And here we go again in Wisconsin…of idiots and ideologues

Hear me, people: We have now to deal with another race – small and feeble when our Fathers first met them, but now great and overbearing. Strangely enough they have a mind to till the soil, and the love of possession is a disease with them. These people have made many rules that the rich may break, but the poor may not. They take their tithes from the poor and weak to support the rich and those who rule. (Chief Sitting Bull, Powder River Conference, 1877)

Is there a better processional for the parade of idiots and ideologues in the 2013 Legislative Session? The People who were here long before Wisconsin became a state were led by visionaries that understood the motivation of a white man corrupt with power.

A Mining Bill is poised to pass out of both committees this week, on the fast track to a swift vote within weeks. A bill which would mean devastation to one of the world’s great supplies of freshwater. Water which means life not only to an indigenous people, but those who have since settled and call the Bad River watershed and Lake Superior Basin home. But damn the torpedoes, science, and those inconvenient geological facts…full speed ahead Mr. and Ms. Chairman/Woman, we have (paying) corporate constituents to serve.

The only hope for defeat of this bill lies in the Republican-controlled Senate, and the possibility that four of its members still listen to a little voice most of us hear as a conscience. Dale Schultz, Mike Ellis, Robert Cowles, and Luther Olsen may be the only sane Republicans left in this biennial assemblage of insanity we still call a “Legislature.” This writer holds out hope that the smokescreen of empty jobs promises is wearing thin in a state moving closer to honorable entry into socio-economic “Dixie”…and further away from its progressive roots.

Has there been a time in our state’s recent history which more closely resembles oligarchy than democracy? The unholy triumvirate of Walker, Fitzgerald, and Vos…let’s face it, in 2010 Jeff Fitzgerald was nothing but a figurehead. Vos is, and has been pulling the strings all along. I digress. This triumvirate has the state government in lockdown, controlling the message in and out, controlling debate, the media, and god forbid anyone should sing in the Capitol. Every moment of every day is a campaign. Public policy is built on a campaign strategy, and supported by money. Lots of it. If you are on the right (literally) side, the money pool is almost unlimited. If you are on the wrong side…well, money doesn’t follow losers. And no money, no access.

Even the Capitol press corps is being kept on a short leash, with passes and access being strictly controlled by the powerful few. Say the wrong thing, write the story the wrong way, come across as the least bit partisan (read – report what we tell you to), and no access for you. End of story, end of job as a Capitol correspondent. This sort of power concentration is rare in Wisconsin. Scott Walker has power, and he is using it.

Walker is raising unprecedented amounts of money, and spending a lot of it on his legal defense fund. Let’s all be honest here…something stinks about the way Walker has campaigned, raised money, and conducted his business in and out of office. His administration is loaded with insiders, fixers, and power mongers. No interest in governing, just power and money. Crooks, liars, sharks. The smart money is that there is something illegal here…but that same money doubts the political will of a Milwaukee County DA to take on the Walker machine. But the Feds? Reminds me of something…

Richard Nixon in 1972. Re-elected, destroying McGovern in a landslide. Everyone knew, but few said it, that Richard Milhous Nixon was a crook. The media knew – but sat on the story until after the election. Once there was blood in the water, the media went in for the kill. Before Watergate, Nixon was untouchable, and had concentrated more power than almost any other president in history. The scary part is, once the scab was ripped off, no one knew how bad the wound was, or how long it would take to heal. Maybe it never has…and maybe we failed to learn the lessons of too much power in the hands of a man like Nixon…or Scott Walker. And so here we go again…in Wisconsin.

There is some light, in this dark time of plutocracy. There are voices rising above the din, who don’t rely on a Capitol press pass. We are getting one back tomorrow. John “Sly” Sylvester is back on the air Monday, February 4th from 3 – 6:30 pm. Sly will be on one of the last remaining locally owned and independent stations in the entire country – 93.7FM WEKZ. He’ll now have a three state reach – Wisconsin, Illinois, and Iowa. Sly will also be contributing to the good fight against Democrats who are mere posers in our neighboring states – like Rahm “NAFTA, TIF King, Kill Public Schools” Emanuel, and Pat “screw the pension fund” Quinn. Station link to listen live here.

I’ll be listening. Why? Because in this time of incredible propaganda, Sly is honest about what he says and believes. He’ll question and confront both Republicans and Democrats who turn their back on Wisconsin working families. And that is important.

The new debate on economics and education will continue to demonize teachers and other public employees. It will perpetuate the myth of impending fiscal doom to preserve the wealth of those paying to spread that myth. Scott Walker will continue to do what Sitting Bull warned about in 1877: They take their tithes from the poor and weak to support the rich and those who rule.” It is voices like Sly’s we need to call out the Walkers, Fitzes, Vos’ Emanuels, Ryans, and Johnsons of our time for what and who they are. Greedy, power-hungry, sharks and fixers who are out for blood. The life blood of Wisconsin – its people and resources in exchange for money and power.

A final quote before sign-off…a warning shot across the bow of our fragile democracy:

When democracy granted democratic methods to us in times of opposition, this was bound to happen in a democratic system. However, we…never asserted that we represented a democratic point of view, but we have declared openly that we used the democratic methods only to gain power, and that, after assuming the power, we would deny to our adversaries without any consideration the means which were granted to us in times of our opposition.

No, that was not from a Walker secret conversation with Robin Vos.

It was Dr. Paul Joseph Goebbels, 1935 propaganda pamphlet, quoted in Vol. I “Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression,” US Government Printing Office 1946 

Vigilance. Always vigilance.

