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Thursday, December 31, 2009

Paul Ryan Working Exclusively For Journal Times

For over a year now, I thought something was different with the usually cozy relationship Congressman Paul Ryan has had with his hometown newspaper, the Janesville Gazette. The newspaper used to post stories about local small-town businesses and tie in business management legislation sponsored by the congressman. Or when the newspaper soft-pedaled campaign contributions to Ryan's sponsorship of trucking legislation from trucking mogul Dennis Troha. Nobody did it for Ryan like the Gazette. Ahhhh, those were the days.

But apparently, Ryan has found a new squeeze.
Milwaukee Magazine Excerpt:
Paul Ryan has a media platform that any politician would envy.

Nearly every week, the Republican U.S. representative from Janesville gets his own column on the Racine Journal Times Web site, where his analysis may include attacks on congressional Democrats and the Obama administration while promoting his own views...Adding to the air of protectiveness surrounding Ryan’s columns is that the Journal Times doesn’t allow reader comments, which are nearly ubiquitous throughout its Web site.
Like a jilted lover, is it out with Gazette and in with the Journal Times? Not quite.

With the Janesville Gazette subscriber base, Paul Ryan has few people to win over to his way of thinking. Heck, most of the Gazette's readers are urban-interloping rural traditionalists and card-carrying Republicans except when it came time to protect their UAW benefits and GM paychecks. If they're not his cousins or campaign workers, the rest are DINO's, political sell-outs and renegade Republicans from the first progressive movement. These are his people. With the JT, the Congressman has a much larger and hostile audience to work over and try to capture. They don't drink the kool-aid. He's taking his radical message into enemy territory but not allowing any comments please.

Anyways, this little deal begs the obvious questions. Can a person declare exclusive rights to his public works written in the capacity of a U.S. Congressman? Can a newspaper declare publishing ownership and exclusivity to a Congressman's written or spoken words? Who pays the congressman's salary, office and staff salary, stationary and all of its attachments? What about the duties he's owes exclusively to his constituents? Should taxpayers get a cut of any newspaper's profits gained by this "exclusive" agreement?

Read more here: Favorite Son: Ryan's "exclusive" deal with the JT

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Janesville City Government - Year In Review

Since the most recent events are at the top, it is recommended to scroll down and begin with January to put the summaries in chronological order.
* December -- Despite a decision by the Janesville city council in 2005 to allow a skate board park to be built in Palmer Park, current city council members intend to cancel that offer.
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* December -- Revisiting a request by the Janesville Gazette to start council meetings earlier, several council members began a debate to exclude public commentary from official council meetings. Seeing the odds grow against the Gazette's request, Council member Tom McDonald delayed an up-or-down vote and postponed the decision for a better time. We can bet when the subject comes up again, council members will be well rehearsed.
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* November -- After successfully defending their neighborhood against a zoning change allowing for a tavern and outdoor sports activity to be developed literally in their back yards, a small enclave of homeowners were eventually defeated. Council members Rashkin, Voskuil, Steeber and Perrotto rejected their concerns and sided with a deep-pocketed non-constituent special interest instead.
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* October -- Despite heavy public opinion against, funding for a new ice arena was fast-tracked through the Janesville city council. It passed by a vote of 5-2 with Councilman Rashkin and Frank Perrotto voting against.
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* October -- After endorsing the legislative agenda of the politically active business group Forward Janesville without debate earlier in the year, the non-partisan Janesville city council rejected a symbolic resolution in support of universal access to health care. Fearing that the endorsement would project the wrong political or partisan bias on the health care issue, several council members demanded the word "universal" be stricken from the resolution.
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* October -- Council members Yuri Rashkin and Tom McDonald propose to change the charter ordinance and start council meetings up to one hour earlier so the Janesville Gazette can meet their editing deadlines. Scheme backfires when McDonald votes against the Gazette's original request.
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* September -- With huge water rate increases on the way, city officials adopt new pricing policy suggested by the water advocacy group Clean Wisconsin. This action seems to have softened some of the hostility city sprawl academics have had toward conservation and sustainability advocates.
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* August -- The first in a series of bizarre statements and council action by Council member Tom McDonald on behalf of the Janesville Gazette. McDonald apparently felt allowing public access TV to televise city council budget sessions would either infringe upon the newspaper's ability to steer public opinion or cut into their profits and programming of filtered content.
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* August -- Utility Director paints the city council and future growth into a corner over water tower funding for NE corner of city.
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* July -- Council draws TIF district around farmland for industrial expansion within 1/2 mile of the sprawling and vacant General Motors industrial complex.
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* July -- City council develops its own "agenda" designed to help pre-determine the direction of issues, council debates and expectation of votes.
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* June -- One of the main talking points used to hasten the approval of the city's comprehensive growth plan was the flexibility implied by city council members to make changes on a case-by-case basis. When a single zoning change request by a local businessman ran counter to the Comprehensive Plan, the city manager warned the council against approving the request, saying it would set "a new and dangerous precedent."
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* May -- Despite earlier warnings from the utilities director that the water supply system in the NE section of the city is inadequate to satisfy all the requirements necessary to deliver water for reliable safe consumption or fire department usage, Council members Kathy Voskuil, Russ Steeber, Yuri Rashkin and George Brunner approved of adding six more residences to the system. Tom McDonald and Frank Perrotto said they would not vote for the Willow Glade addition until the water issue could be resolved. Bill Truman was absent.
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* May -- City council approves alcohol license for "family entertainment" junior hockey games at city facility. Voting no were George Brunner, Tom McDonald and Frank Perrotto. Council member Bill Truman's uncharacteristic flip-flop on the issue was the low point of the decision.

