February 28, 2010
We keep on keepin' on!
February 23, 2003, was our first GarveyBlog post on FightingBob.com. And, wouldn't you know, the subject was the corrosive effect of money in politics. "No matter where you are, the irrefutable fact is that money, and the ability to raise it, has neutered our political parties."
Today we face even tougher times--the Supreme Court and its ruling that corporations will be able to spend unlimited amounts of money on TV ads expressly advocating for a candidate's election or defeat. They might have killed democracy. But we cannot accept that conclusion.
Add to that: Corporate contributions can now be anonymous unless we change the law! Whoa Nelly!
Since February, 2003, we have posted more than 3,000 blog entries and 1,100 articles. And 15,000 of you visit the site every week; we have had more than 5 million visits over the life of Bob.com. "Is this a private fight..."
We get extraordinary Feedback--lots of suggestions, and, of course we sponsor Fighting Bob Fest , which has welcomed more than 40,000 progressives over this time span to applaud and be inspired by great speakers. Baraboo has become the nation's annual gathering spot for progressives.
It is the largest political gathering in the Mid-west. (Shhh! Don't tell the media--they are too busy covering 600 screamers at the Tea Party convention!)
All this with your contributions and lots of volunter time. Hate to admit it, but we need some financial support to keep plowing new ground. Help if you can. Send 20 bucks, write an article, keep the faith that we have not seen the end of democracy.
Oh, and Happy Birthday!
February 27, 2010
The first day was tolerable--almost interesting at times. But day two seemed to me like a speed skater who ran out of gas with two laps to go. No gold, no silver, no bronze--not even applause from the audience. Nope. The health care summit was disqualified. I had high hopes that the Republican adults would show up after lunch and start a dialog, but apparently there are none.
It is time for Democrats to pull the trigger. Take the vote; live with the results. The Republicans cannot be convinced to compromise. This farce must end.
Doyle and DNR: Jim Doyle has done it. He has maintained the power of a partisan governor to appoint the DNR Secretary. Everyone is angry. Remember the days when we had a Public intervenor and an independent DNR? Well, wake up folks.
Our birthday is this week. We will remind you about our accomplishments tomorrow. Happy birthday, FightingBob.com!
February 26, 2010
I can't wait!
Next week Northwestern University will sponsor a speech by Rod Blagojevich with a remarkable title, "Ethics in Politics: An evening with the former Governor." An explanation from comic Larry Miller: "At least he is a homegrown American thief."
Should we rent a bus? Do you think the payday loan people would pick up the tab?
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the father and mother to citizen-with-First-Amendment-rights WMC, is angry. No, furious. Apoplectic. Why? The news from NY Times is that the Obama administration is thinking of negotiating with the federal government's vendors for higher wages and better benefits for their employees. Imagine that!
About time! The government awards $500 billion in contracts--indeed one in four workers is employed by companies that have contracts with the feds, so why not pressure these folks at-the-trough to do better for their employees? Put money in the hands of people who will spend it!
The Chamber thinks a "living wage" for non-bankers is a horrible idea. And they oppose single-payer universal health care. O.K. Now what? Instead of the government picking up the tab, let WMC pay for health care and a living wage to employees working for companies seeking contracts from the federal monster they claim to hate?
The Chamber hates unions and helps corporations who want to remain union-free. The Chamber spends millions on lobbying to gain favors for its members. OK, let's play! Spread the wealth just a little. C'mon!
And while we are at it, how about an executive order that vendors may not contribute to federal campaigns--conflict of interests? Let us hear from you.
Almost ignored the healthcare summit. I think Obama pulled it off. The "start over" chant ain't fooling anyone.
February 24, 2010
Peace might break out---then what?
I forget who came up with the made-for-T-shirt slogan "Peace breaks Out: Wall Street Collapses," but the idea was right-on. Just the thought of peace scares the hell out of Robert Gates. He is worried. Here's the headline in NYT: "Gates Sees Danger in Europe's Anti-Military Views."
OK you peace lovers, now what? A perception of European weakness, Gates warns us in the article, "Could provide a temptation to miscalculation and aggression." Yikes! Not that. Liechtenstein attacks Andorra, Spain, on warpath to Germany, score to settle. Where will the miscalculations stop?
