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A slight modification

Fighting Bob - Sun, 2012-02-12 00:00
In proposing a solution to the money game in politics at the People's Legislature, we suggested that the Democrats refuse all money from corporations, unions, super PACs and out-of-state donations. The response has been phenomenal. Almost every comment has been positive, but most have suggested that the decision to put down the Tin Cup should be a bit more flexible.

How about keeping small donations from individuals say under $50, and using that money to get out the vote? Or establish a fund to use TV and radio spots to explain what we are doing? I think those ideas are quite sensible. So, what do you say? Try it? Why not?

Here is my modification for your thoughts today. (We will hold another People's Legislature soon for a full discussion.)

Lets ask the 1.1 million recall signatories to send $5 to a central place. Imagine the results if they respond. We would have more than five million dollars. Much more than any Democrat could raise before the election. The promise would be that none of the small contributions would go to a candidate: It will be used to push the "Tin Cup" solution! Assume that we need $3 million for GOTV. Once that goal is reached, all funds go to creative spots making Walker's money the issue. "Wisconsin: Not for Sale!"

Looking at all the fat cats at the CPAC gathering of extremists in D.C. this weekend, I had to laugh. There was UW grad David Keene reminding us that he was a founder of Young Americans for Freedom (YAF), Bill Buckley's hoo-ha. Now 40-some years later, YAF in the closet, Keen seems to leaning toward "Old White Curmudgeons for Plutocracy."


Fighting Bob - Sun, 2012-02-12 00:00
Is there any hope left for reform now that regulation is impossible?

Walker has Delusions of Grandeur at CPAC: Compares Himself to George Washington and Lincoln

Uppity Wisconsin - Sat, 2012-02-11 08:10

Talk about a tin ear!

Fighting Bob - Sat, 2012-02-11 00:00
Mark Twain once said, "A lie gets half-way around the world before Truth gets her boots on."

Apply this to Governor Scott Walker. I hope Truth sleeps with her boots on and is ready to fly. Walker promised 250,000 new jobs. So far he has lost more jobs than he has created or coaxed to move to tax-haven Wisconsin. Oh well. Then he condemned Doyle in his first state of the state address for taking money from highway funds, malpractices fund, etc. to balance the budget. Not on his watch would this happen! Take that to the bank.

No siree! Ah, but there is some low-hanging fruit that, like Adam, he could not resist. A couple dozen attorneys general sued five big banks including Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Citigroup. A multi-billion dollar settlement was announced by the U.S. Attorney General. Wisconsin will get roughly $40 million soon and more later.

Where will Wisconsin's share go? Some will go to injured folks and some to the state directly. What will Walker do (WWWD?)? You have heard by now. Yes, Walker will grab about $31 million and use the money to fill a deficit hole in the state budget in the next fiscal year! No way, says Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. That money must be directed to Milwaukee. Right on, Tom!

Let's see. The budget is not in balance. Money for homeowners damaged by the banks will be used to balance the budget! The guy has no shame. None. And, after making that decision, he flew to Washington, D.C. to speak at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) convention Friday night. In watching some of it on C-Span, I had to take a deep breath. Walker is a right-wing hero! Obviously, the far right CPAC does not have many heroes but count Scott is one. (You can bet Scott picked up some checks while eating dinner.)

PRIMARY ELECTION: The response to my blog post dedicated to the plea to Democrats that they avoid big union money, big business or Super PAC contributions has been strong. Apparently the post hit a nerve, as you have responded with anger that big unions would try to name the Democrats' nominee before a single primary vote is cast. At a minimum, we have started a debate within the ranks of progressives. Knowing that no Democrat, not even Herb Kohl, can match the millions that will flow into Wisconsin for Walker from the Koch boys and their billionaire friends, Democrats should rely on the more than 30,000 who gathered signatures for the recall and the candidate should rely on the one-million-plus who signed the petitions to get out the vote!

This is our last chance to rescue democracy at least until a constitutional amendment reversing Citizen's United passes. Think about it. No candidate has started with a million "votes" in her back pocket. And no one have begun with top aides of the opponent under arrest. The situation is perfect.

Yesterday Randy Rhodes and Ed Schultz were laughing at us. Randy said, "Wisconsin, for god's sake get rid of this guy."

