June 30, 2011
Something ain't right!
Lots of newspaper coverage of alleged physical altercation on the Supreme Court with headlines like "Judge Violence Rare," but almost nothing on what is potentially the "Brinks robbery" of this century and that might well be executed as early as the 4th of July. Sort of America's gift to bankers who have done so much for us recently. (For details of the banker's help see Inside Job, Too Big to Fail and read Dave Zweifel's post this week.)
I refer again to the bill that became law when the budget from hell was approved this week. Credit unions (CU)-- please dial 911 and do it now. The Wisconsin Bankers Association (WBA) is planning to get your money and your charter. The so-called "direct conversion" streamlined bill is now law!
How does it work? Well, sit before reading. Under the new law, the directors of a credit union can call a meeting to convert the CU to a shareholder owned bank. Notice must be given to the members but the law does not give much protection to the members and the League trying to protect the CU members says not much notice is needed.
Get this. Who ever attends the meeting will have a chance to vote and if the members present vote to convert from CU to a bank, Voilà! Harry Houdini where are you now? the conversion takes place.
What is a credit union? Well, it is a not-for-profit financial cooperative that acts like a bank in many ways. Headquarters? Madison. They offer deposit accounts, low-interest loans to members and here is the best part--the credit union is owned and controlled by its members--not the Wall Street boys!
CUs are smaller than banks but banks hate them and have been on a search and destroy mission for years. After all, why should banks have to compete for business? What are you? A communist?
The average CU has $93 million in assets--the average bank has $1.53 billion in assets. Not small potatoes.
CUs exist to serve the members not to maximize profits. (Sounds downright subversive! Read again--Credit Unions exist to serve the members not to maximize profits.)
How did this conversion idea become law? Well, the WBA says Democrats pushed the bill in the last budget battle and claim that Rep. Cory Mason was the sponsor. It was vetoed by Doyle. This year the WBA falsely claimed that Mark Pocan was pushing this nonsense!
Vice president for government affairs for the CU League is Tom Liebe. (No claims of Liebe protesting at the Capitol.) If his heart was in the battle to stop this outrage he kept it to himself. Almost no publicity; no organized effort to protect the members of the CUs in Wisconsin, and no legislative leadership fighting for the credit unions! What went wrong? There was no fight in the dog and now we have to raise hell or face the predictable prospect of a dead credit union movement.
June 29, 2011
Want to rob a bank?
In the "almost unbelievable" category, the credit union movement may be on life support. Why? Well, the banks have come up with a way to take over the credit unions and the process is now law thanks to the governor's budget. How could that happen?
Well, Walker, the Wisconsin bankers, all Republicans and some Democrats want to "help" the credit unions sell out to for-profit banks. They call it "direct conversion." Conversion from non-profit community credit unions to a bank. Only Georgia and now Wisconsin, home of the credit union movement, have direct conversion laws.
The bankers put a positive spin on this robbery by calling the process "streamlining." What sayeth the Wisconsin Credit Union League? The League says "the legislation is unnecessary and is simply a Wisconsin Bankers Association attempt to kill credit unions."
This might not be happening if the Journal Sentinel and the Wisconsin State Journal were awake but, alas, the MJS spends its time checking on obscure political facts--no time for major theft--and the State Journal is apparently in bed with the bankers.
WBA won't deny it is out to kill the credit unions but points out that it passed the Legislature when Democrats controlled both houses. Doyle, in a moment to remember, vetoed the conversion bill.
What can we do? Educating credit union members is step one. Under the law the conversion can take place at almost any meeting of the members--no need for a quorum. What is the plus for us? I am not making this up: they say if the credit union is converted and decides to keep their money they would start paying corporate income taxes! And the tooth fairy will put a dollar under your pillow.
As we move toward total corporate control in our once-democratic society, the credit union battle looms large. If the banks can take the assets from the credit union members they will, and local groups will lose all control. Shame on the governor and the compliant Dems.
The Walker/Fitzgerald bill to curb/eliminate/destroy public sector unions is now law. Doug LaFollette published it in the Wisconsin State Journal. In a remarkable coincidence, the Walker travesty was published the same day as union members in Ohio secured sufficient signatures to put the issue on the statewide ballot. Help is on the way!
June 28, 2011
Where to begin?
OK, it is too easy to hit Michele Bachmann for confusing serial killer John Wayne Gacy with Gacy's fellow Iowan and movie star, role model, John Wayne. (We learned as kids not to shoot a sitting rabbit.) But the Bachmann decision to compare herself with John Wayne is just nutty!
But there was one almost inexplicable moment when Chris Wallace of Fox Views looked at her, paused, and asked, "Are you a flake?" The question was so mean and so staged that it is obvious to me that this was an intentional put-down of Bachmann to make Fox look better. But that is not the end of it. No news person would pull out the sledge hammer on a candidate, so Wallace and Ailes had something else on their menu. (Wallace made such a fool of himself in a "debate" with Jon Stewart last week that this may have been an effort to resuscitate Wallace.) Whatever Ailes and Wallace were trying to pull off it didn't work. Maybe it was just a throw-away line for her to trot out when she is on the trail. Who knows? Who really cares?
