Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Biggest Loser - Manitowoc

This is a recreation of a blog post I did at  It was yanked for reasons known only to Editors Ms. Hanson and Mr. Reed.  Since I thought it was nothing more than a statement of the politically obvious I did not anticipate the article getting deleted so I did not keep a copy of the original, hence the re-creation.  Given their erratic editorial policies (which I believe are due to political influence) I suppose I should have assumed the worst - so here it is again (perhaps better?) on The Megaphone!

Earlier this month Bob Ziegelbauer won re-election over challenger Carla Halvorson.  We lost and we and the rest of the County will have to deal with that for some time to come.  But last week there was another election that delivered another victor and loser and that loser is perhaps the biggest loser of them all.

In what I believe to be an unprecedented event and in a 13 to 12 vote the Manitowoc County Board voted out Board Chairman Jim Brey in favor of Paul Tittl, a Republican and former political opponent of Bob Ziegelbauer.  Over the last four years the board had become an irrelevant rubber stamp of the Ziegelbauer administration who's policies have dismantled a raft of critical services and demoralized County workers.

Under the previous County Exec Brey supported the building of the Manitowoc County Health Care Center but then under Ziegelbauer supported its sale even though the justifications for each move were completely at odds with each other.  He continually repeated the false claim that the Center had a three million dollar deficit although it was only about half that and all of it was due to the bond used to build it - which had been justified against the re-use of the old center's land being redeveloped for the Harbortown strip mall.  But that was the administration line and he was sticking to it.  Since then the Human Services budget had tanked largely due to the added expense of home care and outsourcing mandated care of patients.

At the same time the Exec was privatizing things like the HCC and Highway Department he was absorbing the formerly private Manitowoc Ice Center (a perpetual white elephant and money pit).  That board of that organization just happens to include the wives of Bob's cousin Randy Binversie and the director of public works Jeff Beyer.  The Ice Center is the home of the local youth hockey league which who's members are a who's who of the children of local business and government leaders.  Through it all, Jim Brey was there to support it all and cut off discussion when it raised too many questions.

Perhaps the most despicable role he played was that of political operative.  When Bob appeared in a TV add endorsing the ethically challenged Republican John Gard for 8th districk Congressman the local Dem party met to withdraw support for Mr. Ziegelbauer.  Although he had never been to any meetings before, there was Jim in the back row observing and then questioning whether or not the Party should do that.  When it came to a vote he made a point of registering his official abstention.   We discovered later that Mr. Brey had never actually been a member of the Party and in fact should not have been allowed into the meeting at all!

When Carla Halvorson and I made our meetings to find a candidate to oppose Bob for County Exec public out of the blue, there was Jim emailing me requesting a private meeting.  I invited him to the group meeting but he declined.  I dont think Ive ever been so insulted by the bull crap and outright lies he offered up in defense of the Exec's positions.  From the HCC to the lack of Stimulus funding to the causes of the loss of business at the Highway Dept. it was a screed of blame for everyone from Obama to Doyle an assortment of unidentified "radical Liberals" - a strange set of positions for a Democrat.  Yet is case for not opposing Bob (for Assembly) was based on the notion that "... we could lose that seat!"  Just exactly what "we" was he referring to.

In that meeting he made it clear that he was looking forward to running for Assembly should Bob choose not to.  It was also clear he had discussed it with Bob directly.  Along with the incident at the Democratic HQ it was equally clear that he was politically snooping both for himself and at the request of Bob.

We saw the same despicable behavior when at the candidate debates he stood up and asked a deliberately concocted question of Carla about whether or not her demands for an audit of PPP's records constituted a violation of HIPPA laws (medical privacy).  The audit demand was exclusively for payroll and billing information and had nothing to do with anyone's medical records.  It was an all too obvious attempt to discredit - not his opponent - but the opponent of his policial benefactor.

In fact through the entire PPP (Triple P) payola scandal Brey consistently used that sort of tactic and outright refused to allow any votes on holding that company or the County officials who were in fact relatives of the owners of that company accountable.  To date that has been very effective.  We have yet to have even the most cursory examination of PPP's records even though we already know they were overbilling for at least one employee.  As I have asked him on more than one occasion, if it was a cover up, what would it look like?

If Brey has been effective at one thing it has been at keeping the crud off of his boss, Mr. Ziegelbauer whom he sees as his benefactor and heir apparent.  But with three of four of the new County Board members being on the other team the writing was on the wall.  As crony in chief he made himself an obstacle and obstacles are for removing.

And so it comes to pass that while we did lose the big election to Mr. Z, a few key bricks have been removed from his wall.  It is perhaps significant to point out that Jim has not won a contested election since 1998.  He was unopposed for County Chair last time and has not faced an opponent in either his City Aldermanic or County Supervisor districts since originally taking office.  In the mayoral race he first lost to Crawford and then appeared to expect to win when Crawford walked away.  But he finished 4th of 5th in the primary and did not even win his own district!  Then he went on to support Dave Soeldner who lost to newcomer Justin Nickels.

All of this is a rather impressive losing streak for a pol who still manages to be in not one but two offices.  I think all that is required is to find an opponent or two for him and we can easily offer him the official award for the Biggest Loser in Manitowoc politics.  Its hard to see any challengers in that race either!

So, g'bye Jimbo.
Its been bad to know ya....

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Manito-ROT-a

(a parody of a parody)
Ruminations on life in Manitowoc County

Go placidly amid the noise and waste,
and remember what comfort there may be in owning a piece of Tripple P.
Avoid quiet and passive persons, unless you have to speak to a County Supervisor.
Rotate your tires.
Speak glowingly of those greater than yourself
and heed well the advice of Chairman Jim Brey, even though he be a turkey.
Know what to kiss... and when.
Consider that two wrongs never make a right... but that three do.
Wherever possible, stay in touch by email.
Be comforted that in the face of all coming storms and disillusionment,
and despite the collapsing revenue streams of our time
there is always a big future in labor outsourcing.

Remember the Health Care Center.
Strive at all times to bend, fold, spindle, and mutilate.
Know yourself. If you need help, call Sharon Cornils.
Exercise caution in your daily affairs,
especially with those persons closest to you...
that Jeff Beyer, for instance.
Be assured that a walk through the ocean of most County Official’s souls
would scarcely get your feet wet.
Fall not in love, therefore; that costs money.
Gracefully surrender the things of youth,
birds, clean air, taxes, health care, highways,
and let not the ideas of others enter your head.
Hire people with connections.
For a good time call 683-4080. Ask for Todd.
Take heart amid the deepening gloom
that your dog is finally getting enough cheese,
and reflect that whatever misfortune may be your lot,
it could only be worse in Milwaukee County.

You are the only one complaining!
You have no right to those documents!
Whether you can hear it or not,
the hockey moms are laughing behind your back.

Therefore, make peace with your god,
whatever you conceive him to be:
omnipotent County Executive or torturing Vice President.
With all its hopes, dreams, promises, and privatizations,
the County continues to deteriorate.

Give up!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Manitowoc County Math Test

Leave no crony behind!

Owing to problems with basic math at Manitowoc County, Executive Bob Ziegelbauer has implemented the following math competency test to all high level managers.

(Please feel free to post your own suggestions for test questions below!)

1. If Jeff Beyer gives away $100 in Chamber Bucks on Monday, $200 in Chamber Bucks on Tuesday and $250 on Wednesday then how many Chamber Bucks will Jeff have given away by the time he gets home on Wednesday night?

Ans: None.  Todd Reckelberg lost the receipt.

2. Sharon Cornils just told you that tomorrow it is going to be twice as cold as it is right now.  What temperature is it going to be tomorrow at 7:00 AM if you check the thermometer and discover that the current temp is ZERO?

Ans: "That's arguable"

3. If Bob takes a week vacation in Florida in March and another week in California in April then how many business days was he absent from his County job?

Ans: Neither he nor the County keep any records.

4. If Sharon Cornils sent Bob a memo on Tuesday and Jeff Beyer sent him another on Wednesday and Todd Reckelberg wrote him a letter on Friday, how many important office communications did he receive that week?

Ans: None. He was on vacation that week.

5. If Bob claimed 53 per diem expense days from the Wisconsin Clerk of the Assembly last year then how many of those were business days?

Ans: Its not a problem and you are the only one complaining!

6.  If Bob previously told you in an email that he does "... not get any vacation days here." and you remind him of his answer to #4, how many vacation days does he then admit to taking?

Ans: None. He was only "speculating" about the vacation.

7. If the Health Care Center was loosing 3 million every year and Human Services lost 2.5 million which then had to be cut then how much has the Ice Center lost after being brought into County ownership?

Ans: The Ice Center is part of Public Works so there aren't any records.

8. From #7, how long will it take for Bob to cut funding for the MCIC?

Ans: That number is best expressed by a ratio of the number of his friends and relatives who have sons in the hockey league and infinity.

