Saturday, July 31, 2010

Kevin Fischer Makes a Very Loud Point

Obviously, the point of this asinine exercise in public masturbation isn't to dish out wedding planning advice, but rather to hurl insults.

Which begs question: Why bother pretending to discuss public affairs when we bloggers can fling names like oh so many piles of shit in a monkey cage at the zoo?

Seriously. Fischer is an inbred idiot man-child so entrenched in his worldview that no argument is ever going to persuade him to change his mind, so what's the point of pretending like we're having a policy discussion? Why don't we just dispense with the pleasantries and just get down to calling each other impotent twats?

I'd be more than happy to go this route in the future. It's not like Fischer has anything interesting to say about anything else.

Ron Johnson in the Weekly Standard: Cheering for Brett Favre?

Talk about playing with fire here:
Johnson may have opened himself up to an even stronger Democratic line of attack in our conversations. Brett Favre is regarded as a traitor by many Wisconsinites for playing for the Minnesota Vikings. But Johnson, a big Green Bay Packers fan, admits that once the Packers were out of the playoffs last year he was pulling for Favre to win. “He plays the game with such joy,” says Johnson. “I wanted to see Brett Favre win. I took it probably every bit as hard when he threw that interception in the last play of the Viking [playoff] game.” The way this campaign is going, look for a Russ Feingold ad next week depicting Ron Johnson in a -Minnesota Vikings jersey.

Shorter James T Harris:

Hey, remember that time I scored four touchdowns in the all-city championship game?

Thursday, July 29, 2010

More on NOM

Steve Chapman has a good round-up on the NOM rally:

So why would NOM hold a rally where it is sure of being badly outnumbered by motivated and well-organized critics? Maybe because that's what it wanted. The Summer for Marriage Tour could have been called the Come Shout Us Down Tour.

The endeavor has managed to make opponents of gay marriage look like a brave, embattled minority, even though they constitute 53 percent of the public and have gotten their way in all but a few states. At today's rally, NOM supporters just number two or three dozen.

NOM's website ( focuses not on any outpouring of support for its cause, but on the protesters who have appeared at its rallies, including some it accuses of disruptive and intimidating tactics. "Watch the shocking video here!" it proclaims, linking to a clip from a somewhat raucous event that, in truth, falls short of shocking.


Then he concludes:

It's hard to get terribly outraged when a group that goes out of its way to be drowned out by its critics almost gets drowned out by its critics. But the people here to support "traditional marriage" can accurately claim that they have been impeded in their effort to communicate their views.

You see, NOM and its allies attest that after all, they don't want to deny the other side the right to speak. They just want to enjoy the same right.

To which the other side might reply: Hmm. Kind of like what we say about marriage.


[via AS]

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Kyle Maichle Discovers Dead Hookers Under the Floorboards of Russ Feingold HQ!

And by "dead hookers" I mean an 11 year-old series of minor disclosure issues.

Since his boy Scott Walker has been shitting the bed lately, I guess Maichle has decided to train his eagle eyes on Feingold.

What a fair weather douche.

Nom Nom Nom

Apparently the most pressing issue regarding yesterday's hugely embarrassing NOM rally is whether the counter protesters were too loud, which is a really bad sign for the dipshits hosting the event.

Lost in the shuffle is the actual purpose of this traveling freak show: to rally the base in an election year. Six years ago the attendance would have been much larger than the 20-30 people that appear to have shown up. Hell, four years ago an event like this would have been a bigger deal, but the anemic showing yesterday should be evidence of just how far the evangelical far right has fallen.

Not only are Christian conservatives out of favor with mainstream America these days, but their power in the GOP is also waning, having been replaced by Libertarian influences that have largely eschewed state-sponsored moralizing. NOM itself is a great example of just how hard times are for these folks. Five years ago NOM would have been staffed by an elite cadre of conservative operatives who would have used sophisticated tools and strategies to push a message that would have brought their base to the polls, but these fourth-rate hacks are reduced to driving around and going basically door-to-door. It's pretty sad.

Anyway, since NOM can't get it up anymore they're left with one arrow in their quiver: baiting counterprotesters. Really, that's all yesterday's spectacle was about. Here's Glenn Grothman -- a man who is as useful as a marshmallow dildo -- making that point:

It's all about maintaining the illusion that the homophobes are actually the ones being oppressed. This is the exact same media strategy employed by Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church. Why the hell do you think they held this event in Madison and not, for example, in Waukesha County, where they would have been greeted more warmly? I mean, the dude in this video actually compared himself to William Wilberforce, the guy who rather heroically worked to ban slavery in England.


If shouting them down gives these clowns an air of dignity, then it's probably a bad idea, but if you look at the videos, that really didn't happen because these folks are apparently incapable of appearing the slightest bit sane, much less dignified. So long as they remain the nutters that we all know they are, there's really no harm in telling them to fuck off as loud as you can.

Parsing Ron Johnson's Incomprehensible Afghanistan Policy

Ron Johnson finally got asked a few questions about Afghanistan yesterday and it quickly became clear that he has no one advising him on military or foreign policy, but quite a few people feeding him convenient talking points.

There were a few new outlets that brought up Afghanistan, but only one really appears to have gotten into the issue to some degree of length, and it's worth going through the content to see just how Johnson works through his thought process.
LIB: How do you feel about the new Afghan policy – as far as, should we be continuing the Counterinsurgency policy we had had under McChrystal? Should we be going some other direction? What’s your feeling on that?

RJ: I’m hoping… one of the finest generals we have in the military right now is David Petraeus. So I’m hoping General Petraeus can, you know, pull a rabbit out of a hat on this one.
Pulls a rabbit out of his hat? That's a phrase that usually connotes desperation. It's not a strong place to begin and even suggests that Petreaus is so incompetent that he needs a miracle to complete the job.

