Friday, June 23, 2006

Cory is Moving to One Wisconsin Now

It was in October of 2004 that I began the Eye on Wisconsin blog. I joke with friends that it started as a form of "therapy" to allow myself to vent regarding the 2004 Presidential Election. Not quite two years later, so much has changed for this blog. Last year I started providing investigative reports on a variety of issues. Not long after, to remain on the cutting edge, I produced and hosted the Eye on Wisconsin podcast. Not long after that, Eye on Wisconsin broke a couple stories that appeared in the AP and other outlets. Next I was honored to have the blog hosted at, the state's premier political news service. Then in only a year we saw over 50,000 hits at Eye on Wisconsin.

Now I am excited to take another new step, unfortunately this one involves leaving Eye on Wisconsin. As of today, I will no longer blog at Eye on Wisconsin. I am very excited to inform my readership that I am moving over to One Blog at One Wisconsin Now (OWN). One Wisconsin Now is the beginning of a long-term effort to re-light the flame of Wisconsin's proud progressive tradition. I will be serving as OWN's Netroots Coordinator and Editor of One Blog.

I am looking forward to all of the exciting possibilities that the future holds for OWN, for Wisconsin, and for our reinvigorated progressive movement. Thanks for your loyal readership and I hope that you will join me today at my new home, the One Blog.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Notice to Eye on Wisconsin Readers

I will be moving to a new blog starting tomorrow morning. I will provide you with my reasoning and the specific details at that time. Please stay tuned.

The Tale of "Two Americas" Revisited?

According to a report in the Washington Post, the U.S. is losing it's middle class neighborhoods. While at the same time the story reports that rich and poor neighborhoods are growing. The story relies on a Brookings Institution study that was released yesterday. It found that as a share of all urban and suburban neighborhoods, middle-income neighborhoods in the nation's 100 largest metro areas have declined from 58 percent in 1970 to 41 percent in 2000.

This study seems to be consistent with a report in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel this week reporting the continuing decline in population in Milwaukee County (-2%). Specifically the Journal Sentinel report pointed out large decreases in 14 of Milwaukee's 18 suburbs. Many of those suburbs have been the bastion of Milwaukee County's middle class. The paper found that wealthier areas such as Waukesha(+5%), Ozaukee(+4.6%), and Washington (+7.4%) Counties saw large increases.

The Journal Sentinel story rhetorically asks why we should care about these population estimates. It quickly answers the question like this:
They show where homes, roads and shopping malls are being built, where jobs are created, how the overall quality of life is sustained.

During the 2004 Presidential Campaign John Edwards often spoke of the "Two Americas." It described an America where the wealthy added to their riches while the middle class struggled to stay out of the poor house. With few people in positions of power that are willing to do something about this problem, it seems that the trend will sadly continue in a downward spiral.

Discrimination Amendment Harms Our Principles

Yesterday the non-partisan group Wisconsin Democracy Campaign came out against the Discrimination Against Gays Amendment (ht to In Effect).

WDC takes a slightly different angle against the amendment than we usually hear. Take a look at part of the group's statement:
The effort to ban gay marriage and civil unions by amending the state Constitution does serious harm to the principles and institutions of democracy in Wisconsin, disrespects and disregards essential checks and balances in the policymaking process, and misuses the Constitution for purposes that are neither legitimate nor in keeping with the intentions of the Constitution's framers.

WDC goes on to list their three main objections to such an amendment: 1. Wisconsin's Constitution should not be used as an instrument of discrimination. 2. The process of amending the Constitution should not be used as an end-run around the normal lawmaking process. 3. The Constitution should not be used by any candidate for public office, political party or interest group to gain an electoral advantage.

"Health Courts" Unhealthy for Malpractice Victims

The U.S. Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee will be holding a hearing today to examine several medical malpractice issues. One of the concepts to be examined will be the idea of replacing judges and juries with a so-called "health court."

Several consumer groups have expressed their opposition to this change stating that it would take away a victim's right to a jury trial. In a press release, the group tells us what malpractice victims will face if this idea is realized:
"a vaguely defined administrative bureaucracy run by political appointees charged with developing uniform schedules of compensation for specific medical injuries." Experience with similar systems "strongly suggests that they will provide worse protection for patients than the civil justice system currently provides"

Perhaps the largest concern is for the most severely injured victim's of malpractice. Trying to fit their suffering and complicated injuries into some bureaucratic box is a fool's errand. Also the unsettling thought that such a political body could be forcefully lobbied by big insurance companies and others from the health industry give us yet another reason to dismiss such ideas.

Against the Old Poll Tax but for the New One?

The Republican run Congress is having to delay renewal of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which eliminated many anti-black voting practices of the past. Apparently what caused the the delay was House Republican disagreement on providing bilingual ballots and continuing federal oversight of Southern states. This delay has also pushed back the U.S. Senate taking up the issue next week.

To his credit, F. James Sensenbrenner was right in the middle of the Republican fight with their own over the Voting Rights Act. He said that as a result of a dozen hearings in the Judiciary Committee, he believes that discrimination still exists and that the federal oversight should continue.

The above actions of F. James Sensenbrenner are admirable, but much of that good will is extinguished after his recent joint action with Republican candidate for governor Mark Green. As I have previously written, these two Republicans are insisting that Wisconsinites that register at the polls must provide a driver's license number. This is contrary to a ruling by the State Elections Board which approved the use of voters Social Security numbers. After that ruling the two Republican Congressmen ran to the U.S. Department of Justice to get an opinion on the State's ruling. The U.S. Department of Justice then came back telling the State that voter cannot use the social and must use the driver's license. That disagreement will likely continue in court.

It seems clear that this is a naked effort by Senensbrenner and Green to move us one step closer to requiring voter ID's to exercise voting rights in Wisconsin. A study by UW-Milwaukee shows us that requiring Voter ID's puts a disproportional burden on minorities, the elderly and students, among others. A Voter ID requirement in Georgia was overturned last year by a federal judge. That judge compared the Voter ID requirement to jim crow era poll taxes on black voters.

I guess the obvious question for F. James Sensenbrenner is why are you against the old poll tax while at the same time advocating for the new one?

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Why Would 19 GOP Senators Oppose This?

Yesterday we learned that two of our soldiers in Iraq were killed and likely tortured beyond recognition. In the raw emotion of these events, the U.S. Senate acted in a rarely bipartisan fashion. They passed an Amendment that said the following:
"To express the sense of Congress that the Government of Iraq should not grant amnesty to persons known to have attacked, killed, or wounded members of the Armed Forces of the United States."

Seems reasonable enough to me. The inexplicable point is that what should be a slam dunk amendment was opposed by 19 U.S. Senators. All of them Republicans, to include likely 2008 Presidential candidate John McCain of Arizona.

Now I did not hear debate on the issue (if there even was debate). But I am at a loss to explain their reasoning in voting against this amendment. Any ideas?

The Staggering Rise of Global Warming Pollution

The U.S. Public Interest Research Group just released a study on national and state trends in Carbon Dioxide emissions since 1960. Since our government has decided to allow global warming pollution to increase unchecked, the news is not good.

According to the report, from 1960 to 2001 the total U.S. increase in Carbon Dioxide emissions has risen by 95%. The regions with the largest rise was in the Southeast and the Gulf South, increasing 163% and 175% respectively. Among the states, Texas saw the largest increase in emissions having grown by 178%. Rounding out the top ten are Florida, California, Georgia, Louisiana, Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina, Missouri and Arizona.

From 1960-2001 Wisconsin's went up by 78%. During that time, the largest increases in Wisconsin were from 1960-1970 and from 1990-2001. For only the emissions in 2001, Wisconsin ranked 19th between Virginia and West Virginia.

Our Bad Image in the World is Costing Us

As George W. Bush is meeting with European leaders in Austria today, he may want to know that the image of the U.S. in the world seems to continue it's rapid decline. Apparently Bush appointing his trusted aide, Katherine Hughes, to help improve our image has not been very successful. Today in the Christian Science Monitor they report results of some recent polls.
Results of a new global attitudes survey by the Washington-based Pew Research Center show that a country's image of Americans is at least several percentage points higher than the same country's image of America as a nation. Bush's numbers are below both of those categories.

Another poll published this week by the Harris group shows that Europeans generally pick the US as the world's biggest threat to global security over Iran. This was true even in Britain, although Germans and Italians rank the US below Iran.

The story also asserts that this bad image in the world may be hitting us right in the pocket book in tourism dollars. According to the story, in 2002 the US brought in 9% of international travel. Today the number is down to 6%. According to the Travel Industry Association each percentage drop represents 150,000 jobs and $15 billion in spending.

