February 28, 2005
Remember all the post-election talk about values? Read the news about Medicaid. The ranks of those depending on Medicaid are growing. Now 52 million of our fellow citizens depend on the program for health care. The numbers are up 40 percent since Bush became president, but he wants all of those folks to take a $40 billion cut. I'm not making this up. Add millions of pregnant women, children, and minimum wage workers and cut the program by $40 billion. Values?
Lemme see. Spend a billion a week on Iraq, another six or seven billion on the defense department, cut taxes for the top 5 percent, urge privatization of Social Security, keep wages at pre-Bush levels while refusing to raise the minimum wage, and you wonder why people are feeling anxious about retirement?
Now is the time for the progressives, the liberals, indeed, all people of conscience to raise hell. The values we hear about are to put the Ten Commandments in the courthouse square, and to keep bad language off PBS while carefully checking out animated cartoon figures for gay tendencies. Have we lost our collective mind, our soul, or both?
February 27, 2005
Halliburton is doing okay
Some of you have been concerned that Halliburton without Dick Cheney could be in trouble. Not to worry. Turns out they have received $9.6 billion for the Iraq war, and it would appear they will collect another $1.5 billion extra as part of Bush's proposed spending in 2005.
What is going on? Have congressional Democrats lost their voice? Could someone do something? Please? Or are we just happy it isn't more?
As we approach 1,500 deaths among our soldiers, chaos in the country, thousands injured, isn't it time to come home?
February 26, 2005
Not long ago, a small article in the business section reported that financial genius Warren Buffett was beginning to diversify his portfolio. He is worried about the dollar and has opted, apparently, to place some of his managed money in foreign currency. The corporate media paid little attention, but last Wednesday's Wall Street Journal article sounded an alarm in my head.
"Dollar Selloff Sends Shocks Through Markets" was the headline, followed by this, "Stocks Plunge as Gold, Oil Surge Amid Concerns on Shift in Foreign Reserves." The scary story began, "A selloff of the dollar yesterday, fueled by persistent concerns over the currency's weakness, roiled financial markets worldwide...gold and oil prices, which tend to move upward when the dollar is weak, rose sharply."
The WSJ had my attention. What happened? A news story that South Korea was planning to diversify its foreign-exchange reserves. Instead of nearly 100 percent investment in our debt, they might shift some of their reserves. "Diversification" has become a buzzword for "dumping dollars." Wow! Isn't that what Warren Buffett is doing? But the suggestion is that if China, Japan, and South Korea buy less American debt to cover the reckless Bush tax cut, we could be in deep trouble. So what was the U.S. message to South Korea? "Don't you dare diversify."
Could it be that oil has not risen in price but because it is pegged to a falling dollar it just seems like it?
Ah, the unintended consequences of a huge tax cut for the wealthy while creating trillions of dollars of debt. Are we in trouble? Ask your president.
February 25, 2005
Thanks for your birthday greetings for Bob.com. Much appreciated. On to year three! Saddle up Nellie, find those private fights and away we go.
Listening to the DLC poster candidate Hillary Clinton on her slide to the right is almost painful, but humor seems more appropriate. Just as Howard Dean begins to fight for Democratic values, there was Senator Clinton on "Face the Nation" with Republican senators blathering away on how things are going so much better in Iraq. Really? I wonder what she is reading.
The Clintons brought us NAFTA, WTO, the Telecommunications Act of 1996, and an end to welfare--not poverty, so now we have an optimistic Clinton on Iraq urging us to not focus on how we got there but to understand that Ted Kennedy is wrong in urging a deadline for withdrawal. C'mon. This will not sell in 2005 nor in 2008. Almost 1,500 dead U.S. soldiers, chaos in Iraq, an insurgency out of control, almost no trained soldiers from the "host" country.
A reality check is in order.
