Friday, May 29, 2009
I worked with the Shepherd Express on their current cover story, "What's Your Worth". It takes a revealing look at the salaries of prominent people in our community and compares them to the wages of several average workers. The story is pretty straight forward; it reports what certain people make and asks readers what they think about it and how they compare. While doing research for the story, a few random observations and thoughts came to mind that wouldn't quite fit in the story itself so I will raise them here.
- The most obvious surround the corporate elite and the organizations that exist to protect every shiny nickel no matter the impact to the rest of the community. Groups like the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC) suing the City of Milwaukee over paid sick day benefits that would greatly benefit the working poor while at the same time paying their leader over $300,000 a year. A person making the minimum wage earns only $12,576! I can't imagine how you survive on such a little amount, much less make up for even one day of lost pay because of illness. Yet without a thought and sporting a six figure salary, the head of MMAC rushes off to court to keep this worker from having SOME relief?
- Michael W. Grebe is the President of the ultra right wing Bradley Foundation. Its specialty is being a funding factory of the most extreme right wing organizations in the state and country. Many of these alleged "think tanks" spend much of their time trying to convince average Americans to forget their own economic interests and instead cater to the needs of the already rich and powerful. Apparently we are supposed to keep a straight face when Grebe and Co. marches in with his $569,967 salary and pretends to give a hoot about the average Milwaukee County resident making $42,865.
- Many have repeatedly made the argument that area health care systems and hospitals operate much more like the biggest corporations than they do as nonprofits. The look at their top executive's salaries only verifies this observation. Although all of the systems looked at in the story are noteworthy, Aurora's executive certainly deserves special mention. Over $2 million a year? That is significantly more than some of his higher profile "for-profit" counterparts! Good luck explaining how you can't afford to give your frontline workers a modest raise or a better benefits package.
- I have often thought that the real power brokers in the conservative movement have only been using the social conservatives that so willingly follow them. It has been my observation that they are only useful around important elections and then their hot button issues are all but abandoned. It was particularly interesting to see how little the right wing pays one of its main social conservatives as compared to what they dole out every year for the ones carrying the corporate water. Say what you will about their actual positions, Wisconsin Right to Life is an actual statewide grassroots organization. Yet their leader makes only $33,389 a year? I suspect that many of the other leaders of socially conservative groups also make very modest amounts of money. So what does it say when the sugar daddies of the right wing give the leader of the latest corporate shill over $100k and leave the social conservatives to fight over pennies?
Thursday, May 28, 2009
Yesterday the stumbling bumbling RNC Chairman Michael Steele sent out an email trying to raise money. The subject line did what it should do, it immediately drew my interest. What I don't think Steele meant to do was to cause the fit of side splitting laughter that ensued upon reading it. In it Michael Steele proclaims "A wave is building – let's be ready to ride it to victory!" Let's see… they've lost all over the place in the last few election cycles, the outgoing president from their party left with some of the worst approval ratings in history, they can't find a leader or a message, and yet this is what Michael Steele calls a building wave?
Just last week Gallup released an analysis showing that the Republicans were quickly losing people in almost every single demographic. If there is a wave it seems to be going in the opposite direction. Having been repeatedly chastised by the extremists of his party, Steele even took to the same sort of baseless name calling and fear mongering that popular folks like Dick Cheney have been using. Call me crazy but following the lead of one of the most unpopular people in recent political history may not be a recipe for success. If the GOP continues to move by default to the furthest extremes it won't end up riding any waves, it will only end up waving good-bye.
Update: If they don't change course, I have them "waving good-bye" but with regard to their unfounded attacks on Sonia Sotomayor Heartland Hollar has them falling off a cliff.
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Here is just one of those:
Friday, May 22, 2009
Jim Klauser worked for Tommy Thompson as his secretary of administration and as a key adviser. Although he had several official titles, many considered him to be a sort of deputy governor. Since the end of the Thompson Administration, Klauser has gone on to continue being quite a power broker in the Republican Party in Wisconsin. Klauser has had his fingers in a lot of different right wing pies but recent events make me wonder if his influence is fading amongst Wisconsin Republicans.
For me the questioning of his influence started shortly after he went on a media spree pushing former congressman Mark Neumann as the GOP candidate for governor in 2010. He sent out an open letter, appeared on Mike Gousha's Up Front program, and supported Neumann's candidacy in comments to several other media outlets. He did all of this while knowing that the perpetual failure of a gubernatorial candidate, Scott Walker, was preparing to launch his latest campaign.
