Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Peace Through Music 2009

As I have for the past several years, I have the honor of acting as the MC for the 8th annual Peace Through Music benefit at Linneman's Riverwest Inn in Milwaukee this Sunday, May 24th. The show, featuring 18 of Milwaukee's finest musicians, begins at 7 p.m. and goes until 1 a.m. $10 at the door. There will also be a raffle and auction of Beatles memorabilia and other fine items. All performers will be playing the music of John Lennon and/or the Beatles; a tribute to one of the most famous and tragic victims of senseless hand-gun violence in the United States.

Besides my hosting duties, Mike Plaisted and Band snared a late-night, prime-time slot at 11:25.

The show is a benefit for the Wisconsin Anti-Violence Effort (WAVE) and the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

Both groups appear to have their work cut out for them, as the NRA-fearing Democrats now in charge of everything run for the hills on even the simplest and most reasonable forms of firearm regulation, such as a re-institution of the assault weapons ban and the closing of the gun-show loophole for background checks. "An internal detente that has been declared before the pro-gun and pro-gun-control forces within the Democratic caucus" was the way one "advisor" put it to Politico and we are all the worse for it.

In Wisconsin, the loopy-right has been celebrating the non-authoritative political -- oh, sorry -- legal opinion by Republican AG J.B. VanHollen that anyone who wants to get their precious pet gun some fresh air can take it out for a walk without concealing it and without worrying about getting charged with disorderly conduct, no matter how much the action "tends to cause or provoke a disturbance", as the statute reads. Just this past weekend, about 200 of the state's gun clowns got together somewhere, according to chief gun fetishist Owen Robinson, to celebrate Van Hollen's gift, overcompenstating for their, um, inadequacies by packing heat all over what I'm sure is an otherwise peaceful, lovely park.

In any event, the fight continues for reasonable and effective gun control. Join us on Sunday night for a night of music and fun, all for a good cause.

Monday, May 11, 2009

The Tyranny of E-Cig Regulation

The nut-right jihad in Milwaukee has united behind an unlikely commercial product in its effort to beat up on the Nanny State of their manipulative imaginations and pretended nightmares. The "issue" is the proposed regulation of e-cigarettes, the prospect of which has sent the hysterical wing-nut entertainers on a campaign of typically-patronizing squawking about the supposed danger to "freedom" and "liberty" from heartless bureaucrats who would dare to try to protect the populace from an untested nico-machine. Patriots unite! You have nothing to lose but your untested addictive drug delivery system!

It says here that e-cigarettes are an electronic device that contains nicotine in a liquid that vaporizes and gets sucked into the lungs, delivering soothing heart-rate-and-blood-pressure-increasing, blood-to-heart-muscle-restricting, brain-addicting nicotine into the bloodstream. It is being sold world-wide as shit without the mess to those who are trying to kick the habit of smoking real cigarettes. Even non-smokers are potential customers -- didn’t you always wonder what the big rush was that make those stupid smokers suck those poison sticks until they were smelly, sick or dead? I’m a non-smoker with a fine appreciation for the easy release of dopamine and this might be just the short-cut to serenity I need.

The FDA has refused to approve some versions of e-cigs and other countries like Australia and Canada have either banned them or advised against them. "Nicotine is a highly addictive and toxic substance, and the inhalation of propylene glycol is a known irritant," say the grown-ups at Health Canada. "Although these electronic smoking products may be marketed as a safer alternative to conventional tobacco products and, in some cases, as an aid to quitting smoking, electronic smoking products may pose risks such as nicotine poisoning and addiction."

Such sentiments and government directives are so much namby-pamby malarkey according to the pudding-heads in Milwaukee’s well-published and broadcast lunatic fringe. The Journal Sentinel’s omnipresent wing-nut, Patrick McIlheran, complained in his permanent Sunday screed-space that the effort to ban e-cigs in Washington "dwelt" on such quaint notions as "the possibility that children could order the devices and that the e-cigs haven't been proved healthy." "Haven’t been proved healthy"? Oh, pooh – silly government, trying to protect the public health again. Didn’t that function die permanently with the Bushies, when poison industry lobbyists were drafting all the "rules"? He accuses the government of "reflexively" trying to ban things so that people can’t hurt themselves in new and creative ways. This, as his knee jerks "reflexively" into a new claim of feigned victimhood for his whiny constituency.

