August 31, 2012
Sorting out the lies
By David Giffey
Norman Solomon and Ruth Conniff systematically dismantled lies emanating anew from Paul Ryan’s August 29 speech at the Republican National Convention.
“Completely dishonest,” said Conniff, who reported live from Tampa where she covered the convention as political editor of the Progressive magazine. Conniff and author-activist Solomon were guests August 30 on Fighting Bob Radio, the weekly online radio blog hosted by Eric Schubring of WOJB-FM radio in Hayward.
“He [Ryan] was very willing to make up a false narrative throughout the speech,” Conniff said. Among his lies, Ryan blamed President Obama for the Janesville GM plant closing in Ryan’s congressional district, and said the plant was closed in 2009, when in fact it closed during the Bush administration in 2008. The jobless rate in Ryan’s district was 30 to 50 percent from 2000 onward, yet Ryan opposed extending unemployment benefits.
“Ryan put a smiling face on this extremely brutal program of austerity that the Republicans are hoping to impose on Americans” Conniff said. “This guy is the architect of converting Medicare into a voucher plan.”
Conniff’s view of the Romney-Ryan GOP ticket? “Paul Ryan is the star here,” she said. “What’s left for Romney to do? There’s very little enthusiasm for Mitt Romney.”
The main drama at the convention – the suppression of Ron Paul's angry backers – was ignored by the media. “Ron Paul delegates were really angry, they were protesting, they have a sense of being disempowered and not being heard,” Conniff said. “It was a real drama.”
Looking homeward to Wisconsin from Tampa, Conniff said Tommy Thompson, running against Tammy Baldwin for U.S. Senate, might have more influence in the state that the Romney-Ryan duo.
Nationally, said Conniff, “It should not be a hard case to make to Americans that this austerity program is not the way to go.”
Norman Solomon will visit Wisconsin as part of Fighting Bob Fest September 15, at the Alliant Center in Madison. He will bring clips of the film based on his book War Made Easy. He will also join a breakout session panel discussing “The Destructive Force of Citizens United.” On September 14, Solomon and Phil Donahue will speak at the Fighting Bob Fest evening event at 6 p.m. at the Goodman Community Center.
On Fighting Bob Radio, Solomon noted the hypocrisy of Ryan’s acceptance speech accusation that Obama subverted the findings of the Simpson-Bowles Commission studying debt. In fact, Ryan was chairman of the House Budget Committee, served on the Simpson-Bowles panel, and voted against the final recommendation.
“We should defeat Paul Ryan twice,” Solomon said. Ryan remains on the congressional ballot in Wisconsin’s 1st District where he is opposed by progressive Democrat Rob Zerban, who Solomon quoted as saying, “I will not support a war without an official declaration from Congress.”
Solomon has written extensively about how U.S. military interventions are planned cooperatively by presidents and the Pentagon with media complicity. “We’ve never had good reporting of war,” he said. “The idea that television is ever going to convey the realities of war is a myth. TVs don’t blow up. We have a challenge to make war real through media that both inherently and politically is soft-pedaling the human impact of war.”
“War is not a game,” said Solomon. “There’s enormous cruelty in the way our economy is structured…and many vets who come home are assaulted by poverty, inequality and lack of opportunity.” The unfolding of military intervention is included in political campaigns waged by Republicans and Democrats. Under a guise of stopping terrorists, perpetual war has been normalized “as an ‘open sesame’ for the coffers of the U.S. government to spill out” to corporations like Halliburton.
“When you’ve got [embedded] journalists who function as part of the military, then it’s really hard to distinguish between those who are shooting and those who are sending the propaganda back home,” Solomon said on Fighting Bob Radio.
“Agenda-building is part of the war cycle,” he said. Such was the case as the Pentagon and politicians laid the groundwork for the invasions of Panama and Iraq, and demonized Manuel Noriega and Saddam Hussein, once claimed as allies.
In a chilling prediction, Solomon said: “The signs are all too clear that the agenda-setting for Iran has been going on for some time, and that indicates that we may be looking at some sort of military action from Israel and/or the U.S. within a matter of months.”
You can listen to this and previous Fighting Bob Radio shows on blogradio.com/fightingbob.com. Jill Stein, Green Party candidate for president, is scheduled as a guest on Fighting Bob Radio at 11 a.m. CDT Thursday, September 6. She will also speak at Fighting Bob Fest in Madison on September 15.
August 30, 2012
The people vs. frac
By David Giffey
Grassroots organizing at its best is unfolding in unzoned Hixton Township in Wisconsin’s Jackson County, where residents are pushing a six-month moratorium on frac sand mining in order to provide time to “try to put in the best ordinance possible to regulate any mines that did get started.”
The town board scheduled a public hearing on the moratorium for Thursday, September 6, after 35 people showed up at a board meeting on the issue earlier in August.
Moratorium organizer Gaylord Oppegard said, “Thirty-five people at this township meeting is a large group. The [town board] chair said it would represent nearly one-third of the number of people who would normally vote.”
The Town of Hixton effort is a case study for rural Wisconsin people in townships that are targets for huge corporate mining interests because of the presence of ancient silica sand desired for use in the hydraulic fracturing process around the U.S. to tap gas and oil deposits. (See "Sand, oil, soil and cash" by Bill Berry on this website.)
Oppegard is certainly qualified to speak about frac sand mining.
“A speculator stopped and offered to buy 40 acres of our land adjacent to where he claims he has an option to buy other land for a sand mine,” Oppegard said. “For that reason alone, you can see my concern.” Another mine is proposed “just over the hill in the other direction,” he said.
The sand mining rush is a recent phenomena in west central Wisconsin and wherever silica sand mining operations and processing plants are consuming large tracts of Wisconsin, changing forever the state’s topography and posing serious water, air, and infrastructure pollution. Small townships like Hixton, without intervention from concerned citizens, will be victimized by unrestricted mining companies.
The corporations are seeking Wisconsin sand to be processed, trucked to railways, and shipped to other states where it is mixed with unnamed chemicals and pumped into underground bedrock to release the fossil fuels.
“There is no doubt that everything has happened…so quickly that it is difficult to keep track of it all,” said Oppegard, a retired teacher. “Our county board has lots of folks on it who would be OK with sand mines…as long as they are not located too close to them.” An often-repeated promise of jobs is also misleading.
Oppegard said he began knocking on neighbors' doors in July, and 25 people gathered in his house to decide to approach the town board. After getting on the Hixton board agenda, only one pro-miner showed up. That person “swore and left the room,” Oppegard recalled. The hearing was set and the board will vote on the moratorium at a meeting on September 10.
Hope prevails that the board will call a moratorium and strict mining regulations will follow. But the temptation of quick cash for landowners also prevails. One of the three town board supervisors “has a deal made to build a wash plant on his property if sand mines get started,” said Oppegard.
Praise is due to the people of the Town of Hixton for their vigilance in seeking a moratorium on sand mining. That’s a course of action that the state legislature and governor should follow as well. A statewide moratorium would provide much-needed aid to tiny municipalities already struggling to provide needed services like roads and snowplows, and additionally burdened trying to deal with greedy and powerful mining interests driven by profit, with track records of environmental plunder and mayhem.
Fighting Bob Fest on September 15 at the Alliant Center, Madison, will include a breakout session on open pit strip mining. The discussion will be open to all, and led by panelists Bob Kincaid, Al Gedicks, Frank Koehn, and Mike Wiggins, Jr., chairman of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians.
August 27, 2012
13% is no solution
By Bill Kraus
This is being written almost two weeks after the Wisconsin primary election.
I have contacted every imaginable media source and have checked the website of the Government Accountability Board (GAB) in an attempt to find out what the statewide voter turnout was for that election.
No one seems to know. The not-so-current posting by GAB tells us the primary election will be held on August 14.
A helpful soul who seems to be in charge of the public television website--wisconsinvote.org--has made several inquiries and come up blank.
I concede that it is a small thing--like an unrepaired broken window--but it seems to me to be symptomatic of larger problems that beset us: the localization of news and the partisanization of elections.
My interest was aroused when the guests on Joy Cardin’s talk show on the Friday after the primary agreed that the turnout was around 13 percent. Neither cited a source, but both seemed confident that they had it right. If they did, the next obvious question is why doesn't anyone in the news business consider this extremely low turnout newsworthy enough to deserve a story or more, like a lament.
