July 31, 2008 Your expectations?
You gotta feel sorry for the folks at Exxon-Mobil. They worked hard, stayed late at the office, gouged the consumer, and had an all-time corporate record profit in the second quarter, but they didn't meet expectations on Wall Street and their stock dropped a few bucks. Exxon-Mobil, the Rodney Dangerfield of the oil racket.
So $11.68 billion was the profit they made while Royal Dutch Shell saw profits jump 33 percent to a remarkably similar amount, $11.6 billion, and their shareholders are happy. Are you kidding me? The greatest profit in the history of the world and the shareholders are disappointed? Whoa Nelly! Wall Street may be disappointed, but I'm mad as hell. Eleven billion in one quarter while families struggle to make ends meet, small businesses file Chapter 7 petitions, thousands of home owners are suddenly homeless, and millions of the non-stock owners go hungry because of high food prices, caused in no small measure by the hogs at the trough--Exxon-Mobil.
These people are also the ones telling us that the news business is failing. Don't buy stock in newspapers--risky business--while they buy up and destroy great papers like the L.A. Times. Once Clear Channel controls all commercial radio, merges with Fox, and then with Exxon-Mobil...you get the drift.
Disappointed, my arse. Time to break up the oil companies and bring in some competition. You deserve it. Remember when we had a Justice Department enforcing antitrust laws so the market could function?
July 30, 2008 Limo vs. per diem
The JS is upset to say the least. Jack Fischer, the guy who got fired for spending too much on a trip to Europe, also hired a limousine in Minneapolis. (I'm not making this up.) The cost to taxpayers? $561. Senator Robert Cowles was really upset. "That's just pathetic," howled the Republican lawmaker.
OK. Fischer was stupid to hire a limo and charge it to taxpayers. But how much is $561?
Remember John Gard? He represented Peshtigo but lived in, and his kids attended school in, the much-maligned Dane County. Who cares? Well, in Gard's day legislators in Dane County got a per diem of $44 but those from outside Dane took $88 in addition to their pay and benefits.
If you divide Fischer's $561 by the $44 that Gard improperly charged taxpayers, you come up with just under 13 days of per diem at the $44 level. And Gard collected the extra 44 dollars every day he showed up to work. We are talking thousands of dollars and lots of limo rides.
Could we ask Senator Cowles if he expressed his outrage to fellow legislator John Gard? Somehow I suspect Cowles thought Gard's sin did not rise to the level of "pathetic."
Chief Roland Day: Former Chief Justice Roland Day passed away. A gregarious story teller, he had an enthusiasm for life, law and theater matched by few people. I drove him to Milwaukee for a meeting of the Bar and it was a history lesson. Day supported Bill Proxmire when Pay Lucey ran the Jim Doyle Sr. campaign. (Only people with white hair recall that Jim Doyle ran the national presidential campaign of Adlai Stevenson in 1960.)
Day was understandably proud of his daughter Sarah's acting career at American Player's Theater. She is terrific.
A good man. Thanks, Justice Day.
OK, I must comment on the indictment of Senator Ted Stevens. Self-proclaimed Father of the Amateur Sports Act and lead cheer-leader for drilling in Alaska, he will not be missed in this corner. Now the amateur sports world will be forced to shape up.
Brett Favre: Bring him back or release him. C'mon. This is the 21st Century.
July 29, 2008 Peace at last?
Not really, but it sounds good. John McCain, a one-trick pony if ever there was one, continues to condemn Barack Obama for not supporting The Surge. I guess he thinks it has been an unqualified success and that Obama's failure to accept that fact brings his patriotism into question. You know...the "he would rather lose a war" nonsense.
But today's news screams of 61 killed and 238 injured in Iraq "shaking the country chaos and ethnic violence erupted..." So, John, explain the success of the ingenious plan to send more troops to Iraq. Please.
At Fighting Bob Fest, a panel on peace vs. perpetual war will feature Phil Donahue, David Giffey and John Nichols. I predict it will be more interesting than a McCain TV spot.
Fiscal Conservatives Unite (FCU). The Bush administration will present a gift to the next president. A $482 billion deficit. The NYT reminds, "A sobering turnabout in the nation's fiscal condition from 2001 when Mr. Bush took office after three consecutive years of budget surpluses." But, more bad news is on the way. "The deficit does not include the full cost of military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan or a much-needed second stimulus package, etc., etc. Whoa Nelly. Surpluses just seven years ago and now the national debt ceiling is $10.6 trillion? (Did I mention that we are broke?)
Despite all this red ink, McCain will accuse Barack of being another "tax and spend Democrat." Yikes.
Say it ain't so. Political leanings counted when the Department of Justice hired people! I should say only political leanings counted. No kidding! Next you will tell us that all potential federal judges must pass the Dick Cheney litmus test on affirmative action, a woman's right to choose, and Gitmo. Will the media ask? Will Senators Kohl and Feingold?
For starters, Bush has nominated Judge Dugan to replace federal Judge Rudolph Randa. A lifetime appointment. Did he pass the Cheney test? Do you mind telling us?
July 28, 2008 Cable Competition?
Remember when it was introduced in the Legislature and almost every lobbyist in town got into the battle? They cleverly called it "The Cable Competition bill." Sounded good--like Right to Work; Right to Life. But now we see what opponents warned about. Charter, under the law, no longer negotiates with municipalities because they have a contract with the state. That means an end to local subsidies and local input.
