Friday, June 30, 2006

Strange new respect

I regulary disagree with Bill Christofferson, but yesterday I learned that he is a friend of Marcia Ball who is apparently married to one of his army buddies. The Reddess and I think Marcia Ball is great. Maybe he's not all bad.

The atmospherics on Hamdan

Yesterday on "MCS, one of my co-panelist, Jim Rowen, tried to get me to admit that the Hamdan decision means that Bush broke the law. On the way home this afternoon (I left early - sue me), I heard more of this on the same station. "Rick Esenberg was beside himself yesterday" apparently because Bush "broke the law."

There is, of course, a sense in which this is true. A majority of Justices - and, therefore, the Court - held that the type of military trial being held in Hamdan's case violated the Uniform Code of Military Justice and, perhaps, the common articles of the Geneva Convention.

But the phrase is also misleading in that when we use the term "lawbreakers," we generally mean someone who willfully ignores a clear legal command. We don't generally use that term to refer to a public position who takes a reasonable legal position with respect to his or her authority that is ultimately overruled by the courts. If we did, every President we have ever had - certainly everyone in the modern era of judicial review - would be a "lawbreaker" because everyone of them has lost cases in courts. Clinton, for example, argued that Hillary's healthcare task force could operate in secrecy. The courts said it could not. Is it fair to say he broke the law? Yes in one sense, but not quite in the way that we use that term in everyday life. Clinton also lost a case in which the Court held that a racial set-aside program amounted to unconstitutional discrimination and a host of others.

How do we know that Bush's position was reasonable? Without even getting into the merits, we know that the D.C. Circuit agreed with him. In Hamdan itself, three Justices agreed with him (and Roberts would have since he already ruled on the question while on the D.C. Circuit). All of the opinions in Hamdan occupy 185 pages in PDF format. To say that Bush was obviously wrong and willfully broke the law is ... obviously wrong.

Tell him he can come pick it up

Osama bin Laden wants al-Zarqawi's body released. I say that we grant his request.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Shark and Shepherd on the Air

It's a beautiful day. Leave work early and listen to me bloviate on WMCS-1290 from 4:30 to 6.

Blast from the recent past

Hippie (would he accept that description?)blogger Tim Rock at The Other Side of My Mouth commented over two weeks ago on an exchange involving Jay Bullock, Patrick McIlheran and me on the extent to which disapproval (or, more accurately, the absence of a ringing endorsement) of homosexuality can be equated with bigotry.

Two weeks ago on the net is the Pleistocene era, but I have been busy and just saw this.

Mr. Rock has said very nice things about my blog (with which he apparently mostly disagrees), so he is obviously a fellow of refined taste and intelligence. Also what he says in response to my post is fair-minded. I bring it up only to correct a few things, if only to caution against assuming too much about what goes with a given set of views - a mistake that I make as much as the next guy.

1. Tim characterizes what I wrote as the view that homosexuals are not as good as heterosexuals. That is not right. As a Christian (I can't speak for other faiths), I don't believe that anyone is not as good as (or is better than) anyone else. I am open to the notion that homosexuality is not as full an exploration of God's gift of sexuality as heterosexuality, but I'm willing to listen on that. Believing such a thing (as Tim correctly recognizes) does not amount to bigotry or hatred.

2. Tim assumes I am Roman Catholic. It'd be fine if I were, but I'm not. I used to be, but I was received into the Episcopal Church in 2001. We're the ones with the gay bishops. We're the ones for whom gayness has become a 24/7 concern.

3. Tim assumes that my friends think the way I do. Some do. But lots don't; particularly, I suspect, the ones who are gay Episcopalians. I doubt that they are open to the notion in paragraph 1, but you never know. I haven't asked and am not likely to.

NB: Mr. Rock is apparently my exactly my age and is having another kid? He is a better man than I am. When I want new little Esenbergs, I let my son and daughter-in-law have them.

Reading Hamdan in Milwaukee

The Hamdan decison is 185 pages long and I haven't read it all. But I think that it may be less signficant with respect to the trial of the GiTMO detainees than it may be on other issues. The case does not appear to hold that detainees are subject to all the rights to which criminal defendants are entitled, only that they are entitled to more rights than the military commissions actually established provide. Hamdan, for example, was excluded from his own trial.

But a majority of the Court seems to have ruled that certain provisions of the Geneva Convention, i.e., the "common" articles, do apply to the war against al Qaeda. The D.C. Circuit had held that these provisons only apply to wars between nations. As you can read here, this may have implications for the form of permitted interrogation.

Silliness on soccer

Sean Hackbarth at The American Mind doesn't like soccer. That is fine. But during the World Cup, lots of people who don't like soccer are working overtime to explain why most of us are indifferent to a game that the rest of the world goes nuts over.

Sean links to a thumbsucker at the Weekly Standard's website written by Frank Cannon and Richard Lessner. They argue that soccer is popular elsewhere because the rest of the world is gripped in a postmodern nihilism. There is not, in the view of the authors, much scoring in soccer, so it must be a game about nothing. They go on to say that the sport is contrary to nature because you can't use your hands and, ironically echoing hand wringing soccer moms, you risk brain injury by heading the ball. Soccer, they conclude, is just not natural.

This is silliness on steroids. First, the presuppositions are all wrong. Anyone who thinks American football (always my favorite sport) is natural or in any way consistent with good care of the body has never played a down. While most of Europe (but not all) is distessingly postmodern, soccer is also wildly popular in the religious global South.

Second, the connections are all wrong. The fact that a goal is hard to score doesn't make it meaningless. To the contrary, it magnifies its worth. Although the authors think that the absence of scoring means that you can walk away for huge chunks of time, it actually means that you can never avert your eyes because you might miss it. That fact that soccer players may not use their hands (the "natural" thing) makes it all the more fascinating. This is set of skills that most of us can't even fantasize about.

David Post, blogging at the Volokh Conspiracy, demonstrates that soccer, contrary to being about nihilism and disaffection, is about resolve and perserverance. It's about character.

When I first discovered soccer, I, too, came up with lots of great ideas for how to get more scoring. Widen the penalty box -- make the net bigger -- etc. etc. But then it hit me. Soccer is the great team sport because it is a test of team will, and it is a test of team will precisely because it is so damned hard to score a f**king goal. You have to run down that field, time and time and time and time again, knowing full well that there's "practically no chance" anything will come of it. Again and again and again. You might have to do it for ninety minutes and get nothing, and then you have to do it again in the next game. It is exhausting, physically and, even more, mentally. But you have to keep doing it, because the moment you stop doing it -- the moment anyone on the team starts to think about not doing it -- you lose.

Character and belief and determination and will become very, very transparent in these circumstances, and soccer, more than any other sport I know of, is about these things. Scoring is incredibly difficult -- but if you let yourself believe that you can't score, you will not score. It's why you'll see soccer fans sometimes giving their team a standing ovation after a 0-0 draw -- because character and determination and belief are very transparent, and can be detected even when no goals have been scored (perhaps best, actually, when no goals have been scored).

Take that.

Sean also links to Betsy Newark who likes Jonathan Laster's (also writing at the Daily Standard)theory that the problem is the "flop and bawl." Soccer players go down in an effort to draw fouls and penalties. Laster thinks that, in American sports, we have "floppers" but no one likes them. Please. Show me an incomplete pass in the NFL where the receiver isn't flipping his wrist and waving his arms in search of a flag. Show me a charge in the NBA (or NCAA) where the defender doesn't hurl himself backwards as if he were hit by a freight train, rather than a little point guard.

But, Laster says, the problem is that players also pretend - very briefly - to be injured. Sometimes, that's true. There is a reason for that. Contrary to the conceit of many (including, again, soccer moms) that soccer is a "kinder and gentler" sport, it's actually very rough. You need to fake - or display - an injury because, unless you are hurt, you are unlikely to get a call - at least unlikely to get the yellow or red card that will really matter. What would be interference in football or hacking in basketball is business as usual on the pitch.

Laster says that we Americans like it when people play hurt. We appreciate the courage and the effort. But my guess is that people in other countries do too. In fact, like all the others, he has the potential distinctions backwards. There is a reason those writhing players get up so quickly. The rules of soccer actually dictate that you play hurt in a way the the rules of basketball and football don't.

