Saturday, February 28, 2009
It was a shock when Edward Peterson returned to his downturn apartment last week to discover that it was stripped of everything, including shelves and drawers.
An hour or so later, police discovered that his landlord had cleaned out the apartment by mistake.
According to a Madison police report, Peterson, 36, returned to his apartment at 121 S. Hancock St. on Feb. 20 at 3 p.m. and found it emptied of all his furniture and belongings. He had left just five hours earlier, and everything was fine.
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
But wow, what the hell was that GOP response from Bobby Jindal? Here's a Republican Rhodes Scholar with an Ivy League education, and he's talking to the American people like none of them have anything beyond a sixth-grade education. Just rereading his remarks makes me wonder what exactly the strategy is here.
Obama put forward some fairly sobering and straightforward talk (we'll withhold judgment on his sincerity), only to be followed by Bobby Jindal's cheesy tale of his Slumdog Millionaire upbringing. It was equally curious that, in what amounted to an introduction to the nation, Jindal only wanted to talk about his father flipping through the Yellow Pages. That Jindal went to Brown and is a Rhodes Scholar is apparently not noteworthy, even as the logical conclusion of the "immigrant kid done good" story.
Or perhaps Jindal's address shows a keen awareness of how backwards and anti-intellectual today's Republican base is. Republicans tend to distrust smart people with good educations, after all. That's why they think Sarah Palin is so great. She's just like them - she hunts a lot, makes chili from wild game, and went to a bunch of colleges that nobody's ever heard of. The base loves people like Bobby Jindal's father but hates people like Bobby Jindal.
Bobby Jindal could be a blessing to a Republican Party desperate for some new faces. The only question is whether most of the Republican base is smart enough to realize it.
Monday, February 23, 2009
Assembly Minority Leader Jeff Fitzgerald says state Republicans have been hurt by the actions of national Republicans over the past two cycles.
"We kind of lost our way for a while at the national level," Fitzgerald, R-Horicon, told a WisPolitics.com luncheon last week. "That in turn fell on us."
Fitzgerald said Assembly Republicans have a record of fiscal conservatism but that national Republicans went astray.
"I'd be the first one to admit. I think Republicans in Congress ... and President Bush, there was a great ... amount of spending and earmarks," he said. "We did do different (at the state level). We voted different."
Beautiful. They still don't get it. The AssGOP made a stupid calculation in shoving the gay marriage amendment down everyone's throats on a general election ballot. They've been poorly led ever since Scott Jensen left. SE Wisconsin conservatives refuse to do anything that might help their outstate brethren win their reelection battles. Similarly, the outstate Republicans are now terrified to do absolutely anything lest it cost them a vote. They've run their campaigns with the political equivalent of the Bad News Bears, and instead of discarding the overpaid staffers who are dragging morale down, they give them last-minute discretionary raises and allow them to remain a cancer within the caucus.
You conservatives want an easy $150-200k a year in taxpayer savings? How about demanding that all the ex-leadership staffers in the Huebsch and Rhoades' offices get paid the same as their peers in other backbench offices? After all, they're doing the same work. Why should one person make $70k to answer letters and phone calls while the staffer next door makes $30k?
And Jeff Fitzgerald still wants to blame the woes of the Republican Party in Wisconsin on everyone but the people he leads. There's no fixing this problem until AssGOP leadership can look at the public and say "you know what? We screwed a lot of this up ourselves." But there's absolutely no sense of self-awareness coming from Fitzgerald. How can you fix the problems if you can't even admit that they exist?
Or perhaps Fitz's strategy is to simply sit there and hope that the Democrats screw up as badly as his caucus has in recent years. One would hope for more from a leader.
Congratulations, Archbishop Dolan.
Monday, February 16, 2009
Let's count the myriad of ways in which Scott Walker once again proves that he is dumber than someone with a college degree who understands the law and can read a newspaper. I will be playing that role in this argument, though many of you, dear readers, could do it just as well or better.
We'll begin with the fact that in order to do this, state and federal law would need to be changed. According to the MJS, Walker says he's happy to lead the fight to do this. Of course, why anyone at the federal level would want to listen to Milwaukee County's greasy-haired failure of a county exec is totally beyond me. Walker has no pull, no authority, and no clout with anyone. But hey, this looks great on a press release!
Let's say that, in some parallel universe, this were possible. Sales tax holidays typically do little to encourage additional spending, since people in states with sales tax holidays simply defer essential spending until the designated weekend. It's not like retailers make out like bandits, either. Because everyone is deferring spending until these weekends, stores are usually forced to slash prices more than usual in order to get people through the doors. That means less profit. It's a push for stores, a loss for the state, and consumers end up not spending any more money than they would anyway. Epic stimulus fail!
