Archive for November, 2011

Tribe has spoken on Cain; Newt returns from Redemption Island

Posted in Uncategorized on November 30, 2011 by Jim Rosenberg

Remember “bimbo eruptions?” Clinton political consultant Betsey Wright coined the term in 1992 to describe rumors of infidelity that had a tendency to crop up around then-candidate Bill Clinton. The campaign successfully dealt with them and Clinton won two terms in White House, (although the phenomenon of bimbo eruptions never totally went away and it eventually led to articles of impeachment.)

I’d always seen the term as sexist, but having been invented by a female, perhaps that is not the way to look at it. Anyway, it came up again Tuesday of this week in the Boston Herald:

“GOP presidential suitor Jon Huntsman lamented the latest “bimbo eruption” surrounding rival Herman Cain’s candidacy today saying the party should be talking about the serious, not the sensational.”

So Herman Cain is “reassessing” his candidacy in light of the latest in a parade of sometimes bizarre, interesting issues with his campaign and it looks like it may be time to stick a fork in his bid for the GOP nomination. Ironically, the main beneficiary of all this right now seems to be former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who is picking up points in the polls even more quickly than Cain is losing them (which is VERY quickly.) It seems like perpetual Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney just can’t seem to catch a break.

Gingrich’s past indiscretions are well known, although perhaps he has settled down a bit at 68. And while we might miss Cain’s Wisconsin connection by way of his not-ready-for primetime chief of staff, Mark Block, all is not lost. Newt’s third wife, Callista, 45, hails from Whitehall. She was a former staffer in the office of Wisconsin GOP Congressman Steve Gunderson – also from Whitehall — who represented the 3rd District from 1981-1997.

Interestingly, Gunderson was outed on the House floor as a gay in 1994 by former California Congressman “B-1 Bob” Dornan – a self-described “defender of faith, family and freedom.” Gunderson won re-election in 1994, but decided not to run again in 1996. Callista Gingrich remained on Capitol Hill as a staffer until 2006. (And if all of this sounds like familiar recent history to you, then it’s only because you go back a ways with this stuff. There will be people eligible to vote for President in 2012 for whom the Gunderson-Dornan drama occurred before they were born.)

Gingrich is pulling a real Lazarus act to lead in the polls now, considering that his candidacy was all but written off when his campaign manager and a half dozen senior advisors quit last June. Democrats would be pleased to see him come through it all to win the nomination. He won’t – but he’s good television.  He’s got a storyline.

We are in a period of time where being a candidate can be a very attractive occupation – and it’s apart from anything having to do with actually winning the office. Why else would there still be so many of them? Sarah Palin is the gold standard in this vocation and she has spent the past couple of years flogging books and making pricey appearances just for being a past and possible candidate. As she has proven in spades, it’s nice work, if you can get it. Palin even quit her regular job to keep doing it full time after the last presidential election. People fly you around in private jets, you eat well, you dress well and you get a lot of media attention. Maybe that hasn’t seemed so good for Cain lately, but it helped him to raise millions leading up to this point. Heck, it was even $100 a throw to catch him in Wausau at the Junior Achievement banquet earlier this year, which was more than a ticket at the Grand to see B.B. King.

Herman Cain “has made Clinton look like a choirboy,” says columnist Juan Gonzalez, in this morning’s New York Daily News. “In just a few short weeks, Cain has turned the Republican nominating contest into an X-rated circus of alleged horndog behavior.” (Doesn’t “horndog” sound like it could be a college team mascot or something you’d eat at the fair?)

My take is that this just an extension of the “Reality Television” genre that emerged in the 1990s. While the scripted, never-ending soap operas that began in radio are nearly a thing of the past, we’ve replaced them with Big Brother, Survivor and (appropriately) The Amazing Race. Even our own Congressman Sean Duffy and his wife are veterans of MTV’s Real World.

Meanwhile, the New York Times’ Robert Draper calls Mitt Romney – who appears to be the inevitable, eventual GOP nominee – “the world’s most boring superhero.”

Face it, America, we have very different ideas about what a good candidate is a year out from an election in comparison to what a good leader would be the day after the vote. We don’t want leaders; we want celebrities. Remember when some were lamenting that Arnold Schwarzenegger was foreign-born and therefore couldn’t run for president? And then there was the bimbo eruption.

Put it all together and it seems like we don’t really want to face the serious issues of war and peace, the economy, health care and the federal budget – at least not in the current context of the presidential campaign. All of that needs to be woven into the storyline at some point, but what we really want right now is to be entertained.  We want someone who can keep up with the Kardashians. Herman Cain was able to do that for awhile and now Newt will give it a go.