It's also pretty clear that Johnson is unfamiliar with the details of COIN strategy since he blows right past it.
Obviously, I’m very concerned about President Obama, the way he even announced the strategy, the fact that he announces the surge and the next sentence after that, he says, “Oh, by the way, we’re going to pull out in 16 months.”
There's something of a technical discrepancy here: the plan is to begin withdrawing troops after 18 months (or in about 10 months from today), but there were no definitive benchmarks set. In other words, any withdraw date set by the Obama administration is pretty clearly a best case scenario.
To me, the Taliban strategy is to surge 16 months and a day.
So does this mean Johnson thinks the Surge was pointless or that we didn't Surge enough? Again, there's a lack of clarity when it come to specific policy points that is quickly becoming a hallmark of Johnson's campaign.
And particularly in a conflict like Afghanistan, where we need the villagers to feel confident that, you know, whoever – that we’re going to be there for victory and that we’re committed to that.
I honestly have almost no clue what he's saying in the first part of this sentence. Villagers? Who are the villagers? Are we talking about the rural Afghans outside of Kabul or all Afghans in general? When Johnson says "whomever" I literally threw my hands over my head in exasperation. To whom does "whoever" refer? American soldiers? The Taliban? Al Qaeda? Pakistan?

It's literally like watching a train of thought derail only to be put back on the tracks again with the help of some nifty talking points. And that's exactly what we get when Johnson trots out the "commitment to victory" line.

This is war we're talking about. Not an Al Davis press conference.
Because let’s face it, we’ve got the Taliban that’ll happily move into those villages and, you know, enact some retribution on anybody that sided with the other side.
Would that it were that simple...
So, my concern is that President Obama has set us up for failure, quite honestly; and that’s not what you do when you’re going to commit our fine young men and women into battle. So, you know, highly concerned about his particular strategy.
Let's be very clear about Johnson the strategy Johnson is talking about here: the only concept he has specifically criticized thus far in the interview is the notion that President Obama has expressed a desire to leave the country sometime in the near future. Luckily, at LiB asks a good follow-up question that gets deeper into this issue.
LIB: Did you support the surge? Do you think that should be ongoing?

RJ: I would like to achieve victory in Afghanistan.
Again, a completely fatuous answer. It's a "yes or no" question that is, instead, delivered in talking points.
I mean, I’d like to finish off the job; I mean, I’d like to be able to say that, you know, we’ve cleaned up another nest of terrorists, quite honestly.
Great -- what does that mean? By some recent accounts there are as few as 100 Al Qaeda fighters left in Afghanistan. Does this mean that once those terrorists have been dealt with we can all go home? Or do we have to rid the country of any foothold for the Taliban as well? Does Johnson understand the difference between the Taliban and Al Qaeda? Is the job over once there's a democracy established in Afghanistan or when there's a strip club next to every burqa boutique in Kandahar?

Here's another way of putting it: what does "victory" entail? Everyone wants to win, but there are no clear cut rules or signs for winning Afghanistan -- what is Johnson's definition of victory?
But I’m just, again, very concerned about the direction of, you know, this policy under this president.
Finally, a little honesty. Right here Johnosn is basically admitting that it doesn't really matter what the Afghanistan policy is, he's going to disapprove of it so long as it's being administered by the current Commander in Chief. That's the bottom line through this entire line of questioning.
The only thing that kind of keeps me supportive of it is the fact that we have David Petraeus.
Did you catch that? Supportive ... After all that, Johnson basically says, "Yeah, I agree with the current policy." This is the same policy just moments earlier he said was "set up for failure," but he's supportive of it.
Which, by the way, Russ Feingold was one of only twenty Senators that refused to condemn the ad by that called him “David Betray-us.” I don’t think that’s a real way – a real shining moment in Senator Feingold’s voting record, quite honestly.
Frankly, who gives a shit? This reversion back to ticky tack domestic politics is pretty crass. Who cares what a retarded liberal lobbying group said a few years ago to raise money? It has no impact on the PFC on patrol in the Hindu Kush mountains. It's unfortunate that Johnson would rather talk about petty political concerns than actually discuss the very real life and death matters involved with the conflict.
LIB: How would you have handled the McChrystal situation? Do you think that was the right decision to replace him at that juncture? It’s a pretty critical point in Afghanistan.

RJ: Well, as Commander-in-Chief, you need total loyalty. You can’t have any kind of insubordination, I mean, it just does boil down to a kind of unfortunate situation. I think President Obama had to do what he had to do in that situation.

LIB: It’s just come out now that Pakistan, while receiving a tremendous amount of American aid money, has probably been working with Al-Qaeda and supporting Al-Qaeda through its intelligence agency, the ISI. What is your feeling about how we should be treating Pakistan right now?

RJ: Well that’s obviously a concern. I’m concerned about the leak. You kind of like to make sure that these things stay classified if they’re supposed to be classified. I think there’s been – people have always been very suspicious that the intelligence services of Pakistan are not necessarily on the side of necessarily the Pakistani government, quite honestly. We’ve got separate agendas. So it’s a very difficult part of the world. There’s no doubt about it.
No answer. Do we withhold money from Pakistan? Do we enact sanctions? Do we (continue to) ignore territorial boundries when it comes to things like Predator drone bombings? Do we demand Pakistan clean house. Do we invade Pakistan so as to, as Johnson put it, "clean up another nest of terrorists"?
LIB: Would you support continuing to fund public works projects in Afghanistan as we are now, or would you change the way those are being funded, would you change the way American aid is being funneled to Afghanistan and Pakistan?

RJ: Again, you have to take a look at each individual circumstance. Again, it’s a laudable goal, you know. We can’t have these, you know, lawless nations that there are harboring terrorists. It’s just a very difficult situation.
Again, no answer. We already know it's "a very difficult situation" ... we'd also like to know what Johnson plans to do about it.

