Friday, June 30, 2006
Can Congress be embarrassed?
This week we will see if the Republicans in Congress still have enough decency left in them to be embarrassed into giving the lowest paid members of our society a raise. It hasn't been done since 1997. That fact alone should be embarrassing enough for them to raise it. Unfortunately, it's not so the Senate Democrats are going to try to shame them into voting the right way by blocking a congressional pay raise if the minimum wage is not increased.
How arrogant and out-of-touch with everyday people do you have to be to take a raise yourself and then say others don't deserve a raise? The answer is you have to be an entrenched incumbent that is poised to take a raise of more than $3,000 this year that will bring your total salary to $168,500 a year.
This may be the year that Congress pays for its arrogance on this issue though. Polling cited in a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article has 83% of Americans agreeing with the Democrats that those making the minimum wage deserve a $2 raise. That same Pew poll showed 72% of Republicans think we should raise it that much too.
So how do the Republicans representing our state feel about raising the minimum wage? Rep. Mark Green and Rep. Paul Ryan say their corporate campaign backers need a handout first before they would back an increase. Rep. Tom Petri says he thinks people making the minimum wage can wait until they get tax refunds to get any sort of increase in their bottom line so he'd rather increase the Earned Income Tax Credit. I guess someone making as much money as Petri doesn't realize that bills won't wait to paid until early next year. And no one can be too surprised that Rep. James Sensenbrenner just flat out says "no" to a raise. When you've had money handed to you like he has, it's hard to get a grip on what working families go through.
Sensenbrenner and friends like to peddle two things about the minimum wage as their reasons for not supporting increases, and both of them are completely false. They like to tell people that only teenagers and trainees make the minimum wage so we don't need to raise it. The truth is that raising the minimum wage will help mostly adults. In fact, adult women alone were 43.2 percent of the beneficiaries that were helped by the last minimum wage increase.
The other 'fact' that those opposing the minimum wage like to shop around is that raising the minimum wage is a job killer, but the facts just don't back them up. Do you remember the big job losses after the 1997 increase? No? That's because our economy really took off soon after that. Numerous studies have looked at this and have found no significant job losses from increasing the minimum wage.
There is also a growing body of evidence that suggests just the opposite. After the state of Oregon passed a large minimum wage increase through a ballot initiative in 2002, studies found they had higher job growth than states that maintained the lower federal minimum wage. In fact, the Oregon Center for Public Policy found that Oregon had faster job growth than 41 other states.
The only job losses likely to occur from the minimum wage issue this time around is the congresspeople that don't listen to what their constituents want, and vote against the $2 minimum wage increase. And those are job losses many will applaud.
Thursday, June 29, 2006
The cheese stands alone
Rep. Mark Green's buddy Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH)is going to be answering his own mail soon since his staff is bailing on him. Talking Points Memo has the story here.
Wednesday, June 28, 2006
And speaking of that ridiculous prescription drug plan
Governor Doyle announced today that hundreds of new jobs are going to be created in Green Bay at a call center to help answer questions about Medicare's prescription drug plan.
Yes, we had to create an entire call center to help seniors get through the mess that was created by Rep. Mark Green and friends with Medicare's prescription drug plan.
Creating jobs for our state is good, but isn't there a better way to do it than by confusing seniors Rep. Green?
Looking for fraud in all the wrong places
Why are Rep. Mark Green and Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner urging the feds to sue our state?
This press release almost seems like a joke since it warns that the State Elections Board (SEB) may have to spend taxpayer money to defend its policies from a lawsuit, but then cheers on the lawsuit. They even use legal terms like 'evidence' when talking about the SEB's decision.
So they treat an older person trying to vote with their Social Security number like it's a CSI case that they must gather 'evidence' for, but electronic voting machines that are easily manipulated aren't worth mentioning.
At least others are paying attention to the real threats to our voting system. A USA Today story summarizes a report out on electronic voting machines that should be drawing the attention of Green and Sensenbrenner. It found:
There are more than 120 security threats to the three most commonly purchased electronic voting systems, the study by the Brennan Center for Justice says. For what it calls the most comprehensive review of its kind, the New York City-based non-partisan think tank convened a task force of election officials, computer scientists and security experts to study e-voting vulnerabilities.
The supposed concern about protecting our voting system and rights looks even more cynical when you consider the other actions of this Congress as Secretary of State candidate Scot Ross points out in a recent press release.
“These are the same Republicans who are holding hostage renewal of the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act,” said Ross.When you put these two actions together, it becomes clear that Green and Sensenbrenner are concerned about people that don't support them being able to vote too easily.
After Green and Sensenbrenner helped pass that ridiculous prescription drug coverage plan to protect the bottom line of the drug companies and make older Americans jump through more hoops than a seal at a circus, who could blame them from wanting to keep seniors away from the polls this fall?
Now that they've seen the detail
The Democrats "can be as divided as they want," Ali added. "Any other year, most voters would say 'I don't know where they stand. I'll go with the devil I know.' The problem now is that they can't stand the devil they know."-Del Ali, independent pollster who works for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Flag burning amendment almost passes
This vote was a little too close for comfort. The measure to start the process for a constitutional amendment to ban flag burning failed by only one vote.
I have never understood the move to get this in the constitution. Some of it is pure politics and the conservatives playing to the base, but I also have friends that really believe in this. To me, supporting this measure means you think our men and women in uniform fight and die for nylon rather than the right to free speech. Burning the flag is not great speech, but the right to protest deserves protection.
Tuesday, June 27, 2006
Doug La still refuses to follow the rules
Monday, June 26, 2006
The whole picture
By Rob Rogers of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
This may come as a shock to you, but it would seem that President Bush and his team haven't been very up front about what was and what wasn't known as fact leading up to the mess in Iraq. From Reuters:
A former CIA officer says he made repeated efforts to alert top agency officials to problems with an Iraqi defector's claims about the country's mobile biological weapons labs but he was ignored, the Washington Post reported on Sunday.
