Thursday, June 30, 2011

Sen. Kapanke, facing recall pressure, perpetuates long-debunked myth

GOP senator wrongly claims protests caused millions in damages

Republican State Sen. Dan Kapanke recently sent an email to Tea Party followers in hopes of gaining financial support for his upcoming recall campaign against Democratic challenger Jennifer Shilling, who currently leads Kapanke by 14 points in the latest polling data available.

Kapanke took to the offensive in his email, blasting protesters who occupied the Capitol earlier this year for damaging the building. In a political campaign where issues should matter above what protesters did, this tactic is clearly about associating Shilling with "vandals," something the protesters certainly were not.

Besides trying to push aside the issues facing his campaign, however, Kapanke also exaggerated the amount of damage done to the Capitol, using figures released earlier by Department of Administration head (and Gov. Walker ally) Mike Huebsch. The damage, Kapanke claimed, was over $7.5 million dollars.

But in reality, the damage was much smaller than that -- only about $260,000.

To put Kapanke's claim against that pesky thing called "reality," it may help to provide a visual. Let's suppose one "|" character is equivalent to $250,000 in state government spending. With that in mind, the actual costs of cleaning up the Capitol building would be as follows:


Now consider the claim that Dan Kapanke's email to Tea Party supporters is making regarding costs for repairs:


I'm no statistician, but I can tell you this: making a claim that is 30 times greater than what it really is -- a claim that was refuted nearly four months ago -- is bad politics.

In response to their carelessness, the Kapanke campaign stated that they had referenced an incorrect estimate that had been published previously, but that "any costs to the taxpayers that are unnecessary such as damages to public property or recall elections hurt Wisconsin."

That, too, is troubling for Kapanke and the Republican Party in general. Criticizing the protests is one thing: stating that recall campaigns are unnecessary is totally wrong. When constituents -- real-life citizens from Kapanke's own senate district -- desire a recall, it's not up to the candidate involved to scoff them off and state that they're "unnecessary." Rather, it's up to that candidate to plead his case, to convince his constituents that he is indeed the right man for the job after all. If he can't do that, then surely the recall was warranted.

Republican candidates like Kapanke can't even make the fiscal conservative argument anymore without being complete hypocrites -- by running "zombie" candidates against Democrats, Republicans are costing taxpayers more than $428,000 through prolonging the recall process.

Again, I'm no statistician -- but last time I checked, $260,000 was a lot less than $428,000.

Kapanke was wrong to make the assertion to supporters that protesters caused millions of dollars in damage, months after that claim was completely debunked. It's great of his campaign to have retracted that statement, but they're still wrong to assume that the recalls are unnecessarily placing financial burdens on the taxpayers, especially since Republicans are making the process more costly. His own constituents wanted a recall -- and on August 9, they'll get their chance to let him know how they really feel about him.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

How we will "win" Wisconsin back

New vision for the state needs to be more than anti-Walker

Wisconsin is headed in a disastrous direction. This isn't just an individual view either, not simply the "musings from the mind of a Madison liberal": most in the state have determined that Republicans, led by Gov. Scott Walker, are pushing us toward policies and initiatives that will make Wisconsin less hospitable to working families, the elderly, and the young.

In fact, a majority in the state are now hoping that the recall campaigns result in a Democratic-led Senate, effectively stalling Walker's plans to subsidize his corporate donors at the expense of the people. More than half the state also disapproves of the governor's job performance, and half want him to be recalled next year.

The people want some serious changes. Bully tactics in the legislature, arrogance in the governor's office, and violence in the state's highest court -- these are not the ideals that Wisconsinites espouse, not the vision people had in mind when they elected Walker as governor last November. In six short months of Scott Walker in office, Wisconsin has done a complete 180. Buyer's remorse has set in, and Gov. Walker is no longer seen as the leader he once was.

It's clear that the citizens of our state want new management, desire a Wisconsin that reflects a positive direction for our people in the 21st century. Fixing the problems that Walker & co. have created won't be easy -- it will take a lot of hard work. But in order to take Wisconsin back from corporate thugs and the "cronyistic" practices of the Walker administration, we need a balanced approach that explains not only how much further Scott Walker can destroy our state if left in office but also what we can do to make Wisconsin even better.

Telling someone that Scott Walker is bad for Wisconsin is one thing. When the time for his recall comes, however, we will also need to explain why his opponent (whomever that may be) is not only better for the state, but also great for it as well.

Walker's slogan against his Democratic opponent in 2010 was very negative -- he described Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett as "Worse than Doyle," alluding to comparisons of policy between Barrett and then-Gov. Jim Doyle, who became very unpopular during the last years of his tenure. It turned out that it was Walker who best fit that moniker -- but it was missed by the voters due to his nice-guy persona, the belief by many that he was truly looking out for Wisconsin's best interests.

