April 30, 2009
100 years! On to the next hundred
The celebration is about to begin. One-hundred years of The Progressive magazine. Wow! LaFollette got it started and a remarkable group of progressives took it from there. From Belle La Follette and the Cap Times' editors and staff, to Matt Rothschild and Ruth Coniff--the La Follette spirit is alive and well in Madison.
Newspapers are in trouble, so we need the voice of The Progressive as much today as ever. And not even a 60-65 vote majority in the Senate will suffice. (By then Arlen might well have flipped back to his natural home!) We need The Progressive to help set the agenda more than the Democrats need Leiberman and Specter. FightingBob.com and the Progressive are on the case!
See you at the party. Many of Fighting Bob Fest's old friends will speak--Hightower, Baldwin, Kucinich, Goodman, Zinn, Nichols and McChesney to name a few. This is one hell of a program. See you at Monona Terrace.
April 29, 2009
Senator Flip-Flop flipped
We named Arlen Specter "Senator Flip-Flop long ago, as he voted with his right but held his left in the air. No, there will be no monument dedicated to the senator constructed in the land of Fighting Bob and Gaylord. No sir. His name will not be found in the sequel to Profiles in Courage. Profiles in self-over-principle perhaps.
Our pal the late Studs Terkel must be laughing aloud. This is comedy. Farce, if you insist. Senator Flip (for short) said, in essence, "I will lose the primary and my career would be finished unless I switch parties. So, I'm a Democrat, but don't count on me." Whoa Nelly!
Cubs fans started a tradition of throwing the ball, hit by the opposition for a home run, back onto the field to show their disgust. Good idea. The Senate Dems should tell Senator Flip to take a hike. Don't need you--we represent change, and you are self over all. Sit with Joe Lieberman. You deserve each other.
April 28, 2009
Doyle the Lefty
Scott Walker is running for governor. I'm not kidding. He is. Which state? Wisconsin. Again, I'm not making this up. Why, you ask? He says Doyle is a lefty who has sold out to liberal special interests. Yah, sure, Scott. If you keep this up Doyle might be invited to Fighting Bob Fest!
Walker has had lots of ideas---none very good, but the Bradley Foundation keeps his closet full. He wanted to sell Milwaukee County parks to developers; he wanted to sell Mitchel Field; he wanted to close the public swimming pools (let them join clubs, I say). He thinks we need to keep our jails and prisons full and, almost forgot, he threatened to file for bankruptcy--for the county! Whoa Nelly! Imagine what he could do as governor. Yikes!
Scott Walker for governor. "He will fill your prisons, raise tuition, stop stem cell research, make abortion a crime, and aution off our parks. Scott Walker. One of us. A return to an earier time. Scott Walker."
April 27, 2009
Milwaukee criminal defense lawyer Robert Henak has filed motions in the Wisconsin Supreme Court calling for Justice Michael Gableman to recuse himself from participation a pending case, State v. Allen.
Catch this: Henak wrote, "Gableman relied, as a candidate, upon an agenda of promoting the interests of the prosecutorial arm of state government while denigrating both the legal rights of those accused of crimes and their counsel." Bad enough that his TV spots distorted the record of Justice Butler, who was accused by Gableman, of finding a loophole for his client. Gableman also received $3 million in his campaign from third-party special interests in the form of ads promoting the same type of agenda.
The agenda, writes Henak, "Demonstrates both actual bias in favor of the prosecution...and the appearance of bias." Can Justice Gableman run the risk of being accused in the future of finding a loophole to help the accused? Face it, voting against the accused would be easier. Recusal should occur when the judge in question either is actually biased or there is the appearance of bias.
This is interesting. Can a judge, at any level, ignore campaign contributions, or does acceptance of money suggest that justice is for sale? Henak raises the bias issue in criminal cases. How about a tax case involving WMC?
If the home team hired the homeplate umpire would you believe him on close calls? Time for public financing. Meanwhile, we will watch the Supreme Court's ruling.
