Today is

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Paul Ryan Facing Early Challenge In 2008

I don't know anything about Marge Krupp of Pleasant Prairie, but I like what I heard from just a few sound bites from an article in the Janesville Gazette. Krupp will challenge Paul Ryan for the House seat in 2008 and started off on the right foot by understanding that a campaign to defeat a deeply rooted partisan like Ryan will be a long hard slog, so this early announcement was very crucial in that regard.

The 1st Congressional district of Wisconsin flew under the radar during the last election and that was unfortunate. Ryan got another free pass.

AT THIS early stage of the game, Krupp put Ryan in the proper frame to which he belongs with these words.
JG Excerpt:
If people are happy with President Bush’s administration, they should be fine supporting Ryan, she said. “But if they’re not happy with President Bush, then here I am”
Krupp has the right attitude here because Ryan is not only a well-inked Bush rubber stamp, he is also the author and sponsor of legislation that has given the president unprecedented executive powers. Ryan is part of the problem, not the solution.
JG Excerpt:
“I really do intend to win in 2008. I don’t care what anybody says”
Again, Krupp exudes the confidence and swagger she’ll need to defeat Ryan. Nay-sayers along with some deeply pocketed supporters will be out there in full force to shut down any serious challenger to their good ol’ boy Ryan, so be prepared, Marge Krupp. This can be done - Ryan is vulnerable and very beatable.

I’m going out on the limb here, but this early challenger deserves a category of her own and I hope we'll hear more from her in the coming weeks.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Gazette Endorsement Editorial Risk Free

The Janesville Gazette editorialized their choice for the Wisconsin State Supreme Court and chose…….. no one. Now if you know the Janesville Gazette, you would understand this was not an easy thing for them to do when you consider its president is on the WMC board of directors. But I can already hear some saying it was the right thing to do and helps exonerate the editorial staff from accusations of their own conflict of interest.

Not so fast.

The Gazette chose to endorse no one but still went on to editorialize about the supreme court race. What’s so bad about that? Well, nothing really, but if you're not endorsing anyone, why not just issue a short statement saying so? Instead, they ranted about dirty politics and blamed partisanship for tainting their candidate. They did admit Annette Ziegler crossed an ethical line but nearly painted her simply as a victim of too much public awareness. Afterwards, the editorial staff defended Ziegler’s hypothetical statement about Clifford, that if elected she might knowingly take part in cases that could effect their household income.
JG Editorial Excerpt:
Ziegler is right to question Clifford's own potential conflict of interest. Clifford's husband is a medical malpractice lawyer who led the state association representing personal injury lawyers. If Clifford is elected, she might decide cases that could directly affect her husband's practice and their household income.
Anything is possible but, only one candidate has a history of these allegations and it’s not Clifford.

Even more curious about this editorial is the fact that the Gazette laid out their perspective of Clifford’s stance on several issues and finally made sure that voters should know what’s at risk if she is elected, while never once mentioning issues or risk regarding Ziegler.
JG Editorial Excerpt:
Electing Clifford to a 10-year term would tilt the high court even further left and risk Wisconsin's economic development potential.
One way or another a new State Supreme Court Justice will be elected this Tuesday, however the Gazette in good conscience can’t endorse Ann Ziegler or Linda Clifford, but they want you to know if you vote for Clifford, Wisconsin will go to the dogs. You just can’t make stuff like this up.

Paul Ryan Spin-Balancing The Budget

I happened to catch Rep. Paul Ryan on the early morning C-Span call-in show on Thursday. The subject of the debate was the budget, and Ryan came out right away with how the Bush tax cuts produced more tax revenue, and the only way to produce balanced budgets is to cut spending. Throughout the show, Ryan’s primary focus stayed on the tax cuts and budget projections while offering nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing about what programs he proposes to cut.

He produced a wonky chart which showed the democrats creating a surplus after 2010 but only with the assumption the taxcuts expire. He then explains that he can balance the budget producing a smaller surplus while keeping the taxcuts in place after 2010. But if you believe all of his rhetoric about how taxcuts produce more revenue, why would the Democrats surplus be larger if the tax cuts expire? Ryan implies that the Bush tax cuts were responsible for increased revenue but offers no proof whatsoever less revenue would have been produced had the tax cuts never happened. To prove his theory correct, one would have to assume that IF the taxcuts remained intact after 2010, his projected Republican surplus would dwarf the democrats tax-expiring budget. His projection showed no such thing.
The fact is, the increase in tax revenues beginning in 2003 happened despite the Bush tax cuts. Economic growth had nowhere else to go but up after the bottom fell out from 9-11. That the income tax revenue increased soon after the Bush tax cuts was merely a coincidence with this upsurge and it is extremely likely that had the taxcuts targeted only the middle-class, the budgets from the past three years would have balanced - even with the Iraq war.

Six years after 9-11 and with the economy flattening out, now would be a good time to introduce some tax cuts to boost the economy. Unfortunately, Bush went to that well too often and put our country seriously in debt. Now when the country could use a well placed tax cut, it can’t afford one.

Paul Ryan also went on to say that entitlement programs like Social security and Medicare are going bankrupt and will be insolvent in the near future. The Democrats want to increase funding to these programs by 4.7% a year, Ryan insists he wants to save these important programs by cutting the democrats increase down to 4.1% a year, he said this could be done by “growing spending cuts” or something like that.

Again Ryan insists over and over again that Washington doesn’t have a revenue problem, instead they have a spending problem but offers absolutely nothing about spending cuts. He just talks about the importance to not increase taxes. Ryan said his budget calls for a freeze of non-military discretionary spending over the next five years and when asked by the C-Span host which programs he intends to freeze, he went on to say it would take two hours to explain it! The show was taking phone calls, and soon afterwards a caller also pressed the same question, only for Ryan to sidestep answering and instead talked about a handful of smaller programs he will add funding to – not cut from. Make no mistake, the programs Ryan refers to as “non-military discretionary spending programs” are the programs he intends to cut or freeze. They are arts, education, labor, benefits (such as housing, child nutrition, food stamps and other agricultural programs) for people and families with incomes below certain levels, federal programs like Social Security and Medicare, unemployment benefits, veteran’s pensions, drug control programs and health care services for low-income seniors and families - programs just like Senior Care in Wisconsin. See, that didn’t take two hours.

Now, Ryan voted against funding the troops in Iraq because of what he calls pork. Past Republican appropriation bills loaded down with corporate handouts, Big Oil subsidies and bridges to the North Pole were never vetoed by Bush – not even once. This emergency bill has domestic funding like $1.7 billion extra toward veterans care along with other important programs. When both Ryan and Bush get serious about spending cuts – they mean it. Even if it means no money for the troops.

Watch Ryan/Spratt Debate Here 45 min.
Note: Must have real player

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Vote NO On Walworth Board Dismantlement

At first I thought I would be overstepping my bounds commenting on the Walworth County downsizing referendum simply because I live in Rock County. But after realizing how the outcome can impact other boards throughout Wisconsin I felt it is my civic duty to offer an outsiders perspective about this referendum.

The Janesville Gazette posed several questions to active and former members of the Walworth County Board regarding the downsizing referendum and posted their answers in Wednesday's paper. Those in favor of downsizing offered reasons that, in my opinion, were the best reasons to keep the board at the current level. I couldn’t help but notice a consistent trend in their answers.
JG Excerpt:
For smaller: "County government in Wisconsin needs to be more effective and more cost effective. With 25 people on the board, there are too many departments and too many committees and it makes county government too complex and inefficient."-Bret Strong, chairman, Walworth County Citizens for Responsible Government

Why don’t you just say that someone can’t handle it? If there are too many departments and too many committees, how will downsizing the board help? Spreading 11 supervisors over too many departments will be more difficult than spreading them among 25. Sounds like you have a different problem here and it’s not the size of the board.

