Thursday, November 30, 2006

Bill Frist's decision guided by His Pollster

Sen. Majority Leader Bill Frist announced yesterday that he will not run for president in 2008. A reasonable person could conclude that Frist decided he didn't have a chance of election after looking at his legal / political woes. As the Washington Post reports:

But Frist began to lose some of that aura after a series of politically damaging events, including an on-going investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission into allegations of insider trading in his sale of shares in HCA Inc., a hospital chain founded by his father and his brother. The sale was completed just weeks before the company issued an earnings estimate that fell short of analysts' expectations, causing a drop in HCA's stock price.

Frist has also faced questions about his role on the board of a charitable foundation that paid consulting fees to some of his close political allies.

Last year, Frist injected himself into the legislative drama over Terri Schiavo, the brain-damaged and bedridden Florida woman who died after her husband decided to have her feeding tube removed, despite congressional efforts to reverse his decision.

After viewing a videotape of the woman, Frist, a surgeon, publicly questioned the diagnosis that said Schiavo would never recover. That action was widely viewed as a sop to religious conservatives. An autopsy later proved Frist wrong.

Also, Frist has been drawn into caustic confrontations with Senate Democrats since being elevated to majority leader in 2002, reinforcing the view of him as an intense partisan. Although friends and colleagues say he never violated his principles, they note that the job of majority leader obscured what they say is Frist's true character. Moreover, he was politically weakened when Republicans lost control of both chambers of Congress in the midterm elections earlier this month.

But, wait! It wasn't his own screw-ups that led Frist to conclude that the woodpeckers have done some real damage to whatever presidential timber he ever was. No, it was the Bible that led the way to Frist's enlightenment:

"In the Bible, God tells us for everything there is a season, and for me, for now, this season of being an elected official has come to a close," he said in a written statement. "I do not intend to run for president in 2008."

God, the pollster, told Frist: "Bag it, baby. You can't win."

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Thank you, Wauwatosa, DNR, Friends of Milwaukee Rivers

Wauwatosa and DNR officials torpedoed a proposal by Cobalt Partners to straddle the Milwaukee River with a two-story, 34,000-foot fire station.

The plan would violate state and local flood control regulations, officials said.

The group Friends of Milwaukee Rivers made sure that details of the proposal were understood by residents, who probably didn't need much persuasion to see what a really, really bad idea it was.

Cobalt declined to comment on the DNR's findings. Maybe Cobalt would comment on this: what the hell were thinking about?

Consistency is not the hobgoblins of these little minds

The very same Republicans who wanted to impose a property tax freeze now want to tap into local property taxes to pay for the tax-and-spend-really-foolishly Department of Transportation's "Pave Wisconsin" program, according to the JS.

Rep. Mark Gottlieb (R-Port Washington) developed a report that noted that road projects drive up property values, creating a larger tax base for local governments. Some of that tax revenue should be used to pay for the roads.

The Republicans are making themselves clearer now. Property tax money spent on libraries, police, firefighters, garbage collection, education, restaurant inspections, emergency medical services, and local road repair and maintenance are bad; property tax money spent to feed WisDOT, the big, bottomless pig at the table, is good.

If WisDOT would just better manage the billions it already has, we wouldn't even be talking about stealing money from communities that already don't have enough.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

It's all about setting priorities

Gotta love what the JS thinks is important. A story about the Milwaukee 7's web site -- a web site for God's sake -- got played on the front page, while news of the central city's continued slide into deeper poverty was pushed into the back business pages.

Both stories were written by John Schmid.

The latter story even included a comment by State Sen. Ted Kanavas (R-Brookfield) about Milwaukee's problems. We're sure that the the next time the JS business section runs a story about Waukesha County, a central city Milwaukee legislator will be contacted for a quote.

Right?

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

It's simply not a deficit!

The JS is flat out wrong on this one. The gap that occurs when total budget requests exceed projected revenues is not a deficit. Period.

As a matter of fact, someone show me the last time budget requests did not exceed expected revenues. I'll wait, probably forever. Budget requests always need to be weighed and whittled, whether at the federal, state, or local levels of government.

I know I'm joining a longish line by chiming in on this one. In Effect has a post, and so does Folkbum and What's Left.

But I used to be in the news biz and now I'm in the budget biz and it boils down to this: the JS was wrong to suggest that budget requests = defiticts, and was doubly wrong to let Republicans use budget requests to hammer Gov. Doyle about deficits.

