Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Recent comments made by Walker imply he's John Doe

Governor states his aides aren't receiving help from his criminal defense fund


Six days until the recall election.


The John Doe investigation continues to gain attention, specifically over whether Gov. Scott Walker is a target in the probe over illegal use of government resources for campaigning purposes, alleged embezzlement of funds, and bid rigging within the office of the County Executive while he served there.

Walker transferred more than $100,000 to his criminal defense fund in the past month from his campaign coffers. In the prior month, Walker had also transferred $60,000, for a grand total of $160,000 from his campaign to pay for attorney expenses regarding the John Doe investigation.

Walker's excuse? The funds were necessary for sharing documents with Milwaukee County DA John Chisolm.
Walker said he put money into the defense fund so that he could provide thousands of documents to Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm, who is heading the investigation. Hiring attorneys was necessary to make that efficient, he said.

"It doesn't make any sense as governor to spend my time, spending hours over days, doing that," he told reporters at a campaign stop at Laminations Central in Appleton.
It is time consuming to do such a task. But $160,000 seems a bit much simply to share documents. And state law on the formation of criminal defense funds imply that Walker's involvement in the investigation is more than simply "transferring documents."

An elected official may only set up criminal defense funds if and only if they are involved in the criminal investigation, like the John Doe inquiry, and only under certain circumstances. S/he may do so if they are a direct target of the investigation or are defending agents within their offices.

However, recent developments put into question one of those two options. Walker himself deflated any doubt that he's part of the investigation earlier this afternoon:
Gov. Scott Walker said Wednesday he will not use campaign funds to pay for the criminal defense of his aides.
Emphasis added.

The question that's on everyone's minds is this: Did Scott Walker just accidentally admit that he's John Doe?

It would seem likely that Walker is indeed the subject of the investigation. Even before he made these comments, the matter seemed to be a foregone conclusion. But there's yet another reason to suspect Gov. Walker is hiding something from us all.

His opponent in the recall election, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, has asked the governor to release emails that were sent by Walker within his office while he served as Milwaukee County Executive. Those emails were sent within a secret network that was allegedly used by staffers for campaign purposes during county time. Walker has refused to release them, citing the secret nature of the John Doe investigation as reason why he can't legally expose the emails to the public.

But several lawyers, including a former Watergate counsel, have come out and said that's flat-out false, that Walker could release those emails if he really wanted to. In other words, though he has a Fifth Amendment right to keep them in the dark, there's nothing legally binding to prevent him from letting the public see them.

That he refuses to release them implies he's got something to hide. That he's lying to the public speaks volumes.

It's yet unofficial whether Walker is John Doe. But with less than a week before the recall election, his involvement in the investigation is paramount to his resuming his position of power. His excuses, that he's merely "helping" the investigation along, using a criminal defense fund improperly while doing so, seem more and more unlikely with each passing day.

The more likely scenario, especially given recent events, is that Scott Walker is John Doe.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Walker's tenure as governor has hurt Wisconsin's values

Walker's time in office shows he wants to move our state in a corporatist direction


Seven days until the recall election.


The critics of the recall have bashed it incessantly, errantly claiming it's fundamentally over a singular issue, disregarding that it was they who in the past have tried to recall elected officials on the same premise.

The critics are wrong, however, despite their hypocrisy, to make the claim in the first place.

This recall election may have had its start over one issue, a big one even -- workers' rights to collectively negotiate their contracts. It may have snowballed since then, becoming an election over Walker's failure to create jobs in the state, his de-funding of our children's education, his appointment of cronies and the sons of political donors to high-paying positions of power, or his likely involvement in a federal investigation looking into embezzled funds, illegal campaign activities, and bid-rigging.

There are many more issues that may have sustained the recall effort beyond the initial catalyst of removing the rights of middle class public sector workers. But in the end, it's all about values.

The dichotomy of these issues puts Walker squarely at odds with those he's meant to represent.
  • Do we value our children enough to say tax cuts to corporations might need to be less than the cuts to our schools?

  • Do we value working men AND women enough to tell them we'll protect equal and fair wages against corporate malfeasance, beyond what's minimally expected of us?

  • Do we value hard work and qualified expertise to hire only the best and brightest to our agencies, or do we use those appointments to reward those who have aligned with us politically?
In short, do we subscribe to the values that have previously made Wisconsin the envy of the nation? Or do we transform our state into one that engages in pay to play corporate opportunism, that disregards Wisconsinites who earn an income below a six-figure threshold?

The current governor has consistently opted for the corporatist route, siding with monied interests while ignoring those of the middle class...and he's got nothing to show for it. Knowing this, Walker has engaged in a campaign of misinformation, half-truths, exaggerations and lies designed to paint no better a picture of himself but rather to unfairly discredit his opponent.

Don't be fooled by Walker' propaganda of pessimism. The alternative to Walker is "hope," not despair. His recall beckons a call towards a positive future of unity, of compromise for the greater good, embracing not the mantra of "divide and conquer" but of "Forward -- TOGETHER."

We don't have to be rich versus poor, worker versus owner, men against women, people against government. We can cater to the interests of all instead of a small elite. We can reject Walker's message that, unless you make millions of dollars, you're not worth a damn to the lawmakers that are meant to represent you.

In our Wisconsin, it has always been the case that the power entrusted to our leaders was derived by the people themselves, and NOT from a single class of people or of corporate influences. Understanding that fact, we created a method of removing elected officials we ourselves saw as no longer adequate to serving our needs. We call that method the recall.

