Brewtown Politico

Carrying a little stick and speaking loudly in Milwaukee


Sen. Russ Feingold has a guest blog over at the Huffington Post, and writes about an exit strategy for Iraq:

"When I was in Baghdad in February, a senior coalition officer told me that he believes the U.S. could “take the wind out of the sails of the insurgents” by providing a clear, public plan and timeframe for the remaining U.S. mission. He thought this could rob them of their recruiting momentum. I also think it could rob them of some unity. All reports indicate that the forces fighting U.S. troops and attacking Iraqi police, soldiers, and civilians are a disparate bunch with different agendas, from embittered former regime elements to foreign fighters. The one thing that unites them is opposition to America’s presence in Iraq. Remove that factor, and we may see a more divided, less effective, more easily defeated insurgency."

I'm still not convinced this administration wants an exit strategy. When you consider they're closing bases in Saudi Arabia, and opening 14 new ones in Iraq, it becomes clear the Pentagon is simply reorganizing our presence in the Middle East.

Plasma televisions for State Senate offices? The most basic plasma screen televisions are around a couple grand a piece which is hardly necessary for use in a State Senator's office.

The Wisconsin Eye program, which would take the C-SPAN concept to Wisconsin's legislature, is a great idea. However, I know from experience that in DC, Congressional offices utilize pretty modest televisions. When I was a staffer, I had a craptastic 5" black and white TV at my desk, and it functioned just fine for monitoring the Senate floor. Hmm, I'm suddenly envisioning having a 50" plasma in my old cubicle complete with 5.1 digital sound.

Anyway, I'm willing to help resolve this little mess so if you work for the state legislature, go to Yahoo's shopping page and I'm sure you'll be able to find 33 affordable televisions that will function just fine for what you need them to do.


Putting together the president's logic for going to war

We invaded Iraq to free the Iraqi people from Saddam Hussein so that terrorists could enter the country and we could kill them there to avoid 9/11 2.0 based on what the President Bush is telling the American people. Bush's original justification regarding Saddam's non-existent weapons of mass destruction is completely out the window now. I'm sure the Iraqi people are thrilled with us now that, in addition to dealing with an insurgency, Iraq is attracting terrorists from around the Middle East as a result of the invasion.

In his speech last night, Bush briefly mentioned Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi:

"The only way our enemies can succeed is if we forget the lessons of September 11, if we abandon the Iraqi people to men like Zarqawi and if we yield the future of the Middle East to men like bin Laden. For the sake of our nation's security, this will not happen on my watch."

It's the president who hasn't learned how to deal with bin Laden and Zarqawi, two terrorists that we had the chance to capture and didn't. In the case of Zarqawi, the president killed three plans assembled by the Pentagon to catch him before the war, because they feared it would undercut their justification for invading Iraq. Regarding bin Laden, he was present at the battle of Tora Bora in late 2001, and the administration has admitted it failed to catch bin Laden as a result of sending in Afghan forces instead of committing US ground troops.

CNN's polling director points out many Americans didn't watch the speech last night and of those that did, they were 2-1 Republican. The rest of the country appears to be literally tuning out this president.

In case this one hasn't made its way to you: Boffins create zombie dogs

In the words of my friend Andy, this can only end badly.

The new design for the World Trade Center was unveiled today.

No word yet on whether Donald Trump has declared this latest design crap as well. In May, he offered his own design which called for rebuilding the old Trade Center towers.

For obvious reasons, the rebuilding of this site is getting a lot of interest nationally and internationally. There's nostalgia for the old towers to be built, but ultimately the people of New York City should be the ones to decide what gets built there.


My friend Mark is urging people to vote for Nicole D. to be the next morning show host on WISN.

In his words: "She's one of only two women left in the competition, plus *gasp* she's a liberal!"

UPDATE: Nicole has advanced to the 2nd round.

The US Senate has finally passed an energy bill. The vote was 85-12 with Wisconsin's senators splitting their votes. Herb Kohl voted yea and Russ Feingold voted nay.

