March 31, 2010 Ah the middle is so comfy
I think I am developing a method of avoiding disappointment when Obama is poised to make a decision. First, I repeat aloud, even if I am alone, Eugene V. Debs's wonderful admonition: "If I could lead you into the promised land I would not because if I could lead you in any damned fool could lead you out." (Promise you won't alert Glenn Beck.)
Second, I search for the worst possible decision the president could make and I adopt it as the one I want. Third, when his decision is announced and it is not the worst possible choice, but close, I am not disappointed. "Could have been worse" I shout. "Could have been worse."
And so when the headline in the New York Times screams "Obama To Open Offshore Areas to Oil Drilling" I applaud wildly in my room. "Could have been worse," I shout, and a grin breaks out on my face. Yup, OK Barack!
Then I think about his LBJ-style rhetoric to the troops in the land of corruption identified on Pentagon maps as Afghanistan. I know many progressives were disappointed that he rushed to Afghanistan to promise eternal vigilance and unlimited support. Not me! I expected him to drop in on Iraq and Pakistan with the same pledge of perpetual support. When instead he aimed his plane at Andrews Air Force base the words of Delaware's favorite son, Joe Biden, came to mind. This was a big f-bomb deal. No decision to jump back into Iraq or invade Pakistan. Wow! "Could have been worse," I say. OK, we will spend approximately $100 million on each of the 100 remaining Taliban troops but, hey, at least the money will go to Karzai and his brother.
Join me in the crusade to find the middle ground on all issues. You will find happiness!
March 30, 2010 Blame game
The Vatican is pushing the line that the pedophile issue in the church is "petty gossip" (the Pope said that Sunday) and part of a worldwide media blitz aimed at harming the Pope. No one I know buys that line, so here comes another by way of an ad in the New York Times, signed by Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights (sit before reading). "The Times", says Donohue, "continues to editorialize about the "pedophilia crisis" when all along it's been a homosexual crisis. Eighty percent of the victims of priestly sexual abuse are male and most are post-pubescent. I am not making this up. He goes on, "While homosexuality does not cause predatory behavior, and most gay priests are not molesters, most of the molesters have been gay."
Karzai: Our reason to leave--now!NYT reports that Karzai recently told lunch guests at the palace that he believes the Americans are in Afghanistan because they want to dominate his country and region. Had enough, as our troops arrive to protect Afghanistan from the Taliban? "The Americans pose an obstacle to striking a peace deal with the Taliban," according to Karzai-the-Corrupt-with-brother-even-worse. Time to get out.
Race to the Bank: The secret is out that Wisconsin performed poorly in the obscene race to win federal funds. (Years ago there was a TV show where contestants raced to fill shopping carts at a supermarket. I think the winner got to keep the groceries.)
Arne Duncan is now the gameshow host with billions of dollars to give out to states willing to blame teachers for poor performance in inner-city schools. Surprise, surprise, the first two winners have governors who are Democrats and who were willing to play the blame game. Yup! Delaware and Tennessee were the two winners who blame teachers for the impact of poverty on learning. Wisconsin? Not so good. Why? Oh, you betcha--it's the teachers! Tsk, tsk, and "school district support was conditional and the unions were opposed." (Perhaps the fact that we are number one in education might give pause before giving in to Arne's game.) Alan Borsuk will yell; the UW-Madision Political Science department will poll again; the Bradley folks will demand we privatize these schools!
Prepare yourself. Jim Doyle will soon emerge from the mansion to demand that the Legislature give in and blame the teachers--just to give us a chance to win federal money. That is nuts!
March 29, 2010 Health care: done. Is peace a by-product?
The hollering from the right that this nation cannot afford the health care plan should be met with a challenge to cut costs by declaring an end to wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The total cost to date is just a little south of a trillion dollars. (Economist Joseph Stiglitz and others predict at least another trillion dollars in costs are sure to follow.)
Afghanistan has already cost us $262 billion, not to mention increasing casualties. But here we go again! President Obama flew to Afghanistan and he is lucky Karzai was not flying Delta. Karzai was in Iran celebrating with you-guessed-who and flew home a few hours before Obama arrived!
Ah, and there is Karzai's brother, a provincial council leader who is, according to the U.S., profiting from the drug trade, controlling agricultural production, and selling government jobs--paid for by you and me!
Yikes! The president ignored that news while assuring our troops that "America does not quit." Whoa Nelly! Maybe we don't quit, but Vietnam ended as a result of negotiations and so did Korea. Let's try that. Oh, and the L.A. Times reports that Karzai continues to negotiate with the Taliban as our troops arrive for more fighting with the Taliban. Gates doesn't like the negotiations. He says we need more military victories before negotiations start.