An injured player can't leave the game and come back. If you are going to shake it off, you better do it quickly because your side will be a man down until you get your butt back out there. Thus, in the US-Italy game, when the US' Brian McBride got his face split open by an Italian elbow, he had to get it patched together as quickly as possible because no one was permitted to replace him until he was to return to the game. He was back real fast.

It's simple. Most of us don't like soccer because it was not invented here. It's ok to admit that and ok to feel that way. There is no need to dream up self serving explanations

Little more than detox

Susan Sarandon, Sean Penn, Cindy Sheehan and Dick Gregory (so what else is new?) are going on a hunger strike to bring the troops home. In a press release, the groups says that they will "be showing our patriotism by putting our bodies on the line to bring our troops home."

But in typical West Coast fashion, those famous bodies are just going to stick a toe on that line and then beat it to Spago for an eight o'clock table. It is a rolling hunger strike. You just go on the Hollywood diet for 24 hours (a mere half shift) and pass it to someone else. No hushed nation need anxiously wait to see if Susan and Spicoli make it.

What I am wondering is why this guy's not on board.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Hamsterdam at Miller Park

The Reddess and I are huge fans of The Wire on HBO, a drama about cops and the drug trade in the inner city of Baltimore. The man on the right is Robert Wisdom who plays Major Howard "Bunny" Colvin, commander, of Baltimore's western district. In the third season of the show (now in reruns on Sunday nights at 7), he gives a little speech about the paper bag being a wonderful instrument of civic compromise. "The corner," he says, "has always been the poor man's lounge." Putting his fifth into a paper bag allowed him to drink on the streets and permitted the police to look the other way.

In the spirit of the paper bag, Colvin decides to direct all drug traffic in his distruct to an abandoned block of boarded up rowhouses. As long as it stayed on that block, drugs were legal "in the western." The gangs, mishearing Colvin's explanation of the new policy, refer to the "free zone" as "Hamsterdam."

Mike McGee, Jr., wants, in a sense, to bring Hamsterdam to Milwaukee. But rather than establish it in a part of town in which no one lives or for which there is no use, he proposes turning Miller Park into one big overnight tailgate party. He wants to let people cruise there.

There are two ways in which this would work (or, more accurately, not work). In the first scenario, the County, in order to prevent drinking, drugs, vandalism and violence, would have to maintain a presence of sheriff deputies so massive that no respectable cruiser would go there. In the second, Miller Park gets turns into a scene out of Escape from New York.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Is Doyle at the precipice?

I wonder. As I (here and in the paper)- and oh so many others have noted - the Doylies spin on the Thompson verdict is amazingly lame. One would have thought that the Governor would have promised to fully investigate whether any of his subordinates had pressured Ms. Thompson. One cannot help but wonder whether the problem is the need to maintain a shaky human pyramid.

That another deal is about to present itself for intimate examination doesn't help. At some point, the Governor's mansion becomes impossible to fumigate without a change of residents.

The Governor's dire circumstance has been underscored by his spokespersons' resort to the "your mother wears army boots" mode. Asked about the latest allegations against Marotta, Melanie Fonder says that Green sits at a desk and takes money. Maybe, but that's not going to do it.

It is also underscored by sentiment at the People's Legislature's search for a Democratic challenger (expressed more clearly by Garvey on WPR yesterday morning). The base is getting happy feet. They won't vote for Green, but can they be kept in the game?

I am not optimistic about the GOP's fall, but I think Doyle is very close to a tail spin.

Will it happen?

Will Ghana's Black Stars beat the no.1 team in the world, Brazil?

My heart says maybe, but my mind says there is no way.

NB: Why haven't Ghana been denounced by the UN and Ward Churchill because one of their players waives an Israeli flag in celebration?

Just another reason to pull for an upset.

Update: Not even close. Brazil 3-0, although I am told Ghana played well in the first half despite conceding two.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Red Prairie Fire

Jay Bullock doesn't think much of Red Prairie CEO John Jazwiec and his view that Wisconsin's high taxes do not help attract, or keep, businesses here. Jay's post, following Xoff, seems to say that 1)Red prairie is obscure because Jay has never heard of them 2) Jazwiec is some kind of wing nut from California who thinks Wisconsin is socialist and 3) he and his bosses just want to poach a company (actually they bought it) that was built with Wisconsin smarts and Wisconsin labor - as if that means it must stay here forever.

Patrick McIlheran points out that, actually, Jazwiec is not much of a conservative.

The point is that taxes are not helpful in attracting business. It may be that there are other attributes of a place that outweigh taxes. Jazwiec points out, for example, that the concentration of good software companies in California makes it attractive even though its taxes - and cost of living - are high.

But Waukesha is not the Silicon Valley. We can't afford to be the sixth highest tax state in the country. The Badger Left likes to think that we have something of value for all we send to Madison, but the brutal truth is that we don't. Wisconsin has nothing that a slew of low tax states don't have. Save for really sweet pensions for government retirees.

Voting Rights Confusion

Eugene Kane wants expiring provisions of the Voting Rights Act renewed. But why?.

Maybe he just wants bilingual ballots and it is true that the federal mandate that they be used in certain circumstances will expire. As I blogged recently, people on the left side of the playground will generally say that immigrants should assimilate, but anything that would reflect that expectation is treated like a reenactment of the Nuremberg Laws. (Interestingly enough, Sensenbrenner supports bilingual ballots. So much for the "racism" charge.)

Maybe he wants what calls "federal protections for certain states" that some critics of the Act object to. He doesn't tell us what those are, but he is referring to the Act's "preclearance" requirements. Certain jurisdictions, identified in 1965 on the basis of certain results in the 1964 presidential election, can't change election procedures without preclearance by the U.S. Justice Department. To obtain preclearance, these jurisdictions must demonstrate that the change does not have the purpose, and will not have the effect, of discriminating against minority voters.

The covered jurisdictions are largely in the south, but New York County is one of them. Although there it is possible for a jurisdiction to be removed from the list, they mostly are not. The idea that these jurisdictions should continue to be singled out for special treatment is a historical artifact.

It's not even true that, once preclearance expires, these jurisdictions will be free to discriminate against minority voters (as unlikely as the suggestion that, say, New York City or Atlanta would actually do so might be). This is because that part of the Voting Rights Act that prohibits discrimination in voting is permanent. And, even if it weren't, discrimination against minorities in voting would be unconstitutional.

There is a widespread and, as he rightly points out, completely false belief in the African-American community that their right to vote is about to expire. Kane seems to conclude by arguing that the whole thing should be extended for its symbolic effect. It won't "sit well" with blacks to let these provisions expired even though they don't do anything. Having dispelled the myth of imminent disenfranchisement of blacks, he seems to think that we ought to act as if it were true.

Friday, June 23, 2006

A garbage statistic

Xoff cites an Economic Policy Institute study that purports to show that the "average" CEO makes almost 11 million dolllars while the average worker makes a little over $40,000.

This is - and there is no other way to put it - flat out false. The "average" CEO does not make 11 million dollars. That figure is the average of compensation paid to some very not average CEOS, i.e, those that head 350 huge corporations with median annual revenue of 7.6 billion. If you rise to the top of the heap and run an enterprise that large, you make a lot of money. Maybe too much money. Just like it if you make it to the NBA (something which, statistically, you have a better chance of doing), you'll make a lot of money.

The average guy or girl running the average business does not make that much. Heck, the average business doesn't even make that much.

This doesn't mean that there is not income inequality. Inequality is inevitable in an economy that rewards talent and initiative. Whether the degree of income inequality that we have is a good or bad thing is something that can be debated, The problem with these debates is that the left forgets that how the pie is divided is realated to how large it becomes. They simply assume the pie.