Even better is Walker's supposed justification for the idea. According to the MJS, Walker believes that a "sales tax hiatus could prove to be a bonanza for Wisconsin merchants if residents from neighboring states flocked to Wisconsin for purchases of cars, appliances and other big-ticket items."
Hmmm. Okay. Again, Walker proves his whorish, know-nothing bonafides.
First of all, state use tax laws typically require that a consumer who resides in a state pay tax on any untaxed item that is brought into the state for use in that state. That means that people from Illinois who come to plunder Wisconsin's stores would legally owe use tax on that to Illinois. So unless Scott Walker is encouraging people to break the law, folks from Illinois would come to Wisconsin, buy stuff here, and then pay the tax to Illinois. Brilliant!
Me personally, I prefer my elected officials to not encourage breaking of the law, but maybe I just have higher ethical standards than conservatives. Yeah, I probably do. But that's beside the point.
Furthermore, let's consider Walker's specific mention of vehicle purchases. Most states require proof that tax has been paid on a new vehicle when the vehicle is imported and titled in your home state. Otherwise, guess what? You have to pay the difference to your state of residence! Such is the case in Illinois, for instance, unless you leave the vehicle out of the state for 90 days prior to import. It is always the case in Minnesota when a resident purchases a vehicle out-of-state. Does Walker think dealers in Racine are going to sell cars to Illinois residents on lay-a-way?
Besides that, the feds are already ponying up to refund sales tax payments on new vehicle purchases. So in Walker's example, Wisconsin would collect no tax, Illinois or Minnesota would, and the consumer would have their state sales tax refunded to them by the federal government. Illinois and Minnesota win! Wisconsin loses! Yay stimulus!
The only thing that Scott Walker needs is some stimulus to be a good role model and finish his college education. Perhaps he could take a class in economics or common sense to help him in his current job. Clearly he's in need of it.
Saturday, February 14, 2009
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Unsolicited praise from a convicted cop killer isn't the kind of endorsement that a judge with a tough law enforcement stance wants.
But that's what Jefferson County Judge Randy Koschnick got from former client Ted Oswald, a man convicted of killing a police captain in 1994. The judge is now seeking a position on the Wisconsin Supreme Court.
In a letter sent from prison to The Associated Press, Oswald said Koschnick, his former public defender, did "exceedingly productive and good work" on his case in 1994 and 1995.
"If Judge Koschnick is selected for the Wisconsin Supreme Court, his voluminous first-hand knowledge of defense cases and the personalities of accused criminals would bestow to that court a fairer, more effective and more trustworthy perspective ... ." Oswald wrote. "I only observed his practice on one case, but I would be inclined to see it his way."
Monday, February 09, 2009
First of all, Obama has clearly pissed off millions of Americans who had their DVR's set to record some of their favorite shows at 7 p.m. And 8 p.m., for that matter. Not only did you screw up House, Mr. President, you messed up Heroes as well because you just couldn't shut up. Yammering for an hour? Tighten up your answers, buddy!
Speaking of answers: for a guy who gives great speeches, Obama gives bad press conference. His answers are long-winded, unfocused, and filled with what appears to be a nervous habit of rambling when an easy answer is not available. He's like that professor you had that would talk for 50 minutes in lecture when he had only 20 minutes of content.
In the course of his expansive answers, Obama detailed just about every problem facing America today, from bank failures to Alex Rodriguez to some old grandmother who can't get the lid off the strawberry jam without a government appropriation for one of those jar-opener gadgets. I think the Bed Bath & Beyond lobbyist requested that one, but since it was put in the original bill, DON'T YOU DARE CALL IT AN EARMARK YOU LYING REPUBLICAN!
Also, President Obama may be firing Joe Biden tomorrow for that "30 perecent chance we'll get it wrong" remark.
Let's look at Rose Fernandez's website. It's a very good example of how mashed up and directionless the conservative/Republican approach is.
On her issues page, Fernandez starts by discussing her support for a tuition freeze at UW campuses. That's nice. The DPI Superintendent's one vote on the Board of Regents is an entirely tangential responsibility, but apparently Fernandez thinks it's the most important part of the job, since she lists this first. It's also a neat gimmick - make people think the UW System is going to cower in the shadow of the awesomeness of the DPI Superintendent. Uh, no.
Then Fernandez devotes half as much space to discussing merit pay, something that actually is a worthwhile consideration and could improve public education if one can find a good way to implement it.