Is this yet another symptom of what has happened to the information flow in our reporter-deprived democracy?
It may even be worse than that. I have learned from several sources the turnout numbers in their localities. Madison, for example, was a not impressive but primary typical 23 percent. Madison voters had two important choices to make. The Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate and the Democratic candidate to succeed to Tammy Baldwin’s 2nd congressional district seat.
Madison was not the only high election interest area. There were elections all over the state in this post-redistricting year that were more heavily contested than usual. In Portage County for instance voters had to chose from seven, maybe nine, candidates for an open Assembly seat. Hot races elsewhere featured contests where two incumbents found themselves in the same district. High turnout fodder.
But if 13 percent is indeed the statewide turnout number, it is the latest victim of the dearth of coverage of politics and state government that followed the unfortunate decision by the people who run the Journal Communications company to give up power for money. In the mid-1970s the Journal company stopped delivering the evening Milwaukee Journal, the state’s most powerful, widely read, and authoritative paper beyond the southeastern part of the state. A couple of decades later the Journal company merged the Journal with the Sentinel and a healthy competition between the two statewide papers went the way of home delivery.
Few outstate papers filled the gap left by the Journal company’s abandonment. The result is that more and more news is local. Every paper is, economically anyway, a kind of high-class regional shopper for its local advertisers to which it delivers readers, and those readers are presumed to care about things like voter turnout where they live and only where they live.
What is worse is that the other message that the 13 percent turnout number delivers is not just that holding important elections in Wisconsin in August is a bad idea but that the candidates and their strategists can safely pitch their campaigns to the rabid partisans who make up most of that 13 percent.
These partisans like red meat issues, hard hitting campaigns, and disdain the kinds of compromise and civility that so many others say they want.
Good luck with that in a 13 percent turnout world.
August 25, 2012
Desperately seeking fraud
By David Giffey
If you’ve ever seen a dog chasing its tail, you might have some sympathy for Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen’s enraptured pursuit of the state’s discredited Voter ID Law. But please rein in your pity.
Van Hollen this week petitioned the Wisconsin Supreme Court to enact the purposeless Voter ID Law (Act 23) passed by Republicans May 2011. Act 23 was justly overturned as unconstitutional earlier this year by Circuit Court rulings. Van Hollen’s preoccupation with enacting the law for the November election is gross partisanship.
State Senator Lena Taylor, Milwaukee, suggested on wispolitics.com that the attorney general’s petition “smacks of possible ex parte communication” between Van Hollen and the Supreme Court’s conservative luminaries, including David Prosser, accused by Justice Ann Walsh Bradley of applying a chokehold to her neck during a dispute last year.
No need to ask if there’s a Republican bias against as many as 300,000 eligible Wisconsin voters – the elderly, minorities, students, low-income grandmothers – because the answer is obviously “yes.” Evidence presented when opposition mounted months ago gave names and faces to people who would be disenfranchised by the law. They might not have had a driver’s license in their life, or a marriage certificate, and they might be forced to fork over some needed cash to get copies of documents, including birth certificates, that proved what has long been known to their families, friends, neighbors, and poll workers: These people are real. They just don’t have a photo ID, and there’s no logical need for them to have one.
Oh, what about voter fraud?
In 2008, Van Hollen chaired John McCain’s campaign in Wisconsin and spread rumors about voter fraud to suppress votes. At that time, Uppity Wisconsin said, “Van Hollen has a serious conflict of interest here. This attack on Wisconsin voters by the GOP and Wisconsin’s own attorney general is also part of their support to enable the Real ID act, a costly, burdensome requirement that will do nothing to clean up state elections.”
Van Hollen is still trying with his latest petition to the Supreme Court. If the conservatives prevail before the November election, not only will voting be suppressed by possibly massive numbers, but municipal clerks will be over-burdened with another complicated round of last minute changes, an invitation to further errors and uncertainty, all in the name of Van Hollen’s shadowy fraud specter.
Republican National Committee chair Reince Priebus said in June that voter fraud in Wisconsin made it necessary for Republicans to win by wider margins to secure election. State Representative Robin Vos mimicked Priebus and said fraud occurred, even though he had no direct evidence of it, when Democrat John Lehman won the June recall election over State Senator Van Wanggaard, a Racine Republican. PolitiFact.com said Vos’s “certainty” that there was fraud was “false.”