CPAC is not only right-wing it has gone off the deep end. Invited this year was a white supremacist. Knowing that, how could Walker stand on that stage? Get some courage, Scott.

Hit by the revolving door

Fighting Bob - Sat, 2012-02-11 00:00
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported in September that the Wisconsin Department of Justice decided not to provide assistance to Milwaukee County John Chisholm’s John Doe investigation of then-current and former aides to Scott Walker. As a result of subsequent open records requests, the paper reported on December 30 that DOJ officials discussed the investigation on November 1, 2010, the day before Walker was elected, and again on November 15, 2010.

According to the paper, Chisholm met with DOJ senior staff on November 15. Among the staff present was Ray Taffora, then the No. 2 official in the department. It is safe to assume that sensitive and confidential information was discussed. This was, after all, a criminal investigation.

At some point, Walker’s campaign hired Attorney Steven Biskupic to represent his interests. Biskupic, a former U.S. Attorney under George Bush, is a criminal defense attorney with Michael, Best and Friedrich, a law firm with offices in Milwaukee and Madison. The Wisconsin State Journal recently described this law firm as “in-house counsel” for Walker and the Republican Party in Wisconsin.

Fast forward to January 20, 2011: Michael Best & Freidrich issued a press release announcing that Ray Taffora had left the Department of Justice and joined the law firm. It said, “Taffora will head the firm’s newly-formed Government and Regulatory law practice Group, which includes a number of highly experienced attorneys including former U.S. Attorney Steven Biskupic.”

Read that again: Taffora is now working with and apparently supervising the attorney representing Scott Walker in a John Doe investigation about which Taffora has insider confidential information from the prosecutor.

That cool arrangement gives whole new meaning to the notions of “in-house counsel” and revolving doors. On its face it suggests at the very least the appearance of a grievous conflict of interest. It also suggests once again that too many people who are benefiting from the current administration lack an ethical compass.

BIRTHER CONTROL: Wisconsin context shows GOP's hypocritical rap on contraception

Uppity Wisconsin - Fri, 2012-02-10 22:26

OutrageousEven after the Obama administration ran an end-around on mouthy Republicans and Catholic bishops to resolve a health insurance contraception impasse, heated rhetoric about Obama's "assault" on democracy continue from the right.

Obama's compromise, announced Friday, will assign insurance companies to cover contraception coverage costs, rather than requiring religiously-affiliated employers to cover contraception as part of their insurance plans. Ironically, although you haven't yet heard this from most mainstream news outlets, that's something of a retreat from an existing national norm.

Here's a quick reality check, courtesy of several sources including ThinkProgress.org and the research staff at MSNBC's Rachel Maddow show:

1. Republicans proposed virtually the same federal contraception health care coverage plan decades ago that Obama has proposed (sound familiar?).

2. Twenty-eight states already require that employees of religious institutions receive health care coverage for contraception. Many of these state-legislated requirements have been in place at least for a decade. And that means many religious institutions including Catholic universities already cover contraception in their employee insurance plans.

3. Among those 28 states is Wisconsin. Read the state law if you're curious: Wis. Stat. § 609.805 and § 632.895(17) (2009)

But to hear Mitt Romney and the rest of the GOP presidential field tell it, America's freedom allegedly is at sudden risk now that the Obama administration has further rationalized this already widely implemented standard. Government is telling us what to do! Washington is interfering in religion! We've crossed the line! We've gone too far!

Interestingly, this dust-up conveniently arrives political stage center at the very moment job numbers are up, economic indicators are up and the federal government announces a $25 billion penalty to be shared among aggrieved mortgage borrowers -- part of a settlement against banks accused of misconduct that helped send the economy into the tank.

But let's not talk about any of that. Let's talk about birth control! It is so-o-o out there, so-o-o-o controversial! In fact, some science-addled conservatives have now decided that contraception is tantamount to abortion, so they're just going to call it abortion. Because "abortion!" polls well as an issue among their base.

And so the mass media for the past two weeks has enabled the GOP's rather studied brouhaha. Nonetheless, the real need right now is to engage in a conversation not about birth control but in one about birther control.

