Sunday, April 30, 2006
Maybe those phone calls aren't necessary
In my last post I suggested a reporter might want to start calling Republican Assembly offices to see how they voted in closed caucus on whether or not to bring SB1, an ethics reform bill, to the floor for a vote by the full Assembly. Turns out those calls might not be necessary.
Tom Sheehan of the Wisconsin State Journal is reporting today that word has leaked out that only two Republicans voted to bring the measure to the floor. If this is true, Rep. Sheryl Albers (R-Reedsburg) and Rep. Terri McCormick (R-Appleton) are the only ones then that can stand in front of their voters and tell them they want ethics reform without crossing their fingers behind their backs.
Saturday, April 29, 2006
Process important to GOP if they don't want to get something done
Two issues that the GOP controlled state legislature dealt with in the last week illustrate that the legislative process is only important to them when they want to hide behind it. According to some in the GOP, ethics reformed didn't pass this session because the issue wasn't properly hashed out in hearings and debate. Amending the constitution, well, we don't need to have a full debate and legislative process for that.
When the GOP Assembly caucus voted not to send SB 1, an ethics reform bill, to the floor this session Rep. Mark Gundrum (R-New Berlin) said this in a Wisconsin State Journal article:
"I truly believe that if this is going to be done, there needs to be a better process for putting it together. Like a commission or task force..."How about a legislative committee holding hearings on the bill and getting input? Oh wait, that did happen.
However, when the Assembly Republicans wanted to pass something that looks like they are limiting government spending, process and debate was thrown out the window. The measure that ultimately passed the Assembly was not hashed out in public. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel describes what happened:
The measure did not go to committee for discussion. Not a single public hearing was held. But so desperate was Gard, a Republican from Peshtigo, to approve something, he ignored the public's interest and sent through a measure without appreciable public input.In fact, it was passed in the middle of the night when few were watching at all.
The entire process for this amendment has been cloaked in secrecy. When Senator Glenn Grothman was setting up his version of an amendment to limit spending he included this line in the email invitation:
We do not plan on inviting the media, or members of the general public.
Every meeting that legislators have does not need to be a public hearing. But this meeting was one of numerous attempts to shield the legislators from having to listen to public comments about what they were doing and keep the press from asking too many questions. The attitude expressed by Grothman and others that it was ok to exclude the press and public from details about the constitutional amendment until the very end fed into the overall thinking that legislators could ultimately pass something that hasn't had one single public hearing.
Who has time for the open legislative process when you have campaign rhetoric to go home and write?
Friday, April 28, 2006
Border crossings the other way
I'm guessing this story titled Mexico Set to Legalize Drugs will prompt some border crossings from the U.S. to Mexico.
You just can't make this stuff up
Just when you think the stories out of DC can't worse...they do. Now they are talking about actual prostitutes for Members of Congress. From the American Progress Action Fund:
ETHICS -- SIX CONGRESSMEN MAY BE IMPLICATED IN CUNNINGHAM PROSTITUTION SCANDAL: Federal investigators are now investigating whether two federal contractors -- Brent Wilkes and Mitchell Wade -- provided former Rep. Randy "Duke Cunningham (R-CA) "with prostitutes and free use of a limousine and hotel suites." Wilkes, identified as a co-conspirator in the Cunningham case, rented several hospitality suites at the Watergate Hotel and the Westin Grand Hotel. Wade, who has pleaded guilty to bribing Cunningham, allegedly told federal prosecutors that a "limousine would pick up Cunningham and a prostitute and take them" to the hospitality suite. The San Diego Union-Tribune's Dean Calbreath suggested that "as many as a half a dozen other congressmen may have been involved in this" prostitution scandal. Ken Silverstein at Harper's writes that "those under intense scrutiny by the FBI are current and former lawmakers on Defense and Intelligence committees -- including one person who now holds a powerful intelligence post." Wilkes also hosted parties and poker games, where "CIA officials as well as members of the House Appropriations and Intelligence committees" were frequent guests. Cunningham attended the parties, as did Kyle Dustin "Dusty" Foggo, executive director at the CIA, the agency's third-highest position.
Gard trying to prove he can fit in with Republican Congress...
...and his caucus helped him proved it.
The Republican Congressional leaders in DC propably liked what they saw in Speaker John Gard yesterday. He sent a message to the the Republican Congress he wants to join that he is willing to do his part to kill ethics reform too by helping his caucus end any hope of ethics reform at the state level this year. The Republicans voted in closed caucus not to bring SB 1 to the floor. The bill would have merged the state Ethics and Elections boards and created a new board with more power to go after legislators.
But let's be clear, Gard didn't kill reform all by himself. If a majority of his caucus wanted reform, it would be hard to stop. Many Republican members will now try to claim that they wanted to see reform happen but those darn leaders just didn't let it happen. They will probably follow that up with a nauseating statement declaring that voters should send them back to the legislature so they can work to get it done.
The press should not let them get away with this and might want to start asking Republicans in the Assembly how they voted in caucus on bringing SB 1 to the floor. Add them up and see if there is a majority.
Is SB 1 the best solution for reform? I don't know. But Republicans shouldn't get away with saying they are for reform and then pointing at their leadership as the one that didn't let it happen. If they can't even debate the issue in the open, voters shouldn't allow the cover of closed caucus to let them claim any sort of high ground on the issue.
Nischke's version of sticking it to 'em
Rep. Ann Nischke (R-Waukesha) was one of the lonely 32 members of the Assembly that voted for the constitutional amendment put forth by Rep. Frank Lasee (R-Bellevue) that would have limited state and local governments. Many Republican and Democrat members of the Assembly voted against it because of how damaging it would be to local governments. But hey, what does she care? She's not the one that would have to run Waukesha under the limits if they had passed.
Thursday, April 27, 2006
Now I know TPA is in trouble
My hometown newspaper, The Burlington Standard Press, has a story about how worried the local leaders are about the Taxpayer Protection Amendment (TPA) flavor of the day and what it may do to local budgets and growth. Burlington is not exactly a hotbed of progressive politics. In fact, I'm one of only a handful of Democrats to probably ever come out of that city. If TPA can't make it there, it can't make it anywhere in this state.
The city is already facing a deficit in the near future and the mayor is concerned about how the new legislation will handle TIF districts since they currently have a couple of them in Burlington. The mayor could call his state representatives with questions, but I'm sure they don't know how the new legislation will deal with TIFs either.
You can find the story here.
Waiting in the wings
Governor Doyle is doing what he can to keep Wisconsin a leader in stem-cell research. The extremists of the Republican Party attack him at every turn on this issue and like to boast about it. In Life News right now:
Gov. Jim Doyle is coming under fire from pro-life advocates for signing an executive order directing the Wisconsin Department of commerce to spend $5 million in taxpayer funds on attracting stem cell research companies to the state.Other states love to see this. They are just waiting to pounce if our state fails to keep pace with the race to be the industry leader in stem-cells. You can find a story here about Florida putting up $15 million toward stem-cell research. And you can find a story here about our neighbor directly to the south looking to spend $15 million next year and $100 million over the next decade.
Lucky for Wisconsin we have a nice head start over these states and a governor committed to building our economy. However, without continued support, there are many other states waiting in the wings that would love to pull all of our scientists and jobs to their states.
Ethics reform congressional style
The bill congressional leaders are pushing in DC for ethics reform just keeps getting better and better. First it was reported that the bill bans trips paid for by private interests (lobbyist and such) only until right after the election. Now, the Members of Congress would have us believe that the staff that is making Congresspeople do unethical things. From the American Progress Action Fund:
ETHICS COURSES FOR MEMBERS: With the scandals reaching far into the halls of Congress, last December Hastert suggested new ethics training for lawmakers. "There is open concern that we not become complacent with regard to the rules that safeguard this place," said Rep. Jo Bonner (R-AL). Evidently that concern was short-lived. Tomorrow's lobbying reform bill calls for mandatory ethics trainings for all congressional staff, but not for members.
Wonder when a journalist here might ask Rep. Green if he is going to support this sham plan.
Do as I say, not as I do
The press release from Republican Attorney General candidate Paul Bucher yesterday about the other Republican Attorney General candidate, J.B. Van Hollen, took hypocrisy to a whole new level. Van Hollen said yesterday that there are terrorists training in Wisconsin but refused to give more details. That prompted Bucher to put this line in a press release:
Scaring the people of Wisconsin in an attempt to gain political points is irresponsible and wrong.
Really? You mean like putting pictures of scary looking criminals on the internet and claiming one of your opponents would set them free? You may remember that not too long ago, Bucher put up a Willie Horton like website trying to scare people into voting for him. Or at least vote against the Democratic opponent he is scared to run against.
Bucher should not be surprised by Van Hollen's stunt since Bucher himself set this tone of scaring the voters to gain votes. My guess is he is not so much outraged as he is angry that he didn't come up with this idea himself.
