Thursday, March 31, 2011

Walker Administration Follows Court Order

Ya, it's news. The administration of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has suspended implementation of the collective bargaining bill, finally following orders from a Dane County judge. The perception of the situation didn't escape DOA Secretary Mike Huebsch who said, "DOA will continue to abide by the court orders, like the department has done all throughout this process.” If that were true, the judge wouldn't have had to reiterate her order again today. The DOA may not have been outright violating law because they felt things were unclear, but the order today wasn't a revelation, it was a clarification.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Judge Blocks Walker From Implementing Collective Bargaining Bill

Well, the big news tonight is that Dane County Judge Sumi blocked implementation of the unpublished collective bargaining bill. Since the Secretary of State hasn't published the collective bargaining bill in the official state newspaper, the bill is not yet law. The Secretary of State was earlier temporarily blocked from publishing the bill, the state is appealing the process. However, while appealing the process, the Republican administration, under the direction of Governor Scott Walker, have begun implementing policy which is not yet law.

The administration says they are still evaluating the order. Which is interesting, because they've had time to prepare for this hearing, and the judge simply reiterated what she said over a week ago. They should have seen this coming a mile away, and should have been prepared with a response. This tells me that they're still trying to determine the legal wording that allows them to implement the bill as it stands. At every step in the process to strip public workers of collective bargaining rights, the Republicans have pushed the boundaries of the law, and in some cases have acted as if they don't understand parts of it.

If Walker and the rest of the Wisconsin Republicans, besides Dale Schultz, can be so careless with the written law, how can they be trusted to follow it and enact proper legislation?

Monday, March 28, 2011

Scott Walker Begins Implementing Unpublished Collective Bargaining Bill

According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Administration Secretary Mike Huebsch is beginning to implement the changes in the collective bargaining bill despite the bill being unpublished and under judicial examination. These changes include the reduction in wages and increased benefit payments, which have already been entered in the computer system for the current pay period. Huebsch says he believes that it's his "legal responsibility to begin enactment of the law." However, according to the agency which published the bill online, their action did not enact the law.

In fact, the agency states, and all of the relevant legal experts believe that the Secretary of State must publish the bill before it can be considered law, this is why the administration is appealing a judge's court order. The judge put a temporary restraining order on the Secretary of State, barring him from publishing the bill. If the Walker administration felt that they could simply ask the Legislative Fiscal Bureau to enact the collective bargaining bill instead of waiting until the Secretary of State can do so, why bother appealing? The administration needs to stop wasting tax payer money and drop the appeal, or they need to acknowledge that the bill is not law.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Wisconsin LRB Publishes Collective Bargaining Law Against Judge and Sec State Order

The Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau published the bill stripping collective bargaining rights from most public workers today even though the legality of that action is in question. There's a current standing restraining order from Dane County Judge Sumi preventing the bill's publication, and the Secretary of State Doug La Follette ordered the LRB to not publish the bill after receiving the court order. I'm not sure who exactly controls the LRB, but it looks like the Walker administration will bend any rule or law they feel necessary to strip these rights from good hard-working people. We know that the bill won't save any money, so why must it be published when so much controversy still surrounds it?

The law is being sent to the Wisconsin Supreme Court. So, it's even more important that you vote for JoAnne Kloppenburg on Tuesday, April 5 if you support workers' rights.

Update: (6:58pm) It appears that the bill doesn't become law by the LRB publishing it on their website, though the Republicans would like you to think so. As far as I understand it, this changes nothing. Either way, it's odd that the LRB would publish the bill on their website against order from the Secretary of State.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Please Email Scott Walker

It's always so interesting how things can get "twisted". Scott Walker has been saying on television that the emails that he's been getting have been mostly supportive. Well the truth is starting to come out little by little.

A few days ago a group that did a sample of the emails confirmed that was the case. Then they removed the out of state emails (which were approximately 20% - the Koch brothers are out of state, aren't they?) Then the margin was much closer. Today a new analasis was done starting AFTER the incorrectly named Budget Repair Bill was announced and it is 2:1 AGAINST! Now that makes sense!!! That matches what the polls were showing.

I have not emailed Scott Walker at all - he already told the fake Koch brother that he was not changing his mind, not backing down ("backing down" is a subject for another post on what makes Scott Walker tick), that's why I have not emailed him.

Well it seems like the emails to Scott Walker are now something that matters - not from a perspective of changing his mind, but rather for polling reasons. So, please join me in emailing him!!! Let him know what you think of the "fake" Budget Repair Bill which was passed illegally and therefore is being held up in the courts, let him know what you think of his Budget bill, and let him know what you think of how he has managed to divide and polarize the state in a way that it never has been.

I just emailed him and let me tell you it felt good!

Here is Scott's email address:

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Two Weeks and Counting

Two weeks from today is April 5th - Election Day. Our first chance to vote since things started to go way wrong at the beginning of the year.

The incumbent, David Prosser has said that he will work well with the Walker administration or words to that affect. That is not a good sign. A vote for Prosser is basically approval for what Walker and his cronies have been doing to the state. Almost no matter who was running against Prosser, they would deserver your vote. Fortunately, we have a wonderful candidate to vote for, not just against Prosser - that is Joanne Kloppenburg.

It's all about people making informed decisions so see below for more info about Kloppenburg and be sure to visit

Kloppenburg's legal experience is broad and deep and includes constitutional law, appellate law, civil litigation, environmental prosecution and administrative law. She has argued numerous cases before the Wisconsin Supreme Court and in the Wisconsin Court of Appeals and she has tried cases in circuit courts around the state.

Assistant Attorney General Kloppenburg graduated with honors from the University of Wisconsin Law School (1988). She has an undergraduate degree from Yale (1974), also with honors, and a Masters in Public Affairs from Princeton University (1976). During Law School, she was an intern for Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson and later was a law clerk for Chief Judge Barbara Crabb of the United States District Court.

A teacher at the UW Law School since 1990, she was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Botswana (1976-1979) and remains active in professional, civic and community life. She is a member of the Legal Association for Women (LAW), a mentor with the Dane County Bar Association, an English as a Second Language (ESL) tutor, and a member of her neighborhood association board, and has volunteered with various nonprofit groups.

On April 5th there is an extremely important Supreme Court race in the state of Wisconsin. Whatever happens with the budget repair bill, it is very likely our Supreme Court—which is currently controlled by conservative judges—will have to decide whether many of the new laws being pushed through are legal or constitutional.

JoAnne Kloppenburg is running against current justice David Prosser for a seat in the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Prior to being a Supreme Court Justice, Prosser was a republican in the Wisconsin State Assembly from 1979 to 1996. Currently the Wisconsin Supreme Court is split 4-3 in favor of conservatives. The past few days have shown us how important constitutional checks and balances can be in our state government.

For more info visit:

Friday, March 18, 2011

Wisconsin Democrats Vindicated

The only Wisconsin legislators to be found in violation of a law are the Republicans. Today, Dane County Judge Maryann Sumi blocked the collective bargaining bill, because it was passed in violation of the open meetings law. Though the decision is preliminary, the judge pretty much put the nail in the coffin when she said that she saw no evidence that 24-hour notice couldn't have been given. Unless the Republicans can pull a rabbit out of their hat, they will ultimately be found in violation of the open meetings law.

The judge stated that the law's 24-hour notice is "not a minor detail" and that nothing in government should be done in secret, emphasizing the law's importance when dealing with controversial issues. "The open meetings law exists to ensure open government in controversial matters." The protests around the state the last few weeks have made it clear how controversial and unpopular the bill was, but the Republicans wanted to shove this unpopular and controversial bill down our throats any way they could.

Upon hearing the judge's preliminary decision, Secretary of State Doug La Follette reiterated the judge's ruling and his reasoning for cautious movement on publishing the bill, "All along I've tried to judiciously and carefully follow the law in a prudent way," La Follette said. "As the arguments this morning made clear and the judge I think made clear, this is a momentous activity on the part of the state. This is not some minor piece of legislation. And because of that the open meetings law was very significant and should be taken very seriously."

During the meeting in question, Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca stood trying to read the legal opinion from Republican Attorney General Van Hollen which stated that what they were doing was in violation of the open meetings law, but Fitzgerald and the other Republicans blatantly ignored Barca as if he was a fly in the room. They continued with their business, voting and walking out of the room while Barca was still trying to finish. The Republicans didn't want to even acknowledge that a law such as the open meetings law existed, and they were hoping no one was paying enough attention. Fortunately, for democracy and workers' rights, lots of people were paying lots of attention.

There's talk that Walker might appeal, but I'll say this now. The Walker administration won't appeal, because they know they won't win. If they do, they'll show they lack even more common sense than I thought. Instead, if they decide to try to strip the rights of public workers again, they'll do it through the legislative process. So, we must continue communicating with our legislators and filling out recall petitions. Next time around, the Republicans in the majority should think about the people of Wisconsin instead of their corporate donors in D.C..

Barca, who tried his hardest to stop the Republican-led committee from violating the open meetings law, and the other Wisconsin Democrats have been vindicated. The Wisconsin Democrats have shown that they support democracy and workers' rights, while the Republicans tried to rush through a corporate sponsored bill with no regard for the law. The Republicans would like you to think the Wisconsin 14 did something illegal by leaving the state, but it's the Republicans who will ultimately be found in violation of the law.

Update: (2:09pm) Just saw that the administration is requesting an appeal.

Dane County judge halts collective bargaining law

From the Journal Sentinal -

The Story of Citizens United v. FEC

This is a great video that explains a little history of corporations and the Supreme Court case Citizens United v. FEC. More money was spent by independent groups during the 2010 elections than all of the other midterm elections since 1990 combined, with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce spending the most. This, at a time when 85% of Americans believe corporations have too much power in our democracy. We need to stop supporting politicians who primarily support the desires of corporations over individuals, and hopefully the precedent from the Citizens United case will be overturned sooner than later.

Here's an equally great, but much shorter, video on the same topic from Ben and Jerry of Ben and Jerry's Homemade, Inc.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

First Chance to Vote - April 5

The first chance to vote since this whole mess started at the beginning of 2011 is coming right up. I feel like it's the most important election what I may ever vote in. It's our first chance to get people in who will support the people of Wisconsin, not the corporations.

We can also send a strong message by having a huge voter turnout that the people of Wisconsin have had it and we're making changes. The majority of those polled do not support what the Walker administration is doing and we need to show that at the polls. This is the first step in throwing out polarizing Republican officials in the upcoming recall elections.

There will be local races at the city, village, and town levels. At the state level we have the Supreme Court race, at the Dane County level we have County Exec and the corporation rights referendum.

JoAnne Kloppenburg is a vote for an independent voice. The incumbent, David Prosser will function as a tool of the Walker administration if re-elected.

Joe Parisi for County Exec will provide balance to county government.

Corporate Citizenship referendum ... corporations are not people! Vote accordingly.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Republicans Still Limit Public, Dems Boycott Meeting

Members of the public have been trying to attend the public State Building Commission meeting today, but are being turned away. The two Democrats on the panel, Senator Fred Risser and Representative Mark Pocan, are boycotting the meeting until the members of the public are allowed in. All of the seats in the room are full, but more members of the public wish to attend, and there's no indication as to why they can't.

The administration is under court order to keep the Capitol open to the public when public meetings are in session.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Mayor Shows What Collective Bargaining Looks Like

Here's a bit of good news. Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz announced today that the city has reached an agreement with the local AFSCME union to extend their contract before the bill stripping their collective bargaining rights becomes law. Mayor Dave said the union offered the financial concessions that were agreed to, saving the city nearly $3 million in 2012. If other unions make similar agreements, the city could save over $10 million in 2012. In the press conference, it's noted that this deal couldn't have been done if it weren't for the Wisconsin 14 leaving the state to give them time. From Mayor Dave in the announcement,
"This is another example of how collective bargaining works for everyone’s interest."
I believe other cities have reached similar agreements with their local unions or are in talks to, because Walker was complaining about cities working with unions to try to reach deals before the bill passed.

Fitzgerald Quickly Changes His Tune

Fitzgerald was starting to look like a stubborn animal used to transport things, if people hadn't thought he looked that way already. Even though the Wisconsin 14 have been back in the state for days, Fitzgerald was still insisting that the Democrats were somehow deterring the business of the Senate. He went so far as to say he wouldn't count the Democrats' votes.

There's been an outcry from the Democrats, newspapers, blogs, and I'm sure many calls and emails, and Fitzgerald wasn't making the Republicans look good. Then, this afternoon the Republicans voted to rescind the penalties for the contempt finding, and Fitzgerald said he would allow the Democrats their vote. It was just yesterday afternoon that Fitzgerald sent an email stating the votes of the Wisconsin 14 wouldn't count, and Fitzgerald was still singing that tune this morning (or at least not changing it).

Fitzgerald said he won't enforce and will rescind the contempt finding because the Democrats agreed to not leave the state to deny a quorum again. However, that seems like a weak reason, and Senate Minority Leader Mark Miller told the Journal Sentinel that he hasn't made such an agreement. I'd like to say it was the public pressure, but, given the massive protests against the budget repair bill which had no sway, I doubt it. Fitzgerald probably realized he was hurting his party's image and possibly doing something illegal, and so he decided to quickly pull back. Either way, it's good to have Wisconsin fully represented in the Senate again.

Open Letter: Wisconsin 14 "Made Many Personal Sacrifices"

WisPolitics has posted an open letter from an Illinois couple who the Wisconsin 14 stayed with for a week while trying to prevent the stripping of collective bargaining rights from public employees. The couple describe how they watched the Wisconsin 14 work tirelessly to try to negotiate with the Republicans only to watch "their disappointment as their pleas for negotiation were steadfastly refused.
It was a pleasure to host this group of dedicated and loyal people. We were repeatedly amazed at how hard they worked. They were awake by 4:30 or 5:00 AM and kept working until well past midnight. Each of them made many personal sacrifices and agonized that they were missing events at home, such as birthdays of their children and spouses, children’s school events, funerals, family reunions planned long ago, wedding anniversaries, and many other days that we cherish as families. Their spouses scrambled to take out loans to pay bills at home when their paychecks were withheld. They risked debt and sacrificed time with their own families so that they could represent those they were elected to serve. They spent endless hours returning telephone calls to the people in their districts. Contrary to the contents of some of the newspaper articles we have since read, they attempted daily to negotiate with their Republican colleagues and their Governor, and spent endless hours attempting to contact these legislators. We watched them write these letters at our kitchen table. We watched their disappointment as their pleas for negotiation were steadfastly refused. We, common citizens who previously knew very little about politics, were then amazed to read news releases stating it was the Democratic Senators who were refusing to negotiate."
The rest of the very thoughtful letter is here.

Fitzgerald Won't Allow Wisconsin 14 To Vote

From WisPolitics, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald sent out an email Monday afternoon saying he won't allow the Democrats to vote. He continues to think that the Wisconsin 14 are still in contempt of the Senate, but what else could they possibly do now that they're home? I'd say the Majority Leader's judgement is impaired.
"Please note that all 14 Democrat senators are still in contempt of the Senate. Therefore, when taking roll call votes on amendments and bills during executive sessions, Senate Democrats’ votes will not be reflected in the Records of Committee Proceedings or the Senate Journal. They are free to attend hearings, listen to testimony, debate legislation, introduce amendments, and cast votes to signal their support/opposition, but those votes will not count, and will not be recorded."
Fitzgerald doesn't say in the email how the Wisconsin 14 could reconcile the issue, and I don't think Fitzgerald has the authority to do this. He could care less about ethics, the votes of his peers, and the people of Wisconsin and their rights. Who is this guy?