The Voter ID Law is intended to create perceptions of nonexistent fraud, while it really discourages solid citizens from voting. That’s where the real fraud occurs, perpetrated by GOP partisans against our fellow citizens who are entitled to vote.
August 22, 2012
By Peter McKeever
About 10 years ago, I was doing some advocacy work for an organization called Americans for Our Heritage and Recreation, or AHR. This was a national coalition of wildlife and recreation groups supporting full funding of the Land and Water Conservation Act. AHR included groups with interests as diverse as wildlife, hunting and fishing, wetland protection, sports like soccer and softball, and local park and recreation departments.
Their common interest was persuading Congress to fulfill its promise to fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). Created in 1965, LWCF was to be funded with revenues from the depletion of offshore oil and gas and was to support the conservation of another valuable resource, land and water. Every year, $900 million in royalties paid by energy companies drilling on the outer continental shelf was to be placed in the fund.
The money was to be used to provide matching grants for state and local parks and recreation projects, to create and protect national wildlife refuges and national parks, and to protect areas around rivers and lakes from development.
But every year Congress broke its promise: LWCF has never been fully funded. My job was to organize support in the Midwest for full funding and to convey that support to members of Congress.
I called U.S. Representative Paul Ryan’s office, explained my objective, and asked a time to meet with him. An appointment was scheduled in his district office, in Janesville, and on the appointed date I drove there, accompanied by a DNR employee who could help explain how important this fund was for Wisconsin communities.
We had a cordial conversation with the congressman, and in the course of that conversation the topic of wetlands naturally came up. What was surprising was how quickly Ryan asked when would wetland fill permitting in Wisconsin allow mitigation banking, the practice of spending public money to create or maintain a new wetland after an existing wetland is filled in. He made it very clear that he thought this should be a high priority, and he mentioned his family company’s experience moving earth.
Creating a new wetland requires the moving a lot of earth, and it so happens that Paul Ryan’s family owns one of the nation’s largest earth moving companies, Ryan Incorporated Central. On its website the company touts its experience and expertise in constructing wetlands.
Even assuming that a “constructed wetland” comes close to replicating the ecological functions of a natural wetland is to raise the question, What have you been smoking? Ryan showed little interest in the legislation, and made no commitments to support it in spite of the benefits it would have for his constituents.
But putting that reality aside, the most disturbing thing about the meeting was that he so blatantly made it clear that his primary interest was changing the wetland fill permitting process so that his family’s business might be able to belly up to the trough and get profitable contracts.
Perhaps it would not have been surprising if he had known us as campaign supporters and we had been there pushing for legislation to create more earth moving opportunities. The fact that he made this leap to personal benefit so quickly with two strangers left me with a very bad taste in my mouth, and no confidence that Ryan was in office to act in the interests of the public.
August 20, 2012
By David Giffey
Grains of Wisconsin’s ancient silica sand are likely to become a “resource curse” as huge petroleum corporations continue to expand the sand rush in our state for use in toxic natural gas drilling operations in other states.
Marketability and job creation will be cited as reasons to mine and process evermore of Wisconsin’s silica sand, prized for its use in the fracking process wherein unnamed chemicals are pumped deep into bedrock to gain access to fossil fuels. It’s a multi-headed monster.
An August 19 WisconsinWatch.org story headlined, “Frac sand boom creates thousands of jobs” projected that 2,780 jobs might result "when existing mines and those being built are fully operational." An accompanying map located dozens of frac sand mines and processing sites, mostly in west central Wisconsin.
An upshot, among many, of the sand rush is increased pressure on town and county governments to permit new non-metallic substance mines across enormous tracts of land. Some cover 500 acres or more, and communities are ill-prepared to deal with regulating them, or the short-term and long-term air and water pollution that will follow, or mine reclamation once their usefulness ends, or the damage to rural roads caused by thousands of trucks hauling sand to rail connections.
Opposition to the frac sand mines has sprung up, but the corporate special interests and their allies have a lot of money and power. The WisconsinWatch.org story quoted a Wisconsin Department of Transportation engineer’s disclaimer: “People ask me, ‘Do you think frac sand mining is a good thing?’ That’s not our job.”
