April 30, 2004
The giant just grew
We worry about Wal-Mart for good reasons. The Wal-Mart virus is spreading fast. The plan? To monopolize retail trade in our state. They run over local businesses and disregard the environment. But another giant walks our land and it is just as scary as Wal-Mart. It is Journal Communications.
No, you will not hear about this giant from Journal Communications' loyal employees like "Limbaugh-Lite" Charlie Sykes, or read about it from Dan Bice or his fellow gossip columnist Spivak in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Journal Communications owns the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel--we all know that. But they also have 38 radio stations and 6 television stations in 11 states. It owns "our" largest TV station, WTMJ-TV. And Wisconsin's largest AM station, WTMJ, devoted primarily to conservative talk. And Journal Communications owns 90 community newspapers. (Now there is a misnomer. "Community" papers owned by a giant media complex. Community?)
Why mention it now? Journal Communications just announced it is buying Green Bay's channel 26, the NBC affiliate. Journal Communications will impact, if not control, the flow of information in our state's two largest television markets. This is scary stuff. I predict they will then purchase the Wisconsin Gannett holdings which include 13 daily newspapers in our state. Call McChesney! We need help.
Why do we need FightingBob.com? We must keep communications flowing to progressives. You will not read it in the Journal Sentinel, hear it on WTMJ, or see it on Channel 26 in Green Bay. Take that to the bank.
GuestBlog: By Bill Kraus
The book is called Downsizing Democracy. It was written by a couple of Johns Hopkins political science professors named Mathew Henson and Benjamin Ginsburg, and its message and conclusion are appalling.
Once upon a time we were citizens, then we became voters, and now we have sunk to the status of consumers, they say.
Citizens were thought to own government, while customers merely receive services from it. Citizens belong to a political community with a collective existence and public purposes. Customers are individual purchasers seeking to meet their private needs in a market. Customers are not engaged in collective mobilization to achieve collective interests.
Citizens have been demoted to customers; public administration to customer relations.
Citizenship is hard work. So it is easy to do what the president recommended after 9-11: Go shopping, get on with your lives, and hug your children.
If you can get what you want from the government without organizing as citizens, why bother to go to all the trouble that political activism entails?
Read the book. It is a graphic reminder of the aphorism that we get the government we deserve.
How do we like it?
What an anniversary
One year ago, President Bush landed on the USS Lincoln and declared victory in Iraq. Today, the Marines pulled out of Fulluja, handing authority over to generals who fought for dictator Saddam. Yesterday, 10 young marines lost their lives.
April 29, 2004
Mr. Vice President, on-the-record, who was on your energy task force and did the task force discuss Iraq?
Words to live by
Mary Panzer, Republican leader of the state Senate, gave a rambling interview with the Lakeland Times in Minocqua. You have to read it to believe it.
Panzer thinks the Department of Natural Resources should be down-sized and neutered. Read this: "A permit should be vested in the law. It shouldn't be vested by some DNR official on a certain site on a certain day, and it's more their opinion than based on what the law is...you have administrative rules, and then they have these manuals that are not vested anywhere. They're not vested in rules, they're not vested in statutes, they're not anything any elected official ever did."
Don't you wonder what her definition of "vested" is? Perhaps English is not her first language.
April 28, 2004
Great moments in media
I am not making this up. Paula Zahn reported that Colin Powell claimed Al-Jazeera is biased. In fact, Mr. Powell suggested that Al-Jazeera might be fueling Arab hatred for the U.S.
Think about it. It is not "collateral damage," the occupation, or the bombing of Falluja, it is Al-Jazeera. Paula Zahn on CNN asking if Al Jazzera is slanted. Wow. Tomorrow she will really go out on a limb. "Why won't the Arabs watch Fox news?"
Dodd follows tradition
In a wonderful exhibition of Washington insider butt-kissing, Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut praised John Negroponte at his confirmation hearing. Negroponte will become the Ambassador/leader/military advisor--pick the title--in the world's largest embassy: Iraq.
Negroponte, Ambassador to Honduras from 1981 to 1985, carefully covered up the death squad activity of the Honduran military while increasing U.S. funding for it. You really have to wonder if Democrats are required to check their morals at the hearing door. The old song "Smiling Faces" comes to mind as they fall all over themselves to be nice. How about some tough questions, Chris?
Doyle upset with Republican meeting
Governor Jim Doyle expressed outrage that 59 Republican Assemblypersons met in secret in a Madison restaurant. What really upset him is the precedent it might set. What if Democrats now want to meet with the governor? Doyle, who meets frequently with WMC and the Republican leaders, tries to avoid seeing Democrats in a group. Who knows what they might ask?