Unlike the House bill, the Senate version does not address drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). However, the budget resolution already passed by Congress does call for appropriations to begin drilling there.

One thing I've noticed many supporters of drilling in ANWR don't realize is that even if drilling there proceeds, much of the oil produced will end up being exported to other countries like oil currently produced in Alaska's North Slope.

When you consider that and USGS estimates showing there may only be about six months worth of oil there, the idea that this will help our domestic energy situation is laughable.

Across the union, there has been increased pressure on school districts to water down or eliminate the teaching of evolution.

One state that has been under considerable pressure Kansas where in 1999, the board voted to eliminate any mention of evolution from its curricula standards. While teachers were not barred from teaching evolution, the decision means students are not tested on the subject at all on statewide achievment tests.

The push is now on to implement the new creation science fad of "intelligent design." This has prompted an open letter to the Kansas School Board urging them to consider other "alternative theories" of intelligent design for future curriculum. Give it a read and pass it on.

Thanks to JB for the link to the letter.


ColdFusion04 is filling in for Folkbum today and offers up a transcript and audio of the entertaining minutes of Rep. James Sensenbrenner's Q&A session Sunday night in Pewaukee.

The Judiciary Committee chairman was questioned on his recent behavior at a hearing on the USA Patriot Act where he went on a tyrade and gaveled the meeting to a close, and abrutly stormed out of the room over the objections of others on the panel.

Constituent: Calm down... That's all I'm saying... Now look, you're ready to jump out of your chair at me!

Sensenbrenner: I DIDN'T RECOGNIZE YOU! [His face was beet red here - veins bulging] Ms Crawford has the floor, now one at a time!

Constituent: All I'm saying is that you were hot-headed. And you were beyond the composure that I would expect from my Congressman, whether or not you feel the rules are out of order or not. I would ask for an apology for having been represented in that manner [85-year old wingnut in front of me can be heard: "OH, Come on..."].

Sensenbrenner: I don't think an apology is necessary for enforcing the rules maam. You know I don't apologize for enforcing the rules. The witnesses...

Constituent: I'm not asking you to apologize for enforcing the rules...

Click here for video of the hearing in question from June 11.

The Supreme Court ruled Monday that cable companies aren't required to lease their cable lines to competitors, overturning a previous decision by the US Court of Appeals.

In southeastern Wisconsin, you currently have a few options of where to purchase your cable broadband service. It's unclear if Time Warner intends to gobble up all of these customers now as a result. The ruling certainly gives them an incentive to.

On Fox News Sunday, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld confirmed the US has had secret meetings with Iraqi insurgent leaders.

According to the article in the WaPo, the goal is to "drive a wedge between the Iraqi insurgents and foreigners."

Asked to respond to a report that US military representatives met with several Sunni Iraqi insurgents twice in June, Rumsfeld told Fox News ''there have probably been many more than that" and described the contacts as an effort to ''split people off and get some people to be supportive" of the political process in Iraq.


The latest poll numbers from the American Research Group have some rather striking results when they are broken down based on the party preference of the respondents.

Question: Do you approve or disapprove of the way George W. Bush is handling his job as president?

  • Among Republicans: 84% approve, 12% disapprove.
  • Among Democrats: 18% approve, 77% disapprove.
  • Among Independents: 17% approve, 75% disapprove.
The degree to which independents have abandoned President Bush is both surprising and revealing. Loyal Republicans are the only ones in the country still supporting this failed president.

Thanks to Jerome at MyDD for this one.


The Supreme Court ruled yesterday on a case involving eminent domain. It involved a New London, Connecticut property owners who have refused to give up their homes so that the city can use the land as part of a riverfront development project.

Eminent domain is a well established right of government, and it has been used in the past to take private land for building roads, parks and other projects. However, as this editorial in USA Today explains, this latest ruling may signal a green light for abuse of the practice:

New London impressed the court majority with a carefully formulated economic development plan that would broadly benefit the community. But other localities have brazenly abused their power to seize citizens' property:

• A city in Washington state removed a woman in her 80s from her home of 55 years supposedly to expand a sewer plant, then sold the land to an auto dealership.