Gates, still celebrating our victory in Afghanistan, with elections just arround the corner, is worried. I like that. Oops! Karzai kills independent election panel...27 civilians killed...c'mon Europe. Join us!
February 23, 2010
You must be kidding!
Bill Moyers Journal has repeated its "Justice for Sale" program. You must see it and then ask, "How are we doing in Wisconsin?"
Recently, I tried to explain how "impartial justice" works in the land of La Follette. Here is what the nationally respected Chief Justice wrote: "Justices Prosser, Roggensack and Ziegler have reached the extraordinary conclusion that this court never has the power to guarantee that all members are impartial." Try explaining that to a high school civics class!
It seems clear that Prosser, Roggensack, Ziegler and (probably) Gableman believe WMC can pour as much money as they want into any Supreme Court election, including Justice Prosser's re-election campaign, without worrying that they might be going over the line. ("Over the line" means the justice receiving millions of dollars in campaign contributions, could be forced to recuse.) Not in Wisconsin! Only the recipient can disqualify himself from a case even though the case might involve a big contributor such as WMC!
Now lets think about the Supreme Court decision holding that corporations cannot be limited in giving to candidates. Toyota just hired 30 lobbyists; Toyota spent $25 million last year on federal regulatory lobbying. Should that be allowed? Should we permit foreign corporations to control or buy influence in our government? If a member of the Wisconsin court receives $10 million from Toyota, should that justice be disqualified in a case involving Toyota? You say yes, Justice Prosser says no. Yikes!
Time for reform.
February 22, 2010
Lots of discussion at the Dane County grass roots session about money in politics. A recent headline in the New York Times spoke volumes: "Irked, Wall St. Hedges Its Bet on Democrats. Banks Send Message, Donating to GOP."
Banks should love the Republicans. It is hardly news that they give money to the Republican Party. But in the man-bites-dog-dog-dies category is that Wall Street has been backing the Democrats. Yikes!
There was a lot of third-party talk in Mazomanie Saturday. When the bankers are confused why aren't Democrats entitled to a little confusion?
Very little support for the Race to the Top--the cockamamie mayoral take over of the MPS Board. Most expressed support for locally elected school boards not the Doyle/Duncan plan.
Livestock siting hearings
A reminder that listening sessions on rules for livestock siting operations are scheduled tomorrow in Eau Claire at the Town of Washington Town Hall. There are more hearings coming up: Oshkosh on March 2 at the Winnebago County U.W. Extension, J.P. Coughlin Center, 625 East County Road Y. and then in Wausau, Wednesday, March 3, at the Marathon County UW Extension, 212 River Drive.
Tomorrow's hearing is from 3:30 to 7:00. Come and give your views.
February 21, 2010
Ah, the smart war
President Obama forces us to recall Robert McNamara and his brilliant "whiz kids." They had war figured out in Vietnam--our team was smarter, better educated, better equipped and had all the right plans. The U.S. would pacify the people and win the war.
Think about Afghanistan and Obama's "smarter, wiser, better team." This would be the "good war."
I prefer Howard Zinn's message that there are no good wars. But no matter; it is Obama's war-good or bad. How is it going? Well, a few recent news items provide some insight. NYT headline: "Afghan Army Lags in Battle." The article goes on to say, "The effort to train the Afghan Army has long been troubled." And, "The Marines are doing the heavy lifting."
How are NATO troops doing? Oops! The Dutch government just fell--the Dutch don't want to be part of the war in Afghanistan. Can you blame them?
(How about Iraq? Well, not so good.) "Popular Sunni political party to boycott Iraqi election."
How is the Marja plan coming along? In Marja, advisers face an even more daunting task: How to establish basic local governance where there are no civil servants, no indigenous policemen, and no public buildings.
One civilian said, "We're afraid of the Taliban and the Marines." One of the guys the U.S. wants to put in power does not come from the area and doesn't know many people. I'll bet he will do well.
So our smarter, better educated, motivated troops are failing. Why? You know why.
February 19, 2010
Fighting Bob hits the road
Mazomanie, second Bob Jr. Fest at 10 a.m. tomorrow--Wisconsin Heights High School. Mike McCabe. Raging Grannies, and me, if time permits. Good weather, good program, great music. Now that democracy is dead we might as well relax and enjoy!
Planning group meets on Sunday in Chippewa Falls (715-723-6941) for Northern Bob Fest to be held in 2011. A fundraiser is scheduled for May 22. Calling all friends--jump in, the water is fine.
Discouraged? I have never heard so many people who are giving up on the system in light of the absurd ruling by the Supreme Court. We must respond.
Last night a tribute to Howard Zinn was held at the UW student union. Superb video clips from Zinn's last visit to Madison produced by Karen Chin; good talks, lots of deep feelings. Zinn once said, "I write so people do not feel alone." Well put. We will miss this great historian.
February 18, 2010
What Would a Centrist Do?
Evan Bayh, old "cut and run," insists that we call him a "centrist." Fair enough, but what is a "centrist"? I want to know, because maybe I are one! What would a centrist say about building a thousand nuclear reactors? Would he go for 600? Or 50? How do the centrists feel about the polar bear? Climate change?
Do centrists pray in school? Are the schools all privatized in the centrist's dream world? How about toll roads? War in Afghanistan? Should we use tactical nukes as Goldwater proposed?
Evan, we hardly knew ya. You left no tracks for us to follow. Could you write the Centrists' Manifesto on your way out the door? Please.
Oh, almost forgot: Are corporations people like you and me? You know--would you give them First Amendment rights? Should elections be auctions? Oh, never mind. Go write your manifesto on moral centrism.
February 17, 2010
End of Wild West!
Assembly Representative Donna Seidel from Wausau is normally a sensible voice for Democrats in the Assembly, but these are not normal times. When the Assembly passed the weak regulation of payday loans, Seidel said this is the "end of Wild West" loans in Wisconsin. "It will end the debt trap for thousands."
She had a big hill to climb. First, the Speaker had changed his mind on regulation of the industry from pushing a cap on interest rates of 36 percent to no cap, saying the "cap went too far." We were relieved that his dating a lobbyist for the industry had no impact on the Speaker, but the industry prevailed--no cap on interest. Shame on the Democrats for not passing a bill Bob LaFollette would have been proud of.
Demonstration was a wake-up call. I never know how many people will show up on a cold day in February to protest a Supreme Court decision. I was pleasantly surprised yesterday that somewhere between 100 and 200 "mad as hell" citizens turned out on the Capitol steps to denounce the worst Court decision since Dred Scott. The notion of corporations as citizens is so nutty, all of us are scrambling for an answer. Good for the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign and Ben Manski for organizing the wake-up call to the state. This ruling is the death of democracy--it must be challenged and changed. (Memo to Evan Bayh: Now that you have run for the hills, do you have time to figure out how we can restore democracy?)
Saturday in Mazo. This Saturday, Nate Timm is hosting a mini-Bob Fest at Wisconsin Heights High School. Come and help us figure out our next step. It starts at 10 a.m.--see you there.
Carl--what happened? President Obama disappointed most of us again by announcing that he has caved to Republicans on nuclear power. He promised $8.33 billion in federal loan guarantees for two new reactors to be constructed in Georgia. Lindsey Graham said it is a "good first step." Robert Gibbs said, I kid you not, this "might not make everybody in the Democratic Party happy, but the announcement demonstrates to Republicans his willingness to be part of the dialog."
Peter Bradford, Vermont Law School professor and former member of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission said, "There are many cheaper ways to displace carbon, and there are many cheaper ways to provide for electric power supply." I was eager to read the Sierra Club denunciation. Instead I found that Carl Pope, Sierra Club executive director, also wants to be part of the Obama-Republican dialog. Catch this: "We are pleased Obama has reiterated the need for clean energy." Yikes! He is on our side?
February 16, 2010
Today is the deadline to file petitions to qualify as a Democrat for U.S. Senate in Indiana. The guy with $13 million in his campaign treasury and the odds-on favorite dropped by to say he won't be running for the Senate. I suppose he could have told the Party, Harry Reid, his colleagues in the Senate, or even the President, but had he done that he would not have held center stage to condemn the institution he was, until yesterday, seeking to be part of.
Evan Bayh, son of former Indiana Senator Burch Bayh, waited until the last minute to step aside. Unfair to everyone except Evan. Bayh, always called a centrist, said there is "too much narrow ideology and not enough practical problem solving" in the Senate, so he is out despite leaving no tracks we know about. "Pox on both your houses" seems to be his message; not "get conrol of the lobbyists, get corporate money out of politics, fight for universal health care, raise the minimum wage to a living wage." Nah! None of that. Just call me centrist Evan, the guy who didn't try.
Terrence Wall--you must be kidding! He admits he is worth between $58 and $130 million but he has paid no Wisconsin income taxes in nine of the last 10 years? How about a new slogan: "Help Terrence put the 'con' back in Wisconsin."
February 15, 2010
March for democracy!
Tomorrow--February 16, noon, Capitol steps--then to Federal Court House. Mad as hell and will raise hell until we get our democracy back!
See you there.
Why couldn't he wait?
Some people sure know how to ruin a good time! OK. Leroy Nash was 94 years-old. And he was deaf, blind and mentally incompetent, but he was going to be executed by the state. Law and order, I say. Good for you, Arizona.
True, Nash had been in prison since he was 15. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in September that he was entitled to a hearing "to determine if he was competent to assist in his defense." Since "he has been mentally ill for decades" one might have expected Arizona to show some humanity, but nope! They objected to a hearing. They wanted to kill him.
But he messed with the system. He died of natural causes. Damn it!
February 14, 2010
What should we do? I must admit that I don't know. You? In search of the perfect answer we posted a superb article by John Nichols; then we urge you read Lawrence Lessig's prescription in The Nation. I think Lessig has it right--we must get money out of Congress. Congress no longer functions. So,democracy no longer works. President Obama is not up to the fight. So, it is apparently up to us.
A constitutional convention? I opposed that idea for years--fearing that the Bill of Rights might be abolished at a convention. But thanks to Alito, Roberts and Scalia, we have little left to lose. Let's roll the dice!
Finally, I called Jim Hightower and UW law professor Carin Claus seeking answers. I hope they will write for us. There are many great minds tackling the issue created by the "Roberts Radicals"--but we are needed.
The idea that corporations are, in essence, human beings with heart, soul, mind and purpose beyond money-making is so radical it leaves me almost speechless. Why can't they run for Congress? Let's let them rule.
Think about Exxon-Mobil dumping 50 million into the Feingold race and ask, Can any one stop this corporate takeover of our country?
Then there is the Payday loan "industry" proving our point. You have 30+ lobbyists, a Legislature dancing to their tune, scandal followed by bickering while people in need are gouged. Here & Now interviewed the director of the Center for Responsible Lending. The conclusion? Wisconsin Dems are selling "woof tickets." Their "reform" is no reform. The Sheridan cure is Swiss cheese.
Send us your thoughts. By the way, our birthday is coming soon.
February 13, 2010
Wonder no more
You may be wondering why prescription drugs cost so much. Well, wonder no more. Read this from the Open Secrets website: "At nearly $266.8 million, the pharmaceutical and health products industry's federal lobbying expenditures not only outpaced all other business industries and special interest areas in 2009, but stand as the greatest amount ever spent on lobbying efforts for one year."
Think about it. They spent $266 million on federal lobbying, and that is before the Supreme Court's awful decision that corporations cannot be limited in their political contributions. One industry; $266 million that they admit they spent.
In all, federal lobbyists spent $3.47 billion. This from the Center for Responsive Politics, one of my all-time favorites.
Meanwhile, Billy Tauzin, the ethically-challenged founder of the Blue Dogs, has been forced out as chief graft-distributor for big PhRMA. (He quit Congress for a $2 million salary, screwed seniors on the way out the door, and recently went to secret meetings at the Obama White House to make a deal. Get this: The Washington Post reports his ouster as a blow to Obama. Yikes!
Imagine if the pharmaceuticals give $20 million to a candidate for the next Supreme Court election in Wisconsin. "So what?" would be the answer of three justices. It is up to that justice to determine if that huge contribution influenced him or her.
Be sure to watch Bill Moyers Journal next Friday. He will review his "Justice For Sale" program.
How far we have fallen!
February 12, 2010
Grab your paintbrush!
In a Whoa Nelly moment, our state Supreme Court has published the opinions of two factions on the court. Justices Abrahamson, Crooks and Ann Walsh Bradley correctly, in my humble opinion, wrote that briefs should be written and an argument held on the question of impartiality of justices accused of bias.
Justices Annette Ziegler, David Prosser and Pat Roggensack disagreed. No need for briefs--they can't disqualify a fellow justice no matter what!