Did Republicans Misplace Part of Their Press Release?

The Democratic Party of Wisconsin put out a press release yesterday entitled "Big Oil Gives Thousands to Mark Green." In the release they list the thousands of dollars in contributions that Mark Green has received from Big Oil.

In an attempt at "gotcha" politics, the Republican Party of Wisconsin sent out a press release this morning listing contributions to Doyle from oil companies (although not Big Oil companies like BP and Exxon Mobile).

The Democratic release had one thing that the today's Republican one lacks. A clear record of direct support to Big Oil through Mark Green's votes in Congress. Apparently Republicans could not find one thing that Doyle gave back to his oil company contributors. The Democratic Party went on to give a detailed list of Mark Green's votes supporting Big Oil:
In return, Mark Green:
Stood with Big Oil, voting for a $500 million subsidy for oil & gas companies [Source: HR5427, Vote 201,5/24/06]

Stood with Big Oil, voting for $5 billion in tax breaks, subsidies, and giveaways for Big Oil companies from tax bill [Source: HR4297, Vote #109, 4/27/06]

Stood with Big Oil, voting to give billions to oil companies [Source: HR6, Vote #445, 7/28/05]

Stood with Big Oil, voting against $15.5 million for energy efficiency [Source: HR2419, Vote #207, 5/24/05]

Stood with Big Oil, voting repeatedly to allow drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) inAlaska [Source: HR5429, Vote 209, 5/25/06]

Stood with Big Oil, voting against cracking down on gas price gouging [Source: HR6, Vote #118, 4/20/05]

Stood with Big Oil, voting to give $13 billion in tax breaks and spending to oil companies, voted for drilling in ANWR, and voted to promote offshore drilling [Source: HR4, Vote #320, 8/1/01]

It looks like Big Oil's investment in Mark Green was a good one for them. All the while Green's constituents seem to only receive a gouging at the pump.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Fair Wisconsin Launches "$30 by June 30th"

Fair Wisconsin is the lead organization fighting what I call the Discrimination Against Gays Amendment (even though it is discriminatory against many other groups and people).

Fair Wisconsin has launched what they are calling the "$30 by June 30th"campaign. The idea is to donate 30 bucks to Fair Wisconsin by June 30th, then get a few friends to do the same. Their goal is to raise $30,000 during this effort.

Fair Wisconsin has already done so much to fight this proposed amendment and I have a feeling that they will keep fighting it in every way until the last vote is counted in November. So please consider helping them in any way that you are able.

Favoring Some Churches Over Others

What welcome news reported in today's Oshkosh NorthWestern!
In the last two weeks, more than 700 religious congregations have taken a public stand against the proposed amendment to the Constitution of the State of Wisconsin to ban civil unions and same-sex marriages.

According to the story, this represents over 500,000 congregants in Wisconsin. The story goes on to mention that even entire denominations and fellowships have taken a public stand against the discriminatory amendment.

An absurd and arrogant statement from Julaine Appling, coordinator of the Wisconsin Coalition for Traditional Marriage, is quoted in the story. In it she claims the following:

"The people of this state that have any idea about what the Bible says about marriage, they believe marriage is one man and one woman," Appling said. "And I think they'll go into the voting booth and say this is about whether a man and a woman comprise the institute of marriage, and they'll vote yes."

Let me try to get past the absolute arrogance of her comments and mention two things. 1. The fact that she is mentioning biblical interpretation as being the reason that people should vote for the amendment, is the very reason that the amendment should be rejected. It is an issue of personal and religious belief, not that of government policy and state law. 2. Why should the long arm of the government reach in and endorse any church's doctrine over that of another? Clearly we now know that not all churches think alike on this topic. Why invalidate the beliefs and values of one congregation while favoring another?

Congress Creates More Confusion for Vulnerable

Just last week we learned that the big Medicare Prescription Drug plan has continued to cause problems for some of our country's elderly. Some have even lost coverage because of the various glitches in the program.

Now we find that Congress has caused even more problems for the nations most vulnerable. When Congress passed the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 they included in the legislation new regulations requiring residents to prove their citizenship when applying or renewing eligibility for various social programs. The regulations go into effect on July 1 and require people to provide a passport, birth certificate or other documentation before taking part in programs. Some of the programs that could be affected are Medicaid, BadgerCare, and SeniorCare.

A story in the Racine Journal-Times reports that State Officials worry that as many as 850,000 Wisconsinites may find these new regulations burdensome. The story continues to report the following:
The state now will have to set up a system to verify citizenship and figure out when they reapply for the program.

"For SeniorCare, we are going to have to create an entirely new process," Helgerson said.

An estimated 40,000 people will need to reapply from July though September.

Potentially putting all of these vulnerable people in jeopardy and for what reason? Keeping illegal immigrants from enrolling in these programs? For the most part, they are already barred from enrolling in the programs. As the story also points out, there are not large amounts of illegal immigrants finding their way into these programs in the first place.

It seems that in their frenzy to attack illegal immigrants, the leadership in Congress continue to throw out reason and good sense. It appears that the majority of people that could lose services will be the very people for whom they were created.

Presidential Speeches Will Not Protect Our Ports

Yesterday George W. Bush gave the commencement address at the Merchant Marine Academy in King’s Point, NY. The Merchant Marines help secure our ports, so I thought it quite strange the Bush would actually appear there to speak. Why might it be an awkward speaking engagement for him? Well, isn’t he the one that approved the outsourcing of our port security to the United Arab Emirates. Even the Washington Times disapproved of Bush’s actions then.

Since 911 we have heard a lot of tough talk from Bush and the right wing about protecting America. Yet almost every chance they get, they seem to block measures taken to protect our ports. Many people feel that this is our greatest vulnerability to terrorism. Yet Bush and the Republican led Congress seem to block and ignore when it comes to port security. Here is the record (unfortunately it is rather long):

In 2005, only Republicans in the Senate voted against an amendment to the FY2006 budget that set aside $150 million in security grants specifically for port security.

In 2004, only Republican Senators and wanabee Republican Zell Miller voted against an amendment to the FY 2005 Homeland Security Appropriations Bill. That amendment sought to provide $150 million for port security development and research grants. Specifically these funds were intended to help develop equipment to detect nuclear weapons in containers entering our ports.

In 2003 Republicans in the Senate voted against an amendment to the FY 2004 Homeland Security Appropriations Bill. That amendment would have provided $238 million for port and border security. Once again all Republicans and Zell Miller voted against providing the funds to protect our ports.

In 2003 only Senate Republicans and Zell Miller voted to table an amendment by Robert Byrd to provide $1.13 billion for Homeland Security in a FY 2003 War Supplemental. That tabled amendment would have provided funding to strengthen security at our ports among other important things.

In 2003 only Senate Republicans and Zell Miller voted to table an amendment by Senator Hollings to provide $1 billion to improve port security in the FY 2003 War Supplemental.

In 2003 House Republicans (including all Wisconsin Republicans in Congress) voted to kill an amendment to add $250 million for port security grants and $150 million for research to develop capabilities against chemical weapons, among other things.

In 2005 House Republicans (including all Wisconsin Republicans in Congress) voted against an alternative Homeland Security Authorization Proposal that would have done many things to protect American. One of those items would have provided an extra $400 million to protect ports. Thirteen million dollars of that amount would have been used to double the number of overseas port inspectors provided in Bush’s budget that year.

The latest in that long line of neglect is $650 million that was stripped out of a national security funding package moving through Congress. Opponents of the funding appear to be citing George W. Bush’s threat to veto the measure if they do not cut as much from it as possible.

Isn’t our nation’s security the number one responsibility of our elected officials? Shouldn’t that be their first priority? Couldn’t they have found the money to fully fund the port security from somewhere else in the budget? I have an idea; why not simply use the money in the most recent $70 Billion tax cut for rich investors? Even just a small portion of that massive tax cut could fully secure our ports with tens of Billions of dollars to spare.

What does it say about the leadership in our federal government when they decide to spend many billions for tax cuts for wealthy investors, but balk at fully funding port security? More importantly, what will it say about us if we put this crowd back in power after the November mid-term elections?

Monday, June 19, 2006

Mayor Favre Takes a Vow

Eddie Favre Mayor of Bay St. Louis Mississippi and distant cousin to Brett Favre has taken a vow. He has vowed not to change his shorts until the citizens of his Katrina ravaged town have been “made whole.”

