Friday, March 31, 2006

TIME poll: Voters back guest worker plan 3-1

Poll Analysis: Large Majority Favors “Guest Workers”

Here’s the report from TIME’s pollsters:

Posted Friday, Mar. 31, 2006

With the immigration debate raging in Congress and immigration supporters spilling out into the streets, the latest Time Poll finds a lopsided majority of the American public, 72%, favor a "guest worker" program in a head-to-head match-up over a House bill that would criminalize illegal immigration.

Only 1 in 4 (25%) support the more drastic House version that would make illegals felons, allowing no illegals into the country, with no guest worker provisions.

Quote, unquote

"The immediate danger is that Republicans will ignore their longer-term interests by passing a punitive, and poll-driven, anti-immigration bill this election year. Any bill that merely harasses immigrants and employers, and stacks more cops on the border, may win cheers in the right-wing blogosphere. However, it will do nothing to address the economic incentives that will continue to exist for poor migrants to come to America to feed their families. And it will make permanent enemies of millions of Hispanics, without doing anything to draw illegals out of the shadows and help them assimilate into the mainstream of American culture and citizenship.

This is not Ronald Reagan's view of America as a "shining city on a hill." It is the chauvinist conservatism usually associated with the European right. How Republicans conduct and conclude their immigration debate will show the country which kind of "conservative" party they want to be."
-- Believe it or not, a Wall Street Journal editorial.

Sensenbrenner a dirty household word

Sen. Mel Martinez, R-Florida, warns his fellow Repubs to tread carefully on the immigration issue.

He says that "Sensenbrenner” is now a household word in many Hispanic homes. Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., is the House sponsor of a bill that would erect a 700-mile fence along the Mexican border and make criminals out of undocumented aliens.

"We as Republicans need to be careful how we address this issue,” said Martinez, the only foreign-born member of the Senate.

"The issue has galvanized the Hispanic and Latino community like no other. There’s a real political angle to this that is important to our party.”

It's wetlands, not wet lands

From Grist, the online environmental magazine:

Slippery When Wet
Bush admin declares that wet lands are wetlands, says acreage is way up

Yesterday, betraying no hint of irony, the Bush administration announced that even though the U.S. lost a net total of 523,500 acres of natural swamps and tidal marshes between 1998 and 2004, the country actually gained 715,300 acres of wetlands -- if you count features like ornamental lakes, golf course ponds, and mining pits filled in with water. And make no mistake: it does. Such artificial ponds provide few if any of the ecological services of a natural wetland -- soaking up floods, filtering water, providing habitat for diverse plants and critters -- but they're ... wet, and thus deemed wetlands in Interior Department surveys. Said National Wildlife Federation wetlands expert Julie Sibbing, "The most stunning thing about this report is that we're losing diverse natural wetlands in this country and the administration tells us it's OK because we've increased the number of ponds."

Straight to the source: St. Petersburg Times, Matthew Waite and Craig Pittman, 31 Mar 2006, and The New York Times, Felicity Barringer, 31 Mar 2006.

Updated Red v. Blue state map

Green covers his butt

For one of the first times in memory, Rep. Mark Green, an assistant Republican House whip, voted against his party leadership today, on a resolution calling for an investigation of convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff's ties to House members and their staffs. Green, whose staffers have accepted favors from Abramoff's firm, was one of six Republicans to vote for the resolution.

Of course it was certain that the resolution, offered by Democratic leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi, wouldn't pass. The Republicans didn't need Green's vote, so they let him off the hook and let him vote "right." As a candidate for governor who already has a staffer linked to Abramoff, Green couldn't afford to vote against it.

In the political trade, it's called posing for holy pictures.

The Washington Post's Chris Cizzilli reports:
The resolution was set aside by a vote of 216-193 -- largely along party lines (the Republican majority voted to table Pelosi's proposal). Six Republicans voted with the Democrats: Reps. Jim Gerlach (Pa.), Todd Platts (Pa.), Mark Green (Wisc.), Mark Souder (Ind.), Jim Leach (Iowa) and Chris Shays (Conn.). Gerlach and Shays face tough reelection fights this year, while Green is running for governor in Wisconsin.

GPS: A halfway step

The latest legislative brainstorm: Global position monitoring of convicted child molesters for the rest of their lives, at a cost of $10,000 a year per person.

The Department of Corrections said could total $477 million over the next 20 years.

But forget the cost. There's a bigger problem. We would know where the offenders were, but not what they were doing.

A modest proposal:

Instead of a GPS chip, how about installing a small video camera in the forehead of every child molester, so we could monitor, 24 hours a day, what they are doing and seeing? We would still need the GPS chip, so law enforcement could find them when they were doing something naughty.

I don't have a cost estimate, but money's no object when it comes to dealing with these perverts. Why go halfway?

Pension suit: only one defendant?

Milwaukee County has sued the actuary for its pension plan which has nearly bankrupted the county and caused a political upheaval. The county hopes it could win as much as $100-million.

An earlier story identified the two main outside firms which worked on the plan:
Of the outside firms, two did heavy lifting on the deal: Mercer Human Resources Consulting and the law firm of Reinhart Boerner Van Deuren.
So far, at least, the Reinhardt firm, home base of Republican State Chairman Rick Graber, appears to be off the hook. Wonder why.

Paul Ryan for OMB director?

Lawrence Kudlow -- a former Reagan economic advisor, a syndicated columnist, and the host of CNBC’s Kudlow & Company -- thinks Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan would be "a grabd slam home run" as director of the Office of Management and Budget.

Ryan is campaigning now to be House Budget Committee chairman, but Kudlow says the White House is considering him to replace Josh Bolten, the new Bush chief of staff.

Kudlow's post.

Of course, that would open up another House seat in the mid-term elections, and the GOP may not want to risk it. Ryan is safe, but an open seat could be competitive.

Rent-to-own veto -- no surprise

Gov. Jim Doyle disappointed a lot of people on Thursday.

The longest faces must belong to the rent-to-own industry, the predators whose "business" is charging poor people two or three or fours times what furniture, appliances, television sets and other goods are worth.

The rent-to-own industry has been trying for years to get an exemption from the state's tough consumer law, which requires them to tell people, among other things, how much interest they're paying, like 900%. The bill also would have made it easier for the companies to repossess the items, making it more like rent-not-to-own.

They got the legislature to pass a bill, thanks to the help of rent-to-own lawmakers like State Sen. Ron Brown, R-Eau Claire, who took some rent-to-own contributions and sponsored their bill. Capitol wags were calling it the Ron Brown Re-election Bill. But Brown's not one of the losers. He can raise more cash to bring it back next session.

For some reason, people had the idea that Doyle might sign the bill -- despite the fact that he has been on the other side during his entire political career, and did battle regularly with rent-to-own while serving as attorney general and the state's tough consumer advocate.

Maybe that's because he said he would read the bill and consider it without just rejecting it out of hand.

Having done that, he vetoed it on Thursday -- as he should have, and as people should have known he would do.

Besides the rent-to-own industry, others who must be disappointed:

-- The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign's Mike McCabe, who issues press releases assuming that every decision Doyle makes is connected to campaign contributions. The group already had added up $22,500 in contributions it said Doyle got from supporters of the rent-to-own bill.

-- Journal Sentinel reporter Patrick Marley, who dutifully turns every McCabe press release into a front page "investigative" story, and

-- Journal Sentinel Managing Editor George Stanley, who splashes the McCabe-Marley stories on the front page. That's no doubt where today's story would have run if Doyle signed the bill. The veto story is buried in the business section, with a small headline on the bottom of the page. Marley didn't even get to write it.

Is there a bigger lesson here? Yes, but the people who are out to paint Doyle as an unprincipled politician who pays off political donors won't want to see it. Let's state the obvious anyway:

Sometimes people make contributions and get what they want from government. But that's not prima facie evidence of cause and effect, because ...

Some people make contributions and don't get what they want.

And some people make no contributions and get what they want.

That's true whether we're talking about legislation or contracts. Some donate and get contracts. Some donate and don't get contracts. Some don't donate and still get contracts.

But that really ruins the McCabe version of how government works.

One more thing: Doyle's veto will add another to a long list of clear distinctions between him and his opponent, Mark Green. When Green was in the Assembly, he was the chief water boy for rent-to-own, sponsoring one of the bills that AG Doyle denounced.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Another theory shot to hell

This is certainly going to ruin Wisconsin Democracy Campaign's day. More later.

