Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Cell Phone Discrimination in the Assembly?

As the state Assembly failed to overide any of Governor Doyle's vetos today there was an episode of apparent cell phone discrimination. The blow by blow is given by Rep. Mark Pocan on his blog:

One funny thing that did occur, however, was when I stood up to ask which anonymous Republican member of the assembly objected to funding for a position in the Dane County District Attorney's office. While I was speaking, my cell phone went off. Dumb.

But State Rep. Carol Owens, one of the more conservative members of the GOP caucus, saw it as an opportunity to bash me. Carol, ah, doesn't apparently like "gay" people. And to her, I'm one big homo. Carol wont even ride the elevator with me. Too bad for Carol.

But she demanded an apology for the ringing of the cell phone, and asked that it be taken away from me while I'm on the floor. As she ranted and raved, I went to her desk and gave her my cell phone. Problem solved? Nope, instead she asked the Sergeants' office staff to come and get the "gadget" from her desk. Gadget. You know you're out of touch with your constituents and for that matter the 21st century, when a cell phone is a "gadget". I have to wonder what she calls her computer.

Addendum: A few hours later GOP Rep. Phil Montgomery's cell phone went off on the Assembly floor. Owens was silent on the ringing of the gadget. At the very end of session, so did Democratic Rep. Jim Kreuser. Again, nothing from Owens.

A Lesson in Fundamentalism, End Times, and Irony

First we learned that the abortion rate in the state has gone down while Jim Doyle has been governor. Now we learn that he has signed into law a bill banning employers from forcing their workers to have microchips implanted in their bodies. It is also interesting to note that the bill was sponsored by Democrat Rep. Marlin Schneider (Wisconsin Rapids).

The law appears to be the first of it’s kind in the nation and would impose up to a $10,000 fine on employers that would break it.

Some explanation is needed here for those that may not fully understand the irony of this law being signed by a Democrat.

There is a study in Christian theology called Eschatology. This is the study of what is called the “end times” in Fundamentalist churches. A part of their understanding of the “end times” is the future requirement for all citizens to receive the “mark of the beast.” A specific passage in the book of Revelation actually says that you will not be allowed to buy or sell without the mark. But according to them, if you take the mark you go to hell.

Many Fundamentalists believe that we are living in the “end times” so many are very sensitive to anything that could remotely resemble the “mark of the beast.” So how strange was it when Verichip Corp. marched out their newest board member, Republican Tommy Thompson (yes him), to announce that he was taking such a mark….pardon me…chip? That had many in the “end times” wing of Christian Fundamentalism talking.

More recently the same company started marketing the chip to various companies as a way of limiting access of their employees to restricted areas. This development is what gave rise to the bill that was just signed according to a press release from Rep. Schneider.

I should say that I do see the many legit reasons for signing this bill into law. The word privacy comes to mind. But given my education in biblical studies and upbringing in Fundamentalist churches, I found the signing of this bill very interesting.

Does anyone really think that this kind of thing will change any minds on the religious right? Given the political climate that seems to honor rhetoric over results, I don’t expect much.

In any case, I will definitely be filing this one under IRONY.

The Continuous Double Standards of Rick Graber

Yesterday the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign announced that Governor Doyle had received $10,000 in 2004 from members of an out of state law firm. It turns out that a number of years AFTER Doyle received the donation, some of the people in the firm have been indicted. As Xoff pointed out yesterday, what exactly did this group want Doyle to do, see into the future?

This announcement was made yesterday at approximately 1:50pm (by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel). At by 5:24pm, that same day, the Journal Sentinel reported that Doyle would be giving back the money. That is less than 4 hours isn't it? Yet that did not stop Republican Party of Wisconsin's Rick Graber from making more frivolous allegations. In today's paper, Graber is quoted as saying the following:

Rick Graber, chairman of the state Republican Party, said the contributions are just another example of the influence of big money on the Doyle administration.

"It seems as though every week there is a new, questionable donation that makes its way into Doyle's coffers," he said.

So precisely what is your problem Rick? That these lawyers gave to a campaign and were indicted at a later time? I seem to recall your candidate for governor, Mark Green, taking some $30,000 (yeah, that's three times the donation to Doyle) from indicted former Congressman Tom Delay. I also remember the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel detailing a few more donations to Green coming from people that were either under investigation or indictment. So what about those contributions Rick?

If you really want to go there, as I stated above, once Doyle found out about the indictments it took him less than four hours to send back the donations. How long has it been since Tom Delay was indicted? Nine months? And Mark Green STILL has not gotten rid of the money? Wow, that's a long time to hold on to tainted cash. Any comments on that Rick?

We're Number One, We're Number One!

Am I the only one that finds a bit of irony in this? Just a few weeks after the National Rifle Association came to town, we learn that a gun store in suburban Milwaukee is number one in the country for selling guns that are eventually used in crimes. Not only that, but this story appears in the paper just after one of the most violent Memorial Day weekends in our history. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports the following:

West Milwaukee's Badger Outdoors last year again was tops among all gun shops in the nation for selling guns that later were recovered by police during criminal investigations, according to new data from the federal government.

In 2005, there were 537 crime guns - an average of more than 10 a week - recovered and traced to Badger, the Milwaukee area's largest gun dealer. None of the others in the top five had more than 500 crime guns traced to them, according to the document from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
The story also mentions that Badger has been on or near the top of this list for a number of years. The owner of the store further describes himself as a member of the NRA and states that "we are not the bad guys, damn it. I don't care what those numbers say." I don't know if the owners of Badger are "the bad guys" or not but I do know that there is obviously something wrong with that situation. After the first few years of being at the top of that list, you've got to take SOME action to avoid the ranking.

