August 31, 2004
Just when we were told that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were going so well, President Bush announced on the "Today Show" that we cannot win the war on terrorism. Oops! I forgot. The invasion of Iraq had nothing to do with terrorism, so excuse my mistake.
I am encouraged by the president's response. I think this means he is reading the New York Times. On April 13 he said, "Of course you can" win the war on terrorism. On Sunday, the Times said that western Iraq is firmly under rebel control and our soldiers are restricted to forts. Then on Monday the president said, "I don't think you can win it" in answer to the war on terrorism.
He believes he invaded Iraq to stop terrorism; the war in Iaq is going badly; he reads the Times on Sunday, and announces defeat on Monday. Amazing. What would happen if he started reading The Progressive?
C'mon, we can reach 1,000
Come on. This is embarassing. Wisconsin has only 802 lobbyists. I don't think we are trying hard enough.
Talk to your group, your PTA, your business colleagues, your environmental group, the anti-Wal-Mart citizens organization. Start your own Hire-a-Lobbyist program. Take up a collection.
If you wonder why we need more lobbyists, read this penetrating analysis from the state Ethics Board:
"The lobbyists are trying to influence the drafting and adoption of state agencies'rules." (And, I'm not making this up.) "Lobbying groups are already trying to influence the state budget and legislation the legislature will consider in 2005."
Whoa Nelly! Lobbyists are trying to influence the Legislature? Is nothing sacred? What's next--will they try to influence the governor for Pete's sake?
So get in the game. Hire a lobbyist--buy a legislator. That is your duty. Now get to it.
August 30, 2004
Speaking of Colin Powell
You must go to the book store and purchase Calvin Trillin's new book, Obliviously On He Sails. This poem alone might get you into your car:
"Colin Powell, Alas"
His memory of war was strong.
No Sissy Hawk, he'd fought the Cong.
He knew that bunk on nukes was wrong.
But, still he chose to go along.
Of him, they'll sing the saddest song:
"But still, he chose to go along."
Powell will not attend the Republican convention in New York.
Worry no more
No, Jamie Sensenbrenner is not concerned that anti-American sentiments were running so high in Athens that our embassy encouraged Americans to mask their identity or that Colin Powell could not attend the games out of fear of demonstrations against American foreign policy. Nope! Jamie is over-heated and "appalled" about the lack of support from the U.S. Olympic Committee for Paul Hamm, who won or lost a gold medal depending on your perspective and country of origin.
What will fearless Jamie do? He will hold a Congressional hearing. Boy, I'll bet the U.S. Olympic Committee is scared. Thank you, Congressman Sensenbrenner.
August 29, 2004
The first Fighting Bob Fest was held three years ago and brought together all sorts of grassroots organizations engaged in tough battles to stop Perrier from stealing our spring water, stop pollution and stop factory farms. It was not a Democratic Party crowd and certainly not a Republican Party crowd. In a word, it was a gathering of the political homeless. Nearly everyone felt comfortable with the label "progressive."
The 1,000 or so in attendance that first year wondered aloud how we could communicate better throughout the year on issues involving our environment, peace, and our shameful prison policies. FightingBob.com was the answer.
For 19 months, FightingBob.com has brought fresh articles from progressive thinkers, daily blogs from me and from our Friday guest blogger Bill Kraus, and important articles and reports. We began with a grant from the Evjue Foundation which was renewed this year. We held our first fund raiser and we have gone to our subscribers for support, and they have responded generously.
Today, we have an exciting announcement. We have received a $10,000 challenge grant from an anonymous source. If we can raise $10,000 between now and October 1, we will receive the grant. Thank you, Anonymous. Now we turn to you for help. If matched, we are assursed of another year of operations and expansion of our site. So, we ask for your help. And while you are at it, please get five friends to subscribe.
Bob Fest just around the corner
Check out the Fighting Bob Fest Web site for the list of exciting speakers with one more announcement to go. Lots of serious talk, Texas-style humor, music, discussion and networking.
Can we launch a progressive movement? Can we force the incumbents to eliminate the corrupt fundraising that permits the wealthy interests to dominate? See you in Baraboo in 20 days.
August 27, 2004
GuestBlog: By Bill Kraus
The pressure from the Capital Times, several liberal columnists, Bush-o-phobes everywhere, and even the New York Times' David Brooks is on Kerry to denounce the war.
What Kerry seems to have decided is to take the advice of a former president instead.
In 1885, U.S. Grant, who thought the Mexican War unjustified and unnecessary, wrote about the politicians who probably shared his view but didn't say so:
"Experience proves that the man who obstructs a war in which his nation is engaged, no matter whether right or wrong, occupies no enviable place in life or history. Better for him, individually, to advocate 'war, pestilence, and famine' than to act as obstructionist to a war already begun."
The implication is that Kerry believes all the anti-war (But pro-warrior? Is that consistent?) people are more anti-Bush than anti-war. So the possibility that they might vote for Bush is remote to non-existent. What they could do is go to Nader (if he is available where they live) or simply stay home. Not likely.
