July 30, 2006
Worse than it looked
Mark Green claims he is proud he voted to increase the minimum wage to $7.25. (Thought Wal-Mart would immediately raise wages? Not so fast Fridley. The increase is over three, count 'em, three years.)
Wisconsin's minimum is $6.50 due to a bad deal between the governor and Republican legislators. The Republicans were willing to boost the $5.15 minimum if local communities were bared from passing a "livable wage."
But let's look at the Green vote, because it gives hypocrisy a bad name. The GOP said, in essence, "Okay, we will show America we are compassionate by raising the minimum wage to about $14,000 per year. But we have needs as well. We will tie this increase to a $268 billion tax cut for our wealthiest constituents a/k/a campaign contributors." Under the House bill, $5 million of an individual's estate would become fully exempt from estate taxes. No kidding. By my calculation, if you could save the minimum wage you would benefit from the estate tax benefit in about 357 years! Hey, not bad!
Do they think we are so stupid we can't figure it out? Yikes! Hello Mark Green. What were you thinking?
Governor Doyle should be focused on this nonsense, but he is busy explaining more campaign contributions from people who have been given a state contract or award. And he has placed his thumb in SEIU's eye by awarding a contract to clean state offices to a non-union company.
What is going on?
July 29, 2006
Ignorance might be better!
My mother often said "ignorance is bliss." Jim Hightower adds to that old saw and holds to his belief that "if ignorance is bliss, W. must be one of the happiest people in America."
While not convinced ignorance is bliss, I know that sometimes there are things you don't want to read or hear. For example, a story--that I am not making up. NYT reports that Hillary Clinton, on a trip to Estonia, "astonished her traveling companions by suggesting that the group do what one does in the Baltics: hold a vodka-drinking contest." I'm not kidding. "The leader of the delegation, Senator John McCain, quickly agreed and said he found Mrs. Clinton to be 'one of the guys'."
The article said memories of who drank how much are "hazy." Doesn't this make you feel good? Or, like me, would ignorance be preferable?
"Yo, Blair" and his trainer met yesterday. Apparently these two leaders suddenly think there should be a cease fire--soon, in Lebanon. Progress? Not yet.
Finally, the Republicans in the House got religion on minimum wage. They voted to raise the minimum but only if inheritance taxes are cut! Is this unbelievable? Hillary's vodka-drinking contest is more appealing than this gang.
July 28, 2006
Is this a surprise?
The headline in NYT: "Tide of Arab Opinion Turns to Support for Hezbollah." Not a surprise as the U.S. continues to refuse support for a cease-fire while rushing more so-called smart bombs to Israel to be used on defenseless Lebanon. The Bush administration assures us that the governments of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Egypt are still giving us a "wink and a nod" despite overwhelming support for Hezbollah on the streets. Well, what will the long-term impact be on the viability of the winkers and nodders?
Condoleeza Rice is almost as bad at State as Bolton is at the U.N. Her "birth pangs of a New Middle East" should have been edited. Things are not going well in the Middle East for this administration. One problem is that Congress has once again hit the mute button.
This administration is flirting with total disaster. It would be nice if our senators spoke out to stop the killing and start talking before it is too late. Frankly and sadly, it may be too late now.
July 27, 2006
Our nation's largest corporation is in the news again. Yesterday for a guilty plea for violating our campaign laws; today because the Chicago City Council passed an ordinance demanding big box Wal-Mart pay $10.00 per hour minimum wage plus $3.00 per hour for benefits. While Mayor Daley looked unhappy, it passed by a margin that defies a Mayoral veto, 35-14. Wouldn't this be nice? Naturally, bully Wal-Mart said if they have to pay $10 minimum wage, ($20,800 per year) they may not come to Chicago. Oh, please, give us a break!
Latest issue of The Progressive carries an interview with Gore Vidal. On the Democratic Party you might say he is a tad critical: "I have been saying for the last thousand years that the U.S. has only one party-the property party. It's the party of big corporations, the party of money. It has two right wings; one is Democrat and the other is Republican."
