Sunday, August 28, 2011

The road to dysfunction

By Bill Kraus

From polarization to dysfunction turns out to be a short trip. A short trip that everybody seems to be taking in Wisconsin.

Even the state Supreme Court, whose members are elected as non partisans, has developed an “aisle” that is as wide or wider than those in both houses of the intentionally partisan Legislature. Outside forces are more in evidence than ever in Supreme Court elections, and outside forces do not come in search of things like dispassion, fairness or openness. They come in search of favor. Are they getting what they come for? Can we predict the vote on politically tinted issues that come before this “fact and law driven body”? Does a chicken have lips?

A call is issued for new solutions to the troubles that assail the state government’s primary responsibility: educating its citizens. The organization that represents the teachers who are mainly responsible for delivering on that state obligation turns down their invitation to sit at the table with the lawmakers who will put up the money to do what those at the table decide to do. “We don’t see any reason to discuss and negotiate with people who have vowed to destroy our organization,” they say, not without justification. This begins to sound a lot more like Israel and Palestine than Wisconsin.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Cates and Watergate

By Bill Kraus

One of the lessons learned at the memorial service for Dick Cates is that there is a storytelling gene. Dick was a remarkable storyteller. All four of his sons and his daughter inherited the gene. The memorial service was graced by great stories by great storytellers about their great storyteller father.

The service, the eulogies, the day were about everything about the man and inevitably stirred memories about his and Wisconsin’s role in the Watergate story.

New Jersey Representative Peter Rodino had the job of assembling the team of investigators and prosecutors to examine what would come to be known as “Watergate.” He asked Wisconsin Representative Bob Kastenmeier, another member of the House Judiciary Committee, if he knew of a lawyer with trial experience who he would recommend. Bob did. He knew Dick Cates.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Review session

By Bill Kraus

The protest itself was inspiring, hopeful, and puzzling. Inspiring to see so many people so heavily engaged for whatever reason. One could hope that the era of 30-second messages and couch potatoes might be over.

It ended in a whimper not a bang when the recall elections which were the instrument chosen for a referendum on the governor, the Legislature and the radical agenda and steamroller process came up short.

There are those in the Democratic Party who think the fat lady hasn’t sung yet. They are trying to tell us that the purpose of the recalls was satisfied when two hopeless incumbents were ousted sooner rather than later and because the challengers to the four incumbents who survived actually won because they ran competitive but losing races in difficult districts. Really? Do I not hear the sound of spin doctors whistling past a graveyard.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Another kind of disclosure

By Bill Kraus

One of Lee Dreyfus’s favorite quotes was, “Never underestimate peoples’ intelligence or overestimate their information.”

This is an aphorism that is currently seriously in play. Thanks to widespread dysfunction in Washington everyone now knows that the feds are like a teenager with a cellphone and no money.

Several years ago, the people began to turn their backs on the credit card life. The shift from credit cards to debit cards was pretty dramatic, except in Washington. A lot of people wonder why they get it and their leaders don’t.

The public’s possible over-reaction to public debt spawned a lot of things including giving the momentary illusion that the tea party movement had more support than it does and that the voters like people who take a hard line and won’t budge. The second take on macho politics is still underway, but doesn’t appear to be as one dimensional.