Wednesday, November 30, 2005

-- Steve Sack, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, via Cagle.

Hillary takes a baby step

In line with my theory that no one can who continues to support the debacle in Iraq can be elected president, Sen. H. R. Clinton makes a small movement in the right direction, just four days behind Joe Biden. Not enough from either of them, but something.

Bush: Three more years of war

"America will not run in the face of car bombers and assassins," Bush said to the audience of uniformed U.S. Navy midshipmen. "America will not abandon Iraq so long as I am commander in chief."-- President Bush in today's speech.

Prepare yourself for three more years of American casualties as we pursue this no-win strategy.

Russ Feingold reacts: “While today’s speech by the President was billed as yet another attempt to lay out a plan for finishing the military mission in Iraq, the only new thing the administration gave the American people was a glossy 35-page pamphlet filled with the same rhetoric we’ve all heard before. Today’s action by the White House isn’t a step forward, it’s a step back. In fact the booklet the administration released to accompany the President’s speech is described as a “…document [that] articulates the broad strategy the President set forth in 2003…” That alone makes it clear that the President seems more dug in than ever to the same old “stay the course” way of thinking. This is not a strategy, and it certainly is not a plan to complete the military mission in Iraq."

Quote, unquote

"People don't want me making decisions based on politics," Bush said. "They want me making decisions based on the recommendations of our generals on the ground. And that's exactly who I'll be listening to."-- President Bush.

Paul Soglin comments.

Victim's family won't be victimized

It was good to read that the family of Teresa Halbach won't let themselves be used as political pawns. Too often, a combination of grief-stricken families and pandering politicians have inappropriately pushed those famlies into the spotlight on controversial issues.

Brewtown Politico comments on the Post-Crescent story.

Green cozies up to the President

We suggested a couple of weeks ago that Rep. Mark Green's fortunes may be tied to those of the increasingly unpopular George W. Bush -- and even more so to the Iraq war, which Green continues to champion. Post.

But the Green campaign wants to dispel any doubts about whether Green might try to get a little distance from W. This week's e-newsletter pushes back at primary opponent Scott Walker and puts Bush right on the ticket with Green in next year's governor's race. From the newsletter:
Photo of the Week

Last week in their email update, Mark’s primary opponent reprinted a column arguing that while most people believe Mark is the best candidate to beat Doyle, that reality might be in jeopardy because of Mark’s strong support for President Bush and his work on the War Against Terrorism. Here are a few excerpts from the column the Walker Team promoted:

Most Republican and Democratic insiders have tabbed Mark Green as the more formidable opponent against incumbent Gov. Jim Doyle and the favorite over Walker in the Republican primary.

Green looked squeaky clean, with a congressional record that might help and wouldn't hurt, being largely irrelevant in a gubernatorial campaign. All Green needed was a mediocre or better approval rating for President George Bush and congressional Republicans, and the specifics of his record might not have mattered.

But in the post-Katrina, post-Scooter Libby world, Bush's approval rating has plummeted and is likely to stay in the basement as long we remain at war in Iraq.

While we aren’t buying that argument for one second, we do know that Mark will stick to his principles and will never back down from his support of President Bush’s efforts to make our country and world a safer place by taking the battle to the terrorists before they attack us again. People have been writing George W. Bush’s political obituary for a long time now. The folks here at Green Team HQ have no doubt he’ll prove his critics wrong again.

Considering this new line of attack on Mark we thought this would be appropriate for this week’s POTW.

That may be great primary strategy to secure the Republican base, but I will be surprised if Mark Green asks the Pres to campaign with him next October. Once that primary's over, if public opinion continues to go in the direction it's headed, Mark Green will be pretending he never heard of George W. Bush or Iraq.

What about 'husband' and 'wife'

don't gay-haters understand?

Scott Walker, in a statement on why we need a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriages, accidentally explains why we don't need such an amendment. Walker says:
"Current law already defines marriage as between a husband and a wife."
In their zeal to punish gays for being gay, Walker and the right want to go beyond banning gay marriages and deny gay couples other legal rights -- even those bargained by public employee unions in Madison and Milwaukee to provide health benefits.

They want us to believe that some liberal, activist Wisconsin court -- remember, we elect judges in Wisconsin -- is going to rule someday that "husband" and "wife" don't mean "man" and "woman."

I've said it before and will continue to say it as this shameful campaign continues. This constitutional amendment is worse than discrimination. It's a hate crime.

Group wants Garvey exonerated

When I saw the headline:

Group considers aggressive approach to exonerate Garvey

I assumed it must be the People's Legislature, trying to clear Fighting Ed's name. Then, when I saw the person holding things up was Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner, it seemed like a Wisconsin story for sure.

What's that? Oh, that Garvey?

Never mind.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Rummy plays the name game

Insurgent, insurgent, bo-surgent, banana-fana-fo-surgent, mi-my-mo-murgent -- insurgent!

Reuters reports:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld argued on Tuesday that the guerrillas fighting U.S.-led foreign forces and the American-backed government in Iraq do not deserve to be called an "insurgency."

Asked at a Pentagon news conference why he did not think the word insurgency applied to enemy forces in Iraq, Rumsfeld said he had "an epiphany."

"I've thought about it. And, over the weekend, I thought to myself, you know, that gives them a greater legitimacy than they seem to merit," Rumsfeld said.

Rumsfeld instead referred to the guerrillas in Iraq as "the terrorists" and "the enemies of the government." U.S. military statements also have referred to insurgents as "anti-Iraqi forces."

Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary defines an insurgent as "a person who revolts against civil authority or an established government."
Islamo-fascists has a nice ring to it, don't you think? That seems to be the right wing's current favorite.

Editorial gets immediate results

Who says newspaper editorials don't have any impact?

Nov. 29 Capital Times editorial:

Now that Dane County Board Chairman Kevin Kesterson has been convicted of lying to a sheriff's deputy investigating political wrongdoing at the county level, he should have the decency to resign.
And a Nov. 29 Capital Times news story:
Embattled Dane County Board Chairman Kevin Kesterson has resigned as both chairman and supervisor, ending his 10-month ordeal stemming from charges that he lied to a police officer about his knowledge of an e-mail smear made by a former supervisor against Supervisor Don Eggert.

Doyle numbers constant in SurveyUSA

Another poll from Survey USA, with Jim Doyle at 45-49 positive-negative. They've been polling every month since May, and the trend graph will show it is virtually unchanged from where Doyle was six months ago.

His net is minus 4, but in the Things Could Be Worse Dept., Ohio Gov. Bob Taft is at -58, Alaska's Frank Murkowski at -42, Kentucky's Ernie Fletcher at -31, Louisiana's Kathleen Blanco at -29, and California's Arnold Schwarzengger and Missouri's Matt Blunt both at -28. And that's without the wind chill factor. Of the five worst, all but Blanco are Republicans. Complete list.

--Mike Keefe, Denver Post, via Cagle.

Do me a favor

After reading the last several days of Wisconsin blogs, I have but one request:

If I ever start blogging about blogging, just shoot me.

Walker still whining

Scott Walker still can't believe that he put out a press release and nobody printed it. He's found a sympathetic ear in Owen at Boots and Sabers. But he'll get no sympathy here, for reasons I have explained previously.

What's his complaint, anyway? He got his name in the paper today.

But as Sykes, McBride, and Wagner like to ask on a daily basis: "Would you like a little cheese with that whine, Mr. Walker?"

Iraq vote 'more than a mistake'

A line is forming outside the Iraq confessional. It consists of Democratic presidential aspirants -- where's Hillary? -- who voted for the war in Iraq and now concede that they made a "mistake." Former senator John Edwards did that Nov. 13 in a Post op-ed article, and Sen. Joseph Biden uttered the "M" word Sunday on "Meet the Press." "It was a mistake," said Biden. "It was a mistake," wrote Edwards. Yes and yes, says Cohen. But it is also a mistake to call it a mistake.

-- Richard Cohen in a Washington Post op ed column.

Mistaken recall report still echoes

Madison radio station WIBA tries to clean up the mess after the Associated Press incorrectly reported that Citizens for Responsible Government was planning to try to recall Gov. Jim Doyle. WIBA's story:

Despite what you may have heard or read in a Milwaukee newspaper... Citizens for Responsible Government is NOT trying to recall Governor Doyle:
Sound bite: "categorically false..."
Chris Kliesmet of CRG... who blames the confusion on a headline writer at the Milwaukee newspaper. But Kleismet says they WILL launch a grass roots effort to make sure Doyle is not re-elected next year:
Sound bite: "...will go through regular election process, but not a recall effort."
Kleismet says Doyle has not been fiscally responsible. Citizens for Responsible Government is the same group that's trying to recall Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz.
A second version:

It was somewhat of a surprise this morning when word went out that the group now involved in trying to recall Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz now wants to recall Governor Doyle.. with less than a year before the next gubenatorial election. That word also came as a surprise to Chris Kleismet.. spokesperson for that recall group .... Citizens for Responsible Government:
Sound bite
Kleismet says his group would like to see Doyle out of the governor's mansion but they will try to unseat him next year through the election process... not through a recall.

