Friday, November 20, 2015


By Dominique Paul Noth

Mayor Henry Maier died two decades ago --
except on Facebook.
Thinking of the Internet and Smart Phones first has forced a remarkable change over the last two decades. Now for  gossip as well as  regular news -- with the opportunity to add personal commentary as if the world cares -- everyone is embracing Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Snapchat or even Periscope depending on which one the younger generation is pushing on their parents and grandparents.

Such social media demands a major lifestyle change for older people who got their news through newspapers, radio and three TV networks. The most common and familiar, however, with 1.5 billion users, I’m now tempted to drop -- Facebook. Because there I keep finding chicanery.

And I keep seeing dead people.

It’s not just me being attacked by zombies, but hundreds of people, apparently many who worked for either The Milwaukee Journal or Milwaukee Sentinel or the merged paper that resulted in 1995 (there are thousands of such retirees, many in the Milwaukee area).  Dozens of them have even befriended the dead people (a Facebook technique where you hit Like when all you meant to do was Look)  partly because of confusion about how social media works, partly out of believing these pages were intended as memorial tributes to people who died, in some cases before Facebook was created.  

Dick Leonard, Joe Shoquist, Tom Lubenow, Henry Maier, Lawrencia (Bambi) Bembenek to name the most recent few. All have one thing in common.  They’re dead. In some cases for years.  And no one at this writing has taken credit or blame for resurrecting them with old photos and even posting for them!

Leonard and Shoquist were longtime distinguished editors at The Journal. Maier, who died in 1994, was the Milwaukee mayor for 28 years and a particular nemesis to both newspapers, engaging in tirades or feuds with these editors and others. Lubenow was the gruff beloved state editor I watched collapse and die of a seizure on the newsroom floor in 1989, an event impossible to make light of. (That is the same Fourth and State newsroom that is speeding its own death throes, descending from independent local voice to prop for E.W. Scripps and now sold to the Gannett newspaper empire.) 

Bembenek in 1981, just before being charged with
killing her policeman husband's former wife.
Bembenek fought her image as a killer through court pleas and prison escape, earning tons of media coverage because she was a leggy ex-Playboy Bunny (Shoquist once referred to her in a meeting of editors as “our own little murderess”) – even gaining TV appearances before dying in 2010. The circumstances of the case, to be sure, became legend for the public as well as the media.

Newsrooms were full of jesters who enjoyed gallows humor, myself among them, so the guessing game of whodunit on Facebook has extended to many who deny participation. It’s hard to accept the notion that this is the work of some lovable scamp because of my larger concern:

There is way too much untraceable ghoulishness and perversion of facts already dominating the social media.

Facebook along with Twitter (500 million tweets each day) have all slid almost imperceptibly into being accepted as news sources and preyed upon by political camps.  Their biggest hits are regularly reported on cable news, which has its own algorithms to itemize them.

That should open the door for a bigger discussion about the uses and misuses of new technology, even as journalistic conferences ponder whether print is permanently dead or, like Dracula, will rise from its now unmistakable coffin.

(I just attended a large and thoughtful Manhattan conference of theater critics from around the nation, where only a quarter were from print – a state of affairs that is confounding both media companies and traditional entertainment executives on how to get their messages out.  It was here that a prominent Broadway press agent recounted how one early-allowed Tweet from a respected source drove more box office business than he could lay at the door of three major print papers’ reviews).

People use Facebook and other social media as folks once used Christmastime letters to catch up casual acquaintances and sometimes even strangers on family activities.  For both annoying and devoted family purposes, FB photo pages show off children, pets, d├ęcor, gardens, meals, sports events, travel interests – all for families and “friends.” But few turn down friendship requests though these often turn out to be pitching products or sneaking in links and attitudes to “stories of interest” with provocative comments woven in. There are some reliable sources sprinkled about (without gatekeeper, once the function of journalism) among this assortment of wacko news, satiric commentary and diatribes you might actually Like (Trump in full fetter) without ever considering voting for the guy. And suddenly you’re on the Trump marketing list. 

Consumers are on their own in this circus with convoluted trapeze wires. Who understands in this environment how self-aggrandizement must be tempered by self-censorship? Who reads those manuals of use? Who has the time? Anecdotally, it seems, normally smart people believe what they read online far too readily – and don’t look broadly enough or deeply enough into the consequences. If you’re in the proud mood to show off a new family toddler, you are hardly ready to question the “what a beautiful baby” response from a pervert. 

A studious Abele is posed on
the mailers being sent to
Milwaukee County homes.
Politicians have particularly noted the possibilities of exploitation through their trolls. The big Milwaukee County race for February primary and April election has become seriously problematical on social media because one side has far too much money to throw down that rabbit hole.

There are many people who believe Chris Abele is two-faced in real life but he certainly is on Facebook.  It’s actually a fairly common practice in public life – maintaining both a personal page and an official page – but it can certainly become rather sly.  If you hit his personal Chris Abele page, he sounds like the world’s most benevolent heir to a billion dollar fortune, giving generously in money and words to LBGT causes, international women’s rights, even classical arts.  Here are his photos with Kareem Abdul Jabbar and attending ceremonies for Pope Francis. Nicest guy in the world over here, advocating the right causes and people.

If instead you visit what you also think is a personal page (and it’s the most heavily promoted) Chris Abele for County Executive, you will find his minions flooding Facebook with photos and videos of his attendance at parks events and union meetings, truisms painting him as so rich he can stand above the petty political (Can’t Be Bought, he claims, while wags point out that’s because he’s too busy buying).

This is actually his political site (“Authorized and paid for by Chris Abele for County Executive, Jeff Peelen, Treasurer”) but few notice the fine print.

Chris Larson announcing his run against Abele.
This is the page where social media is caught up in what TV viewers and mailboxes have come to know – a major early money outlay by Abele to change what internal polls have shown, a fading image among county voters.  So everything is being thrown hard into his contest against state Sen. Chris Larson, the young progressive and former county board supervisor who is pumping hard on how Abele's 
 dictatorial tendencies are being camouflaged by his Democratic background. 

Abele is flooding the air with TV ads and homes with mailers claiming he has risen above those rotten “political insiders,” while Larson is exposing his own political insider status and money that has increased his power over the county board and ridden roughshod over criticism.

Turn from the Internet into real life and you can understand Abele’s practices better. When they elected him to succeed Scott Walker, many thought from his resume and pronouncements that he would bring a business sensibility as well as compassion for the moral social issues that Milwaukee County deals with daily.  They thought he would open both drawers on his mental desk – business background in one drawer, concerns about working families and transparency in the other drawer. Maybe he would even mix the contents of the drawers together as good public servants should. 