Justice Ziegler wrote this attack on her colleagues: "The writings of Chief Justice Abrahamson and Justice Crooks are "painting a mule to resemble a zebra, and then going zebra hunting." (Happens all the time. One dead zebra permitted.) I am not making this up.
Justice David Prosser had a unique idea: "The Court should have denied the motion (asking Gableman to recuse himself) quickly, without comment. This would have avoided exposing this controversy within the Court." And all the unwashed could sleep through all this nasty stuff. Don't wake us, please.
When you think of it, would it not be better to keep the riff-raff out of the room when the justices are listening to lawyers argue? Can't we all just get along?
Well, the WMC argument is, apparently, that you could always go to federal court to seek relief. (Not to mention the World Court in Holland!)
So where are we? Suppose you think a justice is biased. Imagine, as a "what-if," that WMC has donated $10 million to one of the seven justices. Are you helpless if that justice declares "Money has no impact me. I will not recuse."
Off to federal court with you!
Forget about it! Scott Walker, the Milwaukee privatizer running for governor, has a message for Obama: Keep your $823 million for high speed rail linking Madison and Milwaukee. Huh? He wants rapid transit buses! He says rail might not pay for itself. Is he nuts?
A comment to JS was appropriate: "Walker would have refused federal funding of highways because of the increased costs of plowing!"
Our state is in bad shape. I think I will go over to Vilas Zoo and shoot a zebra or a lion or a monkey.
February 11, 2010
Frank would be smiling
The Remington Center, located in a few offices in the UW Law School, is named after Frank Remington, who lived to serve the people of Wisconsin and the cause of justice at the same time. I miss Frank every day, and today is no exception. He was the personification of the Wisconsin Idea and the professor of law we frequently turned to when a tough policy question called for common sense.
He would be smiling today as the Attorney General of the state, yes, our state, sent a memo to prosecutors throughout Wisconsin asking for a "heads up" about cases involving the Remington Center or the Innocence Project. I am not kidding. Get this: J.B. said, through one of his assistants, "If you get any such cases in the future I would like to be contacted."
Note to Keith Findley, Innocence Project co-director: Keep going forward. Pay no attention to an AG who would not understand why his memo is dangerous. Frank would smile. I suggest the memo proves that it is tough to get high quality candidates these days.
Back to school, J.B.
Words, words: Frank Luntz, GOP consultant, instructed Republicans and banksters opposing a new agency to protect consumers to use these words: "bloated bureaucracy," "big bank bailout bill," "wasteful Washington spending," and, the old favorite, "unintended consequences." The Chamber of Commerce, exercising it's Alito-granted First Amendment rights, has spent millions on a campaign against a new federal agency to protect consumers.
Meanwhile, Wisconsin can't get a bill passed on payday loans. Think the federal agency isn't needed? Think again.
February 10, 2010
Add hot water and stir
Garrison Keillor commented on the $100,000 Tea Party speech Sarah Palin read from her palm. The speech lasted 40 minutes, and was "of no distinction whatsoever," Keillor said. She said things like, "I'm so proud to be an American" (remember Tommy's "I bleed Badger red"?) and "Happy Birthday Ronald Reagan." Had she been told that Ronnie would not be there?
Garrison points out that no work went into that speech. "It was butterscotch pudding made from a box, add hot water and stir."
But the goof-nuts in Nashville had nothing on Wisconsin legislators when it comes to the topic of payday loans. Not content with one bill, the Democrats, huddled with more than 30 lobbyists, and promised two bills; one from Assembly Dems, the other from Senate Dems, with the prediction that no bill will pass! And one Democrat who thinks the industry does not need regulation voted to pass a bill and let it be known that "we busted our butts on this bill." Jason Fields said that. He added, "So it's a little disrespectful to me...to think we didn't work hard on this."
I won't go over the relationship-building-with-lobbyist-corps-Speaker who did not appear at the press briefing. "Basically his direction was just, 'Get something done. It is a priority. You guys hammer it out,'" Assembly Representative Jason Fields said. "We're here before you today showing that we have something done." (I know what you are thinking. Garvey is making this up. Well, read WSJ and weep.)
Bi-partisan nonsense: Note to Axelrod--stop the nonsense. Bipartisanship is a dirty word. The administration has made clear that no one gets punished, no one is praised, and no good deed goes unpunished in the land of Obama. I think it was Truman who said, "You have to break some eggs to make an omelet." Well, it is omelet time!
February 9, 2010
Is there a community?
The Washington Post has discovered the wonders of snow and asks some questions we answered in our area years ago. If you dig out your car, asks the Post, can you claim ownership of that space or at last reserve it for your return home? Answer from Wisconsin: of course not. Snow removal on the street is a collective responsibility.
I suspect all of us have uttered one or two of George Carlin's seven forbidden words as the snow plow whizzes by, covering our just-shoveled driveway or re-burying our car with two feet of snow. But we chuckle and start digging. We are all responsible--we belong to a commonwealth. Right? Well, not so fast.
"Whose job is this?" asked a citizen who fell on an icy sidewalk. "Who is not doing their part and why not?" The Post offers an excuse: "Washington's long history of mild winters has left residents [get this] without a common sense of snow etiquette."
That's what our nation needs--a book of snow etiquette. Emily Post, where are you when we need you?
Then my mind shifted from blocked driveways in snow that will soon melt, good manners or bad, to Haiti. Headline: A month later, earthquake relief efforts still fall short.
How would we fare in such a catastrophe? Would we pitch in to help one another? Would we give up our possessions to the commonwealth? Recognize that taking food for survival is not looting? I'm not so sure. While I don't think we need a snow-etiquette guidebook, we had better check the crystal ball for how we plan to handle disasters in the future. Would we wait patiently in line for water and food or try to purchase favors?
Will we stick with the battle or leave? A relief worker in Haiti put the question to us: "We're so afraid that once it gets unsexy, we will be forgotten." And they will be forgotten unless we keep up the fight.
And now think back to the Capitol. At least the 30,000 lobbyists were unable to function for a few days.
February 8, 2010
Do you get it?
I watched 15 minutes of Sarah Palin's speech to the Tea Party nuts gathered in Nashville. The room exploded with foot-stomping, hand-clapping, and yelling for this spokesperson for the "angry Americans." I suspect this is really nothing more than another attempt to revive the White Citizen's Council, but I get nervous when I recall how dismissive I was toward movie actor Ronald Reagan. ("President Reagan? Get serious.") And they did. Maybe I am too dismissive of Palin. How about you?
So, listening to Palin's simplistic ideas gave me the willies. People like her. No, they love her. Not all people, of course, and not a majority, but the ones who did not get a tear in the eye as Obama, a black man, was inaugurated. They like her and they will throw millions of corporate dollars her way now that the Supreme Activists have told us that corporations are citizens and can dump any amount they want into political campaigns. So, chuckle at Palin, but think about Palin with a billion dollars to spend on her image. Whoa Nelly!
Yes, indeed. Why prop up a loser like John McCain, or an adult called "Mitt," or a former Arkansas governor, when you can get a former beauty queen on stage with a box full of goofy ideas and 20 percent of the people loving her from the get-go?
Forget about substance--it's Show Time! Put her on Fox, give her the best Madison Avenue has to offer, plug her with the purple pill, and voilà! President Palin and Vice President Lieberman.
I think I'll go back to bed
February 7, 2010
Her day will come! Really. Be patient!
When I read the Sunday Wisconsin State Journal, I always read the musings of Scott Milfred. His columns, as editorial page editor, are, if nothing else, kind of humorous. (I'm not kidding. He claims to be the editorial page editor.)
This week he argues that Barbara Lawton should not blame gender preference for her inability to raise mega-bucks from the Old Boys. He rambles on about other women in politics and finally concedes we have never elected a woman senator or governor. But, not to worry: "Wisconsin will surely elect a female governor soon. Nearly half the states have." Very persuasive, Scott. Now the clincher: "The new girls club just needs the right candidate with strong experience and cross-party appeal to break through."
Payday nonsense: The fifteen-minute pause. One part of the proposed Democratic legislative regulation of the god-awful payday loan industry would require borrowers to wait--get this--15 minutes after learning the full cost of a loan before accepting it. Thirty lobbyists are in Madison to protect the pay-day industry. Thirty! Other provisions include a maximum loan of $600. Can you believe it?
February 6, 2010
Let us hear from you!
