December 31, 2011
Sir Walter Scott: "Oh what a tangled web we weave, When first we practice to deceive."
As the Gableman-Michael, Best web unfolds, a number of flies have been caught and others are hovering around the web. The Gableman saga really began with the WMC effort to take over the Wisconsin Supreme Court. WMC learned by observing the purchase of courts around the country with Texas and Mississippi among the leaders.
We have suggested reading The Appeal and again urge you to read it. The big money folks came to the realization that purchasing, through campaign contributions, a state supreme court took much less effort and much less money than buying a majority of a state legislature or a single governor. So WMC, and its members and allies, supported Annette Ziegler and David Prosser--big time. If they could defeat Louis Butler, appointed to the bench by Jim Doyle, they would have the majority on the court. Lookout, here comes tort reform, vouchers, and on and on.
It was regarded as a sure thing that Butler would be re-elected, but Gableman put a negative TV spot on the air accusing Butler of finding a "loophole" so a prisoner could be set free. And, wouldn't you know, the released prisoner committed another crime! "Loophole Louie," he was labeled. One problem--the ad was false! OK, enough, you have heard it 10 times. But Gableman was quickly put to the test. And he came through. First, he voted with the new majority that a Supreme Court Justice could not be required to recuse himself or herself even if WMC appeared in court having contributed lots of money to one or more justice's campaign. This ruling protects Ziegler and Prosser, WMC favorites. Second, he voted to overturn judge Sumi's decision that the collective bargaining scheme was invalid because the Legislature violated the Open Meetings law. This decision was key. Had the vote been to uphold Sumi, Walker would have been forced to negotiate.
That vote prompted the Dane County D.A. last Friday to ask the Supreme Court to vacate that decision now that we have learned that Michael, Best gave Gableman two years of representation at no fee while working with the Walker administration to protect the law.
To force a review, four votes are necessary, and that seems unlikely. Nevertheless, Ozanne believes he has a duty to try. Stay tuned.
Gingrich: Maybe I am a jerk, but I was not moved by his tears. Knowing what an SOB he is, did he really pull a Boehner? Or was practice required?
December 30, 2011
When it rains it pours
Eric McLeod must be looking forward to a fresh start in the new year. His latest headache came when soon-to-be-former Governor Walker told the media that he might remove Michael, Best and Friedrich's McLeod from his Judicial Selection Commission. Before Walker could fire McLeod, McLeod had a letter of resignation delivered at 6:30 p.m. same day.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel continues to dig into the story about thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of dollars of free legal work presented to Justice Gableman by McLeod. Follow the bouncing ball.
Michael, Best has counsel. His name is Viet Dinh, from a Washington D.C.-based firm. Dinh wrote that the free legal help is not a gift under state law prohibiting gifts to state officials. Why is it not a gift? Sit while reading: It is not a gift because under state law a "gift" is something received "without valuable cosideration" and, Dinh argues, that the possiblity of receiving fees under the so-called contingent fee arrangement with Gableman is something of value and therefore not a "gift"! Creative.
A question came in. When do lawyers enter into contingent agreements on fees? The writer asked, Aren't contngent fees for damages? If there was such an agreement, what "damages" couold Gableman claim? Good question. I have never heard of a contingent fee for "legal fees." Fees normally come out of a favorable court or jury award of damages. one-third--40% of the award would go to the lawyers. The State of Wisconsin rarely uses contingent fee agreements for the obvious reason that the State has the resources to handle legal costs.
What were the odds that the Supreme Court would find for Gablelman and also agree to having the state pay his legal fees? 99-1?
December 29, 2011
Laugh or cry?
Good progressive friends assured me that Jon Corzine would be a bright shining light in the Democratic Party. These assurances came on the heals of a blog post I wrote making much of the fact that he spent $59 million of his own money to gain the U.S. Senate seat from New Jersey. At the time, I said, "Hell, for another million he could have rented the entire Senate for a year."
Well, Corzine wasn't content in the Senate. Like a younger version of Tommy Thompson, Corzine was bored. Everyone knew he wanted to be president, so he opted for executive experience to fill out his resume. He ran for governor, spending another $50-60 million and won, but then he was defeated by Chris Christie when he ran for re-election.
What to do, what to do? He bought MF Global. Few people on Wall Street could doubt his expertise, knowledge and chutzpa.
As a former CEO of Goldman Sachs his word was gold. Then something went wrong. (See Margin Call and Inside Job. See also Gordon Gecko in Wall Street again.)
His bets on European loans did not pan out. Panic at MF Global broke out, and, suddenly, our Democrat's firm was filing for bankruptcy! Lots of money was lost; particularly hard hit were farmers in the Mid-West.
Filing occurred and efforts were made to tell the bankruptcy court how much money was in the various MFB accounts.
Wouldn't you know! I can misplace my reading glasses in minutes. (And as I wander through the house looking for the glasses I swear I will find a home for them every night so they are available when I wake up. But I forget to do that.) Jon Corzine is just like me. He could not find one billion six-hundred-million dollars. One can almost hear him asking, "Where in hell did I put that billion six?" He could not find $1 billion six hundred million dollars--anywhere! Damn it!
Let us now pause to look at the redistricting fiasco in the Wisconsin Legislature. Everyone knows that the census comes every 10 years and that the election just before redistricting is crucial. Lots and lots of money is raised by reminding givers that control of the Legislature and Congress will be decided. Big time!
Again--everyone in politics knows about the redistricting issue. But an aide to Scott Fitzgerald gave sworn testimony that the new unbalanced map was not meant to increase the Republican majority. Yah, sure Ole! Despite denials that the Wisconsin GOP was working the maps to favor Walker and the Fitzgerald boys, the RNC received the maps days before the Democrats did. Why did the Wisconsin GOP send the maps to RNC? Counsel told them to do so. Who was counsel? Well, by gully, Michael, Best and Friedrich! MB&F again.
