June 30, 2003
FightingBob.com adds a Documents feature
When we started FightingBob.com in late February, we were primarily focused on producing articles that would provide a progressive perspective. We have had great success in posting solid, original and articulate articles that shed light on our current problems and suggest answers. We have managed to get some attention for our issues, too.
Today we are adding a new link at the top of the site for documents. There are many documents available to you on the Internet, but when we come across something of interest that cannot be found elsewhere on the net we will publish it in this Documents section just in case it might interest you, too.
We begin with the Crandon Mine notice to the DNR. A modest beginning, but it is a start. As always, your comments would be appreciated.
While the 4th of July is this week, get ready for the second Fighting Bob Fest in Baraboo on September 6. Jim Hightower heads a long list of outstanding speakers. See you in Baraboo.
June 28, 2003
When ifs and buts are candy and nuts
Remember, "When ifs and buts are candy and nuts it will be Christmas every day"? Little did we know that would become the guiding philosophy of Senate leader Mary Panzer. In an interview with WisPolitics, she said, "I think it is very important to do a three-year time out for the taxpayers of this state and that is what I call it, a three-year timeout to really put our house in order." As Dave Barry says, "I'm not making this up."
Freeze taxes, salaries for state employees, all highway construction and repair for three years while Ms. Panzer gets "our house in order?" Merry Christmas, Mary.
But as loopy as the Panzer three-year hiatus is, can anyone explain how Governor Doyle maneuvered the budget debate to place Democrats in the role of defending property tax increases? Think about how clever the Republicans have been. Doyle went for the "no new taxes" pledge and inexplicably extended it to "no closing of loopholes for big contributors." Voila! The only way to keep our state functioning? Raise property taxes. The Republicans were licking their chops. Now they claim they have frozen taxes at all levels while Doyle, like Woody Hayes, keeps running the ball up the middle even when behind by two touchdowns with the clock winding down.
How about listening to Frank Boyle, Mark Pocan, Fred Risser and Marlin Schneider about closing sales tax loopholes? How about a cut in the M & E exemption since it doesn't hold business in Wisconsin anyway? C'mon, Governor. Try a forward pass, a trick play, a new coach, something. But don't force your friends into supporting the worst tax known to society as the only way to fix the mess created by--you guessed it--Mary Panzer and her friends.
June 27, 2003
Light from the court
There isn't a lot of good news for progressives flowing from Washington these days, but the Supreme Court gave us something to cheer about when it decided a case that catapulted the United States into the 20th Century. I can hardly wait for the 21st.
By a 6-3 vote, with Justice Kennedy writing for the majority, the court struck down the prohibition on private gay sexual conduct. Coming a week or so after Canada approved gay marriage, there is strong evidence that one of our most disgraceful areas of discrimination will finally end. The decision was compared to Brown v. Board of Education which eliminated racial segregation in our schools. (Since Clarence Thomas seems wedded to Plessy, and "separate but equal", one can only express relief he wasn't on the court in 1954.)
Kennedy: "The state (of Texas) cannot demean their existence or control their destiny by making their private sexual conduct a crime." Good for the majority. This will alter almost everything for gays in our society. A decision that should make all of us feel uplifted.
Ah, but before we assume that all is well, check out the man who President Bush said was his model Court Justice, Anton Scalia. He said, (and I'm not kidding):
"Today's opinion is the product of a Court which is the product of a law-profession culture,(whoa Nelly!) that has largely signed on to the so-called homosexual agenda...I mean the agenda promoted by some homosexual activists directed at eliminating the moral opprobrium that has traditionally attached to homosexual conduct." Then to make certain his rightwing devotees understand, he added, "It is clear from this that the Court has taken sides in the culture war." (Can you imagine a Court Justice defining "culture war" for us?)
Finally, in one of those, "Hey don't take this personally" comments he added: "Let me be clear that I have nothing against homosexuals, or any other group, promoting their agenda through normal democratic means." Sure, Anton, perhaps some of your best friends...He makes me wonder if he has a comedy writer on staff. Predictably, and sadly, Clarence Thomas joined Scalia as he always does. How would you like to have lunch with those two?
The right wing is not happy, and remember, they are in charge of the White House. Giving a signal that Scalia and Senator Rick Santorum are reading from the same hymnal, here is what Santorum said a month ago: "You would have the right to polygamy, incest, adultery. You have the right to anything."
Good old Phyllis Schlafly, yes that one, said, "Well the good news is that it opens the door to reversing Roe v. Wade." She will demand that Bush appoint a Santorum, Scalia, Thomas type to the court. Get ready for a fight. But in the meantime, let's celebrate. Our side of Scalia's culture war won a big one!
June 26, 2003
Don't question our loyalty!
In case you missed the exchange on Wisconsin Public Radio, a Republican legislator stated recently that Democrats should not celebrate the 4th of July since their holiday is really April 15. Wow, Democrats were furious. Outraged. Hurt. They fired back that no one could challenge their patriotism! And in keeping with the new civility code the legislators were urged to adopt by the "Patriot Caucus" in January, the naughty Republican withdrew his remarks and went to a neutral corner with a dunce cap.
Whatever happened to clever retorts? You know, something like, "Since Republicans avoid taxes, they wouldn't understand your reference to April 15." Is that not "civil" enough?
June 24, 2003
Affirmative Action--for now
Let's face it. We dodged a bullet, but as my law school mentor Nate Feinsinger used to say, "Pray for peace but keep your powder dry." Sandra Day O'Connor, not your regular liberal on the Court, joined Souter, Ginsburg, Stevens and Breyer to uphold the University of Michigan Law School admissions policy, but she couldn't quite bring herself to support the U. of M's undergraduate policy.
For those of us who believe that white America has been in denial over slavery, racism, racial profiling in our criminal system, poverty, poor housing and fewer jobs with lower wages for African Americans, it seems like the decision of the Court is slightly out of focus. Don't get me wrong, this is a very important decision and it will put to rest for a while the argument against diversity as a laudable policy. But the question remains why African Americans are, to quote Jim Hightower, "In a world of hurt." Why are there more young black men in prison than there are in our universities? Why is Wisconsin's supermax prison 60-65% black when our state is so white? How can President Bush praise the Court decision while cutting the funding for Head Start? You get the picture.
So, the stage is set for the battle of the decade. Should O'Connor or Rhenquist retire(could we hope for Thomas or Scalia?), the battle will be monumental. The far right will not swallow this decision without a fight. Listen to Clint Bollick, vice president of the extremist Institute for Justice. The New York Times quotes him, "It's outrageous that the majority in favor of these racial preferences was formed by Republican appointees. Conservatives will want to make sure that anyone appointed by this administration is a strong and sure opponent of racial preferences."
Given the Bush administration's penchant for deception, watch for a "sure vote against affirmative action" in the clothing of a "moderate who supports diversity." This battle will be the most important fight on domestic policy in years even if it ignores the root causes of inequality.
Clint Bollick, by the way, was one of those attorneys fighting for vouchers in Wisconsin. Pray for peace....
June 22, 2003
A chance to start over
The nightmare is over for the moment.The Republicans finished their version of the budget and sent it to the governor. One can only imagine the joyful scene at Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce as the Republican majority protected every tax break for big business that WMC could hope for while freezing local taxes and cutting services.
The legislative Republicans have demonstrated that they are either incompetent or mean-spirited or both. So, there is a chance for Governor Doyle to veto the entire package and start fresh. There is no real hurry.
A "new day" in Wisconsin means a new budget without corporate loopholes, without sales tax loopholes, with a half-cent increase in the sales tax. We can have a balanced budget, we can restore money to the UW and we can take care of the education of our children.
If Governor Doyle does not take advantage of the moment, one must question his advisors. What are they thinking? This isn't the primary, it is the real thing. Time to start acting the role of a progressive. Time for leadership.
June 20, 2003
A ha' penny
Kudos to Frank Boyle and Marlin Schneider, two Democrats bold enough to say that senior citizens, UW students, and schoolchildren of all ages are as important as Bud Selig and his Milwaukee Brewers. About the only original idea raised in the budget scrum was the one to raise the sales tax by one-half cent. That would raise $800 million in two years and return the $250 million taken from the UW and keep other educational funding in place.
Only five Democrats and no Republicans joined them Why? Remember the last all-night session of the Legislature? That night, Bud Selig, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and Tommy Thompson forced through a sales tax for five counties, not to help kids and seniors, but to build a palace for Selig. It was the disgrace that led to the recall of Sen. George Petak.
So, why not raise taxes? Where is the leadership? Does Jim Doyle really believe that his performance as governor will be so disappointing that half a penny would defeat him in the next election?
The problem for those of us watching the budget fight is that we didn't have "a dog in that fight." There was no "Democratic" alternative to the nasty Panzer/Welch proposal. We couldn't root for the Doyle budget because it is almost as bad as theirs. So, along come two experienced Democrats who said, rather quietly, "Why not do the responsible thing?"
Sad times in the Badger state. Raise "taxes" on the sons and daughters of working families and call it tuition. Raise taxes on all of us to help big business with more loopholes and call it "good policy." But raise half a penny for education? No can do. Sad.
Hey, hey, ho, ho, Gary George has got to go!
Farce often becomes tragedy. The show put on by the mean-spirited Republicans over the dispirited Democrats in the battle of the budget exposed a political system without a soul when Gary George voted with Panzer, Welch and the other extremists in the Senate to approve the awful GOP budget.
Why did he vote for the budget? Only Gary could respond fully and we will ask him to do that, but the Republicans gave him a wish list to help his political supporters. Not the poor and the down-trodden folks in Milwaukee, but Beverly Health Care, the wealthy citizens of Grafton where he owns a home, and financial help for inner-city churches. Why the churches? The speculation is that he hopes this will gain him the support he needs in the recall election.
Why doesn't Gary join the Republican Party? Jim Jeffords made headlines when he switched parties, and there is hope for Olympia Snow and others. So why not get some free publicity with his new caucus friends? Could it be the Republicans don't really want him and only wanted his vote? Nah, that would be too cynical.
The shock is that Democrats were shocked. What's the old saying? Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. How about, fool me 200 times...
June 19, 2003
Wal-Mart guilty of unfair labor practice
Belive it or not, a judge with the National Labor Relations Board ruled that Wal-Mart broke the law by refusing to negotiate. Wal-Mart closed the meat department rather than negotiate for the very first time with a union. Don't get too excited. The Bush-dominated NLRB in Washington will overturn the judge. For a moment, however, the workers can celebrate.
Like Bremer in Iraq, Wal-Mart believes a little bit of democracy is okay, but not when workers vote to form a union. That is taking things too far. Next thing you know, the morning song will be "Solidarity Forever" instead of the Wal-Mart theme song.
As Wal-Mart moves from community to community, sucking the life out of small businesses, they want to make sure that no one starts a campaign for a living wage or anything like that. Why do these workers need so much money when they can save by shopping at Wal-Mart?
Democracy in Iraq is OK, but not voting!
Let's review the bidding. We are told that we didn't go to war because of weapons of mass destruction, that we went to war to bring democracy to the Iraqi people. So, some overly enthusiastic Badgers thought they would help develop democracy in Iraq.
The New York Times reports that a reserve unit from Green Bay was organizing a democratic election in Najaf, Iraq, when "higher authority" called off their efforts. Catch this. First, the Americans announced that elections would be held. Then, on May 28, soldiers, marines and local teachers began a voter registration drive. That's bad enough, but wait, then they went crazy. Fighting Bob would have been proud. They promised "equal time to present themselves on local television." Whoa Nelly! What if that would, like SARS, spread to the United States? Couldn't have that, could we? How can they vote without the Fox news spin?
Ballots were to be taken to a central location and counted by the soldiers, but with observers from the candidates. Major David Toth from Baraboo said, "The town was stable and we thought the people would be ready for it."
But not stable enough for Bremer. The commanders of Iraq said that voting could "inflame tensions" and the people are not ready for democracy. When will they be ready? President Bush will know.
What Bremer meant to say was, "How can we permit these people to develop a democracy not dominated by corporate contributions? What's next? National health care? A diverse media? Voter participation? Stop this nonsense now!
June 18, 2003
Doyle does it again
Most elected officials solidify their base and then reach out to convert the independents. (See Tommy Thompson for details.) Jim Doyle, with a slim winning margin in the three-way Democratic primary and a perilously close victory over the most unpopular incumbent governor in Wisconsin history, seems oblivious to his Democratic base. Little room in the Administration for those who supported Tom Barrett or Kathleen Falk, no closing of corporate loopholes created in 16 years of Tommy and Scott, no property tax relief for working families. (And I'm not talking about the absurd Republican proposal to freeze property taxes. I'm talking about real reform.)
Doyle wants to eliminate the hole in the budget created by Mary Panzer, John Gard and Bob Welch on the backs of the Democratic Party's natural constituency. You know, the folks who lose their jobs when Mirro moves or Artech closes its doors. The two- and three-job families trying to make ends meet. Those who give up health insurance so they can pay the mortgage.
Now Doyle supports one more tax break for big business. The single-factor approach will cost Wisconsin about $45 million per year in revenues when it is fully operative. More to the point, it will cost Governor Doyle even more in support from Democrats while Republicans applaud his "creative" approach to problem solving. Closing a budget hole by giving more tax breaks to big business is very creative indeed.
Assembly Rep. Mark Pocan spoke out against the Doyle plan, calling it "disappointing." Rep. Spencer Black called it "fiscally irresponsible." Strong words from two leaders who helped elect Doyle governor. While a few legislative Democrats announced support for the idea, try selling this loopy idea on the stump!
Wouldn't it be refreshing if Wisconsin were to ask corporations for something in return for these tax breaks?
One could become cynical
The headlines tell the story. Forty-one million Americans without health insurance and, therefore, without the chance to visit a doctor on a regular basis; no one to call with a sick child; no access to high-priced medication. All those TV ads for the "purple pill" and those scenes of Dorothy Hamill doing a figure 8, all for naught. Somehow the media focuses on the numbers and not on the tragedies faced every day by our fellow Americans.
The Institute of Medicine, part of the National Academy of Sciences, hardly a leftwing group, says that the lack of health insurance costs our country about $130 billion per year. This is money we would save by having health care for all our citizens. The NAS notes the impact on the physical and mental development of children. Think about it. Imagine yourself with a child you believe is developmentally disabled but you can't afford to have him evaluated, diagnosed or treated. What does that do to you as a parent? What is the impact on the schools that are told to "deal with it", on the child's siblings, on him or herself? Where does the child end up? Prison is one likely alternative.
While this story hits in the gut, Joe Lieberman is calling for the Democrats to organize around poverty issues. Duh. Where have you been Joe? "Turning back the tide of poverty is a priority that I'm accepting for my presidency." Why not start in the Senate? No time like the present. Start by declaring you won't accept any campaign funds from your previous patrons, the insurance industry.
All this while our War Lord travels around the country to raise $200 million for his next campaign. That would buy health insurance for tens of thousands of people for a whole year. Who will be contributing to the president? The insurance and drug companies who keep the cost of health care out of reach. Time for hell raising.
June 17, 2003
Join the fight
Today's FightingBob.com article by Bob McChesney and John Nichols, coupled with Russ Feingold's Sunday article about the danger to our democracy from the recent FCC decision, should motivate all our subscribers to sign the Internet petition to Congress. This terrible decision must be reversed.
I'm sure you need no convincing about the rightwing control of commercial media, but it can and will get worse. Check our Links to BBC and the Guardian to see the qualitative difference between the British media's reporting on the so-called weapons of mass destruction and our own media's. Then check out our Wispolitics link and read the latest from Charlie Sykes in Milwaukee. Like his counterpart Mark Belling, Sykes keeps hammering out the message of the Bradley Foundation and Grover Norquist.
I urge you to read the Feingold and McChensey/Nichols articles, check out mediareform.net and then sign the petition.
June 14, 2003
Let us in! Let us in!
Among the things that made me laugh during this year's Democratic Party Convention was the curious decision by the leadership to block the entrance to the ballroom to all but official delegates. That meant a few hundred "guests," who paid $20 for the title, were forced to stand outside or go to an "overflow" room a good distance away from the hall to watch closed-circuit television.
I was one such "guest," and the overflow room was not why I drove to Milwaukee. So, I did what any red-blooded progressive would do, I sneaked past the guards and sat down next to Capital Times associate editor John Nichols and Shepherd-Express publisher Louis Fortis. (Would they dare expel me in front of the media?) We were amazed to find that there were plenty of empty seats in the hall. There is nothing like a packed hall for a speaker.
During Russ Feingold's speech, the "outs" starting chanting, "Let us in! Let us in!" And it worked. Someone finally gave the word to permit the rowdy guests to enter the hall and fill the otherwise empty seats to hear Kerry, Kucinich and Dean.
Ah, direct action. Nothing works better. Instead of writing "open letters" I should have been shouting, "Let us in!"
Something is happening
Dennis Kucinich and Howard Dean are leading the way toward a real discussion of issues in the presidential campaign. Progressive, Green, or liberal Democrat, you would have enjoyed hearing them at the state Democratic Convention. Both got Wisconsin Democrats on their feet several times Friday night. Both demanded health care for all Americans as a fundamental right. Both got standing ovations in opposing the Bush/Blair invasion of Iraq. Both took on the failed economic policies of Bush.
Their speeches were a welcome change in direction from the centrist message of the "Republican Lite" Democratic Leadership Council. The fact that 2.7 million manufacturing jobs have been lost since Bush became president and that in two years we have gone from the largest surplus in history to the greatest deficit sets the stage for a serious discussion of the economy, taxes and unequal distribution of wealth. Wisconsin alone has lost more than 60,000 manufacturing jobs in the past two years.
Wisconsin, with a February primary, becomes a battleground state. Based on the crowd reaction Friday night, I think Dean had the most support and Kucinich is very much in the ball game. It would certainly be refreshing to have one of them leading the fight to return our government to a progressive agenda.
While Bush remains popular in the polls, there was a certain confidence exhibited Friday night that it is our turn in 2004. After all, we won the last one so why not the next one? It was refreshing.
June 13, 2003
The Democratic Party Convention is this weekend in Milwaukee. Most of the attention will focus on the presidential candidates. Dennis Kucinich, Al Sharpton and Governor Dean will address the delegates in the hope of capturing the Wisconsin primary.
Wisconsin will be an important test in the presidential campaign. More liberal by far than New Hampshire, more diverse than Iowa, and a state that has voted for the Democratic nominee going back to Mondale, Dean and Kucinich must be looking for a victory here in February.
It is a certainty that Greens and progressives will be watching carefully to see if the nominee will state a clear progressive message as the antidote to Bush or if they will go with a DLC Bushalike. Stay tuned.
Destruction by deliberate means
Grover Norquist (no relation to John) is the rightwing guru of the Bush era. Every week, according to the Chicago Tribune, 100 conservative activists meet at his office to outline the Bush agenda. The Tribune says Norquist has a direct pipeline to the White House and there is reason to disbelieve that assertion.
"The goal is to reduce the size and scope of government in half over the next 25 years," Norquist says without apology. The article suggests that privatizing Social Security, moving Medicare recipients into managed health-care programs and eliminating the estate tax are all part of the Norquist agenda. (You can bet elimination of the income tax is next.)
Think about Norquist's goal of cutting government in half. Is he thinking of an America without an Army, Air Force and Navy? Hardly. He would spend even more than the $400 billion we now route to his friends who benefit from defense contracts. No, Grover and Bush are trying to eliminate Head Start and other domestic programs. He wants to go back to the John Birch Society's dream of no income tax and no federal aid to education. "Let them eat vouchers" will be the battle cry.
They learned from Nixon administration efforts to kill OEO that they cannot call for the elimination of Head Start, so instead they will try to bleed it to death. Start with a focus on testing that will use up the funding, "prove" that Head Start is a failure so they can end it for cause. Instead of focusing on the medical and dental care provided in Head Start programs, Bush will focus exclusively on bogus test results.
State Republicans are engaged in the same game in the Wisconsin budget battle. Eliminate the ability of state or local communities to raise revenues and it will force the termination of worthwhile programs.
What is needed is a clear call from progressives to stop this destruction through deliberate means. Go to our Links page and check out the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign's updated Graft Tax feature to see how we can fund our programs, educate our children and remove the special favors. We need less Grover Norquist and less graft.
June 9, 2003
Relief at last
There were high fives all around the room, cheering, stomping and clapping when the news came that Tom Barrett would run for mayor of Milwaukee. No, I'm not describing the scene at the governor's mansion. I'm describing the mood in Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker's office. Barrett could have easily defeated Walker but instead choose the tougher job, to help rescue Milwaukee.
This is very good news. Barrett is respected, experienced, and a solid citizen. He will keep his eye on the prize. Milwaukee needs a clean slate and Tom Barrett offers that opportunity.
Other good people are seeking the job, including Council president Marvin Pratt and Assembly Rep. Pedro Colon. Frankly, I hope they both remain in the race because a primary would permit wide participation in the process. The Democrats need to have lots of sunshine and some new ideas. The city needs help.
Mark Russell, you have been outdone!
Our president continues to amaze with his pithy comments. Political comedian Mark Russell once said he didn't need writers when the politicians say so many funny things themselves. He was right on target. President Bush said, with a tough look, "We are on the look." I'm not making that up.
Could you believe it when Bush spoke to the troops and said, "We will reveal the truth" about Saddam's weapons of mass destruction? One assumes he meant we will "learn" the truth because if he "reveals" the truth he might be impeached.
With nearly every independent expert suggesting that the administration either lied or exaggerated the threat to this country to justify the invasion, while poor Tony Blair begins to crack, the propaganda continues. Now it is the opponents of the war who, according to Bush, are "revisionists." Whoa Nelly! US troops are out of places to look and have pretty much given up trying to find the weapons and the president says we are the revisionists?
How would you like to be with the parents, spouse, or children of those who died in this war to stop the threat of "weapons of mass destruction" now that we know it was bunk from the beginning? At least LBJ had trouble sleeping at night.
Truth was a casualty before this war even started. Now it is more likely they will find an atomic bomb in Baghdad than the truth in the Pentagon or the White House.
June 4, 2003
The farce continues
I am not inclined to make the old sausage-and-legislation comparison, but watching the Republicans in the Legislature grapple with the budget does remind me of the old story about the dog who caught the car. Now what? They are firmly in control of the Legislature; they have stacked the Joint Finance Committee with a 12-4 majority, and still they can't get it together.
The current "idea" is to freeze all taxes and all loopholes in place for three years--even at the local level. Remember when the Republicans argued that "government closest to the people is best"? Well, so much for trusting local officials. Wisconsin's Grand Old Party, now the branch office of the Bradley Foundation, thinks government from the top is just dandy. Much easier to collect the bribes called campaign contributions in Madison, far from River Hills and Peshtigo.
Ya gotta love it. The Republicans on the Joint Finance Committee wanted a vote on the budget before they permitted the Democrats to read it. Alberta Darling threatened to throw Democratic Senator Gwen Moore out of the meeting. Feature that. Rep. Spencer Coggs summed it up: "This is a black eye for democracy in Wisconsin."
It's worse than that. We have lost our democracy. What we have now is plutocracy.
Cambria wins one for all of us
It’s true: citizens CAN beat the big corporations. Victory was achieved Monday night, when a proposed ethanol plant went down to defeat in Cambria, Wisconsin. Didion Milling had applied to the village to “expand” their corn processing facilities in Cambria to include an ethanol plant, even though the site was a stone’s throw from Cambria’s schools, dozens of homes, and an assisted-living facility.
Didion Milling had struggled since last fall to put an ethanol plant in Cambria. They held “informational meetings,” distributed slick literature, hired a PR person, and brought in their Milwaukee-based attorney. But the citizens knew that schools and ethanol plants don’t mix, and formed Cambrians for Thoughtful Development (CTD). (For more on CTD’s position, see CTD leader Sarah Lloyd’s FightingBob.com article from last month.) The Cambrians printed flyers, posted a superb Web site, held “salons” to discuss the issue, put up yard signs, issued press releases, and faithfully attended (and video-taped and spoke at) village meetings. Then they really got serious: When Didion threatened to build its plant just over Cambria’s borders in Courtland Township, CTD got the village to pass an extraterritorial zoning ordinance to control development on the edge of town. CTD also collected enough signatures to get an advisory referendum on Cambria’s April ballot with the question, “should we have ethanol in Cambria?” Voters said no, 60 percent to 40 percent.
So, congrats to Sarah Lloyd, John Mueller, Dallas Bucholz, Mitzi Duxbury, and all of the others in and around Cambria who showed us all—and Didion Milling—how grassroots activism is done. These Cambrians are in the best tradition of Fighting Bob La Follette.