Archive for March, 2012

Tuesday’s primary: car elevators and bullsh*t

Posted in Uncategorized on March 30, 2012 by Jim Rosenberg

There are a lot of things to talk about in the GOP presidential primary that many thought would be over by now, but car elevators do not make a good addition to the discussion. Look, I know Mitt Romney is a gazillionaire and that he frequently says things that illustrate just how out of touch with most people he really is. He lives in another world. But combing through the details of a multi-million dollar renovation project on one of his houses to see what crazy things can be waved around like red herrings is just not a productive way to engage in the debate over who should be President.

Remember when the Republicans were ragging about Obama’s comment on the price of arugula during the 2008 campaign to make it look like he was completely out of touch with Joe Six-pack? It was dumb then and it’s dumb now. Don’t get me wrong. I think it’s perfectly alright to paint Romney as the 2012 version of Thurston Howell III in this presidential race and he continues to say plenty of things along the way to indicate that he is the perfect representative of the Grand Old Plutocratic party.

But car elevators?

A few years back, I was walking down a street in San Diego and a fellow was working in his garage, which I’m showing you here. See the car on the car elevator? He paid a bit less than five grand for it and to me, it looked like a pretty good solution toward expanding the capacity of his one-car garage without changing the footprint. So I’m all for knocking Romney about his otherworldly view of American life. On the other hand, I don’t have anything against innovative solutions and a car elevator can actually be one — even for Romney, (whose wife drives a couple of Cadilacs…)

And just to show you there is no winning, we also heard collective faux gasps this week when Rick Santorum lit into a New York Times reporter about what he called – get ready now – “bullshit.”

Let me tell you something about B.S. and that is this: it’s a pretty common word among common people. It’s not a curse. It’s not swearing. My mom would say it’s “vulgar” and she would neither use the term, nor tolerate it much. But having said that, I think it’s a term that does a pretty good job of characterizing much of what we hear during campaign season. For anything that car elevators might do to separate Mitt Romney from the common man or woman, the idea of not wanting to put up with bullshit – and I don’t just mean the word — would seem to be a uniting concept.

Here’s a thought. Why don’t we cut through the B.S. about car elevators and language that Harry Truman wouldn’t bat an eye at and just talk about policy issues for awhile? That’s what this campaign season is actually supposed to be about, after all.


Wisconsin leads nation in airline capacity losses

Posted in Uncategorized on March 26, 2012 by Jim Rosenberg

With a 17.3 percent loss of seats over the past 12 months, Wisconsin is leading the nation in air service cutbacks over the past year. Milwaukee Mitchell has seen more than 20 percent of its seats evaporate since last year’s Spring Break season, when the airport’s low fares and high passenger demand left all of its parking consumed, along with Park & Ride facilities for miles around.

Wisconsin’s drop in capacity compares to much smaller declines of 4.9 percent in Michigan, 2.4 percent in Minnesota and 1.6 percent in Illinois. All of Wisconsin’s eight commercial airports have seen cutbacks. La Crosse, Green Bay, Wausau and Eau Claire have seen double-digit losses in capacity along with Milwaukee.

It’s something else to think about when you hear that tagline of how “It’s working” over the next couple of months.


Memory Lane —

Mitchell was one of the fastest-growing airports anywhere less than a year ago: 

Spring Break 2011 at Mitchell filled all available parking on and off site:

Sen. Jim Holperin: a class act who will be missed in the state senate

Posted in Uncategorized on March 24, 2012 by Jim Rosenberg

I was not overly surprised by Friday’s news that 12th District State Sen. Jim Holperin had decided not to run for re-election this fall. Holperin is a class act who has taken on more than his share of challenges in two decades of government service as a legislative staffer, Assembly representative, cabinet secretary and senator. Frankly, I was more surprised four years ago when he was talked into running for the 12th Senate District to protect the seat vacated by Roger Breske when Breske left the seat to become railroad commissioner. That he now leaves under his own terms is a measure of justice for someone who has not always been able to count on that from others.

I’ve had a number of interactions with Holperin over the years and as Edie McClurg said in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, I think he’s a righteous dude. He was a straight shooter and not much for cheap posturing, but also not one to be in people’s faces or looking for fights when there was a disagreement. My last back-and-forth was actually about a piece of legislation upon which we have different views, but it was a good exchange. I would have happily supported him for re-election and the people of the 12th would have been lucky to have him stay on, as would the people of Wisconsin.

