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Pay no attention to the people behind the curtain

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Live Blogging from State Dem Fouder's Dinner -- Deval Patrick

Couple of snips from his keynote tonight.

Addressing the issue of ending collective bargaining in Mass. -- will not happen on my watch. I will not all Mass. to be a pawn in the National Republican's plan to end public employee unions.

He points out that with labor at the table we have closed our budget gap and maintained services. A strong reaction to the gloating by the GOP-- and the state GOP -- over the vote in the Mass state assembly last week.

He did a tweak at idea that if collective bargaining is so bad, why are GOP governors making exceptions for police and fire unions.

Democrats, he points out, should talk about what we are for, not for what they are against. If we want to earn the privilege to lead, they need to grow a back bone for what they believe in -- equality, fair play, believe in people and not winning at any cost, and again, the right to collective bargain. Working people need to be able to shape their own destiny.

In times of crisis, we should turn to each other and not on each other.

"The GOP thinks elections are about their party, we feel they are about our country."





Live Blogging from State Dem Fouder's Dinner -- Peter Barca

"These times are far more interesting than we ever bargained for."

Points out Scott Walker lacks the Badger Spirit.

Certainly no bid contracts are part of that. Certainly uncontrolled powers are not part of it. Certainly not rescinding women's health plans or workers' rights.

Barca points out that he has been against recalls, but these times are an exception.


Live Blogging from State Dem Fouder's Dinner

Right now watching stirring video of the pro-democracy movement here in Wisconsin.

More to come. More to come!

RIP, Ben Masel

by folkbum

Activist and former contributor to this blog, Ben Masel, has died. Cancer still sucks.

UPDATE: Local story here.

Friday, April 29, 2011

FriTunes: Paul Cebar and Tommorow Sound

by folkbum

They're live at Turner Hall tonight, and on video below!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Weather

by folkbum

I keep wanting to complain about the crappy weather we've had here this spring, but it doesn't seem reasonable when you consider that this is shaping up to be the deadliest April ever, weatherwise. Apparently, yesterday's storms aren't done yet.

Monday, April 25, 2011

McIlheran Watch: Playing Dumb

by folkbum

I wasn't going to do this--it's spring break, I already have borderline high blood pressure, my internet has been down on and off all weekend--but since MJS calumnist Patrick McIlheran was kind enough to drop by in the comments to the other day's post, I will, indeed, draw a giant circle around a steaming pile of his blog that I was going to just let lie without comment.

That steaming pile? This--1100 (exactly!) words playing dumb about why teachers, in particular, are upset about the recent efforts of Governor Walker.

Uh, duh, is it because there are so many teachers? he dumbly asks. Or, uh, durm, is it because people hate teachers more than garbagemen? he goes on. Maybe, uhhhhh, it's the pittance we pay them--not! he opines. In the end, and here I am not paraphrasing, he asks, "So why are they upset? The short answer is that I don't know."

Which is either a lie or deliberate ignorance. From the time the first UW Madison TA sat down in the Capitol on Valentine's day, this was not about pay or pensions or insurance or halos. This was about the right to bargain collectively, about the right to belong to a union that represents me, protects me, and keeps my working conditions such that cuts in pay or pension or insurance--all of which we did, in fact agree too--are manageable and not enough to make me pack in my dream job for something more rewarding like, for example, garbageman. What's disgusting? we chanted in Madison. Union busting. Not, notably, a $7,000 pay cut.

The reason why we know McIlheran is lying or is deliberately ignorant is that over and over his own newspaper has reported on this, from the big fat liar rating Scott Walker got for trying to say he ran for office on a platform of killing unions and collective bargaining and busting unions, to the very article that stoked McIlheran's fire and repeats over and over that teachers are upset about losing collective bargaining rights.

And, apparently, he reads this blog, where I have made it clear over and over and over and over that this is not about a pay cut, but about the hundreds of other ways that I am protected because of my collective bargaining rights.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter

by folkbum

For those who celebrate it in some way. If you don't celebrate it, then happy Sunday. And if your Sunday is not happy, well, later tonight the 24-hour Walgreen's will have a lot of cheap candy for sale.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

McIlheran Watch: Busting his own myth

by folkbum

I'm still lucky enough to get an email once or twice a week from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's serial calumnist (so many thanks to iT for coining that) Patrick McIlheran. One was in my inbox this morning, regarding Sunday's column (not yet online as I write this here). The subject line was "The bargain that taxpayers may be about to lose," and if you know McIlheran's habits as well as I do, you probably have already speculated that the "bargain" has something to do with the Milwaukee Parental Choice (i.e., voucher) Program. And you are right!

McIlheran is the Milwaukee media's leading proponent of the "half-price myth," the canard that whatever the results produced by voucher schools, they're worth it because a voucher is worth half what the Milwaukee Public Schools spends on a student. This is a myth I have dealt with before (with graphs!), but the conclusion is worth repeating: MPS is mandated or obligated to spend money that voucher schools are not, and it is this unlevel playing field--the way voucher schools, for example, do not have to provide special education services--that creates a half-price appearance. When you examine what MPS considers that base cost of educating the average child, it is nearly identical to the cost of a voucher.

So what's McIlheran's plaint this week? Oddly, that voucher schools aren't getting enough taxpayer money:
Choice schools’ funding had been rising, too, until in 2009, Gov. Jim Doyle actually cut it by $165, from $6,607, per child, even as spending overall rose by about $3 billion.

There it stays, too, and that has consequences. Paul Bahr, principal at Milwaukee Lutheran High School, where about half the 681 students attend on vouchers, says the school had to cut back on spots for poor students. This year, it could only afford 59 choice freshmen.