-- From Working for Change. (Click on cartoon to enlarge.)

Flashy Bull running?

The Journal Sentinel-Tommy Thompson lovefest still runs hot and heavy. The latest report from Katherine Skiba, who seems to hang on every word from Tommy, is that Thompson owns a racehorse named Flashy Bull, presumably after his owner.

The surprise was that the only speculation about running for anything was the Kentucky Derby. It's been days since we heard about Tommy's position on running for governor, the Senate, President, or anything else that might open up.

C'mon, Kathy, what's the latest? We're all dying to know.

Headline of the day

Taxation discussed without taxpayers

-- Story.

Carrie Lynch comments on Our bashful state legislators.

Inequity in campaign laws sunk Walker

After blaming his inability to compete in the governor's race on the amount of money Gov. Jim Doyle was raising, Scott Walker has now conceded what most politicos already knew: It wasn't Doyle's warchest, it was Mark Green's that forced Walker out. And it all goes back to a State Elections Board decision that allowed Green to transfer in $1.3-million from his Congressional campaign account.

From a WisPolitics interview with J.R. Ross:
Ross: Looking back big picture at the $1.3 million transfer and the Green organization, especially with the Bush-Cheney campaign from 2004, was there anything you could have done to win this nomination, to run the campaign you wanted to run to raise the money you needed to raise to win this nomination and compete against Jim Doyle?

: Nope.

Obviously there are always things you can do better. But I think you hit the nail on the head -- those two things: Graul’s involvement with the Bush-Cheney campaign organization and more importantly the $1.3 million that Green transferred was really the fundamental difference.
Green's transfer from his House campaign account, amassed over several reelection cycles when he had no serious challenge but continued to milk the Washington special interests, took advantage of a big inequity in state law. It's tempting to call it a loophole, but the provision was there by design, not oversight, so inequity is a better fit.

It was not unprecedented. Tom Barrett, then a Milwaukee Congressman, did the same thing in the last governor's race, transferring in $750,000 over the protests of his opponent, Jim Doyle (and yours truly, who was working for Doyle.) At the time, Barrett transferred in more than Doyle had in the bank, but Doyle went on to win the primary anyway.

Doyle challenged the transfer with the State Elections Board, arguing that even if Barrett could legally transfer money, he should not have been able to transfer hundreds of thousands of dollars from federal political action committees which were not registered in Wisconsin and could not legally give to a candidate for governor. The board unanimously sided with Barrett. Republican appointees were in a screw-Doyle mode and liked the prospect of a bloody Dem primary. Democratic appointees didn't want to look like they were taking sides, although some of them were in a screw-Doyle mode, too.

In January 2005, the Elections Board tried to block Green's $1.3-million transfer by passing an emergency rule to outlaw such transfers, but Green transferred his money -- which included $500,000 to $800,000 in PAC money, depending on who's counting -- the day before the board met. Then the Republican majority on a legislative committee overturned the rule anyway. But now the law has been changed, too late to help Walker.

What's wrong with allowing such transfers?

Barrett and Green both offer textbook examples, one in each party.

The law allowed a member of Congress in a safe seat, who may not even have a challenger, to collect and hoard vast sums of money from Washington special interest groups, who want access and influence with the member but couldn't care less who the governor of Wisconsin is. After several cycles, that amounts to a significant amount of money, much of it raised from sources that are either illegal or not available to a state candidate to access.

It makes for a very uneven playing field.

In this case, it ended a primary campaign six months early.

The Elections Board promulgated (great word) a new rule in September that prohibits such transfers, so Green's will presumably be the last.

Biggest potential loser: Rep. Paul Ryan, the Janesville Republican, who reported $1.5-million in the bank at the end of 2005. He may be waiting for a U.S. Senate seat to open up, for which he could legally use the money. But unless there is a flip-flop by a future Elections Board or legislature, he can't use it to run for a state office.

It has long been illegal to use state campaign funds to run for federal office, under federal law. Now the same principle applies in both directions, as it should.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Ya think?

Editorial: We can do better with juries

From the Journal Sentinel:
The big trial has gotten off to a horrible start. The fate of three white ex-police officers accused in the vicious beating of a biracial man will rest in the hands of an all-white jury. Its makeup means the jury instantly loses credibility with a sizable segment of Milwaukee County.
No shit, Sherlock. How could this happen with the racial makeup we have in Milwaukee County?

Read the rest.

Racine county says no to openness

You may recall awhile back when Racine County Exec (and State Senate candidate) Bill McReynolds told a county supervisor she needed his permission to talk to county staff. McReynolds backed down in the glare of some bad publicity.

But some things haven't changed. The Racine Journal Times reports:
Lange loses resolution battle

IVES GROVE - A proposal to affirm the county's commitment to open government was defeated 17-5 Tuesday night.

The resolution, introduced by Supervisor Diane Lange two weeks ago, called for the County Board to support "unconditional commitment to open communication" between the board and the executive branch. It also asked the county executive to allow employees to speak with elected officials.

Lange said she had hoped the County Board would unite in favor of open government. Instead, she said, the board saw the issue as a conflict between herself and County Executive Bill McReynolds.

"It's unfortunate that that's how some people played this out," she said.

Lange crafted the resolution after she clashed with McReynolds in November. During the budget approval process, McReynolds directed staff to refer Lange - who opposed parts of the county executive's budget - to him if she came to them with any requests for information...
McReynolds and his supporters said the resolution was a political gimmick. Rven if that were true, what would have been the harm of passing it?

You can help. Download and distribute this.

What you'll need to register on Tuesday

Going to register at the polls on Tuesday, when you vote in the spring general election?

There's a lot of new and conflicting information out there, some of it false. And there have been enough changes so some of the people working at the polls may not know the rules, either.

Be sure you do.

The new Help America Vote Act should have been called Hinder Americans' Voting Act, given the confusion it has caused.

Here is the pertinent information for Tuesday. We'll worry about the fall elections in the fall:

1. If you have a Wisconsin driver's license, it would be wise, but not required, that you have it with you. That will allow the poll worker to write down the license number on your registration card.

2. If you don't have a license or don't have it with you, you will need to know the last four digits of your Social Security number. You don't need to have the actual card with you, but you do need to know the number. (If you have your driver's license, you don't need your Social Security number.)

3. You need some proof of your current address -- a lease, utility bills with your name and address, or other documents showing where you live.

Mark Green, the man who would be governor, has objected to the Elections Board decision and wants everyone to show a driver's license or be deported. (Well, that's a slight exaggeration.) Jef Hall suggests Green is trying to keep seniors away from the polls, and he has good reason to.

More Ds than Rs, Gallup says

More people are now willing to identify themselves as Democrats than Republicans, Editor and Publisher reports:

Gallup: In Shift, More Americans Now Call Themselves Democrats

NEW YORK In a (perhaps) historic shift, more Americans now consider themselves Democrats than Republicans, the Gallup organization revealed today.

Republicans had gained the upper hand in recent years, but 33% of Americans, in the latest Gallup poll, now call themselves Democrats, with those favoring the GOP one point behind. But Gallup says this widens a bit more "once the leanings of Independents are taken into account."

Independents now make up 34% of the population. When asked if they lean in a certain direction, their answers pushed the Democrat numbers to 49% with Republicans at 42%. One year ago, the parties were dead even at 46% each.

This shift indicates, Gallup says, why its polls show Democrats leading in this year's congressional races.

The latest poll was taken from January to March 2006, with a national sample of about 1,000 adults.

The Jerry Lewis telethon for Scott Walker.
Dennis Dork York has the scoop.

A newer, lower contribution standard

Just when you think the Journal Sentinel has stretched things to the limit to try to link Jim Doyle's donations to state contracts -- like writing about donations that were given to someone else by another company -- the standard gets lower.

The latest: Employees of a firm with a state contract give money to Doyle's campaign a year later.
Employees of Equis gave a total of $27,250 to Doyle in June and October of 2005, according to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign...

"This is another in what is now a pretty long line of examples of companies that have ponied up around the time of getting state business," said Mike McCabe, the group's executive director. "It doesn't smell right."

The donations were made more than a year after the deal was reached. The contract was signed in April 2004, after Equis beat out two other firms - Deloitte Consulting and CB Richard Ellis - for the work...
Let's review. If you give before a contract is awarded, it's a bribe to get the contract. If you give afterward, it doesn't smell right.

