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WI Redistricting: District Court says Maps Can be Redrawn, but Rs refuse; Trial to Resume Thursday

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Folks, this isn’t much of a surprise; the United States District Court (Eastern Division of Wisconsin) today rejected the Wisconsin Legislature’s argument that they cannot re-draw the maps based on a 1954 state Supreme Court decision.  The Legislature is dominated in both the Assembly and in the Senate by Republicans, so in essence it is the Wisconsin Republican Party that has refused as all along, as the Democratic Party and the few Independents in the state government at any level all seem to want to re-draw the maps.  The Court gave the Legislature (the Rs) 5.5 hours today to reconsider their viewpoint; the Rs, predictably, have refused to re-draw the maps.

The only reason this is significant is that now the Republican Party’s refusal is on the record.  Otherwise, nothing has changed from what I reported late last night; the Rs want the maps to stand, the Ds want the maps to be re-drawn, and the District Court seems mystified by the Rs recalcitrant behavior.

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

http://www.jsonline.com/news/wisconsin/court-rules-lawmakers-can-make-changes-to-maps-bu49vtc-140013193.html

Here’s a relevant quote:

Because lawmakers and the groups suing them could not agree on a settlement, the case will go to trial at 8:30 a.m. Thursday on an accelerated schedule. The trial was expected to last three or four days, but the presiding judge said he wanted to complete testimony by Friday, even if it meant going into the evening.

On Tuesday, an attorney for the state, Dan Kelly, told the judges that lawmakers were open to making changes to the maps, but he argued that a 1954 state Supreme Court decision prevented lawmakers from making changes to the maps after they had approved them. The panel of three federal judges – which includes two judges appointed by Republican presidents – rejected that argument Wednesday, and told the attorneys to tell them that afternoon whether the Legislature would spend the coming weeks drawing new maps.

Republican leaders declined to do that, sending the case to trial.

The only real news here is that the Court will expect this trial to wrap up on Friday evening even if they have to stay quite late in order to get everything done.  This means the Court will not allow the Legislature to obfuscate or delay any longer; these maps must be fixed by April 15, 2012, or things are going to get even messier than they already are.

As I said before, the only thing certain in all this is that the Rs don’t want to do anything.  They seem willing to let this go to the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) because they believe they will prevail there due to the 5-4 split between conservatives/Republicans and liberals/Democrats.  But this particular panel is made up of two conservatives/Republicans and one Democrat and they don’t agree with the Legislature; how can the Legislature be sure they’ll get more than two votes at the SCOTUS level?  (Methinks they can’t, especially if the Supreme Court justices dislike the way the Legislature has behaved toward other judges the way I think is likely.  It’s possible that SCOTUS may rule 9-0 against the Wisconsin Rs, even though they don’t seem to think that’s likely.)

Oh, one other tidbit in this article:

The case comes to trial just as Gov. Scott Walker nearly doubles the amount in taxpayer money that can be spent on outside attorneys assisting the Department of Justice. Documents released Wednesday show the cap on the contract with Reinhart Boerner Van Deuren is being raised from $500,000 to $925,000.

Those costs are in addition to the $400,000 that Republican lawmakers have committed to two law firms that helped them draw the maps.

So, did you get that?  Walker is going to allow the Rs to get more state money to defend these terrible maps.  Which is why his recall cannot come soon enough.

That’s it for today; trial will resume Thursday, and I’d expect we’ll get a decision on this matter by the middle of next week due to the time-sensitive nature of this problem.  Stay tuned.

Written by Barb Caffrey

February 22, 2012 at 6:15 pm

WI Recall Petitions: Far More than Enough to Recall Walker, Kleefisch, and Wanggaard

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Today’s Wisconsin recall update is as follows, folks:

  • Over 1 million signatures have been turned in to recall Governor Scott Walker.  (Approximately 540,000 were needed)
  • Over 800,000 signatures have been turned in to recall Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch.  (Approximately 540,000 were needed)
  • Over 24,000 signatures have been turned in to recall State Senator Van Wangaaard (R-Racine).  (Approximately 15,000 signatures were needed.)

Please see this link from today’s online version of the Racine Journal-Times for further details.

