Plaisted Writes Again - A blog of political and cultural commentary and observation of national/local issues and events.
Sunday, October 29, 2006
UNUSABLE GREEN MONEY
As the self-appointed guardians of Good Government, you would think that Green’s refusal to return the money he took from federal lobbyists for federal interests – many of whom have been well rewarded for the efforts – to use in his state campaign would put the J-S on its lofty High Horse. You would be wrong. Much to the contrary, the Journal Sentinel wants you to feel Green’s pain.
What else explains the sympathetic platform the paper gave to Green this Sunday morning to whine about not getting to use the dirty money. After once claiming to have already spent it all, the J-S finds it news that poor Mark Green now "plans to campaign without disputed funds" for the last week of the campaign. "Ten days out, and we don't have it. We've got to plan as if we won't have it," Green is quoted as saying. All together, now: Awwwww...
The fact is that Green campaign has known from the beginning that the $460,000 was gone. They have been playing for time for months: 1) pretending that it was somehow arguable that he should be able to use the money, 2) claiming that Doyle "rigged" the Elections Board vote, 3) lost the request of a restraining order from a Dane County judge (who certainly would have granted it if the Board was "rigged"), 4) voluntarily dismissed their own case, and 5) appealed their own voluntary dismissal to the Supreme Court. About the "appeal", Green tells the Journal Sentinel "I have no idea what's going on..."
All this time, the Journal Sentinel has been played like a monkey on a string. Yes, quite serious, these legal issues... Nonsense. Green tried to drag illegal money into his campaign to buy more lying, negative ads and the Elections Board did its job. Where is the outrage for Green’s continued intransigence? Where is the Medal of Honor for the Elections Board?
No, for one more week, let us all feel the pain of Poor Mark Green, courtesy of Your Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
* * * *
I just returned from a long, lovely weekend in Door County. Although I was otherwise engaged and almost completely disinterested, I did see some elements of the important District 8 contest between John Gard and Steve Kagen play out on yard signs and TV ads.
Kagen seemed to more than hold his own on the roads, with his bright white signs standing out in the bright sunshine. They sparkled in contrast to the smaller, darker Gard signs, clustered as they were with Green signs and other scary Halloween decorations.
On TV, "Dr. Kagen" plays the adult to Gard’s childish looks and antics. I thought I was funny at first that Kagen would show up in his ads, at least for a couple of seconds, in a medical coat. But, after watching Gard images (when Kagen wants Gard to look creepy, he just plays Gard’s own ad footage), Kagen uses his personal gravitas to play up Gard’s youthful sneer.
An RNC ad for Gard made huge squawking noises about something Kagen said about not locking up non-violent offenders, which, according to the RNC, included internet child predators. Certainly, he meant no such thing, but, my god, save the children! It’s the same sort of desperation Republicans are experiencing around the country as the chickens come home to roost.
All told, I felt good, as an innocent bystander, about how the Kagen campaign is doing Up North.
Thursday, October 26, 2006
FORD AND FOX
The latest late-cycle outrage comes in the Senate race in Tennessee, where Democrat Rep. Harold Ford is fighting the good fight for retiring Bill Frist’s Republican seat. Ford is polling just about even with his opponent in the Red State, and recently landed on the cover of Newsweek. He has aggressively put the lie to many weak-on-terror myths and other lies about his party. With the GOP giving up on four races that would put the Dems perilously close to the magic six races they need to take for control, this race has become crucial for both parties.
In the proud (for them) tradition of Willie Horton, the RNC produced an ad to assist its candidate in Tennessee. The ad takes as its premise a party sponsored by Playboy that Ford supposedly attended on a Super Bowl weekend. At the end of an ad full of ridiculous innuendo, a young blonde woman looks into the camera and invites Ford to call her.
There is no mistaking the racist implications of the ad, especially to Southern whites: Harold Ford, black man, is coming for your daughters.
The reaction to this was predictable, and Rove knew it ahead of time. Democrats and anyone else with half-a-brain sees it for what it is and protests. It’s discussed on cable talk programs, and the usual GOP apologists tell everyone to calm down, it’s not racist, etc. Wing-nut radio does likewise. Within a 24-hour news cycle, the ad is pulled, but the damage has been done. Smarmy Abramoff-tainted Ken Melman gets on TV, pretending to wonder what all the fuss was about, then high-fives his office staff after the cameras are turned off.
After the election, if Ford loses, the ad will be considered a turning-point, a brilliant tactical move. Democrats will be criticized for not being willing to get in the gutter with the GOP. As long as these disgusting tactics are rewarded, they will continue.
And then there is Michael Fox.
Fox is a familiar face for his successful TV and screen career in the ‘80s and ‘90s whose life has been ravaged by Parkinson’s disease. He has become a champion for stem-cell research and has done ads for Democratic and Republican (Arlen Specter) candidates. When he did ads this year for Jim Doyle here in Wisconsin, a Senate candidate in Missouri and others, the GOP needed to rebut the heartfelt effectiveness of the ads. They couldn’t do themselves, so they called out one of their chief surrogates.
Enter, like the thug he is, Rush Limbaugh.
Limbaugh not only called Fox an under-medicated faker, he mocked his uncontrollable movements in his studio as he talked, as captured by his webcast. Although he was immediately criticized as an ignorant putz, the message got out. Now, Fox’ important message is at least partially lost in the "controversy" of whether he was really that bad, whether he was being used, etc. Limbaugh, meanwhile, happily takes the fall with the check, no doubt, already in the mail.
As the last 10 days of the campaign evolve, there will be similar outrages and sudden attempts to twist records and lives in the effort to keep power in Republican hands. Some will be visible – radio/TV, web sites – and some will be below-the-radar (unless you happen to get one), such as push-polls and phone banks.
These are the dark times, and the Republicans are cornered. They don’t care about anything but winning.
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
HEALTH CARE & THE MILWAUKEE DWD
Yesterday, the paper carried a horribly-written, rambling article that strained to create an impression that the differences in health care policy between the two candidates for governor are "not huge". However, as Bill Christopherson points out, "[h]ealth care is actually one of the defining issues in the race, and Green and Doyle are poles apart."
While Jim Doyle has successfully made sure more state residents are protected with expanded programs like BadgerCare and SeniorCare, Green has been in Washington, voting for vast handouts of corporate welfare for pharmaceutical companies and loopholes like health savings accounts, that only serve to undermine the goal of universal health care.
But, by minimizing the differences between the candidates through a maze of confused rhetoric (the article cries out for bullet-points, but that would have defeated its purpose), the J-S, as it has the entire campaign, assists Green by failing to represent him as the far-right, health industry-pocketed wack-job that he is.
Or, perhaps, the newspaper is just quibbling with whether the differences are "huge", a word they chose to use in the headline. How about "significant" or "tremendous"? How about, in the case of Green’s reliance on the magic of market forces, "life-threatening"?
Then, today, as Doyle continues to do his job by notifying the Bush (and Green’s) federal government that he would seek a waiver to keep SeniorCare going, the Journal Sentinel decided that story was secondary to Green’s foolish proposal to move the entire state Department of Workforce Development to Milwaukee.
The important SeniorCare request to the feds was apparently dismissed by the paper because it was "little surprise" and because the SeniorCare waiver was not expiring until June (what’s wrong with planning ahead?). And what, exactly, is any more surprising about a blatantly opportunistic proposal to rip one of the state’s largest agencies out of its home in Madison to scrounge for votes in Milwaukee, with $500,000 in "faith-based" money thrown in for good measure? These are the kinds of un-serious ideas you expect from a politician desperate to chip away at Doyle’s deserved advantage in the city.
The article nods to these kinds of inconvenient issues while giving the whole idea undue legitimacy. While saying the proposal would face "controversy" (gee, ya think?), the J-S marveled at the political strategy that would supposedly "[blunt] Doyle's expected victory margin here". This is the kind of political reporting that treats its subjects like idiots. The logic appears to be that we would be more inclined to vote for a candidate who makes nutty, unworkable, inefficient proposals, as long as it means a few more state employees in city. Self-interest or good government? Why not strive for both?
It is a bit surprising that Green would be spending his time on these kind of relatively subtle patronizing gestures this late in the campaign. It may be an attempt to claim some plausible deniability from the expected antics of his surrogates, who will spend the next two weeks on talk-radio and paid advertising scorching the earth and poisoning the well to smear Doyle and suppress turnout by disgusted independents. That the Journal Sentinel is at his side, helping, is not a surprise.
Sunday, October 22, 2006
IMMIGRATION - THE PHONY ISSUE
In Escondido, California, a law has been passed to ban illegal immigrants from living there. Starting November 18th, it will be a crime for landlords to rent property in the town, just 50 miles north of Mexico. This from All Headline News: "According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, under the law, landlords whose renters are subject of complaints would have to submit documentation on their tenants' immigration status to the city, which would then forward the information to federal authorities for verification."
Get that? "Renters who are subject of complaints". Now, who might make such complaints and about whom? "Hey, did you notice that brown-skinned person moving in down the block? I think he was speaking Spanish...What was that number for the city to make a complaint?"
This abomination is the product of most blatant appeal to racism in American politics since Jim Crow sat demanding poll taxes at voter registration tables in the South. This past summer, knowing they were facing an uphill battle to keep their grip on power, the Republicans – with the help of a compliant mainstream media – created, out of thin air, the "crisis" of immigration. With no corresponding event other than the Hannity-hyped antics of the vigilante "Minutemen" (the most sacrilegious hijacking of Revolutionary iconic sloganeering since the "Patriot" Act), the GOP threw caution, reason and Latino voters to the wind as they tried to see who could come up with the most outrageous "solutions" to the immigration "problem".
Chief among the drooling politicians looking for trophies in the Get ‘Em Hall of Shame was our own national embarrassment, Jim Sensenbrenner. During a recent congressional break, Sensenbrenner led show "hearings" with other Republicans on his Judiciary Committee. The pretend-Committee appeared in swing districts across the country and took "testimony" from those victims of immigration, real and imagined.
But, there is no "crisis" in immigration. Sure, more poor people from Mexico than before come across the border where they can, work hard, and send badly-needed dollars back to their family. So what? Border agents both north and south do what they can to deter people coming in illegally and properly send them back. When there is danger – more likely from the Canadian border, where some prospective terrorists have been found trying to sneak in (or at least that’s what Homeland Security tells us in the weeks before every election) – they enforce the law.
Suspiciously well-financed and always very well-fed and clean, the intrepid all-white "Minutemen" scour the Mexican border areas, harassing any poor soul who has chosen to risk his or her life crossing the desert to make a decent living. They even promised to build fences on private land to keep the Mexicans out. No doubt, this was merely practice for their contract proposal to build the 700-mile fence the Congress foolishly approved before its recent recess. Perhaps they hope to get a sub-contract from Haliburton – always first in line – for such work.
Unfortunately, the immigration issue is one that the Democrats have refused to call by its phony name. Apparently, the consultants-that-be decided that we must treat immigration as a serious issue for which we must propose better and more effective solutions, like fine payments and English lessons for those who want to legalize. Like the failed U.S. embargo against Cuba, for some mysterious reason, we must not challenge the premise. We must, we will, fight – just differently.
This is nuts. The best answer to whatever immigration issue exists is to say – forget it for now. We have so much more to do and so many greater priorities that immigration isn’t even in the top 50 – somewhere below, say, building more concrete barriers around public buildings; above, maybe, revising computer technology in the Bureau of Prisons. There are so many other important issues to tackle, you just don’t get to immigration for a long time. Check back in 10 years and we’ll see.
But, no. At least for purposes of this election, the Republicans and their surrogates have managed to use fear, ignorance and latent racism to move immigration to the front burner of public consciousness. That’s why desperate politicians far from the border – the Mexican border, anyway – like Mark Green use the issue to try to get traction in a failed campaign. While he avoids the issue in debates and everywhere else, his campaign makes a lists of all the things immigrants get just because they are here, plays on the jealousy of those who think they have less and blames it all on Jim Doyle. If these ads had appeared without the surrogate-driven campaign since this summer, he would have been laughed out of the race. He should be anyway, but the phony immigration issue gives his disingenuousness more legitimacy than it deserves.
Meanwhile, back in Escondido, a farm worker leaves his apartment before dawn, heading for a long day in the fields. When he comes back tonight, the police will be there, demanding his papers. There was a complaint, you see, from the neighbors.
It will be up to him to prove that his brown-skin doesn’t mean what we think it does.
Friday, October 20, 2006
I'M WITH STUPID
Mad Magazine: Loved it then. Love it now.
"Where could I find the scientists?" House Speaker Dennis Hastert asked a passerby, as he stood outside the historic Duke Chapel in a crumpled trenchcoat and sporting several days growth of beard. On the campus green, Karl Rove was seen stopping students at random, demanding directions to the research facility, which seemed to have itself become invisible.
Bereft of ideas and hoisted on the petard of their own actions and inaction since they came to Congressional power in 1994 and had their president installed by the Supreme Court in 2000, the GOP heavies came to Durham looking for the ultimate October Surprise; a Hail Mary pass of historic proportions. If only they could make people, evidence of disasters and history itself disappear, they may stand a chance to avoid the trouncing at the polls, currently scheduled and guaranteed to occur on November 7th.
While Hastert, Rove and others scoured the Duke campus for answers, key staffers back in Washington and around the country made priority lists of possible immediate uses of the technology. High on the list of those the GOP would just as soon not be seen were Donald Rumsfeld and (unbeknownst to him as he trolled the Duke campus) Hastert himself. Republican embarrassments that had already gone into hiding, such as Tom DeLay, Jack Abramoff and Mark Foley, were considered less of a priority.
Of keen interest to the desperate leaders was whether the technology could be applied to vast areas of cities or countries. Rove and Hastert came to Duke armed with millions of dollars in cash, hoping to leave with a cloak sufficient to quickly cover Iraq, or, at least, Baghdad. Contingency plans were also developed to put a shroud of invisibility around parts of New Orleans, although, with the passing of the first anniversary, media indifference made such an application of the device unnecessary.
At the Department of Homeland Security, top government sleuths and scientists explored the possibility of disappearing history itself, which would really be the ultimate boon to Republican hopes in November. Although made more difficult with the expansion of information on computers and the internet, it is believed that whole shelves of library books could be emptied – or at least they would appear that way – and thousands of downloaded-but-blank web pages could result in gains for the GOP in historically-forgetful districts. Who needs to burn the books when you can’t find them?
One of the first to return from the mission to Durham yesterday was Dick Cheney, who made a quick visit to the White House before retiring to his undisclosed location for the night. This morning, the White House announced that President Bush was "busy" and might not be seen in public this weekend, next week or beyond. "He’s here in the White House," said Tony Snow. "You just can’t see him right now."
Back in the Vice President’s residence, Cheney was seen, smiling broadly.
Thursday, October 19, 2006
HEADLINING FOR GREEN
In the newspaper business, it’s the headlines (and, sometimes, photos) that grab the most attention from the casual reader. Unfortunately, most people don’t read the newspaper – they look at it. The headline of a story is what is remembered. The placement of the story helps determine whether the story gets noticed at all. As newspaper writers since the beginning of time will tell you, all they can do is write the story. The headline and placement is up to the editors, if it makes it in the paper at all.
Today’s Milwaukee Journal Sentinel contains two remarkable examples of this subtle craft, as practiced by the J-S’s inexplicably pro-Green editors. Did you notice that the most respected state-wide poll of voters, the Wisconsin Public Radio/St. Norbert poll that has set the standard in the state for years, found Jim Doyle leading Mark Green by a margin of 51% to 38% three weeks before the election? No? You missed it? Somewhere on 4th and State, high-fives and back-slaps are being exchanged.
The results of the St. Norbert polls have traditionally run in the paper on either the front page or, at least, the front page of the Metro section. Today, the results of the poll are neatly hidden on Page 10A, uncomfortably wrapping around a dominating 3/4-page color cell-phone ad.
