July 31, 2003
Pin the tail on the Democrat
Matt Rothschild writes a superb analysis of the Doyle budget. Don't you wish we had a progressive budget in this fight? Wouldn't it be fun pushing for more funds for the university system and less for prisons and highways? Your comments are always welcome.
DLC invades Milwaukee
The Democrats for the Leisure Class (DLC), also known as the Democratic Leadership Council, have a new champion. Rep. Shirley Krug is following the Bradley Foundation's play book in offering legislation to eliminate the elected Milwaukee School Board in favor of giving all power to the mayor of Milwaukee "to run our school system. Period." And she is serious about it. This is no joke.
While Krug is a predictably conservative vote, joining her in this loopy idea is former congressman, former candidate for governor, and now candidate for mayor, Tom Barrett. Barrett joined the "governmental affairs" section of a conservative Milwaukee law firm after losing to Jim Doyle in the Democratic gubernatorial primary. Who heads the "governmental affairs unit" at Barrett's firm? Why, none other than Rick Graber, the chair of the Republican Party. So, Barrett works for the chair of the Republican Party? (An early posting claimed that Tommy Thompson is on an advisory committee for Tom Barrett. Tom called to assure us that is not the case. I apologize for the mistake. The CIA made me do it. Or was it a speechwriter?)
Governor Thompson proposed a take-over of MPS several years ago, but the public outcry and the demands of a reelection campaign stopped that nonsense. Well, "they're back!" Imagine placing the mayor, whose reelection could turn on contributions from the wealthy folks at the Chamber of Commerce and lower property taxes, in charge of schools? Which would come first: children or reelection? (You get one minute for the answer and if you say "the children" you will not be allowed to graduate next year.)
Time for a part-time Legislature. These people are dangerous. Ms. Krug should read Wisconsin's constitutional history. The people want a role in education. They believed in 1848, and we believe now, that education is too important to permit the monied interests to rule.
July 29, 2003
Remember when the League of Women Voters ran debates? Those were the good days. Now the two dominant parties run the debates, and last time they excluded Ralph Nader. I'm one of those who believes that was fatal. Had Nader been there to go after Bush, Gore would not have fumbled the ball the way he did.
Whether or not you agree, please read Adam Benedetto's article: "Green thoughts." Adam was the Green candidate for Sheriff of Dane County and he ran a superb campaign.
Al From to the rescue?
Last night, C-Span carried a speech by a fellow who was sweating profusely. Shades of Richard Nixon in the determinative Kennedy debate. I couldn't help but wonder who he was and why he was so worked up. Turned out he was pollster Mark Penn, and he was reporting his "objective" findings to the corporate-sponsored Democratic Leadership Council or DLC. (We refer to the DLC as "Democrats for the Leisure Class," but nevermind.)
In an outburst of hubris, the founder and leader of this corporate group, Al From, spoke, according to the the NY Times, in a 'voice intense with emotion.' "The DLC has saved the Democratic Party once and we're bound to do it again."
As Dave Barry would say, I am not making this up. The "objective" Mr. Penn is also the pollster for Joe Lieberman (R. or D., depending on the day of the week.) Guess what Penn found? Democrats on the "far left" might take over the party, win the nomination and lose the election. Far Left? Whoa Nelly!
Suddenly Governor Howard Dean, a bit too conservative for my tastes, is "far left?" How about that "far left" John Kerry, Vietnam veteran? Does his billfold contain a picture of some Marxist leader? Stay tuned and the DLC will find out. Dennis Kucinich? C'mon. For a while I thought the DLC was trying to go so far right they could accuse the Republicans of being the hated "liberals." Now I know it.
Here is the best part. The DLC was formed by white, male, Southern and Western governors to pull the party to the right--to appeal to people who looked like them. Funded by corporations, pro-NAFTA, anti-union, this is not Republican lite; the Republican Party is often "DLC lite." But Penn's most humorous finding was that only 22 percent of white men support the Democratic Party. From believes the DLC runs the Democratic Party and he is correct. The institutional party not the rank and file. But let's see. Who formed the DLC? White guys? And they attract only 22 percent of white guys?
Serious Democrats are trying to pull together to defeat the worst administration in American history. The DLC? Seems like they would be quite content to "suffer" for another four years as their funders enjoy the elite tax cuts from Bush.
July 28, 2003
Prison population out of control
The U.S. Justice Department gave some "good news" to taxpayers. While crime is down, the prison population is up by 2.6 percent nationally. For more good news, check out Wisconsin, where the Department of Corrections was pleased to report that our prison population went up by a mere 3.2 percent. Huzzah!
Problem is we have 21,025 prisoners, three times as many inmates as Minnesota. Our 3.2 percent increase remains higher than the national average and the Doyle administration provided funds in the budget for opening two more prisons. Think about a mere 3.2 percent increase. While math has never been my forte, that means we will add 673 to our total this year and more next year unless we change our policies.
If that 3.2 percent rate continues, we would need a prison a year to keep up with the increase. We're already spending more on prisons than our university system, so Wisconsin cannot afford to remain on this path. And, friends, Truth in Sentencing has not really hit yet. Wait a couple of years when non-violent offenders will be in for a longer time.
What is needed? How about a non-legislative committee of citizens to urge modification of sentencing, release of non-violent inmates with less than three years to serve, and a return to judicial discretion in sentencing? How bad is our plight? Even the Wisconsin State Journal editorialized on Sunday that something must be done. When the "law and order" media sees the problem, it is time for policy makers to do something.
One other point. 10.4 percent of black men were in prison last year compared with 1.2 percent of white men. Affirmative action is working! Hail Justice Scalia.
July 25, 2003
Get ready for Fighting Bob Fest II
The second Fighting Bob Fest is scheduled for September 6 in the same place we held the first one, the beautiful Sauk County fairgrounds in Baraboo. You will love the atmosphere. The speakers will challenge you, and this year we have set aside time for break-out sessions to provide everyone a chance to share their ideas and experience with the group.
We have good music, good food, good speakers, and plan to have our old-fashioned Chautauqua become a must event for all those in the state who feel comfortable calling themselves "progressives." (See our Feedback site for some of the many definitions of that term, including a nice one from Senator Tom Harkin. Share yours with us.) Check our Link to Fighting Bob Fest.
How do we do it? Lots of volunteers, support from the Capital Times, Evjue Foundation (the charitable arm of the Cap Times), and the Shepherd Express in Milwaukee. The most important part? The fantastic volunteers in and around Baraboo who put in thousands of hours attending to all the details. Sue and Tom Holmes lead the way.
We have several nationally known speakers, including our Congressman from Vermont, Bernie Sanders; our populist from Texas, Jim Hightower; the nation's champion in fighting for families against toxics, Lois Gibbs. We don't want to lose our Wisconsin base, however, and we have plenty of superb Wisconsin-based speakers and break-out session leaders. Ellen Bravo needs no introduction to you, State Senator Gwen Moore will thrill you with her enthusiasm and insights. The incomparable Bert Grover, John Nichols, Gene and Linda Farley, and lots more.
Come celebrate grassroots victories with us: Augusta, Cambria, Menomonie, Elba, ethanol battles; stopping the Crandon mine, halting Wal-Mart in Stoughton, Manitowoc saying "no thanks" to a huge feedlot. These groups will be at Bob Fest to celebrate some victoriees, lick wounds from some losses, and prepare for the future.
Lookout WMC. The progressives are coming.
July 24, 2003
Here comes the budget!
With the Republican victory in the 21st Assembly District blamed on the property tax freeze issue, and quasi-Democrats like Senator Jeff Plale of South Milwaukee hinting that they will vote to override a veto of the local property tax freeze, Governor Doyle should veto the entire budget and rethink the situation. Oh, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and State Journal editorial boards will huff and puff about another delay, but so what?
We suggest he begin by reading our latest posting by Representative Mark Pocan--The Wisconsin Income Equity Act, sponsored by Pocan and Senator Fred Risser, and then call a meeting involving some progressives to craft a budget that would protect services while asking all to sacrifice, not just the less-than-wealthy. We have been saying for months that to put the Democratic Party in the position of defending higher property taxes suggests the Party's logo should change from the donkey to the lemming.
Dead or alive, but better dead?
I'm confident that most of our subscribers were appalled by the decision to kill the sons of Saddam Hussein rather than capture them. One must ask, what kind of society have we become?
No need to review the horrendous actions of Odai and Qusai. The question is why the Bush administration did not force them out of the house, arrest them, and permit the Iraqis to put them on trial. The U.S. is the occupying power and we are setting the rules in Iraq.
What have we lost with their executions? Stephen Black, a former inspector and chemical weapons expert was quoted in the New York Times saying "Qusai would have known whether they had chemical weapons, how many, and whether Iraq abandoned an active nuclear program." Could it be the administration did not want answers to those questions as they dodge the famous 16 words in the State of the Union?
Clearly, the two must have known where Saddam is hiding. Could it be that the Bush/Cheney folks do not want to know where Saddam is? That he is worth more dead than alive?
But suppose you believe the sons should have been executed. Would you have removed the bodies to another country and create yet another credibility gap? This is the gang that couldn't shoot straight. The Associated Press reported a college student in Iraq, "It's a big lie. They didn't kill them." The response from the Americans in charge was "soon we will provide proof."
A member of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution said, "The Iraqi people would like to have seen the bodies." And, almost forgotten is the long-standing policy of ours banning assassination. Oh well, just another casualty of Bush politics.
What must the rest of the world think of us?
July 23, 2003
Not a blow to the Party?
For the first time in 75 years, a Republican will represent the suburbs south of Milwaukee in the 21st Assembly district. It wasn't close. The Democrat got 38 percent in the Democratic Party stronghold. The big money boys--WMC and WEAC--ponied up to the bar on this race.
Ah the battle of the political Titans! Both ran commercials. WMC for the winner and WEAC for the loser. (It would be nice to know who crafted the message for the WEAC TV spots. But, alas, there will be no analysis available to the Party faithful. That will be an "internal" discussion.)
Was this race only a test of WMC and WEAC, or was it a referendum on Governor Doyle's young administration? The Republicans said it was a referendum on the legislative Republican property tax freeze. If so, those of us who belive in government are in trouble.
In looking to Linda Honald, state Democratic Party chair, for answers, she comforted us by saying she "didn't know which issues were determinative." But she added, "This was not a blow to the Party." Ignorance is bliss. Don't you wonder what a "blow to the party" would feel like? What was this? Welcome news?
Republicans are in the ascendency in Democratic Party strongholds. Extreme right-wing Scott Walker is County Executive in Milwaukee County; many Dems on the County Board were recalled during the Ament pension scandal, and now the Dems have lost a safe legislative seat.
The Dems almost lost the seat vacated by Julie Lassa in the Dem stronghold of Stevens Point and Plover. Lassa ran and won the State Senate seat vacated by Kevin Shibiliski. The winner in her old seat, Molepski, had a less-than-comfortable 330 vote margin in a race where Green candidate Amy Heart ran a good, solid campaign and garnered more than 1,000 votes.
So, what's wrong? Part of the answer rests with Doyle, who is caught in his "no new taxes but one more loophole for business" pledge. Back to Reps Frank Boyle and Marlin Schnieder. Close the sales tax loophole, raise it half a cent, reduce the Machinery & Equipment loophole by 20 percent. The budget hole is filled and Democrats are no longer the "champions" of higher property taxes. Sometimes you have to change the offense despite your love of the game plan.
The Bucks fired the coach. Is it time for some new leadership in the centrist Democratic Party of Wisconsin? The Republicans in the Assembly are now veto-proof. Remember when the Dems had 57 seats and the Republicans had 42? Then the Party moved right and the deluge followed.
Jim Hightower said it best: "There's nothing in the middle of the road except yellow stripes and dead armadillos."
More Wal-Mart news
The lead article for this week deals with citizens in Stoughton fighting a proposed Wal-Mart Supercenter. Wal-Marts are springing up everywhere. The goal? Eliminate competition.
The "No Comment" segment of the August Progressive has the following:
"Two grocery stores in the Billings, Montana, area are closing, apparent victims of Wal-Mart, reports the Billings Gazette. A few days before the Smith's store closed, checkers were stunned by the behavior of three Wal-Mart employees who were scouting the store. 'When they were going out the door, they were high-fiving each other,' said a grocery store worker. They said it really loud, "Two down and one to go." A Wal-Mart spokesperson confirmed but did not condone the Smith's incident."
