July 31, 2005
Get 'em while they're poor
The NY Times reports that Army recruiters are doing great--in the Northern Mariana Islands, that is. With poverty rampant and textile factories closing because of downward competition from China, more and more young people are signing up to join the Army. "The Army has found fertile ground in the poverty pockets of the Pacific while falling well behind recruiting goals in the United States. The per capita income is $8,000 in American Samoa, $12,500 in the Northern Marianas, and $21,000 in Guam..." The Army minimum signing bonus is $5,000, pay is $17,472 and recruits can get educational benefits as well. Pretty tempting.
While we shudder to think the poor are exploited in the Pacific to fight our wars, guess who is signing up in the U.S.? Yes, indeed. Those earning the minimum wage look at the signing bonus in Detroit and Milwaukee just like they do in Guam.
Depressing. Is it time to bring back the universal draft with no exemptions for the healthy or the wealthy?
July 30, 2005
Dominion of the sovereign
Look up eminent domain in the dictionary and you will be surpised to read the definition: "The dominion of the sovereign power over all property within the state by which it can appropriate private property for public use for just compensation." Okay, that is pretty straight-forward. The "sovereign"--the state or other governmental body, acting with the power of kings of old, can seize any private property for "public use."
In a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supremes ruled that public use includes the government seizing private property for private developers. You know. If Wal-Mart or a condo developer wants your property they go to local officials and propose taking your property to create jobs and economic development. But the court's ruling is scary.
A Republican Congressman was quoted by the NY Times saying, "This decision opens a new era when the rich and powerful can use government to seize the property of ordinary citizens for private gain." Welcome to reality-city, Congressman McClintock. Welcome.
The rightwing House of Representatives voted 365 to 33 condemning the court's decision. Various state legislatures are now working to protect private property through constitutional amendments limiting eminent domain. Right meets left. Libertarians, Greens, Democrats, Republicans and other politically homeless are furious.
Ah, but not in Wisconsin. No siree! In the land of La Follette, Muir, Leopold and Nelson, John Gard and Jim Doyle agreed to expand the reach of eminent domain. I'm not kidding. In Wisconsin, private utilities can exercise eminent domain power over all private property and, thanks to Gard and Doyle, they now have the same right to take public land. Think about it.
Back to the definition. It is the power of "the sovereign." In Gard-Doyleland, private corporations are now "sovereign." Unbelievable. Wisconsin now leads the nation in giving power over our land to private corporations while other states rush in the opposite direction. What do you think?
July 29, 2005
Kudos for Miranda
You have to read the GuestBlog from Ms. Forward. Turns out you will also want to read the Charlie Sykes blog apologizing to Robert Miranda that GuestBlog links to. (I can't recall urging you to read anything written by the loudest voice of Journal Communications and the Bradley Foundation, but this one is a must read.)
Bob Fest--plans are moving forward and we are pleased that Senator Russ Feingold will join Congressional Representatives John Conyers, Maxine Waters, Gwen Moore and Tammy Baldwin. Vermont's independent voice Bernie Sanders, "Democracy Now!"'s Amy Goodman and our all-time favorite humorist Jim Hightower will inspire the crowd and issue a call to action.
PRE-REGISTER by going to the Fighting Bob Fest site.
July 28, 2005
Rummy has lost it
In reading his statements deliverered in Iraq yesterday, my conclusion is that Donald Rumsfeld has lost touch with reality. With his credibility at zero in America, the old cocky Rummy lectured his Iraqi allies.
He told them to put aside religious differences, agree on a new constitution quickly, and assert more influence on Syria and Iran to "force them" to fight the insurgency. (I'm not making this up.) He told them to stick to a political time table: "Any delay would be very harmful to the momentum that's necessary...we don't want any delays...we have troops on the ground. People get killed." All of this reported in the New York Times. It sounds like he is bonkers.
Here is his quote about Iran and Syria: "They [Iraq] need to demonstrate that they're a big country, they're a wealthy country, that they'll be around a long time, and they don't really like it." (I guess the definition of "it" is as troubling for Rummy as it was for Bill Clinton.) This is scary.
CAFTA--In the meantime, the good guys came within two votes of defeating CAFTA. The treaty was approved 217-215 with 15 Democrats voting in favor of the treaty. (One may assume the 15 will go into the DLC's Hall of Fame and into labor's Hall of Shame.)
Needles. Say it ain't true Jim. Apparently Susan Goodwin, de facto deputy governor, had a bag of used needles delivered to John Gard's office. The bag contained 1,400 capped needles and syringes according to the JS. This "gift" was designed to highlight Gard's opposition to stem cell research.
Yikes! What is going on in the east wing of the Capitol? This was potentially dangerous and very stupid. Could we get back to the high road? Please?
July 27, 2005
Is this a private fight?
Our FightingBob.com motto might have inspired the union leaders in the AFL-CIO. Apparently it ain't a private fight between Andy Stern and John Sweeney and lots of folks have asked to join in.
The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation announced a plan to raise $2 million for "Free legal assistance to workers seeking to end their union membership and to stop paying dues." That comes from the Washington Post. This announcement comes on the heels of AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Rich Trumpka saying the Federation may have to raise dues to off-set the loss of 3 million dues-paying members. (By the way, if there were ever a misnomer, it is "Right to Work." In a nod toward honesty they might express their true feelings by completing the thought--"The right to work for less.")
Jesse Jackson spoke to the 800 delegates in Chicago and gave some sound advice: "We must turn to each other, not on each other." The Post reported, "He warned against leaving so much blood on the field that you cannot compete against 'anti-civil-rights, anti-labor-rights Republicans.'"
Given the fact that no bill has been passed into law making it easier to organize in more than 60 years and our labor laws are treated as a joke by Big Business, Jackson is speaking the truth.
The fundamental issue in organizing is not a lazy AFL-CIO but the perversion of our labor laws by sharp union-busting lawyers and consultants and a National Labor Board that should change its name to National Management Board. The conservative Democratic Leadership Council is not pushing for labor law reform--they are funded by anti-labor forces as well. DLC fights for NAFTA, CAFTA, and all the other so-called free trade treaties that rob American workers of their family supporting jobs.
But back to labor. Nothing good will come of this split. It would seem that leaders who head organizations that bargain every day for workers could figure out a way to negotiate in good faith with each other. Ever hear of mediation? Arbitration? Try it, you will like it. It isn't a private fight. We all have a stake in this one.
July 26, 2005
Most major newspapers, and all minor ones, no longer have a reporter assigned to labor. While the AFL-CIO says it has 13 million members, the struggles of working people and their unions are rarely featured.
But when labor splits into factions, there is plenty of attention from corporate media and Democratic politicians worry more about the impact of the split in the house of labor on their future, not the future of working families who should be their primary concern.
Much has been said about the dynamic organizing of SEIU over the past decade. SEIU has organized about 20,000 per year for ten years and is now the largest union in the AFL-CIO. Nothing has been said about the Teamsters, UFCW and other unions joining in the AFL-CIO walk-out. How have these unions done in the organizing department? Andy Stern, standing with James Hoffa calling for a rebuilding of the labor movement raises more questions than it provides answers. Is the split more about personalities and power or is it about organizing?
It is not easy to find out. Most labor leaders have remained as silent as children overhearing a domestic dispute. How will the split impact state AFL-CIO policies? Will labor be marginalized politically? Will the teachers get involved? Are we stuck with a neocon Supreme Court, CAFTA, NAFTA, GATT and low wages for the forseeable future? Who will take on Wal-Mart?
I don't know any more than you do. But I am worried that the fall-out will prove difficult. If the new faction is truly dedicated to organizing it could work. If it is about personalities, as John Sweeney charges, it is the neocon's dream come true.
We will be soliciting articles from labor to get some answers.
July 24, 2005
The memorial for our beloved Gaylord Nelson was upbeat and yet moving. Dave Obey was superb in his eulogy and in his playing the harmonica. All spoke of Gaylord's dedication to the environment. If we had a Mt. Rushmore his image would be with Aldo Leopold, John Muir, Chuck Stoddard and those who created the Public Intervenor office in the Attorney General's office. Gaylord spoke beautifully but he also acted on his beliefs.
This brings us to the signing into law of AB 437, the Montgomery bill, that flew through the Lobbyist's Legislature like poop through a goose.
Some background: Recently the U.S. Supreme Court infuriated nearly all Americans with a 5-4 decision that permits the use of eminent domain, by a governmental body, to take private property for private development. (In many ways, this is nothing new. In Detroit, Poletown was razed by the city to make way for a General Motors factory.) People are outraged. In a New Hampshire poll 89 percent of Democrats, 90 percent of Republicans and 93 percent of independents oppose the court ruling.
It is rather shocking for people to come to the realization that developers and big business are in control. Your home is "on loan" from the developers.
