November 30, 2003
Women priests and R.L. DeWitt
Now and then an obituary catches the eye, jogs the memory and raises hope. Such was the case of Bishop R.L. DeWitt, who died at 87 last week. Bishop DeWitt fought from the pulpit for civil rights and women's rights. He took part in consecrating women as Episcopal priests in 1974 and was immediately condemned by the House of Bishops. But two years later, reports the New York Times, the church's General Convention sanctioned the consecration of women as priests. In 1986, the first woman Episcopal Bishop was selected.
Good work, Bishop DeWitt. Now, for the churches that still debate the role of women in the clergy, could we get on with it? Please.
November 28, 2003
John Patrick Hunter
Life will not be nearly as much fun without John Patrick Hunter, who died on Wednesday. Surrounded by his wonderful wife Merry and family, he left the world with the serenity he so richly deserved.
It seems to me that he has always been in Madison writing for the paper of choice, the Capital Times. Whenever I did not want to hear from a reporter, my phone at home would ring at 7:00 a.m. It was John Patrick asking just what I didn't want to answer. He had a knack.
He was honest and straightforward in his coverage of stories, but he didn't hide his progressive views. But just because you were a Democrat, he never let you off the hook. Not a phony bone in his body. He was a model of integrity.
Merry and John Patrick were everywhere when John was ailing. Always listening intently, always ready with a quip, he was the person everyone went to first at a gathering and all walked away with a smile.
He made his mark early by taking on the scoundrel Joe McCarthy, but he didn't stop there. He dug for stories in the Capitol and throughout the state and was never intimidated.
A journalist, friend, and great contributor to the commonweal. He cared about social justice, the Bill of Rights, and the importance of diversity in media.
We will miss his humor, his humanity and his enthusiasm.
November 27, 2003
How much did he really earn?
Phil Brinkman and Scott Milfred report in the Wisconsin State Journal that Gary George was working with the contractor named in the indictment of George and his lawyer, former Democratic Party chair Mark Sostarich, on three no-bid contracts to build "up to $11.4 million in prisons and a half-way house in Milwaukee," not just one.
Question: How could this happen? What is the Building Commission doing? Was the media on sleep-inducing medications?
Context, context, context
If it is "location, location, location" for real estate, stories about our schools must be put in context, context, context. Assume for a moment that educating our young people is our first obligation. If so, we must examine two clever public relations schemes. Remember "Leave No Child Behind"? George Bush's nonsense that is bringing about testing, testing, testing but no money, money, money? And, "vouchers" that will, as Tommy Thompson used to say, "Give black parents the same opportunity as we have to select the best school for our kids." ("We" apparently needed no definition.)
Meanwhile, Associated Press reports that 7,000 Milwaukee students are homeless. Yes, homeless. Recall "Harvest of Shame," Edward R. Murrow's wonderful expose on how the children of migrant workers could never break-out of the cycle of poverty because they were never in a place long enough to be educated. Well, where are we today for urban "migrants"? It's hard enough to get kids with warm homes to eat breakfast, dress warmly, do homework and get to the bus on time. Imagine going around Milwaukee with kids, looking for a place to sleep. Homework? C'mon, get serious.
Eighty percent of the students in Milwaukee are eligible for free or reduced-cost lunches. That is the standard that says you are poor. Eighty per cent!
So, when Republicans say the answer is privatization of education through the Trojan Horse called vouchers, we should shout "nonsense!"
Well, some good news. Governor Doyle vetoed legislation passed by both houses calling for expansion of so-called "school choice." Good move, Governor. We need more money for public schools, not private schools.
Where is the outrage? Poverty, lack of affordable housing, lack of good jobs are the enemy. Where are the generals leading this war?
November 25, 2003
Ever wonder who the good folks are?
Check our Documents page to read a letter from Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin to Tyson Foods president John Tyson. The letter is signed by most of our congressional Democrats and many other progressives.
Keeping the heat on Tyson is one of our most important projects, and congressional support for the strikers is an important step toward an equitable settlement.
Sharpton vs. Brokaw
Tom Brokaw, NBC's news anchor, had his two hours on the stage in Iowa for another "debate" among the nine Democratic presidential candidates last night. His tone and body language made it clear from the get-go that he was the most important person in the room, but his demeanor changed after he tangled with the Reverend Al Sharpton.
Brokaw, in bizarre fashion, asked Sharpton (after a long wind-up), "If Governor Dean apologized for the confederate flag issue, will you apologize for Tawana Brawley?" Sharpton went right at anchorman Tom and made it clear the question was absurd. Brokaw, not accustomed to mere mortals swinging back, was on his heels for the next round of questions.
Could we return to the League of Women Voters? Please? They asked questions. The national media celebs think they must be clever in the age of screaming Chris Matthews. The "I'm smarter than the candidates" routine doesn't work well for anyone. Brokaw asked questions designed to get the candidates fighting among themselves rather than questions meant to provide an opportunity for them to explain their positions.
Me? I'm switching to Peter Jennings.
November 24, 2003
One step forward
On January 28, 2002, the Department of Corrections and the Department of Justice agreed in writing to reduce temperatures in the tombs they call cells at Wisconsin's Supermax prison. The goal: 80-84 degrees. Temperatures often approach 100 degrees. The Department of Corrections admits that given the design of the cells, fans would not work because air cannot circulate in the cells.
At a hearing today, the DOC admitted they could not live up to the agreement by cooling the cells to 84 degrees because the experts agree that air conditioning is the only answer and DOC would not extend the air conditioning from the staff side of the prison to the cells. Period. Federal Judge Barbara Crabb ordered the state to live up to its agreement by air conditioning the cells.
Is this "coddling" prisoners? Only the mean-spirited would say yes. The fact is that 66 inmates are on psychotropic medications and could suffer severe health problems from heat. This is a life-and-death issue.
Progress. Cells will be cooler, and we are a little closer to civilization.
November 23, 2003
Black opposes sale of prison
Rep. Spencer Black was led to believe the women's prison the state is building in Milwaukee would be sold to a non-profit group. (The same group that paid large legal fees to attorney Mark Sostarich who kicked back 50-80 percent to Sen. Gary George.) Now that it is known that the purchaser would be a "for profit" faith-based group, a subsidiary of the non-profit group, Black wisely changed his mind and wants to change the Building Commission decision.
As for Governor Doyle, he ordered the Attorney General to look into George's activities. Given the fact that OIC paid the fees and may have known they were not getting full value for their dollar, would it not make sense to forget the prison sale to OIC? Apparently not. Doyle says "I'm comfortable with the sale." Whoa Nelly!
UW out of reach?
Jay Rath has written a superb cover story in Isthmus on the "High price of knowledge." It is a sad tale of a state that has lost its commitment to providing higher education at low cost. Today only 21 percent of the UW-Madison budget comes from the state; only 27 percent of the entire UW System budget comes from the state.
The Legislature cut $250 million from the UW budget this year and took $100 million from students by raising tuition. That is a disgrace. Rath quotes Regent Nino Amato: "We've increased tuition well over 100% in the last 10 years. That's making education all but unattainable" for many.
While Chancellor Wiley is critical of the cutbacks, one suspects he and UW President Lyall are angling for privatization of the Madison campus. Can't happen? Look at UW Hospital. Naturally, both Lyall and Wiley were unavailable for an interview with Isthmus.
It is time to have an open discussion about the future of the UW. Do we belive in higher education for all who want it or just for those who can afford it?
November 22, 2003
This awful day in history
I can't let the anniversary of the JFK assassination go by without some comment, yet I have little new to add to all that has been said. The American University speech calling for detente, the speech to the nation where he said the Civil Rights issue is a moral one, and his challenge to a generation in the "ask not" speech all leave us with thoughts of what might have been. Could we have guessed then that King and RFK would suffer the same fate?
That awful day must be remembered by those who were not yet alive. For those who were, we need no reminders. All I can say is that we must continue to answer his call: "What you can do for your country."
November 21, 2003
The fox has his day
Governor Doyle will hold a conference on how we can hold down or reduce property taxes. Will an advocate of closing corporate loopholes preside? How about Mark Pocan, who favors progressive income taxes? Or, might it be another progressive legislator?
No, the governor's summit on holding down property taxes will be chaired by (and I'm not making this up) Tommy and Bush apologist professor Don Kettl and the rightwing president of the Milwaukee chamber of commerce, Tim "loophole" Sheehy.
What is Doyle thinking? Is he switching parties? Does he think Kettl and Sheehy will come up with a proposal to eliminate corporate loopholes? I don't get it.
Where's the horse?
Governor Doyle sent a letter to Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager two days after the feds indicted Gary George, authorizing her to take legal action against the scandal-plagued former state senator. Doyle praised George as a "reformer" when George endorsed him a little more than a year ago.
Wait until Doyle hears about the Lincoln assassination. "Get on it, Peg."
November 20, 2003
The November 16 Sunday Wisconsin State Journal editorialized that we should "Have faith in prison plan." WSJ was praising the loopy Doyle/Bob Welch faith-based prison scheme whereby a Milwaukee for-profit entity, created by a non-profit W-2 agency, OIC, would purchase a state-built prison then lease it back to the state whereupon the state would pay all upkeep, utilities, and, oddly, taxes. At the end of 20 years the faith-based for-profit entity would own the prison, the taxpayers would have paid $450,000 more than if they had not sold it, and the state would not have control of the prison. Confused? Read on.
Yesterday, Senator Gary George was indicted for an illegal kick-back scheme involving our would-be prison partners, OIC. The indictment reads, in part: "Opportunities Industrialization Center (OIC) is a non-profit organization involved in social welfare issues...[received] millions of dollars each year for W-2". Between October 1, 1997 and August 30, 2002, George received kickbacks on legal fees paid by OIC...Between October 1, 1997 and December 30, 2002, George received $4,676 in monthly payments...George received approximately $270,000 in this fashion."
It should be made clear that OIC was not indicted. George and his lawyer, former Democratic Party chair Mark Sostarich, were. But before the state plunges into a cockamamie privatized prison plan with a faith-based entity or, indeed, any entity, WSJ might want to look before taking the leap of faith with our tax dollars. And Bob Welch might check out his former colleague before suggesting taxpayers take a ride on his faith-based express. As for Governor Doyle? C'mon.
November 19, 2003
They said it best!
Sometimes politicians, columnists, playwrights and citizens articulate positions and frame debates so well that there is nothing left to do except applaud. Here are my Wednesday morning nominees.
On the so-called Energy Bill: John McCain said it should be named "Leave no lobbyist behind." Robert Byrd added, "The bill will do about as much to improve the nation's energy security as the administration's invasion of Iraq has done to stem the tide of global terrorism."
Arnold Schwarzenegger: "I can guarantee you I will not lay anyone off in December or before Christmas." Take that to the bank!
E.J. Dionne, writing in the Washington Post about the lobbyists' drug prescription bill: "They went in to design a prescription drug benefit for seniors and came out with an aardvark. It is said that a camel is a horse designed by committee. But the camel metaphor doesn't do justice to the Medicare prescription drug bill. It is not a compromise. It is a weird combination of conflicting policy preferences. It is unprincipled." Amen, E.J.
To playwright Harold Pinter on Bush's visit to Britain: "The odd couple Bush and Blair are liars. No nation has ever been so detested as the U.S. today. The U.S. is the rogue state par excellence." Could Pinter write a play starring Rumsfeld, Cheney and Wolfowitz?
November 17, 2003
Brewers will win the pennant....
Not in our lifetime, perhaps, but catch this. General Manager Doug Melvin, returning from meetings of baseball folks in Arizona, commented on the firing of Ulice Payne, and I'm not kidding: "We talked to a number of teams regarding their organizations, about what their needs are as well as what we might be able to do to improve the Brewers." (Get the microphone away from this guy.) He then added, "there is speculation about Richie Sexson and Geoff Jenkins. I don't know if a trade will occur or not." Whoa Nelly!
Not to be outdone, Bob Quinn, senior vice president said, "Realistically, we're not going to compete for a division title this year or next year. It doesn't make baseball sense to go out and ramp-up payroll for cosmetic reasons when it does not put you in contention."
Answer this. If you won't be competitive, why would working families pay good money to see the team that has already given up? Get serious. Go Cubs!
