May 31, 2011
Truth Seekers on the job!
"Hackers Post Phony Story on PBS." Hackers claimed the late rapper Tupac Shakur was alive and living in New Zealand. I can hardly wait for MJS and Politi-fact's analysis. My prediction? "Mostly false."
Fighting Bob Fest--September 17. With Jim Hightower leading the way, as he has for 10 years, the discussion will be on what is next. Class war is on everyone's mind. Afghanistan and Iraq wars on our minds. How do we move toward end of these conflicts? Well, the answer may be that we are broke. We have only one choice--stop the wars, bring 'em home. The country cannot file for bankruptcy protection!
May 30, 2011
Obama promises to help Joplin
Can't blame him. Think back to Katrina and the bricks hurled at Bush for not responding to Katrina as if W. W. II had just ended. It would be a mean-spirited president who could turn his back on Joplin. Yes indeed. "Our Joplin" is in a world of hurt. We cannot turn our back. Or have we already turned to look the other way?
How about Congress turning its back and a deaf ear to all the Joplins of the future to be hit by tornadoes, floods, hurricanes and drought? Do you think something is happening that we cannot control? Are we following the lead of the Corps of Engineers trying to control the Mississippi River?
President Obama cried out that Joplin is a "national tragedy" when I would argue that the inaction of Congress to deal with the real culprit, climate change, is the national tragedy. Time to tell Congress to stop screwing around with debt ceiling threats, abortion and Libya. We face enviromental collapse, and unless we act now no president will be able to stand by all the new Joplins.
May 29, 2011
Jim Crow replaces Bucky
In the Karl Rove, Lee Atwater, Roger Ailes era, a candidate for federal office must accept the fact that if the candidate has done nothing wrong then Rove and others will make up something, push it in TV spots, and voila! It becomes the issue in the campaign. (When Robert Kasten ran 30-second spots suggesting that money was missing from the NFL pension fund under my watch, we laughed at the absurdity of the falsehood. But when every TV station in or near Wisconsin blasted the lie, it became real. By the time we figured out just how nasty the spots were, it was too late to respond. Same for Dukakis, Louis Butler, and other victims.)
Remember, if there is no evidence, make it up. The NY Times, wrote today: "GOP Legislators Move to Tighten Rules on Voting." The Times compared Republican efforts with Jim Crow laws with their literacy tests and poll taxes. A photo ID will be required in many if not most states to vote next year. Well, now, there must be widespread voter fraud to persuade governors and legislators to tighten the rules, but, oops! No evidence to support the claims of fraud, so make it up! The arguement is, in essence, "There must be fraud if we are not catching it!"
The worst voter fraud I have ever even imagined was in Florida when thousands of African-Americans were taken off the rolls on the false ground that they were felons. What did Florida do about that? Nada! Was it human error or was it real?
While the photo ID issue sticks in my craw, the right is running out of tactics. Soon all African Americans, all seniors, all students will be registered, they will vote in big numbers, and they will overcome this outrageous effort to discourage voters. The only acts of voter fraud are the false claims made by politicians about the need to eliminate easy registration.
May 28, 2011
Rick Perry might be the answer
Not long ago, Texas Governor Rick Perry was suggesting that Texas should pull out of the U.S. of A. I was delighted! Good riddance, and please take all states still flying the Confederate flag with you!
Let Texas be Texas again! Who needs the federal government? (Views in Joplin, Mo. have changed recently, but not Gov. Rick's view.) Perry is thinking about running for president as the Tea Party and Rush Limbaugh favorite son.
Gail Collins introduces some of Perry's ground-breaking ideas this morning. Gov. Rick hates the 16th Amendment permitting Congress to pass the income tax! Hates the 17th Amendment allowing direct election to the U.S. Senate. (Much better to have brilliant men like Scott Walker, Scooter Jensen and Scott Fitzgerald elect the Senators.)
He hates Social Security: don't bother privatizing, just kill it! Medicare? C'mon.
One of his boots is named "Freedom" and the other "Liberty." His other...oh never mind.
Texas is 45th in the nation in high school completion. Jaysus! "Go Rick go."
Joe Nocera is a NY Times business columnist who tries to save Private Ryan today. Nocera thought Jack Kemp was brilliant; Ted Marmor (1973: The Politics of Medicare) was even smarter; and Kemp hired Paul Ryan who thinks Ayn Rand is just tops so he requires all staffers to read her self-absorbed nonsense. From Ayn Rand to Marmor, to Kemp to Nocera--who thinks Ryan's plans for Medicare need some tinkering--but all in all are not so bad.
Pass the smelling salts!
GREAT NEWS--HIDDEN OIL HAS BEEN FOUND. Oil boom in Texas, as 3,000 wells will be drilled in this coming year. Could increase nation's output 25 percent within a decade. Huzzah! Hip Hip Hooray! Problem solved! OK, the environmental cops are warning that the oil can only be extracted by fracturing--a high mix of water and hazardous chemicals blasted through the rocks to release the oil inside. Damn those purists! Damn them! What is a little poison in our water going to do? I say, "Toughen-up America. Toughen up."
Not only did the Rapture miss us, the Reverand Schuller's parish is in bankruptcy. What's happening!
May 27, 2011
Judge Sumi rules
Scott Fitzgerald, son of the Walker-appointed director of the State Patrol, brother of the Speaker of the Assembly, majority leader of the GOP Senate (at least until the recall elections are held), and local bully, dismissively questioned whether "one Madison judge can stand in the way of the other two democratically elected branches of government." The answer, Scott, is yes!
Lines that probably gain standing ovations at a Tea Party convention take on the sound of sore loser in the public forum. Sumi, in a detailed and careful decision, ruled for the right of the people of Wisconsin to know what their government is up to.
"The Open Meetings Law is an example of shared power between the legislative and judicial branches." (Listen-up, Scott.)