John Gard, our $88 per day Speaker, defended a secret meeting of 59 Assembly Republicans at an unnamed Madison restaurant, called to discuss the most absurd idea ever floated, TABOR. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel quoted the Don as saying, "This is a family discussion."
What wine was served and who picked up the tab are unanswered questions. Ah, yes, secret meetings called to destroy public education so the Bradley Foundation, Howard Fuller and John Norquist-advanced school voucher plan can become the order of the day.
Gard, in the best My-lai posture, believes he must destroy public education to save it. I never thought I'd miss Tommy.
April 27, 2004
What is Cheney hiding?
It is Alice in Wonderland in Washington as Dick Cheney and his energy pals try to convince the Supreme Court that Cheney is answerable not to the people but to the CEOs of energy companies. He will not tell us who attended his energy task force meetings, what they discussed back in early 2001, whether they planned the invasion of Iraq and seizing of the oil fields, or anything else.
Did they plan on occupying Columbia, the world's 7th largest oil producing country, or agree to roll back the Clean Air and Water Act? Was this where they agreed to dump "new source review" in regulating power plant pollution?
New York Times columnist Paul Krugman puts it well: "What Cheney is defending is a doctrine that makes the U.S. a sort of elected dictatorship." (Actually Paul is too kind. Cheney was not elected, he was appointed.)
C'mon Dick, open the doors and give us a peek inside.
Politics and single women
Please read Arvonne Fraser's important message to Democrats and progressives posted today. Women have lots of issues that go without mention.
Arvonne, in addition to the impressive credentials listed, was a candidate for lieutenant governor in Minnesota, running with George Latimer. They didn't make it, but they had a significant impact on the dialogue in Minnesota. Her husband Don was the congressman from Minneapolis for many years and was later elected mayor of Minneapolis. The Frasers personify the progressive spirit of Bob La Follette, Gene McCarthy and Hubert Humphrey.
April 26, 2004
Bob Fest III
We are delighted to announce the third annual Fighting Bob Fest. We return to the Sauk County fairgrounds in Baraboo on September 18 and we are thrilled to announce that Senator Tom Harkin, our progressive friend from Iowa, will keynote this year.
You can keep track of the progress of our Progressive Chautauqua on www.FightingBobFest.org .
With the Presidential and Senatorial elections just six weeks later, this Bob Fest will focus on our rights.
The theme: "Rights at risk." Civil rights, labor rights, student rights, women's rights, educational rights...you get the message.
It was an exciting day in Washington yesterday as one million women rallied in support of women's reproductive rights. But in addition to concern over the future of Roe v. Wade, women also focused on economic disparity, gender discrimination, and the roll-back of support for EEOC. Read the article from our friend Ellen Bravo, "Adventures in outsourcing," for more details on that.
Congratulations to the one million women who practiced democracy yesterday while scaring the hell out of the White House. This election will be decided by women and they showed that they care.
April 24, 2004
The Church is back (unfortunately)
And we thought that the move of Bishop Burke from La Crosse to St. Louis would permit a rational dialogue on abortion and birth control within the Catholic Church. Too bad, but Bishop Burke was apparently just the first wave of liturgical silliness.
Burke was picking on state Senator Julie Lassa, but now the stakes are higher. Now the Vatican is questioning whether John Kerry, the first Roman Catholic to be the nominee for President in many moons, should be permitted to receive communion. Cardinal Arinze, a high-ranking Vatican Cardinal, according to the New York Times, has determined that Roman Catholic politicians who support abortion "are not fit" to receive communion.
Don't you wonder why the Vatican is not more concerned about a lack of priests, causing consolidation of parishes, not to mention the hundreds of millions of dollars they must raise to cover settlements with victims of sexual abuse? One voice of reason came from Boston's Cardinal McCarrick: "Your goal is to bring them into the faith not push them away." Looks like Kerry better skip communion in St. Louis and stick to Boston.
April 23, 2004
GuestBlog: By Bill Kraus
Remember the number "527."
A 527 is a charitable organization that plays politics. It is also a major loophole in the reforms that were embodied in the McCain-Feingold bill.
McCain and Feingold and most organizations that would like to limit the impact of money on elections want to close the loophole. The 527s, of every persuasion, say that any such limitation is an assault on free speech.
It is a little more complicated than that.
What the 527 loophole allows is people with money and a point of view to enter the rule-ridden world of campaign activity. With a difference. There are rules that govern the candidates and the parties. The contributions they take are limited in kind and amount, and the names of the people who contribute must be disclosed.
But there are no rules for the 527s. They can say what they want, spend what they want, and raise money without disclosing where it comes from.
It is not about free speech after all. It's about fairness.
Politics in Governor's office?
