March 31, 2004
Cost of War
Go to our Links page and visit the Cost of War site. As of March 31, the cost was $109,137,380,935. Enough to pay for 1,977,307 four-year scholarships at the UW. Enough to pay for 11,021,535 kids in Head Start for a year.
Mixed up priorities? Nah, the Iraqis love us. And George The First said George II was right to invade Iraq. So did Haliburton's CEO. Besides, those kids can work their way through college like the Bush boys did.
I'm not buying it
During the National Conference on Media Reform in Madison last November, we learned that PBS was pressured by Republican leaders to add a conservative co-host for Bill Moyers' tremendous program, "NOW." They suggested Newt Gingrich or Tucker Carlson, the supercilious commentator "from the Right" on CNN's "Crossfire."
Moyers refused. Result? PBS will give Tucker Carlson his own hour-long program to follow NOW, and, as we know, Moyers is retiring in November. So now the already right-leaning PBS may tip right over.
Now we are also told that Bob Edwards must leave NPR's "Morning Edition." Why? The explanations are so clumsy they must be using Condi Rice as a public relations advisor. All we really know is that it was not Bob Edwards' idea.
"Morning Edition" has expanded its audience by 41 percent over the last five years, so it can't be a ratings problem. The argument advanced in the March 30 New York Times is that the pooh-bahs at NPR want less thoughtful analysis and more instant reporting from the field. No, I'm not kidding.
That means "our" public radio will join the world of thoughtless commercial radio. That, friends, is an outrage. Who should replace Bob Edwards? How about Howard Stern, Newt Gingrich, Joan Kroc's grandson, Charlie Sykes, Mark Belling, or Tucker Carlson?
While we welcome with open arms the creation of liberal talk radio with Air America and Al Franken, we should not abandon our pal of 25 years--"Morning Edition." Why not send a comment to www.savebobedwards.com?
March 29, 2004
Ethics Board finds nothing
You really have to wonder. The Ethics Board investigated, debated and finally decided that our attorney general did not violate any ethical rules. What took so long? This was not too difficult. A fifth-grade civics class would have reached the same conclusion in 15 minutes.
After all the press attention devoted to this subject, the AG was asked to pay 250 bucks--the equivalent of three days of Speaker Gard's per diem for driving from Sun Prairie to Madison. Had she used her own car and charged for mileage the state would have owed her more than $5,000.
The key finding: "We are unanimous in our understanding that she did not set out to obtain a dishonest advantage." They might have said, "Much ado about nothing."
The real question is what will the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel write about now? Look for a fascinating new take on Easter.
Words to live by
Quote of the week, from 9-11 Commission member Richard Ben-Veniste: "Ms. Rice has appeared everywhere except my Starbucks. For the White House to continue to refuse to make her available simply does not make sense."
Second best quote of the week, from Colin Powell: "We're not trying to hide anything."
Third best: The conversation that the White House suggested last week had never taken place, has been acknowledged by the White House. President Bush did talk with Richard Clarke afterall, according to the New York Times. On September 12 Bush said to Clarke, "I know, I know but....see if Saddam was involved. Just look. I want to know any shred." And then he sent our soldiers off to war.
Perhaps the submission to the Burlington Liar's Club for the big one of the year: Condoleezza Rice to Ed Bradley on "60 minutes": "Nothing would be better, from my point of view, than to be able to testify. I would really like to do that."
Final quote of the week. A handwritten note to Richard Clarke from G.W. himself: "Dear Dick. You will be missed. You served our nation with distinction and honor. You have left a positive mark on our government." Today Bush's people call Clarke a political opportunist and a book dealer. How things change.
Know what scares me? According to polls, 57 percent of the American people still believe Bush did a good job managing the war on terrorism. The same percentage think that Janet Jackson was surprised when her breast popped out at the Super Bowl.
March 28, 2004
Foreign leaders for Kerry
The Bush team, smarting from the 9-11 Commission testimony from Richard Clarke, mostly confirmed by Rumsfeld, Powell and other witnesses, are upset because John Kerry says that many foreign leaders want him to defeat Bush. With America's image abroad at an all-time low and the Spanish voters throwing out a key Bush ally, name a leader who would openly support Bush.
