Thursday, November 30, 2006


Since the Democratic romp in the election two weeks ago, local and national wing-nut radio has continued to pollute the national discussion with the standard campaign of lies, derision and intentional distractions. Yet, I sense some drift and aimlessness in the usually-focused talking-points off of which all the wing-nuts read.

Although always giving lip service to the ingenuity and market-bravery of the entrepreneur, our local blowhards Mark Belling and Charlie Sykes are complete lackeys when it comes to anything the GOP wants them to say. And then, to say again. Over and over. They don’t do show prep, they take orders. They pretend to be raving ego maniacs on the air, but they always submissively stick to the script of others.

They don’t even care, from a competitive standpoint, whether they are saying the same things on any given day. Their only focus is to attack any Democrat (especially Jim Doyle) and to excuse any Republican (especially Junior Bush). They have no intellectual integrity and will never get in a room for a legitimate debate with anyone who disagrees with their ridiculous arguments, usually built on straw men and other phony constructs.

I was surprised, at first, to hear both of Milwaukee’s Finest railing, still, about the imaginary "corruption" of Jim Doyle. Both regularly feature staged callers who still pine for the soundly-thumped Mark Green and do an I-told-you-so sing-along with the hosts anytime mention is made of higher user fees or less tax exemptions for various businesses to solve future budget shortfalls, which are still the legacy of their hero, Tommy Thompson. Belling even committed his feverish will-Doyle-be-indicted rantings to print. It’s almost like the election never happened and they are still trying to poison the electorate for an election that already happened.

But then I remembered that they were both on the GOP playbook – nothing happens on either show without political design. Doyle is the Wisconsin Clinton – an earnest, successful, moderate politician who has done the best he can to move the state forward in the face of Republican obstructionists. Now that he has been re-elected by a resounding margin, B & S continue to attempt to berate and belittle, lest he succeed as a, well, successful Democrat. The national GOP didn't quit beating up on Clinton after the '96 election -- in fact, they turned up the volume. Same thing here in Wisconsin, where no Democrat is allowed credit or peace, no matter how much he or she deserves it.

Other than that, our local wing-nuts get on the various national noise bandwagons, following their unseen Leaders on such matters as piling on Nancy Pelosi for supporting national hero John Murtha or going on for a week about whether she would put Alcee Hastings as the chair of the intelligence committee. Whatever.

For some reason, the local and national GOP radio conduits are still talking about the racist tirade by the enormously talentless Michael Richards – the luckiest lame actor to ever fall into the perfect role for his small talents. The Richards story had legs for the led-by-the-nose wing-nuts because they could get set up various of their various favorite straw men – from insincere lefty-Hollywood apologies to black leaders willing to give the poor guy a break, or not.

But the wing-nuts are still seeking a post-election voice and purpose. With Bush the lamest of quacking ducks and with no candidate in the wings to channel the Rovian magic (Bill Frist! Say it ain’t so!), there is no obvious beneficiary of their misinformation campaign. Ever since the GOP settled on what they thought was the perfect empty-suit for the post-Clinton era and ran Junior for governor of Texas in 1994, the whole then-growing industry of wing-nuts has propped him up and done nothing but made excuses for the Worst President Ever. Now, without that kind of an obvious goal and evident beneficiary, the wing-nuts are adrift, up Bush’s Creek without a paddle.

There is one thing, however, on which they stand steadfast and unmoving, the last excuse-making exercise in the grim Bush era. More about that next time.

Monday, November 27, 2006


When right-wing scolds complain about the supposed perks of public service, nothing gets them going like collectively-bargained former basics everyone used to enjoy, like adequate pensions and progressive sick leave policies. Without this kind of jealousy-inducing coal to stoke the fires of their precious angry-white-male demographic, Mark Belling and Charlie Sykes might have to get real jobs, rather than reading GOP talking-point scripts all day.

Always willing to provide fodder for our whining radio wing-nuts, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel front-paged a review of the use of sick leave by legislators on Sunday that made it look like various lawmakers were sitting at home with their dislocated hips and triple bypasses, laughingly blowing off their time on the state clock, without so much as a nod to the supposed need to file whatever form it is to have the hours they are unavailable docked from their sick leave bank.

This is supposedly significant – claims the article, with the subtlety of a two-by-four – because state employees of all stripes, including legislators, can trade unused sick leave for continued state-paid health insurance after they retire (or, lose an election). Do you realize, you stupid people, that these lawmakers are going to be able to take advantage of this outrageously luxurious end-of-career health care? But they didn’t take sick leave when they were sick! Get the torches and let’s head for the Capitol!

