Wisconsin on Verge of Police State as Tea Party Governor Gives $$ to Biz, Tries to Bust Unions

Wisconsin Governor Uses Police State Tactics (Literally) on Democratic Senators (Updated)

A major row has been under way in Wisconsin as governor Walker has been trying to push through state-union-breaking changes as part of his program to deal with a projected $3 billion shortfall in the state budget over the next two years. (Update: as reader petrograd indicates, an analysis of the state’s finances shows this shortfall to be entirely the result of spending increases planned by Walker. The state ran a modest surplus in the latest fiscal year and the projected falls in tax receipts over the next two years were less than $200 million cumulative. So this budget hysteria is a gross distortion of the state’s true condition).

His state budget plan included ending state worker collective bargaining rights and cutting pay and benefits. He not only said he would not negotiate, but announced he had alerted the National Guard in the event of worker protests (note the last time the Guard was called in to handle a labor dispute was in 1934). Walker since backed down on this particular threat, but has now sent out state police to round up Democratic state senators who are refusing to vote on the latest iteration of Walker’s proposal, From PRWatch:

Mary Bottari reports that the state capitol police are scouring the Wisconsin Capitol in an attempt to track down the Wisconsin Senate Democratic Caucus. The Wisconsin Senate was slated to vote on the budget bill today, but they were prevented from doing so because all Democratic Senators walked out denying the Republicans a necessary quorum. The Republicans issued a “call of the house” empowering the state capitol police to round up missing Senators, but the Democrats were prepared for this and promptly departed the building and may even have left the state.

It’s bad enough that the “make the workers suffer” push is misguided (any budgetary pain should be shared, not dumped on a single target group). According to David Cay Johnson of Tax.com, the average Wisconsin pension is $24,500 a year, which is hardly lavish. But what is stunning is that 15% of the money contributed to the fund each year is going to Wall Street in fees. Thus the blame for any shortfall should go in very large measure to probable kickbacks rank incompetence in the state’s dealing with the financial services industry and the impact of the financial crisis on state revenues. A recent paper by Dean Baker concludes:

Most of the pension shortfall using the current methodology is attributable to the plunge in the stock market in the years 2007-2009. If pension funds had earned returns just equal to the interest rate on 30-year Treasury bonds in the three years since 2007, their assets would be more than $850 billion greater than they are today. This is by far the major cause of pension funding shortfalls. While there are certainly cases of pensions that had been under-funded even before the market plunge, prior years of under-funding is not the main reason that pensions face difficulties now. Another $80 billion of the shortfall is the result of the fact that states have cutback their contributions as a result of the downturn.

In addition, the governor has poor-mouthed about the state pension and budgetary concerns generally while handing out further tax breaks to business. And in a strained economic climate, the state has been increasing gimmies to corporations. The state had tried tightening up provisions which had contributed to 2/3 paying no taxes in 2007, often due to income shifting to lower tax states. But tax expert Lee Sheppard believes that corporate tax cuts implemented by Walker will probably undo 2009 tax law changes intended to increase revenues from corporations. And note corporations pay for only 5% of the state’s general revenues.

This is completely different normal budgetary smoke, mirrors, and scapegoating. Walker is engaging in thuggish tactics to push his measures through in the face of rising protests in front of the Wisconsin Capitol by citizens, nurses, teachers, and students. The opposition is in keeping (admittedly at a much lower level) to anti-austerity protests in Europe. People may be waking up to the fact that an undue amount of the pain that ordinary citizens are taking is to preserve and extend the privileges of those at the top, and they are finally starting to say they’ve had enough.

Update 12:30 AM, 2/18: From Mary Bottari at PRWatch:

Outside the capitol, I bumped into UW Professor (Law, Political Science, Sociology, Public Affairs) Joel Rogers and asked him to explain the budget number to me. The national media can’t seem to decide if Wisconsin has a budget deficit or not, or whether $30 million in concessions being demanded from workers is significant or not. Rogers explained that the $3.5 billion shortfall projected over the next biennium is about half what the one projected last time, which WI survived, and that $30 million was both trivial and dwarfed by new concessions unions had already offered to make. Says Rogers, “you just can’t make sense of this as a deficit reduction strategy. It’s a political strategy. Destroy public sector unions and you destroy the campaign organization of your opposition, Democrats. Of course he won’t ever just say this.” Rogers thinks the budget repair bill is “in three words: deceptive, dishonest, destruction. Deceptive because its not what people elected him to do. He’s got no mandate to take away worker rights. Dishonest because unions are really not the source of our budget problems. A lousy national economy is, and unions are anxious to work with him in surviving in it. They’re really not the problem, but can be part of the solution. And it’s destructive because their help is needed. Nothing is gain by blowing up a 50 year tradition of public sector collective bargaining that was born in Wisconsin and gives a lot of people a great deal of civic pride.”

http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/

WI 'Scoop and Toss' Borrowing Scheme to Pay for $140 M Biz Slush

Walker Concocts 'Scoop and Toss' Borrowing Scheme to Pay for $140 Million in Special Interest Spending

Wall Street Bond Holders Win; Wisconsin's Long-Term Debt Rises

Madison-- Republican Gov. Scott Walker plans to pay for $140 million in new special interest spending signed into law in January by extending the state's long term debt in a "scoop and toss" refinancing scheme that will cost untold tens of millions of dollars in additional debt for Wisconsin.

"Scott Walker railed non-stop against budget gimmicks as a candidate and now as governor he's put together a scheme that would make a pay-day lender blush," said Scot Ross, One Wisconsin Now Executive Director. "Gov. Walker created this problem by handing out $140 million in special interest spending to his corporate pals and he's going to make our children pay for it by taking loans the state was ready to pay off and borrow more money on them."

Walker is refusing to provide full accounting of how much in additional costs his "scoop and toss" scheme would cost taxpayers down the road. Since his inauguration in early January, Walker has approved $140 million in new special interest spending that includes:

  • $25 million for an economic development fund for job creation that still has $73 million due to a lack of job creation. Walker is creating a $25 million hole which will not create or retain jobs. [Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau, 1/7/11]
  • $48 million for private health savings accounts, which primarily benefit the wealthy. A study from the federal Governmental Accountability Office showed the average adjusted gross income of HSA participants was $139,000 and nearly half of HSA participants reported withdrawing nothing from their HSA, evidence that it is serving as a tax shelter for wealthy participants. [Government Accountability Office, 4/1/08; Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau, 1/11/11]
  • $67 million for a tax shift plan, so ill-conceived that at-best the benefit provided to job creators would be less than a dollar a day per new job, and may be as little as 30 cents a day. [Associated Press, 1/28/01]

Walker made numerous statements before and after his election as governor criticizing borrowing schemes as a means of balancing the state's budget, a sample of which includes:

Soon, we will lay out our plans for the next state budget and we will successfully tackle the three billion dollar deficit. We will do it without raids on segregated funds, or excessive borrowing. [Walker Inaugural Address, 1/3/11]

I throw out a couple examples of things we pointed out there to get this next budget intact to make sure we don't do what the governor has done the last couple of times, which is kick the can down into the future and create even bigger budget deficits we got to get our legacy costs under control. [Walker-Neumann Debate, 8/25/10]

Our budget repair bill will lay the foundation for a structurally sound budget that doesn't rely on short-term fixes and other gap measures that only delay the pain and create perilous uncertainty. [Walker State of the State Address, 2/3/11]

In addition to not disclosing how much more this will cost the taxpayers in the long-run, Walker has not released how much the Wall Street firms and bond lawyers will profit off this deal.

"Gov. Walker's unprecedented power grab is turning his office into the state's largest lobbyist waiting room," said Ross. "Wisconsin deserves to know immediately the long-term cost of this borrowing scheme and what Wall Street firms and bond lawyers stand to make from our tax dollars."

Printer-friendly version of this release.

http://www.onewisconsinnow.org

 

'1st Amend. Remedies': How WI Workers Exercise Founder's Intent

'First Amendment Remedies': How Wisconsin Workers Grabbed the Constitution Back From the Right-Wing Royalists

David Vines, a University of Wisconsin student joined the mass protests against Governor Scott Walker’s attempt to strip public employee unions of their collective bargaining rights on Monday. The political science student marched on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. He slept overnight in the Capital to make sure that the legislature did not approve Walker’s plan without a fight.

Why? “This is what the founders intended,” says Vines. 

And he is right. 

When Democratic members of the Wisconsin State Senate walked out on Capital on Thursday – denying the Republican majority quorum that was necessary to pass the legislation -- they were attacked by Walker and his cronies.  The governor called the boycott a “stunt” and claimed the Democrats were disrepecting democracy.  

After all, Walker’s backers noted, the governor and his Republican allies won an election last Novembe  

That is true.  

But Wisconsin’s greatest governor, Robert M. La Follette, declared: “"We have long rested comfortably in this country upon the assumption that because our form of government was democratic, it was therefore automatically producing democratic results. Now, there is nothing mysteriously potent about the forms and names of democratic institutions that should make them self-operative. Tyranny and oppression are just as possible under democratic forms as under any other. We are slow to realize that democracy is a life; and involves continual struggle. It is only as those of every generation who love democracy resist with all their might the encroachments of its enemies that the ideals of representative government can even be nearly approximated."  

La Follette’s point, apparently lost on Walker, is that democracy does not end on Election Day. That’s when it begins.  Citizens do not elect officials to rule them from one election to the next. Citizens elect officials to represent them, to respond to the will of the people as it evolves.

While conservative zealots talk about “2nd amendment remedies” for the challenges faced by civil society, the Wisconsinites who took to the streets to protest an assault on labor rights opted for another amendment to the founding document that the right tries so very hard to claim as the property of a single ideology.  

The sign that David Vines carried as he marched Thursday declared for: “First Amendment Remedies!”   What did he mean? Read the First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”  

The founders, fresh from a revolution against a imperial monarch and his crown corporations did not outline a right of the people peaceably to assemble so that folks could get together to attend a baseball game – or even to see the Green Bay Packers win a Super Bowl.

The founders did not guarantee a right to petition the Government for a redress of grievances so that Americans could gripe about the cold in winter.  

The purpose of the First Amendment, the essential amendment for those who believe in a real and robust democracy experiment, was to detail the rights of citizens to object when wrongheaded and dangerous policies are proposed by their elected officials.  

That is what happened in Wisconsin this week.  

State senators, the elected representatives of the people looked out the windows of the state Capitol and saw tens of thousands of their constituents assembling peaceably to petition for the redress of grievances. “Tens of thousands of Wisconsinites were demanding to be heard,” explained state Senator Mark Miller, the Democratic minority leader in the chamber. “We hear them.”

And they responded.   At the rally Thursday night where those tens of thousands of Wisconsinites celebrated the walk out by the Democratic senators, the chanted: “This is what democracy looks like.”

They were right.  

And David Vines is right.  

Wisconsinites are employing “First Amendment Remedies.” And it is working, just as the founders intended.

John Nichols

John Nichols is Washington correspondent for The Nation and associate editor of The Capital Times in Madison, Wisconsin. A co-founder of the media reform organization Free Press, Nichols is co-author with Robert W. McChesney of The Death and Life of American Journalism: The Media Revolution that Will Begin the World Again and Tragedy & Farce: How the American Media Sell Wars, Spin Elections, and Destroy Democracy. Nichols is also author of Dick: The Man Who is President and The Genius of Impeachment: The Founders' Cure for Royalism.

Across the US, GOP Lawmakers Build States of Denial

Things are still venal, vapid, and stupid in Springfield. Just when you thought it couldn't be worse anywhere else than Illinois, there come reminders that, yes, it could be worse.

Forced at gunpoint this weekend to clean out a lot of old paper files in anticipation of some home improvements, I ran across some articles and obituaries I had saved following the death, a little more than five and a half years ago, of the late, great Ann Richards, former governor of Texas.

One of them related the story of how Governor Richards was approached by the ACLU, which was disturbed by the presence of a Christmas crèche on the grounds of the state capitol in Austin. "You know," she replied, "that's probably as close as three wise men will ever get to the Texas Legislature, so why don't we just let them be."

Yet another late, great woman of Texas, journalist Molly Ivins once said of that same august body, "All anyone needs to enjoy the state legislature is a strong stomach and a complete insensitivity to the needs of the people. As long as you don’t think about what that peculiar body should be doing and what it actually is doing to the quality of life in Texas, then it’s all marvelous fun."

This comes to mind in the wake of this week’s release of "Texas on the Brink," a pamphlet published annually by the Texas Legislative Study Group, a group of Democratic state lawmakers. According to their research, much of it corroborated by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Texas Legislative Budget Board, in 2011, "Texas has the highest percentage of uninsured children in the nation. Texas is dead last in the percentage of residents with their high school diploma and near last in SAT scores. Texas has America’s dirtiest air... Those who value tax cuts over children and budget cuts over college have put Texas at risk in her ability to compete and succeed."

Over the years, such statistics and other damned shenanigans have led many to debate whether Texas is indeed the rightful landlord of the nation’s worst statehouse. As someone with a mother’s Lone Star blood flowing through his otherwise anemic northeastern veins, I write this with no small amount of perverse pride. But in the last couple of weeks a lot of other states have been giving Texans a run for their money.

Last week, the Utah Senate passed a bill that would make the Browning M1911 semiautomatic pistol the state’s official firearm. Senate President Michael Waddoups read a letter from a seventh grader praising the bill because the M1911 is used to kill Nazi zombies in the videogame "Call of Duty: Black Ops." Waddoups said the kid is "doing some thinking." You betcha. The Associated Press reported, "The letter closes with the child acknowledging that guns can cause violence when used in a bad way, but guns also show other countries who is the boss." American exceptionalism at its finest.

In Missouri, State Senator Jane Cunningham has introduced a bill that would, in the words of progressive website ThinkProgress, "dramatically claw back" state child labor restrictions, including the prohibition on employment of children under the age of fourteen and regulations on the number of hours a child may work during the day. South Dakota was contemplating -- but just tabled, thank goodness -- a bill that critics feared would expand the definition of justifiable homicide to include the murder of doctors who provide abortions. Idaho’s debating a bill to nullify Obama’s health care reform and in Arizona legislators are sponsoring one that would allow the state to nullify any Federal law it doesn’t particularly care for.

I would ask what’s gotten into them but I think we all know. As noted by Tim Storey, senior fellow of the National Conference of State Legislatures, since the midterm elections, "There are now more Republican state legislators (3,941) than at any point since they held 4,001 seats after the 1928 election... Twenty-two state legislative chambers changed majority control in the 2010 election cycle -- all in the direction of the GOP." Many of the newly elected members were endorsed by Tea Party organizations or have rushed to embrace the Tea Party’s inchoate, right wing agenda as a means to safeguard reelection.

In so doing they have opened a Pandora’s box of legislative mayhem that not only plays to the social conservatism that would return us to the days of Cotton Mather and the ducking stool but which also uses the Tea Partiers’ lust to slash spending as a dodge -- not to balance budgets and eliminate deficits, as they claim, but to further stifle government and other institutions dedicated to the common good.

This is supremely manifest in renewed efforts by governors and statehouses across the country to enact right-to-work laws and restrict wages and benefits for members of public service employee unions.

According to the AFL-CIO, legislators in at least 11 states, including Minnesota, Ohio, New Hampshire and Missouri are proposing anti-union laws that would cut pay and lower standards of living for workers. The labor organization claims,"Instead of creating jobs and solving the problems of middle-class working families, some state politicians are... saying 'Thank you' to the corporate CEOs who financed their 2010 election victories by pushing legislation to cut good jobs, lower wages, threaten job safety and weaken unions.' (Full disclosure: I am the president of a union affiliated with the AFL-CIO, albeit a small one that neither endorses candidates nor has a political action committee.)

This push most dramatically has come to a head in Wisconsin where, in the name of austerity, newly elected Republican Governor Scott Walker is attempting to stamp out public workers’ collective bargaining rights. His attack on the unions -- including a threat to call out the National Guard -- has been met by outrage and a mass exodus of Democratic legislators out of the state, thus denying Republicans a quorum at the Wisconsin Senate in Madison. (You may recall that Democrats in Texas pulled a similar ploy in 1979 and 2003 by hiding or going on the lam to nearby states, including Oklahoma and New Mexico. This prompted New Mexico’s then-Attorney General Patricia Madrid, a Democrat, to announce: "I have put out an all-points bulletin for law enforcement to be on the lookout for politicians in favor of health care for the needy and against tax cuts for the wealthy.")

Although Governor Walker claims Wisconsin is in desperate financial straits, the state had been coping better than most and, according to Madison’s Capital Times newspaper "has managed so well, in fact, that the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau recently released a memo detailing how the state will end the 2009-2011 budget biennium with a budget surplus."

The paper editorialized, "To the extent that there is an imbalance -- Walker claims there is a $137 million deficit -- it is not because of a drop in revenues or increases in the cost of state employee contracts, benefits or pensions. It is because Walker and his allies pushed through $140 million in new spending for special-interest groups in January. If the Legislature were simply to rescind Walker’s new spending schemes -- or delay their implementation until they are offset by fresh revenues -- the 'crisis' would not exist... Unfortunately, Walker has a political agenda that relies on the fantasy that Wisconsin is teetering on the brink of bankruptcy."

It’s all part of that notorious separate reality in which Republicans and the right have taken up seemingly permanent residence. Democrats can hope the other side has overreached. The party will fight to win back the many seats they’ve lost in the states. But then again, as another wise elder of Texas politics once said, if you took all the fools out of the legislature, it would no longer be a representative body.

Michael Winship

Michael Winship is senior writer at Public Affairs Television in New York City.

Wisconsin: The First Stop in An American Uprising?

It took awhile, but Wisconsin shows that the poor and middle class of the U.S. may be ready to push back. Madison may be only the beginning.

The uprising that swept Tunisia, Egypt, and parts of Europe is showing signs of blossoming across the United States.

In Wisconsin, public employees and their supporters are drawing the line at Governor Scott Walker’s plan to eliminate collective bargaining and unilaterally cut benefits. School teachers, university students, firefighters, and others descended on the capital in the tens of thousands, and even the Superbowl champion Green Bay Packers have weighed in against the bill. Protests against similar anti-union measures are ramping up in Ohio.

Meanwhile, another protest movement aimed at protecting the poor and middle class is in the works. Cities around the country are preparing for a February 26 Day of Action, “targeting corporate tax dodgers.”

Learning from the UK

The strategy picks up on the UK Uncut campaign, begun when  a group at a London pub—a firefighter, a nurse, a student, and others—came up with an idea that is part flash mob, part sit-in. In an article published in the Nation, reporter Johann Hari tells the story of the group’s frustration about government cutbacks. If Vodafone, one corporation with a huge back-tax bill, paid up, the cutbacks wouldn’t be needed. The group spread the word over social media, and held loud, impolite demonstrations. The idea quickly went viral, and flash mobs/sit-ins materialized at retail outlets across Britain, shutting many of them down.

Now, a US Uncut group has formed and announced a February 26 Day of Action here to coincide with UK Uncut's planned protests on the same day. Already, a dozen local events are planned. Some groups are keeping quiet about their targets, but several are targeting Bank of America. The goal, according to a statement on the US Uncut website, is “to draw attention to the fact that Bank of America received $45 billion in government bailout funds while funneling its tax dollars into 115 offshore tax havens [...] And to highlight the fact that the poor and middle class are now paying for this largess through drastic government cuts.”

The Politics of Class Warfare

Across the country, the poor and middle class have suffered from the economic collapse: jobs disappeared, mortgages sank underneath debt, and opportunities for a college education evaporated. Much of the bailout that was supposed to fix the economy went to the very institutions that caused the collapse. Many of these institutions are now using tax loopholes and offshore tax shelters to avoid paying taxes.

It took some time for a political response to coalesce. The Tea Party movement was able to direct discontent away from the Wall Street titans who brought the economy to its knees. Funding from the Koch brothers’ petro-fortune along with fawning attention from Fox News helped get the libertarian movement off the ground. But progressives remained fragmented and few built active, organized bases. Many waited for President Obama to act.

The tide may now be turning. Inspired by people-power movements around the world, people in the United States are beginning push back. The poor and middle class, those who didn't cause the collapse but have felt the most pain from the poor economy, are now being asked to sacrifice again.

Politicians are scurrying to cut spending, but fewer than one in five Americans say the federal  budget deficit is their chief worry about the economy, according to a new poll by the Pew Research Center; 44 percent say they're most worried about jobs. Polls show that Americans also want spending for education, investment in infrastructure, and environmental protection. Yet spending in all these areas is up for drastic cuts in state and federal budgets.

Likewise, on the tax side, 59 percent of Americans opposed extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest, according to a Bloomberg poll. Congress cut the taxes anyway, and the package will cost $800 billion over just two years.

Until now, polls have been one of the few places where anger at government policies that favor the rich while cutting service to the middle-class has been visible. But the crowds in Madison and the momentum of US Uncut tell us that may be about to change.

As a statement on the US Uncut website puts it: “We demand that before the hard-working, tax-paying families of this country are once again forced to sacrifice, the corporations who have so richly profited from our labor, our patronage, and our bailouts be compelled to pay their taxes and contribute their fair share to the continued prosperity of our nation. We will organize, we will mobilize, and we will NOT be quiet!”

Here's a "how-to" from UK Uncut:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RIHg3-xYJlI&feature=player_embedded

Sarah van Gelder

Sarah van Gelder is the co-founder and Executive Editor of YES! Magazine.

Dear Glenn Beck: It’s Not Conspiracy, It’s Courage

Glenn Beck thinks the spread of protests is a little too convenient. But this is what happens when ordinary people discover their power.

Glenn Beck has made a startling discovery. People are working together to make change!

Beck used my recent article, “Wisconsin: First Step in an American Uprising?” as a backdrop during his Wednesday show on Fox News, where he talked in dark, hushed tones about the spread of the UK Uncut movement to the United States. “A coincidence?” he asked. Is it a coincidence that citizens of both countries are holding protests in multiple locations on February 26?

Hardly! Organizers of US Uncut have made no secret of the fact that they were inspired by the British upstart group. UK Uncut started when 12 people meeting at a London pub decided they were fed up waiting for “someone to do something” about the fact that, in response to budget shortfalls caused by the financial crisis, the government was planning drastic cuts to public services while big businesses were raking in record profits. “Why don’t we just start?” they wondered. “If we do it, maybe everybody will stop asking why it isn’t happening and join in.”

Is it a coincidence that citizens of both countries are holding protests in multiple locations on February 26? Hardly!

They sat down in front of a retail outlet of a major cell phone company that was $6 billion behind in its taxes. If that company paid up, they argued, all those cuts—to libraries, schools, health benefits, pensions—wouldn’t be needed. The protests spread, eventually shutting down retail stores and banks across the country.

Unlike the Tea Party movement that Beck likes so well, they didn’t have billionaire money behind them. The oil tycoon Koch brothers didn’t bankroll a front group to train and fund them and give them talking points. No, UK Uncut is made up of ordinary people, using social media to coordinate their actions, getting their voice heard in spite of being off the message that the Murdoch media would like us to hear. When news of their success spread to the U.S.—primarily via an article in The Nation by British columnist Johann Hari (reposted here)—Americans with the same concerns were quick to take up the idea, and dozens of decentralized US Uncut groups quickly formed.

Now, MoveOn.org and Van Jones are teaming up in a call for rallies on the same day to protect the American Dream. And the United States Student Association and Jobs with Justice are collaborating (there's that word again!) on a call to defend public benefits.

These sorts of collaborations are not new, and they're not secret. If Beck had been reading YES! Magazine, for example, he would have seen hundreds of examples of groups that form from the bottom up, that work for the benefit of ordinary people, and that collaborate in lots of creative ways. 

Which we think is a good thing. That collaboration is urgently needed at a time when the power balance in the United States is leaning dangerously toward large corporations and Wall Street banks. Because these institutions are formed to increase the wealth of those who already have it, any other goal we might have for our communities, our families, and our future easily gets pushed aside.

It’s very clear what happens when corporate power and the fixation on short-term profits get too strong. Taxes on corporations and the wealthy get cut, and so money for infrastructure goes away, and our roads, bridges, schools, and universities decline. The pay and benefits of ordinary workers get cut, and they can no longer afford homes, education for their children, or health care. Environmental protection is put on the back burner or simply gutted, and our mountaintops are blown apart (including sites that could be ideal for wind farms that could supply energy for centuries to come). The climate crisis disrupts agriculture, causes floods and droughts, and brings extreme weather events, yet corporations prevent action. Our local economies are sapped of their strength, and regulation that could prevent some of the worst abuses goes away. That leaves us vulnerable to the sort of global economic meltdown that happened in 2008, and that continues to undermine economies everywhere. And the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling is just the latest in a cascading series of events that adds still more power to the corporate side of the scale.

This lopsided power makes the events in Wisconsin (and now Ohio, Indiana, Tennessee, and many other states) all the more important. Ordinary people still have power, but only when we talk together and work together.

Beck would like to shift the conversation to one of conspiracies and fear—frankly, I’m not not sure what he’s so afraid of, but it seems to be a rotating list that includes communists, the United Nations, and Muslims. Oh, and our president.

But in Wisconsin, firefighters, teachers, nurses, sanitation workers, and students are rediscovering courage. Look at their faces, and you see fatigue, but also joy. No longer isolated and afraid, standing up for what they believe in, and, yes, collaborating, these people know they have power. And so do the rest of us.


How to get involved:

US Uncut actions targeting Bank of America and others will happen in more than 50 American cities on February 26. Here's where you can find the one near to you, or organize a new action.

Van Jones and MoveOn.org are organizing a February 26 “Rally to Save the American Dream” at noon at state capitals and major cities around the country. Wear Wisconsin colors, red and white.

Student Labor Action Project, a collaboration of United States Student Association and Jobs with Justice, is calling for a national day of action to defend the public sector on March 2nd.

Sarah van Gelder

Sarah van Gelder is co-founder and executive editor of YES! Magazine, a national, nonprofit media organization that fuses powerful ideas with practical actions.

Bringing Home 150 Troops From Afg'stan Would Fix WI Budget

Bringing Home 150 Troops From Afghanistan Would Fix Wisconsin's Budget "Crisis"

Wisconsin’s Governor Scott Walker is using phony budget projections to manufacture a staged “fiscal emergency” in his state so that he can whack programs and political opponents, but even his fake “emergency” pales in comparison to the cost of the Afghanistan War to his state. In fact, the U.S. would only have to bring home 151 troops from Afghanistan to save more money than Walker’s ridiculous union-busting plan. Better yet, ending the Afghanistan War altogether would save taxpayers in Wisconsin $1.7 billion this year alone, more than ten times the amount “saved” in Walker’s attack on state employee rights.

One might ask, “Isn’t Walker’s fake budget crisis a state budget issue? How would ending the Afghanistan War pay for that?” We get this question a lot when we talk about the cost of war to a state’s taxpayer. Keep in mind that state budgets are tangled with federal spending. That’s especially true over the past couple of years, as state budgets have relied on federal Recovery Act funds to balance their books during the recession. Spending decisions at the federal level are therefore doubly important, as they not only affect the national budget, but also what funds are available to help preserve state-level public structures.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oGAutVMMwgw&feature=player_embedded

That brings us to Walker’s slash-and-burn approach to the state budget.

“Under Walker’s plan, most public workers – excluding police, firefighters and state troopers – would have to pay half of their pension costs and at least 12 percent of their health-care costs. They would lose bargaining rights for anything other than pay. Walker, who took office last month, says the emergency measure would save $300 million over the next two years to help close a $3.6 billion budget gap.”

So on average, Walker’s slash-and-burn attack on the unions in his state would save $150 million per year for two years. But if Wisconsin is truly in a state of fiscal emergency, as Walker claims, why is he not demanding the president withdraw troops from Afghanistan and make the savings available as fiscal aid to states? Every troop deployed in Afghanistan costs the U.S. $1 million per year, so simply bringing home 151 troops would save more money than his plan. And, with fiscal 2011 Afghanistan War spending alone to top $1.7 billion for Wisconsin taxpayers, an end to the war would free up more than ten times his plan’s cash, which the president could use for state fiscal aid.

Of course, the end of the Afghanistan War would mean that people with whom Walker is cozy would lose some important revenue streams. Remember Wackenhut, the war contractors that disgraced us by holding drunken, nude firelight romps in Afghanistan on the State Department’s dime? Walker got them a sweet privatized state security contract in a prior fit of “cost-savings” that failed to add up. But who needs to rein in death, destruction and obscenity when you can take a whack at the unions, right? Walker’s not actually interested in fixing a supposed emergency. He’s interested in paying off allies and zinging enemies, and you can tell that by his silence on war spending that’s bleeding his state taxpayers dry.

At any rate, state politicians in Wisconsin and beyond are going to have to face a moment of truth when federal stimulus aid runs out at the end of this year. Their citizens hate the Afghanistan War, and they won’t go along with draconian cuts to vital public structures or attacks on collective bargaining. They can either wise up and join the chorus of people calling for an end to the war, or be ready to face tens of thousands of fed-up protesters and angry voters. Your move, folks.

If you’re fed up wit this war that’s not making us safer and that’s not worth the cost, join Rethink Afghanistan on Facebook and Twitter.

Robert Greenwald

Robert Greenwald is a producer, director, political activist, and Brave New Films founder and president. His is currently focused on the ReThink Afghanistan (2009, RethinkAfghanistan.com) documentary and campaign which addresses the misguided U.S. policy in Afghanistan. He has also produced and distributed short viral videos and campaigns like Sick For Profit (SickForProfit.com), Fox Attacks videos (FoxAttacks.com) and The Real McCain (TheRealMcCain.com), which were seen by almost a million people in a matter of days.

We almost screwed ourselves this bad in Illinois

Remember that long-time reformer Pat Quinn almost lost to Bill Brady.

Brady bragged about helping to deregulate the banks during his rare appearances in the Illinois Senate, and his only other accomplishment was to help bring a WalMart to his home town.

The same Tea Party that is plundering Wisconsin right now is at our doorstep, and only a heartbeat away.

We can't afford to sit back during the 2012 election becuase the tea Party is braced to make inroads here -

Hold the line now, and cheer the courageous souls who had to flee their own State Police to stem the corporate piracy in Wisconsin

 

David Roknich

Galesburg, Illinois

 

From the Front Lines in Madison, WI

by Kristine Mattis

As someone who has been involved in the protests in Madison for the past six days, I find the news media coverage of the momentous events in this town to in no way portray the reality of what is going on here. In their attempts to constantly be balanced, the news media seem to have lost all ability to be accurate.

The mass protests by unions and their allies that have occurred in Madison, WI, resulted after an abrupt announcement by Governor Walker late last Friday, Feb. 11, that he was introducing and fast-tracking a so-called “Budget Repair” bill, which would not only deeply cut benefits to public workers, but effectively strip unions of all of their collective bargaining rights. The response to the Governor’s move was rapid and in no way orchestrated or long-planned – there was absolutely no possible time for that. By late Monday, Feb 14, the WI state legislature announced a hearing of the bill in the Joint Finance Committee which was open for public testimony. It was then that unions and affected public sector workers began to try to organize to fight the bill.

Interestingly, members of the public, including myself, arrived early Tuesday morning to have our positions heard in the committee hearing on the bill. When the public testimony began, numerous media outlets were present to cover the proceedings. The media portrayed the hearing as a chance for “both sides” to have their voices heard, as if this were an even dispute between two viewpoints with equally numbered constituents. That was not the case. The clerk’s office documented testimony against the bill versus for the bill to be roughly 20 to 1, at least. Moreover, I know first hand that many of the bill supporters who spoke before and after I did had not been waiting in line with the rest of us. Where did they come from? They seemed to be placed into the queue somehow, conveniently, very early in the day when the media was present. As the proceeding wore on, few if any supporters of the bill were present at all.

These six days of protests have been completely non-violent and peaceful. There have been rumblings that protesters have “trashed” the capitol. That is completely false. Members of unions, particularly the Teaching Assistants’ Association (TAA) and the Milwaukee Graduate Assistants’ Association (MGAA), have been regularly organizing volunteer crews to clean up trash and litter.

As crowds swelled from approximately 13,000 on Tuesday, to around 70,000 (some estimate 100,000) on Saturday, the media finally began to take notice. But curiously, most media outlets only began to show up when the Tea Party announced it plans for a counter-rally on Saturday. Contrary to sources, these Saturday rallies did not consist of a meeting of disputing views in virtually equally numbers, nor were they a “clash.” The Walker supporters numbered roughly 700-1000 at most, while the anti-bill, pro-union activists outnumbered them nearly 100 to 1. Furthermore, there was no violence and no confrontation between opposing sides. (But interestingly, it was the first day that the capitol police posted signs on the capitol building stating “No Firearms Allowed.”) The Tea Party contingent barely made a blip with their paltry turnout.

As far as the actual issue at hand, most media outlets merely mimicked the talking points repeated ad infinitum by Governor Scott Walker, and did no investigating into the veracity of his claims, nor any critical questioning about the situation in Wisconsin. Here are some facts:

1. The state of Wisconsin is not facing a financial crisis. Though specific numbers have been continually disputed and some even claim that the state faces a surplus at the end of the 2009-2011 budget, what is clear is that Wisconsin’s financial woes are moderate at most, and do not constitute a dire situation. The $3.6 billion shortfall that Walker keeps repeating is based on the State Budget Office Analysis which calculated the 2011-2013 biennial figures based on agency requests. These requests always exceed actual monies allocated. The 2011-2013 actual budget has not even come out yet. Walker is misrepresenting these details. Moreover, Governor Walker was unconcerned about budget matters when he offered over $140 million in tax incentives to out-of-state multinational corporations, but now he is suddenly unable to afford to take care of his in-state workforce. The “crisis” is manufactured.

2. The government employee unions bargained for and ratified contracts late last year that provided numerous concessions, including but not limited to freezes in compensation for two years and increased health insurance premiums. Unions are not opposed to “sacrifices”; in fact, they had ALREADY agreed to them.

3. The erosion of collective bargaining rights has nothing at all to do with the contrived “Budget Repair.” Stripping unions of their freedom to negotiate will do nothing to help alleviate deficits.

4. The workers in the private sector have not been voluntarily sacrificing for the public good; pay cuts and loss of benefits have been thrust upon them without any say on their part, precisely because they do not have unions to support them.

5. The rhetoric spewed by the right, such as “I lost my pension, so should you” is akin to saying “My legs were cut off, now yours should be, too.” Unionists would prefer that our legs not be cut off – and we would like to see all non-union workers walking again too. Our battle is for the rights of ALL workers, and our victories are YOUR victories. This is trickle-up economics – and it actually works.

6. Union workers are not lazy slackers; indeed they do some of the most difficult jobs imaginable, such as being home-health care workers, factory laborers, and teachers.

7. The gap between rich and poor started to increase in the 1970s and has reached its widest margin today. Coincidentally, during that same time period, massive tax cuts for corporations and for the wealthy have been mounting.

8. The people who have not sacrificed are the wealthy and corporations. They have the ability to repair these purported budget deficits, yet those who can barely make a decent living are instead called upon to lose what little they have. All the while, Wall Street flourishes and the rich continue to accumulate more and more of the financial wealth of the nation.

9. The struggle in Wisconsin is not about my union or any other union; it is class warfare, plain and simple. It is a battle for decent human rights and against the systematic, concerted and well-orchestrated effort to remove all the rights of workers in this country. Anyone and everyone who makes less than a six-figure income – i.e. the poor and middle class - should be outraged by this immoral and unjust bill and united in our effort to protect our right to a decent living.

Why is it that those who have never had to worry about money, never had to sacrifice, and never had to fight for anything in their lives continually get more and more while working folks get less and less? And why, inexplicably, do other working folks support this race to the bottom?

The corporatization of America has already occurred; now we are well into the third-worldification of America.

We Wisconsin workers are fighting for you and fighting for this country. We must win.

Waking Up in Wisconsin

Whodathunkit, eh?

Insignificant, backwater, third world banana republics like Tunisia and Egypt pioneering the way for the greatest superpower and richest country on the planet.

That’s not supposed to happen.

I mean, we pay for a military that costs as much as every other one in the world, combined, even though it can’t win endless wars against insignificant, backwater, third world banana republics.  They can’t say that about their militaries!  We’ve got annual deficits that are bigger than their entire economies.  The size of our economy is half-again bigger than the number two in the world (with one-fourth the population), and we’ve managed to produce a health care system that ranks 39th globally.  Who else can claim that badge of honor?  No doubt that ranking partially explains why our life expectancy figures are lower than just about every country in the developed world.  Our education system, once the envy of the world, is crumbling, along with the size of our college enrollments.  Ditto our infrastructure, much of which hasn’t been maintained in decades.  Who can touch that?  We have the highest polarization of wealth in the entire developed world, and more than any country in the Arab world too.  Sweet!  Another cool thing is our incarceration rate.  It’s 743 per hundred thousand people.  The next highest country has less than half that figure.  Our use of torture and rendition and the remote-controlled aerial bombings of civilians has earned us the scorn and hatred of the world, while our political leaders, unmatched in their capacity for hypocrisy and buffoonery, have made us a laughingstock that few puffy-chested, medal-covered third world dictators can match.  You got Mugabe?  We got Palin.  You got Charles Taylor?  We got George W. Bush, in a democracy no less.

So, with a record like that, who in the world are these punky backwater countries to teach high and mighty America anything about anything?!?!

Darned if it hasn’t happened, though.  I mean, you can say it’s a coincidence if you want, and you may even be right.  But I can’t help thinking that the people of Wisconsin have been inspired by the people of Egypt.  Who were themselves inspired by the people of Tunisia.  Both of whom have inspired the people of Bahrain, Jordan, Iran, Libya, Yemen, Iraq and beyond.  Meanwhile, Wisconsin seems to be inspiring Americans in other states finally to fight back.

It would seem that people power is in the air in early 2011, and that it’s quite contagious.

Whatever is the explanation for the Cheesehead version of Tahrir Square, it is unbelievably welcome, and just barely in time.

It’s crucial to understand what the regressive initiative that our brothers and sisters in Wisconsin are right now fighting is really all about, and how that fits into the context of our era.  This is just the latest, and nearly the last, in a succession of efforts in America over the last three decades to move money from the hands of non-elites to those of oligarchs.  Make no mistake, that program constitutes essentially the sum total of American politics at its core over the last generation.  All else is a sideshow or, more likely and more ominously, an intentional diversion, just as a skilled magician is careful to give your eye something else to focus on as he moves the ball from under the cup.

That money-shifting effort has been relentless, and it has been fantastically successful.  We have witnessed the greatest transfer of wealth in human history over this period of time.  More astonishing, here in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, is that it went the wrong way – from ordinary folk who need the money to wealthy elites, many of whom actually couldn’t even find ways to spend those enormous quantities flooding their accounts if they wanted to.  Most astonishing of all is that this happened in a functioning democracy, where the votes of rip-offees vastly outnumber the votes of rip-offers.  If anyone you meet ever doubts the capacity of human stupidity, tell them this tale.  It’s an amazing story.  It’s also the most significant single fact of American politics in our time.  And we don’t even talk about it.

That’s because of the stunning success of the thieves in executing their heist.  As oft-noted, the perfect crime is one that is not even detected.  Welcome to America.

You gotta hand it to these guys.  They have been smart, thorough, ruthless, tenacious, patient and ruthless.  Did I mention ruthless?  They have attacked New Deal America – the set of policies that created a vast middle class for the first time and dramatically improved people’s quality of life en masse – in every way possible, and have managed to beat it into near submission.

They’ve been very clever about it, too.  They fabricated think tanks whose product at any other time would have seemed absurdly laughable.  They created a whole new media for themselves, and intimidated the parts they didn’t outright own.  They dumbed down education, making sure that any knowledge of history or civics or – god forbid – comparative politics was eliminated from the curriculum, thus producing nice, docile worker bees who know just enough to do their ill-paid jobs, but not enough to even know that they’re ill-paid.  They allied with regressive forces like religious institutions, the military and the Republican Party.  Then they bought the Democrats too, not least of which including Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, whose economic policies are fundamentally indistinguishable from the GOP’s.  They infiltrated the courts with corporate hacks so corrupt that they steal elections and sit on cases even when they’ve received contributions from litigants in the matter.  They smashed labor unions at every opportunity.  They drove the country deep into debt with the express purpose of making it then seem that any further social spending was no longer sustainable.  They tore down even the thin veneer of campaign finance reform from the prior era.  They shredded the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, and have bullied any opponents with thuggish acts of verbal and other forms of personal assault.  They made voting more difficult, wrongly purged masses of voters from the rolls, and used rigged machines to steal elections.  They have poisoned the minds of Americans with diversionary bogeymen ranging from Saddam Hussein to marrying gays to the War on Christmas.

And so on.  The complete list is extensive enough to fill the pages of this essay and several more.  The upshot of the story is that there has been a concerted, multipronged attack on a system of political economy that was, when they began, already just about the least fair to working people of any in the developed world, but nevertheless a whole lot more fair than it ever had been previously.  Or is now.

The purpose of all these efforts, however, was always the same, and typically had little to do with culture conflicts, endless Middle Eastern wars, or televised Hannity and Colmes style pissing matches.  It was always about the money.  Always.  It remains about the money today.

That’s why the malignant disease better known as Wisconsin’s Republican Governor Scott Walker is now doing what he is doing.  He claims that the state is broke and that he has no choice but to roll back public sector salaries and benefits.  Everything about that claim is a lie.  The state is not nearly as far in the red as other states that are not doing what he is doing.  The state could increase taxes if it wanted to solve its problem, rather than exploiting workers.  In fact, the state just got done creating it’s the very deficit Walker claims to be the problem by slashing $177 million from its tax rolls.  State employees are underpaid compared to equivalent private sector workers, not overpaid as he claims.  And despite all this, the unions have nevertheless publicly agreed to negotiate givebacks with the Governor.  And so on.