Let's see, how about soon-to-be-indicted Sharon? How about Iraqi leader Chalabi, who is an embezzler and was the key source for the Bush White House regarding WMDs? Forget about those who support Kerry. I am trying to imagine any world leader who wants a picture at the White House.
The Monopoly in Milwaukee
I question if there really was a "deep throat." Seems to me it was a fiction created by two reporters to get unconfirmed rumors into print. But who knows? Woodward and Bernstein won't tell so we are left to guess.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel columnists Spivak & Bice saw there was no news to report on the saga of Peg Lautenschlager so they took up the task of keeping this "story" alive. They site the following dozen "sources" for their conclusions in their March 28 column: "moaned one Lautenschlager pal"; "The pal blamed Doyle"; "Democratic insiders have long known"; "aides to Lautenschlager"; "cracked a Lautenschlager supporter"; "But Doyle's folks"; "said a Doyle insider"; "Lautenschlager's team"; "Many Democrats believe"; "It's been liberating said one"; "but one Doyle backer noted"; and "the Doyle supporter said."
Who needs sources when there are unnamed pals, insiders, spokespeople, and friends?
March 26, 2004
Kraus asks the right question
Bill Kraus compares the legislative treatment of campaign finance reform to that of the concealed carry bill and in the process raises a question that begs for a response. Who is in charge?
GuestBlog: By Bill Kraus
A bill is introduced early in the legislative session. It has bipartisan sponsors. The objectives the bill seeks are approved of by more than 80 percent of those polled whenever the question is asked. The editorial page editors of every major newspaper in the state support the bill.
The bill never gets out of committee.
Later in the session another bill is introduced. It has a single sponsor. The objective the bill seeks are disapproved by 69 percent of those polled. There is no newspaper of consequence that editorializes in favor of the bill.
The bill passes both houses overwhelmingly and comes within inches of surviving a gubernatorial veto.
What's wrong with this picture?
Sweating the small stuff
One must ask how our Ethics Board could snooze through the scandals that rocked the Capitol with indictments, resignations, and banner headlines while now supposedly struggling with one DUI. Some go for the jugular, the Ethics Board has an instinct for the capillaries.
C'mon folks, she had too much to drink. She shouldn't have done that. Could we get on to the daily scandals in the Capitol?
Tommy the Socialist
While the Socialist Party may sue for defamation, the conservative editorial board of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, sometimes known as the "Monopoly of Milwaukee," wrote the following in a recent editorial:
"Doyle gets high marks for embracing an economic agenda of pro-business measures that, in some respects, makes his GOP predecessors-in particular four-term Tommy Thompson--look like borderline socialists."
I wonder how many "socialists" are visiting China with Governor Doyle and his 80 lawyers and business people? Ain't it grand? Sixteen years of Tommy Thompson and we get a Democrat who makes the Journal Sentinel pine for the more progressive Thompson.
March 24, 2004
Who has the governor's seal?
Governor Jim Doyle is traveling in China. So now that the governor has left the country, the lieutenant governor is in charge. Right?
So, congratulations Barbara Lawton, you are it. We have some ideas for you and many could be implemented before the governor returns. Start with a check of the FightingBob.com articles archive.
Milwaukee mayoral race loses focus
By last report, 8,000 Milwaukee Public School kids are homeless; 80 percent qualify for free lunch; MPS teachers are underpaid; the state is not paying its share for special education; jails are full, the district attorney is threatening to arrest parents of truants, and "Driving while Black" continues to be a dangerous undertaking.
So, what is the focus of the mayoral campaign? I'm not making this up. Acting Mayor Marvin Pratt attacked former Congressman Tom Barrett for voting against a constitutional amendment prohibiting flag burning. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel quotes Pratt saying, "I think it's important to a really important constituency, to a lot of people." Then after that important issue, Pratt accused Barrett of being a liberal. Egad! Not just a social liberal but an economic one as well.
What's next? Barrett doesn't wear Allen Edmunds shoes?
March 22, 2004
Kerry in 1971
C-SPAN ran the entire speech of 27 year-old John Kerry speaking to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in April of 1971. It was truly one of the great speeches I've heard. Anyone on the Left who doubts Kerry should see and listen to this speech. The audio was presented by Pacifica Radio.
When he finished, the crowd of anti-war veterans burst into loud and sustained applause. Senators Symington, Fulbright and Aiken could only praise the young man who presented the testimony.
I am convinced that John Kerry will not wander into invasions or war. Been there, done that, seen the slaughter, didn't like it.
Can't stop lying
In the most explosive interview ever conducted by "60 Minutes," Richard Clarke, former counter-terrorism coordinator for G.W. Bush, told us enough to have the president impeached if only there were time.
Not only did Clarke confirm former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill's statements about the Bush fascination with Iraq from day one, he said that Rumsfeld wanted to bomb Iraq after 9-11 because there were no good targets in Afghanistan!
Bush ignored terrorism and might have prevented 9-11 had he been focused. The response from the administration? Condy Rice said, and I'm not kidding, "We had only been in office 230 days."
The White House is in full panic. They are attacking Clarke by saying his statements are "politically motivated, reckless and baseless." What they do not say is that his statements are false. All this while 30 second TV spots extol the president's leadership in fighting terrorism.
Better yet, Republican Senator Chuck Hagel joined Republican John McCain in saying the Bush TV spots calling Kerry soft on defense are inaccurate. Can't get much better, can it?
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March 21, 2004
Yah, sure, Ole
Somehow, hundreds of boxes of records went to the pulp factory instead of the Historical Society. Sure. Happens all the time, doesn't it?
The lost records included correspondence from Tommy Thompson and those involved with the Brewer's stadium scandal. Who was involved with the funding? Could we start with Governor Doyle's Secretary of Transportation?
Where is Mark Marotta in all this? He is the secretary of Administration, isn't he? Can he explain how this once-in-a-lifetime event could happen? Or is this business as usual?
It does not pass the smell test. I think somebody did it on purpose. Accidents like this do not happen. Not in my memory at least.
Top this if you can
Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who delivered the presidency to the guy who finished second, and, by the way, the vice president on that same ticket, has done it again. This time he screams from the bench, "Let the public be damned."
Scalia's integrity is so secure in his own mind that he seems astounded that we, mere mortals outside the social circles of Washington, would see anything wrong with flying on Air Force 2 with the guy he appointed vice president for a freebie hunting trip. Talk about a tin ear.
When will the most important branch, the judiciary, come to grips with its plummeting image?
March 19, 2004
Welcome Bill Kraus
I have written all the GarveyBlogs since the launch of FightingBob.com, but some of the contributing editors and I have always thought it might be interesting to share the space with others.
And so we have invited our friend Bill Kraus to blog in this space once a week or whenever the spirit moves him.
There was a time when Bill and Margaret Lewis squared off against Bill Dixon and me every Friday night on Wisconsin Public Television's "Weekend" program. We had fun.
Bill has fought tirelessly for campaign reform as as member of the Heffernan Commission and as a Common Cause board member. He reminds us of when politics in Madison was enjoyable and progressives roamed through both parties. When ideas were bigger than egos. Welcome aboard, Bill.
GuestBlog: By Bill Kraus
When you come right down to it, we should not be surprised that this legislative session’s best hope for campaign finance reform is either dead or on life support. Campaign finance reform has to be enacted by incumbents and campaign finance reform is the incumbent’s worst nightmare.
Every campaign reform proposal puts public money into the pockets of candidates who challenge incumbents and puts limits on the amount of money incumbents can spend to withstand those challenges.
So not only must an incumbent vote to give state money to a potential opponent, the incumbent must also turn in the key to the campaign contribution vault, which all incumbents get simply because they are incumbents.
There is a minority of legislators of both parties who are willing to give up their inherent advantages to fix what they regard as a corrupt and corrupting campaign system with its disproportionate emphasis on raising money, no matter what it costs in begging time and implied promises.
Are the four legislative leaders and the governor going to give up the advantages of incumbency to join the effort of this enlightened minority and attempt to clean up a system that has spawned multiple felony indictments and tarnished the state’s good-government reputation? Is the Pope Unitarian?
March 18, 2004
Too many alliances?
In Camille Faherty's article devoted to the double standard applied by Waukesha D.A. Paul Bucher, she refers to the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance. Well, the organization to which she is referring is not the Madison-based, statewide organization that had the name first.
Apparently a local New Berlin group usurped the name, so don't blame Todd Barry and his non-profit organization for the work of a local New Berlin group. He assures me that they do not get involved in any elections. FightingBob.com is sorry for the confusion.
What's a little usury among friends?
Usury: "an exorbitant amount or rate of interest, esp., in excess of the legal rate."
Usury has been with us since Christ threw the money changers from the Temple. We used to have laws against it. Those who charged "exorbitant" interest collected it by physical threats. We called them "loan-sharks" or people involved in "organized crime." Today, the Legislature calls them an "industry." If Capone had only hired a publicist.
I'm not making this up. The so-called "Payday Loan" companies have no state-imposed limit on the amount of usururious interest they can charge poor people. So, in reality, there is no longer any such thing as usury because the state of Wisconsin does not give a damn.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that the "average interest rate for all loans in the survey of payday loan operations was, (hold onto your hat) 542%." There are 300 of these operations in Wisconsin preying on the poor.
Assembly Rep. Suzanne Jeskewitz, a Republican from Menomonee Falls, said she wants to have some regulation of the industry "without interfering with the industry's ability to do business." Are you kidding? "Do business?" Jeskewitz introduced a bill that is so soft it was probably drafted by "the industry" itself. There would be no cap on interest rates and no database. In other words, usury as usual.
Could we start with the rate credit card companies charge? Would we drive the sharks to Illinois if we limited them to 18 percent per year? C'mon. This is Wisconsin.
March 17, 2004
Dreams don't make noise...
A year ago on this, my favorite day of the year, I wrote about the impending invasion of Iraq. Here are a few excerpts: "Bush and his war team face the same dilemma. They don't like the answers (from the people) so they avoid the questions on the road to Baghdad. Bush's lone news conference was so scripted it became a skit on Saturday Night Live...The people are told that they must support their leaders in war and vilify any dissent while troops are in harm's way. If there is no war, declare one. If there is no threat, create one."
One year later the truth continues to ooze out. The Bush administration lied about the CIA briefings of the U.N.; the U.S. worked with the Brits to bug the offices of Secretary General Annan; there were no nuclear or biological weapons; our source was not the U.N. inspectors but exiles who would benefit from the killing of Saddam; there was no threat so, as I suggested here last St. Patrick's day, "If there is no threat, create one." Little did I know they were reading FightingBob.com.
Willie Nelson provided the background music: "Dreams don't make noise when they die." Since last year, 565 U.S. soldiers are dead, thousands have lost limbs, memory, or, in many cases, any chance for a normal life. But equally important, thousands and thousands of innocent civilians have died because of our country. My country and your country. The country of Woodie Gutherie, Martin Luther King, Bobby Kennedy, Sheila and Paul Wellstone, and yes, Bob La Follette.
There is an old Irish saying that "If you live long enough, the world will surely break your heart." I cannot fully accept that prediction, but my heart aches for those who have suffered because our country made a series of irresponsible and reckless decisions to create a war for political gain. Shame on us. Yes, us, because we didn't stop them.
March 16, 2004
One year later
One year ago, "Not In Our Name" was holding vigils, rallies and marches in a valiant effort to join the world in opposing the Bush invasion of Iraq. While much has been written about the war since then, FightingBob.com would like to invite your thoughts on the one-year anniversary of the invasion.
What did progressives learn? Did the effort impact public opinion? Did it impact the presidential primaries? We know about the lies and distortions, but what have we learned, if anything?
Let us hear from you.
Remember the "Patriot" caucus in the Wisconsin Legislature? Several Dems and Republicans posed for a picture with a pledge to be civil toward one another. After watching the scrum in both houses since, one could only wonder if the "Patriot" caucus was always tongue-in-cheek. Sort of the Legislature's version of a Saturday Night Live skit.
Molly Ivins gives us a hint. She quotes right-wing nut Grover Norquist: "We are trying to change the tones in the state capitols and turn them toward bitter nastiness and partisanship...Bipartisanship is just another name for date rape." Whoa Nelly! Bipartisanship is date rape? No wonder John Gard and Mary Panzer spend most of their time on divisive issues. I was blind but now I see. Amazing Norquist.
Sheds light on Norquist acolyte Charlie Sykes, the pride of Journal Communications.
March 13, 2004
Our all-time favorite political cartoonist is featured in this weekend's Capital Times. Mike Konopacki has been goading the powers that be on behalf of the powers that ought to be for decades. He is the best in the business, and we urge you visit his Web site at www.solidarity.com/hkcartoons/.
While he wanted to donate his work to the Wisconsin Historical Society, he instead gave it to NYU. Why? "The Wisconsin Historical Society has been gutted. It's sad to have to give it to someone out of state, but the NYU collection is one of the leading labor archives outside Wisconsin." That is a real shame, but it's true.
Candidate Jim Doyle is raising money. His recent mailing, almost three years away from the next election, looks just like all the others. We are given the opportunity to receive:
*Campaign issue briefings.
*An invitation to a holiday gathering in Madison.
*And, are you ready for this? A "Governor's Circle Lapel pin." Be still my heart.
You can get all of this for $2,500. (Quick math: That is a mere 485 hours of work at the minimum wage.)
The campaign does not tell us who will conduct the issue briefing on campaign finance reform, but I can hardly wait. Former Chief Justice Nat Heffernan, Mike McCabe, Jay Heck or Mike Ellis would be my nominees.
March 12, 2004
Hall of Shame
Senator Fred Risser summed it up: "I never thought that the state of Wisconsin would be debating for 10 hours putting discrimination into the constitution."
At 12:50 this morning, the Wisconsin state Senate passed the most reactionary amendment in the country. Hey, we're number one! Not only would marriage be banned for gays and lesbians, but get this, "A legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage shall not be valid or recognized in this state." In other words, civil union or even a contract between two people would be banned.
When were the Salem witch trials? We have an epilogue.
Automatic admission to our Hall of Shame goes to the state Senators, 18 Republicans and 2 Democrats, who voted aye to discrimination: Breske, Brown, Cowles, Darling, Ellis, Fitzgerald (the leader of the posse), Hansen, Harsdorff, Kanavas, Kedzie, Lasee, Lazich, Leibham, Panzer, Reynolds, Roessler, Schultz, Stepp, Welch and Zien.
Don't worry. If this ever gets to the voters, the people of Wisconsin will rise to the occasion.
March 11, 2004
Arrest the parents!
The normally sensible, but obviously frustrated Milwaukee County District Attorney E. Michael McCann is calling for a new tactic in fighting truancy. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that he wants to arrest the parents.
What then? Will they be put in over-crowded jails? Will the county provide day care? Will the DA get the kids dressed and accompany the children to school? If the arrested parents lose their jobs will the county pay the rent and make the car payments?
Remember Bride-fare, Work-fare, and all other band-aids applied by Tommy? While the legislators debate whether or not we should permit serious adults to make life-long commitments to one another, our human infrastructure is crumbling before our very eyes. We can afford four-lane highways everywhere but we cannot attack the roots of poverty by means other than threatening arrests? I know Mike McCann and I know he does not want to propose this, but what is the answer?
I have one. What if the governor made elimination of poverty a priority?
Parental advisory: Obscene dialogue. Protect your children
I used to love seeing teachers bringing noisy, curious and almost always polite youngsters to the Capitol. The students would look with awe at the majestic Supreme Court chambers, the Assembly and Senate. The teachers proudly pronounced, "This is where your laws are made and interpreted."
As the Senate debates the ban on gay marriage it seems like a good time to warn teachers to skip the spring trip to Madison. Having young minds in the gallery to listen to bigotry spewing from the mouths of leaders such as Mary Panzer is not good for kids. The idea of the Republican leadership avoiding important issues to demagogue against gays and lesbians is outrageous. It is a throw-back to the 1960s in Alabama and Mississippi where other majority types picked on minorities. Shameful.
Wisconsin Republicans should hang their heads in shame. This is where the Republican Party was born. Try to imagine what those progressives who gathered in Ripon to take on slavery would say today.
Wisconsin Republicans not only want to ban gay marriage but "deny legal status to any relationship identical or substantially similar to that of marriage." I almost hope it passes so the people of what Bob La Follette called "this special place called Wisconsin" can defeat this measure by an overwhelming majority.
But for now, parents and teachers, keep your children away. It's not safe.
March 10, 2004
Bush in trouble
Poor George. He keeps dropping like a rock in the polls. It appears that people do not trust him, his vice president, or his secretary of state.
No nuclear weapons, no WMDs, no connection with 9-11, no delivery system, thousands of injured U.S. soldiers and more than 500 killed in an unnecessary war.
The surplus Bush inherited is gone and he has created record-setting deficits while urging voters to reject Sen. John Kerry because he "will expand government." Yikes!
Huge deficits, a tremendous trade imbalance, no new private sector jobs in February, 3 million jobs lost in four years, Warren Buffett moving his money out of the U.S., and gasoline prices sky-rocketing. Bush is behind and he deserves it.
March 9, 2004
There you go again, Governor
Ah, remember Ronald Reagan's great line hurled at Mondale? Now we have to use it on our own governor. A Democrat. A former attorney general.
In fact, Jim Doyle was once the head of the National Association of Attorneys General.
As Wisconsin's attorney general, Doyle called so-called rent-to-own operations as "unfair and abusive."
But as governor, he will sign the industry-sponsored proposal that even the Wisconsin State Journal says is awful. For a minute I thought I had picked up the Capital Times, but, no, it was a WSJ editorial that said, "Some might call this bill businesses development, but to us, it looks more like a license to steal."
Steve Meili, director of the Consumer Law Center at the UW Law school, was quoted by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel saying, "It puts already vulnerable consumers in a worse financial situation." Even far-right Assembly Rep. Glenn Grothman got it right: "It's a dishonest bill."
Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager also opposes the bill, but Governor Doyle says he will sign it.
Why, Jim? This bill hurts poor people. The well off do not "rent to buy." Poor people do. You know. Democrats. Your constituents. The people who got you elected.
There you go again.
March 8, 2004
Grass roots growing
A must-read is our article "Finding a Cure" by Andrew Hanson and Felicia Lin. In exposing the corporate control of our Legislature their article reads like poetry.
Citizens have no voice. That must change.
And where is our governor? Raising money for the next run, you say? Ain't it a shame?
Sometimes you make history and don't even know it
The Capital Times editorial of March 8 tells the story of a courageous woman who refused to be silenced in the face of a secret plan to privatize the State Historical Society of Wisconsin.
Debbie Kmetz is her name. She risked her job and lost it, but her soul is intact. Debbie Kmetz is the Wisconsin Idea.
Economic recovery and the sand man cometh
No new private sector jobs in February. None. Period. There were 21,000 new jobs in the public sector.
Iraq? Now 38 percent of those age 16-19 are employed! Almost 50 percent of African Americans between ages 16 and 64 in New York are unemployed. Ask graduating law students how things are going. This is the Bush "recovery." No wonder the top 1 percent need tax breaks.
March 7, 2004
"Fog of War" and propaganda
I just saw "Fog of War" and strongly recommend it, particularly for those old enough to remember McNamara's War and the arrogance of the "whiz kids" who confidently predicted a quick defeat of the peasants. Some 58,000 American deaths and more than 3 million Vietnamese deaths later, this film gives us a glimpse of how it all happened.
Then this morning this headline: "No proof of Saddam, al-Qaida link." No, this did not come from the Kucinich campaign. It is a report from Knight Ridder newspapers. "Nearly a year after US troops invaded Iraq, no evidence has turned up to verify allegations of Saddam's links with al-Quaida...U.S. officials now say there never was any evidence...We could find no provable connection between Saddam and al-Quaida."