9. If the HTR prints another story on the PPP scandal how many extra papers will they sell?

Ans: As many as Jim Brey can find and burn.

10. If Todd Reckelberg reviewed the bids for Ice Center labor contracts and pronounced PPP the low bid.  Then three years later Sharon Cornils reviews the same bids and describes them as "comparable", which County employee is closer to the correct answer?

Ans: A ham sandwich

Multiple Choice

If Bob began his administration with a $7,000,000.00 reserve fund and now only has $250,000.00 left where did the other $6,750,000.00 go?

A) This is evidence of the collapsing revenues of the County.
B) What seven million?
C) Doyle took it all.
D) Chamber Bucks

If the County builds a 15 million dollar Joint Dispatch Center with an entire 3600 sq ft floor dedicated to computers and the average computer system can now fit into a small closet what will the remainder of the space be used for?

A) You can never have enough storage space!
B) A fitness center for the IT staph.
C) Lounge for PPP employees
D) Youth Hockey!

If the County builds a 15 million dollar facility and Bob decides to sell it for 6 million because we can't afford the payments what should he do with the cash?

A) Pay off the bond
B) Speculate in Chamber Buck futures
C) Remodel the Courthouse!

If Highway Dept Supervisor Kennedy overbids 10 out of 10 bids to towns and refuses another 10 losing 100% of all town business, then to compensate Bob lays off 3/4 of the Highway Dept employees, cuts union pay by 5% effectively cutting the County budget by 20% , how much will your taxes drop as a result?

A) -20% (right?)
B) This is evidence of the County's collapsing revenue stream.
C) Hey! Look over there! A big storm is coming!
D) They rose 1.1%

If Bob went hiking for 10 days on the Appalachian trail that included the 4th of July weekend and the 4th came on a Thursday that year how many business days would he miss?

Ans: None.  Venezuelan  women don't want him either.

Friday, February 26, 2010

More Letters from Bob

I don't get no vacations days!

The following set of correspondence is a continuation of the questions I put to Bob Ziegelbauer under the original topic "Letters from Bob".

In speaking before the County Board last Tuesday night he offered the "speculation" that he had been in Florida on vacation and so was not in the office when Sharon Cornils submitted her memo on the illegality of Triple P's employment agency contract at the Manitowoc Ice Center.

Note in particular his parsing of the concept of "vacation days".
He states in absolute terms: "I [...] do not have vacation days here." Yet does in fact take vacations and easily recalls them when it suits his purposes.

Your vacation days at County

Wednesday, February 24, 2010 7:40 AM

I attended the County Board meeting last night and listened with great interest to your explanations of the recent MCIC situation.

One thing caught my attention more than anything else.

You made the statement that you were not copied on Ms. Cornils memo and that you were on vacation at the time so were not able to be informed about the matter.

However, on January 25th we exchanged a series of emails regarding my attempt to document your absentee rate for your County position.  In one of those emails you denied that you took any vacation days. (see full text below).

In fact, you appeared to deny that any such records of vacation or other even existed.  Since you were able to sight a particular date on which you claim to have been on vacation it would appear that now some form of record does in fact exist.

How do you explain the apparent discrepancy?

Bernard J. Starzewski

Re:Re:Re sent Mon. Jan 25 12:52 PM

I have not made any assertions at all about the Coroner of any sort and certainly no personal attacks on you.

My understanding is that Manitowoc County does not keep attendance records of the elected officials.
I do not keep any, and do not have any sick leave,vacation days, or personal days here.

It would be fair to assume that any days that I am not in Madison working, I am here working; and that because of the productivity of all of our modern technology I am able to be in contact with both offices constantly as needed to do my job virtually 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

I think we've covered this.

Re: Your vacation days at County

Wednesday, February 24, 2010 7:48 AM
"Bernard Starzewski"
The apparent discrepancy is in your imagination.

I made statement of fact, that the last full week in March is the only time I since April 2006 that I have left the State for an entire week, because I remember going to Florida that week on a personal vacation.
I "speculated" last night that that might have coincidently had something to do with why and whether or not I received a copy of her memo to Jeff Beyer,  but since it was almost 3 years ago I cannot possibly "know" that as a fact.


Bob Ziegelbauer
Manitowoc County Courthouse
1010 S. 8th St.
Manitowoc, WI  54220

920-683-5107 (office)
920-323-7497 (cell)

Re: Your vacation days at County

Wednesday, February 24, 2010 10:11 AM
"Bob Ziegelbauer"
Cc:, "James Brey" ,,,

Mr. Ziegelbauer,

I beg to differ.
I believe that recordings of your comments will show no such equivocation or qualification of your assertions made to the board last night.