The Brits figured this stuff out long ago. They have a royal family and they can all follow their antics in the tabloids while others do the actual governing. It’s the best of two worlds — and if you think that’s an expensive luxury, just try adding up what we spend to try to roll these things together in never-ending presidential campaigns here. They even throw in the position of titular head of the Church of England — “Defender of the Faith” — (because Henry VIII had a lot of bimbo eruptions.)

As for me, I’m not sure if I can come up with a compelling enough story to get into the game. (Of course, for the nostalgic, there’s always “Who shot J.R.?”)


Cain wreck: It’s official —

The Trump Debate:  Today’s GOP presidential race coverage in the Hollywood Reporter —

Proof that tax cuts work? It’s only for the little people.

Posted in Uncategorized on November 28, 2011 by Jim Rosenberg

“We don’t pay taxes. Only the little people pay taxes.” — Leona Helmsley

This from the November 27 New York Times:

WASHINGTON — The No. 2 Senate Republican, Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Arizona), expressed concern on Sunday about President Obama’s proposal to continue a reduction in the Social Security payroll tax and questioned whether the tax cut had fostered the creation of jobs, as Democrats say.

* * *

It’s a good question, but the problem is that it’s one that Sen. Kyle never seems to want to ask when it comes to the Bush Tax Cuts. Those are the tax cuts that we already know haven’t worked and their most significant positive impact is on a relatively small number of very wealthy recipients of the largesse.

“The best way to hurt economic growth is to impose more taxes on the people who do the hiring,” Mr. Kyl said. “As a result, the Republicans have said, ‘Don’t raise the existing tax rates on those who do the hiring.’

Just what hiring are you talking about, Senator? Is anybody else sick of hearing this fairy tale — that further fattening fatcats somehow creates a better condition for everyone else? (And let’s not forget that hiring people is, well, tax deductible.)  But perhaps it was just something else that Sen. Kyle said which was “not intended to be a factual statement.”*

Since 2001, the Bush tax cuts have cost more than a trillion dollars. You can look at the running total right here:

Note that of that total, more than $700 billion went to the top one percent. The bullpucky that the Republicans continue to promote and defend is that this is doing some kind of great good for the economy. The problem is that we know it doesn’t and moreover, it has a tremendous negative impact on the deficit and the debt — (two things that the GOP keeps tell us are really important to them.)

Check out this New York Times  graphic (just click for a clean look):

A recent Congressional Budget Office study found that incomes of the top 1 percent of the U.S. population (adjusted for inflation) rose 275 percent from 1979 to 2007, while income for the middle class grew only 40 percent. “Even this dismal figure overstates the fortunes of typical Americans,” says Lawrence Summers, who served as Treasury Secretary in the Clinton Administration. “In 1965, only one in 20 men ages 25 to 54 was not working; by the end of this decade, it is likely to be one in six, even if a full cyclical recovery is achieved.”

I have to tell you that I’m not necessarily in favor of extending the Social Security payroll tax cut, either, if it is not producing.  But it is interesting to note that at about $110 billion a year, the cost matches up pretty well with the Bush tax cuts. Given the choice, the Social Security payroll tax cut provides a whole lot more economic justice because it touches every wage earner in the country. If pouring $110 billion directly into the economy through tens of millions of people instead of stuffing it into hedge funds by a tiny fraction of the number doesn’t create jobs, then perhaps Sen. Kyl would like to provide a head-to-head comparison. Let’s see which is the more efficient way to cut taxes when it comes to economic stimulus. And if it’s a wash, then I would think that we should go with the approach that most positively impacts the greatest number of people.

It’s time to stop playing 3-Card Monte with the GOP on tax cuts and job creation. We don’t have to keep pretending that we don’t know what doesn’t work and what contributes to our deficit and the debt.  Dump the Bush tax cuts.  And if I have to give back a grand to get the banksters billions into the game, then I’ll be happy to do that.


*Caught telling a blatant lie on the Senate floor about Planned Parenthood, Sen. Kyl coined one of the more memorable quotes in the annals of political spin:

Nov. 30 — House GOP Leadership warns members on tax votes:

Wisconsin can’t afford three more years of Scott Walker

Posted in Uncategorized on November 23, 2011 by Jim Rosenberg

WASHINGTON, D.C. (WSAU) – Wisconsin had the nation’s biggest job losses in October — and the Badger State was one of just 11 where payrolls declined on a seasonally-adjusted basis, according to a report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

State officials reported a week ago that 9,700 jobs were lost in Wisconsin last month, including 9,300 in the private sector.

