Archive for September, 2012

For our West Coast readers: the current Wisconsin political landscape

Posted in Uncategorized on September 21, 2012 by Jim Rosenberg

Since I took a good share of the summer off from blogging here and I haven’t done much in terms of the statewide picture, I’ve been getting requests for that kind of overview from out-of-state readers. This seems like a good time to do it. Others may disagree with my take — and they often do — but here is how I see things right now.

Since Scott Walker won the right to complete his term in a June recall election and Congressman Paul Ryan was selected as the GOP’s vice presidential running mate for Mitt Romney later on this summer, some have tried to make the case that Wisconsin will continue along the path of becoming a red state this November. My take: that’s very doubtful. While it might be tempting for hardcore conservatives to pretend they’ve been running the table in the Badger State, it just ain’t so.  Walker came into office with a 19-14 majority in the Wisconsin State Senate and he’s already lost that house to the Democrats before even completing a single two-year election cycle; his midterm. While it is possible that the GOP’s gerrymandering may give the Senate back to them after the November election, it’s not a sure thing and it may prove to be too narrow of a majority to carry an aggressive conservative agenda, even if they do.

And that isn’t the only problem that the Republicans have. Courts have struck down important parts of Walker’s agenda, leaving them inoperative unless they can be successfully appealed. Voter ID isn’t in effect. Wisconsin Act 10  — that union-busting law that was the centerpiece of the 2011 protests, Walker’s agenda and now, public budgets for school districts, counties and municipalities – has been declared unconstitutional. Walker is so out of sorts over it that he’s holding his own petition drive over it (and if you want to receive more fundraising communications going forward, be sure to sign up.) An investigation over illegal campaign activities in Scott Walker’s Milwaukee County Executive office has expanded into state government.

On the ground, Wisconsin is still very much a battleground state, at this point.  Many tens of millions of dollars in TV, direct mail, robocall, literature and support infrastructure have been spent here in 2012. Wisconsinites have been subjected to relentless levels of political advertising since the beginning of Governor Walker’s term. Between non-partisan elections, primaries, recalls and the general election, many people will have been to the polls a half dozen times in 2012: February, April, May, June, August and November. There has been talk of “voter fatigue.” Personally, I don’t see much voter fatigue, but I do think that people are worn out on the idea of widespread recalls and I don’t expect it to be coming up much again for a while. Regardless, that’s not going to be a factor in November.

Current polls show a widening lead for President Obama and for Democratic Congresswomen Tammy Baldwin over former GOP Gov. Tommy Thompson in the U.S. Senate race for the seat currently held by Democrat Herb Kohl. Tommy’s problem? He’s been successfully branded as “Tommy Inc.” – a well-liked guy in the past who left Wisconsin years ago to join the Bush Administration before cashing in as a lobbyist. (He says Romney is dragging him down – not a good sign that even the Republicans think Wisconsin is necessarily becoming a red state.) Of perhaps even greater significance is that this was one of the seats the Republicans hoped to pick up in their quest to take over the U.S. Senate. Current projection: the Democrats should hold 53 or 54 seats in that house after November, partly thanks to some serious bungling at the top of the ticket and folks like Congressman Todd “legitimate rape” Akin in Missouri.

Congressman Paul Ryan will not only be unable to bring in Wisconsin’s electoral votes in for Romney, but he recently found it necessary to put $2 million into his own Congressional campaign to hedge his bet toward having a job of any kind in Washington next year.

President Obama, Mitt Romney, Congressman Ryan, Vice President Biden, Ann Romney and Michelle Obama have all been to Wisconsin within the past month.  My expectation? Over the next month, we will see the Romney campaign and the conservative outside funders redeploying resources out of Wisconsin and into states where the odds don’t seem quite so long. The Thompson Senate campaign may also see less interest from outside funders if he can’t find a way to stop the bleeding in the polls, which have represented a remarkable reversal since mid-August. It’s difficult to dismiss the polling numbers because they have proven to be fairly accurate indicators over the past several years in Wisconsin.


Radio 550 trying to “make good” for keeping their campaigning morning host on the air

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on September 17, 2012 by Jim Rosenberg

As you may recall, Wausau’s leading purveyor of right wing dogma, 550 Radio, made the choice to keep conservative windbag Pat Snyder on the air through the end of August while he was running his own Republican campaign for the 85th Assembly District.

As Operations Manager Chris Conley said in his tortured rationalization of the move last February, “We cannot talk on-air about Pat’s candidacy except in our regular news coverage. If you are a regular caller to the WSAU Feedback program, you can’t talk about Pat’s candidacy on-air either. We’ll be conducting a nationwide search for WSAU’s next morning host. We expect to have that person hired before Pat’s time with us ends, and we expect an orderly transition. We’re glad that we the luxury of time to find the right person, and for a long ‘goodbye’ with Pat.”

And so it went on, month after month, with 550 Radio putting announced partisan candidate Snyder on the air every weekday morning. Ostensibly, WSAU would have had us believe that they were complying with the law. As I pointed out at the time, their cover seemed like a fig leaf and they should let all of us know if they ever become mildly interested in the subject of ethics.

Well, apparently and in retrospect, they may now have some concerns about how they behaved in this matter and their “long goodbye” may well have been a little too luxurious.  An attorney who specializes in this sort of thing was contacted. She took an interest in the situation and had some discussions with 550 Radio.

To make a long story short, WSAU Radio isn’t necessarily admitting to any wrongdoing – (and neither did O.J. Simpson) – but they have agreed to give 85th Assembly District Democratic candidate Mandy Wright approximately five hours of airtime in the form of one-minute ads over the next few weeks.  The ads began Saturday morning and will continue for 19 days on 550 Radio.  They will run 12 times daily on weekends and 18 times daily on weekdays, between the hours of 5 a.m. and midnight. (They won’t run during sporting events, since there was no remaining ad inventory available.)

“The decision to allow a candidate for public office to continue to host a program resulted in a significant liability for the station,” said Rebecca Mason, one of only a few attorneys in Wisconsin with extensive experience in political and broadcast law who successfully negotiated for Wright’s compensatory ad time. “Although not necessarily unprecedented, the amount of free air time originally given to Mandy Wright’s opponent is astonishing.  We are pleased that the station now recognizes its obligation under federal law to afford equal access to ALL candidates for public office.”
Whether Mandy Wright’s messages will be well-received with some in the conservative audience that Snyder and the station have cultivated and pandered to over the past decade is beside the point. Wright strikes a “working together” tone in her first ad. What is important is that the station is conceding thousands of dollars in air time to Snyder’s Democratic opponent in the run up to the general election. It is inventory that they might well have been able to sell and it’s not the kind of thing that people tend to do unless they think they have a real problem. These would be the same folks who took such pains to tell us how they were complying with the law while they were flaunting it to benefit their grossly biased on-air host who played out his conflict of interests on the air.


Last February’s blog entry on this subject here:

Pat Snyder’s show was a GOP infomercial, (from September 2010):

And after missing the news cycle on this one, WSAU decides it’s time for some spin:

Wisconsin Public Radio:

Coping with Global Climate Change: Boiled Peanuts Recipe

Posted in Uncategorized on September 16, 2012 by Jim Rosenberg

So, I admit that it’s been a slow summer for blog entries here and we’ll have something on the political side for tomorrow morning, but in the meantime, I’ve got to tell you about my trip to the River Drive Farmers Market yesterday morning. I got some corn on the cob, which is still super and very cheap. But then I ran across something that I’ve never seen there before: raw peanuts. They’re a southern crop, as those of us who date back at least to the Jimmy Carter presidency know very well.

If you’ve traveled by car much in peanut country, you’ve probably passed plenty of roadside stands where boiled peanuts are sold. One day in Alabama, after feeling bad about never trying any from the many places we passed, I tried to get a sample by buying a can of them in a convenience store. They were really pretty awful and I figured the roadside hawkers must have something significantly better or they would have gone out of business a long time ago.  I chalked it off as a missed opportunity – until yesterday, when I saw quart containers of fresh peanuts at the Wausau farmers market.

Naturally, I was curious. The fellow with the stand kindly explained how he had just decided to give them a try here in Marathon County and he had gotten the seed peanuts from Thailand. Now, I’ve been to Thailand a few times and it’s nothing like Wisconsin; even less so than the Deep South. Anyway, the guy appreciated my interest and he showed me what the peanut plant looks like, since he had a few in the back of his pickup truck, peanuts still attached. (Peanuts are not actually nuts, by the way. They’re legumes. Nuts grow on trees and peanuts mature underground. They’re more like a bean than a nut and they are sometimes called Goober Peas, as immortalized in this Civil War-era song.)

So I picked up a pound and took them home, along with the plant. I left the plant out on the patio where our chipmunks and squirrels can take care of a pound of bird seed in about five minutes. They never touched the raw peanuts, which is proof enough that peanuts are not nuts. The chippies and the squirrels are plenty willing to eat roasted peanuts, but not raw. While I realize that this isn’t much of a recipe, it works – and it will keep you from being unable to enjoy raw peanuts, as my backyard nut eaters apparently are. It’s also a fun project to do with kids and it requires no particular skill. 

So here’s how you boil peanuts:

  1. Rinse the peanuts thoroughly.
  2. Soak them for at least a half hour in cool, clear water. (Sons of the Pio neers song here.)
  3. Put the peanuts in a pot with enough water to cover them well, toss in a quarter cup of salt, cover the pot and bring it to a boil.
  4. Back off the heat and simmer for at least an hour.

After at least an hour, they’re done. Feel free to overdo it a bit. Drain them and give them a little time to cool before you start shucking them, which is easier than regular roasted-in-the-shell peanuts, since they’re soft.

The yield for peanuts isn’t all that great. It’s about like shelling peas. What you see in the bowl here is what I got from a quart container of raw peanuts.  They don’t taste like roasted peanuts and the texture is much different – that’s much like a pea, too. But I will tell you this: they are very good.  And if I drive by a roadside stand again in my travels, I may just stop.