October 31, 2007
Hillary's show on CNBC
CNBC, with Tim Russert and Brian Williams, hosted a two-hour "Hillary hour" last night. Bring back the League of Women Voters! They knew how to manage a debate and they didn't play favorites.
The format went something like this: "Senator Clinton, your position on Iran?" Answer, comment from one of the boys on the stage, rebuttal from Senator Clinton. Next question: "Senator Obama, you criticized Senator Clinton in the NY Times." The facial expression from the CNBC odd couple said, "Are you nuts? She is going to win! Were you ill? Meds altered? On an illegal substance? No? Well then, explain yourself or get off the stage."
What did we learn from Hillary? She can dodge hard questions with the best of them. On the Bush-Cheney plans to bomb Iran? "I am not in favor of a rush to war." Thank you, Hillary but, "All options are on the table."
"I will end the war in Iraq but leave enough soldiers to fight terrorists and protect our embassy." (See John Smart's article on the palace we call our embassy.)The others were clear--no war with Iran and stop the occupation of Iraq now. And the others were clear that her support of the nutty Lieberman-Kyle resolution is all Bush needs to bomb the hell out of Iran. "I don't want to hear, 'If I knew then what I know now' from you Hillary," said John Edwards.
Best line of the night by far. Joe Biden, who does extremely well in these non-debates, said, "I'd love to run against Giuliani. 'Every sentence Of his includes three things--a noun, a verb and 9/11.'"
Hillary was almost shouting but not quite.
Some candid remarks from Dodd and Biden in response to Hillary saying the Republicans keep talking about her. "Maybe," said Dodd, "They want to run against you. Electability is something we must consider."
As usual, the best performance was turned in by Dennis Kucinich.
October 30, 2007
Well, almost no one quits. Jesus Salas, one of my heroes, proved the rule by his resignation from the UW Board of Regents. Why? Principle, that's why. I met Jesus when he led the effort to organize migrant workers in 1968 in Wautoma. He was a courageous and articulate leader. He was appointed to the Board of Regents by Jim Doyle.
But, says Jesus, Doyle did not fight hard enough to permit scholarships and in-state tuition to children of undocumented workers. And the governor did not do enough to keep tuition down. So, Jesus did the most remarkable thing imaginable these days. He quit in protest. "The fact that I'm quitting the regents demonstrates my view that we need to stand up. What we need is for all public officials to bring some reason to the table. To bring a discussion that is other than just demonizing the undocumented."
The mind boggles. With all of the outrages that have occurred, name the last person in Wisconsin to resign from any board or office in protest. I can't recall any instance of an incumbent taking such a bold step. I do recall UW President E.B. Fred threatening to resign if Joe McCarthy or the American legion forced the UW to expel the Young Communists from meeting in the Student Union. McCarthy quickly backed off. But that's about it.
Once again, Jesus Salas, a good man, leads the way. Thanks.
October 29, 2007
Islamofascism---what is it?
Paul Krugman writes that "there is no such thing as Islamofascism." He's right, but Mitt Romney and Rudy think there is or anyway they don't care because it scares people to say that there is.
And nice old boy Huckabee worries that Hillary Clinton won't have the courage to stand up to "fight the greatest threat this country has ever faced." What is the greatest threat? Yup. Islamofascism. Whoa Nelly. Hitler? Soviets? They were real, Huckabee isn't.
October 28, 2007
Insiders say, they say, critics say
Wanna know one of the obstacles to finding out what happened behind closed doors? WisPolitics, in an article in the Wisconsin State Journal, explains what is going on. I'm not making this up.
What did Senate Dems get? asks the anonymous writer. "Not much, insiders say, budget watchers say, Doyle and Republicans hammered out the deal. "Insiders understand" how that could lead to frustration and could result in dumping Robson. And so it goes. No names, no idea who is writing the "analysis," but some lines come through.
Mike Huebsch, who used Soviet-style bargaining, saying no to everything, is, according to the WisPolitics anonymous grader, "Rising--he passed the Budget Test." Yahoo! "Although some unarmed conservatives grumble, and unnamed critics point out...insiders see nice wins." Whoa Nelly.
We need open government. Why would Democrats oust a leader without letting us in? If they operate in secret, they are at the mercy of "they say," "budget watchers say," "conservatives say" and the voters are forced to guess.
Oil: You know, the stuff we didn't invade Iraq to grab, is over $90 per barrel. Watch this week. Prices will drop at the pump to take the heat off earnings reports this week from Exxon Mobil, Chevron, and Marathon Oil. Think they made a profit?
October 27, 2007
How dumb can they be?
Close your eyes, relax, and recall the euphoric moment following the 2006 election of a Democratic majority in both houses of Congress. That night we saw Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer and 10 or 15 soon-to-be leaders of the majority on stage, confetti flying, band playing, all the leaders holding hands aloft in the victory pose. It was exciting. People rushed to purchase John Nichols's book on impeachment. The big question was whether these new leaders could impeach Bush and Cheney or just go for Cheney. Funding would shift from Iraq to our domestic needs...hey! Happy days were here again!
But the Speaker, called "our quarterback" by Dave Obey, said forget impeachment. You heard her. Forget it. Why? No time to waste--on to our agenda! Hush you muskies, hush.
News flash: October 26 President Bush condemns the Congress, the only institution with lower public approval ratings than the White house, for inaction. Flash: Same day, Steny Hoyer, leader of the House majority announced that the Democrats plan a shorter work week. I'm not kidding. Why? imeachment back on the table? "More time for members to work in their districts and to be close to their families." The quarterback threw an interception.
