Saturday, July 29, 2006

Mark Green's shameful estate tax vote

Mark Green voted for the shameful bill that ties an increase in the minimum wage to deep cuts in the inheritance tax. The bill passed the House yesterday, but the procedures used to get it through really hacked off some people and it could well die in the Senate.

The Washington Post reports:

Democrats were incensed that the GOP leadership would couple the minimum wage hike, the first increase since 1997, with an estate tax cut that would reduce federal revenue by $268 billion over the next decade, to the overwhelming benefit of the country's richest families.

"This is beyond cynical. This is disgraceful," said Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.).

Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) signaled he would try to scuttle the tax bill next week. "Republicans have made perfectly clear who they stand with and who they are willing to fight for: the privileged few," he said.

But Republicans believed they had found a way to snatch the minimum-wage issue away from Democrats, who had been using it as a cudgel, while securing passage of a central plank of their economic program: all but eliminating the estate tax.

"I know why you're mad," said Rep. Zach Wamp (R-Tenn.). "You've seen us really outfox you."

The Republicans think increasing the minimum wage is just part of a game, or a piece in a game that is really about moving rich people out from under the tax code. For the million who would benefit from raising the wage from$5.15 to $7.25 over three years, it's a matter of moving up a little bit, though many would remain mired in poverty.

Shame on Mark Green. Shame on the Republicans.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Scott Walker's dad gets special treatment

County Exec Scott Walker's dad was among 25 or so people to visit the county courthouse yesterday, according to a county security guard. They arrived on a Milwaukee County Transit System bus (perhaps they wanted to take a spin on one before Walker younger kills them all) and waltzed into the building without going through the security check and scanners that everyone else has to go through.

The guard explained to a group of employees (who, of course, had to go through security) that the folks from the bus were "ambassadors" and so didn't have to be screened.

Oh. That's OK then. As long as it didn't have anything to do with Scott Walker's dad being Scott Walker's dad.

Jim Sullivan takes the lead over Tom Reynolds

5th State Senate District candidate Jim Sullivan (D) did a whole lot better at fund-raising during the last reporting period than the very, very conservative incumbent Tom Reynolds (R) did. Reynolds' issues -- he says he is pro-life and pro-death penalty and pro-bigger-freeways-so-some-people-can-drive-85-mph and pro-virginity-til-you-are-married -- apparently appeal to a fairly narrow base.

He is also pretty much anti-Milwaukee, which is unfortunate because his district includes part of the city.

Sullivan is a moderate Democrat, a lawyer, a Wauwatosa alderman, and a member of the Navy Reserve.

Reynolds is a West Allis printer and a Republican nut job.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

And these are the folks protecting us?

Imagine what a bad guy could do with personal identifying information of 1,500 employees and contractors of the National Nuclear Security Administration. The opportunities for extortion and kidnapping and all sorts of nefarious activity would be terrific indeed.

It would be a national emergency.

It happened. Someone grabbed the data. And the Bush administration reacted just like it did in the days following that emergency called Katrina:

The Washington Post reported:

Last fall, an intruder gained access to a computer at the National Nuclear Security Administration in Albuquerque -- part of the Energy Department -- and took a file with personal identifying information for 1,500 employees and contractors.

Rather than alerting those whose data were compromised and senior Energy officials, the administration filed the episode away with about 830 other incidents the department experienced last year.... In congressional testimony last month, the department's inspector general, Gregory H. Friedman, said "significant weaknesses continue to exist.

We are all so safe with George at the helm.


Scott Walker cheats on campaign finance form -- what else is new?

Scott Walker is in trouble again -- this time for not reporting several in-kind campaign contributions, including the value and donors of basketball tickets used for a campaign event. WKOW-TV in Madison broke the story.

Here's the thing: Withholding information that the law requires to be included on campaign finance reports is nothing new for Walker or for his campaign treasurer, John Hiller.

Yes, Walker got busted by the State Elections Board about a year ago for failing to disclose that budget-related automatic phone calls were paid for by his campaign. Walker's camp was hit with a $5,000 fine for that little escapade. The JS story is here.

His cheating pre-dates that by at least a few years. Back in 2002 and 2003, Walker's campaign broke the law when it failed to identify the occupations of 57 donors who gave more than $100. (Among the mystery donors was Bruce Pfaff, who eventually managed Walker's gubernatorial campaign.)

