Monday, September 14, 2009

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Thriller a reminder of evils of abortion

Note: this will be the last blog post at this site. By Monday, September 13th I should be moved into a new website home at I'm looking forward to seeing all of you there.

Publication:Waukesha Freeman (Conley); Date:Sep 3, 2009; Section:Opinion; Page Number:8A

Thriller a reminder of evils of abortion

(James Wigderson is a blogger publishing at and a Waukesha resident. His column runs Thursdays in The Freeman.)

Tick, tick, tick ... The time for your summer reading just ran out. Those books you didn’t read will just have to wait until next year.

Local author Michael Caughill completed my summer reading list this year with, “The Abortionist.” It’s the story of a serial killer who simulates different abortion methods on his adult victims. Dr. Hannibal Lecter meets Planned Parenthood. It is definitely not a story for the squeamish.

Aside from being a great thriller, what makes “The Abortionist” an interesting read is the deft way Caughill handles the abortion topic. Caughill avoids a heavy-handed, lecturing approach to the topic. Instead, his characters discuss both sides of the abortion issue in much the conversational way so many of us discuss it with friends and family.

Caughill does not distract us with long Ayn Rand-like diatribes, and the action proceeds at a crisp pace throughout the book. Where Caughill makes his point is in the gruesome way the murders are conducted, reminding us that abortion is a bloody business.

The methods of abortion vary. The most common method in the first trimester is called suction aspiration. It involves a powerful suction tube with a sharp cutting edge which is inserted into the womb. The blade is used to cut the fetus into pieces and the tube then sucks the parts out.

Caughill’s challenge as a writer is to bring that reality of abortion to the audience without succumbing to writing political pornography. It’s a tightrope that he manages to navigate.

Nobody should be under the illusion that the decision behind most abortions is easy. Caughill reminds us of the social and economic pressures that drive women to consider such a step, and he does so in a sympathetic way. The women are victims twice in the novel, first of the culture that compels them to have abortions, and then at the hands of a serial killer.

But as the declining numbers of abortions would seem to indicate, the culture is changing. More women are choosing life for their baby.

The number of abortions annually in the United States peaked in 1990 at 1.6 million, according to the Alan Guttmacher Institute – an abortion-friendly organization. The number has dropped since to 1.2 million in 2005. Since Roe v. Wade in 1973 legalized abortion in all 50 states, over 49 million children have been aborted.

For the first time this year, a Gallup poll indicated that more people consider themselves prolife than pro-choice when it comes to abortion.

Pro-abortion politicians, largely in the Democratic Party, find themselves on the defensive. Following the lead of former President Clinton, they’ve adopted the formula of “safe, legal and rare.” But wishing abortion is “rare” is a recognition that there is something intrinsically wrong with the act of abortion.

President Obama, perhaps the most radically pro-abortion president this country has had, also had to concede that there was a moral argument against abortion when he told the audience at Notre Dame the decision whether to have an abortion, “has both moral and spiritual dimensions.” He said he wanted to reduce the number of abortions, too.

These concessions to the public’s growing prolife sentiment come with very little change to the abortion laws themselves. Fortunately, that is a sign that we can reduce the number of abortions through education and a change in the culture. Unfortunately, it looks like the law is about to lurch the other way.

The president is demonizing abortion opponents by claiming that they are lying about how “health care reform” will lead to publicly funded abortions. Among the “liars” are many of the U.S. Catholic bishops, including New York’s (and formerly Milwaukee’s) Archbishop Timothy Dolan.

Health care reform will include abortion coverage as part of “the public option” and Democrats have stopped any amendments in Congress to prevent it. Worse, private insurers will probably be forced to provide abortion services to have their policies approved by the government.

Despite President Obama’s rhetoric, his actions speak to a different agenda than reducing the number of abortions. Perhaps the president would have been better off adding Caughill’s book to his summer reading at Martha’s Vineyard to remind him what it is that he is defending.


Sunday, August 30, 2009

Probably not as much as Mary Jo Kopechne

"Kennedy's dogs will be missed on Hill"

But Kennedy's dogs weren’t saints either. Like a parent of spoiled children, the senator was loving but a poor disciplinarian.

Splash has been known to bark impatiently during long meetings. The dog once sent White House staffers into a frenzy when the pooch began barking in the Oval Office. Kennedy and his pets were at the White House waiting for the start of a religious freedom bill signing ceremony with President Clinton.

