Brewtown Politico

Carrying a little stick and speaking loudly in Milwaukee


How will you celebrate the leap second?

Tonight, at 6pm central time (midnight GMT), an extra second will be added to the clock.

The change is needed so that our clocks stay in synch with the earth's rotation, which is slowing down.

I plan on using the time to reflect on the past seven years since the last leap second in 1998, and maybe take a breath.


New laws wouldn't have prevented McClain beating

After the gruesome beating of Samual McClain, local and state legislators are lining up proposing new laws aimed at attacks like this one.

Milwaukee aldermen are supporting an ordinance outlawing large groups of people from loitering in a "menacing fashion" whatever that means. Rep. Leon Young, Democrat of Milwaukee, is proposing tougher penalties for crimes like the beating suffered by McClain. At first glance, Young's proposal seems like a good idea and I don't know what to make of the other one.

Such ideas are being driven by the politics of the moment, and may well be worthwhile. However, would they have prevented this terrible incident from taking place? I don't think so. Mobs like this one aren't driven by rational thought when they commit such heinous acts. The juveniles and young adults that did this obviously lack discipline and have little to no ability to resolve conflict outside of resorting to violence.

Passing stiffer penalties is all fine and good for dealing with the crime after it has occurred. What people need to spend more time on is how we prevent more people from becoming so very cold and cruel like these kids have. That is much tougher, and not as simple as passing a bill and signing it into law.

A thoughtful conservative on the marriage amendment

There's a well written column in the local daily about the proposed ban on gay marriage and civil unions.

It comes from none other than Dean at Musings of a Thoughtful Conservative. Supporters of the amendment ought to give it a read. They may just reconsider their position.

WaPo article on Abramoff

The Washington Post has an extensive piece today on the probe into Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff and how it affects a lot of sitting Congressmen.


Abramoff is the central figure in what could become the biggest congressional corruption scandal in generations. Justice Department prosecutors are pressing him and his lawyers to settle fraud and bribery allegations by the end of this week, sources knowledgeable about the case said. Unless he reaches a plea deal, he faces trial Jan. 9 in Florida in a related fraud case.

It's a good primer on the story which has been ongoing for a long time now, and looks to be heating up as Congress gets set to return in January.


From the you may have missed it files

Last week, a judge from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (FISA)
court quit in protest over the president's power grab where he has secretly authorized spying.

One thing I haven't seen emphasized enough is the FISA process. Apologists for the president have cited the need for the National Security Agency (NSA) to not have any delay when they're trying to track down potential terrorists. Therefore, this probably needs repeating to the point of beating it over some people's heads:

FISA allows surveillance and wiretaps to go forward without prior court approval if need be. It just requires that the government later justify its reasoning before the court.

As Josh Marshall recently noted, FISA has only denied four government applications for warrants since the court first came into being in 1979 (all four being in 2003). This begs the question as to why the secret program is necessary since the notion that the government must act without delay is not an issue after all.

To remove FISA from the process, as the Bush administration has done in this area, is to remove the very important constitutional idea of oversight from the Executive branch of government.

Ben at Badger Blues has more thoughts on this topic over at his site.

Ring in the new year early at Drinking Liberally

Wednesday is the last Drinking Liberally of 2005.

Stop down at Club Garibaldi after 7pm while we toast to the end of this year, and look ahead with hope to 2006.

Club G is located at 2501 S Superior St in Milwaukee's Bay View neighborhood. See you there.


Is the prez drunk?

Here's an amusing bit from the Late Late Show now being hosted by Craig Ferguson.

Tip o' the hat to Taegan Goddard.

Day off work cat blogging

Yeah, someone got a digital camera for Christmas.


Patriot Act gets temporary extension

With a bipartisan group of Senators opposed to passing a permanent extension of the Patriot Act as passed by the House, the Senate has voted to give the Act a six month extension so that a much better bill can get the consideration it deserves.

Sen. Russ Feingold released this statement today:

"Today is a victory for the American people and the bipartisan group of Senators who have been fighting against efforts to extend the Patriot Act permanently without protecting the rights of law-abiding citizens. I am pleased that the Republican leadership backed down from their irresponsible threat to let the Patriot Act expire and agreed to a 6-month extension of the provisions that would have sunset at the end of this year. This will allow more time to finally agree on a bill that protects our rights and freedoms while preserving important tools for fighting terrorism. Those of us who stood up to demand modest and reasonable protections of our liberties never wanted to stop Patriot Act reauthorization. We just want to get it right this time around.

We could have avoided these last-minute negotiations if the House had just adopted the Senate version of the Patriot Act that passed unanimously earlier this year. As we move forward, I hope that the Republican leadership in the Senate and the administration will continue down the path they started on tonight so that we don't find ourselves in this same situation 6 months from now. One thing is clear - what happened in the Senate over the past few weeks shows that this conference report is dead."

UPDATE: Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner and the House have bucked the Senate's request and agreed to a 5 week extension instead. In a short session at 7pm, the Senate agreed to the House bill by unanimous consent. Quite frankly, that's fine by me. The sooner the Patriot Act gets fixed, the better in my book as long as the Senate stands its ground on doing just that. The game resumes next month.


ANWR drilling blocked for now

The Senate today blocked drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge after 44 Senators voted against cloture on the defense approps bill.

Republican leaders could not break a Democratic filibuster threat over the drilling issue, falling three votes short of the 60 votes need to advance the defense spending bill to a final vote. Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., left the bill in limbo as he, Stevens and other GOP leaders gauged their next move.

The measure was widely expected to be withdrawn and reworked without the refuge language, although Stevens warned he was ready to stay until New Year's if necessary to fight for the drilling, a cause he has pursued for 25 of his 37 years in the Senate.

Democrats as well as a number of Republicans were already angered by Stevens' tactic that delayed action on the $453.5 billion defense bill including $29 billion for hurricane relief, the war and border security, and $2 billion to help low-income households pay this winter's heating expenses.

"Our military is being held hostage by this issue, Arctic drilling," fumed Sen. Harry Reid, the Democratic leader.

Roll call vote here.


ANWR vote in the Senate on Wednesday

The Senate is set to vote on drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge on Wednesday.

Before they left town, the House shamelessly attached an amendment to the Defense Appropriations bill calling for drilling in ANWR in hopes that it would force the Senate to accept it in order to get the bill to the president's desk. Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) says it'll be a close vote with some swing votes like Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) supporting the removal of the amendment, but undecided about whether they'll vote against cloture (in favor of a filibuster).

As I've mentioned on this site several times in the past, drilling in ANWR is a waste of money and resources since USGS estimates show as little as 6 months worth of oil there which would take 10 years to bring to market. In addition, much of it would end up being exported to other countries.

Most of ANWR is only accessible by plane or boat, and the infrastructure required to get the operation online could be devastating to the wildlife habitat up there. The only sane vote tomorrow is one against drilling in the Refuge.

Contact your Senator here.


Bush contradicts self on trained Iraqis

Think back to the first debate between Sen. John Kerry and George W. Bush. The president claimed that night that a significant number of trained Iraqis were already taking over the job of defending the country.

From September 30, 2004.

BUSH: There are 100,000 troops trained, police, guard, special units, border patrol. There's going to be 125,000 trained by the end of this year. Yes, we're getting the job done. It's hard work. Everybody knows it's hard work, because there's a determined enemy that's trying to defeat us.

He threw out those numbers twice that night about that many Iraqis being trained. Now fast forward to yesterday, December 18, 2005:
BUSH: At this time last year, there were only a handful of Iraqi army and police battalions ready for combat. Now, there are more than 125 Iraqi combat battalions fighting the enemy, more than 50 are taking the lead, and we have transferred more than a dozen military bases to Iraqi control.

It appears the numbers he gave on trained Iraqis last year were completely made up to help his re-election chances. In September of this year, USA Today reported that US commanders indicated only 1 Iraqi batallion (about 500-600 soldiers) was ready to fight on its own.

I guess we are supposed to believe that in under three months, there has been this miraculous progress when their numbers have been so off base in the past. Call me a skeptic, but I ain't buying it.


Bob Barr on Bush's spy program

Former Republican Congressman Bob Barr spoke on CNN about the revelation that President Bush has authorized secret spying activities inside the United States.

"What's wrong with it is several-fold. One, it's bad policy for our government to be spying on American citizens through the National Security Agency. Secondly, it's bad to be spying on Americans without court oversight. And thirdly, it's bad to be spying on Americans apparently in violation of federal laws against doing it without court order."

Atrios has more from the interview.