The problem is raising enough money. It costs the school about $3,000 more per child than the voucher brings, “and that would be significantly higher if our teachers were paid what they’re worth,” said Bahr. It charges about $7,300 a year for children from tuition-paying Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod congregations, and those churches kick in another $1 million or so in subsidies to cover the school’s losses. Other choice schools must do similar fundraising, if they can.
My best response this is simply punctuation: !!!!

The second-largest agglomeration of voucher schools--the Lutherans--can't educate a voucher student for the voucher price. Lutheran schools are subsidized by the donations of church congregations to make up the loss.

Indeed, adding the "about $3,000 more" to the voucher's about $6,500 value gives us a total of about $9,500. How much does it cost to educate a child in MPS? McIlheran helpfully includes that in his piece, warning that if the inadequate funding continues for vouchers, "[t]axpayers statewide then will pay more. Children may instead go to charters, at higher price, or into MPS, where finance officials have said the cost of an added student is at least $10,000 per year" (my emphasis). I'm not a math teacher, but my basic cyphering skills suggests that $9,500 is not significantly different from $10,000.

Now, the "MPS finance officials" added an "at least" qualifier, given the added costs of special education and such. Much to the Lutheran schools' credit, they do provide special education services. (Most voucher schools do not; there are more identified special-education students at a single MPS school, Hamilton High School, than in all of the voucher program combined.) But MPS is also required by law to do a whole slew of things the Lutheran schools are not--including not limiting how many students it takes in in a year.

The voucher program was sold to us on promises that it would provide better achievement for poor students in the state's worst district. When that didn't pan out, we were told that it's a bargain, providing equal achievement at half price. And now, we're told it's not a bargain, but rather too too lean--voucher schools are going to start packing it in unless we pay them more. With the state's Republican Party prepared to approve a major expansion of vouchers in the coming budget--beyond Milwaukee and beyond poor students--any pretense that this is some great public good is now gone.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Good FriTunes

by folkbum

A couple of tracks from my favorite (agnostic) gospel record, from Susan Werner. I would like to dedicate the first one to the Koch Brothers.


Thursday, April 21, 2011

The constant campaign

by folkbum

I supported JoAnne Kloppenburg's campaign. I do not support the recount, mostly because I do not believe the votes are there and it's going to be a waste of time and money--taxpayers' and donors'.

(I do think that there is one legitimate reason to want the recount--Kathy Nicholaus--and I wish to jeebus there were some way to make her pay for it. Had she not made her reporting error on election night, we would not be recounting even with an identical margin, I am positive.)

I'm also not keen on this recount because it puts us here in Wisconsin one step closer to the dream/ nightmare scenario that is the constant campaign. Whether it's out of fear or sheer incompetence, the Republican presidential primary is running about six months behind where the Democrats' was eight years ago, and that's actually been kind of nice. It's been quiet that way. But we've got recall elections on the way, followed immediately by campaigns for next spring's municipals and the presidential primary and then 2012 fall elections (which will include every recalled-in-2011 senate seat), followed immediately by a nasty fight for Supreme Court and state superintendent two springs from now. Dragging out this year's already-completed spring election just seems cruel for those of us dreading this coming stretch, or, at the very least, good only for the lawyers.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

You know who else lies? Scott Walker.

by folkbum

I've had this story from the weekend open in a tab for a couple of days now, so I don't remember where I found it or who linked to it or what. It's a story, the bazillionth this month, about how public employees are saying "screw it" to the uncertainty* of life without a union and retiring, in some cases years before they really wanted to.

So nothing new per se in that story. But here's the lede, the part that has led me to keep the tab open (my emphasis):
To teachers and other government employees who are considering retiring because they're worried about the ramifications of Gov. Scott Walker's budget repair bill, Walker has two words: Please stay.

Employees will not lose the benefits they have accrued, Walker said during a stop Saturday at rest area 11, off the southeast-bound lanes of Interstate 39/90/94 near Poynette, where he addressed the Veterans of the American Revolution Memorial Bridge dedication.

"All we're asking for," Walker said, "is that local governments get more contributions to health care and retirement from public employees."

Unions have misled people, including those they represent, about the ramifications of the budget repair bill, which is tied up in court and not in effect, he said.

By asking public employees to contribute toward their retirement and health-care coverage, Walker said, he's merely asking that they do, to a smaller degree, what many private-sector employees already do.
Please note that this, from Walker, is a complete and utter fabrication. A lie, if you will.

A pay cut--which, because compensation, including pensions and health care, is all of a piece, is what the economic concessions amount to--was not in any way "all" Walker was asking for. A pay cut was not "merely" the extent of what the budget repair bill did to public-employee unions across the state. If that were "all," if that were "merely" it, this would have been settled months ago and we'd have long since moved on to something else to collectively ansgt over.

Instead, the budget repair bill completely eliminates all collective bargaining over everything currently covered by contracts except salary. (Salary is bargainable but capped at the rate of inflation, so not really bargainable at all.)

My current contract is more than 250 pages long (the contract before the current one is available online here as a 258-page pdf; the contract we approved last fall has not yet been published online that I know of). It is long in part because the columns are skinny and there's funny spacing and it's got lots of pages of charts and tables as appendices. And the bulk of this contract has nothing to do with salary, pension, or health insurance. The bulk of the contract has to do with working conditions--what happens within classrooms and schools to make sure that the best education for our kids is happening at all times.

The contract covers everything from the steps that must be taken when a teacher is assaulted at school to how many days long the school year is or how long a school day is. It covers how and how often teachers should be evaluated and under what circumstances they can be removed from a building or a job altogether (i.e., protecting them from the whimsy of administrators). It establishes a procedure for handling teacher complaints that doesn't involve suing anybody (see comments to previous posts about this--"just sue them" is a common "solution" proposed for handling this sort of thing without a contract). It includes a no-strike provision and a requirement that teachers live in the city they serve. It establishes a mentor program for new teachers and veterans who need help. And on and on--all kinds of things that, literally, will be eliminated at the stroke of midnight on July 1, 2013 when the contract expires.

Every public-employee union in the state has its own contract and its own list of non-compensation items covered by contract. And every single one of them--with the exception of police and fire, because those unions endorsed Walker--will lose all of those protections.

And for all of you in the private sector who say, "I don't have blah blah blah," two things. One, if you wanted, you could unionize today. Yes you can!

Two, the private sector, even non-union shops, still fall under the jurisdiction of federal labor laws. Public sector employees do not! There may be a patchwork of civil-service laws in place or redeveloped across the state--those laws were superceded or let to lapse when public employees unionized and gained the right to bargain--but in the end, there is a real possibility that all or most job protections that the private sector enjoys will be gone for public employees in Wisconsin if the budget repair bill stands and after existing contracts expire.

That is a far cry from "All we're asking for is that local governments get more contributions to health care and retirement from public employees."

Scott Walker, simply, lied.

* Uncertainty is a bad thing, from a conservative perspective, when it comes to tax rates and environmental regulation. Employees' future compensation and working conditions, though? "Oooh, please stay, whiny whiny." Bah.

Old dogs, old tricks

by folkbum

Back in 2006, medium-wave squawker Charlie Sykes tried to take credit for a thing that never happened. Noting that then-Gov. Jim Doyle underperformed the rest of the state in Sykes's broadcast region, he asked, "So what makes the Milwaukee market different from the rest of the state? Could it be.....????" The astute reader was supposed to fill in the blank with "talk radio," because Charlies' actually saying it himself would have been somehow déclassé or something.

What's funny, though, is that Doyle's then-opponent, former Congressman Mark Green, lost the Milwaukee market in 2006. But in 2002, Jim Doyle's opponent, incumbent Gov. Scott McCallum, won the Milwaukee market. Which means, if you actually took a moment to fill in Charlie's blank, you might suggest that his and other squawkers' incessant hounding of Doyle was massively counterproductive.

And here it is, four and some-odd years later, and what should be the case? Sykes is taking credit for incumbent Justice Prosser's win earlier this month. But because Sykes is an old dog, you better believe this is an old trick. illy-T says wha?
What is sad, though, is Sykes's mincing triumphalism, because what he doesn't tell you is that if his special theory has validity, then the dissembling shouter managed to impede Justice Prosser's progress in almost every single one of the Wisconsin counties he mentions.
And the numbers back this up: In every Milwaukee-market county (save one) Prosser lost vote share between the Feb. 15 primary and the election three weeks ago (and in the "save one" county, Prosser neither gained nor lost).

Additionally, now that Charlie Sykes has pretty boldly claimed that the race was essentially "Talk Radio vs. the Rest of Wisconsin," I am sure we can all expect Sykes's WPRI compadre Christian Schneider to pen a piece about how awful that is.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Things to do--fun and not--this evening

by folkbum

Milwaukee's legislators are holding a listening session on the education and health care implications of the proposed state budget. It will be held at the Greater New Birth Church, 8237 W Silver Spring Drive (map), in Milwaukee. It starts at 6 PM.

The Milwaukee Public Schools is holding another info/ listening session on the impact of the budget on MPS, at North Division high school, 1011 W Center St. (map), Monday night starting at 6:30 PM.

Drinking Liberally is meeting tomorrow night, beginning at 7 PM, at Transfer Pizzeria, 1st and Mitchell in Milwaukee (map).

And I'm still hoping to get to Shank Hall for Jill Sobule/ John Doe at 8 PM.

So, never let it be said there's nothing to do.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

An extensive but incomplete compendium of lies and obfuscations polluting the air of my state due to the dissembling nature of an Alaskan charlatan

or, Sarah Palin was here

by folkbum

I didn't watch the video linked from here--if I want to watch bad TV, there are 500-some channels on the satellite--so I understand that some gratuitous ad-libbed shots at unions and community organizers also escaped the funnel. But I'm sticking to the as-prepared speech, and since PolitiFact won't help a brother out and ID Palin's lies, I will.

She starts with puffery. "You look good," she says. Even her empty rhetoric is superficial! But now I'm being mean. Let's try it again.
Madison, these are the frontlines in the battle for the future of our country. This is where the line has been drawn in the sand. And I am proud to stand with you today in solidarity.
It takes a lot of nerve, first of all, for someone allied with those who have admitted that they are out to weaken and divide their enemies to claim to be all about solidarity. But it gets worse!
A pension is a promise that must be kept. Now, your Governor Scott Walker understands this. He understands that states must be solvent in order to keep their promises. And that’s what he’s trying to do. He’s not trying to hurt union members. Hey, folks, he’s trying to save your jobs and your pensions! But unfortunately some of your union bosses don’t understand this, and they don’t care if union members have to be laid off.
Problems abound:
  • Wisconsin is solvent. Indeed, steps taken by this governor--to turn away federal investment, to cut taxes on those already paying historically low rates, to suck spendable income out of the economy through steep wage cuts or layoffs--have weakened Wisconsin, not strengthened it.
  • Wisconsin's pensions are solvent. They are fully funded and among the best-run in the country. Where other states have raided pension funds or stolen payments to balance their books, Wisconsin has not. To suggest that any of the actions this governor has taken were to protect pensions is simply a lie.
  • The "union bosses" offered concessions. WEAC and AFSCME bosses, among the biggest of the unions and bosses, acceded to every financial demand, knowing what kind of an impact it would have on their employees. Palin lies to say the unions don't understand what it means to make concessions.
You saw these violent rent-a-mobs trash your capital.
There were no "rented" anything. The Madison TAA and tens of thousands of other real people from here--not out-of-state agitators like Palin or Andrew "Go To Hell" Breitbart--have spent more than 60 days in peaceful and respectful protest. There was no trashing of the capitol (note the professional author misspelled it) and, in fact, the protestors who slept there organized clean-up crews to mitigate what challenge their presence presented to the (union) workers who keep the capitol clean day-in and day-out. Every "tea party" or other organized pro-Walker event in the period has been funded (Palin, unlike, say, Bradley Whitford or Jesse Jackson or Michael Moore, was paid) and promoted by non-Wisconsin entities. That's the real rent-a-goon squad.
Madison, you held your ground. Your governor did the right thing. And you won. Your beautiful state won. And you know what – people still have their jobs because of it!
Technically not a lie, because many public employees do have jobs still. But local governments and school districts are going to be laying off thousands of people in the next few months. That's income lost from our economy, which will ripple through housing, retail, entertainment, where jobs will also be lost.