• A New Jersey development agency tried to seize an elderly woman's home and two businesses to provide more parking for one of Donald Trump's casino hotels; the state Supreme Court stopped it.

• A city in Kansas took a used-car lot and turned it over to the new-car dealer next door, who had failed in his efforts to buy the site from the previous owner.

It's an odd day when I side with the likes of Scalia, Thomas, and Rehnquist, but their concerns were justified. Siding with those three was Sandra Day O'Connor who summed it up best:

In a dissenting opinion, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor objected that "the words `for public use' do not realistically exclude any takings, and thus do not exert any constraint on the eminent domain power."

O'Connor said, "Under the banner of economic development, all private property is now vulnerable to being taken and transferred to another private owner, so long as it might be upgraded."

The majority did indicate that states have the right to pass tougher restrictions on governments seizing property. This ruling may provide some impetus for that to happen.

Recent reports showing a sharp drop in military recruitment is raising concern since the Army, Marines, and National Guard have all announced they've fallen short of their goals. Jesus' General presents Operation Yellow Elephant as one way to address this:

Encourage a College Republican to enlist today for the war in Iraq they wanted so badly.


In case you somehow missed these fine words from White House deputy chief of staff Karl Rove:

"Conservatives saw the savagery of 9/11 in the attacks and prepared for war; liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers."

Rove was speaking at a fundraiser in New York when he let his true colors show. Granted, he was throwing red meat to the sheep in attendance, but it doesn't change the fact that it's total bull. After the attacks on September 11, 2001, liberals and Democrats in Congress and throughout the country supported the war in Afghanistan, whose government was supporting the people who attacked us in al Qaeda and its leader Osama bin Laden.

Now that this administration has shown their incompetence on the foreign policy stage with the war in Iraq, the support of the country has turned against the president leaving strategists like Rove looking for ways to stop the bleeding. Guys like Rove see liberals and anyone else who questions the motives and actions of those currently holding power as traitors.

He's not alone in that worldview. This past week, wingnut talk show host Bill O'Reilly called for locking up those he sees as crossing the line from "dissent" to "undermining":

"So, all those clowns over at the liberal radio network, we could incarcerate them immediately. Will you have that done, please? Send over the FBI and just put them in chains, because they, you know, they're undermining everything and they don't care."

`The Congress shall have power to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag of the United States.'

In 2004, it was gay marriage. This year, Republican strategists are hoping to resurrect a Constitutional amendment banning flag desecration as an issue to galvanize voters. The GOP controlled House of Representatives got the ball rolling by passing the amendment yesterday by a vote of 286-130.

The amendment has been proposed before as a means of getting around Supreme Court decisions in 1989 and 1990 which struck down state and federal flag desecration laws as unconstitutional.

For the sake of argument, I'll humor those who believe this issue deserves the attention it's sure to get leading up to the 2006 midterm elections.

What is a flag? Can it be made of cloth, polyester, plastic or simply drawn on a piece of paper? What defines desecration? Is it only burning or does it go further? What of those flags people hang off of their car windows or tacky dresses and shirts containing the flag?

Considering the Pandora's box we would be opening by approving this, we'd be better off utilizing our law enforcement resources for combatting violent crime and terrorism.

Also, it's eye opening that for the second year in a row, the "party of small government" has proposed a Constitutional amendment aiming to restrict civil liberties. Maybe we should start referring to them as the freedom-haters.


My friend Carlos points out that additional attention needs to be focused on that other leaked Washington memo.

From the Observer article:

The documents obtained by The Observer represent an attempt by the Bush administration to undermine completely the science of climate change and show that the US position has hardened during the G8 negotiations. They also reveal that the White House has withdrawn from a crucial United Nations commitment to stabilise greenhouse gas emissions.