Even the third-string squealers are getting into the act. Wretched Madison import Vicki McKenna practically hosted an infomercial for one of the on-line purveyors of e-cigs a week or so ago; having the guy on, promoting the web site and even offering discounts. This is apparently personal for McKenna, who sounds like the kind of person who sits and spouts her opinions from the end of the bar, a drink in one hand and her cigarette – e- or otherwise – hanging from her lips, while the other patrons slowly slink away. McKenna claims she has been able to cut her rate of self-destruction through burning cancer sticks by indulging in what’s-his-name’s delicious vapor product and, damn it, she should be allowed to continue to so delude herself.

Although she loudly indulges in the dreary right-wing talking points about the "tyranny" and loss of "liberty" involved in any governmental action – predictably, McKenna spent a month or so promoting the phony Madison Tea Bag psuedo-event on her show – one of her arguments appears to be that, even though e-cigs might be unhealthy, they are not as unhealthy as real cigarettes. Wow, "not as deadly as cigarettes". There’s a low standard for you. How about a bomb "not as destructive as an atomic bomb" or a nuclear accident "not as bad as Chernobyl"?

But the specifics of the manufactured e-cigarette "debate" isn’t what the wing-nuts are after. They want another fake reason for their angry-white-male demographic to feel oppressed by the Big Brother government that only exists in their heads. In right-wing fantasy-land, "they" are coming for your guns, coming for your e-cigs, blah de blah blah. It’s a tiresome routine, but you have to forgive them. Tied to the rock of the Party of No, they sink slowly in the ocean of their own failure. Self-victimization is all they have. Poor babies.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Belling Mines That Bird

Mark Belling, Milwaukee’s top-rated racist demagogue, committed a flagrant act of bad prognostication last Friday, boldly swinging the big dick of his own investments in the often animal-abusive American horse racing industry (i.e.: he owns horses) as he made Kentucky Derby predictions on his web site. "If this horse wins," he wrote of surprise long-shot winner Mine That Bird, "I'll never bet on another race and will vote for Jim Doyle for re-election."

Oh, how we all laughed when Belling was faced with the perfect confluence of his pledge and the stunning race results. The question wasn’t whether he would weasel out on his promise, but rather – how? After carefully consulting with his own empty conscience and which ever dark knight he sold his soul to so many years ago, Belling brilliantly (to him) turned his miserable failure into an opportunity to conduct more smears and tell more lies. "If Governor Doyle withdraws his support for [insert various whiny complaints of revenue enhancements for the cash-strapped state], I will indeed vote for Governor Doyle for re-election."

Ho! Boo-yah! As late as Wednesday afternoon, he was still reveling in his own wonderfulness, bragging that he had gotten the goat of Doyle, state Democratic Chair Joe Wineke and anyone foolish enough to think that the radio clown who claims to "stand up" for anything, much less Milwaukee, might honor his condition-less bet without conditions.

The original prediction about the likelihood of Mine That Bird winning the Derby was a piffle of hyperbolic braggado, attempting to show how smart he was. Anyone listening to or reading it would take something like that even less seriously than they usually do with Belling. But he made it more serious by using his understandable failure (99% of the racing world agreed with him) to attack Gov. Doyle. But this is the kind of cheap political hackery we expect from Belling.

Of course, the truth being so dramatically against him, you can’t expect Belling to make a point without lying. Doyle’s supposed pledge, such as it was, had only to do with personal income, property and sales taxes. Only one of the budget items cited by Belling – a mere one-percent hike for those making over $300,000 – requires an actual tax increase of the kind Doyle was talking about. The rest of the tiresome right-wing litany Belling recites are not of that sort. But, hey, why let the facts get in the way of a cheap responsibility dodge?

The Belling Dodge has even gone national. Wednesday night, on his essential Countdown program on MSNBC, Keith Olbermann discussed the Belling renege during, appropriately, the Oddball segment. The Belling episode shows that "being a right-winger on the radio means you’re a welcher," said Olbermann, before showing hilarious footage of Prince Charles with an animated frog.

But Olbermann, not knowing him like we unfortunately do, lets Belling off too easy. "Welcher" is the least of it. Racist, liar, poisoner of political dialog, local embarassment – that’s more like it.

Friday, May 01, 2009

The Steele Republicans

The Incredible Shrinking Republican Party continues to not disappoint, as they spin themselves rapidly further into a hole, oblivious to their situation and their destiny.

Faced with the loss of Arlen Specter in the Senate, their message was, literally, "good riddance" and, according to their charming leader-by-default Rush Limbaugh, take John McCain and the other RINOs with you. The war on RINOs has been a staple of wing-nut radio for years, as they blamed two cycles of electoral thumpings on candidates who were not loopy-right enough. They say they would just as soon relative moderates and/or independently-minded senators like McCain, Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe stop pretending to be Republicans and hit the road. If that happened (it won’t – Snowe, at least, still clings to the quaint New England version of her family's GOP), that would put the Senate math at 63 in the majority, with 2010 bound to add 3 or 4 more Democrats to the fold. Thus the new, ideologically-pure party digs deeper into irrelevance; the Talk Radio Wing-Nut Party of their wet-yet-impotent dreams.

It doesn’t help that the dominant anti-moderate wing of the party has installed its stooge at the head of the party – the eminently clueless Michael Steele – who was willing to use the occasion of Specter’s overdue switch to kick a large part of his own party under the bus. "I’m sure his mama didn’t raise him that way," he snarked, as he whined about Specter’s disloyalty (i.e.: his unwillingness to stay on the GOP Titanic). Talk about mixed messages. The traditional Republicans (like Snowe) are damned if they leave for being disloyal and damned if they stay for being RINOs.

Although a small faction of the party is trying to knock Steele down a notch by restricting his spending authority, I say: The more Michael Steele the better. Every time his dumb ass shows up on cable, I drop everything I’m doing, turn it up, and enjoy the show. Not since, well, Junior Bush has anyone so clearly out of his depth been thrust into a national leadership position. The difference between Steele and Bush, though, is that Steele appears to have no idea how truly comical he is. At least Bush had people around him to write his scripts and keep him away from microphones. Steele lurches into television studios, reveling in a spotlight that only serves to highlight his incompetent message delivery, as he paints the GOP further into a nut-right corner. Now, apparently, he is going after what he imagines as the Bush/Cheney old guard in his own party. What a riot. The guy needs a prime time show – we all need a good laugh these days.

Instead of accepting the Specter defection as a wake-up call, the GOP leadership in Congress is following Steele and the talk-radio demagogues off the cliff. In the House and Senate, they continue to whip their members into unanimous opposition to all things Obama, despite the president’s extraordinary popularity and the slow, tentative economic rebound that his policies have so far produced. The Republicans are betting and hoping that the economy remains miserable and somehow Obama and Democrats will be blamed for it in time for the 2010 elections. Even if that does happen, they still have to offer a legitimate alternative and the tax-cuts-for-the-rich party is hardly that.

Obama came to the White House with at least small hopes of bipartisanship in the face of the various crisis dumped on his lap by the Bushies and has been rebuffed at every turn by the Party of No that refuses to even acknowledge obvious and pressing national problems. How can you reach any consensus with people who refuse to admit that we have to do something about health care or climate change? There is no middle ground when irresponsible GOP "leaders" would just as soon let banks and auto companies fail; imagine what kind of death-spiral we would be in with the party of economic Darwinism in charge.

The Republican Party is going the way of the Whigs. History shows us that the Whigs fractured over the slavery issue in the 1850s, the wrong (pro-slavery) side taking over the party and leading it to oblivion. Now, the GOP’s minority relative-moderates are being driven out in the name of ideological purity, and the party is increasingly regional – only the South and Plains states remain. A couple more election cycles and the party will be (or should be) left for dead. The only question is whether and when conservative-to-moderate Democrats and Republicans peel off to form the second party this country desperately needs.