May 31, 2012
When the camera showed Scott Walker arriving at the estate of billionaire Diane Hendricks of ABC fame, the billionaire was ready for a hug and he was ready for a plea. Her plea was, you will recall, to make Wisconsin a red state--get rid of all unions. She wants all unions dead and buried, he wanted her money and he was in agreement with her anyway. How to accomplish the goal? "Divide and conquer."
Now it turns out that she paid no state income taxes in 2010! Zip. Nada. No wonder she was ready with a hug! Hell, I know lots of people who would give a hug for a million dollars or two. She gave him more than a hug--she gave him half a million dollars; $500,000! I'll bet she is also in agreement that her contributions could be used for Walker's defense fund.
Lies, damned lies and pollsters. If you had unlimited resources to run a campaign you would send out direct mail, over-sized postcards, you would purchase radio and TV spots, and robo calls. You would also purchase a polling operation or create your own. My advice is pay no attention to polls that pop onto the scene without any indication of who is picking up the tab. The Journal Sentinel won't say who is paying for the Marquette polling operation nor will Marquette. (They are outside Open Records laws so there is no legal way to force them.)
All we can tell you is that this race is too close for honest pollsters to predict.
May 30, 2012
Money from trees and some millionaires
Scott Walker filled his tin cup. It took $5 million to fill his cup but, with help from some non-Wisconsin rich people, he raised the $5 million between April 24 and May 21. MJS calculated that Walker raised $178,000 a day for the latest period.
And he put more into his defense fund--another $100,000. You know that he cannot use funds for defense purposes unless he is a target of a criminal probe. Well, well, if he is innocent and not a target someone is running afoul of the law or so it seems to me. Why the big bucks for a Chicago lawyer and a Wisconsin lawyer chosen to represent this governor? State law says he can only use campaign money for a defense fund ($160,000) if the donors approve, but he won't tell us who gave him permission and the MJS is looking for tougher issues like who shines his shoes.
Imagine the mess if Walker wins and then is indicted. Then what? The amount of money raised gives rise to a suggestion that the GAB weigh the money rather than truck it.
Romney wins GOP endorsements. Now that is big news.
June 5--don't forget. A 65 percent turnout is predicted. My guess is Barrett by 5 percent.
May 29, 2012
'Secret kill list'
A NY Times headline that I guarantee will make you uncomfortable: "Secret Kill List Proves a Test of President's Principles and Will." Obama's insistence on personally overseeing a shadow war is "without precedent in presidential history" the Times tells us.
Guantanamo? "Never had a plan to shut it down," said Obama. It is now obvious that the White House strategy is to make sure no one beats him on the right. This reminds us of the Axelrod perspective on national politics: Don't worry about the left because they have no choice but to support you! The logical extension of that philosophy is to take matters into the president's hands to "take out" a person accused of being a possible terrorist. Whoa Nelly.
In an era of drones, future wars might be fought at a White house picnic using computers and pilot-less planes killing people thousands of miles away who may or may not be terrorists. That is why we have trials for god's sake! How do you like them apples? Would you answer differently if W. was still president? I think so but maybe maybe not!
May 28, 2012
No small plans
A friend in the labor movement suggested often that we should "make no small plans." Go for the big ideas rather than rely on incremental progress toward the goal of justice was his advice. Recently I heard a mini-debate between a sitting legislator and a recall challenger and the "no small plans" quote floated back into my brain. Instead of big plans I heard no plan.
We all know why a million people signed recall petitions to oust Walker. I think we know how different things would be under Governor Barrett as opposed to Governor Koch, but it is not so easy to articulate how Democratic control of the Assembly or Senate will alter our lives. The Democratic Party has been quiet on the "idea" front. As far as I can tell, having watched rather carefully, there is no positive Democratic platform. Each and every Democratic candidate in the recall is on his/her own.
The June Harper's Magazine lays out the crisis in education at the university level. Annual tuitions at Ivy League schools are around $41,000 and factoring in room and board, the tab is an eye-popping $54,000! Thomas Frank suggests that massive indebtedness changes a person more than a college education does. I agree. Student debt is now over a trillion dollars and the students are stuck with the debt no matter what happens. (Example: Student debt cannot be eliminated through bankruptcy, even if an illness comes into the picture.)
So the question arises, is a college education worth it? Can graduates ever pay off their debt and move on? While Ivy Leaguers pay close to $55,000 per year, the cost at a public school is also an incredible burden. Is it asking too much of the Democratic Party to call for free tuition? I don't think so.
One story in the Harper's article tells the sad story of a woman with a Ph.D from Columbia University who wanted to become a professor, but whose $80,000 debt load put an academic career off-limits since adjuncts earn almost nothing. She went to work as an escort for Wall Street types. Anthropologist David Greber wrote, "Here is someone who ought to be a professor doing sexual services for the guys who lent her the money for her advanced degree." OK, this is not typical, but working as a school teacher also won't help much to chip away at a $40,000 debt. If offered two jobs after law school, one helping Wall Street rip off consumers that pays big bucks or working for a public interest firm paying very little, what is the debtor to do?
When I was teaching at the UW Law School as an adjunct professor I often asked students to put on paper the amount of student loan money they owed. It was not unusual to see $50,000 $70,000 or even $100,000 in the notes!
