August 30, 2003
Privatize it all--what the heck
Right-wing Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker wants to privatize Milwaukee parks. They did it to the Natural History Museum, why not parks, airports, highways? Elementary schools are cutting music, drama, and languages and telling parents to send their kids to after-school programs for a fee. The MJS reports that North Lake school district in Waukesha County, one of the wealthiest counties in Wisconsin, has cut French and German.
While our schools cut foreign languages needed in the "global economy," students in Holland learn four languages. As the state backs away from public schools at the urging of the Republicans in a transparent effort to privatize education, what we used to consider "essential" courses for the well-rounded educated students are now disappearing. Who supports this nonsense? Miles Turner, executive director of the school administrators, says, "Public education cannot continue to be everything to everyone." Turner applauds this trend.
Does anybody remember when we placed the education of our children first on a long list of priorities? Who fights for the kids?
The Badger poll was very bad news for Governor Doyle, but not for the reasons suggested by Republican Party chair Rick Graber. Graber crows that Doyle's veto of the disingenuous tax freeze is the reason for his extraordinarily low poll numbers with 34 percent approving of his performance.
The fact is that Doyle has never consolidated his base. Had he just made that a priority, his approval rating would be close to 50 percent.
Three good people sought the Democratic nomination for governor: Doyle, Kathleen Falk and Tom Barrett. After the primary, Barrett and Falk did what losing candidates are supposed to do--they supported the winner. But Doyle did not return the favor after his narrow victory over the most unpopular governor the state has ever polled--Scott McCallum. (You remember. He was the guy who had a huge boat on his pier but didn't know where it came from, and the one who called local officials "big spenders." And, like Doyle, he never consolidated his party base.)
The first question asked of possible appointees by Doyle's staff? "Did you support Doyle in the primary?" Those who supported Barrett or Falk, with precious few exceptions, were out the door. As one Republican sage put it, "I've never seen such a sore winner." Like it or not, two-thirds of the Democrats who went to the polls last September voted for someone other than Doyle. Like the two they voted for, however, they were ready to get on with the idea of the first Democratic governor in 16 years. Talk about a draught!
But Doyle's palace guard was not. Like George Meany, they wanted to "reward our friends and punish our enemies." Problem is that their "enemies," to misuse Pogo, "are us." The result? He has played more to Republicans than Democrats on the flawed theory that he automatically gets the Democrats while wooing the Republicans.
Progressives have railed against property taxes and corporate loopholes, but Doyle has placed himself in the absurd position of defending higher property taxes--the worst tax of all. Why? Because he boxed himself in on the "no new taxes" pledge on the advice of his campaign consultants. Problem is, higher tuition is a "tax" and he has, by his actions, increased taxes on our students by 18 percent while granting another $45 million annual tax cut for big business.
Time to sniff the coffee. If you want Democrats to get with the program, give them something to get behind other than the elephant.
A thought for the governor. Send your staff to Fighting Bob Fest next Saturday and tell them to take lots of notes. Stop fighting the last election. It's over.
August 28, 2003
Citizens of Horicon win!
A grassroots group named Citizens' Committee for the Preservation of Horicon (CCPH), was formed to stop a proposed ethanol plant within the city limits of Horicon and to protect the health and well-being of the citizens. As usual in these battles, one of the major promoters of the plant was someone who would make a lot of money off it. In this case it was Bill Gardner, owner of Wisconsin & Southern Railroad, who would profit from transporting the fuel.
Gardner tried to scare the city council, the plan commission and the local businesses by threatening to organize farmers as well as his employees to boycott Horicon businesses if they did not approve the plant. He organized free dinners under a big tent just a few blocks from where the planning commission and the city council meet. Chicken one night, steak the next and always hot corn and plenty of butter. With help from his consultants he formed his own citizen's group in support of the plant. Unfortunately for him, nearly all of his supporters lived miles from Horicon. But they would come to meetings and Gardner would literally stand in front of the room and gesture for his group to raise their pro-ethanol signs or applaud. (One might conclude that he never really left the Big Tent.)
