June 30, 2007
This is ridiculous!
Now and then, we get a peek into the tent occupied by legislators, lobbyists and big law firms. When we found out that three law firms selected by then Governor Tommy Thompson and then-AG Jim Doyle were in line to receive 20 percent of the state's share of the tobacco money, more than $800 million, Fred Risser, Frank Boyle and Mary Hubler asked us to challenge this outrage. We did and the deal was canceled.
Now another outrage. Two Republican legislators, Dave Zien and Scott Gunderson, shared a draft of their concealed carry bill with the NRA but not with you and me. Peg Lautenschlager sued under the open records Law but Judge David Flanagan, in a well-reasoned decision, ruled, on summary judgment, that the legislators had the right to keep the drafts out of public view. (While I wish he had ruled the other way the problem can be taken care of easily by the Legislature.)
Now, did the legislators need representation? I suspect they did. Could they have convinced a couple of good lawyers to represent them in this rather straightforward case for a nominal fee? I suspect they could have. What did they do? Zien hired, at taxpayer's expense, Whyte Hirschboeck, who billed you $223,000 at $350 per hour so that you cannot see bill drafts! The other firm, normally the first choice of Republicans, Michael, Best & Freidrich, billed a mere $145,962 for a grand total of more than $380,000.
Our friend Bill Lueders, president of the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council, called the fee total "a ridiculous amount of money." Remember, it did not go to trial. Imagine what that would have cost.
Lueders summed it up: "It's tragic that taxpayers' money would be spent to deny information to taxpayers. People ought to be ticked off about that."
You got it right Bill.
June 29, 2007
Ah, cynicism! Are there no limits?
When I attended my first National Student Association Congress, one speaker, an African American father of two children, discussed the pain of seeing no progress in integrating the schools in his community, six years after Brown v. Board was decided. He said, "How long must we wait? My son is now going to high school and it remains segregated. What do they mean, 'with all deliberate speed' and how do I explain that to my children." For me the speech was a life-changing event. The challenge was obvious--move forward faster.
Yes, the Warren Court made history but that father's grandchildren will face the same policy of segregation his children dealt with, thanks to John G. Roberts, a man who has never known discrimination. In 1954, Warren gave all of us hope but the neocons and segregationists went to work. They developed private schools using tax dollars to avoid integration. That, folks, was the beginning of school vouchers. And today, we may be back to 1953. Not everywhere but Roberts says the good guys must pass the test while the segregationists need only file suit.
An unpublished litmus test for judicial appointees since the early 1980's was this question: "Was Brown v. Board of Education correctly decided? If not, explain." If the appointee said "yes" he/she faced a filibuster.
"Awful, disaster, incredible" were words I heard last night from judges and lawyers commenting on the decision to effectively reverse Brown. And the cynicism from Roberts? Here are his words: "The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race." And, he claimed he was more in line with Brown v. Board than the dissenters. Yah, sure Johnny.
We will have more to say on this invitation for social unrest, but for now, let us figure out what to do next. Ah, Roberts, we hardly know ye, but you have condemned us to division for decades.
June 28, 2007
Bye bye, Blair
Ten years, five of them nestled comfortably in George Bush's lap, have come to an end. Tony Blair is no longer Prime Minister and Chief Lap Dog. As for Master Bush? Well, he has become so unpopular in the world that travel to distant lands is out of the question, and at home even Republican Senator Richard Lugar is calling for troop withdrawal from Iraq. (The 9 percent approval rating the U.S. got in Turkey, according to Pew Research, ought to make even Dick Cheney wonder. It won't but it should.)
Tony Blair. All sizzle and no steak. But for his cheerleading the occupation might be over. And, lest we forget, it was Tony Blair who justified the pre-emptive strike on the grounds that Sadaam could send rockets to Britain in 45 minutes. Yes, Tony, you have been an accomplice before, during, and after the attack. You share in the blame of 70,000 civilian deaths, 1.4 million refugees, 2.2 million homeless Iraqis. Quite a record. You will be long remembered for supporting war, torture and cooking the intelligence to fool the public.
Blair leaves on the anniversary of the end of World War I. The signing of the Treaty of Versailles. Too bad his drive to be compared to Winston Churchill dulled his brain and made him part of the neocon hall of fame rather than a peace-seeker.
