Thursday, November 04, 2010

The End of Plaisted Writes

You can't fire me -- I quit.

I first put up a blog on February 15, 2003. It was on a Salon platform -- I had to pay $30 a year or something for the privilege.  It was mostly about Bush and the Stupid War on Iraq, leading up to the 2004 election.  Alternately called Mike Plaisted's Anti-War Blog, Stop Bush in '04, Bush Surrogate Watch and Mondo Media, it was a casual writing exercise that literally nobody read.  Just like Plaisted Writes, it was long-form essays -- I could never manage to do the short-hit things, pointing to videos or other interesting pages (for that, no one beats the brilliant Illusory Tenant).  After the excruciating 2004 election of Junior Bush (not a re-election -- don't get me started), I didn't even bother to sum up after the returns were in.  The last post on Mondo Media was a eulogy for Hunter S. Thompson, of which I am still somewhat proud.

I started Plaisted Writes (pretty lamely) on New Years Day, 2006.  Eventually, I hooked into some decent vibe on the governor's race that year.  In 2007, I was fairly well-read by a small but influential readership on the disgusting, racist campaign of Michael Gableman against my friend and far-superior Justice, Louis Butler.  I wrote the most posts in 2008, leading up to the election of President Barack Obama. 

Following the pattern of becoming dormant after presidential elections, my posts since then have been sporadic, at best.  There may be various personal, business and interest-level reasons for this, but I have really lost my writing mojo, apparently, and couldn't even get much up for the disastrous mid-terms that slammed into our nation and state yesterday. 

Not that there weren't enough outrages from mainstream talk-radio and the increasingly-appalling Milwaukee Journal Sentinel to write about. For instance, a new low was reached for only paper in town last Sunday with their ridiculous endorsement of Scott Walker for governor.  Really, Journal Sentinel? Did you look at the comparison of the two candidates on the issues you ran the next day and realize that -- except for your support of the school "choice" scam -- Walker disagrees with your editorial board positions on everything, from stem-cell research to Badger Care?

The relentless pummelling of the truth by the now-dominant right-wing media has simply worn the electorate down.  Now that they have played a major role in bringing Republican rule to every inch of Wisconsin state government, we'll really see what a state-controlled, sock-puppet media looks like.  The hours of free advertising that Walker, Johnson and the rest of the Republicans benefited from during the campaign on talk-radio will be followed by hours of support, excuse-making and undue-glorification once they take over the Capitol. 

And, you know what?  They can have it.  There is something about power in Washington and Madison that is important enough to Republicans that they will do anything to get it and keep it.  They are driven not by the naive, stupid people in funny hats that populate their astro-turf tea party events; but rather by wealthy polluters and money manipulators in the dark back rooms of country clubs.  All of these bastards on the radio and on right-wing blogs are very well-paid for their work, one way or another.  There is no way we can compete.  With redistricting coming up, they will unmercifully use their power to institutionalize their permanent rule.  Our goose -- and, more importantly, the goose of the needy, the sick, the environment, our individual rights (yes -- our Freedom) and good government -- is cooked.

With this blog, I hoped to serve as a small antidote to the garbage spewed on mainstream talk-radio and the Journal Sentinel.  I'm not going to pretend to have an impact anymore.  Some of this failure is my own lack of capacity these days to write consistently and often enough to build an ongoing argument, as I managed to do in fits-and-starts in the past.  But much of it is also because the right-wing has a steamroller that they are not ashamed to use to mow down everything and everyone in their path.  I don't mind the headaches sometimes, for a good cause and if there is a chance of moving the needle, but otherwise I'd rather not keep banging my head against the wall. 

The dream of progressive government in Wisconsin is dead for now and it's not looking so good in Washington, either.  Government in Wisconsin will now be a subsidiary of RepubliCorps, run by and for elite millionaires and other powerful interests.  As a result, the community that I serve as a criminal defense lawyer will necessarily expand, as public-service jobs are lost, public education is destroyed, health care is denied and regulations are abandoned.   I'll deal with the carnage one client at a time, as the underclass falls further from the ranks of a straight society that has turned their backs on them.  As long as Walker keeps his hands off the excellent public defender system in Wisconsin, I'll have plenty to do.

I know this blog has been appreciated by many people I respect enourmously.  As my production fell off in recent years, they would come up to me in the Courthouse and elsewhere and ask when the next post was coming.  I really enjoyed at least the sense of getting my nose under the tent and having even a slight impact on the political discourse.  I hope those who liked what I did here understand. 

I am, at heart, a writer and I think a pretty good one at times.   I'll build another blog at some point, I'm sure.  But, for now, I'll save my thoughts in quick hits for my Facebook friends (you can be too, if you just ask).  When I do build a new page, I'll announce it here.

Other than that, I'm out.  Good luck, Wisconsin.  We're going to need it.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Screw Juan Williams...

...and Bob Beckel and Susan Estrich and Pat Cadell and Doug Schoen and Alan Colmes and all those other Fox-enabling Democrat/Liberal whores who appear on Fox News.  This Fox stable of washed-up Dem politicos, who could not get hired by a current campaign if their life depended on it, grant legitimacy to the illegitimate alternate factual universe of  Fox, where up is down, black is white, and an overly market-based solution to a severe health insurance problem is a socialist government takeover.  They sit in studios with putrid people like Sean Hannity, Anne Coulter and Bill O'Reilly, agree too much with the wingnut hosts, and pretend the difference between left and right is just a matter of degree.  Screw them all.

The difference between the rest of these soulless skanks and Williams is that Williams was also employed by a real journalistic institution with ethics, standards and credibility it sought to protect.  Why NPR let Williams do his sickening "I sometimes disagree with you, but you're a great guy" routine on Fox for so long is beyond me.  Just the phase "Juan Williams of National Public Radio" (or, for that matter, milquetoast Republican Mara Liasson) granted undue legitimacy to the Fox News opinion panels as somehow "fair and balanced".  Anyone that can sit in the same room with the likes of Brit Hume, Bill Kristol and Charles Krauthammer on a regular basis and not run out screaming is simply not the real journalist they pretend to be. 

NPR had a specific code of ethics that they did not enforce strongly enough with Williams as he not only appeared on Fox' fake "news" programs, but also on Hannity and O'Reilly's screedfests as well.  In fact, he is a regular fill-in for O'Reilly, facilitating the promotion of ridiculous right-wing story-lines just like the regular host.  No legitimate news organization would allow their reporters or even their part-time commentators (Williams was not on NPR much, anyway) to get on TV with overheated nutbags and engage them in opinionated banter.  Williams' stupid, bigoted statements about peaceful Muslims on planes was just the last straw.  They should have tossed him out on his ear long ago.  He never had that much interesting to say anyway.

Now, Williams is a cause celeb for the right-wing, allowing himself to be used as a poor victim by the nation's most sinister forces.  He has dropped all pretense and signed a $2 million contract with Fox, leaving whatever dignity he had left as a reporter and commenter in the real world far behind.  Thus does the whore move in to the mansion. Beckel, Cadell and company should be so lucky.

Screw Juan Williams.  Good riddance.

Monday, October 11, 2010

PolitiFact Adds Puff-Pieces To The Mix

I don't really want to spend the rest of the campaign season writing about the Journal Sentinel's disastrous PolitiFact project, but they really give me no choice.  Since its inception and every day now for over a week, the PolitiFact editors and writers have made outrageous "rulings" against Democrats, let lying Republicans off the hook numerous times, and generally shown itself to be an incredibly biased series. 

It is also becoming increasingly clear that this result is no accident.  It is by editorial design. How else would you explain the two entirely unnecessary pieces that ran last week and this Monday, concluding that two self-serving and (more importantly) unchallenged claims by Republicans were True and Mostly True? 

Who ever said that Scott Walker didn't perform the political stunt of giving $370,000 of his salary back to the county?  No one, that's who.  But that didn't stop a PolitiFact editor from assigning one of the reporters to examine the truth of a claim that no one had challenged.  The result was predictable.  Message #1:  Scott Walker is Truthful.  Message #2: We should care that the most politically opportunistic empty-suit in Wisconsin history, who has been running for governor since he was a radical-right lieutenant in Scooter Jensen's political machine, would play games with his own income for the sake of making a meaningless claim about fiscal austerity during just this campaign. 

Similarly, who ever said that loopy tea-bagger State Senate candidate Leah Vukmir was wrong when she pulled a meaningless statistic out of the air that there are sometimes more government than manufacturing jobs in Wisconsin? Nobody, that's who.  The claim, even if true, was widely ignored as irrelevant.  What, Leah?  Is there something wrong with firefighters, cops, teachers, National Guard? 

But, again, a PolitiFact editor assigned someone to examine the truth of a claim that no one had challenged and no one cared about.  Now Leah Vukmir has the Journal Sentinel's imprimatur as a Truthful candidate and -- most important for her -- not a statewide laughing stock in a tight race against the much more sane incumbent, Jim Sullivan. 

And, no, it doesn't matter that Vukmir's claim about $5 billion in tax increases was "ruled" false on the same day -- that ran as an inconsequential sidebar on page 2, while the story of her wonderfulness in not being wrong about the unchallenged jobs data was one of the few PolitiFact columns that ran on the front page.  The Journal Sentinel knows how to use layout tricks to minimize the impact of negative news about their obviously favored fruitcakes.