What McCabe -- and, apparently, the Journal Sentinel, or at least reporter Patrick Marley -- seem to think would be appropriate would be a law that no one who does business with the government can ever contribute to the governor's campaign -- not a year before, not a year afterward, not ever.

So if you ever wanted to be able to bid on a state contract, you could never give, nor just to Doyle but to any Democratic group or candidate (that's the standard in the earlier story.)

And the Doyle administration could award all of the contracts to Republicans, because it would be barred from doing any business with friends, donors or Democrats.

Is it just me, or is there something wrong with that picture?

Photo of the Week: First meeting of the Mark Green-Scott Walker Rainbow Coalition.

Green spending limit accepted

Mark Green's opponent in the governor's race has agreed to Green's proposed spending limit.

Resumably, this means that the two of them will be adiding by it.

The world according to W

George W. Bush is on a roll.

First he suggests that perhaps global warming is a natural occurrence, although the scientific community -- and Bush's own EPA -- think otherwise.

But he easily topped that with the assertion that Saddam Hussein, not the US presence, is responsible for the ongoing sectarian violence in Iraq.

As the guy said when his wife caught him in flagrant delicto, "Hey, who you gonna believe, me or your own eyes?"

Imagine that

Right wing blogger Dad29 has a scoop.

He has discovered, through some ground-breaking investigative work, that hundreds of thousands of people didn't just spontaneously take to the streets to protest draconian changes in immigration law championed by Rep. F. Jim Sensenbrenner and others.

Those demonstrations were organized!

Latinos, Dad has discovered, even have radio and TV stations and newspapers, all of which helped to promote the rallies and marches.

Even Milwaukee has a Latino station, and it promoted the march that attracted 10,000 people here. (Kind of like Republican radio promotes anti-tax and pro-war rallies for days on end, and even sends its announcers to act as emcees as well as shills.)

What next?

If it hadn't been for Dad's expose, we all would have gone on thinking that it was just coincidence that 10,000-plus Milwaukeeans came out of their houses at the same time, with flags and signs.

Boy, were we gullible.

-- Nick Anderson, Houston Chronicle, via Cagle.

Sensenbrenner's forked tongue

spews poison on immigration bill

Rep. F. Jim Sensenbrenner, Pride of Wisconsin, certainly has a way with words.

First he dismissed the demonstration and show of strength by Milwaukee's Latino community as an "illegal alien rally."

Now, he calls the Senate version of the immigration reform bill "amnesty," although it clearly is anything but.

"It is amnesty," Sensenbrenner said, "because it gives someone who broke the law the same rights as someone who obeyed it. We should not let lawbreakers jump the line."

A persuasive argument, with words chosen to tilt public perception against the Senate's reasonable proposal. Amnesty is a word that sparks strong reactions.

But if amnesty is "giving someone who broke the law the same rights as someone who obeyed it," this ain't amnesty.

The Senate bill would allow immigrants who were in the U.S. illegally before 2004 to become permanent residents if they pay a $2,000 fine, pass a background check, learn English and work for six years. They could apply for citizenship five years after becoming a permanent resident.

That's hardly giving them the same rights as someone who comes to the US legally. It is making them jump through a series of hoops. Many would never make it.

Those in favor of the senate judiciary committee's bill call it "earned citizenship," an 11-year path to becoming an American.

"That's not amnesty," said Arizona Senator John McCain. "Amnesty is forgiveness. This is a payment of a fine. This is admission of guilt. This is working for years. This is learning English."

The bill would also require illegal immigrants to pay back taxes and pass a background check.

The NY Times editorial explains:
It Isn't Amnesty

...Attackers of a smart, tough Senate bill have smeared it with the most mealy-mouthed word in the immigration glossary -- amnesty -- in hopes of rendering it politically toxic. They claim that the bill would bestow an official federal blessing of forgiveness on an estimated 12 million people who are living here illegally, rewarding their brazen crimes and encouraging more of the same.

That isn't true. The bill, approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee in a 12-to-6 vote on Monday, is one the country should be proud of. Four Republicans, including the committee's chairman, Arlen Specter, joined eight Democrats in endorsing a balanced approach to immigration reform. The bill does not ignore security and border enforcement. It would nearly double the number of Border Patrol agents, add resources for detaining illegal immigrants and deporting them more quickly, and expand state and local enforcement of immigration laws. It would create a system to verify workers' identities and impose tougher punishments on employers who defied it.

But unlike the bill's counterpart in the House, which makes a virtue out of being tough but not smart, the Specter bill would also take on the hard job of trying to sort out the immigrants who want to stay and follow the rules from those who don't. It would force them not into buses or jails but into line, where they could become lawful residents and -- if they showed they deserved it -- citizens. Instead of living off the books, they'd come into the system.

The path to citizenship laid out by the Specter bill wouldn't be easy. It would take 11 years, a clean record, a steady job, payment of a $2,000 fine and back taxes, and knowledge of English and civics. That's not "amnesty," with its suggestion of getting something for nothing. But the false label has muddied the issue, playing to people's fear and indignation, and stoking the opportunism of Bill Frist, the Senate majority leader. Mr. Frist has his enforcement-heavy bill in the wings, threatening to make a disgraceful end run around the committee's work.

The alternatives to the Specter bill are senseless. The enforcement-only approach -- building a 700-mile wall and engaging in a campaign of mass deportation and harassment to rip 12 million people from the national fabric -- would be an impossible waste of time and resources. It would destroy families and weaken the economy. An alternative favored by many businesses -- creating a temporary-worker underclass that would do our dirtiest jobs and then have to go home, with no new path to citizenship -- is a recipe for indentured servitude.

It is a weak country that feels it cannot secure its borders and impose law and order on an unauthorized population at the same time. And it is a foolish, insecure country that does not seek to channel the energy of an industrious, self-motivated population to its own ends, but tries instead to wall out "those people."

It's time for President Bush, who talks a good game on immigration, to use every means to clarify the issue and to lead this country out of the "amnesty" semantic trap. He dislikes amnesty. Mr. Frist dislikes amnesty. We dislike amnesty, too.

The Specter bill isn't amnesty. It's a victory for thoughtfulness and reason.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

This ticket is total BUSHIT

A woman's anti-Bush bumpersticker got her a $100 ticket.

Censurer, censuree meet at White House

[Sen. Russ] Feingold had to leave early from Tuesday's Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on how to legalize the National Security Agency surveillance program -- he had an appointment at the White House to meet the man he wants to censure.
Tom Curry at MSNBC has the story.

Good riddance

State Supreme Court:
Justice Wilcox will Retire from the Wisconsin Supreme Court in 2007

Justice Jon P. Wilcox will retire from the Wisconsin Supreme Court when his current 10-year term ends in August 2007. He makes the announcement today, more than a year before the April 2007 election for the seat, to clear the way for those interested in becoming candidates in this statewide race.
His bio fails to mention that his campaign was fined more than any campaign in Wisconsin history -- $60,000 -- for breaking the law, or that he paid a $10,000 fine for the way he conducted his last campaign, and that others who worked on it were barred from Wisconsin politics for several years. One of them, Mark Block, is back in Wisconsin as the front man for Americans for Prosperity, one of those "shadowy" groups supporting Bride of TABOR.

Happy retirement, Justice Wilcox. Don't let the door hit you in the rear end on the way out.

New low standard for Doyle connections

Most readers probably didn't notice, but the Journal Sentinel set a new low standard this week for "evidence" of some connection between state contracts and political donations, in its story about Silver Oaks, the company that the state hired to help with the procurement contract.

In the first article, low in the text, reporter Patrick Marley acknowledged that Silver Oaks had not given Gov. Jim Doyle any money, nor were there contributions to any other politicians or political entities. So in the second article, Marley reported that the company that bought Silver Oaks more than a year after they received the contract, and was a competitor in the same field, gave Doyle $1,100, gave the Democratic and Republican governors associations money and gave "more than $33,000 to Democratic federal candidates nationally and Democratic-leaning groups."

So here is the new twisted JS standard: Doyle is now being influenced to award a contract by money given to Democratic federal candidates in other states by a different company that later purchases the company that was awarded the contract.

And this is front-page stuff.