Key to her ruling on the objections voiced by Democrats in the Legislature was this: "Every meeting of a governmental body must be preceded by public notice and must be held in open session unless" there is an exemption. And there was none. Huffing and bloviating by Fitzgerald does not rise to the level of legislative exemption. As our Supreme Court has said, "Open Meetings Laws exist to ensure open government in controversial matters."
FIGHTING BOB FEST: Our journey north to Chippewa and Eau Claire was a stunning success. Now we get into the planning for our tenth Fighting Bob Fest, September 17 in Madison. (Mark your calendars--it's one week later than normal to involve more students and minorities.)
Soon we will have an announcement of organizing efforts as a follow-up to Bob Fest.
May 26, 2011
Let me see. The Walkerites want to grant the right to almost all of us to carry guns just about everywhere if we feel like it. The Capitol had been exempt, but the author of the bill has changed her mind. Huzzah! Looks like we will be able to pack heat in the Capitol as well. Then, asks Senator Erpenbach, why have metal detectors at the entry? Oh, well, they stationed them at the doors before the latest version of concealed carry had been introduced by the NRA.
They have gone bonkers! We never had detectors before Walker-inspired demonstrators scared the Fitz-Walkers. Now we can carry a gun into the Capitol? (Why not require everyone to pack heat?) I say why force us to guess what is inside that lunch box? Assume it is a gun so you can out-draw the nasty senator!
Read Pocan: Mark Pocan has a terrific post this morning on the decline of Wisconsin under Walker.
Paul Ryan looks foolish, but let's hope he keeps on keeping' on. The vote to dismantle Medicare in the Senate was another defeat for the Ryan "road to poverty." Good news: the GOP continues supporting the Ryan plan. The bad news is Bill Clinton and Joe Biden caution Dems to reform Medicare. (Don't you wonder?) Grover Norquist--Americans for Tax Reform--is sending 150,000 five-minute videos of Ryan's defense of his loopy plan. Hell, we should pay the postage! Norquist is thinking about a grassroots training program to push the Ryan plan! Maybe we can join him!
But first, the GOP opposes Elizabeth Warren as head of the agency she essentially created--the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
And now Goodwin Liu has withdrawn from consideration for the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals because they could not break the filibuster! Shame on Sessions and the rest. Another brilliant minority nominee placed on the trash heap! Shame on them!
May 25, 2011
Shame on Wisconsin
No matter where we lived or traveled, we always bragged about Wisconsin. Academic freedom, first to have worker's comp, first public radio station, open primaries, no corporate funding of elections, clean politics, competent and corruption-free civil service, refused to enforce fugitive slave act, fought to end slavery, first in nation to have public financing of campaigns, clean lakes, great education from K-12 through UW. That was hard to beat, and if all that didn't get a visitor ice cream at Babcock would seal the deal.
Saturday at Bob Fest North, Dave Obey wore black in protesting the anti-democratic changes in voting pushed by Walker et al. Suddenly we are Ohio or Florida not Wisconsin.
No more same-day registration; photo ID required--not just any old ID--a special one for students and now the GOP-dominated Joint Finance Committee has voted to eliminate public financing of campaigns for Supreme Court and governor. Walker has no pride in Wisconsin. How do I know that? He has no respect for our past or our institutions. He believes in corporations, fancy clubs, wide roads, big prisons, long prison sentences and nice restaurants. He could care less about the La Follettes, or Gaylord Nelson, or Muir or Midge Miller or Kay Clarenbach, or Leopold, or the plaque on Bascom Hall.
What a shame!
Get those recalls cranking before Walker sells Bascom Hall to Burger King, the Arboretum to Disney, the Capitol to the Koch boys.
Shame on us!
Oh, but did Ryan get a gut-kick for his "Road to Poverty"! Get rid of Medicare, motherhood, cheddar cheese and apple pie? Kathy Hochul won the special election in a very red congressional district in New York. THE issue? Ryan's thoughtless and cruel plan to cut seniors and disabled people adrift!
Want to see rats jumping off a sinking ship? Wait a week or so. Ryan won't be doing much campaigning this year!
Congrats to National Prison Project of ACLU: By 5-4 the Supremes ruled California prisons are cruel and unusual. Hooray for ACLU and special thanks to David Fathi. David has helped in our Supermax case in Wisconsin. Brilliant guy with commitment to justice.
May 24, 2011
Tim Pawlenty says "truth" will guide him in his quest for the White House. Yah, sure, Ole. That means truth will help him bring an end to school vouchers because the program has failed to produce results despite taking millions of public dollars from MPS: Tony Evers was blunt. It is morally wrong to expand vouchers!
Pawlenty will, I am sure, call for immediate withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan along with a huge cut in military spending. Truth will be his guide.
No more voter suppression: no photo ID, no poll tax, no reason to stop same-day registration.
He will tell Paul Ryan to stop making a fool of himself by misleading the public with his plan to eliminate Medicare. Pawlenty will tell the truth Medicare is an absolute necessiity. He will tell us that Ryan really believes Ayn Rand and, truth be told, she was nuts. He will reduce prison sentences and build fewer prisons, and truth will tell him to rehabilitate not just punish. He will bring high speed rail to Wisconsin and Minnesota. Universal health care will be on the Pawlenty Truth Express! Because an advanced degree is needed in today's economy, post-grad education will be free!
Global climate change will head his green agenda. Hey! I'm kind of liking Pawlenty!
May 23, 2011
Here comes the heat
"The Windy City, Chicago, is preparing for a heat wave" reports the NY Times--a permanent one. Based on current trends, Chicago will feel more like Baton Rouge by the end of the century than the much cooler Chicago of yester-year.
Read the story and ask yourself when will Congress wake up? Are we out of time? We joke about the rapture, but melting Greenland is not a joke. If sea levels rise...you know what will happen. Will the planet be destroyed? Will storms be more intense? If Chicago will seem like Baton Rouge, what will Baton Rouge be like? I think we had better get serious about climate change.