That would change in a hurry with publicly financed campaigns.
July 26, 2006
What a nice headline. Wal-Mart has admitted violating elections laws during a 2005 campaign in Monroe for a referendum on "big box" stores. They were trounced in the election 1,432 to 663 despite pouring in dollars for advertising. The announcement was issued by Dane County's superb D.A., Brian Blanchard.
Blanchard said, "The public is entitled to learn the identity of any group spending money to influence votes in a public referendum campaign."
In the Supreme Court's recent Rongstad decision, (read GuestBlog by Bill Kraus) the court didn't go as far as Blanchard's wise counsel, but at least those who libel public figures may be held accountdable. Added to the decision by Blanchcrd to investigate Wal-Mart, we are making progress. Maybe, just maybe, we are gaining on those who lack the courage to engage in open debate while attempting to secretely influence the voters.
Watching the tragedy unfold in Afghanistan, Iraq, Gaza and Lebanon is painful. The same nincompoops who had no plan following the bombing of Afghanistan and the inavasion of Iraq now tell us it is too early for a cease fire in Lebanon. Secretary Rice keeps saying, "If we have learned anything...". She has identified the problem. They have not learned anything. They still believe Imperial America can do anything. They are wrong.
On another topic, One Wisconsin Now informs us they do not get money from George Soros.
July 25, 2006
Wonders never cease!
The American Bar Association is apparently showing signs of life. The ABA issued a report that concludes President Bush has violated our Constitution "in attaching challenges to hundreds of new laws. If left unchecked, the president's practice does grave harm to the separation of powers doctrine." No kidding, the ABA said that.
Next they might figure out that domestic spying is a bit of a challenge to our democracy. Or how about voter suppression? The ABA lives! Be still my heart.
Tony Snow on murder. Tony Snow explained that president Bush opposes stem cell research because he opposed murder. He said that? Yup. And yesterday he corrrected himself. Apparently he forgot he was no longer on Fox "News."
One Wisconsin: We invited John Kraus to submit an article explaining this new multi-million-dollar organization and we posted it today. Read it and ask if you understand what's going on.
Recently the NYT ran a story about funding of liberal groups by George Soros and other millionaires who are funding new liberal groups with an understanding that the funders are not named. In my nefarious past, as president of the National Student Association, the government did something similar. "Don't ask and don't tell." Not healthy. I don't know if One Wisconsin Now has pledged to protect the privacy of donors or not. But more information about the group is needed.
July 24, 2006
Time for the hip boots!
The primary is coming and the insults, charges of corruption and money-chase are in full view--and it isn't pretty. Probably the race to watch if you like mud fights is the Republican primary for Attorney General. Two nasty guys going for each other's throats.
Paul Bucher, the far-right Waukesha County D.A., compared his opponent J.B. Van Hollen to Al Gore! (Does it get any worse?)
What came next? Well, you guessed it, Spivak & Bice report that Bucher says Van Hollen is soft on crime. He accuses the former U.S. Attorney of bringing fewer prosecutions than U.S. Attorneys in other states. (Could any statistic be less meaninful?) Van Hollen, about as far to the right as Bucher, had his mud-slinger respond: "We expected Bucher to go negative but I'm surprised that the desperation set in so early." Van Hollen's "mouthpiece" Brian Fraley added, "It's sad, but not unexpected."
If you had the misfortune to see Bucher and Van Hollen on Wisconsin Public Television's "Here and Now" program you know there is a mud bank somewhere. Bucher may be the nastiest statewide candidate in memory. His theory seems to be that if he keeps his opponent from finishing a thought uninterupped he wins the debate. Note to Bucher: The Wisconsin Public TV audience does not like Ann Coulter-style tactics.
Meanwhile, more charges of favoritism to state vendors for contributions are reported. MJS reports the Marquette Interchange contractors were generous to a fault to the Doyle campaign. Dismissed by Doyle spokesman with the same line as utility contributions: "Republicans ...spin this kind of partisan distortion..the contributions had absolutely nothing to do with the ($810 million) contract."