Can't wait to see the stunts these two are going to pull in August and September.
Wednesday, April 26, 2006
The Bush Administration has hired someone with the perfect last name as the mouthpiece for President Bush. The definition of "snow job" is: a long and elaborate misrepresentation. Expect many from the new White House Press Secretary Tony Snow.
Give 'em time
I figure this is what the Wisconsin Constitution would look like if we gave the current legislators a few more cracks at it.
In a few hours, Rep. Frank Lasee (R-Bellevue) will introduce yet another version of TABOR. And while he is promising a version that is less complicated than what Sen. Glenn Grothman and Rep. Jeff Wood introduced, the version Lasee introduced in the 1999 session was about eight pages long.
This really has become a joke at this point. There is almost no way now the legislature can come out of this looking good or doing any good either. Is it wise to pass a constitutional amendment that is cobbled together at the last minute? Anyone up for election later this year should be suspect of any lengthy proposal that they can't explain fully to their voters.
If the legislators keep this up, their constituents might demand to be allowed to vote on pay raises for legislators again. Every time that went to the ballot it was shot down. Then the legislators got wise and decided they should set their own pay instead of letting the public decide if they were worthy of a raise. I'm guessing the current batch of legislators would be turned down for a raise if they asked.
At the rate they are going, many might be turned down on their request to be hired again in the fall.
Tuesday, April 25, 2006
One last time
Will Rep. Mark Green help his leaders in Congress look the other way one more time on ethics reform and support a bill that has the Washington Post saying:
If the Senate-passed measure was a disappointment, the House version is simply a jokeThe bill wouldn't ban privately paid for trips. Just suspend them until after the election. Seriously. You can find the editorial here.
The Colorado playbook
The upcoming vote on the latest Republican version of TABOR here in Wisconsin makes an article that appeared in Governing worth a read by members of both parties. It is an in-depth look at what happened when Colorado had to live under TABOR and the stunning capture of the state legislature by the Democrats for the first time in thirty years.
The campaign that was waged to suspend TABOR was run by a coalition that the state has never seen before.
It was waged by an improbable coalition that included not only teachers and labor unions but chambers of commerce, technology entrepreneurs, real estate developers and, perhaps most important, Republican Governor Bill Owens, who was an original sponsor of TABOR in the early 1990s and had long touted it as his proudest achievement.The affects of TABOR combined with a Republican legislature that had stopped working on the issues that voters really care about also created a lot of problems for the Republican Party in Colorado among part of their base. What people were saying about the legislature sounds an awful lot like what folks have been saying about the legislature here in Wisconsin.
Wisconsin Republicans have tried to put up numerous road blocks to the new economy here. In fact, Senator Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) had a recent editorial complaining a hallway between the two areas of the proposed Discovery Center for the UW is just not enough for folks like him to be assured that scientists will not be using state tax dollars for research on new stem-cells lines. The UW has been working under the rules set by the Bush Administration on this for a while now so there is no reason to think the new building will need more regulation just to please the "God" crowd of the Republican Party.
By 2004, leaders at the Chamber of Commerce including some long active in the state Republican Party were grumbling audibly about a legislature that spent too much of its time talking about "God, gays and guns."
One particular segment of the business community was taking conspicuous offense: the high-tech industry. Generally liberal on social issues and closely aligned with the University of Colorado, wealthy IT interests had begun pulling away from the conservative Republicans early in the decade. By 2004, they financed a Democratic legislative takeover.
Will the suburbs of Milwaukee, a gold mine of votes for Wisconsin Republicans, continue to accept moves like this that steer the direction of their party away from investing in the future of state? The history of the Colorado election says they may not:
There are lessons for both parties of our state in this article and I'm sure many Republicans here would agree with one Colorado Republican:
Equally important, though, was the fact that the issues stressed most heavily by the TABOR reform coalition health, education and transportation gridlock topped the list of suburban concerns.
On Election Day, the returns from the suburbs were striking: The reform initiative carried both Jefferson and Arapahoe counties, whose general affluence and combined population of more than a million have made them the core of Republican strength in statewide elections.
The interesting question is whether a little laminar politics might produce similar results for struggling Democrats elsewhere in the country. "I would hope that in other states the Democrats don't get up to speed as quickly," admits Joe Stengel, the Republican leader in the Colorado House. "I hope they don't figure out how well it worked here."It would be better for our economy if they do.
Monday, April 24, 2006
Your money well spent?
From Harper's Index:
Total projected cost of the war per U.S. household, based on a January estimate: $19,600
The silly season starts
The number of Republicans putting out press releases calling on their own leadership to schedule bills on issues that are important to their constituents is getting ridiculous. Every day it seems like there is a new one out calling for action on something. It must be time to go home and run for re-election.
It's hard to decide which is worse - Republicans waiting until the last week of session to pretend they want to bring up important issues, Republicans pretending their own leaders are people they never talk to and have to send out press releases in the hopes the leaders will talk to them, or the press actually falling for this like the Wisconsin State Journal did with Rep. Steve Freese's 'call for action' on campaign finance reform and writing a positive story for Freese.
And before you think Rep. Steve Freese is the only Republican in a leadership position acting like he is not part of the leadership team that failed to bring up legislation on a slew of issues important to their constituents, you should read this:
Senator Dave Zien (R-Eau Claire) in a letter today called on Republican Leadership and members of his own party to support gas- price reduction efforts. He requested a vote on his bill that reduces the minimum markup on gasoline along with a bill that requires ethanol in gasoline.So did Senator Zien send a copy of the letter to himself? After all, if you go the Senate home webpage you will see him listed as one of the leaders. And if you look in the Blue Book, you see a big full-color photo of Senator Zien listed on the Senate officers page.
The same goes for Rep. Steve freese at the Assembly home webpage and the Blue Book page for Assembly officers. He is right next to a giant photo of Speaker Gard and yet Freese would have us believe that he has to send press release to communicate with Gard.
These press releases are nothing more than attempts at political cover for the upcoming election. If Senator Zien had spent even a fraction of the time on the issues he now claims to want action on as he did on concealed carry, he could have had real results to take home to his constituents instead of press releases of campaign posturing.
The looming meltdown
Hold onto your hats. There may be yet another version of TABOR/TPA coming out this week. The vote on a constitutional amendment designed to limit government spending is only a few days away but some are suggesting the Assembly could produce more versions.
In a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article today, Rep. Mark Gottlieb discusses the two competing proposals to amend the constitution and mentions this:
"Where will we be at the end of the day?" Gottlieb said. "Maybe somewhat of a melding of the two."All of these attempts to do something as serious as amending the constitution in the manner of a college student pulling an all-nighter to get a term paper done because it was put off until the last minute may have consequences for those calling the plays in the Capitol.
As the Journal Sentinel points out, the legislature finds itself in exactly the same place it was two years ago. The end result of that was the Senate Majority Leader losing her job. When you combine the lack of leadership with this:
You may have the ingredients necessary for some dramatic changes.
It may be a record: 109 special-interest groups have told the state Ethics Board they are lobbying on a proposal that would amend the Wisconsin Constitution to put limits on state and local government spending.
And 81 of them - including local governments, unions, health care providers, the Wisconsin Catholic Conference and AARP -are trying to kill what Republican legislators call the Taxpayer Protection Amendment.
Only five groups are registered in favor of the amendment..."
Sunday, April 23, 2006
A conservative defense of fiscal irresponsibility
Owen over at the Boots and Saber blog has a post that will give you some idea of the compromises and mental gymnastics that are going to be necessary for conservatives to support Rep. Mark Green for governor. The post is really quite something. The overall point of the post seems to be that while Rep. Green didn't display any sort of fiscal responsibility when he was in the Wisconsin State Legislature or Congress, this time he has pinky swore to do it if he is elected governor.
Owen starts out by laying out the problem conservatives probably have with Rep. Green.
Mark Green served in both a state legislature and a federal legislature that took spending to new levels of obscenity.That' a pretty strong statement. However, Owen then launches into a long defense of Rep. Green's poor spending habits that can be summed up by saying - everyone else was doing it so how could Mark Green not go along with it if he wanted to get other conservative stuff done? Keep in mind, the everyone else we are talking about here is Mark Green's own party, but I guess Rep. Green had to go along with the out of control spending so the Republicans wouldn't make him vote for abortion rights.
Then Owen argues that it's the nature of the legislature that made Rep. Green spend wildly during his tenure in both bodies because:
As a legislator, it is necessary to make deals in order to get things done. So, if Green expects support for his bills, he will have to play ball on bills that he might not otherwise support.
Now I know that Republicans have stood by while President Bush tries to make the federal executive branch all powerful and Congress completely useless, but does Owen really think the governor does not have to work with the legislature in order to get things done?
The post then descends into total falsehoods to try to defend Rep. Green's fiscal irresponsibility.
He is not one of those politicians who promises one thing on the stump and governs differently.Really? So when he said this in 2000:
"We’ve achieved monumental successes in reducing the debt that has plagued America for far too long," Green said. "It’s been tough, but we’ve fought the good fight and we’ve finally brought spending under control and reintroduced fiscal responsibility to Washington. I’m proud to say today that the work we’ve done will enable us to pass on a debt-free nation to the next generation of Americans."but turned around right after that and voted to pile up the biggest debt our nation has ever seen, that was not telling his constituents one thing and governing differently? Rep. Green has never campaign on lower spending and fiscal responsibility?
One of the funniest lines of his post has to be this:
The key is not to look at Mark Green’s record as compared to what we would like it to be.Translation: Check your firmly held principles at the door when you go to vote.
Saturday, April 22, 2006
Religion and the UW-Madison
Once again, I have to say that I am very impressed with the UW-Madison campus newspapers. This time it is a story in The Daily Cardinal about Rep. Mark Green sending a letter to Chancellor John Wiley asking him to stop 'discriminating' against a Catholic group on campus that is seeking student fees for part of its funding. The story in The Daily Cardinal gives a much more complete view of the controversy than the one in the Wisconsin State Journal.
Rep. Mark Green seems to think that a Supreme Court case that stated segregated student fees must be awarded in a viewpoint-neutral manner means that the UW-Madison should give all the funding the Roman Catholic Foundation requested from the UW-Madison. Never mind that some of the things the group requested funding for was printing Lenten booklets and running an evangelical ministry. In other words, promoting religion. And never mind that the words "religion" and "viewpoint" are hardly synonymous.
The Daily Cardinal brings up a couple of points that the Wisconsin State Journal missed. One is that the Green himself is a Catholic. This makes you wonder if Green would be working this hard to fight for a group that wanted to hand out pamphlets recruiting students to Islam, Buddhism or Kabala. Somehow, I think not.
The other more important point The Daily Cardinal brings up goes to the fact that there is another problem with the request from the Roman Catholic Foundation that has nothing to do with what the group promotes. The university does not give out funding for maintenance, improvements or overhead for buildings not owned, leased or otherwise controlled by the university. The Roman Catholic Foundation's funding request asked for $35,462 for electricity, gas and water.
Green doesn't seem to care that the funding request for utilities would have been denied for any group. All he wanted was a press story to show the religious right during his bid for governor.
Parental consent not good enough for religious right
Just how far will the religious extremists of the Republican Party go when it comes to trying to impose their wishes onto other people's doctor appointments? Pretty far. Read on:
If this were the other way around and Planned Parenthood was setting up fake clinics, the religious right would be burning down the buildings. Since it's the other way around, these groups are receiving tax dollars to do their 'work.'
An Indiana mother recently accompanied her daughter and her daughter's boyfriend to one of Indiana's Planned Parenthood clinics, but they unwittingly walked into a "crisis pregnancy center" run by an anti-abortion group.
The group took down the girl's confidential personal information and told her to come back for her appointment, which they said would be in their "other office" (the real Planned Parenthood office nearby).
When she arrived for her appointment, not only did the Planned Parenthood staff have no record of her, but the police were there — the "crisis pregnancy center" had called them, claiming that a minor was being forced to have an abortion against her will.
The "crisis pregnancy center" staff then proceeded to wage a campaign of intimidation and harassment over the following days, showing up at the girl's home and calling her father's workplace. They even went to her school and urged classmates to pressure her not to have an abortion.
These attempts by anti-abortion groups to pretend they are Planned Parenthood is nothing short of outrageous, but likely a future state tax dollar supported item if Rep. Mark Green gets elected here.
Friday, April 21, 2006
Putting their money where their mouths are
The people in this country that are unhappy with the way things are going are willing to open up their wallets to see change happen. Senator Feingold's call for censuring the president didn't scare them off, it inspired them to write checks. From the Capital Times:
Feingold's leadership PAC, the Progressive Patriots Fund, pulled in $282,000 last month, according to a report filed with the Federal Election Commission Thursday. That compares with $105,000 the PAC raised in February.The rest of the story is here.
Depends on what your definition of leak is
The CIA has fired an officer for leaking information to the press about U.S. secret prisons in Eastern Europe. The reporter recently won a Pulitzer Prize for the stories.
So to recap, a CIA officer that leaks information is shown the door. President Bush authorizes leaks of information about a CIA officer and shows others in his administration the door for getting caught doing it for him.
You can find the story about the firing here.
Easy Earth Day activity
For anyone looking to do something for easy for Earth Day, I highly recommend buying a farm share in a Community Support Agriculture farm. It's good for you, good for the environment, and good for the local economy. It also helps keep small family farms in your area.
I have had a share in a CSA farm for the last three years and will sign up again this year. The produce is fantastic. You will not believe the difference between the CSA produce that is usually picked the day you get it and the stuff you get at the grocery store.
If you want to find a CSA in your area, go to this website and enter your zip code.
Mocking Gaylord Nelson
Just in time to celebrate Earth Day, Rep. Scott Gunderson (R-Waterford) and the rest of the Republicans on the Assembly Natural Resources Committee tanked a bill to help stem the flow of out of state garbage into Wisconsin. I don't think that's what Senator Gaylord Nelson had in mind when he challenged people to do things to celebrate Earth Day.
Perhaps Gunderson and his colleagues thought the best way to celebrate Earth Day was to help other states keep their chunk of the earth clean by dumping their garbage here so they don't have to deal with the smell, the runoff and possible groundwater contamination. Yes, why do what we can to keep our state beautiful to attract the tourists from Minnesota, Iowa, Michigan and Illinois when we can just take their garbage.
Those surrounding states are taking advantage of our ridiculously low tipping fees at landfills big time. They sent 2.2 million tons of garbage here in 2004 and that figure is 46 percent higher than what they sent here in 2003.
Gunderson hails from an area that is probably very aware of the increased amount of garbage coming into our state. Waterford is not far from the Illinois border so his constituents have probably seen the increased garbage truck traffic. Senator Shelia Harsdorf (R-River Falls), another legislator from a border area, has been listening to her constituents complain about the amount of garbage coming to their area from the Twin Cities and is on the right side of this issue. Why is Gunderson turning a deaf ear to the public support for this bill?
Thursday, April 20, 2006
Fun with constituent mail
Ok, this is not in Wisconsin but I'm betting every single person that has written constituent letters for some politician is laughing about this story. It's about a letter from a Congresswoman to a constituent that ends with "I think you're an a**hole."
No end in sight
This must be part of Rep. Mark Green's definition of fiscally responsible.
From the American Progress Action Fund:
Annual war spending in Iraq is set to double since the U.S. invasion, having risen from $48 billion in 2003 to $59 billion in 2004 to $81 billion in 2005 to an anticipated $94 billion in 2006. The administration is now spending nearly $10 billion a month in Iraq and Afghanistan, up from $8.2 billion a year ago.
In the basement
Even Fox news can't spin President Bush's plummeting poll numbers. They give a half-hearted try by saying people like Secretary Rice, but that's about it.
Can and will Rep. Mark Green move to the center on women's reproductive rights?
Rep. Mark Green has staked out some pretty extreme territory when it comes to women's reproductive health and abortion rights. His position is so extreme it is likely to hurt him in his bid to move into the governor's mansion. Now that he doesn't have a primary challenge, will he try to move to the center on this issue?
In primary elections a politician often needs the extreme branch of their party to come out in full force in order to win. That means they pander to the wishes of the party extremists up until the primary and then usually move back toward the middle after the primary to capture the independent voters that aren't as likely to agree with the party extremists on either side of the political spectrum.
There are some long-term statistics staring Rep. Mark Green in the face on the abortion issue. A recent article in USA Today highlighted some of them:
The USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll in January found that Americans backed it [Roe v Wade] by 66%-25%. In the survey, 53% said they considered themselves "pro-choice" and 42% said they were "pro-life," a breakdown that has stayed about the same for a decade.There is another set of statistics within those that should scare Rep. Mark Green too.
There wasn't much difference on that issue by gender or age, but there was by political party. A ban that would permit abortions only to save the life of the mother was supported by 54% of Republicans but opposed by 66% of Democrats and 70% of independents.
Those coveted independent voters that Rep. Mark Green will absolutely need to win the election are even more opposed to extreme positions on abortion than the Democrats.
It will be difficult for Rep. Mark Green to move to the center on this issue. Earlier this month a Wisconsin State Journal article had Rep. Mark Green placing himself firmly in support of the exact type of law those 70% of independent voters oppose. He said he wants to revive Wisconsin's criminal abortion statute. The law is so extreme it bans all abortions except those to save the life of the mother and give doctors who perform abortions prison time.
Rep. Mark Green has a long voting history on the topic as well. It may have worked for his somewhat conservative assembly and congressional districts, but it does not fit the entire electorate of the state that he is now seeking to govern.
The moderate Republicans in the suburbs of Milwaukee alone will be hard to convince that they should vote for a governor that wants to control women's reproductive rights at every level. Rep. Mark Green wants to dictate how women get access to reproductive health care from criminalizing abortions again to making it ok for pharmacists to not fill a legal prescription for birth control. That's hard to sell to moderate Republicans and independent voters.
We'll see very soon if he tries to sell this package or something different this fall.
For the sake of consistency
I've redrafted a press release Sen. Stepp put out in early April accusing Democrats of having no ideas because they are calling for problems to be address by the next legislature to fit the current Repubulican retreat on the Taxpayer Protection Amendment. One of the many new drafts being debated simply calls for future legislatures to attack this problem.
I had to change surpringly few words (they are in italics) to make it fit the current melt down on TABOR and it's offspring. I'm sure Sen. Stepp will put out this version right away.
Sen. Stepp: Legislative Republicans Surrender in the War of Ideas 4/20/2006 CONTACT: Cathy Stepp(608) 266-1832
[Madison]… State Senator Cathy Stepp (R-Racine) announced today that a recent proposal introduced by legislative Republicans signals the majority party’s full and unconditional surrender in the war of ideas. The proposal, a simply worded constitutional amendment that would tie future state and local spending to the growth in personal income and leave it up to future Legislatures and governors to implement that change, does not contain any actual proposals to fix the fiscal policy, it only calls for unspecified changes.
“TABOR, TPA, and the new yet to be named proposal make a trifecta of Republican non-solutions on fiscal policy and property taxes,” said Stepp. “Everyone agrees we must have serious discussions regarding fiscal policy in Wisconsin. Legislative Republicans are more interested in rhetoric, grandstanding and fighting their governor instead of offering real ideas.”
Republicans gave hints they were out of ideas earlier this session when they introduced yet another version of TABOR that cannot pass the legislature. They claim it will lower taxes and reduce spending. When asked which items Republicans want to cut from the state budget, they change the subject.
The so-called TABOR and all the new versions released call for tomorrow’s legislature to solve today’s problems. Their proposal orders the 2007-2008 legislature to come up with a magical plan assuring the budget will be balanced and all the cuts in spending will be made. True to form, the Republicans do not offer any actual ideas on how to achieve these goals either.
“These non-plans put forth by the Republicans are election gimmicks pure and simple,” said Stepp. “This summer, Republicans statewide will claim they had grand plans to fix the spending and taxes formula and lower property taxes but the citizens got in their way. The people of Wisconsin should know that their plans aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on.”
Wednesday, April 19, 2006
Next time Republicans promise you tax relief
You better make sure you are a millionaire first.
The LA Times has a good article on what happens when you flatten out the federal tax code. Many Republicans like to promote a "flat tax" as better for everyone. Turns out, it's better for millionaires and that's about it. The LA Times reports:
But as millions of Americans face the deadline for filing their federal tax returns, they are operating in something very close to the world Forbes and other flat-tax visionaries proposed. Without any fanfare or philosophical debate, millionaires and middle-class Americans now pay taxes at almost the same rates.And has this has been a big bonus for the middle-class right?
Has leveling out federal income tax rates produced a cornucopia of financial benefits? The answer is probably yes — if you're a millionaire. And probably no — if you're almost anyone else. Flattened, and thus lower, tax rates have contributed to huge increases in the wealth of the wealthy, but so far most people haven't seen significant economic improvement.
But surely the fiscal policies of the Republicans have produced big tax cuts and higher incomes for most people in this country so we are all moving toward those top income brackets right?
Though most pay at least somewhat less in taxes than they did a few years ago, the Federal Reserve Board, in its latest three-year examination of family finances, found that average family income fell by 2% between 2001 and 2004 after adjusting for inflation. In the previous three-year period, average family income grew by 17%.
Thanks to more credit card debt and borrowing against their homes, the 25% of Americans at the bottom of the wealth scale had negative net worth in 2004. On average, these families owed $1,400 more than their possessions were worth.
How scary is that? If the bottom 25% of the wealth scale for America sold every single thing they own, they wouldn't have enough to pay for their debts.
In summary, when Rep. Mark Green tells you he voted for large tax cuts for you when he was in Congress, check your last income tax return and if your income didn't add up to at least a million, tell him he is at the wrong house asking for a vote.
You can find the whole article here.
From Talking Points Memo:
Okay, this is pretty funny. Fox is reporting that Fox's own Tony Snow may be Scott McClellan's replacement as White House press secretary. Isn't that more like an interdepartmental transfer than a job change? -- Josh Marshall
The baggage Rep. Green brings to the Republican ticket this fall
Go on take the money and run
Yesterday the governor had to veto yet another Republican attack on the SAGE program to reduce class sizes. The legislature actually passed a bill that would let schools take funding to reduce class sizes and then not reduce class sizes.
I've lost count of the number of times the Republicans have attacked this successful education program. There is a lot of evidence that reducing class sizes in the lower grades the way the SAGE program does produces real results and they stay with kids throughout their school career. The program also helps Wisconsin comply with the No Child Left Behind Act from the federal government because it helps close the achievement gap.
Some of the research that you can find at the websites of those responsible for the ongoing evaluation of the Wisconsin SAGE program shows that states that have been reducing class sizes longer than our state has have seen dramatic results. In Tennessee they found:
--Long-term exposure to small classes (in the early grades) had generated substantially higher levels of achievement; and
--The extra gains associated with long-term exposure to small classes in the early grades) were greater the longer students were exposed to those classes.
-- The extra gains found for long-term attendance in small classes in the early grades) continued to appear when students were returned to standard classes in the upper grades;
In Indiana they found:
We begin with a trial program in Indiana that is known today as "Project Prime Time." This effort began in 1981 when the Indiana legislature allocated $300,000 for a two-year study of the effects of reducing class size in the early grades within a sample of 24 public schools. But after two semesters the results of this initial study were so impressive that additional funds were allocated to reduce class sizes in all state schools beginning with first-grade classes in the 1984-85 school year, and the program was gradually extended so as to involve grades K-3 by 1987-88.And the Tennessee study also points to why SAGE will help us close the achievement gap and comply with No Child Left Behind.
Although all types of students experienced extra gains from long-term exposure to small classes (in the early grades), those gains were greater for students who are traditionally disadvantaged in education.Indiana is a traditionally Republican state so this issue is not solely a "Democrat issue" or Democrats doing the bidding of WEAC as some would like to say. It's about investing in an education program that has proven results.
But here, the Republicans do everything they can to attack the SAGE program that has produced good results and has accountability measures built into it and turn around and cheer and promote a program like the Choice program that has no standards and no proof that it is doing any good. Wisconsin Republicans would be wise to follow the lead of their colleagues in other states that are leading the way on class size reduction.
Tuesday, April 18, 2006
General disregard for other opinions
-By Tony Auth via Slate.com
On the Al Franken show today, Retired General Tony Zinni talked about the differences between the Secretaries of Defense of the past versus current Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. He talked about when Richard Cohen was the Secretary under President Clinton, Secretary Cohen brought General Zinni to see President Clinton so he could tell the president that he did not agree with a plan they were going to implement and give the reasons why he didn't agree. General Zinni said under Secretary Rumsfeld that would never happen.
Perhaps that's why so many retired generals are starting to speak up about the problems at the Pentagon. You can read a 60 Minutes interview with General Zinni here if you want to learn more about why he is speaking out.
Brian Fraley over at the DailyTakes blog has a post saying that the big bad interests groups are going to beat up poor Rep. Mark Green. Right, only groups that lean Democratic are going to be flush with cash this year and running ads near the election since Republican leaning groups never ever run ads attacking Democrats near the election.
And that ad running on the radio now bashing Governor Doyle about tort reform would be what, a public service message? It's only April and the Republican groups are already bashing Doyle.
I guess Spivak and Bice from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel just made this story up in 2004 about an ad with an older lady afraid she was going to lose her home because State Senator Bob Wirch (D-Kenosha) was going to take it away.
Almost half a million dollars on ads for one state senate race to bash a Democrat, but I'm sure they won't even bother with a minor race like the one for governor.
Forget about what the candidates are spending in the state Senate race in Kenosha -- the real action is taking place outside of the two candidates' campaigns.
Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, the Madison-based business lobby, and the Wisconsin Realtors Association are spending from $200,000 to $250,000 on radio and TV spots blasting Democratic Sen. Bob Wirch, who is being challenged by Republican lawyer Reince Priebus.
That sum far surpasses the amounts raised and spent by either candidate in this highly contested seat.
"Milwaukee media is expensive," WMC spokesman Jim Pugh explained.
Pugh predicted that a number of other special interests would soon enter the fray on behalf of Wirch, who is running for his third term in the Senate. But none has done so thus far.
