July 31, 2005
The age of demonization
By Bill Kraus
Bush announces a supreme court appointment.
The Democrats immediately begin the demonization process.
The Republicans respond by demonizing the demonizers.
The partisans cheer.
The moderates who occupy the political middle of both major persuasions turn away in disgust, and the abandonment of politics to the interests and the extremes takes yet another giant step forward.
Are you mad yet?
July 27, 2005
Journal Communications' Miranda warning
By Ms. Forward
Milwaukee journalist, organizer and FightingBob.com contributing editor Robert Miranda has settled his libel suit against rightwing radio blatherer Charles Sykes, with Journal Communications agreeing to pay $5,000 for a scholarship for a South Division High School student. The case was in small-claims court, where $5,000 is the maximum award.
Journal Communications is the Milwaukee behemoth that owns WTMJ radio--where Sykes does his good work--the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, a TV station, more than a dozen weekly suburban newspapers, and goodness knows what else.
Sykes claimed Miranda organized a protest against a pro-Gulf War rally at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 1991, a time when Miranda may not have even lived in Wisconsin. Anti-war demonstrators at the rally allegedly threw small objects at the pro-war demonstrators and caused the event to end early.
In his WTMJ blog last Friday--more than eight months after making the erroneous claim--Sykes courageously blames the egregious falsehood on unnamed freaks who listen to his show and give him "tips" via e-mail. What he does not say, of course, is how much of the "information" he uses on his daily show flows from similar sources.
Unfounded rumors, bogus statistics and imaginary events are pretty much rightwing radio's stock and trade. Suits such as Miranda's are rare because they are hard to win and difficult to undertake, but given winger radio's record of dishonesty and distortion, one speculates that virtually every minute of it provides the raw material for libel and slander suits. (Sykes' Miranda claim actually appeared in his written blog, which is why this was a libel case and not a slander case.)
How many such suits would it take for WTMJ, Limbaugh, O'Reilly, Hannity, etc. to change their ways? Ms. Forward doesn't know, but it could be fun trying to find out.
July 20, 2005
By Bill Kraus
When it became possible to copy music off the radio onto cassette tapes, the music business went into a tailspin. All attempts to enforce copyright protection were simply outrun by a simple, universally available technology.
The rise of DVDs, of movies on the Internet, and of technology that weds the two has done the same thing to the movie business. Once again the technology seems to be trumping copyrights and other protections.
The unintended and irreversible side effect of the Internet blogging phenomenon may be to blow apart all attempts to bring campaign spending under some semblance of control, and, more important, to put candidates back in charge of their own campaigns.
If bloggers, using this new technology, are classified as journalists, they get a free ride. Even if they are classified as campaigners, how are their contributions to campaigns going to brought under campaign regulatory laws, and by whom?
Campaign reformers want to get campaigns back into the hands of the candidates. Everyone else wants to get into the act. And everyone else has (a) money, (b) membership organizations, and (c) free speech and the technology that gives everyone the equivalent of a printing press.
Back to the drawing board, Russ (and John)? It would seem so.
July 14, 2005
Hosting the monster
By Bill Kraus
After WWI the German industrialists turned to Hitler and his Nazi party to rebuild a demoralized, defeated Germany. He did that. Then he turned to his much more expansive agenda. When the industrialists decided he had gone too far and tried to rein him in, it was too late. Hitler was in charge, not his sponsors.
In the 1960s the business community of Birmingham, Alabama wanted to stop or, at the very least slow down, racial integration in that city. They selected Bull Connor as their instrument. Not unlike Hitler a generation earlier, Bull went too far and became an embarrassment to the city in general and the business community in particular. But by the time the business organization realized this Bull was running Birmingham.
The analogy is imperfect but apt. The Republican Party of Wisconsin at least and elsewhere as well has gained legislative majorities and the power they represent by turning to the right-to-life zealots. These devoted people have reached beyond their special agenda, and are now imposing their behavioral standards more broadly than any of the Republicans in general, and the business community members of that party particularly, expected or wanted. The price of those majorities has risen to include a lot of things a lot of Republicans don’t want, including, particularly, stem cell research and all it could mean to human health and Wisconsin businesses.
The right-to-life movement is in charge here.
Lest the floundering Wisconsin Democrats take something approaching gleeful note of this development, it should be pointed out that the soul of their party has been at least rented if not sold to the teachers’ union. The agenda of the union is theoretically about education (as the right-to-life agenda is theoretically about abortion), but they do seem to be a lot more interested in their members’ economic well being, than in, say, students’ skill levels and graduation rates.
July 8, 2005
Desperately seeking participation
By Bill Kraus
The question used to be "Where does a moderate go to register?" Before anyone could think of an answer, an even more difficult question arose: "How can a citizen participate in what has become a politics of and by mercenaries?"
A young man recently asked me both questions, and we went down the list together.
The obvious and traditional route to participation was through the parties. Go to caucuses. Get to be a delegate or an officer of a county or even a district organization. Man the phones. Raise money. Go door to door.
"But," the young man said, "the parties don't do this stuff any more." They don't slate candidates. They don't fund candidacies. They are no longer important political entities to anyone except the interest groups (right to life and NRA for the Republicans and teachers' unions and trial attorneys for the Dems) who have taken them over.
Okay, how about the other special interest groups that have risen to political prominence?
How about AARP?
Not old enough.
Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce?
Not in business.
The tribes? Sorry. Not a native American either.
The Sierra Club or any of a large assortment of conservation organizations?
Even though I like what they do I don't believe that what they do is the whole thing. I am interested in a government that works on something broader, more elusive and harder to define, like the general interest.
There is no general interest special interest as far as I know, and this seems to be an era where money and special interests have taken over politics.
So how can I participate, become a player?
The only thing I can recommend is to find a candidate who thinks the way you do and who as, if, and when elected will elevate the general interest above what the money and the special interests think are important.
But that person would have to run a campaign without the big money and against the special interests and their knee-jerk votes.
Indeed, and the conventional wisdom says that such a campaign is doomed. But it is important to remember that the conventional wisdom is merely conventional; it isn't scripture. It may not even be right.