July 30, 2004
GuestBlog: By Bill Kraus
Scuttling a shibboleth
In her remarks at the press conference where she postponed TABOR (not buried it) Mary Panzer said that Wisconsin ranks 22nd in personal income per capital and 7th in state and local taxes paid per capital. Mary believes this. No one in the press corps questioned this. So it must be true. Kinda.
There are complications in any state-to-state comparisons, because there is no way to incorporate things like how much federal money we get (very little), how we mix and match tuitions and financial aids in higher education, who has and has not toll roads, and, most importantly, whether or not the states being compared pay public costs disproportionately from taxes instead of fees as Wisconsin does.
If the fiscal implications of low fees were factored in, the 22/7 ratio would become 22/15. This would not satisfy the taxophobes, but it would recognize the true reality. We are a high tax state, and the main reasons are that we have traditionally been a high service state whose citizens have always been willing to pay the bills for superior education at all levels. A 22/15 ratio is who we are.
TABOR will come back. But when it does it should not be under the false pretenses of 22/7. A more relevant debate and better discussion can then be about whether or not we in Wisconsin are still what we always were.
Governor Doyle successfully completed the move to replace Nino Amato with political ally Brent Smith as chair of the Wisconsin Technical College System Board. That position carries with it a seat on the UW Board of Regents where Nino is apparently being punished for blowing the whistle on the regents' closed conferences to raise executive salaries. AG Peg Lautenschlager ruled that the regents violated the state's open meetings law.
Had the governor simply announced that Amato was a Thompson appointment and it is his turn to appoint or annoint allies, it would have gone down better. But it became obvious that the Doyle-Goodwin effort came as punishment for blowing the whistle. Not a good example for others who witness illegal conduct.
As John Kerry might say, "We can do better."
July 29, 2004
No TABOR for now
In what can only be described as a circus, Mary Panzer, leader of the Senate and John Gard, speaker of the Assembly, played "chicken" on our dime. In order to blunt criticism of her sensible refusal to pass the so-called Taxpayer Bill of Rights, leveled by her extremist primary opponent, Panzer rushed to Madison and called a special session to pass TABOR.
Unfortunately for TABOR, no one knew what was in the proposal. Sensible Republicans such as Lee Dreyfus and Mike Ellis said that what is needed is "not an amendment but legislators with backbone." And, perhaps, some common sense.
Gard challenged Panzer to have the Senate vote first; Panzer responded "apres vous Gaston," legislators flew back from all over the country, a quicky hearing was held, and then they all went home.
As Dave Barry would say, "I'm not making this up." Here is a sentence from Panzer's news release: "I am personally disappointed for the taxpayers of this state that the issue of taxpayer relief was not given the urgency it deserves by the full Legislature." (She means the Assembly.)
When they air conditioned the Capitol, many thought that it would improve performance. They were wrong.
Don't forget Afghanistan
With so much attention focused on Iraq at the Democratic National Convention and in the media in general, it is easy to forget that we also occupy Afghanistan.
So, how is that occupation going? A disturbing hint comes from Doctors Without Borders. The organization won the Nobel Prize and has been operating within Afghanistan for 24 years, but they have now decided to pull out of Afghanistan for two reasons, according to the New York Times: President Karzai will not prosecute those who killed five unarmed aid workers; and the organization no longer feels safe.
The second reason comes home to us. Doctors stated that the American-led coalition forces have confused their military role with the role of relief workers. For example, in May the American military gave leaflets "warning that villagers who do not supply information about militants would lose assistance." The military subsequently apologized.
And this is the war almost everyone supported. Who is in charge?
July 28, 2004
TABOR & RWAC
We have dubbed the pro-TABOR crowd Republicans Without A Clue, or RWACs. As if proof of the new acronym were needed, Mary Panzer and John Gard have now challenged one another to go first.
Think about it. A constitutional amendment that was not in draft form to be debated and voted upon within 48 hours? This is perhaps the lowest point in the history of the Wisconsin Legislature.
Too late to draft him?
I have just watched one of the great speeches delivered in my lifetime. I recall Mario Cuomo at the Democratic Convention with his city on the hill; I've listened to Jesse Jackson weave his magic and Bobby Kennedy, JFK and Martin Luther King. Barak Obama's keynote speech Tuesday night belongs in that grouping.
This was a speech to inspire a generation. If you didn't see it, get the tape.
July 27, 2004
Meanwhile, back in Madison
It is quite remarkable that our state with the tradition of thoughtful leaders like Robert and Phil La Follette, John Bascom, Fred Harvey Harrington, Gaylord Nelson, Warren Knowles, and yes, even Tommy Thompson, would tolerate the nonsense going on in Madison right now. The fact is a right-winger has challenged Mary Panzer because the Republican-dominated Legislature has not passed the irresponsible and nutty Taxpayers Bill of Rights.
Answer? Panzer and Sun Prairie's "second Assemblyman" John Gard have called on Democrats to return home from the Democratic convention to quickly vote on a constitutional amendment that has not yet been drafted! I rarely use exclamation marks, but this circus deserves at least one.
There have been no debates, citizens have no idea how this reckless amendment would alter their lives, and the leaders of the effort make Jimmy Carter's point about "extremism." This extreme measure pushed by the Bradley Foundation, Charlie Sykes, and the far right of the Republican Party makes no sense. But even if it made perfect sense, to pass an amendment to our constition in 48 hours is outrageous.