Needless to say, that amount of debt forces graduates to look for the job that pays the most not the job that leads to a career in public service.
The same inflation is occurring in politics. Candidates used to fund their own campaigns when costs were sensible. Today with $50 million races for governor or senator, who will run? Independently wealthy people or, like the Colombia University escort, those who will do whatever it takes. That eliminates damned near everyone of quality. Is it asking too much of the Democratic Party to demand public financing so that good people can run without climbing in bed with lobbyists and special interests?
C'mon Democrats, make some big plans!
May 26, 2012
Want to meet the Pope? Apparently sending money to him will help. Italy's most well-known television host recently sent his meeting request along with a check for $12,500 to the Pope's personal charity. A director of a major bank sent $32,000 hoping for a visit. "They want the Pope's ear more than anything," said one insider.
The Vatican sounds more and more like Congress. Want time to discuss issues with a Senator? Send money! Access is the important result of a big campaign donation. The Vatican is a mess. The Times reports that there are many allegations of corruption and cronyism. Perhaps if the Pope, Cardinals and Bishops spent more time on managing the Vatican than on American politics, and less time investigating those awful nuns, things would get better in a hurry.
MARQUETTE: I keep writing about the Marquette Law School polling operation and a friend asked that I explain again the objections to the Journal Sentinel's reliance on the so-called Marquette poll. (The Marquette Lawyer publication suggests that the funding comes from the Dean's special funds. Who puts money into that fund?) A couple of years ago, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel carried a story in which George Lightourne boasted that Wisconsin Policy Research Institute (WPRI), headed by Lightbourne and funded by the right-wing Bradley Foundation, had formed a "partnership" with the UW-Madison political science Department. As a UW graduate of that department, it seemed odd to me that the UW would lend its good name to ideological Bradley so we asked the UW to give us copies of all documents involving the "partnership as required by Open Records." What we found was astounding. The contract provided that all work by UW Poli Sci and WPRI would not be subject to open records requests. In other words, the public should keep their noses out of the partnership. Other revelations included the agreement that WPRI had final say on almost everything, including when to poll, when to release polls, whether to release the polling data, the polling questions to be asked, and agreement that the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel would have exclusive access to polls about to be released.
Specifically, MJS reporter Dave Umhoefer would have time to write about the poll before the other news media could even see the results. The "spin" would from WPRI and Umhoefer!
The key participants in this drama were Lightbourne, Ken Goldstein and Charles Franklin. It should be noted that Mike Gousha is part of the Marquette poll and that pro-voucher former MJS education reporter Alan Borsuk has joined Team Marquette as well.
When WPRI found, to its dismay, that open records laws applied to its deal with UW, because the UW is a public institution and the public has a right to know what the UW is doing, that killed the partnership. Instead of fighting the decision, Goldstein and Franklin took leaves from UW Poli Sci while they proceeded to pursue their plans. Goldstein formed a company, and Franklin went to Marquette Law School to "provide unbiased polling results in a volatile political year like 2012."
How would Marquette define Franklin's role? Who would pay for the expenses of polling? Who would frame the questions? Who would have final say? Does MJS still have an exclusive?
We asked the MJS several times if the paper knew who was funding the polling, who had final say on questions, and what Franklin's title would be. We never got an answer. Nada, nothing, no-way.
Franklin has been described as "director of the poll"; on "sabbatical"; on leave; and a "visiting professor" of law and public policy." Is he "visiting" from UW Madison? If so, shouldn't they be subject to Open Records? The Law School, in a burst of braggadocio, said recently "if polling provides the voice of the total population, the Marquette Law School Poll is the leading vehicle for that voice to get heard this year, amid all the partisan rhetoric and advertising sweeping across the state." As Ed Koch would say, paaaahhleeezee!
May 25, 2012
Front page story in today's NY Times announces the end of the New Orleans Times-Picayune. Its 175 years of mediocrity comes to an end. Well, not an end per se, rather scaled back to three days a week, cutting staff of course (possibly the owners could get some advice from Europe--"onward austerity!").
Not surprisingly, editor Jim Amoss will remain with the paper. His title is just right for late night comedy: "vice president for content." A less than clear discussion from Amoss reads, "The shock of the new [sic] has to wear off and it will take some talking and thinking about. This is hard news to wrap your head around and adapt to." Whoa Nelly!
The paper said reporters were "heartened to hear from Amoss," (I'll bet they were as happy as the guy on death row seeing the warden coming down the hall) but the reporters wondered why their paper had suddenly become a guinea pig. Why? Because the reporters do not have a strong union, that's why.
Meanwhile, back in Milwaukee, the Journal Sentinel, possibly changing its name to the Milwaukee Picayune, seems to be trying to make-up for its outrageous endorsement of Governor Walker. Today it tells readers that the jobs numbers used by Walker in his TV spot are mostly false!
In explaining the inexplicable Purple Wisconsin--a billboard of "moderate" blogs" the editorial page says it wants to elevate the level of discussion about the most important issues of the day!" Silly me. I thought that was why papers write editorials and dig for news.
I am not making this up. Journal Communications, in addition to right-wing editorials the newspaper published daily, provides right-winger Charlie Sykes countless hours of right-wing talk five days a week, three hours a day, not to mention the rightward leaning of WTMJ TV, and tells us that it wants to elevate the level of discussion? Give us a break! Let's apply the truth-meter to JS's reasons for Purple Wisconsin: Pants on fire!
