Saturday, June 25, 2011

Supreme Court Justice David Prosser Possibly Under Investigation

Several credible sources have told the Wisconsin Public Radio and the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism that Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice David Prosser is under investigation for allegedly grabbing Justice Ann Walsh Bradley around the neck during a recent meeting in her chambers. The physical altercation was witnessed by other justices in the room after Bradly had asked Prosser to leave.

The exact date that the altercation occurred isn't known, but it's believed to have taken place just prior to releasing the rapid and unusual decision that nullified a prior ruling that had blocked implementation of the collective bargaining rights-stripping bill.

According to the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, either the Capital Police and/or the Wisconsin Judicial Commission are investigating the incident. Although neither organization is confirming or denying, Capitol Police Chief Charles Tubbs met with the Supreme Court regarding the matter according to one of the sources.

Prosser has had prior incidents of rage with other justices, specifically calling Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson a "total bitch" in several emails and saying he would "destroy" her.

Prosser hasn't denied the allegation, which makes it seem even more plausible.

Is David Prosser really what Wisconsin considers worthy of the seat of Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice? Is this how we treat women? You've got to be kidding! If this allegation is true, Prosser must resign.

Walker Administration Says Convicted Felon Reflects What He's All About

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker was planning to sign his radical budget in Green Bay this Sunday at a company whose CEO has been convicted of 8 counts of tax evasion. Walker's administration said that the company "reflects really what this budget and what Governor Walker's first term here is all about."

Exactly. Walker and the Republicans are all about the rich and powerful bending the rules for themselves and letting others' foot the bill. The company, Badger Sheet Metal Works, was hand-picked by the Walker administration, and they certainly picked the perfect company to trot out as an example of what their budget and policies are all about.

The irony hasn't evaded the local media, as even the Journal Sentinel is running a story (though with a completely unrelated story at the end about Democratic recall candidate Shelly Moore), and the Walker administration has moved the budget signing to another Green Bay company, Fox Valley Metal-Tech Inc.

The budget signing Sunday is still being closed to the public, as Walker doesn't want his photo-op ruined by truthful signs of protest. He'd rather the imagery make it appear as though he's working for Wisconsin's interests. Instead, protesters will be relegated to the other side of the street.

That hasn't stopped calls for protesters to come to Green Bay and show their support for Wisconsin education, beer and other ideals. In fact, while in the Fox Cities visiting my family and preparing to join the protest in Green Bay this Sunday, we received a phone call from an activist group asking us to join the protest. So, hopefully we can expect a good showing at the corporate photo-op.

It's time to rally the troops and head North!

Wisconsin Republicans Pass Budget So Fast That Errors Remain

Republicans in the Wisconsin Assembly and Senate were so concerned about getting their radical budget passed as quick as possible that they inadvertently left a few provisions that they had intended to remove. Or so they say.

Seriously?! They were that careless in crafting and voting for the budget that they voted for provisions that they didn't know were still there? Yup, because now they're begging Governor Walker to save them by removing those items with his veto.

So, what did the Republicans vote for that they didn't mean to vote for?
  1. Expansion of independent charter schools to all counties, not just Milwaukee and Racine
  2. Reduced disclosure of financials statements for legislators
I find it interesting that they just happened to forget to remove Item (2) which personally benefits the Republicans. It will be even more interesting to see if Walker vetoes this item. I don't have much hope for removing the first item, because Walker is dead-set on running Wisconsin's public school system into the ground in favor of private schools.

Other items the Republicans voted for but now want removed:
  • Craft beer-killing provisions (fought heavily for by MillerCoors who is headquartered in Chicago)
  • Legalize bail bondsmen
  • Legalize auto title lenders
  • Provisions allowing credit unions to convert to banks while taking members' assets
  • Allow liquor licenses for movie theaters
Why vote for something if you don't want it to become law?

Thank God the Republicans are coming to their senses now, but where were these senses last week when Wisconsin needed them?

Rep. Peter Barca sent out an email asking Wisconsinites to send a citizen veto, where you can select which provisions you'd like Governor Walker to veto.
Dear Friend,

Governor Walker and his cronies in the state legislature hoped that by passing the state budget at 3 a.m. last Thursday that you would be asleep and that you wouldn't notice their attacks on Wisconsin's working families, seniors and schoolchildren.

