December 31, 2005
And the beat rolls on
The Associated Press reports that the U.S. has lost almost as many soldiers in 2005 as we did in 2004: 841 this year and 846 last year. And in 2003 it was 485. Our hearts break for the families, our minds focus on impeachment for those who took us to Iraq based on cooked books, lies and distortions. (A meeting Saturday January 7 at 1:00 in Madison will focus on impeachment. Where? Labor Temple.)
Thus far, the U.S. has spent $230.4 billion in Iraq--the equivalent of 11.1 million four-year scholarships at public universities. (Imagine what we could have done for special education!) We could have constructed two million housing units. (All this from Cost of War in our Links section.)
As we end 2005, can't we demand some transparency in government? Can we demand that Congress wake up and deal with the coup?
Ah, more champagne please! Happy New Year.
December 30, 2005
Good bye, 2005
I can't say I am sorry to see this year end. Just thinking about the scenes in New Orleans makes me anxious to move forward.
But, as bad as this year has been for so many, I find hope in the ashes. Truth was handed out in huge dollups. Truth about the war, Enron, prisons, and racism in our country. While I've never quite understood how the truth will set us free, it sure is important to know the truth if we want to build for the future.
I think we are at the tipping point on campaign reform. Corporations doing business with the state will be reluctant to pour big sums into campaign coffers. Why? Because everyone knows the game and pay-to-play isn't popular. And the Wisconsin Democracy Campain will connect the dots for us.
My fear is more anonymous attacks paid for by those same special interests while they wrap themselves in the First Amendment. But perhaps the culture is changing. Maybe, just maybe, the Swift Boat attack ad along with sleazy ads in Wisconsin will backfire now that voters know how the game is played.
So, on campaign reform, with a push from The People's Legislature, I am decidedly bullish.
Iraq: With Russ Feingold leading the way, the debate has changed. Now the question is when we leave not if we should leave. The people give this occupation a thumbs down. On this, the people of America and Iraq are one.
So, with my Irish optimism on my sleeve, I predict a much better 2006.
And, thanks to you for your financial contributions, participation in Bob Fest and the People's Legislature, your articles and comments to FightingBob.com. You have made this a special year for us. Who, you might ask, is "us"? Progressives who believe in the future if people who believe in economic and social justice will unite and take action.
So Happy New Year.
December 29, 2005
To tell the truth
Editorials and public disgust over campaign corruption have not moved Governor Doyle or legislative leaders to seek public input on campaign reform. No statewide hearings, no special session, no proposals to really clean out the barn.
So, The People's Legislature (TPL) will hold a "Telling" on Monday, January 23, at 10:30 a.m., in the GAR room of the Capitol. Mark your calendar. This is the one-year anniversary of TPL and it is time to invite the governor and the leaders of the Lobbyist's Legislature to tell us why they think the current system is just fine.
More on this later, but plan to meet on the 23rd of January. In the meantime, read yet another Capital Times editorial from December 28, asking Doyle to get serious.
December 28, 2005
The Capital Times, the nation's only progressive daily paper, published a strong editorial asking--no, demanding--that Jim Doyle "clean house" by "calling a special session of the Legislature to enact needed" campaign finance reform.
The Cap Times suggests to Doyle that he return questionable campaign donations but, of course, the advisors around Doyle won't agree with that advice. And why won't they? Because politicians today have given up and given in. They surround themselves with people who advise "he who has the most money almost always wins. So raise money every day, avoid mistakes, please the special interests and get elected."
Problem is they are, for the most part, correct. Very few incumbents lose, so big money goes with them. The antidote is obvious: Public financing of campaigns. (Check our Documents button and read the report of the Heffernan Commission. For the price of a six-pack for every voter we could fund all elections and clean out the temple.) We could have old-fashioned competition on a level playing field.
So why doesn't Doyle listen to us? He won with the new ethic and his advisors are risk-averse and they love power. Raise the money, get elected, keep the power and then we will look at reform.
