Brewtown Politico

Carrying a little stick and speaking loudly in Milwaukee


SCOTUS backs abortion protests

This wasn't all that surprising. The Supreme Court ruled unanimously that racketeering laws can't be used to block abortion protests outside of family planning clinics. The vote was 8-0 since newly appointed justice Samuel Alito didn't participate in the case.

The protestors over the years have done more harm than good for their cause, making fools of themselves with their tactics. I still say that Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania came up with the best solution last year. Use the protestors as a fundraising mechanism where donors pledge by the number of protestors (e.g. minimum 10 cents per protestor). The last time they did it, they raised $36,789.

Thanks for your help, guys. The idea has spread to other chapters like New Jersey, St. Louis and Western Penn.


Iraq war planning started on 9/11

It has been reported before that the Pentagon was pushing hard right after the September 11th attacks to go to war in Iraq based on declassified notes from meetings. Those notes were also part of the 9/11 Commission Report.

A blogger at Outraged Moderates has now obtained copies of those documents as a result of a Freedom of Information Act request.

Key (click on image for larger version):

  • S.H=Saddam Hussein
  • UBL=Usama bin Laden

Resume Statement:

Best info fast
judge whether good enough
Hit S.H@ same time -
Not only UBL

Tasks Jim Haynes to talk w/ PW for additional support v/v Usis & connection w/ UBL

[REDACTED (N.R. stands for Not Relevant)]

- Hard to get a good case
- Need to move swiftly -

Near term target needs -
- go massive - sweep it all up
- Things related & not

Need to do so to get anything useful"

Head here to read the rest of the notes with cover letter from the Department of Defense.

Tip o' the hat to Steve Clemons.

9/11 before and after

Kristine Larsen has a very good photo essay up on her site featuring pictures of lower Manhattan before and after the attacks of September 11, 2001.

Found at MeFi.

Those new poll numbers

Brad Blog breaks down the latest CBS poll numbers, and we learn the following:

Bush Approval Rating: 34%
Cheney Approval Rating: 18%

Approval of Bush's Handling of War: 30%
Approval of Bush's Handling of Katrina: 32%
Approval of Bush's "War on Terror": 43%

Yet, it's the critics of the Iraq war and the Bush/Cheney policy who are supposedly out of the mainstream. Sure.


Fox: Iraq civil war a good thing?

Leave it to Fox News to spin an impending civil war in Iraq as possibly a good result of our efforts there.

Even conservative columnist William F. Buckley now believes the war is a failure.

Hey baby, what's your carbon footprint?

The website Climate Crisis has a tool for visitors to figure out the amount of greenhouse gases they produce.

Calculate your "contribution" here.


More evidence for a Gore 2008 campaign

Dick Morris, in a column in the Hill, says the possibility of Al Gore running again for the presidency is becoming more likely. As Morris points out, history is on Gore's side:

The Democratic base's anger at Gore's defeat in 2000 was assuaged by the worse Kerry defeat of 2004. The idea that he was an incompetent candidate has been replaced in Democratic iconography by the idea that he was cheated out of the presidency. The hiatus has healed his reputation with the base in much the same way that the negative rap on Nixon for losing in 1960 was ameliorated by the Goldwater wipeout of 1964.

History indicates that candidates who won the popular vote but lost in the Electoral College have all come back to win revenge in subsequent elections. Andrew Jackson, cheated in 1824, won in 1828. Grover Cleveland, cheated in 1888, triumphed in 1892.

2008 is an eternity away in politics, and many things will change before that election. One thing I don't see changing though is that Hillary Clinton has little to no chance of getting elected should she manage to win the nomination. Another run by Gore not only could push Clinton out of the race, but it may very well unite the party in ways that John Kerry's candidacy failed to.

On a related note, the movie An Inconvenient Truth, a film exposing the reality of global climate change featuring the former veep, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on Tuesday.


Blagojevich not hip

Gov. Rod Blagojevich was on a recent episode of the Daily Show, but apparently didn't realize what the show was all about. The AP is reporting that the Democratic governor from Illinois had no idea the Daily Show was a comedy show, and at one point during the interview questioned aloud "Is he teasing me, or is that legit?".

It's probably forgivable that Blagojevich isn't as up to date on television as the rest of America, having the important time consuming job of running a state. My question would be to his chief of staff and press secretary and why they didn't know what the deal was with Jon Stewart's show. If they did, they dropped the ball by not telling the boss.



Personally, I think the Segway was overrated as an invention since I don't think people walk enough as it is. However, Dean Kamen has something else in mind for his next invention.

"Dean Kamen, the engineer who invented the Segway, is puzzling over a new equation these days. An estimated 1.1 billion people in the world don't have access to clean drinking water, and an estimated 1.6 billion don't have electricity. Those figures add up to a big problem for the world—and an equally big opportunity for entrepreneurs.