But we are not sleeping and we are not going to stop fighting.

That's why I sent Governor Walker a veto letter today to urge him to veto some of the items that are so egregious that they undermine the core values of our state.

Will you join me in urging Governor Walker to veto items that attack Wisconsin's middle-class working families by sending your own citizen veto letter?

We simply can't allow Governor Walker to sign a state budget that rewards the wealthy and elite with $2.3 billion in corporate loopholes and giveaways while raising taxes on our seniors and cutting $1.6 billion from our schoolchildren.

We need to send Governor Walker a clear message that our state budget is not his personal piggy bank -- it is Wisconsin's budget.

Please visit now to read my veto letter and to send your own.

With your help and support, we'll show Governor Walker that we'll never stop fighting for our shared Wisconsin values.

Thank you,

Rep. Peter Barca

Friday, June 17, 2011

We Were Right About Supreme Court Justice David Prosser

Prosser tried to deny it after he admitted it, but we were right about him when we believed he would rule against the rights of Wisconsinites. What we didn't expect is for his corporate loyalty to be so blatant and swift. It makes me think back to the recent election and the 14,000 votes that won Prosser the seat for another 10 years, and it begs the question, is Prosser paying someone back?

There were very serious issues with that election that aren't being properly investigated, particularly with the lack of publicly verifiable election machine integrity and accuracy, including, most troubling, ballot security issues. Given the closeness of the election, the seriousness of the issues, and now doubts as to Prosser's impartiality and prudence raised by Supreme Court Chief Justice Abrahamson, I believe the election deserves a proper and full investigation by a group unaffiliated with Wisconsin elections.

Yes, I realize I'm getting very close to tinfoil hat territory here, but what's important, whether something nefarious occurred in the election or not, is closing the wide gaps in the openness and security of our elections so there isn't a doubt in future elections. And this clearly won't happen unless we get serious about investigating and fixing these issues, as serious as the Republicans are about suppressing Wisconsin voters and stripping rights from Wisconsinites.

Kloppenburg enumerated some of the issues when she conceded the election. Of the most serious issues, more than 150 ballot bags were open or torn. Kloppenburg said,
"Waukesha County had twice as many torn, open or unsealed bags as every other county in the state combined. In many cases, municipal clerks in Waukesha testifed the bags weren't torn when they left cities, towns and villages. So the security breaches occurred sometime when the bags were in Waukesha County's custody."
However, there wasn't enough information to conclude whether something nefarious occurred or not. Hence the need for a full investigation and reform. We'll be in a lot more trouble if we're questioning the integrity of not just a Supreme Court election but also 9 Senate recall elections, which could likely happen if these serious issues aren't fixed before. Yet, there's been no response that I'm aware of to Kloppenburg's letter from the GAB.

The GAB can't properly investigate the election, because, at the very least, they wrote the software that caused Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus's "human error." Notice how everyone is being careful to not call it what it is, a computer error. They definitely want us to believe the software had nothing to do with it, but that's wrong.

Besides software, the GAB works with and trains the very same people they are supposed to investigate. The GAB doesn't have the outsider's perspective required of a proper investigation. Plus, how can the GAB be trusted to fully investigate when the fault of many possible issues rests in their hands?

Also, the GAB is notoriously secretive. They need to change that behavior now, and although they improved a bit during the recount, it's another reason why they're not the right entity for investigating the election. Any investigation must be open and transparent, so we know exactly what's being investigated and how the conclusions were drawn. We haven't gotten that from the GAB.

The Democrats are even questioning the GAB's certification of the recall petitions for the 3 Democrats by filing a complaint in Dane County court to challenge the certifications. So, there's definitely enough doubt surrounding the GAB that it's clear they need to do some clean up of themselves and they're not fit for investigating the April 5th election.

We need to know our elections are truly open, clean and fair, and we must know before any more elections.

Who Are The Real Democrats In The Wisconsin Recall Elections?

The Republicans have planted fake Democrats in the recall elections of each of the 6 Republican senators up for recall. They're doing this to confuse voters and give themselves more time to collect out-of-state money, because it forces a Democratic primary on July 12th instead of a recall election, and moves the recall elections to August 9th (4 weeks later).