Bruce Murphy of Milwaukee Magazine says:
Two days later, the Journal Sentinel ran another front-page story suggesting that Silver Oaks was actually hired because of its campaign donations. The only problem was that the paper had no proof. Reporter Patrick Marley showed us that CGI-AMS, now the parent company of Silver Oaks Solutions, gave some $70,000 in donations split between the Democratic and Republican governors associations. So now any donations to governors count, whether or not they can be traced to Doyle? Moreover, Doyle's folks hired Silver Oaks some 18 months before it was bought by CGI-AMS. So what is the relevance of some donations by a company with no connection to Silver Oaks?

In similar fashion, the story noted that two former "high-level" state officials went to work for CGI-AMS. But once again, this was long after the contract to Silver Oaks was awarded by the Doyle administration. It was also before Silver Oaks was purchased by CGI-AMS. So it's doubly irrelevant.

The paper's smear campaign went further, noting that CGI-AMS employees also donated $33,000 to Democratic federal candidates nationally and Democratic-leaning groups. So now any contributions to any Democrats or fellow travelers in the 50 states can be used to suggest that Doyle is somehow sneakily benefiting? This guy is really well-connected.

The only shred of possible evidence in the story was that since 2001,employees of CGI-AMS gave $1,100 to Doyle. First off, that's chicken feed. Secondly, CGI-AMS didn't own Silver Oaks when the latter was hired, so the donations are irrelevant yet again.

This is such sloppy reporting that you have to ask how it could be published...
Murphy has a theory about that, too.

Quote, unquote

"If I were grading I would say we probably deserve a 'D' or a 'D-plus' as a country as to how well we're doing in the battle of ideas that's taking place in the world today."

-- Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

Green: 'Not time for issues'

I've often marveled, and sometimes commented here, about Mark Green's ability to avoid talking about issues when he doesn't want to, which seems to be a good deal of the time.

At yesterday's lovefest with Scott Walker, he did it again.

Two things surprised me a little. First, the report in the AP story, that:
Green ... said he would release more details of his political positions later...
and second, that the press corps would let him get away with that.

This guy's running for governor. When he has a rare news conference, any question a reporter wants to ask should be fair game. Do you think Jim Doyle could get away with saying he'll tell you about his political positions later?

Happy Three Mile Island Anniversary. More nukes in Wisconsin? No thanks.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Posted by Picasa
-- Daryl Cagle.

Senate panel OKs guest worker plan

The Senate Judiciary Committee has tried to put some common sense back into immigration reform. We'll see if reason or the yahoos prevail.

Senate Panel Approves Broad Immigration Reform

Monday, March 27, 2006; 6:01 PM

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - An immigration reform bill that would create a guest worker program pushed by President George W. Bush and give millions of illegal immigrants a chance to earn citizenship was approved on Monday by a U.S. Senate panel.

The first step toward comprehensive legislation was passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee and now goes to the full Senate for debate.

Including the contested guest worker program, which would allow future temporary workers a chance to become permanent residents, sets the stage for a bruising battle over immigration. The bill would also give some of the millions of illegal immigrants a chance to legalize their status and earn eventual citizenship.

AP notes:
After days of street demonstrations that stretched from California to the gounds of the U.S. Capitol, the committee also voted to strip out proposed criminal penalties for residents found to be in this country illegally.

Mark Green's phony 'pledge'

Have you ever noticed how it's always the candidate with less money who proposes a campaign spending limit?

Today it's Mark Green, challenging Jim Doyle to sign a "clean campaign pledge" that is more about helping Green financially and politically than it is about cleaning anything up.

in Greenspeak, a "clean" campaign is one in which the candidate with the most money agrees not to spend it, and both candidates say they abhor independent expenditures, and will penalize themselves if some independent group spends money on their behalf -- which, of course, the law forbids them to control.

If spending limits are such a great idea, why didn't Green propose it for the Republican primary? Both he and Scott Walker could have spent a reasonable amount and saved the rest for the general if they won. But Walker got out of the race because Green had twice as much money as he did, because Green took advantage of a legal loophole, since closed, that allowed him to transfer $1.3-million from his House campaign to the governor's race. That -- not how much money Doyle has raised -- is what forced Walker out of the race.

But that was last week, when Green was using his cash advantage. Now he's on the short end of the stick and wants a limit. Fat chance. He knows that, of course. This is political posturing, pure and simple.

Green correctly notes that Doyle proposed a clean campaign pledge in his race against Scott McCallum in 2002. McCallum wouldn't sign it.

But that pledge wasn't about spending limits or independent groups.

It was about candidates taking responsibility for cleaning up their own campaigns.

Here's the pledge Doyle proposed to McCallum:
As candidates for the office of Governor, we agree that the people of Wisconsin are not best served by negative campaigns. Instead, we pledge to conduct a campaign that focuses on our own records, experience and positive vision for the future of Wisconsin. In that spirit, we hereby pledge:

1. We will not run television or radio commercials, send mailings or distribute literature that mentions our opponent by name.

2. We will not distort or misrepresent our opponent's positions or record. We will not misrepresent, distort, or otherwise falsify the facts or mislead the electorate regarding any candidate.

3. We will not engage in personal vilification, character defamation or whispering campaigns directed toward any candidate.

4. We will instruct our campaign staff members, consultants and volunteers to conduct themselves in the same manner as we have agreed.

5. In order to have time to implement this pledge, the provisions noted above will take effect 48 hours after signature by both candidates.
Does that sound like posturing, pie-in-the-sky?

Well, it's idealistic, to be sure, but all three Democratic candidates for governor signed it and abided by it in the September 2002 primary. Doyle, Kathleen Falk and Tom Barrett all ran positive campaigns. They didn't quibble about who was spending how much money, or whether some outside group was independently helping one of thecandidatess.

They took responsibility for the tone of their own campaigns.

That's the kind of pledge Green and Doyle should be discussing, if they are serious about a "clean" campaign.

Green's not, of course. Owen Robinson gets to the point in his post:
From a political standpoint, this is a great move. If Doyle agrees, the he is throwing away his funding advantage. If he declines, then Green can rip him for it, and so will all of the campaign finance watchdogs like Mike Ellis and the Democracy Campaign - assuming that they have an ounce of integrity. Either way, Doyle comes out losing. Works for me.
Don't underestimate the voters. They are smarter than Mark Green thinks. This move is so transparent that they don't even need to be very smart.

And furthermore: A political friend points out that Green is not the Republican nominee yet, although he and the media are acting like he is. So it is a little premature for him to be making these sorts of proposals. The filing deadline, when we find out for sure who is running, is not until July.

UPDATE: Cory Liebmann discovers that an imbalance in spending has not bothered Green in his previous campaigns.


I didn't know Tom Metcalfe, although, like everyone who has worked on a Wisconsin political campaign, I have been to Brat Fest at Hilldale with a candidate or two.

This tribute is from Gary Fisher, an occasional contributor to this blog:

A charismatic guy with a touch of class, Tom Metcalfe,the popular grocer, died Sunday at the age of 70.

A successful businessman and community leader,Metcalfe served a-10-year tenure as the mayor of Monona, sat on numerous city committees and private boards and gave his support to the Republican Party.

He earned praise for his community involvement including the "Brat Fest" celebration at the Hilldale Sentry that raises money for charities and other organizations and brings the community together.

When Tom's granddaughter Allie Metcalfe traveled to Las Vegas in February to win the 2006 National Best (grocery) Bagger Competition, he unabashedly said "the best woman won!"

Asked why grocery checkers routinely mark $20 bills?

"That's to let the bank know all that money is coming from the grocery," he jokingly said

Tom's mantra was about "not meeting but always exceeding customers' expectations."

A plaque in a new library addition in Monona prominently memorializes Tom as a generous donor. His many revitalization projects as mayor include proposed reconstruction of Monona Drive from Broadway to Starkweather Creek, near Olbrich Botanical Gardens.

He led the community in an important direction making way for the addition of the new community swimming pool.

Lisa Nelson and friends from the Wisconsin National Guard Band slogged through the slush on a wintry evening to carol at Tom and Margaret's classy Italianate architecture house on Lake Monona. With the impromptu troupe was an Italian opera singer visiting from Chicago who sang a solo aria, acapella in a lilting, mellifluous voice. In down parkas and snowmobile suits they all later joined Tom for a memorable photo.

Hearing an impartial observer of the Monona City Council remonstration against the uncomfortable metal chairs, Tom considerately provided a thin section of the Wisconsin State Journal as a seat cushion.

Whether consulting Gorilla Trades for stock picks and market trading or visiting Maui and the Rusty Harpoon, a bar-restaurant owned by his brother, Jerry Metcalfe,
Tom Metcalfe had a great sense of humor and was always in good spirits.

"I hate to leave, to be honest with you," Tom Metcalfe once told a crowd of well wishers at city hall. "I truly enjoyed this community."

We hear you. Tom Metcalfe is now among the best of

-Gary Fisher

The high cost of anti-immigrant law

-- Stuart Carlson, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

From Think Progress:
Today on CBS’s Early Show, Bay Buchanan — right-wing strategist and sister of Pat Buchanan — argued that the government can, and should, deport all the undocumented workers in the United States.

BUCHANAN: Every guest worker program in the history of this country and any other country around the world has always turned into amnesty. He says it’s impossible to move these people out. It is certainly not impossible. It is very realistic. We should absolutely stand up to the law and let people come through legal channels, but in no way reward them for illegal behavior.

But as Gov. Bill Richardson (D-NM) later points out, it is “unrealistic to deport” 11 million people, many of whom are already paying U.S. taxes. A 2005 American Progress study found that it would cost at least $206 billion over five years to deport all undocumented workers. The annual $41.2 billion cost exceeds the entire FY06 budget for the Department of Homeland Security.
Of course, an alternative would be to give them all five-year prison terms, which are part of Rep. F. Jim Sensenbrenner's bill to make it a felony to be in this country illegally. How much would that cost?

Green shills for corporations at victims' expense

Liability law deform -- to prevent victims from having a chance to be compensated for damages done to them by defective products -- is at the top of the Republican agenda. Corporate interests are pushing hard.

It's certainly well choreographed.

The US Chamber of Commerce came to Wisconsin today to complain about Wisconsin's laws, and the WMC was right there to call for passage of the same bills Gov. Jim Doyle vetoed earlier. Same old technique; keep passing bills you know won't be signed into law, and try to use them to score political points.

That will only work if no one tells the other side of the story, that this isn't about business climate, but about innocent victims hurt by unsafe or defensive products like lead paint, which can cause lifelong brain damage. WMC has said it thinks the companies who made the lead paint have no responsibility.

The ironically named Wisconsin Institute for Civil Justice chimes in.
And Mark Green is right there with his own news release, echoing the Chamber and WMC. It's nice to see the corporate interests and their candidate working so closely. At least the voters will know who's who come November.

Timetable derailed, Walker shifts gears

His plan to live in the Governor's Residence next January dashed and his political timetable in tatters, Scott Walker lost no time in backing out of his past statements about how long he would like to be Milwaukee County executive.

The day after withdrawing from the governor's race, WisPolitics reported:

As for his political future, Walker said there is a “good chance” he’d run again for Milwaukee County executive.

“I plan on being here long enough to continue to get things back on track again,” Walker said. He added that he doesn't see himself as county executive in 10 years and that he’d consider a possible future run for governor or Senate. By entering the governor’s race at the relatively young age of 38, Walker noted that “in the end I’m not forced to make a bad decision because this is my last chance.”
What Walker didn't say is that ever since he first ran, in a 2002 special election, he has pledged not to serve beyond 2008.

The story then:
Walker will serve the rest of Ament's four-year term. Walker promised he would not serve beyond 2008. He also promised to cut his annual salary by $50,000. The job currently pays $128,820 a year.
A 2002 Q&A with the Journal Sentinel: reaffirmed his plan:
Q: Just so everyone is clear, you do, if you win, plan to run again in 2004?

A: Yes. I don't have an interest in running beyond that. I certainly didn't grow up wanting to be county executive and up until January, I never had seriously thought about it.
And yet another story:
Walker says he won't stay as county executive beyond 2008, when he'd be 42, and may one day pursue a business career.

"I imagine I'd have a pretty good pitch to any business out there; having resurrected a billion dollar government, think of what I could do for their business?"
But that was then, when he had no doubt that by 2007 he would be living in Maple Bluff.

During his 2004 reelection campaign, he said again that it would be his last term, and -- planning on that move to Maple Bluff -- refused to sign a pledge that he would serve out his full four-year term if we won.

But this is now. He's out of the race with no good political prospects. What's he going to do to keep his name in the news and keep his options open?

Why, stay on as county executive.

But if Milwaukee County government remains on its current path -- with Walker begging for a state bailout to prevent bankruptcy -- by 2008 another four years as county exec may not seem so appealing -- to Walker or to the voters.

UPDATE: Seth Zlotocha doesn't think sticking around as county exec will be that appealing. Read his post at In Effect.

Would Green sign SD abortion law?

Rep. Mark Green, now the only Republican candidate for governor, has been quite successful at avoiding issues he doesn't want to talk about. For months, senior groups and Democrats tried to smoke him out and get him to talk about his position on President Bush's unpopular plan to privatize Social Security, which went nowhere. Green simply ducked, time after time, even claiming he hadn't had a chance to read it and wasn't familiar enough to take a stand.

That came to mind when reading this Philadelphia Inquirer story:

On S.D. abortion law, loud silence

By Dick Polman
Inquirer Political Analyst

Republicans in Washington are always willing to weigh in on the issues that are important to their conservative base - Iraq, immigration, taxes, federal spending, the Medicare drug plan, the Dubai ports deal, you name it.

But, lately, hardly anybody in the GOP camp seems anxious to address the historic event that transpired this month out on the high plains and now threatens to roll eastward, to the U.S. Supreme Court.

It is, of course, abortion. For the party of the elephant, the new South Dakota law -which prohibits the procedure for every woman in the state, unless she is dying - is truly the elephant in the room.

It puts Republican politicians, especially those seeking the 2008 presidential nomination, squarely on the spot. If they side with conservatives - who tend to vote heavily in the primaries, and who generally hope that the South Dakota law will be a weapon to overturn Roe v. Wade - they risk alienating the independent voters who often swing November elections. The swing people generally desire that the right to legal abortion, as codified by Roe, be sustained.

That explains why not a single Republican with White House aspirations has declared that the South Dakota law - passed by a Republican legislature, and signed on March 6 by a Republican governor - should be the model for an ultimate ban on abortions nationwide. None bring up the law at all; they have to be asked first.

So here's my question:

Will any Wisconsin reporter ever ask Mark Green whether he would sign that South Dakota bill, and press him to give a real answer?

We know Gov. Jim Doyle would veto it in a heartbeat.

And Mark Green?

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Help find Milwaukee's missing boys

New website.

Poster , with better photos, that can be downloaded, posted, distributed, e-mailed, etc.

The authorities believe the boys are still in Milwaukee.

Slow news day

Had to be a slow news day. How else to account for a story on the state AP wire saying the US Chamber of Commerce is trashing Wisconsin's "business climate" because our Supreme Court thinks victims should be able to sue and perhaps collect damages.

It's a dog-bites-man story if there ever was won. The Chamber is the national version of Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce (WMC), which has been lobbying hard on legal liability issues, including running radio ads in which the WMC calls itself the Wisconsin Chamber of Commerce.

The Chamber and WMC have targeted Gov. Jim Doyle for defeat this year, and this is part of that effort. AP reports:
To highlight the study, the nation's largest business group will begin running print, radio and billboard ads in Wisconsin this week featuring the message "Wrong Way." . . .

The New York-based Center for Justice & Democracy, a national consumer group, dismissed Wisconsin's ranking as "dishonest, unfair and contrary to the evidence about the state's positive business climate." The state was recently one of seven to receive top ratings from a national economic development organization, the group noted.

"These surveys reflect nothing more than the Chamber's political agenda to limit legitimate lawsuits and accountability for corporate wrongdoers," Joanne Doroshow, executive director of the group, said in a statement.

Feingold's censure call gives him a boost

Contrary to what the Repubs would like you to believe, Sen. Russ Feingold's call for censuring the President for illegal wiretapping has improved his standing among Democrats. Read the left-wing AP's report.

Republicans on the run

TIME magazine:

In recent weeks, a startling realization has begun to take hold: if the elections were held today, top strategists of both parties say privately, the Republicans would probably lose the 15 seats they need to keep control of the House of Representatives and could come within a seat or two of losing the Senate as well.

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, who masterminded the 1994 elections that brought Republicans to power on promises of revolutionizing the way Washington is run, told TIME that his party has so bungled the job of governing that the best campaign slogan for Democrats today could be boiled down to just two words: "Had enough?"
Hat tip: Political Wire.

