Brewtown Politico

Carrying a little stick and speaking loudly in Milwaukee


Budgets are hard work

The key line from the president's State of the Union speech tonight that demonstrates just how far standards have fallen in management of the federal budget (emphasis mine):

"Every year of my presidency, we've reduced the growth of non-security discretionary spending, and last year you passed bills that cut this spending." -President Bush

That's a moutful, and it sounded like it when he uttered the line. It wasn't that long ago when we had a president who cut the deficit, balanced the budget, and actually ran a surplus. It required fiscal discipline, and a sane tax policy. The 1990s seem like a distant memory.

Concealed carry veto override fails...again

The majority of Wisconsinites were represented today when the State Assembly failed to override Gov. Jim Doyle's veto of a bill to approve the carrying of concealed weapons in Wisconsin today.

The state legislature has again demonstrated their unwillingness to deal with the harder problems the state faces like the cost of health care, and instead focuses on issues like this one and the "defense of marriage" amendment to the constitution. Now that the bill is again dead, maybe we can shift to those matters, but I'm not holding my breath that the legislature will do so, especially in an election year.

Rep. Mark Pocan has more on the day's events.


Wikipedia bans Congressional IP addresses

In response to revelations that Congressional staffers were editing entries to make their bosses look better and the opposition look worse, the folks at Wikipedia have cracked down on and banned them from being able to edit entries on the site.

I suppose this sort of thing is likely to be an issue with an open source encyclopedia, and it's probably more widespread than people know. Currently, there isn't a lot in place to stop individuals or private companies from trying to whitewash their entries as well. Currently, if an article is slanted, people can dispute the article's integrity and a process to resolve the dispute takes place.


20 years since the Challenger tragedy

Yesterday marked twenty years since the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded killing all seven of the crew.

A few other people have posted their memories. My friend Jason and I were both in sixth grade at Prairie Elementary in Waukesha. He has published a piece of his journal from that day.

I remember the school principal Mr. Heinan announcing to us over the speaker in the classroom that the shuttle had exploded during its ascent into space.

We all kind of sat around in shock not knowing what to make of it. Our teacher, Mr. Johnson, spoke to us and tried to get our young minds to digest what had just occurred. Later that day, we all assembled in the school library and actually watched some of the news coverage and were able to view what had happened.

I walked home with my friends after school that day still talking about it. For some reason, I can't remember if we got out early that day or not. That evening, I went back and forth between watching the TV, and being slumped over on the couch in the basement den with the feeling of sadness and the reflex to feel numb duking it out in my head.


State of the Union preview

If you're getting psyched up for next week's State of the Union speech from the president, you may want to give this video a look to prepare yourself.

It's a hilarious parody, and James Adomian does a great job as Bush. At certain points though, the guy playing House Speaker Dennis Hastert just steals the show.


Staffing advice for WTMJ-AM

Belle at Leaning Blue offers some advice for local AM talker WTMJ on filling the recent void left by the firing of Mark Reardon.

It would be nice to have some fresh voices on the air in town. It all comes down to ratings though, and not necessarily talent (Jonathan Green still has listeners somehow).

Lefty Blogs not getting feed

For those who keep up to date on the this site through Lefty Blogs, for some reason my site hasn't refreshed there since Saturday.

At this point, I'm not sure what the problem is since all the other sites appear up to date. I've checked my Atom and RSS feeds, and they appear to be in order.

Thought I'd let those of you who rely on their feed know that I'm aware of the problem. I've left a bug report with Lefty Blogs to let them know what's going on.

UPDATE: It appears to be a bug since some other sites aren't updating either. Explanation here.


Drinking Liberally tonight

Drinking Liberally tonight

We'll be at Club Garibaldi at 7pm tonight (Wednesday) for another round of Drinking Liberally. It will be our first one since the piece aired on Channel 4 (WTMJ-TV). Hope to see you and some new faces down there as well.

Club Garibaldi is located at 2501 S Superior St in Milwaukee's Bay View neighborhood. We'll be in the back room.


Waukesha water update

As the local daily reports, Waukesha is looking into its options for new sources of water to fulfill their needs into 2030. In theory, this includes looking to Lake Michigan, but this paragraph quoting Waukesha's utility manager Dan Duchniak says it all about the chances of that happening:

"However, it's likely that any agreement in which Waukesha acquires Lake Michigan water would require its eventual return. Utility officials did not address that issue Monday, although Duchniak has said he would not favor returning the water. Instead, it should be sent to the Fox River that flows through Waukesha and ultimately enters the Mississippi River, Duchniak said."

