm reluctant to say there is one moment of truth, as it were, that marks where the good Michael ends and the bad Michael begins, but I do think there is a point of no return where Michael acknowledges who he is and gives in to his fate.

For my money, I think this moment doesn't actually occur on screen. Right after Appolonia is car-bombed, Micheal finds Kay to ask her to marry him. She asks him how long he has been back and replies "over a year." Michael is dressed conspicuously different in this scene that he has been throughout the film. He's wearing black, head to toe, and a hat that makes him look more like a gangster. I'm fairly certain that Michael officially crosses over to the Dark Side during that missing year.

I'll probably end up watching it again next weekend and thinking something completely different.

MORE: I completely forgot a tenth moment: when Don Vito dies. In so many ways Vito was the only thing keeping Michael from unleashing his inner demons.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Bad Omens

When sports reporters start inserting the jeerings of a single solitary fan, almost certainly because his voice was one of only 1,016 to show up to an NBA game:
One fan, sitting courtside, shouted, at one point, “Bring back Frank!’’ a call for fired head coach Lawrence Frank. At the end of the game, the same fan yelled across the court at Vandeweghe, “Kiki, fire yourself!’’
Since the game was played in New Jersey, that was likely the only thing suitable for publication that the guy said all game.

[via DS]

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Let's Add Insult to Misery


Republicans Who are Publicly Signing on to the Paul Ryan Budget, Vol I

Sen. Kit Bond:
On Friday, Mr. Bond called for giving Medicare enrollees a voucher to buy health insurance on their own. “You’re going to have to means-test the benefits,” he said, adding that upper income retirees wouldn’t “get much of a voucher.”
Vouchers are basically rationing by another name and have been declared "not ready for prime time" by even Republicans.

The Bud Selig Statue Outside Miller Park

Yeah, can we not do that?

Monday, February 8, 2010

For Future Thought

Thompson's return would be welcome news for no other reason than it might give a pulse to a flat-lined state of Wisconsin politics.
I'll be sure to remember this when the NW begins it's biennial wailing and gnashing of teeth over negative campaign ads later this fall. I wonder how "interesting" the paper will find a Governor's race that is all but guaranteed to be nastier than any in recent memory.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Headlines of the Damned

Today's edition of Headlines of the Damned is brought to you by TMZ:

This has been another edition of Headlines of the Damned.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Did Palin's Tea Party Speech Make Money?

Almost certainly.

Reportedly, 600 people paid $549 to attend the conference, while another 500 paid $349 just to attend the lobster and steak banquet at which Palin spoke. Let's do the math:

600 x 549 = $329,400
500 x 349 = $174,500

Palin's speech reportedly cost in the neighborhood of $100,000, not including a cost associated with her rider (private jet for travel, hotel accommodations, etc.) that could cost anything from $10,000 to $50,000. Let's stay on the high end of things just to look at the worse case scenario.

Then there's the additional costs of putting on the conference. Let's say that cost is in the neighborhood of $200,000. Maybe this is on the low end of things. That would mean the two-day event runs just over $180 a head for all 1100 participants. That's far more than the cost per guest at a formal wedding -- and dollars to donuts there wasn't an open bar at the Tea Party.

That leaves roughly $150,000 in profit.

Then there's the revenue brought in from sponsorships. A month ago Politico reported:

And a tea party source familiar with the convention’s fundraising and planning efforts questioned whether it was wise to prominently feature Palin at an event purporting to be driven by grass-roots activists.

Plus, the source said the convention’s sponsorship requests exceeded the norm for such an event, adding, “I understand completely asking sponsors to chip in, but 50 grand is just way beyond.”

The Tea Party had multiple sponsorship levels: 4 sponsors at the Silver level, 3 at the Bronze, 3 "co-sponsors" and 5 "participants." Presumably no one bought into the "Gold" level or those were the sponsors that bailed. I can't imagine that any of those sponsors forked over $50,000 for their levels of sponsorship, but they sure as hell didn't do it for free.

Either way, the Tea Party Conference likely made a healthy profit from the festivities. How much gets pumped back into "the movement" remains to be seen.

Obviously, the economy isn't hurting the hosts of the event, who seem to have made out like bandits. Nor is it hurting the participants, who can pay a good buck to travel and attend an expensive gathering that was simulcast on C-SPAN ... so maybe these Tea Party folks shouldn't be so upset about one entity taking their money when they are so willing to give it away to another?