Mining Bill will be voted on in Committee February 6

This afternoon Wisconsin State Senator Tom Tiffany and Rep. Mary Williams announced an Executive Session in both Senate and Assembly Committees taking up SB/AB1 (The Mining Bill).

The Assembly Committee will take up The Mining Bill in Executive Session:

Wednesday, February 6, 2013
10:00 AM
417 North (GAR Hall)

The Senate Committee will take up the Mining Bill the same day:

Wednesday, February 6, 2013
10:00 AM
201 Southeast

The Executive Session will occur three days prior to the hearing scheduled in Ashland by Senator Bob Jauch and Rep Janet Bewley, who serve constituents that would be directly impacted by a Taconite mine in the Penokee Range. That hearing is scheduled for Saturday, February 9 at the AmericInn in Ashland.

No “official” hearing is scheduled in the region, and based on the scheduled Committee hearings and likely vote to message to the full legislative bodies, the current mining bill appears to be fast tracked in spite of significant technical and legal issues with the bill as written.

A representative in Mary Williams’ office confirmed to Badger Democracy this afternoon that the bill would be voted on to refer out of committee on February 6.

Whole Foods CEO John Mackey and “Conscious Capitalism” – putting lipstick on a pig

John Mackey is the co-CEO of Whole Foods Market, its founder, and a self-proclaimed independent libertarian. Mackey has also recently authored a book, “Conscious Capitalism.” While he speaks in platitudes about corporations acting as conscientious citizens of the world, Mackey’s actions as CEO of a major corporation betray his real motivation.

Mackey was forced to back pedal from his comments on the Patient Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”):

Technically speaking, it’s more like fascism. Socialism is where the government owns the means of production. In fascism, the government doesn’t own the means of production, but they do control it — and that’s what’s happening with our health care programs and these reforms.

Mackey is dead wrong on the government-corporate relationship under fascism. Italian historian and fascism authority Emilio Gentile gives the authoritative description:

Corporative organization of the economy that suppresses trade union liberty, broadens the sphere of state intervention, and seeks to achieve, by principles of technocracy and solidarity, the collaboration of the ‘productive sectors’ under control of the regime, to achieve its goals of power, yet preserving private property and class divisions. (Payne, Stanley G (A History of Fascism, 1914-1945). University of Wisconsin Press. pp. 5–6)

More importantly, it is time to call Mackey’s vision of capitalism (and Whole Foods Market) what it is, and this writer does not use this term loosely. “Corporate fascism” is an accurate and apt description of the Mackey philosophy. Consider Gentile’s definition. above, in light of Mackey’s actions and writings.

Mackey is a staunch proponent of a corporate-centric economy, with no government or regulatory intervention. Both Whole Foods Market and Mackey are anti-union, anti-worker’s rights. The Mackey philosophy would see a collaborative corporate control over the means of production, to achieve its own goals of power through corporate solidarity (WMC, US Chamber of Commerce, etc.). Preservation of private property and class division are a necessity for the Mackey vision, as there can be no cheap labor production without class division. Ironically, Mackey is a proponent of the expansion of state intervention, as long as it is on behalf of corporate welfare expansion. There is plenty of proof to support this assertion…

On November 16, 2011, Mackey penned an op-ed by invitation in the Wall Street Journal, titled “To Increase Jobs, Increase Economic Freedom.”  In a response to Mackey’s article written on February 1, 2012, Badger Democracy addressed the fundamental arguments in the op-ed:

1. Cut the size and cost of government - 100 years ago, government spending was 8% of GDP; today it is 40% of GDP. This additional money spent by the government could be used to “create jobs.”

2. Cuts should be made in Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and Defense – many of these services could be privatized, using the “success” of Chile and Singapore as models.

3. Stimulate the economy by cutting taxes and regulations - Mackey explains that cutting taxes would “increase revenue… as entrepreneurs create new businesses and new jobs and as people earn more money.”

In his own op-ed, Mackey supports further provisions which would continue the US economy down a dangerous path. Greater corporate consolidation of power, greater consolidation of wealth, greater class inequity, and greater corporate influence on policy which would regulate said power.

The dagger in Mackey’s theory is a recent report in the conservative-leaning Financial Times, also reported in the New York Times. The article cites a steady decline in earned wages and a steady rise in investor income through profit and interest:

“58%…is the share of US national income that goes to workers as wages rather than to investors as profits and interest. It has fallen to its lowest level since records began after the second world war and is part of the reason why incomes at the top – which tend to be earned from capital – have risen so much. If wages were at their postwar average share of 63 per cent, workers would earn an extra $740 billion this year, about $5,000 per worker, according to FT calculations.”

More power and wealth for the corporate fascists, with less taxes and accountability means more money to influence and drive politics and policy:

 

Corporate Taxes Paid by US Corporations, 1950-2010

(Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis analysis)

Corporate income tax graph

 

Cheap labor production is possible due to the expansion of the wealth gap and class disparities:

 

 

John Mackey’s Whole Foods Market has also forced employees to “vote” to cut their own wages and benefits. Wages have been cut due to reduction in hours, and employees will be forced to contribute more in spite of enormous corporate growth:

In 2007, WFM profits (after taxes and expenses) totaled $182.7 million. Four years later, in 2011, profits totaled $342.6 million – nearly double in 4 years.  For the first sixteen weeks of 2011, total profits were $88.7 million; for the same period in 2012, profits totaled $118.3 million. Store expenses have decreased by 38 points in 2011, including 28 points due to wage cuts. In real numbers, most stores have executed 3% cuts in labor over the past fiscal year, resulting in most employees seeing a 5-8% cut in wages (due to hours being cut).

