Friday, June 30, 2006

Does Green live in a news-free bubble?

Major GOP donor likes business climate

You have to wonder sometimes whether Rep. Mark Green reads and watched the news about the same amount as George Bush, and lives in a news vacuum under the same kind of protective bubble.

How else to explain this release:
Given the recent reports of businesses either moving out, not moving in or having to make the gut-wrenching decision to lay-off employees, Green firmly believes these are clear indicators we need to change our way of doing business in Wisconsin.
on the same day this story appears?

If he doesn't read the papers, he might have heard about the story from the president of Direct Supply, Robert Hillis, who appeared with Gov. Jim Doyle and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett at an upbeat news conference on Friday to announce 1,000-to 1,500 new jobs.
"We are deeply grateful to both the City of Milwaukee and the State of Wisconsin for helping us keep our expansion here where we can continue our 21 year history of creating great new jobs," said Bob Hillis, Direct Supply President and CEO.
Hillis is a major Republican donor and fund-raiser who has given $2,250 to Scott Walker and $1,000 to Green in this election cycle, and who gave $2,500 each to Barrett and Scott McCallum in 2002 (but nothing to Doyle, in case anyone's wondering.) He and his wife, Jennifer, also have written a lot of checks to State Sen. Alberta Darling, the suburban Republican, totaling more than $2,000 in the last several years.

He gives more at the federal level -- $25,000 to the Republican National Committee and $2000 to Bush-Cheney in 2004, $2000 to Russ Darrow for Senate in 2004, and quite a few $1,000 contributions to Congressional candidates, not all Republicans.

Hillis and Green will probably rub elbows when Bush comes to Milwaukee July 11 to raise money for Green. Maybe Hillis can clue him in about the business climate in Wisconsin.

-- J.D. Crowe, Mobile AL Register, via Cagle.

The race to the bottom

Paul Soglin reports that the business and tax climate isn't only bad in Wisconsin, according to conservative business groups.

Soglin has discovered that 78% of the states rank in the bottom quarter.

Check it out.

Quote, unquote

"Congress has no damn business denying people a minimum wage after they've accepted an (increase) for themselves."
--Rep. Dave Obey, in a JS story which also includes this gem:
Green Bay Republican Mark Green, who is running for governor, said he could support an increase if it's tied to tax relief for businesses.

Will the real John Murtha ...

John Murtha is going to run for the Assembly, according to this news story.

This one's a Republican. No word where he stands on the Iraq war.

We know where this one stands, though.

F. Jim Sensenbrenner -- live!

Come and have your own questions ignored or sidestepped by Rep. F. Jim Sensenbrenner at his town hall meeting:

Sunday, July 2, 7pm – Grafton Village Hall

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Jim Doyle to the rescue, Jim Doyle to the rescue...

Go, Jim Doyle! Go, Jim Doyle!

Sincere apologies to Black Oak Arkansas, one of the few bands not playing Summerfest, but it was too good to pass up.

What delicious irony that Gov. Jim Doyle has had to come to the rescue of Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker, who a short time ago was running for governor as the guy who could whip the state budget into shape.

Doyle named a high-powered task force today to study the county's finances and propose solutions.

Walker, in his usual mode of operation, didn't even wait for the group to meet before he began offering his ideas, which mostly involve the state picking up the tab.

Doyle pointed out, in his announcement of the task force, that the state already sends Milwaukee County almost a half a billion dollars a year.

Turnabout is fair play on ethics

WisPolitics reports that one of the staunchest Republican supporters of SB 1, an ethics reform bill, State Rep. Steve Freese, had this to say today:
Freese said Doyle is disingenuous in his calls for a special session. "If you're truly were a reformer, why wouldn't you call for a special session and put the Republican legislators on the spot, and use the power of the governor's office to help get it passed?"
Here's the deal, Lucille.

The Republicans, who control both houses, have the power to call the legislature into session themselves. It's called an extraordinary session; if the gov calls it, it would be a special session. But the effect would be the same: To call the legislators to the Capitol to act on a specific bill.

So, to turn Freese's statement back at him, if the Republicans really were reformers and want to pass ethics reform, why don't they call an extradordinary session, pass something and put Doyle on the spot?

And why doesn't their fearless leader, Mark Green, ask them to do that?

UPDATE: The Playground Supervisor has some advice for the gov on how to "create a perfect Republican storm."

A Thumper moment

I've been debating about whether to mention the fact that Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager held her campagn kickoff event at the Avenue Bar in Madison.

Or that tonight's event is a wine and cheese reception in Wausau.

But I decided to take a cue from Bambi's friend, Thumper, whose dad told him:

"If you can't say something nice, don't say nothing at all."

So this is a Thumper moment.

Green's shameless senior moment

Both political parties in Wisconsin put out way too many news releases, and most never see the light of day except on the Internet.

But every once in awhile someone hits a bullseye. Today, for example:
Mark Green for SeniorCare?


Has Voted Against SeniorCare Every Step of the Way

MADISON – Today, Governor Jim Doyle announced a new state effort to extend SeniorCare. It was good news for seniors across the state, and just the latest in the Governor’s long history of fighting for SeniorCare.

In the minutes before the announcement, fax machines in newsrooms across the state began churning out a hastily written letter from none other than Mark Green, claiming his support for SeniorCare. [And urging Doyle to do what he was already doing, asking for an extension. --Xoff.]

A fax rushed out during an announcement by the Governor? That’s Mark Green’s SeniorCare effort? Laughable.

Here’s the real Green record on SeniorCare, a program his actions have put at risk over, and over, and over again:

Green cast the deciding vote to pass the bill that would have ended SeniorCare but for the actions of Governor Doyle. [Source: HR1, Vote 332, 6/27/03]

Green voted against allowing Medicare to be amended so that it didn’t affect SeniorCare. [Source: HRes299, Vote 321, 6/26/03]

Green voted again against allowing Medicare to be amended so that it didn’t affect SeniorCare. [Source: HRes459, Vote 659, 11/21/03]

Green voted for a third time against allowing Medicare to be amended so that it didn’t affect SeniorCare. [Source: HRes463, Vote 665, 11/21/03]

Green voted to adopt the conference report that would have meant the end of Wisconsin’s SeniorCare program but for the actions of the Governor. [Source: HR1, Vote 669, 11/22/03]

Green voted with Tom DeLay against Wisconsin’s seniors, voting against reconsidering the vote to adopt the conference report. [Source: HR1, Vote 670, 11/22/03]

The Medicare bill was so unpopular that Green and his Republican allies in the House had to hold the vote open for nearly three hours to gather enough votes for it to pass. [Source: HRes474, Vote 677, 12/8/03, CQ Weekly, "2003 Legislative Summary: Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage", 12/13/03]

“Mark Green’s transparent attempt to get in on some good news is pitiful,” said Joe Wineke, Chair of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin. “He has worked to kill SeniorCare time and again. Now he wants to take some credit for a program that is justifiably popular with so many Wisconsin seniors and their families? It would be laughable if it wasn’t so pathetic.”

Business climate: Sunny and warm

Today's JS:
Nursing home supplier to expand in Milwaukee


Direct Supply Inc., one of the country's largest suppliers to the nursing home industry, is moving forward with plans for a major expansion that will add hundreds of jobs to its corporate headquarters on Milwaukee's northwest side.

Gov. Jim Doyle, Mayor Tom Barrett and Robert Hillis, Direct Supply chief executive officer and president, will make "an economic development announcement" Friday at the company's headquarters, according to a statement released Wednesday by the state Department of Commerce.

A city official, who asked not to be identified, said Direct Supply plans to add hundreds of jobs over the next 10 years.

That official - who didn't want to be seen as pre-empting the official announcement - said the company could have 2,000 employees in Milwaukee by the end of that period. The positions will provide family-supporting wages and salaries, the official said.

Direct Supply now has 650 employees within several buildings on N. Industrial Road, north of W. Mill Road and east of N. 76th St.

City and state officials will propose a financing package to help Direct Supply with its expansion, the city official said. He said that would likely include a $10 million city loan, to be repaid through the project's property taxes, and $6 million in state tax credits.
EARLIER: John Gard says business climate is great.

Walker: YOU raise taxes, not me

Scott Walker, what a guy.

He's the world-champion finger-pointer who blames everyone else for Milwaukee County's problems and never takes any responsibility himself.

Now he's perfecting the art of asking other people to pay for county services, whether it's the state taking over corrections programs, the city taking over the swimming pools, or -- now -- an independent district taking over the county parks.

Then he can criticize them all for raising taxes while he pretends he has a "tax freeze" in the county.

Gretchen Schuldt comments on Walker's latest park scheme, in which he says he's OK with a 3% annual increase in park budgets -- but not if it's part of the county budget.

This guy's political career is going down in flames, and no amount of buck-passing is going to change that.

Happy Energy Week to Big Oil from Mark Green

It's Energy Week in the House of Representatives, declared by Rep. Mark Green and the Republican leadership.

The Forward Report notes that:
It has been advertised as an opportunity to focus on the skyrocketing cost of gas and America’s dependence on foreign oil. It is actually being used in part to promote policies that would enrich the oil industry and damage the environment, while doing very little to help consumers or resolve our long-term energy problems.
This seems like an appropriate time to review Mark Green's contributions to holding down oil and gas prices and protecting consumers.