Furthermore, I did not ask on what days you might have "left the State". I asked for information on whether or not you had taken any vacation days to which you very specifically stated that you "do not have any sick leave,vacation days, or personal days here."

It would seem that the term "any" is mutually exclusive with your sudden recollection of a week long vacation in Florida three years ago.

Which version of your work hours are we to believe?
In the light of your previous denial, what credibility is the board to give to your excuse of absence to the memo issue?

Bernard J. Starzewski

Re: Your vacation days at County

Wednesday, February 24, 2010 1:29 PM
"Bernard Starzewski"
Cc:, "James Brey" ,,,

You are working so hard to make me a liar.
I was simply trying to make the point that if I had been in and working that week instead of on vacation in Florida the licensing issue might have come up in conversation. It was not an excuse, simply an observation of how things actually work in life.
I do not have "vacation days" as an elected official, but I can go on vacation if I wish.
and by the way when I take a personal vacation I keep in touch with email.
Bob Ziegelbauer
Manitowoc County Courthouse
1010 S. 8th St.
Manitowoc, WI  54220

920-683-5107 (office)
920-323-7497 (cell)

Re: Your vacation days at County

Wednesday, February 24, 2010 2:49 PM
"Bob Ziegelbauer"
Cc:, "James Brey" ,,,

You give me far too much credit.
You have indicted yourself with your own words.
Perhaps you were on vacation but your comments regarding your absence from the job were intended to obfuscate your lack of attendance and resulting poor performance.

By your own words you depended on emails to stay in touch but because you were not in touch you were not available to learn what you needed to know.

"If I had been in and working that week instead of on vacation in Florida the licensing issue might have come up in conversation."

Again to refer to your own words,

"...I am able to be in contact with both offices constantly as needed to do my job virtually 24 hours a day, seven days a week."

I see no need to restate the obvious beyond that.


Re: Your vacation days at County

Wednesday, February 24, 2010 3:41 PM
"Bernard Starzewski"


Bob Ziegelbauer
Manitowoc County Courthouse
1010 S. 8th St.
Manitowoc, WI  54220

920-683-5107 (office)
920-323-7497 (cell)

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Wrecking Crew - Does this sound familiar?

The Wrecking Crew is a book that everyone from Manitowoc County should read.

It outlines a conservative mode of operations that skillfully describes our local dual office holder Bob Ziegelbauer.

Without getting too involved the author Thomas Frank describes a process by which conservatives present themselves as outsider reformers pointing to government waste and abuse.  But when in power they themselves engage in waste and abuse while demolishing government infrastructure.  When the results of their mismanagement manifests itself they say in effect... "See? We told you government was broken!"

The full description of that method accurately details what we have been seeing at County and eerily predicts every statement Bob has made and every move he has used to deconstruct government services - even though I'm sure the author does not know this small town pol.

A great read and an eye opener.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

I Read it on the Ineternet - (so it has to be true!)

I've already blogged about the cause of my being blocked at over cautioning that names you find on CCAP (Wis. Circuit Court Access Program).  What caused the censoring is that I pointed out that a "Simple Case Search" for Robert Ziegelbauer yielded the case records for someone with some serious problems and obviously not the Manitowoc County Exec.  Yet, bloggers there were using CCAP to dredge up alleged dirt on pretty much on anyone they decided they did not like without any consideration of who they had actually found.  Beyond that there was virtually no attempt to understand what was legitimately attributable to those parties even if the case had been decided in their favor.

But that same caution applies to the entire internet.  Recently an even more bizarre example of mistaken identity cropped up in Texas politics.  (What a surprise!)

It seems that a man named Bill Martin wrote a children's book titled "Brown Bear! Brown Bear! What Do You See?"

In the book there are the lines,
"Brown bear, brown bear, what do you see? I see a red bird looking at me.
Red bird, red bird, what do you see?"

Wait a minute!  A Brown Bear and a Red Bird!  Surely these are subliminal substitutions for the old USSR and Comunism!  Our children are being brainwashed!

A search of the internet reveals that a man by the same name wrote a book called "Ethical Marxism".

Enter the Fort Worth Texas Library Board which based on that scholarly research decided to BAN THE BOOK!

Unfortunately The Fort Worth Star Telegram did a little fact checking and found that the William Martin who was in fact the author of "Ethical Marxism" was actually a professor at DePaul University and NOT the author of the now notorious "Brown Bear" book, Bill Martin.

