By Doug Hissom Special to Published Feb 09, 2007 at 5:14 AM

Add another group of scapegoats for the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the U.S. -- liberals. While Ward Churchill and his “little Eichmann” scenario and UW-Madison lecturer Kevin Barrett’s 9/11 Bush-did-it conspiracy theory were consistently and constantly vilified by conservative talk radio, a theory from the opposite end of the spectrum has left them conspicuously quiet.

Dinesh D’Souza has been traveling the country touting his premise that the left is responsible for the attacks since it angered the Muslim world prior to Sept. 11. His book, “The Enemy at Home: The Cultural Left and its Responsibility for 9/11,” suggests “the cultural left and its allies in Congress, the media, Hollywood, the nonprofit sector, and the universities are the primary cause of the volcano of anger toward America that is erupting from the Islamic world.”

D’Souza, a Stanford University fellow with the conservative (surprise, surprise) Hoover Institute, has been described by the New York Times as “the aging enfant terrible of American conservatism.”

Political liberals are the reason for the attacks because presidents such as Carter helped radical Islamists to power after pulling support from the shah of Iran and Clinton for not attacking Islamists sooner, goes D’Souza. Liberal Americans are responsible for inciting Islamists because of their lifestyle of allowing abortion, gay rights and contraception. (Sounds a little like Pat Robertson doesn’t it?) So far, not a peep from talk radio on this new theory, even though D’Souza was in Madison proffering his thoughts just last week.

Packing in the Per Diem: That much-coveted perk of business travel throughout the land -- the per diem -- also allows state lawmakers to add to their salaries. Legislators who live outside Dane County are given $88 a day in pay for each day they say they’re at the Capitol in addition to their $45,000-plus salaries. Lawmakers who live in Dane County get $44 a day.

The practice has traditionally raised a few eyebrows due to the names topping the list -- mainly because they are not considered the movers and shakers under the dome. For example, Leon Young, the Milwaukee Democrat, leads local pols in per diem claims after receiving $11,352 extra last year for saying he was at the Capitol 129 days. Young isn’t exactly known as a legislative powerhouse, producing few bills, displaying a decided lack in lawmaking prowess and pretty much is a guy who blends in with the woodwork.

Young came in tied for seventh among the 99 Assembly members, a list headed by Marlin Schneider (D-Wisconsin Rapids), who compiled 155 days at work to the tune of $13,640, despite lacking much legislative presence other than his longevity.

Other local lawmakers near the top of the per diem pyramid are: Robert Turner (D-Racine), 114 days at $10,032; newcomer Mark Honadel (R-Oak Creek), 105 days for $9,240 and David Cullen (D-Milwaukee), 100 days for $8,800.

Low on the local list include: Sheldon Wasserman (D-Milwaukee), 30 days for $2,400; Pedro Colon (D-Milwaukee), 43 days for $3,784 and Leah Vukmir (R-Wauwatosa), 44 days for $3,872.

In the state Senate, Tim Carpenter (D-Milwaukee) leads the per diem way locally, spending 135 days at the Capitol and earning $11,880 for it. That, despite chairing no committees nor sitting on any prominent committees. Carpenter came in fifth among the 33 senators, which was led by Jon Erpenbach, a noted senator from Middleton, who logged 234 days.

Other local leaders include: Glenn Grothman (R-West Bend), 120 days for $10,560 and Jeff Plale (D-South Milwaukee), 92 days for $8,096. Those claiming they spent less time in Madison are: Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin), 56 days, and Ted Kanavas (R-Brookfield), 57 days. 
Developmental Disabilities: When Milwaukee Department of City Development Director Rocky Marcoux sent a letter to county officials complaining about the pace of Park East Corridor land sales, he crossed the bridge of governmental cooperation to slap the county in the face. He was quickly rebuffed from the other side and left holding the bag by his boss, the mayor.

Marcoux last month suggested that the county’s “multi-layered process” and “procedural complexities” were slowing sales in a space where he is “eager to see visible construction activity.” Marcoux’s letter came shortly after the city handed out $8.5 million in aid to local developer Barry Mandel to clean up his former tannery site along the Milwaukee River and promised a $40 million commitment to help rebuild the Pabst Brewery site.

The county owns 16 acres -- the bulk of the vacant land that the Park East Freeway once passed through. The procedural complexities the DCD chief was referring to were employment standards the county requires for any development of its land. Wages, workers and job training are all part of the county package -- standards that the city adamantly opposed requiring for its share of the land.

It could be the reason that the highest profile developer for the city land is local developer Barry Mandel -- who also opposed the standards -- while county land suitors are a mix of firms, including some that haven’t done business in Milwaukee before.

Pam Fendt, director of the Good Jobs and Livable Neighborhood Coalition, which fought for the employment standards in front of the city and the county, sees Marcoux’s letter as an attempt at torpedoing their effort. She said the group met with Mayor Tom Barrett shortly after the letter was sent out and he assured them it was Marcoux’s opinion and not one coming from the mayor’s office. She noted that the city’s progress in dealing with the Pabst Brewery site and Mandel’s tannery went much slower than any project the county has gotten into. The tannery closed in 2000 and has been vacant since. Pabst closed in 1996.

“Why not try to really get to the bottom of the market issues facing Milwaukee instead of slinging mud? It's a very unproductive use of time and energy,” Fendt says. “Some conspiracy-minded folks could wonder if the city is trying to make their predictions about the potential for community benefits agreements to kill development come true. The same could be said of the local developers boycott of the land. But it would be good for Milwaukee if the politicians took the rhetoric down a notch.”

County Board Chairman Lee Holloway also took umbrage at Marcoux’s nose-thumbing in a response to Mayor Tom Barrett. The chairman noted that the county has more than $300 million in development agreements in the corridor. “Rather than respond to untrue diatribes from your department heads, I’d prefer working with you to create jobs in this city.” 

Doug Hissom Special to
Doug Hissom has covered local and state politics for 20 years. Over the course of that time he was publisher, editor, news editor, managing editor and senior writer at the Shepherd Express weekly paper in Milwaukee. He also covered education and environmental issues extensively. He ran the UWM Post in the mid-1980s, winning a Society of Professional Journalists award as best non-daily college newspaper.

An avid outdoors person he regularly takes extended paddling trips in the wilderness, preferring the hinterlands of northern Canada and Alaska. After a bet with a bunch of sailors, he paddled across Lake Michigan in a canoe.

He lives in Bay View.