The dramatic results of the poll, as you would expect, are deliberately diminished by the headline. In this whole campaign, it is very rare for a pro-Doyle news story headline in the J-S not to include some dismissive Green counter-spin in the headline itself. The headline about the poll – "Latest poll puts Doyle ahead, but Green camp doubts it" – is an incredibly well-crafted deliberate understatement of the poll and the impact of the results. Breaking it down piece-by-piece, we see the evil genius:
- Latest poll... Here, the J-S treats the St. Norbert poll as just another, rather than having the status that they have earned and the weight that the paper has given to it in the past. "Latest" means "just another", easily dismissed and ignored.
- ...puts Doyle ahead,... No, not ahead, WAY ahead. This is supposed to be a close race and the most distinguished poll in the state finds it to be a blowout. That’s news, if you want to recognize it and if you want it to be. The 38 percent for both Green and Van Hollen appears to be a ceiling, not a floor for Republicans running statewide races this year. Plus, the poll doesn’t "put" Doyle ahead – he has been leading the whole race.
- ...but Green camp doubts it... Well, of course they do, or, of course they would say they do. Like the "Green will appeal" lead on the judge’s order validating the Elections Board order that Green return his illegal money, the "Green camp" response is hardly news and belongs somewhere in the middle of the story, where you put the required one paragraph of tripe from a spokesperson for each campaign. And that’s actually where the flack-noise ends up – no mention of Green’s brave "doubting" until paragraph 9. Since when is graph 9 stuff in the headline? You would also think that the Doyle campaign would get a chance to say something nice about the results (hey, how about a "as the Doyle camp expected" instead of the doubting-Green in the headline?), but that doesn’t come until graph 11. Again, the supposed Green skepticism gets the first word.
One argument that might be made by the paper is that the poll numbers were dumped, er, placed on page 10A is because the front page was all jammed up with important news. You would be wrong.
The desperate Republicans and their sycophants on wing-nut radio and the internet let fly yesterday with a "story" they have been holding for five months about the discovery (or, more likely, theft) of a Dem legislative strategy document in the State Capitol. The document itself is unremarkable and predictable in the extreme, but that hasn’t stopped the purveyors of the purloined document from stomping around in glee at their supposed October surprise.
Well, maybe this one was worth a mention on the obituary page (where a visit from Madeline Albright landed a couple of weeks ago) or a mention on the Spice Boys unpublished blog, where they could join their wing-nut friends to spin and salivate feverishly about the supposed implications.
But, no. There it is on the front page, above-the-fold: "GOP sees rival's strategy – Both parties may seek legal action on drafted plans". The article itself demonstrates how much of a no–big-deal it is, but for the exaggerated story-placement. But, again, the headlines:
- GOP sees rival's strategy... How about "GOP had strategy for 5 months, still losing"? By falsely putting it in real time, the paper tries to create news that doesn’t exist.
- Both parties may seek legal action... Well, there’s legal action and then there’s legal action. Republican say they will ask for a review from the Elections Board, but the Board lawyer already says in the article that the Dem’s did nothing wrong. The Democrats, on the other hand, are looking into criminal charges for the theft of the document, possibly out of Rep. Miller’s briefcase. Now, that’s news.
Regardless of what the article itself says, playing it up on the front page, with phony headlines implying immediacy and questions of legality, the Journal Sentinel again gives unjustified fodder to squawk-radio thugs and others who will take their selective view of the facts, make up others, and poison the political environment once again.
For all their phony posturing about wanting positive campaigns that are "for" and not "against", this is apparently what the J-S wants. That, and the illusion of a close race.
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
MARK GREEN -- EMPTY SUIT
Yesterday, the Journal Sentinel tempered, as it must, a review of Green’s 90% pro-Bush voting record with a swipe at the Doyle campaign for "getting it wrong" by claiming Green’s record was 92% Bushie. While gently pointing out that Green had compiled a record more slavishly-Bush than any other Wisconsin House Republican (no small feat with Paul Ryan in the mix), the separate headline claims the study cited by Doyle for the 92% figure "doesn’t support" the ad (which, by the way, stopped running months ago).
The bulk of the ad itself, however, is fully supported and provides numerous reasons to question Green’s judgement, if he has any. Most of the ad outlines specific votes Green made against education funding, raising the minimum wage and for tax breaks for oil companies.
At the end, the 92% figure is noted, and cited as coming from the Congressional Observer. [Note: Have you seen any legitimate citations in all those lying Green ads? Didn’t think so...] According to the determined detail-checkers at the J-S – at least as far as Doyle ads are concerned – the Observer’s 92% figure was for votes with House leadership, not for the Bush agenda itself. So the Doyle claim was 2% off. Someone call the Ethics Board or, at least, that hysterical J-S former editor who is so distressed by both campaigns (see last post, below).
But, this begs the question: what possible difference could there be between Bush’s agenda and that of the House leadership? One of the reasons that the Bush team has been able to march the government this far to the edge of the cliff is that the Republicans have marched in lock-step with each other on virtually all issues. Every issue, each piece of legislation and every vote is run through Rove’s political office for content and timing. This is the primary reason that the House is likely to go back into Democratic hands in three weeks – to bring accountability back to Washington for the first time in six years. Or, as Diane Keaton commands to Al Pacino about his family business in The Godfather, "this all must end!"
Of more concern to Green, I would think, should be that the Observer study shows him to be even nuttier than Bush. On the few issues where the House leadership breaks from Bush, it is always to the Right. For instance, on immigration, the House (and Green) voted to make criminals out of anyone who would provide humanitarian assistance to illegal immigrants. It can’t be good for Green that it isn’t Bush that he has been too close to – it’s Tom DeLay.
But the more important issue is not whose bag Green is in, Bush’s or DeLay’s – it is that he is in the bag in the first place. Green is not a leader, but a flunky, a too-willing GOP functionary. Like Bush, Green is an empty suit, available to be filled with all manner of bad ideas and agendas.
What is Green going to do when he has to do more than just cast a vote as directed by his party leadership? When he is actually in the drivers seat, who is going to be holding the map and pointing the way for him? To this point in his political career, Green has proved either uninterested or incapable of going his own way, of exercising any independent judgement about anything.
As governor, Green would be the ultimate rubber-stamp for a radical Republican legislature that will rush bad ideas like concealed-carry and rigid property tax freezes to his desk. If you liked one-party rule in Washington for the past six year, you’ll love it in Wisconsin.
Sunday, October 15, 2006
PLAGUING BOTH HOUSES - PART TWO
That’s the logic of the latest campaign by the newspaper, begun on this Sunday’s editorial page. Not only was there a sanctimonious lead editorial bemoaning the purported fact that each campaign "seems to be predicated on convincing Wisconsinites to vote against the other guy rather than for its own candidate" and that "it's time to call a truce" , the Crossroads section also front-pages an incredibly over-heated and factually-unfounded column by a former editorial page editor saying the same thing and claiming "neither major-party candidate for governor is fit for public office", simply because of the supposedly jointly-negative advertising.
Indeed, there are "deliberate distortions, even lies" in the campaign for governor of Wisconsin and legitimate acts are "exaggerated into unscrupulous misdeed". But almost all such poisonous spinning occurs in the official and the real campaign of Mark Green. Jim Doyle does not have nearly the number of wild distortions and flat-out lies in his campaign as Green and his surrogates have in his.
One thing I was waiting for as I poured through the ponderous prose in both articles was any recitation of facts that would cause the paper to tar both candidates with the same brush. If the J-S would or could leave its convenient preconceptions behind and bothered to look the actual record, it would find that there really is no factual or moral equivalence between Doyle and Green.
The Doyle campaign has run the following ads during the campaign, and you can see them all on his web-site:
- "Promise", a completely positive and factually accurate review of his record as governor;
- "Six Times", a stem-cell issue ad, correctly explaining the "extreme" Green position on the research from the perspective of the mother of a child with diabetes.
- "Surprise", another positive ad about Doyle’s successful effort to balance the state budget.
- "Stands", an honest ad that reviews Green’s 92% pro-Bush voting record.
- "News", an honest review of news coverage of Green’s illegal $467,000 problem.
- "Moving Froward", a positive ad about Doyle’s record on job preservation and creation.
- "Give It Back", another honest ad about the Green illegal money (does the Journal Sentinel really not think he should give it back?).
- "Over", another review of the illegal money issue and Green’s refusal to give it back. All honest, all Green’s fault.