On Tuesday night of this week, from 7:30 p.m. to 1:00 in the morning, the battle was joined. The Horicon City Council took up the issue and heard testimony from 74 people, and all but 11 opposed the plant. More than 900 citizens had signed petitions in opposition to placing an ethanol plant in town because it would jeopardize the health of the citizens, as well as the internationally renowned Horicon Marsh, with chemical fumes and smell.
Gardner further endeared himself to the citizens by testifying that Horicon is a dying community. Proving that local citizens can indeed take back their own town, the city council listened to the residents of Horicon and voted 5-1 not to permit the plant's construction.
The crowd was ecstatic. Joining the Town of Elba, Augusta, Menomonie, Cambria and Arlington, the high-priced consultants have met their match---the people. As one of the leaders said, "We have our town back."
Chutzpah of the Month Award
John Gard, and I am not making this up, is Speaker of the Assembly. He announced yesterday that he is saving the taxpayers money by limiting per diem payments to 12 days per month for all lawmakers. He bragged that this measure will save a million dollars a year.
What he forgot to say is that he and his family live in Sun Prairie even though he represents Peshtigo. Dane County members of the Legislature get $44 per day. Sun Prairie is in Dane County. But our penny-pinching-tax-saver Gard collects $88 per day claiming Prestige as his home. You gotta feel for his poor colleague Tom Hebl,who represents Sun Prairie, because he gets only $44 per day. Perhaps Tom could offer to drive John Gard the 10 miles to the "office" so we can save $44 per day, $528 per month, $6,336 per year.
And they wonder why people are cynical?
Can't anyone tell the truth around here?
First they lied about Florida and then stole the election. Then they lied about the budget predictions so Congress would cut taxes for the wealthy contributors to Bush. Then they ginned-up the intelligence about weapons of mass destruction to justify an invasion of Iraq. And now they admit that under orders from the White House, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lied about the air quality near ground zero.
EPA suppressed warnings about indoor and outdoor pollution. The result of all this? Oh, just some people who may suffer chronic health problems for the rest of their lives. You know, upper respiratory ailments, cancer and asthma.
What were they thinking? Even if the truth would have caused massive movement of people out of the area, how could government do less than provide adequate warnings? Remember the "gang that couldn't shoot straight"? Well, this is the gang that can't talk straight. At a minimum, they should change the name from Environmental Protection Agency to Environmental Deception Agency.
August 25, 2003
It don't rain in Minneapolis in the summer time
The headlines scream, "Gas price increase the biggest in 50 years." Why? Well, the headlines say because of the blackout and the Arizona pipeline that broke.
If you believe that, please unscribe because you won't understand the articles we publish. Seriously, the oil companies assume that we are so stupid that we can't figure out that when one oil company raises prices 16 cents and all the other oil companies do the same, that they might have talked over lunch.
Do you remember when we had a justice department in Washington? If you happen to see it, please call.
Wish I could write like Molly Ivins
Yes, Molly Ivins, that female Hightower who always makes me wonder how one state could produce a Bush while also giving us great journalists with impeccable credentials, great insight and good humor. Here is what Molly says about energy: "Clean, cheap, endless energy--no radioactive waste, no air pollution, no strip mining, no oil spills and no gas pipeline explosions. (Wind and solar) Yet the Bush administration wants to spend billions subsidizing coal, oil, gas and nuclear power, and leave both wind and solar technology with all their advantages including cost--unsubsidized and unhelped."
But here is the real kicker: "Guys, better, cleaner, cheaper sources of power are now available. Get your heads out of the sand and your asses in gear and join the 21st century." Okay, Molly!
August 24, 2003
Bob Fest is just around the corner
In less than two weeks, Fighting Bob Fest will be ready to roll. With Bernie Sanders, Jim Hightower, Gwen Moore, Bert Grover, Ellen Bravo and many more, there will not be another event like it in Wisconsin until Bob Fest III.
I'm excited by the featured speakers, of course, but equally pleased that the smaller sessions will focus on Wisconsin-based problems and solutions. That's right, solutions. We are all good at defining problems, but progressives must also provide answers.
Our goal is to produce a progressive agenda for education, protection of our water, communication of diverse views, and health care as a basic right of every citizen.
Those leading the breakout sessions include John Nichols, Matt Rothschild editor of the Progressive, and John Stauber on media. The incredible Farleys (Linda and Gene) and Mark Miller on health care. Andrew Hanson and Melissa Scanlan from Midwest Environmental Advocates on our precious environment. And, we have not forgotten campaign reform. Mike McCabe of Wisconsin Democracy Campaign and Lt. Governor Barbara Lawton will lead that panel.
And, we will have grassroots organizing always at the core of our belief that we can take back our state. From the Perrier fight to the ethanol battles, we will hear from those who have taken the lead.
See you on the 6th of September. Check our site for the schedule and bring a friend and a folding chair--just in case the crowd is too big.
As we watch our utility-dominated Public Service Commission operate, it is good to recall that these utilities play hardball and don't mind a few pitches inside and high. We watched as the utilities poured money into campaigns in Wisconsin and even sent money to the Kansas Democratic Party that was boomeranged to Wisconsin. To steal a line from Greg Palast, "We have the best PSC money can buy."
As bad as it is in Wisconsin, it is worse at the federal level and just as bad in nearly all states where the monopolists chant "de-reg-u-la-tion, de-reg-u-la-tion, de-reg-u-la-tion---yea profits!"
Read the chilling account written by presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich, and posted on Fightingbob.com. Last week Kucinich asked Ohio officials to revoke the operating license of FirstEnergy Corporation. "It is clear that FirstEnergy is a monopoly that has not effectively served the residents of Northeast Ohio. A long history of mismanagement and neglect" prompted Congressman Kucinich to make this call to the Ohio PSC.
When teams lose, the manager gets fired (or the owner becomes President) so why not the same treatment for utilities?
August 22, 2003
I sure feel safer now
Thank you, state legislators and Governor Doyle! No longer will we close our drapes at night because "peeping Toms" will be arrested. That's right. The Legislature is at it again. Given a severe inability to craft ideas that will help citizen-taxpayers, they look for new crimes to fill the books.
But, "window peeping" a crime? Was there a recent rash of window peeping causing angst among our fellow citizens? What's next? Will Spin the Bottle without legislative oversight become a felony? C'mon folks. We are in debt, the unemployment rate went up again, schools need more books and teachers.
The new peeping law is just one more reason to think that it is time for a part-time Legislature.
August 21, 2003
Do they have a clue?
After the tragedy of the destruction of the UN offices in Baghdad, L. Paul Bremer III, met with the American puppet governing council and scolded the council for not doing more. The irony of such a ridiculous comment apparently escaped the Pentagon and Bremer.
The NY Times reports that a memo directed to Bremer said, "Tell them that the Governing Council needs to be seen governing, not later but now." Of course they mean "seen" and not actually governing, since the American government will not give the council any real authority. With public relations always at the forefront, the memo said, "Encourage them to come out with a forceful statement. Urge them to undertake an aggressive press outreach strategy."
Not surprisingly, one of the council members said they resented "Mr. Bremer's patronizing tone." Another said, "You can't blame us for anything. We don't have any responsibility."
The Bush administration has a disaster on its hands.
August 20, 2003
As predicted, the utilities and their editorial apologists are riding on the big blackout by sending out dire warnings that Wisconsin could lose power unless the PSC immediately approves a transmission line from Manitoba to Wausau despite enormous energy loss and tremendous environmental damage.
