Let Us Be Frank About Mark Green

Yesterday the State Elections Board ordered Mark Green, GOP candidate for Wisconsin Governor to return $468,000 of political action committee campaign contributions.  As a Congressman he was raking in large amounts of cash to his federal fund, and then converted it all to his state race.  That is not allowed here, in the fashion his campaign did it.  But the brash son-of-a-bitch says his campaign will not give back any of the money.  I think this was a dreadful mistake for the Green campaign as it takes them off their self-created shaky mantle of being high-minded and ethical.  The Green campaign just got in the same ethical ditch that Doyle lives in and can no longer claim to be better in any way.

The State Elections Board must act decisively and sue for the money. Any action less than that is a mockery of the system.  The voters should be outraged over the level of corruption and the defiant mood of those who get their ass caught in the wringer.

And yes, I am talking about BOTH Scott Jensen and Chuck Chvala, to name but two scoundrels.

The Political Landscape Of Wisconsin

It is almost a trite comment, but in the Badger State this November it is all about turnout, turnout, turnout. With red meat issues on the ballot due to the Republican’s fixation on healthy gay relationships and the death penalty the outcome on Election day is very much in doubt.

The GOP controlled State Legislature placed the marriage ban on the ballot to increase the desire of conservatives to come out and vote.  Problem is they passed a stinker of a referendum that not only echos existing law in State Statutes (that is the crass hateful politics of the matter) but also outlaws civil unions and creates real potential difficulties regarding legal protections for any unmarried couples in Wisconsin. (I plan several pieces on this matter as we head to Election Day.)

The death penalty also found its way to the fall ballot.  Nothing excites the pro-life conservatives and the right-wing like a good ole killing at state expense.  The fabric of our state is shredding and becoming callous and cold as the result of the GOP led Legislature.

While there is no chance for the State Assembly to change party control there is an outside chance the Democrats can wrestle control of the State Senate.  The GOP holds 11 of the 17 Senate seats up for election and roughly six of these are competitive.

One of the possible pickups for the Democratic Party is Dave Zien from the 23rd Senate District.  I used to think he was the ‘wack job” of the Wisconsin GOP until Tom Reynolds came on the scene.  But Zien gets runner-up status with his crafty style of manipulating per-diem, (the state paid more than $7,000 above what it should for his claims) grabbing every extreme right-wing idea and frothing over it while making outlandish comments.

This election his hope of running again as an ‘outsider’ will face a real test since he is now clearly an ‘insider’ as part of the Senate leadership.  Democrats have a savvy candidate n Pat Kreitlow, who has a command of English (being a TV news anchor) and seems quite bright and level headed.  It must be refreshing for the citizens of western Wisconsin to think they might have a credible person without a crazed ego trip mentality representing them in Madison.

If there is an upset it will take place in the 17th Senate District where Dale Schultz faces a tough race.  Being Majority Leader he has had to battle the more strident members of his caucus and the time he has had to shore up his position in Madison has detracted from his constituents in Western Wisconsin. 

After a spirited (to be far too polite) primary battle for Attorney General two of the four scarred candidates will emerge in mid-September.  (A personal endorsement comes on this site next week.)  Regardless of the outcome in the primary one thing has crystallized in many citizen’s minds over the past months.  That is given what the GOP offers with their candidates it is imperative that Democrats unite and support our eventual nominee. 

Yesterday the State Elections Board ordered Mark Green, GOP candidate for Governor to return $468,000 of political action committee campaign contributions.  As a Congressman he was raking in large amounts of cash to his federal fund, and then converted it all to his state race.  That is not allowed here.  But the brash son-of-a-bitch says his campaign will not give back any of the money.  I think this was a dreadful mistake for the Green campaign as it takes them off their own shaky mantle of being high-minded and ethical.  The Green campaign just got in the same ethical ditch that Doyle lives in and can no longer claim to be better in any way.

While Governor Jim Doyle is roughly 10 points ahead of  Green the race will be a nail biter as the polls close fast within weeks.  If I were advising the Governor I would urge an all out assault on Green over stem cells.  It is an issue that works across all political lines and poll after poll shows wide support for this research.

Less than 70 days to go and enough hot topics to last every minute of that time.

History In The Classroom

Between this week and next the bulk of our school age children will give up their summer time habits and take up the role of students.  Education should be a fun experience but far too often is not viewed that way by our little scholars.  If one were to ask what subject they disliked the most a huge segment would respond with history, and perhaps add that they viewed it as being all about dead people a long time ago. 