There was enough superficial hand-wringing in the article to give the whole state carpal tunnel. The always-reliable Jay Heck of Common Cause waxed apocalyptic: "It's one of those things that makes people very suspicious of legislators." Well, not very high on the list, but, um, sure. But who is going to decide who is sick and what is a work day for a legislator? Do fundraisers count? I mean, I thought that wack job suggesting teachers arm themselves (Rep. Frank Lasee, R-Green Bay) was pretty sick – can I make him take a sick day? But the state’s political purity police and their constant enablers at the J-S don’t want to be confused by the facts while they’re trying to work up an indignant lather.

Even statehouse veterans like Sen. Mike Ellis and Rep. Sheldon Wasserman (a swell Lake Park Little League dad, by the way – Go White Sox!) were called on to give the politically-safe disclaimers. Stating the obvious, Wasserman claimed "Sick leave is for when you are sick." No wonder the only-paper-in-town has its undies in a bundle.

The real target in all this nonsense is not the legislators, or even the last remnants of the Journal Sentinel’s dignity. No, the real target is the "perk" itself, a smart element of the state employee benefit package. If the carry-over for health care language wasn’t there in the package (or, more significantly, in the state employee union contracts), you would be reading and Heck would be breathing heavily about those lazy state employees using all their sick leave before retirement. But they don’t do that and, as a former union rep for about 4,000 of those fine people in the 90's, I know many of them who overcome minor and major ailments and do their good work in the trenches everyday, sick leave carryover or not.

And, at a time when every legitimate politician should be trying to figure out how to get as many people covered by health insurance as possible, why are the wingers and hand-wringers always trying to pick people out of the pool of the already-insured? It is actually a good thing that thousands of retired state employees are still covered under the state plan after they are done working – that means those thousands are not scraping by with no or inferior health care options. It means less people to worry about while we try to solve the health insurance crisis. Same thing with same-sex or unmarried partners – who cares? More people are covered. That’s progress, in more ways than one.

But, no. The Journal Sentinel has its campaigns, and here comes another one. What? Sen. Fred Risser (age 79) has over $160,000 to spend recklessly on health insurance after he retires? Stop the Insanity!

UPDATE: The other shoe dropped today in the J-S, with the paper screaming across the top of its front page that all those bad convicted legislators will be able to convert their sick-leave balances, just like everyone else. The "perk awaits" them, says the headline. You can just imagine Gary George sitting in federal prison, just waiting to get his hands on all that precious health care. Oh, the humanity!

Having set the issue up in the news pages, the edit page knocks 'em down: "It should end," the editorial concludes, no doubt with "da-dum" sound effects playing in the writers' heads.

Again, this is a solution looking for a problem. More insured people is a good thing. Most of the $3.2 million (I'm sorry -- $3.2 million!) in carryovers will never be used by ex-legislators because of old age, better benefits with other employers or Medicare. Now, if we could just get the J-S to go into campaign mode on the real crisis of the uninsured working poor...nah, maybe not. It's hard to get a pull-quote from Jay Heck on that one.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006


A strange shadow has appeared behind Junior Bush in all of his phony "can’t we all get along, heh heh" get-togethers with victorious Democrats and others in the past week. After six years of pulling the puppet strings from an undisclosed location, VP Dick Cheney suddenly appears everyday, strangely silent, at all staged photo ops in the White House.

There he is shaking hands with Sen. Dick Durbin in the Oval Office. There he is with U.S. auto executives, as he and Bush try to put a band-aid on the hemorrhaging, unimaginative industry. There he is, meeting with the Baker-Hamilton commission that has been brought in to define and try to fix the incredible mess that his own arrogance created in Iraq.

Just look at that goofy look on his face in the Iraq meeting. Here they are discussing death, chaos and disintegration and he’s chuckling like he just heard a new joke about the Democrat and the Priest or something. What else do you need to know about this Prince of Darkness, this Master of Disaster, this historical anomaly?

We can only hope that he kept as quiet in the meetings as he was during the photo ops. Imagine if you are Nancy Pelosi or Harry Reid in one of these meetings and Dick Cheney pipes up with one of his cynical words of wisdom. Do you just look over your shoulder at him, like you would an insolent child? Do you turn your chair to face him and stare him down until he stops? Do you cut him off in the middle and say "Hey, man, haven’t you done quite enough?"

