Saturday, April 30, 2005

Remembering Vietnam

As a Vietnam veteran, I always take time whenever I am in Washington to stop at The Wall and pay my respects to friends whose names are there.

Today, the 30th anniversary of the end of the war, is a time to remember the 58,000 Americans who died there, the 300,000 others who were wounded, and the countless others whose lives were shattered, many of them permanently. This site The Wall USA is a good place to visit. Here is another moving tribute at the Vietnam Veterans Art Museum.

There is no similar site that I can find that honors the Vietnamese dead -- the combatants on both sides, and the civilians caught in the crossfire. It is difficult even to come by reliable estimates of casualties, but most say there were more than 1-million military deaths, and perhaps 500,000 civilians killed. Other estimates are much higher. Millions of others were wounded and many millions more were displaced from their homes. Take a moment to remember them today, too.

Blaming Scott Walker

Milwaukee County Exec Scott Walker has a history of blaming everyone else for the problems in county government.

During his reelection campaign last year, Walker blamed his troubles on ex-Exec Tom Ament, the county board, state government, Gov. Jim Doyle, and Walker's opponent, former state budget director David Riemer.

It was so pathetic that Riemer even had some fun with it, demonstrating the "Scott Walker coat of arms" -- crossing his arms in front of his chest with index fingers pointing the blame in both directions.

Now there's another county budget crisis -- the second in two years. Here's how the Journal Sentinel described it:

Milwaukee County's already bleak financial picture darkened considerably Thursday, with word that its tax-freeze 2004 budget is likely to close as much as $3 million in the red, and that looming problems in the '05 budget might prompt emergency cutbacks in social service programs.

The budget bombshell came amid a litany of reports of financial mismanagement, late-breaking disclosure of shortfalls, and departments stretched thin by retirements and budget cuts. It would mark the second successive deficit budget for County Executive Scott Walker and the County Board.

Walker, of course, blamed everyone else. And now he's found an apologist, Charlie Sykes, who writes a column taking the Walker line and blaming everyone else, starting with -- you guessed it -- Tom Ament. Anyway, Sykes says, the state's budget deficit is a lot bigger than the county's, so what's the big deal?

Well, Sykes has no trouble blaming Jim Doyle for the state deficit, even though he inherited it from some spendthrift Republicans named Tommy Thompson and Scott McCallum, and has already made great strides to fix the problems they left him.

Walker is the county executive, running for governor on a platform of fiscal responsibility and tax freezes. Repeat -- Walker IS the county executive. He is responsible for the mess, which is unprecedented.

The deficit is primarily due to management failures in programs like Family Care," which unexpectedly needed a property tax levy bailout last year after management shortcomings caused state officials to withhold payments and demand funds back," the JS reported. Family Care was $4.2 billion in the whole last year.

The rent assistance program, because of what the JS described as "a fumbled leadership transition," left a $775,000 deficit.

There's more, and yes, the county board probably deserves at least some of the blame. There is more than enough to go around. But Tom Ament has long ago left the building, and trying to pin it all on him just won't work any more.

The real question for the voters: If Walker can't run a $1 billion dollar government, why would we think he could run a $22 billion one? The original JS story.

Friday, April 29, 2005

Walker gets his whitewash

Milwaukee County's Election Commission, predictably, says Exec Scott Walker did nothing wrong when he used taxpayer money to urge people to vote "yes" on a risky bonding scheme voters rejected in April.

Predictably because the commission chair, a Republican leader and Walker appointee, had announced that Walker was innocent even before he had any of the facts.

Douglas Haag, the chair in question, said elected officials are expected to provide constituents with information on important issues. Apparently in Haag's view that includes telling them how to vote, at taxpayer expense.

The memo was e-mailed by a county employee, Fran Rudig, who works in Walker's county executive office. It urged a "yes" vote in both the first and last paragraphs. Story.

One election commissioner, Judith Mount, correctly said that she didn't think the commission had jurisdiction to act on the issue. The proper place for the issue is the district attorney's office, where several county supervisors filed a complaint this week.

See earlier posts on April 20 and 21 for background.

Boys, boys! Play nice!

Mark Green's not even officially in the gov's race yet and already the Repubs have started to snipe at each other.

It is more than 16 months to the '06 primary, but Green and Scott Walker can't wait to go after each other.

The 3-way Dem primary in '02 (Jim Doyle, Kathleen Falk and Tom Barrett) was notable for its civility. It was not without tension, but it never took on the nasty tone that family fights sometimes do.

Then there are Walker and Green.

Walker rushes a poll into the media just days before Green is going to announce his candidacy, showing Walker with a 36-25 lead among GOP primary voters. The release goes out of its way to say that Green has essentially been running for two years, has a staff (Walker doesn't), et cetera et cetera. In other words, a poke in the eye.

Green's campaign manager pokes right back,saying Walker's wasting money on polling now,and has "lost focus on what matters most to voters in Wisconsin. I’ll give them a hint – it’s not a poll 18 months before an election... Polls won’t be beat Jim Doyle – organization and resources will. That’s where our focus has been, and it’s why Green has $1.3 million in the bank and Walker has only $100,000."

(Actually, the real reason Green has $1.3-million in the bank is that he raised it for his Congressional campaign, including $800,000 in special interest money from groups who which could not legally contribute to the governor's' race. Green used a loophole in state law to convert it to his governor's campaign fund.)

So, go to it, boys. Mix it up. Score some body blows, and bloody each other up.

The Democrats will hold your coats.

Supporting the troops

Two quick items: One about how DOD Secretary Rummy is playing political games with the pay of American military forces in

The other: The roll call vote last week on appropriating money to produce armored Humvees. Look at the ayes and nays, and then look at the Rs and Ds in the nay column. It is instructive. Roll call.

Hammer the Hammer

Tom DeLay, nicknamed The Hammer, has been hammering us for years in Congress.

Now, your chance to hit back. Hammer the Hammer.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Oh, sh*t, it's Shirley

This Journal Sentinel blog item deserves a wider audience:

Fitzgerald flunks 'live microphone' test

State Supreme Court Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson made a surprise visit Tuesday to the Joint Finance Committee, but she didn’t get quite the response she’s used to from legislators.

When she walked in the room, committee co-chairman Sen. Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) – in front of a live microphone – uttered a four-letter word that starts with “S” and is something you wouldn’t want to step in. His comment was broadcast over the Internet and on internal radios throughout the Capitol.

The committee was in the midst of discussing whether to trim more than $100,000 from the Supreme Court's $50 million two-year budget. A federal grant that pays for setting standards for court interpreters is expiring, and Abrahamson has asked the state to pick up those costs. Some committee members said the court should be able to find money to cover those costs within its existing budget.

Abrahamson’s presence heightened the tension over the issue, and the committee ended up taking no action on the matter Tuesday. It will likely consider what to do with the courts when it resumes its deliberations Thursday.

During Tuesday’s debate, Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Madison) asked to speak to Abrahamson since she was in the room. Rep. Dean Kaufert (R-Neenah), the other committee co-chairman, denied that request because of the precedent it could set. Then, with a sheepish smile, he quickly added, “But we’re glad she’s here.”

- Patrick Marley

Free markets at work

The New York Times on President W's new energy plan to let the government (read taxpayers) underwrite the risk of building those risky nuclear plants:

President Bush presented a plan on Wednesday to offer federal risk insurance to companies that build nuclear power plants and to encourage the construction of oil refineries on closed military bases in the United States.

Building more nuclear power plants has long been a part of Mr. Bush's energy policy, but offering federal risk insurance to companies or investors willing to try to get approval for them is new. In his speech, Mr. Bush said that his goal was to reduce uncertainty in the building and regulatory process, and to protect companies from construction delays beyond their control.

Mr. Bush noted that the United States had not ordered a new nuclear power plant since the 1970's, and that since then 35 plants were stopped at various stages of construction because of bureaucratic delays.

"No wonder the industry is hesitant to start building again," he said.

Those "bureaucratic delays" are usually over little things like safety issues. The NYT story.

Meanwhile, tucked away as a short "briefing" item in today's Times is this: "A federal judge has ordered the Energy Dept. to explain why it believes that it will ever be able to open the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository. . . The Energy Dept. was supposed to begin taking the waste about five years ago, but that has not occurred because of delays in opening the Yucca repository . . . In her ruling, [the judge] said there was no evidence Yucca Mountain would ever be licensed."

Another of those pesky bureaucratic delays.

Falk makes herself a target

Dane County Exec Kathleen Falk tells the Capital Times that a lot of people are talking to her about running for attorney general and "no one has told me not to" run. "Not one person," she said.

Prediction: That will spark an effort by Peg Lautenschlager friends to tell Falk not to run.

Another prediction: Ed Garvey will be the first, with John Nichols and the Cap Times not far behind. Look for Barbara Lawton to weigh in, too. And Peg herself, of course.

Here's hoping this will make many more tell Falk she should run. Cap Times story

UPDATE: OK, at least one prediction was wrong. The Cap Times weighs in today with a reasoned editorial that says very nice things about Falk and simply urges that she decide sooner rather than later whether to run for AG. The thing is, it is all presented in terms of Falk challenging Lautenschlager in a Dem primary. What should happen is for Lautenschlager to face reality, realize she can't be re-elected, and step aside. That would serve the greater good. And maybe it will actually happen. Falk would be a formidable general election candidate. Today's editorial

UPDATE 2: Garvey stops short of telling Falk not to run, but gives a whole-hearted endorsement to Lautenschlager and, as usual, misses no opportunity to bash Doyle. His general premise is that if you win an election or raise any money -- Russ Feingold's winning $10-million campaign notwithstanding -- you must have sold out. Garvey blog

Repubs in retreat?

House Republicans, usually so full of themselves they'll cram whatever they please down the throat of the minority Dems, have done a complete reversal on ethics rules, which they had changed to try to shield their leader, Tom DeLay.

There are signs on the Senate Finance Committee that GOP support for Bush's Social Security changes is weakening, and the votes may not be there to force straight party-line passage.

And John Bolton's nomination as UN ambassador may be in trouble in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, again because some Republicans are wavering.

Mandate or no mandate, when it comes to politics the first rule is self-preservation, and when the leadership, whether in the Congress or the White House, gets crossways with public opinion, all bets are off.

Walker to hold out, Green arrested

Jim Rowen, the Milwaukee writer and WisPolitics contributor, says that when he saw that headline on an online news digest, he thought Gov. Jim Doyle was home free for re-election.

Then he realized it was the Packers news.

Back online -- the 60-second bite

This site is not only up and running, but has some fun new material. Check it out. is a new generation public affairs news & opinion web site - democracy in 60 seconds or less. At a time of ever-expanding, text-driven political sites, was launched in 2005, as the world's first portal to short, intriguing and entertaining "viditorials" (video editorials). The primary content on consists of issue-focused, opinion & parody content created by both staff and outside contributors.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

The secret budget

From WisPolitics budget blog:

Budget deliberations hit a severe snag [Tuesday] afternoon as several items, mainly dealing with court issues, were set aside and the JFC wrestled behind closed doors for two hours with how to handle a list of DNR funding votes. . .

. . .The co-chairs, staff and other legislative leadership scuttled in and out of a closed door meeting, always being careful not to reach a quorum, as they tried to hammer out a motion.

So if there are 16 members of Joint Finance and 12 are Republicans, eight of the Repubs can meet without being a quorum, then shuffle a few people in and out so there is a different set of eight. Without ever having a quorum, they could easily reach a consensus and put together a majority vote. Does that sound like an open meeting or like open government?

When will someone -- the newspapers, the Democrats, the public -- speak up?

Obey: 'I wrote the ethics code'

Rep. Dave Obey tells the Appleton Post Crescent that he authored the ethics code prohibiting lobbyists from paying for Congressional travel, and he's not happy about the way the travel story is being reported. (See yesterday's post about Sensenbrenner below.)

“I wrote the code of ethics that you are now using to write these stories,” said Obey. “I wrote the disclosure requirement and it bugs the hell out of me that the press doesn’t have the institutional memory to remember that.”

Most of Obey's trips have been paid for by the Aspen Institute, a non-profit think tank, not by groups which employ lobbyists.


Voter ID: Where is the fraud?

Legislative Republicans continue to try to milk the media -- and bilk the public -- on voter ID, hand-delivering their latest bill to Gov. Doyle's office. Cute.

That will undoubtedly help a lot, delivering it personally, don't you think?

Governor Doyle has said as clearly as humanly possible that he will veto this bill, because it will make it harder for many Wisconsinites to vote, and will keep some from voting altogether.

Republicans don't get that argument, because their goal is to keep people from voting and reduce the turnout, especially among the poor and riffraff who are more likely to vote for Democrats.

The state GOP has already admitted this is just step one. The next would be to eliminate registration at the polls on election day. That would greatly reduce the number of people voting, but, again, that is their goal. (Why not just pass a poll tax; that would be more honest and maybe help balance the budget.)

A couple of points need to be made about the voter photo ID bill.

One is that, despite all sorts of wild claims by Repubs, no one has produced any evidence of voter fraud in the last election. Some investigations are still underway, and maybe something will turn up. But if it they find anything it will be an isolated case or two, not widespread fraud.

State Sen. Neal Kedzie says: "The people in my hometown of Elkhorn or in the city of Delafield must be certain that when they go to the polls to cast a ballot, their vote actually counts! That is not happening now and voter ID will change that." Why aren't their votes counting now, and how will voter ID change that? Blather, blather, blather.

More importantly, no one has identified a single case of fraud where a voter ID would have prevented it. Some felons apparently voted, for example, but they used their own names, and unless their ID cards had "FELON" stamped on they would have been able to vote anyway.

Nearly six months have passed since the presidential election, and we are still waiting for the GOP to produce a single case of fraud -- let alone one that would have been prevented by requiring a photo ID.

This is partisan politics, pure and simple. Unfortunately, it is an issue on which it is easy to demagogue, and the GOP is more than happy to do that.

National ID card coming?

Meanwhile, none other than our old friend F. Jim Sensenbrenner is leading the charge to ram through passage of a "Real ID" law, which he says would fight terrorism but many other say would virtually create a new national identification card.

The House GOP attached the bill to a must-pass Iraq appropriations package, so it has had no hearings or debate in Congress.

Boston Globe story

The National Governors Assn. and National Council of State Legislators are among groups opposing it. More on the bill.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Chernobyl annniversary: Land of the dead

A report from The Guardian on the anniversary of the April 26, 1986 disaster in the Ukraine. Food for thought as the campaign continues to bring nuclear power back into the mix in the US.

Sensenbrenner frequent (free) flyer

A non-partisan good government group has just released a report on members of Congress who have had their travel paid for by private corporations and non-profits.

Ranking No. 1 in the last five years: Wisconsin Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner, chair of the House Judiciary Committee.

Sensenbrenner has taken 19 trips valued at about $168,000. That's much bigger than the tab run up by the ethically challenged Tom DeLay, with 14 trips costing $95,000.

Where'd he go? Like the old song, "I Been Everywhere, Man" -- I been to Tokyo, Munich, Vegas, New Orleans; Paris, Brussels, Singapore and Vegas (again); Hong Kong, Singapore, Taipei, Bangkok; and a whole lot of other places, too.

Who paid the tab? Groups that have been known to have some interest in legislation -- National Assn. of Broadcasters, National Cable and Telecommunications Assn., the International Management and Development Institute; even the Islamic Free Market Institute Foundation. (Lobbyists are barred from paying for trips. But organizations which pay lobbyists are not. Quite a loophole.)

His wife, Cheryl Warren, tagged along to Qatar, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Germany, France, Taiwan, Thailand, New Orleans and Las Vegas (twice).

It seems fair to point out that Sensenbrenner is not someone who needs subsidy. He's one of the heirs to the Kimberly Clark paper fortune; his grandfather invented Kotex. ("I've always been glad he didn't call them Sensenbrenners," F. Jim has been known to say in a rare moment of humor). With a net worth in the $10-million range, he could easily pay his own way. But he is notoriously tight-fisted with his personal finances.

So if the Recording Industry of America wants to pony up $11,685 to send him on a fact-finding trip to Taipei and Bangkok, why not take the freebie? No matter that the committee he chairs has jurisdiction over copyright issues, of no small concern to that group.

Sensenbrenner wasn't the only Badger traveling, but his total trips and costs dwarf the others.

David Obey took 13 trips at a cost of $73,299. Paul Ryan took 6 at a cost of $25,303. Tom Petri took 13 at a cost of $19,304. Mark Green took 2 at a cost of $15,318. Tammy Baldwin took 12 at a cost of $29,340. Ron Kind took 2 at a cost of $3,030. And Russ Feingold took 2 at a cost of $1095.

The names of Tom Barrett, Jerry Kleczka, and Herb Kohl did not turn up in the list, which covered 2000-2005, when all of them were serving.

Here's the full report. And a USA Today story.

In a related story, Members of Congress are rushing to amend their travel and campaign records, fearing that the controversy over House Majority Leader Tom DeLay will trigger an ethics war that will bring greater scrutiny to their own travel and official activities, the Washington Post reports. Story

UPDATE: Sensenbrenner leads the national AP story.

Walker campaign in wonderland

WisPolitics asked the Scott Walker and Mark Green campaigns for gov to give 10 reasons their candidate was better than the other and should win the primary.

My favorite, from the Walker camp:

8) Walker has already beaten the Doyle team. Fearing the looming Walker-Doyle match-up, the governor hand-picked David Reimer, his budget director, to challenge Scott. Bill Christofferson, Doyle's right-hand political strategist, ran the race. Reimer was crushed.

I've read it carefully, and I can only find one true sentence: I did, indeed "run" the race as the general/media consultant for Riemer.

As for the rest: Not a word of truth. They couldn't even spell Riemer right.

Doyle certainly does not "fear" a matchup with Walker. Personally, I think Dems who crossover to vote in the GOP primary next year should give Walker a boost; he's very beatable statewide.

Doyle not only did not "hand pick" Riemer, but did not find out Riemer was running until the night before Riemer told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Riemer, a first-time candidate running against a well-funded incumbent, lost the race. No surprise there. Walker got 57%. Decisive? Yes. Surprising? No. Crushed? Not exactly. It may have been closer if the news media had not been so preoccupied with the mayor's race. The Journal Sentinel didn't report until after the election on Walker's failure to keep his promises on pension reform and his attempt to cover that up and violate the open record law.

Finally, I am not part of the "Doyle team" for 2006, as everyone (except Walker, I guess) has known for a long time. I have retired from candidate campaigns and am focused on issue advocacy. Riemer is a longtime friend, and I helped him a year ago, but have not worked for any candidates since. Walker & Co. have never faced, let alone beaten, the Doyle re-election team, which will be formidable.

But never let the facts get in the way of a spin job.

Master of doubletalk

Wonder where the Bush administration gets those great Orwellian names for its programs, like the Clear Skies plan that would make the air dirtier?

Check out this item on Wonkette about GOP pollster and wordmeister Frank Luntz, then go to the "Hall of Same" link and watch Luntz's performance on The Daily Show.

Monday, April 25, 2005

GOP v. minimum wage: A mystery

Lest there be any doubt that Wisconsin Republicans are on the wrong side of the minimum wage issue, a recent poll shows overwhelming support for raising the rate.

Most significant is that the support was across the political spectrum.

Overall, 603 respondents to the statewide survey favored the raise by a 71-12 margin, with 16% undecided.

Among those who did have an opinion the results were remarkable. Republicans favored it 73-27, independents 83-17, and Democrats 97-3.

People who describe themselves as conservatives support the raise 71-29, with moderates at 89-11 and liberals at 96-4.

State Senate Republicans have blocked the bill to raise the rate from $5.15 to $6.50, and have sent it off to a committee chaired by State Sen. Tom Reynolds, who refuses to even hold a hearing.

Those Republicans are tone deaf to their own base. Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce (WMC) support the raise, as does the Wis. Merchants Federation, Wis. Restaurant Assn., and other business groups. Business and industry were members of the committee that recommended the raise.

And now Republican voters across the state say they support it by a margin of almost 3 to 1.

It is hard to understand what purpose the GOPers think they're serving. It is not even in their own self-interest to block the raise. The more they stall, the more it looks like a simple case of meanness.

The poll was done by a class of undergraduates at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Although student polls are always somewhat suspect, the results in this case are so clear that even if the margin of error is high the results would still heavily favor the raise.

Poll results.

Meanwhile, in another setback for the GOP, a Dane County circuit judge has upheld the local minimum wage ordinance passed by the City of Madison.

Madison, Milwaukee and LaCrosse have passed their own wage ordinances because of a lack of state action, and in hopes of putting some pressure on the legislature to act. No one really wants different rates every time you go from one community to another. But if the legislature won't do the right thing, we can expect more communities to act.

As a reaction, Republicans have been pushing a bill to outlaw local minimum wage ordinances, which would remove the pressure point in future sessions. The Gov has promised to veto that bill.

Which brings us back to the main question: Why doesn't the GOP just do the right thing and pass the bill recommended by the advisory committee to begin with?

With poll numbers like the ones we saw this week, you can bet Dems will use the issue to beat Repubs over the head in the '06 campaign.

What's with the GOP? Why are they so wrong-headed on this issue? What am I missing?

UPDATE: Another take on the subject from Tom Sheehan of the LaCrosse Tribune. Link

Vote for your favorite DeLay billboard

Democracy for America has received more than 20,000 suggestions for slogans to use in a billboard campaign the group plans to do in Texas, home of Tom DeLay.

They have winnowed it down to 30. Vote now. Without DeLay.

Go to list.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Green doesn't get it

So I wondered the other day (see April 22 posting below) how Rep. Mark Green could propose a ban on oil and gas drilling in the Great Lakes but support drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

A Green staffer had this explanation for the Journal Sentinel:

Green spokesman Luke Punzenburger said that compared with the Alaska refuge, the impact of a potential oil spill on an inland body that provides drinking water for 30 million Americans would be "substantially greater."

So that's the difference. There are people here. The concept of preserving wilderness, or natural habitat for wildlife, seems to have escaped Green entirely. It's population that counts.

That the explanation came on Earth Day makes it even more tragic.

Green wants to be governor. Do you suppose we'd still have a stewardship fund? Would he see any point in preserving any land that is inhabited only by wildlife, where no people live?

Ms. Right, legs and all

Ann Coulter, right-wing pinup, makes the cover of Time, skinny legs and all. In fact, her skinny legs dominate the cover.

Politics aside, let's get down to the basic question: Does she have an eating disorder or what?

And what makes those church-goin', Bible-thumpin' conservatives think she's sexy? Is it the way she talks dirty,using words like "slander" and "treason" when she talks about liberals and anyone who doesn't agree with her? Ah, yes. Abuse 'em, baby. Whip 'em with your words.

No accounting for taste, I guess.

Are these comments sexist? They could have been -- if Coulter hadn't branded herself as a sex symbol, so she could spout ridiculous right-wing rhetoric and talk her way into the Club because the men who run the neocon movement (and the media, apparently) are too distracted by her short skirts to listen to what's coming out her mouth.

When Mom said she hoped you'd meet Ms. Right, this isn't who she had in mind.

Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post has more.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Gaylord Nelson rises to the occasion

This is an Earth Day story that slipped through the cracks.

Gaylord Nelson, the former Wis. governor and US Senator who founded Earth Day in 1970, is in failing health and was unable to make any Earth Day speeches or appearances this year, although he did issue a "Call to Arms" statement which ran in many newspapers.

He has basically been homebound except for doctor appointments for the last two months.

But on Friday, Earth Day, Nelson attended a ceremony at the school of his 6-year-old grandson, Ben, in Kensington, MD.

Ben's first grade recycling team won an award, the kids sang a song to Nelson, the Montgomery County exec said a few words, and they all planted a tree.

It was undoubtedly the quietest Earth Day Nelson has spent, but the tradition endures with a new generation of young people who will grow up with an understanding of the environment and their responsibility to protect and preserve our natural resources. That is the enduring legacy of Earth Day and Gaylord Nelson.

Nelson's Earth Day expedition was revealed in a letter to students at a Milwaukee school, which had invited him to visit. Letter.

UPDATE: Photo and news story from Washington Examiner.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Mark Green: Environmental phony

On the eve of Earth Day, Congressman and gov hopeful Mark Green issued a news release praising the energy bill passed by the House of Representatives.

He had this to say: “Although I am generally pleased by the passage of the energy bill, it nevertheless contains some disappointing provisions, and I will be working expeditiously in the weeks to come to improve the bill even further. In particular, I plan to push for the inclusion of a ban on oil and gas drilling in the Great Lakes. The Great Lakes represent a critical and treasured part of our environment, our economy and our identity. The risks drilling poses to the lakes are unacceptable."

Too bad Green doesn't have the same concerns about drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. There was a straight up-and-down vote on an amendment to take out the language that allows the Arctic drilling to proceed.

The Arctic drilling language stayed in by a 231-200 margin. Roll call. Six Wisconsin House members, including Repubs Tom Petri and Jim Sensenbrenner, voted against the drilling. Mark Green and Paul Ryan voted to allow it.

Wash Post story on the bill.

Happy Earth Day

Some environmental reading for your spare moments today. Link

Budget trainwreck could derail Walker

Scott Walker's new slogan -- "I'm from Milwaukee County and I want to help you balance your budget" -- may not work in the governor's race.

Dave Umhoefer reports in a top-line Journal Sentinel story today:

Milwaukee County's already bleak financial picture darkened considerably Thursday, with word that its tax-freeze 2004 budget is likely to close as much as $3 million in the red, and that looming problems in the '05 budget might prompt emergency cutbacks in social service programs.

The budget bombshell came amid a litany of reports of financial mismanagement, late-breaking disclosure of shortfalls, and departments stretched thin by retirements and budget cuts. It would mark the second successive deficit budget for County Executive Scott Walker and the County Board.

Walker, as usual, tried to point the finger at everyone but himself. That has been his style since taking the office;; nothing is ever his fault.

At least one county supervisor, Michael Mayo, wasn't going to let Walker blame others: "Poppycock," responded Mayo, who is chairman of the board's Economic Development Committee. "If he would stop running for governor and keep his eye on Milwaukee County, he'd have a handle on what this government is all about. If his people were distracted from doing their work, they should not be there."

The whole story

UPDATE: As predicted, the Walker news release blaming the County Board and State of Wisconsin but taking no responsibility himself. Classic Walker.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Politicians out of touch? Impossible

Jonathan Weisman and Dan Balz write in today's Washington Post that Congress is out of tune with the voters:

Inflation and interest rates are rising, stock values have plunged, a tank of gas induces sticker shock, and for nearly a year, wages have failed to keep up with the cost of living.

Yet in Washington, the political class has been consumed with the death of a brain-damaged woman in Florida, the ethics of the House majority leader, and the fate of the Senate filibuster.

The disconnect between pocketbook concerns of ordinary Americans and the preoccupations of their politicians has helped send President Bush's approval ratings on the economy down, while breeding discontent with Congress. The problem has yet to grow into a political wave that could sweep significant numbers of lawmakers from power next year, but both parties face risks if they fail to pivot their attention to economic issues.

Question: Do you see any parallels in the Wisconsin legislature?

The whole Post story

Great idea -- well, not quite

This story on the Journal Sentinel news blog Wednesday made me sit up and take notice.

Wi-Fi service now available at airport

Wireless Internet access is now available to airline passengers flying through Milwaukee's Mitchell International Airport.

The service, also known as Wi-Fi, "will be a tremendous help to those travelers who depend on the Internet to conduct business and stay in touch with the office," Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker said in a statement today.

The high-speed service, offered through Sprint PCS, is offered in all airport passenger areas except Concourse C, where it will be available when that concourse renovation is finished. Travelers will need a Wi-Fi card or mobile device embedded with Wi-Fi technology in order to take advantage of the service.

What a great idea, I thought. Passengers trapped for an hour or more after their early check-ins will be able to go online, do some work, surf the web, do some e-mail, or download some porn. (OK, no porn. Just checking to see if you were still reading.) The City of Milwaukee already has free wireless access in Cathedral Square and Pere Marquette Park. It is a growing phenomenon.

But then came this kick in the head:

Users are greeted by the MKE portal page that provides free information, including real-time flight data. The service costs $9.95 for 24 hours of unlimited access, or unlimited access for $49.95 per month.

At $9.95 to access it for an hour, I guess I will stick to reading other people's leftover newspapers while sitting at the gate.

The Walker whitewash, Chapter 2

So the Milwaukee County Election Commission, whose chairman already has decided in advance that Scott Walker (who appointed him) is in the clear, will "review" (not investigate) whether Walker broke the law by using taxpayer money to urge a "yes" vote on a bond referendum.

There is a serious question on whether the commission even has jurisdiction. More likely, the issue should go to the district attorney.

But Walker wants a whitewash in a friendly forum, and Chairman Doug Haag seems eager to pick up the brush. Story

(Also see earlier post on April 20, below)

Compassionate conservatism at work

Did he really say that? Quotes that will come back to haunt the GOP:

"Trick or treat's in October. You just can't give away candy to every special-interest group out there." -- State Rep. Dean Kaufert, co-chair of the Joint Finance Committee, which is considering the state budget.

And this: "The Democrats aren't the only ones who care about poor people and those who are less fortunate. We do, too."

The "special-interest" comment came in response to Gov. Jim Doyle outlining budget priorities: 2/3 state funding of schools, expanded 4-year-old kindergarten and smaller class sizes through the SAGE program, protecting health care programs like Medicaid, BadgerCare and SeniorCare, and maintaining shared revenue payments to support vital local services.

So who are the special interests? Parents? Kids? Local property taxpayers? The poor, elderly, and disabled? Police officers and firefighters?

Can't wait to hear more from Kaufert and his colleagues on the subject. Story.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

An attack of conscience

Senate Republicans were poised to ram the nomination of John Bolton as UN ambassador through committee on a party-line vote, but something got in the way and the vote was delayed.

The NY Times reports:

Among those with second thoughts was Senator George V. Voinovich of Ohio, who stunned other committee members on Tuesday by announcing he wanted more time. "My conscience got me," he said after the two-hour session.

This may be even a more remarkable statement from Voinovich, a Republican who had been expected to follow the party line and vote to advance Bolton's name:

He said he had gone to the meeting planning to vote for Mr. Bolton, but changed his mind after hearing the case against the nominee made by Senators Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware and Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut, both Democrats.

In these times, when committee hearings and floor debates are generally staged events for people to give their prepared remarks and cast their predictable, fore-ordained votes, it is refreshing to think that debate can still change minds.

Don't be surprised if Voinovich is able to dull his conscience by the time the vote comes around. He will be under tremendous pressure to vote with the President and his party.

But for today, enjoy this breath of fresh air.

UPDATE: BUSH ALLIES WILL MAKE VOINOVICH PAY. Here's the negative ad, all ready to roll.

Walker wants whitewash

Milwaukee County Exec Scott Walker broke the law in promoting a risky bond scheme rejected by the voters two weeks ago. At least that's the way it looks on its face.

Walker wrote a memo on county letterhead urging a "yes" vote on the referendum.

The memo was e-mailed by a county employee, Fran Rudig, who works in Walker's county executive office. Presumably it went out widely, although it is unknown (at least to me) what list was used for distribution. The Journal Sentinel says it went to the Greater Milwaukee Committee and other businesses.

But it clearly was done at taxpayer expense. And it clearly urged voters to vote "yes," in the first paragraph and again in the last paragraph.

Four county supervisors complained that Walker had cross the legal line in using taxpayer money to tell taxpayers how to vote.

Kevin Kennedy, executive director of the State Elections Board, says: "If you spend public money to say vote yes or no, that's a violation of the public trust doctrine." That sounds pretty clear-cut.

But Walker doesn't want Kennedy's opinion. He has asked for a review by the County Elections Commission, and says he will abide by their judgment.

No wonder! Back to the newspaper story:

Election Commission Chairman Doug Haag, a Walker appointee, immediately pronounced his preliminary opinion that Walker had violated nothing. Haag said he had not read Walker's written request and was unfamiliar with the facts but felt that there likely was no problem. The dispute might not even have to come to the full commission, he said.

Haag, a Republican Party leader in the county and active Walker supporter, said he had received a heads-up from the county executive's office about the dispute.

So Haag, who's made up his mind to clear Walker before knowing any facts, says he might not even ask the rest of the Election Commission what they think.

There's one problem. Kennedy pointed out that this type of violation is not in the jurisdiction of the state or county elections commissions. It belongs with the District Attorney.

That is where it should go, despite Walker's attempt to name his own judge and jury by sending it to Haag and his commission. They should send it to the DA, where it belongs.

Debate a draw; both lose

In a little back and forth between two southside Milwaukee Dems over the voter ID bill, neither State Sen. Tim Carpenter nor State Rep. Pedro Colon exactly covered himself with glory.

Colon complained that Carpenter's vote with Republicans to require photo IDs to vote would prevent many people in his district from voting. Carpenter's response: At least he voted; Colon missed the Assembly vote on the bill. Colon's explanation? He had to catch a plane for a family vacation.

Can't wait for Colon to challenge Carpenter in 06, if the debates would be that amusing.


"You Go, America!'

Donald Rumsfeld says he's thrilled by Iraqis urging on the USA with shouts of, "You Go, America!"

For details, see The Borowitz Report.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Sykes writes ( and wrongs)

This from WTMJ talker Charlie Sykes:


". . . buried deep inside Governor Doyle's budget was an interesting power grab. Doyle wanted to shift the power to select the state's "official newspaper" from the legislature to the administration. The official paper gets all of the state's notices and is the paper of record, a plum designation that is worth (I'm told) about $10 million a year. That's a rather generous carrot (or stick) the governor could use to help nudge newspapers who might be tempted to be too critical... The current official newspaper is the Wisconsin State Journal, a Madison daily, but Capitol buzz had it that Doyle might be inclined to ship the business over to the much-friendlier Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

"Not surprisingly, GOP legislators stripped the item from the budget."

As usual, there are two sides to every story. (C'mon, Charlie, "Capitol buzz"?) This wasn't a power grab by Doyle, so he could give it to some friendly newspaper. What Doyle did want to do was award the newspaper contract by competitive bidding, instead of letting the legislature's GOP leadership award it without bids.

A $10-million a year contract with no bids? Doyle's mistake (or his budget office's) was in not attaching a cost savings to the proposal. It was actually a budget item, not a policy item, but it was removed from the budget. Let's hope it comes back as a separate bill, so GOP leaders John Gard and Dale Schultz can explain why it shouldn't be put out for bids.

Now back to Sykes: "But the larger question is this: why is the state still spending $10 million on a single newspaper, when it could put the same information out to the entire state on the internet for a tiny fraction of the cost?

"As one Capitol insider told me: 'There is no need to do this in a newspaper anymore. Especially since the state subsidizes every library in the state having Internet hookup. Put this stuff on the state's web page and save the $10 million.

"The state newspaper of record is a horse and buggy relic in a jet age.'"

Write this one down: Sykes and I agree on that part.

Except I was thinking the state could use my blog as the official site, maybe for about 10% of what it now pays the State Journal. That would be $9-million in annual savings. And a million a year would not affect my objectivity one bit.

There's more from Sykes, including a letter from Racine County's exec, at Sykes Writes.

Frist knuckles under

How badly does Bill Frist want to be president?

Enough to kowtow to the evangelical fringe that has more influence than it deserves in Republican Party politics.

Frist looked reasonable when he tried to get some distance from Tom DeLay on the issue of purging judges who don't take direction from Congress.

That was a shift from his days of diagnosing Terri Schiavo via videotape -- something the Doctor/Senator learned to do in the Capitol, not in medical school.

But now he's caved in and will be featured with Christian conservatives in a videotape that says Democrats are blocking Bush presidential nominees because the Dems are "against people of faith."

And it is looking more and more like he will resort to the so-called "nuclear option" to try to change the rules on how judicial appointments are confirmed, banning filibusters and letting a slim majority run roughshod over opponents.

You may not have to be born again to get the GOP nomination, but you do have to sell your soul.


Walker whistles past the graveyard

Some wishful thinking from Scott Walker, Milwaukee county exec and would-be GOP nominee for gov:

In an interview in Green Bay, Walker brushes aside a question about Congressman Mark Green, who also wants to be gov. "Whether there's a primary will be left up to other would-be candidates." Walker says.

Is he hoping against hope that there won't be a primary? Does Walker really think that Green won't run, just because he hasn't made it official? (He's made is official enough by transferring $1.3-million from his Congressional campaign committee to a state campaign account to run for governor.)

It is reminiscent of the days in 2001 when Jim Doyle's campaign (including yours truly) hoped that his early start would discourage Tom Barrett and Kathleen Falk from getting into the race. Wishful thinking then, wishful thinking now.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Shameless self-promotion

It is Earth Week, so I will don my other hat as author of Gaylord Nelson's biography and make a few appearances this week to talk about Nelson, Earth Day, the environment and the book. So there may be a little less blogging than normal, which may be a relief to everyone.

On Monday, April 18, I will be at the Brown County Library in Green Bay at 7 p.m.

On Tuesday, April 19, I'll be on the UW-Stevens Point campus, in the Alumni Room of the University Center, at 7 p.m.

Also on Tuesday, Wis. Public Television airs a new documentary about Gaylord Nelson at 9 p.m. Program listing

Thursday, April 21, I'll be at the Urban Ecology Center in Milwaukee, 1500 E. Park Place, just west of Oakland Ave. , at 7 p.m.

Friday, Earth Day, it's Barnes and Noble West in Madison, 7433 Mineral Point Rd., near West Towne, also 7 p.m.

All of my talks/readings are free and open to the public. My topic is, "Earth Day, the Environmental Ethic, and the Legacy of Gaylord Nelson."

Yes, we'll be selling/signing a few books, too, I hope. More about the book from UW Press

Ethics and Wisconsin's GOP Congressmen

Craig Gilbert's story in the Journal Sentinel today gives Bucky's four GOP House members a chance to get some distance from their leader, Tom DeLay. Rep. Tom Petri of Fond du Lac goes the farthest, but that isn't very far. Read the story

Meanwhile, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee offers a little different view of where the 4 Badgers stand. Go to Tom DeLay's House of Scandal for more.

This great quote from Barney Frank on Meet The Press: "Hey, look, let me be very straightforward here. I, 15 years ago, had a problem because I behaved inappropriately. The ethics committee stepped in. Newt Gingrich had a problem. He was reprimanded; the ethics committee stepped in. The difference between us and Mr. DeLay is, I think, we changed our behavior. Mr. DeLay changed the ethics committee." NY Times story.

DeLay: Tainted conservative

"The time has come that the American people know exactly what their representatives are doing here in Washington. Are they feeding at the public trough, taking lobbyist-paid vacations, getting wined and dined by special-interest groups? Or are they working hard to represent their constituents? The people, the American people, have a right to know. I say the best disinfectant is full disclosure."

That populist polemic was delivered on the House floor in November 1995 by well-known reformer Tom DeLay, R-Texas.

Read the rest of Joe Conason's piece on
Salon (You will have to watch a short ad first, then enter the site.)

Sunday, April 17, 2005

John Bolton as 'madman'

This from one woman's letter to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, telling of an encounter with John Bolton, nominee to be US ambassador to the United Nations:

Mr. Bolton proceeded to chase me through the halls of a Russian hotel -- throwing things at me, shoving threatening letters under my door and, generally, behaving like a madman. For nearly two weeks, while I awaited fresh direction from my company and from US AID, John Bolton hounded me in such an appalling way that I eventually retreated to my hotel room and stayed there. Mr. Bolton, of course, then routinely visited me there to pound on the door and shout threats. . .

John Bolton put me through hell -- and he did everything he could to intimidate, malign and threaten not just me, but anybody unwilling to go along with his version of events. His behavior back in 1994 wasn't just unforgivable, it was pathological.

Here's the whole letter

Minimum wage's red herring

State Sen. Dave Hansen gets it right when he says that there would be no issue about local governments raising the minimum wage if Republicans had just done the right thing and passed the recommendation of the non-partisan minimum wage advisory council, raising the statewide wage rate.

Local governments began passing their own minimum wage ordinances only after the GOP refused to do the right thing. The local actions were designed to put some pressure on the legislature, and that appears to be working. In fact, it's working so well that the GOP is insisting that local governments be pre-empted from raising the minimum wage on their own.

It's a bit of a chicken-and-egg thing.

Or, as Hansen describes it, a red herring

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Pandering on Tax Day

Scott Walker, gov wannabe, uses Tax Day, April 15, to say everything is on the table for budget cuts, including Medicaid, which provides health care for the poor, elderly and disabled. Great red meat for the right wing, who need to be reassured Walker has no compassion for anyone when it comes to talking tough about taxes.

Walker also proposed a five-point tax cut plan that included new exemptions and deductions. Funny thing, though: He said he had no idea how much they would cost.

One thing we know for sure: Talk is cheap. Story

Another local minimum wage hike

LaCrosse has joined Madison and Milwaukee on the list of communities that have passed their own new minimum wage ordinances.

It is, of course, a crazy way to operate.

Republicans in the legislature have reacted by proposing to make it illegal for local communities to set their own minimum wages.

But the GOP refuses to pass a statewide increase, for reasons known only to themselves. Since most GOP-leaning business and industry groups support the raise, why not pass it and end this craziness?


Friday, April 15, 2005

The secret budget

An earlier post on April 11 tried to shine the spotlight on how the biggest decisions on the new state budget are being made in secret by Republican leaders in the legislature.

Lest anyone think that's going to change, the Republican members of both houses caucused together -- behind closed doors -- on Thursday to work on the budget.

And the loyal opposition?

The Democrats didn't even complain.

Paying a price in Iraq

Since it is Tax Day and everyone is bemoaning every imaginable tax, here's one to factor in that adds up to a little more than the gas tax. Just click on the link and watch the dollars roll.

Cost of Iraq war.

There is another cost, too -- the human cost. Here's that link.

Republicans out Repubs on stem cells

It fell to Republicans this week to expose the hypocrisy of the Republican Assembly majority on the issue of job creation.

Moving on their 100-day agenda, the GOP passed what it called a job creation bill, but added a provision that would deny tax credits to companies doing embryonic stem cell research.

Stem cell research is one area where Wisconsin actually has an advantage over most other states, because of pioneering work and breakthrough discoveries at the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation.

But the right-wing runs the Republican agenda in this state, and insisted on adding that anti-jobs amendment to the jobs bill.

The biotech industry already accounts for 20,000 jobs in Wisconsin, and Gov. Jim Doyle and the Democrats want to build on that success and make Bucky a leader in the field. Doyle reacted, predictably, with a promise to veto the bill if the Assembly passes the same version.

Less predictable was the response from people with some Republican credentials.

Mark Bugher, former DOA and Revenue secretary and a key member of Tommy Thompson's GOP administration, had the harshest words. Bugher now runs the UW Research Park. This from

"This sends a chilling ‘in your face' message to science and research-based companies that they will be treated differently," he said. "And this is from the Republican party, which is allegedly the ‘jobs' party," Bugher said.

Bugher said he believes Assembly Republicans will continue to make gestures catered to appeal to groups that oppose stem cell research. "It's only the beginning, I'm afraid," he said.

Bugher said Thompson was a conservative Republican who was a strong backer of stem cell research because he saw its potential for discovering disease therapies."He welcomed the potential for the science and for the economic development potential," Bugher said. "And he was not intimidated by the right to life groups."

Unlike Speaker John Gard, he might have added.

Also chiming in was Tom Still, former State Journal editorial page editor, who once flirted with a Congressional race as a Republican. He now heads the Wisconsin Technology Council.

"What are they thinking?" Still asked of the Assembly GOP.

WisBiz story

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Cruelest freeze of all: the minimum wage

One of the hardest things to understand about the current legislative session is the Republican refusal to raise the state's minimum wage.

It is a simple and modest proposition: To raise the minimum wage from the current miserly $5.15 an hour to $6.50, in two steps by October 2006.

It's not some bleeding-heart giveaway program dreamed up by the Democrats. It is a proposal from a state advisory council that includes representatives of business, industry, labor and the legislature. That system was set up to take politics and posturing out of the equation and try to reach a fair agreement that everyone could live with. It is the same way the state deals with changes in unemployment compensation, workers' comp, and other potentially touchy labor-management issues.

Republican allies and industries most affected by the change -- Wis. Manufacturers and Commerce, Wis. Restaurant Assn., Wis. Merchants Federation and others -- all support the increase.

It sounds like a no-brainer.

But Wisconsin Republicans have blocked any action to raise wages for the 200,000 workers who make the minimum.

No matter that the minimum wage hasn't been raised for seven years -- and that during those seven years legislators have had their own pay raised seven times.

No matter that in those seven years inflation has eaten away at the minimum, so an hourly wage worth $5.15 in 1995, when the last raise was passed, is worth $4.23 now.

The Republican State Senate has refused to even vote on the bill. On a party-line vote, the GOP sent it off to a committee chaired by State. Sen. Tom Reynolds, one of the majority's real wing nuts. Reynolds says he won't even hold a hearing on the bill.

Every time Reynolds gets himself from West Allis to Madison, he gets $88 in expense money from the taxpayers. He gets it whether he stays in Madison for 8 minutes or 8 hours. And he gets the $88 on top of his $45,569 annual salary, plus travel expenses. Did I mention that the $88 a day is tax free?

Meanwhile, the poor, hard-working guy (or woman) who's trapped in a minimum wage job will make $41.20 for working an eight-hour day. That, of course, is before taxes.

Working full-time for a year, he/she will make $10,712 -- a full $1,142 more than the 2005 federal poverty threshold. So what's to complain about? (Of course, if that wage earner is a single parent with one child, the poverty threshold is $12,830 -- $2,118 more than minimum wage. So you can work full-time and still be eligible for federal poverty programs.)

This is a matter of simple justice. The issue is fairness. Americans have always believed that if they do a fair day's work they can expect a fair day's pay.

Those days appear to be over.

Wisconsin Republicans have fallen in love with the concept of freezing everything. Freeze spending. Freeze taxes. Freeze state aid. Freeze benefits. And freeze the minimum wage.

Wednesday, on the same day Speaker John Gard was proclaiming that the GOP was "kicking the Wisconsin economy into overdrive," State Senate Republicans were kicking minimum-wage earners and their families in the teeth, refusing to raise the minimum wage and passing a bill to prevent local communities from raising it on their own. But don't just blame the Senate GOP; the Assembly Republicans are even more right-wing and anti-worker.

Republicans are making a huge mistake, one that could cost them dearly in 2006.

They come off as mean-spirited and heartless -- because they are.

What ever happened to compassionate conservatism?

Highlighting CEO salaries

While Wisconsin leggies fight over whether $5.15 an hour is enough to live on, corporate execs make a little more -- and get raises more often than every seven years.

Wonder how much the CEO of your local company made last year? The AFL-CIO's online listing will help you find out.

Here are a few to get you started:

Mary E. Junck,Chairman, President and CEO of Lee Enterprises, which owns the Wisconsin State Journal, Racine Journal Times, LaCrosse Tribune and 41 other daily papers, plus oodles of weeklies and other holdings: In 2004, $4,933,800 in total compensation including stock option grants from Lee Enterprises. From previous years' stock option grants, she cashed out $863,900 in stock option exercises. And she has another $2,071,700 in unexercised stock options from previous years.

R. Lawrence Montgomery, CEO, Kohl's Corp., $1,032,534 in total compensation including stock option grants from Kohl's Corp. in 2004. From previous years' stock option grants, he cashed out $7,797,526 in stock option exercises. Montgomery has another $44,170,990 in unexercised stock options from previous years.

John Barth, Chairman, CEO and President, Johnson Controls, $24,865,142 in total compensation including stock option grants from Johnson Controls in 2004. He has another $14,618,590 in unexercised stock options from previous years.

See for yourself

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Greenwashing Wal-Mart

From our friends at

You Won't Find a Lower-Priced Greenwash -- We Guarantee!
Wal-Mart pledges to buy and preserve land to compensate for footprint

Retail leviathan Wal-Mart, stung by a spate of bad press accusing it of sprawling consumption of open spaces, excessive storm-water runoff at construction sites, discrimination against women, employment of illegal immigrants, ruthless price-cutting strategies that drive jobs abroad, and shabby treatment of employees ... er, "associates" (did we miss anything?), has launched a campaign it hopes will burnish its tainted image.

The company pledged yesterday to buy and preserve enough land to compensate for the acreage lost to its stores, parking lots, and distribution centers for the next 10 years -- and trumpeted its pledge in full-page ads in at least 20 newspapers. The land will be purchased through the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, a nonprofit conservation organization created by Congress in 1984. Wal-Mart said it will spend $35 million on its "Acres for America" program -- roughly 0.014 percent of its quarter-trillion annual sales.

Straight to the source:
Straight to the source: San Francisco Chronicle

A Deaniac view

Here's another take on last week's meeting of Democracy for Wisconsin, the group that grew out of Howard Dean's presidential campaign. The group's planned endorsement of Jeff Rammelt for chair of the state Democratic Party went awry when supporters of the other candidate, Joe Wineke, showed up in force. (See April 9 post, "The Democrats and the Deaniacs.")

This from a DfW participant, who asked to remain anonymous:

Just though I'd share my opinion, as one of the leaders of Democracy for Wisconsin, about our meeting last Wednesday. The one that Joe Wineke invaded.

It was a disaster. For Wineke.

The Wineke people told us well in advance that they were coming, so we were ready. We decided to trade our little endorsement, which wasn't really worth much, for publicity. That Cap Times reporter wasn't there by accident.

We had three goals. First, to bring as much attention as we could to a race that everyone assumed Joe Wineke was going to win by default. Second, to destroy Wineke's claim that he supports, and is supported by, the grassroots. And third, to stir up a little grassroots rebellion within the DPW.

While we're just getting started on the third, the first two were pretty damn successful. And we're not done yet. There will be a lot more coming out soon in the Cap Times, and we're working on other mainstream media and keeping up the pressure on the web.

We feel we did pretty well for a small bunch of naive grassroots political amateurs going up against Governor Doyle's surrogate and the Dem party establishment. No regrets on our part.

The unanswered question: What is the long-range goal? "Stirring up a little grassroots rebellion within the DPW" could be healthy, but is not an end in itself. And if Wineke is elected at the state convention, it will be because he does have support from grassroots, activist Dems. That's who goes to those conventions -- the same people who voted in straw polls for the candidates they thought were the most liberal -- Tom Barrett for governor(twice) and Barbara Lawton for LtGov. Jim Doyle and the "establishment," whoever that is, have never owned that convention.

While claiming victory, the DfW people aren't claiming Wineke won't win, only that they've dirtied him up a little. If there is a point to that effort, I have trouble seeing it.

Seen any nuclear waste?

From grist magazine, which serves up environmental news with a twist of humor (check it out at

Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Missing Waste
Like absentminded professors, nuclear plants misplace their waste.

A comprehensive new report from the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office reveals pervasive problems in the nuclear industry, abetted by lax federal regulation. You know all that waste nuclear plants produce, the stuff that stays radioactive for a kajillion years? Yeah, well, seems they keep losing track of it.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has not issued clear guidelines for tracking waste, said the report, and the plants themselves have a variety of not-particularly-reliable methods. In many cases, the NRC was unable to confirm that spent fuel rods were where the plants said they were, and at least three plants may have lost some rods entirely.

However, says NRC spokesflack Beth Hayden, just because radioactive waste is lying around unaccounted for is no reason to go rushing about fixing things: "When we are dealing with nuclear safety and security, we need to move in a very careful and deliberate way."

straight to the source:
The Washington Post, Shankar Vedantam, 12 Apr 2005

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Gambling with retirement

As the nation debates whether stock investments and private accounts are better than plain old Social Security, here's a sobering story:

AROLD AND JOAN SPRADLEY of Springville, Ala., had hoped to retire in 2001. The decline of the stock market that began in the spring of 2000 dashed that.

For two years, they watched their retirement savings - almost exclusively in stock funds - fall by 50 percent (they declined to reveal dollar figures) as the brokerage company handling the money urged them to ride it out. Finally in 2002, they pulled out.

"You get out of it when you can't stand the pain anymore," said Mrs. Spradley, 57, who takes care of the bookkeeping for her husband's computer consulting business. "We had to protect what we had because we didn't want to start back at zero again."

In their mid-50's with retirement on the horizon, the couple changed course. They went to a certified financial planner and developed a long-range plan. Their financial outlook today has much improved, but like so many retirees or those on the cusp of retirement, their lives are different from what they had expected. Whether it was the bull market, ailing pension funds or the demise of high-flying corporations like
Enron and WorldCom, many retirees have had to adjust their plans and start rebuilding their investments.

According to a 2002 survey by AARP of people 50 to 70 years who owned stocks individually, in mutual funds or retirement accounts like 401(k)'s and individual retirement accounts, 77 percent said they had lost money in stocks. Of those who had lost money and were still working, 20 percent said they postponed retirement as a result. Of all retirees who lost money in stock, a third were working full or part time, 3 percent of them returning to work after March 2000.

Read the whole NY Times story

No comparison

Hard to believe, but President Bush, speaking to troops at Fort Hood, Texas, today, actually said that the toppling of Saddam Hussein's statue in Baghdad on April 9, 2003, "will be recorded alongside the fall of the Berlin Wall as one of the great moments in the history of liberty."

The fall of the Berlin Wall marked the end of the Cold War and the failure of communism in eastern Europe.

The toppling of Saddam's statue was a made-for-television photo op. On the two-year anniversary of the event, angry Iraqi militants were demonstrating at the same location, calling for America to withdraw its troops. In Bush's remarks, he said Iraqi troops are taking over from Americans so US troops could come home, but declined to say when.


GOP leaders say DeLay on the way out

This from the Christian Science Monitor:

In public, most Republicans say that what's driving the criticism of the House majority leader is politics, not ethics. The Democratic "hit machine" is pouring millions into a campaign to oust the most powerful Republican in Congress. But the real target is the Republican majority and its agenda.

But in private, some senior leaders are saying it's only a matter of time before the most powerful Republican in Congress is forced from office. "Democrats should save their money. Why murder someone who is committing suicide?" said a senior GOP lawmaker, on condition of anonymity
Full story

See post below on the problems DeLay causes Mark Green.

Green steps in DeLay doo-doo

The stench of Tom DeLay's ethical cesspool gets worse by the day.

Now it looks like Wisconsin Congressman Mark Green may have gotten some on his shoe.

Green has received more than $30,000 in contributions from DeLay's leadership PAC and campaign committee over his last four campaigns for Congress, as the Democratic Party of Wisconsin gleefully revealed Monday. Press release

That $30,000 has bought some loyalty from Green, who voted to change the House ethics rules to protect DeLay from a challenge to his leadership, and helped bounce the former chairman of the ethics committee, a fellow Repub, when he dared take on DeLay.

Every day, more Republicans are emboldened (or maybe worried about their own political skins) to speak up about DeLay. But Green has been silent.

That could be messy for someone running for governor, especially since the DeLay money -- like hundreds of thousands of dollars in other PAC and special interest money raised by Green's Congressional committee -- was laundered into his governor's campaign.

It is illegal for a candidate for governor to accept money from federal PACs not registered in Wisconsin. But a legal loophole allowed Green to amass $800,000 from federal special interest PACs and transfer it to his state campaign account.

When the State Elections Board tried to pass a rule to prevent that and level the playing field, the Repubs who control the legislature overturned it. Green will be able to use about $1.3-million in PAC money (including DeLay's money) in his campaign, while other candidates for governor will be limited to about $485,000.

As the DeLay case ripens and smells worse and worse, Green will have the opportunity during the governor's race to explain why he took that money and why he has refused to speak up about DeLay's lack of ethics, or even his attack on the judiciary.

Can't you see the commercials now? Mark Green morphs into Tom DeLay, while the script and graphics highlight DeLay's ethical problems and the piles of money he's given to Green. We could see those early, in the GOP primary.

Given the pro-DeLay votes Green already has cast, it is probably too late for repairs.

If DeLay goes down -- as many are beginning to believe he will -- he could take Mark Green's gubernatorial ambitions with him.

Monday, April 11, 2005

What if the wrong people vote?

An attempt to turn out a bigger spring vote in Madison, callled "Spring Out the Vote," didn't spring out many extra voters.

The non-partisan effort was sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce and others who believe a bigger turnout is good for democracy.

However ...

Jim Pugh, a spokesman for the state's big business lobby, Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, says that's not so bad.

The Cap Times reports:

WMC has become a major player in state elections due largely to its bare-knuckle advocacy of business issues, ranging from tax breaks to loosening environmental regulations.

"Issue-specific, candidate-specific messages are much more effective than the generic, League of Women Voters get-out-the-vote effort," Pugh said.

He added that generic messages may "turn out the wrong people."

It should come as no surprise that when you do a non-partisan get-out-the-vote drive in Dane County, a lot of liberals and Democrats might turn out. Worse yet, if you do it in Milwaukee it may turn out minorities, too, who vote for Dems in huge numbers.

For WMC, those are all "the wrong people." Story

No sunshine on the budget

Well, how many state budget decisions do you suppose got made over the weekend?

No, the legislature wasn't in session, and the Joint Finance Committee wasn't meeting.

But the first batch of budget decisions were quietly being made on conference calls between Republican leaders in the Senate and Assembly and co-chairs of Joint Finance. It wouldn't be surprising if the call also included Finance member Scott Jensen and maybe a few more key players.

How do we know that?

Because Assembly Co-Chair Dean Kaufert said so. This from the WisPolitics weekly report on Friday:

Kaufert expects conference calls between caucus leaders and JFC members over the weekend to start nailing down some of the issues. "I think by Monday some of those decisions between the Senate and Assembly are going to start falling into place. We've got to have both sides to dance, and until we are in agreement, neither house is going to go out there too far on any of these.''

Joint Finance has had no public debate by its members on any budget items yet, although it has held public hearings and had briefings by agencies.

Voting by Joint Finance is supposed to begin on Thursday. How, you might wonder, will the committee vote on the dozens, if not hundreds, of motions if members haven't discussed them?

That's where the conference calls come in. Decisions will be made long before items ever come to a vote in Finance, as the Republican leadership wheels and deals to try to find consensus or compromise on controversial items so they can pass both houses with a minimum of messiness.

Is this legal?

Technically, maybe, if the GOPpers take care to make certain that no quorum of any committee is on the line at the same time.

But does it meet the intent of state open meetings laws? Of course not.

It flunks the smell test and may even flunk the legal test if someone (the attorney general, perhaps?) were to apply it.

Remember all the trouble the Board of Regents got into for holding conference calls with some of its executive committee members? No one was prosecuted, and whether the letter of the law was broken was in dispute, but the regents got the message and stopped the practice.

In another case, the regents had set higher salary ranges for top UW system executives in a barely publicized teleconference meeting -- but one that had met the technical requirements for public notice. After an uproar and talks with the state Dept. of Justice (DOJ) the regents rescinded the salary adjustments.

The Ozaukee County Board was admonished recently by DOJ for discussing agenda items in private e-mails outside of the meetings; those e-mails are now available to the public.

In that context, does it sound OK to make decisions on the telephone, on the weekend, without any public scrutiny?

The secrecy issue is cyclical in the legislature. It periodically becomes a big deal, but soon slips out of view again.

In the post-Watergate reform era of the mid-1970s, the state budget was being written in closed meetings by a handful of Democrats who controlled the process (the Dems had both houses and the governorship in those glory days for Democrats). The media christened them the "Secret Seven" and began to track how many hours the seven had spent in secret, with a daily box score in the newspapers, which pounded away at the issue.

One of the seven was Norman Anderson, the powerful Assembly Speaker from a safe Democratic district in Madison, who lost his seat in a stunning 1976 primary upset to a young Capitol aide named Peter Bear.

An Oshkosh pizza parlor manager, a guy named Gary Goyke, was elected to the State Senate in 1974 and came to Madison vowing to force Senate Democrats to open their caucuses. He didn't get a very warm reception from his colleagues, but the Senate caucuses did, for the most part, open up, and the Assembly later followed suit.

But that was 30 years ago, and over time people and institutions backslide. By 1999, with one house in the hands of each party, we had gotten used to the idea of then-Assembly Speaker Scott Jensen and then-Senate Majority Leader Chuck Chvala making their budget deals with each other in the back room. No one seemed to find that process unusual, let alone illegal.

Last month, the state's media celebrated Sunshine Week and devoted a considerable amount of time and space to the public's right to know. But it didn't shed much light on the legislature, where weekend conference calls, secret meetings and closed caucuses will shape the state's $50-billion budget.

By the time votes are taken in the light of day, where the public can see, the big decisions -- -the ones involving hundreds of millions of dollars -- will already have been made.

One of these days, the wheel will spin again and citizens and the media will demand more sunshine in the State Capitol.

But it looks like the 2005-07 budget will be written in the shadows.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Medicaid? Sure, just fill this out

Wisconsin serves as a bad example in a Sunday NY Times story on excessive paperwork. The state's Medicaid application form for the elderly, blind and disabled is 9 pages long, with 10 pages of instructions. Read the story.

See the form. And take a crack at filling it out, if you've already done the Times' Sunday crossword.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

The Democrats and the Deaniacs

It was noted here this week that Democracy for Wisconsin, a group that grew out of the Dean presidential campaign, was thinking of supporting a candidate for chair of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin.

When meeting night rolled around, attendance was much greater than usual, and with a number of newcomers participating, a majority of the group expressed support for Joe Wineke, who is being seen as the establishment candidate for chair.

What's interesting is that the newcomers/outsiders/invaders are being described, by reporters and bloggers, as being "Democratic Party members."

It's not exactly like the Repubs took it over. Aren't the members of Democracy for Wisconsin also Democrats? If they aren't members of the Democratic Party, they should be. Their guy, Howard Dean, is now the chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

The vote this week was about who to support for chairman of the state Democratic Party. Why wouldn't "Democratic Party members" want to attend and participate?

If the Deaniacs want to limit participation, they need to set some requirements for membership. Unless they do, those darned Democrats might keep showing up. Story

UPDATE OF SORTS: One of the participants in Wednesday's meeting says the vote was for no endorsement, not to endorse Wineke. My impression was the newspaper article was that Wineke had been endorsed, although it did not say that directly.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Hangin' them judges

The right wing continues to make noise about punishing judges who didn't do what they wanted in the Terri Schiavo case, abortion, school prayer and who knows what else.

Tom DeLay -- who may end up in front a judge himself sometime soon -- is leading the charge. What does it mean for Congress to "reassert its constitutional authority over the courts?"

The rhetoric is heating up. "Mass impeachment." for example, is pretty hot.

Hard to tell where our old pal F. James Senbrenner, Wisconsinite who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, stands. Here's what his staffer had to say:

In an interview, Jeff Lungren, a spokesman for Representative F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., Republican of Wisconsin and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said the panel was likely in some way to take up the issue of how the federal judges handled Ms. Schiavo's case.

But Mr. Lungren said Mr. DeLay had not requested a hearing and the committee had not decided on a course of action. "There does seem to be this misunderstanding out there that our system was created with a completely independent judiciary," he said.
Read NY Times story.

Just asking: Happy about your taxes?

Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce (WMC) is conducting a confidential survey of taxpayers to determine their level of satisfaction with the Department of Revenue on tax administration and tax policy.

"The purpose of the survey," WMC Pres Jim Haney says in an e-mail addressed to 'businesses paying taxes,' is to measure the degree of satisfaction with the enforcement of tax laws at the state level. The survey seeks information concerning the procedures by which the Wisconsin Department of Revenue, the Tax Appeals Commission and the courts enforce the tax laws. The goal is to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the DOR."

Businesses responding to the online survey are asked to "be as specific as possible with actual examples of tax audit or compliance issues you or your company have faced."

Any bets on the outcome?

Bucher in Bizarro World V

Waukesha DA Paul Bucher continues, five days after a New York Times article on guns and concealed carry, to try to spin his way out of a hole, but keeps digging it deeper.

Now he tells WTMJ radio talker Charlie Sykes his position has always been consistent, whatever it is.

BUCHER: My concern of officer safety has been continuous and consistent. ... If this issue is dealt with in Sen. Zien's bill ... I can support it, and as a leader in law enforcement, I can bring other law enforcement leaders to the table. That's what I said before and that's my position today. ... I have supported and do support a citizen's right to carry a concealed weapon if we deal with the officer safety issue.

He's talking about protection for officers who are making a traffic stop. How you would do that remains a mystery.

His opponent in the Republican primary for attorney general, former US Attorney J.B. Van Hollen, has jumped on the issue. It is not going to go away.

While trying to establish his credentials with the NRA and gun-toters, Bucher is also doing himself a lot of damage with those who oppose concealed carry, who are legion. This is the kind of issue you want to tell the gun nuts about, but not make it the defining issue of your campaign. Right now, it's the only thing most people know about Bucher. That is a serious, and possibly fatal, mistake in the early days of a campaign. The primary is still 17 months away.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Sore loser

Milwaukee County Exec Scott Walker, whose risky scheme to float $261-million in bonds to ease the county's financial stress was soundly rejected by voters on Tuesday, angrily says that letting the people vote was a dirty trick by the county board.

Although he signed off on it, Walker now says the wording was misleading. Using the $261-million figure made more people vote no, he says. Of course, that figure was used because that was how much he proposed to borrow.

The good news is that Walker says he is giving up this idea and is reluctantly, and angrily, going to listen to the will of the people. Look for some more draconian budget cut proposals from him instead.

County board members didn't take too kindly to his attack, and said maybe he could have done a better sales job with the voters if he weren't gallivanting all over the state running for governor.


Sensenbrenner: Jail Janet Jackson

Well, OK, he didn't exactly say that, but Wisconsin's own F. James Sensenbrenner, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said in a speech in California that it should be a criminal offense to violate decency standards on television and cable.

Since he said it to a national cable and telecommunications conference, it got a little attention.

Here's the Hollywood Reporter story.

Rachel Campbell, an online columnist for the Racine Journal Times, had a little fun in her column.

Election afterthought

Note to future candidates for state superintendent of public instruction:

It might be better to find something to be for, instead of basing your whole campaign on bashing WEAC, the state teachers' union.

You might not like the teachers or their union, but it's a fatal mistake to think the voters feel the same way.

"Err on the side of life"

If that phrase sounds familiar, it is because that was President Bush's statement on how to handle the Terri Schiavo case.

Now, it is being used in print and TV advertising by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, urging defeat of a federal bill that would grant broad legal immunity to the gun industry and greatly limit the ability of victims to sue unscrupulous gun makers, distributors and dealers.

See the ads.

Bucher in Bizarro World IV

In which a conservative website says Bucher twice testified against concealed carry legislation, and flatly accuses him of lying.

Boots and Sabers

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Race for Dem chair shaping up

It has escaped most people's notice, including mine, but it appears there will be a race at the Wisconsin Democratic convention for state chair.

Joe Wineke, former State Senator, is the apparent frontrunner. But Jeff Rammelt, the 18-year Jefferson County chair, is in the race, too.

Believe it or not, the race is sparking some hot online debate at the Democracy for Wisconsin's Yahoo Group. Go back a week or so in the postings to catch the flavor.

The group, an outgrowth of the Howard Dean presidential campaign, is meeting at 7 tonight (Wed.) at the downtown Madison library and may consider an official endorsement in the chair's race.

CORRECTION: First post incorrectly identified the group as Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, which is a horse of a different feather. It is Democracy for Wisconsin.

UPDATE: WHO ARE THE DEANIACS? This survey suggests they should thrive in Madison.

UPDATE 2: The endorsement went to Wineke, whose supporters organized turnout and dominated the vote. Despite some outrage by regulars who attend Democracy for Wisconsin meetings, that's how politics works, whether it is a presidential caucus or a grassroots neighborhood group. Cap Times story

The new Pope

Eugene Kane, in his Journal Sentinel column, suggests it might be time for a black Pope. Possible, but unlikely. But what a change it would be.

Others are saying that they think the Catholics have had a monopoly on the job long enough.

Judges at risk?

The right wing continues to warn that judges who make unpopular decisions (i.e. follow the law) may be subject to retaliation. Tom DeLay started it, but another Texan, Sen. John Cornyn, takes it a step further.

People upset with decisions made by "unaccountable" judges (those who don't listen to the right-wing) may resort to courthouse violence, Cornyn said.

Is that a warning? If it is, it didn't sound like a warning aimed at the violence-prone lawbreakers. It sounded like a warning to judges that they had better toe the line.

Is this a great system or what?

UPDATE: NY Times editorial: "The judges made them do it."

UPDATE 2: Cornyn says he learned a lesson, which seems to be something like, "Don't say what you're thinking out loud." Houston Chronicle story.

Eating their own

Everyone knows the old joke about the Democratic firing squad that lines up in a circle.

But it is Republicans these says who are busy killing one another off. In Wisconsin, we've seen the purge of two state senators, Peggy Rosenzweig Mary Panzer. The Republican right is targeting others they have tagged RINOs (Republicans in Name Only). Look for more internal bloodbaths in 06.

In Washington state, where a Democrat was elected governor in a razor-thin recount, GOP fanatics launched a recall against Republican Secretary of State Ken Reed, blaming him for the loss. That failed when a judge threw it out, but they're still after Reed because he certified the results of the gov's race.

Now comes word from South Carolina that a conservative group is running a negative TV ad against Republican U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham. His sin? Graham, who votes with the right wing 9 out of 10 times, has dared to suggest raising the cap on Social Security payroll taxes. Graham is not up for reelection until 08, so the ad is just a warning shot across the bow. Story.

With friends like this . . . you know the rest.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Bucher in Bizarro World III

In which Paul Bucher says he was always for concealed carry, except for when he testified against it.


See two earlier posts below

Bucher in Bizarro World II

A Laurel Walker column in the Journal Sentinel, in which Waukesha DA Paul Bucher waffles and wiggles on what he said and didn't say to the New York Times about guns. Column.

(See earlier post below)

How liberal are you?

So are you one of the endangered species -- the self-described liberal who doesn't hide under another label?

What is a liberal now, anyway? Has the right managed to shift the debate so far that a liberal is now "a conservative who occasionally disagrees with G. Gordon Liddy," T.A. Frank wonders in The New Republic online.

But Frank doesn't just bemoan the shift. He declares it is time to redefine what the liberal position is.

How do you measure up? Are you more liberal than the government of North Korea? Try this hilarious quick test and see.

UPDATE: The New Republic link won't work now without subscribing. Use this link.

Playing the predator game

The title is over the top ("Walker sides with predators"), but Jim McGuigan, a former Milwaukee County supervisor, writes that Scott Walker's political posturing, to deny the state any sites for facilities to send sexual predators, may make the situation much worse and result in their release.

Read it yourself at Watchdog Milwaukee.

UPDATE: Joel McNally weighs in with an op ed column revealing that Walker had a role in the same site search group he is attacking.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Bucher in Bizarro World

Does anyone really think the way to reduce gun violence is to put more guns on the street?

Meet Paul Bucher, Waukesha County DA and would-be Buckyland AG, who tells the New York Times, no less, that, "We need to put more guns in the hands of law-abiding citizens."

More guns, that's the answer. Wish I'd have thought of that.

Bucher hasn't always thought that, he told the Times. Just a couple of years ago, he was testifying against concealed carry laws (which put him on the side of just about every law enforcement professional in the state. They say concealed weapons put police officers at risk.)

But now he's seen the light. If everybody had a gun, Bucher explains, we'd all be able to fight back. "If the person you're fighting has a gun and all you have is your fists, you lose," he said. (He really did say this stuff. Read it yourself. ) It's like he's entered Bizarro World, where everything is cracked and more than a little off kilter.

But, just for fun, let's say he's right. If non-criminals had guns we could protect ourselves. Well, why conceal them, then? Why not wear that .45 in a holster where everyone can see it, so they are not tempted to mess with you?

There is one problem. All guns are not created equal. If you have a .45 and the person you're fighting (to use Bucher's phrase) has an AK-47, you're still going to lose. So maybe we need to standardize it and only sell one kind of gun, so it's sure to be a fair fight.

One argument for concealed carry says that if the guns are concealed the bad guys won't know who has a gun and who doesn't, so they'll leave us all alone. I am a little skeptical of that. Unconcealed carry makes more sense, don't you think?

There is another way around that problem, of course. Make it mandatory for everyone to pack heat (that's Mickey Spillane talk for carry a gun).

Extending the Bucher theory of guns=safety: If everyone had a gun, gun violence would end. That's how it worked in the Old West, in the days of six-gun law, as I recall. Everybody had a gun, and no one ever started any trouble, right?

And if everyone attending church services at the Sheraton hotel in Brookfield a few weeks ago had had a 9mm weapon, instead of just the killer, who fired 22 shots in less than a minute, how many shots would have been fired? How many people would have died?

Bucher apparently thinks the number would be smaller. I am not so sure.

One final note: You can't help but wonder whether Bucher's conversion to all-out gun nut had anything to do with the fact that he has to win a Republican primary for attorney general, and in a GOP primary, the rule of thumb is "the farther right, the better, as long as you don't fall off the edge of the world, which is flat." This may be nothing more than shameless pandering for the primary vote. That would be easier to swallow than the idea that Bucher really believes that the cure for gun violence is more guns.