Update: (10:13am) One Wisconsin Now reports that the Wisconsin 14 represent 2.2 million Wisconsinites who Fitzgerald is attempting to silence by denying their senators a vote.

Scott Walker must stop this abuse of power.

Monday, March 14, 2011

George Carlin Saw It Coming: "They Got The Politicians"

Now that we know collective bargaining rights for public employees don't affect the budget, and our governor would rather talk to rich campaign contributors than teachers, we're beginning to realize that Walker and the Republicans are just doing the bidding of their corporate donors that got them elected. The late George Carlin saw this coming and said it best in his 2005 American Dream skit,
"...big, wealthy business interests...They got the politicians...They want more for themselves and less for everybody else. I'll tell you what they don't want. They don't want a population of citizens capable of critical thinking -- well-informed, well-educated people capable of critical thinking. That doesn't help them. That's against their interest. They want obedient workers, people who are just smart enough to run the machines and do the paperwork and just dumb enough to passively accept all these increasingly s***tier jobs with the lower pay, the longer hours, the reduced benefits, the end of overtime and the vanishing pension that disappears as soon as you come to collect it.

The game is rigged...Good, honest, hard working people, white collar, blue collar, doesn't matter what color shirt you have on, continue to elect these rich [politicians] who don't give a [hoot] about them. They don't care about you. That's what the owners count on."
Note: As this is George Carlin, there is some graphic language.

Thanks to Bill Berry from The Cap Times for pointing this out.

There are some politicians who we've seen do care about us, and they are Senator Dale Schultz, the Wisconsin 14, and the rest of the Wisconsin Democrats, who all stood up for workers' rights and against out of state corporate interests like the Koch brothers and Americans for Prosperity.

Let's make sure politicians know that the jig is up. Recall the Republican 8, and vote for JoAnne Kloppenburg.

Rally in Washburn - Full Article and Video

Report from Rally in Washburn

Here's a little excerpt from a news article on the Washburn Rally this past weekend. The thing that struck me was that the protesters interviewed all had a grasp of the overall situation. The person that was supporting Walker seemed to think that it was just about collective bargaining and he's just repeating one of the things that Walker says ....

Scott Griffiths, a freelance artist in Washburn, also was among the organizers.

“The thing that really got me here is the disparity of wealth that has grown way too out of hand,” Griffiths said. “This is not a Wisconsin thing. This is a global pandemic of wealth buying power.”

Richard Bergsrud, 26, of Duluth agreed that it wasn’t just a Wisconsin thing. The way Walker’s proposal to strip public employee unions of most collective bargaining rights was passed into law was wrong, Bergsrud said.

“It should be a dialogue, not a monologue,” he said.

Bergsrud acknowledged he felt a little bit sorry for people arriving to the event. But he said they were wrong for supporting actions that deprived public employees of long-fought-for rights.

Not everyone who disagreed with the protesters was in the Steak Pit.

Mark Goodrich, a building contractor in Ashland, stood at the corner where protesters passed between Stage North and the entrance to the Steak Pit with a large sign bearing the words, “God Bless Gov. Walker.”

Goodrich said he had heard a few taunts from protesters.

“I know some of the people,” he said. “I have friends on both sides.”

But he added: “Collective bargaining is not a right. It’s never been a right.”

Video of Wisconsin Welcoming the Wisconsin 14 Home

At the big 3pm rally Saturday, I tried walking up the stairs of the Capitol to get a better view, but I got stuck at a rope. After a little while I started to think that was probably where the Wisconsin 14 would walk up. So I stayed and filmed everyone walking by as best I could while trying to shake hands. I think the best part is the large crowd cheering "Thank You" to the senators over and over.

Can't Protest At The Capitol? You Can Help A Lot

Yesterday, my mom told me that my cousin from Oconto Falls was looking for more information about what's going on at the Capitol. She also told my mom that she wishes she could come down to the Capitol, but with work and a family with kids she just can't make it. My mom asked me to send my cousin the link to my blog (my mom's better at computers than she thinks). As I began to write my cousin an email, I realized that there's lots of ways that she can have a meaningful effect right where she lives, some of which she might not know about. I wrote everything I could think of, and sent the email. Then I thought that there might be a lot of other people wishing and asking the same things. So, if you can't make it to the Capitol in Madison but want to show your support for Wisconsin's public workers, these are some things you can do where you live that I believe can have a real impact.

(1) First and foremost, find out if you live in one of the Republican 8 senate districts, the eight Republican senators who voted against workers' rights and can be recalled now. If even three Republicans are recalled, the law may get repealed (Walker can still veto if he dares). We have less than 60 days to collect enough signatures to have a recall election for each senator. So it's important that we get as many signatures as quickly as possible. is the best place I've found to go for information on the recall campaigns. Make sure you sign, and get as many other people you know in your district to sign. Then, watch the news for when the recall election will be held, and vote.

(2) You can help spread the word. Look at the map here. If you think you know anyone who is in one of the red areas and supports workers' rights, tell them that their state senator may be up for recall and to sign the recall form and later vote. Facebook can be a great way to easily spread the word.

(3) There's a major election for Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice on April 5th. Prosser, alleged Tea Party conservative and the current justice, was appointed by Gov. Tommy Thompson and most likely supports Walker, but now we can choose who we want to serve in his position (he ran unchallenged in 2001). His opponent, JoAnne Kloppenburg has said she's independent and will judge cases based on the facts of the law not ideology, and she most likely supports workers' rights.

A vote for Kloppenburg is a vote against Walker. Especially, since the law might be taken to the Supreme Court. Currently, the court is split in Walker's favor, but with Prosser out and Kloppenburg in, it could split the other way. If Kloppenburg wins, which may not be very likely given the massive corporate support Prosser has as we've seen with Walker, it will be a strong message that Walker is wrong. Kloppenburg can't accept donations, because she's using public financing. So you can help by volunteering, spreading the word, and voting for JoAnne Kloppenburg on April 5th.

(4) There may be other local elections on April 5th in your district with candidates who are for or against workers' rights. If you don't know how they stand, try to ask the candidate, so that all the voters know. Then vote for the candidates who support workers' rights.

(5) You may not be able to make it to the Capitol, but there are lot's of protests and events throughout the state. The best site I've found for information on events around the state is here.

(6) Tell people why unions are good. I think we as a country have forgotten the value of unions. People want to know why this whole "collective bargaining thing" matters. So it's a great time to talk about it because people are listening. If you're in a union, talk about what it means to you to be in a union, and what you get out of it, and don't forget to mention that anyone in Wisconsin can join a union. If you're a public worker, you can also talk about the value of your work, why you do what you do, and you can talk about how this law will affect you. Your story matters. Facebook is good for this, too.

Lot's of really good people are doing everything they can to help. I hope things get better, but I believe now is one of those times when action can really make a difference. The energy at the protests is unbelievable, and you see that on people's faces, hear it from people as you pass by, and are told by people who are much wiser than myself that they haven't seen Madison like this since the 60's, if even then. People from truly all walks of life show up, with no more men than women, both young and old, rich through poor, there's no better characterization than Wisconsin. We can all help each other by spreading this energy across the state, like it already appears to be.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Photos From Tractorcade Around Wisconsin Capitol

The tractorcade, or tractor parade, was so absolutely amazing I had to post a few photos as soon as I could.

Here's a short video clip:

There's definitely far more people at the Capitol today than any day so far. I'm going back for the big 3pm rally, but I'll probably post more photos later. Come on out, if you can make it because we're standing up for the workers of this state and enjoying it!

Update: (5:26pm) I added the video at the bottom, and also check out these other great photos from today at DailyKos.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Wisconsin, What Are We Fighting For?

I've been trying to come up with a few words that can describe what we're fighting for, so that our message is delivered every time we're mentioned. The protests at the Capitol in Madison began because we were standing up for workers' rights. However, during the course of this battle, we've come to realize there are other interconnected issues such as corporate influence in our politics, voter rights, and tax policy, as well as other issues that are important to Wisconsin which are being swept away with little or no public debate such as education, healthcare, and the middle class. If we don't dig our heels in now, more of what we value in Wisconsin will erode away before the next election.

So, I've been using the words "Workers' Rights" because they were straight and to the point. I could use the words to describe the rallies as "workers' rights rallies" and immediately get the message across what's being rallied for. Yet, now we're really fighting for workers' rights and other things we value in Wisconsin and are proud to have, what could be called the "Wisconsin Way."

There's a non-partisan organization that was recently started by many prominent members of Wisconsin in business and politics called the Wisconsin Wave. The organization's goals are aligned with the ideas I've mentioned here, and I fully support the effort. However, because it's the name of an organization, I'm not sure using it would have the same value. Are the words "Wisconsin Wave" good words to describe what we're fighting for?

Let me throw out some other ideas, and then I'd like to hear what other people think.

Jon Stewart had his "Return to Sanity Rally," which I admit is a good name. Should we adopt this name?

From there, I thought of "Return to Reality," which has the same message. The only caveat I have for these two phrases is that they may be too strong. I don't want people to think that we consider anyone who disagrees with us insane or in another reality. I think they don't quite deliver the correct message. What do you think?

Then I thought of cheese and the slogans used for Wisconsin cheese. Are we fighting for "100% Wisconsin" or "Real Wisconsin"? I think these phrases have nearly the same caveat as the previous two.

At the moment I think "Wisconsin Way" is the best phrase besides "Wisconsin Wave." Or do we just keep "Workers' Rights"? What are your thoughts and ideas?

Wisconsin 14 at the Capitol Saturday with Potpourri of Events

Events are being scheduled for all day long Saturday. Starting at 8am, citizens with the group People Organizing Wisconsin for Education and workers’ Rights (P.O.W.E.R.) will be walking from Milwaukee to Madison in 3 shifts, arriving in Madison on Sunday at about 2pm. Check out the route for further details.

The event that's received the most attention is the "tractorcade," which was moved from noon to 10am. "Tractors will take John Nolan Drive into Madison starting around 9:45 am and will circle the State Capitol once between 10:00 am and 11:00 am. Speakers will address the rally after the tractorcade, beginning around 12:00."

From noon to 3pm there's the "March on the Capitol" rally held by the AFT-Wisconsin union at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. entrance.

Starting at 1pm, you can run around the Capitol square as part of the "Run, Dems, Run!" protest run of 14 laps. They say this is 8 miles! But of course you don't have to run the entire 14 laps. The run starts at the State Street corner.

Art workers will march from the Overture Center to the Capitol at 2pm.

The big rally with the Wisconsin 14 begins at 3pm with music and speakers. Actor Tony Shaloub, whose sister is a teacher in his native Green Bay, is the keynote speaker. The Wisconsin 14 will be speaking as well as
  • Reverend Jerry Folk
  • AFL-CIO President Phil Neuenfeldt and IAMAW President Tom Buffenburger with Liz Shuler, Secretary-Treasurer of the AFL-CIO; Paul Moyst, president of the Canadian Labour Congress; and Ed Hill, president of IBEW.
  • AFSCME Council 24 President Marty Biel
  • WEAC speakers Guy Costello a South Milwaukee School District teacher and Heather Terrill-Stotts, principal of Arena Elementary School.
  • SEIU speaker – Anna Zachow
  • Firefighter President Mahlon Mitchell
  • Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca
  • AFT speaker – Jeff Myers
  • Voces de la Frontera exec director Christine Neumann Ortiz
  • Sheila Cochran from the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists
  • WEAC President Mary Bell
I believe Jim Hightower will also be at the rally, and he will be at the Barrymore Theater with other guests from 7pm-10pm. From the Google Calendar event:
America's #1 Populist, Jim Hightower, is coming to Madison to rally for Wisconsin workers! He will be joined by the co-founder of Fighting Bob Fest Ed Garvey, U.S Representative Tammy Baldwin, and Progressive Magazine editors Ruth Coniff and Matt Rothschild. This event is free of charge and open to the public.
Other events around the state can be found here.

I found most of this info at

Why Were Collective Bargaining Rights Stripped?

I must ask, since stripping collective bargaining rights from public employees doesn't save any money, why were these rights stripped?

Until Wednesday, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and the Republicans in the legislature insisted that collective bargaining rights needed to be stripped from public employees in order to save money and balance the budget. We've been saying all along that collective bargaining rights for public workers don't affect the budget, because legislators set the budget, not public workers.

The reason that the Wisconsin 14 were able to deny the vote by leaving the state is because bills which have a fiscal impact require three-fifths of the Wisconsin Senate to reach a quorum, the number of senators required to be present to conduct a vote. This number is one senator short of the total number of Republicans in the Wisconsin Senate. So, by leaving the state, the Wisconsin 14 used their last resort through constitutional means to prevent the vote on the budget repair bill. If the bill didn't have a fiscal impact, the Republicans could have voted on the bill themselves.

The Wisconsin 14 left the state, because they felt it was unnecessary and immoral to strip people's rights for nothing more than ideological and political reasons. The unions gave into the deep financial concessions in the bill within the first week of its introduction, adding further weight to the Democrats' argument. The only thing the Republicans needed to do to get the Democrats to come back and move forward was remove the unnecessary provisions that repeal collective bargaining rights for public workers from the bill. Then, the Wisconsin 14 had said they would vote on whatever resulted from the subsequent negotiations. So, it's obvious how the impasse could have been resolved, and in fact the Democrats proposed an alternative budget repair bill that saved more money than the Republicans' and retained everyone's rights. However, the Republicans refused to remove the repeal of their citizens' rights, citing the need to save money.

It was clear that the Republicans were dead-set on stripping rights from public workers. It was also clear that their argument for stripping these rights was based on the necessity to save money. If stripping public workers' rights to collectively bargain saves money, then it has a fiscal impact and requires a quorum of three-fifths of the Senate to vote on. The Republicans said it themselves. The Republicans were asked many times why they didn't separate out the truly non-fiscal collective bargaining provisions and vote on them without the Democrats, as they did Wednesday. Their response was always that they couldn't do it because it saves money and therefore has a fiscal impact.

Then, abruptly and after three weeks of stalemate, when it looked like the Republicans are about to acknowledge the majority of Wisconsinites, the Republicans held a meeting and declared that the collective bargaining provisions have no fiscal impact, removed the fiscal provisions from the budget repair bill, and then voted on the bill, all within a few minutes. This is the only way they could vote on the provisions without at least one of the Wisconsin 14 present. Well, they didn't need to do it so abruptly, but instead just by separating the non-fiscal collective bargaining policy provisions from the fiscal provisions. So the Republicans confirmed that stripping collective bargaining rights from public workers won't save money and admitted they were lying in just a few minutes. Now we know for certain, by legal means, that it's unnecessary to strip collective bargaining rights from public workers.

This question needs to be asked over and over until we get a straight answer. Unfortunately, I fear Wisconsin Republicans stripped away rights of most of its public workers for the benefit of the few very rich. Since collective bargaining rights for public employees don't affect the budget, why were their rights stripped?