But, of course, the biggest lie of all is the biggest lie of all.  That is that the premise for what he is doing is the pursuit of fiscal rectitude.  Let’s leave aside for the moment the fact that, nationally, the same party that claims to be the party of fiscal responsibility is precisely the gang of folks who got us into the mess we’re in.  Of the fourteen trillion dollars or so of current national debt, almost all of it was created under Republican presidents, including the saintly Ronald of Nazareth, who tripled the national debt and started the process of dismantling America’s middle class (with a jaunty smile, of course, so it felt better and was less noticeable).  It is true that borrowing has gone up under Barack Obama (who, anyhow, is one of them, not one of us), but how much would that have been the case had he not inherited Bush’s wars, Bush’s ‘defense’ budget, Bush’s non-defense discretionary spending increases, Bush’s unfunded prescription drug bill, Bush’s decimation of incoming federal revenue in the form of tax cuts for the wealthy, Bush’s TARP, and Bush’s recession, the biggest since the Great Depression and therefore requiring massive stimulus spending?  To answer that question, just look at what spending looked like on the day Bush was inaugurated.  In fact, he inherited the greatest budget surplus in all of history.

These are the folks who bill themselves as the grownups in the room, the ones who are being responsible, the ones who are slashing social spending because we absolutely have to do so, even while further fattening a military already bloated on useless spending, even while continuing completely unabated lavish corporate welfare programs for Big Oil, Big Ag, Big Pharma and the rest, and even while slashing taxes on the wealthy down to nearly zero, transferring those liabilities to the rest of us.  That’s what the Scott Walkers of this country have been doing in Washington for three decades now.

But even if Governor Walker is not responsible for the lies and destruction of his party at the national level, he is practicing precisely the same behavior in Wisconsin (while, no doubt, licking his chops at his prospects for a subsequent presidential bid, based on making this name for himself at the state level).  This is not about balancing the state budget, anymore than Republicans can be the party of fiscal responsibility anywhere other than in the Alice’s-Wonderland-on-steroid-laced-irradiated-hyper-concentrated-LSD that calls itself America.  This is about completing the piracy mission, knocking down one of the last remaining barriers preventing the wholesale transfer of middle class wealth to the oligarchy.  This initiative is entirely about breaking public sector unions.

 

You can tell that’s true because those provisions in the bill have absolutely zero impact on the state’s budget.  Whether unions have to be recertified every year, whether their dues are collected from paychecks, and whether they can bargain over non-salary issues – none of these factors alter Wisconsin’s fiscal condition by a single penny.  You can tell that’s true because the unions are willing to talk with the governor about givebacks – and thus address the problem he claims the legislation is meant to solve – if he’ll strip out the union-busting language.  And you can tell that’s true because he’s not even slightly interested in their offer.  By refusing to take yes for an answer from the unions on the question that he offers as a pretext for the legislation, he reveals the pretext to be just that.  This is entirely about breaking public sector unions.

It is, once again, clever in its staging.  Having driven the American people to the wall through the use of job-exporting trade policy, unfair taxation policy, wage-undermining private sector union-busting, and budget-busting deficit spending, the Klepto-Plutocracy has now positioned itself quite handsomely for purposes of presenting the next and near-final act in its multi-decade play.  First they put economic pressure on all Americans by shipping jobs overseas.  Then they enact policies that bring on massive levels of state and federal debt.  Then they give us a devastating recession to ratchet up economic insecurity.  Then they make sure the Democratic alternative to the Republican recession-makers is in fact no alternative at all, bringing no relief to workers whatsoever.  This then clears the way, a mere two years later, for a Lazarus-like resuscitation of the nearly-dead recession-creating Republican Party.  But an even worse version this time, sending tea party social spending slasher freaks to Congress and producing aggressive predatory monsters like Chris Christie and Scott Walker at the state level.  Then they argue to a bunch of politically illiterate American voters the all these fat gubmint workers have got it too goddam good, what with their wages that people can sorta actually live off of an’ all.  Worse, these lazy bums are not only living high on the hog, but they’re living high on your nickel, Mr. Taxpayer Moron!  As storms go, that recipe is good for producing a near perfect one in order to crush public sector unions.

We’ll see if it works.  There are reasons not to be hopeful.  Right now, as of this writing, success for the predators requires just one of fourteen Democrats in the state Senate to come in from hiding out-of-state, giving Republicans a quorum, and sealing the deal.  Moreover, Wisconsin – a state that pioneered unemployment insurance, workers’ compensation, the eight hour work week, the weekend, and other triumphs of actual humane treatment for humans, appears to have taken a big deep dive into Lake Stupidity of late.  Once a bastion of progressivism, more lately a purple state, in 2010 it went overwhelmingly Republican, not least by producing the nation’s single most shameful act of that election cycle, the purging of Russ Feingold from the US Senate.

But there are also reasons to be hopeful, too.  It seems that this may just be the Basta! moment for middle class Wisconsinites sick of being ground into poverty.  Every day, the crowds of demonstrators grow larger, at last count up to 70,000.  They seem really pissed off.  When was the last time we saw this?

And maybe this is the Basta! moment for the country, too.  Maybe people have finally had Enough! not just in Wisconsin, but elsewhere too.  Already there are similar reactions in other states, as other Republicans attempt the same fiscal coup strategy.

Altogether, it may not be hyperbolic to say that Wisconsin’s fate is the country’s fate.  If the thieves win, it will empower and encourage thieves nationally.  If the people win, that victory may produce a Tunisia effect, getting folks to realize, as Egyptians did, that you’re really only captive to the power of thugs for precisely as long as you believe yourself to be captive to the power of thugs.

This could be the first step of an American awakening.  But even if it does occur, it will only be the first step.  There is so much more to be done.  Most of the initial work is purely in the domain of framing.  People need to understand what Warren Buffett understands, that there has been a class war going on for three decades now, and that his team is winning.  People need to understand that all the other nonsense that forms the content of American politics is diversionary bullshit.  People need to understand that, yes, American exceptionalism is alive and well in 2011, only it is alive and well in how poorly the country does on almost every measure of quality of life.  Especially compared to those horrid socialists in Europe and elsewhere, who suffer every day under the crushing burdens of better health, longer life, higher quality education, more equal distribution of wealth, better working conditions, less crime, less stress, less war and more happiness.

From there, once the Zeitgeist is changed, the policy changes can fall like dominos.  It’s not that hard to figure what to do.  We had it mostly right before the Reagan Era began.  2011 is not 1981, so some things will have to change, but most will not.  You either provide Social Security or you don’t.  You either protect worker safety or you don’t.  You either respect unions and the environment or not.  You either protect people’s civil rights or you don’t.

Things can also get better than they were thirty years ago.  We never had a national health care system, and we still don’t.  The one we’re slated to get in 2014 is lame, brought to us by our fake-progressive DINO corporate shill of a president.  We can do lots better.  Ditto on taxation, spending, industrial policy, workers rights and benefits, foreign policy and so on.  The great news about the multi-headed, cataclysmic, across-the-board disaster of policymaking in the United States today is that it leaves you plenty of room for improvement.  It will be a long time before we run out of ideas for how to make things better here in Ronald Reagan’s America.

I don’t know if this is finally the moment when America wakes up and turns the corner to emerge from this long national nightmare.  That’s probably too much to ask when tea party Republicans dominate the Congress, a faux Democratic president, just like the last one, does the bidding of the national oligarchy, and not a single prominent political figure is out there pitching the narrative that would help Americans to understand who their real enemies are.

On the other hand, who could have imagined a month or two ago that the thirty year-old Mubarak dictatorship would be swept away over the period of a couple of weeks, and with minimal bloodshed to boot?

If that can happen, anything can happen.

Wake up, America!

On, Wisconsin. 

David Michael Green

David Michael Green is a professor of political science at Hofstra University in New York. He is delighted to receive readers' reactions to his articles (mailto:dmg@regressiveantidote.net), but regrets that time constraints do not always allow him to respond. More of his work can be found at his website, www.regressiveantidote.net.

Hope and Change? Not for Americans

Turmoil from Mideast to Midwest

NEW YORK--If irony were money we'd be rich.
 
"You've got to get out ahead of change," President Obama lectured a week ago. "You can't be behind the curve." He was, of course, referring to the Middle East. During the last few weeks there has been a new popular uprising every few days: Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Jordan, Bahrain, Libya.
And now, Wisconsin.
In Madison, where a new Republican governor wants to gut the rights of state workers to form unions and negotiate for higher wages, tens of thousands of protesters have filled the streets and sat in the State Capitol for days. "It's like Cairo has moved to Madison these days," said Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI).
Revolutionary foment is on the march around the globe, but Mr. Hopey Changey is nowhere to be found now that it's here in the U.S. Whatever happened to "get ahead of change?" What's good for the Hosni isn't good for the Barry.
Deploying his customary technocratic aloofness in the service of the usual screw-the-workers narrative, President Obama sided with the union-busters: "Everybody has to make some adjustments to the new fiscal realities," he scolds.
"Everybody," naturally, does not include ultrarich dudes like our multi-millionaire president. Obama, who declared a whopping $5.5 million in annual income for 2009 (the last year available), has neither reduced his salary nor donated a penny of his $7.7 million fortune to the Treasury to help adjust to those "new fiscal realities."
Hard times, doncha know, are for the little people. "We had to[my italics] impose a freeze on pay increases for federal workers in the next two years as part of my overall budget freeze," said Obama. "I think those kinds of adjustments are the right thing to do [in Wisconsin]."
"Had to." Interesting pair of words. They imply that there was no other choice. What a brazen lie.
Three more words: Tax. The. Rich. Rich people and corporations are making out like bandits. If they paid their fair share, there'd be no need to cut budgets.
"Adjustments." How bloodless. For normal people, Herr President, losing two percent of one's pay is not a mere adjustment. It hurts.
Obama's grandstanding had-to freeze on federal pay will save $5 billion over two years. Which is nothing. That's what the Pentagon chucks down the Iraq and Afghanistan ratholes in a single week.
The federal deficit is $14 trillion. That's $14,000 billion. Obama's federal pay freeze, which amounts to a piddling four hundredths of one percent, is empty symbolism.
As the striking members of the PATCO air traffic controllers union learned in 1981, higher wages and working conditions are for foreigners, not Americans.  Ronald Reagan had nothing but praise for Solidarity in Poland (declaring that "the right to belong to a free trade union" was "one of the most elemental human rights").
At the same time he was defending Polish workers Reagan fired all of America's 11,345 striking air traffic controllers and ordered their union decertified.
    
All political systems are built on contradictions that eventually lead to their downfall. The U.S. relies on a whopping chasm between soaring rhetoric (freedom, democracy, individual rights) and brutish reality (preemptive war, supporting dictators, torture, spying on citizens)--a gap that is so wide and so glaring that it is amazing anyone ever takes the propaganda seriously.
A recent report in The New York Times slathers on a rich quadruple serving of syrupy irony. The Obama Administration asked the CIA to prepare a secret memo about the revolutions in the Middle East, specifically analyzing "how to balance American strategic interests and the desire to avert broader instability against the democratic demands of the protesters."
What, exactly, are those "strategic interests"?  Business. Dictators cut sweetheart deals with big corporations that donate to the Democratic and the Republican parties.
Democracy--real democracy, the kind people are fighting for in Bahrain and Madison, is incompatible with free-market capitalism.  Which is what union members in Wisconsin, as well as those of us who don't belong to unions but understand that we would be working 100-hour weeks in death-trap factories without them, see clearly. The American Dream is just that-- a dream. And it's not for Americans.
Obama's statement about the Arab autarchies is astonishingly tone deaf to realities here at home. "I think that the thing that will actually achieve stability in that region is if young people, if ordinary folks, end up feeling that there are pathways for them to feed their families, get a decent job, get an education, aspire to a better life," he said. "And the more steps these governments are taking to provide these avenues for mobility and opportunity, the more stable these countries are."
Well, yes.
According to a recent Bloomberg National poll, most American adults believe that their children will have worse lives than they do.
That's true even about those who have all the so-called advantages.
At this writing the unemployment rate for recent college graduates is 80.3 percent.
How will they pay their loans?
The rate is even higher for other young adults.
In a way, the unemployed and underemployed should thank Obama and the plutocrats he helps protect. The ruling classes' shortsighted refusal to give up some of the loot they've stolen will soon bring about the real changes Americans require and deserve.
Ted Rall

Ted Rall is the author of the new books "Silk Road to Ruin: Is Central Asia the New Middle East?," and "The Anti-American Manifesto" . His website is tedrall.com.

A CMD Special Report: Scott Walker Runs on Koch Money

Madison, Wisconsin -- A new investigation by the Center for Media and Democracy documents the big money funneled by one of the richest men in America and one of the richest corporations in the world to put controversial Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker in office.

The Republican Governors Association and the Kochs' Investment in Scott Walker

Walker was elected just over three months ago on the heels of an exceptionally expensive gubernatorial race in the Badger State, fueled by groups funded by the Koch brothers, David and Charles. David Koch, the son of a radical founding member of the John Birch Society, which has long been obsessed with claims about socialism and advocated the repeal of civil rights laws, personally donated $1 million to the Republican Governors Association (RGA) in June of last year. This was the most he had ever personally given to that group. (Fellow billionaire Rupert Murdoch matched Koch's donation to the RGA with a $1 million donation from his company News Corporation, parent company of FOX "News" Channel.)

The RGA in turn spent $5 million in the race, mostly on TV ads attacking Walker's political opponent, Democratic Mayor Tom Barrett. As this photo shows, the RGA described itself as a "key investor" in Walker's victory. In its congratulations, the RGA notes that it "ran a comprehensive campaign including TV and internet ads and direct mail. The series of ads were devastating to Tom Barrett ... All told, RGA ran 8 TV ads and sent 8 pieces of mail for absentee, early voting, and GOTV, totaling 2.9 million pieces."

The Center for Media and Democracy reported on some of the RGA's spin-filled ads last November, including the ads against Barrett, and filed a snapshot report this week. As the RGA takes credit, its multi-million dollar negative ad campaign probably did help make the difference between the 1.1 million votes cast for Walker against Barrett's 1 million votes. According to Open Secrets, Koch Industries was one of the top ten donors to the RGA in 2010, giving $1,050,450 to help with governors' races, like Walker's.

As Mother Jones has noted, the Koch Industries' political action committee, KochPAC, gave Walker's campaign $43,000 directly (according to the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board). It may seem like a small amount compared with the millions the Kochs are spending funding the RGA and other groups, but that donation was one of the larger individual donations to Walker not from an expressly-named partisan PAC. It is, however, a drop in the bucket compared with the impact of a million-dollar negative ad campaign, especially because the candidate promoted by the mud-slingers does not have to get his hands dirty.