This election isn't going to hinge on foreign policy -- everyone knows that. A week or two from now, Afghanistan will receded back into the recesses of the memory hole like it has consistently done for the last eight years, but Johnson doesn't seem to have anything more than a cursory knowledge of what is now America's longest military engagement and that's troublesome.

Council Meetings

Yeah, we totally screwed the pooch on the meeting last night.

To speak honestly, I doubt we're going to get a chance to get to any more council meeting until September.

We'll try again once the kids are back in school.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Does Ron Johnson Support Returning to the Glass-Steagall Act?

There's just a ton of RJ news this morning, in what I can only imagine is the start of a more aggressive media strategy. Part of the news comes from an interview with Letters in Bottles:
LIB: That tends to suggest an answer, but let’s just make it clear – what would your suggestions be toward fixing the crisis that we’re now in?

RJ: Well we absolutely have to reform Fannie and Freddie, first of all. And that, truthfully, I would be looking back to banking rules and regulations back since the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s in terms of things working. I would seriously take a look at these banks that are still termed “too big to fail,” and maybe we need to orderly break them up under anti-trust laws.
That sounds a lot like Johnson wants to roll back much of the banking de-regulation that occurred in the 1990s, a decade that saw the repeal of regulations like the Glass-Steagall Act (the law that separated traditional banks from investment banks since the great depression).

Ron Johnson News Round Up

Tons of new from Team RJ yesterday. Not only was Johnson on public radio, probably the first time he's faced tough questions from ideological opposites, but he also attended a "luncheon" hosted by where he addressed numerous issues as well.

Here's Johnson answering questions from a scrum of reporters at the event:

Here's WRN coverage. Here's the WisPol write-up.

Two things that we'll probably get into later. The first is taxes. Johnson said a lot about taxes yesterday that needs a closer look.

The second is Afghanistan. On the day after the Wikileaks episode, Afghanistan is being given a rare dose of public attention and it appears that in Feingold and Johnson Wisconsin has two very contrasting opinions to weigh.

We'll try to get to both when we can.

Moving on, Terrence Wall is still on the warpath, doing a lengthy interview with Madison talk radio host Sly Sylvester.

And, lastly, the FEC has a general look at RJ's finances thus far:
Ron Johnson for Senate July FEC report
As of the beginning of July RJ had spent around $1 million, had $1 million on hand, and loaned his campaign about 75% of its total receipts.

Now, lastly, the NRSC is dropping half a million on TV time in the state, almost all of it to be devoted to negative advertising. Per the lovely explanation by Chris Cillizza:
The NRSC has bought $1.75 million worth of air time in California as well as $515,000 in Washington and $470,000 in Wisconsin, expenditures to that amount to 1,000 points of statewide TV in the latter two states and a 1,000 points of television in Los Angeles in the Golden State. (A 1,000 points of television means that the average viewer will see a given ad 10 times in a week.)

Monday, July 26, 2010

Ron Johnson Gets Hammered After Reneging on Selling his BP Stock

Not selling his BP stock is getting Ron Johnson far and away the most press of the campaign thus far, and the headlines aren't flattering:
It's not a good thing to have words like "wavers" and "changes mind" joining your name in the headlines.

If you're willing to spend $10-15 million on a run for the senate, it seems like it would be a smart idea to bite the bullet and take the losses over the stock.

Now the BP Stock Thing is an Issue

Even though I initially defended Ron Johnson's ownership of BP stock a few weeks ago, this is going to create enormous headaches for him:

MADISON, Wis. -- Wisconsin candidate for Senate Ron Johnson says he hasn't decided whether to sell his BP stock, two weeks after he told reporters he would get rid of it.

Financial disclosure forms show the Oshkosh manufacturer owns between $116,000 and $315,000 in BP stock. On July 9, Johnson's campaign said he would be moving his investments into a blind trust.

But following a campaign rally just days later, the Republican told reporters he planned to sell the BP PLC stock to help finance his campaign against Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold.

Johnson on Monday says he will probably sell the stock to help finance his campaign, but he hasn't made a decision yet.

If you say you're going to do something, you kind of have to go ahead and do it.

To be honest, in the back of my mind I was expecting this move: hedge and/or delay until the issue blows over. When RJ first floated the idea of selling the stock was worth about half of what it was when Johnson entered the race. That would mean he would have gotten a haircut that cost between $58,000-$157,500. The stock has rebounded since then -- he might just be waiting for a better time to dump it.

This probably has more to do with recouping an investment then it does to perceived ties or loyalty to BP, but, again, when you say you're going to do something, you kind of have to go ahead and do it.

[via IT]

MORE: Here's audio of RJ explaining to a reporter that he'll consider selling the stock based on "market conditions." I have no idea when the recording was made.

Ron Johnson not in Favor of Cutting Taxes (?)

RJ was on WPR this morning giving a live on air interview to Joy Cardin and said something interesting. A rough paraphrase of the comment was that Johnson wasn't advocating cutting taxes, but rather decreasing spending.

That's a loaded statement with numerous ramifications, but I want to make sure I've got the wording down right. Unfortunately, I seem to be having a few computing issues, so if someone could listen to and possibly transcribe that part of the interview, I would be eternally grateful.

Oh, and the audio isn't up on the web site yet. When it does get posted it should show up here.

Much obliged.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Ron Johnson on BadgerCare: What Now?

Someone's going to have explain this to me further because the way it's written permits multiple readings. From today's MJS:

Johnson predicts the new health care law will separate people from their preferred providers. He calls it "socialized medicine," while acknowledging that it is not that. He says he has no doubt it will lead to a socialized system.