Seems a sad way to begin a school year.  But the teaching of history does not need to be boring since the topic is so very much alive (even with the deceased) and most relevant to the current generation.

I have long thought I would have made a great history teacher and offer here a few ideas about how to insure students understand the passion that comes with their subject.  First requirement is a good series of texts from which to work.  While I much agree that a good solid textbook with the dates, places, and themes is essential, the class will soon tire if not given other reading sources.  Using modern day historians and recent research found in such captivating reads as Ron Chernow’s “Hamilton” or Joseph Ellis’s “His Excellency” will allow gripping narratives to add flavor and dimension to the topics at hand.  A chapter here and there from books of this type would serve many purposes.  (I understand there are requirements about how much of a book can be used in a classroom setting but all these are able to be accommodated.)

Second, I would use people in my community to tell the story of their lives.  For instance, we still have very energetic and verbal men who fought in World War II who could enliven a discussion on how people felt about the war, being sent over-seas, and about the role they served for their generation.  Recently I ran across this wonderful narrative by a woman who in the 1930’s and early 1940’s attended “huskings’ in Maine.  In plain, down-on-the farm type writing she tells of such a night. 

“We had no electricity.  The barn floor was lit up by kerosene lanterns hanging on nails along the top of the walls.  There were benches on both sides of the long walls for people to sit on.  In the center were high piles of corn to be husked.  They had a special building called a corn crib built with vertical boards spaced apart so air could get in.  They husked the corn in bushel baskets and then they were carried to the corn crib and tossed inside.  Lots of the people had flashlights.  It was very dark outside.  It was also very cold.  I remember wearing heavy jackets when we were outside running around.  I think the husks were used later in the pig pens.  I know Daddy fed the corn on the cob to the pigs.  He also had a machine in the shed chamber that took the corn off the cob.  This corn he fed to the chickens.  He had lots of pigs.  He used to bring the babies in the house to get warm by the wood stove.  Us kids used to play with the little piglets and those little animals could really squeal. 

I guess the event was advertised by signs in the grocery stores and by word of mouth.  The participants would receive a free baked bean supper for helping husk the corn.  I remember helping my mother set the tables.  There was a long one in the summer kitchen and one in the living room.  I was probably about 10-12 years old.  I think my aunts, neighbors and friends helped my mother with the cooking.  There were lots and lots of pies.  There were tall mantle lamps sitting on the tables and folks took turns coming in to eat.  Us kids thought it was all very exciting.  I don’t know how many years they did it.”

Third I would use texts from the past to show how our country has grown and evolved.  For instance, in 1930 Professor Thomas Marshall wrote in “American History” that slaves were usually happy.  He wrote that slaves were fond of the company they kept, liked to sing, dance, and admired bright colors.  He wrote they were loyal to a kind master, never in a hurry, and always ready to put things off until “morrow.’  This type of text can be used for lots of insight and discussion on a range of issues.

Fourth, the computer has made history colorful and accessible.  Goggle Earth is but one great site where history and its ever present companion, geography, are connected and overlapped for students of all ages.  Teachers in many classrooms now have computers for students to learn from and should take advantage of every such opportunity.

There is no reason that a student need dread the teaching of history.  There is also no reason that Jay Leno should ever find anyone for his “Jay Walking” segments that can not name the allies in the World War’s or what the Federalist Papers were.

If We Give The GOP Just Enough Rope….

One of the races not on my radar because of the political terrain is the United States Senate seat in Virginia.  While I still do not think George Allen will be undone in his bid for re-election, take a look at what has happened to this GOP Presidential want-to-be.

According to an independent Wall Street Journal/Zogby poll, Jim Webb, the Democratic candidate is leading Allen 47.9% to 46.6%.  Allen made a grossly unfair and racist statement about a young college age guy filming one of his campaign stops.  Allen called the college man a “macaca,” and surely would have denied ever making it had it not been caught on film.  The part that boggled me was how Allen refused to put this story to bed with an immediate and complete apology without mincing words or trying to save his backside in the eyes of conservative rednecks.   The story festered for roughly 10 days and Webb made the most of it.

I think Webb’s bounce is limited to this period and will ebb and flow away.  Allen’s remark however is forever on tape and will haunt him on any Presidential quest.

In a race in Ohio, being being followed by this blogger, the hopes of the Blackwell campaign are dimming.  Ted Strickland, the Democratic candidate for Governor, has a mere 25%  gain on the Republican.  Seems Ken Blackwell can’t even get his fellow Republicans to ride his train leading to nowhere.  Rasmussen polls have the race at 57% to 32%. 

As I wipe my smile from my face I move to the U.S. Senate race in Ohio and note that Rasmussen reports a 3% lead by Democratic nominee Brown over incumbent GOP Senator DeWine.  This one is mighty fluid and will be fought out until the polls open in November.

Given the track record of the GOP this campaign season many may want to start reading the want ads.  Their preppy little suited aides better get off their knees and do the same.  Time to find out if Bush’s economy is as great as they claimed it is!

Katherine Harris Please Answer My Candidate Questionaire

You might recall that there was a concerted effort among top Republicans in Florida to insure Katherine Harris was not the U.S. Senate nominee this year.  If those of us across the nation could see she was a time bomb just waiting to explode think what those close to her in Florida must have felt.  With her campaign sinking like a rock and her funding efforts waning she finally decided it was time to drive the nail in her political coffin.

She told a Southern Baptist journal that the idea of separation of church and state is a lie and then went further by adding the Founding Fathers never meant this country to be a nation of secular laws!  What backwoods tarpapered shack did she get her education from?  I am shocked that a United State Senate candidate could be so uneducated and wrong on a central point to our national foundation.

She added in her stupefying remarks that if one elects those who are not Christian then they are legislating sin.  I am assuming at this point none of her aides were there to put the bag over her head and stop her from further shame and embarrassment.  There never was a chance for her to win but to make such off the wall comments has made her a national joke and a huge shame for the GOP.

However, based on her thinking I would like her to answer my candidate questionnaire before the election.  I have just a few things I need clarified given her views.

What type of Christian form of government would you want?  Catholic?  Pentecostal?  How about the Church I belong to?  Can we run your country?  Which minister is going to set the laws?  Can we dance?  Watch movies?  If we date, can we kiss or must we wait until marriage.  Who gets to be married?  Will there be freedom of the press?  What about people who disagree with the government? Will they be stoned?  Will we have an army?  Will we invade counties that are not Christian and try to convert them?  Can I own a Koran?  Will we teach other religions in school?  What do we do with a gay Christian?  Will all rock and roll records need to be burned?  Will Graceland close? How about my books?

What a hoot!  And this is just Monday…..could be a long week…or a very weird one.

No Agenda For Election

I am going to get myself in trouble today.

From my first vote cast in 1980 through this past spring’s election I have always voted for a candidate as opposed to voting against the opponent.  That is not a semantic trick but instead best expresses the way I view politics. I tend to be for a policy and point of view as opposed to being against a plan or a candidate. I take the political process seriously and want the candidates to take my vote the same way.

With that said I am a bit concerned that the Democratic game plan this fall is missing one component.   They have the funds, an energized base that is ready to vote today, and candidates of unique talent and diversity to wage an all out campaign.  Problem is I do not see a game plan.  Oh, they have a strategy they think will get them elected.  But I fear they do not have a game plan to govern once in office.

As a matter of fact I wonder without such a plan of action how large a victory the Democrats can even score on Election Night.  While I still see sizable gains to the extent that the House of Representatives will be governed by today’s version of the loyal opposition, I wonder how many more seats might be winnable if there was a serious agenda up for discussion this year.

To run a national election (and that is how mid-terms are constructed even though the races are local) on opposing President Bush and the Iraq War very well may garner enough votes to deny the GOP leadership in the House.  But not to offer up a list of concrete alternative positions on issues that weigh on the minds of America misses the real role of an election.

To hear the muddled responses from Democratic candidates over Iraq is amusing since it is the number one issue in the nation.  Yet the tiptoeing and nuanced language of Congressional candidates hoping to win in November does not give me confidence that once in office there is any plan to implement or real ideas to debate.  I do not want people elected that are scared of ‘rocking the boat’ when it comes to forthrightly addressing the issues today, all for the sake of winning an election. The problems we face are just too large to win a House of Congress and fail at governing.

To not address an agenda that Democrats hope to discuss and act on in Congress denies them the real tool they need once in the majority.  That being the support of the electorate.  To achieve anything in a highly partisan and rhetorically divided Congress the people in the nation need to have spoken with clarity and given their directions for the future of the nation.  But the citizens can only do that if they know what the policy ideas are during the election.

Today the Democrats have anger from the nation against Bush to propel them into office.  I tell you today that is not enough to govern in January.

I await the Democratic game plan.  I am not holding my breath.

Madison, Wisconsin Understands Free Speech

I really laughed hard.  It was a satisfying and heartfelt laugh.  Next to me was a father from Madison who brought his two young children to witness the event and see democracy in action.   There was a lot for them to see and hear and I am glad to say that the real winner was free speech.

God started the rain just a few minutes after the neo-Nazis started to speak on the steps of the Wisconsin State Capital Saturday afternoon.  The prefect choreographer from above made the point for all who live in Madison and share the values of diversity and inclusion.  The message for the Nazis was twofold and straightforward.  We respect your right to speak but find your speech to be harmful and absurd.  About three minutes of a cold rain can really take the bite off a hate filled speech.

Saturday mornings in downtown Madison are the place to meet and mingle as thousands converge for coffee drinking and pastry eating while purchasing fruits and vegetables (and famous preserves) from the Farmers Market.  It has been a part of my spring and summers for nearly 20 years.  Today however the market had to shut down two hours early so the streets could be cleared, the barricades erected, and the police could put on their riot year.

One quarter of the State Capital was barricaded off with high wire fence near to where the Nazis would speak while the sidewalk area was cordoned off with double row snow fence and traffic barriers as seen on the roads during construction season.  The hours of work that went into preparing for the safety of the speakers was amazing to witness. 

While the press and many others all this week told the public to ignore the Nazis and give them no attention, several thousands of protesters of all ages found the need to stand up to them and state their objections directly.  (Your blogger was there to report the events for this post.)

At 2:00 P.M. with well over 50 riot gear clad officers on the lawn of the Capital, some on horses with the animal’s eyes protected against any eventuality, the Nazis took the top steps of the Capital.  Just a few feet from the window where I had my office in the past they marched and saluted as if they were actually in front of an adoring crowd.  While they used slogans about bringing the troops home from Iraq they talked disparagingly about immigrants, Jews, and a whole list of people they deem inferior.  For drama and flair they walked on an Israeli flag.  (To be honest, Nazis have very little stage presence.)

While the city and state paid for the protection that the Nazis required, the fact that their rants and hallucinations were able to be made shows the underlying strength we have as a city and a nation.  While many protestors (I estimate a thousand or more) united in loud boos and other vocal retorts no one can say the Nazis did not have an opportunity to speak and have their message heard.  Likewise the citizens who felt the need to stand up to the small-minded idiots giving the Hitler salutes also were able to openly vent and yell.

For the two small children if was a real taste of the inner turmoil that still grips our nation about free speech.  Both those children were able to see firsthand how the vilest of speech needs protection (in this case literally) so that all speech can be free and uncensored. 

The public square today was for more than selling fruits and vegetables at the Farmers Market.  Today democracy was center stage and Madison and the Constitution were the winners.  I think that father was a winner too as he took his time to bring his kids to see free speech and democracy at work.


GOP Congressman Shays May Be Too Late

Moderate northeastern Republicans are a dying breed; many may be defeated in balloting during the mid-term elections.  Another sign that this is a fact took place when Connecticut GOP Congressman Chris Shays made it public that he wants a deadline set for troop withdrawal from Iraq.  With his Democratic opposition breathing down his neck and the electorate in no mood for politicians mincing words, Shays made it known he thought the target date could be within a year.  As a result the political water just got hotter for the White House.

Shays is using the argument advanced by many that if the Iraqi government (what there is of it) understands that the U.S. is not staying past a date certain they will force a tougher policy to curtail violence and perhaps even work harder within a political framework to quell the uprisings. The White House would of course argue that the terrorist forces would sense American weakness, which would only embolden them to advance their worldwide violence.   In response people who follow the news understand that the thrust of the violence in Iraq is “homegrown” resentment to occupation and built up resentments against fellow Iraqi’s over ethnic and religious differences.  Outside terrorist elements in Iraq are not the main source for the bloodshed.

Shays is going to air his desire to see troops out of Iraq publicly through a series of House Committee hearings followed by a report outlining in detail his views.  Though I think it important to see his backbone now, which separates him from the rest of the GOP pack, I wish he had been able to glean the folly of the war before we actually sent in the troops to undo the Iraqi government.  That would have been real leadership.

I do however value Shays, as he is the type of Republican the nation needs to help re-shape the future of the GOP.    The country is not well served with one party beating the drums for a religious theocracy that undercuts the Constitution and our civil rights   It is only with the likes that Shays and Rhode Island Senator Chafee bring to the Republican Party that gives hope it can again become a centrist party which can work harmoniously with the Democrats for America’s future.

But for some of those moderate Republicans it may be too late to make a difference.   The political landscape is tuning blue in the northeast and Shays may not survive this election.