I Want to Save a Child's Sight!

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Hilarious or Ironic?

This has to be one of the funniest (ok, most ironic) headlines I have ever read:

"Bush to Say 'America Is Addicted to Oil' in Speech" or "Bush Will Urge End To Oil Addiction" [NYT] [Yahoo] [CNN]

"President Bush plans to tell Americans tonight that they must not retreat from challenges at home and abroad, that they make the economy of the United States the best in the world, but that they must break a national "addiction" to oil." And "America is addicted to oil, which is often imported from unstable parts of the world. ... The best way to break this addiction is through technology," Bush will say."

A noble goal to be sure...but, what has Bush done except the OPPOSITE of this statement??? Isn't that the "junk science" that Bush has been touting for the last five years?

All the more reason why we should be a wary audience for the State of the Union tonight.

Excerpt: "When President Bush gives his State of the Union address tonight, expect to hear a renewed call for setting the administration's first-term tax cuts in concrete, combined with warnings that letting the cuts expire would retard economic growth. Nothing could be further from the truth."

"As proof of tax cuts' ability to spur the economy, Mr. Bush generally cites productivity growth, job creation and the rise in personal income. Productivity has indeed been stellar, and supply-siders claim that is because tax cuts have led to investment, which led to higher productivity. But business investment has been flat for five years. Meanwhile, the benefits of productivity growth have been concentrated among the wealthy. So tax cuts haven't unleashed investment, but they have contributed to inequality."

Breaking: Concealed Weapons Veto Override Falls Short

Score one for common sense:

"The state Assembly today came up short in its attempt to override Gov. Jim Doyle’s veto of a measure that would have allowed residents to carry concealed weapons. The 64-to-32 vote was a boost to Doyle, who mustered enough support from fellow Democrats to fend off a veto override on the measure for a second time. All Republicans voted for the override; they were joined by Democratic Reps. Barbara Gronemus of Whitehall, Mary Hubler of Rice Lake, Marlin Schneider of Wisconsin Rapids and Amy Sue Vruwink of Milladore." [JSOnline]

The United States of Discord

Tonight, Bush will stand before the nation at 8 PM CST and tell us that he has no new ideas on how to fix the problems that face this once-great nation.

Yes, that's right...we will hear the exact same rhetoric that we've been hearing since the 2004 election season began. We will hear about making his 2001 and 2003 tax cuts for the wealthy permanent. We will hear about the state of health care, and how we must dismantle Medicare/Medicaid because it is a social program and too expensive. We will hear about Social Security, and how his private accounts will do nothing to create long-term solvency. We will hear that the war in Iraq will go on forever, and more of our brave service men and women will go on dying and being maimed for a pack of lies.

Topics that Bush will cover, and links:

Here's what Xoff thinks about what Bush will say on Healthcare.
Jeff Hall has a hilarious (and sadly true) cartoon.
The Amtal Rule on Healthcare: We're broke!
The Center for American Progress: What Bush Will Say, What You Should Know. They have great reviews on such topics as:
-Alternative Energy
-Warrantless Domestic Spying
-Making Tax Cuts Permanent
-Katrina Reconstruction
-Healthcare and HSA

Monday, January 30, 2006

Virtual Confirmation

By a vote of 72-25, the Senate voted to cloture today, virtually assuring that Samuel Alito will receive confirmation to the Supreme Court tomorrow.

"Some Democrats and at least one Republican who voted to end debate are certain to oppose the nominee in the actual confirmation vote on Tuesday. But since only a simple majority is required for confirmation, Samuel Alito could be a member of the Supreme Court by Tuesday afternoon." [NYT]

"In the end, only 24 of the chamber's 44 Democrats went along with the filibuster, a maneuver allowed under Senate rules to block a vote by extending debate indefinitely. It was also supported by the chamber's lone independent, Sen. Jim Jeffords of Vermont." [CNN]

"Now, on the eve of what is expected to be the Senate confirmation of Judge Alito to the Supreme Court, coming four months after Chief Justice Roberts was installed, those planners stand on the brink of a watershed for the conservative movement. In 1982, the year after Mr. Alito first joined the Reagan administration, that movement was little more than the handful of legal scholars who gathered at Yale for the first meeting of the Federalist Society, a newly formed conservative legal group. Judge Alito's ascent to join Chief Justice Roberts on the court "would have been beyond our best expectations," said Spencer Abraham, one of the society's founders, a former secretary of energy under President Bush and now the chairman of the Committee for Justice, one of many conservative organizations set up to support judicial nominees." [NYT]

So, here we are...ready to give another Bush nominee a free pass to a LIFETIME appointment. The jury is still out on Roberts, but while he was accomplished, Alito is anything but. He has proven himself to be an ideologue. Then you've got Senators like Herb Kohl. You sir, are a tool. You leave me breathless with disappointment. Even if you vote against confirmation tomorrow, you are still a complete disappointment.