Dispatches from FailFest '10

Via FrumForum:

The explanation for this vapidity goes to the Tea Party activists’ self-conception as ideological heirs to the Founding Fathers. (Several of the delegates even dressed up as 18th-Century yeomen, to the great delight of media photographers.) The “Tea Party” motif isn’t just a clever name: In their grandiose statements, its activists really do present themselves as protagonists in an existential struggle for America’s soul – a mission that somehow transcends the dry bristle of ordinary politics.

“We’re in a crisis, a crisis as profound of the [American] Revolution, the Civil War, the Great Depression, or World War II,” filmmaker Stephen K. Bannon told the crowd on Friday night. “You just have to ask the Kaiser, you have to ask the military junta that ran Japan in World War II, or the Nazis, or the fascists – no power on earth has ever stood against the common working-man part of this country.”

This statement seemed like a lunatic exaggeration – as crazy as anything I’d heard from the Iraq War-era activists who compared George W. Bush to Hitler. Yet everyone around me nodded their head and applauded, basking in the notion that they were the enlightened vanguard who would protect America. For all the jus’-plain-folks posturing of Tea Party activists, it is hard to ignore how massively inflated is their own self-regard.

We Tweeted Palin's keynote. It was a classic diva performance. She appeared to arrive at the last possible moment and left as soon as she was done speaking (which was no more than an hour). Her speech was a litany of Tea Party criticisms without any consideration for veracity.

In short, the Tea Party gang wanted to be pandered to and that's exactly what Palin gave them.

Polar Bears + "Enter Sandman" + F14 Tomcats = Brilliant

Alaska Nanooks 2010 Hockey Intro from Szymon Weglarski on Vimeo.

[Via Aziz Ansari]

MORE: On a second viewing those fighter jets look more like F15 Eagles -- you'll forgive me, if the sheer awesomeness of Kenny Loggins made me think of "Top Gun."

Friday, February 5, 2010

Paul Ryan's Presidential Ambitions

Wisconsin conservatives are falling all over themselves trying to bless Paul Ryan with enough Presidential hype to kick start a nascent campaign in the wake of his much ballyhooed budget. Christian Schneider has good look at the pros and cons of a Ryan run, but he's missing one important recent development: the very thing that is propelling Ryan into the conversation about a national office, i.e. his budget, also ends those aspirations.

Ryan's budget may be intellectually interesting, but it's not practical. Republicans are already trying to run away from it. Ryan's budget is also the Elephant's Graveyard of potential attack ads and direct mail pieces to seniors. Some of that push back is already starting to happen. Ryan can get away with it when the only competition for his Congressional seat is a down-on-his-luck union rep from Kenosha, he can't if he's running for the White House.

The good news in all of the attention Ryan's been getting this week is that he earned it the old fashioned way: by grinding out a solution to a difficult policy issue and not, for example, by blurting out an inappropriate comment during a joint session of congress. But the devil is always in the details, and Ryan's budget is full of harsh details that will likely come back to haunt him.

For example: Ryan's budget only seems to fix the federal deficit without any discussion of how draconian cuts in entitlement programs would impact the lives of ordinary Americans. Individual health care spending for the sick would obviously increase. Some states would likely pick up the slack and increase taxes to fund their own welfare programs. In both cases tax-payers merely transfer (potentially much more of their) money that would normally go to the federal government and hand it over to state government or private health care providers. Sure, the federal budget would be tidied up, but individual budgets would be a wreck since there is also no measure to control heath care costs. In other words, Ryan's only looking at half the picture.

I'm going to attribute the "Ryan for President" talk to a couple of very rational motives among Wisco conservatives. The first is homerism -- who doesn't want to see a local kid do well? The second is far more interesting: a desperate desire among conservatives to rally around a candidate that has ideas ... any ideas. Unlike Sarah Palin, Michael Steele or Scott Brown, Paul Ryan comes across as a guy more interested in substance over style and, as the saying goes, "in the land of the blind the one-eyed man is king."

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Expanding March Madness is a Good Thing

BELATED CORRECTION: Wow, did I ever do the math wrong on this one. Actually, 32 teams would get a bye, the top 8 seed in each region. This changes things drastically.

There's enough talk about expanding the NCAA men's basketball tournament to 96 teams next year that I've already assumed it's a done deal.

As long as the four days wherein the field narrows from 64 teams to 16 teams continues to be the best sports weekend on the calender, they can add as many teams as they want to the tournament.

That shouldn't be a problem. The expansion will mean that each region will host 24 teams, with the 1st-12th seeds getting what amounts to an "opening round" bye. That means the dreaded 12/5 seeds match-up will still be played by two fresh teams. That match-up really is the heart and soul of the tournament. As long as the 12/5 games remain unchanged, I'm cool.

Since the tournament expanding to 64 teams in 1985, 12 seeds have upset 5 seeds roughly 33% of the time. There have only been two years -- 1988 and 2000 -- where no 12 seeds beat their 5 seed counterparts. Since 2001, 12 seeds have almost won 50% of their first round games. The odds are better that a 6 seed will advance, as opposed to a 5 seed, even though a 6 seed should theoretically face tougher competition.

The proposed expansion merely increases the play-in games to the lowest four seeds in each region. These teams rarely make it to the Sweet Sixteen and almost never advance beyond that point. Some people might argue that this eliminates the Cinderella stories from the tournament. On the other hand, playing that extra game might keep some teams in a winning rhythm.

I like the plan because it gives fans 16 additional opportunities for buzzer-beaters and the chance to see small schools play their hearts out for the chance to get crushed by a Kentucky or a Kansas. Admittedly, the play-in game hasn't been very exciting, but one could argue that this is because the game is usually played between two schools that made it through their conference tournaments on spunk and luck. There are always bubble teams that don't make the tournament that would likely make things more interesting. A bigger tournament will give the selection committee more to work with.

One last point: there are almost 350 Division I NCAA basketball schools today. If memory serves me correctly, there were closer to around 300 teams in 2000. I would imagine that when the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985 there were considerably fewer schools. It might just be time to expand the tournament to reflect the growth in eligible teams and talent.

Yes, there is plenty of potential for the "opening round" to be awful and suck the energy out of the first two rounds of the tournament, but the tournament has made the adjustment once before and will likely do it again.

Annals of Urban Policy

What would one call the opposite of the Broken Window Theory?

I'm sure Colorado Springs will have found a catchy name in a few months:

This tax-averse city is about to learn what it looks and feels like when budget cuts slash services most Americans consider part of the urban fabric.

More than a third of the streetlights in Colorado Springs will go dark Monday. The police helicopters are for sale on the Internet. The city is dumping firefighting jobs, a vice team, burglary investigators, beat cops — dozens of police and fire positions will go unfilled.


Neighbors are encouraged to bring their own lawn mowers to local green spaces, because parks workers will mow them only once every two weeks. If that.

Water cutbacks mean most parks will be dead, brown turf by July; the flower and fertilizer budget is zero.

City recreation centers, indoor and outdoor pools, and a handful of museums will close for good March 31 unless they find private funding to stay open. Buses no longer run on evenings and weekends. The city won’t pay for any street paving, relying instead on a regional authority that can meet only about 10 percent of the need.

More on Thompson

From CD:

Democrats got more good news on the recruitment front from Wisconsin: former Governor Tommy Thompson has signed up as an adviser to Peak Ridge Capital Group venture capital fund, which certainly suggests he is not seriously considering running for Senate this year.


Interestingly, this same scenario (our leaning a Republican is leaning against running when he signs up for another job) has played out repeatedly this cycle, most notably for Rudy Giuliani but also for Jon Porter and Gordon Smith. All three of these Republicans later confirmed they would pass on 2010. Needless to say, it would be a huge break for Senate Democrats if Thompson chooses not to challenge Russ Feingold.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Tea Partiers for Feingold?

On the day that Tommy seems to indicate that he won't run against Feingold, TPM has some interesting news from the Tea Party front: some of them hate the Citizens United decision.

[via M]

Thanks for Playing (We Have Some Lovely Parting Gifts for You Backstage)

James O'Keefe = done.

MORE: And it looks like Andrew Brietbart is perfectly willing to go down with O'Keefe's ship.

Dave Weigel has a good look at the big picture:

I’ve known campus conservative activists for a decade, and I know the people who put together the 2006 forum quite well. Extremism — theories about race, right-wing European politics, anti-immigration rhetoric — is seen in these circles as something of a lark. It’s forbidden knowledge. It terrifies liberals. But people like Marcus Epstein and James O’Keefe feel (or felt) like they can get away with playing around in these circles before getting down to serious politics. And once they make that leap — as Epstein did with Buchanan, or as O’Keefe did with his ACORN tapes — the idea of being brought down by controversy is laughable. They’d faced down the Southern Poverty Law Center and won, so what do they have to fear?

Blumenthal’s article is worth reading for the background on O’Keefe’s race obsession at various points in his career. It makes a connection that liberals have had trouble making, between the right’s attacks on ACORN and the organization’s work registering poor, mostly non-white voters. But the new attention on the 2006 Robert Taft Club event suggests that young campus activists with big ambitions are going to find their dabblings in extreme politics coming back to haunt them. In other words, can the tactics conservatives used to attack Safe Schools Czar Kevin Jennings or Green Jobs Czar Van Jones–digging into their associations, reporting that they attended scary-sounding events, finding out-of-context, radical-sounding quotes from their earlier careers–be used against conservative activists?

