Wednesday, May 31, 2006

A cop on every corner?

Stealing a beat from the recovery community, which often recommends that addicts and alcoholics go to 90 group meetings in 90 days, attorney general wannabe Paul Bucher has proposed his own 90-90 plan.

Bucher wants 90 more cops on the street in Milwaukee for the next 90 days, he announced in an attempt to cash in politically on a tragic weekend of gun violence in Milwaukee.

Why 90 cops for 90 days? The number's arbitrary, Bucher told the Journal Sentinel. It's just a number.

If more police officers is the answer, why stop at 90?

Why not 365 more cops on the street for 365 days?

Of course, these aren't really "more" police officers. It's not like there are a lot of unemployed cops sitting around that the city or county can hire or call back to work.

Bucher's brainstorm is to have the city and county pay enough overtime to let the existing officers work enough extra hours to be the equivalent of putting 90 more cops on the street. That's another 3600 hours of overtime a week, by my reckoning. Bucher says it's a mere $3-million.

How's he going to pay for it? Not his problem, Bucher says. The state -- as in Democrats Jim Doyle and Peg Lautenschlager -- should cough it up. He doesn't know where it is, but there must be some extra money lying around, maybe in the reserve funds of the Dept. of Waste, Abuse, Fraud, and Mismanagement. He's just the idea guy.

The city doesn't have any extra money; it's gone to pay the salaries of police union officers and fired cops, both mandated by Republicans. (The police union is about to endorse Mark Green, who has no doubt promised them he will maintain the status quo or worse.)

There is, of course, no reason to think that having 90 more cops on patrol last weekend would have prevented any of the 28 shootings that occurred in the city. You can't have a cop on every corner or at every picnic table.

But Bucher's had his 15 minutes of media, which is all this was about anyway.

Bucher's primary opponent, J.B. Van Hollen, at least recognized that guns are a problem, calling for a crackdown and harsh penalties for those who use a gun to commit a crime. But he focused his wrath and blame on AG Peg Lautenschlager, who has the job he wants. Funny how neither one of those guys blames anyone in Milwaukee. It's those Madison Democrats who are to blame -- the ones that happen to be on the ballot this fall.

Nice try, no cigar.

AFTERTHOUGHT: While firing at the Democrats, Bucher and Van Hollen have failed to mention that President Bill Clinton's COPS program put 100,000 more cops on the street. George W. Bush cut the funding and is taking them off. Washington Monthly: Bush's war on cops.

Dave Diamond:
Bucher throws money at social problem.

Speaking Spanish? Must be illegal

-- Monte Wolverton, via Cagle.

Far-fetched? Maybe a little, but not too far.

One local conservative blogger wants to know whether the suspect being sought in the killing of two people in Milwaukee's South Shore Park is an illegal alien.

Why? Because the newspaper reported that "one of the relatives of the deceased woman arrived and spoke in Spanish."

If you want to know more about attitudes toward immigrants, and what certainly seems like thinly-veiled racism, see this post and read the comments.

Quote, unquote

"There is so much lying to the press and so much frustration on the part of the press in verifying the truth in political reporting and war reporting. So I often turn to the sports page first. It's the only part of the paper you can believe. It's the one truth section of the daily press. You can't believe what comes out of the White House, Iraq or Afghanistan; everything is so spun and neutered and falsified. But in sports, you are getting pretty much the truth."
-- Gay Talese, in a Sports Illustrated interview.

The funny papers

Tom Tomorrow's weekly cartoon features a cameo appearance by a Wisconsin blogger, at least on the version Timothy Rock has posted.

Air America to land in MKE?

For the first time, there seems to be more than talk and wishful thinking about bringing Air America's liberal voice to the airwaves in Milwaukee.

There's a kickoff event at 7 tonight at the Hi-Hat Garage, Brady and Arlington.

Among those in attendance will be Anita and Shel Drobny, Air America founders (and funders), who have targeted Milwaukee and are looking for a station to buy.

It's a free event. If you want to know more, that's where to find out what's going on and what's planned.

Jimmy gets his gavel

When you're the House Judiciary chairman, you have a lot on your plate. You can't take up every little issue that comes along. You have to keep your priorities straight and focus on the things that really matter -- like the ones that affect members of Congress.

Dana Milbank in the Washington Post:
When asked to hold hearings on the rendition and torture of terrorism suspects, House Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.) respectfully declined.

Invited repeatedly to probe the Bush administration's leaking of a CIA operative's identity, the chairman sent his regrets.

Urged to have hearings dedicated to the administration's warrantless eavesdropping, Sensenbrenner demurred once more.

But when FBI agents searched a congressional office 11 days ago, Sensenbrenner went up to the attic and found his gavel.

Yesterday, he held the first of at least four hearings into the raid -- the debut was dispassionately titled "Reckless Justice" -- and announced that he will haul the attorney general and FBI director before his committee. He also vowed that he will "promptly" write legislation to prevent a recurrence.
Read the rest.

Tech school taxes -- the rest of the story

The horror over Milwaukee Area Technical College's proposed -- brace yourself -- FIVE PER CENT budget increase knows no bounds, at least at the Journal Sentinel and in the Republican suburbs, where most JS editors seem to reside.

Following up on its top line story and screaming headlines of last week, the paper asks in a headline, "Lessons in Tax and Spend?"

Cute. That must be what they're teaching at MATC -- Wild Spending 101.

The story offers some numbers:
From 2001 to 2006, Milwaukee County increased its tax levy 6%, the City of Milwaukee boosted its levy 18% and Milwaukee Public Schools raised its levy 26%.

Over that same time frame, MATC raised its levy 35.7%, from $93.2 million, to 126.5 million...

From 2001 to 2006, the state's 16 technical colleges collectively raised their levies 33.4%. That outpaced inflation and the increases in the collective levies of the school districts, the municipalities and the counties statewide, according to the Taxpayers Alliance...
No explanations or investigation, of course. Just scratching the surface might have produced another number, since it comes from another Journal Sentinel story:
Technical college officials say they have little choice but to turn to property-tax payers and increase levies. General state aid has held steady at $118.4 million for the last six years, said Morna Foy, an executive assistant at the Wisconsin Technical College System, which oversees the tech schools.

At the same time, state aid is covering a smaller portion of technical schools' budgets. In 1980, state aid covered 35%; today, it's about 17.5%.
The same legislators who berate the MATC board for its spending and want an elected board -- Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin) and Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) -- have voted to freeze state aid. When you freeze aid for six years -- not tied to inflation or the cost of living, but a real, solid, absolute freeze -- you are forcing property taxes up. To then complain that property taxes are going up takes more than a little chutzpah.

What on earth makes Darling and Lazich think that electing board members would rein in spending and taxes?

Darling herself, a reader points out, was a member of Joint Finance, the legislature's most powerful committee, when the Republicans were turning the state budget into the nation's laughingstock with a $3.2 billion deficit. The deficit was so bad the state's bond rating was reduced even as MATC continued to receive the highest bond rating possible. The situation was so dire that the Wall Street Journal called Wisconsin's budget a "basket case." Was this accountable and responsible behavior from elected officials?

Our elected members of Congress -- including "fiscal conservative" Mark Green -- and the guy in the White House, whom we sort of elected, have run up deficits in the trillions of dollars.

Even Milwaukee Magazine's Bruce Murphy has bought the idea that electing the MATC board would solve its budget problems. But there is no evidence that has worked anywhere else in government

Finally, an Xoff reader makes this observation:

The Journal Sentinel continues to echo anti-public education extremists in its articles on MATC. It acts as if a 5% increase in tax levy, $14 on a median priced home in Milwaukee County, were a 50% increase.

Is a cup of coffee a month, the price of this modest tax increase, too much to ask the citizens of this community to contribute to support their technical college and its 58,000 students? Is this too much to ask to ensure that this community has an adequate supply of nurses, dental technicians, police and firemen, IT network specialists, web page designers, welders, auto and heating and air conditioning technicians and skilled tradesmen? Is it too much to ask to retrain our laid off workers and provide English language and skills training to the growing community of immigrants?

The JS, which has written several articles on how the state's labor shortage is undermining economic growth, seems to have forgotten that if we are to solve the growing skilled labor shortage we actually need to train and retrain the labor force. We do this by investing in MATC. Is a cup of coffee a month really too much to ask?

In the latest article the Senator from the North Shore, Alberta Darling, raises the issue of accountability. Darling equates elections with accountability. But as the article notes in 65% of local elections there are no competitive races because no one runs against the incumbents.

Recall that while the state was reducing its support for the tech colleges by over 50% in the 1990's, Darling and company told the colleges that they should make up the lost state revenue through the local property tax. Now they turn around and act as if the colleges are thieves for doing exactly what Darling and company urged them to do! This is not accountable. This is hypocrisy!

MATC's property tax increases pale in light of the state's 655% increase in prison spending including the purchase of speculatively built Stanley prison which is already in need of millions of dollars of repairs. Wisconsin has the dubious distinction of spending seven times as much on prisons as we do on the entire WTCS system! Is this what Darling means by accountability?

