October 30, 2003
Private Service Commission
Bob La Follette never met Ave Bie, the former and apparently the current de facto chair of what was once a proud and fiercely independent regulatory body called the Public Service Commission. The erosion of that independence began with Tommy Thompson's first term and the erosion got out of control over the balance of his terms.
We once had an advance plan. No longer. We once had a non-political staff. No longer. We once told the utilities what to do, but now they dictate to the PSC.
Yesterday, the Bie-dominated PSC did the predictable. They approved huge coal burning facilities in Oak Creek. (Now that makes sense. Build huge coal burning plants next to our largest city.) The headline should be "Public be damned." All three commissioners said that the growing demand for energy forced this decision. And they maintained a straight face while not stating the obvious. The utility-company-dominated PSC has done nothing for conservation and reduction of demand.
Do you wonder if they plan to have their grandchildren live in Wisconsin to breathe the air the utilities will foul with the blessings of Ave Bie?
Fighting Bob Fest tapes and transcripts
Just a reminder that we have excellent videotape and printed transcript copies of all the September 6 Fighting Bob Fest II speeches. We recorded the words of Bernie Sanders, Jim Hightower, Ellen Bravo, Bert Grover, Greg Palast, John Nichols, Lois Gibbs, Russ Feingold, Gwen Moore and all the others and now they are available to you. Contact us if you want to order a copy. This is one more way to spread the message. Schools, libraries, or study groups will enjoy the inspiration we all felt September 6.
October 29, 2003
Milwaukee progressives unite
September 21st marked the inception of the Milwaukee-based Progressive Action Coalition (PAC). PAC chairperson Rick Kissell stated, “The goal of the meeting was to get local progressives to focus on the upcoming spring elections. County Executive Scott Walker is up for re-election this spring and nomination papers for this election begin circulating on December 1st. In addition to the County Executive, the entire [Milwaukee] County Board and all municipal offices in the City of Milwaukee (including the Mayor and the entire Common Council) are up for re-election…There will also be seven county-wide judicial elections.”
The PAC plans to establish committees to draft a platform and to search for progressive candidates for the Milwaukee offices in the spring election. The PAC wants to provide a progressive alternative for Milwaukee’s voters.
If you are interested in the PAC, contact Kathleen Hart at (414) 384-1000 x32 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also attend the PAC’s next meeting on Wednesday, October 29, 2003, at 5:30 p.m. at the Cesar Chavez Center, 719 South 6th Street, Milwaukee.
From campaign trails to Fighting Bob Fest to comments from Bob.com, the question from progressives often ask is, "Yes, we are right, but can we win?" The decision of two Indian tribes to purchase the land that would have been despoiled by the Crandon mine answered that question. Supporters of the mine spent millions in their effort to take our resources for foreign corporations while risking the Wolf River, Rice Lake and even the Wisconsin River. It has been an amazing fight for more than a decade by grassroots citizens, Tribes, local officials, and politicians who value the land more than their campaign funds.
It was almost comic to watch Tommy Thompson sign the moratorium during our campaign in 1998. We joked that he had his fingers crossed behind his back, but guess what? The moratorium gave anti-mine activists time to stop this environmental disaster. Tribes to the rescue!
Congratulations to the Coalition, to Town Chair Chuck Sleeter, to Spencer Black, and thousands of Wisconsinites who never gave up. Something exciting is happening in our state. Despite little or no support from the Doyle administration, the environmental movement is gaining strength.
What's next? The loopy idea of the Arrowhead-Weston transmission line that would be a blight on our state. It appears the grass roots effort by SOUL will have to take on the governor as well as the PSC. If we gain strength from victories, the Crandon purchase will work magic.
It is debilitating to argue over the president's I.Q. He may be brilliant and inarticulate or he may be at the other end of the spectrum, but he is our president and the world is listening. This is what he said yesterday at his hastily called news conference: "We're working closely with those countries (Syria and Iran) to let them know that we expect them to enforce borders, prevent people from coming across borders, if in fact we catch them doing that." OK, that's clear then.
October 28, 2003
Bush was right
FightingBob.com subscriber Bob Curry sends this chilling message. In "A World Transformed," written five years ago by George Bush the elder, he wrote, "Trying to eliminate Saddam would have incurred incalculable human and political costs. Apprehending him was probably impossible...We would have been forced to occupy Baghdad and, in effect, rule Iraq."
And read this carefully. "There was no viable exit strategy we could see...Had we gone the invasion route, the United States could conceivably still be an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land."