In his April 20 open letter Klauser took what seemed like thinly veiled shots at Walker. He commented that Neumann comes from Waukesha County which is growing. I don't know exactly how he thinks that Neumann is responsible for this but he seems to clearly be saying it because Walker comes from Milwaukee County which has been losing population. He further stresses that Mark Neumann has private sector experience, when we all know that Walker has never held a private sector job of consequence. He also said that Neumann is best able to win and govern well, obviously suggesting that Walker would not.
On the April 26 edition of Up Front, airing only days before Scott Walker's official announcement, Jim Klauser was again promoting Mark Neumann over Walker. When asked about Walker being from Milwaukee County and possibly making inroads into the Democratic stronghold, Klauser responded with skepticism saying, "He can win in a nonpartisan race, that's very different than the electorate that turns out in a partisan race (in Milwaukee)." He also went back to emphasizing Neumann's private sector experience saying that we should just look at "the problems that the state has and in Milwaukee" in terms of employment. Klauser then repeats that Neumann is the only candidate that has hired people and created jobs.
Even after stepping on Walker's official announcement with a media blitz and probably even a little arm twisting behind the scenes, Jim Klauser has very little to show for his efforts. Scott Walker killed Mark Neumann in the Wispolitics staw poll at the GOP convention. I think most people expected Walker to win since he has been running a nonstop campaign for governor for years, but I don't think anyone predicted it by such an embarrassing margin. To add insult to injury, during the convention Walker announced the formal support of a majority of Republican legislators and party officials. Ouch! That had to sting for someone like Klauser that is so used to calling the shots and being taken seriously. Given the events of the last month, I have to wonder if that right-wing ship has finally sailed for Jim Klauser.
Mark Neumann could have helped Klauser's cause by maybe not waiting so long to launch his campaign. Why would he let a primary opponent get so far ahead of him? I know that he has a ton of money and at least one big wig behind him, but waiting so long just doesn't make a lot of sense. Judging by some of the comments on blogs/news sites and questions raised at Heartland Hollar, one has to wonder if the Neumann Homes problems are giving Mark second thoughts. It must already be embarrassing for Jim Klauser to have his advice totally ignored by his own party, but how badly would he look if he put all of his chips on a candidate that never ends up running? Maybe he can pull a rabbit out of his hat before this primary is over, but for now he looks like he has lost a few steps along with some influence.
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
As Heartland Hollar has repeatedly pointed out, Scott Walker has insisted that the GOP does not need to broaden its base. It will be interesting watching him try to win statewide office with these kinds of numbers. Apparently his campaign is going to operate on little more than blind faith.
Friday, May 15, 2009
Looking at the GOP after having been totally rejected by the public reminds me of passing a terrible car wreck but not being able to look away. From a messaging point of view they are simply all over the place and don't appear to know where they are going or who is going to lead them.
A new Rasmussen poll finds that GOP voters actually think that there is a clear party leader. The problem is that those people can't agree on who that leader is: John McCain 18 %, Michael Steele 14%, Sarah Palin 10%, Rush Limbaugh 6%, and Dick Cheney 4%.
Speaking of Dick Cheney…Even though he has been all over the TV in recent weeks, a majority of Republican insiders say that he has been nothing but trouble for them since he left office. Yet he continues to suck the energy right out of the room and there is nothing that they seem to be able to do about it.
The GOP disorder has filtered all the way down to even something as simple as their web ads. Democrats have been quickly cranking out very effective web ads that share a common overall theme and help push forward a real agenda. Even if there are slight differences in their web ads they all say the same basic thing: the GOP is lead by all the same old guys and they have no ideas. When I compare that with the last two GOP web ads they stand in stark contrast. Frankly, I can't even remember the exact point of the first GOP web ad. I only remember that it seemed like a scary trailer from a B movie. Now their most recent web ad seems to be attacking the President's dog, Bo. I'm sure that they are trying to make a point in there somewhere but a viewer is mostly left with the image of Republicans being against puppies or something.
Just throwing up web ads because the other guy is doing it is not a very good strategy. You should have something relevant to say and you should try to stay on topic to reinforce your message. That is a big part of the problem however, right now they are not relevant and they can't seem to decide on a message. They are simply flailing about all over the place.
After suffering under right wing polices for the past eight years, I am very happy that they are not effectively pushing those failed ideas. But I must admit that I sometimes feel a bit guilty as I observe their complete disorder. It's kind of like looking a little too long at a terrible car crash.
Thursday, May 14, 2009
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
This same week, while Heartland Hollar was referencing Neumann's comments, someone sent me a link to an interesting interview with Neumann on a religious podcast. The most interesting part of the interview was when he was asked about how he decided as a former congressman to support or reject legislation (starting at about minute 10:00). He cited the first four things that he asked himself about the legislation before he decided what action to take on it. Strangely, "is it good for the country?" only came in second on his priority list. I would think that when you are a public official, it would be the first thing that you ask. But not for Neumann. His first priority was to ask if it was "moral" (read: does it fit my personal religious beliefs and world view?). This seems odd because I don't believe that he was elected by the people of his former district to be their priest or a prophet.
Frankly I don't concern myself with the personal religious beliefs of public officials. For me, the only time that it becomes an issue is when they start pretending that God is their campaign manager or when they start imposing their beliefs on everyone else. It seems that people who hold more rigid/legalistic beliefs are also more prone to this behavior. Using public office to promote your own personal religious beliefs ahead of what is good for the country is really an abuse of power in my book. By his own words, it appears to be an abuse that Mark Neumann used in Congress and is probably perfectly willing to use in Madison.
Monday, May 11, 2009
Over the weekend the Wisconsin State Journal reported on a right wing effort to copy the progressive infrastructure in the State of Wisconsin. The story reveals a conservative plan called the "Wisconsin Prosperity Network". Apparently they would like to create some 14 new (read artificial) right wing organizations that make all of the same arguments and push all of the same old right wing policies that the country has now moved past. And who are the people behind this "new" multi-million dollar effort in Wisconsin? It appears to be all of the same old guys that have been pulling strings and/or getting in trouble in Wisconsin for years. It is a who's who of the old Republican guard in Wisconsin: GOP big wig and former Tommy! aide James Klauser, right wing sugar daddy Michael Grebe, Mark Block who was famously on the wrong side of elections laws a few years back, and Scott Jensen who is still awaiting his second criminal felony trial.
Here is a hint to the right wing in Wisconsin: when you are trying to do something new, you may want to avoid using the same old guys pushing the same old policies backed by the same old money bags. Just look at one of the "newer" right wing organizations that now appears to be defunct, the Wisconsin Institute of Leadership. It was very clearly formed to be a knock off on the successful progressive organization One Wisconsin Now. After having right wing dollars pumped in and being initially hyped, it doesn't appear to actively exist anymore. The only accomplishment that I can see from its existence is running a few ads and sending out some direct mail during one single legislative election cycle. The right wing money bags threw cash at it but was it worth the investment? I don't think so, but then again I don't have money to burn.
The first official organization that the WSJ story lists as being part of this "new" effort is the stumbling bumbling MacIver Institute. All of these old guard guys behind this effort with all of their money and influence and they couldn't even get this thing launched properly. They seemed to rush their official launch, they lied about Scott Jensen's real ties to it, they have been operating for much of their existence with an invisible staff, and they haven't really produced anything real by themselves. If this is their official start to this 14 organizational network, so far it doesn't seem to be an ideal one.
Republicans in Wisconsin can try to artificially replicate progressive success all that they want, but they really should keep a few things in mind before fully taking the big plunge. Using all of the same old guys, pushing all of the same old tired policies is not a winning model no matter what you plan on paper. This is one perfect example where I can fall back on an old right wing mantra; "throwing money at it" just won't make up for all of these major flaws in your plan.
Saturday, May 09, 2009
Friday, May 08, 2009
Here we go again, Scott Walker trying to glom on to any publicity that he can get. When CC Sabathia was working miracles at Miller Park, he declared a CC day and now that we have a Milwaukee native in the top three of American Idol, he is trying to jump on that bandwagon. I would watch out if I were on the concert stage at Summerfest because Walker will no doubt be elbowing people out of his way to get in the spotlight with Danny Gokey.
I think it is very telling that when Milwaukee County was not sure what was going to happen with the Swine Flu and schools were closing, that Walker was too busy campaigning to even write a press release about the situation. He was apparently too busy going to campaign events and the GOP convention to even say one single word about what Milwaukee County was doing in the area of public health. As it turns out he did finally post a very general tweet about the subject but only a week after it was a major concern. In complete contrast, now that Milwaukee is about to get so much national attention, Walker was lightning quick to respond. Danny Gokey was officially launched into the top three on American Idol on Wednesday night and the very next day Scott Walker was putting out a proclamation about it.
What does this say about Scott Walker's priorities? It says that Scott Walker's favorite "idol" is Scott Walker and that he will do anything to promote himself no matter how corny or pathetic. From hopping on a Harley to posing for a ridiculous looking baseball card (I wish I could find that one online!) to making proclamations for anyone that is more popular than him. Walker has really become a pathetic parody of himself and today's events are only going to highlight it further. Unfortunately Walker's self worship has come at the expense of Milwaukee County and there is nothing to idolize about that sad fact.
Thursday, May 07, 2009
Today has been designated as the National Day of Prayer and Christian conservatives have decided to use the day to launch all sorts of absurd attacks against President Obama. Rather than spend their time in actual prayer, it seems that they have decided that politically motivated attacks would suffice. Apparently they are upset because they expected much more than the President's proclamation honoring the day. In their attacks they pretend that he is somehow departing from presidential custom by not holding a formal event at the White House today. In fact, George W. Bush was probably the first to regularly hold such formal events on the National Day of Prayer. It seems pretty clear that the fake outrage is being used as just another politically calculated opportunity to attack the President.
Just take a moment to look at the type of the venomous attacks that are being launched at the President simply for not being George W. Bush:
Wife of James Dobson, Shirley Dobson doubted whether "…our President would recognize more fully the importance of prayer." I'm not sure how his proclamation wasn't good enough but in any case it is very sad that Mrs. Dobson apparently needs a political figure to reaffirm her personal beliefs in "the importance of prayer."
Wendy Wright, head of the extremely right wing Concerned Women for America made her attacks on the President much more personal saying that while "President Obama may have problems believing in the Christian faith, he should at least honor the traditions and foundation of our country." Is she seriously pretending to know the most personal beliefs and thoughts of the President? Exactly how does she think that she knows what is in his heart? Is her vile attack only political or was it simply personal because she wasn't invited to the White House today?
All of the hysteria even had one guest on Fox and Friends apparently thinking that President Obama was somehow interfering with her right to "gather and pray as we see fit." What? Just because he didn't hold a formal White House event you are somehow limited in your ability to "gather and pray"? The condition of the religious right really must be in a sad state of affairs if they really believe such things.
This whole manufactured controversy is just the latest unfortunate example of how too many conservative Christians (particularly protestant evangelicals) have allowed their faith to be totally and completely polluted with partisan politics. Don't take it from me, just look at some of the things that conservative evangelical and former Bush Administration official David Kuo said back in 2006.
"God and politics had become very much fused together into a sort of a single entity. Where, in a way, politics was the fourth part of the trinity. God the father, God the son, God the holy spirit, God the politician," says Kuo.
Asked if in retrospect this was morally wrong, Kuo says, "I feel like it was more spiritually wrong. You're taking the sacred and you're making it profane. You're taking Jesus and reducing him to some precinct captain, to some get-out-the-vote guy."
"I have this burden on my heart that the name of God is just being destroyed in the name of politics," Kuo says. "
I am probably on the complete opposite side of both the political and theological spectrum from Kuo, but in this case I think that his concerns have been completely accurate. Although I have been a personal witness to some of their good deeds, it seems that as the political power of the religious right has increased they have also been drawn away from their foundation. The example around this year's National Day of Prayer could serve as a perfect example of that real tragedy. From what I have been able to observe, all-too-many of their leaders have been going down a path that looks more like the example of the Pharisees than that of Christ.
Wednesday, May 06, 2009
Tuesday, May 05, 2009
Next week the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC) will be dragging the people of Milwaukee to court again. This time they are expected to request a permanent injunction against the Paid Sick Days ordinance that nearly 70 percent of voters approved. It never ceases to amaze me how conservative corporate interests often rail against the idea of frivolous lawsuits, but when they think that their bottom line may be involved, they are the first to file them. Not only are MMAC and their member businesses trying to circumvent the will of the people as expressed by their votes, but they are also wasting precious taxpayer money by dragging us into court.
MMAC is rehashing the same tired rhetoric that big corporate interests have used throughout our history. Whenever society demands higher standards from them, they use all of their money and influence to fight it. In the process they inevitably say that the higher standards will kill business and lose jobs. Just think of the many things that we now take for granted, that the big business interests fought with almost the same exact arguments. Once again their crying wolf shouldn't be taken seriously. Just look at the real life examples of other communities that have already passed similar ordinances. Reality is quite different than their rhetoric.
Regardless of how severe the Swine Flu is or isn't, it has put a clear focus on the importance of public health. Public health is one of the best arguments for enforcing the Paid Sick Days ordinance in Milwaukee. The vast majority of employees that don't get paid sick days are lower income workers. Many of these come from the food service industry which is probably the last place that we want to see having public health issues. Employees should not be put in the position of either not being able to pay their bills or the passing of their illness on to others. Allowing them such a modest benefit is good for them, their coworkers, the customers and the business.
Paid Sick Days makes sense for everyone involved. The benefit set forth in the Milwaukee ordinance is very modest and will more than likely be made up by the businesses in the form of increased productivity. The workers benefit because they don't have to make a choice between their own health and paying the bills. The public benefits because we won't have as many people ignoring their own illness and then sharing it with the rest of us. MMAC's arguments regarding Paid Sick Days are really absurd when you actually think about it. At this rate the next thing that they will be arguing is that the Swine Flu is actually good for business. They may be advertising geniuses but I doubt that many people are going to buy that one.
If you would like to send a message to MMAC and their member businesses about their lawsuit against Milwaukee, visit the page set up by One Wisconsin Now. You can write just one email and it will be sent to many of the leaders of MMAC and many of the business executives that make up their membership. If they can sue us for wanting higher standards and placing a premium on public health, then we can surely let them know how we feel about it.
Saturday, May 02, 2009
Only a few days after his big announcement at the college, Walker did another interesting thing. Of all the right wing consultants that are available for work, he chose the one that used to work for Mark Neumann. In a press release Thursday, Walker announced that among other people, his campaign was hiring R.J. Johnson as a general consultant. Johnson actually ran Neumann's failed 1998 campaign against U.S. Senator Russ Feingold. Again, of all the right wing consultants that were no doubt knocking on his door, Walker had to choose the one that worked on Neumann's last run at public office.
Obviously we don't know what the heck is going around in the head of Scott Walker, but it is just too hard to believe that these things were just simple accidents. The one thing that everyone does know about Walker is that he has been running for Governor since 2002 and everything that he does is directly related to that unhealthy obsession. So although he may not say it in his words at the convention this morning, I think that his actions have been fairly clear. What he has been trying to say is simply "in your face Mark!"
UPDATE: Over the weekend, Walker gave Neumann another "in your face." Walker killed Neumann in the Wispolitics straw poll at the GOP convention. It shouldn't be a big suprise since Walker has been campaigning for years and Neumann has not even formally announced. But in any case, you can still count it as yet another "in your face" moment.
Friday, May 01, 2009
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel ran an editorial saying that all levels of government should be involved in dealing with the swine flu, yet I have no idea what the Milwaukee County government has been doing. I'm sure there have been front line workers doing their job, but it would be nice if the "leader" of Milwaukee County seemed to at least be in the loop somewhere. Scott Walker has never been one to shy away from publicity or from holding a press conference or media event. So where in the world is Scott Walker? I was beginning to wonder if he was one of the two people in the Milwaukee area that came down with swine flu.
Thanks to the work of the new blog Heartland Hollar, thankfully I can now say that Scott Walker's silence during this emergency is not because he is sick. He has just been too darn busy twittering about his campaign for governor. Since this public health emergency first surfaced locally, Walker has been twittering from a sub shop in Kohler, reminiscing about his homecoming prom date, and giving us every boring detail from the campaign trail.
Where in the world is Scott Walker? He is setting the twittering world on fire! The question is whether that is an appropriate way to spend all of your time, when we have a full fledged public health emergency going on in the county? Since he was such a strong supporter of John McCain's presidential bid, I wonder if he will follow his example and suspend his campaign to deal with this emergency? Heartland Hollar asks if he will still attend the Republican State Convention this weekend. His complete silence on the issue makes that highly unlikely, in fact he is so busy twittering about his campaign, that I wonder if he even knows that there is a public health issue in Milwaukee County?
Where in the world is Scott Walker? He is busy running for higher office again and apparently can't be bothered with something as "small" as a possible pandemic.