Score another rubber-stamp victory for Bush.

Friday, January 27, 2006

If Not Now, When?

Show some backbone!

While John Kerry (yes, that very same John Kerry) tried to rally the dems to filibuster Judge Samuel Alito, 4 TRAITORS to the cause put a severe damper on the fire.

"The three Democrats who have said they will vote for Judge Alito are Robert Byrd of West Virginia, Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Tim Johnson of South Dakota. And a fourth, Kent Conrad of North Dakota, said today after meeting again with the nominee that he is "leaning in favor" of him and does not want a filibuster." [NYT]

41 votes are needed to sustain a filibuster, but if Conrad defects to the dark side, then that would put the republicans at 60, which would be enough to force a vote. Harry Reid has come out against Alito, but also against a filibuster. I have to agree with Kerry on this one, if not now, when? We can't afford to worry about some other upcoming battle to use the filibuster. We need to use it now. If Alito gets onto the court, he could turn this country back to a time when rights were just words, not actions. Didn't we install Harry Reid as Senate Minority Leader so that he could help us stand up and fight, to give us a voice? That voice is drowned out, lost in the wilderness. Dems are afraid of the political cost of such a battle, and what it might do to November election prospects. I think the American people might just respect their tenacity and willingness to stand their ground. Then again, with the press against them, that's a mighty mountain to climb.

For extra reading, try "Senators in Need of a Spine" from the NYT. "Judge Samuel Alito Jr., whose entire history suggests that he holds extreme views about the expansive powers of the presidency and the limited role of Congress, will almost certainly be a Supreme Court justice soon. His elevation will come courtesy of a president whose grandiose vision of his own powers threatens to undermine the nation's basic philosophy of government — and a Senate that seems eager to cooperate by rolling over and playing dead. It is hard to imagine a moment when it would be more appropriate for senators to fight for a principle. Even a losing battle would draw the public's attention to the import of this nomination."

"Senate Democrats, who presented a united front against the nomination of Judge Alito in the Judiciary Committee, seem unwilling to risk the public criticism that might come with a filibuster — particularly since there is very little chance it would work. Judge Alito's supporters would almost certainly be able to muster the 60 senators necessary to put the nomination to a final vote. A filibuster is a radical tool. It's easy to see why Democrats are frightened of it. But from our perspective, there are some things far more frightening. One of them is Samuel Alito on the Supreme Court."

Well said...

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price

"Now the Lorbeckis, like small-business owners across the nation, struggle each year with double-digit increases in health insurance premiums for their full-time workers. Spending thousands of dollars each month to insure their employees is the right thing to do, Patti Lorbecki said. So it irks her to see a big company such as Wal-Mart fall short in doing the same, forcing some of its employees and their families to get health care through government programs."

"I certainly want to pay for our employees' health care benefits, but I'll be darned if I have to pay for Wal-Mart's, too," said Lorbecki. "Why should small-business people have to foot the bill for someone who is making millions and millions in profit?" she asked." [JSOnline]

There's been much ado made in the news these past few weeks about Wal-Mart and it's health insurance/benefits offerings for it's employees. I'll be upfront, I have not shopped at Wal-Mart in a very long time, and I refuse to do so in the future. I believe that Wal-Mart embodies all that is going wrong with big business in America today. From what I understand, the "average" Wal-Mart employee makes approximately $10/hour, or under $21,000/year. They purport that 86% of their employees have insurance...but that includes insurance obtained by spouses and those on Medicare and Medicaid.