And a third:

"Absolutely false"... that's the latest word from Citizens for Responsible Government on news this morning the group is launching a recall effort agaist Governor Doyle. Chris Kleismet... spokesperson for the group... says the confusion came from what he calls a misleading headline this morning in the Milwaukee newspaper. Kleismet does say his group will try to unseat Governor Doyle next year but through the election priocess:
Sound bite "... not fiscally responsible"
Citizens for Responsible Government is the same group that IS trying to recall Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz.

The headline writer gets the blame, but don't you think the person on the desk at AP, who wrote the wire version, should have read the story and not just the headline?

The result is certainly more exposure than CRG might have gotten if the story hadn't gotten garbled. But will the extra coverage help the group build its membership or make it seem like they're a little confused?

Latest death penalty bill is

grotesque, gruesome grandstanding

Leave it to State. Sen. Tom Reynolds, R-Pluto, to come up with a death penalty bill that most death penalty advocates probably won't even support.

He's looking for sponsors for a bill to reinstate the death penalty in Wisconsin for committing all of the following three offenses against the same victim: 1) first or second-degree sexual assault; 2) first-degree homicide; and 3) disfigurement, dismemberment, or mutilation.

It is tailored, of course, to fit the Steven Avery case. It probably won't be called "Steven's Law," though. Sponsors always like to name these things for the victim, so it probably would be known as "Teresa's Law," for Teresa Halback.

But it will not be anybody's law. I don't believe this grotesque, gruesome grandstanding will even pass in this legislature, where the wingnuts rule the day.

But you never know.

The chief argument for the death penalty is that it will deter others from committing similar crimes, once they have witnessed other criminals being drawn and quartered. This may well be apocryphal, but it is said that in Olde England, in the days when pickpockets were hanged, that more pockets were picked at hangings than at any other time. It's a good story, anyway.

But let's consider the deterrence of the Reynolds bill. Since a criminal has to commit three heinous crimes on the same victim, maybe it would make some of them only commit two out of three.

Murder and dismemberment would be OK, as long as there was no sexual assault.

Sexual assault and dismemberment also would fall short of the death penalty, so long as the dismemberment didn't cause death.

A rapist and murderer would escape the noose/ax/injection/burning, too, if he stopped sort of dismemberment and "only" raped and killed the victim.

So, in a modest way, perhaps there would be some deterrence. Not that many people hack up their victims anyway, but maybe this would deter a few. Highly doubtful, though, wouldn't you say?

Is this subject in bad taste?

Is it my post or Reynolds's bill that makes you queasy?

It should be unsettling. There is a very good reason Wisconsin has outlawed the death penalty since 1853, as Badger Blues reminds us.

Reynolds, of course, is not the first politician to pander on the issue. Jeff Wagner, now a Republican radio host, used -- and I mean used -- the distraught father of a young girl who had been murdered, featuring him in a television commercial to attack Jim Doyle. Doyle, the attorney general, courageously opposed the death penalty in the 1994 race when Wagner, his challenger, used it against him. Doyle won, as you may recall.

Opponents of the death penalty argue, among other things, that we are certain to execute some innocent people.

No matter, says a noted conservative, Catholic, "pro-life" member of the intelligentsia:

John McAdams, a Marquette University political science professor, said death penalty opponents have inflated the number of death row inmates who are exonerated and have understated the level of public support for it.

"The mass public isn't particularly deterred by the notion there may be some innocent people on death row," said McAdams, a proponent of capital punishment. "No public policy works perfectly . . . so they're realistic about policy."

So the state murders a few innocent people. Hey, nothing's perfect. Win a few, lose a few.

I've heard McAdams' philosophy expressed by grunts in Vietnam: "Kill 'em all and let God sort 'em out."

The difference was, the grunts weren't serious.

Letter to Stars and Stripes

Is this letter written by an unpatriotic coward who wants to undermine the morale of the troops? It's from Stars and Stripes, the newspaper serving our military men and women overseas.

War based on a lie

Weapons of mass destruction? I’m still looking for them, and if you find any give me a call so we can justify our presence in Iraq. We started the war based on a lie, and we’ll finish it based on a lie. I say this because I am currently serving with a logistics headquarters in the Anbar province, between the cities of Fallujah and Ramadi. I am not fooled by the constant fabrication of “democracy” and “freedom” touted by our leadership at home and overseas.

This deception is furthered by our armed forces’ belief that we can just enter ancient Mesopotamia and tell the locals about the benefits of a legislative assembly. While our European ancestors were hanging from trees, these ancient people were writing algebra and solving quadratic equations. Now we feel compelled to strong-arm them into accepting the spoils of capitalism and “laissez-faire” society. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy watching Britney Spears on MTV and driving to McDonald’s, but do you honestly believe that Sunnis, Shias and Kurds want our Western ideas of entertainment and freedom imposed on them? Think again.

I’m not being negative, I’m being realistic. The reality in Iraq is that the United States created a nightmare situation where one didn’t exist. Yes, Saddam Hussein was an evil man who lied, cheated and pillaged his own nation. But how was he different from dictators in Africa who commit massive crimes again humanity with little repercussion and sometimes support from the West? The bottom line up front (BLUF to use a military acronym) is that Saddam was different because we used him as an excuse to go to war to make Americans “feel good” about the “War on Terrorism.” The BLUF is that our ultimate goal in 2003 was the security of Israel and the lucrative oil fields in northern and southern Iraq.

Weapons of mass destruction? Call me when you find them. In the meantime, “bring ’em on” so we can get our “mission accomplished” and get out of this mess.

Capt. Jeff Pirozzi
Camp Taqaddum, Iraq

Democracy Campaign's new math

Love the way the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign rolled everyone together in its news release:

Madison - The three Republican and Democratic candidates for governor next year have accepted nearly $23,000 since 2003 from Illinois contributors who have been convicted or indicted of extortion, fraud, bribery or other crimes, or who are connected to state and federal criminal investigations, the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign has found.
If you bother to read it and do a little math, even on your fingers, you'll find Jim Doyle's share is $6,500 while Walker and Green have more than $24,000 between them, counting contributions from wives which are also listed. Of that, about $14,000 went to Green and $10,000 to Walker. Of course, that doesn't count other money Nick Hurtgen and friends raised for Walker, which totaled at least $25,000.

Nowhere does WDC offer those totals or breakdown, just the $23,000 total.

The Journal Sentinel story at least split them up, but didn't count the wives and came up with its own totals. It also pointed out that Green has taken nearly $30,000 in political action money from Rep. Tom DeLay, who is under indictment on money laundering charges, as we have reported here several dozen times. Green continues to minimize that money, claiming that only $2,000 of it was transferred into his governor's campaign account. But he should be held accountable for disposing of the total amount, as several other Republican House members have done. There are any number of ways to do it, and it will continue to be an issue in the 2006 campaign unless he does.

Monday, November 28, 2005

--Mike Lester, Rome, GA News-Tribune, via Cagle.

Vets board delays coronation of Scocos

The state Board of Veterans Affairs decided today that it was not urgent to change its rules and effectively make John Scocos Secretary of Veterans Affairs for Life.

Gary Fisher attended the board's teleconference meeting and reports:

Seeing any real or perceived support for sweeping rule changes vanish into the ether during a telephone conference Monday, the Veterans Affairs Board agreed to consider further comments before voting in December on the proposed changes to board rules.

Most controversial is the proposal giving the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs secretary unprecedented power by requiring a unanimous vote of seven board members to remove the secretary from office for mismanagement or misconduct.

Now it requires four votes of the board to appoint the secretary and five votes for removal.

Board members Peter Moran and Marv Freedman cautioned for more input before any action is taken.

"We should take no action binding on future boards," said Moran.

Department lawyer John Rosinski opined, and board Chair Ken Wendt agreed, that the process legally allowed a vote on the changes at the teleconference, and (Wendt)
saw "no reason to postpone a vote."

Freedman said he wasn't raising the legality of today's notice but "the appropriateness of (voting)now instead of at December meeting." Reiterating his request for a delay, Freedman told Wendt "it's the principle I just mentioned. The board teleconferences only on matters that are time sensitive."

Board member Kathy Marschman said she was "willing to delay the proposal on the number of votes to remove the secretary after discussing it with "other folks."

Marschman, who initially proposed the rules changes out of thin air, said the "proposals are board matters and I'm curious why it has generated an attack on Secretary Scocos. "I hope the board works through this and recognizes that it's board business, not about him."

