Brewtown Politico

Carrying a little stick and speaking loudly in Milwaukee


Newsweek magazine's My Turn column has an inspired submission this week, We're Fighting Terror, But Killing Freedom, by a Mr. Randall Hamud, an American-born Palestinian-descended attorney in San Diego who has suffered numerous threats against his life for defending many Arab-Americans; Americans whose rights of Habeus Corpus, among others, have been suspended in the wake of the so-named U.S.A. Patriot Act.

Among his case load was the fate of three San Diego natives of middle-eastern descent who were arrested despite full-cooperation with the FBI for being briefly acquainted with two of the September 11th hijackers. The testimonies of the FBI agents were ruled "not credible" and "misleading" by New York federal district court Judge Shira Scheindlin, and one of the clients released. They were claimed to be incooperative so as to, in Mr. Hamud's words, "be spirited away to New York."

Other references are made in the short essay to the 1200 Arab and Muslim men who suffered secret arrests and are still being held in military prison indefinitely and without representation, forgotten by a fickle public. "Since when does the Constitution allow citizens arrested on U.S. soil to be held beyond the reach of the courts?"

Mr. Hamud ends his piece with the eerily poignant quote of Benjamin Franklin's, "Those who would trade liberty for security deserve neither."

For the last few days, I've spent most of my time wandering around numerous Milwaukee neighborhoods. This city is under occupation. Hundreds of thousands of bikers have awakened a sleeping giant.

Last night, for instance, my friends and I walked over to a block party over at Frank's Power Plant bar in Bayview. The music started the night out right. People were dancing, and generally pretty relaxed. After a couple hours, the band inside was going to begin so we planned our next move.

We maneuvered north to the Walker's Point district. The party here was pretty large in scale. There was a stage with some band playing. We talked with a group of people from Texas and Indiana that had rolled in for the festivities.

After about an hour here, we decided our journey must continue. We continued north to downtown. Lo and behold, more bikes, more celebration. We walked up Water Street and grabbed a table to rest our legs, and to sip a beer.

At this point, we are blocks from Brady Street. Therefore, it would be silly not to see what other madness was taking place. We walked on up, and were not disappointed. The street from end to end was packed with revellers talking with friends, cruising on their bikes, and having a few malt beverages. It was a this point, we ran into Ben on his now operational Harley Sprint. We gathered on the sidewalk between Brady Street Hardware and the Oriental Coast restaurant almost in awe of this event that has overtaken Milwaukee.

For all the noise, traffic problems, and such, this weekend has been a lot of fun. For locals like myself, this is about more than celebrating the success of a local company. It's about celebrating this city and showing the visitors that this town knows how to throw a hell of a party.


"Recall" is the newest and most popular term these days it seems in politics. Today in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, we see the headline Gov. Doyle's ratings reach new low. Currently according to polls his numbers are down to 55% approval. Republicans left and right will criticize Doyle of breaking his words on taxes. Others will say compared to other states budget crisis' this is nothing, and it's not bad at all.

Wisconsin is one of the highest taxed states, and yes, that may lower an approval rating. If we look at where Gov. McCallum was last year I'm sure the same thing could be said. Ironic thing is the polls were not pointed at the Legislature either, who's approval ratings also would coincide with Doyle's due to people's frustration.


Is Hell freezing over? The Y-Not is finally open on Kenilworth Place between Farwell and Oakland avenues on Milwaukee's east side.

For those not familar, they've been "working" on this place for years. This led many of us to joke about how old we would be by the time it opened, and whether the property was simply a tax write-off.

Owner Tony DePalma also operates the Y-Not II tavern on Lyon Street and Van Buren.


Hales Corners Speedway, known to most of us as good 'ol "Crazy Jim's" back in the days, will close. This race track was enjoyed by the Milwaukee area as well as many surrounding communities. I remember being a kid and going to those good old Demo Derby's, hoping the car you picked that just died came back to life later on in the show.

Four generations of fans got a chance to have fun over the years here. Rising costs and declines of drivers were amongst a few things that made the final decision. Perhaps it will go somewhere else, but for now a once bright light will dim upon the dirt track that once was lit with excitement.

Tom Haudricourt says it all in his lead today about the Milwaukee Brewers. "To not finish with a better record than last season, the Milwaukee Brewers would have to go 0-31 the rest of the way."

The Brewers are certainly not a great team right now. However, they have won eight games in a row. Also, for anyone who's paying attention, they are not the same pathetic roster of players they were in 2002.

Looking ahead, their minor league affiliates are fairly highly rated as a result of some good drafting and strategic trades. Call me a homer, but I'm optimistic the Brewers will be a contender in three years.