I didn't get much information when I asked Google, "Who are the real Democrats in the Wisconsin recall elections?" In fact, I got more information on who the fake Democrats are than who the real Democrats are. So, I figured it would be helpful to write a post with a little information on the real Democrats in the recall elections of the 6 Republican senators.

These are the real Democrats running in the recall of Republicans:
You can donate to the real Democratic candidates on ActBlue.

Please, make sure you vote in the Democratic primaries on July 12th if you are in one of those districts. The Republicans are hoping and praying that their fake candidates win because we didn't show up for the primaries and their operatives did.

I also created a page of information on the recall elections which I will update as more information becomes available.

Remember, you do NOT need to show photo ID to vote in the recall elections. However, poll workers will ask to see your ID. Read this post for more information.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Wisconsin Senate Republicans Pass Radical Budget Without Change

Late tonight, the Republicans in the Wisconsin Senate voted to pass the radical far-right budget passed by the Assembly Republicans very early this morning without change. As a Republican act of class warfare, the budget actually increases spending over the previous year, while taking millions in tax breaks from the middle-class and poor and giving them to corporations instead. All 8 amendments offered by the Democrats were rejected, and thus none of the Democrats voted for the budget.

The Democrats offered an amendment that would have restored collective bargaining rights to all workers in Wisconsin, not just employees of corporations. However, all of the Senate Republicans voted to reject the amendment and keep those rights out of the reach of most of our public workers, even though we know stripping those rights "doesn't save any" money.

Some of the changes that the Democrats tried to make in both the Assembly and Senate:
  • Increase investment in Wisconsin businesses through the Wisconsin Growth Fund
  • Remove all WiscNet wording from the budget
  • Remove tax increases on the poor and middle-class by removing the changes to the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Homestead Credit
  • Remove the $50 reduction in unemployment benefits
  • Remove changes to child labor laws that allow employers to make children work more hours during school (more than 40 if they're over 16)
  • Increase public school funding by $365 million and remove expansion of the choice program
  • Restore funding for gifted and talented programs and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) grants
  • Fund the Wisconsin GI Bill and increase financial aid when tuition increases
  • Require the state to continue operating the SeniorCare program
  • Remove the enrollment cap on the FamilyCare program
  • Prohibit the administration from making changes to BadgerCare without legislative approval
  • Restore funding for services such as fire, police and garbage collection
  • Remove the significant weakening of rules on payday loans that also allow auto title loans in Wisconsin again
  • Restore funding for recycling

None of these changes were accepted. No changes were accepted. There was absolutely no collaboration or compromise from the Republicans.

Thanks to WisPolitics Budget Blog for detailing much of this information! (Senate Democrat Amendments 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 - collective bargaining)

The Republicans aren't as fearful of the recall elections, because they've now passed just about every far-right and corporate wishlist item from the past 50 years. Let's make sure the Republicans get what's coming to them, and vote in the July 12 and 19 recall elections (if they're in your district).

Unfortunately, far fewer people have been showing up to protest all of these radical changes than showed up during ice and snow to protest. As Governor Walker signs the budget, we could really use one last massive protest to show the Republicans just how much Wisconsin is against their far-right ideals.

I'm putting my voice in for a protest this Saturday that we all must attend!

On WiscNet, Republicans Cry "Please Don't Call Us Anymore"

Ars Technica, a technology news website, chronicled the swift change in Republican plans for WiscNet from Monday to Wednesday, resulting from the massive public outcry. UW-Madison economic development professor Andy Lewis told Ars that "Legislators said, 'please don't call us anymore.'" In fact, a previous Ars article and another technology news website, Slashdot, were instrumental in quickly spreading momentum against the changes.

As of Monday, WiscNet, Wisconsin's research and education network that provides high-quality Internet access to most of Wisconsin's schools and universities, was set to be killed in the budget passed early this morning. AT&T would take over the services provided by WiscNet, at higher cost and (as many of us experience at home) low quality. The reason, AT&T feels that WiscNet and UW-Madison directly and unfairly competes with it, but really, all AT&T wanted was another corporate handout.

The changes would have kept UW-Madison from participating in the ultra-fast research network called Internet2. Without such access, UW-Madison would not be able to compete as one of the world's top research universities. The changes also would have made WiscNet return the $30 million federal grant that it was awarded in 2010 to lay more fiber optic cable, something AT&T has been unwilling to do much of in Wisconsin even though their competitor Verizon is rolling out fiber to people's homes in its markets.