Of course, Mackey built Whole Foods with his own two hands, with no government help (sarcasm)…therefore, government should stay out of his business. This is the great lie of corporate fascism. Mackey and his ilk want the government to work for them. The doctrine of so-called “corporate conscious” follows in the words of Gentile:

…broadens the sphere of state intervention, and seeks to achieve, by principles of technocracy and solidarity, the collaboration of the ‘productive sectors’ under control of the regime, to achieve its goals of power.

The corporate fascists would have us believe the great lie of their own self-determination and success, that personal strength and sacrifice alone built their empires. Mackey is as guilty of this as any of them. Whole Foods is a prolific recipient of government intervention and welfare on its own behalf.

In 2011, an $8 million tax break for a new Washington DC Whole Foods development raised questions of return on public investment and why public money was even needed:

And why does this project require a special subsidy to move forward in the first place?  This Whole Foods already would qualify for a set of tax incentives for grocery store development, including a 10–year property tax break on the store itself.  Moreover, while some projects near Nationals Park have languished in the recession, this area is likely to be part of the emerging rebound, thanks in part to prior public investment by the District.  Finally, if a Whole Foods will revitalize this neighborhood as it did in Logan Circle, why won’t private market interests step up to make it happen?

In the same year, Whole Foods received $4.2 million in tax subsidies to open a Detroit area store, uncovered only by FOIA requests:

The documents, obtained by the Chaldean News under the Freedom of Information Act and provided toCrain’s, show that Whole Foods is asking for $4.2 million in city, state and federal incentives to open a store in downtown Detroit.

According to the exchanges, the 21,000-square-foot project is expected to get $1.5 million in local and community foundation funds, $1.2 million in federal tax credits under the New Market program and $1.5 million in state incentives.

Michael Sarafa, president of the Bank of Michigan and co-publisher of The Chaldean News, questions the use of incentives to lure a national grocery chain to Detroit. He said there are 83 independently-owned grocers in the city, many of them owned by Chaldeans, who did not receive incentives.

 

Controversial “TIF” funds are being used for construction of a Whole Foods-anchored development in St. Louis, hardly in a blighted area.

The new Whole Foods development in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago is being partially funded by an $11.3 million “TIF” in an already well-developed area.

Mackey is now on the record confirming that Whole Foods will begin eliminating full-time employees as a result of “Obamacare” being fully enacted. This in an interview with Greta Van Susteren:

…there will be a strong temptation for businesses to keep people under 30 hours, so they don’t have to provide health care. And you will have a lot of part-time workers and fewer full-time workers, a lot of people underemployed.

Whole Foods prided itself, we’ve always had a higher mix of full-time to part-time workers like 80 percent full-time and 20 percent part-time, which is very rare in retail. But as I suspect as our health care costs are driven up by health care reforms then we’ll end up gradually lower our full-time ratio to a much lower number.

There is no fiscal truth to this statement. As proven in Whole Foods’ own financial statements and a previous Badger Democracy blog, the company’s health care costs per employee are actually lower than they were before “Obamacare’s” passage. The reason for Whole Foods’ higher total costs is simple – the company is growing. With government and public help.

It is time to take the lipstick off the pig. The philosophy of John Mackey should be called what it is. Corporate freedom, rights, and independence over all – even the individual. No worker’s rights, no government regulation or intervention EXCEPT on behalf of the corporation and its own interests. In short…corporate fascism.

And Mackey calling “Obamacare” fascism? Pure projection.

 

Scott Walker’s “I am not a crook” moment

This morning, in an interview with the Associated Press (AP), Scott Walker insisted that he was not a target of the ongoing John Doe investigation. Walker went further in saying that if he had knowledge of wrongdoing in his office, he would have put a stop to it.

Gov. Scott Walker tells The Associated Press that he remains “absolutely” confident that he is not a subject of a criminal investigation involving former aides in his Milwaukee County office.

Walker says he had no knowledge of county workers doing campaign work while on the clock for their county job. He says if he had known what Rindfleisch was doing, he would have taken action to stop it.

Less than twelve hours after Walker made that statement, news broke about former top Walker aide Timothy Russell, scheduled to go on trial December 3rd.

A plea agreement has been reached in the felony embezzlement case against Timothy D. Russell, a former aide to Gov. Scott Walker.

Assistant District Attorney Bruce Landgraf said Monday a hearing on the plea deal is set for Thursday but declined to discuss terms of the deal. Russell’s lawyer, Parker Mathers, didn’t immediately return a phone call late Monday.

Russell, 49, was charged in January with embezzling more than $20,000 from a veterans group through a nonprofit organization that Walker assigned him to lead. He’s accused of siphoning money raised for Operation Freedom, an annual veterans fair and picnic at the zoo hosted by Walker during his time as Milwaukee County executive.

Russell served as deputy chief of staff and housing director at the county during the period he’s accused of plundering the veterans money. (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

Thursday will be an interesting day. Of more immediate concern is Walker’s claim on the record that he is a complete innocent. The record will show, eventually, that today was Scott Walker’s “I am not a crook” moment (shades of Nixon). There are several emails that make it abundantly clear that only one of two possibilities is true. Either Scott Walker lied today, or he is an incompetent fool duped by his campaign staff whom he had no control over. You decide…to the exhibits.