* April -- In a pitch for a water tower on Janesville's NE side, Janesville Utilities Director Dan Lynch warned of the dangers 20,000 residents have been exposed to since 2005 due to deficiencies in the system.
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* March -- Standing to offset thousands of dollars in overhead and other business costs, the Wisconsin Hockey Partners captured a lop-sided lease agreement from the City of Janesville. The city council handed primary user control of the city's one-sheet public ice arena over to the for-profit hockey group. George Brunner and Amy Loasching were absent from the meeting. Council member Bill Truman felt the lease contract lacked mutual sharing between the parties and was the only council member to vote "nay." Frank Perrotto was not a member of the council at the time.
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* March -- Despite pleas from the public including the Governors office for more time and consideration, the Janesville city council sided with developers and approved of the sprawl-based administration's Comprehensive Growth Plan eight months ahead of schedule. Council member Tom McDonald's suggestions to give the plan more time or add sustainability provisions to the plan were rejected.
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* February -- City Council Rejects Committee Reform
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* January -- The non-partisan Janesville City Council unanimously endorsed the legislative agenda of the politically active business organization known as "Forward Janesville." Council member Yuri Rashkin made the motion and seconded by Councilman Russ Steeber. Members Kathy Voskuil, Tom McDonald and George Brunner followed in lockstep. Loasching and Truman were absent.
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Monday, December 28, 2009

David Brooks Prefers Single-Payer?

Crooks and Liars Excerpt:
Conservative columnist David Brooks expressed support for a system of health care that is most often demonized by the right wing. "I wouldn't mind a single-payer. I prefer it to what we have now," Brooks told ABC's Jake Tapper Sunday.

Well, at least David Brooks finally gets it. Besides the ever increasing and accelerating costs of health care on our GNP, the only way to compete for jobs in a single-payer global economy is to have single-payer health coverage here. Trying to keep the private insurance system fully monopolized with subsidies amounts to protectionism. As far as I'm concerned, without genuine competition the current Senate bill is little more than a pre-emptive bail-out for the out-of-touch American health care industry. Free market pressures are on the verge of collapsing the industry. Congress knows it. It's not reform.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Crony Capital Pouring Into Ryan's Campaign

Last week, Congressman Paul Ryan slapped together another one of his ideologically driven rants, this time sharing his narrow view of "crony capitalism" and its effects on the so-called free markets. As usual, when the public-payrolled Ryan has a message for his monied base, his medium of choice is either the Wall Street Journal or Forbes. This time, Ryan chose Forbes for his awkwardly titled essay Down With Big Business, a title that would normally raise the hairs on the backs of most of his tax sheltered campaign donors. Like most of Ryan's policy novels, he takes overwhelmingly logical and moral left-wing talking points and justifies them and resolves them with either Randian individualism, a tax cut or a wildly deregulated free market. In this sense, Ryan takes "truth to power" and turns it on its head.

Even the folks at one of his hometown media lapdogs, the unsolicited chamber of commerce newsletter otherwise known as the Janesville Messenger, must have buckled over with intestinal gas blockage when they read the caption "Down with Big Business" in the same breath with the name of their savior. Paul Ryan's down with big business? No way! They re-published it but not until it was re-titled to a more palatable "The Scourge of Crony Capitalism" in their Sunday edition. No doubt, since Ryan blames government policies for attempting to stifle the free market's natural tendency to defeat the competition at any costs, (buy-outs, undercutting competitors and corruption are all merely free market tools), his backhanded attack on Big Business then becomes understandable and forgivable among his supporters.

Ryan also has a knack for out-of-congressional-body narratives when he reflects on the consequences of his own legislative dysfunction. "Congress and government are the problem" is his usual defense. It's not his fault he never has anything to do with it. When Ryan gets even a small whiff of the political compromises necessary to accomplish the people's work, he quickly slaps together a rigidly obtuse and off-topic thesis meant to not only defend his incumbency, but to offer himself an escape hatch from making the tough choices. See, it's always their fault for not embracing his ideals. Paul Ryan is different, he's not like the rest of the crony congress is the message. But back away from his self-serving hyperbolic views and there can be only one obvious and reasonable conclusion: he simply does not work well with others.

In "Down with Big Business," Ryan rambles through a timeline of government free market reforms beginning with the Carter Administration and up and through the 90's, but he conveniently leaves out his own tenure in congress. He finally proclaims that government must get away from pro-business policies and instead adopt a pro-market approach. It's the capital trickling down from Big Business onto their pro-business cronies in Washington that's the problem. He's right on that account. Buying into Congress is one of the world’s best investment values. Despite all of his self-serving prosody, unless Ryan can prove his is the only campaign chest filled with "free market" dollars, he is a willing and eager participant in the pro-business crony capitalist system. Again, it's that out-of-congressional-body experience.

Ryan, much like most of Congress, has collected millions in campaign donations from some the biggest players in American business. So what's the problem with that you say? After all, others in congress do the same. True, but Ryan is one among only a few who repeatedly postures to separate himself from the rest of the crony politicians, even from his own "we lost our way" conservative party. Again and again. He's not one of them either.

