Tag Archive: Arizona


Wisconsin Protests

Protests in Madison continued through the weekend. 30-50,000 people showed up Saturday to protest against Governor Walker’s attacks on working families. Mail carriers had their day on Sunday. But the Tea Party had a pro-Walker rally on Sunday as well at Alliant Energy Center. Despite having access to the Kochs’ billions, they could only muster 600 people to support Scott Walker. A new poll came out, albeit with a very small sample (603 respondents, corresponding to errors greater than +/- 4%), showing very negative reactions to Governor Walker, a strong majority against stripping unions of collective bargaining rights, and 72% of Wisconsinites want to solve the Walker-created budgetary problems by raising taxes on people earning more than $150,000 per year. HUGE protests are expected across the nation next Saturday, with more events also planned throughout the week. And the bottom may be dropping out on Governor Walker as thousands of dairy farmers plan to drive their tractors to the Capitol to show support for unions next Saturday. In Wisconsin, when dairy farmers protest Republicans, it generally means the end of the careers of those Republicans. Some are predicting that the protests in Madison are just the beginning, as the debate to cut Social Security begins in Washington.

Other Tea Party Fun

In Ohio, the Tea Party legislature is passing tougher anti-union legislation than the bill in Madison. It makes it a criminal offense for workers to go on strike. Some shenanigans were required in order to get the bill through committee, however. When a committee was deadlocked on the proposal with even some Republicans dissenting, the Republican Senate Majority Leader fired two Republican Senators from their committee assignments so that the bill could reach the floor. Still, even some Republicans are calling the bill unconstitutional and it likely violates existing labor laws. Unfortunately Ohio Dems can not prevent a quorum in the Republican-filled Ohio legislature. This week has seen the largest protests to date in Columbus.

Indiana Democratic House Members are still in Illinois, preventing a vote on anti-union legislation there. As protests in Indiana continue, Indiana’s newly elected Republican Secretary of State Charlie White is probably going to jail. He has ben indicted on three counts of felony voter fraud for registering to vote in places where he did not live. One would think that a State Secretary of State, who is in charge of elections within the state, would understand the rules here – that is unless that was the reason for his choice to run. Keep in mind that White has supported the voter ID requirement in Indiana, ostensibly to prevent people from voting illegally as he has done. There are a lot more interesting details in this article
from the Brad Blog.

The State Legislature of Arizona has passed an unconstitutional bill to nullify federal laws. Laws of this sort were the same type that precipitated the Civil War, when southern states attempted to nullify federal regulation of slavery. This comes on the heels of a vote by the Arizona Legislature to allow people to carry guns to public events, because, you know, guns at public events are a fantastic idea and it is not as if one of their own members of Congress was shot in the head by a lunatic carrying a gun or anything just two months ago. Oh, as it happens, Jared Loughner has just been hit with 49 additional criminal counts for his firing spree on a crowd at a Giffords event in January.

The Tea Party-led Montana State Legislature is still at it. Even Republicans are now claiming that the Tea Party is leading to the the Republicans to become such a national laughingstock that they are driving away young GOP voters. In addition to working to allow guns in schools, they are trying to, as MT Cowgirl puts it, “legislate the laws of nature” to deny climate change, eliminate stem cell research, to claim the earth is between 4,000 and 6,000 years old, and to criminalize homosexuality.

Florida Tea Party Governor Rick Scott may be subject to a criminal investigation over his firing of the state nursing home long-term care obmudsman. It is not generally considered a smart move to anger the nursing homes in the state with the nation’s most geriatric population.

Wikileaks

Julian Assange is appealing the expected British court ruling that he should be extradited to Sweden. His organization WikiLeaks has already uncovered a huge amount of corruption from countries accross the world. It was revelations of the excesses of the family of the Tunisian dictator that have led to pro-democracy rallies across Africa and Asia. Meanwhile, Bradley Manning, who the military claims gave WikiLeaks documents that it later published, is in detention under cruel and unusual conditions – including being kept in his cell naked, being refused sleep, etc. Does this sound familiar?

Corruption on the Supreme Court

Calls are coming out for the removal of Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Antonin Scalia for illegally participating in political fundraising, tax evasion and refusing to make public conflicts of interest.

Advertisements

A sign from Saturday's protest in Madison (mjs538 at Buzzfeed)

The labor movement spreads across the country

Heated action spread from Wisconsin across the nation today, where Democrats have left the Statehouse in order to prevent the passage of another Tea Party bill that would eliminate the right of public employees to collectively bargain. This prompted Indiana Governor Daniels to suggest dropping the bill!