WMC's radio ads use the voice of a little old lady who's about to lose her house to rip Wirch for voting against the GOP proposal to limit property taxes. The group is running similar radio ads against Democratic Sen. Roger Breske and radio and TV spots in support of an Kapanke, a Republican running for an open Senate seat in the La Crosse area.
Free passes all around
Xoff notes today that the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel didn't bother to mention that Rep. Mark Green, Republican candidate for governor, has a horrible record on spending and deficits while they were covering his press conference on spending limits for state government. The Wisconsin State Journal didn't bother to mention it either.
To be fair, the paper did not write a glowing puff piece about Rep. Green either. The article comes off more like a fight between Governor Doyle and Rep. Green. The author also didn't Rep. Green a pass on the fact that he is calling for spending limits but didn't mention a single cut he would make if the spending limits were in place.
But why is the press looking the other way while Rep. Green tries to make people believe he is for less spending? Rep. Green and his Republican colleagues controlling Congress have spent more money in the last couple of years than Democrats could have dreamed of spending. Yes, some of it was important new spending on anti-terrorism measures but let's not wrap the flag around this stuff listed by Citizens Against Government Waste in their Congressional Pig Book.
Not only has Rep. Mark Green stood by while the cost of pork in the federal budget went up about thirty percent, he has been unwilling to question when companies like Haliburton walk away with billions of dollars without giving the taxpayers a single service or product. They can't account for billions of dollars and Rep. Mark Green doesn't seem to think that is a big enough problem to demand accountability. Is that someone we want in charge of our state tax dollars?
There is a long way to go in the campaign for governor. I'm hopeful Rep. Green's record will get a complete vetting in the press. The voters deserve no less.
"Until you know what you are talking about, keep your mouth shut."
-Lester Pines, attorney for Paul Barrows about the Wisconsin State Legilature
This comment was made after a faculty committee at the UW-Madison said Paul Barrow demotion by the university was unjustified. I don't know enough about the details of the case to know if they are correct in that assessment, but I found the quote hilarious because I'm guessing there are a lot of people that would love to say that to the group of people running the legislature these days.
For example, local elected officials that are tired of being lectured at on spending by legislators that deficit spend all the time, women that want to get birth control prescriptions filled without letting the legislature make them jump through ten hoops to do it, and university officials that are trying to take Wisconsin's economy into the future without the legislature throwing up roadblocks every time they turn around...the list could go on and on even though the party controlling the legislature is supposedly the party of small government.
Monday, April 17, 2006
The Wisconsin State Journal gets spun
The Sunday Wisconsin State Journal had an editorial praising Rep. Steve Freese for calling on his leaders to have a vote on ethics and campaign finance reform as if he is some sort of hero. This is exactly what Rep. Freese was hoping would happen and the Wisconsin State Journal fell for it.
The newspaper gave Rep. Freese the clipping he needs to run around his district with and put in campaign literature so he looks like someone fighting for campaign finance reform. Problem is, he really isn't.
A quick look back at his history shows that Rep. Freese is not serious about enacting campaign finance reform and he has a long history of showy moves like this one calling for a vote to cover for the fact that he is one of the main reasons we don't have comprehensive reform today. The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign said this about Freese when they gave him a Nero Award in 2003 for doing the most to stop campaign finance reform:
Comprehensive reform legislation was introduced and referred to his committee in March 2001. For over 11 months, he did not permit his committee to vote on any comprehensive reform proposals.When they finally did get a bill going:
The bill (AB 843) was then rushed to the floor of the Assembly with just over two weeks remaining in the Legislature's regular session. Freese voted for the bill, but then voted twice within two days to block the formation of a conference committee to work out the differences between AB 843 and the Senate-passed SB 104. When minority party members forced a third vote on convening a conference committee, Freese offered an amendment that created a parliamentary condition on the formation of a conference that even the Legislature's own legal counsel said was unnecessary. With Freese's amendment attached, the Assembly passed the conference committee resolution. The practical effect of the amendment was to continue to block the final negotiations needed to reach agreement on campaign reform, but give Assembly Republicans a phony roll call vote enabling them to claim they had voted to form a conference committee.All the while Rep. Freese was participating in press conferences acting like he really wanted to get this done. He should be held accountable for his actual actions instead of his press releases, but will that happen since the Wisconsin State Journal gave Rep. Freese the cover he needs to get through another campaign season? We'll see.
Capping the rhetoric
-By Tom Toles of the Washington Post
Rep. Mark Green had a press rally today about tax day. His press release has the usual stats that Republicans like to state about the tax burden in Wisconsin as if it magically appeared and they had nothing to do with it. Rep. Green also says he wants this:
"A future where Wisconsin is no longer listed among the top taxing states. A future where government spending is finally in line with our families' ability to pay," said Green in emphasizing his vision for Wisconsin's future fiscal policy. "And, by slowing the growth of government spending and limiting taxes, our children and grandchildren will be more likely to stay here, earn a good living here and raise their family here. As a dad with young kids, I want that more than anything else."That's hard to believe when you consider that Rep. Green is one of the people that dug the hole pictured above in the Toles' cartoon.
As Jon Stewart would say, it's like they think we are stupid. Does Rep. Green think he can hold a rally denouncing spending and taxes and no one will look at his record? And record is the key word because Rep. Green was part of piling up a record federal deficit that his children and grandchildren will be paying off for a long time.
Eye on Wisconsin points out that Rep. Green's record wasn't any better during his years in the state legislature since our state's tax burden was highest in the years Rep. Mark Green was in the legislature.
I guess Rep. Green just forgot to mention that at his press rally today.
5th grade marriage plans
A bill was signed into law last week to that would require schools to teach 'marriage principles' in every sex ed class. The proposal stemmed from a Beloit school that decided the original law passed on this subject did not require marriage principles to be taught in grades five and six when kids are learning about the changes in their body in human growth and development classes.
Marriage in fifth and sixth grade? This is a law we needed?
So the state legislature wants third graders to be able to carry loaded weapons and to be talking about marriage by the time they hit fifth grade.
Being a kid sounds kind of tough these days.
Schools have to teach kids about the changes the human body is going through in fifth and sixth grade because that's when it starts to happen, but wrapping that up in a discussion about marriage being the ideal goal for all of these changes to be channeled into is almost bizarre for that age. Anyone thinking that this proposal is going to reduce pregnancy outside of marriage is living in a fantasy world.
Marriage is so far down the road for fifth graders that you might as well tell them that you have to retire to have sex too. It would have about the same meaning to them.
We should do what we can with education programs to prevent teen pregnancy, but the discussions need to be age appropriate for them to be effective.
Sunday, April 16, 2006
Bush Team thinks military retirees should pay more
Yet another example of the Bush Team taking our troops for granted. From the American Progress Action Fund:
Six senators have signed onto a bipartisan bill to curb the Pentagon's plans to increase out-of-pocket healthcare costs on military retirees. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) said, "Especially in a time of war, it is unthinkable that the administration would even consider dramatically increasing healthcare costs for those who have sacrificed for our country."You can find a news article on the issue here.
Early endorsement for Doyle from WSJ?
The Wisconsin State Journal seems to believe that it will be Governor Doyle working with the state legislature next year on health care reform. An editorial in today's paper has this:
Therefore, we call on Gov. Jim Doyle and state lawmakers to adopt a plan by this time next year to extend health care coverage to the 500,000 state residents who now lack insurance.Here's to hoping that both come true.
Saturday, April 15, 2006
Think you're getting a nice tax refund?
Well check out the refund IBM is getting according to an article at Slate.com.
IBM, for example, is banking a $2.8 billion refund—well, better to call it a "tax savings"—because instead of paying the normal corporate tax rate of 35 percent on $9.5 billion in profits it earned overseas, the company paid only 5.25 percent. That's the magic of the American Jobs Creation ActThat act was passed under the guise of creating jobs in America. So corporations were supposed to take this gift of lower taxes and use that money to create jobs here. IBM must have been confused. They are employing four times as many people in India as they were a couple of years ago, but shedding office space in the U.S. like there is no tomorrow.
Hilarous website name
Check out the name of this website: www.sweetjesusihatebilloreilly.com/
There is also a book out by that name that is getting good reviews.
Friday, April 14, 2006
Freese(ing) out campaign finance reform
Yesterday, Rep. Steve Freese put out a press release calling for bills on campaign finance and ethics reform to be brought to the floor of the Wisconsin State Legislature. Why is he publicly asking his leaders to schedule these bills now? He claims the recent scandals in the legislature are prompting his new call to action. His own hide is the more likely cause.
Rep. Freese is in a seat that is trending Democratic in a big way and he likely knows that his constituents aren't going to fall for his lines about wanting campaign finance reform, but doing nothing to get it done, for much longer.
In fact, the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign gave Rep. Freese their Nero Award in 2003. These awards are for politicians that do nothing to fix our campaign finance system. The press release for the award given to Rep. Freese starts out with this:
Few lawmakers have gone to greater lengths to wrap themselves in the cloak of reform than Steve Freese. But while his words are reminiscent of John McCain, his record on reform resembles Tom DeLay's.The release goes on to list all of the ways that Rep. Freese either stood by and did nothing to help pass campaign finance reform or took action to stop it from happening.
Indeed when Rep. Freese first came to the legislature, he wanted to enact major reforms to the way business was done in the legislature. He wanted proportional representation on committees, term limits for committee chairpersons and to have bills available for at least 24 hours prior to a vote. Now he often presides over the chamber while his party rams through legislation no one can explain and few have seen.
What a difference a few years and being the party in charge can make. Will his constituents take Rep. Freese's posturing again this fall or demand a little reform of their own at the voting booth?
The village doesn't want to raise the child of the Bride of Tabor
The business community is starting to run away from the child of the Bride of Tabor. The newest version of the so-called Taxpayer Protection Amendment (TPA) is a child only a parent could love.
Rep. Jeff Wood jammed his newest version of the TPA down the throats of the members on his committee this week and now that people have had a chance to review the new proposal, even those that would be considered typical supporters of this type of legislation are walking away.
The Wisconsin Economic Development Association says the new proposal could make issuing bonds to pay for large projects more expensive for small communities. The group also highlighted something all current homeowners in growing communities need to pay attention to - it doesn't allow communities to tax enough of their new construction. Translation: current property tax payers will pick up the tab.
The Madison Chamber of Commerce is also criticizing the proposal because it threatens economic engines like the UW-Madison. Legislators shouldn't dismiss this as lefty Madison's Chamber of Commerce out on limb either. The coalition that demanded Colorado's TPA-like amendment be iced included the Chamber of Commerce because it was hurting the economy of Colorado.
Legislators are still saying that there will be a vote on TPA at the end of April so it remains to be seen how many legislators are willing to take on this problem child.
The Washington Post has a recent story about the talk swirling in DC about war with Iran that has some quotes from Seymour Hersh's New Yorker story including this one:
"A government consultant with close ties to the civilian leadership in the Pentagon said that Bush was 'absolutely convinced that Iran is going to get the bomb' if it is not stopped. He said that the President believes that he must do 'what no Democrat or Republican, if elected in the future, would have the courage to do,' and 'that saving Iran is going to be his legacy.' "
Surely King George's madness had nothing on President George's.
Will talk of war with Iran finally convince the steadfast Republican supporters of President Bush that it's time to abandon ship or will they continue to go along with a foreign policy that is increasingly dangerous to our national security and morally apprehensible?
As more and more evidence pours in that the Bush Team lied their way into a war with Iraq, how long can his core of supporters continue to ignore the growing body count of our soldiers and the Iraqi people?
What will they tell the children of today in twenty years when they ask "Where were you when all of our soldiers were dying in an unjust war" much in the same way many say now looking back at Vietnam?
Democrats in Congress are not much better on this issue either. There are far too many scared to stand by Senator Russ Feingold as he makes a small attempt to reign in a president drunk on the new substance in his life - power. They seem to be waiting for the poll numbers to hit the right level before they will risk their political neck. In the meantime, soldiers risk their real necks.
A line from an old episode of The West Wing fits the Democrats in Congress perfectly about this situation. Waiting for the polls to give them cover makes them the modern day equivalent to someone watching the people of the French Revolution march by and asking, "Where are all they all going?"
Thursday, April 13, 2006
The heat is on in Miami for Shalala
Former head of the UW-Madison Donna Shalala is taking some heat in Miami at her new university post. Several students are on a hunger directed at her. You can find the story at the TPM Cafe.
Wal-mart and port security
The AFL-CIO has release a new report on port security. I have not read the entire report yet but this from the first page caught my eye enough to put it on my to read list.
Rep. Hunter and the Journal let slip what is surely Wal-Mart’s dirtiest secret: The company and its Washington, D.C., lobbyist, the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA), have systematically undermined our security by working to defeat and water down rules designed to make America’s seaports and far-flung supply chains safe from terrorist attacks. And Wal-Mart and RILA have invested heavily in the members of Congress with the most sway over ports and supply-chain security issues, as well as the Bush administration and the Republican National Committee.You can find the report here.
Advertising the opposition
Belle over at the Leaning Blue blog came across a very funny item in the Republican race for Attorney General. An ad for JB Van Hollen appeared on the McBride Media Matters Blog. For those of you that may not know, the author of that blog is the wife of Van Hollen's opponent Paul Bucher.
You can find Belle's post here.
President Bush really does think he is above the law
A recent article in the Boston Globe should have any true conservative ready to rush to DC and demand the resignation of President Bush. He has taken a little known item a president does when he (or hopefully soon she) signs a new law called a signing statement and used it to basically declare himself above the law.
Remember the big battle to renew the so-called Patriot Act? The only way it finally got through Congress was by adding some oversight measures so Congress could make sure the laws were not being abused.
He did the same thing with the law Congress passed to ensure we are not torturing prisoners no matter where we keep them. He signed it into law after months of trying to stop it from happening, smiled for the cameras, and then issued a signing statement that says he doesn't have to follow the law.
Bush signed the bill with fanfare at a White House ceremony March 9, calling it ''a piece of legislation that's vital to win the war on terror and to protect the American people." But after the reporters and guests had left, the White House quietly issued a ''signing statement," an official document in which a president lays out his interpretation of a new law.
In the statement, Bush said that he did not consider himself bound to tell Congress how the Patriot Act powers were being used and that, despite the law's requirements, he could withhold the information if he decided that disclosure would ''impair foreign relations, national security, the deliberative process of the executive, or the performance of the executive's constitutional duties."
This new power grab using the signing statement should make conservatives go crazy. So where are they? If conservatives don't complain now, they have no righ to do so when a Democratic president uses the same powers. For the record, I don't want a Democrat to have this power either.
How crazy does Senator Feingold's censure resolution look now?
You can find the Boston Globe story here.
Wednesday, April 12, 2006
-By Ken Catalino at Slate.com
Even though the Republicans at the federal level are scrambling to figure out a way to run without being linked to President Bush, Jessica McBride thinks Rep. Ann Nischke should have run ads during her race with Waukesha mayor-elect Larry Nelson that showed him at a rally protesting President Bush's policies. Two-thirds of the country currently don't support President Bush's policies. Here's to hoping every Republican in the state takes McBride's advice in the 2006 fall election.
Biotech conference gives Wisconsin rave reviews - but for how long?
The BIO 2006 convention in Chicago has been a great success for our state so far according to reports over the last couple of days in the Wisconsin State Journal. Industry leaders are cheering Wisconsin's investment in the biotechnology field. That invest could all be for nothing if Rep. Mark Green gets elected governor.
Republican candidate for governor, Rep. Mark Green has a long history voting to restrict stem cell research. In Congress Rep. Green voted against a bipartisan bill that would expand federal funding for stem cell research. He also has repeatedly said he opposes spending taxpayer money on stem cell research, and voted in 2001 and 2003 in support of House Republican bills that would restrict stem cell research. Why should anyone expect that he would act differently as governor of Wisconsin?
Governor Doyle hit the nail on the head with a comment he made to industry leaders at the conference.
"We have in our grasp in Wisconsin a chance for something that only comes along once in a few generations."And four years with Rep. Green as governor not supporting the biggest advance in the biotech industry will translate into other states taking the lead in the industry instead of Wisconsin. It would be a waste of the money already invested and an insult to the very generous donation made to the university to support the new Wisconsin Institutes of Discovery by John and Tashia Morgridge.
Yes the private donation does free up funding to work outside of the federal funding restrictions that Rep. Mark Green supports. But the only way our state will truly be able to take the lead in this industry is for the state to fully support it in every way it can. Other states like California are working hard to be the state everyone looks to for biotechnology and are hoping and praying we will make an error, like electing a governor that doesn't support stem-cell research, so they can surge ahead.
Tom Still, president of the Wisconsin Technology Council, said in the State Journal article that a major medical products company is looking to set up a fund to make side-by-side investments in Wisconsin biotechnology companies with local venture firms. They declined to be named at the time. They are probably waiting to see if our state is going to be fully committed to the biotechnology market by electing a governor that supports the industry.
Governor Doyle is firmly committed to making Wisconsin the leader in stem cell research. He proposed a large state investment into biotechnology and has also directed the Department of Commerce to provide $5 million to recruit and fund new stem cell companies in Wisconsin. He is looking toward building the new economy for Wisconsin now.
The state's biotechnology industry produces 20,000 jobs and $5 billion to our economy already. With the right governor at the helm, the sky is the limit.
The Bride of TABOR has a child
The Bride of TABOR had a child yesterday when Rep. Jeff Wood introduced yet another version of the so-called Taxpayer Protection Amendment (TPA). And just like people always tell a parent to their face that their baby is cute but privately joke about how strange looking it is, many supporters of TABOR-like amendments to the constitution will probably cheer for the new version of the TPA and then privately lament about details of it.
