Fighting Bob

An online magazine about progressive politics in Wisconsin.
Updated: 11 weeks 2 days ago

Some questions for the New Year

Sun, 2014-01-05 00:00
Is anyone thinking about realigning the property tax so every property owner pays for the costs that attach to property, and other taxes pay for social services and education which do not?

What everyone knows is that an essential ingredient of a democratic form of government is an informed electorate. Most communications about what the government does and how it spends its money are deliberately hidden or so overwhelming they are indecipherable. Open Book Wisconsin is due to be posted in 2014. The so-far-unanswered question is whether communication experts have been involved so that it tells the voters what they need to know and presents that information in ways that make it easy to understand. Pictures would be nice. Will Open Book do this? Will anyone open the Open Book?

And speaking of an informed electorate. Has anyone noticed that journalists (a profession trained to ask questions) are an endangered species?

Why is every glitch and misstep on the way to a radically different medical delivery system treated as a big surprise? The botched website is simply the biggest and most prominent example of what can, does, and will go wrong in this process whether launched by the government or by enterprises in the private sector. This is very complicated stuff. Anybody who has been down this road knows that the miracle would have been if it had worked. We keep acting surprised by other revelations. It turns out that the uninsured population which has been using emergency rooms continues to use emergency rooms now that they are insured. These people don't have doctors. They have to be weaned from emergency room care. A lot of other things are going to go wrong as we move from the present chaotic health care system to the new, almost as chaotic health care system. Why don't we tell the patients what doctors have historically told them: This is going to hurt?

Why does Brazil need 35 of the latest model fighter planes? Who are they going to fight?

Why doesn't the governor tell the legislative leaders that their response to the move to change the way we redistrict in Wisconsin is somewhere between totalitarian and foolish and an embarrassment which might show up with deleterious results in his campaigns for governor and president to say nothing of the campaigns of their favorites for the state Legislature this year?

Why can't the insular wizards at the U.S. Mint find a way to get rid of dollar bills? Haven't they looked abroad to see how to design a popular, easily identified dollar coin (like the English pound for instance) and simply stop printing dollar bills?

Why is no one in power looking at the ravages--to say nothing of the social and monetary cost--of truth in sentencing and the war on drugs?

Is anybody asking how we will use all those glorious stadii that have been built for our football gladiators and their billionaire owners (largely with public money) when football goes the way of boxing?

I asked my wife, who knows about these things, why the internet giants like Facebook and Google were offering a billion dollars or more for embryonic, no-profit companies like Instagram and Snapchap. They are protecting their franchise, she told me. Isn't that what John D. Rockefeller was doing with and for Standard Oil a century ago? Has the Justice Department noticed these similarities?

Have we had enough of ideological posturing and self-righteousness yet? Are we ready to turn to governments and elected officials who deal with the very complicated problems everyday citizens face? Enough with the inflammatory rhetoric already. Is this the year we will vote for problem solvers?

New year, new outrage

Sun, 2014-01-05 00:00
Congress tells the unemployed to eat confetti while Wall Street basks.

You win some and lose some

Fri, 2014-01-03 00:00
We hated to see a team called "The Gamecocks" win against the Badgers football team, but the Big Ten basketball season has begun with high hopes for a tournament run! The Packers front office cannot believe that some fans would prefer the warmth of home to paying $100 a seat for 30-below temperatures and watching players get frostbite.

It is stupid to ask players to play when there is no rush. Is this macho stuff all for TV revenue?

Unmediated disaster

Thu, 2014-01-02 00:00
We need a strong Fourth Estate for democracy's sake, and we don't have one.

All kinds of stupid

Tue, 2013-12-31 00:00
Just in time for the holidays, Paul Ryan's austerity land is irresponsible, economically unsound and cruel.

Gerrymandering: the movie

Sun, 2013-12-29 00:00
It is probably fitting, maybe masochistic, that I end the year watching a movie entitled Gerrymandering.

It is not new. It is not playing at a theater near you. It is a colorful summation of the purposes and results of gerrymandering over the years in many places.

The stars of the movie are Texas and California. The movie was made before the respective Democratic and Republican legislative majorities and their complicit governors had their way with the supine voters of Illinois and Wisconsin respectively.

The formidable Tom Delay re-mapped the state of Texas to give the Republicans six more sure seats in the U.S. Congress. In California the then-governor Arnold Schwarzenegger led the fight for a referendum which removed the power to redistrict from the incumbent legislators who were, he pointed out, addicted to the power to gain advantage and preserve incumbencies.

The 77-minute documentary makes the points we are now familiar with with some interesting embellishments.

The embellishments first.

I don’t know or care if the first one is true or simply cited as a fanciful but possible outcome.

One of the political science scholars shown in the movie points out that a person seeking an assembly seat in one area in California has only to build his home adjacent to a very large prison which is occupied by the requisite number of residents. Since the felons in the prison count but can’t vote, the two residents of the candidate’s home can cast the votes required to elect him.

Less fanciful is the report that since the California anti-gerrymandering referendum was on the ballot at the same time of the Obama election which drew a disproportionated number of Democratic voters, the referendum nearly failed. Not because Obama opposed it, quite the contrary. He appears in the movie condemning giving the power to redistrict to the incumbents whom it is likely to favor. It nearly failed because the Democrats were in the majority in the California legislature at the time and they opposed this reform which was being urged by Republican Governor Schwarzenegger and the entire goody-two-shoes reform community led by Common Cause, the League of Women Voters, AARP, and other less prominent groups that were on the side of the worthy but underappreciated idea of good government and voters’, rather than incumbents’, rights.

The movie gives an opportunity for those who favor leaving the power to redistrict to incumbent legislators the time to make their case. The weakness of their arguments--it’s always been done this way; the legislators are directly responsible to the voters and the bureaucrats are not--are eloquent exposures of the reasons the leadership of both houses in both Illinois and Wisconsin are using their extraordinary power to appoint and control committee chairs who do not want public hearings which would reveal that the opponents of a change in who makes the maps is purely and simply a case of defending the indefensible and advancing the contention that mapmaking itself is protected by their constitutions, which it is not. What is protected is the right to vote on the maps not on who makes them, which the Iowa solution to endemic gerrymandering, which the movie praises, does.

As noted earlier, Gerrymandering is not playing at a theater near you. DVDs are available on Amazon and at libraries, however, if you are as interested and as masochistic as I am.

And a Happy New Year to all.

America's Scaryland

Sun, 2013-12-29 00:00
One Wisconsin Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation is now responsible for the Abu Ghraib of cows.

Jesus Christ Agitator

Thu, 2013-12-26 00:00
Paul Buhle's new book is a graphic illustration of the radicalism of Jesus.

North Pole nightmare

Tue, 2013-12-24 00:00
A clean energy future would be the best Christmas present of all.

Peace through seminar

Sun, 2013-12-22 00:00
Who is Karen Bogenschneider and why do all those legislators who don’t like each other like Karen?

Karen is a University of Wisconsin professor and what legislators really like is the seminars Karen has been organizing for them for a couple of decades. She brings together legislators and their staffers from both parties with academic experts.

That’s a good thing.

A better thing is that she asks the legislators what subjects the seminars should be about instead of vice versa, instead of telling them what she or others think is important to them.

Once seminar topics are selected Karen finds appropriate experts to participate in a seminarial discussion with the legislators and staffers. This is a discussion not a lecture. That too they find endearing.

What the experts bring to the discussion are facts. What the legislators and staffers do is turn the facts and research into legislative policy.

The magic is that people who disagree philosophically and politically see that collaboration is not only possible but desirable when the focus is on the facts.

Through the decades the participants in Karen’s seminars have found that ideologies and personalities recede in the process and the atmosphere that Karen’s seminars create. The goal becomes finding solutions rather than seeking political advantage. One of the most noticeable and welcome side effects of these sessions is that they dispel the notions that anti-intellectualism is rampant on one end of State Street and unintelligent intellectualism dominates on the other end.

Because the seminars are only about solutions, they somehow engender civility and mutual respect as well.

They are also a latter day re-creation of the once famous Wisconsin Idea where the contributions of the academy were welcome in the halls of power.

I try not to get carried away with these kinds of highlights in a lowlight political world, but I consider what Karen and her seminarians have done a kind of Christmas present for those of us who need to be reassured that governing can prevail even in our toxic world.

Less than a pony perhaps, but certainly more than a stocking stuffer.

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