Now is the time, if ever there was one, to utilize that power. Scott Walker has lost the confidence of the people he governs. He has similarly proven he was never out to gain it.

For that, his recall is wholly justified, his continued tenure a danger to our democratic tenets. To put it bluntly, Wisconsin is better off without Scott Walker.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Tom Barrett wins the first debate

Walker's refusal to answer questions creates doubt in the current governor's leadership

I could do an in-depth analysis, line-by-line, question-by-question look into who won the recall debate held tonight. Though it would be interesting to assess, it would miss the overall picture of who won the thing -- Tom Barrett or Scott Walker.

My take on the debate in its entirety is this: Walker started out strong. Barrett needed a couple minutes to catch his footing, but he eventually caught back up to Walker.

Well-before the halfway point, however, there was no question that the momentum had changed hands.

Tom Barrett won this debate, and he won it handily. He controlled its direction, bringing up legitimate questions about Walker's record that needed to be addressed. Yet, Scott Walker chose to avoid many of the questions Barrett brought up.

Case in point, the last section of the debate where the candidates were each allowed to ask other a question.

Walker differed the opportunity, perhaps trying to come off as more humble than his record paints him to be. Barrett took the chance to ask about Walker's out-of-state travels, and why he wouldn't release information on them to the public.

In his response, Walker talked about his more recent in-state travels, but neglected to mention whether he'd release information regarding his interstate adventures.

Barrett pointed out that Walker failed to answer the question -- and that's precisely the reason why Walker lost the debate, on this and many other questions he refused to discuss or avoided.

Barrett responded to criticism; Walker tried to change the course whenever it came up, failing to address issues adequately in doing so.

To be sure, both sides are claiming victory to their supporters tonight -- and if you look at it from a partisan point of view, both sides said exactly what their supporters wanted to hear. In this manner, both can reasonably say they "won" -- Walker stood his ground against Barrett using talking points familiar to his base; and Barrett brought up the legitimate points for why the recall was warranted.

There's no reason the right should be upset with Walker's performance. And the left probably feels a jolt of inspiration from the fighter they've wanted to see in Barrett. But when you look at the voters who have yet to decide whom they will support at this time, it seems clear that the guy who is willing to put in the work to restore Wisconsin won.

The guy who didn't want to talk about questions we all have about him, who wants us all to disregard our concerns and just "move on" already, lost.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Response to JS columnist: There are no unwritten rules of the recall

Whining about the recall, critics try to change Wisconsin history and values

In making its endorsement of Gov. Scott Walker in the upcoming recall election, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel made it perfectly clear, one last time, that it felt it unnecessary to remove the governor over "one silly lil' ol' issue."
Walker's rematch with Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett was prompted by one issue: Walker's tough stance with the state's public-employee unions. It's inconceivable that the recall election would be occurring absent that. And a disagreement over a single policy is simply not enough to justify a vote against the governor.
Of course, the Journal Sentinel missed the mark completely -- collective bargaining may have been the catalyst for the recall, but it's no longer the sole reason for its necessity.

The reason why recall elections in Wisconsin require a year before the process can begin is precisely why the notion that this is a "single-issue campaign" is completely without warrant -- a yearlong wait allows cooler heads to prevail, allows things to settle down before those who desire a recall can push for it.

It took eight more months from when Act 10 was passed before organizers could begin recall proceedings. During that time, Walker and his Republican legislature overreached on issues beyond collective bargaining.

Workers' rights started this mess -- but Walker's continual disregard for Wisconsin's values kept the momentum going, halted any hopes of any "cooler heads" prevailing.

The Journal Sentinel has consistently belittled the process of the recall as "too simple," as requiring more than dissatisfaction in a policy-maker's decisions -- and I've pointed out several times the mistakes in this assessment. The recall process is needed for more than just criminal or egregious behavior. And it won't, as some have suggested, lead to a permanent election process, especially if government leaders act in a way their constituents want them to.

Not to be outdone, community columnist for the Journal Sentinel Gary Kraeger added his two cents about the recall, stating in no uncertain terms that he felt the "unwritten rules" of the recall were violated:
The unwritten rule had always been: You don't recall governors unless they do something terrible - criminal, for example. That's an excellent unwritten rule. It's time we write that one up.
Recalling a governor because of criminal activities, however, is redundant -- the process for removing a governor under those terms are what impeachment are for.

Officially and in practice, there have never been such rules for why you need to recall an elected official in Wisconsin -- and that's the way it should be. If a lawmaker puts forth policy that is so atrocious, so vile that it sickens those it affects the most, it'd make sense to recall based on that policy and not necessarily their behavior.

It was good enough for conservatives in the 90s to go after Democratic senators over policy issues. And I don't remember Gov. Jim Doyle committing a crime when conservatives went after him, either.

In fact, the father of the recall in Wisconsin, "Fighting Bob" La Follette, himself promoted a system that didn't require a set of triggers to require removal of an official, that it was the will of the people alone that determined whether it was warranted or not:
I do not believe you will ever get any true representative government in the United States until there is in the hands of the people the power to recall the representative who betrays him.


Whenever a representative government fails, it fails because the representative proves incompetent or false to his trust. Entrenched in office for his full term, his constituency is powerless and must submit to misrepresentation. There is no way to correct his blunders or to protect against his betrayal.
La Follette spoke of "misrepresentation" on the part of officeholders, not a violation of code or of conduct. It was what the officeholder promoted, that which his or her constituents disagreed with, that justified his ouster.