Kind of wish W. had read his father's book before he was intellectually kidnapped by Wolfowitz, Cheney, Rumsfeld and the board of directors of Haliburton?
As Iraq becomes a terrible disaster, what do we do? I like Dennis Kucinich's answer: "Bring the troops home by December and replace them with UN troops." Anyone got a better answer?
October 27, 2003
Talk about a good job!
UW president Katharine Lyall made more than $210,000 in outside income last year for sitting on seven corporate boards. Her current salary from the taxpayers is $303,350. I would think that anyone would work hard, six days a week, for a salary like that (not to mention free housing and other benefits). Fifty-two weeks times 40 hours is 2080 hours a year. That means her compensation is about $146 per hour. Not bad.
But, as one writer to FightingBob.com said, "If the seven boards she sits on require four meetings a year that would be 28 full days when she could be working for the UW." At $146 per hour, 28 days equals $32,704 from the UW while sitting on the corporate boards.
Something here doesn't seem to fit with the "Wisconsin Idea."
Give up, Russ Feingold
Yup. I think it is all over for Russ Feingold. He can't win next year with the news that former Lt. Governor Margaret Farrow, now with a conservative Milwaukee law firm, is supporting car dealer Russ Darrow for the U. S. Senate. Why is she supporting Darrow? Well, she says he is the only Republican who can win. And, she added with solemnity, he will also "keep our borders secure." (Who knows what that means? I guess he will stop the Illinois hordes from coming north.)
For his part, Darrow said, "I'm humbled and honored to have her serve as chair of my campaign." Now for the platform to die for: "I will spread the word about why Russ Finegold is wrong for Wisconsin. He is out of touch..." Out of touch? The guy who has more listening sessions per year than anyone in history is out of touch? (Don't you wonder when they will tell Darrow he will have to discuss Iraq, the Patriot Act, unemployment, loss of manufacturing jobs, and global warming?)
Then to really capture us he said, "I will continue to travel across Wisconsin meeting the folks that make this state great. His news release said, "Russ Darrow will continue listening to the voters about what is important to them."
This is a true story. Names have not been changed to protect the innocent.
October 25, 2003
As transparent as glass
Catch this story. Three years after the Assembly and Senate caucuses were eliminated, a computer disk allegedly containing campaign material magically appeared and, when the Republican Party of Wisconsin suddenly decided to ask the Republican Chief Clerk if they could have it, Pat Fuller did the following (as Dave Barry would say, I'm not making this up).
Fuller says he went through the disk, created a copy, gave one copy to the Republican Party and the other to the Justice Department. Why? Well, of course, when the media or the Democrats asked for it, he could say, "Sorry, we don't have one. We are saving the scoop for the Wisconsin State Journal."
C'mon. The disk, according to the clerk, has a collection of campaign material from almost all sitting Democratic Assembly persons and a dozen challengers in the 2000 race. While the clever clerk made sure those Assembly people could not get a copy, either he or the Republicans gave at least part of the disk to Wisconsin State Journal reporter Dee Hall and, of course, their favorite pipeline WisPolitics.com.
Hall claimed on Thursday there are only 11 sitting legislators and a dozen or so challengers with material on the disk, but the clever clerk said all but one Democratic Assemblyperson had material on the disk. The probable explanation is that the clerk or the Republicans gave Hall half a disk now so they can give her the other half later and string out the story for two days. Since there is no public allegation of wrong-doing they will have to spin it for two days.
Ain't it wonderful? From GOP to clerk to GOP to WisPolitics to Wisconsin State Journal to Charlie Sykes.
Where are the Republican disks?
Prisons or dumping grounds?
Human Rights Watch says, "Jails and prisons have become the nations' default mental health system," as many state mental hospitals have closed. Startling is the statistic that as many as one in five inmates have serious mental illness. That is more than 2 million.
Old friend Jamie Fellner authored the report and she said, "I think elected officials have been all too willing to let the incarcerated population grow by leaps and bounds without paying any attention to who, in fact is being incarcerated." One supposes that it its less expensive to throw a seriously mentally ill person in isolation than to treat him in a hospital.
We found that about one-third of the inmates at Wisconsin's Supermax were seriously mentally ill. Thanks to a ruling by Federal Judge Barbara Crabb, they have been removed from Supermax, but are they better off in one of the other prisons? Are prison guards trained to handle the mentally ill? Do staff members keep the mentally ill so drugged up that they are not causing problems but also cannot participate in rehab?
