Thank you for fixing this

The Edgewater Hotel, pictured here — now matured into a master class in truly regrettable architecture — is all the more regrettable because it’s located on a beautiful lake in an often beautiful city. (You can’t tell from the photo.) Now it will be redeveloped. Easily 9 out of 10 Madisonians think that’s a good thing. (Yes, we just made that number up, but that’s our guess.) So when the State Journal editorial board sets out to thank the Frautchis for making another big downtown project happen, why can’t they just say thanks? Or thanks a lot. Instead it’s all muddled up with their resentment that the original proposal (including $17 million in TIF support) didn’t sail through like they (the editorial board) wanted.

As we’ve said before, never ever invite editorial page editor Scott Milfred to offer a toast at your wedding. Or the eulogy at a loved one’s funeral. This is why.

The editorial is here if you’ve got the time and a subscription. (paywall)


Naming names

Tiny as the event was… and yes, it was really tiny… we still found it interesting. The Wisconsin State Journal (here) finally identified someone who, in their notoriously blinkered editorial-page view, is “on the far left”. Of course, this is primarily interesting for what it says about the State Journal. Sort of a Rorschach ink blot test.

State Journal editorials regularly gripe about “partisans” on the “far left” and sometimes also (though less often) on the “far right”. But it’s normally just generalized grumping, not naming names.

Of course, no one should have trouble listing off a dozen or so prominent Republican extremists, real officeholders, not aging rock stars at an NRA convention. But “far left” Democrats?  Who might they be? What are their “far left” policies?

Well, hallelujah, this week, editorial writer Scott Milfred has revealed two names from the far-out extremist lists which he maintains in his head. Ready? Here they are from Monday’s editorial:

…The rest of Wisconsin’s delegation — from Madison Democrat Tammy Baldwin on the far left to Menomonee Falls Republican Jim Sensenbrenner on the far right — stuck to their respective partisan scripts to defeat progress.

Ooh, progress defeated. Again? But now we’re getting somewhere… finally the State Journal names a far-left Democrat extremist. And it’s…wait, Tammy Baldwin?? That’s OUR Representative! She’s a left-wing extremist?

We’ve elected her to Congress 7 times. (And just in passing, let’s remember who’s not been elected — Scott Milfred and the Wisconsin State Journal editorial board.)

We were out of town last week. We must’ve missed a lot of Tammy Baldwin news. Did she call for nationalizing the banks? Of course not. Even when America’s largest banks brought about their own bankruptcies in 2008, even when other countries were temporarily nationalizing their banks, no elected Democrat in the U.S. called for nationalization here. The Dems (like the GOP) voted for re-capitalizing the failed banks and retaining the failed executives in a process now widely known as “the bailout”.

There are no “far left” elected Democrats. Zero. None.

As a whole the Democratic Party has become MUCH more conservative since the 1970s, a steady trend that continues to this day. And the liberal wing of the party (of which Baldwin most surely is a member) is marginalized. During the health care debate, liberals couldn’t get a Single Payer approach considered in committee, much less debated on the floor. Much of the private insurance-based health plan actually considered and passed was once promoted by the conservative Heritage Foundation.

There IS a powerful “far right” — parts of it arguably quite nutty, as well as extreme. They think corporations are people, the President might be a secret Muslim (who really knows?), and global warming a likely hoax. And we’re not describing just random Internet trolls; this is the talk of elected Republican officials.

If someone says Obama is a socialist, does that mean there’s anything to it? If the editorial page editor describes Tammy Baldwin as being on “the far left,” does that mean she is, or that the editorial writer is commenting from the far right?

As grandma said:

That lady who saw the Blessed Virgin on a toasted cheese sandwich was sayin’ more about herself than she was about the sandwich.


Wisconsin State Journal now offering charm school assessments?

We were amused to read Thursday’s State Journal editorial which has this to say about departing Madison School Superintendent Dan Nerad:

Nerad has been a measured and thoughtful leader. What he lacked in charm he sometimes made up for in knowledge and diplomacy.

What he lacked in charm”?!?

Nerad had insufficient “charm”?  But then he also “sometimes made up for it”?  using “knowledge”? and “diplomacy”?

Is this the work of a confused insult comic?

Look, we have no idea what Superintendent Nerad is like personally. But the Wisconsin State Journal — or presumably, the often prickly editorial page editor, Scott Milfred — thinks that he DOES. We find it side-splitting that our favorite malfunctioning opinion page editor is now doing Charm School assessments. Is he really qualified for this kind of work?

But the editorial, of course, must have intended to be more than a confused swipe at Nerad. And what was that intended point? Ah, there it is in the headline — “Madison School Board responsible, too“. Yes, the school board IS responsible for schools, and needs to keep working, although that seems to be a ludicrously obvious point.

Maybe it would be helpful if someone would just call for “decisive action”? Yes, good, there it is in the editorial. That’ll certainly help.

When we see a hundred men show up with orange barrels and heavy equipment to start tearing up a roadway, we have every confidence they know what they’re doing. When we see the State Journal editorial page undertake a normal day’s work, we have no such confidence.


Wisconsin State Journal goes gaga 4 Republican primary

Was it too many green beers? Too many basketball games? Was it springtime itself? Whatever it was, some lightheaded editorialist at the State Journal (and we think we know who) got way too giddy in public in this dingdong editorial which begins,

Bring it on!

The race for president rolls into Wisconsin this week and next as four contenders for the Republican nomination prepare to duke it out in the April 3 primary.

Enjoy the front-row seat…

Front row? Popcorn? No thanks. Maybe a big ol’ bottle of Orwell’s Victory Gin, because this spectacle is sad. Not just the 4 candidates, but the rivers of great wealth they float in on, and the bewildered citizens who think maybe they’ll vote for one, and the information systems that allow for so much bewilderment.


Wisconsin State Journal apparently ends editorial page operation

It’s three o’clock on Sunday afternoon and the Wisconsin State Journal still hasn’t published its usual editorial online. There’s other news at http://host.madison.com/wsj/ as usual, so that’s good, the paper’s still operating. But no editorial.

Well, it’s for the best. The editorial page had a long, long life, some of it rather creditable, as shown in their on-and-off series of “What we said [a hundred-or-so] years ago” visits to their old editorial archive and cemetery.

We can only assume they’ve decided now to shutter the whole editorial page operation. Maybe Scott Milfred just sort of reassessed where life was taking him, and decided on his own, “I’m outa gas. I got nothin’ left to say.” That certainly seemed to be the case in the last editorial on Friday, “Root for Milwaukee’s comeback“.

True, it’s a tough time to look for a new job, but sometimes you just burn out.

It always seems to work out for the best in the end. The State Journal will save thousands of dollars a year without the editorial page. Scott Milfred can move on to more suitable and, we hope, more personally satisfying work.  And, of course, citizens of Dane County and southern Wisconsin — both State Journal readers and others — will be spared any time reading the often inconsequential stuff, or worse, living with the consequences of the frequently very poor public policy advice.


What IS this?

Again this morning we sped thru the State Journal editorial only to ask ourselves “What WAS that?” and “Really?”

Why go to all the trouble and EXPENSE of having an editorial page editor if this (“Goofy aircraft ticket doesn’t fly“) is what we get?

In case you missed it, here’s the original story from the Fond du Lac Reporter, a Gannet newspaper.  We were first alerted to it yesterday in Jim Rowan’s The Political Environment, an indispensable Wisconsin blog.  The story’s been picked up and re-reported all over, and today’s State Journal “editorial” is, in fact, mostly another drastically shortened rewrite.

Of necessity, in order to justify the news story’s retelling as an “editorial”, editor Scott Milfred needs to draw at least some small lesson in public policy or morality. His lesson? Wisconsin is too lenient in its DUI laws and needs harsher penalties.

Maybe, but that was actually NOT what the story was about!

The story, as most readers would quickly understand — at least from the original reporting if not the State Journal editorial — was about a very important person getting special treatment from our justice system.

Milfred’s conclusion would only follow from the story if the story had shown numerous drunks pleading guilty to flying airplanes when actually they’d been driving cars. (Ergo, we need to change the law.) Needless to say, that’s not been happening. This bizarre handling happened only once that we know of, and surprise, surprise, it involved a very rich and prominent business person.

The editorial missed the news story.

We’d love it if the State Journal editorial page became more interested in the fertile topic of two-tiered justice. Most reality-based readers know it’s a problem. It seems absent from the local editorials, however. We’ll even suggest an excellent book, With Liberty and Justice for Some, by the indispensable Glenn Greenwald, who blogs famously at Salon.com.

an excerpt from With Liberty and Justice for Some:

When ordinary Americans come in contact with the justice system, everything changes. The world we have been examining reverses. In the United States, the lack of accountability for elites goes hand-in-hand with a lack of mercy for everyone else. As our politicians increasingly claim the right to commit crimes with impunity, they simultaneously escalate the severity of punishments imposed on ordinary Americans who have broken even minor laws.

As a result, precisely what the founders most feared has come to exist: a two-tiered system of justice in which outcomes are determined not by the law itself but by the status, wealth, and power of the lawbreaker.


The mining bill that must not wait?

Today the Wisconsin State Journal devoted its Sunday editorial to the Gogebic Taconite mining bill — “Dig for deal on mining bill“.

It seems to support no particular bill. If the editorial leans toward potential jobs and against environment protection (or vice versa), it’s not explicitly stated.

It’s useful to remember that this entire legislative effort is aimed at rewriting the law so that a single corporation will be able to construct a mine without certain [choose your framing] ‘business impediments’/’environmental safeguards’ in current Wisconsin law.

It’s also useful to remember the historical moment. Today’s compliant Republican majorities in the Assembly and Senate — and for that matter the Governor himself — may or may not be around to put this all together for Gogebic a few months into the future.

And here’s the one point the editorial is definite about:

So let’s get this done in a smart and timely way. The Legislature’s session is fading fast. Gov. Scott Walker should have the mining bill on his desk by spring.


Toast to Wisconsin newspapers marred by a couple of errors

Feb. 23, 2012

The Wisconsin Newspaper Association meets in Madison today and tomorrow.

It’s as good a reason as any for Madison’s only daily, the Wisconsin State Journal, to celebrate newspapers, as they do in today’s editorial, “As many newspapers as before“. The general tenor is this:

So don’t believe all the blabs and blogs about the newspaper industry dying. Wisconsin newspapers are as strong and vital as ever…

We cannot really countenance the word “blabs” in that sentence (while we do absolutely appreciate the attempted alliteration). But the real problem is, it’s not true.

Newspapers are not “as strong and vital as ever.”  Newspapers are smaller. They’ve laid off reporters. They cover less. Anyone old enough to read a newspaper over the last decade knows it. This blog is called ‘The Daily Tissue’ precisely because the State Journal has visibly wasted in size and coverage.

From our About page:  

The morning paper flutters quietly into the driveway… like a kleenex.  We took to calling it “the daily tissue” – so small and inconsequential — and icky on its editorial page. It was less fun for the dog to fetch.

We mourn this loss of pure physical mass. We have not criticized the news editors, reporters, or news pages of the Wisconsin State Journal in our writings here. Our first concern with the news pages is only that the news is shrinking.

The editorial page is what we criticize.  Today’s editorial gets this wrong, too.

Our industry’s faithful critics who pore over and link to our content every day will continue to insist that nobody reads us anymore.

No! No! NO!  We don’t “insist that nobody reads” you. We know that people DO read you. We’re saying that (on the WSJ editorial page, with rare exception — see category ‘Type II -The Surprisingly Correct’) you’re hurting your readers. You’re playing a very bad role at a time when democracy itself is under assault in Wisconsin.

You’re snoozing through a time when government transparency is being flouted. Voting districts are redrawn in private law offices. Mining laws are drafted with industry reps while the public is shut out. Pay-to-play is now the Wisconsin way. Unnecessary obstacles to voting have been established. Public sector workers have been deliberately scapegoated. Billionaires toy with our dialog. Our elections are awash with untraceable money. A governor wins office neglecting to mention his big plan. None of this is “left” or “right”. At least it shouldn’t be.

Sometimes the editorial page snoozes, sometimes it actively participates. Either way, it’s a sorry performance. You’ve got a potential readership that surely is among the most educated, interested and civic-minded anywhere in America, and at this critical time you are failing us.


State Journal gets angry, fumbles

The Figure 5 in Gold

Charles Demuth, The Figure 5 in Gold (1928), Museum of Modern Art, New York

Time once again to haul out the big Number 5 graphic… as the State Journal has produced another example of what we call the “Type 5 Editorial – the Unintentionally Hilarious (or Just Plain Sad).

They are sputtering mad that the high school basketball championships are leaving Madison. Are they mad at everyone? Mad mostly at the UW? Barry Alvarez? It’s hard to tell.

The editorial promises to “connect the dots”  but then fails to do so. Really, really fails. By the end, we were left wondering if they even know what “connecting the dots” means. It means, of course, to associate two or more things in order to reveal something that was hidden, or at least not obvious.  Detectives connect the dots. Scientists, researchers…. Actually we all do. Or should.

Here, however, is a close analog of today’s WSJ editorial:

There’s a salt shaker and a banana on the counter. We announce that we shall “connect the dots” between the two, and then we bellow: Bananas, in our opinion, are so delicious that it just makes you wonder why anyone who has a banana would also own a salt shaker. It’s mind-boggling! Really!

That is definitely not dot-connecting. Simply mentioning two things within a single rant does not mean the things are really in any way related. It’s just silly. Somebody needs to check over these editorials before they get published.

We must be exaggerating, right? Please examine the editorial yourself, and decide if the seemingly ludicrous analogy above does or does not apply.


Struggling musician shows fix for Wisconsin State Journal editorial page

The business section of Friday’s New York Times offers this story of Canadian singer-songwriter Drew Smith, and how he bought himself a pretty decent music video by outsourcing the work to Bangalore, India. For $2500 he got himself a 3-minute YouTube video, featuring his song with a bunch of — unrelated as far as we could tell, but still sort of interesting — Bollywood dancing.

As we watched the video, we thought, well, this makes  as much sense as today’s State Journal editorial, PLUS it’s a 100 times more interesting.

We read the editorial 3 times. That’s our job. We slog through no matter what. Certainly no one else in the whole world read that editorial as thoroughly as we did. We tried repeatedly to determine whether it had any particular subject. It does not. It’s a general laundry list of drearily familiar Republican talking points.

That’s when we said to ourselves, “Couldn’t this sort of thing be outsourced?

The unfortunate editorial starts with Obama in Milwaukee, and by the 3rd paragraph, believe it or not, it’s praising Governor Walker and the Legislature.  It moves from celebrating corporate tax cuts, to pumping free trade, to saluting automation (yes, that new-fangled “automation” you may have heard about anytime in the last century), and entrepreneurs, and new ventures, with certainty in taxes and simplicity of regulation, and encouragement for the private sector.  It’s an actual Republican word salad.

Couldn’t this sort of thing be outsourced?”  Of course, it could. The job of writing these editorials could be accomplished at a much lower cost by outsourcing to India. Why not put the money saved into hiring a new reporter?

Naturally, if the State Journal outsources its editorial writing, we will outsource our criticism at TheDailyTissue.com. This excellent idea occurred to us as we watched this YouTube reply to Smith’s outsourced-to-India music video. Here’s TheReplyGirl who’s new to us, but turns out to be something of a media conglomerate in the [self-]making.  We’re confused by her accent, but we love that the top of her head is always out of frame while her other assets are ready for their close-up.

She’ll go far.

How are witless editorials at the State Journal and incisive commentary at thedailytissue supposed to keep up with this?