One Wisconsin Now Blog

September 2009 Archives

I attended a Town Hall meeting recently on the state's new domestic partnership benefits for same-sex couples, mostly out of curiosity. At worst, I hoped that Rep. Jon Richards would not become another Democrat to have his meeting hijacked by opponents angry that he supports health insurance reform. At best, I figured at least a few people would attend. I discovered in talking to friends this summer that a surprising number of people aren't aware of the benefits, mostly because the easiest way to get them passed was to bury them in the state budget.

What I actually found in a meeting room at the Unitarian Universalist Church surprised me: A room full of gays and lesbians from their mid-20's to early 70s. So many arrived in fact, that one elderly organizer was dispatched for a few extra folding chairs.
National polling devotees have been following an exploding scandal with the Atlanta (well, Georgia)-based Strategic Vision, a firm who's "research" consistently pops up at opportune times for Republicans, offering encouraging polling numbers for Republicans clawing against the falling sand of a collapsing Republican oligarchy.

First, they were smacked down by the American Association of Public Opinion Research for polls in Wisconsin, because of its refusal to disclose who was paying for polls or its methods.
I happened across a recent In Business column from Madison real estate mogul Terrence Wall. Using a personal anecdote about his and his father’s experience with the health care system in France, Wall lambasts any notion of a governmental role in health care in the U.S.. He flatly ignores the failures of the private health insurance system with his reliance on mischaracterizations and misinformation.

Using typical back-of-the-envelope, context-free math, the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute’s is claiming that since the cost of the extraordinarily successful bipartisan BadgerCare program has increased since it was created, that we shouldn’t have federal health insurance reform that includes a public option to end the stranglehold insurance companies have on our entire nation.


(h/t for graphic Whallah)

The “evidence”? BadgerCare spending has gone from (using WPRI's numbers) $205.6 million in 2004 to...$194.4 million in 2006. A more-than five percent reduction.

JV Teabaggers get PR space in Journal Sentinel

Guess what? A group that props up Republicans is running an ad that sugar coats Scott Walker’s fee-raising, credit-card financed Milwaukee County budget. Hardly news. Unless you’re the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, who felt the need to provide Citizens for Responsible Government 571 words to expound about the “virtues” of Walker’s budget that attacks county workers, unions, public services, borrows massively, relies on federal stimulus that he was against before he was for it, and raises all sorts of fees.

 Not once was CRG identified as “conservative,” “right-leaning,” or “Republican-backing” despite the fact the goals listed on the CRG website include:

·         “Motivate fiscal conservatives to vote in increasingly larger numbers.”

·         “Organize fiscal conservatives into the most influential political force in Wisconsin.”

·         “Encourage fiscal conservatives to contribute the human and financial resources needed to grow and be successful.”

Cory Liebmann over at Eye on Wisconsin has a great examination of the reality behind the Walker budget, here are just a couple of good nuggets:

Polluters and Energy Companies vs. Wisconsin Values

Two new polls out this morning that paint a very different picture of Wisconsinites’ attitudes toward state policy to curb climate change and help bring about a new green economy in Wisconsin. First, one from the Forest County Potawatomi Community which shows an “overwhelming majority” of voters – 70% --  in Wisconsin support the state taking action to curb carbon emissions. Additionally, voters from across the political spectrum support action to reduce emissions: 53% of Republicans, 67% of independents and 87% of Democrats.

The Potawatomi poll also touches on an important part of the climate change debate that conservatives often leave out: the move toward renewable energy will create new manufacturing and technology jobs in the state.

Moralist Crusader Nass Familiar with the Legal System

As the one of the state’s foremost moral crusaders, Rep. Steve Nass (R-Whitewater) is thundering about the need to expel Rep. Jeff Wood (Not an R-Chippewa Falls) from the legislature because of the former-Republican’s run-ins with the law related to operating a vehicle while intoxicated. On the most recent charge, Wood has so far only been charged with inattentive driving and his blood-alcohol level was 0.0.