The Banality of Open Caucuses

I've been watching President Obama's talk with Senate Democrats out of the corner of my eye this morning. It's nowhere near as entertaining as last week's meeting with the GOP house delegation in Baltimore and, alas, illustrates a rather important point:

Open caucus meetings are essentially useless.

That's basically what's going on this morning: an open caucus. It's been little more than a series of well-choreographed questions from allies on rather important, but noncontroversial, issues and some intra-party cheer-leading. Unless Arlen Specter starts to strangle John Kerry with the mic chord pretty soon this meeting might put me to sleep.

If anyone expects anything deeper than this from an "open" caucus meeting in the state legislature, they're deluding themselves. This is about as "transparent" as it would get. Open caucuses might make certain people feel good about themselves, but there's little practical value to them.

Now, if someone wants to introduce a bill requiring legislatures to file copies of their little black books with GAB -- that would be something we would consider.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Lawyers Bring the Funny

It's funny because it's true:
My head is now flooded with images of the tough and mean streets of Sheboygan - a place where the cows will cut you if you even glance at their udders. Lord knows that you don’t roll into Oshkosh unless you are packing heat and dropping fools and suckas at your feet.
Just keep an eye out for the Tire Vampire.

[via MJS]

More on the Ryan Budget

Here's the best synopsis on Ryan's budget that I've found today:
There's a bit of a debate about whether Ryan's proposal is so honest it's crazy, or so crazy it's not serious. I think it's extremely serious -- not as a budget proposal, but as a dystopian parable. It's like reading 1984 for the next century, but with graphs.


Truly, I think it's a shocking budget, and the kind of thing that no party in power would ever have the cojones to propose. Indeed, Republicans didn't even have the cojones to co-sign health care reform's Medicare cuts. Six months after the Democrats' proposed Medicare savings made Republicans shout bloody murder (literally: Death Panels), Rep. Paul Ryan is now proposing the program's gradual extermination. Like any good dystopian parable, this doesn't deserve to be taken literally. It's about the lesson: Our deficit crisis in an entitlement crisis, and the solution won't be pretty.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Paul Ryan's Budget

Rather eye-opening:
[Ryan's] proposal would take Medicare from costing an expected 14.3 percent of GDP in 2080 to less than 4 percent. That's trillions of dollars that's not going to health care for seniors. The audacity is breathtaking.
How does he do it?
As you all know by now, the long-term budget deficit is largely driven by health-care costs. To move us to surpluses, Ryan's budget proposes reforms that are nothing short of violent. Medicare is privatized. Seniors get a voucher to buy private insurance, and the voucher's growth is far slower than the expected growth of health-care costs. Medicaid is also privatized. The employer tax exclusion is fully eliminated, replaced by a tax credit that grows more slowly than medical costs. And beyond health care, Social Security moves to a system of private accounts that CBO says will actually cost more than the present arrangement, further underscoring how ancillary the program is to our budget problem.
Klein gives Ryan credit for offering a solution that actually squares the numbers -- a vast improvement over Ryan's previous proposed budget, which forgot to do as much.

Kevin Drum is far less impressed:
The real action comes from a collection of arbitrary spending limits, but these limits don't offer any clues about how we're going to meet them. There's a freeze on nonsecurity discretionary spending from 2010-2019 — but saying you're going to freeze spending is easy. The hard part is figuring out what to cut. There's also a limit to the growth of Medicare payments — but saying you're going to limit growth is easy. The hard part is figuring out how to limit growth and deciding what you're going to cut to meet your caps. Medicaid is treated the same way: Ryan's plan simply sets a limit on growth rates without saying how those limits will be met.

In fairness, there are a few specifics. The eligibility age for Medicare would rise gradually to about age 70. Social Security payments would be reduced. All the money in the stimulus bill that hasn't been spent yet would be eliminated.

But those are nits. For the vast bulk of the savings, Ryan simply declares that they'll happen. His bill would cap growth rates, and that's that. Whatever happens, happens — and he carefully avoids actually saying what would happen. That's not serious, and it doesn't deserve praise.

I have the same problem with this year's edition of the Ryan budget that I did with last year's: he takes as givens policies that would require legislative miracles in order to become law. Privatize Medicare? That's the GOP equivalent of creating a single-payer health care system. Same thing with privatizing Social Security accounts. Ryan may as well just claim that Gremlins will devour the deficit.