When you go to Camp Randall for a Badger football game, everyone (or so it seems) wears red in support of the home team. Same at the Kohl Center when the UW hockey and basketball teams take the floor--we are one group in support of our university and our team. Doesn't matter if you are a Socialist, Democrat, Green or Republican, we cheer for the common goal.
This week I drove to Milwaukee to tape a program with one of my heroes, Vel Phillips. The MATC program was focused on our progressive past. The host pointed out that Vel is the only African-American to win statewide office in our state's history, dating back to 1848! The only one. (It must also be said that we have never elected a woman to the U.S. Senate or Governor.) Progressive?
We had to discuss the shameful "Willie Horton"-style campaign launched against Supreme Court Justice Louis Butler--an African-American who should have joined Vel in the winner's circle but was defeated. He has been nominated by the President to the federal bench in Madison. The Judiciary Committee has voted to confirm Butler twice--12-7.
It is time to hear from the Wisconsin home team. Sensenbrenner, Petri, Ryan--let's hear from you. Put on your red sweater and announce that the Senate should confirm our guy! No filibuster--please. If they remain silent and this good man loses in overtime, it will be a reminder of our past; the bad past not the good.
The call came after my blog entry was posted yesterday. Tony Evers, DPI head, praised by Governor Doyle, has threatened to block $176 million in federal money scheduled to go to Milwaukee Public Schools. In his State of the State speech, Jim Doyle threatened MPS. He "guaranteed" us that MPS would be a broken system. Yikes! MPS refused to go with the Arne Duncan, Doyle, Barrett scheme to replace the elected school board with the mayor of Milwaukee. So, punish them! Make them fail! Whoa Nelly, Governor, play fair. If you can't persuade your colleagues to go with your idea, don't punish the kids!
It is time for Tom Barrett to declare he is not running as Doyle-lite--he is his own man. MPS is his responsibility.
An old friend said "they must be kidding." Sadly, I don't think they are.
February 5, 2010
Here they come!
Custer's last words, or so I heard, were, "We got'em where we want 'em boys! We can shoot in any direction."
How should we describe the lobbyists in D.C. and Madison? They have us surrounded! In Madison, they got together to oust the Speaker of the Assembly. In D.C., the big drug companies went to the White House to cut a secret deal to ban the import of drugs from Canada; they have spent hundreds of millions of dollars to defeat universal health care. Unlike locusts, they show up every day not every seven years.
Check out these stories: "Industry Lobbying Imperils Obama Overhaul of Student Loans." Obama called his reform a "no-brainer," and I agree. But the plan is in trouble: "With lenders using sit-downs with lawmakers, town-hall style meetings and petition drives to plead their case," the no-brainer is looking more and more like "no-guts." In 2009, Sallie Mae spent $8 million on lobbying and, catch this--the company's PACs made $2.1 million in political contributions last year. They ought to be prosecuted for attempted bribery but, no, that might interfere with their First Amendment rights!
The hoard of lobbyists argues that the bill would cost jobs--just like the arguments of two dozen payday lobbyists in Madison. "An Ill-conceived government takeover that could put thousands of people out of work at private lending centers." Note--"banks" or "banksters" are now, "lending centers." Sure!
Next--"Dodd Denounces Pace of Banking Overhaul." No one has mistaken Chris Dodd for a radical reformer, but even this milquetoast is angry. Why? "Frustration over an Army of Lobbyists Sent to Kill Common-sense Reform."
And you had better get used to it. With the loopy declaration of war on democracy issued by the Supreme Activists, big business owns the show and merely permits elected folks to strut up their stage.
This must stop!
One more thing: We get lots of very thoughtful Feedback. Check it out.
February 4, 2010
Justice vs. democracy
The incredible, albeit predictable, ruling that corporations, like plaintiffs in the "one man one vote" decisions, are citizens with First amendment rights would have been a joke when I was in law school. I can hear some of my favorite profs saying, as if they were alive today, "Get serious. Corporations are created by the government for economic reasons not to run for office or to determine through their accumulated wealth who shall regulate them. They are creatures of the state not the womb."
But we are where the majority of the Supreme Court has put us. It is Us vs. Them. Plutocracy vs. democracy. The rich vs. the rest of us.
Justice Clarence Thomas defended the decision in Florida this week. His nonsense reminds me of the open letter to Justice Thomas written by Judge A. Leon Higginbotham Jr.
Thomas, the Scalia acolyte, was quoted saying, "I found it fascinating that the people who were editorializing against it (our decision) were the New York Times Company and the Washington Post Company. These are corporations." Not content with that simplistic observation, he went on: "It would be a mistake to applaud the regulation of corporate speech as some sort of beatific action." Whoa Nelly!
Higginbotham put it this way to Thomas: "I wonder whether the majority of the Supreme Court will continue to retreat from protecting the rights of the poor, women, the disadvantaged, minorities, and the powerless. If the majority does continue to retreat, I wonder whether you, an African-American, will be part of the majority." Wonder no more. He is a big part of the retreat. Sad to say.
February 3, 2010
Words to live by?
Miles McMillan, Capital Times editor years ago, told his sportswriters they could no longer accept freebies from teams or leagues. A writer approached and argued, "Do you think they could buy me for a bottle of booze?" McMillan responded, "No, but they don't give it to you because you are thirsty."
Heywood Hale Broun told us that the commissioner of Major League Baseball sent $100 with a Christmas card to Heywood's sportswriter father, who returned the hundred bucks with this admonition: "If it is a gift it is too much; if it is a bribe, it is not enough."
Those two come to mind with the passing at age 95 of Nixon FCC-appointee James Quello, who was quoted in NYT saying, "I have always had the attitude that if you can't eat their food and drink their booze and still vote against them, then you don't belong in this job."
I'll go with Hale-Broun and Miles.
Did you know that about 20 percent of kids in MPS are Special Educational Needs students? Kids the charter and voucher schools do not have to accept? Think this might have something to do with higher performance? Just a question.
February 2, 2010
Hard to believe
Yesterday we urged Mike Sheridan, Speaker of the Assembly, to "name names" of lobbyists for the outrageous payday loan industry who were, according to Sheridan, trying to oust him as Speaker for agreeing to permit a vote on a bill that would cap interest rates at 36 percent. Seemed like an easy one, but today's JS headline confuses us more--"Sheridan acknowledges dating payday loan lobbyist."
So what? is one response, but was she the source of the rumors? Yikes! Before jumping to conclusions, here is Sheridan's quote: "Shanna is a friend of mine and I have a lot of friends that are in the lobby corps." (Credit where credit is due. He did name one name.)
But Wisconsin's own lobby corps? Sheridan went on: "I mean, I think that part of my job is relationship building." No comment needed.
Here is another headline: "JOB LOSSES ADD TO CITY FORECLOSURES." The accompanying article says, "The second wave in the foreclosure crisis has hit Milwaukee with homeowners losing their homes because of job losses...subprime mortgages." How about payday loans as well? Note to Speaker: No one cares about you dating a lobbyist, but we do get upset if the Democrats with a majority in the Legislature ignore evictions! People are suffering--pay attention.
There is a housing crisis. How about a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures? Lower interest rates? Restructured mortgages? Any interest in those issues?
February 1, 2010
Time for action
The Supreme Court did it. Despite Alito mouthing his disagreement with president Obama, corporations now have no restraints and, even worse, the decision declared that corporations do have First Amendment protection. Utter nonsense, but that is the law!
So, is the ruling so bad or are we simply forced to admit that corporations can't corrupt the system--someone beat them to it? A law professor at Drexel, Adam Benforado, wrote in a letter to the editor in the NYT that said, "Corporations already dominate the conversation. They are our employers, our suppliers, and our providers...they hire legions of attorneys to bring lawsuits to overturn statutes and regs that eat into their profits. They spend billions of dollars each year on advertising and marketing to make sure everyone gets the message."
I am, like you, upset, but we can't give up. Tonight from 5:00 to 7:00 at Madison's Great Dane on East Doty, Congressman Steve Kagen will discuss the impact of the court's unfortunate decision on incumbents. Have little people been locked out? Is it silly to give fifty bucks? Come for the discussion--it will, I predict, be lively. No charge at the door.
Meanwhile Scott Walker brags that he has raised almost $2 million for his race. Democrat Barrett? A paltry million and one-half. Tim John? Don't ask.
Sage? Not so much: We don't have enough money for a program that works--smaller classes. Outrageous! "Race to the top"? How about "Fall to the bottom"? Democrats control the legislative branch and should be held accountable. Find the money!
February 1, 1960. The sit-in movement began. A true movement that moved us toward the path of social justice. Students led the way.