January 26, 2008

Candidates raise enormous sums -- but little from here (yet)

Wisconsin has kept its pursestrings tightly closed so far, as the presidential campaign has waged across the rest of the country.

All that, presumably, is about to change. The state's Feb. 19 primary is less than three weeks away; perhaps the financial floodgates will open then, as both parties have reduced their fields of candidates to manageable (although less-than-inspiring) levels.

So far, according to Federal campaign reports on the 2008 election cycle, Wisconsin has contributed just $4,648,288 to all campaigns and PACs, with $1,578,449 (34%) going to Democratic candidates and $1,963,019 (42%) going to Republicans.

That's a pittance compared to what the state contributed during the two most recent presidential election cycles: In 2000, state residents donated $11,046,959 to the election. In 2004, the amount more than doubled, with Wisconsinites ponying up $23,465,549. But it's early yet.

The good news is that with the race being waged elsewhere, few Wisconsin residents wasted much money on some of the campaigns that went nowhere ... the roster of barely-remembered debate participants known chiefly for their whining about being ignored at the far end of a string of podiums, candidates most notable for their interesting wives. (Yes, I mean you, Fred Thompson.) In all, there were 18 presidential candidates; nine have dropped out.

According to the New York Times this week, the top six candidates raised more than $400 million dollars -- and already have spent more than 80 per cent of it.

But here in Racine -- again, probably due to our disinterest in those early primaries -- not much money was raised, and very little went to Biden, Brownback, Dodd, Gravel, Hunter, Kucinich, Richardson, Tancredo or Thompson -- who, between them, raised more than $66 million on their Quixote-like ego-fueled quests.

That's peanuts compared to the candidates still in the race, of course. On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton has raised $91 million; Barack Obama, $80 million; and John Edwards, $30 million.

On the Republican side, Mitt Romney has raised $63 million; Rudy Giuliani, $47 million; John McCain, $32 million; Ron Paul, $8 million; Mike Huckabee, $2 million; and Alan Keyes found $22,768 behind a sofa cushion. Details of who has what left can be found HERE.

But back to Wisconsin donors: Just how much, and to whom, has Racine's money gone to? Glad you asked.

So far, in the 2008 election cycle (which includes all of 2007; reports were due to be filed by Jan. 15 but some of the latest figures we could find appear unchanged from the report we wrote in October), Racinians have contributed just $117,776, with $14,750 going to Democrats, $60,835 to Republicans and the rest to Political Action Committees.

The largest single recipient was the SC Johnson PAC, which received $26,275 from 16 donors (mostly employees), including $15,000 from Sam's widow, Gene, and their son, Curtis.

The next largest chunk of money, $25,514, went to U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, who may need it (wink, wink) as at least two Democratic women are seeking the nomination to oppose him this fall. As of Sept. 30, Ryan had $1,560,998 in his campaign chest. His opponent in 2006, Dr. Jeffrey Thomas, raised $0, determined not to be beholden to anyone; Thomas' latest filing online shows debts of $363,968.

Sen. Russ Feingold collected $3,500, with $2,500 coming from Karen Johnson Boyd and her husband, Bill, former director of the Johnson Foundation.

Racinians sent a lot of money to Republican national and state campaign committees: $4,650 and $3,400 respectively.

Presidential candidates haven't gotten into Racine wallets to any great degree.

Obama is in the lead, having reported receiving $7,500 from here so far (with the lion's share -- $3,800 -- coming from Jeff Neubauer, former state rep. and party chairman, and his wife, Lisa, a newly appointed appeals court judge).

Hillary received a total of $1,250.

On the Republican side, Mitt Romney received $6,100 from Racine, with $4,200 of that coming from Helen Johnson Leipold and her hockey-team selling-and-buying husband Craig.

Ron Paul netted $4,600, from Fred and Sandra Young.

Realisitically, the primary season may all be over before Wisconsin's 40 convention delegates are chosen on Feb. 19. Between now and then, the following states will hold primaries or caucuses: South Carolina today, with 24 delegates; Florida on Tuesday, with 57; Maine's caucuses are Feb. 1, with 21 delegates at stake.

Then comes Super Tuesday, Feb. 5, with the following 20 states allocating 1,081 convention votes: Alabama, 48; Alaska, 29; Arizona, 53; Arkansas, 34; California, 173; Colorado; 46; Connecticut; 30; Delaware, 18; Georgia, 72; Illinois, 70; Massachusetts, 43; Minnesota, 41; Missouri, 58; Montana, 25; New Jersey, 52; New York, 101; North Dakota, 26; Oklahoma, 41; Tennessee, 55; Utah, 36; West Virginia, 30.

And still, it's not our turn!

Wisconsin voters must wait for Kansas, 39; Louisiana, 47; Washington, 40; District of Columbia, 19; Maryland, 37; Virginia, 33; and Guam, 9 before we get our share of automated phone calls and a say as to the major parties' nominees.

It could be worse: South Dakota voters don't weigh in until June 3.

YWCA homeless no more; new office opening soon

The YWCA, homeless since Dec. 9 when financial problems caused it to close its distinctive College Avenue building (and let go its director, Debbi Embry), has a new lease on life.

In early February, the Y will move into newly-rented space at 1220 Villa St., opening what it is calling its Empowering Women's Center. The office, around the corner from St. Catherine's High School, will be staffed by three employees.

The YWCA's Board of Directors is in the process of hiring a new coordinator -- expected Monday -- for programs which include Dress for Success and Women Out of Poverty, both of which will be run from the new Empowering Women's Center. Other programs, such as the Before and After School fee-based programs for kids were, and will continue to be based at a dozen school sites; programs at the Riverbend Nature Center will continue there.

The Y's IDA (Individual Development Accounts) / Women Out of Poverty program involves intensive training and goal-setting for women participants. They sign a contract with the Y, and depending upon their goals, receive one-on-one training and counseling to facilitate home-buying, education or entrepreneurship. The participants have to save money themselves -- $2,000 is the usual goal -- and they have up to 24 months to do so (the average is 18 months).

When they complete the training, counseling and monitoring, the Y provides a 2-1 match, growing their $2,000 to $6,000, enough for a home downpayment or to start a small business or pay college tuition. The YWCA works with WWBIC (Wisconsin's Women's Business Initiative Corporation) and local partners to provide the funds.

At present, 15 women are enrolled in the program. National Public Radio's Morning Edition had an informative report on IDA's in 2004; listen HERE.

As for what's going to happen to the YWCA's former home on College Avenue -- no new news yet, but we've heard nothing to dispute our earlier story predicting a pending sale of the building to a local osteopath. Stay tuned.

And a reader passes along the news that Embry has been hired as fundraiser for Milwaukee Area Technical College (MATC).

January 25, 2008

Dentists will Give Kids a Smile on Feb. 1

Some 318 Wisconsin dentists, with help from 760 dental hygienists and assistants, dental and hygiene students and their instructors and community volunteers, will donate an estimated $763,350 in oral health care and education to 5,433 of the state’s low-income children Friday, Feb. 1. and during upcoming weeks in recognition of the sixth annual Give Kids A Smile national children’s dental access day.

What that means in terms that matter to us is this: Four Racine County Dental Society dentists and volunteer personnel will again partner with the Health Care Network of Racine to provide care to 50 needy youngsters.

In Kenosha, local dentists and Gateway Technical College dental assisting students will examine 100 Boys & Girls Club members and instruct them in proper oral hygiene and healthy lifestyle practices. Parent education and treatment referrals will also be provided.

Midwest Dental's office in Union Grove will provide a variety of dental services to needy children.

Wisconsin Give Kids a Smile events have provided some $2.1 million in donated dental care to 12,500 low-income children since the program was introduced in 2003.

RCPJ re-elects officers for 2008

The Racine Coalition for Peace and Justice continues its work to strike the moral conscience of the community, and looks to be going strong in the new year.

The nonprofit elected its officers for 2008 at its January meeting and reiterated its purpose as an organization. The officers for this year include (all were incumbents):

Chair - Dr. Ken Yorgan
Vice Chair - Sister Alice Rademacher
Secretary - Sonali Knotek
Treasurer - Richard Kinch

The Coalition is an initiative to promote citizen understanding, raise public awareness, and encourage participation in the democratic process for the purpose of achieving peace and just relations among peoples and nations and protecting civil liberties.

The Coalition has focused its efforts on the US war against Iraq, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and threats to civil liberties since September 11. It sponsors speakers, organizes demonstrations, and distributes a variety of informational materials, especially by means of the Internet. In its role as clearinghouse, it encourages alternative voices that may be opposed to official US government policy and the relatively narrow range of opinion that dominates the national media.

RCPJ chair Ken Yorgan describes the need for such an organization:

"The American promise was about respect for the rights of others, justice for all people, and a strong democracy. We have been working toward completion of that promise for 230 years yet it remains an elusive dream for too many. We are now being told that the dawn of fulfillment has receded even further into the darkness of 'global terror,' and we must content ourselves with less liberty, increasing injustice and a degraded democracy.

"Sadly, it is our President and Vice President who not only deliver this message, but seem to work diligently to bring it to pass. The unprecedented suspension of 'Habeus Corpus,' the very foundation of our republic, is the most egregious assault on our Constitution since it first defined our aspirations as a people. Coupled with credible and multiple reports of spying on American citizens, secret prisons and torture, we are confronted with the defining crisis of this generation. Every past generation has stood up, when called upon, to preserve and advance our American promise.
"We are a 'nation of laws.' and among those laws are the provisions for a just and peaceful removal of officials who disrespect and degrade our Constitution. The Racine Coalition for Peace and Justice, along with millions of other Americans, believes that there is more than sufficient evidence to warrant Congressional hearings into the activities of President George W. Bush and Vice President Richard B. Cheney with the expectation that impeachment and removal from office will be justified.

"We believe that this problem must be addressed, not only to remove an intractable impediment to the advancement of peace and justice, but to repair the damage that has been done to our democratic infrastructure and warn future political opportunists that their ambitions will not go unchallenged.

"We extend an open invitation to anyone who feels a need to be part of a community of like-minded citizens who choose to be active participants in this great democratic endeavor we call The United States of America, which has created so much hope for people worldwide. If you feel a need to take an active role in the process of bringing the American dream to fulfillment, we would welcome and be grateful to have you join with us. If you are already active in this process, we would be encouraged to know of your efforts and offer our encouragement to you in return. More information can be found on our website at http://www.racinepeace.org."

The group meets the first and third Tuesday of each month, 7 PM, at the César Chávez Community Center, 2221 Douglas Ave., Racine. Suggested membership dues are 30 dollars a year (or what one can pay). RCPJ is affiliated with the Wisconsin Network for Peace and Justice, Peace Action Wisconsin, and United for Peace and Justice.

Recent presentations sponsored by RCPJ included David Liners on the "war on drugs," Jonathan Olsen on "The Nature of Fascism," Bonnie and Bob Block on Iran, Chuck Baynton on nuclear disarmament, Arthur Heitzer on Cuba-US relations, and Harriet Lavin on the humanitarian crisis in Darfur.

RCPJ sponsored units in Racine's 4th of July and Holiday parades and helped develop the peace curriculum project known as Peace Learning Circles, now housed at UW-Parkside.

RCPJ's frequent public demonstrations and vigils are calls for peace, especially in Iraq. These are usually held at Monument Square, the corner of Highways 20 and 31, or in front of Congressman Paul Ryan's Racine office. The Coalition organized the successful advisory referendum calling for the immediate return of our troops from Iraq. This ballot measure was approved by City of Racine voters in November 2006.

RCPJ events are telecast on local public-access cable television, CAR 25. The Coalition regularly compiles and distributes by e-mail a list of local peace activities, its "peace calendar." Interested individuals are welcome to be included in RCPJ's e-mail list. RCPJ's new Web site can be found at www.RacinePeace.org.

Scheduled RCPJ events for early 2007 include the following:

a.. Monthly "Stand for Peace." Peace rallies at SE corner of Highways 20 and 31, 10:00 am to 11:00 am, Saturdays 26 January, 16 February, 15 March, and 19 April.

a.. Thursday 24 January. "Is Peace Possible? Reflections on Human Nature and Evolution," 7:00 pm, Michigan Room of the Racine Building, Gateway Technical College, -- presentation by Joseph Pearson and Wayne Johnson, UW - Parkside..

a.. Monday 4 February. "The War on Terror: Who Wins? Who Loses?", presentation by Simon Harak, SJ, Huron Room of the Racine Building, Gateway Technical College.

a.. Thursday 6 March. "Women in Islam," presentation by Inshirah Farhoud, 7:00 pm, at a place to be announced.

a.. April. Othman Atta, "Religious Extemism: Muslim and Christian," 7:00 pm, at a place to be announced.

a.. May. Louise Cainkar, "US Arabs since 9/11." 7:00 pm, at a place to be announced.

For further Information contact Richard Kinch at: dkinch@rootcom.net or 262/638-0204.

NAACP calls for external investigation of alleged brutality

The Racine branch of the NAACP called for an external investigation into the arrest that left a suspect with stitches and a black eye.

Balil Gilleylen, 30, was pulled over for a missing license plate on Jan. 22 in the 1200 block of Summit Avenue. He was then spotted with bags used to hold drugs and repeatedly reached into the backseat for something, according to police.

Three officers pulled Gilleylen out of the car. Gilleylen then allegedly tried to disarm an officer. Two officers responded by striking Gilleylen and tasing him. Gilleylen was injured in the arrest, receiving 12 stitches around his right eye.

The case came to light after witnesses called The Journal Times, which printed a front-page story alleging police brutality. Police responded by launching an internal investigation. The case hinges on video cameras embedded in squad cars at the scene. Police have yet to make a statement on what the cameras show.

During a press conference Friday, the NAACP commended eye-witness reports of the alleged wrong-doing. "This is what we as citizens are supposed to do, be it right, wrong or indifferent," said Beverly Hicks, president of the organization.

She added that the NAACP is concerned about additional reports of police misconduct it's heard, and that it plans to work with leaders in the community to address these concerns.

Several community leaders and activists attended the conference. Alderman and County Supervisor QA Shakoor II, former Alderman Keith Fair, Gloria Rodgers and Rayond Hamilton were among those speaking out against the alleged brutality.

Vanessa Gilleylen, Bilal's mother, also attended. She had yet to see her son in jail, where he's being held on charges of cocaine possession and attempt to disarm an officer. She said she didn't understand how a simple traffic stop resulted in such serious crimes.

"He could get 20 years for that?" she said about the prison time Bilal is facing if convicted on all charges.

She believes the police had a role in how the incident unfolded, and she plans to file complaints to make sure the arrest itself is investigated.

Kohl sets hearing on older voter issues

Sen. Herb Kohl, D-WI, will hold a hearing on Jan. 31 for older voters, with a specific focus on states participating in the upcoming Super Tuesday primaries. Kohl is chairman of the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging.

The committee will explore issues of voter accessibility and spotlight concerns that the Voter ID law before the Supreme Court could disproportionately disenfranchise seniors. Older voters are politically-active, particularly during primary elections. During last week’s Nevada primary, 45 percent of the Republican vote and 36 percent of the Democratic vote was comprised of those 60 or older.

The hearing will include discussion of issues surrounding senior transportation and mobility, ballot design, and poll site accessibility for the disabled; an overview of which Super Tuesday states have guidelines to facilitate voting in long-term care settings, which do not, and the resulting implications; and how the Voter ID law unduly burdens seniors and why it should be overturned.

The hearing starts at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday, Jan. 31, in the Hart Senate Office Building in Washington. A webcast of the hearing will be available HERE.

January 24, 2008

Ryan: 'Feel-good hit' or 'budgetary hangover'?

UPDATE: 1/29/08 House passes stimulus package, 385-35; Ryan votes YES. Washington Post story HERE.

As House leaders reached agreement with President Bush on an economic stimulus package this afternoon ...
House leaders and the White House on Thursday announced a tentative agreement on an economic stimulus package of roughly $150 billion that would pay stipends of $300 to $1,200 per family, and more for families with children, plus provide tax incentives for businesses to encourage spending. (New York Times)
...we phoned U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-WI, 1st District, (even before asking she-who-rules-this-house what we were going to spend our putative windfall on: rent, food or heat) to get Ryan's reaction, to try to gauge whether Wisconsin's fiscal conservative might be voting yea or nay.

In just a few minutes, his staff sent us this statement:

“Timeliness is a key factor in the effectiveness of our response, so I am pleased to hear a bi-partisan deal has been reached. I look forward to reading the specifics of the proposal.

“Providing tax incentives should spur businesses to invest and create jobs – and both are essential for growth. Giving taxpayers some of their money back should also help provide a cushion for families.

“As we consider the specifics of this proposal, there are several key principles I believe we need to keep in mind:

“First, do no harm. In our rush to “help,” we’ve got to ensure we don’t talk ourselves into a quick, feel-good hit today that will leave us with a bigger budgetary hangover tomorrow.

“Second, get the fundamentals right. That means keeping tax rates low, and spending under control in both the short and long term. That is the best, proven recipe for real, long-term growth.

“Third, understand that we simply cannot spend our way to prosperity. Congress cannot use the excuse of “fiscal stimulus” to push through a wish list of new spending – further worsening our budget outlook, and our nation’s economic future.

“In short, I believe that in addressing current economic concerns, we’ve got to keep our focus on good economic policy that works to promote growth – both today, and in the future.”

OK, we're still trying to guess whether Ryan will vote for it or not! Even as we ponder -- assuming the check arrives by June -- whether we'll still give a damn.

The New York Times' story is HERE.

News of interest only to politics wonks

A new Press Secretary will rule the communications channels in Congressman Paul Ryan's office, starting in February.

Kate Matus, Ryan's able flack for the past seven years, left her Rolodex behind Friday for the best of reasons: She's having a baby. Congratulations are in order!

Her replacement has been hired: a man from my home state with Capitol Hill experience who is working elsewhere and -- judging by the impassioned plea that I withhold his name for another week or so -- may not yet have told his present employer he's leaving. So, OK, I can keep a minor secret (and you never heard of him anyway.)

Group raps Vos, says 'reproductive rights are not safe'

"Women's reproductive rights are not safe in Racine," according to the Women's Progressive Network of Racine County.

The group issued a statement today, in response to last week's mailing to Racine of 44,000 plastic fetuses by the Racine Chapter of Wisconsin Right to Life.

"In a perfect world, every pregnancy would be celebrated and each infant would be welcomed healthy and hearty into a community dedicated to the unlimited potential of every individual," the organization declared. "It is a world worth having, but one we are unlikely to achieve with the current impasse of opinion on women’s reproductive rights and increasingly limited access to health care and family planning options in Racine."

The group singled out Rep. Robin Vos, R-63rd Assembly District, criticizing his efforts on a number of issues relating to reproductive issues.

The rest of their statement after the break.

Thirty-four years after the Roe v. Wade ruling; there remain many salient reminders that the battle to protect women's health and safety is not over. Recently, State Rep. Robin Vos argued against and sought to amend the Compassionate Care for Rape Victims Bill, seeking to deny rape victim’s access to emergency contraception. This summer, when Sen. John Lehman, D-Racine, asked for special funding to battle Racine’s infant mortality problem, the highest in the state of Wisconsin, Rep. Vos initially argued against it because “no one told him it was a priority.”

In addition to Compassionate Care for Rape Victims (SB166), Mr. Vos voted to dismantle the Healthy Women Program (SB552), voted to allow health care providers to withhold information and services to women even when their lives depended on it (AB207), voted to allow concealed and lethal weapons into health care facilities (SB403), and he voted to ban prescribing, dispensing and advertising birth control on UW campuses (AB343).

At the county level, as of Dec. 31, the Racine County Human Services Department discontinued Brighter Futures funding for all health departments in Racine County. This includes the City of Racine Health Department's Teen Parenting Program, despite the extremely high number of teen births in the city. Brighter Futures was a bi-partisan initiative begun by Governor Thompson to reduce teen pregnancy and other risky youth behaviors in Wisconsin. This program worked to help teenagers make responsible choices and prevent pregnancy through abstinence or birth control and to provide case management services for teenage parents to gain parenting skills and finish high school. These fragile families are on the frontline of the battle to reduce our infant mortality as a community.

If we are to have a meaningful discussion about the health and welfare of women, we must first start with the basics: all people, regardless of gender or sexual orientation, have rights that need to be respected. We deserve leadership that recognizes these rights and works to ensure the wellbeing of all people. While thoughtful people can disagree, we reject the attempts of special interest groups to reduce a complex social discussion down to public stunts. We urge opponents and supporters alike to work together this year to champion a prevention-first health care agenda that reduces unintended pregnancy and the need for abortion and helps build strong, healthy families.

What is the Women's Progressive Network of Racine County? We didn't know, so we asked their spokesperson, who sent us this information:
Initiated in the fall of 2007, the Women’s Progressive Network of Racine County is the result of an ongoing dialog between progressive and politically active local women who ultimately decided to combine resources, experience and information to create a hybrid organization which could be both agile and influential.

With no formal membership or association, the Women’s Progressive Network of Racine County facilitates a dialog with over 100 local women representing a variety of progressive organizations and agendas. The WPN serves to support women and educate the community on issues pertaining to:

Access to health care and reproductive freedom
Educational equity and opportunity
Human rights and social justice
Environmental safety and conservation

The Women’s Progressive Network of Racine County maintains a public website and moderates a private email community and blog.

The Women’s Progressive Network encompasses business and civic leaders in the community who work together to coordinate resources and information, advocate for political accountability and positive societal change that directly benefit the lives of women and their families in Racine County.

The organization's website is HERE.

Membership is by referral and only open to women.

January 23, 2008

Ryan's vote supports Bush's SCHIP veto

And speaking of saving federal money, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-WI, 1st District, helped his party save $35 billion today -- by voting against the override of President Bush's veto of the expansion of the State Children's Health Care Program.

The expansion would have provided coverage to an additional 3.8 million children. A statement by the Wisconsin Democratic Party noted that there are nearly 100,000 uninsured children in Wisconsin.

The override effort fell 15 votes short of the necessary two-thirds majority, passing 260-152. Ryan and Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Menomonee Falls, were the only two Wisconsin Congressmen to voted against the override; while all five Democrats and Rep. Tom Petri, R-Fond du Lac, voted in favor.

Petri said: "SCHIP funds an essential portion of Wisconsin's BadgerCare program for low-income residents. Despite the successful veto, the current BadgerCare program is continuing under a stop-gap extension until March 31, 2009. A lot of hard work has gone into the issue, compromises have been made, and I think the President should have signed the bill. We will have to continue efforts to find the right formula for consensus."

If Ryan's vote is a surprise to you, then you haven't been paying attention. Earlier story HERE.

Ryan cautions against 'feel-good' tax rebate

With the economy on the brink and incumbents in Congress scrambling to fix things before the fall elections, Rep. Paul Ryan is emerging as a voice of reason.

Ryan, the ranking Republican on the House Budget Committee, is openly skeptical of plans for a tax rebate designed to stimulate the economy.

Here's how Reuters reports it:
Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the senior Republican on the House Budget Committee, renewed his call for maintaining low tax rates, keeping government spending under control and addressing long-term budget problems, such as reforming costly retirement and health care programs for the poor and elderly.

As for the economic stimulus legislation moving rapidly through Congress, Ryan said, "I am concerned that, in our rush to 'help,' we talk ourselves into a quick, feel-good hit today that will leave us with a bigger budgetary hangover tomorrow."

And the Associated Press:
"I am concerned that, in our rush to help, we will talk ourselves into a quick, feel-good hit today that will leave us with a bigger budgetary hangover tomorrow," said Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, top Republican on the Budget panel. "We simply cannot spend our way to prosperity ... (and) use the excuse of fiscal stimulus to push through a wish list of new spending, further worsening our budget outlook and our nation's economic future."

Whether or not Ryan's party will listen is another question. The party is meeting tomorrow to talk strategy, which may include a $150 billion tax rebate over Ryan's concerns.


The question mark in the headline really softens things...

Sen. Kohl's priorities for 2008 Congress

As the U.S. Senate reconvened for the second session of the 110th Congress this week, Sen. Herb Kohl, D-WI, discussed his national and Wisconsin-specific legislative priorities. Kohl is a member of the Senate Appropriations and Judiciary committees. He is also chairman of the Senate Special Committee on Aging.

“With the presidential election season in full swing, a fierce partisan air in Washington and a divided executive and legislative branch, it will take more determination than ever to reach across the aisle to get things done for the American people,” Kohl said. “The best ideas aren’t the exclusive property of one party or the other, but a result of many minds working with our country’s best interest at heart. I look forward to a busy and productive session in the Senate.”

Kohl’s priorities for the upcoming session are listed after the break:

Strengthening the economy:

The President is expected to detail his economic stimulus proposal in the State of the Union address next week, and other possible proposals concerning what should be included in the package will be debated in Congress in the coming weeks. Kohl believes that the priority should be getting tax rebate money into the hands of middle-income working families as quickly as possible. Kohl is also reviewing proposals to extend unemployment benefits and food stamps, implement tax incentives for small businesses to encourage investment, and provide funding for states for increased Medicaid costs and the housing crisis. Kohl and a group of bipartisan Senators have requested additional funding for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program as part of the stimulus package.

Addressing the mortgage crisis:

The rise in foreclosures continues to affect communities and the economy, and new foreclosure rescue scams have emerged. Congress will likely consider legislation that would improve lending standards and protect future homeowners from receiving predatory loans. Kohl is considering proposals that would allow bankruptcy judges to restructure mortgage loans for those who have filed for bankruptcy, encourage lenders to work with troubled borrowers and counseling organizations to create affordable and sustainable loan solutions, and place a temporary moratorium on foreclosures.

Ending the war in Iraq:

· Kohl has voted repeatedly to withdraw troops from Iraq in a responsible manner and shift the burden of security to the Iraqi people. After five years of occupation and over $800 billion, the military has been stretched to the breaking point. Kohl believes we need to withdraw U.S. combat troops from Iraq and refocus on destroying Al Qaeda and bringing Osama bin Laden to justice.

Reining in the costs of health care:

Kohl is the author of legislation to end the collusive arrangements between brand name and generic drug companies that keep lower priced drugs off the market.

· Kohl is also the sponsor of legislation to bring full disclosure to the practice of pharmaceutical, medical device and biologics manufacturers providing payments and gifts to doctors. It is estimated that drug companies spend $19 billion annually to lobby physicians. Recent studies show that the more doctors interact with drug marketers, even through receiving small gifts and modest meals, the more likely doctors are to prescribe the expensive new drug that are being marketed to them when a more affordable generic would do. Consumers lose out with unnecessarily high drug costs while drug manufacturers and doctors may benefit.

· Continue oversight of Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D plans to ensure that the healthcare needs of participants—not the financial interests of insurance companies—are the priority.

Defending Wisconsin’s interests in the Farm Bill negotiations:

Extend and improve the MILC program

Allow interstate commerce in state-inspected meat and poultry products
Restore the Wetland Reserve Program so more wetlands and wildlife habitats in Wisconsin will be protected

Continuing to provide federal funding, through the Appropriations Committee, to strengthen:

Food safety and import inspections

Nutrition programs that help young people, older Americans and those in need

Housing programs to address the housing needs of low-income families
Safe and efficient transportation networks

Protecting the Great Lakes:

With reports of water levels decreasing and the continual threat of invasive species, ensuring the sustainability of the Great Lakes is a priority in 2008. Kohl is a cosponsor of the Clean Water Restoration Act, to restore the original protections of the nation’s rivers, streams, and wetlands. Over the years, there have been attempts - some successful - to chip away at the original protections of the Clean Water Act that Congress passed in 1972. Passage of this bill will be a priority in 2008.

Strengthening education:

Congress is slated to reauthorize the “No Child Left Behind Act of 2001” (NCLB), to provide reform of the nation’s public schools and opportunity for students to succeed. One of the key components to the success of NCLB is making sure funding is sufficient to meet the law’s goals. Kohl, as a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee – and its subcommittee with jurisdiction over the U.S. Department of Education -- will continue to support full funding for NCLB programs and investments.

Bolstering crime prevention and juvenile delinquency prevention programs:

The Senate will debate the reauthorization of the Juvenile Justice Bill this year. Kohl, a long-time proponent of crime prevention and anti-gang programs, will work to increase funding for state and local law enforcement officials and address the problem of juvenile offenders.

Increasing consumer protection:

End the collusive arrangements between brand name and generic drug companies that keep lower priced drugs off the market

Help “captive shippers” like many small businesses and farmers by eliminating the railroads’ antitrust exemption

End the pernicious practice of secret court settlements when public health and safety is affected

Preserve discount price stores in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision in Leegin

Protect retirement security by cracking down on so-called “senior financial advisors” who prey on the retirement savings of older Americans, and by requiring the simple and clear disclosure of investment fees to the more than 50 million Americans with 401(k) plans.

Preserving manufacturing jobs:

Kohl is the Senate’s main proponent for the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) program, a nationwide network of centers that helps small- and medium-sized manufacturers compete by producing advanced products, using emerging technology, and streamlined processes. Kohl increased the authorization level for MEP by $19 million, including $122 million for MEP in FY2009.

Improving long-term care in America:

· Push for a nationwide system of comprehensive background checks for all long-term care workers in order to keep those with a record of abuse or a criminal history from working close to vulnerable seniors in nursing homes.

· Allow consumers timely access to accurate information on nursing homes, including the results of government inspections, the number of staff employed at a home, and information about the home’s ownership.

· Strengthen the government’s system of enforcing nursing home quality standards and ensure that regulators are able to intervene quickly in order to protect the safety of residents.

JT alleges police brutality

Police Statement: Here is the official police statement on the arrest:
On January 22, 2008 at approximately 8:20 p.m., a Racine Police Officer in a marked patrol car initiated a traffic stop of a vehicle near the 1200 block of Summit for no front license plate and well as obstructed vision of the driver. The suspect vehicle pulled over momentarily, and then continued on down the road for another 100 feet before stopping. The officer made contact with the operator of the vehicle and requested a driver's license. The operator (Bilal M. Gilleylen) pulled out his wallet and a clear plastic baggie from his rear pants pocket. Gilleylen behavior became increasing suspicious and the Officer asked Gilleylen to exit the vehicle.

Gilleylen started to exit the vehicle and then he made a quick movement to get back into the vehicle. The officer believed from his training and experience that Gilleylen may be reaching for a weapon. The Officer then drew his service weapon and ordered Gilleylen to place his hands on the steering wheel. Gilleylen did place his hands back on the steering wheel and the Officer holstered his weapon. Gilleylen was again directed to exit the vehicle.

Gilleylen again began to exit the vehicle but made another strong movement towards the center of the bench seat with his right hand. The officer and another back up officer then grabbed Gilleylen and attempted to pull him from the vehicle. Gilleylen continually struggled to remain in the vehicle and reach into the center of the bucket seat area.

The officers were successful in pulling Gilleylen out of the vehicle. Gilleylen continued to fight with the officers. During the fight, Gilleylen made an attempt to grab at the officer's gun. During this ongoing fight, officers used several physical arrest techniques and a taser to subdue the uncontrollable Gilleylen.

Officers located 21 individually packaged "rocks" of cocaine at the scene. Gilleylen was taken to the hospital to receive treatment for injuries to his face. Gilleylen was then taken to the Racine County Jail on charges of Possession of Cocaine with intent to Deliver, Attempting to Disarm a Police Officer, Obstructing an Officer, a Probation Hold, and several traffic citations.

An internal investigation is being conducted on this incident to ensure that proper police tactics were applied.

Question: All city police cars have a built-in video camera that are activated when the emergency lights go on. Is there video tape of the arrest? Will the department release the tape?

The JT is all over this story. At least three reporters and a photographer are working on the alleged assault, and we're certain to have multiple pictures from a 1:30 p.m. court hearing today.

Still no word from the police department on the incident. We talked to Todd Hoover, the head of the police union, but he wasn't working yesterday and couldn't comment on the incident. We have yet to hear from higher-ups at RPD, who are likely working to control fallout from the JT's reporting.

It's a tough call on the story. The JT obviously ran with the witness reports early, and it's border-line irresponsible to print such a sensational story without police comment. But if the department is unwilling to make a statement - as they often are - then there's little media can do but run the story and flush out the truth.

What's interesting is how little attention the newspaper gives to claims against the police department - except when they fall into their laps.

Original post:

The Racine Police Department has yet to respond to today's front-page JT story alleging police brutality.

The newspaper alleges in a shocking 1A story that police officers stopped a car in the 1200 block of Summit Avenue, pulled the suspect out of the car and tased, punched and kicked him. The paper also says the officers used pepper spray and batons to subdue the suspect.

The story is based on witnesses who called the newspaper after 9 p.m. Police supervisors did not comment on the incident Tuesday night.

RacinePost called police this morning, but we've yet to hear a response. A shift commander referred comment to the public information officer, who is in a management meeting this morning.


Top 500 franchies for 2008

Entrepreneur.com put out a list of the top 500 franchises for 2008. Here's the list. Here are some that looked interesting (startup investment in parenthesis):

Bark Busters Home Dog Training ($71.1K-96.4K)

1-800-Got-Junk? - full-service garbage removal -($90K-140K+)

The Little Gym
- Children's development/fitness program ($193.5K-274.5K)

Plato's Closet
- New/used clothing for teens & young adults ($142.2K-307.1K)

High Touch-High Tech
- Science activities for schools/children's parties ($42K-46K)

I9 Sports
- Amateur sports leagues, tournaments & events ($39.5K-64.9K)

Cereality Franchising Corp.
- Cereal restaurant ($212K-375K)


January 22, 2008

Lee Enterprises hits 52-week low

Lee Enterprises, the owner of the JT and 49 other newspapers, continues to struggle. Once the darling of the newspaper industry, Lee reported a 17 percent drop in earnings in the second quarter compared to a year ago. That sent the company's stock price below $10 a share and to a 52-week low (the stock is back over $10 in after-hours trading as of this writing).

The news was more bad news for the newspaper industry as a whole. McClatchy's stock hit a 52-week low today on Lee's news.

Video: Kenosha tornado

Here's some wild footage of the tornado that ripped through Kenosha County last month:

Economy in turmoil

Stocks are rallying after the Fed made a surprise 0.75 percent rate cut, but at least one local company was hit hard. Twin Disc's stock hit a 52-week low. Checkout the main page for stock listings.

Here's a story on the rate hike. Here's one on Twin Disc's troubles.

Academy Awards nominees announced ...

Casey Affleck is up for one? Seriously?


January 21, 2008

Full moon lunacy? Those stories are just superstitions

Full moon over Mount Pleasant, Jan. 20, 2008

Feeling a little crazy today? Yes, there's a full moon overhead, so try to control yourselves.

We know, for sure, that the moon controls tides, but is a full moon also responsible for increases in ... um, lunacy? Are there more suicides, assaults, visits to the emergency room, attacks by mad dogs during the full moon?

A 2005 article in Psychology Today notes,
"Everything from increases in violent crime and psychotic behavior to stock market fluctuations (Aha!) has been blamed on the effects of the fully illuminated moon. In 19th-century England, lawyers used the "guilty by reason of the full moon" defense to claim that their "lunatic" clients could not be held accountable for acting under the moon's influence."
Well, pshaw. Many scientific studies -- after examining the evidence -- declare conclusively that there's no such lunar or "Transylvania Effect" (even though a majority of mental health professionals believes otherwise).

Feel free to peruse the evidence assembled by Dr. Eric H. Chudler of the University of Washington in Seattle.

So, relax. Enjoy the spectacle produced when the sun, earth and moon are aligned just right in the heavens. As Wikipedia describes it: A full moon occurs when the Moon is on the opposite side of the Earth from the Sun, and when the three celestial bodies are aligned as closely as possible to a straight line.

And if you're still feeling crazy, blame it on something else.

No opposition in Village of North Bay election

Another election season has arrived in the Village of North Bay. Yawn.

At the village caucus last Monday night -- attended only by the board members -- no opposition came forward to challenge the two trustees and treasurer up for re-election this spring. There are 97 homes in North Bay.

Running unopposed will be: Lynne Fiser, Trustee No. 1, public works; Rick Cermak, Trustee No. 2, wastewater; and Bob O'Brien, treasurer. This will be Fiser's second term, Cermak's third and O' Brien's -- well, nobody remembers exactly, but all agree he's been on the board "a long time."

The election will be April 1. Trustees are paid $350 per quarter for what Fiser says cheerfully is "a lot of work."

Board President Dennis Mahoney and Constable Kristin Wright, the other two board members, are not up for re-election this year.

A snowy Martin Luther King Jr. Day here

Racine's Martin Luther King Jr. Plaza this morning

President Bush honors Martin Luther King Jr.'s memory. Story HERE.

January 20, 2008

Winter's antidote

Miniature irises on the kitchen windowsill, reminders that below-zero temperatures will pass.