Wisconsin Recall: Hope Remains While the Company Is True

A few weeks ago I went with a friend to Miller Park a couple of hours before the start of a Brewers game to gather signatures to help Kathleen Vinehout get her name on the ballot for the May 8 recall primary. Being a dyed-in-the-wool introvert, I had never done anything like this before. It was like a brief, intense peek into a microcosm of Wisconsin. Unsurprisingly, most were drinking beer, eating brats and cheese, and generally in quite the festive, boisterous mood.

It was heartening to hear many ask specifically about Vinehout’s support for teachers. They perceived Walker’s attack on teachers as a serious affront and were only interested in helping candidates who would strongly support public education and teachers. Of course, there were a couple who had to yell “Support Walker” at the top of their lungs, but mostly people were quite pleasant.

I approached one young woman who said, “I’m a Walker supporter.”
Me: “No problem. Thanks anyway.”
She (seeming surprised): “Thanks for being so polite about it.”
Me (smiling): “Thanks for thanking me.”
Then we both giggled, almost conspiratorially, like we were doing something slightly subversive by being so painfully, explicitly polite. I can’t help but think that had we more time we could have had a good conversation about what was happening to our state. As it was, it was like catching a brief glimpse of an actual human being, beating heart and all, on the other side of a vast chasm.

This past week we were given a different kind of glimpse, this one into the chasm of Walker’s dark heart, not unlike his revealing and excruciatingly embarrassing tape-recorded phone call with blogger Ian Murphy posing as billionaire radical-right-winger David Koch, in which he talked about dropping the bomb on Wisconsin. On Thursday, another telling recorded conversation surfaced, this one from January 2011 with an actual billionaire donor, Diane Hendricks, who, it transpires, is Walker’s most generous backer to date (having donated $510,000 to Walker’s campaign so far) and owns the ABC Supply Company in Beloit, which paid not a dime in state corporate income tax from 2005 to 2008. This time Walker spoke of using a “divide and conquer” tactic. Alas, that “divide and conquer” thingy has been tried before, to disastrous effect.

A 1947 “Don’t Be a Sucker” film put out by the U.S. War Department warns against falling for the divide-and-conquer tactic: “In this country we have no ‘other people.’ We are American people. … Remember that when you hear this kind of talk. Somebody’s going to get something out of it, and it isn’t going to be you.

Very prescient. Clearly Walker’s billionaire backers get something out of all this bombing and dividing and conquering. And what are the people of Wisconsin getting? The worst job performance of any state in the nation. Slashed education funding. Drastically cut healthcare. And a severely divided state.

Not long after his conversation with Hendricks, Walker dropped his bomb on the state, blithely claiming that it was all to balance the budget. Check out the clear disconnect between what he told Hendricks and what he told us:

Walker has divided Wisconsin all right. To say he’s a “polarizing personality” is understatement. According to Jessica Van Egeren of the Cap Times,

His popularity among voters has hovered around 50 percent for months, suggesting his supporters will view the admission caught on the video without consternation while his detractors will see it as confirmation of everything they already oppose about him. Thus, it seems the video, while described as ‘shocking’ by Barrett’s campaign, will do little to sway most voters.

The Marquette poll [released last week] found only a small percentage of state voters, around 4 percent, remain undecided in the June election.

Phil Walzak, a Barrett spokesman, believes it’s those voters who the Walker video could potentially impact. And for them, he says, it won’t be because the video touches on Walker’s views on collective bargaining but rather because it provides a glimpse into Walker’s style.

“Even if this small percentage of voters isn’t moved by collective bargaining issues, they are moved by issues of trust,” Walzak says. “Walker tells us one thing, and billionaire donors another. I think that is a turnoff to voters who are undecided and in the middle right now. Something like this could be really big for them.” (emphasis added)

We are indeed severely divided. And by all accounts it’s going to be a perilously close race. Who knows who those 4 percent are and where they are? They could be anyone, anywhere. Now is not the time to politely avoid talk of politics. Now is the time to ask friends and neighbors and coworkers where they stand in the great divide. When the answer you hear sounds like it comes from one of the 4 percent, listen carefully. Have a real conversation. Those are the moments that could make or break this election.

I’m reminded of Galadriel’s words to the fellowship in The Lord of the Rings: “The Quest stands upon the edge of a knife. Stray but a little and it will fail, to the ruin of all. Yet hope remains, while the company is true.”

Photos courtesy of the Overpass Light Brigade, Raj Shukla, and John Pope. Video courtesy of Arthur Kohl-Riggs. Many thanks to all of you!

Show Me What Solidarity Looks Like

Political life in the United States has become so noxious and hostile that extreme partisan polarization, name-calling, smears, and schoolyard taunts have become commonplace. Thanks in large part to our collective addiction to the miraculous medium of television, our attention spans rarely amount to more than a minute and a half. We expect every issue to have two very clear-cut equal-and-opposite sides, and only two. “You are either with us, or you are against us.” In other words, quit with your pesky questions and jump on the god-damned bandwagon. People on one side seldom speak to anyone on the other side in anything more than sound bites. Stark divisions make much more entertaining TV than reasoned discourse. Because commonality doesn’t sell, we have allowed ourselves to forget that there are things we hold in common. Important things.