The Attorney General finally placed a bell around the cat's neck in suggesting the dribbling of negative information about her is politically motivated.
Attorney General Lautenschlager declined to name names, so if you want to know call deputy Governor Susan Goodwin or Marc Marotta at the Department of Administration. They do not like having an independent attorney general. Is Marotta first in line to take over the office? Stay tuned.
And the beat goes on
Condi Rice briefs Republicans in Congress but not Democrats about the war until Democrats complain; Pentagon fires a woman who took pictures of flag-draped coffins of American soldiers on an airplane even though under the Freedom Of Information Act the pictures were released by the Pentagon the next day; White House says June 30th date to turn over "sovereignty" is vital but admits that the Iraqi leaders will not be permitted to pass laws or command their own army.
If this is a dream, please wake me. If it is real, let me sleep.
April 22, 2004
Where is the outrage?
No weapons of mass destruction, no link to Osama bin Laden, no purchase from Niger, $111 billion spent thus far and a request today for $4 billion more to get through the 130-degree summer, and 700 dead soldiers. Our ally, President Mubarak of Egypt, says the hatred for America is unprecedented. The other ally, the king of Jordan, cancels his trip. GE and Siemens are pulling out of their deal with the U.S. Supply lines are no longer secure. And our presidenet is off on fund-raising trips.
Woodward writes that Bush and the Saudis have a deal to help re-elect Bush the Younger by lowering oil prices in October. Violence is spreading throughout Iraq and spilling over to Saudi Arabia and the second largest Army in Iraq is composed of mercenaries! Mercenaries. Think about it. Employees owe loyalty to their employers, not the government. Who trains them, selects them, oversees them?
Has Congress gone on holiday? Could we have some leadership beyond the always dependable Ted Kennedy and Robert Byrd? Hello out there.
Bring back the Legislature
Without idiotic pieces of legislation drafted by WMC flying around the Capitol, the press corps and the Doyleites are proving the old adage oft-repeated by my fifth grade nun: "An idle mind is the devil's workshop."
While deputy Gov. Susan Goodwin and Marc Marotta from DOA dribble information out to further embarrass Peg Lautenschlager, word on the street is "get a life."
Now Goodwin is upset for two reasons. First, the top law enforcement official in the state got her state car washed and apparently had the oil changed. Second, and I'm not making this up, Peg's policeman husband drove four blocks to the car wash and back. Expect this hot tip back-doored to the WSJ and MJS--she may have used high-test gasoline instead of regular. And, on occasion, a family member sat in the back seat eating fast food.
And you wonder why good people do not run for office? See Deputy Goodwin. Bring back the Legislature.
April 21, 2004
Back to our Sun Prairie-residing Speaker of the Assembly who, you will recall, gets $88 per day because his home district is Peshtigo. His fellow Assembly people who live in Dane County, as he does, get $44 per day. Now, why any of them get anything for driving to work is a mystery beyond the reach of the State Journal, but there you have it.
So, how do John Gard's constituents feel about him? Well, he raised a lot of money last year from individuals who wrote checks for $100 or more. It came to $248,925 altogether and some of that, 2.1 percent, came from his district. Yup, $4,955, or the equivalent of 56 days of his $88 per diem.
Two questions: How many of the out-of-district hundred dollar contributors could tell you where Peshtigo is on a map? And why do you suppose John Gard sabotaged campaign finance reform?
More good news about Wal-Mart
The Rice Lake City Council rejected annexation of land that would have permitted Wal-Mart to build a 195,000-square foot Supercenter. Citizen protesters won another battle but don't worry. Wal-Mart doesn't take no for an answer. Expect Wal-Mart to purchase Wisconsin and get rid of the Rice Lake Council.
Quote of the year?
Paul L. Bremer, our man in Iraq said "Iraqi forces are ill-prepared to take over on June 30." Wanna bet who is on the first flight out of Baghdad on July 1?
April 20, 2004
Why did they let him write the book?
When you listen to Bob Woodward, you get the picture of a depressed and out-of-the-loop Colin Powell; a vice president who seems in the loop but out of control; a religious fanatic of a president rejecting advice from "father Bush" for the real "Father"(you know, the One up There) and a bumbling idiot of a CIA director who says finding WMD will be a "slam dunk."
Besides all that, there is an oil deal with Saudi Arabia to reduce gasoline prices just before the presidential election so long as they finally get rid of Sadaam. And, to top it off, bald-faced lies by Bush to the American people. Woodward paints a very scary picture. And he has tapes to hold over the heads of any who would now deny their statements.
So, lunch at the Main Depot for anyone who can explain to me why the Bushies would permit Woodward to write this book. If it does not make sense, maybe there is a very clever plot to be uncovered.
April 19, 2004
MJS on top of the news
Ralph Huitt taught political science years ago and few captured the problems facing government or those who comment on government better than Ralph. He opined that the defense budget was too big to contemplate so it usually passed without much debate. But, he said, try to pass a bill authorizing payment of a general's moving expenses from Chicago to New York, and you would have hours of debate because they could wrap their minds around something like that.
And so it has always been with the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. They used to stake out Charlie Smith's house to see if he mowed his grass on state time. I'm not making this up.
While our soldiers are in harm's way half a world away, the scandal of fund raising goes on unabated all over Wisconsin, and racism in Milwaukee is featured in the New York Times, leave it to MJS to get on a hot topic.
Question: Guess how much the DNR spent on cars in 2002 while Scott McCallum was governor? Answer: Who cares? Q: How are voucher schools doing in terms of raising test scores or admitting special needs children? Answer: We don't care. Question: What happened to the threat to arrest parents of truants? Answer: That would require investigative journalism.
Bring back the Sentinel.
Thieves in high places
Thieves in High Places is the name of Jim Hightower's most recent book and it should be read with Bob Woodward's expose of the secret Bush plans to attack Iraq. Woodward says the Saudis were told before Colin Powell. And he confirms Richard Clarke's testimony that W. was fixated on Iraq, not terrorism.
Turns out Bush was Mr. Cool compared to Cheney who, according to Powell, was in "a fever to invade Iraq."
I guess we can be thankful the Cuban missile crisis did not occur on the Bush/Cheney watch. As for George Tennant, who said it is a "slam dunk" that we would find WMD in Iraq, he should just resign and go to work for Blackwater, Inc., in North Carolina.
What are these thieves stealing? In April alone, we have lost 99 young soldiers and hundreds more have suffered life-altering injuries. How many children, mothers, fathers, grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends and lovers have had their lives damaged by "the fever" of Cheney? Does he care?
April 18, 2004
Students hit the street
On a beautiful Saturday morning, more than 200 people, mostly UW students, gathered at the Capitol, listened to a speech or two, heard some good music from the "Raging Grannies," and then set out to drop literature at thousands of homes. The message? Tighten restrictions on mercury; keep the Clean Air Act; give us a Public Intervenor.
It was a good start to a week of national Earth Day celebrations. A day started by our own Gaylord Nelson. As bad as things seem, the enthusiasm of youth gives hope for tomorrow.
NRA does not disappoint
On Friday we suggested you should watch this weekend's National Rifle Association convention in Pittsburgh. The first vice president of NRA said, and I'm not kidding, "I thank God they [soldiers] serve under a commander-in-chief who has vowed he will never beg for a permission slip from anybody to defend America." And here come the words to remember: "I'd rather fight the battles in the streets of Baghdad than in the streets of Pittsburgh." Whoa Nelly!
I guess this person echoes her God-given commander-in-chief, who preferred to fight the Vietnam War in the streets of Birmingham than in the streets of Saigon.
April 16, 2004
GuestBlog: By Bill Kraus
You can say what you want to about legislative leaders, but you can't call them dumb.
When the Watergate reforms spawned Political Action Committees (PACs) and threatened to shift the power away from the legislative leaders to the PACs and their money, the legislative leaders invented legislative campaign committees and redirected the PAC money to those coffers that they controlled.
When independent campaigns and phony issue ads raised the ticket on competitive races to never-heard-of levels, the legislative leaders slowly, surely, and quietly redistricted the Legislature to reduce the number of high-cost competitive races to a manageable and affordable few.
Did they intend to produce a Legislature full of invincible incumbents where only 10 percent of the races in any election are truly competitive? Probably not. But that is what we have.
What we need now is a Supreme Court decision making the law of unintended consequences unconstitutional, because it is playing havoc with our so-called democracy.
NRA is watching over you
The National Rifle Association meets in Pittsburgh over the weekend, and they are worried about President Bush because he might agree to ban uzis and AK-47s.
If we do that, what will we use to hunt rabbits and squirrels? Please President Bush, keep these weapons in the hands of terrorists. They have Second Amendment rights too, ya know.
Jobs, jobs, jobs
Every time I see a 30-second spot heralding the economic plans of President Bush, I ask myself, "What is he reading?" Almost 3 million jobs have been lost since he was sworn in, and last week jobless claims soared by another 30,000. While the experts tell us not to get too upset, news of 360,000 new unemployment claims does not sound to me like a reason to break out the good stuff.
But, what do I know? He seems to have a well thought-out plan for Iraq, so maybe the economy is just great, too.
April 15, 2004
Death toll continues
Can we ignore more than 90 soldiers killed in April with 800 seriously injured while a thousand or so civilian non-combatants have died? Do we just go to work? Can we ignore the angst and the sorrow of the families of soldiers who learned today they will have their stays extended by 90 days--for now? When do we get angry about this catastrophe?
How will you explain to your grandchildren and children that you remained silent?
If we were writing a novel about a president like G.W. Bush, we would rent "Being There" with Peter Sellers for ideas. Then we would have our character appointed by the Supreme Court and remain at his ranch for the month of August without meeting with the head of the CIA despite warnings that a terrorist organization would attack the United States on its own soil. We would have him respond to the assault by invading Iraq. We would quote one official saying that attacking Iraq because of bin Laden would be like FDR invading Mexico after Pearl Harbor.
Then, as the Arab world is filled with anti-American publicity, our fictional president would reverse long-standing American policy in the Middle East by signing an agreement with the militant prime minister of Israel backing Israeli West Bank settlements. On the same day, we would bring a delegation of Shitte clerics to Iraq from Iran to negotiate with a militant young cleric, thus increasing the fear among Sunis that the end result of American occupation will be a Shitte theocracy.
No one would read this novel because it would not be believable.
April 13, 2004
He is the president. Really.
Watching for 60 minutes while W. sermonized and then harmonized with the stiffs in the front row trying to pass as journalists, I had this awful feeling that the rest of the world is laughing at us. Last Saturday, in a talk at the Orpheum in Madison, FightingBob.com contributing editor Bob McChesney said we have no longer have any journalists in the United States, and Tuesday night they proved him right. (I even miss Sam Donaldson!)
How about an obvious one that was not asked? "Mr. President, you will turn over "sovereignty" on June 30. If the new government asks the U.S. to leave immediately, will you? If not, what is your definition of sovereignty?" Or, how about, "Mr. President, we know there are no WMDs, no biological, nuclear or chemical weapons. Have heads rolled for giving you that false information?" "Mr. President, if the Shiites establish a theocracy on July 1, is that okay with you?"
What galls me more than anything else is the obviousness that those he called on to ask questions had cleared their questions in advance. No danger of someone from The Nation magazine asking a question, that's for sure.
McChesney is right. There are few journalists in Washington and are never any at presidential news confererences.
Life is unfair
JFK said life is unfair, and the Bush administration is proving it every day they keep National Guardsmen in Iraq. These folks do not deserve to pay for the outrageous decision-making that led to the invasion or Rumsfeld's refusal to take responsibility for having the smallest army since pre-WW II days. The National Guard is not really ready for combat and military police duty in a country that wants us to leave.
But now our leading hawk, Sen. John McCain, says that if only Rumsfeld had listened to him months ago, we would have sufficient troops in Vietnam, oops! Iraq. Well, Senator, had you listened to the United Nations and the majority of the American people, you would not have supported the irresponsible, indeed, reckless invasion of Iraq in the first place. It was based on cooked intelligence and there was no exit strategy. Even the first Bush knew about that problem.
So, bring the National Guard troops home now. Yes, life is unfair, but this is ridiculous. If you need more regular Army troops, get them from Europe. What are they doing there anyway?
April 11, 2004
Don't mess with our growth industry
The first person to coin the phrase "prison-industrial complex," playing off Ike's warning of the military industrial complex, was Jesse Jackson. Frankly, I thought it was a bit of a stretch at the time, but no longer. ALEC has been pushing for more prisons, longer sentences, more crimes in the statute books and, with the help of then-Governor Tommy Thompson and Attorney General Jim Doyle, Wisconsin led the nation in prison building while the Legislature created what seemed like a new crime every week.
New prisons in Boscobel, Red Granite, a private-turned-public one in Stanley, and more on the drawing boards. Why? Try the justification for every new project put forward from tax breaks for the corporations to new Wal-Marts--JOBS.
Sunday, Phil Brinkman reported in the Wisconsin State Journal that the special committee created to estimate the cost of our prison-industrial complex has yet to meet. Greg Huber, an Assemblyman from Wausau who is soon to be Judge Huber, said the addition of crime and punishment, "Long term, will result in a criminal code that is going to be out of whack as to some of the sentencing and some of the crimes created."
And, wouldn't ya know, Sen. Mary Panzer wants to kill the committee altogether. Know why? Sensible policies would reduce the number of inmates and prison jobs might be lost. Well, Mary, just wait until the full force of so-called Truth in Sentencing kicks in requiring the termination of parole and requiring all offenders to serve their full sentences.
The "truth" that is missing from Truth in Sentencing is the cost of incarceration to taxpayers. Why must we raise tuition? Prisons. Why can't we afford to pay teachers a good wage? Prisons. Why do we have a structural deficit? Prisons.
