There were weekend news reports about efforts to hire Afghans away from the Taliban. Jobs not guns. The Afghans think a job is a better way to win hearts and minds than bombs. How clever. I thought we did as well. (Anyone rmember the Humphrey-Hawkins full employment bill?) Meanwhile, plans are in place to send thousands of young people into combat in Afghanistan, many unemployed and uninsured. Paul Krugman complains that "a strange passivity" has replaced urgency over record unemployment, and most think the job summit is phony. Hope not.
Ah, Catch-22--The NY Times reports that the "order did not apply to this jail"! Get ready--why didn't it apply? Well, because this one is not run by the bad old CIA. No siree! This one is run by military special operation forces. One can almost hear the administration spokesman: "Did we forget to tell you about the Special Forces exemption? Why would we call them "special" if they can't torture?"
Denied access to the Red Cross and all family, lights on 24 hours a day, demeaning treatment, beatings, sleep deprivation, interference with religious practice, held in windowless cells or cages. Damn! That is special.
Poverty In Wisconsin? Recall when Tommy Thompson, the Republican Governor, and Wally Kunicki, the Democratic Speaker, had an argument? Should Tommy get all the credit for ending welfare while eliminating poverty, or should Democrat Kunicki get or share the credit? Or was all the W-2 nonsense just--well, nonsense?
As the recession advances, poverty is rampant. One in eight people in the U.S. use food stamps. So many in fact that the NYT claims the stigma has faded. One recipient said, "I always thought people on public assistance were lazy, but it helps me know I can feed my kids." (Don't you wonder if Tommy and Wally still take credit for W-2?)
Possibly the best quote came from a new recipient who said, "I come here and I see people who are knowledgeable, normal, well-dressed. These are people I could be having lunch with." Is it possible class distinctions are vanishing? Instead of looking down we might start looking up? Are we mad at Goldman Sachs and AIG, or the poor?
November 27, 2009 C'mon, bishop! Bishop Tobin of Rhode Island is again in attack mode. Patrick Kennedy must repent and disavow his position on the right of a woman to seek or not to seek an abortion. If not? Then no communion for Patrick.
Headline in NY Times: "In Dublin, 700 Pages on the Church's sins." The Roman Catholic Church and the police systemically colluded in covering up decades of child sex abuse by priests in Dublin. How about that, Bishop Tobin?
What were they concerned about? Rather than helping the victims, the church was concerned only with the maintenance of secrecy, the avoidance of scandal, the protection of the church and preservation of its assets. Read, weep, and ask if the notion of an organization that excludes women and insists on celibacy by the guys who run the place makes any sense.
November 26, 2009 Oh no!
The President will take ownership of the Afghan war on Tuesday in a speech to be delivered at West Point. Yikes. (I'm not kidding.) The War Council and the other hawks have him in their talons.
I'm reminded this morning of FDR. He spoke at Chautauqua, New York, in 1936: "I have seen war...I have seen blood running from the wounded...I have seen the dead in the mud...I have seen cities destroyed...I have seen the agony of mothers and wives. I hate war."
Like Fighting Robert La Follette, FDR warned that profiteers would support any war. He said war can be avoided by "those that possess the courage to say 'no' to those who selfishly or unwisely would let us go to war."
He might have added that those who push the hardest to put our sons, daughters, grand kids and family in harm's way will remain tucked in their comfortable beds.
It is time to share the sacrifice. Start by enacting the Obey plan to tax all to pay for the war through a progressive war surtax. Then, bring back the draft. If this war is worth fighting then we must all get into it. If it is not worth a shared sacrifice, then get out!
Happy Thanksgiving! Here is a little something to think about after you finish your feast. Miami-Dade County will, according to the NY Times, begin conducting foreclosure sales online. Whoa Nelly! Why? Just too crowded at the court house, and I suspect a tad dangerous for the bank shills bidding on the homes. They have 110,000 in their inventory--450 per week--but the volume is expected to triple this year.
But wait! How can this be? If we can afford to add 43,000 troops at a million dollars per soldier per year in Afghanistan, how can we boot people out of their homes and into the street? Oh. I get it. They can join the Army! Yes they can!
November 25, 2009 Damn it! Damn it! Damn it!
The NY Times article's second paragraph says it all. The White House said Mr. Obama had completed his consultations with his war council. I'm not making this up. "His War Council." (The Times did not say if Robert McNamara, McGeorge Bundy and Henry Kissinger were in attendance.)
And then this haymaker from the seemingly detached president, "After eight years"--some with neither the resources nor the strategy to get the job done--"it is my intention to finish the job." Finish the job? What job? Was this hubris? Hawkish staff? DLC? Who is credited with that slogan?
Who pushed him into becoming another war president?
Remember, "Hey! Hey! LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?"? It is Obama's war now, and if one listens carefully the GOP will tell us he has already lost it through indecision. If he sends one troop less than requested, any loss will be dumped on his lawn.
As the Canadians and the Dutch pull out of Afghanistan and our dependence on Pakistan grows, it seems more and more like Vietnam. Barack Obama will try to convince a doubting public next week that he is smarter than LBJ--he can finish the job. Oh, and health care. In every war some causalities. I miss Ike.