April 26, 2009
Corruption? No. Honest graft
What's a poor, hard-working, honest lobbyist for a defense contractor to do when he/she is invited, by name, to shake hands in the receiving line at John P. Murtha's annual fund-raiser at the Army-Navy Country club? The NYT reports that many lobbyists consider attendance "obligatory." Those who don't, one supposes, lobby on non-military matters.
Brooks Jackson, one of my favorite reformers, calls campaign money "honest graft," and so it is. (I might dub it "legal graft," but you get the idea.) So, if you were asked by the honest lobbyist, "Should I go with a big check or stay home?" what would you tell her? Would it matter to you if she really needs her job?
Democrat Murtha brings billions of military contracts to the table in the form of earmarks and no-bid contracts, and he has the soul of a jewel thief: "If I am corrupt it is because I take care of my district." Oh, OK, I get it John. You waste my tax dollars on your district and I should feel good about it because that is how the game is played. Gotcha.
Now here is an idea: "Bar lawmakers fron accepting money/graft/contributions from those who receive their earmarks. You shouldn't be exchanging campaign contributions for earmarks," said Congressman Tom Perrielo. Actually that sounds like bribery but, hey, he is trying. "I get your earmark--you get my cash."
Better yet--a simple reform I have advocated for decades--bar all vendors from making contributions. And did I mention public financing of elections?
So, is Jim Doyle corrupt? No. Is he allowing a corrupt system to flourish on his watch? You bet. Is there a moral distinction? Do utilities, WMC, and, yes, unions, want something for their contributions? Is the Pope Catholic? Is it time to clean out the barn?
April 25, 2009
Say again, please
A joint news release from Governor Jim Doyle and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett spreads confusion. They said, "It defies common sense [really?] that the day after we ["we" not defined] announce over $95 million in federal funds for MPS, they would be talking about a double-digit property tax increase."
(No mention of 7.2 percent drop in home assessments in Milwaukee or the unfair shift of property taxes from corporations to home owners.) Then, gloves dropped, the duo added, "Management needs to be held accountable.. Management, including the Mayor, Governor and DPI?
Apparently not. Lay it on MPS! They go on. "We need to move forward with the DPI Superintendent's power to oversee the use of the federal funds as outlined in our ["our"?] recent report findings."
What report? What "plan" of DPI's Burmaster? What the hell is going on? I thought news releases were supposed to answer questions. So, allow me to ask Jim, Tom and Libby: Are you getting your ducks in a row to take over MPS--Chicago style? Treat us like adults.
April 24, 2009
Here comes the money!
Guess what. Another election is coming and this one will provide a stimulus to Wisconsin's economy. Jim Doyle is up for a third term (perhaps trying to convince us that term limits have value) but he has not told us if he is running although his fund raising never stopped. The smart money bets he will run. If he does, he will pour $15-20 million into the economy. Jim Klauser, the brains behind Tommy's fund raising, is supporting Mark Neumann. "He's involved with education reform and (the cockamamie--my adjective not Jim's) choice schools" says Klauser. That means the Bradley Boys will probably support Neumann.(One place to fill. Tommy's corporate fund raiser from Bear Sterns is fighting corruption charges in Chicago. Might be busy in 2010.) If Neumann has the fat cats, expect Neumann to spend more than Doyle.
If the Democrats, with majorities in both houses, don't enact public funding they won't get another chance soon.
Is Pakistan falling? Hillary Clinton thinks so. And the NYT quote of the day from a Rand consultant. "I don't know what the Taliban's game plan is but it is apparent the State (Pakistan) has no game plan."
The death toll of our soldiers killed in Iraq--4,268. Ray Spencer of California was the most recent soldier killed. Just imagine a land war in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Whoa Nelly! Barack--don't go there!
Oh, and Scott Walker might sue the state; the state might takeover MPS; and so it goes.