Coming from a relatively conservative district, a Democrat like Holperin inherently spends a lot of his time on the electoral bubble. He was forced into a recall election in 1990 over the Chippewa treaty spearfishing issue. Last year, some overreaching right-wingers felt that he could be knocked off over the impasse that Holperin and 13 other Democratic senators staged when they denied Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald a quorum to ram through part of Walker’s extremist, anti-union agenda. In both cases, Holperin’s detractors were able to gather the signatures, but when push came to shove, more of his constituents valued his ethical, even-handed leadership than the alternative being offered by the GOP.

It leaves Holperin as the only Wisconsin legislator ever to face two recalls and he survived them both. The funny thing is that if you know Holperin personally, it would be easy to believe that he wouldn’t have any enemies at all and certainly not enough to make the kind of history that he did. After enduring the unprecedented level of ingratitude to persevere and serve, I don’t blame the senator one bit for calling it a career. Campaigning can be a drag and that is especially true in the sprawling 12th District. Holperin got stuck doing it last summer for the recall and the prospect of doing it all over again would not be attractive to anyone who enjoys having a life outside of that activity. The Club for Growth was already running negative advertising over the controversial mining legislation that failed, calling Holperin the deciding vote – something that I suppose they could have said about a lot of people and probably did.

But if the doctrinaire right-wing extremists at the Club for Growth would like to lay the blame where it actually belongs, perhaps they should look at a process in which the mining company was allowed to craft the legislation. Maybe the fact that pro-mine lawmakers had to be dragged kicking and screaming into even having a public hearing in the part of the state that would be most impacted played into the outcome. Or maybe the Republicans ought to just look in the mirror. It was resistance to their agenda that left them with only 17-16 margin in the Wisconsin Senate this year. They were up 19-14 at the beginning of the session and then lost two members of their caucus to recalls in 2011. They could easily lose two more by June and just yesterday, they had to toss two GOP senators off the Joint Finance Committee, since Pam Galloway’s resignation left them in a 16-16 deadlock in the upper house.

The working conditions involved with serving in that particular office aren’t entirely attractive, either – even in good times. I’ve spent enough windshield time between Wausau and Madison to know that it wears on a person, but I haven’t spent near as much time as Jim Holperin — and when I turn into my driveway, he still has a couple of hours left to go. Add in having a piece of turf to cover that is larger than many congressional districts around the nation and you’ve got the makings of a very demanding set of circumstances. That’s particularly true for a fellow in his sixties who has more than earned his retirement, regardless of whether that is what he actually decides to do with the freedom he will finally find himself able to enjoy or use to pursue other interests. But I’ll miss Jim Holperin in the legislature and a lot of other people will, too.



Sen. Galloway punts on her recall; GOP loses majority

Posted in Uncategorized on March 17, 2012 by Jim Rosenberg

Word was out several days before Sen. Pam Galloway’s announcement of her pending resignation Friday that something significant was afoot in the 29th Senate District race, but for those of us not hardwired in to the right, we didn’t know what it would be. The most likely, some of us thought, was that a “fake Democrat” would emerge to force a primary for Rep. Donna Seidel, (D-Wausau), who has been making a steady stream of appearances around the 29th since announcing her candidacy for the recall race in early February. The news that Galloway won’t be the opponent was a big surprise, but it really doesn’t change things as much as one might think, or perhaps as the Republicans may have been hoping.

“My family has experienced multiple, sudden and serious health issues, which require my full attention,” Galloway said in a statement. But regardless of the reason, the fact is that after less than 15 months of a 4-year term and voting lockstep with the GOP leadership that took over the capitol in January 2011, Senator Galloway is punting. (Karl Rove’s PAC reportedly invested more than $300,000 to help Galloway get elected, which will now come to more than $20,000 per month.)

But the recall election for her seat goes forward, even though she is not a candidate. Reid Magney, spokesman for the Government Accountability Board, said Galloway’s name would not be on the ballot if she resigns according to her schedule. If she hadn’t resigned by April 9, the Republicans wouldn’t have had an opportunity to put a replacement candidate on the ballot. This is the party that controlled the chamber 19-14 after the 2010 elections. Following last summer’s recall elections and this latest development, they now fall into a 16-16 tie.

Just watching the message traffic and looking at the way the dominos are lined up, it appears that 86th District Rep. Jerry Petrowski (R-Marathon) and 87th District Rep. Mary Williams (R-Medford) are looking at running. Of those two, Petrowski would seem to be the stronger candidate. He is well known in the most populated part of the district in Marathon County, unlike Williams. Both won convincingly in the GOP tsunami of 2010, but it remains to be seen whether voters will feel the brand has been tarnished with all of the acrimony since that high water mark for the Republicans.

The problem for Petrowski is that even though he has proven to be a safe incumbent in his district, it seems like it may be more because it is a “Petrowski district” than a truly Republican district. The same can’t necessarily be said of the 29th Senate District. If he goes for the senate seat against Seidel, his last two Democratic opponents in his Assembly elections were Todd Punke, a consultant and former teacher, along with Nate Myszka, a former staffer for Congressman Dave Obey. On the Republican side, Kevin Hermening might be a possibility – although he left the 2010 race for the 29th Senate District early on, leaving the road open for Galloway’s surprising win over former Senate Majority Leader Russ Decker.

Whatever reasons Galloway may have for leaving and however pressing they may be, it would not be surprising to learn that there is some polling data floating around that would support her decision not to go through another campaign just to try to finish her initial term. It could well have been fourth and long for her. Recall organizers were successful in getting the necessary signatures to force her recall, but anecdotal stories were popping up during the process indicating that one of the more significant challenges was a third of people being approached didn’t know who she was. Not known for being a great schmoozer and a relatively short-term player on the political scene, Galloway came out as a bit of an enigma and she will be leaving as one, too.


Galloway’s brief resignation letter is dated March 12, 2012: 

UPDATE: Rep. Petrowski announced 29th SD bid:|topnews|text|FRONTPAGE

Are Wausau’s City Council challengers operating as a slate?

Posted in Uncategorized on March 13, 2012 by Jim Rosenberg

A news release was issued within the past few days by Duane Maatz, who is running against incumbent Jim Brezinski for the District 4 Wausau City Council seat. Brezinski ran very strong in the February primary, capturing 70 percent of the vote. Maatz is the executive director of the Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Growers Association and it’s clear that his shtick is being the right winger in this race. The news release revolves around a Freedom of Information request for a bunch of possible background documents relating to the failed attempt to consolidate the city’s human resources department with Marathon County’s.

I’m not sure what kind of documents will surface because I have a feeling that a lot of the derailing probably took place off the record, but there are a couple of things that might prove interesting about this whole exercise.

First, I’m not sure what good it will do for Maatz. He obviously needs something besides his yard signs “standing with Walker,” but nobody pushed harder for consolidation of the HR function than Jim Brezinski. He actually resigned in disgust as chair of the city’s HR committee when the merger failed. The thrust of the news release is that Maatz and other city council challengers feel that the HR deal might have been a good one and that the city missed an important opportunity. I couldn’t agree more and I was sorry that I had to leave the council prior to the time that we could get that done. So was Jim Brezinski. Simply put, there is absolutely no competitive advantage for Maatz to be pushing what Brezinski had sincerely hoped would have justifiably been a signature policy initiative that he spent a lot of time and effort trying to champion in 2010.

But what is also interesting is that the news release from Maatz quotes Keene Winters, another council challenger in District 6 and the local ringleader for a group known as the Center Right Coalition. The CRC concept was the creation of Grover Norquist. I have no idea how many local members there are or what it takes to be one, but groups always sound more official. The release lists District 2 challenger Randy Shiffman and District 1 challenger Judi Paetzold as media contacts for the story. Mark Hadley, who backed Tipple’s initial mayoral run but whose wife was running against Tipple four years later in 2008, seems to have more than a passing interest in all of this. It is therefore fair to wonder whether all of these folks are running on some kind of a slate and what the core values of that particular slate might be. Or perhaps enough is already known to make a good guess.


Don’t object to Limbaugh’s language. Object to his message.

Posted in Uncategorized on March 5, 2012 by Jim Rosenberg

A few months back, when Rush Limbaugh was busy trying to defend Herman Cain by making slurping noises as he referred to one of Cain’s accusers, I called Limbaugh a “reliable misogynist.” Nine national advertisers have already bailed on Limbaugh’s program since his sexist, personal attack last week on Sandra Fluke, a Georgetown law student who testified before a Democratic panel about the need for contraceptive coverage in health insurance plans. Calling her a slut and saying that she should post sex videos on the web as recompense for this health coverage, Limbaugh spent time on his national program three days in a row to double down on his tacky, wrong-headed contentions.

Rush made a big enough ass of himself that some companies are deciding that is not a forum in which they want to position their products or services. Limbaugh’s lame, non-apology on his website over the weekend doesn’t seem to be doing much to stem the rush to the exits. It shouldn’t, because it’s just the latest serving in a regular menu of sexist trash on his program.

As his company was leaving the Limbaugh show, Carbonite CEO David Friend said, “We hope that our action, along with the other advertisers who have already withdrawn their ads, will ultimately contribute to a more civilized public discourse.”

Me too, but I wouldn’t bet much on it. Of course, Limbaugh listens to money and so he couldn’t stonewall the obvious problem.

“In this instance, I chose the wrong words in my analogy of the situation. I did not mean a personal attack on Ms. Fluke,” Limbaugh said on his website. But it wasn’t an analogy. He absolutely made a sexist, personal attack on Ms. Fluke. That is all that it was.

And that is what happens when you are dealing with reliable misogynists.

Happily, there were some conservative voices that called Limbaugh on his outrageous remarks. They included George Will, John McCain and Ron Paul. McCain correctly characterized Limbaugh’s remarks as “totally unacceptable” and something that should be “condemned by everyone.” That means something because criticism from the left is to be expected for a person like Limbaugh and it therefore carries less weight. Right-wingers seem to regularly need to kiss the Rush ring, (speaking of positioning.)

Then came the lame attempts to try to divert the focus on Limbaugh’s indefensible remarks by others, such as the American Spectator’s “Rally for Rush.” And since I like to keep things local when I can, there was this spin from our friendly purveyors of toxic talk at 550 Radio, who provide the podium for Rush Limbaugh’s sexist diatribes here in central Wisconsin:

“First, I object to the foul language. “Slut” isn’t used in polite company. I’d prefer not to hear it on the radio. And I’d prefer that attacks be less personal, and more about ideas,” says News Director Chris Conley in his blog on the subject. “What else do I object to? Nothing.”

Nothing? Really, Chris?

Well, I object to much more than that. It’s the same reason I object to a lot of other terms that can be used to describe people with whom a person might disagree or who are different. Most people seem to get it when it’s a racist term. You don’t get to say “nigger” and then brush it off as “choosing the wrong word” in a non-analogy, do you? Do you think Rush would even be on the air if he had made 56 racist references like that in three days? Would he have even been there on the second day? It isn’t just about the word. It is about the hideous concept that it attempts to convey.

But for some reason, we’re supposed just get past repeated, grossly sexist terms and outrageous insults toward women and then move along to talk about some non-personal core issue that supposedly formed the legitimate basis for a thoughtful discussion before we all got sidetracked. I have news for you and it is that some of us are not willing to do that. You give up your seat at our table if sexism is one of your core values.

The discussion about Rush Limbaugh right now is not about contraceptive coverage. It’s not about freedom of speech. It’s about him being a reliable misogynist AGAIN. It should also be about having enablers like 550 Radio to keep his sexist bullying alive by blasting that garbage across the airwaves every day for hours.

USA Today reported that KPUA, an AM station in Hilo, Hawaii, said it is dropping Limbaugh’s show immediately. The statement by station owner New West said the Limbaugh incident “crossed a line of decency” and didn’t live up to the station’s standards. (Happily for Rush, that sticky situation with ‘living up to station standards’ doesn’t seem likely to come up as a problem at WSAU.)

And for those local advertisers that are part of the team in this dubious effort, perhaps it would be wise to take a lesson from some national advertisers who spend millions of dollars to carefully position their brands. Some are now seeing fit to abandon Limbaugh’s daily rants in favor of venues that are more reflective of higher corporate and human values. That’s not a bad idea.


Limbaugh’s advertisers continue exodus in the wake of Sandra Fluke comments:

Caroline Heldman takes a walk down Memory Lane with Limbaugh’s decades-long war on women:

March 12 – Limbaugh syndicator suspends national ads for two weeks:

March 20 – Fleeing advertisers doom Rush Limbaugh’s business model:

A compilation of Rush Limbaugh’s smears on Sandra Fluke shows it wasn’t simply a case of ‘choosing the wrong words for an analogy: