Gray Matter

  • Janet Zweig ain’t Karen Finley

    The breaking news from Milwaukee’s City Hall Tuesday was that the Common Council voted, by a lopsided 12-2, to approve the public art installation for E. Wisconsin Avenue designed by Janet Zweig. The tempest in a teapot didn’t boil over and Mike Brenner did not even have to resort to defecating on the lawn of […]

  • Abrahamson and Evers, Don’t Leave it to Chance

    If you’re reading this, you probably know that there is an election in Wisconsin next Tuesday. Turnout for these Spring elections tends to be notoriously low which is never a good thing for democracy. Yet the candidates for the two statewide races present critical differences in experience and philosophy and the choices that voters make […]

  • The Yin and Yang of Economic Recovery

    It was like a week-long stimulus package for political junkies. First, President Obama’s appearance on NBC’s Tonight Show made him the first sitting president to appear on a late night talk show. Not really a historic event of epic proportions but Jay’s ratings spiked and that accounts for something. Then the president’s 60 Minutes interview, […]

  • More Work To Do

    Barack Obama won by applying solid community organizing fundamentals to a national campaign. He built an extremely loyal and disciplined network of staff and volunteers, developed an extraordinarily smart strategy and rode the combination all the way to the White House. Wisely, he is now applying those principles to help ensure that his national agenda gets […]

  • Follow the money

    When the economy entered its freefall towards the end of 2008, nearly every economist agreed that a vast infusion of government spending was necessary to avoid a catastrophic meltdown such as the nation hasn’t seen since the Great Depression. In a democracy like ours, that meant getting something like the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act […]

  • The State of the City

    Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett scored points by choosing the new Harley-Davidson museum as the setting for his State of the City address last month. The terrific new building, on the edge of the Menomonee Valley, served as an ideal backdrop for Barrett’s speech. Barrett is understandably proud of the progress made in redeveloping the valley. For years, this industrial corridor has been a festering sore symbolic of the economic and environmental damage left by Milwaukee’s manufacturing past.

  • What Would Ebenezer Do?

    Nobody likes it when somebody tells them what to do so I guess it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the business community is throwing a hissy fit over the new Milwaukee sick leave law. But the truth is that the local chapter of the 9 to 5 organization played by the rules and collected […]

  • Riders on the Earth Together

    Forty years ago, a very miserable year ended with a miracle. No matter how bad the economy is today or how terrible things seem to be going nationally and globally, 1968 was worse; really, really worse. The Vietnam War was raging in Southeast Asia, bitterly dividing the nation. The civil rights movement was dealt a […]

  • Watching Brett from Baghdad

    New York Times Baghdad bureau chief James Glanz has filed a wonderful first-person report on watching the Jets-Bills game last Sunday from a war zone. It turns out Glanz has rooted for the Packers his entire life; his dad covered the team for a Madison television station. So, amazingly, he uses the piece to approach […]

  • Get Off the Damn Couch

    One of the most refreshing, unusual and effective aspects of the Obama campaign was its ability to convince an incredible number of regular people that they had a personal investment in his election. Every campaign relies on committed volunteers and every candidate builds networks of supporters, contributors and true believers. But the Obama phenomenon took […]

  • Needy, Truly Needy and the Downright Greedy

    So the feeding frenzy has begun. What do you expect? When the federal government announces that it’s willing to spend as much as a trillion dollars there’s going to be a lot of folks lining up with ways to put that money to good use. You know what I’m reminded of? Remember how, after last […]

  • Masters of the Universe

    The CEOs of the Big Three American automakers are returning to Capitol Hill clearly chastened by the lashing they took two weeks ago. Back then, they apparently expected easy access to a mere fraction of the $700 billion Congress has authorized to rescue the nation’s economy during this financial crisis. One can understand their reasoning. […]