Archive for June, 2012

Immigration is far more than a border issue

Posted in Uncategorized on June 29, 2012 by Jim Rosenberg


This from June 24 edition of the Wausau Daily Herald:

“If the United States would deport its alien residents and adopt more efficient means for halting the “bootlegging” of aliens into this country — an “industry” which has grown to staggering proportions within the past few years, every American citizen would benefit.”

Even though a lot of people may still agree with that opinion, it’s only fair to point out, in the newspaper’s defense, that it was penned in 1935. The sentiments that it represents are just about as timely.

Over the past couple of months, the Education and Economic Development Committee of the Marathon County Board, which I chair, has been discussing a resolution in support of national immigration reform.  It became an even more timely issue with the release of an Executive Order from President Obama earlier this month in which the federal government will now be taking a more thoughtful look at situations in which people were brought to the U.S. as children.  Instead of simply deporting them as illegals back to countries where they may have little means to survive in societies where they don’t truly belong, the federal policy recognizes that this approach is neither practical nor fair. The change is a step in the right direction, but it is far from a comprehensive, lasting solution.

Why does it matter to Marathon County? Well, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has estimated that half of the hired farm workers in the U.S. lack the legal status to work here and these undocumented workers are a major presence here in Central Wisconsin. They’re vital to the economic health of our agri-business community.  But these workers and their family members can become easy targets for exploitation. In addition to the most basic of work-related protections, there can be problems with health, safety, education of young people to equip them for a future as contributing members of our society, cooperation with law enforcement — and many other areas that are made far more difficult when the people involved live under the daily threat of having their lives turned upside down over their immigration status.

Our resolution asks our federal representatives and the President to adopt a national immigration policy for undocumented workers already living here that provides for security of our borders, uniform enforcement of existing law and a national strategy for coordination among federal, state, local and tribal authorities.  (None of this even touches on the fact that the number of people killed in the ongoing Mexican drug war is now similar to the total number of U.S. troops who lost their lives in Vietnam. This is in a country with about one-third of our population and it has happened over a shorter period of time.)

I don’t really see this as a very controversial request, but apparently, it is:

So, we’ll see what happens. While the solution to the immigration challenge doesn’t rest on anything the Marathon County Board does or fails to do, it’s a worthwhile discussion to have because, after all, the U.S. is literally “us.”


Related, from KSTP:
Earlier this month, the president said the U.S. will stop deporting young illegal immigrants and begin granting them work permits. It applies to people who came to the U.S. before the age of 16.  This afternoon, the Minneapolis City Council will announce their support of the policy.

Cato Institute — How Arizona-style immigration laws hurt the economy:

UPDATE: November 2012 election result changes political landscape on immigration reform:



Revolutionary new UW degree program will open doors

Posted in Uncategorized on June 20, 2012 by Jim Rosenberg

Let me bore you here with something that I find really important, groundbreaking and life-changing. And let me emphasize something upfront: I’m not speaking on behalf of anyone except me.

This from yesterday’s Wausau Daily Herald:

“The University of Wisconsin System is developing a new competency-based online degree model, Gov. Scott Walker and System President Kevin Reilly announced today at St. Clare’s Hospital in Weston.

The model will allow students to earn credits based on life experience if they pass a competency test. This gives students the opportunity to see where they are lacking and take only those specific courses, or parts of courses, they need in order to get a degree, Walker said.”


Announcements of the new approach were also made in Green Bay and Madison at health care facilities, but connecting the program to health care is really just a distraction in comparison to the larger implications for higher education in Wisconsin and for the many thousands of people who will soon have an entirely new access point toward gaining a college degree. And although the online environment creates a potent medium for the exchange of information, it is also a mistake to focus too heavily on that single aspect, integral as it happens to be. The truth is that much of the basic premise could be accomplished via other means. This snippet from the Wisconsin State Journal really puts it into a nutshell:

“The emphasis with this program is not on teaching; it’s on assessing and learning,” said Ray Cross, chancellor of University of Wisconsin Colleges & Extension. “In a very simple way, what we’re saying is we don’t care where you learn it, we’re going to assess whether you know it” and give credit accordingly.

As I read some of the coverage and some of the online comments that people made in response, it became clear that it will take some time and a lot more discussion before many people understand exactly what it is that will be offered here. But it’s something really important. It is a departure from the status quo that is fundamental. It will put the university in a position of evaluating students that it has not directly taught. While that might sound pretty simple, it hasn’t been all that common.