Since Waukesha lies west of the subcontinental divide, its water naturally flows back to the Mississippi via the Fox River. This is why they're currently barred from getting Milwaukee water in the first place. If Waukesha refuses to return the water it uses back to Lake Michigan as part of reaching an agreement, the chances of them actually getting such a deal are slim to none.

No on Alito

Both Wisconsin's senators Russ Feingold and Herb Kohl opposed the nomination of Samuel Alito, Jr. to the Supreme Court today. The 10-8 vote on the Judiciary Committee, on which both Kohl and Feingold sit, fell along party lines with Republicans voting in favor.

Both of the statements they gave before voting are online. Read Feingold's here and Kohl's here.

I heartily extend a pat on the back to both of them for opposing this nominee. Keep in mind that both also voted to confirm Chief Justice John Roberts. Their vote here was out of concern for the future of the unelected branch of government, and considering the times, rightfully so.


Ethanol bill is faux environmentalism

Gov. Jim Doyle mentioned it in last week's State of the State, and Republican and Democratic legislators alike applauded him for endorsing it. The bill in question, under serious consideration, would mandate gasoline sold in Wisconsin contain between 9.2 and 10% ethanol.

Those of us in southeastern Wisconsin are already required to use reformulated gasoline containing ethanol in order to comply with the Clean Air Act. The reasoning for making this a statewide mandate has little to do with air quality though, and those pushing the legislation know this. It's essentially a giveaway to corn growers and companies like ADM who extract ethanol from it.

The bill has produced strange bedfellows of opposition with the Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce and the Sierra Club coordinating their efforts against it. The real problem is that ethanol does little to improve air quality, and we gain little if anything in terms of energy conservation since ethanol uses just slightly less oil to manufacture than it displaces when used.

We ought to be talking more about conservation and improving the quality of our air. CAFE standards should be raised at the federal level, and auto companies like Ford should start building more fuel efficient vehicles that Americans actually want to buy. Unfortunately, this bill is nothing more than political pandering masquerading as environmentalism.


West Wing to end after this season

It's official. NBC has announced that this season will be the last for the West Wing. It's the seventh season for the show which went on the air in 1999.

The writing has been on the wall for a while. The series took a hit with the departure of Aaron Sorkin, who created the series and oversaw it for four seasons. It managed to stay afloat though, and they did put out some compelling shows after that. The move to Sunday nights led myself and others to believe NBC was sending the show off to pasture.

In November, NBC aired a live episode featuring a debate between Democrat Matt Santos (played by Jimmy Smits) and Arnold Vinick (played by Alan Alda). Any chance that new viewers would tune in for more shows was blown when the network didn't follow it with new episodes for a month. In any case, this season will mark the end of Martin Sheen's character Jed Bartlett's presidency. These events preceded the recent death of John Spencer, who played a primary character in Leo McGarry. When taken in sum, it just seems to make sense for the series to end now.

Prediction on how the show wraps up: The Santos campaign picks up steam in the coming weeks, but he will lose the election narrowly to Vinick, ending the series with an homage to the first Rocky.

Ivins: Nay on Hillary

The always eloquent Molly Ivins has a column out that every Democratic Party strategist ought to read. She talks about how we've had enough politicians run for president who don't take a clear stand on anything. Ivins goes on to say that the fact that Hillary Clinton can't decide how she feels about the Iraq war ought to disqualify her right off the bat in a run for the oval office.

"Enough. Enough triangulation, calculation and equivocation. Enough clever straddling, enough not offending anyone. This is not a Dick Morris election. Sen. Clinton is apparently incapable of taking a clear stand on the war in Iraq, and that alone is enough to disqualify her. Her failure to speak out on Terri Schiavo, not to mention that gross pandering on flag-burning, are just contemptible little dodges.

The recent death of Gene McCarthy reminded me of a lesson I spent a long, long time unlearning, so now I have to re-learn it. It's about political courage and heroes, and when a country is desperate for leadership. There are times when regular politics will not do, and this is one of those times. There are times a country is so tired of bull that only the truth can provide relief."

Tip o' the hat to Xoff.


Japan bans US beef imports (again)

After the country renewed beef imports from the States last month, Japan is banning them again after it received cattle carcasses with outlawed materials in them.

Under an agreement reached last year, Japan would only accept beef doesn't contain the spinal cords, vertebrae, brains and bone marrow in them since those parts carry a far higher risk of being infected with mad cow disease. Additionally, the beef must be from cattle less than 21 months of age. It didn't take long for that agreement to be violated.

So far, three cases of the disease, known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), have been confirmed in the United States, two from native cattle and one imported. Two other cases have been confirmed in Canada.