For good or bad, while the rest in Congress are grappling with the biggest problems of the day under some of the worst fiscal and economic conditions we've seen in decades, it is Ryan who isolates himself and by extension his district. In the meantime, he is collecting Big Business donations while chattering meaningless pro-market rhetoric on stages and forums outside his district. That doesn't help our current local situation or create jobs. Ryan might win points and capital from his silver-spooned base for this hardline partisanship, rigid ideology, obstruction and presentational stagecraft, but he is also an extremely weak team player. Much like Sarah Palin.

As it stands, "Down with Big Business" is nothing more than another campaign ad by Ryan to extricate himself out from the TARP's downside at the same time jumping on the coattails of left-wing "corporate/government corruption" populism. A pontificating exclamation at a time when Ryan's hometown constituents continue to lose their jobs, drop their unaffordable health insurance and face bankrupt certainty. When it comes to his district, he's got other priorities... himself.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Chuck Norris Throws Christianity Under A Bus

It doesn't get much worse than this.
Raw Story Excerpt:
"Lastly, as we near the eve of another Christmas, I wonder: What would have happened if Mother Mary had been covered by Obamacare? What if that young, poor and uninsured teenage woman had been provided the federal funds (via Obamacare) and facilities (via Planned Parenthood, etc.) to avoid the ridicule, ostracizing, persecution and possible stoning because of her out-of-wedlock pregnancy? Imagine all the great souls who could have been erased from history and the influence of mankind if their parents had been as progressive as Washington's wise men and women!" -- Chuck Norris
...hypocrisy squared. The pathetic Norris couldn't keep Mary and the baby Jesus out of this. He couldn't just say "Merry Christmas" to all. Hmmm, I now wonder who is his preacher?
Norris may be surprised to discover that modern-day Israel has a universal, government-run health care system that is far more "socialist" than anything being debated in Congress at present.-- Raw Story

Monday, December 21, 2009

Newspaper Editorials Continue Same Old Tradition

The two editorials in Sunday's paper were Gazette classics. The newspaper's regular editorial featured their opinion and ideas about the latest tribulations between the Janesville city council and the fund-raising group trying to build support for a public skate park. In the past as now, the Gazette has not thrown the kind of positive support towards the skate park as they have toward other projects brought before the council. Most recent and notable was their heavy-handed editorial and articles against a small pocket of home owners trying to keep an alcohol-serving business with an outdoor sport's activity out of their neighborhood. Of course, the home owners eventually lost. In my opinion, the Gazette had absolutely no business injecting itself into such a personal matter between two private parties. But it's their newspaper.

Of course the skate park situation is different as it not only effects the entire city, it also effects what could be viewed as their neck of the woods, the beautiful Palmer Park. The newspaper maligns skateboarders as foul-mouthed ruffians whose primary mission is to disrupt the park's atmosphere and destroy private property.
JG Editorial Excerpt: (Titled: Will skatepark ever fly in Janesville)
We urge potential donors to keep an open mind about skateboarders. Like ice skaters and baseball and softball players, don't they deserve a place to recreate and practice their sport, a site where they won't be tempted to harm private property?
Instead, why not urge Palmer Park users and residents to keep an open mind about skateboarders? Using the Gazette's editorial license and critical perception of the skateboarders, why should any neighborhood feel any different or welcoming to the skateboarders than Palmer Park residents apparently feel? Ending these statements in question marks does not disqualify the paper from their obvious class discrimination and despite the Gazette's persistent and disparaging presumptions about skateboarders, I still urge people to keep an open mind about the Gazette.

The other editorial in Sunday's paper titled, "Council's meeting time not all about the Gazette" was the newspaper editor's perspective on positions taken by several Janesville city council members towards the newspaper's request to have council meetings start a half hour earlier.

Sorry, (as if it matters) but after reading it I'm now convinced it was all about the Gazette. Throwing the editing deadlines on the backs of three public servants working long hours for free was nothing more than a guilt-tripping political stunt. It really is not their (council's) problem. For all of my criticism and opposition to goofball city council decisions and the broken-down crony-controlled democratic process, if there's one thing they needn't apologize for, it's for tomorrow's edition of the Janesville Gazette.

If all this was out of concern in assuring that the public (constituents) stays informed and involved, why didn't the Gazette editorialize against the council cutting the city's newsletter?

But, if the newspaper wants to throw blame around for this circus act, they need not look no further than themselves and one council member, Tom McDonald.

When the resolution was introduced, it was McDonald acting as the Gazette's liaison, who ironically cast the deciding vote against the Gazette's request the first time around when the resolution failed 4 to 2. His vote would have been the fifth vote necessary to pass it. Not Steeber's, Voskuil's or Truman's. The Gazette, and more importantly council member McDonald, need to consider all the implications of their shadowy collusion and its consequences when they attempt to manipulate the process. It begs the questions. Was this the first time? Will it be the last?

As I've written here before, if I were on the council I would have voted for the time change request the first time around primarily out of respect for the newspaper. Now, I wouldn't be so sure.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Feingold Called GOP's Bluff - Local Media Annoyed

Last week, when GOP senators wrote an amendment designed to ridicule the public option and embarrass Democrats, they got a little surprise. Several democrats including Sen. Russ Feingold endorsed the amendment by Republican Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and David Vitter. Both republicans are vehemently opposed to the public option.

