Thursday, August 21, 2008

'Poisonous Swill'

Read this from the departing chancellor of Wisconsin's flagship university. He starts by saying "Wisconsin has lost its way." He goes on to say "the hyper-partisan political environment at the state capitol is toxic" and the state's "politics has become a poisonous swill."

And he was just getting warmed up.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Lagging Behind Corrupticut

A recent New York Times editorial highlighted the fact that Connecticut is the latest state to put in place sweeping campaign finance reforms featuring full public financing of state elections. This is the first year the state that became known as "Corrupticut" is operating under the new system and, as the Times pointed out, early signs are very encouraging.

Connecticut's reform was modeled after the highly successful systems in Arizona and Maine. Maine has been publicly financing its state elections since 2000 and electoral competition has spiked. More people are running for public office, including significantly more women, and state legislative races are now five times less likely to be uncontested.

Connecticut took action after corruption scandals resulted in a former governor, a state senator and two mayors going to prison. In stark contrast, Wisconsin has so far failed to act even after six powerful former legislators were paraded into courtrooms and, in several of the cases, eventually were put behind bars for criminal misconduct in public office.

Wisconsin used to lead the nation. We were known far and wide for public policy innovation, not to mention open and honest government. Now when it comes to cleaning up growing political corruption, even the likes of lowly "Corrupticut" are beating us to the punch.

This is a telling measure of just how miserably our state leaders have failed as stewards of our democracy.

Monday, August 11, 2008

A Shortcut To Redemption

Just back from a week's vacation in the northwoods. . . . Didn't see much news while I was away, but I did hear that WISC-TV has hired former state Senate leader and convicted felon Chuck Chvala to be a political commentator. WISC's station manager explained his decision to bring Chvala aboard by saying "I'm one of those that believe in redemption."

I believe in redemption too. But the road to redemption runs through a place called remorse. To this day, Chvala hasn't shown any. He has never admitted that he stole from the state's taxpayers to fund an effort to rig elections. And he has never apologized to the people of Wisconsin for his crimes against democracy.

One of Chvala's first commentaries was titled "Managing a Flip-Flop." WISC should have insisted it be titled "I screwed up royally, here's all the things I did wrong, and I am sorry for all the harm I have done." Or better yet, the station should have waited for Chvala to achieve remorse before they gave him a shot at redemption.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Keeping The Web Untangled

A blow was struck today for freedom, innovation and democracy on the Internet. A little over an hour ago, the Federal Communications Commission voted to punish Comcast for violating Net Neutrality and interfering with its customers' right to do what they want on the Internet.

While this is a giant leap for the FCC, it is but one small step in the fight to keep the Internet free and open. There's still much to be done. Go here and do it.