Marschman said it is "troubling that a newspaper the quality of the Journal Sentinel" how it portrayed board members" and weblogs comments directed at the secretary that people will "wonder what's going on." [Can't speak for the JS, but that's exactly what comments on this blog were intended to do. -- Xoff.]

Board members Don Heiliger and Walt Stenavich also agreed to revisit the proposed changes before the Dec. 9 board meeting in Union Grove.

"I'd like to see (the existing) document with Marv's (and Moran's) comments added side by side," said Heiliger.

County Veterans Services Officrs President Rick Gates, Dane County CVSO officer Michael Jackson and Marathon County CVSO officer Scott Berger attended today's meeting to urge the board to delay its action.

"It is bad public policy to make the secretary for life," said Berger. I see no reason."

In opposing a unanimous vote to remove the secretary for cause, Jackson said he's also adamantly against the board paying legal fees for a secretary accused of wrongdoing.

State Sen. Dan Kapanke, R-La Crosse, staffer and junior vice commander of the Wisconsin Military Order of the Purple Heart, John O'Brien, who opposes former State Sen. Rod Moen's confirmation to the board, was an observer at the meeting. Moen has been nominated by the governor to replace Marschman, whose term expired May 1, but she has refused to step down and the Republican-run State Senate has not confirmed Moen yet.

Wisconsin Veterans Museum director Richard Zeitlin said said he'd been with the agency since John Moses was secretary several years ago.

"The Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs' mission is to help veterans and their families, said Zeitlin.

"There's not much mentioned about achievements today," he said. "Through the achievements of this legislature (and governor) the WDVA has received solid gains."

The G.I. Bill (tuition breaks for vets returning from the Middle East) is a progressive step forward . . . I haven't heard anyone say how these proposed rule changes would benefit the veterans of Wisconsin."

Bill Kloster, the deputy secretary of Veterans Affairs, said he'd get the current proposal in the mail Tuesday, which is 10 days before the December meeting, and then forward electronic copies of today's comments from Freedman, Moran and other board members to the board in a few days.

Don't expect to receive an electronic copy if you request one, however, because Rosinski states, "hard copies of the requested documents will be sent to you as soon as they are finalized. Electronic copies of documents are not provided because of the capability of altering those documents after they are provided to the recipient."

CRG recalling Doyle? Not exactly

Understandably, there was some confusion today over just what Citizens for a Republican Governor (former Citizens for Responsible Government) were announcing in a top line Journal Sentinel story.

The headline said: Recall group aims to grow, take on Doyle

Nowhere in the story does it say CRG wants to recall Doyle. But it doesn't say much of anything about its plans for Doyle, except the headline, where putting "recall" and "Doyle" in such close proximity may have made it seem that way.

That was enough to confuse the Associated Press, which sent this story on its radio wire:
UNDATED (AP) - A conservative group that claims credit for forcing a number of county executives across Wisconsin to step down, is hoping to parlay their success into a recall effort of Governor Doyle.

The conservative group is called Citizens for Responsible Government. It's forced Pewaukee Mayor Jeff Nowak to step down, and it's been trying to get Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz (shihz-LEH-vich) to do the same.

Now C-R-G is hoping to extend its pitch for fiscally conservative policies by organizing a recall of Governor Doyle.

The group is facing an uphill battle. The group expects it will need a least a (m) million dollars to organize a recall effort, but it has less than five-thousand dollars right now.

C-R-G executive member Orville Seymer says he's frustrated that there has been little action on a proposal to limit state and local tax revenue.
A later AP story didn't mention the recall:
Populist group hopes to build statewide base

MILWAUKEE (AP) -- Citizens for Responsible Government, a populist group that has been involved in a number of local campaigns during the last few years, plans to begin a large-scale membership and affiliate drive after the holiday season, its executive administrator says.

Chris Kliesmet told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel the CRG network aims to have "boots on the ground" in all 72 of Wisconsin's counties and raise a war chest of $1 million from a membership base of 10,000 people.

"We've had so much focus on issues locally," he said. "At some point in time, you have to make a strategic decision to stop fighting brush fires and look to build a dam upstream."

He said the organization now has a couple thousand people as members, but there is no dues-paying process and no statewide database of CRG supporters. The Journal Sentinel said the most recent campaign finance reports show the network has $4,863 in its bank account.
et cetera

Walker backer sees Doyle conspiracy

Turncoat Barbara Boxer, who says she's a Democrat but is raising money for Scott Walker for governor, tries to make the case that some kind of Jim Doyle conspiracy is behind Kathleen Falk's candidacy for attorney general.

Too complicated for simple minds like mine, but Boxer -- who supported Tom Barrett for governor and savaged Doyle on Charlie Sykes' TV show every Sunday during the last campaign -- says "Doyle advisers" have told her they think Mark Green is easier to beat than Walker.

I'm no longer a Doyle adviser, but every Democratic and Doyle strategist I know is pulling for Walker to win the primary.

Here's Boxer's WisPolitics column, in which the biographical note describes her as a longtime Dem and forgets to mention that she supports Walker.

Walker whines about news coverage,

but has been treated well by media

Scott Walker, unhappy with the Journal Sentinel, takes a page out of Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke's playbook and e-mails Republican radio host Charlie Sykes:


What's up with the newspaper? Apparently they couldn't find enough room to put in a story about a major plan to stop the automatic increase in the gas tax each April, but they could find room to run a story about two people from Wisconsin escorting Mr. Potato Head in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Now, I think that's kind of cool, but doesn't a major newspaper have some sort of a responsibility to cover an announcement about a major change in the gas tax?

Other places covered the story. had this on the website. The transportation lobby put out this release in opposition to repealing the gas tax indexing.

Does anyone think that there is any bias in the media?

- Scott
Yes, Scooter, everyone thinks there is bias in the media. And everyone thinks it is against them.

Maybe you've been spoiled, and never had a news conference where no one showed up, or never issued a news release that someone didn't write about.

I doubt that's the case. Many of your campaign news releases never see the light of day, except on political websites or blogs.

You probably thought this one, calling for an end to the automatic increase in the state gas tax, was a sure-fire gimmick to get a story.

For some reason, the newspaper decided not to write about it. Maybe it's because a number of state legislators already have made the same proposal, and that has been covered. Or maybe it just didn't seem like a big deal. I don't know the paper's rationale, and I am certainly not going to be the paper's apologist.

My point isn't that they were right or wrong in deciding not to cover the story.

It's that candidates for office have that same experience on a daily basis. Most of them don't whine about it; they just move on and try something else the next day.

In my years in politics, I've had more than a little frustration about a campaign's inability to get stories covered. I feel your pain.

In 2004, my candidate (your opponent) for county executive, David Riemer, couldn't get newspaper coverage if he set his hair on fire in the middle of the newsroom. The editors had decided that race wasn't worth covering -- and as the incumbent you benefited greatly from that decision. The newspaper even sat on the story about your own pension scandal -- your failure to keep your promise and get your appointees to sign waivers -- until well after the election.

In the last governor's race, all of the three Democrats running in the primary had to fight for every scrap of coverage they got, while the incumbent, Scott McCallum, made news every time he opened his mouth.

You are just a candidate for the GOP nomination, running in a primary in hopes of becoming the nominee. What you're experiencing may be frustrating, but it's hardly unusual.

And it is hardly evidence of bias. The newspaper mistreats all candidates, not just you.

If I had a dollar for every time a campaign I worked on was unhappy about the way the media ignored a press release, I could retire from running candidate campaigns. (Oh, that's right; I have, and without the dollars, too.)

Finally, you probably should be thankful you didn't get coverage on your proposal to get rid of gas tax indexing, since the story may also have pointed out that it was a flip-flop for you on the issue. When you had a chance in the legislature to vote to end indexing, you voted the other way. But that wasn't in the press release, so I covered it for you.

So, Scooter, some final free advice: Take your lumps on coverage. And when you think you have a legitimate gripe, take it up directly with the media outlet, not your Republican talkers and bloggers. In the long run, that'll pay more dividends.

Nobody likes a whiner.

UPDATE: Dennis York gives the idea full and hilarious coverage in his post, Gas tax fever as told by Larry King.

Madison ain't Pewaukee, ain'a?

Let's file this one away under "Suspicions confirmed." Madison's Mayor Dave does not appear to be in any danger of being recalled, even if his foes manage to collect enough signatures, which seems unlikely, judging from this story.

Madison is not going to throw out a popular mayor over a smoking ban, which most Madisonians probably support. The Citizens for Responsible Government and its recall-crazy friends will find that Madison ain't Pewaukee.

Now comes the report this morning that CRG is coming out of the non-partisan, concerned citizen closet, with the ambitious goal of becoming a statewide organization with 10,000 members and a million-dollar bankroll to beat Gov. Jim Doyle next year. Why not just call it Citizens for a Republican Governor and quit pretending?

The million dollars will be easier to find than the 10,000 members, although the Journal Sentinel is doing its part with a top-line story that promotes CRG's wish list -- and that's all it is, at this point. Republicans who want someone else to do their dirty work will write checks to CRG, depending upon its legal status. But the group is entering a brand new arena now, where the rules are different and the scrutiny is more intense.

This will test whether CRG is ready for prime time on the big stage. The group's credibility is on the line. They may wish they were back recalling aldermen in Gopher Junction before this is over.

Mexican-made threads pose threat to border!

Brace yourself. Shocking news!

Uniforms worn by U.S. Border Patrol along the Mexican border are -- gasp! -- made in Mexico!!!

Not to worry. Corrective action is in the works. Let's just hope this bill passes before swarms of illegal immigrants march across the border in formation, disguised as Border Patrol troops.

Anyone down there ever heard of NAFTA?

Newcomer really is a newcomer

Learn something every day -- and count the day lost that you don't catch hell for something.

I guess I might have known this if I really thought about it, since many Wisconsin members of Congress have claimed voting addresses in Wisconsin although living permanently in the DC area. (Not to mention Speaker John Gard, claiming to live in Peshtigo while living in Sun Prairie and sending his kids to school there.)

But I admit to a little surprise upon hearing that you can claim voting residency at an address where a house is still being built, and which you may not occupy for almost a year.

That's the ruling from George Dunst, legal counsel to the State Elections Board, in the case of the appropriately named candidate, Scott Newcomer.

Widgerson Library and Pub has a report on it, and Badger Blogger, which first questioned Newcomer's residency, has more, including a link to the Dunst letter, which explains that where you sleep is not necessarily your place of residence.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

The Biden, er, Bush secret plan to end the war

I am not making this up. The White House is claiming that its secret plan to end the war in Iraq, which it had just not gotten around to sharing with us yet, is pretty much the plan Sen. Joe Biden, D-Delaware, proposed in an op ed on Saturday.

Guess they shouldn't have left that memo lying around, knowing Biden has a history of giving other people's speeches.

Here's the latest lunacy from Scott McClellan, a totally unreliable source.

Bush prepares cut and run plan

Coming soon, the LA Times reports, the Bush secret plan to end the war:

U.S. Starts Laying Groundwork for Significant Troop Pullout From Iraq

By Paul Richter and Tyler Marshall, Times Staff Writers

WASHINGTON — Even as debate over the Iraq war continues to rage, signs are emerging of a convergence of opinion on how the Bush administration might begin to exit the conflict.

In a departure from previous statements, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said this week that the training of Iraqi soldiers had advanced so far that the current number of U.S. troops in the country probably would not be needed much longer.

President Bush will give a major speech Wednesday at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., in which aides say he is expected to herald the improved readiness of Iraqi troops, which he has identified as the key condition for pulling out U.S. forces.

The administration's pivot on the issue comes as the White House is seeking to relieve enormous pressure by war opponents. The camp includes liberals, moderates and old-line conservatives who are uneasy with the costly and uncertain nation-building effort.

"Pivot" is a very kind word to describe what Bush appears poised to do -- move in the direction advocated by people his administration has called cowards and traitors.

Unanswered questions

A few pertinent questions on the Abramoff case, asked of Wisconsin Republicans by Eye On Wisconsin, who says he doesn't really expect any answers.

That's OK. The questions alone speak volumes.

'Jefferson council crosses the line'

in its rush to welcome Wal-Mart

An op ed column by a public interest lawyer Brent Denzin explores what's happening with Jefferson Wal-Mart and questions why city government is unwilling to collect more information before welcoming a superstore, and has rejected a petition for direct legislation:

In the rush to flood the city with below-poverty level jobs, the council has forgotten that its authority has limits. Whether citizens believe that Wal-Marts will save or destroy their community, their right to directly participate in government does not end on election day...

While the whole process has been dirty, at best, the latest decision in Jefferson crosses the line. The council's recent actions should not be considered yet another issue in a deep debate about our changing economic and environmental landscape. The reaction should be clear and definite: These actions are not only unwise, irresponsible and undemocratic; they are illegal and unacceptable.
Unspoken is the question of whether this issue is headed to court.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Biden gets the message

I've been among those saying for awhile now that any Democrat who has presidential aspirations in 2008 needs to establish his/her bona fides on the Iraq war. I can't imagine that the party will turn to someone who continues to support the Bush administration's failed policies, even under cover of "supporting the troops."

Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., has been one of those on the list of presidential hopefuls who has continued to support the war.

No more. In a Washington Post op ed column today, he calls for a timetable for withdrawal.

Can Hillary be far behind?

Biden's change of heart is discussed at TPM Cafe

No-bid contract still a non-story

Eye On Wisconsin continues to needle the Journal Sentinel over its lack of interest in writing about questionable contracts awarded by Milwaukee County to a low-ranked firm whose execs are donors to County Exec Scott Walker.

The facts and circumstances, he says, are worse than those in the award of a state contract to Adelman Travel, to which the JS has devoted barrels of ink and some top-line headlines. The county even gave a $250,000 no-bid contract to the firm. (That's as big as the Adelman contract and there were no bids at all.)

It is worth the effort to try to shame them into some coverage. But I fear the Eye will find that to really get the newspaper's attention you need more than a blog. You need a radio station.

Quote, unquote

“Felons lack the qualification to vote only because we say they do. Just like we say you have to be 18 to vote or you have to vote in your district. So it is simply a matter of policy."

--Kevin Kennedy, executive director of the State Elections Board, who recommends letting felons vote. State Rep. Joe Parisi, D-Madison, is preparing a bill to do that. I agree.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Move over Murtha, make room

for another defense hawk

The effects of last week's rancorous House debate over Iraq continue to be felt.

The Seattle Times reports that Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Wash., a staunch supporter of the military and of the decision to go to war in Iraq, now says it was all a mistake — his vote, the invasion, and the way the United States is waging the war.

It sounds as though the Republicans made another major mistake when they began the name-calling and vilified Democrats who questioned the war. That mistake helped Dicks to make a decision, and he won't be the last. The story's well worth a read.

-- Chan Lowe, South Florida Sun Sentinel, via Cagle.

Racine emperor backs off

Racine County Exec William McReynolds has "clarified" and "reaffirmed" his policies about giving county supervisors access to county staff, he says.

But it sounds a lot more like he backed down from am irrational and indefensible position that prevented one supervisor from getting information from staffers unless she went to McReynolds first.

Earlier post: Racine exec thinks he's the emperor.

He may be a little more sensitive and responsive to criticism these days because he has announced as a candidate for the State Senate in 2006, and looking like a cranky crackpot won't help.

Quote, unquote

"Dissent equals treason. Anyone who criticizes Bush is unpatriotic. According to this pitiful attempt at intimidation, to notice that this war is a disaster is the same as spitting on our soldiers."

-- Molly Ivins, in a column, "Bush's Spin Machine," on AlterNet.

Random notes . . .

DIALING IT DOWN. I see Gov. Doyle has ordered the thermostats turned down in state buildings to save money -- from 72 degrees down to 68. Our themostat hasn't been at 72 since the energy crisis of 1973.

ILLEGAL WEB SITES. The last few days I have been bombarded with spam, some from what purports to be the CIA and others from the FBI. They tell me my IP-address has showed up on on more than 30 "illegal websites," and invite me to open some attached questions, which of course I've never done. But I do have this nagging doubt -- what if, under the Patriot Act, the government is monitoring my computer? Some illegal websites I visit could be The Progressive, Yellow Dog Blog, BuzzFlash, Lefty Blogs, AlterNet, Mother Jones,, and The Nation, just for starters. Pretty sure I could get to 30 without much effort. I only wish The Xoff Files could be illegal; think of what it would do for traffic.

BAD EXAMPLE. Does anyone else find it ironic that the Steven Avery case is being used as the reason to introduce another death penalty bill? Avery, whether guilty or not of the current charge against him, was wrongly convicted for an earlier crime and spent 18 years in prison. If it had been a capital offense, he would have been put to death for a crime he didn't commit. It's true that if we had wrongly executed Avery he would not ave been able to commit another crime, but that doesn't seem like the best argument for the death penalty.

PUTTING THE X BACK IN XMAS. Several right-wing bloggers in the Milwaukee area have their undies bundled over radio station WRIT's play list for holiday music (I didn't say Christmas just to prove to them I really am the heathen they think I am.) The 24/7 Christmas music doesn't include enough religious songs, they say. Excuse me, but isn't that up to the station under this free enterprise system the conservatives champion? If people don't like their selections, they can listen to another station. It's The American Way. (Anyone for starting a petition to get Republican radio WTMJ to go all-religious music all year-round? It would be a vast improvement.)

Thursday, November 24, 2005

--Etta Hulme, Fort Worth Star Telegram

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

--Jim Day, Las Vegas Review Journal, via Cagle. (Click on cartoon to enlarge)

Schmidt: What didn't she know and when?