Credentialing is a very important aspect of higher education and it is absolutely critical for students in order to ultimately capture value and return on their investment. For as long as anyone can remember, students have been getting jerked around by a cumbersome system plagued by issues such as credit transfers between institutions of higher learning, differing general education requirements and other bureaucratic red tape that can often arguably do more to create barriers toward degree completion than toward imparting and measuring a quality education. There were a lot of reasons that this happened. Institutions justifiably wanted to protect the integrity of their programs and ensure the quality of their graduates. But I would also submit that there was plenty of hubris and turf protection that entered into the equation along the way, too. Degrees are proprietary. It not only makes a difference THAT you get one, but also from where. You want MY degree? Then you dance to my tune – (whether it actually has much to do with the quality and quantity of your academic knowledge – which it sometimes does — or not.) 

What we ended up with was a system in which one of the 12 apostles couldn’t have received any college credit in Christian Studies because Jesus Christ didn’t have a PhD or an articulation agreement in force for his program, which was unaccredited anyway.  The new approach says that maybe a fellow who followed Christ around for a few years — who learned at his feet and wrote a gospel that was fairly interesting, (although we must concede did not make the final cut at Nicea) — well, maybe someone like that ought to be able to take the test for that class. Since we offer it at our university anyway, we don’t really need to make sure St. Thomas spends a year wearing a freshman beanie, (a fine old tradition that persisted all the way into the 1960s at some schools until people came to a stunning conclusion: it’s irrelevant.)

Let’s say I like French, so I spend several years learning it on my own. I purchase a half dozen books, 18 audio tapes and a 52-lesson video series, rent countless French films and take multiple trips to France, where I immerse myself in the language. Do you think it makes sense for me to sign up for first year French, spending hundreds of dollars and a semester in that class for instruction that may actually teach me very little that I don’t already know because “that’s the system?” Or do you think maybe I should have the opportunity to certify my existing knowledge, get the appropriate college credit for it and start further along in the curriculum, where I can build far more beneficially from my existing base of understanding?

Ansel Adams had an eighth grade education. Do you think he knew something about photography? Do you think Paul McCartney knows something about music?

In short, it’s not about HOW you learned, but WHAT you learned. Importantly, this is not a subjective judgment. It is something that we already can and must measure objectively against established standards for traditional students. We know very well what we expect a student to know and be able to do after a course in English composition, college algebra, physics, French 101 and a lot of other subjects. No matter what avenue a student uses or chooses to gain the required knowledge, the proof of it is in the measurement through appropriate and reliable testing.

Neither students nor taxpayers have the time or money to duplicate efforts in the name of maintaining an inflexible system as the ONLY method by which people can earn legitimate academic credentials appropriate to their true level of learning and expertise. Added to its arsenal of resources as a world class higher education system, the UW’s new program will open important new opportunities for people who heretofore did not have many practical options — from place bound adults with family responsibilities that keep them out of college classrooms to middle managers, small business owners, truck drivers, members of the military and many others who have or can acquire college-level knowledge within their unique, individual circumstances. Some of that will also impact on affordability, since there is no point in paying for instruction in things that the student already knows.

Far be it from me to suggest that in an environment that includes funny hats and keeping historic titles like provost and chancellor alive, this may have been a bit long in coming. But the truth of the matter is that the very nature of traditional college education is that just like people in the hierarchy of traditional religion, those who run the system will tend to be heavily invested in the status quo. You can therefore become very old waiting for an encyclical that will really make a difference. At the same time, education needs to be on the cutting edge of a body of human knowledge that is growing exponentially and part of that knowledge applies to education’s own system of delivery and assessment.

If I seem a little passionate about this, there is a reason. I doubt that I anything have done in my career since 1981 would have been possible if I had not obtained a bachelor’s degree from an accredited post-secondary institution. But the reason that I have one at all is because of an innovative program through the University of the State of New York that enabled me to learn at my own pace, bank credits from various different sources and fulfill the requirements of my degree while I was serving a half dozen years in the U.S. Air Force. What would the future have been for a fellow who eloped as a teenager, had a family to support and couldn’t stop the world for four or more years of formal education after I left the military? Much different! But thankfully, there was another path and now, the UW System will be paving that other path, too. And yes, it’s a very big deal.


Here’s the news release from yesterday’s pressers:

Be sure to click on the link within the release for a more complete presentation on the initiative:

Discussion of the new degree program on Wisconsin Public Television’s Here and Now program:

And for a template of what some of this might look like, visit:

Quick analysis of the June 5 election in Wisconsin

Posted in Uncategorized on June 6, 2012 by Jim Rosenberg


  1. A lot of people in Wisconsin are tired of recalls.
  2. While many voters have an aversion to “special interests,” they don’t exempt unions from fitting under that label.
  3. To win, you must have a positive vision and be able to enunciate it. It’s not enough to run against people or parties.
  4. Beating incumbents is, more often than not, a very a low-odds game.
  5. Money talks. The disparity of resources in this race was insurmountable. (Graph: Center for Public Integrity. Spending by outside groups also greatly favored Gov. Walker.)