After which, Palin transitions to Campaign 2012 mode, aiming not at the union thugs of occupied Madison, but at DC and Barack Obama. Doesn't mean there's still not issues. Consider the way she plays the victim:
The Tea Party Movement wouldn’t exist without Barack Obama. You see, Candidate Obama didn’t have a record while he was in office; but President Obama certainly has a record, and that’s why we’re here. And hey, media, it’s not inciting violence and it’s not hateful rhetoric to call someone out on their record, so that’s what we’re going to do.
A, Obama did have a record before 2009, and B, nice to see Palin finally acknowledge that a lot of what she used to do is inciteful. She goes on:
Candidate Obama promised to be fiscally responsible. He promised to cut the deficit; but President Obama tripled it! Candidate Obama promised that fiscal responsibility; but President Obama flushed a trillion dollars down the drain on a useless “stimulus” package and then he bragged about the jobs he “created” in congressional districts that don’t even exist! That’s right; on this, White House, you lie. The only thing that trillion-dollar travesty stimulated was a debt-crisis and a Tea Party!
  • Obama did not triple the deficit. The FY 2009 deficit--the last under Bush--was $1.4 trillion. FY 2010 deficit, Obama's first, was $1.35 trillion.
  • The stimulus was not a trillion dollars, and it was also not a failure. Every reputable economist--even conservative ones!--acknowledge that it kept the economy from sinking too far.
  • Obama didn't "brag" about jobs in fake Congressional districts; grant recipients in states flubbed the paperwork, which was corrected by federal staff.
  • The bulk of the debt crisis was created by unpaid-for tax cuts, unfunded wars, and a giant giveaway to big pharma known as Medicare Part D.
Then there's a painful stretch of speech peppered with phrases like "duck blind" and "cockamamie harebrained ideas." Then she has the gall, after praising Wisconsin's Republicans for ignoring the two-plus months of constant public pressure, to say this:
President Obama, you do not have our consent. You didn’t have it in November. And you certainly don’t have it now. You willfully ignored the will of the American people.
And what is Scott Walker doing? His ratings are lower than Obama's, his rebuke in the last election was stinging, his minions are being recalled left and right--well, just right--and his union-busting proposals are less popular than Paul Ryan's Medicare-busting plans.

And then Palin lists her lies in single lines, which makes it easy:
You ignored it when you rammed through Obamacare. [NOTE: After dozens of Congressional votes and nearly a year of public debate. Scott Walker wanted five days to bust the unions.]

You ignored it when you drove up the debt to $14.5 trillion. [NOTE: see above about tax cuts, wars, etc.]

You ignored it when you misrepresented your deficit spending. [NOTE: Wha?]

You ignored it when you proposed massive tax increases on the middle class and our job creators. [Obama lowered taxes on every American. He proposed raising taxes on incomes over $250,000, which is not middle class by any definition. And what does Palin think of Walker's willingness to slash pay of people earning 1/5 of that?]

You ignored is when you went to bat for government-funded abortions and yet you threw our brave men and women in uniform under the bus, Mr. Commander in Chief. [NOTE: None of Planned Parenthood's abortion services are paid for with tax dollars. Period.]

You ignored it when you got us into a third war for fuzzy and inconsistent reasons, a third war that we cannot afford. [NOTE: Where was Palin for wars #1 and #2?]

You ignore it when you apologize for America while you bow and kowtow to our enemies, and you snub our allies like Israel. [NOTE: So 2009. Ugh.]

And you ignore when you manipulate the U.S. oil supply. You cut off oil development here and then you hypocritically praise foreign countries for their drilling. [NOTE: Must be why the US oil industry keeps posting record profits.]

And when hardworking families are hit with $4 and $5 a gallon gas and your skyrocketing energy and food prices as you set out to fundamentally transform America, you ignore our concerns and you tell us we just better get used to it. [NOTE: Much of the rise in gas prices is due to speculation on the commodities market. Obama has refused to open the strategic petroleum reserve, but that's because there's no gas shortage--just a run-up in prices fueled by traders at places like Goldman Sachs.]
Palin ends with an explicit invocation of 2012. Which I will enjoy, because Republican overreach is certain to change Madison, and the House in DC. And maybe by then Palin will know what real Real America looks like: #WIUnion.

Friday, April 15, 2011

FriTunes: Speaking of John Doe

by folkbum

Appearing Monday night at Shank Hall, Jill Sobule and John Doe. This was recorded last month on the tour:

Monday, April 11, 2011

Wha?

by folkbumThis is, of course, the twitter feed of "Across the Board," the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's editorial board voice. These are the editorials, literally, in the morning paper tomorrow: supporting the reduction of voter representation on the Milwaukee County Board by cutting its size; supporting the elimination of voter say entirely for the Wisconsin Supreme Court by suggesting justices be appointed; and, schizophrenically, encouraging greater voter participation by supporting the efforts of Jesse Jackson to get young minority adults to vote.

I don't know what they're thinking sometimes.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The discriminatory actions of the Joint Finance Committee

by folkbum (see Monday update below!)

On Monday, April 11, Wisconsin's Joint Finance Committee will be taking public testimony on the 2011-2013 biennial state budget. This will be at State Fair Park in West Allis, and they are scheduled to start hearing testimony at 10 AM and wrap up promptly at 6 PM.

Oh, how very thoughtful of the JFC, you may be thinking, bringing the committee to the state's most populous county and holding a full day of hearings in a venue large enough to accommodate a large crowd. Well, that's Republican Robin Vos's thought, anyway; “The reason we’re having them in venues that are large is because we saw all the protests that happened at the Capitol. People who told us we intentionally had them in small rooms because we didn’t listen to what people had to say,” Vos told a local teevee station.

Sure. But what about people like me, who will be working all day Monday? Remember, when teachers abandon their posts to advocate for their children, we get beat up in the media, so don't even think about encouraging us to call in sick or anything. And if I booked out of school as soon as it was over, I could maybe be there by 4:30 and get in line--only to be SOL when they turn off the mics at 6:00.

And this is the problem shared by working people all over southeast Wisconsin, as was pointed out in a news conference Friday. (I live-tweeted the presser; scroll back through my archives from Friday afternoon for more.) The point was made over and over, as parents, teachers, and students spoke to the assembled media (though not much media assembled, showing just how little even they care about this) that deliberately scheduling hearings during the working day excludes anyone who works for a living and lacks the kind of authority or flexibility to say, Hey, boss, I'll be back in some indefinite amount of time because I need to go advocate for the future of my children.

But we've always done it this way, Vos said to that same teevee station. Maybe so, but do not think for a second that this year's budget is a budget like we've "always" done. There are devastating cuts to everything--not just schools, but transit, health care, environmental programs, and more. (Not cut: prisons. Also cut: taxes for investors and corporations.) The people most deeply affected by these unprecedented cuts are, simply, going to be shut out of any chance to explain how odious these cuts will really be.

As one teacher who spoke at the news conference put it: This is discrimination. When you deliberately schedule your event to exclude those who most need to attend--and whose voices you most need to hear--it's discrimination, pure and simple.

Thankfully, a few groups are organizing methods for giving testimony that aren't subject to the discriminatory hours of the Joint FInance Committee. Starting at 6:30 AM and going all day, Monday April 11, there will be "drive thru testimony, a table set up outside of the Pettit Ice Center at State Fair Park. You can drop off your written testimony or use materials provided there to write out your note to JFC. You can also have your testimony video recorded, assuming your hair isn't still in 6 AM rollers. The Petit offers easy on/off access to I-94, so whenever you get a free moment, swing by.

There's also a rally scheduled for outside State Fair Park at 4:30, if you can attend that.

You can mail testimony to JFC: Co-Chairs of the Joint Finance Committee, State Capitol, Madison, Wisconsin 53702. Emailed comments are accepted at budgetcomments@legis.wisconsin.gov.

Monday Update: If I'm reading this story right, it sounds like Democrats on the JFC had a plan to allow additional (perhaps informal or off-the-record) testimony, but as soon as they shared the plan with Republicans--notably, Robin Vos--to get them on board, the GOP JFCers booked the room and scuttled the plan! "The hearings are going to be done when we say they're done," Vos said. That's pretty scummy, Vos. Republicans ought to be ashamed of themselves for that.

Friday, April 08, 2011

WaukeshaGate

County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus increases Prosser county vote by 17 percent

Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus
by malThe same 13-year Assembly Republican caucus computer specialist who last year insisted—over the objections of I/T experts concerned about integrity of election data—that her election results collection-tallying system must be placed under her personal control for "security" (MJS) reasons now claims to have found 17 percent more votes for GOP Justice David Prosser, after an incident in which she claims to have personally failed to save some election results.

Nickolaus claims "she failed to save on her computer and then report 14,315 votes in the city of Brookfield, omitting them entirely in an unofficial total she released after Tuesday's election." (Stein, Walker and Glauber; MJS)

Prosser said in a statement: "I'm encouraged by the various reports from the county canvasses."

Prosser, Nickolaus' former boss, made no comment specifically on the circumstances surrounding Nickolaus in which Prosser's total county vote was increased by 17 percent.

Others are demanding forensic investigations and full transparency from the secretive clerk, amid the suspicious circumstances and allegations that Nickolaus' story does not add up.

Nickolaus cited "human error" that she was glad to have discovered before the expected recount, though Nickolaus apparently sat on this error in tallying for 29 hours before right wing bloggers reported the news.

From the Kloppenburg for Justice Campaign: "Wisconsin voters as well as the Kloppenburg for Justice Campaign deserve a full explanation of how and why these 14,000 votes from an entire City were missed. To that end, we will be filing open records requests for all relevant documentation related to the reporting of election results in Waukesha County, as well as to the discovery and reporting of the errors announced by the County. We are confident that election officials in Waukesha County will fulfill these requests as quickly as possible so that both our campaign and the people of Wisconsin can fully understand what happened and why. Just as Assistant Attorney General Kloppenburg has run to restore confidence in the court, Wisconsin residents also deserve to have full confidence in election results."

The state Government Accountability Board is expected to audit the entries that Nickolaus made into her system during an anticipated recount.

Nickolaus says she found out about the unsaved data at noon Wendesday. She then "sat on this information for 29 hours before disclosing it." (Citizen Action, see below)

Also clouding the circumstances is the report that a comparison of Waukesha and Dane counties shows that Waukesha County has three times more Supreme Court-only ballots than Dane County.

Citizen Action is calling for a federal investigation, noting:

While it is far too early to judge all the facts of the situation, there are so many apparent discrepancies and contradictions in the currently available fact-base that a full, impartial, and independent investigation is clearly warranted. These warning signs that should trigger a full and independent investigation include:

During her press conference Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus claimed this was an open and transparent process. Yet According to Nickolaus she found out about this at noon yesterday. She then sat on this information for 29 hours before disclosing it.

According to 3 observers who attended the county vote canvass, the issue of 14,315 additional votes from Brookfield never came up in the room.

While it was hidden from the people in the room, others involved in the process, Charlie Sykes, a representative of the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, National Review, and conservative bloggers had the story hours before it was announced.

Kathy Nickolaus has a long history of questionable practices in vote counting. The issue of Nicklaus keeping records on her personal computer was central to the audit conducted on her last fall. Was the “human error” she is apologizing for her own personal error made on her personal computer? She has been repeatedly warned about the danger of that process and criticized for keeping information 'secret' from even others with in her own office in the past.

Court Vote Update

by folkbum

Obviously, my post yesterday about Christian Schneider's sophomoric analysis of the race--not to mention said sophistry itself--was written before the events in Waukesha Count last night seemingly settled the supreme court election, in favor of The Other Guy. So I want to update a few things this morning.

First, what I said in that post last night stands. Obviously, if you take out WaukCo numbers, whatever they may be, the rest of the state doesn't change. Where Schneider argues that Dane County's votes are all that stood in the way of a Prosser victory equal to or greater (comparatively) Gov. Scott Walker's last fall, the same can basically be said for Waukesha County's and Kloppenburg.

But the WaukCo votes move that county into second place for most-lopsided county results, behind pro-Prosser Washington County. Dane County's vote moves to third (and Prosser county Ozaukee stays fourth). I do hope that Schneider realizes the folly now of blaming some lopsided county result for the outcome of the election.

Second, the conduct of Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus is inexcusable and should result in termination. I can understand making an election-night error (though had she not, the whole week's conversation would have been very different), but then she figured out her mistake and sat on it for a day and a half.

Well, not sat on it: There's pretty good evidence that this was leaked to right-wing media sources before anyone in the County but her knew. According to listeners, Charlie Sykes, for example, was crowing about "human error" all morning Thursday, twelve hours before the news broke, and don't forget what I posted below from James T. Harris. That she would withhold results from officials and her superiors, but allow them to leak to right-wing media, is monstrously stupid.

And finally, I owe Pedro Colón a bit of an apology (and probably a beer). While I still believe there was no reason, by the end, for any Democrat to endorse Prosser, he obviously could not have swung 7000 votes in Milwaukee County, despite his influence.

Have a good weekend, everybody; I'm thinking of going Galt again.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Bed and Breakfasts vs. the Rest of Wisconsin

by folkbum

(Update: This was written before the Waukesha County Miracle Cure came to light, but I'm out all night (Thursday) and won't be able to re-run the numbers until later. Remember, though, this is not a post about Kloppenburg's winning or losing, but rather about the specious and ridiculous drivel Christian Schneider's been reduced to, a point that stands even more starkly now.)

Christian Schneider's had quite the career arc. The former Wisconsin blogger of the year has fallen from the pseudonymity of Dennis York to the questionable aegis of WPRI to, now, K-Lo's House of Crazy*. Ironically, he was most credible when he was lying about his name.

His entry today at The Corner picks up from where Gov. Scott Walker left a talking point, that the state supreme court election this week between JoAnne Kloppenburg and incumbent David Prosser was a simple case of, to quote Schneider's title, Madison versus the rest of Wisconsin. The result--an unknown attorney unseating a sitting justice, getting more votes than the last three court-election winners combined--was a quirk of Dane County's government-employee base throwing the election.

And, indeed, if you selectively remove Dane from the results, Prosser wins:
Madison’s caste of government employees recognized that in order to keep their generous pay and benefits coming, they had to turn out en masse to oppose Prosser, who they viewed as a stand-in for Walker. This self-interested intensity distorted Madison’s statewide influence--while Dane County is home to only 8.7 percent of the state’s population, the county’s voters made up 12.7 percent of the electorate in the Supreme Court race. [. . .]

Yet without the electoral bloodbath in Dane County, Prosser would have won Wisconsin by a comfortable 53.3 percent to 46.7 percent margin. The non-Dane County Prosser vote actually exceeds the 52.3 percent Walker received statewide in November. It wasn’t the state’s voters rejecting Walker’s agenda--it was Dane County’s government workers attempting to keep their paychecks intact.[**]
But that's what the professionals call cherry-picking, looking for data that fit your preconceived notions to justify them, rather than letting the data inform your conclusions.

For one thing, look at this, and tell me this is a Madison v. Wisconsin issue:

Here's one that shades in by the size of the winning margin:

For another thing, earlier today the estimable Tom Foley, Esq.***, demolishes the argument that the results were some kind of Dane-only reaction. Seriously, read that whole post. Any Republican or conservative who seeks comfort in a ridiculous spin such as Schneider's should, in fact, be deeply concerned about Republican overreach and what it's done to public opinion in this state.

For a third thing, Scheider makes it sound like Dane was the most lopsided county, or had a lopsided influence in this election relative to previous ones. Neither of those things is true. In 2010, Dane represented 11% of the state vote (to its 9% of residents), not much different from this week's total. Washington County's spread was three points wider Dane's, making it by far the most lopsided county. Two other deep-red counties, Waukesha and Ozaukee--I like to call those three the Troika--were almost as deeply red as Dane was blue. Take out Waukesha, and you get numbers close to what you get by swapping out Dane, but in reverse: Kloppenburg wins with 52%. Take out the Troika together (their vote total was almost identical to Dane's) and Kloppenburg jumps to 53.3% of the vote--the exact percentage for Prosser minus Dane. You could as easily make the argument that's the inverse of Schneider's, that the election this week was a case of the Tax-Protesting Teahadists versus the rest of Wisconsin, and you'd be just as accurate.

And just as dumb.

For kicks, you can look at the county-by-county stats here, and make up your own game of "[Blank] vs. the rest of Wisconsin."**** And for further kicks, write it up and pitch it for publication at K-Lo's House of Crazy yourself.

--
* HT JC @ BJ.

** Schneider, like so many of his fellow travelers, deliberately obscures the issue, lying to his national audience (and, likely, himself, so he sleeps better at night). As I have written before, and has been documented repeatedly, unions were willing to make concessions, up to or even beyond what Walker demanded, when it came to salary and benefits. The hang-up came from the elimination of bargaining over everything else, including workplace conditions, as well as the dramatic steps to prohibit further unionization of public employees and ultimately de-certify the unions that exist. This is, as the Republican leadership in the state has made clear, about concentrating power and decimating political enemies, not paychecks.

*** Foley's footnote habit, too, is worth your appreciation.

**** Hence the title of this post. Without Door County, Kloppenburg quintuples her winning margin, so the election was clearly a case of Bed and Breakfasts vs. etc.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Just for a second ...

by folkbum

... imagine that this said Milwaukee, not Waukesha; said Kloppenburg, not Prosser; and it was capper who tweeted it.


Yeah, me too.

UPDATE: Just a reminder of the last time the booful man had "sources":


Did Pedro Colón cost Kloppenburg the race?

by folkbum

(midday iPhone update: looks like Kloppenburg will win the pre-recount vote. I stand by the post below, as I think Colon lost an opportunity t do something for a good candidate, and for his own team)

So many caveats before I get into the post! First, as I write this, Justice David Prosser holds a scant 580-some vote lead over JoAnne Kloppenburg. By the time all the counting and recounting is done, the title question here may well be moot. In any case, the race was never supposed to be that close.

It was also a race that was never supposed to be all that heated. For as tense as the last couple of court races have been, Prosser actually was a relatively moderate and (judicially) mild jurist, and Kloppenberg was the mild-mannered and moderate anti-Prosser candidate (recall that the state Democrats pushed Marla Stephens hard in the primary). Circumstances pushed the campaigns, if not the candidates themselves, to extremes. Despite both candidates' having taken public financing (and, therefore, no contributions to their campaigns), this was the single-most expensive court race in the history of the state because it was imbued from outside with so much additional significance.

Which is why the message has been sent, regardless of where the final vote tally ends up. Kloppenburg went from out of nowhere to neck-and-neck, for one reason and one reason only--Republican overreach in Madison lately. Current-Governor Scott Walker's hand-picked successor fell in Milwaukee County, as well. It's hard not to see the night as a defeat, though not a crushing one, for Walker and the Republicans in the state legislature.

And, the last caveat, I love Pedro Colón. Way back when I first got started in Wisconsin politics, Colón was one of the few people willing to take that old Howard Dean Meetup group seriously, and work with us (remember Meetup? No? It was the Twitter of 2003). He's a good guy, literal history maker, and a solid member of the liberal community.

But I'm sitting here with the mailer I got from Colón this week, and right there at the top of the list of his endorsements is David Prosser. And on Prosser's website sits Colón's endorsement of the Justice. Prosser's judicial record is still "under construction" (with apologies to Nick Schweitzer for stealing his bit), but the endorsements page is up-to-date. I believe I read that former Governor Pat Lucey's name was off that list within a half hour of Lucey's switching to Kloppenburg.

So here's where my question comes in: No doubt, Colón and Prosser traded endorsements six or eight months ago when none of this mattered, when no one expected in a million years that so very much would be riding on this race and that the outcome would affect not just the composition of the court but potentially the livelihood of hundreds of thousands of public employees (myself included) and the course of action taken by legislative Republicans in dealing with Scott Walker. Whenever it was that Colón's people called Prosser's people and put that deal together, no one could have predicted the Recent Unpleasantness.

That doesn't mean, though, that once it was clear what was going on that Colón didn't have an opportunity--nay, a responsibility--to, as Lucey did, say Waitaminnit. He could have easily said, You know, things change, and my conscience is telling me that I need to change, too. Lucey, really, was his way out, first one through the door, if you will. Had Colón publicly and forcefully withdrawn his Prosser endorsement it would have been good press, and not only might we be talking this morning about Justice-elect Kloppenburg, but Colón's margin could have been a lot greater over (also good guy who deserved a win) Chris Lipscomb.

Obviously, there's no way to know. I do feel confident that a late announcement from Colón switching his support, and urging his voters to do the same, would have been worth some votes. How many, and whether any additional voters would have zagged to Colón's zig (What? That librul is supportin' Kloppenburg now? Prosser it is!) is not something we can ever be sure of. But this is the question that should hang over any 2011 court race retrospection: Could Colón have made the difference?

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Vote today, Wisconsin

by folkbum

First, make sure you know where. If you're not registered, you need proof of address. You do not yet need photo ID.

Statewide, this blog recommends JoAnne Kloppenburg for state supreme court. In December, Justice Prosser's campaign released a statement saying he would be a "complement" to Scott Walker and the Republican leadership of the state. He's been endorsed by Sarah Palin. If that isn't enough to sway you ...

Here in Milwaukee County, Chris Abele deserves your vote over Jeff Stone. While this spring's election is to fill the remaining year of a a four-year term (i.e., we'll be doing this all again soon--and I hope Jim Sullivan takes another whack at it), that year would be enough time for Jeff Stone to do some serious damage or for Abele to try to reverse course. Let's give Abele that chance.

Two county board seats require new supervisors, and this blog recommends Eyon Biddle and Jason Haas, the latter in particular because his opponent, Steven Kraeger, is playing dirty and using the names of popular Democrats to seem more moderate or liberal than he really is.

Milwaukee County also has a contested circuit court race. There, both Christopher Lipsomb (challenger) and Pedro Colón (incumbent) are good people. What may sway you is knowing that Colón endorsed Justice Prosser early in the race and, unlike other Democrats, has refused to remove his endorsement as the campaign has progressed.