Power Point Slide #42

Email from Walker Campaign Manager (Friends of Scott Walker) Keith Gilkes (kgilkes@scottwalker.org) to candidate Scott Walker (skw@scottwalker.org). Copied to County Exec Walker’s staff including Kelly Rindfleisch, now guilty of campaigning on County time, in this case 11am on a Friday. The email is coordinating an official statement from County Executive Walker regarding the County tax levy, prepared for political expediency by his campaign. This goes beyond schedule coordination, and directly involved Walker.

Power Point Slide #44

Email from Rindfleisch on County time (1:30pm  on a Wednesday), from her “secret” Gmail account to bypass County email systems, to Scott Walker and Campaign Manager Gilkes (among others). More direct coordination of messaging and strategy for a WTMJ radio spot, even recommending “SKW might want to do a letter…asking for an appeal.” Noteworthy is that Walker and his state Capitol staff have continued message coordination and control with conservative talk radio pundits, as previously reported.

Power Point Slide #45

Perhaps one of the most damning email chains of all. This email chain is initiated by Scott Walker from his campaign email (skw@scottwalker.org) to combined County/Campaign staff including Rindfleisch and Gilkes. While we are unable to view the full first email, Walker is unhappy with how corporate counsel is handling media inquiries. The end result is Campaign Manager Gilkes telling Rindfleisch that the Walker campaign would “…like him to stop being a lawyer and think political.” Understand, this is a political campaign telling the County government how its corporate counsel should respond to public record inquiries from media, through Scott Walker, candidate. Again, on County time.

Power Point Slide #70

Extremely revealing email. Sent from campaign manager Gilkes to candidate Walker, Rindfleisch, and other County staff.  Sent on Friday afternoon May 14, 2010 when Walker would know Rindfleisch would be on County time. The subject is Darlene Wink, who had just left her County job under fire days earlier. This email is coordinating damage control and spin between the County Executive and Walker Campaign. The exact text (emphasis added):

Scott – we would like to discuss this further. We got a briefing from Kelly (Rindfleisch).

There are a few key thoughts on this that our (sic) critical to a response and diffusing this report.

Make no mistake, this is the start of a cover-up, with Scott Walker fully in the loop. Each of these email slides shows not only knowledge, but full participation in this activity. It is little wonder Kelly Rindfleisch’s attorney Frank Gimbel was beside himself, wondering how his client is the only one currently facing jail time in this scandal. As the emails on display were several of thousands, it is highly likely things are going to get very heated for Scott Walker.  This scandal will end up being of unprecedented scope in Wisconsin politics. A scandal that makes the Caucus Scandal look like a childish kerfuffle…

It comes down to this, and we must consider not only the emails referenced in the Rindfleisch sentencing, but the full record of Scott Walker.

He is one or the other…Walker is either lying; or he is an incompetent fool, completely ignorant and immune while his minions run roughshod over the law and the office just steps away from him.

Which is it?

 

 

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John Doe Power Point implicates Walker; Source Discloses Continuing Pattern of Corruption

The seventy-eight slide Rindfleisch power point presentation given by Assistant District Attorney Bruce Landgraf is now available for public viewing (follow link). There can be no more speculation as to whether Scott Walker had firsthand knowledge regarding campaign activity occurring in his Milwaukee County Executive office. There was, and he did. Walker’s private campaign email address appears on numerous slides, and the campaign/county staff were one in the same. Significant questions remain.

Does the Milwaukee County DA have the goods on Walker? Or is this part of a coordinated chess match to “flush out” Walker for the Feds? Will the indictment come from Milwaukee County or another law enforcement agency? If this revelation came out in the Rindfleisch sentencing (she is a fairly small-time player in this network), what will come out in the Russell trial starting next month?

The one certainty in all this is that Scott Walker has continued his pattern of building an appointed, political network at the state level to carry out his policies unencumbered; and likely coordinate with his campaign. We already know the investigation has expanded to Madison, and Badger Democracy has previously published an email from Keith Gilkes’ state email account discussing campaign assistance from a Walker supporter.

A highly placed Administration official has recently communicated information to Badger Democracy which confirms Walker’s pattern of crony appointments and corruption continues in Madison. As additional information is disclosed, additional blogs will be posted. Of specific importance are recent events at one of Walker’s newly reorganized agencies – Department of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS – formerly Regulation and Licensing). All information has been confirmed through independent inquiry.

Cronyism

The Walker Administration has replaced all Division Administration heads at DSPS with political appointees. The last non-appointee left on April 12, 2012. Former DSPS HR head Martha Zydowski retired from her $90,000/year + job earlier this year. Shortly after her “retirement” she was rehired at a part-time job working 3 days a week, earning $67,000/year. She is assigned to working “special projects.”

Only two raises have been awarded since 1/1/11 for full-time exempt employees. One was to Angela Herl, who is married to Dane County GOP chairman Mike Herl. The other was to Kathy Sotak, who was promoted to a Bureau Director. Just months after her promotion, she resigned. State records show Sotak formed “Sotak Solutions LLC” in 2010 – while working for the state. Sotak’s LinkedIn profile claims to have worked at Sotak Solutions since 1999. Her business specialty:

Chemical management and industrial hygiene, risk management, safety, training programs

This is identical to the work she was performing at her state job. Badger Democracy found state Vendornet records showing Sotak as a state subcontractor in 2007 (Kathy Sotak as Safety Consultant 2004-2007). It is apparent that Sotak has spent her time in state government coordinating subcontract opportunities for her own LLC. The revolving door of state government at work.

Further cronyism exists in the appointment of Bill Wendle as Assistant Secretary of DSPS. Wendl is the former CEO of the Wisconsin Builder’s Association (WBA); one of Walker’s largest donors, supporters, and lobby for Scott Walker’s policy agenda. According to Badger Democracy’s source, through Wendle, WBA “bought the codes.” Wendle is said to be planning to write and update the new building codes, favorable to WBA interests “after the committee hearings” are held. Current code updates are said to be receiving “little to no oversight” due to “lack of manpower.” Building Code review is 6 months behind any updating activity.

Secrecy and Corruption

Badger Democracy has received information that a private Gmail network has been set up in more than one Administration Agency – including DSPS. There is also an initiative being pushed to eliminate the IT support at DSPS and transition all IT/Email to DOA. This would place control of IT at DSPS into the hands of DOA. Noteworthy is the private email account which Kelly Rindfleisch conducted her illegal campaign work on was a Gmail account. Also, greater opportunity for corruption exists now that DSPS is led by political appointees of Scott Walker.

As with WEDC, it is apparent that DSPS is now in disarray, sacrificing effective administration for cronyism and secrecy. Badger Democracy will have more information in future posts.

While the John Doe investigation continues to roll on, it is unclear what the next move for the Milwaukee County DA will be.  We now have confirmation that Scott Walker had direct knowledge of campaign work happening in his County executive office. We also know that Walker has continued this at least immoral, possibly illegal activity in Madison.

It is also known that Walker is also being investigated at the Federal level. Of that, we have heard nothing…yet.

 

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Expect more of the same from Scott Walker on Health Insurance Exchange Plan

If there was ever a time for Scott Walker to prove he is willing to work with “both sides of the aisle,” tomorrow is the day. Friday, November 16 is the deadline for states to announce their plan to implement state-run exchanges, or face implementation of a Federal Exchange. Walker and other GOP Governors went all-in on a Romney win, and subsequent repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  

Romney lost. “Obamacare” was declared constitutional. Don’t expect anything from Scott Walker – except business as usual.

Once again, Scott Walker and the extreme far-right GOP Legislators are choosing ideology over good governing, and it is the majority of Wisconsin taxpayers who will pay. Sadly, it didn’t have to be this way. The structure of an exchange has been in existence for over one year.

On November 1, 2011 State Senator Kathleen Vinehout (D-Alma) introduced 2011 SB 273 “Badger Health Benefit Authority.”  From the Legislative Fiscal Bureau analysis:

This bill creates the Badger Health Benefit Authority (authority) that is a public body corporate and politic that is created by state law but that is not a state agency.

Under the bill, the authority must establish and operate a Wisconsin Health Benefit Exchange in this state, must make qualified health plans, with effective dates on or before January 1, 2014, available to qualified individuals and qualified employers, and must seek federal grants and other funding for the purpose of the exchange. A qualified health plan is defined in the bill, generally, as a health benefit plan that covers the costs of health care services and that meets the certification criteria described in the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).

In the past, Legislators from both side of the aisle would have spent the year hammering out an Exchange unique to, and to the benefit of Wisconsin. This is how Badger Care came into existence. Not today.

Enter the ideological crusaders. So extreme are these ideologues, nine of them have gone on public record as promoting legislation authorizing the arrest of any Federal Employee who would attempt to enact ACA in Wisconsin – including a Health Exchange.

Rep. Chris Kapenga (R-Delafield), Sen. Mary Lazich of New Berlin; Reps. Don Pridemore of Hartford; Erik Severson of Star Prairie; Tom Larson of Colfax; Scott Krug of Wisconsin Rapids; and three Republicans elected for the first time last week who will be sworn in early next year – Rob Hutton of Brookfield, Mark Born of Beaver Dam and Dave Murphy of Greenville. (MJS)

These are not responsible legislators. They are hacks.

Citizen Action of Wisconsin recently released an email from DHS to Walker Administration officials containing a Power Point presentation – the closest thing we have seen to a blueprint from the Governor’s office.

We can be certain of one thing. The Walker plan for a Health Exchange will be consistent with his previous governing record. The WEDC Block Grant fiasco, the current Talgo breach of contract lawsuit, cronyism in Administration appointments and State Agencies, and corporate patronage at the expense of fiscal responsibility are now the hallmarks of the Walker Administration.

The Walker plan for a Health Exchange will be nothing more than a sub-contracted, privately operated online market “clearinghouse” serving existing for-profit insurance companies – and doing nothing to reduce costs or increase access to the nearly 500,000 uninsured Wisconsinites.

The result will be the same as well – a giant boondoggle which will set up a significant battle with the Federal Government over whether the Wisconsin Exchange conforms to the ACA. And we all will lose.

Scott Walker will again live up to our expectations of him, which are continually decreasing.

Paul Ryan retains his Congressional seat…but is Tuesday’s biggest loser

Paul Ryan will still have a job, having defeated challenger Rob Zerban in his most competitive race since he first won election. What is getting very little attention in the mainstream media is that Ryan failed to carry his home communities of Janesville and Rock County. Zerban won his home County of Kenosha and Ryan’s home County, Rock. Not surprisingly, Ryan has the GOP-friendly redistricting and Waukesha County to thank.

Total vote:

Ryan –      199,715 –  55%

Zerban – 157,721 –  43%

Difference – 41,994

(Source – Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

First, Ryan loses his home of Janesville and Rock County:

Rock County

Paul Ryan (Rep) 46.39% 18,826
Rob Zerban (Dem) 51.50% 20,902

Zerban + 2076

(Source: Rock County Clerk)

Zerban wins his home Kenosha County:

Kenosha County

Rob Zerban (DEM) 41101 52.27
Paul Ryan (REP) 36092 45.9

Zerban +5009

(Source: Kenosha County Clerk)

Zerban is competitive in Racine county:

Racine County

PAUL RYAN   –   50,106 –  48.21 %
ROB ZERBAN  -  47,618  - 45.81 %

Ryan +2488

(Source: Racine County Clerk)

Racine and Rock basically cancel each other out, leaving Zerban with a 5,000 vote lead. Walworth County gives Ryan a slight lead:

Walworth County

PAUL RYAN REP 27,890
ROB ZERBAN DEM 16,546

Ryan + 11,344

(Source: Walworth County Clerk)

After Rock, Kenosha, Racine, and Walworth County, Ryan is only ahead 6,747 votes out of 259,081 cast in those four counties, or 2.6%. Enter the GOP behemoth Waukesha County.

Paul Ryan    -   36,843

Rob Zerban –  12,688

Ryan + 24,155

(Source: Waukesha County Clerk)

After Waukesha County, Ryan’s lead is increased to 30,902 out of 308,612 votes cast, or 10% – a huge increase, and insurmountable.  Waukesha County accounts for nearly 50% of the margin of victory. Southern Milwaukee County adds almost the same pro-Ryan vote as Walworth County.

More Waukesha County for Ryan, larger margin of victory for the GOP, and a relatively “safe” seat.

2001 WI 1st CD map

2011 WI 1st CD map

Ryan wins thanks to favorable redistricting, even after losing his hometown. In the final analysis, Paul Ryan may have retained his House seat, but after the fight of his political career. This on the night he failed to deliver a critical Wisconsin for Mitt Romney, and Tammy Baldwin defeated a state political legend in Tommy Thompson.

The 43% of voters in the 1st Congressional District will undoubtedly have a close eye on Paul Ryan – as will Rob Zerban.

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Time for Wisconsin Progressives to get to work…again

A short time ago, the AP called the election for Barack Obama, and Tammy Baldwin – with Wisconsin leading the way. Earlier today, Badger Democracy posted predictions and commentary on the state races. Fortunately, I was correct on the Obama/Baldwin win. Unfortunately, I was also correct in saying the GOP would take back the State Senate. It appears Wisconsin will be controlled at the state level by a very conservative GOP led by Scott Walker.

We should take the next 24 hours to celebrate. As Wisconsin progressives, we have led the way in re-electing Barack Obama, and sending Tammy Baldwin to the US Senate. After the celebration, we have along road ahead of us. The recent redistricting has assured an uphill climb for the next decade to maintain a balance in the State Legislature.

More importantly, as progressives, it is time to change the way messaging and campaigns are run at the state level. The Democratic Party, on the whole, has been beaten badly in that regard over the last 18 months – and appears not to have learned from its mistakes. It is time to remedy this as progressives, and again lead the way to change the way we communicate our values and our message – because what is being done now is not working.

The election is over. The campaign for a progressive Wisconsin is in its infancy. See you in the trenches…

Solidarity!

 

 

Election 2012 – Prognostication and Portends

Election 2012 is in full swing, and by all accounts Wisconsin will have record turnout. That is encouraging, as the Voter ID provisions still in effect do make new voter registrations more difficult.  Based on voter registration data from 2008-2012, turnout will be key to an Obama victory and the hope that there will be a “coat-tail” effect in Wisconsin.

Voter registration data from the GAB shows that the slow and steady attempt by the GOP to disenfranchise younger voters (who vote more Democratic) has been having an impact – even in Wisconsin which has same day registration (numbers in thousands):

Year 18-24 25-34 35-49 50-64 65+ Total
2008 340.8 576.1 955.1 932.8 668.9 3,473.8
2009 336.2 614.3 930.4 926 675 3,481.90
2010 327.5 554.8 900.8 984.3 692.5 3,460
2011 273.9 506.3 826.1 967.2 697.2 3,270.60
2012 332.9 560.4 855.9 1,013.20 738.6 3,501

Notice the trend over the past 5 years. As this table shows, the under 50 age group registrations have dropped, while the over 50 registrations have increased (numbers in thousands):

 

U50 total 50+ total
 2008 1872 1601.7
 2009 1880.9 1601
 2010 1783.1 1676.8
 2011 1606.3 1664.4
 2012 1749.2 1,751.80
Diff 2008-2012 -122.8 150.10

 

122,800 less under 50 voters registered, as there are 150,010 more over 50 registered voters.

When expressed as a percent of the total registered voters, it is clear why turnout is key:

 

 2008 0.54 0.46
 2009 0.54 0.46
 2010 0.52 0.48
 2011 0.49 0.51
 2012 0.50 0.50
Diff 2008-2012 -0.04 0.04

 

The two age groups have converged, each comprising 50% of the registered voters. Badger Democracy has compiled graphs on this data as a PDF available at this link:

Voter Registration Graphs 2008-2012 PDF

A quick look at the 2011 registrations are one significant reason the Walker recall election failed. Another will be referenced later. Now, on to the prognosis.

President – Barack Obama defeats Mitt Romney. I believe in math and statistics. Nate Silver has the most unbiased, mathematically sound analysis and he has a history of being right. This morning, Silver updated his Five Thirty-Eight blog to give Obama a 90.9% chance of winning – largely due to Obama momentum gains in key swing states. Silver’s analysis takes into account the possibility of a bias for Obama.

