Saturday, April 30, 2011

Dead names show up on recall petitions

Deceased father of Democrat signs petition for Democratic Senator

Though some recall petitioners on the right have acted in an admirable fashion, some have done just the opposite, engaging in fraud in order to add names to their numbers.

Within the recall effort against Bob Wirch, a Democrat from Kenosha, it's been discovered that the names of deceased Wisconsinites have been appearing in a blatant attempt by petitioners to buoy up their signature numbers. One of the names included is particularly disturbing -- the deceased father of Mark Pocan, a Democratic representative from Madison, was on the petition against Wirch as well.

There seems to be no decency left within the conservative movement (save for one individual). Whether they're trying to justify violating open meetings law, removing the rights of workers to bargain collectively, or even considering placing trouble-makers within peaceful protests, conservatives in Wisconsin this year have engaged in a disturbing trend of working against the people, against the treasured institutions of democracy within our state.

This latest fiasco further demonstrates to what lengths conservatives are willing to go to in order to reach their devious ends.

Conservative recall effort fails, but does so with integrity

Local committee against Mark Miller won't merge with Utah group

You won't hear me complimenting many conservatives often on this site. As a progressive liberal, there aren't many things I find terribly humbling about the conservative movement or its propositions for our state's and country's futures.

But organizers for the Committee to Recall Mark Miller, though against one of the state senators I personally support, acted in a very classy way this week.

As reported in the Wisconsin State Journal, Jeff Horn, lead organizer heading up Miller's recall efforts, was shy of getting the necessary signatures for Miller by about 260 names. Even if he had attained that amount, it's likely that Horn's petitions would have been challenged.

So Horn had two options: admit defeat and hope for Miller's electoral loss next year when he's up for re-election, or merge his recall petitions with another group going after Miller, the American Recall Coalition. That group is run by an outsider, Dan Baltes, who is from Utah and leading recall efforts across our state.

Baltes is a controversial figure who has recently been accused by a Tea Party group in Tuscon, Arizona, for promising to bring Glenn Beck to their area, selling them all tickets, and then failing to deliver the FOX News commentator to them.

Many are also critical of Baltes for trying to recall state legislators in a state that's in an entirely different region than his own. What business does Baltes have in trying to recall Wisconsin state senators? The answer: none at all.

Horn had the opportunity to add his signatures with Baltes's. Doing so would have given both the necessary number of signatures needed to create a recall election for Miller.

But that didn't seem right to Horn. Aware of Baltes's troubled past (he's been involved in a plethora of other controversies), the State Journal reported that Horn told them that the "ends wouldn't justify the means."

That judgment cal deserves a salute from everyone, liberal, conservative, or otherwise. It takes a lot of courage to stick up for your principles, especially when disregarding them would help you in your larger goals. At a time when so many other conservatives in our country are willing to compromise their principles, to act in a hypocritical way that goes against what they once stood for, it's humbling to see someone like Jeff Horn act in this positive manner. Had he made the opposite decision, had he enjoined his petitions with Baltes's, no one would have blamed him. Instead, Horn stuck up for what he felt was right.

An accomplishment like that deserves recognition. Jeff Horn, though politically unaligned with my personal beliefs, is a class act.
In a disgusting attempt to get names on their recall petitions, Republicans place the names of the dead on them, including Mark Pocan's deceased father.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Donald Trump: American Hero political annoyance

Billionaire reality TV star "proud" of his escapades

Donald Trump is not a hero.

Not one to exercise an ounce of modesty or humility, Trump made a spectacle of himself earlier this week upon the release of President Barack Obama's long-form birth certificate.

Trump had previously demanded that Obama release the document, joining a fray of "birthers" who were dissatisfied with the short-form certificate Obama had released during his campaign for president in 2008. The short-form version is suitable for applying for a driver's license or using to verify your identity when applying for a job -- but it's apparently not good enough for birthers, at least when the president has a funny-sounding name.

Rather than admitting fault, however, and instead of taking an honorable approach towards recognizing he was wrong, Trump congratulated himself for helping settle the matter.

"Today I am very proud of myself because I have accomplished something that nobody else has been able to accomplish," Trump said.

Well, let me be the first to congratulate him as well.

Congratulations, Mr. Trump, for demanding our president jump over hurdles similar in many ways to what was demanded of African Americans during the time of Jim Crow laws.

Congratulations, Mr. Trump, for re-introducing conspiratorial accusations against the president that have long been refuted.

Congratulations, Mr. Trump, for causing a media uproar over an issue that should have died years ago.

And lastly, congratulations, Mr. Trump, for winning a popularity contest within the Republican Party by appealing to the lowest common denominator.

You've really outdone yourself, Mr. Trump. Now go away.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

State GOP lawmakers to propose voter ID bill

Republicans eye-up changing registration, absentee ballot rules

A legislative proposal by Wisconsin Republicans would make drastic changes to several election laws within our state.

Under current law, you’re able to register on the same day as the election so long as you have proof of residency (a lease or a utility bill, for example). You may register at your current address if you’ve lived there for 10 days or more, and you may even vote absentee without giving any reason for doing so up to 30 days before the election.

But a new bill introduced by Rep. Jeff Stone (R-Greendale) would change nearly everything listed above, making harsher restrictions for voters in Wisconsin. Stone’s bill leaves in place same-day voter registration – a provision that Republicans had previously wanted to abolish – but requires that registration to be supplemented with a photo ID. You could only register your current address if you’ve lived there for a month, and you’d have to supply a reason for why you were voting absentee – you could no longer vote absentee, for example, for the convenience of it. The amount of time you could vote absentee would also be curtailed tremendously – from 30 days to one week.

Though Stone’s bill does have some notable changes worth touting – same-day registration is preserved as is the right of those older than 70 to request absentee ballots due to age – it does more harm than good for the voters of this state. Requiring IDs to vote makes registering more difficult for those that are older or poorer, who may not have the time or ability to obtain an ID on their own. Allowing only seven days to submit an absentee ballot also does little good for those who may need more time than that to cast their votes.

To anyone who pays attention to voter ID laws, it’s clear what the true motivations of the Republican Party are: to suppress Democratic voters. The poor and elderly, as well as those that vote with early absentee ballots, are typically Democratic voters, supporting progressive candidates that typically promote helpful programs for the less-to-do in our state. By limiting their ability to access the voting booth, Republicans ensure that the voter turnout for Democrats will be lower in the coming years.

The prevention of voter fraud is an important thing – but the problem is much smaller than Republicans make it out to be, and doesn’t require the drastic measures they’re proposing within Jeff Stone’s bill (most of the “fraud” taking place is ineligible felons trying to vote, not voting as someone whom you aren’t). What’s more, the measures that Republicans ARE proposing are going to cost the state almost $3 million per year, as well as an additional $2 million in computer upgrades. As some conservatives rail on about the unnecessary (but actually necessary) Supreme Court election recount’s costs (about half a million dollars total), they’re proposing to spend nearly six times as much on elections down the road.

The call for election reform is unnecessary, costly, and detrimental to the voting process overall. Republicans are wrong to attack celebrated norms within our state's elections process.

Obama releases birth certificate

Document released in an attempt to end "birther" debate

“We do not have time for this silliness,” President Barack Obama stated today. “I am confident that the American people and America's political leaders can come together in a bipartisan way and solve [our] problems... [But] we're not going to be able to solve our problems if we get distracted by sideshows and carnival barkers.”

Obama’s statement regarding rumors of his non-citizenship, and his subsequent releasing of his official birth certificate this week, shows a man who is ready to work but frustrated with the bipartisan clamor from critics who don’t believe he was born in the U.S.

It was, in fact, a non-issue to begin with: Obama had already proven his citizenship long ago, before he had even won the office of the presidency. Apparently not satisfied with the certificate of live birth, however, so-called “birthers” required nothing short than an actual birth certificate to prove Obama’s citizenship.

Nevermind that other presidential contenders from that year – such as Republican candidate John McCain – were actually born outside of the U.S. as well. And nevermind that Obama, whose mother was an American, was qualified as a “naturally born” citizen even if he was birthed outside of the country. None of these facts mattered, none of them were convincing enough to the birthers who knew that Obama was fabricating his citizenship (a “fact” that they undoubtedly will continue to push, despite it being disproven).