Health care drew Fellner's attention. In Wyoming the state prison had one psychiatrist on duty two days a month. In Iowa, with 8,000 inmates, there are three psychiatrists. As our legislators continue to provide more and more reasons to lock up citizens to show us how tough they are, they have no concept or concern about what is happening within the prisons.
And they say we judge a society by the way it treats its prisoners?
October 22, 2003
Where are the best and brightest?
It is almost unbelievable that W. has nominated Janice Rogers Brown for the prestigious D.C. Court of Appeals. The American Bar Association made it clear that she is not qualified, and while she is African American, the Black Caucus is unanimous in opposing her confirmation.
Pat Leahy and Dick Durban explained her extremist views. She was pathetic in attempting to avoid responding to questions.
Please let your Senators know she must not be confirmed.
Right to counsel
The Washington Post reminds us of Gideon v. Wainwright, a landmark Supreme Court case in 1963, where the court held that the "right to counsel is a fundamental right and is essential for a fair trial." Justice Black wrote that "lawyers in criminal courts are necessities, not luxuries." As a lawyer, I view this as a mandate to all states to provide counsel. Trials are tough for lawyers, imagine how non-lawyers fare against experienced prosecutors.
But there is a new threat. States with huge deficits are demanding that the poor pay for legal services. It is disappointing, but Minnesota is taking the lead with a new law requiring the poor to pay up to $200 for appointed counsel. For the desperately poor, this undermines their right to counsel because they can't afford the fee. Fortunately, Judge Richard Hopper in Hennepin County ruled that the law is unconstitutional. We can only hope that Minnesota comes to its senses.
But add this to the criminalization of driving offenses discussed in my blog yesterday, and those with a conspiratorial bent would conclude there is a plan to seriously reduce the number of poor people of color on the voting rolls. First you find yourself charged with a new "crime" for driving without a license and then you cannot afford counsel at your criminal trial.
Greg Palast, in his book The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, points out that tens of thousands of African Americans were eliminated from the rolls in Florida by Jeb Bush officials. Why? Allegedly because they had been convicted of a felony. Palast argues their real sin was being black.
Will the Democrats wake up to the efforts to target the most loyal constituency in their party? Is anybody home?
October 21, 2003
Spencer Coggs defeated long-time state senator Gary George by a convincing 65-35 percent margin in the special recall election. The always controversial George lost despite a gallant effort by WTMJ right-wing talk show host, Charlie Sykes, to boost George while condemning Coggs for not appearing on his talk show. Apparently Coggs' constituents--and George's--are not regular Sykes listeners.
Coggs, endorsed by the Shepherd Express, is well liked and respected by his colleagues, and will bring a new vitality to this long ignored Senate District in the heart of Milwaukee. Spencer Coggs has always been a leader and will now be one of the top political figures in the state's largest city.
Are the gods crazy?
A disturbing story in the October 18 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports on driving after revocation, or OAR offenses. Last year the Legislature criminalized OAR offenses, and now the Milwaukee courts are overwhelmed with cases. People who think they need only pay a fine, learn to their dismay that they are charged as criminals. OAR cases, reports MJS, make up 60 percent of all criminal cases. I'm not kidding. The Legislature has too much time on its hands or, perhaps, it is intentional.
"Many of these drivers-disproportionately made up of poor, African-American males-find themselves in a Catch 22," the article says. To pay off fines and costs they must drive to work. But if they do, they run the risk of jail time for driving without a license. If they do not go to work they lose their jobs. What would you do?
Our over-worked and underpaid public defenders and prosecutors should spend their valuable time on serious crimes, but instead are bogged down because someone in the Legislature got an idea: A fine of $2,500 or up to a year in jail for OAR.
Ask yourself, Is Wisconsin following the lead of Jeb Bush in Florida? You know the drill. Pick out the group that always votes Democratic. Make it difficult for them to come to the polls. More on this tomorrow.
A little late, but it happened
Yesterday was a wonderful day in our state's history. Wisconsin, after 155 years of statehood, swore in the first person of color to an appellate court. Paul Higginbotham, who has been a Dane County Circuit Court judge for many years, ran for the Supreme Court last year even though many who told him that he had no chance. (I'll let you guess about the reason.)
But sometimes good things happen to good people and Gov. Jim Doyle appointed him to the Court of Appeals. It was quite a celebration in the Assembly chambers with a full house. Justice Shirley Abrahamson, who has broken gender lines all her life, swore in Judge Higginbotham. Both spoke of access to justice to a very appreciative audience. The people of Wisconsin will benefit from this appointment because the door will now be opened to other talented African Americans.
Better late than never.