Here's how it usually works in real life. Departments submit funding requests to a central budget office. If it works right, the budget requests outline what department managers think they need to provide services the following years. (If it doesn't work right, department managers use budget request to try to expand their little empires or maybe get some really fancy things they don't need, but in those cases the managers should be canned and that's the end of that.)

Department managers can use budget requests to propose new programs, to suggest alternate ways of providing services, or simply to estimate what it will cost next year to maintain this year's services. This is a good thing. It allows decision-makers to look at the overall requests and set priorities. How much does the Department of Natural Resources say it needs to maintain service levels? What about the Department of Workforce Development? Does DWD have a new system of doing something that will save $1 million that can then be shifted to DNR to save X number of ranger jobs? Or does DWD need to keep that money to operate a new jobs training program in Ashland?

The decision-makers take the budget requests, look at anticipated revenues and, working with department managers and others, massage and whack and adjust the requests so the resulting total budget matches the total anticipated revenue.

Budget requests give a big picture. They are competitive, and not everyone will get everything asked for. It's why there is a budget process, and why no one with five minutes' experience or half an ounce of common sense would suggest that budget requests being greater than anticipated revenue somehow means there is a deficit.

And I know that most reporters and editors at the JS know better. So I wonder why....

WisDOT to state budget managers: drop dead

Oh, my. The WisDOT gang thinks it can run over the governor's budget folks.

WisDOT Secretary Frank "Miller Park roof" Busalacchi has done a great job blowing ignoring fiscal limits on transportation projects so far (yes, projected $1.7 billion in overruns on just 27 projects is not a good thing), so he must figure he can just roll over and crush Secretary of Administration Stephen Bablitch under the weight of road builder influence.

The Department of Administration told most departments to keep their budget requests flat, Bablitch said in a letter released this week.

The budget instructions directed GPR (general purpose revenue, or regular ol' tax money) agencies to limit budget requests to 100 percent of their fiscal year 2006-07 adjusted base year budgets for both fiscal year 2007-08 and fiscal year 2008-09 ... Budget requests for segregated revenue-funded state operations administrative appropriations of the Department of Transportation, Department of Natural Resources and Lottery were also subject to this directive. Most agencies complied with this directive.

"Most agencies" did not include WisDOT. The most mad-spending agency requested a $155.4 million boost for FY08, and a $70.3 million boost for FY09. That is a 9.2% increase over the two years.


What part of "limit" doesn't WisDOT understand?

The JS' new archives charge

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has begun charging for access to archived stories. The fee schedule:
  • Single Article: $2.95 per article
  • 3 Pack: $6.95, one week duration (more than 20% discount!)
  • 10 Pack: $21.95, one month duration (25% discount!)
  • 25 Pack: $49.95, one month duration (30% discount!)
  • 40 Pack: $79.95, one month duration
  • 500 Pack: $995, one year duration
  • 1,000 Pack: $1,995, one year duration
If you live in the City of Milwaukee, though, and you have a Milwaukee Public Library Card, you still have online access to JS clips -- through the library. You pay for the service through your property taxes, but there is no additional charge. Click here and then go to "Research Resources." The Milwaukee Public Library -- just one more reason to live in the city.

Bush keeps his distance from those Vietnamese people

President Bush doesn't actually want to talk to or touch any average Vietnames folks while he's in their country, according to news reports originating in the New York Times.

On Saturday, Bush's national security adviser, Stephen J. Hadley, conceded that the president had not come into direct contact with ordinary Vietnamese, but said that they connected anyway.

"If you'd been part of the president's motorcade as we've shuttled back and forth," he said, reporters would have seen that "the president has been doing a lot of waving and getting a lot of waving and smiles."

The Vietnamese should not feel bad. It's just like that here in the United States, too, only Bush doesn't get so many smiles or waves anymore.

Global warming? Oil dependency? WisDOT loves 'em both

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation's new budget request demonstrates, once again, that the spend-it-all-even-if-we-don't-have-it merry band of pranksters at WisDOT don't quite understand the concepts of restraint, oil dependency, aging population, or global warming.

$200 million for Milwaukee freeway projects and a lousy $601,000 statewide boost for aids to elederly and disabled transportation services? Ya gotta be kidding.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Another really bad Bush appointment

From the Washington Post:

The Bush administration has appointed a new chief of family-planning programs at the Department of Health and Human Services who worked at a Christian pregnancy-counseling organization that regards the distribution of contraceptives as "demeaning to women."

