Tag Archive: Human Rights


Martin Luther King, Jr. (New York Wold-Telegram & Sun Collection, via The Library of Congress and Wikipedia)

Preaching nonviolence, Martin Luther King Jr. was a key figure in the American Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. His career as a civil rights activist began with the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which began in response to Claudette Colvin, who refused to give her bus seat up to a white man, and later, Rosa Parks who was arrested for not giving up her seat. His famous 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech can be recognized by just about any person who hears it as it is one of the most famous speeches by any American ever. His efforts pressured the U.S. government to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that outlawed most forms of discrimination against African Americans. As a result, he became the youngest winner of the Nobel Peace Prize to date.

After his civil rights victories, Martin Luther King Jr. began to press for worker’s rights. In this efforts, he supported unions and cast a wide net, supporting the rights of white and black workers alike, though his final few days were spent during a rally in Memphis in support of black sanitary workers who were sent home on a day with bad weather, receiving 2 hours of pay, though white workers in the same department were compensated for an entire day. There was a lot of tension in the air and there had been death threats against Reverend King and it was on this day in 1968, that he was assassinated, ostensibly by James Earl Ray, and a good deal of work in the areas of human and workers rights remains to be done.

Wikipedia: Martin Luther King Jr.

Ex-Lobbyist Valerie Cass (Left), Wisconsin State Senator Randy Hopper (R-Fond du Lac) (Right) (Republican Family Values)

As the brouhaha over Governor Walker’s Budget “Repair” Bill continues, more and more details about just the sort of dealings that Republicans have brought to the Wisconsin state government. Meanwhile, we also learn just how similar the Tea Party candidates are across the country.

Err…Pay for Play?

Senator Hopper has had a rough time since it came out that he has been living outside of his district with a 25-year old ex-lobbyist after abandoning his wife. More has been revealed about the details of the new job his mistress, Valerie Cass. After leaving her lobbying group, Persuasion Partners, Ms. Cass landed a nice job working with the Walker Administration. (Persuasion Partners is the lobby firm that caters to a number of other prominent Wisconsin Republicans including Governor Walker and Attorney General Van Hollen.) As it happens, she received a remarkable pay increase over her predecessor – earning fully one-third more with a total salary of $43,200 per year.

Appealing the hold on the Budget “Repair” Bill

When Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen submitted his petition to appeal the recent Dane County court ruling that blocked the enactment of the anti-union bill, he did something interesting: He did so in the name of Secretary of State Douglas La Follette. The problem with the petition is that Sec. La Follette was never consulted prior to the Attorney General’s filing the petition. Says La Follette:

“The circuit court that entered the Temporary Restraining Order has scheduled a March 29, 2011 hearing to determine whether the Wisconsin open meetings law was violated. I intend to fulfill the public trust in my office by abiding by the Temporary Restraining Order, by respecting the court’s decision and by allowing the judicial process to reach a conclusion regarding 2011 Wisconsin Act 10.”

The claim Van Hollen makes is that the judge had no authority to review the case. However Ismael Ozanne, the Dane County District Attorney who filed for the injunction against the bill, responded to the Attorney General’s actions:

“If the attorney general’s office had its way, no court could overturn a law even if everyone agrees that the state legislature violated every requirement of the states open meetings law”

And more:

“Nothing in the open meetings law limits the authority of a court, in the appropriate case, to enjoin publication of legislation that results from a violation of the open meetings law, so long as the balancing of public interests supports that outcome.”

Running to end the office

Another Republican in Wisconsin State Government, State Treasurer Kurt Schuller, ran for the office of State Treasurer so that he could end the office. Among the duties of the State Treasurer, according to Article X of the Wisconsin Constitution, includes the Treasurer’s duty to oversee the proceeds of the appraisal and sale of public properties including school and University lands. The Treasurer also oversees the $3.1 billion state investment pool, tracks unclaimed property within the state and runs a state-run college savings program.

Schuller has a problem though. According to the Wisconsin State Journal, Schuller was hoping to “be active and visible and possibly build a credible political resume that shows the voters I can serve in the public interest, then hopefully run for another political office.” Now Schuller is in the uncomfortable position of having run to eliminate his office, only to realize once he is there that he would like to expand his current budget.

Governor Walker’s first attack against Wisconsin’s Domestic Partnership Law

After the state of Wisconsin approved a law that provides limited rights for same-sex couples to live and work in the state, Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen refused to enforce and protect the law, despite the law’s importance in protecting the rights of a large minority of the state’s citizens. Because of the Attorney General’s refusal to protect established law, then-Governor Doyle hired a law firm, Cullen Weston Pines & Bach, to protect the law against political attacks. Now Governor Walker has fired that law firm. In response, Pines says:

“Gov. Walker is ideologically opposed to equal rights for gay and lesbian and transgendered people as is everyone in his administration as far as I can tell and they will be probably want to take steps to ensure that gay and lesbian and transgendered people do not have equal rights.”

“Everything that Gov. Walker is doing is ideological. I don’t see that his administration has any particular respect for the law per se.”

How the Wisconsin Republicans have worked together so far

A recent article in the Wisconsin State Journal show the types of comments and ideas that were bandied about to retaliate against the 14 Democratic Senators who left the state in order to allow a number of issues to come to light. On February 20, a legal aide of Scott Fitzgerald said, “I say we not only make it hurt for them, we have to make it hurt for their staff as well,” an interesting attitude considering that none of the interns who work for the Dems would have had any say in their decision to leave. The draconian nature of the punitive actions proposed and enacted by the Republicans has led to ethics complaints against Scott Fitzgerald by groups such as the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics.

Reaction to the Republicans

Recall efforts against incumbent Republicans continue well ahead of schedule. Meanwhile, more and more attention is focusing on electing Kloppenburg against the Supreme Court Justice who has argued that he intends to “complement” Governor Walker’s actions against the citizens of the state. The election is coming up on April 5th – be sure to register ahead of time! Good luck Kloppenburg!