According to a statement from his office, Wood said, “As many of you know I have struggled with alcoholism for most of my adult life. This past summer I checked myself into an outpatient drug and alcohol treatment program, which I am still enrolled in. I have been taking medication prescribed to me by my doctor to treat anxiety. Due to recent events I have checked myself into the inpatient AODA program at the VA Hospital in Minneapolis.”
The decline in (or complete lack of) standards for news media coverage of political polling in recent years has been hard to watch.

There was a time when newspapers like the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel would not report on a poll unless it had the entire poll, rather than partial or selective results that are strategically released or leaked to try to shape news coverage of a campaign. The Milwaukee paper would do its own polling.

But those days are long gone. In recent years, as we've repeatedly complained, media outlets will report on any poll, from any source, and treat them all as though they are equally valid.

One firm that has raised a lot of questions from political practitioners -- but, unfortunately, not from the media -- is Strategic Vision, a Republican strategy firm based in Atlanta (and, it claimed, in Madison). Strategic Vision has released all sorts of polls in Wisconsin in the last few years, all eagerly reported by the news media.

Now, all sorts of questions have been raised nationally about whether the firm even does polling, or simply releases numbers without making any phone calls. It's not the first time those questions have been asked, but they are being taken much more seriously.

The American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) found that Strategic Vision ..."repeatedly refused to release essential facts about polls it published prior to the 2008 presidential primaries in New Hampshire and Wisconsin. The AAPOR Executive Council announced today that this nondisclosure by Strategic Vision LLC was inconsistent with the association's Code of Professional Ethics and Practices. and contrary to basic principles of scientific research."

Ben Smith at Politico:

Details of Strategic Visions polls have long raised flags among pollsters, in part because it refuses -- unlike other pollsters -- to release "cross-tabs" -- the detailed demographic breakdowns of individual polls. A source noted other anomalies to me today. One is that the pollster always reports having called a round number of respondents -- unusual in an industry that typically uses large call centers and winds up -- as casual poll readers know -- with uneven numbers of calls.

Another question is how the firm pays for its polls. Its website lists at least 172 public polls, and at a stated cost of $30,000 a poll, that's an expenditure of more than $5 million -- quite a sum for a small firm.

A third question has to do with the firm's offices. Its website, as recently as last month, listed offices in Atlanta, Madison, Seattle, and Tallahassee -- all of which match the locations of UPS stores, rather than actual offices. The addresses are now gone from the site entirely, though it now also lists a Dallas presence.

Nate Silver, the numerical genius who emerged during the 2008 campaign, at his website, 538, says an analysis he's run of expected results indicate:
One of the questions, in light of Strategic Vision LLC's repeated failure to disclose even basic details about its polling methodology, is whether the firm is in fact conducting polling at all, or rather, is creating fake but plausible-looking results in order to increase traffic and attention to its core business as a PR and literary firm.

I posed that question largely as a hypothetical yesterday. But today, I pose it much more literally. Certain statistical properties of the results reported by Strategic Vision, LLC suggest, perhaps strongly, the possibility of fraud, although they certainly do not prove it and further investigation will be required.

In the interest of saying "I told you so," a couple of entries from my old blog, The Xoff files:
20 Sep 2006 by Xoff: Strategic Vision, the Republican polling firm that many dems think cooks the books -- or doesn't even interview anybody -- has new poll results that show Gov. Jim Doyle leading Congressman Mark Green 46%-42% in the governor's race. Link

8 Mar 2006 by Xoff: Question: who's paying for these? Strategic Vision isn't doing it out of curiosity. knowing who's paying the bill would help put it in some perspective. and, yes, the same is true of others that show up from time to time. Link

Friday, August 18, 2006 by xoff: Republicans are touting a Strategic Vision poll today showing the guv's race a dead heat, finding that more believable than one done for WISC-TV which has Gov. Jim Doyle leading Congressman Mark Green 48-38. There is some doubt among Democrats that Strategic Vision even makes any phone calls, since no one has ever seen any cross-tabs. Having it show up 12 hours after a public poll that has Doyle 10 points up makes it even more suspect. It's just a little too convenient. Link

Unfortunately, Wisconsin's biggest newspaper, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, has relied heavily on Strategic vision as a source for polling numbers. A search for "strategic vision" in the JS archives turns up 81 stories. Craig Gilbert of the paper's Washington bureau consistently used Strategic Vision numbers in stories about the 2008 presidential race.