Darling and company are playing a duplicitous game of political "gotcha!" The fact that the Journal Sentinel seems to have bought into the tax freeze zealotry is a discouraging about face. It was not too long ago, in 1999, that the paper was advocating a 4.1% increase in state support for the tech colleges. Darling and company never took the JS advice to increase tech college funding. Instead, they cut it.

Skilled labor shortages are now more acute, Milwaukee poverty rates higher and hourly wages are lower. The single largest obstacle to job creation is the state's labor shortage. Contrary to the Darling and the Journal Sentinel's headlines, it is irresponsible not to invest in MATC.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Dark at the end of the tunnel

-- Jimmy Marguiles via Cagle.

Stop me if you've heard this one before:
More US troops arrive in Vietnam Iraq

By Alastair Macdonald
Tuesday, May 30, 2006; 12:25 PM

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Some 1,500 more U.S. troops have arrived in Iraq to help with the war against Sunni Arab rebels, including al Qaeda Islamist militants, in the western desert province of Anbar, the military said on Tuesday.

"Two battalion task forces of the 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division have moved into Iraq to assist in re-establishing the conditions necessary to enable effective local and provincial governance and providing additional security for the people of Al Anbar province," it said in a statement.

It said the 1,500 soldiers come from a "call-forward" reserve force based in Kuwait. A Pentagon spokesman said they would be based in Anbar province itself.

U.S. commanders, the White House and the Iraqi government have spoken of hopes for some American troops to go home this year but say that will only happen as Iraqi forces are ready.


Dad29 asks, on his blog;
Not much is publicly-known about the South Shore Park attempted-massacre, yet.

One question of interest: was the shooter an Illegal Alien?
Why would that be the first question to come to mind? (Even if it turns out that he was, I would ask why that would be your first question.)

Mine were: Is he a Catholic? Does he belong to the NRA?

And how many people would be dead if people in the park had responded by pulling out their concealed guns and engaging in a shootout, with hundreds of people, and lots of kids, in the area?

Speaking Spanish? Must be illegal.

The usual innuendo from the usual suspects

"Democratic Governor Jim Doyle accepted $10,000 in campaign contributions in 2004 from attorneys at a New York law firm accused this month of paying more than $11 million in illegal kickbacks to get people to participate in lawsuits against corporations," the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign reports. What's their point? Not sure. The usual innuendo.

The Republican Party, of course, immediately demanded Doyle return the money, calling it "tainted cash" and claiming Doyle had an "ethical lapse."

Neither the GOP nor the Democracy Campaign offered evidence Doyle had done anything improper, that there was anything wrong with accepting money for the firm, or that anything had been asked or given in exchange for the contributions.

Nor was there any evidence that Doyle had any idea in 2004 that the firm would be charged two years later.

Perhaps what we need is a state constitutional amendment banning candidates from accepting contributions from firms that are going to be charged with wrongdoing two years in the future.

Let's include a provision that covers the $30,000 Mark Green is still sitting on, that was contributed to his campaign by indicted Republican leader Tom DeLay, who is giving up his seat in Congress because of his "ethical lapses," whcih are called felonies in his case. Green said he wanted the state law changed so he could give it to charity, but hasn't asked his GOP friends in the legislature -- who ram a bill through in a day when they feel like it -- to act.

Doyle's campaign is returning the $10,000. Green still has the dirty DeLay cash.

No money, no campaign

Unusual candor from a candidate who tells it like it is as he drops out. Spiceblog reports:

Attorney Lee Jones, one of two announced candidates to replace District Attorney E. Michael McCann, said today that he is pulling the plug on his campaign. That leaves Assistant District Attorney John Chisholm, McCann's pick to be his successor, as the only candidate still in the November contest.

"We've not met any of our fund-raising goals," said Jones, a 32-year-old criminal defense attorney...
Not "I want to spend more time with my family" or "pursuing other opportunities."

Refreshing. (Unless, of course, there's more to it. See how cynical we've all gotten?)

Republicans want a smaller tent

Whether he coined it or not, Mark Shields was the first person I knew of to say that "Politics is about addition, not subtraction." I've tried, not always successfully, to practice that.

Democrats, if they can stop their own internal bloodletting long enough to pay attention, should be encouraged by this report from the Capital Times:

Are moderates being frozen out of the Republican Party of Wisconsin? It appears a large majority of party delegates would like exactly that, according to a nonbinding resolution passed at last weekend's state convention in Appleton.

Resolution 25 urged the GOP "to withhold all promotional and financial support of those candidates that do not consistently subscribe to this overall conservative agenda, be they incumbent or new candidates." It also urges the party to "actively and vigorously" seek out candidates for office who "will go in this conservative direction, and respect the wishes of party members."

"I have worked hard to raise the conservative voice," convention chair and state Sen. Cathy Stepp, R-Sturtevant, told the delegates... "We should never apologize for our conservative agenda." From the speech by Stepp to the prominent booths of pro-life groups, the Appleton convention was a conservative's paradise. It was a paradise with no prominent moderate elected officials, such as former state Sens. Mary Panzer and Peggy Rosenzweig, both previously defeated by more conservative Republicans.
That right-wing extremist base is not enough to elect statewide candidates, which is something the GOP has yet to figure out, despite losing most statewide and Presidential elections -- Tommy Thompson being the exception that proves the rule -- for 20 years. So, let the purge continue. Keep shrinking that tent and kicking out any voices of moderation. It's bound to pay off for someone. I'm betting it's the Democrats.

UPDATE: Apparently Rep. Mark Green attended a different convention. Asked about a report that ex-NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a moderate, will campaign for him, Green's campaign manager told WisPolitics:
"We're a big tent," he said. "We are not the Democrats -- we do not penalize people for having different thoughts."
Tell it to Panzer and Rosenzweig.

Gard going into the campaign bubble

Assembly Speaker John Gard, running for Congress in the Fox Valley, apparently has decided to adopt the George W. Bush approach. The Journal Sentinel's Craig Gilbert reports:
Gard said his job is to "turn off the television news" and "stay focused" on his own campaign.

"I understand the significance of the race locally and the significance of the race nationally," he said. "If I haven't done my job to inspire people to get out to vote, it's going to be a tough night."
Turning off the television news and staying away from the newspapers has done wonders for Bush. Let's hope some time in the bubble works as well for Gard.

Tommy v. Russ?

Wisconsin State Journal columnist Bill Wineke has been nibbling the forbidden mushrooms again, it would appear.

How else to accoount for his idea for a presidential matchup: Thompson vs. Feingold.

Bill does out himself as a yellow-dog Democrat, which surprises me slightly, but which should make brother Joe happy.

When they agree with Doyle, bishops are silent

Another headline I missed over the weekend:

Bishops praise Doyle for
veto of anti-immigrant bill

The Wisconsin Catholic Conference was outspoken before the governor acted:
Executive Director John Huebscher wrote, “A significant number of those affected by SB 567 would be among our most vulnerable residents—elders, individuals with mental or emotional disabilities, and children. Some of these children were born in the US, but their parents were not, thus their parents will be more fearful of seeking help for their children.”

“In addition,” he continued, “we share the concerns voiced by others regarding the bill’s impact on public health. Children and others who decline to seek immunization and health care services may in turn spread diseases that might otherwise be treated and checked. This will adversely affect the wider community.”

“We do not endorse illegal immigration. But neither do we endorse laws that could deter many legal residents from seeking public benefits to which they have a rightful claim. In the interest of defending the dignity of human life and upholding the preferential love for the poor, we respectfully urge you to veto SB 567,” Huebscher concluded.
Funny how that doesn't make news. It's only when Doyle and the church disagree that it's newsworthy -- or worth the bishops themselves speaking out.

Mark Green, of course, criticized Doyle for the veto, as Cory Liebmann notes: Mark Green defies bishops again.

UPDATE: John Nichols in the Capital Times: Bishops' attack on Doyle crosses line.

UPDATE 2: The church comes through with a press release supporting Doyle's veto. Watch for the coverage.

Sensenbrenner: The head brick

Rep. F. Jim Sensenbrenner has been called a lot of things in the last year or so, several of them by me.

The New York Times, in a weekend editorial, had a new description for him: The head brick. Not to be confused with blockhead. Here's the context:
Americans should be proud of what the United States Senate did this week. It passed an ambitious bill that could lead to the most far-reaching overhaul of immigration laws in the nation's history. It did so after months of thoughtful debate and through a bipartisan compromise, a creature that many thought had vanished from Capitol Hill. The bill has many flaws, but its framework is realistic and humane. At various low points in the debate, this outcome could scarcely have been imagined, but the near-impossible happened on Thursday, by a vote of 62 to 36.

The Senate has given the cause of immigration reform a lot of momentum, which it will need since it is now heading for a brick wall: the House of Representatives.

