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.