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Friday, August 31, 2007

Economic Growth Linked To Grass Mowing

The Janeville Gazette Thursday editorial "Cooperate to maintain city parks" once again explains a one-sided perspective of economic growth and community priorities. Apparently provoked by comments regarding the tall grass and the unkempt look of primary city corridors and parkways, the Gazette feels the responsibility should fall on citizen volunteers and worse yet, the newspaper sees no correlation between the poor upkeep and appearance of existing city properties such as parks, pools and beaches and the recent drive by city management to build a new aquatics facility.
JG Editorial Excerpt:
Janesville reduced its mowing program last year to save money as the city grows.
That sentence in a nutshell, explains the backward mentality guiding the Gazette’s (and perhaps city staff) views better than any other statement.

That the city removed a fence enclosure from Lions Beach and eventually got rid of lifeguards and maintenance crews was a direct result of cutting back during growth. Now Rotary Gardens, an interconnected neighbor to Lions Beach is experiencing “people” control problems. Coincidence?

The city then cuts back mowing parks and secondary areas by 30% to 60% to “save” money, then follows through further by dropping curb and gutter weed control to “save” a few more bucks. This all happening while developers offer the hollow promise of an expanding tax base to the eager yet misguided ears at City Hall. What next? Perhaps the city can save more money by giving police cars fewer oil changes or allow for longer intervals between tire changes and brake jobs. See where this is going? This is the “cutter” philosophy of smaller government and less taxes. And you know what happens when these systems fail from under the weight of the cuts? First they look for volunteers and if that fails City leaders will say “lets privatize!” and sell-out city services to private contractors, certainly they explain "they can do it better and cheaper."

These are just a few of the more recent examples of the avalanche of service cuts and shifting priorities prompted by their form of growth. Now they want to spend $5 million or more on an aquatics center?

The fact is, their form of growth is all about quantity and not about quality. You only have to look around the city to see this, and it hurts. The city of Janesville has some prize natural assets that most other cities their size would be jealous of, and city management has been squandering them away. The very worst part is, all of this, the spiraling down of city services and maintenance, the neglect of parks and neighborhoods, the natural resource give-aways and TIF district abuse has been the cumulative effects resulting from having the same people in charge of the city for the past twenty years. TWENTY YEARS!! It is a direct reflection on them and it is NOT something to be proud of. Janesville deserves better.

Good News: Dawson Park dropped from list of Aquatics facility.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Gazette: Blame Healthy Wisconsin For Budget Battle

The Janesville Gazette editorialized about the state budget debate, seemingly blaming both Republicans and Democrats equally for the apparent impasse. But that was as far as the editorial bi-partisanship went because no sooner after they blamed special interests and campaign fund-raisers, did they take another jab at Rep. Judy Robson and finally zero in on what they think is the problem – the Healthy Wisconsin Initiative.
JG Editorial Excerpt:
Can we afford to rehire art teachers, or should we cut positions? Should we fully staff our public safety departments, or should we lay off firefighters and police officers?
Did they forget something? After endorsing vicious Republican cutters for nearly every major elective position in Wisconsin government, only the editors at the Gazette have the gall to complain about the opportunity a democratic budget may bring. Just too, too funny to have such a problem.

For sure, had the Gazette’s political endorsements won, we would have had a Republican budget rammed through on July 1st. More teachers, police and firefighters would be cut – something they could all wish for and be proud of. Not this ugly disgraceful battle against the cutters. It’s just darn disrespectful to keep everybody hanging when they could all have been cut over a month ago, no questions asked.

And just when you think the oxycontin wore off, the editors suggest voters should watch the budget battle closely, but forget all the non-sense about cutting teachers, fire fighters and police. Those are just the small meaningless compromises, just focus on the Healthy Wisconsin debate.

Here’s an idea for all the local government officials in cities and towns around Rock County. Make all the necessary cuts in the form of layoffs as if Gazette endorsed Republicans controlled the assembly, senate and governor’s office. Sure, people might riot but just tell them to watch the budget battle closely and remember this come election time OR hang in there through the slugfest and maybe, just maybe the Democrats will prevail and restore some dignity, respect and jobs.

Those rotten Democrats, they are to blame for this wonderful impasse.

Side Note: Excluding a comment about school board member Bill Sodemann, Wednesday's Sound Off column did not contain one comment about the state budget delay or the Janesville teachers contract negotiations. Coincidence?

Wednesday, August 29, 2007


Instead of writing rambling passages about single national events and news articles, occasionally I'll post rambling multiple excerpts and observations in short order under a new category called RipRap.
Crazy-ass washed-up musician with machine guns threatens black man running for president...I can say that? It’s free speech. Right?

Gonzales Resigns:
“I have lived the American dream...” – Alberto Gonzales
…….then he woke up and resigned.

Too bad. Gonzales is just another victim in a long line of the usual suspects participating in wrongdoing at the command of George W.Bush. He has chosen to serve the president instead of serving his country. Who knows? Under an honorable and noble White House, Umberto could have been somebody.
Courier Press Excerpt:
BAGHDAD — Iraq's embattled prime minister lashed out at American critics Sunday, saying Sen. Hillary Clinton and other Democrats who have called for his ouster should "come to their senses" and stop treating Iraq like "one of their villages."
The democratically-elected U.S. prop Iranian supported Shi-ite Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has a problem with powerless Democratic Congressional leaders foreign policy statements? But he's perfectly okay with the Bush, Cheney and Rice plans for an American "new Middle East?"