Prosser will cooperate with authorities. If our Supreme Court was not already the laughing stock of America (open bags filled with ballots; clerk stumbles upon 14,000 uncounted ballots in Waukesha. Clerk took ballots home on her personal p.c.) our Court just moved into first place. Question I would ask if he touched Justice Bradley: "How did she put her throat in your hands?"
Letters from our readers on the Prosser subject have been hilarious but tinged with sadness. Most people ask a simple question. If he touched her, in any way, how can he remain on the bench? Simple answer in my view: he can't.
The Progressive Magazine keeps getting better and better. Read Ruth Conniff's lead story in the May 2011 issue, "The Republican War on Education." Good stuff and very, very, scary.
Then check the Wednesday Cap Times commentary on the idea that the Walker budget would allow banks an easy way to purchase credit unions! The Joint Finance Committee passed a measure that would make it rather easy indeed to convert a credit union directly to a bank. Darin Von Ruden, president of Farmers Union, warns us to keep eyes open! Good advice. We will track the story and report back.
Dave Mills: A sad note. Long time friend and progressive voice Dave Mills passed on Sunday. Dave and Carla Mills sponsored Tom Harkin, Paul Simon, Russ Feingold, and lots of other progressive candidates for office. A great team of Dave and Carla has lost a valuable part. Dave, we miss you. Thanks for giving your best. Carla, we know you will keep on fighting for justice.
June 27, 2011
20 weeks because...
"Several States now forbid abortion after 20 weeks," says the NY Times. Gee, and I thought Roe v. Wade settled the abortion issue! Not so.
The Right-To-Lifers have been using the abortion issue for fundraising, selecting candidates for appointment to the bench, and selecting candidates for president. And they are trying to scare doctors who perform abortions. It is harmful.
The latest trick is the use of fetal pain. RTL leaders think this is a winning political argument. "Fetal pain is something that people who are in the middle on the abortion issue can relate to," they say. In other words, RTL is not really concerned about fetal pain--they have created the issue to advance their cause. Shame on them.
What should we do if the GOP shuts down government? Let us hear from you.
June 26, 2011
Can't stop watching
Would anyone believe that Justice Ann Walsh Bradley would come across her office "with fists up" to fight David Prosser--the justice with an anger management problem? (Prosser is the guy who previously called the chief justice a "perfect bitch.") If one wants to accept his story about the events on June 13, Prosser, seeing that he was about to be assaulted by Bradley, put up his hands to "push her back."
Bradley says Prosser put his hands around her neck and chocked her. Prosser did not deny that her neck somehow got into his hands. A Prosser supporter said Prosser blocked her assault but in doing so "made contact with her neck."
Made contact with her neck? I propose that concealed weapons should be barred from the court. Apparently, Justice Prosser's anger management counseling didn't take. Time for another round?
All I can say is that one of the top supreme courts in the country is now at the bottom of the list. Good god! A physical attack.
June 25, 2011
Who needs 'em?
Yes, I am writing about librarians! The NY Times points to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where the school superintendent says he must eliminate 15 of the district's 20 librarians. Why? Well, the alternative is to cut full-day kindergarten! To quote Vince Lombardi, "What the hell is going on out there!"
Mayor Michael Bloomberg, one of the wealthiest men in the world, calls on New York to cut 53 of 365 licensed librarians. He can't be serious. So poor kids arrive at school, unprepared to join in the educational game. Once they could go to one of the most helpful persons in the school for help. I got help from the librarian when I was in school and so did you. But look at the tough choice. Kindergarten or librarians. Whoa Nelly. These kids need kindergarten as well.
What are we doing to ourselves? We toy with poor people with PR packages such as "No Child Left Behind" or "Race to the Top." But what is that doing in the schools? Not much.
Abortion. We predicted that the Jacksonville, Florida, Right-to-Life meeting would be a doozy and it was. Rick Santorum, right-wing nut, is shocked that Mitt Romney has not signed the pledge to once again outlaw abortion. Michelle Bachman said, "This is no time for the Republican Party to put up a candidate who is weak on pro-life issues."
Recall the bumper sticker that spoke volumes: "If men got pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament." I am back on that kick. Men get women pregnant. If they did not there would no abortions in America. So while loopy proposals are out there suggesting that women who have abortions and their doctors would face criminal sanctions, why not toss the men in prison who get women pregnant against their will?
And if a man gets a woman pregnant, consensual or not, how should society deal with him? Jail? Castration? Require that he pays his share of raising the child? Is this crazy? I am tired of listening to Glenn Beck, Rick Santorum and Michelle Bachman. Time for sharing the cost of child rearing.
House Votes on Libya. We oppose the war, we are mad as hell, and we are not going to take it anymore! Just wait! If you keep fighting the Libyan war without a congressional declaration of war we will hold our breath until we die and then you will be sorry! Seriously friends, Bernie Sanders will raise the temperature at Fighting Bob Fest on September 17 along with Jim Hightower, and probably Dennis Kucinich. Be there!
Oppose but keep on paying the bill; keep on exposing your young soldiers to death?
June 24, 2011
My, my. What a coincidence!
It wasn't in writing, it was not approved by the board of directors, and it doesn't look like a bona fide deferred compensation agreement. So, what was the $10 million Ron Johnson's corporation paid him under the guise of "deffered compensation" just hours before he was sworn in as a senator? A gift? Part of an "oral" deferred-comp package? A tax dodge? A corporate contribution? Whatever it was it does not pass the smell test.