It is within this toxic political context that we come to a pivotal moment in the course of the Wisconsin uprising. We have marched and protested; we have mobilized the grass roots; we have collected and submitted more than enough signatures. So now what?

The last thing we need is for Wisconsin’s upcoming recall election to fall into the dreadful, deadening pattern of politics as usual. The barroom brawl that now serves as our political “discourse” has already been dramatically altered by our civil, peaceful uprising. We have already accomplished so much. But we aren’t anywhere near finished yet. In fact, we’re really only just getting started.

Many of us are disappointed that neither Russ Feingold nor Peter Barca are running for governor. Jessica Vanegeren wrote in the Cap Times last week of a “palpable lack of enthusiasm among many voters for any of [Walker’s] potential opponents.”

It’s time to carefully examine the merits of those opponents: former Dane County executive Kathleen Falk, who has garnered several union endorsements; state senator Kathleen Vinehout, who was one of the courageous Wisconsin 14 who fled the state to give the people time to understand and react to Walker’s budget bill bomb; secretary of state Doug La Follette, the longest-serving Wisconsin state official; and Milwaukee mayor Tom Barrett, who ran a close race against Walker in 2010.

Maybe none of them is quite the hero we were hoping for, but maybe that’s a good thing. No one person or politician is going to fix this for us. No one is riding in on a white horse. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.

It’s time once again to muster our courage and blaze a new trail, to renew our commitment to better governance for the people of Wisconsin: equal access to good education and good health care; renewed commitment to collective bargaining and workers’ rights; and transparent, open government that is responsive to the Wisconsin electorate. These are the the issues that stir our passions.

Those of us who have participated in the Wisconsin uprising are not going to agree on who is the best candidate. Not until after May 8 (the date of the primary), that is. After May 8, all of us must solidly get behind the candidate we have collectively chosen to replace Walker. Over the course of the next five weeks, there will be much that we do not agree on. But we do need to agree on how we’re going to conduct ourselves. Our-way-or-the-highway isn’t going to cut it. If you’re for Falk and I’m for LaFollette, that doesn’t mean that either of us is betraying the movement that we’re so deeply invested in. That’s not to say that valid criticism of any of the Democratic candidates is off limits. Of course it’s not. But rather than win-at-any-cost personal attacks, those criticisms should be civil, respectful, and substantive.

We also need to remember that, contrary to what the mainstream media are reporting, the push to recall Walker et al. hasn’t just come from liberals and progressives. Many who consider themselves conservatives have been deeply offended by the Fitzwalker assault on the state; some not only signed the recall petition but helped to gather signatures. Just because the mainstream media has ignored them doesn’t mean that we should too. This is their movement as well as ours.

In a column in today’s Cap Times, Ed Garvey rightly issues a stirring call for solidarity: “The success or failure of the uprising turns on solidarity in the ranks. After June 5, Scott Walker will be finished as a national leader of the right-wing tea party or he will become a hero to the Koch brothers. The stories told to your grandchildren decades from now will end on a high note or you will be forced to explain how we snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.”

But let’s be clear about what solidarity is and what it isn’t. Solidarity does not mean uniformity. What we need now is something virtually unheard of in today’s political climate: reasoned and respectful public discourse. We can—and must—raise questions and discuss our inevitable differences without attacking each other or questioning each other’s motives or commitment.

Let’s continue with the trailblazing and show the rest of the country what solidarity looks like. Let’s keep it classy and honest and renew our commitment to what binds us together: a deep and abiding love for the people of Wisconsin. We have come so far. We still have a long way to go. Let’s do this. And let’s do it right.

Bad News for BadgerCare Plus

Frankly, I don’t have good news regarding the state of BadgerCare Plus. In another move that shows that Republicans don’t listen to their constituents and put corporations interests over people, the Joint Finance Committee approved changes to BadgerCare yesterday that will cut an estimated 22,800 people from the program. Even though this plan is less disruptive than the original plan that would have impacted 64,800 people, it’s still bad news for many Wisconsin working families. The Wisconsin Radio Network reports that “Some 44,000 BadgerCare enrollees will see premium increases, while more than 22,000 will be dropped from the state-run Medicaid program. “ According to the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families:

“Democrats offered a motion that would have nullified the entire waiver proposal approved by the JFC in November, which DHS estimated at that time would cause more than 64,000 people to lose their BadgerCare coverage. That motion would have paved the way for the committee to take up the BadgerCare Protection Act, which restores legislative accountability for Medicaid changes and fills the program deficit by eliminating a corporate tax break passed earlier this year. This motion was rejected on a party line vote, with Democrats in favor and Republicans against.”

People from around the state (Appleton, Green Bay and Milwaukee) came to lobby support from legislators for the BadgerCare Protection Act before the meeting and held up signs during the JFC meeting. People in the audience for the most part kept decorum during the meeting, but all bets were off once the meeting ended. The frustration in the room was palpable during the entire hearing and came to head during the vote. Quite a few people quietly stood and held signs while the vote was taking place. Unfortunately, the Democratic sponsored bill, SB 835 did not pass. This was too much for many observers who vented their frustration by shouting “shame” at the legislators as they left the room.