And how about the Iraq commission meeting? This week’s meeting was supposedly about facts on the ground now – not about how we got there or what we do now – but even the Velvet Hammer, professional fixer Jim Baker, who helped Bush and Cheney preserve their "election" in the first place, knows a skunk in the room when he smells one. You can imagine Cheney chiming in with one of his "we know the world is a better place without Saddam Hussein" bromides and the whole room turning their backs in disgust.

Now that his radical agenda of death, war, bankruptcy, secrecy and violation of civil rights has been rejected by the voters, it is time for Dick Cheney to go permanently to that undisclosed location and take a pass on the next two years. Junior’s real dad – or, at least his brain trust – will now step in and try to make the best of the rest of the worst presidency in U.S. – or anyone else’s – history. It’s time for the grown-ups to take over.

Say "goodnight", Dick. And that’s no joke.

Sunday, November 12, 2006


As I think I’ve discussed quite a bit in this space, I’ve always thought the Journal Sentinel coverage of the race for governor this year was slanted – as much as it could be in a race between an accomplished governor (Doyle) and an empty-suited GOP robot (Green) – in favor of the hapless Green. This played out on the pages mostly in terms of headlines and story placement, with buried bad-for-Green stories on the obituary page and Green press releases on his ludicrous stem cell position and other issues with big, favorable play on the front pages.

However, reading veteran state-house reporter Steve Walters’ open letter to state leaders in today’s Crossroads section, it appears the key writers reporting on the race were also drinking the Republican Kool-Aid.

In the brief section of the letter directed to the reelected governor, Walters, without any basis that I’m aware of, accuses Doyle of the sin of ambition. He claims that a second term is something Doyle "desperately wanted since January 2003, when you stood in the Capitol rotunda, with your proud and smiling mother looking on from her wheelchair, and took your first oath of office as governor." He advises the governor to spend the next four years "creating a legacy instead of being obsessed with having to raise another $12 million to seek a third term." So he "desperately wanted" a second term before the first one ever started and he was "obsessed" with raising money for his campaigns. Gee, Steve, anything else? Oh, yeah – he says, since Doyle has now had five successful statewide campaigns: "That's not a bad public service record to retire on."

Well, alrighty, then. Doyle was supposedly in a big hurry to get to his second term and Walters is already encouraging him to pull the plug after this one. Well, I mean, if you are Doyle, why bother? His first term was supposedly meaningless without the second and the chief political writer for the Journal Sentinel is already hoping to treat him like a lame duck.

This is the same GOP-inspired game that the national media buys into regarding any successful Democrat. Bill Clinton, you’ll remember, was declared "obsessed" with his legacy right up to the end. His wife, Hillary, is now and has always been "obsessed" with getting back into the White House, this time as president. Of course, even with the various insider books by friend and foe, no one has ever found either of the Clintons saying any such thing. But, like Doyle, conniving to win a second term even while his poor mother in the wheelchair sat and watched him getting sworn in at his first, we just know he’s like that, don’t we? Wink, wink.

I don’t mind cynicism about the motives of politicians – a grain of salt is essential to good political reporting. For instance, we can say that the Republican Assembly and Senate in Madison kept running red-meat bills on non-starter issues like concealed-carry and TABOR up to Doyle for a guaranteed veto not because they really cared about those issues, but to make Doyle look obstructionist. You could tell this not only because it was obvious on its face – especially when they passed the same vetoed legislation more than once – but also because honest Republicans (I know, an oxymoron) would actually say that was the strategy.

But it’s another thing just to make things up out of thin air, as Walters does with Doyle.

Friday, November 10, 2006


Despite the humiliating thrashing his boy suffered at the polls on Tuesday, Karl Rove hasn’t lost his touch for media manipulation. Minutes before Junior Bush slunk out to the podium for what should have been 45 minutes of crow-eating, the administration let it leak that Don Rumsfeld – the poster child for Bush arrogant-dismissive disease (BADD) – was out and former spook and Iran-Contra co-conspirator Robert Gates was soon to be in as Defense secretary.

It’s called a "conversation-changer" in Rove’s constantly-spinning world and change it did, while the MSM’s clueless talking-heads tried to figure out why and when and who the "decider" was for this one. A squishy consensus formed, concluding that Rumsfeld was either a fall guy for a change of policy in Iraq; a bone thrown to a restive electorate to show Bush "gets" a message that he still refuses to receive; or a planned exit that Bush should have announced before the election, rather than lying about his intentions just a week ago.

