Who’s Unintimidated? A Tale of Two Books

I participate as often as I can in the Solidarity Sing Along, which has been singing songs of protest at the Wisconsin State Capitol every weekday from noon to 1 since March 11, 2011 (toward the end of that little uprising we had going on at the time). And many of you are no doubt aware that our ignominious governor, Scott Walker, has presidential aspirations, and like many such hopefuls he has written a book (with the help of a ghostwriter) titled “Unintimidated: A Governor’s Story and a Nation’s Challenge.”

According to the Wisconsin Gazette:

Gov. Scott Walker’s new book isn’t exactly a tell-all. In fact, it glosses over or leaves out many of the most important pieces in the story related to his successful drive to destroy public unions and his subsequent recall battle. …

“I’ve never met anyone who wants to be president more,” said U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, a Democrat from Madison who served in the state Assembly during the union fight. “We knew the book was coming. We know he’s traveling all over the country. It would be nice if he put even a portion of that energy into creating jobs in Wisconsin.”

In fact, Walker is seldom even in Wisconsin, and when he is, he keeps his appearances brief and well guarded, lest he should suffer the indignity of being confronted by his singing detractors. Walker and the state Department of Administration have gone to great lengths to silence the singing and stifle dissent, all to no avail. As we like to sing, “Until that day when justice holds sway, we’re not going away!”

During July and August of this year, more than three hundred arrests were made by the Capitol Police: 350 citations were issued, and 16 criminal charges were filed. Those targeted were not only participants but even just observers and those photographing the sing alongs. Journalists, senior citizens, and teenagers were among the arrested. Handcuffs were used as well as “pain compliance” techniques, although the charges amounted to little more than traffic citations.

Arrest of CJ Terrell. Photo by Erin Proctor

The Progressive describes two of the arrests which were especially violent:

[The Capitol Police] used pain compliance on CJ Terrell to make him leave the rotunda after he was told he had been identified as a participant in an unlawful event. CJ was charged with obstruction and resisting arrest and released from jail a $701 bail later in the afternoon.

At the same time CJ was being arrested, Capitol Police tackled and drove to the ground his brother Damon, who was there to photograph arrests. Damon was charged with felony battery of a police officer and taken to jail.

Rather than discouraging participation, the violent crackdown induced more Wisconsinites to come to the capitol to show their support for the sing along. The day after the Terrell brothers were arrested, more than three hundred filled the capitol rotunda.

Last month, Walker “threw in the towel” in the words of Matthew Rothschild of The Progressive.

His administration settled a lawsuit with the ACLU of Wisconsin. As part of the agreement, protesters no longer need to have a permit to protest in the state capitol. All they have to do is notify the administration. Nor do they have to assume any liability, as they were required to do before.

In response to all the intimidation tactics and in anticipation of Walker’s soon-to-be published work of fiction, some of the thoroughly uncowed singing patriots have put together a photographic account of the Solidarity Sing Along, entitled “Unintimidated: Wisconsin Sings Truth to Power,” which is due to be published at the same time as the governor’s. Whereas Walker’s book oozes gubernatorial delusions and presidential pipe dreams, from the pages of this book emanate the people’s aspirations: for truth, fairness, and transparency, for responsive government of, by, and for the people.

Photo by Michael Matheson

Several extremely talented inveterate citizen photojournalists have photographed every single one of the Solidarity Sing Alongs, so there were literally thousands of photos to choose from. Ryan Wherley, a frequent SSA participant who has from time to time contributed to this blog, has supplied the text that accompanies the photographic account of the longest-running singing protest in history. Proceeds from sales of the book will go to the First Amendment Protection Fund to help defray court costs for the many who have been arrested standing up for free speech in the Wisconsin State Capitol. Don’t miss this opportunity to get this extraordinary account of the Solidarity Sing Along and to support free speech and freedom of assembly at the same time.

So, you tell me, who’s unintimidated in Wisconsin, and who’s been doing the intimidating?

Wisconsin School Choice Week — The Proclamation That Wasn’t (Updated)

[See updates throughout.]

From Webster’s Collegiate (10th ed):

proclaim (L proclamare, pro– before + clamare to cry out):
1a: to declare publicly, typically insistently, proudly, or defiantly and in either speech or writing
2: to declare or declare to be solemnly, officially, or formally

On Saturday January 19, At some point in January 2013, Governor Scott Walker signed a proclamation declaring Wisconsin School Choice Week.  This seems to have been intended as part of the third annual National School Choice Week, which runs from Jan. 27 to Feb. 3.  You can see the proclamation here as a PDF — though it’s difficult to read, displaying at a rotation one turn too far to the right (yes, really!) [UPDATE: The proclamation linked in the previous sentence turns out to have been the 2012 version.  The 2013 version doesn’t appear to be online.]

It looks pretty solemn, official and formal.  But what about the publicly, insistently, proudly part?

Something strange is going on with this Wisconsin School Choice Week proclamation.  Public, proud proclamations from the Governor’s office in Wisconsin don’t get secretly signed on Saturdays, particularly when they highlight priority points in the gubernatorial agenda.  You’d expect them to be released for maximum news cycle timing, from the Wheeler Report to all the major news outlets statewide.

However, the Wisconsin School Choice week proclamation did not appear on the Wheeler Report, nor in any print news outlet as far as I’m aware.  As far as online news outlets go, there was an unnoticed blurb on WKOW on January 23, [UPDATE: 2012. Oops.] and then just yesterday a blogpost at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, which in turn triggered a couple of subsequent posts in the progressive blogosphere.

Strangely enough, the proclamation didn’t seem to hit the conservative blogs before yesterday either, with only a few mentions after the Journal Sentinel posts.  There’s a piece up on MacIver today about National School Choice Week, and an associated whistle-stop breakfast event in Milwaukee on Wednesday, but the Wisconsin proclamation didn’t rate so much as a mention.

So what’s up?

I don’t suppose it could be embarrassment about the content of the Whereas-es within the proclamation. [UPDATE: Since this year’s version doesn’t seem to be publicly posted, I’ll leave last year’s up here, embarrassment notwithstanding.]  For example, the one that says:

WHEREAS, the cause of education reform should transcend ideology and political party affiliation

With not one, not two, but THREE former GOP speakers of the Assembly pulling in the big bucks as lobbyists for school privatization: Scott Jensen, John Gard, and now Jeff Fitzgerald?   How can that one be WHEREAS-ed with a straight face?

Then there’s this one:

WHEREAS, research in Wisconsin and across the nation demonstrates the many positive benefits of educational options.

In Wisconsin, that’s not what the test scores in Milwaukee say.

And for a nice “across the nation” summary of voucher schools failing to live up to the hype, there’s a January 2013 report from Raise Your Hand Texas that contains tidbits like this one re the New Orleans “Student Scholarship for Educational Excellence:”

An analysis of state test results by the Cowen Institute of Tulane University shows that in most grades and subjects voucher recipients in New Orleans were outperformed by students at failing public schools.

On the other hand, barely-whispering the Wisconsin proclamation may have more to do with the anti-voucher pushback that’s been coming from GOP leadership in the state senate this month.  On January 17, Senate President Mike Ellis and Senate Education Committee Chair Luther Olsen both went on record in opposition to expansion of school vouchers in Wisconsin, unless each community holds a referendum.  They proposed that the bar for such a referendum be set recall-high:

To put a voucher expansion on the ballot should require the same number of signatures as is needed in a recall, Ellis said, or 25 percent of the total votes cast in the most recent gubernatorial election.

That sounds fair to me.  In fact, I think the bar ought to be equally as high for a statewide referendum on special needs vouchers, another part of the voucher expansion supported by not a single statewide disability organization, yet being prioritized behind closed doors at the Capitol (though the administration and the privatization lobbyists are keeping remarkably quiet about it when it comes to public acknowledgement of their efforts).  Let’s require the collection of  ca. 750,000 verifiable petition signatures and then a successful referendum election to inflict these “special needs scholarships” on Wisconsin public schools and our students with disabilities!  That would be a whole lot better than one rumored alternative: that special needs vouchers will be another dropped bomb, appearing in the 2013/2015 budget where such a major controversial policy change absolutely does NOT belong.

[UPDATE: Given the confusion around the 2012 Wisconsin School Choice Week proclamation, the original conclusion to this post no longer applies.  But here’s a new one:

Was the Wisconsin School Choice Week proclamation signed on the same day (January 7) as the proclamation declaring the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade to be “Protect Life Day,” as so ably documented by Rebecca Kemble and Heather DuBois Bourenane?

In my unsuccessful search for the Wisconsin School Choice Week proclamation, I also discovered that Jan. 27-Feb. 2, 2013, had been declared Catholic Schools Week, also signed on January 7.

The standard boilerplate on these proclamations appears to be: “do proclaim DATE as DAY-OR-WEEK NAME throughout the State of Wisconsin and I commend this observance to all of our citizens.”

Wouldn’t such proclamations be more… well, proclamation-ish… if our citizens actually knew about them?]

One last thing to point out about the proclamation.

Visit the proclamation PDF again, tilt your head to the right, and take a close look at the dates…

January 22-28.

Wisconsin School Choice Week is already over.

An idea whose time has passed, without anyone even noticing.

Proclaim it!

You’ve Protested at the Capital, Signed the Recall Papers, Now Get Out There and Vote

Recall Walker day, June 5th is rapidly approaching. On this day people in Wisconsin can collectively stand up and put a stop to Walker’s anti-worker, anti-woman, anti-union, anti-environment agenda. We can show the state and country that people in Wisconsin still believe in the “Wisconsin way” of fair play, open government and progressive values. People from all over the country and world are watching what happens in our fair state with great interest and anticipation. They believe the outcome here will influence the political environment all over the country. I agree with them. Wisconsin is leading the way on this one. We can show everyone that we believe in the power of the people and that we put “people over profits”.

I remember hearing about the first protests after Walker dropped “the bomb” last February. The people of Wisconsin united against Walker and his horribly damaging agenda. We came together as a united force and showed the world “this is what democracy looks like”. We protested in the streets, in the capital and in song. We pushed for and succeeded in getting recall elections against six Republican state senators last summer. We have done so many things that the “talking heads” didn’t think was possible that I’m awed every time I think of it.

Now we have to do the most important thing of all. We all need to get to a polling place and vote Walker out of office. Let’s hit him where it really hurts, vote for Barrett. Protesting Walker wherever he goes can be fun. It’s been incredible knowing that he gets protested in every state he goes to, not just Wisconsin. Yelling “shame” at him is a great stress reliever, but doesn’t really mean anything unless you follow up your words with the direct action of voting. Each of us has a stake in the outcome of this election. Make sure everyone you know votes, too.

Help get out the vote in your community. We Are Wisconsin has many field offices. Click here for opportunities in your area. The Democratic Party of Wisconsin also has quite a few field offices. Click here for the full list. Consider donating items to the recall offices if you don’t feel comfortable with canvassing and/or phone banking. Volunteering is hungry and thirty work. Snacks and beverages for the volunteers are always welcome.

We can get Walker out of office if we all pull together. We need to get Wisconsin back to its progressive roots. It’s not going to be easy and can’t be done overnight, but getting Walker out of office will be a step in the right direction.

Get out there and vote as if you mean it. Vote as if your life and democracy depend on it because they do. Let’s take our fine state FORWARD!!!

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!

Watch Scott Walker. Learn how not to create jobs.

Before I cut to a great quote from Michael Silverstein’s must-read post “Wisconsin: A Case Study In The Politics Of How Not To Create Jobs”, let’s review two facts:

*Wisconsin lost more jobs than any other state in the United States in the last 12 months.

*Scott Walker promised creation of 250,000 jobs and 10,000 businesses in Wisconsin by 2015

“Take it out on teachers as well as the poor, in other words, and they will come — “they” being job creating businesses that supposedly love a state where taxes don’t help the needy too much or pay attractive compensation to the state’s own workers.

Such is the theory. Except that while this approach might work beautifully in an Ayn Rand novel, its doesn’t seem to work that way in real life.

Why? The answers are obvious. Most businesses have a local customer base. If a lot of these customers lose already very modest government benefits, or receive less compensation from state employment, they will have less to spend at most local businesses. You know. Real Life. Not ideology.”

$$ Voting Made Easy: Empowering the 99%

I’m about to buy a lawn mower, but I don’t want my money used to attack Wisconsin workers and families.

There are several lists of companies to avoid when making purchasing decisions, such as companies led by people who gave big donations directly to the Walker campaign. Buying local is usually a wise decision, but even that is problematic when most Wisconsin businesses support the Chamber of Commerce (national or local), or other organizations hostile to Wisconsin’s workers and families.

For example, Wisconsin-based Ariens is out because they belong to WMC. Illinois-based John Deere is even worse, because they not only belong to WMC, they also belong to ALEC.

It can be difficult to find a non-evil company to reward with my consumer spending, but it’s worth the effort. At the moment, I’m considering buying a Husqvarna mower. Husqvarna is apparently a Swiss company, although I’m not sure the where the mowers are actually manufactured.

Boycott lists are a good start, but aren’t enough. We need better ways to help each other identify and support companies that believe strong and prosperous families are good for the economy.

For starters, I need your suggestions on what mower to buy, and where to buy it.

Scott Walker is a “whack job”?

from urban dictionary – whack job: A crazy person

It seems Governor Scott Walker got called a “whack job” in an AP article by Scott Bauer entitled, “Wisconsin Republicans hope crossover voting affects recalls”. Apparently Bauer and Vos were discussing the possibility that folks might vote for the progressive Republican Arthur Kohl-Riggs on May 8th instead of Walker:

“I still think when people see two names on the ballot, they are so supportive of Gov. Walker almost to the point of being all in,” Vos said. “I think they’re going to want to vote for him even knowing this guy’s a whack job.”

“Whack job” you say? This doesn’t seem right. Being crazy suggests an innocence that Walker doesn’t have. I’m inclined to say “scumbag” or maybe “criminally negligent”, “low-life”, “megalomaniac”…

The photo is from Sue Peacock of flickr.

Scott Walker isn’t an “indicted pol” just yet but an Illinois headline suggests otherwise

"Springfield scene includes Wisconsin governor, indicted pol"

This headline in Illinois’ Moris Daily Herald got my heart aflutter for a minute: “Springfield scene includes Wisconsin governor, indicted pol”.

Though we know that Walker is not indicted at the moment, there is a swirl of curiosity about what in the world would lead to so many of his Milwaukee County staff being investigated or charged for criminal activity. Dan Bice says the count is at 3 ex-Walker aides, 1 appointee and a major campaign contributor.

As I learned, the indicted pol is an Illinois politician convicted for bribery, Rep. Derrick Smith, who had returned to his legislative work on the same day that Scott Walker visited Springfield.

Walker was a guest of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce. While there Walker compared himself to Abraham Lincoln and said he possessed the same type of “courage” as Lincoln did “to move the state forward.”

The Chamber CEO said, “Scott Walker represents the bold approach — swallow the castor oil today and you’re going to be better in the long term”.

[I’ll give you a few minutes to catch your breath after all the laughter.]

As usual, Scott Walker got a protesters’ welcome as well. The 2,000-3,000 people who protested Scott Walker in Springfield, Illinois looked like this:

2,000-3,000 rally in Springfield, Illinois to protest Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. Image is from WI AFL-CIO

There are other dignitaries that appeared in Springfield: large rats.

When I saw the sub-headline “Inflatable Rodents Deployed” in SFGate – a story on Walker’s visit with no accompanying photos – I went on a quest to find the animals online. I think at least one of the noted mammals is shown in this photo. Possibly two.:

Twenty foot tall Walker cut-out and a large inflatable rat in Springfield, Illinois at a protest of Scott Walker. Source: Teamster Nation

All joking aside, it is always heartening and moving to see the protest of Scott Walker around our nation.You know it and I know it: if Tea Party ideals succeed in Wisconsin, they’re going to get puffed up wherever you are.

Thank you for helping us hold the line for over a year and please stick it out a little longer through the May 8th primary and the June 5th general election. We must take this fight to completion. I know you’ve heard it a million times before but let me say this one more time: We need to recall Scott Walker.

Fitting. Old nemesis AP dubs candidate Arthur Kohl-Riggs an “agitator”.

An Associated Press story written by Todd Richmond last week was headlined, “Political agitator gets enough signatures to challenge Wisconsin governor in recall”. The story first appeared in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Later it would appear in numerous Wisconsin news outlets without an author’s name and with the title “Agitator gets enough names to challenge Walker”.

Arthur Kohl-Riggs is that “agitator”. I asked Arthur how he felt about his new title a couple of days after the article came out. (We didn’t even discuss the fact that Richmond said Arthur has been “prowling” the halls of the Capitol for the last year and a half. ) While I was hung up on “agitator”, he was not. He was more upset about being called a “fake Republican” by Richmond. He says he’s emulating the Republicanism practiced by turn of the century reformer Bob LaFollette. It is fitting that Arthur will use LaFollette’s political legacy to primary Walker. Wisconsin citizens didn’t have access to a direct primary until Bob LaFollette railed against the closed room deals that had been selecting all candidates previous to 1909.

It is also fitting that Wisconsin’s Associated Press staff paints Arthur in a negative light. They already have a negative history with Arthur Kohl-Riggs.

AP’s Scott Bauer and Todd Richmond – the very same author of that “agitator” article – had a hand in expelling Arthur from the ranks of the Capitol press corps, effectively ensuring he would have no ability to videotape the Wisconsin Assembly.

Arthur’s strained relationship with Associated Press and other mass media press covering the legislature began with his entry into the WCCA (Wisconsin Capitol Correspondents Association). Arthur got press credentials through local radio station WTDY in September of 2011. That status gave him the opportunity to be present on the floor of the Wisconsin State Assembly – a privilege that is granted only to the press as defined by the WCCA under the legislature’s rules. But Arthur’s time sheltered by the WCCA was short. When he videotaped arrests of citizens from the Assembly gallery, Arthur lost his press credentials in October 2011 and also lost his freedom to videotape in the entire chamber without constant harassment from police.

We remember the beginning and the end of any experience best. In the end, the Associated Press, through its agents Bauer and Richmond, advocated for expulsion of Arthur Kohl-Riggs from its ranks without even the courtesy of a formal vote.

Emails between Bauer and Richmond from this time are enlightening [below]. The two email notes seen below were sent after Arthur was arrested for filming in the gallery and were made available along with others to Wisconsin Citizens Media Co-op through a Freedom of Information Act request.

Bauer, Scott
Correct. He shows no regard for process and he is putting the entire statewide media’s access to the chamber in jeopardy. We need to act quickly to show some self respect and dignity. The vote is to revoke. Does anyone seriously want to argue otherwise?
Link to screen capture of original
[Scott Bauer is the vice-president of the WCCA.]

Richmond, Todd
I agree with Scott that Arthur, and, by extension, Sly, should have his credential revoked. I’m not sure if we need to be that formal about it. We all know which way the vote’s going to go. Let’s do it by email. The process permits them to appeal to JCLO [Joint Committee on Legislative Organization] anyway. Let them do that and put the legal bail in JCLO’s court rather than ours.

Link to screen capture of the original

Other emails reveal that not all WCCA members agreed and ultimately the matter was put to a vote, showing that at the least, Arthur’s expulsion was put through a process.

It is legal for citizens to record government meetings in Wisconsin by statute 19.90, but it is not permitted by Assembly rules. Arthur Kohl-Riggs was and is convinced that the Assembly is wrong.

The AP did not put out a story about the desire and legal rights of Arthur Kohl-Riggs or any Wisconsin citizen to record the Assembly’s government meetings. The AP did not even do a story on the arrest and removal of 18 camera-wielding citizens from the Assembly gallery even when one of those citizens was of a colleague in the WCCA: the editor of The Progressive, Matt Rothschild. Wisconsin State Journal reporter and WCCA Secretary Mary Spicuzza and Clay Barbour finally reported dismissively about Arthur’s video work. But only after he got footage of Joel Kleefisch voting 3 times [as was eloquently chronicled by Hematite at WCMC]. Mary Spicuzza is Secretary of the WCCA.

The Capitol press make their primary mission the protection of their own access to the legislative chamber.

Consider that this occurred in the same year that the Wisconsin state legislature received a 2011 Black Hole Award from the Society of Professional Journalists.

Is it time to use the adjective “complicit” here? Or was the AP just steering clear of trouble? If you think it was the 2nd act, then I will need to ask you one more question: when the hell did journalists decide it was their mission to steer clear of trouble?

There are no “inside agitators”.

I went on an admittedly amateurish google quest to figure out why I felt so sure that the adjective “agitator” casts a negative light.

I found that often “agitator” appears with the world “outside” as in “outside agitator”. This title was frequently applied to organizers from Northern states who traveled south to register black voters in the 60’s. According to SNCC volunteer Peter de Lissovoy, “outside agitator” was a hold-out term from the 1930’s. Lissovoy says “outside agitator” was just 1 of the titles ferociously flung at him by white southerners along with “communist”, “niggerlover”, and “freedom rider”.

Searching “outside agitator” also led me to the genius organizer Saul Alinsky- – the man Newt Gingrich recently popularized as he sought to turn him into a liberal boogy man and mentor of Barack Obama. How fitting it is that Newt would introduce me to Alinsky.

In an interview with Studs Turkel (below), Alinsky explained that his frightening reputation with the white establishment always assisted him as an organizer of the disenfranchised. Alinsky tells the story of when the KKK met him in their full regalia as his plane touched down in Houston. Because the KKK came out to threaten Alinsky with such vigor, the black community knew that Alinsky was their ally and they immediately welcomed him as a friend.

When Terkel introduces Alinsky as a “professional agitator”. Saul quickly corrects him:

You left off one word, Studs. Professional _outside_ agitator. You gotta be an outside agitator to begin with because agitators very rarely come up from the inside cause if you come up from the inside one of two things usually happen to you: either you get knocked off or you get co-opted.

By Alinsky’s reasoning, maybe AP has simply done Arthur a favor by introducing him to the state of Wisconsin with that alarming word: “agitator”.

Wisconsin agitators

Within Wisconsin, the term “outside agitators” has been used by anti-Walker folks. We’ve used it to describe the “troublemakers” that David Koch suggested Scott Walker add to the protest crowds [the man making that suggestion was really Ian Murphy]. When Walker said that many protesters were bused in from out of state, he did not use the phrase though many of us have accused him of calling us “outside agitators”. When conservative groups flew in Andrew Breitbart and Sarah Palin to speak to the Tea Party members on the Capitol square, I for one took mischievious pleasure in turning the tables. I called those paid mouthpieces “outside agitators”.

As dumb as you may think Scott Walker is, he is smart enough to avoid the loaded word “agitator”.

Is he an “agitator” because this primary thing is illegal? No.

Arthur Kohl-Riggs turned in 20% more signatures than were required to run as a Republican in the primary recall election against Scott Walker. In Wisconsin there is no formal registration or litmus test to prove you are in fact a Republican or Democratic Party member – not when you run for office or when you vote. In addition, there is nothing to stop a former Dem. voter from voting GOP in a primary in Wisconsin. Thus, a Wisconsinite can change political directions at a moment’s notice.

Some of Arthur’s supporters worry that he will not escape the title of “fake Republican” and he’ll suffer a penalty. They worry because on Thursday Dem. Party lawyer Jeremy Levinson filed an election fraud complaint with the G.A.B. and against the Republican party for entering fake Democratic candidates in the state senate, as well as the governor’s and lieutenant governor’s race. A similar complaint against 6 GOP-affiliated fake Dems went nowhere last year.**

Because I do approve of Jeremy Levinson in all other regards, I do not cherish writing this next statement: Levinson’s complaint is a confusing and pointless piece of pomposity that will go nowhere.

What is the point of Art’s run?

He does have a campaign statement at this link, but in my words: When Arthur set out to run as a Republican he did so with the dual purpose of educating Wisconsin about the roots of the Republican party in Wisconsin – where it began – as well as to stop the GOP from working the open primary system and possibly electing a fake Democratic party challenger named Gladys Huber.