The Beloit Daily News spun an editorial attempting to reframe the episode against democrats. The BDN editorial was republished in the Janesville Gazette on Thursday.
BDN Excerpt: (Titled: Feingold again annoys his party)
Somehow, we doubt a lot of Feingold’s colleagues will agree. It’s one thing to hang a public option around others’ necks, and quite another for members of Congress to give up what they have and join in the untested program.
Except there was one major flaw with the Republican's "if it's good enough for the people, it's good enough for congress" amendment. By trying to force mandatory participation for the public plan, their amendment actually took out the "option" from the public option. Never mind the fact they did not support their own amendment.

Of course, Feingold and his fellow Democrats taking Republicans up on their phony amendment had little to do with Republicans working in a constructive manner on health care. In my view, they exposed the house of cards the "party of no ideas" is built on. It was about political game playing of the same levity displayed in the House of Representatives months earlier by Rep. Paul Ryan when he co-sponsored the same legislation. Senate Democrats called the party of no idea's obstructionists out on their bluff and they buckled just like the phony phonies that they are.

For whatever the health care reform bill is worth right now and that ain't much, it didn't help that Democrats had to deal with the Republicans constant barrage of bogus legislation designed to undermine the political process.
"I reluctantly conclude that, as it stands, this bill would do more harm than good to the future of America." -- Howard Dean
I completely agree with Dean. The Public Option, but even more so with a genuine single payer health care plan, was key to accelerating America's economic recovery by shutting down the outsourcing of jobs to countries that already have universal health care. Without it, it's Republican-lite. Kill the bill!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Putting A Hurt On Organized Labor

JG Excerpt:
JANESVILLE — Barring any last-minute objections, a union will not represent workers at Woodman’s Food Market in Janesville. In weekend voting, 123 workers cast ballots in opposition to representation by United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1473.
Quote from their blog: "I do not know many businesses that were giving out extra Christmas bonuses this year, but Woodman's did." -- D.

At this point, it probably doesn't matter whether Woodmans gave the "xtra" bonuses before or after employees cast their ballots.

City Yanking Palmer Park From Skate Boarders

In 2005, the Janesville city council approved of Palmer Park for the location of a skate board park.
Janesville City Website Excerpt:
The City of Janesville has approved a site for a new skate park. This park is intended to serve skate boarders, roller bladers, and BMX bikers. This skate park will be located in Palmer Park on the north side of Palmer Drive between the Spring brook trail and the 30-stall parking lot adjacent to the sand volleyball courts. The fundraising goal for this project is $300,000.
Janesville Kiwanis Excerpt:
This park has been under plans for the last 3 or so years. It will be located in Palmer Park and will be used by skateboarders, BMX bikers, etc. The goals is to give kids a fun, safe place to skate and keep it close to Palmer Park so families are all in the same vicinity.

Janesville Skate Park Excerpt:
After extensive research was done on many possible locations. Recommendations were made by City of Janesville, Leisure Services and The Janesville Skate Park Committee to the Janesville City Council. The Janesville City Council agreed that the Palmer Park was the best location. Land was set aside and a sign was erected at the site.
What has changed since? Except for the economy, not much. Admittedly, after four years have passed, the private group behind the drive to raise money for the skate park collected only $26,000 of a $250,000 goal, but that should be no reason to pull the Palmer Park site away.

So why did several council members at Monday night's council meeting give the impression Palmer Park is off limits? Unfortunately, several past and present Janesville city council members have unfairly juxtaposed another location for the skate park after the debate was long over. The other location, near the batting cages at Jackson and Delavan, is a disadvantaged area of the city that desperately needs a coherent and viable redevelopment plan before considering injecting any serious capital. In fact, I have trumpeted the area on my blog as holding the greatest potential for private redevelopment in the entire city. But that's all irrelevant to the skate board park simply because they already have a site. Or at least they thought they did.

At Monday night's council meeting, council member Bill Truman seemed personally offended by some comments made by the skate board park organizer.
JG Excerpt:
“You mention the Fourth Ward like it’s the baddest place in the city,” said Truman, who lives there. “I don’t have the problems you think the kids are going to have … We don’t have rapes, robberies. You hit a nerve with me.”
In a way I don't blame him, but his remarks are being used as a foil by the newspaper and the anti-skateboard crowd to move the skate park plan away from Palmer Park. Unless I've missed something over the years, the Jackson Street/Rock river location was never chosen for development such as a children's museum, a new ice arena, a new fire station, a new aquatics facility, wading pool, pavilions, baseball diamonds, volley ball courts, or a new recreational anything. Now that's offensive. There's no viable or working plan. Instead, the city has been knocking buildings down and wants to pull the batting cages out.
JG Editorial Excerpt: (August. 2008)
Many nearby residents never wanted the skate park to further congest beautiful Palmer Park, and dog owners don’t want the facility to squeeze their pet exercise area.
The location chosen for the skate board facility is on the north side of Palmer Drive in the east portion of Palmer Park between the Spring brook trail and the 30-stall parking lot adjacent to the sand volleyball courts. In other words, the skateboard site is landlocked by the park and other recreational activities. Unlike a tavern and private volley ball courts that were recently approved in a different Janesville neighborhood despite heavy opposition from nearby residents. The Gazette even editorialized against the homeowners living directly across the street from the proposed tavern.

