Can we dream?

Southern Wisconsin dreams of a day when the Wisconsin State Journal editorial page might regularly make sense. Is today the day they start?

Today’s editorial “Stop grousing at the referee” is a perfect example of how easy it can be to deliver a Type II – Surprisingly Correct editorial.  The editorial criticizes Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald’s foolish call to get rid of Wisconsin’s 4-year-old, non-partisan Government Accountability Board.

When the WSJ editorial board gets one right, we’ll say so, happily. And on Friday, Dec. 16, 2011, they got one right.  We memorialize it as Surprisingly Correct in our permanent Index of Daily Editorials.

Sometimes it’s easy making sense

It’s blindingly obvious, but welcome.

Given a fresh chance every day, the dominant local newspaper can deliver a clownish editorial (like yesterday’s) or it can get something right, as in today’s “Do right for the wrongly convicted.

Wisconsin compensates the wrongfully convicted $5000 per year? Up to a cap of $25,000? Wisconsin’s wrongful imprisonment compensation law is itself criminal negligence.  Metaphorically, if not legally.

State Journal reporter Dee Hall’s most recent article, “Freed prisoners lose their innocence,” is well worth reading, as it makes the point that people lose much more than time and money when they’re locked up in our ‘Corrections’ system.  The article quotes Keith Findley of the Wisconsin Innocence Project at the UW Law School

“Aside from the obvious lack of freedom and the nightmares of prison life,” Findley said, “wrongful conviction severs family relationships and ends friendships, the opportunities … to create a family or share in raising children, and causes loss of homes and other possessions, income, employment and one’s good name.

“To go through all of that, especially for a crime you didn’t commit is inevitably destructive.”

Also from that same article,

The state’s current cap of $5,000 for every year in prison, up to a maximum $25,000, is the lowest amount in the nation among states that offer compensation for wrongful conviction…


Dee Hall has reported skillfully about this and closely related issues for at least 5 years.

Wisconsin State Journal is reasonably close to correct!

Yesterday we were on the warpath. Even after we acknowledged yesterday’s editorial as “Surprisingly Correct”, we were very frustrated. The problem, of course, was that it was correct about a tiny thing, and then oblivious to the larger and entirely related issues of what’s going on in the GOP, and, um, on Earth.

Today the State Journal gets another bite at the apple, and again, they are Surprisingly Correct! They offer fairly strong criticism of the Walker administration’s new hurdles for demonstrations at the Capitol.

State Journal readers will find this is an almost perfect specimen of the “Type II (The Surprisingly Correct) Editorial “.

The important thing about a Type II is the surprise-yness not the correctness. It is, after all, impossible not to be right about many, many things during the course of a day.  But what makes a really outstanding Type II editorial is when the Journal goes “against type” to surprise the reader.  Like when an outlaw biker smiles at you and hands you a little bouquet of posies. It’s surprising.

So when the Wisconsin State Journal criticizes a Republican policy or officeholder, it’s like the biker and the posies. It’s surprising!  Remember the Journal editors always have the option of saying nothing. And they use that option all the time. It’s easy to say nothing and change the subject to something — anything — more agreeable.

So we applaud them today for swallowing deep, and saying the difficult, albeit obvious, truth about these new rules. It’s good.  It starts

If citizens want to sing in the Capitol rotunda over the noon hour, let them.

And if Wisconsin lawmakers want to rush meetings with less than 24 hours’ notice, don’t expect the public to provide 72 hours’ notice of a protest.

Then it stumbles a little, tossing off an arguable and unnecessary claim about past security:

The Walker administration has handled security at the state Capitol relatively well during these highly-charged times — until now.

And then delivers the money-shot (emphasis ours):

Its new policy goes too far and needlessly provokes the Republican governor’s sharpest critics.

See how hard that was for them? They should have just let it go with the “policy goes too far.” Or even better, “the policy is an abomination to the U.S Constitution and the inalienable right of citizens to protest against the government” (or something like that). But… “goes too far” is also a correct answer.  They should’ve stopped there.

But they added a second criticism that it “needlessly provokes the Republican governor’s sharpest critics.” They’re kind of showing their hand here. Yes, it does provoke the governor’s ‘critics’, but that’s a tactical and political point about how their pal the governor should be acting right now to help himself.