Like Newman in Seinfeld, MB&F keeps showing up. They are doing this "charitable" work for a measley $400,000! Who else helped? Ray Taffora, Scott Jensen, Scott Suder, and old-beer-on-head Robin Vos! Does anyone out there believe Eric McLeod is working for the GOP to find fairness?
December 28, 2011
I am delighted that Nebraska's Ben Nelson is not seeking a third term as a "Democrat." A New York Times reporter, Jennifer Steinhauer, inexplicably wrote of Nelson: "The departure of Mr. Nelson, a true Midwestern moderate..."
Wonder where PolitiFox is now? Me too. Nelson signed the Grover Norquist tax pledge, voted for the Iraq invasion, and on and on. Ya think that PolitiFox will put a match to Steinhauer's pants? Nelson, a moderate? If so, what are we?
Incumbents will moan and groan and you will be inundated with requests for money to help maintain the Democratic majority in both houses. Having the majority is important--to incumbents, but not necessarily to us. When Democrats controlled the Legislature in Madison, Tim Cullen, majority leader, spoke to WMC and warned that if they did not start contributing to Democrats their bills would never see light of day. We called and asked if Cullen had lost his mind! But that is why majority status is so important to incumbents: fundraising!
Without Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelson, maybe the Democratic Party could return to the good old days of a progressive Congress.
Ron Paul: A Ryanist and a closet something or other--"racist" comes to mind. Anti-Semite? Buffoon?
Willard Mitt Romney won't release his tax returns to the public. Why not? He wants to run the government. Would he insist on reviewing the tax returns of his running mate? Of course. So why not let us see those returns?
Milwaukee has 46 percent of its children living in poverty. Finland has 5 percent. What is Finland trying to prove? We should demand they stop trying to embarrass us! I have heard enough from those damned Finns.
December 27, 2011
Inarticulate and wrong!
Scott Walker is about to be the first Wisconsin governor to be recalled--ever. His response? He didn't take time to sell his program. I'm not making this up. The Wisconsin State Journal on Christmas eve carried an interview with the Gov. If he could do this all over again he'd spend more time in January and February making a case. In other words, he is not second-guessing the policies that got people into the streets--he was just a bad salesman. Yikes!
Congress gets rich while we get poor. The wealth gap is troubling to say the least. Lots of millionaires with a (D) behind their name. Why? I asked a 20-something activist who she is planning to support for governor. Could have knocked me over when she said she kind of likes Herb Kohl! "Really?" I responded. Why? What's the attraction? It's that he can buy the election. "I don't care if he would be good or bad--as governor, we must win!" So, Herb Kohl can be the Democrat if he wants to be, thanks to his mom and dad.
Kerry, Warner, Kohl, Polis, Pelosi, Rockefeller--all multi-millionaires. Why this rash of millionaires? Because the cost of running for governor, senator or congressman prohibits all but the true idealists from running. So prepare to hear people argue for Herb's wallet.
Rep. Tamara Grigsby regained consciousness just before a prayer service got under way. Who knows? Keep your thoughts focused.
Bill McKibben will confront Obama again Sunday--protesting the scary 1,700-mile proposed pipeline. Raise hell, folks. Raise hell. This pipeline is a potential catastrophe.
December 26, 2011
Are we better than South Carolina?
The U.S. Justice Department--yes, I know, where, you ask, oh where, has Eric Holder been hiding?
But he came out of hiding and the Department of Justice rejected South Carolina's new law requiring photo identification at the polls. Why? You know why: it discriminates against minority voters. Just like ours does.
Wisconsin's law should die the same death, but it won't. If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck...C'mon, Holder, you will love it in Wisconsin. Stop this travesty!
Say a prayer, cross your fingers, whatever works for you. Assembly Representative Tamara Grigsby, a rising star in Wisconsin politics, is near death in Milwaukee. She is a wonderful example of the type of idealist we should be recruiting to seek office.
PolitiFact is annoying but we probably pay too much attention to their rants. Take this example to show why it is about as fair and balanced as....
Michelle Obama said the president deserves credit for the Post-9/11 GI Bill. PolitiFact points out that while he supported the bill in the Senate while Bush opposed it, and getting anything through Congress is damned-near miraculous, Bush ended up signing the Bill into law.
Aha! says PolitiFox: "Michele made it sound like the bill was a major legislative priority." PolitiFox knows better! And they crow Bush signed it into law. Therefore??? Why not investigate what "sounds like" means in this instance.
December 24, 2011
Save the university!
It seems abundantly clear that Governor Walker is determined to ruin the Great State University of Wisconsin. Given his rise to power without a college degree, he apparently thinks that a university education is an expendable luxury. Walker is the first governor who seems to be anti-education.
The real goal remains in place--to privatize the Madison campus and turn it over to big business. Biddy Martin was on that train, so was Kathryn Lyall before Biddy. Both argued that diminished state support for the UW would kill this gem, and Lyall actually argued that corporations as "stake-holders" deserve a seat at the table when it comes to policy issues because they contribute more than the state does to the UW.
Today the headline in MJS should tempt you to go back to bed, pull up the covers and dream about the recall. Here comes the wrecking ball: "UW System faces hit of $46 million."
Walker says this latest major cut is needed to balance the budget! Oh, really? I thought that new jobs would be pouring in as the Walker business plan took shape. He promised 250,000 jobs in five years. Wisconsin has lost jobs. A record that is about the worst in the country. So, jobs leave the state, tax revenues are down, the state hands out tax breaks to business pals like candy at a carnival.
So, we have a Walker-created crisis. What to do? Cut the University! Cut the institution that has been the economic engine in the state since the Civil War.
To his credit, Kevin Reilly has urged students, staff and faculty to fight the cuts with emails and crossed fingers. Better do something before we become SMU or the University of Mississippi.
Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory? Hang onto your hats, folks! No one really knows how or why the uprising in the Capital happened last February and March. We have lots of theories, but your guess is good as mine. The old saying comes to mind: "Success has many fathers but defeat is an orphan." The uprising has lots of fathers... It did happen, Wisconsin is looked to as the spark for fighting back--Ohio, Snyder, etc., and it led to the Walker recall, almost a victory for Kloppenburg over Prosser, and renewed energy as we approach the announcement that there are plenty of signatures on the recall petetions.