So, it really boils down to this, and as plainly spoken as I can write it. There is little good reason for anyone to be against putting a skate board park in Palmer. Some of the folks who don't want the skate board facility at Palmer seem to be saying "we don't want Fourth Ward "type" kids in our park." That could be closer to the awful truth as ugly as it sounds. If council members have heard anything remotely close to that kind of rhetoric from constituents, they should report it as hate speech. With that in mind, it is possible that putting a skate board park in Palmer could be putting the skate boarders in harms way.

On the other hand, if my hunch is wrong and a skate park never goes into Palmer because of supposed "congestion" or "crowding", residents should keep a close eye on the park in the near future and watch for any additional or expanded recreational activities or development.

Lastly, the entire argument for a skate park anywhere in Janesville could be a moot point because the city has set a very tight funding policy for the skate park people to jump through. If they were able to raise only $26,000 over four years, I can't imagine they would reach $200,000 in a year's time given the economy and a different site. I hope I'm wrong.

Note: This posting is the independent perspective of its author and is not affiliated in any way to the skate park organizers.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Council Considers Axing Public Comments To Satisfy Newspaper

During last night's Janesville city council meeting, city council member Tom McDonald carried on with what can only be described as a brazen effort to guarantee passage of a request made by the Janesville Gazette for council meetings to either start up to an hour earlier or change the city council meeting program significantly enough to help the newspaper meet deadlines for their early morning edition. Really.

When the newspaper originally made the request over two months ago, the Janesville city manager made no recommendation and the resolution eventually failed only to be brought back for a second chance by the two council members. But this time the manager made a directional statement towards the council to consider an alternative way to accomplish the same goal.
Council Agenda Excerpt:
City Manager Recommendation:
This item is being brought back to the City Council due to a co-sponsoring request from Councilman McDonald and Councilman Rashkin. The Council policy allows via two provisions the ability for two Council members to request an item be brought back if the motion is voted down. I recommend that the City Council focus on whether it is preferred to maintain a starting time at 7:00 or whether it would be more citizen and City Council member friendly to begin 30 minutes to an hour earlier with the motivation to end approximately an hour earlier in order to benefit members of the public who would be coming to speak on specific issues.
The city manager inserted some careful wording there in a seemingly awkward attempt to cover for the two council members previous council shenanigans to exceed the newspaper’s original request. That it suddenly carries with it the extra suggestion about changing the commentary period during meetings to benefit the public was a slick way to steer the discussion.

However, council member Russ Steeber seemed to have the opposite view of the council friendliness towards the citizen comment period. Although he had qualms about changing the council schedule simply to suit another entity, he seemed more honest in his description and willingness to sacrifice the public speaking period because in his view it "bogs down the council and stifles the media." For whatever his reasons, Steeber does not want the public comment period to be part of the "official" meeting. He eventually suggested that the start time needn't change at all but that the public hearing period instead can be shifted around to accommodate the newspaper's ability to meet their deadlines. Just like the city manager suggested - only more blunt. In fact, Steeber went so far as to say that if they get the public comment section out of the way, they (the council) will accomplish what the Gazette wanted them to do. Never mind that public input and commentary plays an equal and important newsworthy role to city council business - at least to those who think so.

After debating on the subject for nearly 45 minutes, the city council eventually complicated this simple time change request yet again by introducing the separate and convoluted debate about the public commentary period. Near the end of this ridiculous discussion, McDonald vacillated between the 6 PM and 6:30 start times, counted the heads in his favor and apparently didn't like the Gazette's chances. Instead of an up or down vote, he postponed the vote again until all council members were present. Council member Frank Perrotto, who voted in favor of the newspaper's request the first time two months ago when the resolution failed, was absent.

I have to hand it to McDonald. That he makes no effort to hide his loyalty to the newspaper almost makes the viewer think he can't possibly be engaged in patronage with them. Who would be that publicly reckless? If anybody thinks these council members will go to the same lengths for the average tax payer as they are willing to go for special interests - think again. You'd be sadly disappointed.

You can read a "paid" review of the account here.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

"The People Speak" Tonight On The History Channel

THE PEOPLE SPEAK -- the long-awaited documentary film inspired by Howard Zinn's books "A People's History of the United States" and "Voices of a People's History of the United States" will air tonight on the History Channel.

THE PEOPLE SPEAK will feature dramatic performances chronicling the history of this country, including charter documents, letters, diaries and more, from such celebrities as Matt Damon, Josh Brolin, Viggo Mortensen, David Strathairn, Marisa Tomei, Don Cheadle, Jasmine Guy, Q’orianka Kilcher, Michael Ealy, Kerry Washington, and musical performances from Bruce Springsteen, Eddie Vedder, Allison Moorer and John Legend. These slices of life will be woven together with archival footage and interviews.

In Janesville, tune in to Charter channel 48 at 7 PM and again at 11 PM.

More details at Peoplespeak.

Strangely enough, in Saturday's Janesville Gazette was a letter to the editor slamming Howard Zinn's "People" books as both Marxist biased and Marxist titled.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Why House Republicans Vote The Way They Do

Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), the House Majority Leader, gave one of the best explanations I've heard yet on how Republican's expect to climb back into the majority on the strength of obstructionism.

Below are parsed excerpts from a phone conversation between Hoyer and Ezra Klein of the Washington Post a few days after Hoyer gave that insightful "obstructionism' speech at the Center For American Progress.
Washington Post Excerpts:
The theory was that the American people elected the legislative body to make policy and so you make policy... as long as you, and our party cooperate with Democrats and get 20 or 30 percent of what we want and they get to say they solved the problem and had a bipartisan bill, there's no incentive for the American people to change leadership. You have to confront, delay, and undermine and impose failure in order to move the public.