They really should’ve just stuck to the principled reason.

It’s not just ‘critics’ who see these new restrictions and penalties for speech as shockingly wrong. It’s really anyone with a proper grade-school understanding of American history and principles.

So except for that, the State Journal editorial is Surprisingly Correct.

GOP Clown Show not really all that funny

The Wisconsin State Journal is sad today because Donald Trump is making the Republican debates look clownish. Today’s editorial, Hey, Trump — You’re Fired, is remarkable in several ways.

First, let’s note that we place it in the category “Type 2 Editorial – Surprisingly Correct”. (See here  for our original taxonomy of State Journal editorials). It is true that Donald Trump hosting a Republican Presidential debate is a fiasco on every possible level.

Of course, that’s hardly the worst of the fiascos. The Republican slate has itself been a traveling clown car, long before Trump wanted to host a debate. If Trump has been a clown and a disservice to the Party (and he has), it’s not his first time, and he’s not the only one.

So it’s odd that the State Journal’s editorial takes time to say

…significantly — and this is the reassuring part — Trump failed to gain any traction with voters when he dabbled with running for president himself earlier this year.

What?!? They don’t recall that in April, 2011, Trump led the Republican field in national polls. This was back when he was acting as America’s Top Birther.

Odd that the State Journal cannot remember six months back, but then we’re routinely amazed by their serial inability to remember anything about how America went from budget surplus to debt during the Bush calamity years. Even when people try to remind them, they still can’t remember. But why be surprised? They snoozed for thirty years as the middle class was being dismantled, and it’s not at all clear they’ve learned about it yet.

The real story is the Republican base, and here again, our editorial page doesn’t notice it. You hate to come right out and say something that reflects poorly on a whole class of your fellow Americans. But there’s something wrong with the Republican base. They are capable of believing anything, at least for a while. Lowering taxes actually raises revenue? Hallelujah! Herman Cain? He was well-qualified!  Age of the earth? About 6,000 years. Climate change? Not our fault! And on and on.

We’re seeing a clown show in the race for the GOP nomination, because it can’t be otherwise.  It’s now inherent, systemic, built-in. The State Journal editorial page either does not know, or will simply never say, that their Party has gone out of control.

Krugman at the NY Times (emphasis ours) :

The larger point, however, is that whoever finally gets the Republican nomination will be a deeply flawed candidate. And these flaws won’t be an accident, the result of bad luck regarding who chose to make a run this time around; the fact that the party is committed to demonstrably false beliefs means that only fakers or the befuddled can get through the selection process.

That’s  true. GOP candidates are required now to dismiss scientists on scientific issues. On climate change GOP candidates must insist either that it’s not [provably] happening at all, or that human activity has nothing to do with it. If the candidate can’t or won’t sign on to what is in fact a monstrous lie, the base will send them home.

The next generation gets the droughts, the floods, the loss of crop lands, the crop failures, the famines, the global catastrophe. Millions will die. You’ve got to want that Republican nomination real, real bad to lie about this stuff. But, on the bright side, maybe you get nominated, even win the Presidency.

If it’s a clown show, it’s not the funny kind. That’s the real story. It’s not about Trump.

Newspaper reluctant to wear its ‘I’m With Stupid’ t-shirt

Our Index of Daily Editorials shows that it’s been over 2 weeks since the Wisconsin State Journal managed to produce a “Type 2 – Surprisingly Correct” editorial. But today we have one: “Another distraction from jobs“.

Wis. Rep. Andre Jacque, R-Bellevue

It criticizes the work of this guy, as follows (emphasis is ours):

Rep. Andre Jacque, R-Bellevue, just introduced a proposed state constitutional amendment to redefine “personhood.”

The proposal is patterned after a measure that voters in the much more conservative state of Mississippi just rejected. So its prospects in Wisconsin are slim to none.

Yet Jacque’s amendment will nonetheless trigger high-profile Capitol hearings, emotional debate and big headlines about whether human eggs — from the moment they are fertilized — deserve the same constitutional rights as living, breathing people.