This is not a risk-free strategy, of course, and nothing in politics is a sure thing. But the encouraging thing is that Kerry has not been captured by his base, or at least this significant part of his base.
Utah Phillips in Madison September 12
What a treat! Utah Phillips will perform at the Orpheum on Sunday, September 12, and all proceeds will go to help fight the good fight for family farms.
You can't beat that combination, so get your tickets and plan on having lots of fun and inspiration from one of the greats. (Tickets are only $17.50 but mention my name and you get two for $35.) Utah will kick off Fighting Bob Fest week. Don't miss this one.
Look for some very exciting news on Sunday. In the meantime, get ready for Bob Fest, our progressive chautauqua on September 18. This is a program you will not forget.
August 26, 2004
It was thrilling to be in the Assembly chambers yesterday to watch history in the making. Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson administered the oath and the crowd cheered as the first African American justice was sworn in by the first woman to serve on our Supreme Court. Ah, progress.
Recalling his own childhood in a tough area of Chicago, Butler gave credit to those who helped him live out his dream. Not a dream to make money, rather a dream to serve the country. He began with JFK's call, "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country." Louis Butler is doing much for Wisconsin and we are grateful.
Too bad our legislative leaders were, for the most part, missing from the crowd. They might have been inspired by Butler's call for sacrifice and hard work.
Hastert the diplomat
If Colin Powell needs help at the State Department, he should enlist the help of Speaker Dennis Hastert who, on the eve of the Republican convenention in New York, accused New York's legislators of spending so much time on getting federal aid for the 9/11 recovery, "All the tragedy was converted into dollars and cents." As if that were not sufficient, he went on to say, "People kind of lost the sense of the depth of the tragedy itself."
No, I'm not kidding. His comments were published by the New York Post. Perhaps Speaker Hastert could become a roving ambassador to build coaltions for America. Welcome to New York.
August 25, 2004
Bad week for Bush
You must empathize with George Bush. Events this week did not help his mood. He bragged up the success of the Iraqi soccer team in a TV spot only to have the Iraqi players condemn his as a murderer. It is now obvious that the Swift Boat team has strong ties to the Bush administration and the so-called truth squad spots are helping cement in the minds of voters that Kerry was a hero and W. was not. Then Dick Cheney sided with his lesbian daughter and announced opposition to a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage on the same day that the panel investigating prisoner abuse laid that puppy on Don Rumsfeld's doorstep for not planning for the post-invasion occupation or moving quickly to stop abuse.
Not a good week. But, hey, we all have our moments.
As Louis Butler is sworn in today as a Justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, he will make history as the first African American to sit on our court. Just to our north and west, Justice Alan Page broke the barrier in Minnesota.
District Judge Jack Nordby, quoted in a must-read article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, said, "Page is extraordinarily important historically as the only black, in fact the only racial minority, to serve on Minnesota's high court. Among the 83 Supreme Court justices in state history, no governor has ever appointed anybody but a white gentile."
Page addressed race with this comment. "Living in a color-blind society should not require that we live in a society that is blind to racial bias. Our criminal justice system at times seems more interested in putting people of color in jail than helping them succeed."
Alan Page is making history. Louis Butler joins in that same quest. Someday we may live in a color-blind society. For now, let's enjoy the moment and continue the struggle.
August 24, 2004
Who are we?
Sometimes I have difficulty identifying what we have become since 9/11. A pre-emptive war without proof, prisoner abuse in Iraq approved at the highest levels of the Defense Department, prisoner abuse in Afghanistan, disdain for old allies, you name it and we have done it.
Now we focus on Guantanamo Bay, where the military will begin war crimes "trials" for so-called "enemy combatants." Read carefully and ask yourself, is this my country?
The NY Times reports that prosecutors and panel members will remain anonymous out of fear that Al Qaeda will go after them. I'm not making this up. The only reason for the hearings was a decision by the Supreme Court, but if these are "hearings" then I missed that course in law school. First, the assumption is the prisoner is guilty (they can bring forward "evidence" that they are innocent). Second, the hearing is conducted by three military officials who listen to a "personal representative" of the detainee. I'm not making this up. The "personal representative" is "neither a lawyer nor an advocate but is a military officer" who passes along information to the panel! Third, the detainee is denied information about how, where, and from whom accusations came implicating him as an enemy combatant.
The American Bar Association says the process falls far short of what the Supreme Court called for. Few would accuse the ABA of left-wing bias.
This is incredible and it must stop. Appoint lawyers for those detained, open the files as the government must in all criminal trials, and stop making a mockery of our system of justice.
SOUL still fighting
For five years, Save Our Unique Lands (SOUL) has battled the powers that be over the Weston Arrowhead transmission line a/k/a the "extenstion cord from Manitoba to Chicago." The utilities worked hand-in-glove with the Public Service Commission to gain approval of the line, but the largest grassroots organization in Wisconsin, like a dog on a bone, will not give up.
Last night the Douglas County Board delayed a decision on granting easements to the American Transmission Company. Board chair Doug Finn said, "We'll have more meetings like this," and set October for the next public hearing. SOUL's Sandy Lyon gives lots of credit to testimony from attorney Glenn Stoddard. The battle continues. Watch for the new PSC member appointment coming soon.
August 23, 2004
Cost of War
At 6:00 this morning, the Cost of War Web site told us this country has spent just less than $129 billion on the invasion of Iraq. Press reports say five more of our soldiers have been killed, bringing the total to 949. They did not tell us how many were wounded nor could they explain why we are fighting in Najaf. Did the Iraqi Interim Council take over June 28, or were they just kidding?
We will not see flag-draped coffins or soldiers on crutches. No, we are told to focus on another disaster called Vietnam. Did John Kerry deserve a Silver Star, some despicable TV spots ask. There is no debate over George W's Silver Star or purple heart. No debate over Cheney's service or Wolfowitz's, or...you get the picture. For our future, we can only hope that such nonsense fails. They say they use negative TV spots because they work in bringing down opponents. Maybe so, but it brings down our democracy as well.
And we must keep our focus on this failed "war."
August 22, 2004
No need for further comment. Just read the Capital Times editorial published Sunday.
There must be a better way
The first "debate" involving three of the Republican candidates opposing Russ Feingold for the U.S. Senate took place on Friday. It was awful. While we complain about certain corporate sponsors of NPR, we would recommend No-Doz if another "debate" is planned.
The format is dictated by the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association and the "host" sits with a stop watch while three representatives of media outlets throw soft balls at the three candidates. The setting seems to eat enthusiasm. Bob Welch proclaimes he is the only "regular guy" among the other millionaire Republicans so we should vote for him. Then there was some skirmishing over a Russ Darrow contribution to Russ Feingold, but Welsh was talking so fast I was reminded of the old Fed Ex commercial.
There must be a better format; better questions; more freedom for candidates to actually express themselves. If this is the best Wisconsin Broadcasters can do, get off the stage and bring in the professionals.
August 21, 2004
Amato takes truth to power
Readers of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and the Wisconsin State Journal missed what readers of the Capital Times learned about former Regent Nino Amato's swan song. Amato, you will recall, was forced out as president of the Wisconsin Technical College System Board and therefore out as a regent by Doyle loyalists.
Amato was speaking for most of us who are alarmed at the Lyall-Klauser privatization drive, not to mention horrendous increases in tuition because politicians of both parties prefer spending on prisons rather than our university. Amato told the Regents "the University of Wisconsin is sadly becoming a 'gated community' and an unacceptable number of young people and their families are on the outside looking in." Tough times, tough message. Well done Nino.
By the way, Nino Amato will be at Fighting Bob Fest September 18 in Baraboo.
By now you have heard that the Vatican invalidated the first communion of an 8-year-old because her wafer was made of rice and not the required wheat. She is terribly allergic to wheat, so the local parish did what any reasonable person would do and gave her a rice wafer.
Not so fast, ruled the ever vigilant Vatican. Church doctrine requires that communion wafers must contain wheat. Who knew? Those Dominican nuns sure didn't tell us that in religion class, but now that we know. The Vatican must be kidding. Surely this is an April Fool's prank run amok.
Catholics must believe that the wafer turns into the body of Christ before being served. Would it be asking too much to imagine a rice wafer turning into wheat in the eyes of the diety? Now we have learned that the Vatican permits alcoholics to drink a substitue wine but here is the rule, and I'm not kidding, grape juice is not acceptable. The substitute must contain, get ready, yup, alchohol.
So, here is the rule as I understand it. If a child cannot tolerate gluten, force her to drink alchohol. Wow.
August 20, 2004
GuestBlog: By Bill Kraus
Faction, faction, who's got the faction?
In her wonderful book about Birmingham in the 1960s, Carry Me Home, Diane McWhorter recounts the Bull Connor story. Connor was the resident law enforcement bully in town. The self-appointed establishment enhanced his powers to control the pace of integration in the city. Not surprisingly, Bull went too far. But when the establishment tried to rein him in, they found that they were no longer calling the shots. He was.
It seems to me that the political leaders of both persuasions are traveling, have traveled, this same path with the factions that make up their base of votes and money.
They have found or will find a couple of things that should not surprise and definitely will not please them. The factions are my way, all the way, or no way. The factions are perfectly capable of calling all the shots not just those that wedged them into power.
And the loser as, if, and when this happens, of course, is the general interest, which is not a faction and is not a player in the new power game.
NPR and Wal-Mart
Our slogan, "Is this a private fight or can anyone join in" was on stage this week after Monday's blog about NPR selling out to Wal-Mart. To her credit, Joy Cardin invited me to spend an hour discussing the role of corporate spending on NPR. As she said, today we will "bite the hand that feeds us."
At the end of the program she told the listening audience she would invite NPR's ombudsman to appear, and, indeed he did appear yesterday. It was a superb progam. Jeffrey Dvorkin spent an hour with Joy. I was, frankly, amazed as he agreed with most of the FightingBob.com criticism and admitted Wal-Mart is giving NPR more than $1 million while neither NRP nor Wal-Mart will say exactly how much. Sort of like the ethics statements for incumbents. "Check one: Assets between $25,000 and $100,000 or "over $100,000." The citizen does not learn much.
Dvorkin agreed that NPR should not have accepted the Wal-Mart deal! Now that is progress.
We will continue this story here, but in the meantime, good for Joy Cardin.
August 19, 2004
Monday's GarveyBlog focused on the efforts of Wal-Mart to use National Pubic Radio to improve its image. The next day Wisconsin Public Radio's Joy Cardin called to invite me to spend an hour discussing the Wal-Mart-NPR arrangement. It was an interesting hour with lots of callers and good discussion.
What came up often is the lack of information the public radio contributors can obtain from NPR. How much is Wal-Mart paying NPR? No one at Wisconsin Public Radio knows and NPR will not tell anyone because it is "a private company with public support". How much does Archer Daniels Midland pay? Again, that is secret information. It shouldn't be.
I congratulated Joy for having me on her talk show and contrasted her openness with WTMJ's Charlie Sykes, who would never permit a balanced approach on his 3.5 hours of Limbaugh-lite in Milwaukee. It is precisely for that reason we need to maintain the independence of WPR from the corporate funders. Inevitably, money given behind closed doors leads to mischief. Show me the politician who says he is not influenced by a $100,000 contribution and I will show you a liar. Are the NPR marketing folks immune? I doubt it.
This will be a hot topic at Fighting Bob Fest on September 18 when Bob McChesney and John Nichols take the stage. In the meantime, we welcome your thoughts. Should NPR take money from Wal-Mart or Halliburton?
August 18, 2004
Remember when the Supreme Court said in 1954 that schools must be integrated "with all deliberate speed"? Well, Wisconsin has been a state for 156 years and now we will have our first African American Supreme Court Justice. We certainly took our time.
Judge Louis Butler is a great choice. He ran for the office once before and learned much about the state in the process. He lives in Milwaukee, one of the most segregated cities in America, and he understands the importance of access to the courts for all people.
We may not be moving with all deliberate speed, but at least we are moving. Less than two years ago, Paul Higginbotham was the first African American appointed to an appeals court in Wisconsin. Tammy Baldwin was the first woman elected to Congress from Wisconsin and Gwen Moore could well become the first African American elected to Congress from Wisconsin. "With all deliberate speed..."
Congratulations to Louis Butler and to Governor Jim Doyle. Wisconsin will be a better state because of this appointment.
August 16, 2004
NPR sells out to Wal-Mart
The New York Times headline screamed, "Wal-Mart Tries to Shine Its Image by Supporting Public Broadcasting." So what you say? In defending the tie with Wal-Mart, National Public Radio spokeswoman Jenny Lawhorn said its audience consisted of "intelligent and well-educated people who tend to be business leaders and tend to be engaged in the civic process." (We have engaged a linguist to interpret whatever it was that Ms. Lawhorn was trying to say.)
NPR refuses to say how much Wal-Mart is paying NPR. I'm not kidding, it is apparently none of your business. Interestingly, Wal-Mart seems to have purchased talk time hosted by Tavis Smiley on PBS.
The NPR ombudsman wrote, "Wal-Mart symbolizes values that some of our listeners believe to be antithetical to the values of public radio." No kidding, Jack.
Could we revist the dumping of Bob Edwards? One writer asked, "What's next, Halliburton?" And, indeed, why not Halliburton if NPR works with Wal-Mart?
Vouchers lose in Florida
A Court of Appeals in Florida ruled that the school voucher program is unconstitutional because vouchers go to sectarian schools. The Florida Constitution says that "no revenue of the state...shall ever be taken from the public treasury directly or indirectly in aid of any sectarian institution." The court found that every dollar that goes to Catholic schools reduces the funds available for public schools. Thus the funds are taken from the public treasury.
The court looked at Wisconsin's decision in Jackson v. Benson which ruled constitutional the use of vouchers in parochial schools. The Florida Court was under-whelmed: "We find the Jackson case distinguishable and the analysis in Jackson unpersuasive."
For the icing on the cake, Clint Bolick and two other Institute for Justice lawyers joined the Florida Attorney General in a losing effort. Bolick helped Ken Starr in the Wisconsin case and is Scott Jensen's new boss.
Harkin warming up for Bob Fest
Senator Tom Harkin, who served as a jet pilot in the Navy, called Dick Cheney a coward. Cheney attacked John Kerry on a recent trip to Iowa and Harkin did not mince words. "When I hear this coming from Dick Cheney, who was a coward, who would not serve in Vietnam during the war, it makes my blood boil. He'll be tough with someone else's blood, somebody else's kids. But not when it was his turn to go."
I can't wait for Harkin's keynote on September 18 at Bob Fest.
August 15, 2004
Why we need Isthmus
The Wisconsin State Journal, never a favorite of progressives, has just eliminated one of the few reasons to pay money for a subscription. Despite editorials that appear to have been written or cleared by the Republican Party and a pathetic record of overlooking corruption in our state Capitol, there was a bright light, a regular column written by George Hesselberg. George brought a fresh approach to the WSJ and made it worth subscribing. But Isthmus news editor Bill Lueders reports in the most recent issue of the Madison alternative weekly newspaper that Hesselberg was informed by the editor that his column would be discontinued. The reason? George had the chutzpah to ignore advice about how to write his column from the new editor Ellen Foley, the import from Philadelphia.
This is the same paper that will soon try to put Isthmus out of business with a free weekly paper. Given the market power of Madison Newspapers Inc., owner of both the WSJ and the Capital Times, Isthmus could be history. Ah, but Foley would assure us that destruction of the Isthmus is not the goal. No, it is to serve the younger market. Yah, sure Ole.
If WSJ can't stand a little diversion from the party line from Hesselberg, what are the odds they will appeal to the younger audience? (Perhaps Foley should start by giving away the WSJ.) Shame on WSJ and Foley.
But the Sunday WSJ had two not-to-be-missed Wisconsin stories. One on the impact of job loss and Iraq on the presidential race in Wisconsin, and the other on Jim Doyle's difficult task of following Tommy Thompson. Worth a subscription? Not exactly. Both articles appeared in the New York Times and were only reprinted by WSJ. So, read about Wisconsin--subscribe to the New York Times.
August 14, 2004
Oh my gosh, did I say that?
One can almost hear Congressman Porter Goss saying, "Why did I say that?" But the nominee for director of the CIA need not worry, because the Democrats in Congress have already announced that they will support a nominee who admits he is not qualified for one of the most important jobs in America. Here is what our friend Michael Moore captured on tape during an interview with Goss:
"I was in CIA in the late '50s to approximately the early '70s. I couldn't get a job with CIA today. I am not qualified. I don't have the language skills...I don't have the cultural background probably. And I certainly don't have the technical skills...Uh, so, the things that you need to have, I don't have."
Whoa Nelly! Think about it. "I am not qualified." A friend said we should see that in context, but imagine if Bill Clinton had nominated a fellow Democrat for the post and he/she had said "I'm not qualified." Mainstream media would have ripped Clinton apart.
Oh well. Maybe we are safer with someone who knows he is not qualified.
August 13, 2004
GuestBlog: By Bill Kraus
There is something wrong with this picture
One of the first bills introduced in the last session of the Legislature was SB12. It was authored by Mike Ellis, a Republican, and was co-sponsored by Jon Erpenbach, a Democrat.
Whenever a poll asked the people if they liked the campaign reform ideas it embodied, more than 80 percent of them said they did.
Every major newspaper editorialized in favor of the bill or its ideas.
It never got out of the first committee to which it was assigned.
Late in the same session, a Republican state Senator introduced a bill that would have permitted carrying concealed weapons.
A poll indicated that 69 percent of the voters thought this was a bad idea.
No major newspaper endorsed it and many opposed it.
It went through the obligatory committees like hot butter through a tin horn. Both houses voted for it overwhelmingly. It almost survived a gubernatorial veto.
A legislative leader of several decades ago once said that while legislators are often dumb, they are never deaf. He may want to reconsider that conclusion.
Mea Culpa III
First it was the paper of record, the New York Times, apologizing for getting into a war frenzy and then the New Republic asked for forgiveness because "this magazine's strategic rationale for war now appears to have been wrong." And now, completing the trinity, the Washington Post has issued its own semi-culpa (to borrow Amy Goodman's term): "We were so focused on trying to figure out what the administration was doing that we were not giving the same play to people" who argued against the war.
Not giving the "same play?" How about "any play"? And, while it is refreshing to see our great institutions confess error, there is precious little consolation for the families and friends of the 950 U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq that the Post was, in essence, a cheerleader for war.
What has gone wrong with our newspapers? We will ask FightingBob.com contributing editors Bob McChesney and John Nichols that question on September 18 at Bob Fest.
August 12, 2004
Back to business
Federal Judge Rudolph Randa ordered Gary George to pay $613,746.36 in restitution. Don't you wonder what the .36 is for? I suppose the .36 leads us to believe there was a scientific determination of every dollar taken by George while holding office in our corrupt political system. With a four-year prison sentence, restitution to the Police Athletic League (you have to love the irony) and nearly $600,000 to the state of Wisconsin, we can get back to business as usual. Whew! That was tough.
While money scandals hang over the Capitol like the smell of your dog after cornering a skunk, we can now relax. Yes, we can return to surface reporting on money in politics or even read columnists making fun of Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager because she has not used her time in office to raise money. I'm not making this up.
The Scott Walker Bear-Stearns scandal has already disappeared. The fundraising from corporations that do business with the state continues unabated while cynicism rises in direct proportion to the amount of money raised by our elected officials. Was Gary George the problem? Let's not kid ourselves. In a system where campaigns are funded by the public, young office holders would not have a tin cup attached to their left hand while they shake the hands of lobbyists with the other. So, what are we waiting for? Disclosure? Got it. Scandals? Got them. Connection between contributions and tax breaks and policy? We have all the proof you want.
A friend explained the difference between Chicago and Wisconsin politics. "In Chicago, we expect corruption so we look for it all the time. In Wisconsin, you expect honest politicians despite a corrupt system so you don't look very hard." Sounds right. Night, night.
August 11, 2004
The final planning is underway for our third Fighting Bob Fest. September 18 is just a little more than a month away, and for groups who want tables there are a few left but not many. So contact us immediately.
I am eager to hear Senator Tom Harkin's take on the presidential campaign, health care, Iraq and the future of the progressive movement. Tom's closing speech at Paul and Sheila Wellstone's memorial was exactly what was needed by all of us who grieved.
Check our link to Bob Fest, bookmark it, mark the date on your calendar, and be prepared for some surprises.
Chalabi really said it
By most accounts, the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld-Wolfowitz team relied on intelligence from supporters of Ahmad Chalabi to justify the invasion of Iraq. Were it not for more than 11,000 dead Iraqi civilians, 939 American soldiers killed, and thousands of Americans, allies and Iraqis wounded for life, the drama now being played out would be humorous.
But as it is it is not humorous at all. Chalabi's plot was to be installed as the successor to Saddam. He was the choice of the Bush administration.
Recall when Chalabi, clad in Gucci shoes and Armani suits, followed the American invasion with his band of followers into Baghdad? Well, funny things happened on the way to the throne. The U.S. had to blame someone for no WMDs, so it turned against him and now he and his nephew are charged with criminal acts including murder.
In a NY Times article headlined "Chalabi Says Charges Show He Is No Tool Of the U.S.," Chalabi had these words of wisdom: "Now people know that I work for sovereignty of Iraq."
And, said Chalabi, he will return to Iraq soon. Wanna bet?
August 10, 2004
Governor Doyle will send a loud and clear signal when he appoints a replacement for Ave Bie on the Public Service Commission. "Insiders" predict the choice will be announced this week. Members of SOUL, who have spent four years fighting the extension cord form Manitoba to Wausau, are watching carefully. Doyle has a great opportunity to shift the PSC from utility control to public control. While you watch and wait, the utilities are lurking in the stairwells of power, checkbooks in hand. Keep your fingers crossed.
Bush the scientist
Laura Bush, in defending W.'s position on stem cell research, blasted John Kerry. She said, and I'm not making this up, "We don't even know that stem cell research will provide cures for anything--much less that it's very close to yielding major advances." (These pearls of wisdom brought to us by Associated Press.) She also said her husband has not "banned" research only "limited" research.
A Kerry spokesman responded, "Bush's restrictions apply to 99.9 percent of potential stem cell lines. If that's not a ban, what is?"
While her view that "stem cell research is very, very preliminary," and therefore not a candidate for funding is out of sync with the scientific and, indeed, the political worlds, I had no idea Laura Bush has been studying the subject. What's next? Evolution vs. Creationism?
August 9, 2004
Center for American Progress
We have often urged you to go to our Links page to check out Cost of War, a brilliant analysis (updated every second) of how much the Iraq invasion is costing us and how the money could have been spent on domestic needs. Today, Cost of War says the U.S. has spent almost $127 billion and that amount could have been used to hire 2.4 million new teachers or to build 1.8 million housing units for the poor.
Now the Center for American Progress published in Sunday's New York Times an equally brilliant piece showing how the money could have been spent to make us more secure. We could have used $7.5 billion to secure our ports; $10 billion to protect our airlines; $5 billion for state-of-the-art baggage screening machines; $7 billion for 100,000 police officers, and on and on.
We are less safe today because of the $160 billion spent on the foolish invasion. (Center for American Progress includes the $25 billion in the administration's next budget.) Imagine if Ike had been president instead of W. I urge you to read the article and check out their site.
The end of one peace song laments, "When will they ever learn?" They might start by looking for alternatives.
August 8, 2004
Gary George was sentenced to four years in federal prison last week. Will the sentence for a former state senator and co-chair of the all-powerful Joint Finance Committee change our corrupt system? And, one must ask, where has George's home town newspaper, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, been for the last 20 years as George fleeced the state? On sabbatical?
The Cap Times headline: "A brilliant career in ashes." Really? What was so brilliant about George's career? Were there legislative accomplishments hidden from view or is this a lament that George could have had a brilliant career had greed and hubris not grabbed him early in his tenure. We know about the greed, here is the hubris on display. George told Federal Judge Randa that he was "the smartest lawmaker Wisconsin has ever seen."
