Who writes Walker's Press Releases?

What do you think of the quality of the writing in this sentence:

Scott Walker is a proven leader that has the best and most relevant experience to beat Jim Doyle in 11 months..

Everyday Editor on the Gay Marriage Debate (in pictures)

Stew Rieckman gets it 100% correct in this thoughtful piece on dicsussion generated by a picture (see right) in the Northwestern.

He says:

So far, we have had one letter to the editor complaining about the picture. The reader asked what the benefit of running the picture was and suggested we apologize to the community among other observations. He did not object, however, to the second picture of a protester holding a sign that said, "Sodomy is a sin."

So why did we run the picture? Wasn't the story enough? Whether you are for or against gay marriages, it is important to talk about and understand the issue in terms of real people, not an abstract, philosophical debate topic. The picture was not lewd or graphic. It portrayed two people in love, who happen to be male.

Proponents of the constitutional ban on marriage will see the picture and register their disgust, seeing it as proof the referendum must pass. Opponents of the ban will see the picture and reaffirm their belief that gays should be able to get married in Wisconsin. The same picture can generate two different emotions. It may very well have broken stereotypes some people have had about gay couples.

No story or letter to the editor can convey the reality attached to the issue the way a picture can. The issue is about real people. The picture is about real people. How can we discuss gay marriage and not acknowledge the issue is about people who love each other?

The picture is that acknowledgment.The picture does not endorse gay marriage nor does it oppose gay marriage. It is a striking portrait that needs to be part of the debate.

Well Said Stew! Keep up the good work.

Sadie Says: Was Leibham 'Bought' by Wal-Mart?

On Feb 16, 2005, state Sen. Joe Leibham wrote a letter to the editor explaining that he had merely helped set up a meeting between town officials and Wisconsin Department of Transportation of the issue of access to the store from county Highway J.

He spends most of the letter trying to make the point that this was the type of everyday help he provides to his constituents, that it was nothing out of the ordinary.

He also mentions that he was asked on Dec 10, 2004 to provide this "help."

Is it purely a coincidence that on Dec. 30, 2004, he got a $500 campaign contribution from Jim Walton of Bentonville, Ark.?

Is it another strange coincidence that on Dec. 30, 2004, he also received $500 contribution from Lynne Walton of Bentonville, Ark.?

Is it a coincidence that the Waltons are the same Walton family that owns Wal-Mart? Is it a coincidence that two weeks after providing this "help," Sen. Leibham received $1,000 from Wal-Mart heirs?

Today's Press Release

Winnebago Co. Dems: Petri Has One Last Chance to Save Christmas for Winnebago's Poor

CONTACT: Jef Hall 920.203.6883 jef@jefhall.com

Oshkosh - Today's passage by Vice President Cheney's tie-breaking vote of a bill that would slash Medicare, Student Loans and Child Support Collection funds aiding the neediest among us gives the opportunity for Rep. Tom Petri to finally do the right thing for Winnebago County and the 6th District.

Jef Hall, Chair of the Winnebago County Democratic Party and Petri's 2004 opponent today called for the Congressman to vote no on this harmful legislation.

"In a week that has seen special coverage in the Northwestern on Winnebago County's poverty problem; it is obscene that Rep. Petri would support this legislation." Jef Hall was quoted. "All he needs to do is pick up the paper to see the direct harm this bill does to Winnebago County."

Hall joins the unanimous Winnebago County Board and Republican State Senator Carol Roessler in condemning this act.

Some facts from the Northwestern's coverage on poverty in Winnebago County (from thenorthwesern.com):

- Winnebago County poverty has risen from 9,000 in 2000 to more than 11,400 in 2004. - The number of families falling into poverty in Wisconsin is out-pacing all other states.

- There was a nearly 6% increase in Oshkosh schoolchildren qualifying for free or reduced school lunches since 2000.

- Winnebago County froze low-income housing in 2004 due to overwhelming demand and funding losses of over $100,000 per year.

- Federal funds for food stamps, Badgercare and others have been cut 10.8% while Winnebago County residents in some of these programs have increased 93%.

- This bill will eliminate $1.4 million for Child Support Collection Enforcement. This program brings in $10 for every $1 spent and "families who rely on the money are single and low-income residents who have fought their way out of welfare."

"Tom Petri has voted twice to support this vicious cut in programs for poor and working families." Hall continued. "At the same time, he has supported tax cuts for the wealthiest among us time and again. This is not a deficit-cutting measure; it is a grab from the needy to give to the wealthy."

"Coming now, at the holidays, this is not the kind of Christmas present Winnebago County residents want from their Representative in Washington.' Hall concluded. "You've voted for it twice, Mr. Petri, don't strike out and do it again."


Petri's Holiday Hypocrisy

Today Rep. Petri released a statement congradulating himself for securing $465,010 in funds for Advocap - just a few days after he voted to gut student aid, Medicare and child support enforcement by millions and millions of dollars.

Give me a break, Mr. Petri.

They hate us for our freedom? (part 4)

The Ohio Patriot Act has made it to the Taft's desk, and with the stroke of a pen, it would most likely become the toughest terrorism bill in the country. The lengthy piece of legislation would let police arrest people in public places who will not give their names, address and birth dates, even if they are not doing anything wrong.

WEWS reported it would also pave the way for everyone entering critical transportation sites such as, train stations, airports and bus stations to show ID.

"It brings us frighteningly close to a show me your papers society," said Carrie Davis of the ACLU, which opposes the Ohio Patriot Act.


Another Jeff Hall that seems to have a more interesting time of it than me....

All wasn't lost though, as we brought along smooth jazz/babe aficionado Jeff Hall to help us out.

Bush Admits to Breaking the Law & Lying:

From a Bush speech entitled - "Information Sharing, Patriot Act Vital to Homeland Security Remarks by the President in a Conversation on the USA Patriot Act"

This was given in April of 2004 at Kleinshans Music Hall in Buffalo, New York

Secondly, there are such things as roving wiretaps. Now, by the way, any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires -- a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way. When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so. It's important for our fellow citizens to understand, when you think Patriot Act, constitutional guarantees are in place when it comes to doing what is necessary to protect our homeland, because we value the Constitution.

President George Walker Bush, in his own words. Either he was lying then, or he was breaking the law, or (most likely) both.

Imagine if we had known before Nov. 2, 2004?

Thanks to Xoff and Left on the Lake for the tip.

This should have been Enron's Corp Motto:

So whenever Wall Street offers you a chance to put up small money to buy into something that's out of your price range, remember that the Street's more interested in its own welfare than in yours. Wachovia even warns that "The brokerage firm at which you hold your securities and the broker through whom you hold your securities may have economic interests that are different than yours." Enough said.

Quote of the Day:

George Will's end of year column is balanced, attacking everyone and finishing up with a look at who passed on this year. This one was the best:

Vic Power, a Puerto Rican first baseman, was one of baseball's first Hispanic stars. Sports Illustrated reports that when Power was playing in the minor leagues in the South, he was told by a waitress that the restaurant did not serve Negroes. He replied, "That's OK, I don't eat Negroes."

A Victory for Logic, Science and Fact:

It's about time we put this in the proper perspective:

Judge rules against ‘intelligent design’
'Religious alternative' to evolution cannot be taught in public school classes

"Intelligent design" is "a religious alternative masquerading as a scientific theory" and cannot be mentioned in biology classes in a Pennsylvania public school district, a federal judge said

Tuesday, ruling in one of the biggest courtroom clashes on evolution since the 1925 Scopes trial. Dover Area School Board members violated the Constitution when they ordered that its biology curriculum must include the notion that life on Earth was produced by an unidentified intelligent cause, U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III said.

“We find that the secular purposes claimed by the Board amount to a pretext for the Board’s real purpose, which was to promote religion in the public school classroom,” he wrote in his 139-page opinion.


Jones blasted the disclaimer, saying it "singles out the theory of evolution for special treatment, misrepresents its status in the scientific community, causes students to doubt its validity without scientific justification, presents students with a religious alternative masquerading as a scientific theory, directs them to consult a creationist text as though it were a science resource and instructs students to forgo scientific inquiry in the public school classroom and instead to seek out religious instruction elsewhere."

The judge made a point of criticizing the school board members and the "breathtaking inanity" of their decision. “It is ironic that several of these individuals, who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the ID Policy," he wrote.

“Those who disagree with our holding will likely mark it as the product of an activist judge," Jones wrote. "If so, they will have erred. ... Rather, this case came to us as the result of the activism of an ill-informed faction on a school board, aided by a national public interest law firm eager to find a constitutional test case on ID, who in combination drove the Board to adopt an imprudent and ultimately unconstitutional policy. ... The students, parents, and teachers of the Dover Area School District deserved better than to be dragged into this legal maelstrom, with its resulting utter waste of monetary and personal resources.”

Too many blogs?

Wow! The blogs are sprouting up all over Oshkosh!

What does it mean?

I think that we will see the blog market in Oshkosh dilute in the short term. I would guess that until it shakes out, all of them will get less readership.

In the end, the good blogs will stick around, and many will be abandoned either by readers or the publisher's themselves.

I think there will be a few factors that will raise some of these blogs over others:

1. Update frequency. Many of the blogs show up for a few weeks, then are never to be updated again. Or, there are large gaps in updating. Some examples of either un-updated or inconsistently updated blogs currently are WPJC, Longsine Links and Bubba's. I try to update daily, and I give credit to Everyday Editor and Tony Palmeri (website, not blog, blog is too new to evaluate) for being consitant in updating. And to quote Stephen Colbert, "Streetwise, you are on notice!"

2. Quality of material. A blog needs new, compelling, or well written information to be a consistent read. Unfortunately, a blog that throws bombs will also get readership. I give myself an average grade in this. The purpose of this blog, when it began, was to just share headlines I was interested in with my buddy Jon. It then morphed into a way to save stories, facts and quotes I wanted to remember. It was later that I added in my own opinions. I think I do a good job of new and compelling - I need to work on adding more personal insight. Some people I think do that very well are E-Pluribus-Unum, BABBLEMUR!, the Vast Dairy State Conspiracy, This Week in Oshkosh and This Is Life.

3. Design and ease of use of the website. Eye on Oshkosh is the best designed, with Oshkosh News as a close second (Oshkosh News is the best all-around site. Very good in all areas, but not the top. However, their theory of community news is a total different level than any other blog around.) Every other one seems to use the generic Blogger software (me included). It gets tired to look at. There needs to be some innovation in this area.

4. Special twist. There are really only 2 of them out there with that special twist, Oshkosh News (as mentioned before) and Bain-Blog, it is nice to see the thoughts behind the decisions made for the city. I will give myself and Luann Bird credit for special twists, because we blogged our way through the last election.

I know there are many I didn't mention. Some I have not read yet (as I said, there are way too many all of the sudden!), others are average or poor in all of the 4 categories I pointed out.

I do this exercise not to criticize (I give myself only an average or poor in all categories except frequency of updating). But to establish goals that I will be working towards in this blog.

Feel free to post any of your thoughts in comments or email me at jef@jefhall.com.

Why County Government Matters (part 3)

Letter to the Northwestern today:

County should explain DARE cut to students

I am writing this letter in regards to some unfortunate news I have received recently. It appears that the Winnebago County Board has decided to cut funding
for the DARE Program. This program was offered to fifth- grade students in
Oshkosh, Omro, Winneconne, Neenah and Menasha. The DARE Program began in 1989 and was designed to help students resist drugs, alcohol and violence by making healthy and wise decisions.

As a fifth-grade teacher at Omro Elementary School, I have seen first-hand the positive influence this program has had upon my students. I truly believe that our communities are stronger and better when our young adults have the ability to make positive and informed decisions.

When my students were told that this program was to be cut, the first question they asked was, "Why?" I did not have an answer. Perhaps the County Board is better equipped to handle that question.

My 10- and 11-year-old students may not fully understand the need for budget cuts, but they understand peer pressure and tough decisions they are faced with all too well.

Jessica Jaeger Omro

Why County Government Matters (part 2)

Another good job by Alex Hummel today on the loss of $1.4 million in funds to aid in the collection of child support (something I covered before here).

Good quotes from Mark Harris, including on why county government matters:

"If the Senate doesn't save us on this, then the county board is the last line," Harris said.

And this creative quote:

"This is Scrooge showing up at Tiny Tim's house and taking away his loaf of bread instead of giving him a turkey," Winnebago County Executive Mark Harris said.

And of course, here is Tom Petri's response to voting for this turkey:

Petri was not immediately available for comment on Monday. A Washington staff representative said he and a legislative director were in the district. They did not return a phone message.

And, because I need to point this out:

The House of Representatives approved the budget reconciliation package, 212-206, shortly before 6 a.m. Eastern time Monday, according to the House Web site. Wisconsin's delegation split along party lines.

U.S. Rep Tom Petri and fellow state Republicans Mark Green, Paul Ryan and James Sensenbrenner voted for the budget reconciliation measure. Democrats Tammy Baldwin, Ron Kind, David Obey and Gwen Moore opposed it.

Here is more from the article:

The U.S. House of Representatives voted "yes" Monday to a $40 billion, 2006 budget reconciliation package including deep cuts in child support funding that will sap Winnebago County of vital money.

The U.S. Senate is expected to take up the bill this week. If the budget-trimming measure is approved, Winnebago County will lose $1.4 million in funding for child support collections staff who track down delinquent or in-arrears parents and force them to make their child support payments.

Many of the families who rely on the money are single and low-income residents who have fought their way out of welfare. And many are weathering tough times, as the costs of home heating, gasoline and other necessities have risen and a growing number of state residents are living in poverty. The state's poverty-rate increase between 2003 and 2004 led the nation.

In 2005, Winnebago County logged 7,000 child-support cases. Harris said the funding decreases would have a domino effect, prompting layoffs, reduced case loads and, ultimately, fewer single parents and single-parent families getting their payments.

Harris called the House-approved cuts "maybe the meanest legislation to pass during my lifetime."

"It's not caught the public's attention, but it's definitely something that the counties across the country are aware of," he said. "… If this makes it through the Senate, I will have to cut back workers in that office and if I don't want them to bare the highest brunt of this cut, then I'll have to look to other essential workers. This is going to be a very bad Christmas for the working poor."

"What do cuts like this mean for states?" Kohl asked during a Senate debate last week, according to a release on his Web site. "And, more importantly, what will cuts like this mean for hard working American families? It will mean more families falling back on welfare; it will mean roadblocks to thousands of families on their way to independence and self sufficiency, it will mean undoing the great progress made by a government program that really works."

Kohl's office states Wisconsin would lose more than $143.5 million over the next five years "and county child support agency operating budgets could be reduced by as much as two-thirds."

Amid Rhetoric, Some Facts on Government Snooping:

Some snips from Johnathan Alter's Newsweek analysis:

(Bush) insists he had “legal authority derived from the Constitution and congressional resolution authorizing force.” But the Constitution explicitly requires the president to obey the law. And the post 9/11 congressional resolution authorizing “all necessary force” in fighting terrorism was made in clear reference to military intervention. It did not scrap the Constitution and allow the president to do whatever he pleased in any area in the name of fighting terrorism.

What is especially perplexing about this story is that the 1978 law set up a special court to approve eavesdropping in hours, even minutes, if necessary. In fact, the law allows the government to eavesdrop on its own, then retroactively justify it to the court, essentially obtaining a warrant after the fact.
Since 1979, the FISA court has approved tens of thousands of eavesdropping requests and rejected only four. There was no indication the existing system was slow—as the president seemed to claim in his press conference—or in any way required extra-constitutional action.


More facts and figures from the Northwestern:

Pantry helps feed thousands in Oshkosh

More than 2,700 people are registered through November of this year at the Ecumenical Food Pantry located at Trinity Episcopal Church. The number of people registered is nearly 800 more than in 2001.

Sue Meyer, who helped organize the Ecumenical Food Pantry when it started in 1989, said they currently assist 400 Oshkosh households a month.

"People need to know these numbers. They've increased tremendously in five years and it's scary," Meyer said.

Bongert, who counsels recipients on meal preparation and healthy food choices, said economic hard times and job layoffs have fueled the increase in people seeking assistance with groceries.

"A lot of our clients have one or two fulltime minimum wage jobs and with a family it's impossible to make it with that type of money," Bongert said. "They don't have a high income so they really value something like this."

"The face of hunger is changing. A lot of the working poor are going to food pantries," she said. "Forty-two percent of the people we serve have at least one working adult in the family. They are trying to make ends meet, but their job isn't a high paying one. To make it on a small income is difficult."

Why County Government Matters...

Thanks to Alex Hummel for this great story on the County-provided safety net.

Here is the whole story (the link is here):

Safety net weakening
Nonprofits are forced to do more

By Alex Hummel of The Northwestern

One of the bitterest ironies for people fighting poverty is at time when services are needed the most, resources to help are stretched the thinnest.

State and federal support for social programs is declining as private groups have struggled to pick up the slack from Madison and Washington and dealt with unparalleled natural disasters.
The "safety net" is strained. Everywhere.

Cash-strapped local governments have scaled back low-income programs as the demand for them rises. And it's raising a serious question: Can nonprofit and faith-based groups pick up the slack if strained tax support for low-income services continues to wane and lower-income client numbers continue to surge?

"I really don't think so," said Oshkosh Area United Way Executive Director Sue Panek, whose agency helps raise money for more than 50 community programs, many of them catering to low-income people. "We have a number of agencies whose budgets are tied to either state or federal county contracts, so if those (tax) dollars get cut, then that's going to reduce their ability to provide the same level of services, not take on more."

During the 1990s, government got largely out of the "welfare" business on the state and federal level. One of the hallmarks of the Bush Administration is for faith-based programs to step in and provide aid instead of government.

That put an enormous strain on local groups when the economy faltered in 2001. Consider the case of the Living Healthy Clinic in Oshkosh.

After 10 years in a basement office at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, a new north-side location at 510 Doctors Court gave the nonprofit clinic more space and visibility and created better access for the folks who needed the care but couldn't afford it.

Nice way to celebrate 10 years of crucial community service.

Then, the doors opened earlier this year. In came an overwhelming flood of new clients.
"I knew our numbers were going to go up, but we had no idea they were going to go up like they did," said Living Healthy Director Leona Whitman. "We were just spinning."

In one year, the number of new patients seeking everything from diabetes medicine to basic check-ups increased 25 percent, Whitman said. The totals look to surpass 600 individuals served in 2005. The clinic's total annual visits this year topped 2004 total in October.

Despite the overwhelming need, it looked for a time as if local government could no longer shoulder its share.

Whitman wound up before the Winnebago County Board of Supervisors on Halloween, lobbying at the start of its 2006 budget deliberations to preserve the $130,000 the county injects into Living Healthy – about one-third of the clinic's total budget.

Cuts were avoided, but the funding is always on shaky ground for the clinic and other services that serve the poor, which are caught in a vice of revenue cuts, spending freezes and program cuts.

In Winnebago County over the last five years, the number of people in poverty has risen from just more than 9,000 in 2000 to more than 11,400 in 2004, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates.

County governments in Wisconsin have felt the squeeze particularly hard since they directly provide the services and feel the friction between declining dollars and increased needs. As part of the new state budget hammered out last summer, Gov. Jim Doyle approved a cap on property tax increases on local governments.

"One of the ironies is, especially when you're taking about economic assistance, the demand for that obviously goes up when the economy is not doing well, which, at the same time, is when government doesn't have the money," said Craig Thompson, legislative director for the Wisconsin Counties Association. "It's a bad correlation."

The WCA is paying close attention to the strain on county human services departments and even led the charge behind a statewide, county-by-county referendum movement last spring. It asked voters whether state revenue sources – not local county property taxes – should reclaim all responsibility for human ser vices funding, including safety net programs.
The response was overwhelming: Voters in 67 of 72 counties, including Winnebago, passed the referendum.

But, even after the property tax freeze, there's been little to no statewide debate on the issue since the vote.

In 2000, University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh Professor James Simmons co-wrote a book on poverty called "What Government Can Do: Dealing with Poverty and Inequality."
The book makes the case that government programs combating poverty and inequality are actually often efficient and effective. Yet the prevailing political rhetoric portrayed social programs as bloated and habit forming.

Simmons said one of the problems today is the working poor struggling to make ends meet are also the unheard constituents. Despite their demands for help, the very programs to do the job get targeted.

"It tends to be people who don't participate in the system who are least able to defend themselves," Simmons said. "When times are tough people most affected are going to be hurt the hardest."

"Look at everything that's going up faster than inflation: The cost of health care, higher education," Simmons said. "We're simply pricing people with lower in comes out of the market for a number of things. It is happening in Wisconsin, especially, because we're moving to a post-industrial, post-modern economy with a heavy emphasis on service jobs. Some of the service jobs are highly paid. Many are not."

And many more offer little to no health insurance. Enter Living Healthy, armed with $180,000 a year from the region's three large health care providers, about $50,000 a year in a grant from the Oshkosh Area Community Foundation and $130,000 from Winnebago County.

Whitman said when she joined the program in 2000 as director, 95 to 100 patient visits a month was typical. Now, it's more like 250 to 300 visits a month.

"And the only difference is we have one more RN," she said.

Winnebago County Housing Authority officials froze the federally-funded Section 8 voucher program's waiting list due to lack of cash and higher demand. Section 8 is intended to deliver an emergency infusion of money helping low-in come people pay up to 90 percent of the cost of rent and utilities for temporary housing to help them land on their feet. The waiting list ballooned to about 900 in 2004, prompting the freeze – no new applicants allowed.

"We're going to re-open it, but it's going to be very limited as far as availability," said Winnebago and Oshkosh Housing Authority Director Brad Masterson. "The programs are essentially a couple percentage points from full."

The county's $1.33 million housing program doesn't look to fare much better in 2006.
Masterson said Congress adopted the U.S. House of Representatives version of the new federal housing bill. It bases its Section 8 allocations on a three-month period in 2004 – the period when Winnebago County chose to cut down its waiting list, Masterson said.

The Senate version of the bill would have based the allocation on a full-calendar year.

The House version will cost Winnebago County about $100,000 annually, Masterson said. He doubts whether nonprofit and for-profit housing providers with already-limited options for low-income families will pick up any slack as demand for housing assistance rises.

"Can they provide enough for survival and bare sustenance? Probably," he said. "Can they provide what most people expect for enough comfort to know that people can sleep soundly or comfort at night? I don't know … For families, I would say there isn't a whole lot of other housing. We're the big fish for families."

Brian Jacobson, a community programs coordinator at ADVOCAP Inc., a community action agency serving low-income people, said his organization's housing options are limited. ADVOCAP is one of the supposedly-in dependent peripheral agencies that is, like most in the region, still dependent on a blend of funding, much of it from federal, state and local tax revenue.

"We have more needs than ever, and every day we have less resources to deal with more needs," Jacobson said. "There isn't a day that goes by probably in every nonprofit that a funding source isn't saying, 'Find some body else to cover that.' The problem is every funding sources is saying that, and they are all saying it simultaneously."

The Winnebago County Human Services Department's "Community Options Program" waiting list has, like Section 8, had weathered a freeze. County administrators will be careful how or if they dole out more "COP" money to reduce a current list of roughly 450 people.

The money supports in-home care giving for elderly and disabled residents – cutting costs for unnecessary nursing home stays and curb higher-cost medical care.

COP is just one of Winnebago and other state counties' human services quandaries:

Funding the county gets for "income maintenance," funding for an array of programs from food stamps to Badger Care to funeral and cemetery benefits, has decreased from about $1.14 mil lion in 2002 to little more than $1 million for 2006, a 10.8 percent slide, according to county data.

That has left the cash-strapped, tax-frozen Winnebago County property taxpayer to pick up a greater share of the cost.

Local taxpayers' share, along with federal matching money, has increased from just under $200,000 in 2002 to $513,000 in 2006, a 57.8 percent increase, ac cording to county data.

Reliance on basic programs like food stamps and Medical Assistance continues to surge. More groups have been allowed to access MA benefits in recent years, one explanation for the growing numbers. But the sour economy and higher costs of living are also believed to driven the trend.

In the past five years, Winnebago County's family-related MA recipients have increased from 5,702 in April 2001 to 12,091 in April 2005, a 112 percent explosion. Total recipients grew 93 per cent, from 7,342 in April 2001 to 14,143 in April 2005.

"So many people now are so close to the edge, that when any thing occurs, it can push them over the edge," said Tim Gessler, a Winnebago County human services economic support supervisor.

Alex Hummel: (920) 426-6669 or ahummel@thenorthwestern.com.

They hate us for our freedom? (part 3)

Let's get this straight...

There is nothing wrong with the President of the United States breaking the law, however the fact that it has been reported is a 'shameful act'. And the President vows to continue breaking the law.

Are we going to do something/care about this, or are we just sloughing towards tyranny?

Bush says leaking spy program a 'shameful act'
President vows to continue domestic eavesdropping

President Bush on Monday said disclosure of his domestic eavesdropping program was a “shameful act” and said he will keep using it “for so long as the nation faces the continuing threat of an enemy that wants to kill American citizens.”

“As president of the United States and commander in chief I have the constitutional responsibility and the constitutional authority to protect our country,” he said in an opening statement at a year-end news conference.

Asked if the Justice Department would be investigating who leaked the existence of the program, first disclosed last Friday by The New York Times, Bush said he presumed the process had started.

“It was a shameful act for someone to disclose this important program in a time of war. The fact that we’re discussing this program is helping the enemy,” he said at the White House event.

See other posts with this heading to see why this matters.

They hate us for our freedom? (part 2)

This has since been been proven a hoax - go here for the details.

I think it is a statement on our current times that this would be accepted so easily. It is beleivable.

This is why Bush's 'no warrant' searches are wrong (besides, don't they know that if you go carrying pictures of Chairman Mao, you ain't gonna make it with anyone anyhow?):

Agents' visit chills UMass Dartmouth senior
By AARON NICODEMUS, Standard-Times staff writer

NEW BEDFORD -- A senior at UMass Dartmouth was visited by federal agents two months ago, after he requested a copy of Mao Tse-Tung's tome on Communism called "The Little Red Book."

Two history professors at UMass Dartmouth, Brian Glyn Williams and Robert Pontbriand, said the student told them he requested the book through the UMass Dartmouth library's interlibrary loan program.

The student, who was completing a research paper on Communism for Professor Pontbriand's class on fascism and totalitarianism, filled out a form for the request, leaving his name, address, phone number and Social Security number. He was later visited at his parents' home in New Bedford by two agents of the Department of Homeland Security, the professors said.

The professors said the student was told by the agents that the book is on a "watch list," and that his background, which included significant time abroad, triggered them to investigate the student further.

"I tell my students to go to the direct source, and so he asked for the official Peking version of the book," Professor Pontbriand said. "Apparently, the Department of Homeland Security is monitoring inter-library loans, because that's what triggered the visit, as I understand it."

Although The Standard-Times knows the name of the student, he is not coming forward because he fears repercussions should his name become public. He has not spoken to The Standard-Times.

The professors had been asked to comment on a report that President Bush had authorized the National Security Agency to spy on as many as 500 people at any given time since 2002 in this country.

The eavesdropping was apparently done without warrants.

The Little Red Book, is a collection of quotations and speech excerpts from Chinese leader Mao Tse-Tung.

In the 1950s and '60s, during the Cultural Revolution in China, it was required reading. Although there are abridged versions available, the student asked for a version translated directly from the original book.

The student told Professor Pontbriand and Dr. Williams that the Homeland Security agents told him the book was on a "watch list." They brought the book with them, but did not leave it with the student, the professors said.

Dr. Williams said in his research, he regularly contacts people in Afghanistan, Chechnya and other Muslim hot spots, and suspects that some of his calls are monitored. "My instinct is that there is a lot more monitoring than we think," he said.

Dr. Williams said he had been planning to offer a course on terrorism next semester, but is reconsidering, because it might put his students at risk.

"I shudder to think of all the students I've had monitoring al-Qaeda Web sites, what the government must think of that," he said. "Mao Tse-Tung is completely harmless."

They hate us for our freedom?

Bob Hebert in the NY Times makes some great points here.

(McCain's anti-torture amendment) was an embarrassing defeat for the Bush administration, which, in its high-handed approach to governing, has shown no qualms about trampling the fundamental tenets of a free, open and democratic society.

Stubbornness is a well-known trait of this president. But increasing numbers of Americans are objecting to the
administration's contemptuous attitude toward liberty and the law. On Friday, the Senate blocked reauthorization of the Patriot Act because of its dangerous intrusions on privacy and threats to civil liberties.

The domestic eavesdropping authorized by President Bush was an important and at times emotional part of the floor debate over the Patriot Act. "You want to talk about abuses?" said Senator Russell Feingold, a Wisconsin Democrat. "
I can't imagine a more shocking example of an abuse of power, to eavesdrop on American citizens without first getting a court order based on some evidence that they are possibly criminals, terrorists or spies."

Mr. Feingold worried that we were playing into the hands of terrorists by giving up such quintessentially American values as "freedom, justice and privacy."

The Bush version of American values, as least with regard to the so-called war on terror, has been a throwback to the Middle Ages. Detainees were herded like animals into the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, where many were abused and denied the right to challenge - or even hear - the charges against them. Whether they were innocent or guilty made no difference. How's that for an American value?

Others were swept up in that peculiar form of justice called extraordinary rendition. That's when someone is abducted by Americans and sent off to a regime
skilled in the art of torture. I spent a little time in Ottawa with Maher Arar, a family man from Canada who was kidnapped at Kennedy Airport and taken to Syria.

He wasn't a terrorist and he hadn't done anything wrong, but that was no defense against the sweeping madness of the Bush antiterror policies.

Another blow to America's self- proclaimed standing as a pillar of moral values was the revelation that the C.I.A. has been operating a super-secret network of prisons overseas, presumably for terror suspects.

This is dangerous territory, indeed. Nightmarish territory.
These secret prisons are the dungeons of the 21st century.

It's widely understood now that the Bush crowd has gone much too far. When Americans cover their hearts and pledge allegiance, this is not the kind of behavior from their government they usually have in mind.
This is not what the American flag is supposed to represent.

A Good Parody:

Baby Bush Toy Company

Jack Cafferty on the administration: Just Do it!


Click here for CNN's Jack Cafferty going through a list of the Bush Administration's outgages.

One Paragraph Explaining the 'War on Christmas'

Nichalos Kristoff:

Look, I put up a "Christmas tree," rather than a "holiday tree," and I'm sure Mr. O'Reilly is right that political correctness leads to absurd contortions this time of year. But when you've seen what real war does, you don't lightly use the word to describe disagreements about Christmas greetings. And does it really make sense to offer 58 segments on political correctness and zero on genocide?

And he finishes with this:

So I have a challenge for Mr. O'Reilly: If you really want to defend traditional values, then come with me on a trip to Darfur. I'll introduce you to mothers who have had their babies clubbed to death in front of them, to teenage girls who have been gang-raped and then mutilated - and to the government-armed thugs who do these things.

You'll have to leave your studio, Bill. You'll encounter pure evil. If you're like me, you'll be scared. If you try to bully some of the goons in Darfur, they'll just hack your head off. But you'll also meet some genuine conservative Christians - aid workers who live the Gospel instead of sputtering about it - and you'll finally be using your talents for an important cause.

So, Bill, what'll it be? Will you dare travel to a real war against Christmas values, in which the victims aren't offended shoppers but terrified children thrown on bonfires? I'm waiting to hear.

OK, can we move on now?

Ohio, Iraq:

Iraqi Parties Complain of Vote Irregularities

As the United States portrayed Thursday's Iraqi elections as a resounding success, political parties here Saturday complained of violations ranging from dead men voting to murder in the streets.

The Iraqi electoral commission said it had received more than 200 complaints in advance of a Sunday deadline for filing grievances. A commission spokesman said many are "exaggerated," but political parties from all corners maintained that violence and fraud made the outcome suspect.

"We have documented violations, threats and breaches," Mehdi Hafedh, an official of the secular party of former prime minister Ayad Allawi, said at a news conference. At almost the same time, the coalition of Shiite religious parties that is vying to retain its majority in parliament warned that it "would not accept" results it deems fraudulent.

U.S. officials speaking from Washington declared the elections clean and fair.

Saad Arkij, head of an ethnic Turkmen slate in the north, complained that members of his minority and Arabs were barred from voting in Kirkuk, a northern city claimed by Arabs, Turkmens and Kurds. He blamed the Kurds. "Even policemen, when they went to the headquarters to vote, were told the ballots were all gone," he said. "It was unbelievable."


A Personal Note of Freedom to Love and the Proposed Marriage Amendment:

This was written by Renee Crawford, a great person I came to know pretty well over the course of the 2004 campaign.

I am a straight, married woman of mixed racial heritage. My mother is white and from Neenah, WI. My father is African American and from Key West, FL. An unlikely chance meeting led to them getting married 6 months after they met at the courthouse in downtown Milwaukee. At the time they married in the summer of 1966, it was ILLEGAL for them to get married in 38 states in the United States. They were in love and married against the general will of society in the island of Milwaukee where our Progressive tradition did not prevent their affirming that love and committing to each other legally.

At first it was hard. Their families were less than thrilled, they had to choose their friends carefully and when they went to visit my father's family in Florida, they
couldn't stop to use the bathroom in at least 5 states because of the very real risk of being hanged for loving each other. The reasons they gave for miscegenation laws are not very different than the reasons given today against same sex relationships. Mixing of races was considered against the laws of God and nature, there were worries about "the children", it was dangerous to society, sexually deviant and perverted, and could endanger the very institution of marriage itself. Sound familiar?

Good Day for the Comics:

Click on the title for the actual:

Boonedocks on Global Warming

Doonesbury on Evolution

Facts and Figures Fron the Northwestern's Poverty Coverage:

The Northwestern has done a great job in the first of 2-part coverage of poverty in Winnebago County.

For many, it's a struggle to survive

But there are thousands of other families, people you see at church, at school, at work or living next door who are in similar financial straits. And 2006 won't help matters. Pick the poison:

- Double-digit home heating cost increase on top of record high gasoline prices.
- A shaky job market and the erosion of the traditional manufacturing economy. Companies are just as likely to hire new workers as they are to lay off hundreds.
- A war splintering families by taking citizen-soldiers who generate vital incomes.
- Cutbacks in federal, state and local government programs and a philosophical shift in Washington and Madison from large-scale government handouts to greater reliance on private and faith-based programs.


Walking the (poverty) line

For a family of four, the federal poverty line for 2005 is an annual income of $19,350. But the living wage line, or the gross annual income a household must reach to support a family of four, is in the neighborhood of $42,000 in Winnebago County, according to a "Living Wage Estimator," part of Penn State University's "Poverty in America" project.

While the number of state residents living in poverty is less than the national average, Wisconsin led all states in the percentage of residents falling into poverty in 2004, the last year for which the U.S. Census Bureau has released poverty estimates.

That year, more than 571,000 Wisconsin residents, 10.8 percent of the population, were estimated to be living in poverty – a nation-leading 1.9 percentage point increase from the previous year.

"Unfortunately, what we've been seeing in the data we've been compiling to tell us how families are doing is an increase in the number of participants in the food stamp program, an increase in the number of participants in the Medical Assistance program and an increase in the number of participants who are
low-income working families who get child-care tuition assistance," said Charity
Eleson, executive director of the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families.

"All those indicators are pointing us in the wrong direction in terms of family
independence and security."

As of 2003, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates, there were more than 11,000 people living at or below the poverty line in Winnebago County. That
number, too, seems certain to grow given the economic, job, housing and energy
price squeeze.

Just a few years back, that wasn't the case. During the economic boom of the late 1990s, poverty was declining in Winnebago County.

In 1997 about 6.9 percent of the population, or just more than 10,000 county residents lived in poverty. Estimated poverty totals then fell for four straight years, dipping to 9,027 people, or 6 percent of county residents, in 2000.

In 2001, everything changed when the economy hit the skids from a recession and terrorist attacks. That year, more than 9,300 residents were estimated to be at or below the poverty line, an increase of 3.2 percent over 2000. From 2001 to 2003, an additional 2,100 people slipped into poverty – a two-year increase of more than 21 percent, according to the most recent Census estimates.

Children feel the effects

Economic struggles also show up in public schools, with the number of students in the Oshkosh Area School District qualifying for free or reduced lunches increasing 6 percent during the past four years. About 28.2 percent of school district children, ages 5 to 17,qualified for free and reduced lunches this year. Four years ago, 22.4 percent were eligible.

A family of four with an annual household income of $35,798 qualifies for reduced-price meals while that same sized family with an annual income of $25,155 qualifies for free meals, according to federal guidelines.

Making ends meet on $7,200 per year

From 2000 through 2004, reliance on food stamps has more-than doubled. In 2000, nearly 2,000 county families were using the program. By 2004's end, the
number had grown to 4,083. In that same period, the number of individuals
relying on food stamps has grown from 5,153 in 2000 to 10,605 by the end of

County watching, wary of federal cut plans

One vote in Congress being pushed to take place before Christmas could deliver a huge lump of coal in the stockings of Winnebago County and the children and spouses of deadbeat parents.

County Executive Mark Harris said he has lobbied state representatives and out-of-state Congressmen urging a budget reconciliation committee to nix a provision in a $50 billion package of spending cuts that could sap the county's child support offices of $1.4 million over the next four years.

A number of U.S. Senators signed a directive last week instructing the budget committee to nix the child support funding cuts. But the county is still watching votes carefully.

"We stand to lose about $1.4 million over the next four years and probably close to an additional $440,000 a year thereafter," Harris said. "And right now we collect about $10 in child support for every $1 we spend. If we dramatically scale back our efforts in collection, there are a lot of single-family households who will have difficulty collecting child support from non-custodial parents."