Too Big To Fail: Tonight at 8:00 turn your TVs to "Too Big to Fail" on HBO. I have not reviewed the film, but I have been assured you must see it.
Mitch Daniels is out, and Paul Ryan is still trying to make us believe that his road map to poverty is good for us! C'mon Paul, Ford Motors executives thought the Edsel was a beautiful car but there was a problem. No one else did. The Edsel disappeared! We should pause and thank some people--thank you Scott Walker for getting hundreds of thousands of people into the streets to oppose your union-busting nonsense; thank you David Koch--you helped educate the voters on your plans to take over America. Most Americans never heard of the Cato Institute. Now they have. It is the Koch brothers intellectual play toy. Thank you Scott Walker for taking the phone call!
May 22, 2011
Fighting Bob Fest North exceeded all our hopes!
First the bad news: not one of the hundreds who came to Bob Fest North was selected for the Rapture. Not one! So we all stayed, clapped, stood, cheered the Fab 14 led by Kathleen Vinehout, enjoyed great food, drank some beer, and shed a tear or two as speaker after speaker inspired and challenged us. This was an emotional day! It was as good as it gets!
I am not going to review each speech, although DVDs will be available soon. Suffice to say that this was a great day: Fighting Bob Fest has a home in Chippewa and Eau Claire. We will go back next year. John Bonifaz, Tammy Baldwin, Stan Gruszynski, Tony Schultz, Sarah Lloyd, Ruth Conniff, Mike McCabe and John Nichols could not have been better. The crowd loved it.
It rained hard so patted selves on back for deciding to move indoors--it worked! But then everything worked.
Much credit goes to Lily Johnson from Bob.com, the key organizer from our operation. The Bob Fest North Committee was sensational. And, by god, it was fun!
May 20, 2011
Seventh game of the World Series, last NBA game, Super Bowl Sunday, and you can hear the announcer: "There's no tomorrow!" Well, folks, it is apparently good-bye time for all of us. The Rev. Camping has signed off--posted his last column. Next stop Armageddon! End of the world is tomorrow so I am not worrying about getting the grass mowed. Nope. I believe! I believe! See you in Jerusalem.
Gang of what? Six or is it five or is it one? In a modern version of West Side Story, a new gang is in town. Fortunately, like the gang in Jimmy Breslin's book, the gang that can't shoot straight is the only one still functioning.
What the hell is going on? Having a majority is irrelevant in the Senate; must get 60 votes to use the rest rooms; Simpson-Erskin Bowles gang of a bunch; it is unbelievable. No longer can we say who to praise or blame. No accountability for anything. If something gets to the president's desk more often than not it is a resolution from the back room.
I am eager to hear our friends discuss the state of our democracy and to lay out a plan of attack to revive that democracy. See you in Chippewa Falls tomorrow.
May 19, 2011
Who should be your senator?
I recall a reviewer of the first issue of the magazine George: "You know less after you read it than you did when you started reading it!"
One Wisconsin Now has come up with what I'm calling the "anti-La Follette bromide." Fighting Bob demanded transparency in the nominating process. "Get the process out of the hands of the money boys in the smoke-filled rooms, let the people nominate candidates in open primaries, and democracy will flourish." OneWis has a different idea: Let everyone hit a computer button to name the best candidate to replace Herb Kohl, from a list of 16 pre-selected pols. (Selected by whom? Don't know. But they will announce the results of this meaningless straw poll at the Democratic convention!) Even the WisPolitics.com poll conducted at the conventions was better than this!
Nominees to be our next Senator include J.B. Van Hollen, Tommy Thompson, Ted Kanavas, the Fitzgerald boys, Sean Duffy, Jim Doyle, Mark Newmann, ad nauseum. Could we focus on the recalls, photo ID, and Citizens United, the end of collective bargaining as we know it, please? We are in danger of losing our democracy, if we still claim we have a democracy to save, and frankly cute ideas like computerized straw polls add nothing to the conversation. I am looking forward to Bob Fest North, rain or shine, for a serious plan to deal with the Koch boys and others who want to buy our government. We don't need a straw poll to identify the adversaries.
This is a truly silly exercise that will remind you of George magazine--you will know less when this straw poll is over than you do now.
Biddy & Walker are hanging in: Yes, indeed, another big postcard from the Wisconsin Alumni Association asking for support to break up the great state University of Wisconsin and privatize the Madison campus!
"BADGERS all over Wisconsin," according to the latest propaganda, "are speaking up to voice their support for a new business model for UW-Madison." No need to contact the Governor--even though this is his cockamamie idea. No need for details or sifting and winnowing. Biddy does it for us. Thank you, Biddy! She says to contact our legislators to support this awful idea. I say ask the Regents to stop this nonsense.
May 18, 2011
MONEY MONEY MONEY
Reporters, political science professors, commentators, TV talking heads, and even WPR discuss the current political thrill ride in Wisconsin as if the elections for governor following the Walker recall and the U.S. Senate seat to be vacated by Kohl soon will turn on issues, debates, and experience. No one has noticed the 800-pound elephant in the front yard. Money, money, money. Candidates for governor or Senate will spend nine hours per day, seven days per week, on the phone raising money and not preparing for debates or writing speeches or issue papers. That is a shame.
Fighting Bob Fest North will take on the money game this Saturday. We need a plan and a willingness to protect us from the Supreme Court and the Koch brothers.
Dave Obey, Mike McCabe and John Bonifaz will be joined by Tammy Baldwin, Ruth Conniff, Stan Gruszynski, John Nichols and me in Chippewa.
See you there.
May 17, 2011
Question: When do Democrats fight?