Let's begin with the obvious. From the persepective of a corporation, was the 10 million an "appropriate use of corporate resources"? Hard to make that case as he was walking out the door. But, then, he only had to persuade himself!
Was there an "agreement" between the corporation and Johnson that the corporation he controlled would pay him almost exactly the amount he spent on his senate race? (Senate race cost $9.7 million--deferred comp he paid himself from corporate funds, $10 million.)How could they argue that the payment was within the law? It would be illegal for a corporation to donate directly to a candidate (Johnson), and that has been the law in Wisconsin for 100 years.
Johnson says the 10 million was the agreed upon amount that was determined at the end of his tenure with the company. "Agreed upon by whom?" asked Dan Bice of MJS, the writer who broke this story. "That would be me," Johnson said.
Unlike most deferred package deals, the company did not set aside a specified amount annually that would be paid out when he left the firm. Since he was the person obtaining the 10 million from a corporation he controlled, it is ludicrous to think that the 10 million just happened to be the approximate amount the corporation agreed to pay years ago!
Johnson seems to have a short fuse. "I don't have to to explain it any further to someone like you," said our senator. Let's hope he has to explain to a judge or jury. (MJS will have to work overtime to help Johnson out of this mess.)
June 23, 2011
Let's review the bidding. All but one of the GOP candidates for president have signed the Right to Life (RTL) pledge! No pro-choice appointees in the administration (no matter how remote from the abortion issue); no pro-abortion judges appointed; abortion is illegal if fetus can feel pain; notify parents 48 hours before procedure; repeal of Roe v. Wade; and on and on and on! Michele Bachmann says she "supports life from conception to the natural end of life."
Would it be impolite to ask Bachmann and other candidates about the men who get the women pregnant to set the stage for abortion? Last time I checked, men were very involved in conception. Could we punish them from erection to natural death and to require that they pick up the tab for raising the kids? Outlaw Viagra? Wow! Distribute condoms?
Only Romney is kinda-sorta ducking the RTL pledge. He won't sign, but demands to be called "pro-life" although he was once "pro-choice" before he was pro life!
Egad! Who are these people? I call them body police.
And there is war! OK, the president took a step in the right direction, but there are miles and lives to go! If the Afghanistan army will be ready in a couple of years, why not now? And why is it our duty to defend that country after 10 years of our lives and trillions of dollars?
How do we justify being there knowing that we will leave? Is it right then but not now? Can you handle another 20-year-old death? I can't. Come on, Democrats. End this nightmare!
NOW look closely. It might be him or it might not. John (or Jon) Huntsman, hearlded as the new hope of the socially challenged candidates, to take on Obama is running TV spots featuring the ambassador on a dirt bike. Problem? It isn't Huntsman! It is a stunt man! You can't make this stuff up.
Social security? Ayn Rand's boy Paul Ryan is taking on Social Security as well as Medicaid. Social Security with a two trillion dollar balance is being painted as the cause of the deficit. Problem? Yup. Not one dollar of debt was caused by Social Security. Where is that stunt man now?
Right on, Al Gore. As the climate crisis rages like the Mississippi Obama is pretty darn quiet. Why? Well, possibly because of campaign contributions from the polluters? Heaven's no! Say it ain't so!
June 21, 2011
The Gods Must be Crazy # 4
We all like clean water, pure food and clean air. But as kids we were told that we must eat a bushell of dirt before we die. Not true, but it suggested that we should not go overboard.
We recognize that water collected in reservoirs is not pristine. Animals swim in the water, some die in the water, some poop in the water, but Oregon has gone over the top yelling, "Not in our wells!" A hidden camera caught a young man urinating in a reservoir. OK, not conduct we want to encourage but Whoa Nelly! Oregon is draining the entire reservoir of 8 million gallons of water because this guy had to relieve himself? Yikes.
While Oregon worries about one guy urinating in the public pool, nothing is done to identify the chemicals forced into the ground in what we call fracking that is being used in a number of states. Drillers pump chemical-laced water into the ground that could well pollute water supplies. The industry refuses to tell the public which chemicals are used! Let's see...one guy pees in 8 million gallons of water and they leap into action; the chemical and oil people may destroy our ground water and we do nothing. The gods are nuts.
Then there is Wal-Mart: The Supreme Court ruled against the women Wal-Mart discriminated against. Over a million women in the class-action suit. The hopes and dreams of the women are dashed, but the big corporations are giddy. Another terrible decision by the Bush Court.
Thinking about the courts, how about the ubiquitous Koch boys getting involved with Clarence Thomas? Perhaps the worst Justice in history, Thomas is so far off the ethical track he should be asked to resign, but the Bar would never do that. Pay attention to this scandal as it develops.
Finally, there is Neal Boortz. His comments are the most outrageous call for violence against blacks in decades. Fox News tries tries to defend Boortz. Read his comment and let us know your reaction.
I am reminded of RFK's quote: "All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to remain silent."
June 20, 2011
Read and nod
We have posted in our Documents section the dissent written by Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson. Justices Ann Walsh Bradley and Patrick Crooks joined the chief while Prosser, Gableman, Roggensack and Ziegler put another smile on WMC's face.