Tony Blair will not be missed.
On a happier note, Judy Robson pulled it off. The Senate voted for health care for all people in Wisconsin. Good for you, Judy Robson. Good for you.
June 27, 2007
Take that Elizabeth Edwards!
"I wish John Edwards had been killed in a terrorist plot." So sayeth the doyenne of the neocons, Ann Coulter. Elizabeth Edwards, one of the brightest lights in the country, asked Coulter to stop the personal attacks. "This is a dialogue of hatefulness and ugliness," said Mrs. Edwards. Absolutely!
I must ask why Coulter is invited to appear on news programs. Is David Duke next? Why not Paris Hilton?
I hope Mrs. Edwards attends Fighting Bob Fest so we can thank her for trying to raise the level of debate.
Believe it. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is inviting people to apply for "community columnist" positions. Would that WTMJ radio "all right-wing-talk-all-the-time" would do the same and diversify instead of giving us only a steady diet of Coulter/Sykes type nonsense.
WTMJ radio makes Fox News actually seem "balanced".
June 26, 2007
Oh my God!
Yes! It happened! The majority of the Supreme Court put a smile on the faces of Big Business, Wisconsin Right-to-life, the National Rifle Association, and, grab your chairs, the AFL-CIO and the National Education Association, parent of WEAC. I'm not making this up. Whenever the good people mobilize public support for campaign reform you can safely predict that the nation's teachers will hold a joint news conference with NRA, Mitch McConnell, and the ACLU.
The boys in the neocon backrooms must love it. Hell, if the unions oppose regulation, on the delusional notion they can compete with Big Business, half the work is done.
Yup. By another 5-4 vote, the Roberts, Alito, Scalia Court handed a victory to the RTL of Wisconsin. Now corporate money and, to a much lesser extent union money, will produce phony "issue ads" right up to the election. All sorts of conduits will be created to flood the airwaves. (The recent Supreme Court race in Wisconsin is all the proof one needs that Big Business cares about the process.)
I am not the least bit surprised. When Alito and that "nice, moderate, precedent-respecting" Judge Roberts were confirmed, Cheney won and we lost. Simple enough. Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, is next. Bye, bye Earl Warren and the era of protection.
My question to WEAC and the AFL-CIO is, "OK, you won. Now what?"
Wow! Remember Bush v. Gore? Who would have thunk it? Did the neocons just win the 2008 election? Think about it.
While you are thinking, register for Fighting Bob Fest and read Ms. Forward. Good stuff.
June 25, 2007
You Have No Rights
Thanks a lot, Matt Rothschild! Just when I was recovering from the announcement that first-borns are smarter than the rest of us, you publish your depressing, albeit, excellent book, YOU HAVE NO RIGHTS: Stories of America In An Age of Repression.
As Howard Zinn wrote, "We must, as citizens, take back our stolen rights." And Cindy Sheehan wrote, "Rothschild's book is urgently needed." Indeed it is.
My advice: Buy the book. Matt will, of course speak on September 8 at Fighting Bob Fest as he always does.
When I'm in a mood to celebrate Wisconsin as a special place, I think of The Progressive and, of course, Matt. See you in Baraboo.
June 24, 2007
Sicko enters the debate
Unless you have been asleep over the past twenty or thirty years, you know that our health care industry is on the verge of collapse. Maybe it has already collapsed. No need to parade the statistics but one guarantees a collapse of our private health care delivery fiasco: 47 million of us have no coverage at all and no doubt millions of others have inadequate coverage. Stories of patient dumping on skid row in LA by hospitals; hospitals in our major cities, including Milwaukee, closing emergency rooms; doctors and nurses trying to deal with full emergency rooms with folks who can't pay for service. ("Service" is an odd word in this context. When a person's life is hanging in the balance is it "service" that is requested or is it full attention to saving a life? Dare we ask--is there a right-to-life outside the womb?)
How is the industry dealing with this little problem? Denial is the best description. "Long waiting lines" in Canada or Holland is the mantra, whereas in America you get quick service and wait in comfort to see your doctor. If you have insurance, that is. If you don't, a trip to Canada may seem like a small price to pay.