Let's put Green's approach into some perspective. He's postured, as a candidate for governor, as someone who wants to lower the gas tax.

But Wisconsin roadbuilders know better. Here's a report from the Transportation Development Assn., a statewide group dominated by roadbuilders, after a "Drive-In" meeting at the Madison Club:
Views from Green Campaign
After the Road to the Future Committee presentation, Mark Graul, manager of the gubernatorial campaign of U.S. Rep. Mark Green, addressed the group. Introducing a message Congressman Green taped for the Drive-in, Graul told attendees that transportation is an issue of key importance to Green.

In his video message, Green told Drive-in participants that as governor he would restore the integrity of the state’s transportation funding. He noted that the federal transportation reauthorization bill he supported had ended up “good for Wisconsin.” Giving credit to the leadership of Wisconsin Congressman Tom Petri, Green cited as “historic” the $1.06 return on Wisconsin federal highway dollar achieved under the SAFETEA-LU reauthorization.

Green said that any constitutional amendment he would sign to protect transportation revenues would need to “permanently firewall” the Transportation Fund. He said he is committed to an “intermodal transportation system.”

He noted that as a member of the state Assembly, he “did vote for a gas tax increase.” “I was there for you, ...” said Green, “and I will be in the future.”
"I was there for you, and I will be in the future," Green tells this special interest group. Interestingly, he doesn't says that he supported tax increases for transportation improvements; he supported gas tax increases for the roadbuilders, and he'll do it again.

That's not what you'd expect to hear from someone looking out for consumers -- but no one has ever accused Mark Green of being a consumer advocate.

Green has voted repeatedly in the House against bills to crack down on gasoline price-gouging.

Green backed the Bush energy bill that gave $8-billion in tax breaks to Big Oil, and voted against rolling them back even with gas at $3 a gallon and Big Oil making record profits.

And Big Oil has rewarded him with more than $40,000 in campaign contributions.

Happy Energy Week, everyone, from Mark Green.

Why Honda didn't pick Wisconsin

Why wasn't Walworth County chosen as the site of a new Honda plant, which went to Indiana instead?

The Republicans say it's all Gov. Jim Doyle's fault. Too anti-business or something. [My favorite line from the GOP's frothing-at-the-mouth release: "Businesses want to higher (sic) workers, not lawyers."]

The Journal Sentinel tells a different story:
"I wasn't surprised," said Walworth County Economic Development Alliance Executive Vice President Fred Burkhardt, who spearheaded the local effort to lure Honda.

"We knew going in we were a long shot," Burkhardt said. "We knew we were late in the game, and we appreciate the opportunity to have played."

Burkhardt hastily put together a proposal to Honda after reading less than two months ago that the automaker was hunting for a site for its sixth North American assembly plant.

The alliance found two potential sites of 1,600 to 2,000 acres each, both now farmland, and the state offered what Burkhardt called "a very healthy incentive package."

But in selecting southeastern Indiana, Honda stayed within 150 miles of its engine factory in western Ohio, which will supply the new plant. Honda already has two other assembly plants near the engine facility...

Most auto assembly plants now are in a band extending from southern Michigan through Indiana and eastern Ohio and into central Kentucky and Tennessee.

In pursuing Honda, Burkhardt said, Walworth County learned it is crucial to have sites that are "shovel ready," with proper zoning in place and all environmental issues resolved.

The county's sites didn't meet those criteria, which could have significantly lengthened the time between selection and construction, Burkhardt said.

He said going after Honda may yet pay off. After seeing Walworth County mentioned in The Wall Street Journal as seeking the Honda plant, a "major national developer who does IT and life science business parks" called Burkhardt.

He said a follow-up telephone conference with the developer is scheduled for Monday.

"Those are byproducts you get from having gone to the plate," Burkhardt said.

Repubs defend rebid of Prism contract

UPDATE: This did make the paper, but only after Doyle repeated Roessler's comments. Unlike the original story about the claims being made in the legal case, which ran on page one, the defense ran on page B5. Jay Bullock comments.

I must have missed this story in the newspaper. It's from WisPolitics:
Two Republican members of the state Building Commission defended a decision to re-bid a project at UW-Milwaukee, which resulted in a lawsuit by the firm that initially won the work.

Prism has filed a lawsuit seeking $5 million in damages, claiming it “was not politically popular with the person who made the key decision” on the Kennilworth Building project. The suit accuses former DOA Secretary Marc Marotta of engineering the second bidding process.

But Building Commission member Sen. Carol Roessler, R-Oshkosh, said she wanted to make clear it was the commission’s decision to re-bid the contract.

“It was our decision,” Roessler said. “We were dissatisfied with the initial process.”

Fellow commission member state Rep. Jeff Fitzgerald, R-Horicon, seconded Roessler’s comments.

A group whose members donated to Gov. Jim Doyle’s campaign won the contract during the second process.
Oh, that's right, I did read the last sentence of that story before.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Net neutrality fails

This may not be final, final word, but a tie vote in a Senate committee may be the death knell for net neutrality, at least for this session, the WashPost reports:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate Commerce Committee approved sweeping communications reform legislation on Wednesday that would make it easier for telephone companies like AT&T Inc. to offer subscription television to consumers.

But the panel narrowly rejected attempts by some lawmakers to strengthen safeguards on Internet service, which had pitted high-speed Internet, or broadband, providers such as AT&T against Internet companies like Google Inc.

In a room packed with lobbyists representing companies and consumer groups, debate raged over whether broadband providers can charge more to carry unaffiliated content or to guarantee service quality, an issue called Net neutrality.

The bill included provisions aimed at preserving consumers' ability to surf anywhere on the public Internet and use any Internet-related application, software or service, similar to a bill that passed the House of Representatives.

Maine Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe and Sen. Byron Dorgan, a North Dakota Democrat, tried to add further protections by barring discrimination of content or service based on origin, destination or ownership, but it failed to get a majority vote. The final tally was 11 to 11.

"That means for the first time we are going to have a two-tiered Internet," said Snowe, who bucked her party. "Broadband operators will be able to pick winners and losers, they will be able to choose the Web sites of their choice."

Gard says business climate is great

It looks like John Gard didn't get the memo with the Republican talking points about how terrible the business climate is in Wisconsin.

Gard says things are looking up,with United Health Group's plans to create 1,000 jobs, and a $617-million Coast Guard contract won by Manitowoc Marine that shows "our hometown businesses can compete in a global economy."

On top of that, there's the announcement that state economic development help is bringing 113 new jobs to Chilton, and another 500 jobs in New London, at Bemis, which moved its corporate headquarters to Neenah in May, to become the eighth largest publicly traded company in Wisconsin with $3.5 billion in annual net sales. The Green Bay Press Gazette has more.

Let's see if they get Gard back on the GOP message of gloom and doom, or if he keeps telling the truth about job growth in northeastern Wisconsin.

Jay Bullock says there is plenty of good economic development news, if conservatives would take off the blinders.

UPDATE 2: Business climate: Sunny and warm.

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

Are the people ahead of the politicians?

Think they car-pooled?

Press release:
Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) Secretary Frank Busalacchi joined other transportation partners at Goerke’s Corners in Waukesha County today to recognize the 50th anniversary of the nation’s Interstate system and highlight the enormous contributions Wisconsin’s 743-miles of Interstate make to our economy, public safety and mobility. Wisconsin first began Interstate construction near Goerke’s Corners in 1956. The seven-mile segment of I-94 was completed two years later.
Want to bet whether everybody (except those who rate a driver) drove their own cars?

Morphing into W

You can expect a lot of TV spots this fall where candidates morph into President Bush. Given his low ratings, Democrats are going to want to tie incumbent Republicans to Bush.

The first "morph" spot is on the air.

Interestingly, it is not a Republican who morphs into Bush. It's Joe Lieberman.

Bishops ask Green to vote no on death penalty

A month ago, I wrote a post about Wisconsin's Catholic bishops asking Mark Green to change his position and oppose a referendum on the death penalty.

It was fictional. But it is closer to true today.

The Wisconsin Catholic Conference -- the bishops'public policy voice -- issued a letter today asking the state's Roman Catholics to vote "no" on the death penalty question.

Mark Green is a Catholic.

Will he follow the bishops' guidance?

If he doesn't, will they chastise him and ask him to change his position, as they have done to Doyle over his support for embryonic stem cell research?

Can't wait to find out.

Where's Tommy?

Fair Wisconsin announces that four former governors oppose the constitutional ban on civil unions and gay marriage:
Joint Statement by Governors Patrick Lucey, Martin Schreiber, Lee Sherman Dreyfus, & Tony Earl

Madison -- "We oppose the proposed constitutional ban on civil unions and marriage. As former governors, we believe the ban runs contrary to the values of freedom and fairness that make Wisconsin great.

"The founding document of our state is designed to lay the foundation for our government and protect individual freedoms. The civil unions and marriage ban is wrong because it would mark the first time we have ever amended our constitution to limit freedom.