Many media outlets keep spreading the false claims that "Wal-Mart employees are only slightly more likely to collect Medicaid than the average among the nation's large retailers." Maryland just took a big step forward by passing a bill requiring large firms like Wal-Mart to pay their fair share, or 8% of their payroll on employee health insurance, or they must pay the difference into Maryland's health care program for the poor. [MediaMatters]

Here's the Wal-Mart Benefits Memo: My favorite paragraph:
"Wal-Mart’s healthcare benefit is one of the most pressing reputation issues we face because well-funded, well-organized critics, as well as state government officials, are carefully scrutinizing Wal-Mart’s offering. Moreover, our offering is vulnerable to at least some of their criticisms, especially with regard to the affordability of coverage and Associates’ reliance on Medicaid."

So, what do we do about it? Will State laws or increased regulation force them to pay more for their employees wages and well-being? No. I believe the only answer is to convince others to stop shopping there...hit them where it hurts, and force them to listen to what these "well-organized critics" are actually saying about employee benefits.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Quotable Doyle

"The bill does not create a single job, help a single Wisconsin citizen afford health care or improve schools for a single Wisconsin child. The Legislature should spend more time trying to get jobs into our communities instead of more guns." -Gov. Jim Doyle on the Concealed Carry Weapons law, which he vetoed on Friday.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Drinking Liberally on Television

For any that may have missed it, here is the clip (Quicktime Required) of Drinking Liberally on TMJ-4, this past Tuesday night.

Overall, I thought they did an alright job on the segment. They didn't paint us as loonies or anything, and tried to tell people who we are.

I second Scott in saying a big THANK YOU to Club Garibaldi. We couldn't have done it without your wonderful hospitality!

Special thanks to Scott and Scott!

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Home Brewing

Tomorrow, I will embark on a new chapter in my life, brewing my own beer.

I got a kit from my parents for Christmas, complete with everything necessary to make my own beer, from the House of Homebrew. They gave me a kit to make an Irish Stout, my favorite style of beer. (Is there a bad kind of beer???)

Basically, what I have to do it boil everything together for an hour, then cool it down. Once at about 80 degrees, I have to put it in the "Ale Pails" that came with the kit, and let it ferment with the yeast for a week. Then, next Sunday, I will siphon the beer from the pails into bottles, and that will then sit and age/bottle-condition for 4 weeks before it is ready to consume. It will make 5 gallons of beer, or roughly 2 cases. The only thing I need yet are some sturdy bottles, since bottle caps and the bottle capper came with the kit.

If anyone out there has any advice or tips, they are most welcome. This is something that I've wanted to try for a long time, and I can't wait to see how the stout turns out!

Friday, January 13, 2006

Blogroll Update

Inspired by the warmer than normal weather, I decided to do a bit of EARLY spring cleaning. I've added several new blogs, that should have been on here a long time ago including:

The Amtal Rule
Left on the Lake
Crawford's Take
Leaning Blue

and an updated link for Eye on Wisconsin

I also updated some of the normal Politics and Reference links.

I apologize if I missed anyone...drop me a line if you want in!

Thursday, January 12, 2006

In His Own Words

"Some commentators are complaining that Judge Samuel Alito Jr.'s confirmation hearings have not been exciting, but they must not have been paying attention. We learned that Judge Alito had once declared that Judge Robert Bork - whose Supreme Court nomination was defeated because of his legal extremism - "was one of the most outstanding nominees" of the 20th century. We heard Judge Alito refuse to call Roe v. Wade "settled law," as Chief Justice John Roberts did at his confirmation hearings. And we learned that Judge Alito subscribes to troubling views about presidential power." [NYT]

Never mind any concerns over his record, he is still headed toward confirmation.

"Several committee Democrats made it clear they were not inclined to vote for Alito, including Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts and Charles Schumer of New York. After four days of hearings, there are "even more questions about Judge Alito's commitment to the fairness and equality for all," Kennedy said. The Democrats repeatedly attacked Alito's decisions as a judge on the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and his writings while a lawyer for the Reagan administration — including a 1985 statement saying the Constitution did not protect the right to an abortion — and they highlighted his membership in an organization that discouraged the admission of women and minorities at Princeton University." [Yahoo]

A lot has been written about Judge Alito, not all of it fair. But, this man is seemingly a wolf in sheep's clothing. When asked about his previous experience, he hid. When asked about his membership in "Concerned Alumni of Princeton - a group whose offensive views about women, minorities and AIDS victims were discussed in greater detail at yesterday's hearing - is also deeply troubling, as is his unconvincing claim not to remember joining it." What else is he hiding?

