Archive for May, 2012

The Recall Campaign Trail and Walker’s Road to Damascus

Posted in Uncategorized on May 19, 2012 by Jim Rosenberg

ImageAfter spending his first year in office forcing cities, counties and school districts to accept and enforce his worldview against public employee unions by gutting shared revenue and school aids while significantly defunding higher education, Gov. Scott Walker has miraculously rediscovered some constituencies that he had formerly abandoned, as he attempts to make his case in a looming recall election. It will be interesting to see who’s buying it. What seems clear is what he’s trying to buy; an election — and a succession of conveniently timed announcements are just another way to try to leverage the tens of millions he’s collected from right-wing donors across the country.

At the end of April, Walker unveiled a $100 million program to help revitalize Milwaukee’s central city. Mayor Tom Barrett, Walker’s Democratic opponent in next month’s recall, said he was pleased that the governor now wants to work with Milwaukee on job creation, reported the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

“But I have to tell you,” Barrett said, “I question the sincerity of that when it comes 36 days before the recall election.  “Had this come during his time as county executive, had this come during the first 15 months of his term as governor, I may have felt he was more sincere. But the timing, one week basically after the state of Wisconsin was identified as the only state in the entire country that had a statistically significant decrease in jobs, raises the question of whether this is about creating jobs in Milwaukee or this is about saving Scott Walker’s job.”

In the seven years that Walker was Milwaukee County executive, Barrett said, Walker never showed any interest in promoting economic development in Milwaukee’s central city. Mr. Barrett is in a position to know that and I take him at his word. Gov. Walker is also in a position to know it, but taking him at his word is something that you just can’t do, unless maybe you’re a billionaire campaign donor like David Koch or Diane Hendricks and you’re asking about union-busting strategy.

Walker didn’t show much interest in helping Milwaukee with his state budget.  Cuts to Milwaukee’s shared revenue, street and transportation aids came out to nearly $20 million this year, with even more slashed from Milwaukee County. Tax credits and loans make up the bulk of the guv’s new initiative for Milwaukee. That’s not the same as saying that the state will be spending $100 million, which is what Walker said was happening, according to the coverage. In reality, it’s saying he hopes other people will spend money, which the state is willing to help make more attractive with loans and tax credits. It sounds like a pretty good start in a very troubled place. But what mattered to Walker was to roll it out a few weeks before his recall election.  He’s most certainly going to lose in Milwaukee on June 5, but he’s hoping that it won’t be by as much as it might have been. Whether the effort is ultimately a successful program or not doesn’t really matter, because it will be masquerading as a current accomplishment until we know better and it’s fair to be wondering if it would have happened at all without the backdrop of the recall.

“When Milwaukee’s doing better, not only does it help the rest of the state’s economy, it lowers the amount of resources that taxpayers statewide provide in terms of other services through state government. It just makes overall for a better state when we transform the city of Milwaukee,” said Gov. Walker.  That’s great, Governor — and it’s also very true.  Welcome back from the Road to Damascus. After spending more than eight years as Milwaukee County Executive and Governor reducing the promise and the prospects of our state’s largest city, perhaps this scheme to hopefully get other people to invest there will be enough for the Amen Corner at the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel editorial board to endorse you, once again. They’ve never been ones to let your actual performance get in the way of being your dependable apologists.

Continuing in campaign mode, Walker’s business-friendly DNR is set to primp for the recall by purchasing a $17.2 million conservation easement in northwestern Wisconsin next week. Walker all but shut down the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program last year, but things are apparently different now. In April, the state’s Department of Transportation unveiled a $715 million highway project for I-39/90 from Madison to the Illinois border. Unlike most major highway projects where the federal government covers 80 to 90 percent of the work, the I-39-90 project will be 70 percent state funded and 30 percent federal, said John Vesperman, the Department of Transportation’s project chief, in a Wisconsin State Journal report. Does anyone wonder why that is? Remember the 100 percent federally funded $810 million rail project that was thrown overboard over $7.5 million in annual operating costs and train maker Talgo leaving the state? This lone road project will cost the state a half billion, in the unlikely event that it makes budget. Is it any wonder why the road builders like Walker?

But some of the best contortions surround Walker’s record on jobs. It is the worst among the 50 states, we’ve learned – and we’re still bleeding them. But that isn’t stopping the guv from trying to claim otherwise, with handy numbers coming in just-in-time fashion from his third (count ‘em) Department of Workforce Development Secretary, Reggie Newson, who assures us that the curious timing of the unusual release of numbers had nothing to do with the recall election. Of course, it’s true that he is a political appointee who will lose his job if Walker loses, but what’s that got to do with anything?

“The government just released final numbers,” says Walker in a campaign ad, earnestly looking into the camera as he desperately tries to nullify the fact that the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics ranked Wisconsin dead last in job creation last year. And no, “the government” didn’t just release FINAL numbers.  Walker’s own administration prematurely released PRELIMINARY numbers that can’t be compared to other states, at this point. Acting like “the government” is somebody else and saying that the numbers are “final” neglects the fact that the numbers won’t be confirmed in final form until well after the recall election.  Gov. Walker knows this. He is deliberately misrepresenting things and spending millions in campaign funds trying to muddy the waters in an effort to try to make it look like his policies are somehow helping employment in Wisconsin. They’re not. They dampen demand and hurt employment. He knows this. Tom Barrett has a degree in Economics in addition to a law degree. He knows this, too.

The announcement of Walker’s new and improved job numbers was designed to try to negate the next day’s report from the BLS that Wisconsin lost another 6,200 private sector jobs in April. But he already had a campaign ad in the can with a different story that his people worked hard to manufacture in time to be useful. Walker calls it ‘bad news for Barrett’ and that is entirely what it was about for him. But if it wasn’t for the fast-approaching election, I think Scott Walker and his supporters would be just as happy to have the soft labor market that his policies sustain, in which they can continue to reduce compensation to workers without interruption or the inconvenient need for any inconguous public posturing.

But here’s my real problem with the governor who has a growing legal defense fund, had a secret e-mail network in his county executive suite, keeps a spokesperson who is operating under immunity from the court and makes timely announcements of unusually timely “facts” during the ramp-up to June 5. I think about some of the things he says and does; his sketchy record that began when he was a student at Marquette who didn’t complete, his tenure as a county executive and the continuing John Doe investigation swirling around him. I think about the fact that most of his campaign money and donors come from outside of this state. I weigh the insights that we’ve gained from what he must have thought were his unguarded comments to big donors – things like ‘dropping the bomb’ and ‘divide and conquer.’ These aren’t political gaffes.  Rather, they are windows into a person’s integrity and character.

I think about the mental gymnastics involved in giving such a wide berth to the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms and how that contrasts with an extremely narrow view on the fundamental right to vote or the right of consumers and women to have meaningful access the courts in the name of being “open for business.” I think about the aggressive attempts to ram legislation through in a capitol where rules were placed into effect to keep the public at bay and the open meetings law was flaunted with “special jobs sessions” that had little or nothing to do with jobs. I think about the crooked re-districting process, its secrecy oaths and its outcome. I consider the outrageously inflated claims of millions of dollars in damages to the capitol that his administration tried to lay on peaceful protestors who had every right and reason to be there. I think about his extremely limited availability to the general public; a fellow that even wanted to introduce the public budget on private property.

And I come to a very uncomfortable conclusion. It doesn’t really even have so much to do with any of the specific things he’s done, as serious as I find some of those matters to be. It’s more of a gut feeling that I have about people when I see them as manipulative schemers with agendas that are transparently contrary to what they represent them to be. It’s about Wisconsin harboring one of the country’s more prominent extremists in what has become a party dominated by extremists, who can rationalize away just about anything and will tell you that no matter what, “it’s working” – because for the people bankrolling his politics and policies, it is. You just can’t trust people like that. And you get what you deserve if you allow them to remain.

JR

True to form, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel editorial board refuses to admit they blew it in 2010; endorses Walker weeks in advance of the vote:

http://www.jsonline.com/news/opinion/we-recommend-walker-his-removal-isnt-justified-l55ecb6-152111305.html

A powerful 2-minute ad about “Divide and Conquer”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RLuzeXqMeJg

An outrageous juxtaposition of Scott Walker by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

http://host.madison.com/ct/news/local/madison_360/madison-on-scott-walker-an-outrageous-juxtaposition-by-the-journal/article_cd6c2dca-a38d-11e1-8d46-0019bb2963f4.html

Filling Walker’s shoes will mean not following in his footsteps

Posted in Uncategorized on May 11, 2012 by Jim Rosenberg

After the election in November 2010, I was trying to console some of the staffers in the Capitol, where I was working, at the time. “Hey, how crazy can they really get?” I reasoned. “The system is resilient and designed to be slow-moving. Change will be incremental and it will involve compromise because it would be political suicide to try to enact some of the far right’s fondest dreams into policy and law.”

And that was about as wrong as I’ve ever been about anything in 30 years of hanging around politics (although I’ve been wrong about plenty of other things, too.) Governor Walker, the Fitzgerald boys and fellows like Jerry Petrowski exceeded anything that I could have ever imagined in my worst nightmares. They assaulted and demoralized public employees at every level of government. They took the money that they slashed from education, counties, communities and public services across the state to hand it over to corporations and millionaires. They damaged the state’s economy, putting Wisconsin dead last in job creation in the U.S.  They gerrymandered the state and passed a voter suppression law that is currently not in force, thanks to a court order. Walker aids are being arrested or being granted immunity in a widening John Doe probe for which the governor has has had to establish and funnel tens of thousands of dollars into his own legal defense fund. The list goes on.

Against this backdrop, Gov. Walker is running in a recall election with a fat campaign fund that is mostly funded by out-of-state money and for which most of the individual contributors don’t live here, either. Laughably, he is running commercials talking about JOBS!  Yes, friends, the governor with the absolute worst jobs record in the country – the fellow whose ‘special sessions on jobs’ instead dealt with things like concealed carry and pushing abstinence-only sex education and corporatist wish lists — is trying to make you believe that his last place finish just ain’t so. Well, it is. And if you let him fool you twice, then shame on you.

The truth is that nobody is going to unring some of the bells that Walker and the GOP rang in the past 16 months any time soon. Until and unless the Democrats gain majorities in both houses of the legislature, along with the governor’s office, that possibility doesn’t even exist. So forget the scare ads about Barrett and the Democrats raising taxes and giving public employees everything that they want back and more. It isn’t happening.

Tom Barrett and Democratic legislators will work to protect workers, women and the environment. They’ll stop giving away the store to corporate interests. That will be a great improvement over Walker and the GOP, but it’s only about restoring some checks and balances to policy-making in Madison. It’s not about turning back the clock.

It’s time for Wisconsin to start rebuilding its trust in government and stop being a national poster child for acrimony, abusive political bullying and scapegoating being paid for people like the Koch Brothers and others for whom nothing will ever be enough. Wisconsin lived through Joe McCarthy and we’ll live through this. And as much as I would love to tell you that the people of this great state finally came to their senses about McCarthy and showed him the door, the fact is that they never did. The man who defeated Robert LaFollette, Jr. in Wisconsin’s 1946 Republican primary for U.S. Senate died still holding the honored office that he so thoroughly disgraced with his ideological witch hunting during his tenure. But that Bill Proxmire fellow Wisconsin elected to fill McCarthy’s vacancy was really different for the next three decades. Likewise, it will be easy enough to fill Walker’s shoes, but I don’t think you’ll see Wisconsin’s next governor following in Walker’s footsteps.

JR

Shrimp Alfredo: You can do it better at home

Posted in Uncategorized on May 4, 2012 by Jim Rosenberg

ImageAs regular readers know, the manner in which we break crisply from the political routine is to cook something. Today, it’s Shrimp Alfredo. This is one of those dishes that people often order in restaurants because they think it’s too much hassle to make it at home. But it’s not. It’s easy, really good – and you can whip it up from scratch in not much more time that it would take you to make a frozen pizza.

Here’s all you need:

  • 1/4 cup butter (that’s a half stick)
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1-1/2 cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 lb. of raw shrimp
  • 1 lb. of pasta (I like linguini, but I used angel hair pasta this time)

A food processor works really well to grate the Parmesan cheese because manually grating a cup and a half of it is rather tedious.  Put it in a bowl and set it aside. Chop up the parsley with a chef knife and leave it at the ready.

Boil some water to make your pasta.  I like to toss a little salt in the water, but not too much. It’s nice if you can time this so that you’re draining your pasta about the time you’re ready to stir it into the Alfredo sauce.

ImageWhile you’re waiting for the water to boil, you can prepare the shrimp. The reason I like raw shrimp is because they taste better and they provide more flavor to the dish. Peel the shrimp and cook them hot and fast in with a thin coating of olive oil seasoned with a bit of garlic in a large skillet. This only takes about three minutes, turning them about halfway through. Set the shrimp aside in a bowl, but don’t clean the pan (because that’s flavor in there!) Melt your half stick of butter and then add the cream. We’re going to bring this to a boil and then back it off to simmer around five minutes. It will reduce a bit and I give it an occasional stir to keep it from scalding. After it has simmered, stir in the chopped parsley and the crushed garlic.

Now, we’re ready to stir in the cheese. You want to do this with a whisk so you can mix it in as you add it, allowing the cheese to melt into the simmering cream.  Your Alfredo sauce may reach the consistency you want before the last of your cheese has been melted in.  That’s great, because it will leave you some grated cheese to sprinkle over the top of your finished creation. Image

Drain the pasta and toss it in the Alfredo sauce until it is thoroughly coated. You can add the shrimp at the very end or you can add them as you toss the pasta.  Plate your servings and sprinkle a little grated Parmesan on top. Voila

TIP: There are obvious ways to cut corners, such as using pre-grated cheese, purchasing pre-cooked shrimp, or substituting garlic powder and dried parsley flakes. Just remember that the fresher your ingredients, the better your final result is likely to be. The great chefs pride themselves in using fresh ingredients and you should, too.

Crack open a chilled bottle of white Bordeaux or Chardonnay and bon appetite!

JR