Milwaukee Public Schools is electing 5/9 of its board today. Everyone in the city can and should vote in the citywide race, and this blog recommends Terry Falk. Susan Schmidt, Falk's opponent, would have a steep learning curve, and she currently supports vouchers and a very run-schools-like-a business attitude that neglects the reality of the job of running schools. Falk has his own flaws, yes, but he has been a public educator all his life.

In the open seat in the 8th board district, where I live, I recommend Meaghan Holman. Her command of the issues (and willingness to show up--literally at candidate forums and figuratively as a citizen activist in these troubled times) puts her far ahead of Candy Jo Lisniewski. Michael Bonds, Jeff Spence, and Tim Petersons all seem likely to win reelection, and though none of them thrill me, none of their challengers have made much of a convincing case, either.

And that's what I have for you. It's all you from here on out. Vote.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Steve Kraeger, the sketchy makeover man

by folkbum (see update below!)

I know it's almost too late, but I need to register my absolute disgust with the Steve Kraeger campaign. Now, as you may recall from last time, I am supporting my friend and ally Jason Haas in his bid to represent my county board district, the Fightin' 14th. Kraeger is the opposition.

One of the things that has bugged the everlovin heck out of me is that, three years ago when Kraeger ran for the same seat, he spent the whole time claiming, "I'll be Scott Walker's back up." I was at the candidate forums (they're still on youtube) when Kraeger was being as reactionary and conservative as possible. He never failed to take shots at his opponent, Chris Larson (now State Senator Larson), for being a liberal.

Two years later, he ran as a hard-right Republican (he lost his primary) for the seat held (then as now) by Rep. Chris Sinicki. You can listen to an interview with Kraeger from that race here (opens as an mp3), if you don't believe me, when he claims to be a "Walker-backer."

So what's on my answering machine at home today? Nine messages, for one thing, eight of them robocalls. And the first of those robocalls was from Kraeger. It opens with the usual clap-trap ("Hi, asking for your vote, blah blah") but then veers into real rotten territory:
I am also asking [you] to thank Christine Sinicki and Pat Jursik for their help in getting the Hoan Bridge rebuilt. I've been including this in my message to the state Department of Transportation on behalf of the people of Milwaukee County since I started my campaign, and on Saturday it became official, we won. The Hoan Bridge will be rebuilt.
Why is this rotten? Three things.

One, he is aligning himself with Democrats, including Chris Sinicki, whom he was just running against! Anyone listening to that call would think that Kraeger was either a Democrat or at least friendly with the Democrats and liberals (including Jursik) who represent the areas within or near this board district. This is nonsense--Kraeger is a Republican and diametrically opposed to the Democratic agenda. He's invoking popular Dems' names to fool voters.

Two, he's taking credit for the Hoan Bridge work. As Chris Liebenthal noted months and months ago, the Hoan Bridge is not in the purview of the county board (it being an interstate and all) and certainly not something a candidate should be claiming victory for. I hardly think the DOT is quaking enough in fear from a county board candidate that it did one lousy thing at Kraeger's behest.

And three, Kraeger is hiding his extreme nature. This whole campaign, every robocall, every piece of lit, every public pronouncement, is all about how moderate and pro-family and pro-business (and, according to the photos on his website, apparently very pro-military). Nothing about being Scott Walker's back-up or being staunchly anti-transit, anti-help for the poor, pro-gun, anti-alternative energy the way his previous campaigns have been.

This is a makeover campaign: Kraeger sees the writing on the wall and he knows that he could never win on a pro-Walker, pro-Republican platform in this spring's election. Indeed, he lost twice already in the last to go-rounds, once to Larson and once to Richard Nyklewicz before that, running on exactly that platform.

I do not believe for a second that Kraeger has mellowed or changed his positions one bit. (And, due to scheduling, I haven't been able to get to a forum to ask about this, but I am sure some of you readers out there have better intel on this than I do.) By hiding who he really is, by invoking the names of popular Democrats to fool unsuspecting voters, he's gone from being a character with sketchy finances to being a just plain sketchy character.

UPDATE: Statement from Rep. Chris Sinicki: I just found out that Kraeger is using my name in a last minute robo-call. I want to make it clear....I AM NOT SUPPORTING KRAEGER. He is a self-confessed teaparty candidate with strong ties to Walker. He is crediting me with getting the Hoan re-decked. This is being done because of the voices on the South Shore.

Tomorrow is election day...get out and vote. I will be casting my vote for Jason Haas for County Supervisor!

Friday, April 01, 2011

Consistency was never their strong suit--unless it is

by folkbum

Do you all remember four years ago, when the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel wrote this in endorsing the parent advocate and outsider candidate over long-serving former board member Bruce Thompson, for the citywide school board seat?
Brown-Grice is a newcomer who is well-informed about what makes for successful schools. She appears ready to make the tough decisions needed to get the district on track. The Milwaukee School Board needs fresh ideas, which is why we favor newcomer Bama Brown-Grice.
Of course you don't, because that's what they said today, endorsing Susan Schmidt over (folkbum-endorsed) Terry Falk. Four years ago, it was good to be an insider like Thompson and bad to be a parent advocate. It was good to be an insider like incumbent Joe Dannecker instead of a guy who, by their own admission, "brims with ideas" and "wants to bridge the gap between board policies and classroom reality."

The consistency is not in their position on relative outsideriness or the value of parental advocacy, I guess. The common thread here is voucher advocacy--Schmidt, Dannecker, and Thompson have all stood squarely on the pro-voucher side of things where, not coincidentally, the Journal Sentinel Ed Board also stands.

Seems like they should just admit that that's their criterion already.

FriTunes: No Foolin'

by folkbum

This year, nothing's funny anymore, so no April Fools from this blog. However, a preview of tomorrow night's entertainment, Railroad Earth at Turner Hall: