Brewtown Politico

Carrying a little stick and speaking loudly in Milwaukee


Doyle signs eminent domain bill

Harkening back to this lovely decision by the Supreme Court last year, Gov. Jim Doyle signed a law limiting eminent domain in the state of Wisconsin.

From the AP article:

The Wisconsin bill prohibits governments - ranging from counties to state agencies to the University of Wisconsin System - from condemning property that isn't blighted if the governments plan to convey or lease the property to a private entity.

Property can't be considered blighted unless it has been abandoned or converted from a single dwelling into multiple units and the crime rate in or around the property is three times higher than in the rest of the city, according to the bill.

Before a government can seize blighted property, its officials must make written findings that include a legal description of the redevelopment, the reasons for condemnation and the reasons why the property is considered blighted.

It was the right decision by the state legislature and the governor to back this bill proving that bipartisanship is still possible even in these times.


John Dean to testify at Bush censure hearing

John Dean, former White House counsel to President Richard Nixon, will testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Friday.

Dean appeared on Keith Olbermann's show last night to discuss it. You can watch the video at BradBlog

Excerpt from the transcript:

OLBERMANN: Obviously, you can bear personal witness to the top 10 signs that a presidency has crossed the line, and last time, you did mention a couple of things that wound up cutting through the partisanship of the equation. But is that possible now? Can anybody add anything that illuminates rather than just heats?

DEAN: Well, I think they can, in this regard. We're looking at something, really, that is a matter of process. There was a lot of debate, for example, during the Clinton impeachment about whether the wisdom or not appropriate nature of a censure.

And I think they missed the point, and I think somebody needs to bring some of this testimony forward to look at this in a broader context of what it's doing if the Congress doesn't stand up and say something about what the president is doing, in essence, we have, down in 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, lawyers who are taking the most aggressive readings on any part of the law they can to enhance executive power.

And I think it's past time for Congress, really, to stand up and do something about it.


Surprise, Halliburton gouged taxpayers

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) has released a report that shows Halliburton overcharged taxpayers tens of millions of dollars as part of their $1.2 billion contract to rebuild Iraq's oil fields.

From the Reuters article:

The Pentagon's Project and Contracting Office (PCO) found that Halliburton repeatedly overcharged the government, Waxman said, citing the documents.

PCO put KBR on notice in January 2005 that it could cancel the contract for cause. It lifted the notice six months later, saying KBR demonstrated "adequate" compliance. In January, it exercised one of three one-year options to extend the deal.

In one case, the agency said Halliburton tried to inflate cost estimates by $26 million. In another, it said Halliburton claimed costs for laying concrete pads and footings that the Iraqi Oil Ministry had already installed.

The report said the same agency reported Halliburton was "accruing exorbitant indirect costs at a rapid rate," while the Defense Contract Audit Agency challenged $45 million of $365 million in costs as unreasonable or unsupported.

What's also not surprising is that the ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Government Reform had to compile this information. The Republicans, supposed defenders of your money, are nowhere to be found. I guess it's not politically correct to criticize the Vice President's former company screwing the public in a time of war.


GDP up, wages down

There's a very good article in the Wall Street Journal that explains why many lower and middle class households don't maintain the optimistic view of the economy that the government does.

Go here to read the full article. Nice catch, STiTP.

Quick thoughts on Green's chances

When Scott Walker dropped out handing the GOP primary for governor to Rep. Mark Green, a few things occurred to me. While it saves the Republicans a tough and bruising primary battle, it also means they lose all the free press that comes from events and debates leading up to the primary itself. Most people, political geeks like myself aside, aren't going to pay much attention to the race at all until fall now.

I maintain that Jim Doyle will win the race in November for a few reasons. Congressman Green has a long history of voting with the party and with this president. With President Bush's approval rating at 39% in Wisconsin (57% disapproving), that's not going to be an asset for Green.

As with all competitive elections, it's going to come down to turnout. If Doyle can get his voters out, he'll win. I can't imagine there are very many John Kerry voters who are going to vote Green if they come to the polls.


OK mayor threatens Linux maker with FBI

This is an amusing piece from the Register. The mayor of Tuttle, Oklahoma was outraged one day when the city's website displayed the configuration page for the web server rather than the usual webpage.

The mayor's response was to contact the maker of the web server software, CentOS Linux, and accuse them of hacking the city's website and replacing it with the Linux software. Recognizing the problem was with the provider that hosts the city of Tuttle's website, CentOS tried to direct them to the proper IT support people, but the mayor simply threatened FBI action if the web page didn't return.

Read the exchange of e-mails here.


Walker drops out

Milwaukee County Exec Scott Walker has announced he is withdrawing from the race for governor. His statement is here.

