Friday, July 27, 2007

Does AT&T Have A Direct Line To God?

A Chicago-based group called the Ministerial Alliance Against the Digital Divide (MAADD) held a press conference yesterday at the Capitol to voice support for the Wisconsin legislation creating statewide cable TV franchising that AT&T is pushing here.

A front group called TV4Us that AT&T finances already has been caught making fraudulent claims of public support for the company's cable legislation (for more on that, read this and this). Now men of the cloth are being enlisted in the battle over cable's future in our state. Clergymen who Capitol-watchers down in Illinois openly suggest are being paid to shill for AT&T (see this and this).

One thing is sure. MAADD claimed yesterday that AT&T's bill would save Wisconsin families over $400,000 a day and cited a study by the Phoenix Center for Advanced Legal and Economic Public Policy Studies as proof. The Phoenix Center's director has admitted receiving financial support from AT&T.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Not So Invisible Hand

As the phenomenon of businesses writing legislation – like AT&T's cable bill this year or the "Job Creation Act" written by industry lobbyists a few years back – grows more commonplace in the State Capitol, it's worth reflecting on what the father of free-market economics had to say about the practice. His words are right here.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

487 Days And Counting

Why have 487 days passed since Scott Jensen was convicted of three felonies and he's still not serving his sentence?

Monday, July 09, 2007

Catering To Delusion

Looks like radio shouter and neocon blogger Charlie Sykes is on to the ultimate Internet hoax – take a well-documented fact you just can't bear and indignantly claim it's nothing but an Internet hoax. Then get some soulmates on the airwaves and in the blogosphere to give your claim the appearance of credence by repeating it over and over again, and you're well on your way to erasing history.

The Democracy Campaign recently quoted Abraham Lincoln in our statement on the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling on Wisconsin Right to Life's legal challenge to the federal McCain-Feingold campaign reform law. Sykes accused us of using a bogus quote, citing

Our source for the Lincoln quote was The Lincoln Encyclopedia by Archer H. Shaw, published by Macmillan in 1950. Page 40. To get the book, go here. Another source is page 954 of Abraham Lincoln: A New Portrait (volume 2) by Emanuel Hertz, published in 1931. Hertz published another pertinent book, The Hidden Lincoln; from the Letters and Papers of William H. Herndon, in 1938.

After hearing that some doubted the authenticity of the quote, University of California-Davis researcher Rick Crawford went digging and was willing to stake his academic reputation on his finding that the quote is authentic. In the course of his research on the subject, Crawford also found this on page 24 of Lincoln's Complete Works (volume 1), published in 1905: "These capitalists generally act harmoniously and in concert to fleece the people, and now that they have got into a quarrel with themselves, we are called upon to appropriate the people's money to settle the quarrel." Lincoln uttered those words in a speech to the Illinois legislature in January 1837.

The likes of Charlie Sykes do not want to believe that the party of Lincoln's namesake may have had such concerns about corporate power. Even if it says so in exhaustively researched, well-documented and peer-reviewed books that have been in publication for more than a half century and have yet to be challenged by serious historians, it can't be true. So Sykes takes's word for it. Even if some of the content on that online rumor mill is, well, less than confidence inspiring. Or downright weird.

Sykes has something in common with much of his audience. Those who hang on his every word want to be lied to. They don't want to believe in evolution. They want to believe the earth is really 6,000 years old, despite the preponderance of scientific evidence showing they are a few billion years off. They want to believe global warming is not happening or, if the earth's climate is indeed changing, human behavior has nothing to do with it. They need someone like Charlie Sykes to assure them they're right.

They support U.S. policy in Iraq even though it's easily one of the biggest foreign policy blunders in American history and they think the Geneva Conventions are an intolerable nuisance. They need a Bill O'Reilly to confirm that warped belief, even if twisting history and slandering dead American World War II soldiers is the only way he can think to do it. O'Reilly and Sykes and their ilk cater to an audience that wants reality to disappear when that reality offends them or makes them uncomfortable or just doesn't fit their world view. They need to be told that fantasy is reality.

Charlie Sykes and Bill O'Reilly and dozens of others just like them happily oblige because they make a handsome living indulging their audience's delusions.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Potted Plants? Well...

The chairman of the outgoing State Elections Board has been grousing about the $467 per diem each of the six retired judges on the new Government Accountability Board will get for meetings. The new board, expected to start work this fall, will replace the existing Elections and Ethics boards.

Each of the Elections Board's eight partisan, political appointees is paid $25 per meeting.

John Savage, a Milwaukee attorney and GOP appointee to the board, recently told the Shepherd Express the GAB members don't deserve to be paid that much just because they are judges, and they alread get a state pension.

Referring to the present board, Savage asks, "Are we potted plants?"

Well, if you don't want to know the answer maybe you shouldn't ask the question.

The Elections Board's legacy will be one of helping foster the decrepit political and policymaking environment we have now because it refused to enforce Wisconsin's campaign finance laws and penalties. It helped create an atmosphere in which six former legislative leaders were charged and convicted on a variety of misdemeanor or felony misconduct and other ethics charges. The investigations, charges and convictions were courtesy of outside law enforcement and not the board.

The board's inaction also has emboldened wealthy special interest contributors to make more and bigger campaign contributions, sometimes exceeding the legal limit, and run vicious media campaigns to elect officials who will oblige them and not the public.

Monday, July 02, 2007

The Last Welfare Queens

A two-story series by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel about the state's welfare programs for business echoed findings in a Wisconsin Democracy Campaign report released in March 2005 and an August 2006 state audit.

All three reviews found the state's business welfare programs hand out millions of dollars a year in cheap loans, grants and tax breaks, but don't know if many of the companies are meeting job creation and other economic development goals. In other cases, the state waives some of the goals and requirements when it hands out the money.

The WDC report explored the level of state welfare to businesses that made campaign contributions. Those who made contributions got substantially higher state aid than those who did not.

Three investigations by three different organizations in three different years all find these programs give away millions in state tax dollars to wealthy corporations that kept the cash, but not their promises.