Or perhaps this time they will publicly tell Rep. Jeff Wood just how ugly this thing is since the arrogance of the author seems to have hit a new high. Rep. Jeff Wood introduced the latest version of the TPA just yesterday afternoon and is now insisting that his committee members vote on it TODAY. He doesn't think his colleagues need or deserve even a full day to consider whether or not they support a radial change to the constitution that is pages and pages long.
Wood's response to his critics according the Wisconsin State Journal:
"We've made fairly significant changes but we haven't changed the goal or the intent of the legislation," Wood said. It'll pass (the committee vote)."Wood's "trust me" attitude must have all the reassurance of sleazy used car salesman to his colleagues right now. You can almost see him trying to sell his colleagues a car without an engine by trying to get them to buy it without letting them look under the hood.
Never mind that the last version Wood introduced did things the author didn't even know it did. And not good things. Things that made local elected officials call and complain to state legislators. State legislators that need the support of local elected officials to win re-election in less than a year.
This child might end up an orphan pretty fast.
Tuesday, April 11, 2006
Just when you think TPA couldn't get worse
Supporters of a TABOR-like amendment to the constitution (which is now called the Taxpayer Protection Amendment or TPA for short) simply don't seem to understand a very important fact - the constitution was not meant to modified by trial and error.
They have a new version out today from Rep. Jeff Wood. They now want to try to get rid of labor laws using this amendment. Good strategy. Take an already controversial item and add another completely unrelated controversial item to it. Seems Rep. Wood and his colleagues want to dump gasoline on the burning house instead of calling the fire department.
Of course if their amendment passes local governments may not have enough funds for the fire department anyway.
How is the reaction so far? The Wisconsin Counties Association says:
After reviewing the latest version of the Wisconsin Taxpayer Protection Amendment (SJR 63, AJR 77 and LRB Draft 0684/3), the Wisconsin Counties Association (WCA) agrees - it's worse.The Wisconsin Alliance of Cities says:
It's still a disaster waiting to happen.The Wisconsinin League of Municipalities says it is:
like saying the pig looks better because it changed its lipstick. We oppose any attempt to insert revenue or spending limits on local governments in the constitution no matter how many sweeteners are added to make it less onerous. We urge the Legislature to give up on this bad idea and spend the remaining timof thehe session focusing on helping municipalities grow our state's economy.And Rich Abelson of AFSCME says:
"Adding language to their already unworkable scheme that explicitly targets public service employees really shows that, despite what backers might say, this is about exacting a pound of flesh from public employees," Abelson said.How long do you think it will take the supporters of this proposal to come up with a new name?
GOP teaches importance of voting
-By Tom Toles at the Washington Post
The rallies across the nation are a sign that the Hispanic population really knows how to organize. This new found political motivation could translate into larger Hispanic voter turnout in the 2006 election and beyond. The GOP has been reaching out to Hispanic populations and had been making some progress. While the Hispanic population is diverse and doesn't all vote the same way, many Hispanics have voted conservative in the past because their religious beliefs lean them toward pro-life candidates.
Hispanics are a growing segment of the population but they haven't always voted in large numbers. From the Public Policy Institute of California last year:
About one in three Californians is Latino—a total of about 12 million residents. In 2000, the U.S. Census Bureau designated California as the first large "majority-minority" state, with non-Hispanic whites representing just under half of the state’s population. By the 2020 Census, Latinos are expected to outnumber non-Hispanic whites in the state.
California’s voting population does not currently reflect the state’s diversity. Latinos make up about 28 percent of California’s adult population but only 14 percent of California voters most likely to turn out in elections. Overall, nearly three-quarters of the state’s likely voters are white.
The rallies we have seen in the last couple of weeks suggest that is about to change and with the GOP saying many of the friends and family members of Hispanic voters should all be felons, I wonder which way they will be voting?
We can and should secure our borders without making demons out of immigrants, but Congress went home before they finished dealing with this issue. That means the rallies we saw here in Madison and elsewhere yesterday are the tip of the iceberg.
Monday, April 10, 2006
And speaking of President Bush's poll numbers
An AP-Ipsos survey found that nearly 70 percent of Americans believe the nation is heading in the wrong direction. And 49 percent believe Democrats should run Congress compared to 33 percent who believe Republicans should run it. That means the Republican supporters are down to only those that wouldn't abandon the party even if their president was caught lying about something as important as national security.
And even some of them are starting to question. Republican Senator Arlen Spector is now saying we need to get to the bottom CIA leak case and he thinks that means President Bush needs to answer some questions.
That has GOP pollster Tony Fabrizio saying "The good news is Democrats don't have much of a plan. The bad news is they may not need one."
Indeed, former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich has said the Democrats can run on a simple slogan: Had enough?
And for those lamenting that the Democrats have no plan, keep in mind that the Republicans did not release the Contract With American until six weeks before the 1994 elections.
Fox's alternative world
The Fox "News" Network really does just try to create another world where President Bush is not facing the lowest approval ratings of his presidency and two-thirds of the country do not think our country is heading in the wrong direction. They do this by choosing to cover the side issues or making up issues instead of covering the real news. The "war" on Christmas comes to mind but here is a more recent example from the American Progress Action Fund:
MEDIA - FOX NEWS DEVOTING MORE AIR TIME TO MCKINNEY THAN NEW LIBBY REVELATIONS: An analysis from Media Matters for America found that on April 6, the day news broke about Bush's involvement in the leaking of classified Iraq intelligence, Fox News "devoted more than twice as much time discussing [Rep. Cynthia]McKinney's (D-GA) alleged altercation with the police officer." The organization's analysis found that from noon to 10 PM that day, the news channel spent 53 minutes discussing McKinney, but only 25 minutes on the Libby story. Also, "several shows - including Your World with Neil Cavuto and The O'Reilly Factor - did not report on Libby at all." One Fox host urged his co-host to "get back to the real issue here [McKinney]." Fox News Hounds also reported that Fox News kept up the story over the weekend because "there's no way that Fox will let this great diversionary story slip away." It added, "The fact that Fox News chose to dwell on McKinney and ignore the leaked intelligence...speaks volumes about the network’s priorities."What Rep. Cynthia McKinney did was horrible and she should be held accountable. But is it more important than the President of the United States outing the identity of a CIA agent? Yes, the liberal media is alive and well.
Women for the GOP
Scott Milfred of the Wisconsin State Journal had an editorial yesterday about the need for the Wisconsin GOP to recruit a woman to run in the 2nd Congressional District against Rep. Tammy Baldwin. He's right that the GOP would probably have a better shot at winning that district with a woman candidate, but she would have to be a moderate and with the Wisconsin GOP as hostile as they are to moderate Republican women these days, it doesn't seem likely that that will happen any time soon.
When a Republican woman is considering running in our state, how can she not see how moderate Republican women have been treated by the GOP lately and then decide not to run? The state GOP has been busy over the last couple of years chasing out the moderate Republican women.
Former Republican Senator Mary Panzer was a leader and they had no problems throwing her out of the senate entirely because she wasn't conservative enough. Never mind that she actually got it on recruiting women to run for seats when they were the best shot at winning. For example, she recruited Senator Shelia Harsdorf to run against former Senator Alice Clausing in western Wisconsin. A woman was the best choice for that swing district and now it will be hard for the Democrats to win that seat back.
The GOP might also be regretting standing by and watching former Senator Peggy Rosenzweig get ousted from a seat in the Milwaukee suburbs now that they have seen Senator Tom Reynolds in action. He has made that seat vulnerable for the Republicans again.
The Republican women that are left in the state legislature have been moving to the right in order to keep positions of power too. Republican Senator Alberta Darling used to vote more the way her district would want her to vote. These days, she is nothing more than a rubber stamp for the extreme wing of her party. Did she change her views or feel like she had to move to the right to head off a conservative primary for her seat?
And how does a moderate Republican woman look at the man the GOP has recruited to run the state, Rep. Mark Green, and see anything but a party that has grown increasingly hostile to women's issues? Rep. Mark Green is not only extreme on abortion rights, he's part of the crowd that thinks pharmacists don't have to fill birth control prescriptions. Some moderate Republican women might be anti-abortion, but it seems doubtful that they support this outright attack on a women's right to choose when to have a child so that they can control their own career and have a child when they are prepared to do so. It's better for them and better for the child, but Rep. Mark Green and the GOP don't care.
If you were a moderate Republican woman considering running for office in this state, would you want to ask this group of people running the GOP for help with an election?
Sunday, April 09, 2006
Fake news - and not the funny kind like The Daily Show
The PBS news show NOW recently aired a segment on "fake news" that showed the problem goes beyond the White House trying to buy itself a little good press by putting out taped segments that hype Bush Team programs for television stations to run as regular news segments. Corporations are in on the gig too.