The reason this issue needs to be raised is that, ultimately, the political representatives will respond to the demands of the public. Now, the public has been polarized. Every night on television, they listen to polarizing people. We’ve gone from Walter Cronkite to angrier people who are trying to incite them.

So how do you fight that political logic?

It's very difficult. The motivation Congress has on each side of the aisle is to be in the majority so it can set policy. But it’s very difficult for the institution to move forward on a bipartisan basis when the minority party does not believe that that’s in their best interest to regain the majority. Rarely do you get a crowd ecstatic about a compromise. So the parties, to some degree, think the ... strategy might be successful. And the only way to overcome that is to have it not be successful, and the only way for that to happen is for the American people to know what’s going on.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Wisconsin: 5th Drunkest State

Drunkest States In America Excerpt: (slideshow)
It should be no surprise that Wisconsin is in the top five. This state traditionally ranks high on any list that involves alcohol. Milwaukee was ranked the number one drunkest city by Forbes in 2006. On top of that, the United Health Foundation recently released a report ranking the 50 states in terms of binge drinking, and Wisconsin was the worst. Nearly a quarter of the population has reported drinking too much. They are also number one for driving under the influence.

According to this survey, New Hampshire is the drunkest state in the union. Utah, the least.

"Deal" Looks like An Insurance Policy For InsurCorp Profits

Soon after President Obama spoke to members of Congress about the need to pass health care reform, Senate Democrats struck a "deal."
Capital Times editorial Excerpt:
Their negotiators struck a tentative agreement Tuesday night to eliminate the “public option” -- the controversial but necessary plan to set up a government-run insurance program to provide competition (and an incentive to hold down costs) for private insurers.
Not only did they drop a genuine public option choice from the reform package, they caved into Insurcorp even further by alleviating the number-crunching profit mongers of their most unprofitable and risky customer base, the 55 to 64 age group. What can we expect next? How about the government making private health insurance mandatory (remember there's no public option) for the remaining UnMedicared constituency, the 18 to 54 age group? I mean, what privately held for-profit insurance company would oppose having their most troubled assets socialized at the same time are guaranteed a cash pool expansion among the least risky?

Expect huge health insurance company profits. That’s the change we got.

Wanda Sykes: "Mr. President, remember 'yes we can, yes we can?' Well, I wish you would."

New Fire Station Location Projects Future City Growth

For the past six months, Janesville administration officials have been promoting the idea of building a new centrally located fire station at the site of the current ice arena. Accordingly, the current (old) fire station's location has been deemed inadequate.
JG Excerpt:
The current location on Milton Avenue is not the best because the city has grown to the north and the east, Winzenz said.
Perhaps it was just a minor misstatement, but using that logic you'd think they'd plan on building a new fire station in a location to the north and to the east of the current fire station. Instead, they intend on building the new fire station even further south and a smidgeon to the west.
JG Excerpt:
-- The ice arena site at 821 Beloit Ave. The location provides a good response time to the east because of Palmer Drive and to the south with Beloit Avenue.

The conversion of prime green fields into residential and commercial development (TIFS around farmland, etc.) appears to have shifted away from the northeast to the south and southeast quadrants of the city. This activity (in place of sustainable jobs growth) is consistent with the decades long city administration devised donut-shaped economic plan. The downtown of course being the hole of the donut.

On one hand, I believe if the city was as serious about downtown development as they have been about the big box developments up on Milton avenue, they would have made it a priority to keep Main Street clear of heavy commercial trucks and that includes using it as a regular route for fire trucks. There has been some recent interest and improvements downtown but... I don't think it's near where it belongs on the city administration's economic activity list. On the other hand, I'm afraid to see what the city does if a fire station or a taxroll contributor like residential housing isn't built on the large ice arena site, assuming they will waste the unique post-less million dollar facility with a bulldozer. Either way, the current ice arena site does not come as cheap as they appear to be leading on.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Tax Speculative Transactions On Wall Street? Sounds Great!

Capital Times Excerpt: (John Nichols)
Last week, Kagen joined Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., and Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, in proposing legislation to assess a financial transactions tax... The legislation, known as the “Let Wall Street Pay for the Restoration of Main Street Act,” would tax each stock transaction at 0.25 percent and futures, swaps and credit default swaps at 0.02 percent. The tax, which would not apply to the first $100,000 of a trader’s annual transactions, is designed to target the speculators. Pension funds and retirement investors are protected, via a guaranteed refund of the tax.

Center For American Progress Excerpt: (Michael Ettinger)
This idea has not been well received by the industry. Opponents on Wall Street make two basic arguments: First, they argue, financial transactions of the sort that would be subject to the tax could easily be moved anywhere in the world so if you tax them, they will go. Second, they argue that some transactions that are helpful to the economy wouldn’t be profitable even at these extremely low rates. This argument posits that traders who buy and sell constantly while making tiny profits on their many transactions would be driven from the market because the tax would eat mightily into those tiny profits.
You know Wall Street is going to fight this tooth and nail. We can expect a Wall Street Journal editorial soon from their congressional liaison Paul Ryan explaining how 401k's, borrowing rates and seniors will suffer because the tax will be passed down...or, it's unconstitutional...somehow.