October 19, 2003
OK, some good news
People over 65 vote. The president's approval rating, according to the latest poll conducted by CBS and the New York Times, is only 41 percent among Americans over 65. Your task for the week: Get those over 65 to share their wisdom with those under 65.
As Governor Doyle, the Legislature, Congress and Bush continue to shower tax breaks on big business, Levi Strauss responds: "Thanks, suckers." Levi's, the original American style, will no longer be made in the U.S. as they close their last plants in San Antonio and California.
Where will the work go? "The work will be contracted to suppliers in 50 countries from the Caribbean to Latin America and Asia," reports the New York Times. The $18 per hour jobs with union negotiated benefits? Gone. Impact on the community? Devastating. Affect on 50-something workers? Hey, they should feel proud to be part of the global village. Just ask Joe Lieberman.
Fair trade, anyone?
October 18, 2003
Farewell and thanks, Ben Metcalfe
As the Senate began confirming Mike Leavitt to run the EPA, a man who will make us pine for James Watt and beatify Christy Todd Whitman, we learned that the founder of Greenpeace, Ben Mecalfe, died.
When friends ask you why you remain optimistic and are willing to fly the progressive banner, remind them that Ben Metcalfe started Greenpeace in 1970 and it now boasts 3 million members. More to the point, Greenpeace matters. They make a difference. So, farewell Ben, and thanks. It would be appropriate for our two Senators to vote against the nomination of Leavitt just to honor Metcalfe, not to mention doing it for the sake of the American people who would suffer from dirty air and polluted waters under his "leadership."
As the Supreme Court takes up the issue of "under God" in the pledge of allegiance, I hope they take a look around before hitting the books.
The Prime Minister of Malaysia got a standing ovation from our "allies" when he condemned Jews and said, "Jews rule the world by proxy and get others to fight and die for them." Incredible.
Not to be outdone, our own General William Boykin, in uniform, spoke at churches and prayer breakfasts where he proclaimed, "America is a Christian nation." Whoa Nelly! In uniform? Prayer breakfasts? He went on to denounce Islam as Satan worship. Congressman John Conyers summed it up: "It is outrageous that someone who holds such extreme, close-minded, zealous views would be allowed such a prominent position in our military." The Commander in Chief remained silent. Praying, perhaps?
When the court considers the division between church and state, we can only hope they keep in mind the zealots who would define "The one true religion." Don't you wonder which God General Boykin has in mind when he says the pledge? How about the one the Malaysian prime minister calls upon?
October 17, 2003
Maryland, oh Maryland
It is down-right embarrassing to learn that Georgia is spending more on its faculty salaries than the UW; North Carolina will provide scholarships for all those in need while we raise tuition 18 percent; and now Maryland may demolish their Supermax prison. Why? "It does not serve our purpose programmatically or any other way," said state corrections secretary Mary Ann Saar.
Wisconsin's Supermax is a carbon copy of the austere Maryland facility. Same philosophy: 23-24 hours of isolation, no room for drug treatment, counseling or education. Saar called it "an expensive mistake and a relic of a failed trend."
"People are coming out of Supermax like animals. They've lived on 23-hour lock-downs for decades and we expect them to come back into communities and live like human beings?" That from Vincent Schiraldi of the Justice Policy Institute. He said states were in a frenzy to lock people up and make it as unpleasant as possible in the '90s. No thought was given to how these inmates will act when released back into society.
Maryland officials say their Supermax is too expensive to operate. "We were following a trend." Enter Tommy Thompson and Jim Klauser, who caught the wave in 1989 and built the Boscobel prison for a couple hundred million dollars for "the worst of the worst." Problem is, there are only about 50 inmates fitting that description in the entire system, according to the former Secretaries of Corrections.
So, Wisconsin built a "relic" in 1999 at a tremendous cost. Now? Like Maryland, they can't sensibly alter the prison built to punish inmates 24 hours a day for the normal prison population. And with more than 350 inmates assigned to Boscobel due to overcrowding in other prisons, not bad behavior, rehabilitation is an unknown word in Supermax.
Wisconsin should follow the lead of Maryland's Saar and simply raze Supermax. Ah, but that would take real political courage.
October 16, 2003
Spencer Coggs for Senate
The Shepherd Express has wisely endorsed Rep. Spencer Coggs in the Gary George recall election. Coggs, a thoughtful and serious Assembly representative, would pay attention to his actual constituents rather than his contributors.