In order for Mr. Romney to win the Electoral College, a large number of polls, across these states and others, would have to be in error, perhaps because they overestimated Democratic turnout. It’s this possibility, more than the chance of a successful hail-mary in a state like Pennsylvania, that accounts for most of Mr. Romney’s remaining chances of winning the Electoral College.

The chances of Romney winning the electoral college is given in poker terms by Silver:

…in poker, making an inside straight requires you to catch one of 4 cards out of 48 remaining in the deck, the chances of which are about 8 percent. Those are now about Mr. Romney’s chances of winning the Electoral College.

If Obama were to lose, I would consider the results very suspect – especially if the difference is Ohio and the vote suppression methods under way there (addressed below).

While I expect Obama to win the electoral college, Hurricane Sandy has made the possibility of Romney winning the popular vote a bit higher. The area affected by Sandy typically accounts for about 30% of the total popular vote nationwide. There is a good possibility that enough people will be unable to vote due to the storm, still giving Obama the electoral vote win, but reducing the poplar vote outcome in the Northeast corridor. Can’t wait to hear what Rush Limbaugh would say about that…

Obama will win Wisconsin as well. The final Marquette Law School Poll shows Obama with a 51-43 lead over Romney. The Marquette poll called the recall election nearly spot-on, and had been consistently accurate. That brings us to the Senate.

The Wisconsin Senate Race – Nate Silver has Tammy Baldwin at a 79% chance of defeating Thompson, but the poll margins are extremely close. The voter registration numbers referenced above make the split even closer. The last Marquette poll gives the slightest edge to Baldwin as well, 47-43 (just outside the Margin of Error). I’m going to use another factor in making my prediction – momentum.

The January Marquette poll  showed that 50% of respondents had not heard enough of Tammy Baldwin to form an opinion of her. Only 17% said the same of Thompson. Baldwin had a 23% favorable rating, Thompson 49% favorable. By the June Marquette poll, 39% had not heard enough of Baldwin, 12% had not heard enough of Thompson to form an opinion. The favorability gap was closing – 27% Baldwin, 48% Thompson. In the first head-to-head poll of likely voters, Thompson had a 49-41% lead over Baldwin.

Fast forward to the second August Marquette poll. Baldwin continued to close the recognition gap; 27% not knowing enough of Baldwin, 17% not knowing enough of Thompson. The favorability gap also continued to close – Baldwin at 32%, Thompson at 40%. Among likely voters, Thompson continued to lead 50-41%, virtually unchanged from June.

The second September Marquette poll shows a greater shift in momentum taking place. Only 20% of voters had not heard enough of Baldwin to form an opinion (down from 50% eight months before), with Thompson holding steady at 12%. In the favorability rating, Baldwin had closed the gap – 37% Baldwin, 36% Thompson (compare to 23-49% January). In likely voters, Baldwin gained her first lead in the poll, 48-44%.

That brings us to the last Marquette poll pre-election. Among likely voters, only 13% had not heard enough of Baldwin – about where Thompson started. Favorability ratings are identical – 38% to 38%. More importantly, as more people have come to know Tommy Thompson, his unfavorable rating is 6 points higher than Baldwin’s, 51 – 45%. This was the first poll Thompson had a 50%+ unfavorable rating.

My prediction – based on the momentum of Tammy Baldwin, and the corresponding “coat-tail” effect of Barack Obama winning in Wisconsin by a fairly wide margin, that will be enough to give the razor’s edge victory to Baldwin. Tommy won’t go down without a fight – expect a recount. In the end, Baldwin wins and the Wisconsin US Senate is split.

This entire scenario relies on a fair and accurate election – which is in question and highly suspect. The Brad Blog  has been at the forefront of following election hijinks perpetrated by private corporateers who control the software and data involved in elections. It is astounding that in the first democracy, our election system is controlled by private corporate profiteers with significant conflicts of interest and political agendas – much as would be expected in a third world country election.

Investigative reporter for the BBC Greg Palast has (and continues) to follow the systematic disenfranchisement of minority voters in state like Ohio and Florida – with hundreds of thousands  of registered voters being dropped from voter rolls. Voter registration and ID laws are working in that regard – look at Wisconsin data above. Younger, more Democratic voters are being intentionally purged from the voting rolls – and it is worse in states without same day registration.

If the fix is in, we are in for a long 4 years. Under a Mitt Romney/Paul Ryan Administration, the United States would become a vulture capital economy. After all, Ryan was Paul Singer’s (“The Vulture”) number one pick to be the GOP Presidential candidate. Mitt Romney was Singer’s last pick – Ryan was the VP pick to satisfy Singer.

The vultures would run the show – and the economy. What Singer and Elliott Management are doing to Argentina would become the model for domestic and foreign economic policy. Romney’s financial dealings as a profiteer aligned with Bain Capital and Singer’s Elliott Management would become the new business model in the US. The whistle has just been blown on Romney’s dealings and profiteering – and if he is elected would never see the light of day.

The Obama Administration and mainstream banks like JP Morgan Chase understood the threat to worldwide economics when they recently filed amicus briefs in favor of Argentina’s sovereignty, and against Paul Singer and the vultures. There are theories this election is a battle of the titans for control of the US (and world) economy. Obama wins, and more reasonable heads prevail. A Romney win, and it is back to the Robber Barons – only on steroids with the Vultures in charge.

