April 30, 2010 See you tomorrow
As we pause at The Madison Institute on Saturday to thank Midge, we sadly add Nan Cheney to our list of losses. Nan passed this morning and we all feel numb. Organizer, inspiration, fighter for social and economic justice, and a practical leader, she will be missed. The good news is that she has inspired many to follow on her path.
Stand by. Important announcement soon!
If we listen carefully, the corporate media is ready to declare the end of the Pelosi era and the start of Speaker Boehner's (hell no!) rule; and we will have Senate leader Mitch McConnell instead of Harry Reid. The wise men of media tell us that November will be a killer for Democrats. Why? Well, great ideas from Republicans will persuade millions who voted for Obama to vote for the Party of NO!, the Party of Paul Ryan (Who needs Social Security and Medicare?); the Party of "drill baby drill."
These predictions can be heard above the din in Florida where a popular and rather sensible Charlie Crist jumped out of the GOP plane yesterday just one year after Arlen Specter did the same in Pennsylvania. It would appear that the Republican Party is in turmoil as the Tea Partiers take the stage.
Here in Wisconsin, Tea Party businessman Ron Johnson from Oshkosh is hollering about getting "our freedom back" (where did it go?). Ron wants to bring more Tea Party gibberish to our state and told us, "There will be an important announcement regarding my intentions within two weeks."
Be still my heart as we await the Johnson announcement. Can he do for Wisconsin Republicans what Rubio has done for Florida's GOP? With the likes of Vicki McKenna and Charlie Sykes standing by his side, I think super-patriot Johnson can operate the wrecking ball.
Bopp is Back: Yes, Michael Gableman's Indiana lawyer, way-out-in-right-field James Bopp Jr., was back in our state arguing the corporate agenda to the Supreme Court. What now for the adviser to the Citizens United plaintiffs, Romney adviser, National Right-to-Life and Focus on the Family? You know, the case that will end democracy in America unless overturned. Now he wants to stop the state of Washington from releasing, to the public, the names of 130,000 people who signed petitions to put a measure on the ballot regarding domestic partnerships.
His rather preposterous position is that signers will be subject to "threats, harassment and reprisal." His two anonymous clients (I am not making this up) said release of names would run afoul of their First Amendment rights.
Bopp also argues that corporations should not be forced to disclose their political contributions! Disclosure runs afoul of the First Amendment. Yikes! I wonder if he wants ballot boxes in secret locations. Can't be too careful with his delicate flowers.
We will honor Midge Miller on Saturday. What a fighter she was. To dream the impossible dream---not her song--she thought no dream was "impossible." We will gather as we learn that another fighter is gravely ill. Nan Cheney should be in your thoughts.
April 29, 2010 Where is Elliot Spitzer when we need him? Craigslist hit the jackpot and is headed for the bank.NYT reports revenue will shoot up 22 percent this year. Why? Sex! I am not making this up. Many of the ads on Craigslist blatantly advertise prostitution. More than 200,000 sex ads in Chicago alone since late 2008. Whoa Nelly!
April 28, 2010 OK BP! Beyond Petroleum, once known as British Petroleum is OK. Thank goodness for that news. Don't sell yet!
Profits rose to $6.08 billion in the first quarter, up from a mere $2.56 billion first quarter profit last year. I was worried about BP--the catastrophe in the Gulf is costing an estimated $6 million a day. BP will pay much--for everything else I guess there is Mastercard.
Old college drinking song comes to mind; "a hundred bottles of beer on the wall a hundred bottles of beer--if one of those bottles should happen to fall...99 bottles of beer on the wall." Only in the Gulf it is 42,000 barrels of oil from the floor every day, 42,000 gallons of oil...if the wind shifts--thousands of barrels on the shore!
Catch this: "The White House said Mr. Obama was sticking with his drilling plan despite the accident. His proposal [incredibly] is based on careful scientific and environmental reviews before drilling [would be] permitted." I gotta tell you, Mr. President, sticking with this plan despite the predictions that this is a catastrophe--not just a problem--does not instill confidence in your administration.
How we doing on land? Tom Harkin summed it up: "There is unfortunately a population of employers that prioritize profits over safety and repeatedly violate te law." The headline? "Authorities Vow to Close Mines Found To Be Unsafe." Tell it to the families in West Virginia.
April 27, 2010 I thought it was safe!
Ms. Jaffe, an oil expert at Rice University, was quoted in the NY Times today, saying, "Offshore drilling is considerably safer for the environment than the tankers used for importing oil." Thanks, Ms. Jaffe, but have you noticed that 42,000 gallons of oil per day are pouring into the Gulf from the offshore explosion? The problem with oil experts or nuclear experts, indeed experts taken as a whole, is they always tell you to relax. Probabilities are...no problem.
For example, the rigs proposed by Obama and the "drill babies" will be so far off the coast of Virginia, 50 miles, you won't see them and there is no need to worry about spoiling the coastal area--there is 50 miles of water between the fisheries and the almost-always-safe rigs.
Ah, but then there is BP's explosion in the Gulf. How far away? Fifty miles from Liousiana! A problem. BP doesn't know how to shut off the flow, and so the oil will in all likelihood hit the shores.