Calling Walker worse than anybody, even the worst the state has possibly seen, would help whoever runs against him. And yet, it won't help that person win any more than Walker's slogan could have helped him on its own. Walker won by comparing his opponent to an unpopular officeholder (as well as having the luck of anti-Obama hysteria sweep the nation), but he also won by making himself look positive while doing so.

We need to highlight the negatives from Walker's first year in office, but we also need to create a vision for Wisconsinites to see that will push our state forward. This vision needs to involve those that have been scorned most by the Walker administration -- and right now, that list is pretty long. Working families, the elderly, union households, students (K-12 and beyond), local breweries, farmers, the cognitively and physically disabled...this is just the short list of those who have a score to settle against Gov. Scott Walker.

There needs to be a strong, articulated vision promoted by progressives if we are to take our state back, in both 2011 and 2012. That vision needs to include things most everyone can get behind, including: adequate care for seniors and the disabled; education attainable to all who seek it; health coverage to those that can't normally afford it; and a tax code that addresses the growing gap in wealth between the impoverished and the extremely wealthy. This is a vision ordinary Wisconsinites can get behind because it is a vision that corresponds to our state's traditional values.

And that's precisely what needs to be won if we're to "win" our state back -- not a battle of policy positions, or of one ideology over another, but rather of values, of whether we are to preserve a Wisconsin that has existed for several generations. Compare our values to those of present-day conservatism, which includes an unregulated market intended to benefit large corporate interests while leaving working families and consumer protections out of the picture entirely.

It shouldn't be too difficult to compete with the values of greed, but progressives need to define their vision for the state better than they did in 2010 if they hope to make things right. Without a clear vision, without a candidate that's able to not only "speak" that vision but also "be" it as well, we will lose the fight to keep the Wisconsin we grew up with intact.

We win when we tell people precisely what they want to hear (and follow through on it once we're elected): we're not going to stand on the sidelines when the elderly, the sick, the poor, our students, our workers, and others are struggling. When we fail to help those in need, when our government fails to adhere to our traditional state morals, Wisconsin itself ceases to be. In short, we win when we tell the people we won't allow the Wisconsin we all love to disappear.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Recalls are not a "problem" for Wisconsin

Movement to discourage "process of the people" misses the point entirely

Originally posted at

The Wisconsin State Journal editorial board this week wrote a piece on recall elections in Wisconsin and the toll that they're taking on the citizens of this state.

Titled "The gall of recalls," the article posits that, unless we slow down the tide of threats against one another through electoral recalls, the state will not recover from the political messes that have come about in the past six or seven months.

"At some point," the article states, "after regular elections are held, the will of the people must be respected. They have chosen their leaders, for better or for worse."

It's touching that the State Journal wants to return to normalcy, wants there to be less hostility in our governing process during a tumultuous time for our state. For offering a solution to a perceived problem, the right-leaning (but often level-headed) paper should be given a "kudos" of some kind or some level.

However, to state that the recalls are what's driving our state bonkers ignores the true problems that lie behind their necessity. The State Journal cannot see the forest for the trees; or, to use another metaphor, prescribes a remedy for the symptoms of a virus but not for the cure to the disease itself.

Will Wisconsinites tire of the recalls this state is facing? Having personally spoken to constituents from several targeted communities, I can tell you that a good handful of people are already tired of them. But these same people are also tired of the politics of partisanship, weary of the bullying from the current incarnation of Republican legislators (and from the governor himself, Scott Walker). And yes, some are tired of the Democrats, too, for taking hard blows at the current party in power and taking drastic steps to prevent them from carrying out their "duties."

But the people are also upset with the direction our state is taking. For the most part, the people can't understand how defunding programs for seniors, the cognitively and physically disabled, students from kindergarten to college, and those living well below decent standards of living will help the state in the long run. Making Wisconsin "open for business" is one thing, one goal that most people can get behind; but "closing" it to working families is something the people of this state can't begin to fathom as morally sound.

Which is precisely why we should reject the entire notion of these recalls being based on "just one vote," as the Wisconsin State Journal and other publications and pundits have asserted it being. The people have signed recall petitions for much more than the issue of collective bargaining -- they have signed them based on the character of those who currently serve them, based on the positions senators have taken on education and social program cuts, and on the overall direction our governor and his legislative allies are hoping to take this state in.

The recalls aren't just about union rights -- though those, too, are important -- but they're about preserving the values of Wisconsin itself.

Publications like the State Journal believe that the recall process is too damaging, that the mass call for the ousting of senators will do too much damage to the state overall. I, alongside others in Wisconsin, argue a different point: the recalls don't hurt the levels of civic engagement within Wisconsin, but rather encourage people to become more vigilant in their observations of state politics.

Yes, it can be annoying to have a recall every time a 25 percent voter threshold is met. But it also is a way for the people themselves to have a direct "check" on their representatives. We can argue till we're blue in the face about the merits of recalls, about whether a person's values or votes truly do represent the direction their constituents want Wisconsin to go. But we must never believe that recalls themselves, the process of keeping our state legislators, governors, even judges in line with our values, is in itself "wrong."

The people must have some power left to their disposal, to exercise their control over the government which supposedly represents their interests. Being a part of a democracy doesn't mean simply voting every few years, or even being satisfied with the results of those elections (even when your "side" wins). Being a part of a democracy means doing those things while also holding your representatives accountable for the actions and votes they take part in between electoral seasons.

The process of recall elections, while annoying to some, is one way that the people, not the politicians, remain in power of their own governments. By encouraging readers to scoff at the process, to view it in a cynical fashion, is troublesome for a paper like the Wisconsin State Journal, which usually encourages higher levels of civic engagement and open governance.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Justice Prosser grabs Justice Walsh's neck

Violent confrontation not uncommon for conservative justice

Revealed this weekend were allegations that State Supreme Court Justice David Prosser, fresh off of his re-election campaign in April, became involved in a physical altercation with one of the Court's other female justices.

According to several accounts, Prosser met with fellow Justice Ann Walsh Bradley (whom he once described as a "master at deliberately goading people into perhaps incautious statements") in her office. After a few verbal spats regarding the collective bargaining case that the justices were set to rule on, Prosser grabbed Bradley's neck with his hands.

This isn't the first time that Prosser has had an issue with his temper. As a state legislator, Prosser had a tantrum because a film crew was documenting him within the State Assembly during debate on a health bill.

Prosser's temperamental attitude followed him into the Supreme Court. Earlier this year, for example, Prosser had called Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson a "bitch" and that he'd "destroy" her politically. At the time, Prosser believed he was justified in doing so -- "I probably overreacted, but I think it was entirely warranted,” Prosser said.

Regarding his wrapping his hands around the neck of a female justice, Prosser has remained mum. "I have nothing to say about it," he said.

Prosser can remain silent for as long as he'd like; but he would better serve our state by coming forward and apologizing for his actions. It's unthinkable that anyone would do this to their fellow "coworker." That a person in such a distinguished position of power (a member of their state's high court) would conduct himself in such a way is unconscionable, especially since physical violence (or even the threat of it) towards any judge is considered a criminal act.

Prosser's very presence on the Court will continue to tarnish its reputation, and perhaps create an unfit working environment for his fellow justices. The proper thing to come from this incident is for Prosser himself to resign. It's doubtful, however, that a man so sure of his own righteousness could be humble enough to recognize his own limitations as well...and that's why I won't be holding my breath waiting for Justice Prosser to do the right thing.

UPDATE (Sunday June 26): Both Justices Prosser and Bradley have since come out with comments regarding the situation. Prosser denies the allegations placed against him, while Bradley confirms that she was indeed choked by the conservative justice. Conflicting opinions on the incident at hand...stay tuned for more information as it comes.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


Fringe conservative activists attack peaceful protesters in Capitol

What I'm about to write isn't a characterization of every conservative. I have plenty of right-wing friends whom I have much respect for, whom I consider outstanding citizens despite our disagreements.

But there is a growing fringe element within the conservative wing of American politics that believes itself above the law, and justifies violent actions through their righteous believes in their supposed "superiority." Sadly, this fringe element isn't just happening in places far away, but in our own backyard as well.

On June 21, the Wisconsin Network for Peace and Justice organized its Solidarity Sing-Along, as it had done every day since February when the protests against Gov. Walker began. Emphasizing citizen activism through peaceful means, the group had never caused any harm to anyone, aside from annoying a few legislators within the Capitol.

But some gun rights activists, there that day in support of the State Assembly's passage of concealed carry, apparently didn't appreciate the group's peaceful message. Instead, they took it upon themselves to disturb the singers.

The conservative demonstrators draped their "Don't Tread On Me" flag over the heads of singers, "[hiting] several of the singers in the head as they attempted to raise the banner over their backs." Former State Sen. Dave Zien (who had his leg amputated earlier this year due to a motorcycle accident) used his wheelchair to roll over the personal belongings of the singers, yelling "WALKER FOR PRESIDENT!" while doing so.

But perhaps most disturbing was what happened next. When one peaceful protester attempted to removed the "Don't Tread On Me" flag from his person, pulling it away from the flag-bearer while doing so, the response of the gun rights protester was incredibly vile: he punched the peaceful singer in the face, chipping a tooth in the process.

These conservative activists, who acted in violent ways within the People's House (in response to people singing, for Pete's sake!), are also the most ardent supporters of allowing concealed carry within the Capitol. Heaven only knows what would have happened had they had their guns on them during this event. I personally hope that the character of these people, in spite of their lewd behavior, is better than that, that they wouldn't have resorted to such violent intimidation -- but I also never expected anything like the events of yesterday to have occurred either.

Violence or intimidation through the threat of violence is never acceptable in political discourse. But the fringe elements of the conservative movement are proving that they disagree with that sentiment, that they have a right to intimidate and even cause bodily harm to others.

Such bully tactics should be rejected, both in our Capitol Building and elsewhere. These actions aren't simply immoral, but un-American as well, seeing as their main goal is the suppression of ideas. A free exchange of beliefs -- even those we may vehemently disagree with -- should never be suppressed, in this or any other fashion.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

"Fighting" Bob La Follete's legacy in danger

Current Gov. Scott Walker's vision destroying "Fighting" Bob's ideals

Last week, June 14, was “Fighting” Bob La Follette’s birthday, arguably Wisconsin’s most celebrated governor. Living at a time when robber barons and corporate bosses ruled the political landscape, La Follette broke the mold and governed on behalf of real people. But if he had been alive to witness the events of his birth-week he’d likely have had some choice words for the direction his state decided to take through the votes on the current biennial budget and other issues affecting the Dairy Land.

The vision that “Fighting” Bob had for Wisconsin was a state by the people, for the people. He’d likely disapprove of the move to rid state workers of their bargaining rights -- he was an ardent supporter of worker protections and liberties. He’d surely be opposed to cuts in education, FamilyCare and other social service programs designed to help Wisconsinites facing difficult times. And there’s no doubt he’d be appalled at the actions of Republicans for their sneaky tactics to prolong the recall process (the very process he helped bring to Wisconsin).

The state that La Follette envisioned Wisconsin to become was meant to be the envy of the nation -- and for a time, it was. We’ve topped the country in sciences for countless years, we recently were named the best state in the nation in terms of graduation rates, and our cities are constantly named the best to live in across the country.

But the legacy of our state’s greatest governor is in grave danger of being overshadowed and destroyed by a man who’s making a compelling case to become our state’s worst.

Scott Walker’s vision for Wisconsin is the antithesis of Robert La Follette’s. Rather than putting trust in the people themselves, Walker is putting our state in the hands of the corporate elite. Rather than investing in our children’s educational progress, Walker is investing this state’s tax dollars into the pocketbooks of his personal campaign donors and giving cushy jobs to his administration’s cronies. And rather than placing care towards the elderly, disabled, or downtrodden in Wisconsin, Walker is instead raising taxes on them and cutting their services drastically -- all while giving hundreds of millions of dollars in tax BREAKS to the state’s wealthiest corporations.

La Follette fought against corporate influence at a time when it was the norm in American politics. It’s clear to even the most novice of political observers that our current governor, Scott Walker, is quite alright with these practices, even encouraging such influence over the will of the people.

The citizens of this state aren’t supportive of this governor’s vision. When you look at the wage gap between the wealthy and the poor, when you examine the value of education within Wisconsin across several generations, and when you consider the consequences of defunding social programs designed to bring help to those in need during a time of economic duress, it’s clear that the Wisconsin we know and love cannot survive under the governorship of Scott Walker.

This state is in desperate need of another “Fighting” Bob La Follette. The question is, is there anyone who is prepared to take on the role? Wisconsin might not be able to preserve its integrity without someone stepping up to the task soon. Gov. Walker and his legislative allies must be stopped if we’re to keep Wisconsin moving “forward.”

State GOP hypocritical in move to change recall process

Moves to restrain democratic privileges completely political, partisan

If you're still not convinced that Republicans in our state are hypocrites, just look at what they're doing now as proof positive of what so many of us already knew.

In an effort perhaps to stop future occurrences, Republicans are mulling around ideas designed to stall or hamper the recall process in Wisconsin. Their rationale to the people? The recall process is forcing senators into campaign mode during a time when they should be working, thus stalling and/or sidetracking work that must be done within the legislature.

To any educated observer, however, it's clear that the recalls haven't really stalled anything: Gov. Scott Walker's radically conservative budget was passed, as were voter ID, concealed carry, and a plethora of other Republican agenda items.

But besides being flat-out wrong about the effects of the recall process, Republicans are also being hypocritical. If their true concerns are about the potential delays caused by the recall process, you would think they'd try to streamline the current recalls as quickly as possible.

Instead, Republicans are doing just the opposite, running "zombie" conservative candidates in Democrats' clothing to force recall challengers into primary contests. Doing so pushes the recall elections from July 12 to August 9.

Not only does this move prolong the very process Republicans complain takes too much time to carry out, but it also costs taxpayers more money to implement, in some senate districts doubling the costs of what a standard recall would be.

This whole fiasco makes the Republicans in our state hypocrites two times over: first, in delaying a process they claim is far too distracting; and second, in increasing electoral costs to the taxpayer, a move they had been all-too critical of during the State Supreme Court recount.

Their agenda being completely political in the first place, it's really not a big surprise to see the GOP acting political when it comes to "reforming" the recall process. It's just a shame that it's the citizens of this state who have to deal with both the costs and the potential setbacks to their democratic privileges if Republicans get their way.

Monday, June 20, 2011

McCain says immigrants caused fire, but lacks evidence

Republican Senator tries to make political issues where none yet exist

On Saturday, June 18, U.S. Sen. John McCain made a hefty claim about the role that "illegal" immigrants played in Arizona wildfires.

"There is substantial evidence that some of these fires are caused by people who have crossed our border illegally," McCain said at his press conference over the weekend. "The answer to that part of the problem is to get a secure border."

McCain's comments came in the wake of the Wallow wildfire in his home state, which has burned hundreds of thousands of acres thus far. Though not stating directly that the Wallow fire was the result of undocumented immigrants, McCain's statements heavily insinuated that they may have played a hand in it.

But McCain's assertions carry no weight to them. In fact, Tom Berglund, a U.S. Forest Service spokesman, says he "isn't aware" of any evidence that suggests undocumented immigrants played any role in the Wallow fire.

"There's no evidence that I'm aware, no evidence that's been public, indicating such a thing," Berglund said.

McCain's handlers later said that he had meant that SOME wildfires had been caused by immigrants in the past, and that he wasn't referring specifically to Wallow. But why bring it up if not to make that insinuation? McCain is clearly trying to make an issue out of a tragic event using evidence that is complete rubbish.

It's shameful that McCain feels the need to make his point about a border fence during this event. With so many people being affected by the wildfires in Arizona, it's ridiculous to turn the thing into a political talking point, especially when that talking point played no role that we know of in the tragedy at hand. McCain ought to retract his statement, or at the very least apologize for bringing it up during a moment when it was inappropriate to do so.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

A rant in defense of progressive taxation

Best way to fund government, benefit society, through progressive model

This could be described as a rant of sorts. I'm doing something I never really do on Political Heat -- going into a blog post with no coherent plan.

The reason I'm doing this is because I have a general feeling I want to express, a feeling of discontent that needs to be addressed. The best way for me to personally do this is to simply write-it-out, get my thoughts out there in written word.

I'm upset with the current state of the world, specifically our nation and our state. We're the most affluent country in the world, and yet so many continue to struggle. We're home to the most billionaires on earth (we have a full third of the total), yet almost 15 percent of our population is living in poverty, including more than 12 million children.

Despite these conditions, despite the enormous gap in wealth between the rich and the poor, there are some who think it's not enough, that the rich deserve to control even more. But when the top one percent of wage earners control more than 40 percent of the wealth in this country -- or when the bottom 80 percent of wage earners control only 7 percent of it -- something is wrong.

The common meme among conservatives is that any raise in taxes or new social program to help those in need is an assault on a person's livelihood, that it's somehow a socialist redistribution of wealth. But with the distribution of wealth as it is described above, with the reality of a system that is killing off the middle class and the American dream, isn't it the duty of governments to determine what is and isn't an obscene distribution of wealth? On the one hand, yes, forcing rich people to hand over a large chunk of their paychecks is wrong. But is it wrong to ask of them to give a certain percentage of their paychecks after a certain amount is earned? If we say "If you earn more than $200,000, we believe you should pay X percent of every dollar after that," is it an unfair redistribution of wealth?

A vast majority (two-thirds) of Americans believe we should raise taxes on income earned above $250,000. This isn't some socialist plot we're talking about -- the majority of Americans don't consider themselves socialists, but a majority of people do believe in a progressive form of taxation, that the rich ought to pay more than the poor.

It isn't about equality of wealth (because most people would tell you that wouldn't work anyway) but rather equality of opportunity. A child born today to a poor family has little chance of succeeding completely on their own. But through generous programs (food stamps, health care assistance, etc.) the family that is unable to fend for itself suddenly sees some burdens alleviated slightly. Through continued governmental help (student loans), the child is able to gain an education that can push him to realize his full potential.

These programs can be funded through taxes, with more being paid by the rich. But how can we justify a tax system which expects more to be paid by the wealthiest? Simple: an extravagant life diminished by a higher percentage of taxes is still extravagant. Taxing the rich a higher amount proportionally than everyone else still leaves that group of people rich. If we were to tax them out of their income bracket, that'd be another thing altogether -- it'd be an unfair hindrance upon their lifestyles, a way of life that they had earned having. But telling a billionaire that he might only be a multimillionaire after his taxes are paid isn't something that should be of heavy concern -- that single person is still able to live the life of several thousand Americans living in poverty pooling their economic resources together.

It comes down to this for me personally, and I believe that many feel the same way that I do: at some point a certain amount of wealth and extravagance becomes grotesque. And the free market would have the wealth gap grow even more if it could have its way. Consider this: between 1990-2005, the average pay (using 2005 dollar figures) for CEOs went up nearly 300 percent. Profits for corporations went up more than 106 percent. But how much did the average worker gain? A mere 4 percent. And minimum wage actually went down (again, in terms of 2005 dollars) by nearly 10 percent.

How is that fair? I'm not going to say that we need to tie CEO and workers' pay together proportionally. But perhaps moves can be made to ensure that workers who are clearly being left behind have mechanisms and institutions available to them to help in their needs. If a family struggles between buying groceries and paying the rent, food stamps should be an option. If health costs are out of reach, or a pre-existing condition prevents a family member (or members) from being treated fairly, affordable health options need to be made accessible. If a student that is academically gifted wants to further their education, they should be given the tools and resources needed to enter a college or university.