Even “somehow-presidential-contender” Donald Trump got into the mix. He, too, demanded that Obama release his birth certificate. Trump also “knew” that Obama was born in Kenya, from sources he had obtained where Obama’s grandmother allegedly made the claim.

Those assertions, however, have been long-debunked as well.

Obama is right: this “silliness” needed to stop. There are far more important issues affecting the country right now than trying to prove Obama’s already-proven citizenship. It’d be different if there was a shred of evidence left that hadn’t already been dismissed as erroneous – if that were the case, there’d be reason to bring up the issue. But despite lacking any credible evidence, the birther-conspiracy continued on, certain that the president was perpetrating the largest caper in American political history.

What’s distressing is that, after all of the Tea Party/Republican accusations that Obama was hiding something, Republicans are now blaming Obama for the distraction to the national debate. GOP Chairman (and Wisconsin native) Reince Priebus made a statement following the release of Obama’s certificate that made it clear it was Obama’s fault that real issues weren’t being talked about:
“The president ought to spend his time getting serious about repairing our economy,” Priebus said. “Unfortunately his campaign politics and talk about birth certificates is distracting him from our number one priority – our economy.”
By creating the problem in the first place, the Tea Party and Republican Party are both to blame for the distraction. But now, in totally denying that it’s their responsibility at all, and shifting that responsibility wrongly to the president, Priebus and the GOP are just downright shameful in their actions, lying directly to the American people over an issue they themselves formed.
GOP Chair Reince Priebus blames Obama for birth certificate distraction. A comment on that, plus the new voter ID bill, tonight on Political Heat.

Monday, April 25, 2011

FOX News claims of "media bias" unfounded

"Liberal bias" meme a tired excuse for conservative lies and mistruths

Last Friday, FOX News aired a special hosted by Sean Hannity alleging a radical liberal bias within American media. The special, however, was riddled with errors. For example, Hannity brought up a long-debunked claim that Katie Couric had called Ronald Reagan an "airhead" in 1999.

Couric was, in fact, quoting someone else who had written a book on "the Gipper," who had made that claim himself. At no point during the segment did Couric make any reference to her own personal opinions of Reagan.

Hannity's program was, by all accounts, a complete fabrication, hardly a "report" by any stretch of the imagination.

The problem with the "media bias" meme that conservatives constantly push is that there isn't a media problem at all, but rather that conservatives today make wild and blanket accusations based on little, skewed, or non-existent facts. It's as Stephen Colbert put it: reality has a pesky liberal bias.

Consider for a moment the criticisms conservatives level against liberals: that "death panels" are within the health care bill that Democrats passed; that President Obama isn't actually a naturally born citizen; that Democrats in general are trying to raise YOUR taxes (not just the top 2 percent); and so forth. Each of these assumptions are simply false, hold no weight of truth to them -- and yet, conservatives carry on their use, whether through their own ignorance or through their purposeful attempts to push forth ignorance in others. It's a disturbing trend and a vile attempt of conservatives trying to discredit their liberal counterparts through the dissemination of lies and mistruths.

If conservatives like Hannity want to debate liberals on the issues, if they want to bring about facts and opinions that are based upon sound research, then that would be acceptable. But instead of facts, Hannity and FOX presented their viewers with "facts" -- which aren't really facts at all, just spliced together sound bytes and videos taken out of context.

Sadly, this sort of thing works for them -- their viewers remain dumbfounded, uninformed about the events of the real world outside of their favorite "news" channel. But for the rest of the world, it's clear to anyone with a fourth grade education that conservatives, whether in the media or in the political spotlight, are losing their minds.

This doesn't mean ALL conservatives necessarily -- there are still rational-thinking people who happen to adhere to conservative principles, who also don't stoop to the levels FOX is going to. But the conservatives that matter, the ones who are running for office and disseminating the talking points, are taking part in a collective dumbing-down of our culture, in hopes of appealing to the lowest common denominator.

Conservatives' use of the "liberal media" meme is nothing more than a red herring, a distracting force that hides the fact that their own bias within their own media clouds their ability to reason sufficiently.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

State recalls, recount strengthen our democratic rights

Two events mark importance of protecting state's democratic fixtures

It is indeed an exciting time for Wisconsin politics.

Eight recall elections submitted thus far -- five for Republican officeholders and three for Democrats -- could potentially change the leadership roles for the state Senate. If Democrats net three additional seats, they will control one-half of the legislature, providing a much-needed check on Gov. Scott Walker's policy initiatives. More recall elections could also be on their way, though the deadline dates for filing them are fast approaching.

Meanwhile, a statewide election recount is set to start that will determine whether sitting justice David Prosser, a judicial ally of Walker's, will remain on the state Supreme Court. Prosser won the election by more than 7,000 votes, but only after tens of thousands of "missing" ballots in Waukesha County were discovered. Other voting irregularities have also been spotted within Waukesha, including in 2006 when there were 20,000 more votes than ballots cast.

The recount is unlikely to net a victory for JoAnne Kloppenburg, Prosser's opponent in the Supreme Court race. Seven thousand votes is seen as an insurmountable lead even if it's within one-half of one percent of the total votes cast. Still, with how close this race was, and with Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus's terrible track record to consider, it makes perfect sense to let this recount take affect.


These two events in Wisconsin, though separate and affecting different branches of government, symbolize all that is RIGHT with our state at a time when so many things are going wrong. When a governor's aims are the destruction of workers' rights within the state he represents; when that same governor appoints government agents based on their relationship to Republican campaigns (or his campaign funds) rather than qualifications they may or may not possess; when legislators deliberately ignore open meetings law, desecrating decades of respect for the people's right to know the business of their legislature; or when taxes are raised on the poorest of our state's wage earners (at a time when $140 million in tax breaks are given to the state's wealthiest businesses); when corruption and misplaced priorities rule our state's government, its policies and its enacted law, it's reassuring to know that SOME semblance of the rule of law, including the right to recall elected officials as well as the ability to request an electoral recount in the face of questionable discrepancies, remain celebrated fixtures in our state's democratic process.

We shouldn't overlook the significance that these two events present to us, especially at this critical juncture in our state's political history. We are witnessing a direct attack on worker and family values, a pitting of the wealthy and elite class against working Wisconsinites who are simply trying to stay afloat during a tumultuous economic period. It is a debate well worth having, but not at the expense of our democratic traditions, an expense that Gov. Walker is apparently happy to expend.

Support the recall efforts, if only in principle, as well as the recount of the state's Supreme Court race. Wisconsin is better off for having these processes available in order to preserve our democratic rights.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

American Exceptionalism?

American Exceptionalism is a phrase which gets batted around in American politics with astounding regularity. It reflects the notion that America as a nation, is subject to a unique set of circumstances. It is not enough to be successful. One’s success needs to be promoted and hopefully duplicated with a missionary zeal. In light of this Wisconsin, middle of the road in both population and industry is often forgotten and ignored.

Since World War II California has served as the model for a successful American state. California had many natural advantages, a sunny climate, fertile soil, and abundance of natural resources. Its economy boomed, as it became a global leader in aerospace, electronics, biotech, and media. California’s population swelled enormously, and so did its political influence. It is no accident that California gave us the presidencies of both Reagan and Nixon. But for most observers California’s glory days appear to be over. California is now faced with high unemployment, crippling debt, and political gridlock. California’s debt has tripled in recent years while its state deficit is at a jaw dropping 26 billion dollars. In light of this, many commentators have suggested that another state take California’s place.

While California has spent the last decade “languishing”, Texas has been thriving. For the last decade, Texas was the fifth fastest growing state. Like California’s growth in years gone by, this is mostly due to its booming economy. In spite of the recession, Texas has led the nation in job growth. Texas is the global leader in oil services, posses a vast agricultural sector, a thriving high tech industry, and a healthy manufacturing base. Texas now has more fortune 500 companies than any other state. Texas even avoided the real-estate bubble which devastated the sunbelt. This growth has been aided by cheap land, low taxes, and nearly non-existent regulation. Texas, long the laboratory of conservative social and economic policy, has been trumpeted by conservatives as the model for future American growth. The problem is, Texas is quietly facing one of the worst budget crises in the United States.