But here is the rub. Ever since my childhood, I've heard the line that people in Europe and Canada hate national health care. (One of the front groups for the insurancce industry put it this way: "In America, you wait in line to see a movie. In government-run health care systems, you wait to see a doctor.") I believed them until we lived for a year in the Netherlands and discovered that everyone loved national health care. Our doctor made a house call! Any politician in Holland advocating a return to a system like ours would be hooted off the stage.
I believed them about Canada until we had Canadian friends, some rather conservative, who swore by the system.
I remember when the doctor's bill was more than the hospital bill for a stay in the hospital. I remember my grandfather, a doctor in Oshkosh, saying to me, "Socialized medicine will come in your lifetime because of greed in the medical system."
Long windup for the pitch to see Michael Moore's new film, Sicko. This movie will, I predict with confidence, be a decisive factor in the outcome of the Democratic primary in 2008 and the general election. The people have heard all the bullfeathers and they don't believe it.
Moore declared war: "It's being run like a war. I mean, we're in a battle with these corporations who want to maintain their position." Moore's army starts with a majority of Americans who want single-payer health care delivery.
If our health care system was working, the hospital and pharmaceutical industries would dismiss Michael Moore as a nut. It ain't working and they can't claim it is. With a straight face, that is.
Go Michael! Count me in your army.
Some good news. Majority State Senate leader, Judy Robson, a nurse by training, will have a vote this week on a plan that would give everyone in Wisconsin the same health-care plan that the governor and legislators get: "The health-care system has imploded. We can't fix it. States can't wait. We're going ahead."
Robson for President?
June 23, 2007
We must feel bad for Paris Hilton. She lost her deal with NBC (and the other networks as well) for the first post-jail interview. The L.A. Times reports that CBS offered her $100,000 but NBC offered between $750,000 to $1 million. But when commercial TV's dirty little secret that they pay for interviews became public, NBC said, "NBC News doesn't pay for interviews period" and pulled out of the dealing. First, the notion that she is "news" is startling. Second, why not admit what is obvious to anyone who cares--NBC does pay for interviews.
A better idea for NBC would be an hour special on Seymour Hersh on his latest in the New Yorker, "The General's Report: How Antonio Taguba who investigated the Abu Ghraib scandal became one of its casualties." It is a terrific story of how government works to cover up to protect the real decision-makers. The story concludes with General Taguba's remarkable quote: "I know that my peers in the Army will be mad at me for speaking out, but the fact is that we violated the laws of land warfare in Abu Ghraib. We violated the tenents of the Geneva convention. We violated the core of our military values...I believe those civilian and military leaders responsible should be held accountable."
June 22, 2007
What a way to start my day!
I awakened looking forward to writing my blog, reading the NYT, listening to WPR, and watching Amy Goodman when, wham! Right between the eyes: "Research Finds Firstborns Gain The Higher I.Q." As the third child in my family, I considered going back to bed but opted to read on. Turns out Darwin (rejected by Republicans but still relevant) was fifth of six and Descartes, like me, third. So, there is hope.
And the study reveals that sometimes the third child develops some talent to gain love from parents: "Younger siblings often develop other skills, like acting (nope), social charm (nope), a good curveball (nope) mastery of the electric bass(are you kidding?)."
If you don't hear from me until Bob Fest, I will be working on my curveball, taking guitar lessons and improving my social skills.
And, speaking of social skills, Dick Cheney is out of the bunker again. This time to inform us that he is neither executive branch nor legislative. No siree. He is both and a megalomaniac to boot.
Ron Kind's picture in NYT business section with Republican Tom Petri was the next shock. Ron wants to cut farm subsidies. He may have a good idea but he is playing with the big boys who have money and votes. Note to Ron: Get set for a fast one aimed at your chin. Second note to Ron: You better develop support for this idea in Wisconsin--fast.
Don't forget to pre-register for Bob Fest.
June 21, 2007
Don't stand in the doorway
As the parade of Republican presidential candidates meanders along the campaign trail, some are trotting away from George Bush, some are cantering, and others are about to gallop full-speed away from their president.
Not hard to understand given the fiasco in Iraq, the occupied territories, and Afghanistan. Who wants to defend the worst foreign policy in two-hundred years?
