March 31, 2009
Diane Feinstein was on a mission to prove that she can flip-flop with the best of them. Not even Senator Flip-Flop himself, Arlen Specter, can deny her half the crown.
In 1935, Congress rose up and passed the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). That was 75 years ago in the midst of the Great Depression. The Act, designed to bring prosperity and industrial peace to the work place, has been ruined over these seven decades by highly paid lawyers and union-busters, not to mention anti-labor presidential appointments to the NLRB. The combination has destroyed the Act.
Unions can't organize under current restrictions so they looked to Canada where the law favors working people. If a clear majority of employees sign authorization cards in Canada, the employer must bargain with the union. In this country, the fight begins when the union is selected. The big anti-labor law firms thwart the wishes of the employees through the appeals process for up to 10 years. I'm not kidding.
Card Check unionism--the Employee Free Choice Act--was tooling along but Diane Feinstein and Specter dropped their sponsorship this week. Too "controversial," they whined. Incredibly, Feinstein said, "This is a difficult economy...I would hope there is some way to find common ground." Whoa Nelly! Apparently she never glanced at economic conditions when members of Congress voted their conscience in 1935. Needless to say, Tom Harkin is fighting for the workers. See you at Fighting Bob Fest, Tom.
Shame on Diane Feinstein.
March 30, 2009
Obama's War! Or was it Hillary's?
The fog of war is settling down in the nation's Capitol. The best and brightest are full of answers: "the surge worked"; "we can train the Afghan Army"; we can build a "coalition of European allies..."
Candidate Obama might well have lost to Hillary over a 30-second spot: the red phone was ringing at 3:00 in the morning. Would Barack know what to do as Commander-in-Chief? The voice told us that Hillary would be ready and Hillary told us Republican John McCain would be ready. The two of them were experienced--Barack had only given a speech!
Barack responded that he is as tough as his opponents. He assured us he would fight smarter in Afghanistan. Fighting Bob would have dissented.
Now the president feels compelled to follow-through with Hillary at his side. His speech last Friday was eerie. It sounded too much like W.'s rationalization of the invasion of Iraq. Time is of the essence, we must act now, the Europeans will help (coalition of the willing?), we will train the Afghans, we must ask for more sacrifice from our young soldiers, we can and must prevail. And, we will rid the government of corruption, find better leaders, and the FBI will help eradicate opium sales.
My informal poll in Eau Claire Friday--the Dems don't agree. They are sick of war and know victory cannot be defined. Oh, and we are broke. Can't afford $3 billion a month.
Face the Nation's Bob Schieffer said, "It is now Obama's war." Here we go again.
March 29, 2009
Reform or shell game?
Jay Heck, director of the usually timid watchdog groug Common Cause, said about some proposed Government Accountability Board (GAB) proposals, "This is incredibly significant, these reforms would transform Wisconsin into the good government state that people thought we were all along." (I did not make up that quote.) Nonsense!
Here are a couple of the "incredibly significant" reforms the GAB might adopt:
Bar lawmakers from lobbying for a year after retirement (or, presumably, jail);
Bar lobbyists from bundling campaign donations a/k/a "honest graft." This is common practice. A lobbyist gathers thousands of dollars from individuals and presents the booty in a package to the ____________ (fill in the blank).
Wake me when it's over. There is only one reform that works--public funding of campaigns. See Maine and Arizona for proof. Everything else might be well-meaning but doesn't rescue our corrupt system. What are the Democrats in the majority in both houses and the governor waiting for? Godot?
Note to GAB: How about a reform that would be the equivalent of a gut-punch? Tell all vendors bidding on state contracts that they may not contribute to any campaign! To do so would violate ethics code. Now that would warrant the "incredible" tag.
EAU CLAIRE I haven't felt this much grass-roots enthusiasm other than at Bob Fest, in years. The spring gala brought 250-300 to the Sportsman's Club for dinner, speeches and fun. They know the secret: if it ain't fun, it won't work. All of their legislators are Democrats and I predict some will become candidates for statewide office.