If the JS wants to elevate the discussion it should send Sykes to New Orleans to save the Picayune and balance the talk shows on WTMJ!
Oh, the job figures? JS's candidate, Walker, manipulated data and lied about job creation. Get this: "When Matthews (Walker's spokesperson) stopped responding to our questions" the JS tried to help their candidate by doing the math for him. "The Truth-O-Meter" says Walker's claims are "mostly false."
May 24, 2012
The people who read the MJS editorial endorsement of Governor Walker shook their heads in disbelief. Forget the substance (?) of the endorsement, based, apparently, on a January poll conducted by the mysterious Marquette law school polling operation finding that 72 percent or so of Badgers think recall should be for criminal conduct only. The writing was, to be kind, sub-par. Yikes! Is this what has merged from the shadows of the Milwaukee Journal and Milwaukee Sentinel merger? Guess so.
I can hardly wait to see more Purple Wisconsin!
May 23, 2012
Computers and MJS
My computer failed me this morning just as I was about to unload on the bias of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The endorsement of Walker is poorly written, and should blow a fuse at so-called PolitiFact. Perhaps JS could merge with the Bradley Foundation. Add Fox News and you have it.
The only value in reading the JS editorial is to remind us that when the Sentinel and the Journal merged the editorial board of the Sentinel slipped into the JS board. The reporting failed as well.
For two years MJS refused to explain their involvement with the Bradley Foundation's backing of the so-called Marquette Law School poll! The endorsement of Walker had to bob and weave. For example, they explain the Walker lie about job creation by saying "job creation has been sluggish." Sluggish? You betcha! And they rely on a silly question asked by the Marquette group back in January that most people thought that recall should be limited. Whoa Nelly! The $500,000 from ABC's Hendricks and the $500,000 from ol' Swiftboat are not even worthy of mention by our pants on fire editors.
And the 57 percent of money coming from out of state? Ho hum.
But here is the other humorous note. MJS is tired extremists so it is creating a blog that will involve eight "balanced" blogs in something called Purple Wisconsin. I can hardly wait!
May 22, 2012
Just trying to help!
I will never forget the first time I heard the "voucher" story in Wisconsin. We were regular guests on Wisconsin Public Television's prgram Weekend. Dave Iverson was the host and the question hitting us was, "Do you agree with Tommy Thompson that a school voucher program will give poor black parents the same opportunity to send their kids to good schools as wealthy white parents?" Tommy had that day told the newspaper editors that this was the right thing to do. According to some, Tommy cried a bit. I responded that when Tommy and Jim Klauser say they want to help poor black parents, cover your wallet!
That was, of course, the beginning of the Bradley Foundation campaign to privatize public education in Wisconsin. The theme was "if we can do it in Wisconsin, we can do it in all states." Wisconsin, with the best public schools in the country and a deep belief in public education, would be the test. Howard Fuller, John Norquest, Jim Klauser and Tommy became the snake oil salesmen and we were off and running taking money from public schools to help private schools! The proponents refused to have the voucher kids tested like the kids in public schools. Eventually, testing was ordered and guess what. The voucher kids were no better than the public school kids.
Keep Wisconsin's voucher "experiment" in mind while reading the New York Times today. "Public Money Finds Back Door to Private Schools." Georgia said the state would provide money as a way to give poor children the "same education choices as the wealthy." But the claim was nonsense. Like Wisconsin, the bulk of the money went elsewhere. It was a sham from the get-go. Soon after Brown vs. Board of Education was decided in 1954, southern bigots began setting up private schools to avoid integration. In reality, in the effort to render Brown harmless, vouchers come into play.
Will we ever learn? Apparently not.
A must read! It sounds familiar. And, soon, Georgia and Wisconsin will be privatizing universities, tech schools, and more.
May 21, 2012
Twelve years ago we hatched the idea of a festival that would honor Fighting Bob Lafollette and bring progressives together. At the first Fighting Bob Fest, the crowd asked for an electronic newsletter and we created FightingBob.com. Now about 30,000 visit Bob.com every week. Then Blog Radio was born. It is still in its infancy, but a thousand or two now call or listen every week.
We are growing! We need your ideas on how to make Bob.com even better.
Hard to believe but June 5 is just around the corner. Everyone knows this will be a close election. Turn-out will determine the outcome. So why are polls continuing to be released? And, once again, who is paying for the Marquette Law School. The Milwaukee Journal won't ask!
At Fighting Bob Fest North the crowd was on fire. Bob Fest North must be a permanent part of the Fighting Bob network. More later.
May 20, 2012
Bob Fest North shines
Three years ago, a few of us put our heads together and asked if Fighting Bob Fest could be moved around the state. Luckily, we began the experiment in Chippewa Falls and Eau Claire. Serendipity at work. The site is perfect, the local committee is hard-working and efficient, and true believes that Fighting Bob Fest North should be a fixture. The first smaller version of Fighting Bob Fest was a success by any standard, and yesterday the gods smiled on us for Bob Fest North number 2. Beautiful weather, great enthusiasm, and the speakers were fantastic. And I mean fantastic. It was the 1% vs. the rest of us and the 99% did just fine.
Next? Fighting Bob Fest 11 on September 15 at the Alliant Center in Madison.
May 18, 2012
Is there a Cubs fan in the joint?
I grew up a Chicago Cubs fan. Our family outing every summer was a trip to Wrigley Field to cheer Andy Pafco, Hank Sauer, Wayne Terwilliger, a/k/a the hapless Cubs, in the friendly confines of Wrigley Field. Then dinner at the Edgewater and that was summer.
I never waivered in my support of the Cubs until multi-billionaire Phil "chewing gum" Wrigley, team owner, blamed the Cub losses on the Major League Baseball Players union. (Sort of like Jamie Dimon blaming the lone female at JP Morgan for billions of losses.)
But eventually I switched to the Brewers. Bud Selig instead of Phil Wrigley? Giving up was an attractive option.
Guess what! The Cubs now belong to the Tom Ricketts family. They are like the Koch brothers and all that is evil about politics. So, DZ, time to join the Brewer fans in kicking the Cubs in the pants. Join us!
Meanwhile, Charlie Dee has retired from teaching at MATC in Milwaukee. The good news? He will have even more time for politics!
Bob Fest North is tomorrow. We will focus on corrupt politics, the recall and future plans! Join us in Chippewa Falls. See you at the fair grounds tomorrow!
May 17, 2012
If you are not scared, you are not paying attention. Lead story in NY Times: "GOP 'Super PAC' Weighing Hard Line Attack on Obama." No more Mr. Nice Guy! Joe Ricketts, founder of TD Ameritrade, has commissioned an advertising strategy, using millions of his own money, to develop a real nasty campaign against Obama. These folks think that they let Obama off the hook by not pursuing the Rev. Wright angle.
With billionaires like Ricketts and our own ABC owner in Beloit, Diane Hendricks, politics is no longer for the poor, the middle class, or even the well-off. It is dominated by those at the very top with astounding sums of money available to spend pushing their candidates and their philosophy. They believe in a corporate-run government and that is what we have. In Italy it was called fascism.
They are playing hardball. Make no mistake about that!
In Wisconsin, Democrats appear to be nervous. While the announced findings of the Marquette poll are highly questionable, it shows Walker in a lead or dead even. What will happen when another $20 million is spent on TV spots, and GOTV efforts get under way, is any body's guess. We think that voters will resent outside interests buying our state, but we don't know for certain.
Walker is running very slick TV spots. Will people take their eye off the ball? We will soon see.
May 16, 2012
No one said it would be dull!
When Joe Gruber and I drove to Milwaukee last February to protest the decision of Scott Walker to cut the heart out of Wisconsin's Family Leave law, we thought it might be lonely picketing the state office building on a windy and very cold day. But right on cue, a couple buses arrived carrying UWM students to join the picket line. We marched in the cold and talked to the crowd. It was an upbeat crowd, but no one would have predicted what followed. Two days later, the "uprising" was under way and you know the rest of the story.
We are down to a short time from judgment day. Will people turn out to vote in huge numbers? I am confident the answer is yes! This is our chance to reclaim our state, our chance to alter the way campaigns are funded. Saturday we will gather in Chippewa Falls for Fighting Bob Fest North and then on September 15, in Madison, we will gather for Fighting Bob Fest #11.
I sense that progressives are ready to do battle. Everywhere I go the conversation rapidly moves to the gubernatorial election. I have heard no one claim "burn-out." So get out your calendar and write down May 19 and September 15 for Fighting Bob. We are also on radio. "Blog Talk Radio" is on from 11 a.m. to noon every Thursday. We are slowly building an audience and urge you to join us. It is fun!
May 15, 2012
Here come the Bucks
There goes your money! The header on a minor story in the New York Times today reads, "Govenor signs Vikings Bill." We have been writing about this theft of taxpayer money. Well, "theft" is too strong since the good people of Minnesota, calling themselves Vikings as if they are shareholders, agreed to be taken to the cleaners in order to keep their beloved Vikings in Minnesota. A deal is a deal even if one party holds a gun to the head if the other. Build the stadium or say good-bye to the Vikings. Some deal! The cost? Only $975 million. Less than half of the JPMorgan loss!
The Vikings, with a franchise worth a billion or so, will pay about half of the costs. The people will pay the rest. If it gets delayed? Dunno. Cost of change orders? If the Vikings change their mind in five years and move? Or threaten to move? Oh well. What are the odds? (Pretty darn good.)
Here is the warning. Herb Kohl has been watching the Vikings--not the on-field stuff but the off-field maneuvers. Kohl will moan that the Bradley Center is outdated; the scoreboard is too small; parking is bad; restaurants mediocre. The solution? Easy does it: Instead of worrying about the size of the scoreboard, worry about the points on the board and ask, Can Herb always be wrong when it comes to player talent?
May 14, 2012
Here is the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's unbiased assessment of Scott Walker: "Walker is now a national figure and a rising star in the Republican Party, a man on the move, keeping up a relentless campaign schedule in the state after engaging in a methodical fund rising drive around the country."