The problem facing Governor Doyle is that he may well lose in November 2006.
December 27, 2005
When I was asked to represent the inmates at Supermax prison, one of my clients asked me to run for office. "I can get all the votes in this place," he pledged. He was saddened to learn none of them could vote. But should those convicted of crime be allowed to vote when they finish their time behind bars and return to society? Read Rep. Joe Parisi's common sense approach to this issue.
And then keep in mind that our Elections Board and the governor hired Accenture to compile our voter lists. Accenture worked for the state of Florida and you know how many African Americans were wrongly excluded.
Should we worry? Nah, this is Wisconsin! Land of La Follette and Nelson. What? Me worry? Protect us, Accenture! Guide us, Elections Board. Reassure us, Governor.
December 26, 2005
Burke is back!
Do yourself a favor. Hit our search button and put in Raymond Burke's name. You will find the reading fun and troubling. Burke, you may recall, was Catholic Bishop of La Crosse. He ordered priests to deny communion to Dave Obey, Julie Lassa, and other Catholic politicians who follow the U.S. Constitution rather than Vatican dictates. When he was promoted to archbishop of St. Louis we offered to help him ship his goods down the Mississippi. He declined our offer.
But he is back in the news. You must read the Washington Post account of Christmas Eve mass. Believe it--he ruled that anyone attending the mass, offered by a priest who had been excommunicated, would be guilty of committing a mortal sin! Whoa Nelly! A mortal sin to miss mass or a mortal sin to go. Some choice.
The church was overflowing, so others watched on closed circuit TV. (Was their sin less than mortal?)The priest said, "To be Catholic is to receive the sacraments. I will give them the sacrament of reconciliation, the Eucharist, and I will visit the sick and bury the dead. I will laugh with those who are laughing and cry with those who are crying."
Thank you Father Marek Bozek. When he walked in the "congregation rose and greeted him with thunderous applause." A wonderful Christmas story.
December 25, 2005
My gift to you? A short Blog and some good thoughts. The Wisconsin State Journal picks up on Mike McCabe's exposure of Doyle, Green and Walker's shady Illinois contributors.
The quesiton was whether the campaigns check out these shady types, as if they are not pursuing them. Why would somone from Illinois contribute to Mark Green? Here is a gift to us from his spokesman: "They share Mark's philosophy, I guess."
December 24, 2005
End of democracy
Willie Nelson sings, "Dreams don't make noise when they die." I am now convinced that democracy is one dream that doesn't make noise when it dies.
We have railed against our plutocracy but always thought our democracy, at base level, was secure. No longer do I believe that.
Tucked in a NY Times article with the headline, "Defending Spy Program" was this, from a letter written by the assistant Attorney General to Congress: "It also argued that the administration could not have sought expanded authority from Congress under the law without risking exposure. To go to Congress for legislative authority 'would have tipped off our enemies concerning our intelligence limitations and capabilities.'"
When the executive branch can spy on Americans, including members of Congress, and justify it on the specious, indeed, ludicrous grounds that the second and once equal branch can't be trusted, we are no longer a democracy. Daddy knows all and he knows whom to trust and whom to keep in the dark. It's getting pretty dark.
December 23, 2005
A few thoughts
As we wind down for the holidays, a few observations may be in order. Did it hit you the way it hit me when billionaire Mayor Bloomberg called striking transit workers "thugs"? He just spent between $70 million and $100 million on his re-election--if he put that into the transit system there would not have been a strike.
And there was something quite wonderful about Local 100 president Roger Toussaint taking on power while his international union looked the other way. Looks like Roger is the winner in this fight. Congratulations Roger Toussaint.
How unseemly to watch multimillionaire Dick Cheney cast the deciding vote to cut students, Medicade and food stamps to pay for tax cuts for the wealthy.
Now here is a "Hightower moment" from Amy Klobuchar, candidate for U.S. Senate in Minnesota. In describing the absence of truth in Washington, she writes, "At the biker coffee shop in my neighborhood, the slogan is, "Betty's Bikes and Buns: Where Lies Become Legends." Too good to pass up.