Rep. Jean Schmidt, who called colleague John Murtha a coward on the House floor last week, said she was delilvering a messahe from a Marine colonel. Now that colonel says he never mentioned Murtha and would never call a fellow Marine a coward.

Yellow Dog Blog has more.

Schmidt also says she didn't know Murtha was a Marine.

Pathetic. What else didn't she know, and when didn't she know it?

How many rode the Abramoff gravy train?

Mark Graul, Rep. Mark Green's campaign manager and ex-chief of staff on the Hill, gets another mention today by Josh Marshall on Talking Points Memo:
Here's one thing I'm interested in. A couple days ago, the Washington Post quoted sources close to the Abramoff investigation saying that investigators are "are looking at half a dozen members of Congress, current and former senior Hill aides, a former deputy secretary of the interior, and Abramoff's former lobbying colleagues."

Now, six members of Congress -- not so many when you consider there are more than 500 hundred of them. But note the standard. Presumably, these are the ones FBI agents and federal prosecutors are looking to possibly charge with criminal offenses and send to prison.

Given how common a practice it is for big contributions to secure votes on key legislation in today's Washington (and yesterday's Washington too, for that matter), you've really got to cross the line in a big way to get into legal trouble for taking bribes, as already seems to have happened with Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH). The DOJ doesn't enforce House ethics rules (then again, nobody does anymore. but that's another story). Nor are there laws against general sleazeballery.

So how big a swath will the Abramoff scandal cut in the House? Six under scrutiny for actual charges? Figure there are ten times that many tarred with his brush, revealed to be deep in his web of corruption, on the freebie gravy train, even if they violated no specific laws which could land them in jail. How does the Abramoff scandal play in their districts?

Last month we did a few posts about a guy named Mark Graul, one-time Chief of Staff for Rep. Mark Green (R) of Wisconsin and now his campaign manager as Green runs for Governor. We noted that Graul's name shows up again and again getting tickets to various Abramoff skyboxes back in 2000. (These are from a collection of Team Abramoff emails we received a few months back.)

Graul first denied getting any freebies. But as we published more and more of the emails and the local press started taking notice, he eventually sorta kinda 'fessed up. And he came up with a new line which was basically, tough luck, that's how business is done in Washington.

When asked about the Abramoff freebies, Graul told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel "I believe it's illegal in [the Wisconsin state capital of] Madison. It's legal in Washington."

So how many other members of Congress up for election next year were on the Abramoff gravy train?

Lawmakers begin to wake up, speak up

on Veterans Affairs power grab

The attempt to change the rules at the Dept. of Veterans Affairs, in effect making John Scocos DVA Secretary for Life, is beginning to attract the attention of state legislators.

Like the rest of us, they have trouble understanding why Scocos should get special treatment. The DVA board is considering a rule change that, if passed, would require a unanimous 7-0 vote to remove him from the job. No other cabinet secretary has ever had that kind of job security.

What's behind it is a partisan effort by Republican appointees, who still control the board, to insulate Scocos before Democratic appointees have the majority. But there is no indication that the governor or his appointees have any desire to get rid of Scocos. It looks a lot like rampant paranoia.

State Rep. Dave Travis, D-Madison, who publicly endorsed Scocos' appointment, says he would do so again. But he called for the board to "back off" its attempts to give Scocos lifetime tenure.

"I believe he has done many good things on behalf of Wisconsin veterans, and respect his service to our country. Despite my support for Secretary Scocos, I am deeply deeply offended by the actions of the Board of Veterans Affairs which I believe is legally questionable on several levels-and certainly ethically questionable," Travis said.

There are no Republicans or Democrats on the battlefield-only Americans.

It is shameful that certain members of the Veterans' Board and State Senate want to make veterans' issues partisan.

I suggest people back off and return to our usual nonpartisan approach to veterans issues.

If people insist on going forth with activities that are illegal or questionable, I have no other choice than to ask for legal investigations, but I hope folks take a few deep breaths and decide to keep politics away from our service people.

State Rep. Bob Turner, D-Racine, a Vietnam vet:

I do not believe that the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs is meant to be a lifetime political appointee. There are protections built into the system, and these protections are consistent with our representative form of government. Allowing a life term for any appointee is tantamount to totalitarianism. I would hope that the members of the Board will understand this and vote accordingly.
State Sen. Robert Wirch, D-Pleasant Prairie, member of the Senate Committee on Veterans, Homeland Security, and Military Affairs, Small Business and Government Reform, (and the Kitchen Sink) calls the board's latest ploy an unabashed "power grab."

Some county veterans service officers also have spoken up in opposition.

No Republican leggies are willing to talk publicly about it, apparently because Speaker John Gard is pulling the strings on this one and is likely to rip out the tongue of anyone who disagrees.
The board will hold a teleconference on the proposed changes at 10 a.m. on Monday, Nov. 28, on the 8th floor of the WDVA headquarters at 30 W. Mifflin St., Madison. It is a public meeting. The board could act that day or defer action to its December meeting. There has been no public hearing. Earlier post.

Paging U.S. Attorney, news media,

Republican Party and all ships at sea

Eye on Wisconsin is just wondering where the concern is about some questionable county contracts he revealed earlier this week:

Paging U.S. Attorney Steven M. Biskupic

You are investigating allegations regarding the awarding of a state contract to Adelman Travel. The amount of that contract was $250,000 and Adelman won the bid. The Scott Walker/Milwaukee County contract with Phoenix Care Systems was for over $1.2 million and that company did not even score very high.

Not to mention that they also received a no-bid contract from MilwaukeeCounty during the same year. Now I’m sure the fact that the executives of that company gave money to Scott Walker is just a coincidence, but we really should err on the side of caution. Don’t you agree? Please email me when you have the press conference scheduled.
Read it all.

Walker, Green begin to mix it up;

Walker's record on gas tax a problem

Are the Republican candidates for governor finally going to start to mix it up a little and begin to talk about their differences? Is Scott Walker really more against taxes than Mark Green? Green says otherwise.

Walker fired the first shot across Green's bow, over gas taxes.

Here's how Republican radio's Charlie Sykes describes it. I've highlighted some parts that deserve special attention:

Scott Walker turns up the pressure on his fellow GOPers. Here is his plan:

*Stop the automatic gas tax increase. This would save $38.6 million in the current budget.

*Protect the Transportation Fund from being raided (like Doyle did in the past two budgets - he took $486 million in 2005/2007 budget)

*Allow the sales tax collected from vehicle-related purchases (currently used in the general fund) to be put in to the Transportation Fund

*Work to end EPA regulations for Reformulated Gas

Walker provides this background:

Background: In 1995, former Governor Tommy Thompson proposed a 3.5% "oil franchise fee" - an indirect gas tax that would raise gas prices about 3.85 cents per gallon. The plan also would tie the state gas tax solely to the national inflation rate. And finally, it would have allowed Milwaukee County to impose a 2-cent-per-gallon gas tax dedicated to the transit system.

At the time, 10 of us in the Assembly stood up against the plan and stopped it - twice. We took the heat on taxes - not from Democrats, but from Republicans in the leadership like Speaker David Prosser, Caucus Chair Mark Green and Rep. John Gard. Still, we blocked the major tax increase.

Most of the 10 were from southeastern Wisconsin. Our constituents were smarting (and still are today) over reformulated gas and how much it was driving up the cost of a gallon of gas.

Now, the next step is to stop the annual increase in the gas tax - without a vote.

Where else do we give an increase without justification for the use of those tax dollars? As Conservatives, this should be a litmus test. Not just because it is the gas tax, but because it is taxation without representation. Forcing a vote forced government to justify the use of those tax dollars.

This puts pressure on Mark Green. He is closely aligned with Speaker John Gard, who hasn't shown much enthusiasm for ending the automatic gas tax increase. But they can't afford not to get on this bus.

Just one problem for Walker: If the automatic gas tax issue is the litmus test, Walker flunks.

He had a chance when he was in the legislature in 1999 to vote for a proposal to end the automatic increases.

What did Walker do? He voted no.

Walker also voted once, during his time in the legislature, to increase the gas tax in addition to the automatic increase.

Meanwhile, Green's weekly newsletter takes out after Walker for opposing cuts in child support enforcement money, which will hurt Milwaukee County's efforts to collect child support. Green voted for those cuts as part of $50-billion in budget cuts that also slashed funding for Medicare, food stamps, and other programs that primarily help the poor. From Green's newsletter, headlined "Mark Takes on the Big Spenders:"
Even Mark’s GOP primary opponent, Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker, got into the act calling for more spending. Here’s an excerpt from this Milwaukee Journal Sentinel story:

Walker, a Republican, finds himself arguing the same points as the advocates and the administration of Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle, whom Walker hopes to run against next year. The issue also pits Walker against fellow Republicans in Congress, who support the trim as part of a much larger budget-cutting package.

OK, so it's not exactly a slugfest yet. But it's the early rounds, and as the fight announcers always say, Green and Walker are feeling each other out. Sooner or later, they'll start to throw some real punches.

Unless Green counter-punches on the gas tax issue, Walker wins the first round on points.

Waukesha is a long ways from

getting Lake Michigan water

Waukesha Freeman columnist Dennis Shook seems quite excited to report the news that a new Great Lakes water compact could allow Waukesha County to get water from Lake Michigan.

Shook sounds about ready to pop the bubbly and celebrate Waukesha's success.

But that would be more than a little premature. One of my Water Warrior buddies (in other words, someone, unlike me, who actually knows something about the issue) tells me that:

Waukesha, like dozens of communities near the Great Lakes basin boundaries, will be eligible to APPLY for a diversion, but it's premature to say they can or will be hooked up. There's an important difference between applying for a diversion, being approved, and turning on a spigot.

There are many unanswered questions about the whole process, assuming that the Governors agree on Dec. 13 to sign the document that is still being reviewed:

1. What is the format for an application? What does it have to include?

2. Are the legal and scientific mechanics in place to review it?

3. How much public input will there be?

4. Will a decision, either way, be appealable? If so, to whom?

5. Will a community be required to return diverted water to the source (in Waukesha's case, that community continues to balk, citing the expense)?

6. Will a community be allowed to blend diverted water with other water for the return if required (in Waukesha's case, that could include radium-tainted
water, which MMSD may not want or be able to handle, and which may harm Lake Michigan).

7. Will a community seeking a diversion be required to have, in place, a functioning water conservation plan - - achieving what results, and for how long?

And every diversion application for a city like Waukesha (in a so-called boundary straddling county, will be considered by all the states with its precedent-setting potential in mind. That means the decision is political, as well as legal and

That is why all such applications will have to win unanimous approval from eight Governors. That means the bar continues to be very high, and why, since 1985,
applications have been few in number and even fewer have been approved.

And why conservation has to be the driving element, prior, during and after an application is forwarded, and also needs to be the driving element in all Great
Lakes communities, diversion application or not.
So, Waukeshans (Waukeshites?) (Waukeonians?), keep the cap on the champagne for now. "There's many a slip twixt cup and lip," as Ben Franklin would say.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Drink up, soldier! Under age? No problem

State Rep. Mark Pettis, R-Hertel, is hell-bent on letting members of the military drink in Wisconsin, even if they are under the legal drinking age of 21.

He had proposed a bill to let service members drink at age 19, but that would mean the loss of millions of dollars in federal highway aid, so the idea has been shelved.

But he's back with another, worse idea: Don't lower the drinking age, just make the fine so low no one will worry about getting caught. Any 19- or 20-year-old member of the military, and the bartender who served him/her, would pay only $10 in fines and penalties.

My recollection is that this started out with Pettis being concerned that veterans of the Iraq war were not old enough to drink legally when they came back.

Now we're down to allowing any member of the National Guard, Reserve or active duty forces drink if he/she is 19 or older.

That's something they can't do in their own enlisted clubs on the base where they're stationed in the US, but what the hell, we make beer in Wisconsin so let 'em all drink. It should be great for business in the taverns around Fort McCoy, and probably for the ambulance service and hospitals, too.

Makes me feel a little sorry for those 18-year-old soldiers, sailors, Air Force members and Marines, who will be left out. What's so magic about 19? For that matter, what makes a 19-year-old service member more able to drink responsibly than a 19-year-old civilian? (Oh, no one said anything about responsibility. OK.) When I was a Marine, none of the people I ran with should have been allowed to drink, no matter how old we were. But that's another story.

Tom Sheehan of the LaCrosse Tribune has details.

Lest you think this is much ado about a bill that's not going anywhere, it already has been recommended for passage by an Assembly committee on a 7-2 vote

Fixing the Patriot Act

Sen. Russ Feingold is trying, while Congress is in recess, to enlist support for the Senate's version of the Patriot Act, which modifies some of the most troubling provisions in the bill.

A conference committee was on the verge of rejecting those changes last week, but backed off on action before Congress recessed. Feingold said he was prepared, if necessary, to filibuster by reading the Bill of Rights and other relevant documents on the floor of the Senate.

But the bill is just on hold temporarily. It's important to keep the pressure on and let Congress know that we won't give the government a blank check to snoop into our private lives.

One way to help: Sign a petition.

Another traitorous call for timetable

Cowards! Traitors! Cut and run!

AP reports on this distressing development:

Iraqi Leaders Call for Pullout Timetable

CAIRO, Egypt (AP) - Reaching out to the Sunni Arab community, Iraqi leaders called for a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S.-led forces and said Iraq's opposition had a "legitimate right" of resistance.

The communique - finalized by Shiite, Kurdish and Sunni leaders Monday - condemned terrorism but was a clear acknowledgment of the Sunni position that insurgents should not be labeled as terrorists if their operations do not target innocent civilians or institutions designed to provide for the welfare of Iraqi citizens.

The leaders agreed on "calling for the withdrawal of foreign troops according to a timetable, through putting in place an immediate national program to rebuild the armed forces ... control the borders and the security situation" and end terror attacks.
I forgot "ingrates, but Folkbum has it covered.

Another rationale for voter photo ID

One more example of the kind of thinking that lies behind efforts to disenfranchise minorities through photo ID requirements. This from the Atlanta Journal Constitution:

Voter ID memo stirs tension
Sponsor of disputed Georgia legislation told feds that blacks in her district only vote if they are paid to do so.

The chief sponsor of Georgia's voter identification law told the Justice Department that if black people in her district "are not paid to vote, they don't go to the polls," and that if fewer blacks vote as a result of the new law, it is only because it would end such voting fraud.

The newly released Justice Department memo quoting state Rep. Sue Burmeister (R-Augusta) was prepared by department lawyers as the federal government considered whether to approve the new law. It also says that despite Republican assurances the law would not disenfranchise elderly, poor and black voters, Susan Laccetti Meyers, the staff adviser for the Georgia House of Representatives, told the Justice Department "the Legislature did not conduct any statistical analysis of the effect of the photo ID requirement on minority voters."

'Anti-gay stand will cost GOP long-term'

Some insights on the Republicans' gay-bashing from a new conservative blog, I Am The Force:

Most people in today's world have friends or family members who are gay. We should all be thankful to them for coming out of the closet and helping dispel ignorance and fear in the "straight" community. The Gundrum Republicans are wrong today because the gay couple down the street is no threat to you or your family. They are people, the same as you or I, who deserve to live their lives as they wish and be left alone to do so. The concept of toleration is even offensive and passe'. You shouldn't have to tolerate them, because there is nothing offensive to tolerate. Who they love and what they do in their sex lives is none of your business, and doesn't affect you and your family in any way. So there may be many people out there who still fear gays and lesbians, but that does not excuse a political party trying to exploit those fears for partisan political advantage. If you can't be okay with the private lives of others, well then, at minimum, just leave them alone. Is that too much to ask?

More and more regular people in Wisconsin and around the world are understanding this every day. And over time, the civil rights of homosexuals will become as solidly recognized as the civil rights of women and minorities. When George Wallace stood at that schoolhouse door to fight integration, he certainly experienced short term political gain from the white Jim Crow supporters of Alabama, but he was wrong nevertheless. And history will judge the Mark Gundrums of the world in the same manner. It is a shameful thing to condemn a sub-group of people in our society as second class citizens. The Republicans of Wisconsin are simply wrong on this issue, and they will eventually pay at the polls.
Read it all.

Green's 'family values' help right-wing

agenda, but do little or nothing for families

Rep. Mark Green was touting his award from the Family Research Council the other day, saying he had won a "True Blue" award for "his strong defense of families and the sanctity of human life."

"Since coming to Congress, one of my highest priorities has been protecting the needs of families,"Green said. "The work we do in Washington can strengthen or weaken family bonds, and the "True Blue"Award is a reminder of just how significant an impact our votes in Congress have."

This year, Green was recognized "for demonstrating extraordinary integrity and character in his defense of families and the sanctity of human life through his votes in Congress."

"Stronger neighborhoods and communities start with stronger families, and that's why it's always important that we support public policy that protects the values of human life, religion and family institutions such as marriage," Green said.
What could be finer and more voter-friendly than a pro-family group?

Well, the Family Research Council cares about a lot more than families -- and only certain kinds of families need apply. Founded by James Dobson and headed for a time by Gary Bauer, its president is now Tony Perkins (not the actor who played a nutcase, but an actual nutcase). Right Wing Watch, at People for the American Way, explains:
Since the early 1990s, FRC has emerged as a leading conservative think-tank championing "traditional family values" by lobbying for state-sponsored prayer in public schools, private school vouchers, abstinence-only programs, filtering software on public library computers, the right to discriminate against gay men and lesbians.

FRC's objective is to establish a conservative Christian standard of morality in all of America's domestic and foreign policy.

FRC has dedicated itself to working against reproductive freedom, sex education, equal rights for gays and lesbians and their families, funding of the National Endowment for the Arts and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. FRC supports a school prayer amendment and would like to "disestablish"the Department of Education.
The agenda doesn't stop there, either. To get a "True Blue" award, Green needed to vote with the council 100% of the time on "pro-family" issues that included:

--Allowing faith-based organizations to discriminate in hiring based on religion, a family value if I ever heard one.

-- Interfering in the Terri Schiavo case by passing a bill taking sides with her parents and against her husband, who was trying to carry out her wishes.

-- Cutting funding for the National Endowment for the Arts. (That reafamilieses a blow for famililes.)

-- Opposing an expansion of federal support for stem cell research, which holds out the potential to cure diseases that affect almost every American family.)

-- Supporting display of the 10 Commandments at an Indiana courthouse. (Makes my family more secure.)

-- Supporting a constitutional amendment to prohibit flag desecration, which threatens families all across the country.

-- Opposing the Supreme Court ruling on eminent domain and prohibiting spending any money to enforce the court decision. (Ah, yes, protecting the sanctity of public property.)

-- Opposing an amendment to the Child Safety Act to create federal hate crimes for violent acts based on race, religion, disability, gender, or sexual orientation. I'm not sure what the pro-family part of that vote would be, but Mark Green will no doubt be happy to explain during his campaign for governor. (Interestingly, last year he didn't even bother to respond to a questionnaire from the Wisconsin version of the organization.)

Two other Wisconsin Republicans, Paul Ryan and F. Jim Sensenbrenner, also were "True Blue" with 100% voting records, but only Green put out a news release. Tom Petri was 92% True Blue, not enough for an award. Among the Dems, Dave Obey scored 17%, while Tammy Baldwin, Gwen Moore and Ron Kind all got big fat zeroes.

Green, of course, voted last week for $50-billion in budget cuts that will harm many Wisconsin families by cutting student loans, food stamps, and child support enforcement funds, Medicaid, and other family-friendly programs -- programs that actually strengthen families and help them survive and improve their lot. When he goes back to DC after the Thanksgiving recess, he'll be voting for a $70-billion tax cut that helps families, too -- the wealthiest families in the country.

Two reads on the same McCain story

One of the things that makes politics so interesting is the ability of two people, two groups, or two political parties to look at the same information and reach totally different conclusions.

Case in point: David Broder's column in the WashPost on Sen. John McCain and his unflinching support for the war in Iraq:

No one outside the administration has been more adamant or outspoken in arguing that there is no substitute for victory in Iraq than has McCain, the Naval Academy graduate and survivor of years in a North Vietnamese prison camp. Others in the field of potential 2008 presidential candidates also support the war, but for none of them does it represent as large a gamble.
I read that column and concluded that if McCain doesn't change course, he may be the Republican nominee but can never be elected in 2008. I don't believe anyone who is still an Iraq hawk in 2008 can win. (I don't think changing your position in 2007 will work very well, either.) McCain's support for the war may well make him the Hubert Humphrey of 2008.

Interestingly (well, at least to me), Brian Christianson, who writes the Free Will blog, read the same column and reached the opposite conclusion. He seems to think McCain will be elected by acclamation.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Cheney soldiers on as Bush retreats

Even Veep Dick Chickenhawk -- I mean Cheney -- has toned down his rhetoric on Iraq critics a little bit, following the lead of his partner in crime, W Bush. Bush is now the good cop, Cheney the not-quite-as-bad cop. But he still gets his licks in.

The WashPost reports:
Cheney said in his speech today that he does not believe it is "wrong to criticize the war on terror or any aspect thereof" and that he enjoys "energetic debate on issues facing our country." He called [Rep. John] Murtha "a good man, a Marine, a patriot" and said that while he disagreed with him, the congressman was "taking a clear stand in an entirely legitimate discussion."

However, Cheney said: "What is not legitimate and what I will again say is dishonest and reprehensible is the suggestion by some U.S. senators that the president of the United States or any member of his administration purposely misled the American people on prewar intelligence.
I guess if you were the chief of the "Find 'Evidence' of WMDs No Matter What" Unit, as Cheney was, you'd be a little testy about it, too.

UPDATE: Political Animal blog at Washington Monthly says Bush's line is that "I was wrong but so were you," while Cheney continues to argue that the administration was totally right when it decided to invade. That's a much harder sell.

And this, from Think Progress:

Cheney Rewrites The Headlines

Vice President Dick Cheney began his speech at the American Enterprise Institute today with the following statement:
My remarks today concern national security, in particular the war on terror and Iraq front in that war. Several days ago, I commented on some recent statements that have been made by some members of Congress about Iraq. Within hours of my speech, a report went out on the wires under the headline quote, Cheney Says War Critics Dishonest, Reprehensible, endquote. The one thing I’ve learned in the last five years is that when you’re vice president you’re lucky if your speeches get any attention at all but I do have a quarrel with that headline.
Here’s exactly what Cheney said just a few days ago, on November 16:

And the suggestion that’s been made by some U.S. senators that the President of the United States or any member of this administration purposely misled the American people on pre-war intelligence is one of the most dishonest and reprehensible charges ever aired in this city.

To quote President Bush, it is “deeply irresponsible to rewrite history.”

--Steve Benson, United Media, via Cagle.

Lest you mistakenly think that the debate on Iraq is just partisan politics, read Newsweek on what made Rep. Jack Murtha stand up and do what he did:

Murtha was the one-man tipping point. Initially a strong supporter of the conflict, he had voted for it and the money to pay for it. But on his last trip to Iraq, he had become convinced not only that the war was unwinnable, but that the continued American military presence was making matters far worse. "We're the target, we're part of the problem," he told NEWSWEEK. Back in Washington, he resumed his weekly pilgrimage to Walter Reed Army Medical Center, visiting severely wounded casualties in rehab and agonizing over what he saw there. "I think those visits affected him deeply," said [Rep. Rosa] DeLauro.

In a long chat with an Irish colleague, he talked about his congressional hero and mentor, another blue-collar Irishman, Thomas P. (Tip) O'Neill. No liberal on defense, in 1967 O'Neill had stunned President Lyndon B. Johnson by telling him that the Vietnam War had become a lost cause. Now, Murtha mused, it was his turn to confront a president with harsh truths.

Low-ranked firm gives campaign cash,

gets contracts; one without even bidding

Suppose that Jim Doyle's administration awarded a $1.28-million contract to a company that scored sixth in a field of eight bidders.

Further suppose that two executives of that company were major donors to Doyle.

And then add the fact that after awarding this sixth-ranked company a million dollar-plus contract, the administration approved another $250,000 no-bid contract with the same company.

Republicans -- and the news media -- would be screaming bloody murder.

It's all true -- except for one little detail.

It's not the Doyle administration that gave those suspicious contracts to a campaign donor.

It is Scott Walker's Milwaukee County Government.

Eye On Wisconsin lays it out very well.

Can't wait for the front page headline.

Veterans affairs chief pleads ignorance

of attempt to give him lifetime job

John Scocos says he's flattered that the state Board of Veterans Affairs thinks so highly of him that it is about to make him Secretary of Veterans Affairs for Life.

In a partisan power play, the Republican-appointed majority on the board wants to change the rules to make sure that if Democratic appointees ever get control of the board they still won't be able to get rid of Scocos, except with a unanimous vote of the seven members. (It now takes five votes to dismiss him.)

Although he suggested to Spivak and Bice that there was nothing unusual about the proposed change, it would make him the only department head in state government with that kind of protection.

Scocos talks as though he isn't even familiar with the proposed changes, which were introduced by board member Kathleen Marschman at the board's last meeting. Scocos tells the Spice Boys:
"I'm very flattered that the board would care that much about me . . . that the board would look to change the rules from five to whatever the number is (seven)," Scocos said, referring to the number of votes it would take to fire him.

As to why he needs all this extra body armor, he contended that there's nothing unusual about the special flak jacket he is set to receive.

"I'm not looking for any protection," Scocos said. He added, "I don't think it's any different than anybody else."
I'm sorry, but I refuse to believe that Scocos doesn't know that "whatever the number is" is seven, and hasn't reviewed all of the multiple changes Marschman wants the board to make.

And if he doesn't want any special protection, why doesn't he tell the board that? Scocos, who talks like the board operates in its own little world. actually runs a very tight ship. The board is at his beck and call. What Scocos wants, Scocos gets.

That could change, of course, if Democratic appointees ever get a majority. That's why Marschman, a Republican appointee whose term expired May 1, is maneuvering to make the change now. Her replacement, former State Sen. Rod Moen, has been nominated by Doyle, but the Republican-run State Senate hasn't confirmed Moen and Marschman has refused to resign so he can begin to serve.