The documents show that Washington officials:
  • Removed all reference to the fact that climate change is a 'serious threat to human health and to ecosystems';
  • Deleted any suggestion that global warming has already started;
  • Expunged any suggestion that human activity was to blame for climate change.

It's another example of this administration creating their own reality rather than doing the work and dealing with the problem at hand. Shameful.


Frist flip flops on Bolton vote

The Senate Majority leader had been saying there wouldn't be any further votes on John Bolton's nomination since it's clear he doesn't have the votes to be confirmed. After a meeting with the president, Frist says he will schedule another vote.

Their strategy is likely this: Hold a third cloture vote on Bolton knowing ahead of time it will fail. This will provide more political cover for President Bush to make a recess appointment of Bolton when Congress is out of session in July or August.

I have little doubt that if the White House insists on not providing documents requested by the Senate and doesn't withdraw Bolton's nomination, this president has the arrogance to give the finger to the Senate and make the recess appointment.

An upcoming issue of GQ reports on Saddam Hussein's life in military custody.

"Saddam Hussein loves Doritos, hates Froot Loops, admires President Reagan, thinks Clinton was 'OK' and considers both Presidents Bush 'no good.' He talks a lot, worries about germs and insists he is still president of Iraq."

I suppose it makes sense that Hussein would admire the president who provided him with weapons and millions of dollars in aid back in the 1980s. Elsewhere in the article, Hussein goes on to offer advice on relationships to a soldier charged with guarding him.

Saddam was friendly toward his young guards and sometimes offered fatherly advice. When O'Shea told him he was not married, Saddam "started telling me what to do," recalled the soldier. "He was like, 'You gotta find a good woman. Not too smart, not too dumb. Not too old, not too young. One that can cook and clean."'


In his press briefing today, White House press secretary Scott McClellan left open the possibility that John Bolton could get a recess appointment if the Senate refuses to confirm him.

"'We're focused on getting him an up-or-down vote on the floor of the Senate. And hopefully some Democrats will recognize that there is a reasonable effort to reach a compromise and will break with the ranks of their leadership,' McClellan said.

'It's unfortunate that the Democratic leadership continues to block his nomination, particularly when he has majority support,' he said. 'It's very clear now that the Democratic leadership is not interested in the information. They're only interested in blocking this nomination.'"

A group of Senators have requested the White House turn over communications intercepts Bolton requested from the National Security Agency while serving in the State Department. The Senate has a say in this matter, and if the White House doesn't turn over the requested information it is they who are "blocking the nomination." If there's nothing incriminating there, then why not come forward with the information?


Facing growing public discontent with the war in Iraq, President Bush is reportedly going into full PR/damage control mode, and plans radio addresses and appearances outside Washington. According to the AP, "he will emphasize the importance of democracy in Iraq and elsewhere..."

Be sure to check out Greg Beato's take on this over at Wonkette.

White House press secretary Scott McClellan says the White House won't respond to a letter from Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) about the Downing Street memo and the months leading up to war in Iraq.

From the gaggle yesterday:

Q Scott, on another topic, has the President or anyone else from the administration responded to the letter sent last month by Congressman John Conyers and signed by dozens of members of the House of Representatives, regarding the Downing Street memo? Has the President or anyone else responded?

McCLELLAN: Not that I'm aware of.

Q Why not?

McCLELLAN: Why not? Because I think that this is an individual who voted against the war in the first place [Conyers] and is simply trying to rehash old debates that have already been addressed. And our focus is not on the past. It's on the future and working to make sure we succeed in Iraq.

These matters have been addressed, Elaine. I think you know that very well. The press --

Q Scott, 88 members of Congress signed that letter.

McCLELLAN: The press -- the press have covered it, as well.

Q But, Scott, don't they deserve the courtesy of a response back?

McCLELLAN: Again, this has been addressed….


Q Scott, on John Conyers, John Conyers is walking here with that letter again, as you have acknowledged from Elaine's comment. But 88 leaders on Capitol Hill signed that letter. Now, I understand what you're saying about him, but what about the other 88 who signed this letter, wanting information, answers to these five questions?

McCLELLAN: How did they vote on the war -- the decision to go to war in Iraq?

Q Well, you have two -- well, if that's the case, you have two Republicans who are looking for a timetable. How do you justify that?

McCLELLAN: I already talked about that.

Q I understand, but let's talk about this.

McCLELLAN: Like I said --

Q Well, just because -- I understand -- but if you're talking about unifying and asking for everyone to come together, why not answer, whether they wanted the war or not, answer a letter where John Conyers wrote to the President and then 88 congressional leaders signed? Why not answer that?

McCLELLAN: For the reasons I stated earlier. This is simply rehashing old debates that have already been discussed.

One would think they could at least acknowledge the letter with some type of response even if it simply avoids the question and maintains that freedom is on the march in Iraq.

As military recruitments continue to fall, momentum is picking up for getting rid of the ban on homosexuals serving in the military.

Critics of the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy are gaining new allies, including a few conservative congressmen and a West Point professor, as they press on multiple fronts to overturn the ban on out-of-the-closet gays and lesbians in the armed forces.

As part of their strategy, opponents of the policy are now highlighting the ongoing struggles of Army and Marine recruiters. The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network say in a new report that many highly trained specialists - including combat engineers and linguists - are being discharged involuntarily while the Pentagon "is facing extreme challenges in recruiting and retaining troops."

Thanks to Ben for the story.


One of the most obvious signs that this White House knows it's in political trouble is when it goes on the attack against individual Democrats. Last week it was DNC chair Howard Dean. This week, it's Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL).

Durbin gave a statement on the Senate floor and quoted an FBI report on interrogations at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. According to that report, some detainees have been chained to the floor in the fetal position in extreme temperatures and been deprived of food and water.

"If I read this to you and did not tell you that it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime -- Pol Pot or others -- that had no concern for human beings," Durbin said.

Said McClellan: "I think the senator's remarks are reprehensible. It's a real disservice to our men and women in uniform who adhere to high standards and uphold our values and our laws."

A Durbin spokesman said Wednesday that the senator did not plan to apologize for the comments. The senator issued a statement saying it's the administration that should apologize "for abandoning the Geneva Conventions and authorizing torture techniques that put our troops at risk and make Americans less secure."

The right-wing echo machine is throwing Durbin's remarks around as red meat for their followers and the media to lap up. Rather than deal with problems at Guantanamo cited in the FBI report, they'll attack the messenger whether it's Newsweek or Dick Durbin.


The House of Representatives voted on Wednesday to prohibit the FBI and Justice Department from using the USA Patriot Act to search library and book store records.

The amendment, offered by Rep. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), passed by a vote of 238-187. It's a setback for the power hungry Bush administration which is threatening a veto if the Senate passes the bill and sends it on to the president.

As Bush's approval ratings continue to plummet, he's losing more battles on domestic and foreign policy issues.

The autopsy of Terri Schiavo was released today, and not surprisingly Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist was incorrect in his diagnosis from a remote location that she was responding to visual stimuli.

From Think Progress:

Freshly-released autopsy results reveal that Terri Schiavo was blind:

Pinellas-Pasco Medical Examiner Jon Thogmartin concluded that…her brain was about half of normal size when she died. …

Thogmartin says her brain was “profoundly atrophied” – and that the damage was “irreversable.” He also says, “The vision centers of her brain were dead” – meaning she was blind.


The Hill is reporting that the House Judiciary Committee will no longer allow ranking member John Conyers (D-MI) to reserve House office space for his forums.

Conyers began holding forums on such topics as election reform and the state of the American media after Democrats on the committee felt those issues weren't being heard in committee. However, on at least one occasion participants in the forum referred to Conyers as "Mr. Chairman" prompting Republicans to accuse Conyers of misleading viewers that it was official committee business. That's the line of reasoning that a majority spokesman Jeff Lungren used to explain why they'll no longer be able to rent space.

“They were unwilling or unable to make those changes,” Lungren said. “At this point, if they want to hold these forums, they’ll have to find some other place to do it.”