Result? Madison's WYOU Channel 4, will lose most of its funding and so will the Madison City channel. Not only that, instead of channel 4 and channel 12, they will be moved to the back of the bus--near the end of free cable. It'll be 900 something.
Another obstacle to transparency in government is placed in the path. While many might feel that City Council and County Board meetings are boring, we should have the choice to see and listen. ("Boring" is the stuff of democracy.) And, fewer opportunities for budding video producers to shine. All in all, a very bad development. "Cable Competition" my backside!
Judy Robson has filed a complaint with the Department of Consumer Protection. It may well be wishful thinking, but at least she is trying.
July 27, 2008 Executive Order 9981
On Saturday we noted, with pride, the 60th anniversary of Executive Orders 9980 and 9981. Harry Truman, an unlikely leader in the struggle for equality, signed these two incredible orders--9980 integrated the federal workforce and the second integrated the United States Armed forces.
Michael Gardner wrote in his book, "Harry Truman and Civil Rights: Moral Courage and Political Risks, "With the stroke of the presidential pen Truman brought about the most sweeping social change for African-Americans since the Civil War." Colin Powell celebrated the anniversary and ended his speech, "God bless Harry Truman."
Was Truman alone in planning? Of course not. Wisconsin's contribution to this great step forward was presidential adviser Phileo Nash who later became Lt.Governor of Wisconsin with Governor Gaylord Nelson. Nash, as I understand the history, working with Clark Clifford, Tom Clark and others, wrote he first memo to HST calling for integration of the Armed Forces. And the former Senator from Missouri agreed. That took guts. On July 26, 1948, Harry S. Truman did what others only talked about. A great story and one that slips past most of us.
(I had the pleasure of meeting Phileo on the UW campus and later) I was part of the memorial service for his widow, Edith, a poet and progressive. Thank you Phileo and Edith.
Debt Ceiling: Whoa Nelly! The new national debt limit is 10.6 trillion dollars. Remember when we debated how we would spend the surplus from the Clinton administration? Yikes! 10.6 trillion.
July 26, 2008 Moyers Bill Moyers Journal should be mandatory viewing for every eligible voter. I know that is a silly thought, but allow me to dream of the country we would become if we could get all voters to watch. Last night Moyers interviewed Jane Mayer of The New Yorker about her book The Dark Side. She writes beautifully about the ugliness of an American government not bound by the Geneva Conventions prohibiting torture, and Moyers brilliantly intersperses video of the Douglas Feith testimony to make the case. (As an aside, Feith is a disgrace to our country.) War criminals in the executive branch, and Congress is too busy raising money to go after those who have tortured detainees.
Money. "The mother's milk of politics." That from Jesse Unrah of California. I would say today money is the poison in the well. Fritz Hollings, one of Bill Dixon's favorites, who served in the Senate from 1966 to 2005 from South Carolina, has written a book, Making Government Work. I think we should all purchase it and send a copy to every Member of Congress. "Government doesn't work because Senators are raising money not running for office." When he realized that he was more interested in contributors than constituents, he opted to get out. So did Tom Eagleton and many others. Gaylord Nelson had a message for the Democrats: "Put down the tin cup."
See the Moyers Journal, read Jane Mayer's book, The Dark Side, and buy Fritz Hollings prescription for making government work again.
July 25, 2008 Back to JFK
Chills ran down my spine as I listened and watched more than 200,000 Berliners cheer Barack Obama as if he were running for office in Germany. Not since JFK's dramatic speech in front of the infamous wall has an American inspired a crowd like Obama did yesterday. In my lifetime there have been only a few with the charisma, charm, intelligence and command of an audience like Barack. JFK, Martin Luther King Jr., Bobby Kennedy, Hubert Humphrey, Mario Cuomo and Jesse Jackson come to mind, but they don't come along often. Obama allows us a moment to close our eyes for a moment to dream how things might be.
I know, the cynics say, "He will disappoint you when he is in office." To which I respond, dream with me that he will exceed all expectations rather than disappoint. The great orators give us hope for the future, and yesterday Barack Obama gave us an opening to Europe. Can it be bad that they love him in Berlin? I don't think so.
Meanwhile, John McCain's campaign did it again. McCain demands we start drilling off shore and in Alaska just as a barge collides with an oil tanker on the Mississippi River resulting in a gargantuan spill. NYT reported, "A sheen of oil coated the Mississippi River for nearly 100 miles from the center of New Orleans to the Gulf of Mexico...the worst spill in over a decade." Message to Florida and California: "Don't worry. No spills are anticipated off the coasts...c'mon, let us drill."
Ed Rollins, the nasty Republican strategist, said, "McCain is having disastrous week. It would have been better if he had kept a low profile [while Obama was on his triumphal tour] but he got dragged into making a lot of stupid comments." For once, I agree with Ed Rollins.
Judge Ted Wedemeyer has passed on. Kitty Brennan, Chief Judge of the Milwaukee County Circuit Court, said it well: "Everyone in Milwaukee courts loved Ted. He was a great judge. Easy going, personable, knowledgeable and fair." Hard to beat that summary.
Final comment on McCain. He continues to brag that he a.) supported the invasion of Iraq; b.)supported the increase in troops called "the surge"; and c.) would be OK with 100 years of our troops in Iraq. Just for the heck of it, I checked the Cost of War Web site and learned that Wisconsin taxpayers got a bill for $10.5 billion as its share. That would pay for 173,000 music and arts teachers or 1.6 million one-year scholarships at the UW.
