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Monday, April 30, 2007

Daylight Savings Exacerbates Warming

A Liberal Plot
You may have noticed that March of this year was particularly hot……..As you know Daylight Savings Time started almost a month early this year……..You would think that members of Congress would have considered the warming effect that an extra hour of daylight would have on our climate. Or did they? – Connie Meskimen, Hot Springs
Hoo-hoo-ha-he-he-he-ha. Connie – you should quit whatever you do during daylight hours and run for president of the RNC.

On-line newspaper

If Bush Had The Janesville Veto

Over and over again Bush has reminded everybody that he will veto the troop spending bill as presented by Congress. So I thought, what would happen if Congress enacted the Ryan/Feingold line-item veto tool before Bush has the chance to veto the Iraq spending bill? Nothing would change. In an imaginary world, Bush would be able to break up the $124 billion spending bill, cut out the $98 billion he wants for his war, and send the timetable and supposed pork back to Congress. Which of course Congress would pass, and the Iraq timetable and supposed pork would be made law. End of story? Well, no.

Of course if the president doesn’t want any of the extra language and spending as part of the bill, he would veto the whole thing anyways and not risk the cut-out portion being returned to him as passed. Which is the whole point to my rant. If the president signs on with only a portion of the spending bill and sends the rest back to Congress, he has essentially already given his approval for the entire package. Which means the Ryan/Feingold Veto Act is just a long and winding charade of political posturing and HOT AIR. So, although I mentioned in an earlier post that Congress should strike down this Veto Act, it really doesn't matter if it makes it or not - it is only a spinning wheel.

But, if I were a congressman I would be fuming that one of my fellow House members is attempting to cut spending by clumping my district needs in together with wasteful pork. Their veto plan, as well-intentioned as it seems also does nothing to address the pork-for-votes atmosphere that permeates the halls of Congress.

As a mere citizen, I am for bi-partisanship and against genuine pork spending, but the bottom line is each and every congressman needs to take responsibility for their own actions including wasteful spending and not pass off accountability to what appears to be the luck of the draw in the hands of this president or any president for that matter.

Retired General Speaks Out:
The challenge we face today is not how to win in Iraq; it is how to recover from a strategic mistake: invading Iraq in the first place," he said. "The president has let (the Iraq war) proceed on automatic pilot, making no corrections in the face of accumulating evidence that his strategy is failing and cannot be rescued. He lets the United States fly further and further into trouble, squandering its influence, money and blood, facilitating the gains of our enemies." -- Retired Army Lt. Gen. William Odom

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Democratic Solution To A Republican Problem

In what could portend an open and forward Janesville School Board, proceedings came to a halt during a meeting when one of its newly elected members, the politically seasoned Tim Cullen objected to a secret ballot in the election of a new school board president. Whether or not a “secret” ballot is permitted, it's good to know that an experienced politico like Cullen had the fortitude to speak up when common sense told him something may be wrong. This is exactly the kind of critical thinking Janesville desperately needs in nearly all of its leadership positions.

In another matter regarding the school budget, Cullen also came up with an idea he coined as the 50-25-25 plan in which he would like to spread the burden of school budget shortfalls across various state taxing jurisdictions. Unfortunately, 50+25+25 still adds up to 100 percent of a tax increase on local and state taxpayers. But I have to give Cullen and Rashkin high marks for the brainstorm.
JG Editorial Excerpt:
Wisconsin’s school system is broken. That has been clear for years, but every attempt to fix the problem has fallen short. The result is the school districts are cutting teachers and services, and education suffers.
When you read our local newspapers it's easy to fall under the impression that Wisconsin alone has a broken school funding system and that is simply not the case. When in fact nearly every state in the union has multiple districts that just can’t afford to keep pace with cost of living wage increases, benefits, infrastructure maintenance and inflation. Who is to blame? The common denominator here is the Federal government and Republicans are directly to blame, but the Democrats are too because they have failed to shut down the tax shift agenda of the Republicans. Every time a Democrat seeks a local tax increase to keep the system operational, a Republican in Washington comes up with another scheme to hack away at school funding under the pretense of balancing the Federal budget.

And what do local state Republicans do? Well they're the ones who would rather make cuts, in personnel or programs than raise taxes, and when combined with the local democratic efforts, they all end up going in circles down the road with higher local taxes, teacher and program cuts, more vouchers and smaller enrollment all the while our population and local taxes are exploding.

Raising local taxes or cutting teachers and programs is a democratic solution to a Republican problem. I can hear it now – oh, there he goes again blaming Republicans or Bush for our schools. But yes, its absolutely true. The Public School system is controlled by the Federal government led none other than by the president. And in case you haven’t noticed for the past twenty-five years there is a huge drive by Republicans to privatize the most precious assets of our Federal government. Schools happen to be one them. Every time I hear a politician promoting private school vouchers under the guise of choice, I want to vomit.

Every single taxpayer dollar paid towards private schools in the form of a voucher is another dollar taken away from public schools. I can’t imagine any business in the private sector who would be willing to pay its “customers” to go elsewhere looking for a better product. It is suicidal and responsible for the spiraling down condition of our schools. But it’s much worse than I’m describing, because our entire federal system is under attack resulting in the tax atmosphere we have today. We will have higher local taxes, point of use fee’s, tolls and sales taxes – I guarantee it, all while the Republicans in Congress push to cut non-security discretionary spending in its efforts to balance a budget built on tax cuts to the wealthiest among us. This is the most basic reason I have to vote Republicans out of government. Abortion, gun control, gay rights and religion are merely divisive hot button issues that pale by comparison.

Personally I believe the State of Wisconsin school funding system is not broken, and as witnessed by its large bite out of property taxes it pays more than its fair share into our schools. I firmly believe that nationwide school funding shortfalls and other school revenue problems lies at the Federal level. This is where people like Rep. Paul Ryan need to step up to the plate and write emergency school funding into appropriations bills. Just one billion dollars annually is enough to take care of 500 $2 million school district shortfalls, that's an average of ten in each state. And to think what I’m asking for is so wrong and terrible or impossible to accomplish.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Corporations At Top Of The Food Chain

Washington Post Excerpt:
The federal government said yesterday that it would give power companies special rights to build their lines in the Washington region and some other parts of the country, permitting the companies to bypass state authority if necessary in the interest of bolstering the nation's electrical grid.
A familiar ring? The State of Wisconsin is on the threshold of giving telecommunication companies special rights to install their lines and technologies, permitting the companies to bypass municipal and local authority if necessary under the guise of offering competition and lower prices.

The Federal government is granting corporations the power to overrule states, and the states are giving corporations the power to overrule localities. What is left to sell out?

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Coming Soon? Cable Headquarters In Madison

The Video Competition Act designed to create an AT & T complaint department within the halls of an expanding Wisconsin state government swept through the Republican controlled Assembly on Tuesday, while its passage was delayed in the Democratic-controlled Senate amid questions over how much it will cost the state to license telecommunications companies and field cable complaints. Cable Bill Stalls
Not too long ago, Democrats were accused of expanding government and increasing taxes. Just think, this is best aspect of this greased corporate legislation.
BDN Excerpt:
Nevertheless, as technology advances, opportunities for squeezing dollars out of business to pay for public access programs may disappear.
Why? What does technology have to do with NOT providing for public access programs?
BDN Excerpt:
Truth is, the franchising arrangement is somewhat misleading anyway. It makes citizens believe City Hall has some power or authority over the cable provider, but that's simply not the case. City Hall can't regulate rates, it can't monitor service, it can't even stipulate channel selections. Local government basically can collect a fee. For now.
If local governments have NO power over cable providers or service, then why is AT & T going through all of this trouble to get around local governments that have NO power?

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

SeniorCare Facing Bush Veto

In an effort to win an extension for Wisconsin’s SeniorCare Program, Rep. Paul Ryan, Wisconsin U.S. Senators Herb Kohl and Russ Feingold wrote a provision to gain federal funding for the program into the troop spending bill – but the troop funding bill will likely be vetoed by President Bush because of what he calls an unnecessary withdrawal timeline and frivolous pork spending.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Feingold-Ryan Veto Act Surrenders Purse

A genuine political odd couple, Rep. Paul Ryan (R) and Sen. Russ Feingold (D) are apparently teaming up to promote Ryan’s labor of love, the Congressional Accountability and Line-Item Veto Act. I have no idea why Feingold would risk his reputation on this, but he has been known to cross party lines in hope of passing well-intentioned legislation, most notably the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform.

Ryan’s single focus drive to pass some type of congressional fiscal responsibility reform under the guise of presidential veto power reform is misguided.

Congressional fiscal accountability must happen when the bills are written, not when the president mulls over them on his desk. This Line-Item Veto Act essentially allows the president to receive one appropriation bill and break it into two after he cherry-picks out what he perceives as undesirable (pork) spending and loads it into another basket to be returned to Congress.
JG Excerpt:
Instead, it would allow him to highlight earmarks and send them back to Congress to vote on separately.
Unless I missed something here, once the president signs his version of the spending bill - it is law, while the second bill, the highlighted earmarks stitched together by the president is debated again in Congress. This entire exercise seems pointless considering that the uncut bill passed through Congress before it wound up on the presidents desk. The only thing this bill would do is add another burden to the congressional bureaucracy and hand the president a new power tool to play with.
JG Excerpt:
Both legislators said they hope people take notice of the bipartisan bill nature of the bill.
I took notice and I wonder how many Democrats Ryan has in the House for this bill.

I’m also surprised Feingold went along with this political charade but he has little to lose, and with an early challenger up and running against Ryan for his house seat, he has everything to gain now that he can write Feingold-Ryan in his campaign brochure.

I urge Congress to stop this bill.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

State Agency Gags Blogger

At first I felt compelled to comment more about the story of a blogger whose Website has been banned from state agency computers, but there appears to be more going on here than I care to look at, and the blog owner appears fully capable of defending himself.
Gannett Excerpt:
The blog has irritated agency officials, including Secretary John Scocos, since its debut last year. They complain the blog crosses the line with hateful, personal attacks on their character that are distorted or outright false.
How often do we hear this about the mainstream news, cable news, political pundits, comedy shows, political candidates, campaigns, talk shows and no-spin zones? Now it's bloggers....for shame. What's this world coming to?

But after visiting and reading five random postings from the past six months of Radio Free Wisconsin Blogspot, I didn’t see any slanderous remarks or personal attacks, of course I may have missed the offending article or two. And I’ve seen far more acidic rhetoric espoused by our local newspaper editorials not to mention the career-ruining trash talk from the likes of “acceptable” personalities like Limbaugh, Coulter or O’Reilly.

As far as Radiofreewis is concerned, I only found it a little odd that visitor comments are not allowed and the stories have no attribution links. But other than that, the site is no different than the 56,600,000 other political and media blogs Google has registered in their search engines.

Blog Censored From State agency:
The blog has featured information about employment-related complaints filed against Scocos by Rick Demoya, a former agency administrator who was reassigned by Scocos in 2005. Demoya, who reached a legal settlement and retired last year, denied in an e-mail that he was the blogger but nonetheless denounced what he called "censorship at its worst."
It’s very possible that Demoya is not the mystery blogger. But if there’s one thing public leaders, management and professionals will not tolerate is criticism from anyone, so I’m really surprised a state employee reached a legal settlement without having a “gag” order issued as part of the agreement. This of course is assuming the former employee is the blogger. That’s just not how they do things over here in Janesville.
JG Excerpt:
Terms of the settlement required that Knipp not disclose the details of the settlement and that neither side criticize the other, Reak said.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Newspaper Articles Takes Partisan Tone

The latest publicity push by the local media seems to suggest that politics is evil and partisans are promoters of negativity. Unless your definition of a partisan is anyone who disagrees with the status quo, the citizens who form political action committees to defend their community are only exercising a fundamental American right to assemble. Partisans? NOT!

In a heated race in Fontana, some residents decided to organize in an effort to defeat what appeared to be a greased status quo incumbency free wheeling deals with the well connected.
Lake Geneva Excerpt:
“If mixing business and politics doesn't appeal to you, and you feel as though your voice doesn't matter because the board has its own agenda and priorities, then vote for us," a FontanaFirst advertisement that ran in last week's Regional News read.
They call this mudslinging??

As a reader spectator, I’m only concerned with who is in the drivers seat in Fontana because if the venture capitalists have their tools firmly embedded within the establishment, trying to stop public revenue and resource handouts is nearly impossible. The moment a representative for a private development defends or promotes their growth idea as a benefit to the community because of the “expanding tax base” is the moment the local citizens need to start an opposition group or a political activist committee.

But the odds to defeat give-aways are overwhelmingly difficult in this “economic growth at all costs” era where even appeals boards and state agencies have been trained to support long-held “averaging concepts” whereby all residents participate in capital improvements whether or not a particular capital item provides a direct benefit to a particular resident. That this give-away pumps up the monetary return for the wealthy private interests is inconsequential.

JG Gazette Excerpt:
Fontana Race takes partisan tone
It may have been a divisive, nasty small-town political campaign, but the village board race in Fontana grabbed voters' attention.

It wasn't a polite campaign.
Whether it is the Lake Geneva Regional News or the Janesville Gazette, instead of beating up the citizen’s rights and efforts to organize, they should commend the citizens of Fontana for their active participation and strong positions. However ferocious these debates may appear, that they have gone to this extent is a huge, huge positive statement for the people of Fontana. They are headed in the right direction, not because of the division, but because they insist on controlling their own destiny. This is what America is all about.
Lake Geneva Excerpt:
To get things done, both sides should forget their differences and work together. One of the chief complaints the American public has with politics is that its too divisive. Usually, this complaint is directed toward the Congress. If most constituents are unwilling to tolerate divisive politics at a national level, they certainly aren't willing to tolerate it in their own backyard.
Work together, but I would suggest to FontanaFirst NOT forget your differences, unless of course you no longer have differences. It takes two to tango and if you won’t tolerate standing up for what you believe is right and fight for your principles then yes, you may as well surrender.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Expensive American Hospitals - Does Toyota Make One?

In a town that seems to go to great lengths to hide its politics, the Janesville Gazette on Monday ran a McClatchy-Tribune article titled, “Politics can get you down.” Obviously you didn’t have to read the article to figure it out, but as long as you glanced the title I’m sure the Gazette felt comfortable with that reminder.

In Tuesday's Gazette, the paper dropped a five article bomb all written objectively by the same journalist in what appears to be part of giant 3-day Mercy Hospital promotion. The articles today centered around economic growth, the importance of the business community and finally, the compensation of its CEO.

There was a lot of side activity going on within the stories. For instance, Mercy has displaced GM as the largest single employer in the area and could spell political trouble for those over-paid democrats. And of course the ever present peer comparisons made to justify the salaries of white-collar positions including that of the CEO. Forward Janesville was described simply as “the communities private economic development organization” and not as a “special interest right-leaning institution” and all of the those interviewed just offered each other the kind of support and back-slapping one would expect at a “good ol’ boy” rally.

But two things stood out, number one, the Mercy executives interviewed and their supporters collecting multi-million dollar salaries expect criticism from the community and perhaps this blog for their multi-million dollar compensation packages. But they don’t care because they are busy people and do a lot for the community, they are irreplaceable and they deserve the money….period.

Mercy CEO Javon Bea collected $14 million in 2002 and was asked by the Gazette how the community would react to his salary.
JG Excerpt:
"Whatever they choose," he told the Gazette. "It depends on how you represent it, if you represent it accurately or not."—Javon Bea
Bea is one smart cookie. This is exactly how every civic leader and politician should respond to anything from the mainstream media before they answer their question. Has he been reading my blog? Don't worry Javon, the Gazette did a great job explaining it. Apparently Javon Bea deferred large parts of his salary for thirteen years, invested it during the Clinton 90’s and had the wherewithal to pull it all out before Bush came in, and walked away with $14 million. You know, he did what most of us Janevilleans do.

The story also revealed that it’s top five physicians earned an average of $1.1 million a year and that Mercy has 10 vice presidents whose average salary was $163,690 during the 2004-2005 fiscal year.

Regardless, I see problems with all of their salaries but I’ll let the Gazette attack them in their editorials like they would GM executives and their overpaid union workers. The second thing here is, this giant exposé or info-commercial or whatever you want to call it is really not newsworthy, it’s very lop-sided and the Gazette goes out of their way to defend anything that might appear extreme or excessive. Too bad Gazette journalists can’t spin like this for the Rock County Board, unions, teacher health insurance or Democrats just for balance.

The only question I have after reading it is: Why is healthcare so expensive? Refresh me.

Mercy Gazette Promotional page

Monday, April 16, 2007

Professional Gasbags Entering Blogosphere

When a media institution or any other organization for that matter have their ideals legitimately questioned and challenged, usually the first and most popular way to respond is to completely ignore the source, and if that doesn’t work then the next step is to shift the focus away from the real problem. Finally, when all else fails, those feeling unduly questioned go on the offense to discredit the source, never ever really tackling or understanding what got them there in the first place.

The opinion and editorial page of Sunday’s Janesville Gazette appears to be just the case. Here in two editorials with entirely different subjects, the newspaper editors let their readers know how they deal with such nuisances.
JG Editorial:
(Regarding public access TV) Of course the station’s demise would pull the soap box out from a certain city critic who too often spews misinformation. So maybe losing the station wouldn’t be all bad.
Recent revelations from at least two city employee grievance court settlements have actually bolstered the misinformation spewed from a certain city critic. Whether you agree with her or not, I have yet to see anybody respond effectively with regard to her accusations and criticism. Rather than engaging her questions and suggestions in civil dialogue, that the Gazette suggests pulling the plug on public access is a sad, sad testament of their mission to set the record straight.

In another article titled ”Gazette’s motives might not be what you think they are,” the editor, Scott Angus seems to be personally offended by those who question the intentions and motivations of the newspaper, after all you see, they’re professionals.

Other than collecting paychecks and increasing profits, I don’t know what else motivates the editors and owners of newspapers, in fact personal gain oftentimes is the only distinguishable difference between an amateur and a professional.

Angus then quotes David Zeeck, editor of the News Tribune in Tacoma, Wash., as his inspiration to fight back at the critics.
JG Excerpt:
"Well, here's a news flash my friends: We're losing in the court of public opinion. The gasbags are winning, and we're sitting on the sidelines" -- David Zeeck
As of today folks, the Gazette editor announced he will no longer be standing on the sidelines and by the summer, he'll be blogging.

But its hard to know what his diatribe was in response to, because he didn’t explain specifics except to say that because they are professionals, unlike others, they have credibility, leave their opinions at the door and are in a better position to judge. A kind of arrogant yet naïve statement. But even without that, explaining away personal bias and belief to prove professionalism is odd. For obvious reasons, I don’t think their critics care to see explanations about day to day decision making as much as judge for themselves by simply reading the daily finished product.
JG Excerpt:
Skeptics say that no one can be truly objective. That’s true, but professionals can leave their opinions at the door, and the checks and balances in our newsroom ensure that personal biases don’t end up in our news columns.
The Gazette has plenty of critics, but I have to say that if this article is directed at me, I have never criticized the Gazette in a personal way. That is, all of my criticism of the Gazette is as an entity and at their message. Nor have I ever accused them of being unprofessional. But if they arrogantly think they leave their beliefs and opinions at the door simply because they are professionals, they are sadly mistaken.
JG Excerpt:
If you need more, look at the letters to the editor or Sound Off, and note that readers from the left or right criticize our coverage equally. That surely means we’re somewhere in the middle.
Oh, dear! Is that before or after editing? Any Gazette reader unaffiliated with the newspaper who thinks the Janesville Gazette is liberal or supports left-wing causes to balance the right is welcome to post their evidence here anytime. But please, don’t send a nice picture of Hillary Clinton or syndicated liberal articles from the paper as proof they are liberal.

But if, just if the Gazette honestly believes they deliver a politically centered media package OR don’t know or haven’t the awareness that their editing or omissions however indiscriminate carries a right-wing bias, they are not the professionals they think they are and things are actually worse than I thought.

Related: Introduction to Mainstream Media Both profound and scary, I had to read it twice. Highly Recommended.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

With Republicans, Reform Wasn't Necessary

The April 15th edition of the Janesville Messenger contained an article written by Jim Lyke in which he offered his perspective about the recent local elections.

There is widespread agreement that the non-partisan state supreme court race was dirty, but Lyke along with many others think a candidate shouldn’t dig too deeply into the work record of their opposition. I strongly disagree. They could frame it as a “private” investigator hired to dig up dirt, but in Ziegler’s case with the hundreds if not thousands of decisions and positions a judge makes during their career, you need an investigator to pour over these documents to find the truth. Clifford’s investigation did just that but revealed nothing about Ziegler’s private life during the campaign and without that “investigation,” no one would have ever suspected Ziegler’s conflict of interest. Even her victims didn't know. Compared to Ziegler, Clifford ran a very clean campaign. But she lost because heavily financed negative campaigns work.

But I also find the typical assumptions that partisans often make regarding chambers of commerce and business interests in Lyke’s column. For instance the very idea that because Democrats are in the majority, the WMC shouldn’t be too rigorous in their efforts to further the interest of the business community, otherwise they will make enemies, implies that Democrats are anti-business. Lyke also defends Forward Janesville as a bi-partisan or non-partisan institution simply because they don’t publicly endorse candidates or have a political action committee? Forward Janesville clearly has a political agenda and beats the very same, only slightly smaller drum as the WMC. There may be a token streak of democratic ideals somewhere in their mission statement but they are clearly a tool of Republicanism.

Chambers of commerce like Forward Janesville have been flying under the political radar for years in Janesville. Even their questions of the school and council candidates were framed with assumptions to elicit a certain response that could have spelled disaster for an indifferent candidate. Some candidates clearly played it safe with very "under the counter" answers.

Finally, Lyke bashes Doyle for the school funding crisis by saying he opted for the easy way out using his partial veto power to fund education with millions of extra dollars. Well then, had not the Republican-led state legislature sent Doyle a woefully inadequate budget, he would not have had to revive the monster with his scalpel. Simply put, had Doyle not performed a major transplant, the Janesville school deficit could have been $5 million instead of $1.8 million.

But I do agree with Lyke on at least one issue. The time is now for Madison to push budget reforms and have some serious discussions about school funding because if the WMC continue to buy Republicans back in, the school crisis today will look like the “good ol’ days.”

Hey Jim, don’t tell me you’re a liberal, let me continue to figure it out, it's more fun this way.

The editorial in the Messenger was another one of those GOP in-denial exercises where they defended Biskupic and his railroad job against the poor Georgia Thompson. I almost fell off my chair in hysterical laughter when I read this passage.
JM Editorial Excerpt:
Just once, we'd like to see even a modicum of humility.
After all, his administration's craven fund-raising created the political climate that attracted media attention to the travel contract, and ultimately, the scrutiny of Biskupic's office.
In all due respect. Ha-ha-ha-he-ho-he-ha-ha-he-ho-ho. Stop it please!
Don't raise too much money Jim Doyle, you might attract attention from the right-wing media and they in turn will put a republican lackey like Biskupic on your tail. And when he sends an innocent person to jail out of blind stupidity, its your fault because suspicious minds thought you raised too much money. No evidence of politics here - no sireee.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Wisconsin Corporate Profits Subsidized By Taxpayers

One of the few times the Gazette didn’t attempt to hide their loyalities was displayed in Thursday’s editorial titled,” Tax on Big Oil fuels problems on many levels.” Here, their readers were educated with the views of a Big Oil lobbyist as a legitimate response to the tax plan idea Doyle proposed on record oil profits. It really is a profits versus people debate, and offering their editorial column as a forum for special interests should only further diminish the Gazette’s credibility and power of their editorials.
JG Editorial Excerpt:
After all, barrels of cash seemingly flow from the wallets into the pockets of the five major petroleum refiners…..
This doesn’t seemingly happen… does happen.
JG Editorial Excerpt:
Prices at the gas pump seemingly go up and down arbitrarily regardless of oil prices.
Again, they don’t seemingly go up arbitrarily…….they do go up……arbitrarily.
JG Editorial Excerpt:
So it seems fair to tap into that cash to prop up our state’s transportation fund.
Actually I always thought it was Big Oil’s responsibility to help pay for roads, I had no idea they were not propping up the transportation fund.
JG Editorial Excerpt:
Dan Gunderson, a lobbyist for big petroleum companies, met Tuesday with the Gazette Editorial Board and confirmed many of our suspicions and concerns.
If there’s one person the average consumer wants to hear from to help make up their minds about taxing record runaway corporate oil profits its a…..corporate lobbyist!! The Gazette would have faired better here if they asked a used car salemen.
JG Editorial Excerpt:
By the way, contrary to public opinion, the five largest oil companies don’t own any of Wisconsin’s 3,300 retail gas outlets.
Then why does Gunderson find it important enough to even bother coming here? The fact is, Doyle’s tax on Big Oil profits has nothing to do with ma and pa, franchise owners or point of use taxes at all. That's the best part, local businesses will not be taxed.
State of the State Speech:
Tonight, I propose an oil company assessment of two and a half percent per barrel to support our transportation needs.
The Gazette then proceeds to scare investors, claim one tax will lead to another and then finally offers that Doyle’s plan may in fact be unconstitutional. Do you picture the oil lobbyist nodding in agreement? Just the idea that the Gazette bothered to use these old and worn-out fear tactics and then expect their readers to be led around by the nose by a Big Oil lobbyist should convince everyone that…Doyle’s idea just might float.

In a related AP story on page 3 in the local section titled ”Businesses lag in taxes paid,” it turns out that Wisconsin businesses pay only 35% of state taxes while the national average is 40%.
JG Excerpt:
But Jeff Schoepke, director of tax and corporate policy for Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, the state's largest business group, said taxes on its members are high enough and any increase would be passed on to shareholders and consumers.
We must assume then that shareholders and consumers in peer states have been paying the extra 5% all along. Depending on who you believe, individual state income tax filers have been subsidizing corporate profits in Wisconsin to the tune of $520 million annually or as high as $800 million annually.

The writer of this article chose to describe the WMC as simply the “state’s largest business group” while the study group, the Institute for Wisconsin’s Future was described as a “Democratic-leaning group.” But it didn’t end there. An entire paragraph at the end of the article was dedicated to informing the reader that the Institute for Wisconsin’s Future was founded by several union organizations and listed them all by name.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

SeniorCare Demise Another Ryan Trophy

In Wednesday’s Janesville Gazette a letter titled “Loss of SeniorCare in Wisconsin is not Congressman Ryan’s fault” was in rebuttal to another letter printed last week daring Rep. Paul Ryan to help save the state program. Wednesday’s writer hated to confuse the issue with the facts that Ryan signed a Wisconsin delegation letter to request an extension of SeniorCare from the Federal Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). That Ryan signed this blanket request was merely a formality of political posturing necessary to at least save face with his own state.

While at the Capitol, Ryan shows his true colors repeatedly by voting the party line for cutting non-security discretionary spending to the bone. In fact, and I hate to confuse the issue, Ryan is not only the spokesman, but a leading author for the Republican version of upcoming Federal budgets where he boasts that budgets can be balanced by merely cutting domestic spending. Ryan may not have SeniorCare specifically on his spending cut wishlist, but when pressed on which programs he recommends to cut, he is too embarrassed to name them. And who could blame him?

The very administration that Ryan has rubber stamped for the past six years is responsible for the slow death of programs just like SeniorCare. We can be assured that Rep. Baldwin and Obey were not among that group but, Ryan was.

JG Letter Excerpt:
SeniorCare is not even in Ryan's (or any of the federal representative's) jurisdiction, so I applaud him for his effort to intercede. – letter writer
Pardon me? SeniorCare may be a state run program, but its fate and funding is predicated on mandates and stipulations written in the Medicare Part D Republican nightmare. When HR 1 Medicare Part D passed in the 108th Congress, Ryan, Sensenbrenner, Petri and Green all voted for it, while all Wisconsin Democrats voted against it.

The primary duty Paul Ryan owes to the 1st Congressional District of Wisconsin is to do the work of the people in the Capitol. He is not there to represent Wal-Mart, Exxon, Pfizer, AT &T, President Bush or Iraq. First on the list of duties are to bring home a fair share of funds to be redistributed through programs just like SeniorCare. Paul Ryan is his district’s only connection to the Fed regarding policy and appropriations, the same goes for Baldwin, Obey and others in their respective districts. The difference here again with Ryan is, he has brought home very little to his district over the years and has gone on record he will bring home even less.

I’m not defending anyone, even the Democrats on the death of SeniorCare, but I will certainly put the blame where blame is due. The loss of SeniorCare may not be solely Ryan’s fault, but when it comes to ushering in the bills and policies that will lead to its demise, he is front and center. No matter what he says now.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Junk Science Dumps Glacier over Midwest

Another one of Al Gore’s glaciers broke away and melted into the arctic sea a few months ago. Leave it up to Al to explain that a precursor to the rise in global temperatures is increased precipitation directly caused by the evaporation of greater surface waters covering the planet resulting from glaciers breaking away and melting more quickly than previously believed. Ahh, you may have noticed I left mankind and all of its negative effects out from of the equation. Except for Al Gore that is, I blame him.

The debate is over, the science is in, and the time to act is now. So I threw on my winter boots, slipped on a pair of warm gloves, and began shoveling away about three inches of an inconvenient truth. Several more inches are on the way.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Outgoing Councilman: Council Run By Business

Several outgoing Janesville city councilmen gave their farewell speeches on live public access cable Monday night during a meeting in the Janesville council chambers. The three councilmen, Greg Addie, Tom Wellnitz and Tom Brien each received a plaque and gifts honoring their public service. Afterwards, they each offered their perspective on both the good and bad times they had while serving their constituents. By far though, Tom Brien offered a near historical perspective of his time on the council beginning way back in 1991.

Obviously sitting in comfortable surroundings with his son and grandchildren, Brien spoke casually and reminiscently about his experience working with the city for the past 16 years. But I really began paying attention when he confirmed one of my own positions regarding the relationship between city hall and business.
"The council is was run pretty much by the business community" -- Tom Brien 4-9-07 Note: Upon further review, Brien spoke in the past tense, however, his observation is very relevant today.
YIKES!! I almost swallowed my tongue! This - coming from a councilman of 16 years. Even I didn't expect that one. But Brien continued on when he elaborated on how his introduction to Forward Janesville, the city's chamber of commerce, got off on the wrong foot because one of their mission statements was to recruit candidates for public office.

His observation combined with the Gazette's media monopoly activities fits like a finely cut scrollsawed puzzle that people refuse to connect today. While many Janesville residents wallow away in denial, Tom Brien just comes right out with it.

On the topic of the newly elected inbound council, Brien felt the next council will be the most representative of the city that he has seen in his years on the council. Again, that speaks volumes about how woefully inadequate at-large city council elections are. Large neighborhoods on the west and south sides have had no representation for years and still won't even with the new council.

I applaud Brien for his service and thank him for offering these views during his farewell speech. Three cheers and a hat-tip.

I would not doubt if they edit Brien's full farewell statement when they broadcast this council session again on JA-12. Watch for it!

Monday, April 09, 2007

Republicans Bashed Bush In Damascus

Republican representatives Darrell Issa of California, David L. Hobson of Ohio and Frank Wolf of Virginia abandoned their post up on Capitol Hill and went to Syria to give aid and comfort to him [Assad] instead of supporting the president.

You know where these Congressmen should be? They belong right here in the Capitol doing the work of the people. They should be on the phone calling Crawford, Texas pleading with President Bush not to veto the funding for the troops.

Instead, the three republican congressmen go to the belly of the beast - to the terrorists themselves in Syria to sip tea with them and give aid and comfort, instead of funding a withdrawal of our troops from Iraq. House Leader Nancy Pelosi happened to go to Syria with this fact-finding delegation. However, she took no part in the attacks on President Bush.
In a telephone interview last night from Saudi Arabia, Hobson said Pelosi "did not engage in any bashing of Bush in any meeting I was in and she did not in any meeting I was in bash the policies as it relates to Syria."
Fortunately, only Republicans bashed Bush and his policies according to the reports.

Asked to comment on Bush's criticism of the congressmen's visits to Damascus, Issa said: 'President Bush, is the head of state, but he hasn't encouraged dialogue. That's an important message to realize: we have tensions, but we have two functioning embassies.'
What is he saying? That President Bush has a dysfunctional foreign policy? What would possibly give anyone that idea?

Why do Republicans hate Bush - shame on them!

Saturday, April 07, 2007

G.O. & P. Railroad Ends At 7th District Court

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals released Georgia Thompson, the former state employee erroneously convicted of directing a state contract to Adelman Travel. The judges felt that Ms. Thompson was simply just doing her job.

Things don’t get much worse than this. When an innocent person becomes a victim to the extent of Georgia Thompson, it's time to take a closer look at the vicious partisans bending the ears of state and U.S. district attorney’s. Ever since Tommy Thompson quit on the state and Scott McCallum lost the G.O.P. governorship to Jim Doyle, right-wing power players and their quasi-nonpartisan enablers have been gunning for Jim Doyle. In light of the recent attorney firings scandal facing the Bush Administration, the motivation for this railroad job may have come on orders from the very top.
Doyle said Republican officials spent "millions of dollars" running ads that turned Thompson into a symbol of corruption in his administration.
The US Attorney from Wisconsin, Steven Biskupic appears to have pushed this case right before the 2006 election as a means to implicate Gov. Doyle in a corruption case, and to bolster the candidacy of Bush rubber stamp Republican Mark Green. Throughout the campaign the most scandalous activity they could connect to Doyle was accepting gift tickets to sporting events. This searing hatred for the democrat has resulted in nearly ruining the life of an innocent civil servant.

And one has to wonder what Steven Biskupic had to conjure up to avoid being one of those district attorney’s canned for performance and managerial reasons. Clearly, Biskupic serves at the pleasure of one of the most politically motivated and bitterly partisan presidents of modern times, none other than George W. Bush.

The result of this smear campaign is that it has damaged the credibility of the Justice Department in the eyes of the general public and in court cases. The Thompson Travelgate case may very well set a precedent for future politically motivated corruption cases, so that when an corrupted politician comes before a court, lawyers can credibly argue that this was a political witch hunt and as a result the case should be dismissed.

Read the court order and oral arguments here.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Video Competition Act Will Boost prices

Paul Williams, a Janesville city councilman and council representative on the city’s cable advisory committee wrote about his position and recommendation regarding the Video Competition Act. It’s odd to see someone from local government insinuate that established businesses and corporatists are attempting to smother local control under the guise of improved service and cheaper rates for consumers.
JG Excerpt:
Supporters say competition would provide consumers with alternatives, reduce cable bills and save consumers money. -- Paul Williams
Americans have heard this before many times and have clearly bought into the same corporate sales pitch offered by giants like Wal-Mart. People just naturally think competition means lower prices, but unfortunately we live in different economic times now. Businesses nowadays sell for the highest price the market will bear, not the lowest. We are all willing participants in an economy driven by the GOP growth mantra, a supply side pressure philosophy riding high under the banner of Federal tax cuts, privatization, outsourcing and competition at the expense of the very same people they have convinced will share in the resulting newfound wealth.
Cable Debate:
The proponents of the bill were associated with AT&T, their lobbyists, large business organizations like WMC, or the unions of workers who'd get the jobs associated with new video build-outs.
This video debate has been largely absent from the Wisconsin blogosphere. – John Foust

While Democrats and most of the Left are protesting the Iraq War and thinking of ways to impeach George W. Bush, the right in the meantime have been pushing local referendums and lobbying state governments with bills that will do two things - increase local taxes and fee’s for the masses and create record profits for the few. This is what will happen if they pass Wisconsin bills SB 107 and AB 207.
JG Excerpt:
Under current law, a company that wants to serve a Wisconsin community generally must negotiate a cable franchise agreement with the community. Janesville has a franchise agreement with Charter Communications. -- Paul Williams
But even if the bills fail which they should, the problems resulting from contracts that permit a business full monopolistic rights must be changed. This is perhaps what is at the heart of the problem.
Cable Competition:
The bill would eliminate the monopoly that cable companies currently enjoy, and give Wisconsin's TV consumers a real choice.
But is that true? According to Councilman Williams, cable providers could waltz right in, sign an agreement and set up shop overnight - WITHOUT the bill.
JG Excerpt:
"Another video service provider could come into Janesville right now and sign a franchise agreement with us, and we'd be more than happy to do that," – Paul Williams, Janesville Council
But if these franchise agreements do not have built-in exclusion laws that prohibit a competitor from entering the community, why haven’t others like AT & T entered? My other question is why can’t others just split the costs and demands of the original franchise agreement? Certainly, I know things are not this simple, but if competition is inevitable, local communities should strive to accommodate the profiteers on our own terms and not have them dictated to us by lobbyists.
JG Excerpt:
And what about your monthly cable TV charges? The proposed legislation prohibits both the DFI and municipalities from regulating video and cable service rates in a competitive environment. Has competition from satellite TV reduced your cable TV rates? -- Williams
Cable companies will have to pay the same studio royalties and right-of-way fee's no matter how many providers are in town, and if the customer base is split up, each cable company will be doing accounting, service fleets and programming in perpetual duplication and redundancy. Expect higher prices.

I agree with Williams and Foust, lets hope the Video Competition Act is defeated outright or at the minimum, completely restructured to protect local control and free access community channels. But lower prices resulting from competition? Nonsense!

Learn more - get involved!!

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Elmbrook School District Taxpayers Just Too Smart

If you live in Janesville and haven’t been paying attention to the $108 million renovation plans proposed in the Elmbrook School District referendum, it really won’t matter for you to know that it failed.

The largest community in the Elmbrook School district, Brookfield, boasts a total property value of almost $6 billion, which ranks behind only the much larger cities of Milwaukee and Madison. When it comes to a school district with resources to finance public education, few can match Elmbrook. Were they too wealthy to pass the school referendum?

Forty-nine percent of the city's adult population, census figures say, has at least a bachelor's degree double the national profile. Or, were they too smart to fall for the old tricks and deception?

Yet when Elmbrook residents voted Tuesday to address problems the district says it has with its two high school buildings, the plans were rejected by lopsided margins. Turnout was 58% in Brookfield, the highest since 1991 for a spring election in that city. They defeated the referendum, 61% to 39%. I know, they must hate kids.

Residents said they are already satisfied with the district's education and facilities and see little need for the unprecedented price tag of more than $100 million. But others see the results as further evidence of an economic and political climate that makes passing school spending proposals difficult. In this Bush booming, job producing and wild growth economy – how could that be?

Many in Wisconsin think they reflect the anti-tax climate and budget pressures on families, such as rising fuel, utility and health costs. But not if you live in Janesville. The Elmbrook school improvement plans presented in Elmbrook's referendum would have had a tax impact on an average $335,000 McMansion of $342 per year for 20 years. That is very close to what homeowners in Janesville will pay relative to value, if you recall. Our referendum will cost about $105 for every $100,000.

In Janesville, we don’t worry about such trivial things as heating bills, health insurance, mortgages or rising taxes, everything is sooo low here why, we have little to lose.
All I can say is I have heard rumblings that this (referendum)may pass. Has anyone given thought to the fact that the schools will be expanded, while the district is experiencing declining enrollment. Factor that into your decision.
Why doesn’t THAT surprise me?

People in Elmbrook apparently believe what they think, and not what they're told. Proof that their schools are just fine.

Note: A quote by Dale Knapp of the Taxpayers Alliance taken from this article was removed from this posting. The date was mistakenly overlooked, the quote was over a year old.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

PowerBall Politics - Profits 2 People 0

I’ll be the first to admit when I’m wrong. I’ve always thought that people want to elect the best candidate regardless of partisanship, and would vote against abuse of power and poor judgment 100% of the time. Well, not when it comes to presidents or state supreme court judges. This is a sad day for Wisconsin. It’s really too bad that people bought into all those WMC attack ads which did not really discredit Clifford’s ability as much as they attacked her personally. I have to admit though, that as much as Linda Clifford’s ads negatively portrayed Ann Ziegler’s judicial history without attacking her personally, her ads never really mixed in anything positive and substantial about herself. Simply put, Clifford didn’t make it personal enough with Ziegler or herself for that matter, too cold and businesslike, while WMC and Ziegler ads mocked Clifford personally and effectively with the dark moonlit images and repetitive sound bites. This was also a very telling display of power by business special interests like the WMC.

Walworth County made the biggest mistake of their political lives by choosing to forfeit representation and downsize the county board from 25 to 11 members. Nobody can save them now, but Rock County residents better have their democracy radar turned on because the wealthy power players here are going to use the Walworth vote as a battering ram.
JG Excerpt:
"Our objective is to get good, honest people into office to run a $147 million operation. The people there now can't do it." -- Bret Strong (downsizing supporter)
Yep, the people there before were lazy, dishonest shmucks who played into the hands of greedy venture capitalists. What a disgrace!!

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Choose Severson For Janesville School Board

As one of nearly ten thousand Janesville residents who voted against the $70.8 million school expansion and utility upgrade referendum, it became difficult to encourage anyone to vote for Dennis Vechinsky again for the school board. Vechinsky has been a dedicated and passionate member of the school board for nine years now and is a great guy, but unfortunately as board president he helped lead the way to ramrod the referendum through the board despite an objection from at least one member, Bill Sodemann.

Sodemann, a former young Democrat turned Republican (for shame) may have turned his back on the party but never turned his back on some of the fine principles of democracy he learned in his youth and thought the taxpayers should have been offered a greater voice and flexibility with a four-part referendum. Now it may be true that other candidates running for the board would have supported the one-part referendum in the face of the impending budget cuts, but nobody will ever know that for sure.
JG Excerpt:
Sodemann also said the present and previous school boards bear some of the responsibility for the funding problem.
We only can say for sure what history has recorded, and that is Dennis Vechinsky was the school board president during the referendum run-up and along with the Janesville Gazette helped keep the wraps on the multiple annual budget short-falls until the vote tallies were over. This is the status quo, it starts and stops right at the top.

If you voted “no” for the school referendum, now is perhaps your last chance to show your displeasure over the recent course of events.

Peter D. Severson however, seems to be somewhat of a dark horse, but he certainly is enthusiastic and I like his concern over the recent high expulsion rate in the district. The district set a record with 58 expulsions last year and with a social-work background, Severson would like to bring those numbers down. This is perhaps the noblest cause of all, to save even one child from making the mistake of a lifetime is worth far more than any four-court gym could offer – it is priceless.

For these reasons, he is my third choice for the Janesville school board.