Sean McLaughlin, deputy chief of staff for Sensenbrenner, recently wrote to a minority staffer in more pointed language.

“I’m sitting here watching your ‘forum’ on C-SPAN,” McLaughlin wrote. “Just to let you know, it was your last. Don’t bother asking [for a room] again.”

In a separate article, the paper notes that future forums will take place at DNC headquarters.

Negative publicity too much for Walker to overcome.

According to James Rowen, Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker's campaign for governor is already losing momentum more than a year out from the election. From the column:

Walker will have been at the reins as Milwaukee County executive for four years by the time the 2006 gubernatorial campaign is in full swing. It is a job that he ran for aggressively, so continuing to blame the failed Ament administration for his problems, or failing to find innovative solutions, won't be good enough.

Voters will want to know what has he done to fix these problems, and the answer right now is, "well, not much." That's not a plan either for a successful run for governor or service as the county's top official.

It's far too early to count Walker out. He's an experienced politician who knows how to grab headlines with stories like the mismanagement of the public museum. However, he's going to have to give voters out-state more evidence that he deserves to be the Republican nominee.


The Washington Post has a column about a British memo from 2002 indicating the Bush administration was determined to go to war in Iraq and had put little thought into post-war planning.

Here are a couple key passages from the memo:

"The US Government's military planning for action against Iraq is proceeding apace. But, as yet, it lacks a political framework. In particular, little thought has been given to creating the political conditions for military action, or the aftermath and how to shape it."

"It is just possible that an ultimatum could be cast in terms which Saddam would reject (because he is unwilling to accept unfettered access) and which would not be regarded as unreasonable by the international community. However, failing that (or an Iraqi attack) we would be most unlikely to achieve a legal base for military action by January 2003."

On a related note, Gallup has a new poll out that shows nearly 6 in 10 Americans believe the US should withdraw some or all of its troops from Iraq.


Stuff worth reading heading into the weekend

Reid: No Documents, no Bolton. It seems under the leadership of Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), Senate Democrats have finally learned what it means to be the opposition party and when to stand on principle.

If Watergate Happened Now. Jonathan Alter writes a column as if Richard Nixon were leaving office in the current political climate, and determines with the attitude of the current GOP congress, there never would be Watergate hearings. In Alter's hypothetical example, the ultimate sign that Nixon's critics have lost is when Fox News Channel refuses to use the word "Watergate" and goes with the logo "Assault on the Presidency" instead.

Report cites FBI's pre-9/11 intelligence lapses. The newly released information says the agency missed at least five chances to uncover intelligence relating to the attacks. The year-old report is only becoming available, because of a court battle over its release.

Podcasts, anyone?

I confess that I've become hooked on my MP3 player since I first got it a year and a half ago. While it's not one those fashionable iPods, it's a Rio and I've been pretty happy with it so far.

Every day, I use it to listen to music, radio broadcasts, and the occasional audio book. Therefore, I figured I'd solicit the readership to see if anyone has any particular "podcast" sites they frequent.

Here are a few I've come across:


Two party chairmen, two different standards.

Democratic party chair Howard Dean is defending remarks he made Monday that the Republican Party is "not very friendly to different kinds of people, they are a pretty monolithic party ... it's pretty much a white, Christian party."

Challenged on that on "Today," Dean said that "unfortunately, by and large it is. And they have the agenda of the conservative Christians."
Here are a few items from that agenda so we can evaluate how accurate Dean's characterization is:
  • Banning funding for embryonic stem cell research.
  • Federal legislation interfering with the Terri Schiavo case.
  • Nominating reactionary activist judges.
  • Making abortion illegal.
  • Teaching "intelligent design" at the expense of evolution.
  • Restricting women's access to birth control.
  • Abstinence-only sex education.
  • "Faith-based" initiatives.
  • Banning gay marriage and civil unions.

