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Pay no attention to the people behind the curtain

Monday, February 28, 2011

Two lies I'm sick of hearing, so shut up already with them

by folkbum

1. Federal employees don't have collecting bargaining rights. FALSE. They do! It only takes a second or two with teh goggle to find references to the fact that "the vast majority of Federal employees have collective bargaining rights." So shut up.

2. FDR opposed public-sector unions. FALSE. He supported them! You see FDR quoted a lot these days, saying this: "All Government employees should realize that the process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service." Sounds pretty serious. And it is! As usually understood in 1937, labor struggles were ugly, violent, and disruptive. (See, for example, this.) Which is why Roosevelt, in context, tells a very different story:
The desire of Government employees for fair and adequate pay, reasonable hours of work, safe and suitable working conditions, development of opportunities for advancement, facilities for fair and impartial consideration and review of grievances, and other objectives of a proper employee relations policy, is basically no different from that of employees in private industry. Organization on their part to present their views on such matters is both natural and logical, but meticulous attention should be paid to the special relationships and obligations of public servants to the public itself and to the Government. [. . .]

Particularly, I want to emphasize my conviction that militant tactics have no place in the functions of any organization of Government employees. Upon employees in the Federal service rests the obligation to serve the whole people, whose interests and welfare require orderliness and continuity in the conduct of Government activities. This obligation is paramount. Since their own services have to do with the functioning of the Government, a strike of public employees manifests nothing less than an intent on their part to prevent or obstruct the operations of Government until their demands are satisfied. Such action, looking toward the paralysis of Government by those who have sworn to support it, is unthinkable and intolerable. It is, therefore, with a feeling of gratification that I have noted in the constitution of the National Federation of Federal Employees the provision that "under no circumstances shall this Federation engage in or support strikes against the United States Government."

I congratulate the National Federation of Federal Employees the twentieth anniversary of its founding and trust that the convention will, in every way, be successful.
FDR did not ask them to disband, he did not tell them to stop bargaining, he did not revoke their right to bargain. Instead, FDR celebrated the success of the federal employees' union, and encouraged them to continue in their civil, moderated behavior. So shut up.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Take $50 out of your wallet. Burn it.

by folkbum

[Late update: Despite widespread reports that it was Walker's plan, and a very public debate about whether he even had the authority to do so, Walker in the end did not propose to turn down federal Title I funds.]

There are a lot of things that Scott Walker is doing that I disagree with. Some of those have a rational basis in fact and can be defended through honest intellectual argument. But many of them are so heavy with dumb they do not let any light of logic escape the dumbitational field they create.

One of them is Walker's plan to refuse nearly $200 million in federal Title I aid to school districts.

Now, I disagreed with him when he killed--or, more technically, caused to be killed--the rail link between Milwaukee and Madison that would have extended the highly popular Hiawatha line and pave the way lay down tracks for a future midwest high-speed rail network. But he had a few valid points, notably that Wisconsin would have to make some investment of its own and the disruption that improving the infrastructure might cause. Small potatoes, those are, compared to the long-term benefit of having a modern transportation system in place.

But refusing Title I funds--the feds' way of supplementing the education of poor public- and private-school students--has no rational basis the way the train debacle does. Title I funds don't require much if any local investment. Title I funds don't make us stop traffic or move people out of their houses. Title I funds provide relief to struggling school districts that must deal with the added challenges of educating poor children.

Worse, when it comes to federal taxes and spending, Wisconsin is what you call a donor state. Imagine that all of the taxes we send to Washington were a large pizza. In return for giving Washington that pizza, the feds send us back a large pizza, too. But that pizza that comes back is missing a slice, which the feds have given instead to someplace like Alaska or Mississippi. This is in part because Wisconsin does a better job at taking care of its own people--we have lower per-capita spending on things like Medicare and Medicaid and SSI disability. But it's also because the feds don't reward us with things like giant defense manufacturing plants. (With Dave Obey gone from Congress, this is likely to get worse; his position on Appropriations kept some of our money in the state.)

Refusing the feds' train money was a way of saying, Hey! We'd like to donate more! And so is the refusal of Title I funds--it is the equivalent, basically, of every adult in the state sending an extra fifty dollar bill to the IRS with their 1040s. Or flushing fifty bucks down the toilet. Or buying an iPod Shuffle and stomping it into little pieces.

And this is not optional: If Walker refuses the Title I money, the feds aren't going to send you a Shuffle to replace the one you stomped to death, or stuff an extra fifty in with your tax returns. That money, like the nearly a billion that was the train money, will go someplace else. Somebody in Alabama or South Carolina is going to get that iPod.

Why? Because Scott Walker is a child, a tantrum-throwing fool who thinks standing firm in an infantile ideology is good for the state he governs.

Madison's democratic Uprising Impresses Amy Goodman

by Bert
People are fired up. You could see it plain as day when Amy Goodman spoke to an overflow crowd of several hundred at UWM last night.

She was preceded by a raspy-voiced Michael Rosen, union leader and economics instructor at Milwaukee Area Technical College. Rosen said how his union -- despite what he said was a mangled reporting job by the Milwaukee paper -- recently worked through collective bargaining with MATC's administrators to do a contract that saved more and protected the education of students better than a state plan would have.

Rosen declared loudly that "it is simply shameful" that Gov. Walker is using a crisis to deliver "the long held dream of right-wing Republicans" of destroying unions.