There is no vote more important than that for a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court (except a vote for war). Let's hope our Senators slow down and make the educated choice, not the rushed, partisan one.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

The Return of the Ben

Yes folks, that is correct, I will be returning to Drinking Liberally this week! And not only because I got this from Scott:

Milwaukee Liberal Drinkers:

Let me get right to the point. This coming Wednesday, January 11th, is Drinking Liberally night again, but this one is a special one. WTMJ-4, the Milwaukee NBC affiliate television station, is sending out a camera crew to talk to us. Yes - we will be on TV!

Jason, Stacie and myself are asking you to come and REPRESENT! This is our chance to get our message out and attract even more people to our get-togethers.

If you have never come to Drinking Liberally this is the perfect time to introduce yourself. Remember, there are no dues or fees, there is no ideology to subscribe to, no candidates to endorse and no speechmaking. Drinking Liberally is a social event, designed for left-leaning locals to get together and chat about whatever they feel like. So bring a friend and come raise a glass with us on Wednesday.

Drinking Liberally meets from 7 p.m. to whenever at CLub Garibaldi, 2501 S. Superior Street in Bay View. There's a map on our web site: http://milwaukee.drinkingliberally.org
See you there!

I very much look forward to seeing you all again!

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Corruption is My Co-Pilot

Corruption is everywhere in US politics. But while it took 30 years for the Democratic Party to give in to corruption, it took the Republicans less than 10. We are now mired in scandals of Government that rival, and exceed, any other period of our government.

"The media is falling all over itself to portray former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R) as a saint for publicly saying he is "outraged" over the GOP's corruption scandals. Incredibly, almost no one has noted that it was Gingrich who was the architect of the "K Street Project" and the systems of corruption that have taken over politics. Perhaps even worse, it was Gingrich who was the key figure in helping a guy named Jack Abramoff ascend to prominence as a lobbyist and vote-buying artist in the first place. So how come the media is allowing Gingrich - who is gearing up for a run for president - to get away with playing Mr. Clean?" [Sirota]

Here is Gingrich's quote about the Abramoff scandal: "I think as this thing unfolds, it'll be so disgusting, and the Republicans will be under such pressure from their base, that they will have to undertake substantial reform," said Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker (who himself had to pay $300,000 to settle a 1997 ethics case). "This is like Watergate." [NYT]

The keys to the Republican party have been handed over to a partisan minorty composed of the rapture-right christians and those with severe ethics issues. Those are the spokespersons for this party, people like James Dobson, Tom DeLay, Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, Dick Cheney, and those of that ilk. You've got someone like Pat Robertson that believes that "Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's stroke was divine retribution for the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza." Maybe it was the fact that he weighs 300 pounds, is 77 years old, and has a LOT of job related stress. Strange. [CNN] [MediaMatters with VIDEO]

Looking on the bright side, at least DeLay won't be the House Majority Leader anymore! He states: "Mr. DeLay said he had "always acted in an ethical manner within the rules of our body and the laws of our land." [Yahoo] Ummm...sure you did. I think he also has a bridge for sale.

The Democrats state that they want a sweeping House ethics investigation. Ok, but let's be honest here: what are you going to do with the results. My biggest complaint about the Democratic Party of recent days is that they have been more like the cowardly lion, and less like well, someone who points out the other sides failings, and DOES something about it.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

A Fair Day's Pay

"The federal minimum wage has been a paltry $5.15 an hour for more than eight years. Polls show that there is strong popular support for raising it, but Congress has resisted. Unions, community groups and advocates for the poor are increasingly taking the matter directly to voters through state referendums to raise their states' minimum wages, according to an article yesterday in The Times. Their intentions are laudable, but the efforts only highlight Congress's failure to set the federal minimum wage at a reasonable level."

"Keeping the minimum wage at a reasonable level has appeal across the political spectrum. Liberals see a higher minimum wage as a way to lift the working poor out of poverty and narrow the gap between rich and poor. Many conservatives see it as a way to reward work. In a 2005 Pew Research Center poll, 86 percent of respondents, including 79 percent of social conservatives, supported increasing the minimum wage to $6.45 an hour."