Sensenbrenner awakens a sleeping giant

Max Blumenthal reports:
I have just returned from the largest, most energized demonstration I have ever witnessed in my life. Over 500,000 people filled the streets of downtown Los Angeles to march against HR 4437, a bill authored by Republican Rep. James Sensenbrenner (heir to the Kotex fortune) which would turn 11 million undocumented immigrants into felons, punish anyone guilty of providing them assistance, and construct an iron wall between the US and Mexico.

The rally reached a crescendo as thousands of demonstrators lined the walls and bridges above the 101 freeway waving flags and cheering while an endless parade of cars and trucks blasted their horns in support. It was the sound of a sleeping giant awakening.

In passing HR 4437 and whatever draconian and utterly counter-productive bill emerges from the Senate, the congressional Republicans have become their party's worst enemy. They have cast their white, Southern base in conflict with the Latino constituency the RNC and the Bush White House realize they must win over if they are ever to achieve a so-called "Republican majority."

Lookin' out my back door

A dinosaur Victrola,
list'ning to Buck Owens.
Doo, doo, doo, Lookin' out my back door.

-- Creedence Clearwater Revival.

Buck Owens died March 25 in Bakersfield, CA. He was a lot more than "Hee Haw."

Watch the commercial.

Preparing for the 'worst'

Just in case their red-baiting doesn't work, conservatives like the Journal Sentinel's Patrick McIlheran are preparing for the worst -- passage of some anti-Iraq war referenda questions in a number of Wisconsin communities on April 4.

McIlheran's Sunday column makes all of the excuses in advance, as Jay Bullock points out in his thorough analysis.

On a related note, aren't you a little tired of the right-wing suggestion that local governments and local voters really have no business taking a stand on the war, because it's "a federal issue?"

Quote, unquote

"It's anti-faith based. It's inhumane. Sensenbrenner is inhumane."
--Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., opposing Rep. F. Jim Sensenbrenner's immigration bill.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Shame on Sensenbrenner

Sensenbrenner's crude language

A Cap Times editorial

We did not expect U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner to change his anti-immigrant position simply because tens of thousands of Wisconsinites rallied in Milwaukee this week to call for humane and responsible reforms to current immigration policies. But the Menomonee Falls Republican's cavalier dismissal of the massive demonstration as an "illegal alien rally" was as irresponsible as it was inaccurate.

While the crowd in Milwaukee was predominantly Latino, the best bet is that most of those present were citizens and legal residents of the United States. Even Sensenbrenner who is emerging as the House's leading immigrant basher ought to be smart enough to figure out that foreign citizens who do not want to reveal the fact that they are in the United States illegally do not show up in big numbers at public events organized to draw attention to immigration matters. Yet he dismissed the rally as a gathering of lawbreakers.

The congressman should be ashamed of himself.

Day-after mopup on Walker withdrawal

Random thoughts and observations on Scott Walker's decision to get out of the gov's race:

All for ethanol. One of the burning issues among Republicans, the ethanol "mandate," is off the table. Will the wingnuts be able to support a guy who agrees with Jim Doyle on what, just last month, was the litmus test for conservatives?

Didn't get the word. This anecdote from Lakeshore Laments about Friday night's Lincoln Day Dinner in Sheboygan: It turned out the Walker Campaign had sent an advance man to the LDD to set up and pass out their items. Around 5:30 pm someone else at the event asked him why he was there, after all Scott was bowing out. I was told he looked puzzled, quick got on the phone, and then left, leaving everything he had.

The chat. Grumps has video of the Scott Walker-Ken Mehlman chat about the governor's race.

The Amtal Rule has advice for Doyle on how to reframe the race.

James Widgerson's analysis declares that crossovers rarely happen in primaries. Actually, people cross over all the time, depending upon which ballot seems to have the more interesting races. What almost never happens is organized malicious crossovers, the mythical idea that Repubs will cross over to vote for the weaker Dem candidate, or vice versa. When people do cross over, they vote for the candidate they like. For a Repub voting in a Dem primary, that will be the more conservative Dem. A Dem voting in a Repub primary will usually pick the more liberal Republican. No mystery there.

Pat Kreitlow asks whether Republicans think the people of Wisconsin want a Washington politician to lead them.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Quote, unquote

God to Walker: Get Out

"I believe that it was God's will for me to run. After a great deal of prayer during the last week, it is clear that it is God's will for me to step out of the race."

-- Scott Walker, statement on withdrawing from governor's race.

Cory Liebmann: God changes mind, endorses Doyle.

Embarrassed Walker quits gov's race

Apparently Scott Walker did think that the embarrassingly juvenile piece about Jim Doyle and the trial lawyers was funny. I said this afternoon:
Does Walker think this is even remotely humorous? If so, it disqualifies him from being governor and he should just drop out now.
So he did. At least that's the way Spivak and Bice suggest it went down.

Seriously, I can't imagine that anyone saw this coming. I thought Walker would fight to the last breath, or at least as long as it appeared he had at least a shot at winning the Republican primary.

What changed? Well, it's no coincidence that Republican national chairman Ken Mehlman was in town this week. You have to assume that part of his mission in Wisconsin was to clear the field for Bush's favorite son, Mark Green.

How'd Mehlman do it? Some sort of political payoff. There's probably a federal job in Walker's future (FEMA would be about right). Or there's a promise to help him in a run for another office, or both. The other possibility is a role in a Green administration, but that seems like too much of a longshot to buy him off. Watch and see.

Walker has already promised more than once that he won't run for another term as county executive, so he will be looking for opportunities.

What does this mean for the governor's race? Clearly, Democrats would have preferred to see a couple of Repubs bash each other around until September, leaving the primary winner bloodied and broke. So that helps Green.

Walker was a strong candidate in southeastern Wisconsin, including Milwaukee County. But support from Walker's base is not transferable. Walker cannot deliver those votes to Green, even if he campaigns hard for him. Green is still an unknown right-wing Congressman from Green Bay, and a hard sell in heavily Democratic Milwaukee County.

Morning-after thoughts.

Getting it right: Walker withdrawal foretold

It's times like this, with Scott Walker's withdrawal from the race, that sends pundits to search their files to see how right or wrong they may have been in what they have written about the race.

There are no doubt plenty of embarrassing pieces making the case for Walker, how he would beat Mark Green, and why he was the stronger candidate. We won't try to dig them all up, tempting as it might be.

But, on the other hand, credit is due to my friend and sometimes Xoff Files blogger Jim Rowen, who first wrote on June 13, 2005:

The need for self-preservation and strong legacies are usually just as strong as ambition in the politician's mentality: Walker should think long and hard about the implications of a primary loss to Green, which would leave Walker weakened as he tries to solve the county's substantial difficulties.

A better plan is the strategic, early end to his campaign. There'd be no shame in it, and only smart politics.

Walker's stepping aside would spare Republican voters the need to choose among two almost identical right-wing opponents, open the way to a simplified partisan and ideological choice between Doyle and Green, and give Milwaukee County taxpayers what they really need and are paying for:

The full-time attention of a full-time county executive.

Rowen revisited the topic on Jan. 9, 2006 with this Capital Times column:

Walker Would Be Wise To Step Aside In Favor Of Rep. Green

By James Rowen

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel carried a long piece the day after Christmas that surely struck the Wauwatosa home of 2006 gubernatorial hopeful Scott Walker like a meteor-sized lump of coal.

The Journal Sentinel's David Umhoefer wrote that some GOP insiders were suggesting that Walker, the Milwaukee County executive, step aside in favor of the apparent front-runner, Green Bay Congressman Mark Green.

Walker responded that he had no such intention, had already raised $1 million, and was modeling his underdog campaign on Lee Sherman Dreyfus' upstart, upset 1978 GOP primary win.

Give credit to Walker for quick thinking and an active imagination -- but his campaign and Dreyfus' have little in common.

Dreyfus was a wily outsider who parlayed his teaching and communications skills into a charming, grass-roots crusade.
Walker, by contrast, is the consummate partisan insider, a career politico who began as a state assemblyman and has become the darling of Milwaukee's right-wing talk radio hosts.

It was Walker's talk radio allies, ironically, who ripped the 79-year-old Dreyfus on the air last year, mocking the former governor as "King of the RINO's" (Republican in Name Only) for opposing one of their fashionable ideological touchstones: the knee-jerk tax freeze.

And let's not forget that Dreyfus was a university professor and administrator, while Walker left Marquette University before graduating.

Though he skillfully rode a local taxpayers' revolt into the Milwaukee county executive's office, Walker, at age 38, has little of the broad and moderating experience that helped Dreyfus seize the public's imagination, win the 1978 GOP primary and ultimately defeat the incumbent, Gov. Martin Schreiber.

Walker's essential dilemma in the primary race against Green is this: They share the same, right-of-center Republican base.

It would be different if Walker were to the right of Green, or to his left, or had some special blend of history or achievements -- something ... anything -- to differentiate him in a meaningful way from the Green Bay congressman.

But that is not the case. Rather, Walker's campaign rests on political projections: Walker believes he can outpoll Green in ultra-Republican Waukesha County (more likely it will be a roughly even split), and pull in more Republicans in Milwaukee and its suburbs than Green (though it's probably true that Green will clobber him in the Fox Valley and in most of Wisconsin's Republican smaller cities, villages and towns).

Furthermore, Walker holds an office -- county executive -- that is a curiosity in Wisconsin. Only10 Wisconsin counties have elected county execs, putting Walker further outside the political mainstream statewide.

Let's face it: Member of Congress is an impressive title. It's an office most voters understand.

Milwaukee County is an enviable base from which to campaign for county executive, not governor. And the more that Walker runs to Milwaukee, the more outstate voters will run the other way, because no matter how unfair, there is anti-Milwaukee bias in the statewide electorate.

Barring a political earthquake, Walker's "from-Milwaukee" baggage will help Green win the GOP primary victory next fall.

Which brings me back to Walker, and why he should be watching the trial balloons some Republican veterans were floating in the Umhoefer/Journal Sentinel piece: strategic withdrawal.

* Last June, I wrote an analysis of the Walker campaign for and argued that Walker would and should abandon his foundering race.

At the time, I wrote:

"Walker made no secret of wanting to use the county executive's office as a platform to seek the governorship, but that may have looked more achievable in 2002 as a long-range plan than it does in the short run today.

"The need for self-preservation and strong legacies are usually just as strong as ambition in the politician's mentality: Walker should think long and hard about the implications of a primary loss to Green, which would leave Walker weakened as he tries to solve the county's substantial difficulties.

"A better plan is the strategic, early end to his campaign. There'd be no shame in it, and only smart politics.

"Walker's stepping aside would spare Republican voters the need to choose among two almost identical right-wing opponents, open the way to a simplified partisan and ideological choice between Doyle and Green, and give Milwaukee County taxpayers what they really need and are paying for:

"The full-time attention of a full-time county executive."
Which makes him look like a very smart man today.

What's wrong with Wisconsin politics?

We have a serious problem in Wisconsin. It's not about the tencency of politicians to ignore the people, or push their inane ideas on the people at taxpayer's expense, or the tendency of the people to let their triggers be tripped by the politicians.

It's about the failure of so-called political reporters to look beyond horse race stories to issues. OK, so Jim Doyle has a 40% approval rating, maybe, according to some polls whose motives and accuracy we really shouldn't trust. And, OK, this approval rating is twice as high as Dick Cheney's and on a par with George W. Bush's, but lower than almost everyone else in the universe, including the Ayatollah Khomeni and Osama bin Ladin.

So what?

I know political reporters aren't too secure, but they must be secure enough to go beyond this horse race stuff with some guy who works for the Republican Party, for crying out loud, and report something of substance instead of what he says about the 2006 campaign.

What the heck do they expect him to say? That W. is an incompetent and Hillary is not only smarter but better looking? Now there's a frightening thought.

Is it too much to ask for a little depth in political coverage? Have political beat reporters just awakened from hibernation and are still a little groggy and can we expect better in coming months?

Sports writers can do better than that any month of the year on any team in the NFL, NBA or DSL. And they're a lot more prone to interject some of their own understanding of the context, which political reporters must have some inkling of.

Maybe the media should just switch political reporters for sports reporters for the duraction of the 2006 campaign. Political junkies would be pleased at a new degree of color in political coverage, and to heck with the sports fans.

Walker quits governor's race

Walker withdrawing from governor's race
Milwaukee County Executive says he can't match Doyle's fund raising

Posted: March 24, 2006

Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker is pulling the plug on his bid for the governor’s office, leaving fellow Republican Mark Green a clear shot at incumbent Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle in November.


Walker press release.

Just wondering

Who is writing this juvenalia for the Scott Walker campaign? Does Walker think this is even remotely humorous? If so, it disqualifies him from being governor and he should just drop out now. Truly embarrassing.

Jim Doyle and A Trial Lawyer: Their Conversation.

(Scene: Jim Doyle and a Trial Lawyer enjoy time together at the mansion earlier this week discussing dirty money and election year politics.)

Disclaimer: All characters and events in this satirical exchange-even those based on real people-are entirely fictional.

Trial Lawyer: Jimmy - we got a tough situation here. Capping medical malpractice damages is not good for 'my people' and I wouldn't want to have to cut off your reelection funding just because your veto pen didn't work.

Doyle: But Mr. Trial Lawyer, Scott Walker has been campaigning all over the state saying that these caps will cost the people millions in the form of higher health care costs. He's also written about it all over his website at We need to work together - what am I going to do?

Trial Lawyer: Jimmy, I know things are not looking good right now. You are sitting at 40% approval in most polls. Everyone agrees you are probably the most vulnerable incumbent governor in the country. In addition, I agree this Scott Walker fellow is causing you a lot of trouble. Let's be honest, four straight budgets that freeze the property tax levy - years of executive experience - a talented communicator with a message of taxes and trust and a fantastic BLOG that he writes himself. Hmm. We may need to rethink this.

Doyle: Oh thank you Mr. Trial Lawyer! Thank you, Thank you!

Trial Lawyer: Oh be quiet Jimmy, I have to make some phone calls, wait here.

(Trial Lawyer exits for a few moments for phone calls with the Trial Lawyer board of directors. Doyle waits patiently as he was told)

Trial Lawyer: Ok, we've discussed the situation and we're going to allow you to sign this bill, however, we have some requests.

Doyle: Anything! I'll do anything to sign this bill and take away an issue from Scott Walker. You know he got 58% in Milwaukee County during his reelection and I only got 57%. If he is my opponent, I am doomed.

Trial Lawyer: Shut up about Walker - there's nothing we can do about him now. Focus on this!

Doyle: Yes Mr. Trial Lawyer.

Trial Lawyer: Here's what you're going to do: you'll sign this bill and say that it's going to be a 'close call' on whether the state supreme court upholds the law. We're going to say we are 'surprised' by your decision.

Doyle: I like it, I like it!

Trial Lawyer: I'm not done yet. If I have to tell you one more time,

Doyle: Yes Mr. Trial Lawyer

Trial Lawyer: We have also decided that we will continue to fund your campaign with the following conditions:

1) You will tell the people of Wisconsin that you believe it is 'debatable' as to whether caps lower insurance rates and health care costs
2) You will make no further comment on your medical malpractice signature
3) You will veto all legislation related to liability lawsuits
4) Once elected, your first order of business will be to declare November 8th Trial Lawyer Appreciation Day.

Do you understand?

Doyle: It's going to take a lot of money to accomplish those tasks Mr. Trial Lawyer. Scott Walker has a huge following and is very popular with my base in Milwaukee.

Trial Lawyer: I agree, but you know how to buy elections; you've done it before.

(Trial Lawyer and Doyle laugh together) End Scene

-- From T-Shirt Humor.

Sensenbrenner too cute on immigration

"The illegal alien rally held in Milwaukee today was an impressive show of force."

That was how Rep. F. Jim Sensenbrenner began his response to a remarkable rally in Milwaukee Thursday which attracted upwards of 15,000 people to speak up for a fair, humane immigration policy.

There were people from all walks of life and many races who marched together to show their solidarity on the issue.

Sensenbrenner dismisses it as an "illegal alien rally."

Cute, really cute. Just what you'd expect from Sensenbrenner.

But what is he suggesting?

That the march and rally consisted of 15,000 illegal aliens?

That the march was illegal?

That the event expressed support for illegal aliens? If that's what he meant, there's some basis for it. But he didn't say what he said accidentally. He chose his words carefully, to describe the event -- one of the biggest and most impressive such rallies in Milwaukee in recent memory -- as "an illegal alien rally."

Immigration is an issue that is coming to the fore just in time for the mid-term elections. It's one in which President Bush, who actually knows something about the issue because of his Texas roots, has offered a far more reasonable proposal. But the Republican right, personified by Sensenbrenner, is hell-bent on putting people in jail instead of into jobs.

