Archive for November, 2010

Mussels in cream sauce recipe

Posted in Uncategorized on November 25, 2010 by Jim Rosenberg

So, what’s this doing here?  Well, I have to tell you that the prime rib and baby back ribs recipes in this blog get regular hits.  So here’s another chance to impress family, your friends and yourself.  (And if you missed the other two recipes, just enter “prime rib” or “baby back ribs” in the search box.)

While everyone was hitting the Thanksgiving fare many may not have noticed that Trig’s had super fresh mussels just off the plane from Prince Edward Island today.  I have this thing for buckets of mussels in cream sauce and it’s something that I tend to overdo in my travels if I find a place that does a particularly good job.  But the truth of the matter is that you can make them yourself and it’s fast, cheap and easy. 

1 tablespoon butter
1 small leek, halved, thinly sliced (white and pale green parts only)
2 pounds mussels, scrubbed, debearded
1 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup whipping cream
4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley


Melt butter in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add leek; sauté 3 minutes. Add mussels and wine. Cover and simmer until mussels open, about 4 minutes (discard any that do not open). Using slotted spoon, transfer mussels to 2 bowls. (Personally, I just use one big one and you’re looking at how it came out an hour ago, above.)

Stir cream and 2 tablespoons parsley into liquid in pot. Simmer uncovered 3 minutes. Season sauce with salt and pepper. Pour sauce over mussels. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons parsley.

The mussels come pre-cleaned, but you should rinse them down to remove any sand, etc. (I actually let them soak in ice water for 20-40 minutes to purge them a bit.)  You can also mess with the recipe, such as substituting a shallot or green onion for the leek, along with using a tad more butter and cream (which is what Julia Child would have done and this is the DAIRY state, right?)  Some might even add some bacon crumbles.

Don’t use crummy wine because it’s a case of “garbage in – garbage out” when you’re cooking. Besides, the recipe only calls for a cup, so you’re going to end up drinking a bit more than half the bottle anyway. Make it something you can enjoy. (Hopefully you have a chilled one to start out with, which I did.) You can extend the time a couple of minutes on the cream sauce if you want to reduce it a bit, but keep stirring it and remember that your mussels are waiting patiently for their sauce. I also brought the wine up to temperature before adding the mussels in that step.

Get a baguette to dip in the sauce because it’s a shame not to. A pound per person is great if you’re a mussel fan like me. You can cut that back if you’re using it for an appetizer or serving them up with people who aren’t yet addicted.

Bon appetit! 

Walker’s opening act: destroying a golden opportunity for jobs, infrastructure and economic development that took years to create…

Posted in Uncategorized on November 12, 2010 by Jim Rosenberg

“Tonight the Great Pumpkin will rise out of the pumpkin patch. He flies through the air and brings toys to all the children of the world,” said Linus.

“That’s a good story,” said Sally Brown.

* * *

Scott Walker says diverting the $810 million from the feds to build a rail line between Milwaukee and Madison for road and bridge repair work instead will spur job creation and expand the state’s economy.

“That’s a good story,” I say.

* * *

Today’s Capital Times:

It’s not just Wisconsin businesses and community leaders, including the mayors of the state’s two largest cities, telling Walker he is wrong.

It’s not just the Obama administration telling Walker he is wrong.

Walker’s fellow Republicans — at least the honest ones — are telling the governor-elect the same thing. (That would be Congressman Tom Petri of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and former Republican Congressman Ray LaHood, U.S. Transportation Secretary.)

* * *

Scott Walker had no problem with what will turn out to be more than a half billion taxpayer dollars for Miller Park (and I don’t remember the big federal grant for that one.)   But an annual outlay by the state equal to less than one percent of the federal outlay for a critical piece of infrastructure is now way too much.  I’ve worked with economic development projects for a long time.  If you can’t make this kind of leverage work for you with jobs, economic impact and the most modest of potential state participation, then there will be essentially  no projects that can be justified during the coming term, based on this precedent. 

The Transportation Development Association’s position when they did a fly-in to lobby in Washington D.C. in 2009 included the following:

• Support President Obama’s budget proposal for $1 billion intercity passenger rail capital funding for states (80% federal and 20% state cost sharing) annually over the next 5 years.
• Support the recommendations of the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission to provide at least $5 billion annually in intercity passenger rail capital funding for states (80% federal and 20% state cost sharing) over the next six years as a dedicated funding program within the surface transportation authorization bill.
• Support high-speed rail in Wisconsin, and Governor Doyle’s plan to seek federal stimulus funds to pay for the Milwaukee-to-Madison passenger train line.
September 21, 2010, Craig Thompson, Executive Director of the Transportation Development Association of Wisconsin was keynoting the Annual Meeting of the West Central Wisconsin Rail Coalition.  I don’t think he was there to oppose rail.  So where’s the strong advocacy for their position since Walker moved to deep-six the very same project they’ve been supporting for years?  If it was worth talking about in Washington, it should be worth strong backing here, with the money already in hand, shouldn’t it? 


Stopping high-speed rail in its tracks seems short-sighted

Posted in Uncategorized on November 6, 2010 by Jim Rosenberg

Since I’ve ridden the rails in Asia, Europe and North America, I was really pleased to see some fantastic news earlier this year:

January 28, 2010 – Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Wisconsin will receive more than $800 million to build a high-speed rail line carrying passengers between Milwaukee and Madison at 110 mph and recapture a piece of a regional rail system largely abandoned six decades ago. The high-speed line could be up and running as early as 2013, the state says.

* * *

But then came September and a partisan campaign. Former Governor Tommy Thompson said the state can’t afford a high-speed rail line and should use the $810 million in federal dollars earmarked for the project to repair state roadways. This ignores the fact that the money can’t be reallocated, but Thompson said that could change if Republicans take control of Congress in November…

Memory Lane:

October 11, 2001: “Amtrak looks forward to the passage of legislation now pending in Congress that will enable us, working together with states and communities, to finance and build a world-class high speed rail system for America.” (Tommy Thompson, Amtrak Board Chairman)

* * *

Transportation costs the average U.S. household more than 17 percent of income. It’s second only to housing. It’s more than food and more than health care. Having a first class mass transit system is one of the things that separates first class cities from also-rans in an increasingly competitive economy. The amount that Governor-elect Scott Walker is concerned about in annual operating costs is very modest, in relative terms: about $7.5 million a year in a multi-billion-dollar budget. If Wisconsin turns down this incredible economic infusion from the federal government to build an enduring piece of infrastructure that would produce an attractive development corridor between Milwaukee and Madison — (and someday, probably to the Twin Cities) – we may never be able to afford to undo this short-sighted decision. And yet, that is exactly what is happening right now:

* * *

November 5, 2010:

“At the governor’s request, I have asked contractors and consultants working on the high speed rail project to temporarily interrupt their work for a few days,” Wisconsin Department of Transportation Secretary Frank Busalacchi, said Thursday, a day after the companies received brief messages to that same effect. “In light of the election results, our agency will be taking a few days to assess the real world consequences, including the immediate impacts to people and their livelihoods, if this project were to be stopped.”

* * *

Why would anybody do something like that? Well, the big clue came at the same time the funding was announced last January in the very same Journal Sentinel story that I opened with:

“There have been discussions along this line for 20 years at least,” said Craig Thompson, executive director of the Transportation Development Association of Wisconsin. “It’s very expensive, and we’ve been having trouble finding money to meet existing needs.”

The challenge in the future will be to find the money for ongoing operations of the high-speed rail system, Thompson said.

* * *

So we’re going to turn down a monster project involving hudreds of jobs upfront that would open up access between our state’s two largest cities and invigorate one of our most promising development corridors. The reason is that some people – like Scott Walker and the TDA – think that having to pay an annual amount that would amount to less than one percent interest, compared to the capital outlay that the feds are providing, is just too much.  It’s like saying you would never want to win the Powerball lottery because of the income taxes.

Don’t expect a free-flowing and fair discussion. There are too many people sitting on their hands because they’ve got to live at least the next four years with Governor Scott Walker and newly elected GOP majorities in both houses of the legislature.

But whether anyone wants to say it or not, the case against the rail project makes no financial sense for Wisconsin.  It’s about people who have vested interests in seeing absolutely everything go to their special interest sector or who are standing by ill-advised campaign talking points. The $800-plus million will not go back to Washington to reduce the deficit. It will not come back to Wisconsin for building roads and bridges. Instead, it will go to other projects in other states.  It will go to people who get it and it will be taken from people who don’t.

New York governor-elect Andrew Cuomo is already asking that high-speed rail money be redirected there, if newly elected Republican governors in Ohio and Wisconsin reject their grants. Cuomo says New York State is ready to spend the money now as a boost to the economy. A spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Transportation would not comment on Cuomo’s request, but said there is an “incredible demand” for high-speed rail dollars around the country.

“It’s one thing to fantasize about being able to convert this money into highway dollars and simply adopting a scorched-earth strategy of letting someone else have this money that’s dedicated to rail,” said Milwaukee Congresswoman Gwen Moore.

Translation: It’s not happening. As Willy Wonka said, “You get nothing.”


UPDATE: Years later, the incredible claim that Gov. Doyle stopped the high-speed rail project; (scroll down to Page 5, Item B.):

Congratulations, Congressman Duffy

Posted in Uncategorized on November 3, 2010 by Jim Rosenberg

You’re probably wondering how I could already have a post-mortem written on Wisconsin’s 7th U.S. Congressional District with the results not even all in. Well, a person could have written this a long time ago. That’s how easy it was to see this one coming and so that’s exactly what I did. (And no, I didn’t bother to write a blog piece for an alternative scenario. The chances of it being useful were simply too remote.)

Some will say that it’s not a Republican district and there is plenty of statistical evidence over the past 40 years to indicate that they’re right. But while the Republicans always cringed when anyone called it “Dave Obey’s seat,” that’s exactly what it was. And on May 5 of this year – nearly 10 months after Sean Duffy had begun his campaign to challenge for the seat – Dave Obey announced he would not seek re-election. That’s very late in the game for a November election and while some might say it put the Dems at a real disadvantage, it wouldn’t have mattered if they’d had an extra year.  That’s the kind of night it was.  Ask Russ Feingold.  Ask Russ Decker. 

When mid-term State Senator Julie Lassa announced her candidacy after a weekend meeting of Democratic leaders in Wausau, it didn’t play to universal cheers among the district Dems. When nomination papers were being passed around in June, I talked about how slowly the Lassa campaign was getting off the ground. 

 Early polls showed that this past summer, neither Duffy nor Lassa individually had a big advantage in name recognition. That began to change as things began to heat up and it wasn’t all just about advertising. As the summer wore on, I saw Duffy everywhere and Lassa almost nowhere, unless I deliberately went out looking. I understand that she campaigned hard, but all I’m saying is that when I keep seeing Sean and keep not seeing Julie, it’s telling me something. Sean Duffy might as well have been living in Wausau. He was picking the right events to show up at and meeting people non-stop. He was staffed with people who knew something about the people he was approaching.

I had several conversations with Sean Duffy during the course of the campaign. He knew who I was and he also knew that I probably wasn’t voting for him, but he still persisted.  It’s important because most of the work that someone like me is doing with a Congressman is essentially non-partisan. Sean was coming to the people. It wasn’t just me that noticed this. Word was that the Lassa people were cranky about their numbers in Marathon County in October (and lord knows they’ve got to be cranky about them now.) But just what moves those numbers?  In this case, it was a nationwide wave, but Sean Duffy also did what it took to take advantage of those conditions and he ran a great campaign.

While he was the usual non-factor throughout the process, I also think it was helpful to have an extremist like Dan Mielke running to the right of Sean Duffy. It not only gave Duffy a primary win, but it put his candidacy in a better context for voters. Having someone with REAL fringe views is something that can have value for a moderate in many situations (unless you’re in a state or district that is so red that those people can actually beat you.) If Duffy is seriously challenged from the right in 2012, that will be a pretty good indicator that a lot of people in the middle, where many general elections are decided, may see him as okay.

While it was inconvenient for Congressman Obey to announce his retirement so late in the game, I don’t fault him for it. First, he has done enough for this district since 1969 that I thought he could do any damn thing he wanted and I wish him a long, happy retirement. Secondly, take a look at the results of the Feingold-Johnson race. An incorruptible Rhodes Scholar with a stellar record and plenty of independence runs an impeccably clean operation for 18 years, visiting every county in the state every year. To come out with the kind of result he had against an essentially unknown candidate makes it pretty clear that Democrats were dragging anchor this year. Obey deserved to leave on his own terms and he did, as Chair of Appropriations. Regardless of his own re-election prospects, which were probably as good as Ron Kind’s, there was simply no reason to go back to minority purgatory at this stage of his career.  I don’t blame him for reading the tea leaves on that prospect.  This was a lot bigger than the 7th District.

Am I bitter about the outcome of the 2010 midterm elections? Not at all. The only thing certain is change and the pendulum is swinging a lot faster than it did years ago. Just look at what happened between 2008 and 2010. The 2010 midterm was more about voting against the direction that many see the country going in than anything else. There are no permanent or even long-term mandates on the horizon for anyone. Now that the election is over, the real work of leadership begins and we need our leaders to be successful. It is just as possible to overreach from the right as it is from the left and that’s important to remember.  So congratulations, Congressman Duffy. I’ll probably be in touch.