Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Mad as Hell

Although “Network” is an older film, I had never seen it. Howard Beale urges viewers to open their windows, lean out and yell, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.”

Although most of the events depicted in the movie are from the 1970s, they could be now. There was massive unemployment, unpredictable fuel supplies and institutions in America were being gobbled up by foreign ownership. Network sports and entertainment programs are still used to divert people from problems.

The Tea Party movement is people saying, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.” Network news tries to marginalize this movement. Local media tries to marginalize critics of the Madison Edgewater project and plowing the roads in Madison. A number of cars here have liberal stickers on their bumpers.

A car I followed yesterday had a really different sticker. “I Miss Reagan,” it said. “So do I,” I said out loud. The danger to Democrats in Wisconsin and nationally, is that many will say on Election Day, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.”

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Packer Shortcomings

Shortcomings of the current Green Bay Packers were on display against the Chicago Bears and the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The punting of Jeremy Kapanos, the kicking of Mason Crosby and questionable challenges by Coach Mike McCarthy squander the efforts of Aaron Rodgers and his big play receivers. Against the hapless Chicago Bears, offensive play calling almost snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. Run, run, run, punt.

Under general manager Ted Thompson, the Packers only build chiefly by drafting players. They have drafted well, especially on defense, but other teams draft, sign free agents and pick up proven players on waivers. This is the way the Minnesota Vikings and New Orleans Saints were built. This is how the Green Bay Packers were built when they won the Super Bowl in New Orleans. Reggie White, Charles Woodson, Desmond Howard, Andre Rison. Only Woodson remains.

No Fun League says that I should not be able to comment on what everyone already knows. Only die-hard Packer fans think that things are fine if the Packers make the play-offs. If they miss the play-offs, it is because other teams are more imaginative.

Friday, December 18, 2009

I’m Shocked, Shocked That These Are Funny

There are a few movie, television and radio gags that I giggle every time I hear them or even think of them.

I have seen “Casablanca” at least 30 times. While we think of it as a drama, Claude Rains has the funniest lines. “I am shocked, shocked to learn that there is gambling going on here.” “He brings the bill. I tear up the bill. It is most convenient.” “We will be there at 8.” “I’ll be there at 10.”

“Why did you come to Casablanca?” “I came here for the waters.” “What waters? We’re in the desert.” “I was misinformed.”

Abbot and Costello doing “Who’s on First?” kills me. Slappy and Skippy Squirrel parody it with the Woodstock “Who is first” routine. I have seen “Duck Soup” a dozen times and there is not a bit that I do not find laugh out loud funny.

“Gentlemen, you can’t fight here. This is the War Room.” “Dr. Strangelove.” Steve Gutenberg sweats profusely as a week-end anchor in “Broadcast News.” They pull out a blow dryer to blow some of the sweat away.

W.C. Fields playing golf. I think it is the “Big Broadcast of 1934,” best known for the young Bob Hope singing “Thanks for the Memories” for the very first time. Fields is followed by a dozen caddies carrying giant bags. He throws clubs away. “Too long. Too Short. Too Medium. Caddy, hand me that putter.” Or playing pool with the curved cue.

When Buck Henry hosted “Saturday Night Live,” they did a bit that has stayed with me for years. It is a royal reception and guests are introduced. The Earl of Sandwich who invented cold cuts and Lord and Lady Argyle, who wear matching socks. Then announced are “Lord and Lady Douchebag.”

We do not need to tell the joke to get the punch line. The agent is stunned and says “That’s a hell of an act. What do you call it?” “The Aristocrats.”

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Thank a Veteran

There has never been a time when we should not honor the service of our men and women who have served our country. I am especially sensitive to this because I am a proud Navy Dad.

Does he face threats? All who serve face threats, whether the threat comes from a lone gunman or a drunk driver on land or an accident at sea. Is he safer than people his age serving in Iraq and Afghanistan? Absolutely, he is.

We may have disagreed over the policy or political decisions that resulted in our men and women in uniform being sent into harm’s way. We should never mistake policy for our honor of the men and women called to serve.

I am fortunate to know many who served in World War II and Korea. Among the people I know from World War II are someone who flew with the Flying Tigers and then off American aircraft carriers after Pearl Harbor, someone who drove landing craft to dislodge the Japanese from the Aleutians and a medic attached to the Sea Bees in the South Pacific. Among the Korean Conflict veterans are my own father, someone who stepped on a mine and a veteran of the Chosin Reservoir.

More plentiful are veterans of Viet Nam, the Persian Gulf, Afghanistan and Iraq. Veterans of the Cold War are plentiful.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Bad Night in Beall

Although it is about 2.5 hours for me each way, I drove to Marshfield on Friday, November 6 to see the Tigers take on the visiting Merrill Blue Jays in the third round of the WIAA Division 2 playoffs. Like a few schools two or three hours from Marshfield like Antigo, Rhinelander and Shawano, Merrill had left the Wisconsin Valley Conference. It cost the outlandish sum of $4 to go to the game.

There were flashes of brilliance from current Marshfield quarterback Luke Accola and his big receivers on the Tigers. Ultimately, however, they could not contain the relentless running attack of Merrill and were defeated 21-3. They were fortunate to avoid being held scoreless.

Six things stood out for me. First, the Tiger band was not in uniform and did not take the field at half-time. We were never out of uniform at a game. Second, the band left after half-time on a relatively warm night but we always stayed to the bitter end no matter how lop-sided the score or how cold the night was. I was fortunate to play a reed instrument. Brass players had more embouchure trouble in the cold.

Third, if there are Marshfield cheerleaders, they also left at half-time. Merrill cheerleaders made a pyramid at half-time. Fourth, as I left as the game clock hit less than a minute, I heard the Antigo band fire up their fight song, Illinois Loyalty. I confess I sang the Marshfield lyrics, which I had forgotten until that very minute. Illinois Loyalty was the fight song for Marshfield High School for more 50 years, until Marshfield changed it to “Eye of the Tiger.” Illinois Loyalty was the fight song was at Purdy, at the current Middle School and for many years at the school on Becker. Most of us did not need music to play it.

Fifth, most students I saw stayed at least until the gun sounded so that has not changed. Sixth, I was at the back of the student section. I’m kind of a tall guy and had the advantage of being on risers. The student ahead of me must have been six foot seven or eight.

I bought two hooded sweatshirts in black and orange for the price of one Badger sweatshirt in Madison in the former El Sombrero. It was some consolation for the time and gasoline it took me to attend. However, I will stay closer to home for high school athletic contests.

Stop the Democratic Bleeding

President Barack Obama’s November 4 trip to Wisconsin might have only been partially about education policy. It might have been to coax incumbent Wisconsin Governor James Doyle to pull a Brett Farve and declare himself a candidate for re-election in 2010. Failing that, he still hopes to convince Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett or Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk to declare for Governor. Maybe Congressman Ron Kind will still pull a Brett Farve after making the Shermanesque statement that he is staying in Congress.

Obama’s home state of Illinois is in the weird position of being the only Midwest Great Lake state run by Democrats surrounded by Republican governors. Scott Walker has the Republican nomination already almost locked up and will be Governor barring a Democratic miracle. Minnesota has Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty. The only drama in Michigan will be Republican nominees in crowded primaries for Governor, Attorney General and Secretary of State. Either Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard or Congressman Pete Hoekstra trounces Democrat Lieutenant Governor John Cherry in early polls. Indiana has Republican Governor Mitch Daniels.

This would not have looked so dire had Democrats prevailed over Bob McDonnell as Governor of Virginia and Chris Christie in New Jersey on November 3. 2009 might be a precursor of 2010, when most Governors, a third of the U.S Senate and all members of the U.S. House face voters.

Jimmy Carter coined the term “Misery Index” for inflation and unemployment in his campaign against President Gerald Ford and then it came back to bite him as Ronald Reagan defeated him for President in 1980. The U.S. Senate Majority also swung to Republicans. The Misery Index does not favor Democrats now and there is no likelihood things will improve by the 2010 election. When what should be low is high, those in office have a way of being voted out of office.

It is a center-right country, especially in the Midwest. In 2008, college kids and minority voters put Obama over the top. Some of them are unemployed or underemployed now and increasingly they see Republicans as the change we can believe in. Add that to the middle-class victims of the Misery Index and the Obama voting majority is now fickle and receptive to a new message of hope and change.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Acorn Shows Common Phases of Denial

When several offices of Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (Acorn) were stung by hidden cameras of James O’Keefe and Hannah Giles seeking tax and housing help to run a prostitution ring including bringing underage prostitutes from El Salvador, the response of Acorn illustrates common phases of denial.

