Saturday, March 31, 2007

Excuses for Ziegler; Smears for Clifford

Milwaukee wing-nut Charlie Sykes likes to brag about his use of the public airwaves to pervert democracy in Wisconsin. After every election, he brags about how (some of) the causes he champions by parroting GOP talking-points prevailed in elections big and small.

The erudite shill Sykes and other GOP-operatives disguised as "talk-radio hosts" may have another award to put on their built-on-public-airwaves trophy cases on Wednesday. Despite a historic indifference to the very basics of judicial ethics, damaged WMC candidate Annette Ziegler may well find herself on the Supreme Court. She may be the first judge in Wisconsin that won’t have to worry about being disciplined by the Judicial Commission because she already leap-frogged the process right to the Supremes.

With all the phony hand-wringing by the wing-nuts about the supposed crisis of ethics in Wisconsin government, you’d think they’d at least pretend that Ziegler ruling on dozens of cases in which she had a direct financial interest might be a legitimate issue. But, as always for the wing-nuts, that kind of consistency is for suckers. Seconds after the state GOP hits the "send" button on their twice-daily excuse-making, Clifford-smearing e-mails, the radio squawkers are out in full-force, providing hours of free advertising every day for the Ziegler campaign.

The unfortunate death of the Fairness Doctrine and the right-wing nuts’ "freedom" to express "their" opinions (someone let me know where the line forms for anyone of a different persuasion to exercise a similar "freedom" on a 50,000-watt station like TMJ) are one thing; outright campaigning on behalf of one candidate and, just as nefariously, against another during actual elections is quite something else. Although the current FCC would be a joke even if it did have a Fairness Doctrine to enforce, it certainly seems that the Ziegler campaign should have to report the hours of free support as in-kind contributions by the local stations that have chosen to walk the all-GOP-all-the-time party line. But, as in judicial ethics, following the law is...well, you're kidding, right?

Although the Ziegler campaign and her surrogate "independent" supporters such as WMC and the usual school-"choice" industry interlopers (with Ziegler, it is always hard to tell who is the surrogate – or puppet – for whom...wait, no it isn’t) blanketed the airwaves with actual paid commercials a month before Linda Clifford got anything out, Ziegler could not have withstood the barrage of bad ethics news without the support of her local buddies Charlie, Mark, Jessica, Jay, Jeff, et al, ad nauseam.

As they have for years with Bush, the major benefit provided to any GOP candidate by the extraordinarily pliant wing-nuts is two-fold: 1) making excuses for the documented incompetence/ethical lapses/bad behavior of their precious Republicans and 2) personally destroying anyone who dares to run against/criticize/investigate the same. The talking points are developed by the GOP and distributed to the radio clowns and they then all dutifully say the same things. Over and over. The lies become perceived as truth through sheer repetition by the most unoriginal, scripted radio voices since Bob Hope left for television.

Besides minimizing the clear ethics violations by Ziegler – I mean, why even bother trying to make small-claims cases fair...they are so...small – the GOP wing-nuts have gone after Clifford for remarkably silly things. First of all, they rant about how Clifford might be compromised in cases similar to the personal injury cases handled by her husband, without even seeing what cases she may or may not recuse herself from once she’s on the bench. Clifford says she will examine the issue case-by-case, which is exactly right. The list of businesses on the WMC's list of members that might have business before the bought-and-sold Ziegler if she gets on the court is a lot longer than Clifford's husband's client list. Oh, that's right. What does she care?

Then, playing the game of death-by-a-thousand cuts, the wing-nuts have brought us "concerned" discussions about a photographer being caught taking pictures (taking pictures!) of the Washington County Courthouse (the courthouse!) and saying he was a reporter when confronted by a Deputy Sheriff. Never mind why the deputy is out there harassing a photographer taking a photo of a public building or who might have sent him out there.

Finally, not to be outdone, newly-single Dan Bice (the "Ice Boy"?) got his solo wing-nut groove going by playing up some Zielger-generated tripe about a researcher hired by the Clifford campaign who apparently plagiarized some stuff when he worked for the Center for Public Integrity, behavior for which they say he was fired. According to the perfection-seeking Bice, Clifford was supposed to check more carefully on the background of the person checking on Ziegler’s background. The researcher came up with documentation of Ziegler’s many ethical challenges, including the many cases she handled involving the bank where her husband has a seat on the board. "As far as we know, he didn’t make any of it up," admits Bice. Really? So what’s the problem?