Here is what the modern-day McNamara, Dick Cheney, said last January to NPR: "There is overwhelming evidence" of a relationship between Saddam and al-Quaida. Of course there were no weapons of mass destruction, either.
Why are we in Iraq? Fast-forward 30 years and we may see a contrite Cheney trying to explain why someone, other than Cheney, opted to invade Iraq causing thousands of deaths. The fog of war and the fog of propaganda. Ah, other people's money, other parents' sons and daughters.
March 6, 2004
The rant continues
The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel is on a rant. Too refined to demand her head on a stake, nothing short of Peg Lautenschlager's resignation will satisfy them.
The state's largest newspaper has not found a scandal in the Capitol for years, so why not make one up? They are keeping this non-story alive any way they can, and, as the chair of the Republican Party says, they are being helped by Governor Doyle who seems to think the independent attorney general works for him. (Did he think he was working for Tommy all those years? Apparently he does not like Peg's independent streak.)
Spivak & Bice have their shorts in a bundle because Peg drove 20,000 miles with her state owned car and "didn't reimburse the state a dime." So?
Here is the real deal. When DNR wardens and DCI agents have a car, they are free to drive it home without reimbursing the state. Makes sense. When legislators or other state officials drive their own car, they are entitled to be reimbursed 32.5 cents per mile.
The MJS and the Republicans are outraged because she drove the car from Fond du Lac and Madison. Assume she did that 30 times. The distance round trip is 148 miles. That would mean she drove 4,440 miles going to and from work and the balance of 15,560 miles was on official business. So, had she driven her own car, the state would have owed her $5,057 at 32.5 cents per mile. So if Lautenschlager decides to drive her own car in the future to keep Steve Walters, Phil Brinkman, and Spivak & Bice happy, the taxpayers will be paying her thousands of dollars. Ah, the unintended consequences of mob action.
Now MJS's intrepid reporters have not made the connection with the declaration of one's residence to our Assembly speaker, John Gard. He says he is from Peshtigo although he lives in Sun Prairie in Dane County where his kids are in school. So he claims $88 per day instead of the $44 per day Sun Prairie Rep. Tom Hebl gets to drive the five miles to work. In 2002, Gard went to work from Sun Prairie 146 days and collected $12,848 from the taxpayers. In 2003 he went to work 128 days and collected $11,264. And, if he drives to Peshtigo or Green Bay, yup, he is entitled to 32.5 cents per mile. And MJS is upset about 30 trips from Fond du Lac?
Finally, what about the governor, who not only has a car but a driver paid for by the state? When he went to the Kohl center to watch the Badgers with friends, was that a personal visit or was it part of his official duties? Did he reimburse the state for the time his driver sat and waited? If the governor drove himself around he might have less time to sermonize.
March 4, 2004
Gender a factor? No, this is Wisconsin
Pardon me, but our theme, "Is this a private fight or can anyone join in" comes to mind as I watch the daily drubbing of our attorney general by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel and the governor's spokespeople.
The gender issue raised its ugly head when the Green Bay Press Gazette recently covered something other than the Packers. An editorial scolded women office-holders for campaigning on their own time for presidential candidates. Oh, no, not campaigning! What's next? A woman president or governor? That would be rather threatening. Besides, don't they have enough to do with their jobs and driving the kids to soccer practice?
When state Sen. Mike Ellis was arrested for DUI, it was a one- or two-day story. When U.S. Sen. Bob Kasten was arrested for drunk driving in Washington, D.C., while the agriculture bill was being debated on the floor of the Senate, the records were sealed. I'm not making this up. To this day no news organization has been able to review the arrest records. Our crusading Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel? Nope.
Ah, but when a woman office holder is arrested the Sheriff of Dodge County sold copies of the sobriety test for 50 bucks so that all news organizations and potential opponents could attempt to humiliate the attorney general. Is that ethical? To make a profit on this incident? (Actually, Peg seemed to do quite well, but that is beside the point.)