Next up is the school funding formula, which at present is the kind of ugly that only a politician could love. Everyone hates the formula and nobody has the nerve to change it.
Fernandez supports the QEO and levy limits, neither of which she would have any power to determine and are issues that are not related to educational quality so much as they are related to taxes.
MPS reform is an issue that makes 85% of voters in Wisconsin fall asleep, maybe more. Same thing with school choice. Here's a note to all the DPI wannabes: everyone out here knows MPS is a joke and we basically think it's Milwaukee's mess to figure out. Nobody in Eau Claire or Superior or Green Bay or La Crosse cares about the fact that Milwaukee's schools suck. Talking about it to them will not win their vote.
Charter schools are something that can actually be relevant to education in the rest of the state. Fernandez, however, merely devotes a few token sentences to the matter, about one-tenth the space she spends talking about MPS reform and private school choice in Milwaukee.
Finally, Fernandez prattles on about homeschooling. I have no problem with homeschooling. Homeschoolers are generally an admirable but extremely small minority out there. Again, however, Fernandez apparently thinks this is worth more space than charter schools or merit pay.
None of this should be taken as a personal slam on Fernandez. I'd rip Van Mobley instead but Mobley barely gives me enough actual content to discuss, unless we want to discuss his photo gallery or are looking for book recommendations, in which case he won't shut the hell up.
Seriously. I'm not kidding you. Here's the link to his issues page. Mobley uses twice as much space to talk about his favorite books as he does talking about what he'd do if he were elected. He also uses the word "chimera" in a paragraph addressing "basic education for the real economy," which is among the five greatest examples of irony ever.
But I digress.
Both are guilty of the same thing that Republican DPI candidates have been guilty of for ages. Fernandez and Mobley both fail to assemble any kind of an agenda that helps the overwhelming majority of Wisconsin residents understand how their children's schools can be improved. You know, public schools. Instead, Republican candidates let themselves get suckered by consultants and donors into talking about vanity issues like MPS and school choice that have virtually zero appeal outside southeast Wisconsin. Or they talk about QEO and levy limits, issues that only appeal strongly to the tax-haters out there that scare off all the squishy suburban parents with their tax-hating zeal.
Meanwhile, what's Tony Evers talking about on his website? Creating safe and respectful schools. Improving graduation rates. Educational innovation. Recruiting and retaining quality teachers. Fair and sustainable funding. Accountability for results.
Most noticeably, what's he not talking about at length? MPS or school choice or homeschooling or QEO or levy limits. You know, things that have very little to do with the quality of education most Wisconsin students receive.
I'm not saying Tony's the guy to accomplish any of those things that he's advocating. But he's framing the issues correctly, and that's the first step in winning an election: identifying what issues and language will move voters to your side of the fence.
So many Republicans write this race off because of the giant shadow that WEAC casts over it. But I'm not entirely convinced this race has to be a walkover every four years. To change that, Republicans need to find a way to frame their education agenda in a way that appeals to parents all across Wisconsin. Spare us the talk about QEO and levy limits and homeschooling and school choice and MPS. Talk about what you're going to do to improve public education across Wisconsin.
It shouldn't be hard, considering that it's the job you're actually running for.
Wednesday, February 04, 2009
That means I support fully subsidizing birth control and making it available to women of reproductive age without their parents' consent, which I'm sure will make the heads of conservatives spin. That's just fine with me. If free birth control means fewer unwanted pregnancies, and fewer unwanted pregnancies means fewer abortions, then I think that's the right approach. I have little doubt that this would be the case. I believe if one is really anti-abortion, one is willing to throw everything and the kitchen sink at preventing unwanted pregnancies. After all, few wanted pregnancies end in voluntary termination.
I would be positively delighted to live in a world where the horror of abortion did not exist. I would also be equally pleased to live in a world where uncles did not rape their nieces, or where porn stars broke into sorority houses to assault girls in bed. Sadly, that will probably never happen. I'm pretty sure that if I had a daughter in that position, I would prefer that she be allowed to decide how to proceed instead of having a bunch of creepy old white men in navy blazers and red ties deciding it for her. And because of that, I'm reluctant to ever have government issue a one-size-fits-all edict on the matter.
Furthermore, just because I believe that abortion is not a preferable course of action does not mean that I believe it is my God-given right to use the authority of a secular government to trample on everyone else's beliefs. When it comes to governing our nation, the Constitution is a more perfect document than the Bible.
So with all this hullaballoo surrounding the Madison Surgery Center coming to a head, my thoughts are really quite simple. For me, it comes down to a basic question. In matters of health, should people be allowed to make their own health care choices among those options that are legal? Or should our choices in effect be made for us because the doctors around us are unwilling to perform certain procedures that are legal?