Last year we invited Chicago based labor lawyer and author Thomas Geoghegan to speak at Fighting Bob Fest and he was terrific. Today, Tom follows up on his theme in a NY Times op-ed piece that is must-reading for all progressives. His headline is, "Get Radical: "Raise Social Security."
The difference between Geoghegan and Paul Ryan? Well, to start, Tom is honest and secondly, he offers a real solution to a big problem.
The problem? "A recent Harris poll found that 34 percent of Americans have nothing saved for retirement — not even a hundred bucks." Nada. Nothing. Ryan would say Atlas shrugged and so do I. Tough luck, pal. Life is unfair.
Geoghegan has a better response. Lift the cap on high earners who make more than $106,800 per year. If earnings above the cap were subject to the payroll tax, with no increase in benefits for the high earners, there would be no deficit in the Social Security Trust Fund in 2037 as projected. Simple as that? Yup! Simple as that!
So why are the Democrats not running on this great idea? Good question!
Would Obama rather declare that Ryan is in the ball park? I hope not. Tom ends his column: "A bigger pension — a raise in Social Security benefits — is the stimulus this demoralized country needs. Come on, Democrats: think of F.D.R., Robert Wagner, or heck, even Lyndon B. Johnson. Let’s ask ourselves: Who are we for?"
June 19, 2011
Are we there yet?
No, I am not recalling kids in the back seat asking parents for the gazillionth time, "Have we arrived (at the vacation spot) yet?" Actually, I am reminded of the old postcard for peace saying, "It will be a great day when our schools get all the money they need and the Air Force has to hold a bake sale to buy a bomber." Are we there yet? Not quite.
We spend so much money on war and weapons that we cannot afford to take care of the poor, the uneducated, and those with special needs. The appropriations for the Pentagon have no limits because to be weak on defense spending is to disqualify one for office.
Hope springs eternal. Robert Gates, on his way out the door, told the New York Times he has "Grown Wary of 'Wars of Choice.'" He actually believes that we should be careful before getting into war! The end of the Bush doctrine? Triumph of the peaceniks? Sure looks like it. What a weak-kneed jerk Gates has become. He says we should be wary of wars of choice! Wow! Whoa Nelly, Gates! What are you trying to do? Bring cost benefit analysis to the war machine? Everyone reading this blog today knows that in the Vietnam-era LBJ refused to raise money to pay for the war, and our debt grew. Guns or butter? Answer, "We can do it all."
Debt ceiling, Medicare, you name it, we are not able to meet our obligations. Time for the bake sale!
Final word. A great idea from Maureen Dowd: Maybe politicians should be celebate and priests should be married.
June 18, 2011
So where are we?
Call me a pessimist if you must, but I have no hope-none-that 18 holes of golf played by the Speaker and the president, in the same foursome, will move the Republicans closer to a decision to act responsibly as the debt crisis looms. (Ideologues are called ideologues for a reason. Compromise to a true believer is like death.)
OK. So Paul Ryan's hero, Ayn Rand, was an atheist! So what? Ryan, who might not have read her books, ignores the non-Christian aspect of Rand, and still requires staffers to read her books. But if these ideologues could show that Obama is not a Christian, all hell would break out.
Communist Party members remained committed to communism despite Hitler's deal with Stalin. CP members in the U.S. were shocked by the Stalin-Hitler treaty but not ready to dump the party! Like Ryan, they were ideologues!
Unless we recognize the true nature of the GOP leadership, Obama and the Dems will lose, lose, lose.
It is time for Obama and the Democrats to fight, but they would rather play golf at a country club not used to having blacks and Jews on the course.
Obama can't be so naive that he believes 18 holes of golf will break down the barriers. Or is he?
Jim Doyle refused to lead as governor and that attitude opened the flood gates for Scott Walker and the Fitzenhjammers to come into power. Doyle was playing bean bags and the Republicans were playing for keeps. Guess who won. If House and Senate Democrats and the White House play bean bags watch Medicare become a voucher program; watch a drop in Social Security payments.
Pilots yell MAY DAY! when the plane is going down. If I was at Congressional today I would yell FORE! Don't you wonder who plays golf with the president when the Republican leaders are unavailable? Look out, folks.
June 17, 2011
Go back to sleep!
Ever have a day start by happily reading the NY Times, enjoying good coffee, when you come across a story that makes you wish you had just rolled over? Well, if you answered "no" read this and let me know if you jumped back in bed.
In fact, normally if I read David Brooks and appreciate what he is writing I contemplate heading back to the sack and today was one of those days. The Brooks column asks, "Who is James Johnson?" I wish I could say I don't know, but I can't. I first met him on the University of Minnesota campus almost 50 years ago. I think he was student body president at U of M and I was the same at UW.
Jim was smart, articulate and had a plan to move up in Democratic politics quickly. He was appointed counsel to Fannie Mae and then, in 1991, he was appointed chief executive of Fannie Mae.
Johnson is the focus of a new book written by my wife's favorite, Gretchen Morgenson, titled Reckless Endangerment, that exposes the scandal at Fannie Mae. Jim's Democratic friends are named and so is the allegation that $2.1 billion that was to help people buy homes remained with Johnson and his pals!
And where were the regulators? "Fannie executives ginned up academic studies. They created a foundation that spent tens of millions in advertising. They spent enormous amounts of time and money capturing the regulators who were supposed to police them," writes Brooks. Brooks calls Johnson "egregiously immoral" and says he made $100 million just for himself.