Jay Heck, not a Republican spinner, said, "It insults the intelligence of taxpayers to argue there is no connection between the contributions and the [awarding of state contracts]."
Here we go! Get out the hip boots.
July 23, 2006
WOW! Bob Fest!
Nothing but great news to report on Bob Fest Number 5. Former presidential candidate and the great senator from Iowa, Tom Harkin, returns to Bob Fest to "hold them accountble." What would our Chautauqua be without Jim Hightower? He's back! How would we get our news without Amy Goodman every morning on Democracy Now? Well, we are thrilled that Amy Goodman will join us on September 9.
Also, 96-year-old and fire-in-the-gut Doris "Granny D" Haddock is coming to Bob Fest. She stole the show at our People's Legislature's "Telling" and she will move our crowd in Baraboo.
Couldn't do it without John Nichols our hero and Cap Times editor Dave Zweifel.Both will be on center stage.
Hot news! Greg Palast, author of Armed Madhouse and The Best Democracy Money Can Buy accepted our invitation, and he will entertain, inform, and challenge you to get prepared for voter suppression in 2008. John Stauber, author of too many books to mention, will inspire the crowd.
We would feel incomplete without our Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin and she will help kick off the program. Add Bert Grover, Stan Grusynski, Nino Amato, Mike McCabe, Andrew Dunn and Bob Fest 5 will be our best ever.
We need to get our act together. Too many bad things are happening. We must raise our voices now. See you on September 9. You, after all, are the heart and soul of Bob Fest.
July 22, 2006
Whatever happened to CARE packages?
We used to send CARE packages to people in countries ravaged by war, famine and earthquakes. So what are we doing to help the poor souls in Lebanon? Today's headline in NYT suggests times have changed: "U.S. Speeds Up Bomb Delivery For Israelis." I'm not makibg this up.
The story, incredibly, said, "Its disclosure threatens to anger Arab governments." Really? How insensitive of them. Why would they be upset? "...Because of the appearance that the U.S. is actively aiding the Israeli bombing campaign." Is there another conclusion? Last time I thought about it bombs seemed to be important to bombers.
The president who refuses to call for a cease-fire while Lebanon is being destroyed talked to the nation, surrounded by "snowflakes," about the importance of life. I guess Arab lives are different.
How would you like to be in charge of winning the hearts and minds of Iraqi people when this news hits the streets?
July 21, 2006
Matt, John, Steve & Dan
The headline, "It's official: No shackles when inmates give birth" should send us into a great mood for the weekend. Matt Frank ordered the new policy six months ago and, as of July 13, it is finally in writing. John Dipko, a spokesman for DOC, explained why DOC won't make the actual policy public; Steve Casperson wrote a memo explaining that shackling might still happen but only to protect the woman or for security reasons (to be determined by top administrators. Yah sure, Ole.); Dan Westfield assured us "there is going to be a high level of oversight."
Thank you, men. Thank you. But a few questions come to mind. Have you men asked any women about this policy? Has a woman ever escaped during childbirth? Why did it take six months to implement a policy directive from the boss to end what Senator Fred Risser called a "cruel and degrading" policy?
Whose idea was it in the first place to shackle a woman during the moment only a woman can fully appreciate? Tell us again guys, Why is your new policy procedure a secret?
July 20, 2006
Thanks, Mr. President
George W. Bush, hovering around 27 percent approval rating, will sink even further following his idiotic veto of stem cell research funding. Everyone has a friend, co-worker, uncle, spouse or parent with a disease that might be cured through this scientific break-through. But, so what, says our president.
He said, and I'm not making this up, "Human beings are not a raw material to be exploited, or a commodity to be bought and sold...we will help ensure that we respect the fundamental line." This is the same man who sent our human beings to Iraq to kill and injure human beings there. The same guy who won't call for a cease fire as Lebanon is systematically destroyed.
I suspect not even all of the 27 percent who give him a good or fair rating on foreign policy will approve of this veto. That leaves more than 73 percent who are upset. Bush reminds us of the Salem witch trials. There is a reason we try to separate church and state.
And our GOP candidate for governor, Mark Green, all but assured a victory for Jim Doyle by his support of the Bush veto in the name of "life." Whoa Nelly!
July 19, 2006
That's it! He's lost it!
The cameras at the G-8 summit captured THE moment. President Bush walked up behind the chancellor of Germany and began rubbing her shoulders. She grimaced and raised her arms to stop this incredible display. That's it, he has lost it. One day, while chewing on a roll, he hollers at Tony Blair to have the president of Syria tell Hezbollah to "stop this shit" and the next day he performs an assault on the head of Germany. What's next?
He would be fired by most employers and given his latest poll numbers in Wisconsin, he is down to 27 percent approval rating, it appears Bush's employers would fire him if they could.
While Bush fiddles and the Middle East burns, regular gas in Milwaukee went to $3.35. Wait for $5 regular and Bush won't be doing much campaigning this fall.
Museum: The Milwaukee "Public" Museum has been an expensive toy in the hands of the private sector. A decade ago, "Friends of the Museum" testified that the private sector would give more money if only they knew that the County would not be involved. I'm not making this up, I was there. While quoting anonymous wealthy people, they convinced the County Board to privatize.
Fast-forward. The private board went fishing while the privatized "leadership" spent money like drunken sailors on shore leave. So they do the predictable: Fire half the employees, cry wolf, and now, in a confidential report, the privatizers are once again saying through Dan Finley, "potential donors [unnamed of course] said they were reluctant to give to the museum as long as it is connected to the County." No kidding, he said that. The guy the County (Scott Walker) recruited to save the museum says people have so little confidence in him the museum should be severed completely from public control.
Wait until they get their paws on Mitchell Field!
July 18, 2006
Amy and Jon
Our president is, it turns out, a clown. He hollers at Tony Blair (called "lapdog" by Stewart), "Tell Kofi to call the president of Syria. Tell him to get Hezbolla to stop this shit." I know it happened because I saw and heard it on "Democracy Now!" and "The Daily Show."
Yikes! Now 900,000 Lebanese have fled their homes; thousands of Americans are stuck in Lebabanon; 214 civilians killed by Israeli bombs; and our Clown-Prince won't call for a cease fire. Where does this end?
Nicholas Kristof in the NYT quotes an editorial from Haaretz, an Israeli newspaper: "It must be remembered that at the end of the day, it is citizens of Israel who have to continue living in the Middle East. We have to think of ways that will make it possible for us to coexist, even with those we do not enjoy being with." A voice of reason as opposed to Hillary Clinton and George Bush who urge Israel to fight on!
Last week, 600 civilians were killed in Baghdad. 600! And Bush is clowning around at the G-8 summit.
Violence begets violence. Time for a cease fire in Lebanon, time to get our troops home, time for the U.N. to help extract the U.S. from Iraq and to form a barrier between Israel and Lebanon.
July 17, 2006
Go see the movie!
If after this heat wave, and news that the first half of 2006 was the warmest on record, you have not taken a friend to see An Inconvenient Truth, do it this week. (Great title. We might label the truth about our foreign policy the same way. Although Tragic Truth might be more appropriate.)
We don't have much time to fiddle, so go see it, read Judy Ettenhofer's article about it, and then demand action from every politician who asks for money.
Speaking of money, so, what's up with Marc Marotta? His name appears in almost every newspaper article related to questionable fundraising for the Doyle-Lawton team. How about a news briefing? You know, an "I'll answer all questions until the cows come home" sort of response to the drip, drip, drip of stories. Just a thought.
News about Bob Fest later this week.
July 16, 2006
Money and those who raise it
One scandal after the other; one suspicious event after the other; and campaign fundraising is always the reason. Today, Spivak & Bice write in MJS about the indicted Nick Hurtgen who was in charge of corporate giving (or collecting, depending on your perspective) for Tommy Thompson. Hurtgen, it turns out, is a friend of Marc Marotta, former DOA Secretary in the Doyle administration and now chair of Doyle's re-election campaign. Hurtgen's company, Bear Stearns, has done well under Thompson and Doyle (not to mention Scott Walker).
It is no secret that Tommy was not supportive of Scott McCallum's campaign. His brother ran and pulled lots of votes from McCallum, contributing to a Doyle victory. And, it turns out, Hurtgen raised money for the Doyle campaign. These folks are, if anything, flexible.
And some wonder why we need publicly financed campaigns. Whoa Nelly!
July 15, 2006
A friend in the mental health field once said, "Mental illness and arrogance are a nasty combination." That thought hit me as I read the Bush administration's response to the unfolding disaster in the Middle East. The always condescending Condi Rice lecturing those she dismisses as "terrorists" as if they are glued to Fox News to learn their marching orders.
And the president in front of cameras not knowing what to say or do. He has the look of a young boy suddenly thrust into combat: "My goodness. These are bad people who want to kill someone."
His State Dept spokesman said, and I am not making this up, "You do what's effective." And, dear friend, what would that be? Lecturing Hezbollah while defending Israel instead of using our influence to stop the killing? Would it be lecturing our client-state Iraq to join us in support of Israel? How about bombing Iran or Syria just to remind them who is in charge?
Ah yes, arrogance combined with incompetence are a nasty combination as well. Meanwhile, this is really scary. Our troops in harm's way. Iran could move to cut oil supplies so our economy could be in shambles while Bush, Cheney, Rummy and Rove focus on justifying Gitmo and elections. Whoa Nelly! We are, as Hightower would say, "in a world of hurt."
Worst of all, the guys who brought you the invasion of Iraq without a plan are in charge of this crisis--with no plan. If you believe in prayer and you have sons or grandsons between 18 and 30, don't wait. Start now.
July 14, 2006
The majority of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, in an opinion written by Justice Ann Walsh Bradley, got it right. Freedom of speech? Of course, but "freedom of speech has its limits. It does not embrace defamation." Nor should it. When people choose to seek public office they expect tough arguments, debates, and personal attacks, but they should not have to accept lies spread about them. Like other citizens, they have "an important interest in clearing their names. In addition...the voting public has a weighty interest in accurate information about candidates for public office."
John Skilton who, along with my colleague Pam McGillivray, argued the case before the four Justices, called the Lassa decision "an incredibly important decision," and I agree.
Rongstad, who claims he has "worked" with more Democrats than Republicans, including the current manager of the Doyle campaign, says he will take this case to the U.S. Supreme Court while lawyers for groups siding with him claimed to be happy with the decision. What's wrong with this picture?
I know something about last-minute dishonest attacks in a campaign. I have been the target of them. Our campaigns in Wisconsin should be based on a clash of ideas not be decided by libel and slander. Yesterday, three Justices took us closer to clean campaigns.
Lost in the spin by those who make a living destroying people's reputations in campaigns, is any comment on the courage of Julie Lassa in taking on this battle. In my view, every honest person seeking public office should pause and say, "Thank you Julie Lassa."
We will post the decision so you can read and enjoy.
July 13, 2006
Great news. The Supreme Court of Wisconsin has ruled in favor of Julie Lassa in her libel action against Todd Rongstad. (I am hardly objective since my law firm represented Senator Lassa.) The decision is very important because it provides a process "for those who have been defamed."
The court said, "The state has a legitimate interest in preventing fraud and libel. The right of voters to get accurate information is essesntial to the election processs."
An important step toward clean elections has been taken.
July 12, 2006
Two ends of town
Last night I stood in line with more than a thousand friends of Mayor Frank Zeidler. Peace activists, the faith comunity, socialists, progressive Democrats, a few incumbents like Mayor Tom Barrett. All with fond memories of the mayor and his great intellect and his passion for people, for peace, for a fair society.
At the other end of Milwaukee, polar opposite President G.W. Bush was the guest at a $1,000 per plate, $2,000 per couple, $8,000 for a family of four dinner, to boost his candidate for governor, Mark Green. (Green has some problems but none quite so troubling as having George Bush come to town and refer to Green as "loyal, like-minded, and a supporter of the invasion and occupation." One could almost hear supporters gasping. "Don't do me any favors, Mr. President, please!")
Most of the talk among those in line to pay respects to a great man, was about our electoral system. "Where are the Zeidlers of today?" asked more than one. And, of course, Zeidler could not have been elected in our current system. Nor could Gaylord, Prox, Kastenmier or Kleczka.
The message was clear. If you want more Zeidlers, then demand public financing of campaigns.
July 11, 2006
Want to understand the price of gas at the pump? Curious how we are funding the Iraq disaster? Go to the bookstore--run to the bookstore--and purchase Greg Palast's latest book, Armed Madhouse. I thought I understood how the oil cartel was screwing us, but Palast explains it for dummies like me. (You aren't, but I was!)
Gas at $3.00 per gallon. An AOL poll found 44 percent said the oil companies were responsible while 42 percent said Bush & Cheney were the problem. And 61 percent have altered summer plans because of the cost.
Now that you are focused, read Seymour Hersh in the latest New Yorker. His warning about an attack on Iran will keep you awake. Try $200 per barrel of oil--$6-10 a gallon at the pump.
Think all's well? You might because Don Rumsfeld said yesterday that the Taliban "will be defeated." Sure Rummy. By the way, how ya doin' in Iraq?
Meanwhile, we may pass the $300 billion mark for the cost of the invasion and occupation today. (We could have paid for 14 million four-year scholarships at public universities but hey, who is counting?) Looking good Rummy, looking good.
July 10, 2006
His place in Milwaukee's history secured, Frank Zeidler died at age 93 on Friday. Vel Phillips said it well in MJS: "His legacy will live forever."
He was Mayor of Milwaukee for 12 years--1948-1960. Never a hint of scandal, the Mayor, an avowed Socialist, was the personification of a public servant. And he never stopped serving. When we fought the privatization of the Public Museum, there was Mayor Zeidler, shoulder to shoulder with the employees. Name the battle for social and economic justice and he was there. He will be missed in this era of irresponsible privatization of public services.
In his first inaugural address he said, "I propose to offer vigorous leadership and action with only one purpose--the public welfare." We could all learn from the Mayor. He was generous to a fault with his time in helping candidates understand issues. His brilliant mind will be missed. More, his dedication to the public will be missed. I think he would tell us to get involved! Keep the flame of social justice burning!
July 9, 2006
Governor Doyle and the tone-deaf folks surrounding him assure us "all's well" in Madison. No need to take a chance to reform our ethics laws now because those naughty Republican legislators might amend SB 1. (Of course they might. I think that is taught in school and it is called the "legislative process." The assumption from the governor is that we will believe he fears the GOP will weaken the bill. Perhaps he is worried they might strengthen the bill.) Unfair? I invite the Doyle-Lawton team to write a column, guest blog or attend a People's Legislature meeting to explain their reluctance.
POLLS: Tom Sheehan, writing for Lee Newspapers in Wisconsin, almost got it right. While he doesn't swallow the WPRI (Bradley Foundation funded "think tank") poll on publicly financed campaigns (WPRI says the general public is opposed), he couldn't quite get the words out to identify WPRI as part of the far-right policy shaping the efforts of the Bradley Foundation. Maybe next poll.
Meanwhile, AP picked up the MJS story about a Philadelphia lawyer giving $10,000 to the Doyle campaign, coincidentally while on a trip to Madison seeking legal business. Nothing to worry about, but read this: "Richard Schiffrin's $10,000 donation to Doyle is the only one he has ever made to a Wisconsin candidate." And, hey, if you can't trust a Philadelphia lawyer on the prowl for legal work, who can you trust?
July 8, 2006
While Governor Doyle did meet with an informal committee of The People's Legislature, he concluded that a special session of the Legislature would not lead to passage of SB 1. So no session, no ethics reform, business as usual.
Back in the real world, MJS carries the story of a $10,000 contribution from an out-of-state lawyer seeking business from the state. The Doyle campaign assures us there was no connection between the contribution and the visit. OK.