Could it get any worse? Read on McDuff. The lobbyists for Wisconsin-based utlities got angry when Douglas County Board members rejected more than 30 pieces of silver from the American Transmission Company (ATC) for the right to place 14-story poles on public land for the loopy extension cord called Arrowhead-Weston.
When the Board refused, ATC turned to its lobbyists and they got Rep. Montgomery, a Republican, and Senator Jeff Plale, a Democrat, to introduce a bill that would (I am not making this up) permit a private utility (or ATC which is not a utility) to use eminent domain to seize public lands. The bill strips counties, towns, and cities of local control over their own publicly owned land!
Think about it. Bad enough that government can take private land for use by developers, but Wisconsin has moved ahead of the curve. Why stop with government seizing your home or other property? Let's give the awesome power of eminent domain to private utilities to seize public parks. Whoa Nelly!
One could not imagine a Democratic governor signing this bill, but it happened. Yes, indeed, Jim Doyle signed this into law and now ATC can seize land owned by the people of Douglas County to complete the wasteful, ratepayer-funded transmission line. Save Our Unique Lands (SOUL) is outraged as you should be.
How can we honor Gaylord one week and sign into law a bill that turns over to private companies the determination of the use of public lands? Hard to believe. Shame on Montgomery, Plale, and Doyle.
Can you imagine a conversation with Fighting Bob La Follette, Gaylord Nelson and Aldo Leopold on this law?
July 23, 2005
With the latest near-disaster in London and the explosions in Sharm el-Sheik, Egypt, it is clear that we need a comprehensive plan to deal with terrorism. The Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld answer of bombing, torture and invasion has only made things worse, that is a certainty. What is the better response? We would love to read your ideas. Please contact us.
Seeems to me that the response of the world powers must first deal with peace between Israel and Palestine. That festering sore must be cleansed. There can be no question that the dispute has fostered much of the anti-American attitude throughout the Arab world.
The second step is to remove our troops from Iraq. No country likes the occupier, and Iraq is no exception. The occupation is creating more, not less, terrorism.
And we must figure out how to deal with poverty in our country and theirs. No solution will be found if young Arabs have no hope of a decent life. If they cannot dream about a college education, a good job, health care, and stability they have no stake in the system.
We cannot stop terrorism by the "Bush-look" into the camera that "we will track them down and bring them to justice." If life were that simple we would not have any problems. But it isn't.
So, share your thoughts with us. We all need to become engaged in this effort.
July 22, 2005
Bernie Sanders is coming to town
More good news. The one Independent voice in the House of Representatives, Vermont's only congressman, Bernie Sanders, accepted our invitation to speak at Fighting Bob Fest on September 10. Sanders is the favorite to win the Senate seat now held by Jim Jeffords who has announced his retirement due to poor health.
Jeffords stunned the Bush administration when he left the Republican Party over matters of principle.
Having Sanders in the Senate is a delicious prospect. One out of one hundred rather than 1 of 435 will amplify his progressive message to new levels.
Bernie spoke at Bob Fest two years ago and the response was overwhelming. With Amy Goodman, John Conyers, Maxine Waters, Jim Hightower, Matt Gonzales joining Wisconsin based Gwen Moore, Tammy Baldwin, Mike McCabe and Barbara Lawton, and John Nichols, the crowd is in for a great and inspiring day.
See you in Baraboo.
July 21, 2005
Iraq spelled Vietnam
Every day sees a new story of how poorly things are going in Iraq. Sunnis boycotted the election which, by the way, was rigged in part by the CIA; now, after the assassination of two Sunnis on the committee writing the constitution the Sunnis will boycott the committee. The Algerian Ambassador to Iraq was kidnapped, the Egyptian Ambassador killed. The clear message is that chaos reigns in occupied Iraq and the U.S. as the occupier cannot restore order.
On top of that the Pentagon leaked a report that two-thirds of the Iraqi army is too weak to fight on its own. Besides, the army is infiltrated by insurgents. Half of the police units, according to the NY Times, cannot conduct operations. I recall Hillary Clinton sitting with some Republican Senators a few months back telling us that training of the Iraqi forces was on track.
Have you seen Fog of War? If not, rent it and see it. You will be reminded of how leaders during the Vietnam disaster told us not to worry--we are the most powerful nation on earth. And we were training the South Vietnamese to take over. Yup. And we lost.
President Bush keeps assuring us things are improving. Really. He says that but have you noticed that Rummy and Dick Cheney rarely come out of their bunkers these days? Do you miss the Rumsfeld swagger at news briefings?
The Poles are leaving and so are the Italians and the British. The Arab allies are not going to send troops. Our troops are over-extended and the National Guard is suffering. This is not a pretty picture and I suspect there will be plenty of discussion at Fighting Bob Fest on September 10. Time for the people to speak.
July 20, 2005
The word is "filibuster"
Got to hand it to Cheney and Bush. They nominated a judge who will be hard to stop despite his far-right agenda. He looks nice, appears humble (as if that matters), and he has a short record on the bench. Top of his class at Harvard University and Law School, worked for Hogan and Hartson law firm in D.C.--if that doesn't turn on your yellow caution light it is in need of repair.
His record goes well beyond his limited role as a judge on the Circuit Court of Appeals in D.C. He was a clerk to Rhenquist; he was deputy solicitor general under Ted Olson, he is a hardcore right winger. Awful on reproductive rights, environment, civil liberties, affirmative action but hey, he is better than Atilla the Hun.
And the spin has begun. He is "mainstream" is the claim from the neocons. You can take it to the bank. The neocons know his views and they know he will be the swing vote in support of Chief-Justice-In-Waiting Scalia.
The only good thing about this nomination is that it takes the guess work out of future Supreme Court decisons for the next 20 or 30 years. The Reagan-Atwater-Bush-Rove-Gingrich revolution has triumphed.
The only way to stop Roberts is a filibuster. Can the proponents of choice, civil liberties, the 4th and 8th Amendments and the environment find 40 votes? Who knows unless we try.
Tip your hat to Bush and then buckle your seatbelts. This fight is for all the marbles.
July 19, 2005
Say what you mean
Remember the old bromide, "Say what you mean and mean what you say?" First the president was very assertive in announcing he would fire anyone on his staff who leaked the information about Ambassador Wilson's wife. Then he wouldn't act while an investigation is ongoing. Now, the header reads, "Bush revises vow to fire leaker of CIA Operative's ID." Behold the new standard: "Anyone who committed a crime" will be fired.
That means indictment, trial, conviction followed by a pardon. Yikes!
July 18, 2005
We are all fortunate to be witnesses to the Rove defense by real experts. Watch and enjoy as the people who went for Clinton's jugular from the moment he was elected until he found comfort in arms of George H.W. Bush are in full gallop. The people who brought you Swift Boat, where they incredibly took a war hero and had him trade places with the guy who ducked service, are giving us another lesson in spin.
Of course they couldn't do it without the full support of the corporate media, but why complain? We should watch in "shock and awe" as we see the professionals defend the present-day Lee Atwater. Consider yourself lucky. Quite a show "...he didn't know her name...he didn't call Novak, Novak called him..." Ah, let the good times roll.
One footnote: 100,000 dead Iraqis, 1,765 dead American soldiers, thousands injured for life. A detail to the troops surrounding General Rove but a detail to keep in mind.
July 17, 2005
A slight disparity
Ben Stein writes in the Business section of the NY Times. Today he writes about multi-zillion dollar contracts that are the norm on Wall Street. Some fund managers getting $500 million per year and CEO's who are fired for poor performance getting $20-50 million in severance pay.
Stein compares these outlandish compensation packages with military pay. A Navy Seal was killed in Afghanistan last week. His pay? $1,950 per month. "That means the guy at the hedge fund is getting as much as, say, 10,000 of these corporals per annum."
Whatever your view of this war, one more reason for outrage is Ben Stein's observation. The sons and daughters of the Wall Street folks who are profiting from this invasion/occupation will never see action in the military. And when the Navy Seals return home, they may well face unemployment, bankruptcy, low wages and rehab. Something as gone terribly wrong.
July 16, 2005
Coleman to the rescue
Now that the heat is on Karl Rove, not to mention his boss, guess who the Republicans turned to as head of their "truth squad"? Hint: He was the attack dog during the Kofi Annan smear and he headed the attack on British Labor MP George Galloway. You guessed it, Minnesota Senator Norm Coleman, the guy who said "I am a better Senator than Paul Wellstone 99 percent of the time."
What is Coleman's new role? To sleaze Ambassador Wilson in the best Swift Boat, Willie Horton, Bob Kasten tradition. Do not focus on a possible crime commited in the White House, attack the victim.
While Coleman spoke, the GOP handed out a memo attacking Wilson and his wife. The real question? Who leaked the name of Wilson's wife to Robert Novak. And, another question, Why is Judy Miller in jail while Novak and Rove walk with kings?
It is getting hot. Signs of panic are everywhere. Why is this important? Ask the families of 1,765 dead soldiers who fought for a lie told by Bush, Rove, Cheney and Rumsfeld.
July 15, 2005
The Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled in favor of victims when it struck down the cap on damages a victim can receive for non-eonomic injuries. Imagine that! The court believes in our system of justice. My, my.
A jury and a judge should be permitted to hear the facts and render a verdict. Not exactly radical stuff for most of us, but Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce is unhappy. Furious.
Jim Haney, president of WMC and ruler of the Lobbyist's Legislature, cried foul. Even though the court based its decision on constitutional grounds, Haney issued a ukase to the Lobbyist's Legislature. Fix this or we will lose our jobs and our best doctors! Really? Noted heart surgeon W. Dudley Johnson has a different take on these issues: "Do something about malpractice. A cap has never improved a doctor's performance." Right on, Dr. Johnson.
The fun part of this is to read the WMC news release: "Today, the Wisconsin Supreme Court crossed over and established itself as an activist court."
Haney didn't explain what the court "crossed over" but he put out the line. Who gobbled it up? The elected head of the Lobbyist's Legislature, John Gard. What did he say? "This is another example (not citing any others but hey, who is watching?) of an activist court overstepping its authority." I'm not making this up. He not only takes the WMC line but now he tells us the Supreme Court has no jurisdiction over the state's constitution.
Who does, may I ask? Jim Haney?
July 14, 2005
Thanks again, Gaylord
Yesterday was special. A couple thousand people joined the dignataries in the Capitol to celebrate the life of Gaylord Nelson. It was profound and it was fun. It was humorous and it was serious. We laughed, applauded and shed some tears.
Whether those tears were for Gaylord or out of recognition that a Gaylord Nelson could not be elected today is an unanswered question. Given the millions needed today to run for governor or senator, Gaylord, wearing his principles on his sleeve, would probably not run. If he did the media would ignore him because they focus on how much money a candidate has in the bank not the ideas he has in his head.
A few years ago I asked him how we could reform our corrupt system. He looked into the camera and said that Democrats should put down the tin cup, run on ideas, and, while they would lose for awhile, they would ultimately win and that would change the system.
But on with the humor. Fritz Mondale spoke of Gaylord and Carrie Lee. In typical Norwegian humor, Mondale joked that "Gaylord said he loved her so much--he almost told her." And he related Carrie Lee's great comment on how they remained married for more than 50 years: "Easy. We were both in love with the same man."
The highlight of the day was Dave Obey's tribute to his friend of 40 years. Obey captured our debt to Gaylord and the Nelson family and ended by playing Amazing Grace on his harmonica. Quite a tribute. A wonderful day.
I never met Bob La Follette, of course, but count me among the lucky ones who knew Gaylord Nelson. Gaylord reminds us of why Wisconsin was a special place. Yesterday we were inspired to return to that special place.
Tia Nelson spoke last and urged the crowd to follow her father's advice--"Never give up!"
July 13, 2005
Far right, meet extreme right
The only interesting fight in the Lobbyist's Legislature is the fight between the far right and the extreme right. On July 3, I blogged on the issue of stem cell research and challenged Jim Haney of WMC to join the fight to save Wisconsin's stem cell research program from the nuts. Well, in today's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Haney and former DOA Secretary under Tommy, Mark Bugher, have jumped in.
The leader of the extremists is Rep. Steve Kestell who argues that we should not be competing for this business. Here is his rationale: "If other states were making money by trafficking in human slaves, would we want to do it too?" Oh boy. And the ever-present Susan Armacost of Wisconsin Right to Life says her poll shows that 77 percent of Badgers oppose stem cell research. Nonsense and double nonsense.
If asked, "Would you support stem cell research to find a cure for Parkinson's disease," I'll give you 10-1 odds that 90 percent of the people of this state will stand shoulder to shoulder with UW Professor Jim Thompson.
Meanwhile, Haney, Bugher and Tom Still watch in wonderment, like the mad professor, seeing the monster they have created destroy itself. How do they stop Frankenstein? Well, we could have an IQ test for potential legislators. Or we could publicly finance campaigns so we could attract the best and the brightest. Or we could sit and watch the best and the brightest move to California. Yikes!
July 12, 2005
London as model
We cannot help but be impressed with the British response to the awful attacks. Unlike the Bush response to find a country to bomb to show how tough we are and the resolve to "find them and bring them to justice--dead or alive," the Brits have responded with calm and dignity.
Growing up with a father whose parents fled Ireland because of the British occupation, I had some strong feelings about our ally. But all of those feelings have melted away as I watched Tony Blair and the mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, respond. No bombing of another country, no call for a Patriot Act, no panic and no invasion. Here, instead of a Bush/Giuliani response, are the words of Livingstone as reported in the NY Times:
"I say to those who planned this dreadful attack, whether they are still here or somewhere abroad, watch this week as we bury our dead and mourn them, but see also in those same days new people coming to this city to make it their home, to call themselves Londoners, and doing it because of that freedom to be themselves."
And a columnist in the Guardian, Polly Toynbee: "People have been careful on all sides not to be seen seizing political advantage over this, not to be seen grandstanding or outdoing anyone else."
Think of the Bush and Giuliani response for contrast. And think of Blair's response when told, compared with Bush continuing for seven minutes reading Pet Goat to grade-school kids.
We have much to learn and we should applaud the Brits and the Londoners in particular for setting a wonderful example.
July 11, 2005
Rove was the source
By the time you read this, you will have learned that the secret source in the Valerie Plame-Wilson outing was Karl Rove. But, his lawyer argues, he may not have known she was an undercover CIA agent. Sure. And he may not have deliberately outed her. Sure.
Judith Miller of the New York Times is in jail protecting this guy while he manipulates the system to remain out of jail himself. Nice guy this Rove. He probably never learned that adults understand their are consequences for actions.
In the meantime, gotta love Julian Bond's attack on the Bradley Foundation headed by Michael Grebe for funding vouchers and supporting "fraudulent civil rights organizations."
Let's see if "Bradley fellow" Charlie Sykes defends his patron.
July 10, 2005
Cardinal Christoph Schonborn, archbishop of Vienna, wrote an op-ed piece for the NY Times questioning the scientific basis for Darwinian evolution. He concludes "evolution as accepted by science today may be incompatible with Catholic faith." Whoa Nelly! The Times reports that "science teachers reacted with confusion, dismay and even anger."
If he were just any cardinal it might be dismissed, but Cardinal Schonborn is very close to the new Pope. Scary.
The good cardinal, who did not list his scientific credentials, now believes schools "should teach that evolution is just one of many theories. Really? And what are the other ones?
You can guess the next topic will be addressed by the Vatican. You betcha: Stem cell research.
Supreme Court Meanwhile, the Democrats in the Senate seem downright scared of President Bush. I've spent a lot of time negotiating in my life, and when one side starts begging for mercy it is not a sign of confidence. Senator Harry Reid all but embraced our Attorney General as an appointee (no, not Peg Lautenschlager, the other one). And now he is quoted as saying, "I would hope that he goes over some names with us. I don't think the country needs a squabble on this right now." Wow! Fighting words.
I don't think the country needs a "squabble"? Could we think about affirmative action, integration of schools, environmental protection, Roe v. Wade and more? "Squabble"? How about a knock-down-drag-out fight for a change? This isn't about popularity it is about our way of life.
C'mon Harry. Take some time off and get yourself up for the fight of your life and ours. Pretty please.
July 9, 2005
Back to the 19th century
The Vatican has been busy. Now they have issued an 85-page explanation of how the eucharist is supposed to be used. The document notes that fewer and fewer Catholics are going to confession and many do not attend mass on Sunday. Presumably, with lower attendance there are fewer abuses of the eucharist but that doesn't stop the Vatican.
They once again say it is wrong to give communion to politicians who support abortion or to divorcees who remarry. (If they get a costly annulment from the Vatican they are back in good graces.)
Most religions are trying to expand membership while the Catholic Church seems heaven-bent on reducing its numbers. Wait until tomorrow. The church is now questioning evolution. I'm not making this up. For your homework, Google "Copernicus" and read how he shook the church by proclaiming the nutty idea that the Earth is not the center of the universe. Must have been smoking something.
July 8, 2005
What's wrong with this picture?
Ed Gillespie, pit bull and former chair of the Republican National Committee (like CPB's Patricia Harrison) was appointed by Bush/Cheney to lead the confirmation fight for the Supreme Court nominees. How do you know the Democrats will lose their pants in this game? Here are words from Terry McAuliffe, former chair of the Democratic Party, defending Gillespie, as reported in the New York Times: "As soon as the camera lights went off, we'd have a lot of conversation. We're both strong Catholics, we both have lots of kids. We get along great. For two years, I spent more time with Ed than I spent with my wife."
Whoa Nelly! Recall that Bush beat McAuliffe's candidate. Perhaps Terry should have been home in bed when the younger Gillespie kept him out talking about the latest letter from the Bishop.
Money. Spivak & Bice lead with this old bromide: "Every pol has his price." Not exactly an endorsement of our corrupt system but how about the private sector? John J. Mack was named chair of Morgan Stanley last week. He will get $25 million per year but, not to worry, if the "average compensation package for his peers" goes up, Morgan will match the increase. Have we lost our minds? A $25 million minimum while our Legislature, (excuse me, the Lobbyist's Legislature) fusses over a few cents per hour when it comes to the minimum wage for real working folks?
That's right. Mr. Mack can afford some healthy contributions to those ever-thirsty and hungry legislators. How foolish of me. Or the e-mail from Jack Abramoff instructing his favorite Washington restaurant: "Want to come in Thursday. Table for 6, put it where I sit and remove that other table. Their meal (Tom and Christine DeLay) is to be comped. Thanks."
And, thank you Mr. Abramoff. You just made honest men out of Spivak & Bice. Yup. Every pol has his price.
And there is bullfeathers galore. The price of gas at the pump in Milwaukee went up 20 cents per gallon yesterday according to MJS. Want know why? I'm not making this up. The price jumped not because of greed or profit, but because of "tropical storms churning across the Gulf of Mexico." Do they think we are all morons?
July 7, 2005
Where to start on a day when terrorists have hit London and the Bush administration is still in the mood to defy the world on global warming?
A day when we learn UW tuition will rise 6.9 percent.(Why not say 7 and be done with it?) Average undergraduate resident tuition would be 59.7 percent higher than in 2000-2001 according to Matt Pommer of the Cap Times. Shame on the Legislature, the governor and the students for not rising up in protest.
While we witness the lack of courage exhibited by our incumbents, we must applaud the courage of Judith Miller of the New York Times who spent last night in jail. Hauled off by order from a judge who said, "I have a person in front of me who is defying the law." I'll gurantee you one thing. We will long remember the courage of Judith Miller and soon forget the sentencing judge.
In the great tradition of civil disobedience, she chose jail rather than a deal to reveal her source. You know all the details so let me simply stand and applaud this woman. Karl Rove and Robert Novak should sneak off stage and look in the mirror. Here is what she wrote from jail: "They put shackles on my hands and my feet. They put you in the back of this car. I passed the capitol and all the office buildings I used to cover. And I thought, 'My God, how did it come to this?'"
How did it come to this. Indeed. How? Could we start with a deliberate effort to mislead the American people in order to justify the invasion of Iraq? The outing of Ambassador Wilson's wife as a warning to any who would defy the administration by telling the truth. Yes, indeed, how did it come to 1,743 dead soldiers, tens of thousands of Iraqi citizens, thousands wounded. How? Fill in the blanks but join me in applauding Judith Miller and then go out and buy The New Yorker and read Jane Mayer's report on the Gitmo experiment.
We need a free press. We need many more Judith Millers. Jane Mayer perhaps?
July 6, 2005
Congress, White House, Supreme Court
The coup of 2000 came about when five members of the Supreme Court appointed George W. Bush president of the United States. Since then it has been like watching a disaster in slow motion; EPA, public education, the wall between church and state, CAFTA, outrageous debt, a breath-taking trade imbalance, an invasion without justification let alone a plan, the takeover of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. And now we turn to the Supreme Court again. We have come full circle. This time the appointments will cement for decades the agenda of James Dobson, Tom DeLay and Newt Gingrich.
Scared? You had better be scared. We are looking to reversal of Brown v. Board of Education, Roe v. Wade, not to mention the end of affirmative action.
My old pal Howard Cosell used to say with disgust, "You deserve whatever you get." While not really true, in this case perhaps Howard is correct. We knew all the marbles were on the table in 2004 and yet the right out-hustled those who reject the rightwing agenda. So buckle your seat belt folks, we are in for a wild and crazy ride.
I'm not making this up. Reports are that the right will spend more than $50 million promoting their choice for the Supreme Court to replace Justice O'Connor, and then, according to script, Justice Rhenquist will resign and we will start all over again. (Rove and Cheney wouldn't want two vacancies at one time. Too likely to create a deal--one moderate for one Scalia type.)
Our future is in the hands of 50 or so moderates in the Senate. Can they gather their guts to make this fight a winner? Don't bet the ranch, but don't sit idly by and watch either. Too much is at stake.
July 4, 2005
(This blog appeared on July 4 but will remain up today. Please hit the hot buttons to read our previous coverage of Gaylord Nelson.)
Was it his sense of humor or the fact that he spoke from the soul that captured all of us? He was the real thing and we knew it the first time we heard him speak to the last time we heard him or read his pleas to save our planet.
The Father of Earth Day understates his accomplishments by a country mile. He fathered employee ownership as chair of the Small Business committee in the Senate. He fathered the Teacher Corps, the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 1968, the Wilderness Act in 1964, and his genius stretched to the creation of EPA, the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act just as it is now in danger of repeal.
He raised our sites and gave us hope when he voted against more funding for the folly we know as Vietnam.
When his friend Frank Aukofer of MJS asked him why he continued working for the Wilderness Society long after he was defeated by Robert Kasten, Gaylord simply said, "Our work's not done." And was he ever right as the utilities and the coal industry have convinced federal and, sadly, state lawmakers and would-be-should-be regulators to all but deregulate air and water quality standards. As our lakes and streams become toxic due to mercury poisoning, indeed "our work's not done."
But Gaylord set the standards for a nation and our state. He could look into the future and ask aloud why our political estabishment could not. (A humorous note. When he first flew to Los Angeles, he returned and said, "I have seen the future. And it won't work.")
He could and did raise his voice in opposition to the powers-that-be on behalf of the powers-that-ought-to- be. Among the first eight rivers protected by the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act according to the NY Times, "were the St. Croix and the Namekagon." And Gaylord traveled back to the Namekagon to protest the placement of 14-story towers in that wonderful prize. Towers sponsored by ATC and the Wisconsin PSC.
He ascribed the success of Earth Day to grassroots organizing. As he said, "I wanted a demonstration by so many people that politicians would say, 'Holy cow,' people care about this."
He was inspired by Fighting Bob La Follette as a boy and he carried out his legacy better than anyone since. A woman interviewed on the street by a Madison TV station said it well: "No offense to men but I don't think they make them like Nelson any more."
How to say farewell to a mentor, friend and inspiration? I guess a celebration of his life and a thank you, but for my money Gaylord would say thanks but tell us to get busy. The environment needs friends more than nostalgia. Mother Earth is running out of space and resources. Stop the burning of the rain forests in Brazil; join the Kyoto treaty; stop the transmisson line from destroying our wetlands and his prized Namekogan River; strengthen Clean Water and Clean Air Acts--don't repeal them.
Think of the next generation and the next and the next and the next. Thank you Gaylord. I hope we are up to the task.
July 3, 2005
Lord of the Flies
When thinking about this Legislature, the wonderful novel Lord of the Flies comes to mind. A group of shipwrecked boys find themselves on an island and they begin governing themselves. Look under the Dome and you will see other shipwrecks as well as the important characters from the novel. The UW is one of the sinking ships.
One area where business people and intellectuals normally agree is on the importance of the UW as the engine of economic progress. No one in recent memory has made a bigger splash on the national scene than Professor James Thompson, who discovered how to grow and culture human embryonic stem cells in the laboratory. His research may well lead to a Nobel prize.
How do our legislators respond? Read Thompson's letter in the Wisconsin State Journal. Here are a few sentences: "I am saddened and disappointed by my state legislature. A few years ago California surpassed Wisconsin in dairy production. Now, although stem cell research is most strongly associated with Wisconsin, my legislature seems determined to make sure stem cell research follows a similar trajectory."
In other words, by threatening to criminalize stem cell research, Wisconsin will lose Thompson, lose out to Californis and other states, and be laughed out of the intellectual world.
Since WMC, the Realtors and road builders control this legislature, perhaps we should be asking Jim Haney why he remains silent as Lord of the Flies becomes reality in Wisconsin. Let's do something before it is too late.
July 1, 2005
Bob Fest coming soon
When the July 4th picnics come around, it is time to start the countdown to Fighting Bob Fest. This Fest will be special.
Two ideas from previous Bob Fest Chautauquas are already in full bloom. First, there is this Web site, FightingBob.com, that has had millions of hits, hundreds of stimultaing articles, and a daily blog. Second, The People's Legislature that has begun to frame the issues for an honest debate.
What will emerge from the fourth gathering in the hills of Baraboo? That is up to you. The invasion of Iraq, voting irregularities and suppression, public financing of elections, a plan of action to force the PSC to act in our interests not dance to the music supplied by the utilities? It is up to you, and you will have lots of help from wonderful speakers.
We are getting excited as we start moving toward action on our agenda. Make a note--September 10--Baraboo. John Conyers, Maxine Waters, Gwen Moore, Jim Hightower and the nation's most important journalist, Amy Goodman. Sign up now.