In an AP story we learn that more than 70% of the homes in Bay St. Louis were wiped out. Also this from the AP:
Roughly three-quarters of the city’s pre-storm population of 8,000 is back, but many of those who returned are still waiting for the financial assistance they need to start rebuilding.

Meanwhile, a frustrated Favre says he’s reduced to serving as a morale-booster while he presses state and federal officials to deliver aid to homeowners and the city, which anticipates a $15 million budget deficit over the next three years.

“I hate to see my people suffering so much and know that, to a large extent, there’s not a ... thing I can do to help them,” Favre said.

Nine months after the killer storm, some communities, including Bay St. Louis, are still haggling with the Federal Emergency Management Agency over the timetable and cost of debris removal. And now another hurricane season is upon the city. (emphasis mine-Cory)
According to the story, Mayor Favre sported his shorts when sharing the stage with George W. Bush and at the annual Radio & Television Correspondents’ Association dinner in Washington.

Some Convicted Felons Have More Rights than Others

So it’s official, former State Assembly Speaker Scott Jensen will be appealing his convictions in the freedom of his own home rather than serving his time in prison. This from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Day Watch:
Dane County Circuit Judge Steven Ebert said he remains convinced that the former Republican leader was convicted based on overwhelming evidence. But the judge said he recognized that if Jensen ultimately wins his appeal, time he spends in prison "cannot be returned" to him."

I am persuaded by a more basic humanitarian impulse, and that is to preserve a young family intact" while the appeal process runs its course, said Ebert, who stayed his order that Jensen begin serving a 15-month prison sentence on July 15.

You have got to be kidding me. I have personally worked on many criminal cases where a person has been convicted of one or more felonies. I don’t remember ever seeing any of them kept out of prison while they appeal. Although most of those defendants were African American men and could not afford an attorney, much less the powerful TRIAL LAWYERS that Jensen has hired. So what if these young men win appeals of cases that they are forced to launch pro se from a prison library? That is time that “cannot be returned” to them. Apparently Jensen’s time is more precious.

The continuous double standard in our system of justice is sickening. This is only another example that the rich, powerful, and connected live in a different world than the rest of us. Even after being convicted of multiple felonies.

By the way, does anyone have an idea of how long Jensen’s appeal may take? Does anyone doubt that he will appeal it to the Supreme Court? Could this mean that he has bought (by way of expensive trial lawyers) a “get out of jail free card” that will not expire for years?

What an injustice.

I’ll Pay for Paul Ryan’s Ticket to “An Inconvenient Truth”

How strange that on the same weekend that I was able to see the Al Gore movie, “An Inconvenient Truth,” it was reported that three of Wisconsin’s four Republican members of Congress voted against increasing funds for monitoring vehicle fuel efficiency. Congressmen Paul Ryan, F. James Sensenbrenner, and Tom Petri were the offenders.

It was an amendment to HR5576 and was passed without the three Wisconsin Republicans support. It increased funds for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration office in charge of vehicle fuel efficiency. It will raise funding from $1.3 million to $8 million and give the agency more tools to enforce current standards.

A former administrator of the agency writes the following regarding the importance of the bill’s passage and increased fuel efficiency standards in general.
Poor funding and the failure of congressional authority have prevented the Office of Fuel Economy from effectively monitoring the auto industry and setting the maximum feasible levels for fuel economy standards. With this amendment, the Office of Fuel Economy will again have the funding and authority to take an active stand as a proponent of vehicle fuel efficiency and innovation.

Fuel economy standards have not been raised since I issued the first CAFE standards almost three decades ago. The current car standard, which took effect in 1985, is only 27.5 mpg. If it were raised to an achievable average of 40 mpg, we would save approximately 3.4 million barrels of oil a day. In a year, the quantity saved would be one and a half times greater than our current annual imports from the Persian Gulf.

Although the current standards appear to be outdated, The Union of Concerned Scientists proclaims the CAFE standards a success commenting:
CAFE standards increased new car and truck fuel economy by 70 percent between 1975 and 1988. In 2000 alone, CAFE saved American consumers $92 billion, reduced oil use by 60 billion gallons of gasoline, and kept 720 million tons of global warming pollution out of our atmosphere. The original schedule for CAFE improvements ended in 1985, leaving Congress and the administration responsible for future improvements - none of which have been pursued, leading to the current drop in fuel economy of the national vehicle fleet.

So when the CAFE standards have been followed, they have saved consumers money AND reduced the amount of global warming pollution? So what is the big debate in giving the Office of Fuel Economy more tools and funding to do its job?

I intend to ask Paul Ryan that question if he accepts my invitation to see “An Inconvenient Truth.” While I’m at it, I think I’ll cover admission for Sensenbrenner and Petri also. I think that we deserve an explanation from all three of them on their “no” votes last week.

A Bone to Pick with Milwaukee's DA

In Saturday’s edition of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel they reported on the sentencing of two men convicted in the killing of a minister on Milwaukee’s north side. Judge Kahn stated at their sentencing that this was clearly a hate crime. Judge Kahn is quoted in the story as saying the following:

"I can come to no other conclusion (than) Mr. Ward's suspicion or belief that Mr. Jemison was gay was a factor in the commission of the crime."

So the rhetorical question that I have for the Milwaukee County District Attorney is, why did you not charge these men with the Hate Crime Enhancer that Wisconsin has had on it’s books for years now? Perhaps a better question would be why have you never charged ANYONE (to my knowledge) with a hate crime?

I am told that District Attorney E. Michael McCann does not believe in the Hate Crime Statutes. I’m sure that he’d say that it is bad law and hard to prove. Yet here we have a clear case of the judge stating that this incident was a hate crime. We also have successful convictions that we can point to across the state. So why not utilize this enhancer in Milwaukee County?

Pardon me for lecturing a longtime DA, but you are a District Attorney not a legislator. If you don’t like the law then lobby the lawmakers. In the mean time it is your job to enforce the law as it is, not as you think it should be.

I have personal experience with the Milwaukee County DA not enforcing the Hate Crime Statute. I have a friend that was assaulted and permanently injured. Based on witness testimony, it was clearly a hate crime. Yet no hate crime was charged.

It is clear that the Hate Crime Statutes will not be used by the DA’s office with McCann at the helm. Let’s hope that the new District Attorney will enforce all of the laws in Wisconsin, not just the ones that he/she agrees with.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Interesting Numbers from a New Poll

A new Wall Street Journal/NBC Poll addressed a large variety of issues. Below I have listed a few of the more interesting findings:

The Economy
By 39%-16%, Americans expect economy to get worse in next year; 43% say it’ll stay the same. Democrats lead on handling the economy by the largest margin, 16 percentage points, since 1993. The poll’s margin of error is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

Among independents, 25% worry Democrats will too quickly raise taxes and spending. But 37% say Bush’s party isn’t sufficiently curbing spending and shrinking the deficit. As House and Senate near minimum-wage clashes next week, 55% of independents are more likely to support a candidate who backs an increase.
The Environment
59% say climate change warrants “some action” or “immediate” steps, up from 51% in 1999.
Wedge Issues Among Republicans
Among Republicans most interested in 2006 elections, gay marriage trails Iraq and immigration as issue; 22% cite it as a top factor in November choice. Just 5% say flag-burning.

What About World-Wide Terrorism Mr. Cheney?

In a recent radio interview Dick Cheney claimed that the war in Iraq was "in part responsible" for the absence of terrorist attacks since September 11th.

The fact that Cheney failed to mention is that his own State Department has reported that world-wide terrorism rose fourfold last year.

Would You Fix the Medicare Drug Plan Already!

How many reports do we have to read regarding the massive Medicare Drug Plan and it's many glitches and problems? Is someone eventually going to fix this monstrosity? The latest report appears today in a USAToday story.
The problems that plagued low-income seniors and people with disabilities during the rollout of Medicare's prescription-drug program in January have continued on a smaller scale, causing some new beneficiaries to lose coverage or spend their own money at pharmacy counters.

The problems occur when people turn 65 or become eligible for Medicare disability benefits and are involuntarily switched from Medicaid drug coverage to the new Medicare plan. Thousands lose Medicaid drug coverage, typically for two to six weeks, before Medicare kicks in. Health counselors say the trouble dominates their caseloads.

"It is a national problem," says Barbara Murock, a state health policy specialist in Allegheny County, Pa. "It's happening all the time."

Since January, most of the early problems have been rectified. But each month, 10,000 to 70,000 new people fall into the gap between Medicaid and Medicare.