February 24, 2005
Sun Prairie's second assemblyman, John Gard (actually they have joint custody with Peshtigo), boldly killed an increase in the minimum wage this week. "Boldly," because Gard gets an $88 per diem on top of his annual salary of some $45,000 just for showing up to work. A full-time minimum wage worker earns $10,712 per year. Speaker Gard earns much more. He would reach the $10,712 just for showing up at the Capitol 122 days out of the year. And when he arrives, no clock to punch, no foreman yelling, no prescribed duties. If he stays five minutes or 8 hours, he still gets the $88.
Don't you wonder how he explains this to his constituents, not to mention his kids? "Well, kids, daddy gets paid $11.00 per hour if he shows up to work for something called per diem. A poor person, who has made the bad choice of taking poverty over wealth, gets $5.15 per hour so she only gets $41 dollars per day for working hard. Now you see why you should choose my career." Lunch anyone?
February 22, 2005
Is this a private fight?
On February 23, 2003, I wrote my introductory GarveyBlog and laid out the FightingBob.com motto/mandate. We promised to stick our noses into all sorts of battles, public or private, to shed light on the important issues of the day: "We must demand the return of small 'd' democracy at all levels of government." In all modesty, we have tried hard to live up to our motto and our mandate.
We had no idea if a Wisconsin oriented Web magazine would take off or flop. Frankly, we had no sponsors, no money, but lots of ideas and a deep faith that progressives in Wisconsin were hungry for a voice, a platform, and a plan.
So, how have we done? Well, I would say pretty well. In our two years we have had more than 4 million hits, more than half a million visits, published more than 300 articles, 1,100 blogs, and about 150 other Web sites link to FightingBob.com. And the numbers are growing. Now, those may be small numbers for the well known national sites, but I'm still impressed. More importantly, I am proud of our authors and the wide range of topics they have covered, and I know we are just beginining. Our volunteer staff and editors deserve a huge round of applause.
So, as we begin year three, buy-in. This is your site. Write for us, give us your ideas on how we can improve, respond to the articles, and if you feel so compelled, send a check now and then.
We at FightingBob.com are proud to be part of this progressive community and pleased we can help move the agenda of social and economic justice forward.
February 21, 2005
Rust never sleeps
A former attorney general in Maine pointed out that "rust never sleeps," and today we know the far right, like rust, is on the job 24/7/52. From the Swift Boat Vets to AARP, the propagandists are at it again.
The NYT reports that Art Linkletter will head an outfit called USA Next. Why? "To peel off one million members from AARP." Why? They oppose the Wall Street effort to privatize Social Security.
Charles Jarvis said, "We are going to take them on in hand-to-hand combat," calling AARP "stodgy, overweight, bureaucratic and out of touch." Out of touch means at odds with the Bush/Cheney crowd. (I am trying to imagine hand-to-hand combat at an AARP convention, but it gives one the impression that this Richard Viguerie inspired group will not find truth an appealing weapon.)
Is democracy just an illusion? Stay tuned.
February 20, 2005
Celebrate the moment
As we approach the second birthday of FightingBob.com, there is much to celebrate. Just read the new article by Nick Vander Puy and Sandy Lyon. None of the drama, emotion, or the thrill of winning a major battle over the utilities would ever find its way into the corporate media. But read their article and feel the applause for the Douglas County Board sweep over you like cool water on hot day. When have you seen real tears at a county board meeting?
Compare their story with that of Sarah Lloyd's in "Waiting by the Phone" as she eloquently describes how grass roots citizens are dismissed by the arrogant legislators in the Lobbyists' house.
Of course we must also deal with the reality that our PSC under Doyle seems to operate just like the Tommy Thompson PSC under Ave Bie, but absent the background from the grass roots you would never know why it is so important to stop the utilities from dominating the body designed to regulate their behavior. Or why people feel so betrayed when the PSC responds immediately to Douglas County by doing what the utilities ask.
Yes, indeed. Two years and growing. Celebrate the moment.
February 19, 2005
No one believes it
I spoke to the Madison Institute's progressive roundtable today about the Accenture contract. No one there could believe that a staff person signed a contract worth between $13 million and $25 million without approval from the state Elections Board, the Department of Administration and the governor.
Minnesota, by way of contrast, did their Help America Vote Act compliance in-house for about $4 million and they get to keep the hardware, software and the lists. What is wrong with Wisconsin? Can't we find people at the UW smart enough to compile voting lists? C'mon!
February 18, 2005
Seen it all now?
The recent news that the White House placed a phony reporter at Bush news conferences shows just how arrogant they have become. Equally important, it demonstrates how the White House news contingent is asleep at the wheel or afraid to tell the truth.
"Jeff Gannon," of Talon News, once asked the president: "How are you going to work - you said you're going to reach out to these people - how are you going to work with people who seem to have divorced themselves from reality?" In another era, Helen Thomas would have jumped and asked, "Who the hell are you?" But, alas, the scribes keep scribbling. Shocking? You bet.
February 17, 2005
Sun Prairie's "second Assemblyman", John Gard, spent $220,000, give or take a few bucks, to be reelected in Peshtigo by 64 percent. It was a record expenditure by an assemblyman.
Was he worried about re-election? If he had been he would have moved back to his district. Why did he spend so much money? Because special interests showered him with dough. The money was burning a hole in his pocket.
Indeed, 97 percent of his donations that were $100 or more came from outside his district, according to the ever-watchful eye of Mike McCabe of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign. And lots of the money came from out of state. Ask yourself, "Have I ever been tempted to send money to an Assembly candidate in Iowa, Minnesota, or South Carolina?" I doubt it. Showing a tin ear to the appearance of corruption, Gard said he wanted to make sure his enemies would not "have any hope of winning. I wasn't taking any chances." (Quoted in MJS.)
If this does not convince you that there are two legislatures, the lobbyists' and the People's, nothing will.
February 16, 2005
What will you do with your $3?
I admit that winter had me down a bit. Cold weather, no golf, not much sunshine, but now I'm happy. No, actually elated. Jim Doyle has come up with a program that will save three, count'em, three dollars off our property tax bill. Boy, did he show those Republicans or what?
Problem is, I do not know what I can do with my three bucks. EdVest perhaps, or just a quick payout to the grandchildren? Too much to contemplate. And the Republicans in the Lobbyist's Legislature are ready for battle. I'll bet you my three bucks they will come up with a plan that will save $4.00. While little comfort to the unemployed, the uninsured, and the homeless, or to students paying more tuition, hey, this is exciting. This is fierce competition in the race to the bottom.
We live in a state of Big Ideas, that's for certain. So start making plans for your three bucks. Check's in the mail.
February 15, 2005
Can it get any worse?
The answer to the question in my headline is, "You bet it can." We have more than 1,400 dead soldiers, no one knows how many seriously wounded but the number 15,000-20,000 keeps coming up, and the U.S. will, if it approves the Bush supplemental request, go over the $300 billion mark for Afghanistan and Iraq. Add to that a stunning defeat at the polls where at least 48 percent of Iraqis voted for forces favorable to "Axis of Evil" Iran--our next military target if we listen to Condi "the peacemaker" Rice, not to mention a paltry 14 percent for "our guy" Allawi, and you have a disaster on your hands.
Now, how much is $300 billion? Almost half as much as we spent in 10 years of losing Vietnam. Now what is the Rumsfeld/Wolfowitz/Cheney plan? I'm trying to imagine the discussion with President Bush: Question: "What do you mean we only got 14 percent of the vote?"
Answer: "We need a major diversion."
Question: "I thought we were going to bomb the hell out of Iran."
Answer: "Well, it turns out that Iraq will probably merge with Iran or at least have a peace treaty so any attack would lead to the Shiites joining the insurgency against us."
Question: "When will all this be over?"
Finally, the right question.
February 14, 2005
So much for Allawi
Despite being in office since June, and despite the U.S. provding him with campaign advice and TV time, our man in Baghdad got an embarassing 14 percent of the vote. The Shiite Muslim Clergy party got a reported 48.2 percent and the Kurds 26 percent.
Now here is the suspicious part: The announcement was held up until the occupying force could check out allegations of voter fraud. Yah, sure, Ole. When early returns showed the Shiites with 72 percent you don't suppose Rove and Cheney went to work to make certain they did not get more than 50 percent, do you?
Won't it be fun to learn why lots of ballots were thrown out? Do you suppose there was a hanging chad or pregnant chad problem? Why was there was a delay in announcing the vote? Were they making sure the Shiite total was just under 50 percent?
MJS's headline announced the "good news" that Shiites did not get a majority. Whether or not the Shiites got a majority, they are in charge. And they believe the laws of Iraq must be based on the rules of the their religion.
What is amazing is the reaction of corporate media. This election sets the stage for civil war and was probably the most accurate poll taken in Iraq on the American invasion. Add the Sunnis to the Shiites and other non-Allawi votes and the U.S., after all the death, destruction, disruption and hatred engendered for America, got 14 percent of the vote. That's the story.
February 13, 2005
An interesting Republican
In looking around politics in Wisconsin, one thing that is apparent is that our politicians have become very boring. The only interesting Republicans over the past several years are Jim Klauser, Tommy Thompson and Mike Ellis. While one can (and should) disagree with all three most of the time, they make politics fun.
Scott Fitzgerald, John Gard, Steve Freeze, Scott Walker, and Glenn Grothman, on the other hand, should tape their speeches and sell them to insomniacs. Always careful--might run for governor some day--always predictable--TABOR is the only answer--and no sense of humor. Certainly they ignore my mother's advice, "If you can't laugh at yourself, others will beat you to it."
Ellis has done it again. Said Doyle's property tax freeze is superior to TABOR and he supports it. When asked about Ellis's plank-walk, Senator Scott Fitzgerald, appearing on "Here and Now," sounded like he was describing an outbreak of whooping cough. "We are studying it...Ellis knows a lot about state government...we will probably reject the governor's approach." OK, but why not a Bill Kraus chuckle that Mike has made it more fun? Because Scott Fitzgerald, like Scott Walker and Scott Jensen, is a "serious" man and he isn't having any fun. Boring.
For my money, if Ellis can act like a Democrat, I am waiting for the governor to act like a Democrat. You know, fight for lower tuition, health care for all, a serious reduction in prison population with repeal of the law with a fraudulent name, "Truth in Sentencing."
As for humor, Doyle ranks right down there with the Scotts. Lighten up folks. No one is taking you seriously except the lobbyists.
February 12, 2005
Is it any surprise that privatization of welfare has resulted in some problems? I don't think so. The private sector does not have the same checks and balances and experience as the public sector. The OIC story is a tough one and it deserves much more than a blog.
The OIC's problems were not caused solely by the corrupt state Senator Gary George and former chair of the Democratic Party Mark Sostarich. Sixty million dollars is a lot of money to manage. Thousands of complicated case files require lots of expertise. So, while it is a sad story to learn that OIC is no longer, we must learn from the experience.
Privatizing tasks better done in the public sector makes no sense, but it does permit politicians to brag that they have cut public jobs. Jim Doyle's mantra of cutting 10,000 jobs is proof of that. Do not talk about the impact of those cuts when you announce the tax savings, even if the resulting costs are higher while services are reduced.
Job counseling, education, and voting lists should be funded and managed within the public sector. Read the story in today's MJS and give us your comments.
February 11, 2005
Some months ago, Bill Moyers said, "The wealthy in this country have declared class warfare--and they have won." How right he is. Read Paul Krugman's superb analysis of how Bush "takes food from the mouths of babes and gives the proceeds to his millionaire friends."
It is truly startling as the administration cuts food stamps, heating assistance, and yes, veterans benefits in the midst of war! Could they insult our troops any more than they already have? I doubt it.
Sad, sad, sad.
February 10, 2005
While Rome burns
Start your day by reading Mike McCabe's article on the corruption of Wisconsin and be sure you hit the button to watch the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign's TV commercial designed by our friend Mike Konopacki. It reaches right out of your computer or TV and grabs the conscience.
It is time to turn the flood lights on the Capitol and its comfortable residents. Drive the money changers out, bring in the people again. If you did not read Christa Westerberg's account of her recent experience in testyfying before the Legislature, read her GuestBlog now. Soon we will publish an article written by her colleague. The arrogance of those with money in their campaign accounts knows no bounds.
Visualize democracy, friends. Close elections, lots of qualified candidates, fair elections. Too much to ask? Certainly too much for this Elections Board, the lobbyist's Legislature, and the governor. But, as La Follette once said, "The will of the people shall be the law of the land."
February 9, 2005
Bob Fest Number 4
The first planning session for our fourth Fighting Bob Fest was held in Reedsburg Monday night. The theme that is emerging is a celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and how our franchise is today threatened by the privatization of the electoral system.
It is not too early to mark your calendar. September 10 in Baraboo, Sauk County fair grounds. Meanwhile, the People's Legislature (TPL) is moving along. Planning is underway for Northwestern, Fox Valley and Milwaukee Legislative sessions. Stay tuned.
And, while we plan the positive events, the wrecking ball was pulled out by the president and almost every program designed to help the non-wealthy is being slashed. When Bill Moyers said, "The rich have declared class warfare and they have won," he was on the mark as usual.
February 8, 2005
Birthday party coming soon
On February 22, 2003, we launched FightingBob.com. Could have waited until March 1 but thought, "Why wait?" So, on the 22nd of this month, we celebrate our second birthday and begin our third year.
Take a look at the index of articles to gain some perspective on our contribution to the publication of progressisve thought. FightingBob.com was suggested at our first Bob Fest as a method for communicating among progressives of all stripes. I hope we have met your expectations but would greatly and warmly accept your ideas about how we can improve.
I'm happy to report that with a contribution last month of $5,000, we were able to match the very generous challenge grant our anonymous friend gave us last fall.
We will begin our third year in a period of great uncertainty in the state, the nation and the world. We need your voice and your ideas more now than ever.
Not quite happy birthday, but almost. Thanks for writing, contributing, reading, commenting, and for your ideas.
February 7, 2005
Frank Rich summed up the problem succinctly and accurately: "Public television is now so fearful of crossing its government patrons that it is flirting with self-immolation". Having disowned lesbians in the children's show 'Postcard From Buster' because new Education Secretary Margaret Spellings threatened PBS with decreased funding because one episode had the show's eponymous animated rabbit hobnobbing with actual lesbian moms on a visit to Vermont (I'm not making this up), PBS said it had decreed on its own only a few hours earlier that it would not distribute the offending show. If you believe that one, you probably think campaign contributions do not affect politicians. As Rich summed it up, "That shows just how cowardly PBS has become."
What about Wisconsin Public Television with the UW's long tradition of academic freedom on the line? Incredibly, Director of WPT programming and production, James Steinbach, goes along with PBS saying, "Buster shouldn't be the subject of controversy because the show isn't about parents or family structure of any kind." What did he say? "The show is about kids and how kids live. It's been turned into a controversy about whether it's appropriate for gays and lesbians to raise kids."
Shame on PBS and shame on WPR. We expect more. WGBH Boston aired the show anyway and 18 stations around the country will air it.
First they cave to pressure by giving Tucker Carlson a Friday night program, cutting NOW to 30 minutes and giving Paul Gigot of the Wall Street Journal a program. Now they fold like a pup tent in a wind storm when the Bush administration barks.
We will ask Steinbach for a response.
February 6, 2005
At the People's Legislature on January 4, one speaker said, "Even a saint would be tempted if she worked in a corrupt system."
Wisconsin's political system is corrupt. Does that mean incumbents are pocketing money? While that is certainly a concern, the real corruption comes in the form of power. If you want to get elected or remain in office for a long time, you put a tin cup in your hand, cover your soul, and start knocking on doors.
Some advice: Don't go door-to-door in a middle-class or poor district. Go to the utilities, insurance companies, banks, and WMC; the folks who want tax breaks, fewer regulators and silly mandates to put ethanol in every tank. (Why not mandate a Culver's milkshake every day? Would sure help the dairy farmers.)
Friday's MJS headline screamed, "Insurers give Doyle $28,500: Donations called 'quid pro quo politics' after merger." The money came from employees, top executives, spouses of two insurance companies--Wellpoint and Anthem, Blue Cross & Blue Shield--and a lot of it came just after the Wellpoint-Anthem merger was approved by the Doyle administration.
Imagine how happy Doyle's fundraiser was to put that amount into the kitty. If he or she works on a percentage it looks like a nice trip to Cancun is in the offing. Important to note: You and I don't know who those fundraisers are, how they are paid, and what they promise. But the chair of Wellpoint, Leonard Schaeffer and wife Pamela, live in Westlake Village, California. Do you suppose they are former Badgers worrying about clean government, or do you think they had self-interest in mind when they gave $18,500?
On Saturday, Doyle announced he wants to cut 1,800 more state jobs. Not to worry. He says the DNR will remain on the job to monitor air pollution despite losing 86 jobs. Yah, sure Ole. The DNR is not doing the job now, so you can take it from here that those who want fewer regulations over air quality (called utilities) may also be in Cancun. And check out the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign Web site to find out how much the utilities have contributed to the governor.
Put it together--fewer regulators, quickie approvals of insurance mergers, large contributions--and what do you get? Yup. It is called corruption.
February 5, 2005
We thought we saw it but had second thoughts. It seemed so bizarre that I opted not to say anything until Keith Olbermann ran it twice.
As President Bush was walking out of the House following his State of the Union address, he reached for Joe Lieberman, took his head in both hands, pulled him forward and kissed him on the ear. The fact that Lieberman was one of only six Democrats who voted for Attorney General/torture expert Alberto Gonzalez probably explains it all, but it was something to see. What would Charlie Sykes say if this had been Clinon kissing a Republican Senator on the ear? This is truely a man-bites-dog, dog-dies story.
Lieberman should seriously consider switching parties. He invited an apppointment to Bush's cabinet and his statements in 2000 while the Bush-Gore controversy raged contributed to Bush's ultimate, albeit illegitimate election to the presidency.
Well, so much for the odd couple.
February 4, 2005
Well, I'm back
I'm back from a short but enjoyable vacation. Enjoyable despite the news. How can we not begin with Condoleeza Rice's first foreign adventure. She gave assurances to our European and Middle-Eastern friends by saying that a military attack on Iran is "not on the agenda...at this time." She went on, as if appearing before another docile Senate panel, to lecture the media that all options are on the president's desk. (Does that mean resignation is a possibility?)
You don't suppose that the early returns from Iraq showing that 72 percent of the voters lined up with al-Sistani, thereby demonstrating loyalty to Iran and not the U.S., had anything to do with her saber-rattling, do you? Nah, that would be way too cynical. Think about poor Allawi. Risks his life to be our face in Iraq and he got about 18 percent in early returns--but just wait. Word has it Jeb Bush and Katherine Harris are headed to Baghdad for the recount.
Then we see our torture expert Alberto Gonzales is now our attorney general. What a gift to our enemies. Imagine what the creators of Swift Boat commercials could do with this material. Yikes! Back to vacation.
But the good news is great news. Our friends in Douglas County once again defeated the extension cord from Duluth to Wausau. The county board voted, after careful study and lots of open meetings, 15-11 to refuse access to county lands. Congratulations to Mark Liebaert and Tom Kreager and all the SOUL folks who never give up!
February 1, 2005
I'll be back
Ed Garvey is on vacation.