The Journal Sentinel made no mention of the Democrats bill in their article. They also didn’t mention the public outcry that happened after the vote. They chose to focus on how the latest proposal would save the state less money than the original proposal:

“The number of people expected to lose or drop their coverage was about one-third the number that would have lost it under the original proposal put forward by Gov. Scott Walker’s administration, which would have affected 64,800 people. The number of children losing their coverage fell even more sharply to 2,900 from the original proposal of 29,100 children.
The proposal also would save less state money – $36.5 million through June 2013 instead of $90.2 million.”
Working families have against lost another battle against corporate special interests.”

While it’s great that the changes to BadgerCare Plus won’t hurt as many people as originally proposed, it’s still harming too many.”

The article makes the changes sound very reasonable. How is it “reasonable” to deny people affordable health care coverage? How is it “reasonable” to increase health insurance premiums on families that are struggling to make ends meet? How is it “reasonable” to force families to chose between paying for health insurance premiums and putting food on the table? How are there “cost savings” for people to seek medical care only in the case of emergency? Preventative care is significantly less expensive than emergency care. Uninsured people tend to seek medical treatment only when their condition is bad enough to warrant a trip to the emergency room. These people frequently can’t pay for this treatment and the cost of their treatment is passed onto others. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound in cure. I would rather pay a small amount for prevention than a large amount in critical care. More importantly, affordable health care improves the quality of life for Wisconsin’s working families. Remember, the “working poor” aren’t just a statistic or some mystic “other” that aren’t part of society, they are our friends, family and neighbors.

“One Year Longer, One Year Stronger” Reflections on the Protests in Wisconsin

As many of you are aware it’s been just over one year since soon to be former Governor Walker announced his “budget repair bill”. Part of this budget repair bill took away collective bargaining rights from public workers. The thing that made my blood boil was the “budget repair bill” was “needed” because of all the tax cuts Walker gave to companies during his first month as governor. This told me that the current administration valued tax cuts to corporations more than workers’ rights. A strong middle class is built because workers have some say in their work place. Taking away any workers’ rights is NOT the “Wisconsin way”.

So much has happened since that fateful day in February it’s tough to even know where to start. There have been so many highs and just as many lows. It’s difficult to keep up on everything happening in Wisconsin politics. I’ve seen mass protests form almost overnight. In fact one of the very first protests against Walker was at the Post Crescent office here in Appleton. I’ve seen a large number of people become politically active for the first time in their lives. I’ve seen an unprecedented number of recall elections.

Before this I never really paid attention to state politics because in the back of my mind I always thought Wisconsin was different and that somehow our politicians were more reasonable than in other states. In my mind, all Wisconsin politicians strove to do the “right thing” for the state and were willing to listen to everyone, even dissenters. Boy, was I wrong and more than a little naive.

In the last year I’ve seen politicians who avoid town hall meetings with their constituents. Some of our elected legislators prefer either a pay for event like a breakfast or telephone conference call. I’ve heard politicians say they’re not interested in listening to people testifying at “listening sessions”. I don’t know about you, but I always believed “we the people” hired these officials by electing them. It’s part of their job description to listen to everyone, not just the people that voted for them. We shouldn’t have to pay to speak with them nor agree completely with them in order to be heard.

Most importantly, I’ve seen a state-wide community of progressives form. Since this started I have found so many unsung Wisconsin heroes, it’s impossible to name them all. There are the people who braved blizzards and froze while protesting at the capital last winter, the people who canvassed neighborhoods during the heat of the summer and who can forget the tens of thousands of people who gathered recall signatures this winter. It may have started because of collective bargaining rights, but it’s branched out to become something much bigger than that. This has turned into a movement that has gained the attention and support of people from all over the country. Many progressives from other states are pinning their hopes and dreams on the successes we have here. They believe their states have a chance to improve if we succeed here in Wisconsin. We can and will make things better. At the beginning people would say “one day longer, one day stronger”, now we can all say “one year longer, one year stronger”. Let’s keep this amazing progressive momentum going FORWARD!!!!!!!!!!!

Wisconsin is seeing red: $143 million budget shortfall

I can’t wait to hear Scott Walker’s explanation for this situation.

Under Gov. Walker, WI seeing red by Peter W. Barca

A year ago when the budget condition statement did not require a repair bill, GOP inflated numbers to create a crisis so they could justify taking away workers’ rights, hiring more cronies and hijacking the healthcare policy making.

They started with a much higher general fund balance than exists this session (+$122 million) and tacked on a number of things that LFB does not include. With those things added like GOP did a year ago today’s total deficit picture would be hundreds of millions higher.

Under Gov. Walker, Wisconsin seeing red
New LFB projections show $143 million state budget shortfall

MADISON – Assembly Democratic Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) issued the following statement regarding projections released today by the non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau showing Wisconsin will end the 2011-2013 biennium with a $143.2 million budget deficit:

“This news illustrates how Gov. Walker’s irresponsible budgeting and lack of serious focus on jobs and the economy have left Wisconsin fiscally unsound and caused us to fall farther behind on the road to economic recovery.