Eric Keroack, medical director for A Woman's Concern, a nonprofit group based in Dorchester, Mass., will become deputy assistant secretary for population affairs in the next two weeks, department spokeswoman Christina Pearson said yesterday.

Wonder what this guy thinks about Viagra.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

A win for common sense and good government

It doesn't happen that often, so let's celebrate.

From the Houston Chronicle:

Also Tuesday, the Senate approved by unanimous voice vote a move by Susan Collins, R-Maine, to keep alive an oversight office in Iraq responsible for exposing waste in U.S. efforts for rebuilding Iraq. The special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction tracks spending in the multibillion-dollar effort to rebuild Iraq, a process moving slowly because of corruption and overcharging as well as wartime violence.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., had moved to shut down the agency by October as Congress passed the annual defense policy bill.

Hunter's strong-arm move caught many lawmakers by surprise and prompted immediate calls for its reversal. The inspector general's work has resulted in four criminal convictions and, most recently, evidence that a Halliburton subsidiary exploited federal regulations to hide details on its contract performance.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Ch2M Hill says mix of lead bullets and fresh water is OK

Ch2M Hill, an engineering firm, assures us that dumping thousands of lead bullets into the Great Lakes, as the Coast Guard would like to do, poses no threat to human or aquatic life.

In fiscal 2005, CH2M Hill held $931.8 million in federal contracts, according to fedspending.org.

Ya think CH2M Hill is interested in telling the federal government what it wants to hear?

Monday, November 13, 2006

Public Policy Forum forgets the important things.

What the hell has Tom Barrett and the city done to be so completely trashed by the Public Policy Forum in its economic development report? First the Forum wrote up a hatchet job, then the JS and reporter John Schmid took the bloody weapon and took a few of its own swings at the mayor in a Sunday story that made Barrett and Department of City Development Commissioner Rocky Marcoux look like a couple of dolts.

Lots of "he said, he said" between Rocky and Brian Reilly, a former DCD staffer, and a few jabs at Barrett for interviewing what apparently, in writer John Schmid's view, was in insufficient number of people for the DCD commissioner's job.

The Forum's report is "ready! shoot! aim!" and maybe it hit a bullseye, but on the workforce development issue, shot the entirely wrong target. Was it a total set-up? An e-mail exchange between the city and the PPF does suggest that the Forum did not behave particularly well. More about that later.

This particular report, while it may contain some valuable ideas, spends too much time spanking the city for not being involved in workforce development efforts, which have not been a traditional municipal activity.

Some examples from the report:

In placing this bet, the city has largely neglected expenditures for business and workforce development that aim to bolster personal incomes, create jobs, and grow a skilled labor pool.

City leaders also would be right to question whether a continued emphasis on community and real estate development over job and workforce development will deliver desired results in the long term.

Only 1% of expenditures go toward workforce development. Although workforce issues are also the responsibility of other governments such as the Milwaukee Area Technical College and Milwaukee Public Schools, the city could play a much bigger role in ensuring a quality workforce, borrowing from a variety of city workforce development models nationwide...With a shrinking city labor force and the simultaneous “skills mismatch” between good paying
jobs and unskilled available workers, it may be time for the city to revisit its 1%
commitment to workforce development.


The Public Policy Forum seems to think property tax dollars should be diverted from police and libraries and fire departments and street repairs and invested in workforce development efforts instead. There's nothing wrong with that, except workforce development is what the Private Industry Council and the State Department of Workforce Development are supposed to do. The Forum's entire examination of the job the PIC does consists of this:

The city of Milwaukee should use its leadership position to partner with local employers,MATC, MPS, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM), Milwaukee County Private Industry Council, and other workforce development leaders to gain consensus on how the city could use its resource capacity to train workers for careers in local industries.

It probably would be very, very worthwhile for the Forum or the JS to poke around the PIC for a while. Are employers any happier with that agency than they are with the city? Key aldermen have stated publicly that they would like to turn some of the PIC's work over to the city because the city can do it better. Why do they believe that? Why didn't the Public Policy Forum ask?

Amazingly, the Public Policy Forum's omission of other agencies' workforce and economic development efforts was deliberate, according to the report: Only spending that filtered through the city of Milwaukee was included in the study. Grants or incentives from state or federal sources given directly to Milwaukee businesses and non-profits were not included.

Guess that's why the State Department of Workforce Development -- yes, an entire department devoted to what the Forum wants the city to take up with its spare change -- doesn't even rate a mention.