I suggest Panzer simply announce her support, get back to her primary, and wait until January. Not one person has ever said to me, "Boy, we sure need TABOR and we need it now."
Maureen Dowd was the one who dubbed W. "oddly un-curious," and perhaps the best line of the evening as Democrats flooded Boston for the convention was Bill Clinton's compliment of John Kerry's searching mind. And Hillary had a good line that Kerry "will lead the world not alienate it."
I enjoyed Jimmy Carter most as he attacked "extremism" in the White House. This country under Bush has "allienated its allies, dismayed its friends, and gratified its enemies." And for the most memorable line of the evening, "We cannot lead if our leaders mislead."
It was such a good night that Tucker Carlson seemed in a lather on CNN. He kept trying to put the Democrats on the defensive but seemed over-caffinated. Perhaps the burden of a PBS program has him stressed out.
Tammy Baldwin did us proud in her speech devoted to health care. And she was right on target. Small business cannot afford the cost of health care. Well done, Tammy.
July 26, 2004
Don't take him out to the ball game
For unknown reasons, someone--clearly a non-sports fan--in the Kerry campaign decided it would be wonderful to have the Senator throw out the first ball at the Red Sox-Yankee game. Yikes! Everyone knows sports fans will always boo a politician and, true to form, they did. Can you hear the 30-second spot? Stay away from the ball park! Please.
Instead, listen with pride as Tammy Baldwin speaks on national television about health care.
July 25, 2004
Money money money
Matt Flynn, a partner in one of the state's largest law firms, Quarles & Brady, has raised half a million dollars in his race to succeed Jerry Kleczka in Congress.
Fifty-seven lawyers in his firm have contributed to his campaign, but, in reality, all lawyers in the firm have contributed to Flynn if he is continuing to draw full pay while campaigning. How should that contribution be listed?
Oh my gosh! Is it possible Glenn Grothman could beat Mary Panzer? Apparently Panzer thinks so. Rather than stand on principle, Panzer has gone into full panic and decided that the loopy TABOR notion (Taxpayer Bill of Rights) must be voted on immediately. Senate minority leader Jon Erpenbach called it a "Hail Mary" play.
Whatever happened to profiles in courage?
Count all the votes. Please.
A must-read is our latest posting, "Democracy bitten by the buggy ballot" by Chris Wren. It is time for all of us to do some homework, and it is almost too late.
Wren gives you an essential outline of where to look. Meanwhile, the media is, predictably, trying to tune out failures in Iraq and Afghanistan by focusing on how close the race is, how boring Kerry is, how Sandy Berger took documents when the primary issue is whether we can hold an honest election.
Recall how confident Bush was that all networks were wrong about Florida four years ago and how confident Ted Olsen and James Baker were that the Supremes would annoint George W. Bush and then get out your worry beads.
We need a paper trail of all votes. Period.
July 24, 2004
Antitrust laws gone?
A small article on Friday afternoon announced that the good citizens of Green Bay still have two newspapers but that Gannett now owns them both. The Chicago Tribune headline: "Green Bay Papers battle ends: Owner sells to Gannett."
For those outside Green Bay, the Green Bay News-Chronicle was mainstream or even liberal compared with the right-wing Green Bay-Press Gazette. Eleven other publications went to Gannett in this deal, including the Door County Advocate. The owner said, "I'm pleased our employees will have a chance to become part of a larger organization." Yah, sure Ole.
Where will the employees go when Gannett decides Green Bay needs only one paper and fewer reporters? Gannett now assigns one reporter to cover a story for all Gannett papers. This makes bottom-line common sense but knocks hell out of diversity of views. And, as we have written before, the editorials often appear verbatim in several Gannett papers. Bye bye, local angle.
Gannett owns 101 daily papers nationally and 10 in Wisconsin. Journal Communications, owner of 90 community papers, 38 radio stations, 6 TV stations, is the only publisher in the same ballpark. (The Journal recently bought WGBA-TV in Green Bay and control of WACY-TV in Green Bay and Appleton.)
What happens when Gannett sells to Journal Communications? You guessed it. Where are the antitrust laws? Would it bother the U.S. Attorney General if we end up with two newspapers, three TV stations, and a couple of Clear Channel-Journal Communications radio stations?
How about a Wal-Mart-Gannett-Journal Communications merger? That's an idea that is probably floating out there somewhere.
July 23, 2004
GuestBlog: By Bill Kraus
Mary Panzer has a problem
But maybe it is an opportunity. If the single issue(s) right wing of the Republican Party succeeds in beating Panzer, who is hardly a liberal Republican, in a primary, the blame will lie not with that wing of the party, not with Mary Panzer, but with the alienated "stay at home" moderate Republicans and Republican-leaning independents.
If they, instead of staying at home, realize that at long last they have a chance to make both a statement and a difference in voting in a legislative primary (an arena dominated by invincible incumbents), this action could revitalize the homeless middlers and the party itself.
I confess that I am at a loss to explain why less than half of the eligible voters vote in general elections and an overwhelming majority take a pass on primary elections.
So this is more a hope than a prediction. The non-voters can win this election.
Are they mad yet? We will find out in September.
Jobs, jobs, jobs
New York Times columnist Bob Herbert informs us of a study issued by the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern university. From 2001 through the first four months of this year, "all of the job growth in the employed population in the U.S. can be attributed to recently arrived immigrants." That is correct--all new employment. More than 2 million new low-end jobs for new immigrants, but a loss of 1.3 million for citzens and longer-term immigrants.
I can hardly wait for the spin on this report from the Bush folks.
Who needs writers?
Mark Russell commented during Watergate that he did not require a comedy writer. All he did was "rip and read" from the news wire services. "How can you improve on 'your president is not a crook'"?
With Russell in mind, read how the Pentagon is belatedly trying to protect Rumsfeld on the Abu Ghraib prison scandal. The NY Times reports, "A new Army report concludes that military detention operations in Iraq and Iran suffered from poor training, haphazard organization and outmoded policies but those flaws did not directly contribute to the abuses at Abu Ghraib." I am not making this up.
Question: How did the dogs get into the prison, not to mention the cameras? And, was poor old General Taguba delusional or is Rumsfeld at fault?
Back to Mark Russell.
July 22, 2004
Here comes the draft
The Army is so short of troops they are, according to the New York Times, calling up recruits early, providing less training, sending troops from Korea to Iraq. Under consideration is a plan to delay the "retirements of soldiers with at least 20 years' experience if the jobs face critical staffing shortages."
Congressman Ike Skelton, ranking Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, said, "The Army is stretched dangerously thin." Know why? Catch this. General Hagenbeck discussed the role of "influencers." They are, according to the Army, "parents, teachers and coaches" who counsel young men on whether to join the Army. The Army fears "the 'influencers' are drawing back."
Ah, now we know it is not a war without a plan or the 130 degree heat in Iraq or the prison scandal. Nope! It is those subversive "influencers" who are undermining Army recruiting. Maybe the administration should refer these "influencers" to the Justice Department. The USA Patriot Act should cover this somewhere. Shame on those parents and teachers who suggest college or technical school rather than enlistment. What's wrong with them?
Could Sandy Berger be that stupid? He was National Security advisor to Bill Clinton, so one would expect a modicum of common sense. But, perhaps our old pal hubris clutched Sandy and he thought he could take documents out of a secure room because he is, well, Sandy Berger. Mistake? Please.
Has the Berger matter been exploited by the same Bush administration that cannot find who outed the wife of Ambassador Wilson? Of course it has been. But Berger, the DLC advocate in foreign policy, should have thought about that before.
As for progressives, shed no tears for the man who was adamant that the Democratic Party platform avoid anti-war planks. The departure of Berger from the Kerry campaign might free Kerry to catch up with the people of the United States.
July 21, 2004
MJS worried about youth?
Media giant Journal Communications, not content with owning the only daily newspaper in our state's commercial center, the NBC-TV affiliates in Milwaukee and Green Bay, all but one Milwaukee suburban paper, the incredibly conservative talk-show radio outlet WTMJ, and much more, is worried about young people. Isn't that precious?
How will they show it? Well, they will soon put out their own free weekly paper. Aimed at the Shepherd Express? Nah. They say they want to appeal to young people. If you believe that, let me tell you about weapons of mass destruction. Can anyone remember when we had antitrust laws?
Wisconsin lags behind
New York politicians have agreed to raise the minimum wage to $7.15 by 2007. While that is well below where it should be, it is well ahead of Wisconsin and the national rate of $5.15. Think about it. A full-time minimum wage worker in Wisconsin would earn the princely sum of $10,712 per year. (New York's rate would take that to 14,872.)
Think about this. This country is a nation of immigrants. Our lodestar: that the next generation will do better. How? Through education and hard work. Could a family earning the minimum wage for husband and wife afford tuition at the UW? You know the answer. Tuition for one year is now about half the salary of a minimum wage worker. Something is terribly wrong.
KFC on video
Animal rights group PETA released a video that may well turn us all into vegans. The video, narrated by Dick Gregory, shows unbelievable cruelty to chickens in a slaughterhouse.
Words fail to describe the cruelty so go to www.kentuckyfriedcruelty.com and see for yourself. This is not for small children.
July 20, 2004
We lost a good man in June. Bill Carroll passed away at the age of 80. Educator, political organizer, union official, opera buff, lover of all music, Bill was a character well worth knowing. He was proud of his Irish-Finnish heritage, but leaned toward Finland. He spoke often about the great contribution of Finlanders to our culture and seemed to know everyone in the state who had Finnish parents.
During a campaign trip in a driving snow storm, Bill quizzed a young volunteer. Not about politics--that was too easy. He demanded to know the young man's favorite author, his favorite drama, the opera he listens to most often. As the volunteer struggled to keep the car on the road, he finally pleaded to discuss politics. We all roared.
No one loved the University of Wisconsin more or believed more passionately in the education of our young people. Bill Carroll. One of a kind. He changed our state with his enthusiasm and his leadership.
Hightower on Kerry
Four years ago, populist Jim Hightower supported Ralph Nader, but not this year. Speaking to an enthusiastic audience in Madison on Sunday, Hightower urged the crowd to throw Bush out on November 2. The result of his scientific study concluded that "this gang is nuts"!
July 19, 2004
They keep coming
As of last Friday, Fahrenheit 9/11 had grossed $93.8 million. If each ticket cost $5.00, that would mean 18 million people have seen the film; at $10, a remarkable 9.3 million. Whether 9 million, 18 million or somewhere in between, that is Bush's nightmare.
My bet is that 90 percent of those seeing the film will vote in the presidential election. Can we squeeze 20 million more into the theaters? Let's try. Take a friend.
With summer half over, rush to the book store to pick up Exception to the Rulers by Amy Goodman; next read Dude, Where's My Country? by Michael Moore; don't forget Against All Enemies by Richard A. Clarke; and now, you must get Jim Hightower's latest, Let's Stop Beating Around the Bush.
Jim spoke before a full house at the Barrymore in Madison Sunday night and, as usual, the crowd loved it. He will be a featured speaker at Fighting Bob Fest on September 18 in Baraboo. In the meantime, pick up his book. Summer will be over before you know it.
July 18, 2004
The Great State University of Wisconsin
I received a wake-up call a few years ago from fellow blogger Bill Kraus when we appeared together on public radio. I made reference to "the great state university of Wisconsin." You know, the institution that maintains our national reputation for academic freedom, intellectual excellence and research. Kraus informed me that the insiders now refer to the UW as "a university with state support."
That is quite a difference. The UW has gone from "the" to "a," and I don't like it.
It is not a secret that Katharine Lyall and the Jim Klauser faction of the UW Board of Regents have been planning and plotting to privatize the Madison campus. Don't believe it? Take a look at the successful effort to privatize the UW Hospital.
In that context, it is perhaps understandable that the list of finalists for president of the UW system is, to be kind, unimpressive. Could it be that outstanding candidates were told they would preside over the privatization of our jewel? Don't we have a right to see the questions asked of candidates?
And where is the media? I suspect gearing up for style section features on the new president and family. C'mon. This is as important as who sits in the east wing of the Capitol. Wake up and give us some answers.
July 17, 2004
Secrecy in government
The on-going scandal in Milwaukee County where Scott Walker "lost" the file explaining how Bear Stearns won a lucrative contract would have gone unnoticed but for our Open Records law. Under the law, every citizen is entitled to review governmental documents. A Common Councilman asked for the file and so did the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
County Exec Walker and his staff said they lost the file. Sure. In an announcement reminiscent of Hillary Clinton finding her law firm records on a table in the White House, Walker's staff "redoubled" their efforts and, on the heels of state and federal criminal investigations, the records were "found." Huzzah! for Open Records.
And, while Scott Walker searched his files, the Public Integrity Unit of the Attorney General's office filed for a declaratory judgment in the ongoing and incredible story revolving around Wal-Mart's proposed distribution center in Beaver Dam.
The AG asked for all records held by the supposedly private corporation established by Beaver Dam. The "corporation" claims to be outside the reach of Open Meetings and Open Records laws, but the Attorney General is not buying that woof ticket. The "private" corporation agreed, in secret negotiations, to give more than six million tax dollars to Wal-Mart, the world's largest corporation. And catch this: When asked to open the files, the corporation's only staff member confirmed that he deleted or discarded records leading up to the city council's approval of the Wal-Mart project. Guess what the "negotiator" agreed was the value of farm land where Wal-Mart wants to build: $20,000 per acre. I'm not making this up.
For disclosure purposes, I represent the Citizens for Open Government who have opposed the secrecy surrounding this project.
Common sense at last
On January 24, 2002, the state of Wisconsin entered into a settlement of the class action lawsuit challenging conditions at the supermax prison in Boscobel as a violation of the 8th Amendment prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment. Part of that agreement, approved by the court and signed by the secretary of Corrections, called upon the state to reduce temperatures in the tomb-like, windowless cells where no air can circulate.
In October 2003, the inmates moved for enforcement and, after the state admitted that the only practical way to cool the cells was with air conditioning, the court, on November 24th, ordered the state to air condition the entire prison. (The administrative side has always had air conditioning.)
On July 2, 2004, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed Judge Crabb's order. As temperatures rose, the question was whether Governor Doyle would appeal to the Supreme Court but, believe it or not, common sense prevailed and work resumed on the air conditioning July 2--the very day of the Appeals Court's decision. No, it won't be finished for the August heatwave, but slowly, ever so slowly, Wisconsin enters the 21st Century.
July 16, 2004
I strongly recommend Arvonne Frazer's article on Social Security. She raises issues rarely discussed on the campaign trail, issues that impact all of us. When you finish, read the latest from Bill Kraus, our regular guest blogger, who wonders where the interest in politics has gone. (One relevant note: Most incumbents in the Legislature do not face competition.)
Some complain we are limited to two parties. Time to recall Jim Hightower's comment when asked if we need a third party. Jim didn't pause, "Hell, I'd settle for a second one," he said. Face it: We in Wisconsin we have one dominent party--the Incumbent/WMC party.
With Bob Fest III coming on September 18, let's think about how we can get the thousands who will attend a voice in setting the agenda.
GuestBlog: By Bill Kraus
Where Did everybody go?
Bob Williams has a picture on his office wall of a group of more than 50 citizens in Stevens Point, gathered on a cool October day in the 1960s, in the high school parking lot.