And, when you see that new Wal-Mart in your neighborhood, keep the high-fiving in mind. They will drive out the local businesses just as sure as the sun rises in the east. Good for America? I don't think so.
July 19, 2003
What webs they do weave...
The Bush administration appears to be in meltdown over the now-famous 16 words about uranium in Niger. The finger-pointing at CIA, the Blair speech aimed at bolstering the president and, of course, the inability to uncover those weapons of mass destruction have exacerbated Bush's problem.
The syndicated comic strip "Boondocks" hit the nail on the head in Saturday's Capital Times. "The White House announced today that it recently discovered that every statement made by the president during his last state of the union address was, according officials, "Unfortunately and unknowingly erroneous."
Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz were so anxious to go to war they were willing to say almost anything, and our compliant media nodded and took it all down. During a March 16 interview on "Meet the Press," Cheney said, "We know he's been absolutely devoted to trying to acquire nuclear weapons, and we believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons." Where is the Veep these days? One assumes he is back in the bunker.
The New York Times reported on Saturday that the latest line is that White House speechwriters put the line in the address. Powell, Rice, Tenant must have all been on sabbatical. But here is the line of the week from the Times: "The official who gave the briefing today said Mr. Bush was unaware of the State Department skepticism." Here it comes, buckle your seat belt, "The president is not a fact checker," the official said. No kidding.
As Paul Krugman suggested, the lie about the Niger uranium issue is no worse than his lies about the economy. Think about it. The White House told us the economy was doing alright in order to justify the tax cut for the top 1 percent. Now they tell us the deficit will be $455 billion plus $60 billion for Iraq and Afghanistan, for a whopping projection of $515 billion of red ink without spending one dollar on "nation building" in Iraq.
And the forces of Jim Sensenbrenner, Tom Delay and their pals impeached Bill Clinton for not telling the truth? Whoa Nelly! This gang is out of control.
July 17, 2003
What's a progressive?
So, what is a progressive? We asked for your input and we have received some very thought-provoking answers. And the messages continue to come in. Join the group and share your thoughts with us.
We will publish as many as possible at Fighting Bob Fest on September 6th and in our Feedback section.
Check it out.
July 16, 2003
MJS and vouchers
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (MJS) is at it again. The front page headline on Tuesday: "School Choice backers try to fend off Doyle veto." The subhead: "Diverse group of leaders stumps for expanded program." Show-down at the OK Corral?
Who were these "stumping" voucher folks? Were they going door-to-door? Turns out they were "stumping" all the way to the MJS offices. Who organized the editorial meeting with softball questions floating all around? You guessed it: the Milwaukee Chamber of Commerce.
You have to love it. The experienced political writer goes on, "The unexpectedly wide assortment of political and education leaders gathered for a meeting with the MJS editorial board." The group included none other than Mr. Voucher, John Norquist; right-wing sheriff David Clark; extreme right-wing County Executive Scott Walker and Archbishop Dolan, who presumably is counting on more tax dollars to keep his Catholic schools open. If that is the MJS idea of a diverse crowd, then they really need to get out more.
Ah, but the Edison School Foundation man of the decade, Howard Fuller was there as well. Talk about diversity! Fuller suggested that if Doyle stops expansion of vouchers he is a tool of WEAC, the tepid teacher's union. C'mon Howard. The fact is only those who profit from vouchers support expansion of this failed program.
But MJS did not leave it on the front page. They wrote an editorial suggesting that the "rare assembly" in their cushy offices sent a signal to Doyle to expand the voucher program. The editorial said, and I'm not kidding, "The Milwaukee legislators should take their cue from the likes of Archbishop Dolan, the Rev. Harold Moore and school chief Andrekopoulos" (who, by the way, declined to take a position one way or the other).
And the FCC thinks it is a good idea for newspapers to own the radio and TV stations in one city? Come to Milwaukee, where our monopoly celebrates diversity. From conservative to far right.
July 15, 2003
Come to Jefferson
Take whatever time it requires to drive from your house to the picket line at Tyson Foods in Jefferson, Wisconsin. There you will meet tough-minded, good, honest, middle-class people who only want a fair deal, not something extravagant.
The company seems determined to break the strike and the union. There are no negotiations on-going and the mediator keeps saying things like, "The time is not right for mediation." Translation: The company won't agree to any compromises so why meet?
Scabs role in, trucks roll out, and, for many, hope seems to fade. The company knows that state government won't do anything, that the NLRB is totally ineffective, and the divided town can't pull a miracle out of a hat.
If Tyson breaks the union, some anti-union lawyer may get a bonus, the human resources director (how's that for a misnomer?) will get a raise, and the CEO will proclaim that it was the union's fault, not his.
So, what is the answer?
Here are some thoughts. We have a Democrat in the governor's chair, so why shouldn't the state use a creative approach and help the city of Jefferson and the employees purchase the plant from Tyson? If Tyson won't sell, then the state could cut off their machinery and equipment tax break. The rule would be that no company that is trying to break a union qualifies for the M&E exemption.
Now suppose Tyson won't sell and the state decides it cannot cut off the exemption. Then why not use the eminent domain laws to seize the plant on behalf of the state? The state would then turn around and sell it to the employees and the community.
Crazy? Hardly. If Tyson wanted an access road through Mrs. Murphy's front yard, the state would use eminent domain to take poor old Mrs. Murphy's front yard. So, if they will use the awesome power of the state on behalf of corporate America, how about using it to help working people?
If these approaches are too much for the powers that be, an alternative would be to force all legislators to sit in a room and have each striking employee tell the group what the loss of this job will mean to his or her family and community. We make it too easy to sit and watch. There is real pain in Jefferson. Real anger. There should be an answer.
July 13, 2003
Don't forget your checkbook
Dee J. Hall and Andy Hall of the Wisconsin State Journal have exposed a significant scandal in the July 13 issue.
Vince Biskupic was the district attorney for that bastion of Republican law and order, Outagamie County, before he ran for Attorney General of Wisconsin last fall (and almost won). Biskupic was "tough on crime," but it turns out he was tougher on poor people who were charged with crimes than on those who could write a check to get out of being charged. Those with money could support an intern in Biskupic's office, donate money to Biskupic's favorite charity, or help him "educate" the voters with self-promoting calendars by cutting "off the record" deals.
The only people who did not know about the Biskupic brand of justice were the judges, the poor, crime victims and the public. Oh, yes, I almost forgot: His deputies didn't know either.
The money went to pay for the printing of thousands of calendars "touting his prosecutorial record in the Fox River Valley...where he cultivated a tough on crime image..." according to the article.
FightingBob.com contributing editor Walter Dickey was quick to condemn the practice, concluding that "innocent people will sign to avoid the public shame of being charged; guilty people will escape prosecution by paying money; poor people will be denied access to part of the justice system."
Former Supreme Court Justice Janine Geske restrained herself and said, "It smacks of buying justice outside the courtroom." Really? I wonder what she concluded about the Pittsburgh Pirate who clubbed the sausage at Miller Park. "A hint of unsportsmanlike behavior," perhaps?
The Wisconsin Ethics Board is investigating this outrage that has been discussed since last October. What's the hold-up? Meanwhile the Chair of the Outagamie County Republican Party was willing to forgive and forget: "So far I'm not convinced this is an ethical smudge." (I'm not making this up.)
Are we to believe that Biskupic should not be charged for using funds for his personal agenda that should have gone to the courts? Try explaining this to the 21,000 inmates in Wisconsin prisons.
July 10, 2003
What is a progressive?
As we approach the second Fighting Bob La Follette Fest in Baraboo on September 6, some of our subscribers have asked us to define "progressive" in today's political climate. Rather than giving my rather predictable views, we want to hear from you. We will publish your one or two sentence definitions and, I'm sure, challenge some of you to write more extensively. (I know it is hard to say anything in one sentence but give it a try.)
I'm so old I remember when it was a good thing to call oneself a "liberal." Remember Henry Reuss, Hubert Humphrey, Gaylord Nelson, Bobby Kennedy? Then the "L" word became a detriment as conservatives of both parties demanded a move to the center of the road where, as Fighting Bob Fest keynoter Jim Hightower says, one can find only "yellow stripes and dead armadillos."
The Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) was formed by big corporate funders and mostly white Southern governors to "capture the party from the liberals." And capture they did. Then when liberals began calling themselves "progressives" the DLC formed a think tank and called it "Progressive." So, maybe the only haven is to return to the now whispered "liberal" label.
What do you think? Are progressives ready to define themselves? Are we concerned about the loss of 2.6 million jobs since early 2001? Do progressives still believe in "progressive" tax policies? Are we ready to cancel NAFTA and GATT, and impose labor and environmental standards on companies now using virtual slave labor to produce products for import to the United States? Do we demand publicly financed elections to stop the auctions that now pass for elections?
OK, your turn. (And, while you are at it, why not tell us which candidate or candidates for president qualify for the title?)
On your mark, get set....
Killing with kindness
If you don't listen carefully to President Bush and only look at the picture with him leaning down to make friends with a young child, you might get the impression he wants to help kids in the successful Head Start program.
But, alas, he wants to kill Head Start by altering the mission and sending funds directly to cash-strapped governors to use as they see fit. Top that off by saying that Head Start teachers will have to start teaching math and reading instead of focusing on health and nurturing, and you have, as Ted Kennedy said, a program they should rename, "No Start" or "Slow Start."
Carl Rove knows the ropes. Tell the public you are "reforming" a program so they won't notice when it dies. Clever but wrong.
Tom Harkin had a great quote the other day: "I don't know which is worse. The lies about Iraq or the truth about the economy." Now we have another lie: Bush wants to help poor kids in Head Start.
July 8, 2003
I urge all of you to read the article we posted today, "Bring 'em on"? It is not written by a Wisconsin writer but it was found by one of FightingBob.com's charter subscribers, John Smart, and we have adapted it and posted it with the author's permission because it is just too good and too true to pass up.
The author, Stan Goff, is a retired soldier and war veteran who takes particular offense at Bush's macho challenge for Iraq to "Bring 'em on" against troops stationed in Iraq. First Bush puts our young men and women in harm's way and then, like a school kid, dares our enemies to attack them with greater force!
I'm not amused, either. I am not a war veteran, but I did serve from 1963-65 and I'm always astounded by the "bravery" of hawks who have never served a day.
I think Goff hits just the right note in this article.
July 7, 2003
MoveOn.org and Progressive Punch
Something is happening out there. The political king-makers cannot believe that Howard Dean raised millions of dollars from the Internet and that Dennis Kucinich raised more than one million. Is this a trend? Is it possible that millions of people pledging $100 could overturn the power of the big PACs and the wealthy elite? That we might actually nominate a progressive for President? I think so. Soon we will have the Democratic Leadership Council calling for public financing of elections!
We have added two new links to FightingBob.com. Progressive Punch helps you measure all members of Congress on votes cast. Their fascinating comparison between your congressman and senators explains a lot.
We have also added MoveOn.org. It was MoveOn that took the Democratic poll, collected money and gave the political establishment heartburn.
We strive to present you with "one-stop shopping" for progressive political thought. Check out the blog, read the new articles, and then go to the Links for the Nation, the Capital Times, Shepherd Express, the Progressive, Wisconsin Public Radio, and now Progressive Punch and MoveOn. Our goal is to communicate, educate and make it simple.
Stop the FCC
Don't miss the latest message from FightingBob.com contributing editors Bob McChesney and John Nichols in our Feedback section.
McChesney and Nichols have written three terrific articles for FightingBob.com about the Federal Communications Commission's efforts to help media conglomerates become larger and less competitive. The tide has turned against the FCC and we are close to overturning its outrageous June 2 ruling, but FightingBob.com readers and others must keep the pressure on.
The best thing to do right now is call Congress and tell your representatives not to let the FCC get away with this nonsense. McChesney and Nichols make this easy for us in their Feedback dispatch. They are the two authorities I trust most on this issue. I urge everyone to do as they suggest.
July 4, 2003
In a wonderful new book titled 46 Pages: Thomas Paine, Common Sense, and the Turning Point to Independence, author Scott Liell discusses the meeting of the Continental Congress in September 1774: "The tensions and debates at play within Carpenter Hall had inevitably spilled out into the surrounding streets, providing plentiful grist for the mill of Philadelphia's vibrant, unfettered press."
And he quotes John Adams in a letter to Jefferson saying "the Revolution had occurred not in the halls of Congress or on the battlefield, but rather in the minds of the people." Would the Revolution have occurred if Rupert Murdoch's Fox, CNBC or CNN had been there to report the events? Can you imagine the spin the British would put on these ineffective malcontents? Imagine the Larry King interview with King George: "Your Majesty, thank you so very much for taking time from your astounding efforts to feed the poor to appear with us tonight...we are your humble servants."
We would still be saluting the Queen of England had there not been, in Liell's words, a "vibrant, unfettered press." So, today, read or reread the FightingBob.com articles by Bob McChesney and John Nichols and wonder aloud what the impact will be on "the minds of the people" should the FCC succeed in making media ownership even more concentrated.
We need only look to Milwaukee for a sense of what is to come, where Journal Communications now has permission to own a TV station, an FM station, right-wing talk radio, and the only daily newspaper in the city.
On July 3, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's banner headline was: "HIGH TAXES ROOTED IN STATE HISTORY, STUDY SAYS."
The Journal Sentinel writer, one of the newspaper's most experienced political reporters, wrote that Wisconsin became addicted to big spending in the 1960s and developed habits "state and local leaders have been unable to break." The reporter says, "Wisconsin taxpayers are closely watching what Doyle does, making sure he honors last year's pre-election promise to not raise state taxes." He quotes unnamed Republicans suggesting that "we are on the verge of a tax revolt," and goes on to interview Tommy Thompson's favorite professor and a Republican citizen from Holman. That's about it for this front page "news" item. Balance? Why bother?
But here is the kicker. He writes that the study to which the headline refers was "based on research done by the non-partisan Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance," a group funded by big business that has never seen a big-business loophole it didn't like. And who released this study in the midst of the budget debate? Was it a prominent national organization or the Legislative Fiscal Bureau? No, it was issued by the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute "which," says the reporter, "studies public policy issues affecting the state."
What the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel failed to mention is that the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute is the polling arm and all purpose front-group for the extremist Bradley Foundation. They are the ones who want to privatize everything from museums and airports to public schools.
The article had several graphics, including one for, and I'm not making this up, "states with most paved roads per capita." Now there is a stat I've been waiting for. Thank you MJS.
What will happen to this "report"? Charlie Sykes, Bradley Foundation "fellow," editor of the Wisconsin Public Research Institute magazine WI: Wisconsin Interest and right-wing talk show host for more than three hours per day on Journal Communications' WTMJ, will bleat and repeat the findings of the "study" for weeks. Why? To intimidate Governor Doyle from vetoing the property tax freeze.
So, you wonder why most Americans believe Iraq had WMD? Why they connect Saddam to 9/11? Let your mind wander back to 1774 and think about who was giving us the news about the war build-up. Then imagine how Journal Communications would have covered the American Revolution: "STUDY SAYS THOSE SEEKING INDEPENDENCE NEED PSYCHIATRIC HELP."
July 3, 2003
Our mission: Take our country back
Every now and then an individual or organization does something that captures the moment so well that you chuckle out loud or race to share it with a friend or spouse. So it was on July 3 as I opened my New York Times to page A 9 to find a full page ad from Adbusters Media Foundation. (Check our Link to Adbusters and be prepared for some of those, "Hey,come see this" moments.)
The writing, over a full page of stock prices, says:
"Because my country has sold its soul to corporate power
Because consumerism has become our national religion
Because we've forgotten the true meaning of freedom
And because patriotism now means agreeing with the president
I pledge to do my duty...and take my country back."
A powerful message for us to think about on the 4th of July, our most important national holiday. What can we as citizens do about the growing power of multinational corporations over every aspect of our lives? Well, Adbusters took a step. Fighting Bob Fest, on September 6, will take another step. The theme of this year's chautauqua is exactly that. Taking on corporate power. It will be fun but serious.
Happy 4th of July to all of you. And, why not take our country back?
July 2, 2003
Been there, done that
We raised the question of motive in the on-again-off-again proposed sale of the Milwaukee Bucks. Was Herb Kohl serious about selling the Bucks or was it just talk aimed at justifying the house-cleaning of high priced and popular talent? Was it because Michael Jordan would not pay a decent price? Or was it to urge taxpayers to follow the Selig path and build a new and better arena for Wisconsin's Senator-owner?