As a Republican, Walker would have had a tough time capturing votes from anti-Milwaukee Republicans out state. Walker's exit means Congressman Mark Green will take on Gov. Jim Doyle in the November election.

Despite Doyle's current poll numbers, I continue to believe he will win the election, albeit by a narrow margin of around five percentage points. I'm waiting for him to take my advice and challenge Green and the state GOP on reproductive freedom considering the current makeup of the US Supreme Court.

Xoff points out that it's probably not a coincidence that RNC Chair Ken Mehlman was in town shortly before Walker dropped out.


Feingold on TDS

Wisconsin senator Russ Feingold appeared on the Daily Show with John Stewart last evening.

Some of us at Drinking Liberally were able to catch it on the TV with closed captioning. Feingold got a good response from the crowd, and debunked the myths about the illegal wiretapping coming from the Republican Party and bloggers transmitting their talking points for them.

Crooks and Liars has the video in case you missed it.


Malpractice cap won't curb cost of health care

Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle signed a cap on malpractice awards today, taking another issue away from wanna-be governors Scott Walker and Mark Green.

Both sides argued that this was an important issue for one reason or another. The reality is that malpractice lawsuits have a negligible effect on the cost of health care. As this article in the Wisconsin State Journal mentions, liability costs account for between 0.4% to 2% of the cost of health insurance. If we are going to address the growing problem of the cost of health care, and providing access to it, we need to move beyond largely symbolic measures like this one.

Rep. Jon Richards (D-Milwaukee) and Rep. Curt Gielow (R-Mequon) have proposed the Wisconsin Health Plan, which would cover residents under the age of 65 by allowing them to purchase coverage the same way state legislators do. It's too bad there isn't more leadership in the GOP led legislature to move this plan forward.


NH House sinks gay marriage amendment

The New Hampshire House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly against a proposed constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. The vote took place Tuesday, and was a lopsided 207-125.

In Wisconsin, in a little more than 7 months, voters will decide whether to do the same now that the state legislature has passed the amendment. It would go further than banning marriage in that it would ban civil unions as well.


Truth has outed itself

Weeks into the war in Iraq back in 2003, pundits on all sides were chiding those of us opposed to the war. The world was supposedly changed forever, and in the words of Chris Matthews, we were all now neo-conservatives.

Looking back at some of these quotes reminds us just how wrong loud wishful thinking can be, especially in a time of war.

"The only people who think this wasn't a victory are Upper Westside liberals, and a few people here in Washington."
(Charles Krauthammer, Inside Washington, WUSA-TV, 4/19/03)

"We're all neo-cons now."
(MSNBC's Chris Matthews, 4/9/03)

"The war was the hard part. The hard part was putting together a coalition, getting 300,000 troops over there and all their equipment and winning. And it gets easier. I mean, setting up a democracy is hard, but it is not as hard as winning a war."
(Fox News Channel's Fred Barnes, 4/10/03)

"Over the next couple of weeks when we find the chemical weapons this guy was amassing, the fact that this war was attacked by the left and so the right was so vindicated, I think, really means that the left is going to have to hang its head for three or four more years."
(Fox News Channel's Dick Morris, 4/9/03)

The president, in forums like the one today in Cleveland, continues to encourage Americans to stay the course and talks about all the progress supposedly taking place, but a majority of the country has tuned him out after being disappointed too many times.


Comedy Central yanks South Park scientology episode

After Isaac Hayes quit the show, and Tom Cruise threatened Viacom over airing a repeat of a South Park episode mocking scientology, Comedy Central has pulled the episode from the air.

If you want to see what all the fuss is about you can view the episode here.

Matt Stone and Trey Parker, the show's creators, responded with this amusing statement:

"So, Scientology, you may have won THIS battle, but the million-year war for earth has just begun! Temporarily anozinizing our episode will NOT stop us from keeping Thetans forever trapped in your pitiful man-bodies. Curses and drat! You have obstructed us for now, but your feeble bid to save humanity will fail! Hail Xenu!!!

-Trey Parker and Matt Stone, servants of the dark lord Xenu"


Madison and Milwaukee: rail-free zone

Jim Rowen addresses the rail issue in a new post at the Xoff Files.

Today, if you take Amtrak from Milwaukee to Minneapolis, you won't be stopping in Madison along the way. This is rather odd considering the amount of commuting that goes on between Wisconsin's two largest cities.

Passenger rail between Madison and Milwaukee is part of the Midwest Regional Rail Initiative. It would call for high speed rail transit up to 110 mph between major cities like St. Louis, Chicago, Milwaukee, Cleveland, Detroit, and the Twin Cities. In addition, there would spurs to mid-sized cities in the region.