Polls and the Internet
The New York Times reports that Senator Bill Frist conducted a poll on the Internet. His Web site asked if there should be an up or down vote on the judicial nominees. Sixty percent said "no" and 40 percent said "yes." He was embarrassed so he did it again with slightly different wording. Result? Eighty-six percent "no" and 14 percent "yes."
Frist's staff mobilized for a third try. This time they got it right--far right. Fifty-four percent said "yes" and 46 percent were laughing too hard to vote no. Nice going Senator! Wonder why we don't trust CNN and FOX polls?
Calvin is thrilling
Calvin Trillin, our favorite poet, writes a sad but true comment. President Bush won't attend military funerals because Rove doesn't want him associated with the "bad news" from Iraq. Trillin wrote this in the Nation:
"At least there's no Bush eulogy
On why they had to die.
It's better that they're laid to rest
Without another lie."
November 16, 2003
Listening to Bill Moyers last week at the National Conference on Media Reform, one had the feeling that something very important was happening. It was. Read his speech and you will understand why we rushed to publish it.
If I could add one reform to our schools it would be to mandate that every high school student must watch Moyers program on PBS, "Now with Bill Moyers," and read this speech.
Can we reform corporate media? Read the speech and then give us your views for publication. If democracy depends on diversity of views, we had better pay attention.
Where can you shop?
Whole Foods' managers got out of bed last week in Madison and unilaterally declared that they would no longer recognize the union that was voted in last year. The National Labor Relations Board conducted the secret-ballot election showing the employees wanted a union. Whole Foods is a national chain and, guess what, the Madison branch was the first and only store to vote for a union.
No need for secret balloting, no need for neutrals. Whole Foods says, "Trust us, we had enough evidence that the employees no longer wanted a union." Yeah, sure, Ole. We believe you. Perhaps Whole Foods brought some Florida election officials in to help with their count.
Wal-Mart, that great destroyer of local stores and minimum-wage paying, non-union to a fault, monster comes next. Groups of local citizens in Wisconsin and throughout the nation are fighting to keep Wal-Mart out in order to save the character and diversity of local communities.
So, what can you do? Well, stop shopping at Whole Foods, and join local organizations opposing Wal-Mart's intrusions. Vote with your pocket book.
November 13, 2003
Jean Chretien bade farewell to the Liberals at their convention in Toronto on November 13. It was civilized, enjoyable and even inspiring.
The line that got thousands of Canadians on their feet was, "And we did not go to war in Iraq." But in his au revoir to Canada, Chretien said, "We must never, ever lose our social conscience."
Makes me just a little jealous of our Canadian friends.
If hypocrisy had a market value, we would not have a budget crisis
Now "cheerleader" Tommy Thompson says, "The Brewers made it clear that if we built a modern, state-of-the-art stadium, it would provide them with the resources to field a winning baseball team. They promised to go out and get the star players that would allow them to compete for a world series." Bull feathers! C'mon Tommy, show us something in writing to support your absurd assertion.
Bud Selig knew what you knew. Without revenue sharing in baseball, the Brewers were doomed from the start. The stadium had nothing to do with a World Series and everyone knows it.
Not to be outdone, Senator Mike Ellis added his baloney: "The Seligs just scammed the living dickens out of the people of this state." No they didn't, Mike. They scammed you, Tommy, John Gard, George Petak, Scott Walker and all those legislators who thought they were smarter than the voters who had, months before, said "no" to the stadium in a referendum. Remember?
This is remarkable. John Gard asks to see the books. What would he look for if they said yes? But like the wedding at Cana, the best wine comes last. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that hired lobbyists to push the Brewer package through the Legislature, in a shameless joinder of media and business, today wrote an editorial about the "Autumn of our discontent."
C'mon, boys. Fess up. You were part of the Chamber of Commerce team. You were the flim-flam man. You were part of the Selig machine. It is time for an apology instead of this hand-wringing.
Remember when people laughed at the Kucinich plan to replace our troops by Christmas with U.N. troops? Remember when Bush/Cheney/Rummy/Wolfy snorted at the German and French plan to turn the country over to Iraq?