CIA officer Tyler Drumheller said he personally crossed out a reference to the labs from a classified draft of a U.N. speech by Secretary of State Colin Powell because he recognized the source as a defector, code-named Curveball, who was suspected to be mentally unstable and a liar.
Drumheller told the Post he was surprised when a few days later, on February 5, 2003, Powell told the U.N. Security Council that "we have first-hand descriptions of biological weapons factories on wheels and rails."
"We thought we had taken care of the problem, but I turn on the television and there it was again," said Drumheller, the CIA's European operations chief before retiring last year.
These lies have had horrible consequences for our military. How the team in the White House can go to sleep with themselves is beyond me.
You can read the rest here.
Wisconsin State Journal shows its colors
The Wisconsin State Journal prints Wispolitics.com's Stock Report every Sunday. It's a list of politicians and issues and where they stand (rising, mixed or falling) for the week. This week, they used the Stock Report to broadcast which candidate they want to win in the governor's race.
The version of the Stock Report that I received via email from Wispolitics.com had Rep. Mark Green in the mixed section. So did the one that was printed in the Wisconsin State Journal. However, the two titles for the Green section differed immensely.
Wispolitics.com titled the section on Rep. Mark Green as simply "Mark Green". The Wisconsin State Journal took the opportunity to cheer on their candidate and give a little campaign advice to Green. The paper titled the same section as "Green Needs To Use Doyle's Troubles".
Yes, the liberal media is at it again.
Saturday, June 24, 2006
Or maybe this explains it
Green objects to GOP wedding to old ethical standards - at the reception
Rep. Mark Green's "see no evil" approach to the scandals in politics makes sense now. It seems Green is totally unfamiliar with how the entire legislative process works.
How else to explain Green's call for the passage of SB 1, an ethics reform bill, yesterday? People who want bills passed by the legislature generally make their wishes known before the session is over for the year. At the very least, they make them known when the bills are being debated by one of the chambers of the legislature. Did I miss Green's call to Rep. John Gard to at least schedule SB 1 for a vote after the senate passed it by a wide margin? That would have been the time to speak up if he really wanted the bill passed.
Or as I like to call it, the speak now or forever hold your peace moment.
But perhaps he just doesn't understand how the whole confusing process works. Otherwise, the only conclusion you can come to from his performance yesterday is that Green believes ethics deserves nothing more than political grandstanding.
Friday, June 23, 2006
La Follette being investigated
According to the Wisconsin State Journal, the Ethics Board is looking into Secretary of State Doug La Follette's press release announcing his re-election bid. The website could be next as that also didn't have a disclaimer saying who paid for it listed either. Stay tuned.
Thursday, June 22, 2006
Wisconsin can be oh so proud
Wisconsin strives to be at the top of many rankings. But one came out that is not cause for celebration for our state. When the Public Campaign Action Fund ranked which representatives had the closest ties to former Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX), our state had TWO representatives in the top 25; quite a feat since our state only has eight total representatives.
Rep. Mark Green cracks the top ten, coming in at number eight. His large total donations from DeLay, his donation to DeLay's legal defense fund and his voting record that shows he rarely said no to Rep. DeLay's requests, put him solidly near the top of the list. Rep. Paul Ryan rounds out the top 25 with the last spot on the list.
You can find it here.
Pulling the wool sweater over grandma's eyes
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.
Green and the 60 Plus Association likes to pretend that they have actual seniors as members of their group, like the well-known AARP. In fact, Green even says that in his press release patting himself on the back for an award from the big pharmaceutical companies.
Green was named a Guardian of Seniors' Rights by the 60 Plus Association, a non-partisan, membership-based seniors advocacy organization.
But according to SourceWatch.org, a website run by the Center for Media and Democracy, there are really are no members other than the pharmaceutical companies.
The AARP Bulletin of February, 2003, has an excellent, well-researched article explaining this subversion of the democratic process by 60 Plus and two other astroturf organizations (United Seniors Association and the Senior Coalition). It notes that none of these groups have significant membership roles or community bases. "All three organizations claim to speak for millions of older Americans, although as recently as 2001 none of the three listed any revenue from membership dues on their tax returns," it states. "Moreover, an investigation by the AARP Bulletin shows that virtually all of their largest contributions in recent years have come from the same source - the nation's pharmaceutical industry."StealthPacs.org, a group run by Public Citizen also found that big drugs companies are funding this supposed grassroots coalition.
The Washington Post reported that 60 Plus was the beneficiary of an unrestricted educational grant in 2002 from PhRMA, the trade association of the brand name prescription drug industry; AARP Bulletin reported that 60 Plus received contributions in 2001 from PhRMA and from drug giants Pfizer, Merck and Wyeth-Ayerst.And that's not all. The group actually sends out mailings that praise the big drug companies.
The 60 Plus Association has championed the pharmaceutical industry in mass mailings, press releases, lobbying and law suits since its inception. It was one of three associations that backed the "astroturf" issue ads of Citizens for Better Medicare (a drug industry front group) during the 2000 elections. It is currently supporting a lawsuit by Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America against the state of Maine (in a "friend of the court" brief) for daring to try to pass a law that will authentically reduce prices for Medicare drugs by allowing the state to buy in bulk directly from manufacturers. It has also joined a lawsuit against the FCC regarding campaign reform (specifically -surprise!- they support soft money for issue ads).Is it any wonder no seniors want to join this group?
Wednesday, June 21, 2006
Singled out - out in the cold that is
As I've mentioned before, I grew up in Burlington so I still check in on how the congressman from that area voted. That area is represented by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Janesville). A recent vote check on Yahoo reveals just how mean-spirited Ryan and his conservative colleagues can be. He had this big line of "yes" votes and the a "no" stands out. What did he vote no on? Heating assistance for the poor.
S. 2320, to make available funds included in the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program for fiscal year 2006, by a yea-and-nay vote of 287 yeas to 128 nays, Roll No. 66--clearing the measure for the President.
Nice values. I'm sure that's what Jesus would do in that situation.
There is one other "no" voted after that one, but it was the Dubai ports deal and just about everyone fled that sinking ship. You can find the vote list here.
An easy way to help stop discrimination
Fair Wisconsin, the group leading the fight to make sure we do not write discrimination into the state constitution, has a fundraising drive going on from now until the end of the month with a catchy title - "30 by 30". They are attempting to raise $30,000 by June 30th by asking people to donate $30.
You can find more information about it here.
Tuesday, June 20, 2006
Feingold fight not so lonely anymore
It's interesting that stories are written now as if Senator Russ Feingold is joining the other senators on the Iraq issue since he has been walking this path alone, and taken a lot of heat for it, for quite some time now.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel story has a headline saying Feingold is joining Senator John Kerry in calling for a withdrawl timeline.
It's surprising that his fellow senators are willing to even share the stage with him anymore after he made this comment:
"I didn't just write an op-ed about this," he said, referencing the recent articles penned by Democratic senators such as Kerry who now admit that they were wrong to side with Bush before the war began. "I didn't after the fact say, 'Gee, you know that was kind of a mistake.' I just plain voted against it because I thought it would be a terrible mistake in the fight against terrorism.You can find the rest of the editorial that contained that comment, here.
"I still cannot believe that Democrats helped facilitate this (war)," said the senator...
He's right, but I'm still surprised they are willing to even look his direction after he said it.
Monday, June 19, 2006
Pulling it off single-handedly
With all of his hang ringing on pulling bills from committee, (see earlier posts) you would think Rep. Dean Kaufert (R-Neenah) would almost never help pull a bill from committee. In a few earlier posts it was revealed that he did, but that is not the most outrageous thing about his statement that pulling bills is a violation of the democratic process. Rather, it's that Kaufert single-handedly pulls more bills out of committee in one year than most members of the Assembly ever vote to pull during their tenure.
It’s called “dipping”. Certain bills are required to be ordered to the Joint Committee on Finance. So when identified, Kaufert, as Assembly Chair of JFC, rises, and asks unanimous consent for suspension of the rules and referral to the Joint Committee on Finance. A few seconds later, he seeks recognition, and asks unanimous consent to suspend the rules and remove or “pull” the bill from the Joint Committee on Finance. Hence, the bill has been before the committee, and Kaufert has single-handedly placed the bill in committee and pulled the bill from the committee.
Since he is getting up and down during this process, would that be a moving violation?
And what service would that be?
Former Rep. Duke Cunningham wrote a letter urging the Homeland Security Department to use the limo service now known for providing hookers to Cunningham and his pals. Homeland Security tried to deny it, but they have now produced the letter. You can find it and the story here at TPMmucker. Josh Marshall definitely picked out the best line:
My favorite line from Duke's testimonial: Shirlington CEO Chris Baker "has been of service to me and other Members of Congress over the years."
Sunday, June 18, 2006
The thirst for a firing
Rick Berg, a former aide to former Gov. Tommy Thompson, has an editorial in today's Wisconsin State Journal that is so ridiculous it almost made me laugh.
In it Berg is taking Governor Doyle to task for firing Georgia Thompson. He accuse Doyle of a hasty firing and actually uses the words "blood lust" to describe what happened. If Berg really wants to find where to lay blame, he needs to look at his side of the aisle.
As early as Monday, June 12, Owen at the Boots and Saber blog had this in a post:
Wait. Has Georgia Thompson been fired yet? No? So much for “zero tolerance.”
How hard would the right have pushed this if the steps necessary for firing Thompson weren't started as fast as they were? The right would have had the talk radio fans and blog readers whipped up into a frenzy by Tuesday and probably tee-shirts and bumper stickers by Wednesday.
Doyle was damned if he did and damned if didn't.
Friday, June 16, 2006
Send Doug an SOS
Secretary of State Doug La Follette has a new campaign website up. And like his press release announcing his re-election bid, it doesn't have a disclaimer telling us who paid for it.
A few things on this website made me laugh out loud though. On the main page, it looks like it says "Secretary of State Doug La." The "Follette" part is buried under some other text. So my new name for him will be Doug La.
In the volunteer section, it sounds like he is asking people to hold a cup of coffee for him. There is also an email that you can use to contact the campaign if you want to volunteer. But don't look for it under the contact section. The only thing you will find there is a green screen. If you go to the volunteer section, you will find the contact email. The email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Democratic Process
In a letter to the editor of the Appleton Post-Crescent, Rep. Dean Kaufert said he couldn't vote for the pulling motion on SB 1, an ethics reform bill, because pulling motions are a "violations of the democratic process" only meant to embarrass leadership. SB 1 did highlight a violation of the democratic process, but it was not the pulling motion.
Pulling motions are used to bring a bill to floor the leadership refuses to schedule for an up or down floor vote. They are often used by the minority party to try to bring bills they support to the floor when the majority party will not schedule them for floor action.
In his letter to the editor, Kaufert said he never supports pulling motions as rule but a look at his voting record proves that statement to be false. It's easy to understand why Kaufert would have supported a couple of pulling motions back in the early 90s since his party was not in control of the Assembly at the time. It's also understandable that he might have forgotten that he voted for those pulling motions. However, he supported a pulling motion as recently as 2001 with his vote to bring AB 675, a bill to allow people to carry concealed weapons, to floor with a pulling motion.
If you compare the histories of SB 1 from 2005 session and AB 675 from the 2001 session, under Kaufert's line of defense for his vote against bringing SB 1 to the floor, you would expect to find that AB 675 enjoyed a much more extensive public debate than SB 1 did.
But you'd be wrong. The bill histories for these proposals are very similar. Only the subject matter differed. The bill history for AB 675 is here and the bill history for SB 1 is here.
Both had more than one public hearing. Both were amended and passed by committee. The only major difference is that SB 1 passed the senate with overwhelming support and had been passed by committees in both chambers when the pulling motion was made as opposed to AB 675 which was only passed by a committee in the assembly at the time of the pulling motion.
The only real violation of the democratic process was the Assembly Leadership's attempt to say the bill could not come to the floor because the Assembly Republicans had voted in secret not to bring it to the floor.
What Rep. Kaufert really wanted was to have his cake and eat it too by claiming he supports the bill, as he did in his letter to the editor, but not have the bill actually passed into law. That way he and his colleagues can claim they stand for strong ethics reform when they go home to run for re-election, but they don't have to actually abide by any tough new laws.
Thursday, June 15, 2006
Never say never Mr. Kaufert
Seems Rep. Dean Kaufert thinks it's ok to embarrass his leadership when it comes to making sure Wisconsin residents can run around the state with concealed weapons but not when it comes to making sure Wisconsin's election officials can have the tools they need to run around the state and stop ethics violations. Kaufert in the Appleton Post Crescent:
"Pulling motions, as we refer to them, are violations of the democratic process meant to embarrass the leadership. As a rule, I never support such backhanded attempts to thwart the process, even if it means voting against my own proposal."This vote on bringing a bill on concealed carry to the floor by suspending the rules, otherwise known as a "pulling motion" says otherwise.
I could be wrong but I think a Democrat, Rep. Marlin Schneider made the motion too, which you would think makes it even more embarrassing for Kaufert's leadership.
In the letter to the editor Kaufert claims he supports SB1, an ethics reform bill, while it was working its way through the process, but he just couldn't vote to bring it to the floor with a pulling motion. Translation: I supported it when it was in committee because it wasn't going to see the light of day.
And here's a few more pulling motions he voted "yes" on back when there was a different leadership to embarrass.
Feb 11, 1992 - Radtke moved AR9 be withdrawn from the Rules Committee and taken up. (Relating to prohibiting Assembly Committees from meeting outside of Madison at certain times). The vote was 40-58. Kaufert voted aye.
March 2, 1992 - Radtke moved that AB389 be withdrawn from the Committee on State Affairs and taken up. (Relating to salary-setting procedures for elected officials). The vote of 41-58. Kaufert voted aye.
Next generation indeed
With talk of WI GOP Chairman Rick Graber going to a White House job, what name are some folks mentioning to replace him? Reince Priebus. He seems to have a little following at the post from Fraley of the DailyTakes blog.
Why does that name sound familiar? It belongs to a guy that lost a state senate race when it was revealed that he led a group that was accused of intimidating minorities to prevent them from voting.
"To me, the administration does not act like there’s a war going on,” Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest (R-MD) said yesterday. “The Congress certainly doesn’t act like there’s a war going on. If you’re raising money to keep the majority, if you’re thinking about gay marriage, if you’re doing all this other peripheral stuff, what does that say to the guy who’s about ready to drive over a land mine?”
What Rep. Green should have done
When Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX) was indicted for activities associated with his office, Rep. Green could have done what Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) and Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY) are doing with their colleague, Rep. William Jefferson (D-LA) - lead the charge to strip the power of the congressman while he is under investigation. Instead, not only did he refuse to lead the charge, he supported changing the rules to let DeLay stay in power.
It's called leadership.
TPMmuckraker has the story.
Take the money and run far, far away
Surprisingly, Rep. Mark Green is not running away from President Bush and his dismal approval ratings. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel political blog, President Bush is coming for a big dollar fundraiser for Rep. Green next month. Green must figure since there is no way he can try to argue that he didn't support this president lock, stock and barrel, he might as well get as much cash for his loyalty as possible.
SD abortion ban goes to the voters
South Dakota's abortion ban is going to the voters this November. Abortion rights supporters submitted over 37,000 signatures to get the measure on the ballot. You can read more about it here.
Wednesday, June 14, 2006
Congress gives itself a raise
Republicans think teachers should only get merit raises. So, if Congress has an approval rating under 30 percent, you would think they wouldn't give themselves a raise. You'd be wrong. From the Seattle Times:
WASHINGTON — Despite record low approval ratings, House lawmakers Tuesday embraced a $3,300 pay raise that would increase their salaries to $168,500.My how times have changed. Rep. Mark Green and his colleagues take raises even though they have blocked a raise for those who need it the most by voting against increasing the minimum wage. In fact, Green doesn't think it's really an issue at all. I guess it's hard for someone that gets raises all the time to understand that other people don't get raises. His record on the minimum wage:
The 2 percent cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) would be the seventh straight for members of the House and Senate. Lawmakers easily squelched an attempt by Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, to get a direct vote to block the increase, which is automatically awarded unless lawmakers vote to block it.
In the early days of GOP control of Congress, lawmakers routinely denied themselves the annual COLA.
Mark Green has voted against increasing the minimum wage, against accelerating a minimum wage increase, and has said that the minimum wage is almost irrelevant” and is “often times a false issue” [HR 3846, 03/09/00; Green Bay Press-Gazette 12/12/99]Tell that to the families making minimum wage that can't give themselves raises.
Want to take that back?
Almost every politician makes a statement or two that they wish they could take back. For example, in the special election to replace former Rep. Duke Cunningham (R-CA), the Democratic candidate said something like "you don't need papers to vote" a couple of days before the election. Many polls showed her potentially winning that race until she said that.
A comment in today's paper from Madison's Mayor Dave Cieslewicz might be in that same category. The news here for weeks now has been about some problem wells that have manganese present at too high of a level. Today the city got a little bit of good news with a report that says the manganese level has been cut. That had Mayor Cieslewicz saying this:
"I do believe that there is a level of concern about the water that is perhaps unjustified by the facts."I'm guessing down the road the mayor will wish he had those words back. His comments before this week were more in line with where they should be since we are talking about potentially serious health problems for infants exposed to high levels of manganese.
Time will tell.
Paging 'Doctor' Armacost
Reality is looking for you.
I guess I shouldn't be surprised to find a group that claims abortions cause breast cancer also thinks stem cells cause tumors, but I was still a little shocked.
Lately, I've been considering having another child. After reading this press release from Wisconsin Right to Life I may have to reconsider. In it, Susan Armacost says this:
"Embryonic stem cells are dangerous to put into a human person because the cells cannot be controlled and can create tumors."Sounds like I barely got out of my last pregnancy alive what with all those embryonic stem cells in my body!
Tuesday, June 13, 2006
Republican budget management at its very best
From the American Progress Action Fund Report:
ETHICS -- CONGRESSIONAL PORK PROJECTS FORCE NASA TO SLASH SPACE PROGRAMS: In the past few years, congressional earmarks have ballooned. In fiscal year 1996, there were 958 earmarks; in fiscal year 2005, there were 14,000. These pork projects are even affecting NASA, forcing the agency to "slash science, engineering and education programs to pay for billions of dollars in congressional pet projects, most of which have little to do with the agency's mission to explore space." While President Bush has expressed his commitment to NASA and space exploration, Congress has undermined both goals. Since 2001, "Congress has directed the space agency to spend more than $3 billion on special projects, most of them small endeavors sought by individual lawmakers for the benefit of their home districts." Projects have included a "sprawling headquarters building for a non-profit research group in West Virginia" created by Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-WV), who is under fire for ethics violations; a "website and laboratory for the Gulf of Maine Aquarium;" and construction or renovation of dozens of museums, planetariums and college science labs. As a result of these pork projects, NASA may have to cut robotic space probes, education programs, the International Space Station, and missions to the moon.
I really am surprised that the jury found Georgia Thompson guilty. Not because I'm a Democrat or was hoping that this would go the other way because of the hay the Republicans will make from it this fall, but because there seemed to be ample doubt presented.
At the end of the day I just couldn't get over that this woman was on trial for getting a better deal for the state with a Wisconsin based company because other people around her THOUGHT she had political motivations even though she couldn't be fired from her job. I didn't think a jury could convicted someone facing up to 20 years in prison with the evidence that was presented.
I was wrong. It appears that Georgia Thompson paid the price for the fact that the general public has a bad opinion of government and politicians right now. That and the fact that many of the people involved in the bidding process didn't under stand how the "best and final" aspect worked.
The prosecution didn't have any evidence that Thompson even knew of the donations from Adelman. Normal people don't read campaign finance reports or go through the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign on a regular basis. That didn't matter to the jury and it sure won't matter to the Republicans this fall when they start running commercials against Doyle trying to link this trial to the governor.
I'll be interested to read the reaction from the right in the blogs today since it would be nuts to think that this will not be used by the Republicans. That's how politics works. It's a rough sport.
But if they really think about it, there should be no cause for celebration that this woman is facing up to 20 years in prison for getting us a better deal from a Wisconsin based company.
Monday, June 12, 2006
Momentum in Secretary of State race
Last week Secretary of State Doug La Follette announced he was going to kick off his campaign at the State Democratic Convention. Turns out the ball probably didn't even go ten yards.
The results of the straw poll for the Secretary of State race were 297-205 & 46 undecided in favor of his challenger Scot Ross.
Now of course a straw poll win doesn't automatically translate into a victory in November but it does indicate that Scot Ross is gaining some serious momentum. After 7 terms and with almost three decades of built up name recognition, all La Follette could manage was about 37 percent against someone that only announced about a month ago.
Must have been a strong wind going against that kick.
The stem cell battle heats up
Stem cell research took the stage front and center this weekend with the Democrat convention in La Crosse. Governor Doyle made stem cell research the centerpiece of his speech to the convention. It is an issue voters care deeply about and this press release from Rep. Mark Green confirms that he must have polling in hand to show he is in trouble on the issue.
The press release is a list of thing Green says he has done for cancer research. He has written a lot of letters. He doesn't say if those letters he has written to different subcommittees in Congress requesting funding have produced results or not though. I'm guessing the letters didn't get what they were asking for or he would have claimed credit for that instead.
Even if Green's letters did produce the results they were written for, it's not Green's work in the past that has so many people in our state concerned. It is what he will refuse to do in the future that is cause for concern.
It's harder as one congressperson to direct large amounts of support and funding for a particular area, but as governor, he would have the opportunity to direct massive amounts of funding and other state support to keep Wisconsin the leader in stem cell research. Green's record indicates he will not bring the kind of support necessary to the industry that is needed in the future.
Governor Doyle will and is getting a lot of positive coverage on it. In fact, Green put out that press release to counter stories for Governor Doyle with headlines like this:
First Lady Doyle, Families Affected by Stem Cell Research Praise Governor Doyle's LeadershipNow of course his wife would offer up praise but Green knows that many familiess with sick loved ones see stem cell research as hope for the future and they don't think politicians should get in the way of potential cures.
Families looking for cures for diseases are starting to learn that Green would not allow some of the most promising stem cell research techniques to receive support from the state if he were elected governor. He seems to think that a couple of cells in a lab dish are more important than helping Judy Montgomery, the woman who introduced Governor Doyle at the convention, and her daughter who has diabetes see a cure in the near future. But he's got some letters.
Saturday, June 10, 2006
Senator Tom Reynolds crosses yet another line
A senior at Wauwatosa East High School recently had a horrible experience with state government and he wrote an opinion piece about it that is in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel today. You can find it here.
His state senator is Tom Reynolds (R-West Bend)and when he attended a listening session held by Senator Reynolds about the proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage and civil unions, he introduced himself to the senator and reminded him that he had already met the senator at his Eagle Scout ceremony. He told the senator that the values he had learned as a child were totally compatible with his sexual orientation.
Imagine his surprise when a few weeks later he received a note from Senator Reynolds on "reorientation" therapy that would "teach" him to become "ex-gay."
Luckily his other representatives in government have not been so inappropriate even if they support the ban or this guy could come away from this experience not wanting to ever participate in government.
Hopefully, our state will prove to him this fall that we not only don't support completely inappropriate acts by our state representatives by voting Reynolds out of office, but that we also aren't willing to write discrimination against him into our state constitution by voting down the proposed ban on gay marriage and civil unions.
Friday, June 09, 2006
Question for Rep. Green
Earlier this week Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco made a gross political calculation. She decided the victims of rape and incest will have to suffer for the fact that she is probably lagging in the polls after hurricane Katrina. She is going to sign a ban on abortion that does not include an exception for rape an incest victims. She said:
she believes an exception for rape and incest victims to get an abortion, a proposal rejected by both the House and Senate, would have "been reasonable," but she said she wouldn't reject the bill for that reason.That translates into: I don't think I have the political capital right now to stand up for what is right.
Xoff wondered earlier this week if Rep. Mark Green would sign a bill like this. I'm wondering too and am hoping a reporter will ask him. I know Governor Doyle would never sign this bill, but Rep. Green's record suggests he will.
Green too has made some political calculations on this issue and has usually come to the conclusion that the rights of women to control their reproductive status, even when violently taken out of their hands by a rapist or an evil family member, isn't as important as his election to some office and those anti-abortion zealots bring lots of election help.
We saw with the debate on the proposed federal amendment to ban gay marriage that Republicans like to debate without putting faces to the people the debate is actually about. But let's put a face to this debate for Rep. Green.
If your daughter was raped and became pregnant from the rape, would force her to have the baby?
Thursday, June 08, 2006
Paul Bucher, one man justice system without a clue
Paul Bucher, Republican candidate for Attorney General, really doesn't seem to have a clue as to what the role of the Attorney General really is in our state.
Even blogger Dave Diamond seems to have a better grip on this issue than someone actually running for the office. Bucher is using his tired tactic of trying to scare us all into believing that the streets of Wisconsin are just teeming with criminals that Democrats have let out of prison. This time he is trying to convince us that our state has let dozens of illegal aliens convicted of felonies out of jail without deporting them. However, unlike Bucher and his press release, Diamond actually took the time to look into the issue and do a little research before sitting down to the computer.
Bucher claims that a) Galowski is an "illegal immigrant criminal" and b) he is living among the hapless denizens of Green Bay. Mr. Galowski has a very extensive record of civil actions against the Parole Board, which is fairly typical of a convicted felon. So it's funny that Galowski's most recent record lists his address as Prairie Correctional Facility in Appleton, Minnesota. They don't put their full criminal records online over dere like we do, so I can't say what he's in for, but I'm betting he's still doing time in Minnesota.
Then there's the problem that the AG's office can't just start deporting people. Neither can the state of Wisconsin. Bucher's opponent, J.B. Van Hollen points out the obvious in today's Wisconsin State Journal:
"We can't just start deportation proceedings and expect the INS to pick it up and do whatever we want them to do."The article (not online) quotes numerous people far more familiar with the process of deportation and they list the many reasons why Bucher is out in left field on this one.
Maybe we can just send Paul Bucher in his cape to guard our borders. He can start with standing guard over the Minnesota boarder to keep an eye on Galowski.
Wednesday, June 07, 2006
La Follette's campaign skills a little rusty
Secretary of State Doug La Follette may have a couple of decades of government experience under his belt, but what he doesn't have is a disclaimer on his campaign press release announcing he is running for re-election.
He's got company on this one this week too. Rep. Robin Vos' announcement press release didn't have one either.
Neither did Senator Neil Kedzie.
But Jensen loves them now
Former Rep. Scott Jensen was part of the crowd that loves to beat up on trial lawyers because they tend to support Democrats in elections. They do this because Republicans have made it almost a sport to see who can introduce the most bills that will limit the ability of people to use trial lawyers to have full access to the court system to protect their rights.
When he was in office he voted for numerous bills to restrict people's ability to go to court, even in the last session he was in office. He voted for SB 58 this session, that would keep consumers from suing certain companies and provide a product liability exemption. He also voted for AB 778, which would have provided protection for the lead paint and other industries from being held liable for damages.
Now that Scott Jensen wants to protect his right to a full airing out in the court system, who does he turn to? A trial lawyer that is a big time Democrat. From Spivak and Bice:
Make no mistake about it: Scott Jensen, the ex-Assembly leader who is about to become a guest of the state, is pulling out all of the stops to get his felony convictions overturned.The word "irony" almost doesn't cover this one.
The Brookfield Republican is even turning to one of the state's better known Democratic lawyers and to a New York-based law firm renowned for its legal skills and hefty fees.
Recently named to Jensen's defense team: Robert Friebert, a veteran player in local and national Democratic circles
Some inconvenient truths
Turns out gay people are actually people and Salon.com has a great article on the federal debate to amend the constitution to ban gay marriage that illustrates just how hard those pushing this amendment have to work to avoid that fact.
There is something queer about this week's Senate crusade to outlaw gay marriage. If you listen closely, the leaders who oppose single-sex unions refuse to talk about gay people. They talk about activist judges, welfare rolls, the rights of voters and the birthrate of single mothers in Scandinavia. But there is not a gay man, a lesbian woman or a bisexual teenager in the mix.
