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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Lead Paint Red Herring

Is Gableman a total hypocrite?

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The state Supreme Court’s 2006 decision to allow a Milwaukee teen to sue a company that produced paint containing lead energized the conservative portion of Wisconsin’s business community. After all, they reasoned, if a lead-poisoned teen could get his day in court, wouldn’t that lead to similar suits that question the safety of other manufacturers’ products? That the majority opinion was written by Justice Louis Butler—now up for re-election—was a rallying point for the business community. Hate corporate accountability and access to justice? Then you’ll like Butler’s opponent, Burnett County Judge Michael Gableman, selected by the business community for his apparent willingness to toe the corporate line on judicial matters.

But Cory Liebmann, doing research for his One Wisconsin Now blog (www.onewisconsinnow.org), found that Gableman supports a Supreme Court justice who concurred on the lead paint case— Justice Patrick Crooks. Liebmann found that Gableman was listed as a supporter of Crooks just months after the Supreme Court ruling. What’s more, Butler and Crooks agreed on another case that’s drawn the ire of the conservative business folks— the 2005 case that struck down the medical malpractice cap.

Liebmann found that of the 23 cases Gableman cites as wrongly decided, Butler and Crooks were in agreement 17 times. And, Liebmann notes, the Wisconsin Law Journal found that Butler and Crooks were in agreement in 81% of the cases decided in 2007.

So why do Gableman and his allies constantly bash Butler’s record on the state’s highest court, when one of their “approved” justices has such a similar record?

What Defines an Endorsement?:
Residents on the East Side may have scratched their heads over the campaign literature produced by Third District Common Council candidate Nik Kovac. Captioned “What defines a true progressive?” the lit piece features photos of progressive Wisconsin heroes Frank Zeidler, Father James Groppi, Robert La Follette and former Secretary of State Vel Phillips, and it implies that Kovac would follow in their footsteps. But as Dominique Paul Noth, writing for the Labor Press’ blog, found out, the only living legend pictured—Phillips— isn’t endorsing Kovac, nor did she authorize him to use her photo. The other three progressive leaders aren’t able to endorse Kovac, for obvious reasons.

Acting the Part:
Some candidates are using real live actors to promote their campaigns. Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker’s newest TV ad features “Milwaukee residents” praising Walker. The problem, though, is that his campaign had to admit that a few of those resident supporters are paid backers. Challenger Lena Taylor’s campaign manager shot down the ad, saying, “Given the problems Milwaukee County has seen under Scott Walker’s leadership, it’s no surprise that he has such a hard time finding non-paid residents to praise his record.”

Are Bikes on Buses Coming?:
Milwaukee County Supervisors voted to override Scott Walker’s veto of the use of federal and private funds to install bike racks on buses. While Walker argued that the bike racks will not be used, supervisors countered that they’ll increase bus ridership, especially among students.

Fun with Contraceptives:
The Marquette Tribune was among three student newspapers that declined to run a spring-break-themed Pro-Life Wisconsin ad that warns young people of the dangers posed by emergency contraception (EC). (A UW-Milwaukee paper was one of 11 that ran it.)

The problem, though, is that the anti-birth-control group makes misleading claims about EC, including its ability to cause “chemical abortions and deadly blood clots.” Lon Newman, executive director of Family Planning Health Services Inc., said there’s no scientific evidence that EC, which prevents pregnancies, causes death or “chemical abortions.”

Newman wrote in a statement that the propaganda in the ad could lead to more unwanted pregnancies, because women would be too scared to use EC after unprotected sex.

The Cost of War:
In the past week we leapt over two milestones: the fifth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, and the death of the 4,000th U.S. soldier in that conflict. The war remains costly not only to those in harm’s way, but to all Americans, because of money that’s diverted from domestic priorities to the war.

Citizen Action of Wisconsin calculated the lost opportunities to invest that war money at home. “In 2008 alone, Wisconsin residents will pay an astounding $1.3 billion for additional proposed Iraq war spending,” they report. That translates into health care coverage for 861,342 people, 89 new elementary schools, 198,642 college scholarships and 29,904 public safety officers. The Milwaukee area’s share of the spending is $203.7 million. So think about those numbers when you’re filing your income taxes, or listening to lawmakers fight over new budget cuts for social services, or driving over another pothole. That money could be spent on problems close to home, instead of creating more problems abroad.

It Takes a Village:
Hales Corners residents scored a big victory when the state Department of Transportation announced last week that it would not widen Highway 100 from six to eight lanes and acquire 45 commercial properties to make room for the expanded lanes. The village, many businesses and the Whitnall School District all opposed the plan because it would have split the village in two and destroyed its commercial district (and tax base). The DOT is considering new ways to increase traffic flow and safety from Edgerton Avenue to Puetz Road without destroying Hales Corners.

Save the Dates:
The Minority Media Association and El Conquistador newspaper are sponsoring the March 27 panel titled “Immigration and the Economic Impact in the U.S.” Featured speakers are the Shepherd’s publisher/editor and former economics professor Louis Fortis; Maria Monreal-Cameron of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Wisconsin; Ricardo Pimentel, editorial page editor of the Journal Sentinel; Linda Jones, editor of the Milwaukee Courier; and WISN-AM’s Jay Weber. The discussion will be held at UW-Milwaukee’s Wisconsin Room from 3 to 5 p.m.

Wisconsin Community Services, which serves severely and chronically mentally ill individuals, will host a wine- and beer-tasting fund-raiser on April 4 at the Walker’s Point Center for the Arts, 911 W. National Ave., from 5:30 to 9 p.m. Admission is $30 for individuals or $50 per couple; there will be raffles and music provided by metaFour Jazz. Reserve a spot by calling 290-0413 or emailing tanderson@wiscs.org.

And, if you’re brave, go to the Wehr Nature Center’s eighth-annual Reptile Day on March 30, from 1 to 4 p.m. The organizers promise that the emerald tree boa, “Moo-Shoo” the 5-foot Chinese alligator and the local timber rattlesnake will make appearances. Admission is $1, and parking is $3.

What’s your take? Write: editor@shepex.com.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “Politicians should read science fiction, not Westerns and detective stories.” —Author Arthur C. Clarke

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