April 30, 2003
Way to go, Julie Lassa
Julie Lassa is now a state Senator! She won 68 percent of the vote in the 24th Senate district primary despite a defamatory campaign against her, and went on to defeat Republican Donna Rozar by a similar margin yesterday in yesterday's general election.
I represent Lassa in the defamation suit she brought against Todd Rongstad, so please pardon my bias. But her election victories and courage to take on Rongstad bode well for the future. Maybe, just maybe, we have turned the corner where outrageously negative campaigns are concerned. This would be bad news for those who managed the primary campaign against Lassa.
Who wants to hire a consultant who becomes a story bigger than the campaign itself? P.T. Barnum may have warned us that "a sucker is born every minute," but candidates tend to want to follow successful patterns. Julie Lassa ran an issue-oriented campaign, stuck to it, and won. Let's hope that gives us a glimpse of the future.
April 29, 2003
Nation Building 101
I recall not being impressed by my UW-Madison ROTC classes. While the officers tried hard and many were bright and reasonably articulate, they had tough competition for my attention back then: the UW faculty.
So when I read that the United States has barred the United Nations, the Europeans, and the International Rescue Committee from the task of restoring order in Iraq--while we watch the US Military remove would-be mayors, fire on crowds, threaten those who would run their own country before we tell them they are ready--my mind flashes back to those ROTC classes. Not exactly post traumatic syndrome, but a cry for allowing someone other than the Pentagon to engage in nation building.
George Rupp is a former president of Columbia University and he says the U.S. "wants the military to control everything." (Let's see. Ashcroft and Ridge can run our country and the Pentagon can run Iraq. Then we can switch after a few months. Sounds like a plan.)
If, as was suggested many moons ago, "war is too important to leave to generals," then nation-building is way too important to leave to the military.
Are there any Democrats in Congress, or are they focused only on our own nation-building?
Are presidential politics worthwhile?
Howard Dean, Dennis Kucinich and John Kerry would seem to be the only serious presidential choices for progressives, but now they are starting to knock each other. Gov. Dean made a serious suggestion that given the Bush reliance on military rather than diplomatic solutions to problems, we could be in trouble in the future. He was quoted by Time magazine's Web site saying, "We won't always have the strongest military."
Kerry immediately attacked Dean saying, "No serious candidate for the presidency has ever suggested that he would compromise or tolerate an erosion of America's military supremacy." Dean fired back that "the Kerry campaign is desperate."
C'mon. First off, why not have a serious debate on the bankrupt Bush policies, agree that there were no weapons of mass destruction, and that the "war" was based on false statements. Then, perhaps, Democrats who want our support could outline a serious approach to diplomacy in the world. There are enough Joe Liebermans out there to satisfy the Bush apologists. It is time for an alternative not an echo.
In the meantime, let's focus on local politics. The money boys will dominate the presidential primary race and we will be assigned to the bleacher bum seats.
April 24, 2003
Pin the tail on the donkey
It's a fun game for kids, but FightingBob.com is playing that game with adults. Doug Haselow's article is must reading. As executive director of the Association for Equity in Funding, he pins the tail where it belongs. His first sentence says a lot" "Most Wisconsin legislators do not seem to understand that the state's K-12 public school system is a state responsibility." (Does Governor Doyle?)
Almost every day we read about more layoffs in public schools, but few legislators are taking a leadership role by calling for more funding. Instead, the Republicans would apparently prefer to watch public schools fail so they can privatize them through expansion of vouchers beyond Milwaukee. Their excuse for vouchers? We don't have enough money, as if to prove that we need more money for education.
It is startling to see the Legislature and the governor abandoning the next generation in order to avoid the tough decision--that must be made--to raise taxes on those who can afford to pay more. These are not happy times, but we will pin the tail on the donkey...or the elephant.
Weapons of mass deception
This from FightingBob.com's link, The Guardian: "Prove Iraqi Guilt, MPs tell Blair." The quote is from MP Lindsay Hoyle, who voted in favour of war because of Blair's chilling warnings about Iraq's banned weapons. "We were led to believe that the Iraqis could fire them within 45 minutes. If that was the case, where have they vanished to? We were told there was hard evidence."
Who said it first? "Truth: the first casulty of war?"
The April 22 Capital Times includes this header: "Monthlong search yields no weapons." Remember Jerry Maguire? "Show me the money?" Well, show me the weapons of mass destruction. Remember Powell's speech to the UN to "prove" our case for WPD? The Cap Times again: "With little to show after 30 days, the Bush administration is losing confidence in its prewar belief that it had strong clues pointing to the whereabouts of WPD...they began urgently to expand security around a wider range of facilities to preserve evidence..."
Dave Barry, where are you? Mark Russell, we need you. The Bush administration is joining the rest of the world in "losing confidence" in their own justification for the invasion.
Final comment. Have you noticed how difficult it is for the Fox "news" folks to cover the demonstrations in Iraq? How about the idea of an Islamic state? Was that Rummy's plan all along?
And so it goes.
April 23, 2003
My Party right or wrong?
State Democratic Party chair Linda Honold replied to my open letter but did not respond. She begins by taking credit for electing Barbara Lawton as the first woman elected Lt. Governor while not mentioning the loopy Rep. Sheldon Wasserman (D) notion to eliminate that position so that Rep. John Gard (R) would be next in line should Governor Doyle become incapacitated. Now there is some strategic thinking, Sheldon and Linda.
That's right, John Gard, the legislator who gets an $88 per diem every day he arrives at the Capitol because his district is outside Dane County. Never mind that he lives in Sun Prairie. Gard, who recently gave us this quote to remember: "The message Sue Black's reassignment sends is a chilling one that may sound the death knell for a truly independent DNR." Johnny, we hardly knew ya.
We will write to some other prominent Democrats and ask for a response to the issues we raised.
See you at RadFest
For 20 years, RadFest has brought together some of the best progressive minds in the Midwest for seminars, workshops, commiseration, inspiration, volleyball, food and fun.
This year the Havens Center is going all out to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the event, and it promises to be extra special. FightingBob.com contributing editors Robert Miranda, Bob McChesney, John Nichols, Matt Rothschild and Mark Pocan will have speaking roles. You should really think about attending, if you can.
We have posted a letter from FightingBob.com subscriber and RadFest organizer Patrick Barrett in our Feedback section. Patrick’s letter will tell you just about anything you need to know, and provides a link to the RadFest Web site just in case.
See you there.
April 20, 2003
No joy in victory
Wouldn’t you think there would be some joy in America and Iraq following the successful American effort to liberate the Iraqi people? Remember films of wars past with ticker-tape parades down Fifth Avenue, dancing in the streets, tears of joy? Somehow the planners got it wrong. (First off, New York is broke and couldn’t afford a parade.)
The Iraqi parade turned out to be 10,000 liberated citizens demanding that the Americans go home. A prominent cleric, according to the New York Times, preached, “We must be united and support each other against the Anglo-American invasion.” Those words from Sheik Ibrahim al Namaa, who added for good measure that, “We must put an end to this aggression.” Did he say “aggression”? How would war-hero Rumsfeld explain that?
We came as liberators to rid Iraq of a guy described by every politician with a microphone as a cross between Hitler and Lucifer, and even though we had to kill thousands of people and destroy much of the country to do it, where are the rose petals, the good wine stored in the basement, the thankful citizens?
And how about those neighboring states that called for a quick exit by the United States? Haven’t they heard? We are going to “negotiate” with the new government, as soon as we install it, for four permanent bases in Iraq. (How would you like to sit in the corner during those negotiations? “We want four bases, got that?” The response from Chalabi, our American installed head of state, “Why not five? And while I’m up, may I get you a Grants?”)
Cognitive dissonance. Angry Iraqis demanding the aggressor leave while pictures of Tommy Franks and his generals smoke cigars and tour Saddam’s palace as if they had been invited to Ken Lay’s home. The ever-smiling Rummy vs. the children in hospitals with missing limbs and burns caused by missiles or bombs.
No, there isn’t much joy here or there. But some people are very happy. Bechtel got a contract that will ultimately bring them billions to “rebuild Iraq.” No reason to bother with competitive bidding. Bechtel and Halliburton won the war.
April 16, 2003
Budget woes continue
Sales tax income is down, the economy is in the tank, gaming revenues will be less than predicted: We are in a mess. The comment I hear most is, "I feel for Doyle. He didn't create the problem." That's true enough, but it is to his discredit that his regressive solutions are on the back of his constituency, not on the back of McCallum's.
Try to imagine what McCallum would be doing now. I suspect it would be about the same as what Doyle is doing, only we would be raising hell about it.
"What do you mean eliminating clothing for seniors on Medicaid?"
"Are you kidding, you would cut the staff of those helping to place special needs children with adoptive families?"
"What, cutting the UW while increasing tuition? Are you the anti-education governor?"
How about a 10 percent roll-back of the M&E exemption? How about extending sales tax to professional fees? Or, could we please cut highway building by a billion or so? We need some progressive answers to this fiscal disaster. Please send us your ideas.
C'mon George, let's go to Damascus!
We have predicted that W. would not stop with Iraq in part because he and his pal Tony Blair do not want to explain why all the talk of weapons of mass destruction was just talk.
The UN inspectors were right. Even if somebody finds some weapons now, the war was justified on the grounds that Saddam would use them on Israel, the United States or his neighbors. Turns out that the last time he used them on his neighbor was back when he was working with the United States.
Now, on to Damascus! On to Teheran! Let Halliburton control all the oil in the Middle East. Why not? Why be the most powerful nation in the world if you can't go where you want to go and take what you want?
To be serious, we need your thoughts about where the progressive peace movement goes from here. We know that Bush is impervious to criticism because he is in touch with a higher power, but what about our silent Senators and timid Congressmen? Where are the Democrats? What about the silence from our university community?
We need your input. Please let us know how we can stop the drive into Syria and Iran.
April 12, 2003
Is Bush fooling us or himself?
It is absolutely stunning to watch and listen to George Bush in these heady days after the defeat of a third-rate army in Iraq. Facts have never gotten in his way, but how can he ignore the fact that he took our nation to war because of weapons of mass destruction. Remember?
Where are they? And if Iraq had them why would Saddam not use them when American troops surrounded Baghdad? Recall that most of us argued loudly that if he had them he had no capacity to deliver weapons of mass destruction and the U.N. inspectors almost begged for more time to avoid war. But W. had no stomach for diplomacy or fact-finding. He would rely on the always reliable Rummy and the CIA.
It is appalling to watch the destruction of Baghdad. The Bush administration did not plan for victory and total collapse. What did they think would happen? That there would be dancing in the streets and then everyone, including the police, would go back to work? I would imagine that the police were loyal to the fallen government and would likely be killed if they reported to work in uniform.
Dave Barry must be writing Rummy's material. This is what he had to say (and I am not making this up):
"Think about what's happened in our cities in America. When we have had riots and problems of looting. Stuff happens! They're (the Army) doing a terrific job. And it's untidy. And freedom's untidy. And free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things."
Is someone messing with his meds? His words are of little comfort to civilians in hospitals stripped of medication by looting crowds. Ah, but one building is safe. The New York Times reports that the Ministry of Oil has been protected throughout the chaos.
The tragedy continues. The human cost will be enormous, the time commitment for US troops endless. The cry from the hawks is, "On to Damascus!"
A good friend returned from vacation in the south and passed on his feelings about FightingBob.com. "I could check your site and find out everything I needed to know about Wisconsin politics. One-stop shopping!"
That is what we are trying to accomplish. Needless to say, we cannot post articles on everything or go into the depth you might want, but our links take care of that.
For Wisconsin political news click "links" above and you can get the number one progressive daily in America, the Capital Times, and then go to the Milwaukee alternative paper, the Shepherd Express. To read what insiders in Madison check everyday, hit WisPolitics and Wheeler.
For national views and news, click The Progressive, the Progressive Populist, The Nation, or Jim Hightower, our friend from the land of Molly Ivins.
TomPaine.com provides a compendium of on-target articles devoted to the issues confronting our nation; the Center for Public Integrity is the number one site for inside information about corruption in Washington, D.C.
Our friend and contributing editor John Stauber keeps us informed with PR Watch; Wisconsin Democracy Campaign will tell you about scandals in Madison while offering solutions.
For international news to provide some perspective, you can immediately link to the BBC, The Guardian and The Independent. While the Brits don't have all the answers, they provide a balance to Fox, CNBC and Charlie Sykes.
We link to Minnesota's DFL to show what a real political party provides, and the Cambrians show you what a vigorous grass roots organization can accomplish.
So, our snowbird friend was correct. One-stop political and intellectual shopping--check it out. We have added new links for FAIR, the organization created to offer balance to an unbalanced media. And, we will add our friend and neighbor Michael Moore's site as well; we had meant to include him all along, but there were technical problems that have since been cleared up.
So, there's no need to surf the net, just hit FigthingBob.com and enjoy!
April 8, 2003
Tell me again about this war
In the scariest article in years, the New York Times reported last Sunday on comments from Bush Administration insiders on "Iraq as a type" and not just a war designed to topple the government. In other words, all comments prior to the start of the war were simply smoke to cover the real agenda.
Read carefully. "Some inside the administration are convinced that Iraq will serve as a cautionary example of what can happen to other states that refuse to abandon their programs to build weapons of mass destruction." In other words, this was more about the future than the present.
But R. James Woolsey, former CIA director (gotta trust him), clarified. He said that Iraq is the opening of a "fourth world war." (As Dave Barry would say, "I'm not making this up.") Woolsey added that America's enemies include the religious rulers in Iran, states like Syria, and Islamic extremist terrorist groups.
Many of us wondered how the military contractors would survive when the Berlin wall fell and the Soviet Union disappeared. Now we know. Pick an enemy, mobilize, develop a theme, send our troops, give contracts to Haliburton, Flour and Bechtel. Whoa Nelly!
The Wellstone tragedy
I've not been able to write or say much about the death of Paul and Sheila Wellstone. Good friends, public servants of the highest quality, principled politicians. None better in my lifetime. My mind turned to Paul often during the build-up to Bush's war on Iraq. As Democrats in the Senate looked for places to hide, Senator Wellstone would have been on the floor, every day, as their conscience and ours. And he would have made a difference.
I write today more out anger than sadness. Roll Call recently interviewed Norm Coleman, the Republican who beat Walter Mondale for Paul's seat last fall. The former Mayor of St. Paul, who lost every precinct of that city to Mondale and who was trailing Wellstone by 8 points when Paul's plane crashed, said this: "To be very blunt and God watch over Paul's soul, I am a 99 percent improvement over Paul Wellstone on just about every issue. In other words, Wellstone was never with the president. I could be with the president most of the time."
What is there to say? I leave it to you to respond.
April 5, 2003
No new taxes
Governor Doyle takes every bit of bad news--such as the prediction that sales tax revenues will be down this year--as an opportunity to repeat his mantra, "No new taxes. No increase in taxes." Ok, Houdini, if the predictions are correct, what is going to happen to Wisconsin's reputation for being a high service state? How will we keep class sizes small for children in the early grades? How will we keep the worst tax of all, property taxes, frozen? Can't do it.
So, how about Plan B? Is there a Plan B? Believe me, the answers will not come from the Joint Finance Committee.
Why not convene a statewide meeting? I'm not talking about another one of those "listening sessions." Let's have a blue ribbon committee composed of people from throughout the state, brought together to come up with a real plan. Anything other than the mantra would be refreshing.
Time to dig deep
Sure, plants are closing, job cuts are everywhere or so it seems, and the number of Americans without health insurance could be a high as 75 million. But amid all of this, the saddest case is that of poor old Glenn Tilton, the chief executive of United Airlines. Talk about sacrifice in a time of airline deficits, not to mention a time of war: Glenn will take a 14 percent pay cut this year. Yup. His salary will be only $712,500 this year. You want tough? That's tough.
But the good news is that the Tiltons will be able to afford tuition--even at the UW--because Titlton's salary is only 3 percent of his compensation package. Last year he ended up "earning" $9.65 million.
You have to wonder what is going on. Congress bails out the airlines and the chief honcho at a company that lost more than $3 billion last year takes home almost 10 million bucks? If they lose $4 billion does he get a raise next year?
FightingBob.com is considering taking up a collection for this downtrodden man in his time of need, but in the meantime maybe the Tilton family can turn down the heat, drive a little less, and do without that new Hummer.
Recall underway in Milwaukee
The effort to recall state Senator Gary George is moving forward. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that the recall organizers claim to have collected more than 7,000 signatures in three days. They need slightly more than 8,000 signatures and say they will get at least twice that many. George has run for governor and for U.S. Senate. He has been in the Wisconsin Senate since 1980 in what is considered a safe seat for Democrats.
The MJS reports that he is also under investigation by the Ethics Board, following up on a complaint filed by fellow Democrat and Senator, Chuck Chvala.
Those closed caucus meetings must be lots of fun. Wonder if they have a metal detector. And FightingBob.com had the nerve to ask the Democrats what is wrong with the party in Milwaukee?
April 2, 2003
Bad night for ethanol
By a margin of 60-40, referendum voters in Cambria on April 1 soundly defeated plans for a proposed ethanol plant. The contest has been on the front burner for months as a grass roots organization calling itself Cambrians for Thoughtful Development, fought tooth and nail against big corporate money. The citizens got the issue on the ballot and Didion Milling, Inc., spent lots of money in a failed effort to convince the voters that they should ignore the health concerns of placing an ethanol plant across the street from a school and near apartments catering to senior citizens. As Mitzi Duxbury, a leading opponent of the plan, told the Portage Daily Register, "Didion could not have picked a worse site."
Sarah Lloyd of Cambrians for Thoughtful Development said, "Despite the citizens being outspent ten to one on the election and having PR professionals at every turn, the residents voted to protect their health, environment, and quality of life. This is a great victory!"
The referendum is advisory but those concerned about ethanol won a majority on the village board as well.
The governor said what?
Wisconsin's 24th Senate District was billed by FightingBob.com as a "fight for the soul of the Democratic Party." And so it was. The campaign advisor for Alex Paul responded to FightingBob.com and stepped up the negative attacks; Dave Obey asked for that consultant to leave town; and then the governor, sensing that Paul was in real trouble, jumped into the icy water with Tourism Secretary Kevin Shibilski. It was hard to believe, but Doyle broke with custom and endorsed Alex Paul who was running the most negative campaign in memory against a fellow Democrat.
As we reported, the Portage County Democrats were furious with the governor. The executive committee denounced his interference, individually endorsed Julie Lassa, and the voters did the rest. In what can only be described as a rout, Julie Lassa whomped Paul. In Portage County she got nearly 80% of the vote and she won 68% to 32% overall. Hard to beat grassroots politics.
If we were correct that this election was about the soul of the party, it seems to be in good hands in central Wisconsin.