Today is

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Newspaper Attempting To Malign Sheridan

"IF Sheridan’s date were a lobbyist working to crush the payday loan industry or at the least enact very tight payday loan regulations, would folks be more or less enraged by his relationship? Would this even be news? I seriously doubt it. Is the outrage strictly political or is it about corruption? Wisconsin’s windmill regulations and the video competition act were all heavily lobbied. Minds were changed, otherwise why would there be lobbyists?"

When I first saw the Saturday's Janesville Gazette front page headline, "Sheridan: It's Not A Conflict" I immediately thought of Wisconsin Supreme Court Judges Annette Ziegler and Michael Gableman.

The Gazette obviously, has shifted into high gear with their "investigation" into rumors delving into the private life of the Wisconsin Democrat. In multiple articles including this posting, they malign the legislator even further by painting him as ducking the issue and implying special interest favors are effecting his legislative position. The writer of the Gazette blog demands Sheridan return his call, he writes...
JG Blog Excerpt:
"Representative Sheridan, I left a message for you yesterday. I sure hope I get a return call. Better yet, stop by my dad's place next time you visit your dad. They live across the street from each other. If you have the time I'll stop up too. I'm not a professional lobbyist. I'm a citizen with a concern. A concern that you might allow this parasite industry to grow."
Thank goodness no one else is concerned, right?

But there's a problem. If you're asking the legislator as a concerned citizen, why are you doing it under the umbrella of the newspaper? Are you asking the legislator as a concerned citizen or as a journalist working for the Janesville Gazette? Do you intend to weaponize Sheridan's remarks or lack of remarks in another blog posting under the umbrella of the Gazette? IF so, you are a lobbyist working for the Janesville Gazette applying the same pressure tactics legislators see everyday. You're part of the problem.

Should Sheridan respond to the Gazette blog any differently than he would if he received the message in a phone call, email or letter from a concerned citizen? I should think not. The line begins at the back.

If folks think Sheridan has a conflict of interest, they'll have to prove a quid pro quo took place. Rumors won't do. But remember, legislators owe no conscience of impartiality into their decisions or votes, not like judges do. Yet the Wisconsin Supreme Court allows judges to hear the court cases of donors to their campaigns. Where was the Front-page headline outrage from the Gazette?

Two years ago, it was "rumored" Rep. Brett Davis accepted a $4 million state earmark for a soybean crusher study in his district in exchange for a vote on the state budget. The Gazette defended Davis, saying Democrats would love to claim his seat in the legislature. Great reason! There were no articles from the Gazette attempting to substantiate the Davis rumor. Davis of course is a Republican.

The newspaper is clearly spinning it's wheels on Sheridan hoping to gain some traction before the engine burns out. It has reached the point where every article they publish on government or politicians carries with it a bias or an underlying goal. Their steady pace of inconsistencies has stripped away all the credibility that is required of open and honest objective journalism. As a citizenry, we are the ones to end up losing.

Note: This posting is the independent perspective and opinion of it's author.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Video - Obama Meets With Republicans

Story Excerpt:
Americans "don't want us to focus on our job security," Obama said. "They want us to focus on their job security."
Rep. Paul Ryan was permitted to ask a couple of questions and even attempted to walk Obama through the wrongheaded line-item veto legislation. The President had the courtesy to give Ryan the chance to engage, something that Ryan himself won't extend to his own constituents.

"What happens is that you guys don't have a lot of room to negotiate with me," Obama said. "The fact of the matter is, many of you, if you voted with the administration on something, are politically vulnerable with your own base, with your own party, because what you've been telling your constituents is, 'This guy's doing all kinds of crazy stuff that's going to destroy America.'
As far as Obama is concerned, Paul Ryan should be radioactive.

Additional Racine Post story on event.

More: Obama Dominates meeting.

Video Competition Act A Boon For AT & T

This would be a joke if it weren't on us. Remember the fly-by-night front group TV4US? Here's their link, go ahead and click it Ha - hah. The only remaining sign of the astroturf group is now just a wiki-page at Source Watch, and thank goodness for that. Still waiting for the promised 45% drop in cable rates? Don't hold your breath.

AT & T is raking it in. TV4US's job is done. Mission Accomplished!!
Capital times Excerpt:
AT&T said its revenue from U-verse TV, Internet and voice services nearly tripled over 2009 and is approaching an annual run rate of $3 billion, reported.

Related: Media Censors Competition December, 2006

The Opportunities Of A Serious Rumor

This is pretty pathetic, even for the Gazette. The newspaper chopped and channeled an AP article about unscrupulous lobbyists spreading rumors in Madison to unfairly characterize Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Mike Sheridan as politically vulnerable and defensive. The newspaper of course played down the two dozen paid liars (lobbyists) and played up the legislator as potentially effected by influence.

Regardless of its rumored source, the "rumor" does not appear to work to the advantage of the lobbyists as much as it baited opponents to tear Sheridan down a notch. Still, Sheridan's position and the payday lender legislation will be closely watched.

Just a few days earlier, the Gazette belly-ached accusing politicians of playing loose with the facts in their press releases. I suppose when you’re a newspaper incapable of publishing full and unadulterated facts, why let a serious rumor go to waste? It's a blameless fact.

Read full AP story, here, it begins...
MADISON, Wis. — Democratic Assembly Speaker Mike Sheridan on Thursday accused opponents of increasing payday loan regulation of starting rumors that he was going to be removed from power.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Obama SOTU: Just Saying "No" is Not Leadership

State Of The Union

ABC News Transcript Excerpt:

"But what frustrates the American people is a Washington where every day is Election Day. We cannot wage a perpetual campaign where the only goal is to see who can get the most embarrassing headlines about their opponent – a belief that if you lose, I win. Neither party should delay or obstruct every single bill just because they can. The confirmation of well-qualified public servants should not be held hostage to the pet projects or grudges of a few individual Senators. Washington may think that saying anything about the other side, no matter how false, is just part of the game. But it is precisely such politics that has stopped either party from helping the American people. Worse yet, it is sowing further division among our citizens and further distrust in our government.

