Sunday, April 30, 2006

Cops caught donning and doffing off-duty

One of those that requires the I-am-not-making-this-up disclaimer.

Milwaukee police officers are suing the city to force the taxpayers to pay them for the time they spend getting dressed for work and getting undressed after work.

The Story Hill website has the story and a link to the lawsuit, which claims:

The city violates federal labor law "by failing to credit as hours worked...the time spent donning and doffing their uniforms and gear by members of the Milwaukee Police Department," according to the suit.
Gretchen Schuldt comments on her new blog, Milwaukee Rising.

Friday, April 28, 2006

TABOR'S evil, ugly twin

Trying to save face and say they did something, Assembly Republicans twisted arms until 4:30 a.m. to get enough votes to pass, 50-48, a constitutional amendment that will look even uglier in the light of day than it did at 4:30 in the morning.

It is a terrible piece of work, which will probably become obvious in the next few days as the news media begin to read it and decipher its contents.

The authors themselves think it is so bad that it includes a special fixer-upper provision, allowing that section of the constitution to be amended with a simple legislative vote and referendum. To amend anything else in the constitution requires passage by two sessions of the legislature and then approval by the voters. Maybe they were thinking of the Colorado experience, where it turned out to be disastrous.

There are enough shaky, vague and unusual provisions in the measure to keep an army of lawyers busy litigating for years.

The odds are that it will never come to that, because the State Senate is showing signs of having more sense and may be in a mood to kill this monster next week.

But, it is an election year ...

MARK POCAN ASKS: What can you expect from a plan introduced at bar time?

And the chutzpah of the year award goes to...

The Republican Party of Wisconsin, for having the nerve to issue this release when 16 years of Republican governors' budgets left Jim Doyle with a $3.2-billion deficit when he took office. He has cut it in half. The GOP says:
State Faces $1.5 Billion Deficit

(Madison, WI)...Despite multiple promises that he balanced the state budget without raising taxes, Jim Doyle has put Wisconsin into a $1.5 billion deficit. The non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau says the state is facing a budget hole of at least $1.5 billion in 2007. The Chairman of the Republican Party of Wisconsin, Rick Graber, says the news that Jim Doyle overspent the taxpayer's money is not a surprise.
Do they think we were all born yesterday? Even Steve Walters hasn't used this one.

Is the asexual movement pro-life?

A small but growing movement believes that asexuality is an orientation as valid as straight or gay, an article on AlterNet reports.

Let's see. Where do right-to-life nutbars come down on this?

Do they want to encourage asexuality? It would be sort of like the "True Love Waits" virginity program, maybe modified to "True Love Waits Forever."

Do they want asexuals to marry? If the reason for marriage is procreation, that's a problem. Or is it sex that's only for procreation? I forget.

Do we need a constitutional amendment?

Barbara Lyons? Peggy Hamill?

Help us out here, please.

What health care problem?

Poor Jay Bullock. Bullock, aka Folkbum, just spent a lot of time (although not as much as David Riemer or David Newby) outlining some ideas to improve health care in the US. And there are a couple of big-time proposals on the table at the Capitol, although the Republicans-in-charge don't seem ready to take up the issue. (No time. Gotta take care of guns, God and gays.)

Silly Folkbum. What a waste of time. Dave Diamond has discovered, via a "news" story in the Racine Journal Times, that there is no health care problem. Some of the gems from the story:

But is health care reform a serious political issue? At a time when the government is fighting terrorism and a war in Iraq, and the public is demanding lower and lower taxes, is expanded health care coverage a priority?

The answer, at least in Wisconsin, may be no....

...But the issue has yet to ignite in Wisconsin. While Illinois expanded health care coverage to all children and Massachusetts passed a plan to provide medical care to all state residents, Wisconsin's plans are locked in a Democrat-Republican stalemate....

But even health insurance and personal wealth don't guarantee quality health care. "I'm not poor, or I didn't think I was," Deb Siegel, of Kenosha, said at the hearing. It was the start of a talk about a series of events that left her and her husband, both successful, full-time workers for much of their lives, without insurance for a few months. In that time, her husband had a heart attack and required tens of thousands of dollars in medical care....

But for a majority of people, the health care system works. They have insurance and get coverage for themselves and their families when they need it. While the roughly 44 million Americans without health care coverage is a significant number, and millions more are feeling the cost of rising medical costs, they may not be significant enough to overhaul the multi-billionaire dollar insurance and health care industries.

While the numbers calling for a change may be rising, it's unclear if they are anywhere near creating a legitimate movement for actual change.
Well, 44 million is a start.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Strike 1 on TABOR

So after more than six years of working on it, State Rep. Frank Lasee got his first floor vote on TABOR. And he got 32 votes in the Assembly. The Journal Sentinel online reports:
THURSDAY, April 27, 2006, 9:15 p.m.
By Steven Walters

Assembly rejects local spending limit bill
Madison - The state Assembly tonight killed a constitutional amendment that would have clamped tight spending controls on state and local governments - the first vote by either house of the Legislature on constitutional spending limits.

Later, the Assembly was scheduled to vote on a plan to amend the state constitution to limit only state spending, by tying it to the inflation rate and population growth. Sponsors said the vote was too close to call.

Even if approved by the Assembly this week and Senate next week, limits on state spending would have to be passed again by the new Legislature that convenes in January, and approved by voters in a statewide referendum.

On a 66-32 vote Thursday night, the Assembly rejected constitutional limits that would have extended to local government. Those limits would have been based on inflation, population growth or new construction, depending on the level of government involved. Voters could have lifted the limits through local referendums.

The proposal for broader limits was offered by Rep. Frank Lasee (R-Bellevue), who has pushed a package of tight spending controls for eight years. He said all other attempts to protect taxpayers have failed and that wealthy retirees and young professionals are fleeing Wisconsin because of high taxes.

"We are so, so afraid of asking voters how much they can afford, or what they desire," Lasee said.

But Democratic Rep. Jim Kreuser of Kenosha called Lasee's proposal unpopular and unworkable, and said it would "duct tape the hands together" of local elected officials who provide critical local services.
"It's wrong for Wisconsin," he said.

The vote came one day after more than 100 local elected officials and advocates for unions, retirees and religious groups came to the Capitol to lobby against any constitutional restraints on state and local governments.

The rest of the story

Spivak and Bice correctly point out that Americans for Prosperity, which put out a press release denouncing lobbyists, has a lobbyist and is funded by people with some big bucks.

They didn't mention that the group, which also has run radio commercials supporting TABOR, has as its lobbyist and spokesman a guy who was fined $15,000 and barred from Wisconsin politics for three years after the Jon Wilcox for Supreme Court campaign.

Of course, with convicted legislators lobbying while on work release under the Huber Law (and not for truth in sentencing), what's a little ethical problem among friends?

Terrorists in Badgerland?

Are there terrorists in Wisconsin? Is there a sleeper cell in Siren?

Only GOP attorney general candidate J.R. Van Hollen seems to think so, judging from the way all of the other candidates, in both parties, responded to his announcement that there are terrorists in Buckyland.

Now that they've all made fun of him, if some terrorists do turn up between now and the election, Van Hollen should be a shoo-in to become the next AG.

I'm betting against it.

-- M. e. Cohen via Cagle.

Mark Green: A follower we can lead

Rep. Mark Green continues to amaze us with his willingness to endorse an amendment to the state constitution sight unseen -- any old amendment, whatever it does, ad long as we can say we're holding down taxes.

Today, he did it again, endorsing whatever comes out of the Assembly before any vote, before any decision on what will be in it, what levels of government it will cover, or what it will really do. If the State Senate passes something different, he'll endorse that, too.

It's totally a case of style over substance.

Green's statement.

If that's leadership, I am the Prince of Wales.

See also: Green: Trust me on budget, I don't have a clue.

Also: Green is firmly squishy on TABOR.

We are all former embryos on this bus

Extremists claim embryos are people, too

Sometimes it seems like God (or someone) put Pro-Life Wisconsin on this earth for the purpose of making Wisconsin Right-to-Life look more reasonable.

Pro-Life Wisconsin are the no-exception wing of the pro-life party. Rape, incest, saving a woman's life? No matter. No abortions, period.

This is the group that issued a press release calling the family of a Marine, severely brain damaged in Iraq, murderers for following his wishes and allowing him to die.

Their latest bit of lunacy:
Pro-Life Wisconsin State Director Peggy Hamill issued the following statements about Gov. Doyle’s executive order to spend $5 million in tax dollars through the Dept. of Commerce to promote embryo-destructive research:

“The embryos on whom the Governor is promoting research are people – they have their own distinct DNA and if they were created naturally and not manipulated by scientists, they would gestate and grow up to look you and me. They are our brothers and sisters.
Really? Our brothers and sisters?

