October 30, 2004
No sleep until November 3
By Spencer Black
I might sleep a little bit between now and Tuesday evening, but that will be the only time I will not be working to turn out the vote for John Kerry and John Edwards.
But I will not be doing all of this hustling because of what George Bush and Dick Cheney have done for the last four years. What will motivate me will be what they are likely to do in the next four years if they manage to win (or steal) this election.
Bush’s election could affect us and our children not just for four years – but for 40!
Supreme Court: Just this week came news of Chief Justice Rehnquist’s illness. The next president is likely to have the chance to remake the Supreme Court. Not only would Roe v. Wade be gone, but a rightwing court would likely rule unconstitutional many laws protecting workers, consumers, and the environment. Just read the minority opinions of Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas (whom Bush has said are his two favorite Justices) and consider the America of the future when those opinions become the majority of the court and the law of the land.
Environment: As bad as the last four years have been for environmental protection, you ain’t seen nothing yet. A host of decisions about our outdoors have been delayed until after the election, such as opening up millions of acres of western wilderness and the coasts to the oil and gas industry. Environmental damage is often impossible to reverse; once an endangered species is gone, it's gone. No matter how green a future president is, the laws of nature (not Congress) will limit their ability to repair the damage to our natural resources caused by four more years of Bush and Cheney.
There are times to use our vote simply to make a statement – this year, in this battleground state is not one of them. We should join Winona Duke, Ralph Nader’s running mate in 2000, and vote for John Kerry and John Edwards. This year, we in Wisconsin must use our vote to make a difference.
While the presidential campaigns overshadow other races on the ballot, much is at stake in the state Legislature as well. With the purge of Mary Panzer in the Republican primary, John Gard will now have fellow rightwingers Scott Fitzgerald and Dave Zien leading the state Senate. They are determined to roll back Wisconsin’s progressive traditions.
The legislative elections will determine if Gard and Zien have a veto-proof Legislature to accomplish their goals of dismantling environmental protection, undermining public education, limiting civil liberties and hamstringing vital local services.
The election will also determine how strong the progressive voice in the state will be. Incumbent senators Dave Hansen and Bob Wirch and newcomer Mark Miller are battling negative, corporate campaigns. On the Assembly side, Gof Thompson, Sondy Pope-Roberts and Meagan Yost in southern Wisconsin, and Charlie Wolden, Joe Plouff and Gary Sherman in Northwest Wisconsin have tough races as well. They need our support.
October 29, 2004
The campaign that will not leave
By Bill Kraus
As this egregiously expensive and endless national campaign finally comes to an end, it is time to ask with renewed intensity the age old question: Is there any way to limit the length of the election season, or are we stuck with it until and unless we unschedule elections?
The answer, alas, seems to be no. Or maybe we can. It stands to reason if we were to find a way to restrict the amount of money that candidates and everyone else who feels compelled to spend their money trying to influence election results can spend, this should force participants to husband these limited resources so they can weigh in at the last moment, the moment of maximum impact.
This is the theory. All theories are, of course, subject to the law of unintended consequences and are therefore unpredictable. But isn't it worth a shot? I think so.
October 28, 2004
Our schools cannot afford four more years of Bush
By Michael W. Apple
We have now had four years of Bush educational policy. By nearly any measure, we are worse off now than before. Bush has been the Rhetorical President on education--promising much, but delivering very little.
He has supposedly reached out to communities whose students are less well served by our schools. But if you examine what he has actually done, he has nearly guaranteed that working class and poor children will not have the kind of education that will make a real difference in their lives. His economic policies and budget cuts have created such a deep financial crisis in school districts throughout the nation that crucial programs are being dropped and essential staff being laid off. And his uncritical support of vouchers and privatization nearly guarantees that our public schools, one of the cornerstones of a functioning democracy, will ultimately get less funding.
The disrespectful way he has treated teachers is almost scandalous. Under his watch, the Secretary of Education has even called socially and educationally committed teachers “terrorists.”