Wal-Mart Sells For Less:
From the Leona Helmsley School Of Business comes the latest revelations that Wal-Mart has justified shifting over 17 million dollars of taxes they owe in Wisconsin over to the little people as a way to keep their prices lower than the competition.
JS Online Excerpt:
"Anything Wal-Mart can do to lawfully lower its costs allows the company to pass it along through lower prices," said company spokesman John Simley.
Now come word that the poverty rate has gone down percentage wise for the first time in seven years. The poverty rate is reported to be at 12.3% now, but 36.5 million Americans still live below poverty while 47 million have NO health insurance. I bring this up because America's largest employer, Wal-Mart, may have actually been contributing to the poverty rate by hiring people.
Wal-Mart's Real Cost:
One estimate places Wal-Mart's average wage at $8.23 per hour, yielding an annual income of $13,861 which is below the estimated poverty level of $14,630.
Doesn't it seem odd that a giant like Wal-Mart would justify cheating states like Wisconsin out of taxes supposedly to keep prices down, while they can't seem to find the revenue to lift their employees out of poverty? Man, if only they'd work this hard and dig for revenue loopholes to pay health insurance and living wages.
Then we have another Republican lawmaker involved in a sex scandal. At least this time it's not with a teenager.
Sen. Craig Denies being gay
Whether Sen. Craig is gay or not is not an issue, but reports indicated the senator didn't flush the toilet when he was that - I have a problem with.rock netroots cartoonFlashback: Craig calling Clinton "a naughty boy."

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Playing Percentages Fails Children

This past Sunday, the Gazette editorialized about the Janesville teachers union negotiations without adding anything new. But the editors did scold the teachers union for using official accounting figures from the Department Of Public Instruction which erroneously showed the superintendent receiving a 14% raise.
JG Editorial Excerpt:
The union should have known better. Such an exorbitant raise would have been duly reported and criticized here.
Gazette Quote of the Year! But other than getting a good hoot out of their "duly reporting," they do have a point. One thing we learned for certain in Janesville is, when it comes to expanding school buildings during enrollment decline - education is an investment. But when it comes to the people who really matter the most about the future of the children - the teachers - education is all about cost.

By now it should become obvious to Gazette readers how the paper avoids the "healthcare" word in articles regarding the Janesville teachers contract negotiations. The Chamber Of Commerce Gazette editors know that teachers healthcare is the single largest runaway issue crippling education. It is thee hot button buzzword right now, not annuities, not benefits and not pensions.
JG Editorial Excerpt:
A QEO boosts salary and benefits 3.8 percent combined. Because benefits cost so much, a QEO could result in little or no raise for the teachers.
That in itself is the Republican answer to a Republican problem and the best reason why the QEO should be scrapped. Not because healthcare costs so much, which it does, but because Republicans think school districts can afford 20% annual increases in healthcare by cutting teachers and programs to make their 3.8% cap fit. It's time to stop playing the percentages.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Overqualified Underpaid Legislators Need To Move On

Oftentimes when I read a front-page headlining story in any newspaper, big or small, I expect to find something of significance about the major issues we face today. The Sunday’s Janesville Gazette headline story “Part-Time Politicians” with the sub-title “Half of legislators in state have other jobs” seems to have fallen right out from nowhere.

Although most of the article involved the everyday trials and tribulations of Rep. Mike Sheridan(D), it was somewhat difficult to figure what message the newspaper was sending to their subscribers until they added a little snippet about Rep. Neal Kedzie (R). It turns out Kedzie is considering taking up a part-time job because he is having a hard time making ends meet with his perk-laden $47,000 annual salary, and certainly as the story goes Рif Sheridan can do it Рso can Neal Kedzie. Political propaganda or a groundbreaking expos̩ worthy of front-page headlines? You be the judge.

But I must add here that, other than being a Wisconsin resident of proper age and without a felony record, there are no educational requirements or additional background experiences that qualifies anyone for legislative office. Wisconsin legislators are full-time positions with benefits and if half of them need a second job for whatever reasons, perhaps it’s time to go hang your overqualified credentials on a wall where you think it will be more appreciated. Resign and give someone else a chance.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Iraq Assessment Damaged By Bush's Vietnam

Six months have passed since the time Rep. Paul Ryan offered his personal opinion on the U.S. troop surge in Iraq. Back then, Ryan said he needed three to six months before he could tell whether the surge plan would work. At least one other Ryan watcher noticed the expiration of Ryan's timetable a few days ago and beat me to the punch.
JS Online Excerpt:
"This whole thing is a big gamble, but it's probably the best gamble to take before throwing in the towel... "I personally give this three to six months to find out."..."In six months, if it's getting worse, then I don't think the plan will succeed, and we'll start talking seriously about pulling back our forces." -- Rep. Paul Ryan, Feb.22, 2007
On the surface it appears Ryan is open to commonsense thinking towards troop withdrawal, but I believe otherwise. His other comments were far more telling of his true feelings about America’s future role in Iraq.

Throughout the JS Online article from six months ago, Ryan parsed the surge plan as - the right strategy - praised Gen. David Petraeus,"right guy finally to do the job" and - labeled Congressional efforts to use the power of the purse as a "mistake." Of course those comments only reflect his own personal views and not the will of his district constituency here in Wisconsin, but we’ve grown accustomed to Ryan representing only himself and his ideology in Congress.

And it doesn’t help knowing now that Gen. David Petraeus has strong preformed ideas for Iraq shaped by his own arguments about Vietnam. Petraeus has been a fierce critic of the U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam, and the recent speech at the VFW by President Bush drawing skewed parallels between the two conflicts was a clear attempt to telegraph to everybody including Petraeus, that like Vietnam, withdrawal is an option only for weak-kneed Americans and “cut and runners.” This coming well before Petraeus has handed in his so-called assessment, setting the stage for a pre-determined outcome.So where does Ryan stand now? After six months we don't know, but we can expect Ryan will wait for the staged field commanders assessment from the “damaged goods” Bush-picked Petraeus. This, combined with his own personal views on the matter should guarantee his district's rubber stamp status to continue this war.

The table has been tilted a long time ago – clearly the game is rigged.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Janesville Teachers Point To Super's Pay Package

After reading the Gazette front-page article about the current negotiations (or lack thereof) between the Janesville School Board and teachers union, I had to do a double-take of the headlines. Clearly the same game is being played by both sides, but of course the Gazette portrays only the teachers union as hostile and unreasonable.
Janesville Teachers Union plays Waiting Game
School Board Hits Negative Chord With Threat Of Mediation
JG Excerpt:
The board had threatened to seek mediation if the JEA didn't respond to the board's July offer on salary and benefits.
Obviously, salary and benefits are at the heart of the matter. So who could blame the teachers union from using accounting figures from the Department of Public Instruction which showed the district's superintendent receiving a 14% increase on paper. The district pointed out that the comparison was wrong because the base figure left out benefits while the projected figure was for total compensation including benefits. Comparing apples to apples, the district explained the superintendent's total compensation increase was 3.8%.
JG Excerpt:
Evert's 2005 salary was $122,170. The DPI reported his 2006 salary as $139,670, a 14 percent increase. However, the 2006 figure includes an annuity of $13,000 and a life insurance payment of $1,500, while the 2005 figure included only salary, Bunton said. Evert's actual salary for 2006 was $125,170, an increase of 2.5 percent.
The Janesville Gazette then posted a wonky chart showing the superintendent's salary increase including the percent of increase for his total package. But what they didn’t explain was this. That in 2006 his total compensation was $139,670 of which $14,500 covered all benefits excluding salary. Total package averaged out to a 3.8% increase. Since his next raise will also contain a 3.8% increase on $139,670, his projected total compensation for the next year will be $144,977 of which $128,650 is salary. That leaves $16,327 for benefits which is a 12.6% increase in benefits over the previous year.
JG Excerpt :
Bunton provided The Janesville Gazette a detailed accounting of Evert's salary and benefits from 2004 through 2009.
Then why wasn't a detailed account of the superintendent's total compensation published? The frontpage story on the negotiations including the “detailed” account of the superintendent’s salary package made no reference to health care or health care insurance in word or substance. What the newspaper presented had enough holes in it to make Swiss cheese blush. But enough small talk.

So for 2006-2007, the superintendent's salary is $128,650 – a 2.78% increase over the previous year of $125,170. His benefits package will rise from $14,500 to $16,327, a 12.6% increase - together arriving at the all compensation increase of 3.8%.

But who's counting?

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Helmsley Dies Alone - Leaves Little People Taxes Behind

Little people will pay:
Republican Rep. Robin Vos said the tax will be passed on to Wisconsin consumers….

Economics 101: Little People always pay:
It's hard for any economist not to laugh at politicians who try to legally enforce the economic incidence of a tax. Any first-year microeconomics student will learn that the taxpayer who is legally required to pay a tax is not always the one who will really bear the economic incidence of the tax.

WPRI: Little people pay more at pump:
The report includes an economic refresher showing that, if the no-pass-through feature stays, markets will adjust to the added cost and pump prices will rise. There is nothing nefarious about this phenomenon; it is the way a free market works. A legal review shows that the new tax is built on shaky legal ground. Similar no-pass-through provisions have been found to be a violation of the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

Professor: Little people will pay :
Nonetheless, University of Wisconsin-Madison business professor Rodney E. Stevenson said he expects any new Wisconsin tax on oil companies to be passed to consumers in some way.

WMC: Little people will pay tax;
MADISON, Wis. - Wisconsin's largest business group says soaring gasoline prices mean that a new tax on oil companies proposed by Gov. Jim Doyle would amount to a 7-cent per gallon increase in the gas tax.
"I think consumers will pay it," Jeff Schoepke, the Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce's director of tax and corporate policy, said Tuesday.

Gazette: Believes Tax will be passed on to little people:
Doyle says the tax can't be passed on to consumers. We don't believe that, and we fear the measure could squeeze out small retailers and even lead to regional gas shortages.

Doyle: Jail if Tax passed on to little people:
Gov. Jim Doyle's plan to tax oil company sales - and to jail their executives if the additional cost is passed on to consumers - is a unique proposal fraught with enforcement problems, even assuming it passes constitutional muster.

NEW YORK –Leona Helmsley, the cutthroat corporatist Libertarian whose title as the “queen of mean” was sealed during a tax evasion case in which she was quoted as snarling “We don’t pay taxes, only little people pay taxes,” died Monday at age 87.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Bush's Brain Grilled For Sunday Breakfast

All the mainstream Sunday morning talking heads interviewed Karl Rove in what may be his finale. Too bad. Just when he's knocked the snot out of the GOP, he quits. The soulless Rove would sooner let the elephant suffer than put it out of its misery.
Rove On Fox:
WALLACE: You're famous in campaigns for turning your opponent's strengths into weaknesses. How do you do that?
ROVE: You look at what they claim to be strong on and see if they really are strong on it. And many times, what people tend to offer up as their strength turns out to be actually a weakness when you examine it further. For example, the claim by Senator Kerry in 2004 that simply because he'd served in military service, which is laudable and patriotic and worthy of personal recommendation, somehow made him capable of being a strong war leader, when his views and values and approach would have been wrong in a time of...
.......Bush’s brain explaining that veterans overrate service to their country, and it's actually a weakness for a person if they decide to run for political office.