July 24, 2008 Hello Dolly
You have to feel sorry for John McCain this week. Never mind the idiotic planning by his staff to create a lasting image of McCain with Iraq war foe Bush 41. Never mind the three-point shot. Never mind the endorsement of Obama's timeline to withdraw troops by the Prime Minister of Iraq.
Yesterday, McCain was to take a helicopter to an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico to meet the Louisiana governor to push for offshore drilling, but he could not catch a break. Hello Dolly, well, hello Dolly...the category 2 Hurricane Dolly would have reminded us that those rigs are vulnerable to hurricanes. As if that were insufficient to rain on his campaign, an oil tanker collided with a barge on the Mississippi River, "sending hundreds of thousands of gallons of heavy oil into the water." A reminder of Katrina.
Catch this: "An aide said McCain, whose campaign has been overshadowed by Mr. Obama's trip (A trip that McCain dared Barack to make) was not having a bad week. I'm not dissatisfied. I think we've said what we had to say." Like MAY DAY, MAY DAY.
McCain should have flown to Concerts on the Square in Madison. There were 15,000-20,000 people enjoying perfect weather, excellent music, and good beer. It beats a flight to an oil rig by a wide margin.
July 23, 2008 June 30
I must have had 20 calls from incumbents, challengers, and professional fundraisers in mid-June telling me that June 30 "is the crucial date." Send your check today! Why? The candidate financial reports are due. The argument is the same: "I must demonstrate to the media that I'm a serious candidate"; "I must convince the Democrats that I will be the stronger candidate for the general, and I can only do that if I show lots of money in the bank."
And so it goes. Calls from Florida, Illinois, Georgia, and Minnesota, 15 or so from our own in Wisconsin, not to mention all the non-profits that are in the hunt for contributions. It is gawd awful.
You feel guilty if you ignore the Farmworkers or a good Assembly candidate, but you feel broke if you respond to all of them. And I get angry when I see that those who are buying the Court spent millions to defeat Louis Butler.
Few candidates call about issues. The only issue is money. You have it and they need it.
Problem--money fatigue. Answer--public financing. By my quick count, incumbents and challengers,in the eight Wisconsin congressional districts, have raised more than $7 million and the Governor raised a million bucks.
Can't fault the candidates, at least not those challenging incumbents. The system is broken. Frankly, the governor and legislative incumbents should hang their heads. I feel guilt when I don't send a contribution. They should feel guilty when they ask for one. It is a system of their making.
Advice to Assembly and Senate candidates from the leaders? Knock on doors, avoid divisive issues like ethanol, and raise money. Imagine that while thousands of our kids are hungry, our schools in crisis, gasoline is straining all budgets, and the cost of food is forcing many people to choose--food or shelter. C'mon. Time to take back our elections from the private sector.
State Journal: And "they" said it couldn't get worse absent competition from the Capital Times. They were wrong. Scott Milfred has come unglued. Catch this line: If Doyle goes to Washington with Obama, "Lawton could steer the statehouse (how does one "steer" a house?) on a hard left turn into big-government programs, policies and taxation..." Whoa Nelly! Someone should edit his stuff.
McCain is shouting a little early. He can't stand it. Barack wows the troops, the Iraqi Prime Minister endorses his timeline, and then he makes a 3-point basket. Damn him. "I'm stuck in this golf cart with Poppy Bush, who opposed the war, and Obama is getting all the attention and the credit." McCain had his Dukakis-in-a-tank moment.
July 22, 2008 A no hitter
Want to get punched? Tell the pitcher in the dugout just before he heads for the mound, "Hey! Three more outs and you have a no hitter!" That jinxes the pitcher who will now get tagged for 5 runs. And it is your fault.
July 18, 2008 What's going on?
Front page of NYT shows results of a riot in front of the Pakistani stock exchange. The market has fallen 14 days in a row and the rioters think the government should have closed the exchange. The index has dropped by 36 percent since April.
Catch this. A former broker in Karachi and a rioter yesterday, said, "I have lost my life's savings in 15 days." How much did he lose? A total of $4,175. That is bad, but before you get too down, the Times reports that Mayor Bloomberg has done just fine. His net worth is now put at $16 billion to $20 billion, enough to fund 25 percent of New York City's budget. Now, let your mind wander. What could he do for Pakistan? Buy Islamabad? Help the losers in the Pakistani stock exchange? Whoa Nelly!
You gotta love the FDA. They can't figure out how the problem with tomatoes started so they did what comes naturally--they withdrew the warning. Still, they say, children and feeble seniors should not eat Jalapeño peppers--no kidding! 1200 people in 42 states have become ill from the tomatoes, but says, FDA, what the hell. Put some tomatoes on your cake and eat it.
Is FDA in charge of electrical work in Iraq? Our soldiers are getting shocks and some die because the private contractors are incompetent. For God's sake! Can't we do anything right? Call Bloomberg I say.
Good meeting in Baraboo with the best volunteers in this state, preparing for Bob Fest. Enthusiastic response to the program; McKibben, Donahue, Ritter, Hightower--go to www.FightingBobFest.org for all the details.
July 17, 2008 What's the rush? President Bush has nominated Milwaukee Circuit Court judge Timothy Dugan for a life time appointment to the Federal Bench. Dugan would take the position now held by Federal District Court Judge Rudolph Randa, appointed by Bush 41. Randa notified the Bushies that he would retire if a successor is appointed by Bush/Cheney and is confirmed by the Senate. (Is that the way it is supposed to work? I don't think so. But give them points for creative control.)
The Milwaukee Federalist Society put out a news release but Dugan said "he is not now nor has he ever been a member of the Federalist Society". Oh, that makes me feel good all over! Missing from the news release were "wink, wink, nod, nod."
Dugan had been expected by Milwaukee insiders to be the WMC candidate to challenge Justice Louis Butler for the Supreme Court seat last year but he ultimately declined, forcing Jim Haney to find and support Gableman.
Dugan, first appointed to the bench by governor Tommy Thompson, said, "I'm honored and humbled by the nomination and the support from Congressman James Sensenbrenner and, (sit down please) Senators Russ Feingold and Herb Kohl. Whoa Nelly! What is going on? (Bush never appoints moderates to the federal bench.You know he has been vetted by the real Federalists so why would our Democrats in the Senate rush to confirm this nominee?)
Relax. Stop the train. Let President Obama or McCain choose. Hasn't Bush done enough? Time for his nap.
July 16, 2008 All-Stars and banks
No one cares which team wins the annual game that serves as Major League Baseball's over-the-top tribute to itself. What fan could watch the players when old time sycophants gathered around the golf cart carrying ex-felon George Steinbrenner? If you were a union leader or a player who defied "the boss" you might get a seat at the game but no time on TV. No, this was the time for Yogi Berra to kiss Steinbrenner, literally, and call him "the boss."
Somehow the long lines around Indy Mac--the second biggest bank failure in our history--not to mention the possible failure of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, killed the joy of the Berra kiss. (Error. Yesterday I wrote that Indy Mac was the biggest failure--that trophy goes to Continental Illinois.)
On top of all that bloviating about the game's greatest owner (Remember he never went to prison and Reagan did pardon him for his felony conviction?) there this quote about another baseball hero, the Busch family: A worker in St. Louis, a member of the Teamsters, at Anheuser-Busch was quoted in the NYT saying, "We were betrayed. The good Lord was sold out for thirty pieces of silver. We were sold out for $70 per share." Now 6,000 jobs are at stake.
Will John McCain say anything? I doubt it, because a lobbyist for Anheuser-Busch bundled more than $500,000 for McCain. (And Fannie Mae and NRA--but hey, that's politics.)
But not to worry while the taxpayers of NY will spend more than one billion dollars on the "new, new" Yankee Stadium to help "the boss" the economy is just dandy. How do I know? Check this lead in the paper of record: "Gloom Around Capital. And "Fed Chief Mainly Bleak on Outlook," but catch this, "Bush Offers Assurances." Whoa Nelly! The "doin heck of a job Brownie" guy is now telling us "doin heck of a job Bennie" but, he quickly adds, "Why so glum?...take a deep breath," and all will be well.
Then the frog turned into a beautiful princess on Fox News and they lived happily ever after.
July 15, 2008 Is it funny?
As a long-time (OK, fairly long-time) subscriber to the New Yorker, I look forward to the cartoons almost as much as Seymour Hersh's analysis of the Bush war machine. As Bill Maher said, "If you can't do irony on the cover of the New Yorker, where can you do it?"
Something different is happening and I suspect you are as confused as I am. I don't know whether to laugh or cry.
My concern began at a reception last week, before the cover appeared, where lots of bright progressives gathered. The conversation seemed focused less on Barack's dash to the middle of the road than on the question of whether a black man can be elected president in white America. I can report that there was genuine fear that the answer is no, and I suspect that fear is driving the reaction to the New Yorker cover "cartoon."
Are you angry with the magazine that piles up in your computer room week after guilty week, filled with unread but superb fiction? Or, as I think more likely, do you fear that the Swift-Boat-Willy Horton TV spots produced by the Karl Roves of politics are given a green light to smear the Obama family as they hide behind the New Yorker cover?
The thought of the Democratic nominee losing while the economy is in free fall, the Iraqi government is saying "Yankee Go Home," and the "good war" in Afghanistan looks more and more like a disaster, is damned scary. John McCain? C'mon.
But the signs of panic are around. I think that all the talk about the Clinton's debt, the goofy fundraising for the Democratic Convention, and even shock and awe at the New Yorker cover should cease. The goal is not to pay off Mark Penn. The goal is the White House. Eyes on the prize, folks.
Oh, yes, it is OK to laugh at the New Yorker. (Jon Stewart said you can even laugh at Obama.) As kids used to say, "Why so tense?"
July 14, 2008 What's wrong with this picture?
When I was a student, I met Bobby Kennedy at a National Student Association congress. He talked about the violation of labor-management laws by Anheuser-Busch and the Teamsters union. The union, with a fiduciary duty to act as guard-dog, had become the Busch family lap-dog. (Kennedy became Teamster enemy number one as Hoffa and Bobby went toe to toe.) Yesterday, Anheuser-Busch was sold to InBev, the Belgian-Brazilian monster that produces Stella Artois and Bass. Busch controls Budweiser, Michelob, and, most importantly, the Clydesdales that got more attention than the Teamsters in stories about the sale.
In the same paper reporting that the Democrats are having problems raising $40 million for their convention, we are told that Anheuser-Busch will receive $52 billion. The Democratic Convention is a good deal for corporations in that light. Lobbyist Steve Farber, a Denver lawyer, is in charge. Why not sell 49 percent of the convention to InBev? Democrats are beer drinkers after all. (Possibly InBev could also run Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.)
Farber told NYT, "I have my list of companies, not only my client's list, but companies throughout Colorado and the Rocky Mountain region." That is a safe bet.
The better question is why Democrats plan to spend $40 million on a do-nothing corporate extravaganza called a "convention"?
Tax problems: I can hardly wait to read testimony from the newly appointed Secretary of Revenue, former Republican State Senator Carol Roessler, on the fiscal crisis caused by the Supreme Court's tax collection decision. Should be lots of fun.
July 13, 2008 Good stuff
The NYT reports that our government is thinking of reducing troop levels in Iraq "as many as 3 of the 15 combat brigades could be withdrawn," (catch this) or at least "scheduled for withdrawal" by January 20 when Bush beats it to Dubai or Saudi Arabia.
Why? Well, that is a little murky, but if the U.S. reduces the number of troops by, say, 30,000-40,000, they can go to Afghanistan while 140,000 of our young people remain in Iraq! The official reason given for the reduction is that John McCain was right. The surge has reduced violence. The real reason: to give the Republicans something to talk about before November and free thousands of troops so they can fight in Afghanistan.
Things are going downhill quickly in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The only substantive change in Iraq has been the government of Iraq demanding a time table for U.S. withdrawal. Rather incredible, but Bush was able to dismiss such "nonsense."
Message to Bush: We are not stupid. You and Mr. Gates failed to get more NATO Allies to send troops to Afghanistan so now we must reduce the numbers in Iraq so they can be sent. Nonsense. At $370 million per day and the financial markets reeling while the dollar falls, and your only message remains, "Stay the course"? Whatever happened to Mission Accomplished?
Bob Fest: We seem to have the right speakers for every headline. The Bushies won't do anything to improve the climate--we have Bill McKibben to map our strategy. The Cheney administration is trying to find support to bomb Iran. We will listen to Scott Ritter. His new book, Target Iran is, to say the least, timely.
Great Lakes? Peter McAvoy; on the corporate theft of our water above and below ground--Alan Snitow and Robert Glennon. Campaign reform--Granny D and Mike McCabe. The ravages of war--Phil Donahue and his film, Body of War. (A focus you will never forget). Bob McChesney on the condition of the media; Arvonne Fraser on the status of women; music, humor, populist prescriptions for what ails you--Raging Grannies, Jim Hightower and Peter Leidy not to mention two terrific bands. And the icing on the cake? Gwen Moore, Tammy Baldwin, Matt Rothschild, and Stan Gruszynski, Dave Zweifel, John Nichols, Megan Yost, Kathleen Hart and, of course, Nancy Unger. Laura Boyd the indefatigable coordinator and a cast of ten thousand will greet you in Baraboo. Don't miss this one.
July 12, 2008 Wish I'd said that! Bob Herbert writes that a former NBA player, Micheal Ray Richardson once said about the New York Knicks: "The ship is sinking." When a reporter asked him how far the franchise could sink, he responded: "Sky's the limit."
The housing and stock markets are in turmoil. Don't believe it? The FDIC has seized IndyMac Bank--making this the largest bank failure in our history. More than 7,200 employees fired immediately, more terminations to come, and don't get in the way of those with more money in the bank than FDIC insures as they scramble to get their money out. "How far can we sink?" Apparently, "Sky's the limit."
Beaver Dam decision: The state Supreme Court struck a blow for transparency in government on Friday. The majority of the Court held that the Beaver Dam Development Corporation, funded by tax dollars, housed in City Hall, controlled by the City is subject to Open Meetings and Open records laws. WMC disagreed. This was a major step forward for those of us who believe that government should operate in the open. It is rare when the public benefits from closed-door meetings.
The Citizens for Open Government objected when BDAC, in secret sessions, gave $6 million to Wal-Mart to help the world's largest corporation build a distribution center. Had citizens been given a voice, the money might well have gone to those less fortunate than Wal-Mart. Or maybe the people would have given the money to Wal-Mart. (Sort of a welfare program for the rich.) Whatever the public decision would have been, the taxpayers were denied a voice. They didn't even know that BDAC had their credit card.
Kudos to attorneys Christa Westerberg and Monica Burkert-Brist, and to Peg Lautenslager, who was Attorney general when the case was brought. Condolences to WMC and the Wisconsin Realtors Association.
Bob Fest. Think about this line-up: Bill McKibben, Phil Donahue, Scott Ritter, Jim Hightower, "Granny D", Arvonne Fraser, Bob McChesney, Gwen Moore, Tammy Baldwin, Stan Gruszynski, Mike McCabe, Matt Rothschild, John Nichols, the Raging Grannies, Peter Leidy, lots of music and plenty of beer. See you in Baraboo!
July 11, 2008 Thanks, Phil
Barack is lucky. Just as Fox News was exploding over the off-record comments from Jesse Jackson, Phil Gram stepped up to remind us why he is not missed in the Senate. The spotlight shifted to McCain's economic adviser just in time. Recession? Nah, just a "mental recession" in,(I'm not making this up) "a nation of whiners."
John McCain whined, "Phil Gramm doesn't speak for me. I speak for me." Yowza! Speak then. Is Barack right that one Dr. Phil is enough?
Aurora:. The monster company is building a hospital in Oconomowoc, just off I-94, over the objections of the docile community. This is not a small hospital. It is huge. Aurora bought Radiology Associates in January, and yesterday announced the purchase of Comprehensive Cardiovascular Care (CCC).(More than 40 cardiologists were independent yesterday. Today they will sing the Aurora company song.) The result? Very few independent, old-fashioned cardiologists remain in Wisconsin.
Aurora has more than a thousand doctors and lots of bricks and mortar. Their goal? Does it sound like monopoly? Watch the costs go up and then respond.
Carol Roessler will have an early test as Secretary of Revenue. On the 4th of July she was making it clear in the Omro parade that she supports the Republican to fill her seat in the Senate. If he wins, and if the Supreme Court rules today in favor of Walgreens and Menaha Corporation on a key tax issue, will she side with her party or the governor? She should make cabinet meetings more interesting, if there are cabinet meetings.
Sad note: Antioch College is closing. Good news--the free thinking faculty is trying to keep it open.
July 10, 2008 Great Lakes
Despite my negativity in the past, it would appear that the Great Lakes Compact has a good chance of getting congressional approval and a presidential signature. (I wonder how they argued this is anti-terrorism.) Eight states and two Canadian provinces have approved something. We don't know exactly what, but if it stops the comodification of Great Lakes water, Huzzah!
McCain and Obama both support the compact--fat chance of winning the Midwest if they opposed it--so onward. Congratulations to all who have played a role.
A special workshop at Fighting Bob Fest will focus on water--the Compact, theft of our groundwater, and conservation. Robert Glennon, Alan Snitow and Peter McAvoy will lead the discussion.
July 9, 2008 One picture worth a thousand words
All I wanted to write about this morning is our excitement over the Fighting Bob Fest program (September 6). Phil Donahue, TV host who produced the great film Body of War will be featured and we will screen the film to kick-off Bob Fest. Bill McKibben, the author who is demanding that we "step up" our efforts to save the planet, will keynote the global disaster we face. Arvonne Fraser, our Minnesota neighbor, will address the status of women; Jim Hightower is coming to his sixth Fest; and Doris "Granny D" to her third. (This 98-year-old phenom will indeed issue a call to action.) Check our FightingBobFest.org site to read more about the speakers, program, surprises. The breakout or workshop programs will be the best ever.
Now to the picture. There they stood, smiling faces, cocky attitude, not a care in the world. Oil? Iran? Iraq? Afghanistan? Nope. They had the "What's for dinner" look. The G-8, consisting of U.S., U.K., Japan, France, Germany, Italy, Wal-Mart, Canada, ExxonMobil, Russia and Japan. (Not China, India, Venezuela or, indeed, any emerging nations.) By my count, seven white guys, one white woman, one Asian man, five blue ties, three red ties, one gray tie. "Masters of our universe"? Who is kidding whom?
All eight hit the disconnect button on a regular basis. (I fibbed--Wal-Mart and ExxonMobil are not part of the group--true, they have gross receipts greater than most of the G-8 countries, and they have more to say about the U.S. economy than president Bush, but why rain on their photo-op, delusional or not?)
There was a Clinton-Obama unity event scheduled in Madison yesterday. It didn't happen. One hopes the cancellation had nothing to do with the reluctance many Obama supporters feel toward eliminating the $22 million debt amassed not by irresponsible sub-prime borrowers but by the most sophisticated campaign veterans in the country. Poor Mark Penn--he has a big bill. Who should pay him? Didn't he take a risk? If it had paid off, would he and Howard Wolfson (soon to be a Fox News commentator with Karl Rove) be hustling the heavy-breathers for Barack? Don't bet on it.
Meanwhile, turns out the Obama campaign has a cash-flow problem and is now being asked to raise millions for the DNC--conventions are expensive. In a time of economic crisis, the question is, are the conventions essential? Having attended a couple, my answer is no.
July 8, 2008 Vote No
The Senate takes up the warrantless wiretapping bill, known as FISA, today. A great opportunity for Barack to respond to Bob Herbert's NYT column: "Obama is not just tacking gently toward the center, he's zigging so fast it's guaranteed to cause disillusion if not whiplash."
Memo to Obama: Follow Feingold; protect us from the new McCarthyism; stop the zigging and return to base. Like it or not, McCain is currently setting the agenda. Get off the defensive and show us your offense.
Some good news: The G-8 agreed to halving of the world's greenhouse gases by 2050. (If there is a 2050.)
Bad news: No mid-term targets. Do we just go along and hope that on the morning of January 1, 2050, the announcement comes--saved or doomed? Yikes!
I can hardly wait for Bill McKibben's call to action at Bob Fest, September 6. I suspect his call will be a little more urgent than that of the G-8.
July 7, 2008 Well-suited
Jim Doyle has appointed long-time legislator Carol Roessler secretary of Department of Revenue. Her compensation package is more than double her legislative salary, with a salary of $95,000 and insurance and increased pension "priceless."
Now the question is, what are her qualifications, but Doyle anticipated that obvious question. "Her experience working with local officials as a legislator makes her well-suited for the position." Really? I'm having difficulty imagining Senator Roessler arguing the tax code at a summer corn roast, not to mention the M&E exemption's impact on jobs, but perhaps she is a student of finance waiting to bloom.
