Thursday, December 23, 2010

Defending Assange

WikiLeaks personality Julian Assange is free from imprisonment because his rich friends threw his bail to get him out of jail. If he is extradited from Britain to Sweden and found guilty of sexual assault, that is the type of offense that even zealous Assange defenders should not forgive. However, there is the possibility the charges were a conspiracy of intelligence agencies. I never thought that I would rise to the defense of WikiLeaks.

WikiLeaks has embarrassed the United States. The U.S. Department of Justice is out to get Assange for Wikileaks publishing embarrassing U.S. Department of State cables. Who would have guessed that there is corruption in Afghanistan, Russia and Pakistan? Is anyone surprised that the President of Yemen told his people that U.S. drone attacks on al-Quaida targets in Yemen that the bombs were Yemeni?

It used to be that newspapers like the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and other daily newspapers competed to scoop each other. The New York Times published the Pentagon papers of Daniel Ellsberg. The Washington Post parlayed a third-rate burglary at the Watergate into bringing down a U.S. President. Now the grey ladies are chiefly the lapdogs of the spin cycle of a Democratic Administration. They were stern critics of the government only when George W. Bush was President.

WikiLeaks stepped into this void and has exposed official corruption around the world. Assange is only a visible figurehead of a bigger organization of editors, fact-checkers and network administrators. Is he anti-American? Does anyone else remember when Rupert Murdock was accused of this?

When it suited their purpose, President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hectored the Chinese and Iranians to allow greater Internet freedom. Now that their own ox has been gored, they mean to crack down on the same Internet freedom. Do as I say, not as I do.

What will this mean to my friends who post Internet complaints about the Transportation Security Administration, U.S Treasury Secretary Timothy Geitner, the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment or the gun-toting part of the Second Amendment? It might only be permissible to blame Republicans in the future to escape official blocking like the U.S. government has waged against WikiLeaks.

Vilifying Assange is a convenient mask for how the U.S. Departments of Defense and State forgot how to expose moles it developed when the USSR was spymaster. Espionage is bigger than Assange. The U.S. government prefers not to think about spies from China, India, Israel, Pakistan and stateless fundamentalist Islam, for example.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Treating American Air Travelers like Potential Criminals

It is no secret that I flew round trip from O’Hare in Chicago to Honolulu, departing for Hawaii two days before Thanksgiving. There were two reasons for my going to Honolulu: it was the 55th wedding anniversary for my parents and my older son serves at Pearl Harbor and I had not seen him since he was 21. He is now 25.

At O’Hare, Transportation Security Administration personnel were overwhelmed by the number of travelers who were leaving in mid-morning, including me. I never know what to expect when I fly so I wear slip-on shoes, nice socks and if I have a carry-on bag, it usually is a lap-top computer. I already had my driver license in my shirt pocket to be compared with my boarding pass.

It was a long flight from Phoenix to Honolulu against the Jet Stream. It was weird to have to sign a mandatory state Department of Agriculture form about whether I was bringing flora or fauna to Hawaii before we landed. I was glad to show my driver license to the guard to board a U.S. Navy vessel tied up at Pearl Harbor after surfing at a U.S. Navy beach.

My experience on the return flight on November was unexpectedly awful. Agents seemed to be working for the Transportation Insecurity Administration. For those who remember when I was fat, I am now thin and my belt, that has almost no metal, holds my pants up. I had to remove my belt and wallet. I had to lift my hands in a full-body scanner and my pants fell down. I am afraid that made me snap.

When I was in seventh grade, there was a picture of Kareem Abdul Jabbar as a Milwaukee Buck in the Milwaukee Journal. Kareem had both middle fingers raised at the referee. I thought of this picture when I raised my arms, both middle fingers extended. The Transportation Insecurity Administration agent called this gesture was unnecessary. Of course, it was unnecessary. It was unnecessary to remove my belt. Stunned by the bald stupidity of this remark, I smiled at him.

“How many terrorists has TSA caught?” I asked, knowing that he was only implementing a stupid policy made in Washington. I answered my own question by making the zero sign. He leapt to the defense of his agency. I know that TSA has denied permission for soldiers returning from the long trip from Afghanistan to use the airport restroom because there were firearms on the airplane, for example.

Unstated was that I was flying to Phoenix to lead a jihad against illegal aliens. That would be ironic because Arizona already has a jihad against illegal aliens. Also unstated was that they had me confused with some other terrorist that is also a middle-aged, near-sighted Danish-American. I fly often enough that I do not want to be on a No Fly List like friends with more common American names or more ethnic names.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Twentieth Anniversary of John Engler Election

Lost among the transition plans by election winners and indefinite plans of losers is the anniversary that many still mark: the twentieth anniversary of the election of John Mathias Engler as Michigan Governor in 1990.

Late polls published Sunday before the election showed two-term Governor Jim Blanchard coasting to a third term against Senate Majority Leader Engler. However, Blanchard had repeatedly antagonized the late Detroit Mayor Coleman Young. Engler had established a working relationship with Young. It was early Wednesday morning before we discovered Young did not deliver his machine votes for Blanchard.