Another bizarre piece came when Dan Rather interviewed Rove back in 1972. At the time, Rove was the director for a republican student group instead of serving in Vietnam. For Rove it was cool to protest wrong wars - when your butt is on the line. Rove held up a sign that read “ Generation fOr Peace.” Back then, peace was "chic" in America.

Sounding Off On Republican State Budget

Sunday's Janesville Gazette contained two over-assuming anonymous calls about the Republican State budget proposal.
JG Sound Off Excerpt:
On education funding
: A letter to the editor Tuesday indicates that Republicans are cutting spending for education. This is not true. Under the Republicans budget, there will be an additional $62 million given to the education system in Wisconsin. -- anonymous
Wow – thank you for your generosity.
Differences in Budgets:
The differences between the two parties are stark on issues such as taxes and higher education. The Assembly Republican budget would slash $96 million from state universities' basic budgets plus other cuts while Doyle and Senate Democrats would increase spending on higher education by roughly $225 million -- a difference in priorities of well over $300 million.
And that’s only higher education. I’m just roughing it here but most school districts are looking need a minimum increase of 3.2% in the next budget just to make ends meet. During 2003-2005, schools cost the state around $9.5 billion, so 3.2% would work out to about a $304 million necessary increase in shared revenue, all things being equal. Assuming as much as the anonymous caller is, the Republicans generosity turns out to be short $238 million just to balance. I'd say that's a cut.
JG Sound Off Excerpt:
On Tax Credit
: Why is the Wisconsin Homestead Credit being changed? According to information I received, any person older than 65 would be ineligible for the credit. I think anyone over 65 and single probably needs it worse than married couples over 65. --anonymous
For some reason, the Gazette lets this statement go uncorrected. The caller either misinterpreted the information or it was a misprint. Only the Republicans are tampering with the eligibility requirements of the Homestead Credit - not the Democrats. Here's the scoop.
Republican Homestead Credit proposal:
Cuts $106.6 million from the Finance Committee’s funding level for the Homestead Tax Credit program, primarily by eliminating eligibility for single, childless adults who are under age 65; and also by indexing only the upper income limit for inflation, and not other formula factors, such as the maximum credit.
Why they would discriminate against childless single people under 65 is anybodies guess. The Homestead Credit is not only based on your adjusted state income tax figures but it also includes total household income, qualifying for it is difficult. The "childless" connotation also seems deliberate to confuse and shrink citizen opposition, perhaps they meant "dependents." Nevertheless, when you’re low income – YOU'RE LOW INCOME.

Beginning in 2008, Wisconsin will no longer collect income tax on Social Security benefits. Just when Democrats fight to make Wisconsin a senior friendly state, republicans want to take it away. With Democrats it's two steps forward – with Republicans, seniors take one step back.

The Homestead Credit changes in the Governors budget calls for the credit to be indexed for inflation while leaving the eligibility requirements intact. Currently the formula has been the same since 1991. The real value of the credit has fallen 27% since 1985.

This is serious business for seniors but it applies to anyone who previously qualified for the credit. It’s very simple. If you are a home owner living on a fixed income – get on the phone now!! and call your state representative and tell them to index the formula for inflation and leave the Homestead Credit eligibility requirements alone.

Here’s a JS Online article from July 9th spinning Republican budget cuts into an expansion for choice.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Socialized Bail-Out Saves Free Markets - Again

Many investors, corporatists, anarcho-capitalists and some just down-right greedy money-grubbing businessmen swear up and down almost daily about the government’s hand in the so-called “free markets.” Cut taxes they say and stay the hell out of our business because after all, we’re the ones taking the risks. But the $38 billion injection by the Fed into the banking, lending and mortgage industries is just the latest in a string of bailouts over the last two decades and appears to have come at a welcome time considering the way the sham markets reacted on Friday.
The Escape Of the Enablers Excerpt:
Hello? If you believe in markets - which I do - this rescue is especially galling, because Wall Street enabled this mess in the first place. How so? By happily sucking up hundreds of billions of dollars' worth of suspect mortgages from marginal U.S. borrowers-and begging mortgage makers to create more of them.
This is part of the conundrum. We call them "free enterprise" and "free markets" and wish so badly they were, that we forget there are insiders, manipulators and purely fake markets created out of thin air and designed to swap notes, credits and I.O.U's in an effort to play by the rules. Somebody always wins and, somebody always loses.

Sure, we know the Fed will always bail out the bigshots just to avoid a catastrophic domino effect in the financial markets. And I don’t think anyone except a doomsayer wants the world's financial system to implode. But I'd feel a lot better if Wallstreet had to payback the taxpayers with interest for the handout and let the so-called “risktakers” for once, live up to their name.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Republican Health Plan Omits Care

Friday’s Janesville Gazette contained an article written by Assembly Speaker Rep. Mike Huebsch about the republican's version of healthcare. It was probably one of the most transparent examples I have seen of a republican describing their own health care plan called "Patients First."

The article’s title, “Republican proposals put needs of patients first” had the sound of a true healthcare plan in name only, beginning with the “patients first” ring, only to quickly degrade to just another program driven by what republicans really put first when your health is on the line – cost.

From the opening paragraph about struggling with rising costs, to their commitment to implement cost-saving measures, to the “hidden health care tax” to the ending part about making healthcare more affordable, the republican health plan is not about “care” at all - with Republicans, its all about business, dollars, profits and again in your case and mine, its all about cost to them.
JG Excerpt:
The cornerstone of our plan is that patients, not politicians and bureaucrats, should be in charge of their health care dollars and decisions.
This is the key difference from what the democrats “Healthy Wisconsin" plan offers. In my interpretation, Healthy Wisconsin is all about relieving a participant of those heavy cost burdens and concerns when they cross over into that “patient” world. The last thing a person needs tied around their neck during a life or death crisis is the idea that the care they need is limited by what their savings account can afford or whether they fulfilled consumer shopping or wellness incentives concocted by health care insurance lobbyists. But Healthy Wisconsin leaves the care decisions and choice up to the patient, where it belongs. At this stage, Healthy Wisconsin only needs tweaking and safeguards against abuse.

If Republicans are truly committed to a plan that turns no one in need away, they must leave the costs in the hands of the competitive “free markets” they so often boldly defend and adopt the care prescribed in the “Healthy Wisconsin” plan.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Reduce Government - Start With Assembly Republicans

The useless bill regarding a county reduction study in Wisconsin was reported in the LaCrosse Tribune on August 5th. I thought this story was dead by now. But the Janesville Gazette continued to beat this old horse and finally published the story on August 16th…….and on the front page no less.

Our own Rock County Board Chairman Richard Ott put it in a clear and proper perspective.
JG Excerpt:
"If they want to shrink something, quit picking on counties and look internally," he said. Maybe instead of 99 people in the assembly, they could get by with half of that."
I agree. But Richard, don't tempt these clowns, some Republicans just might risk their jobs for the sake of less representation and centralized power. But since the "progressive" Rep. Frank Lasee (R) and his thinking ahead co-sponsors are first with this smaller government idea, they could set a fine example by resigning from state government. Unless of course they want to protect their little fiefdom.

And just to offer an opposing direction, perhaps we should consider a bill to research more counties - not less. In an increasingly divided country, many counties could be broken into two or three. Just consider the new divisions created in Walworth County by their recent board reduction.

But this plan seems spun-off from the privatization pushers and corporate monopolies like AT&T and their drive to overrule local government and municipalities franchise agreements, etc. Just less bureaucracy for them to deal with in their pursuit to hijack public services and steal public assets.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Taxes: The Bridge For Pro-Growth Economy

Whether it’s the Janesville Gazette or the Janesville Messenger, both papers offered the same squeezin’ nickels editorials regarding solutions to the interstate bridge collapse in Minneapolis.

The Janesville Gazette’s editorial Do We Have the will to pay heavy toll for bridge upkeep? or the Janeville Messengers August 12th editorial titled “Is there political will to fix the bridges? ask an identical and stunningly obnoxious question with their titles and solutions for our nation’s failing infrastucture and weakened domestic security. In the face of huge mounting national debt, an unfunded war, failing bridges and underground infrastructure, empty Social Security lockbox and shortchanged healthcare, pension and education mandates and promises, both newspapers continue to sharpen the contradictions and insist now is not the time to raise taxes.
JM Excerpt:
Bridges can be fixed here and elsewhere without tax hikes if there is the political will – and leadership – to do so.
We are going to wait for political will before we do something? Cold hard cash is what is needed - not the hot thin air known as political will.

There is no way, absolutely no way state and local governments and cities can pay to build or maintain these super bridges. Once again this all falls under the misleadership and direction of the great equalizer – the Federal government. It may be found that some rusty bolts or gusset plates caused the Minneapolis bridge collapse, but the ultimate funding, awareness and concern lays at the hands of the current White House and to a nearly equal extent, the House representative of the bridge’s district along with members of Transportation and Infrastructure Committees from past Congresses, regardless of party.

Both newspapers also reference Gov. Jim Doyle’s clever decision to save education from the hands of the cutting Republicans. Like this is relevant to funding interstate bridges and highways.

The Messenger's editor(s) would also rather blame the public funding of new sports stadiums and amenities like light rail on the shortfalls that led to the collapse of I35W. In all fairness, corporate welfare is out of control but one thing is clear: at least the tax revenue used to build these works of progress was spent, and not hoarded by the stingy and wealthy recipients of the Bush tax cuts.

I would never believe this if anyone told me that Americans, if given the choice, would rather see their country crumble than to restore taxes on the wealthiest among us. It’s not just being scrooge tight, its…….retarded.

"George W. Bush will go down in history as the biggest taxer and the biggest spender ever." --David Boaz, Cato
Mouthpiece for anarcho-capitalists of privatization explaining that Bush’s tax cuts to the rich didn’t go far enough and why Republicans should promise anything (more tax cuts) to save their jobs, and return to core values by spending even less on domestic common-good needs than George W. Bush has.

Monday, August 13, 2007

New Janesville Pool Run-Up Eerily Familiar

For the usual reasons, the Janesville Gazette seems to be willingly promoting Dawson Field for the location of a centralized city recreational water facility despite being rated lower than the other two choices. Perhaps they are testing the winds for the city administration, but their most recent article heavily favored Dawson, molding the location with all its flaws to fit the plans regardless of logistics or expense.
JG Excerpt:
City administration hopes the committee will recommend one large site capable of serving 1,600 swimmers, which could cost between $8 million and $9.5 million, according to the latest estimate.
The costs pose no obstacle to city staff. It appears like the city administration already made the decision to put it at Dawson, and it’s just a matter of time to shape the facts and opinions around a presentation strong enough to convince the committee and city council to go along for the ride. Plus, nobody has explained what will become of the other satellite pool facilities once a giant centralized one is built. Lastly, the city council could decide a new centralized pool is unnecessary and shift their focus to improve and maintain the existing facilities. But don’t count on this.

History has shown the city seems to prioritize new hardware and structure with all the bells and whistles over the software. The campaign and support for the school referendum was a blitzkrieg of slanted information and omissions while the pressure to support the teachers with an equitable contract is non-existent. Ditto for the drive for a new recreational water facility. Support for lifeguards, beach clean-up and maintenance crews (human element) for current facilities is also non-existent.

On this same note, a brand new giant water facility with multiple splash pads, sprinklers, slides and zero depth entrance pools appears geared more towards young children than the exploding population of baby boomer adults. With that said, it is just an extension of the recently passed school referendum in the context of new structure and hardware for facilities - the baby-sitter effect. The schools cover nine months, the pools baby-sit the other three.

Could it be a select group of parents are pulling all the strings and steering the city manager and committees? Does this make sense? Regardless, the decision is made. The campaign for a centralized pool has begun and come hell or high-water, it will be at Dawson Field.

*UPDATE* Near the end of today's city council meeting, the Janesville City Manager, Steve Sheiffer debunked the projected costs published in the Gazette's aquatics story. The manager said the administration has no intention of spending more than $5 million but still considers a central aquatics facility top priority. The lone central location remaining is Dawson Field.

More.....After mentioning Dawson Field in Sunday's aquatics article at a 10 to 4 ratio, Tuesdays aquatics article mentions Dawson not even one time. Truly amazing!

Friday, August 10, 2007

No Child Left Behind In Iraq

Newsweek U.S. Drops Out:
The United States has quietly withdrawn from an international study comparing math and science students. In the last survey, taken in 1995, students from only two countries—Cyprus and South Africa—scored lower than U.S. school kids.
At the same time, the military is making some changes to attract more recruits in the 17 to 24 age bracket.
NPR Excerpt:
The Army is not only dangling more sign-up rewards — it's loosening rules on age and weight limits, education, drug and criminal records.
Then we have Wednesday’s Janesville Messenger article on page 7 describing the latest recruitment tool employed by the U.S. Army.
JM Excerpt:
Janesville – Not everything at last weekend’s Southern Wisconsin AirFest had to do with aviation. In the U.S. Army’s Virtual Army Experience display, participants could experience a virtual-reality simulation, in which civilians took positions in military vehicles and used joysticks and machine guns to battle the enemy in a Middle-Eastern city.
The story was your basic jingo-fare marked by quotes of virtual opportunity, education and team work painted around the reality of death and destruction. But it was the photo that said it all. Unfortunately no link is available. It depicted a willing child holding a hi-tech rifle sitting in a Hum-Vee eagerly awaiting virtual combat action.
JM Excerpt:
“It gives (participants) an opportunity to work as a team and see how team-oriented the army is” – Levi Walker, U.S. Army Virtual Army Experience Staffer

Police Care, Fire Care and Health Care

After being bashed by the profit mongers in Janesville area newspapers for the past several weeks, the Gazette finally published a pro-Healthy Wisconsin article. The article was co-authored by David Newby of the AFL-CIO and Mike Rayome, human resources director for Graphic Packaging.
Healthy Wisconsin offers good medicine:
Republican leaders and so-called business organizations are screaming “tax increase,” and “socialized medicine!”
Those two labels have always worked for the controlling money-changers to suppress support for broad-based initiatives designed to level the playing field in health care access. People want the progress, they just don’t want to pay for it with higher taxes. And as redundant as they are, those talking points have been somewhat difficult to counter - until now.

It’s unfortunate it has taken such a disaster to wake people up to the hollow promise and consequences of ill-placed tax cuts, but the recent Minneapolis bridge collapse topping off other nationwide infrastructure failures may finally help put a rightful critical eye on politicians promising tax cuts. The burden should be on future politicians to prove tax cuts will not shortchange our nations infrastructure or further endanger our national treasury. Nothing is free in America and yes, we pay taxes.But placing the “socialism” label on programs and publicly funded entities has worked against democrats because they allowed the right to smear its meaning. It should never have reached the point it has, and I would prefer to beat right-wingnuts over the head with socialism rather than run away from it.

Now I’m not saying pure unadulterated socialism is my cup of tea, but I know our country has embraced some of the finer working points of this political doctrine. Of course Social Security first comes to mind. It is by far the most wildly successful self-sustaining initiative ever undertaken. But there has to be more….and there is.

Cenk Uygur, one of the Young Turks over at Air America offered his perspective on universal healthcare explaining that healthcare is a matter of “life and death,”and access and affordability should be molded after our police and fire departments. I’ll admit it never dawned on me that police and fire services are socialistic in the strictest terms. But they are. Anyone within their jurisdiction can call them and request immediate attention – and get it. They don’t ask you if you have a job or fire insurance before they turn the water hydrant on, and they don’t force you to fill out dozens of forms to see if you qualify for their help. Despite both departments having huge expenses including healthcare for their employees, they are affordable because they are socialist in access and universality. They have taken out the “profit” and are the best examples yet why “universal” healthcare is the future.

No one should should ever be denied police, fire or health care for any reason - period. As a nation, we should be sick from turning a profit on someone else’s misery.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Janesville City Council Marching to A Different Drummer

With all the national problems with infrastructure, healthcare, outsourcing, Iraq or the economy, etc., etc., it wouldn’t seem logical or proper to talk about a Janesville’s councilman simple request to have some high grass mowed around town. Granted, under most circumstances this would seem even petty to blog about a second time but its really beginning to look like the city manager’s adamant refusal to make an attempt to satisfy the councilman’s request is bizarre.

Just consider that the Janesville City council not only rubber stamps nearly all TIF give-aways presented by City Staff, they have actually increased our water bills to raise $2.7 million for a water tower utility for a private developer’s special terrain demands. More recently, the council authorized another $620,000 hand-out to the same developer for the Five Points redevelopment. The council also approved a $165,000 development package for the installation of an elevator in a privately owned building at Parker Drive and Milwaukee just so the owner can find some tenants. What should have raised some alarm bells was that some of this funding will come from other TIF districts. But that’s another story. Then finally the council slammed through a new canine unit in the middle of the fiscal year for the Police Department costing the city $26,000.

All this is merely a sideshow to things like the city buying real estate or a new public swimming pool costing up and over $6 million at a time when the city appears incapable of, or wanting to maintain the ones they have. A $5 million bus garage may be in the offing, but at least the Fed is willing to pay nearly 80% of the costs. Wish we can say the same about the swimming pool.

But ahhhh, just have a councilman step up with a request in the middle of summer to have knee-deep grass mowed in some parks or along main entrance corridors and he throws the whole place out of kilter. Wrong time to bring this up the city manager says, bring it up in the fall and we’ll have some fun with it in the budget. What an insult!After handing out millions of dollars to venture capitalists, one council member offers the idea that perhaps residents or local groups should step forward and mow city property on their own dime. Suggesting that the city should create an adopt-a-a park program for citizens to volunteer mowing. Ouch!

Here’s a better idea. Have all the recipients of TIF’s, utility hand-outs and block grants, their managers, developers, owners and investors work for the millions in favors they've received from the city by mowing the parks in the summer and shoveling snow off public sidewalks in the winter. Crazy huh? But not as crazy as expecting residents who are paying for the development hand-outs in their taxes to do the same. No, that’s good citizenship!

On top of this, the other councilmen grew silent and left the questioning councilman hang out to dry on his principles. This was one of the most shameful and humiliating displays of support I have ever seen among a group of elected representatives. The other six council members have embarrassed the city and nobody seems to notice – nobody seems to care.

Read additional Swimming pool options down to three. They conveniently left out the fourth option which is none. The city council can suggest the City Staff come up with a plan to remodel and maintain the ones they have. Oh, I forgot. City administration suggests, plans and make the requests - not the other way around.
Read additional Councilman doesn't like Hip-hop or Rap threatens to shut-down bar unless they change tunes.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Yearly Kos Format Should be Local Cause

I completely understand my blogger friends at the Yearly Kos convention in Chicago setting the stage for a sharp and long overdue exchange between candidates over corporate ties and lobbyist donations to government officials. But I digress, the candidates to corner and question at this stage in the presidential campaign process are the Republicans.
Daily Kos Excerpt:
"When they've come to so dominate the debate that ordinary citizens' interests and viewpoints and concerns are drowned out then I think we've got a problem," Obama said. "This campaign is going to come down to whether you believe that it's enough just to get somebody other than George Bush in the White House to fix what ails Washington, or do you think we need to set a fundamentally new course."

And I can see this format taking off in the local scene in the near future. Can you imagine having city council, state assembly, or town hall debates blog-based and controlled by regular citizens and not by the local newspapers, quasi-apolitical group, or chamber of commerce? With the advent of WiFi, this may be coming sooner than we think.
Because of blogs, regular folk can now express their own opinions and questions without worrying about vanity or intimidation. Where local candidates will no longer be able to hide their true motivations and principles inside cookie-cutter answers to choreographed questions. Real people can ask real questions. The future is now.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Ryan Honored As "Representative Zero"

Southern Wisconsinites can take heart knowing that a congressional district in the United States has received less representation in the House then our own 1st congressional district has here. Jeffrey Flake, a Republican from Arizona got a perfect 100 score from the group Concerned Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW) which earned him a taxpayer superhero label. Which means (using their criteria) Flake has not brought a dime home to his constituents in any way shape or form, supports handing over public assets like ANWR and the Internet over to the profiteers of corporate interests while simultaneously voting the party line supporting one of the most belligerent and fiscally irresponsible tax policies of modern times. The CCAGW has consistently leveled more favorable scores to Republicans during a period of the worst Republican-led pork spending, misplaced tax cuts and annual deficits our nation has ever seen. Our representative Paul Ryan, a party rubber stamp, is among their heroes.
CCAGW Excerpt:
CCAGW also broke down ratings based on party affiliation and membership in the two fiscally conservative groups, the Republican Study Committee and the Blue Dog Democrats. The average scores were: House Republicans - 46 percent, down 27 percentage points from their 73 percent score in 2005; House Democrats - 9 percent, down 4 percentage points from their 13 percent score in 2005; House Republican Study Committee - 56 percent, 23 percentage points down from their 79 percent score in 2005; and House Blue Dog Democrats - 20 percent, down 4 percentage points from 24 percent score in 2005.
Giving Republicans a 73% score for saving taxpayers money at the height of the Republican-led fiscal mismanagement in 2005 is ludicrous.

Consider this. The CCAGW looks favorably on politicians who supported oil drilling in ANWR and positions against net neutrality. Both issues are based more on handing over valuable public property and assets to corporate interests than on the idea of protecting the tax payer.

And instituting a legislative line-item veto? Hardly. What they call a legislative line-item veto is actually a misnomer. This legislation was co-authored by Ryan which in effect allows the president to cherry-pick earmarks from bills thereby opening up a Pandora's’s box of political posturing, pandering and blackmail. More properly, it is a presidential line-item veto of legislative bills – not a legislative veto. Implying that the veto action is initiated in the legislature is wrong and misleading.
The 24 projects, totaling $2.4 billion, in this year’s Congressional Pig Book Summary symbolize the most egregious and blatant examples of pork.
$2.4 billion is a lot of money but also consider that the Iraq War stands at $448 billion and counting and equals 186 years of pork that this organization has identified as the worst cases. But they feel justified giving Republicans in general and Ryan specifically trophies for voting for this war of choice while placing democrats who voted against the Iraq War at the bottom of their imaginary ladder. If their priorities aren't mixed up, then they are intentionally promoting a platform that is hellbent on handing out trillions of dollars to the rich and corporations in tax givebacks - they are selling out America.

Supporting members of a party that has spent as wildly as the Republicans have under President Bush while handing out awards to the tax cutters is clear proof that the CCAGW is a sham right-wing operation hiding behind a seemingly grassroots title of “Taxpayer Watchdog."we don't need another heroBut I’m not here to argue that they gave Ryan an award. Groups like the CCAGW could give Ryan hundreds of awards everyday and I could care less. But handing an award with the name “Taxpayer Hero” based on partisan criteria, right-wing ideology and shortchanging the country's needs is not only just a misnomer – it is wrong. Ryan is not my hero and taxpayers should be outraged that awards such as these are given in their name.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Will Healthy Wisconsin Cover Taxphobia?

At first, I wasn’t going to criticize the Janesville Gazette’s editorial view on Healthy Wisconsin published this past Sunday. Honest. It was one of the first political editorials in recent memory that did not call out or attack individual state Democrats like Robson or Doyle. But everyone now links the plan with Democrats so maybe, they didn’t have to.

In my humble opinion, the first paragraphs set the tone with all-too-common Wall Street labor talking points and contradictory statements. But once the editorial staff got past the first few paragraphs they did a fair job on laying out their predictable opposition to the plan. Keep in mind, this is the Gazette.
JG Editorial Excerpt:
Among the business organization's objections is that providing health care for all Wisconsinites younger than 65 would remove an incentive to work and create a large hole in Wisconsin's work force. We raised that concern the week the plan emerged.
This is the day and age we live in today. Employers have all the leverage when they can hold a health insurance benefit over the heads of their workers. You would think employers would welcome a change offering employees something more personally rewarding and fulfilling. I know that sounds poofy, but rest assured, top management and owners are not there for their health. The money businesses would save with Healthy Wisconsin could then be used to offer higher wages and attract the kind of worker who is not there just for their health.

But after worrying about the workforce hole they claim Healthy Wisconsin would open, the Gazette then says…...
JG Editorial Excerpt:
Forward Janesville also notes that the plan would make Wisconsin a magnet for the uninsured. A person could walk across the border, show proof of even a part-time job, and get immediate coverage. After just one year of residency, new residents would get coverage regardless of whether they ever had or kept jobs.
…….the state would be a magnet for workers? Again giving back the leverage employers thought they lost. Of course I'm assuming as much as the editors are here.
American Prospect Excerpt:
The fight for Healthy Wisconsin is well underway. It is, predictably, being attacked by right-wing, industry-funded groups as a "tax hike."
JG Editorial Excerpt:
Yet when combined with the $3 billion in tax hikes already in the Senate budget, the nonpartisan Tax Foundation says the $15.2 billion Healthy Wisconsin plan would easily make this the highest-taxed state in the nation.
For years, working-class people have viewed the mandatory costs of healthcare as "taxing" and in that context, Wisconsin is already affording more than what Healthy Wisconsin is projected to cost.

I just don’t understand the kind of people who rather pay more for their healthcare so long as it denies healthcare to those who can’t afford it, than to pay slightly less and guarantee healthcare for all. I guess paying out $5000 is more agreeable than $4000, so long as it’s not called a tax.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Counter-Spinning As Easy As 1-2-3

Will GOP No Show On YouTube?
O’Reilly Calling Republicans Cowards
"[W]hen you get these presidential candidates who are afraid of a website, my God, how are they going to deal with Al Qaeda?"
– Bill O’Reilly……explaining why Republicans have scheduling conflicts with a YouTube Debate.
Big Oil profits drop:
Big Oil giant profits drop 1% in the second quarter compared to last year. Net income fell from $10.36 billion to $10.26 billion.
Oh, boo-hoo. Oil lobbyists will have to put more pressure on Congress for additional taxpayer subsidies to at least help pad their profit margins.
The audience roared with laughter at Biden’s mockery of the gun owner’s mental health. So much for politically correct sensitivity toward the mentally ill, heh?
-- Michelle Malkin...........explaining why mental cases should own guns and that it‘s not funny when a Democrat suggests that they shouldn’t.

Bush Approves Weapon Sale To Terror States
It’s not bad enough that we buy their oil. Bush wants to sell them weapons.
"Whenever you read 'nonprofit,' think 'liberal' nine times out of ten."
-- Rush Limbaugh.....theorizing why democrats are upset with Bush weapons sale to terrorists.

American mainstream referring to arms buyers as friendly Arab states.

We can only hope that crackpots like Rush Limbaugh, Michelle Malkin, Bill O’Reilly, Ann Coulter and William Kristol maintain their influence over their viewers for a few more years, eventually reducing the Republican party to a permanent minority.
During our 1990s holiday from history, being a national security amateur was not an issue. Between the 1991 death of the Soviet Union and the terrorist attacks of 2001, foreign policy played almost no part in our presidential campaigns. But post-Sept. 11, as during the Cold War, the country demands a serious commander in chief.
– Charles Krauthammer .......explaining why it was a disaster to elect a foreign policy novice for president and how the country can avoid making the same mistake again by electing a Democrat.