So no, I will not give up on changing the tone of our politics. I know it's an election year. And after last week, it is clear that campaign fever has come even earlier than usual. But we still need to govern. To Democrats, I would remind you that we still have the largest majority in decades, and the people expect us to solve some problems, not run for the hills. And if the Republican leadership is going to insist that sixty votes in the Senate are required to do any business at all in this town, then the responsibility to govern is now yours as well. Just saying no to everything may be good short-term politics, but it's not leadership. We were sent here to serve our citizens, not our ambitions. So let's show the American people that we can do it together."
-- President Barack Obama

"Peoples" historian and Progressive Leader Howard Zinn Dies

Can't wait to hear FNC media stooge and idiot-baiting sociopath Glenn Beck's eulogy.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Rock County Awarded $2.3 Million Worker Grant

Department Of Labor Excerpt:
"With these funds announced today, the administration will have provided more than $6 million in National Emergency Grants to support workers hardest hit by auto layoffs in Rock County over the past 15 months," said Dr. Edward Montgomery, executive director of the White House Council on Automotive Communities and Workers. "The president and the administration remain committed to supporting auto communities and helping these workers find new jobs."
National Emergency Grants are part of the secretary of labor's discretionary fund and are awarded based on a state's ability to meet specific guidelines. Question is - Will Congressman Paul Ryan file a grievance against this grant?

Pretense, Prudes and Pollyanna's

The editors of the Janesville Gazette of all people, gave a thumbs down to politicians who in their view play loosely with the facts in their press releases.

In one example they poked at Sen. Herb Kohl's office for stating that Rock and Kenosha counties will share in a $6 million federal grant when in fact all Wisconsin counties can participate in the Green jobs training and apprenticeship grant. Not a very huge error considering the former manufacturing counties appreciate anything they can get since our congressman, Paul Ryan, throws nickels around like they're manhole covers.

No doubt it was only wishful thinking on Kohl's part. Thank you Senator!

The Gazette was also offended by state Republicans when they referred to the loss of 153 jobs at Janesville's Sanford B2B as "Parker Pen" jobs. Another harmless misstep since Parker Pen (founded 1888) went through numerous buy-out transitions before settling in as Sanford. But who could blame the repub's for this memory gap since their sundials have been stuck since the turn of the 20th century. The Gazette editors conclude "If politicians can't get simple facts right, why should we trust their promises?" They should talk.

From the Gazette's anonymous "Sound Off" column...
On Sportsmanship
"Regarding poor behavior at high school games, booing is offensive and low class. Let's have parents and teachers record the names of those booing and result in a lecture and punishment the next day at school and at home...."
Cheer me, applaud me. I command it, or I'll tell on you...I swear I'll tell.

Why does a Democratic majority in the Senate require 60 when Republicans need only 41?

Monday, January 25, 2010

Same Story, Different Newspaper, Different Ending

I normally don't write about local newspaper article's that are as reasonably unbiased as can be given whatever unusual circumstances that may apply, simply because fair and balanced articles can stand on their own merits. Who needs a media watching blogger over-complicating reality?

So I have to admit, I was a little surprised by the balance exhibited in the Beloit Daily News article about the complaints leveled against Jenifer Keach, the Rock County coroner. The newspaper wrote a report as honest as can be given the the possible influence and negative tone spun up earlier by the Janesville Gazette.

The BDN reported on the allegations as they should. They reported on the county's findings and they gave the coroner a chance to catch her breath and explain her side. That the coroner's office is participating in team building and communication exercises also means everyone, including the coroner, is taking a interactive approach and not in denial. This is how responsive management professionals should react to problems. You can never be too professional.

By comparison, what the newspaper did not do was most striking. The BDN did not attempt to discredit the coroner, nor did they exaggerate the allegations or undermine the coroner's response. Neither did they paint the event as a springboard to restart the newspaper's crusade to wrest the office away from the voters.

In other words, it's simply a news article without any hidden connotations.

Kudos to the BDN.

Gazette Runs Opinion Columns Without Op-ed Attribution

Saturday's Janesville Gazette front page contained a picture of candidate Tom Barrett next to the statement "Gubernatorial candidate Tom Barrett remains loyal to President Barack Obama," in the header of the newspaper. This was posted without attribution as a lead-in to Page 2 where the story, a politically driven op-ed written by Mike Nichols (Badger Diggings), was masqueraded as a news article by the Gazette. Saturday's op-ed section began on Page 6.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Ice Arena Donors Want Something In Return

In case you hadn't noticed, 2010 started off with a bang of controversy in Janesville when the Gazette decided to partner with and carry the water for several individuals wishing to destabilize the Rock County coroners office. Their mission seems to have morphed now from personal complaints into a campaign to wrest the coroner's office away from the voters. We'll have to keep a close watch on that one.

On an entirely different issue and without pause, the group of self-described community "donors," who earlier made a commitment to raise $1.5 million to "donate" to the construction of a new city ice arena in Janesville appear to be backpedaling their generosity. On the Janesville city agenda for Monday evening is a proposal to sell city intellectual property, namely "naming rights," with proceeds of the sale going towards the special interest group's capital promise for a new ice arena.
City Agenda Excerpt:
...approve authorizing the selling of naming rights of the building for an amount not less than $500,000 and the two sheets of ice for not less than $250,000 each and that the naming rights would need to have final approval of the City Manager.
As usual, the ice arena memorandum for Monday's council agenda is written like a better Gazette article, where citizens are left guessing on their own to figure out what's really going on here and what's at stake. Nowhere in the memo was any mention of who is the recipient of the sale proceeds from the city property. The focus of the proposal is instead placed on moving the new ice arena to a different site than earlier proposed. The memo does however drop the hint that the sale will enhance the donor groups efforts. With that we must assume that the sale of publicly owned rights is meant to paydown the private donor's commitment to the ice arena. With Janesville city government's long history of coddling wealthy insiders, we should fear the worst here.

First off is the fact they are SELLING city property. That goes without saying. Naming and advertising rights are intellectual property rights owned by the taxpayers. Besides, Janesville taxpayers have already out-bid everyone else for the naming rights when the council put the taxpayers on the hook for $2.5 million and city land worth about $1 million for the project. Now, unless the private group would like to purchase the rights to buy down the taxpayers $2.5 million commitment, that's different. But that's not the case according to the memo.

But even if the city were to entertain the idea of selling naming rights, why would we need a salesman or a middleman? Remember these folks are supposed to be "community donors," not agents in a sale's transaction for someone else's property. The bottom line here is somebody in the administration is either completely off their rocker to even jokingly entertain the donor's request OR they are in the tank with them instead of defending taxpayers interests. Right now I think it's a little of both. The city management and council's job is not to be looking out after anybody's interests but ours.

The main point to my position is; should the city decide to sell naming rights to the ice arena, the proceeds should be used to pay down the taxpayers commitment or the operational expenses - NOT used to make good on a private party's charitable promise.

Second is the assuming characterization and short shrift given from both, the city administration and newspaper, about the naming rights give-away. For the newspaper to merely regurgitate the naming rights portion of the memorandum and attempt to pass it off without the obvious question or clarification in such an assuming way is proof enough of a complicit and failed watchdog media. The paper has a long history of turning on and off the information spigot at will to serve their own socio-political agenda.

In a most simple rule of common sense we try to teach children, the naming rights proposal violates the most basic fundamentals of possession. It is theft by deception and to have city management agree in principle with the request is a double-troubling kick in the face. That the donor group label has been supplanted by Janesville Youth Hockey seems like a ploy to deflate any opposition. If the donor group cannot make good on its promise to collect $1.5 million on their own account, they should just say so and call it quits.

Janesville taxpayers and residents will likely ignore all of this as they have done in the past. But make no mistake, we are the ones getting screwed if this request moves forward. So you might as well get used to it, grab your ankles and hang on.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Paulette Garin On Ruling: Money Is Not Speech

Written By Paulette Garin

The Supreme Court’s decision to recognize a corporation’s free speech rights under the 1st Amendment is yet another step in our decline of becoming a corporatist propaganda state.
Paulette Garin
Did our founding fathers intend for a corporation to be given the same rights as a human being? Corporations have too much influence in our electoral process and over our elected officials with their well-funded political action committees and expensive lobbyists.

The Court’s decision applies to unions too, but the amount of dollars and influence the declining ranks of organized labor will be able to exert pales in comparison to the corporations.

Money is not speech. Any hope for a level playing field disappears with this ruling. Our elected officials will be even more influenced by corporate dollars and less beholding to the electorate. This Supreme Court opinion all but drowns out the grassroots.

Advertising for political campaigns and issues will be paid for by shareholder funds. Will they be willing to forego profits for political action? No, which means we as consumers will bear the cost by being charged more for products we buy.

In stark contrast, public financing of campaigns with tax payer dollars would provide a level playing field and allow the voices of human beings to be heard rather than corporations. Think about it, the average American (you and me) are going to bear the cost of campaign finance no matter what. Public financing of campaigns will protect our interests far more than those of any corporation.

Paulette Garin
2008 Democratic Candidate for Congress (WI-01)
Wisconsin State Coordinator - Progressive Democrats of America (PDA)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Older Stuff Back To December, 2006

Rock Netroots Archives

June 2008

May 2008

April 2008

March 2008

February 2008

January 2008

December 2007

November 2007

October 2007

September 2007

August 2007

July 2007

June 2007

May 2007

April 2007

March 2007

February 2007

January 2007

December 2006

Supreme Court: "We The Corporations"

...of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Oligarchy, establish injustice, insure domestic Hegemony, confiscate for the common stock holder, promote the general slush funds, and secure the Profits to ourselves and our prosperity, do ordain and establish this constitutional Corruption for the United States of America.

In a unbelievable 5 to 4 decision this morning, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that corporations are people too.
AlterNet Excerpt:
Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy said that the Supreme Court rejects "the argument that political speech of corporations or other associations should be treated differently under the First Amendment simply because such associations are not 'natural persons.'"....Writing about the ruling, Lisa Graves, Executive Director of the Center for Media and Democracy described it as "a revolution in the law," one that has been in the works for years thanks to conservative activism.
Air America, just like genuine grassroots "we the people" and blogs like the one you're reading right now don't stand a chance fighting for freedom and justice against the well capitalized. The wealthy elite have the means to buy the message, the "people" do not.

Have Randians Hi-Jacked “We The People?"

Everywhere I turn lately, from TV to the Web to newspapers are images of “We the People” or a “the people’s something or other” giant banner in the background of some asshat book-waving Rander. From Glenn Beck’s stage to Scott Brown’s “the people’s seat” poster to Ray Stevens “we the people” song or just some local tea-bagging opportunist who says “I want to represent the people,” these stone-cold hypocrites have made a mockery of our constitutional plurality. I could have sworn just months prior to this recent development was a media flood of Randian-inspired rants bashing “the people” as the swamp of shared sacrifice, a collective failure or a to-be-scorned Marxist idea.

How ironic to have these Ayn Rand Republicans, Libertarians and Plumber Joe independents spout off about the superior benefits of their brand of individualism only to turn around and patronize “the people's” collective for their own advancement. In simple language even fifth graders verbalize and understand: "They suck."

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

No Jobs Janesville - Man Takes Own Life

A sad story in today's Janesville Gazette about a 40-year old man jumping off a Janesville bridge into the Rock River became an even sadder story just a few hours after his rescue. The newspaper reports the man died at Mercy Hospital.

In today's hard copy edition, a newspaper reporter recalled interviewing the man about a month ago in a story about panhandlers.
JG Excerpt:
Ain't no jobs out here," he said then. "What are we supposed to do?"
A month later, he's gone. Rest In Peace.