Hours later, I wrote an impassioned letter offering my services to the Governor-elect, whom I had known for five years. I was a supervisory policy specialist to members of the Senate Majority. In 1990, I was a strategist for candidates who won Senate seats and drove from Saginaw, where I worked from when polls opened until ballot security, to the Engler party at the Lansing Radisson. I expected to be asked to lead public policy.

I was summoned to Engler’s Senate office Thursday. Engler’s lieutenant asked me to head Correspondence. My poker face deserted me. Correspondence is blue-collar grinding stuff, unlike the white-collar policy world. Then Engler came in and said he wanted me to do this and then do something else. I accepted, despite my misgivings.

For the rest of the transition period, I wrote work diagrams, job descriptions and recruited talented young writers to help me. I thought we were ready when Engler was sworn in.

I was wrong. Blanchard left Engler a huge budget deficit so strong medicine was needed to cut spending except aid to education. That meant aid to arts institutions, welfare for able-bodied childless adults and under-utilized and over-staffed mental hospitals had to go. All had influential fans, many who thought that they were personally responsible for electing Engler.

The phone rang non-stop because receptionists did not know where to send people complaining about issues or that needed help. Angry letters poured in, sometimes with enclosures. A gift of plastic dog turds adorned my computer. I renamed the division “Constituent Services” because “Correspondence” confused callers.

My writers and I had to answer ringing phones before they went to voice mail, reflecting poorly on Engler. They did not have time to write in 40 hours per week so they started turning in 60. I started turning in 80 hours per week, including opening and routing mail, meetings of the senior staff and greeting those who arrived without an appointment. Piles of manuscripts required editing several times per day. We improvised stock paragraphs and letters.

Triage of ending welfare for childless single adults was imperfect. Some died and the blame was leveled at Engler. The Secretary who closed some mental hospitals was threatened with arrest. A protest tent city sprang up at the Capitol and Jesse Jackson spoke.

Eventually, early furor subsided, and we all did our jobs better. We looked forward to hard stuff. I could decide when I could not decide and would seek help from other staff directors or even Engler.

Engler was elected to two more terms, but I moved on to do policy and constituent relations at a Cabinet agency and then for a Michigan State Senator. Sometimes, Engler would send a constituent my way. Term limits enacted by voters forced him out in 2002.

Engler is now Chief Executive Officer of the National Association of Manufacturers. I am still close to my old employees and colleagues on his staff as Governor. Some will be summoned by newly-elected Republicans.

Some will perform jobs they never expected. True believers, they will be unable to reject them. For me, I hope to be summoned by new Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Where Were You on 9/11/2001?

For the generation of my parents, the defining question was “Where were you on December 7, 1941?” For my generation, the question had been “Where were you on November 22, 1963?” For some, the question had been “Where were you when Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed?”

I have been reading “Ghost Wars,” for which author and Washington Post reporter Steven Coll won wide acclaim when it was published in 2004. Ghost is what Soviet conscripts called the Afghan guerillas. It could also refer for our hunt for elusive radicals. “Ghost Wars” tracks the unhappy history of Soviet and U.S. adventures in Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq and the rise of the type of fundamentalist Islam that found expression that we know as September 11, 2001.

Like many, my office turned on CNN on 9/11 when they reported that an airliner accident had struck one tower of the World Trade Center. While we watched, another airliner veered in and struck the other tower and burst into flames. It became clear that it was no accident.

Shortly after that, a plane struck the Pentagon. There had been internal debate about the target of the plane that was steered into the ground by a passenger uprising over Pennsylvania. Some wanted to attack the White House but it was well-known as a no-fly zone protected by fighter planes and surface-to-air missiles so it was targeted for the U.S. Capitol.

We almost always close the barn door after the horse has already fled. Attacks against U.S. targets have been foiled by the enlarged U.S. Department of Homeland Security and local law enforcement agencies. Threats have become so desperate like the shoe-bomber, Christmas Day in Detroit and the foiled Times Square plot. Those who fly have had the weird experience of being treated like potential criminals. They have to remove their shoes and demonstrate that their cellular telephones and laptops work. Some of my friends have had the unfortunate experience of sharing the same name as people on the terrorist watch list.

I have been subject to an electronic wand because I was flying one-way without carry-on luggage to Orlando to help when my father had surgery. I was not sure when he would be well enough for me to fly back. It led me to conclude that they had me confused me with some other middle-aged, near-sighted Danish-American terrorist leading a holy war for separatism in Florida.

In the name of enhanced security, we surrender civil liberties Americans treasure. Cell telephone providers have been asked to report the location of all their subscribers. Most have resisted. My cell telephone provider is the German Post Office, so I doubt they would ever cooperate with Washington. Libraries have been asked to turn over borrower records.

Ironically, “Ghost Wars” might appear on a watch list.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Just another storm

During the 2005 Hurricane Season, Hurricane Ivan came ashore by Gulf Shores, Alabama. I was living in Birmingham and working at a convenience store. Ivan was a soaker driven by wind when it reached us.

