Saturday, June 30, 2007

Lament & Laurels

A weekly parody of a weekly editorial.

The Washington Post had an interesting four-part series this week about the role that Vice President Cheney has played in the Bush administration. While the Vice President has taken heat from some on the left for his megalomaniacal style, paranoid secrecy, power-grabbing legal obfuscation, his role as puppet-master to Bush the sock-puppet, helping Scooter Libby out Plame and obstruct justice, shooting an old man in the face and his hypocritical proud-grandfather gay-bashing, we think he might be getting a bad rap. With the world changing after 9/11, we think Cheney may have been just the person to help President Bush guide the ship of state in uncharted waters. Or not.

Ann Coulter, the leggy agent-provocateur of the conservative movement, may want to take a step back from her tough language when discussing the sexual proclivities of a certain Democratic presidential candidate. Although she often entertains us with her colorful challenges to the political status quo, she may have crossed a line when she said on a cable show this week that John Edwards and his ailing wife, Elizabeth, hosted weekly meetings of a satanic swingers club in their palatial home. She did not make things better when – after Mrs. Edwards called the show to complain that the couple’s weekly bridge club was, at least, misunderstood – Coulter accused the Edwards of using the memory of their tragically dead son to distract the other bridge players for unfair advantage. We can only hope that Coulter would take better advantage of her still-unexplained media access in the future to poison the national political debate with, perhaps, a little less vinegar.

Alderman Michael McGee Jr. had the bail on his state criminal charges reduced and eventually posted by community supporters this week. This is good. After being transferred to federal court, it was determined that he would be held without bail. This is good. He is being held in the same place (the Milwaukee County Jail) that he was before his state bail was posted. It is hard to argue with this, as it is with the fact that he made bail on the state case. The bottom line is that he will be held, or not held, as appropriate. It seems this would go without saying, but it doesn’t, since we just said it. We wish both McGee and his prosecutors the best, and we’re sure each of them knows what that is. The wheels of justice turn, well-oiled by the citizenry that has greased the gears with the blood of patriots. We wish both sides well, except the side that is eventually proven wrong. Shame on them.

Summerfest celebrates its 40th anniversary this week with another fun-filled 11 days of music on the lakefront. Since this paper has spent an incredible amount of (multi-colored) ink and killed thousands of trees promoting it and has sponsored the event every year since it’s inception, we don’t have to tell you that we think the festival is just peachy. In fact, we have decided to mail this one in. Knowing that many of our readers doze off at about this point in this editorial every Saturday morning, we will pad the rest of this paragraph with phrases from other L&Ls...Again, the music unites us...Good things do come to those who wait...They all merit applause...Good show, [insert name of current or former Summerfest director here]...Sounds as though they deserve a plaque...And the rest, as they say, is history.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Missing the Point

This week has been pretty interesting, blog-wise. My last post was noticed, discussed and linked-to by Eugene Kane and Patrick McIlheran at the Journal Sentinel, which lead to Charlie Sykes linking to both of those. Even defrocked radio priestess Jessica McBride decided to get into the "act", putting her (barely) two cents in. Most interesting was that the exposure there led mostly anonymous people to post comments here – 93 and counting.

I engaged with the various name-calling, hostile Anonys, trying in vain to coax them into some sort of discussion about what the issues in Milwaukee might be and how they would suggest dealing with them. But, since they appear incapable of serious discussion, they were easily led into wing-nut foolishness. I was honored that they thought enough of me that they would attack me personally. I was called closed-minded, pathetic, an idiot, a socialist, a moron and a couple noticed I was – gasp! – a defense attorney (and you know what that means). They had great fun (they thought) putting words and ideas in my mouth and in my head, such as: support for income redistribution (no); I was " a marionette for the likes of Kane/McNally/McGee" (nice grouping, that – didn’t know McGee had a column); I deny there are any problems in the inner city (hardly); and, my favorite, a controlling liberal who wants the poor and minorities in "liberal prison camps". No kidding.

There were various riffs and sidetracks all week on the comments. An apparently African-American fellow named Trevin got into it with some blockhead named Seve who said he moved to Tennessee after living in Riverwest and had a few stupid things to say about black men and white women. Some ignorant souls chose use my comment section to heap more unearned abuse on Eugene Kane, threatened as they are by any unintimidated black perspective. The comments (and McIlheran and McBride) also fulfilled my prediction that, if they talked about Oshkosh at all, they would minimize and excuse the type of violence that would have them dancing all over their keyboards for weeks if it happened in Milwaukee.

In the end, the amateur wing-nuts were cornered into a declaration of Social Darwinism – only the fittest deserve to survive and we should leave the rest to their own misery. We worked so hard to get where we are (how that is or where that is necessarily unstated), how dare the poor try to use their food stamps? Whatever. My advice to them was to give it a try – pull what’s left of the safety net and see how safe your community is then. No takers on that one, so maybe they really do have a modicum of sense after all.

This all started in my last post, when I challenged the radio and blog wing-nuts for not making a big deal out of the shootings in Oshkosh as they do anytime someone jaywalks in the inner city (yeah, I know it’s worse than jaywalking, but if that’s all they had, they’d use that too). They all missed the sarcastic point – the fact is I think any sensationalist exploitation of near-tragedy is ridiculous. But, if they are going to play that game – and, boy, are they ever – violence in violence, police calls to Mayfair are the same as police calls to Bayshore and Brookfield Square (pretty much equal) and high school dust-ups go on all over the place. But, everyday, wing-nuts like Sykes, Belling, etc. scour the police blotter to find something that went wrong in the inner city the night before, so that they can continue their campaign of convincing all of us how hopeless any problems there might be.

That’s their game, and it’s easy to see through if you realize that they have really no interest in whether the inner city is safe or not. They just want to create racial tension by the self-righteous and, ultimately, racist notion that "we" have no responsibility for those who, they say (over and over and over), are too stupid and/or lame to help themselves. It is not a serious political position – it’s a ratings ploy. Listen to their (always friendly) seminar callers, saying things like "You know, I’ve had it with these people." We’ll be right back with more hate after a word from our sponsors...

Monday, June 25, 2007

Gun Play in the Outer-City: Where’s the Outrage?

The sound of gunshots shut down a local festival on Saturday. Five people have been arrested; one charged with trying to grab an officer’s gun.

Sure, you say, probably just another sad story from some ironically-titled "Jam for Peace" rap-fest at the Ampitheater or the Rave or something. And this, after the shocking aftermath of the Juneteenth celebration. What is wrong with these people? Let’s get Charlie Sykes to run another e-mail from David Clarke so we can get on with the solution to this vexing problem.

But, no. It happened at the Country USA Music Festival in Oshkosh. Violence at the whitest music event in Wisconsin in one of the many whitest parts of the state.

I have searched high and (really) low on the wing-nut blogs to find any reference to this outrageous criminal behavior. No sanctimonious clucking about values and broken homes. No call for action to Stop the Violence and save the broken community. No lashing out at Journal Sentinel columnists who are insufficiently demanding of family values, reform and tough law enforcement in their constituent community. Mike Nichols – come out, come out, wherever you are!

But, nothing. Not from Sykes, McBride, Robinson – even the often-thoughtful Esenberg. Forget the weekend – if this had happened with black people in Milwaukee on Saturday, they would have all left their Sunday picnics to wring their hands over their keyboards about the sad community in which they don’t live. All of the above had a field day over the attack on a motorist by stupid kids after the Juneteenth celebration on Thursday. That unfortunate event played right into their – yes – racist tripe about how bad things are in the City and how only Clarence Thomas wannabees like Sheriff Clarke and the newly-anointed OK-black-guy James Harris can save us, er, them.

But white gun-play outside the City? If they talk about the Oshkosh violence at all this week, the radio and blog wing-nuts will make excuses for the landowner next-door to the festival, talk about Second Amendment "rights", blame the concert promoter for not making peace with the guy before the event. It will be portrayed as an isolated incident in an otherwise law-abiding community. The only Milwaukee TV cameras pointed that way will be those looking to see if the corn really is knee-high this July 4th.

Both the Juneteenth and the country music festival had this in common: Both were overwhelmingly positive and peaceful. Both were marred by unfortunate violent events by bad actors. The vast majority of those attending both events were law-abiding and meant nobody any harm.

But, there is a double-standard for the agenda-driven wing-nuts, who will pretend to get hysterical about violence in one place and ignore even worse violence (there were no guns fired in the Juneteenth incident) in another. Remember Mayfair? Last I heard, there were just as many police calls to Bayshore and Brookfield Square. But that doesn’t fit in their small box, so, never mind.