We need a "laugh-o-meter" for JS. This would be humorous if it were not so serious. Let me see. "Man on the move"? Where is he going? Jail perhaps? How about the John Doe investigation? Or the conversation with the Beloit billionaire union buster Hendricks who urges Walker to tell her how we can make Wisconsin a Red state? A Right-to-work state? Is that too hot for JS?
Krugman! Yes. German opposition to Merkel's austerity isn't selling at home, in Greece, Spain, Italy or other countries. Too bad, Congressman Ryan. You are a dollar short and a decade late!
Did you listen to Romney pandering to the bigots in the Falwell audience? Worth reading. Who is this guy? He says God is at our door to knock for us! OK? Ok.
Let's see. Some of the Dewey & LeBoeuf partners think the firm's former chairman is a crook. Others say he was just incompetent!
And Jamie Dimon at JPMorgan Chase said his firm's recent $2 billion loss is a teaching moment. It was because of stupidity and sloppiness! Really? And one woman is responsible for all of it? What the hell is going on?
May 13, 2012
Walker the talker
Never at a loss for words and rarely allowing truth to get in his way, Governor W. wasn't phased when we learned about his "conversation" with David Koch! (It was a good fit for Candid Camera, but ignored by Charles Franklin.) When he met the media? No problem. Embarrased? Nope. By telling Koch that they (W's men)considered placing trouble-makers into the capital demonstrations, he really, in my view, ended any credibility he had. He should have resigned for discussing illegal activity, but no way. He plays hard ball.
In Beloit with cameras whirring, a billionaire widow asks, With all the fervor of a three-year-old on Santa's lap, please Santa, "Can you make us a red state?" And Santa, played by W., says, first steps first. He will first divide and conquer. You know...public employee unions go first. Normally 2 follows 1, but Walker acts like nothing happened! Step 2? Did I say that? There might not be a number 2, or a Santa for that matter.
Right to work? Don't worry about it! It won't get to my desk, was his Romney-like response. I couldn't see the facial expression but I could feel the wink, wink to his supporters. Promise the voters anything but give them Arpege! Egad! The question posed by the billionaire who gave him $500,000 and a warm embrace, wants Right to Work. And Walker? Well, I guess so. He voted for it in the Assembly and it is GOP doxology, but, hey, don't bet the farm on it! This is Candid Camera time again.
Stick with the Gov. W. He will create 250,000 jobs, put candy in every school bag, and fool 'em again!
Meanwhile, Franklin Alert. Prepare yourselves for a rash of polling data from the so-called Marquette Law School poll. MJS continues to publish anything that has the Marquette poll in the title but won't tell us who is paying for the polls, who is shaping the questions, who determines if a poll will be published or not, and if MJS is getting first dibs on the results? We need a laugh-o-meter.
The latest chuckle from Charles Franklin? Lots of people won't vote against our bold governor. A million petition signers? Who asked? Ok Santa, let's go!
May 11, 2012
Whoopee! Vikings remain in Minnesota
Talk about scalping tickets! The Minnesota Legislature approved a bill yesterday that will provide $498 million in public money for a new stadium, as if they need one!
NY Times speculates that a Super Bowl game will be played in Minneapolis to thank the people of Minnesota for their largess. The Vikings, who will probably get help from the other NFL teams to pay their share of construction, will pay $477 million. The total will be $975 million as we reported yesterday. Now, think of costs to tear down the current stadium. Who pays? Who gets naming rights, parking and concessions? I will bet you a "Romney $10,000" that the Vikings get the benefit of all that just like the Seligs when Miller park was built.
Another $150 million will come from expanded gambling options. Too bad they can't put roulette and black jack into the new joint. Why not?
Dewey--that would be Thomas Dewey who ran against Harry Truman. Will the legal profession as a whole need a bailout or just the Dewey LeBoeuf firm? For those keeping up with the collapse of Dewey & LeBoeuf, today's story is a mind-blower. In 2010 the firm raised $125 million in a bond offering. The firm did not warn of risk factors. Had they warned investors, it would have opened the big can of worms and few would have purchased the bonds. The firm, according to the NY Times, has effectively shutdown.
As well they should. The firm's pension plan is supposedly $80 million underfunded. What happened? Multi-year, multi-million dollar pay contracts it gave to top lawyers are what happened. Apparently 100 so-called "top lawyers" are owed millions of dollars. They are owed so much that many have taken off! I was told that a major lawyer in the sports world of litigation works at Dewey for an astounding $1,100 per hour.
Stay tuned. This will be interesting.
May 10, 2012
Brother can you spare a dime?
A note on Minnesota's proposed football stadium. The Minnesota state Senate approved a plan to build a $975 million stadium for the down-trodden Vikings. For the people who don't follow sports, the Vikings are a professional football team. The team has not done well on the field lately so the new stadium will, it is hoped, inspire the team to play better. The House voted to build the stadium as well. Whoa Nelly!
Are they building a new stadium because the current facility is run-down and terrible? Are they out of money? In danger of bankruptcy? Has the fire marshall ruled it a danger? No, no and no. But we all like presents and this is taxpayers' gift to the Vikings and indeed all NFL teams that will get a few more dollars from Viking gate receipts. They will drop a thank you note in the mail.
Surely, you must be thinking, this is is a misguided Republican plot to use up money that might otherwise be spent on health care, housing, tuition and public schools. This is a Paul Ryan-like trick to take money from those who need it most. I'll bet you can't wait to watch Democratic Governor Mark Dayton toss this idea into the trash can. Ah, you would be wrong. Dayton, the multi-millionaire governor, has been fighting for the new stadium for years. I am not kidding!
Here is the odd part of this scheme: NFL teams split all revenues equally, so having a new stadium won't even bring in more money to the Vikings to purchase on-field talent! (Okay, a little more as prices rise, but not as much as a third-round draft choice would cost.)
May 9, 2012
Tom Barrett did not win by a nose. He won convincingly, in a blow-out election. Congratulations to Tom and his supporters. A tremendous victory.
Thus far it is Barrett 1 and Koch boys 0. And the other three candidates should feel good because they ran good, solid, positive campaigns. All candidates quickly focused on the real target, the pride of Kochland, Scott Walker!
Prize for foot-in-mouth comment on Election Night goes to Scott Walker. Shouting his speech in Waukesha, he hollered, "We don't want to be Milwaukee--we want to be Wisconsin!" What a goofy thing to say about the county he represented for years. What is his message? "I screwed it up so badly I don't want you to look"?
OK, the race has begun!
May 8, 2012
Forgive me, but...
I hope you will forgive me but I have an urge to brag about Wisconsin this morning. In the La Follette era it was the laboratory for democracy, almost always in the lead to reform and improve our state and the nation. Ideas flowed from the great state University of Wisconsin: Social Security, academic freedom, a minimum wage that was higher than the federal minimum wage, unemployment compensation, workers compensation, and public funding of campaigns. Well, now our grandchildren and children will look with pride at our state. Youngsters will read about the uprising and smile.
We awakened the nation, pushed the envelope, raised more hell than money, created The People's Legislature, started FightingBob.com Radio, agreed at Fighting Bob Fest that we would fight to preserve this "special place." And we are just getting started. Once again we have moved the nation forward.
Next month we will have earned the right to tell the Koch boys to bug off.
Was it the calls from from friends in Washington, Minnesota, and California to wish us well that made my chest swell? Or MSNBC's superb coverage? Maybe, but I think I was most proud that four good people stepped to the plate, unafraid, and told Walker, Ryan and their mega-bucks friends, as the song commands, "We are not Afraid!"
There was very little carping at fellow Democrats and the message I got from everyone I talked to that they really don't care which one wins; Walker is the target and he will see a united Democratic Party. And we shall overcome.
May 7, 2012
So, Paul Krugman is right. Francois Hollande defeated Sarkozy in France. I wonder what the extreme right in the U.S. is thinking. Goodness, they were worried about socialism in the White House. Imagine how they will handle the notion of an avowed Socialist attending the NATO meetings not to mention new taxes instead of more non-sensical austerity. Good night, Paul Ryan.
(What if peace breaks out throughout Europe?)
Wow. In Greece and France the philosophy of austerity was resoundingly defeated.
Krugman writes, "Those Revolting Europeans." How dare they reject a failed strategy! Time is running out for the strategy of "recovery through austerity"--and that's a good thing.
The Economist magazine declared that Holland is "rather dangerous," because, get this, he wants to create a fairer society. Oh my God. Not fairness! Please!
Sit before reading: Holland has promised to raise taxes 75 percent for those earning more than 1 million euros a year! Take that, Karl Rove. Take that!
I strongly recommend Krugman's new book, End This Depression Now. Read it and smile.
Thank you, France!
May 6, 2012
As the political uproar over Walker's goofy priorities comes to a close, everything seems just a little too quiet. Now what? Well, the next issue will be the use of taxpayer dollars to build a new arena to help Herb Kohl. Kohl, you may remember, got elected to the Senate in 1988 in large measure because he saved the Bucks from moving out of state. Now he has a different song, and it is off-key if you ask me.
As we have been predicting, Kohl wants Milwaukee and Wisconsin to build his team a new home. (The Bradley Center was a gift from Jane Pettit, so now it is time for the taxpayers to give Herb another gift. Or is it?)
Herb says things must "move quickly," and his pal Martin Greenberg set the stage for a Kohl bailout. Catch this line of BS from Greenberg: "While another NBA season has come to an end for the Bucks, the Bucks cannot remain competitive nor will the NBA have along-term relationship with Milwaukee without a new state-of-the-art arena."
Pause for a moment and read Greenberg's comments again. Another Bucks season...another lousy team. Some might say a pathetic team. Greenberg says they cannot "remain competive." They are not competitive, so what in the world is he talking about? And, of course, will a new building make the Bucks a better team? How? Essentially, Greenberg will use any argument that moves us closer to a gift. As the sun rises in the east, the threat to move the team out of Milwaukee is now alive and well in Kohlland.
Greenberg disingenuously asks, "What political leader will take the lead to create a new facility? A new arena could give Milwaukee a strategic real estate development opportunity...could become a centerpiece and a catalyst for further urban transformation." Whoa Nelly. "It could be a sports community where people can work, eat, watch, congregate, learn and socialize." Such a deal! How can we take a pass on that wonderful opportunity? Oh, Okay. Schools in Milwaukee need lots of help, but schools can't move to another state so they will have to wait. First things first!
Greenberg goes on and on and on. A mixed-use development with an arena as an anchor tenant could change the face of downtown Milwaukee.