In 2006, the week before the Doyle-Green election for governor, Gilbert wrote:

There have been at least 24 independent polls in the race for governor this year.

The good news for Democrat Jim Doyle is that he has trailed in only one.

The bad news is that his support has reached 50% -- the comfort level for incumbents -- in only one.

The bad news for readers is that the newspaper made no attempt to sort out or identify which of those 24 polls might be more credible than the others. It chose to simply report them all as equally valid, doing readers a real disservice.

As news coverage of the 2010 governor's race begins, you probably won't see Strategic vision in the mix. While that would be an improvement, what's really needed are some standards for which polls get reported and which don't. All polls are not created equal, and many others which get reported are amateurish and questionable, if not fraudulent.

But with shrinking newspaper staffs and budgets, don't look for a lot of improvement in coverage. Let the buyers and the voters beware.

This week the Senate environment committee is expected to unveil its version of clean energy and climate legislation. One thing we can be fairly sure of even without seeing it is that it will not do as much as scientists tell us we need to in order to avoid the worst impacts of global warming. Equally likely, it wont be as bold as it could be to truly unleash the clean energy potential this nation has. Yet, as long as it fixes a couple of key weaknesses coming over from the House version, Im ready to give it my support and work hard to see it passed.

Quite the contradiction -- especially when it is literally the planet that is at stake.

This wouldnt be my position if I believed we were stuck with this bill forever, or if it headed us in the wrong direction. But as I see it, this is the start, not the end, of federal action to limit global warming pollution. And with the science getting clearer almost every day, we have no time to waste. Its time to stop setting the stage and start the show.

Much like the conservative Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance, the DC-based Tax Foundation pushes out pro-conservative tax propaganda, but its rarely also identified by its conservative ideology.


This fantasy of non-ideology is foisted on media consumers despite overwhelming evidence both groups are pushing an ideologically-conservative agenda – that everyone is always paying too much in taxes. Rarely, does either note that the tax rates for rich people have plummeted, the shelters where the store money away from tax obligation ever-growing and that quality of life requires investment in infrastructure.


Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce must distance itself from health insurance giant Humana and remove its representative from its board of directors after Humana used its Medicare patient list to lobby seniors against health insurance reform.

Larry Rambo, Great Lakes Region CEO of Humana is a current board member of WMC. According to figures compiled by One Wisconsin Now’s WMC Watch, Rambo is among the board’s most active political givers, having made dozens of contributions to Wisconsin political candidates and elected officials totaling in excess of $46,000.

In its haste to criticize Rep. Ron Kind, the Republican Party of Wisconsin showed it's always got time to dump on the people of Wisconsin.

As part of a quickly distributed press release, GOP head and Michael Steele lackey Reince Priebus refers to Wisconsin as among the "worst states to do business."

I fully intended on showing up last night at an Oconomowoc country club to hear Leah Vukmir talk about “current and proposed legislation affecting Wisconsin health care and insurance”. If not for my squawking eight-month old baby boy, I’d have had a listen.

Vukmir, herself a state rep eligible for taxpayer funded health insurance, has made very clear her support for private health insurance industry solutions to the rising costs of private health insurance.

According to this Office of Justice Assistance report, 415,543 arrests were made in 2008, equivalent to roughly 7% of Wisconsin's 5.6 million population. About 100,000 of those arrests were of juveniles.

Based on legislation proposed by Reps. Sheila Harsdorf and Ann Hraychuck, law enforcement officials would be required to collect DNA at every one of these arrests.

Here are some of the crimes that one can be arrested for that Harsdorf and Hraychuck would require DNA collection for: murder, rape, robbery aggravated assault, arson, drug possession and sale.

So far, so good. These all are crimes that you would expect DNA to be useful in helping to convict or exonerate the person arrested.

Here are some more crimes that law enforcement would be required to collect DNA upon arrest: forgery, fraud, vandalism, weapon law violation, gambling, DWI, liquor law violations, disorderly conduct, vagrancy, family offenses, runaways.