Comment From the Gazette Blog:
Jan 21, 2010 at 12:38 p.m.
The question to ask is why didn't the fire department put their boat in the river until after he jumped? A witness told me this. -- N.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Poll: High Support for Medical Marijuana

81 Percent Support Legalizing Marijuana for Medical Use

ABC News/Washington Post Poll -- PDF with Charts
ABC Excerpt:
Medical marijuana, for its part, receives majority support across the political and ideological spectrum, from 68 percent of conservatives and 72 percent of Republicans as well as 85 percent of Democrats and independents and about nine in 10 liberals and moderates.

Four Questions For Paul Ryan And His Supporters

Sunday's Janesville Messenger contained a letter apparently written in response to another letter published in the Walworth County Sunday written by J.S. of Cottage Grove.

Titled, "Yes, he's the real Paul Ryan," the letter writer proceeds to offer the following reason why Ryan did not support the "jobs bill."
JM Excerpt: (Page 6)
Maybe Paul Ryan did not support the "jobs bill" because it continues to inflate the number of public (government) employees, which then causes manufacturing jobs to be destroyed by the cost and restrictions of government. -- T.B. Beloit
Sure, he's entitled to his opinion. But somehow, the letter writer did not convince me we need insular extremists like Paul Ryan in government. The private sector seems to be far more to his liking, and I still have plenty of trouble grasping Ryan's vast array of legislative accomplishments. With that, I have four questions for the congressman or his knowledgeable supporters to answer so I can get to know and better understand the real Paul Ryan.

1. Congressman Ryan will be in office for twelve years now. Aside from chasing down the occasional errant Social Security check for a constituent, what are Ryan’s signature legislative achievements or gasp, ... accomplishments as a community organizer? Please offer something more than "Barack Obama is a Socialist."

2. Ryan’s district was heavy into manufacturing. Can you identify legislation or earmarks he specifically sponsored and passed that protected his district's vital interest? What about Tammy Baldwin?... is not a sufficient answer.

3. Ryan’s district has experienced an accumulative shortage of over $3 billion in federal appropriations (grants and contracts) since 2005. Can anyone explain what effect it has had on area jobs or what he expects this fiscally irresponsible policy will accomplish? You're just a jealous couch-sitting malcontent, get a job!... somehow isn't very convincing.

4. From 1994 through 2006, the GOP-led Congress and George W. Bush figuratively literally murdered our country. Even Bill Clinton was lucky to get out alive. In the meantime, the Congressman loyally towed the party line. Can you give any reasons why I should believe Ryan doesn't have any blood on his hands? Rot in hell you communist scum bag!...seems kinda impolite, don't cha' think?

But, if you reconsider any of these questions with the thoughtful consideration I know you're capable of, I'd appreciate it. Oh, I almost forgot ...hugs!

P.S. This might come as a shock to some of Ryan's supporters but, the comment area is open and ready for your opulent eloquence.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Gazette Editor's Claims Don't Hold Water

Sunday's Janesville Gazette contained a response editorial to accusations of partisan driven journalism made against the newspaper by the Rock County coroner's father after the paper ran a full investigative article about unfounded accusations. I can't speak for the coroner or her father, but in my view Sunday's editorial contained little new or game changing information.

Still, certain facts remain. The county coroner's office is a partisan elective office. It's undeniable. Wishing it weren't or thinking it's silly to be a partisan office in the first place aren't good enough reasons to justify the kind of article the Gazette published.

At first I was under the impression the newspaper attempted to appear they reported on the coroner unprovoked. Instead it turns out the newspaper was acting on "tips." Not that that changes the combative flavor of the article, but it is one of only two new things disclosed by the editor. But before I continue, I want to be clear here. I felt the newspaper owed their readers a two, maybe three paragraph brief about the personnel complaints made against the coroner including the results of the investigation. But only providing they regularly publish all personnel complaints made in city and county government. Which they do not, of course. We don't want to appear partisan now do we? Especially not the fully blown trumped-up investigative take-down and the ensuing "re-enforcement" editorial they ran against the coroner. No way. Not on those kind of complaints.

I certainly can't speak for another's definition of partisanship either, but it also appears the editor and the rest of the Gazette's editorial staff have a very narrow definition of partisans and partisanship. You don't have to identify yourself with a party to be a partisan or to practice partisanship. Sometimes just carrying their water is enough.

For the sake of not sounding redundant here, the only other point the editor made that caught my eye was the last sentence in the editorial. It read...
JG Editor's View Excerpt:
In fact, if you asked me whether Keach was a Republican or a Democrat on the day the story ran, I would have had a 50-50 chance of being right.
I suppose for someone who adamantly claims partisan politics play no role in the newspaper's decisions, that defense might work with some. But that still doesn't mean that the partisan aspect of the subject's office can be ignored.

For the sake of argument, I won't dispute the editor's 50-50 claim. But claiming ignorance of the coroner's party affiliation is a poor defense against an accusation of partisan journalism. If you don't know the coroner's party affiliation, or care to know, why would you bother to know the party affiliation of your supposed informants and tipsters? Or their underlying personal, political or partisan intentions? Or speak on behalf of their non-partisanship? Perhaps you don't care to know their party affiliation either, right? Because that makes the story officially non-partisan. Please don't tell me this is true.

Pleading ignorance to those details doesn't allow you to carry their water without being associated with their motivation. Plus, it does journalism a major disservice. For someone who's primary job is to be informed and to inform others, that's an extremely poor defense. On the other hand it does explain some things.

With that I suggest you start reading this blog Mister Editor...find out what you're missing. Get informed!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Economy Crushes Soybean Project, But Not $4 million Deal

Remember this deal?

Back in 2007, when State Rep. Brett Davis voted for Doyle's special session state budget, it was widely surmised that he traded his vote for a $4 million state grant for his district. Davis was the lone state Republican to vote for the budget.
JG Excerpt:
EVANSVILLE — A $4 million state grant designated to help build Wisconsin’s first soybean crushing facility in Evansville is now being doled out to other agricultural projects, and plans for the crush plant have been “mothballed.”
In 2007, even the Janesville Gazette editorialized an apology for the Republican legislator.
JG Editorial Excerpt: (Oct. 2007)
Included was a $4 million soybean crusher in Republican Brett Davis' district, a seat Democrats would love to claim. Davis was the lone Republican to vote for Doyle's plan. We won't blame Davis for his vote, or his fellow Republicans for resisting Doyle's temptations.
We don't blame Davis for taking the bait? ... or his fellow republicans for not biting?? It was all Doyle's fault, he twisted arms. Davis said "uncle." Sure, everybody knows that it's the undercover cop posing as a prostitute that should be arrested when a john makes the date. Ha-ha.