Perhaps just as disturbing as finding out that we are number one in this category is that the government is now seeking to stop providing these kinds of numbers to the public. Milwaukee Assistant DA Chisholm and Mayor Barrett don't see the sense in restricting such data. Again from the Journal Sentinel story:

The government clamped down on release of ATF gun trace information five years ago, and both Chisholm and Barrett are concerned about a bill pending in Congress that would tighten release of such data. The measure would let prosecutors use gun traces for a specific case, but Chisholm said it wouldn't let him compile a complete picture of where crime guns come from and share it with the public.

"Now we are going to have that information taken away from us, and that doesn't seem right," Chisholm said. "You are going to be blinded in the future to see if your strategies are effective."
Barrett said he recently learned he had no right to see trace information, and the bill would further restrict access.

"I am outraged that my federal government is keeping this information from us," he said.
A representative of the NRA in the story tries to defend the pending bill claiming that "anti-gun" groups might use it for lawsuits. There you have it folks, the NRA, protecting their interests and seeking to keep the public in the dark. Rather than us being made aware of the problems and addressing them, they seem content in having us continue on a course of gun violence.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Big Oil Execs Hit Jackpot With Estate Tax Repeal

The U.S. Senate will soon consider the total or at least partial repeal of the estate tax. Republicans have been very successful in renaming the tax the “death tax” creating the impression that we all pay upon death. This is of course untrue. As I posted just last month, 99.7% of Wisconsinites don’t pay the estate tax because their estate is not worth enough to trigger that tax.

Democrats have issued a report putting a face on some of those that will benefit from such an appeal of the estate tax. They examine how much big oil executives would personally save providing us with the information below:

Lee R. Raymond of ExxonMobil (Retired) gets $164 million

Rex W. Tillerson of ExxonMobil gets $12

James J. Mulva of ConocoPhillips gets $12

William R. Klesse of Valero Energy gets $11 million

Clarence P. Cazalot Jr of Marathon Oil gets $9 million

David J. O’Reilly of Chevron Corp. gets $3 million

For a Total of $211 million to the executives of big oil!

Not only would these guys save hundreds of millions of dollars, but it would cost the treasury $1 trillion. What programs would be cut as a result of making the super rich even richer? It is likely that the people that are most vulnerable in our society would suffer most from such cutbacks. That is a huge price to pay to save Lee Raymond’s family a fortune.

Mark Green Admires the Sensenbrenner Strawman

Congressman and Republican candidate for governor, Mark Green, made an appearance on right wing talker Charlie Syke's show this morning. Among other things, Green commented that F. Jim Sensenbrenner's performance on Meet the Press Sunday was "masterful."

Now I did watch Tim Russert's program Sunday and could not recall one "masterful" moment by Sensenbrenner. After taking a look at the transcript of the show I realized that Sensenbrenner was "masterful" at something during that discussion. No matter how many times Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) would explain why the Senate version of the immigration bill was not amnesty, Sensenbrenner just kept-on-repeating that it was in fact amnesty. He would present an argument that defeated the idea of total amnesty, even though Hagel was clearly not defending or promoting amnesty.

I've got it! Mark Green must admire F. Jim Sensenbrenner's "mastery" of the Strawman! For those that may not be as big of a nerd as myself, the strawman is a logical fallacy. Here is a basic description of the strawman technique by Wikpedia:

A straw man argument is a rhetorical technique based on misrepresentation of an opponent's position. To "set up a straw man" or "set up a straw-man argument" is to create a position that is easy to refute, then attribute that position to the opponent. A straw-man argument can be a successful rhetorical technique (that is, it may succeed in persuading people) but it is in fact misleading, since the argument actually presented by the opponent has not been refuted.

If Mark Green is such a fan of the Sensenbrenner Strawman, perhaps he could convince Jedi Jim to take him on as a "Padawan learner" of sorts. With the Mark Green record in Congress, he could probably use all of the training in logical fallacy that is possible.

Bogus Report Likely Cited by Gard's Bogus Task Force

Last week we focused on the fact that the Republican Party of Wisconsin would like to eliminate our state's 4-K program. We also discussed John Gard's "task force" and how it likely is being formed to come to this same conclusion.

To accomplish their predetermined goals, you can now expect that the foes of kindergarteners will cite a new study by the Reason Foundation. The study claims (surprise, surprise) that 4-K and similar programs are unnecessary.

Thanks to an evaluation of the study done by the Great Lakes Center, we can feel quite confidant in dismissing it's conclusions. The Great Lakes analysis of the study reveals some of the following in a recent statement:

W. Stephen Barnett, Rutgers University Professor and National Institute for Early Education Research Director reviewed, "Assessing Proposals for Preschool and Kindergarten: Essential Information for Parents, Taxpayers and Policymakers." Though some of the report's findings have merit, Barnett says that overall, the report, "...misleads the reader, relying on distortions, selective citation of research and inconsistent use of standards for quality research."

Barnett agrees with the report's conclusion that a need exists for more assessment of the impact made by pre-school and kindergarten programs. He says, however, that this conclusion is at odds with the authors finding that these programs have no lasting educational effects on children. To the contrary, there is a large and convincing body of evidence which proves otherwise.
Misleading? Distortion? Selective? Why that sounds like any number of Gard initiated task forces. At least with this latest one we have a heads up as to their probable argument and rationale.

Take a look at Great Lake's complete analysis HERE in this 8 page pdf document.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Sensenbrenner’s Credibility Problem on Immigration

F. Jim Sensenbrenner has commanded a lot of national attention over the last several months because of his harsh proposals concerning immigration. His tough talk has seemed to increase with time.

To give him some credit, Sensenbrenner has not just been threatening illegal immigrants but has also been calling out the companies that illegally employ them. A few of his recent comments are as follows:

In a Friday press conference , reacting to the passage of the Senate immigration bill, Sensenbrenner stated that the first two things that we need to do are “border security and employer enforcement.”