The local case involving the death of an eight-year-old autistic boy, as a result of a religious ritual, has gone international. BBC News reports that the death has been ruled a homicide.

Terrance Cottrell, Jr. died after a minister at the Faith Temple Church of the Apostolic Faith sat on the boy's chest. Pastor David Hemphill said the church was just trying to "take this spirit that was tormenting this little boy to death."

All is not well in Milwaukee. Despite the development occurring around town, high unemployment and the loss of major businesses continue to plague the city.

According to a new report released by UWM's Center for Economic Development, unemployment in Milwaukee is 9.3 percent, over two points above the national "big city" average.

Great development is happening in the city. More people are moving in, and appreciating what urban life has to offer. You can tell just by seeing the amount of traffic heading downtown during off peak hours like Sunday evenings. A few years ago, you may have been the only person on the road at that hour.

The next mayor of Milwaukee can ride on the some of the success initiated by Mayor Norquist, but is going to be under pressure to bring in new jobs that will drastically reduce rampant unemployment.


They're on their way. You may have already seen a few of them. Maybe they're in the lane next to you cruising along revving that engine to make sure you take notice. Perhaps they're parked on the side of the freeway looking at a map puzzled by the Hoan bridge.

That's right folks. It's Harley time. For most Milwaukeeans, I'm guessing the moment in the sun feels good. The city and surrounding areas get a little attention from a million outsiders for a week of partying. There will be festivals, block parties, and other events to keep both visitors and locals occupied.

There are others who are freaking out and looking for any excuse to get out of dodge while these motorized steeds occupy Milwaukee. There is help available to these people as well.

Thanks to John December for listing Brewtown on his internet directory MKE blue. It's a valuable resource for searching for anything related to Milwaukee.

The next time you need that link to the local theatre, the sports team, or a government official in Milwaukee, click on over to MKE blue.


Fox News has lost its case against Al Franken and his new book entitled "Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right."

Rupert Murdoch's media baby claimed its copyright of the words "fair and balanced" prohibited Franken from using them in the book's title. One of the more hilarious things argued by Fox News attorney Dori Hanswirth was that Franken's book wasn't really satire. "This is much too subtle to be considered a parody," she said. Is she saying that Fox News viewers are simply too stupid to figure out that Franken is poking fun? That's not a very flattering picture to paint of your audience.

There actually is a serious note to this. I think Fox News knew there was a good chance they would lose this case. However, I believe the primary motive for the lawsuit was to send the message that if you are going to challenge Fox News as Franken did, you'd best be prepared for an expensive legal battle.


As most people are aware by now, Kohl's grocery stores will all be closing by the end of August.

It's not so different from K-mart being neutralized by Wal-Mart on one end and Target on the other. In this case, Pick & Save and Jewel-Osco simply out-marketed, out-priced, and out-smarted those running Kohl's.

That having been said, it does sadden me that Kohl's is closing. When I was growing up, my mother and I would always shop at the Kohl's store in downtown Waukesha. That particular store has now closed, but like many of them around Milwaukee, you can always tell the lifeless building once housed a Kohl's grocery store. They had that unique 1950s architecture, and while many have been converted to something else, the ghost of Kohl's still lingers.


There's nothing quite like a hike through the mountains. Tonight, I returned from my vacation in Colorado. Thanks to my fine hosts Mike and Jen, I was able to visit Denver, Boulder, and spend a day hiking through the mountains near Estes Park.

Rocky Mountain National Park is in the northern part of the state of Colorado. Like most everyone, I've been aware of the Rocky Mountains since I was a child. I'd flown over them on my way to the west coast in the past, but hadn't taken the time to visit them in person until last week.

Our trail started out in a field of tall grass along a river. Gradually, the terrain became more arduous. As we proceeded, the trail began to climb and the path became rougher as the elevation increased. Along the way, we heard wildlife rustling through the trees, said hello to various critters having their lunch, and yielded to the occasional snake crossing our road. After a time, we came to Cub Lake where we sat and listened to the water and the wind blowing through mountains. There was no roar of the highway in the background and no sign of civilization. It was the most serene experience I've had in some time.


Following up on the post regarding the property tax freeze. I believe if local governments really are interested in holding the line on taxes, they can figure out a way without the state dictating it to them.

I continue to be amazed that there hasn't been more talk about merging services and even entire governments in Wisconsin. For instance, Milwaukee County is made up of the City of Milwaukee and 18 suburbs. Is there any reason why all these municipalities can't merge into one? Services could be consolidated, administrative staff streamlined, and costs lowered.

This has been done in Indianapolis, Lousiville, and Nashville among other places.

Tomorrow, the State Legislature will vote on whether to override Gov. Doyle's veto of the property tax freeze.