All this noise by the radio and print wing-nuts sets up the smoke in the background, solely for Ziegler’s benefit. The hours of carping about Clifford’s photographer outside the courthouse by the GOP radio surrogates means the Ziegler campaign can stay "above the fray", at least when she is not showing Clifford in front of a full moon with scary horror-movie headlines. The Clifford campaign doesn’t have to do that with Ziegler’s image on their ads – the tight-bunned official photo of Ziegler is scary enough.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Bringin’ It All Back Home

I first started blogging in February 2003. It was brought on by a combination of things: a desire to write, outrage with the Bush drive to war in Iraq and technology that was finally making it easier for laypersons to get out there and try to be heard.

With many in the media now recognizing -- without celebrating -- the anniversary of the disastrous invasion and occupation that began four years ago today, I thought I would look back at my small contribution to the discussion. Although I did not predict the sheer magnitude of the continuing tragedy that has been visited on us by Cheney, Rumsfeld, Bush and company (in that order), I am not at all gratified to say that the millions of us who resisted the Stupid War were right.

One of the amazing things this far down the line is that the MSM and, certainly, the wing-nuts still give face time to pigs like Richard Pearle, who was on Meet the Press this weekend, pressing the case for more blood and death. People like him will always live in their ivory towers, counting their war profits and will never apologize for anything. People who were wrong about (at least) going along with the war, like most of the MSM and too many Democrats should apologize (yes, that means you, Hillary) and use everything in their growing power to extract us from this mess.

But some of us have nothing to apologize for.

From “Mike Plaisted’s Anti-War Blog” -- March 20, 2003:

Despite the attempts of religion and the military to claim that there is life after death -- be it in military "glory" or heaven -- there really isn't. Dead is dead. One of the most influential books I read growing up was "Johnny Got His Gun" by Dalton Trumbo. It should be required reading for anyone like Bush and Cheney and the rest of them, Vietnam war wimps who are now sending our sons and daughters into harm's way in the desert and cities of Iraq. The moral of the story -- mostly narrated by a torso, all that was left of the soldier in the story -- is that our brave soldiers do not die in the trenches thinking about the country they are fighting on behalf of or the proud leaders who sent them there. They die screaming for their mothers, father, husbands, wives, children, lovers, friends.

I thought about this morning, watching a typical military puff piece on the Today show about a husband and wife who were now in Kuwait while their five kids (five!) stayed back in the states. The couple seemed to be typical working-class kids of the type that are attracted to voluntary military service -- for what they perceive as a good job with lots of benefits that they need. The upshot is that they were trying to get out of the military sooner by taking these assignments together. But what if they are both killed? Those kids would then be orphaned for what? For Bush and his obscure family vengeance? Cheney/Rumsfeld, and their vision of world domination? Haliburton? "Sorry kids, but your parents died so that we can get more geopolitical leverage for our grander designs." Wha?

The best explanation of this previously incomprehensible drive for alliance-destroying war is the Crazy America theory. We are going into Iraq and kicking ass for the same reason we dropped atomic bombs in Japan as World War II was winding down. For the same reason Nixon and Kissinger considered dropping the bomb on Hanoi. We get more leverage in the world if the world thinks we are nuts. The atomic bombs dropped innocent civilians in Hiroshima and Nagasaki had little to do with Japan -- it was a signal to the USSR, the first shot in the Cold War, that we had the bomb and were crazy enough to use it. By driving into Iraq, the Bushies are telling the world that they don't care about world opinion or silly diplomatic niceties. We're big, now we're bad. Get used to it.

Let's say (and, at this point, let's hope) that the military part of this war is quick. It won't be painless for many, but let's say "not many" US soldiers or Iraqis die (and watch for the sliding-scale spin on what's defined as "not many"). Pick your favorite Bush rosy scenario. Even if "successful" by those terms, the Bush's version of the US is still criminal in starting the war, still imperialist in the outrageous intent to mold this sovereign country to its own designs. Add this crime to the list of the genocide of the Native American, slavery and its aftermath, dropping atomic bombs in Japan, etc. For the first time, the US, on its own, has invaded a foreign country for the sole purpose of taking out and reconstructing its government. I'm sorry, but this is the same sort of shit Hilter did -- and he used the ruse of German security to justify it.

There. I said it.

Which brings us to people saying things at this point in time. Tom Daschle has been excoriated by the Bushies and other radical right-wingers for making some very mild comments about the failure of diplomacy. Other Dems are unlikely to stick their necks out, since they usually play too fair. Why do the Dems always think they have to play fair? Could you imagine what would be happening if Clinton dragged us into this thing against all world opinion and against the Security Council? This whole "our disagreements end at the water's edge" thing should get chucked out with everything other old "20th century" practice the Bushies seem to be throwing out the window. The Dems should be telling the world to hang tight for a couple of years until they can get back in and straighten out this mess.

Now that we have seen the first arrests of anti-war protesters, the rest of us will be looking over our shoulders for the likes of John Ashcroft to find a way to prevent us from "giving aid and comfort", or whatever. I wouldn't put it past these people to label an anti-war activist or two as "enemy combatants" and lock them up for the duration, without charges. But I'll keep plugging along here for the sake of my five readers. Three of whom probably work for the FBI.
A Plaisted Blog History: From 2003 to February 2005, I had a blog in the Salon community, variously titled Anti-War Blog, Beat Bush in ‘04 Blog, Bush Surrogate Watch, and Mondo Media, which was the name of my media column in the Daily Cardinal in the early '80s. The blog was notoriously ignored (7 or 8 hits for most posts) and I stopped in February 2005 when my Salon blog subscription expired. Anyway, I was depressed about the 2004 election results and lost my energy. Highlights included my trip to the Democratic convention in ‘04 and my final post, a eulogy of the great-but-wasted Hunter S. Thompson. I put up a permanent link to my old stuff over there on the right. Apparently, blogs are forever.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Mark Green: Sore Loser

The saga of the dirty money that Mark Green tried to sneak in from his federal coffers has ended with another sound Green defeat. On Friday, Green and the Elections Board reached a “settlement” of their “dispute” over $467,844 that Green illegally transferred from his federal account and tried to use in his state campaign. Green and his henchmen have apparently decided that they have soaked as much wing-nut talking-points as they could from their phony appeal and, like the brave men they are, turned tail and ran.

I don't want to say "I told you so"...No, I do. From my October 26th post:

“The fact is that Green campaign has known from the beginning that the $460,000 was gone. They have been playing for time for months: 1) pretending that it was somehow arguable that he should be able to use the money, 2) claiming that Doyle "rigged" the Elections Board vote, 3) lost the request of a restraining order from a Dane County judge (who certainly would have granted it if the Board was "rigged"), 4) voluntarily dismissed their own case, and 5) appealed their own voluntary dismissal to the Supreme Court. About the "appeal", Green tells the Journal Sentinel ‘I have no idea what's going on…’”

In other words, despite all their huffing-and-puffing about the “injustice” of it all, the Greenies knew they were legally wrong, but continued to churn the issue, filing frivolous appeals with no intention of ever having the Supreme Court hear the issue, and, in the meantime, using the “issue” as another one of their phony “dirty Doyle” smears. As it turns out, the Elections Board got it right, and, regardless of how he spins it, by accepting the “settlement” with the Board this past Friday, Green admits as much.

Saying that they had “agreed to disagree about the law”, the Elections Board said in a statement: “The settlement prohibits Green from using the disputed funds to run for office, but allows him to pay legal fees and make contributions to other candidates for office.” So, he can’t use the dirty money in any future campaign (one shudders to think of him running for anything again) and he gets to use the money to pay the legal bills he rang up by filing the phony appeals in the first place. As for giving to other campaigns, it appears the dirty money would then be that candidate’s problem. Don’t expect Green’s phone to be ringing off the hook by candidates seeking to have Green dump his dirty money problems on them.

This is exactly the result that would have occurred if the Elections Board would have prevailed in the Supreme Court (except, maybe, the payment of those all-important attorney fees). You would think, then, that Green might be humbled by such an event and, perhaps, even apologize for wasting everyone’s time. You would be wrong. A class act all the way, Loser Green issued a statement: “The decision by the Elections Board last fall has now been exposed as nothing more than a crass manipulation of a governmental agency by Jim Doyle in his desperate effort to hold on to power…I am gratified that the Elections Board itself has been eliminated. No other candidate will ever again receive the kind of unfair treatment I received from what was supposed to be an impartial body.”

Good grief. If the decision of the Board was the result of such a “crass manipulation”, why would Green accept a settlement that gave him nothing? What kind of “unfair treatment” can there be if the Board got it right? You would think by this desperate spin that Green won not only the case, but the election. He lost both, of course, and deservedly so. And he continues to whine about it.

Green is lucky he has now-confirmed Bush hack Steve Biskupic in the U.S. Attorney’s office. If Green had pulled this stunt as a Democrat, he would surely be prosecuted by GOP operative Biskupic for transferring the money out of his federal account the way he did in the first place -- after all, the Elections Board was interpreting federal law when they made their correct ruling.

As for the Journal Sentinel, which has provided several opportunities for Green to whine about his election thumping and the sad unavailability of his dirty money, it ran the Green defeat-by-settlement story in the second section this Saturday morning. This is after the blazing “Green to Appeal” headline across the front page when the Elections Board first made its ruling before the election. Even six months after the election, bad-for-Green stories get buried and the lies get a head start before the truth gets its boots on. In all this time, the J-S has never called out Green’s dirty money transfer as the blatant violation of the law it was. Maybe now they can editorialize about how the Elections Board bravely protected the election process from the dirty money Green tried to drag in here from Washington.

I won’t hold my breath.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Steve Biskupic: No Worries, Duh!

When Karl Rove and Harriet Miers were looking for the heads of U.S. Attorneys to put on a spike in 2005 and 2006, you can probably guess their reaction when they came to the man heading up the office in Eastern Wisconsin. “Ah, Biskupic!” you can imagine Rove exclaiming, his eyes glazing over in the rapture of the U.S Attorney of his dreams. “Yes, Biskupic,” the non-Supreme Court Justice Miers would say, confirming legally what Rove sensed in his manipulative heart. “He’s a good one.” “Yesss,” Rove would sigh. “He’s a good boy. Good Boy!”

Whether by direction, design or just plain old predisposition, Steve Biskupic has walked the political walk for Junior Bush since he was appointed by the Decider in 2002. Whether it’s going after Democratic alderman for buying themselves groceries, civil servants working for a Democratic governor, contributors to the same Democratic governor and investigating non-existent “voter fraud” (the very definition of an elephant laboring for months and bearing a mouse), Biskupic has been Johnny-on-the-Spot for the Bushies‘ political agenda.

Oh, and never mind those Republicans who happen to find themselves on the knife’s edge of investigation and possible illegality. For instance, Biskupic was supposedly investigating some monkey-business between Scott Walker and indicted former Tommy Thompson cabana-boy Nick Hurtgen. The result? Uh, nothing to see here, everyone move along. He also conveniently bailed from the prosecution of the Republican District Attorney in Winnebago County, Joseph Paulus, who has since convicted of bribery and is now in federal prison. His brother happened to work for Paulus. Maybe the reason Biskupic never goes after Republicans is because, if you swing a stick in his house or his office or his country club, you’ll hit five or six of them. Just guessing here.

In the Journal Sentinel today, Biskupic does an interesting thing; answering a question nobody asked him.

"I received no communication, either negative or positive, from the attorney general's office or the White House regarding the voter fraud cases. The first I learned that there had been criticism was in published reports on Wednesday. During my time as U.S. attorney, the only case that I have been asked to discuss with the attorney general was the civil rights investigation of the beating of Frank Jude, Jr."

Assuming the issue he is trying to address is possible political influence in and on his office, you can file this under the Nixonian category of the “non-denial denial”. First of all, who would have to talk to him about the phony voter fraud investigation? He's done such a good job driving the GOP agenda on his own. Just by picking it up and churning it for a couple of months after the 2004 election, he was doing GOP legwork -- giving the false impression of a problem while the Republicans were busy trying to suppress the vote with voter ID and anything else they can find.

[Aside: I have always found it amazing that Republicans have the nerve to squawk about “voter fraud” after what they pulled in Florida in 2000. They showed such a cynical disrespect to the sanctity of the vote by shutting down the recount, they are the last people who should have anything to say about what is or is not a legitimate election.]

Notice that, in his statement, Biskupic does not deny that political influence has anything to do with his ridiculous imprisonment of poor civil servant Georgia Thompson and his latest indirect attack on Jim Doyle, the Troha indictment. Almost the entire GOP strategy in their failed campaign for governor was to smear Doyle with Biskupic-driven innuendo, as is their current campaign to prevent Doyle from doing anything positive for the state. Although the case i over and the poor woman is in prison, Biskupic’s favorite phrase in the Thompson persecution is that “the investigation is continuing” a fact which wing-nuts celebrate like the rising sun everyday.

And the Troha indictment, as GOP shills brag, mentions Doyle 14 times, without bothering to mention that a Republican Congressman, Paul Ryan, also benefited from Troha’s clumsy and desperate largess (at least he got something from Ryan -- a call supporting the Kenosha casino to the federal agency responsible for the review).

And, what was said by whom to whom about the Jude cops prosecutions? Does he think influence on his office by politicians is acceptable just because it involves the complaints of a black man against white cops? Is there some reason the politicians contacting him would want the prosecutions -- perhaps a safe way to pretend Republicans give a damn or (more likely) to make former DA Mike McCann look bad?

You can bet that Biskupic will continue to be useful to Karl Rove’s Permanent Campaign of personal destruction, dancing around the fringes of Jim Doyle’s employees and contributors for the benefit of the GOP and wing-nut radio entertainment. After the review that Rove and Miers ran on his vote-fraud-wimpy colleagues, resulting in the sacking of eight of them, he can rest easy for now.

But he'll have to find something else to do in January 2009 when there is a New Decider and someone with integrity -- like the excellent Clinton appointment in 1993, Tom Schneider -- will come back in, close down the political sideshows and stop doing the dirty business of the dirtiest administration in U.S. history.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Selling Souls for Rudy

The Republicans lost their soul years ago. Hanging out with cynical politicians like Nixon, Reagan and, wow, Junior Bush will have that effect on you. You are who you eat, and the GOP has been buying and eating dirty pork chops for decades.

But, now, in its deeply damaged state, the Republican party is even losing the soul it claims to have. Since the days of Billy Graham selling his snake oil in arenas all over the country, the GOP has always declared itself the party of God and Morality. They have spent millions poisoning the electorate by beating up on the heathen Democrats -- the party of contraception, uppity women, abortion, divorce and homosexuality. Go ahead and vote Democratic, they said -- we all knew who was first in line when the Rapture calls the Righteous to Heaven’s Door.

Unbelievers like me have had to deal with the reality that we could never, ever be Holier Than Them. It was liberating in a way, knowing that even good works, solid values and belief in the Golden Rule would never get us to the Promised Land. I sin, therefore I am. Our political efforts could only get so far because only the Lord would set us free. And only in the manner defined by Lee Atwater, Karl Rove and other offspring of the Deciding Divider.

In the race for the 2008 GOP presidential nomination, all claims to sanctimony have been tossed out the window. It means little; after all, this is just a race to see who gets to have the “R” next to their name in the history books as the person who lost to whoever the Democratic president turns out to be. But, for all their years of telling you and I and every Democratic candidate how we and they should be living, it is shocking to see the Republicans running away from the supposed values they have spent all these years claiming to have.

The problem for the GOP is that the leading candidates who have chosen to come forward in this hopeless race are, er, human. Rudy Giuliani has been married three times (at least he is still in his third) and John McCain has been married twice. The despicable Newt Gingrich, dancing around the edges of the race until Fox News decides he should get in, has the most wonderfully icky marital history: He dumped his first wife while she lay on a hospital bed. Then he was running around the Capitol playing “Hide the Banana” with his current wife, while wife number two was home, watching him wax poetic about the debauchery of Bill Clinton during the “impeachment” proceedings on TV.

Ronnie Reagan broke the Divorced President barrier, but that was because everyone forgot about his first wife, Jane Wyman*, anyway. And with Nancy, hey, the former spouse is simply not to be discussed in polite company. And, that was Hollywood, anyway.

Rudy is another matter altogether, with his ex-spouse and even his children still feeling the sting of their humiliation when they had to watch America’s Mayor dance around Manhattan with his new squeeze while they hunkered down in Gracie Mansion. Rudy was a class act all the way, moving out of the mayor’s quarters and howling ‘till dawn with the younger Judith Nathan.
Giuliani was a victim of his Sinatra complex -- "If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere, baby,” he would growl, while they sipped champagne against the Manhattan skyline. Why have all the adrenalin rush from being the right mayor at the right time on 9/11 and not be able to “use it”, if you know what I mean? You can imagine President Rudy if the U.S. gets in a shootin’ match on his watch. “Hey, baby, get in here!” he would shout to the nearest intern. “Let’s push some buttons!” Perhaps they could install a revolving door on the First Lady’s quarters.

Any Democrat with the same history would be savaged on a daily basis in both the right-wing media and the MSM until they apologized for even thinking about running for dog-catcher, much less president. Cheap hacks like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson would trot out to the microphones to pretend to pray for the poor soul’s redemption, not to mention that of the Heathen Nation that allows him to live here. Hell, Bill and Hillary Clinton have taken it from these people for not having the decency to divorce. But, any potential GOP savior gets a pass from those majoring in hypocrisy. Giuliani is “a true American statesman”, says Falwell’s laughably-titled National Liberty Journal. Well, golly. How much closer to god can you get?

The fact is that Giuliani happens to be the only hope of the GOP, however faint. I realized this while watching him speak at the ‘04 convention. He is the only Republican with any hint of authenticity or common sense. Unfortunately, he has decided to whore himself out to the GOP machinists and they have decided to pretend not to notice all his personal, er, quirks.

But it’s not only his personal life that should have the Kings of Sanctimony in a tizzy. Giuliani is still pro-choice, still in favor of recognizing gay unions and still supports gun control efforts in big cities. His sop to the conservative base is that he would appoint justices like Scalia and Alito to the Supreme Court (funny, he never mentions Thomas). But, again, where is the outrage of the religious right for Rudy having the temerity to support a woman’s right to choose, the opposition to which is the Holy Grail of the conservative charade?

It is moments like this when the blinding light of Truth shines in on those who choose to exploit the darkness of moral hand-wringing. The truth is that, for all their beating us over the head about our personal failings, the right-wing political intelligencia cares not one bit about abortion, gay marriage, divorce, pot-smoking, crime, long-hair or any of that stuff. They say this divisive nonsense because it riles up certain well-meaning Christians in their base that buy their empty words. But, now, even the evangelical leaders are selling out their congregations to anyone-who-can-win. It shows their concern for the wedge issues themselves to be as genuine as their supposed discussions with god.

Selling their souls for the hapless, damaged Giuliani? Sure, why not? That’s about what they're worth.

* Correction -- see comment below. Thanks, Anony.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Happy News and Bomb Scare Memories

I met a girl who sang the blues
I asked her for some happy news
She just smiled
And turned away -- Don McLean, "American Pie"

Music radio around the country is like a Baghdad neighborhood -- bombed out, destroyed, useless to all but the predators who destroyed it to save it. Ever since the arrival of the consultants who were imposed on free-form rock and roll radio stations over 30 years ago, the stations that once spread magic through the air since the arrival of the Beatles have devolved into (literally) empty shells, where they don't even bother to put DJs in front of the mic anymore -- most voices you hear were recorded weeks ago and songs play off of the same computers that develop the playlists. Instead of trying to grab everyone's attention, each station is cynically aimed at a niche, pushing bad music into ears turned bad because of lack of intellectual exercise.

Milwaukee music radio has been particularly bad, now almost wholely owned by Clear Channel and others of their money-grubbing ilk. Sure, there have been some bright spots, mainly on student-station WMSE (91.7) and at night on public station WUWM (89.7), but not so you'd notice and not when you want it.

A couple of positive things have happened this month, however. The radio station run by the Milwaukee Public Schools, WYMS (88.9) has dropped its syndicated jazz and gone into an alternative direction, playing rock, soul, hip-hop -- definitely the most integrated playlist in town, which is not saying much. Only one week into the changes, they are still getting their feet under it, but it is one of the few stations you can listen to without cringing. It's groovy for sure, and they don't bother you with details, like who you just listened to (but what it you want to know?)

But, by far, the happiest news is the return of Bob Reitman on WUWM. Reitman helped create FM rock-music radio back in the '60s and '70s. After spending 25 years as a top-rated and pleasent-enough morning-talker on KTI, his show on Thursday nights is a revelation for those who forgot what it's like to have a talented DJ spinning CDs and vinyl with intellegence and with a story to tell. Reitman is not stuck in the past -- he was still paying attention to what has gone on over the years he was gone and looks to the future for hope. Better yet, you can have his show anytime you want on podcast.

Anyway, I was inspired to write him after his latest show, when he talked about his part as the MC at the legendary Springsteen Bomb Scare show at the Uptown Theater in Milwaukee on October 2, 1975:

Hi Bob:

I really appreciate your return to free-form radio. Your show is not only a blast from our collective past, but also a look into the present and future through your unique and badly-missed prism. Your return is absolutely the best thing to happen to Milwaukee radio since, well, I think of one it's been so long.

I was at the bomb scare show at the Uptown and still have vivid memories. My best friend at the time was Marcus, who turned me on to Springsteen in the first place. We camped out (the show was general admission) and got seats in the 3rd row in the middle. The first part of the show was intense and slowly building – the first song was "Meeting Across the River" (Bittan on trumpet?), he crawled down the aisle on "Spirits in the Night", etc. Just before you made your announcement, someone came out and talked to Bruce, the band left the stage, they checked in and around the outside of the piano for bombs and then he sat down and nervously sang a solo "Thunder Road".

Then you came out and told us all to leave and come back at midnight, offering refunds to anyone who didn’t want to come back (almost more interesting than who was there is who didn’t come back and regretted it later). Marcus and I hit the bars in the area of 49th and North, which, at that time, seldom saw any young or black kids in looking for beer. We went back at 11 p.m. and lined up again – someone had Born to Run blasting out of their car in front of the theater. When we got back in, we were in the front row this time, to the far right of the stage. And, yes. We were LOOSE!

The rest is pretty well documented on the CD of the post-scare show (which I always thought was a boot – if the Iceland version has the first part of the show on it, Bob, we need to talk). I got my version off the internet about five years ago, and, man did it take me home. Legend has it the band went back to the Pfister (or, as Bruce says, the Pfffffffisssster) and got bombed, appearing drunk on stage for the first and only time in their careers. This was the first time I had heard many of these songs – I had only heard Born to Run before, and that only came out the week before. Someone I knew from out East was there and I remember him going absolutely insane that he was playing one particular song – now that I think about it, that must have been "Kitty’s Back".

At the end of the show, he did a soulful version of "Sandy" and then announced he would play one more song by Gary U.S. Bonds. "Quarter to Three!" yelled Marcus, right next to me. Springsteen came right up to the lip of the stage right in front of us. "What?!" he shouted. "Quarter to Three!", yells Marcus again, as I stood there with my mouth hanging open. After a few more back-and-forths, Bruce yells "Well Alright!" and that was that. You can hear this exchange at the end of the "Sandy" track on my version.

Since then, I have seen Springsteen thirty or so times, whenever he was here or wherever I was. I worked for Peaches Records in the late ‘70s and they moved me to Cincinnati in the summer of ‘78 to help run a new store there and I got a chance to see that amazing Darkness tour three times in one week (Dayton, Columbus and Cincinnati – and there was a live show on the radio broadcast out of Cleveland the same week). I was amazed by the four-hour marathons and the variety – every show was different, in set-lists, passion and energy. The last show that week was in Cincinnati, and a bunch of us retail types were invited backstage to meet him. Since I was taller than everyone else, I used that advantage to talk to him over everyone’s heads. I asked if he remembered the Milwaukee bomb scare show. He got this wide-eyed look of pleasure and surprise on his face. "Yeah!" he said. So we bonded for a moment. As it was with you on the streets of New York, it was still with him.

I didn’t think anything could top the Darkness tour until the Rising tour. I saw about four of those shows and Miller Park was definitely the highlight – he could have retired then and no one would blame him. The emotion of the 9/11 tribute, the E-Streeters as grown-ups and the commitment to quality and his fans was truly incredible on that tour. I don’t expect to see anything like that again, but he has surprised me before.

Keep up the good work, brother.

Friday, March 02, 2007

BBs and Bingo

Remember Law and Order?

No, I don’t mean the formulistic pro-prosecution TV show that portrays cops and prosecutors in the hazy glow of the Just. I mean the supposed hard-rock conservative concept that the Law is the Law and must be followed. You are to live your life not only within the Law, but with appropriate Order. If you don’t, you are some sort of degenerate, sociopath, sicko un-American type.

