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Wednesday, July 23, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 69.0° F  A Few Clouds
Blaska's Blog


Blaska blogs U.S. Senate candidate Frank Lasee, a district of charter schools, and Steve Jobs

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Frank Lasee is a fine looking man approaching age 50, the prime of life. He stands 6 feet, 4 inches tall. That was the first question I asked over lunch at Cooper's on the Square last week: his height.

I mean not to damn by faint praise, but the man does looks like a senator. Which he is. He was elected last November to the state senate (succeeding older cousin Alan Lasee) after a surprise defeat in 2008 in a bid for an eighth term in the Assembly. He represents Door, Kewaunee, and parts of Manitowoc, Brown and Calumet Counties.

He would like to represent the entire state in the United States Senate. He will have plenty of competition in the Republican primary. In fact, that is the only place you'll find competition. The only Democrat eager to succeed Herb Kohl, another Democrat, is Madison's Tammy Baldwin. Republicans have picked up on the Dems' sense of futility.

I told Lasee's people when they set up the lunch (we went dutch treat) that I was a Tommy Thompson man. The state senator wanted to dine with me just the same, his staff said.

Always glad to break bread with a fellow conservative. That, in fact, is the man's calling card. Frank Lasee is positioned as the bluest conservative with the longest pedigree. He may have a point. Frank brought up the name of Marco Rubio, the state legislator who overcame the presumed front-runner, a popular and moderate governor named Charlie Crist, to become Florida's newest U.S. Senator.

Can you spot the parallel in the Wisconsin race?

Mark Neumann is also in the race (isn't he always?) and so, it appears, is Jeff Fitzgerald, Speaker of the Assembly. That candidacy, I do not understand.

Of the four, Frank Lasee will contest Neumann as the most conservative. He introduced TABOR (Taxpayer Bill of Rights) in 2004 and I see that my Tommy joined with Lasee and Neumann in signing Grover Norquist's Taxpayer Protection Pledge. (Which TGT can do without fear or embarrassment because he never has raised taxes.)

Lasee won't claim tea party endorsement -- much too soon for that -- but he is counting on tea party support, where he is well known. On the debit side, he is unknown outside tea party circles in most of the state -- except in the Green Bay mass media market, which is larger than Madison's and therefore, consequential.

Lasee (pronounced "La Say") would not identify a favorite in the presidential race. But he did bite on the interviewer's other trick. The book he recommends is Road to Serfdom, the classic indictment of centrally planned economies written by Friedrich von Hayek.

Lasee identifies with Ron Johnson, who hails from the same part of the state (Oshkosh) and who will become Wisconsin's senior senator in January 2013 after only two years in office. But Ron Johnson famously said that one needs either $10 million of name recognition to be elected to the U.S. Senate or ten million dollars. Frank Lasee has neither.

I've seen Sen. Lasee at conservative functions but never conversed. He guards the right flank even in the Republican hegemony of Wisconsin state government. He is not an insider.

The man is quite personable, has an attractive family (wife Amy and six daughters -- six!) and -- who knows? -- may emerge from the scrum. People forget that in the Democratic primary 19 years ago the two presumed front-runners, U.S. Rep. Jim Moody and millionaire Joe Checota, beat themselves to a pulp. An obscure state senator named Russ Feingold emerged from the smoke as the winner.

The rest, as they say ...

Here's Frank Lasee's campaign website.

Does it play statewide?

Mark Neumann has a most wonderful mailer that features a photograph of Tammy Baldwin egging on the Capitol Siege. Superimposed on the (rather muddy) photograph is the legend: "Democratic Representative Tammy Baldwin rallied the protesters that shut down Madison. Now she wants a promotion to the U.S.Senate."

If Senators Hopper and Kapanke had beaten that drum a little bit harder -- the Madison madness -- we could remove the word "former" from their titles.

Now Tammy is going to present an award to Madison's unionized teachers cabal for shutting down school. Video, please!

A school district of charters

New Orleans' public schools were already a disaster before Hurricane Katrina wrecked the city. Was Katrina an example of Joseph Schumpeter's "creative destruction?"

Today, five of every six kids in the public school system attends a charter school. The Wall Street Journal reports:

The results are encouraging. Five years ago, 23% of children scored at or above "basic" on state tests; now 48% do. Before Katrina, 62% attended failing schools; less than a fifth do today. The gap between city kids and the rest of the state is narrowing.

... "The approach [in New Orleans] is just government facilitating an entrepreneurial solution to this inequity. Schools started from scratch under new management with broad authority to hire and fire their staff. Teachers lost collective-bargaining rights. Strange bedfellows-older African-American principals, civic activists, business people-came together to rebuild the schools. Charter boards filled up with local notables.

Trek's Mary Burke, anyone? One of the New Orleans schools even separates boys and girls!

Lookin' like a fool, parts 52 & 53

From MSNBC, via my friend Ronn:

One Manhattan judge is so fed up with seeing teenagers' backsides in his courtroom that he's taped a notice to the defense table that reads: "Pull Up Pants."

It's unusual for judges to implement wardrobe regulations, but Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Eduardo Padro, who hears cases primarily involving teenagers, tells The New York Post his ordinance is about encouraging defendants to look the part if they want another chance.

Also, Albany, Georgia, has banned saggy pants and issued 187 citations ranging from $25 to $200, says Bangstyle.

A good question

Don't know how much longer this image will be posted on the Apple home page, so I reproduce it here. Again, simple and stylish.

Steve Jobs is one of my personal heroes. I find myself very affected by his passing. Perhaps because they are of my generation, but I felt the same way when Dennis Hopper died, and when Benazir Bhutto of Pakistan, George Harrison and Princess Diana died. Unique individuals who, in Jobs' words, "dented the universe."

Jobs was a man who was given up for adoption, whose adoptive parents could not afford his college education. A boardroom coup threw him out of the company he co-founded. He returned 11 years later to rescue the company, then in dire financial straits, by picking up where he left off: creating a series of game-changing devices that changed how information is accessed. To do so, he eschewed consumer focus groups. Instead, he acted on instinct and his own sense of style to create things we did not know we wanted.

He sought no government subsidy for the Macintosh. No people's park manifesto demanded the iPad. Could "the collective" have created iTunes?

Jobs was reported to be worth anywhere between 5 and 8 billion dollars. He did not sign onto the Warren Buffett/Bill Gates philanthropy. If he gave to charity, it went unpublicized.

I repeat the question I asked in connection with the Occupy Wall Street crowd's obsessions:

Was Steve Jobs greedy? Or did he contribute more to the world than if he had opened a thousand soup kitchens?

Both his birth parents (who survive) have Wisconsin connections, as the Wall Street Journal reports.

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