Hey! Wake up out there. We are going broke on the back of retribution, legislative posturing, and lack of vision from the governor.
April 10, 2004
What was that again? Historical or hysterical?
Condoleezza Rice testified under oath that the August 6 presidential briefing paper was "historical" and was not enough to warrant action.
Turns out this highly classified document contradicts her testimony. The briefing informed the president that supporters of Osama bin Laden planned to hijack airplanes and use explosives. I don't know about you but that doesn't fit my definition of "historical." No wonder she filibustered whenever she was asked a question by the Democrats on the panel.
Now the White House will declassify the document thanks to the Republican Chair of the 9-11 panel and questions from Richard Ben-Vineste. The Bush administration tried to destroy Richard Clarke with personal attacks. Finally, when that did not work, they sent Rice to testify to bolster the president. That didn't work either, so the truth might actually seep out.
Next thing you know, we might learn why cabinet officers stopped flying on commercial planes in the summer of 2001.
April 9, 2004
GuestBlog: By Bill Kraus
In a recent speech in Madison, former Governor Lee Dreyfus talked about his Republican Party being hijacked. A couple of weeks ago, when he announced his retirement from the Legislature, DuWayne Johnsrud elaborated on the phenomenon.
He said part of the reason he is retiring is the pandering to right-wing zealots that he says the Republican Party too often does in the state Legislature. "I just think we can win and keep the majority by being moderate and more of a centrist party than caterwaulin' with some of these right-wing zealots that are in the Capitol," Johnsrud said.
Johnsrud says he is a "relic" in the Republican Party because he is a progressive. And he says a prime example of the extreme right controlling the Republican agenda is on the constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. "I don't think that issue rises to the level of changing our state Constitution or our national Constitution," Johnsrud added
"I get a kick out of listening to Republicans pontificating about how they believe in personal freedoms and then turn around and kick the crap out of a minority called gays."
Johnsrud says he does not suffer fools gladly and tired of the grind with all the "bovine crapola" around the Capitol. “I'm a relic as a Republican.”
The question that Lee and DuWayne are raising without asking it directly is: “Where does a moderate go to register?”
Writes Jeffrey Gettleman in the New York Times: "When the U.S. arrived in Iraq a year ago, one of its chief concerns was preventing a civil war between Shiite Muslims, and Sunni Muslims. Now the fear is that the growing uprising against the occupation is forging a new and previously unheard of level of cooperation between the two groups--the common cause is killing Americans."
Bulgarian troops needed reinforcement; Ukrainian troops retreated; American supply lines are threatened; the U.S. has lost control of Baghdad where the American trained Iraqi police are either refusing to join the fight or joining the insurgents.
General Zinni, in discussing the American siege of Falluja, said, "It's a messy, casualty-generating business." How will those words help us when broadcast on Arab television? Americans have dropped laser-guided bombs on houses in Falluja while 18 Marines have died in the last few days.
A Marine general said, "We are winning every firefight we engage in there." No kidding. The question is not firepower and the might of the American armed forces, it is what will happen next week, next month, and on June 30 if millions join the insurgency?
This is a disaster, plain and simple. Republican Senator Kyle of Arizona warned us not to oppose the war. Sure, Senator. Any other bright ideas? Are your kids over there?
While listening to Condoleezza Rice I'm reminded of the old saying, "It is not that they lie. It is, rather, that they have such a high regard for the truth they use it sparingly."
If this is the best the Bush administration can put forward, and she is, they are in real trouble. She filibustered every question by Democratic panel members while quickly answering in one or two sentences the friendly questions from the Republican members. It was obvious those questions had been shared with her in advance.
David Sanger of the New York Times got it right. "In the hours after she returned to the White House, it was evident that she had not defused the arguments...there was the lingering question of whether anyone in the Bush White House is capable of admitting error." Instead, like her boss, she pointed fingers at everyone else: Clinton, Clarke, FBI, CIA, but not her boss, or Cheney, or Wolfowitz or Rumsfeld. Historians will not be so kind.
Harry Truman had a sign on his desk: "The Buck Stops Here." JFK took the blame for the Bay of Pigs. Richard Clarke admitted his failure. George Bush says, "Who. Me?"
Everyone except the Commander-in-Chief was at fault. No one asked, "So, Dr. Rice, how's it going in Iraq?"
April 8, 2004
Foggy and scary
A year of occupation in Iraq has placed this country in the most dangerous position in our history. Certainly since Pearl Harbor. We are not only in danger of losing control of Iraq, think what will happen if anti-Americanism spreads its violence to Saudi Arabia. As the death toll of our young soldiers climbs to 625 with thousands more injured for life, not to mention the death of countless civilians called "collateral damage," things are not going well, to put it mildly.