Thankfully, Wisconsin and the Internet and educational communities stood up against corporate influence by the thousands. So, many of these changes were removed before the budget was passed, but WiscNet is still on the Joint Finance Committee's chopping block for 2013.

This shows that we can reduce the influence that big companies such as AT&T have. We just all need to make sure we're voicing our opinions.

Don't forget The People vs. Scott Walker Capitol rally today noon - 6:30pm!

Wisconsin Assembly Republicans Increase State Spending With New Budget Passed To Senate

Another vote in the deep dark night. The Wisconsin Assembly Republicans voted for their budget just after 3:00am Thursday morning. All of the Democrats voted against it, and all of the nearly 40 amendments offered by the Democrats were rejected. The massive, oddly-named "simple amendment" by the Republicans was adopted without debate and without any Democrats voting in favor.

The Republicans' mantra this past year has been that spending is out of control. Rep. Dean Kaufert said just before voting for the budget, "We have been living on the credit card for a long time." Unfortunately, Kaufert and the rest of the Assembly Republicans just voted to increase our spending, as this budget spends more money than the previous Democrat budget. So, if not decreased spending, what are Republicans for?

It's very clear that the Republicans don't care about spending, at least not when it's for corporations. The Republican budget takes tax breaks for the middle-class and the poor and gives them to corporations. If the Republicans give any reason for this, it is that it will help create jobs, but their logic is flawed. One look at the stock market's performance since 2009, and you'll see that corporations aren't having any cash flow problems. The Federal government already gave them huge bailouts and tax breaks, and Governor Walker gave them a $117 million tax break within the first few weeks he was in office. A little extra cash won't motivate them to hire any more than they already aren't. Yet, real Wisconsin citizens depend upon the money that's being taken away from them. The Republicans are playing the part of Robin Hood's evil twin.

Rather than decreasing spending, the Republicans are more concerned with things such as making sure the poor have more abortions by reducing their access to contraceptives. The Republicans fought for nearly 30 minutes to cut state funding for Planned Parenthood. Contrary to what the Republicans think, the majority of Planned Parenthood's services are in preventative care and contraceptives, not abortion. In fact, abortions account for less than 3 percent of Planned Parenthood's services. The net effect of reducing contraceptives, more abortions!

The radical budget is a Republican act of class warfare, but not just via their redistribution of wealth through tax breaks. It significantly reduces funding to our public schools, while providing more funding to charter and voucher schools which are held to a lower standard. The reduction in funding to our public schools reduces access to high quality education for poor and middle-class children by condensing the reach of our high-quality schools to a few. The budget also reduces funds for healthcare to seniors and the poor, significant cuts to local government services such as police and fire, among a number of other far-right and corporate wishlist items.

I'm not the only Wisconsinite up this late with concern for my state and its people, and Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca knows it, 
"The middle class is awake. They're angry. They don't like being treated in this fashion."

Don't forget The People vs. Scott Walker Capitol rally today at noon!

Thanks go out to the WisPolitics Budget Blog for staying up late and blogging nearly every detail of the last 12 hours!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The People vs. Scott Walker - Capitol Rally Thursday at Noon

Most of us in Wisconsin are in uproar over the rash Supreme Court decision yesterday, and we're all wondering what can we do now? We must continue fighting and spreading the word, because we are making progress. The recall elections and the extremely close Supreme Court election are evidence of that. The Assembly is continuing to debate the budget today starting at 9am, and the Senate will likely begin debate Thursday. So it's time to come to the Capitol and make your voice heard!

The Wisconsin Wave is organizing a rally at the Capitol today from noon to 6:30pm in protest of the Walker budget. Several thousand protesters showed up at the Capitol yesterday, and the number of protesters is expected to grow as the week continues, especially now after the Supreme Court decision.

A major rally in protest of Tuesday's Supreme Court ruling and Walker's budget is being organized by We Are Wisconsin for Thursday at the Capitol. The rally, billed as The People vs. Scott Walker, will start at noon with marches at Walkerville on the Capitol Square. Then, a formal rally will begin at 5:30pm at the State St. corner. See We Are Wisconsin for more information.

Come make your voice heard!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Wisconsin Senate Republicans Support Al Qaeda and Other Terrorists by Passing Concealed Weapons Bill

Two weeks ago, al Qaeda released a new video praising the U.S. for its lax gun laws and urging Muslims in the U.S. to buy as many guns as they can and start shooting Americans. The terrorist cites the ease of owning and carrying guns in the U.S., and specifically mentioned the ease of purchasing semi-automatic weapons at gun shows, without background checks.

The Wisconsin Senate Republicans just helped al Qaeda reach their goal of killing more Americans by passing the concealed weapons bill on to the Assembly. The bill allows for more people to carry loaded guns in more situations, but it doesn't stop people from owning guns who shouldn't, like *ahem* terrorists.

The bill will allow more terrorists to walk around with weapons, citizens or not. It will allow these terrorists to walk into parks and bars with a concealed weapon, and we won't be able to tell the difference between good guy and bad. We don't have access to the list of people who are able to carry concealed weapons, and the police have very little access.

Who, besides someone else carrying a gun, will demand to see a permit, or even question someone carrying a gun? Anyone carrying a gun will simply be allowed to continue to carry the gun, that is unless we call the police every time we think we see a gun. This bill only makes a terrorist's job easier.

Terrorists want to hide their guns. If you're carrying a gun for protection or sport, it makes no sense to hide it.

There's absolutely no question we will be in more danger with passage of this bill, and the bill gives terrorists reason to cheer.

Carrying concealed weapons is not a right, for if it were, we wouldn't be having this debate. The Wisconsin Republicans are supporting terrorism with their vote for SB93, because it makes it easier for terrorists to carry weapons without question and more difficult to detect a terrorist. It's most likely not their intention, but that is what they've done.

All of the Republicans up for recall on July 12 voted for this bill. You can add this to your list of reasons why your senator should no longer serve in the Wisconsin Senate.

Wisconsin Supreme Court Overturns Collective Bargaining Ruling

Late this afternoon the Wisconsin Supreme Court posted their ruling that overturns the previous ruling from Dane County Judge Sumi. The lower court found the Republicans in violation of the Open Meetings Law and prevented the publishing of the collective bargaining rights-stripping bill. The Supreme Court didn't rule on whether or not the Republicans violated the Open Meetings Law, just whether or not the law can be enforced.

The court ruled that any law passed in violation of another law is still a law, the Republicans can pass a law by violating the Open Meetings Law or any other law governing the lawmakers, and thus the lower court couldn't prevent the collective bargaining rights-stripping bill from being published. And they did this not to save taxpayer money, as Governor Walker admitted, but to take more money away from taxpayers i.e., public workers.

You read that right, the majority of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, including Justice David Prosser, believes that our lawmakers aren't subject to our laws.

What is the purpose of being able to create laws for lawmakers if they can't be enforced?

Well, it looks like the Republicans got what they wanted out of Prosser. We all knew he would vote against the rights of Wisconsin citizens. Prosser was the key vote. The vote was 4-3 to overturn the previous ruling. Justices Prosser, Gableman, Roggensack and Ziegler concurred with the majority opinion, while justices Abrahamson, Walsh Bradley, and Crooks dissented.

If the Republicans didn't get their way they were going to add the anti-collective bargaining measures to the budget through an extraordinary session. That wouldn't have gone down well for the Republicans, and they know it, which is why they have avoided voting on the bill a second time.

The court didn't conclude that the Republicans followed the rules, just that they don't have to follow them. The Republicans violated the Open Meetings Law when they passed the collective bargaining rights-stripping bill, there's just nothing we can do about it. Unless I'm wrong, the Wisconsin Supreme Court just set legal precedent to allow our lawmakers to violate any law they like.

The collective bargaining rights-stripping bill still isn't law, but there doesn't seem to be anything left to prevent Secretary of State Doug La Follette from being forced to publish it - which will then turn the bill into law.

This was a rushed ruling (less than a week) with very coincidental timing and results. Several justices note the rush to release an opinion in their dissents.

The short decision basically invalidates the Open Meetings Law by making it unenforceable, and the ruling begs more questions than it answers. In my non-legal opinion, the Supreme Court didn't properly address the issues in this case, they barely addressed them at all.

Looks like political collusion to me!

Come to the Capitol to protest this ruling and the Walker budget, a massive protest is happening right now!