All in a day's work for the Journal Sentinel's right-wing managing editor George Stanley and the PolitiFact editors, whose apparent mission is to make the world safer for Republicans.  This new trend of adding Republican puff-pieces like the one on Walker and Vukmir to the mix of harsh judgements on Democrats and muted criticisms of Republicans will make for an entertaining last couple of weeks of this election cycle, as PolitiFact Wisconsin attempts to make sure the prophesies of their right-wing columnists and radio wing-nuts are self-fulfilled.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

PolitiFact Jumps the Shark

The Journal Sentinel continues to make sure the St. Petersburg Times lives to regret its renting of its PolitiFact brand to the incredible shrinking Milwaukee newspaper.  It's one thing to have the balls to hold yourself out as the arbiter of Truth in political advertising.  It's quite another to fail miserably, serve as a shill for every shade of Republican and embarrass yourself on a daily basis, as the J-S has done.

On Saturday morning, the local paper's PolitiFact project moved officially from the ridiculous to the absurd.  Apparently giving the local writers a breather to get ready for the homestretch of their daily Republican-friendly blather, the J-S ran a column by two national PolitiFact reporters about the not-so-hard-to-understand (unless you are a Journal Sentinel or PolitiFact writer) Republican effort to at least partially privatize Social Security. 

This is the third time in a month that the Journal Sentinel has attempted to provide cover for the GOP on this third-rail issue.  It has already used its harshest Pants On Fire judgement on the subject twice regarding perfectly legitimate claims by Wisconsin Democrats about their opponents' subscription to the Book of Ryan and his radical plan to throw Social Security funds into the winds of the private market. Just in case you forgot the J-S's previous "rulings" on the subject, the column by the national writers is embellished by not one but two Pants On Fire graphics and recaps of the paper's previous finger-wagging.

A funny thing happened, though, on the way to the J-S's use of the national report to support their protection of Republicans in general and their fair-haired boy Paul Ryan in particular.  While using some of the same language and pathetic hair-splitting of the local writers ("Ryan said personal accounts should not be called 'privatized'".  Well, alrighty, then.), the national writers reach quite a different conclusion.  Those writers concluded a statement by President Obama on the subject -- accusing Republicans of "pushing to make privatizing Social Security a key part of their legislative agenda" -- was Barely True, which is two tics up from POF on the Truth-o-Meter (no kidding -- that's what it's called).  And that was only because Obama said the GOP wanted to make it a "key part" of their agenda, when they were clearly running for the hills from Ryan's radicalism, lest they be tainted by its obvious intent.

In fact, PolitiFact licensee columns in other states are wildly inconsistent on the degrees of Truth in the perfectly legitimate privatization accusation.  In the Colorado Sentate race, a claim that the tea-bagging Republican candidate wanted to privatize Social Security was at least Half True.  And none of the other states' writers rate the privatization claim as any worse than Barely True, even though most of the columns evaluate the same Ryan Roadmap, often using exactly the same language. 

So, what is the problem with the Journal Sentinel on this and other issues threatening to Republicans (see also their wimpy Barely True rating of Ron Johnson's "$500 billion cut from Medicare" lie)?  Perhaps Journal Communication's other property -- wing-nut radio station WTMJ -- is the tail wagging the newspaper dog.  Perhaps, because they are intimidated by the right-wing loudmouths on their radio station and editorial board, they are bending over backwards trying to be "fair" to the party of Lie, Cheat and Buy. 

Whatever.  But the inconsistent results evaluating the same established facts illuminates what a ridiculous exercise it is to hold yourself out as the decider of political Truth.  Political campaigns, their consultants and ad writers are experts in the use of the half-truth and the parsed argument.  Certainly, there are some lies told by the right every day on talk-radio, Fox News and Ron Johnson commercials, that can and should be exposed for the outrageous untruths they are. 

But the way to do that is in regular news articles, in 72 point font, above the fold.  Try this: Ron Johnson Lies About Medicare "Cuts".  See? It almost writes itself.  Trying to do it as part of a trademarked brand purchased from another newspaper,with a cute logo and meter graphic just trivialize the political claims being examined and the journalistic project itself.  Especially when the result just puts on display how much the Journal Sentinel has its collective head up its ass.

Here's a project for you, Journal Sentinel.  How about a daily examination about how the Republicans are going to outright purchase this election? How about a think piece about the hours of free advertising and friendly exposure ("Hi, Scott! How good is your county budget?") that is provided every day by talk-radio who slavishly follow the daily talking points provided by the RNC?  How about writing about how "independent" expenditures by unnamed rich Republicans -- foreign and domestic -- enabled by a radical-right Supreme Court majority, are going to swamp this state on behalf of Walker and Johnson, making the fundraising figures provided by the official campaigns laughably irrelevant?  How about following the money, rather than chasing around a story about whether Scott Walker can actually stop a train?

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Journal Sentinel PolitiFact® Fails Again

I think it's past time for the Journal Sentinel to put its dreadful PolitiFact® project out of its misery. 

Day after day for a month now, we have been subjected to ridiculous "rulings" (no kidding -- that's what they call them) on political claims made in the heat of the various campaigns.  Throughout the project's sorry history, the J-S writers have repeatedly saved their harshest snarky "Pants-on-Fire" conclusions for completely legitimate claims by Democrats (such as obvious Republican plans to at least partially privatize Social Security) and let Republicans off the hook for every outrageous lie they tell everyday.  The Journal Sentinel should give the PolitiFact® trademark back to whoever they bought it from and let someone else have a crack at it.

An excellent example of the creative ways in which the PolitiFact® writers get things wrong is today's review of a Ron Johnson ad that is full of lies about health care reform.  Rather than go after Johnson for his tea-bagging recitation of false claims about the "government takeover of health care" and other such nonsense, Dave Umhoffer focuses on what is, at best, a side-issue in the ad -- whether Russ Feingold's support for health care reform was opposed by a majority of Wisconsin voters, as Johnson claims.

The resulting column is a mish-mash of what opinion polls did or didn't conclude about support for the bill at the time, all depending on how the question was worded, and by whom.  Conservatives never cared about opinion polls while Junior Bush was in office, recklessly conducting the Stupid War on Iraq and destroying the economy.  Now, they waive around manipulative polls by the right-wing Rasmussen and others, insisting that politicians do whatever the majority of those polled say, or stand accused of violating the "will of the people".  Umhoffer properly rates Johnson's claims about the polls as "false", at least in part because many of those opposing the bill actually wanted more government involvement.

But the focus on the poll claims misses the point of the bigger lies in the ad.  The main point of the ad is that Feingold is being attacked for supporting a "government takeover of health care" that doesn't exist.  This is the phrase that the Republican word-smiths have designed to create opposition to health care reform -- but it's a lie.  Incredibly, Umhoffer points out that fact as an aside, in the 21st paragraph:
Our PolitiFact colleagues have repeatedly probed the truth of the government takeover charge and found it ridiculously false -- a Pants on Fire.  In truth, the health care law creates a market-based system that relies on private health insurance companies.
The column purports to examine Johnson's statement that "A majority of Wisconsinites opposed the government takeover of health care. But Russ Feingold voted for it anyway."  Besides claiming that the majority opposed the "government takeover", it also says Feingold voted for "it" -- "it" being the grand "government takeover" bogeyman.  By focusing on and headlining the polling data, the column ignores the bigger lie that health care reform was a "government takeover".   A casual aside 21 paragraphs down in the story does nothing to change the fact that the takeover lie survives the noise of the rest of the ad, which is really Johnson's main goal -- to demonize health care reform and Feingold's support for it.

This isn't the only thing the PolitiFact® team has gotten wrong, in focus or substance.  Just yesterday, they "ruled" that the Democratic challenger to Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, Scott Hassett made a "false" statement in an ad when he said that Van Hollen "did nothing" about allegations he was aware of that my boyhood hometown DA, wannabe sex kitten Ken Kratz, was trolling for babes in DV witness waiting rooms. 

Sure enough, Van Hollen's investigators looked at some paperwork and called Kratz up to suggest he turn himself in.  But, no charges were issued, no referral made by the AG to OLR.  He let it go.  In prosecutors parlance, this is known as doing nothing.  It doesn't mean you do anything if you think about doing something and still do nothing.  You did nothing.  And, you can read that whole story and never know that Kratz, like Van Hollen, was also a Republican.

But, that's par for this sorry course. The Journal Sentinel in general and PolitiFact® in particular continues to cover for Republicans by going hard on Democrats (five Pants on Fire declarations against Dems; none against GOP politicians) and letting Republicans get away with slaps on the wrists for big lies (Walker claiming he eliminated waiting lists he had nothing to do with is just fine; Johnson calling Social Security a "Ponzi scheme" is also judged within bounds).

In the past month, the Journal Sentinel PolitiFact® team has proved absolutely incapable of selecting the right topics or getting anything right.  A perhaps noble project in the beginning has become a confusing embarrassment.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Secrets of the Whack

I keep waiting for Wisconsin’s very own Tea-Party-Talk-Radio (TPTR) product, Ron Johnson, to be included on the list of amateur right-wing nut-jobs in the national press. I search in vain for his inclusion on the list of whack over-heated rookies like Christine O’Donnell, Sharron Angle, Rand Paul and the deliciously unhinged Carl “I’ll Take You Out” Paladino.

But, no. The bland-by-design Johnson is merely single-minded, stupid and naive – not entertaining in a no-masturbation sort of way. So Wisconsin has thus far been spared the indignity of having its Republican electorate mocked for having such a lightweight on the ballot for something serious like a seat in the U.S. Senate; against the venerable Russ Feingold, no less. I guess our time to be subjected to national ridicule will be after the election, if we are foolish enough to dump the finest senator in Wisconsin history for an empty-suited creature of the TPTR astro-turf flash-in-the-pan “movement”.

Should that formerly-unthinkable and now simply horrific event occur, it is fair to ask what the TPTR candidates like Johnson are going to do in Washington after they get out on the Senate floor and make their little speeches about imagined threats to Freedom and Liberty and the Peril of Tyranny that apparently resulted from the 2008 election. After their efforts to destroy health care reform, re-deregulate the financial and deep-water drilling industries and otherwise serve their corporate masters fail, what then?

The Big Secret of the TPTR candidates is that, for all of their blather about “career politicians” and the Dangers of Potomac Thinking, any of them that manage to get elected will be more beholden to Washington insiders than any group of new senators in the nation’s history. Knowing nothing but the blind, misdirected rage of the simpleton targets of the manipulative campaigns that recruited them and got them elected, they will be lost in the hard work of real legislation. Faced with the unfamiliar processes of appropriations (yes, tea-baggers, money must be spent), constituent relations (yes, tea-baggers, you are going to have to talk to people other than yourselves) and the other nuts-and-bolts of government, Ron Johnson and the others will have to turn to the supposed experts that want to pull their strings in the first place.

And they won’t have to go far to find that help. Standing right there at their office door when they show up for the transition will be staffers from Dick Armey’s FreedomWorks and other right-wing “think” tanks – the same people who created the Tea Party conceit as a re-branding of Republicanism in the first place. Senator Ron Johnson won’t have to reach in his back pocket to find the help he needs because he is already in someone else’s back pocket. All they need to do in his first day in Washington is take him out and attach the strings.

That’s why we have always wanted to know how our candidates think – to try to get an idea how they will deal with the unexpected issues that always arise in the flow of the nation’s work. When you get a candidate like Johnson, with limited experience and even less of an interest in the weighty issues of state, you have someone who needs help. And we know where he’ll get it from – from the same people that produced the debacle of the Gingrich/Bush years. We’d be replacing the relatively-independent, seriously thoughtful Feingold with a bought-and-sold puppet of a vast network of Washington insiders who failed when they were last in power and yearn to fail again.

Johnson has an ad in heavy rotation right now, bragging about his general state of ignorance and the fact that he’s not a lawyer. There is a reason that lawmakers in the Senate are more likely than not to be a lawyer – sometimes it takes that special skill to craft legislation that has the effect you want it to have. There are people from the business community in the Senate as well – Herb Kohl is an excellent example. But Herb Kohl isn’t in the Senate to avenge some slight affecting his single business, as Johnson says he is (to avenge the imagined effects of health care reform). Kohl has always been thoughtful and well-rounded, with a consistent world view that guides his quiet but effective tenure. That a single-issue dweeb like Ron Johnson could become the same is against all the evidence.

If you want independent thought and careful consideration of all issues from all sides in Washington, Wisconsin will never do as good as we are already doing with Russ Feingold. The election of Ron Johnson would put one of Wisconsin’s senate seats in the hands of reprehensible Washington insiders with bad track records, bad ideas and bad intentions.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Never Mind

Never mind that "Courier Endorses Moews" post, which has been deleted. The article in the Courier as part of their "Candidate Spotlight" series was written by "Supporters of Chris Moews for Sheriff". I didn't look at it close enough. Sorry.

That doesn't change the fact that David Clarke is a right-wing megalomaniacal nightmare who needs to be defeated in the Democratic primary. And I do hope that the Courier endorses Moews in the next couple of days, if they do such things.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

David Clarke: Under The Bridge

Some internal polling must be giving Sheriff David Clarke the willies.  Apparently, his campaign is sensing that the mass of billboards and radio and TV ads bought with the generous donations of his rich Republican friends and his daily love-fests and free advertising on local right-wing radio shows might not be enough to pull him through the Democratic primary on Tuesday.

So they ripped the cowboy hat off his head, dressed him up in his sheriff's outfit and sent him out before the TV cameras to address an issue of burning concern in the community: Suicide attempts off the Hoan Bridge. 

In a sudden spurt of civic concern, Clarke supposedly dashed off a letter this past Thursday to the secretary of the state DOT, putting on his engineer hat and suggesting that the state might want to put up suicide-prevention barriers when it repaired the crumbling icon of the Milwaukee skyline. 

The letter itself is a six-page marvel of intricate research, complete with a chart showing the 16 "successful" jumps off the Hoan since 2001 (why he didn't just say "it's about two a year"...well, not nearly as impressive).  There are even footnotes relating to its deep thoughts about the psychological aspects of suicide-by-jumping and the efforts of other cities to deal with the scourge of jumpers. 

It's an amazing document, if only for the fact that it was could not possibly have been written by Clarke.  Clarke is too busy rolling marbles in his hand and yelling at his underlings about the strawberries; spending hours on the phone with radio wingnuts; attending fundraisers with rich Republicans; screwing up the House of Correction and wreaking havoc on other aspects of Milwaukee County that are really none of his business to whomp out six pages with footnotes and charts.  If he really did spend the hours it takes to produce a letter like this, the citizens of Milwaukee County have the every right to ask him what the hell he is doing with his time.

Nor was it written by anyone else in the sheriff's department.  They don't have time for this kind of footnoted posturing nonsense -- those in the department not acting as Clarke toadies are too busy picking up after their arrogant boss.  

The letter, on sheriff's letterhead, is a obviously a campaign document, probably drafted by a summer intern over at the WPRI. [UPDATE:  The right-wing propaganda operation WPRI has a lot on its plate these days.  Sadly, it is now setting the agenda for the Journal Sentinel opinion pages.]

But the transparently political essence of the letter didn't stop the Clarke defenders at the Journal Sentinel and local TV stations from treating it like an oh-so-serious and sincere concern by the sheriff.  Not only did the J-S cheerfully front-page the PR stunt; there was Clarke standing under the bridge on all the TV news shows on the Friday before the election, using his incumbency like a hammer to drive some gullible free-media nails. 

Isn't this what the tea-baggers are always complaining about -- entrenched incumbents using the pliant mainstream media to get fawning, unquestioning coverage?  I guess it depends on who the incumbent is, eh, Charlie? 

Interestingly, Clarke didn't seem too concerned about being hit by falling bodies as he posed for his holy pictures under the bridge.  Given the state of the Mental Health Complex, as run by his soulmate Scott Walker, perhaps he should have been.  The care and treatment of the mentally ill residents of Milwaukee County has deteriorated under gubernatorial-candidate-for-life Walker that the rate of suicide of all kinds is an issue that deserves the attention of our serious local officials.   If only we could find one in the county executive or sheriff's office.

David Clarke's cynical use of occassional bridge-jumping just to get his mug on TV just before the primary is the worst kind of abuse of his office for political gain.  And the media playing along as if he's serious is even worse.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Fluffing Ryan; Ignoring Truth

There used to be this guy on a certain local music scene in the '70s.  He played in local clubs, as a solo act and sometimes with groups.  He was an early purveyor of electronic music -- had some nice keyboards, first-generation synthesizers and such.  He thought he was funny sometimes; was oh-so-musically serious other times.  He dabbled in pop, rock, classical. 

And he sucked.  He couldn't sing, wasn't very rhythmic -- you certainly couldn't dance to it.  His serious pieces were a mess; his pop and rock stuff of no significance.  Yet the local alternative rag promoted and praised his every appearance.  Even the mainstream newspaper in town would include frequent friendly references to the "local legend" and his perseverance on the music scene, sometimes bemoaning his inability to break out to some unfortunate national audience.

But this is what local media outlets always do to hometown talent that deservedly stay that way.  They aren't going to run a review of some local band and rant about how much they stink.  The protection of local acts is understandable, but it gives them an unrealistic impression of their self-worth.  When they finally strike out to Nashville or wherever and get laughed off the stage, they don't understand why.

The same process has happened in reverse for Congressman Paul Ryan, the right-wing Republican darling, who serves as the pretty face for the Dark Side of the once and future Republican agenda in Washington.  Soon after parts of the national mainstream media settled on Ryan as the only Republican they could talk to without throwing up, the Journal Sentinel climbed on the bandwagon (more like a Red Rider, really) -- the local boy done good, a serious player in Washington, and blah de blah blah.

Never mind that, after Ryan presented his vaunted Roadmap, the GOP leadership ran screaming from the room, lest they be tainted with Ryan's radical ideas to at least partially privatize Social Security and shuffle future seniors from the safety of Medicare into the desperate hell that is the private health insurance market.  Although they continued to claim the nice-looking (if you like that sort of thing) young man with greasy hair (I haven't seen hair that wet since my sisters' experiments with Dippity Doo) as a present and future star of the GOP, they wouldn't touch his radical Roadmap with a 10-foot pole.  But the J-S had their local star in Washington and they weren't going to let a little thing like the facts get in the way of their fawning coverage.