It seems that George W. Bush, Mark Green and the others that gave birth to this huge expansion of government gave plenty of thought to how it could benefit big drug companies. For Example, not allowing the government to negotiate with them for lower drug prices. Why didn't they give as much thought to the elderly citizens that would rely on the program?

These constant revelations of gaps, cracks and screw ups in the program are almost maddening. That is for someone that is a long way away from needing it. How much more so for the elderly that need help now?

Is the Graber Record Worthy of Promotion?

Spivak and Bice first broke the story that Republican Party Chairman Rick Graber might be taking a new job with the Bush Administration.

It seems that some on the right are not crying over his departure.

I can say that I don't blame them. During Graber's tenure Wisconsin voted for Gore and Feingold in 2000, Elizabeth Burmaster in 2001, Jim Doyle in 2002, and John Kerry in 2004. Hardly a record worthy of promotion.

John Gard Runs From Another Debate

State Representative and Republican Candidate for the 8th Congressional District, Terri McCormick, put out an interesting press release today.

Apparently her primary opponent Assembly Speaker John Gard has declined to debate her later this month. McCormick states that this is the fourth time that Gard has run away from a debate. McCormick makes the following point in the release:

"The people should decide who represents them, not the money on a 30-second television commercial," Rep. McCormick said. "For people to make a well-informed decision, those running for office must be willing to share their ideas and their plans to solve problems."

Gapparentlytlly feels that since he has already banointednted as the chosen one from Republican party leaders, that he should not have to go before the public and defend his positions and record. The backing of the establishment and big money should not determine who wins any election.

Gard may run from debates with McCormick, but if he wins the Republican Primary, he better be prepared for one heck of a fight. That would include several debates, if he doesn't try to run from those as well.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

They Attacked Clinton, Will They Attack Bush?

Yesterday I posted that Rudy Giuliani feels that the folks in D.C. don't have an energy policy. I also provided a link to Republican attacks against Bill Clinton in a position paper from 2000. They accused him of not having an energy policy. Below I have listed some of the Republican attacks used against Clinton and compared them to economic times under Bush.

Attack: When OPEC slowed oil production in 1999, oil prices went up from $10 to $30 a barrel.

The Bush Energy Policy (if it exists) has had a chance to do it's magic for six years now, and what do we have? Just a couple months ago, oil hit an all-time record of over $75 a barrel.

Attack: Spikes in Oil prices affect other aspects of the economy. In March of 1999 the core rate of inflation was .4 percent, the largest in 5 years.

The core rate of inflation for the last 3 months has been .3 percent. This is the highest increase since 1995.

Attack: The Federal Reserve raised interest rates 5 times from June 1999-April 2000.

The Federal Reserve raised rates 14 times in 2005.

Now we see that economists are worried about what they call "stagflation" among other things. How did all of this happen? Will anyone take responsibility? All of this while the Republicans were in charge of the entire federal government? Are we to believe that this is just a strange coincidence or a long series of failing policies? Whatever the cause, someone should pay a price. Someone beside workers with stagnant wages and the poor with increasingly cut benefits.

Could This Be Called Paul Ryan's Pay for Play?

In today's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Spivak and Bice reveal that Congressman Paul Ryan has been leaning on bureaucrats regarding the proposed casino in Kenosha. This from today's column:
U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, as we earlier reported, dialed up the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Minneapolis late last year to lean on the bureaucrats about the $808 million casino being proposed at the Dairyland Greyhound Park in Kenosha. Big-shot businessman Dennis Troha, the driving force behind the off-reservation casino, and his friends and family donated more than $31,000 to the Janesville Republican's campaign in 2005.

But now we learn that Ryan was in the face of top federal officials in February to find out what was taking them so long with the casino application.

"Jim Cason and I met with Congressman Ryan yesterday afternoon," George Skibine, director of the Office of Indian Gaming Management, wrote in a March 1 e-mail. Cason is the associate deputy secretary at the U.S. Interior Department.

"He (Ryan) asked us for a time frame to get a decision on this application. He was also really annoyed with Maria Wiseman for missing her self-imposed deadlines for reviewing the draft (environmental impact statement)."
This is not the first time that Spivak and Bice have told us about the money given to Ryan from the Kenosha Casino interests. It's just the first time that they've shown us what this kind of money gets a donor.

So let's review. Advocates for the casino give Ryan more than $31,000 in one year, and then Ryan gets in the face of the folks at the Bureau of Indian Affairs because they are not moving fast enough for his benefactors. If we switch the name Ryan to Doyle, wouldn't most on the right start talking about a "pay for play" scandal? I've asked this question before, but what's the diff? Where are the press releases? Where is the consistency? Where is the outrage from Republicans? Nowhere to be found, only double standards.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Ideological Hysteria Blocking Public Health

Earlier this week Wisconsin Right to Life put out a press release warning the public about the attacking killer stem cells. OK, all joking aside. They did say that stem cells are "dangerous", "uncontrollable" and that they can possibly produce tumors. Huh? Granted I am not a scientist doing stem cell research in my basement, but something sounds a bit like hysteria here. If Wisconsin Right to Life is going to release such outrageous claims, perhaps they should direct us to the research that they are relying on. That is if it exists from an independent source.

This is only the latest local example of the extreme right wing using scare tactics, myth and hype rather than science and reason.

On the national stage we have another case of ideological extremism blocking advancement, health, and the public good. AlterNet has the full story:
The Food and Drug Administration advisory panel approved a vaccine for the human papilloma virus (HPV) last week. The vaccine appears to be 100 percent effective at protecting against the most prevalent viruses that cause cervical cancer. While public health professionals view the vaccine as miraculous, many conservative organizations oppose it on the grounds that it might encourage promiscuity among adolescent girls. Now that the FDA has approved the vaccine, conservatives are already working feverishly to limit or even prevent its use.

The pharmaceutical giant Merck produced the vaccine, known as Gardasil, which will be nothing short of a lifesaver for countless women. Cervical cancer is the second most prevalent cancer killer among women in America, striking nearly 14,000 each year. Of those, nearly 4,000 die. Poor women and women of color will benefit the most from the vaccine, as Latino and black women suffer the highest rates of cervical cancer. Lower-income women typically lack the funds and health insurance necessary to have regular screenings for HPV.

According to the story, right wing groups like the Family Research Council and the Physicians Consortium are fighting full approval of the vaccine. A member of the latter explains that if women really want to avoid such diseases, they should simply not have sex.

I’m sure that Wisconsin Right to Life might agree with this position, although the subject does not appear prominent on their website. I’d like to confirm how they feel. Better yet, I’d like to ask a few questions of the two politicians that they have endorsed in statewide races.

Do you believe that stem cells are “dangerous” and “uncontrollable”?
Are you against the full approval of the lifesaving Gardasil vaccine?

Voters deserve the courtesy of an answer on these important questions. The media should have the courage to pin them down on these issues.

No Child Left Behind Fails it's Own Test

Based on today's headline in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 92 Wisconsin schools have not met the criteria required in the No Child Left Behind education policy. Let me preface my comments by saying that there is clearly room for improvement in some of our schools, particularly those in urban communities. That being said, Perhaps the No Child Left Behind standards should not be the tool used to measure our progress.

The recently released results of a Harvard study of NCLB leave much to be desired. This from a Reuters report on the study:
U.S. President George W. Bush's signature No Child Left Behind education policy is failing to close racial achievement gaps and will miss its goals by 2014 according to recent trends, a Harvard study said on Wednesday.

It said the policy has had no significant impact on improving reading and math achievement since it was introduced in 2001, contradicting White House claims and potentially adding to concerns over America's academic competitiveness.

The report reveals that test scores in reading, math and science have remained flat since the implementation of NCLB. The study also "predicts less than 25 percent of poor and black students will hit the 2014 target in reading proficiency and less than 50 percent in math, with the overall racial achievement gap barely closing by 2014."

Whatever the solutions to Wisconsin's challenges in education, it does not appear that NCLB should be among them.

Still No Energy Policy in 2006?

I remember when Bill Clinton was president and leading up to the 2000 presidential election, the right wing had many mantras. One of their favorites was that the Clinton/Gore Administration had no Energy Policy. The Republican Policy Committee even wrote an extensive paper about it (please note the irony of some of the other charges here). George W. Bush campaigned on it in 2000.

So how interesting is it that possible Republican candidate for President in '08,Rudy Giuliani, is making this charge? That is one heck of a way to make friends with the ruling class of your party. Afterall, they are the ones in charge of the entire federal government.

Giuliani is set to do a few stump speeches for Mark Green before the November election. I wonder if he will call Green out for his part in this non-action on energy policy? He has been in Congress since 1998 right? That would be a stump speech that even I would take time to attend.

Who Owns This White House?

Recently the White House loosened a rule that was designed by the EPA to protect our groundwater. Specifically the rule was targeted to protect the groundwater near oil drilling sites and other construction zones.

A story in Yesterday's L.A. Times gives the details of how the loosening of the rule came about (free registration is required at LA Times, so this link is to Common Dreams):

The new rule, which took effect Monday, came after years of intense industry pressure, including court battles and behind-the-scenes agency lobbying. But environmentalists vowed Monday that the fight was not over, distributing internal White House documents that they said portrayed the new rule as a political payoff to an industry long aligned with the Republican Party and President Bush.

In 2002, a Texas oilman and longtime Republican activist, Ernest Angelo, wrote a letter to Rove complaining that an early version of the rule was causing many in the oil industry to "openly express doubt as to the merit of electing Republicans when we wind up with this type of stupidity."

Rove responded by forwarding the letter to top White House environmental advisors and scrawling a handwritten note directing an aide to talk to those advisors and "get a response ASAP."

Rove later wrote to Angelo, assuring him that there was a "keen awareness" within the administration of addressing not only environmental issues but also the "economic, energy and small business impacts" of the rule.

Although the Bush Administrations says that the letter had nothing at all to do with the loosening of the rule, the story goes on to state a few interesting facts.

  • Ernest Angelo was mayor in Midland Texas back when George W. Bush ran an oil firm into the ground there. Angelo is a long-time hunting partner of Carl Rove.
  • Angelo was also quoted after the rule change as saying that his letter might have made a difference in how it was written.
  • Several Senators sent a letter to the EPA asking if the Angelo letter to Rove had any influence over the loosening of the rule. The EPA never responded to that question.

Just another example that this White House is bought and paid for by big business, most notably Big Oil. The well being of the environment or the health and safety of the average citizen matters little to this Administration. When a big oil exec decides to write a letter, that gets major attention, and their demands are magically manifested into new government policy.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Boots and Sabers should Apologize

There is an ongoing online dispute between right wing bloggers, and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Columnist Eugene Kane. It all started after Eugene Kane wrote a Sunday column regarding Milwaukee's ‚ Riverwest neighborhood.

I have already filed the complaints by the right in the "so what" file in my mind. So let me give you the cliff notes version.

Right wing blog Boots and Sabers noticed that the name of a person mentioned in Kane's column was allegedly that of a guy that was convicted in the tire slashing case.

Charlie Sykes then gave the Boots and Sabers post some publicity by mentioning it on his blog.

Then Eugene Kane happened to notice that the right wing blogs were becoming fixated on this point. So he replied on his Raising Kane blog.

OK, sorry for boring you. But here is the point to my post. Boots and Sabers then responds to Kanes blog with a post entitled, "Kane's Komedic Komments."

What? Was that some strange accident? Is Owen at Boots and Sabers trying to be funny? What's funny about the KKK? Trying to be clever? Do me a favor, be a clever young righty and make a visit to Milwaukee's Black Holocaust Museum ASAP!

It is bad enough that you treat such a blemish in our history so lightly. The fact that you do it only days after the death of a local Civil Rights giant and direct it to an African American columnist only makes it worse.

I think that you should apologize for this post.

Given their history on responding to outrageous comments, I wont wait for the right wing to ask you to do it.

Update: Owen at Boots and Sabers refuses to apologize for his comment. No surprise there. It appears that he used the reference to get noticed. He states in his response, "Finally somebody noticed." He says that he believes that Kane is a racist and that is why he used the KKK reference. If he really believes that, it's his business. Right or wrong, I think there are 101 other ways he could have expressed that opinion. He didn't have to resort to this tactic, he already has the attention of neo-con talkers, politicians and others. Perhaps that is something they should reconsider.

Sykes Speaks on Coulter, Sorta

In a previous post I asked why the right wing was not outraged over the crazy comments by conservative commentator Ann Coulter. You will remember that a full week ago she made all manner of disgusting comments and allegations against the widows of 911 victims. Not a word from Wisconsin right wingers.

Now, a week later, under apparent pressure from "lefty emails," Sykes has decided to finally comment on the Coulter statements. What is his grand insight into the assault on the 911 widows? He calls Coulter's comments "over the top" and "ill-advised." He then tries to distance himself from Coulter by saying that lefties are "demanding that all conservatives denounce Coulter's comments (as if we are all her keepers.)"-emphasis mine.

Charlie, let me tell you something. Ann Coulter is the conservative Ward Churchill. Ann Coulter is your Michael Moore. To the extent that you hold Democrats responsible for their comments, you should equally be held responsible for Coulter's.

After his VERY BRIEF comments about Coulter, he then immediately falls into his practice of changing the subject. He brings up some unsourced second hand comments allegedly from a prominant liberal blogger.

Big Spending on Earmarks, The GOP Way

We all know that the Republican led federal government has been spending like there is no tomorrow. We also know that Congress has almost always had tons of earmark/pork spending attached to almost every bill and budget.

One thing that I don't think most people realize is just how much the earmark/pork spending has gone up under the Republican leadership. In a press release by Congressman Mark Kennedy (D-Minnesota), he reveals that in 1996 there were only 958 appropriation earmarks. In 2005 there was a record 14,000! That amounts to an over 1300% increase in earmarks under largely Republican rule.

Another thing that most people don't know is that these types of appropriations can be done anonymously. So no wonder it has gone up so much! A member of Congress can in effect bestow federal money on any pet project back in their home districts and never be held accountable for the spending spree.

I have a question here. Mark Green has been in Congress since 1998, what has he ever done to curb this free for all? What about F. Jim Sensenbrenner? Has he been part of the problem or part of the solution? In an effort to gain a prominent position Paul Ryan is lecturing others on spending. What legislation has he ever authored to stop this abuse of the American Taxpayer? This massive increase in spending has been under Republican rule, the onus is on them. How long will it take them to get their act together? Perhaps a better question is how long will it take for Taxpayers to revolt?

Conspiracy Theories, Innuendo and Dirty Campaigning

So Georgia Thompson has been convicted.

Republicans were trying to make this matter into much more before her conviction, so obviously now they are going to take this and run right off the deep end.

Here are a few things that dispel many of the Republican conspiracy theories:

  • After all of this time Georgia Thompson is the only person that has been charged with anything.
  • The Thompson indictment does not allege “pay-to-play” activity.
  • An FBI agent testified during the trial that there was no evidence that Thompson knew about any links between Doyle and Adelman.
  • Biskupic himself has said that this case was about “Georgia Thompson and Georgia Thompson alone”.

None of these things will matter to Republicans in the long run. Voters will certainly be assaulted by negative adds filled with innuendo and baseless accusations. Ironic that the upcoming dirty campaigning will come from someone that was only recently calling for a “clean campaign.”

Monday, June 12, 2006

Rise in Violent Crimes. Who is Actually Surprised?

The FBI just released statistics on violent crime for last year. The report shows a violent crimes increased by 2.5% nationally. This represents the first overall increase in violent crime since 2001 and the biggest increase since 1993. Last year we also saw a 15 year high in the number of murder victims.

I find the timing of these terrible statistics to be quite interesting. Both the White House and Republicans in Congress have been successful in cutting and completely terminating a variety of programs intended to help fight crime locally.

From George W. Bush’s 2007 budget, he calls for the total elimination of a variety of law enforcement programs. The COPS Law Enforcement Technology Grant is just one of those. Under Republican rule, it is not the first and will certainly not be the last to face the chopping block.

Often we find that violent crime is drug related. So what does the Bush Administration propose to do? Cut the Byrne Memorial State and Local Law Enforcement Assistance Grant. What is the focus of this grant? Assisting drug courts, drug taskforces, and helping in drug education.

I would enjoy hearing Republicans explain how this record rise in violent crime has nothing to do with several years of constant cuts to local law enforcement assistance.

I can agree with the idea that cutting these programs alone did not likely cause this spike. I’d guess that another possible contributing factor could be increasing poverty. Another hallmark of the Bush Administration.

Working for Sensenbrenner can be Cushy OR a Labor

Yesterday the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Spivak and Bice reported that aides and staffers of F. Jim Sensenbrenner have all of the luck. They reported that according to the Center for Public Integrity that those working in Sensenbrenner’s office have been the beneficiaries of over $340,000 in privately funded travel. His office ranks 12th among all other Congressional offices in this category. Working for Sensenbrenner seems to be a choice job based on this information.

Apparently Sensenbrenner must draw a distinction between his office workers and those that do manual labor for companies in which he has vested interest.

Last month I posted a copy of Sensenbrenner’s disclosure statement, which showed that he owns $100,000 in Halliburton stock. At that time I also mentioned that with all of his tough talk on immigration, he never said anything when Halliburton was busted for using illegal immigrant workers. This happened during the cleanup from Hurricane Katrina. Just last week there was a report of how badly some of these kinds of illegal immigrants were treated.

They are the backbone of post-Hurricane Katrina reconstruction: Workers who converge at dawn and wait to be picked up for 14-hour shifts of hauling debris, ripping out drywall and nailing walls.

But because many are in the country illegally, immigrant workers rebuilding New Orleans are especially vulnerable to exploitation, according to a study released Tuesday by professors at Tulane University and the University of California at Berkeley.

The illegal immigrants often work in hazardous conditions without protective gear and earn far less than their legal counterparts, the study said. Nearly one-third of the illegal immigrants interviewed by researchers reported working with harmful substances and in dangerous conditions, while 19 percent said they were not given any protective equipment.
No divesting himself from Halliburton, not even a public rebuke from the Congressman.

F. Jim Sensenbrenner is also the heir of the Kimberly-Clark fortune. Apparently the laborers that work for Sensenbrenner there don’t fare all that well either. A report over the weekend tells us that over 105 workers from the companies’ Lakeview plant have been laid off. The company is also closing a Neenah area plant that employs 165 workers.

Working for Sensenbrenner? Sounds like a cushy job. Unless you are doing manual labor for a living.

GOP Choose Tax Cuts for Rich Over Homeland Security

We have already discussed the fact that this Republican controlled federal government failed to provide appropriate Homeland Security funds to the cities with the most risk. Actually, they have cut funding to those cities while giving more money to others that face little risk.

I thought that once this information was made public that the Republicans in Congress would act outraged and recalibrate the funds. No such luck. Actually when they had a chance last week to vote on giving more funding to cities at greatest risk, they voted "no." Yes, and that does include Mark Green and every other Wisconsin Republican in Congress. Democrats tried to offer an amendment to HR 5441 that would have provided an additional $750 million to the cities most at risk. Republicans were able to block that amendment.

What on earth could be the reason for Wisconsin Republicans refusal to fully fund the protection of our most vulnerable cities? Because the extra money for the funds would have been taken from their continual tax cuts for the rich.

Republicans talk a tough game but when push comes to shove they have demonstrated their priorities. More tax cuts for the rich, less funds for fighting terrorism right here at home.

Where's the Outrage on the Right?

It is almost a week since right wing talking head and author, Ann Coulter, started her assault on the widows of September 11th. It seems clear that she does these outrageous things just to get her name/face on the TV to sell more books.

While she is well known for saying some of the most outrageous things, her comments last week were completely disgusting and totally unacceptable. Although most have likely heard about her comments, here are a couple of them:

When on NBC's Today Show, she verified her belief in the following comments in her book regarding the widows of September 11th.
"These broads are millionaires, lionized on TV and in articles about them, revelling in their status as celebrities and stalked by grief-arazzis. I've never seen people enjoying their husbands' death so much."

Then a couple of days later she was on Fox's Hannity and Colmes show. Alan Colmes asked her if she thought that the 911-widows would give back everything that they now have just to get their husbands back. Coulter responded:
"Oh, I don't know. At this point, to give up $2 million ... to have to go back to cooking meals and not ... appearing in Vanity Fair. They're clearly enjoying their celebrity status."

I must say that I am not surprised by Coulter's outrageous comments. I usually pay no attention to her at all. What is more bothersome to me is the response, or lack thereof, by the Republicans and the right wing.

Where is Charlie Sykes, Mark Belling, and Jessica McBride? Have I missed their outrage on this issue? Can Coulter and others just say the most vile things and get a pass from them because she is on their ideological side?

What if this was a liberal taking shots at the families of 911 victims? I wonder if Sykes and the others would say anything then? I have a feeling that it would be wall to wall outrage on WTMJ and WISN. Yet Ann Coulter makes the comments and little or nothing is said.

I have also forced myself to check last week's posts by the best known right wing bloggers and not a peep. Not one word.

How strange that the crowd that loves to use 911 for political gain and manipulation, will not rush to the defense of the widows of 911. All to protect the matriarch of their movement. How sad.

Friday, June 09, 2006

The Feds Meddle with Our Voting Rights

Earlier this week we found out that Wisconsin Congressmen F. Jim Sensenbrenner and Mark Green sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice to request a formal review of a recent ruling by the state Elections Board. In that ruling, the Board decided that voters registering on election day could use the last four digits of their social security number if they did not have a current photo ID.

The U.S. Department of Justice response states that Wisconsin voters who register at the polls can't swap their Social Security numbers for their driver's license number if they were issued a license. This is their interpretation based on their understanding of the “Help America Vote Act” (HAVA).The author of the letter, Assistant Attorney General William E. Moschella, wrote that the Department of Justice will be watching the Elections Board and “is actively seeking to ensure compliance with the requirements of HAVA.”

State Elections Board executive director Kevin Kennedy said that the letter doesn’t address a section of HAVA that allows states to determine whether the information voters provide satisfies the act.

This is clearly yet another chapter in the right wing effort to require voter identification at the polls. Attempts to pass some of the most restrictive voter ID laws have thankfully been vetoed by Governor Doyle.

Late last year a voter ID law in Georgia was overturned in federal court. In that case the Judge compared that voter ID requirement to the jim-crow era poll tax which required citizens to pay back taxes before being allowed to vote. These kinds of laws unfairly affected minority communities, as do the more recent ID requirements.

A study from UW-Milwaukee found that less than half of all blacks and Hispanics of voting age in Wisconsin have a driver’s license. The study further discovered that the mobility rate of many minority groups and college students are much higher than their older white counterparts. This type of frequent moving adds additional complications to having a “current” driver’s license. The study also found that over 177,000 elderly Wisconsinites lacked a current driver’s license or ID.

More recent results of a voter ID requirement was reported in Indiana earlier this year. In that state, returning veterans were denied the right to vote because their identification did not meet the letter of the strict law.

Governor Doyle proposed a package of election reforms that would help safeguard the process but also protect the rights of all Wisconsinites. Some of the details of the proposal would include:

Better training for all poll workers
Setting uniform poll hours
Early voting to help reduce crowds at the polls
Deputy Registrars would have to be trained
Groups registering voters would be barred from paying their workers by the numbers of people that they register.
The ability for residents to register at the DMV

These all appear to be solutions to the process problems that we have had in some past elections. But they are solutions that are not likely to disenfranchise any group of voters in our state.

Investing in Schools vs. Saving a Buck

The following is a real-life lesson in why it is not always good to short change schools just to save a buck.

Voters of the Maple School District in Northwestern Wisconsin just voted down a proposed $32 million referendum on Tuesday. The measure would have helped the district perform many repair and maintenance tasks.

Not long after the the voters denied the much needed funding, a sewer line under Northwestern High School broke open. The broken sewer line flooded the school's kitchen and several locker rooms. Also reported was a passenger-less bus that became stuck in the sludge and needed to be towed out. Superintendent Gregg Lundberg was quoted as saying that "it's a bit of a mess, but it will eventually get fixed."

Convicting the Uncharged, Defending the Convicted

Georgia Thompson testified yesterday in the federal trial in which she is accused of illegally steering a state contract to a company. So far the government has made it’s case and now the defense is calling it’s witnesses.

Here are a few things that I thought were interesting in the accounts of testimony that I have read:

  • An FBI agent admitted under cross-examination that he had no evidence that Thompson knew anything about any political ties or the contributions that Adelman executives gave to the Doyle campaign.

  • Thompson testified in her own defense yesterday saying that she does not belong to a political party, doesn’t work on campaigns and doesn’t always vote.

  • Thompson also testified that she hardly knows former Department of Administration Secretary Marc Marotta. She stated that she would see him at quarterly leadership meetings and she would bump into him in the elevator sometimes.

  • Thompson also mentioned that her superiors never said anything about Adelman and never suggested to her that Adelman should get a contract.

My personal instinct based on these details, is that an acquittal is more likely than was once thought. Just a gut feeling, obviously no one will really know until the verdict is read.

Seth Zlotacha at In Effect has already pointed out that the right wing seems to be preparing themselves for a not guilty verdict. As Seth points out, no matter what happens the right wing has already convicted Doyle:

But now that the state has rested in the trial against Georgia Thompson, conservatives are already preparing to make lemonade out of lemons.

