May 31, 2005
The Minneapolis Star Tribune ran quite an editorial yesterday to celebrate Memorial Day. In seeking forgiveness from those who have lost their lives in Iraq, the Star-Trib wrote: "President Bush and those around him lied, and the rest of us let them. Harsh? Yes. True? Also yes. Perhaps it happened because Americans, understandably, don't expect untruths from those in power. But that works better as an explanation than as an excuse."
For that paper, the "smoking gun" was the memorandum from the British outlining the Bush plan to overthrow Saddam and to cook the intelligence in July of 2002.
As more deaths are reported and as Iraq's insurgency becomes more and more destructive, perhaps the corporate media will follow the lead of the Star Tribune. It is time for some truth telling. It won't bring back the dead or cure the injuries, but it might give courage to Congress to demand an exit strategy.
May 30, 2005
Honoring the dead
As we pause to reflect on this Memorial Day, we should be honoring those soldiers who have given their lives for our country. And those with permanent injuries not to mention the injured families. And, of course, we must focus on the awful events unfolding in front of us in Iraq.
A chilling headline in the NYT, "Chaos, Fear and Hardship Chase Top Doctors From Iraq." Iraq is losing its top surgeons. When we hear that a suicide bomber caused X deaths and Y injuries, we imagine the injured arriving at well-staffed hospitals for excellent care. The reality is a hospital under-staffed with armed guards protecting doctors during surgery. Hospitals where power goes out at any moment. Where medical supplies are insufficient. What have we done?
It is now 1,648 American soldiers who have died since we began the invasion. The most recent is a 28-year-old man from Sun Prairie, Wisconsin. A young man with a six-month old baby and a two-year old child. Want to scream? I do.
How do we honor the dead? By making demands on the living. We must demand that we develop an immediate strategy to remove our troops, create conditions for peace, and take care of our responsibilities to those Americans and Iraqis who have had their lives torn apart.
This Memorial Day should be focused on the leaders of this country, of both parties, to speak out. Is this a difficult situation? You bet. Will silence help solve the problem?
May 29, 2005
Look out! The privatizers are coming!
Wisconsin State Journal reporter Phil Brinkman reports "UW may be facing a deeper budget cut." Jim Doyle, rapidly becoming the anti-education governor, cut the UW $250 million in the current budget and has proposesd $65 million more in cuts for the next two years.
Brinkman reports that class sizes are larger and section offerings have been reduced, and it would not take a genius to conclude that some of our best minds are looking elsewhere and recruiting of future Nobel winners is negatively impacted.
Ah, but the Lobbyist's Legislative Leaders have thrown a bone to the university by proposing a tuition cap. Or is the bone really a stink bomb? If the UW absorbs another cut approaching $100 million and tuition is frozen, it is a double whammy. Why would the lobbyists suggest a tuition freeze? Do they like students and do they worry that children of working families cannot afford an increase?
Allow me to provide a better analysis of their largesse. As state support of the UW system hits rock bottom, and the president of the Regents worries aloud that the quality of our greatest institution is in jeopardy, those who have quietly supported privatization of the Madison campus will now have an almost irrefutable argument on their side. Namely, the state of Wisconsin would rather lead the nation in spending on prisons like the outrageously expensive Supermax, than on the future of our youth. They will crow, "The only way to save the university is to turn it over to corporations to educate the economic elite." (Perhaps they could get the board of directors who run the Public Museum in Milwaukee to handle the task.)
Lookout folks. Tuition is rising, course selections falling, loan rates rising, financial aid falling while great minds in our university are threatened by some very pedestrian minds in the Lobbyist's Legislature.
Time for Kevin Reilly to get on a horse and ride through Wisconsin--"Wake up, wake up, the anti-intellectuals are coming!"
May 28, 2005
A couple weeks ago, the editorial page editor of the Wisconsin State Journal opined that consolidation of the media ain't so bad. (His company has competition in Madison from progressive Capital Times only because of a contract entered into many years ago.) The editor said he never has anyone telling him what to write. Yah, sure Ole.
Gannett, the largest chain in America owns the Green Bay Press Gazette and not long ago purchased the competitor--the News Chronicle, a paper begun by reporters on strike against the Press-Gazette. Gannett waited the respectable one year, announced they were tired of losing money and so, the News-Chronicle would close. End of story. End of diversity of views in our second largest market, but not to worry. I'll bet the Press-Gazette will publish letters to the editor and their editor will claim no pressure from Gannett.
