April 29, 2006
Talking TABOR with Tommy
By Bill Kraus
For reasons that are both complicated and irrelevant I participated in an effort to prepare a statement that the state’s former governors might favor of the following statement on the governance and policy ramifications of putting the so-called TABOR (and Son of TABOR) idea into the state Constitution.
“The primary and final responsibility for taxes and spending has, does, and should continue to reside with the people elected to represent us in the legislature and the executive office.
"The radical idea embodied in the TABOR initiative replaces representative government with government by fiat and formula and rides roughshod over the principles of local control, as well as the constitution itself which has served Wisconsin well for almost 160 years."
Governors Lucey, Schreiber, Dreyfus, and Earl responded quickly and enthusiastically. Governor McCallum was in Dallas and didn't return a phone call.
Governor Thompson was contacted and demurred. Tommy would support constitutionalizing (Californiaizing) state government? Tommy would limit gubernatorial and legislative power and options?
Surely there is a hidden agenda here. But what is it?
April 21, 2006
Let us now praise (a few) courageous men (and a woman)
By Bill Kraus
Representative Steve Freese (and a majority of his committee): They voted to recommend the two major election reform bills for a vote on the Assembly floor. This went against the wishes of the totalitarian Assembly leadership and over the dead bodies of most of their peers, who wish these ideas would go away.
UW Madison Chancellor John Wiley: He decided in favor of the U.S. Constitution despite the inevitable, predictable outcry from the super-religious who don’t like or understand (or something) the separation of church and state provision of that document and why it is more important to protect the privacy of religion that to use taxpayer money to subsidize it.
Congressman Mark Green and Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager: They offered to limit campaign spending to keep the purchases of slick, simplistic television advertisements extolling everyone’s virtues and ideas somewhere below the ad nauseum level if their opponents would agree.
I’m still looking for some elected official in the listener range of Milwaukee’s talk radio shows who is willing to disagree with Mark Belling and Charlie Sykes on any public policy question. Nominees welcome.
April 15, 2006
Getting more mileage out of Barrows
By Ms. Forward
Ms. Forward does not know whether or not former vice chancellor Paul Barrows is guilty of workplace sexual harassment or whether or not he should work at UW-Madison. And that is kind of the point.
The members of the Wisconsin Legislature who found it so easy and beneficial to pound away at the university for not firing Barrows do not know the truth either. Neither do the editors or editorial page editors at the state’s newspapers or the news directors at the state’s TV stations. But somehow the story about Barrows was too good to wait for the facts.
Under relentless pressure from GOP opportunists and their media echo chamber, the university demoted Barrows and cut his pay. Now the university’s Academic Staff Appeals Committee has voted 5-0 that the university lacked just cause for disciplining Barrows.
The decision is a reminder that public employees have a right to a fair process and an adequate investigation before weak-willed administrators have the right to kow-tow to loudmouthed, ignorant lawmakers and deprive employees of their livelihoods.
One such ignorant loudmouth, Assembly Representative Scott Suder, responded to the decision by going after Barrows’ lawyer, Lester Pines: "I say Mr. Pines is a bottom-feeder who would defend Osama bin Laden if he could make a buck," Suder told the Capital Times.
April 7, 2006
Desperately seeking the general interest
By Bill Kraus
The first problem is one of definition. I know what it is. I can identify it when I see it. The fact is, however, that my best definition of the general interest is that it is not a special interest. Nor is it an accumulation of special interests.
The second problem is that the main protectors and promoters of the general interest or their version of the general interest used to be the political parties.
Before they became irrelevant.
When they were important parts of the political process, when they were finding, slating, and funding candidates, they marginalized the special interests.
They met in convention and the special interests arrived in droves and fully armed. They were shuttled off to testify before the Resolutions Committee and/or the Platform Committee. The long suffering stalwarts who manned these committees listened to their supplications and demands, and either rejected them or reshaped them into something acceptable and not in conflict with the parties’ principles.
The convention then met and accepted or rejected the Resolutions and the Platform.
Usually the convention accepted what was recommended. If they didn’t like what was recommended they would either ignore them or vote them down. In either case they were usually never heard from again.
Now that the special interests are loose, they and their money either control or bypass the political parties and go right to the candidates who are unprotected from their demands, worthy and otherwise.
Now it’s the parties and the general interest that are marginalized.
And listed among the missing is the amorphous, vague, crucially important general interest upon which a society and a government that works depend.
Do we need to re-empower the parties? Maybe. For sure we need to get our governments and our representatives out of the clutches of the special interests.
April 1, 2006
Better Bloggers Bureau
By Bill Kraus
There is something unappreciative about raising questions about the virtues of blogging while writing for a blog site. Sort of in the category of asking a woman who is on her honeymoon for a date. But it is time to begin sorting out this Moloch which is consuming the internet.
Blogs are so many things they defy classification. They are susceptible to a couple of descriptions, however, that would be useful to those of us whose lives are so empty that we actually read the damn things.
With rare exceptions blogs are opinions. Readers of blogs, if they read newspapers, would confine themselves to the editorial and the op-ed pages. It is the rare blogger who deals in what we have come to expect of reporters. Facts. News. Bloggers feed on information produced by others and then add their own insights and slants and comments. If the news producing organizations shut down, bloggers would starve to death.
With this as a premise the practice desperately needs transparency. Blogs need to be reviewed, the way CDs, DVDs, movies, books, any media need to be reviewed. Who is writing these things? Where do they get their information? What do they bring to the party other than their own opinions and biases? To steal a line from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, “Who are these guys?”
Many we know (including, of course, the creator of this Web site) but hundreds are well below the radar screen and have to give potential readers and responders some reasons to justify coming to their sites and reading what they are writing.
With rare exceptions this idea is going to be very appealing to the blogging community. To varying extents, blogging is a kind of ego-trip. I write. You read. Therefore I am. If, as, and when a blogging review system is created, bloggers will kill to be included in it. What bloggers want above all is to be noticed. Once noticed they will work on being understood, followed, even obeyed.
And who should do the reviewing? The suppliers of course. The reporters who are the main providers of blog fodder. This is kind of a poetic justice. The decline in newspaper readership particularly, and in news audiences elsewhere as well, is being attributed to the fact that there is a widespread preference for blogs and bloggers and blogging.
In a sense the news organizations created the monster. I think they are duty bound to go the next step. It will never be mainstream. It’s a kind of democracy or journalism or anarchism run amok. Maybe it can’t be tamed. It can be described and revealed.