Answer: In primaries! Democrats appear to value friendships across the aisle to knock-down-drag-out battles with Republicans or the Tea party in support of Democrats. Obama is good at accepting less than the whole loaf so long as he can keep the GOP as friends: see public option, Gitmo, Afghanistan, etc. But let us look at federal judges--the one branch of government where compromise is less obvious and where winning the presidency should really matter.
Both of our senators were on judiciary committee; both supported Louis Butler's appointment to the federal bench and Victoria Nourse for the court of appeals, but neither went to the mat for Butler or Nourse and now it appears both will be denied the appointments. Why? Just as the GOP dictates budget priorities despite Democratic control of the Senate and White House, so Pat Leahy, chair of judiciary, won't approve Butler or Nourse. Why? Because Ron Johnson opposes the two (Butler is African-American) and Leahy won't move any nominee forward unless both senators in the state agree! For god's sake! With almost 90 vacancies in federal courts, will Obama hurry up and fill the vacancies? Or will Democrats abandon ship when it counts? Who wants a nomination if the party in power won't fight to confirm?
Water: Looking at the Mississippi in full force is scary. Somehow the picture of drought in China, occurring at the same time, should at minimum suggest we ask if climate change is having an impact.
May 16, 2011
Flood water is coming! Or is it?
Who knows what will happen if the GOP refuses to raise the debt ceiling? Well, Paul Krugman knows and he is not providing a comforting report. Sort of akin to sitting in your dry living room south of Memphis hoping that the Mississippi River does not rise high enough to take your dry living room to New Orleans. But the reports are not encouraging as the water keeps rising higher and higher.
If the debt ceiling isn't raised, one-third of the government's regular payments will stop. Really. Stop paying doctors and hospitals that treat Medicare patients or stop paying military contractors not to mention our soldiers? Both? Markets would probably crash, and if that is not enough to suggest you bury the good silver in the back yard, just wait, it will keep getting worse. At least rational people are trying to save homes in the flooded areas, indeed whole cities, but in Congress we find irrational ideologues, some of whom are gleeful because the federal government--the bums who won the Civil War--will soon be destroyed. Ah, revenge!
Sell the highways, the gold at Fort Knox, the parks and the airports...? They are nuts, but the inmates are running the asylum, and I hate to admit it but I'm scared. Obama seems like he wants to force the GOP to wake up, but he starts by warning Democrats to be flexible. Whoa Nelly.
Maybe some good news. Gingrich thinks Ryan's Medicare plan is too radical! He said that. Probaly not so radical that the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel will agree, but even getting to Newt is promisng. Maybe destroying our economy is a bit much for Newt and other old-style GOP. Let's hope!
May 15, 2011
No slice ball
I have played golf most of my life. I had a great teacher in Racine, Mike Bencrischutto, who tought me how to fade (minor slice) almost all shots. While the ball did not go as far with what was known as the "Hogan Fade" it rarely went out of bounds. In other words, the ball was under my control. Every time I stood to hit a drive, I knew where the ball would end up. (Well, almost every time.)
Now a new golf ball has come on line. The new ball will not slice period. No Hogan Fade, no duffer's banana ball. So the golfer can swing away at the ball without worrying about a slice. More distance, more control. Huzzah!
Ah, but purists will declare the ball illegal so only the cheaters will sneak the ball onto the tee. I thought about this when I read that Obama has yielded to the whining of the arrogant oil barons. He will permit more drilling in Alaska, experiment off the Atlantic coast, provide incentives for oil companies to move quickly and speed up the permit process. Egad! Speaker John Boehner smirked: "The president just conceded what his party in Capitol Hill denies: more American energy production will lower costs and create jobs."
I understand Boehner's gleeful response. Obama is, in fact, agreeing with the oil folks that $4 gas is a "supply-demand" problem not a greed problem. Whoa Nelly! But I must note that the environmentalists are too quiet. Audubon society said, in essence, "OK but be careful." Why so quiet?
Perhaps the Democratic progressives should stop worrying about Obama's re-election, study the non-"slice ball" formula, and figure out a way to put one on the tee for Obama. Stop hitting to the right! Hit it straight or hook to the left. Herb Kohl probably has a bagful of the new balls. Maybe he might drop off a dozen at the White House.
SECRET ARMY: Some liberal commentators were furious that a few on the left, like Michael Moore, were unimpressed that our president was cool, calm, calculating and happy that bin Laden was killed not captured. Ed Schultz was almost apoplectic that any Democrat would criticize the president for lack of due process or the precedent set that our country can take out any foe with a shot to the head.
I suspect you also have mixed feelings. Then today's NY Times has a headline story that that creep Erik Prince has a secret armed force in the Middle East paid for by the United Arab Emirates. Here is the kicker: "The gulf countries and the UAE in particular don't have a lot of military experience. It would make sense if they looked outside their borders for help." Who said that? It was "one Obama administration official who knew of the operation."
Catch this: "They might want to show that they are not to be messed with." Too close to "don't mess with Texas" for my comfort.
It was Blackwater, then Xe and now Reflex Responses. Any thoughts on how we should handle the Prince?
No Muslims need apply, because Muslims might be reluctant to kill Muslims. I am not making this up.
Obama said "anyone who opposed killing bin Laden should have his head examined." Well, anyone working with Erik Prince should have his politics examined.
Capitol Repair: Well, OK. DOA was off a tad with claim of $7.5 million in damages to the Capitol caused by the protesters. The spokesperson for Walker, Mike Huebsch, DOA (Dept of Propaganda), admits the "damage" is about $108,000 inside and $161,99 outside. And his nose grew seven inches during the announcement.
May 14, 2011
Save us Newt! Save us!
Gail Collins is a must read today. A couple of gems. Newt's latest book lists "Five principles for a successful life." Dream Big, Work Hard, Learn every Day, Enjoy Life, be true to yourself. Thank you, Newt. Oh, thank you! (My guess is hoarding money is probably his number 6.) But while you work on Newt's big five think about his important mission to "stop Obama's Secular-Socialist Machine." You can't make it up!