Represented by the law firms described as THE "insiders" for Tommy Thompson, Foley & Lardner and Michael Best, the American Transmission Co. (ATC) is running around like Chicken Little. "Approve, streamline, damn the environmentalists, use Eminent Domain, don't worry about the next generation, help us make more money so we can contribute to your campaigns." As for the enormous costs? "Don't worry, the ratepayers will pay--no new taxes," we say.
Wait a minute. A line condemned by all but utility insiders and their flacks that would depend on plentiful water flowing in Manitoba or dirty coal burning in North Dakota, with the residue of mercury flowing over Wisconsin lakes and streams, should be rushed? Who is kidding whom?
Governor Doyle has ordered the PSC to report to him in three weeks but said, "I am not going to interfere with the PSC." But, he added ominously, "We do need a transmission line." Keep in mind that the PSC remains firmly in the grasp of the utilities with two of three members appointed by Thompson.
Time to let the governor, the PSC, and the Legislature know that people, not lobbyists for utilities, should determine our future. We can visit New Jersey ourselves. We don't need to duplicate it here.
Under the radar with Stauber
Against all odds and a blackout from national media, Weapons of Mass Deception has hit the New York Times best seller list at # 25. (Go to Links and read all about it on the Center for Media & Democracy site.)
Already #5 in San Francisco and regularly in the Amazon.com top 100, we may be witnessing the replacement of establishment reviewers for Internet info. That is good news for progressives.
Congratulations to FightingBob.com's Contributing Editor (Capital letters for his success) John Stauber and his co-writer Sheldon Rampton.
August 19, 2003
But do you trust 'em?
New York Times columnist Bob Herbert raised the "trust" question while walking the darkened streets of New York. "But there was the disturbing sense that much of our trust is misplaced, that in instance after instance the people in charge of crucial aspects of our society are incompetent or irresponsible, or both."
Strong words, but right on target. Just as we try to absorb the blackout, we awaken to Wisconsin Public Radio telling us that Wisconsin is considering toll roads. Whoa Nelly! Toll roads. Wisconsin? Worse, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that "Doyle is uncommitted." If he supports toll roads, he may be committed.
Come to Fighting Bob Fest II on September 6. We promise you will hear better solutions to our problems than toll roads and more transmission lines.
The blackout may increase donations
The Center for Responsive Politics, the granddaddy of the campaign reform groups, reports that utilities feel comfortable with George W. Bush. The Ohio utility once known as Ohio Edison but now as FirstEnergy has some generous contributors. The CEO was a "Pioneer" for Bush, meaning he raised at least $100,000. Other FirstEnergy executives contributed $50,000. Not bad for a company that can't afford to keep its transmission lines in repair.
Energy and resource interests contributed $3.6 million to the Bush campaign.
So, do you think there might be a connection between the contributions and the kid-glove treatment of the utilities by the Bush Administration? No, you say, that would bring cynicism to politics.
August 16, 2003
Don't worry, help is on the way
President Bush was on a fundraising trip, called a "vacation," when the blackout hit. He didn't interrupt his fundraising efforts but he did offer comfort to New York. I'm not making this up. He said the Pentagon would send a generator to New York and, get this, Tommy Thompson, secretary of Health and Human Services, was "calling hospitals asking what was needed."
I'll tell you what is needed. Less fundraising and more planning.
The blackout and you
In nine seconds, 50 million people lost power. Whose fault is it? Don't expect the utilities to step up to the plate. No, the utilities will call for more deregulation without accountability; more transmission lines without concern for the environment or the effectiveness of those lines; and, yes, they will blame those of us who care about the environment for their own incompetence.
Don't hold your breath waiting for utilities to say that deregulation may have had something to do with the power failure. In Wisconsin, the proponents of the extension cord from Manitoba to Wausau jumped on the issue to suggest "It might happen here unless we have the Arrowhead transmission line." Not even a glance at the fact that the transmission lines in existence didn't stave off the problem. Reason? Bob Kuttner, co-editor of The American Prospect, says, "Under deregulation the utilities no longer have an economic incentive to invest in keeping up transmission lines. Antiquated lines are operating too close to their capacity."
Dr. Rich Rosen, the expert SOUL used from the non-profit Tellus Institute in Boston said, "It's only efficient to transmit electricity for a few hundred miles at most."
The solution is not more of the same medicine, it is to go back to a time when utilities, citizen groups, and rate payers worked on advance plans to forecast demand and instruct the utilities on how the demand would be met. Wisconsin abandoned that practice under Tommy Thompson, and ever since then the utilities have dictated to the Public Service Commission rather than the other way around. Time for some planning, not a loopy 14-story extension cord from Manitoba.
By the way, SOUL scored a victory when Janine Geske followed SOUL's request for her to recuse herself as the hearing officer on the transmission line. And the new judge agreed to public hearings in the affected area. Progress!
August 13, 2003
Attorney General walks the walk
Some politicians talk about the environment and some do something about it. Count Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager in the latter group. She appointed former Public Intervenor Tom Dawson as head of the Justice Department's environmental protection unit. (Dawson and Kathleen Falk were the Public Intervenors before Tommy Thompson eliminated their office in a political move.)
Well done, Peg.
Tyson strikers gaining support
Believe it or not, the Jefferson County Board voted to back the Tyson strikers 19-9. The board found that the strike was the result of "excessive wage and benefit cuts" and the strike is causing hardship and unnecessary sufffering to many county residents.
Jefferson is a very conservative county. Having its county board raise hell with Tyson should lead the way for the 70 remaining county boards in the state to enter the battle. (Dane County endorsed the strike last week.)
So, go to your county board, your city council, your town or village board and ask them to get with it.
The strikers will be invited to Fighting Bob Fest, September 6, in Baraboo.
August 12, 2003
Print your own Bob Fest poster
As final preparations are made for our 2nd annual Fighting Bob Fest, you can print your own poster by going to our Documents section. Print and take the poster to your school, church, union hall or student union and spread the word. Progressives are on the march.
With Bernie Sanders, founder of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, leading the way followed by our good friends Jim Hightower, Lois Gibbs, Tammy Baldwin, Gwen Moore, Ellen Bravo, Greg Palast, Bert Grover, John Nichols--how can you miss it?
More than 40 organizations have purchased tables for display of material, and there is a buzz about this festival where no one need apologize for supporting progressive taxes, release of non-violent prisoners, free tuition at our university system and protection of our environment from ethanol plants, factory farms and Perrier.
See you on the 6th.
August 11, 2003
Bob Fest here we come!
Every day the news provides yet another reason for progressives to gather together in search of answers to the problems facing our state and nation. The lack of diversity in the media, over-crowded jails and prisons, lack of courage in the Capitol. Take an issue and try to find a proposed solution and you will quickly see why I look forward to Fighting Bob La Follette Fest on the 6th of September.
As political parties dissolve into the sea of money, ideas come from unexpected sources. Justice Anthony Kennedy dealt with the prison issue we have featured in articles by Walter Dickey and in blogs. Kennedy said, "Our resources are misspent, our punishments too severe, our sentences too long. I can accept neither the necessity nor the wisdom of federal mandatory minimum sentences."
Ah, fresh air. Would that our Legislature and governor would listen to Justice Kennedy. Or, even better, come to Bob Fest to hear Bernie Sanders, Lois Gibbs, Jim Hightower, Greg Palast, Ellen Bravo and Gwen Moore. There will be more than fresh air.
August 9, 2003
Be careful what you ask for?
Watching Mary Panzer on Wisconsin Public Television Friday night reminded me of the enthusiasm of my dog going after a bone. She is determined, tough, and more than anything, excited that she and WMC are about to WIN! The bone is just a few inches away and she anticipates the meat flavor.