I too wonder about how much shareholders choose to pay certain CEOs. In recent years, as the study that the EPI relies on makes clear, 80% of CEO compensation has come to ne "at risk", i.e., based on results. If someone comes in and manages a business in a way that it makes a billion more than it did last year, how much should that person make? I don't know, but I suspect that the people in the best position to judge that are the people whose money it is, i.e., the shareholders.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Shark and Shepherd on the Air

Assuming that I have recovered from our ignominious ouster from the World Cup, I will be on Eric Von's Backstory segment from 4:30 to 6:00. The topics may be the Lautenschlager-Falk race (who cares?), the county sales tax, the travails of Marc Marotta and the rep of Nan Hegarty. Guests will include lefty Robert Miranda, not-quite-as-lefty Jim Rowen, the lovely (but somewhat lefty)Faithe Colas and, playing the role of Truth, the not-very-lefty me.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Fighting over the ruins of Milwaukee County

Xoff and Seth Zlochota think it's somehow important that Scott Walker has decided to fully fund the County's pension obligations now that he is not running for governor. Let's assume they are right. He was acting like a politician.

What they don't deny is that the County has to take all that money - enough to triple what we spend on parks or enough to turn the bus lines into a cornucopia of mass transit-ty goodness - and send it to people who don't work for it anymore. What they don't deny is that people who were, until the yokels from Citizens for Responsible Government got done with them, the scions of the Democratic Party ( including union officials who had been feted at Democratic Party functions since I was a Democrat and Howie Mandel had hair), left Milwaukee County looking like Dresden after a night of B-52s and Lancasters.

To blame Walker for this is like blaming the New York Port Authority for not providing its tenants with space on 9/12.

More Episco-Drama

The Windsor Report invited the Episcopal Church "to effect a moratorium on the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate who is living in a same-gender union until some new consensus in the Anglican Communion emerges" (Windsor Report, paragraph 134).

Initially, the General Convention was going to do nothing and merely passed a resolution that said, essentially, talking about these things is good.

Then the outgoing Presiding Bishop, Frank Griswold, and the incoming PB, Katharine Jefferts Schori, apparently recognizing that the Anglican Communion was about to throw the ECUSA over the transom, went before an extraordinary joint session of the delegates (called by Griswold) and urged them to pass a resolution calling on Bishops and Standing Committees to "exercise restraint by not consenting to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion." That resolution was passed.

Certain liberal Bishops are upset. They are apparently circulating a statement in opposition to the resolution. I do not know who is signing, but the signatories would presumably not be the Bishop of Milwaukee who has already banned the ordination of persons who are sexually active outside of marriage and who has said that the priests in his diocese may not bless same sex unions. At least one Bishop said that he will not be exercising the slightest restraint whatsover.

But the resolution itself may not be enough to satisfy the other member churches of the Anglican Communion. And conservative Bishops (again, a group not including the Bishop of Milwaukee) are not happy either.

All of this raises questions about how quickly traditional notions of sexual morality ought to be abolished and whether there really is a parallel between the civil rights movement and the gay rights movement. It raises questions of how and when you should compromise to remain in community.

Personally, I really don't mind gay bishops and same-sex blessings (which is an entirely different issue than gay marriage). But I do mind the other theological positions of those who are their strongest supporters. And feel more attuned to the other theological positions of those who oppose them.

A deep breath

A GOP press release is highlighting an e-mail which shows some level of involvement by Marc Marotta in the travel contract that, or so a jury found, was illegally awarded to Adelman Travel. (There was a particularly trenchant column on the verdict in Tuesday's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.)

Dems (like Jay Bullock)argue that the GOP is overreaching because it doesn't show that Marotta did anything wrong and they're right. It doesn't.

The problem is that Marotta, probably unwisely, pronounced that no one at the upper reaches of the Doyle administration (like Marc) would have even had this on their radar screen. I'm not the Secretary of Administration for the state of Wisconsin but I know that even I cannot recall everything that has been brought to my attention or on which I may have commented. By issuing that type of denial, when it turns out that he did have some involvement with the contract, it looks like his early statement was an attempt to cover up.

Marc Marotta and I used to be law partners but I know him only casually. I have no special insight into his character, but I'd be shocked if he intentionally did something illegal. He has never struck me as that type of guy.

But he did sort of step into this one.

And it does seem likely - or so the jury thought - that someone in the Doyle administration found some way to let Georgia Thompson know they wanted Adelman.

I think it would be irresponsible to accuse any individual of criminal conduct, but it does not seem that Doyle was running a clean ship.

The county wise guys screwed up

In this morning's paper, we learn that the required taxpayer contribution to Milwaukee County's pension fund is three times the tax levy for the parks. In related news, we learned that both the City and County of Milwaukee continue to lose population.

Elliott points out that you need to hang on to taxpayers to continue collecting taxes. It's a shame that Ament and the public employee unions did not heed the advice of Christopher Moltisanti:

"When you're bleeding a guy you don't squeeze him dry right away. Contrarily, you let him do his bidding suavely. So you can bleed him next week and the week after ...."

Episcopalians Won't Affirm Jesus Christ

Yesterday, the House of Deputies at the General Convention of the Episcopal Church just killed the following resolution:

Resolved, the House of _____ concurring, That the 75th General Convention of the Episcopal Church declares its unchanging commitment to Jesus Christ as the Son of God, the only name by which any person may be saved (Article XVIII); and be it further

Resolved, That we acknowledge the solemn responsibility placed upon us to share Christ with all persons when we hear His words, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No-one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6); and be it further

Resolved, That we affirm that in Christ there is both the substitutionary essence of the Cross and the manifestation of GodÂ’s unlimited and unending love for all persons; and be it further

Resolved, That we renew our dedication to be faithful witnesses to all persons of the saving love of God perfectly and uniquely revealed in Jesus and upheld by the full testimony of Holy Scripture.

I am nonplussed. I appreciate that there are arguments against such a resolution that do not implicate belief in the statement, i.e., that a church body cannot vote on the truth (it simply is the truth) and that a church need not constantly reaffirm what it has always taught. Both arguments are weak in the context of the Episcopal Church in 2006. We have consented to the consecration of a gay Bishop to the scandal of the wider Anglican Communion. While we argue that to do so was consistent with creedal Christianity, our brothers and sisters in rest of the Communion (and many right here) aren't so sure. In the face of a clear demand from the rest of the Anglican Communion calling upon us to express regret for doing so, we refused and refused even to pronounce a moratorium on further such consecrations (and same-sex blessings) while dialogue continues.

Maybe justice required all that. But then we elected a Presiding Bishop who has dallied with the heretical Bishop John Shelby Spong. (That the new PB is a woman also disturbs many parts of the Communion, but doing so 1)doesn't raise theological issues that are nearly so difficult and 2)that battle is pretty much over in our church and, in this case, was won by the right side.)

In this context, some reaffirmation of our commitment to creedal Christianity was in order.

Well, the argument continues, we don't have to buy into substitutionary atonement as an explanation of the Cross. But we do ("for our sake he was crucified by Pontius Pilate")and, besides, the resolution also speaks to thecrucifixionn as a manifestation of God's love.

But, some say, it is presumptious, divisive and maybe even "hateful" to insist on the uniqueness of Christ. That is the point at which we really go off the rails. The resolution does not say that non-Christians are not saved (that would actually be outside mainstream Christian thought as pronounced by such "liberals" as Pope Benedict XVI and John Paul II and Karl Barth), but that God's revelation in Jesus Christ is unique. If we can't affirm that, then it is one sad day.

Clarify Conscience Clause

Xoff says the left and right can come together over opposition to conscience clause laws, i.e., laws that permit certain health care professionals to opt out of specified medical services to which they have moral objection (generally those involving, in the view of the objector, the taking of life). He is right that conservatives are not unanimous in supporting such laws because they create a conflict between two values that conservatives hold dear, freedom of conscience and the rights of property, in this case, the right of a business owner to freely direct his or her employees and to fire those who do not wish to follow those directions.

He cites Owen Robinson and me as examples of conservative opposition to conscience clause laws. Owen, it seems, does oppose them. I don't. In the post Bill cites, I said that pharmacist Donald Noesen, who Wal Mart fired for interfering with customers seeking birth control pills, did not have a good case under existing law and that he had, apparently, gone beyond opting out of the activities that he found objectionable (which Wal-Mart allowed him to do) to actively sabotaging his employers business.