* * *

There is a myth out there that the recall of Scott Walker is a single issue election and that it’s all about his move to all but end public employee unions in Wisconsin. While it may be true that Walker’s authoritarian approach toward public employees created the catalyst for his recall, there is far more to it than simply having public employees contributing more to their pensions and health care insurance. If that was the case, the recall petition drive would fall far short and Walker would have nothing to worry about when he ends up facing the voters again in 2012.

But then there is that other myth that Walker-backers are feverishly bankrolling and trying to peddle through the Koch-founded and funded Astroturf movement, Americans for Prosperity, and the MacIver Institute, through a costly advertising campaign entitled “It’s Working.” (There is a reason that I always run the guv with the AFP logo in the background. These are people who even lied to voters about the date of the election to try to get their way.)

Well, it’s working if you don’t mind hundreds of millions of dollars being siphoned out of local economies all over the state, taking money off Main Street and sending it to Wall Street and insurance companies, costing jobs in Wisconsin. It’s working if you think it’s okay to throw tens of thousands of people off Medicaid and cut the Earned Income Tax credit so you can provide corporate tax breaks. It’s working if you like rigged elections through gross gerrymandering, fake candidates and aggressive voter suppression. It’s working if you want to limit the access of consumers to the courts. It’s working if you don’t think local governments should have any power to decide anything in their communities and school districts beyond what Scott Walker and the Republicans choose to ordain. It’s working if you think tuition increases that run several times the inflation rate, limit access to higher education and bury future workers in student loan debt are the way to move Wisconsin forward. It’s working if you like abstinence-based sex education, auto title loans at usurious interest rates and concealed weapons with no training. It’s working if you think that having the most polarized political environment since the 1960s just comes with the territory.

And it’s working if you think a special jobs session should mean almost nothing related to improving employment prospects and if — after having a couple of them — it’s still okay for Wisconsin to be leading the nation in job losses because almost nothing was done to make it any different. The fact is, it really is working just the way that policies like Scott Walker and the Republicans have implemented over the past 10 months are destined to work – and we can’t afford three more years of it.


Memory Lane bonus from last summer’s breathless MacIver jobs report:

Scott Walker knew the June jobs numbers were suspect:

This is the country we’re living in now…

Posted in Uncategorized on November 22, 2011 by Jim Rosenberg

To protect and to serve? This little piece of video from the University of California – Davis last Friday really doesn’t need much comment. 

I don’t think that anyone is going to be able to buy these folks off.  They know what their future looks like in a country that continues to protect and promote growing disparity in income and assets. 


The winds of change are blowing against Walker

Posted in Uncategorized on November 16, 2011 by Jim Rosenberg

After months of barely moving numbers — mostly because there weren’t many to look at — a recent poll by The Wisconsin Public Radio/St. Norbert College Survey shows that 58 percent of respondents believe Governor Walker should be recalled from office. That compares with 47 percent who felt that way in April. It’s a huge move and it’s going in the wrong direction for Walker and the Wisconsin GOP.

While it’s only one poll and there is a lot of time between now and a recall election next spring, the numbers bode well for the ability of the Recall Walker effort to gather the necessary signatures and bring the Walker administration down. It also shows that the current trend is their friend.

I’ve seen commentary that attempts to dismiss the WPR/St. Norbert Survey as biased, but it’s been around for a long time and there is nothing in it for the sponsors to be anything less than accurate. In October 2010, for example, the survey correctly pointed to Walker’s victory the following month, with the economy and jobs being the most important single factor influencing the respondents.

Now, Walker has disapproval ratings far exceeding Obama’s in Wisconsin, with a full 58 percent disapproving of the governor and most of that number strongly disapproving – 15 points higher on the disapproval side for the guv than for the President. A full 52 percent think Wisconsin is headed in the wrong direction – only marginally different than the spring 2009 survey and only a two-point improvement since spring 2011.

But the most telling set of numbers: 58 percent favor removing Walker from office now, compared to only 38 percent who prefer keeping him in office. This yawning 20 percent spread compares to a marginal 47 percent favoring removal from office and 48 percent who preferred retaining Walker in office last spring. If you think that doesn’t leave much room for undecideds, you’re right.

In short, a little more than a year after his election and 10 months into his term, Scott Walker – with GOP majorities in both houses of the Wisconsin legislature — is in a lot of trouble. While it wasn’t part of the latest survey, the economy and jobs will remain the single most important issue from now through the eventual recall election.  Three secretaries of the Department of Workforce Development later, it has not been a bright spot for Walker’s administration. Hundreds of millions of dollars in discretionary income have been removed from local economies around the state by Walker’s budget and it will continue to hinder job growth.

Over the next few months, supporters of the governor will pour tens of millions of dollars on a political fire that is being fanned by thousands of opposition foot soldiers. In spite of representations to the contrary, most school districts and local governments aren’t winning with Walker’s plan, nor are all the budget cuts resulting in lower taxes for most people in Wisconsin. An unresolved FBI investigation still hangs over some of the governor’s close associates. Ohio’s recent vote showed that the kind of stuff Walker and the GOP are doing in Wisconsin to overreach and attack labor probably isn’t supported by most people. With a 20-point spread already favoring his removal from office and significant negative momentum against the governor well established, it could well prove too much of a headwind to overcome when Wisconsin’s jaded, ID-carrying electorate finally heads to the polls.


Fall 2011 WPR/St. Norbert Survey: 

Scott Walker dismisses St. Norbert poll; Politifact says “False”:



Jim Rosenberg Blog Recipes Index

Posted in Uncategorized on November 15, 2011 by Jim Rosenberg

There is a lot to pick from when it comes to blog topics this week — from bad debates nationally to Day 1 of the Walker recall effort’s signature gathering, the Packers finishing their sweep of the Vikings on Monday Night Football — right down to local politics. Well, forget all of that for a minute. We’re closing in on 200 posts over the past two and a half years and the most consistent crowd pleasers continue to be the recipes. I’m not going to fight it. So as a service to our readers, here are the 11 recipes that have run so far and I’ll update it as time marches on. Now, you won’t have to wade through all the garbarge to find one of those little nuggets that you vaguely remember as being in here somewhere. We will return to our regularly scheduled polarizing partisan political blather soon enough. In the meantime, bon appeitit!

* * *

Prime Rib:

Beef Tenderloin:

Pulled Pork:

Baby Back Ribs:

Rack of Lamb:

Mexican chicken:


Marinated Salmon:

Mussels in Cream Sauce:

Shrimp Alfredo:

Banana Pudding:

Peanut Brittle:

Apple Dumplings: 


Dick Wheeler has left the building.

Posted in Uncategorized on November 11, 2011 by Jim Rosenberg

“My daughter told me I had to introduce myself to you,” I said to the fellow cleaning his pipe outside the Martin Luther King entrance to the capitol.

“Well, your daughter is a sick individual,” came the reply from Dick Wheeler, with perhaps a hint of a twinkle in his eye, as he continued his little task. His Facebook picture here was a lot like Dick: unvarnished, straight faced and showing you just about nothing because for that, you would just have to ask. And then he could decide what he wanted to tell you.

And so began months of twice daily meetings with Dick Wheeler outside the Martin Luther King doorway under the exterior staircase to the second floor doors that have been locked for years. The picture of the hawk you see here was taken by Wheeler on a rainy morning, looking out from this little enclave. It was a smoke-filled room dedicated solely to offstage political discourse that pretty much embodied the kind of thing that I went to Madison to experience. I was not disappointed.

Katie met Wheeler while covering a State of the State address a few years back. She had made the mistake of stopping by the capitol press room looking for directions and Wheeler immediately recognized the opportunity to put a newbie off on a wild goose chase for a laugh, like some kind of prank an upper classman would play on a freshman. Moments after she’d left, he thought better of it, retrieved her and got her where she needed to go. The pressroom was Wheeler’s domain; something he had established, protected and directed for longer than most denizens of the building could personally remember. Elected officials and staffers came and went, but Dick Wheeler endured. He was revered, respected and a one-man institution.

I never spent any time trying B.S. Dick Wheeler about anything and I would pity anyone who did, because he had seen and heard it all. He could tell you a lot, if you were trustworthy. There was a lovable crankiness about him. I never called him on the phone because it was more fun to talk to him in person, so I would just toddle on down to the pressroom whenever I needed a little more background on someone. He was a walking encyclopedia, a political maggot and a curmudgeon’s curmudgeon; a true classic. Dick Wheeler probably forgot more than most people know about state politics, but I don’t think he forgot very much.

When I heard he died this morning at 67, I was sorry to hear it. I was also sorry for his daughter, with whom he worked so closely and shared his love for the game until she and her husband had become his well-schooled and completely qualified successors. But I didn’t feel sorry for him and I don’t think he would feel sorry for himself. It was obvious that Wheeler didn’t want to retire – he told me that more than once — and so I’m happy for him that he didn’t have to. This was his life and he lived it to the very end. I’m happy to have known him, even if it was just a little bit.


Dick Wheeler Memorial set for 4 p.m. Tuesday in Capitol Rotunda: