June 30, 2004
Words to live by
Bob Jauch, state Senator from Poplar, accompanied business people and Governor Doyle on a trip to China.
He urged a return trip and added this thought: "There is an awareness that if you can deal with China, then you can deal with Canada." (I'm not making this up.)
Congratulations: Your friends and neighbors...
Long ago millions of young men received a letter from the president of the United States congratulating them on being selected by their neighbors to serve in the United States Army. The draft has not been used for 30 years, but with the Bush administration's adventures into Iraq and Afghanistan the "back-door" draft is at work.
Under the title "Stop-Loss, stop-move" those soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan who planed to retire when their "contract" ended must remain on duty until their units are released from active duty. That is bad enough, but now 5,600 who are already retired have been sent a friendly note to report for duty. These are folks who served eight years of active duty and were honorably discharged.
I'll never forget the day I received a letter from the Army promoting me to Captain and urging me to sign up for more service. Believe me, six years was enough. Imagine the soldiers in Iraq in 130 degree heat, surrounded by people who want them to leave, faced with roadside bombs, rocket attacks, grenade launchers. They deserve a break. When their duty time is up they should be released. Period.
When did we lose our edge?
Ah, the embarassment of finding out that Wisconsin is in the bottom half of the nation in the number of residents with four-year college degrees. Yikes! The AP reported that about 24 percent of our citizens hold this key to economic survival while Minnesota has 33 percent.
What is going on in Minnesota? They have one-third the number of prisoners and almost ten percent more college graduates. "Toto, could there be a connection? Less money for education and more spent on Wisconsin's number one growth industry--prisons?"
The state's budget deficit was closed in part with a $250 million cut in state aid to the UW while tuition went up by a total of $150 million. Tuition in 2004 will be more than $5,000 at Madison and Milwaukee and $4,000 in Eau Claire, Green Bay and Stevens Point.
Face it. Unless the Doyle-Lawton administration steps up to the plate, Wisconsin will continue a downward slide. It is time to say with gusto that we must raise taxes on corporations, close loopholes, and increase income taxes for those at the top of the scale. We cannot continue cutting into our educational budgets at all levels. This is shameful.
June 29, 2004
Supreme Court gets it right
From the outset, FightingBob.com has been railing against the Ashcroft, Cheney, Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld nonsense of holding detainees without access to lawyers or the courts. Today we can celebrate. The flimsy legal excuse that the president can do anything he wants so long as there is a war ongoing was rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Fortunately for this country, the court ruled, "A state of war is not a blank check when it comes to the rights of the nation's citizens." As Anthony Lewis eloquently stated in the New York Times, "Justice O'Connor confronted the claim that the 'war on terror' entitles him to act without any meaningful check by the courts. She and seven of her colleagues firmly rejected his presumption of omnipotence." (Only Clarence Thomas dissented. While I don't read every Supreme Court opinion, this is the first instance in my memory where Thomas differed from his coach and vice presidential duck-hunting pal Antonin Scalia.)
Now the issue of how our nation handles prisoners of war must be taken up. This disgrace to our name must not stand.
Don't mess with PBS
Check our Feedback section today. You will find dozens of submissions on the importance of PBS. We have never had so many responses, and I think you will find them thoughtful and constructive.
The feeling comes through that "we" own PBS and there is an overwhelming desire to maintain the independence and integrity of it's programming. The warning light is on, and on September 18 at Fighting Bob Fest we will look at how we can protect PBS and NPR from a hostile take-over. As they say, keep the ideas flowing.
June 27, 2004
Cheney to the rescue
He said it and he is glad. Yes, our Vice-President said the F-word, printed in full by the Washington Post but not here. Why not here? I would feel the wrath of my fifth grade nun if I ever uttered that word in public so, in a nod to the good Sister, I leave it to your imagination if you have not already guessed.
What would have earned us a trip to the wood shed, is okay according to Cheney because, "I think a lot of my colleagues felt that what I had said badly needed to be said, that it was long overdue." Incredible. What's next? How about a food fight in the White House mess?
In mid-November, writers trying to figure out when the Bush-Cheney team lost it might well look to Cheney's outburst as the magic moment. Why? The outburst was not about the invasion, American deaths, or the lack of war planning. No, the Veep has his priorities on his sleeve. He was defending no-bid contracts given to Halliburton! Whoa Nelly. Take some time off Dick.
Shock and awe
Recall that memorable description of what our military would do to Saddam's military and then move forward to the present. Now we know there was no justification for the invasion and that plans had been underway for months if not from the first cabinet meeting. Now we can read the memorandum from Jay S. Bybee, then head of the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, to White House counsel Alberto Gonzalez, written in August 2002. Now we are shocked and awed.
According to Bybee who, incredibly, was later appointed by President Bush to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, almost anything short of death is okay.
The New York Times reports "there were few limits short of causing the death of the prisoner." The techniques were so far out of bounds that the CIA and FBI worried that they would be prosecuted under the federal anti-torture statutes. The memo said it is not "torture" unless it causes "serious physical injury such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function or even death."
Here are some of the approved techniques: sleep deprivation, food deprivation, threatened beatings, use of dogs to frighten the prisoner, and a water board where the detainee is strapped to a board and immersed in water. Apparently Bybee also thought use of drugs was permissible.
Given that definition of "torture," President Bush may have told the truth when he said, "I never ordered torture." That reminds me of Richard Nixon's famous line, "Your president is not a crook." The truth of Bush's statement depends on what "torture" is.
Oh my. We are in a very deep hole.
June 25, 2004
GuestBlog: By Bill Kraus
Is the Legislature too small?
Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance executive director Todd Berry’s response to the increasing unresponsiveness of a Legislature that is increasingly the stamping ground of invincible incumbents is to expand it dramatically. This presents a few logistical problems, but it would have the offsetting advantages of bringing the candidates closer to the people and making campaigning personal instead of commercial. Running a television-commercial-based campaign to persuade 51 percent of the residents of a 50,000-person Assembly district would be foolish as well as uneconomic. It would also be harder to gerrymander small districts.
A UW-Madison professor would attack the invincible insularity problem somewhat differently. He suggests that every 5,000 voters vote not for a representative but for a surrogate (a new kind of elector) who would vote for one of the candidates for the Legislature.
In an era when something like only 10 of the 132 seats in the Wisconsin Legislature are competitive something should be done, maybe something this dramatic, to counter the widespread megalomania that is the undesirable byproduct of representing a safe district.
The irony is that neither of these ideas would be need to be floated or considered if the aforementioned invincible incumbents would pass meaningful campaign finance reform and agree to turn redistricting over to dispassionate, disinterested outsiders, which, of course, they won’t.
June 24, 2004
It is a fact that Wisconsin is losing the progressive label when it comes to education. Who would have thought that the president of Harvard University would once again pledge free education for any student accepted at Harvard whose family earns under $40,000 per year. It is time for Wisconsin to do the same.
Think we can't afford it? How about closing one prison?
June 23, 2004
The Capital Times called for a change in leadership in the Assembly given the bumbling of Speaker John Gard, who represents Peshtigo but lives in Sun Prairie. Shame on the Cap Times!
Republican Steve Nass issued a news release suggesting that the editorial belongs in The Onion. Fair enough. But the Nass goes on to say, "Speaker Gard is a tremendous family man...Has your newspaper ever written a story about how this powerful representative has been seen sweeping floors and picking up garbage after one of his children's basketball games?" Send more letters, Representative Nass, and you will get published in The Onion.
"Torture is not a part of our soul and our being." The president said that on June 22, 2004, but when it counted, that same president claimed the right to waive our anti-torture laws not to mention the Geneva treaties covering prisoners of war. According to the Washington Post, Don Rumsfeld, the swaggering secretary of Defense, authorized threatening prisoners with dogs, and stripping them naked for interrogation sessions that could last for 20 hours. Now we know how the dogs got to Iraq. All religious items were taken from prisoners.
Incredible as it seems, this may not be the worst of it. The administration is altering the infamous Justice Department memo to bring it up to date.
The president should contact lost and found for our nation's soul.
June 22, 2004
A nice victory for Citizens for Open Government (COG) in the fight to stop the Wal-Mart distribution center in Beaver Dam. (I represent COG, so keep that in mind as you read this.)
Last night, citizens of the town of Trenton, where the distribution center would be built, filled the town hall and for nearly three hours peppered the Wal-Mart attorney from Foley & Lardner, two engineers, and two public relations people, with questions. Guess what? No answers to the tough ones. Where will the dirty run-off water go? Who pays for road repair when 800 trucks per day go round-trip? If the trucks cannot get in to unload, where will they park?(Answer: "We are making space for 18 trucks.")
In the end-around legal maneuver to have Dodge County zone the prime ag land to suit Wal-Mart, no one could explain who will get the property tax money--Beaver Dam or Dodge County? No one would say what happens to home values in the area that will plummet. One could only think of the old lines about "How many Wal-Mart suits does it take to change a light bulb? A lawyer to explain that there may not be a light bulb; two engineers to say that it is a work in progress; two public relations men to spin it into the socket."
The citizens were teriffic. This is their home, their community and they want to save it from the ravages of Wal-Mart. With the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporting that Wal-Mart has plans for 65 Supercenters in Wisconsin, every community had better listen to COG. The town board refused to recommend the Wal-Mart zoning request to the county board. The vote was unanimous.
Now it is on to the county board. Stay tuned.
Segregation, California style
Read David Fathi's excellent article "Locking down segregation." Then sit back and ask yourself, "How did we get into this mess?"
Fathi was our co-counsel and inspiration in the class action suit brought to challenge Wisconsin's so-called Supermax prison under the 8th Amendment. You may recall that the state signed an agreement that was approved by Federal Judge Barbara Crabb, calling for the "cooling" of cells to 84 degrees. Although the state admitted that the only practical way to reduce the heat is air conditioning, Governor Doyle and his secretary of Corrections Matt Frank appealed to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. The state is asking the court to rule that ordering the state of Wisconsin to live up to its agreement is beyond the power of Judge Crabb.
Catch this. The state said that if the cells were cooled to 84 degrees, there would be unrest in other prisons because prisoners would want to be sent to Supermax. I'm not kidding. The argument did not pass the laugh test in court. Toto, is this Wisconsin?
June 21, 2004
Get off the stage!
Just when you thought the nation's focus was on John Kerry, George Bush, Halliburton, and the absurd conduct and justification for the invasion of Iraq, Bill Clinton rushes on stage, grabs the microphone and demands that we pay attention to him like a four-year old at the other kid's party. Worse. His 900+ page doorstopper focuses on how we should feel sorry for him.
His "60 Minutes" one-hour "interview" was a blast from the past and one that we wish had gone south of us with the latest cold front. More "Saturday Night Live" than news, Clinton's interview could be summed up in six words: "Woe is me. Woe is me."
Get the hook. We have some rather important things to worry about for now.
June 20, 2004
Five more days
Yup! Five more days and you can fight your way in to see Fahrenheit 9/11, the Michael Moore blockbuster film that Disney and the White House tried to keep out of circulation but couldn't.
How do you know it is good? "The White House and the Bush family began impugning the film even before any of them had seen it" so saith the New York Times under the headline, "Will the Facts Check Out?" Go see it and give us your opinion.
You gotta hand it to them
When the conservative 9/11 commission was appointed, we thought a white-wash was in the works. These were Bush-friendly Republicans and Democrats. But something odd has occurred: The Commission looked at the facts and were apparently horrified by the actions and inaction of the Bush White House team. The most recent finding: There was no connection whatsoever between Saddam and Al-Quaida. In other words, the last remaining excuse for the invasion went "poof."
President Bush responded by saying there was a connection because there was. Nice try for quote of the month, but Vice President Cheney beat him again. Cheney said, "I know things they don't." When asked by NPR what he knew that the commission didn't he said, and I'm not kidding, "I don't know because I don't know what they know."
June 19, 2004
The New Republic has apologized for supporting the war. The NY Times and Washington Post have, as Amy Goodman put it, written "kinda-culpas" for their gingoism. Even the rightwing Tucker Carlson says he is embarassed that he supported the war, and William Kristol says he wished the administration had developed a plan for the period after the invasion.
Egads. What's happening? Could it be that the media is beginning to see the light? Next, could they look at consolidation of the media into fewer and fewer hands, or would that get too close to a real mea culpa?
Ah, Wisconsin "leaders" to attend Olympics
I don't know about you, but I feel better knowing that the rightwing government of Greece is paying for two rightwing Wisconsin legislators to fly to Athens to attend the opening of the Olympic games.
Senator Ted Kanavas from Brookfield and Assemblyman Dan Vrakas from Hartford (guess their Party affiliation and win lunch at the Main Depot) are the two statesmen. These two, who would object to civil servants gathering for a think session if the state paid for coffee, will live it up in Greece. There is no shame.
June 17, 2004
GuestBlog: By Bill Kraus
The Arena Phenomenon
There is a time in sports at the end of the game when the adversaries, no matter how hard fought and bitter the contest, come together and congratulate and console one another. I think of this as the arena phenomenon. What it signifies is that the people in the arena, because they have gone through the game and everything that qualified them to be in the game, respect (and even like) each other more than they respect and like their fans. This phenomenon was once pervasive in politics, too.
Legislators who spent the day beating up on each other in the public forum would routinely adjourn to a watering hole and socialize. They did not agree on much, but they were a kind of band of brothers.
Recently these adversaries have become enemies, and enemies do not fraternize. The combatants retreat to their own corners as it were to plot the next day’s battle and lick the wounds from the battle just fought.
There are no freshmen (and women) breakfasts where the newcomers from both parties get to know each other and the business upon which they have embarked.
There are no mixers at the executive mansion where the partisans can break bread with each other and with the invited members of the executive branch.
There are things the political leaders could learn from the NFL, the NHL, and the world of sports in general, where competition is intense but civility and mutual respect are a part of what the participants get for having made it to the arena.
"Democracy Now!" is here
Amy Goodman's teriffic news program, "Democracy Now!," is in Wisconsin. Goodman will help John Stauber and Sheldon Rampton celebrate their 10th anniversary at Club Majestic in downtown Madison on Friday night.
"Democracy Now!" will air from Madison earlier in the day on Friday. I have been invited to join the program, and I am excited to have a chance to see first-hand how a progressive news program can survive and thrive.
The next time you hear the axiom, "Justice delayed is justice denied," tip your hat to U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist. Hours after a court of appeals decision staying the execution of a Maryland prisoner, the Supreme Court acted by 8 p.m. the same day to lift the stay. Know why? His death warrant expires on Friday!
The Washington Post reports that the Supreme Court lifted the stay and denied the claim that the method used by Maryland in performing lethal injection is unconstitutional.
Stevens, Ginsburg and Breyer dissented. The majority reasoning? They did not feel the need to tell us. To do so might have kept the needle out of the prisoner's arm.
While issues such as the identity of the Cheney energy task force linger, the court springs into action to help kill an inmate. It would be nice if capital punishment actually deterred crime, but we know it does not. What is wrong with this court? Well, let's begin with Rhenquist, Scalia, Thomas... And remember, George W. hasn't even made an appointment yet.
June 16, 2004
The gates of hell
The mother of a soldier killed in Iraq commented on Amy Goodman's "Democracy Now!" program that "the United States has opened the gates of hell in Iraq and we don't know how to close them." She could not be more correct.
Oil pipelines destroyed while a recent poll conducted by the U.S. found that 90 percent of Iraqis see the U.S. as an occupying force and 50 percent think they would be safer if the U.S. were to leave. Meanwhile, President Bush is afraid that if the U.S. turns Saddam over to Iraq that he might return to power! This is the stuff of novels.
A prominent cleric quoted in the New York Times said it is understandable that people get angry at Iraqis seen as collaborators with the occupation, because, "People think that anyone who works with the Americans or helps their mission is an American stooge."
We are in deep trouble. Like the L.A. Lakers, the U.S. has lost its swagger. The U.S. has gone from "liberators" to "occupiers" while supporters have gone from celebrating crowds to "stooges" and "collaborators." Indeed, the gates of hell are wide open.
My article "Alas, PBS" has generated more feedback than any article we have posted on FightingBob.com. Next week we will compile and post the responses. Yesterday we posted a related article from FightingBob.com contributing editor Carlos Pabellon.
In the meantime, I thought my lyin eyes deceived me when I read the Op Ed page of the New York Times and saw the headline "Bush Shouldn't Write Off the Black Vote." It seemed like a typical Republican screed but it was, to my surprise, authored by Juan Williams, identified as "senior correspondent for NPR," and, I'm not making this up, "political analyst for Fox News Channel." Whoa! "Fair and Balanced" Fox news? The senior correspondent for NPR? Face it, Fox would not hire Juan Williams unless Roger Ailes and Britt Hume felt comfortable with his views.
So, no Bob Edwards but we keep Juan Williams? Could we at least think about it?
June 15, 2004
Victor Reuther, a great labor leader, passed away at the age of 92 on June 3. Victor and his two brothers led the United Auto Workers for many years and set high standards for those who lead workers. The Reuthers urged labor to organize abroad in order to stop capital from defeating labor by moving work abroad. And that was in the 1950s.
Jerry Tucker, former UAW leader in St. Louis said, "Victor was never without passion for fundamental change."
We honored Victor on his 80th birthday in Washington 12 years ago. Those who spoke included Michael Moore, ADA founder Joe Rauh and the president of UAW in Canada, Bob White. It was quite a celebration of a wonderful life. Victor cared only about working families. We could use another Victor Reuther. Thanks, Victor.
Root canals are fun!
In the latest Orwellian twist from the Bush adminstration, we have a greater understanding of torture. The Washington Post obtained the infamous memorandum to the president from our humanist Attorney General. As Dave Barry would say, I'm not making this up.
Paul Krugman writes about the memo, "If the pain inflicted on a prisoner is less than the pain that accompanies 'serious physical injury, such as organ failure,' it's not torture." Whoa Nelly!
What is torture? Who are we? What happened?
June 14, 2004
What we don't know on Flag Day
What you don't know might hurt our country on this Flag Day. We don't know why Dick Cheney won't tell us, his employers, the guest list for his energy task force. Makes me suspicious.
We do not know who outed Ambassador Wilson's wife, although the list of suspects cannot be more than five or ten. Makes me wonder how crimes without suspects are ever solved. C'mon, let's get on with it.
We do not know who ordered the torture of prisoners in Guantanamo and Iraq although the suspects include the very same employee, Dick Cheney.
We do not know whether or not Dick Cheney was directly involved in the $2.4 billion no-bid contract for Halliburton, although we do know that Dick Cheney's chief of staff was involved up to his keister.
We do not know if Dick Cheney approved or even benefited from the Halliburton bribery of Nigerian officials in connection with the Halliburton subsidiary Kellog, Brown & Root when he was the CEO of Halliburton. A mere $180 million was involved to get the contract to build a natural gas complex in Nigeria. (Our country eliminates the need for bribes by eliminating competition for contracts. Cheney learned his lesson. Why do it the hard way?)
Do you wonder what open government is all about?
June 13, 2004
Read Dave Zweifel's Capital Times column, "We're paying today for a bumbling PSC."
Wisconsin paid the lowest electrical rates in the Midwest in 1997 and now we pay the highest. Could it be more obvious that the utilities control the PSC? When will Ave Bie finally depart?
"Bumbling" is the nicest thing we could say about the PSC.
Religion and Bush
We have received some Feedback suggesting that I have been a little hard on the Catholic Church. Well, maybe so. I recommend you check the National Catholic Reporter where this gem was found:
"During his June 4 visit to the Vatican, Bush asked the Vatican to push the American Catholic Bishops to be more aggressive politically on family and life issues, especially a constitutional amendment that would define marriage as a union between a man and a woman." Bush went on, "Not all the American Bishops are with me on the cultural issues."
The Reporter said the Vatican did not respond.
Think about it. The Vatican is a foreign state as well as the home of Roman Catholicism. It is totally inappropriate for the president to ask the head of a foreign state to push for an amendment to our Constitution. And the blatant appeal to the Vatican to push Catholic bishops to join Bishop Raymond Burke in St. Louis and Bishop Sheridan in Colorado to be, in essence, part of the Bush reelection team, is an outrage.
Separation between church and state? Where are we, Toto?
June 12, 2004
Democrats hold a fundraiser
The Capital Times reports that the Democratic Party held a fund raiser at the Appleton convention. I'm not kidding. They charged $250 to get in for a free cocktail and, perhaps, a discussion of campaign finance reform. The Cap Times reported that 100 paid the $250 out of the 700 who attended the convention Friday night.
Don't the Democrats get it? If 14 percent paid to attend, my math says that 86 percent could not afford to attend a $250 cocktail party at the convention of the party of working families. Whoa Nelly.
Blair takes a punch
"Never before has Labour done so badly in local elections" reported the Independent. (Check our Link to this great British newspaper.) Labour finished third with only 26 percent of the vote, and most British commentators place the blame squarely on Blair's lap for his support of the invasion of Iraq.
"It is thought to be the first time that the governing party has been forced so far back into third place in such a big test of public opinion," reports the Guardian. When more than one million Britons marched in opposition to an invasion, Blair should have listened.
Check it out. Polls regarding America are downright frightening. More than 90 percent opposition in Arab countries, in the high 70s throughout Europe and now the British electorate has spoken.
While President Bush tried putting a happy face sticker on the announcement that NATO would not send troops to spell American troops, our country's isolation country is more and more obvious. And now, his only real ally, Tony Blair, is in trouble at home.
The cost of war in now officially approaching $118 billion; our deficit is threatening our economy; gasoline is more than $2 a galoon and there is no indication that the price will drop.
In light of all this, why is John Kerry trying to get John McCain to run for vice president? He now leads Bush by 7 percent, according to the Los Angeles Times. What's the problem?
June 11, 2004
GuestBlog: By Bill Kraus
Begging to differ
As we say goodbye to Ronald Reagan, the Washington Post and others give too much credit to Reagan for the demise of the moderate middle of the Republican Party. That was largely Nixon's doing.
Nixon gave us the southern strategy which led the Republicans down the road toward theocracy.
He also was responsible for the post-Watergate campaign reforms, which spawned the Political Action Committees and the era of big money in politics. These so-called reforms also had the unintended consequence of neutering the party itself. And, love it or hate it, the party had always been the moderates' route to power.
President Ford's pardon of Nixon (also Nixon-induced), which was great policy and lousy politics (can you imagine the class action suits?) doomed his own re-election chances.
So by the time 1980 came along, the moderates had no alternative to Reagan and no viable party organizational base from which to operate.
While Reagan was always a little too conservative for my tastes, I give him the credit he deserves for bankrupting the soviets, crushing runaway inflation, and restoring our national pride.
I do not give him credit (or, more to point, blame him) for greasing the slide into theocracy. Nixon did that.
The drift rolls on
To the embarassment of our founders, state support for the UW system has fallen to 25.5 percent of the overall budget. In case you were wondering, that is indeed the lowest level of support in Wisconsin history.
Think about it. President Lincoln in the midst of the Civil War asked Congress to pass the Land-grant University Act and it did. Today, instead of the greatness of the 1860s, we have screwballs running around demanding TABOR. Such nonsense.
The Doyle budget cuts $250 million from the UW over two years. Tuition? Ah, who cares? Let them eat brats while lobbyists spend $30 million working over the Legislature! Tuition will go up $700 in Madison and Milwaukee and $500 on other campuses.
Here is the forumla for creating a second-rate univeristy system: first, cut instructional staff; second, reduce course offerings; third, lose faculty with pay raises less than COLA; fourth, raise tuition rather than summon the courage to pass a tax increase. Finally make money, not intellect, the basis for admission.
The governor and the Legislature ought to be ashamed of themselves. Any amount for prisons, highways, and corporate tax cuts but they deny sons and daughters of working families in Wisconsin their ticket to prosperity. John Bascom and Robert La Follette are not smiling down on us.
June 10, 2004
Why was George Tenet so emotional?
Like you, I am always surprised when middle-aged public figures suddenly announce a new-found and sappy devotion to family, particularly "the children." George Tenet, with tears in his eyes, held a surprise news conference to announce he was leaving CIA to spend time with his family. If that were true, why the tears? Why not a smiling face at the thought of cotton candy at the zoo, baseball in the back yard, and driving across our great country in a packed SUV?
Could it be that Tenet is worried about being indicted in the outing of Ambassador Joseph Wilson's wife? Someone told Robert Novak that she worked under cover for the CIA. Isn't it likely that the administration needs a fall guy and Tenet was the last one to sit down while musical chairs was played at the White House? And who was fooled by Ahmed Chalabi--the Iranian double agent?
A prediction: Dick Cheney will not run for vice president in 2004. He had to know.
Our first "Fun Raiser for Hell Raisers" was a great success thanks to friends of FightingBob.com who gathered near the Capitol to enjoy good discussion and good music from Dana Beilke, Kira Fobbs and Barb Cheron. Narry a lobbyist in sight. Imagine being one block from the Capitol without a lobbyist.
Fighting Bob Fest was topic A with the announcement that Senator Tom Harkin, Jim Hightower, and Bob McChesney will head an all-star lineup on September 18. As the group left, "see you in Baraboo" was heard. Thanks for your contributions.
June 9, 2004
See you tonight
Hope to see you tonight at our "fun raiser for hell raisers." FightingBob.com has been publishing for 15 months and we want your input. In our attempt to become the voice of progressive views, your articles, feedback and comments have kept us going.
Our slogan, "Is this a private fight or can anyone join in," reminds me of another Irish saying, "never miss an opportunity to celebrate." Tonight we have that opportunity.
Torture, American style
The arrogance of this administration surpasses the days of the "imperial presidency" of Richard Nixon. Who would imagine a memorandum from the (so-called) Justice Department to the president informing him that prohibitions against torture, domestic and international, do not bind him because he is commander-in-chief and must protect us.
One small story in the New York Times speaks volumes. While AG Ashcroft refused to release the memoranda to Congress on the specious ground that it is not good to debate presidential power in public, the Army now admits that a brain-damaged military policeman was discharged after "posing as an uncooperative detainee in a training exercise in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba." Specialist Sean Baker was beaten so badly by four American soldiers he suffered a traumatic brain injury and seizures. He said the solidiers only stopped beating him when they realized he might be an American." Think about it.
Who are we? When did we lose our soul?
June 8, 2004
Lots to talk about
At our first fun raiser for hell raisers tomorrow evening, one topic of conversation will be Fighting Bob Fest. We have a terific line-up of speakers, starting with keynoter Senator Tom Harkin. While few people could follow Tom, we have Jim Hightower willing to step up to the micropone. The theme, "Rights at Risk" could not be more appropriate. The threat to public education, civil liberties, Brown v. Board, free speech are all at risk.
September 18 is the date. Mark your calendar for Wisconsin's progressive chautauqua.
Exchange program continues
With foul air from Chicago traffic wafting north to Kenosha, Racine and Milwaukee, Wisconsin's commercial center is returning the favor by sending raw sewage to Chicago. Such a deal. The Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District spokesman continues to blame mother nature for providing too much rain. Who ordered this? Well, hot news for MMSD. It will rain again this summer, maybe buckets full, and somehow there must be a better answer than finger-pointing.
They cannot keep dumping raw sewage, billions of gallons of it, into Lake Michigan. (See blog where Alberta Darling and Tony Earl were blaming the environmentalists for not pushing for answers.)
June 7, 2004
Yesterday, a couple of western journalists were killed in Saudi Arabia; a couple dozen Iraqis died in bombings; the U.S. bombed Afghanistan; and, a 23-year-old Marine, Todd J. Bolding, was killed in Iraq. None of this was worth more than a mention in most of the major media.
Like you, we avoid negative comments about the dead while the family grieves. But the media is fair game. President Reagan is dead. How do I know? The first nine pages out of ten in the Sunday Wisconsin State Journal were devoted to our 40th president. CNN, CNBC, FOX, CBS, NBC and ABC devoted all of their time to talking about his life. It was almost impossible to find out what was going on in Iraq, not to mention America. I honestly think the official Vatican paper, Observatore Romano, would show more restraint when a Pope dies.
John Kerry felt compelled to suspend his campaign for a week. All of this would be understandable if a living president had died, but it seems over the top.
As it is disrespectful to write critically of President Reagan now, it is equally disrespectful to use his death for partisan politics. That, it seems to me, is what is going on.
June 6, 2004
Democrats and democrats
Next Friday night, several hundred delegates to the Democratic Convention will gather in Appleton to hear four hours of speeches from Russ Feingold, Ron Kind, Tammy Baldwin, Jim Doyle, a Kerry surrogate, and several others before heading for the hospitality suites where they can support a candidate for some office or eat cream puffs with Herb Kohl.
They will hear that W. is very bad (as if they didn't know), that Republicans in the Legislature are worse, that Governor Doyle's vetoes are all that stand between civilization and anarchy. What they will not hear is an explanation of why the governor has done absolutely nothing on campaign reform while raking in hundreds of thousands of dollars from big business; why the two Democrats on the Elections Board lost their nerve and took a pass on regulation of so-called "independent" expenditures; or why the governor has enacted WMC's environmental program.
There will be no discussion of the loopy idea from the governor's education task force headed by an attorney for school districts that we should raise the sales tax to fund education or why schools are cutting out many programs that are needed for a well-rounded education.
They will be told to focus on the presidential race and someone will condemn Nader while conservative WisPolitics.com conducts a poll on who the vice-presidential candidate should be (as if John Kerry is just waiting to hear).
Applause, laughter, but no meaningful discussion of what the party stands for. Few incumbent legislators or cabinet members will attend, sending a signal that they do not have to listen to delegates. This will be a Democratic convention but not a democratic gathering. Too bad. It is time for a task force to democratize the Democrats.
George Hesselberg, a columnist for the Wisconsin State Journal, is always worth reading. Sunday he reported on his efforts to find out why the DOA destroyed all of Tommy Thompson's records relating to two of the most controversial issues in Thompson's 14 years as governor. Yes, the records that would explain the deal with the Brewers to build what is now Miller Park, and his pardons are now, according to Hesselberg, toilet paper.
While Hesselberg could find no smoking gun, I simply do not believe this was an accident any more than I believe Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. Somebody mis-labled those 100 boxes. Mistake? C'mon.
June 5, 2004
Church & state
Watching President Bush fawn over the aging Pope gave me the willies. The Pope apparently scolded Bush for the invasion of Iraq, but somehow I get the feeling he likes the way the Bushies are breaking down the wall between church and state. And, of course, Bush could care less what the Pope said about Iraq because a picture of them together will be more powerful than any sermon on peace.
And the American Catholic bishops seem hell-bent (sorry) on tearing down the wall brick by brick. Raymond Burke, once our problem in La Crosse, now spreads his gospel against communion for politicians who support stem cell research among other sins in St. Louis. (Stem cell research that might have restored the Pope to health by dealing with his Parkinson's disease.) And, of course, the loopy notion floated in Colorado by Bishop Sheridan that parisioners who vote for politicians who support stem cell research will be denied communion.
I'm trying to imagine the process. The priest genuflects, turns to the parish, and asks for a show of hands. "How many of you support stem cell research or vote for those who do? Please place a red marker on your cheek and come forward for the blessing but no communion." C'mon.
Could we pause and reread the Kennedy speech gave in Houston in 1960: "I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute. Where no Cahtolic prelate would tell the President how to act and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote."
We should remind the hieracy that JFK was elected; that nearly all Catholics oppose the interference by the church in presidential politics; and, if we are going public with our confessions, church services might take a lot longer than anticipated.
June 4, 2004
GuestBlog: By Bill Kraus
A mild disagreement with the management
The question is whether the rule that one should never argue with people who buy ink by the barrel carries over to the electronic age and proscribes arguing with people who run the web site.
We will see.
FightingBob.com editor and publisher Ed Garvey has taken issue with a suggestion I made in an Isthmus column a month or so ago. He thinks Tommy Thompson would (a) be a bad choice for president of the UW System and (b) would use that office, if he attained it, to turn the UW System into a private, instead of a public, institution.
A couple of minor clarifications first. The column suggested that what the UW needs is Tommy or Tom (Loftus) or, better yet, both of them. Loftus is a former speaker of the Wisconsin Assembly and the Democratic candidate for governor who ran against Tommy in 1990.
With the decline in public funding, state taxpayer support for the UW System is at something like 20 percent. It is, in effect, an 80 percent private institution already.
I haven’t asked Tommy, but anyone who hires him should, where he does stand on the decline in public tax support. Like me, Tommy was a beneficiary of UW when it was a mostly public institution. We didn’t pay the kind of tuition the late great John Wyngaard did of $50 a semester, but we didn’t pay much. Nor did thousands of Wisconsin students who, because it was a low cost public school, became much more than they might have become if they hadn’t lived here. I would bet Tommy knows this and would like to see that kind of opportunity restored for Wisconsin’s young people.
Tommy also knows (as does Tom, of course, and all of what I say should be taken as going double) that the UW System is one of the state’s major economic assets. We have built over the course of more than150 years a stellar education factory that produces real income for the state.
And, most of all, Tommy knows how to handle the people on the other end of State Street who (a) do not have his vision on the place or (b) need the money that is currently going to the place for other priorities.
Governor Jim Doyle took a $250 million bite out of UW in his last budget. The Legislature fell over and played dead or, worse yet, aided and abetted this hijacking.
And this is why I recommended what I did. The main threat to the continued future of the UW System as one of the world’s great public education institutions is political. A politico (or two) is the best hope for countering that threat.
We need an independent DNR
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, awakened from a deep slumber, has notified the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District that it must do something about dumping raw sewage into Lake Michigan. And they issued a "vilation notice." After sending MMSD to the penalty box for two minutes, DNR decided to ask the Attorney General to sue MMSD.
What sense does that make? If the state spends money suing the MMSD, and recovers money, where will the money go? Ultimately, to MMSD to fix the problem.
What would an independent DNR have done? I think it would have raised hell with the governor, the Legislature, the mayor of Milwaukee and Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker. It might well have demanded a summit meeting to allocate enough money to stop this disaster. Alas, the DNR is not indpendent and will not ask the boss to do anything. But, as the MJS wrote Sunday, it is fault of those lazy environmentalists.
So, blame the environmentalists and sue the MMSD? Not what I would call a plan.
June 3, 2004
Bush hires counsel
The man who has denied counsel to hundreds of prisoners in Guantanamo, not to mention prisoners in Iraq, has quickly and quietly retained a lawyer in case he is questioned by a grand jury. Did our president "out" Ambassador Wilson's wife? Did he authorize the outing? Does he know who told ultra-right columnist and TV commentator Robert Novak and other White House favorites in the media?
While thinking about that, where is "Kenny Boy" Lay of Enron today? Think he was upset about the tapes where Enron traders bragged about "ripping off those ....... grandmothers"?
Why do I turn to Bill Moyers after reading that neo-con hero Ahmed Chalabi apparently told Iran that the U.S. had broken their code? Recently Bill explained why he now wears a flag on his lapel, and it is because the likes of Richard Perle, Chalabi's number one supporter and the insider's insider, have captured the flag as their logo. "When I see flags sprouting on official lapels, I think of the time in China when I saw Mao's Little Red Book on every official's desk, omnipresent and unread."
Moyers went on: "Those with flags in their lapels...are people whose ardor for war grows disproportionately to their distance from the fighting."
Think about it. This country went to war because of Richard Perle, Chalabi, Newt Gingrich and Donald Rumsfeld. Now it is indisputable that they lied. Our soldiers died. They should, at a minimum, remove the flag from their lapels.
June 2, 2004
Pause for applause
The non-profit Social Justice Center in Madison awarded its coveted Legacy award to scholar and peace worker Robert Kimbrough. Today's article about "activism" notwithstanding, we are proud of Bob's activism.
Kimbrough has provided a beacon of hope to many of us and he is a Wisconsin treasure. Not resting on his laurels, Bob is planning a dramatic presentation for Fighting Bob Fest in September.
Reform education without more money
Governor Doyle's task force on education has "reached consensus that sales taxes should be raised to allow for a 20% statewide decrease in property taxes," according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Sales taxes would rise to 6 percent from the current 5 percent.
Quarles & Brady attorney Mike Spector, chair of the task force on "Educational Excellence," denied that the task force is supporting a tax increase. Well, then, since schools are being forced to cheat on special education funding, cut drama and arts, and charge huge fees for sports, how in the world do they live up to their lofty title "Educational Excellence" unless we do raise taxes?
And, would it be impertinent to ask why the task force limited its search for more money to the two most regressive taxes known to man (or woman)? How about a partial roll-back of the M&E tax exemption or an increase in corporate income taxes? Have we forgotten about taxes based on income?
C'mon, Mike, stop listening to the Realtors Association and Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce and take the lead. You can make a real statement about education or just play to the special interests. Why not start a dialogue on taxing professional fees? Oops! Too close to home?