The clips they showed on NOW were nothing more than commercials for products from companies and the stations were running them just like a news segment. And the problem is widespread.
The term 'fake news' has become synonymous with government and corporate sponsored pre-packaged news such as video news releases VNRs) and satellite media tour (SMTs).
VNRs are pre-packaged "news" segments and additional footage created by broadcast public relations firms, or by publicists within corporations or government agencies. VNRs look and sound like independently-gathered reports, but are designed to promote the products, services, public image and/or point of view of the client (s) who funded them. An SMT is an organized series of interviews funded by one or more clients.
Our investigation found newsroom use of 'fake news' stories is widespread and undisclosed, to the detriment of real journalism. The Center for Democracy and Media (CMD) identified 77 television stations - from those in the largest to the smallest markets - that aired VNRs or related SMTs, without disclosure to viewers. Collectively, the 77 stations reach more than half of the U.S. population.You can find the story here.
Rep. Mark Green's attack on women
The article in the Wisconsin State Journal yesterday comparing Governor Jim Doyle and Rep. Mark Green on women's reproductive rights and abortion left me speechless. And that is hard to do.
I had no idea that Rep. Green was such an extremist on the abortion issue. The title, "Green and Doyle differ on abortion" doesn't do the article justice.
So I started to wonder if Rep. Green had been this extreme when he was in the state legislature. Turns out his record of voting against reproductive freedom for women goes back pretty far.
In 1995 the state legislature voted to pass the 24-hour waiting period for women seeking an abortion. It passed and then State Assemblyman Green voted for it. That didn't surprise me that much. What did surprise me was his vote against exempting rape and incest victims from the waiting period. What makes Rep. Green think that rape and incest victims haven't thought about what has happened to them almost every minute since it happened? By all means, make 'em wait 24 more hours.
The other really surprising vote that I found was Rep. Green voting against making it a felony to intimidate or harass doctors, patients or staff at family planning clinics. Everyone is entitled to their opinion on abortion by why does Rep. Green think it is ok to harass women going to a doctor appointment? That's not standing up for pro-life beliefs. That's saying it's ok to physically assault people just because they are women going into a family planning clinic.
Many women going to family planning clinics are going there for prenatal care too. I have friends that have been physically harassed by people when they were trying to get to a prenatal appointment. They were grabbed and shoved around while they were pregnant by total strangers who were yelling horrible things at them.
And in Rep. Mark Green's world, that's ok.
-By Tom Toles of the Washington Post
This cartoon is a little frightening if you also read this story from the Washington Post.
Keep in mind that leaders in Iran seem to be almost asking the U.S. to give Iran an excuse to start inflicting pain on our country. Our troops next door in Iraq would be all too easy targets. Also keep in mind that while the article says there are no immediate plans to bomb Iran, the Bush Team is talking about Iran in the same way they were talking about Iraq not too long before bombing started.
The AP story today on the leak from the White House that disclosed the identity of undercover CIA agent Valerie Plame has the White House saying that while President Bush declassified the sensitive information and authorized the public disclosure of it, he didn't specifically direct that I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby be the one to get the information out there.
I guess it really does depend on what you definition of "is" is.
If President Bush thought declassifying the information was the right thing to do, why didn't he just put it out there himself instead of trying to get it into the press using staff?
Perhaps it's because his own father said this:
Even though I'm a tranquil guy now at this stage of my life, I have nothing but contempt and anger for those who betray the trust by exposing the name of our sources. They are, in my view, the most insidious of traitors."-- George Herbert Walker Bush, 1999
Saturday, April 08, 2006
Brewers' current promotion
Does anyone else think the the Brewers' current ticket promotion is sort of funny?
5-County 5-Day Celebration - Residents of Ozaukee, Washington, Waukesha, Racine and Milwaukee Counties can purchase half price tickets on all reserved seats, excluding the $1 Uecker seats. Subject to availability.Over $400 million in additional sales tax and half off of 5-days worth of tickets. Yeah, I'm sure the taxpayers think you're even now. Especially the folks that live in Racine County, Ozaukee County, Washington County and Waukesha County. They get to have a 'celebration' every time they buy something.
Green and the TPA
A recent story from the AP has Rep. Mark Green saying:
"I think the vast majority of the people in this state don't have big `R's or 'D's behind their names," he said. "I think they're looking for a leader who speaks plainly and honestly with them, who works on the fundamental challenges that we face in this state..."The article then mentions Rep. Green's support for the so-called Taxpayer Protection Amendment (TPA). You would be hard pressed to create something that removes the responsibility of our state leaders to work on the fundamental challenges we face in this state more than the TPA. So why is someone who wants to be the leader of our state advocating for it and also trying to claim he will work on the challenges our state is facing?
The TPA takes all of the blame for the fiscal management of our state off of the leaders at the state level. They won't have to develop funding priorities and tell the voters about them because they can blame every cut they have to make on the TPA. It's a free pass for future governors and legislators. If the TPA ever gets passed by the legislators and voters then approve this measure, expect to hear this statement a lot "Gee, I'd love to fund that program but the voters have taken away the funding." And they can say that to cover themselves even if they don't really support the funding.
So will Rep. Green change his tune on the TPA now that we have seen voters in Waukesha, a conservative area, reject the TPA by voting for a mayor that campaigned against it? Interestingly, when Waukesha Mayor-elect Nelson talked about the TPA, he said he believed that politicians should make spending decisions and be held responsible for them instead of hiding behind a constitutional amendment.
Or will Rep. Green heed Jessica McBride's advice that Rep. Nischke, Nelson's losing opponent in Waukesha, should have campaigned on the TPA more in order to win? Take your pick on which way to go to Rep. Green, but I'd take the lesson from a vote total that goes against conventional wisdom.
Friday, April 07, 2006
Walker wants to be anything but Milwaukee County Executive
Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker seems to be hunting for any job other than the one he currently has. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has this story on Walker being interested in the 5th Congressional seat currently occupied by Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Any place there aren't immigrants).
Was this the deal that the Republicans offered to Walker to get him out of the race for governor? And did folks forget to run it by Sensenbrenner? He seems none to happy that people are openly discussing his retirement without him.
Said Sensenbrenner of those speculating about his retirement: "It would be nice if they would ask me if I was thinking about retiring first (before commenting). Because I would have told them."
Are Milwaukee County voters are upset that they have been used by Walker as nothing more than a platform to another job? (Especially since he is doing his level best to run the county into the ground before he leaves.)
Perhaps the voters of Milwaukee County will be happy to help Walker find a new job soon so he doesn't have any more time to ruin the county financially.
Feingold gets serious backup
Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold is definitely no longer working alone on the censure of President Bush. Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) has started an online petition for people to sign in support of Senator Feingold's censure resolution. You can find it here.
Josh Marshall from Talking Points Memo sums up the White House position on leaks from the White House to the press very nicely:
McClellan (live now on CNN): Bush's leaks of classified information in national interest, non-Bush leaks hurt America.
Add them to the list
The testimony offered by WEAC Wednesday at the hearing on the so-called Taxpayer Protection Amendment highlighted a couple more problems the amendment could create.
One could be a serious problem for our state when a plant closes and workers who have lost their jobs need training for new jobs.
When a major plant closes or local training needs change rapidly, should a technical college really divert its efforts to preparing and running a referendum campaign on its need for special resources?Furthermore, the proposed revenue growth formula is not based on or related to the types of economic forces that drive demand for WTCS services. A formula based on past inflation and district population increases does not address that WTCS enrollment often spikes in times of economic downturn.This is one of the biggest problems with this amendment - our state will not be able to respond to problems quickly enough. Supporters of the amendment always say not to worry because spending can be added if taxpayers want to add it. But how long will that take and should workers who have lost their job be forced to wait for months and months to get a spot in a worker training program when they need it? How will it help our economy to have people that want to work sitting on the sidelines hoping more spending will be added so they can go to school?
The other issue raised by WEAC involves school funding.
The so-called Taxpayer Protection Amendment also raises constitutional red flags. Article X, Section 3, of the Wisconsin Constitution requires that the legislature provide for the establishment of district schools that are as nearly uniform as practicable. However, the proposed constitutional amendment would have a disequalizing effect on per student spending in Wisconsin. School districts where state aid represents a smaller share of their budget would be allowed to grow at a faster rate than school districts where state aid represents a larger share of their budget.That's right. This constitutional amendment might be a tad unconstitutional. Just how little thought did the sponsors of the TPA put into this 2500 word amendment?
These problems combined with all of the other ones we've seen so far add up to one question - Did the cosponsors of the amendment know of all the problems with it and if they didn't, why did they sign their names onto it? Amending the constitution is a pretty serious step for our state. Shouldn't the sponsors of the amendment have fully understood what it does before issuing press releases congratulating themselves?