Unfortunately, considering the number Congress and the president have done on the federal budget, that plan has been on the back burner. There's more info on the rail initiative available in a September 2004 report available in PDF format on the WisDOT website.


NCAA tourney thread

My bracket is still intact at this point, but there remains plenty of time for it to be torn to pieces.

Congratulations to my UWM Panthers who beat Oklahoma 82-74 earlier today.


Quote of the Day

It comes from Jamie Raskin who is running for State Senate in my former stomping grounds of Takoma Park, Maryland.

"Senator, when you took your oath of office, you placed your hand on the Bible and swore to uphold the Constitution. You didn't place your hand on the Constitution and swear to uphold the Bible."

-Jamie Raskin, testifying Wednesday, March 1, 2006 before the Maryland Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee in response to a question from Republican Senator Nancy Jacobs about whether marriage discrimination against gay people is required by "God's Law."

Great catch, Benny B.

Censure gets co-sponsor

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) has signed on to Sen. Russ Feingold's censure resolution.

Quoting Mr. Harkin:

"I think it makes sense. ... Quite frankly, I think we ought to have a full-fledged debate on this."

Raw Story reports that Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) says she will vote for it as well if given the chance.

Vote for Stacie

There's still time to vote in this week's MKE blog of the week poll. Vote here for the Vast Dairy State Conspiracy.

Stacie, in addition to her blog duties, is one of the organizers of Milwaukee's Drinking Liberally chapter.


Note to Democrats in Congress: grow a pair

Ditto to Blue over at Surrounded By Red.

Sen. Russ Feingold's resolution to censure President Bush for violating the law on wiretapping has some Democrats in Congress cowering as they have too often in the past. Republicans like Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) are calling for a vote, because they think it will help them retain control come the November elections.

What the Dems should realize is Frist's strategy is foolish. If the Republican majority marches in lockstep against the resolution, it only ties them closer to the White House and this unpopular president. If Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and their colleagues want to take back Congress, they need to step up and take a stand on important matters like the president thumbing his nose at the Constitution, and the separation of powers.

Google v. Justice: The Showdown

The Justice Department is still going after Google to obtain records of searches from its website. So far, Google has refused to comply with the request.

The case has focused attention on just how much personal information is stored by popular Web sites like Google -- and the potential for that data to attract the interest of the government and other parties.

Although the Justice Department says it does not want any personal information now, a victory over Google in the case would likely encourage far more invasive requests in the future, said University of Connecticut law professor Paul Schiff Berman, who specializes in Internet law.

"The erosion of privacy tends to happen incrementally," Berman said. "While no one intrusion may seem that big, over the course of the next decade or two, you might end up in a place as a society where you never thought you would be."


Feingold calls for Bush censure, Frist carries water

Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) called for a censure of the president, and says he will introduce a resolution to do so.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) responded by saying "the American people are solidly behind this president in conducting the war on terror."

Apparently, Mr. Frist is a tad out of touch with the public's confidence in our fearless leader's handling of the war on terrorism.

Text of the resolution in PDF.

Must see for Simpsons fans

Sky One in the UK did a promo for the Simpsons using live action actors. It's a brilliant piece of work in that it mimics the sequence of events that opens every episode.


O'Connor: Be wary of the court bashers

Retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor hit back at critics of the judiciary branch of government in a speech at Georgetown on Thursday.

From NPR's Nina Totenberg:

In an unusually forceful and forthright speech, O’Connor said that attacks on the judiciary by some Republican leaders pose a direct threat to our constitutional freedoms. O’Connor began by conceding that courts do have the power to make presidents or the Congress or governors, as she put it “really, really angry.” But, she continued, if we don’t make them mad some of the time we probably aren’t doing our jobs as judges, and our effectiveness, she said, is premised on the notion that we won’t be subject to retaliation for our judicial acts. The nation’s founders wrote repeatedly, she said, that without an independent judiciary to protect individual rights from the other branches of government those rights and privileges would amount to nothing. But, said O’Connor, as the founding fathers knew statutes and constitutions don’t protect judicial independence, people do.


Great Drinking Liberally this week

We had quite a crowd at this week's Drinking Liberally. I was a bit tardy, but there were plenty of new faces in attendance when I showed up.

Among the attendees were Congressional candidate Bryan Kennedy, Milwaukee County Sheriff candidate Vince Bobot, and J.D. Watts who is running for Milwaukee County Circuit Court. Thanks in part to our group, Club Garibaldi had one of its best nights ever. Next round is slated for March 22nd.

Also, after looking at the main site, it looks like Drinking Liberally has gone international with a new chapter in Dublin. Cheers to our left-leaning cohorts in the Emerald Isle.