Gary Kraeger complained that recall organizers had violated the "unwritten rules" of the process. But he didn't do his research -- such rules simply do not exist. We have the recall so that voters can coerce their legislators to push policy that reflects THEIR interests, not those of some outside influence (say, the Koch Bros. for example).

In penning his piece, Kraeger demonstrates that the only people trying to change the rules of the recall (and change history itself) are whining conservatives.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Scott Walker lied to Congress

Governor's testimony contradicts available documents

WTDY has pointed out that Gov. Scott Walker lied before a Congressional committee while discussing collective bargaining rights and his controversial "budget repair bill" that he passed in early 2011.
Regarding the process in which Governor Walker went about achieving concessions from state employees, Walker thought it was important to put in the record that, "In December, after the elections but before I was sworn into office, the public sector unions and the state rushed to the lame-duck session Legislature and to the Governor and tried to pass through contracts that would have locked us into a dire financial situation."

But drafting documents obtained by WTDY News from the non-partisan Legislative Reference Bureau reveal that Act 10 was actually being drafted in November, just weeks after Walker was elected governor. As lawmakers struggled to pass state worker contracts in December of 2010, a non-partisan state attorney was already hard at work drafting the very provision in ACT 10 that stripped away bargaining rights for nearly all public employees in Wisconsin.


In his testimony before Congress, Walker cited this lame-duck session as the catalyst for Act 10. "When people ask why we didn’t begin by negotiating, the tone was set early on by the process that was taken – after the election but before we were sworn in – and that’s why it became clear to us that we need to empower our state and local government to make those sort of long-term changes."
Emphases added.

What Walker told the committee, while under oath, was that the reason for Act 10 came about due to events that were occurring in December between unions and the legislature. But the documents that are available don't match Walker's tall tale. Act 10 was envisioned a whole month before the lame duck session.

In short, Walker knowingly lied while under oath by changing up the timeline and rationale for his controversial bill. And we all know how conservatives feel about officeholders who lie under oath.

The questions surrounding Walker's testimony are indeed serious enough to bring up the "p" word -- perjury. In fact, the committee that questioned Walker is the very same that questioned Roger Clemens when HE lied under oath. Clemens now faces perjury charges himself.

Most of us would like the system to hold an elected official to the same standards of a baseball player, if not that than to higher standards.

What's disturbing about the entire situation is that Walker's story-shifting is a disservice to the people of Wisconsin. He fails to provide the people with a rational reason for why Act 10 was needed. Likely, it's because it wasn't needed -- except as part of Walker's plan of "divide and conquer," which also has piqued the interests of some of those very same Congressional committee members from last year.

Wisconsin deserves a governor who is better than this. We don't want a governor who could potentially be charged with perjury, nor do we desire a governor whose involvement in an ongoing John Doe investigation is all but certain.

Wisconsin deserves a governor we can put our trust into, not one who we cannot afford to trust.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Even from conservative perspective, Walker no good for Wisconsin

On conservative issues, Wisconsin governor still fails

A lot has been said regarding the rationale for recalling Gov. Scott Walker, justifying his ouster over a plethora of issues that do Wisconsin great harm. Those issues tend to derive from a centrist-progressive viewpoint. Yet there are other reasons that Walker's re-admittance to the governor's mansion deserves to be examined closer, even from a conservative point of view.

The average conservative in the state believes in smaller government, lower taxes, balanced budgets, and in Wisconsin a pro-hunter mentality. Yet Walker's time as governor has run counter to all of these tenets.

Walker's budget grew by a one percent increase, more than half a billion dollars, from his Democratic predecessor's. Walker's budget also increased taxes on the poor by $70 million. And on the issue of balancing the budget, Walker has failed there as well, creating a $3 billion deficit according to his own administration's calculations.

Even on an issue as simple as deer-hunting, Walker get's it wrong. His "deer-czar" James Kroll envisions a state where there wouldn't be any public lands for deer-hunting, where private landowners could take over the lands in an effort to earn more money at your expense.
The public lands Kroll despises include the state parks, state and national forests, and other publicly held property that hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites—particularly in the northern part of the state—rely on for deer hunting...

If Kroll gets his way, public land hunters will get the shaft. The deer herd no longer would be managed as a public resource, but as the private property of wealthy landowners. Wisconsin will become like Europe, where hunting is the privilege of the wealthy.
In other words, in Walker's Wisconsin you'd pay to hunt the lands you once used for no charge at all. Open for business -- but closed for deer-season.

Given Walker's track record on doling out public lands for private gain, there's little doubt that Kroll's vision for a pay-to-hunt structure of private land use is shared by the governor. This runs against the respected tradition of viewing the deer-hunt as a public activity, one that allows rich and poor to take part in.

To review: Walker has raised taxes, increased spending, created a deficit, and now may go after hunters' public lands. Even from a conservative perspective, this guy is leading Wisconsin down a disastrous path.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Who is John Doe? Walker involvement a high possibility

Criminal defense fund places Walker close to investigation

Who is "John Doe?" That is the question of the hour, and should be on the mind of every Wisconsinite from now until the recall election commences.

John Doe investigations are secretive inquiries performed outside the public's eye. Not much is known during these proceedings, except what is leaked -- as well as who receives immunity in exchange for cooperation with the investigation.

A current John Doe inquiry is underway in Milwaukee County, where investigators are looking into whether illegal campaign coordination and embezzlement occurred in the office of the County Executive, during the time Scott Walker served the post while simultaneously campaigning for governor. Though the current governor hasn't yet been formally charged, nor is their indication that he's yet been officially investigated (remember, it's all secretive), all signs are pointing towards Walker being John Doe.

The smoking gun? Walker has set up a legal defense fund for use during his interactions with investigators. Though he's said that his use of this fund was merely for cooperative purposes, state law prohibits the establishment of such a fund unless the person involved or his direct agents are being investigated or charged with crimes within the inquiry.

From the Democratic Party of Wisconsin:
The G.A.B. affirms that the law is very clear: an elected official can only establish a legal defense fund if they, or their agent, are under investigation for, charged with, or convicted of violations of Wisconsin’s campaign finance and election laws.
Furthermore, state law prohibits the establishment of such a fund (PDF) for any other purpose, including simply being of a "cooperative" nature. In other words, the defense fund can only be set up in circumstances that require it (as outlined above), not in circumstances that Walker has described his involvement as being.

With that in mind, the question has to be asked: is Walker establishing the fund for himself, or for an "agent" of his?

It's hard to imagine who else John Doe could be -- most of the eligible "agents" who would qualify for that label have either already been charged for their involvement, or have been given plea bargains or immunities for their cooperation within the investigation.

So at best, Walker has established a defense fund for some unknown actor who played a significant role in illegal activities while working for the County Executive (while at the same time is insignificant enough to stay below anyone's radar); or, Scott Walker is in fact John Doe.

The latter situation makes even more sense when you consider the investment Walker has made to his fund, including some $60,000 recently transferred from his recall campaign coffers to help pay for legal bills.

Surely donors to Walker are thrilled to know their donation to him is being put to use in this way.

Officially, this is all speculation still -- given the nature of the investigation, no one can definitively point to Walker and say that he is indeed John Doe, the subject of a federal investigation. But the fact is that this theory makes the most sense, that no other available explanation (including Walker's own story) seems to fit the circumstances as well as this idea, that Walker is likely the John Doe we're concerned with.

There's reasonable evidence to conclude that Walker is John Doe. Given his involvement in the case, Wisconsinites should be very wary of returning him to his post as governor.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Another recall rant: The "politics of need" versus the "politics of greed."

Walker sides with corporate interests rather than help the less fortunate

"There is looming up a dark new power...The enterprises of the country are aggregating vast corporate combinations of unexampled capital, boldly marking, not for economic conquest only, but for political power. For the first time in our politics, money is taking the field of organized power. The question will arise, and arise in your day though perhaps not fully in mine: 'Which shall rule--wealth or man? Which shall lead--money or intellect? Who shall fill public stations--educated and patriotic free men, or the feudal serfs of corporate wealth?'"

Edward G. Ryan, Wisconsin State Supreme Court Chief Justice

The recall election can be summarized in one very short phrase, boiling down to the "politics of greed" versus the "politics of need." In other words, do we help those Wisconsinites most in need of assistance? Or do we create for ourselves a state that loses any semblance of sympathy for the downtrodden, favoring those who only want more?

Consider this: when more Wisconsinites had the need for health care, turning to the state's celebrated and often imitated Medicaid program BadgerCare, Scott Walker chose to under-fund the health care program instead, forcing 17,000 citizens to lose basic coverage in the process.

Or this: citing a need to plug an exaggerated budget deficit, the governor cut education funding by $800 million; yet at the same time, he had no qualms in giving tax breaks of nearly three times that amount to corporations, two-thirds of which don't even pay taxes to begin with. (It should be noted that the reduction of revenue from those tax cuts contributed to greater total spending in Walker's budget compared to his predecessor, including a $3 billion GAAP budget deficit.)

Or this: at a time when the working poor are still struggling with the effects of the economic recession, Walker's budget cut the Earned Income Tax Credit by a significant amount, effectively raising taxes by tens of millions of dollars on the poorest of the working class. A single mom working minimum wage, for example, will see her income taxed two percent higher this year thanks to Gov. Walker.

Or how about this: despite no documented lawsuit of any kind, Walker cited frivolous lawsuits as rationale for his repeal of an equal pay law in Wisconsin, making it easier for employers to pay women less for equal work throughout the state.

We see which side of "greed vs. need" Walker aligns himself with through his acts of malevolent governance. We also bear witness to him siding with greed more often in his private-but-exposed conversations with billionaires (imaginary or real), discussing proposed tactics to instigate trouble among peaceful protesters and strategies of "divide and conquer."

Wisconsin can't take any more of this. The priorities of the state were never meant to benefit a privileged few and to leave the rest behind. Indeed, our state began the movement to reject that philosophy, to fight against the politics of greed, more than 100 years ago.

To keep that fight alive, we must rise up. We must recall Scott Walker, who spits in the face of Wisconsin's values while he smiles and laughs it up with millionaire and billionaire campaign donors across the nation.

The Wisconsin of our beloved past cannot survive with Scott Walker in its future.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

By any standard he picks (including his own) Walker's job numbers are STILL a failure

By his own standard, Walker shows his first year in office had slower growth than his predecessor's

If there is one thing Gov. Scott Walker excels at, it's being a masterful manipulator. With a straight face he will tell you that his "reforms" are working in our schools, despite more than double the number of teacher losses and increased class sizes; he will state unequivocally that he balanced the budget without raising taxes, despite kicking debt down the road and very clearly raising taxes for the working poor by tens of millions of dollars.