The fact is that much more of society is broken-down besides Milwaukee’s Inner City. Jobs have been lost, the health care system is broken and rural frustration is as real as any other kind. As long as we fall into the phony Us v. Them mentality of the right-wing crisis-mongers, nothing will be solved. But they’re not looking for solutions. The wing-nuts thrive by division. They could care less about what is really going on in the Inner City. It is just something they drive by. Talk about your "drive-by" media...

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Right-Wingers Hanging on a Limb

I stand accused by some of my comment-ers of being too optimistic about the chances for a complete Democratic super-thumping – including the presidency this time – in 2008. Believe me, I have a lot of dark respect for the mechanizations of Karl Rove, who, as we speak, is working hard to finalize the deal on what’s left of Mitt Romney’s soul so he can get cracking on the next chapter of his historic run of morphing laughable empty suits into allegedly presidential timber.

But this year, the GOP message managers are having to dig so deep into the pit of right-wing-fringe quackery just to get a pulse, I don’t think there is any way they can come back with a mainstream message that would satisfy a majority that is openly rolling their eyes at stale Republican tactics. If the theme song for 2004 was (or should have been) the Who’s "Won’t Get Fooled Again", the song for ‘08 (if it wasn't so obscure) may well be "Clown Strike" by Elvis Costello: "Even a clown knows when to strike."

As usual, the GOP message is driven by talking-points sent out to pathetic lackeys on wing-nut radio and their thin-shadow blogger-buddies. The message having been driven like a spike into the heads of the wrongly-faithful, the pitiful bunch of Republicans running for president can only sign on to the warped agenda and hang on for dear life. Here are some of the "winning" issues the GOP has chosen to highlight in the twilight of its relevance and existence:
  • WAR: Even Iraqi insurgents and al-Qaeda whackjobs don’t hold a candle to the wing-nuts in their lust for more blood to be spilled by American soldiers. If it takes 5 – heck, 10 or ("like Korea") 50 – more years of death, mutilation and tears to justify the deadly bad judgement of Junior Bush, they’ll do it – or, rather, they’ll have you do it for them. While anyone with any sense turned against the worst foreign policy blunder in American history years ago, the wing-nuts want our sitting-duck soldiers to be there longer; at risk for no good reason. Adding intellectual insult to haven’t-you-had-enough injury, the same people who brought you the Iraq fiasco are now beating the drums to invade – or, at least, bomb the hell out of – Iran.
    The GOP candidates are all on this one-wheeled bandwagon to some degree or other. John McCain is busy putting the final nails in his political coffin by declaring himself ready to be "the last man standing" for the failed Iraq mission, whatever it is. Draft-dodger Rudy Giuliani is also not shy about putting more young lives at risk. Nominee-to-Be Romney at least has an issue he hasn’t had the chance to flip-flop on, cheerily announcing that the population of the institution that is the symbol of our international pariah-ness – Guantanamo – should be "doubled". No kidding, he really said it should be doubled. With opponents like these, who needs supporters?
  • IMMIGRATION: About a year ago, it dawned on the GOP message-designers that they had to throw a hail-mary pass to get traction with their deep, back-woods base. So they got senior TV/radio wing-nut Sean Hannity to celebrate and publicize the "Minutemen", a bunch of racist thugs in SUVs who were conducting a private campaign to chase and harass poor border-crossers in the Southwest. This led to the declaration of a "crisis" in immigration. Apparently, there were just too many brown-skinned, foreign-languaged people showing up for work all across America. The trumped-up "crisis", not coincidentally, led to the first increase in years for membership in the Klu Klux Klan and other "organizations" who know how to make the most of xenophobic hysteria.
    Again, the GOP candidates have heard the siren sound of their nut-base and, instead of volunteering for the next Habitat for Humanity project, will be out there with the suddenly-enriched private contractors (check for Minutemen to make the most of their opportunities here), building giant double-fences to keep Them out. Meanwhile on the northern border, Canadians will continue to come and go with impunity, their white skin shining in the sun of continued opportunity.
  • STEM CELLS: Opposition to stem cell research is the new measure of how whack a politician is. Thousands of frozen embryos are tossed out every year, as the couples who save their possible futures in a jar conceive on their own, change plans or simply move on. Some of those embryos headed for the dumpster can be used to search for possible cures for various ailments and conditions. But, from the people who bought you the Terry Schivo tragedy, we have irrational opposition to such research.
    Again, the bunch of minor figures calling themselves Republican presidential candidates genuflect at the altar of the right-to-"life" crowd (their version of life, not yours, thank you), facts and common sense be damned. They do an elaborate dance and pretend that there are alternatives (like the recent diversion about getting usable cells from the skin of mice, or something like that), but its all just pandering. Cue up Monty Python musical number from The Meaning of Life: "Every sperm is sacred/Every sperm is good..."
  • NO-TAX PLEDGE: Here in Wisconsin, we have a bunch of Republican and a Democrat or two who have signed on to a "no new tax" pledge circulated by helpful GOP blogger Owen Robinson and driven by the usual talk-radio mouthpieces. The result is now chaos in the statehouse, where reasonable compromises made during the usual state budget process have been thrown out the window by the GOP-controlled Assembly. Never mind that no one has come forward with an alternative way to fund state programs without the fee and tax increases proposed by Gov. Doyle and massaged by both Dems and Reps on the Joint Finance Committee. The Sin of Tax has been committed and the pure will force the hand of government to righteousness, or so the line goes. Today’s hardliners will be tomorrow’s tail-between-leggers, declaring victory over minor concessions and living on to poison some other debate some other day.