They missed the first, which is the limited hang-out of dirty laundry. It works especially well for politicians, but it can work for non-profit organizations, too. It acknowledges liabilities, coming forward with a partial list. It inoculates against charges about what is hung out. It could have been used when O’Keefe and Giles stung the Baltimore office. Acorn could have inoculated themselves against further damaging stings. That Acorn chose not to hang-out when they could have done so is an error in keeping what might have been a one-day story alive for weeks.

Next is “we did not do it.” Because the evidence was just too large in this case, this phase was not possible. The third phase is “we did not do it and the people who say otherwise are scoundrels.” Acorn seized on this phase, blaming O’Keefe, Giles and the vast right-wing conspiracy of Fox and talk radio. Acorn surrogates say that O’Keefe and Giles are doing the bidding of racists who hate President Barack Obama. Acorn has lurched from this to the fourth phase: “we did it, but it is not what you think.”

Acorn CEO Bertha Lewis has said the tapes were “indefensible actions of a handful of employees” and warranted an independent review of the group’s procedures. “We have all been deeply disturbed by what we’ve seen in some of these videos. I must say, on behalf of ACORN’s Board and our Advisory Council, that we will go to whatever lengths necessary to reestablish the public trust. For nearly forty years, ACORN has given voice to communities, and gotten results. Right now, our nearly 500,000 member are working their hearts out for quality, affordable healthcare for every American and to help stop the foreclosure crisis. We must get this process right, so the good work can go forward.”

Implicit in this statement is the first phase, too, limited hangout. It is too late for that; it is like slamming the barn door after the cows have already fled.

The fifth phase is real reform: “We did it and it will not happen again.” It is deeds, not mere words. The U.S. Government is helping them to get to this phase. The U.S. Senate voted 83 to 7 to prohibit the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development from giving taxpayer funds to Acorn. The U.S. Census Bureau has dropped Acorn from partnership in the 2010 census.

One should not be surprised if the Acorn board of directors jettisons Lewis in a symbolic move to save the organization and she becomes some sort of czarina in the Obama Administration.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Knee-Slappingly Funny People

There are a number of people that say and write things so hysterical that I can’t control myself, laughing out loud even when decorum says I should not. I have three laughs: the explosive guffaw, the giggle and the hiss. Increasingly the hiss is reserved for people who have known me for more than 30 years.

Among people in Madison, WIBA-AM morning host and stand-up comedian Mitch Henck is one of these. As a radio host, he is not only funny but callers to his show, especially Rob are funny, too. Bill Richardson is funny as is Brian Schimming. They have different styles. Christian Schneider is funny because he pokes fun at himself.

Emeritus Professors W. Lee Hansen and Stanley Kutler are funny. Lee is usually kind which makes his funny moments funnier, especially when he uses economic analysis to diagnose big and little ills. Kutler is kind and thoughtful but his humor is irrepressible. Among current professors, Charles Franklin is a scream, especially because he acts as if he is not.

State Representatives Phil Montgomery , Robin Vos and Mark Pocan are funny, too. Big Phil’s delivery is so dry. Robin Vos can not hide his sense of humor. Mark Pocan is never afraid to make fun of himself.

Elsewhere in Wisconsin, a few people crack me up. Among the people I have known for a long time, Andy Connor, Dennis Farnsworth, Jerry Langfeldt and Paul Johnson have different styles, all of them funny. Bob Uecker’s stories make everyone laugh.

Elsewhere, when Mark Steyn substitutes for Rush Limbaugh, Steyn is funny. He cracks jokes and then reprises them when you least expect it. His writing is the same way.

There are a couple of writers that I consider funny. One is P.J. O’Rourke. Another is R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr. at American Spectator. O’Rourke lampoons weighty subjects; I loved “Parliament of Whores.” Bob Tyrell has a different style: he has the style of H.L. Mencken rolled together with Ambrose Bierce.

I have my moments of funniness but I am better as a straight man, letting others have the best lines.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Thirtieth Anniversary of the Pivotal Event of Our Generation

We did not think so at the time. No one could escape the news of it but none of us thought it would change everything. It seemed too trivial

It was the fodder for newspaper cartoonists from coast to coast. Inexplicably, some electronic news outlets found fuzzy footage of the event, involving the President of the United States both unguarded and in a remote location.

This President had let military men and civilians captured and potentially executed by Islamic radicals. National unemployment was soaring. Foreclosure was rampant. Turning on the printing presses of the U.S. Mint to paper over a deficit resulted in runaway inflation. People should drive less, buy more fuel-efficient cars and turn down their thermostats in winter to use less energy.

President Barack Obama has learned from this example. Photographers are banned from Martha’s Vineyard, so as not to be caught in an unguarded and remote location doing something potentially embarrassing. The President uses his children like human shields, shaming the press into making them off-limits except to trot them out when it is his political purpose to do so.

U.S. military men and civilians have been captured and executed by Islamic extremists. National unemployment is soaring. Foreclosure is rampant. There is the potential of turning loose the printing presses of the U.S. Mint. People should drive less, buy more fuel-efficient cars and turn down their thermostats in winter to use less energy.

When Jimmy Carter used the canoe paddle like a weapon to fend off the swimming “Killer Rabbit,” it was a symbol of how events had got away from him. At some time, Barack Obama will do or say something that will be more damaging to him than saying the Cambridge police acted “stupidly” or that Washington elites went “wee-wee.”

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Wisconsin’s Lame Duck

News that Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle will not seek another term in 2010 makes him a lame duck until his successor take the oath. He will now have less influence over state spending and state policy than he had before the announcement.

Doyle could read polls like anyone. A liberal poll showed his approval rating at 43 percent. Another poll showed him at 34 percent, a Bush-like rating. Raising taxes to fix the current deficit angered taxpayers, the same-sex benefit registry angered some who voted to define marriage as between one man and one woman, and Wisconsin has lost 123,000 jobs in the past year. Doyle was not helped by the resignation of the Governor’s chief legal counsel, Chandra Miller Fienen, for not being licensed to practice law in Wisconsin.

At his remarks at Randall School, Doyle said he “intends” to serve out his term. When a public figure says he “intends” to do something, it means the exact opposite. Doyle would leave early for a Presidential appointment or to head a liberal interest group, letting Lieutenant Governor Barbara Lawton become Acting Governor.

There is irony here. Doyle became Governor in 2002 with less than 50 percent of the vote. Scott McCallum was never the choice of former Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson for Lieutenant Governor but beat his top choice in a primary. Thompson never talked his brother Ed out of running in the 2002 General Election. Ed Thompson took enough votes from McCallum to elect Doyle. Acting Governor Martin Schreiber was defeated by Lee Sherman Dreyfus in 1978.

Among Democrats, Lawton will be hurt if other elected liberals declare. If Congressman Ron Kind runs, he has the General Election advantage of being a moderate and not being from Milwaukee or Madison. These traits do not help win the Democratic Primary Election, however. The Mark Green suit shows that Kind can not apply Congressional campaign funds to running for Wisconsin Governor.

Republican candidates jockeying for Governor are Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker and former Congressman Mark Neumann. I would guess another one or two moderate to conservative Republicans, such as State Senators Mike Ellis and Glen Grothman, will soon declare for Governor. Someone will mount a non-traditional campaign like Dreyfus or working at a job per day like former Tennessee Governor Lamar Alexander.

Other members of the Assembly and State Senate will also announce that they will not seek another term. The announcement of Doyle not to seek another term as Wisconsin frees them to make a similar announcement but to help pick their successors.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

A Little Revolution Now and Then

Many Iranians continue to defy authority by taking to the streets to protest the results of their election for President. Some figures in the revolution against the Shah now think that the revolution has been hijacked by autocrats. The state-sponsored slogan is “Death to America,” like it is still the 1970s. Sometimes the crowd chants, “Death to dictators.” As the Who said, “Meet the new boss/ same as the old boss.”

Revolutions do not have to be as bloody as the French under Robespierre or the Russian under Lenin. In mature democracies, voters will often take out their frustrations at the polling place.

Israel often exchanges one party in power for another. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown may be swept out of office by a newly-energized Tory party. Dissatisfaction with the status quo in France led to the election of Nicolas Sarkozy.

With soaring unemployment and tax increases, state voters around the Great Lakes may broom Democrats and replace them with Republicans. When what should be down is up, those who are in power have a way of becoming out. Republicans may pick up seats or seize control of the lower houses in Michigan, Minnesota and Ohio. Republicans might win Governor, Attorney General and Secretary of state in Michigan. The exception among Great Lakes states is Indiana, where Republicans rule and a revolution could favor Democrats. Hoosier Daddy, indeed.

Washington is not immune from revolution. Historically, the party in control of the White House loses seats in Congress in the first election after President. In 2010, Democrats who won Congressional seats in areas that voted for McCain in 2008 face voters for the first time. It will be a referendum on TARP, the stimulus plan, health care reform and record deficits.

They called it the Republican Revolution when Newt Gingrich wrested control of the U.S. House of Representatives from Democrats in 1994. They called it the Reagan Revolution when Dutch toppled Jimmy Carter and Republicans seized control of the U.S. Senate in 1980.

1980 and 1994 seem like ancient history now. There will be another Gingrich and another Ronald Reagan to lead the GOP to another revolution. Maybe it will be John Boehner, Eric Cantor, Mike Huckabee, Mike Pence, Mitt Romney or someone who has not emerged yet.

A new spirit of freedom is sweeping the world and the nation. A little revolution now and then is a good thing.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Wisconsin: Alabama of the North?

Wisconsin lags neighbors Illinois and Minnesota in jobs and personal income, wrote Thomas Hefty and John Torinus, Jr., in a guest column in the Opinion section of the Wisconsin State Journal on Sunday, July 12. Iowa’s per capita income is less but job creation is three times ours.

With per capita income falling to 85.6 percent of the national average, Wisconsin’s income is about equal to Alabama’s. The authors conclude, “We need to build a more competitive economy or reconcile ourselves to being the Alabama of the north.”

Alabama of the north? I lived in the real Alabama for four years. Let me expound why Wisconsin will never be the Alabama of the north. In some ways Wisconsin is superior to Alabama but in some ways Wisconsin is inferior.

For all the griping about Wisconsin’s tax system, Wisconsin’s sales tax exempting groceries and the Wisconsin’s income tax so-called zero amount (income below this amount is not taxable) and credits for property taxes and other things are progressive, taxing the have-nots at a lower rate than those who have more. Alabama levies sales taxes on all groceries and even the poor have to pay income taxes. By soaking the poor and favoring the rich, Alabama often has budget problems.

The two pay very different property tax on primary residences. Alabama homeowners gripe when they pay more than $1,000 on a house worth $300,000. Depending on municipality, Wisconsin homeowners might pay $7,000 on the same house.

The unemployment insurance systems could not be more different. Wisconsin’s system is an unemployment shock-absorber. One could argue that Wisconsin’s unemployment benefit of 67 percent of previous earnings up to a maximum of $363 might be improved by paying a lower percentage or putting in a waiting week but the benefit level helps those who lost their jobs. In Alabama, the maximum benefit level is $255 per week, 30 percent less.

The public higher education systems could not be more different. Wisconsin’s system of four-year universities, two-year schools and technical colleges is enrollment-based. All of Alabama’s four-year schools are within 90 minutes of Birmingham. Technical colleges are legislative pork; there is a technical college in nearly every legislative district.

Alabama, however, leads Wisconsin in job creation by a wide margin. Wisconsin poured money into Janesville and Kenosha in a vain attempt to keep ill-fated auto plants open. Alabama has built plants to make sport utility vehicles for Mercedes and Honda, and engines for Toyota and Hyundai. They have trees and water so the paper mills that have closed in Wisconsin are open in Alabama.

High-technology jobs tend to be clustered around Huntsville, put on the map by Werner von Braun and led by the University of Alabama – Huntsville. Huntsville is ironically located near Madison, Alabama. All of the four-year schools excel at technology transfer and many jobs are an easy Interstate drive to Atlanta and Nashville.

If Wisconsin were to follow Alabama’s example, new jobs would be clustered in western Wisconsin and between Racine and Kenosha. Madison is nice but irrelevant, if not actively hostile, as a center of commerce. The capital of Alabama, Montgomery, is twice as large as Madison even though it has half as many state workers. For all the historic hoopla about Rosa Parks, there is hardly any public transportation but parking downtown is plentiful and cheap.

Wisconsin is not the Alabama of the north, then. It was a nice concluding remark by Hefty and Torinus but it ultimately fails.

Monday, May 25, 2009

A Day of Remembrance

A Day of Remembrance

We are simultaneously mournful and lucky that men and women in the service chose defending our liberties and values in conflicts from the French and Indian War to Iraq and Afghanistan, whether we agree with the conflicts or not. Some died in the conflicts; others died years later. My grandmother, a genial member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, always described Memorial Day as Decoration Day. The idea was to decorate graves of veterans and war dead.

We should honor the service of those who wear America’s uniform now or who have worn it in the past. My father and my favorite University of Wisconsin Economics professor served abroad during the Korean War but a former UW football player was at the Chosin Reservoir and was lucky to make it back. I am fortunate to know people who served during World War II who are still doing OK. One flew with the Flying Tigers before Pearl Harbor and flew from American carriers after. One was a Medic with the Seabees in the Pacific. One drove landing craft at the bloody battles to dislodge Japanese troops from Attu and Kiska in the Aleutian Islands.

In 2002, I met a man who was making copies of his 1942 high school yearbook. There were 34 boys in his high school senior class. They all enlisted. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy. The other 33 enlisted in the U.S. Army and were all killed in Italy.

Most know that I have a child in the U.S. Navy on an attack submarine at Pearl Harbor. He is far safer than my friends who currently serve in Iraq and Afghanistan but there is always an element of danger when people don the uniform. Ask the people entombed on the USS Arizona if they felt safe until the unexpected attack on December 7, 1941.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Sacking Speaker Pelosi Now American Tradition

Was House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) briefed on Enhanced Interrogation Techniques, such as water boarding, or not? When? Current Central Intelligence Agency Leon Panetta and former Director Porter Goss have a different version of events. Pelosi read a parsed written statement repeatedly at her weird press conference, blaming the CIA.

The CIA says they discussed interrogation techniques in general and the methods used on Abu Zubaida in particular with Pelosi in September, 2002 and again in February, 2003. It is now hard to remember how aggressive the CIA was and how compliant Congress was in the wake of 9/11.

Zubaida was probably only a member of al-Qaeda in his mind and that of his interrogators. He was unlike Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, a high value capture at the center of the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center, the 1998 bombings at the U.S. Embassies in Africa, the 9/11 attack and the murder of Daniel Pearl. Like his friend Ossama bin Laden, Mohammed fought the Soviets in Afghanistan. Mohammed was captured in Karachi by Pakistanis in 2003.

Smelling Pelosi blood in the water, the press feeding frenzy has started. If Speaker Pelosi stepped down in favor of #2 House Democrat Steny Hoyer (D-MD), it would be in the new American tradition of sacking a sitting Speaker of the House.

It was not always thus. Previous Speakers of the House served for 10 years or more until Jim Wright (D-TX) succeeded Tip O’Neill (D-MA). Wright resigned his job in 1989 under an ethics investigation for avoiding limits on gifts related to his book deal. His successor, Tom Foley (D-WA), lost his seat in the Republican House landslide election of 1994, catapulting Newt Gingrich (R-GA) to Speaker.

By 1998, Newt had lost his mojo and resigned as Speaker. Bob Livingston (R-LA) was unanimously elected to succeed Newt. Then porn publisher Larry Flynt broke the story of Livingston’s affair so he never served as Speaker of the House and House Republicans chose Denny Hastert (R-IL) as Speaker. Hastert was Speaker for eight years until Democrats regained the House Majority in their landslide of 2006. Pelosi turned back Hoyer for Speaker of the House.

Can Pelosi hold onto Speaker or is she too damaged by changing her story too often? She was convenient for President Barack Obama because she was so liberal, he looked like a moderate. Now she is caught in a war of words with a former House Democrat, Leon Panetta. This is an unneeded and unwanted distraction from the job of Speaker, focuses attention on the past and not the future, such as putting more troops into Afghanistan and conducting more military tribunals. He also does not want the compliant press becoming newly aggressive toward him.

House Democrats would be right to sack her.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Kemp and Michaelsen

News that Jack Kemp has passed away is personal to me. Kemp was a big part of my personal and professional life.

Many are familiar with his story. Success as a quarterback for the Buffalo Bills translated into becoming Congressman from Buffalo. He acquired a national reputation as a champion of tax cuts, enterprise zones and more freedom for all, including welfare recipients and people living in public housing projects. He called himself a “bleeding heart conservative” and was glad to carry a message of hope and change to black and Latino neighborhoods. He ran for President to succeed Reagan in 1988, became Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare for the winner, President George H. W. Bush. Kemp was the candidate for Vice President when Bob Dole ran for President in 1996.

I wrote a paper on supply-side economics in a class at the University of Wisconsin in 1980, mentioning Kemp.

Kemp never called names. He was always positive, always glad to work with Democrats to solve problems. When I worked at Hillsdale College from 1982 to 1984, we used one of his quotes from a speech he delivered there in many campus publications.

When I was a candidate for U.S. Congress from Wisconsin in1984, I attended a National Republican Congressional Committee training seminar in Washington. Kemp was one of the speakers. His friend and star Chad Everett was with him.

I moved to Lansing in 1985 to be a policy advisor to the Michigan Senate Republicans. In the Michigan 1988 primary, I voted for Kemp for President. I was also elected a precinct delegate in Eaton County. The George Bush campaign counted me as a Bush delegate, but I was pledged to Kemp. The Eaton County Chairman was my friend Saul Anuzis, then chief of staff to the Kemplike Sen. Dick Posthumus.

I met the woman who would become my wife through a Jack Kemp fan club in 1993. Many of us thought Jack Kemp should be the Republican nominee for President in 1996 and that Elizabeth Dole, not Bob Dole, should be the candidate for VP. That would have been about attracting swing voters, not just mobilizing the base.

Although it is perfect hindsight, this would have been a pivotal moment for America. We might not be lamenting how far the Republicans have fallen. Had Kemp been President, hope and change would have been Republican ideas.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Two Wisconsins Now

One Wisconsin Now and Greater Wisconsin Fund is paying for some political advertisements against Dane County Executive candidate Nancy Mistele. The advertisements distort Mistele’s record as a member of the Madison School Board and suggest that the listener call the Mistele campaign office and tell her we do not need her kind as Dane County Executive.

What are One Wisconsin Now and Greater Wisconsin Now? How are they funded?

One Wisconsin Now and Greater Wisconsin Fund are 527 Political Action Committees, PACs. It makes “independent expenditures,” so there is putatively a wall of separation between them and the campaign of Kathleen Falk, the incumbent Dane County Executive. I say “putatively” a wall, because 527s usually make the negative attacks so that a campaign can be positive. The Swift Boat Veterans for Truth is the most famous 527 and no one dos not associate it with the campaign against Senator John Kerry of President George W. Bush.

One Wisconsin Now is interlocked with the Greater Wisconsin Fund. Money given to one is sloshed over into the other. About half the money given to One Wisconsin Now comes from within Wisconsin and the rest from somewhere else. Only about one-third of the money given to the Greater Wisconsin Fund comes from within Wisconsin. Most of the money comes from national union, liberal and Democratic PACs.

If I can figure this out, why can watchdogs like Wisconsin Common Cause and the Wisconsin Democracy Project not mention them without criticizing contributions to right-leaning 527s? They only say, “A pox on both your houses.”

I suspect One Wisconsin Now and the Greater Wisconsin Fund is buying advertisements against Nancy Mistele for two reasons. One is that Mistele is gathering too much momentum against Falk for their comfort. More mainstream voters believe that Falk prevaricated or worse on the 911 center and supports raising taxes to pay for a commuter rail system that few will ride. The second is that re-electing Kathleen Falk buys time for her to run for another office, like U.S. Senate when octogenarian Herb Kohl retires or U.S. House of Representatives if incumbent Tammy Baldwin runs for the Kohl seat.

There will be no appointment for Falk in Madison or Washington and it is unlikely she could get a private sector job that pays as well as Dane County Executive. She has alienated many Madison liberals, including her defeat of former incumbent Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager before losing to Republican J.B. van Hollen and Governor Jim Doyle, whom she challenged in 2002 and was an early supporter of President Barack Obama. The best chance of Falk is by a campaign for a higher office.

There are two Wisconsins now. There is the Wisconsin of One Wisconsin Now, the Greater Wisconsin Fund, commuter rail, taxes and Kathleen Falk. Then there are the people who work hard to make ends meet, pay their taxes and support Nancy Mistele.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Obama’s Valentine to the Iranian People

Like a clock that does not run, President Barack Obama is only right twice per day. So his Persian New Year message to the Iranian people on March 20 was one of those times.

The Iranian government and especially Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad underestimated the ability of Obama to deliver a message directly to the Iranian people with Farsi subtitles. The timing was the beginning of the festival of Nowruz, a 12-day holiday that marks the arrival of spring and the beginning of the next year on the Persian calendar. Ahmadinejad and his advisors are not the first people to underestimate Obama and his communications ability.

“We have serious differences that have grown over time," said Obama. “My administration is now committed to diplomacy that addresses the full range of issues before us, and to pursuing constructive ties among the United States, Iran and the international community. This process will not be advanced by threats. We seek instead engagement that is honest and grounded in mutual respect.”

Obama is lucky to follow George W. Bush again, who labeled Iran a country in the “Axis of Evil,” but drew no distinction between Ahmadinejad’s nuclear ambitions and the people of Iran. Obama’s approach is both carrot and stick.

Obama said, “The United States wants the Islamic Republic of Iran to take its rightful place in the community of nations. You have that right -- but it comes with real responsibilities, and that place cannot be reached through terror or arms, but rather through peaceful actions that demonstrate the true greatness of the Iranian people and civilization. And the measure of that greatness is not the capacity to destroy, it is your demonstrated ability to build and create.”

The response of the Ahmadinejad government was both immediate and extreme. Washington must stop accusing Iran of seeking to build nuclear weapons and supporting terrorism, charges Tehran denies. What they do not deny is Iran’s desire to destroy Israel.

"Obama has talked of change but has taken no practical measures to address America's past mistakes in Iran. If Mr. Obama takes concrete actions and makes fundamental changes in U.S. foreign policy toward other nations including Iran, the Iranian government and people will not turn their back on him," press adviser Ali Akbar Javanfekr told the state-run English-language Press TV satellite station.

The danger for Ahmadinejad is that the Iranian people may turn their back on him when they could vote again for reformers. That is the real value of the Obama message.

Monday, February 16, 2009

New & Improved Links

A few regular visitors will notice that I have purged links to content that is almost never updated and added links to content which changes daily. Those who visit only when I post something outrageous and newsworthy will not notice.

There are new Wisconsin links and national links. New Wisconsin links are No Runny Eggs, Jo Egelhoff, Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, Recess Supervisor and Fighting Bob. I did not add more liberals because I find them mean and predictable. Sometimes contributors to Fighting Bob and Truth Dig get that way. My friend Paul Soglin is willing to offend both liberals and conservatives but is rarely mean.

Both Shark & Shepherd author Rick Esenberg, a current law school professor and Stanley Kutler, a retired law school professor who sometimes posts on Truth Dig, are smarter than me on legal issues. Not that it takes much to be smarter than me.

Among my national links, I have added Mark Steyn, Truth Dig and Andrews America. When Mark Steyn substituted for Rush Limbaugh, I found him so ironic and funny. I consider John Andrews, who I have known since 1981, to be a friend and mentor.

The ironic thing is that Kutler and Andrews are associated in different ways with the Nixon Administration. Andrews was a young speechwriter in the Nixon White House. It was Kutler who sprung the White House tapes in 1996. Andrews is mentioned three times by Nixon and is taped appearing in the Oval Office only once. Other speechwriters were Ray Price, Pat Buchanan and Bill Safire.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Barack Obushma

Expectations of those who flocked to Washington and tuned into television around the country for the Inauguration of President Barack Obama are so high, they are bound to be disappointed by the Obama Administration.

Expectations were similarly high for George W. Bush to be transformative in 2000. He worked with Democrats as Governor of Texas so many thought a new spirit of bipartisanship was coming. The Bush Administration squandered opportunities to reach out to Democrats in Congress and were buffeted by events at home and abroad. They failed to privatize parts of Social Security instead of pushing for immigration reform. Then the unexpected events of Hurricane Katrina, the attacks on 9/11 and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq completely changed the nature of the Bush Administration. They came to Washington to change it and ended up being changed by Washington.

Events are also against the Obama Administration, which is largely peopled by Clinton retreads. Congressional Democrats have priorities which will outlast Obama. Republicans could find their footing again as the party of ideas. If the Obama Administration becomes incremental in its approach to policy, it dashes hopes by supporters for sweeping change.

The Great Depression started with a Wall Street panic worsened by raising taxes and barriers to imports. President Obama and Congressional Democrats could make things worse. On the other hand, federal deficits undermine the ability for President Obama to deliver on expensive promises. Democrats are in a box and risk alienating supporters. Hostility of Obama and Congressional liberals to life and gun rights means that voters for which these are important will be more motivated in the next election.

During the campaign, Joe Biden was criticized for saying that the new President would be tested by a manufactured crisis and that it would not be clear that President Obama was right. “Gird your loins,” he said, sounding less like a candidate for Vice President than an eccentric uncle. It is a dangerous world; maybe a rogue nation will exert power over a neighboring democracy or there will be an attack on American soil. Obama will close Camp Gitmo in a year and take 16 months to remove combat troops from Iraq. They are in danger of figuratively hanging the “Mission Accomplished” sign on an aircraft carrier.

Liberal voters hated George W. Bush, but the continuation of Bush policies at home and abroad by President Barack Obama could result in him becoming Barack Obushma.