Congress wipes out food labeling laws

Proving once again that the Republican idea of "states rights" is nothing more than a clever marketing ploy, Congress voted Thursday to outlaw states from having food safety labeling laws. States like California passed such requirements years ago to advise consumers of foods that contain ingredients known to cause cancer.

The vote was 283-139 with 212 Republicans and 71 Democrats voting for it. As per usual, the Wisconsin delegation split along party lines.


Tommy (hearts) DeLay

Former Wisconsin governor/HHS secretary Tommy Thompson is a big supporter of indicted Congressman Tom DeLay. As WisPolitics noticed, an article in the Dallas Morning News mentions that Thompson hosted a reception/fundraiser for the former House Majority Leader this past week.

Way to make us proud, Tommy.

Panthers on the March

Congratulations to the UWM Panthers (my alma mater) men's basketball team on winning the Horizon League championship tonight against Butler.

UW-Milwaukee is advancing to the NCAA tournament for the third time in history and they've accomplished that in just the last four seasons.

Congrats also to the UWM women's team who beat UIC on Monday, and earned a berth to the big dance as well.


Milwaukee METRA expansion

I was going to post something on this, but Jay beat me to it.

Mayor Tom Barrett is proposing an expansion of the proposed Metra extension in Milwaukee. The initial plan has been for the commuter rail service to run from Chicago to the Amtrak station downtown. The mayor is now calling for that extension to include stops west of downtown to Miller Park and State Fair Park. On its face, this seems to make perfect sense considering the traffic that those destinations receive. Read the article in today's local daily here.


Judicial Watch: Release 9/11 Pentagon video

As most everyone knows, moments after the attack on the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, the feds seized all public surveillance videos of the attack and have kept them classified.

Judicial Watch filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request in December 2004 to have video footage released, but the Department of Defense denied it. The group has now filed a lawsuit against the DOD to force it to comply with the FOIA request.

“There is no legal or rational basis for the Department of Defense to withhold this video,” said JW President Tom Fitton. “There may be nothing of importance on this tape, but our experience has been that whenever the government takes extraordinary measures to keep the lid on documents, it is worth investigating.”

Whirlpools are nasty

A researcher at Texas A & M University has greatly reduced the possiblity that I will ever sit in a whirlpool again.

From Reuters:

In 95 percent of the tubs, bacteria derived from feces were present, while 81 percent had fungi and 34 percent contained potentially deadly staphylococcus bacteria.

Moyes explained that a teaspoon of normal tap water contains about 138 bacteria and many samples are bacteria-free. A teaspoon of whirlpool tub water, on the other hand, contains an average of more than 2 million bacteria.



Fox poll brings no good news for Bush

Conservatives who distrust the recent poll by CBS released earlier this week may be interested to learn the new Fox News poll puts the president's approval rating in the same territory as the CBS poll.

Fox has Bush's approval rating dropping to 39%, the second time their poll has him below 40. The country's so fed up with him, not even Fox News can completely cover it up, bearing in mind the headline is "Most Oppose Port Deal; Republicans Lose Ground".


Red State Spex

The latest This Modern World by Tom Tomorrow is pretty darn accurate based on my conversations with some of our rightward leaning friends. Click on the image below to view it.


Committee to consider smoking ban

The Public Safety Commission will vote Thursday on whether to send a proposed smoking ban Thursday to the full city council in Milwaukee.

Having lived on the east coast for a time, I can vouch for Milwaukee being more of a smoking town than DC was. Some bars and restaurants in Milwaukee are better than others at providing good ventilation systems to filter out cigarette smoke. If customers don't think a particular place is creating a welcoming environment for non-smokers, they should let the management know and then patronize another place more to their liking. That's a better solution than a blanket rule affecting only businesses in the city proper.

Many restaurants have moved to entirely non-smoking, but the market has been slow in Milwaukee to have smoke-free bars. The fact that this is an issue should send a signal to developers and investors that a market exists for more of those kinds of places. One in particular that has been successful is Ardor Pub & Grill in downtown Milwaukee. They serve great food and drinks and are 100% smoke free.

After the committee votes on the proposal tomorrow, the full council would vote March 21st on whether to send it on for Mayor Tom Barrett's signature.

UPDATE: The committee kicked the issue down the road, and won't take it up before at least March 30.

Microsoft giving away USB drives

Check out the "Free USB Drive - Microsoft" link at, and follow the instructions in the first comment to get a complimentary USB drive from Mr. Gates.

It sounds like it's a free 64MB drive. Not bad for simple file transfers between computers. You have to register with Microsoft Passport to sign in (it's free).