He said the number of people without access to health care is somewhat overblown and that in Wisconsin, BadgerCare covers many people who fall through the cracks.

Asked if he supports BadgerCare, Johnson said: "We have it."

For the love of Christ, what the hell does that mean?

Here are just a few interpretations that I think can be gleaned from that exchange.
1.) That BadgerCare is already a program that exists and, as such, Johnson isn't going to do anything to dismantle it.

2.) That "we" -- i.e. the Johnson family -- uses BadgerCare.

3.) That "we" -- i.e. Pacur, Johnson's company -- uses BadgerCare.

4.) "No comment."
There are problems with any of those answers. A little more clarification would have been helpful.

I don't know if this was the journalists fault or if that's all the Johnson said, but clarity is quickly becoming an issue with RJ's communications strategy. It's one thing to be ambiguous so as to leave a little wiggle room, but it's another to allow open-ended answers become so nebulous that they become counter-productive.

Since health care is one of the primary reason Johnson got in the race in the first place, you'd think he would be more prepared to deal with the question.

City Council Live Chat! Tuesday!

OK ... let's try to get back into the swing of things.

Tuesday. 6:00 PM.

7 -27 -10 Oshkosh Common Council Agenda

Friday, July 23, 2010

Showdown at the BiMonSciFiCon

The Westboro Baptist Church decided to picket, of all things, Comic-Con, whose very geeky attendees decided to counter-protest.

Hilarity ensued.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Tomorrow's Ron Johnson Talking Points Today!

Rep. Paul Ryan has been hitting the think tank circuit this week to promote his "Roadmap" to deficit reduction. Yesterday he was AEI, today he's at Brookings:

Washington Independent: Paul Ryan on America's Debt from Aaron Wiener on Vimeo.

Don't be surprised to hear similar arguments coming from the Johnson campaign when it comes time to get down to the policy nitty gritty.

Rep. Paul Ryan Budget Deficit Presentation

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

This Week the Ron Johnson Campaign will be Fixing an Inappropriate use of Email

The Northwestern has a interesting scoop on the misuse of the local Catholic School system's email list to find people to march with the Ron Johnson campaign in the city's 4th of July parade:
Unified Catholic Schools President Tony Blando on Tuesday acknowledged he "screwed up" when he sent a July 2 e-mail to UCS parents, staff and faculty asking them to support Republican U.S. Senate candidate Ron Johnson by walking with him in Oshkosh's Independence Day Parade.

In the e-mail, Blando asked recipients to "show our support for our local U.S. Senate Candidate Ron Johnson" by joining the campaign staff in the Oshkosh Fourth of July parade. "We would like to have as many marchers as possible so please bring your family and friends." The e-mail also asked participants wear white and green clothes, the colors of Johnson's campaign, or red, white and blue attire. Blando's e-mail signature listed him as president of UCS and included his school-issued e-mail address.
A few thoughts:
  • According to the article the mistake was noted immediately:
Blando, who took a leave of absence to join Johnson's campaign staff, said he immediately tried to recall the e-mail out of concern it might alienate some of the system's families. He said he received many replies indicating people could or could not show up and one response chastising him for using the UCS e-mail system to cull support for Johnson to which he responded with an apology.
But it still took over two weeks for UCS to issue a statement? Maybe there was an internal investigation or a legal team was consulted, but that really seems like a long time to correct an error that was, apparently, recognized immediately.
  • No comment from the RJ Campaign?
On the bright side, in terms of "inappropriate" uses of new media are concerned, it could be a lot worse.

Apology emails from the UCS below courtesy of the NW:

Apology for USC email use

Apology from UCS

Wisconsin GOP Cites a Source Critical of the Ron Johnson Campaign in an Effort to Slam Russ Feingold

This is amusing: In an effort to rebut the "Just say No" to drilling ad that Feingold released last week, the WisGOP has issued a press release citing a post from critical of the Feingold TV spot.

The problem is that the link they provide doesn't go to any specific article on FactCheck, just to the web site itself.

That's because, and obviously unmentioned in the press release, the source spends half of the article slamming RJ for "distorting" Feingold's record. You can find the link right here.

The larger lesson here is that the Wisconsin GOP really doesn't think very much of voters (and the press, apparently).

This nonsense also made it's way on to RJ's Facebook page, so I guess the same lesson applies to the candidate as well.

Monday, July 19, 2010

A Tale of Two Economies

Ireland went the austerity route:

Nearly two years ago, an economic collapse forced Ireland to cut public spending and raise taxes, the type of austerity measures that financial markets are now pressing on most advanced industrial nations.

“When our public finance situation blew wide open, the dominant consideration was ensuring that there was international investor confidence in Ireland so we could continue to borrow,” said Alan Barrett, chief economist at the Economic and Social Research Institute of Ireland. “A lot of the argument was, ‘Let’s get this over with quickly.’ ”

Rather than being rewarded for its actions, though, Ireland is being penalized. Its downturn has certainly been sharper than if the government had spent more to keep people working. Lacking stimulus money, the Irish economy shrank 7.1 percent last year and remains in recession.

Germany went for the stimulus:

If the trend continues, say the experts, the German economy will grow by well over 2 percent this year, or almost twice as much as in most neighboring countries. Economists are already proclaiming a second economic miracle, while a former French foreign minister is complaining that Germany is "number one in Europe" once again.

The unexpected comeback is the result of an unprecedented large-scale economic experiment. After last year's dramatic economic slump, Chancellor Merkel, after some initial hesitation, decided to support a bailout program modeled on the theories of British economist John Maynard Keynes. When the economy is in decline, the professor concluded based on the experiences of the Great Depression, the government must quickly counteract the trend with massive government spending programs.