"We also oppose the ban because it is unnecessarily harsh and far reaching. Marriage for gay couples is already illegal in the state of Wisconsin. It is unfair to single out a group of people in our state and deny them any measure of basic legal protection.

"We urge the people of Wisconsin to carefully consider the civil unions and marriage ban, and the impact it will have on families who live in our state. We hope you will join us in voting no in November."
The current governor, Jim Doyle, also opposes it.

Isn't there one other living governor, whose name is missing?

Where's Tommy Thompson? His brother Ed opposes the amendment, even told Mark Green he can't support him for governor because Green supports discrimination. Does Tommy support it, too? Or has he been silenced by the Green campaign, now that he's the honorary chair?

Speak up, Tommy. We can't hear you.

Quote, unquote

"I love it when I'm around the country club, and I hear people talking about the debilitating effects of a welfare society. At the same time, they leave their kids a lifetime and beyond of food stamps. Instead of having a welfare officer, they have a trust officer. And instead of food stamps, they have stocks and bonds."
-- Warren Buffett, on the "welfare society."

Hat tip: Pundit Nation.

Things not always what they seem

This from a story on about some Wisconsin protesters who broke into a nuclear missile site in North Dakota:

Guards responded within minutes. And when they arrived, the protesters "ate a lot of gravel," DefenseTech was told.

"The individuals were taken from the area and brought to the McLean County Jail," the AP notes. "The three are being charged with criminal trespass and criminal mischief, both Class A misdemeanors, and bond was set at $500 each.... The FBI is involved in the case and federal charges are pending."
And this from Jessica McBride:
Actually, there are two scary things here, other than the fact that clowns trying to break into nuclear facilities and allegedly eating gravel when the guards showed up is downright scary by itself.
Methinks, Jessica, that when the military says the suspects "ate a lot of gravel" they mean the protestors were lying face down in the gravel, probably with someone's foot on them. You can't take things too literally. Like if I said you were eating crow on this, I hope you wouldn't go look for a dead crow.

Paying not to play

Here's a story you won't see in the Journal Sentinel, because it doesn't fit their template of how things work. It's by Mike Ivey in the Capital Times:
Who says campaign contributions lead to political favors?

Certainly not the Mortenson Investment Group, which last week announced it was abandoning its efforts to build a four-story office and retail project at Todd Drive and the Beltline.

In giving up on the $22 million Landmark Gate project, MIG cited a new state law that sharply limits the ability of local government to use its power of eminent domain to condemn property for private economic development projects...

The law was passed by the state Legislature and signed by Gov. Jim Doyle in late March, largely in reaction to the controversial 2005 Supreme Court decision that reaffirmed the ability of government to condemn property for redevelopment purposes...

... the signing came despite a bevy of campaign cash that has flowed from MIG executives to Doyle over the past several years.

Records with the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign show that employees of MIG gave $14,650 to Doyle since 2004. That included $6,050 from company president Brad Hutter and another $5,000 from Loren Mortenson, who founded Mortenson, Matzelle & Meldrum or "M3" as a commercial insurance agency here in 1968.

So what did all that money buy Mortenson?

Not a heck of a lot the way it turns out.
Read the rest.

'Business climate' plot thickens

as WMC waddles up to the trough

Excuse my cynicism, but this is all beginning to seem a little more orchestrated every day.

1. A Waukesha business executive makes noises about leaving Wisconsin because (a) it's business climate is bad, and (b) public officials are not kissing his rear end. Listening to RedPrairie.

2. A representative of a Florida aviation firm tantalizes Manitowoc with visions of a new industry coming to town, then says the next day the business climate is too bad, so no deal. The rep turns out to be a Republican county chairman. Something fishy in Manitowoc.

3. Right on cue, the stage having been set, enter Wis. Manufacturers and Commerce chief Jim Haney with a solution -- actually, three solutions:
We must think out of the box and take bold steps. Wisconsin should strongly consider:

Eliminating the corporate income tax -- That's right, not reducing it, not providing more credits, getting rid of it altogether. Not only would this send a message that Wisconsin is serious about attracting employers, but it would help Wisconsin exporters deal with WTO regulations that favor nations with no or lower corporate income taxes.

Cutting individual income taxes,especially the top rate -- Reducing taxes make jobs in Wisconsin more attractive to the "creative" or 'innovative' class. Bike trails and fun entertainment are nice, but companies need to be able to provide competitive salaries and high income taxes make that difficult.

Eliminating the personal property tax -- The personal property tax directly discourages capital investment by businesses. Wisconsin could significantly improve its business climate by eliminating the last remaining business equipment property taxes, the only personal property tax allowed.
OK, I'm game. Let's think outside of the box and take some bold steps.

Maybe we could start with asking corporations and the top wage-earners to pay their fair share, and closing some loopholes.

Wisconsin's top income tax rate is already the lowest it has been since 1931. The last round of cuts arguably contributed to the state's recent fiscal problems.

The share of state taxes paid by business has steadily declined. A 2004 Ernst and Young study showed Wisconsin ranked near the bottom in the share of state revenue raised from corporate taxes. There are other studies and other measurements, but all will tell you the same thing -- Wisconsin's business taxes are not out of line, and are actually on the lower end of the scale. There's a Federal Reserve Report that ranks Wisconsin 50th in share of state and local taxes paid by business. Forward Wisconsin says Wisconsin is fourth lowest in state and local business taxes.

Meanwhile, the proportion of property taxes paid by individuals gone from 50% in 1970 to 70% today. In other words, individual property taxes are up because of a tax shift from business.

The WMC release may just be Haney trying to capitalize on an opportunity. But this is all beginning to look and smell like a deliberate plan to inject business tax breaks into the governor's race, a la 1986 -- the election that brought us 16 years of reckless Republican spending and dug the state into a huge financial hole.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Catching up on the news

Where did I read about this Spicy item before?

I think it was here, on June 21.

My motto: I read the national blogs so the Spice Boys don't have to.

Green panders on flag-burning

-- Mike Keefe, Denver Post, via Cagle.

Mark Green gets his due in this editorial, titled, "To pander and distract"

From the Journal Sentinel
Posted: June 27, 2006

When was the last time you saw someone burn a flag in this country? Yes, a rarity. And, by the way, what constitutes desecration of a flag?

Wisely, the U.S. Senate asked these questions Tuesday and came up with the right answer, though, distressingly, by only one vote.

It would have been more reassuring had more senators recognized that wrapping yourself in the flag for partisan reasons might be desecration, too. You know, as in voting for a measure and then campaigning as a right-minded American while slamming the guy who has a healthy respect for the First Amendment (as U.S. Rep. Mark Green, running for governor, does on his Web site, bashing Gov. Jim Doyle on this issue).

The Senate was mulling a constitutional amendment that would have given Congress the power to ban flag desecration. The House passed its bill 286-130 last year. Had the Senate approved this by the required two-thirds majority (it fell one vote short), three-fourths of the states would still have needed to ratify it before it became the 28th Amendment.

The U.S. Supreme Court was right in 1989 when it said that flag burning and the First Amendment are linked. Yes, flag burning is offensive. But, simply, even offensive speech needs to be protected.

To sum up: There was no flag-burning "problem." The bigger problem is still the desire of far too many in Congress to batter free speech to distract voters from what has been a congressional session of breathtaking underachievement
UPDATE: Is that George W. Bush desecrating the flag?

Owen Robinson, and many of his conservative/libertarian commenters, agree with Sens. Russ Feingold and Herb Kohl, who voted no.

The Mark Green Rainbow Coalition just keeps growing

It must have been casual Friday. At their last meeting, it was dressier.

Quote, unquote

"Those who desecrate the flag only make the rest of us value our flag, our freedoms, and those who have given their lives to protect them even more. Our flag and the principles it represents will survive any ill-conceived desecration by a few protesters. A Constitutional amendment is unnecessary because the strength of the American people and their unwavering support for our country and our national symbol will make certain of that."
-- Sen. Herb Kohl, voting no on the flag burning amendment.

-- Jen Sorensen via Cagle. (Click cartoon to enlarge)

GOP candidates run from Bush

As Mark Green prepares to welcome George Bush to a Milwaukee fundraiser for Green on July 11, there have been reports elsewhere in the country of candidates who have avoided appearing with the Pres, citing mysterious schedule conflicts that kept them away from their own events.

In Minnesota, a Republican Congressman is even removing Bush from his website. Political Wire reports:

In Minnesota, Kennedy Runs from Bush

MN Publius finds Rep. Mark Kennedy (R-MN) recently deleted most references to President Bush from his congressional website. Pictures of Bush were replaced with pictures of smiling children; bills that were once "signed into law by President Bush" now simply "become law."

Bush is not popular in Minnesota and Kennedy's record is hurting his chances. "A CQ vote study shows that Kennedy sided with Bush 87% of the time when the president took a stated position on House legislation last year -- a fairly modest figure among House Republicans. But that was down sharply from the 97% presidential support score Kennedy ran up in each of the previous three years." [Mark Green's CQ rating is 88% with Bush.]