Back to the November election euphoria. At least Senate Dems will not permit neocons confirmation to the federal bench. Damn! News flash: Senate asproves the appointment of Leslie Southwick to the civil rights hot spot, 5th Circuit Court of Appleals--Texas, Mississippi, and Louisiana. Problem with Southwick? The leader of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights said, "This is a slap in the face to African Americans and to people of goodwill." The NAACP opposed him, the AFL-CIO opposed him, but he was confirmed 59-38! Apparently, Harry Reid did little to gather Democrats to stop the nomination. Too busy to listen to the most loyal Democratic constituency?
In Wisconsin the Chair of the Democratic Party lobbied for AT&T and recently endorsed John Edwards.
Lemme see. Women are mad as hell about the decision to dump Judy Robson as Senate majority leader; Blacks are mad as hell about the Southwick confirmation; anti-war activists are mad as hell that Pelosi took impeachment off the table and because she has not stopped the funding for the occupation nor set a date for bringing the troops home; those Dems who support Barack, Hillary, Richardson, and Kucinich are mad as hell about the inappropriate endorsement of Edwards by the Chair of the Democratic Party; opponents of the AT&T power grab are mad as hell...and so it goes.
Can't lose in 2008? Wanna bet? Oh yes, Hillary Clinton says bombing Iran is on the table...
October 26, 2007
OK, OK, I was too soft
Colleagues and FightingBob.com readers told me in no uncertain terms that my response to the coup in the Capitol yesterday was more like Casper Milquetoast than Fighting Bob: "Namby-pamby, weak, evidence of sleep deprivation." OK, I confess. I should have hit the snooze button before writing. Sorry, Leader Robson.
So let me revisit the Boy's night out. Judy Robson did a hell of a job keeping the 18 Democrats in line to pass the budget. Incredibly, she also got all 18 Democrats to agree on the health-care-for-all bill that is the most creative, gutsy, and essential moves made in that building in many years. She earned our respect but she was treated like a bum. She deserved better treatment.
That one of the first items mentioned by Decker is passage of the AT&T deregulation bill and not campaign spending reform raises questions about the role of AT&T adviser and state Democratic Party Chair Joe Wineke in the dumping of Robson.
And, it is odd (or is it illuminating?) that one day after the coup Jim Doyle denied that his Deputy Governor Susan Goodwin had promised Mike McCabe and Jay Heck in a meeting that a Special Session would be called to push campaign finance reform. Whoa Nelly! Doyle's spokesperson said these reformers "misunderstood." C'mon. That is as credible as saying the Right to Life people "misunderstood" a politician's position on stem cell research. If forced to choose between the word of Mike McCabe and the deputy governor on this issue, it is an easy choice.
With WMC in the market to purchase another Supreme Court seat to guarantee a pro-business decision every time, it is time for the governor and the Senate to move forward to limit contributions. I'm confident Robson would have taken the plunge with or without Doyle's support.
Caffeine absorbed, so let's focus for a moment on waterboarding. The nominee for Attorney General claims he doesn't understand the process which means he is intentionally ignorant or a liar or both. Either way, his nomination deserves a filibuster. The name says it all and no one in America doubts this country uses this form of torture.
Rudy Giuliani has a different take. He said, and I'm not kidding, "It depends on how it's done and who does it." Whoa Nelly! John McCain responded, "All I can say is that it was used in the Spanish Inquisition, in Pol Pot's genocide in Cambodia, and reports in Burma say it is being used against monks. It is torture." How embarrassing. The U.S. using the technique and candidates for President (not to mention Attorney General) apparently are proud to support torture. What have we become?
October 25, 2007
Right way and wrong way
For the most part, none of us on the outside know if Judy Robson was effective or ineffective as state Senate leader. Whether she was a victim of Doyle administration machinations or the old boys network is left to the senators to answer. Did she just get in the way of a power move by Russ Decker or can one feel the warm breath of AT&T in the air?
I like Judy Robson a lot and respect her concern for the people of this state. Her positions were refreshing and her commitment to social and economic justice unquestioned. Russ Decker is a friend so I don't have a direct stake in the decision to replace Robson, but there is a right way to change leaders and this was not it.
Dave Callender, writing in the Capital Times, reports that Chuck Chvala was, according to his sources, actively lobbying Senate Dems to reject the Doyle-Huebsch budget as part of a plan to replace Robson with Decker. Now that is not news most Democrats will cheer. And, if Robson is blamed for Huebsch's intransigence or Doyle's timidity, shame on the Dems.
Nor will people feel good that she was "blindsided" according to her staff. It would have been better to have an open debate so those who live outside the cocoon called the Capital could feel some ownership in the process. Heck, it was a secret ballot! C'mon.
Making this move now raised another key issue. Deregulation of the cable industry. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Decker said he would push to pass the cable deregulation bill, which AT&T is heavily lobbying for." You will recall that AT&T hired Democratic Party Chair and former State Senator, Joe Weineke, to lobby for the bill. Was Judy Robson on AT&T's enemy list? Stay tuned.
Somehosw this doesn't smell good and frankly, his colleagues gave Decker a title but not much more. As for Judy Robson, job well done.
October 24, 2007
What do you know?
Borrowing from our friend Michael Feldman, ask yourself, "what you really know" about the budget that just passed the recalcitrant Assembly and the Senate. You and I are in the dark while the lobbyists and special interests know everything.
The other day, I mentioned our interest in the funding of public broadcasting. The neocons wanted to kill Big Bird, Kathleen Dunn, Joy Cardin, Fresh Air, Moyers Journal, All Things Considered, Morning Edition, Frontline, and all the rest. Whew! The Cap Times informed us last night, "The GOP-led Assembly had cut $13 million from Wisconsin Public Broadcasting" but the cuts, (i.e., elimination of Public Radio and TV) "were fully restored." Wahoo! I think. But was there a debate? Was the vote close? Will they try again when we sleep? Should we panic? So, what do ya know? Not much.
One thing we do know is that evidence of global warming is everywhere. Yesterday, another report on the record drought in the southeast, "New to Being Dry, the South Struggles to Adapt." The drought is so serious Atlanta may run out of water in a month. Really. Then what? Some in Wisconsin smugly say, "Business will come to Wisconsin for our water." Why they reach that conclusion when you can bet the folks in Atlanta are thinking of bringing "our" water to them, is anyone's guess. What is the Legislature of the Lobbyists doing about it? Nothing. We can't get the Great Lakes Compact passed for heaven's sake.
The fires in California are part of global warming. More and longer droughts, higher temperatures, more violent storms, bigger fires. What are we doing about this crisis? Not much.
Oh well, we can watch the World Series and the Packers. Me worry?
October 23, 2007
Tuition up? Who cares?
Under the new budget, in-state tuition to the UW will rise 6.8% but who cares? Let them borrow, take a third job, pay high interest, and learn to deal with debt. Think of the increase as a leaning moment.
These students don't attend fundraisers so why should the legislators care about tuition when they can pour money into new highways? Hey! Road builders pay! Students don't!
We will now hear from the apologists--"our tuitiion is lower than Michigan, Harvard, and Beloit"--to which I respond, so what? The test is not a private school standard nor another Big Ten school. If income levels are low in Wisconsin and unemployment high, particularly for minorities, a 6% increase hurts. We should be going in the opposite direction--but I forgot. We can't with all those prisoners.
Vehicle registration is up 86% but, again, so what? I'll bet they thought everyone gets $88 per day just to show up to work in addition to their paycheck. What's a lousy $53 for a title to your car? Less than one day's per diem. The Fiscal Bureau says these fees were "not made public when the deal was struck." Oh, my, stop complaining and host a fundraiser or two.
What other items sneaked in? You can bet no repeal of loopholes for banks or manufacturers. No gradual repeal of the M&E exemption. No decision to ban ATM fees. That you can take to the bank. And, thank you Speaker Huebsch for not taxing the giant oil companies. In fact, thank you, thank you. Had the oil companies paid their fair share Murphy Oil might have refused to pollute Lake Superior. Can't have that!
And so it goes. Every lobbyist knew more about the in-fighting and deals than any of you. While The Wisconsin Way travels the state making the Huebsch argument on property taxes, the fox is busy killing chickens. Listen up fellow chickens. We need more eggs.
October 22, 2007
Pay me my money down
Remember the old Pete Seeger song? Well, the NYT carries a sad story today of the auction of homes lost to high interest rates. The vultures move in and steal the dreams of the former home owners. Someone is always willing to profit off the misery of others.
One observer shouted, "It's just like any other farm auction." He hit it out of the park. Bidding on each home "took less than three minutes." I wonder how many years good people paid the mortgage every month only to fall victim. Three minutes?
Willy Nelson sings a song, "Dreams don't make noise when they die." Guess not, because Congress knows nothing about the auction. If they could hear I'm sure they would jump into action, doncha think?
October 21, 2007
Not scared yet?
So, you are enjoying the summer-like weather as Halloween approaches while joyfully counting the days until Bush and Cheney retire in Dubai or Dallas. ("Dick, where did this $9 billion come from?")
I can almost hear the sigh from thousands of you because it seems too late for the loonies to bomb Iran. You sure?
Things seem to be unraveling and quickly. Syria announced that the 1.5 million Iraqi refugees camped in Syria have to go home--even if they have no home to return to. As you know, thousands of Iraqi civilians have been fleeing the civil war daily while that war acts as the light bulb to our military moths. Jordan has significant water shortage problems and 400,000 Iraqi refugees. You know about Iran.
This gets complicated. The U.S. is trying to figure out how to convince Syria to keep the refugees because their return would spell chaos while Condi is trying to deal with Israel's bombing of what they say was the start of a nuclear plant. For inexplicable reasons the Bush administration did not join in the bombing. Could it be that there was a deal? We won't bomb if you keep the refugees? Who knows?
Meanwhile, Pakistan could explode anytime. The NYT wrote, "The scenes of carnage in Pakistan, conjured what one 'anonymous' senior Bush official called the nightmare scenario." You figure it out. Enemies with oil and atomic weaons. Scared yet?
NYT reporter David Sanger writes "Bush officials worry far more than they let on publicly." That is encouraging.
Read this Halloween trick or treat: "As long as the Pakistan army remains united, most American officials say they believe the nuclear arsenal will remain under strict control." Whoa Nelly! "Most American officials"--you know, the ones who brought us Mission Accomplished, say not to worry. That means worry--a lot!
Let's sum up. Syria is unhappy and the ruling Alawits, in a country where Sunnis are the majority, worry that the 1.5 million Iraqis may expand their civil war to Syria, so they might send them all to General Petraeus as part of the Sunni surge; Israel bombs Syria while we look out the window; Musharraf, the core of our policy in Pakistan may be kicked out; things going poorly in Afghanistan...oh, never mind.
Carve the pumpkin, hug your kids and tell them not to worry, President Bush has a plan. He wouldn't dare bomb Iran. (Don't forget to light a candle for the pumpkin--and for peace.)
October 20, 2007
A budget--happy now?
So, 111 days and $10,000 in per diem payments to legislators later, three designated leaders, the governor, the Assemply Speaker and the Senate majority leader stood before the media and professed their commitment to, of all things, compromise. Whoa Nelly! What do you mean "compromise" and with whom? What, did WMC give-up?
I'll bet lunch at the Main Depot that none of you have a clue what happened, whether the budget is good or bad for you and your offspring, and whom to blame for this embarrassing display of incompetence. (We will post some articles from the combatants soon.)
Bill Kraus writes in his regular Guest Blog spot that word has leaked out to the people of Wisconsin that this government isn't working. And, "They (legislators) aren't earning their pay."
I have tried to follow a few particular issues. First, what about the Assembly Republican plan to kill public radio and TV? Did the "compromise" include funding or do we have to call-in our pledges all year? Second issue. Will tuition go up or down and will the UW system be treated with the respect and financial support it deserves? Hard to tell because so much of the process took place behind closed doors. I know, I know, stop complaining and enjoy the fact we have a budget. OK.
Kill the U.N. Another good idea from Mitt Romney. He said that, and John "I'll say anything to become top tier candidate again" McCain agrees. What do they want instead? I'm not making this up: They want a coalition of friendly democracies. Sort of a coalition of the willing, that is working so well in Iraq, on steroids, to replace the oft-contentious General Assembly.
I wonder if they understand why the U.S. took the lead in forming the U.N. in the first place. Do they prefer war to diplomacy? Is this country too powerful to negotiate when we can threaten pre-emptive strikes?
Back to basics.
October 19, 2007
When word leaked that a pal of W's had secured an oil deal with the Kurds in Iraq my ears perked up. Ray L. Hunt, CEO of Texas-based Hunt Oil, a big contributor to President Bush, son of the infamous H.L. Hunt, (Disclosure--in college we boycotted Hunt Ketchup because of our disdain for H.L.) got the deal. Then it came to light that he is on the board of Halliburton and, wanna bet he is involved with the Caryle Group? What I liked best is the almost-Horatio Alger story put out by the spinners: "Hunt's association with Hunt Oil Company began in 1958 as, (I'm not making this up) "a summer employee in the oil fields." They forgot to mention that papa Hunt owned the oil fields!
Ray's brother Lamar was a founder of the American Football League. Another disclosure: Lamar was a frequent defendant in anti-trust suits brought by the NFLPA when I was executive director. Brother "Bunker" Hunt was heavily involved in the Libyan oil fields and, on the side, he tried to corner the silver market. No kidding. He was convicted of manipulating the market.
And you wonder how good 'ol boy Ray Lee Hunt got the inside track in Iraq? Could it be that this Bush appointee to the Foreign Intelligence Board knew more than J. Rockfeller or even BP-Amoco? Wonder why the U.S. has stated time and again that there will be no withdrawal until the oil deal has been inked? (Purple ink?) Could anyone doubt General Abizaid telling us that the invasion was all about oil?
There is so much corruption in this administration that you couldn't make it up, because fiction must be believable.
Meanwhile, "Mr Lucky" Ray Hunt says, "Too bad chumps. Beat you to the pay window." I can only imagine how the families of the 3,812 soldiers killed in Iraq must feel when they see $9 billion "gone missing" and insiders making billions on the oil. This is an American tragedy.
October 18, 2007
No Tax Paradise
Earlier this month, my blog focused on the right-wing-no-tax outfit calling themselves "Americans for Prosperity" and newly formed The Wisconsin Way, a coalition calling for lower property taxes. (One must conclude that user fees, sales taxes, sin taxes, are OK with the Wisconsin Way coalition while our pals from Americans for Prosperity want no taxes and a return to charity schools).
The Wisconsin Way (TWW), brainchild of Wood Communications, doesn't mention tax loopholes, the shifting of property taxes from corporations to home owners, or income taxes, thus confirming that other tax fights can be handled by other groups.
Ironically, TWW began a tour of Wisconsin aimed at confirming the TWW view that the people of Wisconsin are in revolt over property taxes the same week as the Americans for Prosperity held a rally at the Lobbyist's Legislature, shouting "no new taxes" of any kind. I guess they believe property taxes are not so bad. If the two groups get their way, you may place Wisconsin in the dumpster, schools first.
The City of Milwaukee has the 2nd worst jobless rate among the largest 50 cities in America. Whoa Nelly! JS reports that only Detroit is worse. We know that 26 percent of people in Milwaukee are below the poverty line. With this knowledge these groups are hollering, "Let them eat cake--and no new taxes." Are they kidding or heartless or both?
While thousands of children face tough odds to "make it" in Milwaukee, the legislators are getting $47,000 per year with health care and $88 per day for showing up. C'mon. If they show up every workday to greet the lobbyists with out-stretched palms, add another $22,880 to their salaries for a total of $70,000. Not bad, not bad. No wonder they raise money during the budget crisis and gerrymander districts to retain their seats. Nice work if you can get it.
It is time for action. Wisconsin taxpayers are not in revolt but they are disgusted with the Assembly.
NOTE: Hightower reminds us that HBO will feature Bob Fest speaker and spiritual leader "Granny D" Haddock tonight at 9 Eastern time.
Oh, yeah, Bush talked about WW III. Duck and cover.
October 17, 2007
Reading the paper today is too much. Oil reached $86 and "fears that $100-a-barrel oil is no longer such a distant prospect" jumped off the page. With gas close to $3.00 per gallon, imagine what will happen if Turkey invades northern Iraq. Yikes! Not to worry because the mandatory mark-up of 9% in Wisconsin was declared illegal. Result? Small independents will be driven out of business by the oil oligarchy and prices will leap across the three dollar gorge forever. (None of this will hurt the hedge fund folks who make billions off the misery of common people losing their homes.)
The NYT reports that "oil prices have more than quadrupled since 2001". OOPS! Yesterday, Amy Goodman carried this quote from retired general John Abazid, once the leader of the Iraqi occupation. "Of course it was about oil. We treat the Middle East like big gas stations. Stay open 24 hours, keep prices low, treat Israel nicely and you can do whatever you want." I would have thought this quote would be front page NYT but no, it wasn't mentioned. Error. That was a quote from Thomas Friedman not Abazid who did say there is no way to deny the Iraqi invasion was for oil.
Meanwhile back in progressive Wisconsin, the mis-named Americans for Prosperity, will bus supporters to Madison from La Crosse, Eau Claire and Wausau to protest high taxes in Wisconsin and presumably to protect the loopholes they paid for in campaign contributions. Given the fact that the GOP is refusing to pass a budget, it should be humorous to hear the line from the no-tax-no-government folks. (Crowd may be small, warns Mark Block of Justice Wilcox campaign fame. Why? The AFL-CIO is holding a rally and the white wine sippers don't like "confrontation." Yah, sure.
Bellecourt passes: Vernon Bellecourt, the foe of racially insensitive mascots passed just as the Washington "Redskins" left Green Bay and the Cleveland "Indians" move into the World Series. The team owners are shameless and are unlikely to change names and mascots but what stops the sports editors from refusing to call them Indians and Redskins?
October 16, 2007
Trouble with a capital 'T'
Let's begin with the Lobbyist's Legislature where part-time actors but full-time public officials called legislators are performing Lord of the Flies. You recall William Golding's brilliant story about marooned boys who take on adult roles in running their new society, from hunting to lighting a fire to get the attention of passing ships.
After finally getting the fire started they got distracted and a huge fire engulfed much of the island. Worse, the fire went out as a ship passed them.
Sound familiar? It should. While school children and administrators around the state struggle with rising costs and lower revenues, "Ralph" and "Piggy" are starting ideological bonfires that are about to burn out of control. Who suffers while the GOP engages in role playing? All of us.
Item: 3 million homeowners on the east coast have been notified that due to recent hurricanes their home owner's policy has been canceled.
Item: "Drought-Stricken South Facing Tough Choices." The NYT reports that drought conditions are the worst in history in Georgia and North Carolina and a real crisis is just months away unless lots of rain falls quickly. People "wondered why the calls to conserve are so late in coming." While wackos still question global warming and ignore warnings of changing weather patterns, reality is coming home. Think about it. No homeowners insurance all along the coast. Think housing prices are down now? Just try to sell your uninsurable Florida home. Or, try to sell your condo in Atlanta if the city is out of water.
With drought threatening life in the South, and despite the fact Lake Superior is at a record low and Lake Michigan is "leaking", how long will it be before they drop a pipe in Lake Michigan to take water to Atlanta. (Bill Richardson is the canary in the mine.)
Back to Lord of the Flies. What are the kids doing about protecting the Great Lakes? Nothing! We are in Hightower's "world of hurt." Time for the adults to take over.
October 15, 2007
Doyle administration gets it!
We were informed by a news release that the Doyle administration is very pleased that Wisconsin is "leading the nation in encouraging people to participate in a free online depression screening." (I'm not kidding.) Yes, 700,000 of us "have been invited by employers or organizations to participate"...The survey asks questions like "have you been blamed yourself for little things."
I can only hope that the 99 members of the Assembly and our 33 state senators join with the governor in going online, answering the questions, and publishing the results.
I have a different idea. If you do not feel a tad depressed given the the veto of the Children's Insurance bill, 3,810 soldiers killed in Iraq, millions of Iraqi citizens killed, homeless, or now classified as refugees, you may not know what is going on. Advice: Turn off Fox.
If being the only state in the Union to not have a budget makes you sleepless, stop blaming yourself. Don't worry, medications are on the way.
Depressed? Nah. Mad as hell? You betcha.
October 14, 2007
Clears the mind
A drive to Price County takes a while if you start from Madison, but the crystal clear air and the progressive thinking of those who live north of Highway 8 make it all worthwhile. Interesting note: While all applauded the Nobel Prize award given to Al Gore, there was very little enthusiasm for a Gore candidacy.
Korea?: Stanley Kutler graces us again, writing on the plan to maintain U.S. presence in Iraq for a long long time. He writes that Bush wants a "Korean" solution. Yikes.
Class of 2006: Stanley also points to the Senate class of 2006. Sherrod Brown, Clair McCaskel, Bernie Sanders, Amy Klobuchar, James Webb, and Jim Tester all voted against the Lieberman/Kyle bill that, in essence, gives tacit approval to Bush and Dr. Strangelove to bomb Iran. You already know that Hillary and Herb Kohl joined the Lieberman express. I think it is noteworthy that those elected most recently oppose the Iran attack. As for Hillary, Mike Gravel said it best: "Hillary, I'm ashamed of you."
Budget: The new budget won't go anywhere unless three moderate Republicans strap on their seat belts and vote for passage. I doubt it because they fear the tongue-lashing of Charlie Sykes who will read them out of the Party, and their cash constituents who want to privatize state government.
But you have to tip your hat to the neocons. If you`read the WSJ, people say a pox on both houses. Missing in all the non-coverage is commentary on such nuggets as the proposed death of Wisconsin Public Radio. How embarrassing. The state where it all began would be the first to kill it. Whoa Nelly!
October 12, 2007
Al Gore gets the Nobel Peace prize for An Inconvenient Truth--how timely and how convenient. As Democrats seem to be floundering in the Congress and the NPR poll has Hillary only 3 percent ahead of Rudy, it may well be inconvenient for all candidates that the man elected in 2000 is back! But he is. Al, either run or, at a minimum, take charge. The life of the planet is at stake, but I guess you already know that!
The NPR poll, as you have heard, found 68 percent of Americans who think America is on the wrong track! Sixty-eight percent? Time for a bold approach that goes far beyond Harry Reed and Nancy Pelosi. Why? Sixty-nine percent give Congress the thumbs down. Yikes!
So, Al Gore: We must focus on global warming, health care as a right of all Americans, and the economy. You have the intelligence and the stature.
Off to a breakfast meeting in Park Falls tomorrow at 9 a.m., to take the Fighting Bob message to Price County. AJ's restaurant in Park Falls. See you at AJ's.
October 11, 2007
The gods are crazy
"He who controls the information, controls it all." No, that was not Joseph Goebbels. Words written by www.mediacarta.org, in the current ADBUSTERS commenting on Rupert Murdoch's purchase of the Wall Street Journal.
"The real story is about a global information system in which one man is allowed to own more than 100 newspapers, satellite networks, Fox TV, MySpace, and a magazine and book empire." A little scary? Nah. We have Public radio and TV and need not ever turn to Fox because, in addition to old reliables WPR and WPT, Keith Olberman informs on CNBC and Jon Stewart entertains on Comedy Central. But guess what? A lot of people get their propaganda from Fox. Sure do. Wait until Murdoch buys the 1300 Clear Channel radio stations. Think old Rupert will carry Air America? Bye, bye.
Well, relax if you must as Wisconsin Public Radio begins its fall pledge drive. But while you dial in your dollars the forces of darkness in the Assembly are trying to silence WPR and WPT. (I'll be on Joy Cardin at 8:00 a.m. tomorrow with my usual pledge to give $100 every time my Conservative counterpart says something sensible.)
So, dial in your dollars but call your legislators and ask what the hell is going on? Silence public radio and TV? Cut the nonsense!
Meanwhile, The Democracy Campaign reports that 116 Legislators raised 3.25 million dollars in the last election cycle and 70% of the money came from interests who could not vote for the recipient. I'm sure Mike McCabe would concede that Aunt Millie and uncle Jack mailed a couple of hundred from San Diego, but nearly all the money came from WMC, Realtors and front groups. Special interests who like Fox more than WPR.
TABOR-LITE hit the road yesterday in Onalaska. The Wisconsin Way, promoting the bromide that a cut in property taxes will cure athlete's foot, ringworm and convert our "tax hell" into a happy-go-lucky fantasy world with jobs, jobs, jobs, began the effort to start a property tax revolt. Pre-TABOR warm-up? You decide. Best comment of the night? Curt Christiansen suggested "it's time to re-evaluate the tax structure and shift the burden from residents to corporations." Heresy! Shut-up!
October 10, 2007
From my perspective, who knew about a magazine named Vanity Fair? But this magazine has published the article of the year, and that says something.
The article was written by Pulitzer prize winning journalists Don Barlett and James Steele. You must download, read and share with friends and every conservative you know. It begins, "Between April 2003 and June 2004, $12 billion in U.S. currency---much of it belonging to the Iraqi people--was shipped from the Federal Reserve to Baghdad where it was dispensed by The Coalition Provisional Authority...incredibly, at least $9 billion has gone missing."
The article will amaze you. On one day in June 2004, "40 pallets of cash, weighing 30 tons, were loaded" and shipped. Twenty-four million bills...under the steady gaze of bank employees and video surveillance system..."
Whoa Nelly! Here is some really hot news. Alan Greenspan appeared on Amy Goodman's "Democracy Now" and said he knew nothing about it but admitted "the losses are real." In essence, the largest heist in history went unnoticed by the head of the Federal Reserve. Yikes. Nine billion dollars "gone missing."
You must read it all. Here is the conclusion: "The simple truth about the missing money is the same one that applies to so much else about the American occupation of Iraq. The U.S. government never did care about accounting for those billions and it doesn't care now. It cares only about ensuring that an accounting does not occur."
Read and weep. Then dry your eyes and raise hell! We need to know if this money lines the pockets of the administration or one of the favored no-bid contractors. Or is it being used to kill American soldiers?
October 9, 2007
Tomorrow night in Onalaska, the first carefully orchestrated Wisconsin Way "listening" session will be conducted by Jim Wood of Wood Communications. Recruiters have been urged to persuade family members, friends and businesses who want lower property taxes to attend this series of meetings with pre-ordained conclusions.
The truly odd thing is that WEAC has joined with the always-reactionary Wisconsin Realtors and Road Builders, ostensibly because they have been convinced of "public frustration with the current tax system." Says who? Well, Wood Communications. And Wood's goals for the meeting tomorrow night are set forth in the ultra-slick packet of "Recruitment Materials for Team Leaders" distributed at the Madison Club last week.
Number one goal? I am not making this up. Reality is funnier than fiction: "Confirm the validity of the Wisconsin Way's basic conclusions and tenets." In other words, get all your friends to come to Onalaska to agree with our "conclusions." Whoa Nelly! A new definition of a "listening session." When Russ Feingold holds them the people talk and he listens. In the "Wisconsin Way" playbook Wood Communications talks, you listen, and then endorse the "conclusions" already spelled out weeks before the listening session. And, presumably, the media is supposed to treat this not as pro wrestling but as a real event with uncertain results. Yah, sure.
C'mon folks, this is not the way to reform our taxes.
A better analysis of our tax problems can be found on WEAC's own Web site, in an article highlighting an Institute for Wisconsin's Future report titled "Exposing the 'Tax Hell' Hoax." The problem, according to IWF? "The tax burden has shifted onto individuals while the business community ironically claims that high taxes on individuals are anti-business." Right on!
Want to reduce property taxes? Why not phase out the inefficient and costly M&E exemption for Big Business? Why not raise income taxes and lower regressive sales and property taxes? Why not exempt the average home in Wisconsin from property taxes to make this a progressive tax? How about closing loopholes used by the big folks to avoid taxes?
Want to discuss this hidden TABOR and other taxing issues. We would be happy to publish your ideas. (I'll even come to the Madison Club to debate Jim Wood.)
Speaking of ideas. Read the solution to the legislative plot to kill a budget by Chris Wren who proposes a Damocles plan. I like it.
October 8, 2007
"We were shocked to read the portrayal of a depressed, cold, and bitter man." Biography of Clarence Thomas? Nope. Charles Schultz, the creator of Peanuts. See NYT if you don't believe me.
The above description of Schultz fits my view of Justice Thomas, the bitter hate-monger who published his recent book to get back at Anita Hill and all liberals who opposed this awful justice. If any of us had doubts about our opposition...no more.
Too bad. One might have expected a little more growth, but no way.
October 7, 2007
Woke up a little late, listened to WPR and was pleased to find out the U.S. did not bomb Iran last night. That is very good news because had Cheney pushed the button I am confident leading Democrats in the presidential race would have quickly announced support for the decision. "Must support the troops...Iran wants to bomb Israel...we must unite behind our loony president," and other nonsense would pour out of the Democratic vessel.
It is no secret that the plans are in place to bomb Iran thanks to Seymour Hersh's reporting in the New Yorker. And, Hillary and Barack are on board. So, when a distinguished heart surgeon asked me last night to explain how any thinking candidate could support this madness, I was stumped. He had heard that more than 70 Senators, including Herb Kohl, had voted for the God-awful Lieberman amendment that supports the notion of an Iranian bombing campaign. "Are they crazy?"
Short answer? Yes.
Then I grabbed the paper to read the details of the state budget. Ah, instead, I read that the Cubs lost again and there was no progress on the budget. The only good news is the recognition by the governor that "You have what appears to be a coordinated strategy to delay this budget." No kidding! WMC is running TV spots claiming the state is better off without a budget; the Americans for Prosperity (for big business) is planning an anti-tax rally on the 17th; the Realtors and Counties start their AstroTurf "listening" sessions on Wednesday in La Crosse to focus our gaze, not on big corportions who do not pay their fair share of taxes but on how we can redudce property taxes; the always fair Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, funded by the rightwing Bradley Foundation, agrees that no budget is a gift to us. All the right-wingers are in sync. Their clever plot? TABOR without a vote. Stop paying for needed services by outsourcing, privatizing or drowning government. The people would kill TABOR, but they can't get to the Lobbyist's Legislature.
What a revolt'n development this is!
October 6, 2007
Mark Bugher, sort of a Bill Kraus-enlightened Republican (or former Republican), is quoted in the Capital Times Saturday raising questions about the viability of his party: "I think a lot of people, like myself, who have been in the Republican Party for a long time, and who believe in things like stem cell research, are concerned about the hijacking of the party by single-interest groups...we could be viewed as a knee-jerk-party."
The Bugher Epiphany is a result of a Wall Street Journal (a/k/a Murdoch's Paper) article suggesting that big business is tired of fiscal irresponsibility, the Iraq war, and lack of action on health care, may drift away from the GOP. Bugher returned to normalcy, however, by praising neocon Mike Huebsch, Speaker of the Assembly, who is holding our state hostage by refusing to pass a state budget. Oh well, at least Bugher is on his way from knee-jerk Republican to that wonderful status of politically homeless.
The article still offers some reassurance to the knee-jerks: Jim Pugh of WMC, on the way to purchasing the Supreme Court, said, and I'm not making this up, "There should be a bipartisan consensus that what's good for business is good for Wisconsin." Ah, Charlie Wilson, where are you?
And Joe Murray, speaking for the new WEAC partner in the Wisconsin Way, the Realtors, said, if there is any loss of support for the GOP, "It was over the war and corruption in Congress, not any change in core beliefs." (Core beliefs like privatization of education and tax loopholes for business. Big Business.)
Hello? Here is a different challenge. Bob Herbert in the NYT cites the gifts of the post-WWII generation, "the Marshall Plan, the G.I. Bill, the interstate highway system, the Peace Corps, the civil rights movement and much more." "Where," he asks, "is the comparable vision for the early 21st century? Who is rallying America with the clarion call that we can do great things?"
Well, Mark Bugher, it ain't the candidates running for president in either party unless you conclude that Bill Richardson's call for pipes from the Great Lakes to carry our water to the parched west is a great idea. Whoa Nelly!
October 5, 2007
Whose fight is it?
I've been involved in lots of grass roots campaigns: Civil and student rights in the '6o's; ERA in the '70's; anti-factory farm battles raging as I write. We have battled Perrier over water, taken on town boards to stop gravel pits, and, of course, helped create The People's Legislature and Fighting Bob Fest. Now we can watch how the money-boys do it.
Six years ago, a few of us decided to hold an annual meeting of grass roots groups worried about the environment and social justice. We rented the Sauk County fair grounds, sent out a notice, and, like Field of Dreams, they came. Bob Fest was born. We asked people to attend the People's legislature and 1200 of you braved the snow and came to the meeting. These meetings and battles belonged to you. And that's the key.
Progressives operate on a shoe string and faith in the cause. We depend on passing the barrels to pay for renting the hall and often to finance a court challenge.
Now comes The Wisconsin Way. Yes, the manufactured "grass" roots campaign to cut property taxes. It is slick, expensive, and as real as AstroTurf. Wood Communications has spent more money creating a groundswell anti-tax, Prop 13-type movement before the first "public conversation" than we spent on 8,500 people at Bob Fest. The four funders, The Counties Association, the always popular Realtors, the busy road builders and WEAC have reportedly ponied up $250,000 each to Wood Communications. (My God. Imagine what we could do with that!)
Why so much? Well it ain't cheap to create the illusion of a revolt. Example. The first Madison meeting for Recruiters was held at the Madison Club. (Yup. The Club that expelled Fighting Bob for his opposition to WWI. The preferred hang-out of the lobbyists who purchased the Legislature.) The goal of the funders is to have recruiters get hundreds of people to attend sessions to rubber stamp the notion that if Wisconsin would only reduce property taxes without raising a progressive income tax, we would be prosperous, happy, bright and, well, you get the picture.
These meetings scheduled around the state won't call for an end to the Machinery & Equipment exemption nor will they focus on the huge corporations that paid no taxes to the State. Nope. Just cut the ground out from under public education at all levels. I am smart enough to figure out why the road builders and Realtors want to cut property taxes without real reform, but why is WEAC hanging around the Madison Club with the foes of public education? If there is a revolt brewing, call a meeting and see who shows up. Want to co-sponsor with FightingBob.com?
Paid recruiters? C'mon. How embarrassing.
Whose fight is it? Apparently Wood Communications'.
See you at the Club.
October 4, 2007
That is the clear message from the neo-cons who control the State Assembly to Wisconsin Public Radio (WPR) and Wisconsin Public Television (WPT). You know, the reason you have a radio and a TV. The corporate media is paying little attention to the GOP effort to end diversity on publicly owned air and, truth be told, would love to have silence from WPR. Competition you know.
The neo-cons want to cut $2.7 million for fiscal year 2008 and $5.4 million in FY '09. That would end WPR and WPT unless the right wing would graciously offer to purchase the network for a dollar. Then, instead of Joy Cardin and Kathleen Dunn, we could awaken to the screeching of Vicki McKenna and the nonsense of Ann Coulter. No more "radical" talk from Ben Marens at drive time. No siree! WPR could carry Charlie Sykes and Mark Belling. And the newly privatized Madison campus of the UW will provide lots of Milton Friedman types to put insomniacs to sleep. I can hardly wait.
Yes, life will be better without so many different and confusing views. We won't have to think at all. Sort of our Fox News on air. Think of WTMJ all-right-wing-all-the-time radio in Milwaukee and you will get the idea. Hey! It is nice to know you can hit 620 on the dial and hear right-wing views night or day unless there is a sporting event. (Even then you get right-wing sports commentary.) WTMJ--our intellectual cocoon.
How is the governor handling this budget crisis? He could take on the radicals controlling the Assembly or he could pretend both sides are equally at fault and plead with both sides to cave in. He might take a principled stand to protect WPR for example, or our children, or our university. He could use the radicalism of the Assembly Republicans as a teaching moment, or he could blame both sides while leaning on his fellow Dems to "live to fight another day" as his spokesman put it. Or, as he has so ably demon stated, when you stand for nothing it doesn't hurt to lose a battle or even a war. At the end of the day, they still call you Governor, Senator or the "gentleman or gentle lady from the 54th."
Enter Americans for Prosperity-Wisconsin, a new neo-con con to reduce spending on such wasteful things as WPT and WPR. They will hold a rally on the 17th at the lobbyist's Legislature, to hear, you guessed it, Vicki McKenna, Owen Robinson (the right-wing blogger you hear often on WPR), and the guy who got former Justice Wilcox in hot water, Mark Block. And, if lucky, GOP Chair Priebus will speak. (Move over Jim Hightower and Granny D.)
It is time for Jim Doyle to join the fight. It isn't a private fight and anyone can join. Save WPR and WPT; reduce tuition; stop the privatizers.
October 3, 2007
Given the extreme positions taken by the Republicans in the Assembly, Jay Heck of Common Cause opted to meet with the "Center Right Coalition" at the Madison Club. The invitation was extended by Mark Block, the guy who was involved with the infamous Justice Wilcox campaign.
Heck, according to second-hand reports, told the audience a.) he is not Mike McCabe; and b) he had nothing to do with Fighting Bob Fest!(I'll vouch for Jay--he has not been involved nor has he attended any of the six Bob Fests.) One must conclude that he finds more comfort at the Madison Club than at the Sauk County Fairgrounds. Next year we will bring a cushion for Jay.
Oh! The budget? The "Center Right" Assembly leadership says we don't need one. So, let the University shrink; let students get a third job to pay tuition; forget about rehabilitation of prisoners; autistic kids can fend for themselves.
Meanwhile, the scandalous fundraising continues while we suffer. And for every day the legislators show up they collect $88 unless they are from Dane County: then it's a paltry $44 per day.
This is astounding.
October 2, 2007
Good news, bad news
First the good news. David Obey is listening and leading. He announced that the Appropriations Committee will not vote on the $190 billion supplemental request from Bush for the war in Afghanistan and the continued occupation of Iraq until next year. And, he added, after Bush changes policy. Good for you Dave Obey.
Obey and John Murtha will also offer a plan to pay for the war through a war tax. Predictably, Nancy Pelosi said no way. What is your plan to end the war, Speaker Pelosi?
Now the bad news. We may well be on the war track again. More and more people are ceonvinced the administration will bomb Iran, and Clinton, Edwards and Obama seem to be on board! Mike Gravel congratulated Joe Bidden and Chris Dodd for opposing the Lieberman/Kyle resolution to authorize, in essence, war with Iran. Standing three feet from Ms. Clinton in the Democratic debate, Gravel almost shouted, "I'm ashamed of you Hillary, for voting for it and Barack didn't even vote!" Hillary's response? Her patented raucous belly laugh. Is the strain getting to her? What's so damned funny? How does one laugh at the proposed attack on Iran?
When Amy Goodman asked Seymour Hersh why Hillary was taking this position, Hersh responded without hesitation, "Lots of Jewish money from New York. And many agree with Israel that Iran is a threat." Rather bold, Seymour.