The Kochs' Investment in Americans for Prosperity

The laundering of Koch dollars through the RGA dwarfs the Kochs' direct donations to Walker, and it also does not tell the whole story. As the Center for Media and Democracy has been documenting on its SourceWatch site for several years, David Koch was the founder and chairman of a front group called Citizens for a Sound Economy, which received at least $12 million from the Koch Family Foundations and which is the predecessor of the group Americans for Prosperity.

As Jane Mayer reported in the New Yorker, the Kochs do not deny funding Americans for Prosperity (the amount is not disclosed) but assert that they provide no funding "specifically to support the tea parties." "Specifically" is the key word in that sentence that does not deny what is known in the non-profit world as "general support," meaning general funding or endowments, for an organization's operations and overall mission. As Mayer noted, Peggy Venable -- who helps the Americans for Prosperity Foundation train Tea Party activists and "target elected officials" -- "said of the Kochs, 'They're certainly our people. David's the chairman of our board. I've certainly met with them, and I'm very appreciative of what they do.'"

Americans for Prosperity provided “Tea Party Talking Points” as the Tea Party was launched around tax day in 2009, and this weekend it is providing talking points to those coming to Madison for a pro-Walker protest it is helping to stage. Media watchers can expect to hear Americans for Prosperity protesters get equal time on the news, and more than equal time on FOX, using phrases to cloak union-busting as merely getting workers to accept "paying a fair share" through "modest but critical reforms" that end "strong-arming politicians for exorbitant benefits." The spin will also likely include a trumped up statistic claiming that private sector employees in Wisconsin earn 74 cents for every dollar paid to "overpaid" state union members--you know, teachers, firefighters, police, social workers, nurses, and other civil servants. An "unofficial" theme, a drumbeat of the Bircher baby propaganda efforts bankrolled by the Kochs, is calling opponents "socialists," a smear heard with increasing frequency as the Kochs' influence has expanded in the past two years.

Americans for Prosperity's Investment in Scott Walker

Notably, Americans for Prosperity bragged that it was going to spend nearly $50 million across the country in the November elections. As one of the groups exploiting the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision to allow unlimited spending by corporations to influence election outcomes, it does not disclose its donors and it does not report its expenditures on so-called "issue ads." It did run such ads in Wisconsin last fall.

Americans for Prosperity has actively supported and promoted Scott Walker in a variety of ways. It featured him at its tea party rally in Wisconsin in September 2009, when he was running for the Republican nomination for governor. Americans for Prosperity also ran millions of dollars in ads on a "spending crisis" (a crisis it did not run ads against when Republicans were spending the multi-billion dollar budget surplus into a multi-trillion dollar deficit), and it selected Wisconsin as one of the states for those ads in the months before the election. It also funded a "spending revolt" tour in Wisconsin last fall through its state "chapter."

Just how much money has Americans for Prosperity and its Wisconsin counterpart spent on issue ads or promoting Walker over the past two years is one of the questions for this weekend's orchestrated "Stand with Walker" event.

The Return on Investment?

Some things are known, though. Koch money helped get Scott Walker the governor's seat in Wisconsin. And now a major Koch-related group is spearheading the defense of Walker's radical plan to kill public employees' right to organize in Wisconsin. The question is whether an actual majority of Wisconsin citizens want two of the richest men in the world, who do not live here -- and who, as Lee Fang has pointed out, have eliminated jobs in this state -- to be playing such an influential role in the rights of working people here.

The Kochs assert that they do not "direct" the activities of Americans for Prosperity or the Tea Party. No, they just fuel them with their riches from the oil business they inherited from their daddy.

And they did not vote for Scott Walker in the traditional sense in a democracy. Rather, as the Republican Governors Association spells out, they "invested" in him.

What is the return desired for their investment? It looks like the first dividend Walker wants to pay, through the help of the Koch-subsidized cheerleaders from Americans for Prosperity, is a death knell for unions and the rights of workers to organize. But tens of thousands of Wisconsin citizens have stood up this week to say this ROI will not be paid, that their rights will not be the price Walker exacts from them in return for the largess the Kochs have shown him as the anointed instrument of their agenda in this state.

http://www.prwatch.org/

Walker Punked By Fake Koch Brothers Call

by David Dayen

This is priceless. Ian Murphy of Buffalo Beast (the site appears to be down at the moment, but twolf1 has posted both videos on MyFDL) called up Gov. Scott Walker, posing as wealthy industrialist and campaign donor David Koch. They had a 20-minute chat. Here’s an excerpt:

Koch: We’ll back you any way we can. What we were thinking about the crowd was, uh, was planting some troublemakers.

Walker: You know, well, the only problem with that —because we thought about that. The problem—the, my only gut reaction to that is right now the lawmakers I’ve talked to have just completely had it with them, the public is not really fond of this […]

Walker: [...] I went on “Morning Joe” this morning. I like it because I just like being combative with those guys, but, uh. You know they’re off the deep end.

Koch: Joe—Joe’s a good guy. He’s one of us.

Walker: Yeah, he’s all right. He was fair to me…[bashes NY Senator Chuck Schumer, who was also on the program.]

Koch: Beautiful; beautiful. You gotta love that Mika Brzezinski; she’s a real piece of ass.

Walker: Oh yeah.

Throughout the call, Walker boasts about his media appearances and strategizes with Koch. Some may say that there’s nothing damning in the call. The idea of the Governor of Wisconsin admitting that he thought about planting bad actors inside the protest crowds doesn’t look too good.

And I would argue that its existence is damning enough. There are tens of thousands of Wisconsin citizens outside in Madison, inside the Capitol Rotunda, who cannot get an audience with Scott Walker. “David Koch” can call and talk to him for 20 minutes. This power imbalance is at the heart of our corporate-captured government. Without a strong citizen’s movement, people like the Koch Brothers would have all the access, all the influence, and all the power. And they would get legislation written their way, protecting and furthering their interests.

And best of all, Murphy didn’t have to pretend to be a pimp or a prostitute in order to do it. Or, depending on your opinion of Mr. Koch, he did.

So yes, Scott Walker was Breitbarted here, but I think the larger point about access is very important for people to understand.

UPDATE: More from Adam Weinstein.

UPDATE II: Walker office has now confirmed that the call is real:

“The Governor takes many calls everyday. Throughout this call the Governor maintained his appreciation for and commitment to civil discourse. He continued to say that the budget repair bill is about the budget. The phone call shows that the Governor says the same thing in private as he does in public and the lengths that others will go to disrupt the civil debate Wisconsin is having.”

The Center for Media and Democracy has asked for a list of all phone calls made by Walker over the past couple weeks.

UPDATE III: Should have also mentioned Walker’s devious plan to get the Wisconsin 14 back in the Capitol:

Walker: An interesting idea that was brought up to me by my chief of staff, we won’t do it until tomorrow, is putting out an appeal to the Democratic leader. I would be willing to sit down and talk to him, the assembly Democrat leader, plus the other two Republican leaders—talk, not negotiate and listen to what they have to say if they will in turn—but I’ll only do it if all 14 of them will come back and sit down in the state assembly. They can recess it… the reason for that, we’re verifying it this afternoon, legally, we believe, once they’ve gone into session, they don’t physically have to be there. If they’re actually in session for that day, and they take a recess, the 19 Senate Republicans could then go into action and they’d have quorum because it’s turned out that way. So we’re double checking that. If you heard I was going to talk to them that’s the only reason why. We’d only do it if they came back to the capitol with all 14 of them. My sense is, hell. I’ll talk. If they want to yell at me for an hour, I’m used to that. I can deal with that. But I’m not negotiating.

http://news.firedoglake.com

Why Did WI Gov. Walker Discuss Disrupting Peaceful Rallies?

Embattled Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has now acknowledged in a press conference and in a nationally television interview -- with Fox News host Greta Van Susteren -- that he engaged in discussions with political allies about hiring "troublemakers" to disrupt peaceful demonstrations against his budget repair bill.
 
"You said you thought about it?" asked Van Susteren.
 
"We did," replied Walker. "We had people contacting (us). I even had lawmakers and others suggesting riling things up."
 
Lester Pines, one of the most prominent lawyers in Madison, the Wisconsin capital city where the largest demonstrations have taken place, referred to that comment as "a scandal."
 
"If , in fact, they took any steps toward implementing that (plan to disrupt rallies), that's a crime," explained Pines. "If they took steps to implement that, they engaged in a conspiracy to deny people their civil rights."
 
After learning of the governor's comments in the Thursday interview, Madison Police Chief Noble Wray, a 27-year veteran lawman, said: " I spent a good deal of time overnight thinking about Governor Walker's response, during his news conference yesterday, to the suggestion that his administration ‘thought about' planting troublemakers among those who are peacefully protesting his bill. I would like to hear more of an explanation from Governor Walker as to what exactly was being considered, and to what degree it was discussed by his cabinet members. I find it very unsettling and troubling that anyone would consider creating safety risks for our citizens and law enforcement officers. Our department works hard dialoging with those who are exercising their First Amendment right, those from both sides of the issue, to make sure we are doing everything we can to ensure they can demonstrate safely. I am concerned that anyone would try to undermine these relationships. I have a responsibility to the community, and to the men and women of this department - who are working long hours protecting and serving this community -- to find out more about what was being considered by state leaders."
 
On Friday, Madison Mayor David Cieslewicz went further, releasing a letter to the governor that read:

"Dear Governor Walker: In a press conference yesterday you were asked about comments you made regarding a suggestion to bring 'troublemakers' to downtown Madison to disrupt the peaceful protests taking place here. At the press conference you said that this suggestion was made and considered but rejected for political reasons.

"I believe I join most Wisconsinites who find those comments deeply troubling. The protests in Madison have received national recognition for their civility. They have been loud and passionate, but also peaceful.
 
"Police and protesters have complimented one another on their behavior. The police have been patient and professional while the protesters have been orderly and respectful of their surroundings. For their governor to seriously entertain for even a moment the idea of disrupting the peaceful expression of civic engagement is a very serious concern.
 
"Like most Wisconsinites I want to believe that our governor would not engage in this kind of behavior. Yet, your response so far has been less than reassuring. I hope that you can address these concerns by answering the following questions:
 
"• Who made the suggestion to disrupt the protests?
 
"• What was the exact nature of the suggestion?
 
"• What was your immediate response?
 
"• What steps, if any, did you or others take to carry out the plan to disrupt protests?
 
"• Why didn't you reject it along legal and moral grounds instead of political considerations?
 
"I am not necessarily expecting a direct response to me. But I hope that you will deal with these questions in the coming days and provide your responses to the media and to the people of Wisconsin.
 
"Our police officers work hard to protect the public. When the top elected official in our state and a person sworn to uphold the law entertains the notion of breaking the peace that official needs to reassure these officers and the public of his intentions."

 
Public interest and media groups have filed Freedom of Information Act requests for details of Walker's conversations regarding stirring up violence. And legislators are demanding answers.
 
"As the father of two young children who have been at these demonstrations, along with thousands of other children who came from across Wisconsin with their parents to participate in these marches and rallies, I want to know exactly what transpired in those conversations," said state Rep. Cory Mason, a Racine Democrat. "How seriously did the governor take these proposals to disrupt demonstrations? Did he explore this option? Who brought it up with him? And did he turn the names of the people who made these suggestions over to the appropriate law-enforcement agencies?"
 
Attorney Pines notes that in all of his descriptions of internal discussions about disrupting demonstrations -- and perhaps causing violence -- the governor has seemed to suggest that he entertained those discussions as part of a broader discourse about how to respond to peaceful protests that have brought hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites into the streets of major cities and smaller towns across the state.
 
"If someone suggests someting like this to a governor, the response should be: 'I would never talk about such a thing. I took an oath to a constitution that requires me to protect people's freedom to assemble and speak freely.' And that governor should tell anyone who suggests such a thing that he will not have any further dealings with them," said Pines. "What troubles me is that Governor Walker seems to have joined in these discussions without sending a strong signal that it is wrong to propose disruptions. That's outrageous."

John Nichols

John Nichols is Washington correspondent for The Nation and associate editor of The Capital Times in Madison, Wisconsin. A co-founder of the media reform organization Free Press, Nichols is co-author with Robert W. McChesney of The Death and Life of American Journalism: The Media Revolution that Will Begin the World Again and Tragedy & Farce: How the American Media Sell Wars, Spin Elections, and Destroy Democracy. Nichols is also author of Dick: The Man Who is President and The Genius of Impeachment: The Founders' Cure for Royalism.

Labor Protests Draw Tens of Thousands Across US

by Michelle Nichols

NEW YORK  - Tens of thousands of people protested in Wisconsin on Saturday against a state government push to curb the power of public sector unions, sparking solidarity rallies for labor rights around the United States.

Thousands of supporters of workers' rights rally in front of the state Capitol in St. Paul, Minn., on Saturday, Feb. 26, 2011, to help protest the Wisconsin governor's union busting plan to strip most public workers of their collective bargaining rights. Protesters see the proposals as an effort to weaken the labor movement. Other states considering similar proposals include Ohio, Tennessee, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa and Kansas.

Several thousand protesters gathered in New York City, about 1,000 people turned out in Chicago and Columbus, Ohio, several hundred rallied Austin, Texas, and about 100 people joined a protest in Miami.

At the Wisconsin state Capitol in Madison, thousands of protesters chanted underneath Republican Governor Scott Walker's office window "Hey hey, ho ho, Scott Walker has got to go."

"Union busting is wrong."," said Joe Soto, a 56-year-old steamfitter from Reedsburg, northwest of Madison.

Wisconsin's state Assembly on Friday approved Walker's proposal to strip public sector unions of most collective bargaining rights. The plan now needs state Senate approval, but Senate Democrats have fled Wisconsin to prevent a vote.

The bid by Wisconsin Republicans to try and balance the state budget by rewriting labor laws has turned into a national standoff with Republicans and business interests on one side, and Democrats and union groups on the other.

"When a governor refuses to invest in the people who educate our children and keep us safe, he needs to know this will not stand," actor Bradley Whitford, who played a White House staffer on "The West Wing" TV series and is a Wisconsin native, told the protesters in Madison.

"UN-AMERICAN"

The stakes are high for labor groups because more than a third of U.S. public employees, including teachers, police and civil service workers, belong to unions. Only about six percent of private sector workers are unionized.