The potential frac sand scourge in Wisconsin is only half the story. This high-quality quartz sand is destined for use in states from the Rocky Mountains region to the Northeast’s Macellus Shale deposit in hydraulic fracturing. There, our sand will be mixed into a toxic cocktail with undisclosed chemicals and millions of gallons of water, and forced under extreme pressure into drilled holes reaching thousands of feet vertically and more thousands of feet horizontally into the earth.
The fracking fluid “is laced with toxic chemicals that have not been fully tested or disclosed to the public,” says earthjustice.org, and “may be released into the environment through inadequate waste disposal, leaks, spills, and other accidents, presenting serious risks to public health and the environment.” (See the film Gasland by Josh Fox.)
In Wisconsin, the stagnant economy is already being used as an excuse to deregulate environmental standards. Amazingly, the only Department of Natural Resources permit which requires a public hearing before issuance is a permit about air emissions. All other decisions can be made behind closed doors.
“Resource curse” is a term used to describe the net losses endured in places across the globe where nature offers something – such as Wisconsin’s silica sand - that appeals to profiteers. Of course jobs are needed. What about jobs created by high-speed rail systems or wind farms or countless other green energy systems?
Along with advancing the use of sustainable energy sources, a moratorium on frac sand mining in Wisconsin is a logical starting point. Taxing it is a no-brainer. Outright prohibition? Best of all.
On September 15, Fighting Bob Fest at the Alliant Center, Madison, a breakout session on open pit strip mining will be part of the program, and author Bill McKibben will bring his climate change expertise to bear on an array of subjects about sustainability. Spread the word.
August 19, 2012
Desparately seeking civility
By Bill Kraus
Everywhere I turn I hear a plea for civility in politics generally and in political campaigns particularly.
There is even an organization in Oshkosh called the Oshkosh Civility Project devoted to civility. Another is forming in Madison. There may be more.
In government and in campaigns the ad hominem attacks continue unabated nonetheless.
The reason is that incivility is a symptom not a cause of what the pleaders are unhappy about.
The cause is that politics is increasingly the province of yellow-dog partisans.
Yellow dogs want the kind of red-meat demonization that is now endemic and has been for so long.
The campaigns and pronouncements are devoted to currying the support of the rabid yellow-dog voters who have long since decided who and what they favor.
The assumption seems to be that the winners will be whoever gets the most support from this politically hyper segment of the voting public.
This means that campaigns are, in effect if not in fact, mostly about getting out that vote. The aim of the campaigns is to scare voters away from not draw voters to.
When promises drift into the uncharted territory of problems that assault us all, they get very vague. “I can do this because of who I am and what I stand for,” or, more frequently, “He or she can’t to this because of who he or she is.”
I am reminded about some advice I got a very long time ago about campaigning when I was told, “Never get into an argument with a pig. You both will get dirty and the pig likes it.”
And the pig factor is part of the incivility problem.
Most of the virulent demonization that is poisoning the political and governmental well is coming from outsiders, from organizations with names that bely their characterizations and that feature the doomsday consequences of electing the people they don’t like.
These anonymously well-funded newcomers to politics do not simply disagree with the likes of Tommy and Tammy. They want voters to know that a vote for one or the other of them is a vote that will destroy the country. This kind of incivility cannot be stopped. Its proponents can, however, be identified for who they are and where they get their money.
With this done, the people running the campaigns themselves can expose them and turn the real campaigns’ attention to the voters who want a government that works and want to hear a discussion, even an argument about, what can be done and what policies and programs will make good things happen.
Yes, those voters are still there, and they will still decide elections.
The yellow dogs will continue to scream for more lethal weapons and tactics, but we already know how they are going to vote and that feeding their insatiable appetites for vile and bile will make the kind of civility we say we want in office and on the way to office impossible.
I don’t expect “nice.” I don’t want nasty either. What I’ll take is what I saw on a T-shirt recently: “I am being nice. I’m from New York.”
What I want is some ideas not more charges and challenges. I want to detoxify politics. Civility will follow.
August 16, 2012
Warming and aging
By David Giffey
“The earth that we knew – the only earth that we ever knew – is gone.”