December 22, 2005
Absurd, deeply offensive, coincidental, appalled, outrageous, ridiculous
Those adjectives have been uttered in the past month by spokespeople for Governor Doyle, the PSC and the utilities to explain why large amounts of cash were given to the governor's re-election fund by utilities camped out on the doorstep of the PSC.
Kerry Spees of Wisconsin Public Service, Inc. explained his company's interest in an unintended condemnation of the corruption in government. "It is not evil. You support people who are your friends."
WPS gave $20,000 to help the friendly governor. Nice friends, I say. (Other "friends" who received money from PSC, Inc. include John Gard and Mark Green. Consistency? Nah, big tent provided by the utilities.)
The Wisconsin Insurance Alliance gave $40,000; Johnson Controls $35,000; Oneida Tribe $10,000; Foley & Lardner $7,500; Adelman Travel $20,000; Utilities $43,000--indirectly contributed to governor Doyle.
It is amazing. The Doyle administration supports the utilities in almost every request, takes their contributions, and then says, "Hey, don't blame us for high heating bills, the PSC is an independent body," and he says that with a straight face.
If the PSC is "independent" or, as Dan Leistkow, the Governor's spokesman said, "The PSC is an independent agency that acts like a court." Paahhhhleeezze! Would a court hold a fundraiser for lawyers the night before oral argument? Do any judges sit in on Governor Doyle's cabinet meetings? Of course not, but Ave Bie attended Governor McCallum's cabinet meetings and reportedly, Dan Ebert, the new chair of PSC, sits in on Doyle's cabinet meetings.
Like a court? I don't think so.
The time for reform is now.
December 20, 2005
Don't you wonder who advises our elected officials, how they were selected and, more to the point, wouldn't it be nice if we had a big flashlight to shine on them?
We read much about Karl Rove but who sits with Cheney dreaming up schemes to wire tap phones illegally? I'll bet there are no memos to the file. If we cannot find out who attended Cheney's pre-invasion energy conference, want to bet Alberto Gonzales will fess up? Name the amount.
On Friday night, Jim Lehrer asked Bush about his illegal eavesdropping. For "security reasons" he would not explain, but the next day, with no one to ask follow up questions, he admitted he did the deed. Impeachable? You bet.
Back in Wisconsin, who is involved in the Doyle fundraising effort? Challenged by The People's Legislature, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign and now a pillar of integrity, E. Michael McCann, to take the lead for campaign finance reform, Doyle remains silent. Is someone whispering in his ear? Are these his decisions to remain silent? Or is it deputy governor Susan Goodwin?
Why not ask?
December 17, 2005
What a week!
We lost Bill Proxmire and paused to recall the days when one could seek office without spending a fortune. Sad to say, but Gene McCarthy, Prox, Gaylord and Hubert would probably not run for office today. The tin cup in hand would get in the way.
Thanks to Bill Proxmire for 32 years of service in the Senate. A man of unquestioned integrity and devotion to the people, not the special interests.
And we saw Chuck Chvala sentenced to nine months in jail. Not a happy moment for anyone. E. Michael McCann, the long-serving District Attorney of Milwaukee, announced he will not seek another term and used that announcement and the Chvala sentencing to challenge Jim Doyle to take the lead on campaign finance reform. He chastised Doyle for taking nearly a million dollars from Tribal gambling intersts and, as only he could, scolded Doyle for not being a leader.
The governor snapped back, but his words had a hollow ring. Too much money from utilities, road builders and WMC on his way to his goal of raising $11 million for his re-election bid. I hope he listens to E. Michael. He ignores Mike McCabe, FightingBob.com, and the People's Legislature.
And we end the week with a stunning victory for civil liberties. Russ Feingold: hero. He stopped the extension of the so-called Patriot Act with a filibuster. With conservative Republicans joining most Democrats and following Russ, the administration could only gather 52 of the 60 needed to halt the filibuster.