To solve the problem, he's invented two devices, each about the size of a washing machine that can provide much-needed power and clean water in rural villages.

'Eighty percent of all the diseases you could name would be wiped out if you just gave people clean water,' says Kamen. 'The water purifier makes 1,000 liters of clean water a day, and we don't care what goes into it. And the power generator makes a kilowatt off of anything that burns.'"


Permanent bases in Iraq

The mainstream media has been asleep on many issues surrounding the invasion of Iraq, our future plans there being one. I'm thinking there are more than a handful of Americans who would be interested to learn we have no plans of pulling out of Iraq anytime soon.

Kevin Drum points to this article by Tom Engelhardt that raises the red flag on this matter:

There are at least four such "super-bases" in Iraq, none of which have anything to do with "withdrawal" from that country. Quite the contrary, these bases are being constructed as little American islands of eternal order in an anarchic sea. Whatever top administration officials and military commanders say -- and they always deny that we seek "permanent" bases in Iraq -– facts-on-the-ground speak with another voice entirely. These bases practically scream "permanency."

Unfortunately, there's a problem here. American reporters adhere to a simple rule: The words "permanent," "bases," and "Iraq" should never be placed in the same sentence, not even in the same paragraph; in fact, not even in the same news report. While a LexisNexis search of the last 90 days of press coverage of Iraq produced a number of examples of the use of those three words in the British press, the only U.S. examples that could be found occurred when 80% of Iraqis (obviously somewhat unhinged by their difficult lives) insisted in a poll that the United States might indeed desire to establish bases and remain permanently in their country; or when "no" or "not" was added to the mix via any American official denial.


Russ on Real Time with Bill Maher

The junior senator from Wisconsin appeared on Real Time with Bill Maher this week on HBO.

Crooks and Liars has the video.


Fat Doctor

My buddy Mark recently moved to Madison and is preparing for medical school next fall. You can read his thoughts on nutrition and other topics at his site The Fat Premed.

Best of luck on your quest, Mark.


Focus on Cheney shooting not liberal bias

Whining conservatives really need to get past this notion that all the media focus on veep Dick Cheney's accidental shooting of Harry Whittington is because journalists are liberal. The reason for the amount of coverage is simple:

  • People are interested in the story.
  • The vice president of the United States shooting somebody is quite simply a big deal regardless of the circumstances.

For more debunking of the liberal media myth, see the Daou Report.

If anything, the unfortunate impact of the shooting is that it has resulted in important stories Cheney's involvement in authorizing the outing of CIA officer Valerie Plame's identity getting undercovered.

Thanks to Folkbum for pointing out the link.

Feingold filibuster on Patriot Act Conference Report

Sen. Russ Feingold has stalled the renewal of the USA Patriot Act through a filibuster. He had supported a bill to improve the Patriot Act, and put in more safeguards, but it appears the Conference Committee has essentially done away with those fixes. Feingold criticized other Democratic Senators for caving in on their opposition to controversial provisions of the Act.

From his floor statement:

"It was not easy for me to support that Senate bill, which fell short of the improvements contained in the bipartisan SAFE Act. But at the end of the day, the Senate bill contained meaningful changes to some of the most problematic provisions of the Patriot Act – provisions that I have been trying to fix since October 2001 – and I decided to support it. I made it very clear at the time, however, that I viewed that bill as the end point of negotiations, not the beginning. In fact, I specifically warned my colleagues “that the conference process must not be allowed to dilute the safeguards in this bill.” Mr. President, I meant it, but it appears that people either weren’t listening or weren’t taking me seriously. This conference report as slightly modified by this deal, unfortunately, does not contain many important reforms to the Patriot Act that we passed here in the Senate. So I cannot support it. And I will fight it."

UPDATE: The filibuster has failed with the cloture vote being successful. The vote was 96-3 with Feingold, Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV), and Sen. Jim Jeffords (I-VT) voting against it.


Joel McNally gets morning radio show

Milwaukee has another liberal in morning drive. Local columnist Joel McNally will begin duties as co-host of The Morning Magazine this week.

McNally will join Cassandra Cassandra on the show beginning Thursday morning at 6am on 1290AM WMCS. His column Taking Liberties runs in the weekly Shepherd Express.


Dem Party leaders push Hackett out of Senate race

This is a shame. Iraq war veteran Paul Hackett has dropped out of the race for US Senate in Ohio.

Hackett cited Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and other party leaders as the reason he pulled out of the running for the seat. Last year, he came amazingly close to unseating Republican Rep. Jean Schmidt in a district that is overwhelmingly Republican. Even for those who think Rep. Sherrod Brown is the superior candidate for the seat, this is unfortunate.

The people of Ohio would have had a choice in who their Democratic candidate would be had Hackett stayed in. Now that decision has been made for them by the party bosses.


Cheney should resign if Libby is right

No, not because of that whole shooting business over the weekend. Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, Scooter Libby, has reportedly told a grand jury that the vice president authorized the release of CIA officer Valerie Plame's classified identity in 2003. DNC Chairman
Howard Dean called on the veep to step aside if this is the case.

"If Vice President Cheney has, in fact, ordered the leaking of political information -- of intelligence information, that means he has to step aside," Dean said on CNN. "We don't know if it's true, but he has been accused of it. If it's true, he has to step aside."

On Sunday, Democratic and Republican senators said Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald should investigate Cheney and others in the CIA leak probe if they authorized Libby to give secret information to reporters.


SEWRPC to consider freeway expansion funding

Story Hill has an update on the continuing debate surrounding freeway expansion in Milwaukee.

At issue continues to be whether or not to fund expansion of some of Milwaukee's freeways to eight lanes. Such a project would involve the destruction of many existing homes and businesses. One of the most controversial parts of expanding I-94 near Miller Park would be that it involves removing graves from the Wood National Cemetery where American veterans are buried.

The Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission (SEWRPC) will meet March1 to consider whether or not to remove 19 miles of the expansion from the regional transportation plan.

Social Security privatization rears its ugly head

As Surrounded By Red notes, the budget that the president has submitted to Congress includes an item that calls for a Social Security private accounts to begin in 2011.

From Allan Sloan's column:

His plan would let people set up private accounts starting in 2010 and would divert more than $700 billion of Social Security tax revenues to pay for them over the first seven years.

If this comes as a surprise to you, have no fear. You're not alone. Bush didn't pitch private Social Security accounts in his State of the Union Message last week.

As word of this gets out, it will have a hard time surviving the budget process given how the public and Congress rejected such an idea last year. It's worth keeping an eye on though since they're clearly trying to float this under the radar.


Numbers revealing on global warming "debate"

From the latest issue of Utne:

  • 928: Number of peer-reviewed scientific journal articles about global warming published between 1993 and 2003.
  • 0: Percentage that cast doubt on human-caused global warming.
  • 3,543: Number of hard-news stories about global warming published by the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and Wall Street Journal between 1988 and 2002.
  • 53: Percentage of those that cast doubt.

FISA is not old law

As the argument from the Bush Administration goes, the reason that wiretapping without a court warrant is necessary is because the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) is outdated, and in the post 9/11 world, the government needs better tools to deal with terrorism.

FISA was originally passed in 1978, but it was amended just a few years ago. As Think Progress notes, it was a few short months after the 9/11 attacks occurred.

The law was changed in December 2001 to extend the amount of time the government could wiretap without a court warrant from 24 to 72 hours. If this change wasn't enough, why didn't the White House request additional changes at the time?

Yet another defense of the warrantless wiretapping has been that the Congressional resolution authorizing the use of force passed on September 15, 2001 granted such powers. The wiretapping program officially began in October 2001. Like Judiciary Committee chairman Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) said, this defies logic and plain English. Additionally, if there was no need for a warrant then to comply with the law, why were the changes in the previous paragraph sought and passed later that year?

The arguments go around in circles until the only defense left is the Nixon line: "If the president orders it, that makes it legal."

The separation of powers embedded in the Constitution may not mean much to this White House, but it matters to a lot of Americans who still believe in it.

On the Muhammad cartoon uproar

Riots continue in relation to the cartoon depicting Muhammad in an unsavory light in the eyes of many Muslims. Iran has now scaled back trade relations with the country for the time being (at least until the issue dies down politically). Professor Ajami of Johns Hopkins University put the issue in perspective tonight on the Newshour.

MARGARET WARNER: I mean, do you think Europeans deserve any responsibility for this, especially the ones who republished them?

FOUAD AJAMI: Well none whatsoever because part of the challenge, if you will, of living and the advantage of living in a liberal society is the willingness to be offended.

And I think what these Muslim populations in Europe, what these Muslim populations are telling us today is that they're in the West geographically but not of West. They don't accept the challenge; they don't accept the difficulty of living in a pluralist liberal society; that they have brought with them the fire from Morocco, from Tunisia, from Algeria, from Egypt and Syria.

And I think these European societies have a problem because they tended to think that there is a battle between America and the Islamic world, and that they are innocent bystanders. They're not innocent bystanders and now they know this. They know this in Denmark. They know this in Holland. They know this in Sweden. And that's what we're really seeing.

We're really seeing millions of Muslims who have come to Europe; they've been granted the chance for a new life. And I think they need to make their peace with this modern society in which they find themselves. And they haven't done it yet.

Ajami is right on, and this is a lesson a lot of people in America and other western nations should keep in mind as well when they fain outrage at something they're supposedly offended by whether they be espousing political correctness or the uptight religious right.


Booster seat bill passes

The governor has signed the bill making booster seats mandatory for children 8 years of age and under unless they weigh more than 80 pounds.

I'm glad they made the weight exception, but it seems fairly obvious the reason the bill was passed was so that Wisconsin could get more transportation aid from the feds.

Aside from the politics, I just can't imagine being eight years old and having to sit in some booster seat. I was a little tall for my age so maybe I would've been okay. Then I could've made fun of my friends who were still locked down like they were preparing for a shuttle launch.

Crazy party game

At the Super Bowl party I attended, one of the guests brought with him this game that I'd never heard of before.

It's called Lightning Reaction Extreme. Basically, four people hold a controller and watch the flashing red light on the console the controllers are connected to. When the light turns solid green, you must quickly hit the button. Whoever hits the button last (or too soon) gets an electric shock. Painfully entertaining party fun.


Marc Maron in Chicago

Well Aurora, actually. I drove down last night with a friend to see comedian Marc Maron performing at the beautiful Paramount Theatre.

His act was entertaining as it shifted between politics, the pitfalls of technology, or our inner demons. Add to that the fact that juggler Mark Nizer opened for him, and you have quite a mix of people in the crowd who are either laughing hysterically or trying to wrap their brain around what's happening on stage.

Maron recently moved back to LA after ending his stint as host of Morning Sedition out of New York. He's set to be starting a new radio show soon on the Air America network.

For an example of some of the work he's done elsewhere, check out the amusing short film he was in a few years back called Stalker Guilt Syndrome.


New poll numbers on Kohl's re-election

Strategic Vision has released some poll data on Wisconsin Sen. Herb Kohl who is up for re-election in November.

According to their numbers, Kohl's overall approval rating is 54% with 27% disapproving, and 19% undecided. State Republicans who have been trying to convince Tim Michels to run against Kohl may want to stop trying. In that matchup, Kohl trounces Michels 57% to 38%. Michels lost to Sen. Russ Feingold in the November 2004 election with Feingold carrying 55% to Michels' 44%.

The only competitive race pits Kohl against former Wisconsin governor Tommy Thompson. In that hypothetical matchup, Thompson edges Kohl 46% to 42% with an interesting 12% undecided (interesting considering the name recognition in Wisconsin politics the two have). The polls have a 3% margin of error putting this race at a statistical dead heat.

To date, Dave Reddick of Madison, Marc Gumz of Baraboo, and Robert Lorge of Bear Creek have announced they will run in the GOP primary, all of them longshots to mount a serious challenge.

Kohl remains one of the most popular politicians in contemporary Wisconsin politics. SurveyUSA recently placed his approval rating at 58%. He has earned that reputation due to his good consitutent service, his attention to the needs of Wisconsin's farmers, and small businesses, and his focus on bread and butter issues like health care.

Boehner edges out Blunt for majority leader

By a vote of 122 to 109, Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) was voted in today as the new House Majority Leader. He replaces Rep. Roy Blunt (R-MO) who was serving in the role temporarily after former majority leader Tom DeLay was indicted and forced to step aside.

On the first ballot, Blunt had a plurality with 110 votes, but fell short of the required 117. Rep. John Shadegg (R-KS), who was endorsed by Wisconsin congressmen Jim Sensenbrenner and Paul Ryan, then dropped out of the running and threw his support to Boehner giving him the edge.


I agree with Grover Norquist

Add conservative lobbyist Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, to the list of Republicans calling President Bush's wiretapping program illegal. He has this to say in an article in the San Francisco Chronicle:

"For 40 years we always assumed the left would take care of our civil liberties," he said. "If there were problems, the Democrats were the ones who would push back. But now with a Republican Congress and a Republican in the White House, the ACLU can't get their calls returned."

Referring to what some see as a conflict between fighting vicious terrorists and upholding all civil liberties, Norquist said: "It's not either/or. If the president thinks he needs different tools, pass a law to get them. Don't break the existing laws."

Over time, hopefully more Republicans will put their country ahead of party and voice their opposition to this policy. I have little doubt that if this were a Democratic president subverting the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), the Republicans currently defending it would be raising hell.

White House deleted e-mails during investigation

As Josh Marshall notes, the New York Daily News reports this interesting bit relating to the investigation into the leaking of CIA operative Valerie Plame's classified identity:

Fitzgerald, who is fighting Libby's request, said in a letter to Libby's lawyers that many e-mails from Cheney's office at the time of the Plame leak in 2003 have been deleted contrary to White House policy.

At this point, there's no way of knowing if those e-mails were deleted for purposes of covering anything up, but it certainly should raise some eyebrows.