Marschman was the board chair when Scocos, a former Republican staffer, was hired at a secret meeting, ignoring the governor's request to meet with the finalists before the board acted. Now she's leading the charge to make sure Scocos keeps the job as long as he wants, no matter who controls state government.

Scocos claims innocence of any involvement in coming up with the rule changes, and probably deserves the benefit of the doubt. But if Scocos wasn't involved, Marschman is probably doing the bidding of Scocos' patron, Speaker John Gard, who's always looking for another what to stick it to the Democrats.

With only two Doyle appointees on the current seven-member board, these changes seem to be wired. It only takes four votes to change the rules, and once the rules are changed Scocos, at age 49, will basically have a lifetime appointment to a job that now pays $118,000 a year.

The board will hold a teleconference on the proposed changes at 10 a.m. on Monday, Nov. 28, on the 8th floor of the WDVA headquarters at 30 W. Mifflin St., Madison. It is a public meeting. The board could act that day or defer action to its December meeting. There has been no public hearing, but some veterans are beginning to express their opinions.

Earlier post: Veterans affairs secretary moves to give himself more job security.

Some rough talk on the right

Republicans have taken great delight, of late, in the Democratic debate over the primary for attorney general between Peg Lautenschlager and Kathleen Falk.

Lest you get the impression that it's all sweetness and light over on the right, consider this from a new blog, Playground Politics, which says it's not partisan and calls 'em like it seems 'em, but clearly comes from the conservative end of the spectrum:

So here you go, Wisconsin. Your choices for governor next year are:

A two-faced hypocrite from Green Bay whose chief-of-staff took a bunch of freebies from a lobbyist who is under indictment for wire fraud and conspiracy

A college dropout from Milwaukee whose friend and fundraiser is under indictment for extortion and mail and wire fraud.

Jim Doyle.

Maybe Spencer Black isn't such a bad option after all ...

For sale: Public lands, private forest acreage

One more thing for which we can thank Reps. Mark Green, Paul Ryan, F. Jim Sensebrenner and Tom Petri:

The new budget bill their votes put over the top this week
will allow the sale of millions of acres to federal land in the West to developers, the NY Times reports.

Mike Dombek, a Wisconsinite who was chief of the US Forest Service job and is now back in Stevens Point, warned what that would mean in an LA Times op ed.

Closer to home, the Journal Sentinel's Lee Bergquist reports, more than 10-million acres of forest land are privately owned, and much of it is on the market and changing hands, raising some environmental concerns as subdivisions begin to sprout. Story.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Bush does about-face on war critics

Attention, right-wing bloggers:

New talking points, from the Commander in Chief himself, who must have seen some new polling.

You might want to go back and edit some of the vitriol you spewed in the last 72 hours.

Bush Tones Down Attack on Iraq War Critics
AP White House Correspondent

BEIJING - After fiercely defending his Iraq policy across Asia, President Bush abruptly toned down his attack on war critics Sunday and said there was nothing unpatriotic about opposing his strategy.

"People should feel comfortable about expressing their opinions about Iraq," Bush said, three days after agreeing with Vice President Dick Cheney that the critics were "reprehensible."

The president also praised Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., as "a fine man" and a strong supporter of the military despite the congressman's call for troop withdrawal as soon as possible. . .

"I heard somebody say, `Well, maybe so-and-so is not patriotic because they disagree with my position.' I totally reject that thought," Bush said.

"This is not an issue of who's patriotic and who's not patriotic," he said. "It's an issue of an honest, open debate about the way forward in Iraq."
The whole story.

'One war lost, another to go'

Frank Rich in NY Times:

If anyone needs further proof that we are racing for the exits in Iraq, just follow the bouncing ball that is Rick Santorum. A Republican leader in the Senate and a true-blue (or red) Iraq hawk, he has long slobbered over President Bush, much as Ed McMahon did over Johnny Carson. But when Mr. Bush went to Mr. Santorum's home state of Pennsylvania to give his Veterans Day speech smearing the war's critics as unpatriotic, the senator was M.I.A.

Mr. Santorum preferred to honor a previous engagement more than 100 miles away. There he told reporters for the first time that "maybe some blame" for the war's "less than optimal" progress belonged to the White House. This change of heart had nothing to do with looming revelations of how the new Iraqi "democracy" had instituted Saddam-style torture chambers. Or with the spiraling investigations into the whereabouts of nearly $9 billion in unaccounted-for taxpayers' money from the American occupation authority. Or with the latest spike in casualties. Mr. Santorum was instead contemplating his own incipient political obituary written the day before: a poll showing him 16 points down in his re-election race.

No sooner did he stiff Mr. Bush in Pennsylvania than he did so again in Washington, voting with a 79-to-19 majority on a Senate resolution begging for an Iraq exit strategy. He was joined by all but one (Jon Kyl) of the 13 other Republican senators running for re-election next year. They desperately want to be able to tell their constituents that they were against the war after they were for it.

They know the voters have decided the war is over, no matter what symbolic resolutions are passed or defeated in Congress nor how many Republicans try to Swift-boat Representative John Murtha, the marine hero who wants the troops out. A USA Today/CNN/Gallup survey last week found that the percentage (52) of Americans who want to get out of Iraq fast, in 12 months or less, is even larger than the percentage (48) that favored a quick withdrawal from Vietnam when that war's casualty toll neared 54,000 in the apocalyptic year of 1970.

The Ohio State political scientist John Mueller, writing in Foreign Affairs , found that "if history is any indication, there is little the Bush administration can do to reverse this decline." He observed that Mr. Bush was trying to channel L. B. J. by making "countless speeches explaining what the effort in Iraq is about, urging patience and asserting that progress is being made. But as was also evident during Woodrow Wilson's campaign to sell the League of Nations to the American public, the efficacy of the bully pulpit is much overrated."

Mr. Bush may disdain timetables for our pullout, but, hello, there already is one, set by the Santorums of his own party: the expiration date for a sizable American presence in Iraq is Election Day 2006

Read the whole column on Truthout.

Ney not best advisor on clean government

Does the name Bob Ney ring a bell?

He's in the news as the first member of Congress to reveal he has been subpoenaed in the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal, and there are reports he may be the first member indicted, too.

But where have we heard that name?

Oh, right, Bob Ney is Mark Green's pal in the House of Representatives who came to Milwaukee to hold a phony hearing on election reform and tell the people of Wisconsin how to clean up their act.

When Bob Ney tells you how to clean up your act, you'd do well to consider the source.

Corruption inquiry threatens to ensnare lawmakers.

On Capitol Hill, Ney is the mayor.

How many more?

Sparta soldier killed in Iraq

When he was about 10 years old, Alex Gaunky stared up apprehensively at the climbing wall in the field house of the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.

He climbed up several feet, but fear brought him back down. He tried again, climbing a little higher, came back down and tried several more times, reaching a greater height each time, his father, David Gaunky, recalled Friday.

"He kept trying until he finally made it to the top, and pretty soon was trying the harder sections of wall," David Gaunky said in a telephone interview.

"He never let fear keep him from doing something that he wanted to do."

That persistent attitude drove Alex Gaunky to enlist in the Army fresh out of high school after the Navy turned him down because of a food allergy about a year and a half ago, said his father, who learned Friday morning of his son's death in Iraq.

The 19-year-old private first class from Sparta was a combat engineer with the Army's 101st Airborne Division. He was injured when the Humvee he was riding in was struck by a vehicle that came across a road and crashed into his convoy, his father said.

The soldier, who had been in Iraq for about 2 1/2 months, died Friday morning while being airlifted to Germany, his father said.

Read the whole story

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Jack Murtha changes the debate

Like most Americans, I didn't know who Jack Murtha was until about 48 hours ago, when he stood up and spoke out on the war in Iraq.

Murtha, a crusty old Marine from Pennsylvania, changed the debate when he called for withdrawal of U.S. troops.

The spectacle on the House floor Friday night (I watched C-Span for two hours straight for the first time in recent memory) is just the beginning.

Murtha is a Democrat with unquestioned credentials as a supporter of our military and of the men and women who fight our wars. Shameful attempts to portray him as a coward who wants the US to surrender backfired badly on the Republicans who launched them.

Murtha deserves our thanks. What he did this week was not easy. He broke ranks with many of his friends in the Congress. But he did it because he truly supports the troops, and believes they have become targets in an Iraq shooting gallery while the administration has no plan to get them out.

MoveOn suggests we let Murtha know we appreciate what he's doing.

You can write him at:

Honorable John P. Murtha
2423 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

Honorable John P. Murtha
P.O. Box 780
Johnstown, PA 15907

Or call his offices. His phones have been jammed, but try next week.

Washington, DC Office of Rep. Murtha

Johnstown Office of Rep. Murtha