Again, it’s hard to see how the national or state GOP escapes responsibility for any of this radical fringe posturing. Will U.S. voters really vote in a president who has pledged to continue the disaster in Iraq? Will they really return a party to power that is committed to preventing valuable stem cell research and one that beats up on the immigrants we know to be a valuable resource to our national economy? Will they really support lawmakers who make ridiculous no-tax pledges, tying the hands of the government to do important things, like provide health care for those without insurance?

I think people have had it with the lies, the posturing and, ultimately, the goals of the Republican party. They have shown themselves to be indifferent to what matters and incompetent in providing basic services without corruption. I’ve never had much use for them, but now most of America is so done with Bush and anyone who looks like him. Read any poll you want – the country has not only decided to turn the page – they are looking people reading from a different book.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Bush Goes To Albania

In the darkest days of his presidency, Richard Nixon escaped to foreign countries. As the noose tightened around his political neck, he felt much more comfortable in the company of Leonid Brezhnev than with anyone in his own government; happier reveling in the contrived public celebrations of the dutiful Soviet citizenry than daring to darken his own American streets.

It is much more of a stretch for Junior Bush to come up with a friendly foreign place. Say what you will about Nixon (and I will if you don’t), he knew the difference between diplomatic delicacy and the kind of dangerous ham-fisted international brinkmanship practiced by Bush and his team. Even with a superior doomsday nuclear arsenal pointed at the Soviets, Nixon knew not to make too much of it. He didn’t bluster; he negotiated as best he could with a more dangerous "enemy" than al-Qaeda will ever be. The result was an uneasy but effective detente and, more importantly, a place for Nixon to hide when he needed a warm-welcome pick-me-up.

If Junior has any thought of ditching to "friendly" countries as he winds up his disastrous tour as president, the pickings will be slim indeed. Sure, he could always find a cozy desert tent in Saudi Arabia, as long as he and the unpopular king don’t try to walk around in public. If he wants a friendly reception in Old Europe, he better haul ass over to Britain before Blair hits the road. All told, there are many more counties in this pissed-off world that would just as soon arrest George Bush as invite him to dinner.

But, according to press reports, our Boy President seems to have bought a friend in Albania. A charter member of the Coalition of the Shilling, Albania cleaned its drab streets, brought out red-white-and-blue bunting and even put out a commemorative stamp of Junior’s face, certainly a first-and-only for the soon-to-be trash-bin-of-history embarrassment. "Bush is the president of the world. He is like a king to me," gushed a confused 18 year-old Albanian, no doubt reading Cheney's press releases and trying a bit hard to please. Bush complied with the near-child’s lofty view of himself, proclaiming that his support for the independence of Kosovo (an important issue because that country has a majority of ethnic Albanians) in terms familiar to Americans who have had to tolerate his unearned arrogance for over 6 years: "The question is whether there's going to be endless dialogue on a subject we've already made up our mind on," proclaimed Bush, making me want to take the other side immediately. What’s all this mindless chatter? So it is written, so let it be done.

It’s hard to see why Albania would want to become (even more of) an international laughingstock by joining the George Bush Fan Club (membership: one). They have a goal of joining the European Union – yeah, like that’s gonna happen now. Apparently, the post-Cold War Albanians got close to the U.S. after Bill Clinton intervened in Serbia. Nobody told them, I suppose, that Bush is the Anti-Clinton, both by design and by destroying everything that Clinton – and the 41 presidents before him – built up over the years in international respect and influence.