Why is it the financial managers swinging the deals and working the swaps collect millions in bonuses but there's never enough left over for a quarter-point tax?

A Quote To Chew On
Dick Cheney On The Economy Excerpt:
When Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill raised objections to a new round of tax cuts while warning Vice President Dick Cheney about growing budget deficits in November 2002, Cheney cut him off. "You know, Paul, Reagan proved deficits don't matter," he said. A month later, Cheney told the Treasury secretary he was fired.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Newspaper Editors Explain Imbalance and Influence

Last Sunday, the Janesville Gazette editor posted an editorial titled "Some special groups get special attention" in what appeared to be an attempt to justify the newspaper's biased focus.
Gazette Editorial Excerpt: (Not available on open Web)
GM workers, teachers and law officers. What do they have in common? All get special treatment in the Janesville Gazette. Some say they get unfair treatment, but I disagree.

What the people in those groups do, how they are compensated and how they are disciplined interests many of our readers.
How's that for objectivity?

This is how I understand it. Reality is like a wheel. It spins and wobbles at its own leisure, sometimes it's very smooth, other times it's very erratic. It loses its roundness on occasion but always bounces back - on its own, it has to. As they say, it is what it is. Now, enter the newspaper editor. To the apparent satisfaction of his readers and political model, he throws a lead weight into the spinning wheel. But not just anywhere, he's got a specific area targeted. And the weight is special too. It's checked for content, volume, density, weight and of course, direction. So the wheel picks up a whole new dynamic momentum. But there's a problem. Reality begins to lose shape, the wheel is no longer round.
Gazette Editorial Excerpt:
We are frequently criticized for singling out these groups, and we are sensitive to the perception that we are unfair to them. While we're comfortable with our decision making, we consciously work to balance our coverage by providing positive stories about GM workers, teachers and police officers.
So at some point the editor decides to throw in another lead weight, but this time it's to have an opposite effect from his last course of action. Its purpose is to bring the wheel back into compliance. The main problem of course is that the wheel has been tampered with. It's back into somebody's definition of compliance, but it's not back into reality. Its been spun. Call me a simpleton.

A few days after that editorial, the newspaper's opinion editor had this to say about editorial influence on his blog.
Gazette Blog Excerpt:
...I've tried hard to focus our editorial comments largely on local and state issues, as well. After all, that's what we know best, and these are the arenas where we can exert the most influence. If the Gazette editorialized on Afghanistan, do you think it would hold sway with anyone in Washington and the decisions they make? Neither do we.

But we do believe our opinions can influence local and state decisions.
I'm not disputing any statements made by either editor nor would I make any suggestions. They confirm most of my observations posted on my blog.

So let's look at the bright side. Other than the editors statements regarding their class war journalism, spin balancing and built-to-influence editorials, the Janesville Gazette really isn't much different than any other newspaper.

In the "Briefs" section of Thursday's Gazette is a schedule of listening sessions hosted by Wisconsin State Assembly (D-43rd) Representative Kim Hixson. The newspaper titled it "Politician Plans December Conversations."

Friday, December 04, 2009

Right Wingnuts: Selfless Duty To Country Is Dangerous

I don't know how many years I've waited to hear a democratically elected leader (not a representative, there's a difference) to bluntly say he (or she) is not concerned about their re-election chances. After hearing the following comments from two of the Right's biggest blowhards and career opportunists - I'm convinced Barack Obama has to be the first.

During Wednesday's 24/7 Fox News campaign against the president, Glenn Beck wondered where is the plan for the economy - what is the long term plan? Beck continued on saying Obama quadrupled our debt (not Bush), and we won't get the benefits of health care reform until after 2013 and on, and on, and on... Beck then says, "How do you get re-elected?" So what is the long range plan here. Beck repeats, "How do you get re-elected?" And "It doesn't look like a winning strategy here." Seriously. And he's complaining!! Beck seemed genuinely worried that Obama's agenda, media campaign or whatever you want to call it is not centered on re-election. What a radical concept, huh? Damn Socialist! This coming from a hyper-partisan wanker who regularly tells his viewers to vote out useless clock-milking career politicians.

Near the end of his show, Beck mocks the President of the United States for asking folks to participate in the "remaking" of America, while the non-elected Glenn Beck begins his circus act under the banner "Refounding America."

During an interview on the 700 Club, Rep. Michele Bachmann said when President Obama met with House Republicans under the Capitol in a private closed door meeting he said, "I'd prefer to be a one-term president and achieve my agenda than being a two-term president and not achieving my agenda."

He said that? I love it!

In a perfect world, all candidates campaign on their principles and plan. The best candidate wins the election. Good presidents lay out their agenda and attempt to sway congress. The public is already convinced - we elected him. Successful presidents accomplish those plans. That is what great presidents do. If there was ever a candidate elected with a truckload of mandates to accomplish, Barack Obama is it. It's that simple. Okay, it's not that simple. But Bachmann went on to call this kind of selfless duty and career sacrifice to accomplish goals as "radical." Pat Robertson agreed saying that kind of mindset is "dangerous."

Watch Bachmann interview here.

The video below contains only about half of Beck's Wednesday circus act. They cut the part where he explained Obama is in 24/7 campaign mode - thereby contradicting everything he said during the first half of the show.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Maddow: Peace Laureate Escalates War In Afghanistan

This I thought is an excellent presentation from Rachel Maddow in almost every respect - from the war hero Bush to the daffy Palin to the Peace Prize winner Obama. The ill-conceived pre-emptive first-strike doctrine and the continuous global wars appear to be handed down from one president to the next along with a cynical disregard for nation sovereignty - Obama looks more like his predecessor as each month passes.