My concern is for State Senate and Assembly races. All politics are local, and while there may be a small carry over from Obama to the state races – it will be limited. A miracle is necessary for the Democrats to maintain the State Senate. The retirement of Jim Holperin (D-Eagle River) made that a difficult retention with the pro-GOP redistricting. The Assembly may become more evenly divided – but will remain GOP controlled. That leaves Wisconsin where we were after the 2010 election, with the need to remain ever vigilant, the struggle to continue.

There were lessons from the recall that went unlearned by state Dems, as has been written of previously. It must be our priority as progressives to push for a change in messaging and campaigning at the state level to counter the GOP machine. Wisconsin will likely remain under control of the GOP, with some balances at the federal and local level. Again, unless the fix is in. Our election process must be reformed and taken away from the privateers.

Get out and vote – and do your part to protect your right to vote. As for Scott Walker and the GOP in Wisconsin, I’ll be here along with other progressive bloggers long after the election is over to expose their continual abuse of power.

I leave you with the words of Thomas Paine, patriot:

“It is possible to exclude men from the right of voting,
but it is impossible to exclude them from the right of
rebelling against that exclusion.”

What is your right to vote worth?

 

 

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Walker Administration “Default of Contract” cost to taxpayers nearly $50 million

Train manufacturer Talgo filed a “Default of Contract” suit against Governor Scott Walker and Wisconsin DOT Secretary Mark Gottlieb in Dane County Circuit Court today. Court documents filed today show that the Washington-based train manufacturer notified the state on April 4, 2012 that the “trainsets” were ready for required service testing to be conducted by WisDOT.

The state has attempted to claim that Talgo is responsible for testing, but the contract makes clear that WisDOT bears that responsibility (emphasis added):

All parties acknowledge and accept that 49 CFR 238.111 provides that the Operator (or railroad, as the case may be) not the Contractor is responsible for performing a pre-revenue service acceptance testing plan. Contractor will diligently work with Department and such Operator to ensure that the Operator’s pre-revenue service acceptance testing plan is efficiently implemented.

Wisconsin was sent an invoice for $4.599 million dollars on April 23, 2012 which has remained unpaid. On July 25, 2012 Talgo served a “notice of default” on Mark Gottlieb, DOT Secretary. The notice gave the state 30 days to cure default (emphasis added):

In short, Wisconsin is in default of its testing obligations under Section 14.02 of the Purchase
Contract, which has caused significant and costly delays on the project. Talgo is also very concerned with WisDOT’s stated intent to place the train sets into storage rather than in revenue service, which also constitutes a material breach and default under the Purchase Contract, as the Purchase Contract clearly requires WisDOT to place the train sets into revenue service (see, for example, Article 9 of the Purchase Contract).

Meanwhile, Wisconsin is also in default of its payment obligation regarding Invoice number 2012- 1.6, dated April 23, 2012. In addition, WisDOT has also wrongfully terminated the December 30,2009 Maintenance Agreement between WisDOT and Talgo - constituting an Event of Default under both that agreement and the Purchase Contract - which Talgo will address by separate letter.

Wisconsin did not reply within the required 30 days to cure default. The Maintenance Agreement referenced in the default letter between Wisconsin and Talgo was terminated by the trainmaker on November 1 as another breach of contract (emphasis added). Gottlieb was hand-delivered notice of Purchase Contract termination on November 1. If the state is found in breach of contract, Wisconsin (and its citizens by default) would lose all rights under the contract, and be on the hook for nearly $50 million plus court costs(emphasis added):

It has been more than one hundred days since Talgo served its Notice of Default upon Wisconsin.
Wisconsin has still not cured its default.

Accordingly, pursuant to the terms of the Purchase Contract, Talgo is hereby immediately
terminating the Purchase Contract. Wisconsin remains obligated to pay all its “previously accrued liabilities” under the Purchase Contract. You have received invoices for the balance of the Purchase Contract prior to your receipt of this Notice of Termination.

Talgo CEO  Antonio Perez hits the nail on the head with his statement today (emphasis added):

“We invested in the State of Wisconsin by building a manufacturing facility in
Milwaukee and creating manufacturing jobs. We built the trains and
otherwise performed our obligations under our agreements with the State of
Wisconsin. In return, rather than being “open for business” the State used
every conceivable excuse, whether fair or not and whether lawful or not, to
ensure that Talgo did not receive what it bargained for, including by refusing
to pay for the trains that Talgo completed. I don’t see how any company
would in the future choose to do business with the State of Wisconsin when
the State has shown that it cannot be trusted to honor contracts that it
signed.”

“Talgo has become the innocent victim of a political agenda. Before
Governor Walker was inaugurated, he wrote an open letter to President
Obama saying, “Governor Doyle and Secretary La Hood say we can’t stop
the train. I say, just watch us.” The Governor chose to “stop the train” by
breaching its contract with Talgo.”

WEDC and Walker’s budgeting tricks are just the tip of the iceberg. Ideology and cronyism over responsible governance have become the hallmarks of the Walker Administration. Not only did Walker’s actions regarding Talgo COST jobs, they will now COST taxpayers millions of dollars payable long after he is out of office.

The Office of DOT Secretary Mark Gottlieb emailed the following comment to Badger Democracy:

The Department of Transportation participated in a formal mediation process with Talgo just last week in a good faith effort to resolve disputes related to the delivery of completed trainsets. We are disappointed that process was not successful.
 
Talgo has failed to complete or test the trainsets and they do not meet even basic federal standards, such as those required under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
 
The department will defend against this action and continue to act in the best interests of Wisconsin taxpayers.”

The Walker Administration has yet to respond to request for comment.

 

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