It was a very representative group of locals. From the president of Sentry Insurance to a couple of high school students, with doctors, lawyers, business people, housewives, you name it.
Bob was the Portage County Republican Party chairman at the time, and he had recruited these people to go door to door on behalf of that year's slate of GOP candidates.
It is worth noting that for these volunteers this was a hostile mission. Portage County is, was, and always has been overwhelmingly Democratic. So the best result that most hoped for on this day was that Congressman Laird might break the Dems hammerlock on the county and that this effort would cut the losses across the rest of the ticket. (He would and it did.)
This summer the same Bob Williams helped Ken Shibilski send a letter to 111 business leaders asking for volunteers to repeat this 1960s exercise on behalf of the Bush/Cheney ticket. The letter ended with a suggestion that those who do not like Bush should call the Kerry campaign, and that whatever the case may be they all should get involved in this important election.
Only one person responded. He told Ken to get off his back, because "I don't get into partisan politics."
July 15, 2004
Dog ate my homework
Milwaukee County executive and would-be governor Scott Walker had to refer to the 3rd grader's excuse about the dog when asked to provide paperwork to justify selecting Republican Party-favorite Bear Stearns & Co. for county bonding work. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel asked for the records under Wisconsin's open records law.
The $100 million bond refinancing exceeded the maximum fee approved. When MJS reporter Dave Umhoefer asked members of the Walker administration about the details, no one could remember. Yah, sure Ole.
Who is behind the deal? Ah, Tommy Thompson's chief corporate fundraiser Nick Hurtgen, who also raised $25,000 for Walker in Chicago. Hurtgen was the subject of a recent Chicago Sun Times story about shake-downs in Chicago, and the focus of a 1997 MJS four-part series on the influence of money in the Thompson administration.
Hurtgen resigned Friday from Bear Stearns. Oops! Forgot to mention. Linda Seemeyer, the person in charge for Walker, is a long-time friend of Hurtgen's and a co-worker with him in Tommy's Department of Administration. "Seemeyer and Walker had the final say on which firm was recommended."
I can hardly wait for Journal Communications talk show host Charlie Sykes to blame gay marriage for this record gap.
In the chutzpah award of the month, Walker said, "It concerns me there isn't better documentation." Duh.
July 14, 2004
RINO vs. RWAC
A RINO is, as you might know, a Republican In Name Only. This is the ultimate insult for the Charlie Sykes-wing of the Republican Party. Well, a "real" Republican, Glenn Grothman announced he is challenging RINO Senate Republican leader Mary Panzer.
I'm not making this up. Grothman thinks Panzer is too progressive! Whoa Nelly! For purposes of identification only, I refer to the Grothman/Sykes/Gard wing of the Republican Party as RWACs: Republicans Without A Clue. This will be fun to watch.
Ted Kennedy says it best
In his Senate speech opposing the Bush-sponsored constiutional amendment banning gay marriage, Ted Kennedy said, "President Bush would be the first president since the Civil War to put bigotry into the Constitution."
Well said, Ted.
July 13, 2004
Nah! Not in this country! What's the matter with you, anyway? Yes, the head of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (an oxymoron) wrote to the keeper of our Constitution, Tom Ridge, asking about plans should terrorists disrupt the presidential election.
Relax. Condi Rice assured us that "we should have the elections on time. That's the view of the president." And to make sure we know that Dick Cheney is involved, Rice added, "that's the view of the administration."
For some, however, it was more than disquieting to learn from the Washington Post that Homeland Security asked the Justice Department about the legal authority to postpone the elections. Later, the Homeland boys denied they asked for a legal opinion; they just notified DOJ that they had received an inquiry. The Post reported, "The spokesman said last night that he had not meant to suggest that a formal review had been requested."
If we cannot find out who Dick Cheney met with to formulate energy policy, what are the odds of finding out what Homeland Security did ask for? This is, to put it mildly, a dangerous moment. Is it too early to call on Michael Moore to do another movie?
Short notice but...
For those of you close enough to Madison, there will be a rally at noon today on the Capitol steps facing State Street, sponsored by MoveOn.org among others, to demand a voter-verified paper trail. After the fiasco of Florida in 2000, what could be more important?
Tammy Baldwin, Ron Kind, and Tom Petri are sponsors of legislation mandating a paper trail. Where are Senators Kohl and Feingold? We need their support and we need it now. If people do not think their votes will be counted, how can we expect them to vote?
July 12, 2004
Most FightingBob.com readers know by now that Clear Channel owns more than 1,200 radio stations and wears its politics on its microphones. But most of us did not realize the extent to which Clear Channel controls of the billboard business. When an anti-war group signed a contract for a billboard that would be in clear view during the Republican conention, Clear Channel acted and not a moment to soon. The billboard will not stand.
The anti-war message? "Democracy is best taught by example, not by war" next to a picture of a red, white and blue firecracker ready to explode.
Right on Clear Channel, I say. Who needs reminders of Iraq during a political convention. Think gay marriage instead.
Now I get it!
Sometimes I am embarassed to be so far behind the wave. I remember former Treasury secretary Paul O'Neil and counter-terrorism czar Richard Clarke saying the administration was determined to invade Iraq from day one. Now, as I listen I find out that a reluctant George Bush was forced to invade for two reasons. First, the CIA intentionally deceived him with false information into thinking that a pre-emptive strike was necessary. Second reason: Gay people wanting to marry.
Yes, indeed. Gay marriage is now center stage. Forget the news that the government of Afghanistan is on the verge of collapse; the death toll for the U.S. and coalition forces is more than 1,000; there is no semblance of order in Iraq. The more important issuse is civil union. If this were a movie, we would all walk out.
But, speaking of movies, Fahrenheit 9/11 has grossed more than $80 million, meaning at least 8 or 9 million people have seen it. No wonder the administration wants to skewer George Tenent and focus our attention on other issues.
July 11, 2004
Sorry about that
Can you imagine yourself drafting a letter from President Bush to the families of soldiers killed in action in Iraq? Think about it. It might go something like this:
"My fellow Americans: You have suffered a great loss and I am writing to thank you. First, I must admit to some problems. Our intelligence was, alas, flawed. We called your son or daughter to action because the evil Saddam had weapons of mass destruction including biological and nuclear weapons that our friend Tony Blair said could be delivered within 45 minutes. And, you also know that Saddam was connected to the 9-11 tragedy.
"Turns out, my fellow patriots, that our intelligence was wrong. He did not have WMD, he did not have any connection with the World Trade Center disaster, and he had no capacity to deliver weapons. Now we find out his army had deteriorated to the point where it was totallly ineffective due to sanctions imposed when Bill Clinton was president. So, in sum, Iraq posed no threat whatsoever.
"In retrospect, all the weaklings in Congress on both sides of the isle say the invasion was foolish. Well, Dick Cheney and I reject that negative thinking and so do you. We were right. Admittedly for all the wrong reasons, but you will not go to bed tonight worrying about Saddam. No sir/madam.
"In conclusion, we did maintain your privacy by not permitting pictures of flag-drapped coffins and we avoided bad publicity by my decision to not attend any funerals. I was a bit premature when I landed on the carrier to announce 'Mission accomplished,' but hey, we all make little mistakes.
"In the end, please vote for our team. Don't forget. Iran and North Korea are next. And keep watching the color code."
July 9, 2004
The Senate Intelligence Committee issued its report and confirmed what Seymour Hersch, Bob Woodward, Richard Clarke, Paul O'Neil, the 9-11 Commission and Richard Kaye had already announced. There were no WMD, there was no link to al-Qaeda, there were no nuclear weapons, and no threat to the U.S. In summary, there was no justification for the invasion of Iraq. Period.
This invasion may be the greatest tragedy in modern history. Over 1,000 coalition troops have died and yet the opposition to American occupation is growing. The military admits that as many as 20,000 armed men are in the "insurgency."
Go back and read our articles and blogs in March of 2003. Read Robert Byrd's speech: "The case the Administration tries to make to justify its fixation with war is tainted by charges of falsified documents and circumstantial evidence. This is a war of choice." And that was a year ago.
A war of choice based on falsififed documents and "group think," whatever that means. A thousand dead soldiers; tens of thousands of dead and wounded Iraqis; $121,867,343,121 spent on the invasion. (Check our link to Cost of War.) And, where are we? In deep, deep trouble. Some say we can't "cut and run," but could we ask for a national referendum in Iraq and, if they tell us to leave, do so? After all, isn't the last refuge of Bush that we have brought democracy to Iraq. Why not try it?
An idle mind is the devil's workshop
So said my 5th grade nun. Well, it is still true today. State Senator Judy Robson wrote an article about Fahrenheit 9/11 for FightingBob.com and soon thereafter her office received a e-mail from a "constituent" expressing disappointment in the Senator's favorable comments. No problem with disagreement, said Robson, but the the e-mail came not from Robson's consituent but from a legislative aide who works for a Republican Senator and attempted to conceal his identity with a phony e-mail address. The brave Repubublian aide then refused to comment to Terry Bell of Wisconsin Public Radio.
An ethical lapse or just nothing to do?
GuestBlog: By Bill Kraus
Every once in a while the survivor of the two great Milwaukee papers recaptures its former glory from when its predecessors were widely regarded as "great" American newspapers.
The Sunday, July 4 paper was such an occasion. Amy Hetzner's front-page story on the "baffling school funding problems" is journalism at its best.
She described, with concise and precise documentation, what everyone agrees is a flawed system. She then concluded that it was likely to stay that way because there is no agreement or even common ground among the major players on anything approaching a solution.
What she does not say is that given a political climate that has gone beyond adversarial to something closer to bellicose, compromise (a word that implies accepting the legitimacy of your adversaries' ideas) is probably not possible.
This is bad.
What is worse is the question she asks and gets an answer to in the last paragraph of the story. This entire subject is not on Assembly speaker John Gard's short agenda.
Before we ask John what is on his short agenda, we also must ask if the governor or Senate majority leader Mary Panzer, who have not even been heard from either, have it on their short agendas, and if not, what their priority issues are.
Can you believe the Pentagon when they announce that someone inadvertently destroyed all payroll records that would have explained where president Bush was while supposedly on duty? You have to love the understatement in the NY Times: "The disclosure appeared to catch somse experts, both pro-Bush and con, by surprise." I'll bet lunch at the Main Depot that one person was not "caught by surprise" and he knows exactly where he was during that time period.
Think we need a paper back-up to the Diebold machines? How about all blue states getting an "Oops!"?
July 8, 2004
They keep dying
Stephen Martin of Rhinelander, Wisconsin, was the 867th soldier killed in Iraq. Five others were announced on Wednesday with an average age of 24. They lived in Massachusetts, Texas, California, Wisconsin, and Missouri. Each one is be a story of dreams deferred and suddenly ended. They have family and friends whose lives will be irreparably damaged. When will this end?
No credible evidence
Recall that the 9/11 Commission was appointed by President Bush and Vice President Cheney. It has a conservative hue and even the Democrats appointed are not exactly Fighting Bob Fest material. But funny things happen when citizens are appointed to a commission dealing with the safety of the American people. Sometimes they check their politics at the door and call the shots as they see them.
The 9/11 Commission found "no credible evidence" that Iraq had a collaborative relationship with al Qaeda. Given the importance to the Bush administration to prove a link in order to justify the invasion, Cheney went on television to suggest he sees information the 9/11 Commission does not. Not according to the commission chair, a Republican former governor, who said, "the 9/11 Commission believes it has access to the same information the Vice President has seen."
What he is saying is that Cheney is not credible and there is plenty of evidence.
July 6, 2004
Ave Bie resigns from PSC
Some good news from the Public Service Commission. On July 23, former chair and current member of the three-person PSC, Ave Bie, will resign. When given a choice between citizen groups and the utilities companies, Bie has consistently sided with the utilities. For years, members of SOUL and others have urged the Public Service Commission to change the name to Private Service Commission.
Governor Doyle has made one appointment and now has a golden opportunity to alter the direction of the commission with his second appointment. In many ways, this appointment is more important than his upcoming appointment of a state Supreme Court justice. Indeed, how Doyle approaches this apppointment may well be the defining moment of his tenure. Keep your fingers crossed.
A collective sigh of relief throughout the state followed the announcement that John Edwards will be John Kerry's running mate. Edwards, who almost defeated Kerry in Wisconsin's presidential primary in February, should help place Wisconsin in the Democratic win column. (For a different view, read Jill Taylor Bussiere's plea to the Greens.)
Thinking back on other veep selections, this one reminds me of JFK's selection of LBJ. Strong presidential candidates don't shy away from strong or even stronger vice presidents. Good choice.
Circle the wagons--already?
Nino Amato defies party or ideological labels. He was appointed to the Technical College Board in 1999 by Tommy Thompson, but he felt comfortable at Fighting Bob Fest last September. Arch-conservative Assemblyman Robin Kreibich supports him and so does our progressive friend, Mark Pocan, who was quoted in yesterday's Capital Times saying, "I don't think I've ever dealt with anyone who fits the definition of public service in a more able and unselfish way than Nino."
So, when the right and the left agree on an appointment, what's the problem? Oh, I almost forgot. Nino blew the whistle last year on an illegal Board of Regents meeting and vote to raise salaries for University of Wisconsin executives. And this was on Governor Doyle's watch. The one certainty in dealing with the Doyle administration is that chief of staff Susan Goodwin never forgets and never forgives. Out with the disloyal one! In with a safe loyalist.
What a shame. When our educational system demands excellence and integrity, it appears that instead there will be another notch in Goodwin's belt. Bye bye, Nino.
July 5, 2004
Turn out the politicians
The MJS reports that rising energy costs (up 50 percent in two years) combined with a $10 million dip in federal energy assistance are the reasons thousands of poor people in Milwaukee are going without electricity.
More than 25,000 We Energies customers in Milwaukee County have already been disconnected and, "the number is expected to grow to 70,000." One cut-off customer made the point: "By the time you buy food, there is nothing left for We Energies."
It would be easy to point the finger at We Energies and they certainly deserve some finger-wagging, but how about our "Public" Service Commission for approving a 50 percent increase without requiring We and others to protect poor families? Isn't there someting between no service and full service? Where is our congressional delegation when voting for a $400 billion defense budget and cutting federal energy assistance? Where is the outrage?
If a long heat wave comes, and it will, how many will die because they cannot plug in a fan or use air conditioning? What is the message? Is it that it doesn't matter?
July 4, 2004
Read the Kissel article on mercury
There are many rewards to having FightingBob.com, but one of the best is the opportunity to post articles by terrific authors who might otherwise not have an outlet for their significant views on issues of great importance. As the parent of an autistic daughter, I read Sarah Kissel's thimerosal article with great interest.
Kissel poses the question, Where is our governor, our legislative leadership, and the leadership within the medical community on this issue? It is a must read.
There he goes again!
I never thought we would accuse Michael Moore of understatement, but now we must. In his movie Fahrenheit 9/11, Moore discusses the close financial relationship between Family Bush and the Saudi princes. You know, the Bin Ladens allowed to fly out of America while the rest of us remained grounded, the Carlyle Group, etc. Now the NY Times reports that key Saudi prisoners at Guantanamo were sent back to the Saudi government in a secret three-way deal involving the release of Brits.
One Defense Department official, quoted by the Times, said, "Why are we doing this for these guys when we haven't done this for other, better allies? We were just told to do it."