Now we move to Meet the Press from this past Sunday when Republican party chairman Ken Mehlman blatantly lied to Tim Russert by claiming the Downing Street memo has been completely discredited.
"Tim, that report has been discredited by everyone else who's looked at it since then. Whether it's the 9-11 Commission, whether it's the Senate, whoever's looked at this has said there was no effort to change the intelligence at all." When Russert noted "I don't believe that the authenticity of this report has been discredited," Mehlman reiterated: "I believe that the findings of the report, the fact that the intelligence was somehow fixed, have been totally discredited by everyone who's looked at it."

While Dean's remark was a generalization, Mehlman's lying about how this country got dragged into the Iraq war is much more egregious. Yet, it's Dean who has come under scrutiny by the media, Republicans, and some of his fellow Democrats.

Congratulations to the Dunes which won MKE's semi-final round for blog of the year. Thanks to all who voted.

We'll live to fight another day, my friends.

Federal Reserve Governor Edward Gramlich was in Milwaukee Wednesday giving a speech to local business leaders.

In response to audience questions about federal budget deficits, Gramlich said the United States cannot grow its way out of the problem. He also addressed Social Security by saying that private accounts don't address the solvency issue, and that Medicare is a much bigger problem that should be taken care of first.

"Individual accounts may or may not be a good idea, but they won't solve the basic actuarial problem" facing Social Security, Gramlich said.

Moreover, "the stock market can be an uncertain mistress," he said, in reference to the level of share prices when retirees actually tap into their accounts.

Gramlich said he was "worried on the fiscal side" and said the country should work to balance the federal budget outside of Social Security.

"Over time, on average, we should try to get the non-Social Security part of our budget in balance," he said.


Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) has been getting a lot of questions on Iraq at his listening sessions. In response to a constituent at a session in Clinton, Feingold said he will question British PM Tony Blair on the Downing Street memo and prewar intelligence at an upcoming breakfast meeting.

During the session, Feingold called the war an "amazing mess. … If you want to get depressed, you should read the appallingly flippant answers" that Bush administration officials gave during Senate hearings before the war.

The answers generally boiled down to the war would be a cakewalk, Feingold said.

And, he said, that two months after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the Bush administration released a list of two dozen countries it said al-Qaida operated in, but Iraq was not listed.

Think Progress has a collection of quotes from the president in the months leading up to the war in Iraq.

Bush: “Of course, I haven’t made up my mind we’re going to war with Iraq.” [10/1/02]

Bush: “You said we’re headed to war in Iraq – I don’t know why you say that. I hope we’re not headed to war in Iraq. I’m the person who gets to decide, not you. I hope this can be done peacefully.” [12/31/02]

Now from the Downing Street memo [7/23/02]:
C reported on his recent talks in Washington. There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. The NSC had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime's record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action.

There was finally a question from the media at the Bush-Blair press conference yesterday on the matter.


Here's some funny:


Sen. John Kerry vows to raise the profile of the Downing Street memo, a major issue that the American media have failed to give adequate coverage to.

"When I go back (to Washington) on Monday, I am going to raise the issue," he said of the memo, which has not been disputed by either the British or American governments. "I think it's a stunning, unbelievably simple and understandable statement of the truth and a profoundly important document that raises stunning issues here at home. And it's amazing to me the way it escaped major media discussion. It's not being missed on the Internet, I can tell you that."

The Downing Street memo is the smoking gun indicating the Bush Administration had already made up its mind to go to war with Iraq in the summer of 2002, before UN Resolution 1441 which put weapons inspectors back in Iraq, and eight months before the actual war began. More on this subject in a previous post here.

Admittedly, I'm not all that optimistic that Kerry will do what it takes to really push this issue or that the media will give a damn.

Folkbum has challenged me with a book meme. Since he offered me his endorsement today, I feel obliged to offer mine up.

Number of books in my collection: Tough to say, but I'd say around 100. I sold a lot when I moved to DC after college.

Last book bought: I honestly don't remember, but I recently received Seymour Hersh's Chain of Command as a gift.

Last book read: The Jerusalem Syndrome: My Life as a Reluctant Messiah by Marc Maron.