At the university level, he has tried to close down important research-based resources on effective schooling, has changed the funding basis of research so that studies that meet the test of his administration’s ideological screen benefit. He has even manipulated and consistently mis-used scientific data to suit his chosen ideological commitments.
His major initiative, No Child Left Behind, has been anything but successful. Indeed in state after state it has acted as a straight jacket, making it even more difficult for schools to succeed. This should not surprise us, since in spite of the efforts of his spin-doctors these kinds of policies were tested out in Texas and failed.
What has he given us? A horrible budget crisis in schools systems, higher rates of dropouts, rising class sizes, bad testing and unresponsive curricula, attacks on teachers and on the very idea of a truly public school: These are the hallmarks of his administration. We cannot afford another four years.
Privatization vs. excellence
By John Matthews
Profit for his corporate buddies is George Bush's top priority, whether it is pushing aside worker's rights, granting the Attorney General morepower to abuse the common citizen or using the children in our public schools as a means to his ends. To do so, the Bush administration has pushed people down, changed the rules, developed policy in secret, as well as disregarding the Constitution and previous rulings of the Supreme Court.
In education, the Bush administration's priority has been No Child Left Behind. NCLB is the Bush administration's way of putting our public school system in jeopardy, to cause its failure in its drive to privatize. NCLB is just one more way in which the Republican Party has left its roots and stripped away local control of our schools districts, disregarding their own platform that our schools should be what those living in the school district want them to be.
Given the numerous testing required, and the massive federal control, NCLB would be better called Leave No Child Untested. Every child, grade three through eight, must be all to frequently tested to illustrate that he/she has achieved the "adequate yearly progress" mandated by NCLB. This causes teachers to now spend an inordinate amount of time testing children for this and other government programs. The federal testing has taken significant instructional time away from the educational process. The heavy hand of the federal government can force restructure of the school, without taking into consideration the number of children in the school who have handicapping conditions, the number of children who are not able to fluently converse in English, or the number of children who come from impoverished families. All dramatically impact a child's learning.
The strings which come with Bush administration funding are often so onerous that the money is not worth the restrictions with which school districts must comply. The Madison Metropolitan School District recently refused to continue a federal reading grant (Reading First) of some $775,000 for the 2003-04 school year (circa $4 Million over the next several years). The reason, even though the MMSD has one of the best reading programs in the world, including a Reading Recovery Program to assist those who need it, is because the Bush administration insisted that in each grade, District wide, every teacher, in lockstep, be required to teach the same lesson plan on a given day, regardless of the teacher's assessment that the children hadn't mastered the lesson and needed more time, or that his/her class had mastered the lesson and was ready to move on. The Bush administration also insisted that all children be taught as a unit, regardless of their individual differences and they insisted that the MMSD purchase new teaching materials from one of four private companies, even though the District's materials, which District teachers and administrators had created are the envy of school districts nationwide. These absurd demands by the Bush administration are a guise to their design to move to privatize our public schools. NCLB would be problematic even if the funding by the Bush administration were adequate, but it far from it.
John Kerry understands the problems which NCLB causes local communities, school districts and teachers. While John Kerry voted for it, he understands that it is tremendously under funded (under funding is estimated at $9.4 Billion), that it now requires major revision, and that it cannot succeed unless it is adequately funded. Kerry also understands that the testing which accompanies NCLB must be improved, so that it is not burdensome and so that it achieves its intent.
October 27, 2004
Vote to preserve Wisconsin's schools
By Dick Vander Woude
Education is a vital Wisconsin resource. It is likely the single best thing Wisconsin has going for it as we compete for new business/economic development today and in the future. Ask anyone who moves here from the east, the south or the west. They love it here because of the great pubic schools for their children, and the technical colleges and university system.
One newly arrived former Californian commented to me recently, “Property taxes here are half what I had to pay to send my kid to a private school out there, and this is a better school.”
So why is this election important? Because state and federal policy is going in the wrong direction and severely undermining the great resource of our schools at all levels. State-imposed revenue controls are forcing program cuts. Last year, 55 percent of all school districts cut extracurricular programs, 68 percent increased class sizes, and 57 percent offered fewer academic courses than the year before. Meanwhile, the federal government is forcing schools to administer more tests to students while failing to provide the resources students need to pass them.