So, when the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee ran a perfectly legitimate ad in David Obey's district, pointing out that former reality TV boob Sean Duffey pledged fealty to the Roadmap and therefore correctly stating he "backed a plan to privatize Social Security", the Journal Sentinel got back on its hind legs to kick the DCCC back from whence they came.  How dare they attack Duffy by attacking Ryan's Roadmap!!  We'll show them:  Liar Liar Pants on Fire!

Trotting out its newly-purchased PolitiFact® trademark, the paper distributed its first full-throated j'accuse at the DCCC for the temerity of calling Ryan's radical plan to take billions out of the Social Security lockbox and dump it into the stock market a form of privatization.  Of course it is, and the article strangely admits as such:
"For some, personal investment accounts -- even if they are overseen and managed by the government -- are private, especially when compared with the current system. For others, the accounts are 'privatized' when they are managed by a Wall Street firm. That sounds like the definition Democrats are using."
 OK, so fair argument, right?  Wrong, claims the J-S.  For one thing "an earlier Republican plan calling for 'private' accounts was tweaked after pollsters found the public was more comfortable with the term 'personal' accounts."  So, Frank Luntz gives the Republicans some more friendly language to use for the same thing, and its suddenly not private? Oh, and Duffy swears up and down he's not for privatizing Social Security.  At least, that's not what he wants to call it.

Since when is something not what it is just because a politician says is isn't?  Isn't that what this supposed PolitiFact® bullshit is all about -- sorting out what a candidate says from what the facts really are?  Not to the Journal Sentinel.  Not if it means that the DCCC can beat up on a Republican by tying them to the political poison that is Ryan's Roadmap.  If that's the way it's going to be, they are willing to suspend the facts and pretend the Roadmap is not the privatization nightmare that it is. 

The paper continues to do everything it can to protect the Republicans. If this is the way it's going to be with the local version of PolitiFact®, it is going to be a long slog through the Journal Sentinel's political agenda all the way to November.  Perhaps the St. Petersburg Times  may want to recall its PolitiFact® trademark back from the J-S, lest the Pulitzer committee come looking to get their 2009 award back.

In the meantime, it appears the Journal Sentinel version of PolitiFact® needs a fact checker of its own.  I'm here to help.  We rate this PolitiFact® report on the BullshitMeter® as:

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Doing Clarke's Dirty Work

The Journal Sentinel just can't bring itself to address the issue of David Clarke's blatantly false declaration of himself as a Democrat on the primary ballot for Milwaukee County Sheriff.  But they are all over Chris Moews' attendance at a Junior Bush rally in 2004.  Pictures in Bush T-shirts and everything -- they even drag one of his kids into it.  Dan "Bulldog" Bice (with apologies to the original Bulldog, who knows who he is) nails it. Moews went to a Bush rally, alright.  Case closed.

Bice's piece was an easy triumph for the Clarke campaign, which no doubt threw the photo over the transom in the quiet empty halls of the Journal Sentinel building on State St.  And the J-S was all too willing to take the bait and do some pro-Clarke spinning in advance of the laughable editorial board's expected endorsement of the arrogant, grandstanding Clarke any day now.  Who cares if Clarke is a pretend Democrat when Moews can't possibly be a real Democrat after attending a Bush rally six years ago?  I mean, everyone knows you forfeit your identity as a Democrat by walking in that door, right?

Well, no.  Some true Democrats -- especially law enforcement -- have been supporting Republican presidential candidates since Nixon.  Republicans have always put up a phony macho posture on issues of war and crime and a lot of folks unfortunately fall for that bullshit.  They vote for Democrats down the the rest of the ballot, but sometimes falling in with the GOP presidential candidate because, no matter what they do ("John Kerry, reporting for duty!"), the Dems somehow always get out-butched by the patronizing posturing of empty Republicans.

But that vote for the Republican at the top of the ticket that one year (Moews gave Bice photos of him at a Clinton rally -- where were they in the piece?) doesn't make Moews less of a Democrat any more than the millions of Republicans who voted for Obama in 2008 are less so.  The headline of the Bice piece says that Moews is only a real Democrat "sometimes".  Wrong.  He's a real Democrat, remained so when he walked in and voted for Bush in 2004, and was still a Democrat when he walked out. 

I think he was wrong to vote for Bush.  But I'm not going to single-issue him for that when there is much more at stake in this race than electoral purity. The unfortunate thing about this kind of Clarke-generated non-issue is that it peels away the support of those who will turn away Moews and fail to recognize the strong victory a Clarke defeat would bring in this difficult year.  This kind of story does the double damage of not only letting Clarke off the hook for his fraudulent election tactics, but also diminishes the enthusiasm we should have for this race. 

The important issue is that Moews is a real Democrat and will act like one in office.  He will respect the collective bargaining process and follow the resulting contracts with his deputies, therefore increasing morale throughout the agency.  He will cooperate with, rather than dictate to, other law enforcement agencies in the county.  Chris Moews will not spend half his day phoning in to wing-nut talk radio shows or clopping around the courthouse in cowboy boots, looking for the next opportunity to make a bigger name so he can embarass himself by running for mayor again.

And, in the Bice piece, he follows the rest of the paper's lead by glossing over Clarke's radical-right Republican identity.  "The incumbent also receives many donations from Republicans. He also has met with Bush and many of his top operatives at the White House. He even spoke at a tea party rally in Milwaukee last year."  Left unsaid, because it conflicts with other Journal Communications properties, is that Clarke is a darling of right-wing talk radio hosts like Charlie Sykes. 

There can be no question that David Clarke wants nothing to do with the Democratic party, other than to get a D next to his name on the ballot so he can get his sorry ass elected again.  Chris Moews, on the other hand, has embraced Democratic ideals and the party itself.  For the Journal Sentinel to pretend that there is even a question about Moews' Democratic identity makes it a knowing pawn in David Clarke's dirty campaign.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Journal Sentinel PolitiFact®: We Report – We Decide

Against all logic, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has decided to go out and declare itself the pure arbiter of truth on the campaign trail. Well, somebody’s gotta do it...uh, maybe. But is the flagship property of Journal Communications – the entity that, although they have cast off hundreds of decent reporters and employees and millions in stock value, continues to employ right-wing hacks like Patrick McIlheran and Charlie Sykes – really the right place to call a spade a spade in a heated election environment?

Hardly. The Journal Sentinel has lost so much credibility with its repulsive patronizing of the radical right (with no counter-balance for even moderate local liberal perspectives), you can only expect the dwindling paper to play both ends against the middle, resulting in a mish-mosh of “a plague on both their houses” slop that fails to call out the Republican assault on truth by comparing their claims to those made by the Democrats and finding both “barely true”. And that’s just what you get with PolitiFact®.

Take Scott Walker’s parroting of talk radio talking-points that 8.2 billion gallons of “raw sewage” had been dumped during heavy rains that the Deep Tunnel project – always opposed by right-wingers anyway – couldn’t handle. Predictably – since part of their mission is to protect Republicans – PolitiFact® declares the lie “barely true”. With 95% of the overflow coming from harmless drain and rain water and, at most, 5% coming from toilets, why does the Boy County Exec get to declare all of it “raw sewage”? Get this:

“Is it raw sewage? That term sounds like it’s all coming from toilets. Actually, an estimated 95 percent is rainwater and runoff. Still, it’s untreated and therefore can be considered ‘raw.’”

Oh, fer cryin’ out loud. How about “sewage”? Can it be considered “sewage”? Sewage is defined as “the waste matter that passes through sewers”. “Waste matter”. Is water from rain and runoff “waste matter”? Give me a break. The J-S is going to bend over so far to help Walker get elected they are going to end up kissing their own ass, along with his.

Likewise, rookie tea-bagger Ron Johnson gets another GOP-get-out-of-jail-free “barely true” for claiming Russ Feingold was the “only Great Lakes senator” to vote against an enourmous spending bill that just happened to ban Great Lakes drilling. Two senators from New York also voted against the bill. How is that “barely true”? They don’t know and they don’t care. They don’t have to. They are the Journal Sentinel.

The J-S also guilds the Republican lily in its standard campaign profiles. The important issue of Republican tea-bagger David Clarke falsifying his nomination papers by claiming to be a Democrat is given short shrift in an article Tuesday morning. “Moews has pointed to Clarke's 2009 appearance at a conservative tea party rally as evidence of insincerity about Clarke's political affiliation. Clarke said he was more interested in leadership than politics.” Well, that settles that for the Journal Sentinel. Never mind that Clarke’s Not-A-Democrat problem has more to do with who is funding his campaign and his constant sucking-up to right-wing radio. “Clarke heads into the primary with the advantages of a high-profile incumbency and the swashbuckling image he curries, typified by ceremonial appearances on horseback and in Western garb,” swoons the J-S. Screw poor morale and mismanagement of the agency – that’s enough for us! 

The problem with self-serving journalistic stunts like PolitiFact® is that it pretends that both sides offend Truth to the same degree. By concentrating on campaign proclamations, they ignore the real poison spewed daily into the political atmosphere by talk radio and other GOP front-groups. How about a truth-v-lie investigation of just one hour of the garbage generated by their own Charlie Sykes every morning?