When it started to rain, we went to a huge store near our house to see what we could get. They were out of ice, water, bread, batteries and any rain wear. It rained without stop for a week; we lacked electricity for eight days. No refrigeration, lights or air conditioning. It was primitive as can be, like Gilligan’s Island. We could not get any more gas in our cars because modern pumps run on electricity. At my store, all the candy melted and everything in the freezer became warm.

We were watching footage of people reporting when Hurricane Katrina came ashore. It seemed to have hit central Mississippi and missed New Orleans yet again. Waveland, Mississippi, was obliterated. Shrimp boats were in trees. It was a giant slow-moving storm. Of course, there was wind and rain in New Orleans. People had once again left New Orleans for a false alarm.

We could hardly believe it when the levees started to let go, and water from the Industrial Canal became a toxic stew in a great deluge. We started to see license plates from Louisiana around Birmingham.

For a few days, we could hardly believe what we were seeing on TV. The storm ripped many holes in the Superdome roof. As awful as the conditions were at the Superdome, it was worse at the Convention Center. We could hardly believe senseless looting, but then we became concerned about days without food, water, hygiene, electricity or medical care. Where was the Mayor of New Orleans? Where was the Governor of Louisiana? Where was the National Guard? Where was the resource of Federal government? There was not assistance but only plenty of blame to go around.

For me, my esteem for President George W. Bush took a dive from which it never recovered. The Federal Emergency Management Administration response to the crisis in New Orleans seemed like five lies in one. In Mississippi, FEMA rescued Governor Haley Barbour, who had personally delivered water and got the electricity restored. Only when Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen and Louisiana National Guard General Russell Honore took charge did things improve in New Orleans.

We went to a football game in Baton Rouge after the storm. On the trip, we drove through Mississippi. Many trees had blown down and exit signs had blown away. Blue FEMA temporary roofs were a common sight. There were 12 people in the two-bedroom Baton Rouge apartment on my step-son. Then we drove to New Orleans, which still had those Coast Guard marks on houses. Dumpsters and campers were in front of houses everywhere. The French Quarter was recovering, but employees had trouble finding a place to live.

Of course, it is better five years later. It is not coincidental that New Orleans has a different Mayor, Louisiana a different Governor and the U.S. a different President. It is not coincidental that Mississippi gave their Governor another term. They will all make different mistakes.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Middle East Peace, God Willing

Only God and Allah can make Israel and the Authority of Palestine negotiate what is billed as a two-state solution. It is about West Bank settlements and right of return. The lion also can lay down with the lamb. It is just that the lamb will not get much sleep.

President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Middle East envoy George Mitchell all said that the Arab League signed off on this deal, to be concluded in one year. They were all optimistic that this prospect would yield results and marginalize hard-line factions. Other one-year deadlines have come and gone with no results.

Principal negotiators are thought to be Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu and Authority Prime Minister Mahmood Abbas. Let us reflect that Abbas has the first name by which the Prophet is sometimes called. So this time, negotiations to be augmented by Israel neighbors King Abdullah of Jordan and President Hosni Mubarek of Egypt. The countries of the European Union will be represented by former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Why would we think this process would succeed when other failed? Netanyahu has a fragile Majority and so does Abbas. Abdullah presides over a country that his father, King Hussein, expelled Palestinian refugees. Mubarek faces the kind of unrest at home that claimed the life of Anwar Sadat. Tony Blair might need Brussels to approve it. Let us reflect that Barack Obama has already been made weak by rampant U.S unemployment and a debt crisis that makes Greece look like a model of financial responsibility. Far from the stated goal to marginalize hard-liners, this process oddly strengthens them.

I say this as a realist about negotiations between Israel and Palestine. I hate the fact that Iran-backed Hamas rules Gaza. Add Iran as someone who has the capability to turn Israel into a lake of fire and Israel is surrounded by two existential threats.

In 2003, I wrote that Russia had just sold 10 surface to surface missiles to Iran. Now Russia has sold enriched uranium to Iran. Biological agents from their stock might be next. Russia is no friend of Israel or Palestine. Russia also uses natural gas as a weapon against countries of the European Union. Only Russia benefits from continued chaos between Israel, Palestine and the U.S.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Knee Pain for Me is No Joke

Yesterday, I told a candidate that when I have been effective for a full day of campaigning, I gradually work up to it. This is for parades, too. At first it is four hours, then six hours. Gradually, I work up to 8 hours, then 10 hours.

Usually by an Election Day, I can start before the sun comes up and go about 18 hours. I can sleep Wednesday. I realize I am not as young as I was in 1990, but I was in Saginaw for a State Senate candidate before the sun rose and left after dark, then stayed at the improbable John Engler Victory Party until early Wednesday.

Why I gradually work up to a full day of campaigning is that my right knee has been repaired by surgery. It usually does not give me trouble when I gradually work it out. Sometimes I strengthen it through sports, but I often push off with my left foot.

