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.

The most influential, under-reported player in the Wisconsin GOP Redistricting strategy – Oklahoma University Professor Keith Gaddie

The emails ordered released by a Federal Court on Thursday have received a great deal of attention in the media recently. What has received little to no attention are the emails (see page 18 of the emails)referencing Keith Gaddie(Professor of Political Science – Oklahoma University) , and the critical role Gaddie has played in Wisconsin and other states (Texas, Georgia, etc.) recently in the redistricting process. Gaddie is a renowned expert on the treatment of minority populations in redistricting, has consulted on numerous redistricting processes nationwide (particularly in southern tier states), and was a consulting expert in the 2002 Wisconsin redistricting with then Speaker Scott Jensen. Professor Gaddie has already been cited as an expert in the January 3 filing in Federal Court by Wisconsin Congressional Democrats against Congressional Republicans and the GAB.  A review of Gaddie’s prior testimonies and writings, coupled with the Michael, Best and Friedrich emails, show his “expertise” may well be the basis for minority redistricting in Wisconsin – and its legal defense.

 In a January, 2011 edition of the “Southern Political Report” Gaddie teamed up with his regular collaborator Charles S. Bullock III (University of Georgia) in a piece that previewed a GOP strategy for 2011 redistricting. The strategy they cite leads to a compacting of minority districts (primarily Hispanic) in southern states, minimizing their influence, as a trade-off for increased Republican concentration in surrounding districts:

  “Republicans fully support initiatives to increase minority concentrations in selected districts since each time the minority percentage in one district increases, a concomitant decrease in minorities occurs in one or more adjacent districts.  As nearby districts become whiter, they become more likely to elect Republicans.”

The effect is to “surround” the minority district with several of a “conservative” nature, leading to a net conservative gain. Gaddie is active in conservative “policy research,” contributing to American Enterprise Institute (AEI) publications and testimony regarding Voter Rights Act enforcement and minority representation. Gaddie was cited in a 2006 AEI submission by Fellow Edward Blum to the US Senate Judiciary. AEI was lobbying for Section 5 of the VRA to expire in 2006. Section 5 requires select southern states with historically high voter disenfranchisement history to obtain “preclearance” for election and redistricting plans from the US Department of Justice, to assure equal protection of minority voter rights under law.  Gaddie had led a study which concluded : 

“…there is no longer sufficient justification for the preclearance mandate. Greatly increased minority voter registration rates, minority voter turnout rates, and number of minority elected officials all indicate that the aim of the act has been fulfilled—voting rights and representation for minorities have solidified and section 5 should be allowed to expire.”

While the 2006 Congress eventually voted to continue the Section 5 practice, Gaddie is consistently cited in the final for opposing this minority protection. Indeed, his expertise aligns perfectly well with the recent GOP redistricting pattern and agenda.

Instead of seeking a true representation of the population, Gaddie gives GOP leadership like Fitzgerald the “tools” to manipulate the census data to further “compartmentalize” minority districts. They are then pared down to the lowest possible percentage of voter turnout utilizing a complex statistical equation (which puts a greater emphasis on voter turnout and population growth than representation) to rationalize under-representation (in this case 42.3% in Milwaukee, when the Federal standard is about 52%). Meanwhile, to compensate for a planned and programmed “minority majority” district, surrounding districts must then be drawn to compensate by making them more “Republican” than “tending Democratic.”

In December, 2011, Gaddie testified in Maryland to just such methodology. The emails from Michael, Best and Friedrich referencing Gaddie are consistent in showing this as an intentional strategy – and one they believe they are able to defend legally. The reason for gerrymandering this way is in actually “compartmentalizing” these minority districts, to give them the appearance of complying with redistricting precedent. The reality, sadly, is they are used to justify expanding conservative majorities surrounding these “minority majority” districts; instead of representing the natural population growth and change reflected in the census.

In retaining Professor Gaddie, the GOP knew what they were getting, and what they were doing. The method in which they obtained co-operation from certain Hispanic voter groups in reconciling this process is reprehensible – and the emails show it to be intentional. This is collusion – to defraud and hide their true agenda from the people of Wisconsin in this process. Professor Ronald Keith Gaddie has given them the tools they needed, and he will likely be a key witness for the GOP if the case is heard in court; just as he has in many other states for the GOP.

Badger Democracy has submitted an Open Records Request with Senator and Representative Fitzgerald(s) to explain the amount of taxpayer money Keith Gaddie has been paid in this fraud.

 

 

Fitzgerald torpedoes GOP, open government, environment for WMC and Gogebic Mine…just another day in Fitzwalkerstan

Wisconsin State Senate Majority Leader (and subject of a recall effort) Scott Fitzgerald released a statement Wednesday afternoon which, by all accounts, has left his own party in political chaos. The Juneau Republican suddenly dissolved the Senate Select Committee on Mining Jobs, and informed the Republican Caucus that the Assembly version of the Mining Bill (AB426) would be taken up in the Joint Finance Committee on Friday; likely to be fast-tracked for a vote next Tuesday.