Though CQ Politics rates Minnesota's Senate race a toss-up, several analysts I've spoken to in recent days see the landscape shifting to the Democrats. Kennedy's challenger will be decided in a September primary, with Amy Klobuchar (D) is currently leading the race.

In the recent statewide poll by Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, Bush's positive-negative ratings were 37-59.

Quote, unquote

"I’d rather be at home making love to my wife while my children are asleep."
-- Sen. Joe Biden, on pursuit of the presidency, in The Hill.

Can't wait for global warming

Looking on the bright side of global warming, from Owen Robinson on his Boots and Sabers blog:
... [W]e always hear of the potential negative effects of global warming. What about the positive effects? There are millions of square miles of Canada and Russia, for example, that would make fantastic farmland if they were a few degrees warmer. We could squeeze another growing season into the fields of Wisconsin. There would be more fresh water available to people. An increased surface water area would mean more evaporation and more rain for some areas. The global warming fear mongers are quick to theorize on the possible negative effects of global warming, but never get around to thinking about the possibly good outcomes. For all we know, the world could be a much better place if it were a few degrees warmer."
And that's just a start.

Think of how much we could save on heating bills in Wisconsin. Or if we didn't have to buy winter coats. And think of the nice tans we'll have.

We wouldn't have to worry about rebuilding New Orleans, because it would be underwater, as would the Outer Banks and other coastal areas.

And while the Great Lakes shrink and levels drop, look on the bright side: Wisconsin will be closer to the oceans.

The list goes on and on.

What are we waiting for? Is there any way we can warm things up faster?

I'd like to think Owen was being facetious. Unfortunately, I think he was serious.

In fact, he has it backwards.

If global warming trends continue, high temperatures everywhere in the US may reduce US agricultural productivity. Northern continental areas are projected to have drier summer soils, due in part to earlier snow melts in the spring, and hotter, more cloudless summers, causing extensive evaporation of ground moisture.

George Bush's Environmental Protection Agency does not think global warming is a joke.

Maybe we should send Owen to the movies.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Who's blocking ethics reform?

Hint: The initials are GOP

Lest there be the slightest doubt about who is standing in the way of passing an ethics reform bill in Wisconsin:

"The governor strongly supports the major ethics reforms that were embodied in SB 1, and he has repeatedly called for passage of that bill and is assessing whether a special session on the bill would be fruitful. But so far, Republicans have given no indication that they would treat the bill any differently than the last time they killed it. The governor had every Democratic vote lined up, but the Republicans balked," Doyle spokesman Dan Leistikow told WisPolitics.

This also from WisPol:
-- Assembly Majority Leader Mike Huebsch, R-West Salem, said comprehensive reform should not be acted on in July of an election year and pledged the Legislature will take up the issue when it returns next year, along with proposals to deal with issues surrounding the state procurement and contract award policies.

Huebsch said while SB 1 has been touted as the "holy grail" for ethics reform, he favored a new reform package proposed by GOP gubernatorial candidate Mark Green. "SB 1 would be just a paragraph in the vision Mark Green laid out for ethics reform," Huebsch said.

"It was clear to me that if I tried to change SB 1, I'd be charged with being personally immoral," he said. "That's not the atmosphere to be working on this kind of legislation."
To say that July of an election year is not the time to pass ethics reform begs the question:

When would a good time be? No time in the past 18 months, since this legislature took office in January 2005, has been a good time for the Assembly Republicans to pass it.

They repeatedly refused to take it up, and in the closing days of the session voted in closed caucus to let it die, then voted against bringing it to the floor.

Huebsch makes it clear they are not about to pass it now.

So why all the clamor for Gov. Jim Doyle to call a special session? He can't make the Republican majority in the Assembly do anything, special session or not. Last time he called one, on home heating assistance, they didn't even hold a floor session.

If Republicans want to pass ethics reform -- which they obviously don't -- their leadership in both houses can call an extraordinary session at any time. They don't need the governor to do it. You may recall the GOP doing that two years ago in an ill-fated attempt to force action on TABOR.

Fighting Ed Garvey says his People's Legislature wants a special session:
Why not call the session, demand a robust debate, and make it clear any weakening of SB 1 would be vetoed? (That idea came from Gene Farley and was endorsed by the People's Legislative session on Saturday.)

When asked who supported SB 1 all 200 hands went up. When asked if they support a special session, all hands were raised. So what is the problem? Some ask why we spend taxpayer money on a special session. I've done some checking. Other than per diem for legislators and mileage, the costs are insignificant. Hell, Fighting Bob Inc. can hold a fundraiser to help pay. My guess is the cost would be under ten grand. Small price to pay.
Small price to pay for what? For a session that is guaranteed to fail? Do you think we could embarrass the Assembly Republicans? They didn't seem embarrassed last time when they took a roll call vote to kill the same bill. What is the point?

And why doesn't the People's Legislature direct its wrath at the GOP, who stand squarely in the way? Why not ask Speaker John Gard and Majority Leader Dale Schultz to call the legislature back? If they pass the bill, Doyle will sign it into law. But he can't pass it. That's pretty basic, but it seems to escaped our friends at the People's Legislature, who always prefer to aim their fire at the Democrats.

UPDATE: Cory Liebman asks on One Blog: Why can't Green get Republicans to vote on ethics? Good question.

UPDATE 2: Mark Pocan analyzes the pros and cons of a special session on ethics reform. There seems to be a likelihood of Republican mischief.

US split in half over Iraq withdrawal

You wouldn't know it from the vote in the Senate, or to listen to the warhawks, but the number of Americans who want a timeline for withdrawal of US troops from Iraq is approaching a majority. The latest poll is within the margin of error. WashPost:
By Dan Balz and Richard Morin
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, June 26, 2006; 6:42 PM

With military commanders weighing possible troop reductions in Iraq, Americans are sharply divided along partisan lines over whether to set a deadline for withdrawing all U.S. forces there, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

About half (51 percent) oppose a deadline for getting out of Iraq, but the margin has dwindled as the bloody insurgency has continued to claim U.S. casualties. The poll found that 47 percent now favor some kind of deadline, up eight percentage points since December. Two thirds of Democrats favor setting a deadline, more than double the proportion of Republicans who embrace a timetable for withdrawal. Among independents, 44 percent support a deadline.

Something fishy in Manitowoc

There's something fishy in Manitowoc, and it doesn't have fins or swim in Lake Michigan.

There's been news coverage in the last several days about LoPresti Aviation, a Florida firm that either is or isn't thinking of building a plant in Manitowoc and creating 300 new jobs.

It started with a report in the local paper that said Manitowoc was on the short list. The story included some positive comments from a rep of the firm, Todd Lohenry, whose title is business development manager.
"We've been actively solicited by 75-plus communities, and there is a short list of five currently being evaluated," Lohenry said Wednesday after meeting with Lakeshore Aviation President Curt Drumm and Manitowoc County Economic Development Corporation Executive Director Ken Stubbe...

Lohenry works for LoPresti out of an Algoma office. "I thought I would be horribly remiss if I didn't try somehow to expose the LoPrestis to the pluses of locating the business in Wisconsin," he said.

"One of the critical factors in our designing an aircraft is the quality of the workmanship. When dealing with an airplane, you're talking about a life and death situation, and you have to rely on high-quality workers.

"The reputation of workers in Manitowoc is well-known in the critical areas we need." He cited the experience of the local workforce in metal and aluminum manufacturing.
Almost as soon as the article appeared, Loherny held a news conference to pull the plug. Here's what the same guy had to say a day later:
"There is a snowball's chance in a Wisconsin summer of it landing here," LoPresti business development manager Todd Lohenry said during a news conference at the Manitowoc County Airport...

Lohenry met with local economic development officials Wednesday, but said Thursday that Manitowoc is not on the company's "short list" of cities being considered for the plant, which he said would create 300 jobs over two years.

He praised the expertise and work ethic of prospective Lakeshore area workers, but added a major caveat.

"The state of Wisconsin is not friendly to new business ... if the project doesn't go through, it won't be the fault of the (Manitowoc County) airport, city or county ... other states offer much better economic incentives and much lower taxes," Lohenry said.
Mark Green, of course, jumped on it immediately and blamed Gov. Jim Doyle for keeping business away. Lakeshore Laments, a conservative regional blog, jumped on, too, along with Owen Robinson and Paddy Mac. And Sykes, of course. Horrors! Bad business climate! All Doyle's fault! The usual, in other words.

Doyle came to Manitowoc Friday and said that he would work with local officials to put together an incentive package to try and help land the LoPresti plant. It wasn't until the story of the Doyle visit that this piece of information finally made it into print:
Lohenry, Republican Party chairman for Kewaunee County who works for LoPresti out of its Algoma office, said Thursday the state's negative business and tax climate would make it difficult for Manitowoc to gain the plant.
Well, well. A Republican county chairman from Mark Green's Congressional district says Wisconsin has a bad business climate, and Mark Green cites him in a news release.

Lohenry made it sound -- although he didn't say it -- as though Manitowoc was one of the five finalists on Wednesday, but from what he said on Thursday that appears not to be true.

So after raising the community's hopes one day, he dashes them 24 hours later and his reasons conveniently match the message of his friend Mark Green.

Am I just paranoid, or does this seem like more than coincidence?