Amy Goodman was fresh from a stay in Madison, broadcasting her Democracy Now cable and radio show from the Capitol Rotunda. Even as a grizzled veteran and close student of social movements from Chiapas to Tahir Square, Goodman was clearly impressed by what she saw and the people with whom she spoke in Wisconsin.

Most of the hundreds at the union ballroom rose their hands when asked who was going to Madison today.

"I don't know how this is going to end," Goodman said. But it was at least obvious already that Gov. Walker "has awakened a sleeping giant and a new workers movement in the United States. And that is something he can never take away from us."

Thursday, February 24, 2011

National Watchdog calls for criminal probe of Gov Walker over 'Koch' tape

A national campaign finance watchdog, the Public Campaign Action Fund, sent a letter to the Dane County (WI) District Attorney and Wisconsin’s Government Accountability Board (GAB) today urging that they open concurrent investigations into Gov. Scott Walker’s (R-Wisc.) possible double violations of state campaign finance and ethics statutes.

Washington, D.C.—National campaign finance watchdog Public Campaign Action Fund sent a letter to the Dane County (WI) District Attorney and Wisconsin’s Government Accountability Board (GAB) today urging that they open concurrent investigations into Gov. Scott Walker’s (R-Wisc.) possible double violations of state campaign finance and ethics statutes. The letter is in response to yesterday’s release of a taped phone call between Gov. Walker and a person he thought was out-of-state, billionaire campaign donor David Koch.

The group asked the District Attorney and GAB to look at two questions:

1) Did Gov. Walker illegally solicit political expenditures for independent spending to benefit Republican Senators from swing districts?

2) Did Gov. Walker illegally solicit donations from the state capitol using state resources?

“Governor Walker, while on state grounds supposedly doing his job, thought he was speaking to out-of-state billionaire David Koch, and over the course of that conversation he asked Koch to spend money to help Republican Senators from electorally vulnerable districts,” said David Donnelly, national campaigns director for Public Campaign Action Fund. “The District Attorney of Dane County and the Government Accountability Board have concurrent jurisdiction over this matter, and both should immediately investigate whether Walker broke two state laws.”

The letters were faxed this afternoon to both offices. Download the letter to the District Attorney and the GAB [at Public Campaign Action Fund] .

Quote of the Day: Finding root causes for the anger

by folkbum

There's a reason why people like Ellen Bravo do this sort of thing professionally, and I just have a blog:
Mercury Marine of Fond du Lac had profits of $1.1 billion from 2000-'07. During that time, it paid nothing in corporate income taxes to our state. The New York Times highlighted Harley last summer as one of the companies finding "surging profits in deeper cuts." As the article pointed out, the benefits of those profits "are mostly going to shareholders instead of the broader economy." [. . .]

For illusionists like [Wisconsin Gov. Scott] Walker, here's the trick: State politicians give tax incentives and other breaks to large corporations that gouge their workers. The politicians then use the sacrifice of those workers as a sledgehammer to blame budget shortfalls on public employees who are in unions. Workers and the unions take the fall, making big corporations and their politicians even more powerful.
We have been in an economic downturn, this "Great Recession" of ours. Mercury, Harley, and to a lesser extent Kohler--which has also settled with its unions offering workers a much crappier (no pun intended) deal--all make luxury products, and when the economy recesses, fewer people buy luxury products. You'd expect to see some strife at those companies.

But the full brunt of these companies' strife is being borne not by the CEOs calling the (sometimes wrong) shots, or the shareholders who opted for the risk of investing in companies that produce luxury goods. Rather, the brunt is being borne by workers who, especially in corporate towns like Kohler and Fond du Lac, are just trying to feed their families.

In the last election, Sheboygan and Fond du Lac Counties, home to Kohler and Mercury, voted overwhelmingly for Walker, whose solution to their woes is apparently to finally stop those bloodsucking UW teaching assistants from having a union.

This bears repeating: While it is true that the broader economy has an unemployment rate of 10%, the wealthy are doing fine: Bankster pay is up, stocks are about as high as they've been in the last decade, corporate profits are at all-time highs, companies are sitting on billions in cash reserves (while not paying their small-business supply chains), and corporate and top-tier tax rates are at generational lows.

Scott Walker wants to reward--indeed, has already started rewarding--all those doing so well with additional tax breaks. He wants to take everyone else and extract sacrifice.

The resentment formerly middle-class folks feel is real and palpable and fully justified. But directing it at the people who collect garbage, teach children, and care for our grandparents is ridiculous.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Citizen's Criminal Complaint Against Gov. Scott Walker

Update: Madison Police Chief Noble Wray Thursday asked Gov. Scott Walker to explain his "troubling" and "unsettling" statements captured in a secretly recorded phone conversation that he "thought about" planting troublemakers among the thousands of peaceful demonstrators at the Capitol. (Dee Hall, Wisconsin State Journal)

via malIn summary, Gov. Scott Walker can't do this to us.

This letter was dropped off Thursday; this is still America.
---
United States Attorney's Office
Western District of Wisconsin
660 West Washington Avenue, Suite 303
Madison, WI 53703

February 24, 2011

I am writing to ask for a criminal investigation into the actions of the office of Governor Scott Walker.

I refer to the recently publicized tape of a phone call in which Gov. Walker responds to a caller’s (pretending to be one David Koch) suggestion (vis) [“But, uh, what we were thinking about the crowds was, uh, was planting some troublemakers.”] to place agents provocateur among the citizens protesting the Wisconsin budget bill, to which Walker replies, “You know, the, well, the only problem with that — because we thought about that. The problem — the, my only gut reaction to that is right now the lawmakers I’ve talked to have just completely had it with them, the public is not really fond of this.” [A.G. SULZBERGER; New York Times, February 23, 2011. “Walker Receives Prank Call From Koch Impersonator”]

My concern is that—as presumably the “thought” Walker referenced was not conveyed telepathically—the Walker administration discussed planting agents provocateur at the rallies that I have attended, along with members of my family. Such discussions merit an investigation.

I would like what Gov. Walker said and to whom he spoke on this matter of planting agents provocateur at political rallies held in Madison investigated under suspicion that Walker conspired to disrupt protected political activity.

In point of fact, apropos to the tape referenced above, members of David Koch’s organization, Americans for Prosperity, were bussed in on Saturday, Feb. 19, according to numerous media reports; and labor organizations and supporters were widely warned to stay away from Koch’s group and not “engage” them. Several law enforcement agencies were reportedly aware of the possibility of violence.

It is not relevant to my concern that the David Koch impersonator turned out to be a journalist of sorts. What concerns me, again, is Gov. Walker’s taped statement that Walker said he discussed planting agents provocateur at political rallies, rallies which continue today.

The price of my exercising my First Amendment rights ought not to be dread that my governor is conspiring to plant “some troublemakers” when I petition my elected representatives on pending legislation.

Would you please forward this letter to the appropriate investigative unit?

Truly Yours,

Michael Leon

Cc U.S. Rep Tammy Baldwin

Cc Special Litigation Section, U.S. Dept of Justice
      Civil Rights Division

Walker v Obama

by folkbum

And, no, I am not talking about 2012.

I tweeted yesterday, only half-kiddingly, "Have lost track of number of ppl who complained Obama refused to compromise w Republicans and say Walker should stand firm." The twit-speak is embarrassing to reprint here on the blog, where brevity is far less a concern than clarity. But the message is something that needs to be reinforced.

You might recall 2009-2010, and the protracted debate over the health care bill that ultimately was passed as the Affordable Care Act. Some of the initial policy proposals offered a radical shift in the way the federal government treated health insurance, including a proposed public option (which would have created greater savings than the final bill does). The process of getting those original ideas into a final bill took nearly a year. It included hundreds of often-contentious town hall meetings, scores of demonstrations and rallies for and against reform, very public Congressional hearings, very private Congressional negotiations among the Senate's bipartisan Group of Eight, and even a White House-hosted round table with leaders and experts from both parties convened to try to hammer out a solution. All of this while Democrats held the presidency and a majority in both Congressional houses.

Ultimately, the Affordable Care Act is a mishmash of watered-down Democratic reforms, Republican policy positions (the individual mandate was a favorite of Republicans right up until it went into the bill), and vague nods toward systemic change. It was not the reform I wanted, but it was perhaps the best bill possible under the circumstances, and though certainly included tons of compromise, I celebrated its passage.

And yet, the steady Republican and media-pundit line was the same: Obama needs to reach out to Republicans more; Obama needs to compromise. Despite the moderation and compromise that riddles the ACA and is apparent in the year-long record, the take-away for our great pundit class and legions of conservative and tea-party Republicans is that Democrats quickly rammed through an ultra-liberal bill with no sop to Republicans at all. Which is, clearly, false. (Anyone who thinks it's true, please try to explain in comments. I need a laugh.)

Flash forward to 2011 in Wisconsin. Scott Walker has proposed a radical policy change in a bill that is about fixing a budget hole, not changing policy. (Walker campaigned on not putting policy in budget bills.) Walker continues to insist, even in his "fireside rap" last night, that the hold-up is over economic concessions without admitting that his opponents long ago agreed to those concessions. (Those concessions may not even be necessary for the state budget to balance, anyway.) No, the hold-up is over changing 50 years of Wisconsin state policy--indeed, national leadership from this state--on workers' rights, with no justification given for doing so.

Whereas Obama campaigned on health care reform, Walker did not campaign on dismantling state employee unions. And in contrast to the tediously long track that health care reform took nationally, Walker introduced his bill on a Friday and expected it to be approved the next Tuesday. Wisconsin Republicans have refused to hear from the public--the hearing rooms were open because Democratic leggies stayed to listen; Republicans shut down the state's legislative hot line. Republicans even illegally voted on aspects of the measure before the posted start time of the legislative session to avoid having to debate the matter. (They later rescinded the vote, obviating their culpability.)

There have been no bipartisan groups of legislators working through the matter. There have been no town halls for legislators to hear concerns in their districts. (Republicans warned their caucus members not to have such town halls, out of fear for their "safety"; to date, no one has been injured at the Capitol and, in all the media reports I sought and I have read, there have not even been arrests). There has been no great Walker-hosted round table on collective bargaining. Indeed, Walker made clear in the prank call conversation with notDavid notKoch, any offer he might make to listen to Democrats is a trick. (About the call: I mostly agree with Ezra Klein. Nothing said is too damning, but the fact that he took notKoch's call at all, and said anything to notKoch, is damning alone.)

So it ought to be surprising that the conservatives and tea-party Republicans, as well as the national media pundits, are telling Walker to stand firm and not at all to compromise. It ought to be surprising since, after all, Walker with collective bargaining is engaging in exactly the opposite behavior of Obama on health care--and Obama's was not nearly enough effort to appease Republicans and opponents of reform.

But it is, of course, not surprising at all. There is a reason that IOKIYAR is a common acronym: it's okay if you're a Republican. There's also the media frame that Democrats must always appear weak (and attempts to appear strong--as when Republicans invited Obama to their Congressional retreat and he challenged their talking points--it's sandbagging or playing dirty) and Republicans must always appear strong. As Atrios noted today, Walker is "a GOP Daddy" so any action he takes "will be praised as 'bold.' " Refusing to compromise is part of the GOP ethos, and as such cannot be criticized, even by those who hold compromise sacred.

(Remarkably, Republican governors across the country have gotten the message that Walker refuses to hear. Governors in Indiana, Ohio, Florida, and Michigan have backed off many of their plans to gut collective bargaining their states. None of them, like Walker, can explain how rescinding those rights solves temporary or even structural budget gaps, especially when unions have already agreed to economic concessions, and have decided that the damage to their own reputations and the people in their state is not worth the fight.)

So I ask those who want Walker to stand firm: Why is compromise now anathema when Obama couldn't compromise enough for you? Why is Walker's mandate unbreakable even in the face of massive protest when Obama's mandate was non-existent in the face of the tea-party rallies? Why are party-line votes in Congress on health care bad while party-line votes in Madison are a consequence of Democracy? Why is Walker's plan to trick Democrats into submission just fine with you when Democrats' transparent and above-board passage of the Affordable Care Act a travesty? And, relatedly, why is the flight of 14 state senators to break quorum worse than Republicans' unprecedented and record-setting filibuster efforts in the US Senate?

These are not idle questions.

I could ask more: Why is it okay to lessen the tax burden on Wisconsin's millionaires while upping the pension burden on public health workers making barely more than minimum wage? Why is it okay to allow Walker to sell state assets with no bids but Doyle's no-bid contract to Talgo was an outrage?

IOKIYAR is the answer I predict.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Walker's Fireside Crap

by Michael A Leon

Update: Scott Walker admits objective on collective bargaining: Weakening unions

Gov. Scott Walker's chat with Wisconsin last night has all the sincerity of the AIG derivatives executive's assurance to investors that their money is safely and productively at work months before the economic catastrophe hit.

But Walker goes in for reverse-Enron accounting, claiming a deficit crisis when no such crisis exists.

Unfortunately for Walker, that pesky non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB) has debunked the budget crisis notion, as State Rep, Mark Pocan (D-Madison) points out, a fact Walker refuses to address.

Worse, Walker claims he will be forced to lay off workers if he doesn't get his way on the budget; saying he doesn't want to lay people off, even as he refuses to negotciate.

Here is a partial list of highlights and significant omissions from Walker's chat:

  • No mention of the corporate give-aways and their clear relevancy to the budget, or his promises to the super-wealthy
  • Claimed appreciation for working families whose members he is threatening to lay off
  • Using the passive voice to absolve himself of responsibility for laying off workers and devastating families; it's an old politician's trick in the tradition of 'mistakes were made,' Walker said, "If there is no agreement by July 1st, another 5-6 thousand state workers -- as well as 5-6 thousand local government employees would be also laid off," in addition to those workers Walker promises to axe next week if Walker does not get his way on ending collective bargaining, animated by what Walker assures us "isn't a battle with unions," or he would" have gone after the private-sector unions," the Wagner Act notwithstanding in Walker's most bizarre statement of the evening
  • Continued lying about the "budget deficit" as though Walker has no choice but to accept the 6.2 percent increase in state agencies that the LFB says would lead to a short-fall in the vanishingly unlikely event that the legislature adopts the estimate as a budget
  • No mention of the fact that all of Wisconsin's school districts, counties, and municipalities have never asked of Walker to implement his scheme to forbid collective bargaining, and in fact are requesting that he not end collective bargaining (Mosiman). Walker's proposed end to collective bargaining "goes far beyond what we asked for. We were not expecting to abolish the collective bargaining process altogether," said Dan Thompson, executive director of the League of Wisconsin Municipalities. [See also Tarr.]
  • Implying that "millions of taxpayers from across the state" do not include those working families who disagree with Walker
  • Deriding workers demonstrating solidarity as an ominous occurrence as "more and more protesters come in from Nevada, Chicago and elsewhere" overwhelming the voices of the millions of taxpayers from across the state, save public workers who do not pay taxes apparently in Walker world
  • Calling for pension contributions increases without mentioning the unions' offer to do just that as Wisconsin's pension fund remains among the nation's healthiest (Carter)
  • Refusing to mention that public unions have made good-faith offers on pensions, health care, salaries; and that Walker refuses to negotiate
Many more lies are found in the brief address.

The rest is typical divide-and-conquer rhetoric, pitting the unemployed against the employed, the pubic versus the private sector, and demonizing Democratic state senators who are fighting for collective bargain for Wisconsin families.

"Do the job you were elected to do," Walker said. "You don't have to like the outcome, or even vote yes, but as part of the world's greatest democracy, you should be here, in Madison, at the Capitol."

Yes, but aren't Democratic state senators protecting Wisconsin families? Walker refuses to engage the question.

This is not a governor. This is a ruler who is willing to terrorize Wisconsin working families for his petty pursuit of power and narrow ideology. And Walker thinks he is untouchable.

To conclude on a positive note when Walker looks at the camera and lies, he presents a visage more appealing than Richard Nixon's, though a viewer is left with the impression of a well-concealed smirk of someone who just got away with cheating on an exam.

This will change. Walker is desperate as polls show most Americans and an increasing number of GOP governors reject the idea of demonizing public workers and outlawing collective bargaining.

As Alex Pareene writes in Salon of Walker's chat, "It was not a particularly inspiring or convincing performance, and I imagine a lot of Wisconsinites are still suffering from buyer's remorse tonight."

No doubt, but Walker has revitalized the progressive movement in Wisconsin to a degree that this writer has never seen. The world is watching and outside of Appalachia and the Old South, the world stands with Wisconsin workers.
- via mal

Fight War on Families; Call Your Senator; Vote in April

by Michael A Leon
Find your state senator here.e

Beginning this week, Walker and the GOP will try to push through legislation, they say, will combat the massive voter fraud that resulted in their election that allegedly gives Republicans their mandate to strike at state, county and municipal workers, our neighbors, our friends, and our families.

Walker, if successful, will drive families to bankruptcy, jeopardize college plans, and inflict stress on already over-stressed, working parents.

But I do not believe for a moment that most GOP senators have any idea how badly families with state, county and municipal public workers will be hurt by what Walker is doing.

Call your state senator here.

In November 2010 some 26 percent of eligible Wisconsin voters cast their lot in the gubernatorial election for Scott Walker, handing Walker a narrow 52-47 victory.

Walker claims mandate to end collective bargaining and local control

Walker now claims a mandate to dismantle public union collective bargaining, and a state-mandated end to local control in county, school district and municipal governance.

Think it's your school district your property taxes pay for? Think again, it's Walker's or so he believes when Walker has political scores to settle and power to grab.

Local communities and families are collateral damage in Walker's war for Walker.

Putting aside aside Walker's absurd assertion that citizen demands for radical change in labor negotiations catapulted him to victory, one notes Walker assures us the 2010 legislative elections reveal a similar call for initiatives that just happen to weaken the political infrastructure of his opponents.

And no compromises, Walker says.

Walker claims mandate to end local control of health care

And that includes no local control of Medicare, Family Care, Senior Care and Badger Care because that's what the voters want, and this just happens to coincide exactly with what the multi-billionaire Koch Brothers want.

Family and senior health care are collateral damage in Walker's war for Walker.

Depoliticized is dangerous

The number of Wisconsin citizens who can name their state representative and state senator, their political affiliation, and policy positions in this age of 30-second TV campaigns is low.

Most families are straining to make ends meet.

It strains credulity to contend a mandate for targeting Wisconsin families, as Walker does.

Wisconsinites like most Americans are depoliticized; though as Walker's schemes become known outrage and betrayal are the common resulting sentiments as we have seen in the streets around the state.

Walker claims mandate to end same-day registration and mandate voter qualifications

Beginning this week, Walker and the GOP will try to push through legislation, they say, will combat the massive voter fraud that presumably resulted in their elections that give Republicans their allegedly powerful mandate.

It just so happens that our fellow citizens who are most vulnerable to be being obstructed from voting from the GOP legislation—college students, blacks, browns, and the working class—lean Democratic.

Other GOP initiatives targeting Democrats specifically and families generally will be presented in the coming months.

Elect JoAnne Kloppenburg over David Prosser

Most of Walker's agenda will face vigorous legal challenge in the court system, so it is critical that we work to elect independent-minded jurists.

In the state's highest court, the Wisconsin Supreme Court, Justice David T. Prosser, rakes in money from the same ideological special interests who fund Walker.

Walker, a petulant man, in his 18 years in the state assembly says he soaked in plenty of GOP money, and brags about his GOP connections: "Well, let me say this. I have the most partisan background of any member of the court." (Zweifel, Capital Times)

Prosser will face JoAnne Kloppenburg, Assistant Attorney General, dedicated to the rule of law and impartial adjudciation in the state's top appellate court.

But Prosser's campaign manager felt so comfortable in Prosser's loyalty to the GOP cause that he said a new Prosser term would protect the "conservative judicial majority and [act] as a common sense compliment [sic] to both the new [Walker] administration and Legislature." (Lueders, Isthmus)

Now, Prosser says he really didn't mean it, all that GOP money means nothing to Prosser when votes on cases before the Court. Right.

One critical step in restoring some sense of decency in Wisconsin politics is the election of Kloppenburg over the GOP tool, Prosser.

We have seen the results when we voters stay home.

Killing the American Middle Class for Fun and Profit

by folkbum

It's what the wealthy, in tandem with Congress and state governments, have been doing for more than 30 years. The current unrest here in Wisconsin is the latest battle in that war.

If you don't believe you're losing, then either you're a) delusional or b) one of the top 10% of wage earners in the country.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Walker Contradicts Himself on School District Local Control

by Michael A Leon

“I’d like to give local school districts more local control,” Walker said. “That in turn will help us ultimately make sure the dollars we do spend are spent in the classroom and not on more overhead, such as wages, salaries, benefits and administrators.”
- Scott Walker; August 25, 2010
Sun Prairie Star (Rachel Wittrock)

"We can't expect for our 72 counties, for our 424 school districts and for more than 1,000 municipal governments across the state of Wisconsin that somehow, magically, because a few people are suggesting they might be willing to come to the table now, that we can ensure that every district and every jurisdiction is able to achieve these savings just because a few people are now at the 11th hour claiming they want to negotiate,"
- Scott Walker; February 18, 2011, saying state must end collective bargaining for all counties, municipalities and school districts.

Only those Tea Partiers and Republicans residing in WalkerLand fail to discern the difference.

I can't leave you people alone for five minutes, can I?

by folkbum

I was not just Galt last week. Circumstances took me out of internet range--indeed, out of the country--for the last week. I get back to US soil and find my inbox clogged with the mess you people have made of the place while I was gone. I had thought, what's the worst that can happen and pre-loaded a couple of innocuous posts for the blog while I was gone. Serves me right.