If they drill lower to shut the well, there are "much higher pressures and temperatures to battle." And, says an analyst, at deeper water depths there is more that can go wrong. Let's see--they might get robots to close off the leak, but if not a true disaster is on the way. It could be the worst in history. I can hardly wait for the next BP TV message. Title: "Who knew?"
Poor Goldman: (Stress "gold.") Who imagined that Michael Milken is still convening the "Predator's Ball"? The idea came from Milken when he headed Drexel Burnham Lambert and it still convenes--this year it is at the Beverly Hilton. It may be a new business school soon. One of the attendees, trying to help Goldman's reputation, gave us words to live by: "I don't want to use the word 'childish'[but will]...it is childish for the SEC to go after Goldman in a civil fraud suit."
Goldman was apparently not the exception to practices that cost us billions. The quoted fellow (a devotee of Glenn Beck no doubt) suspects "politics" was involved! Whoa Nelly! Not politics! This prescient clubber thinks the Goldman Sachs case "has energized the Democrats with respect to passing regulatory reform."
Yes indeed, "childish." Pass the caviar! He's right. Who are we to question the brilliant minds that damned near tanked our economy? Who, indeed!
April 26, 2010 One person's junk Paul Krugman writes, "Credit ratings on hundreds of billions of dollars of assets that received AAA-rated securities stamp issued in 2006...93% have now been downgraded to junk status!" That, says Krugman, reveals a deeply corrupt system. I guess so. I am not smart enough to figure out all the schemes that made billions for hedge fund CEOs, but Krugman is, and I am smart enough to ask where were the lawyers? Where were the regulators? Where were the whistlblowers? Bill Moyers' recent guest, Bill Black, said our business schools are fraud factories. Guess so.
Beyond Petroleum: BP has quietly changed from British Petroleum (BP) to Beyond Petroleum, and not a minute too soon. BP is leasing the oil rig that exploded in the Gulf. Damage? About 42,000 gallons of oil a day pouring into the Gulf of Mexico. A first-class disaster is happening and we are helpless.
Recall the governor of Virginia--the one designating April as Confederate history month? Well, he ran on a platform of "drill baby drill"--50 miles off the coast. The BP spill is now 30 miles off the coast and may soon hit Louisiana. So much for a safe zone. Possibly the Guv should take a look at the Gulf tragedy before drilling. But then, maybe he should read up on the causes of the Cvil War as well.
Willard Wirtz: A great man died at 98. In 1962 Wirtz told the New York Times, “Tomorrow belongs to those who face the fact of change honestly, squarely, eagerly — who go forward to meet it — who see change as an essential quality of growth.” Wirtz, a Beloit College graduate, was one hell of a guy.
April 25, 2010 Racine gets it!
Had a good time last night in Kansasville with the Racine County Dems. Big crowd, good spirit.
I have worried a lot that the significance of the Citizens United decision was not fully appreciated. Well, the Democrats ("progressive-communists," according to Glenn Beck) get it. They know the danger to our democracy. When I commented on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce boast that they are ear-marking four Senate races and 10 House races--and will dump $50,000,000--that's right $50 million-- into those undisclosed races, every head was nodding; when we talked about a constitutional amendment to be voted on at Fighting Bob Fest, there was applause; no one objected to civil disobedience as a part of the strategy to stop this takeover of our democracy. They understand the stakes and they are ready to fight for democracy! All want to make sure November is not our last election.
As if on cue, the New York Times, in a front-page story, claims that Dave Obey is in a tight contest along with 30 colleagues. The Times forgot to mention that one special interest--the Chamber and its $50 million--so how about the insurance industry, Goldman Sachs, hospitals? Think anger trumps money? Think about it.
Moyers retires. Can't blame him. A weekly program must be a challenge, but are we going to miss him! All the best Bill, and thank you. You changed our lives.
April 24, 2010 Pretty snazzy! Calvin Trillin, "Deadline Poet" and great humorist appears in almost every issue of The Nation magazine. If that is all you got, the subscription price would be a bargain, but you get more--including John Nichols. Here is Trillin's latest,
"IN DEFENSE OF HAMID KARZAI"
Reliable? He's less than most. It's hard to find an ally lesser. Corrupt? Oh yes, the man's that too. But, hey, is he a snazzy dresser!
And that is the good news. As casualties mount and money flows to the un-winnable war, one must ask the president if he remains convinced that Afghanistan is the "smart war." If so, sure is one hell of a disguise!
Spoke to lots of students this week at UW-Stevens Point, a campus where saving the planet is first on the agenda. I also asked about Afghanistan and found not one student favoring this nutty, but expensive, travesty. Get out now! Smart war? Ain't none!
Legislature goes to bed Sleep tight! Don't tell the Legislature about the Supreme Court's god-awful Citizens United decision. Too much on the collective mind already to absorb this knife-in-the-ribs to democracy. If they had thought about it, the Democrats, who control the Assembly, the Senate, and the governor's chair, would have passed an air-tight campaign finance reform bill just in the interests of self-preservation.