Sensenbrenner got his mean-spirited bill through the House, but cooler heads may prevail in the Senate. Let's hope so.

If you'd like to know more about the issue, today's national papers are a good place to start:

Washington Post: Immigration debate shaped by 08 election.

NY Times: Bush is facing a difficult path on immigration.

The Nation: Immigrants' wall of death.Latin American leaders say thousands of immigrants will die if the U.S. Congress passes the Sensenbrenner immigration bill.

Afterthought: I doubt you will ever again see "Sensenbrenner" and "cute" in the same phrase or sentence on this blog.

More reaction
: Grumps finds F.Jim's logic a little illogical.

Asking the tough questions

Jessica McBride, legal scholar, asks in a post today:

How do you criminalize something that's already illegal?

Perhaps her husband, the district attorney, could explain it to her.

Or she could read this handy primer from the National Immigration Law Center, which says, in part:

Section 203 of HR 4437 would make it a crime for immigrants to be in the U.S. in violation of immigration laws or regulations. Immigrants convicted of this crime could be punished by imprisonment for a year and a day and/or a fine. Under current law, unlawful presence is a civil, not a criminal, violation of immigration law.

Quote, unquote

"They want to do just as they please, for as long as they can get away with it. I think what is going on now without congressional intervention or judicial intervention is just plain wrong."

-- Senate Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., in an AP interview.

Coming soon to Fox6 News in Milwaukee?

It's probably not worth getting all decked out for the April 4 spring elections, because there's not much on the ballot. But maybe by the September primary we can look forward to a little "sparkle and shine" on Fox newscasts here. Robert Feder of the Chicago Sun Times explains:
If Mark Suppelsa, Robin Robinson and the rest of the folks who covered Tuesday's primary on WFLD-Channel 32 looked a bit more colorful than usual last night, that was no accident.

Believe it or not, the news anchors and reporters at the Fox-owned station were ordered by their boss to wear flashy clothes -- preferably "red white and blue."

In an internal memo obtained by this column, Andrew Finlayson, the recently installed vice president of news at Channel 32, told on-air staffers to think of their election night coverage as a "party" and to dress accordingly.

"Dull clothes are out," Finlayson declared. "Red white and blue is in . . . I know it sounds obvious . . . but sometimes people forget and show up in just shades of gray. We want to be comfortable, professional and ready to rock."

What's the point of his wardrobe edict? Ratings, of course.

"Sparkle and shine," Finlayson wrote, "and give the viewers a visual difference when they are flipping around. Content will win, but you want to catch the eye of our friends and neighbors at home."

As of this writing, it's too soon to tell whether the dress code had any effect on Channel 32's ratings. (The station's newscasts generally lag behind its competitors, which accounts for the recent management upheaval there.)

But the very idea of journalists being ordered to wear attention-getting costumes while they cover the news struck some staffers as offensive, patronizing or just plain dumb. And the idea of putting such a directive in writing might have been even dumber.

Cue the clowns and jugglers.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Oops! Coretta Scott King not a commie

UPDATE: The blogger in question, a former speech writer for Tommy Thompson at Health and Human Services, has resigned after plagiarism charges surfaced.

In the spirit of right wing bloggers like Wisconsin's own Charlie Sykes and Jessica McBride, the Washington Post's new conservative blogger is quick to call anyone with liberal views a communist.

A little too quick in the case of Coretta Scott King. Here's the Editor & Publisher story.

Hat tip: Think Progress.

'Terrorists learning to speak Mexican'

Rep. F. Jim Sensenbrenner explains the need for tight border security and draconian immigration policies:

He said two reasons for protecting the border are to avoid an influx of drugs into the country and terrorism.

"It’s a national security issue," said Sensenbrenner, stating that terrorists are learning to speak Mexican Spanish.

"The next 9-11 may not come from other ports of entry," he said.

It may be from terrorists infiltrating the country from Mexico, he said.
Let's hope those terrorists don't learn to speak Canadian.

New Feingold ad

You can hear it now:

"Even the Republican national chairman praises Russ Feingold as "a patriot and a good man" ...

Quote, unquote

"Senator Feingold is right to insist that the President honor both the law and the Constitution. If Feingold’s fellow Senators won’t vindicate his stance, history will."

-- Editorial, Bluefield (WV) Daily Telegraph.

--Pat Oliphant. (Click on cartoon to enlarge)

Bucher protesteth too much

Gee whillikers, Sandy!

DA Paul Bucher seems a little testy over my suggestion that he might be closer to agreement with Kathleen Falk than he would like to admit on the question of how to treat addicts in the criminal justice system.

It must have hit a little close to home, because Bucher explained at great length -- once he finished attacking me personally -- how his plan to let suburban repeat drunken drivers go is very different from Falk's plan, which he likes to characterize as letting huge numbers of Willie Horton's friends free in your neighborhood. He must have been up late to do that, after his busy day of locking up criminals and campaigning for office. Pretty good for someone who, his spouse suggested, doesn't know who I am and has never read his own blog.

Anyway, to get to the point in about 10% of the time it took him, here is Bucher's conclusion:
Judges know what they are doing when they sentence an offender to prison. Falk’s plan would release individuals like Dionny Reynolds, who was sent to prison on a drug offense. He later murdered a state Department of Justice drug agent and another man.
Guess what? Under the Falk plan, judges -- the ones Bucher says know what they are doing -- would make the decisions. Unless Bucher thinks the judges really can't be trusted, what is the problem?

Iraq war an 'external event?'

How's that again? The NY Times, speculating about whether President Bush will hire a new senior advisor, reports:

By most accounts inside and outside the administration, Mr. Rove is relentlessly cheerful, presenting himself as an optimistic face in a gloomy White House. One person who met Mr. Rove said he attributed Mr. Bush's problems more to external events, in particular Hurricane Katrina and Iraq, than to anything the White House did wrong.
So the war in Iraq is an outside event, like a hurricane, that just happened, rather than something Bush & Co. did wrong? Is it what the insurance companies call an act of God?

Incredible. In every sense of the word.

Gay marriage support growing

New evidence that the constitutional amendment to ban gay marriages and civil unions may not be the slam dunk Wisconsin Republicans expected when they put it on the November ballot.

Pew Research Center reports:

Public acceptance of homosexuality has increased in a number of ways in recent years, though it remains a deeply divisive issue. Half of Americans (51%) continue to oppose legalizing gay marriage, but this number has declined significantly from 63% in February 2004, when opposition spiked following the Massachusetts Supreme Court decision and remained high throughout the 2004 election season. Opposition to gay marriage has fallen across the board, with substantial declines even among Republicans.
It's just possible that this will backfire and bring moderates and liberals to the polls, since the real issue here is not even gay marriage -- which is already illegal in Wisconsin -- but banning civil unions and rights and benefits that go with them.

The Wisconsin AFL-CIO has joined the growing list of groups that oppose the amendment.

Feingold's Daily Show video

Russ Feingold and Jon Stewart talk censure on The Daily Show. Story and video here.

A chance to confront Sensenbrenner

Maybe we could steer a few of this morning's marchers to the town hall meetings.

You've got to give Rep. F. Jim Sensenbrenner credit for one thing. He's consistent, even if it's consistently wrong.

Sensenbrenner, one of only 11 people to vote against federal help for Hurricane Katrina victims, voted recently against a supplemental appropriation, too. This time the vote was 348-71, and another Wisconsin Republican, Tom Petri, voted with him.

Sensenbrenner is in his suburban district this weekend, holding town hall meetings.

It's a good chance to ask him in person why he keeps voting against helping disaster victims, why he keeps taking those free junkets around the world at taxpayer expense, why he's so obsessed with immigration that he wants to build a 700-mile wall on the Mexican border and make felons out of illegal immigrants or anyone who helps them. That's just for starters.

Sensenbrenner's opponent, Democrat Bryan Kennedy, is urging voters to confront Sensenbrenner this weekend. I hope Kennedy will attend himself and see if he can engage F. Jim in some discussion. It should make for some good theater, and guarantee that Sensenbrenner blows a gasket. I'd invite TV cameras, or at least bring a camera crew of my own. That's today's free advice to the Kennedy campaign.

Sensenbrenner's town hall meetings will be on Saturday are at 9 a.m. at West Bend City Hall and at 1 p.m. at Waukesha State Bank, and on Sunday at the Menomonee Falls Safety Building at 7 p.m.