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Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2008

The Hottest Ticket in Town

Dems gather to hear Clinton and Obama

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Saturday’s Democratic Party of Wisconsin fundraiser turned out to be the hottest ticket in town—so hot that the Dems opened up a room for 400 people who couldn’t squeeze into the main event. The draw? Quite possibly the next president, as both Sen. Hillary Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama tried to win over the party faithful, including elected officials, ex-officials, wannabe-officials, union members and activists—and, most importantly, superdelegates.

Lt. Gov. Barbara Lawton introduced Clinton as “the last true progressive in the race,” and Clinton delivered a great speech, one in which she seemed both presidential and personable. She attacked George W. Bush (“a president who has stood in our way”), likely Republican nominee Sen. John McCain (“a good man with the wrong ideas”) and took a few swipes at Obama (“It will take more than speeches to fulfill our dreams”). She left the stage amid applause and Dolly Parton’s ode to working women, “9 to 5.”

After a quick appearance by Gen. Wesley Clark, Gov. Jim Doyle introduced Obama, saying, “He’s an extraordinary uniter.” Then the chants of “Obama, Obama” began and the tone of the event changed utterly.

While Clinton got respectful applause, Obama got love. He bantered with the crowd, got them engaged and, dare we say it, inspired (He argued that words do matter, saying “John Kennedy didn’t look up at the moon and say, ‘It’s too far.’”). By the time Obama got to his final list of what he’d do as president, starting with restoring habeas corpus at Guantanamo, the applause was deafening and drowned out the end of his speech. Even the union members in Hillary T-shirts were on their feet throughout to give him eight standing ovations.

So will the big love from party activists translate into a big win for Obama in Wisconsin? By the time you read this, you’ll know.

ACLU Honors Kessler: At the same time Clinton and Obama were wooing voters, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Wisconsin honored state Rep. Fred Kessler with the Eunice Z.

Edgar Lifetime Achievement Award. The Milwaukee Democrat, who has served in the state Legislature or in the court system since 1961, has had a huge, if often overlooked, impact on the state. In the 1960s, Kessler fought for open housing and got Milwaukee-area draft board members to support conscientious objections to military service in the Vietnam era. He also helped to create the Migrant Workers Lawyers Committee.

In the 1980s, while on the bench, Kessler started the first diversion programs in Milwaukee criminal courts. He helped to organize the first chapter of Amnesty International in Milwaukee, helped to found the language immersion schools at MPS, worked with others to launch A Wisconsin African Relief Effort (AWARE) to build wells in drought-plagued Gambia, and helped to recruit minority applicants to the bench. Back in the Legislature in 2004, Kessler has been a strong advocate for the public schools, reproductive freedom and fairness in the judicial system.

The ACLU also honored Sharlen and Reggie Moore, founders of the youth group Urban Underground, Green Bay immigration activists and the Milwaukee Muslim Women’s Coalition.

They Don’t Need No Education: Who knew that state Sen. Glenn Grothman was such a big Pink Floyd fan? The West Bend Republican’s solution to the state’s $650 million shortfall is to cut education for kids by ending funding for new 4-year-old kindergarten (4K) programs. Grothman calls 4K an “academically dubious program” and says the state should not pay the extra $13 million for the 25 new 4K programs being added around the state.

According to our math, 4K accounts for 2% of the state’s shortfall—and we think that’s money well spent. While Grothman points to highly ideological studies that oppose 4K, more balanced studies show that the program benefits kids, especially those from low-income families.

Turning a Tragedy Into Profits: Eric Thompson, of Green Bay, who operates the online gun shop TGSCOM Inc., sold guns to two mass murderers, the shooters at Virginia Tech and Northern Illinois University. Now, after much thought, Thompson has come up with a solution: sell more guns. He set up a new Web site to advocate for concealed carry laws.

“Thompson believes that college students and university faculty members who are properly licensed and trained to carry a firearm should be allowed to do so,” reads the only page on www.gundebate.com. “Thompson also wants his home state of Wisconsin to join the 48 states who already allow private citizens to carry a firearm for protection.”

While Thompson claims that he set up the site because he feels he has a “special responsibility” to do all he can to prevent another shooting, we’ve got to question his motives. The site reads like an ad for his online ventures, and arming students and professors would only boost his sales.

We also doubt it would prevent another school shooting. Instead of trying to generate more profits, Second Amendment advocates like Thompson should be concerned about keeping guns out of the hands of those who are mentally ill and unable to own guns responsibly.

Priorities: Milwaukee got only a trace of snow on Monday, and turnout for the primary election was expected to break records, but Alderman Bob Donovan fumed that city workers were staffing polls instead of shoveling snow on Tuesday. “To me it’s like taking police officers and putting them at the polls during a major riot,” Donovan noted with his typical understatement in a press release. Donovan, using crystal-clear logic, puts snowbanks ahead of the democratic process.

Langley and Colon Will Debate: Contrary to Expresso’s report, the candidates for city attorney will debate. Incumbent Grant Langley and state Rep. Pedro Colon will face off at a debate sponsored by the Capitol West Neighborhood Association and the Sherman Park Community Association. It will be held at 6:30 p.m. on March 13 at Albright United Methodist Church, 5555 W. Capitol Drive.

Legendary Community Organizer Returns: Rev. Lucius Walker, the legendary civil rights leader in Milwaukee who also founded Pastors for Peace, will speak at UW-Milwaukee on “Linking the Struggle for Justice at Home to a Humane Foreign Policy Abroad” on Feb. 28. Walker founded Northcott Neighborhood House and Triple O, and was arrested in 1967 after standing up for a black youth who was accosted by a plainclothes police officer. Walker advocates restoring a normal, humane foreign policy with Cuba. His speech will be held on Feb. 28 at 7 p.m. in Bolton Hall 150, north of the student union. The event is free and open to the public. On Friday, Feb. 29, he will hold a press conference and community reception at Northcott Neighborhood House, 2460 N. Sixth St., at 10 a.m.

Bobby Seale Will Visit: Author and Black Panther founder Bobby Seale will speak at UWM on Feb. 25, in advance of the release of Chicago 10, a film about the Chicago Conspiracy Trial. You can see and hear Seale—for free—at 7 p.m. on Feb. 25 in the Wisconsin Room of the UWM Student Union. It’s sponsored by the Milwaukee Students for a Democratic Society and the UWM Black Graduate Student Alliance. For more information, go to www.sdsmilwaukee.org.

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