One of the significant differences in the Senate and Assembly versions of the bill were reportedly creating issues between GOP leadership and Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce (WMC). WMC not only holds the purse strings for many a GOP legislator, but have reported spending 386 hours lobbying for AB426. James Buchen, President of WMC, was recently reported as not favoring the Senate version of the bill. Gogebic Taconite was also resistant to the Senate version of the bill. Both WMC and Gogebic disliked the idea of “Contested Case Hearings” being restored in the Senate version of the bill. Contested Case Hearings would require public hearings, with “expert” testimony occurring under oath and subject to cross-examination. This factor, combined with more reasonable environmental consideration and potential for further public input in the Senate version,  have raised the ire of WMC and Gogebic.

Mining Committee Chair Neal Kedzie had scheduled two hearings – the first in Platteville (appropriate based on Platteville’s history as a center of mining in Wisconsin, and highly regarded mining program at UW-Platteville), the second in Ashland – near the proposed Gogebic mine and in Democratic State Senator Bob Jauch’s District. Kedzie also promised his Committee would consider testimony and input from the Bad River Nation in finalizing the bill; something virtually ignored by the Assembly in Mary Williams’ Committee or the Assembly draft legislation. One member of the Mining Jobs Committee, Republican State Senator Dale Schultz is cited in two reports (Wisconsin State Journal and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) as being unable to support the Assembly version of the bill. It appeared the final version of the bill, if it was to pass the Senate, would be significantly different that what Gogebic or WMC wanted.

In one drastic power play, Fitzgerald has eliminated any hope of the Senate Bill seeing the light of day in public hearings. He has assured fast-track passage of the bill out of the highly partisan Joint Finance Committee, to be available for a vote next Tuesday. This type of power play has been used against Senate Democratic members with regularity this session. In this case however, Fitzgerald has left members of his own party (including four – himself included – likely facing a recall election) highly exposed and “holding the bag.” They don’t seem particularly pleased – the question is – will this be the straw that causes the GOP camel to grow a spine?

In interviews Wednesday afternoon, three of the four (Kedzie, Cowles, and Schultz – Zipperer’s staff was unreachable) GOP Mining Committee Legislative staffers informed Badger Democracy that none of the Senators were consulted by Fitzgerald, nor were they aware the Select Committee they had served on for 5 months was being dissolved, or that the Senate Bill was virtually dead prior to reading Fitzgerald’s statement. Senator Neal Kedzie released a brief statement Wednesday afternoon, falling into lockstep with the GOP. His staffer added in a follow-up question that Senator Kedzie was “signing on as a co-sponsor ” to the Assembly Bill heading to Joint Finance, and had no further comment.  

Democratic Senators Jauch and Miller released their own statements, expressing  sheer disgust at the “declaration of war on responsible government” (Jauch). Fitzgerald’s actions today are a microcosm of the entire 2011-2012 session, and the blatant power-grab taking place at the hands of Scott Walker, The Fitzgeralds, and the GOP. There is subversion of public participation in the process at every turn, closed-door meetings, behind-the-scenes deals being cut on behalf of Corporate special interests, and an overt sell-out of the resources in Wisconsin to the most powerful and wealthy – at the expense of the majority of citizens and the environment.

The Mining Bill AB426 will pass out of Joint Finance – there is little doubt of that. The burning question lies with the Senate. In throwing his own party under the bus at a time when 4 GOP Senators will likely face recall elections, have the Corporatists and Fitzgerald finally gone too far? Kedzie, Cowles, and Schultz were left out (and Zipperer, most likely), as was the entire GOP Caucus. They reportedly spent Wednesday afternoon in meetings which were held to get them “in line.” Were they reminded of the threat from the Budget Repair Bill vote one year ago – vote with the party or face a Tea Party challenge in your next primary…loss of WMC backing…loss of ANY GOP money…?

The past year has seen courageous acts – not by any GOP legislators, but by the Democratic State Senators. The greatest of which was putting their career on the line, and standing up for what is right by denying a quorum to the GOP overreach for power. In leaving the state, they risked their own recall election, but are still standing, and representing their constituents – which is more than one can say for ANY of the GOP Senators.

In order for the Mining Bill to be blocked, two things must happen. The Joint Finance Hearing on Friday must be packed, with citizens in peaceful protest of this blatant disregard for Democracy. Fitzgerald’s actions are living proof of the strangle hold WMC and the GOP have on the idea of open, clean, and honest Government of, by, and for the people.

Finally – ONE GOP Senator must do something courageous. They must risk their political career for what they know is right. One GOP Senator must finally, after one long year, stand for Wisconsin and the people…not WMC or Corporatic interests. That Senator must understand the ends that comes from turning against your own, and the people, in the selling out of Wisconsin…and vote against this bill.

Fitzgerald must think he has (or will get) the votes one way or another, or he would not have taken this action. If the GOP falls into lockstep, yielding to the Corporatics, the New Robber Baron Age will officially be alive and thriving in Wisconsin. Scott Walker’s slogan “Open for Business” will take on new meaning – “Closed for the people and transparent government.” This is why the recall is critical and necessary. The likes of Scott Walker and Scott Fitzgerald have betrayed not only the people of the state, but their own party in a desire for power and favor with the Corporatist elite. The only remedy is the recall.

Solidarity!