But that is not all. It appears likely that the Senate will override his loopy veto of stem cell research because Congress would like to cure some awful diseases. To pretend he is saving life is absurd. The process involves a microscopic entity that would be discarded in fertility clinics anyway. To claim this is in the name of right-to-life is nuts. I can't imagine a party's nominee agreeing With Bush.
So, W., don't stand in the doorway. Those galloping horses have riders and they won't stop.
Some good news. We now average more than 20,000 visits to Bob.com every week. Not bad fellow progressives and those who want to be. Thanks.
June 20, 2007
Songs and bongs
It is a known fact that campaigns make fools of most people who run for office. From donning silly hats or stretching into a group's shirt, to eating cream puffs at State Fair or autographing someone's back, I've seen and done most of these things. But Hillary has topped all of us.
Joy Cardin recently asked me to select Hillary's campaign song. Hillary actually conducted a cutesy contest to pick her theme song, to show, one assumes, just how with it she is. (Is a saxophone or flute on Jay Leno coming next?)
Her choice for her theme? Canadian-born Celine Dion singing "You and I." As Maureen Dowd puts it, "Dion combines the worst of Vegas and Canada." How did Hillary announce the selection? In a video spoof of the Sopranos starring Bill Clinton and Mrs. Clinton. Enough!
But back to Joy's question. I would ask Peter Leidy to write some music to the theme of "If I knew then what I know now."
But even while her video and song make her look silly, how about Rudy? I wrote about his ludicrous speaking fees and he apparently can't stop talking. He quit the Iraq Study Group because the group told him to attend meetings or leave. He left to give more speeches. A speech in Atlanta on leadership for a paltry $100,000. Another to a conference in South Korea for a modest $200,000. So far so good. Now the bad news.
Mayor Bloomberg quit Rudy's party because, he says, "Both parties are too timid on big problems and too locked into petty squabbling." (If you doubt the Mayor, watch C-SPAN to see how the Democrats dropped the ball in the confirmation hearings on the CIA counsel. Softball city.) Let's see now. If Blomberg sets out to buy the White House, is he responsible for New York's prosperity or is Rudy? And speaking of money, Bloomberg could put $1 billion into the auction in 2008. Not chump-change where I come from.
And Rudy's State Chair in South Carolina is the State Treasurer? Well, NYT tells us Thomas Ravenel was indicted for giving out cocaine. Was this a new campaign trick? I doubt it.
Mark Russell said during Watergate that he didn't need a comedy writer to make politics funny: "Just rip and read."
June 19, 2007
What's wrong with this picture?
As headlines bleat out the news about the housing industry facing serious problems, subprime lenders in bankruptcy, and subprime borrowers being ousted from their homes, one wonders how the super-prime borrowers are doing. My eye caught a full page ad in the Sunday NY Times for the Rushmore condos in New York.
A glance tells one this is not a place for subprime anything: "Two to Five Bedrooms, and a nicely appointed kitchen and powder rooms" from $1,500,000 to, grab your chair, "$7,000,000" and up.
Something is out of whack. Buy a place for $7 million and then host a fundraiser for a Democratic candidate for president. People who can afford a second residence in this price range are determining the candidate for the party of working people? I doubt if any will be at Fighting Bob Fest--the toilets are, well, not so "nicely appointed." Clean? Yes. Nicely appointed? I don't think so.
And the right says we are over-taxed?
June 18, 2007
Bob Fest time
Like you, I am frustrated with the occupation of Iraq, the lack of a coherent mid-east policy, high interest rates, high tuition, an exploding prison population, and politics as usual. I take heart by focusing on this progressive Web site and planning for our sixth celebration, Fighting Bob Fest, September 8. I know the 7,500 people expected to attend will motivate me and you to take action.
Congresswoman Gwen Moore called on Friday to say she wouldn't miss it. And Tammy Baldwin, Granny D, and Laura Flanders won't miss Bob Fest either. I'm excited.
Time to register and, if you can, send $20 to help us pay the bills.
Lots going on with the state budget--we will take a look. In the meantime, register and send your comments.
June 17, 2007
Steve Walters and Stacy Forster of JS give us insight into the minds of the Assembly Speaker Mike Huebsch and his ideological soul-mate Mark Gundrum from New Berlin. Turns out they have done some homework. These two obstructionists asked the Legislative Fiscal Bureau back in March for a snapshot of the impact of no new state budget. I'm not kidding, here are some of their comments to the JS. From Gundrum, "I guarantee you that Wisconsin will not fall into the sea if we end up with no budget. Prisoners will not be let out of prison."