James Bamford, who has written books on the National Security Agency, had this to say in the AP story about the prez's radio address today:
"I didn't hear him specify any legal right, except his right as president, which in a democracy doesn't make much sense," Bamford said in an interview. "Today, what Bush said is he went around the law, which is a violation of the law — which is illegal."


So long Morning Sedition

Today was the last edition of Morning Sedition on Air America radio. The network decided to move in a new direction replacing it with morning shows hosted by Rachel Maddow and Mark Riley.

I podcasted the show via Air America Place, and listened to it daily at work. Host Marc Maron along with co-host Mark Riley and the rest of their team always provided that entertaining mix of information and funny along with interviews, and even live music. It was the type of show you don't normally find on radio, and I think the decision makers at the network have made a mistake.

Maron will be heading back out to L.A. where he may start up a new show on the network or contribute in some other fashion. Best of luck to him.

Patriot Act filibuster

The showdown on the Patriot Act Conference report is in progress.

Republican and Democratic opponents of the bill are calling for a temporary three month extension of the Patriot Act so that more work can be done on it to protect civil liberties. So far, one vote to invoke cloture has failed 52-47 (60 votes are required to cut off debate). Sen. Majority Leader Bill Frist voted against cloture only so that he could bring the matter up again under Senate rules.


Feingold lands seat on Intelligence Committee

With Sen. Jon Corzine leaving to become governor of New Jersey, Wisconsin's own Sen. Russ Feingold will be filling his spot on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

From his press release:

"I am honored to take a seat on the Senate Intelligence Committee and I look forward to continuing to work on national security issues in this new capacity. From fighting terrorism, to protecting our rights and freedoms, to getting our Iraq and national security policies right, the Intelligence Committee will be another forum to help advance the issues a majority of Americans care about."

Sen. William Proxmire (1915-2005)

Former Sen. William Proxmire has died at the age of 90.

Proxmire was elected US Senator from Wisconsin in 1957, taking over the seat after the death of Sen. Joe McCarthy. He served until 1988 when he retired, and Sen. Herb Kohl was elected to fill the seat.

Proxmire became well known for his Golden Fleece Awards which were used to identify wasteful spending in the federal budget. Today's wild spending Congress could use more senators like Proxmire.

Rest in peace, Senator.


WI House delegation splits on Patriot Act

The House of Representatives has voted 251-174 to renew the USA Patriot Act despite the threat of a filibuster by Republican and Democratic Senators.

The Wisconsin delegation voted along party lines with Democrats Ron Kind, Tammy Baldwin, Gwen Moore, and Dave Obey voting no. Republicans Jim Sensenbrenner, Tom Petri, Paul Ryan, and Mark Green all voted yes. Full vote tally here.

The action now moves to the Senate where things could get very interesting. Senators Russ Feingold (D-WI), Larry Craig (R-ID), Dick Durbin (D-IL), John Sununu (R-NH), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Ken Salazar (D-CO), Chuck Hagel (R-NE), John Kerry (D-MA), and Barack Obama (D-IL) have all signed on to a letter urging fellow Senators to oppose the Patriot Act Conference report. Stay tuned.

The prez is giving more speeches

With the president's poll numbers in the tank, he's giving speeches all week on the leadup to the next round of elections in Iraq. While most of what he's saying isn't new, there are bits of new material.

On Monday, the president was asked about the the number of Iraqi civilian casulaties. For the first time, the public was given an estimate by the administration.

"I would say 30,000, more or less, have died as a result of the initial incursion and the ongoing violence against Iraqis," Bush said. "We've lost about 2,140 of our own troops in Iraq."

What struck me almost more than him actually giving out a number was the matter of fact manner in which he said it.

Today, he said he takes responsibility for the intelligence being wrong. However, taking responsibility means more than just saying you're doing so. That George the younger hasn't fired Donald Rumsfeld yet for the craptastic war plan speaks volumes about just how much responsibility he's taking.

Something is seriously wrong with this man.

Drink Liberally tonight

Tonight is a Drinking Liberally Wednesday. Escape from the snowy cold, and come down to Club Garibaldi (2501 S Superior St) in Milwaukee's Bay View neighborhood.

Also, be sure to check out the Milwaukee Drinking Liberally website to get more info, sign up for the mailing list, and to discuss what's on your mind in the forum.


War on the war on the war on Christmas

Comedian Sam Seder, host of the Majority Report on Air America, was a guest on CNN along with Bob Knight of the Culture and Family Institute. The topic was the supposed war on Christmas being waged in this country. Crooks and Liars and Think Progress have the video.

Seder calls Knight and his ilk out for creating a phony war on Christmas so that they can jack up their fundraising efforts.


Feingold posting at TPMCafe

Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold has a post up over at TPMCafe.

He writes about the Patriot Act and its prospects in the Senate. He's also taking questions from readers, and will be posting more this week.

SCOTUS to review Texas gerrymandering

The Supreme Court will take up the redistricting plan implemented in Texas a few years ago.

Traditionally, congressional districts are redrawn every ten years in line with the census. Republicans in the Texas state legislature, led by Rep. Tom DeLay, decided not to wait until 2010 to redistrict the seats. Not surprisingly, it paid off. Republicans had a net gain of seats as a result in the 2004 elections.

Another twist to the story is that Justice Department lawyers believed the redistricting plan was unconstitutional. In the end, they were overruled and the plan went forward.

Vote for Folkbum

Folkbum's Rambles and Rants is up for blog of the year.

Show him some love and go vote.


Recommended viewing

There are a few movies coming out that I'd like to see. I don't frequent the theaters as much as I used to, but I do recommend checking out Good Night, And Good Luck which I saw recently.

It covers journalist Edward R. Murrow and his reporting for CBS News. It focuses on Sen. Joe McCarthy's witchhunt against supposed communists as head of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. As a result of Murrow's reporting, McCarthy was eventually exposed as the lying lowlife that he was.

The movie reminds viewers that television journalism can accomplish good when the journalists are allowed to do their job and are not neutered by the news division's corporate ownership in the process.


Aw shucks

Brewtown Politico has been honored by as their December blog of the month.

It's hard to believe that it has been almost three years since I started this thing. Hopefully it has had an impact, and done some good along the way.

Thanks for the kudos, WisPolitics.

It's time to filibuster the Patriot Act compromise

That's what our own Sen. Russ Feingold is threatening to do on the Patriot Act reauthorization bill.

Feingold, along with a bipartisan group of senators consisting of Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID), Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Sen. Ken Salazar (D-CO), and Sen. John Sununu (R-NH), issued this statement:

"We are gravely disappointed that the conference committee made so few changes to the Patriot Act reauthorization package that was circulated before the Thanksgiving recess. As we said then, we cannot support a conference report that does not contain modest but critical improvements, similar to those in the Senate-passed bill, to the most controversial provisions of the Patriot Act. We indicated before Thanksgiving that we would oppose a conference report like the one filed in the House today, and we believe many of our colleagues will join us.

Back in July, we supported a bipartisan compromise reauthorization bill that passed the Senate by unanimous consent. While that bill did not contain everything we would have wanted, it took important steps to protect the freedoms of innocent Americans. By insisting that modest protections for civil liberties be excluded from the conference report, the conferees bear responsibility for any possibility that some provisions of the Patriot Act could expire this year.

The sunsets this year provide our best opportunity to make the meaningful changes to the Patriot Act that the American public has demanded. We believe that this conference report will not be able to get through the Senate, while the Senate bill would easily pass the House if its leadership would bring it to a vote. We call on our House colleagues to reject this conference report, and to take up and pass the Senate compromise bill. We still can — and must — make sure that our laws give law enforcement agents the tools they need while providing safeguards to protect the constitutional rights of all Americans."


Marriage/civil unions ban passes Senate

The State Senate voted today to pass the constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage and civil unions in Wisconsin.

No on the Amendment has the rundown of the day's events. It now moves on to the Assembly where it's expected to pass. The upside is that Wisconsin residents have almost a year to learn about what a bad idea this is.

Once again, it's the so-called party of small government pushing an amendment that intrudes into the private lives of its citizens. All 14 State Senate Democrats voted against the amendment which reads as follows:

"Only a marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in this state. A legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized in this state."

The "substantially similar" line is of importance, because that is the portion of the amendment which bans civil unions. The Journal Sentinel story even mentions that the amendment's author Rep. Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) put the second line in for that expressed purpose. So don't be fooled by anyone who tells you otherwise.

Correction: Drinking Liberally next week

I need to look at the calendar more closely next time. I had initially posted that Drinking Liberally was tonight when in fact it is next week. I got used to that every two weeks routine not remembering it's the second and fourth Wednesday of each month.