UPDATE: Jef Hall says Lohenry is part of the "problem," and has been working to raise property taxes.

Mark Green exposed as clueless on budget

Someone has finally asked Mark Green, who says he's basing his campaign for governor on his pledges to "cut taxes" and "restore fiscal discipline" to state government, for some specifics.

You probably won't be shocked to learn that he doesn't have any specific ideas or plans. Behind Mark Green's rhetoric is ... more rhetoric.

He doesn't have a clue about how to manage the state budget.

That became apparent in today's Journal Sentinel article by Steve Walters, a reporter who's not exactly tough on Republicans and is usually more than willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.

Walters reports:

Mark Green does not have a definite plan to fix the state's budget crisis so much as he has goals: Spend and borrow less than Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle and - eventually -find enough money to cut taxes.

A review of what the Republican candidate for governor announced in mid-April, and interviews with him and key advisers, found more questions than details.

Green said the vagueness of his budget-balancing plan is not a problem, however.

"We just tried to lay out broad (budget) outlines at this point," said the four-term member of the U.S. House from Green Bay. "It's so early in the process."
Early in the process? Green announced his candidacy in May 2005, and pledged then to cut taxes and "fix the state's fiscal mess."

“We’ve got a long campaign ahead of us where we’ll have a chance to elaborate on some of the ideas I’ve mentioned today and offer many more," he said then.

But, more than a year later, he still has no plan to offer.

The Journal Sentinel's review found that Green:

• Wants a constitutional amendment to limit state and local government spending - an idea so complicated and controversial the Republican-controlled Legislature couldn't pass it this year. Green doesn't have his own constitutional amendment. Such a measure could not become law until 2009, at the earliest.

• Would control property taxes by limiting the increase in December 2007 tax levies of local governments to inflation plus new construction in their communities.

Won't say whether his first budget would cut the number of state jobs, as Doyle has promised to do.

Doesn't know how he would fix the $88 million deficit in the transportation fund in the current budget year, which ends Friday. And Green offers no solutions to make up any shortfall in transportation spending in the next two-year budget.

• Promises to honor the tax-cut commitments already made by Republican legislators and Doyle, although doing so could leave him with only about $290 million left for the growing costs of public schools and health care - two programs on track to cost about $300 million more in what would be Green's first full year in office...

Green also vowed to reallocate current state spending, although he offers no details other than to say he would cancel technology contracts that waste money.

As governor, Green said, he would make aid to public schools and health care "our highest budget priorities."

But Green said that for now he can't guarantee that his first annual budget will increase the $5.1 billion current payment to public schools.

He said he would "love" to find the additional $165 million needed in the first year of the next two-year budget for state government to continue paying two-thirds of public school costs.
But, once again, he has no clue how he'd do that. In the last budget, you may recall, Republican legislators short-changed public school funding by hundreds of millions of dollars, which Gov. Jim Doyle was able to restore by creative use of his veto. You can bet that with Mark Green as governor, public schools will suffer.

In the 2002 campaign, the main issue was the huge deficit hole that Tommy Thompson and Scott McCallum had created, and how to get out of it.

Candidates were pressed by the news media to come up with detailed, specific plans for how they would deal with the deficit. I remember very well a Wisconsin Public Television debate with Jim Doyle, Kathleen Falk and Tom Barrett where the entire show was devoted to discussing ideas on how to reduce the deficit, believed to be $2.8-billion. The Journal Sentinel also asked candidates to provide written, specific plans to cut the deficit.

It turned out after the election that the deficit was even bigger, on the order of $3.2-billion. Doyle had pledged to reduce the deficit without raising taxes, and he's kept that promise.

Doyle's last budget, even after he rescued the public schools from devastating Republican cuts, included a property tax freeze and $300-million in tax cuts.

When voters compare the candidates this fall, they'll find a choice between Jim Doyle, who has made the tough choices to deliver on the promises he made in 2002 to reduce the deficit and hold the line on taxes, and Mark Green, who talks in vague generalities about cutting spending at the same time he votes in Congress for trillion-dollar deficits.

Slogans will only get Green so far. If he wants to be taken seriously, he needs to fill in the blanks. His spending and budget plan is nothing but blanks so far.

UPDATE: Seth Zlotocha: Green weak on signature issue.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Quote, unquote

"The American people have had it with this intervention. They do want a timetable for bringing home the troops. And the fact that the United States Senate doesn't get it shouldn't surprise you... Those who vote against bringing the troops home don't get it. They're not out there (with constituents) enough. They're not listening to the people. Frankly, they’re not even looking at the polls."
-- Sen. Russ Feingold, on Meet the Press.

-- Lloyd Dangle, Troubletown.

Quote, unquote

"... an ordinary Wisconsin citizen couldn't have delayed justice this long. An ordinary citizen wouldn't have had access to more than $65,000 in public money to pay for legal fees. And an ordinary citizen wouldn't be able to tap more than $100,000 in political campaign donations to pay attorneys. An ordinary citizen would have been locked up long before now."
-- Wisconsin State Journal editorial on Scott Jensen's four years of legal delays.

Bush general plans to cut and run

Today's NY Times:
WASHINGTON, June 24 — The top American commander in Iraq has drafted a plan that projects sharp reductions in the United States military presence there by the end of 2007, with the first cuts coming this September, American officials say.

According to a classified briefing at the Pentagon this week by the commander, Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the number of American combat brigades in Iraq is projected to decrease to 5 or 6 from the current level of 14 by December 2007.
What a coincidence -- just before the November mid-term elections, where Republicans are in danger of getting their butts kicked, in no small part because of voter unhappiness over the mess in Iraq.

Watch the same Republican pols who condemned Democrats this week for wanting to withdraw troops from Iraq, calling them cowards who wanted to "cut and run," hurry to switch over and support this new administration plan -- which basically amounts to the plan most Dems supported, and which all but one Republican Senator just voted against.

That was the Levin-Reed amendment, which called to begin reducing US forces by December, in a phased redeployment, at a pace determined by US commanders on the ground, and tied to progress in Iraqis taking more responsibility for their own security. It sounds very much like Casey's idea, but the GOP called it "cut and run."

But let's be clear. What Casey proposes is not really cut and run, any more than that was the Democrat proposal. It's more like slice and run, prolonging the inevitable day when American troops are finally gone.

Let's also be cautious and remember that Richard Nixon used the same technique, with small pre-election troop withdrawals followed by war as usual once the election was past.

If Bush's general really wants to get us out of Iraq, starting in September, let's take him up on it.

Democrats should introduce a new resolution next week and call it the General Casey plan. Maybe it'll pass this time.

UPDATE: It would appear that the Republican National Committee, which went ballistic after Sen. Russ Feingold's "Meet the Press" appearance today, hadn't read the NY Times.

UPDATE 2: Cory Liebmann on One Blog: GOP tries to have it both ways.

FEINGOLD ON MEET THE PRESS: Review, transcript, or video here.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Bucher campaign relies on racial fears

Paul Bucher, the Waukesha County DA and state AG wannabe, clearly believes that exploiting racial fears is the ticket to winning at least the GOP nomination, if not the general election.

How else to explain his Willie Horton website trying to scare the bejeesus out of people and make them believe Kathleen Falk, one of his Dem opponents, wants to send big black predators into their neighborhoods to rape and pillage?

Now Bucher's trying to cash in on any anti-immigrant (he prefers to say alien) sentiment that might be out there in the electorate, and he's riding that hard.

Joel McNally, in a Cap Times column, takes a closer look at Bucher's ideas -- and decides that maybe Bucher's the real alien.

Checking in with the Kinkster

Humorist/musician/author/hellraiser Kinky Friedman has made it onto the ballot in Texas as a candidate for governor. In doing that, he's already gotten farther than many expected, with 137,000 valid signatures on petitions.

Carole Strayhorn, the Republican state comptroller who is running as an independent, also made it onto the ballot, along with a Dem, a Libertarian, and Republican Incumbent Gov. Rick Perry.

The Austin paper reports:
[Strayorn] added that her fundraising lead to date compared to Perry's other challengers means it's a "two-person race" between her and Perry.

"I agree with her; it's between Carole and her ego," retorted Friedman, who is making his first try for state office.
Here's a little taste of the Kinky campaign, from a Brownsville campus appearance awhile back:
“Politics, folks, is the only field where the more experience you have, the worse you get,” Friedman said.

“I don’t use the Internet. I think it’s the work of Satan,” he said in his speech. “(But) please visit”

The candidate’s Web site is full of more of the same tongue-in-cheek humor: Visitors can purchase a talking Kinky doll for $29.99. But, Friedman said his run for governor is no joke.

“The governor of Texas, as you know, does not have his finger on the nuclear button,” he said. “He’s more like the judge in a chili cook-off.”

Friedman supports gay marriage and non-denominational prayer in school, a combination he said could not be found in a Democrat or Republican because they are too focused on their party’s personal feelings.

Harvey Kronberg of the Quorum Report, a Texas political newsletter, reported on a golf fundraiser, also awhile back (I've been hoarding this material):
... Friedman’s gubernatorial campaign got a little more serious on Sunday when nine Texans ponied up $5,000 for golf with the stars and another 120 or so paid $1,000 for lunch...

Bill Clark drove with his wife and father from Eldorado for the chance to visit Willie Nelson’s homestead, where the game was played. Clark, a commissioner for Schleicher County, doesn’t even play golf, but he’s been a Nelson fan for decades.

But, "If (Nelson) is supporting Kinky, I’m supporting Kinky," he said. "It’s a dream come true to even be here."

... Dick DeGuerin, the powerhouse attorney defending Congressman Tom DeLay against charges brought by Democratic Travis County prosecutor Ronnie Earle, was at the fundraiser and introduced singer/songwriter Jerry Jeff Walker: "I’m a Yellow Dog Democrat. I’m representing Tom DeLay, and I’m for Kinky," he said. "And I see no contradiction there."

During the press conference, Friedman stayed with his jokester persona when answering some hot button questions, such as whether he’s pro-life or pro-choice. The answer still: "I’m pro-football."

... Friedman, who claimed he’d make Willie Nelson his energy adviser, explained to media that Nelson was taking a power nap between games. But he’s got the Red-Headed Stranger’s support, he said. Nelson’s travel is 100 percent biodiesel, and it’s an example Friedman wants to see followed throughout the state.

Jesse Ventura issued a challenge to Texas. Currently, Minnesota has the title of mecca for Independents in politics.

"Come on Texas, take it away from us," he said.

Well, whaddya know?

The conservative Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance reluctantly reports:
MADISON—New Census Bureau figures show Wisconsin state-local taxes were sixth highest in the nation during fiscal 2004. According to the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance (WISTAX), which produced the new rankings, this continues a modest downward trend: The state was third in 1999, fourth in 2000, and fifth in 2002.
Modest downward trend? From third to sixth in six years? You know, we only pass a state budget every two years. Every time there's a new budget, Wisconsin drops a notch. There's more:
WISTAX also examined taxes on a per capita basis. State-local taxes here were $3,714 per person, or 7.7% above the U.S. average ($3,447), and 12th highest in the country. Wisconsin per capita personal income is below the national average, so per capita tax rankings are usually lower than those based on income.
If you look hard enough, you can find other measures that are more negative. But it hardly supports the hysteria about taxes that seems to drive conservative public policy in the state.

Farmer Gard insults his constituents

How dumb does John Gard think voters in his district are?

He's betting that they are dumb enough, or uninformed enough, to swallow the idea that he's just a down-home farm boy from Lena who's been workin' hard for them in Madison and now wants to go to Congress, as soon as he wipes the manure off his boots.

It's not cow manure, though. It's bullshit.

Gard, the Assembly speaker, and his family had been living since 1990 in Sun Prairie, a Dane County community a dozen miles from the State Capitol -- but taking the full per diem as though he had been commuting from Peshtigo, his "legal" residence. His kids have been attending school in Sun Prairie. Gard has commuted back to his district for events and to campaign.

In May, he and wife Cate Zeuske announced they were selling the Sun Prairie property. WisPolitics reported:
But Zeuske says the congressional race had nothing to do with the family move. Their daughter, Libby, will be a freshman at Marquette University this fall, while their son, John Vincent, will be a freshman at Notre Dame High School in Green Bay. The home, assessed at $170,500 in 2005, was listed at $194,000, Zeuske said.

"We have spent summers at our home in Peshtigo, and we knew that with this legislative session ending in May and Libby's high school graduation -- the timing was right to do this," said Zeuske, a former lawmaker and state treasurer who now works as administrative director for the Taxpayer's Network in Green Bay.
The Congressional race had nothing to do with the move? Wouldn't it be a little hard to explain to Green Bay voters why they should vote to send someone to Congress who lived in Sun Prairie?

What makes this discussion timely is a new television commercial Gard is running, portraying Gard as "just a Lena farm boy," as his daughter, Libby, says on-camera. Here's the script.

State Dem chair Joe Wineke calls Gard's ad a trick.

Gard and Zeuske insist they've been very open with the voters about the fact they've lived in Sun Prairie for 16 years.

But it seems more like they think a lot of voters just fell off the turnip truck and will want to vote for a farm boy. The question is, after all these years, whether Gard still knows which part of a cow gives the milk.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Just a suggestion

A reader notes this item in WisPolitics:
GOP sources say that RPW chairman Rick Graber is being considered for an ambassadorship by the Bush Administration.

It was not known to which country Graber would be assigned. Graber could not be reached for comment.
And says:

My suggestion to the President: Send him to TURKEY! He is, after all, "one of them"...

Thriving in tax hell

Maybe RedPrairie's John Jazwiec should spend a little less time talking about socialism and a little more time talking folks like these about how to thrive in Wisconsin. The Business Journal reports:

Bemis to expand, add 500 jobs
Bemis Company Inc. will receive $3 million in tax credits from the Wisconsin Department of Commerce to help the company grow its product line and workforce.

The Neenah-based manufacturer of packaging materials will use the tax credits to expand many of its Wisconsin plants, which could yield up to 500 new manufacturing jobs, Gov. Jim Doyle announced Friday.

The credits will allow the company to begin a $20 million expansion that would double its Perfecseal plant in New London by 2007.

Bemis (NYSE: BMS) is the eighth-largest public company in Wisconsin, employing 3,400 people in 11 manufacturing plants across the state.

In May, Bemis relocated its corporate headquarters from Minnesota to Neenah. Bemis specializes in the manufacturing of flexible packaging products and pressure sensitive labels. In 2005, the company reported a net sales of $3.5 billion.

How many more?

Western Wisconsin soldier killed in Afghanistan

LADYSMITH, Wis. (AP) -- A 28-year-old soldier who liked the outdoors and thought about working in law enforcement was killed in Afghanistan, friends and the military said Friday.

Staff Sgt. Patrick L. Lybert is the second soldier who went to Ladysmith High School to die in combat in the past two months.

Lybert was killed on Wednesday with another soldier in Gowardesh when they encountered enemy forces using small-arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades, according to the U.S. Department of Defense.

Lybert and Sgt. 1st Class Jared C. Monti, 30, of Raynham, Mass., were members of the 3rd Squadron, 71st Calvary, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry), out of Fort Drum, N.Y.

Last month another Wisconsin soldier, Army Sgt. Nathan J. Vacho, was killed by an explosive device in Iraq. He was a 1995 graduate of Ladysmith High School.

F. Jim Sensenbrenner wants you

to attend his town hall meeting:

Sunday, June 25, at 7 p.m.
Thiensville Village Hall
250 Elm Street
Phone: 262/242-3720

Be there or be square.

Mark Green, meet Elmer Gantry

It's almost too easy: Mark Green talking about ethics.

The hard part is where to begin.

With the fact that most of the $1.3-million Green laundered into his governor's race from his Congressional campaign committee came from special interests?

That, as the Dems point out, Green has taken big contributions from Big Oil and the pharmaceutical industry, then voted for bills to put billions of dollars in their pockets?

That Green didn't lift a finger when the Republicans who control the Assembly decided to kill ethics reform at the end of the legislative session? What kind of leadership did Green exhibit when 55 of 60 Assembly Republicans voted against SB-1?

Or should we raise Green's own ethical problems -- $30,000 in tainted money from ethically challenged Tom DeLay, which Green said he would dispose of, but which is still in his campaign bank account?

Or his connection to the caucus scandal, which was highlighted in Scott Jensen's trial?

Green's votes to weaken the House ethics rules to accommodate Tom DeLay and let him stay in leadership even after he was indicted?

Listening to Mark Green talk about ethics is like hearing Elmer Gantry preach:
Sin. Sin, Sin. You're all sinners. You're all doomed to perdition. You're all goin' to the painful, stinkin', scaldin', everlastin' tortures of a fiery hell, created by God for sinners, unless, unless, unless you repent.
That done, Gantry was off to enjoy his boozing and womanizing.

Much like Mark Green holding his news conference on ethics, then going back to raising campaign contributions and voting in the House.

Grumps, a big fan of the Elmer Gantry film, makes the connection.

$5,279 an hour for CEOs, $5.15 for workers

This from the Economic Policy Institute:

CEO-worker pay imbalance grows
In 2005, the average CEO in the United States earned 262 times the pay of the average worker... In 2005, a CEO earned more in one workday (there are 260 in a year) than an average worker earned in 52 weeks.

... by 2005 the average CEO was paid $10,982,000 a year, or 262 times that of an average worker ($41,861).
That's almost $11-million a year. It's $5,279 a hour for 40 hours a week.

And this week the US Senate refused to raise the minimum wage of $5.15, the level it has been at for 10 years. That's $10,712 for a full-time worker. The average CEO makes 1,025 times as much. Is it that they work 1,025 times as hard, or is is that what they do is 1,025 times more vaulable?

Republicans said a higher-minimum wage would be a job killer. That doesn't apply to Congressional raises. During the 10 years the minimum wage has been frozen, Congress has increased its own salaries with raises of more than $30,000 a year. One can only hope that this callous disregard for working people at the bottom of the ladder will cost some members of Congress their jobs.

A $5.15 minimum wage, on the other hand, is just a killer.