Keep reading the Journal Sentinel story on the "Public" Museum disaster in Milwaukee. Today the budget chief, Steve Agostini, claims he wasn't told about the financial problems: "When people are lying to you, it's a little hard to do a proper due diligence." Got that right.
Ah, the promises made that private control of a public entity would bring better management and more contributions from wealthy donors seem a little hard to swallow now. Read this from Agostini: "Either, a, they were not being very careful; b, they were intentionally misleaidng me; or c, they were in such disarray that they didn't know what the hell was going on."
And the attorney hired to effectuate the private takeover told a Milwaukee audience, "We will show you we in the private sector can run the Museum, the Zoo, the Airport and the highways more efficiently than the public sector."
Thank the lord they didn't get Mitchell airport or we would think of O'Hare as our airport.
May 27, 2005
The "Public Museum"
Maybe you had to be there when the Milwaukee County Board, working with the union, gave private control over the public museum to fully appreciate the disaster now facing all of us who depend on the Museum of Natural History in Milwaukee. This is one of the top museums of natural history in the nation, but through mismanagement by the private sector much of the staff is gone, the endowment is gone, and the future of this great institution is in doubt, in part because of a refusal by County Executive Scott Walker to step up to the plate.
As if Walker's "not my fault" attitude were not enough, now the county board has voted to cancel or euphemistically "renegotiate" the lease with the "not-for-profit" entity. (The county owns the building and the collection, but a private board manages the museum.)
Over the past year, the private board remained silent while the chief financial officer withdrew millions from the museum's endowment for operational expenses. The fund, designed to protect the future of the institution, has fallen from $4.7 million to less than $400,000.
The Journal Sentinel has been covering this story and I recommend you check out the coverage. Next time someone tells you the private sector is always better than public management, remind them of the so-called "Public" Museum in Milwaukee.
May 26, 2005
Minimum wage movement
Add Eau Claire to the list of cities in Wisconsin that have raised the minimum wage. The Eau Claire City Council raised the minimum by 50 cents. Milwaukee, Madison, La Crosse and now Eau Claire. No wonder the lobbyists who control the Legislature are nervous. Soon local units of government, who tend to listen to neighbors and voters rather than campaign contributors, will deal with a variety of issues ignored in Madison.
Not even 803 paid lobbyists can keep an eye on the locals while still directing legislation in Madison. We can only hope that Governor Doyle will not sign into law a ban on local governmental action to raise the minimum wage. But, unfortunately, the smart money is betting he will go along to get along with WMC and the Republican leadership.
May 25, 2005
Bad day for Wisconsin's students
Proving that the use of property tax revenue to fund schools is a horrible idea, voters throughout the state voted against school funding. In 28 out of the last 39 school referenda, the vote was "no" to education. Or was that the issue? More likely, the voters would have said, "The state of Wisconsin should pay more and depend less on the most regressive tax of all, the property tax."
Senator Judy Robson and Assemblywoman Jennifer Shilling have introduced a plan not unlike the one the Garvey for Governor Campaign put forward in 1998. At the heart of it, exempt up to $60,000 of a home's value from taxation. In 1971, taxes on homes accounted for only 50 percent of all property taxes, but today, thanks to exemptions handed out by the Lobbyist's Legislature, home owners pay 69 percent. Corporate income taxes have dropped from 14 percent of our revenue in 1971 to a mere 6 percent today.
So, friends, let's get the People's Legislature on the path of removing corporate tax loopholes that could add an additional $3 billion in state revenue. We would not have a crisis, or indeed a shortfall, if we all paid our fair share.
Radical idea, you say? Well, call me radical if you must, but our kids deserve the best education we can provide. They are cheated with every loophole created by the lobbyists. Time for fairness.
May 24, 2005
Ah, yes, public education
As voters in Madison go to the polls today I hope they all had a chance to read "Three times yes" by John Matthews and Doug Haselow's excellent piece "Following suit" on Bob.com.
And for good measure, all of us should read the series on class differences running in the New York Times. Here is a scary opening for today's article: "College dropouts make up one of the largest and fastest growing groups of young adults in America. Most come from poor and working class families." And, of course, without a college degree, upward mobility is out of the question. (Upward to the middle-class.)
With that thought in mind, let us turn for a moment to a story in Sunday's Journal Sentinel explaining that high schools in the Milwaukee area are turning to corporate sponsors to keep sports alive in the Lobbyist Legislature-created education budget shortfall.
Corporate advertising on scoreboards, naming rights to the football field, or, in one case, to the performing arts building. What is the message to your young students? "We love you but not enough to do for you what our parents did for us?" It is a sad comment on our leadership that we will soon see high school athletes dressed in logo-filled jerseys, wearing Nike shoes whether they like it or not, and scoring touchdowns in Wal-Mart's end zone.
The Lobbyist's Legislature tells us that we cannot tax big business to pay for education but we can give them a tax deduction if they name the fieldhouse? Whoa Nelly! We need some leadership in the tradition of Fred Harvey Harrington, John Bascom, Bob La Follette. The extra-curricular activities of our high school students should not depend on a corporate logo or a coach's product endorsement.
Good luck to Madison schools.
May 23, 2005
They simply cannot tell the truth
From memos showing determination to go to war with Iraq in July of 2002, to the disgraceful Powell lecture at the United Nations, not to mention the State of the Union message in 2003, this group cannot seem to tell the truth.
When Pat Tillman was killed in Afghanistan, in the words of his parents, the government created a heroic tale about their son's death to "foster a patriotic response across the country." The problem, as we know, is that Tillman was killed by friendly fire and the military knew it.
His mother said, "The military let him down. The administration let him down. It was a sign of disrespect. It was heartreaking and tragic. The fact they lied about it afterward is disgusting."
I can't add anything to those powerful words from a grieving parent.
May 22, 2005
Worry about image?
Suddenly the folks at Pew Research for the People and the Press are worried that extensive wrangling in Congress is hurting the image of our second branch.
Really? Is the message then that Democrats should give in to the Bush-Frist strategy to pack our federal courts with extremists in order to preserve the Congressional "brand"? Give me a break.
If one is worried about the "image" of Congress, perhaps they should do something about the corrupting influence of big money on the institution.
With 45 million Americans going without health insurance and hundreds of thousands being forced off Medicaid, are we really worried about the "image" of Congress? With an incredible quagmire in Iraq and, yes, Afghanistan, should we put our heads down and ask how we can improve the rhetoric in the halls of Congress?
And here in Wisconsin, the article posted this morning by Doug Haselow reminds us that our Supreme Court ruled five years ago that "Wisconsin students have a fundamental right to an equal opportunity for a sound basic education...that will equip students for their roles as citizens." Well worth remembering.
Should we conduct a poll on the image of our Legislature or just demand that they start acting in the public intrest and not the lobbyist's interests? The People's Legislature meeting yesterday in Luxemburg answered the question.
May 21, 2005
Another regional meeting of the People's Legislature today. This one in Luxemberg. The theme will be like the others: How can citizens take back our democracy?
Monday we will announce our tremendous program for this September 10th's Fighting Bob Fest. This Fest will focus on the People's Legislature and how we, the little people, can develop our voice. Stay tuned.
Be sure to read the most recent post from our regular Friday GuestBogger Bill Kraus. You will enjoy his stump speech. Now, can we find a candidate to deliver it?
May 20, 2005
Where did we go wrong?
Occasionally we must ask, "Where did we lose the roadmap?"
Think about two recent news items. Mike McCabe reports that the global outsourcing firm Accenture is seeking to renegotiate its lucrative contract with Wisconsin's state Elections Board. Apparently Accenture cannot meet some deadlines and wants more than the $13.9 million it is to receive from our state for compiling the voting list. The contract is being challenged by the Democracy Campaign, Madison Teachers, Inc., and others. Would it hurt anything to shine some light on this process?
Next we turn to Assembly Representative and Joint Finance Committee member Steve Nass, who has attacked UW President Reilly for "hypocrisy, arrogance and elitism." You have to read the Nass news release to fully appreciate how far we have fallen. Two of Nass' problems: UW Stout will not permit ROTC on campus because ROTC discriminates against gays. And UW-Whitewater permitted Ward Churchill to speak on campus. How these issues impact the UW budget is a mystery.
Nass says "we non-PhD's can't possibly understand." I don't think advanced degrees or lack thereof is the issue but perhaps an I.Q. test should be administered for those who vote on the UW budget.
While we have taken issue with President Reilly on occasion, he was asking the Joint Finance Committee to consider the impact of the deep cuts in the UW budget called for by the governor. Is that grounds for personal attacks by Rep. Nass?
Duck boys, you are in a combat zone.
May 19, 2005
Fighting Bob had good advice
In 1919, Bob La Follette wrote that he would remain a member of the Republican Party "at this time." But, he went on to say, "I shall continue to denounce its representatives when they betray public interest. I shall refuse to be bound by its action whenever it fails in its duty to the country."
That is a good lesson for Democrats today. Spivak & Bice report in today's MJS that Governor Doyle wants to create a super law firm within state government that would be loyal to the governor. The "new firm" would be housed at Department of Administration and headed by Doyle loyalist Marc Marotta. Some 120 lawyers operating within agencies would move to DOA. Loyalty to the chief would be the company song.
The governor does not like the independent streak exhibited by Peg Lautenschlager, the people's lawyer, and so he is actively recruiting a Democrat to oppose her in the '06 primary. (Forget the fact that he has lots of hurdles before he can plan for a second innauguration.) Whether or not he finds a candidate, he wants to neuter the Department of Justice with a governor's law firm. Such nonsense.
Tommy destroyed the independent office of Public Intervenor and then forced the DNR to follow his lead by making the DNR secretary a cabinet position. Only the Supreme Court stopped him from destroying the independencee of the Department of Public Instruction.
Now, Doyle, in the traditon of Tommy Thompson, wants to eliminate independent judgment by the lawyers in state service.
What happens to these perfectly nice people who are elected? Now and then I have to thank the voters of Wisconsin for maintaining my non-incumbent status. The governor should read La Follette's autobiography.
May 18, 2005
Sanders has big lead
When Jim Jeffords announced he would not seek re-election to the U.S. Senate from Vermont, the spotlight moved to our friend Bernie Sanders, Vermont's only Congressman. In a poll announced yesterday, Bernie holds a big lead over potential Republican opponents and 66 percent of the people in Vermont hold a "favorable opinion" of Sanders.
Therein lies a message. People are hungry for authenticity. And Bernie is authentic. They want their elected leaders to speak out and be counted. In other words, you do not have to listen to the DLC.
Sanders spoke at Bob Fest II and may return this year on September 10 to Bob Fest IV. Bernie Sanders in the Senate is an exciting prospect.
May 17, 2005
Dumb and swift
State Rep. Sheryl Albers, a conservative Republican, was amazed at how quickly the Joint Finance Committee repealed comprehensive planning for growth. We commented that "Dumb Growth" would now replace "smart growth." And, in the People's Legislature meetings we have focused on how new lobbyist-driven bills hit the floor in draft form followed by a quick hearing and then certain passage.
Read what Albers had to say:
"My understanding is that the motion by the Joint Finance Committee to repeal comprehensive planning was completed from start to finish in not more than a few hours...I'm not sure that pulling the rabbit out of the hat and rushing it to a vote is the best way to develop a budget." She went on to say that the action "does nothing to address ongoing land use conflicts between cities and villages and the towns that surround them...replacing something with nothing will just lead to further erosion of private property rights."
And Rep. Albers pointed out that smart growth was a "compromise resulting from detailed, careful, and thoughtful discussion."
As for the public, she stated the obvious: "The overwhelming majority of people in this state are supportive of planning efforts."
A member of the Lobbyist's Legislature urging her colleagues to engage in thoughtful discussion? What's next? Real elections?
May 16, 2005
Hold on Governor!
Sixteen Assembly and Senate Democrats came out four-square for a higher minimum wage and in opposition to the so-called compromise to strip local units of government of their right to set higher minimum wages than the state.
The state minimum fails to index future levels to inflation and sets no goals beyond 2006. As Spencer Black suggested, "We would again have to return to the bargaining table." And, unstated but clear--these Democrats would rather bargain than beg. The good folks who signed on: Breske, Miller, Carpenter, Risser and Wirch in the Senate and Berceau, Black, Boyle, Kessler, Lehman, Parisi, Pocan, Pope-Roberts, Schneider, Sinicki and Turner in the Assembly.
If Doyle leaves it alone, the minimum will go up in December of 2006 -- so, asks, Berceau, "Why compromise over six months?" She has a point.
May 15, 2005
In 1992, a call for help came in from employees of the Milwaukee Public Museum. Seems that privatization of the museum was on the table. Keep in mind that the Museum of Natural History is a gem. It is one of the great natural history museums in the nation.
We learned that Milwaukee County had already privatized the audio-visual department of the museum. The story is hard to believe. An employee went to the board with an offer to purchase $4.8 million dollars worth of equipment and film for one dollar. In return, he would "take this off your hands." Incredibly, the board accepted the deal and our lucky citizen had a corporation worth nothing on day one and $4.8 million on day two. He could walk into the bank and borrow lots of money. Collateral? All those assets he got for one dollar.
For reasons never fully understood, AFSCME Council 48 went along with the plan. The argument from "friends of the museum" went something like this: "If you privatize the management of the museum, donors will give more money than they would to a public entity and our private managers know how to manage."
In a debate at the Milwaukee Unitarian Church, an attorney for the privatizers argued, "We will show that we can run the museum, the zoo, the airport and the highways more efficiently."
The Milwaukee County Board approved, the Circuit Court seemed sympathetic to the worker's complaint but ruled, in essence, that it was a done deal. The Supreme Court affirmed and privatization was a "done deal."
Fast forward to this week. Millions of dollars missing; 45 percent staff cuts; disaster looming. The privatized Board governing the museum was surprised with the $4 million shortfall. So much for better management.
The losers? Students in the future, today's scholars, and the employees. A lesson learned? We shall see.
May 14, 2005
Papal freeze and global warming
While tempted to discuss Pope Benedict's predictable appointment of arch-conservative Archbishop William Levada to enforce church doctrine, I decided to focus on the positive for the weekend.
That positive news comes from Seattle. Mayor Greg Nickels announced that he and 131 other mayors representing, according to the NY Times, 29 million citizens, are begining a nationwide effort to carry out the Kyoto Protocol on global warming. Huzzah! Positive action at a time when the Bush administration treats global warming like a slight annoyance. You should also read the three-part series in the New Yorker if you want to fully grasp the threat facing our planet.
The mayors of Milwaukee, La Crosse and Madison are part of the group. Let's ask mayors throughout Wisconsin to join. Why not get 100 percent of our mayors involved. Wisconsin, home to Gaylord Nelson, father of Earth Day, should join the mayor of Seattle and take the lead. We don't have much time.
May 13, 2005
Welcome to Dumb Growth Wisconsin
I am not making up this story. Yesterday the Joint Finance Committee cut all planning grant funding for smart growth. You know, the program started "to create better planning to improve the environment" by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; containing sprawl, forcing communities to plan for future growth instead of giving a blank check to developers, that sort of thing. The idea is for communities where people could walk to the stores. Sensible stuff.
Again, I am not making this up. Joint Finance then voted to repeal the smart growth comprehenesive planning law in its entirety. Yup! Voting against: Colon, Decker, Pocan, Taylor, Cowles, and Olsen.
The report did not say if the new Dumb Growth comprehensive plan passed. Further proof we need a People's Legislature, part time legislators, and public funding of campaigns.
This is embarassing not to mention environmentally disastrous. What has gone wrong? Hint: Developers contribute more money to campaigns than members of the Sierra Club or Clean Wisconsin.
May 12, 2005
Alms for the poor
For two important reasons, Jim Doyle, John Gard and Dale Schultz have agreed to flip a buck or two into the hat by agreeing to raise the minimum wage $1.35 per hour. First reason: They want to raise their own salaries and they look pretty foolish thumbing their noses at 39,000 workers in Wisconsin stuck at $10,712 per year. Second reason: Madison, Milwaukee and La Crosse, under pressure from progressives, went ahead and raised the minimum wage in their cities.
So, WMC concluded, this is a danger to their control of state government. Imagine if cities continue to act in the interests of their constituents. Where would it stop? A living wage? Health insurance? Better nip it in the bud, so the governor has apparently agreed to bar local governments from raising the minimum wage and the GOP agreed to take our minimum wage workers all the way to happiness and prosperity--$13,520 per year if they work 8 hours a day for 52 weeks. Benefits? Nah. That would just spoil 'em.
Welcome to Wisconsin. Land of the big heart.
May 11, 2005
$82 Billion, $82 Billion
Yes indeed, all 100 Senators voted yea for this latest installment to pay for the illegal invasion of Iraq. There must have been some celebrating at Halliburton as they will continue their profiteering with no-bid contracts to rebuild what we have destroyed. Amazing. Not one Senator voted no. Not one. I miss Paul Wellstone every day.
No demand for an exit strategy. No time line, no restrictions on the spending. Whoa Nelly! $82 billion taking the total well over $300 billion as we approach the 1600th combat death. Where is Gene McCarthy or Gaylord Nelson of today. Shame on the Senate.
May 10, 2005
What, no Accenture?
Yes it is true. The Republicans opted to let WisPolitics conduct its straw poll. (Why not Accenture?) The tiny sampling, 317 attendees at the GOP Convention, favored Mark Green for governor with 182 votes compared to Scott Walker who got 133.
Both candidates issued news releases. I'm not kidding. I would think they would be too embarassed to admit that out of five million people in Wisconsin, only 317 showed up to vote for their favorite candidate.
Paul Bucher, who has been urging all of us to carry weapons just in case, garnered a pathetic 47 votes to Van Hollen's 261 for Attorney General. Is this exciting or what?
Straw polls have replaced substantive debate while our leaders ignore the homeless, those without health insurance, and our underfunded schools. Yikes! 317 votes?
May 9, 2005
Guy Wolf reports Onalaska and Eau Claire may vote for a higher minimum wage following La Crosse. Wouldn't that be nice? Imagine if they agreed to the $11.00 per hour legislators get just for showing up!
Keep the pressure on.
May 8, 2005
Happy Mother's Day
Amy Goodman reminds us that the first person to call for a national day to honor mothers was Julia Ward Howe, author of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic." Howe wrote the great hymn during the Civil War. My favorite line: "He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free."
Later Howe decided war is so horrific that no mother would willingly send a son to die in combat. So, she reasoned, have a day where women call for peace--Mother's Day.
So, on this day, when we know that 1,595 of our soldiers have died in Iraq, let us renew Julia Ward Howe's dream and call for a day of peace.
Happy Mother's Day!
May 7, 2005
Good news only, please
Two stories grabbed my attention. First, UW Regents may cut security on campus and eliminate rape crisis counseling because funds are scarce. Those responsible for cutting the funds in the Lobbyist's Legislature are outraged.
Senator Sheila Harsdorf of River Falls was quoted in MJS saying the regents are using "scare tactics." I'm not making this up. Harsdorf wants to cut funding for the UW system and not be responsible for her actions. This is looney. Adults generally feel responsible for their actions. Legislators? Good news only please.
Then MJS reports there are 400,000 Wisconsin residents--12 percent of us--who do not have health insurance; 20.8 percent are black. What does Senator Harsdorf say to the cancer victim who cannot get treatment? Nothing. What do these legislators do all day?
May 6, 2005
Government we deserve?
My friend Bill Kraus says in GuestBlog that we "get the government we deserve." I beg to differ.
I think if we had a reasonably level playing field when it comes to elections he might be onto something, but we don't. We have a money-dominated system where the wealthy corporations buy the government they want--not the one the people deserve.
The people do not have wealthy foundations funding the likes of Charlie Sykes who in turn pushes notions like TABOR and in the process threatens Republicans with the scarlet letter RINO (Republican In Name Only) if they yield to the people and vote sensibly.
Watch the upcoming Republican gubernatorial primary between Mark Green and Scott Walker. Listen to them and you might conclude the poor are responsible for poverty, taxes are too high but all the tax breaks are warranted, and we need more prisons not more schools.
I think we deserve better than that. If only Kraus would run. How about it Bill? We could use some old-fashioned progressive Republicanism. You know. Government closest to the people is the best.
C'mon! I dare you.
May 5, 2005
Agree or disagree with his answers, we appreciate Joe Wineke's response to the questions we posed to the two announced candidates for chair of the Wisconsin Democratic Party.
FightingBob.com is frequently critical of both of the major parties for solid reasons, but we hope this Q&A feature will help frame the issues for the party faithful.
In the best of all worlds the process for electing officials of the Democratic Party will be more transparent as a result.
May 4, 2005
Corruption? Corruption? Where?
Yesterday I wrote about the ever-vigilant Ethics Board fining the Tavern League for giving, shall we say, a "discount" on all the shrimp you can eat and beer you could drink for members of the Lobbyist's Legislature. Problem with the Tavern League is that a legislator was picked up for DUI following the event, prompting a closer look and voila! the board slapped the Tavern League on the rear-end.
Meanwhile, back at the Madison Club, Spivak & Bice report that the liquor wholesalers have "contributed" $45,000 to Jim Doyle's campaign. Officials from General Beverage in Madison have "given" Jim Doyle $34,000 since 2000.
At the Milwaukee People's Legislature on Saturday, the group enthusiastically argued that "contributions" or "gifts" to candidates or incumbents should be labeled as "bribes."
Now, bribes are illegal but large campaign contributions are perfectly legal. Let me be clear. The liquor wholesalers are well within the law in giving tens of thousands to the governor. So, what is the conclusion? This is not a tough one: Change the law!
A bribe is given to convince a public official to vote a certain way to help the one who offers the bribe. But wait. Did the wholesalers give money to the governor for "good government," or do they have a particular agenda? See you at Fighting Bob Fest where we will take this head-on.
May 3, 2005
Here comes the Ethics Board!
Lookout! Run for the restroom! The Ethics Board, Wisconsin's modern-day Elliot Ness, is checking out fundraising right in the sea of corruption. Yes sir! The Tavern League was fined $2,500 for not charging enough for beer and shrimp. The Tavern League charged $5.00 for all you can eat and drink and 57 anonymous legislative aides, 37 anonymous Assembly members, and 11 anonymous Senators gobbled up the shrimp and downed beer.
Think about it. The legislators get $88 per day if they live outside Dane County just for showing up. (Speaker Gard gets $88 even though he lives in Dane County, but hey, he has a growing family. Can you blame the guy?) So they get $88 per day if they just walk into the Lobbyist's Legislature before heading for the "all you can eat and drink for five bucks" event. Can't they afford a cash bar?
I wonder if the conversation after five or six beers turns to the absurd notion that those earning $5.15 per hour deserve a raise. "Why don't they get someone to sponsor them to run for the Legislature" for Pete's sake. WMC is always looking for good, solid, safe candidates.
Pass the shrimp.
May 2, 2005
Fair and Balanced
The New York Times writes today about one of our favorite subjects: the pressure on public television to lean further right. It was Dennis Hastert who demanded that Bill Moyers add Tucker Carlson or Newt Gingrich as a co-host of "Now," arguably the best program PBS has ever carried. When Moyers said he would rather resign than cave, a deal was made. Add Tucker Carlson for a half-hour program; cut "Now" to a half-hour; add the Wall Street Journal's "The Journal Editorial Report," hosted by Paul Gigot. Some deal!
The Times reports that PBS chairman Ken Tomlinson hired an outside consultant, without telling his board, to keep track of the guests "leanings" on "Now With Bill Moyers." Tomlinson said he was striving for balance and has no desire to impose a political point of view on programming. "My goal here is to see programming that satisfies a broad constituency." Yah, sure, Ole.
Wonder why we have FightingBob.com? Why we promote "Free Speech TV" as well as alternative community-based radio and TV stations, the Shepherd-Express and Isthmus? Bill Grieder wrote a great book about the media a while ago titled Who Will Tell the People? Keep asking the question. Read our regular guest blogger Bill Kraus's post on Wisconsin Public TV: one half-hour devoted to Wisconsin news per week. Hardly enough to sneak in an interesting interview.
May 1, 2005
People's Legislature--number 4
A small but enthusiastic crowd attended the 4th session of the People's Legislature on a beautiful Saturday in Milwaukee. While many issues were discussed, the assembly endorsed the four main TPL resolutions with strong emphasis on public financing of campaigns. Mike McCabe received an enthusiastic standing ovation following his keynote speech on the corruption of our system. Nino Amato's remarks were greeted with enthusiasm as well when he called for adoption of an ethics code by our Public Service Commission.
Delegates were enthused about coming to Fighting Bob Fest on September 10 to take the next step in our demand for the return of democracy to Wisconsin. Disappointment in Governor Doyle's silence on public financing was prounounced.
Madison, La Crosse, Cable, Milwaukee and next the Fox Valley on May 21 in Luxembourg. The momentum continues to build; the frustration with the Lobbyist's Legislature grows; the demand for change is loud and clear. A good day in Milwaukee. A 15-person steering committee emerged to plan for future action. On to Baraboo!