The reason they don't talk about gay people in the debate is because it's harder to point at actual people and blame them for a bunch of problems they didn't commit than to talk about all the problems in society and blame them in a round about way. It's easier to talk more in general about gay people in other countries you don't know and blame them than it is to convince Americans that the gay couple down the road with the two children that go to school with your kids is personally responsible for the fact that some heterosexual couple got a divorce last week.
Just asked Vice President Dick Cheney how hard it is to fire up the hate-based crowd in your base on gay marriage when you have to go home and eat dinner with someone you know hasn't broken up any heterosexual marriages just by being gay.
The hate-based wing of the Republican Party tries so hard not to mention actual gay people that they left the reporters at a press conference completely confused.
But rather than talk about gay marriage, a dozen speakers, including Colorado GOP Sen. Wayne Allard, took turns expounding on the importance of loving, two-parent homes for children. They talked about the damage done by deadbeat dads in the inner city, and the importance of family in minority communities. As the Rev. Eve Nunez, an Arizona pastor put it, "America has been wandering in a wilderness of social problems caused by family disintegration."
The press corps who had gathered for the event appeared universally baffled by the argument being made from behind the microphones. "How would outlawing gay marriage encourage heterosexual fathers to stick around?" asked the first wire service reporter to be called on for questions. "Why not outlaw divorce?" another scribe asked Allard later.
Of course they don't address questions like that because the biggest problem for the hate-based crowd is that the statistics don't actually back up their argument.
Furthermore, the American Psychological Association has concluded that gay and lesbian parents are as likely as straight parents to provide supportive healthy environments for their children. There is no scientific evidence that children of homosexual parents are more likely to suffer abuse, psychological hardship or homosexual tendencies. Gay couples have been found to be just as happy -- and just as unhappy -- as heterosexual couples and similarly committed to long-term relationships. Despite significant social stigma, the APA describes multiple surveys that show between 40 and 60 percent of gay men and 45 and 80 percent of lesbian women are currently involved in romantic relationships.
Time of course will tell if the Republicans continue to pander to the extreme branch of their party or if this is a one-time shot to fire up part of their base. Lucky for us all, the group that wrote the constitution made it difficult to amend it in order to protect us from people like those currently running Congress. Another statistic in the article brings hope that after this, Republicans will abandon this effort before they do any damage.
Young Americans are the most likely age group to support gay marriage and the least likely group to consider it a make-or-break issue, a fact that should make Republican political strategists wary.
And while it would be good if the Republicans would abandon this effort for the right reasons, I'll take it any way we can get it.
Tuesday, June 06, 2006
Smile for the camera
Spivak and Bice's latest installment on why Senator Tom Reynolds is barely fit enough to be in the general public much less in public office really begs for a new contest doesn't it? Reynolds tantrum at the public library leaves me wondering who can get Reynolds doing or saying the most outrageous thing this year as he campaigns for another term.
This is a man that has sent out Christmas card photos of himself as part of the nativity scene, asked job applicants if they were still virgins and instructed a staff member to go steal a sign from a state park. So the possibilities are pretty much endless with this guy.
So voters of the 5th Senate District, next time you are going to see Senator Reynolds speak, be sure to yell "lights, camera, action" and get that film rolling. We will all need the comic relief this fall.
Republicans aren't focused on what American families are focused on
The battle to put a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage and civil unions in Wisconsin might be tougher than the Republicans imagined. A recent Gallop poll had these results:
In the latest Gallup Poll, 50% said they supported a constitutional ban on gay marriage; 47% opposed it. Nine other Gallup surveys since 2003 have produced similar results. There's no evidence supporters have established the overwhelming social consensus that should accompany any effort to amend the Constitution on this issue.
The polling was done about amending the federal constitution but the results still point to a lack of support for taking such drastic steps on an issue that really has no business in the constitution.
The LA Times article that included these results also had a wise warning for federal Republicans that Wisconsin Republicans should listen to as well.
Whatever else Americans may think about gay marriage, few consider it one of the country's most serious moral challenges. By elevating it so prominently, this week's debate is likely to deepen the sense that Washington is fixated on the preoccupations of ideological minorities while slighting most Americans' day-to-day concerns.Indeed, the poll found that only 3% consider abortion and homosexuality the nation's top moral challenge.
Wisconsin Republicans have been focused on this issue for a while now and they have turned up the heat on it by putting it to the ballot this fall. However, the public doesn't seem to be following their lead. It fact, a recent survey done in Wisconsin on the issue suggests that the more people in Wisconsin get to know about the proposed amendment, the less likely they are to support it.
When asked in the spring of 2004 in a poll done for Wisconsin Public Radio whether or not they support the amendment, 66% said yes. When the poll was done this spring, only 61% said they supported the amendment so support could actually be falling even though Republicans have been cranking out the rhetoric over the last couple of years.
There is something else in the poll results though that could point to the demise of this amendment. The poll found that 59% favor civil unions in general. As more people learn that the proposed amendment will actually forbid civil unions of any kind and put the benefits associated with those at risk, support could drop even more.
And when the public learns how much the state republicans focused on this issue instead of health care and education, support for the Republicans could take a nose dive too.
What trial are they watching?
Yesterday, the Republican Party of Wisconsin issued a press release trying to make the trial of Georgia Thompson, a state employee hired by Governor Scott McCallum, look like it is going to bring down Governor Jim Doyle. It started with this statement from Rick Graber:
"Court filings are linking a big money donor to Jim Doyle's political campaign with his office and the department involved in steering a lucrative state contract their way."Contrast that with part of the opening statement from U.S. Attorney Steven Biskupic, a Republican appointee prosecuting the trial:
"This case is not about the politicians you're going to hear about."You would think they are watching two different trials. There are others that seem to be tuned into their hoped for version of the trial instead of the actual trial. Take Mike McCabe of Wisconsin Democracy Campaign "to keep ourselves in business" with this statement:
"I'd be surprised if it ended with Georgia Thompson given what I know about the scope of the investigation."Now if you contrast that with someone that actually knows the law, Frank Tuerkheimer, a UW-Madison Law School professor and formal federal prosecutor, it turns out McCabe knows very little. Yesterday in the Wisconsin State Journal, Tuerkheimer said:
"The very fact that there's a trial tells me that whatever pressure has been brought against her to names names hasn't worked. I would infer that there are no names to name."Why would he infer that? Because sentences in the federal court system are so tough that not many people take a chance on a trial. If there is a way for them to get off easier by pointing the blame at someone else, they do.
The trial will go on all week and much more could happen, but it's looking more and more like Graber and McCabe are going to be disappointed.
Monday, June 05, 2006
First big test for national Republicans
The race to replaced the now jailed former Congressman Duke Cunningham (R-CA) is tomorrow. The fact that this district is even in play for the Democrats shows how much trouble the Republicans could have in November this year. Bush won this seat in 2004 by double digits and now the National Republican Party is being forced to spend millions to save the seat. They are outspending the Democrat but still haven't locked up the race. If the Democrat even comes close tomorrow, Republicans should be very nervous. You can find more here.
UPDATE: The Republicans did hold onto the seat. It was hoping for a little too much perhaps that we could pick up a seat where the Republicans hold a 14-point Republican voter registration lead, but a girl can dream.
Wouldn't this be filed under lawsuit abuse?
The Republicans in the state legislature passed a ridiculously long list of bills aimed at restricting the ability of Wisconsin residents to file many types of lawsuits. Governor Doyle had to veto many bills to protect people's access to the court system. They did however try to protect the ability of certain people to abuse the legal system.
The one group they did try to protect is pharmacists (and other medical professionals) that want to deny a woman the right to have her birth control prescription filled simply because they believe it is morally wrong that the woman is taking birth control. The Republicans passed AB 207 this session which would provide a liability and disciplinary exemption for any health care worker that refuse to due certain procedures because of their religion. The Assembly Republicans also refused to require pharmacists to dispense all FDA-approved contraceptives to patients by voting against bringing AB532 to the floor.
Over the weekend we saw the pharmacist that was sanctioned in 2002 by the state Pharmacy Examination Board for refusing to transfer the birth control prescription to another pharmacy in Menomonie, Wisconsin lost a lawsuit against Wal-Mart for firing him. According to a story in the Wisconsin State Journal, Wal-Mart tried to accommodate his religious views not fill birth control prescriptions by having other pharmacists fill them but he wasn't satisfied with that.
He put customers calling about their birth control prescriptions on hold indefinitely and refused to get another pharmacist for those that showed up in person wanting to fill birth control. After this went on for a while, Wal-Mart fired him. He didn't go away quitely either.
In fact, when Wal-Mart asked him to leave the store he refused and had to be physically removed from the store in a wheelchair by the police. Then he sued Wal-mart for firing him.
A U.S. District Judge ruled last week that Wal-Mart was justified in firing him.
It's safe to say this guy isn't really interested in being a pharmacist at all. He only wants to push his personal religious beliefs on everyone else.
The Republicans in the state legislature think we should all protect this guy's right to go to court so he can cause this much trouble at work and not do his job, but think we should also limit the ability of citizens injured by a product to recover damages from the product’s manufacturer, distributor or seller (SB 58).
Justice for all. All of the Republican campaign supporters that is.
Update: For those looking for the story online, you can find it at the La Crosse Tribune page here.
Thursday, June 01, 2006
Where does a political junkie go on vacation?
To Washington, D.C. of course. I'm off to our nation's center of power for a few days and have decided to leave the laptop at home. Unlike Bill O'Reilly and Rush Limbaugh, I don't think my trip there will be more dangerous than when our soldiers go to Iraq. (see previous post)
Perhaps I'll see a Member of Congress trying to kick the FBI out of his/her office!
I'll be back on Monday so have a great weekend. The forecast for WI looks great for the weekend.
This is supporting our troops?????
What kind of a jackass would try so hard to spin that things are going well in Iraq that they would say a soldier would be in more danger in DC than in Iraq? How about a Republican congressman from Iowa? And how about O'Reilly and Limbaugh repeating it? Worse yet, the statistics the congressman used were completely false.
Even if the stats did back up his idiotic claim, how could a congressman be so insulting to our soldiers as to dismiss what they are going through as no more dangerous than a stroll through Washington, D.C.?
You can find the story here at Think Progress.
Isn't it ironic?
It's not just a song by Alanis Morissette. It's the best way to describe Republican candidate for Attorney General Paul Bucher's plan to address gun violence in Milwaukee. How would he fight it? Why more guns of course!
One part of Bucher's plan would be to enact HR 218, a bill that would allow retired law enforcement officers to carry weapons. What happens if a retired officer shoots someone? The city of Chicago was worried enough about the liability of that potential situation that letters were sent to retired officers in the area saying the city will not authorize them to carry weapons. But as Xoff pointed out yesterday, Bucher is just an idea man. He doesn't have to figure out how to pay for things or crazy little details like liability.
Bucher and Van Hollen, the other Republican candidate for attorney general, don't ever seem to be worried about the part of the Attorney General's job that deals with things like liability or enforcing the laws on the books if they don't directly deal with violent crime. Am I the only one that gets the feeling that these two think the office of the Attorney General comes with a cape and some sort of side-kick that they get to run around with and fight crime as it is happening on the street?
Perhaps they'd both be happier with a Saturday morning cartoon special just for them. We'll just have to come up with some good names for them.
UPDATE: About a month ago Grumps said Bucher and Van Hollen want to be Batman. Any others come to mind?