It is time for Wisconsin Democrats to craft a new vision and a new message. The party needs to develop some new messengers, too. Finally, new strategies are needed to operate successfully in a post Citizens United environment. Narrowly winning one Senate seat and losing all the other recall races means that this round of recalls was, overall, a bad fight to pick right now.


“We’ll know if you vote” mailing causes stir

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on June 4, 2012 by Jim Rosenberg

There’s been a big buzz in blogs and social media about a mailing put out by the Greater Wisconsin Political Fund which shares some public voting records among people in neighborhoods in an effort to boost turnout.  A lot of people take issue with this. They feel that whether and when they vote is nobody’s business but their own. But that’s not really true. Individual voting records are public records – not WHO you voted for, obviously, but WHETHER you voted and in which elections.

Politicians from city council candidates to presidential campaign committees have been using these kinds of records for decades to target voters. They can’t hit every door and those that they choose are anything but random. By using voting records, candidates can stop at those addresses where their time can be spent meaningfully and avoid those where the chances are small that their effort will result in a vote.  They can save postage by deleting mailings to low-percentage addresses and skip phone calls to people who are unlikely to show up. Think about what this means if you’re talking about a non-partisan February primary for school board or a judicial race, when turnout can be well under 20 percent of the registered voters. Being able to concentrate on those relatively few people who are most likely to be participating is a big edge in choosing how to expend limited resources.

The June 5 recall election in Wisconsin is one that the Democrats, in particular, feel will require a high turnout in order for their candidates to win. Simply put, if the very same people show up Tuesday who showed up in November 2010, then there is a reasonably good chance of getting the very same results — obviously not what they want to see. Part of getting a different outcome is changing the dynamics of the electors who get into the game. Their GOTV (get out the vote) effort has been truly monumental, with constant canvassing and phone banks. The recall petitions provided them with an unusually current and targeted database of contacts that might be sympathetic, but there were also plenty of people who signed recall petitions who don’t regularly vote.

The Greater Wisconsin Political Fund, which supports progressive candidates but works independently, embarked upon an effort to drive voter turnout with an interesting mailing that not only lets people know that others can find out whether they voted in a given election, but also shares information about other voters in their neighborhood. Here’s a copy of the mailing posted by conservative Madison blogger and UW law professor Ann Althouse, who obliterated the personal information (but you still get the idea, if you didn’t happen to receive one of these yourself):


I’ve heard from people who find the piece disturbing and the word “creepy” has come up more than once.  Personally, it doesn’t elicit an emotional response from me and there are reasons for that. First, I’ve worked with those kinds of records for many years and so it doesn’t matter much to me who else sees them. I found it no more intimidating than placing the names of recall petition signers online, for example. Moreover, I’m accustomed to the idea that as a public official, I can always expect people to look at public records as they relate to me.  And after winning more than a dozen terms of office, I’ve cast thousands of public votes. I signed on for it, of course.  But because of that, I find the idea of somebody seeing whether somebody else voted at all – without even knowing HOW they voted – to be a very benign thing. I’ve been praised, scorned and critiqued for my votes and views so many times over the years that the idea of somebody else getting a garden variety customized mass mailing pointing out something about who votes seems like small potatoes.  I understand that others see it differently. Even my wife does. She finds my view of these things to be clinical, if not cynical.

“What if the city utility decided that to encourage water conservation, they were going to put out a mailing like that with everybody’s water consumption and estimated the number of times everyone flushed their toilets? What would you think of that?” She asked. Without getting into questions of what might actually be protected customer information, I guess I’d probably put a brick in my toilet tank, I thought – and that would be the whole point.

The thing that people need to understand is that the design and wording of this mailing was no accident. It’s been heavily tested and it works. A 2008 effort like this in Michigan was found to be on par with personal canvass visits in terms of driving turnout, increasing voter participation by more than 8 percent. That’s huge and it’s a whole lot cheaper than canvassing.  And if the Greater Wisconsin Political Fund did any amount of targeting toward people that they have reason to believe are “their” voters, then it could conceivably turn a close election, whether those voters happen to like it or not.