Why is this important? Well, Newt writes, that Obama's "machine" represents as great a threat to America as (sit down please) Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union once did."
Memo to Walker: Take a trip to Connecticut to learn how people can, in good faith, negotiate rather than dictate. The state and the unions negotiated and maintained "a cordial tone--without fireworks and without anger." Result? High morale, $1.6 billion in givebacks, trust maintained.
Herb Kohl's decision to pass on another term raises lots of questions about money. A Walker recall will be expensive; assuming he is recalled, the Democrats must have a candidate with high name recognition, experience, and a platform ready with horse saddled-up and ready to ride. Cost: I would say $25 million total:
The Senate race will be so expensive the quote from Mark Twain comes to mind: "If you must ask the price, you can't afford it." If the wax candidate Johnson spent $15-20 million to defeat Russ, my estimate is that the Koch folks will dump more than $35 million in that Senate race. The Democratic nominiee will need up to $25 million to be competetive.
Add up the probable cost of recalls and regular elections, and it is staggering. It used to be that the Party recruited candidates who would win or lose on issues but that was decades ago. Now the Party stands aside because is is all about money! Candidate Perfect must have millions of inherited bucks burning a hole in his pocket and a desire to run. Not many around.
The MJS, as usual, misses the real issue by naming the field without even mentioning the elephant in the room--money.
Think about the Democrats' dilemma. Then come to Fighting Bob Fest North next Saturday in Chippewa Falls where Dave Obey, Mike McCabe, Jon Boniface, John Nichols, Dave Zweifel, Stan Gruszynski will discuss the money issue and try to find a way to confront the corrupter.
May 13, 2011
Many of you were shocked to read the sad story of Florida State University's decision to, in essence, sell the FSU economics department to the Koch brothers for $1.5 million per year. Not "Atlas Shrugged" but "FSU Caved." Could it happen here? You bet!
Keep FSU and UW-Madison in mind while thinking about Scholastic Magazine's production and distribution of "The United States of Energy." . I don't have time to do all the reading I would like to do so I appreciated groups of educators raising hell about Scholastic Magazine. Who paid for the energy publication? Well, surprise, surprise, the American Coal Foundation picked up the tab. Where does the magazine go? To 90 percent of the classrooms in America--fourth graders mostly, at about the age when reading is exciting and the printed word takes on special significance to young minds.
The NY Times reports that the benefits of coal are praised in the publication, but there is no mention of toxic waste, mountain top removal and greenhouse gases. Nada! (I first learned about mountaintop removal from Bobby Kennedy's speech at Fighting Bob Fest five years ago. I was appalled. (Kennedy has produced a film, Last Mountain, that will spark renewed debate.)
Is the FSU sale different than the attempt by right-wing Wisconsin Policy Research Institute's effort to "partner" with the UW-Madison Political Science Department? The UW's lawyers say that plan is no longer. The contract is now with the professor who pushed his polling expertise to WPRI. Relax? Maybe. But not for long.
I believe the Walker administration would sell part or all of the UW to balance the budget. Why do I think that? Because almost half his draconian cuts are to education: UW, technical colleges and a billion from K-12. He don't like education!
Look at the Walker/Biddy Martin plan to privatize the Madison campus. The plan would allow the governor to appoint a majority of board members. Imagine the nominees! Fitzgerald, Jim Haney of WMC, and Mike Grebe of the Bradley Foundation come to mind.
So keep your eyes open. FSU could be the canary in the mine.
May 12, 2011
Catholics arise! Garvey invites Boehner
Well, OK, not this Garvey. It was John Garvey, Catholic University president, who invited the speaker to speak, but the headwinds were unexpected.
More than 75 professors at Catholic University and other prominent Catholic colleges signed a letter to Boehner saying that the Republican-supported budget will hurt the poor, the elderly and the vulnerable, and that he therefore has failed to uphold basic Catholic moral teachings. Huzzah! "Welcome to CU," Mr. Boehner. Welcome, but leave the Ryan "Path to Poverty" at home!
(Odd but true: I was an adjunct professor at CU for several years. Don't worry, I did not teach religion. Only Sports Law!)
May 11, 2011
Academic freedom for sale!
Catch this! Florida State University (FSU) has put a price tag on their Economics Department: $1.5 million per year to be paid by the Koch Brothers. Remember the call to Gov. Walker? "Hello, David..."
Well, FSU got a great idea. Let the Koch boys name the Econ faculty and the candidates for advanced degrees, and, hey! all's well! Almost. Followers of the libertarian philosophy--Ayn Rand & Cato Institute--the Koch's chosen faculty will train our economists of the future. I feel so good! FSU says it may offend some faculty but FSU will have the flexibility Biddy Martin wants at Walker University a/k/a University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Incredible. Martin, in a phone conference call using UW alumni phone information, said that it is OK that Walker would appoint a majority of board members under the Martin/Walker plan. (John Bascom must be rolling in his grave!) My bet is that the Koch brothers would make the appointments. Who would take down the plaque in Bascom Hall? Koch!
May 10, 2011
Doggone! Texas beat us again!
Just as the Wisconsin Republican legislators, in majority in both houses of our Legislature, were warming to the task of "Constitutional Carry" (see yesterday's blog post and enjoy the letters), Texas beats us to an important goal. Yes sir, a bill to allow concealed guns in public classrooms advanced in the Texas state Senate yesterday.
"Pop quiz, prof? I don't think so!"
Is Texas still trying to secede? Can we make a deal?
Whose dollar is it? Our phone rang at about 7:00. Not just any old cold call. No, this call was from the UW Alumni Association, inviting us to join thousands of alums in conversation with Biddy Martin in supporting the new Biddy/Martin/Scott/Walker Badger partnership. (You know it as Madison camus privatization.) The friendly (gushing) voice invited us to listen in on a conference call with Biddy Martin and we were urged to ask questions by punching '0' on the phone. So I did. Asked what my question would be, the gushing inviter suddenly sounded confused. My Q: "Biddy Martin reports to her boss, the Board of Regents. Since all Regents oppose this Walker/Martin Badger Partnership, how can she justfy using alumni funds and phone numbers to urge alums to defy her bosses?" That ended that! I waited about 50 minutes, listening to supportive voices from Sussex, Lake Geneva, Lake Mills; most asking, "Gee, Chancellor, how can we help you?" The answer was, "Call, write or meet your legislators"!
I have never experienced such a blatant misuse of UW property, phone numbers, or operators as this. And I cannot recall such an effort using public property for poltical ends. She would fire anyone ignoring her rules. Well, Regents?
Want to get angry? Read the N.Y. Times story today on use of "antipsychotic drugs" for the elderly. Some of the inappropriate use of antipsychotics in elderly nursing home patients is a result of drug makers paying kickbacks to nursing homes to increase prescriptions for the medicines. Problem? Oh just that the use of antipsychotics for those suffering from dimentia often causes death. One doctor said, and I am not makng this up, "Doctors want to maximize quality of life...even if that means the patient will die a bit sooner..." Whoa Nelly!
Even Charles Grassley called the report alarming. If it woke him, imagine how serious it is!
Delighted to report Dave Obey will speak at Fighting Bob Fest North on the May 21.
May 9, 2011
I say give them guns!
If concealed carry laws will reduce crime (and there is no causal relationship between concealed carry and crime rates that we know of), I say require every kid to carry heat to school! These kids owe us--we brought them into the world--now they should, at minimum, have a gun handy on the slides in case a kid jumps in line. Hey, a couple of shots will straighten out the whole lot!
The gun supporters call it--ready for this?--"Constitutional Carry." That means no strings attached. Anyone who could lawfully have a gun could carry it hidden. Oh, some pansies say not in church or school, courthouses, or police stations and, yup, the ultimate cave--guns would remain off limits in school. Why? Let's learn the hard way I say!
Worse, some weak-kneed liberals want to require a license, even gun safety training if you carry.
Now the really good news: We will be able to carry concealed tasers. One former gun trainer said people should not only get a permit and take a class, they sould be required to pass a proficiency test.
Let 'em shoot!
May 8, 2011
Bob Fest North
Won't be long until we meet in Chippewa Falls for Bob Fest North: May 21. We will, I predict, agree on a plan to restore the sanctity of the ballot; reverse Citizens United. Meanwhile, Walkerites are, according to AP, fast-tracking big bills to enact before the Republicans lose majority status in the Senate.
If you can spare a dime or two, Bob Fest North could use some help.
Concealed weapons, deregulation of the telephone industry, photo ID, expansion of vouchers: all issues should help Dems in the recall elections.
May 7, 2011
The right to vote
I think it was Stalin who said, "Doesn't matter who votes. It matters who counts the votes." And, predictably, the Soviet leaders were good "counters" because they consistently got over 90 percent of the "count." James Baker knew how to count in 2000 when they stole the election.
The Stalin quote comes to mind as the GAB is coming to the end of the Kloppenburg-Prosser recount. No, Prosser is not Stalin, but it was unseemly to read his threats leveled at his opponent should she ask for a recount under the procedures in our statutes. Prosser and his lawyer Jim Troupis said a recount would be frivolous! Oh well, if Prosser emerges the victor expect him to praise the recount.
None of us are are as cynical as Stalin, but I think we are moving in the direction of cynicism. Photo IDs will be required in, of all places, Wisconsin. And Walker and his Fitzers have decided a UW photo ID doesn't count! Why not? Because they want to discourage voters likely to vote for Democrats! Talk about cynical.
Arizona passed a state constitutional amendment requiring workers to have a secret ballot election before an employer could be unionized. The NLRB says that is a violation of federal law and is going to court. Why? The law should encourage voluntary recognition when the union can prove majority status. Of course!
Just short of despair that the Supremes will knock out public funding of campaigns to level the playing field, Alan Simpson writes a compelling op-ed piece in the Washington Post. Read and smile: Simpson calls public financing "long-overdue reform." He comments on the Citizens United decision, "Today the Supreme Court passionately defends the rights of a wealthy few to speak, and I say let 'em speak, but it seems oddly uninterested on allowing ordinary Americans the same opportunity."
The part I really smiled at was, "And corporations are free to spend unlimited sums to influence elections asserting a remarkable right of corporate personhood that I have yet to find in the Constitution." Well said, Alan.
Ah, yes, the right to vote! The franchise! Women had to fight against great odds for the right to vote for decades; African-Americans were often killed just for trying to vote. Bob Moses was a SNCC organizer who was pistol-whipped just for bringing blacks to register to vote!
And the Koch brothers and other top one-per-centers often render meaningless the right to vote by pre-selecting acceptable candidates so our right to vote is less important. Midge Miller used to say, "Let me set the field of candidates and I could care less who wins."
Many of us have been attending conferences, picketing, testifying, and fighting for fair elections for half a century. The Supreme Court, in some remarkable decisions that recall Dred Scott, have made reform damned near impossible. Here are some reasons for cynicism and some hope.
First, the bad: Scott Walker thinks you should have the right to choose a union or reject a union but that cynical so and so ruled that you, employees, must vote every year! Why? Obviously to distract the employees from effective bargaining.
I want the right to vote, same-day registration, expanded motor-voter, no photo IDs required, vote on a weekend when working folks can vote without permision, public financing of all elections. Keep corporations out of elections! I think we can handle democracy. Let's try it?
May 6, 2011
"Global corn prices doubled between April 2010 and April 2011." Who says? The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization. Wheat prices are up 80 percent.
Diversion of corn for ethanol is one reason. Hotter temperatures in Russia, China, Mexico and elsewhere have stunted growth. The warming of the earth has cooled the yield of corn and wheat. (See the report from Stanford University.) The author claims three decades of global warming crimped world-wide yields of corn and wheat, leading to escalating prices.
Are we paying attention? Of course not. We have bigger problems: Libya, Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan. And besides all that, the GOP does not believe that climate change is occurring. Egad!
I have avoided the discussion over the release or non-release of the Osama bin Laden photos. Could we please act like a mature society for a moment?
Now that bin Laden is dead, it is time to get our troops out of harm's way in Afghanistan. Bring them home. Bring them home!
This is "National Teacher Appreciation Week." Now that should be a fun day to spend with Scott Walker.
MPS is firing more than 1,000 employees. One thousand! Happy Teacher Appreciation Week to you. Response of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel? Too busy getting ready for Teacher Appreciation Week to look into the terminations.
May 21--Fighting Bob Fest North! See you there as we figure out how to save democracy.
May 5, 2011
The gods are crazy!
Republicans are rushing a bill to permit concealed-carry. You know. Weapons! Ah, but they will be careful, won't they? Well, not exactly. The latest proposals would eliminate the need for training! Why no training? The sponsor, Pam Galloway, said, "People who carry concealed guns are responsible people."
Wow! Let that settle in.
The other Republican sponsor said a hunting license should be enough. (I have a suspicion that Galloway and her colleagues have never fired a hand gun.)
Wisconsin State Prosecutors: Already under-staffed, prosecutors are near revolt over Walker's proposed budget cuts, salary reductions, furloughs and confusion over cost-savings. Dozens will be laid off and others forced to become part-time! The DAs are taking the position that the governor does not have the authority to impose layoffs and reductions.
While Walker tries to spin the crisis, one DA hit the nail on the head: "We will now be doing less with less." One prosecutor asked for guidance on "what crimes to not prosecute." (A referendum perhaps?)
Bad penny: Message to bloggers is don't scoop the "real" corporate newspaper, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Like a bad penny, they won't go away or even spend the time investigating a story. They will try to punish you naughty bloggers! (Yes, that includes you, Forbes magazine.) If you use a comma where a semi-colon is called for you may be found guilty by the political factoid police! But here is some hot news: Sykes is on board.
In the old days the proud JS told candidates that they paid no attention to Charlie Sykes even though they worked for the same media company. The editors jumped as if stuck by a pin when we complained that it was not fair to be attacked day-in-and-day-out WTMJ radio by Sykes of JS! Surely the editors would assign a reporter to check facts or fiction on the Sykes rants! No way, was the response. Why? Sykes may work for Journal Communications but we are not influenced by him! Period! And in fact the editors made it clear that they were not, in any way, responsible for his rants. Meaning that JS editorial policy would not seek balance in covering statewide races!
No fairness doctrine slop for them. Perhaps as penance they now try to be the journalist cops.
Back to Benton Harbor:
Recall Fighting-bob.com got a copy of an anonymous memo that "exposed" Walker, Mary Panzer, Foley & Lardner, and the Greater Milwaukee Committee of moving toward the Michigan plan used by Governor Snyder in Benton Harbor. "Oh no," cried Wolf-Walker; "Oh no" cried JS's whiner-in-chief Charlie Sykes; "We deny it," said Walker; and if Walker and fellow Journal Sentinel "journalist" Sykes deny it then it must be false. Not "pants on fire," but at a minimum, "not proved"
Then they get confused, mix fact with fiction and declare that while lots of dots are connected and suspicions are understandable, "A closer look at the evidence shows it's not as Machiavellian as Garvey claims." Really? MJS looked at evidence and declared FightingBob.com was slightly out of sync? Well there is that messy "stress test" but...but...but. And the website laying out plans for Milwaukee County, but...but....but that can be explained. OK, so Grebe was head of Foley and now runs the extreme right-wing Bradley Foundation and the anonymous memo said Foley was drafting the bill...See anything yet?
Julia Taylor of GMC says, "It’s very, very early in the process. At this point we don’t have draft language." (JS misses that "process" admission.) And she does not know who will introduce it, but exudes confidence it will be introduced.
And that was our position. "Introduced" presumably in the Legislature when the draft is ready. Really? Paul Revere should have added a footnote: "The British are coming...maybe."
Having graded hundreds of law school blue books, I give the JS a 65 on a scale of 100. Incomplete would probably be better, but unimpressive to be certain.
We invite Governor Walker to write an article that we will post on FightingBob.com, or to a debate on the Benton Harbor fiasco.
May 4, 2011
Relax--all will be well--Kyl is on the case!
OK, so scientists see dwindling ice in the Arctic with sea levels rising much faster than expected; that sea levels could rise by five feet this century inundating small islands and flooding NY subways. Problem? The expected rise of 35 to 63 inches by 2100 might be a problem, but Congress will certainly protect us. If climate change is the culprit, Congress will do something about global warming, don't ya think?
And the U.N. now predicts 10.1 billion people will occupy planet Earth by 2100. Oops! But family planning should help. Right? Last month, the NY Times points out, Congress in the budget bill cut international family planning by 5 percent. Think about it. Bright guys like Senator Jon Kyl are on top of this issue! The problem is Planned Parenthood!
While the planet runs out of water, clean air and food, Kyle & friends cut family planning! Yikes! Look at Yemen if you want a scary story. NYT reports Yemen's population quintupled since 1950 to 25 million. At the current rate Yemen's population will quadruple to 100 million by end of this century. Think there might be a food and water problem? And flooding and violent storms? Peace and stability in the Middle East?
Back to the reality show: Bin laden was armed; he was not armed; he was buried at sea because we had always planned to honor his family's religious preference; or was that a last minute decision? President watched in real time; president did not watch in real time. We may never know all the details, but get the story straight and please stop shouting "USA, USA, USA!" Please.