Yesterday was 10 hours. There was nothing gradual about it and there was a lot of walking. Today, it is painful but fortunately my knee is not swollen as it has been in the past. This is why I no longer play contact sports or run on uneven ground.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

More on Wisconsin Driving

Early on Father’s Day morning, I drove to Marshfield. There was hardly any traffic on what is now called I-39. To me, it will always be 51. If the Wisconsin Highway Department was serious about a Highway 10 bypass, no one would have to slow to a crawl through Junction City, Milladore and Auburndale. It is still faster to take 10than the old route on back roads from Mauston.

I drove past 2104 S. Palmetto Avenue, 1101 W. 8th Street, where Connors live on 5th Street, other houses where friends had lived, what had been my Junior High School and Jesus on the Ball. I saw Mr. Berry, who was my teacher for Shakespeare as a high school senior when my attitude was terrible. I had lunch at Chip’s, which is now on South Central Avenue. There are other stores at their former location at Upham Street and North Central Avenue. I got gas at a family location on South Central Avenue. I was flooded with memories all the places I went. Some were good and involve friends. A few were terrible.

I was overcome by sleepiness during the trip back. For an hour, I slept and used the facilities at the rest area near Westfield. When I got on the road again, it was about 1 p.m.

Everything about traffic had changed; the road was now crowded. People who had been up north for the long weekend were driving home. The speed limit on I-39 and I-94 is 65 mph. I was driving 71 mph. People with Milwaukee dealership stickers on their autos or Illinois plates sailed past me. On I-94, State Police had pulled over several speeders. I said out loud, “It serves them right.”

Flash forward to Monday. I can feel my blood pressure rising because I am driving in Madison again. It is not yielding to pedestrians and bicycles; one simply accepts this as part of driving in Madison. No, it is other drivers. Some older drivers can barely see over their steering wheels, drive 15 mph below the posted speed limit and never use turn signals. In other places, Toyota with Stock Car decals are the danger car to watch; here it is the Subaru Forester with liberal decals. It does not matter how far I park from the front door of the place I am going. As I am exiting the car, someone is trying to park next to me. Invariably, it is an older driver.

My second wife joked that I drove like an old man because I drove defensively, looked far ahead to anticipate trouble and only drove seven mph above posted speeds. I still do that. The difference in Madison is that there are too many cars on roads that are too small to accommodate them. It is really hard to be defensive when other drivers are so offensive.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Prince of a Guy

Joran van der Sloot, 22, erred when he allegedly broke the neck and robbed Stephany Flores, 21, in a hotel room Lima, Peru, and then fleeing to Chile in May. Hotel security cameras show them entering together than van der Sloot leaving alone four hours later. Ricardo Flores is a Peruvian celebrity because he parlayed fame as a former race car driver into entrepreneurial success and political activism. Van der Sloot was extradited back to Peru, where he is still being held and questioned.

Van der Sloot was infamous as the key suspect in the 2005 Aruba disappearance of Mountain Brook high school senior Natalee Holloway, 18. Only Brookies, with their sense of privilege and wealth, would take their senior trip to Aruba. Van der Sloot denied being complicit in Holloway’s disappearance, but tried to extort $250,000 from the Holloway parents to tell them how she died and location of her body. The father of van der Sloot, an Aruba politician and attorney, can not shield him now, having died in February.

In 2008, Dutch television crime reporter Peter de Vries captured hidden-camera footage of van der Sloot saying that after Holloway collapsed on the beach he asked a friend to dump her body in the sea.

Peruvian police found him in possession of a laptop computer and bills in 15 foreign currencies, including Bolivian, Cambodian and Thai. Also in 2008, de Vries reported that van der Sloot was recruiting women in Bangkok for sex work in the Netherlands.

If van der Sloot killed Asian girls and disposed of their bodies, they would not be missed or mourned. If van der Sloot is found guilty in the death of Flores, he faces 35 years in prison in Peru. He will have company, 117 Dutch criminals already serving time in Peruvian jails.

He might as well trade admission of guilt in Holloway for time in prison in Aruba.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Wisconsin State Treasurer: Forward, Not Backward

Many Wisconsin voters do not care about electing a State Treasurer. This is why we should care.

It is not yet too late to stop making the Wisconsin State Treasurer the shrinking office that it has become. We elected our first State Treasurer in 1848. Some were clinkers; some were gems.

Scandal-plagued Democrat State Treasurer Dawn Marie Sass has drawn a 2010 Primary challenge in her own political party. On the Republican side, Scott Feldt, aide to former State Treasurer Jack Voight, faces restaurant manager Kurt Schuller, who pledges to abolish the office. Delegates to the Republican State Convention in Milwaukee endorsed Feldt. Some think Schuller should belong to a third party because he is not a member of any county Republican party.

In other states, the State Treasurer audits the books of state government. If Wisconsin adopted this standard, the Governor would not borrow from one fund to cover a deficit in another fund without the State Treasurer knowing about it. This is true whether the Wisconsin Governor and State Treasurer are from the same or different political parties. The State Treasurer was Treasurer of the Wisconsin Investment Board, which is now dominated by people the Governor appoints.