The Shepherd had this to say about George: "For two decades no one has challenged George despite a feeling in the community that he had largely abandoned his district in order to pursue his own personal gains." Recently, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel showed pictures of George's home in Grafton--a long way from his district. George, according to AP, has received most of his campaign contributions from pro-voucher contributors from out of state. People such as John and Christy Walton of Wal-Mart fame, from Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
Gary George has always been a darling of Bradley Foundation fellow Charlie Sykes, probably because of his support for school vouchers. George said volumes about his campaign when he hired hit man Todd Rongstad. Wisconsin Public Radio went to Rongstad's home and reported on another Rongstad oversized attack postcard, this one aimed at Coggs.
I predict the Sykes/Rongstad quinella is sure to elect Coggs.
Wait until next year
Hey, I have to admit that I was pretty scared Wednesday night. Top of the 8th, one out, Cubs winning and the announcer said, "The Cubs are just five outs from their first World Series..." (This guy was obviously a Marlin plant sent to jinx the Cubs. He would be the guy on the bench who says to the pitcher, "Hey three more outs and you have a no-hitter." I'm willing to bet his nephew tried to catch the foul ball destined for Alou's glove.)
But, let's face it. How would we approach the world knowing that the Cubs did not have to wait another year? Would management move them out of Wrigley Field to a new taxpayer supported venue? Would we all lose interest in the game after the ultimate triumph? Would they still be the Cubs? I think I could have handled it, but I'm not sure. And, when I read that Rumsfeld is a Cubs fan, the loss last night was somehow easier to handle.
No team, no institution loses with more class or predictability. So, congratulations Cubs. Almost.
October 15, 2003
Another Vietnam? Certainly not.
Harper's Index: Number of U.S. troops killed in Afghanistan and Iraq in last two years? 354. The number of U.S. troops killed in Vietnam in 1963 and 1964? 324.
And here is one for the books. The percentage of Iraqis who said in July they would rather live under the Americans than under Sadddam Hussein: 29 percent.
No WMD, no anthrax, no ties to 9-11 and they do not like us? What is wrong with them?
Matt Taibbi in the latest Nation writes a wonderful article about Dennis Kucinich. He begins with, "The theme of this election is the unavoidable humiliation of the sane in a Kingdom of idiots. Edwards appears as Kucinich's Dostoyevskian opposite. Edwards is seemingly there to remind Dennis that a man cannot succeed in a world designed for children."
Kucinich, at home with university students and real students of politics "doesn't look right" according to some. Let us hope that the sane can outpoint the idiots; that the man can succeed in the world of children.
Trickle down, please
Wall street had a good day yesterday. Dow up 48.6, NASDAQ up 9.66, S&P 500 up 4.1. That news comes as a new study by the Annie E. Casey Foundation reports that the poor are not doing as well on Main Street as the money folks are on Wall Street.
For example, 34.4 percent of the children in Milwaukee (54,000) live in poverty. Statewide, 30,500 more children were in poverty in 2002 than in 2000 when W-2 was supposed to be helping the poor find the employment that would help them climb out of poverty. Or so the conservatives claimed.
More and more poor families are in danger of joining the ranks of the homeless. In Milwaukee County, nearly half of the families who rent could not afford the average monthly payment of $670. A mother working at a minimum wage job, $5.15 per hour, would have to work 130 hours a month just to pay the average rent. If she had a full-time minimum wage job, she would get paid for working 160 hours and all but 30 would be devoted to rent. What about food? Transportation to work? Health care?
What should we do about this human disaster in our midst? Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker would raise bus fares so that Milwaukee would lead the nation in the cost of public transportation. The Bradley Foundation would use money targeted for public schools to go instead to private schools. Republicans in the Legislature would cut shared revenues to local communities, including the city of Milwaukee.
I've got an idea. Have the federal government help by spending $87 billion more in Iraq. After all, if Halliburton makes more money, its stock will rise, and surely the excess will trickle down to poor families in Wisconsin. That is what they tell us. And they wouldn't lie, would they? As President Bush says, things aren't as bad as you think.
October 14, 2003
Politics can be fun but most of us need to be reminded of that fact. Last night, hundreds of progressives who gathered at a Madison airport received that reminder. It was old-fashioned politics. Dennis Kucinich announced his formal candidacy in Cleveland and came to Wisconsin at 8:00 in the evening. He should have been tired but he was energized and he got the crowd hooting and hollering. Kucinich spoke at both Fighting Bob Fests and he spoke at the Orpheum theater in Madison as we gathered to stop the invasion of Iraq. Many who heard him before were there last night.
Kucinich is dismissed by the Chris Matthews types because he doesn't have millions of dollars. But what the insiders who think they run our system forget to mention is that Kucinich is speaking to the soul of the Democratic Party. And, do you now what? Most Democrats, independents and Greens I talk to agree with him on the issues. He voted against the Patriot Act; he opposed the invasion of Iraq; he wants the UN in Iraq and our soldiers out; he wants fair trade; he walked the Tyson picket line; and, he wants universal health care.
Now, that is scary. Imagine a Democrat, running for office, speaking to Democrats and not to the big money interests of the DLC. Stay tuned.
October 13, 2003
Attack, attack, attack
Today the Republican Party is attacking progressive Rep. Frank Boyle, who also happened to have been the subject of Rongstad negative postcards in the last election. I can hardly wait for tomorrow's target. Perhaps the Republicans didn't like Boyle's article on FightingBob.com or, more likely, it is part of the use of selected facts, sometimes called half-truths, to mislead. This is a tactic made infamous by Todd Rongstad. (See Blog "Victory all over the place," October 9.)
R. Roth Judd, executive director of the state Ethics Board, told Wisconsin Public Radio that anonymous sources often use that tactic to attack legislators. Is there any chance we could deal with issues instead? Would the head of the GOP be willing to debate, or will he hide? I'll buy lunch at the Main Depot if he agrees to debate. That would smack of fairness.
What we need is an Ethics Board with greater authority. Time for the Legislature to reclaim control of the political process. It is now home to demagogues.
October 12, 2003
The bright side of politics
With all the negative attacks filled with half-truths, not to mention out and out lies, hurled at public officials or candidates, it is always refreshing to appear on Wisconsin Public Radio on Friday mornings with host Joy Cardin. Last Friday I sparred with Scott Klug; it was fun, open, and we even agreed from time to time.
What makes this civilized WHA program different from most of the political "talk" we are allowed to hear? The exchange is fair and open. It is not the oversized postcard, the anonymous allegation, or the product of shadowy groups hiding their identity that is today the hallmark of Wisconsin politics. No, it is an opportunity for a liberal and a conservative to express ideas, to question the other's views, and to suggest policy.
If we would publicly fund our campaigns we could get back to issues and real debates. Hey, we might even let the candidates define themselves without help from WEAC or WMC. Too radical? Let's try it.
Our great state University of Wisconsin has acted rather strangely of late. Think about these events: a telephonic meeting to raise salaries in violation of open meetings laws; increased salaries for management while students face unacceptable increases in tuition; outside income of a couple hundred thousand for UW President Lyall who should, for her $300,000 salary from the state, consider herself "full-time." These incidents raise questions about the stewardship of our most important public institution.
No one wondered who headed the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction when Bert Grover was in charge. As DPI leader he had a seat on the Board of Regents, so he knows what he is talking about. And what he is talking about is what mainstream media is not talking about. His words, "...but the truth is that UW System administrators want to privatize our great university system..." And he is not kidding.
As the Legislature cuts state support for education and instead funds the prison industrial complex, the UW is secretly plotting to "sell" our university. Their primary justification? You guessed it. Insufficient state funding. Read Grover's "UW System, Incorporated" and then react. We need voices to stop this nonsense.
October 11, 2003
Rummy to Condy to Bush?
As the baseball playoffs continue, one imagines the Bush infield under the new rules. Rummy was "king for a war" but had not thought about peace in so long he didn't know what to do when the "war" ended. (Not even his closest friends will tell him it really wasn't much of a war.) So Condy took the throw from shortstop Rummy and ran home claiming it should have been hers in the first place. And, standing at home is none other than the old nation-builder himself.
I have said it before but must repeat that watching this administration handle post-aggression Iraq is reminiscent of Jimmy Breslin's "The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight." Rummy is out of power while Karl Rove is "outing" CIA operatives, Condy continues her saccharine calls for unity and Cheney is now almost screaming that they were right all along.
What Cheney does not say, of course, is that the Iraqis do not like being occupied. The Islamic Council has demanded we leave. Cheney ignores the deaths of the nearly 100 American soldiers killed since Bush landed on the Lincoln, and the Pentagon won't even hint at the number of seriously wounded.
The tragedy continues. Bush is sounding more and more like LBJ in 1968. Will the Republicans dump Bush in 2004 as The Dems dumped LBJ in 1968? Stranger things have happened.
October 9, 2003
Victory all over the place
President Bush claims that "perceptions" in Iraq have covered up the "realities" of progress in the six months since the fall of Saddam. The president has nothing on Wisconsin where State Senator Julie Lassa settled her defamation case with Todd Rongstad. Rongstad agreed to pay $65,000 to Lassa and the School Fund for contempt of Court and attorney fees--hers not his, but the day after he signed the settlement he claims he won. (I'm not making this up.) If losing $65,000 and paying attorneys for ten months for both sides is a "victory" I would hate to see one of his losses.