That will be hot news to those who served with Gaylord Nelson, Dave Obey, Tony Earl, Midge Miller, Frank Boyle, Spencer Black, Tom Loftus, Harvey Stower, Mike Ellis, Becky Young and lots of others who were not only intelligent but who served with honor and maintained high ethical standards along the way.
What is so bothersome about this scandal is the silence surrounding the lack of will exhibited by former Attorney General and current Governor Jim Doyle. The message ought to be clear: Get private money out of politics.
Utah Phillips comes east
Fighting Bob Fest gets started six days early this year. We kick-off with a concert featuring actvist, raconteur, hobo hellraiser Utah Phillips on Sunday, September 12, at the Orpheum in Madison. Tickets are reasonably priced at $17.50. Proceeds go to Family Farm Defenders and the Wormfarm Institute, so not only will you have a great evening the cause is right.
Tickets are available at the Orpheum and elsewhere. See you there.
August 7, 2004
If you have not watched Tucker Carlson's program on PBS you should. Not because it passes as journalism. Rather it is the PBS pay-off to the Republicans--or should we call it pennance--for airing Bill Moyer's superb program "Now."
Carlson's program fits public television like Madonna would have fit in with Big Bird. His political mission is obvious. Paint award-winning columnist Paul Krugman as a "fringe" Democrat and a true "Bush hater." Get this line from his interview with Krugman: "In October, when I stopped taking your coluimn seriously..." I guess the idea is to make fun of thoughtful commentary that is often critical of W. (Wonder what he thinks of Bush apologists William Safire and David Brooks.)
What really disturbs me is that furrowed-brow Carlson is on public television at all. Yes, there should be a variety of views presented. Just check the PBS offerings and you will find lots of programs from right to center. Moyers is not on for his liberal point of view; he is on because he is a great broadcaster. The problem is that Carlson has a glitzy, expensive set that looks like Chris Matthews or Keith Olberman on steroids. And we know why he has 30 minutes to annoy. The GOP threatened PBS. Plain and simple.
What's next? Rush Limbaugh so the GOP will fund PBS next year? We have to figure out a way to insulate PBS and NPR from political pressure. If C-Span is paid for by the cable systems, why not charge the networks 10 percent of all political advertising to help pay for PBS?
We will post your ideas.
August 6, 2004
GuestBlog: By Bill Kraus
An open letter to UW System president Reilly
The unintended consequence of the post-Watergate political reforms was to disembowel the political parties and the bosses who used to run them. Just why this happened is a long, complicated story, but trust me, it happened. The political power in this country has now shifted solidly to factions. The factions have the money. The factions have the politically stimulating causes. And some of them even have members. The increasingly invincible incumbents who populate our state and national legislatures respond to the factions because the factions fund their campaigns and deliver the votes that keep them in office.
AARP knows this. The NRA knows this. The Right To Lifers know this. The teachers' union knows this. The manufacturing association knows this.
The higher education establishment does not seem to know this.
You are sitting on top of the faction with the potential to have the most political clout of them all in Wisconsin. You have an economically important physical presence in almost every significant community in the state. Your thousands of employees and students are a little hard to corral politically, but when their self and selfish interests are engaged, they can become at least as menacing as the oldies and the shooters who scare the pants off most incumbent legislators.
I deplore the new, faction driven political reality, but I recognize it. You should too, because you can make it work for what may be the most important asset that Wisconsin has to offer to the world: its superlative higher education factory.
August 5, 2004
David Remnick writes in the August 9 New Yorker that the Kerry speech to the Democratic convention almost did not matter:
"There's a case to be made that it hardly matters...What matters infinitely more is that George W. Bush is the worst president since Richard Nixon...If one regards the Bush Administration's sins of governance--its distortion of intelligence in a time of crisis, its grotesque indulgence of the rich at the expense of the rest, its arrogant dissolution of American prestige and influence abroad, its heedless squandering of the world's resources...Bush is in a league with the likes of Harding, Fillmore, Pierce and Buchanan." He concludes that Bush is worse than Nixon.
And we have invited W. to Fighting Bob Fest.
Friends of W (FOW)
Friends of W., a/k/a Saudi Arabia's ruling family, a/k/a FOW, jumped in to reduce the price of oil yesterday. The price hit an all-time high but Saudi Arabia announced they would start pumping crude from new fields three months ahead of schedule and, surprise, surprise, the speculators reduced the price.
Perhaps we will have free gas at the pump by November 2.
While Rome burns
Gary George, former state senator, former candidate for the U.S. Senate and governor, will be sentenced today. Already recalled from office, he faces probation or prison in a true scandal that was the worst-kept secret in Madison and Milwaukee for several years. The only question was why law enforcement waited so long to act. (At a time like this I miss the old Sentinel.)
George used staff for personal benefit, rigged a bid so his friend would be selected to build a $6.5 million Police Athletic League building, and he had a kick-back scheme with the former Chair of the Wisconsin Democratic Party, Mark Sostarich. Sostarich, a Milwaukee attorney, admitted kicking back 80 percent of his legal fees paid by W-2 agency, OIC, to Gary George. He will be sentenced September 9.
Who else was involved? Did OIC ever check the invoices from Sostarich to determine if he was doing the work he was paid large fees to do? If not, why not?
With at least two Supreme Court justices linked to Scott Jensen and his wife during their campaigns, not to mention contributions from political figures on top of the caucus scandal and the George confession, isn't it time that Jim Doyle lived up to his campaign promise to reform our elections? (Go to our Documents section and read the Heffernan Report.) The blueprint is there, now it is time to do more than cut the state of Wisconsin's vehicle fleet. It is time to rescue our soul.
August 4, 2004
Wolf, wolf and I'm serious!
Tom Ridge, like Don Rumsfeld, seems incapable of admitting a mistake. Yes, the announcement of imminent threat was based on four-year-old intelligence. (I made a mistake as well yesterday. I said it was based on three-year-old information, but it was four.) But Ridge, Rumsfeld, Powell, and others gathered their wits and said "you don't know what we know."
Ridge said that if we had access to the information you would say we did the right thing. But, like the wine at Cana, he saved the best until last: "We don't do politics in the Department of Homeland Security."
Sure, Tom, now it is nap time.
August 3, 2004
Four years ago
Will we ever forget the great Reagan question, "Are you better off today than you were four years ago?"
Here is how the August 2 issue of Business Week reported on whether or not we are worse off or better off since 2000. Look at the following cost increases:
Gallon of gas +23%
Health care premium for family +49%
Tuition four year college +40%
Day care and nursery school +19%
Property taxes +30%
All that while median family income is up 8%. Hmmm! Tough question.
Cap Times takes on Doyle
In a stinging editorial rebuke, the Capital Times commented on the Doyle-Goodwin plot to unseat UW Regent Nino Amato yesterday: "Gov. Doyle and his aides should be ashamed of themselves."
And that was the opening sentence. I recommend you read the whole editorial.
The Doyle agenda, hatched in private and held close to the vest, is hard to figure out. It appears that settling old scores is more important than setting lofty policy goals. There will be a huge deficit; TABOR nonsense tops the agenda; the DNR has been co-opted by Commerce; some Doyle-endorsed legislation has infuriated environmentalists; the Department of Corrections has not changed a whit from the dark days of Jon Litcher.
So, where are we headed? Let us hear from you.
And the big boy hollered wolf
Yesterday we were all in a tither over the announcement by Tom Ridge that Al Quaeda was about to attack financial institutions in New York. Ridge looked up from his prepared text and announced that the vigilance of President Bush was responsible for this new information.
Well, let us give credit where credit is due. Today we learned that the new and unusually specific "chatter" is three years old. I'm not making this up. I'm trying to figure out how one listens to thee-year-old chatter. "What we uncovered is a collection operation as opposed to the launching of an attack" according to the usual unnamed "senior official."
Even for Ridge this is a new low. He should resign.
August 2, 2004
Duck and cover
Tom Ridge is back at the microphone so duck and cover. More "chatter" than ever and he is now convinced we should disrupt all transportation into New York because Homeland Security can listen but not find the bad guys. Once again there was a hint that the Republican convention might not be held in New York. Just a hint but given the question from Ridge to Ashcroft whether the elections could be delayed, look out folks. (I suspect the speech by Barack Obama may be a factor in their desire not to meet and greet.)
What we have learned from Richard Clarke, the 9-11 Commission, and lots of books, is that the intelligence agencies are incompetent. Ridge has been around for a while and is clearly political in his color coding and warnings. Isn't it time to demand someone replace Ridge who would have some credibility?
Like WMDs, it could happen but like the intelligence on Iraq and Afghanistan, this is the gang that couldn't talk straight. There is no credibility and that is a shame.
August 1, 2004
Here they come
Now that the Democratic National Convention is history, the Republicans are ready to spend $300 million on TV ads that will, indeed, attempt to divide us into categories. I think people are sick of negative attacks and by that I am not talking about policy differences. The mainstream media is MIA when it comes to issues, so FightingBob.com will help over the next three months.
We would like your views on the Dem convention and the upcoming Republican convention in New York. If we ever needed a progressive newsletter it is now. So please share your thoughts.
Bob Fest is just around the corner
The third annual Fighting Bob La Follette Festival, or "Bob Fest," is coming soon. September 18 is the date and Baraboo is the place. Our neighbor and progressive leader, U.S. Senator Tom Harkin will keynote the fest. The theme is "Rights at Risk" and a tremendous list of speakers including Jim Hightower, Peg Lautenschlager, Tammy Baldwin and Jerry Bracey will deal with risks to education, civil liberties, civil rights and more. Given our current politics, there is plenty to talk about.
We need volunteers, so let us know if you can help. This will be the best yet.