Texas is presently facing a 25 billion dollar budget shortfall, among the largest in the country. The size of this deficit is even worse when one considers the royalties coming in from record high oil prices. Yet ever the bastion of conservative thought, Texas is planning on fixing its shortfall with severe budget cuts. The Texas house has passed a budget containing 23 billion dollars worth of spending cuts. Out of which 8 billion dollars will be cut from education and 4 billion dollars for Medicaid resulting in a nearly 13% cut in government spending.

These cuts would disproportionately affect Texas’s most vulnerable citizens. However, bearing in mind that Texas is the laboratory of conservative policy, Texas has long neglected its citizens social well being. Texas is already 37th in the nation for education spending, 41st in per pupil expenditures, 45th in high school completion, and 47th in SAT scores. Concerning healthcare, Texas is ranked 46th in healthcare per capita, being 44th in the nation for physicians, 45th in the nation for drug and alcohol abuse, and having the lowest health insurance rate in the nation. Environmentally, Texas’s stats are just as dire, leading the nation in toxic emissions, water pollution, and hazardous waste spills. So Texas, already among the worst in the nation for matters of human well-being, is prepared to gut social spending rather than raise taxes.

While Wisconsin is facing a budget shortfall, it is no where comparable to that of Texas or California. It’s a smaller state, it has millions fewer people, and its economy is significantly smaller. Nevertheless, Wisconsin is still competing economically with both states. Because of this it’s foolish for us to imitate either of them. Wisconsin’s biggest asset is its citizens, namely our well-educated and skilled workforce. Because of this, Walker’s cuts are doubly foolish. Walker is attempting to balance Wisconsin’s budget primarily through cuts to our educational and healthcare systems. In doing so, he is knowingly sacrificing our states comparative advantage. This is not exceptionalism, this is regression. Wisconsin should not be joining Texas in its race to the bottom, rather it should toward its own history of progressive action and reform.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Kloppenburg requests recount in WI Supreme Court race

Recount assures voters across the state their votes count

The Government Accountability Board is announcing that Supreme Court candidate JoAnne Kloppenburg is requesting a statewide recount following her initial loss to sitting Justice David Prosser.

Kloppenburg lost to Prosser by a margin of less than one-half of one percentage points, which allows her to make the request without having to pay any fees.

Besides losing by less than .5 percent of the vote, Kloppenburg's request for a recount makes sense on a separate level as well, regarding the confusion over ballots cast within Waukesha County, both this year and in years' past. An error by the Clerk of that county, Kathy Nickolaus, gave Prosser a victory of more than 7,000 votes two days after the election took place.

The discovery of more than 14,000 "missing" votes, which flipped the victory to Prosser's favor two days after he had been losing, warrants a recount on its own. But the fact that Waukesha County has for years had difficulties in counting votes (one time having 20,000 more votes than ballots cast in 2006) makes it ridiculous NOT to pursue the recount.

If only to assure voters that every vote was counted, to guarantee that everyone's voice is respected, this recount is NEEDED. Seven thousand votes will be hard to make up for, hard to find uncounted in order to defeat David Prosser. But that's not the important aspect of this recount -- the important aspect is ensuring that democracy in Wisconsin is functioning properly, that the discrepancies that Kathy Nickolaus is responsible for in Waukesha County aren't disrupting the outcome of statewide elections, within the past, present, or future.

Kloppenburg may end up losing her bid for the State Supreme Court. But win or lose, the people of Wisconsin win by having the recount take place.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

State Senators headed towards recall elections

Recall elections are in store for three (or four) GOP lawmakers

Writing to you live from Orange Beach, Alabama...

It seems that there will be at least three recall elections in the state, possibly a fourth one, forcing Republican State Senators to explain why they deserve another chance to keep their jobs.

Luther Olsen, Randy Hopper, and Dan Kapanke will all officially face a recall election, with each recall campaign receiving around 150 percent of the signatures needed to start the process (the extra names on the recall petition ensures that any contested signatures won't result in the recall being rescinded). A fourth Republican, Sheila Harsdorf, is also close to being recalled, with her recall campaign stating it has more than 110 percent of the signatures needed.

This is extraordinary news for the state of Wisconsin. If three of the four Republicans can be removed from office -- a feat that would be unprecedented for our state -- the state senate will flip Democratic, ensuring that any bill the Walker administration would try to pass would require bipartisan cooperation. In other words, if the recalls succeed, you're not going to see anymore crazy bills that remove workers' rights from the people, raise taxes on the poor, remove municipal rights to extend sick days for workers, or even attempt to rid the state of recycling requirements (though even Republicans, it seems, couldn't get behind Walker on that).

A divided government isn't always a good thing -- at the national level, we're seeing the terrible head such a beast can rear. But when it works against the complete dismantling of an entire class of people (those that are below the 5 percent of high-wage income earners in the state), a divided government can mean the world to thousands, perhaps millions, within Wisconsin.

The filing of recall petitions is just the beginning. The recall elections, set to start sometime in the near future, will be interesting to watch, if just to see how on earth these Republicans can defend their records against the people of our state.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Thoughts on religion and politics

The two forces in society shouldn't be ignored, can indeed form common good

Religion is a beautiful thing to many people, and inspires a great force of good for millions around the world. It is true, however, that it has done a lot of bad too, usually when placed in the hands of those who choose to abuse the practices of a belief structure to an extreme, carrying out a skewed version of their faith’s principles in a way that causes harm to others. But for the most part, religion serves a common good for a like-minded community to engage in, oftentimes enhancing the notion of charity in order to help those truly in need.

Politically speaking, religion is a mixed bag -- while seen by many as a positive influence on several peoples’ lives, the use of religion in government can mean an endorsement of one belief over another, an unfair advantage by one group of people versus a different group with equally valid “truths.”

The liberal view on religion is quite simple: it’s a choice to be made on an individual level. No force beyond personal preference or spiritual conscience should dictate your beliefs to you, should demand you worship a certain way over another. On that same thought, nothing should stand in the way of how you choose to worship or whom you chose to pay homage to, so long as your choices or actions cause no direct harm to others.

You should even be permitted to try and influence others, but your influence cannot come at the detriment of their rights -- that is, you can actively convey the benefits of your beliefs and the negative aspects of failing to adhere to them, but you cannot determine the choices of another individual to believe in your personal religious structure. Rhetorical argument is one thing -- forceful adherence is another, and should never be deemed acceptable.

There is no definitive answer as to which religion is the best -- and the majority opinion, though worth a certain amount of respect within society, cannot be said to be “true” without clear-cut evidence proving so. As a Christian, I feel that my religious beliefs are superior to all others, and that the tenets I live by are the truths that all others should live by as well. But my rationale for my assertion is the same rationale that a Muslim individual might have, or that a Jewish person might posit, or even an atheist might suggest. In short, my “proof” of Christianity being the proper belief to follow is the same that all other beliefs have provided, and is hardly “proof” at all.

This isn’t to say that all religious structures that lack proper evidence are wrong; on the contrary, it provides for us the fact that no belief structure can truly ever be proven false (at least in the eyes of those who hold onto specific beliefs). The falsifiability of all religious organizations, however, requires us to treat each structure as equal to the next. Just as Christianity cannot be proven false, so too Shintoism cannot be proven false, nor Judaism, or Hinduism, or Buddhism, or atheism.

So does religious belief deserve a place in our political dialogues? It does -- if it’s done so in a proper way. My Christian morals, for example, are part of the reason why I support a single payer health care system. But my morals must be applicable to everyone involved in the debate, if not for politeness’ sake then for practicality. My belief in a Christian God won’t justify the moral obligation to treat those in need to an atheist; and yet it’s possible that the two can have a common belief that those in need deserve access to adequate care. When framed in those terms, religion can transcend a singular morality to affect the beliefs of a multitude of different faiths.