Go go Google middle finger

From the AP:

The government wants a list all requests entered into Google's search engine during an unspecified single week — a breakdown that could conceivably span tens of millions of queries. In addition, it seeks 1 million randomly selected Web addresses from various Google databases.

Google — whose motto when it went public in 2004 was "do no evil" — contends that submitting to the subpoena would represent a betrayal to its users, even if all personal information is stripped from the search terms sought by the government.

"Google's acceding to the request would suggest that it is willing to reveal information about those who use its services. This is not a perception that Google can accept," company attorney Ashok Ramani wrote in a letter included in the government's filing.

Subpoena courtesy of our Republican administration, supposedly the party of small government.

Drinking Liberally news clip

In case you missed it, Scott has posted a video of the story that Channel 4 (WTMJ-TV) did Tuesday on Drinking Liberally.

I was pleased that they mentioned our fine host Club Garibaldi in the piece. They've treated us well, and deserve our gratitude for hosting so thanks again to them.

The clip is in Quicktime format. If you wish to save it, right click on the image, and save the link to your computer.

UPDATE: The video is mirrored at Surrounded by Red.


Especially for Zork fans

For those who have played text-based computer games like Zork (yes I once owned a Commodore 64 too), and even for those who haven't, be sure to read the amusing Iraqi Invasion: A Text Misadventure from Defective Yeti.

A sample:

Oval Office
You are standing inside a White House, having just been elected to the presidency of the United States. You knew Scalia would pull through for you.

There is a large desk here, along with a few chairs and couches. The presidential seal is in the middle of the room and there is a full-length mirror upon the wall.

What do you want to do now?

You are not able to do that, yet.

Self-reflection is not your strong suit.

It's not that kind of seal.

Thanks to MeFi.


Gore re-emerges

Former vice president Al Gore has sharply criticized the White House and the president's illegal wiretapping of Americans. He's now calling for an independent counsel to investigate the spy program.

Gore has been spot on in his criticism of the Iraq war, Bush's foreign policy, and now this. If only he had shown such passion in 2000, maybe he would've won more than just the popular vote. I've thought about this for a while, but could Gore be setting himself up to pull a Nixon? You'll recall that the late Richard Nixon served as Eisenhower's VP, and then lost in 1960 to John F. Kennedy. Eight years later, he won the presidency.

It's all idle speculation, but how interesting would it be if Al Gore ended up being the anti-Hillary candidate in the 2008 Democratic primary? Just food for thought.

State of the State tonight

Gov. Jim Doyle gives his state of the state tonight at 7pm. It will be on Wisconsin Public TV and radio or you can watch online here.

It will be has last such address before November's election.

Walker underfunds the parks again

Jim at Watchdog Milwaukee accurate sums up the state of the parks under County Exec Scott Walker.

The parks budget has been cut back, and now there's still a $2.3 million hole. Walker's answer appears to be limp along on the shoestring budget in hopes that he can be elected governor in November and not have to deal with the costs of his current policy.

Running the parks is one of the county's primary functions. One has to wonder how badly Walker could screw up Wisconsin's beautiful state parks if he has the chance.


Drinking Liberally on the news Tuesday

The piece that WTMJ-TV taped last Wednesday airs Tuesday night. Set your dials to Channel 4 if you're in Milwaukee for the 10pm newscast. Or you can stop down to Club Garibaldi to watch it live. Jason sent out this advisory:

My fellow liberals, drinkers, and liberal drinkers,

It is my pleasure to inform you that WTMJ TV-4 is planning on showing a feature story about Drinking Liberally - Milwaukee on the 10 o'clock news this Tuesday, January 17!

As such, we will be having a special Drinking Liberally this Tuesday night at Club Garibaldi (2501 S. Superior St.) to celebrate our little group's big media exposure.

If you can't make it, we hope to see you at our next gathering on Wednesday, January 25. Many thanks to all of you who have made Drinking Liberally such a great success.

See you soon!

- Jason and the Milwaukee DL crew.


DeLay's in trouble in re-election bid

A new poll released by the Houston Chronicle is sure to alarm supporters of indicted Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX).

He's represented the district since 1984, but with all his legal and ethical troubles, his voters are turning on him. Only half of those who voted for him in 2004 say they will vote for him again this November.

From the Chronicle article:

DeLay may be able to win back the undecided voters, but he starts with the disadvantage of a 60 percent unfavorable rating in the district he has represented for 20 years. Only 28 percent view him favorably, according to the poll.

That's barely half of the 50 percent favorable rating DeLay received in a poll conducted for the Chronicle last spring by Zogby International.


Good joke

Here's a pretty funny joke for your weekend.