And now, by manipulation of more jobs data, Walker is going to tell you he created jobs in 2011, using an entirely different standard than any other state is using at this time.

Like his other erroneous claims, Walker's news on jobs in Wisconsin should be read with a skeptical eye.

For starters, Walker is using a measurement that typically receives six months of attention, and following that usually gets a final check by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). But instead of keeping with the usual schedule, and instead of receiving that third-party check from the BLS, Walker has sped things up, disregarding the final month of scrutiny and abusing a department's capabilities so that he can score political gain.

The change from one survey to another deserves the public's doubt for another reason: it's completely hypocritical to change standards now when, just a year ago, Walker was touting his performance using the same survey numbers he now rejects.

While he's certainly allowed to do this, the timing of the change brings into question his motivations for doing so, just 20 days before the recall election. It's certainly convenient that he's able to tout new numbers from a different survey just in time to make his final case for re-election.

But let's disregard the skepticism for a moment and focus on the numbers Walker is putting out there. Even if you look past the fact that they haven't been vetted by the BLS, that Walker could put ANY number out there and there'd be no way to verify it, the number he DOES put out STILL represents a failure on the part of his administration's job goals by a significant margin.

Walker promised to create 250,000 jobs in his first term of office. To keep pace with that goal, the state would need to see more than 62,000 jobs per year during that time. Even when accepting Walker's optimistic view based on his questionable projections, he only achieved a third of his goal in 2011.

Put another way, he's off his pledge by more than 40,000 jobs using his own numbers.

There's still yet another reason to be wary of celebrating Walker's "new" numbers -- they indicate a slower growth of jobs compared to the year before. When his predecessor, former Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle, left office, Wisconsin saw a year-to-year growth of more than 36,000 jobs in his last year. Compare that to Walker's year-to-year numbers (again, according to his own calculations), and you see a significant drop in growth, to 23,000 jobs during 2011 (Source PDF).

So even according to his "revisions," we're worse under Walker's first year than his predecessor's last in terms of job growth. That's a significant slowdown -- a 30 percent drop from one year to the next. In other words, it's NOT working -- it's WORSENING.

We shouldn't be surprised at this point that Walker is trying to change the rules so late in the game. On jobs he's blamed everything under the sun, from Obama to protesters, from health care to the debt ceiling, and everything in-between. It was only a matter of time before Walker blamed the numbers themselves.

The real mystery is when he will accept that the blame has lied with him all along.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

"This is what de-regulation looks like" -- wells of SE WI communities potentially contaminated

Waste hauler dumps three times the regulated levels, receives slap on the wrist and minimum penalty

This story is a bit dated, but it's worth keeping alive because it's relevance isn't yet fully appreciated.

Herr Environmental, a waste hauler company in southeastern Wisconsin, is facing harsh criticism because it spread possibly more than three times the legal limit of waste around the homes and fields of dozens of Jefferson County residents.

Scott Gunderson, an executive assistant in the Department of Natural Resources, handed down a few citations to the company, carrying out the minimum action required of him, disregarding recommendations from several within the agency to recommend criminal action against Herr Environmental.

What's so controversial here is that Gunderson, who had "made an extra effort" to deal with Herr himself, had received campaign contributions from the company during his time as an Assemblyman. The violations, touted as "among the worst" by the lead investigator of the case, could have required criminal action resulting in tens of thousands of dollars in fines for the illegal waste dumping. Instead, Herr Environmental paid just $4,338.

Another politically appointed member of the DNR had urged the agency to be lenient with Herr Environmental, advising his colleagues that "we all make innocent mistakes" (Emphasis added).

Residents in the area have been warned to test their well water before drinking it. Contamination in the wells could prove to be fatal in some cases, with one DNR investigator issuing a dire warning to residents:
Wastewater specialist David Bolha, the lead investigator, has said he and other agency staff feared potential threats to public health, including possibly dangerous levels of nitrates in wells. Elevated nitrates levels can cause a potentially fatal blood disorder in infants called blue-baby syndrome.
Emphasis added.

The incident with Herr Environmental highlights a growing trend at the DNR, of lessening the number of tickets to a 12-year low in 2011. Some have suggested this is good practice, a lowered intrusion on government on the people whom it's supposed to serve.

But with actions like the illegal dumping of human waste near the well water of Jefferson County communities, I'd rather err on the side of caution. If this is what de-regulation looks like, I'll take the old DNR over the new one any day.

Scott Walker set to distort state job numbers -- he hopes you fall for it, too

Governor set to change the "rules of the game" by switching standards of what qualifies as job growth

Gubernatorial candidate Tom Barrett is skeptical of current Gov. Scott Walker's recent announcement that job numbers to be revised this week by his administration will somehow reveal a "brighter" depiction of the state's overall record.
Barrett says Walker has "brought in a fiction writer" and is going to make up better numbers to tell a better story.
Barrett is right to be suspicious, given the fact that the Bureau of Labor Statistics has already identified Wisconsin as the nation's worst state in terms of job numbers. Unless Walker legitimately finds 20,000 more jobs than what was previously accounted for, that distinction will continue to hold up.

Rick Ungar at has a theory as to why Walker is suddenly pushing this new jobs "revelation": the Walker administration is set to use different numbers, from a different survey, describing jobs in the state.

Rather than using the Establishment Payroll Survey, used by all 50 states of the union, Walker is going to tout the findings from the Current Population Survey, which, as it turns out, favors Walker by about a 20,000 job growth since he took office.

The problem with using that system, however, is that it's...well, frankly flawed for a variety of reasons. The CPS directly calls peoples' homes in the state, asking them if they have a job or not. They take the data they extract, and like any other survey fit it to match the population of the state. The problem is, it asks each person whether they have a job -- not one job, not five jobs, just if an individual has a job.

So if, like many Wisconsinites hit hard by the recession, a person HAD been working two jobs, yet lost one of those jobs, the EPS survey would count that as one job lost. Yet the CPS survey would count both instances as equal -- one person has a job, and nothing's changed. Even part-time jobs, in the CPS survey, count as one full job for those employed.

To be fair, part-time jobs count as jobs in the EPS survey as well; but if a person were working two jobs and lost their full-time job, the EPS would record that loss. The CPS would not.

Ungar points out another flaw in using the CPS survey:
The Current Population Survey (household survey) is particularly tricky when applied to determining the job numbers for a state because of the many people who live on the ‘edges’ of a state who are employed across the border in a different state. By way of example, someone living in Racine, Wisconsin may be able to answer in the affirmative when asked if she has a job. However, what is not asked is whether the respondent is employed in Wisconsin or driving across the border into Illinois to go to work. This makes such an individual’s response useful in determining how many people are working on a national basis but perverts the numbers when attempting to determine how many people are actually working in Wisconsin.
Emphases added.

So what does that mean? It means that, ironically, Walker is set to take credit for jobs created by our neighbor to the south, as well as those to the west and north of us. Those Wisconsin citizens on the border may be "employed in the state of Wisconsin," but they don't represent "jobs created in the state" -- they were created elsewhere, by economic conditions not of Walker's making.

It's interesting to note also that Walker likely won't challenge the EPS findings, just that his numbers are better. In fact, they are worse -- Walker's numbers simply skew what jobs have and haven't been created.

The CPS survey isn't even interested in the number of jobs -- it's more concerned with the number of employed people. Walker's 250,000 jobs pledge is still off some 64,000 jobs, according to some studies.

Switching the standards by which he measures jobs growth three weeks before his recall election is a deplorable, unconscionable action taken by Walker. Not only is it unfair and dishonest, it's hypocritical as well. When the EPS survey showed that Wisconsin was growing jobs early last year, Walker was the first to tout his reforms as "working" for the state. But when headlines screamed "worst in the nation" regarding Wisconsin's job numbers, Walker spent state department resources devising ways he could make the numbers look better.

Changing how you look at jobs won't change the simple fact: under Scott Walker, Wisconsin slipped to last place in the country.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Video Heat: "Not what we wanted"

Walker's tenure as governor came with many surprises

The latest video in the "Video Heat" series takes a look at the promises Walker fell short of keeping and the things he neglected to mention during his campaign.

Is Fitzgerald's sexism indicative of state GOP's beliefs?

Republican senator believes recall opponent only running per her husband's request

If the newly released video of Gov. Scott Walker discussing his strategy of "divide and conquer" serves to remind Wisconsinites about the corporatist, anti-worker nature of the state's Republican Party, state Sen. Scott Fitzgerald's recent comments about who his recall opponent, Lori Compas, takes her orders from should serve to remind us about the party's blatant sexism:
For the record, Fitzgerald said he doesn't buy Compas' Pollyanna image. He knows some people are painting the race as a David-vs.-Goliath contest. But Fitzgerald said he thinks her husband is one of the main forces behind her campaign, as well as unions and protest groups.

"I don't for one minute believe she is the organizing force behind this whole thing," he said.
Emphases added.

It isn't enough that state Republicans have to make earning an equal wage a more difficult task for women of Wisconsin to obtain, but now we see that the state's conservative leaders clearly don't think much of women participating in the political process either, believing their motivations are derived from their husband's ambitions instead.

Belle Case La Follette must be rolling in her grave.

Not to be outdone, however, Compas has responded in a web video utilizing her welcoming sense of humor on the matter:

Kudos to Lori Compas for "sticking it to the man." Now, if only we could get brother Jeff Fitzgerald to stop using punk rock inappropriately.

Friday, May 11, 2012

"Divide and Conquer" -- the Walker plan for Wisconsin

Governor wanted to pit citizens of Wisconsin against each other to destroy union presence

Newly released footage from a documentary film shows Gov. Scott Walker (way back in his first month of office) making small talk with one of his billionaire donors over how to deal with unions, weeks before introducing his budget repair bill that removed bargaining rights for state workers.

Walker makes his strategy clear:
"We're going to start in a couple weeks with our budget adjustment bill," Walker said when a campaign donor asked him how he would turn the state red. "The first step is, we're going to deal with collective bargaining for all public employee unions [and] use divide and conquer."
Emphasis added.

It's clear now that compromise was never a policy of the Walker administration. The governor had planned to remove public workers' rights for some time, even though he had never campaigned on it, and make Wisconsin a "right to work (for less)" state afterwards.

Openness and cooperation are not the strong-suits of this man. We knew this already when, while ignoring Democratic senators calling his office to work out a compromise on collective bargaining, Walker instead took a 45 minute phone call from a person be believed to be another billionaire donor, David Koch.

It was revealed during that same conversation that Walker had considered placing "troublemakers" in the crowds of peaceful protesters to make the movement seem less credible.
Koch impersonator: What we were thinking about the crowd was planting some troublemakers.
Walker: We thought about that...
Emphasis added.