Panzer, the long-time back-bencher, has been thrust in to leadership in the state Senate and may be the best symbol of the modern Republican ethic. Unconcerned about long-term consequences on the lives of our people, she is demanding that all Republican Senators vote to override the property tax freeze and she is making small talk with vulnerable Democrats. She seemed to threaten any Democrat who votes in favor of local control of property taxes.
Why can Panzer threaten dire consequences to state Senators Dave Hanson of Green Bay, Bob Wirch of Kenosha, and others? Simple. Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce (WMC) has dropped any pretense of bi-partisanship. They are masterminding the dismantling of state government and have joined Panzer in threatening Democrats. Panzer can threaten to spend hundreds of thousands of WMC dollars to defeat Democrats next year who do not heel on the veto override. And WMC is spending thousands on radio spots to scare Democrats.
In the meantime, WMC, working with the Republicans, is hosting phony demonstrations of a hundred or two that get more attention from the media than the thousands who marched for peace prior to the invasion of Iraq.
And, like Panzer, WMC can taste the bone. Here is Jim Pugh, head of governmental affairs for WMC: "Business people considering transferring here see a much higher total tax burden than in their states."
Absolute nonsense. Of course Pugh offers no examples of those considering a move because there are none, but Pugh would have us believe that some anonymous corporate executive is sitting somewhere thinking, "I'll spend millions to move to Wisconsin if only they will freeze property taxes." Pugh does not explain that many businesses move here for the quality of life--you know, we care about the disadvantaged, we have free concerts, great public schools, a university system that produces research that helps the nation as well as business.
What will Pugh say if he and Panzer win and businesses leave Wisconsin for Minnesota so their children can attend better schools? Ken Cole, head of the Association of School Boards, not exactly a liberal bastion, says 4,500 teachers could be laid off next year if the veto is overridden. But, says, Senator Alberta Darling from the wealthiest community in Wisconsin, "I can't imagine that they're going to have to lay off all those teachers. What is real and what is a scare tactic?" She made these comments to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Imagine a state senator who will vote without knowing if these are "scare tactics" or not? Unbelievable. The experts say $81 million will be lost to K-12 schools. What's that, pocket change for Darling? Ah, but Alberta's constituents can afford to send their kids to private schools, so who cares?
And Panzer joins in the knownothingism of Darling, "I don't think it has to be people in the classroom. We have administrators...every budget has different things in it." Whoa Nelly! If Panzer doesn't trust the school boards, the local mayors, the county executives, the village presidents, who does she trust? WMC is the obvious answer.
While I have bemoaned the fact that Democrats have found themselves as the champions of the worst tax in our state because they won't take on the monied interests with a fair tax package, lets take a moment to imagine the worst thing that could happen to Republicans. The answer? Panzer gets her bone; property taxes are frozen; police and fire protection declines; thousands of teachers are terminated; special education goes to the back of the Republican bus.
Will the Republicans be rewarded for the ensuing chaos as the "saviors" of homeowners, or will all taxpayers finally wake up to figure out that tax loopholes for corporations, sales tax exemptions, and give-aways to corporations are the real problem?
One thing is for sure. Everyone will know why class sizes go up, tuition goes through the roof, why our challenged and our gifted and talented kids will be ignored, why...well, you can fill in the blanks.
Panzer should be prepared for the bone. The taste will be great at the Madison Club celebration but it won't last long.
I also think it is time for WEAC to give us more than a smile and an assurance that "every kid deserves a great school." We all agree with that statement, but now what?
August 7, 2003
The Crusade continues
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is back at it. Reporter Steve Walters covered the effort to override the governor's veto of the property tax freeze. No matter how you feel about this idea, some fair reporting from the state's largest paper would not seem like too much ask. But catch this: "...fairgoers were tripping over one another to sign petitions in support of the tax limits, at a rate of more than one a minute."
How do we know that? The co-chair of the Republican Party booth said so. "More than 1600 signatures" since Sunday. Were they really "tripping over one another?"
It will be a near-miracle if the veto is sustained. WMC is pulling out all the stops, MJS is on board, WEAC is asleep at the wheel and the Democratic Party is on leave.
More dangerous lefty candidates?
In an August 7 article without a byline, the NY Times reported that Congressman Dick Gephardt failed to get the early AFL-CIO endorsement, the report read in part: "Mr. Gephardt has been dogged by questions about his electability."
OK, fair enough. But then there is this: "Other candidates have described him as too far left of center to attract a broad range of voters." Wow! Gephardt too far left? What "other candidates" would say that? Kerry, Dean, Kucinich, Sharpton? Is this the "new" NY Times team at work or has the DLC sneaked into the news room?
August 6, 2003
"Weapons of Mass Deception," the book
FightingBob.com contributing editor John Stauber and his colleague Sheldon Rampton have written their fourth book together. Like their other books, this one is must reading: Weapons of Mass Deception: The uses of Propaganda in Bush's War on Iraq.
If citizens could appoint a special prosecutor, the report would probably read like the Stauber-Rampton book. But, decide for yourself. Go to the PR Watch Web site for more information.
And then come to Fighting Bob Fest on the 6th of September in Baraboo to hear and meet Stauber. (I'll bet he might even sign a book or two for you.) Given the importance of their work over the years, we could devote a day to their efforts but you must settle for the book, Bob Fest, and their link with Bob.com.
August 5, 2003
The 155-year wait is over
Wisconsin became a state in 1848. And now we have our first African American on a Court of Appeals--155 years later. The appointment of Judge Paul Higginbotham by Governor Doyle to the 4th District Court of Appeals ends a long, long draught.
Higginbotham ran for the Supreme Court, but Judge Pat Roggensack won the election to replace Bill Bablitch. Her seat on the Court of Appeals opened up and Governor Doyle had some outstanding people apply for the Court of Appeals opening. Fortunately for all of us, he chose Judge Higginbotham, a distinguished and courageous judge.
The Judge said the appointment, "opens a door for other minorities. This is not about me. It's much bigger than that."
A wonderful appointment by Governor Doyle. Paul Higginbotham will do the job and do it well.
Will they or won't they?
The issue grabbing reporters and insiders while the rest of us enjoy brats at summer picnics is whether or not a sufficient number of Democrats will defect and vote to override Doyle's veto of the so-called property tax freeze.
Our lead article is by the always articulate Joel McNally, who correctly identifies the Republican ploy as a transparently cynical and irresponsible move. The problem, however, is that it still might work. The velvet glove of WMC and the Bradley Foundation at their very best, backed up by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel devoting extensive attention to the evils of the property tax. Ah, the Journal Sentinel has discovered property taxes. I can hardly wait for them to discover the M&E exemption and how much that costs.
Yesterday, the MJS focused on one family in Senator Gwen Moore's district, the LaBonte family. Will Moore vote to override or not is the story's hook. The blame for high property taxes ever so subtly shifts to Gwen Moore. LaBonte is angry about high property taxes and seems poised to blame Moore if they rise again. But the MJS goes too far: "Republican legislators and business groups pushing to control government spending said (did they? when, who and where?) the LaBontes' anger is one more sign of a property tax revolt brewing in Wisconsin."
Think about that paragraph. The good guys, "Republican legislators and business groups," are doing what? Trying to "control government spending." To quell what? "A property tax revolt brewing in Wisconsin." How do they know? Perhaps they listen to Charlie Sykes radio show, which is, incidentally, owned by the same media company as the newspaper.
After 16 years of profligate spending under Republican governors, the creation of a $3 billion structural deficit, purchased tax loopholes, the return of our "rainy day" fund to taxpayers with a nice letter from Tommy Thompson, the MJS has awakened to the plight of the property taxpayer?
On to solutions. Fritz Hollings, in his retirement announcement from the U.S. Senate said, "Solve the educational funding issues with a nickel at the gas pump. Save money by educating because they won't go to prison." Do we need to go all the way to South Carolina for good advice? No. Raise sales tax by one-half cent and extend this noxious tax to professional fees; close corporate loopholes; pass a one-time tax of 10 percent on those with income over $100,000; reduce the prison population by 10,000 within two years. (The guards won't be happy, but more than 11,000 would remain behind bars.) Guess what? We could pay more for education at the state level, properly fund the UW, and reduce property taxes.
Yes, McNally is right. The Republican ploy was cynical and disingenuous, but it has Doyle in a box along with all Democrats in the Legislature. Who wants to champion property taxes? They will be in that box until Democrats present a comprehensive proposal to fund state government sensibly. Fritz Hollings for governor!
August 3, 2003
The people who started FightingBob.com did not know if a progressive voice would be welcomed into the debates. We believed it was worth a shot, and five months later it appears it was a good bet.
On Saturday, we surpassed 60,000 visitors and 400,000 hits on the site. Now, those numbers are not so big compared to more well established sites, but they are still exciting to us. Even more exciting, we continue to receive superb articles from all sorts of people and the Feedback is growing exponentially.
Thanks for checking in. You can help us by telling your friends and colleagues about the site and getting them to subscribe to our advertising free site. Can't wait for Fighting Bob Fest September 6 and the next challenge.
Broadcasters profit, candidates suffer
Remember "Bullworth"? The movie featured a senator who flipped out from the stress and humiliation of raising the money he needed in order to afford to buy the TV spots deemed necessary to win elections these days. I recommend you rent the movie after you read Mike McCabe's excellent expose of the television broadcasting industry in Wisconsin, "Battle of the Network Pimps."
After you read the article and watch the movie, go back into our archives and re-read the articles by John Nichols and Bob McChesney on the FCC decision to permit even more concentration of this industry. An industry with tremendous political clout.
For example, a candidate can purchase time on television and lie about his opponent. Normally, the entity broadcasting the libel would have liability. But not the TV industry. Know why? Congress exempted the TV stations from libel laws for political spots, giving them no good reason to check the veracity of anyone's charges.
And, as McCabe points out, the TV stations no longer cover politics for free. If they sent cameras to news conferences or if they sponsored debates, they would sell less time.
So, here is the deal. You decide to run against Congressman Green. Go raise $2 million, pay it to TV stations at inflated rates, give 15 percent to someone calling himself a "consultant," and get ready to lose. Ideas? C'mon. Local TV folks will tell you "our viewers would rather have us spend 12 minutes on sports, 7 on weather, the rest on commercials." Wonder why we are in so much trouble?
August 1, 2003
The Gods Must Be Crazy
Remember that great movie? Perhaps the title says it all. Colin Powell approved a payment of $30 million to the Iraqi who led our forces to his home to kill the sons of Saddam Hussein. (Tell me again why we chose to kill rather than capture.) A State Department spokesman said, "There are other opportunities for almost similar sums of money to be paid." Imagine what Bush would pay to the person who finds weapons of mass destruction.
While the State Dept. pays out $30 million, federal courts have run out of money to pay jurors, according to the NY Times. Federal judges have been asked to "defer noncritical civil trials." Whoa Nelly! We can't afford to pay jurors? Maybe federal judges should join the search for Saddam.
The Gods must be crazy.
Join the fun
Check out our Feedback section today. We have lots of differing opinions on a column I wrote for the Capital Times, urging the Democrats to nominate Kucinich, Kerry or Dean, and then asking Greens, independents and all progressives to support that candidate. Wow! Some strong reactions. Read and give us your response.
And, while you're at it, read down to the definitions of "progressive." Very good definitions flowing in from around the state and beyond. Still time for your definition.
Just five weeks until Fighting Bob Fest on September 6 in Baraboo, where we will do more than define "progressive," we will set the agenda.