These are, as Paul Wellstone used to say, Democrats in the democratic wing of the Democratic Party. Not "blue dogs" nor "Independent Democratic Senators" in the Lieberman wing. They were mad as hell at Herb Kohl for lending his name to the so-called Independent Democrats. (Hell, the Dems have 58 votes--this is no time for games. Deliver national health care and then they might listen, but not before.)
They want the troops home from Iraq and, if my applause meter is right, they do not want Obama to get stuck in Afghanistan. No sir.
More about the Eau Claire success story next week. Now--get going on our GOTV effort for April 7.
March 27, 2009
Look over there!
Now that the report on voucher schools is out, the proponents of school vouchers have egg all over themselves. After an unprecedented propaganda blitz and tens of millions of dollars spent on this ideological nonsense, based on assurances that privatization of education (vouchers) would lead us into the promised land, the report finds it is a flop. No difference in performance even though voucher schools have fewer, if any, special needs kids.
I was curious to see the spin Howard Fuller and Tim Sheehy of Milwaukee's Chamber of Commerce would apply to this killer report. It is almost laughable. The response is a classic--hey! Don't look at me! Look over there!
I'm not making this up: Fuller argues that MPS needs more regulation! He said "we can't just wring our hands." True enough Howard but we should not pour millions of dollars into vouchers that could help improve MPS. Regulate MPS! C'mon.
Voucher advocates now call for closer regulation of public schools but not the voucher schools. For example, Voucher schools should not be subject to open meeting and open records laws. Why not? Fuller, who fought to avoid any objective study of voucher school performance argues that openness might convince "top voucher schools" to quit the program. Which schools? Sorry, Charlie, that is Howard's little secret.
Whoa Nelly. Time to get on board the Obama reforms and send the voucher experiment to the lab with NCLB.
March 26, 2009
You must be kidding!
Recall a tear in Tommy's eye as he told Wisconsin editors that the school voucher program would give "poor black parents" the same opportunities as well-off white parents to select the best schools for their kids? I remember. And remember John Norquist going on TV around the country touting vouchers as the answer to improving performance? I do. According to Norq, competition between voucher schools and MPS would improve performance. Yup. Competition was the answer. And Howard Fuller, Ken Starr, Susan Mitchell, and Justice Wilcox would all take a turn at bat. All played a role in making Milwaukee the laboratory for vouchers. Like other bumper-sticker solutions to complex issues (see "Welfare to Work"), ideology, not evidence, was the lodestar.
The results are in. "The envelope please!" Ta Da! What do you mean there is "no overall statistical difference between performance of voucher school kids and MPS kids"? Whoa Nelly. Surely you jest. Could Norquist, Sykes, Tommy, Klauser and Susan Mitchell all be wrong? Did Wisconsin literally waste millions of tax dollars on this loopy notion? Yikes-Sykes! Read it and decide for yourself.
Too bad you can't attend the pro-voucher Policy Forum legislative breakfast to hear how the results will be rationalized. What? Didn't get an invitation? In that case, see you at Fighting Bob Fest.
March 25, 2009
Fighting Bob GOTV
We learn as we go forward. Fighting Bob is jumping into the spring elections by calling and e-mailing you to remind you of the Supreme Court and DPI elections on April 7. And your response, as predicted, has been great. "Thanks for reminding me," and, "Yes I will remind our neighbors," are typical responses to our volunteer callers. Want to help? Send an email to me.
Our goal is to call all of you. We are not pushing candidates--Fighting Bob supporters are well informed and will do the right thing on their own. Some worry that only 15 percent will vote--that is unacceptable. These are important elections.
Dan Rooney to Ireland: How did I miss the naming of Dan Rooney as our Ambassador to Ireland? Great choice. The owner of the Steelers knows how to bring parties to the table. He will be terrific.
Tom Geoghan: A brilliant lawyer and prolific writer, he ran for Congress in the open seat that Rahm Emanuel held. Geoghan said, "I wanted to make politics my practice of law." What did this progressive want? Labor-law reform, an end to filibusters, a low cap on credit card interest rates...an end to bailouts. You would love this guy.
Eau Claire: I'll speak Friday at the Eau Claire Democratic Party dinner. FB's message has a home in Eau Claire.
March 24, 2009
Hint: Kenosha knows. Now, "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is." That should be foremost in our minds when spending or investing other people's money. You must read Dustin Beilke's superb and eye-popping article, "Kenosha knows," to grasp just how deep the hole is that some of our school districts are in. I warn you--it is scary.
When the Employee Retirement Security Act, known as ERISA, was enacted, the idea was simple: When retirees, who were planning for retirement funded, in part, by their pensions, need the money the money will be there. Good idea. When ERISA passed, no one had heard of derivatives, A.I.G., or thought the "prudent investor" would gamble the pension funds in Vegas or Wall Stereet. Enter the Madoff touch.
The spring elections are just around the corner--get involved! Please.
March 23, 2009
The UW men's basketball team gave us a clinic on determination, hard work and grit yesterday. This may have been Bo's best coaching since coming to Wisconsin. Didn't make it into the next round, but I have a feeling they will next year.
And Marquette--what a game. Almost. Great coaching, tremendous game. They deserved to win.
And congrats to Mark Johnson and the UW women's hockey team--another national championship. Three out of last four years. How about that? Haven't heard any anti-Title IX comments lately.
Tonight Fighting Bob begins GOTV effort (6:00 at One Odana Court). See you there. Too many people forget to vote in the spring. We plan to remind them to vote. Supreme Court and DPI--could there be more important elections?
March 22, 2009
Will the circle be unbroken?
There is something surreal about the president's cool response to the A.I.G. outrage. More Ivy League than Big Ten. Polo not rugby. I couldn't put my finger on it, but Frank Rich did today in NYT. The president told Leno the dirty secret that the A.I.G. stuff was perfectly legal. "An even dirtier secret," Rich writes, "Is that a prime mover in keeping that stuff legal was Summers, who helped torpedo the regulation of derivatives while in the Clinton administration."
And remember Robert Rubin? Even his mentor, "Robert Rubin, no less, wrote that 'Summers underestimated how the risk of derivatives might multiply.'"
Here is the problem. Given that Summers worked for a secretive hedge fund, D.E. Shaw, "You have to wonder how he can sell the administration's plan...buying up toxic assets with the help of hedge funds."
Can Obama and his staff get angy when Summers and the hapless Geithner are part of the Circle? Will the circle go unbroken?
A letter to the NYT editors, quoted by Rich, rings true: "President Obama may not realize it but his Katrina moment has arrived." The author is closer to reality than David Axelrod who Rich quoted, "people are not sitting around their kitchen table thinking about A.I.G., they are thinking about their own jobs."
Oh yeah? I think they are thinking about both. Their jobs seem more vulnerable because of A.I.G. There is a lot of talk about "Class Warfare" these days. Recall the old union song, "Which Side are You On?" I think I know which side Summers and Geithner are on.
Spring elections: Two weeks to go! April 7--Election Day. Want to help? Send an email to me.
March 21, 2009
Jean-Paul Sartre wrote, in The Devil and the Good Lord, "If a victory is told in detail, one can no longer distinguish it from a defeat." Think about it. How does our victory in Iraq look in detail? Did we win or lose? Oh, you say we are broke? How in the world did that happen?
Ask the same about the Israeli Gaza victory. Then read this headline in the NYT: "Soldier's Accounts of Gaza Killings Are Raising Furor in Israel." Things like, "a permissive attitude toward the killing of civilians...reckless destruction of property, sniper killing a woman and her two children." A squad commander was quoted as saying, "What's great about Gaza--you see a person on a path, you can simply shoot him."
So, on to Afghanistan, but before plunging in, read Three Cups of Tea and ask yourself, "What would victory look like in Afghanistan?" I think I know--it would look like a defeat.
March 20, 2009
Thank you, Chief Judge Crabb
Appointed to the federal bench by Jimmy Carter, Barbara Crabb has been a hard-working, highly intelligent, ethical, and fair judge. She earned the tag Public Servant capital 'P' and capital 'S.' She had a great role model in Judge James Doyle, and she lived up to his expectations.
Judge Crabb announced yesterday that she will move to "senior status" where the smart money says she will work just as hard hearing cases in the future as she has in the past but who knows, she just might get a weekend off.
Thanks Judge Crabb for a lifetime of service.
Who Knew? Only Chris Dodd? Geithner? His staff? Barney Frank? Rahm Emmanuel? Didn't anyone ride through the Capitol shouting "the bonuses are coming, the bonuses are coming"? Guess not and that is scary. But Ben Bernanke is mad. So mad he "slammed down the phone" not once but twice. Wow! That's mad! OK Ben. Now pick up the phone and call AIG and, like the movie Jerry Mcguire, tell them "Show me the money!" Please.
March 19, 2009
Supreme Court or Supreme Conspiracy?
When I was a student, I sold programs at UW football games. "Can't tell the players without a program," I hollered, and I usually sold out by game time. I wasn't invited to the Madison Rotary Club-sponsored debate yesterday between Chief Justice Abrahamson and Judge Koschnick, but it is clear as day that the Rotarians needed a program to identify the behind-the-scene players in the Koschnick campaign. I don't think they got one, nor did the media covering this important race.
A few thoughts for you to contemplate. Judge Koschnick sounds a lot like Judge Gableman, last year's ethically flawed winner over a much more qualified candidate, Justice Louis Butler. Attack, attack, attack. Accuse the sitting Justice of being "soft on criminals," and the worst sin of all, ruling as an "activist." Whoa Nelly! I have been practicing law a long time and I conclude that the activist accusation simply means you disagree with Scalia, the patron saint of the Federalist Society. (I urge you to read The Nine by Jeffrey Toobin.)
The tag activist is, as the Chief said, "meaningless."
Where does a judge come up with these themes? Perhaps you should check out his attorney and find that James Bopp also represents Justice Gableman; Bopp of Indiana is also counsel for Right-to-Life, Right-to-Work, the Republican Party, and on and on. He is, indeed, a Federalist activist. (There. I said it.)
In the debate, Koschnick accused the Chief of siding with a criminal defendant in one of the 35,000 cases in which she has participated. Just like Gableman last year.
And, unable to best her intellect (no contest), he charged that she is "running away from her liberal record." C'mon judge. Think about it. You don't belong on the Court using name-calling as your ladder. But how about your beliefs? Running away?
March 18, 2009
Huff and puff
Woke up thinking about AIG, Congress, Tim Geithner, and the Three Little Pigs popped into my brain. People are not just angry about the $165 million in bonuses handed out by AIG, everyone I talk with is disgusted.
I haven't heard such tough talk in Congress since 9-11. But it is all talk. The always witty Barney Frank huffs and he puffs and he will blow the house down. Talk, talk, talk while AIG makes him look like an impotent dufus.
How in the world could Treasury Secretary Geithner permit this to happen? If he didn't know they could hand out the bonuses under a provision authored by Chris Dodd, he should be fired. If he knew and did nothing he should be fired.
It appears that Geithner's goal is to make his predecessor, Hank Paulson, look good by comparison.
The White House spokesman said the president has "complete confidence" in "How did I know I should pay all my taxes?" Geithner. Whoa Nelly! Time to get him out of there, and while at it, take Summers along. Summers stands behind the bonus contracts calling them "sacrosanct." Really? As many of you have e-mailed, how come these contracts are "sacrosanct" but the autoworkers contracts are easily discarded? Hanging around the wrong people Larry, drop in to a union meeting and explain your unique jesuitical position on these contracts. Contracts with rich guys are good; contracts with middle-class guys are an impediment to recovery. Yikes.
Meanwhile, the Pope is lecturing on his plane about condoms. The Pope on condoms, Geithner on taxes, Summers on contracts. Help!
While these guys justify their nonsensical bonuses, FoodShare in Wisconsin is growing. A family of three will soon get as much as $250 per month. Now 506,000 people are getting something--some as little as 30 bucks a month. You must make less than $24,000 per year to qualify. Let's send Larry Summers to Milwaukee to explain his economic theories to the families on FoodShare.
March 17, 2009
Belly up to the bar boys
Everyone who I told that the State of Wisconsin paid $50,000 to a company to develop a new "brand" for the state expressed surprise. One said, "Do we need one?" When told what it is, they were shocked or disgusted.
"Live like you mean it" is our new brand.
Wisconsin, known for clean government (La Follette, Risser, Proxmire, Feingold, Midge Miller) and for a commitment to the environment (Muir, Leopold, Nelson, Hansen, Stoddard, Arlen Christiansen, Jim McDonald, Public Intervener's Dawson and Falk) is apparently happy to boast that if that slogan is good enough for Bacardi rum, it's good enough for us! I'm reminded of the Unsinkable Molly Brown: "Belly up to the bar boys and loosen your belts...only drink when you are alone or with someone else." (Spotted Cow, Capital or Lake Louie perhaps, but rum?)
Five others took on the slogan before Wisconsin, and a lawsuit is likely. If so, will the state fight to keep this silly slogan? If a student handed in a paper identical to another's the UW would, justifiably, have a fit. Was the person or firm selected for its ability to create, borrow, or plagiarize?
In the midst of our economic crisis, does the Doyle administration seriously think a business will come to Wisconsin because of "Live like you mean it." (What does that mean anyway?) Even NPR joked about the dairy state's brand.
DPI: An important debate in the race between Tony Evers and Rose Fernandez for superintendent of DPI will take place Friday. Too bad. The Badgers play Florida State Friday night. Who would watch basketball when the DPI debate is on? Sorry Bo.
APRIL 7--SUPREME COURT AND DPI ELECTION. HELP FIGHTING BOB.COM TURN OUT THE VOTE. (Sorry to shout.)
Oh, Happy St. Patrick's Day. (Reading assignment: "How the Irish Saved Civilization.")
March 16, 2009
AIG has done more to undermine confidence in government than the crook-in-chief, Mr. Ponzi, Bernard Madoff. Imagine AIG's chutzpah in handing out billions to creditor banks--billions of our money--while quietly arranging to enter into contracts with their fellow conspirators to receive "bonuses" by another name. Whoa Nelly! Even unflappable Summers was annoyed. Congressman Elijah Cummings said it best: "These payments are nothing but a reward for obvious failure."
Parents know you would not say, "Johnny you did wrong so we are giving you a bonus." C'mon! Congress stands around with a fire extinguisher in a raging forest fire yelling "no more please." The message? "Take it to the bank. Trust us, it won't happen again." Oh yeah?
How about the lawyers of Lahore, Pakistan? They forced the government to reinstate the Chief Justice in order to regain an independent judiciary. (My guess is WMC will protest.) Pakistani lawyers withstood arrests, beatings and even death. Would our lawyers do less?
Oh that's right, we put our judiciary on the auction block. Read The Appeal.
The decision by the Doyle administration not to enact public financing of judicial races is outrageous. And we think we are teaching democracy to Pakistan?
March 15, 2009
Open government to the rear of the bus
The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel today runs a feature on how two nearly anonymous guys are working hard spending the billions of dollars coming to Wisconsin via the federal stimulus plan. One picture shows Alan Fish, described by JS as "a top UW official," looking at the computer in a posed shot. The other guy is on loan from MG&E. Both were somehow selected by the governor for this "kids in the candy store" position.
What's so odd about this? The appointment of Fish, tagged as a "top UW official" by JS might lead the public to conclude that the UW was involved in selecting Fish and helping to vett the proposals under the stimulus plan, but not so fast. The Top UW Official's job is vice-president for facilities. (Yes, the job Donna Shalala tried to get Don Morton to accept after she took the football coaching job from him. Morton declined.)
Is there something in Fish's background other than facilities manager or UW athletics, that pushes him to the front of the class? Don't know and probably never will. The Legislature did not get into the act of creating this huge ATM machine, so Fish will not be asked any questions by the Legislature. That is a shame, because there is one relationship that, to a cynic, might not pass the smell test. Fish is the spouse of the power behind the governor, his "Klauser," Susan Goodwin. That fact is not mentioned by JS.