To review: we have two instances of Walker talking strategy to billionaire donors (or at least who he thinks are billionaires). That's nothing new: politicians talk with donors all the time like this. What is puzzling, however, is the strategy itself. In both cases, Walker's plan was to pit Wisconsinites against Wisconsinites, to take advantage of the resulting mess that came about, scoop up the pieces, and form them into a corporatist vision for the state afterwards.

That's not the way to manage a state. That's malfeasance, deception of the people in order to push an ideological mission of his own making.

Gov. Walker needs to be removed from office. June 5th can't come soon enough.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Scott Walker blames Barrett for job losses despite mayor's limited role

Governor takes credit when numbers are positive, shifts responsibility to others when jobs tank

Gov. Scott Walker is trying to have it both ways. In 2011, when much of the state -- Milwaukee included -- was seeing gains in job numbers (hard to believe that now), Walker humbly took credit for improvements in the state and the city itself, using it as proof that his "reforms" were "working."

Yet now, a different tune is being played. Walker has shifted the responsibility of job losses to his recall opponent, Tom Barrett, who just happens to be mayor of Milwaukee.

In short, Walker takes credit when things are good, and brushes it aside when things get ugly.

But those criticisms are entirely unwarranted. For starters, Milwaukee's economic conditions are primarily handled at the county level, and the city has only a limited role in job creation:
The City of Milwaukee...has an unusual power sharing arrangement between the county and the city whereby most of the power to effect real change and provide needed vital assistance rests largely with the county...

When one reviews the powers of the city, it is clear that there is no such authority within Milwaukee city government. While the city has the ability to create incentives, via local tax credits and other such devices, the ability to make the types of investments that can help lift areas of the city out of poverty rests with the county and the state governments.
A second point to ponder is that Milwaukee actually did better than the rest of the state when it came to job losses that it had. From Jake's Economic TA Funhouse:
...the Milwaukee area (ID'd as Milwaukee, Waukesha, Ozaukee and Washington Counties) may have lost jobs in the last 12 months, but at a slower rate than the rest of the state did.

Job change, Milwaukee vs. Wisconsin March 2011- March 2012(seasonally unadjusted)
Milwaukee area- -4,300, -0.54%
Rest of Wisc.-25,700, -1.35%
No doubt the fact that Milwaukee County did better than the rest of the state in tourism last year helped in buffering losses. Perhaps it's coincidence, but it's worth noting the rate of tourism increased in 2011 within Milwaukee County from the previous year...when Scott Walker left his post as County Executive.

As Walker continues to place blame where it doesn't belong, let's remember that on jobs the "buck" has never stopped with him. It's time for the governor to start taking responsibility for his own failures. After all, following blaming losses on the debt ceiling crisis, the president, health care reform, protesters and unions, and his recall challenger, what's there left to blame anymore?

Same-sex marriage, perhaps?

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Barrett wins recall primary

Milwaukee mayor will once again take on Walker in the general election

The people have spoken, and Tom Barrett is their choice.

The Milwaukee mayor has been selected among a highly qualified pool of candidates to take on Gov. Scott Walker in the historic recall election next month. The match-up will pit two candidates who have faced off before, in 2010 when Walker won office amid the conservative wave of electoral victories that swept the nation.

Notably absent during that year were 824,443 potential voters, who took part in 2008's presidential election but sat out of 2010's gubernatorial race. Since that time, Walker has polarized the state to the point where a majority now disapproves of his job performance. And recent polling also shows that Barrett and Walker are in a statistical tie in a head-to-head general election at this point (thought it may be that Barrett could already be ahead by a significant margin).

The momentum heading towards the recall is Barrett's to claim. He'll need to fight hard to defeat Walker come June, sustaining this momentum over the next month. But it's clear that recall supporters chose the right person for the task at hand.

The time for unity, for the common goal of removing Walker from office, is now.

Monday, May 7, 2012

A recall rant: Journal Sentinel gets it wrong...AGAIN.

Recalls are necessary, promote citizen-driven democracy in Wisconsin

The Journal Sentinel gets it wrong on the issue of recalls, complaining yet again over costs of the process, among other exaggerated claims:
It's unnecessary, it's expensive, it's ugly - and it's coming Tuesday. That's the day the primary election in the gubernatorial recall race will be held.


This recall is seen by some here and elsewhere as part of a larger struggle taking place across the country. It also carries the potential, as Walker told the Editorial Board this week, for setting the stage for a constant recall election cycle.


And we still maintain this is all unnecessary because it essentially boils down to one issue: last year's legislation that severely curtailed bargaining rights for most public employees. Politicians, regardless of party, should not be recalled over one issue or one (or even several) votes.

Which is why we hope that state Sen. Robin Vos reintroduces his bill to make it more difficult to conduct recalls in Wisconsin. It's just too easy now, and Wisconsin needs to curb this fever as soon as it can.
Emphases in bold added.

I've said it before, and I'll say it until again I'm blue in the face: on this issue, the Journal Sentinel is wrong, wrong, 110 percent WRONG!

Let's address each of the issues, highlighted in bold above. (This will be a lengthy post, to be sure. Click "READ MORE" below to read it in full, or one of the links also below to read a specific complaint the JS makes.)

JS Complaints:
It's unnecessary, it's expensive, it's ugly.
A constant recall election cycle/It's just too easy now
Politicians should not be recalled over one issue.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Walker fails Packers' history, compares self to Vince Lombardi

Analogy conveys wrong image of Walker's dismal jobs performance

Within a piece on Fox News' website that finally recognizes that the recall movement is more than about unions, Gov. Scott Walker tries to make an unlikely comparison between himself and another famous figure in Wisconsin history.