“Kennedy was working the room, and Splash starts barking incessantly. The president was off in a side room having a meeting and the White House staffers start freaking out,” said Sutphen, a former staffer who attended the ceremony with Kennedy.

After Splash was excused, Clinton walked in, asking why he’d heard barking.

“No one fessed up,” said Sutphen. “But it showed the light-hearted, jovial, jokester side of [Kennedy].”
The dogs’ antics could turn Capitol Hill into a dysfunctional family scene.

While interning on Capitol Hill, then-Maryland University student Scott Shewfelt met Kennedy as he stumbled upon the Porties, unleashed and fresh from a haircut, digging in the shrubs outside the Russell Senate federal building where Kennedy kept his office.

“Teddy was yelling at them, but they weren’t listening at all,” Shewfelt said. “It was absolute chaos.”

Could be worse for the dogs. The ancient pharoahs used to take their pets with them.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Calls for decorum ring hollow

Publication:Waukesha Freeman (Conley); Date:Aug 27, 2009; Section:Opinion; Page Number:10A

Calls for decorum ring hollow
Folks right to be upset

(James Wigderson is a blogger publishing at and a Waukesha resident. His column runs Thursdays in The Freeman.)

I’m somewhat amused by all of the sudden concern about the lack of decorum in politics. Suddenly, the political left and their followers in the mainstream media are shocked that people are showing up by the hundreds and the thousands to town hall meetings to protest the proposed changes in health care.

It’s perhaps easier to understand the frustration when a famous quip attributed to Sen. Everett M. Dirksen, “A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you’re talking about real money,” needs to be updated to, “A trillion here, a trillion there, and pretty soon you can’t print enough money.”

We are now looking at trillion-dollar deficits for each of the next 10 years. Nobody believes that is sustainable, yet President Obama wants to spend nearly another trillion on health care.

When Americans express their concerns, they’re told to shut up and take it. At the first rally in Madison by taxpayers in October 2007 led by Americans for Prosperity, state union employees counterdemonstrated by attempting to drown out the speakers with their shouting and intimidated the participants as they headed to their vehicles.

When concerned taxpayers showed up during the spring and summer to “tea parties” to rally against the massive expansion of government spending, suddenly an insulting sexual reference went mainstream, from the liberal blogs to cable news pundits, to belittle the rallies.

Deciding that wasn’t sufficient, tea party rally participants were accused of being part of a paid conspiracy, “AstroTurf,” rather than being part of an authentic grass-roots movement. Depending on the liberal villain of the week, ordinary citizens were accused of being agents of Big Oil, Big Pharmaceutical and Big Insurance.

Yet when the liberal special interests show up in any small number to protest anything, those are the authentic grass roots.

When it was clear that the taxpayer protests were genuine, the focus shifted. Now they’re radicals, unpatriotic, and even Nazis, according to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.

Even as the president was asking everyone to tone down the rhetoric, he accused his critics of lying while he spreads deliberate falsehoods of his own. As he encouraged “dialogue,” his administration’s Department of Homeland Security labeled his critics potential terrorists. And while we remember the president’s promise to improve the tone in Washington, his aides are promising to “hit back twice as hard.”

Nothing new, really. From the ’60s (for which the left has so much nostalgia) to today, the left in this country has had a policy of “taking it to the streets.” At times, it boiled over into bombings and targeted violent personal attacks.

From Chicago in 1968 to Seattle in 1999 there was some improvement. Instead of chanting “Off the pigs!” the slogan changed to, “No justice, no peace!” The threat of violence remained.

Then the Bush era, and for the last eight years one of the mantras on the left was, “If you aren’t outraged, you’re not paying attention.” We saw their outrage manifest itself in violent demonstrations, attacks on military recruitment offices, disrupted congressional hearings, and planned riots at the national conventions.

Now I will concede that some of the people at these town hall meetings are a little rude. They’re paying attention now, and it’s their turn to be outraged. Some of them let their emotions overcome their judgment of good behavior. Most of them are not as articulate as a Harvardeducated lawyer with a teleprompter. Many of them have never been involved in a political movement before.

I strongly urge them to temper their words and to be more respectful at these town hall meetings. However, a few shouts at a few congressmen is not some sort of crisis in democracy, and the concerned taxpayers are certainly not deserving of being labeled “brownshirts.”

We now hear the calls for civility from those who thought the president’s association with Weather Underground bomber Bill Ayers was no big deal, and they had no problems when Obama’s mentor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, screamed “God damn America” during his sermons.