Next question. Are we to believe there are no Democrats available for the comfortable $95,000 +? Are we to believe there are no talented people with more impressive credentials in the halls of academe? Some with a background that goes beyond the Lobbyist's Legislature?
Vice President: I am ready for a do-nothing-but-attend-funerals vice president. I'm tired of wondering who is in charge and why he is in a bunker.
The lists are the latest rage, and if people like Joe Lieberman and Chuck Hagel are in the thick of it--a Democrat and possible McCainite and Republican and possible mate for Barack--count me out. Go ahead and name-that-veep, but for heaven's sake tell us you, not the veep, will be in charge from day one.
July 6, 2008 How much?
GMMB, a media consulting business with, I must say, a commendable list of clients and causes is big business in politics. The Business section of the NYT reports that the Obama campaign has paid them $84.9 million of your contributions. Another media consultant, Media Strategies and Research, a rather unimaginative name but, hey! They are number two and did send an invoice to the Clinton campaign for $43.1 million.
John Edwards spent $8.3 million on LUC Media (Not luck media). I wonder what LUC was doing for 8 million clams--I would not list him as a client if I were advising LUC.
Now focus on direct mail. Penn, Schoen got $18 million from Hillary; Wisconsin-based AB Data got $7.3 million from Barack but he also gave $7.3 million of your money to The Strategy Group to do about the same thing as AB Data. Then there is telemarketing--$5.6 million from Barack to Meyer Associates Teleservices, while Clinton spent $7 million on Campaign Organizing. (A company not actual organizing. Didn't do that.)
It goes on and on but the most obnoxious fee? It's $3.8 million to Bank of America for credit card fees and another $3.6 million in fees to American Express. Ouch! Can't Howard Dean figure out a way to keep those fees in the family?
Together Hillary and Barack spent $128 million of your money. Those who object to public funding of campaigns crow that the public doesn't want to subsidize politicians. Well, someone does.
Rent Bulworth, the political satire produced and directed by the star of the film, Warren Beatty. One of his central themes is that candidates raise money so they can give it back to the fat cats. Bank of America? Networks?)
Meanwhile, 143,000 of us in Wisconsin qualify for Food Stamps. How much? It comes to $76 per month. And 16 percent of our children live in poverty. Solution? More highways! Bigger prisons!
Foot-in-mouth: Speaker of the Wisconsin Assembly in the Lobbyist's Legislature Mike Huebsch, says to JS, "People vote for individuals. They don't vote for parties." And his plan for the November election? Keep all seats held by the Republicans and defeat the freshmen Democrats." (As individuals, one presumes.)
July 5, 2008 What's wrong with this picture?
There it was, on the front page of the paper of record, "More than 1,200 American service members re-enlisted at Camp Victory." And, who else but David Petraeus leading the oath, standing in a former palace of Saddam. Huge American flag in the background. Missing? The banner that informed...MISSION ACCOMPLISHED. Remember that canard?
And here in the Homeland, I am thrilled that a flag bigger than Country Kitchen's or American TV's will cover the entire field in Yankee Stadium. (Is there a rule about flag size? Is patriotism measured by the size of one's flag?)
I am pleased to report on the 5th of July in the year of our Lord 2008, we won the war in Iraq and more importantly the occupation. Yup! The war against Saddam, of course, was no contest--on the scale of Reagan's invasion of Grenada. (Recall that waste of money?) But I know the occupation has been successful with infrastructure restored, schools operating at capacity, more violence in Afghanistan than Iraq, oil is about to flow through the friendly pipes at ExxonMobil, Chevron and BP, democracy is flourishing, and all because of "the surge." Thank you, John McCain! Thank you! When nay-sayers like me opposed the invasion, occupation, and surge, you persisted. And, now, you and Petraeus have blunted the suggestion that our soldiers will want out of this great military triumph because of the lure of college, by a mass re-enlistment ceremony. Clever, very clever.
I know about these things because I heard them on CNN. The Iraqi adventure has gone so well, the bobble-heads tell us poor Barack must alter his message to deal with this happy ending. MISSION ACCOMPLISHED AGAIN! (And the cow jumped over the moon.)
Did the government of Colombia trick the FARC or us? Was this a clever and daring rescue or theater? Is the Swiss report accurate that a $20 million ransom was paid to the FARC for the ruse? Is it a little suspicious that John McCain arrived in Colombia just in time? I don't know, but you can certainly believe the government of Colombia. Onward free trade!
July 4, 2008 A new team
Karl Rove is hovering over the Obama team like a red tail hawk with a squirrel in his sight. McCain shakes up his campaign and Rove moves closer to the top spot. Meanwhile, Obama chooses to shake up his followers rather than his campaign. Fill in the blank: "I've always said..."
The latest "I've always said" was a real wakeup call. It took two news conferences in Fargo to explain that the new posture in Iraq is really the old one: "I've always said that the pace of withdrawal would be dictated by the safety and security of our troops."
We are not alone in raising questions about the perception of a gallop to the right. The NY Times lead editorial entitled "New and Not Improved" lists Obama's new or slightly new positions. Has Rove already spooked Barack into a series of Kerry-like "I actually voted against it before I voted for it" TV spots? Can you see five, 30-second spots--"I've always said...I'd filibuster FISA...but..."