I know – there isn’t enough time in the day to track down that load of bullshit. Talk about your raw sewage.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Breaking News: David Clarke Is Not A Democrat

Imagine I somehow got an appointment as District Attorney in some suburban county from Gov. Jim Doyle. Hey, I’m not and will never be a prosecutor and Doyle doesn’t know me from Adam (although, spotting my name tag at a Louis Butler fund-raiser, he said he “loved” my blog), but, I said, just imagine. Appointed by a Democratic governor, I look at all these white people around me, research some obvious voting patterns and do the only reasonable thing to keep my job in the next election cycle: I identify myself as a Republican and run in the Republican primary for the fall ballot. Across the state, my friends and family lose their lunch in various wastebaskets and cancel my invitations to Thanksgiving, music benefits and various nieces’ plays and graduations.

But, you know, I’m a win-at-all costs kind of guy. I’m not going to let a little thing like an honest declaration of party affiliation come between me and the Firm Administration of the Law. Not to mention those nice health-care benefits. They just don’t elect Democrats out here. So, I suck it up, wear the flag lapel pin, attend a few Rotary Club meetings, win the primary and trounce the hapless Dem by 30 points. Four more years...four more years...After my election, I go back to my flaming lefty ways, attending rallies, promoting Democrats of all stripes and generally using my office won only because of the R next to my name to celebrate my very D-ness.

If I were try such a stunt, the high-pitched squealing from the GOP talking-pointers on wing-nut radio would be heard from here to Superior. I would be exposed county- and state-wide as the fraud I am. The campaign billboards around the county featuring my shiny white face – if not outright defaced – would be countered by giant Koch-financed boards twice as big with a singular and devastating message: Michael Plaisted Is Not A Republican! I would lose the primary soundly to a Tea Party candidate calling for torture and other forms of “instant justice” in the county jail. Radio squawkers and nut-right bloggers would demand an investigation by the state Elections, er, Government Accountability Board and my own former DA’s office (resulting in no prosecution and much hand-wringing over deceptive branding). Shamed and humiliated, I slink home to continue to undermine the criminal justice system in particular and society at-large in general from the relative safety of my secret cell of radical activists and defense attorneys.

So, if such a fate would surely befall me if I engaged in such a transparent politically cynical scheme – and rightly so – why is tea party Republican David Clarke allowed to continue to falsify his nomination papers by saying he’s a Democrat?

Clarke was appointed Milwaukee County Sheriff in the first place by long-forgotten Republican governor-temp Scott McCallum in 2002. That same year, knowing that voters in Milwaukee County would not elect anyone with an R next to their name (Scooter Walker doesn’t count – although he isn’t, the County Exec race is non-partisan), Clarke ran for a full term as a pretend-Democrat. It was soon thereafter the wolf took off the sheep’s clothing and began his regime of tyranny and law-breaking within the department. Clarke never really wanted to be Sheriff – the appointment by McCallum was just a stepping-stone by his Republican handlers to his campaign for mayor of Milwaukee in 2004.

Clarke embarrassed himself in that race, finishing a distant 3rd with 17% of the vote in the primary, despite the 24/7 cheerleading that only his buddies on right-wing talk radio can provide. Since sulking back to the sheriff’s office, he has continued to run roughshod over labor contracts and intergovernmental relations, creating a crisis of morale among the fine deputies that work for him and consternation among local law enforcement agencies, who have seen Clarke insert himself into all manner of municipal issues, declaring that he “out-ranks” chiefs of police all over the county. In the 2006 election, he maintained the “I’m a Democrat” lie, continuing the anything-to-get-elected scheme.

Again in 2010, Clarke has falsified his nomination papers and declared himself a Democrat. But there is a good chance that, this year, the arrogant, lawless sheriff will meet his comeuppance.

For one thing, the strongest candidate to ever run against him, MPD homocide supervisor Chris Moews (pronounced “Mays”, by the way) is a true Democrat, well-funded, and has the support of many in the African-American community that serves as Clarke’s base. When the issue of Clarke’s false identification as a Democrat is raised, his campaign tries to change the subject by claiming (without proof, which is par for them anyway) Moews possibly supported John McCain for president. Even if true, so what? A cop supporting a Republican for president is hardly unheard of and doesn’t mean he loses his overall Democratic affiliation and tenancies.

Unlike Clarke, Moews does not wake up in the morning bed-spooning Charlie Sykes; doesn’t spend half his day on the phone with third-rate irritants like Jay Weber and Vicki McKenna; doesn’t show up at astro-turf tea party events; doesn’t get his campaign funding from the likes of George Mitchell and Rich Graber; and doesn’t spend his evening hanging with the likes of the Conservative Young Professionals of Milwaukee. To single-issue Moews because of some suspected support of national politicians is to miss the point of his current affiliation and the need to rid the county of David Clarke entirely.

For another thing, Clarke has a practical problem running in the Democratic primary this year. Republicans going to the polls on September 14th will be most interested in choosing between a dweeb and a nob for governor in the Republican primary. Once they do that, they cannot flip the ballot over and vote in the Democratic primary for sheriff or anything else. No less than Mark Belling threw Clarke under the bus last week, advising his listeners to go ahead and vote in the Republican primary and let the sheriff twist in the wind. He even admitted that may mean Clarke loses to Moews, who Belling admitted was a solid candidate. But such are the lengths the talk-radio campaigners will go to try to get Scott Walker elected governor.

David Clarke’s very existence on the ballot as a Democrat has been a fraudulent lie for eight years now. It’s time for the Democrats of Milwaukee County to call him out and vote him out.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Glenn Beck And The Politics Of Ridicule

Now that the commentariat has had the chance to chew over Glenn Beck’s vanity rally in DC this past Saturday, I thought I would throw in my two cents’ worth. It is little known – in fact, only I and my bewildered son are aware – that I am the preeminent Beck scholar in Milwaukee and, probably, the nation.

As much as I can stand it, I have listened to part of his radio show in the morning and watched part of his TV show at night almost every day for a year now (a period of time coinciding with the deterioration of this blog – coincidence? I think not.). I have him all figured out, which I plan to display fully in my new book coming out this fall – Glenn Beck: How Stupid Does He Think You Are? To no one’s surprise, the answer is: Very. And his lazy sheep-like listeners and Fox News zombies have not disappointed him.

The fact that Beck got a piddling 100,000 people to show up in Washington after a year of promoting his 8/28 event means nothing except to reflect his (and Sarah Palin’s) star quality among the Angry White Tea Party set. In fact, all of the astro-turf tea party events are structured around the appearance of some media star or other – it’s part of the directions the professionals at FreedomWorks put out for a successful event. In Milwaukee, a thousand people might show up to gawk at a putrid scumbag like Michelle Malkin. Maybe Milwaukee/Madison radio wingnut Vicki McKenna could get 200 to an event all by herself. Without a featured speaker with the star power created by talk-radio and Fox news, tea party “rallies” would consist of ten people with flags sticking out of their hats standing around, howling at their imaginary socialist moon.

Beck’s usual shtick on TV is to entertain his fearful white-victim audience by trying to convince them that President Obama is a Manchurian candidate, serving as a front for supposedly evil strawmen like UW professor Joel Rogers (of all people), William Ayers and all manner of supposed revolutionary, living and dead. In the weeks leading up to 8/28, he spent an incredible amount of time telling poor, dumb America that Obama’s ascendency was the fruition of a Weather Underground handbook written in 1969.

He pretends that the “proof” for his hysterical smears are outlined on the chalkboards that litter his TV sound stage, where Obama’s face is always seen in the company of dark figures and “scary” organizations like the Apollo Alliance and the Tides Foundation. He leads with his conclusions and never explains how he gets there, leaving the chalkboards as the indictments that are never read. You would think the chalkboards – or at least the substance of them – would be posted on his website so you could check out the details for yourself, since he never bothers to fully explain any of it. You would be wrong. But that’s the way smears work – allusion without proof; the illusion of substance without fact.

But, make no mistake – Beck wants you to be afraid. Very afraid. The 8/28 event was presented by him as the “last exit” off the freeway to whatever Obama Hell he pretends awaits us. “What else do your neighbors need to know?” he pleads to his audience of barricaded shut-ins. Can you imagine even one of his listeners going to the strangers next door and imploring them to “get” what Beck is selling? Beck is also after the children, the most unfortunate of which are herded into his studio every Friday to get a “history” lesson about the Founding Fathers by Beck and David Barton, a phony “historian” and actual preacher who promotes the lie that the Founders were all evangelical Christians.

As 8/28 approached, Beck – perhaps realizing that just having a giant anti-Obama tea party wasn’t going to cut it – lurched into a religious mode, attacking those of every faith who believe in the worthy concept of “social justice”. Beck urged churchgoers to confront their pastors to see if they were promoting such evil thoughts and, if so, to dump that church. He even deigned to pass judgement on Obama’s faith, saying this Sunday during his heavy-petting session with Fox News whore Chris Wallace that Obama’s reasonable belief in “collective salvation” was a “perversion” of Christianity. That’s pretty funny coming from a Mormon who believes in magic underpants and the divinity of historic grifter Joseph Smith.