Another question that often gets asked is whether government should subsidize religion when a faith-based initiative can do good for a community. This is a source of contention within the liberal community itself -- any special favors granted towards a religious belief is seen by many as an endorsement, but at the same time if the faith-based initiative does good for others in a non-religious way we shouldn’t necessarily dismiss it automatically. A program to boost blood donations within a community, for example, sponsored by a local church organization, shouldn’t be denied assistance from any government if the program itself is secular in nature.

The moment the program starts to involve religious matters, however (such as requiring those who give blood to listen to Scripture during the procedure), a church-and-state conflict arises. Money shouldn’t be dispensed to religious organizations if it will be spent disseminating the group’s beliefs or practices; no church-and-state conflict exists, however, if the religious organization doesn’t require those that participate in a government-funded program to be persuaded one way or another on their specific tenets.

Religion and politics are hard to talk about because they happen to be two separate subjects that people tend to be sensitive over to begin with. Combine the two, and the sensitivities of those involved are elevated. It shouldn’t be this way, however, and if a debate is to be had, it should be held openly with respect for all beliefs present within the dialogue.

Both religion and politics have their places within society -- oftentimes, the two intersect. But when they do, we shouldn’t shy away from open discussion, shouldn’t halt the debate on the merits of one belief over the other, but rather embrace the idea that a multitude of belief structures can possibly come together to form a consensus on certain matters.


Starting Sunday, I will be absent from Political Heat for a full week. I will be at Gulf Shores, Alabama, for a much deserved vacation (my first in a long while). While I am away, new writer Crescent Parker will fill in with blog posts, as will two friends of mine, whom I will allow to introduce themselves if/when they'd like to.

Just thought I'd give you all a heads up -- didn't want you wondering where's Chris during the entirety of next week!

Happy reading,
Chris Walker

WI GOP ignore their ideology in restricting MKE paid sick day policy

Bill prevents municipalities from extending rights beyond state standards

Originally posted at

There seems to be no level too low for Republicans to stoop to, even disregarding their own belief structure, in order to appease their corporate benefactors.

The GOP in our state has made it clear that they intend to make Wisconsin a corporatist state, where “big business” can “live” without concern over pesky laws designed to benefit workers and consumers. Whether through removal of bargaining rights for public employees or simply raising taxes on the working poor, Wisconsin Republicans have made it clear: the “shared sacrifices” we all have to make need not apply to corporate elitists.

The disrespect for workers’ rights transcends even some of the core principles of the Republican Party itself -- such as the belief in local autonomy versus central government.

The latest example of this is a bill passed recently by the state legislature that limits the rights of municipalities to grant workers in their jurisdictions more paid sick day benefits, a direct response to an ordinance passed by Milwaukee voters in 2008. The measure, which voters overwhelmingly endorsed by a 2-to-1 margin, gave workers additional rights, including use of sick days for mental health issues, health problems for family members, as well as a greater number of paid sick days for the calendar year. After being held up by legal challenges, the ordinance was finally ready to be implemented.

That is, until Republican legislators took action to preempt it from being carried out, in Milwaukee or elsewhere. In clear defiance of the people of Milwaukee’s own wishes, the state legislature passed a bill this week restricting any municipality in the state from granting additional paid sick day benefits beyond the state’s predetermined levels.

One has to question the current incarnation of state Republicans, “Whatever happened to local control, from the importance of keeping ‘big government’ out of the business of local communities beyond Madison?” It seems that meme only matters to Republicans when it works to their advantage (or when it restrains their corporate campaign contributors in some way). When a locality caters to the ideological stances of the GOP, conservatives flaunt it as a perfectly fine defense of local autonomy. But any time a local government tries to extend rights to its people – as Madison once tried to do with minimum wage increases – Republicans insist that government MUST extend its hand in the matter to “correct” the situation.

The GOP can’t have it both ways: either they stick up for local autonomy, even when it thwarts their wishes, or they admit it’s all a farce, a belief designed to carry out their agenda when it’s politically beneficial for them to do so (but worth ignoring otherwise).

Milwaukee residents deserve to receive adequate paid sick leave benefits. They did, after all, vote for and pass a law granting all who work within their city limits rights that went beyond the state’s minimum requirements. Whether they agree with the policy or not, it’s the City of Milwaukee’s (or any locality’s) prerogative, not state Republicans’, to determine how far those requirements should extend, if at all, beyond the laws already in place.

Gov. Walker wrong; Rights not derived from the Constitution

Rights derived from "natural law" rather than legislative mandate

Gov. Scott Walker recently gave testimony on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on the issue of state governments and their budgets. During that testimony, Walker made an interesting comment.

While discussing the rights of workers to bargain collectively, Walker insisted that “Rights come from the Constitution.” His argument, therefore, was that since no explicit right to bargain collectively existed in the document, it wasn’t constitutionally protected.

Walker, as usual, is completely wrong. Rights aren’t derived from the Constitution -- they never have been. Even our founding fathers knew that the rights they proscribed in the Constitution weren’t derived from their pen, but rather from nature.

Look at the wording from the First Amendment as proof: the phrase “Congress shall make no law” is more than just fancy wording, but an admission by the founders that Congress doesn’t have the authority to deny people certain rights because it is outside of their power TO deny them. What is the source of that power? It’s not the Constitution -- rather, these rights are naturally bestowed unto us, by either a higher power or through the common realization that we’re all equal in nature’s eyes.

The Ninth and Tenth Amendments are also indicative of rights being derived from a power greater than the U.S. Constitution. The Ninth Amendment states that powers not necessarily "granted" by the Constitution aren't necessarily prohibited. In other words, rights that aren't mentioned are still rights -- their omission from the Constitution, the founders having forgotten to mention them, doesn't mean that they don't exist. Furthermore, the Tenth Amendment allows powers not mentioned by the Constitution to be "reserved to the states respectively, or to the people."

Rights exist beyond their explicit mentioning within the Constitution -- your right to bargain collectively, though perhaps not explicitly within the Constitution, is still a right retained by you and your co-workers.

What's more, we may have stumbled upon something profound here, why Walker thinks he’s able to carry out such a destructive legislative agenda: he thinks he’s in control of dispensing rights. As the head of a state government, Walker is in control of Constitutional rights, at least in his own mind, within the state of Wisconsin.

That couldn't be further from the truth: no person, not even Scott Walker, has the ability to determine your rights. Only "nature's law" has that right; and the laws of nature surely dictate that a collective group of people, who share a similar career within a specific organization, have the right to negotiate their contracts as a cohesive unit.

Walker is wrong to assume that rights are derived from the Constitution. His lack of knowledge on the matter is truly telling.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

New kid on the block.

Hello, readers. This is Crescent Parker, your new blogger here at Political Heat. I'm very thankful to Chris for letting me join in as one of the new writers, and for letting me share my political insight and opinions. So, who am I? To give you a brief introduction, I'm a girl of many interests. Born in Milwaukee, WI and raised in Kenosha. Public School attendee, Daughter and Granddaughter of four teachers. Sister of two wonderful, intelligent, and physically challenged brothers. Owner of one adopted black and white weinerdog. Theatre student turned Legal Studies major. Lifelong Wisconsinite, and Democrat.

Democrat, Super-Liberal, Young Progressive, Whatever you'd choose to call me, it all roughly means the same thing to me. Lover of Democracy. Yes, I'm a girl who completely values her Democracy.

If there's anything I've learned within the past 3 months, it's that I have never known how much I love something until I'm faced with the prospect of losing it. (And oh, has that prospect made it's all too apparent presence known.)
These past months have proved to be a alarming glimpse into a Wisconsin world run by one conservative Governor with one very hidden agenda. As citizens of Wisconsin, we have found ourselves outside the State Capitol, linked arm in arm, marching alongside police officers, firefighters, teachers and college students who are all pleading for the same preservation of our state's values. Some of us have been forced to reconfigure basic day-to-day actions to assure ends can be met, and ALL of us are scared of the extremely prevalent risk of losing fundamental aspects that make Wisconsin the place we know and adore. See, to the rest of the world, Wisconsin may be nothing but dairy, drunks, and darn' good beer.. But to a Wisconsinite, it's a state where education, equality, and respect for worker and civil rights have always taken priority. Wisconsin has a very strong reputation for being the birthplace of the union. To many, it's one of the last places any one would have anticipated such a detrimental attack on basic rights.
While Governor Scott Walker may have partially succeeded in using the state of Wisconsin as his Republican playground pinata I'd like to believe that the one thing he's fully succeeded in is providing not only Wisconsin but the entire nation with a revived sense of passion and solidarity that "We the People" haven't experienced in 50+ years. I believe he has, as they say, awoken a very cranky, very progressive sleeping dragon.

So, readers, I hope we can be friends. Whether you're a resident of this great state of Wisconsin, or reading from four states away. Whether you're a republican or democrat, red or blue, elephant or donkey, I think we can all agree on a basic love for our state and willingness to fight for what we love. And that, to me, is what Democracy looks like.
Crescent Parker

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A letter to the readers

Dear Readers:

There's a few new changes coming to Political Heat -- be rest assured, however, that this blog will remain a place for political opinion from a liberal point of view.

First, the most obvious change: the layout of the blog. It was a long time coming, and I have received many good comments about it thus far. If you see something wrong with it, or have an opinion you'd like to share regarding the layout, please message me and I'll see what I can do.

Second, and a bit more significant, the blog isn't going to be a "sole" project of my own anymore. After some serious consideration, I came to the conclusion that it was time to involve more voices at Political Heat, more perspectives that can perhaps explain better what "is" liberalism and why we support it. I will remain the "proprietor" of Political Heat as well as the "main" author. But with my limited schedule allowing me to make only one, maybe two, posts per day, I felt it was time to get more people involved to keep the site thriving with information for you, the reader, especially if you don't want to wait up until 9:00 or 10:00 PM to read my posts.

So I'd like to wish my warmest welcome to the newest blogger on this site, Crescent Parker. Crescent has been following Wisconsin politics for some time now, especially the events of the last few months. In reviewing her tweets alone, I'm confident that Crescent will deliver an insightful opinion to Political Heat. Thanks for joining the team, Crescent!

I'm still looking for one or two other writers to "join" PH, so if you think you'd like to blog about once or twice a week, send me an email and I'll get in touch with you. My "writing" address is Send me a writing sample if you can and a cover letter detailing why you'd like to write and are qualified to write for the blog.

I want to thank everyone for dealing with these changes as of late. This project of mine has been going strong for over two years now. I'm excited for the future of this site, and hope that you are too.

Chris Walker
Political Heat

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Scott Walker attempts to influence judicial branch

Comments by governor overstep their bounds

Gov. Scott Walker once again made the threat of layoffs for state workers if the budget repair law continues to be delayed.

We're used to these threats by now, and know that Walker isn't afraid to make them. He's made them to the people, and he's made them to legislators. It's an inexcusable tactic of threatening people's jobs and lives to get his way, without consideration of other options that are on the table for balancing the budget. In short, it's using the working class people of Wisconsin as hostages in order to get everyone else to bend to his whim.

Using it to influence the judicial branch, however, is a new low, even for Walker.

An impartial branch of government (such as the judiciary) shouldn't be influenced by anything other than the Constitution, stare decisis, and the law before the judge(s) that's in question. Scott Walker, however, feels differently, believes that his threats are sufficient and appropriate "reminders" of what he'll do if his policies aren't carried out.

But should Judge Maryann Sumi give in? If she wants to uphold the rule of law -- and the respect for a separation of powers -- she should stand her ground. Judge Sumi was presented with a situation that merited a temporary hold on the law. Senate Republicans rammed the budget repair bill through committee, without sufficient notice to the public, and passed it within a matter of hours. To push aside that fact would ignore the rule of law in our state, would destroy the rights of all Wisconsin citizens to be presented proper notification of meetings that discuss bills that will affect their lives.

Judge Sumi made the decision to place a hold on the law until it could be further reviewed. Scott Walker has made the decision, however, to hold the jobs of thousands of Wisconsinites hostage in order to influence Judge Sumi's ruling.

How brash of this governor! If there's one thing about Scott Walker that we know, it's that he has no qualms whatsoever with violating respected boundaries of governmental norms. But this goes beyond what is expected even of our current governor. By trying to influence the judiciary in this way, Walker violates the respect of checks and balances, of keeping his influence out of an impartial branch of government.

Judge Sumi is no activist -- she ruled in a way any respectable judge would rule. Gov. Walker, on the other hand, is proving day-in and day-out that he, as the chief executive of our state, is an extremist, willing to carry out his policies by any means necessary, including those that destroy the structure of our government.

Cuts to Planned Parenthood unwarranted

There is a lot of talk going on about defunding Planned Parenthood. Conservative lawmakers both in Washington and all across the country want to end federal grants given to the organization because it performs abortions for women who want them.

However, the federal grants in question are specifically tailored so that they don’t actually fund abortion procedures – they give Planned Parenthood money based on other projects, such as dispensing contraceptives to lower-income individuals or health screenings for those that can’t afford them. In fact, the vast majority of services Planned Parenthood performs aren’t abortions at all but rather programs and services dedicated to maintaining the good health and well-being of women and men (less than three percent of the services Planned Parenthood provides are abortion-related).

But conservatives maintain that any funding given to Planned Parenthood is helping women pay for abortion services. The costs, they say, offset, making it easier for the organization to perform all of the services they provide, including abortion.

Under that rationale, however, a ton of other services contracted out by federal or local governments would also have to be ended. Faith-based initiatives, where religious organizations are granted government money to perform a service (such as an alcohol recovery program run by a Pentecostal church or a youth group in the community sponsored by a nearby religious organization) are perfectly acceptable forms of government handouts, so long as they don’t require participants to convert or perform some form of religious duty. These are taxpayer dollars that are going to religious organizations – but under the same rationale that conservatives are trying to run with, the funding of these programs are offset by government assistance for specific initiatives. Should these religious organizations be refused these funds because of this? Of course not.

Very few people accept the idea of their tax dollars funding abortions; likewise, very few people accept the idea of tax dollars going towards religious causes as well. But when the government funds a program to assist people – whether that’s testing for STI’s or keeping at-risk youth off the streets – people generally support those aims and ideals. The government should continue to contract out responsibilities that cater to poor families in need of health services, and it should continue to use Planned Parenthood to reach that end.

The government shouldn’t fund any abortion services, but it shouldn’t prevent lower-income women the opportunity to have themselves tested for STI’s (over 4 million every year), STD’s (over 6 million), or receive other services that Planned Parenthood provides.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Examining the debate -- what this fight is all about

A fresh perspective of what drives the "two Wisconsin's" in our state

The rant from last night continues...

The first four months of Gov. Scott Walker's gubernatorial career have been less than stellar. The governor's insistence on balancing the budget upon the backs of state workers and poor Wisconsinites while favoring the rich and corporate elite has driven a sharp debate in the Badgerland, one that has been both heated and passionate.

Conservatives, of course, have been dismissive of the backlash against these Republican policies. Following the initial results of the election for State Supreme Court justice (before the results were reversed by a questionable discovery of 14,000 ballots in Waukesha County), Gov. Walker suggested there were two ideas pushing very different political agendas in Wisconsin: one from Wisconsin overall and one derived from Madisonian interests.

Of course, the very notion of "two Wisconsins" in this sense neglects the fact that 32 counties voted against Walker's preferred candidate, with a handful more being decided by five percentage points or less. Furthermore, Walker's argument could be transposed upon conservative-stronghold Waukesha County, especially with how close this particular election really was -- are there two agendas now that the situation is reversed, one driven by Wisconsin and the other by Waukesha?

Yet Walker is right about one thing: the debate in our state is being driven by two different ideas of what Wisconsin truly is, or rather what it should become. These aren't ideas that are driven by geographical interests -- rather, they're ideas driven by corporate elitists who want to establish a stronger presence in the Dairyland, against the interests of working class families who are fighting to survive the lingering effects of the recession.

That may bring on invitations of "class warfare," of critics contending that liberals in the state are trying to pit poor and middle class Wisconsinites against innovators and business owners. To those that bring about such criticism, however, think about this: at a time when Wisconsin citizens are struggling, what does Scott Walker do? He introduces a series of bills aimed at making it even harder for Wisconsin citizens to make ends meet.