Then, from the hills of Colorado where former candidate and former Badger Alex Paul resides, he also joined the settlement but called on Lassa's constituents to honor the First Amendment.(I guess that includes the right to fund secret mailings.) Paul spent over half a million bucks trying to defeat Julie Lassa but got only 33% of the votes and then quickly moved to Colorado. For reasons of his own, he has remained at least 2,000 miles from the courtroom where his lawyers, inexplicably, rushed forward to announce that Mr. Paul secretly paid for the defamatory postcard. When? Three days after the primary.
Make no mistake, Paul asked to sign onto the settlement even though Lassa hadn't sued him. But now says, "OK coach, game's over but put me in." The day after signing the settlement he suggested in a rambling news release that Julie Lassa was somehow lacking in courage for entering into a settlement with him. I don't know about you but I'm confused.
So what's left of the suit? You might not believe it but Rongstad is suing Paul claiming that he is as responsible for the contempt of court and fees as he is. Can't wait for that result. Victory all around. Ah, those "perceptions" again.
Oh, yes, a confession. I have been representing Senator Lassa.
October 8, 2003
Imagine the outrage
Can you imagine the outrage from Charles "Bradley Fellow" Sykes, Rush Limbaugh, and Mark Belling if Clinton were president right now? A political operative "outs" an important CIA agent to intimidate other internal critics of the war; a refusal to appoint an independent prosecutor even though the Attorney General used the president's chief political operative on his own campaigns?
Can't find Saddam after spending a couple of hundred billion dollars and, much worse, the death and injuries to hundreds of our soldiers? (They would have lost their voices had Clinton landed on the Lincoln.) Can't find Bin Laden, but helped move his family out of the U.S. after 9-11? No plans for reconstruction, no idea how to get the UN involved, in fact, no ideas. A $500 billion deficit for this year, a $5 trillion long-term deficit. I think it is fair to say Clinton would not only be impeached, he would be convicted and deported. Double standard? It is way beyond that.
California does it
My favorite headline? "Larry Flynt Leading Gary Coleman in Early Returns." That gem from Commondreams.com. Check our CommonDreams Link for the rest of the story on California's gift to political fundraising.
Imagine the mischief the California results will cause nationwide. What if the Republicans try to recall Jim Doyle? Worst case for them: they get a couple hundred thousand e-mail and snailmail addressees and Doyle spends millions to defeat the recall just to keep his job. Yes, he would have to raise the money from the same people who would be funding the recall, but, hey, who cares? The key to this undermining of the electoral process is that the right wing can force Democrats to spend all their time focused on raising money. It used to be for the next election but now it will be constant fundraising for the elections between the elections. They will sell seats to the inaugural ceremony.
The dirty little secret is that this tactic will drive the Democratic office holders into the arms of the special interests who want the tax breaks that they will use to start more recalls. Nice plan.
October 6, 2003
When the Nation arrives in my mailbox, I always feel better. When the New Yorker arrives, how can you read anything before laughing at the great cartoons? And in the Nation, week after week is Calvin Trillin. This week, in a "deadline poem" titled "Reflections on Geopolitics":
"It seemed like such a good idea
Oh, when did it begin to sour,
And start to be no fun to be
The last remaining superpower?"
Do you ever wonder what our president reads? A little Trillin would help.
A confession. I almost forgive George Will for his slanted views and distorted analyses because he is a Cubs fan. Long-suffering fans of a consistent loser tend to forgive one another. And I have always liked Dave Zweifel. Because he is a true Cub fan? Maybe.
We have suffered all our lives waiting until "next year." So, they won a playoff series for the first time in 95 years. Will a World Series destroy the mystique? Perhaps but I'm ready to find out.
October 5, 2003
California here we come!
"Open your Golden Gates" and lead us to chaos. We are apparently about to witness another "California moment." We have seen Proposition 13 take California schools from among the elite in the nation to among the worst. They gave us free-spending-Iran-Contra-deal-making Ronald Reagan. And now we get Kennedy-family-embarrassment Arnold Schwarzenegger. I recall a time when people wanted to move to California.
But let us, as progressives, stop moaning over the possibility of losing of that dynamic leader Gray Davis. This DLC champion of constant fundraising from all the wrong people took the Democratic Party into strange territory. Davis raised money all the time and went to great lengths to avoid media scrutiny about these efforts. Why? You can bet there were few Democrats at those very private fundraising events.