This is going to be a very expensive year in part because re-districting will happen as always after the census. If the Republicans win the gubernatorial race and capture one house they will draw the lines: look-out!
But the legislative establishment couldn't be bothered. No reform, no public financing. (I guess if meaningful regulation of the 500 percent loan-sharks was not possible we shouldn't be surprised that public control of campaigns did not happen.)
Corporations have been told that they are like us even though we all know they are not. If they were they could run for office and vote! Is that next on the agenda?
Corporations cannot be limited in the amount of money they push into elections in support of, or in opposition to, candidates.
Arizona: C'mon! This is absurd. Do not hold any meetings in Arizona until they come to their senses. Cardinal Mahoney of LA said it is like "Nazism."
April 23, 2010 Ready fire aim!
The Legislature gave a present to Governor Doyle by passing a modified educational reform package that is, according to Doyle, "a significant step for Milwaukee's educational system." (He did not say if the step is forward or backward, but assume he meant forward.) The power to force change on MPS schools (only MPS?) will rest in the DPI office, not in the mayor of Milwaukee's office. The votes--50-47 in the Assembly and 18-15 in the Senate--are too close for comfort as all Republicans voted "no," in part because they wanted to give DPI the authority to break collective bargaining agreements. Whoa Nelly! How would you like to negotiate with that sword of Damocles over head? Now, says Doyle, the state can go for some Race to the Top funding. Tom Harkin, Iowa, our third Senator, has a better idea: a huge federal bail-out of our schools. Are kids as important as banks? Okay, Tom Harkin!
Jon Stewart: If you missed his response Wednesday to Fox News go online and watch. He is a genius.
Leinenkugel: It was better tasting before Miller bought the Wisconsin brewery--and now it is just another beer since a South African company bought Miller. It ain't the High Life anymore. But change apparently comes easy to this generation of Leinenkugels. Dick, Commerce secretary for 18 months, leaves no tracks as he departs a Democratic administration and runs as a Republican against two others hoping to face Russ Feingold.
April 20, 2010 Not Goldman Sachs!
What's next? I suppose the ingrates in Congress and the White House will propose regulating the market. That would be absurd. If we can't trust Goldman Sachs do we then question the wisdom of Jamie Dimon, CEO of JP Morgan Chase? The CEO said if Congress cracks down on his bank the impact "will be negative." Really. He said that, and I believe him. They might pull the plug again--then what? Think about it. He cares about America so much he might destroy it to save it!
Dimon already contributes millions to candidates for president, Senate and House--a hell of a lot more than you and I! He is the patriot the Supreme Court had in mind--we must protect his right to purchase Congress. They call it free speech. I call it expensive speech. He can't do it alone--he needs $5 billion from Goldman Sachs and allies to buy the Congress. They purchase, they do not rent or lease.
Dimon is telling the truth. I know because the New York Times reports that 1,500 lobbyists, executives, banksters and others are on board his train. Remember the old saying that "50,000 Frenchmen can't be wrong"? Well, I trust the big 1,500 bankers more than I trust France--they would not be in this fight for personal gain! No siree! So, listen up. No regulation! My rule: Do not poke a sleeping banker. You don't know what he will do if aroused. Poke 1,500 and you had better pack up.
April 19, 2010 Is it too late?
Sometimes the news jumps off the page into your lap or off the Internet and goes directly into your brain like caffeine. Bill McKibben was in Madison Saturday urging us to fight to save the planet and giving us hope that we can mobilize to do just that.
Then this morning I read about the politicians in West Virginia and wonder if we are doomed. John D. Rockefeller can't bring himself to take on big coal, global climate change, mine safety or even mountain top removal. His office issued a statement after the mine disaster but didn't even mention the #1 scofflaw in America, Massey.
"Rocky" opposed a climate bill (I'm not making this up) and said "nothing on the table" has his support! Adding insult to injury, Rocky took $278,000 in campaign contributions from the coal industry. Does he need the money? Give me a break!
Guess what he said about the shocking, dangerous and environmentally disastrous "mountain top" mining. He praised it "for creating new flatland for development." Whoa Nelly! Maybe he is nuts. Then there is the former chief justice of the West Virginia Supreme Court "Spike" Maynard, who was voted off the Court "after photographs surfaced of him vacationing on the French Rivera," says the Washington Post, with none other than Don Blankenship! Spike warned that there is a "declared war" on the coal industry. I guess Spike and Rocky are on the side of "clean coal."
We know Rocky is smart enough to worry about Bill McKibben's message. We know he is so rich he could probably purchase West Virginia, so he doesn't need the job. So, why in hell would he be so gutless on the issue of our time? Incumbency must be sweet. Thank you Wisconsin voters for keeping me out of office. I might have praised mountain top removal!
Every time I see the Tea Party getting tons of publicity for crowds half the size of Fighting Bob Fest attendance I go a little nuts. It is important this year to show the corporate media that there are more sensible progressives in Wisconsin than all the Tea Party screamers in the Midwest.