"But the idea has some influential opponents. Business interests, led by the restaurant industry, have lobbied to keep the minimum wage low. Some free-market conservatives, heirs to the original opponents of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, oppose it on ideological grounds. In recent years, these forces have prevailed. The same Congress that has passed huge tax cuts for wealthy individuals and corporations has consistently refused to help those on the other side of the economic divide." [NYT]

Shame on Congress and all law and policy makers that have shunned the idea of not raising the minimum wage. Many cities and hamlets here in Wisconsin took measures into their own hands, and passed increases in the minimum wage on their own. Milwaukee was considering this, but nothing has happened on it in quite a while.

Ben at Badger Blues notes (from this NYT article) that: "The same report, by the Institute for Policy Studies, a left-leaning research center, and United for a Fair Economy, a group seeking to narrow the gap between rich and poor, found that in 2004 the ratio of C.E.O. pay to worker pay at large companies had ballooned to 431 to 1. If the minimum wage had advanced at the same rate as chief executive compensation since 1990, America's bottom-of-the-barrel working poor would be enjoying salad days, with legal wages at $23.03 an hour instead of $5.15."

For more on what it's like to try to live on a low-income or minimum wage job, read Nickeled and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America, by Barbara Ehrenreich: "As a waitress in Florida, where her name is suddenly transposed to "girl," trailer trash becomes a demographic category to aspire to with rent at $675 per month. In Maine, where she ends up working as both a cleaning woman and a nursing home assistant, she must first fill out endless pre-employment tests with trick questions such as "Some people work better when they're a little bit high." In Minnesota, she works at Wal-Mart under the repressive surveillance of men and women whose job it is to monitor her behavior for signs of sloth, theft, drug abuse, or worse. She even gets to experience the humiliation of the urine test. So, do the poor have survival strategies unknown to the middle class? And did Ehrenreich feel the "bracing psychological effects of getting out of the house, as promised by the wonks who brought us welfare reform?" Nah. Even in her best-case scenario, with all the advantages of education, health, a car, and money for first month's rent, she has to work two jobs, seven days a week, and still almost winds up in a shelter. As Ehrenreich points out with her potent combination of humor and outrage, the laws of supply and demand have been reversed. Rental prices skyrocket, but wages never rise. Rather, jobs are so cheap as measured by the pay that workers are encouraged to take as many as they can. Behind those trademark Wal-Mart vests, it turns out, are the borderline homeless. With her characteristic wry wit and her unabashedly liberal bent, Ehrenreich brings the invisible poor out of hiding and, in the process, the world they inhabit--where civil liberties are often ignored and hard work fails to live up to its reputation as the ticket out of poverty."

Congress seems so concerned about the next round of upper-bracket tax cuts and tax cuts in general, that they aren't seeing the big picture, or bothering to see the effects of their work. I'm sure glad that we have our legislative priorities in order.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Nearer, My God, To The GOP

"This, apparently, is what the Democrats had in mind when they vowed after President Bush's re-election to reclaim religious voters for their party. In the House, they set up a Democratic Faith Working Group. Senator Harry Reid, the minority leader, created a Web site called Word to the Faithful. And Democratic officials began holding conferences with religious progressives. All of this was with the intention of learning how to link faith with public policy. An event for liberal politicians and advocates at the University of California at Berkeley in July even offered a seminar titled "I Don't Believe in God, but I Know America Needs a Spiritual Left."

"A look at the tactics and theology of the religious left, however, suggests that this is exactly what American politics does not need. If Democrats give religious progressives a stronger voice, they'll only replicate the misdeeds of the religious right."

"When Christians - liberal or conservative - invoke a biblical theocracy as a handy guide to contemporary politics, they threaten our democratic discourse. Numerous "policy papers" from liberal churches and activist groups employ the same approach: they're awash in scriptural references to justice, poverty and peace, stacked alongside claims about global warming, debt relief and the United Nations Security Council." [NYT]

I realize that this was written by someone from the Heritage Foundation, but he makes some sense. Let's keep religion out of policy. It's ok to make some issues moral issues. For instance, I believe that the economy is a moral issue because of the way it effects everyone's lives. But there is a difference between injecting morals and right and wrong into a political discourse and involving religion.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Happy New Year!!!

Happy 2006!!! Try not to make too many resolutions that you can't or won't keep. You see how well my flying car is working out.

Seriously though, may 2006 be better than 2005's wildest dreams.