Update: (April 21, 8:30am) Walker testified in front of the U.S. Congress on April 14th, and he was asked if stripping collective bargaining rights saved money. As reported by many including The CapTimes, Walker admitted, "It doesn't save any."

We already knew this, but it was nice for Walker to stop lying and admit it. However, we still don't know exactly why the Republicans voted for this bill. Since stripping collective bargaining rights from public employees "doesn't save any" money, why did the Republicans vote to strip those rights?

Update: (May 24, 2012) We now know that this was part of Walker's "Divide and Conquer" plan to eliminate all unions in Wisconsin, which he privately told to a Beloit billionaire heiress a month before releasing his so-called "budget repair bill."

Video of Wisconsin Assembly Republicans Stripping Collective Bargaining Rights

The Republican tricks continue, possibly illegal tricks. For the second time on a vote to strip collective bargaining rights from public employees, Republicans cut off debate. Here's the, as you can imagine, short clip from WisconsinEye.

I must ask, if collective bargaining rights for public employees have no fiscal impact, why were these rights stripped?

Is The Wisconsin Budget Repair Bill Unconstitutional?

Several complaints have been filed with the Dane County District Attorney and the State Attorney General regarding Wednesday's vote to strip rights from public workers. All of the complaints state that the Republicans violated the Open Meetings law and ask that all actions taken in the meeting be voided.

However, that's not the only issue with the bill stripping collective bargaining rights from public workers. According to the Daily Kos, there are two other rules that the Republicans violated, but most of all the bill itself may be unconstitutional. When the Republicans removed all of the fiscal provisions from the bill, they accidentally or intentionally left a few fiscal provisions. The first is the reductions in the benefits of public employees, and the second is a provision that allows the state to sell its power plants without asking for bids. I need to look, but does anyone else know if there a severability clause in the bill?

There's definitely more to come on this front, but no matter what, we have to keep voicing our thoughts, because the best we can get before a recall is a re-vote. So we'll want to make sure the next time around the Republicans know where the majority of Wisconsinites stand.

Update: (3/14/2011 10:10pm) The provision to sell state power plants was not left in the bill.

Fox News Lies, And It Hurts America

The watchdog group Media Matters for America has released a video that is pretty good at showing the overt lies from Fox News regarding the workers' rights protests in Wisconsin. It's important what Fox News says, because, as they say, they have more viewers than any other cable news network. If Fox News intentionally lies, which they have been shown to do time and again, they are intentionally skewing the views of a large portion of American voters. Americans assume that a news organization tells the truth, or at least if they realize they had the facts wrong, issues a correcting statement. Fox News doesn't do this. So most viewers will accept the lies from Fox News, because they don't have the time to do the fact-checking we expect news organizations to do before making public statements.

When will we stop calling Fox News a news organization? Or when will Fox News be forced to do so for misrepresentation? The press is referred to as the fourth branch of government because it provides further checks and balances on the three branches of government. I think it may be time for the other three to provide some checks and balances on the fourth.

I truly believe that the main reason this nation is so polarized is because many in this country are deliberately misinformed, and Fox News isn't the only culprit. We can add radio personalities such as Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, and Glenn Beck. For example, a poll published last month found that 51% of Republican voters think Obama is not a U.S. citizen. This, even though the Hawaii newspaper of record from 1961 has his birth listed, and the state of Hawaii has issued certified letters of birth which is exactly what any Hawaii-born citizen has. Somehow either this information isn't being passed to 51% of the Republicans or additional information is being concocted to add doubt. This is one example, but a very telling example. Nearly 25% of this country think our president is not a U.S. citizen, contrary to fact. Other studies have shown that Fox News viewers are the most misinformed on various issues, and this journalist agrees with me, calling out CNN as a contributor as well.

This falsification or fabrication of facts will inevitably stall progress, because we can't have genuine debates if the people we're debating with base their views on misinformation, particularly if they're not willing to listen to reason. It's the Republicans at the top who encourage and spread the fabrications that are the cause for the majority of progress's stall. They're the people the Democratic leaders have to negotiate with. However, I believe they do this, because they can always go on Fox News and say such things without a hint of rebuttal, and the misinformed believe the Republicans are correct. If the Republicans didn't have such a large venue to spread their fabrications, they would have to accept reality.

It's time to call Fox News what it really is, just Fox. That's how I'll refer to this media organization until they become a news organization, if they so desire. But more importantly, we have to loudly call out those who intentionally perpetuate myth as fact, and politely help those who are victims of misinformation get the correct information.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Wisconsin Assembly Passes Bill Stripping Rights

If you're late to the party like I am, this may be news to you. At the most inconvenient time, I had other business besides the battle in Madison this afternoon and evening. So, unsurprisingly, I checked the news when I returned and the Assembly passed the bill which was passed last night by the Senate stripping collective bargaining rights from most public employees.

I'm sure this was a spectacle, too. So I plan to post a video as soon as I find one. According to WisPolitics, the Republicans cut off debate before every Democrat had their chance to speak again.

The Capitol building is being cleared for another night. Some protesters are being carried or dragged out, but no arrests have been reported. Capitol Police Chief Tubbs has promised, "The building will be open at 8 o'clock tomorrow morning."

Legislators Receiving Threats

Republican legislators have been saying that they've received many threatening emails since last night. I don't condone such things in any way. However, I don't know how the Republicans didn't expect it. They are threatening hundreds of thousands of people's livelihoods. It's easy to use stronger language in an email than one may truly intend. I myself have to take a deep breathe and read many of my emails to politicians over and over, softening the tone every run. I suspect the Republicans have received very few emails, and they are only trying to amplify them.

Even though the emails are wrong, they do exist, and the Republicans should think about why they're receiving emails with such strong language. Wisconsinites aren't violent people, as the protests have demonstrated, but stripping away collective bargaining rights is not helping a guy when he's down. Many people are clearly very hurt and upset by what their government has done.

Let's keep a civil tone, death threats don't help anyone's cause. Also, email is not anonymous, if you do threaten someone's life, you will most likely spend time in jail.

Take your pain, your hurt, and your anger, and focus it on attending rallies, recalling the Republicans, and enlightening your fellow citizens who may get their news from Fox News. This is where the trouble lies, in lies.

Update: (3/11/2011 5:14am) I've read some of the emails that have been posted on the Internet, and I'm astonished and bothered to say the least. No one should expect to receive emails such as those, nor should anyone be the recipient of such emails. I seriously underestimated the potential tone, and I take back my comments about the Republicans not expecting threatening emails and for saying they're trying to amplify the emails. The gist of this post is, think before you hit Send or Save. I clearly didn't take the time to analyze my quick conclusion, and you and the Republicans deserve better.

Edit: (8pm) Clarified my thoughts by removing wording and adding a sentence to the end of the first paragraph. 

The Speaker's Judgement Is Impaired

Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca tried to have Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald, brother of Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, removed from his post citing his "impaired judgement." Unfortunately, for the state of Wisconsin and its public workers, this will probably fail. We live in "Fitzwalkerstan," but didn't know it.

However, Barca has also filed a complaint with the Dane County District Attorney regarding the legality of the vote last night. Barca asks that the vote be voided "to avoid irreparable injury to the public." This probably has merit, as the Republican State Attorney General wrote a memo last year expressing the illegality of not providing proper notice.

Update: The measure to remove Speaker Fitzgerald failed as I wrote the post.

The Fight Continues

I don't think anyone could have anticipated yesterdays turn of events. They figured out a way to push the part of the bill stripping worker rights through and they did it. Word is that it will be approved in the Assembly today.