April 18, 2010 And so it goes
When Tommy Thompson announced a "blue ribbon" panel (appointed by the governor who killed public financing) we jumped. UW Pol Sci professor Don Kettl was Tommy's choice to head the panel, consisting of like-minded-disclosure-but-not-public-financing advocates. We expected nothing from the Kettl Commission and we were not disappointed.
Midge Miller and Don Jones met with me to discuss a possible alternative to the governor's blue ribbon group. We concluded we could do our own citizen's panel. Then we asked who was the most respected person in Wisconsin not holding public office to head a People's Commission on campaign finance reform. Our choice was former Chief Justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court Nat Heffernan.
I called the chief and asked if he would accept the appointment and he had only one condition: "If you get Paul Hassett to co-chair I will do it." Hassett quickly accepted. Having secured the two chairs, Bill Kraus, Barbara Lawton, law professor Carin Clause and several others joined what became known as the Heffernan Commission. (Check the FightingBob.com Documents page for the report.)
It was fun, important and refreshing. The final report remains a blueprint for cleaning up the political barn. Some were concerned that Hassett had once headed Wisconsin Manufacturing and Commerce but were confident when told Hassett was fair to all parties. A Republican, but one who got along with Democrats--a far cry from today's WMC.
Paul Hassett died Friday at 92. A great figure in Wisconsin's political history. Oh, almost forgot--he was also a journalist.
Volcano: What if it remains in place for a year or two? No one knows how long the ash will fill the sky over Europe. In our immediate gratification society what would we do without air travel? How about agriculture? While unrelated to Bill McKibben's visit to Madison yesterday promoting his latest book Eaarth, the possibility that global climate change will ultimately force us to alter our lifestyle in major ways raises lots of questions.
Will people be "civil" when life on earth changes? Or will we look back on the Tea Party as a fond memory?
Forty years since Gaylord started Earth Day. If he were alive today I think he would be traveling the globe with McKibben.
April 17, 2010 Boy do I want to run
Tommy Thompson, the original "Dr. No" in the Wisconsin Legislature, announced (confessed?) to the Tea Party Thursday, "We love our family, we love our country, we love our state." Now that's bold. Clearly, Democrats and progressives do not love family, state or country. And while no one took seriously his possible run against the popular Senator Russ Feingold, the tea party folks appeared sad. To make it worse, Tommy ended with these memorable words: "Boy do I want to run!" (Where to Tommy?)
Tough guy Tommy blamed family for his decision not to run. He might have added, "We love tax breaks, corporate boards, we love Citizens United." They announced a crowd of 2,500--so now we know we need 2,501 at Fighting Bob Fest! Just to be safe.
The Wisconsin Supreme Court has taken up the Gableman "ethics" case. The Vegas odds-makers must be chuckling. It is, to put it mildly, unlikely that a majority of the Court will come down on Justice Gableman for telling an obvious distortion of Butler's record. Some call it a lie, but why quibble?Twain said "a lie gets half-way around the globe before truth gets her boots on." We aren't convinced that Truth even has boots!
Gableman wanted to win, to beat Justice Butler, in the tradition of Bob Kasten. Truth in TV spots is irrelevant says Gableman, even in court races. He "argues the Court has no power to regulate political speech under the First Amendment." I am not making this up. Lie if you chose. There are no penalties! Whoa Nelly! And public confidence in the Court?
That is Gableman's position and you can bet justices Prosser, Rogensack and Zeigler agree. That leaves justices Crooks, Ann Walsh Bradley and the Chief in charge of ethics. James Bopp is one of Gableman's attorneys, and he apparently agrees with one of the other lawyers on the team that the government--in this case, fellow justices--cannot even ask! If they do, the Court cannot punish the liar.
The executive director of the Judicial Commission, James Alexander, wants to ask Gableman what was intended with the false TV spot. Nope! Can't do says Bopp.
April 16, 2010 Wow!
Lots on the plate this morning. Let's begin with a ruling by the distinguished federal judge, Western District, Barbara Crabb. She ruled that the so-called "National Day of Prayer" is unconstitutional. That took guts even though it would be difficult to find an honest law professor who would disagree. Guts because she will be attacked by the intolerant.
Ah, but the "wear-your-religion-on-your-sleeve-but-not-a-burka" folks (you know, the ones your mother warned you to avoid) are agitated. The "American Center for Law, Justice and Bowling on the Green" will appeal. (I made up the bowling-on-the-green part.)
Why appeal when they can pray? Before you rush to read the American Center's brief, you should know the group was founded by that goof, Pat Robertson, who is not exactly a constitutional law expert, and who seems to think gay peopple are responsible for everything from forest fires in California to Hurricane Katrina. We learn from today's JS that the national prayer day became a reality when Billy Graham called for a "great spiritual awakening" on the steps of the Capitol in 1952. (Apparently the national prayer day has not delivered--we still have lots of problems.)
Well done, Judge Crabb. Well done. Perhaps her ruling will help politicians stiffen their spines.
Racial hypocrisy: It is, according to Major League Baseball, the 63rd anniversary of Jackie Robinson's entry into the big leagues. True, it was 1947 when he took the field (and the verbal abuse) as a Brooklyn Dodger, but the year before he played for Montreal and had 4 hits on opening day and a great season, paving the way for Branch Rickey and Jack Robinson to break the color barrier. Most of the owners opposed integration-some said white fans might not sit next to black fans, thus hurting team revenues! Reportedly, in a secret ballot vote, the Dodgers were condemned by the vast majority of owners.
So, how are we doing? Not so good. Only 9.5 percent of the opening day roster players were African-American, and none of the owners are. Last year, according to USA Today, 10.2 percent of plyers were black, 17 teams had only two or one black players, and some teams had none on opening day in 2009.
Question: Why wouldn't the Brewers sign Jermaine Dye, who has hit 27 home runs in each of the last five seasons? They could sign him today--no trade involved. Something is wrong.
It would appear that bringing Jackie Robinson to baseball did not eliminate racism in that sport. Where is Bud Selig? Don't get all misty-eyed on this anniversary; raise hell.
Tommy won't: Bowing to the good life of a corporate board member--did he say 12?--or was that a dream? The idea of TT taking a pass on millions of fees for being little more than a corporate front, was, apparently, too much to ask of the man who destroyed public financing of campaigns in Wisconsin and thus paved the way for the purchase of all three branches of state government. Bye, bye.
April 14, 2010 Good guess
Now and then we guess right. One of my favorite writers, labor lawyers, progressives and authors came to mind as we were working on the preliminary program for the ninth Fighting Bob Fest. We are trying to challenge speakers to share with us their ideas for future progressive change. Tom Geoghegan was asked to speak on the future of labor and he quickly agreed. Few know labor like Tom. His book Which Side Are You On? is a classic. You are in for a treat.
We learned yesterday that Andy Stern will give up the presidency of the largest and most politically active union in the U.S., SEIU. That decision will shake up the national labor unions, not to mention the leaders within SEIU, almost as much as his decision to leave the AFL-CIO to create a new movement. (Democrats heading for elections will also be scrambling.)
The ostensible reason for bolting from the AFL-CIO was the old "federation was too pale, too male, and too stale," according to Andy.
Under Stern's rule, union democracy was never invited to join the group. It was top-down, Andy's way or the highway. He was convinced that increasing membership was the key to a new more vigorous union movement. He also played the contribution game and gave lots of money to political campaigns. To gain recognition from employers he often agreed to limit bargaining to wages--not benefits--and that proved to be the beginning of strong opposition within the union.
In any event, I am eager to hear Tom Geoghegan's analysis of the Stern legacy and his prescription for the future of labor. Stern's departure will change the movement significantly.
Fair question. My answer is that self-appointed interest groups should provide transparency just like public bodies. Who is really funding TWW? Why the anonymous quotes?
This is the era of make believe "do-good" groups with labels that mislead. Hard to know why payday loans are not regulated, but at least we can turn to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign and track contributions. Shouldn't we be able to do that for Wisconsin Way? I think so. But I will give you more time to read the difficult to read Blueprint before jumping in with both feet.
April 13, 2010 Courts
The Wisconsin State Journal won't be happy until all judges and Supreme Court justices are appointed by partisan politicians. No one will know who nominated the about-to-be appointed neutral, but WSJ trusts the partisans or pretends to for this purpose. Bill Kraus, our regular guest blogger, writes today that electing judges is in our genes and I agree.
Ask your attorney neighbor to name the panel of "experts" used by senators Kohl and Feingold to come up with a list of acceptable nominees for open federal district judgeships. I'll bet lunch at the Main Depot or Joey's that he or she cannot name one and probably didn't know such a vetting committee even exits. But it does, and people you have never heard of are listed. (I'll bet friends of the two senators have heard of the chosen few.)
And that is the problem. It is an invitation for mischief. Friends are often favored, qualified or not. No system is perfect, but the elective system, with no-opt-out public financing of campaigns, is the best by far. Let's try it.
Let's begin by demanding that David Prosser not opt out of public financing in his Supreme Court race next year. He has a tremendous advantage right out of the gate. Rarely do incumbents lose. But if he adds to that incumbent advantage by accepting millions of dollars from WMC and other non-person contributors, the public trust in the Supreme Court will erode even further. Here is a chance for Justice Prosser to rescue our Court from charges of campaign corruption. (Need evidence? Blankenship of Massey.)
The integrity of our Court trumps all other considerations. Sorry WSJ, but your invitation to the back-room isn't very appealing. Too dark in there.
Your thoughts please.
Corporate funding. You all know that the activist majority on the U.S. Supreme Court reached out and slugged us in the gut. Yes, indeed, corporations, owing a fiduciary duty only to shareholders, are like people--and chickens have lips, pigs fly, and Exxon is concerned about global warming.
We can throw the towel into the ring or we can fight like hell for our democracy. I choose the latter. So if we cannot regulate money (known as "speech" to the Scalias of the world) polluting our political well, then regulate corporations at the start. No contributions to campaigns unless a majority of shareholders agree--same for unions. No contributions from entities that have contracts with government; no contributions from foreign corporations with 5 percent or more their shareholders from outside the U.S. Total disclosure of all contributions, direct or indirect.
A start. Maybe the activists on the Court have given us a jump start.
April 12, 2010 Blue Print anonymous
Ah, yes, another year another plan to go behind closed doors to develop an outline of what the people really, really want whether they know it or not. It's The Wisconsin Way (one can only guess if there is an Illinois or Iowa or New Jersey way). But fellow Badgers--for now try to read the Jim Wood-produced Blueprint for Change, 2010, count the anonymous citizens who speak in favor of the "inclusive, fair (balanced?) innovative and effective" promotional piece and suppress the urge to call in sick.
April 11, 2010 Change of direction?
Jim Doyle, Arnie Duncan and Tom Barrett all want to centralize decision-making when it comes to education of our kids. Apparently they believe that failing schools will be transformed if we can just stop local "meddling" in schools and get rid of bad teachers. The initial plan was to eliminate by fiat the Milwaukee elected school board and hand those powers to the mayor. (Some said that might be OK if Barett remained mayor of Milwaukee, but not OK if he wins his race for governor and the Bradley/WPRI folks would name Barrett's successor.)
Having run into a buzz saw of opposition from teachers, parents and community leaders, the Trifecta of education dropped the mayoral takeover idea. Today we learn in JS that they have a new plan that was promoted while we worried about Easter-egg rolls.
Of course there is precious little time to act because, get this, the legislative session will end in two weeks! Obviously, there will be no time to study the proposal, no time to involve the community--why should the pooh-bahs involve anyone?
Think how they convinced/hood-winked the Legislature years ago to provide vouchers by taking funds from MPS and giving the money to private schools. That was a fail-proof plan to help improve the learning experience. Then recall the fight to avoid evaluation of the voucher program. Was it improving the educational experience? Well, guess what. The evaluation of voucher program finds the voucher students are performing about the same as non-voucher kids!
So batten down the hatches, the quick-fixers are on the march shouting "centralize, centralize, centralize!"
Supreme Court: Will our conservative president look left or right to find the successor to John Paul Stevens? If you are betting--look right. Will the Republicans actually filibuster if Obama looks to the right? (In my view the only issue that the administration cannot finesse is Roe vs. Wade. The nominee, whomever she is, will protect a woman's right to choose.)
We are is sad shape. We have lost our voices and most of the voices heard are from the right. No way will Obama nominate a "liberal" and run the risk of rejection. He will start right and keep on sledding. A conservative court is about to get worse.
What do we do about Citizens United v. FEC? Is this really the end of the American experiment? When the Chamber of Commerce brags it will pour 50 million dollars into four Senate and 10 House races, they are serious. The NY Times, singing "Don't worry be happpy," thinks disclosure is the answer. Hasn't worked so far. The only antidote is total public funding of campaigns. Let the fight begin!
April 10, 2010 Think before you re-up!
Whenever the big drug corporations use TV to sell a purple pill, a new painkiller, or a cure for restless leg syndrome they go wild with warnings. If you see double, call your doctor--rash, suicidal thoughts, pain, constepation..call your doctor. More than four hours, call for help...women who could get pregnant should not touch...
You have heard them, but soon the Army and Marines may have to join in listing the potential health hazards combat might have on your health.
Recall how "Gulf War Syndrome" was blamed by soldiers for illnesses among troops involved in expelling Iraq from Kuwait. The Pentagon pooh-poohed such stories. Veterans looking for a handout? Seemed as if that was the official view. How times change. Turns out the illnesses were and are real, the Washington Post reports.
The National Academy of Science's Institute of Medicine found a lot of illness related to service in the Gulf war. (Do you think the same may be true among troops in Iraq or Afghanistan?) Things like, "three times more PTSD than in other military populations not involved in the Gulf War; evidence of an association of Gulf War to anxiety disorder, alcohol abuse, irritable bowel syndrome, dyspepsia," and on and on and on! Then there is "multisystem illness." Fatigue, joint pain, skin rash, poor sleep, moodiness, diarrhea. Can you hear the "Join the Army" commercials? They say, "While you will see the world, you may contract a disabling illness. Ask your doctor if you are healthy enough..."
Get out of Afghanistan--see Bill Moyers Journal. Think about Gulf War illness. Consider the fact we are going broke. Think about the thousands of soldiers whose lives are being ruined by obvious causes like IEDs and invisible causes. War is not healthy for you. Really! Think before signing.
Many veterans think exposure to pesticides damaged soldiers' brain and immune systems, causing chronic illness. What do you think?
April 9, 2010 Not enough?
Get this news. Brian Miller is executive director of United for a Fair Economy, according to the Washington Post. That is the group that says wealthy folks do not pay enough in taxes and demands that the Bush tax cuts for people with three homes and a yacht be repealed.
The Smart War? Thanks for reminding us that candidate Obama, eager to erase the ringing-phone TV spot, told us that invading Iraq was dumb but that the struggle in Afghanistan was necessary and indeed smart. Not so fast, Fridley. Press Secretary Robert Gibbs won't even call Karzai an ally. He is a partner. Peter Galbraith believes Karzai is "off balance" and maybe consuming Afghanistan's most profitable export--the crop his brother controls--opium.
When does smart become stupid? Can we ask young soldiers to risk life and limb for a president of Afghanistan who may join the Taliban, condemns us, and may be using opium? C'mon!
April 8, 2010 Wave what flag?
There has been lots of speculation that much of the shouting and anger directed at the president has more to do with his race than opposition to his health care program. I have never seen middle-aged whites in the streets waving flags, holding up signs, stomping and cheering--at least not since the early Civil Rights days--but now it is common.
Gail Collins reminds us that former Virginia governor "macaca-George" Allen was as goofy about the confederacy as the new head of tourism in Virginia, Bob McDonnell. Allen, as governor, described the Civil War "as a four-year struggle for independence, sovereign rights and local government." He forgot to mention slavery. Oops!
The new governor, Bob McDonnell, also forgot slavery in designating April as "Virginia Confederate History Month." He said, and I am not making this up, "I wasn't focused on that." I believe him. He explained that the designation is designed to boost tourism! Whoa Nelly!
Don't you wonder what they say when the cameras are off?
The Masters: Lemme see. They would not permit blacks for decades; they refuse to allow women as members; they refuse to tell anyone who belongs to the corporation called "Augusta National," but we do know that many are captains of industry and others are corporate legends in their own minds who refuse to speak up against discrimination. Heck--their wives are not allowed!
The current chair spoke up yesterday. Did he speak out against past slights to African-Americans? Did he throw open the gates to women? Did he invite Barack Obama to preside at the opening?
No, this goof-nuts condemned Tiger Woods! A man who would have been barred from even walking the course just a few thousand pars ago. Billy-Bob Payne said, "We are very secure in who we are and the Masters has almost a 74-year history. We just kind of do things our way."
I like golf a lot. I used to be pretty good. I was stationed in Augusta at Fort Gordon for officer's basic training. Needless to say, my African-American fellow officers were barred from Augusta National. The city of Augusta was about as segregated as Augusta National was.
I admit I would like to watch the Masters, but will listen to Billy-Bob and "just kind of do things my way." I will not watch. My daughters, sisters, wife, nieces, grand nieces and granddaughters could not join. Rosa Parks and Eleanore Roosevelt would have been denied membership. Martin Luther King? Yah sure. (I'll bet the members really celebrate King's birthday.) So tell me when it's over.
April 7, 2010 Yes, that blankety-blank!
Yes, it is Don Blankenship, CEO at Massey Energy, who apparently kept to his pattern of ignoring safety at his mine. It blew up, and 30 people are dead, lots of families destroyed, dreams of a better life for kids killed with their dads.
If the Supreme Court wants to treat corporations like people--First Amendment and all--then Don Blankenship should be arrested and tried for murder along with other officers and major shareholders of Citizen Massey! Want to be a citizen while destroying our democracy? Well, welcome to the criminal code--it goes with the package.
You remember Massey. Don Blankenship "invested" $3 million into one campaign for a Supreme Court candidate in order to have a $50 million jury verdict against Massey reversed. It worked. The Massey candidate won, and by a 3-2 vote, Massey was off the hook. How obvious was the "investment" in the Supreme Court race? How crass? Well, it was even too much for five of our nine appointed Supremes. The Court held that when a justice receives a huge amount from a party in a pending case he should disqualify himself. ("Recuse" is the term used most often.) Why? Well, such efforts destroy faith in the judiciary!
(Amazing, but a majority of Wisconsin's Supreme Court, led by Justice David Prosser does not believe a justice can be required to recuse no matter how much money WMC or others will invest in his campaign. Whoa Nelly!)
Blankenship and his minions have given $300,000 to federal candidates--91 percent of it to Republicans--since 1990. (Yup, Michael Steele, he's yours, take him, please.)
But Blankenship is the canary in the mine. Imagine how much money mine owners, bankers, and insurance companies will put into Russ Feingold's race this year to defeat him? We need your input at Fighting Bob Fest--this is serious.
Delighted to report that Jim Hightower will grace the stage again as he has for all but one of the previous eight Fighting Bob Fests. Thom Hartman will be a first-time main stage speaker. Things are starting to happen, and with the tea partiers providing a little background noise we will once again affirm that Wisconsin belongs to progressives not Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin.
April 5, 2010 C'mon Walker!
Walker is lucky that no one was injured or killed when part of Milwaukee County Court House collapsed! Scott Walker can't maintain a safe court house--imagine what he could do to the Capitol. He has judges cleaning the court rooms, so why not get Scott in an apron and put him on a ladder to fix the building?
Mike Ellis got it right when he said, "This is legalized loan sharking." Mike favors an interest rate cap--like the old usury laws. Meanwhile, Assembly Speaker Jim Sullivan wants to be careful not to put them out of business. Why not? He says he wants to let the market play a role. He says, "It is not my desire to be overly regulatory and seek to destroy." Whoa Nelly! Maybe the payday folks could take a lesson from the Brewers and have a "bat day" for collections.
April 4, 2010 And the loser is....
If we were in the midst of the Cold War (remember that?) and the Soviets were bogged down in Afghanistan fighting the "invisible" Taliban, we would laugh at the story in today's NYT about the uncertainty facing Marines handing out cash in Afghanistan. Laugh, that is, if the story focused on Soviets rather than Marines. "You shake hands with them (give them cash) but you don't know if they are Taliban" was the lament of Colonel Ghulam Sakhi. He says, "They are using the money against the Marines. They are buying I.E.D.’s and buying ammunition, everything.”
One soldier, asking for anonymity, said, "The Taliban are everywhere." The tragedy goes on. The Marines arrive with lots of cash--"the battalion doles out $150,000 per week"--to pay or bribe locals with our money, but we don't know the language, don't have a trustworthy government to distribute pay for work done, and have no way of knowing if the recipients are the ones who earned it, so we give it to people who look like our friends and apparently much of the money is stolen by our adversary. I know we would be chortling, "Those foolish Russians."
It seems like Vietnam all over again. Recall how our brass derided the Vietcong because they would not fight a traditional war that we would surely win? Who won?
Now, decades later we are trying to buy a victory! Whoa Nelly! Get our troops out ASAP.
April 3, 2010 Too much
I hardly know where to begin. My mind keeps reminding me of the pictures of the white guys in NYT--hedge fund billionaires--the top 25, who averaged more than a billion dollars each in 2009 while thousands of families were being evicted from their homes, extra-curricular activity was being curtailed or eliminated in schools throughout the country. Schools were closed while the Wall Street system rewarded hedge fund managers who operate in secret, using our money to earn compensation that would have made old man Rockefeller blush. Yikes!
Move to another NYT story Thursday about a new private school that charges $28,000 tuition for--have a seat--kindergarten. Whoa Nelly!
Moving on: "Harlem School for the Arts closes, Perhaps for good." The article says, "The school serves 3,000 students a year, teaching artistic disciplines: dance, music, theater and visual arts. Many of the students went on to to top-tier colleges, best high schools, others have been in films and Broadway plays."
Now what? I know--they should manage hedge funds. Follow the money!
Don't stop now. Stay with me. Mayor Bloomberg's deputy mayor, Patricia Harris ($265,000 per year--$500,000 bonus for campaign help last year) now heads Bloomberg's charitable foundation. Conflicts? The billionaire mayor spent more than $100 million on his re-election and celebrated by flying his campaign staff to Paris for dinner in a three-star restaurant. (I wonder if he might help the Harlem School for the arts. Or how about calling a meeting of the hedge-hogs to figure out how to help save our children. George Soros made $3.3 billion all by himself--put him in charge.)
Enough. Now we turn to the Vatican. Did you know that the attacks on the Pope are just like anti-Semitism? No? And, I didn't know some "Catholic circles believe the criticism stemmed from a New York Jewish lobby." My goodness.
One observer called the sermon "breathtakingly callous and misguided." Ya think? I call it insane. But how about Father Lawrence Murphy's luring boys to a cabin in northern Wisconsin for "sex education...the boys were confused by sex. I fixed the problem." I fixed the problem?
April 2, 2010 Karzai and the Pope
Why is everybody always picking on them? Yes, the New York Times says Afghanistan's president, who barely glances at his brother who is selling government jobs and heading the illegal drug trade, is angry. "Every day my dignity as president of this country is being attacked. The New York Times...they know the election was right, but on a daily basis they call me a fraudulent president." Shame on you, NYT!
The report ends, "Diplomats worried that Karzai will give ammo to anti-war groups." The question, "Why are we helping this man?" will be asked.
April 1, 2010 Some good, some nutso
Turns out the president made two recess appointments to the nearly dead National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Once the friend of working people, the NLRB under Bush became an off-shoot of the Chamber of Commerce and was on life support. Because of filibuster threats, the five-member NLRB has operated with only one Democrat and one Republican. Results? Predictable--loads of deadlocks and no innovative policy.
Now there are three Democrats and one Republican. Now there is a chance of fair elections, an end to anti-worker decisions, and the return of an activist NLRB. Great news.
Hedge Funds are healthy--for them not for us. Hard to believe, but the NYT reports that the top 25 managers of hedge funds made over one billion dollars each in 2009--on average. George Soros--$3.3 billion; Carl Ichan--$1.3 billion; David Tepper (sit before reading) made $4 billion. The Times explains, "Hedge funds--the elite, lightly regulated investment vehicles open to a restricted range of investors--enjoyed a winning streak during the buyout boom."
Something is terribly wrong, and the majority party in Congress had better fix this outrage.
Hoo-haa, yells the new governor of Virginia, McDonnell. Obama wants to place oil rigs off Virginia's coast. Why is he so happy? In his campaign he said the "royalties will pay for road repairs in Virginia." Oops! Congress must approve a split in royallties. Yes, Virginia, there is a Congress.
The estimate, by the way, is that the underwater supply of oil would last six days in the U.S. The gas--under 30 days. Potholes, governor? I wouldn't wait for your royalty check. It is hard to figure out what in the hell gets between the governor's ears.
Who owns the gas and oil? Would Glenn Beck lose it if we were to suggest that it belongs to the people of the U.S. and not the oil companies. Is that Socialism, Mr. Beck?
"Is this a private fight, or can anyone join?" -Old Irish saying