I actually support conscience clause protection on right-to-life issues as I explained in a column in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel that was much reprinted and referred to throughout the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy (and to which I linked in my post on Noesen).

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Pelosi to bin Laden: I'll scratch your eyes out!

It's a bit late but I was out enjoying the nice evening on my deck the other day and caught up with an article in

The New Yorker
by Jeffrey Goldberg on how the Democrats should position themselves for the midterms and 2008. The article reminded me of what has been the central problem for Dems since I was a Dem. They are incessantly ruminating over how they should be branded. They don't worry about what they should think nearly as much as they obsess over how to sell it. They don't think about what will work; they focus on what will win.

And, ironically, they lose.

That wasn't Goldberg's point, but, for me, the highlight of the article was the following on the author's interview of Nancy Pelosi:

"Even the most liberal Democratic officeholders recognize the need to speak to security-conscious voters in ways that will separate them from Republicans. Nancy Pelosi made a game attempt at ferocity when I talked with her. “Here’s my thing, and I will say this and you have to bear with me,” she said. “I’m a mom. I have five children, and I have five grandchildren. I always say to people, ‘Think lioness.’ This is how Democrats are. You threaten our children—and that’s America—you threaten our country, you’re dead. You’re dead.”

Small dogs bark the most. The reason that Pelosi finds it necessary to engage in just a tad bit of overcompensation here is that we all know that this is not "how Democrats are." But rather than be something new, they focus on sounding like something new.

I was actually chair of the North Shore Democrats in the '80s. We just couldn't believe that we were losing. We though it had to be the way we were saying it, but that was wrong. It was then - and is now - what they say, not how they say it.

The Shark drops out!

Well, I'm not running for the U.S. Senate either. Apart from the fact that I would get only a few more votes than the last guy to run against Fidel Castro, a Senator's salary would not support the Reddess in the style to which she has become accustomed or cover the rest of Shark II's education.

But somebody should take a shot at Kohl and, if you got the right candidate, someone who is as bright as he is dim and as witty as he is colorless, he or she might get a few votes. You'd want to model the candidacy after, believe it or not, Feingold's first run. He had no money and no chance, so he decided to swing from the heels; to be interesting. It would take more than that to win ('92 was a Democrat year)and God only knows where the money would come from, but shouldn't someone be willing to step up?

I understand that Kohl saved the Bucks and built a really nice arena in Madison. I know he's unassuming, eats at Webb's and had done a bang-up job of inheriting a lot of money. But I can't think of a thing he's done in the US Senate. Everytime he questions someone in a Judiciary Committee hearing, one can't help but think: here's a guy who should be running a chain of retail stores. That you are successful in one walk of life does not mean you will be successful to other. Herb has wound up in a job for which he has no gift. Can't we set him free?

Monday, June 19, 2006

Shark and Shepherd on Dead Tree

My latest MJS column is tomorrow morning's paper and online. It's on the Thompson verdict.

Blog Fight!

Xoff points out that a new blogger, the Brew City Brawler, has no time for Dad29. (I am very sorry for that.)

Actually, BCB calls Dad "the nuttiest blogger in the Badger State." The point of departure is Dad's suggestion that the left's recent victories are generally violations of the right to life. (Actually, a really smart guy agrees with Dad and just wrote a book about it.) BCB mentions a lot of stuff from the 40's, 50's and 60's, including winning WWII, starting the Cold War and the civil rights movement.

But would the left support any of these things today? After all, Hitler had nothing to do with Pearl Harbor. The last big name Dem to support the cold war was Scoop Jackson (whose presidential bids fared about as well as Joe Lieberman's) and the left abandoned the moral imperative behind the civil rights movement (which, as I recall, had something to do with treating others based on the content of their character and not the color of their skin)back when Bill and Hillary actually still liked each other.

Fixing broken windows on Lincoln Memorial

David Clarke is cracking down on the lake front, handing out eighty tickets the other night. Liberal blogger Renee Crawford thinks that this is racial profiling and all designed to keep minorities away from the lakefront. She thinks the white crowds that are down there doing the day are just as bad, but everyone looks the other way.

I haven't been down there recently, so I can't comment on her claim that whites who misbehave at the lakefront are given a pass. But it does seem to me that the community has a right to expect a certain level of decorum on the lakefront. No driving up and down Lincoln Memorial and creating gridlock; no stereos with so much bass that the ground shakes; no drunkenness; no fighting. One way to make that happen is to be fairly strict about ordinance enforcement. While it is important not to single out minorities for that, I also don't know that we can expect that the population affected by it will match the racial composition of the larger community. Does that, in and of itself, make the practice illegitimate?

Presiding Bishop Jeffferts Schori

My Episcopal Church has elected a new presiding Bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori. I don't know much about her and won't pass judgment, but my initial reaction is not favorable. Here's why.

1. I would expect the new PB to be someone who supported the consecration of Eugene Robinson, Robinson is an openly gay man and his selection and the church's consent to it has created what may be an unbridgeable gap between the American Church and the other churches on the Anglican Communion, all of which (except Canada) still opposed it. Staying with the Anglican Communion will require patience and humility. The African churches have been leading the negative reaction to Bishop Robinson's consecration. It will require listening to people that we think don't know as much as we do. Here's Jeffert Schori's first attempt at that.

When a reporter asked how the "average Anglican who is a black woman under 30, earns two dollars a day and is evangelical," might react to news of her consecration and to her consent to Gene Robinson's consecration, she responded: "If the average Anglican is as you describe, she is dealing with hunger, inadequate housing, unclean water and unavailability of education. Those are the places I would start. The issue of sexuality comes along much higher on the hierarchy of needs."

Apart from being less than obviously true on its own terms, this seems densely arrogant. This poor African, she says, is too benighted to know what she should think. She ought to just shut up and accept our generosity. We certainly don't need to try and understand what she thinks and why. Her material needs are more important than her perception of what God requires.

2. She seems focused on imminentizing the eschaton. This makes conservatives nervous. She sees the role of the church as bringing about Isiah's reign of God in which "The poor are fed, the good news is preached, those who are ostracized and in prison are set free, the blind receive sight." That's all good and we should work toward all of that, but, in the context of the Episcopal Church, lots of talk about social justice makes me wonder about our prior commitment to faithfulness. Our denomination needs to return to that in order to nurture a more thoughtful commitment to social justice. Professional church people like to proclaim a commitment to justice, but they don't like to think too hard about what is most likely to bring justice about. They seem to think that it is all a matter of good intentions and something that we need only choose. Perhaps if they spent more time with foundational Christianity, they'd appreciate the implications of our fallen nature and the need to be effective as well as empathetic.

3. She has been a priest for only 12 years. She became a bishop only seven years after her ordination. This suggests that she is more a politico than a priest. I think we need the latter more than the former.

As an aside, I am sure that we will fall all over ourselves in self-congratulation over the historic selection of a woman. I am a huge proponent of female ordination, but dancing in the streets over the PB's gender is boring.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Shepherd Express to Berkman: shut up!

Dave Berkman has been calling people racists, fascists and killers in the pages of the Shepherd Express for years. One of my goals as a community columnist was to have him call me those names in print. That hasn't happened (although he did yell at me for an hour and a half on WMCS) and won't because he has, I guess, quit the Shepherd for refusing to run a column on minority hiring practices at WUWM. I'm not sure why this was a column too far because Dave has certainly mentioned WUWM before and the Shepherd has never before shown the slightest interest in putting a muzzle on his vitriol. Berkman apparently forgot that, like blacks, liberals cannot be racist.

School to valedictorian: shut up!

The valedictorian at a Las Vagas high school departed from her prepared remarks to talk about God. School officials, literally, pulled the plug on her, cutting off the microphone. The ACLU pronounces itself satisfied. Given the silly set of rules that one must infer from conflicting Supreme Court decisions (a set of rules that probably only Justice Kennedy and the recently retired Sandra Day O'Connor actually advocated), the district's actions weren't crazy. Graduation speeches are school-sponsored events over which schools exercise control. If they permit religious speech, the argument goes, then they will appear to have endorsed that speech and those students who do not share the expressed view will be made to feel like outsiders.

But an episode like this shows how silly that is? What message is sent by treating religious expression as something so toxic that it must be silenced? Weren't the valedictorian and the students who wanted to hear her message made to feel like outsiders? Doesn't it appear that the school endorsed secularism?

I can think of one

Paul Soglin, in crticizing Sheriff David Clarke's plan to shift department resources to the parks and lakefront in an effort to maintain order, makes the following assertion:

There is not one city in the United States where the tide of violence and street crime was turned back by brute force and more police. None. Nada. Zippo. Zero. Zilch.

"Brute force" is his own hyperbole, but I can think of one city where stuff like that did stem the tide of violence and street crime. Maybe Paul has heard of it. It's called New York.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

USA is Still Alive

The US were gritty and courageous in hanging on to tie Italy today. Having honestly given the US a man advantage early, the referee virtually offered the game to the Azzuris by sending off two US players on very cheap calls. No team has ever scored a goal in the World Cup when reduced to a 9-man side, but we came close, putting one past the keeper only to have it waved off on a (probably legitimate) offsides call.

Still, we are down to one realistic scenario to get through. We must beat Ghana and the Italians must beat the Czechs, Both games kick off at 9 am on Thursday. I won't be blogging. Or practicing law.

Go Ghana!

Ghana has taken an early 1-0 lead over the Czech Republic. If this holds up (I doubt that), then the US is in charge of their destiny. (One uses the plural form when referring to a soccer team.) If we beat Italy later today (we never have) and then beat Ghana, we'd be through.

(NB: Ghana just missed the net on a potential second.

Update:Ghana does win, 2-0.

Friday, June 16, 2006

So now we should let the people decide?

Xoff is in favor of a referendum on a new county sales tax. He favors direct democracy. While they did elect Scott Walker and the various supervisors to represent them, that shouldn't preclude permitting the voters express their wishes. If the people want to spend more on government, let them be heard.

Do you suppose he now favors the Taxpayer Protection Amendment?

Milwaukee v. Marquette

Tom Crean's explanation of why it's happening now makes no sense, but it is a great day for college hoop in Milwaukee. It's a shame that the very special Panther team that just graduated didn't have the chance to play Marquette but better to do the right thing late than never. I'm not sure how competitive we will be this year, but there's no doubt that this is a function of the Panthers' recent success.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Ningùn filete con queso para usted

I haven't blogged on the cheesesteak controversy in Philly. As all of my eight fully informed readers know, Joey Vento, owner of the famous Geno's Steaks, has put up a sign asking customers to order in English.

What is fascinating about this is the virulence of the reaction. Vento has been accused or "racism" and "xenophobia." His sign has been called "mean-spirited" and "divisive." The city's tourism agency promptly enfolded itself into the politically correct position, assuring everyone that Vento was not "representative" of Philadelphia. The city has filed a complaint, alleging discrimination on the basis of national origin and the creation of a "hostile environment" presumably also on the basis of national origin.

Supporters of amnesty for illegal immigrants and a permissive attitude toward border crossings generally intone their support for immigrants' learning English and well they should. You aren't going to get too far without it. But, as this controversy shows, they will not tolerate the slightest step to encourage that objective.

Vento refuses service to no one and his employees will help someone who cannot speak English to order. It's probably not hard, Geno's menu is delicious, but not extensive. I have been to a number of restaurants with far more complex menus in countries where I could not speak the language and I don't recall ever going without dinner. My guess is that your average spanish speaker could master that menu in about three minutes. The only way that Vento can be said to have discriminated or created a hostile environment is if you accept the notion that you have a God given right to force people to communicate with you in the way that you want them to.

Insulating people from any requirement that they speak English will probably ensure that they never learn it. Any adult who has tried to learn a second language or even to brush up on one that she may have spoken in the past knows that immersion is the only way that it's going to happen.

That's common sense, but, in this case, the overweening desire to appear to be "inclusive" gets in the way. As is so often the case, it is a cruel compassion. Are we really being good to people when we allow them to remain in a lingual ghetto?

MATC redux

I think that the left side of the blogosphere and those who believe that MATC has it just right are dead wrong about the absence of taxpayers at a public hearing on its proposed levy increase. Union members wonder where Charlie Sykes was? Charlie says he was working. Patrick McIlheran says the same and more. Xoff says that Charlie only pays a lot in taxes because he's rich. And, besides, the average jamoke only pays $14/yr for MATC.

The latter is the key. One of the secrets of lawyer's success is to try and be there everytime money changes hands and take just a little. No one will complain. The reason that MATC pays its faculty more than UW is because it just takes a little from a lot of people.

But that's hardly vindication. If you could steal a nickel from everyone in the United States, no one might notice and you'd become a multi-millionaire. You'd still be wrong. $14 for MATC is too much if it should only be $10.

Even if no one notices.

"Swallow your conscience"

The California Supreme Court has agreed to review a lower court decision involving the right of two Christian doctors to refuse to artificially inseminate an unmarried lesbian woman. An lower appellate court had held that the doctors could introduce evidence that they refused to perform the procedure because she was unmarried which, in its view, would be a defense to charges of violating California's civil rights law. The lesbian plaintiff, represented by the Lamda Legal Defense and Education Fund, appealed.

As for freedom of conscience in California, the case may not be as important as it seems. The doctors' victory in the lower appellate court was predicated, at least in part, on the fact that at the time that they refused to perform the procedure, California's civil rights law had been interpreted not to apply to marital status. It does now and I presume that one of the questions that the Supreme Court will take up is whether that is retroactive. The point is that, unless the court recognizes a free exercise defense (something that it would probably have to do on the basis of the state, not federal, constitution, given current First Amendment case law), doctors will have to toe the line in the future.

So much of modern liberal thought privileges equality over liberty. It is apparently not enough that legal burdens are lifted from gays and lesbians. Any vestige of traditional attitudes must be ruthlessly extirpated. There is, as I blogged earlier this week, no room between toleration and acceptance.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Springtime for Hitler in Sugar Creek

A former member of the Waffen-SS, Ted Junker, is now a farmer in Walworth County and wants to open a shrine to the "misunderstood" Adolf Hitler. Jessica McBride wonders how he got into the country and so do I. The paper says he got in because he was not stationed at a concentration camp. But the Waffen-SS and all of its members except for conscripts (which our boy was not) were declared war criminals by the International Military Tribunal at Nuremburg.

The court said:

In dealing with the SS the Tribunal includes all persons who had been officially accepted as members of the SS including the members of the Allgemeine SS, members of the Waffen SS, members of the SS Totenkopf Verbaende, and the members of any of the different police forces who were members of the SS.

It held:

"The Tribunal declares to be criminal within the meaning of the Charter the group composed of those persons who had been officially accepted as members of the SS as enumerated in the preceding paragraph who became or remained members of the organization with knowledge that it was being used for the commission of acts declared criminal by Article 6 of the Charter, or who were personally implicated as members of the organization in the commission of such crimes, excluding, however, those who were drafted into membership by the State in such a way as to give them no choice in the matter, and who had committed no such crimes. The basis of this finding is the participation of the organization in War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity connected with the war; this group declared criminal cannot include, therefore, persons who had ceased to belong to the organizations enumerated in the proceeding paragraph prior to 1 September 1939."

Did Junker disclose his membership in the Waffen-SS on his naturalization application?

Not even wrong

In the debate over Intelligent Design, the ultimate put-down of the theory has been that it is not "science." Scientists are rigorously empirical and go only where the evidence will take them. This would be a good statement of the argument, taken from the review of a recently published and well received book by a mathematician named Peter Woit.

He grants that an explanation for [the origins of life]is usefully embedded in [intelligent design], but he challenges its authenticity as proper science. In his view, [intelligent design] offers no foreseeable prospect of making predictions, a crucial criterion for any theory worthy of the name. Matching the theory with the way we see the world, he argues, depends on believing in [something we can't see. Hence there is an infinite number of possible choices as to how one would make predictions, and nobody knows how to determine which choice is correct. The objection invokes the late Karl Popper’s widely accepted definition of science. An explanation is scientific, according to Popper, only if it can be used to make predictions of a kind that can be falsified: in other words, can be checked to be right or wrong.