“The evidence is clear – Gov. Walker’s economic plan is not working. Massive giveaways to large corporations and wealthy special interests, extreme policies that have harmed Wisconsin working families and six straight months of job losses have all added up to the poor budget projections we see today. When people are not working and not spending because of Republican priorities, the state is going to see a drop in revenues.

“No matter how the governor tries to spin this, a negative budget balance that requires repair is not a positive outcome for Wisconsin.”

Wisconsin Recall: We Are What Democracy Looks Like

With less than a week to go in Wisconsin’s effort to collect signatures for the Walker recall, many of us are understandably turning our thoughts to who will run against him in the upcoming election.

Honestly, the first thought that has come to mind every time I’ve considered the question is Russ Feingold. But Feingold has said repeatedly that he will not run for public office in 2012. And although I know that many politicians say one thing and mean another, I think Russ’s resolve is quite firm in this respect. In a mid-December interview with Charles Benson of TMJ4 in Milwaukee, Feingold said he feels more a part of real change now than he did as a senator.

Here’s exactly what he said: “I feel more a part of real change now than I did even as a senator.” Think about that for a minute. What Feingold is saying is that real change comes not so much from elected officials as from the people. You know–€”us.

I’m not saying that it doesn’t matter who runs against Walker. It does. And we do need to talk about that. But before we get going full tilt on that, we need to remind ourselves of something even more important: where real transformation comes from.

Think about who you were, who we were, before Walker unleashed his draconian agenda on the people of Wisconsin last February.

I didn’t know the names of any state legislators but my own. I hardly ever spared a thought for state politics. Whenever there was an election, I did my best to catch up with the candidates and the issues. But it’s not really possible to do that in just a few days. I was woefully out of touch.

When I first learned about Walker’s devastating “budget repair” bill, I firmly expected that people would be angry and would complain for a while and then continue going about their business as though nothing had happened.

But then a miracle happened.

From seemingly out of nowhere, thousands of us—hundreds of thousands of us–€”gathered on the Capitol Square. Day. After. Day. We brought with us our signs, our outrage, our indignation, our sense of fairness, our determination, our sense of humor, our hats and mittens, and our friends, neighbors, kids, and grandparents. The people of Wisconsin woke up and rose up, and anyone who was there will never be the same again.

We have sloughed off our complacency and have our sights firmly set on transforming our state into the beacon of progressive values it has long been and will be again. No politician, no candidate for governor, can do for Wisconsin what we can. It won’t be enough to elect a progressive governor. It won’t be enough to flip the state senate and the assembly. No matter how hard we have worked collecting signatures, no matter how hard we work on the recall election, it won’t be enough if we don’t continue doing the work of democracy.

better in person

I have confidence in the transformation that has taken place in Wisconsin. Our sleeves are rolled up, and they will stay rolled up. We will remain vigilant on behalf of our neighbors and our children, our parents and grandparents. We will not stop insisting that the progressive values we prize most are not compromised. All this because we have learned a lesson we will never forget:

We are what democracy looks like.

From Wisconsin’s Department of Unmitigated Gall

I received a charming little missive in my inbox today from none other than our illustrious guv himself:

E-update from the Desk of Governor Scott Walker
One of the most important duties I have serving as your Governor is to provide you directly with updates related to the operation of our state government. In an effort to improve communication, periodically I will be sending out an e-update to provide you with more information about what is going on in state government.

The e-mail smells like a pathetic effort at damage control. Um, guv? Kinda late, dontcha think? You have the nerve to send an e-mail bragging about your accomplishments? Yeah, right. All over Wisconsin we feel the weight of your many accomplishments: slashed education funding, rescinded collective bargaining rights, less access to health care, voter disenfranchisement, and 15,000 fewer jobs since July. This is like getting a missive from the devil crowing about how it’s even hotter in hell these days.

Then I stumbled on this statement made to Talking Points Memo by the Wisconsin state GOP communications director, Ben Sparks:

The Republican Party of Wisconsin is committed to ensuring that Wisconsin electors are not disenfranchised during this recall process. The Democrats have shown they are committed to preserving the status quo, where a man is able to sign a recall petition 80 times, and their frivolous attempt to intervene in this lawsuit only reinforces their willingness to force this baseless recall on Wisconsin voters at any cost.

Say what?!? There’s enough unmitigated gall in those two sentences to make your eyes water.

The Republican Party of Wisconsin, the same outfit that brought you voter suppression a la mode, is “committed to ensuring that Wisconsin electors are not disenfranchised”? Whoa. I want to hear Sparks say that to the college students, the working poor, the elderly, and every other disenfranchised voter in Wisconsin.

And which “status quo” do you suppose Sparks is accusing the Democrats of being committed to preserving? I’m guessing he was not thinking of the status quo of state workers having collective bargaining rights. Or the status quo of clean, transparent governance. Or the status quo of Wisconsin’s great public education system. The people of Wisconsin long for a return to that status quo, Mr. Sparks.