JG Excerpt:
For smaller: "It's going to make for a more accountable board. It will be easier to keep an 11-member board informed. I think it'll make the board more accountable and it'll even make staff more accountable with fewer people to answer to. It's going to make staff jobs easier."-Ann Lohrmann, county board chairwoman

Promoting to downsize representation on the basis of easier workloads for the staff sounds like someone is in a little over their head – don’t ya’ think? This sounds like the size of the staff is the problem, not the board. It also seems like somebody else would rather have fewer people to answer to.

JG Excerpt:
For smaller: "Right now, the board is in a state of flux. There's no direction. There's no guidance … It's like a shopping spree. Everyone is going off in their own direction. It needs some serious changes. I'm not saying 11 is the number, but you could do it with 11."-Bill Norem, former county board chairman
This reason is key. Complaints of no direction or guidance has nothing to do with the size of the county board. This reason given is actually the best reason why the problem appears to be with leadership. The chairperson is responsible for the guidance – of the board, but only after the citizenry informs the board on what direction they would like it to take. This is a leadership problem, plain and simple.
JG Excerpt:
For smaller: When you have 25 people, they can hide behind each other when it comes to voting. I think (the issue) is accountability. When you have 11 people (on the board), you have more citizens who will know who those 11 people are."-Betty Felten, former county board supervisor
This reason about hiding and accountability seems just plain dumb. Putting more power into the hands of fewer people is a step into the direction opposite of democracy.

JG Excerpt:
For smaller: "The way I see our board, our board is laden with ineffective, incompetent people and they've proved that by the last budget. They will prove that again with 12- to 15-percent increases for the next few years if they build the (new Lakeland) school."-Bret Strong, chairman, Walworth County Citizens for Responsible Government
But….but… what if 11 members vote for the same budget increases the 25 members did? What have you accomplished? Just because people don’t see things my way doesn’t make them incompetent, I’ve got other words for them, but incompetent isn’t one of them.
JG Excerpt:
For smaller: "If citizens are OK with not looking at our programs and how we are doing business, then that's what they will have: the status quo."-Ann Lohrmann, county board chairwoman
What makes anyone think citizens will pay more attention if there are fewer board members? People will be nearly powerless if they demand less representation. Status quo is a condition that only grows worse with less representation, attempting to change it by downsizing is a short-term fix for the sake of change. If you’re really worried about the status quo, The most effective way to change it is done by changing leadership.
JG Excerpt:
For smaller: More of the same. More confusion and more bad decisions."-Bill Norem, former county board chairman
Again, confusion starts right at the top along with guidance and direction. If you can’t organize and coordinate with 25 people you'll probably do only slightly better with eleven.
JG Excerpt:
For smaller: "Nobody can guarantee that whatever board is elected is going to be responsible to taxpayers. From my perspective, with our current 25-member board, I don't think it could be any worse."-Ann Lohrmann, county board chairwoman
Hey - why have 25 when we can be just as irresponsible with eleven?!
JG Excerpt:
For smaller: "With 25, it's easy to hide your vote and hide your incompetence or lack of due diligence. It's hard to hide it when there are only 11 of you."-Bill Norem, former county board chairman
Another one of those hiding reasons. With eleven board members, that’s all they’ll be doing when a frustrated mob of Walworth taxpayers with lots of rope start looking for a tree.
JG Excerpt:
For smaller: "I believe with 11 we will have better control. They will be way more visible. They're going to have to answer to any bad deeds that they do."-Bret Strong, chairman, Walworth County Citizens for Responsible Government
This comparison that a larger board has less control doesn’t make sense. Fewer people on the board will take power away from the people and place it into fewer hands. On the road to dictatorship.
JG Excerpt:
For smaller: "Actually, I think it is a good time to do it. In 2010, maybe we should add two or three or bring it to 15, or maybe make it smaller. We'll have the opportunity to fine tune the board at that time."-Ann Lohrmann, county board chairwoman
Fine tune it? Why? Two years after downsizing you may want to enlarge it or make it smaller - again? After you purge out the disagreeables? Here’s an idea. Why not just scrap the entire board and crown Ann Lohrmann Countess of Walworth, this way she can pick and choose her subjects. Walworth Vote NO
I believe that a request to change the size of a county board should only come from the residents of the county or a census, and not from members of the board. The drive to downsize the Walworth County board appears to be for the interests of the few people who initiated the referendum and not for the county citizens. More people will be kept uninformed and in the dark.

Things just aren’t going someones way when the only way they can make the changes they feel are necessary is to purge membership. It is my opinion the chairperson has lost the connection with the people and has taken on the pompous view that only she (and a few others) knows what’s better for the community. If Walworth downsizes, the repercussions will be felt in Rock County and supply more ammunition to the power players tearing away at our county board.

Did anyone notice today how the Gazette Editorial staff, self appointed experts at peer comparisons, left out comparing Walworth county to Rock.
JG Editorial Excerpt:
With 11 supervisors, each would represent about 9,000 residents. That's fewer than the number represented by each supervisor in neighboring Racine County and far fewer than in Waukesha and Milwaukee counties.

I would guess they’re saving that comparison for after the election, particularly if Walworth votes “yes” to downsize.

Rock county citizens have already been fed a load of propaganda to change our board for the very same reasons. Apparently some one didn’t get their way here either. I encourage my Walworth neighbors to vote NO on this referendum. Remember: Strength in numbers.

Read related: Who's stealing our land.

Ryan Votes Against Funding Troops

Around February 22nd, Rep. Paul Ryan gave the Bush Plan A surge in Iraq a timeline of three to six months to show some progress aiming at withdrawal. Five months remain.
Now Ryan, still in a daze after his first tour of duty in Iraq feels that a timeline running into 2008 is inappropriate?
Ryan Press Release:
A Washington Post editorial today criticizes this legislation, noting: “As it is, House Democrats are pressing a bill that has the endorsement of but excludes the judgment of the U.S. commanders who would have to execute the retreat the bill mandates.”
Paul Ryan continued to criticize the bill as "micromanaging our military commanders."

Yeah, but which commanders are you talking about? The ones that had three years of “on the ground” Iraq experience, were against the surge and micro-managed out of command by Bush, or the ones that blindly agreed with Bush and were micro-managed in? Paul Ryan specifically picks out about $360 million of pork embedded within the bill as a good reason to deny the troops nearly $100 billion dollars in additional funding. Although many Democrats promote using the power of the purse to stop this bloody war, Ryan not surprisingly enough is willing to use the power of the purse not because he’s against the war, no not at all. He’s willing to cut off funding the troops strictly because of the power of the purse. Some people call that conservative, others might call it just plain cheap.

Journal Sentinel Excerpt:
Appropriations Committee Chair Dave Obey of Wausau said, "That's the problem with this president. This president isn't moved by anything except his own head. The Constitution says the Congress has the power of the purse. The Constitution doesn't make him king. . . . The president needs to understand the days of having a rubber-stamp Congress are over."
He said the legislation contained spending items that Republicans left unfinished when they controlled the House, and he said the dairy provision corrected an inequity in farm policy in which the milk subsidy expired a month sooner than subsidies for other commodities.
During the floor debate, Obey responded to a Washington Post editorial criticizing the bill by suggesting that its editorial board had no credibility because it "endorsed going to war in the first place" and helped drive the drumbeat for Congress in 2002 to authorize "that misbegotten, stupid, ill-advised war that has destroyed our influence over a third of the world."
Right on, Obey. Particularly about newspaper editorial boards. They are as genuine or legitimate as your average blogger and letter writing citizen and deserve no extra attention or credibility, in fact because they are paid to write what they write and are guided by profits and their own agenda, their opinions deserve even less.