He ends a tax break for low-income wage earners, a move that will raise the taxes of a working mother by more than two percent of her paycheck. He ends collective bargaining rights for our state workers, including teachers, nurses, prison guards, and social workers. He destroys any chances of green jobs coming into the state, chasing out high speed rail as well as wind power that would have invested in us. His budget may raise the deficit and kill more than 20,000 jobs across Wisconsin. And before any of this was even done, Walker handed out $140 million in tax breaks to big business.

If there is class warfare in our state, it certainly isn't being driven by liberals -- Walker and his Republican allies launched the assault on Wisconsin workers all on their own, expecting complete compliance from the people. He didn't get it, however -- and that's when the protests began.

We all know about those weeks of demonstrations, of democracy in action, when hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites came to the steps of the Capitol building infuriated by Walker's bill. We recall the prank phone call that exposed the governor's true corporatist allegiance. Within that call we also learned that Walker had thought of endangering the lives of the protesters by putting "troublemakers" among them to discredit their cause. And who can forget the forcing of the Senate budget repair bill, without proper notice given to the people, and the subsequent restraining order placed upon the implementation of that law? The Republicans tried to implement it anyway, violating the long-established norm of the rule of law -- a norm that transcends our state's history and enters into a violation of our national values.

What's lost behind all of that nonsense, what's forgotten by far too many who are fast to dismiss the entire situation as "politics as usual," is that this ISN'T politics as usual at all -- it's politics gone bad. The fight is much deeper than that tired axiom, goes beyond the common complaints that are natural within politics, and turns into a fight over what's right vs. what's wrong for a healthy society and democracy. It's common decency vs. corporate greed, a struggle over what is "just" in government vs. accepting and encouraging a direct abuse of power.

There ARE two factions within Wisconsin today, presenting us with a dichotomy of what the future of our state will hold. The answer to all the questions relies on you. Will you get behind the side that supports workers, farmers, the poor, the disadvantaged, and the struggling? Or will you support Scott Walker in bringing about the end of the working class in favor of corporate greed and government accountability to none? We're on a fast track towards moving to the Wisconsin that Gov. Walker and his Republican Party desires -- one that leaves you and I, and countless others, behind. Their vision can be stopped...but only if you want it to be.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The case (thus far) against Scott Walker and the state GOP

A friendly reminder of the counts against our government "leaders"

This could be called a rant, it could be called a review. Read it with that in mind...

In the span of six short months, our state has seen a terrifying series of events. We've changed from one of the most respected states in the country, set to become a leader in clean energy, high speed rail, and continued low unemployment rates compared to other parts of the U.S.; and in that time, we've turned into a laughing stock, a failed government led by a pro-corporate, anti-worker Republican governor.

It wasn't enough that Scott Walker drove high speed rail and clean energy out of our state -- along with the jobs they'd create. It wasn't enough that he introduced a bill that, not only stripped the rights of workers within it, but under the auspices of balancing the budget may actually increase the state's deficit (while also losing the state jobs). It didn't seem enough, either, that while Wisconsin workers continue to struggle with unemployment and lower wages than were had before the recession, tax breaks were granted to corporations in the hundreds of millions of dollars (all while taxes on poor Wisconsinites were raised).

These are all things we should take into account. But the real problem lies in the fact that our leaders -- Scott Walker, Scott and Jeff Fitzgerald, and other Republicans in the state -- refuse to conduct themselves in a professional (and sometimes legal) way, are instead opting for governing through blatant disrespect for those they work for.

A governor fails his people when he ignores throngs of them (hundreds of thousands over a period of a few weeks) at his office's steps, and yet makes time for an out of state fake billionaire donor. Legislative leaders fail their constituents' rights to hear proposed laws and to voice their input when these lawmakers purposefully violate open meetings laws. And a county clerk, in an arrogant display of elitism, casts into doubt the entire elections process of one state (and the results thereof) when she dismisses the concerns of others who feel, perhaps, her personal computer isn't the appropriate place to store election data.

The integrity of our state's government is deteriorating. Republican lawmakers in Wisconsin, led by Gov. Walker, are destroying the traditions and institutions that the people of this state have come to respect. Beyond their frightening policies, the governor and his cronies have ignored basic laws, disregarded established norms, and stated publicly their intentions to destroy the rights of Wisconsin citizens.

The case against Scott Walker and the GOP in general is a compelling one that includes not only their terrible proposals but also the way they've tried to go about implementing them. In short, the case against Walker is that he isn't Wisconsin at all -- he's the "anti-Wisconsin," hellbent on changing the things that make our state great in favor of appeasing his corporate friends.

How do we deal with such disrespect for both the people and the institutions that these lawmakers are supposed to represent? How do we counter these forces of corporate appeasement in order to benefit the citizenry overall? We do so by supporting the removal of those lawmakers who have failed to represent their constituents, who are complicit in the dismantling of our state's core beliefs. Only when we are able to take control of one of the houses of the state legislature will we be able to prevent the further destruction of our state's celebrated values.

But we cannot stop there either. Scott Walker has proven he is determined to completely reshape the idea of what "is" Wisconsin, into a demented idea unimaginable to the average citizen of this state. In less than one year's time, we must formally show Gov. Walker that we won't stand for this. We must dedicate ourselves toward his removal, or at least toward the threat of it, in order to show him that his vision is unacceptable.

There are plenty of steps to take before we reach that point, including the recovery of the State Senate. But with the ultimate goal being the re-establishment of Wisconsin's integrity, as well as its position as a leader of the nation (and not another state that slips behind), it's imperative that we keep our eyes on the prize.

To achieve that end, we must remove Scott Walker, as well as his Republican allies, from power, so that they cannot inflict any more damage upon the people of our great state.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Events in Waukesha warrant a thorough investigation

Kathy Nickolaus' history, ineptitude, cast doubts for many in the Badger State

There are too many questions surrounding the “Waukesha Surprise” that came out yesterday, involving the “discovery” of tens of thousands of votes that netted sitting Supreme Court Justice David Prosser a 7,000+ lead over challenger JoAnne Kloppenburg.

Kathy Nickolaus’ troubled history, both during her time as a county clerk and as a staffer within the State Assembly, doesn’t inspire much confidence in her ability to count votes efficiently or correctly.

Nickolaus had previously served under Justice Prosser when he was Speaker of the Assembly back in the mid-90s. That conflict of interest wouldn’t ordinarily matter, so long as she performed her job function in an impartial way. But under the circumstances that we now find ourselves in, and given her involvement in the state caucus controversy, it suddenly becomes something to think about for the average voter.

Whether by her own incompetence, malfeasance, or just dumb luck, Nickolaus has failed in more ways than one within her leadership role in the office of the County Clerk.

Her stringent belief that she didn’t need to backup her personal computer -- which she used to tally the county’s election results -- with the network computers at the County Clerk’s office in Waukesha raises even more questions. During a hearing last year on the very subject, it was evident that Nickolaus didn’t think the issue was serious -- the record shows she "grinned" when she was told otherwise -- and that she ultimately didn’t put recommendations into place when it was suggested she backup her files.

In all likelihood, this isn’t anything more than what it appears to be: a screw-up by someone who probably shouldn’t be in the job she’s holding in the first place. Kathy Nickolaus has failed her county as well as her state in providing a transparent and accurate vote count on Election Day. The real losers in this situation are the voters within her county and statewide, especially those that can’t in good conscience accept the results as they appear to be due to the order of events and the character of the woman who delivered them more than a full day late.

For the legitimacy of our elections, to ensure that everyone (both left and right) believes the results that came in this past Tuesday (or Thursday, it seems), a full investigation and hand recount within Waukesha County is not only warranted but quite possibly required. Without the assurances of an impartial body, we’re going to see a great number of Wisconsinites who won’t recognize these elections as true, and who may also lose faith in our elections process further down the road.