Congratulations Russ. Well done.
December 15, 2005
Trust us! Please.
I don't know why some people worry about the Patriot Act. C'mon! Can't we trust Dick Cheney and Alberto Gonzales to only go after bad people. Terrorists. Lefty peace-niks? If you have been good all year and you support the war effort, why would Gonzales tap your phone, read your e-mail, or spy on your meetings?
It is true they misled us into war, lied about WMDs, lied about the Saddam connection with 9-11, and lied about secret torture prisons run by the CIA. But again, if you can't trust government, who can you trust?
Russ Feingold is leading the charge against renewal of this awful piece of legislation and is gaining Republican support. How about Hillary? Harry Reid? Where are they?
Keep your fingers crossed and ask Herb Kohl to join Russ.
December 14, 2005
Here we go again!
Ah, it was NRA Day in the Lobbyist's Legislature. Republican leaders kept the folks at work until after 3:00 in the morning. Were they solving incredibly high unemployment among black men in Milwaukee? Tackling high tuition and the growing gap between the wealthy and the rest of us? Nope, nope and nope. They were working to pass a concealed weapons bill to keep the NRA happy.
Who cares what citizens think? Please the NRA contributors! I will certainly feel safer when I battle rush hour traffic thinking that if I don't yield to the guy entering the highway he might shoot me.
My favorite bumper sticker, seen in Florida: "Cover me. I'm changing lanes."
And more good news. Average CEO compensation at 1,522 of our largest companies pay an average of $2.4 million per year, up, according to the Capital Times, by 30 percent this year. Not bad. That works out to $1,154 per hour. And want to bet they also get health insurance?
Something has gone wrong. The wheels seem to be off. Legislators working all night to put guns in our pockets and money in their campaign accounts while doing nothing about our minimum wage while CEOs go wild. Happy Holidays!
December 13, 2005
Everyday John Gard goes to work in the Capitol he collects $88 at the pay window. That is 3.8 times more than the average home owner will see his or her property tax increased this year. Gard is still upset! Yes he is. He said Governor Doyle "is going to have a credibility gap with a lot of people in this state." Really?
If property taxes have been checked this is a real plus for Jim Doyle. When Gard whines about the $23 he should be reminded that this is about a half a tank of gasoline. And both parties should start closing loopholes instead of moaning about twenty-three bucks. C'mon. Get real.
December 11, 2005
Grass roots vs. Big Bucks
Went to Mississippi River community for a hell-raising fundraising gathering. It was fun. Fun because the crowd put up with John Nichols and me and still remained awake and ready for reform. What do they want? Public financing of campaigns, fair elections, troops brought home and national health care. While it was a Vernon County Democratic dinner, they identify more with the People's Legislature and Fighting Bob Fest than they do with the Party. A good time.
While thinking about our odds of achieving real reform, news came about the death of Gene McCarthy. Could he force a debate on Vietnam in 1968? Of course not. Could he mobilize millions to get into politics with a passion for peace? Don't be silly. Could he challenge a sitting president in his own party? Nah, get serious.
Well, you know the story. He mobilized, inspired, challenged and won. Not the presidency but something more. He convinced my generation that fighting for peace is the only option.
We miss him already, but his inspiration lives.
December 10, 2005
More on torture
You must enjoy the decision of Britain's highest court: "The issue is one of constitutional principle, whether evidence obtained by torturing another human being may lawfully be admitted against a party to proceedings in a British court, irrespective of where, or by whom, or on whose authority the torture was inflicted. To that question I would give a very clear negative answer."
The judger went on to echo our feelings, "Many people in the United States...have felt their country dishonored by its use of torture outside the jurisdiction...and its practice of extra-legal 'rendition.'"
Would Alito be so clear? How about our Attorney General and our Vice President? Would Secretary Rice agree? When they do, I will believe that our country has stopped torturing detainees. Not before.
Back to the Lobbyist's legislature. Can you believe they ignore poverty in Wisconsin, urban and rural, while banning civil unions?
Final comment for the week. Read Bill Kraus's guest blog. Jim Doyle has a rare opportunity. Will he take it or listen to the money-hustlers around him?
December 9, 2005
Torture? Torture? Who?
Listening to Secretary Rice, one might get the idea the Bush adminstration is trying to stamp out torture instead of defending our use of same in scret prisons around the world. While I'm not an expert on the 8th Amendment prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment, I am familiar with it. Listening to Rice's explanation of the Bush administration's policy on prisoners is, in my view, a per se violation of the 8th Amendment.
But help may be on the way. The highest court in Britain ruled that "information gotten by torture is never admissible evidence." (And never is a long time.) You must read the entire article in the NY Times. Catch this: "Once torture has been acclimatized in a legal system, it spreads like an infectious disease and hardens and brutalizes those who have become acustomed to it." Great decision.
Speaking of a legal system becoming "accustomed" to one form of punishment, look at our over-crowded prisons and jails. Is there no better way to reform society than to put a person in an orange jump suit and shakles? I think so. And this brings me to Chuck Chvala. What good would come of placing Chuck in jail? None that I can think of when the real corrupters are chortling over cocktails at the Madison Club.
Community service would make sense for Chvala, Burke and any others convicted in this scandal. Let's grow up and deal with the corrupt system instead of gloating about a few caught in the web.
December 8, 2005
They say you get the government you deserve, but what on Earth did we do wrong to get this Legislature?
The lead sentence in today's MJS story on some of the Legislature's latest activities: "A constitutional amendment to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman and to prevent the state from recognizing 'substantially similar' relationships" was passed yesterday. What foolishness. It would be humorous except for the fact we are dealing with people's lives. Good heavens. I prefer my father's attitude--"keep your nose out of my business and I'll keep mine out of yours."
Calvin Trillin dealt with this subject in The Nation: "We stand up for values. Here's what we believe: Gay marriage is something we just can't conceive of happening ever. The thought causes dred. Gay men should just marry nice women instead. If some of them marry not women but chaps, our civilization would simply collapse."
We need some humor with this crowd. In the meantime, let's embrace the referendum. I'm convinced the good people in Wisconsin will vote against institutional discrimination. Let's show the nation this is a good place to live.
December 7, 2005
Hard to keep up
Which way to turn to catch the most absurd action--state or nation? And when will Governor Doyle wake up to the reputation that he has gained for sleezy fundraising? The MJS reports on Mike McCabe's release of information that "employees of two Wisconsin utilities made $43,000 in campaign contributions to Jim Doyle as state regulators were reviewing the sales of the Kewaunee nuclear plant." (You can bet the "employees" were not punching a clock.)
No problemo, said Melanie Fonder, former WisPolitics writer and now a Doyle spokesperson. She called the charge of linkage "ridiculous." Linda Barth, speaking for the PSC, called the linkage "ridiculous" as did Mark Meyer, PSC Commissioner. Actually Mark deviated a bit: He said the "accusations are baseless and absurd." About the only one embarassed enough to say something sensible was the WPS spokesman: "The timing (of the fundraiser) looks a little bit unfortunate." Whoa Nelly. A "little bit unfortunate"? I'd say a lotta-bit unfortunate.
Doyle is not being served well by his staff. They have plunged into fundraising with the zeal of a dog after a rabbit. For this story, Doyle could not be reached. Why not? He is in New York raising money. New York? C'mon Jim. We can afford public financing of your race and you can stay home.
December 6, 2005
Rice and nonsense
As of December 5, the invasion of Iraq has cost 2,115 U.S. soldiers killed, 16,000 seriously injured, probably 100,000 Iraqi lives (but who is counting), and we have spent $224.5 billion. I check our link with Cost of War frequently and I'm fascinated with how we might have used that money to invest in our future. Like the G.I. Bill. For $224 billion and change we could pay for full four-year scholarships at public universities for 10,800,000 young people. Whoa.