Five books that mean a lot to me:

  1. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. It seems people either love or hate this book. I read it back in my junior high days at Waukesha Central, and couldn't put it down.
  2. A People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn. There's so much information in this book. It took me a lot of time to get through, but reading it opens your eyes to historical events too often ignored by historians and politicians.
  3. Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. I had to add these books, because they are just amazing. If you've only seen the movies, you're missing out on one of the best fantasies ever put down on paper.
  4. The Collected Tales and Poems of Edgar Allen Poe. Another famous author who I learned to appreciate back in junior high. All his short stories and poems are packed into this book which makes it a great read at any time.
  5. Utilitarianism and other Writings by John Stuart Mill. I couldn't let this list be without one of favorite political theory books from college. In On Liberty, Mill speaks of the idea of "negative freedom" and that government should remove barriers on behavior that does not negatively impact the lives of others. In Utilitarianism, Mill advances Jeremy Bentham's theory that in a nutshell promotes "the greatest happiness for the greatest number."
I'll now buck this little exercise over to Craig, Jason, Carlos, and Jeremy.


The effort by state Sen. Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) to prohibit state resources from being used for stem-cell research has been stopped, at least for now. Instead, the measure may be considered the full legislature down the road.

WisPolitics has the joint statement from Sen. Judy Robson and Rep. Jim Kreuser.

There's some good news on a Friday for those who believe in moving forward with this promising scientific research.

An article in the Nation this week reports that British and American forces stepped up bombing efforts well before the war in Iraq began in March 2003.

The Sunday Times of London recently reported on new evidence showing that "The RAF and US aircraft doubled the rate at which they were dropping bombs on Iraq in 2002 in an attempt to provoke Saddam Hussein into giving the allies an excuse for war." The paper cites newly released statistics from the British Defense Ministry showing that "the Allies dropped twice as many bombs on Iraq in the second half of 2002 as they did during the whole of 2001" and that "a full air offensive" was under way months before the invasion had officially begun.

You can read the Times of London article here at Occupation Watch.


As mentioned in the comments of a previous post, MKE Online is having its "Blog of the Week" semi-finals this week. Since Brewtown Politico won Week 2 of the contest, this site has been entered into the first semi-final round. The winners of the semi-finals will compete for blog of the year.

There are some good candidates from the past 10 weeks of the contest, and I would greatly appreciate your support.

Cast your vote here. No photo ID required.

Today is the last day to send comments to the Federal Election Commission about the new rulemaking restricting online communication. If you haven't already, I encourage people to stop by the Online Coalition's site and sign on to their letter to the FEC.

In short, the recently enacted McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform bill did not specifically mention the internet and therefore the FEC is taking steps to regulate in this area using the law to do so. Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) has introduced legislation exempting internet communication from the new law, but it has yet to see the light of day on the Senate floor.

For more on the rulemaking, see the FEC's page here and my previous post on this issue here.

"May the cutest kitten win."


The documents the White House is withholding from Senate Foreign Relations Committee contain the names of American companies mentioned in intelligence reports on commerce with countries currently under export restrictions. Members of the committee have requested the information in relation to the nomination of John Bolton to be Ambassador to the United Nations. So far, the White House has balked at requests to provide the documents in question.

From the Times article:

The names of the individuals and companies, which remain highly classified, were provided to Mr. Bolton by the National Security Agency in response to requests he made as under secretary of state for arms control. The Democrats who forced the postponement last week of a vote on Mr. Bolton's nomination as ambassador to the United Nations argued that the Senate should insist on access to the same information.

But the White House has said Congress has "all the information it needs" to make a decision on the nomination, and at his news conference on Tuesday, President Bush dismissed the request for more information as "just another stall tactic by his opponents in Congress."

The administration has permitted the top Republican and Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee to review copies of the 10 intelligence reports, based on communications intercepted by the N.S.A., about which Mr. Bolton requested the additional information. But the names of American people and companies were deleted, and the administration has refused to provide the names to Senate leaders.