So, it's now totally clear that Scott Walker and the Republicans have an agenda - there will be no reasoning with them, there will be no bi-partisanship. I think that now that they have done that as they shove more and more legislation through with all Republicans voting yes, and all the Democrats voting no - it will be like sharks to blood. This will not be better, it will get worse. We have to go after them at the ballot box.

Our first chance to do that is the Supreme Court race on April 5. Prosser has huge backing from the Walker group - watch for ads very soon that praise Prosser and discredit JoAnne Kloppenburg.

JoAnne has to win this election - we cannot have Walker backed Prosser win.

I think the angle has to be Prosser = Walker. The latest polls I've seen have Walker's approval rating well below 50%, so if we can associate Prosser with Walker, it should take him down.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Thousands Storm Capitol, Occupation Resumes

Thousands of protesters stormed the Capitol passed police officers after the Republican vote stripping collective bargaining rights from public employees. Thousands more are said to be descending upon the Capitol.
The ground floor and first flood appeared nearly as full as they were during the first days of the demonstrations more than three weeks ago, and protesters stayed in the Capitol defiantly chanting “recall” and “Whose house? Our house!”
Please, remember This Is A Peaceful Protest!

Also, the website is very slow, most likely from an overload of traffic.

Update: From GrumpyWarriorPoet, who was part of the storming of the Capitol, the protesters are peaceful, and the police haven't asked anyone to leave. They have asked the protesters to remove sticks from there signs, and everyone is complying.

A live stream from the Capitol is here.

Video of Republicans Stripping Collective Bargaining Rights

Reminiscent of the tricks used in the Assembly to pass the provisions to strip collective bargaining rights for public employees, the Senate snuck a vote to strip those same rights. Here's the video from WisconsinEye you must see.

Michael Moore asked on MSNBC anyone within 50 miles of Madison to drive to the Capitol now. He gave a very emotional call to come out tonight and tomorrow.

Democrats Come Home To Defend Wisconsin

Senate Minority Leader Mark Miller says, "It’s time for us to join the fight back in Wisconsin," Miller said. "It’s now a political fight that will be decided at the ballot box."
Senator Erpenbach said on MSNBC that he believes the vote will end up in court. The video is ridiculous. Check it out on WisconsinEye.

Update: (8:15pm) Senator Erpenbach on Rachel Maddow says that there are more tricks the Republicans can play. So the entire Wisconsin 14 will remain out of the state.

Wisconsin Senate Republicans Strip Collective Bargaining Rights

Late this afternoon, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald called a special session of the Senate for 6pm this evening. Apparently, they voted for the budget repair bill without the presence of the Democrats. Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca says the actions are most likely illegal and plans to request the AG investigate. Barca said, "It is a continuation of a pattern of a naked abuse of power." The fiscal provisions were removed from the bill, leaving the stripping of collective bargaining rights for public employees and possibly other policy provisions.

If the Republicans have any legal standing to vote on this bill, it means it has no fiscal impact. Read that again, collective bargaining rights have no fiscal impact.

Update: Chris Matthews is calling it the "Ash Wednesday Ambush."

According to Barca on MSNBC, the law states that the Republicans need to give 24 hours notice before such a meeting. Without such notice, the vote is illegal. However, the only recourse will be to have the Republicans give proper notice and re-vote. Now's the time to contact your representatives and let them know how you feel.

The overwhelming majority of Wisconsinites asked for compromise, and this is what we get?

Update: The bill is here. The stripping of collective bargaining rights for public employees remains, as well as all of the union-busting provisions. We were told these provisions are needed to balance the budget, but they couldn't be voted on if they have a fiscal impact. So why did the Republicans just strip collective bargaining rights from public employees when Wisconsin strongly opposes that?

Miller Gives Republicans Three Choices

In a letter to Gov. Scott Walker and the Republican leaders of the Assembly and Senate, Senate Minority Leader Mark Miller gave the Republicans three choices. The choices reflect our wishes and the polls from the beginning. They can "restore the collective bargaining rights" in the budget repair bill. If they want to save more money, they can scrap Walker's budget repair bill for the Democrats' alternative. If neither of those two options seem satisfying enough to the Republicans, Miller gave them the third option of continuing to "keep lines of communication closed."

We've been saying it all along, Republicans, the ball is in your court. It's time to show at least a little leadership and move Wisconsin Forward.

Here's the letter from Senate Minority Leader Mark Miller:

Dear Governor Walker, Majority Leader Fitzgerald and Speaker Fitzgerald:  
After three weeks of discussions, debate and unprecedented input on proposed budget adjustment legislation, the people have clearly said they want us to reach a negotiated settlement that protects worker rights.  It appears there are now three options before us. 
With an agreement between all parties, the bill currently before the Senate could be amended. Limited, preliminary discussions have occurred and, as you know, the Senate Democratic caucus would support modifications that restore collective bargaining rights for Wisconsin workers. 
Yesterday, Assembly and Senate Democrats offered a clean slate bill that resolves our fiscal issues and accepts the economic concessions workers have offered to make. Taking up this bill would allow everyone to move forward without anyone having to take back votes or cross lines in the sand.
Or, despite overwhelming public support for a negotiated settlement that preserves worker rights, you could keep lines of communication closed.   
We look forward to hearing from you as soon as possible to discuss our options to move Wisconsin forward. 
State Senator Mark Miller

Public Employees Not Paying Their Fair Share?

The National Republican Trust is running a despicable ad that tries to demonize public employees with lies. The ad says public employees work less hours and get paid more. This is a flat-face lie. Many studies have shown this to be false. As an example, the recent study from the Center for Governmental Research found that skilled employees in public sector jobs are paid less than their private sector counterparts. Low-skill jobs in the public sector, such as janitors, have better benefits than their private sector counterparts, but that's because fewer private sector employees are in unions, and the salaries for these jobs average between $10,000-$20,000. This is under the poverty line for most families. Yet, the ad wants you to think that public employees aren't paying their fair share. So they want the poorest public employees to pay more, and they want the rest to make even less than their private sector counterparts.

The ad also wants you to believe the budget crisis is the fault of our public employees, which we know is not true. On top of that, even though the unions have agreed to all financial concessions, the ad wants you to believe the unions are demanding more from taxpayers. If that isn't enough lies for you, the ad says the protesters are using taxpayer money to take off of work so they can protest.

If you make less than public employees with the same job, you and your coworkers can join a union to negotiate better wages, hours, and benefits. That right doesn't need to be taken away from our public employees.

I think someone should make an ad detailing all of the time and money wasted by the stubbornness of Walker and the Republicans.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

WI Dems' Budget Saves Money and Unions

The Democrats in the Wisconsin Senate have introduced a bill similar to the bill introduced by the Democrats in the Assembly which fixes our budget's fiscal issues, keeps collective bargaining rights for public employees, and saves more money than Walker's plan. The previous alternative budget repair bill failed in the Assembly a few weeks ago. So here's to hoping the Republicans have been paying attention now. The alternative bill is proof that the collective bargaining rights have no effect on the budget, but it also shows where the Republicans' priorities are.

Here's the press release, a memo on the bill, and the alternative bill.

Walker Says He's Negotiating, But Is He?

Gov. Scott Walker released emails of conversations between himself and Democrats to show that he's negotiating. The emails do in fact show proposals and counter-proposals between Walker and some of the Democrats. However, he's trying to negotiate just how many collective bargaining rights he can strip away. Collective bargaining rights for public employees are not under negotiation. We know they have no effect on the budget. The repeal of collective bargaining rights for all public employees must be removed from the bill, and negotiation on other aspects of the bill need to take place. That's what we're talking about.

Read the emails for yourself to see just how surgical the proposals are to collective bargaining rights.

Wisconsin Republicans Should, But Don't Compromise

Republican Senator Rob Cowles told the Green Bay Press Gazette that he believes the Republicans should be willing to compromise on collective bargaining and other non-fiscal provisions in the budget repair bill. “The important part is the monetary concessions. That’s the part that helps balance the budget. The other things are less monetary in nature,” said Cowles, who is the latest Republican to admit collective bargaining doesn't affect the budget. I'm glad to see two Republicans now think we can negotiate on non-fiscal items. Yet, there are many ways a budget can be balanced, and even though the Republicans insist they know best, based on their latest behavior, I'm skeptical to say the least.

Instead of compromising, the Republicans seem like they're just sticking their fingers in their ears and shouting near obscenities. Last night I commented on the dramatic difference in behavior between Rep. Cory Mason (D) and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R) on MSNBC's The Last Word. By the end of the interview, Fitzgerald was so agitated that it made me uncomfortable. I attributed the behavior to the massive public pressure the Republicans are under. Today, The Cap Times has an editorial comparing Senator Mark Miller's (D) letter to Fitzgerald with Fitzgerald's letter in response, and they noticed the same stark contrast in tone. Fitzgerald's behavior is reminiscent of Charlie Sheen. Would Fitzgerald be acting this way if he truly felt he was on the right side of history?

Fitzgerald isn't the only Republican acting up. Republicans U.S. Representative Jim Sensenbrenner and Wisconsin Senator Leah Vukmir walked out on a town hall after about 30 minutes, because they didn't want to talk about the issues with the budget repair bill.

Meanwhile, the Wisconsin Democratic Party say they have reached 15% of the required number of signatures to recall the Republican 8 in the first weekend, and Republican Senator Dan Kapanke said he figures they'll get enough. So, it seems the Koch addiction is strong, confusing the Republicans into political suicide instead of standing up for the rights of Wisconsin workers.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Tractor Parade Saturday at the Capitol

This Saturday at 10am, farmers from across the state will be driving their tractors around the Capitol in a "tractorcade."

Next week, farmers from across the dairyland will bring tractors and solidarity to the WI capitol to fight for labor rights and a just state budget. Rural communities will be disproportionately hurt by the cuts to education and BadgerCare, as well as Gov. Walker’s decision to eliminate funding for other sustainable agriculture initiatives such as the Buy Local Buy Wisconsin program.
Family farmers in Wisconsin stand with state workers, and all working and middle class families in the state.  An injury to one is an injury to all!  The event is sponsored by Family Farm Defenders, Wisconsin Farmers Union and Land Stewardship Project, among many others.   All farmers and eaters welcome and encouraged to come!
You can also sign up for this event and spread the word through Facebook:
That will definitely be something to see!
Tractors will take John Nolan Drive into Madison starting around 9:45 am and will circle the State Capitol once between 10:00 am and 11:00 am.
Speakers will address the rally after the tractorcade, beginning around 12:00 Noon.   Invited speakers include:   Joel Greeno, Dairy Farmer, Sarah Lloyd,  Dairy Farmer, Tony Schultz, Vegetable and Beef Farmer, and Jim Hightower, national commentator and former Texas Agriculture Commissioner.  Additional speakers and musical artists to be announced.
If you are a farmer please wear GREEN!    We would like to be able to see you all in the crowd!   Others are encouraged to bring placards, cow bells, and other signs of solidarity.
Update: (3/11/2011) The times have changed to 10am-2pm.

Wisconsin Republicans Under Massive Public Pressure

Rumors have been at nearly a fever pitch for the last week. So it's been difficult to know what to believe lately. One thing is for sure, the Republicans are really starting to feel the mounting pressure. Last week, I highlighted some of the early tactics the Republicans were resorting to, and then Friday they bi-passed constitutional law to issue an order for the arrest of the Wisconsin 14. The pressure only continues to increase, and it's starting to show on the Republicans.

I just watched Rep. Cory Mason (D) and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R) on The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell. The biggest take-away from the debate was how much differently the two behaved. Mason was calm, respectful, and answered the questions asked of him. Fitzgerald, who called in, sounded agitated and was very lippy to Mason, O'Donnell, and anyone else he could direct his anger at. On top of that, but somewhat usual, Fitzgerald neglected to directly answer most of the questions asked of him. Neither Walker or Fitzgerald looked much better in their earlier press conference where they reiterated their desire to not compromise. These are the most telling signs that the pressure is starting to wear on the Republicans.

Who can blame them? The polls continue to show a consistent, if not increasing, strong opposition to the plans of Gov. Scott Walker and the Republicans. Even conservative-leaning polls can't get the numbers to spin their way. For example, the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute couldn't get more than fifty percent to side with Walker on collective bargaining if told the local governments need it. Fifty-eight percent of respondents in that poll are opposed to Walker's plan without that qualification.

Lawsuits against the Walker administration are starting to pile up. Last week Monday, the Wisconsin State Employees Union sued Walker for unfair labor practices. The complaint is that Walker refused to negotiate with the union, in violation of state law.

The Associated Press and the local Madison newspaper the Isthmus sued Walker on Friday for not revealing details about emails. Walker has said that he's received more than 8,000 emails in support of his plan, but he's resisted providing any further information. The lawsuit states Walker is in violation of the Wisconsin Open Records law and asks Walker to be ordered to release the emails.

Today, the Wisconsin Democratic Party filed a complaint with the Government Accountability Office. This is similar to another complaint filed two weeks ago. We all remember the prank phone call between Walker and a faux David Koch. The two main issues in this complaint relate to that call. The first issue is a possible campaign finance law violation when Walker asked Koch for help in shoring up support. The second issue has to do with Walker admitting that he would layoff workers as a political tactic. This would be unfair labor practice.

I also wanted to highlight a very interesting comment from Sen. Fitzgerald on The Last Word. Fitzgerald admitted that the Obama stimulus saved Wisconsin, and he said that we're in trouble because there is no more stimulus.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Wisconsin Wave

I just saw this article about the Wisconsin Wave, and I think it's what most of Wisconsin has been asking for. They had a rally Saturday at the Capitol with some prominent members of our state.

It's a non-partisan Wisconsin movement that stands for these basic things:

  • Our state government must guarantee a fully funded public sector including education, health care, human services, transportation, public safety, and vital regulatory agencies.
  • Taxes on large corporations and wealthy individuals should be returned to reasonable levels in order to solve the state’s fiscal crisis.
  • The state must respect the rights of workers to organize unions and bargain collectively.
  • Initial budget priorities must be established through public participation instead of closed door meetings between public officials and special interest lobbyists.
  • Voting rights must be expanded, not limited, to insure that every Wisconsinite can take part in our democracy.
  • Wisconsin deserves government of, by, and for the people, not the corporate elite; corporations have no constitutional rights and may not buy our elections or government.

Wisconsin Wave seems to be the most organized group aligned with the interests of the protesters, and it includes many leaders from our communities. We really need to get behind a few good organizations, so we can focus our energy best.

A Day At The Madison Workers' Rights Protests

I went to the protests at the Capitol today, and I wanted to share some thoughts.

The atmosphere hasn't changed much since the first week, everyone is still upbeat and social. There was a little more optimism in the air than the previous week.

I love that people bring their dogs. I've seen more types of dogs in the last few weeks than I probably have all year.

The musicians are one of the best parts of the protests. No matter where you walk, you can hear music.

The speakers are always emotional, thought-provoking, entertaining, and energizing, even on cold days. Today we were treated to a few surprise musicians at the podium following the speakers. Everyone who's involved in those "productions" does a superb job. Though, we did a pretty good job ourselves the first few days, too.

As I mentioned in another post, there is a very large number of police at the Capitol compared to previous weeks. Odd, considering, as I'm sure Walker will point out, the crowds weren't nearly as large as the 100,000-plus crowds the last two weekends. Many of the officers are not from the area, as you can tell from their uniforms, and some are State Police who were present before. All of the police I ran into were cheerful and courteous, but they do look like "palace guards" in the sheer number of them walking around.

I finally got into the Capitol building for the first time since the metal detectors showed up. I didn't feel like waiting in the long lines, but today I snuck in when the line was short. All of the signs have been removed from the Capitol building walls. We were told by the Capitol Police Chief Charles Tubbs that all of the signs would stay. That's very disappointing. I asked the clerk at the information desk why the signs were removed, and she said, "The DOA has the final say."

Walker's Stubbornness Costs Wisconsin Taxpayers

Have you seen how many police are at the Capitol recently, and all the different uniforms? We know that Rep. Nick Milroy was tackled by a Two Rivers police officer. How much is this, what appears to be, hugely unnecessary show of force costing the taxpayers of Wisconsin? How many police officers are being paid overtime so this duty can be performed? Are their hotels, food, and travel expenses paid for? For the officers' sake, I hope so. However, should the taxpayers of Wisconsin be paying to make Walker feel better?

What about the costs of all of the metal detectors, when there hasn't been a hint of violence?

What about the costs of sending police multiple times to the homes of the Wisconsin 14 as political stunts?

What about the costs to clean the grounds from rallies for and against Walker? The unions have been cleaning up the Capitol every night, and they also plan to contribute money towards cleaning the grounds. Yet, if Walker wouldn't have demanded stripping collective bargaining from public employees, or would have compromised in any reasonable amount of time, we could have all been saved this trouble. Everyone knows the protesters would rather be somewhere else.

Walker Should Publicly Debate Collective Bargaining

I want to see Gov. Scott Walker publicly debate with any one of the Wisconsin 14 why collective bargaining should be eliminated for public employees. We didn't get to see a debate about collective bargaining, because Walker never mentioned such intentions during his campaign and the Republicans cut off debate in both houses. If he believes in his plan so much, it should be very easy for him to debate it.

It should be a prime-time televised debate. Then we can all see what it's really about.

Of course, the debate can't happen face-to-face unless Walker and the Republicans agree to not force a vote, but satellites work just fine too.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Rep. Nick Milroy Tackled By Police

I'm not sure why this happened, police have yet to make an official report. It's not the Capitol Police. It was an officer from the Two Rivers Police Department. I assume he didn't know who Milroy was. I'm not blaming the police officer, who was obviously ordered to patrol an area he's not familiar with. If I blame anyone, I blame the administration for creating the situation.

Note: I don't know who "Fixed News" is. It just happened to be the best YouTube video I could find.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said that he has thought about hiring private contractors to physically force the Wisconsin 14 back into the state (Saw this on Rachel Maddow, still looking for a print reference), what some people call bounty hunters. This is not how democracy works.

Wisconsin Republicans Should Be In Contempt, Not Wisconsin 14

The Republicans in the Wisconsin State Senate voted unanimously Thursday to approve a resolution finding the Wisconsin 14 in contempt of the Senate and ordering their arrest. However, this doesn't mean they're committing any criminal act, and the Wisconsin State Constitution explicitly prohibits their arrest except for in a few special cases that clearly haven't occurred. The Republicans can execute any lawful action to "compel" the WI 14 to return, but they cannot be arrested. By leaving the state, the Wisconsin 14 aren't doing anything illegal. If they were, they would've been extradited from Illinois. In fact, they're supporting democracy and doing exactly what the Founding Fathers encouraged.

This all has to do with something called a quorum. A quorum is the fewest number of members that must be present in the Wisconsin Senate in order to do various things. That number is different depending upon what the Senate is doing. To vote on fiscal matters, the number needed to reach a quorum is 20, three-fifths of the Senate under Section 8 of Article VIII of the Wisconsin Constitution. Even though the Republicans have a majority with 19 members, they can't vote on the budget repair bill themselves because they can't reach a quorum.

Quorums are written into the Wisconsin Constitution and the United States Constitution to protect us. The problem is that we have a democracy in the United States and the State of Wisconsin, but we don't directly vote on bills. We have a representative democracy. So representatives can get elected, and then vote differently than they campaigned. We don't want to elect a small majority of representatives who said one thing to get elected, but when elected pass laws they never talked about and most of us don't want. So how can that be prevented?

This issue was debated openly in the Federalist Papers and other writings, as well as most likely in writing the Wisconsin Constitution. The U.S. Senate has a few ways to delay or prevent a bill from passing, including the filibuster. The filibuster is a power unique to the U.S. Senate. We have quorums for the other legislative bodies in the United States and the State of Wisconsin to protect us.

By requiring a minimum number of senators to vote, a quorum can protect us from senators who wish to impose laws that are opposed by the majority of the public. The Wisconsin Constitution specifically states that three-fifths of the Senate must be present for a quorum on fiscal matters. This was done in part to protect us from a small majority of senators who aren't following the will of the majority of the people. Unless three-fifths of the Senate believes a fiscal bill is worthy of a vote, it should not take place. So senators can deny a quorum to protect the public and prevent such a bill from passing.

Denying a quorum is a tactic that should only be used as a last resort to stop widely unpopular laws created by a representative majority, and clearly this is such a time. Still, there can be penalties for denying a quorum, because we don't want them happening often. Otherwise, we may never get anything done.

The ultimate penalty comes from the voices and actions of the public. Legislators who deny a quorum for an unpopular vote will suffer little, if any, backlash from the public. In fact, as we've seen in Wisconsin, they can receive significant support. Yet, legislators who deny a quorum for a more popular vote will be persuaded by the public to return, as we've seen in other cases.

The Republicans in Wisconsin never mentioned their desire to eliminate collective bargaining rights during their campaigns. They received a majority representation in both the Assembly and the Senate, as well as the governorship for various other reasons, but not to eliminate collective bargaining rights for public employees. Had they campaigned to eliminate those rights, they probably wouldn't have a majority or the governorship. The Wisconsin 14 are rightfully preventing this small number of people from passing a law that the majority of Wisconsinites strongly oppose.

The Republicans are trying to eliminate rights that were fought long and hard for like many other rights we revere and enjoy. This political fight is clearly not about the money. If anyone is in contempt of our Senate, it's the Republicans for trying to force an unpopular vote by personally threatening these people. However, I'm not sure that falls under the legal definition of contempt either.

On a lighter note, the Republicans may remember that Abraham Lincoln jumped out of a window to deny a quorum in 1841. That's probably why the windows of the Capitol were recently bolted shut.

Update: (3/6/2011) The CapTimes has an article that includes a quote from a law firm confirming my assertion that the Republicans have no basis to arrest the Wisconsin 14. From a legal analysis conducted by the law firm of Cullen, Weston, Pines & Bach, "None of the 14 absent senators has been charged with a crime. Nor has any crime occurred. The Wisconsin Senate has absolutely no authority to order any of its members arrested or taken into custody in order to compel their attendance."

I'd like to add that I believe the Republicans knew they didn't have the authority when they wrote the resolution calling for the arrest of the Wisconsin 14. Instead of actually using the arrest authority, they just wanted all of the headlines in the news media to say "arrest" and "Democrats." The tactic could help them change the tone and content of the conversation, swaying people's opinions against the Democrats. Even if they have the authority, it ends at the Wisconsin border. So it really was a toothless attack from the beginning. The bottom line remains that the Democrats are doing exactly what democracy requires in this situation.

Note: I'm not a lawyer, and these are my reasoned opinions that I believe to be correct based on my research of news and legal opinions/writings and my beliefs in democracy. If you believe I'm incorrect, please say so.