The House Judiciary Committee chairman, James Sensenbrenner Jr., in the role of head brick, called the Senate bill "a nonstarter" the morning after it passed. Discussing the odds of reconciling the House and Senate legislation into one bill, Mr. Sensenbrenner struck a tone of deathly pessimism. The chambers had once been miles apart, but now they were "moons apart or oceans apart," he said, grasping for words to convey the vastness of his gloom, and the ferocity of his bargaining stance.
Read the rest.

More on old Brickhead: Cory Liebmann says Sensenbrenner has a real credibility problem when he talks tough about employers of illegals. And Joel McNally says F. Jim's crusade on immigration shows his true colors.

New ally in stem cell battle

Introducing the newest national organization to speak out on the need for embryonic stem cell research. They call themselves DefCon, as in Defend the Constitution, and describe themselves as:
an online grassroots movement combating the growing power of the religious right. We will fight for the separation of church and state, individual freedom, scientific progress, pluralism, and tolerance while respecting people of faith and their right to express their beliefs
The group ran a newspaper ad last week identifying Jerry Falwell, James Dobson, and Pat Robertson as "America's most influential stem cell scientists." If you missed it, check it out.

Maybe next time they'll add photos of Wisconsin's Catholic bishops.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Cartoonists mark Memorial Day


-- John Cole, Scranton PA Times


-- Bruce Plante, Chattanooga Times-Free Press


-- Steve Breen, San Diego Union-Tribune

-- Clay Jones, Freelance-Star, Fredericksburg, VA

-- Joe Heller, Green Bay Press Gazette

-- Cameron Cardow, Ottawa (Ontario) Citizen

Friday, May 26, 2006

"Carbon dioxide: We call it life"

From the Sierra Club's Compass:

Co2 is Life?

In what is apparently an attempt to blunt the impact of Al Gore's new film, the geniuses over at the Competitive Enterprise Institute -- a neoliberal "think tank" funded, in part, by $$$$ from ExxonMobil -- have cooked up two 60-second TV spots attacking politicians and "global warming alarmists" who would have you believe that we ought to reduce our carbon dioxide emissions. (Somehow, they fail to mention that the world's leading scientists also believe this.)

You really have to watch the ads for yourself to appreciate just how farcical they are. It's hard to believe they're not meant as self-parody -- like something the Onion would have come up with.The thrust of the spots is captured in the tagline, "Carbon dioxide: They call it a pollutant. We call it Life."

Never mind that atmospheric CO2 levels are higher now that at any time in the last 650,000 years: CO2 can't be a bad thing, according to the CEI ads, since "we breathe it out" and "plants breathe it in." In other words, it's natural. They've basically launched a pro-CO2 campaign.

Now, it's true that carbon dioxide is essential to life on Earth. For one thing, greenhouse gases like CO2 keep our atmosphere warm by absorbing infrared energy radiating off the Earth. The problem is one of balance; in other words, you can have too much of a good thing -- too heavy a jacket on a warm day, for instance.

Or take, for example, water. Water is the very stuff of life, but over-water a plant and what happens? It dies. Of course, you know this. Everybody knows this, because it's common sense -- something the spin doctors at the Competitive Enterprise Institute don't believe you have.

(Originally posted on Compass.)

UPDATE: An Australian blog, "Global Warming Watch," has posted its script for a response ad: They call it a spot, we call it a lie.

Too little, too late

Bush admits some mistakes on Iraq. Very helpful. Happy Memorial Day. The NY Times:
At a joint news conference with Blair, after three years of war that has killed more than 2,400 Americans and thousands of Iraqis, Bush was asked what mistake he most regretted.

The Texan said that he regretted saying ``bring 'em on'' when responding in July 2003 to a question about the Iraqi insurgency.

On Thursday, Bush said the remark was ``kind of tough talk, you know, that sent the wrong message to people.''

``I learned some lessons about expressing myself maybe in a little more sophisticated manner, you know. ``Wanted, dead or alive''; that kind of talk. I think in certain parts of the world it was misinterpreted,'' he said.
Or correctly interpreted as the voice of some kind of macho chickenhawk cowboy who thought bluster would win the war and shock and awe would win the hearts and minds of Iraqis.

Citizen Action includes all kinds of citizens

The right wing, fueled by a press release from AG wannabe J.B. Van Hollen, is outraged that AG Peg Lautenschlager has given $50,000, part of the settlement in a lawsuit against a drug company, to Wisconsin Citizen Action.

Cory Liebmann does an excellent job of debunking the hysteria and explaining why it makes perfect sense to include Citizen Action.

My favorite is the disclosure that 45% of Citizen Action's members are Democrats and 34% are Republicans.

'Bishops ask Mark Green to

reverse position on death penalty'

That's the headline I was expecting to see this morning, now that the Catholic Bishops of Milwaukee and Madison have decided to plunge into politics.

Wednesday, they asked Gov. Jim Doyle, a Catholic, to rethink and revise his position on the use of embryonic stem cells for research. It made front-page news.

The next logical step, in continuing to speak up for a "culture of life," would be to ask Rep. Mark Green, also a Catholic, to rethink and reverse his position in favor of the death penalty.

"I supported the death penalty. And I support the referendum on the ballot," Green said on Wisconsin Public Television last weekend.

The death penalty advisory referendum on the November ballot will be there because of Republican scheming, with the direct support of Mark Green. Republicans put it on the ballot hoping it would bring out anti-Doyle voters, and moved it from September to the November ballot for purely partisan political gain.

The Catholic Church has consistently argued for the universal abolition of the death penalty. In a declaration to the first World Congress on the Death Penalty held June 21-23, 2001 in Strasbourg, France, the Vatican termed the death penalty "a sign of desperation" for a civil society. The church declared:
It is surely more necessary than ever that the inalienable dignity of human life be universally respected and recognised for its immeasurable value. The Holy See has engaged itself in the pursuit of the abolition of capital punishment and an integral part of the defence of human life at every stage of its development and does so in defiance of any assertion of a culture of death.

Where the death penalty is a sign of desperation, civil society is invited to assert its belief in a justice that salvages hope from the ruin of the evils which stalk our world.

The universal abolition of the death penalty would be a courageous reaffirmation of the belief that humankind can be successful in dealing with criminality and of our refusal to succumb to despair before such forces, and as such it would regenerate new hope in our very humanity.
Closer to home, bishops in the U.S. also have taken a strong stand and have actually launched a campaign to end the death penalty:
While the U.S. Catholic bishops have been calling for an end to the use of the death penalty for 25 years, this new Campaign was launched in March of 2005. The first comprehensive U.S. Catholic bishops’ statement on the topic issued in 1980. This campaign, the bishops renew their call in order to seize a new moment and a new momentum. This is a time to teach clearly, encourage reflection, and call for common action in the Catholic community. To that end the bishops have written a new pastoral statement that will clarify Church teaching and assist the numerous individual bishops and state Catholic conferences have issued similar calls to end the use of the death penalty.

Given the Bishops' willingness to wade in to current matters of public policy that are inconsistent with the Catholic Church, isn’t it time they sent a letter to Mark Green about his public support for the death penalty? That would seem appropriate, since the Bishops' spokesman says,"We're not trying to influence the election in any way." When the Bishops agree with Doyle and Green is on the "wrong" side, don't they have an obligation to say that, too?

E-mail the Bishops and encourage them to be consistent. They'll be happy to hear from you.

Bishop Robert C. Morlino

Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Give me a break

From the How Lazy Can You Get Department:

This gem appears as the only comment from Mark Green in a Journal Sentinel story on Gov. Jim Doyle's trimming of the state workforce:
Green doesn't believe making blanket statements about cutting state employees is good management practice, Green campaign spokesman Rob Vernon said in a statement.

"Mark Green will run the state government with the taxpayer in mind, always working to spend their tax dollars wisely and efficiently," Vernon said in an e-mail.
The reporter needed a comment from Green to "balance" or flesh out the story, right? That clearly isn't from Green, doesn't address the topic, and says nothing about what Green would do about the state payroll.

It's nothing more than unadulterated, self-serving claptrap. "Always working to spend their tax dollars wisely and efficiently" indeed. There must have been a round of high-fives in the Green press shop when they saw this one had actually made it into print.

You can't blame Vernon; his job is to try to compose drivel like that and get someone to print it. But you certainly can blame the reporter who settled for a vapid e-mail response and dutifully pasted it into the story, with no followup to get any real answer or content. Let's hear it for the copy editors, too, if they still have any at the JS. It's been hard to tell lately.

Green's great news: 'I voted to rape Alaska'

Mark Green voted -- again -- Thursday to open the Arctic Wildlife Refuge to drilling for oil.

And he had the gall to try to present his vote for a bill with an Orwellian name as good news:

WASHINGTON -- With the help of U.S. Rep. Mark Green (R-Green Bay), legislation passed the House of Representatives Thursday that would increase America's energy independence by boosting domestic oil production. Green said the measure, known as "The American-Made Energy and Good Jobs Act," would open a small portion of Alaska's coastal plain for oil exploration and production...

Green said the House-passed bill would open a small section of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) -- approximately 2,000 of ANWR's 19 million total acres -- for oil and gas exploration...