It would be except Woit is not talking about intelligent design, but about the latest rage in theoretical physics, string theory. Here's what the review really says:

He grants that an explanation for gravity is usefully embedded in string theory, but he challenges its authenticity as proper science. In his view, string theory offers no foreseeable prospect of making predictions, a crucial criterion for any theory worthy of the name. Matching the theory with the way we see the world, he argues, depends on believing in sixseveral tiny unobserved spatial dimensions wrapped around each other. Hence there is an infinite number of possible choices as to how one would make predictions, and nobody knows how to determine which choice is correct. The objection invokes the late Karl Popper’s widely accepted definition of science. An explanation is scientific, according to Popper, only if it can be used to make predictions of a kind that can be falsified: in other words, can be checked to be right or wrong.

The point is that science often doesn't respect the boundaries it wishes to erect against the challenges to its presuppositions. If only the material can be true and the material explanations don't jibe, then the "God of the gaps" must become some unproven material explanation.

"Thoughtcrime is the only crime that matters."

So said Winston Smith in George Orwell's 1984. The latest example of real prosecutions for "crimethink" is taking place in Rome where Italian journalist Oriani Fallaci is being tried in absentia for "defaming Islam."

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The straws aren't even within grasping distance

Speaking of the Dems' spin on the Thompson verdict, the official release is so pathetic that it borders on the bizarre. It claims there was no evidence that anyone influenced Thompson, except, of course, the testimony of those witnesses who claim that she said she was under pressure. It cites her own testimony that she was not influenced, but there must have been some evidence that she was since she is now looking at early retirement in Club Fed.

It repeats the pre-verdict talking point that she had nothing to gain from this. But then why was she acting alone to rig the bid? That one worked better before she was guilty.

It repeats testimony from another state employee that the bids were handled properly, but the problem with that is that it took the jury four hours or less to decide that they didn't believe that.

Most cravenly, it says that Doyle never met with Craig Adelman regarding the contract and that the media had to correct early reports that he did. Period. But the correction, to which they link but which they do not explain, was that Doyle met only with Craig's father, Albert, the Chairman of the company, regarding the travel contract. The Dem spin is so misleading that it borders on an outright lie.

The buck stopped there

There will be no Fitzmas in July for the Dems. Rove won't be indicted. I guess Scooter Libby did not name his name. Will Professor Turkheimer now proclaim Rove innocent?

Georgia Thompson is the new Lee Harvey Oswald

Xoff is up quickly with the official Dem spin on the Thompson verdict: She acted alone.

Sometimes you've got to take those lemons and make lemonade, but, in this case, it might be better to just change the subject. Thompson was not convicted of manipulating the process to get something for herself. She was convicted of manipulating the process to benefit the politicos to whom she reported.

The Dem spin is that she did it on spec, just like Sean Gismonte and Matthew Bevilaqua shooting Christopher Moltisanti near the Skyways Diner in Kearny. Just like Bevilaqua got wacked near that "George Washington slept here" house, Thompson's bold initiative went down in flames. Just like Ralphie Cifaretto Richie Aprile(the putative beneficiary of the Moltisanti shooting), Governor Doyle is "shocked, shocked" that anyone would do such a thing.

The problem with all that is the only way that the jury could have convicted Thompson is to believe the testimony that she repeatedly stated that her bosses wanted Adelman. If the jury didn't believe that, then there was absolutely no evidence that she acted for an improper purpose.

Of course, maybe she just imagined that her bosses wanted Adelman.

Or maybe smoke generally comes from fire.

Update: James Wigderson points out that the Moltisanti hit was on spec for Richie Aprile and not Ralphie Cifaretto. Its hard to keep all the wise guys who have slept with Janice straight.

Monday, June 12, 2006

The Shark knows sh**

Wow, my record as a jury prognosticator is taking a beating, although my larger point has been that if you aren't there, it's hard to know. Hell, if you are there, it's hard to know. I think, as I said last week, that Thompson's testimony turned it into a credibility contest. Rather than explain away her statements about what her bosses wanted, she chose to deny them. The problem was, if the jury believed the other witnesses, there is not much of a not guilty scenario left.

Some bloggers (Seth) took me to task for suggesting that an acquittal would not be an exoneration of Doyle. I'd stick by my guns, but I'll be darned if I can see how a conviction doesn't amount to foul plunge for Doyle. This jury isn't the be all and end all, but they certainly thought that, at least, the governor's minions were dirty.

One last comment on Wisconsin lawprof Frank Turkheiemer's statement that the fact that Thompson didn't give any one up meant there was no one to give up. Criminal conspiracies don't always unravel all the way to the top. Sometimes (although rarely), there is honor among thieves. More frequently, there is skill. Those on the top manage to insulate themselves from effective prosecution. I wonder if that will turn out to be the case here?

"Mostly I get shot at elsewhere"

Owen Robinson observes that a man quoted by Eugene Kane to the effect that crime isn't so bad in his Riverwest neighborhood is apparently one of the convicted Democrat tire-slashers. That's interesting and not a little wierd..

My own response to Mr. Caldwell's comments turn on the following statement attributed to him. It is even wierder. In arguing for the safety of his neighborhood, he says:

"Two out of the three times I've had a gun stuck in my face in the city, it wasn't in Riverwest," he noted.

Kane quotes this as if he thinks that's a good thing; as if to say, "see, it's not that bad."

You really couldn't find a better example of how tone deaf the left continues to be on urban crime. For most people, having a gun stuck in your face is not the same old same old. If it happens to them one time, they are mightily disposed to go whereever they think it will not happen again. If you want to rescue "urban living," as Kane and (believe it or not) I want to do, no level of violent crime is tolerable. Minimizing that which does occur is one of the reasons that so many people live in Sussex.

Assault with deadly weapon?

Doesn't the severity of this crime turn on how recently the weapon had been used for its intended purpose?

The beautiful game was ugly today

The USA was completely dominated by the Czech Republic, 3-0. I am not sure if they are that good or we just played that badly. They do seem very good.

We have to beat Italy on Saturday to have much of a chance of getting through.

I want to take this opportunity to comment on American attitudes toward soccer. One common view is that soccer is wimpy. This is a view held mostly by those who have never played or watched a game. Once kids get past 8 or so, soccer moms who think their little darlings can't get hurt on the pitch are in for a rude wakening. Soccer is not more physical than american football. It is way more physical than basketball.

Another complaint is the low scoring nature of the game. This bespeaks a certain lack of patience. Much of the beauty in soccer, as in romance, is in the anticipation.

A more sophisticated critique is that its a socialist game, since individual effort is subordinate to team effort in a way that it is not, in say, baseball and basketball. But you can make the same "criticism" (if that's what it is) of american football. Besides, a communitarian game should appeal to crunchy cons.

I think the real reason Americans are down on soccer is that it wasn't invented here. I don't regard that as a negative, but, alas, it seems to be true of baseball as well.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

More on Morales

As for the substance of Jennifer Morales' "coming out," isn't there clearly some significance in the fact that she lives with a member of the MTEA? In that sense, she really did need to go public, so that this conflict of interest could be disclosed. Shouldn't she recuse herself in votes affecting the MTEA (particularily on compensation)? And if she has to do that, shouldn't she resign from the board?

McIlheran and Morales

It's Sunday morning and I have a few minutes to kill before church, so why not engage in some rumination. Patrick McIlheran mildly criticized MPS board member Jennifer Morales' decision to come out as a lesbian. For Patrick, there was something in your face about it; something that was unnecessary and crudely provocative to those benighted folks who still think homosexuality is a sin.

Jay Bullock thinks Patrick just doesn't want to know gay people exist. He implies, but is not so tedious as to actually state, the old trope that any criticism of the Gay Moment in our society is a manifestation of hateful homophobia. A commenter to Jay's post tries to say that a gay person who "comes out" is no different than a heterosexual person who mentions her husband or children.

I have to defend my man, P-Mac, who is the MJS' best columnist who gets more than $25.00 a column. (Actually, probably the best period, but a guy has to represent.)