Anyway, I found the whole thing pretty interesting, including the reactions that people had to the mailing. For those who are real political maggots and want to get into the nuts and bolts of this thing, here’s a link to the study:

Of the hundreds of people who will read this blog between now and the election Tuesday, that should be about a dozen of you — (because yes, I know how many people click and what they click on.)   😉

Cliff’s Notes version here:


Addenda: We ended up having a pretty good discussion of this on Facebook and I’m adding an interesting snippet from my favorite crack research team member, Katie Rosenberg, (who is also my daughter and holds Master’s Degree from Strategic Public Relations from the Graduate School of Political Management, George Washington University) —

* * *

This mailing and these tactics point to a broader trend in politics (along with marketing and PR for that matter) that attempts to personalize the message or experience. It’s creepy because many people don’t realize they are being tracked. (Here’s a crazy example of how Target can predict a pregnancy: )
It’s fine if everything you do is a mindful extension of your personal brand. But I don’t think everyone realizes that every credit card transaction, every Google search or every vote is going on a permanent record, defining who you are before you even open your mouth. This mailer is a little bit creepy because now my neighbors know I vote in every election, even if it doesn’t matter. But it is just the tip of the mountain of data available to politicians and corporations on the kind of person I am in private. Those implications are creepy as heck.
Link:  How Companies Learn Your Secrets:

Note to Eagle Scout Walker: A Scout is Trustworthy

Posted in Uncategorized on June 2, 2012 by Jim Rosenberg


I’m all for Eagle Scouts. One of the things I did on a nearly daily basis as a staffer in the Lieutenant Governor’s office was to prepare correspondence and certificates for signature to honor Eagle Scouts from around the state as they achieved their distinction. It might seem like kind of an odd way to spend time in a constitutional office, but I’m guessing it’s been around for a while and it’s probably still going on now.  Eagle Scouts always do some kind of community service project to qualify and I read through the descriptions of those projects, together with glowing character endorsements from scoutmasters and community leaders. Without trying to sound like some kind of Pollyanna, it’s all kind of uplifting. 

Gov. Walker likes to mention that he was an Eagle Scout, which is something that I wasn’t. I was only in the Boy Scouts for a short period of time. This was during the Vietnam War and I found the whole thing a little too military with the uniforms, salutes and all. (Of course, I subsequently ended up spending six years in the military, so go figure.) But anyway, I do recall that the first item in the Scout Law is that “A Scout is trustworthy” and that is something that I don’t see this governor as being.  In fact, it’s not even close. Let’s start with his “divide and conquer” — and a little George Carlin thrown in to underline things:

It’s an ad with an agenda and I understand that, but despite what Walker tries to say, he’s been caught more than once showing his true colors to big money supporters with an extremist right-wing agenda – and even someone that he only thought was one, as in this lengthy phone call in which he was duped by a blogger into believing he was speaking with David Koch:

He left Marquette University without graduating, but not before the student newspaper, the Marquette Tribune, had retracted an endorsement of him in an election for student body president and instead called Walker “unfit” for office. It’s all out there in search engine land, but suffice it to say that Walker showed just what kind of a fellow he was by the manner in which he conducted his campaign and dealt with criticism.

Then there is the ongoing “Walkergate” investigation, which now involves 13 people who have been granted immunity in exchange for testimony, including his current and past spokespersons. What it looks like, clearly, is that Walker put people on the public payroll to work on his campaign and some of them were fairly unsavory characters, as we’re finding out. Within the last few weeks, the guv has transferred $160,000 into his legal defense fund and there is every reason to believe that whether he wins or loses Tuesday, he’s looking at significant legal problems going forward. He’s withholding information from the public about who is bankrolling his mounting legal bills and he won’t talk about hundreds of e-mails from a special off-county system that was installed in his Milwaukee County Executive suite to hide communications from the public.  He chose lawyers who specialize in the kinds of things that would make a person think there is a very real possibility that Walker will eventually be charged with some serious crimes.

Politifact rates more than half of Walker’s statements as “mostly false,” “false” or “pants on fire.” They’ve also rated him as tops among all the governors in the nation for making dishonest statements. Walker has a big problem with the truth and it applies to just about everything from his budget, job numbers, his opponent, his intentions, polls, state finances, voter fraud, collective bargaining, public employees and anything else.  In short, this scout is not trustworthy.  He bashes the state’s largest city in his advertising because Tom Barrett is the mayor there, even though Walker was Milwaukee County Executive for years and the city should also be one of his top priorities as governor. Just based on the record, Tom Barrett would be the Boy Scout in this race, if you just had to characterize and guess.


Legal cloud gathers over Scott Walker as recall election approaches: