October 31, 2009 Governing class
Where would we be without Bill Moyers? His editorial on Bill Moyers Journal this week hit the nail on the head. He said, "If our governing class wants more war (in Afghanistan) let's not let them fight the war with young men and women who don't have jobs or health care at home. Share the sacrifice, spread the suffering...make it our war...bring back the draft until the governing class gets Afghanistan right or has the guts to end it." Thank you, Bill Moyers.
And quite a sacrifice it is: The Washington Post reports today that "more than 1,000 American troops have been seriously wounded in battle over the past three months...dramatic increase in amputees."
Memo to the president: Listen to your constituency--get out of Afghanistan.
Here comes Arne: It must be a tad embarrassing for Barrett, Doyle and Evers. Doyle told the state that a mayoral takeover of Milwaukee schools was necessary if we want bundles of money from Arne Duncan, but Arne wrote to Gwen Moore to assure her a mayoral takeover is not a factor. Then the fellows told us that the secret to success is really tying teacher salaries to student test results. But the University of Chicago just completed a review of Arne's reign as educational czar in Chicago--not so hot.
Yikes! Tell me again why the nation's best performing system--Wisconsin--must change. Obama will visit Madison this coming week. He will push the Duncan plan, Doyle will smile, Barrett will nod. Let's the rest of us adopt the Missouri challenge--Show me.
October 30, 2009 Be careful! His bite is worse than his bark
First some basics. If you want to practice law in Wisconsin, you must a.) Graduate from an accredited law school (cost: about $200,000, including wages you would have earned had you resisted the urge to make this a better world as a lawyer); b.) Be sworn into the profession, called the Bar by the Supreme Court, right hand in air, swearing you will be good; c.) Join the Bar Association, follow the rules they impose, and pay dues. Like it or not, you must join. d.) Maintain your status in "The BAR" by attending continuing education seminars.
And, of course, you must not wander from the ethical lines spelled out in the code of the profession. For example, you should never borrow money from widow Smith's trust account, holler obscenities in court, or apparently criticize the court as a group or any member individually. There are limits to the First Amendment, and that's good. We, lawyers and mere citizens, know you can't yell "fire" in a crowded theater (unless, one supposes, there is a fire in the crowded theater), and you darn well better be respectful of the Justices or take a risk, including having your card punched. This is hard ball.
Finally, you rise (jump) to your feet when the seven Justices walk in the room wearing black robes. (Why the robes? Don't know--they didn't tell us in law school. And why black? Dunno, but it must send a message that the ones with black robes own the joint.) In case you are new to the process, someone yells "Hear ye, hear ye...all rise! This Honorable Court, etc. etc." "Here" or "hear" is unclear to me, but don't sit and contemplate--get on your feet and plant a smile on your face. "Ah, good morning, Judge"--oops! Is it better to say "Good Morning Justice"? Or plural, or by nick-name? Yikes! This is scary.
All of this to say the lawyers have a lot at stake. An investment of about a quarter million bucks; current livelihood, etc. Bud Grant, great Vikings head coach, was asked how one becomes a great coach. Bud dead-panned, "You must be smart enough to know the rules; dumb enough to think they are important." The lawyer is different than the coach when standing to humbly address the Court. Why? Well, this group can end his or her career and quickly. In Loco Parentis gone wild. You can't make this stuff up.
I know because a few years ago I challenged the Supreme Court by asking them to police their own. In a Cap Times editorial on February 20, 2002, entitled "A court with no shame," the paper pointed out that the court did not send Justice Wilcox to the penalty box for hearing the school voucher case despite getting lots of illegal campaign help from pro-voucher groups. Did the court re-open? No, instead, the court ordered my clients and me to pay legal fees to the out-of-state pro-voucher lawyers who defended the conduct of Justice Wilcox. We were sanctioned for challenging the conduct of a Justice of the court. The Cap Times wrote, "This will be seen as the darkest period in the court's history."
Yesterday, another chapter. Gadfly Mike McCabe, who leads the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign and, by so doing, performs a great public service, came to testify before the seven. He is not a lawyer; doesn't want to be one; is not subject to discipline, but he now understands that citizens had better walk on egg shells in the home of the First Amendment. He had criticized Justice Prosser in his newsletter and Justice Prosser jumped on Mcabe. He accused him of misrepresenting things, exaggerating things and called him "reckless." The Cap Times editorial in 2002 ended with this quote: "The message here is that you'd better not take on the court." (Psst! Don't tell anyone--that quote was attributed to me.)
October 29, 2009 Bias? Heavens no!
The JS story begins, "A deeply divided state Supreme Court adopted a rule..." OK, close your eyes and think about the influence of money on governors, legislators, or Justices of the Supreme Court. That is the issue the seven-person court had on its plate yesterday. Did they go for public funding? Did they demand recusal if a Justice receives lots of campaign money? Is public confidence in the Court important? Guess.
Open your eyes. The envelope please...the Court adopted a rule, put forward by the arch-conservative Realtors Association, represented by a long-time Democrat. And the rule? "Endorsements, campaign contributions and independently run ads are not enough, in themselves, to force a judge off a case." I am not kidding. Justice Crooks had it right: "I think what it's going to do is add to the perceptions (of bias) that are apparently out there rather than put them to rest." Bravo, Justice Crooks!
Crooks, Abrahamson and Bradley voted against the so-called rule. In a remarkable statement, Justice Roggensack said the "rule will send a message that making (and receiving) lawful contributions is not dishonorable." They must have been popping champagne st the Madison Club last night. They should honor Jim Haney and WMC for the mess they created. As for us? Once upon a time there was, as Fighting Bob La Follette wrote, "a special place" called Wisconsin.
Beware of reformers bearing gifts. Especially in the all-important field of education. Arne Duncan, leave us alone! Wisconsin's kids are tops in the nation. Yes, we have reached those lofty heights without merit pay. We were the first state to provide education for challenged students--from 4 to 20. Attorney General Bronson La Follette made it the law. Now you, Arne, want us to experiment? Tie teacher compensation to student performance? That's nuts. Oh, and we elect our Superintendent of Public Instruction--we believe in elected school boards. It involves the community.
What's that? The NYT reports today that your tenure in Chicago as the mayor's education czar wasn't so great? Students from the closed schools--your brand---didn't do much better if at all? And a Harvard study argues that your school turnaround efforts have failed more often than not. Whoa Nelly!
As the Trifecta--Doyle, Barrett, and Evers--pushes for sainthood for Arne, it is time to reflect. Why are we doing so well?
October 28, 2009 Where were you when the revolution began?
Before plunging into the educational revolution discussion, some hot news. By 96-0 the Assembly passed the puppy mill regulation bill. (I would like to know the names of the three members of the Assembly who didn't vote. Puppy haters, I'll bet.) Yup!
Puppies throughout the state will sleep better tonight. Little notice was given to an amendment that was tacked on creating a new Wisconsin license plate: "Pet the Pup: Save the Loan-Shark."
Did you know that the Wisconsin Humane Society found homes for 97 percent of homeless dogs in Wisconsin last year? Much better than the record for homeless people. Puppies are cute. And the sick ones were euthanized. What's this? Death panels for dogs? What's next on this slippery slope?
Governor Doyle is permitting a peek into the hand dealt him by the Bradley Foundation folks. You know. The guys who brought us The Bell Curve and bring us vouchers, Sykes, and the proposed mayoral takeover of Milwaukee's schools. Doyle has a secret plan to take over and centralize (corporatize)education in Wisconsin. The changes contemplated are breathtaking and have little to do with Milwaukee. Indeed, Milwaukee is just the excuse to create a State Board of Education; a new elected board with one rep elected from each Congressional District. I am not making this up! He would combine DPI, the Tech System and the UW System. Why? Corporate control of this gigantic profit center.
Before listing all the revolutionary changes we know about, let's pepper the governor for a look at the entire plan...
October 27, 2009 Now what?
The news shocked most political people. Barbara Lawton has opted out of the gubernatorial race! The timing of the announcement, on the heels of the MJS report that President Obama was urging Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett to run, raised some suspicion. The idea of notifying friends and supporters via Monday morning e-mail was a unique approach and fueled speculation. So, lots of calls, considerable consternation, lots of guessing, and people hoping that all's well.
Later in the day, Governor Doyle held a Madison news conference supposedly to announce a $4.3 million grant from the Department of Energy. (No indication if the energy would be directed to the governor.) A smiling Doyle appeared with the mayor of Madison and the mayor of Milwaukee.
No speculation here. We can wait to hear from Barbara Lawton. Disappointed? Of course, as I suspect you are. Send your comments.
October 26, 2009 Puppy love
We know about the "dog-days-of-summer." Parents warned kids to stay away from strange dogs in August when dogs are panting to cool down. Now "puppy love" (long the preserve of high school kids) has dominated the Democratic agenda.
There was a reason to give control of the Legislature to Democrats--I think. Publicly funded judicial campaigns, regulation of pay-day-loan sharks, reduced tuition, jobs, jobs, jobs and insurance for all. Not exactly. The puppies took a short-cut.
Apparently the Legislature is about to regulate so-called "puppy mills." Yikes! I like dogs, but forget loan sharks--save the puppy! C'mon!
I am more than a little suspicious that the men's club whispered in Bice's ear. Jim Doyle cannot hide his inexplicable dislike for Lawton and, of course, there is the Evers, Barrett, Doyle educational Trifecta pushing the Dems to bow to Arne Duncan's wish to have the mayor of Milwaukee take over the MPS system. If Bice is correct, that Obama is pushing the mayor to run for governor, it is painfully obvious that Doyle and Duncan don't care who the Mayor is post-takeover--anyone will do. And we thought Barrett was the reason some were behind this cockamamie idea. You know--Tom would really help MPS. Ah, but not from City Hall--they would apparently have him rule from the State Capitol. This cavalier attitude should stop the Doyle-Duncan mayoral takeover.
Clarence Kailin: He fought fascism in Spain, he fought bigotry at home and nearly all of his 95 years were devoted to economic justice. Clarence passed over the weekend. All who met and listened to him became better. Hard to imagine Madison without him.
October 25, 2009 I miss the State Journal
Remember when Madison had two daily newspapers? It was interesting. I rarely agreed with Wisconsin State Journal (WSJ) editorials, but there was, at minimum, some editorial consistency. Today, "Wisconsin's Independent Voice" (WIV) the moniker the WSJ gave itself, opts to "Tie teachers to testing." Why? Well the sub-head announces that the president and our governor are "on board," so, like dead fish, WIV is going with the flow. (Thanks to Hightower for the "flow" comment.)
Now the real reason should make old WSJ readers quiver. Here it is...ta da! If we don't, lectures WIV, our state won't be eligible for any of the $4.5 billion in "Race to the Top grants! Catch this from WIV: "The Legislature needs to act fast [not smart]...because Wisconsin has only a few months to submit an application" for federal funds. One feels the whip. "Go, go, go...!" One can almost hear the barker outside WIV's door--"act fast...get your money...don't worry about the kids..."
Yes, there was a day when WSJ would have shamed the governor for allowing the feds to dictate educational policy, but not today. Get the money! Dump the elected school boards? Why not? Arne wants us to do that, and he controls the flow of money.
Homework assignment for WIV: Read "Class and Schools" by Richard Rothstein; "Teachers performance Pay and Accountability," published by the Economic Policy Institute. Then read Gerald Bracey or, at a minimum watch his Fighting Bob speech at our site.
Yesterday I quoted Mencken and feel compelled to again. "There is always a well-known solution to every human problem: neat, plausible and wrong." I dedicate Mencken's truism to WIV!
Could we hit the pause button long enough to examine this cockamamie proposal? Hold your horses--let's have a debate.
October 24, 2009 Mencken was right
I watched Governor Doyle roll out his solution to under achievement in Milwaukee public schools this week and I thought of H.L. Mencken, who wrote, "There is always a well-known solution to every human problem; neat, plausible and wrong." And he added, "It is the dull man who is always sure, and the sure man who is always dull."
Our governor and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan are cock-sure they have a solution to the so-called crisis in education. For Arne it is called "Race to the Top," and for Doyle it is "Follow Arne."
Mayor Tom Barrett, normally a sensible man, is caught-up in the game. First step: All we have to do to close the racial gap in education--here comes Mencken--is to eliminate the elected school board and empower the mayor to appoint the brightest person available as Superintendent of Milwaukee "Public" Schools. I am not kidding. I couldn't make it up. (He won't tell us the names and credentials of those he might select, or his special training that prepares him for the selection, but, What the hell? None of our business, I guess.)
Second step: Cut the legs off the teacher's union, and, (sit before reading) "tie teacher pay to student performance." And Doyle and Barrett are Democrats!
Third step: Pretend that this assault is aimed at Milwaukee when it is an attack on public education statewide with Milwaukee providing a diversion.
Now you should have a new appreciation of Mencken. A half-hour listening to Gerald Bracey's speech at Fighting Bob Fest will help to re-set your moral clock. If that doesn't do it for you, go back to Kozol's Savage Inequalities.
Worry about health care, poverty, housing, early education, nutrition, summer programs--nah! Not important. Get the nosy public out of education. That's the answer. Listen to the sure men. Whoa Nelly!
Catch this from Afghanistan: "I am not surprised that the Taliban are opting for a pitched battle here..." Which of our generals said that? Fredrick W. Kagan. Two-star? Three? Nope. He is reporting to us "as director of the Critical Threats Project of right-wing AEI--American Enterprise Institute! The Washington Post seems comfortable with a think-tank correspondent, so relax. Kagan will keep us informed. Yikes! Maybe, just maybe, Kagan will come to Milwaukee to take over MPS--beat the Taliban, then cripple the teacher's union, force merit pay and teach-to-the-test. Wow, and you thought Bradley was full-service!
Last, but very important: This is 350.org day. You heard McKibben at Fighting Bob Fest last year. Go to the Capitol at 11:00 if you in Madison. Demand Congress save our planet. Join McKibben's army!
October 22, 2009 We miss Jerry Bracey already
We were thrilled when author, NCLB critic, and friend of public education Gerald Bracey agreed to speak at Fighting Bob Fest in 2004. I will never forget the look on his face when I had to tell him, just before he spoke, that overheads would not work. He always used them and I forgot to tell him Bob Fest is an outdoor event. But Bracey didn't get upset, he plunged in and the audience loved it.
Gerald Bracey died this week, at age 69. We are posting his 2004 speech. Enjoy.
Good news for a change
The tide has turned, or so it seems. More and more members of Congress are approving "Medicare for all." Take that Fox!
I think the doctors started that call and it seems to work even for "Blue Dogs" who until yesterday were busy raising a back leg on real health care reform.
Looks like Tom Harkin was right--a bill with a public option (Medicare for all) will be on the president's desk by Christmas. Huzzah! Thanks Tom, Bernie, Tammy and Gwen.
The governor seems to regret his decision to stop running for office. Regret may be too strong. How about, "wonders if he made the right decision"? Could it be that he is working to cripple Barbara Lawton's campaign while placing Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett in a nearly impossible position with his loopy, hurry-up and get rid of the elected school board mantra? If Mayor Barrett gets mayoral control of the schools, can he abandon the new project to run for governor? Doubtful. And if Barrett drops out, might he ask Jim to run again to "save the schools"?
Perhaps Jim imagines seeing a delegation of Democrats headed for the east wing of the dome carrying signs that say "Run Jim, Run!" Too cynical you say? Maybe.
Superintendent: The governor said Monday he believes he has sufficient legislative support to permit the mayor of Milwaukee to "control the choosing of Milwaukee's Public [for now] Superintendent," not the school board that has the temerity to support democracy. If Mayor Barrett can control the process, who is in line for the job? Confide in us, Tom. This should be an open decision. No?
When did Tony Evers learn about the proposed coup? Is his epiphany date a secret?
October 21, 2009 I must be dreaming Pope beckons disaffected Anglicans to the Catholic Church. What? Married clergy? Women in the clergy? Whoa Nelly! Ah, the Catch 22: The Anglicans are in turmoil over gay clergy. It turns out the Anglicans broke out in 1534. I remember it well... So the faux unity may be at the expense of orthodoxy regarding gays.
I wonder if the decision of the Delaware Diocese to file for bankruptcy was discussed at the highest levels. If there are 80 million Anglicans, they could provide financial stability for the Catholic Church as the abuse cases continue.
This circus is something. The first major initiative in Doyle's time in office arrives late in the final term in a package that should unsettle everyone in education. It is remarkable to say the least.
October 19, 2009 Governor doesn't respect Milwaukee's elected school board
Jim Doyle tells us that he is moving forward to help Milwaukee in the so-called educational "Race to the Top." No one knows, or so it seems, what that clever slogan means but a Madison Avenue created title may be more important than substance.
Mayor Barrett has taken the bait. President Bush coined "No Child Left Behind." All sizzle and no steak but it had a nice ring to it. Obama, Barrett, Evers, Doyle and the president's Chicago colleague, Arne Duncan, have borrowed from Madison Avenue to sell this "Race to the Top" mayoral woof ticket. It is not NCLB but it is just as hollow. Arne calls it the "Race to the Top" But it looks like we have the same kids, same administrators, same lack of funding, same poverty, same over-worked teachers, same food pantries, same 'ol same 'ol. A new slogan won't change those realities and to lay the blame for poverty on the school board's porch is demagoguery.
Doyle, Barrett and Evers, our Educational Trifecta, are dancing to the Bradley Foundation's tune--"privatize the schools" and win the race!
Doyle hints that Wisconsin will get a huge bundle of cash if Wisconsin will "demonstrate that (we) can put those "good ideas" into operation." I'm not making this up. He said that.
What "good ideas" has the Trifecta come up with? Destroy the elected school board and put the mayor (and lots of advisers behind the curtain) in charge of schools. That, if you rely on the governor, will be so pleasing to Duncan that the Obama administration will back a Brink's truck up to Milwaukee's City Hall and dump the cash as a reward. Then they expect the tooth fairy to provide dental care for all students.
Doyle said he "means no disrespect to the school board in Milwaukee." Ah, but he doesn't think he can, in good faith, submit a strong application to brother Arne if the school board remains in charge. If the mayor takes over, Doyle assures us that the message to the feds is that Milwaukee really could make these changes. Whoa Nelly! How about a debate, Governor? And could you get Arne here for an open meeting?
Meanwhile in D.C.
"These irresponsible tactics are a foolish distraction" from the real work to reduce greenhouse gases, says the Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber was angry because an environmental group called the Yes Men staged several hoaxes to demonstrate that the Chamber was too slow in protecting the environment. It staged a press conference with fake handouts on Chamber letterhead and, heaven forbid, used the Chamber logo! A Chamber spokesman burst in to stop the prank, according to the Washington Post. Sounds like fun.
This week we meet with Fighting Bob Fest veterans from Eau Claire. We will make plans for a progressive Chautauqua in the northwest and discuss the mission of Fighting Bob. Should FB hold festivals around the state? Remain focused on Baraboo for number 9? Is it possible to bring environmentalists, peace advocates, and progressive educators together under the same big tent? Is there enough glue in the bottle to piece together a coalition of those fighting the proposed mayoral takeover of Milwaukee schools and groups fighting sprawl, contained animal feedlots, coal, and other environmental issues?
What do we do about the corrupt political system? When the Legislature, controlled by Democrats, won't even regulate loan sharks? Whoa Nelly! Is it time to form a Progressive Party?
Many argue that Fighting Bob does well with the September Fighting Bob Fest, bringing 10,000 progressives together and communicating ideas and comments through FightingBob.com. Why, they argue, fiddle with success? Others tell me they want more action.
October 18, 2009 Supreme courts
Yes, we have two of them. One appointed (U.S.) the other elected (Wisconsin). Both influence our daily lives. Both have been embarrassed by corporate money. The Wisconsin State Journal (WSJ) calls itself (I'm not making this up) "Wisconsin's Independent Voice." WSJ assures us that if we permit the elites to appoint our Supreme Court all will be well. Response to that claim has been labeled nonsense in this Blog.
We favor elected judges over those appointed in the back room, but all's not well in Wisconsin's Supreme Courtland because big corporate dollars have purchased two seats on our state Supreme Court. WMC has poured millions into two consultant-driven Court races and the problems caused but the consultants' victories are now bubbling to the surface.
We know that Michael Dukakis was hurt badly by the Roger Ailes-created TV spot featuring Willie Horton. The idea was to tar and feather Dukakis for paroling Horton. In a recent Wisconsin Supreme Court election, Michael Gableman produced and aired a Willie Horton-like TV spot designed to destroy Louis Butler for having represented a convicted criminal years ago. The spot was a bald-faced lie and Gableman knew that it was false albeit effective. Gableman won a close race thanks to Willie Horton.
Defense lawyers have asked the Court to force Gableman to recuse himself from all criminal appeals because, "He has expressed a sentiment against criminal defendants." No kidding!
While one would expect Gableman to recuse himself, he apparently will not do so. The reputation of the Court's impartiality be damned.
It is time for action. It is time to publicly fund our Supreme Court races. It is time the governor made this a priority. It is time for leadership. We cannot tolerate justices relying on false TV spots to get elected to our most important position. We need a Court we can trust.
As for the feds--the U.S. Supreme Court will soon declare that we cannot limit the money corporations can pour into federal races. Democracy was fun while it lasted.
Mary Louise Symon passed this weekend. She was a champion of those who believe in citizen participation in politics. She was an elected official, the conscience for those who ran, a living billboard for economic and social justice. Her college motto, "Not to be ministered unto but to minister" was her guiding light. Thank you ML for a wonderful life.
Now some good news from our third senator and Bob Fest regular Tom Harkin: "We will have a bill on the president's desk before Christmas and, yes, it will have a public option." OK, Tom!
Now to the broken system--a few illustrations. Front-page NYT: "CIA Is Cagey About Files Tied to Oswald." "For six years, the agency has fought in federal court to keep secret hundreds of documents from 1963" regarding Lee Harvey Oswald. Why hasn't the CIA turned over the documents to Minnesota Federal Judge John Tunheim, who served as Chair of the Assassination Records Review Board, who now says "we were probably misled" by the CIA? Why won't the CIA release the documents? I am not kidding, here is what they say: "Their release would cause extreme damage to national security." (You can't make it up!) That is the CIA's answer to attorney James Lesar, a UW law graduate, who is pursuing the open records/FOIA request like a dog after a rabbit.
Q. How could national security be jeopardized 36 years later? The Soviet Union was the excuse during the cold war, but it has gone away. We know about wire taps, so no problem admitting what the agency was doing. Will the Taliban gain some advantage if we are allowed a peek under the tent labeled "1963 Oswald"?
This is absurd. Thanks go to Jim Lesar for his dogged persistence.
Well, in 1997, they inform us in a message from their president, the average age of legislators was 43, and then I stopped reading because the hidden agenda had suddenly become obvious. WPRI, like the Republican Party, believe in term limits so they cooked another "research piece" and you can bet another poll from WPRI and the Political Science dept at UW-Madison. Why do they want term limits? Because well known incumbents often defeat well-financed newcomers. The answer, friends, is public financing of campaigns. Pass that and I will lead the parade for term limits--not before.
WPRI calls attention to Jim Doyle, who apparently is now in favor of term limits. Imagine that. After 30-plus years at the trough it is time? Whoa Nelly! How bold, governor, how bold.
Speaking of bold, Obama is moving like molasses in appointments to the federal bench. So far, the Washington Post tells us, he has had three--three judges confirmed--and has nominated only 23. Why so slow? Well, Olympia, glad you asked. He is working with Republicans to make the nominations acceptable. You know--nonpartisan, moderate, non-controversial. Meanwhile, the Bush court is not waiting.
October 15, 2009 It is fun to have fun
I get more than my share of fun, so let me share with you a quote from Florida Congressman Alan Grayson. He's the guy who summarized the Republican health plan as, "Get sick. Die quick." (Pardon the grammar.) The GOP, probably from their insurance industry department, demanded an apology. He responded that the GOP are "knuckle-dragging Neanderthals and unscrupulous." Not exactly what they were waiting for.
I imagine the Dems in Congress loved him then, but not this morning. Yesterday Grayson attacked Harry Reid for pandering to Olympia Snowe (a true snow job.) His petition (signed by more than 3,000, according to the Washington Post) directed to the ever-cautious Reid said, The time has come for Harry Reid to get on with it. For the last six months Democrats have been dwelling, debating, and hoping for Snowe to vote for health care reform. Why? Olympia Snowe was not elected president. We stand with Alan Grayson and implore, What are we waiting for?
(Check Bert Grover's GuestBlog post imploring Kohl and Feingold to get busy. I wonder how many uninsured folks have passed since this awful display in the Baucus caucus began.)
Bye bye, Rush: Imagine the gall of the NFL. Just who do they think they are? They told their potential colleague, Rush Limbaugh, to hit the road. Charlie Sykes must be furious. As for the Bradley foundation's mouthpiece, the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, I'll look for a UW-Madison Poli-Sci Department poll informing us that 50 percent of us are on Limbaugh's team and 42 percent think pigs fly.
It is not that the NFL owners disagree with Limbaugh on most topics, but he says these awful things out loud. The NFL likes to whisper. In any event, score the NFL Players Association leadership with a victory.
October 14, 2009 One vote?
Finally, Olympia Snowe voted to save her job. She voted the "insurance ticket" headed by Max Baucus. "When history calls, history calls," she proclaimed. "One small step..." comes to mind. Obama praised Snowe as if she were a profile in courage. C'mon! After giving her proxy to Cigna, she made it clear she might vote against the bill on the floor. I sure hope so!
Twenty-seven unions are already opposed. Gerald McEntee, president of AFSCME gets it: "They call it reform but it is deeply flawed...Without major changes we will oppose it." Face it, Mr. President, this not reform--without the public option, it is the insurance industry's dream. More customers with no bargaining power.
Shame on Baucus. Shame. Now let's make sure Snowe votes against the final bill.
October 13, 2009 Let's pretend
Many years ago, long before TV dulled the imagination of our kids, a Saturday radio program entitled Let's Pretend challenged the imagination. While it no longer appears, I am convinced that program is now the exclusive preserve of Congress. Catch this: "Insurance Dispute Heats Up Before Vote."
The insurance industry is angry at Congress and even the milquetoast Obama administration because they might permit Medicare to negotiate with the insurance robbers for lower rates. No, no, boys. The deal was clear--force everyone to buy health insurance--penalize those who won't, at rates set by--close your eyes--the insurance companies. Let's pretend that the costs will go down under this stupid plan so we won't need a public option! Whoa Nelly.
Now we are told by the industry that costs will go up! No kidding. (Profits? Oh, I suppose.) Then let's pretend that the Mayo Clinic has all the answers. Pretend, that is, until today because Mayo just announced it can't make it work so they are cutting Medicaid and Medicare patients.
Let's pretend. A children's game mastered by adults.
Truth is, only single-payer can handle universal coverage. Only a public alternative to insurance gouging will work. C'mon Democrats, get real. This is real life.
Now let's pretend that civilians control the military in our country and let's pretend Obama deserves the Nobel prize for Peace while expanding the war in Afghanistan. The Washington Post reports that when Obama authorized 21,000 more troops in March, the administration failed (forgot?) to announce 13,000 new support troops would join the 21,000 and voilà! Afghanistan has 34,000 more troops. How many Blackwater-Haliburton types have been added at the same time?
October 12, 2009 Sounds familiar Bill Kraus's latest GuestBlog post is titled, "Taking care of Business." As usual, he is right on target. Stripped of all the ornaments we must fight the propaganda of the insurance industry if we are going to gain an efficient health care system that will help all of us but also help business compete in world markets. But, alas, the insurance thieves will today begin fighting the Baucus bill as too radical. Whoa Nelly.
Speaking of propaganda, I was proud to read Colman McCarthy's review of UW-Stevens Point history professor Susan Brewer's book Why America Fights.
Many will recall McCarthy's Washington Post columns advocating peace during the Vietnam war. Today he directs the Center for Teaching Peace. (Could anything be more suspicious than teaching peace?) You will want to read Professor Brewer's book. McCarthy says it places her in "the company of Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn and James Loewen." Heady company. A fact that will start you thinking: She points out that in 2008 the U.S. had bases in 132 countries. Yikes!
George Orwell said, "One of the most horrible features of war is that the war-propaganda, all the screaming and lies and hatred, comes invariably from people who are not fighting."
We saw Michael Moore's movie, Capitalism: A love story. Go see it and take two friends. Scary, yet humorous. Go! He is an amazing talent.
If you think that we are making progress in Afghanistan, the "good war," the NYT opens today with this: "Civilian Goals Largely Unmet." And that is the good news. The article goes on to say, "Many civil institutions are deteriorating as much as the country's security...Afghanistan is so dangerous many aid workers cannot travel outside Kabul...the judiciary is so weak that Afghans increasingly turn to a shadow Taliban court ststem...at least it is something."
The propaganda machine always tells us, "Send your troops into harm's way until the (fill in the blank____) troops have been trained" to take on the enemy without us. The lie is that there are hundreds of thousands of untrained but willing Afghans, Iraqis, Vietnamese eager to join the American war. Nonsense! It is falling apart in Afghanistan--too bad, but we can't stop it. Get out now!
October 11, 2009 'Unpopular fixes required to cut Milwaukee County budget deficit, report says'
Yes indeed, Scott Walker, expert on bankruptcy filings for governmental units, is, as they say at the tea parties, "spot on" with his budget. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel headline tells us the truth.
How do we know Scott is spot on? Well, check the JS to find the truth and, if it cannot be found on the editorial pages, look to the front page for yet another report from, you guessed it, a non-partisan good government group, forum, Institute, or UW poll. You read the report and give it your name. We know we can trust the front page reports of Milwaukee's Journal-Sentinel because the producer/researcher is nonpartisan.
Here is the opening: "A mix of employee concessions, privatizations, service cuts and tax increases are likely according to a report from the Public Policy Forum." Then a head-nodding-finger-wagging admonition--"The day of reckoning has arrived."
Silly me. I thought the reckoning would be an expose of the Policy Forum funding and collaboration with Walker but no, alas, the reckoning challenge is aimed at us! Yikes! The report credits County Executive Scott Walker for acknowledging the depth of the problem by proposing a dramatic solution in the form of tax increases for the wealthy---oops--not quite. His dramatic solution? Yup. It's $41 million in county employee wage and benefit cuts. What a guy!
In case you suspect that the Policy Forum is profoundly partisan, reporter Steve Schultze reminds us, "The Forum calls itself a governmental watchdog."
Try going to the Policy Forum to find out who funds these nonpartisans. You won't be successful although there is one hint. "A Salute to Local Government" is made possible by Quares & Brady, SC Johnson, WE Energies (thank you Jim Klauser), Helen Bader and Virchow Krause.
Salute local government? No, Fighting Bob salutes you, JS, for your in-depth reporting.
October 10, 2009 Nobel or no?
Unbelievable? You betcha! Just as the President is in the process of deciding whether to send 10, 20 or 42 thousand more ground troops into war in Afghanistan, the Nobel committee gives him the world's most prestigious prize. Whoa, Nobel. Whoa. One could almost see the angst on Obama's face. I imagine he was saying, "Not now! Can't you hold your horses for another year?"
Nice honor for certain, but in many ways it makes his Afghanistan decision more difficult. If he opts to reduce troop levels or even to increase by 20,000, the right wing will charge that he is trying to please the Nobel Committee not protect the American people.
Congratulations, but the committee and the recipient might have been better off had they hit the pause button.
October 8, 2009 School reform
Just about every meaningful reform begins with education. If our schools are not working well, then ultimately nothing works. Wisconsin has enjoyed great schools from kindergarten to the university system to technical colleges.
One reason our kids score at or near the top in national testing is parental involvement. Parents in Wisconsin demand high quality education and the elected school boards respond.
The Wisconsin Constitution guarantees public school education for all children from age 4 to 20. At one time that protection did not apply to children with "learning problems." They were called "retarded" and were sent to institutions, but in 1966 parents decided that was unacceptable. They turned to Attorney General Bronson La Follette for his opinion and he ruled that "all" meant "all." Every child in Wisconsin would be educated.
Wisconsin was the first state to demand that schools provide for special-needs children. And Wisconsin takes pride in electing the State Superintendent of Public Instruction. We like citizen participation in education.
Unable to resist imposing their ideological bent on Milwaukee schools, the powers that be in Milwaukee want to eliminate the democratically elected school board and put education in the hands of two politicians--the mayor and the governor. Whoa Nelly!
Fighting Bob Fest held a breakout on the proposed takeover, invited Mayor Tom Barrett and looked forward to the debate. One problem--the mayor was a no-show. Our panel went ahead, and today we post MATC teacher and AFT officer Charlie Dee's explanation of the politics behind the proposal. Enjoy.
But first--Nobel Peace Prize. Wow! Don't tell Sykes or Rush or Glenn Beck. Congratulations, Mr. President. Now the tough part: Get out of Afghanistan. If you don't...the committee could rescind.
Jobs? Is that it?
Place me in the "I must be having a bad dream" group this morning. The issue is almost a primer on politics-2009, or Why we need a second party. The JS headline tells most of the story: "Bill to curb payday loans dealt setbacks."
The Assembly Speaker, Mike Sheridan, a former labor leader, said legislation that caps lending rates at 36 percent "goes too far." I am not making this up. Sheridan is the Speaker--one of three people who run the state; he was president of a UAW Local; he must know the so-called loan "industry" has hired 30 lobbyists, and has, according to JS, "plugged more than $140,000 into state campaign coffers."
Fact: Payday loans can cost the borrower 500 percent in annual interest. Fact: When I was growing up we had usury rates (illegal to charge more than say 12 percent). Usury was eliminated by the two major political parties because they believed "market forces" would set reasonable rates--no regulation needed. (And pigs fly and goats are nice pets.) Unbelievable, but Wisconsin is the only state of 50 that does not regulate these sharks.
Why won't we do so? Speaker Sheridan and the Senate leadership won't pass it because, sit down before reading further, "a 36% cap might put them out of business," and, "there's a lot of jobs that are impacted." Save the jobs! Save the jobs! As Tom Harkin reminded us at Fighting Bob Fest, "Heck, slaves had jobs!"
Whoa Nelly! There is more. The Assembly Representative from Oconomowoc, Joel Kleefish, said, "Why is it government's job to protect people from themselves?"
And Jason Fields, who claims to be one of the good guys on this issue, explained in his version of My Pet Goat, "The infusion of payday loans in Milwaukee did not create poverty. It was there before they got there." No matter how cynical you are, as Hightower says, it is hard to keep up. What's next? I'll bet WPRI and the UW-Madison partners will conduct a poll! Forty-five percent will say "Let them eat cake!"
Baucus for President.
Arne, Arne:Yes Arne Duncan, the maven of Chicago public schools, Secretary of Education, and the guy we are told will bless Milwaukee schools with truck-loads of money if we join his Obama sponsored "race to the top" spoke yesterday. Catch this: "Money alone will never solve this problem. It's much deeper than that. It's about values [democracy? perhaps?] It's about who we are as a society."
He went on to say that he should not be blamed for the violence in Chicago schools. OK. But it would also be wrong, would it not, to demolish the MPS structure because Arne favors the idea? I think so.
October 7, 2009 Nonpartisan?
Of all the words in the dictionary, one of the most abused, in my experience, is "nonpartisan." If a group describes itself as "nonpartisan" the word goes out that we should pay special attention to its pronouncements because the group does not have an ax to grind--you can trust them--it is unbiased, straight-from-the-horse's mouth, and journalists need not look behind the announcement of polling results, voter attitudes, or veracity.
Various definitions pop up in the dictionary: "Not controlled by a group or a cause"; "a person or group who is free from party affiliation or bias"; "a group remaining politically independent."
Granted, it is used by right and left, progressive and reactionary--there is no monopoly on the use of the convenient cover. But when a taxpayer-created institution lends its good name to a supposedly "nonpartisan" group, the adjective takes on special meaning. One would expect the UW to research the group. For example, the recent polling data released to the media from the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute (WPRI) (Barrett/Walker; Tommy/Feingold) and the great State University of Wisconsin. The UW-Madison Political Science Department has apparently entered into a "partnership" (their word) with "nonpartisan" WPRI. Whoa Nelly!
What is WPRI? To be kind, it is not what we would call "free of bias." WPRI might claim to be nonpartisan in that they have no party affiliation, but that is much too narrow a definition--if not for WPRI, then surely for the University of Wisconsin in lending the prestige of the UW to a group that leads with Charlie Sykes and Jim Klauser. WPRI is also led by George Lightbourn and Gerald Whitburn from the halcyon days of Tommy Thompson's various administrations; WMC, the Supreme Court meddling group, plays a big role through Tim Sheehy, president of MMAC (and former aid to Jim Sensenbrenner); Thomas Howatt, vice president of WMC and head of the arch-conservative Paper Council. They love to package their rightwing agenda in a release to the media in "nonpartisan" gift wrapping. Makes them seem like, well, erudite, unbiased, good government devotees.
WPRI and the UW-Madison say, "Trust us!"
Memo to Media: Look behind the label before accepting more so-called polling results from WPRI and UW-Madison telling us that the two candidates for governor should be the two who support a mayoral takeover of Milwaukee schools--Barrett and Scott Walker. (Need info on the WPS program? Call Tim Sheehy.)
Memo to UW-Madison: The people of this state have placed their trust in you since the Civil War. Don't blow it.
October 6, 2009 I dare you
You will enjoy Rick Chamberlin's post this morning. How about this quote: "Power has only one duty--to serve the social welfare of the people."
Good corporations good citizens? People often get confused about the mission of corporations. Perrier announced at a town meeting several years ago, "We want to be good corporate citizens." Others have proclaimed "we will be good neighbors." So, what is the guiding mission of every corporation? To make money for shareholders while limiting the personal liability of the investors. Pure and simple. No corporate charter I have reviewed contains a pledge to be a "good citizen" or good neighbor. Corporations are economic entities not social welfare institutions. That doesn't mean that they do no good things. Some support the symphony, museums, etc., but that is not their reason for being.
Why am I focused on this topic? (See last week's Bill Moyers Journal for a superb discussion on whether corporations should have First Amendment protection.) If "money is speech," the ludicrous position of the Supreme Court, and corporations are protected under the First Amendment, then they should be able to spend as much as they want to buy politicians. Money is speech, ain't it? Exxon-Mobil could put a billion dollars into Senate races next year. Nuts, you say? You are right.
The Supreme Court is poised to destroy any semblance of democracy in America by declaring that limitations on corporate involvement in elections--spending money--are unconstitutional. Whoa Nelly! Bye-bye, democracy.
Catch this: From the Washington Post: "Conservative activists circulated undercover videos of housing counselors for ACORN advising them on how to conceal a prostitution business--Congress voted to ban future funding of ACORN as a result."
One must assume Congress was angry that ACORN was cutting in on their business! How better to describe the Congress?
Poll: Depending on the reporter, it is UW-Madison polling; it is Wisconsin Policy Research Institute polling; WPRI is a "local think-tank" or it is it a conservative statewide front; is UW Professor Ken Goldstein presenting the results of a poll for the UW or for the Bradley foundation or for WPRI? Who paid whom and how much? Whose idea was it? Why now?
October 5, 2009 No lines
I refer you to a recent comment from FightingBob.com contributing writer Peter McKeever: "Opponents of single-payer health care [you know--the system favored by doctors and most thinking people] say Canadians must stand in line. At least they have a line to stand in."
Yikes! Sykes!! More from our pals on the right. The love affair involving the Bradley Foundation, the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute (WPRI) and the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinelis fun to watch. They use Bradley money and WTMJ TV and radio to broaden their audience, the JS to verify that the results are important, and WPRI to push their right-wing agenda through polling and conservative columnists.
Now they have added the UW-Madison to their corner. Ken Goldstein, UW political science professor, helps them with his perspective, and in so doing lends the prestige of the UW to this ultra right "nonpartisan" "local" "think-tank."
The current goal? A mayoral takeover of Milwaukee Public Schools. Why? Well, the voucher idea failed so why not take-over, fire the elected school board, and use our kids as experiments. Final stop--privatized schools.
Go to WPRI.org and see for yourself. The first thing you will see is Charlie Sykes smiling at you. Check the credentials of the commentators.
Their dream? A face-off for governor between two candidates who favor the mayoral takeover of Milwaukee schools. Any candidate in opposition can forget about an endorsement from JS.
October 4, 2009 Trust us!
If you are mentally fatigued because you have been following the messy health care reform fiasco unfold in Congress, and you are not ready to focus on the 2010 gubernatorial race in Wisconsin, relax. No thinking is required. Why? Well, because pollsters will tell you what you think and, without a fee, will name the candidates, frame the issues, and declare the winners for you in January so you can focus on the all-important Super Bowl.
We have already been given a sneak-preview by the often inaccurate Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. It will be Barrett vs. Walker come November 2010. We know this because JS wrote that Walker and Barrett "hold comfortable leads in their own party primaries." Ah, you ask, "Who says"? JS trumpets that this is true because "the hypothetical matchups" were arranged by the UW-Madison under the guidance of professor Ken Goldstein. Wow! Must be objective, accurate, and without bias. The great State University of Wisconsin..."sifting and winnowing," Bascom Hall--now add polling.
Hold your horses. Buried deep in the story is this gem: "Ken Goldstein, with the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute WPRI...Even later in the story we are told a little truth that WPRI is, catch this, "a local think tank." Whoa Nelly! Tommy Thompson's old side-kick, George Lightbourn is president of WPRI. I am not making this up. (Even the conservative WSJ was more forthcoming in naming the poll as a product of a "conservative state think-tank," but most readers won't get that far. The headline screams, "Barrett, Walker lead in poll. Opponents far behind..."
Yes sir. And who funds WPRI? Our pals at the Bradley Foundation, who support a mayoral takeover of the public schools, drool over vouchers, fawn over Charlie Sykes, and who plan to sell Mitchell Field, the Zoo, the highways, the parks--now the JS story seems more like propaganda than a news story, and Goldstein should, at a minimum, tell the readers how much Bradley or WPRI are paying him.
Nuts. You are going to be forced to sift and winnow on your own.
Rudy Kuzel died. A legend in UAW battles, a union-man through and through always knew which side he was on. Rudy Kuzel's dedication to the members saved lives, jobs and hope. When standing at a plant gate to shake hands, union members would often duck and ignore, but not if Rudy stood with you. Every member would stop, come over and comment, "If Rudy is for you, you got my vote." I don't think you will find another one as good or as humble. Well done, Rudy. Well done.
October 3, 2009 Nice try, Mr. President
Watching the right wing celebrate the IOC decision to go not to Chicago but to Rio was an eye-opener. I doubt if they were any more excited in Rio than they were in Rush's studio. He was yelling, knee-slapping, whooping it up with fellow wing-nuts.
They saw this as a defeat for Obama, and the U.S. be damned! Maybe it isn't our country any more. Think back to the moment when our hockey team beat the Soviets in 1980. We all celebrated--strangers in airports, neighbors, Americans. Today I guess Rush and Charlie Sykes would be disappointed if the American team won! What is going on?
Obviously someone on Obama's staff screwed up. But so what? Is it a moment to celebrate when the arch-conservative IOC punches our president in the nose? I don't think so.
Nice try, Mr. president. Now get behind a strong public option, send Baucus to Rio, resist the call for more troops in Afghanistan, and all will be well.
We need jobs: I am not worried about Goldman Sachs, AIG, or Bank of America. I am worried (scared)as the unemployment rate goes to 9.8 percent--15 million people out of a job--millions more working fewer hours than they want, millions wake up every morning praying no one gets sick. And all this while Democrats, on the Senate Finance Committee, rake in big bucks from the insurance industry thieves.
The jig is up. The American people know the game now. They know Max Baucus should recuse himself from these deliberations. This is a disaster for the Democratic Party unless rescue efforts by Rockefeller, Harkin, Sanders, and Pelosi work. Keep the pressure on!
October 2, 2009 McCoy on torture UW history professor Alfred McCoy spoke at the Fighting Bob Kickoff on the topic of torture. McCoy's book A Question of Torture is hailed as the best description of our government's use of torture. Watch the video, read the book, take action.
Today we are proud to post Professor McCoy's speech at the Barrymore.
OK, AIG. Many of you were, I'm certain, worried that Obama's Compensation Czar would short-change Robert Benmosche, the head if AIG. Well, relax. The Benmsoches will be able to host the fall party at the club after all. Annual salary of $3 million in cash (no more Pay-Day loans!) $4 million in fully-vested common stock, he is eligible for up to $3.5 million long-term incentive awards each year. The Czar approved! OK, Bobby!
"Douglas MacArthur" McChrystal spoke in London yesterday to pressure Obama into following his plan to add 42,000 troops. Fire him! Meanwhile, Hillary-the-Hawk has, get this, "cleared her schedule for Friday to meet with her Afghanistan team." Look out, Mr. President. The paint is drying and you are in the corner.
October 1, 2009 Anyone seen Nichols?
He might be in New York introducing Joseph Stiglitz, or he could be the main speaker at the PDA convention, or he might be at Fighting Bob Fest, but wherever he is, there is plenty of passion on display. The associate editor of the Capital Times, national reporter for the Nation magazine, hell-raiser from Union Grove (a suburb of Burlington) John Nichols is working on his computer or thinking about the next column, article or book.
Here you can see and listen to John Nichols at Fighting Bob Fest. He was scheduled to discuss media reform, net neutrality, media ownership, the collapse of journalism and the formula to save journalism--a plot devised by John and Bob McChesney, but John went way off script and you will enjoy his call for reform.
Federal Judge Butler: President Obama has chosen Louis Butler as federal judge for the western district of Wisconsin to replace Judge John Shabaz. A great choice, although it might be awhile before the party hats are appropriate. Butler must be approved by the U.S. Senate--yes, that one. (No word yet on Justice Gableman, who ran a Willy Horton-type TV spot against Butler in the state Supreme Court race. That matter is pending before a three-judge panel.)
Where is Frank? Frank Busalacchi, secretary of DOT, opted not to appear before a Legislative Joint Audit Committee to answer questions about wasting tax dollars on outsourcing engineering contracts when it is accepted that it is less expensive and more effective to have state employees do the work. Busalacchi, former head of Teamsters local 200 in Milwaukee, didn't bother attending or even sending an explanation. A Cheney-like move; perhaps he is getting ready to run on a ticket with Scott "privatize everything" Walker. Who knows? Perhaps he thinks he can run DOT like he conducted union meetings.
Afghanistan: The president is caught in a carefully created web. In August we pointed out that McChrystal "invited think tank experts from across the ideological spectrum" (you know, from the New Republic to the Weekly Standard) to give him a report--they did. A 20-page call for--you guessed it--expansion of the Afghan army, and more American troops. Ah, but we were busy, busy, getting ready for the presidential election to give legitimacy to our effort.
What? The election was phony? Worse than our election/coup in 2000? Whoa Nelly. Now he wants 42,000 more Americans on the way toward a total military presence of more than 600,000 troops from the coalition. Whoops! This would not be Iraq--it could be Obama's Vietnam!
"Is this a private fight, or can anyone join?" -Old Irish saying