We need no more of the GOP's inane histrionics that serve no purpose other than to distract people from the real issues, turning molehills into mountains. Republican-based legislatures across this country years ago dispensed with the contraception issue that national Republicans are suddenly calling a threat to our very existence as a society.

This is the latest in a disturbing pattern of Republican flip-flopping not just on a candidate scale but on a party-wide scale. Let's not forget that most of what is now attacked as "Obamacare" itself was originally proposed by the deniers. 

Grabbing the football away just before Charlie Brown kicks it is no way to run a country, however good it may feel. So kindly cut out the crap, GOP. If you feel forced to disembrace your own ideas the moment Democrats assent to them, then there's something seriously wrong with the way you formulate your ideas, if not your faith in them.

Walker Uses National Stage to Take Aim at Seniors: Calls for Cuts in Social Security and Medicare Benefits

Uppity Wisconsin - Fri, 2012-02-10 16:07

Below is Scott Walker telling CNBC's Larry Kudlow that we "ABSOLUTELY" need to cut Social Security and Medicate benefits.  First he came after the teachers and snow plow drivers... now he's coming after Seniors.  Who's next?  Could be anyone... except, of course, the Koch brothers or their billionaire friends:  Rest assured they won't "share in the sacrifice" and will continue to pay a lower tax rate than their secretaries.

Right-Wing Archbishop Listecki Says Catholic Church a "Corporation" While Cheerleading for Walker

Uppity Wisconsin - Fri, 2012-02-10 15:05

In a Fox interview that was basically a completely over-the-top commercial for Scott Walker, Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki made this huge gaffe:

I'm not just the head of a corporation, I'm a believer. I believe in Jesus Christ, I believe in the fact, that, you know... not to do a Tim Tebow... you know, but he is our lord and savior.

Ummm, actually, your excellency, you are supposted "to do a Tim Tebow" all day , every day and not spend your 90% of your time as the defacto chair of the Republican Party of Wisconsin.


Fighting Bob - Fri, 2012-02-10 00:00
Neal Kedzie denied twice, or was it thrice, that he signed a memorandum promising confidentiality. But when JS published it he suddenly remembered!

Walker will create 250,000 jobs, in his dreams; and he will not use one-time funds to fill budget holes! Yesterday he announced he will use millions from the mortgage settlement to fill a $136 million hole. This guy has trouble with the truth.

Walker is described as a hero to right wing by MJS. The gods must be crazy.

You can't be serious

Fighting Bob - Thu, 2012-02-09 00:00
Most people gasped when the president of WEAC and the president of AFSCME traveled to Milwaukee a few weeks ago to inform the mayor of our largest city that he would not have labor union support if he decides to run for governor. Yikes and Whoa Nelly! Who asked? Did the union members vote on this? If they could have stamped the union label on Kathleen Falk's back, I think they would have. But they didn't have to. Everyone understood and no one I talked to thought this was a good idea.

Has anyone told WEAC and AFSCME that the game has changed? Even Marty Beil seemed opposed to this idea. (It is a stretch to call it an "idea" but we have to give it a label. How about "dumb idea"?

With more than one million signers on recall petitions, it looks like Walker can be defeated given the enthusiasm of the 30,000 petition circulators and some strong candidates without big money from big business or big labor.

So what else could labor do to cool the white-hot effort to throw Walker out? Well, here us an idea: How about going forward with endorsement interviews as if we are back in the good old days when a WEAC endorsement helped on occasion? Demand, yes, demand that any Democrat looking for an endorsement must agree to veto the budget unless (sit before reading) a promise is made to restore public sector unions to their rightful place among the angels!

I am not making this up! This announcement is the equivalent of pouring ice water on the uprising. Now the good news. Tim Cullen is not running, but stated that he would never agree to a veto in order to win an election. Kathleen Vinehout agrees with Cullen, but she promises to educate the voters on this issue. Peter Barca will not support this Karl Rove-like promise! Tom Barrett will not promise a veto! Have not heard from Doug La Follette yet, but Kathleen Falk immediately agreed with WEAC! Ugh!

Something we can all agree about

Fighting Bob - Thu, 2012-02-09 00:00
His own statements notwithstanding, Walker shows his true colors in his push to delay the recall.

Another Reason Act 10 is Unconstitutional: It Bans VOLUNTARY Payment of Union Dues with Direct Withdrawal

Uppity Wisconsin - Wed, 2012-02-08 15:26

If you are a government employee in Wisconsin you can have a part of each of your paycheck taken out and sent to an organization of your choosing.  In fact, the state of Wisconsin has a special system set-up where you can choose from hundreds of organizations to give.  You simply enter the code and the amount, and... voila... the state will automatically take care of sending a part of your paycheck to the organization you want to get money.

Let's say, for example, you wanted to give to the National Right to Life, just enter in "3019" and the amount you want deducted on the paychek withdrawal form and the state takes care of the rest.  To be fair, you can give to Planned Parenthood as well. Restless Leg Syndrome Foundaton?  Check. Bible Believers Fellowship? Check. Even PETA is on there.

There is, however, one category of organizations that you cannot give through this system:  your labor union.  That's right, the union-busting Act 10, specifically (and unconstituionally) said that of all the hundreds you can give-to with automatic withdrawal, you can't give to your union.

Walker's attorneys recently argued in a brief in the on-going court battle that the reason why public sector labor unions could be discriminated against is because, unlike other organizations, Act 10 so weakens the union that there is nothing for the union to do on behalf of workers or anyone else and, therefore, cannot argue that they provide a public benefit:

Collective bargaining representatives for general employees have a substantially reduced role following Act 10.  Significantly, the bargaining representatives no longer meet and conferwith management to negotiate issues pertaining  to working conditions or related employment policies.  In this reduced role, the bargaining representatives’ value to government employers is significantly reduced.  Furthermore, in light of the bargaining representatives’ reduced role,together with annual certification elections,  government employers face the prospect ofadditional administrative burdens in administering a shifting dues checkoff system.  The Legislature could rationally have  concluded that the reduction of  the bargaining representatives’ value to government employers, together with the increased administrative burdens, sufficiently outweighs any limited public benefit that dues checkoff might have previously provided.

This is, of course, absurd.  If you can give National Right to Life-- an organization that spends most of its resources promoting the Republican Party-- you should be able to give to a union-- an organization that spends most of its resources fighting for workers rights.  

And that is one of many reasons the poorly written Act 10 will be found unconsitutional and thrown-out.

Audit Committee probes medicaid problems

Uppity Wisconsin - Wed, 2012-02-08 14:49

“What did we budget for BadgerCare? What did we spend for BadgerCare? What did we get for what we spent?”

I raised these questions at a recent hearing of the Joint Committee on Audit. The Medicaid program – the parent program of BadgerCare – came under scrutiny.

Medicaid (MA) is the largest single program in state government. BadgerCare, Family Care and other health programs provide vital health care to one in five Wisconsinites. Yet a recent audit showed serious problems with accountability and transparency.

The questioning of state officials by Audit committee members centered on such problems as an antiquated state accounting system, a lack of management information available to lawmakers and a ‘shadow agency’ run by contractors.

Auditors could not determine the actual cost of the billion-dollar BadgerCare program. Auditors found it impossible to assign $2 billion of the $7 billion Medicaid dollars to the appropriate state program – like BadgerCare or Family Care.

This inability to provide legislators with the most basic information about how much a program costs makes it very difficult to fully understand how funds are being spent.  These problems come to light at a time when the Department announced its plan to solve a deficit in the MA program by dropping tens of thousands of people off the MA program.


“Do we know how large the MA deficit really is?” I asked the Secretary of Health Services. “Do we know how we are progressing (in resolving the deficit)?”

“If we don’t know the program costs of say Family Care…how can you verify that $115 million will be saved through changes in that program?” I asked.


In his comments to the committee, the Secretary of Health Services expressed concerns about an audit recommendation to more accurately account for funds noting the flexibility to move money between programs was needed.


State officials want flexibility to move money between programs but the way this happens makes it very difficult for auditors to account for taxpayer dollars and for lawmakers to exercise adequate oversight.

Senator Julie Lassa raised questions about the practice of moving money between different programs and the Department’s inability to track use of those dollars

“It’s hard to say that taxpayers are getting their money’s worth when the Department can’t track where they’ve spent it,” Senator Lassa said. “The Legislature now has little oversight of how the Department runs the MA program and how they spend taxpayers’ money given the changes adopted in the last budget.”


Senator Lassa also questioned the extensive use of private contractors to do state work at a much higher cost – such as private contractors doing basic administrative functions like answering the phones for department staff.

This heavy reliance on outside contractors amounted something similar to a ‘shadow agency’ within the Department.

With so much of the administration of the state’s largest program done by outside contractors, committee members spent time probing the use of contracts and oversight provided by the state.

The state does not have detailed access to numbers needed to manage this large program because so much information on state expenses lies with the contractors. Questioning during the hearing even unearthed the possibility of contractors charging the state for access to the state’s own data.

Auditors explained problems in contract administration. Contracts were broadly written. Contract amendments were not tracked. Amendments did not specify the sources of money used to pay for them. Contract amendments were not competitively bid. The accounting, procurement and budgeting offices did not know about the contact amendments.

The effect of such loose oversight was seen in the extraordinary amount of money spent on contracts that was never authorized by the Legislature. Auditors found $54.8 million in unbudgeted commitments to contractors made by the Department of Health.

State money was moved to the Department of Health last spring in the budget repair bill to cover these expenses. Another $42 million in spending was authorized to cover these unbudgeted expenses to contractors.

When the Department spends money it doesn’t have on contracts, when contracts are broadly written and extended without a bidding process, when spending details lie only with contractors, it is very difficult for legislators to provide adequate oversight of this important program.

Contractors and state officials must be accountable for how state tax dollars are spent. Before the Department of Health Services dumps thousands of citizens off vital health programs the state should first get its own fiscal house in order.

It's Official - Kathleen Vinehout announces run for Governor

Uppity Wisconsin - Wed, 2012-02-08 14:46

Contact: Jamie Rebman

Alma- Senator Kathleen Vinehout, D-Alma, a former dairy farmer and college professor, today announced she will run for Governor in this year’s upcoming recall election.

“We need a fresh start and a new attitude in Wisconsin politics and government,” Vinehout said. “I have the experience and temperament necessary to lead.”

“We need a governor who will lead with self restraint; who will be clear and open about her intentions; who will respect Wisconsin’s traditions of good government; who supports and takes pride in our schools; who values the skills workers bring to their jobs. We need a governor who wants to solve problems, not score political points,” said Vinehout. “I pledge to be that kind of governor.”

Vinehout, 53, was elected to the state Senate five years ago from a largely rural district in western Wisconsin.

Vinehout has been a passionate advocate of affordable health insurance and fair funding of schools. In her work on Joint Committee on Audit she oversaw audits that uncovered the overuse of expensive contractors; problems with accountability and transparency in state programs; unbudgeted expenses and rising state debt.

Vinehout has a background in education, agriculture and health care. She taught health administration for 10 years and spent another decade operating the family dairy farm. While farming, Vinehout received many quality milk awards and was elected president of the Dairy Herd Improvement Association in Buffalo County.

Vinehout resides on the farm with her family. The farm is now certified organic and produces hay and grain.

Wisconsin DOT and GOP get busy fuzzing up reports that identify wasteful state outsourcing

Uppity Wisconsin - Wed, 2012-02-08 12:47

Back in 2005, Republican Assemblyman Mark Gottlieb authored a bill requiring state agencies to perform cost-benefit estimates before letting out most public contracts worth more than $25,000. The estimates were to be done before each project began, and were designed to compare the costs of using public employees to do the work instead of outsourcing the work to private firms.

The bipartisan consensus then was that this was a good idea and a way to identify waste in state spending. The bill passed.

Now, thanks to some sleight of hand by Governor Walker's Commission on Waste, Fraud and Abuse, lobbying from private consultants and a more partisan GOP-led legislature, that law is about to be mashed under a steamroller -- but only in the case of projects handled by the state Department of Transportation (DOT), which annually spends huge amounts of money on private consulting.

And, who is one of the people now in favor of giving DOT a pass on the outsourcing cost-benefit requirement? Why, Mark Gottlieb, now DOT secretary. At a public hearing yesterday before the Assembly's Transportation Committee, Gottlieb's executive assistant told legislators that Gottlieb believes the law he authored has failed and is too expensive to carry out. The missing question: Compared to what?

Rep. Mark Honadel (R-South Milwaukee), has authored a new bill, AB 522, which he claims will fix the existing outsourcing cost-comparison law. Honadel told the committee the cost-benefit reports were not only hard to produce but not very accurate or useful. His bill would require only that DOT do a year-end report comparing costs, only after project contracts had proceeded without prior analysis. Oddly, perhaps, the bill would not end the cost-benefit analysis requirement for other state agencies or the University of Wisconsin system. Read on to see why I say "oddly, perhaps."

This bill's arrival is interesting, given that a variety of reports, studies and audits -- including a 2004 opus by the DOT itself, plus a 2009 Legislative Audit Bureau report -- show just the opposite. An analysis by WISC-TV News (Channel 3 in Madison) last year reported that a sampling of DOT cost-benefit comparisons showed the state had spent nearly $14 million more on highway engineering design projects because it outsourced them to consultants.

[See below for a link to WISC's text version of the story and a link to the video report along with past coverage. There's also a link to a newspaper column from a state engineering union official who questions AB 522. Finally, you can also watch the Transporation Committee's entire proceeding at WisEye.com which link, sadly, we cannot embed here.]

The DOT's underplayed but rather illuminating response at the hearing to those past findings of wasteful outsourcing was basically (and I paraphrase): Well yeah, but that extra cost is inevitable, because DOT doesn't have enough state engineers on staff to do the work for less. DOT says it had at one recent point 200 vacancies in state engineering staff positions; it has reduced that by 60 or so in the past year. But -- and this is interesting in the context of Walker policies -- the DOT is finding it hard to hire replacements. 

You'll love hearing the DOT's explanation for precisely why it's hard: Gottlieb's assistant, Steve Kreiser, told the committee members that last year DOT saw a "significant" number of engineers retire or quit. "Hiring an engineer is really a different ballgame," he said, because private engineers now make more than those in the state's employ.

Hmmm. Gee. wonder why that's the case? Could it be, oh, um, I dunno  .... Scott Walker-driven compensation clawbacks for public employees?

Beyond that, the governor's waste commission pulled a snarky move setting up Honadel's insta-bill. In its "final" report (which Democratic minority commission members were never allowed to see or vote on before it was made public), the commission acknowledged evidence showing the state wastes millions of dollars on outsourcing DOT and other agency work, even though in the case of DOT the agency itself has found that keeping work in-house is about 18 percent cheaper.

From that promising factual basis, however, the Walker-stacked commission took an unexpected freeway exit ramp and went on to decide that the state could fix this waste problem not by hiring more state engineers and not by toughening the cost-benefit analysis law (2005 Act 89) but by gutting Act 89's advance cost-estimate requirement. Which, as it happens, was one of the helpful suggestions of the American Council of Engineering Companies of Wisconsin -- a trade group that represents the consultants who get many of those fat DOT contracts.

Willie Haus, attorney for the State Engineering Association of Wisconsin, which represents state employees who are engineers, said Honadel's bill weakens transparency -- a direction which seems to have become commonplace under Walker and the GOP-led legislature. Haus told WISC's Jessica Arp it doesn't even make sense that the DOT would want to air its dirty laundry by providing a useful annual report of its own outsourcing after the fact. From WISC's report:

 "Why would you want to document decisions that you made, that cost the taxpayer extra money?" said Haus of DOT officials. "You don't want to document that, particularly if you aren't interested in changing the decisions to achieve more cost-effectiveness." 

Honadel and the DOT oddly insisted that his law's requirement for an annual, after-the-fact report on outsourcing costs would be much more illuminating than doing the cost-benefit analyses up front along with an annual report. An annual, after-the-fact report is already required under Act 89. The Department of Administration is supposed to produce such a report, which looks at Act 89 performance across all state agencies every year, although the public hasn't seen anything of the sort coming from the DOA's direction since Walker took office.

In other words, the figurative elephant in the room full of GOP elephants at yesterday's hearing was that this new law is by and large designed to make the consultants happy while hiding the poor, politically inspired policies and wasteful practices inflicting DOT and other agencies. 

Let's not forget that roadbuilding firms gave huge amounts of campaign cash to Walker in 2010.

The bill still needs a committee vote before it could move to the Assembly floor and then the Senate would have to concur. Will the Act 89 cost-benefit law be gutted? Stay tuned.

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RECALL OPPONENTS: You can see where they're headed, and it isn't good

Uppity Wisconsin - Wed, 2012-02-08 11:26

As I've written before, expect recall opponents to be satisfied with nothing less than halting the recall process altogether, no matter how flimsy and silly their arguments. This is Bush v. Gore and the fight over the 2000 Florida vote all over again. The GOP and its enablers will confuse, stall, yell, file endless lawsuits and cry foul until -- they hope and expect -- everyone throws up their hands and walks away.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel today reported on its statistical analysis of recall petitions for Scott Walker. The analysis shows a high probability that while there may be defects in some signatures (for example, no proper address) there won't be anywhere near enough such defects to prevent a Walker recall.

The Government Accountability Board itself is considering using statistical sampling to analyze future petitions in certain narrow ways.

Trouble is, Republicans -- anti-science and politically craven as they are -- have historically dissed statistical sampling as a valid tool for measuring anything. Except, of course, when they do well in statistically sampled polls.

This was true in 2000, when the GOP was suddenly horrified to "discover" that the US Census would use statistical sampling and analysis to figure out the true population of urban areas where many people do not participate in civic life, move frequently and are otherwise hard to enumerate. The GOP saw sampling as a flawed tool that would give more votes to Democrats, so the party fought it, based on absolutist reasoning about legal requirements that the Census must literally count every head.

Which, especially in a country of well over 300 million people, is of course impossible. Especially when political harpies like Michele Bachmann spent much energy warning people that ansering the door for Census workers was dangerous and threatening to your privacy.

Sure enough, Republicans have gone out of their way to try painting the recall petition campaign as an invasion of citizen privacy, even going so far as have their minions threaten that privacy rhetorically in order to slam home the point. Nevertheless, a million Wisconsin residents signed to recall Walker.

[By the way, never mind that proposed laws to check the addresses and other ID of prospective gun owners has been shot down over and over by wingnuts. It's okay to hide out if you're a gun owner, but not if you want to sign a public petition. Because gun owners are always truthful and honest, but anyone who wants to recall a politician is sneaky and conspiratorial. Oh wait, except for people who sign petitions to recall Democrats. And it's likewise very easy to hide your identity when you want to send bags of cash to support the campaign of a candidate for public office. Your personal information, it turns out, is only in play and subject to intense scrutiny when you sign a recall petition or try to register to vote.]

So if the Government Accountability Board doesn't literally visit every "suspicious" address (or, hey, maybe all addresses) and verify residency face to face, wingnuts will cry foul. And even if it were possible to do that, in a reasonable time and at reasonable expense, that still wouldn't suffice. Just watch and see. If you signed the petition two months ago and have since moved? Someone is going to call you a phony. Hell, someone may call you a phony if you still live at your address. The gamesmanship can go on forever.

Perhaps the biggest gamesmanship of all is the pretense that the recall process is horrendously inefficient and thus (false logic) not democratic. It's mostly inefficient because Republicans are busy making it that way. But to the extent that the process is inherently inefficient, that's a feature, not a defect.

Remember Florida's "hanging chads" and the huge arguments over "voter intent" that left many people without an effective vote? Republicans made a mockery of the Florida recount, but when the counting went on and it seemed their stalling tactics would be for naught, they simply hiked on over to the US Supreme Court and got a ruling to halt the process in mid-flight. 

What's to stop them from doing that here? The GAB? The State Supreme Court? 

Don't breathe easy until the elections are held. And then maybe hold your breath awhile after that. When they're in a fight for the party's political survival, the GOP's tacticians know no bottom.

By the way, the Journal Sentinel analysis showed just how snarky the whole debate has become. The very reason that the constitution requires an absolutely huge number of signatures is to ensure that the result reflects the will of at least a significant plurality of citizens. It isn't meant to be exact or precise, nor can it be in any rational scheme. That's why so many signatures are needed.

But the process leaves all sorts of room for errors and unfair omissions. For instance, the Journal Sentinel wrote:

A name was considered invalid in the newspaper review if no record could be found for the signee at the address listed, if the person wasn't old enough to vote or was a felon under state supervision.