Minnesota State Capitol (rbw)

Good news and bad news: Bad news first

As part of the nationwide Republican efforts to undermine public education, Minnesota House Member Pat Garofalo (R-Farmington), who is Chair of the House Education Committee, plans to eliminate state funding for programs that promote racial integration in Minnesota schools. The programs, which in Minneapolis provide some $480 per year per student, are intended to close the achievement gap between racial minorities in the classroom. Worse, Garofalo’s plan would re-work the formulae used to determine funding levels in state schools. The results could end up taking money from under-funded schools and give that money to schools that are already well-funded.

MinnPost reports:

Speaker Kurt Zellers said House Republicans are working “hand in glove” on both the state’s $5 billion budget deficit and on a “fundamental change in how we deliver government.”

Republicans highlighted efforts to streamline state agencies, improve the use of technology and consolidate operations, but the only specific figure was a $172 million savings from a proposed 15 percent state workforce reduction.

Indeed. The Republicans in Minnesota, just as in many other states are seeking to end government’s ability to deliver services.

In fact, the Minnesota State Government has published its bi-annual Tax Incidence Report. It reports a heavily regressive tax burden within the state, even when compared with historical averages. According to the report, the effective state tax rate for a member of the top 1% of income earners within Minnesota was 9.7% in 2008. Meanwhile, the effective tax rate for the poor is 32.5%. Hence, the wealthy are not paying their fair share in taxes.

Yet, the Republicans are also looking to slash funding for the state Medicaid programs, especially programs geared toward the poor and the infirm.

But that is not all. The Republicans are waging all-out war on the poor. Representatitve Kurt Daudt (R-Crown) has introduced a bill that would prevent those who use government assistance EBT cards from withdrawing cash on the cards at ATMs above – get this – $20 per month. The bill, H.F. 171, would also create problems because one of the reasons that people are now able to use the cards to withdraw cash is that many stores are not connected to the state EBT system.

$20 is not even enough to purchase a Minnesota Drivers license (current price – $43). And there are already Republican proposals to require a photo-ID in voting.

In addition, the bill appears to make it illegal for people under the Minnesota Family Investment Program (MFIP) to carry cash at all! Nor could they put any money into a checking or savings account.

Crooks and Liars relates testimony of Angel Buechner, from the Welfare Rights Committee, referring to the efforts of the Republicans on the House Health and Human Services Reform Committee:

“We’ll leave you with this. It is not right to punish a whole group because of the supposed actions of a few. You in this room could have a pretty rough time if that was the case. It is not right to stigmatize and dehumanize women living the hard life of trying to raise children while living 60% below the poverty level. It is not right to use racist, bumper-sticker hate to inflict human misery for political gain.”

Where would the sort of thinking that would make it illegal for poor people to carry cash come from? Well, let’s take a look at a Republican strategy meeting that too place at the conservative Hudson Institute to find out. There, National Review editor Kate O’Beirne suggested that the parents of children on school lunch programs were “child abusers”, because they can not afford a meal. “What poor excuse for a parent can not put together a bowl of cereal and a banana?” as she puts it. She argues that despite the fact that more and more families across the nation are finding it difficult to make ends meet (due to conservative economic policies), that there is no national solution to the problem because it is not “in Washington’s interests” to solve the crisis of child poverty. Perhaps that is because for her, national interests are solely geared toward tax cuts for the wealthy and wars abroad to fight over resources.

Republicans discuss public education and decry school lunch programs (Crooks and Liars)

Another panelist at this hearing said that safety in schools could not be guaranteed because, despite the national scope of the problem, it should not fall under the purview of the federal government. Yes, he essentially makes those two very statements one right after the other. That is the sort of callous bastard that is driving the economic and educational policy of the Republican Party right now.

Some good news…

Luckily, the press is beginning to ask some pointed questions, because Republican Party policies are currently being driven by their corporate benefactors who believe that the sole reason for the existence of the government is to load their own coffers. That is precisely why Republicans would begrudge the poor of any money to spend and why they believe that school lunch programs as a waste of money, despite the fact that they have been shown to improve student performance and help to increase upward mobility in society. There is a way to prevent corporations from holding such a grip on the political process that the process would realign itself to work against the interests of citizens.

Minnesota Democrats have introduced bills in the House and the Senate to rectify the problem. The bills, S.F. 683 and H.F. 914 would amend the Minnesota Constitution to define “person” to mean a “natural person”.

The distinction between “person” and “natural person” is vitally important. British common law has always made a distinction between “natural persons” (meaning people) and “artificial persons” (meaning organizations like churchs, businesses, etc.). Well, the Citizens United decision effectively eliminated the many of those distinctions by allowing corporations to spend an unlimited amount of money on elections. And they did. Now we can see how that has effected the political process. We now have people cutting back on schools so that big companies – already earning record profits – can earn more in tax breaks.

Minnesota is no different in this regard than other parts of the country. A recent article by the Star Tribune highlights the largest lobbying efforts in Saint Paul for 2010. More than $3 million in big business lobbying expenses arose that year and $1.8 million (60%) was due to the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce alone. Big business is trying to buy the political process.

Author Thom Hartmann discusses corporate personhood (The Daily Take, RT)

So be sure to contact your Minnesota State Senators and House Representatives to give support to S.F. 683 and H.F. 914 in order to help the constitutional amendments to come to fruition. You had better believe that they will meet with strong resistance from the Republicans who currently hold majorities in the House and Senate.

"The Spirit of Detroit" (DetroitDerek, Flickr)

Over 1000 senior citizens are staging a protest in the Michigan capital of Lansing tonight in opposition to Tea Party Governor Rick Snyder’s tax plan that removes tax exemptions for retirement pensions, which will bring in up to $900 million in revenue to the state government. This follows announcements that Governor Snyder plans $1.8 billion in tax cuts to corporations and $600 million in cuts to funding for education in the state. Detroits public schools are already likely to raise class sizes to 60 students per classroom after state financial emergency officials have order the city to close 50% of its schools.