There was a time when the Wisconsin State Treasurer was the only official chosen by voters to wear the green eye-shade. We think of financial derivatives as bringing down banks too big to fail, but the largest Wisconsin banks failed in 1901 and took the uninsured deposits of small savers with them. The Wisconsin State Treasurer made them post a bond as a condition of depositing state cash in them.

No state disbursements were made without the control of the Wisconsin State Treasurer to insure that the state lived within its means. It was the State Treasurer who collected what were new taxes on motor fuel and tobacco. After the repeal of Prohibition, the State Treasurer also collected tax on liquor and beer sold or brewed in Wisconsin. Wisconsin’s State Treasurer regulated all these activities, too. The State Treasurer was custodian of money paid to the University of Wisconsin, state school aid, the state highway fund, the general fund and state worker pensions.

Most of these functions were gradually turned over to other state departments in the late 1950s. All checks issued by the State of Wisconsin still carry the laser-printed facsimile signature of the State Treasurer, including income tax refunds.

It is not as if the Wisconsin State Treasurer does not have current functions that touch the lives of people. The State Treasurer invests extra cash from participating local governments through the Local Government Investment Pool, has custody and records for unclaimed property act and general escheat laws, runs Wisconsin college savings plans and sits on a few state boards related to the financial health of state and local governments.

However, policy for the Local Government Investment Pool and college savings plans are set by the Wisconsin Investment Board. It also runs our medical malpractice fund, which Governor Jim Doyle grabbed to paper over a deficit. He was sued by people who pay higher medical malpractice premiums as a result. If an independent State Treasurer were still on the Wisconsin Investment Board, political appointees would not have dared to grab those funds and attorneys would not be enriching themselves by arguing for each side.

It was all so wasteful and unnecessary. Abolishing the office might strike a chord with angry voters. However, the cure for the failure of Democracy is more Democracy, not less.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Michaelsen Passes Baton to Sean Duffy

It has been gratifying and a little embarrassing to me how many people have expressed interest in my running again for U.S. Congress now that Dave Obey has retired. All some people know about WI-7 is that I ran for it in 1984 and that I wrote an amusing little article about it in the November 1989 American Spectator.

My time to run for U.S. Congress has passed. I hope Ashland County District Attorney Sean Duffy will be the next Congressman in WI-7. Duffy has things I never had. He has been elected several times. He is photogenic and has a photogenic family. He can raise money. He has people I really like working for his campaign. I will do what is asked of me to help him. I have the advantage of being from the more populous part of his district.

Duffy is a candidate because people believe in him. I was an accidental candidate in search of believers. When State Senator Walter John Chilsen chose not to run for U.S. Congress in 1984, I stepped forward. I did not regret running for U.S. Congress. It played a key role in my working for Programs & Policies in Lansing and being one of the better campaign operatives for winners to the Michigan Senate and U.S. Congress. Losing allowed me to help winners better.

In his farewell announcement, Dave Obey said how he, Morris Udall and Henry Reuss stood up to President Ronald Reagan. Apparently, Obey could not help invoking three people who are long dead. I think Bart Stupak announcing he would not run again after he sold out his Right-to-Life principles for health care reform had a profound impact on Obey, who had been an abortion foe like Stupak had been.

The districts of Obey and Stupak had been previously held by Republicans Melvin Laird and Bob Davis, respectively. They will turn Republican again in 2010.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Dane County Murder Irony Department

Dane County has so few murders that each one is sensational. One hopes that this is not going to change, but two recent murders suggest that 2010 will not be a good year for what some consider metropolitan Madison.

A killer waited in Stoughton for the early May 1 arrival of Dwayne Williams, 26, his girlfriend and their toddler. Williams was killed. Williams was no stranger to police because he was pistol-whipped in late 2009 by assailants who demanded drugs. Williams was arrested for burglary in 2002 and cocaine possession in 2005. Before Saturday, Stoughton had not had a murder since 1989.

Without a sense of irony, the Wisconsin State Journal unveiled a special report May 2 about heroin use in Dane County. The headline on the special report dwarfed the headline about the murder in Stoughton. What a surprise to learn that heroin comes across the porous border with Mexico, goes to Chicago and then to Madison! What a surprise to learn that addicts might turn to crime to support their habits!

On April 28, Antonio Perez was outside on a break from his job at Webcrafters on Fordem Avenue when he was slain in a drive-by shooting which was gang-related. Madison police have said they are afraid that it will touch off a gang war. Like many, I consider Webcrafters to be on Sherman Avenue near the Esquire Club.

Many of us are sad that the deaths of Kelly Nolan and Brittany Zimmerman remain unsolved years later. It would be awful if either were killed by drug addicts bent on violence or property crime.

Wisconsin and Illinois are the only two states which forbid law-abiding citizens to carry concealed firearms. Wisconsin’s Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen has ruled that we can carry in a holster in the open but I would prefer not to test this in the Worker’s Paradise because I have seen no one else carry openly here. I will consider carrying weapons, however, if folks like me start to be killed in cross-fires this year.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Friends and FB “Friends”

As many did, I joined FaceBook to keep in touch with my children because they currently live in Honolulu and New Orleans. Then it gradually became their mother and my relatives. My FaceBook friends gradually grew to include people from Michigan, Virginia and Wisconsin that were important to me but I never see very often.

I lived in Michigan for 17 years. I am now Facebook friends with Jack Hoogendyk, George McManus, Michelle McManus, Mike Rogers, Bill Schuette, John Schwarz and Norm Shinkle.

I have known Hoogendyk since he was on the Kalamzoo County Board and I worked for a State Senator whose district was all of Kalamazoo County. I helped to elect George McManus to the Michigan State Senate in 1990. George is an uncle to Michelle, who is running for Michigan Secretary of State. I have known Schuette since 1984, when he upset Congressman Don Albosta and I failed to upset Dave Obey. Schuette is running for Michigan Attorney General, was Michigan Department of Agriculture Director and then was a State Senator. Rogers was a Senate Majority Floor Leader before he became my Congressman. I helped elect Schwarz to the Michigan Senate in 1986 and to U.S. Congress in 2004. Shinkle was Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. His license plate “No Tax” was famous.

Michigan Senate colleagues regardless of party I have befriended are Saul Anuzis, John Arundel, Lisa Babcock, Richard Barclay, Kurt Berryman, Anne Boomer, Denise DeCook, Gary Garbarino, Brett Henderson, Bill Kordenbrock, Bill Knutson, Brett Marr, David Marvin, Lisa McGraw, Jeff McAlvey, Anne Mervenne, Colleen Pero, Dan Pero, Gary Reed, Dennis Schornack, Mike Severino, Brad Snavely, Marc Speiser and Dan Stouffer. I am friends with a few people I supervised and those who are or were in the Michigan Press Corps.

My FaceBook friend list has taken on a life of its own. I am friends now with people I never knew and with people I see around Madison often.

I am bombarded with requests to become fans or a member of this or that politician or cause but usually draw the line at this, however.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Unexpected Trip to GOP Events in Northeast Wisconsin

It was an unexpected pleasure to have State Treasurer candidate Scott Feldt call me Friday, April 16 and ask if I would go with him to Lincoln Day events Saturday in Oconto County and Marinette County. It has been my good fortune to have been involved in the Feldt campaign in ways that I have mastered but also learned new skills.

The event in Suring was early afternoon. The event in what I consider historic Peshtigo was in the evening. I had never been to either place so I jumped at the chance.

At both were a number of old friends who are candidates, serve them or are in the Wisconsin Legislature now, like Brett Davis, Jeff Mursau, John Nygren and Roger Roth.
Davis and Roth are running for other jobs. I have heard the speeches of Feldt, Superior Mayor Dave Ross and Terence Wall so often that I could give them as surrogates. It is always a pleasure to see and hear Dave King, Republican candidate for Secretary of State.

It was my pleasure to be able to drive back from Rosendale to Madison while Feldt slept. It reminded me of a conversation with Eugene McCarthy while I drove him from Hillsdale College to Detroit Metro Airport. To me and many others, he will always be “Clean Gene.” McCarthy was recounting that when he was driven from the airport by a student, his driver was a student interested in talking with him. His driver seemed not to pay attention to traffic and it was a frightening experience for McCarthy. The student asked him how he could get started in politics. “Learn to drive,” McCarthy said.

Learn to drive and read a map, indeed.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Tax Day Rally at the Capitol

Joining at least 10,000 people at the State Capitol on April 15 for the Tea Party, it was the first time I ever joined a protest rally at the seat of a state government. The rally for Taxed Enough Already was a time to see who was there and to hear from speakers.

I took public transportation from the Hill Farms Transportation Building to the rally because I knew driving and parking would be awful. Just as I arrived, I ran into Wisconsin legislative staff members and Mrs. Dave Ross. I saw Terence Wall, Mark Neumann, Senator Scott Fitzgerald and Representative Scott Gunderson. I saw the Scott Walker presence but I did not see Walker.

When I was in state government, such protests were a nuisance and not important. In Lansing, protests by organized labor and the tent city protest against Governor John Engler were annoying and made it hard to get to work and leave. The only rally I attended at the State Capitol was Kris Draper, Darren McCarty and the Stanley Cup. In Madison, both loud and weird were the protest by illegal aliens and the counter-protest by skinheads.

Frankly, I was astounded by some speakers, not what they said but who they were and how they said it. Two speakers were WSAU-AM radio talker Patrick Snyder and Pastor David King, the Milwaukee pastor who is running for Wisconsin Secretary of State. When I was a kid in central Wisconsin, television came from WSAU and WAOW in Wausau but no one I knew listened to WSAU-AM instead of the hipper Wausau station WIFC-FM.