Prime Minister Sali Berisha said Bush was Albania's "greatest and most distinguished guest we have ever had in all times." Wow. Doesn’t say much for Albania, does it? Maybe they should start inviting some Hollywood stars over – you know, liven the place up a bit.

But, hey, even bad presidents need a place to get away once in a while. Albanians can look forward to seeing a lot of Bush in 2008 since he won’t be needed around here much – he certainly will not be campaigning for GOP candidates, who would just as soon make his ticket to Albania one-way.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Green Goes to Africa


Those held breathless since November can now finally exhale upon news of the near-term political future of last year’s GOP gubernatorial wanna-be/won’t-be. Yes, your prayers have been answered: Mark Green is going to Africa.

No deed or perceived sacrifice goes unrewarded in the Republican circle of cronyistic backrubs and post-political payoffs. After all, Republicans are always whining about how much they sacrifice by going into government "service", since they could always make more money raping-and-pillaging in the private sector. After he played the part of President back in the ‘80s, Ronald Reagan and his "Mommy" were paid for his efforts by the "gift" of a $3 million ranch from unnamed wealthy contributors. No doubt Junior Bush will get his after he hits the road – and not a moment too soon – in 2009. Adjusting for inflation, well, I hear the Neverland Ranch is available.

But Junior was a failure, you say. And how. But, despite the revisionist bullshit of recent years by those who know better, Reagan wasn’t much better. You always get the sense of pre-arrangement in these matters. "A deal is a deal," my contracts professor would say. "You pays your money and you takes your chances."

For the, er, lesser lights of the Republican would-be Revolution, the reward sometimes depends on availability and, more important, who is (still) in power. Back in the glory days, the Bushies slipped long-time Wisconsin GOP party chair Rich Gruber into a cushy ambassadorship. Now, with their power in shambles and time running out, they looked around for some way to reward that Green guy who ran that lousy campaign in Wisconsin – thumped convincingly, even with all that help they gave him by going after poor Georgia Thompson – and found the need for Green’s small talents in Tanzania.

It’s hard to tell what Green brings to the project, if there is such a thing, in the small, no doubt needy African country. Sure, he spent time in Africa while a young sprout as a teacher in Kenya with a noble project out of Harvard. Perhaps he can help Bush bring his false dream of abstinence to the fight against AIDS. If there are criminal elements in the government or on the streets, he could surely help relate, having worked hand-in-glove with remarkably-still-free convicted felon Scooter Jensen while in the statehouse and with Tom Delay and Mark Foley after being sent up to the big leagues. If memory serves, he even had an aide close to Jack Abramoff – this is a guy who knows how to get things done, the law be damned.

But ambassadorships to politically-irrelevant countries are the last vestige of an ancient spoils system, a harmless resume-padding device for those who have run for office, contributed or happened be old college frat buddies of presidents – accidental, appointed or otherwise. I doubt Green will spend much of his brief tenure in-country, fixing visa problems by day, beach-walking by night (with security detail, I assume). You wouldn’t want something like this to get in the way of his rain-making legal work or what I assume will be a continued period of post-election whining about that $468,000 he eventually agreed he couldn’t spend on his would-have-failed-anyway campaign. It’s a dead issue, but it’s all he’s got.

UPDATE: The Journal Sentinel weighs in on Green's political payoff this morning as a note in the insipid "Laurels and Laments" section that it runs on its Saturday editorial page (Usual sample: "We saw this week that the traffic lights on Wisconsin Ave. were adjusted to allow a better flow from east to west. This is the kind of bold action that makes our city a great place in which to live.") Apparently, the perk does not merit a whole editiorial of its own. However, Green gets a few props he hardly deserves: "He is generally possessed of uncommon good sense and has superb people skills," claims the J-S.

Oh, really? "Uncommon good sense"? You mean like trying to transfer his complete federal campaign fund, knowing it was against state law, filing a frivilous lawsuit just to cover his ass and ultimately agreeing that the Elections Board got it right, and then still whining about it? You mean like that? You mean like opposing stem cell research? Like proposing a move of the entire state Department of Workforce Development to Milwaukee? Like being Junior Bush's lapdog while he was in Congress? Uncommon, maybe? But uncommon good sense? Quite the opposite.

"Superb people skills"? "Green walked away from reporters pressing him for details on just how he thinks he would fix the state budget deficit." Yep, Mr. Common Man, alright. Superb skill with his buddies like Felon Scooter Jensen, Mark Foley or Tom Delay, maybe. For what that's worth.