Could this man, who ran negative ads in the Republican primary to help Republicans select the most beatable opponent, raise taxes on the big contributors?
No, he put the tax on those in California who drive to work. Not those with chauffeurs to keep the engine running. That's right, tax the working families and the middle class because they do not have money for politics.
Minnesota survived Jesse Ventura. California will survive the Groper and might learn that, "If you lie down with dogs you get up with fleas."
Big Business might give money to Democrats for "insurance" for their tax breaks, but they bite back with a vengeance when the opportunity arises. Frankly, that is one reason you have to cheer for Governor Dean. He is doing it right by raising money from the little people, not the super rich, the tax-evaders, and the off-shore corporate types.
So, bring on Arnold. Howard Cosell used to say, "You deserve whatever you get." So, California, enjoy. For the rest of us, get on the Internet and contribute $10 bucks or more to the progressive of your choice.
October 3, 2003
If he had them, we will find them!
We invaded Iraq because our intelligence proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. But, it turns out we were wrong, the UN was right. Pat Roberts, Senator from Kansas, made these memorable comments: "We don't know what has happened to Saddam's weapons. His program of denial and deception was more effective than we thought." Meanwhile, even Rummy says our intelligence may have been wrong.
But here is the incredible part. The administration wants $600 million more to keep looking! Imagine what Head Start in Wisconsin could do with $600 million. Imagine how many of the uninsured could be insured.
So, Saddam was not involved in 9-11 according to Bush, but was according to Cheney. He had weapons of mass destruction that could be used within 45 minutes according to Tony Blair, but we can't find any according to David Kay. If this were not tragic it would be hilarious. But try to explain this to the families of our dead and wounded. You won't get laughs.
October 2, 2003
North Carolina and Georgia understand the Wisconsin Idea
Believe it or not, the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, is the first public university to announce that students from families earning less than $28,000 annually will be able to have the full cost of their education paid with grants instead of loans.
Gaylord Nelson tells me that faculty at the University of Georgia are better paid than faculty at Wisconsin. Quite incredible. While president Lyall plots to privatize the Madison campus and Governor Doyle raised tuition 18 percent this year, these two southern schools put us to shame. Wisconsin could use some of their leadership. Perhaps an exchange program is in order.
Getting the public out of public education
As the well-funded pro-voucher forces move inexorably toward privatization of education for all but those with any kind of "problems," it would be well to pause a moment and ask about the lies that have been told from the get-go. I remember this Jim Klauser, Tommy Thompson initiative when it was introduced to "help poor black parents have the same choices as we have." Those words came from Tommy's mouth to the newspaper editors.
We argued then that the voucher program was a clever way to achieve the goals of the white Southerners who resisted integration following Brown v. Board of Education: private, segregated, tax-supported schools. The courageous federal judges in the 5th Circuit in New Orleans saw through the plot and ruled against this charade.
So, while Scott Jensen and his cohorts await a Bush victory next year so he can appoint enough justices to reverse Brown, they continue the assault on Milwaukee Public Schools. First they lead the entire state to the conclusion that MPS is failing. (See our article by Barbara Miner.) Second, they claim the private schools are less expensive and better. Third, they make sure there are no tests in the private schools to demonstrate achievement. And, finally, special needs children are not welcome. Have we really set the clock back to 1956? Keep watching.
October 1, 2003
Reliving Bob Fest
Transcripts and videotapes of the speeches from Fighting Bob Fest 2003 are now available for purchase. You can request speeches of individual speakers or get a better deal by ordering tapes of the entire day’s festivities.
Whether you missed Bob Fest II or were a member of the inspired audience, this is a great opportunity to experience the excitement of this year’s Fest. We invite you to help FightingBob.com in sharing the messages of Bob Fest’s rousing speakers by passing the transcripts along to friends and even the not-so-friendly, and by showing the videos at parties, meetings or other events. The progressive movement depends on initiating discussions about topics that are important to us. Sharing the words of the speakers at Fighting Bob Fest is a good way to start a dialogue.
See our documents page for ordering information.
The Democrats have lost their minds. A special prosecutor over revealing an undercover CIA agent? While the leak may cause some deaths or compromise our security, it cannot be as important as, say, a financial deal in Arkansas, could it?
Besides, as John Ashcroft seems to be saying, why should we have someone look into this when we know the administration is innocent? As for the president? He wants people to come forward without help from anyone other than Ashcroft. Whoa Nelly!