Is there a difference between hatred of homosexuals or the belief that homosexuality is a sin and assuming the equivalence of homosexual and heterosexual relationships? What does tolerance require? The older sense of that word (and the sense that we still use when we aren't talking about "protected" groups) is that to tolerate is to put up with. The newer sense (and the only sense when we are talking about certain minority groups and lifestyles) is that to to tolerate is to accept and even embrace. Tolerance means that one is to treat the tolerated exactly like everything else.

But I think that there is a large segment of the "non-homophobic" who don't feel quite that way about gays and lesbians. They do not hate gays. They may have gay friends and may accept gays and lesbians in all walks of life. They may support civil unions, or at least are willing to honor and respect gay and lesbian relationships. They don't believe homosexuality is a sin and are not advocates of getting homosexuals to change.

But somewhere, in ways that they may not be able to articulate, they do not believe that homosexuality is "just as good as" or "essentially the same as" heterosexuality. Maybe its a deeply embedded preference for relationships that continue the species (wouldn't evolutionary biologists expect this?) or maybe it's an innate belief that heterosexual relationships are complementary; uniting the two parts of the human family (the Roman Catholic view). In that sense, homosexuality is to be accepted, but heterosexuality is the norm and, perhaps, something to be hoped for.

So many people I know would fully accept their children as gays or lesbians, but are glad that they are not.

Are such people bigots? Are they in need of reeducation?

I can't speak for Patrick and I know that he has been concerned (as I have) with respecting the free speech rights of those who are more critical of homosexuality. But could Patrick's post be, in part, influenced by a recognition that many people feel this way? They are willing to accept gays and lesbians, but there is a point at which they do not wish to have homosexuality up in the grill.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Shark and Shepherd on Dead Tree

My latest MJS column is in this morning's paper and is on-line here.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Weltschale Fieber!

World Cup fever! Taza del Mundo! Tassa du monde! De Kop van de wereld!

The World Cup begins today. The US team is tied for sixth in the world with Spain and Mexico, but I doubt that we will advance to the second round since our group includes the Czech Republic (#2) and Italy (#12). My fellow community columnist Diane Hardy likes to root for teams from Spain and the Americas, but I am a died-in-the wool Europhile. If the US can't win, I want some other other member of the coaliton of the willing or a country that has recently stuck its thumb in the eye of the Left. Poland (#26) would be great. But that's not going to happen. The Czechs or England (#9) would be nice. I have a certain soft spot for the Germans (#19) and the decidedly non-socialist Swiss (#37 - vergessen Sie über es!). I wish we could root for the Danes (#14), but they didn't qualify. Israel (#44) would have been sweet, but they didn't qualify either.

I also like to root for the African teams. They have been great underdogs. Cameroon (#16) and Senegal (#29) have been fun in past years. This year, Tunisia (#23) could make noise, but the countries from the heart of Africa, Côte d'Ivoire (#32), Ghana (#48) and Angola(#60) are probably not going too far.

The Thompson trial in the stretch

Thompson apparently denies saying that her bosses wanted Adelman to get the contract. Two other witnesses said that she did and its undisputed that she asked people to change their scores after Omega came out ahead. Her explanation is that she was afraid that the committee had been overly affected by an overbearing presentation by Adelman's reps. That others thought she was upset is, she says, attributable to her being told that another employee received an unjust promotion.
None of this was apparently offered in a WKOW interview conducted much closer in time to the actual event.

I think its a credibility contest and those are impossible to judge if you weren't there. My gut tells me that Doyle and his guys cooked this, but, where reasonable doubt is the standard, acquittal for Thompson is more likely than not.

Who wants to be a county-funded millionaire?

Jay Bullock has been trying to defend public employee pensions as "deferred compensation." Here's his point in a nutshell:

The subject is the pay that I'm not getting now that I expect to receive when I retire--in the form of a pension and health benefits. What I want to know is, why is my deferred compensation--which I bargained for and agreed to lower current wages in exchange for--different from Dick Cheney's--which he bargained for and agreed to take lower salary in exchange for?

The problem is the assumption that these pensions were agreed to "in exchange for" higher wages. The resources devoted to these pensions could never have been paid out in current wages because the public would have known what was happening.

Take an example used in a recent story in the Journal-Sentinel. A court clerk retired at 59 at an income of $36,000. This person retired prior to the 2000 enhancements, but still has a lifetime pension of $26,000 and free health insurance for life. The health insurance is hard to value because it could well be impossible for her to buy it in the public sector. Milwaukee County pays something like 132 million dollars for health care for approximately 10,650 people (most of whom are retired!) That's another 12,400/year.

But that doesn't capture the cost since it is elderly folks who contribute to the lion's share of health costs. If the 60% of the county's insureds weren't retired, its per capita costs would go down as well. If the cost of providing this insurance to our retiree is as little as 25% over the average, it is costing the county $16500 per year and she is, in effect, receiving a pension of $42500.

Private employers are increasingly going to defined contribution plans. When you retire, you are entitled to whatever is in an account to which you and your employer contributed. What kind of account would it cost to get lifetime income of $42,500?

If you bought an annuity, this would cost you about
$630,000. But even that understates the value of the county benefits because, while the annuity income is fixed, the amount of the county pension will increase over time.

How many people work for 33 years and never earn more than $36,000 and retire with a nest egg of $630,000?

But it gets worse. Had she hung on for just a but longer, she would have been eligible for the backdrop payment. In her case, it would have been $ 350,000. So what the county was saying is that, you can work for the taxpayers at a low-level position, and retire before 60 - as a millionaire.

How much extra income would it have taken to save all that money. You'd have to assume a modest rate of return since the pension was never at risk. If you assume that her average salary over the years was $ 24000/month, 10% more at a 5% rate of return and an average tax rate of 25% would leave her with about $ 117000. Bump the rate of return to 8% and she'd have $150000. If you assume 20% more and a rate of return of 8%, you get her to around $372,000. If you assume 20% more salary and a 10% rate of return, you get closer - about $517,000. To get her there, you need about a 25% raise and a 10% return. But how likely is that? How much more than $36,000 would you expect a court clerk to make in 1999? I can tell you that a legal secretary with equivalent experience wouldn't have made much, if any, more.

As for the backdrop, there is just no way.

And before you tell me that a defined contribution account can be passed on to her heirs and a county pension cannot, I equalized all that by annuitizing the money. If you want to follow conservative guidelines for withdrawal from a retirement fund, she'd need about a million dollars to support the $42,500.

Update: When I initially did this, I failed to apply the tax rate to her return. I also appreciate that I have done this in a back of the envelope manner, but you get the point.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Al-Z: Drop down to the 5th ring and turn left

I guess that there are 72 virgins who have some rather unpleasant duty tonight.

Or will al-Zarqawi get nothing from white grapes.

Either way somebody is going to be pissed.

Thompson trial at the turn

I don't know that Georgia Thompson will be convicted, but there seems to be well corroborated and so far unshaken testimony that she wanted Adelman to get the contract and that her bosses wanted Adelman to get the contract. It also seems clear that she regarded the need for Adelman to get the contract as "political." She can argue, I suppose, that she was just reflecting the desire of her bosses to award the contract to someone who they believed to be the low cost bidder or otherwise better than the competition.

Although it seems completely implausible that her bosses were motivated by merit and not money, proving that she was aware of the reason that Adelman was preferred is probably critical. The jury must conclude that she misapplied funds or conspired to deprive the state of honest services. Her lawyer is right in suggesting that, in the typical application of these statutes, the defendant receives a more direct benefit (typically a bribe). If you accede to your bosses' wishes to award the contract to the low bidder (notwithstanding what the bid process entailed), I don't know that you violated either statute. If you knowingly participate in your bosses' desire to award a contract to a campaign donor, you probably have.

The state has rested. We have testimony that she repeatedly said it had to be Adelman, e.g., testimony that Thompson said that the choice of Omega "wouldn't fly," that "politically it wasn't what needed to happen," and that it "can't be done," statements by her that the contract "needed to go to Adelman," and testimony that she expressed concern about "how I'm going to tell my bosses it's not Adelman." Is that enough to convince the jury that she knowingly participated in a scheme to award the contract to a campaign donor?

We also have testimony that Doyle seems to have been inordinately interested in Adelman and the travel contract and that evaluation of the best and final offer was manipulated. Based on what I've gleaned from media accounts, Thompson's connection to these things remains unclear.

I don't know if Thompson will be convicted (right now, I'm guessing not) but it seems very likely that the process was cooked. If she is acquitted, it will be no vindication of Doyle.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

This is an another awful story

It's outside my beat, but it's an awful story. In Kewaskum, a house burned to the ground. A 7 year old girl and her father died in the house. The deceased father is apparently suspected in burning the place down. The father was in the process of divorcing the little girl's mother. The mother, Christine Sheridan, lost a son by a prior marriage, Matthew, two years ago. He was killed by, I can put it no other way, the negligence of the Mequon police. I only hasten to add that the officers involved intended no harm.

Matt Sheridan was a close childhood friend of my son's, although they had grown apart by the time of Matt's death. He was a troubled kid, but his death was an unspeakable tragedy - every bit as awful as some more celebrated recent cases.

I remember hearing about Matt's death on Father's Day morning. I was a new grandfather and this was to be the first Father's Day that I would celebrate with my son, now a Dad (his first Father's Day), and the incredibly loveable Shark III. I had to tell my son that his old friend was dead. It should have been a great day for us, but it was hard because of this awful thing that had happened.

Apart from Matt's funeral, I haven't seen Chris Sheridan for years. But how awful is this? How can you bury two kids? I have known other people who had to do it, but this is, please God, far darker than it will get for most of us.

Rest in peace.

Noesen's case is kicked

District Judge John Shabaz has dismissed the suit of Donald Noesen, the pharmacist who refused to fill birth control prescriptions at Wal-Mart. Actually, the case wasn't about his refusal. Wal-Mart had told him that he needn't fill scrips for birth control or answer questions about them. What he got fired for is refusing to help those customers find another pharmacist or putting callers inquiring about birth control on hold indefinitely. Whil Wal-Mart had an obligation to reasonably accommodate Noesen's religious views, tolerating active obstruction of its customers (as opposed to a mere refusal to provide birth control) went too far.

Although I have supported freedom of conscience for health care officials, this decision seems about right under existing law. If Wal-Mart has a right to sell birth control (and it does), then its one thing to alllow Noesen to opt out. Its another if he actively sabotages the business.

Monday, June 05, 2006

I have one word: Sowell.

At my son and daughter-in-law's rehearsal dinner last week, one of the guests, a bright young African-American Republican, was asked how he could be black and conservative.

I had only one thought in response. Thomas Sowell. This column is one of the reasons. Sowell points out that positive trends with respect to blacks and poverty either came to a halt or slowed upon enactment of the Great Society. I can't say whether he tells the whole story, but what is great about Sowell is that he is willing to ask the question and look at the evidence.

No full faith and credit

So maybe the South Shore Park shooter was here legally. Xoff doesn't have to apologize after all.

I guess the larger issue is the way criminals can sneak into Mexico and avoid extradition. That's yet another reason that the Mexican border is unlike the Wisconsin-Illinois stateline.

What there is to be afraid of

Referring back again to our OK Coral weekend, I was struck by two discussions of fear. The first were some callers to talk radio (Jeff Wagner's show, I think) who said they were afraid to go into the city at all. They said they would no longer go downtown; wouldn't go to Summerfest; will avoid South Shore Park, etc.

This is unfortunate. We have an epidemic violence that is occurring within the city of Milwaukee, but it's in a very small part of the city. There are parts of town in which I would not want to be at certain times of the day, but most of the space within the city limits are reasonably safe.

The other was Jay Bullock's rant (or was it a ramble?) that he doesn't like concealed carry because he doesn't want a society ruled by "fear." This is a common liberal failing in issues of crime. Concealed carry does not create fear, although some of the support for it may arise from a fear that already exists. The American left has a long history of attempting to dismiss fear of crime as "racist" or hysterical.

This never works. If people are anxious about their security, it will just not do to tell them that they shouldn't be. Nor will it work to say that crime is caused by some underlying imperfections in our society and that, in the long run, when we have created Paradise, we will at last be safe. To parapharase Lord Keynes, we know we'll be dead in the long run. But we'd like to stick around for the short run.

I would not attribute this to Jay, but sometimes I wonder if the real racial indifference lies in traditional liberal approaches to crime? If my first observation is right, most white folks aren't at risk. (Jay's right about that.) But people who live in the parts of town where violent crime is concentrated are. What could possibly justify the lack of urgency (and suggesting that the solution lies in jobs and midnight basketball is precisely that)on this?

Sunday, June 04, 2006

"[C]career women are here to stay, and they're renegotiating the rules of relationships and marriage and motherhood"

Odd piece in the New York Times today on the recent revelation that Newsweek overstated the odds against single women getting married after 30. In a famous 1986 article, the magazine (along with Time known for its breathless, but clueless, trendiness) said a single woman at 35 had only a 5% chance of ever marrying. A woman past 40, the article continues, is more likely to be killed by a terrorist than to be married. It turns out that the odds are better. A woman who is still single at 40 has a 40% chance of being married.

That's all fair, but what I found interesting is the notion that this was all a hysterical chastisement of career women. No one apparently should have - or would have believed the dire claims but for an anitpathy against career women. An academic (a professor of gender studies) is quoted as saying that "[t]he panic was a socially and culturally constructed panic." At the root of the "panic," the article continues is the presumably false idea that "for career women, success often comes at the price of parenthood."

Well, women can have a career and children but people being only human there will be a price to be paid somewhere, just as a man who really wants to be a father to his kids will have to pay a similar price. The author stumbles on this when she quotes Rosey O'Donnell's character in When Harry Met Sally, who says that the terrorist statistic is not true, but "it feels true." That's because you can't - whatever your gender - have everything you want. Success and love require sacrifice. We like to pretend it's not so.

The article goes on to quote a woman involved in the production of Sex in the City who says:

"You saw your girlfriends who got married early — congrats to them — many of them are getting divorced," she said. "Or others settled. So the idea of needing any husband went away, and it became more about, What if you marry the wrong person? How do you find the right person?"

But for you denizens of Sex in the City, the women in that show all came to realize that life - for men as well as women - requires one to "settle." You must find the right person, but whether they do, in fact, turn out to be the right person requires effort. A spouse is not a commodity you find, but a member of a partnership you create. This brings joy, but it involves pain.

I know I sound like a guy whose kid just got married. Sorry.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

It's a nice day for a shark wedding

I am back from my son's wedding in Janesville. It was a wonderful couple of days. My new daughter, the lovely Karra Esenberg, is a liberal, but a brilliant one. Shark II played rock and roll until midnight. Shark III danced all night. (In response to Widgerson, their first child was a masculine one. They said yes to life when it wasn't so easy.)

I wonder if other people who have experienced the marriage of their children have been struck by how great their kids' friends have become? I concede that I had been seeing, and enjoying it, for a few years, but there is nothing like a wedding to put it right there for you.

I have also been struck by how great is to have co-parents in law. We have no word for this. At the rehearsal dinner, I told the group that we have daughters and sons-in law; brothers and sisters in-law, but no word for the people who are the parents of the person who marries your child. (And, although we don't acknowledge it, there may be few relationships that require more bonding.)I said that the only thing that occurs to me is that, if we took it to its logical extreme, my new daughter-in law's mom would be my wife-in-law. She is an unbelievably wonderful lady. Her husband, also a fantastic example of the genus human being, is one lucky (and deserving) guy. But we are just not permitted to go there. More fundamentally, I don't share the Reddess.

In short, I gained not just a great daughter, but a whole frickin' family of wonderful people.

I will now go back to the normal cynical fare.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

"Instead, you come into my house on the day my daughter is to be married, and you, uh, ask me to do murder for money."

Well, actually just to blog. Shark II is getting married tomorrow, so blogging may ground to a halt. As the father of the groom, I must figure out a way to be both witty and wise. I only have so much of that to go around.