Walker failed to list the occupations of 18 more $100+ donors in 2004.

Scott Walker simply thinks the rules -- whether they are accounting rules that govern pension fund contributions or legal rules that govern campaign finance reporting -- don't apply to him.

Monday, July 24, 2006

JS wrong on crucial New Berlin fact

The JS really, really, really wants Milwaukee to sell water to the paper's advertising base in New Berlin, and has repeated an error that helps it argue the way it wants to argue.

The paper reported (emphasis added):

DNR water chief Todd Ambs said Wisconsin's position since the governors started rewriting the rules in 2001 is to no longer make unilateral decisions on diversion requests where the water is returned to the basin. That is why New Berlin is allowed to pump Lake Michigan water only to portions of the city that lie inside the basin, a practice that began last summer.

But, Ambs said, the DNR believes Wisconsin legally retains the right to make the call whether to send water over the divide in New Berlin, though that won't happen until his agency allows for a public review of the plan.

Ambs noted that New Berlin now sends 2.4 million gallons more per day into the Great Lakes basin than it takes because city well water taken from west of the divide is pumped into Lake Michigan via the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District.

The fact that the entire city is hooked to district means it has essentially engineered itself into the basin.

Another story said:

In its application filed in spring with the DNR, the city points out that it essentially has engineered itself into the Great Lakes basin because all of its wastewater already is pumped into Lake Michigan via the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District.

The paper also opined:

New Berlin, already a client of the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District, returns its wastewater to the lake. As long as there are no other environmental issues at stake, New Berlin should get the water.

But the entire city of New Berlin isn't hooked up to MMSD, and only part of the city is an MMSD client. Milwaukee Ald. T. Anthony Zielinski got this crucial fact right when he advocated selling Milwaukee water to the part of New Berlin west of the divide and is within the MMSD service area. The MMSD commission would have to act to expand the boundaries to include the western 2/5 of the city.

MMSD has a nice map showing its boundaries.

We are sure the paper will set itself straight. It is too big a mistake for it not to do so.




Sunday, July 23, 2006

If we can't get steady power to New Orleans...

Saturday's New York Times had this depressing bit:

Ten months after Hurricane Katrina, the city still does not have a reliable electrical system. Hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of repairs are still needed on a system devastated by flooding, the local utility is in bankruptcy and less than half the system’s prestorm customers have returned. Of those who have, many have endured hot and sleepless nights with no air-conditioning.

We can't get reliable electricity to a city where there isn't a war, and is part of the most powerful nation in the world? But we're supposed to rebuild Iraq?

Uh-oh....




Saturday, July 22, 2006

Wal-Mart loves Mark Green $18,000 worth

Members of the super-conservative, super-anti-labor, and let's-not-provide-decent-benfits Walton family of Wal-Mart fame (or infamy) are dumping cash into Mark Green's campaign. The Cap Times has the story.

Bush Administration puts foster care kids at risk

New Medicaid rules require that people seeking Medicaid assistance provide proof of citizenship. This can be problematic say, if you are from New Orleans and your birth records have been destroyed, or if you are 90 years old and your records are six states away, or if you are severely cognitively disabled and have absolutely no way to get those records.

The Bush Administration took care of part of the problem earlier this month by exempting about 8 million elderly or disabled people from those requirements. There is still an especially vulnerable population at risk, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities: children in foster care.

The CBPP says:

An abused or neglected child, removed from the home and taken into state custody, does not typically come into foster care with a certified or original birth certificate or passport. Most children are placed in foster care because of abuse or neglect occurring within the context of extreme poverty, homelessness, mental illness, parental substance abuse, or human immunodeficiency virus infection. As a result, families may not have, or may not be willing to relinquish, documentary evidence on their children. The emergency nature of these removals requires that state agencies subsequently work with birth parents and use electronic sources, such as electronic birth records, to establish a complete case file on the child.

Under the terms of the regulations, however, states will not be able to rely on their child welfare records or on electronic exchanges of information between the child welfare and Medicaid agencies. States will need to obtain an original or certified birth certificate (or a passport) for the child’s Medicaid file, or to obtain the information through a match with vital records information, before eligibility can be established, even though child welfare agencies may have already verified that the child is a citizen.

Applying the new rules to these kids seems monumentally mean-spirited and unnecessary. If the elderly and vulnerable can be exempted from the, why not the young and vulnerable?

When the going gets tough, Finley calls in sick

A day or so after its amazingly bad Milwaukee Public Museum rescue plan is made public, the museum brass is scheduled to give a quarterly update to the County Board's Finance Committee. Who ducks out, but Museum President Dan Finley.

The museum is next door to the courthouse.

Reports the JS:

Finley, who had non-emergency surgery last week, was in the office Thursday but said he was not feeling up to attending the Finance Committee meeting.

OK, so Finley was well enough to drive or be driven all the way from his western Waukesha County home, but didn't feel up to walking next door to the courthouse to attend a meeting? What kind of BS is that? It is more likely Finley simply chickened out and was too timid to face the tough questions he knew were coming.

Way to go, Dan.

Our hero.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

News flash! AT&T chairman caught telling the truth!

AT&T spent a ton on advertising to mislead people, then company chairman Ed Whitacre had to ruin the entire effort by telling the truth. Don't you hate it when that happens?

The Wisconsin Alliance of Cities' Rich Eggleston reports:'

WISC-TV's Reality Check labelled as misleading claims of potential consumer savings being made by opponents of local governments' video franchising authority, which the television station said were extrapolated nationwide from a single study of one-time savings in a small Texas community.

The video version of newspaper ads that have run around the state said, "One thing (cable rates) is certain to come down, by up to 25 percent. That's up to $23 billion in savings nationwide."

Not very truthful, said UW-Madison professor Barry Orton, especially considering the promises AT&T is making to investors. "They're saying that publicly in the ads but if you read what their president is saying, they're going to price their service about the same," Orton told reporter Colin Benedict.

"AT&T's Chairman Edward Whitacre told Wall Street investors last month his company probably won't price below cable competitors," Benedict reported. "'I don't think there's going to be a price war,' said Whitacre in early June. 'I think it's going to be a war of value and of services.'"

The ads are run by TV4Us, a coalition of AT&T and a bunch of below-the-radar groups including the Center for Individual Freedom, which the PR Watch website says "receives corporate funding, but doesn't say from whom." On the Reality Check, Orton called TV4Us a puppet of AT&T.

"Here's a phony ad," Orton said. "Here's a group that is a puppet of AT&T."

Let's see, turning customer data over to the feds; helping to orchestrate a misleading advertising campaign to dupe customers into giving up local cable control; and working to be allowed to control Internet access through price structure. Not really up to cigarette company sleazy behavior standards, but not bad. Still nowhere near Enron levels. Keep trying, though, AT&T. We have faith.


It flip-flops and has that fishy smell...why, it's Mark Green!

Mark Green supported gas tax indexing, then opposed it, didn't deny supporting it, then denied supporting it. Flip. Flop. Flip. Flop. Xoff has the scoop.

Walker crony Finley fails

Milwaukee Public Museum President Dan Finley has failed at his job. The Journal Sentinel reported today:

A report prepared for the Milwaukee Public Museum says the cash-strapped institution can't survive even with a big fund-raising campaign unless Milwaukee County infuses more public money and then cedes control of the museum and its collections to the existing private operator by 2011....

The public-private museum's current operating plan "doesn't provide a long-term sustainable solution to the current situation," says a lengthy report given to top museum board members and shared with key county officials in recent weeks....

Under the draft of the recovery plan, the county would increase its annual operating contribution to the museum until 2010 and then taper off to zero by 2015. The county is providing $3.4 million this year but would give $4 million in 2007 under the plan, and 5% more a year through 2010.

Banks would be asked to forgive some of the old debt that burdened the museum's balance sheet even before last summer's crisis, under the plan. In addition, the museum would try to get out of its deal to purchase the former Discovery World space in the museum center downtown.


County Executive Scott Walker, a close crony to Finley, brought the former Waukesha County executive on board a year ago to fix the big mess that was the museum. Finley, who is paid $185,000 a year, said he could do that. The JS reported when he was appointed:

He thinks the institution is already stable and on its way toward recovery.

"I wouldn't have taken this job if I thought it was going in the other direction," Finley, 47, said in an interview. He spoke from the office vacated last month by Michael Stafford, the former museum president who resigned abruptly after revealing massive deficits that have forced deep layoffs at the institution.

Now Finley has apparently changed his mind. He wants the county to increase its donations to the museum and cut it loose from county ties. What comes after that? Moving it to Waukesha County, where Finley still lives? Sure would make for a shorter commute.

Finley was brought in and paid a very high salary to turn the museum around. He didn't do that. The first tiny step in saving the museum may be to recover some of that very handsome salary Finley is being paid to do a job he clearly is not up to doing.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

JS speaks -- everyone else is wrong

A pack of of scientists have said for years that diverting water across the subcontinental divide would be a bad thing -- an ecological disaster for Lake Michigan and its dependent environments.

Wait. Hold on. Here comes the Waukesha Water Utility and today's Journal Sentinel. The JS wants those scientists to be wrong and implies strongly that they are, covering its journalistic butt with the qualifying dodges of "may" and "might."

The JS reports that two hydrologists say that the ecological damage to the region's deep aquifier could be repaired within 70 years if Waukesha pumps millions of gallons daily out of Lake Michigan instead of the aquifier, currently a major source of water for the city.

The paper opines in its news columns: "The hydrologists' report might also mean that it would be better for nature if Waukesha and surrounding municipalities draw water directly from Lake Michigan instead of continuing to use deep wells, causing ecological changes that would take generations to reverse completely."

As in, the damage done to Lake Michigan by diversions wouldn't be difficult to reverse? As in, the one potential result of re-filling the aquifier outweighs all the negative effects of draining the lake?

The paper also says that water in the aquifier isn't Lake Michigan water, never was Lake Michigan water, but was once upon a time headed for Lake Michigan.

Once I went to Minnesota. If I had kept going, I would have ended up in California. If I kept going further, I would have ended up where I started.

What a pointless point.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Catching up on Homeland Security and the ash borer

The Department of Homeland Security, the gang who can't do anything right, has made a mess of protecting this country from the ash borer, according to the Government Accountability Office.

GAO, summarizing testimony on invasive forest pests, including the ash borer, reported last month that:

In our report on port inspections, we found that DHS has not used a risk-based staffing model to assign newly hired agricultural specialists to ports of entry. As a result, DHS does not have assurance that staff are assigned to areas of greatest vulnerability. In addition, despite an interagency agreement intended to facilitate coordination between DHS and USDA, agricultural specialists are not consistently receiving notifications of changes to policies and urgent inspection alerts in a timely manner. We also reported that DHS has allowed the canine inspection program—dogs trained to locate items that might harbor pests—to deteriorate. Dozens of canine units are vacant, and the proficiency scores of the remaining canine units have declined.

What GAO is saying, ever so politely, is that Homeland Security couldn't find its ash (borer) with both hands.

OK, in its defense, maybe Homeland Security was pre-occupied identifying those 7,000 potential terrorist targets in the state.

It's time for the county to step up

It looks like a proposal for a city-funded county bus route on Canal St. is going nowhere. Aldermen simply saw the county's ploy for what it was: an effort to shift costs to its poorest residents.

Will someone in county government step forward to accept the county's responsibility?

County Executive Scott Walker, still sucking his thumb and stamping his feet until somebody else pays the county's bills, won't do it.

Is there anyone on the County Board who can figure out that getting workers to jobs so they can pay property taxes so the county can pay its bills is a good idea?

Is there anyone on the County Board who can figure out that getting workers to jobs so the companies can make money and pay local, state and federal taxes is a really a good thing?

Gov. Doyle and the State Department of Transportation stepped forward with a three-year commitment totaling $345,000 in federal Job Access and Reverse Commute program funds. The Potawatomi Bingo Casino threw in $201,000 , and the Menomonee Valley Business Improvement District committed $30,000 to the project. The remaining three-year funding gap is $114,000, or $38,000 per year.

Scott Walker, who is in favor of a $7 billion or $8 billion freeway expansion scheme, doesn't want to spend the $38,000 on transit to get workers to jobs.

So it's up to the County Board. Will anyone step forward or has Walker's whining got them all cowed?


Thursday, July 13, 2006

Council derails bus idea

The Common Council yesterday sent back to committee a proposal that the city help fund a county Canal St. bus route. It appears the only reason the bad bus idea wasn't sent off outright to that great legislative scrap yard in the sky is that Ald. Jim Witkowiak, a sponsor of the measure, did not attend the council meeting and his colleagues wanted to give him a chance to address the issue.

In light of the newly-discovered county surplus that would allow it to fund its own routes, the council's move seem especially wise.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Perfecto files

Republican Perfecto Rivera, who was 20% short of the needed number last week, rounded up enough signatures to get on the ballot and will challenge Democrat Gwen Moore for the 4th Congressional District seat.

Or, at least, his name will be on the ballot. Here's predicting a big victory for Moore.

Net neutrality and Ted Stevens, moron in charge

Internet neutrality is a big deal. The debate over internet neutrality is the debate over keeping the internet as open and free as it is, or allowing the big telecoms to turn it into a for-profit land of have- and have-nots that would operate like cable television -- you pay to post content, and the telecoms decide how much you pay.

Or, as the Michigan State Journal said (via freepress.net)

If the legislation passes, smaller Web site companies that can’t pay the same price as larger companies may reach your screen at a slower rate. And as technology and the speed at which it works advance, our patience diminishes, leaving these smaller Web sites untouched.

The Internet has become one of the latest forums for free and equal speech, and infringing on that is a bad idea.


The legislation would limit our resources as consumers and define what exactly could be put on the Internet based on money. If passed, the legislation would widen the gap between huge enterprising Web sites like CNN.com and smaller ones like your favorite blog. Several Web site owners would be pushed off the Internet because of price, and we would no longer have access to the variety of sites available on the Internet we currently know and love.

The telecom bill -- which at this point does not support net neutrality -- may or may not come up for a vote this session. The big telecoms see that the legislation is written their way and are pushing hard for the Senate to act.

It's obviously extremely important that Congressional leaders fully understand the issues so they can make smart decisions (i.e., see through the lies of the telecmos). It's hard to decide if it is more appalling or funny that Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) -- chairman of a committee that rejected net neutrality language -- had this to say about the Internet, as reported by NewMexiKen, among others.

But this service isn’t going to go through the interent and what you do is you just go to a place on the internet and you order your movie and guess what you can order ten of them delivered to you and the delivery charge is free.

Ten of them streaming across that internet and what happens to your own personal internet?

I just the other day got, an internet was sent by my staff at 10 o’clock in the morning on Friday and I just got it yesterday. Why?

Because it got tangled up with all these things going on the internet commercially.

They want to deliver vast amounts of information over the internet. And again, the internet is not something you just dump something on. It’s not a truck.

It’s a series of tubes.

And if you don’t understand those tubes can be filled and if they are filled, when you put your message in, it gets in line and its going to be delayed by anyone that puts into that tube enormous amounts of material, enormous amounts of material.

As for Wisconsin's two senators: Sen. Russ Feingold supports net neutrality. Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.) has been a bit of a wuss about it all and it's hard to tell just what he will vote for or against. Hey, why not drop him a line and tell him to support net neutrality?

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Look out, below! Mexico's oil economy crashing?

Dave over at The Oil Drum gives another country-ful of reasons why the United States should spend more on conserving energy than on building roads to waste it.

The Mexican oil economy, he says, may be on the verge of collapse. A much bally-hooed oil field discovery turns out not to be an oil field. The country's biggest oil producer, Cantarell, "is now in decline, perhaps radical decline."

The biggest bad news gusher: the state-run oil company is bleeding financially. According to The Oil Drum post: "To make a long story short, today PEMEX is actually losing money and heavily in debt despite oil prices hovering near $75/barrel. "

The post quotes the Dallas Morning News:

Yet the Mexican government has taken so much of Pemex's revenue (61 percent) and saddled it with so much debt (more than $75 billion, including pension obligations) that the company has had a negative net worth since 2002.

In May, the company reported net income of $700 million in the first quarter but a loss of $6.75 billion for 2005.

Dave concludes:

If the anticipated decline in Mexico's oil production should occur in the next few years, it appears that the consequences could be

  • A possible collapse of the Mexican economy, which is already shaky. If some of you think we have an illegal immigration problem now, think again. It's not hard to imagine many more refugees from Mexico attempting to enter the United States.
  • The problem in the US would be two-fold. The refugee problem just mentioned and the fact that we've lost a large percentage of our oil imports in a world where there is no spare capacity. This could precipitate a crisis which, as far as I know, no one has anticipated or is prepared to deal with.

Scary stuff. As of early 2005, the United States imported well over 1.5 million barrels of oil per day from Mexico.

It won't be easily replaced, no matter how much the George Bushes and Mark Green let Big Oil have its way. We need to think differently.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Has Walker found a sugar daddy?

The city is considering using borrowed money to help pay for a Milwaukee County Transit System bus route on Canal St.

Yup. It looks like County Executive Scott Walker found a bunch of sugar daddies on the other side of Downtown. Walker is cutting transit, so the city -- with a tax base smaller than the county's -- is close to ponying up $114,000 so the county doesn't have to.

Even though providing transit is a good idea, this is a bad way to do it. The city would use borrowed money -- which means it will have to pay interest on it. It is just bad business to use this type of borrowed money for operating expenses.

Lori Lutzka of the Department of City Development spoke in favor of the proposal when it was before the Common Council's Community and Economic Development Committee last week. No one thought to even mention that the city was taking on traditional county obligation.

And why Canal St? Why not another route? Why not all the routes? What happens if other areas of town want improved transit? Will the city use more borrowed money to run the buses that Walker won't? Are there standards for city-funded county buses? Does my neighborhood qualify? Does the north side? The south side? Are the people whose routes are marked for elimination by 2007 county transit cuts less worthy of city financial support than the people who travel on the new Canal St? If Walker decided to end bus routes to the Grand Ave. shopping center, would the city step in and pay to restore them? What if Walker cuts $114,000 from the funding for each county route? Will the city replace it? Where at City Hall do we file our transit requests? Where do we get a copy of the rules that determine who qualifies for city-funded county transit?

There are better Canal St.-related uses for this money, which comes from a fund meant to support capital projects. The city could, for example, take care of the boulevards that already have been overgrown with weeds. It could even take care of the slummish boulevards directly adjacent to the Department of Public Works buildings on Canal St. (generally among the worst kept boulevards on the street, by the way).

Scott Walker must be smiling. He lives in Wauwatosa, and won't be paying for this new county bus route. Milwaukee taxpayers will be picking up his tab.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Perfecto Rivera short on signatures for Gwen Moore challenge

Perfecto Rivera, who has announced he is running for the 4th District Congressional seat now held by Gwen Moore, is scrambling to save his candidacy. He sent out an e-mail Friday urging recipients to sign his nomination papers before the deadline on Tuesday.

"I currently have about 80% of the signatures I need," he wrote. Wow! 20% short four days before due date? Not good.

Perfecto sent out the e-mail from his work account at Lincoln State Bank and invited recipients to sign the papers at a Wisconsin Ave. buiding owned by Alan Eisenberg, real estate agent, race driver, unsuccessful candidate for governor, and lawyer with a 3 times suspended law license.

This campaign is in trouble.

Friday, July 07, 2006

The Milwaukee County Parks 2006, by County Executive Scott Walker

Some weird sort of justice, or not

Disgraced former US Rep. Tom DeLay will stay on the Texas ballot even though he has quit Congress and has abandoned the Lone Star State for Virginia, a judge ruled yesterday. DeLay's district is mostly Republican, and the decision means there won't be a real Republican candidate for Repbublicans to vote for. The Dems, pending a likely appeal of the decision, have a great chance of picking up this seat.

DeLay was the mastermind behind the Texas redistricting designed to minimize Democratic districts and Democratic influence. There is some ironic justice in seeing Republicans in DeLay's district suffer the same kind of fate so many Democrats all through Texas did because of Tom DeLay. On the other hand, maybe it would be better for everyone if competitive districts were allowed to exist and voters were actually the ones to determine who represents them.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Conservatives, liberals agree: Bush screwed up foreign policy

The world is an increasingly dangerous place, and President Bush's overwhelming concentration on cleaning up the mess he's made of Iraq is one reason why. Today's Washington Post:

Even in the context of a post-Sept. 11, 2001, world, the array of tough, seemingly intractable foreign problems is spreading. Renewed violence has expanded to major cities throughout Afghanistan, as Afghan rebels adopt tactics of Iraqi insurgents and as President Hamid Karzai's popularity has plummeted. Iran is balking at demands to come clean or compromise on its nuclear program, despite new U.S. and European incentives. Palestinians launched longer-range missiles into Israel, while Israel has authorized its army to invade part of northern Gaza.

Meanwhile, an Islamist militia in Somalia seized control of the capital, Mogadishu. Mexico's future is uncertain after a close and disputed presidential election. And yesterday, the price of oil hit a new high of $75.19 a barrel.

Concern about such developments is cutting across the normal fault lines in American politics, with critiques being expressed by conservative realists such as Haass and liberal internationalists such as former secretary of state Madeleine K. Albright. Albright said yesterday that the United States now faces the "perfect storm" in foreign policy. "The U.S. is not as unilateral as it is uni-dimensional," she said in an interview. "We have not been paying attention to a lot of these issues. . . . Afghanistan is out of control because not enough attention was paid to it."

Even neoconservative hawks who have been generally supportive of the administration on Iraq and other issues said they are worried about the direction of American foreign policy, and hope for a muscular response from the Bush administration toward the latest North Korean provocation.

"North Korea is firing missiles. Iran is going nuclear. Somalia is controlled by radical Islamists. Iraq isn't getting better, and Afghanistan is getting worse," said William Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard and a leading conservative commentator. "I give the president a lot of credit for hanging tough on Iraq. But I am worried that it has made them too passive in confronting the other threats."

Oil prices might come down if everybody dies

It's a bad news / bad news scenario. Big buck investor Jim Rogers told Reuters he expects oil to hit $100 a barrel and stay there.

Except in the case of a bird flu epidemic.

"If bird flu should break out, everything will go down and oil would go down to $40, but I would still urge people to buy oil. It would go down less than other things and it would be the first to go back up," said Rogers.

Meanwhile, U.S. automakers continue to push gas-guzzling SUVs to consumers. Talk about refusing to face reality.

Meanwhile, Milwaukee County continues to gut its Transit System. Talk about refusing to face reality.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Was Busalacchi playing 'hide the records' even as he said he was sorry?

The State Department of Justice is accusing the Wisconsin Department of Transportation of releasing incomplete records when it finally released a report comparing the costs of using contractors vs. state employees.

WisDOT only released the report after months of delay and denial, which prompted the Justice Department to sue it for violating the Open Records Law in the first place. Even though Busalachhi was quick to accept responsibility for whatever went wrong the first time around, he and WisDOT lawyers are close-mouthed this time. Gosh, they say, we can't comment on pending cases.

Even though Frank himself was so willing to do the first time around. Why isn't he talking about it now?

Monday, July 03, 2006

Schedule the water resolution

Gov. Doyle and the DNR have a lot of explaining to do about their behind-closed-doors effort to get Lake Michigan water diverted to New Berlin. This crucial public policy action was done on a need-to-know basis -- and apparently the only people DNR & Co. thought needed to know were the gov, a few New Berlin officials and a conflicted consulting firm.

Languishing in the Common Council's Public Works Committee is a resolution by Ald. T. Anthony Zielinski that would direct the city to study the benefit of diverting Lake Michigan water to New Berlin, exactly like the boys in the secret water society want to do. I don't know if Tony Z. was in on the "quiet" plan to divert water, but clearly someone was whispering in his ear. It can hardly be a coincidence that his resolution reflected exactly the plot that was already underway.

The resolution should be scheduled for discussion. Let's invite the DNR and the governor come to Milwaukee to explain why they wanted to keep the public out of the discussion about such a critical issue. Let's ask them why they didn't have the courtesy to inform Milwaukee representatives about the diversion application. Let's ask the governor whether showing such disdain for Milwaukee residents -- not just for Mayot Tom Barrett, who ran against him and who he still doesn't like much, but for all Milwaukee residents -- will help him in his re-election bid.

Let's invite Ruekert/Mielke, the firm who works for New Berlin to get a diversion and for Waukesha on increasing the city's water supply and for SEWRPC on a water supply study that will help decide whether diversion is a good policy to explain why all those conflicting roles do not constitute one insurmountable conflict of interest. Let's get Kurt Bauer, who is both chair of the SEWRPC water study committee and who also has done work for Ruekert/Mielke, explain why that is not a conflict.

Please schedule the resolution. Let's have the discussion that already should have happened. It should be very enlightening.