Will peace ever come to a nation in debt?
Pope leans on faith: Apparently the problem of pedophile priests is less important to the Vatican than blaming the media for attacking the Pope. Really. His faith will give him the courage not to be intimidated by critics. He said that. "Faith in God helps lead one toward the courage of not allowing oneself to be intimidated by the petty gossip of dominant opinion," he said.
Petty gossip? I am not making this up. Again, it is time for bishops in Wisconsin to speak up. Petty gossip? Whoa Nelly!
Fighting Bob Fest: Fest number 9 is coming on September 11. We will seek answers to some complex issues. Announcements about issues and speakers will begin soon. Stay tuned.
March 28, 2010 Action!
Well, doncha know, the president is off the bi-partisan kick because, one supposes, he is tired of being kicked by an elephant. Whatever his reasons, he acted yesterday to kick-start the National Labor Relations Board with a "recess appointment" of board nominee Craig Becker, who has been counsel to the SEIU and was approved by 15-8 vote in committee. The Chamber of Commerce is in a tizzy and other far-right types condemn Becker as a "radical," so you know he is probably OK. If the likes of Jim Haney are unhappy, a smile finds my face.
Becker believes that employers should not be permitted to get involved in NLRB-conducted union elections! Wow! How bold! And way-out Michelle Malkin claims he is "thick as thieves" with ACORN. Whoa Nelly! (It must be noted that SEIU is not exactly in the forefront of the march for union democracy. But Becker will be a much needed and refreshing voice on the board.)
Action was required as hundreds of NLRB decisions are under challenge in federal Court because the board has been forced to operate with only two voting members thanks to the GOP filibuster. Like everything else, the Senate operates on a 60-vote premise. Nonsense! Good for President Obama.
Now, if we may be so bold, let's get judges confirmed. Number one--Louis Butler's nomination has not been confirmed by the Senate, apparently because James Sensenbrenner is lobbying against him!
John Nichols on Bill Moyers Journal: Great job by our friend and FightingBob.com contributing editor John Nichols on Friday. Take time to check it out. While you're at it, read Bob Menamen's post today, including comments from Nichols, on the idea of a state bank. Why not?
Butler: If Wisconsin could not be in the final four, hooray for Butler.
March 27, 2010 Money money money
We need a summit meeting on campaign funding. Unless we find an answer to the free pass given out by the Roberts court, corporate spending, albeit indirect funding, will sink our ship. This Court will, I believe, strike down all sensible reforms including "disclosure."
Can we sit and watch the Chamber of Commerce purchase majorities in the House and Senate? If we do, they will repeal health care reform. Send your views to FightingBob.com.
March 26, 2010 Get serious!
The headline in today's Washington Post: "Beleaguered Vatican under pressure to be more open." I would guess so! Thousands of boys were molested by priests and the Vatican was more concerned about keeping it all a secret to avoid criminal prosecution than it was with protecting vulnerable youngsters? Whoa Nelly!
Officials in Europe "are calling for the Vatican to open the files on more than 3,000 abuse cases." I would hope so!
Yesterday the NYTreported on Wisconsin's shame involving at least 200 molested deaf kids by a priest in charge of a Catholic home, yet the Vatican did nothing. Leave it to L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican paper, to put it all in perspective: "A media campaign is underway against the Pope showing the evident and shameful attempt to strike Pope Benedict." The Vatican paper concluded that the Pope had acted with "transparency, firmness and severity." Poppycock!
A priest in the U.S. defended the Vatican. He alleges that there is "a despicable attempt to smear the Pope." Youser! How about the victims?
Haven't heard from the bishops in Wisconsin. Speak-up, please.
NLRB: Once upon a time, it was the declared policy of these United States to promote peace in labor relations. Congress passed the NLRA establishing a five-person board--two Democrats, two Republicans and a chair of the president's party--to the National Labor Relations Board. All five were appointed by the president, but the appointees were approved by both parties.
So, 3-2 decisions were frequent, but there was a camaraderie among the professionals. The majority did not run roughshod over the minority because they were likely to lose that status in the next election and neither side wanted to be trounced. Besides that, both parties believed in enforcing the law fairly. Ah, but those were the good old days. Now the Republicans are out to destroy organized labor. One weapon is the filibustering of President Obama's choices for the NLRB. The result? The NLRB has been rendered useless. Craig Becker has been nominated by the president. The GOP rushed to seat Scott Brown early to stop the Democrats from cloture. Becker is stuck.
One hopes Obama will make a recess appointment so Becker can be seated.
Kimberly, Waukesha, West Allis-Milwaukee, Whitefish Bay and Kenosha are the "smart" ones. Someone should have reminded them that if it is too good to be true, it probably is.
So, back to the question: Now what? Who bails out these school districts? (I highly recommend a book by Reverend Jim Wallis, Rediscovering Values.)
Painful to contemplate: The effort to avoid publicity by the Catholic church in the pedophilia tsunami has been the undoing of the church. The NYT editorial page has it right when it says, "Benedict's directive as a Vatican cardinal in 2001, when he was Cardinal Ratzinger, that bishops worldwide were to keep pedophilia investigations secret under threat of ex-communication" was and is an outrage. Protect the church was the mandate--sorry kids, gotta go, no time for you now. Oh, sorry!
Wisconsin figures prominently in this story today because a pedophile priest, Father Murphy, was promoted to run St. John's School for the Deaf in St. Francis, Wisconsin. Murphy admitted to molesting about 200 boys. He felt no remorse. Read and weep. Deaf kids--couldn't scream. I wonder if bishops in Wisconsin will cry out for justice.
March 24, 2010 DUI or LUI?
The Assembly Ethics Panel won't expel Representative Jeff Wood for driving under the influence (DUI). I suspect the reason is that our Legislature is guilty of LUI--Legislating Under the Influence of payday loan lenders, ethanol suppliers and WMC.
One for the books: Last month, Justice Gableman joined his colleagues Prosser, Roggensack, and Ziegler in opposition to recusal of justices when parties to litigation or their attorneys "donate" mega-bucks to Supreme Court candidates. Only the Justice can make that decision, says the majority, despite the appearance of, or reality of, conflicts and loss of confidence from the public.
OK, that makes no sense, but catch this: Gableman, who ran the most insulting and false TV spots in Wisconsin's history, at least in a Supreme Court race, announced that fellow Justice Crooks should recuse himself from Gableman's ethics case! I presume Gableman is fearful that Justice Crooks will be fair. Whoa Nelly, Judge. What's good for us should be good enough for you. If we can't get a corporate-sponsored candidate to recuse, why should you have the right to pick your jury? (When I think about the great people who have sat on our Court and then think of the WMC-created mess we have now, I want to cry.)
Wisconsin's ban on corporate political donations (a LaFollette reform on our books since 1905) is no more. The Government Accountability Board (GAB) decided that they had no choice--the Supremes in Washington, in the god-awful Citizens United case, concluded corporations are just like people, except they are not. Wisconsin's law would find the Alito-Roberts grave.
Now the good news. The GAB ruled that corporations and issue groups (often little more than shills) must disclose their spending. Jon Becker spoke for GAB: "We want to require as much disclosure and transparency as we possibly can." Right on, Jon! But the right-wingers will contest those rules quickly and the Supreme Court will, I suspect, disallow the requirement as violative of the First Amendment rights of these economic forces. One answer remains--total public financing of campaigns before it is too late. Or is it already too late?
March 22, 2010 Light a candle
As a youngster, my mother often said to her three kids, "Better to light one candle than to curse the darkness." Yesterday, as I watched the parade of speakers condemn health care to hell, I thought about my mother's advice. There was a lot of darkness in the House. (One might have substituted "horse feathers" for "darkness" as multi-colored John Boehner spoke. Yikes! Is that the best the GOP has?)
President Obama said as much to inspire Democrats yesterday: "We are bound to let whatever light we have shine."
Good for Pelosi, President Obama, John Lewis, Dennis Kucinich, and ultimately Bart Stupak, the unlikely last-minute hero. (Not surprisingly, Sarah Palin's running mate, Senator McCain, tried to throw cold water on the celebration, threatening to keep the fight alive. Yah, sure Johnny, yah sure.)
I thought about last year's Fighting Bob Fest, with Greg Palast and Wendell Potter discussing the need for regulation of insurance companies. As usual, Bob Fest was one step ahead.
Now the fight will indeed require fresh troops. Get ready to light your candle.
March 21, 2010 The N word? Come on!
The Washington Post reports that Tea Party demonstrators yelled racial epithets including the "N" word at John Lewis and James Clyburn--two heroes of the civil rights crusade. And they yelled anti-gay comments at Barney Frank.
I must ask, "What is going on?" Is this the beginning of the end of the democracy we cherish? More than health care is at stake. If legislative battles turn as ugly as the crowd at the Capitol, where personal attacks replace reason and debate, it may be over.
We lost two voices of reason and decency recently. Dan Pollitt spent his life fighting for civil rights and civility. The Legislature of his native state, North Carolina, once voted to deny him tenure! That did not bother Dan, who continued teaching at Chapel Hill and cheering for the UNC basketball team. He was a giant on the Hill in D.C. every summer, working with allies to protect civil rights, civil liberties and worker's rights.
It would have been quite a show had Dan been at the demonstrations yesterday. We miss you Dan, and thank you for your quiet but courageous leadership.
The NFL has been less than inspiring when it comes to race. Black players were denied entry for more than two decades and it took the NFL union and members of Congress to gain the opportunity for blacks to coach in the NFL. What does this have to do with Stewart Udall? The NFL team, with the unfortunate name of Redskins, was lily white. George Preston Marshall, the team owner, claimed he would lose fans in the south if blacks played for his team.
Udall, Secretary of Interior under JFK, took care of that issue. The Redskins were about to play in the new D.C. stadium when Udall sent a letter to Marshall warning him that he might be in line for criminal prosecution for violation of anti-discrimination laws if the team was all white. Bobby Mitchell joined the team and the rest is known to all. Udall did what the NFL Commissioner refused to do. Well done, Stewart.
And, of course, soon we will celebrate the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, the gift from Gaylord Nelson. Nelson and Udall--what a team. We must pause to thank them.
March 20, 2010 Swear to uphold the bible?
Normally, members of Congress place a hand on a bible and swear or affirm to uphold the Constitution of the United States. They do not place a hand on the Constitution and swear to uphold the Bible.
That was a quote from Jamin Raskin, constitutional law professor at American University, Maryland legislator, and one who understands that separation of church and state is the bedrock of our Republic. He also co-authored The Wealth Primary.
As Fannie Lou Hammer once said, "I am sick and tired of being sick and tired." Who makes me tired today on the eve of the vote on health care? Members of Congress who permit their religion to trump their duty to advance the common good. We don't need bible reading or letters from the bishops read to us by Bart Stupak, Catholic member of Congress, along with Paul Ryan, to justify denying insurance protection for 31 million Americans based on their interpretation of the bible or church doctrine. Hey! Want to teach Sunday school or lecture at Catholic University? Go ahead, but leave your religious doctrine in the cloakroom when you come back to Congress.
Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki, instructs us to ignore the nuns and other religious Catholics who signed the letter in support of the Obama plan. Yah, sure!
Congressman Paul Ryan, Janesville, professional Irishman and a leading member of the Republican side who will vote "no" Sunday, joins the bishops in urging us to follow the yellow-brick road of Catholic orthodoxy laid out by the busy bishops. What do women know about this issue?
Now here is the issue: "Wannabe bishop" Stupak says that any woman seeking abortion insurance coverage (that she will pay for--not Ryan or any of us) must be paid by a separate check! Give me a break. That's it? Glenn Beck sort of analysis!
What is really happening? These Catholic men are erasing one of the finest moments for Catholics in our nation's history: JFK's speech to protestant bishops in Houston. He assured them that the U.S. Constitution would be his guide not the Vatican. Hear that, Bart? My belief is that Stupak and Ryan will not stop until Roe v, Wade is reversed. Meanwhile, millions of Americans go without coverage. Many will die on Stupak's doorstep.
No federal money will go to pay for an abortion. If that satisfies Sister Theresa Sandok, president of Servants of Mary in Ladysmith, it ought to satisfy Ryan and Stupak. This is a "social justice issue!" Who says? Sister Sandok.
March 19, 2010 Catch that thief! The JS reports that the Legislature is again trying to "rein in" payday lending. First example, an out-of-work-man took out a $460 loan and over the last 10 months he has been paying 360 percent interest I remind you this is a body with Democrats in control.
Thirty lobbyists spent $669,000 to convince the Legislature to keep their industry regulation free--they argue that the proposed cap of 36 percent would drive them out of business! OK. We believe you! Go and don't come back. Wisconsin, land of Fighting Bob La Follette, needs responsible credit unions and local banks, not lenders driving poor people further into debt! Damn! We are better than that.
So far the lobbyists are winning.
A related story may put this travesty in perspective. "Payday loan store robbed in Sun Prairie." (They call them stores? Why?)
The article says police are looking for a man who entered a Payday joint, implied he had a weapon, took some cash and left. Apparently he was not the store manager because management does not need a weapon--they have lobbyists protecting them. The "robber" will probably be forced to borrow from the shop and pay the loan shark's interest at 400 percent. Who robbed whom?