Because Arthur Kohl-Riggs is running as a Republican for Governor, the Republicans will now have more reason to vote in their own primary instead of crossing over to vote for Gladys Huber in a Dem primary that appears to have 5 candidates [2 of them being serious contenders followed by a very strong 3rd]. With the entry of a candidate for Gov. in the GOP primary, there is reason to keep self-identified Republican votes on the Republican ticket. I know that the chance for Art to force Scott Walker out of his job on May 8th is slim and might arise only if, for example, particularly damning pieces of evidence emerge from the John Doe investigation that surrounds Scott Walker. If Art were to win on May 8th, on June 5th, Arthur Kohl-Riggs would be the lone GOP candidate appearing on the ballot to run against a Dem candidate in the general election.

In the AP’s eyes perhaps Arthur Kohl-Riggs had and still has absolutely zero standing. Perhaps they have no knowledge of the community of close to 30,000 Wisconsin facebook activists that share his page. Perhaps it was inconceivable to the WCCA that Arthur could come up with a team to collect over 2,000 signatures to run for governor of Wisconsin within 7 days and have his name exposed to an electorate of some 2 million people.

Arthur Kohl-Riggs decided he would not be put down and he would not be co-opted. Associated Press still needs to explain what they decided to do.

Facebook page Art for Gov

Main website of Arthur Kohl-Riggs

*On getting on the ballot: Arthur Kohl-Riggs turned in 20% more nomination signatures than needed to run for Governor of Wisconsin with only 7 days to collect the signatures. A fellow contender for the position could still attempt to file a legal challenge with the G.A.B. against the validity of the signatures but would need to do so before 5PM tomorrow Friday April 15th.

**Huber, Junkermann, Weix, Church, Buckstaff, and Smith

***Definition of agitator: agitator according to Merriam Webster is “one who stirs up public feeling on controversial issues “. Some admired Americans have been called “agitator”. Samuel Adams was considered an agitator by the British. Ralph Nader agitated for the safety standards we now take for granted in our vehicles. The abolitionist Frederick Douglass was an agitator who was also a Republican.

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.

Givin’ Mitt Shitt in Fitchburg, Wisconsin

Approximately 250 people assembled outside of Walker’s laughably named “Victory Center” in Fitchburg to give Mitt Romney some heck Saturday March 31st. Romney was visiting to do a few of his robocalls live and to stump for his presidential primary in Wisconsin.

The protesters were a mix of people who held signs like “Keep your Mitt(s) off Birth Control” and people with “Recall Walker” signs, or pro-union signs, or signs that referenced dogs [if you don’t know what the dog thing is about, try Dogs Against Romney ].

I did see Mitt Romney for the 1.25 seconds that he spent outside as he dashed from the door to an SUV.  I also saw Paul Ryan. They both waved at the crowd. In return the crowd booed, hissed, yelled “Mitt is Shitt” and “Ryan Sucks” and chanted “Recall Walker!”. After the convoy of SUVs and cop cars became full of its political cargo, they started to move out slowly and we yelled “shame”. I usually don’t like the “shame” yell. On this occasion I reveled in it. I think I was inspired by the presence of Wisconsin’s own Paul Ryan who I am more familiar with than Romney.


Real dogs and one stuffed dog were in attendance with either special attire or  their car carriers or signs such as “I ride inside” or “Mutts against mitt!”

Ed drives away with his Mutts against Mitt display atop the car. Give Mitt Shitt protest in Fitchburg, WI March 31, 2012

A dog carrier on top of a car at an anti-Mitt Romney protest called Give Mitt Shitt Fitchburg, Wisconsin

 A dog wearing a Green Bay Packer jersey at the Give Mitt Shitt protest in Fitchburg, March 31 2012

Many got a chuckle out of the box sign below.   I asked the sign owner if she thought Mitt would even understand her slang. We laughed and discussed the real possibility that he has somebody on staff to help him with understanding the language of the commoners.

 Woman holds a sign above her head which says "Think outside my box" at a protest of Mitt Romney at a Scott Walker call center in Fitchburg, Wisconsin March 31, 2012.


I spoke to the patriarch of the Gadsen flag-wielding group below for a few minutes, asking him if he was in favor of Romney or Walker or Santorum. He replied that he is in favor of all of those men and for limited government and liberty. I pressed a little bit more to determine who he’s voting for on Tuesday in the GOP primary and all he would say is that Romney is the candidate expected to win –  not a ringing endorsement. I’d guess that 20 people in attendance were showing support for Romney or Walker.

 A family holds Gadsen flags at a Give Mitt Shitt rally in Fitchburg Wisconsin March 31, 2012.


Dignitaries in attendance included Assembly Rep. Chris Taylor, the DJ Sly of WTDY-FM,  a small group of Raging Grannies singers (who concluded their visit with a a round of “Solidarity Forever”), and Lisa Subeck of NARAL Pro-Choice Wisconsin. Rep. Kelda Helen Roys also attended and wrote a statement at the site Kelda for Congress.

Wisconsin Assembly Representative Chris Taylor speaks to the press at a rally against Mitt Romney in Fitchburg, Wisconsin March 31, 2012.
Wisconsin Assembly Representative Chris Taylor

I made a facebook event for the visit called “Give Mitt Shitt!” at the urging of Timothy Reilly.  A bit later I discovered that another event called “Keep your Mitts off our Birth Control!” was already organized by  NARAL Pro-Choice Wisconsin.  I really did not intend to duplicate efforts but in the end, I don’t think it’s a bad idea to have multiple facebook events that take a different spin on the same protest. It draws in different sets of people and therefore MORE people. The more the merrier!

For more on Mitt Romney’s flip-flop on women’s health issues see NARAL’s Romney page.

Visit NARAL Pro-Choice Wisconsin to stay up to date with the fight to preserve women’s rights and women’s access to reproductive rights in Wisconsin.

For more photos see my facebook album or NARAL’s.

Event date: March 31, 2012

Propaganda: Carrying Walker’s message by Bill Breitsprecher

Below is the beginning of a two-part series by Bill Breitsprecher. Bill is the tireless publisher of the Voices blog and the Voices newspaper.

Many confuse persuasion and propaganda. The former is an attempt to inform people of an idea that can be regarded as “true”. The latter is about promoting an idea regardless of validity or truth.

It can be argued that propaganda is always dishonest because when truth is on one’s side, there is no need to adopt extreme rhetoric and propaganda techniques. By definition, propaganda is aimed at the masses and seeks to convince large numbers of people, motivating them to take action, often directly against their own self-interests.

Here’s the critical point: propaganda can only exist when mass communication media enables it. Those with dishonest motives and means are powerless to dispense propaganda without the compliance of others, the mass-media.

Let’s look at 5 propaganda techniques and how Scott Walker uses them to advance the political/economic interests he represents. Remember, Walker is not the real problem. He is promoting the interests of others, a very small elite group that has been influencing politics for many generations and will continue to do so into the foreseeable future.

The bigger problems are (1). A media network that is linked, often owned outright, to one side of the economic/political debate, the far right wing. (2). The increasing concentration of wealth in the hands of a few, making even more media control and powerful propaganda possible.

There are many “Scott Walkers” waiting in the wings. To defeat the economic terrorism they promote as “shared sacrifice”, we have to address points 1 and 2 above. While this article focuses on Walker, it is not about him. It’s about the environment and media that makes his propaganda effective.

1. The Big Lie: So large it must be true. On February 11, 2011…

Continue reading at MadisonVoices.com to see all 5 points including
2. Card-stacking: Build a highly-biased case for your position.
3. Character Assassination: Destroy the person.
4. Glittering Generalities: Use power words to evoke emotions.
5. Name-calling: Denigrating opponents.

Greta Van Susteren interview with Scott Walker and Mahlon Mitchell

If you don’t think you can stomach hearing Scott Walker repeat “big government unions” repeatedly through an entire 16 minute interview, maybe you’d like to just check in on the 1:20 minute mark when some footage shows protesters in the rotunda or at the 4:45 mark when you hear some holiday-themed singing in front of the giant Capitol evergreen tree.

Or skip ahead to the 7 minute mark for her interview with Mahlon Mitchell, candidate for the seat of Lieutenant Governor of Wisconsin. Mahlon Mitchell is the President of the Professional Fire Fighters of Wisconsin (PFFW). He became famous for frequent speeches at Wisconsin’s Capitol square protests.

Here are just a few of my notes from the interview:

*Walker emphasizes his old lie – that we were bussed and flown in.

*He pushes the story that if Wisconsin didn’t have him, it would fall to the ills of Illinois and he compares Wisconsin unemployment to Illinois unemployment saying they’re at 10% and that Wisconsin is at 6.9% unemployment.

Watch the latest video at video.foxnews.com

Link to the video.

*Naturally Walker won’t mention his constant fund raising junkets like his stop at Palm Beach, the “ATM of American politics” , but says that he has lots of contributions that are $50 or less from his web site.

*Walker says on the public that “when they see that the schools are the same or better than they were before” they will know that “the sky is not falling”.  I’ll let the teachers and parents of Wisconsin respond to that one in comments.

*Walker says that a lot of those people who signed over 1 million petitions against him  are not regular voters so they may not turn out at the polls.

*Greta says Wisconsin has a “long and tortured political history” making it sound fairly Medieval in the Midwest.  I laughed.

*Greta speaks to Mahlon Mitchell for quite a while. That conversation picks up just before the 7 minute mark. Mahlon says that unions do not want to bankrupt the state. I think he does an OK job but he needs some more practice taking a little more time with these answers even when somebody like Greta VanCistern rushes him. He stumbles on what the corporate tax rate is right now, but keep in mind that he sounds authentic and passionate as usual. That’s unlike a politician and a lot of us really like the sound of that.

In response to hearing his words, Walker says Mahlon Mitchell is a “good guy” and reflective of people in Madison who say that they’re fighting for the middle class “when they’re just standing up for the big government unions”.

And then Walker says, “We’re sitting in the city of Milwaukee tonight. Mayor Tom Barrett was able to save the tax payers about $25 million dollars because of our reforms.”

That’s probably why Barrett won’t run against Walker  – aside from the fact that Barrett is a weak campaigner to begin with.  And that union leaders will undermine him. And that a lot of people jumped all over him [me included] for having no clue if he would sign Walker’s recall when asked.

All in all either this isn’t so bad or I’m getting used to this stuff. I didn’t retch at all during this whole thing except for that moment at the end when Walker calls Paul Ryan “courageous”.


This interview is from 03/19/12

Backup link to interview video. 

And interesting side note – the ScottWalker youtube channel is pushing a shorter 9:48 minute version of the same thing.  Probably cuts out more of Mahlon.  I’m not going to watch all this stuff again right now.  Might push me over the edge.

Walker visits the “ATM of politics”, makes a withdrawal, gets protested, and I call the protest organizer.

Scott Walker hit the jackpot when he visited Palm Beach, a community that one Palm Beach city council member called “the ATM of American Politics”. Walker got $200,000 in pledges at a private luncheon, but he also made a public appearance at the local City Council meeting to brown nose praise the government for cutting public union benefits. Of course he was also protested.

The Palm Beach Daily News called Walker “embattled” and Palm Beach Councilman Richard Kleid called Walker “under attack”.  But President of AFLCIO’s local Palm Beach-Treasure Coast,  Pat Emmert, told the paper “he’s not welcome in Palm Beach County”. So I thought I’d tell her, “THANKS!”

I also wanted to learn more about what she and others did to protest. When I called Pat, she said the 40 or so protesters gathered just at the edge of Palm Beach. She explained that although they could have protested Walker lawfully on public space there, and they would have liked to have gone inside of the council meeting, the Palm Beach police “do what they want and then ask questions later”.

She also explained that the people who do the day-to-day work to keep Palm Beach running live in neighboring West Palm Beach. They can’t afford to live in Palm Beach itself. The two communities are connected by a bridge. At one point, Pat said, the Palm Beach town council discussed installing cameras on the bridge so that law enforcement could monitor each person going between the more working class town of West Palm Beach and Palm Beach. *

Pat told me protesters decided to position themselves at the foot of that bridge and both avoid getting harassed by Palm Beach police and get their message out to the workers going in and out either community.

Pat said that they got positive honks and waves, “We were getting quite a reception and we knew why! Those are the workers that go there every day.” She sounded as worked up about Scott Walker’s attacks on unions as any Wisconsinite I’ve talked to but she had a bit of a southern accent when she said, “I don’t know how you can stand him!”

I told Pat that I got a kick out of seeing real native palm trees instead of the fake ones from Fox when I saw pictures of Palm Beach Walker potesters  – – and she had no idea what I was talking about. I told her the whole story which gave her a good chuckle. [If you don’t know what I’m talking about, reader, check out this link.]

I thanked her again before I put down the phone saying that it means a lot to everybody in Wisconsin that people all over the nation and the world are engaged with Wisconsin’s struggle. She replied, “We will be happy to protest him again if he comes back here.”

I have a feeling Walker will be keeping her busy. Where there is “the ATM of American politics” there will be a visit from sad “under attack” Scott Walker. And where there is a Scott Walker, there will be protest.

Below is a nice photo from kravisblog. Go on over to kravisblog to see several slideshows of the protesters.


*More on Palm Beach and West Palm Beach:
Scott Walker’s friends in Palm Beach have always kept themselves above and apart from the 99% of West Palm Beach. The community of Palm Beach originated when one of the founders of the monopoly Standard Oil, Henry Morrison Flagler, created two resort hotels: the Royal Poinciana Hotel and The Breakers. West Palm Beach was constructed across a lake to exist as a service town for Flagler’s wealthy world. West Palm Beach would also became the home for servants (mostly black) in the early 1900’s after landowners conspired to destroy their shanty town which was nicknamed “Styx”.
History sources-I used wikipedia and Palm Beach County History Online

Money in Walker’s campaign coffers can be used to fight John Doe investigation

Something smells rotten in Wisconsin. Consider if you will that a politician in Wisconsin can raise unlimited funds while opponents ready his recall.

Then consider that any of those campaign funds can be transferred to defend the aforementioned crook against allegations of “a violation of either campaign finance laws or prohibited elections practices”.

Scott Walker has created a special legal fund to defend himself in the event that he is charged formally in the John Doe investigation.

I was upset with that “OPEN FOR BUSINESS” sign Walker put on the state. Little did I know we already had an “OPEN FOR CRIMINAL ELECTION ACTIVITY” sign on display.

From Sheboygan Press:
“Gov. Scott Walker announced Friday he has formed a legal fund to pay for expenses related to the ongoing John Doe investigation into his close associates and former aides, a move that raises questions about whether he is a target of the probe….”

“Wisconsin statutes forbid state government officials from seeking or obtaining contributions to a so-called defense fund to pay personal legal expenses, except for the transfer of campaign contributions to a defense fund for limited reasons allowed under the state’s campaign finance laws.

That exception is for government officials being investigated for or charged with a violation of either campaign finance laws or prohibited elections practices….”