"We bailed out Goldman Sachs, we bailed out Wall Street, we bailed out GM, but the hell with our teachers, our fire fighters, our nurses, our city workers, our state workers -- I'm here because that's unjust, unfair," said Raymond Wohl, a teacher for 20 years, at the Chicago protest.

Doug Frank, 51, said he drove three-and-a-half hours from his home in Crosby to attend the protest in Austin.

"This is finally the one that pushed me over the edge," said Frank, an oil and gas laboratory technician. "What they're trying to do (in Wisconsin) is very heavy-handed; it's un-American."

In New York, people waved signs reading "Cut bonuses, not teachers," "Unions make us strong," and "Wall St is destroying America," and wore stickers that read "We are all Wisconsin."

Anne O'Byrne, 44, a philosophy professor at Stony Brook University who brought her daughter Sophia, 2, to the New York rally, said she was disturbed by events in Wisconsin.

"If we don't have collective bargaining rights I don't know what's left for workers in America," she said. "It seems important to me to resist any attempt to take away those union rights that have in fact brought us so much over the years."

John Cody, 26, of the Civilian Complaint Review Board, said unions were "under assault" in the United States and some protesters had drawn inspiration from the popular uprisings in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia.

"Egypt is inspiring Americans and labor movements," he said. "Unions need to work like the corporations in some ways in that the world's become a globalized economy so unions need to show acts of solidarity not only across the United States but across the world."

Additional reporting by James Kelleher and David Bailey in Madison, Christing Stebbins in Chicago, Jim Leckrone in Columbus and Thomas Brown in Miami, editing by John Whitesides

Capitol Police Plan to Clear Building-Civil Disobedience Planned

by David Dayen

MADISON, WI – The Governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker, ordered the Capitol police to close the Capitol building at 4:00pm (CST) today, just a few hours from now. Protesters who have occupied the building for 14 days, with no arrests, have been prepared for this eventuality, and have devised a number of strategies to combat this. Tom, a graduate student who has been leading the continuous protests inside the Rotunda for several days, had a phone number written in black marker on his arm last night. When I asked him what it was, he explained it was the number of the lawyer who would help him out after he got arrested.

The Wisconsin State Journal described the potential actions today:

There were several indications late Saturday that some won’t walk out of the building when asked. Posters went up in several places announcing that three “non-violence training” sessions were scheduled for late Saturday night.

Also, organizers distributed instructions for those who choose to peacefully refuse to leave. Among the options listed was going limp and being carried out by officers.

“I will leave peacefully,” said Neil Graupner, one of the protest organizers, Saturday. “But I can’t speak for my friends.”

Another protester spoke to the crowd about what to expect Sunday and how to behave.

“Don’t fight with the people who carry us out tomorrow,” she told the crowd. “They’re not who our fight is with. It’s with Scott Walker and the people who support his bill.”

I have the fliers being distributed to protesters. The first describes basic rights. “If faced with a request to leave the building, the protester has two choices: to stand up and leave (the lawful choice), or to ignore the request and stay (the unlawful choice). Attorneys cannot recommend that a person violate an ordinance or commit a crime.”

The flier continues that protesters are likely to be forcibly removed from the building if they refuse the order. They advise that the protester not resist and go limp, or walk out in the company of the officers. They expect protesters to be charged with disorderly conduct. This may or may not result in the protester being immediately taken into custody, as part of a criminal misbehavior. They can get out of jail through the posting of bail. A separate flier asks that any non-citizens not get arrested, as it could impact their immigration status. College students are warned that disciplinary action from the college could arise from the disorderly conduct, but that may only result in a formal reprimand. There are even “arrestee support forms” from a local legal collective that protesters expecting to get arrested can fill out, with various personal information, to give to legal support teams.

Most expect the arrests to occur peacefully, but with a large crowd (there are probably over 1,000 in the building at this time), you never truly know. Some could push the envelope more than others. It will be interesting to see whether any notable figures, like local politicians, choose to get arrested, or if city and county police sympathetic to the protesters will refuse to leave the building as well. That could create a spectacle of cops from the Wisconsin State Patrol throwing out cops from city and county police departments. Ministers, rabbis and priests are in the crowd today as well, so they too may risk arrest.

Governor Walker has been chipping away slowly at the protests for days. First they closed the upper floors to sleeping. Then they restricted what could be brought into the building. Bedrolls, air mattresses and sleeping bags were first on the list. Yesterday, they stopped all food from coming in, forcing protesters inside the Rotunda to leave in order to feed themselves. They have been closing the building earlier and earlier each night, including at 6:00pm last night. People can leave at that point, but not return.

The AFL-CIO called the closure of the building an “unprecedented power grab” by Governor Walker, who gives the order on such matters.

“First Governor Walker tried to take away workers’ rights, now he is trying to take away our Constitutional right as Americans to peacefully assemble,” said Steelworker Roy Vandenberg. “I have a message for Governor Walker, your plan to silence us won’t work. We are not going away, and we will not be silenced.”

“This is a critical moment for Wisconsin and for so many states,” said Rev. Leah Lonsbury of Memorial United Church of Christ. “Clearly, this is about far more than a budget. It’s a moral issue, and the rights at stake here are so basic to our common good and our common humanity, to the very idea of justice, that we are willing to risk arrest to protect them and have our voices be heard. Our faith calls us to stand with the vulnerable and speak truth to power. This is what we are called to do.”

The building will open again at 8am Monday morning, after an overnight cleaning. Protesters may return to occupy the Capitol at that point, or they may set up shop on the snow-covered lawn on the square.

There is a press availability at 3pm with some of the protesters, I’ll know more then.

Demonstrators Can Continue Overnight Stays in Wisconsin Capitol

by Richard A. Oppel Jr

MADISON, Wis. — In a victory — at least a symbolic one — for Wisconsin’s public employee unions, the Capitol authorities announced on Sunday that demonstrators could continue their all-night sleepovers in the building and would not be forcibly ejected or arrested.

Hundreds of protesters have been sleeping in the Capitol in Madison, Wis. A state agency had ordered a stop to the practice and the building cleared on Sunday. Just one day earlier, the state agency that oversees the Capitol police had said that the overnight protests, which have occurred continuously for almost two weeks and have been the heart and soul of the demonstrations in Madison, would cease on Sunday. The agency is led by an appointee of Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican, whose plan to strip public employee unions of nearly all of their collective bargaining rights has led to huge rallies in opposition, with as many as 70,000 demonstrators marching around the Madison Statehouse.

Union officials, who had denounced the plan to close the Capitol overnight as an effort to silence critics, called the reversal a capitulation by Mr. Walker’s administration.

“Cooler heads prevailed,” said Jim Palmer, the executive director of the 11,000-member Wisconsin Professional Police Association. “They had said they were going to clear the place out, and then they thought the better of it. Now it’s clear that law enforcement professionals are running the show.”

Officials from both the governor’s office and the Department of Administration, the cabinet-level state agency that had previously called for closing the Capitol, could not be reached for comment.

In recent days, the Capitol police have made it harder for protesters to spend the night by banning sleeping bags and containers of food from being brought inside and by gradually forcing people to move from upper floors to lower floors. “They have been trying to condense us,” said Michela Torcaso, who has spent six nights in a row inside.

One demonstrator, Rabbi Renee Bauer, called the plan to close the building an effort to quiet people with little power.

“It is undemocratic to silence people’s voices,” she said. “This feels like it is about shutting down the demonstrators one step at a time.”

A Capitol police spokeswoman said Sunday that they would continue to urge people to leave so the Capitol could be cleaned, but that no one who insisted on staying the night would be detained or thrown out. She said she did not know whether Mr. Walker had been involved in the decision.

Appearing Sunday on the NBC program “Meet the Press,” the governor emphasized that he remained resolute and committed to his proposal to strip public employee unions of power. He urged the State Senate’s 14 Democrats, who have fled to Illinois to block a quorum and prevent the legislation from coming to a vote, to return to Madison. He also reiterated warnings that unless his bill is passed quickly, state employees will soon start getting layoff notices. Already, many teachers have been informed by their school districts that they face layoffs.

Mr. Walker, who was elected in November, has said the elimination of most of the state employee unions’ collective bargaining power is important to saving the state money in the future.

“If we do not get these changes and the Senate Democrats don’t come back, we’re going to be forced to make up the savings in layoffs, and that to me is just unacceptable,” he said on the television show. He has said that state agencies will have to begin preparing this coming week to send layoff notices to 1,500 state workers if the impasse is not resolved.

Mr. Walker said that past governors and legislatures had “kicked the can.”

“They’ve taken one-time fixes to push the budget problems off into the future,” he added. “We can’t do that. We’re broke.”

Democrats and labor leaders say that Mr. Walker is using the budget crisis to eviscerate unions, traditional Republican opponents, and that stripping unions of bargaining power will have no effect on the current fiscal crisis.

They point out that the state’s largest unions have already agreed to Mr. Walker’s plan to impose what amounts to sizable take-home pay cuts on state workers by diverting more of their paychecks to fund pension and health care plans. Officials say that part of the legislation will reduce take-home pay by 6 percent to 8 percent for typical state workers, and by more than 10 percent for many lower-paid employees.

All day Sunday the drama built inside the Capitol as about 1,000 demonstrators crowded around the rotunda on the first and second floors in anticipation of a showdown. Some speakers urged people to leave at 4 p.m., which is when the Department of Administration had called for the building to be closed. But most of the speakers urged people to not to leave — but to remain peaceful and polite toward the police officers inside the building.

Indeed, there appeared to be little appetite among the police officers to forcibly remove anyone. While the Capitol police were in charge, most of the officers inside were drawn from the ranks of departments around the state, and several said that since none of the protesters were behaving violently or appeared to be a threat to others, there was little reason to detain or eject them.

Union leaders say one of the strengths of the demonstrations has been that despite harsh language and personal attacks directed at Mr. Walker, the protesters had been loud but nonviolent.

As the 4 p.m. deadline passed, a large number of demonstrators left, but at least several hundred chose to remain behind, mostly on the second floor. The police were not letting anybody else inside, and people who went downstairs were not allowed to return upstairs. But otherwise they stood by as demonstrators chanted slogans like “Peaceful protests! Peaceful protests!” and “The whole world is watching! The whole world is watching!”

Dan Barry contributed reporting.

Capitol Police Blocking Access to Building in Madison

by David Dayen

Update:

A bit more on the fast-moving story in the Capitol Building in Madison, Wisconsin:

• Clearly Scott Walker and the Capitol police are trying to deprive protesters of having access to the building. Both Defend Wisconsin and a coalition of labor unions have filed lawsuits and other enforcement actions. Defend Wisconsin went to US District Court to try to pry open the Capitol. Labor is filing for a temporary restraining order (TRO).

• Meanwhile, Capitol Police staff are welding the windows shut. The lack of access to the Capitol means that food and supplies cannot be sent in to those who remain. People inside can leave the Capitol building but not return, at least for the moment. So people had been passing food and other supplies through the windows. So according to multiple witnesses, the windows are being welded shut to break down the supply line. Attorneys for labor unions are collecting affidavits on this, as well as the illegal denial of access into a public building, which under the Wisconsin state constitution is prohibited. The victory of last night is turning into a very bitter one indeed.

• These are the type of things going on out there:

A cancer patient needing a colostomy bag change — a medical emergency — was denied access to the Capitol building holding the patient’s medication due to a surprise lockdown that has lasted for hours past the scheduled and well-publicized 8:00 AM doors-open time Monday morning.

This patient was kept outside for 80 minutes in the cold while Walker flexed his political muscle and ordered DOA to close the Capitol during normally-open daytime business hours in order to gradually muffle the overwhelming dissent of his proposed legislation, which denies health care to many of our most vulnerable citizens, including many children, and strips unionized workers of collective bargaining rights for which people have fought and died for decades.

• Meanwhile, the Senate Republicans have stepped up their pressure to try to get the Democrats to return. Now the Senate Majority Leader is basically holding their staff hostage:

Madison — Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald is clamping down on absent Democrats by seeking to take control of whether or not their staffers get paid.

Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) would have to review and approve timesheets for Democratic staffers, under a proposal put before a legislative committee Monday morning. Previously, Democratic lawmakers had signed off on their staff’s hours.

I’ve heard also that Fitzgerald may just fire the staffers after getting control of their pay.

Senate Republicans are also alarmed by their colleague Dale Schultz’ private indications that he would vote against the bill. Greg Sargent reports that Schultz could be drummed out of the GOP caucus as a result:

I’m told that some Republicans in the state senate were so angry at fellow Republican senator Dale Schultz for proposing a modest compromise with unions and senate Dems that they actually threatened at a private meeting to kick him out of the state senate GOP caucus.

This comes to me by way of a source close to the situation. While the idea didn’t go anywhere, and it didn’t appear to have the support of Wisconsin GOP leaders, it shows how high tensions are running among Wisconsin Republicans who are under heavy pressure from unions, Dems and mass demonstrations to break with Walker.

What’s going on in Wisconsin right now by the state Republicans is pretty unconscionable, when you add it all up. They’re using some serious strong-arm tactics to break the protesters and the Senate Dems.

Meanwhile, Barack Obama managed to make an oblique, measured reference to the situation in Wisconsin, once again:

“Those of you in this room are on the front lines of this budget challenge. As the Recovery Act funds that saw you through the last two years are phasing out – and it’s undeniable that the Recovery Act helped every single state represented in this room manage through the recession – you face some very tough choices on everything from schools to prisons to pensions. I also know many of you are making decisions regarding your public workforce, and I know how difficult that can be. Freezing the salaries of federal employees for two years isn’t something I wanted to do, but I did it because of the very tough fiscal situation we’re in. Everyone should be prepared to give up something in order to solve our budget challenges, and I think most public servants agree with that. In fact, many public employees have already agreed to cuts in several of your states.

“But let me also say this: it does no one any good when public employees are denigrated or vilified or their rights are infringed upon. We need to attract the best and the brightest to public service. These are times that demand it. We’re not going to attract the best teachers for our kids, for example, if they only make a fraction of what other professionals make. We’re not going to convince the bravest Americans to put their lives on the line as police officers or firefighters if we don’t properly reward that bravery. So yes, we need a conversation about pensions and Medicare and Medicaid and other promises we’ve made as a nation. But as we make decisions about our budgets going forward, I believe everyone should be at the table, and the concept of shared sacrifice should prevail. If all the pain is borne by one group – whether it’s workers, or seniors, or the poor – while the wealthiest among us keep getting tax cuts, we’re not doing the right thing. I think that’s something Republicans and Democrats should be able to agree on.”

Previously reported:

Just got an alert from the Capitol City Leadership Committee (which is what the protesters who held the building last night have taken to calling themselves). The Capitol Police were supposed to open the building to the public at 8am. Two hours later they are still not letting anyone into the building. It’s particularly cold out in Madison today, with big crowds outside trying to enter. The media relations person for the CCLC, Thomas Bird, told me that one lady, who has been coming to the Capitol from the beginning, has colon cancer, and it took a long time for them to finally persuade the police to get her in.

Crowds outside the Capitol are chanting “Let them in!” as the police block the entrances.

The Department of Administration released new rules this morning about building access:

• Visitors to the Capitol will enter at the King Street entrance.
• A handicapped entrance will be available at the Martin Luther King, Jr. entrance.
• Visitors will be admitted to meet with legislators and other officials who work in the building, to attend committee hearings and to observe the state Assembly and state Senate if they are in session.
• Capitol Police will be stationed at the King Street entrance and can assist members of the public who do not have an appointment, but who wish to see their legislators or meet with others in the building.
• Protestors will be allowed into the building, but crowd size will be adjusted to accommodate the cleaning crews, the preparation for the Tuesday’s joint legislative session and the number of protestors who remained in the building overnight.
• Items that created safety or fire hazards and were removed from the building beginning on Friday will not be allowed back in.
• Police will continue the practice that began on Saturday of disallowing items including sleeping bags, blankets and animals (other than service animals) into the building.
• Members of the media will enter the Capitol at the West Washington entrance.

As you can see, they are really cracking down on access, and particularly what can be brought into the building. They have tried to make it very uncomfortable for people to stay, forcing them to sleep on jackets or the bare floor. They have restricted medical supplies and slowed the supply of food. But according to the CCLC, they are going well beyond these rules and basically blocking access to the building. And this comes after the police told protesters that they would be allowed back in at 8am.

Blocking access to the Capitol building is illegal under the Wisconsin state Constitution:

Article I, §4 – ANNOT.
The legislature cannot prohibit an individual from entering the capitol or its grounds. 59 Atty. Gen. 8.

Article I, §4
Right to assemble and petition. Section 4. The right of the people peaceably to assemble, to consult for the common good, and to petition the government, or any department thereof, shall never be abridged.

This is all tied to the joint legislative session on the budget on Tuesday. Governor Walker really doesn’t want to have to deliver the budget in a building under occupation. I think initially he planned to move locations, but that would not have been legal under Wisconsin state law. So instead of mass arrests and the negative publicity that would have went with it, Walker is going for the slow squeeze.

Local union leaders and the ACLU are working on the issue as we speak. More when I get it…

Why a WI Sheriff Refuses to Serve as Walker's "Palace Guard"

 

No one has worked harder – and smarter – to keep the peace in Madison during the dispute over Governor Scott Walker’s attempt to crush public employee unions than Dane County Sheriff Dave Mahoney.

veteran lawman who came up through the ranks of the sheriff’s department in the state’s second largest county before being elected sheriff in 2006, he’s hugely popular in the capital county – winning reelection in 2010 with 71 percent of the vote. He’s also hugely respected, as a key contributor to the work of the Governor’s Council on Domestic Violence, the Governor’s Council on Wisconsin Homeland Security, the Wisconsin Supreme Court Task Force on Mental Health and Criminal Justice System, Wisconsin law-enforcement groups and the National Sheriff’s Association.

That respect has served Sheriff Mahoney as he has worked long hours to help coordinate the response of various law-enforcement agencies to demonstrations that have attracted over 100,000 people, round-the-clock sleep-ins and sit-ins at the state Capitol and even clashing rallies between a small Tea Party contingent and a very large union crowd.

There has been no serious violence, no serious destruction and no serious arrests.

So you would think that Governor Walker and his aides – as well as their media echo chamber – would be hailing Sheriff Mahoney.

Of course, you would think wrong.

Sheriff Mahoney’s determination to preserve the peace, protect demonstrators and officials and respect basic liberties has earned him the scorn of those who are calling for an aggressive crackdown on dissent. 

As the governor and his aides have attempted to limit access to the state Capitol – which the Wisconsin constitution says must remain open to all citizens – Sheriff Mahoney has steadily argued that he and his deputies are present both to maintain public safety and to defend the right of citizens to assemble and petition for the redress of grievances.

As Walker’s lawless approach has gone to extremes, culminating in a failure by the governor’s Department of Administration to obey an order from a Dane County Judge that the Capitol be opened, Sheriff Mahoney has become more explicit in his objections. 

The sheriff objected when Dane County deputies, who have been frontline officers from the start of the recent protests, were the doors of the Capitol were not opened. Finally, he pulled his officers from the scene.

"When asked to stand guard at the doors that duty was turned over to the Wisconsin State Patrol because our deputies would not stand and be palace guards," said Sheriff Mahoney. "I refused to put deputy sheriffs in a position to be palace guards."

The sheriff and I have walked the Capitol several times in recent days and he has reflected again and again on the importance of respecting the Constitution and maintaining a free and open space for honest debate and dissent.

"I smile everyday at what I am seeing take place in this building," the lawman told me as we walked amid throngs of protesters on Sunday, before Walker's administration ordered an aggressive crackdown on dissent. 

The crowds have been noisy and passionate, he said, as might be expected when issues of such consequence are at stake. But they have also been responsible and respectful."They've helped law-enforcement agencies to keep the peace, and we have helped to assure that they can exercise their First Amendment rights," the sheriff explains.

Even the signs on that decorate the walls of the Capitol met with his approval. "Freedom of speech!" he said, explaining that even as the building is cleaned, efforts are made to keep the displays of sentiment with regard to the budget bill in place.

"We're an example to the world about how to run a democracy," said Sheriff Mahoney, with clear pride in his voice.

The sheriff was right. Unfortunately, Governor Walker appears to have forgotten that a democratic state respects the rule of law, not the mandates of the monarch.

So the sheriff is not going to lead a palace guard.

Instead, he will guard the Constitution that so many praise but far too few defend.

John Nichols

John Nichols is Washington correspondent for The Nation and associate editor of The Capital Times in Madison, Wisconsin. A co-founder of the media reform organization Free Press, Nichols is co-author with Robert W. McChesney of The Death and Life of American Journalism: The Media Revolution that Will Begin the World Again and Tragedy & Farce: How the American Media Sell Wars, Spin Elections, and Destroy Democracy. Nichols is also author of Dick: The Man Who is President and The Genius of Impeachment: The Founders' Cure for Royalism.

Scott Walker Gives $81,500 Government Job To Top Donor’s Son

Maybe those union members should consider getting adopted by some of Walker's campaign contributors?

Scott Walker Gives $81,500 Government Job To Top Donor’s 26-Year-Old College Dropout Son

Since taking office in January, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) has stripped public workers of their collective bargaining rights, proposed wage cuts to local government employees, and insisted that his “state is broke” and that its public workers are overpaid. But Walker applies a different standard to himself.

Today, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reveals that Walker is using state funds to pay more than $81,500 a year to the 26-year-old son of a major campaign donor with no college degree and two drunken-driving convictions.

Despite having almost no management experience, UW Madison college dropout Brian Deschane now oversees state environmental and regulatory issues and manages dozens of Commerce Department employees. After only two months on the job, Deschane has already received a 26 percent pay raise and a promotion.

Deschane’s father, Jerry Deschane was a major financial backer of the Governor’s campaign:

Jerry Deschane, executive vice president and longtime lobbyist for the Madison-based Wisconsin Builders Association…bet big on Walker during last year’s governor’s race.

The group’s political action committee gave $29,000 to Walker and his running mate, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, last year, making it one of the top five PAC donors to the governor’s successful campaign. Even more impressive, members of the trade group funneled more than $92,000 through its conduit to Walker’s campaign over the past two years.

Total donations: $121,652.

Deschanes’ father admitted that during the gubenatorial campaign he may have put in “good words” for his son with Walker campaign manager (and current chief of staff) Keith Gilkes. A state official has confirmed that Gilkes “recommended Deschane for an interview at the agency.” Michael McCabe, the executive director of the Wisconsin democracy Campaign, said the appointment had “all the markings of political patronage.”

In the coming months, we may be seeing more cases of Brian Deschanes. The anti-union law Walker signed last month also included provisions that would convert more than thirty-seven civil service positions into political appointees chosen by the Governor.

Kevin Donohoe

http://thinkprogress.org

Wisconsin Common Cause: Count Every Vote

by Mary Bottari

Many voters went to sleep in Wisconsin and thought they woke up in Florida on Friday after a "Republican activist" county clerk announced that she discovered an extra 14,315 votes in a hotly contested Supreme Court race. Not surprisingly, the votes went to the conservative candidate giving incumbent justice David Prosser a 7,500 vote lead over challenger Joanne Kloppenburg. Oddly, 7500 was the exact number of votes Prosser needed to avoid a statewide recount.

The Supreme Court race has garnered national attention as a proxy vote on Governor Scott Walker's radical proposal to end collective bargaining in the state and cut a billion dollars from public schools.

Long Time Republican Apparatchik

The county clerk in question is long-time Republican apparatchik Kathy Nickolaus. Nickolaus got her start in GOP politics in 1995, when the Republican Speaker of the Assembly was -- that's right -- David Prosser. She worked for Prosser's Republican Assembly Caucus, one of four GOP and Democratic legislative groups that were shut down following a criminal investigation for illegal campaign activity on state time.

Nickolaus first came to public attention in 2001, when she was granted immunity from criminal prosecution in exchange for testimony against her bosses at the Assembly Caucus. The case resulted in unprecedented convictions of Democratic and Republican legislators on felony counts of misconduct in office and arranging for illegal campaign contributions. Both Democratic and Republican leaders were sentenced to jail time.

In the caucus, Nickolaus was the person who ran the numbers, creating databases for illegal donations, partisan mailings and the like. When she escaped criminal prosecution, she hightailed it to Waukesha where she ran for county clerk in the conservative county in 2002.

She later botched a 2006 vote and stirred controversy by placing the entire voting system on her own personal computer. Prompting the County Corporation Counsel to charge: "If she wants to keep everything secret, she probably can."

On Thursday of this week, she called a press conference to announce the new vote totals that put Prosser over the top and blamed "human error." She claimed that the canvass was a "open and transparent" process, yet she found the error at noon on Wednesday and sat on the information for 29 hours, not even telling top election officials at the Government Accountability Board. According to election observers, the issue of 14,315 additional votes from Brookfield was never discussed at the canvass. But, this information somehow made its way to right wing bloggers before her press conference.

Reaction Swift

Wisconsin Citizen Action has demanded that federal prosecutors step in, confiscate her computer and start an investigation. "In the current political climate in Wisconsin, only an investigation by a U.S. Attorney can be seen by all citizens of the state as independent and above politics," said Robert Kraig.

The Kloppenburg campaign has demanded "a full explanation of how and why these 14,315 votes from an entire city were missed." As part of the search for that explanation, the campaign plans to file open records requests for relevant documents.

Meanwhile, both Kloppenburg and Prosser have lawyered-up. Kloppenburg is being represented by Marc Elias, the attorney who handled Al Franken's U.S. Senate recount fight in Minnesota. Prosser is being represented by Ben Ginsberg, who served as national counsel to former President George W. Bush's campaigns in 2000 and 2004 and was central to the 2000 Florida recount.

Lessons from Bush v. Gore Florida Recount

The Florida 2000 recount is on the mind of many Wisconsin voters. The big lesson from the nightmarish "hanging-chads" recount "is that you need a total statewide recount. If you only recount select counties the perception is you are only selecting counties that favor you," says Jay Heck, the head of Wisconsin Common Cause.

Heck issued a statement on Friday:

The incredible and almost unbelievable events of the last two days with regard to the reporting of votes in the City of Brookfield in Waukesha County in Tuesday's election for the State Supreme Court warrant a full investigation by the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Department of Justice and the District Attorney of Waukesha County. Furthermore, the Government Accountability should authorize and supervise a statewide recount of all ballots cast in Tuesday's elections and such a recount should be funded by the State of Wisconsin.

Why so many parties? Because this is the same constellation of offices that investigated the 2002 caucus scandal, giving voters more confidence that the manner was being handled appropriately and in a bipartisan fashion.

If Wisconsin is not to irreparably harm its reputation as a functional and relatively noncorrupt state, many Cheeseheads believe that a statewide recount is a necessity.

Mary Bottari

Mary Bottari is the Director of the Center for Media and Democracy's Real Economy Project and editor of their www.BanksterUSA.org site.

Waukesha voting irregularities go back to 2004...

by yourguide

Waukesha 2004, Bush v. Kerry.

Apparently in 2004 the polls in Waukesha were teeming with voters as the Waukesha County Clerk's office showed a 97.63% turn out. No, that's not a typo. 97.63%

http://www.waukeshacounty.gov/...

Of the 236,642 registered voters in Waukesha on Nov 2, 2004 apparently 231,031 of them came out in a hint of rain and drizzle and did their civic duty.

Just to put this in perspective, Australia has compulsory (mandatory) voting and their turnout is 95%.

The estimated population of Waukesha in July of 2004 was 375,350 with 91,530 residents under the age of 18. (source) Leaving out solely residents under the age of 18 that leaves 283,820 residents that are of voting age (remember that number, it will be referenced again). That's an 83% voter registration number which is well above both the national average and Wisconsin's average.

Kathy Nickolaus bragged about 2004 turnout on the eve of the 2008 election:

http://gazettextra.com/...

WAUKESHA, Wis. (AP) _ Municipal clerks are expecting to work late for this general election because of the huge turnout for early voting.

Absentee ballots are taken to the polls in the district where the voter lives and can be counted as soon as the polls open.

But, Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus says she doesn't expect much of a lull at the polls, so the early votes will have to be counted after the election booths close at 8 p.m.

Nickolaus says people in Waukesha County take their voting rights very seriously, with 96 percent turnout for the last presidential election.

She says given the interest this election has generated, the county might even surpass that percentage this year.

I can't imagine how it's would be within the realm of reality to suggest that turnout could again hit such levels considering the county had well over 250,000 registered voters in 2008 but that's not really pertinent to this diary just yet.

So, in November of 2004 there were 236K registered voters. In the Spring General Election of 2004 the election results showed the registered voter roll at 233,415. (source) So the county picked up a marginal number of voters for a 1.3% increase in the rolls leading into a BIG Presidential election.

Flash forward to The February 15, 2005 Spring Primary in Waukesha. Over a period of about 3 months the voter roll ballooned from the 236K seen in the November 2004 Presidential Election up to 282,390. (source) So in the 8 months leading into the 2004 Presidential Election there was a marginal 1.3% increase in the rolls netting about 3000 additional new voters. However in the 3 months after the election, which showed an anomalous 97.63% turn out, suddenly the rolls surged to the tune of almost 50,000 new voters and upped the rolls 20%. I suppose that's one way to even out a suspiciously high turn out.

Furthermore, remember that first number I told you to hang on to? The 283,820 eligible voters in the county of Waukesha in July of 2004? This new surge in the voter rolls has now pushed total voter registration in Waukesha County to 99.5% of elegible voters being registered to vote by February of 2005. Sure stinks and sure has all the earmarks of election fraud.

Flash forward to the September Primary of 2006. Kathy Nickolaus has what we now know to be a familiar problem:

http://suggest.wi.gov/...

Computer monitors at the county clerk's office late Tuesday briefly showed Lufter winning her race, as county officials scrambled to correct flawed returns from the City of Waukesha.
Final results later showed Lufter losing to fellow Republican Bill Kramer by a significant margin.
County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus said some returns from the City of Waukesha inexplicably had data recorded in the wrong column, which momentarily skewed results.
Nickolaus and her staff resorted to correcting the city's results manually a process that continued until 1 a.m., with staffers poring over a blizzard of numbers on computerized printouts.
"The best thing to do is go back to paper," Nickolaus said of the tedious process. "And that's exactly what we did."

Because there is no summary posted with the September results I've opted just to skip forward to the November 2006 Mid Terms while still flagging problems with the elections just prior to the Mid Terms. As far as I could tell there were no known blips or glitches on the local media's radar in Waukesha during the 2006 Mid Terms but when looking at the data I noticed something even more unusual:

Nov 2006 Waukesha Election Results

WAUKESHA COUNTY, WISCONSIN
NOVEMBER 7, 2006

PRECINCTS COUNTED (OF 211).  .  .  .  .       210   99.53
REGISTERED VOTERS - TOTAL .  .  .  .  .        0
BALLOTS CAST - TOTAL.  .  .  .  .  .  .            156,804

GOVERNOR/LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR
DOYLE/LAWTON (DEM)  .  .  .  .  .  .  .    61,401   34.86
GREEN/HUNDERTMARK (REP).  .  .  .  .   112,242   63.73
EISMAN/TODD (WGR).  .  .  .  .  .  .  .     2,320    1.32
WRITE-IN.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .             149     .08

ATTORNEY GENERAL
 KATHLEEN FALK (DEM) .  .  .  .  .  .  .    55,608   31.95              
 J.B. VAN HOLLEN (REP)  .  .  .  .  .  .     118,342   67.99              
 WRITE-IN.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .            97     .06

SECRETARY OF STATE                                                      
 DOUG LA FOLLETTE (DEM) .  .  .  .  .  .    68,302   40.07              
 SANDY SULLIVAN (REP).  .  .  .  .  .  .     96,199   56.44              
 MICHAEL LAFOREST (WGR) .  .  .  .  .  .   5,886    3.45              
 WRITE-IN.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .              53     .03

So, do you see it? In the race for Governor/Lieutenant Governor there were a total of 176,112 votes cast. For Attorney General there were a total of 174,047 votes cast. And for Secretary of State there were a total 170,440 votes cast.

So, look at the 3rd line of the top of that report...Total Ballots Cast: 156,804. So based on those numbers 20,000 extra votes were cast in the election that weren't actually accounted for in the ballots cast. Again, another sign of election fraud.

What's more, the Waukesha County web site reflects almost all of the above reports were pulled to be placed on the website in January of 2008 so those don't appear to be numbers posted in the rush of getting election results up, but were pulled and posted well after the results should have been long settled in the system.

After 2006 the Waukesha County election summaries no longer have the number of ballots cast or the turnout percentage at the top of the reports and I honestly don't have the time to dig through 2008 and 2010 to analyse the turnout, I'd also really like to go back and get the 2002 results.

Anyway, this is my first Kos diary. My very awesome boyfriend posts here a lot so after showing him all this tonight I wanted to post it for everyone else to see.

PS: Someone tell Nate Silver to go further back than 2010.

UPDATE

So I went ahead and put in a call to the Wisconsin GAB to ask if they were aware of the 2006 totals and if there was an explanation for it.

The woman I spoke with said the following: "We are aware of it, we are looking into it, and we cannot comment on it."

I would imagine if there was a "simple" explanation for the "official" totals listed on the Waukesha County Clerk's site the statement "we cannot comment on it" would have been replaced with the explanation.

Stay tuned...

http://www.dailykos.com

David Koch Admits to Helping WI Gov. Walker Big-Time

by John Nichols

Billionaire campaign donor David Koch, heir to a fortune and a political legacy created by one of the driving forces behind the John Birch Society, makes no secret of his enthusiasm for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

“What Scott Walker is doing with the public unions in Wisconsin is critically important. He’s an impressive guy and he’s very courageous,” Koch explained in a recent conversation reported by the Palm Beach Post. “If the unions win the recall, there will be no stopping union power.”

That’s no surprise. What is surprising is that Koch now appears to be bragging about how he and his brother Charles are using their vast fortune to fund an independent campaign aimed at “helping” Walker. Even in an era when billionaires such as the Kochs are emerging as key financiers of super PACs and other campaign vehicles, Koch’s admission will raise eyebrows — and questions about whether inappropriate coordination by a candidate, his campaign and a supposedly independent group might be the stuff of “scandal.”

Like their father before them, David Koch and his brother Charles are longtime champions of extreme right-wing causes. And Walker’s militant anti-labor policies coupled with a willingness to cut funding for public education and public services have made him a hero of conservative hardliners like the Kochs. At the same time, Walker’s extremism has inspired a movement to recall him from office, which recently filed petitions with more than 1 million signatures calling for an election to remove the governor.

The governor has already spent a fortune trying to block the recall drive, with millions of dollars in television advertising, as well as expensive legal efforts to block a new vote. Both have been strikingly unsuccessful so far, at least in part because Wisconsin has steadily lost jobs since Walker’s budget was enacted — a dismal record that has caused a loss of confidence in the governor and his agenda.

Even as Walker struggles to explain why Wisconsin is shedding jobs while the rest of the country is gaining them, conservative groups funded by Charles and David Koch, such as Americans for Prosperity, are filling the state’s television airwaves with ads that claim Walker’s policies are “working.” According to Reuters, “a $700,000 advertising campaign sponsored by Americans for Prosperity, a foundation funded by conservative billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch of oil and gas conglomerate Koch Industries, hit the Wisconsin airwaves, the latest phase of its ‘Stand with Walker’ campaign.”

These ads are supposedly independent expenditures by a not-for-profit organization that operates under tax rules established to benefit the work of “religious, educational, charitable, scientific, literary, testing for public safety, to foster national or international amateur sports competition, or prevention of cruelty to children or animals organizations.”

It’s illegal for “independent” groups operating under the Internal Revenue Service code as a 501(c)(3) organization to participate directly or indirectly in any political campaign.

The IRS is explicit in this regard: “Under the Internal Revenue Code, all section 501(c)(3) organizations are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office. Contributions to political campaign funds or public statements of position (verbal or written) made on behalf of the organization in favor of or in opposition to any candidate for public office clearly violate the prohibition against political campaign activity. Violating this prohibition may result in denial or revocation of tax-exempt status and the imposition of certain excise taxes.”

Similar, though slightly less strict, rules apply to campaigning by other so-called “501” groups that the Kochs have funded.

So, while David Koch’s stated enthusiasm for Scott Walker was not surprising, his explanation of how that enthusiasm is being expressed politically was.

According to the Post, Koch said of Walker: “We’re helping him, as we should. We’ve gotten pretty good at this over the years. We’ve spent a lot of money in Wisconsin. We’re going to spend more.”

The Post added: “By ‘we’ he says he means Americans for Prosperity, which is spending about $700,000 on an ‘It’s working’ television ad buy in the state.”

Walker’s defenders, a group that now officially includes the Koch brothers (thanks to David Koch’s pronouncement), will surely suggest that the billionaire is merely expressing his right to fund independent activities that just happen to be “helping” Walker.

But it is notable that, during last summer’s Wisconsin state Senate recall campaigns, the Republican Party of Wisconsin issued statements pointing out that “coordination between … political campaigns and independent groups is specifically outlawed.”

Such coordination might be denied by the parties involved. But, argued the Republicans, reasonable people should recognize coordination as a “scandal.”

© 2012 The Capital Times
http://host.madison.com/ct/news/opinion/column/john_nichols/john-nichols...

John Nichols is Washington correspondent for The Nation and associate editor of The Capital Times in Madison, Wisconsin. His most recent book is The “S” Word: A Short History of an American Tradition. A co-founder of the media reform organization Free Press, Nichols is co-author with Robert W. McChesney of The Death and Life of American Journalism: The Media Revolution that Will Begin the World Again and Tragedy & Farce: How the American Media Sell Wars, Spin Elections, and Destroy Democracy. Nichols' other books include: Dick: The Man Who is President and The Genius of Impeachment: The Founders' Cure for Royalism.

Walker's New Capitol Police Chief Cracks Down on 1st Amendment

by Harriet Rowan

On September 5, 2012, eight people were arrested, handcuffed, and ultimately given citations for simply holding signs in the Wisconsin State Capitol. This may come as a surprise to the hundreds of thousands of people who marched through the Capitol in February and March of 2011 proudly holding home-made signs that denounced Governor Scott Walker’s attack on collective bargaining rights, but there’s a new sheriff in town -- a new Capitol Police chief to be exact.

In July of 2012, David M. Erwin was named as the new Chief of the Wisconsin Capitol Police Department, succeeding Chief Charles Tubbs who was widely applauded for maintaining public safety while allowing protesters to exercise their First Amendment rights in the Capitol during Wisconsin's historic labor uprising. Chief Erwin previously served as the captain in charge of Governor Walker’s security with the Wisconsin State Patrol.

Chief Erwin made it clear from the beginning that under his watch, the Department of Administration’s controversial access policy for the Capitol would be followed more strictly. The group of citizens who participate in the daily sing-along, and those who visit the Capitol to hold signs and socialize have been expecting a crackdown, and it has arrived.

Gandhi Quote Lands Protester in Cuffs

On Tuesday a small group of people were given warnings by the Capitol Police, and told that they could not display their signs on the 1st floor of the rotunda. On Wednesday Bart Munger, one of those warned the day before, was arrested and handcuffed for holding a 3’ x 7’ sign that said “An unjust law is itself a species of violence. Arrest for its breach is more so. –Mahatma Gandhi”.

After being cited and released Munger returned to the 1st floor of the Capitol to donate blood for the Red Cross, which has a permit to be in the Capitol for the whole week to do a blood drive. Shortly thereafter Joseph Skulan was arrested and handcuffed for holding an 8.5’’ x 11’’ sheet of paper with Article I, Section 4 of the Wisconsin State Constitution which says, “The right of the people peaceably to assemble, to consult for the common good, and to petition the government or any department thereof, shall never be abridged.”

Over the next few hours six more people were arrested, handcuffed, cited and then released. Each of them was given a ticket for $200.50 for violating Administrative Rule 2.07(2), which states “No displays, signs, banners, placards, decorations or graphic or artistic material may be erected, attached, mounted or displayed within or on the building or the grounds of any state office building or facility without the express written authority of the department.”

The DOA enforcing Rule 2.07(2) against people holding signs appears to be at odds with a recent court decision. On Wednesday, Dane County Judge Frank J. Remington ruled in a motion for summary judgment that Rule 2.07(2) does not apply to handheld signs, only signs that are affixed to walls or free-standing. Though the word "display" could arguably apply to handheld signs, Judge Remington wrote that "the term 'displayed' implies something like a freestanding exhibit showcased in the Capitol, not an individual holding a handmade sign over their head."

Jeri Troia, and Chris Taylor (a grandmother and frequent visitor to the Capitol, not the State Representative) were arrested for holding shirts made and distributed by “Muslims for Life,” a group partnering with the Red Cross to help with the blood drive. Ultimately four of the eight people who were cited donated blood to the Red Cross.

During one of the arrests a Capitol Police officer told a citizen “If you are holding a sign today or any day in the future, you will be issued a citation and you will be arrested.” Each of those arrested was given a similar warning. One man was given a warning for holding a blank 3’ x 1’ posterboard.

Former Wisconsin Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager, who negotiated with the Capitol Police and the Walker administration and helped return the Capitol to normalcy after it was locked down in March 2011, shook her head at the latest developments. "Tragically, this administration and its appointees take themselves more seriously than their duties and obligations under the Wisconsin Constitution." While many expect that Dane County judges may toss out these citations, others suspect that the Walker administration will find new ways of attempting to enforce the rules perhaps by sending the cases to the Republican Attorney General.

The daily "Solidarity Sing-Along", a loosely organized group of people who meet at the Capitol every weekday to sing songs about unions and social justice, is outside this week so as not to interfere with the permitted Red Cross blood drive, but those who attend the daily event are unsure of how the police will react when they return to singing inside the rotunda. What they do know is they are determined to exercise their right to free speech, and their right to peaceably assemble, and they will be there every day just like they have for the past year and a half.
http://youtu.be/biK0WPbjKS8

© 2012 PR Watch
http://prwatch.org/news/2012/09/11742/walkers-new-capitol-police-chief-c...

Harriet Blair Rowan is a reporter for the Center for Media and Democracy. She majored in Latin American studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and also extensively studied the Middle East. She speaks Spanish and Arabic and lived in Morocco for a year, studying the language and culture.

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