Memo to David Axelrod: Don't change the message too much if you expect the level of enthusiasm in November that got you here. (I'm not comforted that Ed Schultz of Fargo and Air America fame bragged that Barack promised to send more troops to Afghanistan. I'd be more comfortable if he had condemned the Iran invasion plans not to mention the ExxonMobil, BP, Total oil theft.)
Happy 4th of July. Good time to relax, enjoy the Summer and begin focusing on climate disruption. Can't avoid fires in California, record heat in Arizona, floods in Iowa and Wisconsin. Something is happening and Bill McKibben will keynote our global concerns at Fighting Bob Fest. Theme for our seventh Fest is "A Call to Action." Baraboo on September 6.
Something else to think about: The Milwaukee School Board has asked for 1.5 percent funding increase but that translates to 14.9 percent increase in the property tax levy. Yikes! Time to change the formula before WMC shifts the entire tax burden to sales and property taxes.
July 3, 2008 Wish you hadn't told me
We all accepted the idea that Barack Obama had figured out the way to foil Big Money and special interests on his way to the White House. Many had tried but few had conquered the Internet-giving challenge. So successful was he that he could turn down $84 million clams of public financing. That is one hell of a lot of clam chowder. And, he could ignore the money boys once elected. Huzzah!
The thought occurred to me the other day that perhaps Barack was falling gently, ever so gently, into a trap. I asked, what if the little people who are struggling to make ends meet with gas approaching $4.25 per gallon and food prices escalating, opt to tell Barack, "Not now--just gave--gotta go to my second job--call me in October." The normal put-offs. And might a lot of little givers find the 84 million dollar snub just a tad insulting? "Why should I give 50 bucks if he turns down 84 million?"
If my fear is reality-based, how does he compete with "Daddy Warbucks" McCain? He wants to raise $200 million. (Imagine the egg-on-face if he doesn't raise $84 million.) Enter, stage right, the money folks who think of the $2,300 maximum per individual like you think of the cost of a Culver's butter burger or a Spotted Cow at the Main St. Depot.
Who heads Barack's campaign finance committee? Why, wouldn't you know it, a billionaire by the name of Pritzker. You know--the Hyatt hotel money. Penny Pritzker (how quaint--"penny") is the chair and she is delighted that the candidate now has time to attend pricey fundraising events. Example: Penny and her husband hosted an event. How much? To cite the old saw--"If you have to ask you can't afford it". NYT reports, "The required contribution per person was $28,500. Same thing last week in L.A., but the little givers had an event just prior to the $28K event at the bargain basement price of $2,300 per person."
Remember, he wants to raise $200 million. I'm not kidding. Here is why Penny, whose family was reportedly heavily involved in the "Mortgage Backed Securities" mess known as the sub-prime scandal, is happy, "We have not been able to have much of the senator's time during the primaries so we have had to rely on the Internet." Heaven forbid! Not the Internet! Ah, the little givers. How time-consuming. She went on: "Now we have a little bit more access, the Senator is able to do events." (Pritzker did not define "we" in the interview.)
July 2, 2008 Even Starbucks struggling
Starbucks will close 600 outlets. Result--12,000 employees will be fired by Starbucks and, one hopes, given a free cup of java for years. "Brother can you spare a latte?" They have 6,793 outlets so who cares about 600 shops and 12 thousand people who probably cannot afford to visit a Starbucks? 6,793 is too many of anything and while rebuttable, the presumption is they were cornering the market by driving out little places. So maybe, just maybe, a failing economy will do for competition what our moribund Justice Department would not do.
Meanwhile, another reminder of the class war. A.I.G. fired its CEO who performed like Brownie after Katrina. He gets more than a latte. He got a $47 million severance package. Advice to grandchildren--go to work for A.I.G and get fired!
But good news for WMC. Their working majority on the Supreme Court, 4-3, held that fraud is not grounds for home buyers to sue. OK Jim Haney!
One last word on Starbucks. OK, I'm biased. I like local coffee shops and I don't mind Folgers. Would I rather drink an expensive mocha? Grande no less? You betcha but I hear my mother's voice asking "is this really necessary?"
July 1, 2008 C'mon, Barack
The headline on the A.P. story spoke volumes. Actually shouted volumes: "Obama to expand Bush's faith-based program." I'm not making this up. He even contracted with the former head of Bush's program to get his take on Barack's program.
"I came to see faith as being both a personal commitment to Christ and a commitment to my community," Obama says. A.P. suggested that Obama would push to "permit discriminatory hiring practices based on religion."
What's going on? We all understand that he is no lefty, but to support the FISA capitulation, capital punishment, Scalia on guns and now add a dash of Billy Graham and James Dobson, and an entirely new Obama emerges. Memo to Obama: Don't lose your base.
Not scared? Read "Preparing the Battlefield" by Seymour Hersh in the latest New Yorker. The conclusion is damned near inescapable: Bush and Cheney, with silent support from Pelosi, Reed, and Rockefeller, will bomb Iran. What will Barack do? Whoa Nelly! Read please and comment.
School Funding: No child left behind? How about an entire school district--or two or three? Read John Smart's superb article "Watching Wausaukee." Hello Governor? Legislature? Anybody home?
Final insult. Miller Beer is no more. It is now MillerCoors, L.L.C. So much for the high life.
"Is this a private fight, or can anyone join?" -Old Irish saying