"...This region could increase our nation's total proven oil reserves by 50 percent, and, at its peak daily production, nearly equal our daily imports from Saudi Arabia," Green said.

Green said "The American-Made Energy and Good Jobs Act" passed the House by a bipartisan vote of 225-201.
If the Senate agrees, which is unlikely, the damage to the preserve will be widespread, and oil production, in the distant future -- not tomorrow -- will be much less than promised.

Wisconsin Rep. Ron Kind countered Green's claim:
The major argument for opening this national wildlife refuge to drilling has centered around America's need for energy independence. As I have stated before, attempting to drill our way out of our current energy crisis is irresponsible. The average estimate for the amount of recoverable oil present in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge hovers around 10 billion barrels.

The U.S. currently consumes approximately 7 billion barrels EACH year. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that oil recovered from the Arctic Refuge would amount to less than a six month supply for American consumers. At no time would oil from the refuge be expected to amount to more than about 2 percent of U.S. demand. Also, the oil from the area will take from ten to twenty years to reach the American market and, therefore, is not going to improve our energy independence any time soon.
The Center for American Progress says:

The House leadership and some opposition members view the industrialization of the refuge as the cost of decreasing U.S. dependence on foreign oil and quelling public concern over rising gas prices. These incentives hide the fact that pipelines and infrastructure would slash over 1.5 million acres of wildlife. What's more, the oil would take 10 years to extract and provide only about what the U.S. uses in a single year, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The U.S. Department of Energy's own Energy Information Administration estimates that even 20 years down the road, when Arctic Refuge oil is at or near peak production, gas prices would be affected by about a penny per gallon.
The bipartisan vote Green describes included 27 House Dems who voted for the bill and 30 Repubs who voted against it, including two Wisconsin Republicans, F. Jim Sensenbrenner and Tom Petri. Besides Green, the only Wisconsin vote for the measure was Paul Ryan's.

-- Mike Thompson, Detroit Free Press, via Cagle.

Net neutrality clears committee

House Judiciary passes Internet access measure

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. House Judiciary Committee on Thursday approved legislation aimed at preventing high-speed Internet network providers from discriminating against unaffiliated services, content and applications.

Content providers like Google Inc., Microsoft Corp. and Yahoo Inc.have expressed concerns that they would be forced to pay Internet service providers extra to ensure consumers can access their content.

The measure, approved by a vote of 20-13, would amend U.S. antitrust law. It would also counter a rival bill from another House committee that wants to encourage network providers to preserve consumers' ability to freely surf the Internet instead of adopting stricter rules.

"The lack of competition in the broadband marketplace presents a clear incentive for providers to leverage dominant market power over the broadband bottleneck to pre-select, favor or prioritize Internet content over their networks," said Judiciary Chairman James Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin. [Sensenbrenner and Rep. John Conyers, the committee's ranking Dem, are the bill's sponsors. -- Xoff.]

Network providers like AT&T Inc.and Verizon Communications Inc. are fighting any requirements. They argue there is no threat or instance of consumers being blocked from Internet sites or having their service degraded.
Earlier post: Strange bedfellows: F. Jim, Moby, R.E.M.

Bush goes nucular

Bush Calls For New Nuclear Plants
President Talks Of Environmental Benefits, Safety

LIMERICK, Pa., May 24 -- President Bush promoted nuclear power Wednesday as part of his answer to energy and environmental problems as more companies consider taking advantage of government incentives to build the nation's first new nuclear plant in decades.

In the shadow of twin giant cooling towers, Bush said that his plan to expand nuclear power would curb emissions contributing to global warming and would provide an "abundant and plentiful" alternative to limited energy sources. Bush called the nuclear sector an "overregulated industry" and pledged to work to make it more feasible to build reactors.

"Nuclear power helps us protect the environment. And nuclear power is safe," he said to loud applause from workers at the Limerick Generating Station, about 40 miles from Philadelphia. He added: "For the sake of economic security and national security, the United States must aggressively move forward with construction of nuclear power plants. Other nations are."
And what will become of the deadly nuclear waste that's generated? We'll leave that for the same future generations that are expected to pay off Bush's trillions in debt.

Fortunately, he's not in charge any more. What he says is largely irrelevant, unless he can order some agency to secretly build nukes as part of the war on terrorism. (Maybe I shouldn't give him any ideas. He doesn't read this blog, but I know Rove does.)

Grist, the online environmental magazine, calls him Nuke Skytalker:
Bush pushes nuclear power at home and abroad

President Bush has embraced nuclear power with a vengeance (on us?). On a tour of a nucular ... er, nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania yesterday, Bush called for the construction of new nuke plants to help curb greenhouse-gas emissions. "Let's quit the debate about whether greenhouse gases are caused by mankind or by natural causes; let's just focus on technologies that deal with the issue," he said. Thanks to a new raft of nuke subsidies Bush signed into law last year, 16 companies have expressed interest in building new plants, though none has submitted a formal application. Exelon Corp.'s president has said his company has "no intention" of building a new nuke plant until there's a solution to the problem of where to put nuclear waste. What a fuddy-duddy! Also yesterday, Bush signed on to a treaty with the European Union, Russia, Japan, India, China, and South Korea to spend $5.9 billion attempting to build the world's first nuclear fusion reactor in France. Fusion technology has never succeeded, but like victory in Iraq, it's always been just around the corner.

Warning signs for GOP in Door County

The view from Fish Creek:

Stephen Kastner, writing on a blog from Door County called Purple Cheese, handicaps the 8th District Congressional race.

Kastner, who edits the web news site, the Door County Compass, says Dr. Steve Kagen, a bike racer as well as a doctor, has broken away from the Dem pack. He also has this observation about what may be coming in November:
What I like to hear are the voices of so many of my Door County Republican friends who are now telling me they are "Independents" - a sure sign that they are freeing themselves up, getting ready to vote "smart" instead of loyal, looking for progressive leadership regardless of party affiliation.

No English, no vote?

There's an old story about the black citizen who shows up at a Mississippi clerk's office in the 1960s to register to vote. He's told that's fine, but he must first pass a literacy test.

The clerk hands him a piece of paper with something written on it -- in Greek.

"Well, can you read that and tell me what it says?" the clerk asks.

"Yes, I can," the would-be voter says. "It says no black people are going to be voting here in this election."

That came to mind, for some reason, when reading George Will's column today, arguing against bilingual ballots. His argument is that if you can't speak English, you can't possibly know enough about the political debate to make an informed choice and cast a ballot. Sounds like Greek to me.

Reading between the lines

Mark Green's speech to the GOP convention last weekend got some notice, although he was still operating in the shadow of Tommy the T, Governor for Life.

Cory Liebmann performs a public service by giving the Green speech a closer look at his Eye on Wisconsin blog. Some good stuff.

Separating fact from fiction

Jessica McBride, in her role as blogger/radio host/columnist/campaign spouse, has a little trouble separating fact from fiction. (We hope that doesn't overlap into her role as journalism teacher, but who knows?)

Latest example: A post by McBride on the campaign website of her husband, Waukesha DA and would-be attorney general Paul Bucher.

McBride doesn't seem to be able to distinguish any difference between an official state website, which lists Wisconsin's most wanted sex offenders, and a Bucher campaign site attacking one of his opponents, in which Bucher hand picked some repeat offenders to scare the bejesus out of people.

It was a Willie Horton style attack, and I was among those who said so. McBride calls us the "opinion left," whatever that is, but only named three men and left out Carrie Lynch, who really did a job on the issue.

McBride says the state's new website is just as bad. The fact that it is reality-based, not fabricated, doesn't seem to register with her.

But for a much better discussion of the issue, go to Robola's post, Mock outrage from Jessica McBride and the Bucher campaign.

The Doyle-Green stem cell debate:

Bishops help clarify what it's really about

I'm one of those who has been saying for a couple of years that stem cell research would be a major issue in the race for governor of Wisconsin -- and that it would be a wedge issue that would pull moderate Republicans away from Mark Green's candidacy and help Jim Doyle.

I still believe that.

But Green and the GOP have been doing everything they can to muddy the waters and obscure the real issues and differences between Green and Doyle.

And I am a little concerned that they just might get away with it, if the media doesn't sharpen its coverage -- and if Doyle and his campaign don't offer a little more clarity, too.

But now the Catholic bishops have spoken out, and in doing so they may have unwittingly helped to make it clear what the issue is and where the candidates stand, which will help Doyle in November.

The debate and disagreement are not about stem cell research per se. Everyone I know of, in both parties, supports the general concept of stem cell research -- at least when we are talking about adult stem cells.

Where there is a sharp divide is over the use of embryonic stem cells for research. That's what the debate is about. Unfortunately, all too often that gets abbreviated into "stem cell research," which will wind up confusing voters if the debate does not become more precise.