April 23, 2009
Oh, excuse us!
I'm certain you were as surprised as I was that NSA "inadvertently" listened in on Congresswoman Jane Harman's phone calls. Like a party line, they tried to hang up but, well, not quite in time. You don't suppose that nice old Dick Cheney was listening in on lots of congresspeople, do you? Nah, too busy with torture manuals and, if Seymour Hersch is right, assassinations, to listen to phone calls.
Isn't it lucky we learned that Harman was helping AIPEC, and that blackmail of Nancy Pelosi came up? My, my, what you learn by mistake. Imagine if they "inadvertently" listened to Obama or Pelosi or Reid.
Imagine learning that torture was used to force captives to justiy the invasion of Iraq! What has happened to our country?
April 22, 2009
Annie get your gun
Finish the thought..."you are in Wisconsin now"! J.B. Van Hollen, our top law enforcement official, wrote a memo advising that it is not disorderly conduct to carry a loaded hand gun. Huzzah! says NRA. Welcome to wild, wild Wisconsin. Certainly should make Friday night in the bars more interesting.
Reminds me of a Mo Udall story. A drunk challenged a fellow to a duel. When he woke in the morning he was sober and thought how foolish his challenge had been. He wrote a note and summoned his second to carry the note to the challenged: "I'm late--start without me."
At least he was drunk--what's your excuse, J.B.?
April 21, 2009
Bring back the cold war?
In the good old days, during the Cold War, our government could do almost anything because the Soviets could destroy us. But I don't think we had a manual on the fine points of water boarding. I don't recall a course in Officer's Basic training us on the etiquette of head-banging-against-the-wall.
And while the FBI and CIA over-stepped their mandate from time to time, I doubt they engaged in "renditions" of foreign citizens snatched off the street in Italy or Germany and flown to torture havens. Due process? Yah, sure, Ole.
The STASSI, The Ministry of State Security in East Germany shocked the world when their massive spying scheme, aimed at their citizens, was made public after the fall. We were shocked but nothing prepared me for Barack Obama's trip to the CIA to mete out punishment. Or so I imagined. No, he told these law-breakers to keep a stiff upper lip!
"Don't be discouraged." He will never recover. We will never recover. Nuremberg? That's the past--look forward.
April 20, 2009
And so it goes...
UW student John Ertl sent us an article about the hucksters who sell textbooks to college students. Like Monsanto's restrictions on re-using seeds, the textbook sellers change editions, if only a semi-colon to a colon, to discourage students from buying used books.
With soaring tuition killing dreams of families that son or daughter would go to the University, the text book companies are piling on those who make it.
Some of you may recall our sit-in at the Capitol in Madison when Swiss giant Ringier International sold a New Berlin textbook company to Rand McNally after refusing to sell the plant to employees with state backing. The Rand McNally interest was in capturing the college textbook market in the upper Midwest. (Really just tightening their near-monopoly position.) We predicted that the cost of hardcover texts would skyrocket. We were right, but that is little solace to students today.
Had the antitrust department of the federal or state governments been on the job, this travesty would have been stopped. J.B. Van Hollen should investigate. Will he? Not likely.
Look for Ertl's article on FightingBob.com this week.
There were 266 waterboarding episodes on two people? Yikes!
Check out last week's Bill Moyers' Journal. Drug war? C'mon, get serious. Would we have heard of Al Capone without prohibition? It is time to legalize drugs. This war cannot be won and it is corrupting our government and killing thousands. Get real.
April 19, 2009
Pause to recognize
Few in Wisconsin know about the Wisconsin Conservation Hall of Fame. Located in UW-Stevens Point. But it is a special place for those who believe we borrow the earth from our children and their's.
Names of inductees include the familiar and many known only to serious students of our conservation history. Yesterday the Hall was expanded by three good people--Martin Hanson, Herb Behnke, and Chuck Stoddard. Wisconsin is a much better place thanks to the three honored yesterday. Dave Obey and Tia Nelson spoke for Hanson; Tom Lyon spoke for Behnke (who, by the way, blasted Governor Doyle for not restoring the independence of the DNR Secretary); Tom Dawson and Glenn Stoddard spoke eloquently for Glenn's father--the first member of the now-defunct (sad to say) Public Intervener Board. Writer Michael Frome was eloquent in describing Stoddard.
Chuck Stoddard, in a gutsy move when he served in the Interior Department, started the legal ball rolling to stop Reserve Mining from dumping tailings into Lake Superior. Judge Miles Lord took it from there.
A quote from Chuck Stoddard sums it up for me and reminds me of Bill McKibben's talk at Bob Fest last year: "We have a choice about the kind of world we leave to future generations. But unless we heed the warning signals, there may be no historian to recall one day that we failed to act in time."
Words to live by.
April 17, 2009
We did what?
We, the United States of America, a beacon of human rights to the world, or so we claimed, produced a manual on torture! A manual on water torture, on banging prisoner's heads against the wall, on...well no need to go on, but there is a need to apologize to the world community and then to take the lead in rectifying this terrible blight on our record.
Kudos to the president for releasing the memos but that is only the start. People must be prosecuted just as those in Chile and Argentina were punished. The world is watching, hell, we are all watching. This is no time to ignore history.
The pathetic announcement that "those who followed orders will not be punished" is an invitation extended to future presidents to ignore the laws. That defense, known as the Nuremberg defense, was rejected long ago. "I was just following orders" has picked up a cowardly odor that eclipses any oath of obedience. Could anyone participate in water boarding and not know it was illegal?
Sad news: Midge Miller passed away this morning. A great champion of equal rights and peace has found her peace. Well done Midge, well done.
Midge would demand that we join in the anti-land-mine treaty; and stop using or supplying white phosphorus, cluster bombs and drones. We must climb the mountain to reclaim our standing as a civilized nation. Let her life renew our dedication to human rights.
April 15, 2009
Leave it to God?
Norm Coleman, the defeated Minnesota U.S. Senate candidate, refuses to concede and Minnesota's governor, hapless Tim Pawlenty (I got Pawlenty of nuttin...), refuses to do his duty and certify the results, while Texas Senator John Cornyn hovers overhead like a blackhawk helicopter on a mission. (A drone may be a more apt description of Cornyn.)
The Albert Lea Tribune got it right: "Norm Coleman and his legal team say they want no vote left behind, but he and his legal team are trying their best to leave Minnesota behind."
How does Coleman sustain himself? Well, a shadowy group calling itself the "Republican Coalition" pays him. How much? Why? Who knows? What we do know is that the GOP is screaming to stop Franken.
Coleman says, "It's in his hands." He might mean God, or he might think Cornyn is the Savior. Either way, Coleman, Cornyn and Pawlenty play the fool while Gophers suffer. Shame on them.
Ken Bowman, Packer great, is in Madison to re-live the Ice Bowl game. You know, the one Vince coached, Starr scored behind Bowman's block of Jethro Pugh...Oh, that's right. The NFL said it was Jerry Kraemer, not union leader Bowman, threw the block.
What's going on at DPI? Libby Burmaster, MIA at DPI through the spring election of deputy Evers, is back! Armed with a private sector report that no one has read yet, she says she might make dramatic changes in Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS)--with or without the MPS school board's approval. Who needs discussion or debate? Catch this gem from Burmaster, "We've needed systemic change in MPS for long time. The moment is here; it can be seized." Seize what? Who can seize it? What the hell is going on? Doyle, Burmaster, Evers and Barrett seem to know, but we don't. Tell us please. C'mon!
April 14, 2009
A winner in Minnesota
Yes, Al Franken was declared the winner yesterday by the three-judge Court. The panel rejected Coleman's unfounded assertion that the voting had fatal systemic flaws. In fact, the judges found that the November 4 election was "conducted fairly, impartially and accurately."
Franken won by 312 votes and is "therefore entitled to receive the certificate of election." Al Fanken said it is time Minnesota had two Senators like all the other states. Coleman vowed to appeal. I guess Coleman hopes for another Scalia "fix" as in Bush v. Gore. It is highly unlikely, in my view, that the U.S. Supreme Court would ignore the careful recount and decisions by the lower courts in Minnesota.
Coleman, who claimed he was a better Senator than Paul Wellstone 95 percent of the time, is making a fool of himself. Time to get off stage, Norm. It ain't about you.
April 13, 2009
We were very upset when we learned the hard way that former Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle was making a fortune as a lobbyist on the dark side. The news cost him his Obama appointment and sullied his reputation. Today, NYT reports that old friend and Democratic leader Dick Gephardt is urging Obama to slow down on the promise of universal health care. "Think smaller. Seek less. Don't fail," are the words the paper attributes to Gephardt.
An appropriate response in a time when 50 million Americans have no health insurance might be, "Aim low enough and you are sure to succeed." In any event, when I saw that the advice to Obama came from our friend Gerhardt I felt compelled to read the article. Wish I hadn't. He warns that universal health care cannot pass this year. "I feel like it is deja` vu all over again," said Gephardt, who now lobbies for (say it ain't so) corporate America. Oh, damn! Not another one.
The conservative head of the Machinists' union condemned Gephardt by linking his cautionary views on health care to "his new career as a lobbyist for big corporations."
Good lord, must these guys lobby for corporate America? Isn't there any other way to make a living?
Message to Dick, Tom, and god knows how many others: Travel around Wisconsin with me and learn that the number one issue is universal health care. Number one. When I was a youngster I was thrilled that the Warren Court ordered the integration of our schools. But then I learned that the schools would be integrated "with all deliberate speed," and that phrase meant never for thousands of black students. Gephardt went to Northwestern University, so we know he learned the Cubs' mantra, "Wait 'till next year." Well, Dick, uninsured Americans can't wait until the Cubs win the pennant.
April 12, 2009
Degrees of arrogance
Easter Sunday and I get stirred up by Notre Dame? I should just ignore the bro-ha-ha over the invitation issued by the current president of Notre Dame (ND), the Rev. John Jenkins, to president Obama to speak at ND's graduation, but I'm drawn to the story like a moth to a flame. The New York Times op-ed piece is entitled "Degrees of Acceptance at Notre Dame," a school known more for football than scholarship. But, to steal a phrase from the Anti-Defamation League, "Some of my best friends (and one colleague)graduated from Notre Dame." It is a good school.
And in the Civil Rights battles in the 1960s, we had a friend and pillar of strength in then ND President, the Rev. Theodore Hessburgh. The author of the op-ed is Ronald Reagan's national security adviser, Richard Allen, who spells out how today's Church is anything but ecumenical. It is the Church of Opus dei and Pius XII not John XXIII. It is Bishop Morlino not a church dedicated to liberating the poor.
It is back to the days when non-believers like my mother and grandfather could hope for Limbo but never Heaven. Yikes! I thought those thoughts were buried long ago.
Imagine the chutzpah of ND alums, including, according to Allen, "priests, bishops, archbishops and cardinals" (What? No nuns?) demanding that ND withdraw the invitation to speak or, at least, says Allen, refuse to confer an honorary degree on the president, "because degrees honor something." (I did not make up that quote.) Are you kidding us, Mr. Allen? Do you think his presidency will be incomplete without a degree from the Gipper's school?
"Punish" Obama, the president of our country, because he believes that women have rights? Whoa Nelly! Blind arrogance. And the sun revolves around earth.
April 11, 2009
Passover, Easter, and spring. What could be better when we need uplift? It is natural to anticipate renewal and look upward while keeping fingers crossed that winter is finally gone.
In keeping with the spirit, I plunged into the NYT this morning looking for inspiration. I am, to say the least, a bit disappointed. First story deals with Michael Bloomberg, Mayor and news mogul, who has discovered the value of privacy for the super-rich and transparency for the not-so-rich. The mayor took the side of AIG officials who do not want to tell us about their compensation. "I don't think your salary should be in the public domain" if you are in the private sector, said the Mayor. AIG got $170 billion from us, so it might seem that the sensitivities of the banksters might be replaced by openness for us, but hey! Wealth has some privileges.
Meanwhile NYT reports on the NYPD. People arrested after February 2003 "were asked their political beliefs, where they went to school, their thoughts on Israel and the Palestinians, whom they voted for in 2000." Yikes! The responses were put into a data base created by NYPD's intelligence division and marked "Secret."
My conclusion--Bloomberg is one of the great hypocryites in our land. Want privacy? Go out and inherit a bank.
Next up, a story informing us that mob-related companies were hired to build the new taxpayer-supported ball parks for the Mets and the Yankees. Whoa Nelly!
Oh, and famous "newspaperman" Sam Zell may have misused employee trust funds as collateral when he took over the Chicago Tribune. Say it ain't so, Sam. Say it ain't so.
I stopped reading after up-chucking over the price of Bernie Madoff's baseball tickets--two tickets. They were bid up to $2,325 for the Mets home opener at Citi Field. Yes Citi Field.
April 10, 2009
Here's a new one!
President and CEO of Dean Health System, Craig Samitt, announced 90 layoffs. OK so far, but catch this: He said, "Financial reasons didn't force the layoffs." Whoa Nelly! Why, then, did you lay off 90 people, disrupting their careers, causing family financial troubles, and all sorts of other problems, if all's well? Just because you can? He added this nonsensical comment, "For obvious reasons, these decisions were very difficult to make." Really? Obvious to whom?
In keeping with the odd stories, Jim Doyle was spotted yesterday. He and Tom Barrett seem to think that mayor and former congressman Barrett can run the Milwaukee schools better than the school board if he and Doyle get involved. You know, a take-over by the mayor. Yikes!
Why did they wait until after the elections Tuesday to suggest there is trouble in the Brew City? "There will be changes and action as a result of a report" that was apparently held back from the public until the spring elections were held. I think a debate would have been healthy.
April 9, 2009
Time to leave
Thousands of Iraqis hit the streets to mark the sixth year of the American invasion and to demand we go home. Let's go! President Obama dropped in to cheer the troops and the response when he called on Iraq to take over tells me that the troops have had it. I suspect no one wants to catch the last helicopter out of Baghdad.
I am not kidding. Here is a New York Times headline: "Corruption Undermines U.S. Hopes for Improving Afghan Police." I thought, ho-hum another Cheney, Halliburton, Blackwater story, but no, it is corruption in Afghanistan. Damn! "Officials who steal truckloads of gasoline; judges who make decisions based on bribes..." Whoa Nelly! (I wonder if WMC selects their judges.) "Payoffs from hashish smuggling...payment for political jobs."
As Vonnegut might say, "And so it goes." Ask yourself why we are plunging in.
April 8, 2009
On to reform!
Congratulations to Justice Shirley Abrahamson.
Any one who thinks our corrupt, privatized, money-driven electoral system has magically been repaired based on the re-election of Chief Justice Abrahamson needs counseling. The bully, WMC, with a comfortable majority on the Court, sat out this race, but they have not gone away nor have they thrown out the winning formula. One might conclude WMC did so because they found religion, or a new commitment to fairness, or the cow jumped over the moon and they couldn't deal with it. Here are my thoughts.
WMC over-played their hand in the last two Supreme Court races and the two candidates they supported are, to be kind, ethically challenged. Probably over cocktails at the Madison Club, the decision was made to use this election as a test. See just how important attack ads on TV really are while relying exclusively on GOTV efforts and lull the clean government types to sleep. After all, the Democrats control the Legislature and "if we jump into the race this time the Democrats might pull themselves together and pass public financing."
But let's give credit to the staff of Justice Abrahmson and to the Chief herself. She is one hell of a candidate, a great Justice, she campaigned hard, and ran a good campaign.
We will never know if she would have won had the bully pumped in six or seven million bucks, and now let us demand public financing of all judicial races. She raised lots of money but could never have matched the bully. But for now, enjoy.
The Fighting Bob crew went door-to-door on election day reminding folks to vote. Thanks from all of us.
And Peter Blewett won big in the Milwaukee School Board race; credit MTI and WEAC for the Tony Evers victory; congratulations to Kathy Falk.
A good day.
April 7, 2009
Election day is here!
Had fun at Fighting Bob phone bank last night, as usual. Just about all the calls were positive--we were calling you, of course but our message was appreciated. (In Chippewa Saturday night,one couple was pleased that she got one call and he got the next one. All bases covered.) We estimate over 2,500 calls to remind folks to vote. A good start for Fighting Bob's new voter education project.
I can't shout any louder--Vote! Today--yes, today, Tuesday, April 7. Supreme Court, DPI, county exec, school boards, referendums, judges--this counts friends.
Special thanks to our volunteers and to Peter McKeever who coordinated the GOTV effort.
April 6, 2009
No more troops
The Europeans appear to love Obama and family but show little enthusiasm for his effort to recruit troops for America's Afghanistan adventure. One can almost hear the Europeans say, "Been there done that."
They were pressured to help in Vietnam, Iraq, and now Pakistan/Afghanistan. The pattern is familiar. The U.S.'s decide to go to war, quickly learn they need help, and a quick trip to NATO is arranged. When NATO does not comply, we wheel out Henry Kissinger or other relics of the Cold War, and warn Europe of impending disaster. Bush responded with the infamous "Coalition of the Willing." That was about the bottom of the barrel, but it appears that at best Obama is creating the Coalition of the Unwilling.
I sense that the president wants to limit our involvement but that is not possible. Once in, if things go poorly or well the chicken hawks will scream that we need more, need a surge, must invade Pakistan to save it.
One hopes the tepid response from Europe will convince Obama that we have also been there and done that. We voted for change.
April 5, 2009
In a few days we will find out if Wisconsin voters are awake. The main stage is the Supreme Court; then DPI; and in many communities, election of school boards, judges and important referendums on school budgets.
Yes, it was important to vote in the presidential election, but it is, in many ways, just as important to vote on Tuesday.
It was fun at the Chippewa County dinner last night--several Bob Fest vets were delighted to have been called by Fighting Bob GOTV volunteers. (We have made more than 2,000 calls.)
And even more fun to learn how many start their day with FightingBob.com. (Made it easier to crawl out of bed this morning.)
Last week, Eau Claire's spring gala; last night, Chippewa's Jefferson Jackson dinner. The spirit at both was and is contagious. "Yes we can" has ignited a movement. Great enthusiasm for Obama, national health care, public financing of campaigs, and most seemed to agree with my plea to stay out of Afghanistan. My informal poll shows a gender gap. The women have read Three Cups of Tea and the men have not. Get thee to the library!
April 4, 2009
Obama wins Europe
Not since JFK accompanied Jackie to Paris has there been anything like the Obama arrival on the world scene. What an incredible visit. (My favorite moment was when Michelle put her arm around the queen. It was so natural and it looked like the queen liked it. But cluck, cluck, cluck went the queen lovers. Don't touch? Nonsense.)
And Obama's town hall approach was clearly appreciated by the attentive audience, if his message was, not-so-much. Trying to sell the Europeanization of the unfortunate Afghanistan war was not a big seller. Nor should it be.
I have heard from some of you that we should go easy on Afghanistan criticism and, in essence, trust him. My problem is experience. I entered the Army in September, 1963, proud of our president. JFK had a boatload of brilliant people advising him. Robert McNamara, our own Les Aspin, the "whiz kids." All we needed then was a flexible approach; Green Berets, and a training program for the Vietnamese army. We would send "advisors." We would do what the French could not do. We, in our arrogance, would pacify Vietnam.
But terrible things happened and soon we were engaged in non-stop bombing, defoliation, thousands and thousands of soldiers, government telling lie after lie, Westmoreland's body counts, and LBJ's threats. Rember My Lei, Tet.
Years later I would take an early morning cab alone to visit The Wall. Fifty-eight thousand or is it 59,000 names? They died. For what? Henry Kissinger's domino theory?
I am so proud of Obama I could burst, but now is the time to let him know: everyone goes or no one goes. And we dont want Obama's war.
April 3, 2009
Michael Gableman defeated Louis Butler by a whisker, 51-49, in the Supreme Court race last year. Actually it was not a whisker, it was a false TV spot telling the voters that Butler found a loophole in the law and used it too free a convicted rapist. Not true, of course, but Gableman now claims it was true! Why this blatant distortion of the record? Because the Judicial Commission has accused Gableman of "knowingly running a false and misleading ad." That is a violation of the ethics rules and it could cost him his seat on the Court--and should.
Gableman admitted that he was "uncomfortable" with the ad but gave the green light to his campaign to run it after studying it. So, he is hoist on his own petard: He knowingly ran a false ad by his admission, or so it seemed. He admitted that he saw the ad, thought about it, and put it on TV throughout the state. So, first it was false; second, he decided to run the false ad. Result? Off the Court perhaps? Ah, not so fast Fridley! Gableman brought in a lawyer from Indiana, James Bopp, a right-wing pit bull, to say, "No way. The ad was true and Gableman took reasonable steps to make sure it was accurate." And chickens have lips and pigs fly. (I made that up about pigs and chickens.)
Low turnout on Tuesday? Sure hope not. Fighting Bob jumped in and made over 2,500 calls to our friends to remind them to vote. Damned important. I predict 35 percent turnout. Don't forget!
I will speak Saturday at the Chippewa county JJ dinner to recruit callers for Tuesday. Should be fun.
April 2, 2009
Noam Chomsky is coming
Noam Chomsky, the brilliant MIT professor, will be in Madison Tuesday, April 7. Tickets are still available. Contact the Orpheum www.orpheumtheatre.net. If you have never attended a Chomsky lecture you are in for a treat.
His subject: "Assessing the role U.S. Foreign Policy, Israeli Security & Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories." (Controversial? Nah.)
Tickets are $10. See you there at 7:30.
April 1, 2009
Bankruptcy as an aid to recovery?
The first time I entered a bankruptcy court I was trying to help unionized workers from Seymour, Wisconsin. Their employer had declared bankruptcy and the union folks were not consulted. Ta Dah! We would help protect them. The workers filled the gallery; various desks were occupied by well-dressed lawyers, all of whom treated me with disdain--an unwelcome outsider.
The well-dressed folks represented those they identified as "stakeholders"--you know, secured creditors called banks, stockholders and unsecured creditors. When the Judge asked us to identify ourselves, the lawyers took turns telling the judge that I should not be allowed to participate because I did not represent any of the "stakeholders"--only the employees! Whoa Nelly! Thirty-nine years in the plant and not a stakeholder?
Even after the judge ruled that I could participate on behalf of the employees, the other lawyers would jump up and object every time I stood to address the Court. Let's face it. Bankruptcy is, for the most part, designed to help employers, secured creditors and other creditors. They have the home-court advantage.
Often they team up with employers to ask the Court to discard the collective bargaining agreements. The arguement? The company has a better chance of survivivg if the workers get less. I'm not making this up.
If GM files for bankruptcy, don't expect the workers to gain much, if anything. Ah, the sanctity of contracts! Depending on your side of the class war, forget about it.