But wait! There’s more! The lawsuit Sparks is referring to is the one brought by the Walker campaign and the Wisconsin Republican Party against the Government Accountability Board asking that the GAB eliminate duplicate or false signatures on recall petitions. Because, of course, it’s not enough that the nonpartisan GAB just do its job as clearly stated in state statutes.

This nonsensical lawsuit actually claims that the guv’s “constitutional rights are being violated by the state’s petition review process.” And Sparks calls the organizers’ request to be involved in the judicial process “frivolous”? Really?

In an interview with Talking Points Memo, Jeremy Levinson, the attorney for the recall organizers, said, “It’s the first time I’m aware of a recall-related lawsuit where only the official who is being targeted for recall gets to be a party, and the folks who are working to recall that official are shut out of the process.” Apparently its frivolous for all the players to ask for a seat at the table.

It's Not Over

And who is Sparks to talk about the “willingness to force” anything “on Wisconsin voters at any cost”? This from the people who used every dirty trick in the book to cram their loathsome “budget bill” down the throats of the people of Wisconsin, who repeatedly refused to listen in spite of unprecedented protests and vehement objections. The people of Wisconsin wouldn’t have had any chance to make themselves heard had it not been for the fourteen Democratic state senators who fled the state in February.

Finally, only someone who has never listened to anything the people of Wisconsin have been saying for the last eleven months would refer to the Walker recall as “baseless.”

All Hands on Deck for Dave Hansen!

by Appleton Wonk

The weather isn’t the only thing getting hot in Wisconsin. Political activity in my fair state is white hot as we face the first general election in what will lead to nine recall elections this summer. Six Republican and three Democratic state senators face recall. If you live in Dave Hansen’s district please get out and vote for him today. The polls are open until 8 pm.

Incumbent Democrat Dave Hansen is facing Republican David Vanderleest in the first general recall election. It’s “all hands on deck” as people are coming out in droves to support Senator Hansen. There’s still time to help Dave Hansen. Simply show up at the Democratic office at 1061 W. Mason St. in Green Bay. @gbneal59 has assured me that “helping hands are always welcome”.

Last night the Fox Cities Organizing for America teams held a GOTV for Dave Hansen as part of their monthly meeting. At the end of the evening 1,088 calls were made by 29 volunteers. Pictures from last evening’s phone bank can be found here.

Nancy Nusbaum spoke to the volunteers and said the volunteers are doing 2 great things, helping Dave Hansen and making sure that Dave Hansen’s victory will be the “wind in the sails” for the rest of the recall elections to follow. She said that she has never before felt the type of support she is feeling in this election and is happy to see so many people that are participating that have never been involved in politics before.

Nancy cited some information about Robert Cowles tenure that caught my attention. He went to the state legislature when Lynn Dickey was quarterback for the Green Bay Packers and Aaron Rodgers wasn’t born yet. After Cowles was in office for 29 years he suddenly in January of 2011 “realized we had a crisis, and oh, by the way he was neither responsible nor was he going to be part of the solution”.

Nancy Nusbaum is facing Robert Cowles in the general election on August 9. Please show your support by donating your time, money or both. Details can be found at Nancy Nusbaum’s campaign site.

We all need to become involved with these elections and “flip the senate”.

It’s raining Wisconsin politics. Election reform hearing, GOP and Harsdorf attack WiscNet, Walker math, “Down and dirty” time


There’s just a lot going on.

Election Reform: I will make this public hearing of the Assembly Committee on Election and Campaign Reform. I think I’ll hear from Kloppenburg/Prosser recount volunteers who observed some mysterious things such as barely closed ballot bags, torn-open bags, and piles of ballots discovered. I know 10:15AM is too early for drinking games, but maybe if this is on Wisconsin Eye tomorrow and you’re viewing from home, you can take a swig of coffee every time somebody utters “Kathy Nickolaus”. Incidentally, if you wanted to get some official info on how to vote now in Wisconsin, here’s GAB’s document on that.

Republican under reacall, Senator Sheila Harsdorf, sponsored a budget provision which disables WiscNet. Why? I don’t know. To profit some telecom company? Quoted in this WPR story, Bill Esbeck says that he doesn’t think the University of Wisconsin should be competing with the private sector. But what it does to schools and libraries is not good:
“If our schools and libraries must use other Internet providers most will pay at least 2-3 times more than what WiscNet now charges. Furthermore, other Internet providers base their charges on how much bandwidth a school or library has – the higher the bandwidth, the higher the Internet costs. WiscNet’s funding formula is not based on bandwidth. Thus as schools and libraries continue to increase their bandwidth, their WiscNet costs remain the same. With our schools and libraries facing substantial budget reductions, how can anyone justify making them pay more for less service?” Tony Evers, State Superintendent Note: Rep. Strachota also sponsored the change in WiscNet.

14 for the 14
The Democratic Party of Wisconsin is making 14,000 calls to support the Dem14 with volunteer help. This is a Madison event occurring at 609 East Washington Ave. If this isn’t convenient to you, maybe you’d like to canvass for any 1 of these 8 candidates or donate? See BoldProgressives.org

John Matthews says it is time to get “Down and dirty” Cap Times focuses on Executive Director of Madison Teachers, Inc.
John Matthews who says about teachers, “They’re ready to do whatever it takes.” It’s not ALL sunshine and lollipops for Matthews in this article: “School Board member Maya Cole criticized Matthews for harboring an “us against them” mentality at a time when the district needs more cooperation than ever to successfully educate students.” Matthews is the leader of a four-day sick-out that closed school in February.

