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Archive for November, 2010

You Too Could Lose the U.S. Senate Majority

For obvi­ous rea­sons, I’m a lit­tle intrigued by the game “Tag” going on among the 53 remain­ing Democ­rats left in the United States Sen­ate as they pick their new Chair­man of the Demo­c­ra­tic Sen­a­to­r­ial Cam­paign Com­mit­tee or DSCC.

See, last week — just like the Repub­li­cans and their col­leagues in the House — they elected their lead­er­ship on Tues­day.  But they kept one posi­tion empty:  Chair­man of the DSCC.

When Sen­ate Democ­rats held their lead­er­ship elec­tions Tues­day morn­ing, one spot was left vacant.

There is still no chair of the Demo­c­ra­tic Sen­a­to­r­ial Cam­paign Com­mit­tee, and it appears the rea­son is that Sen­ate Major­ity Leader Harry Reid hasn’t con­vinced any­one to take the job yet.

There are cur­rently 23 Demo­c­ra­tic Sen­a­tors up for re-election in 2012; and I’m unsure if that fig­ure includes the two Inde­pen­dent Sen­a­tors (Sanders of Ver­mont and Lieber­man of Con­necti­cut) who cau­cus with them…possibly mak­ing the task of DSCC Chair­man (or Woman) one in which they have to defend a whop­ping 25 Sen­ate seats; many of which are in swing states or tra­di­tional Repub­li­can states like Mon­tana, North Dakota, and Nebraska.

Spec­u­la­tion has been ram­pant about who will take, or even want the job.  His­tor­i­cally, the posi­tion is never given to a recently elected Fresh­man Demo­c­rat, so that leaves out the Chris Coons of the world.  Also, the rule is often “Unless you’re “Super-Safe,” and you’re up for re-election, you can’t head the DSCC,” so that takes away large chunks of the cau­cus from the position.

Ini­tially, hopes were high on New York’s Chuck Schumer re-taking the lead­er­ship of the DSCC.  It was, after all, a famil­iar role he held to much suc­cess in 2006 and 2008, but he declined.  Appar­ently, the famed fund raiser and can­di­date recruiter isn’t much of a defender of seats.

Then they went to John Kerry.  He declined.

After him, Minnesota’s Al Franken.  He too declined.

All eyes then went to the newly re-elected Junior Sen­a­tor from Col­orado, Mike Ben­nett.  Ben­nett had just sur­vived a fight in a swing state, had good fund rais­ing, and known for his ties to the national groups.  He too is said on mul­ti­ple occa­sions to not want the job.

So why is this happened?

Well, look at the fig­ure.  23 or so Sen­ate seats is an impos­si­bly high num­ber of seats to defend.  Democ­rats did have a great 2006 after all, and now the chicken of that wave is com­ing home to roost.  So by just sheer num­bers alone, that is going to make resources tough to spread around if they have to do so.

Then there’s “The Other Prob­lem You Can’t Talk About,” when it comes to fund-raising for the 2012 cycle.

2012 is a Pres­i­den­tial year, which auto­mat­i­cally means all money in lib­eral pol­i­tics will be flow­ing to the re-elect efforts of Pres­i­dent Obama and the Demo­c­ra­tic National Com­mit­tee, not to the House and Sen­ate com­mit­tees.  Mean­ing, that an already tough time fund rais­ing is going to get tougher.  Their time to shine in the sun is dur­ing the mid-terms after all.

So who gets the job in the end?  Word is the White House and Sen­ate Demo­c­ra­tic Lead­er­ship may go in one of two directions:

1) Get the safest Demo­c­rat in the 2012 cycle to chair. In this case, that would be Rhode Island’s Shel­don White­house, who would face nom­i­nal GOP oppo­si­tion for re-election.

2) Washington’s Patty Mur­ray. The var­i­ous tip sheets say both the White House and Harry Reid are pulling a full-court press on the recently re-elected senior Sen­a­tor from Wash­ing­ton.  She too is said to not be pleased with what a stint as DSCC Chair would detail this time.  (She was ran the place in 2001–2003 when the GOP gained the Sen­ate Major­ity out­right with a 51–49 mar­gin after Democ­rats recap­tured it with the Jef­fords defec­tion in mid-2001.)

So what’s going to hap­pen?  Well, don’t expect a deci­sion on the issue by Thanksgiving.

Or Christ­mas for that mat­ter by the look of things…

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Soon He’ll Say His Shadow Wants Him Dead

Half the fun of Hugo Chavez is watch­ing the slow, degen­er­a­tive trip to com­plete and utter mad­ness within his mind as he clings to power in Venezuela.

Rarely does a year go by where the dic­ta­tor and Castro-wannabe claims either a rival or the CIA is plot­ting his demise.  If only the CIA was in the killing busi­ness; espe­cially in the Obama Administration!

Well, this year’s “threat” is from a man who Chavez pretty much ran off a year ago, and who has been in exile in Amer­ica ever since.

Venezuela’s Pres­i­dent Hugo Chávez accused a fugi­tive TV tycoon of being involved in a $100 mil­lion reward offer for his assassination.

Idol­ized by sup­port­ers among Venezuela’s poor but loathed by many in the busi­ness class, for­mer sol­dier Chávez, 56, has fre­quently alleged plans to kill him dur­ing his more than 11 years at the helm of the South Amer­i­can oil-producer.

As I under­stand it from very trust­wor­thy infor­ma­tion, they say they have $100 mil­lion to give the per­son who kills me,” Chávez said, talk­ing of his polit­i­cal foes in general.

He accused the fugi­tive boss of pro-opposition TV sta­tion Globo­vi­sion, Guillermo Zuloaga, of being one of those behind the plan. Zuloaga fled to the United States ear­lier this year after being charged with fraud over his car dealership.

He’s one of them and he’s the owner of a sta­tion that is trans­mit­ting right now in Venezuela,” Chávez said in com­ments to reporters at a “social­ist” fair in Cara­cas to offer cheap food and Christ­mas presents.

He’s going around con­spir­ing against the gov­ern­ment, and they’re all col­lect­ing money to pay the per­son who kills me,” Chávez said, urg­ing action against Zuloaga.

He did not give any more details of the alleged plot.

Read­ers of Orwell’s “Ani­mal Farm” no doubt would see the sim­i­lar­i­ties here.

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The Best Campaign Ad of 2010…

…is Ron Johnson’s “57!”

Con­grats to Brad, Curt, Wes, and the rest of the guys at On Mes­sage, who accord­ing to Chris Cil­lizza of the Wash­ing­ton Post cre­ated the best polit­i­cal ad of the 2010 Cam­paign cycle.

As we wrote at the time of its release, the ad, which was pro­duced by On Mes­sage Media, stood out from the pack for the sim­plic­ity of its visu­als and message.

The image of a white­board on screen imme­di­ately drew the eye and the facts on it — there are 57 Sen­a­tors who are lawyers while there is a dearth of busi­ness peo­ple like John­son — was easy to digest and pitch per­fect for this elec­tion cycle.

Ditto Johnson’s clos­est argu­ment in the ad: “I know how to bal­ance a bud­get and I do know how to cre­ate jobs. Now that’s some­thing we can really use.”

So effec­tive was the ad that by the end of the cam­paign — and with polling show­ing John­son com­fort­ably ahead — Fein­gold made a last-ditch ad attempt­ing to under­mine the power of the white­board. It didn’t work.

I’ll have more in on my cam­paign expe­ri­ence in a exten­sive one-on-one inter­view with myself (He was the only one who requested…) that I will do even­tu­ally on the blog.  But I hon­estly thought we had won the cam­paign when Fein­gold rolled out his “White­board” ad.

Sim­ply put, when your oppo­nent has to co-opt some­thing your cam­paign has suc­cess­fully made your own for over a month, you know you have them by the balls.  Also, how did the long-time Fein­gold cam­paign staffers not real­ize they were doing with us and the white­board what Bob Kas­ten had to do with them and Elvis?

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Stupid Right-Wing, Gun-Toting Crazy…

Oh, wait.  This was in Black Earth?

That’s in Dane County!

Remem­ber folks; Dane County is sup­pos­edly where all the sane peo­ple in Wis­con­sin are. (Right John Nichols?)

Allegedly set off by Bris­tol Palin’s appear­ance on “Danc­ing with the Stars,” a rural Black Earth man kept police at bay out­side his home for 15 hours Mon­day and Tues­day before he sur­ren­dered to police.

Steven N. Cowan, 66, railed at the tele­vi­sion as the daugh­ter of for­mer Repub­li­can vice pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Sarah Palin appeared on the ABC pro­gram, his wife told police Mon­day after she fled from the town of Ver­mont house, accord­ing to a crim­i­nal com­plaint filed in Dane County Cir­cuit Court.

Cowan had also been under stress because of a finan­cial sit­u­a­tion and was receiv­ing care for a men­tal health prob­lem, the com­plaint states. Cowan’s wife, Jan­ice, told police that her hus­band had been drink­ing, but she did not think he was intoxicated.

The com­plaint charged Cowan with second-degree reck­less endangerment.

Accord­ing to the com­plaint, Cowan and his wife were watch­ing “Danc­ing with the Stars” when Cowan jumped up and swore as Bris­tol Palin appeared, say­ing some­thing about “the (exple­tive) pol­i­tics.” Cowan was upset that a polit­i­cal figure’s daugh­ter was on the show when he didn’t think she was a good dancer, the com­plaint states.

Accord­ing to the complaint:

Cowan went upstairs for about 20 min­utes and returned, demand­ing his pis­tols, which had been taken by his daugh­ter about a month ago for safety rea­sons. He was car­ry­ing a single-shot shot­gun, which he loaded and fired into the television.

Cowan con­tin­ued to yell, demand­ing his pis­tols. He re-loaded the shot­gun and pointed it toward his wife. She left the house and drove to Black Earth, where she called 911. She told police she was afraid for her safety.

Cowan kept sheriff’s deputies at bay out­side his home until 11 a.m. Tues­day, when he sur­ren­dered with­out inci­dent, sheriff’s spokes­woman Elise Schaf­fer said.

H/T Alt­house.

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Minority Leader Kind?

I don’t see it hap­pen­ing given the make up of the Demo­c­ra­tic Cau­cus, but the idea isn’t too insane on its mer­its.

Kind is a mod­er­ate Demo­c­rat who could be appeal­ing to cen­trist vot­ers.  He’s young (47) and more telegenic when com­pared to other chal­lengers to Pelosi, but he’s been in Wash­ing­ton DC long enough (First elected in 1996) to have built enough of a poten­tial vot­ing bloc if he were to do it.

Prob­lem with that line of think­ing is; he’s not going to do it.  He also becomes too rich a tar­get for the new Repub­li­can State Leg­is­la­ture which could redis­trict him out in a fight with Tammy Bald­win by cre­at­ing a new and insanely designed say, “Hybrid La Crosse-Madison Con­gres­sional seat” if he were to run and some­how win.

A retir­ing Demo­c­rat sug­gested on Mon­day that Reps. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) or Ron Kind (D-Wis.) would make good chal­lengers to out­go­ing Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

Rep. Brian Baird (D-Wash.) said that Hoyer, the out­go­ing House major­ity leader, or Kind (who he termed the “sin­gle best choice”) would make good chal­lengers to Pelosi, who is seek­ing to con­tinue to lead Democ­rats by run­ning for the posi­tion of minor­ity leader in the next Congress.

You know, I think actu­ally Steny would be a good choice. I think Ron Kind would be the sin­gle best choice I could make,” Baird said on MSNBC. “That prob­a­bly jinxes it with the Speaker, but I think Ron Kind is that kind of per­son — a very bright, very artic­u­late cen­trist who lis­tens to all sides, takes pol­icy very seri­ously, and could speak to both sides.”

A hand­ful of cen­trist Democ­rats have said that they would not vote to reelect Pelosi as leader of their party in the House. But only one can­di­date, Rep. Heath Shuler (D-N.C.), has floated the pos­si­bil­ity of a chal­lenge to Pelosi, and Shuler’s acknowl­edged that he’s unlikely to beat the out­go­ing Speaker.

Hoyer is seen as an emis­sary to House cen­trists, who were his base of sup­port when he ran against Pelosi for the posi­tion of Demo­c­ra­tic leader ear­lier this decade. A key Repub­li­can, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), said on Mon­day that he’s the GOP’s point of con­tact within the Demo­c­ra­tic leadership.

But after Pelosi bro­kered a deal late last week to make House Major­ity Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) her No. 3, a move that makes Hoyer with­out chal­lenge for the second-ranking job in the next Con­gress, it would be dif­fi­cult to imag­ine a sit­u­a­tion where the Mary­land Demo­c­rat would turn around and chal­lenge Pelosi.

A Demo­c­rat who’s return­ing for his eighth term in the House, Kind is seen as a more cen­trist law­maker, though he’s not listed as a mem­ber of the Blue Dog Coali­tion (as Shuler is). Kind is a vice chair­man of the New Demo­c­rat Coali­tion, but hasn’t shown any incli­na­tion to chal­lenge Pelosi.

Kind has a record of also pulling off much more bipar­ti­san leg­is­la­tion.  He worked with Paul Ryan on an Ag Bill alter­na­tive in 2007-08 which was far bet­ter for America’s pock­et­book and Wisconsin’s farm­ers than the one which became law; and he’s also one of the few sane Democ­rats when it comes to inter­na­tional trade.

That last item will prob­a­bly dis­qual­ify him with national union leaders.

You can watch the video men­tioned in the story here:

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PTSD">Study: Tetris Reduces PTSD

Fas­ci­nat­ing.

Clas­sic video game Tetris may be capa­ble of pro­vid­ing a ser­vice beyond enter­tain­ing the gam­ing masses. Accord­ing to a new study out of Oxford Uni­ver­sity, play­ing Tetris a few hours after trauma expo­sure can help pre­vent flash­backs, which are typ­i­cally a symp­tom of post-traumatic stress disorder.

The study, pub­lished in the jour­nal PLoS ONE, is based on two exper­i­ments. In the first exper­i­ment, 60 par­tic­i­pants watched a film con­tain­ing scenes of injury and death. After a 30-minute struc­tured break, 20 par­tic­i­pants played Tetris, while another 20 played quiz video game Pub Quiz. The remain­ing sub­jects did noth­ing. Those who played Tetris had fewer flash­backs of the trau­matic film than any of the oth­ers did. Inci­den­tally, those who played Pub Quiz had the most flash­backs out of any of the groups.

The sec­ond exper­i­ment extended the break period from half an hour to four hours — even then, Tetris play­ers expe­ri­enced fewer flash­backs than the other research sub­jects did.

Accord­ing to the researchers, chronic trauma flash­backs are usu­ally made up of sen­sory, visual images. Par­tic­i­pat­ing in visu­ally ori­ented tasks — such as play­ing a puzzle-like game along the lines of Tetris — will inter­fere with other visual mem­o­ries and help reduce flash­backs. By con­trast, per­form­ing ver­bal tasks after a trau­matic event — like play­ing a quiz game — com­pete more with the part of the brain that helps peo­ple make sense of what they’ve experienced.

As the researchers point out in their report, these ver­bal tasks “may serve to increase (rather than reduce) later trauma flashbacks.”

The study has elicited pos­i­tive reac­tions from Tetris’s cre­ator Alexey Pajit­nov, as well as staff at Blue Planet Soft­ware — the com­pany that man­ages the exclu­sive licens­ing rights to the game. David Kwock, the company’s gen­eral man­ager, says the researchers’ find­ings also sup­port the feed­back he’s heard from Tetris play­ers over the years.

A great num­ber of our users tell us that they play Tetris to relax,” he says. “In fact, in Japan, they play it at the end of the day — women specif­i­cally — before they go to bed, or in the bath­room. That’s why we have water­proof [gam­ing devices] in Japan.”

Okay…a lit­tle TMI there about Japan.

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Thank You Veterans

I was going to have some inspi­ra­tional pic­ture, but I’m suf­fer­ing some sort of server error right now and can’t seem to upload pho­tos to the blog.

So, let me just say thank you to all those who have, are, and will serve this coun­try and its mil­i­tary.  You are the rea­son we are as free as we are.

So, in clos­ing two things:

1)  Way to go Ryan Braun.

Mil­wau­kee Brew­ers slug­ger and Wis­con­sin restau­ran­teur Ryan Braun came up with a neat way to honor U.S. mil­i­tary per­son­nel on Vet­er­ans Day.

He’s going to feed them.

Ryan Braun’s Tav­ern and Grill in the resort vil­lage of Lake Geneva, Wis., is offer­ing a free lunch or din­ner entrée to cur­rent and for­mer sol­diers. Braun said he and the staff had been brain­storm­ing a way to give back.

From Braun’s heart (and wal­let) to their stomachs.

Braun’s moti­va­tion is per­sonal: His best friend since third grade is a Navy Seal.

2) Happy 30th to Kurt and his twin.

Enjoy the day guys.  You two reach­ing this mile­stone offi­cially makes every­one who’s ever known you feel old.

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WISSC Re-Election">Prosser to Seek WISSC Re-Election

Those who have been long read­ers of this blog know that I urged a two-election detente between Wis­con­sin lib­er­als and con­ser­v­a­tives over the re-election fights of State Supreme Court Jus­tices Shirley Abra­ham­son (Chief Jus­tice) and David Prosser (The Senior-Most Con­ser­v­a­tive Asso­ciate Justice).

My think­ing is that let’s be hon­est with our­selves; these two legal minds are the pil­lars of their respec­tive ide­o­log­i­cal legal cir­cles — Shirley on the Left, Prosser on the Right — and they’ve both been around long enough to high­light a bipar­ti­san “Who’s Who” and  it’s going to show by who Prosser gets to back him.  Thus, it would make chal­leng­ing either to the State’s High­est Court some­thing akin to a mil­i­tary sui­cide mission.

Already, Prosser’s got for­mer Gov­er­nors Thomp­son (Repub­li­can) and Lucey (Demo­c­rat) as his cam­paign co-chairs, and his campaign’s trea­surer is the wife of for­mer Gov­er­nor McCal­lum. This is like when Abra­ham­son came out with a list of her sup­port­ers ear­lier this year, and it was chalked full of big-name, tra­di­tional Republican-backing busi­ness leaders.

Noth­ing about my stance regard­ing the pro­posed detente has changed.

Move along, every­one.  There’s noth­ing to see here, let alone fight over.

(And I say this all as a Prosser sup­porter mind you.)

State Supreme Court Jus­tice David Prosser announced his re-election bid Wednesday.

Prosser’s cam­paign will be co-chaired by for­mer Gov. Tommy G. Thomp­son, a Repub­li­can, and for­mer Gov. Patrick J. Lucey, a Democrat.

Thomp­son appointed Prosser to the court in 1998. He was elected to a full term with­out oppo­si­tion in 2001 and is now run­ning for another 10-year term.

Before he joined the court, Prosser was an Assem­bly speaker and Out­agamie County dis­trict attor­ney. Prosser, 67, was elected to the Assem­bly as a Republican.

Also run­ning for Supreme Court are Marla Stephens, an offi­cial with the state pub­lic defender’s office, and Joel Win­nig, a Madi­son lawyer.

Mil­wau­kee County Cir­cuit Judge David Borowski has said he is con­sid­er­ing a run.

The pri­mary is Feb. 15, and the gen­eral elec­tion is April 5.

Prosser will win, eas­ily.  Thanks for play­ing for Sec­ond Place gang.

Cor­rec­tion:  Noticed this later on in the day after I posted it just never had the chance to cor­rect it until this morn­ing.  The senior most Asso­ciate Jus­tice on the Wis­con­sin State Supreme Court is lib­eral Ann Walsh Bradley, who was first elected in 1995.  Prosser — who is the senior most con­ser­v­a­tive Asso­ciate Jus­tice on the court — was appointed by Gov­er­nor Tommy Thomp­son to the court in 1998 as the arti­cle above states.

The next Supreme Court elec­tion after Prosser’s will be in 2013, when con­ser­v­a­tive Peggy Roggen­sack is up for re-election.

See what hap­pens when I post with­out con­sult­ing my Blue Book first?

At least I didn’t pull a “Louns­bury” which is when you com­pletely rewrite the post after being pointed out how you were wrong by a reader or by the facts on the ground.

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Semper Fi and Happy Birthday Marines

As is tra­di­tion, through Kurt, the Annual Birth­day Mes­sage of the Marine Corps Com­man­dant and Sergeant Major.

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Liberal Logic at Work

The lib­eral eco­nomic mind at work…

Okay, so killing a train project no one wanted in the State of Wis­con­sin — BAD

Chang­ing a report inside the White House to force an off-shore drilling mora­to­rium which could end up killing 32,000 jobs in the Gulf Region where they want to drill for oil and nat­ural gas — GOOD

The White House rewrote cru­cial sec­tions of an Inte­rior Depart­ment report to sug­gest an inde­pen­dent group of sci­en­tists and engi­neers sup­ported a six-month ban on off­shore oil drilling, the Inte­rior inspec­tor gen­eral says in a new report.

In the wee hours of the morn­ing of May 27, a staff mem­ber to White House energy adviser Carol Browner sent two edited ver­sions of the depart­ment report’s exec­u­tive sum­mary back to Inte­rior. The lan­guage had been changed to insin­u­ate the seven-member panel of out­side experts – who reviewed a draft of var­i­ous safety rec­om­men­da­tions – endorsed the mora­to­rium, accord­ing to the IG report obtained by POLITICO.

The White House edit of the orig­i­nal DOI draft exec­u­tive sum­mary led to the impli­ca­tion that the mora­to­rium rec­om­men­da­tion had been peer-reviewed by the experts,” the IG report states, with­out judg­ment on whether the change was inten­tional attempt to mis­lead the public.

The six-month ban on off­shore drilling installed in the wake of the Gulf of Mex­ico oil spill became a major polit­i­cal issue over the sum­mer, as Gulf State law­mak­ers and indus­try groups charged the White House with unfairly threat­en­ing thou­sands of jobs. House Repub­li­cans have said they plan on inves­ti­gat­ing the cir­cum­stances sur­round­ing the mora­to­rium when they take power next year.

Rep. Bill Cas­sidy (R-La.) and sev­eral other Gulf State mem­bers of Con­gress asked the Inte­rior IG to inves­ti­gate the mora­to­rium and the peer review claim.

The inspec­tor general’s find­ing that the blanket-drilling mora­to­rium was dri­ven by a pol­i­tics and not by sci­ence is bit­ter news for fam­i­lies who, because of it, lost their jobs, sav­ings, and way of life,” Cas­sidy said Tues­day. “Can­di­date Obama promised that he would guided by sci­ence, not ide­ol­ogy. If that were true, at least 12,000 jobs and 1.8 bil­lion dol­lars of eco­nomic activ­ity would have been saved on the Gulf Coast.”

The Inte­rior Depart­ment per­son­ally and pub­licly apol­o­gized to the panel mem­bers in June for the insin­u­a­tion they pub­licly sup­ported the drilling moratorium.

Dur­ing my HUD days, I had to read a few IG reports.  So, I can under­stand the “edit” argu­ment the White House is making…to an extent.  But how, dur­ing the lev­els and lev­els of review — even inside the IG’s office — no one spoke up and said, “Hey, I have an issue with this change.” is sim­ply amazing.

By let­ting that change go unchal­lenged, the White House inten­tion­ally turned the Inte­rior Department’s IG report from being an inves­tiga­tive doc­u­ment to a polit­i­cal one.

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