Stem cell research holds out the hope -- but not the guarantee -- of cures and treatments for a variety of debilitating and/or fatal diseases. The National Institutes of Health's list includes Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases, spinal cord injury, stroke, burns, heart disease, diabetes, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Adult v. embryonic stem cells

The NIH explains:
Scientists have been able to do experiments with human embryonic stem cells (hESC) only since 1998, when a group led by Dr. James Thompson at the University of Wisconsin developed a technique to isolate and grow the cells. Moreover, Federal funds to support hESC research have been available since only August 9, 2001, when President Bush announced his decision on Federal funding for hESC research. Because many academic researchers rely on Federal funds to support their laboratories, they are just beginning to learn how to grow and use the cells. Thus, although hESC are thought to offer potential cures and therapies for many devastating diseases, research using them is still in its early stages.

Adult stem cells, such as blood-forming stem cells in bone marrow (called hematopoietic stem cells, or HSCs), are currently the only type of stem cell commonly used to treat human diseases. Doctors have been transferring HSCs in bone marrow transplants for over 40 years. More advanced techniques of collecting, or "harvesting," HSCs are now used in order to treat leukemia, lymphoma and several inherited blood disorders.

The clinical potential of adult stem cells has also been demonstrated in the treatment of other human diseases that include diabetes and advanced kidney cancer. However, these newer uses have involved studies with a very limited number of patients.
So when Mark Green says he supports stem cell research, as he does whenever he's asked about it, he is talking about adult stem cells, which have been used for 40 years. No one is against that.
But embryonic stem cells are another matter.

Because those cells are developed from human embryos, conservative religious and "right-to-life" groups (and now the Catholic bishops) oppose their use. Embryos, in their eyes, are human beings, and destroying one is like taking a human life. They are not swayed by the fact that there are 400,000 frozen embryos in storage, most of which will eventually be destroyed. They are extras, leftovers that were created for in vitro fertilization but never were used, and never will be.

The political debate over embryonic stem cell research touches most Americans because we all know someone who suffers from a disease who perhaps could benefit from the research. Governor Doyle's mother, Ruth, who died recently, had suffered from Parkinson's for years. He believes that embryonic stem cell research may spare others from that fate.

GOP Congress defies Bush

At the federal level, many House Republicans -- but not Mark Green -- defied President Bush last year and voted to expand funding and remove some of the restrictions Bush has placed on embryonic stem cell research. Majority Leader Bill Frist has stalled the bill in the Senate, where it is said to have 60 votes, and Bush has threatened to use his first veto if the bill passes.

Meanwhile, in Wisconsin, conservative Republicans who run the legislature have tried every means possible to discourage, restrict, or outlaw embryonic stem cell research in the state or, failing that, to prevent any public money from being used for it. While other states are scrambling to try to develop research facilities, Wisconsin, home to the nation's leading researcher, is trying to discourage it.

It should come as no surprise that a majority of people in Wisconsin and in the US favor embryonic stem cell research. (Pro-life groups will tell you otherwise, but the numbers are indisputable.)

Green slips and slides

So the best hope of the opponents, like Mark Green, is not to get caught on the wrong side of the issue -- to assure opponents that he's with them, but to try to confuse the general public into thinking he supports embryonic stem cell research -- which is clearly not true.

Last weekend, on Wisconsin Public Television's "Here and Now," Frederica Freyberg asked Green about the issue:
Freyberg: And, and what about your position on embryonic stem cell research?

Green: Well, again, I think we're pretty clear. We've helped double funding for the NIH. I've co-authored stem cell research. I just don't believe that the research that we do should be without at least some ethical lines. That's the difference between Jim Doyle and I. He would place no restrictions whatsoever on research, including human cloning. I think that's a mistake and I think that's out of step with Wisconsin values.
He's slippery, and she was running out of time and didn't follow up. But she specifically asked him about embryonic stem cell research. If you read Green's answer, you'd think he had "co-sponsored" embryonic stem cell research, when in fact he has opposed it and voted against it at every opportunity. He raises human cloning, a non-issue, and does his best to obscure this basic truth: It is Mark Green who is out of step with the people of Wisconsin on this important issue. Doyle, his campaign, and the Democratic Party have been highlighting the differences.

All of which brings us, if anyone is still reading, to two exchanges that took place on Wednesday.

First, Gov. Doyle called for the US Senate to pass the bill expanding embryonic stem cell research.

Right-to-Life, bishops enter the fray

Wisconsin Right to Life fired back a release accusing Doyle of hiding the fact that it is embryonic stem cell research he supports. Although Doyle's statement could have made that clearer, the first sentence of his release clearly used the word "embryonic," even if it just became "stem cell research" later in the statement.

Wisconsin Democrats used the opportunity to accuse Green of being the one who's hiding his true position on the issue, citing Green's record of opposition to embryonic stem cell research.

The the Catholic Church entered the fray, with two bishops writing Doyle to say -- well, it's hard to tell exactly what. Their letter seemed to object mostly to Doyle citing economic development arguments for embryonic stem cell research, although the bishops also say they oppose it on moral grounds anyway -- although curing diseases sounds like a better, if flawed, argument to them.

Doyle responded politely, but firmly restated his support for embryonic stem cell research and told the bishops:
I have met countless families in Wisconsin whose loved ones are suffering from juvenile diabetes or Parkinson's or spinal cord injuries. Because of the potential of stem cell research, these families now have hope that one day science and medicine may find a cure for these conditions. As Governor, I cannot allow politics or shortsighted acts by the Legislature to take away the hope these families have.

Leading scientists like Dr. James Thomson at the University of Wisconsin have told us that while adult stem cell research has promise, it is no substitute for human embryonic stem cell research. Both forms of research should be pursued, and it would be irresponsible to pursue one to the exclusion of the other, especially since many scientists believe that the versatility of embryonic stem cells means they may have a far greater potential to save lives.

Every day, couples in fertility clinics who are unable to conceive a child on their own must decide what to do with their unused embryos. Some couples choose to donate these embryos to further stem cell research in the hopes of saving lives. Otherwise, the embryos are destroyed. Therefore, the ultimate question isn't whether embryos will be destroyed, but whether we should use a few of those unused embryos to be used in saving lives instead of discarding them. I believe we should come down on the side of saving lives.
That is what the debate is all about.

As this campaign proceeds, let's hope Doyle presses his point and makes it very clear what the differences are between the candidates and what is at stake. The bishops have helped to do that, and Green's spokesman says Green thinks the bishops' position is "right on."

It is too critical an issue to let Mark Green dance around it and pretend to be on one side when he's really on the other. Now, thanks to the bishops, he's out of hiding.

Let the debate begin.
UPDATE: This is the kind of wild claim you'll hear, in this case from an Outagamie County Republican:
Let’s be clear about this. Democrats support embryonic stem cell research using aborted babies.
Yes, let's be clear about this. Those embryos are not "babies" by any stretch of the imagination. They are not even fetuses. And they are not being "aborted" for stem cell research. This adds nothing to the debate, although it does stir up the hard-line anti-abortion, anti-birth control crowd.
UPDATE 2: Seth Zlotocha says the bishops actually are helping Doyle, but not on purpose.
UPDATE 3: Bill Wineke says this is the kind of debate we should have.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

-- Chris Britt, Springfield,Ill. State Journal-Register via Cagle.

Will Bush negatives sink Gard, Green?

Will the November election be a referendum on President Bush?

Democrats hope that it is. Republicans pray that it's not.

Chris Cillizza of the WashPost parses the polls in his blog, The Fix:
A Fox News/Opinion Dynamics asked whether voters were more likely to back a candidate who supports Bush or one who opposes him. Twenty percent said they would be more inclined to support a pro-Bush politician while 38 percent said they would favor a candidate who opposed the president. Thirty-nine percent said how a candidate felt toward the president would not affect their vote.

Looking inside this survey's numbers, nearly two-in-three Democrats tested (63 percent) said they would prefer a candidate who opposed Bush while less than one in three (31 percent) said a candidate's support for Bush would make no difference. One-in-three independents said they would be more inclined to support an anti-Bush candidate (37 percent) while just 13 percent said a candidate who backed Bush would be more likely to win their vote. Roughly half of all Republicans (44 percent) said they were more likely to back a candidate who backs Bush; 42 percent said it was not an issue.

The most recent Washington Post-ABC News poll posed a similar question, asking whether 2006 will be a vote to show support for or opposition to the president and his policies. Twelve percent said their vote would be aimed at sending a message of support to Bush while 30 percent said it would be to express their opposition. Roughly 60 percent said it wouldn't be a factor.
Presumably, this is more important when voters are looking at a Congressional candidate -- like a John Gard, who's had Dick Cheney, more unpopular than Bush, in to campaign for him.

But Wisconsin Republicans also have a candidate for governor, Mark Green, who has been a loyal and enthusiastic Bush soldier, voting with him down the line. When will we see the first ad with Green morphing into W? And what will Green say -- "I never heard of this Bush guy; I wouldn't know him if he knocked on my door?" Oh, no, that was Ambramoff.

The tax terrorists have won

At least they've won the battle for the hearts and minds of the Journal Sentinel newsroom, or Managing Editor George Stanley. How else do you explain that this story rated the TOP LINE HEADLINE, two inches high, in today's Milwaukee paper?:

MATC seeks 5%

increase in tax levy

Request is latest to outpace inflation;

rising costs, lower state aid blamed


A budget endorsed Tuesday by the Milwaukee Area Technical College Board would increase the school's tax levy 5% in the coming fiscal year, outpacing inflation and contradicting the growing anti-tax sentiment in the state.

After breathing a sigh of relief that the Legislature had failed to pass constitutional tax and spending limits earlier this month, the board backed a budget that would increase spending about 6.3%, based on current projections.

The $309 million MATC has budgeted for 2006-'07 represents a 32.4% increase from its spending at the start of the decade and tops the rate of inflation for that period by roughly 14 percentage points.

Since the 2000-'01 budget year, the college has raised its tax levy 42%, from $93.2 million to the $132.6 million in local taxpayer dollars being sought to support the school in the pending budget.

I'm not going to argue that this budget can't be cut, or that every dollar is absolutely needed. I've worked in government enough to know that's not true.

But the newspaper's treatment of this would make you think it was a 50% increase, not 5%.

Maybe that's double the inflation rate. But I suspect some of the things in that budget -- like energy and health care, for starters -- are going up a bit more than the inflation rate, and considerably more than 5%.

There is no doubt this is politically stupid, especially for an unelected board that's already under fire. And President Darnell Cole did a terrible job of explaining where the additional money would go -- salaries and benefits, Milwaukee Public Television, offsetting a cut in state aid. None of those sounds very compelling.

I'm sure Republican radio has had a field day today with this issue.

And I'm sure they will try to organize a lynch mob for the public hearing on this budget, which has not yet been passed.

The newspaper has made it all very easy for them. The story does everything it can to incite the mob. And to what end? That's what's hard to figure. Can't wait to see what the JS editorial board has to say.

Have we really reached the point in southeastern Wisconsin where a proposed 5% budget increase is treated like a declaration of war on the taxpayers? Has the anti-tax movement so terrorized public officials that there is not even room to discuss expanding a program or raising more revenue? It appears that's the case. If it is, the short-sighted, short-term fixes put in place now will cost all of us dearly in the future -- and not just in money.

Nattering nabobs negative on business climate

My comments about Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce (WMC), and whether the group's constant complaining was hurting the very business climate it complains about, have touched off some debate and commentary here and there.

This from Mike Serpe, executive assistant to Kenosha County Exec Allan Kehl:

Try to keep in mind that what WMC does and says is seen all over the world. How do you think that the people who do economic research view the endless moaning about Wisconsin being a tax hell or a regulatory quagmire?

Chambers [of Commerce] need to be on the front lines by being boosters of their their hero Tommy Thompson loved to do.

When I read the Bride of TABOR testimony of Mark Gusho, Director Global Tax for Manitowoc Company I was less than amused. He pointed-out that Wisconsin has the 5th highest tax burden in the nation according to the non-partisan Tax Foundation.

What he did not point out were these factors that are favorable to doing business in Wisconsin.

Wisconsin leads the Midwest in new job creation. Wisconsin's work force grew faster in the past year than any other state in the Midwest and faster than the U.S. average. According to U.S. Department of Labor figures, Wisconsin added 48,800 new jobs from July 2003 through July 2004 --more than 12,000 of them in the manufacturing sector. Wisconsin's 1.7% increase was higher than the 1.3% increase for the country as a whole. In comparison, Minnesota employment rose 0.7% during the period. Iowa and Illinois added jobs at an even slower pace, while Michigan and Ohio lost jobs.

Construction activity is at record levels. Wisconsin recorded $11 billion worth of construction starts between May 2003 and April 30, 2004. Construction employment in Wisconsin hit 121,600 in April--the highest level ever for that month--and grew to 129,100 in May.

Wages in Wisconsin are below the national average. Wisconsin's average wages are 11.6% below the national average of $36,764 (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics).

Wisconsin's business taxes are among the lowest in the country. Wisconsin's business taxes are lower than those in 35 other states, based on a new study by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston that measures more than 15 taxes that can affect corporate profits.

Wisconsin is among the top 15 states in industrial production. Wisconsin ranks 3rd nationally in percentage of total jobs that are in manufacturing (Bureau of Labor Statistics).

Best Places for Business . Forbes Magazine (May 2004) ranked Madison, Wisconsin as the No. 1 Best Metro Area for Business. Inc. Magazine (March 2004) ranked Madison as the No. 2 Medium City for Doing Business right behind Green Bay, Wisconsin that took the top spot.

International trade leader. Wisconsin recorded a 1.86% increase in exports last year compared to a 5.17% national decline.

Smart and safe. Wisconsin ranks as the 6th smartest state, the 10th safest state, and the 11th most-livable state (Morgan Quitno Press). In 2003, Wisconsin high school seniors topped the nation in ACT scores for the 7th straight year. Wisconsin has the nation's 3rd lowest dropout rate (U.S. Department of Education).

Most Livable State . Wisconsin was recognized as a 2003 Most Livable State (Morgan Quitno Press).

Tops in R&D. UW-Madison ranks first among the nation's public universities in R&D spending.

Low insurance rates. Wisconsin's homeowner insurance rates are the lowest in the U.S. and its auto insurance rates are fifth lowest (National Association of Insurance Carriers). Wisconsin is among the six best states for physicians to practice thanks to the low level of malpractice insurance premiums.

Low health care costs. Wisconsin's hospital patient-care costs are 20% below the national average (Wisconsin Health and Hospital Association).

Short commutes. Wisconsin has the nation's 10th shortest travel time to work with an average of 20.3 minutes (U.S. Census Bureau).

In a speech in San Diego in 1970, then Vice President Spiro Agnew used the phrase "nattering nabobs of negativism" to describe supposed intellectuals who attacked American policy. "Natter" is defined as "to nag, to find fault peevishly," and a "nabob" is "a native provincial deputy or governor of the old Mogul empire in India; a native district ruler in India" or "European who has become rich in India" or "a very rich man" (Websters New Universal Unabridged Dictionary, Deluxe Second Edition).

Agnew's speech writers [William Safire takes credit -- Xoff] undoubtedly put the terms together because of their alliterative value, but the phrase does paint an interesting although unpleasant word picture of a self-important person nagging and criticizing everyone else, much like the leadership of the "premier" business organization in Wisconsin.

With all due respect, how is our state going to attract business, such as Abbott Laboratories to Kenosha County, if some of its most respected manufacturers put out one negative statement after another on the poor business climate they are operating in?

This is a great state to do business in. We ought to be working hard to let the world in on that fact.

GOP wants to leave young children behind

Wisconsin Republicans are sharpening their axes to kill off kindergarten for 4-year-olds in the state.

Cory Liebmann thinks a new "task force" named by Speaker John Gard may already know its conclusions before it starts a "study" of 4-K. He certainly offers plenty of evidence that the GOP is out to kill the program, including past votes and even a resolution passed at last weekend's state wingnut convention.

For some reason, there is right-wing resistance to early childhood education, even though both common sense and experience tell us those programs pay both short-term and long-range benefits. The long battle over Head Start, which has been demonstrated to have a positive impact on the lives of children who participate in the program, is an example. "Is our children learning?" the President wants to know, or is they just getting some breakfast?

In Wisconsin, the Dept. of Public Instruction has released a report, cited by Liebmann, which tries to offer a cost-benefit analysis on preschool and early kindergarten programs. But how do you attach a value to the findings that kids who go through the programs are less likely to commit crimes or go on welfare, and more likely to succeed and become taxpaying members of the community?

Gard and Co., in their zeal to squeeze every nickel out of the budget, continue to target education and early childhood programs. If they persist and cut or end those programs, they will truly be leaving many children behind.

Hibbing salutes him when his birthday comes

My homeboy, Bob Dylan, becomes eligible for Medicare today.

More remarkable than the hard-to-believe fact that he is 65 is the fact that his hometown, Hibbing, Minnesota, is celebrating the occasion.

It's Dylan Days in Hibbing, which helps explain why Bob's boyhood home, above, has become a billboard for a Saturday "Blood on the Tracks" concert. Dylan isn't playing, but all of the musicians who played on that amazing album, which I never tire of hearing, will be there at Bob's alma mater, Hibbing High School. I won't be there, either, but I wish I was.

For many years after Dylan's meteoric rise to fame in the early 60s, Hibbing would barely acknowledge his existence. The Mesabi Range city was returning the favor, since Dylan had dissed Hibbing, first by claiming he was from elsewhere, then describing his hometown as "a dyin' town" that he couldn't wait to leave.

I'm not sure all is forgiven even now, but there is acknowledgement of the Dylan-Hibbing connection, which over the years has brought many fans on pilgrimages and even inspired a book, "Positively Main Street."

It started with Zimmy's, a downtown restaurant and bar which uses is nickname and has walls filled with Dylan posters, album covers, photos, and memorabilia. Zimmy's has probably been on Howard Street, the main drag, for 20 years or more. But that was about it for a long time. Last time I was in town, the public library had opened a modest exhibit about Dylan, giving some official civic recognition to his local ties.

The Dylan Days website says that Dylan Days began informally in 1991 at Zimmy's, with a small birthday gathering in Bob's honor that included some impromptu musical performances. It's grown since then but it's not exactly huge. (Elsewhere, his 60th birthday prompted a "Nod to Bob" tribute album.)

I've always wondered, after 45 years of Dylan making music and me buying it: If we both live for 20 more years, will he still be turning out albums, and will I still be buying them? I hope so.

So, if this is a political blog, why am I writing about Dylan? If you have to ask, you'll never understand.

So, Happy birthday, Bob. One last question on turning 65: How does it feeeeel?

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

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

Wisconsin GOP for civil rights, in theory

Wisconsin Republicans are on the cutting edge of compassionate conservatism, in case you had any doubts.

They're so proud of the resolution they passed last weekend at their convention that Chairman Rick Graber put out a press release. The "resolved" clause, the meat and potatoes of any resolution, says:
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Republican Party of Wisconsin, in convention assembled, reaffirms and renews the Republican Party's historic and moral commitment against racism, and continue to welcome Americans of every ethnicity to take a seat at the table in our Party as we work together to preserve our heritage of equality, religious freedom, and strong moral values.
So, here in the early days of the 21st Century, the party is willing to risk everything and go on record as supporting civil rights AND letting minorities join the party. Pretty gutsy.

Of course, the Republicans still don't want them to vote. The Rs continue to wage their campaign to make it as difficult as possible for the poor, minorities and seniors to register and cast their ballots.

GOP operative Brian Fraley is afraid some Latinos might register, because the next thing you know they might show up at the polls. Dave Diamond translates Fraley's post.

--John Sherffius via Cagle.

They know now

The WashPost on the theft of data on 26.5-million veterans, quotes Veterans Affairs Secretary Jim Nicholson:
"They believe this was a random burglary and not targeted at this data," he said. "There have been a series of burglaries in that community. . . . There is no indication at all that any use is being made of this data or even that they know that they have it."
If the thieves didn't know what they had before, they certainly do now.

'Pagegate' was a pre-caucus scandal blip

Doug Moe wrote in his "Moe Knows" column in the Capital Times last week about Scott Jensen's fall from grace -- and about an incident that came to be known -- in some very small circles -- as Pagegate:
In hindsight, the story of Jenni Cole-Opitz, who was a 19-year-old Capitol Assembly page in 1998 when it happened, is barely a blip in State Capitol history.

It may reveal a bit about the astonishing arrogance that permeated the State Capitol in the 1990s, an arrogance that culminated in the caucus scandal these years later.

Or maybe it's only a funny story, worth revisiting in the wake of Jensen's sentencing ...

It started on the morning of Thursday, Feb. 19, 1998, when the Badger Herald student newspaper on the UW-Madison campus published a story about students working in the State Capitol.

Cole-Opitz was quoted in the Herald about having once been dispatched to purchase a can of Coca-Cola for Jensen. Jensen, staffers knew, preferred to drink Pepsi in the morning and Coke in the afternoon.

That is weird in itself and perhaps something for Jensen to take up with a prison psychologist.

In any case, on that fateful afternoon, the Capitol Coke machine was empty. Cole-Opitz reported back to Jensen's staff with the news. The staff digested it and conferred about what to do. It was decided that Cole-Opitz should go across the Capitol Square to Walgreens to get Jensen a Coke.

Cole-Opitz was stunned. She told the Badger Herald: "I was just standing there in awe," she said. "He's the speaker of the (Assembly), not Jesus Christ."

By Thursday afternoon, the Herald story had made its way to the top of State Street, and the Assembly sergeant-at-arms, Denise Solie - supervisor of the pages - promptly fired Cole-Opitz.

The story held until Friday, when Democrats in the Capitol got wind of it and began calling reporters.

I took a few of those calls, and managed to contact Cole-Opitz by telephone Friday afternoon.

She sounded shaken. She told me her quote in the Herald was accurate. But she added, "I am partly responsible for this. I probably shouldn't have said that to a reporter. But it was my first dealing ever with the press."

I also spoke that day with Solie, who said there had been no pressure on her from Jensen to fire Cole-Opitz. Rather, Solie said, she had called Jensen after the firing.

"I told him what I had done," Solie said. "People who work for me run errands." Solie said there was a handbook for pages which stresses that discourtesy to legislators is cause for discipline.

My column ran Saturday, two days after the Herald story and Solie's firing of Cole-Opitz.

Sunday morning, I called Cole-Opitz at home on campus. It was 10:45 and her roommate had to wake her up, perhaps indicating that the events of the past few days weren't weighing too heavily upon her. When we spoke, though, she said there had been developments.

"I've had to hire a press secretary," she said.


"It has been crazy around here," Cole-Opitz said. She said the "press secretary" was named Tim Provis. "Would you mind calling him?"

Provis turned out to be a lawyer. "There's no question Jenni has a lawsuit," Provis said of the firing. "But she doesn't want to sue anyone and at this point neither do I. Her job is a $6 an hour part-time job. But we're not ruling it out. We'll see what happens when Speaker Jensen gets back."

Jensen was in Arizona, perhaps visiting a soft drink bottling plant. He returned the following Tuesday.

That day, after talking to Jensen, Solie rehired Cole-Opitz. All sides apologized. A group hug seemed not out of the question.

And that was pretty much the end of "Pagegate," as the episode was called.
What Moe didn't know: The Badger Herald reporter who wrote the original story that led to Pagegate was Jessica Erickson, now the communications director for the Democratic Party of Wisconsin. Eight years later, she's still writing things that give Republicans heartburn.

The multi-tasking Scott Walker

I don't know how Scott Walker does it.

Just this year he's been running for governor, fixing the county's finances, riding his Harley, and now, apparently, he has a new CD out, too. The NY Times says:
Mr. Walker croons grim, cryptic tidings: visions of death, mutilation, sorrow and destruction. "Jesse," which he has described as his song about 9/11, is also about Elvis Presley's stillborn twin; it starts with a barely recognizable hint of "Jailhouse Rock" and ends with Mr. Walker singing, completely unaccompanied, "I'm the only one left alive."
It sounds like it could be about the governor's race, except for the line about "the only one left alive."

Green's meaningless tax 'pledge'

“I’ll make this pledge to all of you. Elect me as your Governor and Wisconsin’s tax burden will improve or I won’t run for re-election. I’ll keep my promise…or step aside for someone who will.” -- Rep. Mark Green.
That pledge, a keystone in Green's campaign for governor, sounds simple and straightforward. If you elect me and the state's tax situation doesn't improve, I won't run again.

The devil, as usual, is in the details. J.R. Ross of WisPolitics asked Green's campaign how he'd measure success, so he'd know whether he could run again or had to step down:
Green hasn't picked a method to make clear whether he lives up to his promise, campaign manager Mark Graul said. But he added voters will be smart enough to know whether their tax burden has gone down with Green in office.

"Give the taxpayers credit," Graul said.

Still, politicians have been known to find lots of ways to point out successes when it comes to Wisconsin's taxes.

According to the Tax Foundation, Wisconsin's state and local tax burden was fourth in the country when Dem Gov. Jim Doyle took office. The state dropped to No. 7 this year.

"It's not about our ranking. It's about our tax burden," Graul said.
What does that mean? Unless Wisconsin taxpayers are paying less in taxes in 2010, Green won't run again? Less minus inflation? Some other measurement?

It sounds like Green would run again and leave it up to the voters to decide whether he had kept his promise. But his promise is not to run again if the tax burden hasn't improved. How will he know? Take a poll and see what the voters think?

It sounds very much like a case of caveat voters -- let the voters beware of a candidate making glib promises.

That's especially true when the candidate has a record of breaking campaign promises in the past.

Green jumped on the term-limit bandwagon in 1998, when he first ran for Congress, and promised to serve only three terms. Like many other Republicans who got elected on that platform, he broke his word when the time came and ran for a fourth term.

In the unlikely event Green were to be elected in November, his 2010 re-election campaign would start the next day, and that "tax pledge" would be just one more forgotten campaign promise. That's a prediction you can take to the bank.

Off to a bad start

Ex-weatherman Jim Ott is now an Assembly candidate, and as a political novice starts his campaign with a rookie mistake: No disclaimer on his website, as required by state law.

More errors predicted in the long-range campaign forecast.

Monday, May 22, 2006


It's not like I've never left the "l" out of public when I've typed something, but this one caught my eye:

Correction: DNA Conviction story
WAUKESHA, Wis. (AP) -- In a May 20 story about a conviction for a 2001 rape, The Associated Press erroneously referred to the perpetrator in one passage. It should be rapist, not racist....

Reporter infiltrates NRA by joining

How to infiltrate the NRA convention: Buy a membership.

A Racine reporter was admitted only with an escort, because he was "a security risk." Scott Anderson reports:
I asked why, armed with a pencil, an NRA-supplied reporter’s notebook, an NRA program and a camera slung over my shoulders to the small of my back, why I would be a security risk in a room filled with guns and large men who know how to use them.
But a Madison reporter, Susan Lampert Smith, easily got through security. Of course, she is now a proud -- or maybe bemused -- member of the NRA, which allowed her access to acres of guns and exhibits. Quite a risk they took, letting her wander around unescorted. Luckily for the NRA, she's peace-loving.

Not a brilliant move

Dennis York reported a few weeks ago that GOP gov candidate Mark Green was the victim of a Wikipedia drive-by. Green's entry in the on-line, free flow encyclopedia was less than flattering, and York attributed that to some Democrats. (Personally, I think Scott Walker did it.)

Wikipedia tampering may be tempting for political staffers with too much time on their hands, but not worth it. Kari Chisholm at Politics and Technology reports:
A few months ago, a bunch of congressional staffers got busted trying to screw around with Wikipedia. And today, the campaign manager for Georgia gubernatorial candidate Cathy Cox - a guy unfortunately named Morton Brilliant - has been fired after getting caught altering the Wikipedia biography of her opponent, Mark Taylor.

A win-win situation

Setting it straight: Q&B is not representing the county in its lawsuit against Mercer. Q&B is the county's bond counsel, but also is defending Mercer against the county. The county corporation counsel believes that to be a conflict of interest, since as bond counsel Q&B is privy to a lot of county info that presumably could be used in Mercer's defense. Thanks to the commenter who pointed this out. That makes the headline less fitting, but I'm going to let it stand. -- Xoff.

This is what you call a win-win situation. Quarles and Brady is representing Milwaukee County in its lawsuit against its actuarial firm, Mercer, over the county's pension disaster.

Quarles is also representing Mercer against the county's malpractice claim, and says that's no problem or conflict. Go figure. The county corporation counsel thinks otherwise, and is trying to change it.

The Story Hill website has the story, along with another about the invasion of garlic mustard, the Weed That Ate the World. Wonder if Barry Levenson knows about this?

Tommy's in the eye of the beholder

To say that Tommy Thompson got mixed reviews at the state Republican convention hardly does it justice. He got praised and panned, both by conservative bloggers.

Kevin Binversie of Lakeshore Laments saw a Tommy who's proudly, if reluctantly, passing the torch:
During Green's speech, I took a few glances at Tommy on the stage behind him. His face was a mixture of pride and a coming realization that the torch had indeed been passed. The Dems say that Tommy isn't "behind" Green. No, I just believe like he's having a hard time letting go to the glory days.

That alone may be why he challenges Kohl.

The best analogy I can get into my head about what Thompson must be going through is knight who has served the land with dignity, honor, and style for years. He trained many of the new recruits that served beneath him on the court. After years of questing, he returns to his homeland (the Wisconsin GOP) seeing that his tales of glory are still told, songs are still sung to honor him, but one of his trusted squires has taken over rule of the land in his absence and the people are behind this squire turned knight.

Is the knight supposed to take these changes easily? Hardly, and that's what Tommy's done.
At exactly the same moment, Owen Robinson of Boots and Sabers was watching Tommy and coming to a very different conclusion:
Tommy. Tommy, Tommy, Tommy. I oscillated between being furious and disgusted with Tommy. His speech was a long, rambling amalgamation of rhetoric from his glory days. He spent what seemed like an eternity just recounting his own biography. I thought this was disrespectful and selfish. This was Green's convention and he should have been telling us why Green would be a great governor - not why Tommy thinks he was a great governor. After the speech, he sat behind Green on the bleachers and behaved like an insolent child. He was slumped over with his head on his hand and his elbow on his knee. He kept fidgeting and looked like a little boy looking out of the classroom window on a sunny day with eyes and body language that shouted to the world that he wants to be anywhere except where he is. Tommy was supposed to do a joint press conference with Green after the speech, but Tommy blew it off to catch a flight. Tommy was a jerk to Green and a jerk to the Republicans who have supported him for decades. I have very little use for Tommy.
Robinson's wife, Wendy, did a lighter, much more amusing report on the convo, and had this to say:
The lowlight for me was Tommy Thompson. Watching him speak was like watching a televangelist. Holy crap. It's like people go into a trance when he walks into a room. I was seriously waiting for Tommy to suggest people close their eyes and accept Tommy as their own personal savior (or whatever it is those wackjobs say). Good grief. And good riddance.
Wendy should write more often.

Is business causing 'bad business climate?'

This report of a public forum that Mayors Tom Barrett of Milwaukee and Dave Cieslewicz of Madison held last week comes from Dave Zweifel at the Cap Times:

The only testy part of the evening occurred when panelist James Haney, president of Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, commented that the city councils of both cities were typically anti-business. Business, after all, provides the jobs and economic advancements, not government, Haney said.

He mentioned that just a few blocks away the Madison City Council was debating requiring employers to provide sick leave to their workers, which he claimed would harm Madison's small businesses.

That rankled Cieslewicz, even though the Madison mayor hasn't supported the sick leave plan. [It failed to pass the City Council by a single vote. -- Xoff.]

Madison's "little" sick leave plan presents far less danger to Wisconsin's economy than the legislative attacks on one of the state's biggest economic engines, the University of Wisconsin, he retorted.

"If business in this state can't defend the UW, then what right has it to pick on little old Madison?" he asked.
One of my e-mail corrrespondents notes:
It's one of the great mysteries of life that the state Chamber of Commerce (and its local counterparts) spend so much time running down the community (high taxes, closed for business, etc.)

I always thought their purpose was to promote and sell the state. Their constant nay-saying is probably more harmful to the state's business climate than anything Mayor Dave, Mayor Tom or the governor could ever do.
A point well-taken, but based on a false premise that many of us probably have. The Chamber of Commerce (which is what WMC is), sounds like a group that should be promoting its city and state. That's how it used to work, at least with local Chambers.

But WMC seems to exist to serve only its members, who already are doing business in Wisconsin, by trying to eliminate all taxes and regulation. ("All" might be an overstatement, but not by much.) WMC is all about its members, not the public interest.

In incessantly complaining about the "business climate" for its own members, WMC helps create the bad climate that could discourage new businesses from coming to Wisconsin. If you were visiting the state and happened to hear WMC's radio commercials, complaining about how bad things are, you'd get out of town fast.

If you visit WMC's website, you'll find that the group has no interest in promoting the state, and doesn't claim that as even a tiny bit of its role. Click the "Why join WMC" link and you'll find:
Member Benefits

Who fights for your right to run a profitable business? Who lobbies for lower taxes and fewer government mandates? Who is the largest, most effective business group in the state?

...WMC, without a doubt.

Our government relations team (8 registered lobbyists) kicks into gear whenever the legislature is in session—testifying at hearings, and meeting with legislators and state agency staff for our members.

What does WMC do besides lobby?

We’ll help you understand the latest human resource law.

We’ll tell you what the EPA/DNR is proposing that may cost your business money.

We’ll tell you which taxes are proposed to be cut…or worse yet, raised.

With our on-staff attorneys and other expert staff to answer your questions—from OSHA to Ozone, from taxes to tort reform, WMC can help. We not only work FOR you, we work WITH you!
That couldn't be clearer. No boosterism here. This is a special interest group through and through, although the right wing (or even the news media) fails to identify them as such when complaining about lobbying and influence by the special interests -- despite the fact that WMC spent $996,000 -- more than any other Wisconsin organization -- on lobbying in 2005. It lobbied on scores of bills, and it wasn't exactly the greater good that determined WMC's agenda. It was more like the greater greed.

You won't mistake WMC for the Greater Milwaukee Committee, an organization of CEOs which actually tries to improve the community, and not just for its members. The GMC website says:
The Greater Milwaukee Committee is committed to keeping Southeastern Wisconsin the best community to live, learn, work, and play.

Our membership - comprised of our region's business, labor, academic, philanthropic, nonprofit and civic leadership - believes that intelligent, active interest in public affairs is the true measure of citizenship, and the foundation for community.
Quite a contrast.

The MMAC, the Metropolitan Milwaukee Assn. of Commerce, falls somewhere in between, mixing a conservative political agenda with programs to improve education, health care, and the area's quality of life, instead of just griping about them all of the time. You might disagree with some of their solutions, like school choice, but at least MMAC is trying to be a force for positive change in the community. It says:
Our mission is to improve metro Milwaukee as a place to invest capital, grow business and create jobs.

The Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC) is a 143-year-old private, not-for-profit organization representing 2,000 member businesses in Milwaukee, Waukesha, Washington and Ozaukee counties. Driven by the needs and aspirations of our members, we are committed to bringing resources and solutions as a community partner to increase the economic vitality of the metro Milwaukee community. The organization's programs and resources center around three core competencies designed to meet our members' investment objectives: networking, public policy and economic development.
So if you're rounding up a delegation of business people to try to talk up Wisconsin and attract more business, you might to well to steer clear of WMC. And if you're looking for someone to help defend and improve the university system -- which, theoretically, should be good for business -- don't even ask.

UPDATE: Lisa Subeck gives Madison's Chamber the once-over. Conclusion: "This isn't my grandfather's Chamber of Commerce."