SURPRISE SURPRISE: The Army Corps of Engineers blew a mile-wide gap in a levee to save Cairo, Illinois. Today the report suggests that there will be more trouble down river. No kidding!
The battle to save the UW from the forces of darkness led by Biddy Martin and Scott Walker and supported by Barry Alvarez, the chair of Downtown Madison Inc. and almost no one else, is not dead yet. The Regents oppose it; the Legislature seems to oppose it; the other campuses don't approve of it; the students are angry.
May 3, 2011
Be careful Bishop
The Vatican, busy as beavers pushing sainthood for a former Pope (isn't being Pope enough for one man?), took time out to enforce some old Church rules. (Non-believers might enjoy this anecdote. Miracles must be performed in the name of the nominated saint or else he can't move upstairs. Pope John Paul was credited with curing a nun of Parkinson's disease. Irony of ironies: The Church opposes embryonic stem cell research that may someday cure Parkinson's. Oops! There goes another potential miracle.)
Bishop William Morris in Australia was fired because he suggested the Church leap into the 21st Century. Morris became a threat to "Mother Church" by calling for married priests and, of all things blasphemous, women priests! Whoa Nelly, Bishop Morris. The Vatican might be napping, but the men are not asleep. Women and married men need not apply. Out you go Bishop. Out you go!
Ideas are always dangerous. That is why we tolerated for a couple of decades the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). John Gilman of Milwaukee was wounded twice in World War II and received the Distinguished Service Cross for bravery. But Gilman, a socialist, like Bishop Morris, held views that challenged the status quo. HUAC subpoenaed John to testify against friends, but facing a threat of prison Gilman refused to testify. That took bravery and, to the credit of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the headline of Gilman's obituary was, "Death of WWII Hero who took on racism and fought for civil rights." Gilman marched with Father Groppi and Dismas Becker to fight segregation in Milwaukee.
John would have smiled had he lived to read the JS description. Thanks for your courage, John Gilman. Thanks. Groppi is gone, Gilman is gone, Dismas is gone. We need some new heroes.
May 2, 2011
Lawyers, lawyers every where but not even one to help poor Scott!
When Jim Doyle was Attorney General he would from time to time ask for added appropriations to hire more lawyers for special projects. Like clock-work, Tommy Thompson would chide the AG, "You have over 100 lawyers in the DOJ. Use them! How many lawyers do you need?" Then, after some sparing Tommy would often agree with Doyle, particularly if Doyle would agree to hire one of the conservative "Tommy-friendly" law firms as in the tobacco litigation where three Tommy-friendly firms almost got away wih more than $900 million in guaranteed fees from the state (until we stopped them).
Well, wait until Scott Walker finds out that we still have a Department of Justice, an Atttorney General and several lawyers assigned to DOT, DNR the governor's office itself, and other agencies that he might have consulted. He could have asked the MacIver Institute--named after a Tommy buddy at Michael, Best & Friedrich. He could have...but he didn't.
Boy oh boy will he be angry that he had to once again agree to hire GOP-friendly MB&F to look into legal action to arrest the Fab 14 when they went to Illinois. Just think, he will say, "We could have saved a bundle but, hey! We may have created some jobs!" He turned to Walker-friendly Jim Troupis at $375 per hour to research the law that a team of law students could have done just as well gratis! These were not particularly difficult issues, but MB&F charged us, the taxpayers, $26,955. Whoa Troupis! (More than the cost of repairs to shrubs at the Capitol!)
Don't you love it? Why the $955? Breakfast perhaps? MB&F is also getting $50,000 per month to gerrymander the state for Walker and the Fitzgerald boys. Isn't that enough?
I suggest you read Bill kraus's post this morning, "To Gerrymander or not to Gerrymander." Hint: MB&F favors gerrymandering wouldn't you at $375 per hour?
May 1, 2011
Bob Fest North--coming soon
Fighting Bob Fest began, as many of you know, as a celebration of the successful citizen opposition to Perrier's plans to take our spring water, package it under the Ice Mountain label, and sell it nationwide. We met in a restaurant in the Dells a few weeks after Perrier gave up and moved to Michigan.
The idea floated around the room and took shape as an annual fest, named after "Fighting Bob La Follette," to bring all environmental groups together once a year. Why? To get to know each other, to agree on a course of action to stop the theft of our natural resources and to protect our great state. The feeling was that every new battle to protect our state starts from scratch. We decided we should change that reality--develop a statewide taskforce to jump into battles like Perrier, Exxon mine, and opposition to the power lines all over the place.
If we called a meeting, would progressives respond? We didn't know, but thought it was worth a try. We rented the Sauk County fair grounds, invited Paul Simon to be the lead-off speaker. It clicked. About a thousand people came, the mood was great, the festival was fun. We voted to do it every year and number 10 will take place in Madison on September 17. We expect another big crowd--over 40,000 have attended past Fests and now, with Walker's anti-everything approach, the timing is perfect.
Last year we decided to have a smaller Fighting Bob Fest in Chippewa Falls on May 21 this year. Our focus will be on the efforts to demand fair and clean elections; examine the possible constitutional amendment to reverse the Citizens United decision; reversal of the Citizens Action decision; prepare for complete disclosure of campaign donations; and to take the spirit of Bob Fest all over the state of Wisconsin and beyond.
We have a great program for those attending. The local committee has done a great job of pulling this together while the demonstrations were happening in Madison. We are getting excited about the event. May 21. We also have worked with Nate Timm on a smaller Bob Fest in Mazomanie--and it has been terrific. So let's make Bob Fest North a great success and then think about Bob Fest South East, etc.
Check out the program, directions, and speaker bios at the Bob Fest North website. See you in Chippewa in a couple weeks.