Had Bush and Cheney not been obligated to Halliburton and other U.S. contractors that are in line for war profiteering at historic levels, they might have listened. Today? Suddenly they complain that their employee Bremer is doing what they told him to do. Shame on Bremer. Doesn't he get it?
Time to replace our troops, time for turning the government over to Iraq. Why? Their "non-plan" isn't working.
Ah, those damned French!
The horse is out of the barn
It is fascinating to read Scott Walker's letter to the Brewers' board of directors: "Taxpayers and fans assumed that promise included a competitive team on the baseball field." (emphasis added)
The problem is now, and was then, that the taxpayers were opposed to spending $400 million on a new stadium. They didn't "assume" anything. The politicians "assumed." Remember the referendum? By almost 2-1 we said "no" to the stadium. But Tommy Thompson and the Republicans were determined to shove the new stadium down our throats.
The proposal: Move highway 41, pay for demolition of County Stadium, give away naming rights and concession revenues to the Brewers and tax everyone in five counties to pay for Bud's palace. The compliant Legislature buckled to WMC, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and Tommy. Did they follow advice from us that they seek guarantees from Bud? Of course not.
The Republicans said "relax." Strategic thinkers like extreme conservative Walker, now county executive of Milwaukee County, "assumed" Bud would be kind. Yesterday, Walker wrote, and I'm not kidding: "I implore you to fulfill" my assumptions. How about beg, plead, pray, or entreat?
Now that you have no leverage, you have reduced taxpayers to panhandlers. Nice going Scott. Next time get your "assumptions" in writing.
November 12, 2003
Keep those Democrats awake
The Lott/Frist-led Senate will talk for 30 hours tonight in an effort to convince the American public that Democrats should confirm three of the worst judicial nominees since we declared our independence from the British. Call Senators Feingold and Kohl to help keep them awake and fighting. These nominees, plus Judge Janice Rogers Brown from California, must be stopped. Watch C-Span and turn this into a teach-in on how Bush is trying to destroy our courts.
His goal? Nothing less than reversing Brown v. Board of Education, Gideon v. Wainright, and Roe v. Wade.
In an article by Mike Ivey, the Capital Times reports that Richard Strong may face criminal charges from improper trading in his firm's mutual funds. Okay, just another Wall Street story of a rich guy gone wrong? No, this one affects us directly, because in 2001, Strong Financial was inexplicably given an exclusive five-year contract to manage Wisconsin's EdVest fund. No pension fund I know of has only one manager. Wonder why EdVest does?
Well, look at his campaign contributions to Republicans and one Democrat. That one Democrat, Senator Jeff Plale, once worked for Strong and received campaign contributions from Strong. Plale is one of two legislators on the board governing EdVest. The other is Senator Alberta Darling of River Hills, who also received campaign contributions from Strong. Were there any dinners? Any other contact? Who is watching?
Is there any chance the Legislature will get off concealed weapons, same-sex marriage and other nonsense and begin to deal with their own conflicts of interest? For starters, Darling and Plale should immediately resign from the board that will decide whether or not to "diversify" management of the fund.
November 10, 2003
Just when you think you have seen it all
Jim Doyle teamed up with would-be U.S. Senator Bob Welch to provide us with some costly entertainment. The state of Wisconsin will build a 100-bed prison in Milwaukee for $5.8 million, sell it to a for-profit corporation for half the price, then lease the prison for 20 years. No, I'm not kidding. At the end of 20 years, the for-profit religious organization can buy the other half and Wisconsin will be without a prison. Are these people nuts?
The deal will cost taxpayers a minimum of $450,000 more than if we would just keep the prison! Senator Fred Risser, the only member of the Building Commission with his head screwed on, said "This stinks. From the standpoint of representing taxpayers it doesn't make sense." Right on Fred.
Bud, where are you?
Will you ever forget the picture of Bud Selig sitting in the Senate gallery at 3:00 in the morning as Tommy Thompson, with lots of help from Bud, got George Petak to vote for the Brewer stadium package? The first time the bill failed, but with Petak's vote the second time around--not to mention lobbying help hired by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel--the taxpayers were planted on the Brewer bandwagon without a single guarantee from Selig that the Brewers would field a competitive team, would not leave Milwaukee, or anything else.
Item: New Brewer president Ulice Payne said Saturday that the Brewers would slash their payroll to be the lowest in baseball. That means the Brewers will trade their two stars, Richie Sexson and Geoff Jenkins. Whoa Nelly! Why will millions of fans fork out hard-earned cash in a recession to watch another losing season in which the team is not even trying to win?
November 9, 2003
More proof needed?
The first National Conference on Media Reform was held in Madison over the weekend, but if you subscribe only to the Wisconsin State Journal or Milwaukee Journal Sentinel you don't know anything about it.
So many people from around the country registered that the organizers, FightingBob.com contributing editors John Nichols of the Capital Times and University of Illinois professor Bob McChesney, had to cut off registration on Thursday. To call the conference a success would be to understate.
There were so many outstanding speakers that it would be impossible in the space of a blog to list them. But let me mention a few. The national spotlight has been on Chuck Lewis of the Center for Public Integrity. Why? His organization of investigative journalists uncovered the truth about $8 billion worth of no-bid military contracts awarded to friends of Bush/Cheney. But Lewis was ignored in Madison.
Two FCC Commissioners came to discuss the importance of the rollback of the awful FCC decision to permit even larger media conglomerates. Ignored by WSJ.
There were seven congressmen and congresswomen, by my count; some of the best minds in the country on communications law and efforts to re-establish the Fairness Doctrine. Ignored.
Making the point in spades why having only one news source would be lethal to democracy, the Wisconsin State Journal covered the conference with a large headline "Democrats Whiners." This was a quote from Ralph Nader, who spoke on Saturday morning. Note to WSJ: This conference was not about the 2000 presidential election.
Bill Moyers delivered a profound analysis of the crisis we find in media today. The coverage? Page D-10 in WSJ in a report that was stunning for its lack of depth. (For enjoyment and a different perspective see bethemediablog.net.)
No wonder a majority of people in the U.S.believe that Saddam was involved in 9-11 and that we have found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. They are reading newspapers like the Wisconsin State Journal.
November 7, 2003
Madison--center of reform
Bob McChesney and John Nichols--FightingBob.com contributing editors both--have pulled it off. The most impressive meeting of media reformers ever is convening in Madison this weekend. Bill Moyers, Congressmen John Conyers and Bernie Sanders, FCC commissioners Copps and Adelstein, FAIR's Jeff Cohen and Janine Jackson, Chuck Lewis, Don Hazen, Jesse Jackson, Ralph Nader, Russ Feingold, Tammy Baldwin and many more. Do we thank FCC Chair Michael Powell or the organizers? Either way, something fascinating is happening. Stay tuned for a full report.
It was painful to watch the Democrats in a feeding frenzy the other night after Howard Dean made a mistake. The only one with the credentials to attack, Al Sharpton, did so with vigor to the delight of the other candidates who suddenly saw an opportunity to cut into Dean's lead. Joe Lieberman could hardly hold back an "Amen, brother" when Sharpton zeroed in on Governor Dean. (John Edwards leaped to the defense of "his" South: "The last thing we need is for people to come down South and tell us..." I recall the exact same statements when attending SNCC meetings in 1961.)
The next day, Dean apologized, and as Paul Krugman wrote, "His rivals for the Democratic nomination should be ashamed of their reaction. They know what he was trying to say--and it wasn't that his party should go soft on racism." Sharpton accepted his apology, but not John Kerry. Kerry said, "He moves faster, in more directions, tells more stories than anyone I've ever met in politics." (And I thought Kerry knew Bill Clinton.) "It's time to back off the flim-flam artistry of politics as usual."
C'mon John. Dean's comment bordered on the absurd, his reaction not what one would have hoped, but "flim-flam artistry"? Tell us again why you are running and why we should support you. We are smart enough to read Dean's comments, see his confrontation with the Reverend Sharpton (the most interesting moment of all the debates) and to make up our own minds. We are Democrats, remember?
November 6, 2003
Just for fun, go to www.NRAblacklist.com. As our full-time Legislature argues we should all carry concealed weapons, this Web site pushes the NRA out into the sunlight. For those of you who were not on the Nixon list, maybe, just maybe, you can be blacklisted by the NRA. What could be better than that?
Marriage saved again
I was worried but now I feel better. I was blind but now I see. Marriage is not between two men and two women nor is it...well, you get the drift. Our full-time state Senate defined marriage yesterday.
The Panzer Senate is out of control and not getting any help from people who know better. Mike Ellis is an example. Why not some leadership, Mike? C'mon. Do you really feel comfortable voting with Zien, Welch, Kanavas and Harsdorf? Time to switch parties.
The neocon intellectual of the Bush war-hawks is Richard Perle. The New York Times reports that the Iraqi government offered to permit 2,000 FBI agents to enter Iraq to search for the weapons of mass destruction. They offered to hold elections in two years, and they offered to work with the U.S. on oil and diplomacy. In other words, they were suing for peace before the war began. But Perle downplays the importance of the offer because he didn't trust Saddam Hussein.
Could we return to the invasion and ask, "What was the hurry?" Why wouldn't Perle permit discussions to take place or to send in the FBI? Face it: The hawks wanted a war and they were not going to let truth get in the way. Can you imagine how the families of those killed in action feel? Perhaps we define "war crimes" too narrowly.
November 5, 2003
Ever hear of competitive bids?
Spivak & Bice report that DOA Administrator Marc Marotta's former law firm, Foley & Lardner, has been paid $394,000 for working on WHEDA issues. And, they will be retained to audit EdVest with their lead attorney getting $440 per hour and two others working for a mere $320 per hour. (Talk about "living wage"!)
Explaining why his former firm has been selected, Marotta said, "Those other big Milwaukee firms don't have the same presence, and I don't think they have the same type of depth as Foley."
If you don't put contracts out to bid, we have no choice but to believe the Doyle administration. Shouldn't we be different? Better than the other guys? Oh well.
Every football fan has seen this happen: One player takes a cheap shot (Bob Welch) and then the referee turns around just in time to see the other player (Gwen Moore) retaliate. "Unsportsmanlike conduct. Fifteen yards," bellows the referee, and the crowd, with the advantage of videotape, boos.
Would-be U.S. Senator Bob Welch was in the chair. Instead of permitting the Democrats to continue the debate on the floor, he suddenly ordered the calling of the roll. Senator Gwen Moore was understandably upset and raised hell, as she should have. Welch would not stop the roll call and the doyen of River Hills, Alberta Darling, said she was (I'm not kidding) so afraid she didn't even hear her name called. Really? Why not join Sen. Moore in a visit through her district.
The answer from Mary Panzer? Incredible as it seems, she insisted the president of the Senate could expel any member for the day and deprive that senator's constituents of representation. Mike Ellis, who does his share of shouting, said the poor Republicans will be accused of "choking off people's right to speak."
Yes, Mike, your party hereby stands accused. If Mary Panzer and Alan Lasee cannot do their jobs without the threat of expulsion, they should ask Fred Risser how to do it. He gained the respect of all members and didn't need absurd powers of expulsion.
November 4, 2003
Living wage in Wisconsin? Nah!
The Republican-dominated Legislature hates local government. They want to repeal Smart Growth because it gives authority to citizens who might step on the toes of developers. (As a caller to Joy Cardin's WPR show asked, "What do they want, dumb growth?") They want to override local opposition to siting power lines because it offends their campaign patrons othewise known as Utility Companies. And remember when Scott McCalllum let the cat out of the bag early? He wanted to cut shared revenues because local government officials are "big spenders." Whoa Nelly!
Now the Repubs want to eliminate the right of cities to raise the minimum wage to a "living wage." Keep in mind that a full-time, 40-hour week, 52-weeks-per-year job would generate $10,712 for a worker getting minimum wage. Can a mother of two live on that? Can she pay rent and feed her kids? Can we call ourselves civilized knowing that she cannot afford health care?
The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign raises the issue squarely. Since Wisconsin, unlike many states, has only one mutual fund company handling our educational investment program, EdVest, we must look at those in charge and how it happened. And do they have conflicts that must be addressed?
Alberta Darling, chair of the College Savings Board, was quick to caution the board overseeing EdVest to give Richard Strong the benefit of the doubt. She received $2,000 in campaign contributions from Strong. "I don't want people to think this fund is in trouble. I don't want Strong to be judged before everything is done," she said.
Tommy's campaign received $27,500, Margaret Farrow, campaign chair for Russ Darrow, received $7,500, and Democrat-in-name-only Jeff Plale received $1,500. Strong and his employees gave $85,000 to politicians. (See Mike Ivey's column in the Capital Times.)
Plale is a special case. He used to work for Strong and is the only "Democrat" who received money from Strong. And, guess which board he sits on? You got it. The College Savings Board. The hypocrisy never ends.
As Strong looks over his campaign contribution portfolio, I'll bet he wishes he had helped out New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, who accused Strong of improper trading to benefit himself and others. Don't you wonder who the "others" are?
November 2, 2003
I saw something that is prohibited by the White House. No, it was not the secret 9-11 files they refuse to share with the American people or even the commission investigating the disaster. I saw a picture of a flag-draped coffin of a soldier killed in Iraq. Can you remember the daily dose of those pictures during Vietnam? I can. But President Bush, according to Maureen Dowd, won't attend memorial services for those killed nor does he permit pictures of the coffins.
That is disgraceful. Those men and women who gave their lives deserve our respect and their families need our support. The president should deal with the results of his actions. That is what adults do.
Silly season is upon us
We have lost 3 million jobs since Bush was elected. Warren Buffett is losing faith in the ability of the dollar to survive $500 billion annual trade deficits and so he is investing in foreign currency for the first time. Homelessness is at an all-time high; W-2 is a disaster; record numbers of bankruptcies are reported, 2 million more people have fallen into poverty; millions must choose between meals and rent; and 45 million Americans are without health care.
Response? The economy grew in the third quarter and the market is up, despite incredible stories of theft in high places, and the mainstream media has all but pronounced that the Bush tax cuts for millionaires will assure his reelection. The New York Times header suggests, "For Democrats, Economy's Surge Poses Challenge." Really? If so, the Democrats running for president have lost touch with Democrats and democrats. Imagine how much better the economy would be if the tax cuts had been a reduction in payroll taxes.
Only the DLC is confused by one quarter of good news. Wake me when there are 200,000 more jobs every month--Paul Krugman's test. Call when we have national health care. Shout when our balance of trade is in balance.
Until those happy headlines, let the campaign continue.
November 1, 2003
Hey, what's a little more pollution?
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, endorsing the PSC's "surprise" decision to permit more coal burning power plants in Oak Creek, editorializes, and I'm not kidding: "Yes, coal poses more environmental problems than other options, but the proposed plants would be cleaner than the coal plants of a generation ago." Can it be that the editorial board lives far north of Oak Creek or is planning on moving to Vermont?
The editors could not leave it there. They praised the PSC because any cost overruns paid by the ratepayers would be limited to a mere $107 million. Whoa Nelly! Get out the party favors! Yes, the air will be fouled; yes, we get to pay for the new plants; but, hey, the cost overruns are only going to be a hundred million or so.
What the hell is going on? I don't know about you but I feel more secure knowing that the MJS and the PSC are looking out for us instead of big business.
Biskupic home free
Vince Biskupic was the district attorney of Outagamie County and he had a unique way of enforcing justice. When well-heeled individuals, or perhaps friends, could be charged with a crime, he gave some of them the option of avoiding prosecution by contributing to a "Crime Prevention Fund" that he and he alone controlled.
The Wisconsin Ethics Board examined the practice and found that he also solicited money for the fund from lawyers and businesses. Finding that Biskupic did not use the money for his family or himself, the Ethics Board, missing the target by a country mile, said, in essence, "no harm no foul."
Missing from the findings of fact and the conclusions are whether or not this is "justice for sale." Of those given the opportunity to avoid the publicity of being charged or the vagaries of the criminal justice system, it is highly unlikely that any were poor. What happens to the perception of corruption when the wealthy have one system of justice and the working stiff has another?
The board then endorsed legislation that would prohibit the Biskupic brand of justice. Now there is a bold move. Hand it off to the Legislature because they really understand how to get money for favors.