Brewtown Politico apologizes for any confusion. See you next week.

Light posting ahead

Just as a heads up, there will likely be fewer entries from yours truly in the coming weeks. I'll be starting a new job, and finishing up at the current one as well. Also, I have to confess to experiencing a bit of burnout lately. So with the holiday season in full swing, I figure now is as good a time as any to give myself a little break. I'll still be submitting posts, but they probably won't be as regular as what you the reader are used to.

Voter fraud probe comes up empty

Surprise, surprise.

Folkbum has the details.


WTF Marquette?

Marquette University has suspended a Dental School student for the rest of the semester for posts made on his blog about other Marquette students and faculty. The student will have to repeat the semester and forfeits the tuition he already paid to attend fall classes.

1832 has joined efforts with Marquette prof and conservative blogger John McAdams to create a petition calling for the student to be fully reinstated to the university and for any penalties to be waived.

The student's lawyer has filed an appeal, and the student has been readmitted to classes pending the outcome. 1832 and McAdams plan to deliver the petition to the MU administration prior to Friday's appeal deadline.

Take a moment to support the free speech rights of students by signing the petition.


"Intelligent design" out of vogue

The Times has an article today about the future of intelligent design, and it looks bleak.

Found the link over at Mark Kleiman's blog who says this about it:

It turns out there's a downside to disguising your theological/political hokum as science: people start to evaluate it by scientific criteria. As a result, the "Intelligent Design" scam lacks staying power. The Templeton Foundation, for example, is backing away, because ID folks weren't willing or able to do any actual science.

Pretty soon, the only ID believers outside the Discovery Institute and the televangelists will be Pope Bingo and George W. Bush.

"Intelligent Design" was a clever marketing ploy, but it turns out once again that nothing kills a bad product faster than great marketing.

It probably didn't help that Pat Robertson threatened residents of Dover, Pennsylvania with the wrath of God when they voted ID supporters off the school board recently. The idea was exposed for what skeptics thought it was: creationsim wrapped in a pretty package.

Reliable conservative pundit Charles Krauthammer has written columns denouncing "intelligent design" and even Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) has flip-flopped and said it shouldn't be taught in public schools. Looks like it's back to the drawing board for those who want to resurrect the ghosts of the Scopes monkey trial.


Republicans still trashing Murtha

Mark Shields has written a column about Rep. John Murtha (D-PA). Murtha has come under critcism for calling for a withdrawal of troops from Iraq over the course of the coming months.

From the personality-challenged White House press secretary accusing him of "surrender" to the clueless, but venomous, Rep. Jean Schmidt, R-Ohio, unaware of his combat record, accusing Murtha of being a " coward," Republicans made Jack Murtha the most prominent Democrat in town.

As one astute Senate Republican aide observed to David Rogers of The Wall Street Journal, "If the House Republicans want to make Jack Murtha the face of the Democratic Party, then Republicans will really be trounced next year."

This hasn't stopped rabid wingnuts like Limbaugh and Ann Coulter from unleashing their anger on Murtha. Keep it up guys.


Walker and Green on the gas tax

As Spivak and Bice report in their column, it turns out that Republican gubernatorial candidates Scott Walker and Mark Green haven't been so supportive of repealing the automatic gas tax increase after all. When both served in the state legislature, they opposed efforts to end the automatic increase.

Rep. Spencer Black (D-Madison) has introduced such a proposal every legislative session to end it, but it hasn't seen the light of day. Now that Green and Walker are running for governor, they're simply trying to outdo each other in the press. Just remember that when they both had the chance to change the law in the past, they were against doing so. Another example of actions speaking louder than words.

New jobbie job

This week is definitely ending on a high note. As some of you regular Drinking Liberally attendees know, I've been aggressively on the job hunt.

That hunt has come to an end as I've accepted an offer at a new job downtown. Goodbye reverse commute out to the suburbs. I'm so looking forward to my short drive from Bay View.


Stay up to date on the marriage amendment

As you may know, there was a hearing this week on the constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, civil unions in Wisconsin. You can follow this and continuing developments at No On The Amendment.

I only caught highlights of the hearing on the news, but reportedly a lot of people on both sides turned out.

Joe Wineke, chair of the Wisconsin Democratic Party, had this to say as quoted by the Badger Herald:

"I am here to say you are abridging the rights of many individuals in this state, and what you are doing is wrong."