Naturally if these folks have their way, property taxes would climb, schools would be cut even more, more prisoners will, indeed, be released, tuition would increase, highway projects would terminate, kids would be denied health care, but no matter. A game of chicken is apparently more fun than governing.
We need campaign reform. Unless we start electing people dedicated to the commonwealth, we will sink like a rock. "Wisconsin won't fall into the sea"! Whoa Nelly!
June 16, 2007
Unbelievable and unacceptable
A 20-year-old soldier was listed by the Pentagon as the 3,508th soldier killed in Iraq. Life had barely begun for Casey Carriker in the state of Washington and yet it is over. On the same page some quotes from our new Secretary of Defense sent a chill down my spine.
Speaking in Iraq he said, "Our troops are buying them (Iraqis) time to pursue reconciliation." Think of the letter to Mrs. Carriker. "Your son was killed to buy time for people in a civil war who only agree on one thing: your son and his fellow soldiers are not wanted in their country. So, take heart Mrs. Carriker. While things aren't going well now, we hope things will improve soon."
Gates went on: "There still will be a lot of uncertainty but I think we will have some sense of direction and trends." Words, words, and more words. Maliki is facing "enormous obstacles..." And the Carriker family is facing the loss of a son.
Now you know why our Bob Fest theme is "Peace and justice now!"
June 15, 2007
Oh, you need help?
Watching the tragedy unfold in Palestine is painful. Once again the arrogant indifference of the Bush administration sowed the seeds of disaster. Recall our policy of pushing democracy? Well, elections resulted in an electoral victory for Hamas a year ago. The U.S. and Israel immediately said, "Whoa! When we push democracy you must vote for our candidates! Fatah, not Hamas was supposed to win." And both governments cracked down on the newly elected to teach them a lesson no doubt.
As Hamas took over Gaza yesterday, President Mahmoud Abbas issued decrees as if he were in control. And, predictably, Condi Rice issued statements in support of Abbas. (One could almost hear Abbas saying "Please don't help me!") Then came the kiss of death, as Israeli Prime Minister Olmert said, "I call on my friend Abbas to "exercise his authority." Thanks a lot.
And in a classic case of too little too late, Olmert suggested Israel might turn over the $562 million in tax revenues withheld since the Hamas election victory. (Even the NYT editorialized that the tax revenues "rightfully belonging to Palestinians" should be released.)
Estimates are that 70 percent of the people in Gaza are unemployed and many of those who are working get little or no pay. Health care is non-existent and people are hungry. The government is broke.
Surprise, surprise, our government and Israel created the conditions for the takeover of Gaza by those who hate both governments. Another disaster.
Libby to prison? Let's face it. The most powerful man in the Bush administration is Scooter Libby. If Bush doesn't pardon him, Libby may tell the truth about Cheney and the boys. He will be pardoned. Take it to the bank.
Catch this delicious tidbit. Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, fresh from his successful effort to stop De Paul University from granting tenure to one of his critics, Norman Finkelstein, added his name to a brief calling on Judge Walton to keep Libby out of prison pending appeal. The course evaluation envelope please: "The brief was not as good as I would expect from a first-year law student." Thanks, Alan.
And the beat goes on.
June 13, 2007
Alberto, Alberto, go now!
At some point the punishment of keeping Alberto Gonzales in office becomes violative of the 8th Amendment prohibition of "cruel and unusual" punishment. You really have to feel sorry for the guy.
By a 53-38 vote, the U.S. Senate voted "no confidence" in the Attorney General. (I know, I know, it was not quite the 60 votes needed, but who cares? Damage done, target hit. I suspect no one in our history has had such a vote of shame.) His master said the vote was "partisan" and, grab your chair, "drug out" by the partisans. Drug out? C'mon.
You have to wonder what Bush has on Gonzales. No self-respecting person would remain as AG, arguably the most important cabinet position we have, under this thunderstorm. No one. So Bush is making him stay on...he will "drug out" this embarrassment. Shame on both of them. I say "Free Alberto Now!" (Word to Democrats: If you won't impeach this guy every scofflaw is safe in Washington.)