While I personally hate what they're doing, I applaud the doctors at the Madison Surgery Center for making sure that the decisions regarding pregnancy from 19-22 weeks can still be made by patients. I believe that when in doubt, giving the patient the ability to choose or not choose a legal procedure is always the preferable course of action. I may not like the decisions that some patients make, but I respect their judgment more than that of Sue Armacost, or Dan LeMahieu, or Glenn Grothman.
Just because a procedure is available does not mean that women have to avail themselves of it. This is the ground on which the pro-life movement should fight. This is where the battle needs to be fought.
Passing laws or taking away legal health care options from individuals does nothing to change anyone's mind or anyone's heart. It's just a shortcut for the intellectually lazy, who would rather use the power of government to compel action rather than the power of critical thought and persuasion to change the minds of those who might disagree with them.
Tuesday, February 03, 2009
So Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson has $682K more on hand than Hamline's finest, and WMC has already decided to sit this one out. If Abrahamson wins, does this mean that Wisconsin has repudiated judicial conservatism? Guys named Randy? People with degrees from worthless law schools? Or do elections where conservative and liberal interest groups sit out not count when it comes to determining what voters want?
Attacks on Pope Benedict XVI's decision to lift the excommunication of a Holocaust denier escalated Monday, with one theologian calling on him to step down as the head of the Roman Catholic Church.At a time when the Catholic Church is widely seen and treated in Europe as an historical artifact of times gone by, perhaps this isn't the best way to assert the church's present-day relevance. Just saying.
"If the pope wants to do some good for the Church, he should leave his job," eminent liberal Catholic theologian Hermann Haering told the German daily Tageszeitung.
Meanwhile, a senior Vatican official acknowledged the Vatican administration may have made "management errors" with the decision to lift excommunication against four bishops, including Richard Williamson, whose comments sparked the controversy.
"I observe the debate with great concern. There were misunderstandings and management errors in the Curia," said Cardinal Walter Kasper, who is in charge of the Vatican department that deals with Jewish relations.
An international uproar followed the decision to rehabilitate Williamson, an English bishop who has dismissed as "lies" historical evidence that six million Jews were gassed by the Nazis during World War II. Jews and Catholics alike have produced widespread criticism.
Monday, February 02, 2009
I will simply carp for a moment about this short-sighted "Buy American" language that's been rammed into the bill by a couple of protectionist whores looking to score points with their steel-producing constituencies.
Economic protectionism in any form is nothing short of an attempt to protect the few at the expense of the many. In short, it compels consumers to purchase inferior products for higher prices by creating obstacles between you and what you would otherwise choose rationally.
Would we not be better off trying to find ways to help uncompetitive American industries (like steel) modernize instead of simply forcing American consumers to buy products whose combination of price and quality is uncompetitive? Or if the obstacles are too great, would it not be wiser to provide assistance to transition those workers into sectors of the U.S. economy that can be competitive globally? That would not only help them secure more business here but abroad as well.
Last I checked, the rest of the world is a much bigger consumer than the U.S. Why would our government want to implement policies that will only result in U.S. products being similarly blocked from the hands of billions of non-U.S. consumers?
I understand that even within economics, there's room for competing viewpoints. But no matter which way you look at it, protectionism smells and hurts all of us in the long run.
The people at Heritage use fancier words for it. You can read their thoughts here.
MILWAUKEE (AP) – A man sentenced to life in prison for killing a woman in 1984 had his conviction overturned and was released today on a personal recognizance bond after spending 23 years behind bars.
Robert Lee Stinson, 44, of Milwaukee, walked out of the New Lisbon Correctional Institution in street clothes and hugged his sister and members of the Wisconsin Innocence Project. A judge vacated the sentence after the Project argued that bite-mark analysis and DNA evidence that didn’t match evidence from the crime scene, defense attorney Byron Lichstein said.
First, congratulations to the fine men and women who donate their time to the Wisconsin Innocence Project. The criminal justice system screws up sometimes, and it's great to know that there are people who are willing to intervene and provide legal assistance to those are indeed innocent and who may otherwise not be able to vindicate themselves.
And now, let us begin the pool for how long it takes for Mark Gundrum and Jim Doyle to begin humping this guy's leg to score some publicity. Maybe we can name a task force after him? Parade him around like a pet? Or perhaps Mark and Jimmy are a little gun-shy now after that Steven Avery thing went so terribly, terribly wrong on them?
I'm sure that it seemed like a good idea at the time. Also, is it just me or were Doyle and Gundrum sharing a tie at this press conference?