Add the effects of these state and federal intrusions, and you get local school boards that budget for core academics to get better test scores while cutting programs that make schools interesting, unique, creative and motivational. The results of these policies of punishment will be more dropouts, more failed schools, fewer advanced placement courses taken and passed, and less program diversity in an age that demands it.
Why is this election important? Because great schools benefit everyone, and they are at risk. We simply must change direction.
October 26, 2004
Bush imposes dress code at Richland Center High School
By Dustin Beilke
There has been no mention of this in the mainstream Wisconsin media, of course, but via the DailyKos blog site a disgruntled Richland Center High School student’s parent reports that students were threatened with expulsion if they wore pro-Kerry buttons or clothing or otherwise voiced dissent during today’s Bush campaign appearance at the high school.
The Bush campaign’s unprecedented loyalty oaths and violent overreaction to protesters on the campaign trail have become legendary despite getting very little attention from the reporters who cover the campaign. Still, threatening high school kids with expulsion might be a new low even for them. Either way, this is not much of a democracy lesson for the kids in Richland Center.
If there are other stories like this one regarding Bush’s many appearances in our state, FightingBob.com would be happy to repeat them. Send them to Comments@FightingBob.com.
By Bob West
On September 11, 2001, the World Trade Centers crashed to the ground killing nearly 3,000 innocent human beings. Little did I know that this single, horrible day would spawn so much more pain and destruction here at home and around the world.
The national need for revenge pre-empted reason. The greed of our coveted free enterprise system set off a downward economic spiral. By September 11, 2002, some were so righteous and frenzied with anger over the terrorist-inflicted pain (Al Queda and corporate) that Bush grabbed the military credit card and began spending us into trillions of dollars of debt. Afghanistan did not seem to satisfy the need to exact a price for hurting this nation, so we embarked on a senseless crusade in Iraq.
Today the United States has lost the trust of most of the world and our finances are in tatters. My children are in peril as their schools are held hostage to the slogan-dominated campaigns of a Texan whose own schools are among the worst in the country. Jobs have been lost to downsizing and outsourcing, and I cannot even get a flu shot until I become more feeble.
Sometimes I think that this is just a nightmare, that I have fallen asleep on the remote and the channel accidentally switched to Fox News. Unfortunately, I am very much awake and terrified to think of George W. Bush running this country into the ground for another four years.
Revenge is ugly in any form, and my president must lead with clearer vision and a stronger heart.
October 24, 2004
The right wing’s Cross to bear
By Camille Faherty
I am a mother of two children, and when I was pregnant I firmly believed that I had the serious responsibility to take the best possible care my own body because I was sharing my body with another life. So why does the Bush loyalists’ push for his re-election and the promise of a reversal of Roe v. Wade not sway me to vote for Bush, Tim Michels and the rest who campaign around a “pro-life” agenda?
Perhaps it is because I really do not believe the right-wingers have any real intention of banning abortion. Abortion is the issue that gets their people to the polls. If this issue were taken off the table, where would their candidates be?
It is no surprise that they refuse to allow a clause that permits abortion in the case of rape, incest and or the health of the mother. A bill like that might actually pass. Then their voting constituency might feel that their job was done; they might feel complacent and stop showing up for future elections.
Put another way, why was Pro-Life Wisconsin a contributor to Linda Cross’s campaign back when she ran for state Superintendent of Public Instruction? The chief of the public education system has no impact on abortion laws, but can push the rightwing agenda in public schools. The superintendent can advocate for the expansion of the voucher system, put political pressure on the teachers unions, grant greater administrative powers to schools boards and local superintendents, and choke the life out of public schools by working to keep the revenue caps in place.
I would like to see them get people to the polls with that agenda.
October 23, 2004
By Bill Kraus
An old friend once advised me to never get into a fight with a pig. You'll both get dirty, he said, and the pig likes it.
The segue into this presidential campaign is not entirely logical, but it's close enough to attempt.
What we have is a campaign full of oversimplifications and personal attacks where both sides are trying to make the campaign a referendum on the despicable character of the other side.
And the partisans love it.
So the candidates and their hired guns are playing to the people who they are sure will vote. The partisans.
So the majority that would like to have a civil discourse on the major matters that the winner is going to have to confront are more or less ignored.
Since the majority has more or less not been voting, Pogo's aphorism is in play: again. We get the campaign we deserve.
October 18, 2004
The view from Minnesota
By Arvonne Fraser
Elmer L. Andersen, progressive Republican governor of Minnesota from 1961-63 and a businessman, wrote a scathing indictment of the Bush administration in an October 13 Minneapolis Star Tribune op-ed. He wrote that it “dismays me...to have to publicly disagree with the national Republican agenda and the national Republican candidate but, this year, I must. The two ‘Say No to Bush’ signs in my yard say it all.”
Andersen called Bush’s ducking of military serve during the Vietnam war and then disparaging Kerry’s brave service “a travesty” and pointed out that in the presidential debates Kerry “has shown himself to be of far superior intellect and character…his ethics are unimpeachable.”
Andersen also reminded readers that in his era liberal Republicans had a “humane and reasonable platform,” and “advocated the importance of higher education, health care for all, programs for children at risk, energy conservation and environmental protection.
The governor’s most telling statement was that he feared for our nation more than he ever had because “this country is in the hands of an evil
man: Dick Cheney. It is eminently clear that it is he who is running the country, not George W. Bush.”
A recent Minnesota Poll, taken Oct. 9-11, gives Kerry 48 percent, Bush, 43 percent and Nader 2 percent. In another development, Minnesota Republicans were preparing a lawsuit before the state Supreme Court alleging that three counties did not have an even distribution of election judges. Minneapolis, they charged, had 335 Republican judges and 658 Democratic judges while Olmsted County in southern Minnesota had a preponderance of Republicans. An extremely heavy
turnout is expected.
October 8, 2004
By Bill Kraus
One of the ways I pass the time in my dotage is driving hundreds of miles to give speeches to long suffering audiences. My topic is usually The State of Politics in Wisconsin. This could be covered in one word: lousy. Since they seem to want more than that, I go to great lengths to tell them how I think we got to this sorry state and who the culprits were that led us astray.
Inevitably, they ask what they should do about this.
The parties are gone, the voters, heeding Lee Dreyfus's admonition to "Let The People Decide," are gone as well; they have decided to stay home.
The candidate who has the smartest hired gun, the most money, and the best commercials tends to be the winner in a politics that has become more like marketing where the voters are customers and less like politics where the voters are active participants.
Instead of admitting that my answer to their question is "I don't know," I do suggest a couple of things.
I tell them to vote for anyone who promises to do anything, no matter how seemingly inconsequential, to get a lid on campaign spending. This may not bring us back to our former puritanical state, but it couldn't hurt. It might even help.
My second recommendation is to vote, early, often, and in large numbers. If the voting percentage suddenly went from under 50 percent to close to 80 percent, the organized single-issue factions that are so inordinately powerful today because they do vote, would lose their leverage to those of us who are more interested in improving the human condition than advancing some narrow cause.
Naturally the law of unintended consequences will come into play, and these worthy ideas will not achieve all of what I hope, but they do seem to me to be worth a shot.
October 1, 2004
What goes around comes around, but upside down
By Bill Kraus
In 1960 most Republicans were convinced that all the Roman Catholics would vote for John Kennedy and that if he won the election, he would take his orders from the Pope in Rome.
Neither came to pass.
In 2004, John Kerry, the Roman Catholic candidate, is being criticized by many clerics for being pro-choice and is not allowed to take communion in several dioceses. His Catholicism is not an issue among most Republicans. But it may be among the Democrats.
The Republicans are no longer fearful of what scared them in 1960. They are vigorously trying to get as many Roman Catholics to vote for George W. Bush as they can.
This probably won't come to pass either, but the political world has clearly been turned on its head in the last 44 years.