It's a big and growing family.

According to a 2000 study, there are some 400,000 frozen embryos in storage. A small percentage have been designated for research or donation to other couples, but the vast majority are excess embryos that will never be used to produce babies.

During the debate on stem cell research, President Bush joined a number of so-called "Snowflakes" -- adopted children who were produced from embryos left over from another couple's fertility program -- to dramatically suggest there were better alternatives than using the frozen embryos in stem cell research. Many of them wore T-shirts and stickers declaring "this embryo wasn't discarded" and "Former Embryo."

During House debate on whether to expand stem cell research, then-Majority Leader, now-disgraced Tom Delay called an embryo "a person, a distinct internally directed, self-integrating human organism," naming Abraham, Jesus, and Mohammad as former embryos.

Of course, we are all former embryos.

The "Snowflake" debate prompted this Ellen Goodman column:

When people claim to believe that a frozen embryo is the moral equal of a child, ethicists like to pose this question: If a clinic is on fire and you could save either a 2-year-old or a vial full of embryos, which would you pick?

In this case, if an embryo is truly another human being, what are we to make of the Snowflake families? Donielle Brinkman and her husband received 11 frozen embryos from a clinic. After four transfers of multiple eggs and three miscarriages over several years, she gave birth to Tanner. According to their reasoning -- not mine -- if all the embryos were persons, did she produce one child and destroy 10?

Couldn't you argue that some Snowflakes are better off in the freezer than sent on the dicey journey to the womb? And what do you say about the 40 percent to 80 percent of embryos that never make it to the womb in the natural scheme of things?

But back to the weather report. Today, there are 400,000 embryos stored in clinics but only 81 ''Snowflakes." Photo ops notwithstanding, most couples do not turn to in vitro fertilization because they want their genetic offspring to be raised by others. And few couples are waiting to be impregnated with others' embryos.

Only 4 percent of the frozen embryos are available for donation -- half designated for research and half for infertile couples. No way will they all be ''adopted." And this brings us to the question that's been far too easy to evade. What are the responsibilities of the couples who create the frozen embryos and the clinics that store them?

When couples embark on the journey of in vitro fertilization, they are thinking about babies, not leftovers. The ethics committee of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine has long said that clinics should have couples sign advance directives about the fate of embryos in case of death, divorce, separation, the failure to pay for storage fees, or ''abandonment." No one knows how many clinics actually do it.

Couples who have gone through IVF may find it hard to decide when their childbearing option is over. Many decide not to decide the fate of their embryos.

One Massachusetts clinic owner has 1,100 clients who have stopped paying the $300 annual fee for storage. But none has given him the right of disposal.

What happens when 400,000 embryos become 800,000? Will embryos stored in the 1990s still be stored in 2050?

Embryos are not human beings. Nor are they hangnails. They carry the potential for human life that deserves moral attention and respect. It's not disrespectful to donate embryos to the search for a cure for diseases. Nor is it respectful to keep embryos in a freezer until they're eligible for Social Security.

People who are responsible for creating an embryo have the responsibility for what happens to that embryo. No clinic should be required to run a frozen limbo. It's up to the man and woman to decide whether the embryos are to be kept in storage or removed, donated to other couples or to science.

So far the storm over stem cells has been stirred up by politics. But the same couples who pursued parenthood in a petri dish can help quiet a very turbulent weather pattern.
Although the debate focuses mainly on frozen embryos, many of them never make it to the freezer but simply go down the drain or are incinerated. These extra, unwanted, discarded embryos are not our brothers and sisters, except to a group like Pro-Life Wisconsin, which probably, if pressed, would argue that birth control is murder, too.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Ad on CEO pay censored by cable networks

What would make a commercial on CEO pay too hot to handle? Could it be that it hit too close to home?

Copyright © 2006 PR Newswire Association LLC. All Rights Reserved.

WASHINGTON-- Cable networks MSNBC and Comedy Central have refused to air a Change to Win ad that contrasts the vanishing middle class with runaway CEO pay.

Despite coverage of rising income inequality in mainstream publications such as the New York Times and USA Today over the last two weeks, cable network parents Viacom and General Electric refused to run Change to Win's ad, which launches its nationwide Make Work Pay! campaign.

"American democracy is threatened when pointing out that income inequality is rising and the middle class is in jeopardy is somehow controversial?" asked Greg Tarpinian, Executive Director of Change to Win, a labor federation of seven unions and 6 million members.

"One has to wonder if the real reason this ad isn't being run is because MSNBC and Viacom are worried that it will offend Viacom CEO Sumner Redstone, who made $24 million dollars last year, and GE CEO Jeff Immelt who made $15 million," Tarpinian said. "The people who should be offended are the millions of hard working men and women who can't even afford cable, let alone healthcare. We call on Viacom and General Electric to show this ad nationally on their networks, and acknowledge what the American people already know -- the middle class is shrinking and it's time we did something about it."
See the spot.

Posted by Picasa
Rove testifies before grand jury again.

-- Bob Engelhart, Hartford Courant, via Cagle.

Sitting on the news

So Tony Snow is the new Bush flack, as had been rumored for days.

And Fox News didn't break the story. Clearly if anyone knew he was leaving to take the White House job, it was Fox. But they chose not to report it.

So before Snow even got on the job, they suppressed this story to please the White House. It's safe to predict that it's the first of many times that "fair and balanced" will follow the White House lead, now that their guy's on board.

Green: Trust me on budget, I don't have a clue

You won't be surprised to hear that Wisconsin still has a budget deficit.

The good news is that it is "only" $1.5-billion, less than half of the $3.2 billion budget hole Gov. Jim Doyle inherited after 16 years of Republican budgets.

The deficit dominated much of the debate in the 2002 governor's race, as candidates debated how to plug what they thought was a $2.8-billion hole. One Wisconsin Public TV debate featured the three Democratic candidates, with no moderator, trying to come up with specific proposals to fill it. Doyle offered a specific, written plan later in the campaign.

And after Doyle won the election, the number turned out to be much bigger than the $2.8-billion target.

But Doyle put together budgets that have reduced the deficit without raising taxes, as he promised. In fact, he's cut taxes for veterans, businesses, and manufacturers, and held the line on property taxes while still investing in our schools.

He did it in part by cutting $670 million in state overhead, reducing the size of the state workforce, auctioning off 1,000 state cars, even selling eight state airplanes.

There's no magic solution. It's a case of going through the state budget line by line to find savings, economies, and cuts.

Mark Green is trying to make taxes and spending the centerpiece of his campaign. He's come out for a constitutional amendment, sight unseen. Whatever the Republican legislature likes is fine with him, as long as it's simple and has a nice name attached to it. That's basically his position; I'm not exaggerating.

Green, of course, spent several terms in the state Assembly voting for budgets and programs that created the deficit Doyle inherited. He's one of the big-spending Republicans from Tommy Thompson days, and he's kept right on spending and running up gigantic federal deficits as a member of Congress, where they measure it in trillions instead of billions.

But now, Mr. and Mrs. Wisconsin, Mark Green is coming back from Washington to solve your financial problems.

How's he going to do that?

Saying he's fuzzy on it would be giving him too much credit. Today's Journal Sentinel:
In a statement, Green said he'd limit spending and make cuts: "The first rule of being stuck in a hole is to stop digging. That's just what we'll do if I'm elected governor."

Green's statement said he'd use revenue growth to help offset the deficit. That stance differs from statements last week from his spokesman, Rob Vernon, who said revenue increases would be given to taxpayers or used to pay off debt.
In other words, Green has no idea what he would do, but he'll say whatever sounds good. He does know something about digging holes, having helped dig some big ones in Madison and in Washington.

One of the constitutional amendment proposals would limit revenue rather than spending; has he thought about how that would factor in, as he talks about how to use the "revenue increases?"

It's early in the campaign, perhaps, but not too early for Wisconsin's news media and the state's voters to start demanding from Green the same kind of specific answers they expected -- and received -- from Doyle in 2002.

Publicity stunt doesn't quite come off

Did he or didn't he?

WisPolitics reports that AG candidate Paul Bucher, in a political publicity stunt, "hand-delivered a letter to incumbent AG Peg Lautenschlager's office detailing his concerns about a methamphetamine "epidemic" in the state. "So today I am hand delivering to you your own numbers which show that the number of methamphetamine cases for 2005 are IN EXCESS OF 700," reads the letter.

The AG's office has a slightly different version of events:
According to our staff of the Office of the Attorney General, you appeared this morning at our Capitol office, toting an easel, accompanied by a photographer, and apparently intending to document your delivery of a letter to the Attorney General. Unfortunately, you did not alert anyone to your plans, and a Capitol Police officer directed your entourage to conduct its assembly elsewhere on the Capitol grounds."
The exchange is over the number of meth cases in the state, which has not quite electrified the electorate.

Compassionate conservative tolerance update

The Progressive's Matt Rothschild reports:
Animation Producer Gets Ugly Slurs

Ava Lowery is a fifteen-year-old who lives in Alabama. She calls herself a peace activist, and for the past year, she’s been producing her own short animations on her website, All in all, she’s made about seventy of them, she says, and most of them oppose Bush and his Iraq War.

“I was just so mad about it,” she explains. “And the media are not showing the real images of the war, so I did a lot research and started my own website.”

She submitted one of her latest creations, “WWJD,” to the monthly “contagious” contest that is running. (It’s an open contest that ranks the number of viewers for each submission.)

“WWJD” (“What Would Jesus Do”) is a powerful animation that features a soundtrack of a child singing “Jesus loves me, this I know” while one picture after another of a wounded, bloody, or screaming Iraqi child fills the screen.

“The object of the animation,” says Lowery, is “to get the following point across: Jesus loves Iraqis, too.”

Lowery ends the video with quotations from Beatitudes, including, “Blessed are they who mourn” and “Blessed are the meek” and “Blessed are the merciful” and “Blessed are the peacemakers.”

She says she’s received a lot of positive feedback in short messages back to her site. And she understands that the fact that “people are on the web, and they just let loose.” But she was unprepared for the viciousness of the negative feedback—especially the ugly sexual slurs similar to those that Cindy Sheehan has faced. (If you can’t stand foul language, stop reading now.)
Or read the rest here.

Hat tip: Charlie Sykes,who likes to post something any time a lefty says a disparaging word, headed "Compassionate liberal tolerance update."

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Piling on the bull

Great news! State Rep. Frank Lasee will unveil a new version of Great-Grandson of TABOR at an 11 a.m. news conference on Wednesday. Can't wait.

His news advisory is headlined, "Cutting through the bull." Right.

And he's coming up with his plan a whole day before the Assembly is scheduled to vote on the issue.

Dem Mark Pocan calls the GOP-TABOR relationship a marriage made in hell.

And Madison's conservative newspaper, the Wisconsin State Journal, says the proposal is dead and should be buried before it stinks up the Capitol any more than it already has.


In the rest of the world, where they use Celsius, that's zero.

Saint Mark of the holy pictures

It's beginning to get a little ridiculous. How can anyone have time to campaign, let alone do his job, when there are all of those holy pictures to pose for? The AP on Mark Green's latest:

WASHINGTON (AP) - U.S. Rep. Mark Green said Tuesday he will return his congressional salary for the days when he's campaigning for governor in Wisconsin and the U.S. House is in session.

"Those occasions will be infrequent, and I will limit the votes I miss to legislation that is expected to pass overwhelmingly,'' Green, R-Wis., said in a statement. "However, because I know my first responsibility is always to the taxpayers, I will not take pay for any days I do not travel to Washington, D.C. when the House is in session.''

Green said he's asked the House chief administrative officer to deduct the missing days from his salary.

Green's spokesman, Luke Punzenberger, said the missed paydays will come to $458.89 a day. Green faces Democrat Gov. Jim Doyle in the November general election.

"Whenever a current public officeholder runs for higher office, inevitably there are times when that officeholder spends time on the campaign trail that would normally be spent on official business,'' Green said.

He added that when he does miss a vote, he will enter into the Congressional Record how he would have voted.
As long as he's being pious, why not go all the way and apply the same standard as that for legislative aides. Have the campaign pay his health care costs on those days, too. Why settle for less than sainthood?

Or, he could just be a martyr and do his job.

Tony Snow on Bush: Impotent, embarrassment

Apparent Bush flack-in-waiting Tony Snow has been less of a sycophant in his old job than he will have to be in his new one. Think Progress has checked the record. There are no doubt more, but here are a few Snow quotes to get us started:

– Bush has “lost control of the federal budget and cannot resist the temptation to stop raiding the public fisc.” [3/17/06]

– “George W. Bush and his colleagues have become not merely the custodians of the largest government in the history of humankind, but also exponents of its vigorous expansion.” [3/17/06]

– “President Bush distilled the essence of his presidency in this year’s State of the Union Address: brilliant foreign policy and listless domestic policy.” [2/3/06]

– “George Bush has become something of an embarrassment.” [11/11/05]

– Bush “has a habit of singing from the Political Correctness hymnal.” [10/7/05]

– “No president has looked this impotent this long when it comes to defending presidential powers and prerogatives.” [9/30/05]

– Bush “has given the impression that [he] is more eager to please than lead, and that political opponents can get their way if they simply dig in their heels and behave like petulant trust-fund brats, demanding money and favor — now!” [9/30/05]

– “When it comes to federal spending, George W. Bush is the boy who can’t say no. In each of his three years at the helm, the president has warned Congress to restrain its spending appetites, but so far nobody has pushed away from the table mainly because the president doesn’t seem to mean what he says.” [The Detroit News, 12/28/03]

– “The president doesn’t seem to give a rip about spending restraint.” [The Detroit News, 12/28/03]

– “Bush, for all his personal appeal, ultimately bolstered his detractors’ claims that he didn’t have the drive and work ethic to succeed.” [11/16/00]

– “Little in the character of demeanor of Al Gore or George Bush makes us say to ourselves: Now, this man is truly special! Little in our present peace and prosperity impels us to say: Give us a great man!” [8/25/00]

– “George W. Bush, meanwhile, talks of a pillowy America, full of niceness and goodwill. Bush has inherited his mother’s attractive feistiness, but he also got his father’s syntax. At one point last week, he stunned a friendly audience by barking out absurd and inappropriate words, like a soul tortured with Tourette’s.” [8/25/00]

– “He recently tried to dazzle reporters by discussing the vagaries of Congressional Budget Office economic forecasts, but his recitation of numbers proved so bewildering that not even his aides could produce a comprehensible translation. The English Language has become a minefield for the man, whose malaprops make him the political heir not of Ronald Reagan, but Norm Crosby.” [8/25/00]

– “On the policy side, he has become a classical dime-store Democrat. He gladly will shovel money into programs that enjoy undeserved prestige, such as Head Start. He seems to consider it mean-spirited to shut down programs that rip-off taxpayers and mislead supposed beneficiaries.” [8/25/00]
And furthermore: Of course, Snow is also a major liar, as Johnny Cougar and Media Matters point out.


-- Signe Wilkinson Posted by Picasa

Help GOP find an agenda

Ken Mehlman wants to hear from you. Well, maybe not, but he said he wanted to hear from a friend of mine, a Wisconsin Dem who has no idea how he got on the list. The RNC chairman says:
You've heard from us. Now, we want to hear from you.

As we formulate our strategy to win in November, we need your opinion. Enclosed in this e-mail is your official Republican Grassroots Voices Survey. Please take a moment to share your opinion on...

The most important priority facing our nation... why it's important that we retain our Republican majorities in November... how you'd like to get involved online... where you get your news... and anything else - by sharing your thoughts at the end of the survey.

Please be sure to return the survey as soon as possible. We will be sharing your thoughts with our leaders in Congress for their action. Your answers will be used to formulate a blueprint for victory in 2006 and 2008.

Politics is changing - and new technology empowers you to connect with our Party's leaders and elected representatives at the click of a button. Take a moment to fill out this important survey and tell our Party's leaders what you think.


Ken Mehlman
Chairman, Republican National Committee
My favorite question:
3.) If the Democrats win control of the Congress in 2006, what is the one thing you would be most worried would happen?

Democrats will try to censure or impeach President Bush
Democrat would raise your taxes
Democrats would cut and run from the central front in the War on Terror
Democrats would sell out American values to Hollywood liberals
Democrats would impose government-run health care

Hollywood, definitely Hollywood. That's what's keeping us awake at night. I'm worried that Charlton Heston is going to come and make me pack a gun.

Take the survey yourself and help the GOP set its course for 2006, before the Hollywood radicals take over the country.

Every picture tells a story

Dennis York has stepped in it, and can't seem to understand why.

It started with an item he posted on his blog Thursday, ridiculing a plan for Milwaukee Public Schools to provide its students with free Internet access. His satirical news story described how young male MPS students were learning all about the female anatomy, thanks to the Internet.

Read by itself, it's amusing. But the photo he put together to illustrate it has sparked a debate, to say the least. The person who e-mailed me to point it out called it "a vile piece of racist crap."

The photo he used, like many on the Internet, is not real. It is a composite put together from other sources. It shows two black boys at the computer, with the image of a barely clad white woman on the screen. One of the boys is pointing to her rear end, with a big grin on his face. You can see it full-size here.