Walker Mathematics Lesson 7PM I’ll be heading down to Walkerville to hear about Walker Math. This involves no zombies, boxing, or singing grannies. I guess nobody could figure out how to put a quirky spin on Walker’s budget. Presenting is Dr. Michael Rosen, economist and faculty at Milwaukee Area Technical College,

Ending on a positive note. Nice piece by Mike Elk.
“Activists have been gaining a confidence and creativity in their ability to take on entrenched corporate power while at the same time union members have become more involved in running their unions. This promises to have a generational long-term effect much greater than any recall election for a four-year state senate term.” More at The Good News in Wisconsin that the Media Isn’t Covering

A Wisconsin status check.

I’m going to do the impossible and give a status check on all of Wisconsin politics. It might help the out-of-stater who is perhaps just now turning his or her attention from Anthony Weiner’s umm… tweets…and back to really important stuff like what is happening in my state.

Wisconsin is hot again. Maybe too hot. Temps are in the 90’s in Madison and yesterday a protest evolved into civil disobedience around and within our Capitol Square where 200 people now sleep in a tent encampment called “Walkerville”. They are hunkering down – as stubborn badgers do in the wild – to protest a Wisconsin GOP budget that swaps public programs for privatization or turns them into a shadow of their former selves.

March for a fair budget - Walkerville Day 3

The budget first went through the state senate’s  joint finance committee where VDLF used civil disobedience, attempting to hamper the budget process with interruption. A majority of the protesters I’ve spoken with feel the same frustration, but frown on disruptive tactics in meetings.

The budget emerged with surprises like language that threatens craft brewers, weakens police and firefighter benefits, and disintegrates a network of broadband crucial to K-12,  to libraries, and to the UW system.  As the budget proceeds to the Assembly, then to the Senate, and to Walker’s desk the public is still learning about what’s tucked into it.  I heard that Dem. senators on the committee were at times given 5 minutes to read new insertions into the document before votes.

Here’s a vlog Mark Pocan uploaded today. He says the budget is not bad. It’s terrible:

Desperate times. Desperate measures: Enter Walkerville. Walkerville is part art installation, part protest, and part comedy. It feels like a protest version of Sesame Street with people writing their thoughts on a wall, singing on occasion, chanting protest statements, and using absurd theater like tonight’s mock boxing match between Scott Walker and a nurse. I love it. Today is day 4 of about 200 people sleeping in 100 tents, many of which must be taken down in the morning and put back up at night to appease business owners. I hear it’s not easy to sleep there. It might be the younger set’s spontaneous games of capture the flag or just the typical noise of downtown drunks leaving bars at 2AM. Walkerville does have a 14 day permit from the City of Madison, due in large part to Mayor Paul Soglin who cut his political teeth as a 60’s protest organizer. It probably also helps that Madison is a union town with Walker pressing on its last nerve.

Health Care Day in Walkerville

Walkerville - Night 2

Those images are from WI AFLCIO. WI AFLCIO has a nice flickr stream HERE, if you’d like to see more. And here is a brief video of Walkerville

Anger Grows Edgy Online: The net is on fire with angry comments tinged with violence after footage and photos of Capitol police forcefully arresting protesters and 2 reporters yesterday started circulating. I think that the anger is on both the anti-Walker and pro-Walker sides which gives me a sickly feeling.

Will the real candidate please stand up?: Republicans are getting ready to fight dirty in the summer recall elections with at least 3 fake Dem candidates. When I first learned this, I assumed it was pure rumor. It’s not. Former Republican Assembly candidate Isaac Weix is circulating papers to run in a race against the GOP’s Harsdorf in the 10th Senate District (close to Minneapolis-St. Paul). He makes no secret of his intentions to tank Dem Shelly Moore.  I have heard that the real Dem candidate Moore is the only union member and teacher in a set of 6 candidates set to run against WI GOP senators in July, and rumor has it, she needs the most funding help. Fake Dems are also being lined up to aid Republicans Kapanke and Hopper.

Recall Fuel: Candidates are already selected in all of a possible 9 recall senate districts and canvassing and calling already are ongoing BUT now these pushes have bumped up a few notches. Plans are flourishing in Walkerville and online to make trips to aid far-flung Dem senators in Wisconsin. The Government Accountability Board gained extra time to review challenges recall petitions filed against three Dem state Senators.“This means that all six of the elections against Republican state Senators are now set in stone for July 12, and that no recall elections against Democratic Senators will take place on that day. The recall elections against Democrats, if they happen at all, will take place on July 19 or later.” from Chris Bowers, staff at Daily Kos. Seek the G.A.B.’s site for official updates and recall rules.