The difference in that case of course is that the newspaper applied a little critical thought and legitimate research in reacting to the board.  In the case that lead to the creation of this blog Steve Reed and Amy Hanson at failed to read the actual content of the posts.

Despite the fact that Texas has more than its share of loony nut cases - at least they still have literate journalists.

Click here to read original article:

Addendum: I also noted a similarly ridiculous post on the article about the Avery's denial of a new trial.  One blogger posted that there is an article at that Gov. Doyle hid a provision in the State budget to free Avery and others like him supposedly as a cost savings measure.

Considering that the standard they applied to their own misreading of my posts was that it "... could not possibly be true" it would seem that truthiness published by right wing PACs is just perfectly fine. At last viewing the post remains on line.

Read Avery - WPRI post here:

Monday, January 25, 2010

Letters from Bob

It was suggested by one of Mr. Ziegelbauer's supporters on the blogs that I ask him directly about the controversy surrounding his dual office holder status and related attendance issue.  So... I did!

Below is a full record of our correspondence which I will ad to if further exchanges occur on the topic.

Original request sent Monday, Jan 25, 9:13 AM

An open letter to Mr. Robert Ziegelbauer, Manitowoc County Executive & Assemblyman:

Much has been made of your holding two positions and perhaps not spending an adequate amound of time on either.

It has been suggested on the HTR blogs by one of your supporters that I should ask you directly.  So, I am.

Please provide a detailed accounting of your time both at County and the Assembly.
You may respond either directly or by publishing the data in the HTR or one of your websites as long as I or the general public is made aware of it.

Thank you in advance for your cooperation.


Bernard J. (Bernie) Starzewski

 Response received Monday Jan 25, 9:40 AM

Mr. Starzewski,

I am happy to reply.

I do not punch a clock but am here at the Courthouse typically around 7:30 in the morning (it opens at 8:30) and throughout the day.
You may recall that one of the candidates for this office did an open records request 2 years on all my computer use over a period of weeks.  That might be a way for you to verify this.

My attendance at the Capitol is extremely good which you can check with the Assembly Chief Clerk at your convenience.
The State Legislature is a part time job although I make virtually every meeting of every committee I am a member of in addition to when the full Legislative body meets.

The technology which we all enjoy, allows me to easily monitor my work email from my three principal offices ( Courthouse, Capitol, and home office) in order  to stay in touch as needed without regard to where I am physically not only on workdays but after hours and throughout the weekends (which is my normal practice). That's why I am able to consistently be responsive to everyone, including you, and have an excellent track record of accessibility, and reply.

This has never been a problem. I am single and have always had at least 2 jobs back to the early 80's without any complaint or problem.
Rarely if ever do I hear a complaint about me not putting enough time and energy into the task at hand.

You are the only one I know of trying to make an issue of this.
Generally these criticisms are from those (like you) who really have ideological complaints with me and would actually prefer that I did not serve in either role. In my view that would be a more honest approach. It's a free country. I don't expect everyone to agree with me.

As always, call on me anytime I can be of assistance to you.

Bob Ziegelbauer

Bob Ziegelbauer
Manitowoc County Courthouse
1010 S. 8th St.
Manitowoc, WI  54220

920-683-5107 (office)
920-323-7497 (cell)

Bernard Starzewski
01/25/2010 09:13 AM
attendance records request

Re:Re: sent Mon. Jan 25 10:03 AM

Thank you for your prompt response.
However, the current issue at hand is your work schedule at County which is the only thing relevant to the currently pending election and is not available thru the Assembly Chief Clerk.  While I suppose one could take that attendance record and subtract it from your attendance at County it would simpler and more transparent if you could simply make the information you already have available to the public.

Certainly, you have your own records including your mileage logs for reimbursement from the State?

You mentioned my ideology. It is true enough that we are polar opposites in that respect.  However, work attendance is not an issue of the right or the left.  It would seem that you have an opportunity to lay the record out and let the public decide for themselves.  Making people fish for the data gives the appearance that you have something to hide.


Re:Re:Re sent Mon. Jan 25 12:26 PM


The attendance records are created and kept by the Chief Clerk of the Assembly.
I do not keep them.  You may request them from him at your convenience.
My automobile mileage reimbursements are similarly records kept by and available from the Assembly Chief Clerk. However since not all travel to and from the Capitol is reimbursed mathematical iteration of that data would lead you toward incorrect assumptions.

My previous response to you tells the story. I get the work done. It's never been a problem.
In the past 4  years. the only time it has ever even been raised was by the spouse of a legislative candidate three and a half years ago and the associate of a county exec candidate today.

As for interpretation of the records by you, I've seen some of your other work and do not have high expectations for objectivity.


Bob Z

Bob Ziegelbauer
Manitowoc County Courthouse
1010 S. 8th St.
Manitowoc, WI  54220

920-683-5107 (office)
920-323-7497 (cell)

Bernard Starzewski
Bob Ziegelbauer <>
01/25/2010 10:03 AM
Re: attendance records request

Re:Re:Re sent Mon. Jan 25 12:42 PM

Bob, (If I may call you that)

Once again you have evaded the primary question.
What has been your attendance record at County?
Does Ms. Cornils not keep employee attendance records?

The records at State will not include sick, personal and vacation days (if any) from your local job.

Since you have made the same assertions about the County Coroner who also has a second job it mystifies why you feel that you should not be subjected to similar criticisms from your opponents.  But perhaps not.

Be that as it may we will take your advice and make the proper request mapping it to your time at the Court House.  At that time you can respond to any perceived lack of objectivity.

The personal attacks on myself by you and your supporters are well documented and are as usual, nothing more than a diversion.


Re:Re:Re sent Mon. Jan 25 12:52 PM

I have not made any assertions at all about the Coroner of any sort and certainly no personal attacks on you.

My understanding is that Manitowoc County does not keep attendance records of the elected officials.
I do not keep any, and do not have any sick leave,vacation days, or personal days here.

It would be fair to assume that any days that I am not in Madison working, I am here working; and that because of the productivity of all of our modern technology I am able to be in contact with both offices constantly as needed to do my job virtually 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

I think we've covered this.

Bob Ziegelbauer
Manitowoc County Courthouse
1010 S. 8th St.
Manitowoc, WI  54220

920-683-5107 (office)
920-323-7497 (cell)

Bernard Starzewski
Bob Ziegelbauer <>
01/25/2010 12:42 PM
Re: attendance records request

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Want a third party? We already have one - The Homeless Party

Much has been made of recent Republican gains in governorships and now the Mass. Senate seat.
Republicans should not get too excited or Democrats get too depressed. There are some individual pols that need to get up to date with the current realities of American politics though.  Both parties are in fact not getting the message that is being sent which is possibly due to the fact that their own parties are not the one sending the message.

Its been duly noted on any number of news shows that independent voters are causing the shifts.  While the Dems may have not gotten the message that it was the "I" voters that gave them their victories in the last two elections the Republicans are committing the same error in assuming that the shift to a few of their most recent efforts represents kind of mandate for a return to the neo-con free market days of Bush/Cheney and Republican majorities.

The "I" voters show all of the symptoms of becoming the much pined for 3rd party without all the overhead and hoop-de-doo of a real party.  They are kind of like homeless people pushing their shopping carts around town and scavanging what they can from the leavings and dumpsters of their well heeled neighbors.  They show up at politician's door steps and public places ranting incoherently on taxes, health care and any number of quasi populist topics.

Democrats should be learning that the Homeless party voters dont like the fact that they have bought in too much to the Clinton strategy of co-opting Republican money sources and deal making.  That, more than anything has lead to the tanking (again) of any kind of meaningful health care reform.  It seems that their party platform does not like buying off an entire state by offering to pay their Medicaid payments at the expense of all the other states in exchange for a couple of Senate votes.

Republicans need to get off the whole tax horse for a while to understand that it was these same voters who booted them when their economic theories of uncontrolled free trade and deregulation were shown to be the bilge that they were.  It would also help that they actually backed real tax reform for real people instead of promoting exotic tax dodge slogans like the "Death Tax" and supporting what has become an effective taxation double standard with undeserving fund managers being taxed at half the rate of Joe the plumber.

Homeless Party voters know that its all bilge.

But there is hope for the big two if they get it.  There is at least a hint that Obama has gotten the message.  Notice that he is now (at long last) talking tough about Wall Street bankers.  In that press conference it was interesting to note the visual message.  Paul Voelker that was front and center and NOT Giethner and Sommers of Clinton vintage with the latter two out at the fringe of the group looking like little boys who had just been to the principal's office.  You might know that Tim and Larry were the architects of not only the Obama stimulus plan, but the Bush TARP not to mention the Clinton era "Securities Modernization Act" that pulled down the highly effective Glass Stegal Act which barred the exact kind of BS that brought down AIG and the banks just as it did in the 1920's.

The Homeless Party may be short lived if one or the other of the others really figures out how to bring them in and give them a decent place to stay with all the benefits and privileges that entails.  Personally, I think that the odds of the Republicans endorsing real populist reforms is just about nil unless they can do what they usually do - put a populist label on tax breaks for the elite.

If Obama is serious the Republican's who are crowing now may end up eating crow next November.  Otherwise its only a matter of time that they find their own candidates and then things will get really interesting.  The next big upset candidate may not be driving a pickup truck.  It may well be a shopping cart.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Monetizing Speech - Is speech a freedom or property?

Given the reasons for establishing this blog last week's Supreme Court Decision is particularly relevant.

We have now made a progression of steps that have lead us beyond the looking glass.  We have gone from speech being an individual freedom to equating money with speech and now spending money to buy speech is a freedom conferred on a state created entity (corporations).

When you consider conservative rhetoric of "strict constructionism" supposedly barring anything that was outside consciousness of the founding fathers, it should be pointed out that corporations did not exist when the Constitution was written.  Since they were created in the late 19th century corps have gone from being an entirely financial entity to having all of the rights of a citizen just short of voting.

Corporations interests are now and always have been solely for the purpose of their commercial interests.  Commercial speech has always been held to a different standard.  i.e. They cannot make false claims about their products.  But enforcement of that standard depends on the political will of the government to police those claims.  Now we are told that corporations have a Constitutional right to intervene in the political process without any regulation what so ever.

At the same time we see here that Gannett - a corporation of some size and power - holds an effective monopoly of speech in a small town and when opinion expressed defies their view of the world they can, have and will likely continue to squelch that speech.

These are strange and troubling times indeed when artificial financial interests can gain the rights of living beings and then use those same rights to nullify what I think most of us thought was something that could not be taken away.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Bob Shifts Gears - after trailing in polls

Since I'm still blocked at I will duplicate all entries I make there, here.

Commenting on the article:

County exec defends asking concessions: Seeks agreement union by union, no longer 'all or none'

by charlie mathews • Herald Times Reporter • January 21, 2010

 Click here to go to original

User Image
bstar53 wrote:

Dont know if this is going to get past the HTR censors but here goes...

Like Puppet0Master I have been doing some behind the scenes reporting too.
He has the story right. The union did want the State program which would have been cheaper and Bob did want a 4 year contract - which he is trying to revisit now.

Another thing that I have discovered is that his statement about nobody complaining is bull.
I have spoken to more than one who did in fact complain and were slapped down for it behind the scenes.
Those people cant come forward because of Bob's publicly stated policy of not talking to the media or other outside sources.
If Mr. Matthews did any actual reporting he would know this (and maybe does) but he prints the stennography anyway.

As to the shift in approach?
There's nothing like trailing in the polls to get a pol to shift gears!
1/21/2010 8:11:58 AM

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


Why are we doing this?

Cyberspace is full of blogs.  The site is one of them.  Until now it has been the sole conduit for public comment on the internet for news stories and in particular politics that is specific to Manitowoc.

It would be great to leave it that way.  The Herald Time Reporter is about the only news gathering agency in the community of any consequence and deofspite its flaws at least topics get raised.  But the blog at the HTR has developed some troubling attributes in recent months.  Or, at least I have only just become fully aware of them.

The expectation of a newspaper is that it delivers news and opinion in as an unfettered form as is reasonably possible.  Certainly, blogs can be a problem due to the often anonymous nature of contributors.  As such it can be a bit bruising at time.  Riding herd on a collection of bloggers who think they are speaking under cover can be a daunting task and the i-cowboys there have had my sympathy at times.

But the pattern that has arisen recently is more than troubling.  It has always been my assumption and I think the assumption of most who use the service that the opinions and comments (except for abuse, vulgarity and such) are the whole blog and nothing but the blog.  I know now that they are not.

I first experienced trouble at the hands of Charlie Matthews who made it a regular practice to call me at home after I posted a blog that he obviously took exception to.  While I found it irritating I obliged him on the fond hope that he was actually trying to glean background information for an article about the comment I had made.  No such article was ever printed that I am aware of.

When I mentioned his most recent call in a blog the entry was deleted as a "violation of terms of service".  When I posted it again the same deletion occurred.  I protested publicly and eventually did receive a call from Steve Reed who acknowledged the event and apologized. (Although I felt it was somewhat left handed)  I continue to view the events as harassment.

Time went by and some of my comments were deleted but most weren't.  Some may have been deserved and others not.

In recent weeks the situation has gotten much worse.  A series of on line arguments took place between myself and some bloggers who, while anonymous obviously see themselves as upright (and upper class) citizens for whom I have no truck.  Unable to quiet me on key issues mostly involving County Exec and Assemblyman Bob Ziegelbauer they resorted to making bogus claims that I threatened them.  One went so far as to post that he was concerned that I might "... show up at [his] house ringing the doorbell in the middle of the night."  Another who no longer lives in Manitowoc said he was concerned for his mother.  It can only be imagined what exchanges might have occurred between the HTR staff and these individuals (who are probably known to Mr. Reed and company).

Of course, no such threats were ever made and interpreting my comments as such would have been beyond ludicrous by any impartial party.  In fact the alleged threats were supposed to have been made as part of a discussion about the credibility of anonymous blogs vs. those made by self identified people such as myself.

None the less, I found that my blogs had in fact been blocked and a notice indicating inappropriate content was tagged on my profile page pending review.  No such content ever existed and no reasonably cognizant person could have interpreted those comments as anything but relevant to the context of the discussion.  In fact I did use the word "retribution" but that post was in specific reference to County employees who did in fact face a policy of expressed retribution by Mr. Ziegelbauer for speaking in public about County business without his consent.  Yet that post was specifically cited as the justification.

The third event came in the discussion about Mr. Andrew Schneider's announcement of candidacy for the County Exec job in addition to the incumbent and Carla Halverson who has been running for some time.  The comments under that news item quickly descended into a mud slinging event when bloggers began posting (dis)information gleaned from the Wisconsin Circuit Court Access system known as CCAP.  In checking the system myself I noted that most of the records called by that name were in fact an entirely different (and in fact multiple) men sharing the same name which I posted with a warning that things on CCAP must be evaluated with care.

As the bloggers ran away with what I felt with a series of half truths I did a little more checking and pointed out that you could put other local pols to the same test and that someone named Robert Ziegelbauer has had his license revoked and recently charged with an OWI.

I did not realize that anything was wrong for some time until another blogger noted that ALL of my posts had in fact, disappeared!  I did not know it because under my login each and every one of them still appeared as normal.  But when I attempted to see the same comments without logging in, they were in fact - all gone...

No notice was posted.  No email was sent.  No filler was left to mark the place where my comment had been.  No explanation was given.

I emailed the HTR and a day later received the following response:


Your profile has been blocked from due to inappropriate comments regarding a public official. Upon investigation of your comments in CCAP, it was concluded that your remarks could not be accurate. After discussion with my editor, it was decided to block your profile for a two week "timeout" of sorts. Upon the passage of two weeks, you will again be able to participate in the forums on, but your comments will be monitored closely.

Thank you for your inquiry.

-Amy Hanson

Amy Hanson
Online and Niche Products Editor
Herald Times Reporter

 This of course is a gross distortion of my actual comment which clearly stated that this was NOT the County Exec and did in fact contain an explicit warning to that effect.
Furthermore, the same sort of comments comments that made about Mr. Schnieder were left intact.  Is he not a public official as well?

In discussing HTR blog and editorial policy with Mr. Reed in the past  I have been given the explanation that it is their website and they can administer it as they will.  This is essentially the corporate version of the conservative's golden rule.  "He who has the gold makes the rules."

People believe that the htr blog is a free and open exchange of ideas.  Certainly, maintaining civil standards is important on any blog.  There are similar standards posted here on blogspot.  But the allegations of threats and false accusations against "a public official" are pure fabrications giving Mr. Reed's only the thinnest veneer of credibility.  In a free speech discussion one at least has the ability to defend himself against such allegations.  But in this case even the imposed sanction was hidden from plain view.  Mr. Reed and Ms. Hanson were judge, jury and executioners without any public judgement on the veracity of their charges and no possibility of appeal.  The altered discussion that resulted was considerably less than free speech at work as even posts by other bloggers referencing my comments were also deleted effectively covering up the deletions.

For all of these reasons I think that some attempt to have a public discussion about affairs in Manitowoc County at large have to be made in a forum outside the control of the Gannett corporate structure.  Short of starting an alternative paper (a useless endeavor given the condition of news print in general).  One way to counter them is to offer alternatives and the web is perhaps the best option to do that.

Perhaps this blog is just a candle under bushel basket hidden deep in the electron forest.  But at least here we will try to say the things that need to be said.

Lets see where it goes.

Bernard J. Starzewski
Manitowoc Wi.