Getting our act together on the left

After a year or more of planning, and involvement by dozens of groups and more than 100 activists, a new statewide progressive network makes its debut today.

Its goal is nothing less than to make Wisconsin a progressive state again.

Yes, it's a long-term project, in a state where Republicans hold big majorities in both houses of the legislature, and where the most extreme elements of the GOP drive the agenda.

But Wisconsin has been a blue state in presidential elections since before the term blue state was invented. The last Republican presidential candidate to carry the state was Ronald Reagan.

But the new group, called One Wisconsin, isn't just about elections. It's about long-term change in the state's political climate, about building support for progressive programs and policies.
"This isn't an election-year, fly-by-night P.O. box operation. This is a long-term operation that's being built to last," John Kraus, executive director of One Wisconsin Now, told the Journal Sentinel.
Kraus, who most recently worked as an aide to US Sen. Russ Feingold, has a 10-year track record of successful political work in Wisconsin, including work on campaigns for Gov. Jim Doyle, presidential candidates John Edwards and Al Gore, Superintendent of Public Instruction Libby Burmaster, and Supreme Court Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson. He's also been executive director of the state Democratic Party.

Craig Gilbert's story today is the first public announcement of the project.

It coincides with the launch of an impressive new website by One Wisconsin Now, the communications hub of the project, and the piece of the project that will engage the public and attract the most attention.

One Wisconsin Now (OWN)says it is "an independent, non- partisan advocacy organization that unites research, policy, message, communications and networking activities of organizations that are dedicated to a progressive public policy agenda in Wisconsin."

OWN's website features a blog by Cory Liebmann, formerly of Eye on Wisconsin, who will be the group's "netroots" coordinator; The Forward Report, a daily news commentary; and more. It is still in development, and will offer inter-active features for progressives to get involved.

Robert Kraig, policy director of OWN,was the Wisconsin State Political Director for Service Employees International Union (SEIU) for the last six years, managing SEIU's state electoral, public policy, and communications programs.

Ambitious? That's hardly an adequate word to describe the undertaking. It's about changing the world, or at least Wisconsin's piece of the world.

OWN, while the most visible piece of the project, is not the whole show by any means. There is also an organizing component as well as a separate electoral piece. But the main focus is on long-term change, not short-term electoral gain.

Will it work? Check back with me in a year.

It is certainly worth the effort, and could bring some real change -- if Wisconsin's progressives can sustain the interest they've generated in the project in the past year. That, and funding, are the challenges.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Packing like a girl?

Lest you think that when you are a presidential candidate, or even a potential one, that there are any secrets you won't be asked to share:

From Chicago Sun Times blogger Debra Pickett:

Russ Feingold packs like a girl

I was sharing dinner with a few friends when one of them posed a half-serious question to the group: Who would you vote for in 2008?

Everyone else, citing a serious shortage of good options, refused to answer. But I pride myself on making the best of a situation, so I blurted out, "Russ Feingold."

This drew mixed reactions, from raised eyebrows to outright derisive laughter, but R. understood my reasoning immediately.

"Oh," he said, as if something had suddenly become very clear, "Because Paul Wellstone is dead."

The man understands me.

Since that evening, I've decided to commit myself fully to the Senate's most unabashed liberal. And I read, with giggling, giddy interest, GQ's Q&A with him.

It's interesting and semi-insightful and all that, but the best part, to me, is this exchange:

Did she [Hillary Clinton, with whom Feingold traveled to Iraq] pack more than everybody else?

[laughs] That would be a dangerous area for me to get into, because I may pack a little more than I should.

So you pack like a girl?

There would be those who would say that. And it would not be the easiest thing to deny.
Could we please have a liberal, metrosexual President? Please?!
One more question, from Xoff: GQ calls Hillary a girl?

Reality check

Who would have thought that the conservative Wisconsin Policy Research Institute would be the ones to burst Mark Green's bubble?

Based on some dubious polls, Green's been claiming to be tied or even ahead of Jim Doyle, but this right-wing sponsored poll has Doyle up by 12.

WPRI's spin is that Green is ahead among people who know both him and Doyle. What that fails to take into account is that most of the people who know who Green is (a) either live in his Green Bay-area district or (b) are Republicans. Green's favorable-unfavorable rating is only 26-19, the poll says. More than half of the people don't know him, which makes those polls showing him ahead of Doyle incredible.

WPRI did not release cross-tabs, but at least we know who paid for this one.

George W. Bush, who's coming here July 11 to raise money for Green, has a 37-59 positive-negative rating. Hope we see lots of photos of them hugging.

Here's the AP story and the WPRI report.

Green puts Paris Hilton ahead of workers

Dem Party has this one right.

Mark Green votes for the Paris Hilton tax break, but against raising the minimum wage:
Today, Green and Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives voted to give a huge tax break to the heirs of the wealthiest Americans, while refusing to raise the minimum wage for hardworking families. [Sources: HR5638, Vote 315, 6/22/06; HR5638, Vote 312, 6/22/06]

Despite Democratic attempts, Green and the GOP leadership refused today to allow an up-or-down vote on an increase in the federal minimum wage, which has not been raised since 1997 and is at its lowest level in 50 years, when adjusted for inflation.

Instead, Green and Republicans passed an estate tax bill that benefits the wealthiest and adds nearly $800 billion to the already burgeoning federal deficit over the next 10 years. While 6.6 million workers would benefit from an increase in the minimum wage – including 760,000 single mothers – less than 1 percent of all Americans would benefit from the GOP estate tax plan.

GOP reaches out to English-speaking Latinos

Republicans continue their effort to reach out to Latino voters.

WashPost reports:
GOP Rebellion Stops Voting Rights Act
Complaints Include Bilingual Ballots and Scope of Justice Dept. Role in South

House leaders abruptly canceled a vote to renew the 1965 Voting Rights Act yesterday after rank-and-file Republicans revolted over provisions that require bilingual ballots in many places and continued federal oversight of voting practices in Southern states.

The intensity of the complaints, raised in a closed meeting of GOP lawmakers, surprised Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) and his lieutenants, who thought the path was clear to renew the act's key provisions for 25 years. The act is widely considered a civil rights landmark that helped thousands of African Americans gain access to the ballot box. Its renewal seemed assured when House and Senate Republican and Democratic leaders embraced it in a May 2 kickoff on the Capitol steps...

But nearly 80 House Republicans signed a letter by Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) objecting to the Voting Rights Act's provisions that require state and local governments to print ballots in foreign languages -- or provide interpreters -- in precincts showing a need for such services. The requirement is a costly unfunded mandate for many counties and municipalities, the letter said, adding: "The multilingual ballot mandate encourages the linguistic division of our nation and contradicts the 'Melting Pot' ideal that has made us the most successful multi-ethnic nation on earth."
I'm happy to say that not one member of the Wisconsin delegation signed the letter, according to the list suplied by the loony ProEnglish Advocate.

Sensenbrenner defends bill, process

LA Times:
Part of the problem, according to some GOP congressional aides, was that the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.), was unavailable to answer questions and allay concerns. In addition, they said, he consulted more often with his Senate counterparts than with members of his own party during deliberations over the bill.

In a statement issued later Wednesday, Sensenbrenner defended both the bill and the process. "Some members, whom I believe are misinformed, have expressed concerns about voting on this legislation now," he said.

Noting that the committee has held 12 hearings and amassed more than 12,000 pages of testimony, Sensenbrenner said the bill was one Republicans and Democrats could be "proud of because it ensures that when discriminatory practices of the past resurface, they are quickly put to rest. I hope the House leadership will bring [the bill] to the floor in the near future."

Sensenbrenner thinks opponents "keep moving the goal post," said an aide who asked not to be identified. Some of the issues being raised — such as bilingual ballots — first came up in committee, where efforts to change them were defeated, the aide said.

Drug companies pose as senior citizens

Carrie Lynch is on a roll:
Earlier this week Rep. Mark Green was touting an award he won from what he called a leading senior advocacy group. The group is called the "60 Plus Association". It sounded a little fishy since I had never heard of this group so I thought I'd see what this group is about.

Turns out, Green's award is the equivalent of Kentucky Fried Chicken giving an award to the person that kills the chickens and expecting the chickens to cheer about it.

The group is funded by big pharmaceutical companies so Rep. Green is getting an award for protecting the bottom line of the pharmaceutical companies, not Wisconsin seniors. 60 Plus probably really stands for the number of corporate big wigs that will get fat bonus checks for their efforts to convince members of Congress like Green to vote against the interests of the seniors in their state time and time again.
Read the rest.

Quote, unquote

"We keep playing this game and we may well soon become the city of the 1950s again, with the most taverns in the country."

-- Kenosha Ald. Donald Ruef, on the Kenosha City Council's decision to create the city's 18th Class A liquor license, one for every 6,000 residents.
Well, taverns will still be pretty crowded with 6,000 people in each of them.

13 Senators stand up on Iraq withdrawal

Last August, when Sen. Russ Feingold proposed a target date for withdrawal of USA troops from Iraq, he stood almost all alone.

Although support from the American public has been growing, members of Congress have been reluctant -- I would use a much stronger word, like chickenshit -- to stand up and be counted.