Now one of those drawers seems to have slammed shut and locked, while opening wide the big business drawer. He merrily sells county parcels around the new Arena for a dollar each, trusting that will encourage business development and squeezing out supervisors and angry citizens from any say in the matter. (These are the same citizens and small business owners whose entrepreneurial spirit has made Water Street and the Third Ward thrive.) He imposes a mental health plan that uses community experts at the top but retains the true power for his own bureaucrats, chosen free of county board approval.

Abele has to reclaim his early image as a caring efficient manager, which Larson has correctly identified as his weak spot, given that revolving door of experts he can’t work with and his footsie with GOP legislators expanding his control over even public education.

But Larson is still the underdog because of Abele’s money and his history of support for progressive causes, along with his renewed aggressive salutes to those camps he seemed to have abandoned.  It all requires county voters to look under the hood at the accusations he has been “Walker Lite,” an adamant executive short-tempered with opposition, trying to sell his own slate of familiars against the Democrats he claims to support.

He’s got the money to launch an early strike of “Shock and Awe.” Don’t remind him that didn’t work in Iraq.

But here’s where the Internet comes in, and his forces have been busy bees there.  Since   establishment media doesn’t follow Abele’s every move or every press release, you have to go to Facebook to keep abreast of what he is saying and doing. Woe if you ever Like any charity giving or general belief, and woe if in seeking information you strayed onto the Like button and seem to be supporting him in voting terms.

Currently the Assembly Democrats, the Democratic Party, the veterans, the boys and girls clubs, breweries and universities and the Milwaukee Rep are listed as “Liking” Chris Abele’s campaign page on Facebook, though if you talk to component members they are voting for Larson.  The only photos of courtesy meetings with union groups like the laborers and sprinkler fitters show up on this page.  Any sprinkler fitters out there who clicked Like?

Recently a video from the page pushing the worth of Abele had a number of noted political activists and public officials listed as Liking Chris Abele, though they tell me they were only seeking information.  The list included many leaders of the effort to oust him including Marina Dimitrijevic,  Rep. Chris Sinicki, Chris Capper Liebenthal and dozens of other known names who may even years ago said they Liked his page but didn't mean in perpetuity and certainly not on the eve of removing him.

It may be easy right now, more than four months before the elections, to shrug such misconceptions off as passing moments unlikely to fool anyone.  But this is the Internet and the track record of fooling or misunderstanding is always playing tag with the vaunted freedoms the new technology offers. Unfriend away to stop this, but nothing seems to die on the Net no matter what routine protections you may take.

This dilemma is going to grow. Journalistic centers at one time could boast about controls and monitors – and even then rank lies could slip into highly regarded pages.  There is no attempt by many on the Net to exercise restrain, to the point that venom has become the coin of the realm. 

Robert Redford as Dan Rather in "Truth."
The new movie “Truth” recounts a decade late how Dan Rather and “60 Minutes II” were driven into exile after citizen journalists on the Internet went badly awry in the haste to play gotcha. The movie is clearly on the side of the Rather team, which made the mistake of trusting a source who was dissembling about where he got some documents, but it also clarifies how wrong those Internet know-it-alls and citizen investigators were – to the point that they became pawns in burying an important story about George Bush and how he escaped serving in Vietnam.

In “All the President’s Men” in 1976, also exploring journalistic pursuit of facts that Nixon didn’t want out there, a well known movie actor named Robert Redford portrayed a reporter whose face was then unknown to the general public, Bob Woodward. In 2015, the still famous Redford is portraying someone, Rather, whose face may actually be better known from years anchoring CBS News. This is worth mentioning because Rather’s celebrity was no protection in this new age,it may have been a goad,  while Woodward’s non-celebrity didn’t prevent him taking down,through dogged “follow the money” reporting, the sitting president.

Rather may well be the first major head on the pike of citizen journalism.  Another sad historic note about “Truth” – some wonder if it might be writing The End to the sort of journalistic standards that have given way to social media snooping as the New Reality.

A variation on this theme occurred in 2014 in the third season of HBO’s “Newsroom,” a fictional vision by Aaron Sorkin of television news. But there is a startling sequence that is quite factual about media coverage of the Boston marathon bombing in 2013.  Police work triumphed in that case but had to fend off front page headlines and swirling false  certainties from CNN,  Reddit and other Internet loose cannons that actually victimized innocent people – and by this point establishment media was a co-conspirator, reporting the mistakes as facts.

This is the cycle of 24/7 coverage we can expect to continue and muddle before illuminating, snaring several innocents and mistaken politics in the process. Especially since now mainstream media listens and reacts to Twitter and Facebook almost as much as it does to traditional outlets. It has already happened with the Paris slaughter by Isis – politicians seizing the opportunity to blame the influx on needy and innocent Syrian refugees, then on the Second Amendment fabrication that if there had been 15 people at the heavy metal concert carrying concealed weapons, everything would be different.  If Isis uses the Internet to recruit the unthinking, they now have helpers in such GOP politicians as Wisconsin Gov. Walker.

But if you watched cable news after Paris, you can also see some self-correction and self-imposed determination by veteran TV journalists to not let social media define the agenda.

This new technology stirs unknown currents for our future. The good of freed information has to be weighed against the bad of unscreened information, of users who get taken in by just getting views they already agree with.  Will the online public at large retain common sense or will it be stampeded by its own obsessive behavior? 

Underneath I’m an optimist. But I keep seeing dead people.

About the author: Noth has been  a professional journalist since the 1960s, first as national, international and local news copy editor at The Milwaukee Journal, then as an editor for its original Green Sheet, also  for almost two decades the paper’s film and drama critic. He also created its Friday Weekend section and ran Sunday TV Screen magazine and Lively Arts as he became the newspaper’s senior feature editor. He was tapped by the publishers of the combining Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for special projects and as first online news producer before voluntarily departing in the mid-1990s to run online news seminars and write on public affairs and Internet and consumer news. From 2002 to 2013 he ran the Milwaukee Labor Press as editor. It served as the Midwest’s largest home-delivered labor newspaper, with archives at  In that role he won top awards yearly until the paper stopped publishing in 2013. His investigative pieces and extensive commentaries are now published by several news outlets as well as his culture and politics outlets known as Dom's Domain.  He also reviews theater for 

Monday, November 2, 2015


By Dominique Paul Noth

I have genuine problems with President Obama in education, where it has taken him a long time to put his arms around the miscalculations within his department’s testing obsession.  I’m sure there are other well-meant decisions that can be criticized as too facile. 

Overall, though, we are watching how easily his opponents’ rhetoric goes over the top in a way that attracts media pile-on and can plant beliefs in the public’s head that time proves debatable or flat untrue.  As usual it is always easier in foreign matters we Americans know little about but domestic deceptions are also frequent.

It’s actually not new, long a part of the political game. But this generation ought to be growing up. The tendency to demean individuals with too broad a brush and then watch the mistaken pronouncements turn into universal folklore has gone on for ages, but these days are made both easier to spot and more prone to pack journalism from cable to social media, and by political opportunists who can throw big money into the trashing heap.

Carter turns out to be better president
than widespread myths suggest.
Let’s take the lingering myth that Jimmy Carter may have redeemed himself as an exemplary international citizen (Nobel Peace Prize 2002) but was a lousy president for four years. But look at how many of his achievements as president either bore fruit or have become accepted vision. That includes stuff the modern public doesn’t know he started, such as the Department of Energy and modernizing the role of the vice president. 

Reagan (and we could do a whole article on how he is mischaracterized by both political camps) removed the solar panels Carter installed at the White House. Does anyone today think that was a lame Carter idea? His plea to make energy conservation, price controls, new technology and maybe even an extra sweater a way to reduce US dependency on oil was painted as silly then. But today conservation is part of everybody’s plans. The Camp David accord between Israel and Egypt still holds and may even have set the model for Bill Clinton in the Balkans and Obama’s patience and stubbornness during setbacks from Libya to Afghanistan.

Whatever his genuine failures – as opposed to manufactured ones, which historians are more and more demonstrating was the case with the Iran hostage crisis -- he also appointed Paul Volker to the federal reserve and emphasized human rights in the face of what many demeaned as bad politics. If we want to talk about lousy presidents, can we discuss the guy who led us into the nation’s most misguided war and supervised runaway corporations that almost dragged us back into a Great Depression?

Putting Obama's words in perspective.
Obama, a savvy politician, is likewise not totally blameless, but he is being savaged for stray words not deeds. The public trusts his intelligence, maturity and optimism – so overall the public knows what he means even when he uses an overly broad sound-bite.  Take, “if you like your doctor you can keep him” under the Affordable Care Act.  That’s actually not what he said, usually it was more like “If you like your health plan you can keep it.”  He obviously didn’t know and should have how many lousy health plans there were out there.

But most people understood that was not a promise against any health storm, though opponents tried to make it seem a blanket statement. The observant knew Obama assumed the doctor you liked belonged to a good health plan that fit all the basic requirements of the ACA or soon would in common decency. He also should have anticipated that health providers would play a blame game, sending out warning letters denouncing “Obamacare” as they dropped patients without explaining how they could move to their own or rivals’ better coverage. Obama was seeking a memorable phrase that went too far -- but most people knew just what he meant. 

Yet for that blunder, Obama was rewarded with Pinocchio of the year or Pants on Fire for 2013 by the media referees. He was pretty much taken to the woodshed – and spanked harder as the launch of the ACA website went awry. It did blunder though seems remarkably smooth now. Commentators have only belatedly reported how the early website was overwhelmed in part by more Republican governors than expected who refused to help their states create a separate and probably cheaper exchange.

Today (except in Wisconsin) the states  are creeping aboard  the idea of a state exchange or accepting expanded Medicaid because the citizens do have friends in other states and realize how much easier finances could be for families. 

There are some ready fixes for the admittedly complicated ACA, but in the current atmosphere of political extremism the White House fears to bring them up because that “lie of the year” set a pattern for attack. 

Yet even the current media tea leaves do support Obama on this – in a few years the ACA will be as much a part of the American fabric as Social Security.  Moreover it is proving not a dictatorial takeover.  Some progressives wanted it to be totally government-run single payer while conservatives still think it is a government takeover though the complications stem largely from protecting the existing private health industry. Obama didn’t bolt to either extreme, which may explain why the large jury of consumers has become supportive despite the raging critics.

That may be why most GOP candidates are taking the ACA off the table when they return to their districts no matter how they voted in the House. 

The point is, the public needs to be cautious about historic truisms and Pinocchios. They don’t reflect what is really happening.  In a few years it is the media that may look proboscis obsessed.

That ought to bring us to “boots on the ground.” Two and even three years ago, Obama promised “no American boots in Syria” or something like that –in context it was about how he would not repeat the Bush error in Iraq of heading an invasion. 

He clearly didn’t mean a total embargo on military trained people inside these now unstable and even migratory borders of Syria and Iraq, but that he would not make the mistake of mass invasion of a country based on neo-con misunderstanding of the role of American exceptionalism in world affairs. In reality there have been hundreds of US military advisers there quietly for a year.

The media is partly right to worry about “mission creep” that once trapped us in Vietnam, but fewer than 50 advisers who may be drawn into combat hardly qualifies as mission creep, not when US planes are flying thousands of sorties a year. 

There is also humanity pressure on Obama to do more -- millions of Syrian civilians fleeing the conflict, hundreds capsizing in overloaded boats. The suffering is a goad to American involvement even though internationalists think nations closer to the disaster should be stepping up first.

In a vastly shifting situation Obama is taking measured approaches against Isis that are open to criticism. (Why not a fly zone?  Why such trust in coalition power after Libya? If the Saudis also hate Isis, where are they?) These are important questions for mature debate. But at least Obama is thinking them through not overreacting as Bush did and the critics are. He apparently won’t let the dead hand of past sound-bites control his thinking.

Yet now the media has exploded over his announcement of less than 50 advisers – maybe because it was two days before Halloween. They play an endless rotation of old videos of “no American combat boots” from past years and suggest that landing these military specialists in Syria with no timetable for extraction violated his promise. A story in one national newspaper was even headlined:  “Obama Vows to End Two Wars, Now Starts a Third” – without noticing he did stop two wars and never started a third.

The critics gain some validity since the White House downplayed the announcement and is playing semantics to insist these are not combat troops and then conceding they could wind up in combat in certain situations.

Yet the central mission of mixing armed strength with diplomatic maneuvers remains unchanged. This for the media is something like “keep your doctor,” an invention that may pass into popular history.

Ryan uses Obama blame to sidestep
his own wheeling-dealing.
We just got an attempt at more of the same false history from the new Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, who went on “Meet the Press” to lie about Obama.  Ryan was actually trying to deflect media attention from the House of horrors he is now running. When he didn’t get the support he hoped for he grabbed some doubting right-wingers by promising he would keep comprehensive immigration reform on the shelf through the 2016 presidential election – a surefire way to make Latinos turn out for the Democrat.

Ryan’s excuse for more delay follows those old “make up your own history” canards.  Obama is “untrustworthy on this issue” because he’s secretly rewriting laws and putting himself above Congress, Ryan claims. But in truth Obama has acted in the open. He waited for years for the House to act, still wants them to and mainly as a goad used his executive authority to create limited entry for “dreamers” and their families. After losing the first round the idea is still moving through the appeals process. 

Despite all the claims that his youth represents change, Ryan wears a century old hat in political trickery. Many consider his economic thinking equally outdated.

He is counting on a duped public unaware of how the Obama policy on immigration happened – relying on ignorance and kneejerk distrust of any Democrat.  Is he expecting them to be fooled again when the group that refuses to act on immigration blames the other side for acting?  As Obama has constantly said, his executive order on immigration disappears the minute Congress passes a decent reform measure, which Ryan says he won’t allow, though the Senate in bipartisan fashion has done it.  Ironically, court action could make Ryan eat his own words.  While the executive order is temporarily blocked, it could be upheld while Obama is still president – and then all the blames falls on Ryan’s House.

It takes awhile for realities of history to refute the political myths so many people not only believe but also pass along. But perhaps the public is growing up. Certainly it should no longer accept the immediate hysteria for ratings that seems to have taken over both politicians and talking heads.  American optimism ought to mean believing that We the People are at the very least paying better attention.

About the author: Noth has been  a professional journalist since the 1960s, first as national, international and local news copy editor at The Milwaukee Journal, then as an editor for its original Green Sheet, also  for almost two decades the paper’s film and drama critic. He also created its Friday Weekend section and ran Sunday TV Screen magazine and Lively Arts as he became the newspaper’s senior feature editor. He was tapped by the publishers of the combining Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for special projects and as first online news producer before voluntarily departing in the mid-1990s to run online news seminars and write on public affairs and Internet and consumer news. From 2002 to 2013 he ran the Milwaukee Labor Press as editor. It served as the Midwest’s largest home-delivered labor newspaper, with archives at  In that role he won top awards yearly until the paper stopped publishing in 2013. His investigative pieces and extensive commentaries are now published by several news outlets as well as his culture and politics outlets known as Dom's Domain.  He also reviews theater for 

Monday, October 12, 2015


By Dominique Paul Noth

Wis State Journal (John Hart
photo) caught Bradley's
look as Walker introduced
her as his choice.
Everyone knew which other shoe, or high heel, Scott Walker was going to drop when respected Supreme  Court Justice N. Patrick Crooks, whose 10-year seat was up for voters to decide next April, had the temerity to die in office just as Walker wanted sole media attention to his withdrawal from the presidential race.

On hearing the Sept. 21 news Walker gave cursory official sorrow as he announced his own withdrawal and then stepped in to tell the electorate how to decide on a court replacement. 

With only a few months to go in the current court session, with the outcome of cases affecting the governor’s supporters already safely in conservative hands with a 4-2 majority – particularly a prosecutorial request to revive the John Doe process – he still felt  compelled to tilt the public vote to the least qualified candidate. 

Could it have anything to do with reviving his political fortunes in a state angry at being left a sloppy two-year budget and generally abandoned during his fruitless run for the White House? That eight months was certainly much longer than the court term he said had to be immediately filled. 

Geske discusses with Gousha the unhappy
partisan nature of court choices today.
As first step, fooling no one, Walker said he would spread a wide quality net for the interim selection to the high court.  Untrue, since this state is loaded not just  with qualified candidates but THREE former justices chosen from both sides of the aisle – Jon Wilcox and Louis Butler for two, and professor and restorative justice leader Janine Geske, once an easy choice to fill the county exec vacancy ahead of Walker’s election and even an easier choice as interim Marquette law dean. (At least Channel 12 reporter Mike Gousha was attuned enough to interview Geske about how the high court vacancy should be handled and drew some gentle remarks about the growingly unpleasant partisanship.) 

The most experienced and earliest announced candidates for Crooks’ seat, Milwaukee Circuit Judge Joe Donald and Appeals Court Judge JoAnne Kloppenburg, refused to apply, saying that call should be the people’s.  The third candidate –  coaxed to enter the race despite her limited bench experience – did apply and she was clearly going to get it, given Walker’s track record of personal favoritism to her and the money wielding Club for Growth. 

But for  show,  the Walker ranch had to stake out a Judas goat or two so the grazing would seem competitive. Madison corporate lawyer  Claude Covelli helped by applying for a seat he long wanted and had no chance of getting. Reportedly after a phone call so did longtime Walker legal ally Jim Troupis, whose service  to the monied interests had already won him appointment by Walker to a Dane County court seat where he’s already told the press he won’t face the voters next summer.   

Camouflage over, in a lavish press conference October 9, Walker revealed the obvious -- he would appoint  the least experienced candidate but a personal favorite, Rebecca Bradley. She can now flaunt a “Justice” title as she campaigns against more deeply experienced opponents free of  partisan taint, Donald and Kloppenburg.

As one veteran jurist told me in an email, “I don't think the Guv is strong on that independent judiciary thing.”

The Wisconsin press – always impressed by the bully power of the governor -- immediately said Bradley now had the inside edge.  That was even in the lead paragraph of the announcement report in the formerly independent, then Scripps, now Gannett chain newspaper known as the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. 

Clearer heads in all camps don’t agree.

“Dangerous choice,” said a GOP senator. “She’s the answer to our prayers,” said a leader of the progressive One Wisconsin Now.   An independent consultant told me, “If you want to focus your anger at Walker’s tactics and his evasiveness, he just cleared the underbrush.”

Many other politicos think such negatives outweigh the positives. Voters who want to cast a vote against Walker now have a statewide target: Rebecca Bradley, not to be confused with the real justice Bradley named Ann, who just won election last year.

It’s not just that Walker’s favorable ratings have dropped to 37% even in the polls he likes. It’s also how many of his choices for office and staff have landed in prison, legal trouble, newspaper headlines and/or resignation.  Even people who once liked some of his views are troubled by his methods. The Bradley incursion is just the latest example they cite.

The two qualified candidates for the high court
include Milwaukee's Joe Donald.
Frankly, progressives think they have a great chance to start taking back the state in the fall of 2016 with legislative contests. But they’ve been worried about these April elections, given the historic low interest, low turnout and higher financial organization of the right wing, which has often used April to solidify their hold on secondary offices. Judicial contests and local elections spread over 72 counties, many labeled nonpartisan, fail to excite either the press or the electorate. 

Voters may rail about Walker, but they don’t have a direct shot at him until 2018, if he tries to run again, and may never if he exits office before his term expires, leaving them trying to scoop a Kleefisch out of their soup. And there was no clear way to voice disapproval in April.

Until Bradley. Now he’s tied her to him, demonstrating precisely the kind of interference and distrust of voters his take-no-prisoners manner represents at its worst.

Nor is the state high court any longer minor news voters can ignore. Walker’s flirtation in the national spotlight took care of that. There has been an outbreak of major stories in and out of Wisconsin detailing “The Destruction of the Wisconsin Supreme Court" as one New Yorker magazine piece called it:  financial corruption, political intrusion from the right and spitting matches  over who should be called chief justice.  Add those events to the other complaints about the current administration and you can see how Walker’s warm embrace is hardly what any statewide candidate wants right now. 

Other prestigious publications have also put both Walker’s style and the high court story front and center – and that was before the tampering with the civil service law and the tampering with the  independent election and ethics monitoring agency and before trying to stack the results with Bradley, which all strike many as partisan corruption cut out of the same biased cloth.

“It’s always been hard to make the courts an issue for the voters,” said a New York City journalist who covers national legal affairs, “but not now when Wisconsin politicians keep making their high court a universal laughingstock.”

Also eminently qualified: JoAnne Kloppenburg
Then there’s what  Crooks represented on the court and Bradley doesn’t, as movingly illuminated online in a tribute by former clerk and noted legal scholar Melissa L. Greipp.

A hearty Irishman with the common touch, Crooks was the quietest, least headline-making and friendliest of the state justices, often voting with the conservative block but also flashing his independence at key moments, such as criticizing the political fawning John Doe outcome. His dissent will likely live longer in lawbooks than the court’s ruling.

While a  conservative majority remains intact without a new Bradley vehicle, Crooks in stark contrast could sometimes mean to the Wisconsin court what Anthony Kennedy means to the US Supreme Court, the swing vote that can be moved by independence, heart and analysis.

In ideological terms at least, a swinger Bradley is not.  She made her mark not on the bench but in conservative social circles as an outspoken member of the Republicans’ lawyer association and president of the Milwaukee chapter of the conservative Federalist Society.

She herself must realize that Walker’s endorsement is double-edged,  stating her belief that voters won’t pay attention to who appointed whom but “look at their record on the bench.”  But if they do, she’s really dead in the water.

Until 2012 she was in private practice as in-house counsel for a software company or  defending corporate clients.  Something in her style or rich acquaintances brought her to Walker’s attention.  Despite three separate seats on state courts, she has only faced the voters once because of this friendship. 

Even that "once" was quite a close shave. Walker appointed her in 2012  to a Milwaukee circuit court vacancy but in 2013 she  was facing a formidable field,  including a top-rated assistant DA, Janet Prostasiewicz,  who had once been on Walker’s own short list  – and it took an enormous influx  of Wisconsin Club for Growth money ($167,000, virtually unprecedented in a local race) to survive. (Prostasiewicz the following year with another opening ran away with the votes and is now also a judge.)

Walker elevated Bradley last May after Judge Ralph Adam Fine’s death to the vacancy on the First District Court of Appeals (voters won’t have a say on this seat until 2018). She had barely gotten her robes wet before he elevated her to the Supremes. 

Conservative allies believe her charm and affable manner will carry her through (though one conservative and supposed ally cattily remarked to me she now needed success “deeper than the cocktail party circuit”).  It was a recognition of how seldom the voters have endorsed her advances.

Crooks’ legions of friends who attended his funeral were blunter, calling her appointment “a travesty on his memory.” They were looking forward to a robust judicial debate between Donald and Kloppenburg, who both have strong centers of support (hers Southwest Wisconsin, his Southeast)and yards of bench experience.

That may still happen.  Conservatives were desperate for Bradley’s entry because that forces a February 16 primary and an expectation that votes will split  between the more balanced Donald and Kloppenburg and leave her to face only one of them April 5. If voters are exorcised enough, though, the Bradley juggernaut could be gone by February. 

There may be yet another reason for Walker’s unnecessary push to lock down a fifth vote on the seven-member court. His hold could vanish over time and federal law could be closing in. Consider that the two justices most obedient to big money and counted on for their  self-serving votes face re-election while Walker still could be governor – Annette Ziegler in 2017 (who needed $2.6 million from Club for Growth and Wisconsin Manufactures & Commerce to win) and Michael Gableman in 2018 ($2.3 million). His campaign against Butler was the ugliest and most misguided in memory

Joe Donald vs. JoAnne Kloppenburg will be interesting in any event.  She has a strong following among those who feel she was robbed of a seat on the high court in 2011 when she was beating David Prosser by a few hundred votes until Waukesha election clerk Kathy Nickolaus “found” some 14,700 “mislaid” votes after the election, giving Prosser a 7,000 margin re-election. Voters in southwestern Wisconsin promptly made amends, rewarding Kloppenburg with unopposed election in 2012 to the District IV appeals court, where she is presiding judge.

Donald is the clear choice of the influential Milwaukee legal community and county voters who backed him four times unopposed. He has nearly 20 dynamic years serving almost all branches of the circuit court from presiding judge in children’s court to active criminal court duties as well as being an influential voice in community affairs.  Praised by both prosecutors and defense attorneys for his knowledge of the law and fairness, he also is a leader in something both conservatives (Koch brothers) and progressives like – the drug treatment court, which seeks to handle nonviolent offenders in a rehabilitative way that is also far less costly than prison.

With her time in the Peace Corps and years in the  Attorney General’s office before the appeals court,  with his experience as assistant DA and judge throughout all levels of branch interaction with the public, that would be a debate the public would like hearing – unless Rebecca of Sunny Walker Farm gets in the way.

About the author: Noth has been  a professional journalist since the 1960s, first as national, international and local news copy editor at The Milwaukee Journal, then as an editor for its original Green Sheet, also  for almost two decades the paper’s film and drama critic. He also created its Friday Weekend section and ran Sunday TV Screen magazine and Lively Arts as he became the newspaper’s senior feature editor. He was tapped by the publishers of the combining Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for special projects and as first online news producer before voluntarily departing in the mid-1990s to run online news seminars and write on public affairs and Internet and consumer news. From 2002 to 2013 he ran the Milwaukee Labor Press as editor. It served as the Midwest’s largest home-delivered labor newspaper, with archives at  In that role he won top awards yearly until the paper stopped publishing in 2013. His investigative pieces and extensive commentaries are now published by several news outlets as well as his culture and politics outlets known as Dom's Domain.  He also reviews theater for 

Tuesday, October 6, 2015


By Dominique Paul Noth

There has seldom been as misleadingly backwards a headline as Journal Sentinel’s Page One Oct. 6 about the legislative effort to gut the state’s successful civil service system – Civil Service Overhaul Has Momentum Going Into First Hearing.  Momentum? The majority of the story quoted experts contrasting the close-minded right-wing rush for approval with the reality that the overhaul is unsavory, unnecessary and politically motivated.   

Steve Nass and Scott Walker, twin faces of a new failure
“Momentum” could only have been used to mean that, despite the facts, the bill is likely to fly through the Wisconsin Assembly and Senate, which has spent five years demonstrating the GOP majority is replete with ignoramuses.

Their policies haven’t and can’t improve the hiring, fiscal or education records of the state, but they remain stubborn self-obsessed bill writers protecting their own political battiness for the remaining years the citizens allow them to stay in office.  (An Oct. 6 ploy in that vein led committee GOP chair Sen. Steve Nass to call a two-hour lunch break to disrupt convenient testimony times for state workers – never let the facts get in the way of the rush.)

The actual force inside that  JS story comes from a veteran of the civil service system who once only had those rules and his integrity to fight an effort by the Doyle administration (more precisely, cabinet secretary Frank Busalacchi) to sideline him -- Jim Thiel, a former management attorney within the state Department of Transportation who was able to win his position back thanks to civil service regulations that are about to vanish.

Argue all you want about Act 10 and how it made average citizens feel like big brave lumberjacks chopping down the health benefits and pensions earned by their servants, but then talk today to Republican-dominated school districts and municipalities crippled by Act 10 rules, losing or paying even more for good teachers, and longing for the old days of collective bargaining. 

Add in right to work rules – which the private sector is now realizing is indeed the right to work “for less” and could soon make “shoddy” the word attached to the Wisconsin label rather than the “Union Made” attached to Scott Walker’s Harley. When you put low wages ahead of quality, you don’t have to worry about China and India stealing the good jobs, you’re doing it to yourself.

Mix in efforts to prevent John Doe prosecutors from specifically investigating politicians and their money-raising tricks (a weird suggestion that bank robbers should be pursued more vigorously than public white collar fraudsters). Weigh this legislative-led systemic catering to business cronies, questionable use of taxpayer money at WEDC and violations of the common-sense rules of integrity required in the free market.

And now comes civil service, created in 1905, upgraded often since but hardly perfect (what system private or public is?).  But one thing it has done has been to block political nepotism and backroom corruption and elevate integrity in public service --  by requiring applicants for 30,000 jobs to generally be tested through exams on their knowledge and ability and to be subject to a series of rules about staying or rising in government employment.

(It should not escape notice that the revolving door shenanigans at WEDC -- the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation -- that made headlines about wasted money took place largely because Walker lifted the civil service standards for hiring when he created that agency.)

As antiquated as the legislators are trying to make the system sound, many retired civil service workers reminded me how often they were able to update the process,  make exams  more applicable to their modernizing  job descriptions, speak out for meaningful upgrades, willingly repeated four-hour tests and felt strongly engaged in public service because of the rules.

The farce of this new bill is that such protections will be eliminated amid claims they are kept! All this is, the sponsors say, a modern response to the time it takes to evaluate workers and a recognition that baby boomers are aging out of the jobs.  Neither the comfort of speed nor the disadvantage of aging would normally be a sufficient reason to gut a working system, but here come the smoke and mirrors.

Sen. Roth seems not to
understand his own bill.
“Nothing in my bill will lead us back to the days of political patronage," insists the lead sponsor of S285, Sen. Roger Roth (R-Appleton) – which either means he’s lying or can’t read his own proposal. 

First and most obvious, it eliminates the civil service exams and replaces them with a resume-based hiring and merit process. That brings hoots of laughter from every respected institution of academic learning that knows what a variety of individuals live behind each degree they give out, and larger hoots from practiced managers in public and private business who know how inventive resume writing has become in the Internet age.

That includes me, who has mastered multiple Word templates on resume presentation and helped hundreds work on them. While known as a professional journalist and reviewer, I have actually managed several large staffs,  taught at  two universities, run national seminars and been pestered for resume help by a large family and even larger circle of their graduating friends.  

I regard myself as painfully honest, but I also fudge.  A good actor may have done an exceptional Puck from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” in a university class, so I might suggest beefing up a thin resume with “Puck . . .  Shakespeare . . .  Milwaukee.”  A fine writer who was a struggling stringer at the Appleton Post-Crescent or St. Louis Post Dispatch might find “Reporter . . .  Appleton Post-Crescent” approved by my signature. I know college chemistry and engineering teachers who have played the same sense of favoritism for proven value toward responsible students asking for job recommendations.

But in truth, as a manager, I knew a high-sounding resume  -- chockful of degrees and important names --  is at best only the basis for an interview, not a hiring. What idiot would base government hiring on that?  Oh, this idiot state. 

Actual exams, hard tests and so forth will always prove the more winning way to demonstrate ability and integrity.  But Wisconsin legislators can’t abide such independence and want to eliminate it.  As Scott Ross of One Wisconsin Now has commented, “A very clear message is being sent to state employees: Put the political considerations of this administration before the needs of the taxpayers of the state of Wisconsin."

Scott Ross reveals real warning within legislation.
And if the state employees don’t get that message, the legislature is doubling down with new absolutist firing provisions of “just cause”  along with the elimination of “bumping rights” or seniority of experience in changing jobs within the system.

Now, private or public sector, every capable manager has had a good worker who because of privacy concerns or family problems might miss a few days of work and still be worth a second chance. You, dear reader, may be one of those.  Or the guy who was still drunk a day after the Brewers game and when properly chastised is worth keeping.  But not if you have a bootlicker manager hurrying to fawn over “just cause” for his politically motivated boss.

Many municipal managers confessed in interviews recently they regret that Act 10 cost them good union stewards who were their best line of defense on record keeping and helping them turn around (or get rid of) lax employees. As one public official told me, “These stewards fought to get those rights and they are damned if they’ll let any bad employee abuse them – but they also knew how to respond to a human situation.”

But now, in the interest of standing firm for arbitrary personal favorites, not public best, the legislators would make the standards for job loss legally aloof, unbending and automatic, allowing – and actually encouraging -- managers to pluck out those absentees, free thinkers or individuals they ideologically dislike.  It is the ultimate in putting nepotism, cronyism, corruption and political favoritism ahead of integrity and individuality.

The bill uses more smoke and mirrors to disguise this – a two year probationary period for hires rather than six months, which allows smart incompetents to linger, I guess, or gives managers longer to uncover a worker from the opposite political side to find an excuse to fire.  Then there is the “ban the box” idea, popular in progressive legislation so that previous prison convictions that have nothing to do with the job don’t have to be included. But that’s a tiny bone that would have some meat if it also required an exam not a resume.

Walker’s campaign for president flopped in large part because the public in other states picked up and flatly rejected the poseur image he is still hung up on, especially his lording it over union workers. He and Chris Christie failed to make a dent in the polls with that. So now he’s back sticking his nose in state bills and letting  if not leading the next step in abusing worker rights,  this civil service nonsense – silly as it looks.

That just confirms Wisconsin as the nation’s lonely Freedonia among 50 states.  And will remain so until we stop playing Margaret Dumont to the Marx Brothers. 

About the author: Noth has been  a professional journalist since the 1960s, first as national, international and local news copy editor at The Milwaukee Journal, then as an editor for its original Green Sheet, also  for almost two decades the paper’s film and drama critic. He also created its Friday Weekend section and ran Sunday TV Screen magazine and Lively Arts as he became the newspaper’s senior feature editor. He was tapped by the publishers of the combining Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for special projects and as first online news producer before voluntarily departing in the mid-1990s to run online news seminars and write on public affairs and Internet and consumer news. From 2002 to 2013 he ran the Milwaukee Labor Press as editor. It served as the Midwest’s largest home-delivered labor newspaper, with archives at  In that role he won top awards yearly until the paper stopped publishing in 2013. His investigative pieces and extensive commentaries are now published by several news outlets as well as his culture and politics outlets known as Dom's Domain.  He also reviews theater for 

Monday, September 14, 2015

THE VINDICATION OF LOUIS BUTLER -- and How It Shames Wisconsin Voters

By Dominique Paul Noth
Louis Butler Jr.
It took nine years after he wrote Thomas Vs. Mallet to see its full force conclusively confirmed in 2014 by the US 7th District Court of Appeals. But by then it had already been recognized and used in national court rulings and writings as a key modernization of traditional tort liability law. 

That 2005  Wisconsin Supreme Court decision sent Wisconsin Manufactures & Commerce (WMC) into full-throated $2.25 million ad  rage in 2008 to defeat the author, Justice Louis Butler Jr. It caused conniptions among national chemical plant CEOs -- denial and delay even after Butler was defeated,  then aggressive lobbying their friends in Madison under Gov. Scott Walker’s reign  to pass legislation  to prevent retroactivity in lead paint cases. Their 2011 revenge law was later ruled as (yet another) unconstitutional invasion by the GOP legislature into judicial sobriety. 

Though every court up to the US Supremes has rejected the chemical companies’ efforts to block Butler’s decision, and several courts have actually used it, the detractors didn’t stop yelling. You would think the 7th District in 2014 struck the blow to finally beat these squadrons of chemical company lawyers to their knees. But the machinery of legal challenges that corporation lawyers relied on means that not until 2016 will some 173 Milwaukee household cases involving lead paint poisoning move to juries or settlement. 

The children in these original cases (whose privacy deserves protection) are grown, dead, hospitalized or in several cases in prison or in some institution.

Justice delayed may not always mean justice denied, but don’t try to sell that to these families or to Louis Butler Jr.

Butler was clearly an ascending jurist – a state public defender, then a teacher of judges, a law professor, a municipal judge and elected Milwaukee circuit judge. It was actually his reputation for scholarly congeniality even more than progressive leanings and political ability that won appointment in 2004 by Gov. Doyle to the state supreme court.  He had actually run against Diane Sykes in 2000 and now was replacing her.

He was also the first African American justice on that bench. But in 2008 he also became the bench's first incumbent to be defeated since George Currie in 1967 (largely blamed for a ruling that let the Braves move to Atlanta  -- in other words, serious offense to the public, not destroying thousands of minds with poisoned paint chips).

News in the US is entering an era of headlines dominated by cases of pollution and toxicity involving not just lead paint in homes -- still a lively lingering issue as editor Bruce Murphy recently detailed -- but such growing problems as fracking, mining runoff, pipe ruptures, environmental spills and other poisoning of land and water.  Atty. Peter Earle (who has argued the lead paint responsibility issue in many state and national cases) says Butler’s 2008 decision was a “courageous ruling” that now plays a pioneer interpretive role in all tort cases of causation and liability.

Where once an industry could hide behind the plaintiff’s inability to identify the precise source -- Which of four area fracking companies fouled the water table? Or which of five manufacturers making lead paint could be held accountable despite gaps in 50 year old records? -- Butler’s decision helps a court and jury measure responsibility among residents, property owners and manufacturers in the same industry.  

Millwaukee Magazine photo of Peter Earle.
“Big business is terrified of this legal development,” Earle told me in a recent interview, “because it can be applied to similar situations in which generic toxic products are negligently produced on a massive scale and cause widespread harm.”  

You can still find remnants of big business’ misshapen attack on this thoughtful reasoning about liability in wrongful acts – without any awareness that time has redeemed the judge’s stances – on the WMC’s own website.

No one (at least until this writing)  has corrected WMC leader Jim Pugh’s 2013 crowing,  still calling Butler’s ruling a “guilty-until-proven-innocent standard” though lead paint manufacturers have been treated fairly in the few cases already using the standard.  Juries are smarter than WMC thinks. Pugh exposes why the trade group’s heavy hand and aggressive self-glorification annoy even the business people who want to balance their approach to profits with accountability to the public.

In California, Earle used Butler’s decision to open the door to win a massive public nuisance suit. This was  a $1.15 billion award to long thwarted  complainants in 10 California counties who argued that lead paint in their pre-1978 residences were known toxins to the active lead paint manufacturers of the time. The list of shared guilt includes many of the same players as Wisconsin cases -- Sherwin-Williams Co., DuPont, Atlantic Richfield and NL Industries (Dutch Boy paint, which has partly conceded, actually settling many claims in Wisconsin).  For this $1.15 billion victory, Californians recognized Earle and his team as lawyer of the year for 2014.  

In that decision (perhaps a prelude to more) historic documents deepened proof that the companies long knew yet marketed toxic products. This  included memos urging stores to keep lead paint out front in sales pitches and one saying the public wouldn’t care  since “most of the houses would be occupied by the colored and Puerto Ricans.”

In those times, the same companies “owned the mines, the smelters, the paint stores so it would affect their profits across the board,” Earle told me.

“Think of it this way,” he explained. “If ten manufacturers pollute a body of water with the same toxic chemical and hundreds of thousands of people are injured, should all the culpable companies be given immunity from liability simply because each individual victim cannot identify which?   [In the past] the tradition of tort law protected the  companies from any blame and transferred the cost of the damages onto the backs of the taxpayer.”

Earle bluntly believes Butler was punished for “legal heroism.”

While fuming in interviews about the lead paint ruling and Butler’s opposition to extreme financial caps on jury awards in medical malpractice cases, WMC actually downplayed business related rulings that the voters might applaud – such as Butler leading a high court majority to uphold a jury’s $94 million punitive damages award to widows and families against Mitsubishi in the giant crane collapse at Miller Park in 1999 that killed three iron workers. (A statue of remembrance reminds the public of the tragedy as they enter the park). 

The WMC ads and other third party ads of growing viciousness from Club for Growth and particularly the  Coalition for America's Families (nearly $500,000 in lurid crime ads)  played most heavily on the public misconception that the supreme court deals directly with criminals rather than issues like admissible evidence and liability procedures. 

But the worst and most successful lie, relying on unstudied citizenry swayed by throat-clench "law and order” rhetoric and racist stereotypes, came from his opponent, a state judge, Michael Gableman. The April voters to their everlasting shame ate up this “Loophole Louie” slur that crowded the airwaves with a ferocity that negated the campaigning in Butler’s favor. 
Today Gableman is the bombastic bullfrog on the high court, the buffoon relegated to easy rulings or obviously partisan platitude cases.  (Not just my opinion but those of many seasoned observers who speculated that the other justices were too smart to be out front in such hyperbolic rulings as the John Doe case.)  

In that 2008 campaign, with well over 4,000 radio and TV ads against Butler, it was Gableman’s untruth that got the most media mileage (he was after all, a judge and wouldn’t blatantly invent, would he?), reaching falsely back to Butler’s early career as a public defender. 

“It’s being compared to the Willie Horton ad from the 1988 presidential campaign,” reported  one 2008 contemporary fact-checking account, detailing how the contents did Horton one better by featuring side by side two black men – one smiling justice, one glaring rapist, both in black and white images compared to the full color ruddy plump conservative. 

“This ad falsely implies that Butler was responsible for freeing the rapist and allowing him to commit another sexual assault,” the report detailed. “Actually, Butler failed to win the man’s release as public defender. The rapist served his sentence and didn’t commit his next crime until he had been paroled. . .  So Butler didn’t ‘find a loophole’ as this ad claims [video of ad included in the link]. He convinced the appeals court that the trial judge had allowed the jury to hear prejudicial information, which is just what appeals lawyers are supposed to do.”

Gableman was excoriated by ethical experts from all camps for the ad and ever since he has been dodging censure, which is easier with a justice title and right-wing money and politicians to watch your back.

The article from the era also described this:  “A second ad, sponsored by a business trade group [WMC], says Butler ‘almost jeopardized’ a murder prosecution. But in fact, Butler was the sole dissenter in a 6-1 verdict” about evidence.

And just this September 9, his dissent was vindicated in the 7th District order of a new trial for Mark Jensen. 

“The letter from the grave,” Butler chuckled in a recent interview. “Most of the money spent by independents on radio and TV was about this case.”

But all Butler argued was to disallow the “letter from the grave” in the Jensen murder trial, where it was wielded mightily to convict him. So this was never an argument about guilt or innocence in the poison death of Jensen’s wife, but just about inadmissible evidence in a domestic situation. Later courts have all agreed with Butler.

State-paid lawyers were ordered to embrace that old WMC nostrum and spent big taxpayer money to fight for the "letter from the grave" as it was used in the trial, even after a federal judge vacated the Jensen conviction in 2013 along the grounds Butler argued.

The 7th appeals court panel this month confirmed the conviction should be voided,  leaving the state with the options of appeal to the full court or the US Supreme Court (both doubtful), freedom for Jensen or a new trial.

We’re not done with this litany of vindication for Butler because other ads dragged out the Ralph D.  Armstrong murder case to label Butler “soft on crime” for “leading the high court” to vacate his 1981 murder conviction.

But it was clear even in 2008 and more so now with the state’s own dismissal of all charges that there was overwhelming evidence of prosecutorial misconduct and false DNA evidence. Armstrong’s freedom was developed by the Innocence Project and pointed the way to another culprit.  This case is now called without quotes an “unlawful homicide conviction” in news stories this May when the federal appeals court allowed Armstrong, who spent 29 years in prison, to sue the prosecutor and several lab workers for hiding “potentially exculpable evidence.”  So, it seems, Butler is not soft on crime but hard on evidence.

The attack on Butler didn’t end with Gableman’s close victory. It destroyed his earned path to high office.  Continuing right-wing enmity in the US Senate blocked three attempts by President Obama to name him a federal judge. 

It’s easy to blame his 2008 loss on an ignorant public led by their law and order fears, but let’s reserve much of the blame to the voters who stayed home, as so many do in these April elections, not realizing the price they pay at the local and judicial level for decades into the future. Many of the educated and supposedly thoughtful citizenry saw that filthy black and white ad -- it was everywhere -- but apparently weren’t disgusted enough to vote. A representative democracy still depends on who turns out.

Butler's law firm portrait
Maybe that’s why Butler today doesn’t foam at the mouth as many of his friends and supporters do about what was done to him.

He’s still a busy lawyer in Milwaukee for the nation’s largest minority-owned law firm, Gonzalez Saggio & Harlan, and an active student of judiciary developments. A robust 63 years of age, he is regularly courted to return to elected office.

Butler is well aware -- from lead paint to Miller Park to criminal case lies -- how thoroughly he has been vindicated.

Though denied the bench for years, think of this. While  most of the remaining Wisconsin high judiciary has fallen into disrepute and nationwide ridicule, it is his reasoning and decisions that continue to earn nationwide respect and influence.

When asked recently how he felt about it all, he simply responded:

“I lost my job for doing my job.” 

About the author: Noth has been  a professional journalist since the 1960s, first as national, international and local news copy editor at The Milwaukee Journal, then as an editor for its original Green Sheet, also  for almost two decades the paper’s film and drama critic. He also created its Friday Weekend section and ran Sunday TV Screen magazine and Lively Arts as he became the newspaper’s senior feature editor. He was tapped by the publishers of the combining Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for special projects and as first online news producer before voluntarily departing in the mid-1990s to run online news seminars and write on public affairs and Internet and consumer news. From 2002 to 2013 he ran the Milwaukee Labor Press as editor. It served as the Midwest’s largest home-delivered labor newspaper, with archives at  In that role he won top awards yearly until the paper stopped publishing in 2013. His investigative pieces and extensive commentaries are now published by several news outlets as well as his culture and politics outlets known as Dom's Domain.  He also reviews theater for