Most recently, the right-wing has trumpeted the “broken windows” concept of law enforcement, whereby every small infraction -- from jay-walking to not using seatbelts -- is treated as a serious matter so that everyone gets the idea that the Law is the Law, so don’t even think about causing really serious trouble, bub. This is especially so in one of those parts of the city that they don’t really know anything about, but always assume the worst. The idea is to intimidate people so that they don’t even think about bringing that brazen jay-walking attitude to Mayfair, etc.

But, for wing-nuts on the radio and in the newspaper, the Law is the Law only when they say it is, and only when applied to certain people. If someone they support violates the law, well, who really cares, and they make all kinds of denials and excuses. So it is especially in cases involving their favorite politicians, where special dispensations are made for people like the two Scooters: Jensen, the former Republican Speaker of the Assembly and now convicted felon sentenced to prison who has been allowed to walk around free pending his unlikely appeal for a year now; and Libby, the Cheney henchman, whose real lies to a federal grand jury are excused as somehow insignificant by the same people who are still squawking about Bill Clinton’s obfuscations during the Starr witch-hunt.

This week, the “aw, what’s the big deal?” excusers have focused on a small case involving a woman in Milwaukee who allegedly shot a 16 year old boy 4 times with a BB gun and then beat him over the head with it. Apparently the misdemeanor prosecution of this 39-year old woman for this alleged attack on a young man who was found sleeping on the floor of her daughter’s bedroom was too much for the former get-tough-on-crimers.

Every last one of the local wing-nuts whined all week about the (to them) understandable actions of the woman, without ever really saying what may have justified such an attack. On his web page, Charlie Sykes said it was something about what the woman was “up against”. Sykes’ second banana Jeff Wagner, who will contantly remind you how much of a former prosecutor he is, declared that the woman was “understandably upset” and that she, at most, overreacted. “Frankly, the kid is lucky that he wasn't discovered by an angry dad with a shotgun,” he wrote. Oh, so murder would have been OK, too? “What a waste of resources and tax money!” says Wagner of the fairly mild charging decision.

Oh, gee, I don’t know. I think it would be best if people got the idea that family and social issues should not be handled at the barrel of a gun, BB or otherwise. I can’t figure out why this is not an appropriate prosecution, in a city plagued with too many guns and where just aiming any kind of gun will get you prosecuted, much less firing it. “Just because something is wrong doesn’t mean it should be prosecuted,” writes TMJ back-bencher Jessica McBride. Since when? I guess the McBride Doctrine kicks in when you don’t like the victim or, in the case of the Scooters, you like the defendants and their buddies too much.

At the same time they were encouraging BB moms everywhere to lock-and-load, the wing-nuts also came out in favor of other law violations at the Southridge Boston Store. There, the otherwise-empty cafeteria has managed to attract turn-away crowds several nights a week by holding an apparently illegal bingo game, and apparently had been doing so for years. No one was prosecuted and they were just told to knock it off, but you would think that the area was suddenly put under martial law.

The Journal Sentinel's resident wing-nut columnist Patrick McIlheran weighed in this morning, claiming that, since there is gambling going on all over the place, what the heck? "Maybe we should rethink just how hard we're cracking down on the few places where gambling isn't yet legal," he says. Yeah, who cares about the law. Besides, these are people who might listen to our radio stations and read our newspaper. They are, well, special, aren't they?

In the meantime, the wing-nuts have fully endorsed a new plan that would have everyone entering Mayfair will be treated with suspicion. Those under 30 will be carded (what is it, a bar?) and, after they pass inspection they will be given a wristband, like they are at Noah’s Ark or something. Now, do you think the young Mayfair patrons might benefit from the new wing-nut moral relativism?

Don’t count on it. See, according to the right-wing, anyone named Scooter, BB moms and senior bingo-players don’t have to follow the law. On the other hand, young black people trying to go to Mayfair have to do more than follow the law. They are presumed guilty of something. And, even after they are let in, walking around with those damn wristbands, they’ll still be considered a nuisance by the pampered class.

The message from the wing-nuts is that some laws should be followed and some don’t have to be. I think they should make a list, so we know which is which.