But now the back-room scrambling threatens to bring chaos to the effort to replace Walker. The "Washington contingent" wants Barrett or Obey, but the Wisconsin unions don't like Barrett. Obey says he won't run if there is a primary so it looks like he is out because there will be a primary. Obey likes Barrett and some say he is holding a place at the table for Barrett. AFSCME and AFT want Falk and do not mask their anger at Barrett, but Obey does not want Falk. MJS reports that WEAC and AFSCME met with Barrett to discourage him from running for governor: "Barrett rebuffed the union bosses." Wow--Union bosses? Haven't heard that for a while.
MJS says "boss" Mary Bell, WEAC president, WEAC executive director Dan Burkhalter and other top union leaders had a face-to-face meeting on Monday with Barrett and, guess what. Barrett showed them the door.
Here comes the deal. "Insiders say the union officials are hoping to clear the field for Kathleen Falk," says MJS but, of course, Dane County Dems are still angry about the Falk challenge to Peg Lautenschlager. Insiders have two polls that will not be released to the public. Instead, you can guess who is on top, who is not. The Journal Sentinel likes to write about "insiders" and "well-connected Democrats" and "union bosses." Whoa Nelly! I am none-of-the-above.
I say hold a primary; require candidates to agree on a limitation of money and let the people decide. This is a grassroots movement. Let it flourish.
Also attending the Barrett meeting? Tommy Thompson's favorite union leader, Marty Beil. Then the head of the police union attacked WEAC and AFSCME. Yikes!
December 23, 2011
Dear Ron Paul: Quit now, Ron!
For your sake, your party and your country, get out of the race for president. For a while you were an enjoyable oddity, but you have sent out racist newsletters and anti-Semitic charges, and you won't tell who wrote the hate mail, where you sent it, or how have your views changed. Now you are merely a cranky old politician refusing to take responsibility for your awful views.
Then we have Wisconsin Congressman James Sensenbrenner, the multi-millionaire jerk who comments on the First Lady's derrière. What's wrong with you, Jim?
Time for some Christmas shopping. More tomorrow. Happy holidays.
December 22, 2011
NLRB emerges from deep slumber
When you think about the uprising in Wisconsin and Ohio over the right of employees to form a union, it all looks fairly simple. A group wants to form a union. They get authorization cards signed by employees at the work site. When they have 30 percent the union can file for recognition with the NLRB, but most unions will not file with the NLRB unless at least 50 percent have signed cards.
In most provinces in Canada, when a union has cards signed by 50 percent of the targeted group the employer must commence bargaining with the union within 48 hours. And if, after a year they bargain to impasse, the parties must submit a one-year contract to binding arbitration. It works.
In the U.S., by contrast, the union files with he NLRB and the fun begins. (If you did not see the movie Norma Rae, rent it.)
The NLRB has an officer conduct a hearing on the appropriate bargaining unit (who should be in and who should not be in.) A hearing officer listens to the arguments and renders a decision--maybe in 10 days or maybe in several months. If the employer doesn't like the unit it may appeal to the federal court of appeals. That can take years for a hearing and ultimately a decision. Suppose the decision is upheld, the union wins the election, the employer finds fault with the certification process and urges the court to send it back to the local to remedy the situation.
The longest time I know of was 11 years in a local in Brooklyn.
In fact, I find it almost impossible to organize a union today because of the delays the employer uses to discourage the workers. Assume that the employer recognizes the union following a secret ballot election. Negotiations drag on for a year, maybe two and the union starts losing members who take other jobs or even retire. The employer challenges the union's assertion that the majority of the unit still supports the union. They force an election to find out and if the union loses it is all over.
The NLRB is supposed to have five members on the board; two Dems and two Republicans, and the fifth seat goes to the party in the White House. Often, decisions are 3-2.
The Republicans got cute and decided to block any appointments to the board by Obama. The 5-person board is now a 3-person board, with two Dems and one Republican. Yesterday the two Dems voted to enact some minor changes that they claim will speed up the election process. It won't! The GOP has effectively killed the NLRB. The body created in 1935 to protect union organizers is deader than Kelsey's nuts.
Our governor (Sorry Koch boys, I don't mean to suggest that we, the people, control him) was planning to enact Right-to-Work legislation to kill unions in the private sector just as they killed them in the public sector! But for the recall, the private sector unions would be on life suport. For unions private or public, recalling Walker is just step one. Next: restore the public unions; step 3, stop right-to-work legislation; step 4, elect a labor-friendly president; step 5, strengthen the laws designed to protect the right to form unions.
Nothing is easy.
December 21, 2011
Ah, the Grand Old Party
I have done my share of negotiating, and a few rules stand out in my mind that seem relevant today. First and foremost, don't bargain with people who have no authority to make a deal. Second, handshakes were the "bee's knees" in my parents' generation, but not today. So, if you agree on issues large or small, get it in writing ASAP. As each issue is worked out, initial or sign where agreement has been reached.
Finally, if there is any doubt that one side can deliver ratification, do it simultaneously. If a person lies, he or she is out of the game! No appeal. Out you go. Like the Detroit Lion who stomped on a Packer offensive lineman in front of an official...out you go! If a negotiator lies, neither side will believe him again so he is useless.
Why this soft lecture? Because it often occurs to me that officials in government have little or no experience in bargaining and they approach the bargaining without a clue.
By now Harry Reid should know that John Boehner's word is not worth a damn and that, at best, he took Harry for a ride. Boehner agreed on the tax cut but could not or would not deliver, so what did he do? He blamed Obama! Pahhhleeezzze! John, my boy, you get a game misconduct penalty. You may not return to the table because you are a dishonest coward.
If it is true (and I doubt it) that he could not get the deal ratified he must quit. Either he is impotent or a liar or both. Turn it over to someone else because only a fool would ever believe you now! Nice try, but you tried to shoot the moon and you ended up with a mitt full of points but the moon shot failed.
Final thought: If you bluff in negotiations and are called, you had better deliver or you are also done.
Mr. President, Harry Reid seems like a nice, albeit, harmless fellow. Get him out of the room! He is putty in the hands of Mitch McConnell. Your team needs a game plan and some chutzpa! After Boehner said he was welshing on the deal, you looked like your dog had just been shot. C'mon! Blast that S.O.B. He lied so he's out.
Tell the American people that Boehner is a liar. Too tough? As tough as an unemployed worker losing UC? I don't think so.
December 20, 2011
Thank you, WMC?
The headline in MJS: "Lawmakers got help on mining bill." Now there is the understatement of the year!
The question of who wrote the new mining bill was hot. We have a new bill being debated without a sponsor. (Call it the Immaculate Conception bill.) Dems hollered on the floor, "Who wrote this bill!" Well, it turns out, WMC worked with the mining company and key legislators to alter mining regs in Wisconsin; not to help us but rather to make the mining company happy.
Scott Suder, Robin Vos, Mary Williams, Speaker Fitzgerald--they shaped the legislation with help from that nice company, Gogebic Taconite. You can bet the company did all the heavy lifting.
This is one of the most important bills to come before the Legislature in half a century. Despite the importance, the GOP wants to slip it past the people.
I have some advice to WMC. You are over-reaching and people are onto your game.
Let us demand to start over. This time keep it in the open.
We know the marching song is "On Wisconsin," but not so today as corruption involving a justice of the state Supreme Court, a major law firm, members of the Legislature secretly working with a mining company, and WMC to "relax" environmental protections to help the mining company in the "new" mining bill that has no sponsor is now part of the new marching song. "Not Wisconsin, not Wisconsin, line your pockets now..."
Two stories. Let's begin with the Gableman saga. Gableman ran against Louis Butler for a seat on Supreme Court, a rather cushy position--high pay, good benefits, 10-year term...not bad!
In order to win, Gableman and his supporters apparently concluded they had to sully Butler's reputation. Gableman went after Butler with a false TV commercial accusing Butler of "finding a loophole" that permitted release into society of a criminal who then committed another crime. The Gableman supporters even called Justice Butler "Loophole Louie." Problem? It was all a big lie. But the Court of Appeals, on a tie vote 3-3, let Gabelman off the hook.
Gableman won a narrow victory and a suit was filed against Gableman. Michael, Best & Freidrich represented Gableman. Hard to imagine where he got the money to hire a very expensive legal team. Inheritance? Did he win the lottery? Nope. Solution? MB&F made a deal: He did not have to pay any fees to the firm. While the firm claims that it had a contingent fee agreement that permitted them to proceed with a huge legal expense calling on Justice Gableman to pay if he won his case and if the Court gave him fees! The word that pops into my head is "cockamamie." This so-called contingent fee is, ironically, their attempt at creating a "loophole," but even if they had that agreement is just as bad and maybe worse.
Gableman, according to MJS, was the key vote in the Walker law to eliminate collective bargaining! MB&F defended Gableman and worked for the Walker administration at the same time. Then there was a tax assessment case against the city of Milwaukee in which Gableman's vote was decisive.
The judicial ethics code prevents judges from accepting gifts from those likely to appear before them. MJS reports that Gableman has participated in nine cases in which the court voted on substantive issues involving MB&F clients.
Another lawyer entered the scene--none other than James Bopp, the far-right's go-to guy. He won't say if Gableman paid him. And Walker won't say if Gableman paid for other work MB&F has performed for Gableman!
Egad! Wisconsin? Nope, Chicago-north!
In retrospect, MB&F was able to get Gableman, Prosser, Roggensack and Ziegler to vote for MB&F's side most of the time. MB&F has been paid $294,000 by taxpayers--yup, you and me--for work on challenges to the collective bargaining law.
December 18, 2011
Only 9 percent of Americans have a favorable opinion of Congress, so some people are floating ideas that might help Congress's image. You have more, I am confident, so fire away.
1.) No budget no pay.
2.) Up or down vote on presidential appointees within 90 days.
3.) Filibuster must be old-fashioned type--Senators on cots.
4.) Three five-day work weeks every month. I would add: no lobbyists permitted to meet with members during regular hours.
5.) No fundraising in Washington.
MJS: I counted up the number of sports related sections in Wisconsin's largest daily newspaper and it was alarming. Here is my list (have PolitiFact check):
2.) Sports in general
4.) College sports
5.) Prep sports
No wonder they cannot cover stories in the Capitol! Even with all that space and they can't look into the real story of the proposed arena or the total costs of Miller Park. Who got paid? MB&F?
Village of Brokaw has been decimated by plant closing. Are we to believe that Walker was not informed of the plant closings? Could the state get a little creative in saving jobs?
December 17, 2011
The XL pipeline deal dulls the appetite for Party
There is no stopping the GOP when it comes to protecting the wealthy, the super-wealthy and the huge corporations. Their total disregard for clean air and water are obvious in every vote where the environment is on the block.
But what of the other party? You know, the one--the party of Gaylord Nelson on environment, the party of McKibben on climate change, the party of...well you know. Apparently the Dems folded again yesterday because of a threat by the GOP. Question: When will Democrats call the Republican bluff? If the Republicans threaten to shut it down, let them. Submitting to blackmail never works.
The people are smart enough to understand who pulled the plug.
Yes, Obama has done many good things. And yes, the Dems in Congress are much better than the Republicans, but that ain't enough! LaFollette said, "Half a loaf dulls the appetite for the full loaf."
It is hard to accept the notion that this pipeline would be on anyone's table for discussion let alone be the break point for keeping the government running. It is a potential catastrophe and a certain environmental disaster but there you have it. The Democrats folded like an accordion when the GOP said that they would shut down government unless they get Dems and Obama to support the pipeline! Whoa Nelly!
Tommy Thompson was on Here and Now last night. He had all the humor of a bear awakened in mid-winter nap. Tommy is in trouble. His corporate fundraiser--to be kind--won't be raising money with Bear Stearns as his anchor. The Bear is gone! Nick Hurtgen was involved in the Illinois scandal. Tommy is angry that any Republican would question his conservative credentials. Like Woody Allen in Sleepers, Tommy has awakened and the political scene he once ruled has changed.
Always a happy campaigner--almost Hubert Humphrey--the happy warrior, it is obvious that his humor has left him. Think about the money he will give up by running. And he will have to help the Koch boys raise $60 million. That is a lot! His take will be higher than Newt's from Fredi-Mac.
Does he really want to roll out of bed at 4:00 to do plant gates? I don't think so, so now what? He will lose the primary, but if he survives he will lose the general election. Over half a million signed petitions to get him out.
DEMOCRATS: ONCE AGAIN, EIHTER GET BEHIND A PRIMARY OR HOLD A CONVENTION. There is a mandate for democracy out there. Don't blow it!
December 16, 2011
The announcement yesterday was exciting: 507,553 petetions signed! About 100,000 more to make sure and Scott Walker will be recalled.
Assume recall: then what? I believe in primaries. Democrats rarely win statewide without a primary. Free coverage as Walker will pull in millions and millions and millions of dollars. Some senior Democrats are demanding "no primary" as if the party could simply order that position. It cannot. Anyone can run and no one should get in the way. One potential candidate says $20 million in comittments must be counted before getting in. Yikes! $20 million!
Idea: The Democratic Party should demand that Democrats runing for governor agree on a limit per individual and PAC. Run free! What an opportunity. We should not permit the Koch boys to name the candidates in both parties, and they will if we let them! It may be crazy but it is the right thing to do. What do you think?
Lawyers, lawyers everywhere
Michael, Best & Freidrich, MB&F, has been a key player in right-wing Wisconsin politics for several decades. John MacIver headed MB&F in a low-key way and was part of Tommy's inner circle. MB&F got plenty of legal business from the Thompson administration. After he died the MacIver Institute arrived on the scene. (Another Bradley Foundation front.) Eric Mcleod was the lead on political issues as far as we can tell.
Michael Gableman has been represented by MB&F-(recall the "loophole Louie" slander of Louis Butler by Gableman?). Well, the Ethics committee went after Gableman for his dishonest TV spot but the Court deadlocked 3-3. Gableman was represented by none-other than MB&F. (No charge! Pro bono.) MB&F figured out a loophole that they claim allows Gableman to sit on cases where MB&F is involved! The law firm arranged to "donate," so to speak, the legal fees that they should have charged Gableman.
This is shocking, folks. MB&F is involved up to its keister in redistricting, recall, challenging GAB, defending the photo ID voter suppression effort, and other mischief. And, if you can believe it, James Bopp is working with McCleod on the GAB challenge brought yesterday. Google James Bopp and understand he is the most active right-wing operative in Wisconsin.
December 15, 2011
Why not hold hearings in Arizona?
Government in Wisconsin has become a dangerous joke. When a hearing was scheduled on the proposed mine, the GOP pro-mine folks decided to hold the hearing in a Milwaukee suburb. Are they nuts? First the GOP leaders should tell us who wrote the bill; then hold a series of hearings in the north--the area that would be immediately impacted. Finally, make them spell out the jobs: wages, fringes, length, etc.
But let's also demand a very high fee. Say 40 percent of gross revenue to protect the environment! Anti-business? No, pro consumer; pro environment.
December 14, 2011
Jobs? Jobs? Did I hear a promise to create jobs?
Finally the NYT has discovered that there is no guarantee that the politician-promised jobs will actually be created and, asks the NYT, "Are the jobs created any good?" In Wisconsin, soon-to-be-recalled Governor Walker promised to create 250,000 new jobs--or did he? Who is counting? No mention of wages, benefits or union security. (Thus far Wisconsin has lost more jobs than it has gained under Walker.)
Economic development programs cost states and cities billions of dollars a year, "but many programs require little if any job creation; fewer than half call for wage standards, and fewer than a quarter require the companies to provide health care for their workers." So what's the deal?
Check Wisconsin's M&E exemption. Few think about the M&E tax break for manufacturing companies. No study has demonstrated that M&E helps Wisconsin, creates jobs, attracts companies in Illinois to move to Wisconsin.
Old friend Greg LeRoy now heads Good Jobs First. He is asking for standards. About time. His report on real return on investment will be released tomorrow.
More good news on stem cell research seeking cures for ALS, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and autism. Wisconsin's James Thompson has a new product. Stem cell-derived neurons that the company he has created will, they hope, open the doors to new drugs for treatment.
December 13, 2011
Romney looks panicked
Do we want Newt or Romney to head GOP ticket? Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn! Either will lose to Obama in part because of the vicious attacks going on between the two GOP "leaders." But if forced to choose, I would move to Canada.
Romney appears to be a wealthy bully. If anyone disagrees with him he takes it as an affront. How dare you, Rick Perry, quote or misquote my book to me? How dare you, sir? A duel in the offing? At the Club, one can imagine Mitt betting ten grand on a five-foot putt, but it's hard to imagine a politician thrusting his mit with an all-knowing grin..."Want to put 10 grand on that?" Nope, said Perry who, for one shining moment, appeared rational! Newt? Well, he remains Newt.
Keep it up, fellows.
Another bad campaign finance decision from the Court of Appeals in Chicago. You know it will be bad when it is announced that Judge Diane Sykes wrote the decision. Another Wisconsin Right-To-Life suit; anther victory for the "money is speech" crowd. Decision? Can't cap contributions to organizations engaged in independent spending. Violates First Amendment.
Mike McCabe hit the bullseye--hurts the good guys, but only a little. The system is broken so one more brick won't do much. Only a little.
December 12, 2011
Selig rules for ship of fools
Bud Selig owned a car dealership before his stint as Commissioner of baseball, where he is paid more than $14 million per year. I think the dealership was in Wind Lake, but my memory might be off. He got credit for persuading the Seattle Pilots to move to Milwaukee and that team then became the Brewers.
Bill Veeck, the brilliant and colorful baseball innovator, told me that the Major League owners "check their heads with their hats" when they attend meetings of the owners. Edward Bennett Williams said, "The only thing dumber than the dumbest NFL owner is the smartest baseball owner." Williams was in position to know. He was part owner and full-time president of the Washington Redskins and then bought the Baltimore Orioles.
The University of Wisconsin-Madison recently announced that there would be a Selig Chair in the History department and scholar-Selig would have an office in the Social Science building. Apparentyly the Baseball owners have agreed to pay the UW one million dollars for the chair. A scholar would be recruited to teach the history of baseball. Boy, will that be great or what? (I am not kidding!)
Enter the first real superstar in recent Brewer history: Ryan Braun. He made watching the Brewers a treat and he signed a long-term contract assuring that Brewer fans would be happy for at least a decade.
But in each life some rain must fall. ESPN announced that Braun flunked the growth hormone test and would be suspended for 50 games. What else? Oh, he can't get paid during the suspension. And here is the challenge to the UW Scholar: Word leaked from Selig's office that no player has ever won an appeal no matter how convincingly the lawyers argue. I guess Selig wants to warn players--better not try!
If the banned substance was taken witout intent? No matter--rules are rules. Can Ryan hold a news conference to give his side? Nope! Scholar-Selig has told the parties to remain silent now that the damage has been done by his office. Shame on you, Bud.
Let's see. Braun can't win because no player has ever won; and he cannot be cleared even if he is completely innocent! Braun has the burden of proving his innocence but Selig's rules make that impossible.
Ryan's career may well be over--the Brewer franchise might be history--and Selig will find someone to start lecturing on due process at the UW.
December 11, 2011
The father of welfare to work is back
Tommy is off and walking for the Senate seat now held by Herb Kohl. Tommy wants his right-wing doubters who have not genuflected at his roadside shrine to remember that he killed welfare. Perhaps he could brag that no governor or senator in Wisconsin's history has caused as much pain for so many as TT did with his bumpert-sticker solutions. Welfare to work my duff!
In Grover Norquist language he drowned it in the bathtub. Yup! Killed it dead! Or did he, asks our brain-twister from PolitiFact? Did he or didn't he? No investigation of the poverty levels in post-W-2 Tommyville by JS--after all, who really cares that damned near a million of our citizens in "progressive Wisconsin" qualify for food stamps? Jaysus--tell them to get good paying jobs and stop complaining!
PoliltiFact says the question is, Was he telling the truth when he claimed he ended welfare? Was he really responsible for ending welfare? Well, says one expert, it depends. If you lump all entitlements into the welfare tent then he did not kill welfare because 800,000 poor adults and children still get the equivalent of food stamps now called FoodShare. And some W-2 recipients get $673 a month for community service work. Some get minimum wage jobs.
What is the conclusion of PolitiFact? "Mostly true." What nonsense! Mostly true? Who gives a damn if 800,000 are suffering? Shouldn't they be asking if Tommy's promise to end poverty with W-2 was "pants on fire false" or just telling "what ought to be true"?
Welfare to work to poverty to vouchers to Paul Ryan's end-medicare budget. And this is progress? Thanks, PolitiFact, thanks.
December 10, 2011
Talk about cruelty to animals! Newt Gingrich "once dreamed of being a zookeeper." So sayeth the Washington Post this morning. Egad! If only the animals could vote!
Jauch a recall target? MJS reports a group, once involved in the Milwaukee pension scandal that led to Walker's election is exploring recalling State Senator Bob Jauch. A Milwaukee resident threatens to recall Jauch if he does not do more to bring mining to the north. Jauch, in essence, responded, Why me? I want mining in my District, but with adequate environmental protection.
The MJS, fixated as usual on PolitiFact.com, looking for capillaries to attack, or to find "gotcha" moments, seems to accept the mine-owners assertion that at least 700 jobs will be created if the huge iron mine is opened. "Gogebic Taconite of Hurley, says it wants to construct a $1.5 billion mine that would employ 700 workers," MJS tells us. The "Milwaukee recaller" says the mine would bring jobs to people who "desperately need work."
Okay JS, look at the 700 job claim. What wage will be paid? Will the new workers be paid family supporting wages or minimum wage? Will they have fringe benefits? A union? a grievance procedure? Will THEY be Wisconsin taxpayers? When would these jobs start? Is there a term? Oh, I know it would take a lot of digging to find the answers but why not give it a try?
If they are telling a lie, what happens? Nothing, you say? My, My.
PolitiFact is busy, busy, checking how many billionaires paid taxes at 1 percent as Obama discussed in his Teddy Roosevelt speech last week. NO STATS BACK UP BILLIONAIRE TAX CLAIM, they say. C'mon!
December 9, 2011
This land is our land?
Woody Guthrie wrote "This land is our land" and we believed him and sang the song with feeling. It was, so to speak, our anthem.
But the mining companies never bought that line. Never. While Justice Roberts, Scalia, Alito and Thomas tell us these entities are "people" they don't act like people or neighbors or friends. Nope! Truth be told, they believe Wisconsin's land, groundwater, surface water, minerals, sand and air belong to them! "This land is their land..." It is their iron, gold and sand, and they have dared Wisconsin to "Just try to stop us." If the DNR tries to limit them they will have DNR eliminated. They got rid of the Public Intervenor. Look out DNR, you are next.
The Koch boys own the Legislature and the governor and then, oh yes, we forgot to mention that they control the Wisconsin Supreme Court so there is no escape! There is no place to seek potection.
They have decided to move quickly before the Walker recall process is finished. They believe they will win when all is said and done but, just in case, they want to pass legislation to give Wisconsin to the bastards before the next election. They will knock out any opponent with campaign cash! (Some say the Koch boys will invest $30 million in the governor's race alone.)