The big news is that the math potentially works. If that's true, then I've been wrong about criticizing Ryan for relying on the retread GOP think tank ideas with out assembling them in a coherent order that can produce results. The big problem still remains, however, that much of Ryan's budget is still composed of retread GOP think tank ideas that are extremely controversial and don't just materialize with the wave of a wand.

MORE: Yglesias on the rhetorical divide within the GOP and Ryan's budget proposal:

The big driver of spending over the long-run is Medicare. Jackie Calmes and Jeff Zeleny report in The New York Times that Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the top Republican on the House Budget Committee, has proposed a “blueprint for a balanced budget [that] relies heavily on changes in the system of Medicare benefits for future recipients, the kind of proposal that would surely provoke an outcry among Democrats.” But forget about Democrats. The Obama administration’s health-reform proposals involved some reductions in the scope of future Medicare spending, and that prompted a GOP-led outcry about “death panels” killing America’s grandparents. Under the direction of party chair Michael Steele, the GOP has put a "Senior’s Health Care Bill of Rights” at the center of the party’s effort to retain the allegiance of old people.

Tony Palemri's Bullshit Can Now be Seen from Outer Space

There's really no other way to put it.

In his monthly column in the Valley Scene Palmeri concludes his annual "10 Most Censored Stories" exercise by including this summer's city council vote on the Grand Opera house repairs at #5. Here's the complete text (emphsases in the original):
No. 5: Oshkosh Grand Opera House Repairs: No Thinking Allowed. When the city of Oshkosh restored the historic Grand Opera House in the early 1980s, costs were spread out among city taxpayers, federal funds, private donations, and foundation grants. Because of the lease terms agreed to by the Oshkosh Common Council in the 80s and rubber stamped by subsequent councils, Oshkosh taxpayers cover repair costs over $1,000. That’s an extremely uncommon method of funding repairs; historic arts houses similar to the Grand (e.g. Baraboo’s Al Ringling Theatre, Wausau’s Grand Theater, Milwaukee’s Pabst Theatere, Viroqua’s Temple Theater, the Kenosha Theater, Menomonie’s Mabel Tainter Theater) rely mostly on private, corporate, and foundation funding.

Last summer the Oshkosh Common Council approved $1.8 million dollars for roof repairs. Coverage and editorializing by Gannett’s Oshkosh Northwestern was incomplete, under researched, intolerant of different points of view, and unwilling to consider that the current ownership model is not sustainable or suitable to guarantee the Grand’s long term health. Reporter Patricia Wolff’s tepid story on ownership issues appeared a week after the repair vote, greatly limiting the story’s value. The lesson? When Gannett has to choose between responsible journalism and protecting ad clients (in this case the Opera House Foundation), the ad clients will prevail every time.
Here's the problem: Palmeri voted for the repairs.

Yes, he gave those in attendance a stern talking to about something or another before casting his vote, but at the end of the day, when it came down to actually taking action PALMERI VOTED FOR THE GRAND OPERA HOUSE REPAIRS.

Also missing from the Palmeri's account of the GOH vote was the fact that the council was met with some 300 people the day of the vote and heard support from dozens of citizens during the meeting in contrast to maybe one or two people who felt otherwise. It was a good old-fashioned local grassroots effort -- like kind Palmeri lionizes in pieces like this one -- organized by the Grand management. They used the internet, word of mouth, a little PR/media savvy and a whole lot of razzle-dazzle.

Would you expect anything less from theater folk?

The way Palmeri crafts the passage above makes it sound like the belated NW article would have somehow swung public opinion against the repairs, but that's nonsensial Monday morning quarterbacking if ever there was such. Palmeri was well aware of all the details of this seeming Gannet-GOH advertising axis (which, by the way, amounts to less than the cost of 2 full page adverts per year last time I checked) before the vote was taken, but couldn't convince anyone that it mattered.

If Palmeri really thought that the GOH repairs were some grave injustice to the people of Oshkosh, he should have done something when he had a chance. After all that's the imagine he likes to project to the community:

(This photoshopped number is actually from one of Palmeri's websites.)

Palmeri can't have it both ways on this topic. Either he agreed with the overwhelming support for the GRAND OPERA HOUSE REPAIRS WHEN HE VOTED FOR THEM or Oshkosh's Knight in White Shining Armor only goes after dragons he can slay when he thinks no one else is looking. There's just no way he can reasonably expect to go after one party's verison of the story while simultaneously whitewashing his own complicity in the matter.

Everyone know Palmeri's ego stands second to none in Oshkosh (see the photo above for evidence). Now there's a pile of bullshit to keep it company.