Our country is great for a myriad or reasons, none of them strictly of one ideology or the other. We pride ourselves on our individualism; but we also are strong because of our collectivism. Capitalism has made us strong, but so too has our ability to help others in dire times. We needn't be fearful of a little influence from each side of the economics debate -- but extremes in either direction can be dangerous. A stifling of capitalism can be very detrimental to the American way of life -- but so too can an absolute adherence to free market principles that can cause harm to both consumers and workers.

A balance can be achieved. It's a balance that may need constant correction as time dictates it, but like the Mayflower traveling across the Atlantic Ocean towards the New World, constant correction is required of government. We cannot say that a strict percentage of this amount is good twenty years down the road. The Bush tax cuts may have been good policy for about two years, but right now they're killing our country. As the needs of certain times dictate it, government should be empowered to correct society's ills as they come along.

Certainly people should be allowed to shoot for certain objectives in their lives, including the obtaining of wealth. But at a certain point, extreme wealth comes at the expense of society overall. Taxing a proportion of extreme wealth can benefit society while still causing no harm to the rich in the end. We needn't unnecessarily fear a progressive form of taxation.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

WI Sup Ct issues a ruling of injustice

State Sup. Ct. ruling allows legislature to enforce its own rules

A quick statement about the recent State Supreme Court ruling.

As it was two days ago, I know it's old news; still, the implications of the ruling that the anti-collective bargaining bill was passed legally are too staggering to ignore.

What the State Supreme Court essentially said in its majority opinion is that the rules of the legislature (even when passed as law) are subject to that body's own interpretations, that no other institution has the right to determine whether violations occur. That may seem like a healthy dose of autonomy between branches of government -- but in reality, the judgment has serious consequences.

If a violation of a law that affects legislative rules occurs, who will step in to remedy it? Like the fox watching the hen-house, the legislature cannot fairly police itself. Through the common practice of checks and balances, the judiciary must involve itself within the disputes of the legislature. Who else but the interpreters of the law are best equipped to determine whether or not our elected representatives are acting within it?

The legislature, too, is empowered with certain privileges, including the right to change or modify laws that it deems improper. But to grant this body the power to enforce its own rules (as this ruling now does) borders on Nixonian. Indeed, in the same way as the embattled president once insisted "when the president does it, that means it's not illegal," the state legislature can now assume that when it breaks the rules, it's really not that big a deal.

We shouldn't allow the players of our democracy to also be the referees. It's also not the time for the people to become mere spectators to this atrocity.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

I have so much I want to write today, but no time to do it. Look for comments on today's events tonight or tomorrow. Solidarity forever...

Monday, June 13, 2011

Rules on ending collective bargaining to be included in state budget

Republicans will place item in budget if not ruled on by Supreme Court by tomorrow

Just posted minutes ago at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
The Legislature will put Gov. Scott Walker’s limits on collective bargaining into the state budget Tuesday if the state Supreme Court hasn’t ruled on the matter by then, Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald (R-Horicon) said Monday.

“If need be, we are going to have to pass collective bargaining again,” Fitzgerald said at a Capitol news conference. “My caucus is more solid on that collective bargaining vote than they ever have been.”
What's worse, the state legislature is set to enter an "extraordinary session," which means that meetings don't have to be announced under the rules they're normally run by.

And oh, hey, remember when non-fiscal matters in a budget were considered a sinful act? Yeah, neither does the state GOP.

Disgraceful. But not shocking.

Recall election dates moved to August 9

Democratic "placeholder" candidates ensure uniform election date

Republicans have made it clear: they don't want to give their constituents a fair shot at determining their futures.

By attempting to run "zombie" candidates against Democrats in the recall campaigns facing them, Republican senators are spoiling the democratic process by which our state has adhered to for generations. The right to issue recalls against your representatives -- be they at the state, local, or even national levels -- is one that has been a part of our state since the Progressive era.

Rather than standing behind the rules already set in place, Republicans have sought to spoil the process by running Republican-aligned candidates in Democratic primaries. Doing so will force Democrats to raise more money and give Republicans time to stall the recall process until August 9.

Not all of the Democrats would face such primaries, however, which would also make things complicated as far as a uniform date for all the recall elections within the entire state...some could be on the July 12 date while others would have a primary on that day and a general election a month later.

The potential confusion led the Democratic Party of Wisconsin to come up with a new plan. Rather than having separate election days, the DPW determined it would be best to have one single general election day. In order to do that, of course, every Democrat would have to have a primary election.

Running "placeholder" candidates -- candidates who are actually aligned with Democrats -- up against those trying to run in the recalls was the only option the party truly had. It ensures a single general election date for all the recalls of August 9.

Though the date is set later, the strategy for recall requires that voters understand the day their votes will be counted. August 9 is much too late for a lot of us (the damage Republicans can do with an extra month in power could be great) -- but it will help ensure that all six Republicans up for recall will be replaced.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Vicki McKenna wants zombie protesters silenced

Talk-show host encourages suppression of zombie speech rights

When zombie protesters came to the Capitol earlier this week, they took a lot of heat from people believing that their actions interfered with an event taking place there.

Gov. Walker was speaking to a group of Special Olympians when the zombies (students from the United Council) decided to stage a silent protest. (Sidenote: though the zombies were from the UC, the UC was actually trying to stage an event inside the Capitol; the protest before the Special Olympics event was the result of "rogue zombies.") They stood before the governor, their backs to his face, without uttering a single word while he spoke (not even a grunt). Afterwards, the zombies even shook the hands of the Olympians when they left.

Some on the right believed that their protest crossed a line -- it was a non-partisan event, after all, that the governor had participated in, honoring those with special needs and the accomplishments they had performed. Others supported the protest as a sign of grave importance -- the governor was advocating a budget that would cut many vital services for the very Olympians that were now in his midst. The irony of his support of these athletes during a photo op shouldn’t have been lost on anyone.

Both points of view make sense, and I certainly understand both the importance of the protests as well as the respect of those who aren’t involved in them one way or the other. Arguments could be made for both sides, which is why when the event occurred (I was actually at the Capitol that day) I didn’t take a position on the issue. Frankly, I empathize with both sides.

One thing that should be noted was that these protesters, even if engaging in a questionable demonstration, were respectful. Even the coordinators of the event honoring the Special Olympians went on record saying that the student zombies didn’t detract much from the athletes, that they were there protesting the governor but respecting the importance of the event they were attending as well.
"We were all a little bit on edge, but it turned out for the best," [spokeswoman for the Special Olympics Rachel] Grant said. "Nothing was disruptive at all."

Kelly Kloepping, another Special Olympics official, said the protesters were respectful and did not diminish the excitement the Special Olympians felt about being in Madison to meet Walker and other leaders.

"We feel it's really about the athletes," Kloepping said. "We knew the protesters were there, but they were respectful of our athletes."
Which is why it’s incredibly disheartening to hear someone like local talk show host Vicki McKenna advocate for violence against said protesters.

H/T to Sly in the Morning:
[These protesters were] so soulless and filthy and immorral, that honestly, I mean, if somebody would have piled on them and started throwing punches...I would have looked at that and said ‘Dirtbags deserved it.'
Vicki McKenna isn’t exactly a classy lady. She has definitely made a name for herself by being outspoken. But this is low even for her own standards.

First things first: the zombie protesters have the right to protest any public event, especially one at the grounds of the Capitol. Whether their actions were tasteless or not is irrelevant (though obviously worth debating): Gov. Walker still deserves to face his constituents wherever he goes, whether that’s support or dissent. It’s a First Amendment protection guaranteed to all citizens of this country that, so long as their speech doesn’t interfere with the rights of others, their rights are protected.

But what McKenna said on the air was appalling. She actually encourages a suppression of the right to free speech, would like for others to “pile on” these zombies and start “throwing punches.”

Our society is one celebrated for its openness, believed to be great the world over because of its protection of rights, including those of speech. To have someone like McKenna suggest that some forms of speech should be shut out, even if they’re not appreciated by most, shows definitively her own disrespect for the rights guaranteed to all, notions that have been protected since the early years of our nation’s history.

When we ignore these rights, even in zombie protests, we ignore the very foundation of our country. McKenna is welcome to be critical of the protesters -- as I said before, there certainly is a case to make that their actions were inappropriate -- but she’s wrong to advocate or encourage violent means to suppress their speech rights.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Republican "spoiler" candidates spoil democracy

GOP encourages fake candidates to run against Democratic recall challengers

Republican senators facing recall elections have come up with a cunning plan: force their Democratic challengers into primary elections in order to delay their inevitable dismissal. In doing so, Democrats will have to raise more money in order to win the primary election within their respective districts (and possibly fend off discrediting remarks that their pseudo-Democratic opponents will bring about).

Wisconsin's Republican leaders (including Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald) are justifying the use of fake elections as necessary to give GOP Senators the chance to campaign fairly. Says GOP executive director Stephan Thompson:
'The Republican Party of Wisconsin has advocated that protest candidates run in Democratic primaries to ensure that Republican legislators have ample time to communicate with voters throughout their districts after the state budget is approved,' Thompson said in his statement.
In considering Thompson's assertions, a valid question comes about: did the Democrats do a similar thing in running off to Illinois in order to prevent passage of the collective bargaining bill? Certainly the Wisconsin 14 tried to bring the subject to the forefront by prolonging the length of time required to pass the bill. Are the Republican senators doing the same thing now?

Let's think about this for a bit. In fleeing the state, the Democrats were trying to prevent passage of a bill that most of the state had opposed. What they did wasn't even illegal, though it was frowned upon. But their intentions were to preserve the rights of workers, rights that a majority of the state supported keeping intact.

The Republicans, on the other hand, are trying to use underhanded tactics to help them win an electoral campaign. They're encouraging people to challenge their opponents in primary elections they have no business meddling in -- these pseudo-candidates support conservative policies and the Republican candidates for office. What point is there in having them run in Democratic primaries then? The answer is that they're simply there to make things more difficult for the recall process.

Whether you support the Wisconsin 14 that went to Illinois or not is up to you -- regardless of your feelings on it, however, they were attempting to adhere to their constituents' wishes and in fact the wishes of the entire state. What the Republicans are doing here, however, isn't similar in that goal, doesn't come close to adhering to constituents' wishes. The Republicans are attempting to preserve their seats through these disgraceful means simply to keep themselves in power. By extending and interfering with the electoral process, the state GOP is acting in a way that not only is disrespectful of their constituents but also further justifies exactly why these recall elections are necessary.

It's not illegal, of course, which means it's OK for them to encourage "spoiler" candidates. But what the Republicans in this state are advocating is simply disgusting, for both Wisconsin and the ideals of democracy. There is no shame left within the Republican Party -- as long as they remain in power, we're left in the hands of vile and despicable leaders.

Friday, June 3, 2011

WI Dems to announce Gov. Walker recall intentions

Chairman to make announcement at DPW convention in Milwaukee tonight

Tonight, after Chairman of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin Mike Tate makes the announcement we've all been waiting for, it will officially be "on."

In a speech set to be delivered this evening, Tate will formally announce the DPW's decision to go after Scott Walker, to officially declare that the party intends to recall the governor for his many attacks upon working men and women, seniors and students, across the state.

In prepared remarks, Tate will tell a crowd full of Democratic delegates that, "We will begin to repair the damage done to this state and we will begin anew with a Democratic Governor who will fight for our children, who will fight for our families, our teachers and our firefighters. We will fight for the people -- not the powerful."

It isn't surprising that the Democrats would want to recall Walker. But the announcement is the most outspoken to be made in the months following the path of destruction that has been the Walker administration. Through destroying rights for workers in the state; changing the tax code to benefit the rich and punish the poor; promoting cronies within his administration while overlooking qualified candidates; cutting education across the state by hundreds of millions of dollars; and ruining social services for seniors, the disabled, and those in dire need -- in short, the utter destruction of Wisconsin values -- Gov. Walker has proven in the first six months of his tenure that his leadership isn't what Wisconsin voted for last November. Through his bait-and-switch tactics of governing, Walker's actions warrant his removal from office.

Wisconsin is ready for such a recall. All across the state, even in communities where conservatives have traditionally done well, "Recall Walker" bumper stickers are appearing everywhere. This governor hasn't just woken up the progressive movement in Wisconsin -- he's woken up the state itself, to the dangers and pitfalls of conservative extremism.

Gov. Walker has shown that he has no shame when it comes to throwing the people of this state under the bus. The people, through the coming recalls of both state legislators as well as the governor himself, will show Walker that such reprehensible behavior, such blatant disrespect for the wishes and well-being of the citizens of Wisconsin, isn't acceptable.

Bring on the recalls for July 12. And bring on the recall of Gov. Walker. A change in how things are done, how our state is run, is desperately needed.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Taxes for the poor, relief for the rich in state GOP budget scheme

GOP-controlled Budget committee raises taxes on working families

The war on the poor continues in Wisconsin.

Republicans on the Joint Finance Committee approved of Gov. Scott Walker's proposals to raise taxes on low-wage working families with two or more children. Under the provisions that passed the committee, these families would see their state earned income tax credit diminished by more than 20 percent of its current levels.

Within the same budget meeting, Republicans also decided to cut taxes on capital gains, a cut that means more breaks for the wealthiest in Wisconsin. Interestingly enough, a proposal to allow movie theaters to obtain liquor licenses also passed through committee.

It's good to know that Wisconsin Republicans have the people's interests in mind: booze at the movies, tax breaks for the rich, and tax increases for the working population of the state.

The diminishing tax credit for working families comes at a terrible time, where many are still struggling with the lingering effects of the economic recession. But what are the priorities of Republican lawmakers? Build up the pocketbooks of those who are already well-to-do.

Wisconsin families are getting left behind by the GOP's call for more greed, for the belief that the millionaires in our state are the ones facing hardships. Meanwhile, working Wisconsin families continue to face TRUE struggles, living paycheck to paycheck with the hopes that their leaders will make things right, restoring the American dream within the Badger state.

But the people's hopes are falling on deaf ears. Republican leaders will not restore the vision of Wisconsin that the citizens of this state are demanding. Instead, they are destroying our traditions, replacing them with corporate rule and preference for the wealthy elite over the working class.

That's not the Wisconsin we the people deserve. That's a vision of Wisconsin that ultimately fails its citizens. Republicans in the legislature will ruin this state if this budget bill comes to pass.