But the real reason for dear Rummy’s condescending exit (the disastrous war in Iraq is "not well understood" and too "complex" for you idiots) is likely that he didn’t want to have to answer to anyone, much less pipsqueak Democrats in more serious and focused congressional hearings. In Bob Woodward’s essential "State of Denial", Rumsfeld is portrayed as the king of bureaucratic thuggery, countenancing not power-sharing, a discouraging word or inquiry. Because of his constitutional office, Cheney will likely thumb his nose at any Congressional inquiry into his dark megalomania. Rumsfeld can’t do that; he would have to stand, defend and explain. So, like the wimp he is, he bailed.

The most disturbing aspect of the drive to mire our soldiers in Iraq is that they were sent there at the direction of a hysterical bunch of chicken hawks. Bush, Cheney, Wolfowitz, Feith – none of them served when given the chance and all rejected the advice of reality-based leaders like Colin Powell. Like drunken aristocrats smoking cigars in the drawing room with stick-pins in a map of the world, they drew overly-optimistic designs to establish an Israel/US-friendly base in the Middle East by toppling the weakest regime. U.S. soldier casualties in the thousands were expected and acceptable and tens of thousands of civilian deaths were irrelevant.

It was easy to sell with lies and easy to make the Hussein statue fall. None of them could be bothered with the aftermath, much less planning for it. Now, they are all running from their own failures. Especially Rummy, he of the big stick and sneering attitude. Come on, Rumsfeld, you’re so smart – tell us how we got here and tell us how we get out. We puny humans did not appreciate him. We will no longer benefit from his genius.

It was easy for Rumsfeld, with the support of Cheney, to run roughshod over anyone in his way in the Bush White House. He had carte blanche and free reign. When faced with the Real World after the elections of 2006, he turned tail and ran. Too old to wreak havoc anywhere else, he leaves us to clean up his broken china. No accountability for him – that game is for weak, naive fools. So long, suckers. Too bad we never realized how smart he was.

UPDATE: Ooops. Rumsfeld is not a chicken hawk -- Eric B points out that he flew some planes in the '50s. Thanks, B. But he did direct me to a page showing Rummy meeting with Sadaam. Just so you don't forget what a chump he is/was.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


Did Bush admit lying this afternoon? Yes, he did.

He was asked at today’s press conference why he told various reporters last week that Rumsfeld would serve until the end of his term. He said, well, if he had answered it honestly, it would have inserted an extra issue into the election discussion. Later, he threw in something about trying to protect soldiers from discussions about changing tactics during elections or "war time" or both.

He didn’t decide yet, he said, and hadn’t talked to the successor, Robert Gates, yet, he said, so he lied.

For political reasons. He lied.

Oh, by the way, is the promise about Cheney sticking around still operative? Yes. Sure it is. Why? Because he said so.


There isn’t that much difference between 2004 and 2006.

In 2004, the incompetence of the Bush administration was already well on display. Iraq was already a quagmire; it was obvious to all that Bush’s government was for sale to the highest bidder; Rumsfeld and Cheney were already Rumsfeld and Cheney; and Bush was a dim-witted as he is now. Both houses of Congress were run by GOP pimps – in fact, with Tom DeLay still staining the carpet on the House floor, it was worse.

2004 wasn’t that much different than this year.

But, in the past two years, a common-sense New Majority of Democrats and independents have finally found themselves with a common purpose while they both fumbled for the lights in the same dark room. Finally managing to ignore deliberately-poisonous talk-radio lies and pushing the MSM to get off of Junior Bush’s lap, the New Majority decided Enough was Enough. That the extra 10% joined the other 48% later rather than sooner only meant two extra years of unnecessary pain and incompetence. Then was then and now is now. Welcome to reality; now, let’s get to work.

Ever since the judicial coup that installed Bush in office after the stolen election in 2000, Karl Rove had a bold vision for his Bully Party. The Bully Party would drive through a radical agenda as if on a mission from god, disparage and demonize those who would question or get in the way, and use the infrastructure of politics – from gerrymandered districts to lobbyist purges – to create the Permanent Regime, void of Democrats and other moderates. It was a drive for Power, at all costs. And, with despicably opportunistic use of the 9/11 tragedy, it almost worked.
But, somewhere between Hurricane Katrina and the disclosure of massive data-mining of personal phone and bank records, people got a clue and, on Tuesday, took the first important steps in taking their country back from the precipice of tyranny.

For so many things important to the now-dead Republican agenda, it is The End.

The End of the Politics of Personal Destruction: All across the country, Republican candidates, as usual, played race cards, lied about records and personal lives and generally smeared their opponents, without truth or scruples. The electorate finally turned a deaf ear to most of this, although Harold Ford was hurt by the most racist ad of this or any other year.

The End of Fear: And the winner is...Osama bin Laden? Nobody was buying that old line this year and shame on anybody who ever did. Not that the bastards didn’t try, not only with TV ads, but every time they opened their mouths. Again, the New Majority knew better and tuned them out. And, hopefully, punished them for it.

The End of the K-Street Project: ...and the Permanent Majority. It is hard to imagine the hubris and arrogance of what will now be known in the past tense as the Bush years. They really thought that they could reconstruct the power structure in a way that would protect them for future challenges. They governed the same way they went into Iraq – invade, conquer and wait for the flowers to fall at your feet, with the same disastrous results. Oh, and now the K-Street lobbying firms will be faced with lines of rejected Republicans outside of their doors this morning, looking for work. Sorry, they're over-stocked with Republicans, already.

The End of Home-Schooling: In his smarmy concession speech (the most radical of partisan wingnuts was suddenly Mr. Happy) during his historic blow-out loss, Rick Santorum’s kids looked like it was the end of the world. This inability to deal with loss and the real world is a direct result of their home-schooling regime, paid for by Pennsylvania tax-payers. The kids need to get out more.

The End of the Rubber Stamp: Especially if the Democrats take the Senate, Bush will have to moderate his judicial appointments and pretty much everything else. No more will a former Exxon lobbyist be put in charge of the EPA, or whatever.

The End of the Evangelicals: It always amazes me when the MSM declares the deserved fall of a sanctimonious jerk like Ted Haggard "sad". It’s not "sad". The only thing sad is that the walking fraud was able to fool so many people for so long, laughing all the way to the bank. The exposure of charlatans is a good thing. And, now that the evangelical cabal has managed to drive the GOP off a cliff, we’ll see if they still get that conference call with Rove every Monday morning. Maybe they will – I mean, Rove has to talk to somebody, doesn’t he?

The End of Government: That sound of hammers pounding nails you hear this morning is the White House, shuttering its windows and building the barricades. They can’t change and they don’t want to. They aren’t going to "work with" the Democrats or any such thing. They are going to build a moat around the White House, ignore all subpoenas, declare their imperial prerogative, and thumb their noses at Congress and the courts. Nothing will get done until 2008, when the New Majority completes its hostile takeover of our own government.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Post 4 -- Santorum Goes Down

Best news so far: Rick Santorum goes down in Pennsylvania. That little weasel has poisoned the national scene for too long and now he is gone. Menendez wins in NJ. Virginia too close to call.

Chris Matthews is right now yelling at Howard Dean about why the Dems would keep one more soldier in the line of fire in Iraq. Good question. Dean caves and says we want to get out. Good answer.

DeWine, loser, bye-bye. Don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.

Post 3 -- The Angry Electorate

Andrea Mitchell just declared an Angry Electorate.

#1 on most important issues nationwide: Corruption. It's amazing how an informed public can grasp the basic issues faster than the politicians or the commentariat. The public has a "broad" definition of corruption, meaning lots of thing from Katrina to giving money to rich people, she says.

Howard Fineman just found dark days for the GOP based on one race.

Somewhere, Democrats look for wooden stakes so these bastards don't get up again.

Post 2 -- Too Early to Call

The first winner of the night -- a Socialist! Yes, Bernie Sanders goes to the Senate from Vermont.

CNN is running a bunch of zeros under the screen. At least those damn scrolls are taking a break for the night.

Lugar in Indiana!

This Battle of the Graphics bewteen the cable networks is mind-crushing. Jeff Greenfield and Wolf Blitzer are walking in front of a video wall of red and blue partial results, like they are strolling in some twisted art museum (Jeff, what is this piece telling you?) Greenfield spent five minutes explaining the color scheme of their Senate counting graphic (white circles bordered by red are Republican seats, white surrounded by blue...oh, never mind).

Strickland for Governor in Ohio -- the King of the Fix in the 2004 election, Kenneth Blackwell bites the dust. Good riddance.

Byrd in West Virginia!

Wait, CNN has a camera on Nancy Pelosi and Rahm Emannuel, wherever they are.

Like I said, this is overload. Give me Cronkite staring silently at his desk, waiting for real news to happen, any day.

Post 1 -- Reading Between the Lines

Alright, I don't have one of those real-time blog thingees, so I'll just post once in a while and see what happens. I will be looking and responding to comments and will post interesting ones in the body, to highlight the genius of my readership.

As we come up on 6 p.m., the networks and cable stations are playing read-between-the-lines. My god, is this what it was like in 2004? [I missed that coverage because I was vote-protecting in Crandon. ] Good sign after good sign for the Dems. Turnout, focus on issues like Iraq and stem cells -- the exit polls are our friends, for now. CBS reports that Bush and Rove are in Crawford, looking for Harry Reid's phone number.

In the meantime, Chris Matthews and Ken Olberman are on MSNBC, talking about how the GOP is going to get back in power by 2008 (if you guessed "scorched earth policy", pat yourself on the back.)

Sunday, November 05, 2006


One of my earliest political memories is riding on my dad’s shoulders at rally on the tarmac of the airport in Milwaukee. I was all of 5 years old and Dad had brought me out to see: Richard Nixon, campaigning for president in 1960. All I remember is my clear view over the crowd and the small head of the young Nixon on a bare stage maybe 100 feet in front of me.

I don’t think I was very inspired by the moment nor do I remember feeling the dark chill of the anti-Communist and future criminal speaking before me. But it was my first political rally, albeit of the moderate, business Republican variety.

Since then, I had some interesting experiences, mostly watching from the sidelines. I remember attending a McCarthy rally in Milwaukee in ‘72, featuring Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul & Mary (yes, in ‘72 – McCarthy ran in the primaries that year, too). I remember seeing McGovern in some motorcade in downtown Milwaukee that same year, just before the election. I did the rope-line thing with Mondale in ‘84 and Dukakis in ‘88. My son and I stood in the rain for hours to see Kerry and shake his hand the day before the ‘04 voting.

With all the ugly TV ads and the dark poison stain of talk-radio, it’s sometimes easy to forget what is uplifting about the process of going to a political rally, in the right race with the right candidate. Democrats are, by and large, hopeful people who think they can change the world and individual lives for the better with the right voluntary nudges, protective laws and proactive programs. When we are together at a rally, such as that at the Milwaukee Theater with Bill Clinton this past Friday afternoon, we pat each other on the back for our successes and our at-least-we-tried failures. Sure, we talk about differences with the other side, especially with the radical right-wing agenda that Bush has pushed in the past 6 years, and highlight his historic failures. But we lift our spirits by being together under one roof, cheering our candidates and firing each other up to get out the vote.

As it is, political rallies are artifacts of a bygone time. Politics has become a spectator sport, as interested voters on all sides mostly watch the ebb and flow of the campaigns in the newspapers, on TV and, increasingly, on the internet. The appearance of figures of rock-star quality like Clinton brings people out and we all share a moment, before retiring to our sofa with a tub of popcorn to watch Tuesday’s returns.

I can’t imagine what it would be like at a Republican rally or, say, at a stage production by a Republican stooge like Sean Hannity, also in Milwaukee on Friday. What is it like to rely on tearing another down with lies, just to get power? What is it like to be in a crowd that is actually cheering a constitutional amendment to take rights away from unmarried partners or to penalize a woman exercising her right to choose what to do with her own body or to run impoverished illegal immigrants back across the border?

What is it like to be inspired by fear; to celebrate a failed administration simply because they happen to be on our side; to see success and honor in those who created a war out of whole cloth and lies, and then tragically failed on every level once they got there? How could they possibly feel the same uplift in spirit while they cheer for more blood and the increased repression of those who who are different or those who would disagree with them?

On Friday, Clinton shared the stage with various candidates for congress, senate and state offices. While Gov. Jim Doyle talked, Clinton was furiously scribbling behind him, sometimes checking local facts with an exuberant Congresswoman Gwen Moore, sitting beside him. At one point, when Clinton wasn’t listening, Doyle cracked a joke about him and looked behind him for a response. Clinton wasn’t listening and looked up to see all eyes on him and people laughing, so he broke out in a red-faced, aw-shucks laughing fit for Doyle’s benefit. Then, just as quickly, he went back to scribbling.

When he finally got on the mike, Clinton was a master of timing and substance. The crowd got very quiet, which Clinton took as a sign of the seriousness of the national condition. So he planted himself at center stage and settled in for a long talk. Although the organizers and candidates behind him might have preferred something a little more punchy and short, you ask for Clinton, you get Clinton. He settled in and riffed on his favorite subject – politics – and the differences between Us and Them. He was astute, funny and right on target.

It was the first time I had a chance to see him give a speech in person, and it’s amazing how comfortable he is in his own skin. There was no one like him before, nor will there be in the future.

After I checked in and realized I had some time before he would appear, I had to go get my son from school to see this. Although he was a bit pressed by some of the deeper substance – "Hey, Dad, what’s a surplus?" – I told him this was probably about as much of a genuine article as he was going to see in his lifetime. He’s a lucky kid: His first two major rock concerts were U2 and Bruce Springsteen and now he’s seen Clinton. He’ll certainly have high standards for rock and roll and politics from now on.

And to think I started with Jethro Tull and Nixon.

Thursday, November 02, 2006


"They want to debate straw men, because they are afraid to debate real men."
– John Kerry, October 31, 2006

This business with the White House and its surrogates ganging up on an innocent, if botched, John Kerry statement is disgusting and illuminating on many levels. We’ve seen it before, and yet the audacity and slime is still stunning after all these years.

But, now, finally, they may have gone too far, in the wrong direction, and at the wrong time. While all their pitiful candidates and soon-to-be ex-congressman and ex-senators scramble for a rope to grasp to avoid the Bush mudslide that is sure to befall them, Karl Rove has given them this: an irrelevant, phony issue that takes the eye off the ball on the important local issues that are going to decide the close races.

All the noise about Kerry-this and Kerry-that in the past three days has frozen the local and state races in place, with the Democrats poised to roll to victory. By the time the wingnuts and other surrogates come to their senses early next week, the election will be over and they will be wondering what hit them.

I was amazed that local wingnut Mark Belling was still talking about Kerry on Thursday afternoon. Belling is not a fool, but he plays one to the hilt when it comes to reading scripts from and for the RNC. Pretending, three days out, not to know about Kerry’s explanation for the statement – with even a script from a speech writer supporting what he meant to say – one of Milwaukee’s chief Bush sycophants said he knew what Kerry meant and praised the troops for their intelligence. Kicking the straw man he knew wasn’t real, Belling read from Rove’s script like it was water for the thirsty.

I really do wonder about local Bush-boobs like Belling and Charlie Sykes. They both have brains and even some modest journalist credentials. What is it that compels them to use their air time and what’s left of their reputations to push Republican candidates and to recite GOP talking points over and over, day after day? They both repeat things they know are not true. They both ignore obvious facts that would get in the way of their diatribes and campaigns. Neither of them would get in any room that would subject them to real debate or challenges to their phony constructs and numerous straw men.

After spending eight years trying to destroy Clinton and six years trying to make excuses for Bush, aren’t they sick of it? Does the promise of Bradley Foundation and other right-wing money now or in the future really make it that worthwhile?

What’s more important than their Kerry yammering all this week is what they haven’t talked about. Both have spent the past three months trying to convince their listeners that Jim Doyle is "the most corrupt governor in Wisconsin history", claiming regularly that he is one step away from the federal penitentiary. Now, they can barely get a word in edgewise about those and other lies while they praise our soldiers in Iraq who were not being attacked in the first place. All over the country, the GOP’s local surrogates were blabbing on about Kerry and letting their local issues drop. Either they already know their local goose is cooked or they are dropping the ball in the last week of the campaign for the sake of Rove’s Kerry fetish. Whatever the reason, welcome to another four years, Governor Doyle. Let me introduce you to the newly Democratic House and Senate.

While Rove’s op research war room managed to find something – anything – to make what passed – for them – as anti-Dem noise and to try to "change the conversation", they lost sight of the hard work their local shills were doing on the local issues, phony and otherwise. Try as they might to use the "controversy" to paint all Democrats as anti-military snobs, John Kerry has nothing to do with Jim Doyle and vice-versa. And Kerry has little to do with any other candidates in the races that matter.