But we have lost more than all that. We have lost our soul and with that loss our position in the world. From the lies used by WHIG to get us into the war, the payoffs to Iraqi newspapers, our torture of prisoners complete with pictures, and now we learn about secret CIA-run prisons around the world where CIA can operate without rules.
Egads. Does it ever stop? Apparently not, as Condoleezza Rice on her way to Europe yesterday justified kidnapping suspects and whisking them off to countries to be tortured. This is an outrage beyond belief and she expects Europeans to swallow that? How will it run in the Arab world? She justifies breaking international law, discarding the Geneva Accords, and taking people without a hearing to unknown destinations for as long as they want them or until death because, she says, it works. We have become monsters. No, we have not, but our leaders have.
MLK Jr. once said, "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."
We must not remain silent in the face of our government's illegal activity.
December 5, 2005
I asked Bill Kraus, our regular guest blogger, to explain why Connecticut could enact public financing for all state races and Wisconsin cannot. His response came in one word: leadership.
He's right, and if Jim Doyle doesn't do something about our corrupt system he will be in trouble come November of next year.
And leadership, or lack thereof, is on display in the superb article written by professor emeritus Hugh Iltis. Gaylord is honored for Earth Day, as well he should be, but Professor Iltis points out that unless we deal with population explosion we are sunk.
December 3, 2005
What a week!
The week started with the president assuring us we would win in Iraq. How? He handed out a nice 45-page outline with bullet points. The absurdity of such a ploy three years into this disaster forces the mind back to the USS Lincoln with the president, under the Rove-planted "MISSION ACCOMPLISHED" banner, assuring us the victory was complete.
A recent poll discussed on NPR shows that Arabs outside of Iraq overwhelmingly feel Iraq was better off under Saddam. They believe oil and Israel are the real reasons the U.S. invaded Iraq. How will the Bush administration explain these findings? I suppose they will plant more articles and editorials in Iraqi (and American) papers praising our efforts, question the motives of the pollster, and squeeze NPR's budget. Why not?
Mandatory reading: Seymour Hersh's "Up in the Air" article in the latest New Yorker.
Our site. We got behind in posting your responses on FightingBob.com and now we have caught up. Click the Feedback button and enjoy some of the spirited comments we receive.
December 2, 2005
The question is simple. Is Accenture responsible for costly delays in the development of the voter list or is the Elections Board? Place your bets and send us your opinion. Patrick Marley reports in the MJS that another setback has occured in the $27.5 million dollar project. (I am not making up that figure.) It is increasingly likely that the November '06 elections will be a test-run. Yikes! But Kevin Kennedy isn't bothered even though Colorado just fired Accenture.
Nope. Kevin thinks everything is hunky-dorey. Not his money after all. We again ask the first question. Why didn't the governor permit state employees or the UW to create the voter list? Can anyone argue with a straight face that we couldn't find the brain power here in Wisconsin to create lists?
If you wonder how privatization is working out in Milwaukee, check out the MJS story on the "public" Museum. Now a criminal investigation is under way. If you like how they handled the Public Museum of Natural History, you will love what they will do with our university.
December 1, 2005
Brian Burke's lawyer put on his most sanctimonious face and said, "Burke is a fallen angel but he is not the devil." Slightly over the top, but had the attorney identified the devil it might have cleared the courtroom and the Capitol. The devil, my friends, is a corrupt system of fundraising.
But, as some have predicted for years, help is on the way. Connecticut has gone and done it! Yup. They adopted the Heffernan Commission recommendations (Okay, a slight exaggeration) by passing legislation alloting $17 million to publicly finance all statewide elections. I am not making this up. Connecticut is now leading the nation in clean elections while our governor and the Lobbyist's Legislature look the other way with outstretched palms.
C'mon Wisconsin. Regain the lead. Take it on. Clean it up. NOW!