July 7, 2006
"We want to be able to work on this matter (travelgate) in a way that is not impacted by the coming political season," said U.S. Attorney Steven Biskupic in today's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. (He did not add, but might as well have, that chickens have lips and pigs fly.)
The MJS added that the prosecutors "are also looking into political contributions made by utility executives to Doyle around the time the state (PSC) approved the sale of the Kewaunee nuclear plant. Biskupic declined to comment."
In case you didn't get it, Biskupic added, "We do not intend to be tied to the political calendar. We do not intend that any step or any comment be construed as influencing the upcoming elections in any way."
I guess Biskupic doesn't know the deadline for anyone to get on the November ballot is next week. But, not to worry. Anson Kaye, speaking for the Doyle campaign, said he "did not expect anyone else to be indicted." Whew! No problem.
Meanwhile Wisconsin Puplic Radio's lead news story this morning covered the Biskupic comments on the continuing investigation. The governor, silent on calling a special session of the Lobbyist's Legislature, is supposed to meet with a People's Legislature committee today. Stay tuned.
WPRI Poll: The Bradley Foundation front, Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, announced that most people in Wisconsin oppose public financing of campaigns. WPR and others fail to mention that WPRI is funded by the extremist Bradley Foundation. The Bradley Foundation likes the system just fine as it is.
July 6, 2006
In our name!
Something is very wrong in Wisconsin. Our Department of Corrections appears to be beyond the checks and balances other state agencies deal with. The reason is obvious: Prisoners don't vote and they have no voice while the "lock 'em up, punish them, and keep 'em longer" crowd holds center stage called the Legislature.
Prisoners can't appear at a legislative hearing to describe cruel and unusual punishment. Legislators don't hear about a prisoner kept in solitary confinement completely naked, no bedding, no toiletries, for 13 days in a cold cell. They don't hear from women in Taycheedah who are sexually assaulted by staff. They don't visit Supermax prison in Boscobel to experience the tomb-like cells and the isolation where inmates are forced to choose between library time or a few hours of recreation every week. No, that would require them to think about the prisons they have created and the conditions they tolerate. Easier to thump one's chest, create new crimes, eliminate parole and make it clear one is tougher on crime and those who violate the law than anyone in Wisconsin.
How do you know I'm not exaggerating? Headline in Cap Times over an AP story: "State to ban inmate shackling in childbirth." I am not making this up. The DOC is "finishing up a written policy that would ban the shackling of pregnant inmates during childbirth." (Thanks for the clarification that it would not apply to non-pregnant women during childbirth.)
It has taken nearly six months to write this policy. How difficult can it be? The Cap Times headline is about all they need, but we shouldn't rush these men. They must be careful. Who knows when a woman in labor will jump up and escape?
Spokesman for DOC said, "It (the new policy) would not allow restraints during labor, delivery and recovery. The old policy (still in effect) allowed shackling during part of labor and recovery."
Oh thank you Department of Corrections! How humane of you.
I feel compelled to remind you that DOC is doing this in our name. It is our state. We build the prisons and the inmates have parents and siblings in our state. Like it or not, the inmates belong to us and we have a moral obligation to treat them humanely.
We can do better. But don't let me interrupt the DOC's effort to write their new policy guidelines. Write on men, write on!
July 5, 2006
Better late than never
The MJS reports on a USA Today/Gallup poll conducted last month finding that 85 percent of respondents found that corruption in government is "extremely important" or "very important." Agreeing with the poll results, Congressman and GOP candidate for governor Mark Green urged Congress to ban gifts to lawmakers and aides.
Common Cause says Green qualifies for its highest grade on ethics reform. Public Citizen said "Green has consistently voted on the side of good government." Green, who held a press conference to respond favorably to The People's Legislature call for enactment of SB 1, says "The public is calling for us to go above and beyond our previous policy. It's a matter of responding to what the public is asking for."
Long time state Treasurer Charlie Smith has called on Jim Doyle to call a special session. And Doyle may meet with a TPL committee tomorrow. Time to play catch-up Governor?
July 4, 2006
A confusing Independence Day
On July 4, we used to head for the bandstand in the park, built by proud men in FDR's WPA during the Great Depression, to hear patriotic speeches, listen to some music, wave the flag and celebrate our free society. We knew our country had free elections and that if our party lost this time it might win the next one.
But today there is an uneasy feeling that someone is tampering with the core of our democracy, our electoral process. Few people I know believe Bush carried Florida in 2000. Jeb, Baker and Scalia stole the election. And many believe Ohio was stolen in 2004, but John Kerry was in such a hurry to show us that his mother raised a gentleman he conceded before truth got her boots on. (Read RFK Jr's superb article in Rolling Stone.)
And no one has confidence in electronic voting machines. So on this July 4th celebration we must look around.
Not bad enough that money dominates our system from primaries to general elections. Not bad enough that negative TV spots have replaced open debates. Not bad enough that sleazy front groups with secret funding fool people into believing all sorts of awful things about the target of their venomous attacks.
We watch as these electoral thieves practice their trade in other countries. Will anyone believe the "official" results of the Mexican presidential race when, like 2004, it appears the "official" results are inconsistent with exit polling data?
Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz wrote to the Wisconsin Elections Board and said, "Uncorrected problems remain with the State Voter system software created by Accenture." Yup! Accenture once again. Mayor Dave contends the new system can't process absentee ballots and is five times slower than Madison's current system.
Catch this: "As currently configured, the SVRS is inefficient, often ineffective, and inaccurate." Thank you, Mr. Mayor. "Ineffective and inaccurate." One wonders why Accenture is still on the job. Millions of dollars later they have created a system that doesn't work. Is this by accident or design?
So, friends, ask if there will be a free election in 2008. Happy Independence Day.
July 3, 2006
Hooray for Michigan!
A fascinating story appeared on July 1 in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "Michigan Shuts Tap to Lake" was the header. The report began, "A quiet bid by New Berlin and state officials to expand the community's access to Lake Michigan water was struck down by the governor of Michigan."
No surprise New Berlin would try to take more water, but the Doyle administration? Question: If New Berlin can put a straw in the Lake, what argument do we trot out to stop Arizona from doing the same?
And how about some transparency? As Tom Barrett's office said, "If it was such a great idea, where are all the press releases? (Who owns the water?) It's not the Doyle administration's water to barter. The application should have been a tranasparent process." Amen, Mr. Mayor, amen.
Doyle's response is jolting: "We're working with lawyers to determine if New Berlin's request actually is a diversion." Really? Whose lawyers are you working with? Are taxpayers footing the bill to help New Berlin skirt the rules and possibly jeopardize one of our greatest assets? Are you working with the attorney general, Governor, or with New Berlin lawyers?
What the hell is going on?
July 2, 2006
Fireworks at home
As we enjoy the July 4th weekend, Spivak & Bice set off more fireworks in the mystery surrounding the $69 million building deal near UWM. What was Marc Marotta's role?
The governor, responding to the People's Legislature's call for a special session to take up ethics reform, will meet with a TPL committee this week. Let's hope he takes the lead.
Exciting news about Bob Fest, to be held on September 9. Announcement next week. Stay tuned.
July 1, 2006
Could it be the sun?
In the heat of summer, one's mind can play tricks. I find myself asking, "Did I hear/read that or am I suffering heat stroke"? Example. Did President Bush meet the press with Koizumi, on the heels of the Supreme Court's Gitmo ruling, and say, "Don't be cruel"? (He might have finished it with "cruel and unusual" to hint that he is familiar with the 8th Amendment.) But I ran the tape, and he did say that.
Did the Japanese Prime Minister really sing "Can't Help Falling in Love With You"? And, standing next to the man who rushed into Iraq based on lies, faulty intelligence from "Curveball" and deceit, did the P.M. sing "Fools Rush In"?
Finally, did a leading Vatican official signal the beginning of the Catholic Church's campaign to elect a Republican president in 2008, by suggesting that those involved in stem cell research should be excommunicated? Nah, the Vatican must me suffering from heat stroke.
I think I need a cold drink.