So clearly I have some catcthing up to do.

My initial reaction as I just start to digest the new is twofold: On the one hand, I'm thinking hells yeah, because it's about time we had some labor unrest again in this country. Both labor and capital have gotten too complacent lately, though for obviously different reasons.

On the other, I am not comfortable with the kind of labor actions that have shut down schools. I would have gone to Madison Friday after the day was cancelled, but I would not have called in sick. (My week-long absence was foreseeable and I sought and received administrative permission to be gone for the week.). I will be at work Tuesday (I am plannng to meet my student teacher at school tomorrow, even, though there was no school scheduled anyway). I will continue to figure out what more I can do within the bounds of my legal obligations to protect my rights, the rights of my brothers and sisters in this fight, and the future rights of the students I teach. Walker's budget mess affects them, perhaps most of all.

Also, any typos in this post are the fault of an iPhone keyboard and cramped airport seatjng.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Amend Budget Repair Bill

By 3rd Way

Dear Senators Cowles, Harsdorf, Hooper, Olsen, Ellis and Moulton,

Sen.Ellis@legis.wisconsin.gov, Sen.Cowles@legis.wisconsin.gov, Sen.Harsdorf@legis.wisconsin.gov, Sen.Hooper@legis.wisconsin.gov, Sen.Molton@legis.wisconsin.gov, Sen.Olsen@legis.wisconsin.gov

I agree with your stances towards fiscal conservatism. I also agree that public employees need to make at least moderate compensation concessions, but revoking the collective bargaining rights of a select group of public employees is unacceptable.

You were elected to work for the people of Wisconsin. I find it hard to believe the majority of people in this state approve of passage of this bill it's current form.

Please amend this bill with changes that will honestly move towards repairing our state's budget and respect working families within this state.

Sincerely,
Erik Johnson


...


Jay picked a helluva week to go Galt
!!!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Obligatory Election Results Post

by folkbum

Not a lot of surprises last night around here. Congrats to all the candidates who are advancing, including some winners that I endorsed (occasionally my endorsement is not the kiss of death!), and let's hope we have a nice, clean general election campaign.

Oh, and I'm still Gone Galt. I'll have more to say next week, unless someone hurts my feelings, in which case I'll pack up my steel mill blog and go home a while more.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Don't forget to vote

by folkbum

Everyone in Wisconsin has a primary to vote in today. So why are you reading the internet?

Monday, February 14, 2011

I couldn't have said it better

by folkbum

Mike Plaisted, the other day:
Just like the evisceration of personal injury law had nothing to do with job creation, the destruction of collective bargaining for public employees has nothing to do with the budget. It is rather a mad power grab by a ruling elite that will change any rule to make sure they win. It is also a continuation of the nationwide campaign by Republicans to destroy all what is left of the labor union movement on behalf of the wealthy corporations who pull their puppet strings and pay their bills.
As I noted in comments yesterday, the Walker budget "repair" bill is hardly about the current budget at all. What does stopping UW professors from unionizing in the future have to do with this year's budget deficit? Or prohibiting limited-term employees hired in the future from receiving health insurance? Or changing the bargaining rules for contracts agreed to in the future?

Plaisted is not the only one to notice that the social contract--the one that used to say public-sector work would be less rewarding paycheck to paycheck but you'll not need to worry about your health or retirement--has been shredded. Even conservatives like ED Klain know that all this budget emergency talk is plain and simple cover for the last remaining battle in the class war that is nearly over, the rich having already won the private sector:
[W]e are led to believe that public sector wages should be brought in line with those in private sector (regardless of the skewed numbers used to come up with the difference in the first place), rather than demand that the corporate class boost private sector wages instead. No, we must drag everyone down rather than lift anyone but those at the very top up. [. . .]

Anyways, we can solve this problem by fully funding public pensions and using tax dollars (though only a small portion of a public pension is funded with tax dollars) to do so, or we can bust up the public unions, put everyone on a 401k and cut taxes for corporations and the top 1% of earners – then wait while that wealth just trickles on down. We can look at this issue as one in which public sector workers are paid too much, or one in which private sector workers are paid too little. We can say “the government is out of money” and then throw our hands in the air as if there’s just nothing left to be done except cut away at public employee benefits, or we can use the various other tools at our disposal to close the budget gap.
The gutting of the private-sector middle class, from health insurance to pensions to vacations, is not because our Galtian lords and masters are just barely scraping by themselves; indeed, recall that corporate profits are at an all-time high and tax rates, especially on corporations and the wealthy, are at generational lows.

No. This has everything to do with war, and regular people have just about lost. Makes me wanna give up and move to Canada.

This is a crazy week for me, anyway, so I probably will just go Galt. Vote tomorrow, and whatever. See you.

Friday, February 11, 2011

FriTunes: Scott Walker calls out the National Guard edition

by folkbum



For the record, I promise not to throw any bottles if Scott Walker promises not to kill me or my brothers and sisters.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

WEAC BTW

by folkbum

Consider this a bit of an update to my post below about the unwisability of splitting the Milwaukee Public Schools into smaller districts. Erin Richards' more updated story is here; the MPS teacher's union response is here (.doc).

However, one thing that struck me reading Richards's initial bloggy story on the WEAC proposal, and which is missing from the printed and online versions today, is the way the story closed:
As for the reconfiguration of MPS, [WEAC President Mary] Bell called for legislators to convene a bipartisan group of lawmakers, teachers, parents and community groups to come up with a detailed legislative proposal by July of 2012 to split up the district.

Bell said these discussions would be used as a "moral compass" for deciding what's best for Milwaukee families.
Note that last part: They--it's unclear who--they will be "deciding what's best for Milwaukee," not Milwaukee deciding what's best. And this is a big part of why I have a problem with it.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

WEAC WTF?

by folkbum

You can read the all-a-buzz-buzz story here, but I have only to reiterate what I have written here before: Splitting the Milwaukee Public Schools into (let's say 8) separate school districts means you would go from having the one worst district in the state to having the six worst with two more in the bottom 20. Plus, an exponential increase in administrative costs.

What drags MPS down is not (just) institutional inertia, but rather having by far the most difficult population of students in the state to teach. Consider that the Milwaukee Parental Choice (voucher) Program, which would be the sixth-largest district in Wisconsin at 21,000 students (a quarter MPS's size), performs around or just barely above the level of the public schools when student samples are matched for demographics, according to the last few years' worth of data from the state's study program.

Granted, the voucher program is not, in fact, a district and lacks the kind of singular institutional focus that a district like MPS can--and, under newish superintendent Thorton, I would argue does--have. Yet those schools' performance suggests that better solutions lie in changing the facts of Milwaukee as a community (one of the nation's most segregated metro areas by race and class, significant unemployment and child poverty--the litany is long) than in rearranging the schools.

My standard disclaimer applies: This is not to say that MPS can't and shouldn't be doing better or different things. Indeed, I have written recently on the need to change MPS's teacher evaluation policy and will be writing soon on "hotspotting"--something Milwaukee desperately needs to try. Which is to say that the other two-thirds of WEAC's proposal today--limited merit pay and a revamp of teacher evaluations across the state--are fine by me, such as they are.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Meet Ed Heinzelman, (folkbum-endorsed!) candidate for Milwaukee Board of School Directors

by folkbum

I'm putting some key info here at the top, which is that tonight and tomorrow night, you have an opportunity to get to know the candidates in the city's only school board primary:
Coffee with the Candidates
Monday, February 7th
6:30pm, Easter Seals Lodge in Holler Park
5151 S. 6th St., Milwaukee, WI

Candidate Forum
Tuesday, February 8th
6:00pm-7:45pm, Bay View Library
2566 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., Milwaukee, WI
I will definitely be at the Tuesday event, and I will try to be at the "coffee" event tonight, too.

But I had a chance to sit down with Ed over the weekend for a brief interview, and I wanted to offer some of the reasons why I think Ed will make a great member of the board.

I asked Ed what he thought the top issues facing MPS were, and he didn't even hesitate. "Finances," he said. "People aren't talking about it enough, there's not enough outrage." He said that he's hearing from people the timely concern that state aid to MPS is about to take a big hit under a new state government. "No one wants to cut services," he said, while at the same time, no one wants to see the difference made up in property tax increases. (Aside: You may want to attend this week's MPS board budget meeting, Thursday at 6:30pm at Central Office.)

Ed is very high on GE's recent grant to MPS--$20m+ for better math and science education. "It will help get students excited and interested," he said, which will boost student achievement and graduation rates. And Ed wants more like that. "Business needs qualified employees and consumers," he said, and so local business ought to be willing to partner with MPS more than they do. He wants to pursue that, even if there might be strings attached. "Any viable alternatives have to be considered," he said.

Ed's also interested in using the money we have more efficiently. He wants to develop a strategic plan for unloading excess building capacity in MPS, including looking at underutilized--not just empty!--buildings, and even if that means selling to competing private or charter schools. "We shouldn't be afraid of competition," he said. "We should be the competition." He is "100% against privatizing public employees," he said, but he will seek efficiencies in central office and administration. "We sometimes lose focus when you get above the teacher level," he said.

Other issues Ed's hearing about in the neighborhood: school safety (though he acknowledges that the media does MPS no favors by focusing on the negative and ignoring the positive in our schools); cuts in art, music, and phy-ed; test scores and graduation rates, and parent involvement.

It's the last of these that Ed is most passionate about. He tells the story of Darrell Finch and the work he's done with the Milwaukee Housing Authority's Education initiative. By getting involved in the lives of families living in public housing, Finch has been able to boost parent involvement in their children's education and boost graduation and achievement rates for those students. "If children feel supported by their parents," Ed said, "they will do better in school." Parent education will be a key to this, including, Ed said, taking the education to where the parents live, which is not necessarily where their children go to school. He talked about partnering with the Boys and Girls Club or other groups to offer parent-student tutoring, at the same time, so that parents and children are learning together.

Finally, Ed said that he would work to get the board more often into schools and meeting with parents and teachers at each school at least once a year. Citing Russ Feingold's history of a town hall in every county every year, Ed said that the board ought to be able to do that at every school.

So it seems to me that Ed Heinzelman has his priorities straight and a good vision for what the Milwaukee Board of School Directors ought to be doing differently, particularly when it comes to getting different results at the family level in Milwaukee. It makes me hopeful to see a candidate like Ed talking about exactly these issues and maintaining a positive, pro-family, pro-teacher attitude.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

The sports team from my area is superior to the sports teams FROM EVERYWHERE

by folkbum

I flipped over my car and broke my front windows. My wife says I'm rioting wrong, but I say there's no wrong way to riot.

Congrats, Packers, you glorious socialist bastards.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Politi"Fact" at it again: Anything to attack public employees

by folkbum

I'm going to quote the end of today's Politi"Fact" column about Jim Sullivan, (folkbum-endorsed!) candidate for Milwaukee County Executive:
The would-be county executive claimed there’s only "one guy who is in charge of painting the entire Milwaukee County parks system." He’s the one as busy as that one-armed paper hanger. That comment was a pretty broad brush, since there may only be one full-time painter, but the parks use many private ones.

Sullivan’s claim was accurate, but leaves out important details. That’s the PolitiFact definition for Half True.
Let's unpack this a bit. First, Sullivan said that Milwaukee County has only one painter on staff for painting the Milwaukee County Parks--which Politi"Fact" confirms as being true. Sullivan gets his half-true rating, though, because he "leaves out important details," that the County uses private painters to get a lot of the painting done. Politi"Fact" asserts that since the information about private contractors is left out, Sullivan is telling a half-truth.

So now let's go to the beginning of today's column, this time with some emphasis added:
Sullivan also cited what he described as another example of bad privatization.

"It’s been brought to my attention we currently have one guy who is in charge of painting the entire Milwaukee County parks system," he told the Journal Sentinel on Jan. 31, 2011. "You hear the expression ‘busier than a one-armed paper hanger’ and this guy’s got to be a really busy guy."

Sullivan went on to say that if the county hired more employees to paint, they would be less expensive and more responsive than painters hired on contract.
Do you see the problem here? Politi"Fact" claims at the end--the part where they stamp their "half-true" label on him--that Sullivan left out the private painters from his statement. And yet at the beginning of the column, by their own admission, Sullivan included the private contractors!

This bald error is further complicated by the fact that Sullivan's point was not merely the single employee, or even that because there was a single employee that work was going undone or that our parks were utterly unpainted. Instead, Sullivan's whole argument is that the painting would be done cheaper if we didn't have to rely on private contractors--a claim that Politi"Fact" doesn't even bother to try to verify.

This is pretty easy to explain: The author, Tom Kertscher, and the editor, Greg Borowski, have a history of slanting their Politi"Fact" columns against public employees, actual facts be damned. It was not that long ago that we saw it plain as day in the case of Bryan Kennedy--he was held to a different standard for supporting public employees than Bob Donovan was when he attacked them.

But those were two separate columns weeks apart--easy enough for readers to forget and overlook the bias. But here, Kertscher contradicts himself completely within the space of a few paragraphs! This is malpractice at its finest, and Kertscher and Borowski should be ashamed for publishing this.

FriTunes: Try not to think of a blizzard edition

by folkbum



WPA.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

So Business Regulation and Liability Redress is Anti-Business?

By Keith R. Schmitz

Tell that to the seafood industry in the Gulf.

The View from Here

by folkbum

I can't open my front or back doors right now. I'll get out there soon to shovel, but here's what it looks like at the moment:



Note that in the middle photo there, one of my neighbors' two cars is completely buried.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Will Van Hollen personally pick seniors' pockets for the money, or does he have people for that?

by folkbum

JB Van Hollen, Wisconsin's Attorney General, declared today that following the logic-bending ruling in yesterday's health-care ruling (one of two against the law, not one of the dozen-plus in favor of the law), health-care reform in Wisconsin is "dead."

Here's some of what the now-"dead" law has done for people in Wisconsin:
• 35,998 Medicare Part D “Donut Hole” Rebate Checks: In Wisconsin, 35,998 Medicare beneficiaries have received a one-time, tax free $250 rebate to help pay for prescriptions in the “donut hole” coverage gap.
• Nearly $1 million to Plan for a Health Insurance Exchange: These grants will give States the resources they need to conduct the research and planning needed to build a better health insurance marketplace and determine how their Exchanges will be operated and governed.
• $7.3 million for demonstration projects to address health professions workforce needs
• $200,000 for State Health Care Workforce Development Grants
• $3.8 million for the Primary Care Residency Expansion Program
Plus, you know, sticking it to businesses:
167 Employers Enrolled in Early Retiree Reinsurance Program: The Early Retiree Reinsurance Program (ERRP) provides much-needed financial relief to businesses, schools and other educational institutions, unions, State and local governments, and non-profits, in order to help retirees and their families continue to have quality, affordable health coverage.
This includes Wisconsin institutions like Briggs & Stratton, Kimberly-Clark, Northwestern Mutual, Wausau Paper, and West Bend Mutual Insurance; not to mention government institutions like Scott Walker's Milwaukee County!

One of the most exciting things about the Affordable Care Act is its funding for innovative, potentially game-changing experiments in better health-care delivery. Wisconsin's health care institutions have received, so far, more than $7 million to run demonstration projects to find the best ways to deliver more care to more people more cheaply. (Everyone seems to be linking to this story of in The New Yorker about such projects, so I may as well, too.) Those could be "dead" in Wisconsin, too.

Look, I don't really know what Van Hollen intends to do now--it kind of sounds like he doesn't, either--and he probably won't actually demand the money back from grandma and grandpa. Not in this snow, anyway.

But clearly he is not interested in protecting Wisconsin's seniors, businesses, and innovators. There was no need for him to say a thing about it today, much less try to set anything in motion that will hurt the state. Yet he did! Thanks again, GOP.

New Compass column: Excess MPS buildings

by folkbum

I'm actually moderately timely with this one:
To be clear, I support the sale of these excess buildings. MPS doesn’t need them, doesn’t need the hassle of keeping them up, and could use the cash that a sale would bring. But I fully support the Milwaukee Board of School Directors in its policies about whom to sell the buildings to.
Read, as the say, the whole thing.