Can I has vote?: Wisconsin has historically been the 2nd easiest U.S. state to vote in, and will now be the hardest state to vote in due to a GOP voter suppression bill. It extends the required voter residency period to 28 days from 10 and switches up absentee voting, and requires photo ID use, amongst other changes. Not all pieces of the bill take effect by July 12th, but Dems fear the changes are profound enough to cause confusion and cut voters out. For example, a photo ID is not required in July to vote, but many people will assume otherwise. And would you wager that a few GOP candidates will tell voters that the I.D. IS required on July 12?

Some people were a little upset about voter I.D. and protested on the day of its signing:

Recall Walker!: A recall push against Scott Walker was initiated last year by what looked to be 100 facebook pages. The PAC United Wisconsin emerged as the leader, gathering over 180,000 commitments now to sign against Walker when it is legal to do so in November of 2011. Wisconsin Democratic Party chair Mike Tate announced on June 3rd that the party supports the recall of Walker as well. (Did the party have any wiggle room in this matter?)

Kloppenburg Concedes with Parting Words On Election Integrity and Lack Thereof
She won by a couple hundred votes. Then she lost in short order by around 7,000. Whether the election was called by a Waukesha clerk who has a history of secretiveness and misplacinig votes or by the public, honestly, I’m not sure. But it is done. Prosser retains his seat as a conservative Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice. More to read on that HERE if you’d like.

What about the “Budget Repair Bill” which became known as “Wisconsin Act 10”?:  Back in February and March, the bulk of street protest in Wisconsin was inspired by Wisconsin Act 10 which strips collective bargaining rights from most public employees. At this stage of the game, Dane County Circuit Court Judge Maryann Sumi has voided Wisconsin Act 10 because its hasty passage by Republicans on March 9th violated open meetings law. Yesterday, Wisconsin’s Supreme court began hearing arguments about whether it should take up the matter. As I am no lawyer, I direct you to illusory tenant for ongoing updates on the bill’s life or death. As he sees it, “the only way the court can vacate Judge Sumi’s very conservative, very restrained reasoning is to find the provisions of the Open Meetings Law upon which Judge Sumi relied to be themselves violative of judge-made — or at least judge-inferred — constitutional law doctrine.”

There it is. What did I leave out? What did I get wrong? Comment away.


Judge Sumi plays by the rules. Wisconsin Republicans don’t.

“Wisconsin Republicans were struck down in a blaze of judicial glory” – Sarah Jones, Politicususa.

I wish Judge Maryann Sumi really was a fire-breathing liberal. However, I believe she just respects the Wisconsin constitution and the law.

I learned what I need to know about Wisconsin’s open meetings’ law from watching Peter Barca fire-breathe it on March 9th.  But Fitzgerald and his band of tone deaf Republicans couldn’t hear him. Worst case of selective hearing I’ve ever seen.

As you recall, the Dem14’s absence halted the “budget repair bill” because it was a fiscal bill and a quorum must be present to act on fiscal matters in Wisconsin’s senate. Then in a sudden turn of events, Fitz and the pack removed a portion of the larger bill and called it “non-fiscal”. The segmented portion stripped collective bargaining rights from public unions in Wisconsin.

Fitz waved the new bill by the Legislative Reference Bureau, [probably running by as fast as his short legs could carry him], he said he got their blessing, and called for a 6PM meeting with about 1 hour and 50 minutes notice:  less than even the 2 hours which may be used in the case of an “emergency”.

I think Fitzie fearing a loss of Republican votes does not  qualify as an emergency.

Now that Judge Sumi has ruled that Wisconsin Act 10 is dead for violation of the law, the Wisconsin Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments June 6 to determine whether they will consider the case.

I have a feeling they will consider it given the fact that our supreme court has a 5-4 conservative majority and one of them is a real turd.

The Tool has Another Tool

Meanwhile, Walker will continue to put the screws to teachers from the budget side forcing layoffs.

Walker’s budget requires a $500 per-pupil reduction in property tax authority, reducing the money available to the state’s 424 districts by 7 percent, or nearly $600 million, based on a study done by University of Wisconsin-Madison economics professor Andrew Reschovsky.

Walker is using this “tool” to weaken WEAC, Wisconsin’s teacher union. Fewer union teachers means less union dues to collect. Layoffs have begun in Oshkosh, and Kenosha. And where teacher contracts are renegotiated, Walker’s budget gutting looms large and results in reduced pay and benefits.

Reminds me of this oldie – Fitzgerald speaking with FOX on how removing union rights – specifically reducing dues collected – helps to weaken Obama’s base here in 2012.


Mass Transit Parasites

What the heck. Let’s flash back to March 9th just one more time. Immediately following the illegal committee vote and then floor vote by the assembled Senate [Dem14 being in Illinois] the Republican senators scurried to a City of Madison bus, ordering the paying riders off. The band of authoritarian mass transit parasites were whisked away.

Here’s some choice video of that episode:

They rumbled away in the rain on City of Madison property to some location closer to a mall [perhaps their native habitat?] to collect themselves. That weekend they jetted to D.C. for a fundraising dinner where, I presume, they also snorted cocaine and…. Whoa! Ha ha…Sorry. I made up the coke part.You have to admit it’s less absurd than the previous set of events and less criminal.


Sometimes I sign off with “Forward”.

About time that became, “Recall”.




Scott Walker grilled to a crisp in Washington D.C.

First grilling of the season. And they’re all sooooooo good. You can’t enjoy just one. But if there were only one to take in, I would select Gwen Moore’s. She is from Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

“Gov. Scott Walker called his approach to Wisconsin’s budget “truly progressive” during his testimony Thursday morning in Washington, D.C.

Walker began testifying at 9:30 a.m. EST before the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. The hearing is about “State and Municipal Debt: Tough Choices Ahead”.”-full article at Madison.com

Watch all 3 hours of  testimony at CSPAN.

A Direct Link to YouTube if you prefer for “Congresswoman Gwen Moore Questions Governor Scott Walker before Congressional Committee” – 

Are you ready to apologize to the people of Wisconsin for hiring the son of a donor, Brian Deschane, to an administration position when better qualified candidates had also applied?

“That person was five levels below me. When that hiring was brought to my attention I had my staff go back and have that person taken out of that position and I acknowledge the fact that there are more qualified people and I asked another person be put into that.”

– A direct link to YouTube if you prefer for “Rep. Bruce Braley questions Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker” 

How much money does requiring an annual vote for union representation save the state of Wisconsin?

“That particular part doesn’t save any.”

How much does prohibiting employees from paying union dues from paychecks save the state of Wisconsin?

“It would save employees up to $1000 per year they could use to pay for pensions and health care contribution.”  “It’s to give workers a right. It’s to give workers the right to choose.”

Link direct to YouTube, if you prefer for “Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker Admits It”  

One lawsuit against Wisconsin Act 10 down. Two more are alive.

[the case was just dismissed hours after I first heard this WPR story.. but it may be picked up by Falk and McConnell as a private case. Falk brought the case forward in her role as a County Executive, and  – in the words of  Judge Sumi’s decision

“Under longstanding Wisconsin law, an agency or arm of government lacks authority to challenge the constitutionality of state statues”

With regard to the case in which the Dane County District Attorney has brought a complaint against Wisconsin Act 10:

“The District Attorney has explicit statutory authority to enforce the open meetings law ; Dane County does not.”]

 The decision from Judge Maryann Sumi in full:

WPR’s description of their audio story: Continue reading

I’m Madison as heck and I’m not going to take it anymore!

Are you ready for the deliciousness of Stephen Colbert’s “Madison as Ever” today? Click the image below to jump into what could be the best Colbert report on Wisconsin everrrr.

In “Madison as Ever” you learn:

Publishing a law in the Wisconsin State Journal is a final act to make it legally binding and –

“…Wisconsin’s Republicans defied the Constitution and published the law anyway. Just not in the State Journal. I believe it appeared on a Denny’s place mat”

Wisconsin Republicans in the Senate alerted the public to their “public” meeting when they “stapled a note to a barn cat and set it loose in Kenosha.”

Site of publication of Wisconsin Act 10.

Grab bag of Wisconsin Solidarity, News, and Views

Wisconsin Act 10 Stalls

Today 3/31 Judge Maryann  Sumi ordered that the law “has not been published within the meaning” of Wisconsin law and “is therefore not in effect.”’

Pictured: Dept. of Justice response to Judge Sumi.

And following Huebsch said, “given the most recent court action we will suspend the implementation of it at this time. DOA will continue to abide by the court orders, like the department has done all throughout this process.”


I think that “A” on First Draft is feeling about the way I feel…

It’s so very very generous, to agree to sit down after somebody smacks you in the face with a bag of nickels and yells SIT DOWN MOTHERFRAKKER two dozen times. It’s such a kind concession to say yes, the law is the law, and in order that I might avoid actually getting arrested and/or frogmarched out of my offices (because Wisconsin Democrats have gigantic balls, unlike the Dems during the Bush years), I, Governor Deadeyes, will compromise by doing what I have to do anyway. More at First Draft

And to seek an attorney’s blogging on Dane County & Fitzwalkerstani legal drama, see illusory tenant

Emily Mills of Isthmus’ The Daily Page

Nice article. Just a bit – a selection of Mark Pocan’s quote:

There’s no way a person who is a non-sitting judge, whose name is ‘Kloppenburg,’ is supposed to beat a sitting incumbent Supreme Court Justice… it’s very possible with the interest right now, if people decide to motivate and get out the vote, that Kloppenburg wins. If that happens, that’s like the nuclear option for Walker. He at that point goes, ‘oh shit.’

More at Why the Kloppenburg Vote is Crucial

March 29 Protest of Governor Walker in Janesville

The artice from GazetteExtra says 100’s showed up for a protest of Governor Walker’s presence at a business dinner in Janesville. GazetteExtra did a pretty good write-up and also has a brief video, which is worth your time.

John Nichols and Sly of WTDY talked about the protest outside of the Forward Janesville dinner as well as the usual Wisconsin crisis stuff you’d expect. That’s archived right here at WTDY

On March 29, Joy Cardin featured the topic of Charter Schools vs. Public Schools in Wisconsin.

Joy spoke with Sarah Granofsky, Program Director for the Wisconsin Charter Schools Association for 30 minutes, and she then spoke with Dan Rossmiller, Director of Government Relations for the Wisconsin Association of School Boards.