Wisconsin Republicans To Blame For Transportation Funding Mess

When voters talk about politics it often centers on the inability of elected officials to make decisions on the pressing needs of our time.  In Washington that might mean no all-encompassing immigration bill or congressional backing for dealing with ISIS.

When Wisconsin voters talk of such topics they can rightfully argue that legislators have no ability to craft a well-reasoned and much needed transportation bill with the required funding to meet our needs.  The news this past week that the Joint Finance Committee has not been able to hurdle the issues confronting our state transportation requirements and the means to fund them is troubling.

Over two years ago the Transportation Finance and Policy Commission after exhaustive and bi-partisan work released a report that pointed a way forward to making sure transportation needs were funded.  The proposals were honest and ones that we all needed to hear.

Among other things the commission asked Governor Scott Walker and lawmakers to adopt a 5-cent hike in the state gas tax, an increase in annual vehicle registration fees based on miles driven, and a big jump in heavy truck registration fees.  Just to stay current with services the report showed that we need to raise over $15 billion in the coming decade.

At a time when our state needs to lure more business and create more jobs the ability to move product and material to and fro is not hard to understand.   It also should come as no surprise that borrowing for our infrastructure needs is not the best route for our state to use when it comes to this matter.    We all can counter what past governors did but it is time for mature leadership on future funding.

But finding that leadership in Madison leads to nothing but utter frustration.

What we all should find objectionable is the gnashing of teeth that can be heard from under the dome as those who wanted the responsibility of governing now quake in their shoes over the task at hand when it comes to this funding question.

It has long been a sore point with me that too many think taxes should only always go down, and additional revenues are never to be found or increased to maintain our services which allow our society to function.   The need to raise revenue for Wisconsin’s transportation needs should not be controversial.  There is no doubt that without increased amounts of money, or new ways to fund our systems the state’s infrastructure will falter, and our economy will be placed in a further long-term pinch.

It is a sad place to be when after decades of ripping government spending Republicans now have no ability to frame the debate as to why additional tax dollars are most important to have and use. For Walker to think that any tax dollar for transportation needs should be found with a cut to some other program means he is simply experiencing too much jet lag from his out-of-state traveling.

When Walker and others talk like that they undercut the sensibilities of the electorate. We all realize that more revenue is required to make sure our state roads continue to be a source of competitive commerce.  No licensed driver believes they do not have a stake in maintaining the roads they use, or insuring new ones are built to support the added growth we will need as the economy expands.  This is not a hard conversation to have with the electorate.   That is unless the only conversation up to now has been one where government is always to get smaller and no one should ever pay more for the services we use.

What was the purpose of the Transportation Finance and Policy Commission if not to use logic to arrive at a series of proposals to set our transportation funding policy? If there is no serious intent to use the guidance of such experts than why spend the money to study such matters in the first place?

I am under no illusion that legislators in Madison are any more able or interested in tackling the big issues than are the members of congress. Too few spines exist in those we elect and it would do no good for us to commission a study to find out why that is so.

End Of Era In Journalism With Bob Schieffer Saying Goodbye On “Face The Nation”

With humility and professional Bob Schieffer said goodbye from the Face The Nation news desk this morning.   Following an interview with likely presidential candidate Jeb Bush  and a thorough review of the various angles of national defense with CIA Director John Brennen the broadcast ended with Schieffer, who anchored the program for the past 24 years, standing alongside all those who helped make the program possible each week.  It was a classy send-off from one of the best journalists I have had the pleasure of watching over all these years.

By allowing his last program to about the topics of the week, and not about him, he made the statement in clear terms that he had been making each week during his long career.  The news business is about informing the nation on the happenings that we need to be aware of.

He spoke this morning of wanting to work with Walter Cronkite, and his other aspirations concerning broadcast journalism.  Cronkite was one of those mightily respected faces of the news business and Schieffer can rightly stand alongside him.  That is why Schieffer was so important.

People trusted him.

At a time when some reporters and politicians and celebrities failed to be forthright and above board there was always Bob Schieffer who could be counted on to be honest.  We did not know him personally but was sure he would be a gracious guest should he ever really come to our home.  We did let him in over the decades to inform us when we needed to better understand the world, and also to be calmed when events erupted and he provided insight so to allow us ways to cope with tragedy.  As was his standard he was diplomatic in making sure those who were reluctant to answer a question in the end did so.  We thank him for that, too.

There are many sound and professional men and women in journalism.  You and I turn to them every day.  But there are only a select few who have traveled with us week after week over a large swath of life and as such are like family.  Bob Schieffer was one of them.  He loved the news, politics, and reporting.  And he showed us why we needed to care, too.

Next week will arrive and I will tune into another edition of Face The Nation.  I am sure to like John Dickerson as I already respect his political analysis.  But I will know under the desk that the anchor is not wearing purple socks.

It just will never be the same.

Rand Paul Promises Come Sunday “I Will Force The Expiration Of The NSA Illegal Spy Program”

High drama in Washington this weekend with enormous stakes both for presidential candidates and the welfare of the nation.

It was announced this morning that Rand Paul plans to force the expiration of the Patriot Act Sunday.    He will make his effort by refusing to allow Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to expedite debate on a key surveillance bill.

How McConnelll thinks he can outmaneuver Paul is still a mystery to politicos.

This move by Paul is no surprise since he has stated clearly that he would not cotton to any efforts to pass either an extension of current law or a reform effort that has already passed the House.

In a statement today Paul said, “So tomorrow, I will force the expiration of the NSA illegal spy program.”

This is the type of fever-pitched excitement that Allen Drury often wrote about.  The front pages of newspapers will be covered with this story and candidates will use the events in the next 48 hours to explain why Paul is not well-suited to be the Republican nominee for president in 2106.

Dennis Hastert May Be Hiding Out In Wisconsin

No reporter has been able to make contact with former GOP House Speaker Dennis Hastert since revelations came out this week that he has been paying money to a former male student to cover up sexual misconduct.  There are now news reports that Hastert may be in Wisconsin.

A former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives may be hiding out in Wisconsin. 

Dennis Hastert owns property in Crawford county, in the village of Eastman. Eastman is about 15 minutes northeast of Prairie du Chien.

Hastert has not been seen or heard from since he was indicted – accused of lying to the FBI, paying out millions in hush money to conceal sexual misconduct allegations.

A neighbor confirmed Hastert does spend time at the Wisconsin address.

“I thought he was a really nice guy. He’s been really nice to me,” said neighbor Sherwood Matti. “I was really surprised that they said he had a bad background because he sure didn’t look that way to me.”

Hastert has not returned phone calls or answered the door at his Chicago home – leading to speculation that he may have gone to his residence in Crawford county


Alfred Hitchcock Holocaust Documentary Not To Be Missed

There is no doubt Germans from the Nazi era remain the most soulless who ever walked the earth.  Once again that truth is brought to life with film footage that was almost never shown.

From the background I have heard about this film underscores the concentration camp footage is brutally real while the filmmaking prowess of Alfred Hitchcock works to make sure that any accusations the atrocities did not happen are totally refuted.  Once again Germans from that era are forced to face the facts about what their country really did to millions of people.

This was a woman,” the narrator explains, as the camera pans over a figure so emaciated and burnt that the dead body is barely recognizable as human.

It’s one of the more arresting scenes in “German Concentration Camps Factual Survey,” a highly unusual Holocaust documentary, shot and scripted 70 years ago, and crafted with the help of the legendary director Alfred Hitchcock. But it almost didn’t see the light of day.

The recently completed film had its New York premiere this month at Manhattan’s Museum of Jewish Heritage-A Living Memorial to the Holocaust.

“German Concentration Camps” draws heavily on the footage taken at Bergen-Belsen, Auschwitz and Dachau by combat and newsreel cameramen in the weeks after liberation. It shows those who had managed to survive gas chambers, typhus epidemics and starvation conditions taking the first steps toward rebuilding their lives. They are deloused. They get hot showers for the first time in years and hot meals. There are piles of clean clothes, and women rejoicing in trying on the donated dresses, pumps and wide-brimmed hats.

An Englishman, Bernstein led the film division of the Allied forces’ propaganda effort and was tasked with chronicling the Nazi’s crimes for the German public. To this end, the film includes copious footage of former camp guards carrying the dead bodies of their victims to mass graves and tossing them, with callous disregard, into the giant pits.

Bernstein enlisted Hitchcock, a close friend, as the film’s treatment adviser. Hitchcock’s influence can be seen in the long, panning shots that leave no room for doubt that what the audience is seeing is no fabrication. Bernstein and his team worked on the film through the spring and summer of 1945.

But by later that year, many Germans had toured the concentration camps and seen newsreels of what had happened there. There was a sense that the film’s time had passed, and the British government shelved the project.

In recent years, however, Britain’s Imperial War Museum restored the footage and set out to finish the film using the original script and shot sheet. The words are lyrical (“They say a dead man’s boots bring bad luck; what of dead children’s toys?”) and they are judgmental. (“Germans knew about Dachau but did not care.”)

Hewing to the original vision meant making a film that contained some factual inaccuracies (the number of dead) and omissions (about whom the Nazis targeted).

“It didn’t emphasize how disproportionately the Jews had suffered,” Wells said of the film, which refers to victims by their nationality rather than their religion. “It showed it as more of a universal Holocaust than one that was predominantly Jewish.” (In a short film that follows the documentary and attempts to correct the record, scholars surmise that the filmmakers did not want to portray Jews as a people apart.)

An HBO documentary about the long-delayed Hitchcock project, “Night Will Fall,” aired in January. The title is a line from “German Concentration Camps”: “Unless the world learns the lesson these pictures teach, night will fall. But by God’s grace, we who live will learn.”

Why Dennis Hastert And The Male High School Sex Story Matters

For anyone who thinks I am piling on over the sex scandal of former GOP Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert because of partisan leanings–let me stop you at the start.

My problem with this matter other than the obvious ones dealing with protecting children and the code of conduct teachers and coaches should abide by as professionals has to do with hypocrisy.  I am not one to let those who vote against gay rights issues as elected officials to then have their private gay life not held up for the world to see.

Pose for holy pictures and prance about over ‘family values’ and try to smear gay people in the process.  But also know that if you are engaging in gay sex and have a secret life that might seem uncomfortable for the country club set that you need at the ballot box–well something has to give.  It should not have been all those gay Americans who were fighting for civil rights and finding Republicans being obstructionists at every turn.

The votes that Hastert took as a member of congress were not in line with the gay-rights agenda.

Hastert voted regularly against bills to empower gay people. In Congress from 1997 to 2007, Hastert voted for the so-called “Marriage Protection Act,” and in favor of a constitutional amendment to “establish that marriage shall consist of one man and one woman.” The year he stepped down, Hastert voted no on the “Employment Non-Discrimination Act,” a bill to prohibit companies from discriminating against employees “on the basis of sexual orientation.”

There is much to learn about this scandal and the secret life of Hastert.   There is no justification for his actions as a teacher and coach in relation to this conduct, and there is no way to not speak out about his votes as a congressman if he also was in some way questioning his own sexual identity.

Former GOP House Speaker Dennis Hastert Paid Former Male Student Over Sexual Matter

The news is quaking the political world.


Who would have ever thought Dennis Hastert, someone who always was one of the mature stable members of Congress, would have this story attached to his name?  How also does a story like this not surface for as long as Hastert was such a powerful leader in Republican circles?

Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert allegedly agreed to pay a former male student $3.5 million to hush up allegations of sexual misconduct when Mr. Hastert was an Illinois high-school teacher before his election to Congress, said people familiar with the matter.

Mr. Hastert, the nation’s longest-serving Republican speaker, was indicted Thursday on charges related to large sums of cash he allegedly withdrew from bank accounts to pay someone identified in court papers only as “Individual A” to keep quiet about past “misconduct.”

The individual was from Yorkville, Ill., where the former speaker was a teacher and coach, according to the indictment. The indictment shocked Mr. Hastert’s former colleagues in Congress and people who knew him in Yorkville.

Mr. Hastert didn’t respond to requests for comment Friday. He will be allowed to stay out of custody until he is scheduled to appear in court for an arraignment, according to documents made public Friday.

An arraignment hasn’t yet been scheduled, but will likely take place in the coming days. The case has been assigned to Judge Thomas Durkin, a former federal prosecutor and litigator nominated to the bench by President Barack Obama in 2012.

Absolutely Elections Matter, And Game Of Politics Is Played In Madison Mayor’s Office

Elections have consequences.  As a result politics gets to be played when you are the victor. I like muscular politics, so this caught my attention.

Meanwhile, three members of the Digital Technology Committee saw their terms expire in April. While Soglin reappointed two of them — Mark Evans and Lauren Kieliszewski — he did not reappoint Paulson.

In his place, Soglin appointed Orton, a University of Wisconsin telecommunications professor who has edited and contributed to Soglin’s blog, Waxing America, and appeared alongside Soglin in his press conference on municipal broadband in January.

Paulson said he thinks part of the change is simply that Soglin wanted Orton on the committee, so one of the three people with terms expiring had to go. He said he also thinks it’s partially fallout from the mayoral election.

“I supported Alder Resnick in the mayoral election and Mayor Soglin certainly knew that,” Paulson said. “I don’t think that helped my chances any.”

Soglin said he doesn’t recall why he didn’t reappoint Paulson and said he appointed whoever he thought was best for the job.

As for whether Paulson’s support for Resnick played a role, Soglin said, “I can’t imagine that ever entered into our thinking.”

“I mean, certainly, no one can hold a candle to Barry Orton in this area,” he said.

Paulson said he didn’t want to disparage the mayor; Soglin wanted his person and found a way to get that done.

“In all fairness, Barry Orton has something I don’t have, and that’s the mayor’s trust on these issues,” Paulson said. “Elections have consequences and that’s the way this goes.”