One can only imagine how hard the governor and his chief of staff worked to find the perfect candidate for a job that just might reward Doyle loyalists while choosing projects to be funded.
I can see the duo pouring over resumes and consulting legislators and congressmen before fixing their gaze on Fish, UW facilities manager.
The last time Fish was in the news he was explaining the Sierra Club-UW settlement to alter operations at the polluting Charter Street heating plant.
If Wisconsin is to carry the title of clean government, the Doyle administration should, at a minimum, issue a ukase that any entity receiving money under the state's stimulus package is prohibited from making campaign contributions to the Legislators or the governor. Anything else is unacceptable. Second step--the Legislature should develop guidelines on how the money should be spent and who should spend it. (I know, your eyebrows just went up, but like the Legislature or not, it can be held accountable and Fish cannot. We don't even know his job description.)
C'mon! open up the process.
March 14, 2009
And so it goes
The horse is out of the barn, saddled, and ready to ride, although there is some ambivalence about naming the jockey. The horse? Oh, that would be The Wisconsin Way, Jim Wood's special interest group of groups that appears to be trying to do what the Tommy Thompson "Pave" commission failed to do years ago under the not-so-steady hand of former Lieutenant Governor Margaret Farrow: Reform our taxes to favor Big Business. You know, get us out of tax hell; reduce government spending for those in need while paving over as much of the state as possible.
I got my invitation to "undisclosed recipient" on the 12th of March and I am supposed to respond "No Later than Monday, March 16" if I choose to pay 50 bucks so I can participate in "the public conversation" around The Wisconsin Way's faux "Blueprint for Change."
My teacher used to often say, "A word to the wise is sufficient." Here are three words: "Cover your wallet." Add two more--"Whoa Nelly." It would appear that the Wisconsin Way would like to do for (or to) Wisconsin what the Milwaukee shadow governing body, known as the Greater Milwaukee Committee, does to/for Milwaukee. (After all, chaps, isn't governance too important to leave decisions to elected folks?)
But here is the good news. If you are a member of the Realtors, road builders or AARP you get a $15 discount. OK! See you at the break. (Gosh. I hope Margaret Farrow keynotes.)
March 13, 2009
Two weeks in the tropical forests of Costa Rica clears the mind. True, I had "news withdrawal" pain similar to giving up smoking decades ago. No radio, TV, Internet, phone or fax. Heck, not even a yellow pad, pen or pencil. Cold turkey! We survived and we are back, but it is tough to be without Moyers, Cardin, Cap Times, NYT, "Here and Now."
The good news is that not all problems were solved by you while we searched for beautiful birds, learned to eat rice and beans for breakfast while enjoying the wonderful people of the country without an army (since 1948). (Imagine America without an army. Can't? Visit Costa Rica.)
Read The Nine by Toobin and had my memory of the heist of the 2000 election by Scalia, Roberts, Baker et al jogged, and could not get Norm Coleman out of my mind. Surely, we would come home to learn that Al Frankin had been sworn in but, no, Coleman struggles to push spurious claims while Minnesota goes without an effective advocate in Washington.
Got back in time to see poor old Bernie Madoff go to jail, "sorry and ashamed" but uncooperative. Bye-bye, Bernie.
And TiVo helped me watch Jon Stewart destroy Jim Cramer of CNBC, the NBC business channel. Stewart did what the Wall Street Journal, NYT and others in the corporate media have not done. And I worried that the absence of Bush-Cheney would hurt The Daily Show, but in fact Stewart has become munch more than a comedian. Good to see.
Read Three Cups of Tea and urge you to read this unusual book. Conclusion? We should not get bogged down in Afghanistan.
And, an "oh no say it ain't so" moment last night, with the expose of Los Angeles Congresswoman Maxine Waters helping out a bank that her husband is involved with. (Remind you of Wisconsin?)
Speaking of the Court, I plan to spend a lot of time and energy campaigning to get out the vote on April 7. Join the Fighting Bob campaign.