Apparently not content with trying to emulate Ronald Reagan, Walker insists he's also like former Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi:
"Vince Lombardi, when he took over the Green Bay Packers, the Packers were 1-10-1," said Walker, who took office in January 2011. "He didn't take them to the world championship the next year. It took a couple of years. But eventually once they got there they were one of the premiere teams in the NFL. And we can be a premiere state."
There's just one problem with that analogy -- it assumes that Lombardi's first year as coach was not-so-great, that it took time for him to turn things around in what would come to be known as "Titletown."

In fact, Lombardi took a team that had only won a single game the year before and transformed the organization into one with a winning record, going 7-5 in his first year as head coach.

Lombardi's turnaround of the Packers was so significant that it earned him the Coach of the Year award.

Gov. Walker, on the other hand, could only win a recognition like that in his dreams. Taking over a state that was on the path towards recovery, Walker instead sent it rolling backwards, including a loss of over 23,900 jobs from March 2011 to March 2012. Taking another look at the Packers analogy he made, it'd be like if Lombardi took over the franchise -- 1-10-1 the year before -- and performed even worse.

Gov. Scott Walker is grabbing at straws. His insistence that he's done any good for job creation within the state of Wisconsin is laughable. But positing that he's anything like Vince Lombardi...well, that's just blasphemous.

This, on the day of prayer of all days!

Education will play a significant role in the recall election

Cuts to state's school districts will be on the minds of voters across Wisconsin

With the primary election a mere five days away, it will soon be clear which of the four Democratic challengers will face off against Gov. Scott Walker in the recall early next month. With that in mind, it's worth taking note of some of the issues that will become part of the general election debate over the next thirty-some days.

One of the biggest concerns for voters will undoubtedly be the state of education in Wisconsin. Long-established as a value citizens have held dear to for generations in the Badgerland, education has taken a huge hit since Walker took office, with nearly $800 million in cuts across Wisconsin as part of his budget. That amounts to more than $635 cut per student, and is the largest cut to education ever seen in the state.

What's more, Walker also limited how local districts could raise funds to help schools. In the end, the governor's "reforms" resulted in a $1.6 billion shortfall for districts statewide.

Recent polling suggests that education is among the spending items that voters of the state support for the most part. For example, within the Marquette Law School poll released earlier this week, two-thirds of respondents opposed cutting education as a means to balancing the budget, including 63 percent of independents (and even four out of every ten Republicans).

Democrats would be wise to capitalize on the subject, an issue that seems to transcend partisan lines. Tom Barrett, for instance, who currently leads the Democratic primary candidates for governor in the polls, isn't shy to mention his wife is an educator.

To be sure, throwing wads of cash towards schools won't improve education on its own -- investments in education need to make sense, and resources provided to schoolchildren and their teachers require value beyond aesthetic appeal. But removing funding (especially at the rate that Scott Walker did) will without a doubt result in a reduced quality of learning for our children, as teachers' positions will be cut and resources end up depleted in our schools.

The value Wisconsin holds on education is one of striving towards exceptionalism, an uncompromising belief that a strong standard of learning will create a better society for us in the long run. That standard took a heavy beating when Scott Walker came to power.

And the longer he stays in office, the lower that standard will become.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

On job creation, "CEO Walker" would be fired

Governor's dismal performance warrants removal from his own job

I don't really care much for business analogies when it comes to politics. The belief that an executive of a company and the leaders representing us in public office face any of the same challenges is one I typically reject.

That said, is there any doubt that Gov. Scott Walker, based on his job creation performance as chief executive of our state, wouldn't be fired by now if he was singled out for our governor's terrible showing in his first year or so of "leading."

This is a governor who, after all, made jobs his number one priority during the campaign, pledging to bring more than 250,000 to the state in his first term in office. Since that time, we've instead gone backwards and away from that goal, despite two pseudo-job creation sessions Walker and his Republican allies in the legislature propped up. These sessions, however, focused primarily on tax breaks and tort reform, changes that do little-to-nothing for job creation in the state.

Rather than take responsibility for his sluggish performance, Walker has tried to place the blame elsewhere, citing everything from the national debt ceiling debate, President Barack Obama's health care law, and even to his critics, the protesters, themselves.

For Truman, "the buck" stopped with him; for Walker, it's everyone else's fault but his own.

Despite the debt ceiling affecting every state in the nation; despite the president's health care plan similarly being a national project; and despite Occupy protests occurring in other states across the country, Wisconsin was the only one to have significant job losses, more than seven times its nearest rival and more than three times every state that had net losses COMBINED.

Walker can try to sugarcoat it all he wants. He can make malicious claims about the number of jobs lost by his predecessor, omitting the fact that Wisconsin was hit hard by a global economic recession at that time (click image at right to enlarge). He can blame protesters all he wants as well, leaving out how exactly citizens participating in their democracy directly affects job numbers. He can even place the blame on the president to his heart's content, neglecting to mention that Obama's reforms led to 25 straight months of job creation at the national level.

But facts are facts, and the bottom line is, in spite of Wisconsin being on the path to recovery before he took office, Walker has failed to create (or even maintain) the economic conditions necessary for continued job growth. If he were running a company, based on his performance on jobs alone he'd surely be fired.

On June 5, we have the chance to give him the pink slip ourselves.