Wednesday, October 30, 2013

All the news that's fit to buy


By Bill Kraus

On the top of my list of intractables ahead, even of restoring civility and mutual respect, is what Francis Fukuyama says is essential to self government:

“A universal communication system which takes messages to and from the leaders and informs almost everyone more or less simultaneously and equally.”

To reduce this to a nostalgic anecdote, what I would like to reincarnate is a world where the morning paper sets the agenda for those in power. This was not because the morning paper was omniscient or even half right half of the time. This was not even because the people in power read it. This was because everyone read it.

The morning paper has been eviscerated by the Internet. Not because the Internet is a better way to deliver what remains of the news gathered by a diminished group of reporters but because the Internet has proven to be a more efficient medium for advertisers than the morning paper could ever hope to be.

Thursday, October 24, 2013



By Bill Kraus

The day that it was announced that Governor Scott Walker’s book Unintimidated: A Governor's Story and a Nation's Challenge was about to be available at your local book store (if any) or online, a prescient column by Todd Robert Murphy appeared in the Waukesha Freeman.

The column articulated what many of us have suspected for some time.

It is not that we suspect the governor has an eye on the White House and plans to contend in 2016. This is pretty much certain.

What we suspect is that, because of this overriding ambition, he will not run for re-election as governor in 2014.

There are two reasons for this course of action.

The road to the White House does not run through Wisconsin. Too many potholes.

Friday, October 18, 2013

How a bill becomes a loss


By Bill Kraus

What you learned in your civics course back when civics courses were offered in our public schools was how a bill became a law.

A bill was introduced.

If it merited further attention, the bill was assigned to a legislative committee.

The committee held public hearings on the bill and passed it on to the Legislature as whole.

The Legislature debated the bill, and if it got a majority of votes, sent it on to the governor for approval or veto.

If approved or if a veto was overridden by the Legislature, the bill became law.

This process is no longer followed on bills which are controversial or partisanized.

Let’s take a couple of bills that fall into one of these categories.

The bills to reform the redistricting system have been sent to the appropriate (or less appropriate in one case) committees. The chairs of those committees have on their own initiatives or under orders announced there will be no hearings.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

John Dean


By Bill Kraus

He was booked for the UW Law School's annual Robert Kastenmeier lecture series which honors the former congressman and is usually held in a large classroom in the law school building. The site was moved to a very large hall in another building on campus to accommodate the crowd.

Dean is now 75 years old and what remains of his hair is white. He is a forceful and amusing speaker.

His talk, "Crossing the Line: Watergate, The Criminal Law and Ethics," was mostly about a forthcoming book and was particularly appropriate for an audience larded with lawyers, law students, and judges.

His publisher urged him to do this book to take advantage of the release of the White House tapes and papers. Much of this material--1,000 Nixon conversations, and 150,000 uncatalogued documents--was new to him. As he said, “I may have been in the room for a meeting, but what I hadn’t been privy to till now was what others talked about before and after the meeting.”

Interesting tidbits included the clip from the Senate hearing where freshman Senator Fred Thompson, with his full, abundant head of hair asked the question that elicited Dean’s response about the cancer growing on the presidency with which he is most frequently identified.