When speaking about a handful of other countries and their strict immigration laws, Sensenbrenner said he was particularly impressed by Japan's employer-sanction laws - a maximum of three years in prison and a $25,000 fine.

He then used some of the most pugnacious language during an interview on Sunday Mornings' Face the Nation. On this program he commented:

Well, first of all, we shouldn't be very sympathetic to employers who are hiring large numbers of illegal immigrants and paying them very low wages and exploiting them. Those folks are the 21st-century slave masters, and what they're doing is just as immoral as what the 19th-century slave masters did that we had to fight a civil war to get rid of.

Wow, such aggressive language from Sensenbrenner! I wonder if any aggressive actions will follow his rhetoric. This seems very unlikely in the case of at least one large corporation. You see, F. Jim Sensenbrenner revealed in his latest financial disclosure that he owns between $50,000 and $100,000 in Halliburton stock. Now how does his owning this stock affect the employer sanction talk and the immigration debate? Because Halliburton was caught red handed using illegal immigrants for Katrina cleanup. Where was Sensenbrenner’s tough talk when that scandal was revealed? Did he take any action at all?

It was he that compared these kinds of companies to the “slave masters” of old. Taking his own argument to it’s obvious conclusion, does that make F. Jim Sensenbrenner an investor in the “slave trade”? Does he support tough employer sanctions, but only when he has no economic interest in it?

If he wants people to take his outrage on immigration seriously, then he must practice what he preaches. Divesting his interests in Halliburton would be a good start.

Mark Green Defies Bishops Again

Earlier today Xoff pointed out that since the Catholic Bishops of Milwaukee and Madison have decided to get political, that perhaps they should send a letter to Mark Green voicing their dismay in his support for the death penalty. It sounds like a very reasonable and consistent act doesn’t it?

As I pondered these things I happened to read the latest press release from the Mark Green Campaign. He was basically denouncing Governor Doyle for vetoing Senate Bill 567. This bill was sponsored by Sen. Tom Reynolds (R-West Allis) and would have required “proof of citizenship” to receive public assistance.

In a letter to Governor Doyle earlier this month, leadership in the Catholic church in Wisconsin asked him not to sign SB 567. By some strange miracle THIS letter did not make it to the front page of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (as did the one critical of Doyle earlier this week). In any case, their sound reasoning in this matter went something like this:

According to four separate audits of Department of Health and Family Services and Department of Workforce Development programs, illegal or fraudulent use of public assistance programs by undocumented immigrants is rare. At the same time, these audits revealed that requiring additional forms of documentation discourages people who are entitled to social services from applying in the first place.

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

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

As we learned today, Doyle DID VETO the bill and then Mark Green proceeded to criticize him for doing it. So it appears on this subject that Mark Green is once again in defiance of the Catholic leadership of this state. First on the death penalty, then on SB 567. Now I wonder if Green is going to get a critical letter on this position from the Bishops in Milwaukee and Madison. Furthermore, I have to wonder if the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel would bother covering it, much less putting it on the front page.

Air America Campaign Launch Party

May 31st, 7pm
Hi-Hat Garage – On Brady and Arlington

Do your part to bombard the Milwaukee airwaves with liberal talk.
In the truest progressive tradition the newest Air America station coming to Milwaukee needs the support of the community and you to send it off and flying. In that tradition we’re having a party to kick it off.

Here is where you come in. Your small contribution will not only help get this progressive voice on the air but keep it on the air with the power of an Air America affiliate station showering liberal ideas throughout the Milwaukee metro area. The best part is that it will be OUR station.
On Wednesday night at this FREE event…

Learn how Community Ownership of the new Air America station works.
Find out what Air America will mean to Milwaukee.
Meet Air America founders Anita and Shel Drobny.
Catch the music of Mrs. Fun.
Plus we have a special surprise guest.

Click here - - if you have not yet heard Air America. Discover how entertaining, informative and aggressive this growing network is.

We encourage you to invite your friends who want to see us take back Milwaukee, Wisconsin and the country. Let’s pack the Hi-Hat.

For additional information, email To get on the email list, visit

The Tommy Broadcast Network

Earlier this week Spivak and Bice reported that former Gov. Tommy Thompson was joining with former aide and federally indicted pal, Nicholas Hurtgen and others to buy six South Dakota radio stations.

Madison's Channel 27 News has reported in a bit more detail on their website yesterday.

Thompson and his fellow investors appear confident, their connection to indicted financier Nicholas Hurtgen won't doom their dream of buying scores of radio stations.

Thompson's group, Armada Media, has applied to the Federal Communications Commission to buy six South Dakota stations.

And the FCC does look at character issues.

Days before Thompson ruled out another run for Governor, Thompson and his half dozen partners made their FCC application.

Madison businessman Terry Shockley is one of the partners.

Shockley told 27 News the proposed South Dakota purchases is just the beginning of planned radio station acquisitions.

"85 to 150 stations," Shockley told 27 News. "Could it be larger? I think there's a sense that it could get larger."

Shockley formerly owned WKOW-TV, which operates 27 News.

One of Shockley and Thompson's co-owners at Armada Media, Hurtgen, is a Thompson political ally and former state official who faces a federal indictment in Illinois for allegedly resorting to extortion to try to win a multi million dollar hospital construction contract for an associate.

Hurtgen faces up to eighty years in prison if convicted.

This is the same Nicholas Hurtgen that gave over $4,000 to Mark Green. He is the same person that allegedly helped organize a fundraiser for Scott Walker shortly after his firm got a bond deal with Milwaukee County. Hurtgen's wife also gave $2,500 to Scott Walker in 2004.

The Great Right Wing Protectors of Drug Company Money

Here we go again with the right wing conspiracy theories! Yesterday J.B. Van Hollen put out a press release regarding the court ordered disbursement of funds based on a successful lawsuit against a pharmaceutical company. One of the 48 groups that received a disbursement was Wisconsin Citizen Action. This has caused a frenzy for a radical right wing that seems more intent on protecting pharmaceutical companies than their victims. After all, where is the Van Hollen press release lauding this and other settlements that favored the public over these kinds of abusive corporations?

First let me say that if Van Hollen and allies had done their homework, they would know that WCA was an organizational plaintiff in this lawsuit. This is nothing new to them as they have served in that role, defending Wisconsinites in the PAST. I would hope that Van Hollen knows that being a plaintiff in a lawsuit does cost money in terms of time doing depositions, filing motions and the like.

The key to Van Hollen’s conspiracy theory is his selective use of the Wisconsin Citizen Action website. He uses a quote from the website that talks about building a progressive majority and how the organization wants to help elect leaders that agree with their values and support their issues. Oh the nerve of them!

While Van Hollen and others are trying to define this organization and it’s membership by using these selective quotes, why not use the following one from their site?

Our Members Wisconsin Citizen Action has 61,000 individual members. They come from all over Wisconsin, from each of our ninety-nine state assembly districts and from all walks of life. They are rural and urban, young and old, lower, middle and upper income, male and female, multi-racial and have different faiths and political persuasions. Approximately 45% are Democrats, 34% Republicans and 17% independents.

That’s amazing. So Van Hollen wants us to believe that this grand liberal conspiracy was pulled off by an organization that boasts a 34% Republican membership?

It only took that one Van Hollen press release and now you have the right wing blogosphere going crazy. Again, who knew that they were so protective of the big pharmaceutical companies money?

Owen at Boots and Sabers appears to be content in almost entirely cutting and pasting the Van Hollen press release. Real Debate Wisconsin goes off the deep end saying:

This money was supposed to go to "Wisconsin organizations engaged in the care and treatment of cancer or the promotion of improved health care for Wisconsin citizens." The only thing Wisconsin Citizen Action does is boycott Wal-Mart. In fact, I searched their website and nowhere did I even find the word cancer.

The key words should be “or the promotion of improved health care for Wisconsin citizens.” If this and the other right wing blogs would have bothered to do the research, they would have seen a seven year history of WCA advocating for Wisconsinites in the areas of healthcare, prescription drugs among many others (yes even fighting Wal-Mart in SOME cases).

Let me do my good deed for this holiday weekend and help my right wing brethren. Here is a short list of some of the good work that WCA has done for you and all other Wisconsinites:

*They have filed other class action lawsuits against other Pharmaceutical companies that victimized our citizens.

*They were used as a source on a story about drug company abuses.

*They broke a front page story in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on sky high drug prices in Wisconsin.

*They were part of a story regarding drug prices and the policy solution (which ended up being the precursor to the current Badger Rx Gold pool).

*They have made major efforts on health care reform in general.

*They have done extensive work on Seniorcare.

Had enough yet? Uncle? I think that I should have been able to at least convince you that this group is not just about fighting Wal-Mart.

The bottom line is that WCA has been fighting the good fight for Wisconsinites on many levels for at least 7 years. They were organizational plaintiffs in this lawsuit such as they have been several times before. They have incurred costs in this role that deserve to be paid by the pharmaceutical company involved. These are NOT STATE FUNDS. They were ordered dispersed by the judge in the case. WCA is directly involved with “the promotion of improved healthcare in Wisconsin” which is part of the criteria for receiving the funds. They fit that criteria and they deserve what they recieved.
Case closed.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Mark Green Thinks that D.C. Schools are Better

Yesterday the Department of Public Instruction put out a press release stating that Wisconsin students scored above the national average in the 2005 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) science assessment. Faster than a speeding bullet, Mark Green’s campaign put out their own press release challenging DPI’s announcement. Apparently Green doesn’t feel that our kids are up to that level of achievement.

In the Mark Green release, he challenges DPI’s announcement based on a “new report” that suggests that Wisconsin is guilty of inflating it’s numbers. Wait a minute. Is the Republican candidate for governor really siding with a bunch of stuffy elite types challenging our beloved state’s honesty? Well, be that as it may, one thing that he does not tell you is that this “new report” was put out by the Hoover Institution. What is the Hoover Institution? It is a California based right wing organization with a clearly partisan agenda.

So Mark Green do you find it at all ironic that you are accusing DPI of being dishonest while at the same time you are hiding the fact that your data is provided by this right wing source? While I’m asking questions of you Mark, if you really believe this report, do you also believe that D.C. schools are really better than Wisconsin's?

Those Left Behind by W-2

Last week the Chaplin Hall Center for Children released a study on Wisconsin’s Welfare Reform (hat tip to the SpiceBlog). The New York Times originally reported on the study last week. The report identifies numerous longer term problems with the well known W-2 program.

The study followed 1,075 Milwaukee County family heads who applied for assistance between March and August 1999. Applicants at each of the six W-2 agency sites located in Milwaukee County are represented in the study. Some of the participants of the study were re-interviewed in 2001-2202 and in 2003. The sample was largely female (95.9%), African American (81.5%), and had never been married (79.5%). All participants were also caring for at least one child.

A few interesting finding from the study:

*Despite the “work first” approach, few of the applicants worked consistently.

*Participation in W-2 did not cure poverty. Four years after seeking help, the median participant incomes actually decreased.

*Three out of four of the participants had instances of material hardship (usually problems paying for housing and food).

*More than two out of five of the participants were investigated for child abuse or neglect from 1999 to 2005.

*Nearly a third of the participants suffered from depression while in the program.

*Twenty two percent experienced other mental health problems since starting the program and twenty two percent stated that their ability to work was limited by their own disability.

*A child was removed from the homes of one in six participants during the time of the study.