Excluding a large part of the known world sure makes the report writer's job easier. The city can be blamed for everything! Let's take transit. Under the Forum's study criteria, the county doesn't exist and transit is important to the city, so the declining transit system is the city's fault and the city should pay to fix it! Same with courts, parks, and on and on and on.


And so did the Public Policy Forum play fair with city officials in all of this? The following is an exchange that took place between city officials and the report's main author, Ryan Horton.

Deputy DCD Commissioner Martha Brown emailed Horton on Oct. 11:

Hi, Ryan -- I note that the latest PPF newsletter has a "tease" on the ED study. I believe you were going to share the draft with us -- sounds like it may be time to set that up. Please let me know when you'd like to get together.

Martha

Horton responded the next day:

Absolutely. We are still working on the initial draft. Does the last week in October or first week in November work for you?

The dialogue continued:

From: Brown, Martha
Sent: Thursday, October 12, 2006 12:16 PM
To: Ryan Horton
Subject: RE: ED study

Hi, Ryan -- I'll be out of the office on Friday, November 3, and Monday, Nov. 6 is already packed with meetings. But other than those two days, I'm sure we can get something on the calendar. Ideally, we'd get the draft in advance and I'd be able to circulate it and gather a few folks around the table to talk with you about anything they read that they feel needs discussion.

Our best course would be to decide on a time so I can get it on calendars -- would some time the afternoon of Thursday, November 9th work for you?

***

From: Ryan Horton
Sent: Monday, November 06, 2006 5:33 PM
To: Brown, Martha
Subject: RE: ED study

Hi Martha, I just want to confirm our Thursday meeting at 3pm. I assume we will be meeting at the same location - 2nd floor, DCD. Myself, Jeff Browne and our communications director, Jerry Slaske will all be in attendance. Whom can we expect from the city? We have a phone call into Pat Curley inviting a representative from the Mayors office. The official release for the report will be next Monday (Nov. 13th). I will hand out draft copies of the report at our meeting on Thursday. See you then - Ryan

***

From: Brown, Martha
Sent: Monday, November 06, 2006 6:08 PM
To: Ryan Horton

Cc: Patrick Curley;

Subject: RE: ED study

Ryan -- We'll be meeting in the Commissioner's Conference Room, 2nd floor, 809 N. Broadway (same room in which we met the last time). If you are intending to release a report on Nov. 13th, it would be very helpful to get a copy in advance of the meeting Nov. 9. As I mentioned earlier, it's my hope to be able to circulate the draft in advance of the meeting, because if there are errors or misinterpretations in the draft, we'd like to be helpful in catching those before you go to print.

The following DCD folks are confirmed to attend: Jim Scherer, Dave Latona (Milwaukee Economic Development Corp.), Joel Brennan, myself. Unfortunately, Rocky isn't able to be there. I've also invited Pat Walsh, but haven't yet heard from him.

Thanx--

Martha

***

From: Ryan Horton
To: Brown, Martha
Sent: Tue Nov 07 11:49:36 2006
Subject: RE: ED study

Martha, I spoke with Jeff about your request to see the document in advance of our Thursday meeting. Because the report is still in draft form, we do not feel comfortable sharing it prior to Thursday. Changes in language are still being made. As always, we need to retain our independence when we release any Forum report. At the end of the day, if there are errors or misinterpretations, it's our fault. That said, we look forward to reviewing the findings and policy options with you and your staff on Thursday. Thank you again for all your cooperation over the past year. Ryan

What Horton meant to say is that the report could not be shared with the city -- the Forum was fine with handing it over to the JS. Patrick Curley, Barrett's chief of staff, was not a happy camper when he found out what was going on.

From: Patrick Curley
Sent: Wednesday, November 08, 2006 1:42 PM
Cc: Brown, Martha; Eileen Force

Subject: ED Study and Press

This email you sent to Martha would have a whole more credibility if John Schmid hadn't called and asked for comment. Specifically, he asked, "What's your reaction to the Public Policy Forum's Economic Development Study?" I replied, "don't have it, haven't seen it." Obviously, he has had it, he's seen it. So, despite the fact that Martha Brown and DCD have cooperated with you over the past year, you and Jeff have no qualms about sandbagging us.

Cooperative endeavors must mean something different to you and yours than to us.

Horton then does what comes naturally -- he blames the reporter. This e-mail is sent on Nov. 8, at 6:43 p.m.

Pat, I understand your frustration and I apologize. We will take up the issue with John.

(What???!)

Attached is a copy of the report which is embargoed until Sunday, Nov. 12th. This report is not to be forwarded to any other media outlet or those not on this email until after Nov. 12th.