- "No Way", an honest response to Green’s false immigration claims in his ad (see below). If Doyle didn’t respond, the J-S would have criticized him for not responding, a la Kerry and the pathetic swift-boaters.
So, that’s three completely positive, accurate ads about his record that don’t even mention Green; three about Green’s refusal to return the illegal money (any campaign that did not highlight this kind of in-your-face intransigence by an opponent would be sued for incompetence); an honest review of Green’s pro-Bush record and a response to an irresponsibly false ad by Green on immigration.
Green on the other hand, has used his official campaign air time to play wedge issues and lie about Doyle’s record. Here are the official Green ads:
- "Extreme Family", a defense of Doyle’s characterization of Green’s record as extreme in the stem-cell ad, through Green’s family members. I actually thought this ad was kind of humanizing and clever, although it deliberately fails to understand the difference between an extreme record and an extreme person.
- "Stay", an unsupported claim that young people are leaving Wisconsin due to "high taxes" and a false accusation that Doyle has made it worse.
- "Football", a series of lies about out-of-state vs. in-state tuition levels, featuring a bleacher-full of actors acting like constituents.
- "Pattern," a smear ad if there ever was one, tying campaigns from tribes to gambling compacts, a state bureaucrat’s actions to campaign contributions, and claiming that the Elections Board ruling was "rigged" by Doyle. All phony, all lies.
- "Priorities", the ad full of immigration lies.
- "Facts", a false take on the Menard’s distribution center, featuring a repeat of the immigration lies.
That’s one pro-Green comedy ad featuring his family and five anti-Doyle ads featuring outright lies and phony connections that don’t exist.
I don’t see how anyone can look at both sets of ads side-by-side and say that both campaigns are equally negative or dissembling. In tone and content, Doyle’s ads are positive, fact-based and often uplifting. Green’s ads are universally anti-Doyle, drawing conclusions that are insupportable and worst – that do nothing but stretch and spin.
And that’s just Green’s official campaign.
The primary vehicle for Green’s Real Campaign is right-wing talk radio. On the radio, wing-nuts big and small, always too-willing to follow GOP scripts and talking points, provide 24/7 free advertising for the Green campaign. They talk for hours about Green points like the Menard’s non-controversy and virtually anything that they think make Doyle look bad. They will repeat "Doyle is corrupt" until they think they have convinced everyone but themselves. With no proof or reason to believe, they will repeat that Doyle is "the most corrupt governor in Wisconsin history" and will say that Doyle will end up in federal prison by the end of his second term. They, and the radio stations that feature them, have no interest in the truth and no shame. We have all become too accepting and comfortable with this daily poisoning of the public discourse, both nationally and locally.
And then there are the viciously false ads run by Republican out-of-state facilitators like the laughably-named All Children Mater (ACM) and the notorious gun-industry tool, the NRA. For instance, the NRA has a billboard and TV campaign that is based only on convenient alliteration. We are encouraged, for no particular reason, to "Dump Doyle". It is said, quickly, that Doyle is somehow anti-freedom and anti-hunting. No facts, and who needs them? ACM, the Amway/Wal-Mart funded front-group out of Michigan and Virginia, is now running their second anti-Doyle ad, with no content about education, much less children. There is nothing on the Doyle-independent side to match these richly-funded and co-ordinated Republican efforts. The only one to make any significant noise has been the Greater Wisconsin Committee, which have put out ads that at least have the benefit of being both honest and local.
Finally, if the Journal Sentinel was really interested in calling a "truce", it would stop feeding the Green beast by printing every half-assed investigation by Spivak and Bice of three-year-old meetings in Chicago steakhouses between Doyle aides and the much-later indicted, as it did two days ago. The paper also wouldn’t praise a Green ad, casting unproven aspersions on Doyle’s contributions from tribal leaders, as "pack[ing] a punch"; nor would it matter-of-factly report the various false charges in a Green immigration ad – including one whopper that misrepresented what the J-S itself said in an editorial – without drawing any conclusions at all.
If a truce is called for, Jim Doyle would certainly agree to it. Green may or may not. If he does, he has his surrogates to do his dirty work for him. It would just be another lie.
Friday, October 13, 2006
GUILT BY DONATION
On October 3rd, on their non-published "Spiceblog" in the on-line version of the J-S, Spivak and Bice chided any Democrat that would suggest Mark Green and Paul Ryan should give back donations made to his campaign this year by disgraced perv Mark Foley. "First, there's the scandal," the Boys pronounce. "Then there's the game of trying to link everyone else to the pol brought down by scandal."
They do seem to have the chronology right, but this does not appear to be a game the Boys want to play. "How long until the Dems start screaming that Ryan and Green should return this ‘dirty money’ ASAP?" You can almost imagine their arched eyebrows and smug half-smiles, just daring the "Dems" to "scream" such ridiculous things. It turned out they didn’t have to – Green realized the problem on his own and sanctimoniously announced he was donating the money to charity (while still gripping tightly to the almost-half million in illegal funds ordered returned by the Elections Board and a judge).
Today, the Pride of the Journal Sentinel have quite a different take on donations made before by someone who runs into trouble later. Cleverly connecting the unnamed non-indictment of a Chicago "money man" with the Doyle contribution list (with the help of Green operatives, no doubt), S & B wax indignant about the $10,000 donation, listing details of the indictment against a different guy, Antoin Rezko, as if all this had anything to do with Jim Doyle.
Spivak and Bice pull out all their usual snarky stops in diminishing the effect of any response from the Doyle camp that fell short of abject contrition. Doyle’s spokesperson is identified as a "hired mouthpiece", who "tried [and, you may assume, failed] to brush off questions about the donation". Hard to tell the difference between the "hired mouthpiece" label and their usual "flack" name-calling, but the effect is the same: the reader is to ignore whatever follows as insincere lies and spin. It’s not like the Boys are gong to let you make up your own mind about it. Oh, and don’t expect Greenies and other Republicans to be identified in such a manner. The Spice Boys treat their regular dirt sources with a little more respect than that.
The purported journalists then get absolutely breathless in dropping the bombshell that then-DOA secretary Marc Marotta, Doyle’s chief of staff Susan Goodwin and the now-indicted Rezko "broke bread together [what is this, the Last Supper?] for 1 1/2 hours at an upscale Chicago steakhouse" in – get this – September 2003! Oh my God, what were they up to?
As in all anti-Doyle Spice columns, you are encouraged let your imagination do the work for them. It’s not like they have to go through the trouble to connect-the-dots or anything. I mean, we all know, don’t we? Nudge, nudge; wink, wink. Never mind that there are no dots to connect in the first place.
Oh, and get this: also at the dinner was former Cabana-Boy and Tommy Thompson business partner Nick Hurtgen, also recently indicted, who is identified only as "linked to Doyle and to just about every other politician worth knowing in Wisconsin". Yeah, except this is the first time I’ve heard about him in the same room with Democrats. My God, what was going on?!!!
Notice the difference? Green’s money from Foley is OK, I mean, obviously. It’s just like the "Dems" to make a big deal of it, jeez. Doyle’s money from Christopher Kelly is dirty, dirty, dirty – just like Doyle, Marotta, all those people. Dirty, dirty, dirty. Get it? Dirty!
And Sivak & Bice’s investigation into all the people with ethical or legal problems who gave money to Mark Green? Don’t hold your breath.
Thursday, October 12, 2006
TAX HEAVEN AND HELL
The report compares all 50 states in terms of corporate, income, sales, property and, strangely, unemployment insurance taxes. The predictable voices from local organizations always looking for breaks and hand-outs, like the always-quoted Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance and Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, used the occasion of the report to mutter somberly about the good-bad news. "If you flip that number around, it still means we are 12th-worst," said the WTA. "We're near the bottom," mourned the WMC. Well, yeah, if you want to look at it that way. And, in this election year, these pro-Republican groups certainly do.
On the other hand, take a look at which states are in supposed business tax heaven, according to the report: Wyoming, South Dakota, Alaska, Nevada and Florida. Other than the occasional vacation in the last three, who would want to live or build a business in any of those places? The quality of life seems much better in the tax-hells at the bottom: Rhode Island, Ohio, New Jersey, New York and Vermont. California at 45, Minnesota at 41, Wisconsin as 38 – I’ll take a few extra tax hits to live and work in those bustling, vigorous states any day of the week. Somewhere in Wyoming, a rancher surveys his barren tract of land and revels in his freedom from the taxman. He can have it.