Hot news:Iraq is not meeting the benchmarks. More hot news: Milwaukee is paying a stiff price for the Bradley Foundation's cruel joke called "vouchers." See JS today for a report on the cost.
June 12, 2007
We will bomb Iran
In the April 17,2006 issue of The New Yorker, award-winning journalist Seymour Hersh shocked many of us with his expose of the neocon plans to bomb Iran with bunker-buster nukes. The premise is on "the belief that a sustained bombing campaign in Iran will humiliate the religious leadership and lead the public to rise up and overthrow the government." The official who confided in Hersh asked,"what are they smoking?" (Remember LBJ telling us that bombing Hanoi would bring them to the bargaining table? Now deceased Mass. Senator Saltenstall responded, "When they bombed Pearl Harbor our first instinct was not to negotiate. We were all mad as hell.")
Get this. "The President has quietly initiated a series of talks on plans for Iran with a few key key members of Congress, including at least one Democrat. (Lemme ask. Could it possibly be neocon Joe Lieberman?)
Hersh described the planning in April of 2006, as "hectic." And here is my Whoa Nelly moment.
Hersh quotes an official: "There's no pressure from Congress not to take military action. The only political pressure is from the guys who want to do it." ("It" is the bombing of Iran.)
Why am I convinced the United States will attack Iran? Read Norman Podhoretz in the June issue of Commentary where he describes WW IV. Norman Podhoretz would, in normal times, be described as the lunatic fringe of the neocon movement but these are not normal times. In essence, after comparing Ahmadinejad with Hitler, and accusing those of us who think diplomacy not nukes should provide a better answer as impotent and appeasers, he warns of the destruction of Israel unless we nuke 'em. Yikes!
And then we turn to erstwhile Democrat Joe "mo-jo" Lieberman who advocated an attack on Iran on Face the Nation this past Sunday. Desperate times produce crazy ideas. The lead in the NYT the other day proves my point. "U.S. Arming Sunnis in Iraq to battle old Qaeda Allies." And in the understatement of the year, "Test is Seen as Risky." I'll bet lunch old Mo Jo and Norman are supporters of this loopy idea.
So, get ready for admission of surge failure in September and an announcement of the already made decision to bomb Iran. Then, in four months listen to Democratic candidates for President say, "if I knew then what I know..." Oh, never mind.
See you on September 8 at Bob Fest where we will search for a sane foreign policy. We cannot sit this one out.
June 10, 2007
Maureen Dowd made me laugh out loud this morning. In discussing the absurd Bill Clinton "don't ask don't tell" solution to discrimination against gays and lesbians, her column focused it better than anyone: "Be honest. Who would you rather share a foxhole with: a gay soldier or Mitt Romney?"
Or, to complete the thought, how about Tommy Thompson? (Thompson "the candidate not the actor." And here I thought he was a cheerleader.) Or Rudy, the cross-dressing draft-dodger as Dowd points out; or Huckabee, Hunter, Brownback or Trancredo? Bush or Cheney? Too easy.
And now 58 Arabic linguists have been expelled for the sin of being gay. Yikes!
There is more. At their recent meeting, President Bush referred to the Pope as "sir," not the usual "Your Holiness." He should have called him "my campaign consultant" given the support he got from then Cardinal Ratzinger in opposing John Kerry.
The president gave the Pope a gift. A white walking stick, made by a former homeless man from Texas, that was covered with the ten commandments in multiple colors. I'm not making this up. That was reported by the NYT. Meanwhile, outside, the Italian government was starting a trial against 26 CIA agents who kidnapped an imam in 2003. A/k/a "extraordinary rendition."
Where did Bush fly in from? You guessed it--Poland, where the European Union says the CIA ran a secret prison.
I wonder if the Pope thought about arresting the president. Ten Commandments? Indeed.
June 9, 2007
Keith Olberman reminded us yesterday that 1,500 suns have set since our president swaggered onto the deck of the Lincoln to declare MISSION ACCOMPLISHED! And yesterday another milestone as more than 3,500 of our soldiers have died. Injured? Tens of thousands. Cost to us--$433 billion and counting. Iraqi civilian deaths? Your guess is as good as mine but somewhere between 100,000 and 750,000. Also, there are 1.4 million refugees now living in squalor in neighboring countries; more than 3 million homeless. The professional class is fleeing the country, university grads face unemployment or death.