As far as I'm concerned, the soybean study/Davis deal was not unlike the deal negotiated by Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson shortly before the Senate approved its health bill in December that would require the federal government to pay for Nebraska’s portion of expanding Medicaid under the bill. Nelson's deal, dubbed the "Corn Husker Kick-back," was denounced as horse-trading by Pa-kettle Republicans.

Regardless, there is no doubt this is how some legislators swap their support and sell their votes. Some call it "courageous," while others call it the cost of bipartisanship. I call it "selling out" no matter who does it.

What troubles me even more is why the state must "dole out" the $4 million even after the fact of a projected $5.75 billion state deficit. Is it because a deal is a deal?

Voters must remember this come election time.

Related reading: Davis Party Line Towing

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Is Your Newspaper Run By Moe?

First noted by a Milwaukee Magazine writer on Rep. Paul Ryan's exclusive deal with the Racine Journal Times, it appears newspapers have figured out at least one way to politicize the inter-connectivity of the Web to their editorial advantage.

Most folks including myself probably wouldn't have noticed the scheme going on right under our noses, but thanks to the MM article, I have now refocused on this ever so subtle activity with our local newspaper, the Janesville Gazette.

Here are just a few examples of this from the past few days...

In Sunday's paper, the Gazette published a series of unfortunate statements that typically emerge from personal disputes. In a frivolous complaint against the Rock County Coroner(D), the Gazette grossly over-inflated the seriousness of the situation and published mostly unfounded allegations as fact. They eventually posted the article on the open Web and subjected the coroner's reputation to so much undeserved criticism and hearsay that they had to delete the entire comment section.

On Monday, the Gazette published a jobs op-ed by State Rep. Mike Sheridan(D) and also posted it on their Web Site with an open forum for comments - as it should be. Honest and engaging public officials should welcome public input to their op-eds. The Sheridan column has been running on the Gazette main page for several days now.

On Tuesday, the Gazette published a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article about Congressman Paul Ryan's national fund raising activities in their hard copy. However, they did not publish it on their Web Site as of this posting. Of course that means no public interactivity or local input. The Journal Sentinel web article is also closed to comments. Is this merely a coincidence? Hardly.

In Wednesday's paper, the Gazette posted a creatively written "reinforcement" newspaper editorial supporting the original trumped-up allegations article to once again fuel public opinion against the county coroner. However, this editorial is not on the open Web because frankly...the newspaper is special. No comments. No interactivity.

Those few examples are not the exception, they are the rule.

The fact is, nearly all Gazette editorials are deliberately kept off the free Web. The few editorials that are republished at the Wheeler Report for instance are not direct-linked, instead they are in PDF format without offering any interactivity. Why is that? For the most part, I believe it's done for complete control presenting an infallible socio-political message designed to steer public opinion without challenge. But I also think there's an even more sinister if not cowardly element at play here.

Of course, not all newspapers share this policy. One newspaper, the socially friendly online-only Capital Times not only post all their editorials on the free web, they also are all subject to open public debate. Kudos to them.

But how ironic it is that the folks who constantly harp in defense of free speech and demand open and free access into government records, are among the first to shut it all down when it's their turn to live by those standards. Janesville residents are left powerless and disengaged with no alternative but to eat it if they read it, as the Gazette is the only local mass media in the area. We couldn't fire them if we wanted to.

I've often wondered how the Gazette has been able to avoid the same public scrutiny they subject others to, particularly with the social interactivity of the Web. Finally, now we know. They have no misgivings about subjecting the average private citizen or certain politicians and local officials to fierce Web scrutiny and rebuttal, yet keep Paul Ryan op-eds and stories on other favored officials including their own editorials from the same.

Are they above the fray? Why certainly. Of course they'll swear all day long they're not partisan. They have the ins-and-outs of "communication deficit" down to a science. It's a special talent. However, this policy reminds me of a Three Stooges comedy short where the snickering Moe Howard pulls Larry up by the hair for pie throwers to target while he luxuriously hides under the table.

There's only one word for Moe. But I'll leave that one up to your imagination.

Note: This posting is the independent perspective and opinion of its author. Laurel & Hardy and the Three Stooges were used here simply to make a point. Any similarity to persons living or dead is purely coincidental.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Poll: Fearmongers are Winning

Miami Herald Excerpt:
The survey found 51 percent of Americans agreeing that "it is necessary to give up some civil liberties in order to make the country safe from terrorism."

Paul Ryan Is Too Big For Us Little People

I remember once upon a time when Ryan considered himself just one of the guys on the Janesville GM assembly line. The scary part was some folks believed him.
620 WTMJ Excerpt: (Posted Jan.8, 2010)
"Regarding your question, there is a zero percent chance I will be seeking the Republican’s nomination for President in 2012. The residents of Wisconsin’s First Congressional District are my employers, and I’m asking them to rehire me this fall. My top priorities are to be a good husband, a good father to my three young children, and a principled representative to my employers in Southern Wisconsin."
What brought that about? I mean, who and why is he reminding of his priorities.
JS Online Excerpt: (Posted Jan.10, 2010)
Ryan will headline a Feb. 26 fund-raiser for the New Hampshire Republican Party as well as host a separate fund-raiser for the state's Young Republicans in Manchester. State party officials asked Ryan to raise funds for them because of his advocacy for fiscal conservative principles.
Oh, well that explains it.

That's why he had to remind everybody how important his family and constituents are while he's off vacationing the national scene. Just in case anyone forgot. I've got to hand it to the congressman - he holds firm to the individualist philosophy of Ayn Ran...ah, I mean Paul Ryan. It's Ryan first, party second and everybody else third.