When York got a negative comment, he seemed truly surprised and reacted strongly and defensively:

Welcome to the world of cyberspace, where things might not always be what they seem. At least I hope that's the case with a comment that I received on this post from last Friday.

The post, entitled "MPS Boys Score #1 in Nation on Female Anatomy Tests," was an attempt to poke fun at the ridiculous new program in Milwaukee Public Schools that will provide free wireless internet to students and teachers in their homes. The picture accompanying the post featured two African-American boys doing what young boys of any color would do with free internet - looking at salacious websites.
Let's say that he thinks coming after me for a completely inoffensive, race-neutral joke post is more important than actually taking on the difficult issues that are killing MPS, like fatherless homes and gang violence.

First of all ... MPS is 60% African-American, 20% Hispanic, and only about 16% caucasian... The truly strange thing would have been if I tried to represent typical MPS boys by using a picture of white kids, which apparently would have been just okay ... How dare I ascribe the same characteristics to black kids that are inherent in every white kid? (I used to be a white kid; I know.)

Secondly, the post itself makes no mention of race, and ridicules the policy, not the students. When an idiotic policy to spend a half a million dollars in MPS to give students free internet, it doesn't hurt white kids. It hurts minority kids, who, given the abysmal graduation rate in MPS, seem to need all the classroom resources they can get...
Whether the post mentioned race is really irrelevant, of course. A picture is often worth more than the proverbial 1,000 words. York apparently has a blind spot. Much as we like to pretend, people are not color blind.

I was going to explain why that image would provoke such strong reactions, but someone who commented on York's blog did a better job than I could have, so I will just share this with you. Judging from the initials and link on the comment, it appears to be from Dan Knauss, of Milwaukee's Riverwest neighborhood:
You put what looks like a white woman on the screen of the computer the (black) boys are looking at. Are you not aware of the history of fear and violence among white people incensed by any remotely sexual interest a black male might have in a white female? This is what allows your picture and post to be read as racist, apart from its re-enforcement of stereotypes of black males being extra-obsessed with sex. It doesn't matter very much what you intended--what you posted fits into a certain context of history and experience for many people, and many are understandably sensitive about it--possibly including white southerners ... who realize your post would be very funny (for racist reasons) to out-and-out racists.

PS--if it bothers you that there is often a double standard for humor and things that can be said or not said by white and black people, it's not looking very deeply at the issue to say this is simply unfair or based on sensitivities that amount to "living in the past." In the wake of the Jude trial, where these sexual antagonisms I'm talking about seem to have been in play, think about how that contributes to the way your post can be read as offensive. Michael McGee Sr's recent on-air racial jokes that have provoked some "conservatives" may superficially represent a double standard--I see the one I heard as a wry acknowledgment and table-turning on the stereotype of black men as defined by sex and the fear and violence this view has provoked against them in the past--and maybe the present as well...

That said, I don't find your posts offensive because I think I understand what you intended and did not intend. I do think they are, if unwittingly, in bad taste, and I can see how the pictures and writing can strike many people as ignorant and offensive. If you think that's others' sensitivity and not your responsibility, then don't complain about their reaction because you're rejecting the main rule in writing: know your audience. Of course this is a mostly hypothetical point, since you haven't received much complaint, but giving [this] comment such attention suggests you're trolling for complaints and are not predisposed to consider what legitimate views and motives might lie behind them.

The 65% 'solution' is no solution at all

While we wait for the next version of TABOR, TPA, TIP-TOP, TIC-TAC-TOE or whatever it will be called -- which should surface any time now -- let's take a moment to look at the "Tax Relief Today" proposal from State Sens. Sheila Harsdorf and Ron Brown.

There's one good thing about the thinking of those two Repubs from western Wisconsin. They don't think we need a constitutional amendment to hold down government spending. They're right, of course. It doesn't take a genius to reach that conclusion. But few in the GOP caucus have been willing to say it out loud.

So, good for Harsdorf and Brown for saying no to the terrible idea of amending the constitution. Their opposition may have killed it.

But then there's the little matter of the legislation they proposed, their "Tax Relief Today" proposal, which hasn't gotten much attention.

It's a several-part plan, and presumably they would settle for some of the pieces rather than the whole thing. Most of them sound familiar -- a local property tax freeze, state spending cap, messing with health benefits, and shifting funding of technical colleges to the state.

Then there's the Big Idea, which they describe thusly:
Enacting "First Class Education" by requiring that at least 65% of education funding be spent on classroom instruction by 2008. The 65% benchmark would redirect over $250 million more into kids' classrooms per year.
Gee, where'd they get an idea like that? Maybe they are geniuses.

And maybe not. The so-called "65% Solution" is one that the right wing is pushing in state legislatures around the country. The Center for American Progress says:
A handful of conservatives have embraced a plan that undermines America's schools and are selling the plan as a silver bullet to the problems faced by those schools. The plan, dubbed the 65 Percent Solution, is the brainchild of Utah businessman Patrick M. Byrne, president and chairman of, Inc. It requires school districts to reallocate existing funds so that at least 65 percent of their educational budget is spent on classroom instruction...

... Frederick M. Hess of the American Enterprise Institute points out, "If a 'corporate reformer' acquired Wal-Mart and decreed that 65 percent of all revenues be spent on floor staff and in-store improvements, Wall Street would greet him with derision. There is nothing innately wrong with such moves -- but well-managed firms know that one-size-fits-all management went out with lava lamps and leisure suits."

... With a system of standards-based education and accountability, local leaders should have the flexibility to allocate funds wherever needed to ensure gains in all students' academic performance. The 65 Percent Solution simplistically focuses on financial inputs rather than learning outcomes by limiting local control over how education dollars are spent...

In addition to doing nothing to improve academic achievement, the 65 Percent Solution's narrow definition of classroom instruction actually hurts students and schools. Classroom instruction as defined in the plan includes teacher salaries, general instruction supplies, instructional aides and activities such as field trips, athletics, music and arts. It does not include, however, building maintenance, school lunches, transportation, heat, nurses, counselors, libraries and librarians, computer labs, teacher professional development, speech therapists, or school security. Under the 65 Percent Solution, these important resources have to compete for 35 percent of already scarce funds...

Teacher professional development, library and school nursing programs are not the only ones that suffer under the 65 Percent Solution. Resources for school safety, transportation, building maintenance, and school lunches are also among the many programs that would have to be eliminated or significantly reduced because the 35 percent of school budgets allotted to "outside the classroom expenses" would not be sufficient to adequately fund all of them.
It is not a simple solution to problems of school financing in Wisconsin. In fact, it's not a solution at all. One group calls it the 65% Distraction, and the National PTA calls it "a shell game where no child wins."

It hardly seems like something that ought to be passed in the final days of a legislative session when it just popped up in Wisconsin last week.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Ethics 'watchdog' doesn't hunt

State Rep. Scott Gunderson doesn't have a conflict of interest just because he owns a gun shop and is pushing gun legislation to expand gun ownership and use, according to the State Ethics Board, AP reports.

The Gun Guys can't believe it.

Posted by Picasa
Angel Boligan of the El Universal newspaper in Mexico City, just won the World Press Cartoon contest with the cartoon above.

Dear Me,

In the closing days of the legislative session, Carrie Lynch says Republicans are putting out press releases and sending letters to their own party leaders -- and sometimes themselves -- urging action on some bill or another before everyone goes home to campaign. She says:
It's hard to decide which is worse - Republicans waiting until the last week of session to pretend they want to bring up important issues, Republicans pretending their own leaders are people they never talk to and have to send out press releases in the hopes the leaders will talk to them, or the press actually falling for this like the Wisconsin State Journal did with Rep. Steve Freese's 'call for action' on campaign finance reform and writing a positive story for Freese...
Freese, she notes, is part of the leadership, "yet Freese would have us believe that he has to send press release to communicate with Gard." Dave Zien pulled the same stunt in the State Senate.

Was Gard involved in job offer to opponent?

Spivak and Bice's Sunday column makes the case that State Rep. Terri McCormick was considering another job instead of running in the GOP primary against John Gard for the 8th District Congressional seat. The short version:
Last month, McCormick and conservative Waukesha lawyer Michael Dean exchanged several e-mails about the formation of a non-profit education reform group tentatively named the Commission for Need-Based Education Reform.

"You will withdraw and (I suggest) commit only to privately endorsing Gard because you immediately want to step out of politics and move in a non-partisan, public interest direction," Dean wrote in his detailed proposal for the group, which would promote "child-driven solutions" to education problems that would be supported by a number of local hot shots.

Dean then laid out a strategy by which McCormick could use her position with the group to run for state school superintendent in 2009

McCormick's rapid response:

"That's a go on this end."
The Spice Boys cite a number of e-mails, including this one:
In addition, the third-term Appleton state rep [McCormick]wrote to Dean on March 15:

"I MUST HAVE a commitment as well that they will pass my veterans bill AB 347 as I have revised it from the last budget. . . . I will not let those guys down transitioning into this new role."

Pretty telling evidence that McCormick was, at the least, weighing her options.
The boys may have missed the real story.

That e-mail, with a demand for action on her bill if she were to agree to get out of the race, sounds more like Gard was involved in the negotiations to try to clear the primary field.

Gard, the Assembly speaker, is the one who could schedule McCormick's bill for action, pretty much all by himself, if he so chose. The commitment she was looking for on the veterans bill would have had to come from Gard.

Was Dean working with Gard, suggesting that McCormick get out of the way and "privately" endorse him?

Gard trading legislative action to get his opponent out of the race?

Now that would be a story.

What, me worry?

Pity the poor leggies who, in their effort to keep minimum wage workers from getting a raise, may have cut off their own pipeline of political contributions from lobbyists. The Journal Sentinel explains:
A clever legislative trick meant to limit Gov. Jim Doyle's powers has had a costly side effect: Lawmakers won't be able to hit up lobbyists for campaign cash this election year...

Legislators could easily fix the problem by reversing themselves and setting a new legislative calendar, but doing so would create a public relations headache...

The situation affects anyone running for the Legislature, but it will not affect those seeking other offices.

... [T]here is little reason to stay in session through December, said Assembly Speaker John Gard (R-Peshtigo).

Gard said he would like to end the session this spring, if possible, but said he "hadn't given a heck of a lot of thought" to the fund-raising implications of doing so.
Gard hasn't given a heck of a lot of thought to it because it doesn't affect him personally. He's outa there. Gard is giving up his seat to run for Congress. I suspect lobbyists are free to give to his House campaign fund.

John Tries memorial

A memorial for John Tries is planned tonight at Milwaukee's Turner Hall, 1034 N. 4th St.Tries, a former Milwaukee cop who became a member of Gov. Tommy Thompson's cabinet and later was chief of staff to Milwaukee Mayor John Norquist, died on Thursday in Florida.

He went too soon, at age 60, but packed all he could into the time he had. As Norquist said, "He led a full life. He wasn't cheated; he had a lot of fun."

The notice says there will be a gathering at 4:30 p.m., a service at 5:30 p.m., and a reception afterward at Turner Hall. Tries would have called it a party. Obituary.

In infomercial, Green runs from his record

In a half-hour infomercial thinly disguised as Charlie Sykes's "public affairs" show on WTMJ-TV, Rep. Mark Green tried Sunday to run away from his record.

WisPolitics, which covered the 30-minute political program as though it were news, reported:
Republican gubernatorial candidate Mark Green on Sunday distanced himself from Washington Republicans on fiscal matters and reiterated his support for a constitutional amendment in Wisconsin to limit taxes...

Green describe himself as a "leader in budget reform" who voted against two-thirds of the appropriation bills that came across his desk. "I'm not afraid to run on my (fiscal) record," Green said.

Although pointing to circumstances like the war in Iraq that has led to increased deficit spending, Green said: ``Clearly we have not done what we need to do or what we can do with respect to spending."
It's nice to hear Green say that he is "not afraid" to run on his record. But he actually is very, very afraid to do that -- as he should be.

As a state legislator in those halcyon days of Gov. Tommy Thompson, Green voted for ballooning budgets that eventually left the state with a $3.2-billion deficit -- one from which Gov. Jim Doyle is still working to dig out.

Green voted for a 13.4% spending increase in one budget alone, and voted to raise gasoline and cigarette taxes, and for a long list of fee increases.

In Congress, where he describes himself as a budget reformer, Green has been a reliable Republican vote 93% of the time, going along with the party line.

Green has supported Bush's massive tax cuts for the richest people in the country, while increasing the federal deficit by $2.4-trillion.
During his time in Congress, Green has helped Bush and Republicans increase federal spending by 45 percent.

When Mark Green does get tight-fisted and slash spending is when it is time to spend money on some programs that actually help people and improve their quality of life.

In an early morning vote on Dec. 19, 2005, Green voted for a Republican five-year budget plan that would cut $41.6 billion in spending, including billions in cuts from Medicare, Medicaid, federal student loans and farm programs. It was estimated to cost state governments $8.4 billion over the next five years to finance welfare-to-work programs.

That's Green's idea of how to cut spending. Take it out of the hides of those who can least afford it.

But while he wants cap state spending and cut local services, he is a major war hawk on Iraq, and supports federal spending of $10 billion a month on a war most people don't support, don't think has made us safer, and don't think Bush is handling well.

Annual war spending in Iraq is set to double since the U.S. invasion, having risen from $48 billion in 2003 to $59 billion in 2004 to $81 billion in 2005 to an anticipated $94 billion in 2006. The administration is now spending nearly $10 billion a month in Iraq and Afghanistan, up from $8.2 billion a year ago.

Green's not the first candidate to try to change his spots. He's going to do and say whatever he thinks people want to hear in his bid to become governor.

The problem for a career politician like Green is that there is a record, and no amount of posturing and rhetoric will make it go away.

Green's going to try to be someone he's not. Doyle and the Democrats can't let him get away with it.

Green will have an opportunity to redeem himself with a flip-flop on another budget proposal that would drastically cut health care, student loans, child care programs and more. A group opposing the cuts is asking Green to sign a pledge.

That's not likely, but given Green's attempt to try to disguise himself as someone he's not, anything is possible.

UPDATE: The Capital Times asks, in an editorial, "...whether it makes sense to invite a man who has been a solid "yes" vote for the Republican spending spree in Washington, U.S. Rep. Mark Green, R-Green Bay, to come home and lead a move by Republicans to take over all branches of government and impose this D.C. brand of fiscal extremism on Wisconsin."

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Hu's on first? Who's on alert?

Dick Cheney looks at his notes

Hat tip: D. Spies

Saturday, April 22, 2006

The first Earth Day: April 22, 1970


By Bill Christofferson

On a remarkable spring day in 1970, environmental activism entered the mainstream of American life and politics.

It was Earth Day, and the American environmental movement was forever changed. Twenty million people – ten per cent of the United States population – mobilized to show their support for a clean environment. They attended marches, rallies, concerts and teach-ins. They planted trees and picked up tons of trash. They confronted polluters and held classes on environmental issues. They signed petitions and wrote letters to politicians. They gathered in parks, on city streets, in campus auditoriums, in small towns and major cities. The weather cooperated; in most of the country, it was a clear and sunny day. The news media also cooperated, and covered the event extensively.

Fifth Avenue in New York City was closed to traffic for two hours, and a photo of tens of thousands of New Yorkers strolling and jamming the temporary pedestrian mall dominated the front page of the next day’s New York Times. An estimated one hundred thousand people took part during the day in activities at Union Square, the center for speeches and teach-ins. Mayor John Lindsay set the tone in a brief speech, saying that environmental issues might sound complicated, but it all boiled down to a simple question: “Do we want to live or die?”

In Chicago, the sun seemed pale and distant on Earth Day, and the city’s monitoring devices showed levels of sulfur dioxide in the atmosphere above the danger point for infants and the elderly. Several thousand persons attended a rally at Civic Center Plaza, where Illinois Attorney General William Scott declared that he would sue the City of Milwaukee for dumping sewage into Lake Michigan. The Chicago Tribune ran front page side-by-side photos taken during and after the rally, showing an amazing sight. When the demonstrators left, “there was no post-rally litter remaining to be cleaned up,” the newspaper reported.

At the Washington Monument, a crowd of ten thousand gathered to hear folk music from Pete Seeger and Phil Ochs and speeches by Senator Edmund Muskie, muckraker I.F. Stone, Chicago Seven defendant Rennie Davis, and others. Earlier, 1,700 people had marched to the Interior Department offices to leave symbolic puddles of oil on the doorstep, and some Connecticut Girl Scouts in canoes had pulled tires and debris from the Potomac River. In Philadelphia, twenty-five thousand people heard Muskie call for “an environmental revolution” and criticize government priorities that spent “twenty times as much on Vietnam as we are to fight water pollution, and twice as much on the supersonic transport as we are to fight air pollution.”

Congress had adjourned so its members could go home and give Earth Day speeches. For many, it was the first time they had given an environmental speech, and they drew heavily on material from the office of Senator Gaylord Nelson, Earth Day’s founder (pictured above). At least twenty-two U.S. Senators participated, as did governors and local officials across the nation. The governors of New York and New Jersey signed laws creating new state environmental agencies. The Massachusetts legislature passed an environmental bill of rights. President Nixon, through an aide, said he had said enough about his concern about pollution and would be watching, rather than participating in Earth Day, and hoping it would lead to an ongoing anti-pollution campaign. Nixon had, in fact, in his State of the Union speech three months earlier, called for a national fight against air and water pollution.

There were plenty of theatrics, dramatic gestures, and attention-getting stunts. So many students in Omaha, Nebraska wore gas masks that the supply ran out. Indian sitar music greeted the dawn over Lake Mendota at the University of Wisconsin, accompanied by “an apology to God.” In San Francisco, “Environmental Vigilantes” dumped oil into a reflecting pool at Standard Oil Company offices to protest oil spills. At Boston’s Logan Airport, a group of young people was arrested for blocking a corridor to protest the development of a supersonic transport. A group in Denver gave the Atomic Energy Commission an award – “Environmental Rapist of the Year.”

Automobiles were pounded, demolished, disassembled, and buried. School children and adults alike collected trash and litter from roadsides, parks, streams and lakes. In Ohio, students put “This is a Polluter” stickers on autos, and at Iowa State and Syracuse Universities, students blocked autos from coming onto the campus. In Tacoma, Washington, one hundred students rode down a freeway on horseback to protest auto emissions. In Cleveland, one thousand students filled garbage trucks with trash. In Appalachia, students buried a trash-filled casket. California students cut up their oil company credit cards. In Coral Gables, Florida, a demonstrator paraded with dead fish and a dead octopus in front of a power plant.

But the real focus was the schools. The National Education Association estimated that ten million public school children took part in Earth Day programs. Earth Day organizers said two thousand colleges and ten thousand grade and high schools participated.

In Clear Lake, Wisconsin, Gaylord Nelson’s hometown, junior and senior high school students observed Earth Day at a school assembly with speeches, songs, and skits, then cleaned up more than 250 bags full of litter from the streets and highways in and around the village. A photo of young “demonstrators” with picket signs ran on page one of The Clear Lake Star the next week.

Many businesses put their best faces forward and joined the call for a cleaner earth. In New York, Consolidated Edison supplied the rakes and shovels used by school children cleaning up Union Square, and provided an electrically powered bus to take Mayor Lindsay around the city. Scott Paper, Texas Gulf Sulphur, Sun Oil, Rex Chainbelt and other companies used the occasion to announce projects to clean up or control pollution. Continental Oil introduced four new cleaner gasolines, ALCOA ran newspaper ads touting a new anti-pollution process at its plants, and Republic Steel sent twenty-five company executives to speak at high schools and colleges.

The business participation drew a mixed reaction. Organizers said some companies spent more advertising their support of Earth Day than on Earth Day itself. General Electric stockholders met in Minneapolis, to be greeted outside by a protestor dressed as the Grim Reaper and later were confronted in the meeting by a student leader demanding that the company refuse war contracts and use its influence to channel government expenditures into protecting the environment instead.

The nation’s news media were uncertain what to make of Earth Day. Newsweek was bemused, and somewhat dismissive, calling Earth Day “a bizarre nationwide rain dance” and the nation’s “biggest street festival since the Japanese surrendered in 1945.” Time said the day “had aspects of a secular, almost pagan holiday…” The question, Newsweek asked, was “whether the whole uprising represented a giant step forward for contaminated Earthmen or just a springtime skipalong.” The event lacked the passion of antiwar and civil rights movements, Newsweek said, and the issues were so unfocused as to give rise to “the kind of nearly unanimous blather usually reserved for the flag.”

Time said the real question was whether the movement was a fad or could sustain the interest and commitment it would take to bring about real change. “Was it all a passing fancy…?” The New York Times asked in a morning-after editorial, then answered its own question: “We think not. Conservation is a cause … whose time has come because life is running out. Man must stop pollution and conserve his resources, not merely to enhance existence but to save the race from intolerable deterioration and possible extinction.”

Gaylord Nelson, Earth Day’s founder, framed the question differently. In a four-day speaking tour that took him from New England to the Midwest to the West Coast, Nelson said: “This is not just an issue of survival. Mere survival is not enough. How we survive is the critical issue. . . . Our goal is not just an environment of clean air, and water, and scenic beauty – while forgetting about the Appalachias and the ghettos where our citizens live in America’s worst environment. . . . Our goal is an environment of decency, quality, and mutual respect for all other human creatures and all other living creatures – an environment without ugliness, without ghettoes, without discrimination, without hunger, poverty, or war. Our goal is a decent environment in the deepest and broadest sense.”

A tall order, bordering on Utopian. But on this first Earth Day, anything seemed possible. Nelson, after years of talking quietly, persuasively, and persistently about the environment, had unleashed a whirlwind. Time wondered whether Nelson was “a bit too euphoric”, when he said, in his Earth Day speech in Denver: “Earth Day may be a turning point in American history. It may be the birth date of a new American ethic that rejects the frontier philosophy that the continent was put here for our plunder, and accepts the idea that even urbanized, affluent, mobile societies are interdependent with the fragile, life-sustaining systems of the air, the water, the land.”

But his assessment was reasonably accurate. Others who looked at Earth Day in retrospect agreed that it was a watershed event. Philip Shabecoff, a longtime New York Times environmental reporter, called it “the day environmentalism in the United States began to emerge as a mass social movement.” American Heritage magazine described Earth Day as “one of the most remarkable happenings in the history of democracy…American politics and public policy would never be the same again.” Denis Hayes, the national coordinator for Earth Day, later called it the largest organized demonstration in the history of the world.

Nelson, the visionary behind Earth Day, had spent a decade searching for a catalyst to make the environment a prominent part of the nation’s political agenda. As the leading environmentalist in the U.S. Senate, Nelson had given hundreds of speeches on the issue and visited twenty-five states during the 1960s. It was clear to him that there was widespread concern about environmental pollution. Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring,” Paul Ehrlich’s “The Population Bomb,” and other important and critical writing about the environment had helped raise awareness. But issues closer to home were what energized people. Even environmental politics are local. Almost everyone had a cause, a personal connection, some special project or concern, a reason to care about the environment. It wasn’t all about Lake Erie dying or the Cuyahoga River catching fire or the Santa Barbara oil spill or other highly publicized examples of the growing threat to the environment. It was about the local landfill leaching into wells, or the city spraying DDT, or fish dying in the river, or a myriad of other local environmental problems that became apparent during the 1960s. Nelson heard it everywhere he went. What was needed, he decided, was something dramatic, “a nationwide demonstration of concern for the environment so large it would shake the political establishment out of its lethargy and finally force this issue permanently into the political arena.”

That was the genius of Earth Day – tapping the wellspring of environmental concern that was bubbling just below the surface of the national consciousness. When it happened, “It was truly an astonishing grassroots explosion,” Nelson said. “The people cared and Earth Day became the first opportunity they ever had to … send a big message to the politicians – a message to tell them to wake up and do something. It worked because of the spontaneous, enthusiastic reception at the grassroots. Nothing like it had ever happened before. While our organizing on college campuses was very well done, the thousands of events in our schools and communities were self-generated at the local level.”

That it should have been Nelson who had the inspiration should have been no surprise. He had spent his life “in a career that, like a planet hooked in orbit around its star, never strayed far from a central concern over resources and the quality of the environment.”

[Excerpt from "The Man From Clear Lake: Earth Day Founder Sen. Gaylord Nelson," by Bill Christofferson, published by University of Wisconsin Press, copyright 2004.) Photo by Fritz Albert.

Do something on Earth Day.

Friday, April 21, 2006

The environment by the numbers


PRINCETON, NJ -- Gallup's annual Environment poll finds Americans' stated concern about the environment is not matched by their willingness to make compromises on behalf of the environment.

Sixty percent of Americans think environmental quality today is "only fair" or "poor," and 67% believe it is worsening, yet only 40% worry "a great deal" about the environment. Just half of Americans say environmental protection should take precedence when it conflicts with either economic growth or development of U.S. energy supplies.

According to the Mar. 13-16, 2006 survey, Americans today are more negative about the quality of the environment than in previous years. But they show no corresponding increase in their willingness to make the environment a priority over economic or energy concerns.
Environmental poll results.

GOP front group launches negative media

Just the other day, Republican operative Brian Fraley was sounding the alarm about negative media campaigns sure to come soon against Mark Green, from those bloated (hence the illustration from his post) left-leaning groups:
I have no confirmation that this will happen. No little birdie chirping in my ear. No deep-background email lurking in the in box. Just a sick feeling...

Enough time has passed since Scott Walker's departure from the Governor's race for the Greater Wisconsin Committee or some other misnamed 'independent' group to start airing television spots to try to peel the bark off of Mark Green.

I know it's early, but a lot of 'swing' voters will take the summer off. They won't pay attention to the political tug of war...

There are six weeks until Memorial Day and I would be shocked if we didn't hear from the shadow groups before then. I would not be surprised to see spots run before May 1st...
Well, Fraley was right. There is a negative, statewide paid media campaign going on the air before May 1, paid for by one of those "shadowy" groups everyone's warning voters about.

The thing is, it's being financed by a right-wing group, and it attacks Jim Doyle, not Mark Green.

The radio ads are paid for by the same people who brought you those tasteful TV spots last summer on the state budget, bashing Doyle by saying he supported programs to help gays and immigrants. Steve King, former state Republican party chair and onetime GOP Senate candidate, is the front man. He's also a co-chair of the Bucher for AG campaign.

And this will susprise you: It distorts Doyle's record. WisPolitics reports:
The 60-second radio ads, paid for by the Coalition for America’s Families, tout a recent report that found Wisconsin’s state and local taxes are seventh-highest in the country and praise Green for “leading a drive to cap all taxes in Wisconsin.” It accuses Doyle “and the teacher’s union in Madison” of “scheming to kill property tax relief.”

The narrator says Doyle has vetoed three property tax “freezes” and doesn’t want to stop taxes from going up; it doesn't mention that Doyle used his veto pen in the last budget to craft his own limits on property taxes.
So, please, no more crocodile tears for the poor conservative candidates who fear their records will be exposed by an issue campaign.

The gloves are off. And let's recall that King and Co. threw down first, way last summer.

News release and script.

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

From TABOR to TPA to ???

The session's winding down, and Republilcans are still in disarray about whether or how to pass some kind of anti-tax, anti-spending (and anti-government) measure to use in the fall campaigns. God knows they meed something, having been a terrible example of a do-nothing legislature that has focused on meaningless political issues while ignoring real problems.

As it continues to fester in the GOP caucus, Jay Bullock offers a good analysis of where these ideas come from, why they won't work, and what the real issues are.

Charlie Sykes, meanwhile, lists the decisions facing the GOP as they try to make something more appealing than a soup sandwich, which is what's currently on their menu.

URGENT UPDATE: Mark Pocan proposes to Carol Owens.

ANOTHER COUNTRY HEARD FROM. Seth Zlotocha reviews the latest effort to restart TABOR/TPA's heartbeat.

Do something on Earth Day

Saturday is Earth Day, the brainchild of the late Gaylord Nelson. It will be the 37th Earth Day observance, and the first without Nelson, who left us last July 3.

It's a day to stop for a moment, to remind ourselves that we are the stewards of our natural environment and resources, and to take some positive action to do something nice for Mother Earth.

A lot of activity has already taken place this past week, observed as Earth Week in thousands of schools across the country.

Worldwide, last year more than 500 million people in more than 200 countries took part in some sort of Earth Day activity.

So what are you going to do?

There are a wide variety of events planned on Saturday. The Gaylord A. Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies lists many on its calendar, which is comprehensive but certainly not exhaustive. There are no doubt other things happening in your community, too. Here's a Milwaukee-area list.

If you don't want to follow someone else's program or schedule, do your own thing. Plant a tree. Pick up some trash in the park. Sign a petition. Order a hybrid car. Take a hike. Buy a book.Turn down your heat. Order a rain barrel. Earth Day observances can be large or small. But do something.

Personally, I'm going to take part in the Wisconsin Literary Bash, described as a non-urban book festival, in Plainfield. It coincides with the nearby Prairie Chicken Festival, so you will find details for both on that link. (No, I will not be wearing a prairie chicken suit for my reading, but you are welcome to do so if you so desire. Use the photo as a guideline.)

from World Wildlife Fund.

The First Earth Day.

Contract process gets good grade

The Doyle administration's process for awarding state contracts is sound, an independent review has found.

A whitewash? Hardly, since the person doing the review was Mark Bugher, former secretary of the state Dept. of Administration under Tommy Thompson and a key player on the Thompson team during Tommy's last term.

Just thought I'd mention it, because you probably won't hear much about it from the right-wing or the goo-goos, since it doesn't fit their conspiracy theories.

From our files

My advice to Walker, for what it's worth: Concede nothing. You’re not the underdog: You’re the strategic frontrunner. That was a powerful message. Stay on it and run with it over and over again so it breaks through the media clutter. But I figure you already understand the game: You don't reach the primary audience through the Cap Times anyway because GOP primary voters are so disenchanted with the MSM. No, you reach them with your message through the Web, direct mail, talk radio, grassroots organizing, so while you might SEEM like you're in a valley, you're probably not where it matters. Turn the media attacks into a positive: They drive up name recognition and they demonstrate you’re not the underdog: You’re the threat. Because you’re the strategic frontrunner. As for the museum controversy – people will forget about that by the time the race rolls around but take every chance to reform it so the museum ship is standing right side up come November 2006 (and because it's the right thing to do). Time is on your side. But stop saying you’re the underdog. As far as money goes (because there’s no way you caught up to Green’s $1.3 million head start by June 30), remember how much all that free Milwaukee media is worth. You’re a constant presence in the state’s most expensive media market and you get it for free. That’s worth a heckuva lot more than a couple stories from your Harley ride anyway. Whether the stories are negative or positive doesn't matter that much really – people forget the spin once they're in the ballot box for the most part. They just remember your name. Oh, the voters also don’t give a rat’s )(@&% that Mike D’Amato wants you to spend, spend, spend or that the GB Press Gazette is ticked off because you tossed a bunch of freebies to reporters. They are just happy you aren’t raising their taxes come December. Those tax bills landing in their mailboxes will be more advantageous to your campaign than all the Harley Rides combined.

-- Jessica McBride.

Quick quiz

Is this:

(a) The Mark Green campaign?

(b) The Frank Jude jury?

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Mark Green recycles for Earth Day

Rep. Mark Green, anticipating Earth Day on Saturday, has recycled a news release about an award he first announced a month and a half ago.

(Actually, come to think of it, doing it twice is wasteful, isn't it? Doing it once was a waste of resources, let alone twice.)

This from a March 2 release:
Following the news conference, Green will also receive an award from the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs in recognition of his “outstanding leadership and support of Wisconsin’s half million veterans.”
And this from today's:
GREEN BAY – U.S. Rep. Mark Green (R-Green Bay) was given an award by Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary John Scocos Thursday for his “outstanding leadership in support of Wisconsin’s half million veterans.”
Fair's fair. If he can recycle, so can I. Here's the post I did last time Green got the same phony award from his Republican pal Scocos:
Green's record on vets doesn't rate award

Well, isn't this swell?

Rep. Mark Green will hand over a $450,000 check to the Wisconsin Veterans Home at King today, and in return will get an “outstanding leadership” award from Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs.

Green's press release didn't say, but it's probably not a personal contribution from Green. It's not even Green getting rid of his tainted Tom DeLay money. Most likely, it's taxpayers' money from the federal budget, although Green may have helped earmark it as his piece of pork. And it's probably not even a real check.

The event is as phony as the award he's going to get from the Dept. of Veterans Affairs, which is still run by a Republican-appointed board and a Republican secretary, despite the fact that Jim Doyle has been governor for three years.

Green likes to talk about veterans and lead the cheers for the war in Iraq (he started the Victory in Iraq caucus in Congress, you'll recall.) But he was so busy getting a law degree that he only managed to serve five days -- that's right, five days! -- in the armed forces himself, and his record in Congress on veterans issues has been far from stellar.

Some examples, from previous posts:
Green voted for vets' health care after he voted against it.

With friends like Mark Green, our veterans don't need enemies.
Green's a classic example of a guy who says one thing to veterans in Wisconsin and does something entirely different in Washington.

But you can bet the award he gets today will show up on campaign materials in his run for governor. That, of course, is what today's new conference is all about.

First issue in GOP governor primary?

So Tommy Thompson does the right thing and quietly helps the state's new biomedical research center win approval.

Inquiring minds want to know: Does Mark Green, the stem cell research opponent, support this project?

Or is this the first issue in the Thompson v. Green primary for governor?

Seven years after Columbine, little change

Heidi Yewman in the Vancouver, Wash. Columbian:

This summer I will attend my 20-year high school reunion, and Topic A will be as it has been for the past seven years -- the massacre and what hasn't happened since.

Seven years ago, this Thursday (April 20), two teenage gunmen massacred 12 students and one teacher at my school, Columbine High in Colorado. That teacher, my high school basketball coach Dave Sanders, bled to death after being shot in the chest; 24 other people were injured.

It was a terrible, sad day that sparked massive debate regarding guns and gun laws in the United States. Much discussion also centered on the nature of high school cliques and bullying, violent movies and video games, but mostly on guns like the two shotguns, the assault rifle, and the TEC-9 assault pistol that the two troubled kids at Columbine used to shoot their victims before killing themselves.

So what exactly has changed as a result of all that despair, discussion and debate?

Virtually nothing.
Read the rest.

Imitation is sincerest form of flattery, Take 2

The F-Off Files have just sprouted.

Bruce Pfaff apparently has too much time on his hands since the Scott Walker campaign for governor cratered under his direction.

When last heard from, Pfaff was explaining why he wasn't really campaigning on state time when he worked in the Assembly on Scott Jensen's staff. It just looked that way.

Welcome to the Cheddarsphere, Bruce.

How thick is your skin? Mine's like a rhino.

Green seconds Doyle's motion

Imitation is still the sincerest form of flattery. The gov no doubt appreciates it.

Oldie but goody

Hu's on first?

Continuing the anti-Doyle crusade

Wisconsin's biggest newspaper, in its ongoing effort to make Gov. Jim Doyle look bad no matter what he does, gives its top front page headline today to Doyle's veto of a bill to allow health care providers to withhold information on mistakes they make in treating patients.

The Journal Sentinel spin: Doyle sides with the trial lawyers.

The headline could as easily have said, "Doyle veto a victory for patients" or "Doyle veto a victory for malpractice victims" or even "Doyle veto a victory over hospital secrecy."

The actual headline: "Doyle veto a win for trial lawyers."

The story is a little complicated, but this might help you figure it out:
The governor vetoed a bill that would have prevented lawyers from subpoenaing information on health care quality when suing hospitals, nursing homes and other health care providers.

The Wisconsin Hospital Association, which helped write the bill, said it was needed to encourage hospitals to collect and analyze information on mistakes and other so-called adverse events.
I seem to recall the newspaper speaking out against special interests being allowed to write their own bills, but apparently there are exceptions.

The story operates on two assumptions: Jim Doyle bad. Trial lawyers worse.

Here's the thing. Those trial lawyers, whom the right wing likes to demonize, actual are working for victims -- people who were injured or damaged, perhaps seriously, perhaps for life -- by health care providers.

When the story says the bill "would have prevented lawyers from subpoenaing information," what it should say is that it would have prevented victims from getting information.

Lawyers work for clients. It is the clients, the victims, who have the tables tilted against them every time the state passes another law to rein in those nasty trial lawyers.

Back to the story:

Under the bill, a patient still would have been able to get his or her medical records. But the bill would have prevented someone harmed by a medication error from getting internal documents showing how widespread the problem was at a hospital or on the hospital's efforts to prevent the errors.

"What is there to hide?" said Bremer Muggily, the trial lawyer. "If the program really is to improve the quality of care, then there should be transparency."

In recent years, the so-called quality movement in health care has gained momentum, partly in response to pressure from the federal government and employers.

So far, information on those initiatives has been subpoenaed only once in a malpractice lawsuit in Wisconsin.

But Brenton contended that a few more instances could slow the push by hospitals to improve quality.

"We should err on the side of protecting those activities from being mined by plaintiff attorneys," he said.
Once again, using trial lawyers as bogeymen, legislators are moving to solve a non-problem. Those records have been subpoenaed once in the history of Wisconsin. That hardly suggests widespread abuse or problems.

Why should we "err on the side of protecting" [those records]?

Why not, for a change, err on the side of protecting patients who may have been injured or damaged by the care they received?

The contest is not lawyers vs. hospitals. It is victims vs. health care providers.

And that should make it a whole different ball game. In this case, the newspaper has lined up against the victims that Doyle and Atty. Gen. Peg Lautenschlager, who had urged Doyle to veto the legislation, want to protect. The AG said the bill would "grant the broad authority to shield evidence of misconduct, malpractice and incompetence from the public."

CORY LIEBMANN: Welcome to Skull and Bones General Hospital.

SETH ZLOTOCHA: Journal-Sentinel peddles GOP spin.

RICK ESENBERG: A veto on Tuesday?

Catching up with the news

Where have I read Thursday morning's front-page story before?

Right here, at 8 Tuesday night.

It wasn't exactly my stellar investigative work that got the story first. Harsdorf and Brown put out a news release late Tuesday afternoon. Maybe the Journal Sentinel Capitol bureau knocked off early.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The worst President in history?

Hat tip: Hoffmania.

'Expose' on Greater Wisconsin gets it all wrong

Deb Jordahl has a big scoop.

She says Brent Smith, just named to the Board of Regents, is a board member of the Greater Wisconsin Committee, the issue advocacy group for which I work as a consultant.

There's more: Barbara Candy, whose husband, Chuck Pruitt, is a Regent, is Greater Wisconsin's fundraiser, Jordahl says.

It wouldn't be a great expose if it were true.

But it's not. It's totally false.

Brent Smith did serve briefly on the original board of directors for the Greater Wisconsin Committee when it was organized two years ago. He resigned in July 2004, when he became president of the state's technical college board. The group has filed its current board members with the state and federal government a couple of times since then, if anyone bothered to check.

Barbara Candy is not and has never been Greater Wisconsin's fundraiser, no matter what the people at the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign may have reported. She has never been on the payroll and has not raised money for the group.

I'm sure the correction and apology will be forthcoming. (Sorry for that sarcasm. She actually did correct the post after I pointed out the errors.--Xoff.)

While we're on the subject, let's talk about Greater Wisconsin Committee, the group whose first name is "Shadowy" when it's being used by the goo-goos, the GOPpers and their support crew, and the Spice Boys.

The Greater Wisconsin Committee is incorporated in the State of Wisconsin, with a public board of directors. It is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501(c)(4) organization, which does issue advocacy and grassroots lobbying to advance a progressive agenda for Wisconsin. It is non-profit and non-partisan. It is in compliance with all state and federal campaign and tax laws.

In the last two years, it has run issue advocacy campaigns on a variety of issues, during the legislative session, not just at election time as many of the right-wing groups seem to do. It has done campaigns on TABOR, the minimum wage, taxes, the state budget, reproductive rights, lead paint liability, and concealed weapons, among others. It is in the midst of another campaign to stop TABOR right now.

So what makes it shadowy?

Presumably, it's that Greater Wisconsin does not publicly report its donors. The IRS does not require that.

That puts Greater Wisconsin in the same "shadowy" category as a few conservative groups you may have heard of: Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, Wisconsin Right to Life, Americans for Prosperity, the Alliance for Choices in Education, the Coalition for America's Families, and on and on. Many are headed by prominent Republicans.

So spare me the outrage, please. The Greater Wisconsin Committee is a legitimate, legally constituted group that will continue to do issue advocacy and try to move Wisconsin in a progressive direction, no matter how much the wingnuts squeal.

Have I made that perfectly clear?

The Jensen 10 plus one

A goo-goo group (you know how I love 'em) called The Rest of Us surfaced Wednesday with a call for Wisconsin Republican lawmakers who were named in Scott Jensen's trial to do something to clean up ethics in this state. It says:
Last fall, former Wisconsin Senate President plead guilty to one count of felony misconduct in office and one count of making illegal campaign contributions after it was revealed that Chvala was shaking down ("would not look favorably on") lobbyists and interest groups for campaign cash in return for not killing their bills. Chvala had been charged with 20 different felony counts.

In the March of 2006, former Assembly Majority Leader Scott Jensen was found guilty of three felony counts and one misdemeanor ethics violation for using state resources including his legislative staff to support political campaigns. Jensen's staffer, Sherry Schultz, was also found guilty by the jury. At Jensen's trial, some 41 witnesses testified as to the cesspool that Wisconsin state government has become.

The following ten Wisconsin legislators were mentioned among the more than 200 pieces of evidence considered by the Jensen trial as having benefited or known about the improprieties...

See the list.

...Even if these legislators were unaware of the illegal activities of Scott Jensen and his staff, you would think that they would be more than eager to enact sweeping ethics and campaign finance reform to help clean up the system and prevent future abuses.

While fundamental campaign finance reforms have been killed year after year, there is now a real opportunity to take an important step forward. The Wisconsin Senate has passed SB 1, a bill to beef up enforcement of ethics and campaign finance rules by establishing a new independent commission.

Unbelievably, the Assembly leadership may shield its members from having to go on record in support of or opposition to this very basic ethics enforcement proposal. Tell them the time for sweeping Wisconsin's sleaze under the carpet is over and the time has come to vote on SB1.
Missing from the list -- because he's not in the legislature any more -- is Rep. Mark Green, whose name surfaced time and again during the Jensen trial, as a beneficiary of taxpayer-paid campaign work and as the boss of his own staffers who were breaking the law.

Green says he has long supported SB-1, a bill Gov. Jim Doyle says he will sign if it is not changed beyond recognition.

Doyle has called for action in the closing days of the session, but Green's Republican party is firmly in control. If he has any claim to being a leader of his party, it's time for Green to make it the Jensen 11 and give his colleagues the kick in the rear end they need to get this done.

If everybody's for it, why can't they pass it?