In keeping with Keynes' theory, the former grand coalition government of the center-right Christian Democrats (CDU) and the center-left Social Democrats (SPD) launched an extensive package of stimulus and bailout measures, which included €480 billion for ailing banks, €115 billion for financially weakened companies and €80 billion for two programs to stimulate the domestic economy. As then-Finance Minister Peer Steinbrück said, the goal was to "fight fire with fire."

New York State of Mind

Politifact gives Ron Johnson's recent ad a thorough fact-checking and comes away skeptical.

The strangest aspect of the piece is the campaign's insistence that New York isn't a great lake state. This map seems to suggest otherwise:

This is really a stretch:

The Johnson campaign told PolitiFact that "including or excluding two New York City senators as Great Lakes senators is subjective, and many government and academic sources do not group New York in the Great Lakes region." They cited the Great Lakes Regional Water Program University of Wisconsin Extension (which defines the Great Lakes Region as "Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin"), the Bureau of Economic Analysis (which defines the Great Lakes Region as "Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin"), and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (which defines the Great Lakes Region as "Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin").

But we think the implication that Clinton and Schumer somehow forfeit their right to represent residents on Lake Ontario and Lake Erie is ridiculous. In addition, if the campaign was going to use these three alternate groupings as gospel, they should have also eliminated Pennsylvania, which does not appear in any of the three they cite. But they didn't: The Johnson campaign's backup sheet for the ad cites Pennsylvania, but not New York.

This strikes us as cherry picking. We find no good rationale for excluding New York, so on this count, we find Johnson's ad clearly inaccurate.
Well, the rationale was clearly to make Feingold look like he's out of step with the mainstream.

Again, this is all fairly esoteric stuff to be discussing, material that doesn't show up on most voter's radars -- but there's a very real consequences of screwing up like this: the central message of the ad gets ignored and replaced by the completely unimportant issue of whether New York is a Great Lakes state. Instead of pushing back on Feingold, Johnson has to mop up a minor mess and the initial charge goes unrebutted.

[via UW]

MORE: This isn't helping things.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Badger Poll

Here it is below.

The only real takeaway from the poll is that no one gives a shit about the Senate race yet. Don't expect this to change until after Labor Day.

Badger Poll

Is BNN Done?

Quick question: does anyone know what happened to the Blog Net News? Is it simply no more?

Saturday, July 17, 2010

"The Expendables"

A short while ago Dana Stevens wrote a sharp review of the latest Twilight movie concluding that the series really defies any kind of critical judgment:
The choice of whether to see Eclipse isn't really a question of whether the movie is good or bad. (By any objective, thumbs-up or thumbs-down standard of aesthetic judgment, this installment, directed by David Slade, is in keeping with the previous two films: a competently made bit of Gothic schlock.) It's a question of whether or not the movie speaks to your secret, unregulated, inherently ridiculous experience of identification and desire—not who you should be, but who you are. Does the warm blood of a teenager still flow beneath your icy grown-up flesh?
My impression of "The Expendibles," based solely on the trailer, is almost exactly the same. Who cares if the movie is any good? The experience of watching "The Expendables" will almost be entirely dictated by how awesome one's nostalgia trip is.

Take, for example, the latest trailer:

There really is no other band that could serve dish out the soundtrack to this spot other than Guns n' Roses, as good a sign as any that the producers of the movie are on the right track.

The second promising sign: just look at the names of the characters:
Stallone plays Barney “The Schizo” Ross, the fearless head of an elite group of warriors-for-hire whose ranks include Lee Christmas (Jason Statham), Yin Yang (Jet Li), Hale Caesar (Terry Crews), Toll Road (Randy Couture) and Gunnar Jensen (Dolph Lundgren).
Yin Yang? Hale Caesar? There's only one word for names like that: awesome.

Anyway, in terms of cultural artifacts, "The Expendables" should be pretty amazing.

Ads of the Damned: Russ Feingold, "Just Say No"

This ad, ladies and gentlemen, is why Russ Feingold wins elections.

The ad is enhanced by just about every detail:

1.) It's shot on location in what looks like Sheboygan. No stock footage.

2.) "One opponent, Ron Johnson..." This is hilarious -- a subtle insult that pushes Johnson down from GOP front-runner status and makes him appear to be just another candidate no more special than Westlake or even Ernest Pagels.

3.) Transposing the oil slick from the Gulf Coast to Lake Michigan is great way to induce a little fear, a sentiment the ad is clearly preying on.

4.) Notice how Feingold focuses on the economic damage a potential oil spill could do and not explicitly on the environmental aspects.

5.) Even the way Feingold inflects the word "oil" draws attention to the central theme of the ad.

6.) Russ ends the spot using the word "tradition." Generally speaking, that's a word that is used to appeal to conservatives. Not only does that ad assert a policy position while undercutting his opponent's argument, but he's also reaching out to right-of-center voters.

Lastly, and perhaps most important of all, is that this is an attack ad. Make no mistake about it. The tone of the ad, however, doesn't really feel negative. There are no photoshopped pictures of Johnson, no menacing narrators. It lacks all the hallmarks of your standard negative ad while still being hard-hitting.

Final Grade: A

Friday, July 16, 2010

Ads of the Damned: Ron Johnson, "Feingold Mud"

Ron Johnson's campaign deserves credit for a quick turnaround on the great lakes drilling issue. Unfortunately the ad they cobbled together isn't very strong. A much better rebuttal would have been Johnson himself standing along Lake Michigan talking about how much he values the water blah blah blah. Instead we get a run-of-the-mill attack ad.

The brilliance of Feingold's ad is that it was a very strong attack ad without actually seeming like one. There was no candid photo of Johnson in bad lighting or eating children, etc. In fact, Johnson was basically represented by a nebulous oil slick. Johnson's rebuttal is remarkably pedestrian: a female narrator tut-tutting Feingold over stock footage. We've seen this all before. In fact, we've seen this so many times that ads like this are the reason most people hate political advertising.

The ad also barely passes the fact-check test thanks to some dodgy semantics. One of the reasons "drilling in the Great Lakes is already illegal" was courtesy of legislation that Feingold did vote for. The bill the ad cites was an energy bill that came to a Senate vote years later. The Associated Press calls Johnson's ad "misleading," adding:
The Republican's criticism is misleading. It implies that Feingold didn't want to protect the lakes. In fact, it was Feingold who co-sponsored the 2001 measure that enacted the temporary ban. Feingold voted against the 2005 measure because it wasn't substantive enough, he has said. [via JC]
It's also the fourth TV spot in a row to feature Johnson wearing his now trademark safety goggles. The Democrats should find someone more clever (and sober) than I am to come up with an idea that uses safety goggles like the Bush/Cheney '04 team used flip-flops to grand effect. Right now the only thing I can think of involves beer goggles, but that's because I've been drinking since noon.

Final Grade: D+

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Ron Johnson Email #11

The Johnson campaign is trying to capitalize on a favorable poll from Rasmussen that has RJ edging out Feingold 47% to 46%. To celebrate the news they're asking supporters to fork over $47.

This is just a few days after the campaign announced that they raised $557,774 from 2127 contributors -- that's an average of $262 per contributor. Johnson also announced he was going to liquidate his shares of BP stock, which are currently worth about half of what they were worth when he entered the campaign, to help finance his campaign and after a small uproar.

Ron Johnson for U.S. Senate Email #11

Ads of the Damned: Ron Johnson, "Tipping Point"

Talk about a chorus of dog whistles...

We've noted in the past how the phrase "tipping point" has become something of a buzz word among fiscal conservatives, largely thanks to its dedicated use by Paul Ryan. Then there's "inter-generational theft," a popular talking point among tea partiers. It's a fine phrase if one only has two words to describe the plot of the "Back to the Future" trilogy, but not so much budget policy.

The rest of the script is charecteristically light on specifics and heavy on generalizations. The "experiment we call American" is a very nice phrase for a high school civics teacher ... "lose the idea and promise of America" -- what does that mean: are we doomed to a post-apocalyptic Thunderdome-esque hellscape or are we going to end up like, I don't know ... say, Norway?

The ads visuals are rather mundane. We get more factory shots of Johnson wearing his safety goggles and some stock footage of a family who clearly just failed the final in American Dream 101. Ayn Rand, whose influence on Johnson himself has called "foundational," would have scoffed at this family of underachievers and muttered under her breathe "Fuck 'em."

The only most interesting detail of the spot is Johnson location as he speaks directly into the camera. It looks he standing on the shore of Lake Winnebago, in Menominee Park across the channel from what is locally known as Monkey Island. It's a very picturesque and -- dare I say -- eco-friendly backdrop. I can't help but wonder how much of the call to shoot at that location was due to it just being a very scenic locale where Johnson felt comfortable vs. an effort to take some of the edge off of Democratic attacks linking Johnson to BP ... and by that I mean the BP stock attacks and not the most recent drilling in the Great Lakes attacks -- this ad was shot before Feingold released "Just Say No."

All in all, it's an OK, but entirely forgettable ad.

Final Grade: C

That Explains A Lot...

A mistake by a vendor left U.S. Senate candidate Ron Johnson of Oshkosh briefly Wednesday with a statement on his Web site pledging to promote tourism and cut down on wolves in Wyoming.

“I have the right plan to deal with the wolf problem and bring management of these predators under the control of the people of Wyoming,” the statement reads.

Johnson spokeswoman Kristin Ruesch said that the statement was mistakenly posted by an employee of Harris Media, which handles Web sites for both Johnson and Colin Simpson, a Republican candidate for governor in Wyoming whose campaign had prepared the statement.

The error was discovered by the Johnson campaign and the statement was taken down within minutes.

Cf: Haas, IT, Soglin and Zach W.

There's really nothing more to add.

It's Called a "Tracker"

Fred Dooley and Chris from Racine get their panties in a twist over a tracker for the Feingold campaign following Ron Johnson to a gathering of conservatives outside Milwaukee.

Every campaign has someone do this job. If the Johnson campaign doesn't have a tracker then they truly are as incompetent as they have demonstrated themselves to be thus far.

I'm sure Fred and Chris will be just as put off by RJ's "classless" campaign tactics when Johnson's tracker makes his presence known some time in the near future.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Ron Johnson Campaign's Fourth of July Email

We're waaaaaay behind on RJ campaign documents and have some catching up to do, so we're going to start with the Fourth of July email:

Ron Johnson for U.S. Senate 4th of July Email

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Fightin' Russ Feingold Emerges

Russ Feingold released a really slick, hard-hitting ad this morning. It's called "Just Say No" (yuk yuk) and it looks a little something like this:

Yeah, we're going to give it the full Ads of the Damned treatment later on, but this TV spot clearly caused a few staffers at RJ HQ to soil themselves. The Johnson campaign is pretty much dead to rights on this issue, as we noted a month ago. This wasn't a "distortion" by the opposition, this was a hiccup on RJ's part and Feingold took advantage of it.

Last night we noted Johnson's sudden change of mind on drilling in the Great Lakes. Today this makes much more sense. I gather that a sympathetic presence at one of the state's TV stations got an early look at the ad yesterday and tipped RJ's campaign off to the impending air time buy with just enough time to blast out a short preemptive press release.

That clearly did not do the trick, which led Johnson's campaign to release a silly statement that tries to change the subject to jobs in the main text, but only cites sources that have to do with drilling (including a press release the campaign issued less than 24 hours earlier). Well, there was also this little note on Facebook:The campaign's rebuttal is so shoddy that I can only assume that Johnson et al are out filming a response ad as we speak.

We'll get into this topic more later, but suffice it to say that you'll be seeing a lot more of this Russ Feingold on your TV in the months ahead. The Senator has worn many hats in his TV spots over the years: quixotic loose cannon, raconteur, goofball, wonk and a kind of monk (we'll explain later), but this is Fightin' Russ Feingold: he's coming out swinging and he is not one to be fucked with.

Ron Johnson for U.S. Senate Financial Disclosure Forms

A lot is being made about Johnson ownership of a large sum of BP stock, but, honestly, who cares? One could just as easily point out that Johnson also owns stock in the British Sky Broadcasting Group, whose primary share-holder is Rupert Murdoch ... Ergo Johnson will be a slave to the Murdoch message machine!!!

Johnson stock portfolio is actually pretty boring. Now if he owned stock in Medellin Import-Export, Inc. or International Rape and Human Trafficking, LLC -- that would raise some eyebrows, but as it stands Johnson appears to be a higher volume consumer of blue chip stocks. Until recently, BP fit that description perfectly. In fact, it looks like his ownership of stocks like BP and Exxon and some of the other energy concerns are a part of his contribution to the Belport Capital Fund.[Note: Sorry, I looked at the report again and was totally wrong about that.] (But, then again, what do I know?)

Obviously, Johnson's opponents have seized on the detail and are hammering him on it. It's important to point out here that this really has nothing to do with BP. It's not like Johnson himself spends his weekends dumping oil into the Gulf. This is merely an exercise in painting Johnson as unreasonably supportive of big business, and right now there's no more loathed big business than BP.

Apparently, Big Oil is going to be a recurring theme throughout the next few news cycles ... Here's an interesting thought for you all: if gas prices were outrageously high -- like they were two years ago when I swear I was paying $4 a gallon -- and there wasn't a spill in the Gulf would this still be an issue? I have no idea what the answer to that question is -- though I suspect the answer is "no" -- so marinate on that for a while.

Ron Johnson for U.S. Senate Financial Disclosure Report

Monday, July 12, 2010

Ron Johnson's first Egregious Flip-Flop: Drilling in the Great Lakes

I honestly don't know how much traction the "Ron Johnson owns BP stock" argument is gaining, but the Johnson campaign sure thinks enough of it to issue two oil-related press releases today, one of which proves to be Johnson's first blatant flip-flop of the campaign.

A month ago Johnson was pretty clear that if oil was discovered in the Great Lakes, drilling was going to be fair game under his watch, but today he's singing a different tune:

“The 2005 Energy Bill, which Russ Feingold voted against, outlawed drilling in the Great Lakes. I would not support any efforts to overturn the provision which outlaws drilling in the Great Lakes as Wisconsin’s next U.S. Senator. Let me repeat: I would reject any and all efforts to drill in the Great Lakes.”

You can parse the language all you want but the fact of the matter is that Johnson has done a complete turn-around on the issue. Let me repeat: a complete turn-around on the issue.

Who "Won" the World Cup?


Soccer and Germany really aren't two things people associate with each other, but Germany has arguably the most storied World Cup of any country in the world, including Brazil (Brazil has won two more Cups than Germany, but the Mannschaft has been to two more semifinals). This year the Germans yet again finished in the top three, but they did so with a young, stylish and incredibly diverse team. Here's Tunku Varadarajan:
I love this German team, which is sinuous and brilliant and fluid and youthful. Deutschland uber alles has morphed into Deutchland-including-alles: Özil is from Turkey, Klose and Podolski are from Poland, Cacau (they call him Hans, of course) from Brazil, Boateng is half-Ghanaian. But fear not, they still have men in their midst called Bastian Schweinsteiger, a central casting Teuton name that would, in previous years, have provoked titters and sniggers, but now passes unnoticed by fans who care only about his bustling, cerebral, muscular brand of German football-engineering. What’s more—and what is most refreshing in this Man’s Game played by so many cheating wusses—the Germans don’t dive or whine or cup their hands before their faces in aggressive supplication each time referee calls a foul on them. They are clean, unclouded spirits, with a simple, refreshing narrative of playing and scoring, of winning without adornment, but with an abundance of style.
They were a blast to watch this tournament, scoring four goals three times in what seemed like an otherwise low-scoring World Cup, and causing more than a few people to ask themselves if there was a German word for joie de vivre was (Freude zu leben, perhaps? It's not a sentiment typically associated with the German people). It looked like a fast break Benetton ad.

The team was nothing short of an international phenomenon.

The sideshow to this year's World Cup was to showcase South Africa's move beyond it's apartheid past, which was the perfect backdrop for a ethnically diverse squad to represent a country ounce dominated by the Aryan ideal. Israelis were enthusiastically and unapologetically sheering for this team. That's no small thing.

Even Paul the Octopus seemed to have a hand in helping the country shed the ghosts of its past. Obviously the story of a prognosticating cephalopod is endearing in and of itself, but its particularly poignant considering that cartoon octopuses (like this one) were used as antisemitic signafiers prior to WWII.

Obviously, not all is as it seems, but the German squad did an amazing job of representing an ideal in a way that perhaps only sports can and will likely be a crowd favorite in 2014. That's something that even soccer-haters can appreciate.

Here's an incredibly catchy ode to Paul the Octopus:

More Winners
  • The United States:
Landon Donavan's goal will justly be celebrated for years to come. Just watch some of these reactions and tell me with a straight face there isn't a market for big time international soccer in America. The game against Ghana drew almost 20 million TV viewers (much more than the LOST finale, for example). There was talk on ESPN about the goal doing wonders for the US bid to host the 2018 and/or 2022 World Cup.
  • Japan:
Man, was this team fun to watch. I don't think there was a team at the World Cup that seemed to be having more fun than Japan and it was infectious.
  • South American Countries Not Named Brazil or Argentina:
Paraguay and Chile both advanced to the knockout round, while Uruguay recaptured its glory of yore.
  • South Africa:
There was a lot riding on the World Cup in South Africa and, at first, it did not look like the country was going to pull it off. There were ticket distribution issues, security guard strikes and the vuvuzelas -- but the organizers were persistent, worked out the kinks and pushed through the problems to host a memorable event.

Epic Losers:
  • France:
What a meltdown! I mean, that was nothing short of legendary dysfunction of the variety of which only the French are capable. I guess if you're going to crash and burn you might as well do it with elan and panache ...
  • England:
There's little doubt that poor Robert Green will be blamed for England's showing until the end of time, but his teammates never really did much to demonstrate that they were any better than Green's now infamous error.
  • Nike:

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Art of the Idiotic Holiday Column (and How to Plagiarize Yourself)

Since I enjoy ragging on The Progressive so much, I couldn't let this one pass.

Every few years The Progressive unleashes an inane Fourth of July column that appears to take a contrarian position against celebrating the country's birth. This piece will get eaten up by conservative news outlets as evidence that liberals really do hate America. It happened in 2006. Then again in 2008. And it happened once more this weekend.

I could go on ad nauseum at how these columns are insipid exercises in ex-hippie masturbation or temper tantrums thrown by an aging flower child, how the columns are vapid arguments that seemingly lack and concept of logical coherence ... but instead I'm going to take the macro outlook and use this year's edition to demonstrate why reading The Progressive is pointless.

Rothschild kicks off this years edition thusly:
It’s July 4th, my least favorite holiday.

And I’m not referring to the bugs, or the crowds, or the traffic on the highways.

I’m talking about the mindless patriotic bubble bath we’re all supposed to soak in all weekend long.

Well, not me.

My heart does not beat faster at the strains of the Star Spangled Banner, much less at the sight of F-16s flying overhead to kick off the show.

You see, I don’t believe in patriotism.

You can call me unpatriotic if you’d like, but really I’m anti-patriotic.
Keep an eye on the highlighted parts, they look almost exactly alike Rothschild's 2008 effort:
It’s July 4th again, a day of near-compulsory flag-waving and nation-worshipping. Count me out.

Spare me the puerile parades.

Don’t play that martial music, white boy.

And don’t befoul nature’s sky with your F-16s.

You see, I don’t believe in patriotism.

It’s not that I’m anti-American, but I am anti-patriotic.
There are many things one can call this "recycling of ledes." Some might call this "plagiarizing oneself." Others, "choosing not to reinvent the wheel." I call it unforgivably lazy writing. Honestly, "Play that martial music, white boy," is one of the stupidest things I've ever read and one of the reasons I remembered Rothschild's 2008 column so vividly.

This is not how ideas are advanced. This is not how, a-hem, Progress is made.

To be fair, Rothschild does up the ante in his latest effort, decrying not "nationalism," but "patriotism" as the gateway drug that leads to (and you knew this word was coming) fascism ... so, he's got that going for him -- but the essence of the column hasn't changed since it's earlier incarnations.

And this is the problem at the heart of The Progressive: they've been essentially reprinting the same article over and over for years now. If it's not a screed bemoaning the enjoyment of an awesome holiday, it's a reminder of how much things such in Latin America and that it's all your fault or a look into what rapacious multinational corporations will be hot to hate on this fall.

Opinion magazines have to evolve with a changing world. Principles can remain static, but, for the love of God, at a very minimum a magazine's content has to change and even that isn't happening at The Progressive anymore.

Friday, July 2, 2010

More Emails from the Ron Johnson Campaign

Two to share with you today.

The first was actually sent before the Tim Pawlenty email, so it's the campaign's seventh:
Ron Johnson for U.S. Senate Email #7
The next is the campaign's ninth, an update on the progress of the "Fein Gold Card" fundraising effort:
Ron Johnson for U.S. Senate Email #9

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Absurdity of Ayn Rand Acolytes

Patrick McIlheran has a post that reads something like "John Galt blah bah blah Bucyrus blah blah blah Free Markets blah blah blah" ... or something.

The problem that McIlheran and the rest of the cranky conservative cognoscenti in Southeastern Wisconsin ignore is that the U.S. Import-Export Bank is a government institution. If the Bacyrus ordeal were really a corruption of the free market system they would have found their loan from a private lending institution. Unfortunately, private lending institutions don't have $600 million to hand out willy nilly these days.

Basically, these conservatives are complaining that a government agency isn't handing out cash like it's supposed to ... so if the "environmental concerns" of conservatives were taken out of the equation, we're still left with a industrial company relying on massive government assistance to carry out its business.

How the hell does that jive with the "small government" rhetoric these guys deploy endlessly?

If the dudes who worship at the altar of Ayn Rand and invoke the name John Galt like a had an ounce of intellectual integrity they would be celebrating the loss of the Bacyrus jobs as the "free market resolving ineffectiveness," or whatever.

But that doesn't make for good politics now, does it? Especially in an election year when it's always the private sector that creates jobs and always the government that's responsible for unemployment.

Yeah, That Just Happened

So Jonathan Krause is actually going to go through with it.

First of all, I think Krause deserves some credit for actually sacking up and making a go at a race for office. The world is full of far too many armchair generals (like, a-hem, yours truly) who are far too content to sit behind a microphone (or anonymously blog) and spew their venom without their words actually having consequences. So, kudos.

Secondly, I obviously don't think Krause has much of a shot at winning.

Now, if you will excuse me, I will be the man drunkenly singing the profanity-laden verison of "Total Eclipse of the Heart" at the Karaoke tent at Sawdust Days all weekend long.