How do we get out? No one is stepping forward other than Bush, who acts like a terrified child. Bush keeps giving us the Texas tough-guy nonsense. The act is not selling to those of us who remember him landing on the USS Lincoln to announce that the war was over.
The "Coalition of the Willing." Remember that? Now we are into "pacifying" cities. Remember McNamara? Go see "Fog of War" for a refresher.
Ah, sweet mysteries of life
The insiders cannot figure out why well-funded David Halbrooks lost to under-funded Valarie Hill for Milwaukee Municipal Judge.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel columnists Spivak & Bice are perplexed because uber-consultant Bill Christofferson of Norquist, Kohl and Doyle notoriety handled the Halbrooks campaign. Halbrooks spent more than $200,000 while Hill spent only $34,000. Besides, write S&B, Halbooks had the endorsement of notoriously conservative Milwaukee Police, not to mention the Firefighters.
The envelope please. The reason? Easy, the Shepherd Express endorsed Hill, and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel endorsed Halbrooks. There seems to be a pattern. MJS endorsed Claude Krawczyk, the Shepherd endorsed Bob Bauman for the Common Council. Bauman won.
MJS endorsed incumbent Court of Appeals judge Charles Schudson, the Shepherd endorsed Joan Kessler. Kessler won a squeaker. MJS gave a luke-warm endorsement of Barrett, the Shepherd gave a strong one.
Ah, the mystery is solved. Candidates in the future will line up outside the Shepherd Express and forget all about MJS. Spivak & Bice concluded, "Folks in Halbrooks' camp haven't figured out how they lost a race that was theirs for the taking."
We figured it out.
April 7, 2004
Mixed night for Wal-Mart
True, Wal-Mart won City Council races in Stoughton that may have paved the way for what they call a "super" center. You know the ones: They come in, lights on 24/7, campers in the parking lot, small businesses in bankruptcy. This virus is spreading throughout the state of Wisconsin and, indeed, the U.S. The battle is just beginning. But in other races, progressives did well.
The mayoral race in Beaver Dam turned, in part, on the secretive dealings between the incumbent mayor and Wal-Mart's operatives. Long-time mayor Tom Olson was defeated and the Citizens for Open Government (COG) were elated. (Full disclosure: I represent the COG.)
The Wisconsin State Journal web page covered the Stoughton victory but ignored Beaver Dam. The tag line at the end? "Related Advertising Links": Wal-Mart Garden, www.Walmart.com; and BumperTalkStickers your one-stop shop for Elections 2004 (and more!) (Their emphasis not mine). When you go to the bumber sticker site you can buy clever stuff such as "VOTE DEMOCRAT, IT'S EASIER THAN THINKING" and, "VOTE REPUBLICAN, IT'S LESS TAXING."
Shows I'm naive. I thought corporations stayed out of politics. Yah sure Ole, Uff-da.
After Tuesday's elections, Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk finally has a progressive majority to work with.
Now the bickering can stop. Smart growth and careful planning could replace planning by developers. A cap on Wal-Mart? Who knows?
Riemer to the rescue
Yes, David Riemer lost to well-financed incumbent Scott Walker. But he ran a good issue-based campaign and exposed Walker's anti-government plan. While Riemer didn't win, without his campaign, Walker would have coasted in without saying anything.
On second thought, Walker saying nothing would have been preferable to his gutting of social services, public transportation and parks.
That old McCallum magic
In an odd move, former governor Scott McCallum appeared at a Marvin Pratt fundraiser just before the Milwaukee Mayoral race. No one had heard from McCallum since he lost a squeaker to Jim Doyle. Speculation ran the gamut. Was he banished by the Republican Party? Planning a comeback?
In any event, at the time of his reappearance, the Monopoly on the Lake, a/k/a the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, said Pratt was in a dead-heat with Tom Barrett. Something happened and Barrett won with an impressive 54 percent of the vote. Let's call it the McCallum/Farrow factor.
April 6, 2004
While we have fewer and fewer choices for the House of Representatives, the U.S. Senate, governor or even Circuit Court judges, we have lots of people and causes to chose from in local elections where the big money is usually not as much of a factor.
In Stoughton, the voters will go with Wal-Mart or re-elect those who believe in smart growth. Beaver Dam voters will elect a mayor and that race could be determined by Wal-Mart as well.
School board races, mayoral contests, and some county executive races are up for grabs.
Milwaukee, our largest city, deserves the most attention. John Norquist hollered "MAY DAY" and quit early, giving Marvin Pratt a running start to become the next mayor. He would be Milwaukee's first African American mayor and that has grabbed headlines. Tom Barrett, no stranger to Milwaukee, is in a tight race with Pratt.
We will have fun analyzing the results. Whatever you are doing today, get to the polls. There is no excuse for not voting.
Worse than Watergate
Now comes John Dean, former Nixon counsel who blew the whistle on the Watergate lies, with a new book, Worse than Watergate. It is a scathing attack on the Bush White House and their obsession with secrecy, and it is very revealing.
Dean points out that no one died in Watergate, but Bush led us into Iraq under false pretenses. Many have died as a result. That is impeachable, says Dean.
Get the book.
April 4, 2004
The most interesting fact of all regarding the 9-11 Commission hearings is that the Bushies refused to turn over 11,000 pages of secret documents prepared by the Clinton people.
The excuses for the exclusions were laughable. ("Duplicative," intoned the White House press secretary.)
Would these documents show that Richard Clarke is right on the money and that the old cold-warrior types such as Rice, Wolfowitz, Cheney and Rumsfeld still had their gaze fixed on the Soviets? Star Wars, not al Qaeda? Looks like it.
I suspect another reason was also in play. The Bush ideologues hated Clinton with all their might. They could not accept that his administration had done anything right. After all, he had sinned.
Well Easter is coming, the panel will now see the Clinton papers and...the envelope please!
Disgruntled Republicans or trouble-makers?
The New York Times, quoting from the Center for Public Integrity, reports that 11 people who had previously given to G.W. Bush have also been quite generous to Ralph Nader's campaign.
Some refused to answer questions about their motives, some claimed they were old friends. And some are downright suspicious. Like Jeno Paulucci, the pizza king originally from Minnesota, who has given $70,000 to Bush and the Republican Party over the past few years. He gave Ralph $2,000. I'll buy lunch for everybody if Jeno endorses Nader for president.
So, what are we to make of all this? We have published articles in support of the Nader run and we have had some critical comments. What is your view? Will Ralph Nader pull votes from Bush or will he help elect Bush?
Send in your comments. We would love to publish them.
April 2, 2004
Who's in charge here?
I try to follow current events, read lots of articles, and yet I had no idea that we have more mercenaries in Iraq than the British have soldiers. Who among us had heard of Blackwater USA until four of these soldiers-for-hire were brutally killed and maimed? Who knew the Bushies gave Blackwater a $21 million no-bid contract to perform tasks one would assume the military would do?
Yes, these mercenaries protect L. Paul Bremer, the current ruler of Iraq.
Does this mean Ruler Bremer does not trust the Marines, Army or National Guard to protect his life? If so, let's get our young soldiers out of there.
Who knew a North Carolina company was convincing top U.S. military officials to leave the Army to join Blackwater with signing bonuses of up to $200,000? Could anyone believe that our government was indirectly paying mercenaries more than we pay our soldiers? And are they bound by any rules? Could they simply up and leave? If the Bin Laden family pays the mercenaries more than Blackwater, is there anything we could do if they switched sides?
These questions are mine, but the New York Times provides the background.
What the hell is going on?
GuestBlog: By Bill Kraus
This proposal is not an April fool's day joke, although the presidential campaign that inspired it is flirting with that characterization: Let's ban campaign commercials.
What is becoming increasingly obvious is that 30-second political television advertising is as dangerous to our democratic health as banned 30-second cigarette and hard liquor commercials are presumed to be to our physical well being.
So why not simply ban the former as well?
Well, there is the money for one thing. Political advertising, which used to be a nuisance to television broadcasters, is now an economic necessity. No political TV = no profits.
The other thing, of course, is that the destructive campaigning of the last half century (remember when it was possible to like Ike without abhorring Adlai?) has driven so many people away from what was once an honorable trade practiced by remarkable people, that the only way to find and persuade voters is with the kind of fast, slick advertising that was invented to sell colas and beers rather than ideas and leaders.
If political commercials were banned, is it possible that the politicians could get their good names back and the moderate-middle voters who used to decide elections would become political again?
It is worth a try.
April 1, 2004
Bad day for Eau Claire
Eau Claire, a gem of a city, has received another blow to the body. Milwaukee-based Rockwell International announced the closing of its Eau Claire plant. A total of 115 jobs will be eliminated and, without explanation, Rockwell said it would "move the work to other facilities." China, Mexico, Bangladesh? Why not tell us?
On top of that grim news, Mattel announced the closing of the Eau Claire American Girl call center and the elimination of 165 jobs.
Makes you wonder what Bush was talking about in Appleton when he said his economic plan was working--while his aides continue to argue that "outsourcing" is good for America. Tell that to the 275 working families in Eau Claire.