I actually came to see and hear Tommy G. Thompson. Thompson has been known to me since I ran for U.S. Congress in 1984, when he was Assembly Minority Leader. I moved to Michigan and began serving John Engler in 1985. Tommy was elected Governor of Wisconsin in 1986 and John Engler was elected Governor of Michigan in 1990. They were both reformers. I have been at events with Thompson since 2006 and I was at the rally when he announced for President at the Tommy G. Thompson athletic center at Bishop Messmer High School in Milwaukee.

I think most of us thought that he would announce a run for U.S. Senate, especially because all the points about U.S. Senator Russ Feingold ended with, “It’s wrong for America. It’s wrong for Wisconsin.” It was a barn-burner of a Tommy speech. Thompson was always a better speaker than Engler, no offense to my friends who wrote for Engler. Thanks to some of us, Engler was better than Thompson in writing.

Flash forward to 2010. New anger over unemployment, taxes and deficits might bring new voters to Republicans in autumn or it might not. Democrats who dominate the Wisconsin state legislature do not seem to get it, pressing to raise taxes, energy bills and find new avenues of voter fraud. It is wrong for Wisconsin.

Mark Neumann might be a good Governor of Wisconsin. Scott Walker will win the primary if Neumann fights it all the way to September. It will not be fun to run state government in 2011 with the structural deficit we face.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Extremism in Support of “Virtue”

After five suicide bombings Monday targeted the U.S. Consulate in Peshawar, Pakistan, State Department flack P.J. Crowley called it the work of extremists. They, however, were striking a blow for what they perceive as virtue.

Consider the bombings in the Moscow subway system. The suicide bombers were women whose husbands were killed by the Russians in their military adventures in Chechnya, Dagestan and South Ossetia. It is no wonder that one of the bombings was under Lubyanka, home of what was formerly the KGB.

Such extremism is nothing new. Consider the total war practiced against civilians in resisting cities by the Mongols, George Sherman’s March to the Sea, American bombing of cities that had no strategic value during World War II. Consider the mindless homicidal mania of the Viking berserkers, the Japanese against Marines and the U.S. Navy during World War II and the genocide in Rwanda.

It is too bad that the targets are not repressive, paranoid and corrupt regimes. If the goal is regime change, there should be bombings in North Korea, Burma and China. China has been repressive of minority rights, especially against Tibet and Muslim areas. The so-called Great Firewall prohibits posting protest videos to the Internet and searching for topics like the Tiananmen Square tanks. The mine disaster shows that journalists will go where news occurs. Everyone knows corruption is rampant in China, but even protesting wins you a prison term or worse.

Extremists are not what they used to be in the U.S. People who are in favor of the right of law-abiding people to carry firearms, who put Republican stickers on their automobiles or who worship God have been called extremists by liberals as if there is a Timothy McVeigh, David Kouresh or the anthrax mailer in all of us. The real American extremists may have a cache of automatic weapons, bomb-making material or belong to apocalyptic religious cults.

Professor Stanley Kutler says to me that with which he assumes I disagree although I agree with him. I hope the government is not keeping track of our public library habits. I have withdrawn what could be considered subversive books and videos by traditional liberals. I have read an article about how the government can get from our cellular telephone providers information where our telephones are and whom we have called. They do not need a warrant. Some cell providers and legal groups seek to enjoin this.

Extremism in support of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution should not be equated with people who wish us ill. We surrender more of our liberties in the name of security every day.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Defending My Dream

Hundreds of my closest friends will gather at Chula Vista on March 12 for the 3rd Annual Defending the Dream seminar, sponsored by the Wisconsin Chapter of Americans for Prosperity (AFP). They will hear from national and international leaders on strategies for influencing the policy debate and helping to elect good candidates. Some speakers will be friends from Madison. Because I am a friend of AFP, I have received invitations to attend.

As much as I would like to attend, there are two people scheduled that I would never pay to hear. Those are Steven Moore, leader of the Club for Growth and Grover Norquist, free market guru and founder of AFP. I try not to hold grudges against people. I make an exception for them.

Club for Growth raises money for conservative candidates. It is like Emily’s List, except for conservatives. Club for Growth also helps candidates run against people they label RINOs, Republicans in name only. In 2004, I helped an old friend, Dr. Joe Schwarz, run and win election to Congress in Michigan to succeed former Congressman Nick Smith, beating four more conservative candidates. In 2006, Club for Growth united behind former State Representative Tim Walberg, who won the primary. Walberg was ousted by Democrat Mark Schauer in 2008. Follow me here: Club for Growth ousted the moderate and their favored guy was defeated by a Democrat. They only take credit for ousting Schwarz, who is seeing patients again.

Norquist is more personal to me. I had not written for American Spectator for five years. I was a self-employed writer in Lansing when a scandal broke in 1993 that was awful and improbable. When Democrat Dominic Jacobetti of the Upper Peninsula was chairman of the Michigan House Appropriations Committee, the House Fiscal Agency was his personal fiefdom. It was populated by Democratic appointees, including director John Moberg. At least $1.8 million allegedly went to Moberg, his staff and his friends. One of these was caught selling weapons to Croatia in the scandal, worst Michigan had seen in 50 years. Reporters from the Detroit News won a Pulitzer Prize for their coverage.