Hmm. Your 15 year old gets busted for cutting class or staying out too late and breaking your town's curfew and suddenly the state's collecting her DNA. Or you get into an argument with your neighbor, someone calls the cops, and you're required to provide DNA. Or you're driving home after happy hour and get pulled over for speeding. Suddenly you're being booked for drunk driving and giving a DNA sample.

Setting aside the fact that this is an unnecessary privacy violation, the sheer volume of collecting and managing these samples poses serious financial and staffing challenges.

Van Hollen's DOJ couldn't keep track of all the DNA samples they currently have. How are they going to manage over 400,000 samples? Can the WI crime labs even handle such a volume?

I can see police, DOJ and crime lab budgets growing as I write.

I guess this is good news for those seeking jobs in law enforcement. Not so good news for tax payers.

Last week, executives at private health insurance giant WellPoint [aka Blue Cross Blue Shield] announced to investors at the Morgan Stanley Global Helathcare Conference that “cash flow is very positive right now…and reserves are coming in better that expected at this point. So things look pretty good.”

Well of course they are! WellPoint in the biggest private health insurance corporation in America. Just how good is the cash flow? Well, WellPoint’s CEO Angela Braly made almost $10 million in 2008, including a $1.7 million raise from her 2007 salary (while the world economy crumbled…). WellPoint’s profits are soaring this year – in the first quarter of 2009, while more than 10,000 Americans died due to lack of health insurance, WellPoint raked in $611.97 million in profits, more than doubling the $295 million in profits it made during the first quarter last year. Now there’s some change teabaggers can believe in.

What's worse - fake pimps or real sexual assault?

Last week, Fox News zombi... er, viewers were treated to an apparent expose of workers at ACORN giving advice and assistance to conservative activists claiming to be a pimp and prostitute. Of course, Fox took liberties with the facts, claiming the pair was never kicked out of the ACORN offices they visited (they were, police reports were filed, too) and pushing an allegation that one of the ACORN workers killed her husband (she didn’t).

Beck, Hannity, Fox and Friends, and the usual cast of conservatives immediately started the drum-beat to strip federal funding for ACORN, and right on cue, Congress approved a measure to deny federal funding to the group.  Of course, Wisconsin’s resident right-wing bloviators jumped on the chance to score cheap political points – Sen. Ted Kanavas (R-Brookfield, but wishes it were Texas) and Rep. Bill Kramer (R-Waukesha) demanded state agencies report about any state contracts with ACORN. Then this morning, the Wisconsin State Journal skewered US Rep. Tammy Baldwin for voting against the bill to de-fund ACORN.  They cite ACORN’s IRS problems and the alleged voter registration fraud (which doesn’t matter ‘cause Mickey Mouse doesn’t vote!!)  as reasons why the organization should be stripped of its paltry $53 million in federal funding since 1994 – that’s a whopping $3.5 million a year.

Sigh.

What about $5.73 billion? -- that’s 1449 times as much, just fyi -- That’s how much Halliburton and its subsidiary KBR took from US taxpayers from 2003-2006 for reconstruction in Iraq. Yet when it was revealed that a contractor for KBR in Iraq was gang raped by her co-workers in Iraq, did the Wisconsin State Journal or Fox News or Glenn Beck or conservatives leaders fall all over themselves to stop the taxpayer-financed gravy train to Halliburton? No. 

In one breath Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clark is calling for tax cuts and a smaller government and in the next he's calling for the collection of DNA before a person is even charged with a crime.

More from the Illusory Tenant here.

So all those drunk frat boys, high school pickpockets, trespassers and happy hour goers who drive home better make sure they don't get caught. Whether they're guilty or not, their DNA will belong to the government if Sheriff Clark gets his way.

Tiresome Non-Plumber Comin' to Milwaukee!

At this weekend's GOP gaggle organized by Americans (read: Republicans) for Prospertity otherwise known as the "Republican Rally for Failure" in Milwaukee, our fine state will be treated by another visit from so-called Joe the Plumber, nee Samuel Wurzelbacher.



We all remember him from his "impromptu" ambush of then-candidate Barack Obama to his work as a war correspondent where he said the "I think the media should be abolished from, uh, you know, reporting," to his inability to explain the Employee Free Choice Act at an anti-EFCA appearance, Wurzelbacher has proven his intention to serve as a dull acid reflux to the body politic.

WauwatosaNOW has reported that Wauwatosa School District Superintendent Phil Ertl has admitted he was wrong to prevent students from viewing last week’s live broadcast of President Obama's education speech.

Sen. Max Baucus had a clear choice -- the American people or the health insurance industry.

 

As head of the Senate Finance Committee working on one of the most important issues of our lifetime, his choice was real health insurance reform that ends the stranglehold insurance companies have on us, or selling out to the health industry, which has given him $4 million in campaign cash.

Wisconsin Judicial Commission Head to Gableman: You Lie

At today’s hearing before the three-judge ethics panel convened to determine whether Supreme Court Justice Mike Gableman should be disciplined over a false (and racist) campaign ad he launched against then-Justice Louis Butler, the head of the Wisconsin Judicial Commission summed up Gableman’s notorious ad:

"Let's say what it is - it's a lie," James Alexander said.

Hate on parade in our nation's capital

The story on the 9/12 tea festival in DC is a few days old now, but I'd be remiss if I didn't post something, anything, on the fear-based, hate-fueled ignorance that came out of our nation's capital over the weekend.

Will enough ever be enough for corporate piranhas and their lackeys in the conservative caucuses at the State Capitol? Apparently not for Randy Hopper, whose column in the Oshkosh Northwestern this weekend calls for even more taxpayer financed gifts to corporate interests. Seriously.


According to Randy Hopper what Wisconsin really needs to do is levy more taxes on regular folks so we can give that money to corporations. Then, Hopper says, we should change the rules so corporations dont have to pay their fair share of taxes back to the state. Once we give the corporations all of our money, the next thing Hopper wants is to get rid of those pesky regulations that put employersout of business.


Maybe Im missing something, but have we not spent the entire summer listening to unhinged teabaggers and their enablers like Robin Vos, Randy Hopper and other conservative public figures practically soil themselves because theyre just SO UPSET about government intervention in the marketplace? So what exactly is Hopper talking about here -- government subsidies for businesses? Shouldnt the all-powerful free market be able to sustain corporations without a hand-out to from the taxpayers? I guess Randy Hopper doesnt think so.

Peacemakers honored for lifetimes of work

Two Madison college professors with religious backgrounds, who have worked tirelessly to change the world, will be honored for their lifetimes of activism on Oct. 3 by the Wisconsin Network for Peace and Justice (WNPJ), a statewide network of 170 organizations working for social change.


Joe Elder, a Quaker peace activist who is a University of Wisconsin professor of sociology and Asian studies, and Esther Heffernan, O. P., a Dominican nun who is emerita professor of social science at Edgewood College, and a widely respected leader on prison reform and criminal justice issues, will receive Lifetime Achievement Awards at a reception following WNPJs annual fall assembly at the Goodman Community Center in Madison.


Seven others will be honored with Peacemakers of the Year awards. Two veterans, Iraq veteran Jason Moon, of Milwaukee, and Vietnam veteran Will Williams, of DeForest, won in the adult category.  Senior citizen winners are Elaine Kinch of the Racine Coalition for Peace and Justice and Don Hoffman of Rapids Citizens for Peace in Wisconsin Rapids. Youth awards will go to Dartanian Lewis of Milwaukee and Josh Bartz and Jannett Arenas, both of Madison, for volunteer work with WNPJ member organizations.


Esther Heffernan, 80, began her lifelong social activism in the 1940s as a University of Chicago student working for interracial justice.  She describes her research in a Washington, DC womens prison as life-changing.  It resulted in, Making It in Prison: The Square, the Cool and The Life, published in 1972, a book considered a seminal work in the field, which continues to serve as a resource to those who set corrections policy.


Her promise to the women in the Washington, DC prison to make their lives visible to others has shaped her deep involvement in criminal justice reform over the last several decades, especially on issues of women in prison and rehabilitation upon their release.


She is currently chair of the Task Force on Money, Education and Prisons, seeking change in Wisconsins criminal justice system; a board member of Family Connections that brings children monthly to visit their mothers at Taycheedah Correctional Facility; and a member of the Dane County Task Forces on Disproportionate Juvenile Minority Confinement and on Racial Discrimination in the Criminal Justice System.


Joe Elder, 79, informed his draft board during the Korean war that he would go to jail rather than be inducted. Two years later he became a Quaker. With other Quakers, he has carried secret messages between authorities in conflict in India and Pakistan; North Vietnam and Washington; North Korea and Washington; and Tamil Tiger militants and the government of Sri Lanka. 


During the Vietnam War, he delivered medical supplies a hospital in Hanoi, and after the war helped organize Madison Quakers, Inc. which has built a peace park and a school in My Lai, and provides micro-loans to village and ethnic women in Vietnam.


Deeply committed to internationalism, as a UW professor in Sociology and Languages and Cultures of Asia he has encouraged countless students to broaden their horizons, learn languages and live and study in other countries.  He has long served on Wisconsin's Governor's Commission on the United Nations.


Elder, also committed to inter-faith dialogue, in 1995 was one of the founders of the International Committee for the Peace Council that includes Nobel Peace Prize Laureates Mairead Maguire and the Dalai Lama. During the past decade the Peace Council has met in world trouble spots such as Chiapas and Jerusalem to listen, learn and provide an interfaith presence.


Peacemaker of the Year winners:


Jason Moon, 35, is a leader in Milwaukees chapter of Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW), Veterans for Peace (VFP) and the board of VFPs Homeless Veterans Initiative to find and assist homeless veterans in the Milwaukee area.  He testified at the national Winter Soldier hearings in 2008, at which Iraq and Afghanistan veterans told of their experiences.


Will Williams, 65, a member of Madisons Veterans for Peace chapter, uses his own experience in Vietnam to speak and counsel young people about the realities of military service and challenge promises of recruiters.  He has spoken across the state, linking peace, prison reform, and immigrant rights.  


Elaine Kinch, 70, Elaine was one of the founders of the Racine Coalition for Peace and Justice, and a member of the Central America Solidarity Coalition..She has traveled on peace missions to Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Chiapas and last winter to the Middle East, where she lived with a Palestinian family in Israel and helped harvest olives, to learn more about the situation there.


Don Hoffman, 70, a retired probation and parole officer, became a leader of Rapids Citizens for Peace in 2006, establishing monthly peace vigils on the bridge in Wisconsin Rapids.  .One of his projects was to get Democracy Now! on a local cable television station.


Dartanian Lewis, 13, a student at Blessed Savior Catholic School in Milwaukee, has been volunteering at Casa Maria Catholic Worker house for homeless families.  He has worked on a wide range of social justice issues " peace, worker rights, firearms violence, medical supplies for Cuba, protection of the rainforests, and help for Darfur. He sells fair trade chocolate at churches and events to raise money for those projects. 


Josh Bartz, 28, a board member of OutReach, Madisons lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community center, created a program (OutThere) to address the need for youth programming and social and support opportunities for LGBT people ages 18-24. It has become  a weekly program of outings, games, discussion groups and movie nights.


Jannett Arenas, 22, a Madison Area Technical College and UW-Madison student, is a co-founder and organizer for Alcance, a student organization focused on supporting access to higher education for Madison area Latino youth.  She has helped to build the Madison Chapter of Voces de la Frontera, working on immigrant rights issues of in-state tuition, drivers cards, and the national DREAM Act to provide undocumented students a path to citizenship. 


The Peacemakers of the Year presentations will be at 3:15 p.m. on Oct. 3 at Goodman Community Center, 149 Waubesa St., Madison, at the conclusion of WNPJs annual Fall Assembly, which begins at 10 a.m.  A special reception to honor Joe Elder and Esther Heffernan will be held from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the same location, with speakers and music and Capital Times columnist John Nichols as emcee.  All events are open to the public.


 

What the WI Hospital Association wants you to think

The Wisconsin Hospital Association is misleading Wisconsin residents concerned about real health insurance reform with some recent ads. It wants you to think happy thoughts about the state of health insurance in Wisconsin and casts a dark shadow over health insurance reform efforts.

Corporate choke hold pays off for Mercury Marine

So that happened.


Union workers at Mercury Marine voted to accept the stunning contract offer from management at Brunswick. Workers at the plant in Fond du Lac were given two basic choices " as one union guy put it " cut off your leg, and accept a seven-year pay freeze, or cut off your head, and reject the ridiculous contract and let Merc move operation to a non-union plant in Stillwater, Oklahoma. At least if youre missing a leg, youve still got a chance.


Turns out the unions arent the only ones that have to make sacrifices at the altar of corporate greed. Every resident and visitor to Fond du Lac County has to chip in to pay a bounty to Merc Marine in the form of a first-ever sales tax for the county. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Fond du Lac County will make up to $50 million available to Merc in the form of low-interest loans.


Its hard to argue with the impact Merc Marines departure would have had on Fond du Lac. The FDL Economic Development Corp. says almost 6,000 jobs in the county are directly or indirectly impacted by Merc and the boating giant does business with about 250 county vendors . So if Merc goes, Fondy becomes the next Flint, Michigan.

WISTAX out to scare schools, public

The conservative Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance issued a release yesterday regarding their recent report titled, “State budget woes mean school, taxpayer problems” that’ll probably scare the bejesus out of, well, schools and taxpayers.

Fighting Bob Fest is this weekend, but some are joking that when it comes to the speaking program, Generations X, Y and the Millennials are expected to be like Buster Bluth at the Milford Academy: Neither seen nor heard.


 

A quick glance of the lengthy speaking program shows what looks like only one speaker under the age of 40.

Obama 2 - Louisiana GOPers Zilch

GOPer Charles Boustany had the awesome job of following President Barack Obama's historic clarion call to end the stranglehold health insurance companies have on the nation. Boustany, like Gov. Bobby Jindal last year,  was dispatched to offer the marginalized Party of No's latest no.

Boustany, bought and paid for with $1.25 million in health and insurance interests, shared the Republican idea for health insurance reform: less accountability to the public. Clearly, he wasn't as big of an ass of Rep. Joe Wilson (R-South Carolina), who shouted "you lie" and will become extremely famous for a few weeks as the poster child for just how out of touch Congressional Republicans have become.

Neo-birther Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Bucket-of-Dumb) was unable to have President Barack Hussein Osama arrested tonight either for being a non-America Kenyaner, or for being a known "black."

Emboldened, the President briefly praised Allah, and called for the Democratic-controlled Congress to pass health insurance reform, goddamn it.

A very narrow interpretation of JB's openness

Apparently the editorial board of the Wisconsin State Journal hasn’t made an open records request of Atty General J.B. Van Hollen recently. If they had, they might not be giving Van Hollen such a high grade.

Having made several records requests of Van Hollen’s office, we have found him to less than forthcoming with information, following a very narrow interpretation of what constitutes “open record.” Citing all sorts of exemptions, privileged information and exclusions, records requests come out of Van Hollen’s office with as many holes as a piece of Swiss cheese.

The WSJ editors might have at least asked reporters around town who have submitted a request to Van Hollen if they felt they got all of the information they were interested in – my guess is they did not.

But it’s great Van Hollen is traveling around the state campaigning on the public dime hosting these seminars to educate record-keepers and public on what they have a right to know. 
The nation can rest easier knowing that at long last, someone is being held to task for the myriad failures and incompetence that led to the attack against America on September 11, 2001.

Take that, Van Jones. Take that and put it in your Al Qaeda pipe.

Van Jones, a White House environmental staffer, quote-unquote resigned this past weekend after Republicans howled about a petition he signed in 2004 saying the Bush administration “may indeed have deliberately allowed 9/11 to happen, perhaps as a pretext for war.”

The first part of that statement about “deliberately allowed 9/11 to happen” is bogus. But the sentiment behind the second part is 100 percent correct.

Robert Cowles, R-Green Bay, was first elected to the Assembly in 1982, and moved up to the State Senate in 1987. Since 1982, Robert Cowles has been feeding at the trough of taxpayer dollars. We have paid his salary and paid for his Cadillac health care coverage (which he refuses to extend to the rest of us). We give him money every day the legislature is in session for a hotel room and for meals. We pay the salary of his entire staff.

How much has Robert Cowles cost the taxpayers of Wisconsin during his entirely indistinguished legislative career? Well, his salary is about $50,000 a year – just taking that the cost to taxpayers has been $1.25 million. That’s just him, not even his staff! $1.25 million.

One additional thing taxpayers provide to legislators is road maps legislators can give out to their constituents. I used to work in the Capitol and constituents truly enjoy getting a road map. I still request one every couple of years. Maps are cheap. Over the last five years, the map service has cost about $190,000, $60,0000 less than Robert Cowles salary for doing nothing over the same time period.

So of course, I was surprised when I read the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel this morning and saw Robert Cowles’ comments calling the maps “an egregious waste of money.”  I mean come on. If $190,000 is such a waste of money, has Senator Cowles offered to pay back his per diem of $88 for every day the legislature is in session? Cowles then parrots the same old tired GOPer talking point: “Why should legislators be competing with the private sector?” he says. Good question. That’s why Robert Cowles should be the first legislator to give up the taxpayer-financed health care he and his family enjoys.



[]UPDATE] According to research from our crack investigative team, Robert Cowles took $6,424 dollars in per diem in 2008, $9,856 in 2007 and $5,368 in 2006, of which $0 he has offered to pay back. Wouldn't it be nice if all of us lowly taxpayers could get paid to drive to work everyday like Robert Cowles?

The number of seniors living in poverty is perhaps double what has been reported by the government in the past, due in part because the rising costs of medical care haven't been included in a senior's living expenses:
The National Academy of Science's formula, which is gaining credibility with public officials including some in the Obama administration, would put the poverty rate for Americans 65 and over at 18.6 percent, or 6.8 million people, compared with 9.7 percent, or 3.6 million people, under the existing measure. The original government formula, created in 1955, doesn't take account of rising costs of medical care and other factors.

"It's a hidden problem," said Robin Talbert, president of the AARP Foundation, which provides job training and support to low-income seniors and is backing legislation that would adopt the NAS formula. "There are still many millions of older people on the edge, who don't have what they need to get by."
Can you imagine what the poverty rate among seniors would be if Republicans (and John Stossel) were successful in eliminating “socialist” Medicare and Social Security programs?

One Wisconsin Now Takes to the Air

Americans Republicans for Prosperity had a shindig in Miller Park this weekend to celebrate its recent “Republican Rallies for Failure,” which brought in corporate-shill John Stossel to join with Republicans in criticizing President Obama.

One Wisconsin Now decided to give them a proper greeting, and so “above the filter,” we offered the following:

http://www.youtube.com/onewisconsinnow

It's common knowledge that non-profit organizations can't endorse political candidates, to everyone except Americans for Prosperity's executive director Mark Block, that is.

Block, who in 2000 was fined $15,000 and banned from volunteering or working on political campaigns for 4 years, has raised new questions about activities being conducted by his organization. According to the Wausau Daily Herald:

There's some question, though, about the event's treatment of political candidates. The group originally invited U.S. Rep. Dave Obey, D-Wausau, and Republican challenger Ashland County District Attorney Sean Duffy to be guest speakers. Former Obey challenger Dan Mielke, who is vying against Duffy, was not invited.

Block denied that the exclusion was an endorsement of Duffy, but could not offer an explanation. He said the "format" of the event was going to change after Obey declined to attend.

Mielke said he suspects the event is an effort to marginalize him in the election. Duffy said he has no ties to the group but wanted to "take any opportunity" to discuss health care before finding out Friday AFP was rescinding the invitation to speak.

Over the weekend, corporate leadership at Brunswick, the owner of Mercury Marine, proved beyond any doubt that not only were they negotiating in bad faith, they were never planning on keeping the plant in Fond du Lac. And once again, working families in Wisconsin get left in the dust in the race to bottom that is corporate America.

The concessions corporate management demanded of union workers were breathtaking --  a wage freeze for seven years and a 30% pay cut for new hires and re-hires of employees previously laid off. Brunswick CEO Dustin McCoy makes $3.28 million per year. He didn’t offer to take a seven-year pay freeze or a pay cut of any kind. The union voted against the ridiculous concessions, but the mere fact management even offered this package is proof Merc had a foot out the door even before the vote. I can practically hear the Board of Directors now – “Well, if the union is dumb enough to accept this package, I guess we’ll stay…”