Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Archive for February 21st, 2012

WI Rs Refuse to Re-Draw Maps; Trial Resumes Tomorrow

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Here’s the latest regarding the trial going on in the United States District Court (Eastern Division of Wisconsin) — the Wisconsin Republicans, who control the Legislature, the Governor’s chair, and the state Supreme Court, have decided they “do not have the power” to re-draw the maps as the three-judge panel headed by Judge Stadtmueller asked them to do.

Here’s the link to the story at the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

Now, as to the merits of the Republican argument?  They are pointing to a 1954 Wisconsin state Supreme Court decision, which the Rs believe disallows any re-drawing of the district maps; the Rs say they would “like to” revisit the maps, but they just can’t.  The reason this is such a big deal is that every ten years, these maps must be re-drawn; because the Rs won all three branches of the state government, there was almost nothing the Democrats could do to stop them from doing anything they liked.   This is the main reason the Democrats sued.

Here’s a new quote from the updated story at the Journal-Sentinel:

The panel – which includes two judges appointed by Republican presidents and one appointed by a Democratic president – has repeatedly criticized Republican lawmakers in written orders for their secretive process for drawing the maps.

On Tuesday, presiding Judge J.P. Stadtmueller did the same shortly after hearing that attorneys for the legislators had released a new batch of emails Friday that they had not previously disclosed they had. The release of emails came a day after the court had ordered the lawmakers’ attorneys to make public a separate group of emails.

“The facts are the facts and what has occurred here is beyond the pale in terms of lack of transparency (and) secrecy,” Stadtmueller said. “Appearances are everything and Wisconsin has prided itself one generation after another on openness and fairness in doing the right thing. And to be frank we have seen everything but that in the way this case has proceeded.”

Now, the lack of transparency regarding e-mails may seem like a minor issue, but if you’ve followed along with my previous blogs upon the subject, you know it isn’t.  The Rs have been chastised four separate times to date over their lack of transparency; as Judge Stadtmueller said above, this isn’t the right thing to do.

Here’s the deal, folks.  What the Rs have done in Wisconsin reminds me of the old axiom that goes like this:  “Power corrupts.  Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”  This is because they felt they could do anything they liked and no one would say anything to them over it.  Even after hundreds of thousands went out to protest all over the state of Wisconsin last year over the high-handed, dictatorial way Governor Scott Walker went about eliminating collective bargaining for most public-employee union members, the Rs didn’t change their ways.

Now, the Rs have been sued because of the way these maps have been drawn.  And they say they “lack the power” to change them even though they control all three branches of government.

I’m sorry.  I don’t buy this argument, and I am really disgusted that it’s taken this three-judge panel to get the Rs to admit they really should re-draw these maps (but they just can’t).

As I said before, I fully expect the three-judge panel to be excoriated by the Rs in coming days.  The Rs have a great deal of money and can put many ads on television; they’ll blame “activist judges,” no doubt, and hope that the people don’t realize that two of the three judges on the panel were appointed by Republican Presidents, including Judge Stadtmueller himself (appointed by Ronald Reagan).

What it seems to me the state GOP is hoping for is that the district court will rule against them; after that, they will appeal to the United States Supreme Court, and because there are five well-known conservative justices there, they figure they will get their way.  (Two of the five, in particular, would seem to be sympathetic right off the bat — Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia — but it’s possible even they might find the way the Wisconsin Rs have behaved objectionable.)

But there’s nothing saying that the five conservative justices on the Supreme Court must back the Wisconsin GOP, now, is there?  Because if all conservatives behaved the same way, wouldn’t you think this three-judge panel would’ve tossed this lawsuit summarily right off the bat, as two of the three judges on the panel are conservative-appointees?

It’s anyone’s guess as to whether or not these maps are going to hold up.  But my hunch is that they’ll be overturned, even if they do get appealed to the US Supreme Court; eventually, these maps will end up being re-drawn by the courts.  And providing these maps are indeed overturned, that will be a victory for the people of Wisconsin.

Written by Barb Caffrey

February 21, 2012 at 11:29 pm

Surprise! Federal Judges Want Rs to Redraw WI District Maps

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Folks, even I didn’t see this one coming.

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, at this link, reports that the three-judge panel from the United States District Court (Eastern District of Wisconsin) has asked the Wisconsin Legislature (thus in actuality, the Wisconsin Republican Party as all three branches of government in Wisconsin are currently controlled by the GOP) to “consider re-drawing” the district maps that are currently in dispute by taking into account the problems Latinos and the Democratic Party have with the maps and fixing the problems accordingly.

The Journal-Sentinel reports:

The court gave the Legislature until 5:30 p.m. Tuesday to decide whether it wants to revisit the maps it approved last summer. If it does not, the trial challenging the maps will resume Wednesday. If lawmakers agree to take up the maps anew, the court would give them until mid-March to approve them.

Apparently the reason the judges want the Legislature to re-draw the maps (rather than go to trial) is because they honestly feel that the Legislature should draw the maps — just, perhaps, not these maps.  (Or in science-fictional terms, “These aren’t the maps you’re looking for.  Move along.”)

Here’s more from the article that discusses what presiding judge J.P. Stadtmueller thinks:

At the opening of trial, presiding Judge J.P. Stadtmueller said drawing district lines is the purview of lawmakers, and it would be best for them to put those lines into law. However, he said, the plaintiffs have raised significant issues, particularly on the treatment of Latino areas and in the way it moved hundreds of thousands of people into new districts. He said legislators should consider setting new maps with those concerns in mind.

Next is my favorite part of the article:

Stadtmueller and the others on the panel have repeatedly criticized Republican lawmakers for being overly secretive in how they drew the maps. Almost all lawmakers signed secrecy agreements about the maps and they tried repeatedly to prevent their aides from having to testify or produce documents. Those attempts were unsuccessful, and last month the panel ordered the Republicans’ attorneys to pay the other side $17,500 for filing frivolous motions.

Note that Stadtmueller said that the “one-day pause” should not be taken as an indication of how the three-judge panel will rule — but then again, does it really need to be, considering the fact that on four prior occasions, the three-judge panel has heavily chastised the Wisconsin Rs for backroom shenanigans and an absolute lack of transparency?

My take on this is simple: if the judges didn’t believe there were grounds to strike down these maps — and good grounds, at that — they wouldn’t have made this extraordinary offer to the Wisconsin Rs.  Because the offer basically says this: “Fix the maps on your own.  Or we’ll likely end up fixing them for you.”

The entirety of the Wisconsin Legislature, along with Governor Scott Walker (R), now have until 5:30 p.m. CST to make a decision as to whether or not they’re willing to re-visit these maps and attempt to re-draw them in a way that the court is likely to approve.

If I had to guess at what the Wisconsin Rs are going to do, though, my guess is this: they won’t re-draw the maps.  They’ll instead go back into court tomorrow, and try to impugn the three-judge panel on every media station that will allow them to do so within the state of Wisconsin (and probably on national cable such as Fox News, too, no doubt) because somehow, these three judges will be seen as “activist liberal judges” who just want to cause trouble for the Rs because the Rs are sweet, innocent, and completely in the right in every way, shape, or form.  The fact that two of these three judges were appointed by Republican Presidents, mind you, will go completely by the boards when it comes to the media, but I can assure you that the judges themselves know full well who appointed them, and why. 

This is why if I were a Republican, I’d be calling my legislators — and the Governor, too, no doubt — and urging them to take this deal before it’s too late.  Otherwise, the judges will not be pleased . . . and my best guess after that, considering all the chicanery that’s gone on over the past year-plus since Scott Walker and the R-dominated Legislature came to power, is that the GOP will end up getting its comeuppance in a way that party had never foreseen — otherwise known as, “By their fruits, ye shall know them.”

Written by Barb Caffrey

February 21, 2012 at 3:19 pm

Vinny Rottino Redux, AKA Rottino’s Persistence Pays Off

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More people should be like Vinny Rottino.

As most of you who follow this blog know, I’ve been keeping an eye on the Racine-born Rottino.  His quest to become a major league baseball player is compelling for many reasons, but the biggest and best reason to follow Rottino’s story is because he refuses to give up on himself. 

Rottino knows he has the talent to play in the major leagues, and because he knows that, he is willing to do whatever it takes to make it.

Racine Journal-Times sportswriter Peter Jackel wrote a very nice article about Rottino in yesterday’s edition; the headline read, “Irresistible force: Resilient Rottino Rewarded with Another Shot.”  (I really like that alliteration there; whoever wrote that headline did a great job.)  Take a look at that article here:

Jackel points out in his article that Rottino was the Milwaukee Brewers minor league player of the year in 2004 — his second year in the minors — and though he’s had some at-bats and a bit of playing time here and there with the Brewers, and last year with the then-Florida Marlins, Rottino has never had extended playing time with any major league team (as he’s also spent time in the Los Angeles Dodgers’ minor league system, too).

But the New York Mets wanted Rottino because of his tough-minded, hard-nosed attitude; this is why they signed him last November.  As Paul Depodesta, the Mets Vice President of Player Development, said in Jackel’s article,

“Vinny’s hard-nosed style of play absolutely played a role in our decision to sign him.  We know he’ll fit well with our manager, Terry Collins, who shares Vinny’s passion and intensity, and he’ll be appreciated by the fans in New York.”

This is a great deal more than is usually said about any guy who’s expected to be a career minor leaguer (or as the baseball types have it, a “four-A” player — someone who is really good in AAA, but isn’t quite good enough to play in the big leagues). 

Podesta also says in the article that one of the reasons the Mets signed Rottino is because he can play a number of positions, including at least two of three of the most-valued positions — catcher, center field, and shortstop.  Rottino was a shortstop in high school and college, so he knows that position well.  He plays all three OF positions, though he really doesn’t have the speed to be an everyday center fielder.  And he is a very good catcher — a dependable backup — which is a neat trick considering he didn’t even start learning the position until he was around 26 years old.

Rottino will be 32 in early April.  He knows he’s not a prospect anymore — Jackel even said so in his article — but he has a lot to give any organization that gives him a chance.  Rottino can hit left-handers rather better than his major league average (a sample-sized 36 ABs) indicates.  Rottino has “gap power” — meaning he’s not a home run hitter, but he’s a reliable threat for doubles and the occasional triple.  He’s a contact hitter who rarely makes stupid mistakes (and if he does make one, he immediately corrects it and doesn’t compound his error; I cannot imagine Rottino making the mistake Jerry Hairston, Jr., made in the Brewers NLCS on that double-error play, for example), he won’t run you out of innings, and he has deceptive speed — even at his somewhat advanced age for a ballplayer, he had 17 SBs last year, which led his triple-A team, the New Orleans Zephyrs.  (Not bad for a catcher, huh?)

Anyway, I know Rottino can play, so if he gets a shot, he’ll do well.

The rest of us need to learn from his example; keep trying, and don’t give up, no matter what you do.  All you can do is give yourself the best chance to make it in your field — in my case, that’s writing and editing, and I am somewhat older than most people who are hoping to make it in this business (let’s just say “older than Rottino” and be done with it, OK?) — and keep working on your “tool set” every day.  (For Rottino, he takes lots of batting and fielding practice.  For someone like me, that means something along the lines of, “Write something every day.”  And considering I’m a musician, too, the days I am able to circumvent my carpal tunnel syndrome and practice my saxophone count as advancing toward my goals, too.)

You see, like Rottino, all I can do is to “keep (myself) in the game.”  So if there is an opportunity, I’ll be practiced and versatile enough to seize that opportunity before it’s gone; I cannot make the opportunity, but I can definitely prepare myself to seize upon it whenever that opportunity finally presents itself.

Rottino himself said it best, though; when Jackel asked him what will happen if Rottino doesn’t make it in the bigs this time, Rottino said he’d keep trying (this was summed up by Jackel in the article).  Then he said this:

“I think God has got me on this path for some reason and I’ll find out why someday.”

I am so glad that I’m not the only one who wonders about this sort of meandering path (though it seems to me that Rottino’s path has been slightly less circuitous than my own). 

But I will not stop, folks; I plan to be like Vinny Rottino.  I know I have the talent, and I know I will persevere.  With perseverance and talent, I hope to seize upon any opportunity that comes to hand.  Because that’s literally the only way to win.

Good luck, Vinny — and may the wind be at your back. 

Written by Barb Caffrey

February 21, 2012 at 6:42 am