They will do whatever they damned well please with our land! They are placing 30 pieces of silver in a bag labeled "jobs" for our governor.
Here we go! The are calling it "one of the biggest job bills of the session." To meet our argument that the jobs will be primarily short lived, Fitzgerald says that the mine may last for 30 years--creating thousands of new jobs. Catch this whopper: "We're talking about generational jobs that will be there for a long time." And the tooth fairy will remain behind just to make sure All is well!
Tomorrow, the financial emergency legislation that allowed Governor Snyder of Michigan to take over Benton Harbor, Pontiac and other cities, including a threat to take over Detroit, could lead the way for phase two of the Koch-Walker fast-track to fascism.
We must stop this destruction of the middle class!
December 8, 2011
Lawyers--own worst enemy
Gov. Walker signed a bill to limit legal fees to three times the actual recovery. Could have been worse. Having fought three firms and the Department of Justice in the tobacco case, I have an idea of what is fair and what is excessive when it comes to legal fees. (It may be like pornography--you know it when you see it.)
In the tobacco case, Governor Tommy Thompson and Attorney General Jim Doyle selected three big law firms in Wisconsin and gave them a gift--a contingent fee agreement with no specific assignment. They were to get 20 percent of the money that would come to Wisconsin under a case litigated in Minnesota. The Minnesota case settled and the three Wisconsin firms were guaranteed $847 million dollars by the state. Whoa Nelly!
On behalf of representatives Frank Boyle and Mary Hubler and Senator Fred Risser my law firm asked the court to set aside the attorney fees as excessive. The lawyers were astonished when Judge Moeser did just that. We cited a Wisconsin Supreme Court case where the court said, "Lawyers deserve good pay because their work is difficult but they are not entitled to fly the black flag of piracy." (Wouldn't you think the Bar Association would develop standards?)
Fast forward to the BP Gulf oil spill cases. Lawyers beat a path to Louisiana to sign up plaintiffs to sue BP. A virtual gold rush was triggered. The steering committee argued last week that 340 lawyers had worked more than 230,000 hours as of the end of the month. How much do these lawyers expect to earn? Billions is the likely answer. Does it make sense that lawyers would make billions of dollars in cases where liability is established?
If the lawyers get hundreds of millions or billions there will be more calls for limits on attorney fees and for good reason. Stay tuned.
December 7, 2011
Vietnam still killing
When wars end, Vietnam in 1975 for instance, it is not like turning off a lamp in your living room with instant results.
We were reminded of that sad truth Monday. More than 100,000 Vietnamese have been killed or injured by land mines or other explosives since the war ended! There have been 42,132 people killed and 62,163 wounded. Whoa Nelly. Can we imagine the deaths in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Bosnia over the next 40 years?
Al Gore gave a terrific speech at the Robert F. Kennedy Foundation dinner I attended in New York on Monday. Good to have him back on the trail. We talked with a number of people about Fighting Bob Fest and several were ready to sign up.
December 5, 2011
Walk of shame?
Yes, Tommy Thompson announced he is walking for U.S. Senate. Not running, walking.
His enthusiasm level is about 3 on a scale of 10 in my view. He looks like a kid about to get a series of shots.
It's not clear why Tommy wants to be in the Senate. The Wisconsin GOP's right-wing train seems to have passed him by, but one suspects that he will do his best to keep up. The Journal Sentinel's Dan Bice pointed out Tommy's hypocrisy over federal stimulus funds in a recent article. Thompson blasted Russ Feingold last year for backing Obama's stimulus package, but when Tommy announced his candidacy last week he did it at a Waukesha company, Weldall Manufacturing, that received $300,000 in federal stimulus funds.
Tommy has to live with these kinds of contradictions. He has spent his entire career in government, and destroying government is now his party's sole mission. He will avoid the microphone and let his TV ads do the talking, but they won't have much to say.
December 4, 2011
Driving while black or speaking Spanish
Gwen Moore was the first person I ever heard who said it was a hazard "driving while black" in Milwaukee. Turns out she was correct when she first said it years ago and is right today.
Milwaukee police stopped tens of thousands of citizens driving last year--five times as many Hispanics as whites, twice as many blacks as whites. If that is not proof of racial profiling in segregated Milwaukee I don't know what further proof is needed.
The first question is whether the black and Hispanic drivers had more contraband. In other words, is there some justification in stopping more Hispanics and blacks. They did not! So, no, there is not.
Step back a week or so--recall the MJS story on the Bradley Foundation. One item stuck out like a sore thumb. The reporter wrote that Mayor Tom Barrett opted to let the Bradley Foundation recruit the chief of police on Bradley's dime. Imagine that! One way of looking at the thousands of stops is to read the justification by the candidate who was hired by the police and fire commission: Chief Edward Flynn.
He tries to tie the disparity to public safety. Another perspective is to ask the mayor why he permitted the Bradley Foundation to find a new chief. Could it be that Flynn is part of the problem?
Check it out. The law to keep track of profiling was repealed by the Walker-Fitzgerald forces in June so you won't be bothered with stats in the future.
A couple of other thoughts for you. When I was appointed counsel to the inmates at supermax, we learned that no staff spoke Spanish so Hispanic prisoners were not permitted to talk in Spanish on the phone because the staff could not monitor the calls. We learned that there was an overwhelming percentage of blacks in the prison but not one black staff person or guard. Not one. I guess it is not just Milwaukee.
Where is the outrage?
December 3, 2011
A hell of a mess!
Democracy flourishes when there is trust between the governed and the governing class. It breaks down when trust goes out the window. Well, then, we are in trouble because there is precious little trust in Wisconsin.
It is impossible for me to believe that the state of La Follette, Gaylord, Henry Reuse, William T. Evjue, Kastenmier, and many many others has been taken over in a daring daytime kidnapping.
Walker never mentioned, not once, that if elected he would eliminate unions representing nurses, teachers, firefighters, and police. Had he done so, he would have lost big time. So, he hid in the tall grass until he got sworn in and then he dropped the bomb! Walker never mentioned that he would suppress voting by requiring a DMV issued ID card. Walker never hinted that he would lock people out of the Capitol or let them in but charge them for exercising their right to protest! Walker never said he would appoint Scott Fitzgerald's father to head the State Patrol.
Soon he will seek legislation to make Wisconsin a so-called Right-to-Work-state to kill unions in the private sector. Ohio's governor will take the lead on that one, but Walker will be right behind him. Don't believe it? Wait until after the recall is complete.
Walker never told us that he would seek power to take over towns, cities, villages facing economic trouble. Governor Rick Snyder beat him to it by seizing control of Benton Harbor, Michigan, and Mayor Dave Bing of Detroit warns that Snyder will try to take over his city soon. If you follow the teachings of Snyder/Koch/Walker/Kasich trust is gone, and if you put that together with Citizen's United, democracy is almost dead. (Remember the phone call--"Hello David" when Walker thought he was talking to Koch?)
Wisconsin, home of progressive thoughts, pioneers in unemployment compensation, social security, clean government, academic freedom, workers compensation, is now on life support. And that is very sad.
You have no choice. You must get Walker out of office before we lose the rest of the progressive reforms to the Bradley Foundation, Charlie Sykes and Rush Limbaugh.
December 2, 2011
New no no no no policies
The Koch brothers are living out their daddy's dream of a corporate owned and controlled Wisconsin. They can sit back, write out some checks, and enjoy the chaos they are creating through Scott Walker and his Tonto Fitzgerald. Their ultimate goal: Very large prisons connected by very slow trains and very wide highways.
As of yesterday, if more than four people pause in the rotunda to see the very very Christian tree they are a "group." The new rules put in place require the group to register. If they plan to demonstrate they must get permission. (I am not making this up!) Permission to protest unless you have a permit 72 hours in advance.
Catch this: You may be required to post a bond, buy insurance, pay a fee in advance to accept liability for injuries! And so it goes in the land of Joe McCarthy and Scott Walker.
No negative statements please or you may be asked to leave. We in Wisconsin believe in civility. Proof of bath or shower may be required. From now on, no signs. And, if there is any damage Administration secretary Mike Huebsch (about as bad as they come) may require the groups to pay. Question for you, dear secretary: If four groups are picketing the Capitol will they split the costs? Is service compris or non-compris? Is a seat next to the window more expensive?
No tape on building. That's important because last year the "damage to the Capitol" was estimated at $7.5 million although the real cost was probably about $10.
The killer? Demonstrators will have to pay for extra police assigned by Walker-Huebsch to the demonstrators!
If that ain't enough, if you plan to demonstrate, please bring your own pepper-spray and taser.
This is totally unacceptable! Not just a little off the mark, but the precursor to fascism.
NLRB bye-bye? Twenty years ago, I spoke in Milwaukee to a group of labor lawyers, National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) officials and union attorneys. I suggested that it was time to end the NLRB because the board, while trying hard to force management to obey the law, was neutered under Taft-Hartley, Landrum-Griffin and the union-busters many decisions that made clear that the NLRB had become little more than a debating society. Howls came from the audience. "You can't be serious"...but I was.
Union elections can take years if the employer retains some of the nasty union-busting firms. There are law firms that make a mockery out of the law. My favorite recognition case involved laundry workers in New York. The reconition petition filed and then appealed for 11 years! Finally, the court held that the union should be recognized but, said the board, given that none in the original work force were still employed the board could not impose a union on the workers. Eleven years for god's sake! "Start over" was the order.
GOP in Congress are fighting to kill a reform pushed by two members of three sitting on the board. The House had passed a motion to speed up elections! Listening to the "debate" was painful. Truth was the first casualty. It is time for serious reform.
December 1, 2011
Best laid plans...
The Wisconsin Democratic Party had a disastrous election a year ago; lost two House seats, one Senate seat, governor's chair, both houses of the Legislature. But then the uprising occurred and by god the Party, with an infusion of progressives, got back in action.
But two steps forward one step back. Herb Kohl announced that he would not run again (step forward or back?), opening up another expensive election.(When I say expensive, I mean $30-40 million.) A great many of us "assumed" (you know that word--ass of u and me) that Russ would run for Herb's seat in the Senate or, as things developed, that he was a natural to replace Walker; respected, honest, bright, why not?
Well, Russ won't run for either seat so the Dems decided to create a strategy that might work but might not. The idea hatched in the chair of the Party's Madison office was simple. As H.L. Mencken once said, "There is a simple solution to all complex questions--and it is always wrong!"
Here is the plan not discussed outside of the leader's circle: Dems will not allow a primary for Senate or, more importantly, governor, because that would drain their resources. This plan of not having a candidate until the last minute, argued leading Dems, would allow focus to be on Walker not his Democratic opponent. A counter argument is that it is hard to beat someone with no one. The "trust me, the Democratic candidate will be great" doesn't fly very high with those in the progressive wing. Suppose the recall is successful, Walker announces he is running for governor, one Democrat is quickly chosen to run against Walker? How do they stop a Brett Hulsey-like candidate from jumping in?
Where is the victory party? The La Follette open primary plan was to avoid the notion of back room nominations but, hey, these are unusual times!
So, first in the starting gate was Dave Obey, who says he might run but not if there is a primary. Check check. Then Mahlon Mitchell, Kathleen Falk, John Erpenbach, Tom Barrett are pumped but dutifully abide by the strategy of no primary and do not announce. So far so good, the favorites in the gubernatorial horse race are doing as told. But, back slaps soon disappeared as Brett Hulsey put a spot on TV suggesting, according to those who saw it--I have not--that he was the one person who stood up to Walker. If the Party continues on the path of no primary it could find itself with no alternative other than Hulsey. Why? Because he will campaign for months, raise lots of money, and could be leading in the polls while Dems dither. Whoa Nelly!
Time for an audible?