That’s a situation we simply cannot afford to find ourselves in, for without fair and responsible elections, our state cannot function with the full faith and support of its people. There are plenty of liberals and conservatives who will respect the results of this election, win or lose, so long as they know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the eventual outcome is the legitimate preference of the people.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Prosser gains "lost" votes, leads (?) State Supreme Court race

Waukesha Co Clerk "finds" 14,000 additional votes, including net gain of 7,000+ for Prosser

New developments in the battle for the Wisconsin Supreme Court race leaves sitting Justice David Prosser in the lead, but under very curious circumstances.

Almost 29 hours after the initial results from around the state were released, Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus announced that more than 14,000 votes hadn't been included. The net result of those votes was a 7,000+ gain for Prosser, giving him the lead (should the results indeed hold up).

From Blogging Blue:
Having watched the news conference where the “discovery” of these missing votes was announced, I can’t help but wonder why it took something in the neighborhood of 29 hours after these votes were “discovered” for Kathy Nickolaus to make the announcement regarding the votes. What’s more, how is it that Christian Schneider of right-wing Wisconsin Policy Research Institute broke this story before anyone else? What inside information was Schneider given?
Questions abound about the entire situation, including Nickolaus' background with both her time as County Clerk as well as her employment history with Prosser himself.

Nickolaus had worked under Prosser while he had been Speaker of the Assembly from 1995 through 1996. She had also brushed aside complaints from the Waukesha County Board regarding her storing election results on a personal computer in her office rather than on a network:
The issue came to a head when Nickolaus removed the election results collection and tallying system from the county computer network this spring and installed it on standalone personal computers in her office. She has said they are backed up with redundant systems.

Director of Administration Norman A. Cummings said Nickolaus has been uncooperative with attempts to have information technologists review the system and confirm the backups.
Also an issue for some was just HOW could someone lose an entire city's votes? Questions of whether Nickolaus had really forgotten to save the information or not were raised by a tweet by Charles Brace:
Experts: Microsoft Access saves automatically, so Waukesha clerk's "didnt save" idea is ludicrous
Waukesha County has had its fair share of voting glitches as well (PDF).

Is it POSSIBLE that what Kathy Nickolaus is telling us is true? It is -- in fact, a Democratic member of the Waukesha County board of canvassers said they would vouch for Nickolaus' "discovery." But it's a situation that deserves the full scrutiny of the public -- Nickolaus has been known to have been involved in state scandals before, having been granted immunity for playing a part in the state caucus controversy.

It's terribly convenient for these results to come out more than a full day after the initial returns told us that JoAnne Kloppenburg was the winner, and not Prosser. It's not an impossible situation -- to err is human -- but the background of the person performing the error and the exact timing of the situation justifies the open records request that the Kloppenburg campaign is filing.
7,000 votes are 'found' in Waukesha County...what this means and is it believable, tonight on Political Heat.

Wisconsin Spring Election Post-election analysis

New progressive movement leads to new Supreme Court justice; Walker blames Madison for change

Tuesday’s Spring Election results provide us a glimpse of what to expect in the near future for Wisconsin politics. It’s clear that the electorate is upset with the current state of things -- if the protests in Madison weren’t proof enough of the disdain for the Walker administration, the results of several races throughout the state surely give us reason to consider a surge in progressive ideals throughout the Badgerland.

The results of the Madison mayoral election could be interpreted as a sign of area progressive voters’ intent to send Walker a message: we’re going to fight, and we’re not going to back down easy. Soglin was seen by many Madisonians as the candidate more likely to challenge Walker directly, though Mayor Dave Csieslewich was also a formidable candidate in regards to his willingness to stand up to the governor.

In losing his bid for re-election, Mayor Dave’s service to this community should be commended. Over the years he’s served Madison, we’ve seen many improvements that have continued to make this city one that is recognized as a great place to live among the many options across the country. So in gaining Paul Soglin as a mayor (again), who I believe will serve the post well, we must also recognize that another great mayor is leaving the office also.

The County Executive race was a relatively no brainer -- everyone was predicting that Joe Parisi would defeat Eileen Bruskewitz when the polls closed. He didn’t just defeat her, however -- Parisi won handily, with more than seven out of ten voters going in his favor.

One of the big wins last night was that of Gov. Walker’s former office, Milwaukee County Executive. Democratic-aligned (though hardly a hard-lined progressive) candidate Chris Abele won the county, defeating Republican Jeff Stone. In a devastating blow to Walker, Abele won the county by more than 60 percent of the vote, a sign that the disdain of the governor extended even to the county he once ran. Walker never once won Milwaukee County by 60 percent or more.

In fact, 19 counties that voted for Walker in 2010 flipped from Republican-aligned to Democratic-aligned on Tuesday night, a significant change in just under six months' time.

The big win of the evening, of course, didn’t happen until today. It took until earlier this afternoon to know for sure that JoAnne Kloppenburg defeated sitting Justice David Prosser, tilting the composition of the State Supreme Court in favor of the liberal bloc. Kloppenburg won by just over one-tenth of one percentage point, which means a recount is imminent.

Yet the win for Kloppenburg -- no matter how close it was or how long the legal process of the recount may take -- is still a win for the progressive movement in Wisconsin. As a sitting incumbent, Prosser was set to win re-election earlier this year without any problem. Instead, he ended up losing.

Something within the last few months must have changed in the state to have warranted this momentum shift. Most of us agree that the attack on workers’ rights and the middle class is likely that “something.” When hundreds of thousands of people come to the state Capitol to protest a governor’s policies, and then said-governor’s choice for Supreme Court justice fails to win re-election, there’s reason to believe more than a bit of a correlation between the two events exists.

But Scott Walker isn’t running scared yet. In analyzing the election results, Walker claims that there are two parts to what drives Wisconsin: that which is in Madison and that which is everywhere else. The results of the State Supreme Court election aren’t a sign, in his mind, of an electorate upset with his policy initiatives, isn’t indicative of the state changing its attitude towards the governor himself.

Yet the assumption that it’s the rest of the state against Madison, however simple an assumption it is to make, is complete hogwash. Scott Walker knows that it takes more than Madison, more than Dane and Milwaukee Counties even, to win a statewide election. In fact, more than 30 counties statewide voted in favor of Kloppenburg, signaling that it wasn’t just Madison that drove the election but a movement of citizens across Wisconsin against the re-election of Prosser, against a pro-Walker candidate, and in favor of a progressive choice.

Places like Eau Claire, Racine, La Crosse, and Superior went in favor of Kloppenburg; so did Portage, Juneau County, Cross Plains, and Monroe. A myriad of cities, towns, and villages voted in favor of her, voted to give JoAnne Kloppenburg a chance versus giving Justice Prosser, who described himself as a member of the Court’s conservative coalition, another ten years to serve.

But to dismiss the election results as “just” the voices of Madison or Milwaukee is to ignore another point: the people of these cities are also citizens of Wisconsin. Their opinions matter just as much as the opinions of those in Appleton, Green Bay, Manitowoc, Cambridge, or any other area of the state. When it’s one-person, one-vote, the governor foolishly pits his own state’s cities against one another rather than accepting the fact that a statewide effort against his policies is gaining traction.

To ignore this fact, to push aside this clear rejection of the Walker philosophy of governance, is a shameful display of arrogance on the part of our governor. On the other hand, it’s not surprising either: in ignoring the hundreds of thousands of Wisconsin citizens coming to Madison to protest his stripping of workers’ rights, Walker has already demonstrated just how arrogant he can be. A simple thing like the election of a justice wouldn’t change his mind.

It might take a few recalls, including his own, to do that.
Tonight on Political Heat: Is Madison no longer a part of Wisconsin? A rebuttal to Gov Walker's brash assumptions.
UPDATE: Brian Deschane, the lobbyist's son appointed to a government job within the Walker administration, has resigned from his position.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Update on Brian Deschane

Demotion of lobbyist's son ignores reality of problem

A quick comment on the Brian Deschane situation, the son of a lobbyist who, despite lacking any educational degree or relevant experience, received a political appointment to a state job with a salary of $81,000:

Yesterday, Gov. Scott Walker announced he would be demoting Deschane back to his previous job within the Department of Regulation and Licensing. With his demotion, Deschane goes back to his previous salary of $64,000.