Despite all the talk now about Obama breaking a promise to end the war (message mostly from Republicans), while on the campaign trail in July of 2008, he said that Afghanistan and not Iraq should have been the primary focus in the war against terror, and called for sending thousands more US troops to Afghanistan. Excerpt:
In what is being billed as a major policy speech, Obama declared this morning that if elected president, he would redirect attention and US forces to Afghanistan.
As far as that goes - it's promises kept.

Response from Wisconsin Democrats On Obama Troop Build-up

Senator Russ Feingold:
I do not support the president’s decision to send additional troops to fight a war in Afghanistan that is no longer in our national security interest. It’s an expensive gamble to undertake armed nation-building on behalf of a corrupt government of questionable legitimacy. Sending more troops could further destabilize Afghanistan and, more importantly, Pakistan, a nuclear-armed state where al Qaeda is headquartered. While I appreciate that the president made clear we won’t be in Afghanistan forever, I am disappointed by his decision not to offer a timetable for ending our military presence there. I will work with members of both parties and both houses of Congress to push for a flexible timetable to reduce our troop levels in Afghanistan, as part of a comprehensive strategy to combat al Qaeda in the region and around the world.

Representative Tammy Baldwin:
“In 2001, I voted to authorize the use of force to bring to justice those responsible for the 9/11 terrorist attacks. I believe our current actions in Afghanistan and President Obama’s proposal for moving forward bear little resemblance to that original, narrowly-focused mission. I cannot endorse a military surge in Afghanistan and Pakistan. It’s time for our troops to come home.”

Potential Congressional Candidate Paulette Garin:
(Garin was a 2008 Democratic Candidate for Congress (WI-01) and contemplates a 2010 run.)
President Obama’s authorization to send another 30,000-plus troops to Afghanistan is clearly a move in the wrong direction. Our involvement in Afghanistan has been morally suspect and legally questionable from its inception. Who are we fighting? Al-Qaeda? The Taliban? What are we fighting for? The War on Terror? Protect President Karzai and a government of doubtful credibility?

We have placed our troops and our treasure in an un-winnable conflict at a cost of almost $1Million dollars per soldier per year. Too many lives have been lost on all sides struggling to endure this conflict. Our continued involvement is economically unsustainable. We cannot allow Afghanistan to become the next Vietnam . There is no military solution in Afghanistan . Our military has served us well--but to no avail--please bring them home to their families.

President Barack Obama said in his inaugural address, "your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy." Therefore, our efforts in Afghanistan should be focused on a political solution and increased humanitarian aid.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Dead Bin Laden Of No Use To War Profiteers

According to a Senate Report released last week, Osama bin Laden was within reach of U.S. troops in the mountains of Tora Bora when Bush Administration officials made the crucial decision not to pursue the terrorist leader.
Yahoo Excerpt:
The report asserts that the failure to kill or capture bin Laden at his most vulnerable in December 2001 has had lasting consequences beyond the fate of one man.
Also, around the same time...
Cheney's Halliburton Makes A Killing Excerpt:
In December 2001, Kellogg, Brown and Root, a subsidiary of Halliburton, secured a 10-year deal known as the Logistics Civil Augmentation Program (LOGCAP), from the Pentagon. The contract is a "cost-plus-award-fee, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity service" which basically means that the federal government has an open-ended mandate and budget to send Brown and Root anywhere in the world to run military operations for a profit.
Barring a catastrophe, it's a safe bet the wars will be winding down by the end of 2011, regardless of who's president. Even Nostradamus didn't have this easy.

But whether Bin Laden was dead or alive, George W. Bush made sure Americans continued to feel the phantom terror throughout his presidency. I never thought Bush intentionally let Bin Laden get away like some folks insisted Bill Clinton did, but back in 2006 after Bush referred to Bin Laden in the past tense during a speech, I certainly felt there was enough evidence to think that he deliberately kept Bin Laden's legacy alive to keep the war fires burning.

In this youtube video, Rep. Maurice Hinchey (NY-D) intuitively connects the dots and claims the Bush Administration deliberately let Bin Laden go to justify the war in Iraq. Few can deny the premise back then, that if Bin Laden were captured or killed at that crucial time immediately following 9/11, Bush would have had a very difficult time convincing the American public of the need to invade Iraq. It can also be said that the "uranium out of Africa" threat was a Plan B standby fabricated in case Bin Laden was "accidentally" terminated. One way or another, Bush was invading Iraq.

Instead of peeling back the layers of doubt or offering evidence to the contrary, political hacks posing as weak-minded journalists like David Shuster or Bill O'Reilly prefer to just call Rep. Hinchey a "Pin Head" or crazy. Did O'Reilly wonder how Bush Administration officials would react to Hinchey's assertions or ask why they failed to get Bin Laden when he was most vulnerable? When a member from the Council on Foreign Relations made the same assertion (failure to get Bin Laden) against Bill Clinton in 2001, O'Reilly had nothing but questions for the Clintonoids.

In hindsight, the Senate Report is just another small piece of evidence to consider why Bin Laden got away during Bush's presidency. Few people are asking the right questions because there is too much money still to be made.