This isn’t just a distraction. It’s actually a detriment to Wisconsin’s economy and jobs because it sends a message far and wide that Wisconsin may not be a good place for high-tech companies to prosper.

The Journal is quite right in its criticism, but once again hopelessly confused about the Republican Party. The state party might once have been led by sensible, upstanding businessmen of the local chamber of commerce. Not anymore. Sensible, upstanding fellows might still belong to the party, but they’re not always driving. They’re often just along for the ride.

We hate to be rude, but simple honesty requires us to observe that the Republican party has been on a long bender, picking up oddball supporters since the Southern Strategy began in 70’s. When The Simpsons on Fox Entertainment made this passing joke about Fox News, it was darkly funny because it was true. And it’s true of today’s GOP. You don’t need to be a racist, but if you fear and hate brown people or black people, you know where to go.

The GOP has put together a coalition of race-baiters, birthers, climate deniers, homophobes, Creationists, anti-taxers, Bible-jugglers, xenophobes, Christian Dominionists, and radical anti-abortion zealots (to name a few). Somehow these folks are supposed to share values with the super-rich and the local small business-people in the Republican Party.

But the oddballs are sometimes going to demand that Attention Be Paid!  Enter Representative Andre Jacque, R-Bellevue. The Wisconsin State Journal should really plan to get used to it.

Wisconsin State Assembly and cameras, and guns

The Wisconsin State Journal manages to get the day’s editorial Surprisingly Correct!.

Writing about the prohibition of cameras from the State Assembly visitors’ gallery (which has led to at least a dozen recent arrests) the Journal editorializes “Camera ban is hard to justify“.  Well, yes.

The Assembly has ruled that concealed weapons are definitely okay in the visitors’ gallery. For that matter unconcealed weapons might be okay, too; we’re not sure… although we’d hope the Capitol Police would stop armed visitors from actually aiming down into Assembly…. Well, unless the visitor was preparing to return fire at an Assemblyman who had already started firing up into the visitors’ gallery…. Things have gotten complicated in Wisconsin. The new rules are not always clear.

Anyway, it seems the Journal has at least started to figure things out as far as cameras are concerned.

A teensy-weensy limit on Wisconsin governors?

The State Journal catches editorial page readers by surprise today, delivering a “Type 2 Editorial – the Surprisingly Correct.”

They want rulings by the six retired judges of the state Government Accountability Board (GAB) to be immune from veto by Wisconsin governors. It’s a classic “good government” stand, which from time to time, the editorial page is given to promoting. So good for them.

Wisconsin State Journal Seems Right

It’s always a good day when the State Journal isn’t advocating against the majority of us, and today is such a day. Their effort today, “Speed study to save Great Lakes“, seems to be an easy call, an Editorial Type 2 – The Surprisingly Correct. They want action on the Asian Carp invasion.

Four years of study does seem too long. We agree.

Waiting four years seems guaranteed to fail.

The trouble (or potential trouble) with these editorials about how things “seem” (a fairly common phraseology in WSJ editorials) is that they’re discussing feelings or impressions or some similar wispy inclination. It’s a red flag that their opinion is emotional rather than informed. Really the exact opposite of journalism.

One may feel

$20,000 to redo a little bathroom?!? Well, that seems high! Double what I imagined!

But that might be what it’ll cost.

We have no idea what the Army Corp of Engineers needs to study. Not a clue. We know nothing of hydro-geology or the financial/commercial implications of closing off the Chicago River.  Or any of the other issues that really could be major. And neither does the WSJ, we’re sure.

So we’ll agree with the WSJ that we really, really wish that this could all be speeded up. Can it actually be speeded up? The answer to that is much harder than anything being said here today.


Important Thoughts from the Wisconsin State Journal

Today our local editorial page considers admissions at the University of Wisconsin: Is the the admissions office giving too much priority to admitting non-whites?

What was their answer? We were on pins and needles.

It was as if Pee-Wee Herman were about to tell Stephen Hawking how to work with numbers and symbols.  Wait a minute, Pee-Wee, we don’t really ca—

But then at least he gets it right:

the UW oughta continue doing what it’s been doing all along

Pee-Wee, back in the day, has. done. worse.