MADDOW is must-see TV for Wisconsin context

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Rachel Maddow's weeknight show on MSNBC is fast turning into the go-to source for common sense, reality and optimism regarding the Republican assault on public employee unions in Wisconsin and other states.

If you don't have cable (and maybe you shouldn't, given who those guys are), you can stream Maddow's show here:

Thursday night's installment was particularly instructive. Maddow has led with the Wisconsin battle for just about every night since the battle began nearly two weeks ago. She's often ahead of the curve and lends uncommon perspective to the situation. On the Thursday show, highlights included:

* Her analysis of why Gov. Scott Walker is increasingly isolated, not only within Wisconsin but among Republican governors who are beginning to step back from their own anti-union rhetoric and initiatives. And why.

* Her interview with an uncommonly feisty Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.

* Her continuing analysis of the now infamous Walker/"David Koch" prank phone call.

* Her entertaining lesson on why Walker and former Wisconsin GOP Chair Reince Preibus (now national GOP chair) walk hand in hand.

* Her low-key refutation of the national Politifact operation, which gave her a "false" reading for a Wisconsin-oriented statement she dramatically demonstrates she didn't make. So devastating was her short segment on this that Politifact's national page took the unusual step of defending itself -- although it refused to change its rating.  The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Politifact operation took pains of its own to defend itself. This was all about whether, as Walker claims, Wisconsin will have a budget deficit this year. See Maddow run rings around these guys. Their commentaries on her commentary are longer than the original, and more convoluted by far. As Maddow concludes, and I paraphrase: You don't get to call something false just because you have "truth" in your name.

The Maddow show's correspondence to Politfact at the Journal Sentinel is choice reading. Here's the money 'graf:

We recognize the journalistic value in writing a "where did the budget shortfall come from" piece, but, if you need a bogeyman to deny the existence of the shortfall so you can make your case in the Politifact truth-o-meter gotcha format, you should pick someone who didn't explicitly say, "there is, in fact, a … shortfall."

The whole letter and other correspondence on the matter is at:

It's good to see pundits whose chief weapons are logic, reason and calm, and who don't roll easily. Beyond all that, Maddow provides tons of data and loads of not always obvious cause-and-effect analysis, cutting through Politifact-type minutiae and other unhelpful distractions and doing it all with unfailing cheerfulness and no shouting. It's quite the show, and it's quite unlike any other reporting on what's happening right here among us, right now.

Check it out. And check out the main Maddow Blog page, above, for even more of the same. It lately reads like Maddow and her TV production staff are camping out on the Capitol Square. They aren't, and they haven't, but they appear to know more -- and make more sense of it -- than some media types who do.