November 24, 2009 Thanksgiving is here
We should give thanks that Obama has not caved (yet) to the military request for thousands of new troops for the graveyard called Afghanistan. Bill Moyers just devoted an entire program to LBJ's decision to bomb North Vietnam and send tens of thousands of troops to fight and die. It was scary--same clowns different circus (or maybe vice-versa--same circus different clowns).
LBJ was upset because the government we were trying to help (prop up) was corrupt and out of touch. How does that compare with the government in Afghanistan today?
Can this nation send these precious young people to die for a corrupt government? Do we really believe that hundreds of thousands of Afghans are ready to join the army and fight? If we answer no, then I think it is immoral to send one more troop. If Obama caves it will be the end if the dream. As Willie Nelson sings, "Dreams don't make noise when they die."
Watch Wall Street go nuts if the House accepts Ron Paul's proposal to give Congress control of the Fed. Whoa Nelly!
November 23, 2009 Mad as hell!
Looking forward to a mild start to a new week? Don't read the NYT story, "Executives Kept Wealth as Firms Failed." Who says so? Three profs at Harvard Law School. At Lehman, the top five executives received cash bonuses and proceeds from stock sales totaling $1 billion between 2000 and 2008, and at Bear Stearns, once Tommy Thompson's most reliable corporate patron and fundraiser, the top five received more than $1.4 billion.
Ah, don't blow a cork yet. Like the wine at the wedding at Canna, the best comes last. Peter Solomon, an investment bangster, said the top men still suffered. "They are not living happily ever after," he said. No siree! Solomon explained, "Their reputations have been tarnished, and what do you have at the end if the day but your reputation?" Move over, Bernie Madoff.
Scary thought: If that did not send you back to bed with warm milk, think about Frank Rich's observation: "Palin is far and away the most important brand in American politics after Barack, and attention must be paid. Those who think her 15 minutes are up are deluding themselves." Whoa Nelly! He may be right!
November 22, 2009 Calm down, Alan Alan Borsuk, JS cheerleader and occasional education columnist for the paper, is scared. He is, needless to say, in favor of elimination of the elected school board governing Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS). Alan is so in favor of the Duncan/Doyle/Barrett plan he writes as if panicked now that it appears the plan will not make it through a skeptical Legislature. Alan, in what seems like a plea, asks, "What happens if nothing happens?" Oy!
Bob Herbert has a superb column in Saturday's NYT: "The rise and fall of Detroit." Remember NAFTA, the Democratic Leadership Council's (DLC) gift to America? Remember "all ears" Ross Perot, who predicted the flow of good jobs leaving America? How about warnings from unions? Catch this from Herbert: "Detroit and environs are suffering the agonies of the economic damned because of policies, crafted at the highest national levels [President Clinton & the DLC] that resulted in the implosion of crucially important components of America's manufacturing base." When economists pontificate about a jobless recovery, ask, "How did things go with NAFTA?"
Afghanistan: Don't worry, Pakistan will help our war effort. Catch this in NYT: An overwhelming majority of young Pakistanis say their country is headed in the wrong direction and, sit before reading, "Few have any confidence in their government." What? No confidence? As we see student demonstrations in California over the 30 percent tuition increases, their contemporaries in Pakistan drew a picture of a "deeply frustrated young generation that feels abandoned by its government." (Just like the students at Berkley and UCLA.) The future? "And they are despondent about its future!" So, the U.S. believes Pakistanis are going to pick up arms and slog through ice and snow to fight the Taliban? Yah, sure. Get out.
November 21, 2009 Share the sacrifice!
Three weeks ago, Bill Moyers suggested that if the "governing class" in America, insists on fighting (unwinnable) wars, then it should share the sacrifice--bring back the draft. Moyers argued that no one should be forced into service to get health insurance or because of a lost job. I agree.
Dave Obey has another compelling idea--same theme--"share the sacrifice." Obey says let all Americans, other than military families, pay a "war surtax."No borrowing no debt.
Instead of borrowing the money for Afghanistan the surtax would fully fund the war. Makes great sense now that we are out of money to the point where our president had to go hat-in-hand to our creditor-nation(called Communist China). It is time to put up or shut-up. We are closing in on one trillion dollars spent on Iraq and Afghanistan for military ops only! Time's up, Hawks! Get out your checkbook. Pay-as-you-kill.
Vote tonight: The U.S. Senate test on health care comes at 7:00 tonight. Fingers crossed. Let the debate start, and then kick Joe Lieberman out of the Democratic caucus.
If health care dies, the right-to-life-only-while-in-the-womb folks will claim victory. Some victory! A Harvard study says 45,000 people die prematurely every year because they do not have health insurance. Imagine the weight on the conscience of the militant RTL crowd. "We killed national health care. We saved a discarded embryo--Forget the 45,000 people killed by neglect. Go, go Embryo!" Whoa Nelly!
It is hard to figure--the University of Nebraska may stop new stem cell work. Why? RTL of course. Yikes! Like the old bumper sticker said, "Don't like abortion? Don't have one." I say, if you have a family member or neighbor with a disease that could be cured through stem cell research, tell 'em to celebrate! (I am biased.) Comfort your family member by helping with a living will.
November 20, 2009 Want to cry?
I never heard of "pink sheeting" and suspect you haven't either. NYTcarried a disturbing account of the practice. A union, Unite Here, has been accused of this outrageous practice. "Union members and staff were brought to high-pressure meetings where they were brought to tears as supervisors pushed them to divulge personal information in an effort to ensure obedience by breaking their will." Yikes!
Now the really sad part. Several organizers likened pink sheeting to a practice that (one of my heroes) Cesar Chavez used when he embraced a mind-control practice developed by the way-out group Synanon. "Staff members were systematically subjected to intense, prolonged verbal abuse in an effort to break them down and assure loyalty," one said.
Can it be true? Or, as John Wilhelm, Unite Here's president alleges, is this bad information spread by Andy Stern of SEIU to discredit Unite Here? The article had the ring of authenticity. If this is true, the new AFL-CIO president, Rich Trumka, had better jump in with both feet.
Thirty-thousand foreclosures in Wisconsin this year? A prediction from Catey Doyle of Legal Aid. The governor and the Legislature must stop this tragedy unfolding in front of us. If your house caught on fire, your neighbors would lend a hand. Well, 30,000 homes are "on fire." Time for action.
November 19, 2009 Polls and polls Tom Barrett doesn't like the results of the UWM poll that found 57 percent of the residents in the four-county area oppose the Doyle/Duncan/Barrett/Sykes/Fuller/Bradley Foundation plot to replace the elected MPS school board with a Barrett/Curley appointed board to be called the "toady board." (Note for those living outside the "four-county area": Get used to it. The Journal Sentinel and WTMJ rarely go beyond Milwaukee and contiguous counties. Nothing important is happening out there. Proof needed? Mayor/governor will apparently remain in Milwaukee and the four-county area.)
Barrett's aid, Pat Curley, calls the sampling inadequate and adds, "It doesn't accurately portray how city residents feel." Had pollsters called Curley he would have been a solid supporter of mayoral control, but they didn't call Pat--unlisted number no doubt. One feels for Curley. He still thinks like a mayoral aid rather than an aid to a gubernatorial candidate--worrying about the city residents not the state of Wisconsin voters who love their public schools.
Curley apparently feels more comfortable with the rightwing Wisconsin Policy Research Institute polls.
November 18, 2009 Stats don't lie!
Or do they? Take a look at the "640,000 jobs created or saved" by the Obama $160 billion stimulus spending. Challenged by ABC, the network took a harder look and concluded that 60,000 jobs should be culled from the list.
Then, on Monday, ABC reported that the government had claimed $751,420 in spending and 30 jobs created in Arizona's 15th Congressional District.
Mr. President, we have a problem. There is no 15th District in Arizona. Dave Obey blew a cork. He called the inaccuracies "outrageous." Obey said, "Good news or bad news, I want honest numbers." Is anyone stepping forward to apologize? Nope.
November 17, 2009 Hunger in America?
"A rose by any other name would smell as sweet," wrote Shakespeare. "A rose is a rose is a rose," said Gertrude Stein. President Reagan told us there was no "hunger" in America. So we changed the name not the reality. NYT headline: "49 Million Americans Report a Lack of Food."
They lacked "food security." Thirteen million more than when we started keeping track. One-third faced "very low food security." You know--they were hungry; kids get hungry. Catholic Bishops? Not so insecure. Plenty on their plates. Tom Vilsack said the hunger stats should wake us up.
If Dorothy Day were still with us, she would wake-up the Bishops. Michael Harrington, whose book, The Other America: Poverty in the United Stateswas read by JFK and LBJ leading to the "War on Poverty," would bang the drum. But there is no anger, no Harrington, only a few Dorothy Days. And our well-fed Bishops? Well, better to fight Catholics who believe in a woman's choice than to fight hunger. Push Stupak, even if the 49 million "insecure" get hungry and 37 million have no health insurance.
You can't make it up. More time and energy goes into the Bishop's plans to expel dissenting Catholic office-holders than in fighting poverty! Whoa Nelly!
November 16, 2009 So much for platforms Jim Doyle has been very consistent when discussing the proposal to return the appointment authority of the DNR secretary to the DNR board of directors. For 14 years he never wavered. Not as attorney general nor as a candidate for governor. Never, that is, until it mattered.
When it mattered he changed his mind and, to the amazement of the Wildlife Federation, Jim Doyle vetoed the bill that would have placed the appointment process back with the DNR board. (What is a little inconsistency? Can't you take a joke?)
Now most of us know that conditions are fluid in politics. Things change, and we often wince when an incumbent votes "the wrong way." We know we can't keep candidates tethered to campaign promises. They are, after all, free to vote their conscience. We would have it no other way. But there are some votes/actions that go to the very heart of the electoral process. Actions that undermine confidence in the party system. Former DNR secretary and Wildlife Federation president George Meyer said Doyle's veto was a "great disappointment." You said it, George.
Governor-Mayor: If Tom Barrett is elected governor a new mayor of Milwaukee could find himself or herself facing the challenge of running the school system in Milwaukee. If, and it is a big if, the Legislature caves to Doyle/Duncan pressure and sells our independence for an unspecified amount of federal dollars, Barrett might regret his decision to support the Doyle-Duncan plan.
Bill Kraus often talks about the law of unintended consequences. Think about this. If the Legislature gives the green light to mayoral control of Milwaukee schools, voters who care deeply about MPS might decide to defeat Barrett's bid to become governor in order to put him in charge of MPS. Imagine if Barrett wins and Walker then runs for mayor with big bucks from WMC. Yikes!
And how will gubernatorial candidate Barrett respond to this question: Mayor Barrett, why is an elected school board bad for Milwaukee but good for Madison, Racine, Kenosha? Or should all schools be run by mayors? As governor, what will your educational philosophy be?
November 15, 2009 Lots to worry about Gubernatorial candidate Tom Barrett is, apparently, taking advice from Jim Doyle on schools and the gubernatorial race in 2010. That's a little scary. We can only hope that the mayor will quickly establish his own path on all issues.
To name a few: Fundraising now but public funding of campaigns in the future--an unfulfilled Doyle commitment. Support of the elected Milwaukee school board. He should make clear to Arne Duncan that Wisconsin will not sell its soul for vague promises of more funding in the "race to the top." We are, after all, at the top in this country.
He should promise to re-establish the independence of the DNR--a Doyle campaign pledge smashed with a veto last week--and to bring back the Public Intervenor to protect the environment. Give us hope it will not be business as usual in Madison.
Not sure: Mayor Barrett says he is "not sure how he will split his time between the Capitol and Milwaukee but family considerations will play a major role." That coupled with his decision to remain mayor while running for governor open him to hay-makers from the GOP like this one from Republican Party director Jefferson: "He's clearly being dragged into this kicking and screaming...he looks more like the kid forced to eat his spinach than someone who wants to lead Wisconsin."
Oh, and here is some unhappy news. Jerome Listecki , currently La Crosse bishop, will become the bishop of Milwaukee. Listecki is in with the hardline policies of Bishop Robert Morlino of Madison and the former bishop of LaCrosse, Burke, who, like bishop Tobin of Rhode Island, is demanding that Patrick Kennedy oppose abortion or get out of the church. He thinks it a sin for Catholics to even vote for a pro-choice candidate. Whoa Nelly!
November 14, 2009 Sound the trumpets JS says Barrett is running for governor. So, no problem. This should be easy. Well, there are a few obstacles, but no reason to dwell on them today.
Eminent domain: The king can do no wrong. "Look what they did, They stole our home for economic development. It was all for Pfizer, and now they (Pfizer) get up and walk away." New London, Connecticut, 2005. Remember? The city used eminent domain to force people out of their homes in the name of economic development. A 5-4 U.S. Supreme Court decision upheld the right of New London to seize property for a corporation.
The negotiators for Pfizer knew what they were doing. New London's negotiators? Not so much. If a corporation offers jobs, government officials fall all over themselves to provide welfare to the corporate giant. Pfizer is closing their New London operation. Penalty? None.
To attract Pfizer, New London agreed that Pfizer would only pay one-fifth of its property taxes for first 10 years. A miracle: Clarence Thomas made sense in his dissent against the 5-4 decision: "A costly urban renewal project whose stated purpose is a vague promise of new jobs and increased tax revenues but which is also suspicious." Folks, if Justice Thomas can see it...well who put the blinders on New London?
November 13, 2009 Good news and bad
We begin with a quiz and the good news. The Puffin Foundation/The Nation gives a Creative Citizenship award to one who has challenged the status quo through distinctive, courageous, imaginative and socially responsible work of significance. Guess who won the award this year, along with $100,000? Jim Haney of WMC or Jim Hightower, our Honorary Badger and the soul of Fighting Bob Fest? You would be correct if you chose our pal Hightower. (One creative response suggested Justice Gableman.)
How big of a deal is this award? When word spread, Lou Dobbs got so upset that Puffin passed him by again that he quit CNN! (He will do his huffn' and puffn' elsewhere.)
Hightower was speechless, according to his colleague Laura Ehrlich. Honest.
(As for Fighting Bob, Jim has spoken at 7 out of 8 Bob Fests and has never charged a fee. Nuts to that. From now on he pays us!)
A great day for progressive populism or popular progressivism. Well done, well done.
Meanwhile, back in Wisconsin, the three-judge panel urged the Wisconsin Supreme Court to dismiss the complaint against Michael Gableman for his outrageous, dishonest but effective TV spot aired in his race against Justice Louis Butler. The JS reporter recording these events wrote, "Gableman could benefit from divisions on the court because it may be difficult to put together a majority that would rule against him." Sad, but true. Imagine our court being in such a precarious position that the newspaper reporter thinks the court will decide on ideology and factions not facts and law. Whoa Nelly!
Barrett: Only Tom and his wife know if he will run, but most of the folks I talk to think he will not be dragged kicking and screaming into the race for governor. Main reason--you gotta want it, and Barrett seems happy as mayor. Oh, and the money thing. Ten million at least.
November 12, 2009 We got answers
Feed me some soft balls and I'll try to knock 'em out of the park. OK? Q. Who is Bishop Tobin? Before yesterday I would have shrugged and said "dunno." Now I know. He is the Bishop (Catholic not Anglican) of Providence, Rhode Island (suburb of Boston), and likely soulmate of Madison's very own Bishop Robert Morlino. The formerly unknown Bishop Tobin is mad as hell that Patrick Kennedy, son of Teddy and Joan, supports a woman's right to choose. The good bishop told Kennedy he should not receive communion in the church and accused Congressman Kennedy of, I'm not making this up, "false advertising" for describing himself as a Catholic (note capital 'C'--lower case for Anglicans.)
Here is the bishop's pastoral message: "If you freely choose to be a Catholic (not Anglican) it means you believe certain things" (list not supplied). Otherwise you should leave the church. The bishop wrote that Kennedy's support of choice is "a deliberate and obstinate act of will that was unacceptable to the Church and (sit down please) "scandalous to many of our members." Ah, I said, that should do it, but he was just warming up. "It's not too late for you to repair your relationship with the church...redeem your public image as an authentic profile in courage." Whoa Nelly.
Good-bye, Bishop Tobin.
Next: Q. Who is Peter Galbraith? Too obvious. Son the great economist and JFK adviser, John Kenneth Galbraith. Peter once described himself as (get this) an unpaid adviser to the Kurds. Freqently on Public TV, he was known as an adviser to Joe Biden, John Kerry and others. A genuine and trusted voice on Iraq. Not so fast. Turns out he was an investor as well and stands to earn more than $150 million from a Norwegian oil company.
Read the story in today's NYT--too delicious for a blog. But catch this, "So, while I may have had an interest, I see no conflict." So sayeth Peter, son of John.
How silly. This info might "fuel Iraqi fears that the Anerican invasion of their country was to take its oil." C'mon! Who would ever believe that crazy talk? Next thing you know people will ask if the Warren Commission was fixed! Yikes.
November 11, 2009 Whither Doyle?
What does it mean that Jim Doyle calls himself a Democrat? Peek at Education policy. Jim Doyle promises to call a special session of the Democratic-controlled Legislature (with an hour or two of debate) to take up his bill that would "cede control of Milwaukee Public Schools to the mayor" of our largest city. (Are Madison, Beloit, Kenosha next? What will the Democrats do?)
The well-educated governor, a Democrat, is prepared to eliminate the elected school board, headed by a well qualified African American, with only a promise that Democrat Arne Duncan will pay more and Mayor Barrett will do a better job selecting the superintendent in Milwaukee. Yikes! He is prepared to risk antagonizing much of the black community in Milwaukee who vote Democratic year after year after year while risking major disruption of MPS--all without a public debate.
The justification for this initiative is based on a nod and wink from the Obama administration. A quiet deal, reached behind closed doors, to hand over lots and lots of money, albeit an unstated amount, to Wisconsin. Doyle's plea? "C'mon folks, give it a try--democracy is too messy." It ain't graft when the government offers money for policy to a state, but it doesn't smell right.
Wall Street: Ed Schultz was hollering mad at Barney Frank, Democrat. Ed interviewed Barney, who lost his temper when Ed took truth to Frank. He accused him of selling out to Wall Street. Frank blew a cork. As far as I can tell, Ed's biggest sin was calling Barney "Barney." Have you no manners, sir?
Watch Ron Paul's bill to audit the Fed. Watch Barney, who bragged in the NYT, "They accept the fact that I know what I'm doing up here." Do you? Trillions for Wall Street but Nada for unemployed little folks? Not typical Democratic fare.
November 10, 2009 Time to think
Our nation has had one crisis after another. Katrina, 9/11, war in Iraq, war in Afghanistan, depression/recession, torture by American troops, Gitmo...it has not been an easy couple of years, so, the argument goes, cut Obama some slack.
I agree, but it must be said that the administration has not met expectations. Perhaps the expectations were out of whack; maybe the country has put too much on his plate; lots of ifs and buts.
Here is one thought: More thinking is needed before going off on a new path for our kids. The sudden effort to transform primary and secondary education by substituting democratically elected school boards for control of education vested in the mayor's office makes my point. An idea based on cotton candy--looks great, but it's mostly air and sugar--rather than open debate.
The notion that the mayor of Milwaukee, indeed any mayor of any city, is inherently better prepared to improve schools than a citizen-based school board is no more than wishful thinking. There is no evidence that mayoral takeovers have had positive results--indeed the opposite is true. But once a city goes there it is nearly impossible to return to democracy.
But more on "wishful thinking." Jim Doyle would have you focus on Tom Barrett as mayor/uber principal while at the same time urging Tom Barrett to run for governor! Whoa Nelly! Suppose he does run. Suppose he wins. Who would be the all-powerful school maven then? Scott Walker? Mark Neumann? Charley Sykes? A tea party leader? Oh, says Doyle, "Don't worry, be happy." Well, I ain't happy.
Our good friend John Smart posts an excellent article today. He disagrees with my views on the Doyle gamble and that's as it should be. A thoughtful debate, not simplistic prescriptions based on a wish, is urgently needed. Rather than quick approval by a rubber-stamp Legislature, how about a real, honest, open study of the so-called Race to the Top? Who decided democracy is bad for kids? The Bradley Foundation.
Jobs: It is reported as 10.2 percent, but 17 percent is the real figure of unemployed plus discouraged, plus seriously under-employed. Milwaukee--African American male adults--55 percent out of work. Obama will be a one-term president if the job depression is not effectively addressed. After mega-bailouts for the fat cats, the president seems oblivious to the fate of the alley cats. One suggestion--throw away the TelePrompTer. Talk with us. Show some passion for those facing foreclosure. Take on Wall Street. Is a billion dollars in bonus money too much? The average unemployment check is $300 per week, according to the Washington Post. You shouldn't have to ask if AIG and Goldman Sachs bonuses are OK.
November 9, 2009 Kastenmeier Lecture
A reminder--the free lecture at the Law School is this Friday at 4:00. Professors Walter Dickey, Cecelia Klingele and Michael Scott will join Bob Kastenmeier to "Re-Imagine Criminal Justice." Call (608) 262-5918 for reservations. Join this vital discussion. See you there.
Milwaukee commute? Dan Bice, JS columnist, called the other day. Said Doyle is so eager to have Milwaukee Mayor Barrett run for governor he is selling the idea that Barrett could live in Milwaukee and commute. I suppose it is possible. If he waits long enough to decide I guess he may be able to set any conditions he wants--in the primary. Problem is the primary is followed by the general election. Doyle has created an absurd situation: If Barrett doesn't run the Dems might not have a recognized candidate. Nice goin', Jim--I'll bet Race to the Top will be better.
On the other hand, newcomers to elective politics could jump in. Stay tuned.
HEALTH CARE: Will the abortion debate ever end? Now the RTL Dems threaten to stop health care for those in the womb and 36 million out of the womb even if a woman pays for an abortion herself! The Catholic bishops are giddy--NOW is not.
November 8, 2009 Who can you trust?
Nearly every article informing us of the poor prospects for daily newspapers includes a plea to save the newspapers because, unlike blogs, papers are reliable. Well, those who write that don't read Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel education columnist Alan Borsuk. Borsuk believes to the core that Milwaukee schools need mayoral control; he believes that MPS is doomed unless the elected school board is jettisoned or limited on issues it can take up. He all but promises huge federal dollars if we all go with the Duncan flow.
Catch this. Borsuk, commenting on Obama's Madison visit, agrees that "he never mentioned Wisconsin," but, says the prescient Borsuk, "There was a very pointed message in the speech, aimed right at Wisconsin and Milwaukee" (I am not making this up). Borsuk asks, "How do I know? Arne Duncan told me so." Borsuk claims he knows Duncan. Borsuk claims Obama was totally in line with Doyle, Barrett, Borsuk, and Evers. In short, the message from Arne's lips to Borsuk computer is, "Get with the program, Wisconsin."
A special session will be called by Doyle. Will there be any serious Q&A? Not on your life.
Remember another snake oil that would take care of us, TABOR "The taxpayers bill of rights"? Colorado enacted TABOR. Here are a few excerpts from an NYT story on Colorado's problems as a result: Governor, a Democrat, proposes $260 million cut in education spending; tax breaks for business to be deleted; tuition up; and he says, "We are asking everyone to share the sacrifice."
Perhaps Borsuk can fly to Colorado to divine Arne's probable approach to that state's problems. Will Colorado get some of Arne's money? Ask Alan.
It was 220-215! Congratulations to the Pelosi team. Finally! Now the focus will be on the 100 Senators--our focus on Herb Kohl and Russ Feingold. Time for leadership. But first, savor the House victory.
November 7, 2009 What's your bid? Joel McNally once again pins the tail on the donkey in today's Cap Times. His thoughts on the odd Doyle/Obama/Barrett rush to destroy the coalition that brought victory to Obama and Wisconsin Dems just a year ago mirrored my own when I waited to speak at the anti-Doyle/Duncan/Barrett rally just below the mayor's office on the eve of the presidential visit.
It seemed odd to me. Almost everyone I saw was a friend in a former political struggle. Nary a Republican to be found. One almost expected the mayor to come out of his office and confess error or at least join the demonstrators. They were "his people." Ah, but no mayor, no governor, no legislative leaders--just the abandoned demonstrators puzzled by the sell-out by their own. There was a sadness in the crowd. "How could Tom do this?" was the question heard most often. "This" is, of course, the loopy plan to take over the Milwaukee schools by the mayor. Not because it is a good idea or even defensible--because Wisconsin would get in line for Obama dollars! I'm not making this up.
McNally points out that Governor Doyle had a golden opportunity to rekindle progressive policies, having taken control of both houses of the Legislature. But he blew it. He vetoed a local sales tax in Milwaukee approved by referendum; he demanded Mayor Barrett toss the elected school board, now headed by a very competent African American, in order to please Arne; he vetoed job funds for Milwaukee; and on and on. The governor gave "the back of his hand" to our largest and neediest city.
Obama arrived. The president of the soon-to-be-eliminated Milwaukee school board was barred from the press conference, opponents of the nonsensical Race to the Top were not invited.
How much for the soul of Milwaukee? Could be $350 million from Arne, said Barrett--$120 million for Milwaukee. Not so fast, Fridley. Pals Obama and Doyle said---not that much--more like $10 million for Milwaukee. A one-time payment? That's it? Kill the elected school board for that? C'mon!
Doyle marched up the stairs on Air Force 1--back to his constituents--a golden opportunity squandered. Whoa Nelly!
November 6, 2009 FINALLY! Impartial Justice. Close your eyes and say it slowly. You can almost feel reform hitting the Supreme Court of Wisconsin. The vote--19-13 in the Senate and 51-42 in the Assembly. It is not perfect but an old friend once stopped to assure me that "perfection is for the next world--mistakes for this one."
Mike Ellis tried to tame the "issue" groups and failed; there is no way to stop a billionaire from buying an election; but the good news is that this law will alter the culture. More good people will run; it will not be so easy for the billionaire or WMC to flaunt their checkbook and the rules. People have figured it out.
Michael Bloomberg spent over one hundred million on his mayoral campaign and damned near lost. Corzine has been a great stimulus to New Jersey's economy and he lost.
So, Fighting Bob vets, take a moment to enjoy this victory. Special thanks to Mike McCabe of the Democracy Campaign, the Brennan Center, Ellen Miller, Bill Proxmire, Bill Moyers,"The Appeal", Gaylord and Common Cause...enjoy. Next--the constitutional officers and then the legislature and then Nirvana. Fair elections. Surprise, surprise, 6 out of seven sitting Justices favored the bill. Gableman did not
November 5, 2009 Wishful thinking?
Everyone was excited to see President Obama in Madison. Arne Duncan, his Secretary of Education--not so much. Things change quickly in politics. Prior to Tuesday's election results, Obama's advisers could argue that they don't need the base because the base (you, me, poor people, particularly African Americans, struggling to provide their kids the best possible education) has no choice come Election Day.
Tell it to John Corzine, New Jersey, or to the Democrats in Virginia. The base didn't vote Tuesday because no one got them excited. Memo to the president--secure the base or they might sit out.
On Monday, the Milwaukee-based coalition opposing the cockamamie Duncan/Doyle plan to have the mayor of Milwaukee take over the schools, eliminate the elected school board, and tie teacher pay to student test scores--an absurd notion--was hollered down at City Hall where Tom Barrett works. This was a crowd that would be comfortable at Fighting Bob Fest and in fact many veterans of Bob Fest were in the crowd or spoke to the crowd. (See yesterday's blog post and video.)
It may be wishful thinking, but in my view, the president did not use his Madison speech for a full endorsement of the so-called "Race to the Top" program. More of a whisper than a full-throated demand. Was this because Tom Barett has been ducking crowds of democrats and even Democrats who are incredulous that he would support the Duncan-Doyle- Bradley Foundation-Journal-Sentinel plan? Has he been forced to listen to the base? I hope so. I think so.
The Wisconsin tea-bag group is headed by long-time rightwing ideologue Mark Block. (Recall his role in the Justice Wilcox scandal.) Block said he would have had thousands of protesters out yesterday had Obama spoken on health care. (Yah, sure Mark.) But read this. Block told the press that because Obama stuck to education--no big deal. Why? "We don't have a big beef with him on education." So Duncan has secured the base--the Republican base!
And hooray for state Senator Mark Miller, who asked about the cost of the "Race to the Top" this year and beyond. Slow down until you get answers.
DPI, now wedded to Duncan-Doyle, had to admit in a press release, "We are proud of Wisconsin's public schools with nation-leading graduation rates and college entrance scores." Good for DPI--hey! Wisconsin has some problems but look at poverty first, good jobs second.
November 4, 2009 Hold your applause
Drove to an anti-Barrett rally at City Hall in Milwaukee yesterday to hear what our friends are saying about the proposed (by Governor Doyle and Mayor Barrett) takeover of Milwaukee's public schools. You know, the system Tommy, Howard Fuller, John Norquist and the Bradley Foundation "saved" with vouchers--the system they saved with charter schools. Oops! Not quite. Turns out poverty is still a problem. Poor housing is still a factor. It was No Child Left Behind--now the simplistic notion is called "Race to the Top." The top is not identified in this woof ticket. The notion that schools will improve when teacher salaries are tied to student performance was not persuasive. Laughable, even when Barack Obama is the one proposing this idea.
In short, the demonstrators were mad as hell at Mayor Barrett, Governor Doyle and President Obama. "I can't believe that Tom is doing this," was heard throughout the demonstration. Frankly, I can't either.
One thing is clear: Our folks in Milwaukee will fight to keep control of MPS. You can count on that.
November 3, 2009 War
For 60-odd years, some form of "war" has dominated the American agenda. Never content to permit the U.N. the resources to settle disputes, we have fought the Koreans, indirectly China, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Grenada, Iraq, Afghanistan and, of course, wars on drugs, terrorists, poverty, the Cold War...and on and on. Will Pakistan be next? How about Iran? Palestine? Syria? The Pentagon needs how much? Six hundred and eighty billion? OK. "But spend it wisely...our schools are in trouble."
The word "war" jumped at me this morning based on a Washington Post story headlined, "Mexico fears of a lost generation...youth, swept up in Mexico's drug war." The U.S. warned of a "toxic culture of fast money, drug abuse and murder." We ought to know. Sounds like our side of the border.
Remember when Bill Bennett was appointed the head of our "war on drugs"? (Turns out he was addicted to gambling but, hey, no one is perfect. I don't think President Bush declared "Mission Accomplished.")
Who pays for the drugs from Mexico? Afghanistan, Colombia? You know who pays.
My parents told me as a child that prohibition was a disaster--created more alcohol dependency than any Miller High Life commercial. Their generation came to its senses and legalized alcohol. And now? Isn't it time to awaken when a real war in Afghanistan is paid for with drug money? Colombia is a wreck because of drugs. Our inner cities depend on drugs to stoke the underground economy. Our prisons are bulging because of drug users, sellers and pushers.
This is nuts. We survived the Cold War but we are losing the Afghan drug-financed war, and bringing ruin to Mexico's youth not to mention our youth. And McCain & Co. says send 40,000 more young people to Afghanistan. To do what? Fight the warlords over drug money? You first, pal. Corruption? You bet! We need sober reflection, not Elliot Ness.
A friend sent this information--thanks Sandy. The cost of sending one soldier to Afghanistan is about $1 million per year. Madison's budget for 11 middle schools and four high schools is about $72 million a year. (We will check the numbers today.)
November 2, 2009 Memo to Mayor Barrett
Think about it, Tom. Is Jim Doyle setting you up to fail? Are you sure he is on your team? If you listen to him and run for governor, fundraising will be your full-time occupation. Why? Because Doyle has done nothing to control the cost of campaigns. Nada. To win, you must raise $15-20 million dollars in 10 months--you can't do it and run the City of Milwaukee. Frankly, I don't think you can raise that much even if you resigned as mayor. Guaranteed failure.
Take over MPS is Doyle's second piece of advice. Yah, sure Ole! Face it Tom, you don't know anything about running schools. Arne Duncan says he does, but the U. of Chicago study just released found that he failed more than he succeeded in Chicago. His plan? Well, if kids aren't doing well it is because of poor quality teachers. (If you believe that canard, stop reading.) This nutty idea gives your friends the shakes. Arne takes the teacher union's seat at the table and he is the school board--all powerful. He decides everything from curriculum to teacher assignments, pay and hours. And he would tie pay to student testing results. Whoa Nelly. Not so fast. Guaranteed failure.
Tom. Recall the New Yorker cartoon where the mouse is given a ride in a wagon by the cat. He muses, "I wonder why he's being so nice." Well, call the Cat-in-Chief and ask. Oh, one other thing. When Obama and Duncan come to town...go to rehab for your hand--stay off the stage.
Rumor--say it ain't so, Russ Decker. The rumor is that the Dems in the Senate and Assembly are thinking about attaching the Doyle "education wrecking ball" to another bill to avoid messy hearings. I think they are afraid to debate.
November 1, 2009 Gosh! Wish I had thought of that!
I didn't realize that the reason some schools are not doing better is and has been right in front of your eyes and mine. I feel kind of embarrassed that it took me so long to figure out that we spend way too much time worrying about the impact of poverty, homelessness, poor nutrition, inadequate funding, and lack of parental involvement in education. Bleeding heart liberals! Listen up! The answer comes from Alan Borsuk, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel education writer. (If you read Borsuk on Sundays, it will save a lot of time reading the Bradley Foundation's position papers.)
Are you ready? Sit down please. The reason some schools and some children fail in a word is teachers. Actually that doesn't do justice to scholar Borsuk. It is the way teachers are paid. Yup. If teacher pay is tied to student test performance, you know, merit pay, problem solved! No more failing students. Wow! Forget about poverty, inadequate funding of schools, poor dental care, it is all the fault of teachers and school boards so let's get rid of school boards and unions! Mayoral control! Merit pay for the Mayor! Huzzah!
Borsuk and his paper would leave no child behind in the race to the top! Get the money! Forget Bush and Obama--tell the unions that merit pay is the only way to save public education. The easy answer used to be vouchers and charter schools, but that didn't work. Now we know, because of Borsuk's careful research, that teachers cause failure, storks deliver babies, and newspapers are failing because of lousy reporters.