That’s all fine and everything, but Walker’s ignoring the point entirely: it wasn’t Deschane’s promotion that was the problem. It was the fact that he was hired at all. By giving a college-dropout with no experience whatsoever a cushy $64,000-a year job, the Walker administration is making it clear that its hires are based on allegiance, not merit. Most of all, it proves that money talks: when an organization gives a candidate more than $90,000 in campaign contributions over two years, a kid like Deschane is cleared to the top of the pack, ahead of all other candidates who are much more qualified.

Walker should have removed Deschane from any job that he wasn’t qualified to perform. In time, Deschane may prove that he’s worthy of advancement, capable of performing either of the jobs he was appointed to. But until that time, qualified candidates for state jobs should be hired based on their ability to perform the role in question, not based on who are the friends and contributors to Scott Walker’s campaign.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Illuminate Me article: John Adams' "Thoughts on Government"

Check out an article I wrote for a site called Illuminate Me, about a document written by founding father John Adams: Thoughts on Government.

Adams isn't my favorite founder -- in fact, he's among my least favorite presidents. But his framework for our government, of the checks and balances he describes in this document 235 years ago this month, set the course for our country to become one of the most respected democratic republics the world has yet seen.

Gov't appointment shows Walker admin. favors nepotism

Son of Wisconsin lobbyist earns $81,000 per year, despite lack of degree, experience

It's infuriating how Gov. Scott Walker and his Republican cronies have run our state thus far. Between the gross negligence in the adherence of basic state laws and the disrespect for constituent wishes and the rights of workers, Walker & Co. have made it clear: their agenda is purely meant to favor those that got them into power, not the people of Wisconsin.

The word "crony" isn't one I like to thrown around lightly -- it needs to be used only when the situation rightly warrants it. But this morning a story in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel provided ample reasoning for use of the word in describing the Walker administration.

A man in his mid-20s received an administrative, government-appointed job overseeing environmental and regulatory issues within the Department of Commerce. This man, the Sentinel points out, lacks a college degree, has very minimal managerial experience, and has received two DUI citations.

Those things alone might not disqualify a candidate like Brian Deschane, the young man who received the appointment from the Walker administration. But when you consider that those three factors belong to a single applicant, one would have to question whether a more qualified person might be available to fill such a post. Indeed Deschane hardly qualifies for any government job, even an entry level position, much less a position in which he's given an administrative role.

However, Deschane isn't just any old appointment -- is father, Jerry Deschane, is an executive vice president for the Wisconsin Builders Association, one of Scott Walker's biggest donors. Members of WBA have given Walker more than $90,000 in campaign cash over the past two years alone.

Given the younger Deschane's limited job history, it's hard to fathom any reason beyond nepotism for how he could have landed a job with so much responsibility -- and so much pay. Even more surprising is that, within two months' time, someone with such a small resume somehow managed to get a promotion, as well as a $16,000 pay increase, especially during a time when Gov. Walker himself is touting the need for public workers to tighten their belts more.

The evidence is mounting that Scott Walker doesn't care about the people of this state -- except for those that happen to be his biggest campaign contributors. This latest example of favoritism, of placing unqualified applicants into important jobs based solely on campaign donations, is a disgusting display of power the Walker administration wields, a sickening vision of nepotism at its worst. It's shameful that our governor has brought Wisconsin down to this level in just over three months of "serving" this state.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Violent threats wrong, no matter who makes them

Violent rhetoric of area woman not justified

I've discussed at great lengths the problems I've had over the past couple of weeks with Republican lawmakers in this state, with Scott Walker, the "Brothers Fitz," and the budget repair bill in general. I feel that I've made valid points against said bill, and have also made strong arguments on why the statewide Republican leaders are failing Wisconsin on several fronts.

It's easy to point out the foibles of your political opponents. It's also not wrong to do so either, especially if they're behaving in a way that reflects poorly on the rest of the district they work for, or are hurting those whom they're meant to represent, as it is the case among several Republican leaders lately within the Badger State. But when someone on "my side" -- that is, when someone politically aligned with myself -- makes a judgment error or acts in a way that I'd ordinarily find reprehensible, it'd be wrong of me to ignore it.

A 26-year old woman from Cross Plains made it clear through violent words and threats to leaders that she didn't approve of the plans Republican lawmakers had for this state. She threatened several lawmakers' lives, among them Gov. Scott Walker.

"Please put your things in order because you will be killed and your families will also be killed due to your actions in the last 8 weeks," Katherine Windels wrote in one email. She also wrote, "I hope you have a good time in hell," adding that one of the ways this could be accomplished was through "putting a nice little bullet in [state legislators' heads]."

These aren't statements that should be taken lightly. There's no excuse for her words, no excuse for the threats she made against state lawmakers. Disagree all you want with someone, even threaten them in politically permissive ways (such as recall elections or other means) -- but violent rhetoric, even if never intended to be carried out, should never be an option.

This little episode doesn't excuse the actions of lawmakers who conduct business with little-to-no regard for the people they represent, who willfully ignore the laws set in place in order to carry out there agenda. The disgusting display of Republican rule as of the past three months in our state shouldn't be dismissed on account of the death threats that this person made.

Nor should the entire movement with which she aligned herself with be compared in any way to her misdeeds. The terrifying actions of one or two members of a political ideology don't reflect in any way the entire group's message or character. Just because Windels made violent threats doesn't mean that all pro-union supporters are violent people (on the contrary, the protesters received high marks from the Madison Police Department for being orderly and understanding).

However, we cannot overlook her actions either; we must be prepared to call a spade a spade when we need to, to acknowledge wrongs when they occur, no matter what angle they come from.

Katherine Windels performed a horrible action, conducted herself in a way that was unbecoming of any protester, be they left or right. If we learn anything from this event, no matter what political beliefs we hold, let's learn to carry out our business in a way that doesn't involve violence.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

House Republicans attempt to subvert U.S. Constitution

Almost anyone with a fourth grade education understands how a bill becomes law. Both chambers of Congress -- the House of Representatives and the Senate -- must pass identical bills, which then get sent to the president for his signature (or veto). If both bills passed aren’t the same, a compromise must be made between the House and Senate versions, which can involve serious give-and-take from differing political factions.

With today’s Congress being bitterly divided (the House under Republican control and the Senate led by Democrats), it’s apparent that compromise won’t come easy. Rumors of a possible government shutdown are heard daily, reminiscent of the Clinton-era crisis when a similar situation was forced by another stubborn GOP-controlled Congress.

In the end, the Republicans received the scorn of the American public -- Clinton’s approval rating rose during the crisis, and he went on to an easy re-election campaign against then-Sen. Majority leader Bob Dole.

Apparently not wanting to relive a similar situation, House Republicans found the perfect solution: subvert the Constitution entirely. Passing what they affectionately call a “force of law” bill, the Republicans approved a plan this week to allow only one house of Congress to pass a budget bill if the April 6 budget deadline comes around without compromise. The caveat, of course, is that the house of Congress they say would have the “force of law” in this situation is the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.

Just in case you’re keeping track at home: when a health care bill that in no way violates the Constitution becomes law, Republicans will scream until they’re blue in the face over fabricated legal concerns; but when it comes to establishing a budget (but only their version of it), the Constitution is just a silly document that’s standing in the way of their priorities, worth ignoring entirely if it benefits their cause. The requirement that both houses of Congress pass similar bills means nothing to Republicans; their thwarting of an explicit piece of the Constitution is entirely justified, in their own minds.

What’s sad is that this isn’t just the idea of one or two fringe Republican members of Congress -- this was two-hundred twenty-one Republican legislators coming together, voting intentionally in favor of destroying our national government’s framework. It annihilates checks and balances, dismantles centuries of our nation’s established design that our founding fathers created in order to prevent a unicameral legislature’s ability to rule without discretion.

We shouldn’t be surprised anymore by anything Republicans do to subvert the rule of law in our country, nor in the state of Wisconsin. Trivial things ranging from open meeting laws to the Constitutional framework of our government don’t matter to them so long as they get their way. It’s a dangerous form of leadership, one that endangers the democratic rights of the American people. It may not be surprising, but it shouldn’t be forgotten, nor forgiven, by citizens who entrust their lives to Republican lawmakers.