Who is the new hero? Greenberg names Tim Sheehy, president of the Milwaukee Area Association of Commerce. What a guy that Sheehy is. What a guy! He would pay for the arena with sales taxes. Thanks Tim. Greenberg writes, and I am not kidding, that Sheehy is courageous to propose sales taxes as the answer. Yikes!
Greenberg teaches at Marquette. I can hardly wait for Charles Franklin's poll to show support for public financing of an arena. Of course if the poll results look bad they can just not publish the results.
This is absurd. They have no shame.
May 5, 2012
It won't be long. Tuesday's primary will be boring, but the Democratic primary a short time later will be fascinating. Not only will we have a candidate to oppose Walker, there may be lots of blood on the floor. Will the labor unions come back together? If Doug La Follette loses, will he give up his job as Secretary of State? He said during the WHA debate that he has worked with Democrats and Republicans. "I am not a hard-line Democrat." OK, Doug was in office when Tony Earl was governor and, of course, Tommy Thompson, but when he says "worked together" that is news.
In my opinion, all of the candidates did a good job in the debate. I would say Kathleen Vinehaut was the winner. She gave lots of specifics. While she may not have enough name recognition to win, she might. And if she does not? A bright future in politics. She has done very well. And, as Al Frankin used to say on SNL, "doggone it people like" her.
My Friday began with David Blaska on Joy Cardin's Week in Review. We did get into the Charles Franklin/Marquette polling issue. No need to repeat all of it but who is picking up the costs? Who frames the questions? Who released the results and to whom?
May 4, 2012
Who gets the bill?
Once again the Journal Sentinel ducks the issue of who is paying for the Charles Franklin poll/aka the "Marquette Law School poll" that the JS is relying on in article after article as we approach the all-important recall election in a month. We have been asking that question but the JS remains focused on telling us how many Badgers have stopped talking about politics at the kitchen table or Hovde's position on the price of gas.
Instead of asking Franklin or Marquette tough questions, the JS "assumes" the poll is legitimate. Well, Marquette Law School should agree to permit the public to review the memos and emails as well as other polling information generated by Franklin. If Marquette is paying for the polls, share that information with us. If some other entity is paying, tell us.
Today reporter Craig Gilbert discusses Barrett's standing in the March Marquette poll without even a mention that he was not a declared candidate when the March polling data was being collected. Seems odd or even suspicious.
The Franklin poll keeps the focus on the horse race not the news that Wisconsin is number one in the nation for job loss in the latest report. Number 1!
Franklin, you will recall, was part of the so-called partnership between the Bradley Foundation's WPRI and the UW poly sci department. Does Marquette have a staff to aid Franklin? If so, are they employed by Franklin or Marquette? Will Franklin rejoin the UW poly sci faculty after the election? Is Marquette Law School planning to continue with the Franklin "team"? In other words, will the law school become part of a political science program at Marquette?
I am on Joy Cardin's Week in Review this morning. Maybe we will learn more about Marquette's relationship with Charles Franklin.
May 3, 2012
Truth in polling
For all sorts of reasons, a bad polling result late in a campaign is the equivalent of a gut-kick in politics. Candidates work like crazy, issue position papers, participate in forums, face editorial boards, appear on talk shows, take all the brick-bats, but all of that work can be offset with one poll even if the poll does not pass the smell test.
Most people think TV spots are biased, but reporters even ask about TV spots if sponsored by a right-wing group or a liberal funder. But a poll, with some unknown director, seems like "science." It is weird, but when statements are made that the "margin of error is 3.7 or 4.6" many people conclude that the poll must be accurate if you just subtract the margin from the results reported. The margin-of-error magic. Not unlike the weather reporter giving you the probability of rain thanks to Doppler radar. It makes it appear to be scientific and unbiased. Think again.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporters, who are sticklers for truth in all things irrelevant, with their child-like "pants on fire" award for a whopper told by a candidate or a staff person, ask few, if any, serious questions about a poll. If they did ask they didn't bother to tell us the results.
About a year ago, we discovered that the far-right Bradley Foundation front, the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute (WPRI), made a deal to "partner" with the political science department at UW Madison. The Poli Sci department agreed to conduct WPRI polls with questions provided by WPRI. WPRI and Political Science agreed that the agreement and all polling would be outside the reach of open records laws. Incredible. Reporters who routinely use Open Records to get information wouldn't think of asking Marquette Law School about their brand new polling operation. Keeping all the relevant data outside the reach of the public is not pants on fire it is "building burning down!" And they agreed that a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter would have first crack at revealing the poll's results. A scoop so to speak. We got this information under an Open Records request. We asked questions like Who is paying for the poll?
The poll released yesterday ignores the earlier unholy alliance between the Journal Sentinel and the Bradley Foundation's WPRI. Why raise that now since the partnership crashed and burned when they could not operate in scret? Well, guess who was with UW Political Science when we exposed their agreement with WPRI--Yes sir, Charles Franklin. Who directed the so-called Marquette University Law School poll? Yup. Charles Franklin.
There has always been a question about cell phone calls vs. land lines. (Young people use cell, old guys still like land lines.) Franklin simply asserts that the poll included cell phones! Did the pants on fire reporters ask how Franklin got cell phone numbers? How many? I get plenty of cold-calls on my land line never on cell phone.
Franklin says the resuts are even better for Barrett now than in the March poll conducted by Franklin. He doesn't mention that Barrett was not even a candidate for governor when the March results were publlished. Who knows what that means?
In addition to all that, keep in mind that Marquette is outside the reach of Wisconsin's open records law! So, Franklin, described as "visiting" professor, or "on leave professor," or "director of the Marquette Law school poll." A person close to Wisconsin politics described Franklin as a gift from Alabama to Wisconsin. Who is Charles Franklin? Is that too tough for reporters to ask?
The poll tells us all sorts of nonsense such as "Have you stopped talking politics in your family?" How about this: Who is paying for the poll? Is Franklin taking the money out of his pocket? Is Franklin on someone's payroll? Does he have a contract with Marquette? These questions are important because a Frankin poll could determine the winner.
May 2, 2012
The Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United has blown the top off of our corrupt political system. It was bad enough when I met Phil Stearn in 1987, the multi-millionaire who wrote The Best Congress Money Can Buy.
I gave a talk at a conference Phil sponsored in Gulfport, Mississippi. The part of my presentation that turned Phil on was my challenge to the attendees: How could they raise $6 million for the perfect progressive candidate for U.S. Senate. At the time, six million was about the amount needed to win a Senate race. I wrote on the board $6,000,000 and then I challenged the reformers to show us how they could raise it. First up, organized labor. Assume $250,00, to our perfect candidate, we subtracted that amount so now the campaign need only raise $5,750,000. Environmental groups--say $100,000, so now we need only $5,650,000. I wrote about this in a book I wrote titled Bidding for Power.
That was then, where are we now? Tammy Baldwin, a superb candidate, must raise 30-50 million dollars to replace Herb Kohl. Maybe I am understating and it will take 80 million to elect someone to the Senate this time around. Some would argue that it simply cannot be done! If it cannot be done, we are done as a democracy.
So, while Rome is burning, what do the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and the Wisconsin State Journal write about? Well, they focus on how many angels dance on the head of a pin. (I am reminded of a New Yorker cartoon. Two angels flying above the clouds. One says, "I never dance on a pin unless I am really drunk"). MJS focuses on irrelevant issues. Did the candidate exaggerate when...sort or stuff.
As I see it, the money is Walker's greatest asset and it is his greatest weakness. Voters in Wisconsin will not like the fact that the super rich have just given him 25 million dollars. I predict they will throw the bum out.
May 1, 2012
Now and then I come to grips with the sad fact that Milwaukee has only one daily newspaper. (And, of course I miss the Cap Times every day.) Thank goodness and Lou Fortis for the weekly Shepherd Express. In reading the Journal Sentinel's report on the extraordinary--actually unbelievable--sum of money given to our governor the Journal-Sentinel is down right casual.
To quote someone, "Holy Crap!" (The comment was anonymous because the speaker was not authorized to comment on the record.) Don't you wonder how MJS would have treated the Brink's robbery? "Some money was missing from a Brink's Truck. Actually, more than the usual amount." Or the Hindenburg: "Blimp's landing delayed by bumpy weather"?
OK--here it comes--$25 million has been given to Walker (not "raised" as JS would have it). It is what can only be described as the largest bribe in history, with the possible exception of the NFL's "gift" of a team to New Orleans in return for an exemption from the antitrust laws so the NFL and AFL could merge.
We thought the right-wing democracy-destroyers might make 12-15 million available to Walker, but even that amount is so far outside my comfort zone. I thought they just might keep it down. Nope!
Here are some names you might want to add to a country club or Tea Party event: Diane Hendricks gave Walker a $500,000 gift that one must label honest graft. Bob Perry has given Walker $500,000 as well. Perry was the jerk who produced the video called Swift boat.
Sheldon Adelson, Sands Hotel, gave Newt Gingrich $10 million. And Walker? A full $250,000. (That means he would support bombing Iran!) Ah, the DeVos family (Amway), has dabbled in Wisconsin politics for years. This time they more than dabbled, giving Walker $250,000.
Other big givers of $100,000: John Childs, of Mass.; Warren Stevens of Arkansas; Robert Kern founder of Waukesha's Generac.
Now what? Do Democrats throw in the towel, try to raise money, or join in the Tin Cup Movement?
TAKE UP THE CHALLENGE:
Walker has given the Democrats a wonderful opportunity to change the system.
The People's Legislature adopted a resolution urging candidates to "put down the Tin Cup," and announce they will take no money from any entity other than individual contributors. That means no union money, no corporate money, no PAC money!
The moment has arrived. The four Democrats should meet to discuss a joint approach to money. Join the Tin Cup movement and challenge Walker to do the same. Democrats would be saying to voters, We are not for sale! Period.
Think about it. The Democratic nominee will have a golden opportunity to win by sticking with the pledge. And if it works the right-wing is 'f'ed (a word the NY Times reports cannot be said in front of the Supreme Court). Use your imagination. The right-wing is in deep poop.
Beat the money in June and the Koch brothers et al will fade quicker than a summer tan.
Memo to Falk, La Follette, Barrett, Vinehout: Place all the money you have into the campaign of the winner. Campaign as if our political lives are counting on you. Beat the money!