In trying to shame Wisconsin into lower taxes or, apparently, into abandoning some types of taxes altogether (""Every available tax, Wisconsin has," WMC observes), the whining tax foes insult the intelligence of business leaders, here and elsewhere, who take lots of factors into account before moving, building or investing. Any business leader would be foolish to make a major investment decision based on whether his or her prospective employees are going to have to pay a state income tax or not. In terms of resources, quality of workforce and, yes, government’s willingness to support, accommodate and provide tax-breaks, Wisconsin is one of the most attractive states in the country for any kind of business.
Wing-nut radio has been squawking about one such business decision this week. Menard’s has been looking for place to put a new distribution and manufacturing center and had considered its home base in Eau Claire. They ended up building in Iowa and Ohio, but not because of any "tax-hell" (both those states have similar rankings) or because the state was unwilling to work with the company on legitimate environmental issues. John Menard himself issued a statement saying that Doyle’s government has always been willing to provide "substantial assistance" on his many projects in the state.
But the wing-nuts never let the facts get in the way of an anti-Doyle, Green-generated slime campaign. Jay Weber, a third-rate voice on a third-rate radio station (WISN), claimed that all Menard’s had to do was contribute to Doyle’s campaign to get approval. That’s how it works, he claimed. "You give $10,000 now and $10,000 after the approval." Well, according to the Journal Sentinel, Menard himself has given $20,000 to Doyle’s campaigns since 1999. Now, what were you saying again?
Groups like the WTA and WMC, in the end, do the greatest disservice to the people of the state of Wisconsin. By constantly proclaiming Wisconsin a tax-hell, they make it marginally harder for the state to promote itself across the country as a good place to do business. It can’t be worth inflicting that kind of damage just to get incremental rate adjustments or minimal tax breaks.
Wisconsin collects various kinds of taxes because we have an excellent reputation for public services, including schools. The burden should be on those constantly complaining about taxes to tell us what taxes they would cut or eliminate, how they would replace the revenues that are lost as a result, or what services they would be willing to cut after the taxes disappear.
If they won’t or can’t, they should start supporting Wisconsin’s business climate by supporting the state itself.
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
BRINGIN’ IT ON
• Hezbollah kidnaps Israeli soldiers, provoking a deadly month of attacks by Israel, lets fly hundreds of its own missiles, and comes out as a stronger force – no, heros – in southern Lebanon.
• Iran rejects international pressure and oversight, saying that they need nuclear power and will pursue it in their own way, on their own terms. Ignoring familiar-sounding war-drums pounding in Washington – saying Iran has the intent to build a nuclear bomb, which they deny, and who is going to believe the “intelligence” on that one? – Iran does what it wants, and the regime gains support of its skeptical people.
• In Iraq, more brave Americans are killed and maimed every day, in the name of stability and the ancient lie of cleansing regime change. Iraqi gangs and sectarian thugs roll in any part of the country they want, targeting the U.S. troops that duck out of their safe areas and terrorizing the countryside with impunity.
• This week, North Korea conducts – or pretends to conduct – an underground test of a nuclear bomb – becoming only the 8th or 9th nation to do so – ever. The Kim regime seems unconcerned with international outrage. The test is a victory for the people, an advancement of the revolution, etc.
Of all the people that mean harm to the U.S. and others and are intent on wreaking havoc in the world, who of them would even care what we thought at this point? We are not engaged with anyone. The Bush Doctrine has been: we get to do what we want, any time we want. Everyone else in the world has taken that up, and raised us, in spades. The Bush Doctrine is: we are all on our own. And, indeed, we are.
Before the radical Bush revolution, it was always the goal of American foreign policy to try to control small, pipsqueak states and large obnoxious ones; not to eliminate them. For 200-some years, the U.S. has always done that, more or less, with carrots and sticks. It has always been the case that international punks would eventually moderate their behavior if they thought they might get just a little bit of trade from the giant U.S. market or if they just thought the Americans would at least acknowledge their existence and give them some value.
When the Bushies took over in 2001, they had an agenda of radical change in foreign policy. No more would be play footsie with the world’s bad guys, real or imagined. Those who were not with us were against us. Those questioning were disloyal. Our friends would have to either let us dictate all issues and all solutions to them, or they were shown the door. The fact that we were left with Great Britain and Australia meant nothing to the Bushies. White guys rule; everyone else can pound sand.
It is said that September 11th changed everything, but it only made the Bushies’ megalomania worse. Instead of using the tragedy as a rallying point for world understanding, terror-fighting and peace – as Clinton would have done and as anyone else would have at least tried – the Bushies rubbed their hands with glee and saw nothing but new opportunity for total world domination. Iraq was always on their radar for invasion – it was just a matter of timing. Bush ticked off the targets in his 2002 State of the Union: Iraq, Iran and North Korea. The Axis of Evil.
We refused to talk with “evil”; I mean, who would? Evil is to be fought, shunned, called by its name, isolated. Even a chronically agnostic guy like me (don’t know, don’t care) knows there is no point in talking to Evil. Once Bush locked into “evil-doer” language, we were in a self- constructed box. Imagine a news story that Condi Rice was going to initiate a discussion with Iran. Discussions with Evil? Why would she do that?
We can expect a lot more of this type of belligerent behavior. The so-called renegade nations like North Korea know that our military is decimated by the nightmare in Iraq. They hear the Bushies bullshit-and-bluster about sanctions and repercussions and they sit back and laugh. They are calling our bluff because they know we have nothing.
And we don’t.
Sunday, October 08, 2006
THE REAL CAMPAIGN
The official campaign trots out its empty-suited candidates for photo-ops, campaign rallies and "debates". The official campaign works behind the scenes to assure editorial boards and other self-appointed poo-bahs that they are serious policy thinkers, with position papers and, sometimes, actual positions on weighty affairs of state such as deficits and road construction. Heads nod and appreciation is expressed for the important entry into the public arena by this thoughtful young/seasoned man (always a man).
While the official campaign provides the diverting gloss, the Real Campaign gets out the messages that are aimed at truly resonating with the (they think) rube electorate. While the official campaign offers respectful point-counterpoint with the "worthy opponent", the Real Campaign poisons the electorate with false claims of corruption, allegations of votes or official actions designed to secretly injure every living citizen and, if they have it, all sort of exposed or imagined personal peccadillos.
While the official campaign sometimes dips its toe in the well of red-meat "issues" like abortion choice or immigration, the Real Campaign revels in a sea of slime, generated by both paid and, remarkably, un-paid sycophants. The soft underbelly of the electorate is pounded by national and local wing-nuts, on radio and cable, who are willing to follow daily RNC talking points, setting up straw men and phony arguments so that their otherwise-hapless hero candidates can knock them down.
The official campaign of Mark Green showed up in Milwaukee on Friday for a debate against Jim Doyle. Not a word was said (or asked, for that matter) about Real Campaign "issues" such as Doyle the Corrupt, Doyle the Soon-to-be-Felon, Doyle the Illegal Immigration Enabler, etc. Those phony concepts have been the primary theme of the Real Campaign, but Green personally could not sully himself with such notions. Besides, one of the chief rules of the Real Campaign is that you don’t let yourself get caught having to defend its false pretenses.
If Green had tried to slander Doyle the way his Real Campaign has for over a year, Doyle would have retorted with something Green hasn’t heard since he agreed to play the role of the GOP anti-Doyle. Mark Green would have to had deal with the Truth. And if his tired eyes showed anything at the debate, it showed that, in the words of the cinematically famous, he cannot handle the Truth.
Green had enough trouble just trying not to embarrass himself, which he did several times in the debate. He was in the most trouble when he tried to defend his most radical official positions.
Green actually managed to break new ground in insulting women on the issue of abortion, which is no small feat. "Too many women believe that abortion is a safety net," he lectured. "What I want to help them realize that there are alternatives out there." You can just hear the women of Wisconsin thanking Mark Green for informing them of these things that they, foolish women that they are, could not possibly understand or consider on their own. I’ve never heard anything so ridiculously condescending in my life from someone so unlikely to know better than anyone about anything.
And then there is stem cell research. As far as I can understand this remarkably phony issue, there are a bunch of dim wingbags out there who claim that saving one of the embryos from a fertility clinic – an embryo headed, as ten of thousands are every year, for the garbage can – and using the information in such an otherwise useless embryo for research that may save many lives in the future is somehow unethical or immoral.
Green, strangely, wants the vote of such confused would-be ethicists. But, at the same time, he wants the vote of the other 95% of the electorate that supports this important research, regardless of the impact on a microscopic potential life. So Green double-speaks his way through the issue, promising to throw millions into studying a new way to conduct the research, instead of funding the research itself.
Even local radio wing-nuts like Mark Belling and Charlie Sykes have a hard time keeping a straight face on this issue. But Mark Green carries the water in the official campaign to keep the red-meat base on track in the Real Campaign.
As the remaining weeks of the campaign turn to desperate days and hours, it will be Green himself throwing the bombs and sounding more and more like the Real Campaign, much like Junior Bush taking up the "cut and run" phrase of his surrogates as his grip on power in Congress implodes. Whether Green is able to slime his way to the top will depend on the gullibility of any voters able to be bamboozled and the willingness of the major media outlets to take his efforts seriously, no matter how desperate and disconnected from the facts.
Friday, October 06, 2006
SPICE BOYS HELP GREEN SPOT ANTI-DOYLE STORY
Now, the Journal Sentinel has returned the favor, giving the Green campaign fodder for their latest bad-Doyle press release through the always helpful Spivak & Bice. Yesterday, the Spice Boys put an item on their "blog" (read: non-print) space on the J-S website, gloating about how Jim Doyle was given only two stars in a review of contested governors in Inc. Magazine, a publication supposedly targeting entrepreneurs. Earlier today, the Green campaign took the not-so-subtle hint and promoted the same article in a press release. Thus does one hand wash the other at the Green-friendly Journal Sentinel.
In their post (apparently not good enough for their print column), Spivak and Bice ignored the significant positive accomplishments listed by the magazine. Instead, the supposedly non-partisan "reporters" focused on the negative, some of which was based on a complete misconception that the Boys were certainly not inclined to point out.
The article, in fact, has two paragraphs of positive comments, at least for its intended audience, before inserting caveats in the final graph:
"Doyle has put so much effort into painting himself a pro-business Democrat that pundits say his support among labor, a major constituency in the land of Bob LaFollette, is more tepid than it needs to be for him to win reelection.
"When he first took office, Doyle invited a number of entrepreneurs to take part in 12 economic roundtables that he held across the state. Since then, he has stuffed his "Grow Wisconsin" economic plan with jobs programs and tax credits for technology companies. He set up 55 facilities across the state to serve business owners and farmers. Finally, Doyle has won funding for stem-cell research at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, which his opponent, Representative Mark Green of Green Bay, would curb."
So far, so good, and, if not for the two stars and the final graph, the item certainly would have been ignored by the right-spinning Spivak & Bice. But then comes the "zinger", according to the easily anti-Doyle-zinged Boys:
"Despite these advances, Doyle is widely considered one of the most likely incumbents to fall in November. The state's finances are shaky, and Doyle and the legislature routinely squabble. A series of allegations of no-bid contracts landing in the laps of Doyle supporters have alienated voters. The bottom line: It's great that Doyle has been a friend to business, but his missteps in other areas have blunted his overall effectiveness."
Well, Inc. probably is not aware that Doyle was saddled with the financial legacy of the reckless Tommy Thompson and the hapless Scott McCullum going in or the fact that the Republican legislature has deliberately put right-wing red-meat on his desk so that he would have to veto it. I guess it would look like "squabbling" to outsiders who are not aware that the GOP has insisted on partisan conflict as a matter of choice and policy.
But the main point that has S&B gleefully running to their computers is no doubt the line about "A series of allegations of no-bid contracts landing in the laps of Doyle supporters". Now, Doyle has been accused in general and in very few specifics of benefitting contributors, the most noise being made about the way that bids are evaluated. In confusing the two, they may have Doyle confused with the king of no-bid contributor rewards, Tommy Thompson.
But, again, we don’t expect the Spicers to clear this up. And, neither is it very surprising that the Green campaign – no doubt through the Spice posting – has noticed the Inc. article and was bragging about it in a press release today.
UPDATE: Or at least they were earlier today. There was a press release about the Inc. story up on the Green web-site earlier this morning – honest there was. Now (at 11:30 a.m.) – poof! – it’s gone. Well, maybe it’ll come back. Maybe they sent it off somewhere for rewriting or perhaps they noticed that they were drawing attention to something that was a net-positive for Doyle. Another victim, apparently, of the Spice Boys' snide anti-Doyle enthusiasm.
UPDATE OF THE UPDATE: Now, it's back.
PLAGUING BOTH HOUSES
In today’s Journal Sentinel, we see several examples of a familiar trap that those wanting to appear "fair and balanced" regularly fall into. On the front page, the J-S preps its readership for today’s debate in the governor’s race with a review of the "harsh rhetoric" that they say both campaigns have employed.
But how "harsh" is rhetoric that happens to be true? How much more "harsh" is a campaign of lies? In an article like this, the difference is not recognized. Harsh is harsh and the facts are inconvenient and irrelevant. The same plague is cast on both houses, regardless of silly notions of who’s right and who’s wrong.
But there is a difference. When Jim Doyle puts out a press release saying that Mark Green "broke the law and now he's lying to distract voters from the truth", that happens to be true. The State Elections Board and (the J-S always forgets to mention) a judge have both ruled that Green broke the law in his transfer of funds from his federal campaign, a ruling that he has refused to obey by returning the funds and with which he has since played games, pretending to appeal the case he agreed to be dismissed. [Note to J-S: Green lied to you again. He did not try to appeal to the Supreme Court yesterday, as he said he would.]
And Green has been "lying" about Doyle’s record, in his own ads and in a vicious smear campaign by surrogates on talk-radio and in "independent" ads. The latest example is described in another of the increasingly amusing articles on the obituary page of today’s paper. Another in an irregular series of "Ad Watch" articles – none of which so far, by the way, have described or included screen shots of any official Doyle campaign ads – reviews the latest Green ad, in which Green attempts to play the immigration card that the GOP set up for all desperate candidates a month or so ago.
Although the J-S does not conclude as such (and does not call out some "expert" to do it for them), the ad is one big string of lies from beginning to end. The writer claims that "some of the specific claims of the ad don’t hold up, while some do," but, after the article itself points out the outright and fairly obvious falsehoods, it’s clear that none of them do. No conclusions are drawn. The ad has been "watched", and that's about it.
In the "harsh rhetoric" article, though, we are urged to cry for poor Mark Green. "For months," Green whines, "they were on the airwaves bashing us - millions of dollars worth of negative ads - before we even started." Aw, poor baby. It turns out that’s not true, either. The Doyle campaign’s first four ads were all positive ads about his own record. Green was up and running long before Doyle started defining Green with his owns votes in Congress and words coming out of his own mouth.
The Journal Sentinel then lets Green claim that "his campaign has responded with ‘serious,’ issued-based ads," and then allows that lie to fall into space without challenge. Green’s ads have either been silly (with his family claiming he’s not extreme), staged (he used actors instead of real people in one ad) or scurrilous. Green even stole from a Bud Light ad campaign to create a radio ad that features the most blatant, childish name-calling ("Men of Greed", "Mr. Tax-Hiking Man") in state history.
Operating the background is the ugly 24-hour smearing of Doyle on wing-nut talk-radio. There, Green ads are replayed for free and the talkers remark how wonderful they are. The phrase "most corrupt governor in Wisconsin history" is said over and over; the lie that, repeated often enough, becomes accepted as true. This all happens in a cone of silence, where reprehensible shills like Charlie Sykes and Mark Belling are never challenged to answer the question: What are the details that makes you say Doyle corrupt? Like George Mitchell claiming that Doyle is "the most dishonest governor in 50 years" and then refusing to give one example, they smear with impunity and without facts, protected in their studio shell.
Green also benefits by the obviously coordinated "independent" ads, like the ones from out-of-state interlopers All Children Matter, that are even more reckless with the truth.
But, in an article like this and in a newspaper dedicated to putting Green in the best light possible, such distinctions are not made. They both do it, see?
But they don’t both do it. Campaigns should be compared not by perceived tone or by who is being "negative" by pointing out differences – that’s going to happen and should in every campaign – but by who is demonstrably right or wrong on the facts. Where there is such a difference in claim substantiation – where every fact alleged by Green is either an outright lie or, at best, an illegitimate stretch and every Doyle ad is backed up by definitive facts – that is a difference that should be recognized.
Plaguing both houses benefits Green, of course. He can be as reckless with the facts as he wants, safe in the knowledge that the J-S and others will simply say that "they all do it" at this point in a campaign season. The failure to recognize the low road from the high provides Mark Green with parity he does not deserve.
Thursday, October 05, 2006
ALL CHILDREN MATTER -- REDEFINED
For instance, yesterday, Page 5-B featured a story about former Secretary of State Madeline Albright appearing in Milwaukee on behalf of Jim Doyle. The story featured, for no good reason, foreign policy analysis of her comments by know-nothing GOP functionary Rick Wiley. No such point-counterpoint was allowed when Dick Cheney appeared, with Metro Page One coverage, to raise money for Mark Green, who would not appear at the same time as Cheney, lest he be photographed with the Prince of Darkness, on September 26.
Under the Albright story, there was an "Ad Watch" piece about a Green Bay TV station pulling the latest anti-Doyle ad, produced and financed by the shadowy, out-of-state, Amway/Wal-Mart-financed 527 group All Children Matter(ACM). ACM was identified in that article as "a group that supports the voucher program." In defending the defamatory bomb the out-of-staters lobbed into the state, the J-S identified school choice industry flack George Mitchell as "a prominent Milwaukee choice advocate and spokesman for the group."
After I pointed out the true nature of the group spending thousands of dollars trying poison the race in Wisconsin yesterday afternoon (see post below), the identification of both the group and Mitchell changed in today’s follow-up – also on the obit page – that the Green Bay station had caved to ACM pressure and will now run the ad. Now ACM is identified as "the Michigan-based group All Children Matter, which advocates for school vouchers" and Mitchell is identified as a "Wisconsin spokesman for All Children Matter". Although the new description barely scratches the surface of ACM’s dark genesis and poison activities in various state and local elections, at least it no longer looks like the ad was the product of the usual group of choice industry advocates in Milwaukee.
Missing in this article, again, is any skeptical identification of ACM as a "supposedly independent group ," a label attached to the Greater Wisconsin Committee for an anti-Green ad in a J-S "Ad Watch" article on September 27th. But any review of ACM’s activities shows that their targets for big-spending are the same targets chosen by the GOP. ACM has very little to do with children and everything to do with affecting state and local elections in favor of Republicans.
Wednesday, October 04, 2006
OUT-OF-STATE MONEY POISONS THE RACE FOR GOVERNOR
Humoring him, I responded:
If that's really why you are against Doyle, why not just say so instead of being a willing vehicle for GOP backdoor messages? If you have a problem with his position on school choice, then say so, rather than making stuff up about the (non-)relationship between civil-servant Georgia Thompson and Goodwin or anyone else with real power in the administration. Is lying about relationships that don't exist fair game just because Doyle does not bow at the altar of George Mitchell?
The ad you produced (or, at least, put your name on) does nothing for your supposed cause of promoting better education for poor kids in Milwaukee. You and your organization have now exposed yourselves as something else all together.
Mitchell responded with this obviously non-partisan zinger: "Jim Doyle is the most dishonest Governor in at least 50 years...perhaps longer." Wow. Like what, I asked, and I challenged him to name just one. "I have forgotten more about Wisconsin state government and politics than you can hope to grasp...we don't need to waste our time on e-mail exchanges." OK, professor! How dare a little pipsqueak like me inquire of his Royalness. He has said so; therefore it is.
Little did I know at the time (i.e.: this afternoon) that Milwaukee’s George Mitchell probably had very little to do with the slick smear-job he claimed as his own in the Journal Sentinel this morning. It took very little time Googling to discover that the shadowy outfit that produced and bought the ad – All Children Matter (ACM) – is 527 shell game run out of Michigan and Virginia by Amway millionaire Dick DeVos and funded by DeVos and various heirs of WalMart founder Sam Walton. Although I assumed this morning that the sponsors of the ad were local and lead by Mitchell, it turns out Mitchell is just the local representative; a willing stooge of out-of-state interests trying to affect our election.
ACM has been poisoning elections in various states and now, here they are in Wisconsin, in a big way. Their dark tentacles were first made public in this election season when Mitchell fronted a complaint, based on ACM attack researchers, that exposed state-rep candidate Donovan Riley as a double-voter in 2000, the kind of oppo research only Amway/Walton money can buy.
It is interesting that Mitchell let the illusion be created that he or the usual local school-choice industry types in town were responsible for the ad rather than the mysterious DeVos project. It wasn’t his ad or his group at all. Regardless of how he may feel personally about Jim Doyle – and he sure seems to have some issues there – the money is being provided and the selection of the Wisconsin race as a target is being made by others, no doubt in collaboration with the RNC. In fronting for the ad, George Mitchell was allowing ACM to hide behind him as a local figure of some stature, earned or not. Not only was the ad a lie – so was he.
WATCHING ADS, CLOSING EYES
This week’s "Ad Watch" runs further back in the paper (page 5 of the Metro section as opposed to page 2), and you can guess why. The ad "watched" had to be pulled, at least by a Green Bay station, because it went out of bounds for even political ads in trying to smear Doyle and his chief of staff, Susan Goodwin. So, good news for Doyle – that a pro-Green ad was so bad it had to be pulled – means a push to the back of the back of the paper.
The Journal Sentinel also appears to have lost its skepticism about the independence of ads generated by groups other than the official campaigns. Last week’s article called the group that produced the anti-Green ad a "supposedly independent group". There is no such second-guessing about the independence of the group running the anti-Doyle ad, a pro-school choice group run by hyper-partisan George Mitchell, running an ad that has nothing to do with the school choice issue. While the Journal Sentinel always defers to Mitchell and school choice industry advocates as pure of heart and spirit, the ad they produced is a remarkable piece of over-reaching vitriol that has nothing to do with their supposed purpose and can only benefit one politician. Are they also not "supposedly" independent? Well, no. That kind of skepticism is reserved for only pro-Democratic groups.
Also missing in this week’s "Ad Watch" are the outside academic voices that last week declared last week’s ads a "good punch" or a "bad ad". Instead, we hear from Goodwin’s lawyers and Mitchell. Were the J-S to submit the ad to the same analysis they did last week, surely the Mitchell ad would have been declared, at least, overreaching by trying to connect the conviction of civil-servant Georgia Thompson with anyone in the Doyle inner circle. But, no. This might be positive for Doyle.
The Mitchell ad is only the first salvo of the Ugly Campaign the Republicans surely have planned for the next 30 days. While the official campaign will stay on (slightly) higher ground, the GOP will use their usual shell groups or create new ones to lob bombs with phony charges and actors posing as concerned citizens. In the meantime, the Journal Sentinel will sit on the sidelines, ready to praise the GOP messages that "pack a punch" as good politics, no matter how dishonest; and to diminish any pro-Doyle messages as defensive and "supposedly" independent.
Tuesday, October 03, 2006
PRESS RELEASES PRINTED AS NEWS
To the Editors:
The single news story about the governor’s race that appears in the Journal Sentinel this morning – both in terms of how it leads, what it reports and what it omits – is the perfect example of what is wrong and biased about the paper’s coverage of the race.
Here’s what happened yesterday, notwithstanding what the J-S reporters may have dug up when they weren’t in their office, revising Green press releases:
• Gov. Doyle was endorsed by WSEU, the largest state employee union. The union was notorious in the ‘90s for always endorsing Tommy Thompson over Democratic challengers and, like other state employee groups, had numerous problems with Doyle early in his administration.
• Mark Green, who has refused to follow the orders of the State Elections Board and a Dane County judge to return hundreds of thousands of dollars he illegally transferred out of his federal election accounts, rushed to his bank and donated $1,000 that he received from the slush fund of recently-disgraced former Congressman Mark Foley to charity. However, over a half-million of Foley’s money was contributed to the RNC and other general GOP groups, and Green has not disowned the use of those funds.
• Gov. Doyle appeared in Eau Claire and encouraged all schools in the state to improve their safety plans, in light of the spate of school gun violence, in Wisconsin and across the country. (Heard on WUWM this morning)
• Failed GOP Attorney General candidate and lame-duck Waukesha District Attorney Paul Bucher has launched an investigation into the crime of advocacy committed on behalf of Doyle by an attorney to the State Elections Board. No such investigation is anticipated regarding Republican lawyers going exactly the same thing. As Waukesha County DA, Bucher as no jurisdiction to investigate, but he will apparently do so on behalf of Mark Green, anyway.
• Mark Green issued a press release about his health care plans.
Guess what you lead with this morning. That’s right, as you did when Green issued a meaningless proposal on stem cell research on September 6, the mere issuance of a self-serving press release is enough to get Green some Doing Good Things press. That story was, outrageously, run on the front page, above-the-fold, like it was some kind of breaking news. Today’s story about Green’s rehash of traditional Republican solutions isn’t news either, but at least it ran on B-1.
In the article, various bullet-points of Green’s press release are presented, along with little snippets of independent facts, some of them inconvenient (“but he did not say what it would cost”, “this would cost $30 million”). Although the Doyle campaign ran out an entire press release on Green’s plan the same day, a Doyle spokesperson gets one line in the piece. No critical eye is cast or any follow-up to the lack of funding, etc. The Journal Sentinel continues to not let the facts get in the way of good Green spin.
Interestingly (and not surprisingly), last week, when Doyle actually had something substantive to say about the state losing $10 million in health care funding due to Congress’ failure to act (Green is still in Congress, is he not?), the paper buried it even deeper than usual, on page 3 of the business section.
The Green angle on the hottest story in the country right now – the first of several, I’m guessing – gets short shrift at the bottom of the article. As many Republican candidates in close races across the country have done, Green quickly dumped his Foley cash. Bucher’s antics do better, played up higher in the article. But he is not called to task for why he is spending county resources to investigate a state government issue (or non-issue, as the case may be). Just because the State Elections Board happened to meet in Waukesha County one day doesn’t give him the right to play politics with his responsibilities and power as a DA.
Either one of these articles should have played bigger than Green’s press release on health care. At least they were actually “news”.
But the biggest outrage is that the Journal Sentinel completely ignored the endorsement of Doyle by the state’s largest employee union. Sure, these endorsements can cut both ways. Heck, the J-S could have trotted out some Marquette political science professor to say how these endorsements are predictable, don’t mean much anymore, etc. You could have jammed in a list of some Green endorsements from the Milwaukee cops or the funeral industry or whatever. But the endorsement of the WSEU is news, it has always been news and it was news for every other paper in the state today.
But, in the alternate universe of the Journal Sentinel, good news for Doyle means no coverage. Good news for Green (if he ever gets any), will run on page one, above-the-fold, with a smiling picture of the Journal Sentinel Candidate for Governor.
Instead of glittering generalities, phony “everybody gets mad at us” posturing and inaccurate personal smears (George Stanley has yet to apologize for confusing me with my brother), I would really appreciate it if someone – anyone – at the Journal Sentinel would explain how this single story properly summarizes significant events in the race from yesterday. Pretend you are addressing a beginning J-School class and explain. I really am curious how you justify it.
Monday, October 02, 2006
EVERYONE COMPLAINS -- WE MUST BE RIGHT
In the column, Kaiser repeated the defense of the paper’s coverage that Managing Editor George Stanley floated with me in an e-mail last week. The coverage must be fair and balanced, the logic goes, because they get complaints from both sides. “We receive a similar volume of complaints from deeply committed Democrats and deeply committed Republicans, each side saying we are biased against their candidate or party,” Kaiser writes adding: “When we tell readers that we get complaints of bias from both sides, it usually surprises them.”
Well, before I’ll get surprised about it, let me first be skeptical. I’m sure they do get “complaints of bias from both sides” ; I’m not so sure about the volume. I mean, how could the Green campaign possibly complain about the gifts they are handed every day by the Journal Sentinel? It may be that various readers make general complaints about “liberal” media bias, a phony canard pumped up everyday by wing-nuts big and small. But I would indeed be surprised if anyone who supports Green could make the same kind of serious specific criticisms about content and placement that I raised in various e-mail last week.
Did Green have a problem with the Journal Sentinel leading with his (as it turns out) phony vow to appeal a judges ruling rather than with the fact that the judge confirmed that the supposedly partisan Elections Board got it right when they ordered him to return his illegal transfer from his federal accounts? Could Green really complain when the J-S followed the lead of wing-nut talk-radio by praising his false-on-its-face ad about the Elections Board vote, an ad that even the J-S complained misrepresented an editorial as a news story and even misquoted that? How could Green take issue Spivak & Bice’s cheery item about his fat-cat fundraising in Washington; an item that ended with Green honchos bragging that they were expecting “a hefty sum to be transferred here”?
Even if Green wanted to launch a complaint about the Journal Sentinel coverage just to mollify his red-meat base, what the hell would he find to complain about?
Today’s pro-Green coverage was one of omission. As Bill Christofferson points out today, a story out of Washington noted that an aide to Bush henchman Karl Rove, Susan Ralston, has been discovered with lots of ticket-stubs in her pocket from games and concerts, all courtesy of Jack Abramoff. If Spivak & Bice weren’t so busy looking under rocks on Farwell Avenue for hints of scandal at the Kenilworth building, maybe they could make the connection and turn their snide wise-guy routine on Green campaign manager Mark Graul, who used to be in the Abramoff comp-ticket-for-aides loop when Ralston worked for Abramoff and was handing out the freebies herself. But that might dry up a few sources for their anti-Doyle campaign, wouldn’t it?
“We strive to give our readers the most truthful, accurate, fair and helpful campaign coverage,” says Kaiser in his extremely self-serving column. They might or maybe Kaiser “strives” for such things, but, in its clear pro-Green bias, the Journal Sentinel has failed on every count. What the Journal Sentinel really needs is an ombudsman, someone to keep them honest. That way, these important issues of bias and outright campaigning would be dealt with more than spin.
Sunday, October 01, 2006
EVERYBODY IS A STAR
Article placement shows paper's bias
Wow. The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign has followed up on the judge's ruling that gubernatorial candidate Rep. Mark Green (R-Wis.) has to give back $467,844, as ordered by the state Elections Board, by filing a complaint with the Federal Election Commission that Green give up more than twice as much - almost $1.3 million! - because of his violation of federal law. This has got to be big news, right?
Not according to the Journal Sentinel. Once again, the paper buried a negative story about Green's campaign on Page 3B ("Fund transfer prompts complaint," Sept. 28). I suppose if Green had somehow appealed the complaint or at least vowed to fight, that would have been the lead on Page One.
"Federal clarification of Green move sought," the sub-headline said. Whoa. Easy, Journal Sentinel, you wouldn't want anyone to notice such a bold move. If it were Gov. Jim Doyle who was alleged to have violated federal law, just imagine the headline, not to mention the story placement.
The story did, however, bring back the voice of Mike McCabe, often quoted in anti-Doyle articles in the past but remarkably silent in the Journal Sentinel pages since the illegal Green money was exposed. This even though he brought the complaint to the state Elections Board in the first place.
The Journal Sentinel continues to disappoint in its biased election coverage.
Michael B. Plaisted
There was a lot more in the e-mail, but, on the basic point, it’s a fair edit-for-space of my ideas. My problem with the J-S has never been with the edit page -- well, not primarily, anyway. They seem to reach out for diverse views, especially with the community columnist effort (I applied and lost both times). On the other hand, there is no excuse for giving the talentless wing-nut Patrick McIlheran a column (I hope they are saving his seat at the copy desk)or running Michael Ramirez' silly right-wing cartoons.
Now, I guess, I’m supposed to leave them alone and give someone else a chance at their 200 words next week. Not a chance, especially since things are bound to heat up in the paper’s pro-Green campaigning, now just a month before the election.