Ryan Horton
Researcher
Public Policy Forum

There is just not much in the study, the JS story, or the e-mails that indicates a good-faith effort to study the city's economic development efforts. It all smacks of an effort to get a report's findings into the newspaper, with the report, its findings, and the way they were handled were all means to that end.

Whatever good is in the report's recommendations -- yup, the city should have an economic development plan -- is mostly lost in the muck the Forum itself has dumped on itself and its effort.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Uh-oh, one of those key Dems in trouble

US Sen. Robert Menendez, a Democrat, still is bobbing around in hot water a few days after New Jersey voters returned him to office. From the Newark Star Ledger:

Federal investigators have resumed their inquiry into a rental deal between U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and a nonprofit agency, issuing new subpoenas in the days after he was elected to a full six-year term, according to a government source.

The subpoenas sought documents related to the more than $300,000 in rent Menendez collected from the North Hudson Community Action Corp. between 1994 and 2003, the source said. It was unclear what records were sought or who was subpoenaed.

Menendez has steadfastly denied wrongdoing, and voters believed him enough or didn't care about the allegations enough to elect him to a full six-year term over Republican Thomas Kean Jr., who tried to paint Menendez as a crook. Crooks? In New Jersey politics? Nahhhh.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Doyle not seen as Mr. Clean

Members of a conservative/progressive panel of bloggers at download 2006 (sponsored by One Wisconsin Now and Boots and Sabers) were in surprising sync in their rather skeptical view of the integrity of the Doyle regime. Here is audio of the discussion, including audience input (the audience tilted conservative).

Friday, November 10, 2006

download reminder -- event is tomorrow!

A gentle reminder that all sorts of good talk and discussion abotu the elections can be had tomorrow, Nov. 11, at dowload 2006. The event will feature panel discussions with citizen bloggers representing Boot and Sabers, Folkbum's Rambles and Rants, In Effect, Lakeshore Laments, Milwaukee Rising, One Blog, Right off the Shore, and Wigderson's Library and Pub. It's open to the public.

The details:

Waukesha County Technical College (WTCT)
Richard T. Anderson Education Conference Center
800 Main Street, Pewaukee

Saturday, Nov. 11
11:00 - 12:00: Meet Up
Food and beverages will be provided
12:00 - 2:00: Blogger panel dialogues
Wireless access for live blogging available

Dale Schultz needs glasses

There's a reason Dale Schultz, the Senate Majority leader under the State Senate Republican rule, didn't seek a new leadership post within his party: he's politically blind. The JS made the shocking disclosure yesterday.

One legislative leader whose party lost seats withdrew from leadership Wednesday, before he was voted out. Senate Majority Leader Dale Schultz (R-Richland Center) said he would not seek a leadership role when the 15 GOP senators meet today.

In a statement, Schultz said national issues - and nothing Wisconsin Republicans did or didn't do - caused the defeat of incumbent Republican Sens. Tom Reynolds of West Allis and Dave Zien and Ron Brown, both of Eau Claire.

"What we saw in Senate Republican races here in Wisconsin was a direct result of a Democrat tsunami which swept across the country," Schultz added.

To assert that local candidates are irrelevant in local races is pretty astounding. Yes, national trends had an impact. So did the candidates the Republicans chose to run in Wisconsin.

Yes, Howard, he did

The Washington Post's Howard Kurtz asks this morning:

Did the president of the United States make a rare admission on national television that he had told an untruth?

Or had he merely engaged in a dodge of the sort that is common in politics?

Journalists by nature shy from pinning the "liar" label on any political leader, but President Bush's acknowledgments that he had not been forthcoming about his plans to dump Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld have kicked up a fuss at the White House and sparked a debate about the limits of presidential evasion.

Six days before the election, Bush told three wire-service reporters in an interview that Rumsfeld and Vice President Cheney were doing "fantastic" jobs.

"You see them staying with you until the end?" asked Terence Hunt of the Associated Press.

"I do," Bush replied.

"So you're expecting Rumsfeld, Secretary Rumsfeld, to stay on the rest of your time here?" asked Steve Holland of Reuters.

"Yes, I am," the president said.

On Wednesday, the day after the election, Bush at a news conference said that "that kind of question, a wise question by a seasoned reporter, is the kind of thing that causes one to either inject major military decisions at the end of a campaign, or not. And I have made the decision that I wasn't going to be talking about hypothetical troop levels or changes in command structure coming down the stretch."

The president added that he had not made a definitive decision because he had not held his "last" conversation with Rumsfeld and had not yet spoken to Robert Gates, his nominee to take over the Pentagon.

Either way, the president lied. There are only two scenarios:

1. The president dumped Rummy post-haste post-election because of the national repudiation of the Administration's war policies and Bush lied when he said it was planned before the election, or

2. Bush planned to dump Rummy before the election and lied about it when asked specific questions by a reporter.

Either way, Bush lied.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Bush unbelievable again

George Bush is telling another whopper.

Really, he says, Donald Rumsfeld's resignation had nothing to do with election results. Really! Not a thing! I just told America last week that one of the most despised men in the country had to stay on my team 4 ever because I wanted to alienate the largest number of voters possible to the maximum extent possible just before the election! I wanted the Senate to go Democratic so I could not get another one of those awful judicial appointments through. Stop me before I appoint again!

OK, George. Sure, uh-huh.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Election factiod

Voters were much more interested in the Milwaukee County sheriff's race, in which incumbent David Clarke destroyed Republican opponent Don Holt, than they were in the Milwaukee County district attorney's race, where Assistant DA John Chisholm destroyed independent Lew Wasserman.

Clarke and Holt received a combined total of 297,095 votes, which is 45,182 or 18% more than the combined total of 251,913 votes that Chisholm and Wasserman got, according to the JS. The sheriff's results were based on 99% of returns counted and the DA results were based on 98% of returns counted, but it's unlikely that 1% difference has much impact on the interest gap.

Feeling mostly good on election day plus one

Rah, rah, rah for State Sen. elect Jim Sullivan (D-Wauwatosa), who beat incumbent State Sen. Tom Reynolds (R -- soon to be a full-time printer again).

The attorney general's results are a real head banger, but we can always hold out hope for a recount that will show that Kathleen Falk actually won.

Shoot, shoot, shoot on that darned death penalty and darned marriage amendment and those huge margins....ouch.

Steve Kagen won up the 8th Congressional District up north there, John Lehman took the 21st Senate District in Racine County, and it's nice to see the Dems in control of the State Senate and the US House of Representatives.

Now, the question: should Congress investigate the Bush Administration? Absolutely, and in several areas: what the Bushies knew and when they knew it during the run-up to the Iraq war; the corruption and waste in military contracting, Iraq reconstruction, and government procurement; and gross violations of civil rights.

Waste, fraud, and abuse does not make America safer.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

While we're waiting for results

While we are waiting for local results and celebrating Rick Santorum's crash and burn in Pennsylvania (he may have lost the election, but he won the contest for creepy), here's another reason people are hoping to do better with Democrats. There's no promise of that, since the Dems have been pretty willing accomplices in the shredding of the Constitution, but here's a situation so glaring and nutso that even a the most page-besotted politico will have to pay attention. The Bush administration is arguing that it's not the torture that should be outlawed -- what needs to be outlawed is the victims' rights to talk about it, even to their attorneys. From the Associated Press:

WASHINGTON – A suspected terrorist who spent years in a secret CIA prison should not be allowed to speak to a civilian attorney, the Bush administration argues, because he could reveal the agency's closely guarded interrogation techniques.

Human rights groups have questioned the CIA's methods for questioning suspects, especially following the passage of a bill last month that authorized the use of harsh – but undefined – interrogation tactics.

In recently filed court documents, the Justice Department said those methods, along with the locations of the CIA's network of prisons, are among the nation's most sensitive secrets. Prisoners who spent time in those prisons should not be allowed to disclose that information, even to a lawyer, the government said.

“Improper disclosure of other operational details, such as interrogation methods, could also enable terrorist organizations and operatives to adapt their training to counter such methods, thereby obstructing the CIA's ability to obtain vital intelligence that could disrupt future planned terrorist attacks,” the Justice Department wrote.

The documents, which were first reported by The Washington Post, were filed in opposition to a request that terror suspect Majid Khan should be given access to an attorney. Khan, 26, immigrated from Pakistan and graduated high school in Maryland.

According to documents filed on his behalf by the Center for Constitutional Rights, Khan was arrested in Pakistan in 2003. During more than three years in CIA custody, Khan was subjected to interrogation techniques that defense attorneys suggest amounted to torture.

President Bush acknowledged the existence of the CIA system in September and transferred Khan and 13 other prisoners designated as “terrorist leaders” to the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Under a law passed last month, they are to be tried before special military commissions and may not have access to civilian courts.

The Center for Constitutional Rights is among several advocacy groups challenging that law. They say the Constitution guarantees prisoners a right to challenge their detention.

The Justice Department argues that civilian courts no longer have jurisdiction to intervene in the case. They say keeping details about the CIA program secret is essential because national security is at stake.

“Information obtained through the program has provided the United States with one of the most useful tools in combating terrorist threats to the national security,” the government argued in court documents.

“It has shed light on probable targets and likely methods for attacks on the United States, has led to the disruption of terrorist plots against the United States and its allies, and has gathered information that has played a role in the capture and questioning of senior al-Qaeda operatives,” it said.

Gitanjali S. Gutierrez, an attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights, responded in court documents Friday that there is no evidence Khan has classified information. Gutierrez accused the administration of using national secrecy concerns to “conceal illegal or embarrassing executive conduct.”

U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton has not indicated when he will rule.

A message for lawyers from the Bush Administration

Who needs tort reform when you've got Homeland Security to quash potential litigation? This comes from "Port Security News:"

The Transportation Security Administration last week (November 1) put a notice in the Federal Register stating that it has forwarded a new plan for personal information collection to the Office of Management and Budget for its approval. The intent is to require people involved in legal disputes to be fingerprinted and subject to a background check before they can gain access to information deemed sensitive by the Department of Homeland Security.

The limits on the collection of information specifically pertain to those seeking access to “sensitive security information” (SSI) to support their cases in federal court. TSA is seeking to conduct criminal history record checks and security threat assessments of those seeking the sensitive but unclassified information in order to strengthen their court cases. TSA argues that SSI includes information that would be detrimental to transportation security if publicly disclosed. Critics on the other hand state that information with little or no bearing on homeland security often gets classified as SSI.

I can't imagine why anyone on Earth would anyone trust the Bush Administration to determine who should or should not have access to the courtroom, which is what this regulation essentially would do. It also contains no provision for appeal, by the way.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Tom Reynolds and his campaign finance report

In which our unhero gets his numbers wrong, wrong, wrong and overstates his contributions by 47%. How convenient for him.

And this is the guy who is supposed to balance a multi-billion dollar budget? Whoa. Scary.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Meet your local bloggers!

C'mon out and say hello...
One Wisconsin Now and Boots & Sabers present....
download 2006

Waukesha County Technical College (WTCT)
Richard T. Anderson Education Conference Center
800 Main Street, Pewaukee

Saturday, Nov. 11
11:00 - 12:00: Meet Up
Food and beverages will be provided
12:00 - 2:00: Blogger panel dialogues
Wireless access for live blogging available

A download from the Wisconsin Blog Community on the 2006 Elections -- Featuring panel discussions with citizen bloggers representing Boot and Sabers, Folkbum's Rambles and Rants, In Effect, Lakeshore Laments, Milwaukee Rising, One Blog, Right off the Shore, and Wigderson's Library and Pub.
Dialogues on the elections, media coverage, issues and ads.
Votes on best and worst campaigns, campaign ads and media coverage.
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Friday, November 03, 2006

Dohnal does a brain dump

Xoff has posted one of the threats State Sen. Tom Reynolds' good friend Bob Dohnal sent along trying to intimidate folks. Among other things, Dohnal says:

I have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years hunting for trophies and have them over my fireplace. I would really like to add the butts of Gretchen Schuldt, Bill Christofferson and Jim McGuigan.

You can read Xoff's full post here.

I got a Dohnal brain dump of my own the other day:

DA has ruled that sayng that Reynolds used campaign funds to heat home is lie. Building Wisconsin's Future has pulled ad and negotiations are underway to figure out how to redo damage.
You should get attroney. The cows are coming home and your front yard is going to be full of cowpies pretty quick.
As an expereinced reporter you will be under much more scrutiny as you know how to check out stories.
Hope the bill does not cost you your house in Story Hill as we will spend any amount to pin your ears back.
Wait until the DA comes after the corruption in Tosa as a result of the Sullivan double votes.

Just to remind folks -- the DA's office has decided that the double-voting allegations against Reynolds' challenger Jim Sullivan are....yes...cowpies. And the DA didn't say the ad was a lie. And Building Wisconsin's Future didn't pull it.

And Dohnal can't nail my butt over his fireplace, but he can kiss my....

More Reynolds' questions

Now that the DA's office has officially opined that State Sen. Tom Reynolds used campaign funds to pay utilities on his campaign headquarters on a rental property rather than at his home as Reynolds' own campaign filings gives gives reasonable basis to conclude, let's move on to remaining questions about the Reynolds' campaign finance reports:
  • Why didn't Reynolds declare the value of the use of the rental property HQ as an in-kind donation? The full-time use of a building with heat, gas, and printers or printing presses seems to be of substantial value, and state law requires that candidates declare those kind of donations.

  • How did Reynolds value his own in-kind donations for printing labor? State law requires that contributions be declared the day they are received. Reynolds declared a $16,883 in-kind contribution on Oct. 23, the last day of the most recent reporting period. Let's assume that, despite the law, Reynolds is declaring his in-kind contribution for the entire period and not for a single day. There were just 56 days during the reporting period, including weekends. If Reynolds' worked on his own stuff eight hours a day, every day, including weekends, he would be billing his campaign $37.69 per hour, or -- on a full-time basis -- more than $78,000 a year. (He has separate entries for utilities, paper, ink, and payments to the postmaster and a mailing service.)

  • Just who is Kelly Reynolds and why did Tom Reynolds pay her $364 on Sept. 5? Kelly Reynolds' address is listed on Reynolds' campaign report as his home at 9430 W. Schlinger Ave. (but remember, just because Reynolds says something is at his home address does not mean that it is, in fact, at his home address) Reynolds doesn't say why he paid her, though the law requires "an itemized statement of every disbursement exceeding $20 in amount or value. together with the name of the person or business to whom the disbursement was made, and the date and the specific purpose for which the disbursement was made."
  • Why doesn't Reynolds list individual contributions made by book donors and dealers for the book sale fundraiser he held? Reynolds valued the books, which he listed as "Books accepted on consignment and some donated books for sale" at $2,809. Interestingly, he listed the name of the donor as "Used Book Sale," which seems a tad incomplete to me. His finance report also includes expenditures of $521.25 and $701.04 to two individuals -- Brian Nowack and Craig Temple, respectively -- for "payment for books taken on consignment."
Curious minds want to know. We've asked Thomas Frenn, Reynolds' compositionally-challenged attorney, for answers to some of these questions. We're waiting to hear back.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Blonien bluster

Latest JJ Blonien charge against Jim Sullivan blown away by DA, according to the JS. Sullivan is challenging State Sen. Tom Reynolds (R-West Allis) for the 5th District Senate seat.

Question: Is JJ Blonien Reynolds' campaign manager or not? Reynolds has said "no," but JJ keeps turning up described that way.

Is MATC the Journal Sentinel's whipping boy?

The Journal Sentinel today gave big play to a blatantly biased report of the Milwaukee Area Technical College that was conducted by Citizens for a Responsible Government, a group that is known for shooting wildly an inaccurately from the hip. I don't know much about MATC's salary structure, but I know a hatchet job when I see one, and the JS and CRG each has a hand firmly gripping this particular ax handle.

The report includes lines like these:

There is also evidence to suggest that the (levy) increase is due to some school boards using Fund 80 as a "slush fund" and diverting it to illegal uses.

(Fund 80 is MATC's community services fund. The report doesn't offer evidence of illegal use of the funds.)

Mandated revenue caps control spending. When mandated caps are not in place, governments use taxpayer dollars irresponsibly. State legislators must recognize this and work to restore fiscal responsibility

and

The MATC Mafia at work?

Lie to politicians, the elected representatives of the taxpayers, tell them what they want to hear so they go away. That is the Board's idea of political "sophistication."

Yes, Citizens for a Responsible Government spearheaded a major recall effort in Milwaukee County, and the JS seems to believe that gives the group status as a research organization. CRG also has unsuccessfully attempted to recall Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz in part because he supported a smoking ban. Does that subtract from CRG's (already non-existent) status as a research organization?

What are the JS' standards for giving big play to any particular report? The political orientation of its finding?

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Green ignores that pesky campaign finance law

Here's some more money the Mark Green campaign can return: the $88,600 he took without without properly identifying the donors' employers.

State statute makes that requirement pretty clear: Campaign committees are required to report "The occupation and name and address of the principal place of employment, if any, of each individual contributor whose cumulative contributions for the calendar year are in excess of $100."

The reason for the law is obvious: the public should know who is behind larger donations that might be used to try to influence their recipients.

Green's committee violated this provision of the law not once, not twice, and not even 50, 75, or 100 or 300 times. A very quick check of Green's Oct. 30 campaign finance filing shows he took in contributions from 465 people for whom he should have reported employment details, but did not. The donations they made this year ranged from $101 to $1,000.

Has Green even read the state's campaign finance law? Can someone read it to him?