Rick gets the ball rolling today: "I don't know if Thompson will be convicted (right now, I'm guessing not) but it seems very likely that the process was cooked. If she is acquitted, it will be no vindication of Doyle."

To sum-up:Guilty verdict = Doyle is guiltyNot guilty verdict = Doyle is still guilty

How strange that the same crowd that gives convicted felon Scott Jenson a pass are willing to convict someone that has not been charged or even implicated of criminal wrong doing. Can anyone on the right side of the blogosphere spell H-Y-P-O-C-R-I-S-Y?

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Tom Reynolds, Paranoia, and Videotape

Nearly a month ago Watchdog Milwaukee broke a story involving State Senator Tom Reynolds (R-Pluto). Apparently Reynolds was holding what he called a “town hall meeting” at the Wauwatosa PUBLIC Library. When a person entered the room with a video camera, he told the person that she had to stop taping him. You can view the video with this LINK to Watchdog Milwaukee’s 14MB file.

Apparently the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Spivak and Bice got wind of this incident and did a story profiling it on June 3rd.

Today Xoff is doing a public service in reminding us why Reynolds may be so camera shy. He offers us THIS commercial back when Reynolds ran against long-time Democratic Congressman Gerald Kleczka.

After watching that well done commercial, I guess I can see why Reynolds seems so paranoid. It’s all but over for him if the public at-large should hear how extreme he really is on virtually every issue.

Hmm...Wisconsin is not "Bush-Country" After All

I'm sure that I am not the only progressive that would become ill in 2004 when Republicans proclaimed Wisconsin "Bush-Country." I mean, didn't they realize that he lost this state in 2000? Do you think they were still making that claim after he ended up losing this state again in 2004? Perhaps.

After the latest poll of Wisconsinites released today, I doubt that we will hear that claim again. This from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's All Politics Blog regarding the new numbers:

In the latest poll by Strategic Vision, only 26% of Wisconsinites approve of Bush’s job performance, and only 22% approve of his handling of Iraq.

But the trend is what’s more disturbing for the Administration. Here are the president’s approval numbers in the series of statewide polls conducted by Strategic Vision going in chronological order from late January to early March to early April to late April to early June: 38, 36, 31, 28, 26.

Here are the approval numbers for the President’s handling of Iraq: 38, 36, 27, 25, 22.

Here are the percentages of Wisconsinites who would like to see the US withdraw all troops from Iraq within six months: 45, 47, 55, 56, 59.

I wonder if the massive majority of Wisconsinites that disapprove of Bush know that Mark Green has been a rubber stamp for him in Congress? I wonder how many of the 59% that want to get out of Iraq in six months know that Mark Green founded the "Victory in Iraq Caucus" in Congress? Would they vote for someone with whom they disagree with so strongly?

Thompson to Mark Green: Talk to the Hand

Former Libertarian Candidate for Governor Ed Thompson has been getting increasingly vocal in his opposition to the Discrimination Against Gays Amendment that will appear on the ballot in in November.

A story in the Daily Reporter this week shows that Thompson is on the attack against the proposed amendment. The story quotes Thompson saying some of the following:

"it is just a ploy to get out the right-wing vote"

"I'm going to speak out about it every chance I get. Enough of this nonsense."

Thompson also describes the amendment as an "evil thing" that is "so incredibly wrong" that it amounts to "lunacy."

Perhaps one of the most interesting things that the Daily Reporter story reveals is the fact that Mark Green went to Thompson's Tomah restaurant seeking his endorsement. Thompson refused to give Green his endorsement citing his support for the Discrimination Against Gays Amendment.

Learning Values from Immigrants

Yesterday, George W. Bush commented that immigrants must adopt American values. That made me wonder why Americans shouldn’t learn a few values from immigrants. How about a few of these:

The Value of Hard Work
Immigrant labor force participation is consistently higher than native-born. Although immigrants only make up about 11% of the population, they make up over 14% of our workforce, and they are about 20% of our low-wage workers. Obviously they are doing more than their fair share of hard work.

The Value of Patriotism
More than 60,000 immigrants serve on active duty in the US Armed Forces.
More than 20% of the recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor in US wars have been immigrants.
Over 500,000 immigrants fought in the Union Army during the Civil War.

The Value of Marriage
According to the latest census data, people of Hispanic origin in the United States are less likely to be divorced (7.1%) as compared to their white counterparts (10.1%).

The bottom line is that most immigrants to the US already share our values. Most of them are coming here to better their lives and the lives of their families. That is surely a noble endeavor. Perhaps before we start lecturing immigrants about adopting our values, we should check to see if they already share them.

When Right Wing Think Tanks Attack

In less than a month at least two “reports” were released by right wing think tanks. Both accused Wisconsin’s students of not being quite up to par. The first one was from the Hoover Institute and said that Wisconsin’s numbers are inflated and that Wisconsin has found loopholes in No Child Left Behind testing requirements.

This week the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, yet another right wing think tank, claims that Wisconsin’s standards in World History are not sufficient. They claim that those standards are too vague. Ironically, a representative of the Department of Public Instruction commented that they prefer LOCAL CONTROL and allow officials on the local level to further define such standards.

So let me understand this, a right wing think tank criticizes Wisconsin for exercising “local control”? My how times have changed.

It is also no surprise that the Fordham study was paid for by the right wing Milwaukee based Bradley Foundation.

My only question is why the right wing war against Wisconsin Education? I thought that we were doing quite well, since we routinely place in the top tier in ACT scores. I fully expect that the next right wing “report” will tell me that there is something wrong with that finding as well.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

A Homework Assignment for McBride and Bucher

As I mentioned in a post yesterday, right wing blogger/talker Jessica McBride is reportedly working on a “research project” on immigration for the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute. It sounds like the “research” will focus on illegal immigrants in our corrections system. Next thing you know, her husband and Republican candidate for Attorney General, Paul Bucher is touting numbers in today’s paper. What kind of numbers? Numbers of how many illegal immigrants have been paroled in Wisconsin.

I have a few questions regarding this situation and would like to assign some homework:

  1. Is this a simple coincidence that just as McBride is doing her “research” on this specific subject that her husband starts releasing data on the same topic?
  2. Did McBride give or otherwise share this information with her husband?
  3. If she is being paid by the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute (a self described nonpartisan/non-profit) for her “research”, is it appropriate for her to also give this information to a political campaign?
  4. Does this mean that WPRI is coordinating it’s efforts with the Bucher Campaign?
  5. Does all of this pass the smell test? Is it appropriate?

These are honest questions that I believe deserve honest answers. I will wait for McBride/Bucher to respond, but won’t hold my breath. In the mean time it would be great for some reporter somewhere in this state to check into the matter. If it were a Dem, it would likely already be a headline in the paper.

Anti-Gay Amendment Goes Down in Senate

CNN just reported that the discrimination Against Gays Amendment in the U.S. Senate has been voted down, as expected. The vote was 49-48 to end debate. This was a procedural vote as sixty votes would have been needed just to move the actual amendment forward for an actual vote, and sixty seven votes would have been needed to pass it.

Both Wisconsin Senators Herb Kohl and Russ Feingold have gone on record that they would vote against this amendment, for different reasons.

You can look for the right wing to spin this vote as a positive thing. I can hear it now, "wow, 49-48, what a close vote!" Problem is, as already stated, this was a mere procedural vote. The actual amendment was not even able to generate enough votes to actually be voted on. Not even with Bush's preaching everyday this week.

Spin it however you like, the discriminatory amendment is gone. As it should be.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Don't Give Jensen Preferential Treatment

Dane County DA Brian Blanchard has made a filing with Judge Ebert's court, stating that former Assembly Speaker Scott Jensen should appeal his convictions from behind bars. Jensen who had his day in court and was found guilty of multiple felonies, apparently feels that he is special. He apparently feels that he should not have to serve his time while he appeals.

I am not aware of any convicted felon, having been sentenced to over a year of prison, having been allowed their freedom as they mount what could be endless appeals. Shouldn't a few "law and order" Republicans speak up here? I wonder what candidate for Attorney General Paul Bucher would say here?

Jensen's case is nothing special. There are countless convicted felons sitting in prison law libraries all over Wisconsin. Most must feel that they were wrongly convicted and are also filing appeals. Wealth, power, and connections should provide Jensen no preferential treatment.

McBrides Low Grades, My Low Expectations

Watchdog Milwaukee has discovered that Jessica McBride does not appear to be very popular with her students at UWM.

Tons of people meet on the website and one of the features they have is “Grade Your Professor”. Reporter turned UW-Milwaukee Professor and WTMJ right-wing talk radio show host Jessica McBride gets just a C+ from her students.

Watchdog then goes on to list several quotes from some of McBride's students that include things like, "She's full of herself and that is all you hear about all semester," and "she doesn't really focus on many relevant things, just her greatness."

If we are to believe the above student evaluations, I wonder how much stock we should put into McBride's new "research project" on immigration. She has mentioned this on Charlie Sykes show and apparently is doing this work for the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute.

Given the right wing frenzy on immigration last week, which left egg on many faces, my expectations for her "research project" couldn't be lower.

Another Opportunity for Green: Would You Sign This?

Mark Green has had several opportunities to demonstrate just how extreme he is on the issues. One of these opportunities is on the issue of abortion. I don't remember Mark Green commenting on the near total ban on abortion in South Dakota. Would he sign such a bill? Now we have reports that the Democratic Governor of Louisiana will sign yet another ban on abortion in her state.

Under the measure, doctors found guilty of performing abortions would face up to 10 years in prison and fines of $100,000.The bill is similar to a South Dakota law passed earlier this year that is expected to land before the Supreme Court. A majority of the Supreme Court's nine justices have voted to uphold Roe v. Wade in the past.

Once again I'd like to ask... Mark Green would you sign this bill?

Liberals Protect Marriage By Example, Not Rhetoric

Since Republicans in D.C. have decided to go on a multi-day gay bash, I thought that I would repost a link to a Boston Globe story from 2004 that seems very relevant.

Most of the advocates of anti-gay amendments claim to be great defenders of marriage. They usually blame liberals for the current state of the institution. So how funny is it that "liberal Massachusetts" consistently ranks as the state with the least amount of divorce in the country? Yes, the only state in the nation to offer total equality to gay and lesbian couples has the lowest divorce rate! This from the Boston Globe story:

The state with the lowest divorce rate in the nation is Massachusetts. At latest count it had a divorce rate of 2.4 per 1,000 population, while the rate for Texas was 4.1.

But don't take the US government's word for it. Take a look at the findings from the George Barna Research Group. George Barna, a born-again Christian whose company is in Ventura, Calif., found that Massachusetts does indeed have the lowest divorce rate among all 50 states. More disturbing was the finding that born-again Christians have among the highest divorce rates.

The Associated Press, using data supplied by the US Census Bureau, found that the highest divorce rates are to be found in the Bible Belt. The AP report stated that "the divorce rates in these conservative states are roughly 50 percent above the national average of 4.2 per thousand people." The 10 Southern states with some of the highest divorce rates were Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Texas. By comparison nine states in the Northeast were among those with the lowest divorce rates: Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

Massachusetts AND Vermont have some of the lowest divorce rates? My goodness! The two states that allow the most benefits to gay couples. All of this while many of the Bible Belt states are neck deep in divorce!

The story gives several possible reasons for this strange phenomenon. Some of the contributing factors that they cite are as follows:

  • More couples in the South enter their first marriage at a younger age.

  • Average household incomes are lower in the South.

  • Southern states have a lower percentage of Roman Catholics, "a denomination that does not recognize divorce." Barna's study showed that 21 percent of Catholics had been divorced, compared with 29 percent of Baptists.

  • Education. Massachusetts has about the highest rate of education in the country, with 85 percent completing high school. For Texas the rate is 76 percent. One third of Massachusetts residents have completed college, compared with 23 percent of Texans, and the other Northeast states are right behind Massachusetts.

It appears that threats to marriage are manifold, but clearly none of them have anything to do with same sex relationships. Perhaps the next time we talk about defending marriage we should address divorce, education, and poverty.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Bush Chooses Rove's Advice over Laura's

All polls indicate that George W. Bush has become very unpopular. The Republican run Congress are even more unpopular than him. So what is a battered Republican Party to do in an election year? Try to motivate the most reactionary elements of your base. Thus the same old rehashing of “gay marriage.” Bush made his big announcement earlier today, while the Senate is debating the issue as I write.

How shameful that the discrimination against gay and lesbian citizens is the tool of choice to boost political numbers. It was just earlier this month that Laura Bush herself said that it was not proper to use this issue as a political tool. It looks like that advice has fallen on deaf ears.

I realize that those who would sanction discrimination would claim that Bush is putting forward this proposed constitutional amendment because he believes in it. The evidence seems to suggest otherwise. For example, why is it always approaching an election that he brings this issue to the forefront, only to abandon it later? Also, Newsweek reports that a close friend of George W. Bush has said the following about his motivations:

One of his old friends told NEWSWEEK that same-sex marriage barely registers on the president's moral radar. "I think it was purely political. I don't think he gives a s--t about it. He never talks about this stuff," said the friend, who requested anonymity to discuss his private conversations with Bush.

Bush is at his best when he is dividing America on polarizing and hot button issues. He is changing the subject from all of his many failures, and those of his counterparts in Congress to anything that will divide Americans.

Consistently, Americans show that they are not very concerned about gay marriage. It is hardly on the radar. In a recent poll, only 3% said that abortion and homosexuality are the nation’s top moral concerns. But still the issue is forced on the American people.

George Bush and Republicans have made a series of sad choices by launching this attack on gay citizens. Division over unity, partisan politics over substance, and perhaps the saddest of them all; Karl Rove’s advice over Laura’s.

Endorsing Against Your Own Best Interests

Back in January I remember reading an interesting story in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, entitled "Who Pays the Tab for Low Benefits?" The story quotes the owners of a smaller grocery store that tries to provide good benefits to their employees. The owners speak about their frustration with the fact that they struggle to do what is right and big corporations like Wal-Mart get away with providing nothing or very little to their employees.

There is very little doubt that when a Wal-Mart moves into a community that it becomes a direct competitor with local grocers. It must be very difficult for those local grocers on many levels, but I'd like to focus on healthcare benefits here. Many of these smaller grocers may sacrifice to provide decent healthcare coverage to their employees while a huge company such as Wal-Mart may not. This situation makes matters much worse and very unfair for local grocers.

So it really surprised me on Friday when I found that Wisconsin Grocers endorsed John Gard for the 8th District Congressional seat. Under his leadership, the Republicans in the Assembly were able to kill the latest legislation to hold big corporations like Wal-Mart accountable. That legislation would have required Wal-Mart and others to provide proper health insurance for their employees or to at least help pay for their employees who are driven to state sponsered healthcare. At least it would have made matters in that specific area easier for local grocers. Nope, John Gard and the other Republicans in the assembly decided to not allow an open vote on the Assembly floor.

Why would John Gard not allow this bill to see the light of day? Could it be the fact that members of the Walton family have been generous contributors to him in the past? I guess I don't know for sure but I do know that killing AB860 was a lousy thing to do for local grocers that provide good benefits.

Is Van Hollen Wasting Taxpayer Dollars?

In an apparent attempt to get noticed by Republican primary voters, Attorney General candidate J. B. Van Hollen filed what appear to be frivolous charges against the current AG with the State Ethics Board.

This whole thing stems from a lawsuit against a drug company, which eventually agreed on a settlement with the plaintiffs in the case. An advocacy group called Wisconsin Citizen Action was an organizational plaintiff in the case and ended up getting a small piece of the settlement money to support their work in healthcare policy. J. B. Van Hollen apparently saw a political opportunity because this group has endorsed candidates that hold positions consistent with their values. Apparently Van Hollen believes that this is a good reason to attack the person that holds the job that he desires.

Shortly after this issue first surfaced, I posted my case for why Wisconsin Citizen Action deserved these funds. I will not go into that detail now but will list some of the following points:

  1. As they have been in the past, they were a part of this lawsuit and likely incurred expenses for advocating in this matter.
  2. WCA has a seven year history of advocacy and work in the area of healthcare, which fits the criteria given for those organizations that should receive the funds.
  3. The disbursements of these funds were overseen by a federal judge.
  4. These are not taxpayer or state dollars.
  5. Although endorsing candidates is one facet of their overall operation, they have made it clear that these funds will not be used for any political purpose.
How ironic that J. B. Van Hollen is so concerned about this drug companies money and where it went, yet at the same time he seems to be wasting taxpayers money with these seemingly frivolous charges. Now the State Ethics Board will have to review the entire situation and make a ruling. All on the taxpayer's dime.

I suspect that the State Ethics Board will not come to the same conclusion as the Van Hollen campaign. If I am correct, then I would challenge J.B. Van Hollen to reimburse taxpayers for the funds it took to have the Ethics Board look into the matter in the first place.