Some war, Mr. President. Some war.
Now comes a new book that will shock even the most cynical among us. Blackwater: The rise of the world's most powerful mercenary army is a must. Jeremy Scahill, our friend from Democracy Now, has blown the lid off the private army of Erik Prince, a radical right-wing Christian, who controls Blackwater.
While he has made hundreds of millions from the Iraqi mess (Prince not Scahill), Wisconsin's share of the cost of war exceeds $6 billion. Milwaukee's share could have made that city "the education city" by providing 51,000 four-year college scholarships. Yikes!
Scahill's book is scary. It reads like a novel and tells us that the corporate media has missed perhaps the most important event of all--the privatization of our armed forces.
I'm hoping Jeremy will speak at Bob Fest. If not, maybe the head of Blackwater could drop in so we can ask a few questions.
June 8, 2007
Why tell the public?
Peg Lautenschlager, as AG, sued two legislators for violating open records laws by sharing a draft bill with "experts" and not the public. Which experts? I'm not kidding, they shared it with the NRA. The legislators, with support from the new AG, argue that if they must make drafts available to the public when they share them with special interests, (sit down for this one) it might "interfere with bold and controversial ideas."
Had they come up with any bold and controversial ideas on their own, it might be less humorous. The real problem is that WMC, NRA, Right to Life, and the realtors draft the bills presumably because the legislators are too busy raising campaign cash from the special interests, including the lawyers who represent them, to "draft and share". Fact is they don't want us to know they don't draft their own bills. (Wonder if they read before voting?)
Steve Walters in JS reports that private law firms have charged the state $374,000 to defend the legislators. Ouch! We get to pay their lawyers to stop us from getting the drafts? They must be nuts. Is there no end to this nonsense?
Speaking of nonsense, the Republicans in the Assembly are still holding up a bill that would mandate hospitals to offer contraception pills to rape victims. Whoa Nelly! Have they no conscience?
June 6, 2007
State Democractic Party chair Joe Wineke stirred up a hornets' nest when AT&T disclosed that Joe was signed up to lobby for the giant's cable TV bill. Ultimately, Joe fessed up that he had been getting $2,000 per month since January from AT&T and would continue to get paid by AT&T after the vote on cable deregulation.
On Saturday, Joe told some Democrats he would no longer lobby for AT&T. Why? I'm not making this up: "The liberal wing of the Democratic Party was making all sorts of noise and you don't want to go into a convention talking about that." I'm sure you don't Joe, but let me ask, if I may, how many wings are there in your Democratic Party? I take it you are not in the "liberal" wing, so would you place yourself in the "conservative" wing? Surely not the "progressive" wing. (I don't recall seeing you at Bob Fest.) "Neo-liberal" perhaps, or the "neo-con" wing? Where are you, Joe? Paul Wellstone spoke for many of us when he declared he was in the "democratic wing of the Democratic Party." Ah, so many choices!
While Joe is no longer going to lobby for AT&T against local community control of cable TV, will he continue to advise the corporate giant? Is he still getting paid every month? Is he "advising" other special interests in Madison and, if so, has he told the Democrats about the not-so-transparent client relationships if there are any? It seems to me that all "wings" of the party have a right to know. Maybe the powers-that-be are OK with a lobbyist chair, but someone should ask if there are any rules.
Russell Wallace, a "Deaniac," proclaimed "We won!" when told about Joe bowing out of lobbying. Take it easy, Russell. Let's get all the facts before declaring victory.
In the meantime, Dan Bice of MJS reports that Gary George, just two months from freedom, is implicated in a plot to overthrow the Laotian government in violation of the Neutrality Act. Someone was trying to purchase AK-47s and other weapons. Is there no end to this nonsense? "Cover me! I'm changing wings of the Democratic Party!"
June 5, 2007
It's not easy being Hillary
Yes, everyone knows her and, yes, she is the spouse of a former president, but neither attribute is all positive. Lots of people adore Bill Clinton and wish he could run again but lots of people remember he is the father of NAFTA and WTO. Many of us remember the Tommy-like "end of welfare" Clinton as well.