Since this issue has become another political bitchslapping match, some things need to be said to bring some truth into the equation.

The property tax freeze will result in local governments having less control over their own budgets. While there is a provision for allowing residents the ability to have a referendum in order to raise property taxes, this is neither practical nor just. People elect representatives to make decisions on difficult issues, and that's what they should be doing in regards to budgeting.

That having been said, property taxes are disproportionately high in Wisconsin when compared to other states. That may be because we fund more through property taxes than other states do. It's been my position for some time that schools should be funded at the state level. Not only would this remove much of the inequity between school districts, it would drastically lower the property tax (although I acknowledge this would merely be a shift from one form of taxation to another). Mandates from the state, and rising costs are two primary factors in why property taxes have been on the rise.

This is how things have come together. Last year, Republicans tried to kill shared revenue to local governments entirely. Now this year, the budget was balanced by cutting shared revenue and education at the state level. Meanwhile, Republicans were disappointed by the fact the Gov. Doyle didn't break his pledge about raising state taxes in his budget. So they dusted off Sen. Bob Welch's property tax freeze bill that hadn't gotten anywhere under a Republican governor, and pushed it into the forefront. With a freeze, the state is essentially saying "we're taking away funding that you've utilized to maintain local services, and we're not going to allow you make up the funding on your own."

Do I believe the veto will be overridden? No, and I don't think the Republicans in the legislature believed it would be either. It's the best of both worlds if they don't win. They can continue to bash the governor, property taxes will continue to be an issue they can use to raise money, and they don't have to be responsible for the loss of services at the local level.

Osama who? The mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks has dropped entirely off the radar screen. You can almost hear Paul Wolfowitz saying "Dude, he is so 2001. Get with the times, man."

Meanwhile, today in Afghanistan, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) took over command of the peacekeeping operation in Kabul.


Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy is speaking out on mandatory minimum sentencing of convicted criminals.

Kennedy, speaking before the American Bar Association, said in many cases sentences are too severe and unwise. While Congress certainly had the legal authority to pass the law mandating minimum sentencing, it removes responsibility from the judge where it belongs.


The FBI has released new information regarding United Flight 93, which crashed in Pennsylvania on September 11, 2001. According to the agency, the plane may have been crashed deliberately by hijackers after a revolt by passengers who learned the plane had been hijacked. Earlier reports had indicated passengers stormed the cockpit and forced the plane to the ground.

In the scheme of things, it was still the heroic efforts of the passengers to retake that flight which prevented it from hitting its intended target. Officials believe Flight 93 was headed for Washington in an attempt to collide with either the U.S. Capitol or the White House. As if the events of that day weren't horrific enough, it would have been made even worse had these terrorists completed their mission.

At the time, I was working at the Capitol as a legislative correspondent for Sen. Russ Feingold, and I'll never forget what the brave people of United Flight 93 did to save the country from another horrible tragedy.


The Candidate the White House May Fear Most

General Wesley Clark has been hinting for months that he may run for president in 2004. The group behind the website say they have raised over $350,000 already for a potential campaign. In addition there are blogs and several other sites dedicated to convincing Clark to run for the presidency.

Is Gen. Clark the White House's worst nightmare?


More Good News for the American Worker

A report released by the Chicago firm Challenger Gray & Christmas says planned job cuts in July were up 43%. This comes on the heels of Friday's report by the Labor Department which indicated half a million people have simply given up looking for work.

The news didn't get any better for the unemployed this week when a Jim Beam distillary in Kentucky unexpectedly burst into flames following a lightning storm.


Talk to me!

Two New Yorkers set up shop in the city daily with signs that say "talk to me!" There is no catch, and no begging for donations involved. Liz and Bill, the couple, are simply trying to initiate conversation among total strangers. What a novel idea.

Think about your own daily experience. When a stranger passes you by, do you say "hi" or "how's it goin" or even make eye contact with him or her? If not, why not? Saying hello doesn't make you a stalker.

Have we gotten to the point in this country where we fear our neighbors so much, we can't even acknowledge their existence? The next time you walk by someone on the street, send out a simple greeting. You may just be making their day.

Link snagged from Metafilter, the blog of champions.


As comical and juvenile as the House of Representatives is from time to time, it just hasn't been the same since Rep. James Traficant (D-OH) left. Traficant was convicted on charges of bribery and racketeering, and is currently serving an eight-year prison sentence in Pennsylvania.

The Ohio congressman now has dreams of running for president, and has signed off on the formation of an exploratory committee. "The battle to free James Traficant and to evict the Socialists and 'free traders' from the Democratic Party is now under way," campaign spokesman Marcus Belk said.