It's one of those blonde jokes, but it was too funny not to post. Give it a read, and be sure to read the whole thing.


Illegal wiretaps started before 9/11

Another argument falls apart as the Bush Administration tries to defend its abuse of power.

Truthout is reporting that illegal wiretaps were approved prior to the attacks of September 11, 2001.

A couple points:

  1. The president has argued the untethered wiretap authority is needed in the post 9/11 world. Even if one accepts that (which I happen not to), how does that justify wiretaps before the attacks?
  2. The wiretapping was being used beginning in early 2001. With this new power, they still weren't able to prevent the attacks themselves.

The president is breaking the law by not abiding by congressional statutes mandating NSA obtain a warrant from FISA either before or within 72 hours after wiretapping. In the process, he's also trashing the separation of powers in the constitution itself by thumbing his nose at Congress and the courts at the same time.


America's moving left

Even Republican strategist Dick Morris agrees:

"It is always dangerous to generalize about ideological trends among the American electorate, since it will always lean right on certain issues (like defense, terrorism and taxes) and hew to the left on others (like healthcare, education, poverty and the environment). But the data are becoming overwhelming that the nation is moving left and is likely to stay that way through at least the 2006 election — and, if President Bush doesn’t adjust, for a lot longer.

The evidence is clear: The generic party ballot for Congress, for example, has now swollen to a 13-point Democratic edge while Bush’s job approval hangs in the 40s and his advisers are relieved that it is no longer a lot lower."

Tire slashing trial begins.

The trials have begun for those accused of slashing the tires on vans rented for Republican Get Out the Vote efforts on November 2, 2004.

You can follow the trial on Court TV's website where they're airing video of it (registration required).

To review, the five people arrested include the son of Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI), and the son of former mayor Marvin Pratt. It was a shameful act, and it gives those who fought hard to get Democrats elected that day a bad name. Hopefully, they'll get what's coming to them.


Lieberman deserves re-election

Kos has a post today that says Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-CT) would run as an independent were he to lose in the Democratic primary.

I realize a lot of Democrats and left-leaning types are quite unhappy with Lieberman given his position on the Iraq war, and I agree that he's wrong on that. However, name me a US Senator that you haven't disagreed with from time to time. When I worked on the Hill, I had a chance to work with Lieberman's office on different legislative initiatives.

If you're an environmentalist, losing Lieberman's place in the Senate would be a major loss. Do you know who has been the primary sponsor of legislation in the Senate designating the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) as wilderness? Answer: Sen. Joe Lieberman.

He's also been a vocal opponent of the president's tax policies, opposed his efforts to privatize Social Security, and has been a proponent of campaign finance reform. There are reasons to be ticked at him, and people are rightly vocalizing their feelings when he's on the wrong side of an issue. I don't see him losing the primary anyway so this whole debate could be moot. Out of a desire for some balance, I thought it worth mentioning that he's not simply a Republican posing as a Democrat.

Maybe this is how many Republicans feel about Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). On most issues he's reliably conservative, but on others he makes their blood boil.


Iraq war vets running as Democrats

Across the country, veterans of the Iraq war are running for seats in Congress as Dems. From the Vermont Guardian:

DENVER — More than 30 Iraq and Persian Gulf War veterans have entered congressional races across the country as Democrats, hoping to capitalize on their military experience to topple the incumbent Republican majority, the Denver Post reports.

At least 11 of the candidates served in the military after Sept. 11, 2001, including Major L. Tammy Duckworth, an Iraq war veteran running for the seat being vacated by Rep. Henry Hyde, R-IL. Duckworth, who lost her legs when a rocket-propelled grenade blew up in the helicopter she was piloting, calls the Iraq war "a mistake," according to United Press International.

The Majority Report and the Daily Kos are profiling several Fighting Dems as we move closer to the November elections.

Drinking Liberally Wednesday

Tomorrow marks the second Wednesday of the month which signals it's another Drinking Liberally Milwaukee style.

We get started at 7pm so stop on down. As Mr. Feldstein has revealed, our little group has caught the attention of the local broadcast media. Channel 4 (WTMJ-TV) will be there with their cameras in tow.


Dems starting to get it

Roll Call reports that Sen. Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi are working on introducing a series of congressional reforms in the near future aimed at countering the corruption we're seeing out of several members in the House leadership now.

Democratic leadership sources said that the Honest Leadership Act, which is still being drafted, would call for a stronger enforcement of government ethics rules, including an effort to “fix” the revolving door used by Members, government officials and K Street.