Unfortunately, leaving the state is not an option in Ohio, where Republicans can maintain a quorum without Democrats, though protests continued in the state’s capital, Columbus.

More rallies were held around the country in solidarity with the state employees in Wisconsin. There was a rally in Phoenix, Little Rock, there were 6000 in Sacramento, also in Palmdale, and a large rally in Denver, and in Des Moines, union protests vastly outnumbered a 50-person Tea Party squad. More rallies took place in Annapolis, 2000 showed up in Boston, workers packed the state capitol in St. Paul while a large group rallied outside Fox News in New York City, thousands surrounded the Statehouse in Columbus, joining several hundred people in Santa Fe, and in Providence, and Montpelier

Unions continue to plan more events, including Wednesday rallies in Hartford, Atlanta, Baton Rouge and Scranton. Check the SEIU website for more details. A number of unions around the country, including the Madison area AFL-CIO, are also preparing for a general strike if the union-busting bill is passed.

The crowd in Madison may have reached 68,000 again as demonstrations took place across the state of Wisconsin Tuesday, including up to 450 people in small towns like Waupaca (population 5,700). Meanwhile, Walker responded with threats during an ironically named “fireside chat”
in which he said that if the state budget bill is not passed by friday, he would lay off 1500 state workers.

Despite the Governor’s declaration that employees must avert disaster by paying more into their pensions, the state pension fund is one of the healthiest in the nation because pension payouts are funded to the tune of 99.67% while some states have pension funding levels as low as 54% due to a failure to act upon the promises made to workers. The pension fund is independent of the state’s general fund as well, which does have a roughly $140 million deficit due to the Governor’s tax subsidies and health care adjustments given to corporations.

But this bill is not about balancing the budget. Today, Walker signed a bill that would require a 2/3 majority vote for approving tax increases. That is right – Walker created a budget deficit, argued that state employees must pay for the difference in addition to losing their collective bargaining rights and the ability of unions to deduct union dues from their paychecks all while making it more difficult for the state to balance the budget. Here is what he said:

“I went to work today, met with my cabinet, and signed legislation that will help government operate within its means,” Governor Scott Walker said. “Wisconsinites can’t turn to raising taxes to balance their own family budgets when times get tough. This bill will ensure that we don’t kick the can down the road for a quick budget fix only to slap a long-term tax hike on the backs of Wisconsin taxpayers. I thank Senator Leah Vukmir and Representative Tyler August for their leadership on this issue.”

It gets better, the Governor, who was kicked out of Marquette University for cheating with a 2.4 GPA, has a long history of cronyism and incompetence. As Milwaukee County Commissioner, he illegally fired publicly-employed security staff from the Milwaukee County Courthouse and replaced them in a no-bid contract with members of a private security firm that has now obtained a rather inglorious reputation while working in Afghanistan.

Rachel Maddow discusses Walker's incompetence as Milwaukee County Commissioner (Rachel Maddow Show)

That is not all. The “Budget Repair Bill” has another provision, Section 16.896:

16.896 Sale or contractual operation of state-owned heating, cooling, and power plants. (1) Notwithstanding ss. 13.48 (14) (am) and 16.705 (1), the department may sell any state-owned heating, cooling, and power plant or may contract with a private entity for the operation of any such plant, with or without solicitation of bids, for any amount that the department determines to be in the best interest of the state. Notwithstanding ss. 196.49 and 196.80, no approval or certification of the public service commission is necessary for a public utility to purchase, or contract for the operation of, such a plant, and any such purchase is considered to be in the public interest and to comply with the criteria for certification of a project under s. 196.49 (3) (b).

So Governor Walker is planning to sell state assets – steam and power plants – in no-bid contracts to private companies. Could this perhaps involve Koch Industries? A Koch-funded group, Americans for Prosperity (an ironic title) is now purchasing ad time in support of Governor Walker’s proposals. This is corruption pure and simple: A Governor, elected on the purse strings of billionaires sells state assets to them so that they can charge the state to receive power from their new plants.

Scott Walker wants to sell state-owned power plants in no-bid contracts (Rachel Maddow Show)

Shenanigans continue in the Wisconsin State Legislature, leading to an impassioned response by a Democratic Assemblyman from Oshkosh. Today, the Democrats offered over 100 amendments to the Budget Bill in order to delay it a bit longer. The State Legislatures Phone Comment Line has shut down due to too many complaints and a pro-union website was blocked inside the Wisconsin State Capitol. Meanwhile, Indiana Democrats joined Wisconsin Democratic Senators in Illinois, following a similar strategy.

