Friday, May 29, 2009

Life Imitates Art

Or rather, South Park imitates Oshkosh city council meetings.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

One Other Thing...

Don't be surprised if Michelle Monte is appointed to fill Buchholtz's seat on the Landmarks Commission. Not saying it's going to happen -- just don't be surprised if it does:
I had applied to be on the Landmark's commission twice in the last 2-3 years. I have a great interest in historical architecture and studied many of the styles that appear in Oshkosh when an art student many years ago. It is still an interest of mine. Mr. Tower had stated during his candidacy and after his election that he would be looking for new faces to join committees to bring in fresh ideas. Mrs. Mattox was appointed to the Landmark's Commission as she had been a member while on the council. The next seat was filled by a gentleman I am not familiar with except that he knew someone already on the Commission. I was satisfied with the thought that the two people chosen over myself were better qualified. There was no reason to make an issue of it.
It's not like the fate of the universe hinges on just whatever the hell it is that the Landmarks Commission does, but you know ...

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

About that Email...

When the current council business began we said the most important part of the process was going to be transparency.

And anyone who saw the voting can rest assured they received none.

Tonight Mayor Esslinger mentioned an email that was sent to council members as one of the reasons that convinced him to vote for Harold Buchholtz. This suggests -- oh, hell confirms, a certain degree of behind the scenes lobbying that went on before the vote. That may be perfectly within the rules, but often times all it takes is the mere appearance of funny business to delegitimize an otherwise completely appropriate action.

Tonight we got word of an email that only the council got to read; a council member -- McHugh -- who could barely be bothered to explain the rationale for his vote with anything other than a shrug; and a bizarre brief recess in the middle of the vote which, frankly, looked an awful lot like the "closed caucuses" that occur in another legislative body in this state. And at the end of all of this, someone was chosen to fill the seat whom was not on anyone's radar and whom most of the city knows little about ... and if we need any further evidence of this, there was actually a discussion over how to pronounce Mr. Buchholtz's last name at the meeting tonight.

That's not transparency.

Buchholtz deserves a chance and an opportunity to prove his metal. Who knows, he might be a municipal budget ninja? (We're pretty sure if that were the case, however, he would have broken budgets in half with his bare hands during his presentation this evening.) The councilors who voted for him, on the other hand, will get questions from the NW, voters, and especially critics. Some of these will border on the conspiratorial, but that's no one's problem but the councilors.

Council Meeting Live Blogging

Howdy. We're going to be experimenting this evening by kinda live blogging the city council meeting ... which we will only be watching intermittently because, frankly, we think the Cleveland/Orlando game is far more important in the grand scheme of things.

Also, don't be surprised if we abandon the project without warning at some point during the evening. If that does happen, it's because we decided to get sloppy, stumbling drunk, which is probably the best way anyone can expect the evening to wind up.

About Tonight

One of the many problems of staging a 15 person winner-takes-all Royal Rumble over the course of a single evening is that, not only does the schedule prove to be unnecessarily inconvenient for some of the participants, but, most importantly, it becomes brutal on the spectators. If anyone thinks tonight's spectacle is going to be an exemplar of municipal charter beta-testing, we have some subprime loans you can invest in at a cost no one can beat!

Much of this has to do with the council's apparent desire to condense this process into as short a time as possible and to pivot the submission and presentation dates around one of the busy travel holidays of the year. To wit:
  • The submission deadline was before noon on the Friday before Memorial Day weekend, a day many people -- not just potential candidates -- leave the office early to visit family or go on well-earned vacations.
  • The "Selection Spectacle" takes place the next Tuesday. Many folks tend to take extra days off around holidays like Memorial Day to get a little more bang for their vacation day buck. They plan for these weekends months in advance.
  • Not only is there just one chance for candidates to make their case, but likewise there is only one chance for the public to question them. (Likewise, we didn't see any "Get to know the Candidates" article in the NW, but, seriously, like that was going to happen over a holiday weekend?)
  • The Dog and Pony Show will be brutal to sit through. Of the fifteen candidates, 13 appear to be attending the meeting. Let's assume all 13 will be smart enough to use the entirety of their allotted 5 minutes to make their case to the council (but, miraculously, not a second more). That alone will take 1:05. Let's assume that the council will devote another 5 minutes to questioning the nine "viable" candidates as outlined by Ron Hardy: now we're up to 1:50. Let's add another 15 minutes of polite banter between the council and split among the 6 "nonviable" candidates, because there's nothing more embarrassing than going through this whole process and hearing nothing but crickets at the very end. We're already at over two hours and the public hasn't even been allowed to ask questions to the candidates yet (and it's not like the council has been known for making its own train run on time, either). In other words, this will take all night.
  • And despite the marathon municipal jam session we only get 15-20 minutes with each candidate. That basically guarantees that the person chosen will have a long track record in Oshkosh as it will be impossible to introduce one's self in such a brief period of time.
So in the end, the person most likely selected will be of the city's "elder statesmen," and likely under the assumption that he or she will merely be filling out the rest of the term then go quietly off into the sunset. We're cool with that.

Maybe that's how things are supposed to work? Maybe this process will succeed despite itself?

We'll see.

Monday, May 25, 2009

"Sources tell TPMmuckraker that it is indeed possible to understand straightforward questions after having smoked pot."

Yeah, "sources," that's the ticket ...

And on Memorial Day Too

Stay classy, Barry Laker:
I give John McCain credit for being an American, but I stop short and say he has sold out his COUNTRY in his political life with McCain Fiengold etc, stc, etc.
So much for supporting the troops ... Five years in the Hanoi Hilton and the guy comes back to be accused of selling out his country?

It boggles the mind.

There's a Sucker Born Every Minute

... And when there's not Kevin Fischer's there to pick up the slack!

Fischer is peddling the laughably spurious lunatic conspiracy theory that Bill Ayers actually ghost wrote Barack Obama's Dreams from My Father as "a fascinating piece of detective work" when, in fact, it is little more than gross speculation founded on the flimsiest of weak coincidences:
Curiously, Obama tells the story of this past love while cutting "two green peppers." In his 1997 book, A Kind And Just Parent, Ayers specifically links "green peppers" with "saltpeter" and other substances that scare young men with the threat of impotence. Go figure.
Yes, and both authors wrote memoirs in the first person! It must be true!

Not surprisingly, the author of the this paranoid fever dream has a weekly column at World Net Daily, which has taken up the mantle of being the internet's foremost promoter of crazy nonesense regarding the President.

All of which begs the question: which Obama-related conspiracy will Fischer be hawking next? My money's on the "Obama's real father was Malcolm X" dosey.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Undisciplined

By day, Lance Burri (pictured left) earns a living servicing state Sen. Mary Lazich as part of one of the most mind-blowingly inept office teams ever to grace the Wisconsin Senate. By night, Burri services the second-rate conservative blogger Robert Sydney McCain by imitating his idol's every writing tic on his own blog.

So what the hell is Burri doing telling his readers to boycott the National Republican Senatorial Committee?

It's one thing for disgruntaled conservative blowhards to advocate boycotts of thier own party's instutions, it's quite another for "professional" political staffers to do the same.

Easy Answers to Absurd Questions

Q: Is "American Idol" an elaborate scheme to distract the American public from Barack Obama marching this country into a socialist hell from whence none shall return?

A: No. Don't be ridiculous.

Books n' Books

It take a special kind of gall to loudly and self-righteously proclaim that there is no such thing as book banning in a blog blog post that sits right next to a petition to ... ban books in the author's local library, but somehow the asshole at Wissup manages to pull it off:

(We realize that there are numerous nuances to the West Bend Library brouhaha, but Wissup's professed alliance with the deplorable American Family Association, a long time advocate of outright book banning, make us a bit leery that all she wants to do is "move the books.")

Friday, May 22, 2009

Ladies and Gentlemen, random n00b ....

Big up yourself. You're welcome here whenever you goddamn please!

"The Road" Trailer

Very cool book. Dope cast. I give the trailer a B/C though:



More here.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Todd Lohenry: Not Very Bright, Now -- Is He?

Todd Lohenry -- 3rd Vice Chair of the Wisconsin GOP -- attempts to prove that the USA is a "Christian" Nation by supplying his readers with the preambles of each state's constitution ...

One problem ... The only time the word "Christian" appears in any of the constitutions cited by Lohenry is in Virginia's:
Virginia 1776, Bill of Rights, XVI Religion, or the Duty which we owe our Creator can be directed only by Reason and that it is the mutual duty of all to practice Christian Forbearance, Love and Charity towards each other…
"Christian Forbearance" is hardly "Christian Religion" ... and a Christian Nation it certainly does not make.

Try again, Lohenry.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Actually, That's the Stupidest Argument I've Ever Heard

Randy Melchart of the RecallDoyle Circus:
Over 50 people packed the American Legion hall in Manitowoc to hear how they could initiate what would be only the third recall of a sitting US Governor in American history.
OK, so it would appear that recalling governors is actually a rare action that doesn't happen all that much. Nevertheless:
Now originally I was a little skeptical. Yes we don’t like him, but can we recall him because he’s raising every tax and fee in town? Orville from CRG makes a compelling argument: Elections are for hiring, and Recalls are for firing.
So even though Randy, in the very first paragraph of his post points out that recalls, in fact, happen only very rarely (and presumably under extraordinary circumstances), he says in the very next graph that they are actually the appropriate tool for the job.

It's been like two months since the Recall Doyle folks (birthers among them) first announced this embarrassing spectacle, and there hasn't been a single signature collected to the best of anyone's knowledge: put up or shut up already.

Paul Esslinger Controls the Media (Part 3)

There appears to be no end to the number of constituents Paul Esslinger is trying to aggravate during his brief time in office. This far he has taken swipes at friends and supporters of Shirley Maddox and Karen Bowen and seems now dead set on pissing off downtown business owners.

Eventually, Esslinger is going to have to bring people to the table instead of just alienating them. He could get away with these kinds of stunts if he were just another member of the council where you can win a seat with around 30% of the total vote, but once he starts developing the reputation as being impulsively divisive, it's over.

Paul Esslinger Controls the Media (Part 2)

God help us all, but seven individuals have applied to fill the empty council seat and there appears to be two clear favorites: Steve Cummings and Larry Spanbauer.

We've noted before that Steve Cummings was probably not going to win over a majority of the Council fresh off the election, but now that he's positioned himself next to a few other applicants he probably has a better shot.

But now there's a intriguing detail thrown into the mix. Tacked onto the end of Spanbauer's application is a letter of recommendation from none other than Paul Esslinger ... seriously!

Spanbauer's served on the council before, so he can not exactly be accused of bringing a fresh voice to the council, but to flagrantly pander to a wing of the council in such a blatant way is really astonishing. Spanbauer's resume looks impressive by itself --the inclusion of Esslinger's letter essentially negates all of Spanbauer's previously mentioned qualifications and says through a Cheshire grin, "Yeah, here's how I'll vote!" Why in God's name would you make an appointment any more political than it already is?

If for no other reason than this silly mistake, appointing Spanbauer back to the council should be given a second thought. Unless more candidates submit their applications, get ready for the council to split into three minds over the appointment: two seats will favor Cummings, two seats will go for Spanbauer, and two seats will eventually make the call.

Paul Esslinger Controls the Media (Part 1)

There is no shortage of Esslinger-related news today and rather than just deluge readers with it in one big post I'm going to stagger over several. So without further ado...

Up first is the UW-O city services survey.

Now, before we get all excited about this survey vindicating certain opinions we may or may not have (a-hem...), let's take this thing with a grain of salt. There are numerous reasons to doubt that this is an accurate representation to the city. The number of returned surveys seems rather small and judging by the popularity of the Senior Center, I would gather that the respondent pool also skews a little on the older side. The questions leave much to be desired for as well, as they seem a bit nebulous.

So we should be right on board any paragraph that starts off: "Mayor Paul Esslinger said other parts of the survey seemed inconclusive," right? And we were ... but then we read the rest of it:
In particular, the survey noted that the majority of recipients either had no opinion on the Pollock Aquatic Center or gave it low marks. The survey also found that 78 percent of recipients did not have children.

"I don't know how to take that," he said.

Huh?

Of all the things that could be said about the survey the only thing the mayor could think of commenting on was the swimming pool?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Headlines of the Damned

Today's edition of Headlines of the Damned has been brought to you by the New York Post:


This has been another edition of Headlines of the Damned.

[via Deadspin]

So We're Calling Him the "North Side Strangler" Now?

I suppose we all owe WTMJ a debt of thanks for giving Wisconsin's latest serial killer a catchy nickname.

A few quick things:

  • I'm guessing that police departments don't just call press conferences all the time and say things like, "Yeah, there might be a serial killer roaming the streets" unless they're pretty sure that an actual serial killer is, you know, roaming the streets.
  • MPD obviously knows more than they're releasing to the public -- and I'm not just saying that because it seems like standard operating procedure in every serial killer movie ever made. This morning there were six victims and within hours a seventh turned up. I assume MPD will be announcing further connections to other cold cases as the investigation precedes.
  • It's all very Jack the Ripper-esque in so far as the victims are all prostitutes.
  • Remarkably little is being said about it in the Cheddarsphere. I've only encountered posts here, here, here and here -- and when folks are posting on it they aren't saying much, which seems kinda odd to me...
  • Color me a pessimist, but I can't help get the feeling that all of this will end very badly -- not just in terms of body count and whether the killer is actually ever found, but also on the social toll of the investigation.
  • Has there been a hunt for a serial killer during the internet age yet? If not, this could be interesting to see how it unfolds from a new media perspective.

Dean Kaufert (R - NIMBY)

Rep. Kaufert has a particularly shallow bill making its way through Madison banning Guantanamo Bay detainees from Wisconsin prisons unless -- hilariously -- they've broken Wisconsin law.

This will put him in direct conflict with Jonathan Krause, who thinks detainees belong in Wisconsin just to piss Sen. Feingold off.

But why not take in the detainees? Here in Wisconsin we now spend more money per annum on our corrections budget than we do the University of Wisconsin system and that's no small sum:
An analysis by the nonpartisan Council of State Governments Justice Center paints a bleak budgetary picture for Wisconsin corrections policy.

The Justice Center reports that from 1999 to 2009, the corrections budget grew from $700 million to $1.2 billion, a 71 percent increase. It projects that without a drastic change in corrections policies, Wisconsin will need $2.5 billion between 2009 and 2019 to reduce overcrowding and growth in prison population.
Everyone knows there's going to be a ton of federal money that comes with the detainees -- and according to one former governor it might be as much as $1 billion a year -- so why not bring them here? We've built all these prison beds, why not fill them with prisoners that can actually pay for them?

It's something to think about, especially since even if Kaufert succeeds in keeping the detainees out of Wisconsin, he might only be moving them across the border to the UP.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Release the Revisionists

If you haven't read the GQ evisceration of Donald Rumsfeld, dig in.

But when you're done stop on over to Philip Baruth's digs and soak up a very perceptive observation on the article's subtext:

But don’t be fooled for a minute: this is active Bush revisionism every bit as much as an attack piece aimed at Donald Rumsfeld.

We learn at the outset of the piece that it’s drawn from the sotto voce tattling of “more than a dozen Bush loyalists, including several former cabinet-level officials and senior military commanders,” and not surprisingly, Bush comes off as relatively decisive and relatively caring and smart.

[...]

Expect more of this, as the years go by. Katrina was Rumsfeld’s fault, and no doubt the torture memos and push will finally be ascribed almost entirely to Cheney. Condi and Colin will take the rap for the Middle East, and Greenspan for the economic meltdown.

Spare Us with the Term Limits Nonsense

The conversation regarding the replacement of several long-serving city board members by Mayor Esslinger -- at least at the NW forum -- has devolved into a discussion over term limits.

Let's make one thing perfectly clear: talking about term limits is nothing more than a distraction designed to shift the focus of Esslinger's mayoral fail to what some people see as a flaw in the system. Instead of examining the crass and transparently political way in which Esslinger is currently embarrassing himself and the city, his supporters are running around yelling, "It's not Paul, it's the system that's flawed!"

But based on the information available online (which is absurdly difficult to put together, by the way), that's just not true.

Despite making some 42 appointments and reappointments, Esslinger may still have not filled at least 3 seats on various city boards. Those vacancies are on the Board of Appeals (one seat), the Parking Utility Commission (one seat), and at least one seat (maybe two) on the Committee on Aging.

Why aren't these seats being filled first? Why are other people being pushed to the side when there are still empty spots that need to be filled?

The easy answer is that "No one's applied for them," but that's not acceptable in our book. Instead of replacing a pair of board members with considerable experience in city government with two comparatively unseasoned new guys, Esslinger should have filled the empty slots by recruiting for them. There's no reason Monte could not have spent some time on the Board of Zoning Appeals (or another board) before moving to the Plan Commission when a space became available.

Which brings us back to the absurdity of discussing term limits when there are vacancies on municipal boards. Simply put, there is just not the demand to justify putting term limits on boards. If folks are so desperate to serve the city, they should start on a board with openings. It doesn't matter if you are qualified to discuss Parking Utility issues -- you'll learn ... or you won't, and that will speak to your qualifications to sit on another board.

Let's just call this what this is: a shamelessly blatant attempt to remake the municipal board in Esslinger's own image. Screaming all this nonsense about term limits is not going to change that.

Michelle Monte: Not Helping Esslinger's Case Very Much

Michelle Monte jumped into the Appointmentgate fray yesterday offering this gem:
Look at the facts. Check the list of appointments. Check the list of current committee members. Mrs. Mattox is still on a committee where once she was on two. Having one person on multiple committees seems counterproductive to allowing as many as possible serve the community.
We took her advice and noticed that Esslinger actually appointed someone to the Plan Commission -- Robert Vajgrt -- whom he also reappointed to another board (the Police and Fire commission)!

Anyone care to explain that inconsistency?

Bunker Busted?

Widgerson points to a FoxNews piece on a possible Biden gaffe and while it's certainly a possibility, I'd throw a little more scrutiny on the graph in the Fox piece that reads:
The bunker is believed to be the secure, undisclosed location former Vice President Dick Cheney remained under protection in secret after the 9/11 attacks.
I'd put good money that the source for that belief is Stephen Hayes who said as much in a post at the Weekly Standard. Unfortunately, his determination that the bunker is classified works kind of like this:
*** Dick Cheney and me are tight
*** Cheney never mentioned the bunker to me before
*** Ergo, it must be classified
I'm sorry, but that's comically weak logic, even coming from Cheney's hagiographer. If Hayes had a source that told him the bunker was classified, that would be another thing, but therein lies a conundrum: wouldn't Hayes be just as guilty as Biden for independently confirming the existence of said bunker? So either Hayes is giving his readers a wink and a nod by providing them with a weak rationale or he's passing speculation off as fact.

Whatever is going on here it goes to show the prestidigitation that can occur throughout the media's game of blogger telephone.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Why is it that the Only People Making Reasonable Statements in this Article are the Students?


I do find it amusing that public schools have been known to have a difficult time getting rid of incompetent teachers, while private schools periodically can't seem to get rid of good teachers fast enough.

Insert your Dead Poets Society joke here.

Paul Esslinger, Oshkosh's Boss Hogg

Please read the NW's editorial today on Appointmentgate.

We're basically in complete agreement with one tiny exception: Esslinger isn't engaging in "Chicago politics." That's giving him too much credit. He's more like Boss Hogg, a bumbling fool who devotes the majority of his mental energy to concocting absurd schemes that seek to consildate power through minimal effort.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Smoking! Nudity! Kevin Fischer!

Kevin Fischer -- Franklin, Wisconsin's favorite factotum of frivolity -- has predictably been in high dudgeon over the smoking ban, reaching into his bag of cliches to present this worn and tired argument:
This is nuts, an overreaching bill that strips away individual and property rights and kills businesses and jobs.
And elsewhere:
For many, the prospect of banning smoking in PRIVATELY-OWNED bars and PRIVATELY-OWNED restaurants, no doubt, has them in absolute glee.
Got that? One problem: Fischer has no compunction stripping "away individual and property rights" when it's in a different context:
Like most small towns in the good ol’ U.S. of A., I’m sure Vassalboro is hurting for business and, let’s face it, excitement. What could little Vassalboro possibly do to help resolve both problems in one swift move? What would increase business, possibly tourism and create jobs and give the Vassalboro townsfolk something to buzz about?

Give up?

Try a topless coffee shop.

On January 6, 2008, after a three-hour meeting, the Vassalboro town planning board unanimously approved a proposal by local businessman Donald Crabtree to open a coffee shop featuring topless waitresses. The new venture, set to open as soon as next month, would be at the former Mac Daddy's Pub at the Fat Cat Grille (naturally) that has been vacant for over three years.

According to a published report, there would be “Topless service between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. to 25 tables arranged on a checkerboard floor behind blacked-out windows and a cordon of security.”

[...]

That must have been some meeting on January 6 when the planning board threw up their hands and proclaimed their hands were tied. Their weak defense was that they had no choice because there was no local ordinance prohibiting a topless coffee shop.

Well then, create one!

[...]

U
hh, excuse me. You did have a choice, especially considering that a crowd of up to 60 showed up at the meeting to oppose topless coffee. You could have, in the best interests of the town and in deference to the large crowd that attended your meeting voted………….
NO!

[...]

Townspeople in Vassalboro, as much as it might sting, you lost to a bunch of cowardly morons. A cup of coffee just isn’t worth it. Boycott the damn place, put it out of business, and then vote the el stupido’s out of office.
Just to recap:
Smoking in a private establishments = valiant defense of personal liberty.

Toplessness in equally private establishments = an affront to American Decency.
(And while we're equivocating, here's another slice of Fischerian wisdom:
1 pair of bare breasts behind the blackened windows of a private establishment = an affront to American Decency

281 pairs of barely covered breasts on parade = Awesome!
Moving on ...)

Thankfully, Fischer's credibility as a public health expert is about as air tight as his ideological consistency in this matter and no one takes him very seriously except for like-minds he presumably whips up into a berserker rampage, but the next time Fischer brings out the old "defense of property rights" hobby horse, kindly remind him that he's full of shit.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Paul Esslinger, A Real Class Act

A few points on Paul Esslinger's essential dismissal of Ted Bowen and Shirley Maddox from their respects seats on two city boards ...
  • 1.) It was handled in the completely classless way that we should expect from Esslinger.
Maddox and Bowen have both devoted decades to serving the city in various capacities and essentially fall under the category of local "elder statesmen" -- not "good old boys," mind you, but people who have devoted a great deal of time and energy to making this city a better place. Regardless of what anyone may think of their positions on issues, there is little doubt they arrive at them from a sincere desire to make Oshkosh a better place.

Folks like that are very rare in any city and when the time comes for them to move on they deserve to be honored, or at least thanked, for their service. The article makes it clear that neither of them were ready to move on. Now, as it is the mayor's prerogative to appoint people to various city boards, Esslinger has ever right not to re-appoint Bowen and Maddox, but when one does so to people with long records of service a little decorum is required. Esslinger clearly doesn't understand that.

What he should have done was express his intentions to both Bowen and Maddox and seek their input on possible successors. Then when the time came to make the changes public, he should have released a statement thanking the two of them for their service. I'm not suggesting Esslinger give them the keys to the City, but a "thank you" was the very least he could have done ... and I mean the absolute minimum.

By the way, this "screw you" attitude Esslinger is so fabulously demonstrating is a significant reason why numerous businesses have decided not to set up stakes in Oshkosh. I'm not saying Esslinger is directly responsible for losing businesses, but his classlessness is indicative of an attitude that has permeated local government and cost the city dearly over the years. How we treat ourselves is usually a reflection of how we treat others and there's no incentive for City Hall to change it's ways when the guy in charge lacks any degree of tact whatsoever.
  • 2.) Esslinger's rationale for the move is equally oblivious.
Here's what Hizzoner had to say about his motives:
“I want to see some debate,” Esslinger said. “I want to see some real debate on issues and not just rubber stamps.”
Get used to that phrase, Oshkosh, because you're going to be hearing it a lot. Esslinger could have said "fresh ideas," "new blood," or even "contrarian views." Instead he said "debate," which is to say he just wants people that will argue -- not produce their own ideas or solutions -- just argue. He wants "obstructionists," you could say.

What makes this stranger is that Bowen was actually the last thing from a rubber stamp during his time on the Parks board. In fact, Bowen was arguably the most "conservative" member of the board. I use "conservative" in the old fashioned sense that he was extremely resistant to change. There were a ton of very popular initiatives that Bowen opposed much to the frustration of other members of the board. By Esslinger's own definition Bowen is the kind of person he should want sitting on the board. While not quite the contrarian Bowen was, Maddox always did her due diligence and had valid reasons for voting the way she did. Her famously sunny disposition, enthusiasm and optimism were also a valuable asset in a town that is typically dour and pessimistic when it comes to things like development.

So when Esslinger implies that Bowen and Maddox are "rubber stamps" he's basically saying that they are either too stupid to know how to arrive at decisions on their own or, even worse, are being manipulated by forces unseen. It's a pretty odious insult to levy on a pair that have served the city honorably and selflessly for a long time.
  • 3.) Of course it was politically motivated!
Here's when small town politics starts becoming personal -- more like hand-to-hand combat than an exchange of artillery fire. In fact, it's not so much personal as it is downright incestuous.

Bowen's biggest problem isn't his record of service, which as we noted above would appear to be exactly what Esslinger is looking for. It's his wife, school board member Karen Bowen. In certain quarters of Oshkosh, Mrs. Bowen has the reputation for being a bra-burning feminist commie hellbent on raising your tax dollars to indoctrinate your children with atheism or maybe witchcraft (or something). Those who see her as such, probably voted for Paul Esslinger. Getting rid of Mr. Bowen isn't about losing a "rubber stamp;" it's about sticking it to Mrs. Bowen and her supporters, who -- let's be honest here -- probably did not vote for Paul Esslinger.

There's another complication to all of this. One of Karen Bowen's ideological antitheses on the school board is Michelle Monte, part of a husband/wife team that has tied their political fortunes with Esslinger's for some years now. I'm not suggesting that there was a conspiracy between the Montes and Esslinger to boot Bowen from the parks board (that would take a degree of planning that, frankly, I don't think they're capable of), but I am saying that they are smart enough to realize that what's good for one half of the team is good for the other and that Esslinger, to his Machiavellian credit, seized on an opportunity when he was presented with it.

If all of this sounds a little too petty to be believed, just consider this: Bowen's replacement on the Parks board will be Bob Freid, whose record of public service (according to Google, in any event) is rather sparse, save only a public endorsement of ... you got it: Michelle Monte for School Board.

Kent Monte's role in this drama is a bit different. According to one of the comments on the NW thread (so take it with a grain of salt) he served as Esslinger's "campaign manager" or whatever. There's good reason to believe that Kent and Esslinger are of the same mind on a lot of issues, which would make him a good proxy for Paul. As it would happen, Esslinger is no longer allowed to sit on the Planning Commission now that he's Mayor, so there's just such an opening ready to be filled by just such a person.

And as luck would have it, Esslinger's departure coincides with the end of another member's term. During her time on the common council Shirley Maddox came to be identified with the -- ooooohhh, what ridiculous cliche would the Northwestern use that does the city no good and only serves to inflame divisions? oh, yeah -- "wine and cheese" crowd. By replacing her with Monte, Esslinger is pretty obviously throwing a bone to his base, which apparently exists at the opposite end of the Nebulously Defined Socioeconomic Foodstuffs Strata.
  • 4.) Why this is an indication of poor leadership.
As mayor, Esslinger is going to presumably have to work with people who disagree with him on various issues. In other words, Esslinger will not always have the luxury of simply appointing like-minded cronies to positions when they are held by people of a different opinion. If he can't get his way in the future, as is inevitable, how will he react?

The smart money is on "not well," but I'm going to put all my chips on "by taking his ball and going home."
  • 5.) Here's the thing: On one level this is just politics ... but on another, it's not.
Every new "executive" is going to appoint people he knows and trusts to positions that fall under his or her purview. The dirty little secret about the federal government is that there are probably thousands of people around the country who can successfully be the Secretary of the Interior, but the President is going to pick someone from that pool that he knows and trusts.

That's not necessarily "dirty politics" or a quid pro quo so much as responsible team building. You can get away with that at the federal and even state level, but not in a city like Oshkosh. We're too small and the talent pool is too shallow. Appointments start to become crooked when people are provided positions of power who aren't competent and/or when they replace people who are for politically motivated reasons. Time will tell if the former is true, but the current circumstance certainly suggest the latter is the case.

While there is definitely a dispassionate political angle to all of this, one that the current mayor clear understands, there is another that Esslinger seems hopelessly oblivious to: Politics is as much about common courtesy as it is about cold-blooded wrangling. That's a concept a classless boor like Esslinger clearly has no comprehension of and we're the poorer for it as a city.
  • 5.) Don't plan on seeing a new council member any time soon.
This is exactly the reason why we urged as much transparancy as humanly possibly during the selection of the next council member.

This is the first of what will surely be a long and distinguished line of Esslinger instigated distractions that will take the focus off of the real issues. If the council has to devote a ton of time to fixing appointments to boards, it certainly won't have the capacity to refill it's own bench. Actually, now the council must fix this mess before moving on to selecting a new member precisely because Esslinger has diminished the council's ability to make appointments by calling into question at least one member's ability to do so in good faith.

Bra. Vo.
  • 6.) Hey Northwestern, why not include a list of all the appointments Esslinger is submitting to the council?
Just a thought, it seems like it would be relevant to the story. [MORE: They've added a link since last I checked.]
  • 7.) There is every reason to believe this is how Paul Esslinger is going to behave throughout the rest of his term as Mayor.
Here it all is in a nut shell, folks. This is the kind of unforced error we should all get used to because we've seen it time and time again from Esslinger and he never quite seems to learn from his mistakes.

Now the question becomes: will the voters in Oshkosh eventually learn from theirs?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

"The most selfless act imaginable"

Take it away, crazy-ass Barbara Lyons:
"In the most selfless act imaginable, numbers of Notre Dame seniors are boycotting their own commencement because of the appearance of President Obama and the university’s decision to give Obama an honorary degree."
Call me old fashioned, but I can image many other acts of selflessness that quiet honestly, put this small act of protest to shame. In fact, I have seen acts of selflessness profoundly more noble committed by wingmen at bars than what a few members of the ND student body and faculty are planning on doing next weekend.

Just off the top of my head, here are a few example of acts that I'm sure many folks would deem far more selfless:
  • Actually going to a graduation ceremony. These things are interminable, boring, and basically not worth going to in the first place. Boycotting a graduation ceremony is essentially on par with boycotting a root canal without anesthesia.
  • Cooking diner for a friend. Food tastes better when the special ingredient is love, bitches.
  • Stopping to help a complete stranger change a tire in the rain. Major brownie points to all you awesome souls who've pulled this one off.
  • Which brings me to what is actually the most selfless act imaginable:


You'd think someone like Lyons would know better ... or, then again, probably not.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Where's the Riot -- I Was Told There Was Going to be a Riot?

Kids these days...

Used to be that 65 underage drinking citations were cause enough for a good old fashioned riot in this town, but, alas, no longer.

Just in case the current crop of UW-O students has forgotten the proud tradition of drunk and disorderly mobs vengefully roaming the streets following busted parties on Amherst Street they swore to uphold when they matriculated to this fine institution, here's a reminder:



Couldn't you all have at least turned over a dumpster or something?

Class dismissed.

Sean Hackbarth Must Answer for his Viral Video Sins

Did anyone at Republican.Senate.Gov actually expect folks to take this shit seriously?



Carmina Burana?

I enjoyed many a hardy laughter...

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Smoking Bans and Social Contracts

I'm having a very hard time sympathizing with opponents of the new smoking ban compromise, especially the crowd who have taken up the "Our Liberty is under attack!" line of argument. These cases usually come in the form of a cocktail mixed with economic impact assertions and the specter of Big Government looming over the masses ready to crack down on individual liberties at the first chance. This is all nonsense and simplifies the most important balancing act faced by any democratic society: the conflict between the rights of the individual and will of the people.

So let's forget about the economics of tavern ownership and the public health ramifications of second hand smoke for a moment and look at one of the anti-ban arguments:
This constant, ever-creeping control over more and more of our lives is a bad trend. This smoking ban is done to save us from ourselves.

[...]

It's all about saving us from ourselves, because they know better.
The italicized they (from the original) above is presumably the government, or more specifically the State of Wisconsin (though I'd be willing to agree it's nebulous enough to admit several readings). Unfortunately that's only half the story here.

It's not just the government that wants to ban smoking, but it's also a vast majority of the people. Last year a poll registered support for a smoking ban at almost 70% (we'll get to the attendant caveats about said poll below). That number has been growing over the years. Typically when public support for an issue is that high, interest groups start to rally support and put pressure on law-makers to take action.

And therein lies the conflict. There's been serious talk of a smoking ban in Wisconsin for around a decade now and during that time the balance between the rights of smokers to light up in bars has been weighed against a desire by the majority of the public to see a smoking ban. Wisconsin is now clearly at the point where an ever increasing majority of people are unwilling to continue to abide the habits of an ever decreasing portion of the population. That's not robbing folks of their liberties -- that's just part of the social contract members of a democratic society live under.

Now if there is any suspicion that the elected officials who brokered the smoking ban deal are, in fact, not acting in response to their constituents and are just doing this "because they know better," then the burden of proof is on the accuser. Where are the polls that show overwhelming public support against smoking bans? The poll cited above came from the American Cancer Society, which has a dog in this fight to be sure, but where is the public opinion argument coming from the anti-ban folks? And to anticipate the standard arguments about polling, etc. -- let's put it this way: is there anyone against the smoking ban who would put the matter to a statewide winner-take-all referendum? Probably not.

Social mores change -- and right now, thanks to decades of scientific studies and recent smoking bans elsewhere in the country, the vast majority of people in Wisconsin are arriving at the conclusion that smoking in bars is no longer an acceptable practice. They're coming to this conclusion at a time when the state legislature is agreeing with them, the state executive is on board, and the state courts don't have any problem with the change (all of which are institutions designed to hold in check the various "tyrannies of the majority").

To say that this the hijacking of "basic rights" is absurd. Over the course of a long period of time the state has weighed the balance between the will of the people to enact a smoking ban and the "rights" of the impacted individuals. That's how the system works.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Monday, May 4, 2009

Wherein We Help Jonathan Krause with His Math Skills

Jonathan Krause decided to waste his readers time this morning by bitching about a proposed tax increase that will not get anywhere to begin with, the beer tax. No matter what one thinks about the proposal, Krause walks straight into a rake at the very beginning of his argument:

Let's consider these arguments one by one. So what if the beer tax hasn't gone up since 1969? Do all taxes have to increase every year? We haven't raised the state portion of the sales tax since the early 1980's. I don't hear a lot of talk around Madison to boost that sucker every budget cycle--although it would be the best source of revenue generation the state can expect to get this time around.
Let's help Krause out with this one...

The beer tax is set at a fixed price per unit. Right now it stands at 6¢ per gallon or $2 a barrel (or 0.6¢ per bottle). It's been that way since 1969. So when I bought a six-pack of beer in 1969 I was paying 3.6¢ in beer taxes, which is exactly the same as I would be paying for the same six-pack today.Say I paid 90¢ for a six-pack of beer in 1969. That means about 4% of the price of that beer covered state beer tax in 1969.

Let's fast forward a bit to 1985. The same six-pack of beer I paid 90¢ for in 1969 now costs $2.50. The state beer tax is the same -- 0.6¢ a bottle -- but now the state only recoups only 1.44% of the cost of the same product. Today that same six-pack likely costs $5.00, of which only 0.72% of the cost is taxes.

So by indexing the beer tax to a unit of beer, instead of the cost of the unit, the state ends up collecting only about 20% of what it collected when the tax was implemented in 1969 on account of inflation. That figure probably has a lot to do with why Berceau wants to increase the tax fivefold.

The state sales tax, on the other hand, was probably the most ridiculous example Krause could have choosen to make his point. The sales tax is a percentage of the total cost of something -- 5%. So that six-pack I bought in 1985 for $2.50 would have cost me an additional 12.5¢ in state sale's tax. That same six-pack, which today costs me $5.oo, will cost me an additional 25¢ in sales tax even though the tax hasn't been increased since the early '80s.

That's a large part why policy folks don't talk about raising the sales tax lightly. It largely maintains itself with respect to inflation because it's a fixed percentage. It's also incredibly regressive and applies to just about every purchase made in the state. When a sales tax goes up, everything gets more expensive, not just beer.

Now, that's just the actual mathematics (and the elementary kind, at that) of Krause's "argument." Evidently not one for details, he continues down the boorish chest beating path we'd typically expect from him by proposing a mass "tea bagging" of the bill's sponsor:
Since we taxpayers are getting fed up with all of this new government spending--and tax increases--we have new protests to take up. Here is Representative Berceau's e-mail address:
mailto:rep.berceau@legis.state.wi.us Let her know you do not support raising the beer tax--just to raise the beer tax. Or you could take the more creative approach that I am considering: Save all of you beer bottle caps this week--and send them all to Reprentative Berceau. It would be like the "Tea Party" teabag protests last month--but with a beverage that tastes a whole lot better.
You know, because nothing says "My opinion is important, rational and considerate" by starting off a letter saying "I drank this many beers!" It's a marvel this guy's policy advice isn't taken more seriously.

I'm guessing there are about 40 beer bottle caps currently in my garbage (we had people over this weekend to grill out). By my estimation, it would cost about a dollar in postage to send those caps to Madison. Personally, I'd rather use that buck to pay the beer tax on an additional 16.6667 gallons of beer.

We here at the Chief aren't fans of the proposed beer tax hike, but we don't let it worry us because it's essentially a nothing issue:
Last year, just two of 132 other lawmakers joined with Risser and Berceau to co-sponsor the bill.

Doyle told Berceau a month ago that he still opposed the tax increase. Senate Majority Leader Sen. Russ Decker, D-Weston, also would prefer not to raise the beer tax, said his spokeswoman Carrie Lynch.
But we encourage folks out there to continue to act like dicks stay envolved in their government anyway.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

The Literary Estate of Saul Alinsky Would Like to Thank the Wisconsin GOP for Thier Ongoing Support


No matter much I enjoy reading a tweet such as the above, it surely pales in comparison to the enjoyment Alinsky himself would have received.

MORE: Three guesses as to who is in charge of the WisGOP Twitter account...

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Friday, May 1, 2009

More from the Annals of American Cinema: 1970s Edition

Jay Bullock decided to indulge us in our film discussion by lending arguing that that the best year for American cinema in the last 20 years was 1971!

But, what the hell -- we'll roll with it!

We're going to change the ball field a little bit, and instead of working with films from the '90s and 2000s, we'll just look at the years that comprised the 1970s.

The 1970s is probably the single most revolutionary decade in American film and also one of the hardest to evaluate on a year-by-year basis because the common themes throughout the movies of the decade tended not to change as rapidly as they have of late. It was also a decade dominated by the first generation of film-makers who actually grew up watching movies and then went to film school. Another not insignificant quality of the decade was that it was heavily influenced by the French New Wave Cinema of the '60s and those fingerprints can be seen on most of the best films of the era.

That being said, Bullock makes a good case for 1971 -- though we feel obligated to gently chide him for omitting Shaft -- the epitome of Blaxplotation films -- and Bedknobs and Broomsticks (mostly because we here at the Chief are huge Angela Lansbury fans. Seriously, the woman can act the hell out of whatever she was doing. Broadway, film, TV, voice over for animation -- and her portrayal of Mrs. Iselin in the Manchurian Candidate is the arguable the best villain to come out of Hollywood. We'll put Iselin next to Hannibal Lecter any day.)

But at the end of the day, we're going to have to disagree with him and go with 1972. And there are basically five reasons for this, which we'll list here in order of least importance to most:

5.) Last House on the Left: One of the first horror films (that I can think of at any rate -- it's not a genre I'm terribly fond of) that inverts the roles of the good guys and the bad guys and asks the audience to question who the sickest characters in the movie are: the hippie drifters who murder the two girls or the the girls' parents who get their revenge? Testing the bounds of sympathy and questioning who the real monsters are in the film have been hallmarks of great horror movies ever since.

4.) The Poseidon Adventure: While by no means the first "disaster film," it was certainly the first blockbuster disaster film and Hollywood's been treating audiences to at least one big budget mega-disaster film on an annual basis ever since. The disaster films of the '70s also served as precursors to the big-budget summer action, adventure and science fiction blockbusters that followed.

3.) Deliverance: Something that usually gets lost in the describing of this film is how it functions like an inversion of Huck Finn's rafting trip down the Mississippi River -- only this was a nightmarish canoe trip into the heart of Appalachia. This would be a common theme throughout most of the great movies of the '70s (especially the early half of the decade): the examination of the dark side of the American Experience, Mythology and Dream.

2.) The Godfather. Enough said

And the number one reason why 1972 was the best year for American film during the 1970s -- which sure as hell better be a good reason, since the frickin' Godfather is at #2:

1.) Sex

In a lot of ways 1972 is to American movies like Sigmund Freud was to Victorian Society. While the topic had been discussed in films to increasingly more detailed degrees in the years that preceded '72, this was the year that the door to bedroom was finally thrown open. Sex was not only treat brutal and dark ways (see nos. 5 and 3), but in, shall we say, "non-traditional" ways in John Water's Pink Flamingos. Yet it was The Last Tango in Paris that really addressed the issue in graphic and explicit -- and yet very emotional and psychological -- detail.

Also, 1972 was the year that Deep Throat and Behind the Green Door were released, two films that did more to bring pornography into the mainstream than anything before or since (save only the internet).

For better and for worse, American movies have been much more frank about their discussion of sex in terms of subject matter, dialog and, of course, photography since '72. Film makers no longer had to use symbolism and metaphor to describe sex -- and, in fact, were now able to use sex as a symbol and/or metaphor for other things. This didn't just happen in one fell swoop in the middle of the summer of '72 -- it took decades of incremental progress -- but 1972 was the year that all of that pushing and nudging of the boundaries of acceptable taste finally reached a climax (as it were).

There really is no end to this debate. Like we said above -- the 70's were an incredibly influential period for American movies. In so many ways it really established a model for the explosion of independent films in the 1990s (as the Brawler pointed out in the comments to the last post). We'd be happy to hear any other arguments for any other years from the decade or, hell, any other.

Infamous Thommy Thompson Trial Balloon Sighted Somewhere Over La Crosse ...

... and just in time for the state GOP convention, too -- how convenient!