Yes, I agree we should have more decorum at the town hall meetings, and more decorum in politics generally. My challenge to the political left is two words: You first.


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The death of a dynast in Massachusetts

Of the demise of Senator Edward M “Ted” Kennedy, we are told that the “Lion of the Senate” has passed. We are told of his effectiveness as a senator, and his bipartisan spirit. We are even reminded of the promise of the Kennedy name, a branding effort unlike any seen before or since.

Yet we are compelled to look at the complete record. As the surviving son of the odious Ambassador Joe Kennedy, Edward Kennedy had a promise and a plan to fulfill. His eldest brother had been a war hero who died in service of his country in World War II. The next oldest would become president, but was cut down in assassination by “some silly little Communist.” The next brother was an attorney general and a senator from New York. He, too, seemed destined to become president (even as he threw away his anti-Communist credentials to appeal to the Democratic Party’s left), before he, too, was assassinated.

By this time, Edward Kennedy had succeeded to his brother Jack’s senate seat in Massachusetts. A family ally was kind enough to hold it for him until Kennedy came of age. Kennedy seemed destined to return his family to the White House until he drove off the Chappaquiddick Bridge.

According to Kennedy, he made repeated attempts to rescue his passenger, Mary Jo Kopechne. When his efforts failed, Kennedy fled the scene of the accident and did not report it for ten hours. It is believed by the diver that found her, Kopechne survived the crash and an air bubble in car was able to keep her alive for at least two hours. Kennedy only reported the accident after it was discovered, and after his aides convinced him to do so. Kennedy was charged with the minimum, fleeing the scene of an accident, and was given the minimum sentence, two years suspended. His name and reputation saved him personally, but he would be unable to run for president as planned in 1972.

In the late 1970s, Kennedy was considered as a candidate for president again, openly rebelling against the incumbent Democrat, Jimmy Carter. Like his brother Bobby, Kennedy attacked the president on the left. However, Kennedy’s campaign fell short of unseating Carter as the party’s nominee. The turning point was when Kennedy was asked why he wanted to be president and he could not give a coherent answer. How does one say that it was the family business, and his by right? So he continued in the senate, pursuing a liberal agenda even as America turned to the right.

The low mark of his senate career was during the nomination of Judge Robert Bork to the Supreme Court. Shortly after Bork’s nomination, Kennedy slandered Bork in remarks that could only be forgivable if they were uttered by a Kennedy:

"Robert Bork's America is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens' doors in midnight raids, schoolchildren could not be taught about evolution, writers and artists could be censored at the whim of the Government, and the doors of the Federal courts would be shut on the fingers of millions of citizens for whom the judiciary is -- and is often the only -- protector of the individual rights that are the heart of our democracy... President Reagan is still our president. But he should not be able to reach out from the muck of Irangate, reach into the muck of Watergate and impose his reactionary vision of the Constitution on the Supreme Court and the next generation of Americans. No justice would be better than this injustice."

Just as his initial election to the senate was carefully managed, Kennedy attempted to manage the choice of his successor. In 2004, Kennedy supported a law that required a special election in the case of a senate vacancy. However, that was under a Republican governor, and the possible vacancy was the seat held by Senator John Kerry. As Kennedy’s health deteriorated, he changed his position to support temporary appointment to senate vacancies by the governor. Perhaps his best legacy was the reminder that dynasties ill serve republican virtue.

His life was one of unlimited potential, much of it wasted. In his public life, he does not leave much of a track record of bettering his country. In his private life, he offered little worth emulating, and much to be shunned.

If there are positives, it must be said he believed in public service for those that were able, and that many of his colleagues liked and respected him. In the last years of his life he seemed to find happiness in marriage to his second wife, Vicky. To her and the Kennedy family, a nation offers its condolences.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Will Feingold call out Senator Kennedy?

Will Senator Russ Feingold criticize fellow Democrat Senator Ted Kennedy for wanting his possible replacement to be appointed by the governor rather than elected by the people of Massachusetts?

Massachusetts law currently requires a special election to fill senate vacancies, a law pushed through in 2004 when Senator John Kerry was running for president and Republican Mitt Romney was governor. Kennedy was in favor of change in 2004, but now claims to fear Massachusetts will not have adequate representation if the state stays with the special election process. Ed Morrissey has the story. The Wall Street Journal weighs in, too:

Beacon Hill has long sported heavy Democratic majorities, so the state legislature has the votes to grant Mr. Kennedy's wish. But does it have the chutzpah? An election is the more democratic option. After witnessing recent attempts by incompetent Governors in Illinois and New York to fill Senate vacancies, Massachusetts voters may have soured on such appointments. Especially when Mr. Kennedy's motivation for changing the law is so obviously born of partisan interest, not principle.

Earlier this year Senator Feingold announced support for a constitutional amendment that would require the states to hold special elections. The amendment passed on a 5-3 vote in a Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Consitution and has gained the bipartisan support of Senator John McCain and Senator Dick Durbin. Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner is also a supporter.

Kevin Binversie addresses the issue at his blog, Lakeshore Laments:

Kennedy is no doubt creating another scenario in which the Massachusetts Senate seat will have another "Seat-Warmer" until the Kennedy-family approved candidate -- likely Ted's own wife Victoria -- can win the seat in the 2010 or 2012 election.

The reason why I raise this question is that Feingold is notorious for not letting his pet-projects die, let alone get railroaded in the process. Is Russ Feingold -- a notorious caucus bickerer -- going to just let Ted Kennedy's own personal demands that his Senate seat become some sort of "family heirloom" only he can pick and choose should fill it?

Who knows, but this was one heck of a floor speech by Feingold in February. Hate to see it go to waste.

On January 29th of this year I wrote a column for the Waukesha Freeman in support of Feingold's amendment and explained some of the issues behind it:

Let's vote
In keeping with Democratic principles,voters should choose who fills Senate vacancies

By JAMES WIGDERSON January 29, 2009

Sen. Russ Feingold took a moment from his usual preening before the cameras to actually address a serious issue in a thoughtful way. Feingold has proposed amending the Constitution to require special elections to fill Senate vacancies.
Feingold’s proposed amendment is not without precedent. Wisconsin’s Robert La Follette led the fight for direct election of senators. Prior to 1913, senators were chosen by state legislatures. The 17th Amendment changed that but, unfortunately, left the process for filling midterm vacancies to the states.

Feingold’s amendment is in seeming response to the recent controversies over Senate appointments.

Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich is facing impeachment for allegedly attempting to sell the Senate seat formerly held by President Obama. Had Feingold’s fellow Democrats been less desperate to hold the seat, the Illinois legislature could have passed a law to elect Obama’s replacement. Instead the Democrats received a lesson in Chicago politics when Roland Burris was appointed and swept aside any opposition in Washington, D.C.

In New York, Caroline Kennedy made a shambles of the appointment process by pursuing the seat without any qualifications other than her family money and name. Eventually Gov. David Paterson made a purely political appointment by selecting another relatively inexperienced candidate from a strategically important part of the state, Kirsten Gillibrand. In a special election it would have been very unlikely Gillibrand would have survived her party’s primary.

They are not the only unelected senators to serve in this congress. In Delaware, Ted Kaufman was appointed to fill Vice President Joe Biden’s seat for two years until Beau Biden, the vice president’s son, can run for the seat. In Colorado, the Democratic governor appointed Denver School Superintendent Michael Bennet despite never holding elective office.

The Senate may survive having four unelected members, but do we really want four senators the voters would never have chosen in the first place?

The Senate has had interesting appointments before. In Missouri in 2000, Mel Carnahan died in a plane crash during a campaign against incumbent John Ashcroft. When his name could not be taken off the ballot, the Democratic governor played on the public grief and promised to appoint Carnahan’s wife Jean. Ashcroft lost, and then Jean Carnahan lost in a special election two years later.

Alaskan politics were dramatic before Sarah Palin became governor. When Frank Murkowski left the Senate to become Alaska’s governor in 2002, he appointed his daughter, Lisa Murkowski, to replace him. While she earned re-election two years later, her father lost in the Republican primary to Palin. This is not to say the voters are incapable of making mistakes. Right now in Minnesota, unfunny comedian Al Franken is slightly ahead over incumbent Norm Coleman in a recount battle. No governor would ever have appointed someone like Franken.

But letting voters choose replacement senators in a special election rather than letting the governors decide is consistent with our principles and our experience.

With special elections we need not fear whether someone has paid a price to obtain a seat in the Senate. Whether that price is gold or political support or even political cover, the real cost is the public’s confidence.

Special elections also leave it to the public to decide whether the name of their next representative in the Senate is sufficient recommendation. Whether the name is Kennedy, Biden, Murkowski or Carnahan, surely it would be better for the public to choose whether dynastic succession is appropriate.

The federal Constitution is unlike the state constitution. As a founding document we should be loath to alter it. But this is not a substantial change and it is consistent with the previous amendment requiring the popular election of senators.

Some will cite the long process as a reason to abandon the effort, and others will cite the worst disaster scenarios. Neither are sufficient excuses to prevent this necessary reform. If we cannot trust the public to fill vacancies as they occur, why are we entrusting them with the election of senators at all?

Now if we could only get Senator Feingold as enthusiastic about the First Amendment to the Constitution as he is about the 17th.

(James Wigderson is a blogger publishing at and a Waukesha resident. His column runs Thursdays in The Freeman.)

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Doyle retirement presents opportunity for GOP

Publication:Waukesha Freeman (Conley); Date:Aug 20, 2009; Section:Opinion; Page Number:10A

Doyle seemed to be gearing up for re-election bid

(James Wigderson is a blogger publishing at and a Waukesha resident. His column runs Thursdays in The Freeman.)

I am surrounded by people who tell me, “Of course. I knew Gov. Doyle would never run for reelection.” They reasoned (or so they claim) that by proposing the most radical state budget of his tenure, Doyle must have known he could never seek re-election.

By that logic, every Democratic state senator on the ballot last November would not have sought re-election after their even more radical “Healthy Wisconsin” proposal. And we can all look forward to President Obama only seeking one term.

Until recently, there was every indication that Doyle was intent on seeking re-election, despite his “two terms” claim in Monday’s address. (Someone should have asked him: If two terms is such a reasonable limit, why did you serve three terms as the state’s attorney general?)

Doyle has spent the last couple of years raising campaign money – campaign money that could have gone to Democratic candidates. His current war chest is approximately $2 million.

Meanwhile, the Greater Wisconsin Committee, a Democratic special interest group often supportive of the governor, ran television advertising in July in an attempt to boost the governor’s poll numbers after the state budget was passed. These things don’t happen unless the governor was planning on running for re-election.

Unfortunately for Doyle, his numbers never improved; he was out-fundraised by one of the Republican candidates and his consecutive election winning streak was in serious danger.

Democratic candidates are already lining up.

Lt. Gov. Barbara Lawton is already in the race. As a member of the Democratic Party’s “progressive” wing, if Lawton gets the nomination, the Republican candidate can coast to victory. There will be some weak attempts to portray her as a formidable candidate, but even if she is not a lightweight, as is generally believed, she will still have the problem of being blamed for everything that went wrong during Doyle’s tenure without receiving any of the credit.

The same holds true for State Sen. Jon Erpenback who will be stuck with the state budget as his albatross. The only one who really thinks Erpenbach has a chance is Erpenbach.

Congressman Ron Kind is likely to take a run and would be the front-runner in fundraising, except that the Democrats were successful in 2006 in stopping Congressman Mark Green from using his federal campaign funds for his race for governor. However, Kind will have plenty of time to fundraise. What will hurt Kind is the unpopularity of Congress. Kind will be forced to explain his support for cap and trade legislation, the stimulus bill and whatever health care reform comes out. He will have to shore up his relations with the party’s liberal wing during the primaries, but that will hurt him in the general election.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett is also talked about as a candidate. However, his recent injuries may make him reluctant to take on a state campaign. Besides, as the mayor of Milwaukee, Barrett would have a hard time appealing to out-state voters. Barrett may have a problem, too, with African-Americans in his own city unhappy with the amount of development in their community and Barrett’s meddling with the local school district. The latter also hurts him with the teachers unions, the strongest voice in the Democratic Party.

There is a misperception that not having Doyle as an opponent will hurt the eventual Republican candidate, whether it is former Congressman Mark Neumann or Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker. Nonsense.

Democrats are still complaining about President Bush. They ran against him last year even though he was not on the ballot and his intraparty rival was. They are going to try to run against Bush again next year.

Does anyone seriously think not having Doyle to kick around anymore will prevent the Republicans from tying the Democratic nominee to Doyle’s record?

Besides, it’s almost always easier to win an open seat than to defeat an incumbent. This time the open seat means easier fundraising for the Republican challengers and the same amount of organizational time after next year’s primary election as the Democrats.

Doyle’s departure creates a huge opportunity for the state Republican party to turn around its fortunes. Now if the Republicans could only find a candidate to take on Sen. Feingold.