On the radio, Beck is another kind of animal altogether. Before reimagining himself as a political and religious leader, Beck presided over various Zoo-Crew-type morning radio shows around the country. His radio show still has that kind of vibe – with he and his sidekicks guffawing and feigning concern over the imaginary demons of the Obama era. Even more than the TV show – where Beck is shown standing to the side of a monitor showing Obama speaking, smirking and laughing – the radio show is thick with ridicule of anything and everything Obama.

That’s the thing about the right-wing message machine – for all their talk about Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals and the threat it poses to our very existence, it is they that use the percepts of it better and more consistently than anyone else. Alinsky called ridicule the “most potent weapon”, and the right has used it to make you think such substantial people as Al Gore, Michael Moore, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid are just big jokes.

But I digress. In the end, Beck’s rally on 8/28 was a dud. Hedging his bets at the last minute, he pulled his punches and wimped out to a vague religious message that was nothing new. Not content to wrap himself up in the flag, he wrapped himself in the Shroud of Turin. In the end, he was exposed; as phony as the shroud itself.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

David Clarke Plays the Race Card

The crowd at the fundraiser for the only real Democrat in the race for Milwaukee County sheriff, Chris Moews, overflowed down the stairs at Brocach this past Thursday.  It was a diverse crowd, where law enforcement rubbed elbows with defense attorneys and others in the community united in a vibrant attempt to liberate the sheriffs office from the arrogant right-wing blowhard who currently holds the office.  For various reasons related to party affiliations (real and pretend) and his own grandstanding politicization and mismanagement of the agency, David Clarke, at long last, is in trouble.

Moews -- a talented straight-arrow currently managing homicide detectives in the Milwaukee Police Department -- was introduced at the fundraiser by U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, who cheerfully threw her support to Moews in her typically funny, full-throated style.  State Sen. and Lt. Gov. candidate Spencer Coggs also appeared, showing -- along with the quarter of the crowd at the fundraiser -- the strong support Moews is developing in the African-American community.  This is especially important because, just as he hopes he can fool enough people by falsifying his party affiliation as "Democratic" on the primary ballot (more about that in the next post),  Clarke hopes to rescue his flailing campaign by making sure everyone in the inner city knows he's African-American.

When is the last time any local politician thought they were pretty enough to feature their own mug on the billboards around town?  But there he is, there in the spots all over the inner city usually reserved for the beer and liquor ads, smiling like no one in the Courthouse or the Sheriffs department have ever seen him lit up.  Gone for the brief moment of the photo shoot is the constant sour scowl. 

No mention of his nut-right tea party ravings.  No admission of his regular appearances on wing-nut radio and his tacit (or express) endorsement of all their often racist arguments and campaigns. No mention of the fact that Clarke's expensive billboard advertising is underwritten by the usual Republican and right-wing moneybags who have poisoned the political dialog in Milwaukee and nationally for decades.

If African-American Democratic voters knew Clarke's record, affiliations and the substance of his political grandstanding better, they would never return him to office.  But Clarke is going to make sure they know he's African-American, as he has every right to do.  But, alongside every one of those billboards should be a disclaimer: *NOTE: David Clarke is NOT a Democrat. More about that in a future post.

As it is, it will be up to Gwen Moore, Spencer Coggs and the other true leaders of the African-American political community to get the message out about the horrors of Clarke and the positive opportunity to make a badly-needed change in the office of Milwaukee County Sheriff by voting for Chris Moews in the Democratic Primary on September 14th.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Crickets on the Right


Dan Bice's story in the Journal Sentinel on August 8th about the outrageous behavior in office of Tea Party Talk Radio (TPTR) sheriff David Clarke generated an interesting response from Clarke's usual friendly mouthpieces on local wing-nut radio.


Apparently, the word went out on the GOP talking points regularly distributed to Belling, Sykes, et al, that there was no defense to Clarke's disturbing meeting with one of his employees who happened to be an officer in the deputies union and that they should just ignore the article.  Even bottom-feeders of the free Republican advertising outlet known as "talk-radio", such as Jay Weber and Vicki McKenna, who usually have a direct hot-line to the sheriff any time he wants to promote himself or his phony campaign as a Democrat, kept away from discussing Clarke's profane, boorish and -- in terms of labor relations -- probably illegal behavior.  The Silence Edict from whoever feeds these people their unoriginal lines was certainly in effect the first couple days after the story was published and, as far as I know (I can only listen to so much of this crap), they still haven't said anything about it.

And, as is the case with too many of their campaigns and strategies, it worked.  Bice's story about the worst personal behavior ever alleged against an elected  in Milwaukee County should have been a bombshell, but quickly drifted into the background noise of the gratefully forgotten.  Even the outrageous assertion by Clarke stooge Edward Baily, who was present during the tirade, that "the sheriff makes the policies [prohibiting discourteousness]; he's not subject to them" couldn't get the increasingly wimpy Journal Sentinel editorial board off its ass to express the slightest dismay.

Chalk up another victory in the relentless talk-radio campaign to promote and protect Tea Party Republicans in an election year; even if, like Clarke, they falsify their nomination papers by claiming to be a Democrat.  The use of Republican talk-radio to frame and ignore the issues on a 24/7 basis is the biggest obstacle Wisconsin faces to clean elections and good government.

UPDATE:  It is interesting to hear the response of the Clarke campaign operative -- he knows who he is and so do I -- pitifully hiding behind the Anonymous label to try to change the issue in the comments below. For all the phony tough-guy posturing of his boss, you'd think he'd have more balls and be a little more forthcoming.
And the issue he tries to change to is whether Clarke's primary challenger, Chris Moews -- who is just as qualified as Clarke was before he hitched his political career to the right-wing star -- is really a Democrat because a board he was on endorsed McCain. Even if Moews did cast his vote for such an endorsement, it doesn't make him less of a Democrat - lots of Democrats voted for McCain; a lot more Republicans voted for Obama without losing their overall affiliation.

This phony "issue" is a cheap dodge to avoid dealing with Clarke's cynical political ploy to be listed as a Democrat on the ballot because that's the only kind of candidates that get elected in partisan county-wide races in Milwaukee. The fact is that Clarke's very filing of nomination papers as a fraud and a lie designed to get him elected to a position to which he couldn't possibly get elected if his nut-right tea party Republican affiliations were more well-known.
Also laughable is the campaign stooge's claim in the comments that "Clarke DID respond to the Bice story."  Clarke's press release -- put out on Office of the Sheriff, not campaign, letterhead -- was a classic non-denial denial.  Most of the tripe in the release is an attack on the deputy that was subjected to Clarke's two-hour temper tantrum as a "political operative".  He vaguely states that the meeting was "misrepresented" and that the meeting was "very different", but tellingly does not deny the essentials.  In fact, he pretty much confirms his contempt for anyone not named David Clarke by claiming the sole mantle of people-protection;  saying he "will aggressively put that responsibility above all others", including, we can assume, the labor contract he is bound to, commmon decency and the law.  
What is entirely clear in this entire episode is that David Clarke is an arrogant menace with a badge, which is a bad combination.  Who the hell does David Clarke think he is?

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Stupid Is As Stupid Does

The Journal Sentinel has an interesting take on the news generated out of an editorial board meeting it had with Tea-Party-Talk-Radio (TPTR) senate candidate Ron Johnson. During the meeting, Johnson sat on Patrick McIlheran’s lap and mouthed some demonstrable nonsense about sun spots causing global warming. While McIlheran applauded and other members of the board stifled laughter, Johnson went on to babble more WMC talking points, before drifting off into irrelevant facts, such as – he gets his water from a well. I mean, he gets his water from a well, for cryin’ out loud! Of course he cares. Jeez. What about CO2, though, asks a board member not named McIlheran. “It gets sucked into trees and makes the trees grow,” says Johnson. Oh...sure. The next logical follow-up – “What the hell are you talking about?” – remains annoyingly unasked.

Just another day in the life of the gaffe-prone Johnson; the Wisconsin version of the hilarious TPTR Nevada senate “candidate” Sharron Angle. The only reason we don’t get more comedic material from Johnson is because, like other TPTR amateurs across the country, the supposed “non-politician” has been taken under the oppressive wing of career GOP political operatives, who control his every movement and feed him his rehearsed party lines. Like Angle – who the Nevada media has taken to chasing down the street just to get any comment from her at all – Johnson remains sheltered from regular contact with the real-world media by his omnipresent handlers, preferring to submit to the gentle stroking and heavy petting of the right-wing talk radio hosts who pushed him into the race in the first place. So it’s not a surprise that Johnson would put his foot in his mouth, spending five minutes in over his head, fumbling the climate change ball around the room.

McIlheran weighed in on Johnson’s obvious cluelessness on important issues this week, taking pride in the fact that his preferred TPTR senate candidate “lacks some customary tools”. It is “refreshing” to Paddy Mac to see a relative nincompoop carrying his TPTR banner into the fall election. Johnson has “the look of a guy who didn't plan his life around winning office”. Well, he also has the look of a deer in the headlights any time he is asked to discuss the details of a serious issue in serious times. He can’t just expect to show up on the Senate floor spouting meaningless TPTR bromides about “tyranny” or threats to “liberty” and “freedom” from some piece of legislation enacted by democratically-elected congressmen and presidents. Or can he?

Besides – against all logic – continuing to employ McIlheran, the J-S also serves the Republican cause by trying to make excuses for Johnson’s wacky comments on its front page this morning. The paper headlines the “news” that Johnson is “not alone” in being totally out to lunch on climate change. Misery and ignorance apparently love company in the GOP ranks, and that’s good enough for the Journal Sentinel.

Johnson’s “views are in line with those of many Republican conservatives,” writes reporter Lee Burgquist, as if that’s any validation of anything at all. Burgquist does go through the no-doubt tedious and inconvenient process of confirming with a real scientist that Johnson’s position has about as much validity at saying the earth is flat. “Still,” writes Burgquist (“still”??), “‘Johnson is reflecting conservative Republican skepticism about man-made global warming,’” quoting a UW-Madison political scientist, stating the obvious.

This creates a new standard for fact-based political discourse. Apparently, as long as there are enough Republicans with their heads up their ass about a given subject, it doesn’t matter if you have your head up your ass, too. Johnson gets a pass for his idiotic comments because all Republicans make the same idiotic comments.

This opens the door for entire campaigns to be fought out in the alternative universe formerly recognized only on Fox News. For instance, it is a fact that the tax cuts enacted during the still-disastrous regime of Junior Bush are a primary cause of the present and future budget deficits (chart). However, Republicans always say “the tax cuts paid for themselves” and other such nonsense. Ron Johnson, being the good script reader that he is on a good day before a friendly audience, would say the same thing – probably already has. But that doesn’t mean he’s right or that he knows what he’s talking about. Yet, because he’s “not alone” in being wrong, who cares if he’s wrong?  Why does the Journal Sentinel even bother fact checking if an entire party is allowed to make up its own facts?

But the Journal Sentinel, as it does every election cycle, accepts Republican spin and repeatedly takes GOP candidates off the hook for gaffes and stupidity, big and small. If a Democrat came out and said something demonstrably false about climate change, the budget deficit or anything else, the J-S would need no help from the TPTR media to pounce and make a big issue out of a politician who does not know what he’s talking about having the temerity to ask for our vote. Because we expect so little from them, Republicans are held to a different standard. Which, if the Journal Sentinel keeps moving the goalposts, will eventually be no standard at all.

P.S.: The brilliant Illy-T has had Ron Johnson and Patrick McIlheran’s number for some time.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Stop the Insanity - Take 657

I don't know why the Shirley Sherrod saga has struck such a chord in the chattering class.  Like Diane Keaton in The Godfather, "This Must End," they say, without really adequately defining what "This" is. 

The whole episode is just the latest in the right-wing war against Truth and Obama, taking surreptitious statements by obscure fourth-level non-entities out of context so that they can play their favorite game: Six Degrees of Obama.  Van Jones said this, you see, five years ago, and ran into Bill Ayers in a parking lot at the University of Chicago and Valerie Jarrett had lunch with someone who invited Jones to join the White House and, of course, that means that President Obama is a communist.  You can see this little game played every day on the Glenn Beck radio and TV programs, where the manipulative little prick draws arrows on chalkboards to "prove" the grand designs of UW professor Joel Rogers (the "Wizard", according to Beck) and Obama  to take over the world.

Literally every blogger and MSM commenter, left and right and Broder, in the universe has had something to say about the Sherrod story, saying it very quickly within the 24-hour news cycle, which is now more like a 3-hour cycle. Not only that; they had to blab about it twice -- both before and after the purposefully-edited version was exposed to be the deliberate and predictable Breitbart lie that it was.  At his point and before, anyone who takes anything Breitbart or Fox News spews out at face value -- including the apparent buffoons at the Ag Department -- is an idiot.  And anyone who is surprised that the entirety of the recording not only exonerates Sherrod, but practically qualifies her for racial-understanding sainthood is just not paying attention to the entirely dishonest way the right-wing media machine operates.

May I offer a couple of angles on this sad story that I haven't read in other places, although I can't say I've looked that hard:
  • The entire thing was a set-up to embarrass the Obama administration -- no matter how they responded -- from the start.  Breitbart and Fox News knew about the whole context and predicted that the administration would over react to their dishonest redaction.  That's why, the day after Sherrod was fired, she was on the mouthpiece of the alternative-reality right-wing universe -- Fox News -- with the strangely outraged Megyn Kelly, complaining about her firing.  What now? I thought. What does wing-nut Barbie-doll Kelly care about this supposedly reprehensible "racist" getting the ax she deserved?  Something smelled fishy.  Sure enough, Fox News soon had possession of the magically-redeeming part of the same tape. Now it was Obama-ites who had sinned and thrown this poor woman under the bus.  Just another day (or, in this case, week) in the life of Fox News, which exists only to provide fake facts for right-wing talking points. 
  • If the Ag Dept. had not immediately sacked the poor Sherrod, the right-wing media would have gone Van Jones on Obama's ass and squawked for weeks about how he was allowing this unreconstructed reverse-racist to remain employed, looking down her nose at poor white farmers while heaping undeserved services on the privileged blacks of the rural south.  If the contents of the entire tape were ever revealed (I'm sure Breitbart thought he had the only copy) or Sherrod managed to get the story out of what she really said, the phony Obama-as-anti-white-racist smear would have already worked its twisted magic, adding another notch on the belt of the right-wing campaign to convince (or, really, allow) white America to think the worst about their first black president.
  • Compared to the vicious and deliberate sins of the right-wing media whores in this debacle, the clumsy overreaction of the Ag Department is small potatoes (although the consensus of the MSM commmentariat employs far too much of a plague-on-both-their-houses meme).  However, was there not one person within the Ag Dept. bureaucracy who, when the frantic wheels are churning on Monday, couldn't have grabbed the organizational megaphone and say, wait a minute, that ain't Shirley?  Who knew that Sherrod could not possibly have said such a stupid thing as presented by Beitbart, who may have even heard her tell the same story (these kind of stories are never told only once on the rubber-chicken circuit)? It wasn't necessarily Vilsack who failed her and us as much as it was whoever her immediate supervisor was, who knew her work and her disposition directly, who didn't move to protect her from the headlong political imperative.
This kind of nonsense will go on as long as those who drive the national conversation allow Fox News and the right-wing media establishment to be the tail wagging the dog.  Treating Fox News, Andrew Breitbart, or any other of these lying bastards like legitimate sources for any kind of useful information is just the kind of journalistic malpractice that will get bozos like Ron Paul and Ron Johnson elected to high office.  "This Must End" is right, but "it" never will as long as the MSM continues to patronize the right-wing media by offering it even faint legitimacy and refuses to call it out as the democracy-killer it is.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Deputy Dawg Goes to Boot Camp

When I was in Texas last week – even in mellow, musical Austin – you could buy and there were all these people wearing cowboy hats. Very few of them were cowboys, but, for many, it’s part of the mystique and the lies of the “tough guys” of the Southwest – you and me against the world; the Marlboro Man, gun at his side; ain’t take no shit from no one; gristled, unshaven macho bravado covering the pain of impotence against a dry, ugly world. Peering from under the brim of his weather-beaten chapeau, the Southwest man can pretend he’s anyone from Matt Dillon to Toy Story’s Woody – and just as oblivious to pain and feeling. “Reach for the sky!” he shouts, as the Masters of the Economic Universe continue to piss on his head. The sun always sets on his knowing frown as he flops on his canvass cot, boots still on his dusty feet, to await the first light of the new, desperate day.

Milwaukee has its own walking fraud in a cowboy hat. Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke can be seen some days strolling the Courthouse with the most ridiculous, ill-formed, straw cowboy hat you can imagine on his head and a constant scowl on his face. Although he is too wimpy to run for office as the tea-bagging Republican he is, Clarke wants you to know he is one tough hombre. And if he needs to pile on some extra bullshit to help his nut-right fellow traveler, Scott Walker, gain some tough-on-crime street cred, he’s more than willing to assist.  As he cranks up another campaign as a phony Democrat (the most blatant lie ever foisted on a Milwaukee County ballot), Clake is all pose and little substance -- a cartoon sheriff so self-serious one can only laugh.

Clarke’s newest bright idea is to run a boot-camp operation, adding a little pretend-tough correction in what used to be called the House of Corrections (until Clarke decided not to call it that). It’s a ludicrous idea; a meaningless show that is totally inappropriate for the kinds of prisoners held at the facility. But if there is a way to make those in his charge even more miserable than the mystery meat that they serve as “food” on a regular basis, he’ll do it. Sadly, the Journal Sentinel weighed in in favor of this charade in an editorial on Wednesday. Joel NcNally, still shackled to the dead weight of the Shepherd Express, makes the primary points against the expensive stunt in his column this week better than I ever could, as usual.

One point that hasn’t been explored, however, is how, of the several ways to land in the House of Correction, none of them make the typical prisoner very appropriate – much less receptive – to a dose of Clarke’s fantasy version of Tough Love. Among the various reasons for a temporary residence in Franklin:

  • Held on Cash Bail: There are many in the House who are held on cash bail while a case in pending. Surely, Clarke can’t think that someone, presumed innocent, sitting waiting for their case to be resolved, should be thrown into boot camp to sing for their meager supper. Hah! Of course he could. He said the program will eventually extend to the whole facility. Waiting for a little technicality like a conviction is for pussies.
  • Drunk Drivers: Spurred by dramatic news coverage, their own guidelines and a brand new toughening of state law, Milwaukee County judges have been handing down huge chunks of jail time for second, third and fourth drunk drivers (fifth and up -- and, as of July 1st, fourth -- face state prison). You might think that such offenders might benefit from a little rigid correction. But the fact is that drunk driving is one of the few crimes regularly committed by middle-class people. They had jobs before their arrest and they’ll have jobs after they are convicted and during their incarceration. These days (since the demise of the roach-infested CCC), the work-release prisoners stay in the downtown jail. The work they have to do to stay productive in the real world would seem to get in the way of Clarke’s phoney tough-guy play-acting.
  • Revoked Probationers: Judges don’t want to put guys in the House if they can just behave during a year or two of probation. Alas, that proves too much for some, who can’t keep their often-overbearing probation agents happy. If they can’t follow the (relatively) light structure on the street, what makes anyone think they would respond to having Clarke in his face, yelling about what a scumbag he is? What do you think the punishment would be for laughing at such ridiculous histrionics?
  • Chronic Petty Offenders: Pop Quiz – how do you manage to get a month or more in jail for petty offenses like retail theft, prostitution and disorderly conduct? Answer – get caught doing it ten or fifteen times. If I had a nickel for every time I heard a judge say “well, I gave you [fill in the blank] days last time, now I guess you need [blank] more days until you get the message”, I’d have a whole bunch of nickels. There people might not do it any more often than some other people, but they are extraordinarily bad at it. So, what would Sheriff Clarke’s School of Hard Knocks do for the kind of poor, often homeless people who find themselves desperate for food, clothing, money and attention? You can see him or his deputy, screaming in the face of the poor, incompetent thief. “You don’t want that loaf of bread, do you? You want to work to buy some food, don’t you? You looove paying for your food, don’t you? Now drop and give me 20!” Yeah. That’ll work.
  • Non-payment of Forfeitures: This is less of a reason for lock-ups than it used to be, but too many are still locked up for weeks at a time for failure to pay non-criminal forfeitures (it’s only called a fine in criminal cases. Your welcome.) So, how tough are we going to be on the loiterer, the speeder, the first-time weed possessor, the driving-while-revoked?
And so on. As McNally points out, there are some things the jailers can do in Franklin to make the time being served less than dead, such as education, AODA treatment and other real forms of rehabilitation -- programs like the CJRC that Clarke and Walker have tried to stop. The good judges of Milwaukee County would have to sign on to Clarke’s scheme to make it work – why cooperate with the silly program unless the judge says you are able to shave some time off for putting up with it?  Having helped save the CJRC, the judges have shown they have more sense than that.  Then Clarke will have to find some other way to grandstand.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

The Real Independence Day

One of Ken’s teammates reported that the Bat Bridge experience left much to be desired last night. “Only, like, five of them came out,” he complained, of the million advertised. Relieved, I came out from under the bed where I was hiding and the speculation began why that might be. They are all pregnant, someone had heard (all of them? Then who got them pregnant?). The rain over the last couple of days cuts the mosquito population, which is why they come out in the first place, said another. In any event, at dusk tonight, all eyes will be looking west of the Bat Bridge, where Austin will celebrate Independence Day with a giant fireworks display on the same lake. And, somewhere near there, Willie Nelson is having his Picnic.

Meanwhile, the right-wing nut-o-sphere has already spent much of the day calling for a renewed Independence from the Tyranny of the elected president and Congress, who dare to threaten our Freedom and Liberty, and blah de blah blah. There is no success or tragedy that the wing-nuts won’t try to use for their own nefarious purposes – from the brave, dramatic, irreversible decision of the original (real) Patriots to take the fight to King George to the continuing BP oil disaster (whatever it is, it’s not a “spill”) in the Gulf. They live to fight reality and (through Fox News and mainstream talk-radio) to construct their own in the interests of returning the justly-shamed Republican party to power by any means necessary. And, if that means trivializing the events of July 4, 1776, so be it.

“Happy Independence Day, not Dependence Day. And here's to a speedy recovery for our nation to a return to the founders' roots,” says a badly-deluded friend. This is standard right-wing hooey these days, wherein the predictable results of the routing of the Republicans in the last two election cycles combined with the reasonable actions necessary to recover from the 8-year Bush Disaster is cause for Great Alarm. Such over-the-top comments by him and more prominent loopy-right figures on the radio and elsewhere are par for the course of people couldn’t care less about solving the nation's problems and only want only to return to power to wreak more Bushian havoc. But we are used to these kind of paternalistic sops to the more stupid part of the right-wing’s base. Some poll somewhere tells them this kind of stuff works; otherwise they would never get out on such a ridiculous limb.

It has gotten so bad that these people can’t even appear in polite company. Imagine one of these clowns showing up on a TV show not on their Fox News home base. “You know,” Bozo T. Wingnut tells Chris Matthews, “Obama is a socialist who wants the economy to fail so that he can impose martial law.” You could hear the jaws of Matthews and the rest of the panel drop for miles as the sense of the legitimate meets the lunacy of the absurd. That’s why they never show up in public to debate with anyone other than washed-up whores like Bob Bechtel, Pat Caddell and Doug Shoen – Democrats In Name Only who have sold their souls to Rupert Murdoch for a little cable news face-time with putrid slime like Sean Hannity.

Only in the wet dreams of would-be, two-bit right-wing message managers is this “Dependence Day”. It is a celebration of a real Independence Day; a blow struck against real Tyranny, which resulted in the kind of real Liberty and Freedom where a black man can rise to the presidency and lead a solid Democratic majority to try to solve the nation’s problems and meet the unforseen challenges of the age. The Republicans have absented themselves from the process, which is their choice. What they don’t have the right to do is hijack our history and holidays to make cheap political points against a president who is trying in good and bipartisan faith to fix the problems mostly left behind by the worst president in our nation’s history. The Bush legacy is going to take longer to clean up than even the BP oil disaster. And that’s really saying something.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Live from the Bat Cave

With four days in here in Austin, Texas to watch my boy play in a national volleyball tournament (go NSMVC 16 White!). As I write, I am looking out from the balcony of the outdoor pool at the Radisson to the Bat Bridge, that extends over (no kidding) Lady Bird Lake (more like a river) . Apparently, at dusk every day, “1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats” come out from under the bridge and fly around for their own nourishment and our entertainment. This draws a crowd every night, it says here. No thanks. Except for Adam West and Christian Bale (sort of) I’m not much for bats. There was one flying around my house once, and my reaction is still a source of amusement for those who shared that magical moment. As Joni Mitchell once sang, “If you want me/I’ll be in the bar”.

I thought this little trip away from all the distractions and prerogatives of my own personal Bat Cave might be a good time to get this damn dormant blog going again. Actually, I had better incentive for that earlier this week when I got a press pass for President Obama’s town-hall in Racine this week. Alas, the imperatives of my busy practice (for experienced, affordable criminal defense representation, call 414-223-4133) intruded to keep me in court all that afternoon, so I missed that apparently very effective appearance (Kringle!). It would have been interesting to compare that visit with the health-care one I covered last year in Green Bay, one year in time and but light years away from now, where his presidency is consumed with unprecedented crisis (none of his own making) and outrageous automatic opposition by the Party of No.

In any event, the news cycle hurtling ever-forward as it will, does it matter if I review what I would have written if I would have written it? Is a prediction related three months after the fact still prophetic, even if the only other person I shared it with in real time was my own inner child? Actually, I have spent much of this year fascinated with the lies and histrionics of Fox News generally, and Glen Beck and Megyn Kelly specifically.

It’s an amazing development, really. In Fox News, the alternate-universe right wing has a pretend-reality “news” outlet that does nothing but try to spin small nuggets of random events and stupid comments developed by Rovian talking-point-memo drafters into major controversies and calls to outrage. Every day for lunch, I try to be in front of a TV to watch Megyn Kelly conduct what Fox News contends is part of the “fair-and-balanced” part of its programming.

Kelly – a lawyer, as she reminds us regularly, who nevertheless gleefully submits to the glammy hair-and-makeup regime that Fox imposes on all the women it puts before the camera – plays the part of the beautiful right-wing EveryWoman, who can’t believe this or that is happening or (as in rigid, heavily-armed border enforcement) not happening. I’ve been trying to identify the look she has on her face as she expresses her frequent sense of outrage. Let’s say, for instance, the reprehensible Dick “Dick” Morris emerges from his smarmy swamp underneath the Fox studios to discuss the obvious danger to Freedom and Liberty represented by, say, the Obama administration’s position on credit-swaps, derivatives, or some such thing. As if on cue (because it is), Kelly’s carefully-drawn eyebrows arch and her eyes express the fire of the hatred she shares for What Is Happening To Our Country. It’s as if someone just told her that the War of the Worlds aliens have hit town and she must head for the root cellar to await Certain Death. No, we must Stand and Fight, her face retorts. Or, maybe not. Next, another in our week-long discussion of Joe Biden’s ‘smart-ass’ remark at Kopp’s. Only on Fox – Fair and Balanced.

And then there is Glen Beck. But the wonders of Austin await.