Sources indicated that the legislation also seeks to revise gift and travel rules and crack down on “pay to play” politics — that is, the granting of political favors in exchange for campaign donations. It also would enhance oversight of the relationships between lobbyists and lawmakers, and require immediate disclosure of lobbyists’ activities, including for and with whom they are working.

It sounds like a good start to countering criticism from folks like Mark Shields who rightly say that the party has not become the party of reform as it needs to.


Why I (heart) David Letterman

He interviewed talk show host pathological liar Bill O'Reilly on Thursday's Late Show:

LETTERMAN: I'm not smart enough to debate you point to point on this, but I have the feeling, I have the feeling about 60 percent of what you say is crap. [audience laughter] But I don't know that for a fact. [more audience applause]

Paul Shafer: 60 percent.

LETTERMAN: 60 percent. I'm just spit-balling here.

O'REILLY: Listen, I respect your opinion. You should respect mine.

LETTERMAN: Well, ah, I, okay. But I think you're...

O'REILLY: Our analysis is based on the best evidence we can get.

LETTERMAN: Yeah, but I think there's something, this fair and balanced. I'm not sure that it's, I don't think that you represent an objective viewpoint.

Crooks and Liars has the video. Transcript at Newsday.


Whee, new computer

Having limped along on my overclocked Pentium II desktop for too long now, I've finally upgraded my system. My new CPU arrived yesterday, and I spent most of last evening building my box and installing software.

I'm now operating on an AMD Sempron 3100+ processor with my new Asus motherboard. Sure it's not one of those fancy new Athlon 64s, but I'm also not a hardcore gamer.

It is amazing how much more you get for your dollar these days. I remember paying around $1300 in college for a Pentium 200.

Suspension of MU student overturned

Remember this story? A month ago, a Marquette student was suspended as a result of writings on his personal weblog about students and faculty. This prompted the late blog 1832 and MU prof John McAdams to launch a petition urging the university to reinstate the student and forgive any penalties.

The local daily reports that all's well that ends well as far as this student is concerned. The suspension has been overturned. Hopefully the blogs and signers of the petition played a part in bringing some sense to this dispute.

By the way, whoever is in charge of the Daywatch layout at JSOnline may want to consider making permalinks for each post's anchor. It's a tad annoying to view the page source in order to find the link for the story in question.

UPDATE: The story as it appeared in the paper today. I guess the Daywatch posts aren't permalinked, because they're not archived since that earlier link now points to today's listing of posts.


Dems must become reform party to win

Another major scandal broke wide open this week with the indictment of Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff. It could be far reaching in that it affects a lot of sitting Republican congressmen who took money from him. In fact, Abramoff raised more than $100,000 for the Bush campaign for president.

Democrats are certainly hoping the exposure of the corruption of key Republican lawmakers will help throw them from power in the November elections. Howard Dean, and the rest of the party's leadership need to do more than just sit back and watch the GOP fumble. They need to come out and become the true party of reform at a time when cynicism in government is running rampant.

Mark Shields put it well last Friday on the Newshour when summarizing the winners and losers of 2005:

"I'm disappointed in the Democrats. They are running ten points ahead of the Republicans in the four major nonpartisan polls held in December for 2006. But I think they missed the chance. I think they missed a golden opportunity. It's still there.

But in the midst of this sea of sleaze not to become the reform party, Tom Allen of Maine, Barney Frank of Massachusetts, Dave Obey of Wisconsin, and Dave Price of North Carolina, introduced a reform package, a very straightforward reform package, no more room, board and tuition from Jack Abramoff or any other lobbyists, no lobbying by former members on the floor during votes or anything of the sort - I mean, just kind of straightforward things.

And the fact that the party has not embraced it and made it its own and become the reform party tells you something that there is something missing there in the Democrats."


Walker tells Green to return DeLay $$

Milwaukee County Exec Scott Walker is calling on Rep. Mark Green to return the $29,414 in donations he received from indicted Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX) through his Political Action Committee TRMPAC.

Welcome aboard, Mr. Walker. Some of us have been calling for this for months now.

I guess all it took was for Walker to have a fledgling campaign for governor at the start of the new year. Maybe this will help light a fire under Green to do the right thing in returning the donations. DeLay was recently indicted on charges of using TRMPAC to commit money laundering.


Ricky Gervais podcast

Ricky Gervais, creator of the BBC series The Office, now has his own podcast called the Ricky Gervais Show.

Gervais hosts the show with Stephen Merchant (who co-wrote the Office) and Karl Pilkington. The show covers topics ranging from technology to market testing of sex machines to charitable giving on Christmas.

In other podcast news, Jason of Dyskeptic Radio and Jim at Watchdog Milwaukee will be combining efforts to produce a brand new local show.