Also, a handful of signatures were not counted because they did not meet state election guidelines - one person listed a P.O. box as an address and another didn't include a full date on the petition sheet. In one case, a Milwaukee resident listed her address as "homeless" - it was thrown out.

So maybe if homeless people (you don't have to be registered to vote to sign a petition) put down the address of a shelter they occasionally stay at, would that suffice? Probably not if you're a Republican scrutinizing the listings. After all, the GOP attacked Sen. Lena Taylor's mother for voter-registering homeless people who stayed at her shelter, as if that were somehow a crime or a conspiracy. And note how not including a full date gets you tossed. That may be reasonable policy, but it doesn't mean the person who signed the form was somehow being crooked. But be assured Republicans will suggest otherwise.

Related Links

Lots of news

Fighting Bob - Wed, 2012-02-08 00:00
First, my sister Jean Henning reports that Joe Gruber is up and walking. His re-hab is making progress although it is slow. If you want to send a note, his address is 1515 E. Beach Blvd. #116, Pas Christian, Mississippi. Joe, your friends are pulling for you.

Ted Olson: He makes me proud of my profession. Wile he is extremely conservative, he joined David Boise to challenge Prop 8 in California and the dynamic duo won! Same-sex marriage is now the law. Congrats!

Obama yields to temptation. The Axelrods of the administration persuaded Obama to forget principle and create a Super PAC. He had a chance to win the right way and change the political culture at the same time. Nope!

Another People's Legislature is coming up to see if any of the candidates in Wisconsin will have the courage to run without the big money. Stay tuned.

Showboating Sheriff Clarke politely, judicially dissed by judge in must-read letter

Uppity Wisconsin - Tue, 2012-02-07 17:45

Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, a media hog who seems to make news whenever he wants -- which is constantly --  was denied a chance to speak Monday at the sentencing of a woman who struck and killed a "Good Samaritan."

Clarke was thwarted in his bid to steal the spotlight by Judge Richard Sankovitz,(pictured, for once, instead of Clarke) in a judiciously written, must-read letter that doesn't take much reading between the lines.

The newspaper coverage barely mentioned it, and buried it at the bottom of the story, reporting:

Sankovitz explained in a letter that he did not let Clarke speak during the hearing because it would raise questions about whether it was fair for Lyboualong to take on two parts of government at the same time, and because it would shift the focus from the facts to Clarke personally because he is a local celebrity.

"I think you can see that if I allow you to speak, I set a precedent for politicians and celebrities and showboats of all kinds to use sentencing hearings as a platform for their own political and policy ambitions," Sankovitz wrote.

But that's just one of many great lines. Read it here.

Scott Walker Has Left the State and is No Longer Governor: Kleefisch Acting Governor

Uppity Wisconsin - Tue, 2012-02-07 17:37

According to my research, during Scott Walker's tenure in office, he has traveled outside his home state more than any other governor in the United States and he's also traveled outside the state more than any other governor in Wisconsin history, during their first year in office.

This is especially important in Wisconsin, where section five of our constitution clearly states that each and every time the governor leaves the state, the Lt. Governor is empowered as the "acting governor" from the moment the governor leaves "until the governor returns."

Now is such a time:  Scott Walker has again left the state. (This time to do campaign fundraising in Florida and speak to a conservative group in Naples.)

At this moment, Scott Walker has abdicated his responsibility as Wisconsin Governor to Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch:  Rebecca Kleefisch is the governor right now!

By my count, this is Walker's fourth trip to Florida.  He's also traveled to Kentucky, Arizona, California, Tennessee, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Utah, Maryland, Virginia, Georgia, Nevada and Texas. He has\also gone to Washington DC seven times and New York city nine times. 

He's been everywhere, man.  Often times he takes his sidekick and taxpayer-paid press secretary, Cullen Werwie, with him.

When the 14 state senators left the state for their walk-out filibuster, Walker finger-wagged at the Senators to "come back and do your job!"  And that admonition came after the Senators were gone for 20 days.

By my count, Walker has been out of the state all or part of 42 days since he became governor-- about twice the time the "Wisconsin 14" were outside the state.

Governor Walker, "come back and do your job!"



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