One more before I pull up the covers: I repeat the comment from Broooks: "The leadership class is fundamentally self-dealing." If one needs proof, back to Gephardt who heads Gebhardt Government Affairs. The former Democratic majority leader in the House ran for president in 1988 and 2004, now represents Boeing, Goldman Sachs, Peabody coal, Visa, and, catch this, the government of Turkey to stop recognition of Armenian genocide at the hands of the Turks!
So take that in stride when thinking about Dave Obey's decision to join old pal Gephardt's lobbying firm. Brooks identified it: the leadership class is primarily self-dealing. My bet is Obey thinks he will be isolated from lobbying for the "bad" special interests. Don't take the bet David.
June 16, 2011
So, did we win? Or did we lose?
After the Supreme Court decision on the open meetings suit was announced, lots of questions poured out from the protesters. The basic question is, "Does this mean we lost?" Answer: Short-run yes, long run to be determined.
Let's face it, when the WMC folks won the Prosser-Kloppenburg race our side had no realistic hope that the Supreme Court would do the right thing. So I was disappointed but not surprised. It was a cinch that the four conservatives wold vote for their political pals.
Channel 3 in Madison went to Speaker Fitzgerald's office and reported that the Fitzgerald boys were dancing. Really? That would have been nice to see. If the victory had the weight of public support this could be a long-term defeat but it doesn't have that feel. Thousands of good people jumped into this battle and the short answer is that if the recall elections break for the Democrats the Legislature will be neutered. What will Walker do next if that happens?
As the pain is felt throughout the state, good teachers will retire or seek other professions; the disability community will suffer severe cuts in staff and funding, environmentalists will be suppressed and frozen out of all decisions. My prescription: keep raising hell!
June 15, 2011
Biddy Martin to Ahmerst
In a setback for Scott Walker, Biddy Martin announced that she is waiving the white flag and heading east. She is leaving the battlegound in Madison because she could not persuade the public that privatizing the Madison campus was a good idea. In fact it is a lousy idea. Not even support from Scott Walker could save her. In reality having Walker's support was the death knell for this loopy idea. I am delighted that she is headed to Amherst. But the Koch boys and Bradley Foundation won't quit--they will be back before long with a different approach to privatizing.
Remember the bumper stickers: "A vote for Prosser is a vote for Walker"? It was.
Some people emerged as leaders. I begin with Judge Maryanne Sumi, who was not afraid to take on the Walker crowd. And, of course, the Fab 13; and Peter Barca.
June 14, 2011
Where did I put that package? I just had it a minute ago!
In 2003, the Bush administration flooded Iraq with cash. In an absurd story, the Bush administration determined that a giant C-130 Hercules could carry $2.4 billion in shrink-wrapped bricks of $100 bills. (You can't make this stuff up.)
Twenty-one flights of C-130 Herks, filled with the shrink-wrapped hundred dollar bills, flew to Iraq, dumped the cash and that was that. That would mean more than $50 billion was shipped from the Fed in New York to someone's pockets.
Then $12 billion went to someone living somewhere but, what the hell. What's a few billion dollars? "It was the biggest cash airlift of all time." No kidding! The U.S. and Iraqi governments are closing the books despite their admitted inability to say what happened to $6.6 billion in cash! Truth be told, I'll bet the entire $12 billion was "mislaid."
Don't you wonder if Bernie Maddoff is using the money in a ponzi scheme?
SUPREME COURT GETS ONE RIGHT: By 9-0, the Supreme Court held that states may keep conflict of interest laws on the books. No, said Scalia, this is not a First Amendment issue. Huzzah. Even a blind pig gets an acorn once in awhile.
The Republicans are moving rapidly to pass the awful anti-education budget quickly. They do not want to wait for the recall elections. Guess why.
Demonstrators are back! Do you know what democracy looks like...
June 13, 2011
It is getting interesting!
Yesterday Russ Feingold spoke to the demonstrators at Walkerville in strong tones about Photo ID and other anti-democratic moves of this Walker gang. Does that mean he has decided to get back into the game? My guess, and it is only a guess, is yes. Senate or Governor? My guess is governor. Russ would have to raise millions (about $20 million) to regain a seat in the Senate where thoughtful souls are a rare find. Twenty million dollars? Hell, I ran for governor because no Democrat wanted to face a well-funded Tommy Thompson. He had about $13 million to use, so $20 million for a Senate seat may be a bargain!
My condition for running back then? We would limit contributions to $100. Was that smart politics? No, but my stomach stopped functioning at the thought of seeking millions of dollars from progressives; asking friends to pony up $5 or 10 thousand. And now that the Supreme Court has made yet another foolish decision, that corporations are just like people...(sort of the chimp to man analogy) I will bet that Russ feels the same sickening feeling when he thinks about a Senate race.
Whatever he decides we could sure use Russ in Wisconsin politics as a smart, clear thinking, and ethical leader. Let's hope he runs.
Dick Gephardt, former Democratic House leader and contender for president, is now a lobbyist. Google says he represents the coal industry, Goldman Sachs and Visa. Whoa Nelly! I hope not, because Dave Obey is supposedly joining Gephardt's lobbying effort. Sounds like Gephardt but not Obey. We are seeking clarification.
BIG DEBATE TONIGHT: TONIGHT, TONIGHT--New Hampshire will be treated to the first GOP debate. Newt, Mitt, Perry, (Palin?), Bachman? Egad! What a crew. Best result from my perch--Perry promises to persuade Texans to secede again. This time for keeps!
WPR reports that Dave Obey handed out lots of money as bonuses to staff in his last two days. Up to $90,000. He explained that they worked hard and deserved the bonus.
June 11, 2011
What's your name?
Who is Gladys Huber? She is apparently running against Democratic Rep. Sandy Pasch for the right to carry the banner of the Democratic Party in the recall election of Alberta Darling for Senate. Huber might be a nice person--a mother--a grandmother, religious or agnostic we know not. What we do know is that she is a "fake" Democrat. She is a real Republican. She is a disgrace because she has decided to lie to voters and run as a Democrat to force Pasch to run two times or, worse, the GOP could gang up against Pasch, fund Huber in the Democratic primary and she could win! Setting up the absurd situation of two Republicans holding hands in support of Darling.
What would the MJS do? Pants on fire? Wisconsin on fire? Cheaters beware? Go on vacation?
Here is my position. I think the Dems should play it straight. Do not yield to the temptation to run fake Republicans. Take the high road! Set up debates to demonstrate how dishonest it is to run "fake" Democrats. The Dems might lose one or two, but the voters in the future won't forget the lie that Gladys Huber is telling them. She is a disgrace. She belongs in the ash-can of Wisconsin's proud electoral history.
MARINETTE: Drove to Marinette to speak to a Marinette County Democratic Party and Organized Labor forum. Long drive but well worth it. Their forum is a model of what we need. It was spirited. We had lots of laughs, good arguments were heard respectfully, tough questions, community spirit and good feelings all around. The crowd made us think about the Wisconsin way not the Walker way. No arrogance. Open minds and respect toward one another. Let's have 72 of them!
I have seen a lot of crazy things including the governor, making some point, returning $810 million that we were entitled to use for high-speed rail! Incredible. Now the state is starting to return $37 million intended to extend broadband to rural and underserved areas to be used for broadband service to all schools and libraries! Some of the money has already been spent, so the loopy Fitzgeralds and loopier Walker are forcing the UW to return money already spent! Are they nuts? Yup! The privatizers fear competition from the Wisconsin co-op that was going to manage the broadband program.
Had Scott Walker been around before FDR's Rural Electrification Program the barns in Wisconsin would be dark! All students would be denied computers in our state. Yikes! Get these guys out of power.
June 9, 2011
Fighting Bob must be spinning in his grave. And Lee Dreyfus, Warren Knowles, Proxmire and Gaylord as well. There was a time when Wisconsin was the model for reformers throughout the country. Public control of utilities, civil service, public financing of campaigns, open primaries, corporations held in check and told in no uncertain terms to stay out of politics. No longer.
The fall from grace has been rapid. You can't make it up. The latest example? Six Republicans are facing recall elections despite frantic efforts by Michael Best to kill the recalls in court. But the GOP, with unlimited resources, is covering all bets. The Republicans admit they will cheat on the recall elections by persuading Republicans to run as Democrats in the recalls. Why? Take a look at one of the races. Because Rep. Schilling seems like a sure bet to unseat Senator Dan Kapanke. Aha, says GOP, run a right-wing Republican in the Democratic primary and that will force a delay of the recall election and will force the Democrats to spend money on defeating a "Democrat" who is not really a Democrat, so Schilling can face the object of the recall, Kapanke!
This stinks to high heaven, but it does show us how far the Republicans of Walkertown are willing to go to win.
Former Republican Legislator Junkerman, an 82-year-old conservative Republican, will run against Democrat Nancy Nussbaum in the "Democratic primary" although admitting he is not a Democrat! Whoa Nelly!
Junkerman a Democrat? "Johnny, we hardly knew ye!"
It is against the law to intentionally mislead the voters. What is this idea? Civics 101 or cynicism 301?
Walkerites kill early release. Walker is a "lock-'em up and throw away the key" law and order governor who wants the prisons turned over to the private sector. His simplistic notion is to keep prisons crowded, keep costs increasing, and voila! He can then justify private prisons! This is nuts!
June 8, 2011
I must admit that politicians often disappoint us, even the good ones. Let's take a look at Anthony Weiner because voices on the right are demanding that Weiner, the bright talented leader, step down. I hope he does not. We need him in the House.
The Anthony Weiner episode looked bad from the outset. His suggestion that he had been hacked seemed hollow. Most people would have been outraged to see those pictures, but he was struggling to cover his mistake. Unlike John Edwards, the former governor of California or the former NY governor or Bill Clinton, this was not a sexual encounter. This was not a flight to Argentina to meet the South Carolina governor's lover; nor was it the third wife of Newt. It was not a wide stance in the airport men's room. This was stupid but no harm done.
Let's face it, politicians are very human and they are presented with temptation all the time. Beautiful lobbyists; C Street hide-outs; lots and lots of money; the table near the window in every restaurant in Washington.
In Wisconsin the former Speaker of the Assembly was supposedly sleeping with a very attractive lobbyist for the payday loan industry. He claimed he was not influenced by the relationship or the campaign money he received from this sleazy group. Yah sure!
But what may be worse is people who run for public office and deliberately cover up their real agenda, or those who make it based on the support of grass-roots progressives who jump into the arms of Big Pharma, the insurance industry, the hospitals, or so-called free trade groups as lobbyists after defeat or retirement. That hurts. It breeds the cynicism that makes it even more difficult to persuade young people to run for office or even care about politics--the dirty game.
RECALLS: The Republicans don't want to face an election now. They are not finished ruining the state and they feel the voters' wrath. People are angry and the GOP knows it. They have gone back to court to stop the recalls because they don't want to explain their hidden agenda.
This is going to be interesting.
June 7, 2011
The announcement that the Cleveland Clinic's Huron Hospital will close sent a chill. I look back at the LeBron James hoopla where millions of dollars along with the key to the city were offered to a basketball player if he would stay in "loyal Cleveland." No such hoopla over the decision to close a community hospital. They just blind-sided everyone with the announcement. What the hell is going on? So 211 hospital beds: closed. No intensive care available. Surprise, surprise: the community served is mostly black and very poor.
NYT reports that the community hospital points to "treatment for this stalwart for the poor" in contrast to investments in hospitals situated in wealthier, better insured areas.
We have been writing about closing hospitals in Milwaukee for years. What has happened to the thousands of poor people turned away from St. Michaels and other hospitals that have closed ER rooms? Don't expect to read about these folks in the MJS. No, they are too busy, busy with Politi-fact to tell us what is going on with health care for the poor.
Went to the Square yesterday as firefighters, police officers and teachers raised hell about the Walker budget. The pending recalls captured the discussion.
I am speaking tonight in Jefferson County and Thursday night in Marinette. I'm eager to check the level of enthusiasm.
June 6, 2011
It is about time!
Finally, a Republican candidate for president who a.) thinks Paul Ryan is a "liberal" if not a "progressive" and b.) tells us the tough news that most of society's problems are caused by abortions and those who perform them. Yup, it is the women! Thank you, Rick Santorum. Now, back to the National Review.
Who knew? In selling the public on the need (?) for photo ID, etc. Walker assured us that there is plenty of voter fraud in Wisconsin even though the perpetrators have not been caught. We said nonsense, but it turns out that the Walkerites know more than you think.
First the "recovery" or "discovery" of 14,000 ballots in deep red Waukesha County; second, bags full ballots, of opened but unattended filled with thousands of ballots; third, La Crosse Republicans captured on tape plotting to run a Republican as a "Democrat" in the Kapanke recall race to give Kapanke time to raise money. Koch boys? Keep eyes open. Finally, letters discovered in a most unlikely place, MJS's Dan Bice's desk, from GOP chairs to conservatives begging right-wing Walker Republican types to file and run as Democrats to force Democrats to have a primary giving GOP Senators more time to repair their image! Not illegal, but very Lee Atwater, Roger Ailes, Karl Rovish!
Is there no limit to the dirty tricks? Guess not, as Michael, Best & Frederich, the govs's favorite law firm, is in court trying to stop the recalls! If MB&F is successful the wind is out of the reformers' sails. If they lose and they will probably lose, then phony primaries will be attempted. I think we need photo IDs for the Republican lawyers!
Want to get sick? If you have an autistic child or know someone who does you will wretch when reading about the death and abuse of special needs children, often by incometent or dangerous staff, in New York. (NY Times today: "A Disabled Boy's Death, and a Troubled System.")
Reading: FightingBob.com contributing editor John Nichols, always a treat, will host a reading at 7 p.m. on June 8 and read from his latest book, The 'S' Word: A Short History of an American Tradition...Socialism. It is happening at the Goodman Community Center in Madison. Come and enjoy!
June 5, 2011
JS: fact or fiction?
It is a rare occasion when the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel digs into a story and reports its findings. More often than not, its focuses on a statement from a public figure reported in another publication and then investigates the veracity of the statement. (Saves time and money.) Then they post conclusions that appear to be consistent with the conservative mind-set of the editors or the Bradley Foundation or both.
Today is a near-perfect example of their so-called politi-fact mission. The MJS asks (disingenuously) if outside groups might have influenced governor Walker's anti-union legislation. (Next up I predict, "Does Pope influence Catholic teaching?") Really. I am not making this up. After the infamous phone call from one of the Koch brothers to Walker, and Walker carried on like they were old pals, the only daily paper in Milwaukee asks if outside groups might be influencing Walker. Whoa Nelly!
Try the Cato Institute: funded by Koch Brothers. Try American Enterprise Institute: funded by big business. Try ALEC: Wisconsin chair is Robin Vos of Burlington. Try WMC. Check Wisconsin Policy Research Institute. How dumb do they think we are?
No, dear MJS editor, no outsiders are influencing our governor. Any claim that Walker listens to his right-wing funders is "mostly false." Honest!
By the way: Walker would be defeated by Feingold and his fellow radical governors aren't doing any better. Kasich in Ohio has a 33 percent approval rating; Snyder of Michigan--33 percent favorable; Scott of Florida 29 percent.
Hang in there gang!
June 4, 2011
Politico reports that Dave Obey will join the lobbying firm headed by former Democratic leader Dick Gephardt. By most acounts, Obey gave the best speech of the night at the convention. We will try to post the entire speech.
June 3, 2011
A walk might be good for you gov.
Now, I should not be too hard on people who are overweight--I could stand to lose several pounds, but New Jersey's Bully-in-Chief, Chris Christie, is not just over-weight--he would be your nightmare on a plane as the doors shut and a guy who should buy two or three tickets stops at your seat and sure enough, he is your seat-mate and you are in the middle! Panic, claustrophobia, too late to upgrade, so you close your eyes and pray that this is not a flight that will sit on the tarmac for an hour!
Turns out his son plays high school baseball and the gov wanted to watch one of the games so he jumped on the state helicopter to fly him to the game and he had a car waiting for him where the helicopter touched down. The gov wanted to avoid a 100-yard walk so the car was necessary.
Is he nuts? Yes!
Christie did something before he hopped on the helicopter. His Medicaid plan was altered. Sit down before reading this. If a family earns more than $5,300 per year--I am not kidding--they would no longer be eligible for Medicaid! Throw this jerk a rotten tomato!
FEINGOLD MIGHT PLUNGE IN: Russ met with the Milwaukee J-S Thursday and announced that he is considering a Senate run to replace Herb Kohl. If he does he would win a primary and would beat Ron Johnson. (You remember him. At joint appearances he looked like he sat on a whoopee cushion.)
Dem Convention today: At the Convention, Wis politics will conduct a meaningless poll on the Senate and gubernatorial races and will announce the results. Or not! No one cares. One Wisconsin Now will announce an equally absurd poll and you can bet your bippee that the Journal-Sentinel will do nothing of interest.
Whoa Nelly! La Crosse Republicans did not turn off a tape recorder and they were caught plotting to run a Republican as a Democrat to delay the Kapanke recall election. Shame on you! They want to stop the recall elections--Senate and governor; now they want to cheat the voters by putting up a Republican to force a Democratic primary. Shame!
June 2, 2011
Blackmail replaces compromise
We all know that blackmail is a terrible crime. We also know that you cannot make a deal with blackmailers. If you agree to pay ransom, the blackmailers will demand more and more and more. Their word is no good.
If a child is kidnapped the expectation is that the kidnapper will demand ransom money. We know parents will pay almost anything to free the child. But it won't work! We learn as children that honest people cannot deal effectively with a blackmailer in large part because the blackmailer has an irreplaceable "person or thing" and the blackmailer only wants money.
We also learned in civics class that the essence of our democracy is compromise not blackmail. Like it or not, we have established a two-party system in this country and the assumption is that the two will take turns in the various branches of government and that the goal is not to kill the other party in part because when your side wins an election because in two years your party may need the party now in power.
Rather simplistic analysis, I admit, but I feel compelled to say something because the GOP House is dominated my ideologues--spelled blackmailers--not negotiators. It is beginning to look like the blackmailers are determined to take the U.S. over the cliff if the Democrats refuse to pay ransom. They want to play chicken. They seem to want the government to crash and burn like pyromaniacs at the house fire, just to test their cockamamie theories. If the kidnapped child or U.S. economy dies, that is too bad but brilliant economists like Paul Ryan repeat ad nauseum that the the debt must be used as ransom money. All of it!
It seems inconceivable but the leaders in the House are willing to sail into a storm without a map rather than compromise.
I don't envy Obama and the Democrats but I have concluded that the only way to return to civilized society in this country is to call their bluff. If the nation's full faith and credit is destroyed let the blackmailers pay the price. From the kidnapped child to the bully in the school yard, we have no choice. Give them Medicare to gain some room on debt and in two months it will be something else. There is only one way to deal with blackmail: call the cops and call their bluff.
June 1, 2011
Wanta know what class war looks like?
My favorite chant during the uprising on the square went something like this: "Do you want to know what democracy looks like? This is what democracy looks like! Do you know...". And it was true. The thousands who marched, chanted, sang, spoke, hollered were indeed what democracy is all about--those faces, young, old, in between, white, black, Indian, Irish, poor, middle-class--that is what democracy looks like!
So, I read the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel headline today: "Panel Votes for Corporate Tax Break" but "GOP-run committee further cuts credits for working poor." And the chant magically appeared in my head: "Do you want to know what class war looks like? This is what class war looks like!"
How could they? The usual bullfeathers from the class-warriors--jobs! Alberta Darling, doynne of River Hills, delivered the excuse. "What we are trying to do is grow jobs." That statement is so absurd it needs nothing further from me.
Bill Moyers said years ago that the wealthy declared class war in 1984 and they have won. Perhaps it is time we sued for peace!
SUPREME COURT: Then there is Waukesha's gift to the state--ten more years of David Prosser! Catch this line: Kloppenburg conceded but notes: 150 ballot bags with tens of thousands of votes were found open, unsealed or torn and that some uncounted ballots were found in Dane, Milwaukee, Marquette and Jackson counties.
In an obvious move to win hypocrite of the decade trophy, Prosser said "The electoral system involves people and people make errors...but the number of errors was really very very small, and I think the people of Wisconsin have great confidence in the overall operation of our electoral system."
Yah, sure David, you have confidence but then there was no reason for Walker's photo-ID bill; change in residency, etc. Wanna bet how Justice Prosser will vote on voter suppression, photo-ID?