If memory serves, all constitutional officers are provided with state cars. And why not? The president of the UW gets a house, car, staff and all the rest. If a constitutional officer is doing his or her job, he or she is driving all over this state all the time.(Don't forget we have almost no public transportation because the highway boys have a head-lock on the Legislature and the governor. And the mind boggles at Doug La Follette and Peg hitch-hiking.)
Does Jim Doyle have a car and a driver? You betcha. Is there anything wrong with that? Hell no. (His boat is probably smaller than Scott McCallum's.) But, perhaps the Ethics Board should take a peek under the hood--just in case.
So, let's see. Women office holders are not supposed to endorse candidates or speak out against the governor's program, or drive a state car or have any privacy.
Where are we, Toto? It isn't Kansas, but it might be the Wisconsin of the early 1800's. Did we do the right thing when we gave women the right to vote?
March 3, 2004
The primary is over, on to the battle
As one who personally endorsed Dennis Kucinich, admired Dean, sympathized with Gephardt, laughed with Al Sharpton and identified with the progressive message of John Edwards, it is time to congratulate Senator John Kerry and wish him well. He is the nominee.
Edwards will drop out tomorrow and it is time for Sharpton and Kucinich to do the same. They have made a tremendous contribution to the national debate and deserve our thanks.
Barney Frank summed it up. "I've never seen such unity on our side before. It is because of Wolfowitz, Ashcroft, Scalia, Cheney, Rove and Bush."
He's right, but I think it is also because of Dean, Kucinich, Edwards, and Braun.
Here we go!
March 2, 2004
Okay, Peg Lautenschlager made a mistake. She apologized, plead guilty, paid a fine and has now offered to write a check to the state for some $3,200.
Is this enough? Well, the governor is still undecided because "we don't know all the facts." C'mon, Governor. Sack cloth and ashes outside the Cathedral door? A little less sanctimony please.
Good for Vermont
I love Wisconsin but Vermont is a special place. Nice touch for Democrats to vote for Howard Dean yeterday. He deserves their respect. Dean made a real difference and showed that the net might be as powerful as the special interests.
March 1, 2004
Minimal effort for minimum wage
The Governor's Advisory Council on Minimum Wage came out with a report that must have been drafted by Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce.
I'm not making this up. The council suggested a minimum wage for golf caddies of $2.10 per hour for 18 holes, up from $1.18 per hour. Who knew? Only a commission made up of WMC types would worry more about caddies than healthcare workers.
As for the general minimum wage it would climb all the way up to $13,520 per year for a worker who is paid for 40 hours per week, 52 weeks per year. Wow! Thank you, Governor!
The Secretary of Workforce Development, Roberta Gassman, said, "This will be a real stimulus for our local economies." Is she kidding? And Governor Doyle added, "These new wage raises will mean more money in the pockets of our citizens."
Media flunks again
While the Madison CBS affiliate opted not to carry perhaps the most important presidential debate of the season on Sunday so they could carry an interview with the bishop of Madison, C-SPAN finally aired the debate on Monday night. Perhaps Channel 3 editorial director Neil Heinen had a premonition that CBS and the New York Times would so embarrass themselves that a black-out made good business sense.
Dan Rather, who seemed dazed throughout, kept reporting on how much time remained but squeezed in one question: "Q. Senator Edwards. Does Senator Kerry have enough Elvis to beat Bush?" Time to retire, Dan. Elizabeth Bumiller of the New York Times made a fool of herself throughout by demanding yes or no answers to her absurd questions.
Bring back the League of Women Voters, please.
Keep those jobs flowing out!
Unbelievable? No, understandable. The Bush White House defends the outsourcing of white collar jobs from this country. Now, as dozens of bills to protect U.S. jobs have been introduced in state legislatures and in Congress to stem the flow, big business raises its ugly head to stop enactment of any bills that would protect American jobs. Talk about chutzpah.
Guess who is leading the attack. According to the Wall Street Journal, it is the American Bankers Association and the Information Technology Association. Have they no shame? Do they say the Pledge of Allegiance at the banker's board meetings?