While Ryan's district is suffering through one of it's worst economic periods in it's history, the tea-bagging extremist congressman wants everyone to know what his priorities are. Yet really, what could he do for his district in the meantime? Admittedly, his rigid ideology prevents him from doing anything. On the other hand, what has he EVER done for his district? Even less. So, it's OK Mister Congressman, in February you can go to New Hampshire and if you didn't remind us, we probably would've never known you ever left.

The Racine Post Blog also picked up on Ryan's ploy.

Note: The JS Online/Ryan column is not open to comments.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Feingold Conducts Townhall With Grace

Saw this posted at Illusory Tenant about a Townhall meeting in Ozaukee County hosted by Sen. Russ Feingold. His response to a question about former justice Louis Butler was profoundly constructed.
Illusory Tenant Excerpt:
Feingold: I understand. Now you do know, of course, that the people of this country, when we made this Constitution, which many people [here] have referred to, specifically chose not to have federal judges elected. Now why is that? They decided they wanted a different kind of judiciary that wasn't based on elections. When Louis Butler lost his seat on the Supreme Court — 51-49 — he was not repudiated. He lost to another guy. That doesn't mean he should never be a judge. That doesn't mean he should go to jail or something. The guy barely lost.

[Audience members: But he lost!]

Feingold: But that doesn't mean ... and, by the way, he won in the Western District of Wisconsin. In the area that he would be the judge for, he won.

This is exactly what we need more of from our Democratic leaders.

Townhall meetings have grown hostile and can be intimidating even to the most well-seasoned veterans in the game. Instead of some ideological rant, partisan substitution or go-along politicalese, Feingold's answer was superbly heady, straight forward and non-confrontational. The silence was golden. Way to go, Senator!

More: An in-person account, State Republicans show at Feingold's Townhall?!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Alleged Government Watchdog Appears Politically Motivated

*EXCLUSIVE* Response To Gazette Article by R. Costerisan, here

It was a little over a month ago when the Janesville Gazette went on a rampage whining about how county government was stonewalling their open records requests.

It all began when the newspaper supposedly heard from sources and readers that an internal investigation had taken place in county government. In this article, the Gazette reported that Rock County Human Resources Director John Becker had resigned before the investigation was complete. All the newspaper articles involving this episode at the time reported finding no fraud or criminal activity had taken place or formal complaints written against Becker. That there was no paper trail seems to be the county's only downfall. Still, the Gazette made a pretty big stink over the county's response. Afterwards, the Gazette promised to get down to the bottom of this investigation. We're still waiting.

Now enter Sunday's (yesterday) Gazette article about the Rock County coroner's office. Unlike the Becker story, the Gazette doesn't claim they received tips from unnamed reliable sources about any complaints or internal investigations. They don't have to, but out of all the offices and departments in city and county government, are we to believe they chose the coroner's office unprovoked and at random looking for a scandal or personnel complaints? And got lucky? Although the Gazette mentions Becker in the coroner story and practically disregards his findings, they drew no connections to the county's previous stonewalling and incomplete record reporting. Did the Gazette suddenly get enough information this time to satisfactorily report on rumors? I suppose. This story apparently takes off where the last one ended and appears to be nothing but a political witch hunt.

It's no secret that the Janesville Gazette and their political base would like not only to dismantle and walworthize (shrink) the Rock County board, they would prefer to de-democratize county government even further by taking elective offices such as Sheriff and Coroner out of hands of the people. The Gazette it would seem has a political conflict of interest.

Even without a conflict of interest, the newspaper clearly attempted to sensationalize those disputably weak and unfounded allegations made against the coroner. As long as the Gazette continues to pass off he-said-she-said arguments between former and disgruntled employees, supervisors and departments as "watchdog" investigative journalism, it's readers will continue to be held in the dark on the real issues.

But, if the newspaper really wanted to prove themselves a legitimate government watch dog and engage in investigative journalism, they would do well by considering the following:

Checking personnel records in government for complaints? Why only check the coroner's office? Why not check every department in city and county government, elective offices or not on any complaints filed? Compile your findings and compare results between offices. Tell your readers which offices and employees are the most discriminatory and sexually active. That'll sell some newspapers if that's your interpretation of watchdogging.

Why not look for criminal activity and fraud in government instead? Why not investigate which property owners and developers are expected to receive a financial windfall from Janesville's Comprehensive Plan? Who will be gaining by moving the city's only public ice skating arena to the outskirts of the city? Who will be losing? Find out which individuals and developers are members of special interest groups like Forward Janesville and who their links are in government. Which Janesville council members, planning commissioners and committee members have close friendships or client links with members of Forward Janesville or wealthy individuals in the private sector? How does their influence impact our personal income, property taxes and lives? Find out who gains to win and who expects to lose when the city shifts its growth planning around from one area to another? List names and their properties. Who knows? You might uncover a real scandal. If not, this is information local taxpayers should have anyways - after all, it's our money they're playing with.

Find out who or what is the competition when council meetings are closed due to competitive bargaining. Not just in Janesville. Check Milton, Beloit and Edgerton too. Identify and qualify the competition. Which other cities and towns are competing for the business and development that Janesville is also negotiating for? Who are the companies and developers that are fighting for parcels of city land, TIF's, forgivable loans and other perks in Janesville that necessitates bargaining in the first place? And makes the process and negotiations closed and so secretive? Who pursued who? Find out the names of the private individuals and companies who are paying county and city employees to moonlight around the state for private economic development.

Of course, all great journalism and honest citizenship begins by asking the right questions. I've got plenty more if you care.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Village Turns To Ryan For Slice Of Deficit Spending

As first reported in the Lake Geneva News back in November, the Village of Sharon, just north of the Illinois border in Walworth County with a population of only 1,549, has enlisted Rep. Paul Ryan, of all people, for help to re-capture $600,000 in stimulus funds for a retention pond.

As noted in a post at Down With Tyranny and picked up again at Blogging Blue was the hypocrisy displayed by Ryan for joining in the fight with the village for deficit dollars. Ryan of course has been proudly fabricating a tea-bagging persona for himself as one of the most principled critics of the stimulus.
What we cannot do is borrow and spend our way into prosperity, building up huge federal deficits and calling it “stimulus.” -- Rep. Paul Ryan
Down With Tyranny Excerpt:
...many in Wisconsin were shocked when Ryan, who has told his reactionary financial supporters that he wants to repeal the stimulus, announced last week that he is "joining the village of Sharon to fight the loss of $547,000 in stimulus money used to build a storm-water retention system."
Just a few days ago, I received Ryan's constituent mailing titled "2009 Annual Report." Under the heading "Increased Government Spending and Increased Unemployment," Ryan has this to say about the stimulus...
"Since enactment of this legislation, however, unemployment reached 10 percent and more than 3 million jobs were lost."
Again, this was just two days ago. Ryan not only views the stimulus as deficit spending expansion, he actually equates the stimulus with increased unemployment. There's no turning back in my view. He deserves to be trapped by his flippantly partisan tone. And that's too bad for his constituents because they are the only ones who will suffer.
Blogging Blue Excerpt
He was against it before he was for it. Mr. Ryan, you can’t have it both ways. Do you think this flip flop will go unnoticed among your constituents?
Anyone who follows the slippery congressman and researched his broken record understands the hypocrisy here.

At this point, I do call into question Sharon officials knowledge of their congressman and whether they are aware of his anti-stimulus position. As far as Ryan is concerned, that retention pond would have been built anyways and it hasn't created any new jobs.

Yet, it gets very frustrating because, believe it or not, this episode with the Village of Sharon is made-to-order for a political grandstander like Paul Ryan. He lives for this stuff. In his view, this isn't about the stimulus, jobs or deficit spending. No siree. Instead, it's a perfect opportunity for him to gain more confidence and support from the little people in his district. With Ryan, this is all about advancing himself at the expense of government. That he can propagandize himself opposite of a incompetent executive bureaucracy and a government too big to keep it's promises is all the better in his view. Ryan in this case will make good by pulling the necessary strings to make good on the government's promise. It's win-win for him no matter what happens. Sharon will give him the key to the village if he gets the money, or a pat on the back and a cigar if he loses the "good" fight.

Either way, I can't wait to hear what the outcome is and the semantics Ryan incorporates to weasel his way through - it ought to be very entertaining.

Check out the comments at the bottom of this page

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Newspaper Resolves: You Need To Change

Editorializing from the loudest cheap seat in the house last week, the editorial staff of the Janesville Gazette rattled off a series of New Year's resolutions not for themselves to consider, but for everyone else to take up during the course of the new year.

This is a passage from their "2010, resolve to make a difference" editorial.
JG Editorial:
Be part of the solution instead of the problem. Instead of taking potshots, offer constructive criticism and, better yet, well-thought-out solutions for change...Stop looking down on certain segments of compassion...
...yada, yada, yada. No kidding, that was a Gazette editorial.

Apparently upset by a steady flow of relentlessly disturbing anti-union comments made by hateful and envious sociopaths (are there any other kind?) on articles featuring post-GM Janesville union workers, the editorial staff at the Janesville Gazette were, in an awkward yet sly sort of way, asking their low-wage conservative base to lay down their weapons.

This coming after the newspaper spent decades fueling animosity against organized labor, including a misguided and false outrage towards collective bargaining in the tax-payrolled public sector, pitting developers and business against individual taxpayers and homeowners, dividing the local body politic into conservative and liberal enemy camps, practicing a double-standard of journalism that is best described as covert class warfare, building up a false superiority complex based on religion, education and family values at the expense of others, keeping the locals deliberately misinformed and ill-informed with exaggerations, half-truths, omitted information, biased articles and condescending editorials and on an on - they are now asking YOU to show some compassion and let, well ... by-gones be by-gones.

This is a passage from Tuesday's editorial titled, "Bright spots shine on local economy.
JG Editorial:
To look back would be to see too many jobs lost. Likewise, to glance backward would be to see falling revenues at many companies that remain open and stagnant or declining wages and benefits for most workers still fortunate to have jobs.
Yeah. Why look back to see how we got here. Forget about all that..that...negativism. A message of negativism that could only be traced back to one local source. So you don't want to do that because you'll just open up old wounds. Instead, the newspaper wants to turn the page and start a new chapter. Just remember who's doing the writing.

Obviously, there's a lot of psychological engineering at work with the Gazette's recent rash of provocative editorials asking their readers for compassion with organized labor among others. The irony of course is, this is the newspaper's baby, or shall I say monster. They built this local mentality in their own image. Did they finally look in the mirror and vomit? Not likely. They're way too big to see their reflection.

I suppose with GM gone and a seemingly endless gloomy local economic forecast, the last thing they want is for anyone to communicate a reality-based or ungazetted view of Janesville. The Gazette has spent huge amounts of time and journalistic capital getting their anti-union message and political agenda carefully across. Their newsprint is tightly controlled, so they are not going to let this victory slip away with a few loose comments placed on their own Web Site. Remember, except for this humble blog and a few independent local thinkers, the local message is fully controlled by the Janesville Gazette and their affiliates.

Even though Woodman's employees recently decertified their union, the Gazette can't be too happy about Janesville teachers allying with the AFL-CIO. Expect that to be the next battlefield. Still, in the Gazette's view, their decades old "cleansing" campaign against unions and their war against living wages and decent benefits is nearly over. The newspaper and their political base are closing in on victory. They've won whatever it was they were fighting for against people who only wanted to earn wages and benefits decent enough to more than just survive on. With their "Resolve to make a difference" editorial, they're telling their faithful low-wage soldiers and their enemy combatants that, "the war is over," lay down your shields and drop your weapons. The Janesville area is cleansed and ready for business. See mom, no more evil unions. The Gazette is the welcoming committee and they want you to join. Let by-gones be by-gones.

So it is, the new marching orders from the Gazette are: Be a friendly ambassador, be positive. WE need to work together. But in order to do so, YOU need to get your act together!

Now that they gave you and I our New Year's resolutions, I can't wait to hear their own.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Woodman's Drops Mental Health Coverage

December 16: Story on Woodman's employees in Janesville dropping union representation making it into the Janesville Gazette -- Union Rejected by Woodman's

Five days later.

December 21: Story on Woodman's grocery stores dropping mental health coverage not making it into the Janesville Gazette -- Woodman's drops mental health coverage

Two weeks later.

January 4: Editorial on Woodman's decision to drop mental coverage written by the Capital Times -- A deeply disappointing decision by Woodman's

Since the Mental Health Parity Act became effective Oct. 15, 2009, it certainly does look like Woodman's waited till after the union vote before dropping the benefit. But Congress delayed the effective date of the Act to January 2010 for bargaining agreements that otherwise would have been covered in 2009.

Still, there can be little doubt that the grocery chain waited until after the Janesville union vote to make their decision.

I'm convinced the management folks over at Woodman's think the parity rule along with the loophole exempting mental health coverage altogether was soooo terribly irresponsible that they counted on it, and are willing to defend it against any who dare try to "fix" it. The state can expect a huge battle with the WMC if they attempt to close the hole or exceed Federal provisions.

From both Congress and their employees, Woodman's got exactly what they wished for.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Whitewater Neighborhood Facing Property Value Uncertainty

In a confusing article titled, Whitewater family worried about drinking water, the Janesville Gazette reported on a neighborhood in Whitewater whose property values are now in limbo because they happen to be unlucky enough to be downstream from a toxic contamination plume.
JG Excerpt:
The houses in the Five Points neighborhood now are listed in a database of closed environmental remediation sites, which essentially lets future property owners and construction companies know there might still be some contamination in the area and that they must take caution in drilling wells or handling soil.
According to DNR science and statements made in the article, the contamination does not pose a health risk great enough to warn residents about...but is great enough to list the properties in a database warning developers or future buyers of "handling" risks?

One blog entry under the name "chkmrk" at the Gazette put what is really at stake for the homeowners in sharp focus.
"Your home is the largest investment that you will probably make in your life. Now, your major investment is on a list of "closed remediation sites," which would be something you would be required to disclose to potential future buyers." -- chkmrk
One of the things the DNR has done across the state of Wisconsin is document, define and categorize contaminated land. All well and good. But, while the DNR tested acres and acres of privately owned land "in" to their "contaminated" databases, the stigmatizing designation nearly always stands into perpetuity OR until each individual land owner can show scientific proof the contamination no longer exists. To do so, land owners (usually out of their own pocket) have to "test out" by hiring state licensed water and soil specialists usually costing hundreds of dollars per test, while the state usually requires a battery of these tests over a period of time to establish consistent and reliable results. Without court action or an amicable settlement between the parties, the homeowners are left footing the bill for actions not of their own doing, just to restore the land to the status and value it was before discovery. While the known responsible "polluting" party just walks away.

Those affected property owners should not let the gas station owner or the DNR wash their hands clean of this situation. The quality of their property (land, soil, etc.) has been severely diminished. There is little doubt that the resale value of their property has plunged dramatically. Of course it'll be up to the homeowners to decide how important this is to their quality of life and property values. If they decide to do nothing, the only good and safe advice I could give them is, "don't eat the tomatoes."

Note: Despite being hooked up to city water, today's Gazette editorial continues to allude to a drinking water problem as the focus of the resident's concerns regarding the contamination issue.

MSM latest Buzzword "regulate"
In a short article about new environmental rules governing the safe disposal of highly toxic electronic products and appliances, the Janesville Gazette incorporates right-wing scare tactics to raise public outrage with the title New state law regulates household electronics. Expect the inappropriate use of the word “regulate” along with its variants to be trending high in stories not involving the capital markets in right-wing publications.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Local Media - 2009 Year In Review

The following is a list of (independent) observations made on local stories and editorials that I believed were designed to intentionally shape and direct public opinion towards the socio-political stance held by the local media monopoly, the Janesville Gazette and their affiliates.

* January -- Self-investigation by city of potential internal scandal good enough for government watchdog.

* January -- Gazette does its part to foist junior hockey team onto taxpayers.

* January -- Newspaper Stifles Sustainability Opinion On The Web.

* January -- Newspaper De-Emphasized City Council Endorsement Of Political Group.

* January -- Newspaper features Wal-Mart in buy "local" campaign.

* January -- What is the Gazette's editorial position on same-sex marriage?

And that's just January!! So I thought, why bother with the rest of the year? It only gets more painfully redundant. Instead I've decided to finish this post off with what I consider to be the three most under-reported local news events of the year.

Coming in at number three was the newspaper's jokingly lightweight response to blunt statements made by one of their own affiliates, talk radio host Stan Milam, towards the Janesville City Council. Milam repeatedly attempted to intimidate members by warning them of the dire consequences they should expect if any vote against the newspaper's "council meeting time change" request. Had anyone outside of the Gazette loop made those threatening comments against local officials, the newspaper would have made it the dirt of the town and would have demanded a public explanation, apology or complete retraction. With Stan Milam, they did not.

Number Two -- When the Janesville city council endorsed the ideologically driven legislative agenda of the politically active private business group "Forward Janesville," the full Gazette report on this massive special interest breach into non-partisan local government amounted to an incomplete sentence. Again, had the city council endorsed the legislative agenda of WEAC or any one of the local labor unions, there would have been hell to pay. This obvious double-standard by the laughably self-described "government watchdog" exposed the newspaper for what it really is - a right-wing lapdog and partisan tool.

Simply for the public endangerment aspect, the number one under-reported local event for 2009 in my book was the newspaper's lack of initiative and absence of any investigative reporting surrounding the intent and possible deception in public statements by the director of Janesville's water utility about the city's inability to deliver safe water to 20,000 residents. The Gazette's follow-up articles regarding the city administration's presentational farce were extremely weak and protectionist in tone. The newspaper's "exclusives" on this matter amounted to little more than simple question and answer regurgitation.