It is becoming more apparent that the time-line stipulation in the bill is meant not to telegraph a date specific withdrawal to a potential enemy, but to strike out the Bush neo-con platform of a never-ending war in Iraq. The bill is expected to narrowly pass in the Senate, but Bush intends to play theatrical politics and veto the spending bill any ways, so things will be getting very partisan in the near future – I hope.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

President Bush Is Clinton's Legacy

I THOUGHT I’ve heard about all the blame that was possible for the right to heap onto the presidency of Bill Clinton. Just consider that he has been blamed for the first WTC bombing and the second, emboldening terrorists, teenage promiscuity, deficits, taxes and practically all the failures of the Bush administration. It only figures then that at least one letter writer feels that the Clinton legacy is the Bush presidency.
Tribune Letter Excerpt:
The Clintons' legacy will not be the economy (which they had nothing to do with) or impeachment (which will likely become an amusing presidential footnote), but the damage they did to our nation via their administration and the five-year license they granted an extremist-led GOP to run roughshod over our national reputation, collective will and common sense.
This letter is very odd. Here the writer concedes that Bush is a lousy president but basically claims that everything about the Clintons, their lifestyle, personality, gamesmanship and politics drove Americans to elect George W. Bush in the first place. So, the writer blames Clinton for the election of W. Bush, but why then would Americans elect the incompetent Bush again in 2004? To reaffirm the Clinton legacy? Of course the whole gist of this letter seems to say that as bad as Bush is, the Clintons (both Hillary and Bill) are worse and Americans must not make the same mistake by electing Hillary in 2008, and doing it all over again. WHAT a ridiculous letter.

AND IF you're going to lay blame or credit for this president on the previous presidency, why stop at Clinton? Why not go back to the Kennedy era. We could blame LBJ for Nixon, then blame Nixon for Carter, then Carter for Reagan. And what is the legacy of the Reagan administration? Why…...none other than Bill Clinton. Maybe that’s why they want to put Reagan on Rushmore.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Non-Partisan Elections Like Throwing Darts

Although I am still researching this, I have come to a conclusion of sorts about why things are the way they are regarding the strict adherence to the seemingly non-partisan form of city government in many towns throughout Wisconsin.

THE UPCOMING April election is a case in point. Voters often hear about the community service, education, general background, family and even religious orientation of the candidates, but when you ask them about their politics, they either say they’re neutral, in the center or an Independent. It’s funny how only 8-12% of the population is something other than a Democrat or a Republican, but they all seem to be running for City Council. And although Janesville city council candidates run non-partisan campaigns, that doesn’t mean candidates are obligated to keep their political philosophy a secret.

Private organizations like chambers of commerce and newspapers operate outside of legitimate political organizations such as the Republican or Democratic Party, so they have set themselves up pushing a political platform while maintaining party label immunity. This strong undercurrent of partisan folks have established themselves as the driving force in city leadership not because of politics - but because of the visible lack of politics. This of course allows them have full public opinion steering control.

THEY CAN SHAPE the talk of anyone trying to introduce an organized peoples platform into an absurd power grabbing goal of a ranting partisan, and who wants to support that? But the dominant press has to do this to protect their own interests and the interests of the dominant quasi-partisan power base they are connected to. So, talk of introducing partisanship, a mayoral city government, or district representation with alderman and precinct captains is a direct threat to their power.

TO PUT IT another way, when most of the owners, directors and editors of the media are tied into various quasi-nonpartisan organizations and businesses, you get a complicit press greasing the skids for their own agenda while enabling a crusade against critics and those who do not share the same goals. All the while maintaining they are beholden to no one, even the public they are entrusted to serve.

SO WHY have a non-partisan at-large city council? Simply because it is the very best way for a wealthy and influential minority to hold onto power. That is not democracy.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

School Referendum How-To

Apparently, Janesville is starting to develop a reputation of sorts when it passed a gargantuan school building referendum in November. So it doesn’t surprise me when I learned that other school districts in Wisconsin are turning to Janesville for advice on how to pull the wool over the eyes of taxpayers how to make a zillion dollar school building referendum palatable to taxpayers in the face of high taxes and budget deficits.
JG Excerpt:
The thumbs-up that Janesville voters gave to last November’s high school referendum has raised eyebrows – and hopes – elsewhere in Wisconsin.
IT SHOULD raise eyebrows. The referendum was approved 13,000 to 10,000 and surprised a lot of people. Those who supported the referendum may have won the game, but I wouldn’t put too much stock into how the game was played. What is important, is the fact that nearly TEN THOUSAND people came out to vote on their own free will and accord, without any help and against all the powers that be, in the face of overwhelming odds and voted against the referendum and lost. There are a lot of angry people in Janesville.

LOOKING BACK at the election, the NO vote had zero organization aside from my little rants and the efforts from Dwight Brass, a brave soul from Fulton Township who held a few meetings at the Hedberg Library trying to drum up opposition. While the YES vote had the support from the town's newspaper, the Janesville Gazette, organized business (Forward Janesville) and a $30,000 ad hoc committee called TLC. People are only now finally beginning to realize what hit them, and I would guess with everything being equal, if the referendum vote were suddenly held tomorrow, it would lose.
JG Excerpt:
Officials of the Elmbrook School district visited Janesville "and reviewed plans and politics surrounding our November 2006 high school facilities referendum" according to a memo from Superintendent Tom Evert to the school board.

Now the Elmbrook School District in Wisconsin is attempting to pass a $99 million school referendum on April 3rd. The Elmbrook School District is approximately 20% smaller than Janesville's and their referendum is approximately 40% larger at nearly $100 million, but the district has one thing working in its favor. The Elmbrook school district lies in Wisconsin’s wealthiest county. It is composed of mainly upper and some middle class residents, with a median income at around $76,000 according to the 2000 U.S. Census. They don’t turn down their thermostats in the winter to save money to pay bus fare to go to work. Surely they must think that if a working-class town like Janesville can pass a $70.8 million school referendum, the upper crust could wing this with ease.

The Janesville School District however had very little to do with selling the referendum, in fact, I think they are not permitted to offer any recommendations to the voter except to explain the actual make-up of the referendum. So the school district may not be the right place to visit unless you just want to talk about the referendum itself.

If you really want to review the tactics employed to accomplish this amazing feat, you have to visit the town's newspaper, the Janesville Gazette. They are the ones who kept the wraps on the school budget deficits during the run-up, they also ran referendum question and answer articles regularly favoring the referendum, apparently on their own dime. For those who haven’t scheduled a “How to pass a school referendum seminar” yet, I could save you a trip and explain right here the basic requirements.

1. If your referendum includes expanding your schools while facing projections of declining enrollment, never connect the two. Just talk about declining enrollment as the reason why teachers and special aide programs must be cut and blame state enrollment guidelines, BUT ONLY AFTER the referendum has passed.
2. If your district is facing heart-wrenching consecutive annual deficits or other impending tax increases, MAKE ABSOLUTELY SURE the local newspapers DO NOT REMIND the taxpayers of this for at least three months before election, seven months are even better.
3. Don’t write or talk about high state taxes or property taxes at all during the run-up, in fact, only talk about how other public utilities like garbage pick-up, water and sewer, library or even the wages of your city leaders are lower than others in peer cities. This helps give people the impression they have loads of extra money to burn.
4. DO NOT give the voters any choice by breaking the referendum into individual projects. If you do, people will naturally assume then that something is wrong and only vote for the things that are really necessary. Play hardball politics with this, throw as much in the referendum as you can.
5. Although this is about education, impress upon people that even if they don’t care about the schools, they should still be selfish enough to vote YES because it may increase their property values.
6. Tell the people that now is the time to take LOCAL RESPONSIBILITY and beat the Madison politicians at their own game and vote yourself tax increases - before they do.
7. Downplay opposition as stingy old people who hate kids and divide the community into the “haves” and the “have nots.”

OF COURSE all of this is moot if the town's main newspaper is not on your side. And lastly, if you’re just starting to learn this three weeks before the referendum polling takes place, it will probably fail. It takes at least six months of a constant drumbeat and complete censorship of the real issues to make something like this work. But ask your newspaper, not your school board.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Janesville Teachers Need Peer Pressure

JG Excerpt:
Not only do the teachers have good coverage, they don't pay any monthly premium, unlike most local workers. A 2005 survey of 16 of the larger local employers-including the school district but not General Motors-showed only three that did not require employees to pay part of the premium.
Only three out of sixteen companies pay full health benefits to their employees? Isn’t it time people rise up and boycott the thirteen large companies who are not paying full benefits? In this booming and expanding economy shouldn’t workers demand more benefits and wages - not less?

Well, at least Superintendent Evert agrees. Just a week after the $70.8 million school referendum passed, he picked up a new contract calling for a 3.7% increase in each of the next two years. The Gazette article did mention that the dollar amount of his raise has not been set because it is contingent on health insurance costs which are packaged as part of his salary. Apparently Evert has not made any health insurance concessions. The Gazette article did compare his compensation to the national average and of peer school districts.
JG Excerpt (11-15-06):
The average salary for superintendents in the Great Lakes region is $118,374……….. The national average for superintendents of districts with enrollment of 10,000 to 24,999 is $154,714.
.....or on March 18th when the Gazette explained that the city council justified giving the city manager a stepped 5% raise for 2007 by comparing his wages to fellow city managers in peer cities. Well, that's okay then.

Why is it that teachers salary and benefits package are compared to workers pay of other unrelated businesses in the private sector, but the salary and benefits package of school superintendents and city managers are always compared to only superintendents and city managers in peer cities? To be fair, perhaps its time to compare their compensation to the managers of fast-food restaurants and retail stores.

This same analysis comparing Janesville teacher benefits to that of GM workers was played out again on Tuesday in the Gazette's front-page headline article titled, Pay, insurance are key issues.
JG Excerpt:
Julka noted that General Motors also is struggling with health and retirement costs as it negotiates with unions. GM, like the district, sees these costs as hampering ”its ability to provide a quality product.”
Hear that teachers? If you take the example set by the city manager and school superintendent for fair and equitable compensation for the services you provide, your demands will hamper the schools ability to provide a quality education. Did the superintendent or city manager ever consider how their rising wage expectations will burden taxpayers and hamper production?dose of reality

Unfortunately, before you even begin to negotiate, the general public has been primed up to oppose you with this steady drumbeat played out in articles and editorials from your favorite newspapers.

Possibly bored and with nothing else to do, the Gazette editorial staff slapped together a fictional story for the January 21st edition titled “Teachers need reality check on benefits.” You’ve probably conveniently forgot about this editorial and who could blame you? But the last paragraph was meant to put teachers into the wage category the Gazette editors feel match your production.
JG Excerpt:
Teachers also must realize that us taxpayers are finding fewer good jobs with generous benefits these days. Look at out many jobs GM has squeezed out at the plant. And new jobs seem to be service work – low paying jobs at big box stores, burger joints and the like. Again, teachers need a dose of reality. I support your efforts to get them to share health care benefits.
That the Gazette said this through a fictional Mr. Miffed character was very understandable. No Republican or Bush Conservative would sign their name to that when they believe we are in the throes of a booming, low unemployment, profit-taking and expanding economy fueled by those Bush taxcuts. They are trapped in a hellish dichotomy of their own making.

And it doesn’t help when a school board candidate and former inside-the-beltway politician has this to say about upcoming negotiations.
JG excerpt:
"I hope the teachers union comes to the table with the understanding that we need to keep this community together." -- Tim Cullen, school board candidate
Once again the teachers are being singled out and asked to make concessions or risk being labeled as unreasonable, before they even get started.

Now comes word that you (teachers union) want to keep future negotiating sessions closed to the public. With all the help you’ve been getting from your local newspapers – who could blame you.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Political Action Group In School Classrooms

Executives from at least four local businesses will be attending two Janesville High Schools this Wednesday sharing their business expertise with the students under the auspices of Junior Achievement of Wisconsin. The program Excellence through Ethics is a message designed to restore lost confidence due to recent corporate scandals in the business world. Junior Achievement feels it is vital to rethink what and how children are taught in order to succeed in a global economy.

Attending along with the business executives will be John Beckord of Forward Janesville. Forward Janesville is what you might think of as Janesville’s Chamber of Commerce. They do what a typical chamber of commerce does, offering business and training seminars, promoting local businesses and coordinating trade shows. But it doesn’t end there. What makes Forward Janesville special is, they are the only politically active organization in Janesville outside of the Democratic and Republican Parties. Janesville city elections are non-partisan which forbids traditional partisan involvement. This gives Forward Janesville along with the local press, full steering rights and privileges during the campaigns. This is what makes Forward Janesville truly unique and a dominant political powerplayer in the Janesville community.
JG Excerpt:
The business leaders will share basic values and beliefs as well as engage students in discussion on the role of ethics in their school life and in their own and personal business dealings.

One visit to their Website and it doesn’t take long to figure out that Forward Janesville is not your average apolitical chamber of commerce. Just run down their sidebar and the link “political activity” pops out. Open it up and it’s a smorgasbord of sub-links including a legislative agenda, scoreboard, position statements and political advocacy. The Position Statements and Legislative Agenda pages closely mirror the Republican Party platform to a point where the only thing missing is the elephant. Clearly, Forward Janesville does not hide their political activist role and it should draw concerns about the role they have and message they teach, while participating in educational programs in our public schools.

Sound Off Echo Filter Turned On

Last week, the Janesville Gazette decided to make a few minor changes to it’s anonymous call-in column known as Sound Off. Apparently, they will no longer allow anonymous comments to call out letter writers by name, a small step forward, but they will be increasing the noise to sound ratio, in other words, they are letting readers know the filter will become even more restrictive – thus taking two steps back. However, I'm not complaining or defending the existence of the Sound Off column in any context for that matter. Make no mistake, printing anonymous comments is a powerful, powerful tool employed by the Gazette.
JG Excerpt:
Our review showed that Sound Off echoes the news and the issues that matter to this community.
Oh,umm sure. But only after one person transcribes the calls and marks them if she believes they come from the same caller, then the Opinion page editor picks and edits the submissions which echo his view of issues that matter to the community and then, he passes them on and they are again reviewed to make sure they echo the issues that really matter.

They can shape and direct public opinion in any fashion they choose without offering one shred of empirical provenance. Of course people shouldn’t be too excited over what the Gazette prints here. What they omit is what should draw concerns. Here is just a sampling of two anonymous comments found in last weeks Gazette – with my response.
JG Sound Off Excerpt:
On Gov. Doyle:
It’s a pretty sad day when Gov. Jim Doyle turns down federal money to the schools just because he doesn’t want abstinence taught to our children. (Page 3B, March 4th) What would it hurt? It might do some good. Sad, sad state of affairs. -- Anonymous
Oh? But Gov. Doyle does want abstinence to be taught in schools, in fact he insists on it – as part of a comprehensive sex education program. Even without the $600,000 from the Fed, Wisconsin schools will teach abstinence, just not in the absence of teaching the birds and the bee’s or warning of sexually transmitted disease.

More and more and particularly during the Bush era, states are being forced to jump through narrow-minded ideological hoops in order to see a return on their Federal tax dollars and this is just a small example. Doyle is to be commended for refusing money that would effectively dumb down our children. The sad, sad part is that Bush now has $600,000 more to waste in Iraq. That money belongs to the Wisconsin taxpayers, and should be put into a state rainy day fund for future school needs.
JG Sound Off Excerpt:
On health care:
Regarding Walter Reed Hospital and maybe other VA facilities, a government healthcare program, be careful what you vote for in the future. We may all be sorry. -- Anonymous
Our President has an ivy-league degree in business. But you wouldn’t know it when you consider what he's done to some of our most precious public entities such as Walter Reed or other once shining jewels serving the common good within our Federal system. Those that he failed to deliberately dismantle he neglected, and those he failed to neglect, he completely and utterly mismanaged. We may not be sorry for what we vote for in the future, but a growing majority are sorry for who we voted for in the past.

The Sound Off column affords the newspapers editors the ultimate potential for packaging a false public perception - and it should never be taken seriously. I tend to view the column mostly for it’s comical entertainment value, plus I can have my way with any comment I choose without offending anyone – after all they’re anonymous.

Friday, March 16, 2007

The Soft Bigotry Of Low Standards

As a Democrat, I was somewhat miffed - no - disappointed in the direction Democrat Rep. Mike Sheridan took to defend himself against conflict of interest allegations presented in an article by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

In short, State Rep. Mike Sheridan (D-Janesville) also happens to be president of United Auto Workers Local 95. General Motors Corp. pays his salary. Sheridan helped introduce Assembly Bill 85, which would provide a $1,000 tax credit to Wisconsinites who buy or lease a new flex-fuel vehicle. The GM plant in Janesville turned out 120,000 FFV vehicles in 2007 and employs 2,600 workers. In the watchdog article, the Sentinel accuses Rep. Sheridan and bill co-sponsor Republican Rep. Eugene Hahn (Cambria) of having conflicts of interest.
Milwaukee Sentinel Excerpt:
Officials with the Wisconsin Ethics Board, which administers the state's ethics codes and lobbying laws, said they were unaware of the issue when first questioned by the Journal Sentinel.
The board might be unaware of the issue, but Sheridan’s constituents aren’t. You see, what Sheridan has working in his favor is the fact that residents in his district are fully aware of his ties to GM and many have elected him because of this connection. In effect, he is doing the peoples work. It’s not like Sheridan was elected and kept his GM job a secret and then did one of those “gut checks” before he sponsored a bill favoring an undisclosed special interest. Constituents in his district know exactly what is going on.

But Sheridan has faced these accusations in the past, and I would guess that every day he hangs on to both of these positions, he knows he leaves himself open as a target to these allegations of conflict, not from inside his district, but outside. This is why I was disappointed by his response to the Sentinels article. It could have worked to his tremendous advantage by using it as a springboard to introduce legislation to raise eligibility (conflict of interest) standards for those seeking a seat on the Wisconsin State legislature. Instead he chose to view himself as a “former autoworker” and dragged in anyone else who held a job before they entered politics as equally conflicted. I hope he didn’t get this advice from the Janesville Gazette.

Of course I don’t think Sheridan sponsoring this bill is as big as a controversy as the Sentinel implied, but most fundamental Americans demand complete dedication and accountability from their elected representatives and Sheridan is no different. He must know he is walking a highwire. The last thing Wisconsinites should be ashamed of is attempting to hold the ethical standards of our civic leaders and politicians too high.

The Janesville Gazette editorialized their support for Sheridan’s sponsorship of the bill which is the only right thing to do, but they also took the side that citizens must be careful not to set the bar too high for Wisconsin politicians. This is exactly what I come to expect from the Gazette, a newspaper whose principles are guided by profits and politics, in that order.

Additional story * Committee Defends Conflicts

JS Excerpt:
Rep. Barbara Gronemus (D-Whitehall) said "I can't imagine why anyone would think that Rep. Sheridan was doing something that wouldn't benefit the plant and the state." "Ditto for Hahn" she said.
"That to me is no good reason to admonish . . . Hahn because he was smart enough to invest in something he believes in," she said.
Memo to self: If you ever attempt to run for political office, buy stock in Wisconsin companies, particularly those residing in your district. This way, you will look smart sponsoring or voting for legislation that you not only believe in, but you have a vested interest in as well. Oooo, the web we weave.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Brit Hume: Clinton Validates Bush

The revelation that the mid-term firings of district attorney’s began as a political move by the White House — rather than as an effort by Justice to oust prosecutors based on performance, as the department told Congress — led to a wave of criticism of the administration on Capitol Hill.

Fox News whack job Brit Hume cries foul. He figures if Clinton can do it and get away with it fourteen years ago with little fanfare, Bush can too.

Brit Hume:
“News stories reporting that the Bush administration had considered firing all 93 U.S. attorneys across the country failed to mention that that is exactly what Bill Clinton did soon after taking office back in 1993. The only sitting U.S. attorney Clinton did not cashier was Michael Chertoff, now the Bush Homeland Security Secretary. At the time Chertoff was U.S. attorney in New Jersey and then Democratic Senator Bill Bradley of New Jersey intervened to save Chertoff's job. None of this was noted, even in passing, in front-page stories today in the New York Times and the Washington Post, or in the AP's story on the subject.
Why is it that the people who hated everything about Bill Clinton, bring up nearly everything he’s done during his presidency to justify or validate nearly everything Bush is doing today? Why don’t they hate Bush just as well then? What’s past is past and it can’t be changed, isn’t it time we remain focused on the now, a time when we can do something to right the wrongs and move forward?

Monday, March 12, 2007

New Bus Garage In Baghdad Or Janesville

The City of Janesville plans to spend nearly $6 million on a new transit system bus garage and under different circumstances that would seem excessive. You see, regardless of where the money comes from, the garage must meet a boatload of Federal and State environmental standards including handicapped accessibility and have expensive equipment for mechanical repairs such as giant hydraulic lifts. But the real kicker to this deal is the premise that the Federal government will likely pay up to 80 percent of the total cost. I say go for it, and go for it big time.

The Janesville Gazette editorialized that the city should instead build some flimsy metal barn shed with pits instead of lifts and with community shower stalls for employees. If the city goes along with the Gazette, they may as will build an open-air garage. Believe me, you don’t want pits for mechanical repairs, they’re barely adequate even for oil changes and hinder a technician to complete even basic inspections of the suspension and wheel assemblies.

But this is not the reason of course why I’m writing. It is the idea that the person in charge of our Federal domestic spending has shortchanged communities across the country and diverted precious dollars to his bloody war in Iraq. If Janesville doesn’t take the max on what is available to them, it will just leave more money for Bush to pass out to his private contractor buddies in Iraq to build new bus garages there.

If the President of the United States has no qualms about requesting an extra $3.2 billion just this week alone for Iraq in the face of hundreds of billions in debt that he created, should Janesville worry about requesting a few million for a bus garage?
JG Editorial Excerpt:
Janesville expects the Federal government to pick up about 80 percent of the cost. Well then, that makes it better.
No, it doesn’t. It’s still tax money. And while it doesn’t come out of city taxpayers pockets directly, it’s still our money. Have you noticed the federal deficit lately?
Certainly as I’ve written in the past, the Gazette is entitled to their opinion but, they have a lot of nerve to hold the federal deficit over local domestic needs when their man Bush deliberately ran up the deficit by spending nearly a half-trillion dollars outside the U.S. economy.

The city council has made some wrong-headed moves in the recent past and this won't make up for any of them but the city of Janesville could sure use a $4.5 million booster shot into the local economy. Providing the Federal money is there, don't do this on the cheap. It's a no-brainer.

Bush Still Punishing America

USA Today Excerpt:
President Bush wants to pay for his plan to send 8,200 more U.S. troops to Iraq and Afghanistan by cutting money for agriculture, education and other programs, budget records show.
No surprise here, he’s already swiped over $400 billion from domestic needs to pay for this ongoing nightmare. What’s another $3.2 billion? Peanuts.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Education And The Owners Of America

Transcript of Video

George Carlin

If you talk to one of them about this, if you isolate one of them, sit em’ down rationally, you talk to em’ about low IQ’s, and the dumb behavior and the bad decisions - right away they start talking about education.

That’s the big answer to everything. Education. They said we need more money for education, we need more books, more teachers, more classrooms, more schools, we need more testing for the kids. You say to them well you know we tried all of that and the kids still can’t pass the tests.

Ahhh don’t you worry about that, we’ll gonna lower the passing grades. That’s what they do in schools nowadays, they lower the passing grades so more kids can pass. More kids pass - the school looks good - everybody's happy - the IQ of the country slips another two, three points and pretty soon all you’ll need to get into college is a f*ckin’ pencil. Got a pencil? Get the f*ck in there, its physics.

Then everyone wonders why seventeen other countries graduate more scientists than we do - EDUCATION. Politicians know that word they use it on you. Politicians have traditionally hidden behind three things - the flag, the bible and children – no child left behind, no child left behind. Oh really? Well it wasn't long ago you were talking about giving the kids a head start – head start – left behind – someones losing f*cking ground here.

But there's a reason, there's a reason for this, there's a reason that education SUCKS and it’s the same reason why it will never ever, ever be fixed. Its never gonna get any better, don’t look for it, be happy with what you got.

Because the o-w-n-e-r-s of this country don’t want that. I’m talking about the real owners now, the big, the wealthy, that, the REAL owners, the big wealthy business interests that control things and make all the important decisions. Forget the politicians, they're, they're irrelevant.

The politicians are put there to give you the idea that you have freedom of choice. You don’t. You have no choice. You have owners. They OWN YOU. They own everything. They own all the important land, they own and control the corporations. They long since bought and paid for the senate, the congress, the statehouses, city halls, they got the judges in their back pockets. And they own all the big media news companies so they control just about all the news and information you get to hear. They got you by the BALLS.

They, they spend billions of dollars every year, lobbying, lobbying to get what they want. Well we know what they want. They want more for themselves and less for everyone else. But I’ll tell you what they don’t want. They don’t want a population of citizens capable of critical thinking, they don’t want well-informed well-educated people capable of critical thinking. They are not interested in that. That doesn’t help them. That’s against their interests.

That’s right. You know something, they don’t want people who are smart enough to sit around the kitchen table to figure how badly their getting f*cked by a system that threw them overboard thirty f*cking years ago. They don’t want that. You know what they want? They want OBEDIENT workers. OBEDIENT WORKERS.

People who are just smart enough to run the machines and do the paper work and just dumb enough to passively accept all these increasingly shittier jobs with the lower pay, the longer hours, the reduced benefits, the end of overtime and the vanishing pension that disappears the minute you go to collect it. And now they coming for your SOCIAL SECURITY money - they want your ****ing retirement money. They want it BACK - so they they could give it to their criminal friends on Wall Street.

And you something – they’ll get it. They get it all from you sooner or later, cause they own this f*cking place. It’s a big club and YOU AIN’T IN IT. You and I are NOT in the big club.

By the way it’s the same big club they use to beat you over the head with all day long when they tell you what to believe, all day long beating you over the head in their media telling you what to believe, what to think and what to buy. The table is tilted folks, the game is rigged, and nobody seems to notice – nobody seems to care.

Good honest hardworking people - white collar - blue collar, it doesn’t matter what color shirt you have on. Good honest hardworking people continue, these are people of modest means, continue to elect these rich c*cksuckers who don’t give a f*ck about you, they don’t give a f*ck about you, they don’t give a f*ck about you, they don’t care about you - AT ALL - AT ALL – AT ALL.

Man, you know - and nobody seems to notice – nobody seems to care. That’s what the owners count on, the fact that Americans will probably remain willfully ignorant of the big red, white and blue d*ck that’s being jammed up their *ssholes everyday. Because the owners of this country know the truth – its called the American dream – cause you have to be asleep to believe it.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Obey and Liberals Caught In Friendly Fire

The conversation that took place between an honorable war mom and the Honorable Rep. David Obey in a hallway clearly exposes the frustration and misunderstanding going on between those who are against the Iraq war.
Washington Post Excerpt:
"We don't have the votes for it. We do have the votes if you guys quit screwing it up. We do have the votes to end the legal authority for the war, that's the same as de-funding it." --David Obey
It was disappointing to hear Obey refer to pro-troop anti-war activists as “idiot liberals.” But in his defense, I could only say that those opposing the war or opposing the funding of it should be questioning and confronting Republicans within the hallways of Congress instead of Democrats. They are the ones that need to be convinced they are taking the country in the wrong direction for supporting this ill-begotten war. They are the ones that need to be videotaped and scrutinized for their support of policies that have defunded our schools, VA hospitals and other domestic needs at the expense of Bush’s bloody oil war. They are the ones “screwing it up.”

TIF Discussion Censored In Janesville Paper

The Gazette reporter covering the League of Women Voters Forum held for the Janesville city council candidates at the Hedberg Library Wednesday evening seemed to have missed nearly a third of the debate in the story posted by the paper in Thursdays edition. The article titled Council Hopefuls Question Pay Raise left out everything pertaining to TIF districts discussed by the candidates which consumed nearly 20 minutes of the 60 minute session.

What I find interesting is that both Forward Janesville’s Web survey and the League of Women Voters find questioning the candidates about TIF’s to be very important while the candidates themselves offered simple and agreeable answers in near conformity. Except for Andrea Briarmoon, none of them made an effort to stand out and offer anything new or different.

The Gazette went as far as to title and sub-title the candidates forum article as a debate about the city manager’s salary and dedicated almost half of their story coverage to talk over Sheiffer's pay raise when in reality a couple candidates merely agreed they would have probably opposed it. Again, all except one, Briarmoon, seemed very satisfied with the decisions made by the current council, governmental process, taxes, TIFs, direction of growth, sense of community, and nearly everything else regarding the state of the city. I could be wrong, but when there are eight candidates to fill four chairs, most voters would be under the impression that change is in order. Sorry to disappoint you folks.

But the real story here is the absence of the TIF district discussion in the Gazette, obviously a deliberate attempt by the newspaper to focus attention away from the circumstances surrounding how and why they (Gazette) or the location on Wuthering Hills Drive were able to qualify for this economic welfare tool. Indeed it deserves much more attention than it's been getting.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Supreme Choice Between People Or Profits

Elections are coming up again in April and it is becoming apparent that partisan supporters for candidates of non-partisan judicial offices are attempting to reshape those campaigns as well. I actually welcome this type of transparency because a candidates political philosophy is probably the single most important thing to know before you pull that ballot lever. Such is the case of the upcoming Wisconsin Supreme Court elections where Republicans or should I say conservatives (remember we’re non-partisan) , are drumming up support for their Republican candidate, Circuit Court Judge Ann Ziegler for the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

Apparently, there is a bit of a controversy surrounding Judge Ziegler as it turns out she has presided over more than just a few claim cases involving a bank where her husband happens to be on the Board of Directors. No problem if this was disclosed to all the parties involved or if she had recused herself. But that never happened. These are serious allegations against a sitting circuit judge.

Republican Mark Graul, former campaign spokesmen for Mark Green is now running Ziegler's campaign. Last week he did acknowledge Ziegler had a conflict when it came to cases involving the bank, but insisted she had notified the parties and gotten approval to continue presiding over the cases. He later modified that to say in some cases, defendants failed to show up or handled the case by telephone or mail, and Ziegler didn't have a chance to notify them of her conflict so - guilty as charged.

Whatever the reason, not having the chance to notify them of her conflict but finding plenty of time to cast judgment and strike the gavel seems inconsistent in the least. Again, this wasn’t one of those rare things where it can happen once to anybody or even twice to a freshman judge. There appears to be at least four documented victims of Judge Ziegler, a judge whose bench experience puts her in that “should know better” classification. Upon this discovery, dozens of former defendants are now stepping forward with the same allegations. No excuse, Ziegler knows exactly what she is doing.
WSJ Excerpt:
The four defendants interviewed by the State Journal said Ziegler neither withdrew from their cases nor notified them of her conflict of interest.
Ziegler wouldn't say whether she believes her actions followed the Supreme Court rules or any other court rules for that matter. Ziegler is running against Democrat Linda Clifford who responded to the controversy by saying judges don't have the option of staying on cases while hiding their conflicts of interest. She said Ziegler's decision not to withdraw from the cases "raises serious concerns." You bet it does!
WSJ Excerpt:
"The rule . . . is not a discretionary matter. It's not up to Judge Ziegler to get a 'gut check.' It's absolutely mandatory when either she or her husband sits on the board of directors of a party - it's mandatory that she recuse," Clifford said.
But as far as all of that is, you can forget it all because the Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce (WMC) otherwise known as organized business have zeroed in on district attorneys and judges as a “must have” to keep in their pockets. The WMC pumped millions into J.B.Van Hollen’s campaign against Kathleen Falk. They won in what can been described as a stunning upset and are now coming out with all guns blazing against Linda Clifford.
Big Business Backs Zeigler:
The Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce has spoken: State Supreme Court candidate Linda Clifford is an activist who will legislate from the bench while her opponent Annette Ziegler will practice judicial restraint.
Restraint as in……restraining herself from disclosing to defendants that her husband happens to be on the board of directors of the bank that is suing you - guilty as charged.

Speaking about Board of Directors, it should come as no surprise when the Janesville Gazette starts hacking about their endorsement for the vacant Supreme Court post. You see, Gazette President and Board Chairman Sidney H. Bliss was elected to the Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC) board just recently. Just remember though, the Gazette is beholden to no one.
Waxing America Excerpt:
Mostly, I'm asking for someone, somewhere, to notice, perhaps, that while Linda Clifford is completely upfront and open of her partisan past, Annette Ziegler seems to be so ashamed of hers that she'll scrub her website and send out lackeys to lie for her.
Of the two candidates, Linda Clifford has the most important qualifying trait a person must possess to be judge and that is to be upfront. That’s all most people expect when standing in front of a judge in a courtroom, and that is all I expect from my candidate when I’m voting in the booth.
Ziegler offers neither.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Gazette Vision: Keeping Voters In The Dark

The last time I wrote about the Janesville School District budget cuts, people in charge of the situation blamed falling enrollment as the primary reason for the shortfall. This, coming on the heels of promoting a $70.8 million school utility upgrade and expansion.

But the budget debates are now over and with further cuts looming down the road for the next budget, its beginning to appear like the successfully passed $70.8 million referendum will hang around the necks of the school board and taxpayers for years to come. Many Janesville residents don’t sympathize.

Consider the letter to the editor in the March 5th Gazette. Here the writer justifiably accuses the Gazette and the school board of not being forthright with voters during the referendum campaign up to election time. Although the referendum passed 13,000 to 10,000, many people feel that if they were informed of the consecutive annual school budget short-falls during the run-up, the outcome would have been different.
JG letter Excerpt:
It appears that this impending problem was intentionally ignored so the building referendums would pass.
What is interesting here is that at the end of the letter, the Gazette responded with one of their "Editors Notes."
JG Excerpt:
Editors Note: The Gazette reported March 14, 2006: "The district’s outlook is bleak for 2007-08,”and “a projection based on current state law would require another $1.8 million budget cut in 2007-2008."

Our editorial April 13, 2006: "District residents should realize program and staff cuts likely will get harder in the years ahead." We quoted then-board President Nancy Sonntag as saying, "Next year, we're going to be looking at cutting programs."
April 13th was the last time Janesville taxpayers seen a major article about the impending budget cuts all the way through the summer and fall of 2006 and right through November 7th when the referendum was finally passed. Not until after five days later on November 12th did the Gazette run a story in the local section where the school budget shortfall reared up its ugly head. After the referendum passed, the school budget shortfall became almost a weekly syndication in the Gazette, but not until Janesville voters were kept in the dark for nearly seven months.

Other dates are important too, like September 26, 2006 when the Gazette ran a front-page story about the TLC group promoting a “yes” vote and again, not one word was mentioned of the budget shortfall. One wonders how much impact the TLC promotion would have had on the referendum if they campaigned in March and April and remained silent thereafter.

And November 5th, just two days before the voters ran to the polls the Gazette encouraged a “yes” vote in their editorial titled "Use vision to vote “yes” to better schools," where the Gazette offered a reminder about their own guiding editorial principles but absolutely nothing about the impending school budget short-falls.

This proves two of my own maxims. No.1, people have short memories and No.2, what you don't read in the Gazette is usually right here.

Monday, March 05, 2007

American Troops Denied Victory

Krauthammer Iraq war Opinion:
Of course, the Democrats believe that the war cannot be won. But if that's the case, they should order a withdrawal by cutting off the funds.
Of course! That’s all I ever hear lately, that democrats want America to lose the war, when indeed the opposite is true. But what is so wrong believing the war was won, many times over in fact, and we now just want to bring our victorious troops home. Is there something wrong with that? Think about it.

It is primarily Bush supporters who are talking as if the war is lost, and if I may be so bold as to return to the original justifications for the war as presented by the Bush administration, as wrong-headed as it was, every one of the ever changing stipulations he ordered have been accomplished. Put it another way, if our military is to be used offensively to topple indifferent regimes and seize control of sovereign nations, our troops not only did a fine job in Iraq, they were resoundingly victorious.

First it was about the WMD, then it was regime change, then liberation, then a constitution and finally a democratically elected government. What more can anyone ask for? Really. Just consider that victory No. 1 occurred when our troops seized Baghdad and toppled Saddam’s statue. That was a huge symbolic victory.

The most deceptive justification of all for the invasion presented by the Bush administration was the irrefutable and undeniable threat of WMD posed by Iraq. Remember? But it wasn’t too long after Saddams statue was pulled down when over 2,000 American inspectors concluded that WMD were no longer present on Iraqi soil. Final victory and end of threat? I recall when Bush stood on the aircraft carrier declaring an end to major combat in Iraq under the Mission Accomplished banner. Some said (including myself) it was premature at the time, given that U.S. casualties in Iraq since then have surpassed those before it. But did we invade Iraq to conquer it?

Sure, it sounds almost too funny, but it’s the truth. These weren’t battles mind you, these were earmarks of victory. Victory No. 3 happened when our troops secured the oil fields. Victory No. 4 occurred when Saddams sons were killed. Victory No. 5 happened when Saddam was pulled out of a dirt hole and brought to justice. Regime change accomplished! Victory No. 6 was the most important one perhaps, the Iraqi people elected a democratic form of government. This is mission accomplished. Our troops should have been pulled out of Iraq the next day with huge victory celebrations in every city. I’m not joking. Our troops overcame great odds under the errant direction and orders from our commander-in-chief. This is why I support our troops, they are and were phenomenal. So, why are they being kept in Iraq and denied victory?

John Murtha seen this in November of ’05 and if Bush would have listened our troops would have been home by the summer of ’06. Instead, Bush and Cheney completely blew off Murtha, and more than 750 men and women have died since. We’ve poured another $160,000,000,000 into the war with another hundred billion about to get pitched into the black hole of Iraq, sectarian warfare is getting fiercer and 21,500 additional troops have been thrown in to fight somebody else’s battles.

The war in Iraq did not thwart one terror attack against America and our troops must be pulled out and redeployed to defend our homeland against possible future terror attacks. Fighting sectarian violence and civil wars in Iraq won’t do it.

Given that we cannot go back in time and bring over 3,100 precious soldiers back to life, I'm more than willing to give Bush his victory trophy right now if it would bring our troops home.
“It’s still George Bush’s war. But we run the risk of gaining some ownership of it if we don’t make it absolutely clear that we are the party that wants to get out of there.” -- Russ Feingold
Unfortunately, the longer our troops stay in Iraq the more these victories will be squandered away not because Democrats believe the war was won as I have just explained, but because Bush and his supporters are willing to gamble away all the victories until the war is finally lost!

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Poor Direction For Cheap Fuel

The March 3rd Janesville Gazette editorial titled ”Focus on fuel economy is critical here,” was an exercise of the usual talking points blaming either tough emission standards or labor unions (liberal policy) for the poor mileage American vehicles squeeze out of a gallon of gas. But they failed to explain the very reasons why Americans should want better fuel economy in the first place. In fact the only reason we are having this discussion is not because we are dependent on foreign oil, it’s just because gasoline prices are both unstable and high.

We seem to be under the impression that better average national fuel economy means traveling costs per mile will drop when indeed nothing could be more deceptively false. It also seems to hold that if American vehicles suddenly doubled their average mileage per gallon from 20 to 40 overnight, thus cutting consumption in half, the price of a gallon of gas should plummet because of the huge, huge gasoline glut. True supply and demand results. But we know that’s not how things work with Big Oil and chances are more than likely that the price of a gallon of gas would double, refineries would close from severe under-capacity and we would be exactly where we are today – production on a tightrope and a near doubling of their all infamous 9% profit margin to 15%. Sure, this would help cut greenhouse emissions but Americans want better gas mileage NOT to save gas or cut emissions, they want it to save money. They won’t save money with the current greedy Big Oil corporate policies.

When the Republican base or Bush enablers discuss our current situation with high gasoline prices they first bring up the principle of supply and demand. Low oil supply and high global demand equals high prices. Simple law of economics they say. Except that there is NO shortage of crude oil, the crude oil arrives here, the (high) price is paid – no shortage. If they are corrected in their choice of words that we have what appears to be deliberate manipulation of gasoline production, they immediately cry foul and reply it is because Democrats, liberals and environmentalists have banned new refineries or made them cost prohibitive. Too expensive to build with all those environmental protections they say. But if they can’t build a single new refinery while they are reaping the largest profits known to mankind, it’s obvious they never intend to build one at all – ever. In fact, Big Oil is elated that they have someone to blame other than themselves for the lack of refineries. When in truth, environmentalists have demanded stricter smokestack emissions and other refinery standards simply to protect human health and the general environment. Bush wants these refinery standards dropped in the name of lower costs to the oil companies, not lower gasoline prices, which means even greater profits and of course, filthier air.

This is the wrong direction to take and it is actually hurting the economy and job creation. Here’s why. When liberals convinced Congress to enact strict pollution standards on automobiles in the 70’s, the car companies vehemently opposed the change and said it would be too expensive. In 1975, anti-environmentalists and liberal bashers warned that a new car with a catalytic converter would hit your pocketbook an additional $400. But what happened back then? Whole new industries were developed to design and manufacture EGR valves, pollution pumps and expensive platinum catalytic converters. People paid the price to get cleaner air even if it meant worse gas mileage. But, thousands of people were put to work. Contrary to mainstream beliefs, environmentalist policies created jobs. We gained all around with cleaner air and jobs that never existed before.

Similarly, today’s argument seems to be centered on making vehicles more fuel efficient and again, corporatists and anti-liberals use the same old talking points from over 30 years ago.
JG Editorial Excerpt:
The goal would also hit your pocketbook. Use of expensive technology would cost you $1,300 more for a car and almost $2,000 more for a truck.
The GOP and their supporters are holding up the same progress to build energy star cars and new clean refineries with chimney scrubbers, catalysts and particulate recycling, primarily because their base wants it this way. The oil companies know whether they build new refineries or high mileage cars, the results will be the same. Production on a tightrope will end and they will have to earn money the old fashioned way, not by price gouging under the guise of tight supplies and fear. Need I say more? America needs new leadership with fresh ideas….. if not, it’s like they say, you may as well get used to it.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Oil Profit Surge Benefits Taxpayers - Maybe

JG Letter Excerpt:
Robson says it is a matter of people or profits (Page 7A, Feb. 20), implying profits are bad. More accurately, it is "capitalism or socialism." Millions rely on profit to fund their retirements so we can continue to pay these taxes. The "people or profits" tact is an attempt to create class warfare so prevalent in politics today. -- Letter writer
The "capitalism or socialism" comparison is a weak attempt to muddy the real debate here. I don't recall Robson ever implying that profits are bad. I also find the reasons why some think its okay for monopolistic entities to gouge the general public for whatever the market will bear very troubling. Trying to pawn off the economics of Big Oil as supply and demand free enterprise is completely absurd. The letter writer seems adept to politics today and should know that accusing someone of class warfare is class warfare.

Republicans Should Look For Blame In Mirror

As far as I’m concerned, the term “partisan” and its corresponding “ship” have been way overused lately and mistakenly blamed when politicians observe the Golden Rule of, “ do unto others as they have done onto you.” Certain partisans might have thought that the results of the mid-term elections meant that some irrational wave of bi-partisanship was in order, when no such thing was suggested or demanded. Most Americans decided enough was enough and no longer wanted to stay the course the Republicans have led us on for the past 12 years. The bi-partisanship is the same, just the majority has changed. Voters wanted new leadership and they got it at both the national and state levels.

Over the years, Wisconsin Democrats have helplessly watched partisans like John Gard and Tommy Thompson ram bills through and protect their power base. Why should anybody expect anything different now? It’s true most people hold democrats to a higher standard of ethics and sensibility than those on the other side of the aisle and expect some diplomacy when it comes to uniting our commonalties, but to expect them to surrender political power in exchange for nothing isn’t going to happen anytime soon. In my view, there are only two kinds of partisans in the world, those who say they are and those who think they aren’t.
JG Editorial Excerpt:
The GOP's chief target is Senate Majority Leader Judy Robson. She has no one to blame but herself.
The Janesville Gazette knows first-hand who is or isn’t an enemy of the GOP if you know what I mean. So I would imagine it comes as a privilege and a high honor for Sen. Judy Robson to be the newest target of the Gazette’s brand of partisanship. The Gazette's differences with Robson are not based on her cooperation or bi-partisanship or lack thereof, this is strictly a partisan battle from their end. From the beginning the newspaper viewed Robson as too liberal and refused to endorse her strictly on partisanship. State Senator Judy Robson is no treat for yesterdays GOP and as the majority leader she has reached a new height of well-deserved political stature. Robson is by far more a uniter than they give her credit for, she reaches out to the other side often but knows she can’t do the bi-partisan dance alone. As long as the Republicans keep blaming partisanship for their own failures, it’s beginning to look like they’re the ones who don’t want to do the tango.