Besides, people know better. When Mark Belling claims that most Dems don’t know any people in the military and think they are all impoverished rubes willing to become cannon fodder for the sake of a paycheck, there is no ring of truth. Even he knows better than that. But he, Sykes and others of their ilk have such contempt for their targeted "angry-white-male" demographic that they will play the shameless game of talking points and patronizing platitudes to try to get them inflamed enough to move.

Now, by following Rove’s ludicrous anti-Kerry script, they have lost at their own game. In a time ripe for righteous, overdue comeuppance, up it shall come.

UPDATE: This morning's newspaper has a front-page puff piece by an entertainment writer about Sykes' "scoop" in "finding" a humorous photo of soldiers needling Kerry for the misinterpreted version of his remarks. Rather than hammering Sykes for bleeding more poison into the well of public discussion, the piece gives props to the Journal Company's own personal wingnut for (gasp!) getting the photo linked on the always-helpful Drudge Report. If you believe the photo actually fell in Sykes' lap by happenstance, you don't know anything about the way the Rove shop and the well-paid right-wing surrogate blogs operate.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006


Although I was in downtown Milwaukee, as usual, Tuesday morning, I could not break away in time to see the Barack Obama rally in Pere Marquette Park. I cursed the early time and the chilly wind, but looked forward to seeing nice visuals of the rally in the local media, focused as it should be on the national political star of the moment.

Out on the porch this morning, I did indeed see an unmistakable color photo of a political rally above-the-fold. Settling in as I pulled the paper out of the plastic, I spilled hot coffee in my lap when I realized that the primary photo on the front page was not of Obama, but, rather, of...Tommy Thompson.

What newspaper editor in his or her right mind would really think that a press conference with a former governor, currently cashing-it-in with various entities he used to regulate at the Department of Health and Social Services, trumps a political rally attended by thousands featuring a national political star?

Not only was the photo placement the opposite of what it should have been; the choice of the two photos used were outrageously slanted as well:

The Thompson press conference looked like a political rally, complete with Green signs and cheering supporters in the background.

The Obama photo looked like they were all attending a funeral. I’m sure the editors had to go pretty deep in the photog’s files to find anything so bland and with Doyle looking so sour. According to the article, it was a "sign-waving rally", but you’d never know it from the selective visuals provided by the Journal Sentinel.

What do you think it’s like in the edit board meetings that put together the front page placement at the J-S? "Yeah, put Tommy on top there. That nice cheery one. God, we love Tommy, don’t we? Too bad he didn’t run. I guess we gotta put Obama in there, throw this one in. Just look at Doyle’s face!"

The pro-Green coverage continued on other pages in the paper today. A short week before the election, Spivak and Bice dusted off their usual "casino cash" schtick, casting aspersions on a casino developer’s contributions to Doyle and Falk, even using the voice of a Green "flack on the attack" to make their points for them. The second part of the Spice Boys’ pro-Green dance was an approving review of Tommy Thompson’s (god, we love Tommy, don’t we?) rigged success in the private sector. "With all that baggage and income," sum-up the Boys, "can Thompson really afford to drop everything and run for president?" You can almost see them with Thompson, slapping high-fives in some distant end-zone of the mind. Ka-Ching!

Oh, and, by the way, the Supreme Court has decided not to even decide to decide anything about Green's illegal cash until after the election. If you missed the bad-for-Green story, you can find it stretched across the bottom of the first page of the second section, with a little tiny picture of Green. You’d think the end of this phony Green-generated legal saga would merit a bit more attention – it certainly would if Green somehow prevailed, for the first time, on any issues relating to the now-officially dirty money.

But, no, the Journal Sentinel wouldn’t want to interject the illegal Green money issue into the discussion this close to the election. I mean, it’s not like Tommy Thompson was doing a press conference at the airport or anything. Now, that’s news, eh, Tommy?

Unfortunately, this kind of slanted coverage has come to be expected in the Journal Sentinel news pages, even as its editorial board prepares to endorse Jim Doyle. Today marked the third and fourth editorials preferring Doyle to Green on specific issues (education, crime, and, today, health care and stem cells). It’s hard to believe the J-S would turn around after all that and endorse Green.

But the news editors will keep driving their pro-Green agenda, getting happily played by press conferences, phony legal battles and imaginary "corruption" spin. Bill Clinton is coming in on Friday (an event determined to be less "noteworthy" than the Obama appearance – are they going to stick that one back on the obit page with Madeline Albright?) and the Green campaign will develop a counter-event that will trump it (Scott McCullum? Why not!), at least in the Journal Sentinel.