That’s a line from Bill McKibben’s book Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet. McKibben primed the pump-up to Fighting Bob Fest set for September 15, at the Alliant Center in Madison, when the environmentalist and author was hosted on Fighting Bob Radio August 16.
You can hear the online broadcast with McKibben, and with guest Nino Amato, of the Coalition of Wisconsin Aging Groups (CWAG), on the website blogradio.com/fightingbob.com. The live show is hosted by Ed Garvey, founder of editor of fightingbob.com, and Eric Schubring, of WOJB-FM radio, Hayward, each Thursday from Wisconsin at 11 a.m. CST.
McKibben founded 350.org, a grassroots organizing and public action environmental organization with a presence in 188 countries. His study and early warnings of global warming led to massive responses successfully thwarting, hopefully forever, construction of the disastrous Keystone XL pipeline, and President Obama’s rejection of the project.
On Fighting Bob Radio, McKibben said a clear predictor of how politicians will vote on “preserve the planet” issues is how much money they receive from massive corporations and fossil fuel billionaires. “Congressmen are kind of like cashiers,” McKibben said. “They are the perfect example of money power.”
Later this year, McKibben - with Naomi Klein and 350.org - will launch a global warming “divestment movement” similar to the successful global actions of the past taken against South African apartheid.
“The fossil fuel industry is the villain here,” McKibben said. “It’s the Koch Brothers, it’s Exxon, it’s Chevron… We can’t stop global warming. It’s too late for that. But we have to put a price on carbon.”
350.org takes its name from the parts per million of carbon dioxide levels deemed safe for planetary survival. The level is presently near 390 parts per million but, McKibben says, with commitment and some luck the level could be cut back. “We have the know-how, but lack the political will,” he told Fighting Bob Radio. So he’s dedicated to mass action, a call he will bring to Wisconsin and Fighting Bob Fest.
Nino Amato is CWAG’s president and executive director. On an environmental theme, he said the group’s constituency of elderly and disabled people is particularly vulnerable to climate change as shown when deaths surge during heat waves. He praised the Obama administration for setting emission standards on the auto industry since such pollutants also affect older people. Amato noted Scott Walker’s rejection of emission-tax measures which would have better protected the elderly and people with asthma.
But Paul Ryan’s “war on the elderly” drew special criticism from Amato. As the anointed running mate for Mitt Romney, Ryan has back-pedaled from his well-documented admiration for the late atheist libertarian Ayn Rand, author of Atlas Shrugged. However, Amato said that Ryan continues to adhere “the Rand philosophy of survival of the fittest.”
The U.S. ranks 23rd among 24 developed nations in the availability of healthcare, and has a higher infant mortality rate than Cuba. Mayo and Cleveland clinics, and Veterans’ Administration hospitals are models of U.S. providers that deliver services while keeping administrative costs in check, said Amato. He named leaders of healthcare as the late Ted Kennedy, Bernie Sanders, and Herb Kohl who was head of the Special Committee on Aging.
“This really is a crossroads in America’s future,” Amato said. We’ll either follow Ryan’s path of “unbridled capitalism,” with its privatization of Social Security and Medicare, or pursue proven healthcare models “with a bright future.”
Amato predicted that the next generation would ask one of two questions regarding healthcare: How did we overcome the buying of elections, the greed on Wall Street, and the corruption in our political system? “Or they’re going to ask us, ‘What the hell happened? Why didn’t you work harder?'”
Dr. Jill Stein, Green Party candidate for president, is scheduled as guest on Fighting Bob Radio at 11 a.m. Thursday, August 23. She’ll also speak at Fighting Bob Fest in September. Don’t miss it.
August 12, 2012
By Bill Kraus
It is my fervent hope that 2012 will go down in the record books as the year of the most elections, that we will never again approach this year’s six elections in 10 months.
It all started out so innocently. A February primary to chose the two finalists for the Supreme Court election in April eliminated one contender. The incumbent, predictably, won by a large margin over the successful challenger and was expected to do so again in the finals in April.
Then all hell broke loose.
Recalls everywhere and anywhere. A Supreme Court race that was more about who liked the governor more and who liked him not at all instead of about the two candidates who were on the ballot and their virtues if any.