Meanwhile, Governor Snyder is expected to sign a new emergency finance bill that is highly controversial to say the least. The bill has passed both the Republican Senate and the Republican House and it grants sweeping powers to the Governor to eliminate the locally elected government of municipalities that are under a financial emergency to replace them with Financial Emergency Managers, who ostensibly oversee the town’s financial recovery. How does a city know it is in a financial emergency? The Governor gets to say so, and he has the power to appoint the manager, while declaring all existing union and worker’s contracts null and void. The law also allows corporations to take control, represented by the Financial Manager appointed by the Governor.

Check here for the complete text of the Emergency Financial Manager bill

Michigan Congressional Representative John Conyers has made the following statement about the bill:

The takeover provision of the legislation – allowing the dissolution of locally elected bodies — implicitly targets minority communities that are disproportionately impacted by the economic downturn, without providing meaningful support for improved economic opportunity.

Worse yet, this bill raises serious constitutional concerns. Article I, Section 10 of the U.S. Constitution explicitly prohibits any State from impairing a contract, which is exactly what this legislation does. As the Supreme Court has held in Home Building & Loan Association v. Blaisdell (1934), the sanctity of contracts cannot be impaired by a state law “which renders them invalid, or releases or extinguishes them . . . . Not only are existing laws read into contracts in order to fix obligations as between the parties, but the reservation of essential attributes of sovereign power is also read into contracts as a postulate of the legal order.”

Further, the bill empowers this financial czar with the Governor’s approval to force a municipality into bankruptcy, a power that will surely be used to extract further concessions from hardworking public sector workers. And, by making the risk of bankruptcy a reality, the bill will make it more not less expensive for municipalities to obtain financing given this risk, which will make the financial circumstances of municipalities even worse.

Conyers describes the situation well. This bill could encourage corporate representatives to run for office and drive a town into the ground so that it can be taken over by his or her company. It represents another corporate takeover of public interests, just of the sorts found in Wisconsin Governor Walker’s Budget Proposal. This is about a power grab because State Senator Gretchen Whitmer (D-East Lansing) and others attempted to cap the salary of the financial managers at $150,000 per year, but the response was to encourage cash-strapped schools to invite volunteers to teach in their classrooms. Watch here:

Michigan State Senator Gretchen Whitmer (D-East Lansing) speaks out against Emergency Financial Manager bill (Michigan Senate Dems, YouTube)

Big protests are expected in Michigan today in Lansing! Good luck everyone!

Thousands of workers protest in the Wisconsin State Capitol (Wikipedia)

Nearly a month ago, a Tea Party governor who was elected on a tidal wave of corporate money that was legalized by the Citizens United Supreme Court decision took power in Wisconsin. Governor Scott Walker began work on a billionaire-supported regressive agenda in a state long known for its progressive stances on labor and human rights. Once people realized what was happening, they took action and while the first bill got through, efforts to remove the Governor and the Legislators who are responsible are progressing rapidly. The protests are the largest ever seen in Wisconsin and they continue to grow in size. At stake are the right to vote, the right to bargain for wages without a power differential between the worker and the management, the public maintaining control over the infrastructure that it built and maintaining a high quality of life, health and education within the state.

Great work so far everyone. Keep it going!

Wikipedia: 2011 Wisconsin Protests

The Republicans are now going after your right to vote (The Rachel Maddow Show)

As part of their goal of making President Obama a “One-term president”, the Republicans are now attacking your right to vote by requiring very specific I.D.’s while putting up roadblocks to get them. They are also eliminating same day voter registration – but only if you are from a group that tends to vote for Democrats. Meanwhile, several Republican politicians around the country are now going to prison for voter fraud. Learn more about the new wave of voter suppression that is hitting the country in this Rachel Maddow segment.

Michele Bachmann (Alan.com)

As the winter clouds slowly give way to springtime sun, the United States is waking up to a nightmarish political climate. The Republicans have taken over more state legislatures than at any time since the Great Depression, and well… It looks like that is where we are heading there again. Why? Because the GOP, rebranded by the Kochs’ Tea Party after the intense failures of the Bush Administration plummeted the country to new depths, has retaken control in a November 2010 election in which liberals stayed home.

Uh... wah?!

The Tea Partiers have never been much for civil discussion – here are Tea Baggers waiting to get in at a Health Care Town Hall event in Missouri. Of course, these people were encouraged to behave abysmally by the Tea Party itself – and some were even paid to do it! (Learn how!)

Buoyed by a self-declared national mandate, the Tea Party is now beginning hard work on important new legislation across the country – all guaranteed to either send the U.S. backward to a preliterate tribal society or a post-industrial, pre-Rapture apocalyptic nightmare state. Let’s take a quick look at some of the bills making their way through some state legislatures around the country.

Montana

We have already reported on some of the interesting bills under consideration in Montana. These include important issues such as legalizing hunting with spears and guns with silencers. Tea Partiers like guns… a bit too much… so they have decided that the state government should allow guns in schools, in the state Capitol, and as if that was not enough safety, there is also a proposal to create armed militias in every town.

Tea Partiers do not like regulations very much because the Tea Party benefactors, the Koch Brothers, pollute a lot. So it should not be much of a surprise that there is an attempt to nullify federal laws, including federal environmental regulations. The state is also planning to eradicate incentives to promote the development of wind power and it would also like the government to demonstrate that it has obtained National Park land legally, lest glaciers be allowed a chance to be conserved.

South Dakota

Tea Baggers do not like women very much either. Women in South Dakota may soon be forced to listen to a Christian sermon about abortions prior to obtaining one – of course – it was not as if the decision was tragic enough in and of itself.

Another bill, an interesting and creative combination of Tea Party misogyny and love for guns would have legalized killing abortion doctors as well as defund Planned Parenthood. This law has been tabled… for now…

Texas

And then there is Texas. They do stupid in Texas BIG! Its Board of Education is a joke and it is difficult to understand how students that go through their schools will have the knowledge that they will need to thrive in competitive, technical fields such as biomedical engineering, much less pass a college entrance exam with the state’s reinforcement of creationism in the schools and rewriting of American history in the state educational standards. Oh, and despite the fact that Thomas Jefferson had written the Declaration of Independence and that as president, he doubled the size of the United States in the Louisiana purchase (including some territory in Texas itself) he is no longer recognized as a founding father because he also happened to be suspiciously liberal and agnostic.

Only weeks after the Gabriel Giffords shooting and with shootings on college campuses in the news annually, Texas has decided to allow concealed guns on college campuses within the state.

While we’re discussing guns, there are also bills that will enable guns on party boats and bills that nullify (there is that word again!) federal laws that apply to guns and ammo made in Texas. That should make it easier for the Branch Davidians to regroup in Waco without any pesky ATF interference.

But how can one be satisfied with guns and treating women like trash alone? There are plenty of other groups to discriminate against! That’s why Texas may make it illegal to be gay in the National Guard (Virginia is trying this one too). Sorry gays, no playtime with guns for you in this middle finger to that Kenyan guy. A bill by Leo Berman would make it illegal to run for president in Texas unless it was possible to see your original, legal birth certificate. But the question is would they believe it is real if the candidate has dark skin?

And there are Tea Partiers in Texas who believe that the immigration situation should be remedied. Why? Because the Arizona bill does not go far enough because it does not have the death penalty for illegal immigration.

Oklahoma

In neighboring Oklahoma, where the public passed an amendment to the state constitution banning the adoption of shariah law, because that was apparently a problem with muslims comprising 0.16% of the state.

Of course, there are new gun proposals, too. Because people may soon be able to carry guns everywhere: College classes, grocery stores (watch out! that pineapple looks OVERRIPE!), and even bars! They deserve bonus points for combining guns and booze.

Don’t worry – illegal immigration proposals were scuttled when the Chamber of Commerce intervened! And women have already been forced to listen to ultrasounds and hear a discussion of a fetus before having an abortion – even if you were a rape or incest victim.

New Hampshire

In New Hampshire, there is a new bill to make it very difficult for students to vote! A new law would allow students to vote in New Hampshire if their parents happened to have a previously established residence in the town where the student lived. Since students generally move away from home and live in the town where they go to school, that means they may be barred from voting at all if they go to school in New Hampshire. And if that were not enough, Election Day registration would also be banned for students that did not understand that their voting rights have been infringed. According to the Republican House Speaker, William O’Brien, well here is a clip from the Washington Post:

New Hampshire’s new Republican state House speaker is pretty clear about what he thinks of college kids and how they vote. They’re “foolish,” Speaker William O’Brien said in a recent speech to a tea party group.

“Voting as a liberal. That’s what kids do,” he added, his comments taped by a state Democratic Party staffer and posted on YouTube. Students lack “life experience,” and “they just vote their feelings.”

Ohio

In Ohio, Republicans have turned on police and firefighters. This is all about union busting. (They have already gone for state employees including teachers).

Tennessee

In Tennessee, Tea Partiers are all about pooh-poohing slavery. Speaking of slavery, the Tea Party there is also gunning for teachers’ collective bargaining rights.

Missouri

In Missouri, a new proposal would eliminate child labor laws for children under 14. Children looking to earn a buck could work up to 80 hours a week! Just think of all of the wonderful free-market capitalism that they could enjoy during their formative years without an education! The bill also specifically allows children under the age of 16 to work in the hotel industry, after hours. Yes, it specifically goes out of its way to mention that. Oh, and the law would bar the Missouri Division of Labor Standards from making sure that employers of children provide safe working conditions.

Missouri is also considering a compact with Arizona and Tennessee that would oppose the adoption of federal Health Care Reform, in another nullification move.

Utah

The same month in which a U.S. Congressional Representative was shot in the head just to the south, the state of Utah voted on a state firearm. They picked a Browning M1911 semiautomatic pistol. How tasteful!

And with guns comes hating women. Did you know that miscarriages are like natural abortions? That is why it is now possible that a woman who has a miscarriage will face murder charges.

Georgia

Oh, and Utah was a lightweight – women who have a miscarriage in Georgia could get the death penalty.

The Georgia Tea Party would also like to enact a few other provisions, including: The “Energy Freedom of Choice Legislation”, which would prohibit cap-and-trade limits to greenhouse emissions; an Arizona-style anti-immigration law (papieren bitte!); tax cuts everywhere, including property taxes!

Arizona

Arizona is the home of crazy. They have already sold several state buildings, including the state Capitol, to private firms so that the state can rent from them at higher cost in perpetuity!

It is possible to carry concealed weapons to bars now. But don’t think of buying beer, cigarettes of any “niceties of life” if you are welfare – you will lose your funding. Oh, and a children’s health insurance program has been repealed for 38,000 kids. This means that billions of dollars in Medicare money may be withheld by the federal government. In other words, Arizona is keeping the government out of Arizonan Medicare – we’ll see how that goes amongst the geriatric population there.

There is now also a law that requires abortion doctors to report the names of women who undergo abortions.

And there is the anti-immigration law that allows anyone caught while brown to be arrested if they are not carrying their documentation at all times.

Minnesota

In Minnesota, the new Tea Party legislature is not happy with the Democratic Governor’s plan to raise taxes on the wealthy.

Michele Bachmann and other Republican Congressional delegation members are planning to defund the EPA

In attacks on women, Republicans have decided to ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, regardless of wether the child will survive more than a few minutes anyway. The bill will be vetoed by the governor, but you can’t blame them for making a statement, can you?

Another Republican, Senator John Carlson of Bemidji, decided that he would introduce a bill that would repeal pay equity for women. Why is it that the Tea Party hates women so much? Here is what he said, from the Minnesota Independent:

“That bill’s been pulled and it won’t see the light of day,” Carlson said Saturday at an Education Minnesota event, the Bemidji Pioneer reports. “I would admit I didn’t do my homework very well.”

“So I author the bill, put it in the hopper, and the next thing I know, all hell breaks loose,” he said. “And I deserve it for being naïve. Quite honestly, I deserve that. I did it with good intentions.”

“Obviously, I’ve been married for 32 years, I have a daughter out in the workforce, and I have a granddaughter — I can’t believe anyone would think I would harm that relationship,” Carlson said.

I wonder just what those good intentions were that would have lowered wages for half of the human race for the simple fact they were not male.

Not to be outdone with misogyny, the Tea Baggers want to get the gays too! They plan to introduce an anti-gay marriage amendment.

Federal Government

With the 2012 elections coming up and the Republicans hoping that Obama will fail, they are planning a budget that is a poison pill for the current economic recovery.

Republicans also plan to send us back a century or two, by cutting scientific researh – especially climate change science and monitoring. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting and Planned Parenthood also take political hits from the government. Meanwhile, nearly a million jobs are on the line with draconian cuts aimed at breaking unions, eliminating programs for the poor. If that were not enough, the GOP plans dire cuts to education and infrastructure development.

The Republicans would also like to defund the EPA for their Koch brother masters. They have even replaced recyclable food containers in the Congressional dining room with non-recyclable styrofoam, provided by an affiliate of Koch Industries. Since they are also planning to slash funding to toxicology clinics, one blogger suggests that the GOP is simply trying to poison America. Considering their impact on the nation so far, it seems that it is safe to say “Mission Accomplished”.

George W. Bush - Mission Accomplished (Wikipedia)

Wisconsin State Capitol (rbw)

After a Dane County Court ruled that the State was violating a prior ruling to allow protesters into the State Capitol, the scene at the Capitol was quiet once protesters left peacefully in accordance with the part of the ruling that prohibits nighttime sleepovers in the building. However, the cynical action by the Governor was not finished. Members of the Walker Administration claimed that it may take as much as $7 million to repair the damage done during the 2-week sleepover in the building. Though when pressed by the media, the Walker Administration was forced to backtrack, indicating that there was no damage to the building and all that was necessary was a through cleaning, including removing signs taped to the marble interior.

That was not all. The police presence at the State Capitol remains strong, though many officers are working during the day, only to join the protests after their shifts are complete. Democratic Assemblyman Nick Milroy of South Range was tackled to the ground when he tried to enter his office to get his coat. Video of the incident can be seen on WISN.

Because of the lockdown earlier this week, Democratic Legislators moved their desks outside so that they could meet with their constituents. Republicans did not apparently want to meet their constituents, in contrast, because they kept their desks inside during the lockdown. The Dems have kept their desks outside, even after visitors could enter the Capitol again.

After .22 caliber bullets were found in several locations around the State Capitol Thursday, visitors to the Capitol were screened heavily for weapons. Because of the incredibly peaceful nature of the protests so far and because Governor Walker has already admitted to considering to bring thugs in to create trouble, the discovery of the bullets has prompted Wisconsin ex-Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager to say:

“For all we know somebody planted them there — we don’t know if it was a protester.”

Thanks to the 14 Democratic Senators who are still in Illinois on their own dime, under the threat of an unconstitutional arrest, more details of the Koch-supported Budget “Repair” bill are coming to light. The ramifications are profound, including a $1billion cut to education across the state, the budget could end interlibrary book loans, it would force local referendums in order to maintain services, and strip collective bargaining rights for union employees, as well as end their subsidized child care. In a nod to the insurance companies that backed his campaign financially, the bill would also gut the self-supporting Wisconsin State Insurance Fund. This is a crystal clear example of companies giving candidates contributions for political services.

It would not be the only corruption on the part of Scott Walker. The Milwaukee Magazine has outlined cronyism and corruption that occurred in the Milwaukee County pension system under Walker’s watch. He has violated a Dane County judge by refusing entry for demonstrators into the Capitol. He has apparently lied to the press, who are now suing, over the notion that he had received a large number of emails in favor of his budget proposal. He likely broke the law when he mentioned that he had considered sending thugs to create trouble to discredit the protests and he is clearly in the pocket of the Koch brothers, given his friendly relationship with them, and he has been threatening state workers with pink slips if he does not get his way, a form of political coercion. In addition to all of that, Walker likely broke state labor laws by refusing to negotiate with the unions. Laura Flanders discussed these legal issues with Lautenschlager.

With his legal exposure, the story gets worse for Walker. Recall efforts are underway for 8 Republican Senators and they are going swimmingly. The recall of three senators gives the Democrats a majority and the recall of all 8 gives them a 2/3 majority, which they could use to bring about impeachment hearings. Scott Walker’s window to pass his budget is closing and he knows it: Some Republicans may even break with the party if it comes up for a vote.

So do the mainstream media William Rivers Pitt discusses why the mainstream media has not been reporting the huge crowds in Madison, preferring to discuss Charlie Sheen instead. In short, he says “I think they’re scared.” More on media coverage later!

For those of you who are interested in perusing the draconian Wisconsin Budget “Repair” Bill, like all other bills under consideration, it can be found with a search on the Wisconsin Legislature website. Here is a hard link to the document itself: Wisconsin Budget “Repair” Bill, full text. Enjoy the reading, it is surreal.

Police surround the Capitol on March 1 (Madiston Capitol Times)

With recall petitions filed against Republican Senators in Wisconsin, the Governor realizes that his time is running short. In acts of desperation, he is violating a Dane County judge’s order to reopen protester access to the Capitol. In addition, the Wisconsin Constitution states in Article I, Section 4:

Right to assemble and petition. SECTION 4. The right of
the people peaceably to assemble, to consult for the common
good, and to petition the government, or any department thereof,
shall never be abridged.

There is also related legal precident and it is outlined in 59 Attorney General 8, listed immediately below Section 4 in notes on case law:

The legislature cannot prohibit an individual from entering the capitol or its
grounds.
–59 Atty. Gen. 8.

so it seems that any orders to prevent protesters into the Capitol are unconstitutional. Yet Capitol police are enforcing restricted access rules as of Thursday morning.

Several officials have spoken against the policy of restricted access. The Madison Capitol Times reports of DNR Secretary George Meyer describing that the current level of law enforcement at the Capitol:

“…was an immense amount of overkill.”