Feingold's original target date, to be out by the end of 2006, is no longer practical, so he and Sen. John Kerry joined in sponsoring a new proposal to set mid-2007 as the target.

To no one's surprise, that was defeated in the Senate today. But it got 13 votes. Besides Feingold and Kerry, the honor roll of those casting "yes" votes:

Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-HI)
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), co-sponsor
Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL)
Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA)
Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-HI)
Sen. James Jeffords (I-VT)
Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA)
Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ)
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), co-sponsor
Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ)
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR)

The Senate also rejected a watered-down, mostly meaningless proposal, 60-39. The WashPost:
The Levin-Reed amendment said the U.S. Armed Forces "are stretched thin and that "sectarian violence has surpassed the insurgency and terrorism as the main security threat in Iraq." It said, "The current open-ended commitment of United States forces in Iraq is unsustainable and a deterrent to the Iraqis making the political compromises and personnel and resource commitments that are needed for the stability and security of Iraq."

The amendment called for "a fair sharing of political power and economic resources" among Iraqi factions, said the Iraqi government should disarm militias and urged Bush to convene an international conference to promote a "durable political settlement" and "reduce regional interference" in Iraq.

On the Levin-Reed proposal, Jeffords and one Republican -- Sen. Lincoln D. Chafee of Rhode Island -- sided with 37 Democrats in voting yes. Voting to reject it were 54 Republicans and six Democrats.
The dishonor roll of six Democratic senators who voted no:

Mark Dayton (Minn.)
Mary L. Landrieu (La.)
Joseph I. Lieberman (Conn.)
Bill Nelson (Fla.)
Ben Nelson (Neb.)
Mark Pryor (Ark.)

JJ's advice to the Dems

John Jazwiec, the RedPrairie corporate executive and California transplant who's been trash-talking Wisconsin, offered his ideas last year on how the Democratic Party could prosper. Basically, his advice is for Dems to be more conservative than the Repubs:
I was raised a Democrat, and my early inclinations were socially liberal, much like my political hero, Ronald Reagan. Even though it is fashionable to believe that Reagan's legacy is the ending of the Cold War, in reality it was the rebirth of the Republican Party by continuing to espouse his lifelong ideal of fiscal prudence and lower taxes.

The real "evil empire" for this great president was not so much the Soviet Union but more the entrenched establishment in Washington and the breakdown of our nation's founding concept of states' and individual rights.

Failure in present leadership is the mother of future political opportunity.

The Democratic Party now needs to become a true opposition party. Instead of using outdated political platforms, the party needs to be modeled along the core beliefs of the so-called Reagan Democrats of the 1980s.

This "new" opposition party will need to rise under the banner of trimming the spending and power of the federal government and enhancing the power of state government.

One only has to look at the block of red Southern states to understand the importance of this shift. For a century, this Southern block propelled Democratic victories. But Bush won these states over by espousing smaller government and family values while quietly creating the largest expansion in the federal government since World War II and cutting programs for education and urban development.
That might explain why, in a check of the data base of contributions to state candidates, JJ doesn't show up as ever giving a dollar to anyone in either party.

Listening to RedPrairie's rant:

Tell us what you really want

A week ago, few people in Wisconsin had ever heard of RedPrairie, a medium-sized software design company with 200 employees in Waukesha and 950 worldwide.

Now, thanks to a Journal Sentinel Sunday spread, RedPrairie is a cause celebre for conservatives, a symbol for those who like to portray Wisconsin as a state with high taxes, an unfriendly government, and a hostile business climate.

RedPrairie's CEO, a hardline anti-government, anti-tax zealot named John Jazwiec, says he is considering moving the company out of Wisconsin.

Now, we're supposed to Listen to RedPrairie and take Jazwiec's words to heart, the editorial writers say.

OK, let's listen to Jazwiec for a moment. Tell me what you hear. This from a Q-A with the newspaper:
"This is a welfare state and a welfare local area that we live in. And whether it be communism or whether it be France, it's (been) proven time and time again that supporting that kind of tax structure to support that kind of welfare environment squeezes out business investment."
Want to hear some more? WisPolitics reports:
Jazwiec was a featured panelist at the Northern Trust Economic Trends Breakfast presented by Small Business Times in January, when he criticized Wisconsin's liberal and progressive traditions.

"I travel around the world … I think that the government of Wisconsin in general and the companies of Wisconsin must resist the temptation to maintain the socialistic mentality," Jazwiec said. "This state is particularly socialistic. I always joke that there's a hammer and sickle on the flag as I enter the state … I think you need to lower taxes, and I think we need to lower government handouts," Jazwiec told the Economic Trends audience.
What are his complaints, besides living in a socialist/communist state? Back to the JS:
Despite RedPrairie's status as a technology leader, neither state nor local leaders have reached out to the company, Jazwiec said. Also, the state's tax and political climate and Milwaukee's high crime rate are obstacles to creating the kind of environment that supports high-growth companies such as RedPrairie, he said.
So here's this self-important guy sitting in Waukesha and neither the governor nor the mayor has "reached out" to him. (That's corporate talk for no one has kissed my ass.)
"We'd love to have him in Milwaukee," said Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. "And if he doesn't want to be in the city of Milwaukee, we'd love to have him stay in the region."
Barrett did not mention posterior-kissing; not on the first date, anyway.

Do you suppose Jazwiec has "reached out?" Can you imagine that if he asked to talk, discuss the problems he sees, and look for solutions that he would be ignored, if he had contacted state and local officials? I can't, unless he approaches them with such a closed mind they don't feel there's anything to talk about.

Should Gov. Jim Doyle reach out to discuss getting rid of "Wisconsin's liberal and progressive traditions," which JJ (can I call him JJ?) has complained about. It wouldn't be enough if Doyle offered him the keys to the treasury. He'd demand that Doyle take the portrait of Gaylord Nelson off the wall of the governor's office,too.

What is it that JJ really wants? It sounds to me very much like he's another one of those anti-government executives who is hoping to parlay his publicity and threat to leave the state as a way to extort some corporate welfare for his company.

Or maybe the guy's just got happy feet. In 2002, he told the Business Journal he was thinking of moving the business from Waukesha to downtown Milwaukee. "
"My high, high preference is to be in Milwaukee with this company," he said.

Jazwiec it would be easier to recruit employees to RedPrairie if it were based in downtown Milwaukee. However, he believes the city needs to step up its efforts to brand itself as a technology hot spot.

I don't think this town gets the credit for the well-run companies that it has here that are technology oriented," Jazwiec said.
What's changed? Not the tax picture, and not the crime rate, despite what he says. If anything, they've gotten better. What's changed is his attitude.

Milwaukee's business community, rather than defending the region, rolls over and plays dead for Jazwiec in the article:
"If the CEO of a fast-growing technology company feels this way, it is reality," said Tim Sheehy, president of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce. "If this region cannot deliver a crisp answer as to how it helps a company like RedPrairie be more innovative and productive, we lose."
If one corporate exec feels this way, it is reality? If one jerk says Wisconsin is a socialist state, we're a socialist state? If one executive speaks up who likes it here, I guess then that would be reality. But it only applies to detractors.

Julia Taylor of the Greater Milwaukee Committee can't think of anything good to say about the city, either:
That's also why you won't find many people fighting Jazwiec about his views, said Julia Taylor, president of the Greater Milwaukee Committee.

"The fight is going to be making change, and I think people are up to the fight," she said.
What would keep him here, most likely, are some financial incentives for his company. In layman's terms, he wants to be bought off with taxpayer money to keep his business here.

When someone sounds off about this being a welfare state, or a communist society, it sounds to me like that person has already made a decision. The company, owned by a California firm, probably has already decided to move once its "relocation study" is completed -- unless, of course, the governor shows up on bended knee to offer JJ that key to the state treasury. Then they could dicker over Gaylord's portrait.

The RedPrairie situation is inevitably being compared to what happened with Kimberly Clark in 1986.

Kimberly Clark, the giant paper company, decided to move its headquarters from the Fox Valley and out of Wisconsin during the 1986 governor's race. The CEO, Darwin Smith, blamed the state's bad business climate, which translated into an attack on the administration of Gov. Tony Earl. It played a big role in Earl's defeat by Tommy Thompson.

So, the pundits speculate, is this Doyle's Kimberly Clark?

I would say no. For one thing, Kimberly Clark was a household word in Wisconsin, a long-time, prominent major employer. RedPrairie is -- well, most of us didn't know it was anything until a few days ago, and I'm not so sure people across Wisconsin are going to listen to our friend JJ when they go to the ballot box.

Then there's this, from an Xoff reader:
If RedPrairie is Governor Doyle's Kimberly-Clark, what happens when Gov. Green signs the 2007 version of Assembly Bill 499 and drives all of the stem cell scientists out of Wisconsin and west to California? The impact would make it appear like Tony Earl is Darwin Smith's best friend.
UPDATE: Folkbum Jay Bullock takes on neocon columnist Paddy Mac on the issue. Link.

UPDATE 2: Brew City Brawler asks: Is JJ a comsymp?

UPDATE 3: JJ's advice to the Dems: Be more conservative than the Republicans.