Will the House do it Sunday? I sure hope so. True, we have been critics but are now cheerleaders for passage! One FightingBob.com Feedback letter accused me of being a hypocrite. OK, I am. But millions of people depend on this bill passing. Time to act, and if you know Bart Stupak, tell him the nuns support the bill. What is his problem?
March 18, 2010 OK, Dennis
Fighting Bob Fest veterans know Dennis Kucinich from his speeches at Fighting Bob Fest. We trust him. So when he announced that he will vote "yea" on the watered-down, arguably-worse-than-nothing insurance reform, I applauded his courage. If this reform fails it will be hung on the "Blue Dog" lamp post, not the progressives website. A loss at this point could cripple the Obama presidency.
I hope the leaders demand a vote, but I'm even OK with the "deemed passed" trick. My passion is to not let the Chamber of Commerce and the insurance industry win with their lies, distortions, and false claims made in thousands of TV spots. There may never be another chance for coverage given the Supreme Court's awful decision in Citizens United v. FEC.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce announced it will put $50 million into four Senate races and 10 House seats this November. Bet the ranch that Feingolld and Obey will be targeted by the forces of darkness. Shake your head all you want, Justice Alito, but you have destroyed our democracy. We plan to re-build, but you have thrust the knife into her heart.
Too good to pass up. About 59,000 Catholic nuns declared their support for the health care bill. The bishops are, undoubtedly, mad as hell. Catch this: "It will uphold longstanding conscience protections and it will make historic new investments in support of pregnant women. This is the real pro-life position."
Wish I could have seen Bishop Morlino's face when he got that news.
March 10, 2010 Thank you, Doris. Thank You.
Known as "Granny D" she was Doris "Granny D" Haddock. She inspired all whom she met and all of us lucky enough to have heard her speak at two Fighting Bob Fests. Despite her struggle to breathe, she spoke the truth with vigor. She told our group, "Do something about our corrupt government or just go home."
Doris was tough, humorous, and lots of fun, but I remember her personal sacrifice in traveling to Bob Fest. She changed lives every time she spoke and every mile she walked in support of campaign reform. She was a great woman; 100 years old. She tried to come to Bob Fest last year but her doctor refused. She will be with us at the next Bob Fest on September 11.
Toughen-up, chief! Chief Justice John Roberts, who misled Congress in his confirmation hearings, now makes clear he can't take a punch. He was "troubled" by President Obama's speech about the State of the Union. Well, me boy, toughen up! You have destroyed our democracy along with your fellow misleader Allito.
Open records: Let's get serious. About the only people who know what is going on inside government are lobbyists and public officials. Records should be open, government should be transparent, because otherwise only the lobbyists will know what's going on. More next week.
March 9, 2010 I'm crazy--not the gods
How crazy am I? When I read a headline that "Northrop Won't Bid on Tanker," I get terrible thoughts running through my mind. Thoughts like, "It ain't fair."
Just when the World Series of lobbyists was about to start, Northrup Grumman quit! C'mon Northrup! How will we know who is the champion lobbyist group if Boeing wins the $40 billion Air Force aerial refueling contract by default?
And what weak excuses! My, my. "The government favored Chicago-based Boeing." Ah, as if the administration favored the home towners. You can do better than that! "The government favored a smaller plane," and that meant Boeing would win. And the real problem, says Northrup? There was "no guarantee" from government that Gruman would make a profit even if it won the lobbyist-fired bid. Talk about unfair!
That damned government.
Now, a cynic might ask "Why?" While we are fighting on the ground in Afghanistan and Iraq, why does the Air Force need two hundred aerial refueling planes when they can refuel on the ground? Trust the Air Force's lobbyists. The Air Force needs them.
Okay, we can't afford universal health care; university budget cuts are threatening our long-term well being; Social Security is deep in debt; state budgets are in crisis; 16 percent of us are unemployed or under-employed...but we can purchase $40 billion worth of ridiculously outdated aerial refueling planes? Am I crazy, or are they?
Finally some brain power! Worry no more about long-term care at long-term care facilities. No problem. Max Baucus and "good time Charlie Grassley" are going to investigate. Whoa Nelly!
March 8, 2010 Blame the lawyers!
The NYT reminds us that Iowa scholar Charles Grassley is after lawyers who did pro bono work representing detainees at Gitmmo while in private practice but now working for DOJ. Grassley, who wouldn't recognize the idea of justice if it slapped him in the arse, is demanding that Eric Holder release the names of these defenders of "terrorists" who are now on our payroll. Liz Cheney, as goofy as mom and dad, has named them the "Gitmo 9" and she and William Kristol, faux intellectual on the right, actually produced a video about these terrible people called "lawyers." "Whose values do they share?" asks the voice.
Imagine representing people we don't like. (Given my Court-appointed representation of SuperMax prisoners, I guess I am guilty of a Cheney-Kristol-Grassley crime.) Could this be patriotism in disguise? No, not according to Cheney. "We must look at who these terrorists were," Cheney says. Yikes and whoa Nelly! What would she do after that? Give her a book to read.
Garrison Keilor asked in his joke segment: "Q. What do you call a lawyer gone bad? A. Senator." I think we should call Grassley and Cheney something less polite.
Watch your wallet. Facts: Herb Kohl owns the Milwaukee Bucks; his friend Jane Bradley Pettit paid for the Bradley Center built 22 years ago and named it after her father Harry Lynde Bradley--yup the Bradley Foundation. Kohl is very wealthy; there is something called the "Bradley Center Sports and Entertainment Corp." There is nothing so wrong with the Bradley Center that it should be demolished, but look out. Kohl, despite tremendous economic hardship in Milwaukee, wants a new arena. Who should pay? Well, here is a bold prediction. Leave it to the Bradley Center Corp., and taxpayers will foot the bill!
Here is how the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel lapped up the story: Marc Marotta is well positioned to be the new point man. He is, get this, former Doyle loyal DOA secretary who knows the political landscape. Partner at Foley & Lardner, former student and athlete at Marquette, lets us know where his bread comes from: "I've built a good relationship with the senator. The Bucks are our partners and we want to support them." Really? He said that? Yes, really. Try to imagine the tough negotiations between Marotta and Herb.
Outgoing chairman of the Bradley Center Corp. Ulice Payne thinks it is time to demolish the old center. The in-coming chair, Marotta, thinks we should wait but not for long. Just long enough to suck all "the juice out of the orange." How about Tuesday, Marc? I guess they really talk like that!
March 7, 2010 No problem!
Your schools are below average, too many drop-outs, low scores on standardized tests, too many special Need kids? Or worse--your schools are doing too well. I have the answer--privatize education!
It's as easy as baking a pie and just as rewarding. Here is how it is done. First, get yourself a rich sugar-daddy foundation with a name like "Bradley"; hook up with a department in a local university; make a deal with the Political Science Department to handle polling that will promote vouchers, choice, and charter schools. Find or create a new "think tank" with a good wonkish name like "Promise Academy" or "Your State Policy Research Institute." The key word is research. Frankly, any name that includes "academy" or research will do.
Issue a policy paper from the neutral think tank condemning poor quality teachers as the problem; demand student performance be linked to teacher salaries; poo-poo any bleeding heart talk of poverty playing a role; blame school bureaucracy (that means unions) that gets in the way; demand a "choice" for parents to send their kids to a "failing public school" or the Howard-Norquist Academy.
Now get rid of the special needs kids (sure, they deserve an education but "we are not good at that so keep them in the public schools"). Believe me, that will save a lot of money!
Wake up. Just look at the Arne Duncan approach. It is a game. Guess the right door and your school wins! Guess the wrong door--oppose cuts in wage and pension benefits--and out you go!
OK, Enough. The Wisconsin State Journal (WSJ) has joined forces with Jim Doyle and Tom Barrett in support of Race to the Top. "Get back in bid for better schools" hollers the WSJ editorial. WSJ, like Governor Doyle, blames the "risk-averse" legislators and even the teachers union for getting nothing in round one of Duncan's game.
Nonsense. Call for a summit meeting of people who understand public education, meet in open sessions, adopt a thoughtful program, and then stop pointing fingers and do something.
Duncan thinks that if you meet resistance from those clinging to the status quo, fire all of the teachers. Recruit new teachers. Oh boy, pie is in the oven!
You know the rest. Give Arne Duncan the sugar- stick and what have ya got? A race to the top! Ya-WAHOO! HUZZAH! Dream like a Democrat, but act like a Republican. Dismiss comments that the charter movement reminds us of the South's response to Brown vs. Education. Sure, the taxpayer-supported private schools are "better" but not "equal," but so what? Whoa Nelly.
March 6, 2010 Race to the top
Now that Arne and Barack gave a Bunning to Wisconsin by informing us that Wisconsin did not make the first cut in the new reality show titled Let's Race To The Top!, every budget cut will be blamed on teachers and the "status quo" clingers who convinced Arne to give Wisconsin's share to Pennsylvania (or was it New York?). We can't comment on the plan because we really don't know what was in the proposal.
A letter to the editor offers a great response--"It is Poverty Not Teachers." Yes, indeed. The Duncan drama is nutso as we have been arguing for months. It is not the teacher's fault. But Arne thinks it is. He wants to evaluate teachers by student scores and adherence to his plans. Sort of "follow me and I will show you the promised land. Fight me and you shall see the gates of the unemployment office!"
Everything in Doyle's trick bag is based on the proposition that if you knew what we know that we won't tell you then you would give the MPS board the boot and turn over MPS to the mayor who hopes to be governor by the time the poo-poo hits the fan. Duncan's pals would have you believe that firing an entire faculty and staff is a good idea. Forget about the problems this would bring; forget about the collective bargaining agreement; forget about the excellent teachers who sacrificed. Can them all! I say can Duncan.
We are told "it is time to save the kids"--as if the fired faculty did't give a damn about the kids!
March 5, 2010 Could race be a factor?
Oh no, not that old subject! I thought Obama's election got "race" out of the way. Take a look. caucasian William Conley, a Foley & Lardner attorney, was nominated to the Federal bench by President Obama at the same time Louis Butler was nominated to the federal bench. One white, one African American. One was confirmed by the Senate yesterday and one was not. Can you guess which nominee waits quietly in the hall while the other is fitted for a black robe? With both of our senators on the Judiciary Committee, wouldn't you think someone would holler FOUL?
Race to the Top--flat tire. Governor Doyle kept telling us that Wisconsin was in line for mega-bucks for education. Why? Well Governor Doyle endorsed Obama early, his victory in Wisconsin was helpful...Doyle and Arne Duncan were pals, and Barrett jumped into the stream calling for elimination of the elected school board in Milwaukee--a mayoral take-over. Doyle and Barrett kept hollering that those poor souls opposing the plan were suffering from "status quo" virus.
Well yesterday, Arne threw Doyle under the bus. Arne announced that Wisconsin will not receive first-round federal "Race to the Top" funding. But Doyle keeps slugging. Now, he warns, This time I am serious. No more joking. "The train is leaving the station," Doyle says.
After Duncan endorsed, indeed applauded the firing of the entire faculty in Rhode Island, let's hope the Arne Express is out of the station and moving fast down the track.
March 4, 2010 Our way or the highway Manufacturers smiled after NAFTA presented unions with a Hobson's choice--"Take a salary cut or we will move the jobs to Mexico, Thailand, Haiti, or China." Some choice! Big banks told us, "Bail us out or we will water-board the economy." Some choice!
Now, anticipating applause from Arne Duncan and his boss, the Central Falls Rhode Island school district got into the swing of things. The board told the teachers, "Teach longer days for the same pay, teach a longer year for same pay, provide before and after school-tutoring, or you are fired!" Some choice. Ninety-three teachers and staff got pink slips with a clear message from the Superintendent: "Teachers have a choice: My way or the highway." In the unbelievable but true category. Duncan and Obama did, indeed, applaud the move.
The response to the bully? "OK, we will bargain (a/k/a beg) and support changes." The bully responded, "Alright! Let's bargain!" Does the board really think that is good faith bargaining required by law? Call it union busting, or whatever, but not good faith. Apparently Jim Doyle, Arne Duncan and president Obama call that "progress."
I have an idea: give it a name. We have been blessed with No Child Left Behind under Bush, and Race to the Top by Obama. What's next? How about, "Charity schools were good enough for grandpa...why not now?"
March 3, 2010 Was I out of town?
I am sure Bill and Melinda Gates are good people--even great people perhaps, but I didn't know we had decided to let the billionaire couple instruct us on how to evaluate the key component in the educational process--teachers.
When were they elected? I must have been out of town. The Washington Post reports on the results of a survey of thousands of teachers paid for, and therefore, the questions and the spin were inevitably controlled by, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. (Don't believe it? Recall the WPRI poll "conducted" and spun by the UW-Madison Political Science Department.)
The Gates foundation granted $290 million last year to promote effective teaching in Memphis, L.A. and Tampa. They do carry a big carrot for those who do what they--the Gates Foundation--want.
So 59 percent of teachers surveyed said "blah blah" while 22 percent said "blue blue." Eight percent said "Whoa Nelly" and the rest quit their inner-city teaching jobs and headed toward New Trier in Winnetka. People with lots of money are smarter than we are. Have the Gateses ever taught school? Dunno! You?
Oh, almost forgot, Mrs. Gates is on the Washington Post board of directors.
Afghanistan: What was John Kerry's quote to the Senate? "Who wants to be the last soldier killed in a lost cause?" Something like that. Read the paper of record this morning and ask what in hell are we doing in Afghanistan while the likes of Bunning and Charles Rangel demand our attention. "Karzai overture sets off discord, confusion." Also, "As U.S. NATO, and Afghan forces fight on...the Obama administration is upset." Why? They don't want substantive talks with--I am not kidding--the Taliban yet. Karzai let the cat out of the bag. (Sorry PETA)
Catch this: Their British allies, facing strong domestic disapproval over the long war, are eager to see negotiations with Taliban begin sooner rather than later. It is reported that Senior Taliban are open to negotiations. Meanwhile, our pal Karzai "plans to forgive countless Taliban atrocities and place insurgent leaders in high-level government positions." What did young John Kerry say before he changed his mind?
Some good news: Assembly Speaker Mike Sheridan said that donations from payday lenders had no impact on his stance on legislation to regulate the industry. Whew! Why in the world was I worried?
March 2, 2010 Yikes!
Harold Ford, barely a Democrat as head of DLC, is not running for the Senate in New York. He explains in an Op Ed piece in NYT today that his decision is a blow to New York voters who deserve his leadership, but that they will have to suffer because the "bosses of New York" have the party in their grasp and they will not abandon Kristen Gillibrand. Ford is sacrificing to help the Democrats hold the majority in the Senate because "Senate seats in Wisconsin and Delaware now seem to be in jeopardy." (Thanks Harold. Any chance you and Evan could form a fourth party?)
Recall that the DLC was created by "Red Dems" who argued for a lurch to the right for the Party. Obviously, Russ Feingold is too progressive for corporate-darling Ford.
Ford makes one good point when he writes, "Democrats must break with orthodoxy to meet new challenges." A big part of the problem--skipped by Ford--is the high unemployment in manufacturing caused by the Clinton/ DLC folks who stuffed NAFTA up the party's nose. Oh, and he is not the least bit uncomfortable taking financial support from financier Steven Rattner and others who promised to help bankroll his campaign against Gillibrand. (One must ask if the real goal of his financial backers is to help Republicans gain control of the Senate. While he is a very conservative "Bayh-like" Democrat Wall Street could depend on, it would be better for the bankers to have a real Republican in that NY seat.)
Here we go teachers! Save us from Chicago! The Washington Post informs us that the problem with Obama is not Rahm Emmanuel, his Chief of Staff. Sit before reading. The problem is that Obama is not letting Rahm run the show! Yikes again!
Obama's other gift from Chicago is Arne Duncan. Yup. The guy who thinks the problems of educating kids has little to do with poverty, lack of health care, inadequate day care, and money. No siree! It is failing teachers that must be our focus. I'm not kidding. Obama speaking at (where?) the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, with Colin Powell and Margaret Spelling in the audience, pushed the simplistic plan to close schools if kids do not score well on tests. And we thought No Child Left Behind was dangerous?
Obama took time away from the administration's mishandling of the debate on health care to endorse the Rhode Island board of education's decision to dismiss the entire faculty as part of a turnaround. Holy cow--we solve our problems by encouraging the best teachers to avoid teaching in challenged schools? Send Arne back to Chicago. If there is room, take Rahm along.
March 1, 2010 The gods must be crazy!
You remember the movie. Pick up the NYT today and you will know, for a fact, that the gods of industry are crazy. The headline is, "Ruling Restricts Clean Water Act." Companies that have spilled (dumped) oil, carcinogens and dangerous bacteria into lakes, rivers, and other waters are not being prosecuted. I am not making this up. Because the Supreme Court rulings bring into question the jurisdiction of the EPA (Some Court we got!) polluters are in full dump mode. Why? Well, it is cheaper and therefore more profitable to dump into a nearby creek. And you worry about Asian carp?
Where is Obama? An EPA lawyer in Atlanta said, and there is no reason to question his statement, "We are, in essence, shutting down our Clean Water programs in some states." About 117 million Americans get their drinking water from sources fed by waters that are vulnerable to exclusion from the Clean Water Act! Good Lord! We are all nuts!
Corporations, including the Farm Bureau--a shill for corporate America--are fighting the EPA. Pouring lots of money into the political cesspool while they jeoppardize the health of millions. These "citizens," so defined by the Court, should be sent to prison.
Now for the denouement. Cannon Air Force base near Clovis, New Mexico, informed the EPA it no longer considered itself subject to the Clean Water Act. Imagine that. Has there ben a coup? The base dumps wastewater, containing bacteria and human waste, into a lake on the base. I think Ike would have fired the base commander on the spot. Time for action--we demand clean water!
"Is this a private fight, or can anyone join?" -Old Irish saying