“The amount of law enforcement that is up there is beyond the pale,” says Meyer, now the executive director of the Wildlife Federation. “There is no need for law enforcement. It’s a poor use of financial and staff resources and the show of force is not to keep the peace. It’s to intimidate people exercising their First Amendment rights. It’s wrong.”

“Under this extraordinary show of force you cannot even carry out your responsibility and represent people before their government.”

The Capitol Times reports that there is so much downtime for the present officers that many were taking tours of the Capitol, hosted by staff on site.

A Democratic Legislator, Senator Fred Risser, says:

“The Wisconsin State Capitol is, and has always been, the people’s building. It should not be treated like an armed fortress. I continue to commend the thousands of Wisconsin residents who have exercised their right of assembly for the past three weeks for the peaceful manner in which they have spoken. I expect that the demonstrators will continue to be respectful of the building and its occupants.”

There is more – Wisconsin Congressman Obey was denied access when he refused to use his title to enter the Capitol.

In other news circulating around Governor Walker, the Wisconsin State Employees Union (WSEU) has filed a formal complaint against the Governor for his refusal to negotiate with the union – a violation of Wisconsin state law.

The Walker side has replied, with the Republicans in the State Senate voting 19-0 in an unconstitutional measure to call for the arrest of the 14 Democratic Senators who have left the state. According to Senate Majority Leader Fitzgerald, “They have pushed us to the edge of a constitutional crisis.” Indeed, because the Wisconsin Constitution prohibits the arrest of any legislators while they are in office. Article IV, Section 15 states:

Exemption from arrest and civil process. SECTION 15.
Members of the legislature shall in all cases, except treason, fel-
ony and breach of the peace, be privileged from arrest; nor shall
they be subject to any civil process, during the session of the leg-
islature, nor for fifteen days next before the commencement and
after the termination of each session.

So with all of this unconstitutional activity swirling around the Governor and the Republican Legislature, one should also think a little bit about the State Supreme Court, for which there is a pending election this spring. Wisconsin Judicial races have historically been state financed because it is the best way to prevent special interest money from driving the election. A less-commonly discussed provision in Walker’s Budget “Repair” Bill essentially zeroes funding for state funded Judicial campaigns. The result would be that the Koch brothers, for example, would be able to spend inordinate amounts of money to get their candidate (Prosser) into the Supreme Court again.

Stay tuned. Recall petitions have been filed against the Legislature
and there is a lot of activity. Governor Walker and the Republicans are engaging in unconstitutional activity because they have no other recourse. They are losing the fight and the protests are winning. Once the recalls happen, there will be one chamber of the legislature to balance the other.

This video, from RSA Animate, discusses the cognitive science behind empathy. There are some surprises in the video, including the fact that there are similarities between humans and animals in their empathic response.

Sure, the word ’empathy’ got a bad rap from the “greed is good” crowd, but never underestimate the power of politics for self-promotion to turn a noble virtue into something scorned. Hopefully this video will help restore it to the prominence it deserves:
RSA Animate: The Empathic Civilisation

Protesters in Madison (via Rossomando Report)

There is plenty of good news coming from Wisconsin. Wisconsin workers have filed recall petitions against the eight Republican State Senators who can be recalled immediately. The AFL-CIO piece quotes a Steelworker:

Gov. Walker and Senate Republicans are refusing to listen to the hundreds of thousands of working families who traveled to Madison to make their voices heard. He has refused to listen to the majority of the people of this state who disagree with them. So now it is time for us to make our voices heard in their districts. If they will not listen to “we the people” then the “we the people” are going to take our government back.

The independent media is shining in its coverage of the corporate takeover of Wisconsin. New information continues to be released indicating that corporations do not pay their fair share of taxes, of the criminal enterprises of the Koch brothers, and the Kochs are losing the battle of public opinion. Several recent polls indicate that Americans are roughly 60-30% against stripping unions of collective bargaining rights and Walker’s approval rating is in the 30s and sinking.

In other news, Democrat Tom Barrett would win in a recall election against Governor Walker – an even that is almost guaranteed considering that Rachel Maddow is now reporting that half of Wisconsin wants the Governor to be recalled. The Wisconsin Democratic Party is now funding the campaign to recall these officials. Wisconsin will have a different legislature and it will eventually have a new governor and the longer that the protests and the Democratic Senators hold out, the more likely Scott Walker can be found liable for a crime. Even the Republican Party is turning on Walker. According to The Progressive:

Since 1871, there has been a civil rights statute on the books entitled “Conspiracy Against Rights” (See TITLE 18 > PART I > CHAPTER 13 > § 241.)

It reads as follows:

“If two or more persons conspire to injure, oppress, threaten, or intimidate any person in any State, Territory, Commonwealth, Possession, or District in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him by the Constitution or laws of the United States, or because of his having so exercised the same . . . They shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both.”

So put pressure on Scott Walker. Write to the Attorney General and demand that he investigate the “phone call” and Walker’s connections to the Koch brothers. And when A.G. Van Hollen refuses, demand that he step down as well. When the Kochs, the Governor and his cronies are forced to defend themselves, the workers go on offense and then they can repair the damage that has been done to the state.

There is a lot of great news! Keep up the awesome work! Write your newspapers and TV stations, contact everyone you can. If we keep it up, we will win!

A full slate of protests are continuing as well. Check the SEIU and the Wisconsin AFL-CIO websites for detais, but here is a breakdown of locations for activities:

Thursday, 3 March, 2011
Burlington
Kenosha
Janesville
Jefferson
Juneau
Rhinelander
Superior
Whitewater

Friday, 4 March, 2011
Lake Delton
Milwaukee
Montello
Portage
Spooner
Wausau

Saturday, 5 March, 2011
Burlington
Columbus
Solon Springs

…and of course MADISON! More big protests likely on Saturday!

100,000 people showed up to rally against the GOP in Madison Saturday (John Hart, State Journal, via Madison Capitol Times)

After a weekend of protests that spread through all 50 states, the numbers continue to rise as rallies continue. The protests in Ohio are growing quite large as well. More that 20,000 people rallied in Columbus on Monday, protesting more Koch-supported union-busting Tea Party legislation passing through the legislature there.

One hiccup did occur as Governor Walker refused to allow protesters into the State Capitol Monday, though he was hit with a restraining order by a Dane Country judget. In addition, police refused to enforce the Governor’s order to clear the building, arguing that they “are not the Palace Guard”. It is public relations like these that explain why more than one million Wisconsinites are willing to sign a petition for Scott Walker’s recall. That is about 1 in 4 voters in the state asking for his recall, and that is only after one week.

Walker’s political future may be doomed, but he plans to continue to do damage before he leaves. The Governor, who was ousted from Marquette University for cheating while still only garnering a 2.4 GPA, is gutting the Wisconsin state educational system with cuts of up to $900 million in aid to schools. Meanwhile, the damage continues to build. Restaurants are leaving the Wisconsin Restaurant Association for its support of the Walker Budget “Repair” Bill.

As the national assault on education continues, including the Detroit school districts packing up to 60 pupils per classroom and all of the Providence teachers being fired in one swoop, more and more evidence of criminality and conspiracy begin to arise.

The Media are doing their part to aid Governor Walker’s disinformation program. Fox “News” has once again been caught lying,
when it turns out that a reporter who claimed to be punched by a protester – well, was not punched by a protester. They have been shouted down by protesters to the tune of “Fox News Lies” (because it does), but there has been no violence directed toward them. Fox’s response to “Fox News Lies” has been to argue that the protesters have a lot of “vitriol toward the media” and that the protesters want to shut down communication. Watch the link to see the worst, most dishonest reporting ever. Good Grief.

But Fox News is not the only complicit new organization helping the Tea Party out. The New York Times has once again taken to burying the lead. Oh, sure the real news is right there – on page 23 – but you have to get past the misleading headlines first. Keith Olbermann, now of Fok News, has exposed a piece in which a “regular union guy” from Janesville, WI argued against the teachers’ right to collectively bargain. Well, it turns out that the New York Times failed to report that the “regular union guy” was not actually a member of a union, the plant he supposedly worked for has been closed for years, and they misspelled his name. Oops.

Word is slowly getting out that Minnesota, with a bigger biennial budget deficit than Wisconsin, is closing its gap by taxing the rich. Wisconsin should do the same, since the wealthy and corporations in Wisconsin actually pay lower taxes than their fair share. And if those other companies are like Koch Industries, they have gotten rich by demanding bailouts and robbing from the states anyway.

The cyber-activist group, Anonymous, is also getting involved. They have taken down the Americans for Prosperity website as their first attack on a Koch-run organization. They say:

“[i]t has come to our attention that the brother, David and Charles Koch- the billionaire owners of Koch Industries-have long attempted to usurp American Democracy. Their actions to undermine the legitimate political process in Wisconsin are the final straw. Starting today we fight back.”

Nearly 100,000 people rallied in Madison Saturday (AP via Huffington Post)

The Events

A HUGE rally took place on Saturday in Madison, Wisconsin as unions continue to fight against the elimination of their collective bargaining rights. It was the largest demonstration since Governor Walker initiated his proposal, with up to 100,000 protesters and no end in sight. Other protests continued across all 50 states as well Saturday in solidarity with the state employees in Wisconsin.

The Distraction

Despite the huge numbers of people involved in every state, the corporate media has seen fit to bury the lead by focusing on labor protests in other countries, Libya in particular, without mentioning that they are in fact being driven by labor. When was the last time that you have heard about demonstrations continuing in Egypt? They are still going on. Once the military junta took over, the American press essentially said, “Oh, look! They have democracy now and everything will be ok!” (Glenn Beck excepted, of course.) They ignore that now that the protesters have gotten some reforms and are working on a route to democracy, they are still in Tahrir Square arguing for better working conditions and wages and that is apparently making the Egyptian army a bit impatient.

But all eyes were on far off Libya Sunday, where it is easier now to declare the initially peaceful demonstrators as “opposition forces” because they have been forced to arm themselves to prevent their own extermination. After arming themselves, they have been pigeonholed into a different commonly used media meme: The old labor and democracy demonstrations are now an ‘uprising’.

Koch Strategy

Burying the lead is a tried and true anti-democratic tactic that is used by entrenched media in order to help diffuse trouble for authorities. Despite that 50,000 people protested across the country and that 100,000 people protested within Madison itself and countless thousands of others across Wisconsin this weekend, CNN, the New York Times, CBS, ABC and NBC are under-reporting the events. Fox News is mischaracterizing teachers and nurses as violent and greedy fat cats.

In order to understand why, just consider when was the last time that you saw either a Dixie Cup or a Georgia Pacific commercial on one of their stations. Sure, they will post Union ads, but when the crisis is over, they expect to continue getting ad revenue from Koch Industries. The Koch brothers have vowed to continue their fight, and the media is only one of their tactics in order to end the disagreement over their proposals for workers’ bargaining rights, health insurance and benefits.

The Koch brothers do have things roughly where they expected to be at the moment. The Governor submitted his ghost-written proposal, the Assembly has passed its version of the bill, sticking it to the guys who disagreed with it with the quick vote, but there is that nagging problem of those pesky Democratic Senators. You had better believe that the Koch brothers will buy a lot of ad time to pressure them into returning and Walker will ask the legislature to pass one piece of regressive legislation after another until they do. (However, Walker would do that even if the Dems were present in the Senate.)

The protests are a LOT larger than they expected, too.

The Tea Party, after all, was constructed just for this reason: A trojan horse, riding a wave of popular anger only to turn on the people who elected it in order to support the corporate interests of Koch Industries. The Kochs founded the Tea Party through its PACs and they have already used it to divide and conquer the public. Now, the public must try to divide and conquer the Koch minions like Walker and the Legislature. And the Koch brothers will do *anything* to get their way, so the strategy of the people must be broad-based as well.