C'mon Michael. Toughen up. And how can we get some of that Carlyle Group stock?
July 3, 2004
Now I get it!
A spokesman for Governor Doyle explained the state's inexplicable appeal of Judge Barbara Crabb's ruling that Wisconsin's supermax cells must be cooled to a livable temperature. Not to a comfortable level, but, as the appeals court said, "a balmy 80-84 degrees."
Judge Crabb's ruling came after the state confirmed in court that air conditioning was the only practical method for cooling the cells. Judge Crabb's ruling was based on the health and safety of inmates in a prison built to inflict punishment every minute of every day. When we were a progressive state, we thought that prison was punishment and the goal of the state was rehabilitation. How quaint.
Doyle spokesman Dan Lesitikow said, "The governor has always believed that the state shouldn't be air conditioning prisons when we have schools that aren't air conditioned." I'm not making it up. That is what he said. One might ask if schools would remain in session if the heat reached 102 degrees and fans were not permitted. C'mon.
The prison is still below international standards. Isn't it time to demonstrate some degree of humanity? The 8th Amendment outlaws cruel and unusual punishment. What is supermax if it is not cruel?
Furrowed brow on PBS
On June 10, I wrote about the rightwing effort to control programming on PBS. We warned that in response to Republican congressional pressure, PBS would add a half-hour program hosted by rightwing host Tucker Carlson and later, a second weekly effort hosted by the Wall Street Journal's own Paul Gigot.
We got the first part of the bargain last night. Tucker Carlson hosted his new program and it was simply awful. He interviewed the always available Pat Buchanan and a new voice, De Roy Murdoch of Scripps Howard. As his idea of a sop to the left, he had Christopher Hitchens, who cannot pass up an opportunity to condemn the American left. Fortunately Hitchens mubles, so most of his contribution is not understandable.
Tucker listened while the camera caught him with a very furrowed brow as De Roy or Buchanan filled the air with noise. His most memorable line was, "Political apathy makes some sense."
What does not make sense is the decision of PBS to bring the glitz of CNBC and the politics of Fox to "our" network. C'mon, folks, this is ridiculous.
We welcome your comments on this travesty.
July 2, 2004
Supermax will be cooler
The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the decision of Chief Judge Barbara Crabb of the western district, ordering the state of Wisconsin to live up to its promise to reduce the heat at its supermax prison to 80-84 degrees. This is a health issue, not a "comfort issue," as inmates could die in the conditions found there during heat waves.
The court made short shrift of the state's only argument. You will enjoy this: "Only one argument as to why air conditioning would not be a practical means to cool the cells at Supermax was offered. Defendents incredibly argued that the air conditioning of cells at Supermax to a balmy temperature between 80 and 84 degrees during summer heat waves would entice inmates at other prisons to attack prison guards and/or other inmates in order to be transferred there. This is despite the fact that Supermax inmates are held in windowless cells for all but four to five hours a week and have almost no human contact. We agree with the District Court that this proposition is dubious in the extreme."
The Nader run
We haven't said much about Ralph Nader's run for the presidency here, in part out of respect for his tremendous achievements over the years and in part out of a belief that no one should tell anyone not to run for office. Too many races are uncontested, so when good people offer themselves to the voters, why complain?
But that doesn't mean we will remain silent when the right-wing plays games with the Nader candidacy. The New York Times reports that Camerson Sholty, director of the very conservative Wisconsin-based Citizens for a Sound Economy announced that his antitax group is circulating petitions for Nader. And the Reform Party, a right-wing bastion, is now also embracing Ralph. This is as transparent as a pane of glass. The right senses that Bush/Cheney are in trouble so they are raising money for Nader in the hope that he takes 3 percent of the vote away from Kerry.
Frankly, it would not be meaningful for Ralph to run with support from those who have opposed him all his life. If Ralph runs I hope he rejects support from these groups.
July 1, 2004
FORE fights back
Check our Documents button to read an excellent article published last week in Isthmus. FORE member Chamond Liu explains FORE's opposition to the huge campus power plant.
Post- traumatic stress
The NY Times reports that 17 percent of returning U.S. soldiers from duty in Iraq are suffering from post-traumatic stress. Think about the cost of this invasion. If 200,000 soldiers serve in Iraq, that is 34,000 soldiers who will live with emotional difficulties for years to come.
Will the president provide money for their treatment?
Go see it
We went to Fahrenheit 9/11 and urge you to do the same. While much of the material is well known because of Richard Clarke, Ambassador Wilson, Paul O'Neil, and others who have exposed the failed Iraqi policies, Moore does a masterful job of bringing it all together in an entertaining way. While some found Michael was singing only to the choir, in my view even the choir needs some inspiraion every now and then.
Check our Links button and go to The Progressive to read Matt Rothschild's review for balance--because we are, if anything, "fair and balanced." Matt concluded this film won't convince many swing voters, but no need to place that responsibility on Moore. The goal is to get people to get out and raise hell and then vote. The experience is well worth it for the look on one congressman's face when asked by Moore if he would sign a petition to urge members of Congress to get their kids to enlist for duty. That scene summed up the isolation of Congress from the sacrifice of our men and women in uniform.
We found it to be throughly enjoyable and educational. Go see it and take a friend. Michael, we owe you.