Popular opinion in the country is decidedly against the actions of the Tea Party. In a USA Today/Gallup Poll, Americans oppose weakening unions ability to collectively bargain 61-33%. Furthermore, the AFL-CIO hired Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research to conduct surveys over the past week. They were simple approve/disapprove surveys. Huffington Post reports the change in the data most prominently, which is unfortunate because it is a weak result that lies within the error bars but does show popular opinion moving from Walker to the Democratic Senators now out of state. The real, statistically significan result from the poll is shown here:

Reaction of Wisconsinites: With which groups do you agree given the current situation? (Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, via Huffington Post)

Scott Walker has nowhere to go. His approval rate is around 39%. He has just gone all-in and the state will turn on him provided that everyone learns his overreach in the deals to sell state assets in no-bid contracts. The state will become even more enraged if he follows through on his threat to fire state workers without a budget bill. Even some Republican Senators may be wavering. The protests can take them down, even if the corporate media is circling the wagons.

Yet, what is happening in Wisconsin is also happening across the country as Republican and Tea Party-led legislatures show the public what astroturf is made of. Bill after bill is designed to eliminate worker’s rights, sell public assets to companies so that the services can be sold back to the states. They seek to redact environmental laws. They cut jobs, and education, entitlements and health care, all being inefficient when viewed through the lens of the state as a funding source for corporations. The only way to stop this dismantling of American society now is to organize and to protest the leaders who adopt these draconian and corrupt laws. Scott Walker may be the first to break under the pressure – but you will not read that on CNN, Fox, or in other corporate media. They are circling the wagons and putting out headlines intended to dissuage protestors. More on that later.

If you can read this sign, thank a teacher. (mjs538 at Buzzfeed)

An article in the Madison Capitol Times explains that there is a bit of controversy as competing groups utilize various facts and figures to support their cause regarding the benefits of unions on students. The Republicans such as State Senator Glenn Grothman argue that Wisconsin’s state 4th-grade reading scores are below the national average and that this is the result of strengthening unions over the past ten years. But this belies the fact that the state is actually above average in nearly all other standardized tests.

The Unions claim that Wisconsin is number 2 in SAT/ACT scores. First, that is an older result and now the number is more like #3 on SAT scores, but with only 4% representation. This is not a great statistic, because it selects only the very top students in a state where ACT scores are taken and compares their scores with the wider sample of students in states (including average ones) that accept the SAT exam.

An article in the Harvard Educational Review did find that students in pro-union states do a statistically significant 50 points better on the SAT. The problem still remains that we are comparing the best and the brightest between states and those students often do well even with poor teaching. We rather need some assessment that more fully describes the full distribution of students, including average and poor students.

It is here that Angus Johnson, a historian of student activism makes some very good arguments. Wisconsin is actually above average on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) exams in eight grade math and reading and fourth grade math. One reason for a lower score in reading is the large influx on non-english speaking students Wisconsin has received during the past ten years, and another would be state budget cuts to education during that period as well.

Mr. Johnson continues by comparing Wisconsin results with non-union teaching states such as Virginia, Arizona, Alabama, Louisiana, Texas, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Mississippi. These are by and large not states known for excellent education and Johnson’s statistics confirm this:

Of the ten states in the US without teachers’ unions, only one — Virginia — had NAEP results above the national average, and four — Arizona, Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi — were in the bottom quintile.

That is right, of the 10 states without unionized teachers, 4 of those states rank in the bottom 10 states, 9 of 10 non-union states are in the bottom 25, and only one state, Virginia, ranks in the top 25 states in the nation regarding education – well behind Wisconsin.

This makes perfect sense. Using the Tea Party’s own market-based principles, it seems reasonable to assume that talented teachers would gravitate toward states with higher, union-supported salaries. One would think that a market-based Tea Party Governor, interested in the quality of education in his state might recognize this point. One would also think that Governor Walker would understand that the state’s most vital resource is education.

Wisconsin can not afford the brain-drain that occurs in states like Iowa. People stay in Wisconsin because of the quality of education and standards of living that are in part supported by unionized teachers. Sadly, Governor Walker does not seem to agree. So that leaves the rest of the state to make a choice: Squander one of your state’s most competitive assets, or relegate your standard of living to that of Mississippi.