Recall frenzy took over and election fatigue began to set in as we had our first-ever general elections in May and June.
The latter produced the only real surprise of the first four elections when the voters found a way to tell us that they disliked the idea of no-fault recalls more than they liked or disliked the candidates at the top of the tickets.
Once this was out of the way the prelims for the regularly scheduled fall elections finally got to center stage.
These were extraordinary in many, many ways, and propelled what is usually a battle for the yellow dog votes in both parties suddenly became much more than that and much more deserving of a higher-than-usual turnout despite the limp history of primary voting turnouts and the barriers to anything higher than normal.
The schedule calls for a mid-August primary election. This is mandated to give voters who are in the military and serving overseas a chance to cast absentee ballots, which is a compelling incentive for bringing our troops back from overseas.
August used to be the lightly attended dog days of the campaign season. Nobody was home, it’s hot, and not so incidentally August voting makes the always elusive student voters hard to find and mobilize.
The big race is the Republican primary to pick an opponent for Tammy Baldwin’s in the bag candidacy for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Herb Kohl, but there’s a lot going on in the districts and the counties as well.
Redistricting has thrown incumbents together in several cases. Redistricting also inevitably means many more incumbents have to introduce themselves to voters in new, to them, territories.
This plus a decisive primary race in the 2nd congressional district means that any of the four Republicans in the U.S. Senate primary don’t have to worry about crossover voters in that district but can’t count on independent-Democratic votes there either.
This is also true in state legislative districts that have been seriously rearranged. This is very important at this level given the gerrymandering factor which has made the primary the decisive election in more and more districts.
Odd developments abound. A long time sure Republican voter with whom I am acquainted will vote the Democratic ticket, because he is more interested in a Dem he likes winning a race for District Attorney than he cares about who wins the primary for the U.S. Senate
A very large majority of the state and congressional legislative elections will be decided in an August election, and voters have caught on to this. Those who have are more likely to go to the trouble to vote than those who haven’t.
Voter fatigue is an unpredictable but real factor that could depress votes despite the importance of the primaries in this overloaded and increasingly manipulated mapmaking year.
I think enough wild cards are in play to make predicting outcomes too dicey for me.
The good news is that after Tuesday the year of elections will be at five down, one to go.
The best news would be that we will never have another year like 2012.
August 5, 2012
Diversity in politics
By Bill Kraus
I was invited to a post-football-game party by then-UW President Fred Harvey Harrington more than 50 years ago. Others in attendance included professors, administrators, legislators, students, citizens from far and wide. It was the most diverse, best party I had ever attended.
When he was chancellor of UW-Stevens Point, Lee Dreyfus threw the same kind of parties in that smaller town where diversity was more common but not complete. The chief of police was there. The editor of the local paper. The president of the paper mill. Students. Teachers. Athletes. Politicians.
We carried this kind of mixing and matching into our own lives when I married a woman whose friends were mostly from the arts while mine were mostly from politics with a dose of journalists. They got along great. They were different in almost every way except their lives were driven by a common entrepreneurship. Artists were only as good as their last production, reporters as their last story, politicians as their last election.
The guests at parties at the executive mansion hosted by the governors I knew were always multi-partisan and multi-skilled. At one luncheon with guests from the four corners of Wisconsin I sat between Herb Kohler of Kohler Company fame and Burt McNamara, who was head of the Steelworkers Union at the time. The conversation those two carried on across me was stimulating and interesting.
At one of Tommy Thompson’s parties I had the humbling experience of losing at a game of sheepshead at one table while hearing a former opponent of Tommy’s exulting about his cribbage triumph at a table nearby.
A recent book on the amazing accomplishments of the thousands of scientists and engineers who populated the phenomenon known as Bell Labs attributed much of the success of that institution to the diversity and collegiality of the people who worked there. The Wisconsin Institute of Discovery is emulating the physical virtues that Bell Labs used...no silos, no offices, a structure and system that almost forced cross communication and socialization.
Xenophobia is an endemic affliction that kills the kind of stimulation and cross pollination that makes democracy work. There is an antidote.
August 2, 2012
Fighting Bob Radio takes on the war on women
By David Giffey
“Since Citizens United we’ve seen this legislative tsunami against women,” Terry O’Neill, president of the National Organization of Women (NOW) told listeners August 2 on Fighting Bob Radio.
O’Neill will bring her activist perspective to the 11th Annual Fighting Bob Fest on September 15, at the Alliant Center in Madison. The War on Women will be a major Fighting Bob Fest topic along with environmental matters, war and peace, ALEC, and open strip mining, plus food, live music, and a lot of fun.
NOW’s president since 2009, O’Neill discussed vicious assaults launched against women regarding health, reproductive rights, protection from violence, and economic justice. She drew a gender/wage gap comparison between worsening disparities between the mid-1990s when CEOs were paid 20 to 30 times more than average workers, compared to CEOs who in 2012 make 360 times more than workers. Mix in the fact that women are paid only about 60 to 80 percent as much as their male counterparts in the workplace, and the 99-1 percent split reaches into the stratosphere.
In urging support for U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin’s campaign for the U.S. Senate from Wisconsin, O’Neill spoke about the likelihood the Baldwin opponent who wins the August 14 GOP primary is likely to be a millionaire, be it millionaire Tommy Thompson, millionaire Mark Neumann, or millionaire Eric Hovde.
“Ask a millionaire, ‘How did you make your money compared to what you pay your employees?’” was O’Neill’s comment. She accused Governor Scott Walker and attacks on Planned Parenthood for denying health care to women. The Koch Brothers, Catholic bishops, budget cutters and lawmakers who would repeal the Violence Against Women Act are major forces behind the War on Women.
“Fiscal conservatism traditionally hurts women and families,” said O’Neill. To fight it, O’Neill added, “We need to double the number of women in Congress, whether they are Republican or Democrat. We need to move government spending to socially productive uses” and away from things like funding wars.
O’Neill estimated that agendas against women and supported by extremists have the support of only about 20 percent of Americans. “The people have to rise up,” she said. “The politicians who are waging a war on women are going to pay a price in November.” She singled out GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney for “having a hard time recognizing humanity.”
The hour-long radio show can be re-played for on-line listeners visiting blogradio.com/fightingbob.com. The show broadcast live from Wisconsin at 11 a.m. CST each Thursday, is hosted by Fighting Bob founder Ed Garvey and Eric Schubring, of WOJB-FM radio, Hayward.
Join NOW’s Terry O’Neill with a host of notable speakers like Phil Donahue, Norman Solomon, Jim Hightower, John Nichols, Bill McKibben, Al Gedicks, and founder Ed Garvey on September 15 at Fighting Bob Fest. There’ll be beer too.
August 1, 2012
Terry O'Neill on Fighting Bob Radio tomorrow
By David Giffey
This week on Fighting Bob Radio we’ll hear the president of the National Organization for Women describe what and who is behind the War on Women, and how we can fight back.
Terry O’Neill, president of NOW since 2009, will be the guest on Fighting Bob Radio from 11 a.m. to noon (CST) Thursday, August 2.
The online radioblog is broadcast live from Wisconsin on blogradio.com/fightingbob.com. Listeners can join the conversation by calling 213-943-3485. The show is hosted by Ed Garvey, founder and editor of fightingbob.com, and Eric Schubring of WOJB-FM radio in Hayward.
O’Neill is a feminist attorney, professor, and social justice activist who oversees NOW’s agenda including: advancing reproductive freedom, promoting diversity and ending racism, stopping violence against women, winning lesbian rights, ensuring economic justice, ending sex discrimination, and achieving constitutional equality for women. O’Neill is a former law professor at Tulane University, New Orleans, and the University of California at Davis. She is a political organizer and respected advocate of social justice issues.
In the early 1990s while at Tulane, O’Neill worked in the movement against former Grand Wizard of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan David Duke in his campaign for governor of Louisiana.
O’Neill’s radio interview this week is a warm-up for her upcoming visit as a guest speaker at Fighting Bob Fest on September 15, at the Alliant Center, Madison, where she’ll be joined by speakers including Bill McKibben, Phil Donahue, U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, Jim Hightower, Norman Solomon, Dr. Jill Stein, Buddy Roemer, and others.
Plan to tune in to Fighting Bob Radio at 11 a.m. Thursday. And save September 15 for a great time at Fighting Bob Fest.