If success was merely measured by the numbers of people taken off of the welfare roles, some could consider W-2 a success. The problem, according to this study, is that it left behind those who were most in need. Hopefully we will learn from this data and realize that we should be focused on people and every day struggles, and not simple numbers and figures.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

No! The GOP Would Misrepresent the Facts?

The Journal Sentinel's All Politics blog revealed something today that most of us already know, the GOP are so excited to accuse Doyle that they misrepresent facts. Is anyone suprised? This from the blog:

The state Republicans issued a strongly-worded news release today headlined “Doyle loophole socks taxpayers,” aimed, of course, at Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle. The release highlights a story in today’s newspaper about the Milwaukee Area Technical College board and the budget it just endorsed that would raise property taxes 5%.

That’s all fine. The release, though, notes the “board announced they would stick taxpayers with a $132.6 million tax hike – well above the cost of inflation.”

That would be well, well above the rate of inflation, as that figure represents the entire property tax levy in the MATC budget. The increase is about $6.3 million.

Deconstructing the Green Acceptance Speech

We all know that the Republicans had their state convention over this past weekend and nominated their only candidate for Governor, Mark Green. I did not have the opportunity to conduct an undercover operation and infiltrate the convention, so I had to rely on Green’s website to learn the content of his acceptance speech.

It is important to know the rhetoric of the other side, so rather than subjecting my readers to actually reading the bumper sticker diatribe, I thought I’d perform a community service and deconstruct the speech.

So much of the speech was empty rhetoric, and misleading slogans, that it was hard to pick and choose what points to address. I will do my best for Wisconsin and all of humanity and attempt to untwist extreme Green’s words.

Green began his speech by fawning over Tommy Thompson.
Green must have been cursing his name only days before. Tommy was clearly not sure that Green was a man that could win in November, and that had to hurt.

Green started right in on the talking point that Wisconsin is a leader in the nation in terms of taxation and the overall tax burden on it’s citizens.
How ironic that he made this point right after praising Tommy Thompson for all of his good work while governor. It was during the Thompson era that Wisconsin’s tax burden was highest. Since he has left the tax burden has begun a steady decline. Not to mention that Mark Green was in the state legislature in the bad old days.

Green claims that Doyle has made Wisconsin a “leader in lawsuits.”
I would enjoy seeing the study or statistics that he is relying on for this point. I dare to say that he has zero support for this claim. Since the Wisconsin Supreme Court threw out the medical malpractice caps that he helped author, the number of lawsuits did not explode as predicted. It just didn’t happen. Furthermore, Doyle actually signed a compromise bill into law that once again places caps on malpractice cases. So how did that action make us a “leader in lawsuits”?

Once again he makes nearly slanderous accusations that Doyle and Company have been selling our state government.
Has someone been charged, tried and convicted and I don’t know about it? Neither Doyle nor anyone close to him has been implicated by any law enforcement agency of any wrong doing. The only people trying to single handedly accuse and convict people of crimes is Mark Green and his pals. Furthermore, the state contracting process has been evaluated and “called sound.”

Now this next one is rich, so brace yourselves! Green actually blames Doyle for the state’s budget problems. He says that Doyle has “mismanaged the budget.”
Why didn’t Green simply turn around and point a finger at the guy behind him? Governor Doyle inherited a several billion dollar deficit, which he has nearly cut in half in his first term while still supporting education.

Green’s next outrageous statement was claiming that Doyle has been spending massive amounts of money and “increasing the taxpayer’s credit card.”
Yet it is Mark Green that holds a seat in a Republican controlled Congress that has spent it’s way into record debt. This spending has been so bad that Congress has had to repeatedly increase the debt limits on Mark Green’s watch.

In reference to school choice, Green refers to Doyle as someone that is “standing in the schoolhouse door” (I’m assuming he’s referring to minority students).
The clear point here is to compare Jim Doyle to the racist southern governors of the past. Let’s hope that Green does not talk about running a “clean campaign” free of personal attacks. There are few personal attacks that are more disgusting than his against Doyle here.

Green takes Doyle to task for not accepting his challenge to limit spending in the race for Governor.
Mark Green has never limited the money that he has raised or spent while running for re-election to Congress. He has never accepted such a challenge when he was the one in the race with all of the money (which was always the case).

Green praises our state for giving birth to “a new experiment called kindergarten.”
During the same weekend event that he makes this comment, he and his party resolve to totally eliminate a very effective four-year-old kindergarten program.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Gard's "Task Force" Spells Trouble for Kindergarteners

Assembly Speaker John Gard has announced the creation of what he is calling a “Task Force to conduct a comprehensive evaluation of 4-K programs funded by the state.” I wonder if this latest “task force” is going to be a rubber stamp of the Republican desire to eliminate 4-K programs. What? John Gard create a “task force” with a predetermined outcome? Does anyone remember when he stacked the deck for his medical malpractice “task force” only to see them magically decide to punish victims of malpractice?

Wisconsin Republicans in the legislature have a long history of wanting to eliminate 4-K programs. Follow this simple timeline for just a taste of their recent history on the subject:

  • During 2001-2004 budget deliberations Assembly Republicans wanted to eliminate 4-K programs. They finally reached a compromise that did not eliminate it but cut it by $14 million. After significant political pressure, Governor McCallum ended up restoring the cut funds through a veto.

  • The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported last year that Rep. Dean Kaufert (R-Neenah) co-chairman of the budget committee supported cuts to the 4-year-old kindergarten program. The story quoted him as saying, "I just worry about it being subsidized day care for certain children.”

  • Just over this past weekend the Republican Party of Wisconsin adopted a resolution at their 2006 Convention calling for “the state legislature to eliminate funding of 4-year-old kindergarten.”

So Wisconsin Republicans have this history of threatening the 4-K program and now, before the ink on their resolution is dry, John Gard creates another “task force”? I do believe that I see some writing on the wall here.

Perhaps Gard isn’t paying attention or maybe I'm just being paranoid, but why else would he create a “task force” when the Department of Public Instruction recently released a detailed report on the K-4 program? I think that he may want to ignore that report because it demonstrates the many benefits of the program. Consider some of these benefits revealed in the report:

  • Lower special-education placement
  • Enhanced academic attainment
  • higher probability of graduating from high school and/or college
    higher wages
  • lower probability of involvement in criminal activities
  • higher tax payments by participants
  • lower reliance on welfare

One would think that these things would be music to his ears but perhaps John Gard is hung up on the costs of the 4-K program. If that is the case, we’re in luck! The report deals with this aspect as well by stating the following:

  • The economic impact of investment in the program would offset 68% of the costs (for every dollar spent on the program, 68 cents would be returned in savings).

  • The economic impact of investment when considering only the Milwaukee school district would be 76%. Again, that means that a whopping 76 cents of every dollar spent on 4-K in Milwaukee would be returned in savings!

I’d like to hear Gard name any other program that has such a massive return on investment as this one. When all is considered, the decision to expand the 4-K program should be a slam dunk shouldn’t it? So why the creation of another “task force”? I can’t read Gard’s mind but if the past is any indication, I’d like to send out a red alert to kindergarteners everywhere: Man your battle stations, John Gard is preparing to attack!

Consumers on Their Own with Bucher/Van Hollen

Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager announced the results of a study that she ordered on big oil companies and the reasons for skyrocketing prices at the gas pump for consumers.

The study was conducted by Dr. Mark N. Cooper, a Washington D.C. based analyst of energy and consumer issues. In his executive summary, Dr. Cooper concludes some of the following:

*The average Wisconsin family pays $1,000 more a year on gas than they did in the 1990’s.

*Supply and demand issues are not the reason for the skyrocketing prices at the pump. If that were true there would be 15 million barrels in the world crude market, at least 3 million more in capacity in domestic refineries, and the price of gas would be closer to $1.50 a gallon rather than $3.

*Oil Industry profits have been setting records in 5 of the last 6 years, making $100 billion in excess profits.

Predictably, Republican Candidate for AG Paul Bucher shot off a press release today suggesting that it was inappropriate for Lautenschlager to order the study. In the release he suggests that he could get a bigger bang for his buck with the funds used for the study. He then goes on to list his favorite crime related programs and activities. Then in typical “me-too” form, J.B. Van Hollen put out a press release with his favorite accusation that the study was “politically motivated.”

We should be grateful that both Bucher and Van Hollen have given us a glimpse into their vision (or lack thereof) for the office of Attorney General. Apparently they have forgotten that the Department of Justice has a role in something called CONSUMER PROTECTION. Perhaps they would prefer not to protect Wisconsin consumers as the big oil companies continue to gouge them. Yes, the federal government largely regulates the oil industry, but if they fall asleep at the switch, should the state of Wisconsin not protect its citizens?

One thing is clear. In a Bucher or Van Hollen Department of Justice consumers would be on their own.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Taxing Talking Points vs. Facts and Figures

Last week at a Wispolitics luncheon, Congressman Paul Ryan tried to justify the $70 Billion in tax cuts which will mostly go to the very wealthy. His claim was the popular talking point that the tax cuts would essentially pay for themselves by growing the economy and bringing in more revenue.

In a previous post I wondered whether this claim was actually true. According to Treasury Secretary John Snow and others, Ryan’s claim is false. This from a Knight Ridder story last week:

Treasury Secretary John Snow conceded Tuesday that the much-touted tax cuts for capital gains and dividend income don't drive today's strong economy.

Asked by Knight Ridder if the tax reductions paid for themselves, Snow acknowledged that they don't. He also acknowledged that economic growth and stock market gains were strong in the late 1990s, when the capital-gains tax stood at 20 percent and dividend income was taxed at rates as high as 38.6 percent.
The same story cites a Harvard study which states that “50 percent of a cut in capital-gains taxes would flow back to the Treasury in new revenues.” That figure might be very impressive to many people but it still means that the Treasury would have a net loss as a result of the tax cuts.

While the wealthy can thank Paul Ryan for hundreds of thousands in extra cash, common folk can thank him for higher deficits, increasing interest rates, and worries of inflation.

Ease the Tax Burden for the Rich, Increase it for the Kids?

Republicans fancy themselves as reliable tax cutters, and they are, but for whom? Last week President Bush signed the $69 billion tax cut bill that favors the investor class and the rich. As you will recall, this bill passed the House with the help of Mark Green and the rest of the Wisconsin Republicans in Congress.

We have previously posted that the obvious demographic that will gain from this bill is the very wealthy. This weekend we learned that there is also a group that will get hit particularly hard from this bill. The powerful interest group that is getting the shaft? Teenagers trying to save for college. The following from the New York Times Story this weekend:

The $69 billion tax cut bill that President Bush signed this week tripled tax rates for teenagers with college savings funds, despite Mr. Bush's 1999 pledge to veto any tax increase.

Under the new law, teenagers age 14 to 17 with investment income will now be taxed at the same rate as their parents, not at their own rates. Long-term capital gains and dividends that had been taxed at 5 percent will now be taxed at 15 percent. Interest that had been taxed at 10 percent will now be taxed at as much as 35 percent.
Only in the current upside down world that is the Republican run government do we favor the Haves over the Have-Nots. Apparently George Bush, Mark Green, and the boys are content in easing the tax burden on the super rich and powerful while at the same time increasing it on those that are barely getting started in life.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Ryan Blows $70 Billion Then Complains about Spending

Congressman Paul Ryan made what I consider an outrageous statement at yesterday's luncheon. He reportedly said that "Congress has a problem with spending too much."

Now isn't that rich? Coming from a guy that just voted to spend $70 Billion in tax cuts that mostly go to the wealthiest of investors. This guy is now trying to portray himself as a penny pincher?

It was just last year when Ryan stood on the House floor with his magic chart and tried to explain why we needed to cut programs for the poor and middle class by as much as $40-50 Billion. Then he votes to spend $70 Billion for the rich? Not only canceling out any savings made by the Draconian cuts, but spending $20-30 billion MORE than before the cuts were even made.

I realize that Ryan tries to explain away his actions by saying that the extra tax cuts for the rich are bringing more revenue and that it is helping grow the economy. One question for you Paul Ryan. If the supposed revenue that the tax cuts have brought in is not greater than the amount that you spent on them, then how is that a good thing? How is that worth the sacrifice paid by those whose programs you cut?

No, Paul Ryan doesn't mind out of control spending as long as the recipients are his pals- the rich and powerful.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Tommy Says Nothing New, Gets Headlines

Everytime Tommy Thompson starts opening his mouth about a possible run for office, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reacts like a trained seal. Yet again we find another above the fold headline, "Thompson: If I Run I Win." Apparently he will tell us all on Sunday if he is actually serious about running for anything or if he just can't resist seeing his name in the headlines. I hope that he does actually announce SOMETHING substantive on Sunday so we can just be done with him. If he tells us that he will not be running for public office this year, somehow I still feel like he will still lead the media around by the nose for some time to come.

On a side note, because that is where Mark Green usually is when we are talking about Tommy, he awkwardly says the following in the story:

Green lavished praise on Thompson, saying that before he became governor in 1987, the state's economy "was in sharp decline," taxes were "too high" and the mood was one of "pessimism."

Green said, "I think Tommy Thompson rescued Wisconsin."

Taxes were too high alright, they were too high under Thompson. The taxburden on Wisconsinites has consistantly gone down since Tommy left. Also, why doesn't anyone in the media mention the fact that after the Thompson era we ended up with a massive budget problem in the state. A problem that Doyle has cut in half in his first term.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Mark Green's Actions Speak Loudly

Just in case any readers are wondering, I have not fallen off the face of the earth. I have been having computer problems and this is also the week that I am moving. Wonderful moving weather today don't you think (as I ring out my socks)? Anyway, only one thing could pull me in from the rain to post something...Mark Green's screwed up priorities.

Xoff was kind enough to advise us that Mark Green actually missed a vote for veterans earlier this week because of a big fundraiser. How strange that he made sure that he was present and accounted for, when it came time to further enrich the uber wealthy.

Yesterday Mark Green voted to give even more tax cuts to the investor class. It looks like the tab for this one will cost us approximately $70 billion. Hey, it's Christmas in May for the Rich! Does anyone remember back in November when these same House Republicans were talking about "defecit reduction"? Remember their solution? It was to cut between $40-50 billion from programs that largely benefit the poor and working classes. If you were a reader of this blog back then you would also remember that I told you that they were going to pass this $70 billion gift for the rich. Could someone now explain just how they have reduced the defecit looking at those numbers?

Now I'm sure that Mark Green and the other class warriors will pretend that these cuts will in some way benefit you. The New York Times published a story last month that analyzed this very type of tax cut to determine who benefited most from it.

Let's take a look at what the analysis said about the benefit to the rich:

The first data to document the effect of President Bush's tax cuts for investment income show that they have significantly lowered the tax burden on the richest Americans, reducing taxes on incomes of more than $10 million by an average of about $500,000.

An analysis of Internal Revenue Service data by The New York Times found that the benefit of the lower taxes on investments was far more concentrated on the very wealthiest Americans than the benefits of Mr. Bush's two previous tax cuts: on wages and other noninvestment income.
And what about the those that work for a living?

By contrast, few taxpayers with modest incomes benefited because most of them who own stocks held them in retirement accounts, which are not eligible for the investment income tax cuts. Money in these accounts is not taxed until withdrawal, when the higher rates on wages apply.

Those making less than $50,000 saved an average of $10 more because of the investment tax cuts, for a total of $435 in total income tax cuts, according to the computer model.
Mark Green will be running around the state for the rest of this year giving alot of speeches and airing alot of commercials. He will try to pretend that he is and advocate for the "everyman." Don't be fooled by his spin, keep a close eye on his actions. When he shows you who he is BELEIVE HIM!

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Voter ID's Disenfranchise Yet Another Group

Listening to Republicans you would think that having a Voter ID requirement when voting would solve all of the ills that befall us. They seem to consistently tune out any contrary point involving the disenfranchisement of the poor, elderly, disabled, and others. I realize that these groups may not vote Republican in large numbers, but I would certainly hope that they would not want to see anyone impeded from exercising their rights.

Since arguments about the above segments of society have not seemed to soften the Republican heart regarding Voter ID’s, I believe that a new group that has been victimized by it might help. The new group of which I am speaking are our Veterans.

Last Tuesday the state of Indiana had primary elections. This election was their very first chance to see how their new strict Voter ID law would work. This from the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette:

One aspect of Tuesday’s primary election troubles DeKalb County Clerk Jackie Rowan.

Her voice trembled as she described having to turn away a handful of veterans who tried to use their Veterans Administration medical cards as the required photo identification.

Rowan said the veterans became upset, refusing to cast provisional ballots, when she explained to them they could not use identification that did not have an expiration date or a stamp indicating that it never expired.

“(It was) bad,” she said. “They all accused us of not wanting them to vote.
“I feel their pain. They served in the service for us, and they worked hard and paid taxes.”

Now I know that Republicans “Support the Troops” because they have ribbons and flags all over their vehicles, but I hope that they also support the troop’s right to vote. At the very least this should really cause some reexamination of their policy. Then again reexamination is not a Republican strong suit.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Your Culture of Life is Killing Me

Most of you have already heard that the right wing led legislature voted on a high priority issue late Thursday. Killing people. Yes, there were no more important issues that they could fit in before they left town. Nothing on healthcare, nothing to protect us from gas gouging, and nothing on ethics reform. Rather than focus on real issues that affect our everyday lives, the assembly voted to put a referendum on the November ballot on bringing back the death penalty.

Now I think that even a blind man could see the real reason for this late night vote but let's not address that right now.

It never ceases to amaze me how the extremists that claim to be "pro-life" are often the same people that just can't wait to kill someone. Whether it be the death penalty or a pre-emptive unnessary war, they will work overtime to make it legal.

I have to respect the Catholic Church for their official stands on the "sanctity of human life." Athough I may disagree with them on several issues, they at least appear to be consistent on this one. The Wisconsin Catholic Conference put out a press release stating just how disappointed they were with this step BACKWARD (about 150 years backward). In addition the Catholic Church never has the itchy trigger finger when it comes to war, that seems to plague their protestant evangelical brethren.

I have an idea for someone that describes themselves as "pro-life". How about focusing a little on those without good healthcare? The Institute of Medicine determined in a study that approximately 18,000 Americans DIE because they have insufficient healthcare or lack it all together. According to a bipartisan group of legislators that have proposed the "Wisconsin Health Plan", nearly 500,000 Wisconsinites lack health insurance. Call yourself pro-life? How about taking an honest look at this bipartisan plan?

How pro-life is the Iraq war? Over 2,400 of our own military personnel have died, not to mention those that died after returning home. What about the lives of the Iraqi people? Does the sanctity of life not extend to them? I have heard estimates ranging from over 34,000-100,000 in Iraqi deaths. Let me take a second and ask the pro-lifers, what was the reason for all for all of these deaths? If you can't answer that in a sensible sentence or less then it was not worth it.

Amidst all of this, you now want the people of Wisconsin to officially sanction killing?

May I be frank with you? Your "culture of life" is killing me.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

A Legislature Behaving Badly

The fact that several of their colleagues have been thrown in jail has apparently had little affect on the leadership (read GOP) in the legislature. Consider just a few items in the news over the past week:

  • Assembly Republicans ,in a closed party caucus, rejected an ethics reform bill. Then, as reported by the Appleton Crescent, they held a vote on amending the state constitution in the middle of the night.

  • After Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Madison) forced an open vote on the ethics bill, what has been described as a Republican bloc was successful in killing the bill. Take a quick look at how your Representative voted on this ethics bill. Then to try and save face, the Republican leadership will try to schedule "ethics reforms" on very minor issues.

  • Then in a bill that has pitted the state's paper mills against the insurance industry, the Republican run legislature have used tactics that a circuit court judge has called illegal. A committee circulated paper ballots to vote on the issue even though the judge ordered that not having the vote in public violates the state's open meetings laws.

  • Again on the paper mill vs. insurance industry fight, we have one State Senator (Republican) shopping the various committees to vote on the bill. Whether the committee is appropriate for that particular bill is not important, as long as the vote would come out the way they want. Then you have an opposing Senator (Majority Leader Dale Shultz, R-Richland Center) threatening to hand pick the members of the panel to insure that the bill would be killed in committee.

What is their major malfunction? What will it take to teach the leadership of the legislature that their goal should be clean efficient government? If seeing their colleagues being locked up is not enough inspiration, then I fear that we will continue to see legislators behaving badly.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

So Will Wisconsin Right to Life Endorse Doyle?

Wisconsin Right to Life issued a press release stating that the numbers of abortions in Wisconsin declined in 2005. Regardless of what the extreme right thinks, the vast majority of progressives celebrate such a decline.

My only question is when will Wisconsin Right to Life endorse Jim Doyle? After all, it was on his watch that abortions have gone down. Rather than thank Doyle they somehow pat themselves on the back for this statistic.

Statistics seem to show quite a strange pattern that defies all right wing talking points. On the national level, we saw a major drop in abortions all through the years that Clinton was president. Then, ironically, when George W. Bush moved into the White House the trend reversed itself nationally. That's right. Mr. "Culture of Life" reversed the trend and we saw a steady increase in the number of abortions.

Did Wisconsin Right to Life or any of it's national counterparts endorse Clinton?Nope, they would consider that an abomination. Will they endorse Doyle? Silly question. So what's the deal? Enthusiastically endorse the guy that has the worst record while fiercly opposing the ones that help to improve the situation? It makes one wonder if rhetoric and naked ideology mean more to them than actual results.

Senator Danforth: Gay Marriage Ban is Silly

Former Republican Senator from Missouri, John Danforth, has weighed in on the idea of amending the constitution to ban gay marriage. Let me give you a hint, he thinks that the idea is not such a good one. This from a story in the Boston Globe.

Former Sen. John Danforth says a conservative push to ban gay marriage through a constitutional amendment is silly, calling it the latest example of how the political influence of evangelical Christians is hurting the GOP.

Danforth, a Missouri Republican and an Episcopal priest, made the comments in a speech Saturday night to the Log Cabin Republicans, which support gay rights. He said history has shown that attempts to regulate human behavior with constitutional amendments are misguided.

"Once before, the Constitution was amended to try to deal with matters of human behavior; that was prohibition. That was such a flop that that was repealed 13 years later," Danforth said.
Referring to the marriage amendment, he added that perhaps at some point in history there was a constitutional amendment proposed that was "sillier than this one, but I don't know of one."

Atlhough Danforth is referring to talk of a constitutional amendment from folks in Washington D.C., I think that his reasoning can also be applied to our own Discrimination Against Gays Amendment here in Wisconsin.