So, two news items come as no surprise. First neocon Mark Penn, Hillary's pollster and chief strategist, and a pal of and pollster for Bill, is helping to keep a company, Cintas, "union free" and Jimmy Hoffa is mad as he gets. Of course Penn-the-pollster, who did polling on the Hugo Chavez recall election proudly(and foolishly) announced a big defeat for Chavez based on his exit polls, says not to worry. "There is no connection whatsoever with her pro-union record" and his union-busting. Thank you so much for clarifying your role as CEO of the company: "I personally have had zero involvement in any work related to Cintas." Yah, sure, Ole.
And while 38% of people polled by New York Times/CBS like Mrs. Clinton, 42 percent have a negative view.(Mark Penn's polls are not reported, but I'll bet lunch she does better in his polls.) And her favorables go down among better educated and higher income voters. Apparently the more you know the less you like.
June 4, 2007
I must admit that Wolf Blitzer was better than I feared. His questions were coherent and he seemed to be fair in putting the big three or four on the spot while not dismissing Mike Gravel and Dennis. That said, the candidates or the Party must figure out a new format. This one, with all of them looking like law students waiting for their grades, is boring and not really informative.
How about a lottery? Two names pulled and they get two hours on prime time paid for by the party to debate an issue--say Iran. Then two more until all have had a chance to speak in depth on issues. No more "raise your hand if you would bomb Iran" stuff.
My surprise was how well Joe Biden did and, despite my views, Hillary did very well. I'd say Biden, Edwards and Hillary did the best. (Biden even got excited about Darfur.) Take this game away from the self-promoting news folks.
June 3, 2007
The WSJ headline says, "UW Chastised on Plant." Indeed. The UW, the great state university of Wisconsin, home to John Muir, Aldo Leoopold and Gaylord Nelson, it turns out is a major polluter of our air and water. Say it ain't so! You know the issue by now but, as Bruce Nilles, of the Sierra Club put it, "There is something fundamentally wrong when one of the nation's top research universities can't do a better job of producing clean energy." Here is the key: "Global warming...we are not leading by example," Nilles said.
(In the interest of full disclosure, my law firm has been involved in taking on the power plant.) No need for disclosure in the WSJ article quoting Alan Fish, UW-Madison vice chancellor who is in charge of facilities planning and management.
Fish did not inform DNR or the Department of Administration about work on the boilers that would have resulted in expensive modifications and cleaner energy. Fish made some incredible comments: "If it's just about the money, then we are not good stewards in our community. If it's just about the environment, we're not being good stewards of the taxpayer's investment. We have to find a balance of both." Whoa Nelly!
And the undisclosed but salient point in the article? Alan Fish is married to Doyle Chief of Staff and gatekeeper Susan Goodwin. Remember candidate Doyle calling for a new Public Intevenor? Well, time is slipping by. Time for action, leadership by example, and a renewed commitment to the enviroment. Where is John Wiley in all of this?
June 2, 2007
Some good , some sad, some awful
First the good news: Enviromentalists had a good week. The Sierra Club argument that the UW's coal burning power plant has been a polluter was backed by the DNR. One would think the UW would be the leader in Wisconsin in protecting air and water, not to mention students and faculty. But, alas, read Dave Bender's article and you will applaud the Sierra Club and ask the UW to take the lead.
The Sierra Club and Midwest Environmental Advocates reached agreement with Flambeau Mning Company to monitor surface water and the Flambeau River for five years. Flambeau will also do more reclamation work. (This from AP. We will post an article with more information next week.)
In the meantime, congratulations to the Sierra Club, Northern Thunder, and Rusk County Community Action. The good guys win again.
Other good news for me. My picture appeared on the NYT obit page but I'm still writing and preparing for Bob Fest.
Sad news: Fannie Lee Chaney, 85-year-old mother of James Chaney who was killed in 1964 with Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman because they were trying to register black voters, died. Mrs. Chaney said, "Had it been my son alone nothing would have been done. Two white boys were killed so they did something about the killing of my child who was with them." She was hounded for years. She suffered and gave us hope.
Awful news: Four-hundred and twenty-one U.S. soldiers have been killed in Iraq this year through May 31. NYT reports 236 killled as of same date in '06. And 3,468 have died since this lie began.
Cindy Sheehan will let us know soon if she will be at Bob Fest.