Was this not sensational? I queried the American Spectator about writing 500 words on this scandal and was informed that Norquist was already writing something about this. As a Spectator subscriber, I waited in vain for this. He did no such thing but cost me a month of groceries for my two children.

There is also a public policy reason why I do not like Norquist. It is possible that ATR began as a conduit for funds that flowed to Norquist from helping Jack Abramoff's clients. Norquist financed grass-roots lobbying campaigns that look like free-market solutions but really protected existing Indian casinos from competitors. Abramoff was convicted and Tom DeLay lost his seat in this scandal. Having an AFP seminar in Wisconsin Dells, where the Ho-Chunk Casino is located, is awful symbolism to me.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Good Riddance to the Vancouver Games

No more advertisements for the official credit card of the Olympics. No more advertisements for the cell phone partner or the fast food partner of the Olympics.

No more made-up sports that are supposed to appeal to young people used to X games, such as moguls, snowcross, aerials, and half-pipe. Vancouver had so little snow that it needed to be trucked and made. The electric green Zambonis at the speed skating venue showed that they made the ice worse, not better.

The International Olympic Committee has already decided that women should not ski jump anymore. Because the women’s hockey competition is mostly between the United States and Canada, there is danger that the Vancouver competition will be the last time women play hockey in the Olympics. Maybe other countries should make more of an effort but the result is what matters. U.S. women and Canadian women were a combined 90-5 until they faced each other for the gold medal. They had previously taken away women’s softball from the Summer Games. The Olympics is the only place where women can play fewer sports each year.

I also think it was a mistake letting professionals compete in the Olympic Games. Yes, the Russians and the Soviet bloc were paying their athletes, using the fiction that they were in the Army. This was true of ice hockey, swimming, basketball and other summer and winter sports. It was always cool when college kids played for the U.S. in basketball and ice hockey. Now our professional athletes can beat your professional athletes in hockey, tennis and basketball.

So when the Winter Olympics move to Russia, they will not need to make snow. The time change is so bad for the United States compared to Vancouver, that most sports will not be carried live.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Hockey Town

Many people consider Detroit to be Hockey Town. Some people consider it to be the Twin Cities. For me, it is Madison.

Some are fans of the National Hockey League, especially because they have family and friends who play professional hockey. Some parents have children who play youth or high school hockey. For me, it has always been college hockey. Not just any college hockey but University of Wisconsin hockey.

It does not matter to me whether it is the men or women playing hockey. It does not matter to me what the outcomes are. It was wonderful when the UW men beat Denver January 23 in Madison and it has been wonderful that the UW women are near the top of their sport.

Hockey fans are not like fans of other sports and I am fortunate to live in a hockey town again.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Official Sponsor of this Team, League or Report

Corporate sponsorships are apparently hard to find. Not content with naming stadiums and race tracks, putting their name and logo on race cars, sport team uniforms, shoes and those signs in athletic venues, they are now naming other things.

This is the cellular telephone or credit card Halftime Report. These highlights are the package delivery air and ground highlights. Network sports personalities have to plug new movies like guests on talk shows. It is the Heisman Trophy presented by a car company. Beer company advertisements rework classic National Football Association highlights to put their light beer cans in the hands of spectators. How long ago were beer cans banned at sporting events because of cans being thrown on the field? Was there a light beer when Vince Lombardi coached the Green Bay Packers? How about when the Pittsburgh Steelers played at Three Rivers, not Catsup Company Field?

Now college football teams face off in a corporate name bowl game formerly known as a different corporate name bowl game. There is an official frozen pizza of University of Wisconsin athletic venues. When the Badger hockey team used to score sufficient goals, it was free ice cream for everyone. I suspect it was formerly Babcock Hall ice cream. Now it is free frozen custard for everyone because a frozen custard company sponsors University of Wisconsin hockey events.

It is going to get worse as the Super Bowl approaches. Already many sponsors are the official sponsors of the National Football League, the National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League. This or that company will be the official sponsor of the Super Bowl. Halftime has already been named for a corporation. Maybe they can get the Who to change their name to the Network Company Who. I am reasonably sure that their songs at halftime will be politically correct. “I Can See for Miles,” not “Won’t Get Fooled Again.”

It will be worse when the Winter Olympics start. Every company will be the official sponsor of the U.S. Olympic Team, Olympic venues or the Olympics as a whole.

Some corporate sponsors became politically incorrect. Stock car drivers competed for the cigarette company cup. The Formula One championship was another cigarette company cup. Race cars have been purged of sponsorships by beer companies and tobacco companies, even smokeless brands. The venue where the Houston professional teams play was named for a company that turned out to be a corporate pirate. More products will become politically incorrect as corporations gobble each other up.

We should not begrudge anyone who employs people or turns a profit. Advertising is part of this formula for success. There is no reason, however, why there needs to be an official frozen pizza of University of Wisconsin sporting events or why there will be an official carbonated beverage of the U.S. Olympic Team.