The answers can be found in a Kohl interview reported in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel today. As we predicted, Kohl said this is about a "meaningful dialogue" with the Bradley Center to find ways to give the team new revenues. Really? I thought the Bradley Center board was devoted to the task of finding more revenue for the Bradley Center, but what do I know? Take a guess who agreed with Herb Kohl prior to the "meaningful dialogue" getting started? Yup. Bradley Center board chairman Ulice Payne, president of the Brewers. He said, "We stand ready to jump-start the effort to assist the Bradley Center to becoming a stronger partner in helping the Bucks."
Whoa Nelly! How about starting negotiations with Ulice when he is already giving you free rent and a share of concessions. (MJS reports that last year the board gave the Bucks $2.1 million above its share. Why?) C'mon Ulice, you aren't working for Herb Kohl.
In the interview, we learned that the 15-year-old Bradley Center is "outdated by NBA standards." Can anyone explain who sets "NBA standards"? You got it. The owners and their commissioner, David Stern. We also learned that Jordan offered as much as $170 million, or just $152 million more than Kohl paid for the team. And we learned that Kohl's employee, David Stern, did not get mad at him for changing his mind. How quaint.
Now the fun begins. You can feel the front coming off the Lake. Soon the candidates for mayor will line up for pictures with Herb and one or two Bucks to support the idea of keeping the Bucks in Milwaukee. The governor will announce state support for the Bucks while the Republican legislative leaders will knock down anyone between them and a camera to announce that it was their idea.
The background music, played by the Milwaukee Symphony, with guest conductor Charlie Sykes, will include a medley of numbers written to remind us how important the Bucks are to Milwaukee. The editorial board of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel will leap to support subsidizing the Bucks to "help save downtown." (Will the paper, radio station, and TV station hire a lobbyist again to push it through the Legislature?)
A modest proposal: If the Bucks are so important to taxpayers (most of whom could not afford a pair of tickets to take a child to the game), then let's make a deal. If Kohl is determined to keep the team in Milwaukee, then put it in writing. Agree that if he ever wants to sell the team, he must offer to sell the Bucks to the City of Milwaukee at a fixed price. We could make it the price Michael Jordan offered. Period. No ifs, ands or buts.
The people were out-maneuvered in the all-night legislative session in 1996 in which the Legislature agreed to build "Selig Park", a/k/a Miller Park. Why? "To keep the Brewers in Wisconsin," or so we were told. If Wendy Selig Prieb decides to move the Brewers because they can't draw a crowd with substandard talent, guess who inherits the empty ball park. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.
July 1, 2003
The Bucks start here
In what can only be described as a bizarre series of moves, senator and sports team owner Herb Kohl titillated basketball fans throughout the nation with the prospect of having Michael Jordan step into the exclusive club of men who call themselves "owners." Kohl purchased the Bucks when Henry Maier was still Mayor of Milwaukee. Maier, never afraid of new ideas, worked with the Attorney General's office to determine if Milwaukee could take over the Bucks under the eminent domain law to prevent the team from leaving Milwaukee.
As the idea gained currency, Kohl stepped in and purchased the Bucks for the bargain price of $18 million and the eminent domain theory died. This year, Herb surprised all us Badgers when he said he would sell the team. Was this simply a bargaining ploy to force the Bradley Center board to improve the Bradley Center at no cost to the Bucks?
The Bucks have a deal W-2 participants would love. The Bucks pay no rent for the Bradley Center. How do you improve on that deal? Just wait. Tim Sheehy, head of Milwaukee Chamber of Commerce, who rails against more funds for public schools and pushes tax breaks for business that would make old-line Republicans blush, will start pushing for an even better deal for the Bucks at taxpayers' expense. He is delighted the Bucks are off the market.
Let's review the situation. Kohl gets the Bucks for $18 million; they make a profit every year; they get a new arena and play for free; the franchise is worth $150 million; Jordan is willing to pay the price; and taxpayers in Milwaukee should "contribute" to the Bucks? Could we have an open discussion? Do we have some voice in this arrangement or is this strictly outside the Open Meetings laws? In the meantime, all the best Bucks players are gone. What is going on?