How the public can win against the billionaires

Even though the media is beginning to side with the Kochs, their ad revenue would drop remarkably if their viewer/readership were to decrease. People who support the protesters can not expect to have their voices heard on the airwaves, but they should demand that it is. A lot of news today can be found on the internet and there are certainly a good number of places that ARE reporting the labor protests. The places that are supporting the labor movement include, but are not limited to:

The Madison Capitol Times
The Appleton Post Crescent
Harpers
Mother Jones
MSNBC (Rachel Maddow is awesome!)
The Real News Network
The Daily Kos
The Huffington Post
Truth Out
Buzzflash
…and others that I have not listed here, though you can find the links in my blogs. The Daily Show and the Colbert Report have really good fact-checking as well. All of the above news sources should be supported because without them, it would be much harder to get the word out.

The mainstream, mass-market media are not quite so helpful. This includes:
ABC News
CBS News
CNN
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (has published quite a few negative editorials)
The New York Times
The Washington Post
…and most of all:
Fox News who have portrayed the protesters as violent.

I have also heard anecdotally that a number of TV stations and local papers have been characterizing the demonstrations negatively. Remember, local news sources need to compete for thin resources and ad-buys are very important. This means that they can be swayed by big money, and the Kochs have plenty of it.

BUT…

All of that ad money will useless if people no longer watch their channels or read their papers. The people can have a lot of influence over programming when they organize. You will be surprised!

People who are marching are doing their part of the job. They are putting pressure on the Government and they are making their voices heard. To help them out, everyone who supports the protesters should do whatever they can to assist. Here are a few things that will take just a few minutes a day:

1. Call on the State Attorney General, J.B. Van Hollen, (608) 266-1221, to begin investigations into ethics violations by Governor Walker regarding the phone call, his tendency to give friends fat pay raises and his handling of the proposal. Call for investigations into the Republicans in the Legislature as well. Are they working with the Kochs too?

The Attorney General is a Republican as well, and the Governor has asked him to find ways to get the Democratic Senators to return. You should not expect the State Attorney General to do something right away, but if people call him, write letters to local newspapers and sign petitions calling for investigations, AND KEEP UP THE PRESSURE, then we may see either Hollen or Walker crack under that pressure and make more mistakes. Then they may accidentally reveal more corruption and links to the Kochs like the phone call did. If more information about either person is exposed, then they may be forced to part ties to defend themselves and then they may turn on each other. That is the goal: The Kochs know that pressure helps people make mistakes. Let’s use it on them.

2. Call for Federal Elections Commission investigations into the political operations of the Koch brothers. Are they donating money to their political organizations legally? We should know. Let us force the Koch brothers to spend their money to defend themselves legally. That means they will funnel less money to their own groups to mess with public elections.

3. Call or write your local Television Stations to ask for fair reporting of the protests. This is VERY important, as important as the protests themselves! Be sure to mention that you will migrate to other news sources if they do not begin treating teachers and care givers favorably. This link to Wikipedia has a list of all of Wisconsin’s TV Stations. Click on the station call sign and you will go to a Wikipedia page on that station that will have an address to the actual station website. You can find all appropriate contact information there.

4. If the media is not reporting, then you have to spread the word. Be fair, be accurate, and if you are not sure on details, describe what you know and what you do not. No one has all of the information, but we all try to do our best and we ask questions when we are uncertain about something. Spread the word via texting, Facebook, Twitter, email, telephone, smoke signals or even two paper cups on a string (not Dixie cups!). Form groups, networks and call lists have dinners, lunches and get togethers and let people know when you find something out.

5. Boycott companies and news sources that support the Tea Party, Scott Walker and the Budget “Repair” bill. I have already posted a partial list of companies with links (it is my most popular article so far) and I also have a post on Koch Industries and their related products for more information. The Kochs love the idea of free markets with no regulations. Let us use a market-based approach to show them what happens when they try to take away rights in ‘free markets’! They count on us to buy their products, so if they support taking away benefits and wage-bargaining rights, let us have an impact on their pocketbooks too.

6. Remember who supports the Budget ‘Repair’ Bill for the next elections! AND NEVER, EVER VOTE TEA PARTY AGAIN! That will be soon. Put this on your calendar: There is a State Supreme Court Election April 5th. Prosser is a part of the Court’s conservative majority. Vote Kloppenburg to reduce the power of the Tea Party in the court. VOTE!

7. RECALL Current Legislators and (eventually Governor Walker). The Daily Kos has provided links and information regarding the Republican Senators who can be recalled this year.

8. Discuss this with everyone – even your conservative relatives. This is a civil rights issue and billionaires are trying to take rights away from workers.

9. Wash, rinse, and repeat. This is a waiting game. It will take a while because billionaires have deep pockets. We essentially need to make it very expensive for them to meddle in the political system so that they stop doing it. You have two choices: Stick it out for the long haul and win OR the Kochs get their way and everyone will eventually have an impact to their livelihoods (especially the Tea Partiers themselves).

Remember, the more organized the public is, the easier it will be to get rid of Walker, the Kochs and their cronies. Everyone who supports the state employees should help because once the Kochs take care of them, they will come after the next group. They are all about power and they are working hard to take it all for themselves, so you have to work hard as well to keep your rights.

There are more of us than them. Public opinion strongly favors the workers. Tell other people you know about how they can help. We can do this and we are all in it together.

Walker continues his assault on the Middle Class (AP Photo/Andy Manis)

When will the billionaires be asked to share in the burden? Hundreds are protesting outside Koch Industries’ new lobbying office that is located a block from the Capitol in Madison.

Governor Walker, not content to deprive teachers and nurses of their rights to collectively bargain for their salaries is now eager to raid the state employee insurance fund to balance the budget.

The first layoffs have been announced by Walker, including the wife of Wisconsin Democratic State Senator Scott Fitzgerald, Lisa, who is a teacher, in a fine case of political retribution.

In addition, Republican legislators will restrict access to their offices beginning pm Saturday because they are not really about free speech and democracy, unless one is talking about the “free speech” that Citizens United claimed comes in the form of corporate political donations. Vote such as the one last night come about when a political party no longer thinks it requires constituents (or when it really believes that corporations are people).