As for how these numbers compare?  Well, with over 1 million signatures, it’s highly likely Scott Walker is going to be facing recall; considering recall organizers got nearly twice as many signatures statewide as needed, it seems very, very likely that Walker will be recalled and replaced no matter who his opponent is.

With regards to Rebecca Kleefisch, the main reason there weren’t quite as many people willing to sign to get her out (though still quite a high number at an estimated 845,000) is because she’s a cancer survivor, a former anchorwoman for one of the biggest news stations in the state (WISN-TV in Milwaukee, WI), and because as a few men of my acquaintance have said in the past, “What a shame about her politics; she’s cute.”  (For the conservative men of my acquaintance, let me point out that Lt. Gov. Kleefisch is also Mrs. Joel Kleefisch, as she’s married to a state Assemblyman.)

As for Wanggaard, the fact that 24,000 people signed to get him out is historic; I believe this is more than the amount of signatures that had been gathered to recall George Petak (R-Racine) in 1996, and Petak was indeed successfully recalled and replaced by then-Democratic Assemblywoman Kim Plache.  (I wrote about that historic election here.)  While this isn’t nearly twice as many signatures as needed as seen in the statewide Walker recall, it is still a very high number of people who were willing to sign to get Wanggaard out of office.   (If I were him, I’d be quite worried.)

As for what State Senator Wanggaard has to say about it?  From a different article at today’s online Racine Journal-Times:

Wanggaard, R-Racine, said in a press release that for union bosses and Democrats today marks the start of the “do-over of their loss in the November 2010 elections.”

While others focus on recalls and politics, Wanggaard “will continue to focus on my efforts to help Wisconsin create and retain good-paying jobs,” he said in the release. “Recalls and further division do nothing to show job creators that Wisconsin has a stable business environment and continues to poison the well of politics.”

So did you catch that?  Wanggaard says that people are trying to “do over” the 2010 elections.  By doing so, he’s attempting to belittle the organizers of the recall effort against him, but it’s not going to work.  (And notice, Wanggaard didn’t say anything about how “the people have spoken, but I intend to win them over,” which would’ve made far more sense and wouldn’t have demeaned those who’d signed the petitions against him.)

But at least Wanggaard commented at all (even if it was by a press release); so far, both Walker and Kleefisch have been unavailable for comment.

Oh, one more thing; it appears that State Senators Moulton and Galloway, and the biggest fish of them all, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, have also had more than enough signatures turned in to recall them.  So all six recalls have completed their first phase; now it’s on to the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board and the courts to first verify the signatures, then figure out when the recall elections will be scheduled.  (As always, I’ll keep you posted.)

————–

Personal note:  This is bittersweet, as I really want to talk with my friend Jeff about all this.  He knew I was active in helping Bob Wirch (D-Kenosha) retain Wirch’s seat; he knew I was planning to help work on the recall petitions against Walker, Kleefisch and Wanggaard.  And he was very much in favor of this, because he felt all three of them deserved to be recalled — he even said so in our last conversation on 11/11/11.

I very much wish Jeff were still alive just so I could tell him about all this; even though I couldn’t do very much due to Jeff’s sudden death (nowhere near as much as I’d hoped or planned to do), I did gather some signatures and I did, personally, sign the petitions to recall all three individuals.  I hope, wherever he is now, that he knows I did my best to get these three people removed from office, and that he’s happy that all three will, indeed, face recall.

And I’ll not even start on my feelings about how I wish I could tell my late husband Michael about all this, too.  Because I know that he, too, would’ve been in favor; he’d probably have called this a “classic overreach” and have signed right along with me. 

Rep. Robin Vos (R) Calls Recalls “Frivolous” Because “They Cost Too Much”

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Representative Robin Vos (R-Rochester) is at it again.

Vos doesn’t like recall elections, even though his own party, the Wisconsin GOP, went after three Democratic state Senators last year — Bob Wirch of Kenosha, Jim Holperin of Conover, and Dave Hansen of Green Bay.  All three easily withstood their recall elections and were retained.  (Maybe Vos only dislikes them because his own party lost when they attempted to unseat these three Democratic Senators.  But I digress.)  He believes they are too expensive, and asked Wisconsin’s Government Accountability Board how much it’s going to cost for the election to recall Governor Scott Walker and Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch — as that’s a statewide election — mostly because he seems to believe that widely publicizing the estimated cost of the statewide recall election will somehow stop the recall process in its tracks.  Note that the gubernatorial/Lt. Gov. recall election is estimated to cost $9 million according to Wisconsin’s county clerks and the GAB; this cost covers only one election, not with the sure-to-come primary beforehand.  Supposedly, having Kleefisch on the ballot as is usually the case in any gubernatorial/Lt. Gov. election will cost more, something I highly doubt. 

Please see this link for further details:

http://www.journaltimes.com/news/local/breaking/vos-million-estimated-recall-cost-for-taxpayers-not-healthy-for/article_02a8d55c-38ad-11e1-bd17-0019bb2963f4.html

Worse yet, in this article, Vos calls the recalls “frivolous,” saying:

“People cannot say this is somehow worth the cost to have these frivolous recalls.  It’s a shame we’ve come to this.”

I have news for Rep. Vos.  He is misusing the word frivolous, which is defined by the Free Dictionary as:

friv·o·lous  (frv-ls)

adj.

1. Unworthy of serious attention; trivial: a frivolous novel.
2. Inappropriately silly: a frivolous purchase.

Note that these recall elections, while they are expensive, have not been undertaken lightly.  It takes a lot of effort to gather 540,000 signatures statewide in two months, which is what is required to recall both Walker and Kleefisch, as that’s 1/4 of the total votes cast for Governor in the 2010 election.  And that effort, by its very definition, is the epitome of seriousness — in other words, Rep. Vos, no one would ever undertake such a grueling effort unless they were quite serious

So the first definition, that of being “unworthy of serious attention,” fails.

But what about the second definition, “inappropriately silly?”  Do these recalls qualify for that definition, either?

No, they do not.  Once again, the recalls may well be wrong in certain lights; certainly, they are in the eyes of Robin Vos.  But one thing they are not is “inappropriately silly,” especially considering Vos’s own party, the GOP, supported the recalls of Holperin, Hansen, and Wirch last summer.  (I guess we’re supposed to have short memories about that, huh?)

The main reason I see for Vos to do this is because it’s the only play the Wisconsin GOP has left, to wit:  stall.  Obfuscate.  Cast aspersions on the people recalling Walker, Kleefisch, state Senator Van Wanggaard (R-Racine), and more — because it’s the only thing the Rs can do, as they’re very well aware that Walker and Kleefisch will be recalled.  They’re also very well aware that Wanggaard will be recalled, and that other senators who are in danger of recall (including Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and Senator Pam Galloway, R-Wausau) may have to defend their seats as well.

So the way I see it, the only reason Vos is saying and doing all this is because he knows his party will lose these recall elections.  He’s the co-chairman of the Legislature’s finance committee — a very powerful leadership position — yet Vos has to know which way the winds are blowing in Wisconsin.  The GOP’s days are numbered; it’s quite possible that the Wisconsin Assembly (lower house) will go solid blue next year due to the GOP’s overreach.  And Vos’s own seat, which has been a safe Republican haven for at least twenty years, may even be in jeopardy because people are that angry over what the GOP has done.

I’m most unimpressed with Vos on these issues, and believe his logic chain, at best, is suspect.  His understanding of the adjective “frivolous” is flawed.  And he’s crying sour grapes because of how expensive the recalls are, when as Wisconsin Democratic Party chairman Mike Tate said here:

 

“The $9 million cost of a statewide recall election is great, but the cost of doing nothing is far greater. This undertaking is the biggest investment in the future of our state and families we can make. 

It would take more than 7 recall elections to equal the cost of Walker’s tax increase on seniors and working families. It would take more than 11 recalls to equal the tuition hike Walker foisted on University of Wisconsin-System students and their families. And Walker’s $2.3 billion in tax giveaways to out-of-state corporations and the super-rich would pay for more than 255 recall elections. Wisconsin simply cannot afford Scott Walker any longer.

At the end of the day, no matter how Scott Walker and his Republican Party try to spin it, the people of Wisconsin called for this election. There is no price tag on democracy.”  (emphasis mine — BC)

Agreed, though they way I’d put it is that Vos’s complaints about how expensive the recall elections will be are an attempted framing of the narrative that should not stand, as it is fundamentally flawed both on its merits and its ethics.

So let’s bring on the recalls already.  Because whether Vos or the Wisconsin GOP likes it or not, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander; if the GOP can undertake recall efforts as they did last summer, they have absolutely no right to complain now.  (Or as I said the other day with regards to Wanggaard’s impending recall election:  “Them’s the breaks.”)

Politics, US and Wisconsin-style — A Big, Fat Mess

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Tonight’s post is about what’s been going on in politics — but as time is of a premium, let me sum it up for you in four words: a big, fat mess.

Look at the national political scene, for example.  Yesterday Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) said that the House “would not pass” the two-month extension to the payroll tax holiday (something that saves the average worker $40 per paycheck, as was Tweeted ad nauseum with the hash-tag #40bucks).  Boehner stood firm after this Wall Street Journal staff editorial saying the deal was a no-brainer; as the editorial said:

GOP Senate leader Mitch McConnell famously said a year ago that his main task in the 112th Congress was to make sure that President Obama would not be re-elected. Given how he and House Speaker John Boehner have handled the payroll tax debate, we wonder if they might end up re-electing the President before the 2012 campaign even begins in earnest.

The GOP leaders have somehow managed the remarkable feat of being blamed for opposing a one-year extension of a tax holiday that they are surely going to pass. This is no easy double play.

Republicans have also achieved the small miracle of letting Mr. Obama position himself as an election-year tax cutter, although he’s spent most of his Presidency promoting tax increases and he would hit the economy with one of the largest tax increases ever in 2013. This should be impossible.

As the editorial goes on to state, the House had voted to kill the payroll tax “holiday” on Tuesday — the exact, same bill that the Senate had passed on a bipartisan basis with an 89-10 vote — by a 229-193 highly partisan vote (meaning the Rs were mostly against; the Dems were largely for it).  Speaker Boehner was standing firm, so he said, because he felt the Democrats hadn’t negotiated in good faith, but the Republican leadership (at least, anyone who isn’t currently sitting in the United States House of Representatives) en masse told Boehner he was wrong.

For example, here’s what George W. Bush’s main advisor, Karl Rove, had to say last evening (via this TalkingPointsMemo article, which quotes Rove from an appearance on the Fox News Channel yesterday — that is, Wednesday, December 21, 2011):

“I think the Wall Street journal editorial today hit it on the nail,” Rove said Wednesday on Fox News.

So today, Thursday, December 22, 2011, Speaker Boehner had to give in.  He did so as graciously as he possibly could, but facts are facts; Boehner got his hat handed to him, and he’s likely to end up resigning as Speaker soon because he’s totally lost control of his caucus.  And in so doing, he’s hurt his party, he’s hurt his party’s chances for winning the 2012 elections (from the Presidency on down), and he’s definitely hurt himself; these things are what tends to make a current Speaker a former Speaker, in short order, one way or another — and it’s far easier to resign than to be removed in disgrace.  (And if you resign, you get the lovely “perks” that come with being a former Speaker — I’m not sure if you do if you are replaced, though it’s likely you still would.  But it would still look better for Boehner if he just got out ASAP, and it probably would be a great deal better for his physical health.  He truly did not look well today in his press conference.)

Tomorrow, the House will meet and attempt to pass the two-month extension of the payroll tax “holiday” by unanimous acclamation.  If that doesn’t happen, I haven’t a clue what will happen next.

But I do know that the American public doesn’t like stalemates like this when political theatre threatens to interfere with real people’s lives, and they tend to hold the party who instigated such a thing responsible.  In 2009, the Dems had several highly partisan fights, mostly over health care, and in 2010, they paid for it at the ballot box; now, it’s 2011, and the Rs have had several highly partisan fights, mostly over the payroll tax and the debt ceiling issues . . . my guess is that unless they get their collective house in order, fast, they, too, are likely to pay for it at the ballot box.

Now to Wisconsin’s recent political news.  We continue the fight to recall our Governor, Scott Walker (R), our Lieutenant Governor, Rebecca Kleefisch (R), and four state Senators, including my very own Van Wanggaard (R-Racine).   It was reported about a week ago that there are nearly enough signatures to recall Scott Walker, as 507,000 valid signatures (by real Wisconsin voters, no signatures of “Mickey Mouse” or “Adolf Hitler” as has been alleged by some Republican leaders, including state Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau), himself a target of a well-funded recall election).  

Note that 507,000 valid signatures have been gathered in one month; those of us working on the recall effort (including me) have another full month left in which to get signatures.  And the efforts to recall Kleefisch, Wanggaard, and Fitzgerald (among others) continue unabated; it looks good that all six Republicans targeted for recall will indeed have to face the voters in 2012 for this option: will they be retained, or will they instead be replaced?

Tempers remain high in Wisconsin.  We’re frustrated by a weak economy, months of negative job “growth” (in other words, we have big, big job losses here and little actual growth going on), five or six people going for every one job, and more.  Then, we have a Governor who’d rather cause trouble than govern — which is why he’s going to be recalled and replaced — we have Senators who didn’t have the sense they were born with (including my own, Van Wanggaard), and voted for something they should’ve stayed far, far away from (the whole vote on Senate Bill 10 — that is, when they voted to repeal collective bargaining for most public employees, which has caused all sorts of trouble in the state, economically and otherwise).  And we have a Lieutenant Governor in Kleefisch who is either too weak to affect policy in any way so she has to parrot whatever Scott Walker tells her to say, or really, honestly believes what she’s saying — and I’m not sure which is worse.

Look.  I have friends of all political stripes and I am in agreement with some of my R friends in other states when they say spending is out of control and the government should make absolutely certain every nickel is spent wisely and well.  But I am against nonsensical stuff like what Walker, Kleefisch, Fitzgerald and his brother, Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald (also an R), my Senator, Van Wanggaard, etc., have said and done because there was no reason for it except to do one thing: bust unions, and make it harder to get Walker, et. al., on out of there.

But I have news; we will oust Scott Walker.  We will oust Rebecca Kleefisch.  We will oust Senators Fitzgerald and Wanggaard, all by our quite legal recall method — by getting 1/4 of the total voters in the last, highly-charged election.  We must oust these people in order to restore some sense of fairness and bipartisanship to Wisconsin.  

Wisconsin is not a red state, nor is it a blue state; instead, it is a truly purple state.  That’s why what the radical Rs, led by Scott Walker, have done here is so blatantly offensive to the vast majority of Wisconsinites I’ve talked with — including many, many Rs and Indys — and it’s why I fully expect to see Scott Walker and Van Wanggaard, among others, hitting the unemployment line ASAP.

Walker Recall Petitions hit 300,000 Sigs . . . Walker Recall Petitioners Harassed in Racine

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With the statewide Wisconsin recalls of Governor Scott Walker (R), Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch (R), and our local recall of district 21 Senator Van Wanggaard (R), have come problems.  But first, the good news . . . statewide organizers from UnitedWisconsin.com and the Democratic Party (two separate things) have both reported that over 300,000 recall signatures have been gathered in the first twelve days.

As the story from the Racine Journal-Times says:

People have signed the recall petitions at the rate of about 1,040 per hour, according to United Wisconsin. The group says signatures have been collected from people in all 72 counties in Wisconsin, including:

• 10,033 residents from Columbia County.

• 4,713 in Pierce County.

• 3,698 in Oneida County.

• 16,845 in Eau Claire and Chippewa counties.

• 8,540 in Portage County.

Racine County numbers were not available.

Now, note these numbers; Racine County is more populous than any of those other counties.  Also, all of those counties are known as Republican-leaning or heavily Republican districts . . . which is bad news for Scott Walker and his backers, for sure.

This may be why recall advocates and petitioners, even in Racine County, are now having trouble with people harassing them, stealing signs, and in one case even driving straight at a crowd of people attempting to gather signatures.  (See this story from the Racine Journal-Times for further details.)  As Kelly Gallagher said in the recent Journal-Times article:

Kelly Gallaher, the organizer for the local progressive group Community for Change, said when she was with a group of people on Friday near a laundromat by River Run Family Restaurant, 3616 Northwestern Ave., someone sped directly at a group of organizers. People ran out of the way, she said. “It was that close,” Gallaher said.

Also on Saturday, a driver deliberately backed his vehicle toward people collecting signatures outside All Sports Pub, 3458 Rapids Drive, Gallaher said. That same day, Gallaher said someone threw a big glass of soda or some other drink at a man collecting signatures outside the Social Security Office, 4020 Durand Ave.

“It’s concerning,” Gallaher said. “My biggest fear is that someone is going to get hurt.”

And what have the local Republican Party folks done about this?  Not a whole lot.  While condemning incidents like this (without admitting they actually have happened, mind you), Racine Republican Party Chairman Bill Folk was more concerned about the recall petitioners getting signatures outside local businesses.  From the Journal-Times article (the same one that quoted Gallagher):

While Folk has not heard directly about people harassing people collecting recall signatures, he said he has heard complaints about people collecting signatures on property where they shouldn’t be, which concerns him.

“If they are not getting permission from the business owners, it’s exposing the business owners to a political segment they may or may not agree with,” Folk said. “They are putting a business owner in an awkward situation politically.”

Of course, Gallagher pointed out that at the three businesses she knew of where inappropriate and scary things had happened, the recall petitioners did have permission to be there.   So this was just another attempt by Folk and his Republican colleagues to divert attention from what’s really going on — and that’s sad.

 
Now, as for some commentary from the peanut gallery (or at least me):
 
Because I am left-leaning, politically, that doesn’t mean I have lost my right to free speech.  As Lieutenant Gary Larsen of the Caledonia Police Department said in the Journal-Times article, you must leave people’s stuff alone if it’s on their property.  And you certainly don’t have the right to drive at a bunch of protestors to “scatter” them — you could hurt someone badly by doing this.
 
I have always advocated that anyone, providing he or she is peacefully going about his or her business, has a right to protest.  I don’t care if it’s the TEA Party or if it’s Occupy Wall Street or if it’s the Walker/Kleefisch/Wanggaard recall petitioners; we all have a right to peacefully protest without having things thrown at us or without having someone aim a car at us for trying to exercise our rights of free speech and freedom of assembly under the United States Constitution.
 
See, this is what we’ve endured in Wisconsin since the Scott Walker administration got into power in January of 2011.  This is why many people of all stripes — all creeds, sects, nationalities, genders, and political persuasions — want Walker and his Republican allies, including Van Wanggaard, out.
 
And it’s definitely why I want them out.  Which is why I’m once again exercising my right to free speech under the U.S. Constitution by pointing out that what’s happened to the petitioners is wrong.  It is shameful.  It should not be allowed to stand.
 
Recall Walker.  Recall Kleefisch.  Recall Wanggaard.  And for the love of God/dess and little green apples, stop harassing the recall petitioners.

Written by Barb Caffrey

November 29, 2011 at 10:16 pm

More on my friend, Jeff Wilson . . . and a bit about the recalls

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Folks, these two topics aren’t as far removed as they seem.  My best friend’s name was Jeff Wilson; he lived in Fort Collins, Colorado, and as I said earlier today, he died on Sunday morning at the age of 47.

Jeff was a political watcher, just as I am, and was keenly interested in the recall of Governor Scott Walker and also in the recall of my own sitting State Senator, Van Wanggaard (R-Racine).   Jeff believed, as I do, that Walker and Wanggaard overreached drastically back in February due to SB10 — that being the budget bill that stripped public employee union members of their rights to collectively bargain.  So me continuing to pursue the recalls, even though I really feel terrible about Jeff’s passing, is the right thing to do.  It’s what he’d want me to do.

The recalls of both Walker and Wanggaard will start at 12:01 a.m. on Tuesday morning — that is, about two hours from now.  Some people are going in their pajamas to get the recall papers; some are going straight from football parties (as the Packers are playing tonight; currently they’re up 31-7 in the third quarter).  I won’t be doing that; I’ll be lighting a candle, again, in my good friend’s memory.  But tomorrow afternoon, I will be going if at all possible to the recall office and will not only sign to get Walker and Wanggaard out, but will take the training so I can perhaps train others to do the same thing.

As I said before, Jeff was a deeply principled and ethical man.  He had a very strong moral compass.  He knew what he believed was right and he did that; nothing else need apply, and that was one of his best qualities to my mind (I suppose it matched my stubbornness rather well).  That’s why he supported, very strongly, the recall of these two men; he even mentioned it on Friday during our last conversation.

It’s very hard right now to concentrate on anything because I feel so terribly about Jeff’s untimely passing.  He was getting better.  Everything looked good.  I believed I could get out there to see him, and would’ve found a way as I was looking really hard; I also know that Jeff looked forward to my telephone calls, and that my encouragement and support meant a great deal to him — as me talking to him, knowing he was alive and fighting as hard as he could, meant a great deal to me because I knew he’d have done the same thing if I’d have been in his place.

So while I still want to recall Walker and Wanggaard and try to restore some balance to my state (all three branches of government right now are controlled by radical, hard-right Rs), it’s muted even though I’ve been looking forward to this day for months.  I hope you can understand why.

While Heaven, or the positive afterlife (“the Good Place (TM)”), whatever you want to call it, has gained an angel, I feel absolutely devastated.  Jeff and I were friends for a long time — six years, maybe a bit more — and he was my best friend, the person who understood me the best, and the person I understood the best also.  Maybe it’s selfish of me, but I would much rather Jeff be here, and be upset at not being home where he wanted to be (a completely understandable reaction, to my mind), and me be able to talk with him directly and him with me, directly, than Heaven gaining him as an angel.

Because when one good person dies, the whole world loses, whether the world knew this person or not.  In Jeff’s case, as he was a very, very good person, the world’s loss is nearly incalculable.  And my own — well, I have no words to describe it, except to say that I wish with everything I have that this hadn’t happened. 

I wanted to be there, to hold his hand, and to be able to give him a hug.  I thought him seeing me, seeing my caring and concern, would make a difference.  I wasn’t able to get there but was working hard to do so; obviously, I didn’t get that chance.

And while I don’t know if me getting there would’ve made a difference to him, it assuredly would’ve for me — being able to see him and touch him and hold his hand would’ve helped a lot right now.

I’m doing my best to remember the good times and positive memories of the excellent conversations Jeff and I had about all sorts of wide-ranging subjects.  That’s the only way to deal with grief, really; you can’t forget, and you can’t “move on,” but you can go on with your memories and never, ever forget the wonderful people who have graced your life.

I’ve had two, now.  My wonderful, amazing, extremely intelligent and talented husband, Michael.  And my astonishingly smart, gifted, and remarkably talented friend, Jeff.  So I’ve been doubly blessed, and I know that, even though I really wish both of them were here on this plane of existence rather than the positive afterlife I’m sure they’re enjoying right now because I miss them both more than words could ever say.

——–

** Note:  As I’ve said before, there’s no question in my mind Michael would want me to pursue the recall efforts also.  Michael was deeply principled also, and believed hypocrisy was among the worst sins known to mankind — Van Wanggaard has been guilty of that, in spades — while pitting brother against brother, sister against sister, the way Scott Walker did, is right down there, too.  So with my extremely heavy heart, I will do my best to oust these two politicians and send them home to pursue a different course of employment . . . and hope whoever takes their places will be much better public servants than either of these two, or even both of them put together.

Written by Barb Caffrey

November 14, 2011 at 11:14 pm

Ohio Voters Have Spoken; It’s “NO!” on Issue 2

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Tonight, Ohio voted on Issue 2, which was whether or not Senate Bill 5 should be upheld.  By a 61-39% margin, Ohio’s voters have spoken — and the word is “No.”

Don’t know what Senate Bill 5 was?  Well, in essence it struck down collective bargaining for everyone in the state of Ohio, including firefighters, nurses, teachers, policemen, and snowplow drivers.   And while most people believe public employees should pay more for their health care coverage or not get raises during a terrible economic climate, most don’t want to go so far as eliminating all forms of collective bargaining, as it’s a classic Republican overreach.

That’s why many people wanted it overturned, and voted accordingly.  Because SB 5 went too far.

Here’s a link to the Huffington Post article:

Ohioans overturned a divisive anti-union law on Tuesday, delivering a significant defeat to Republican Gov. John Kasich and a victory to labor unions.

Ohio voters rejected Issue 2, a ballot referendum on Senate Bill 5, a measure that restricts collective bargaining rights for more than 360,000 public employees, among other provisions. Opposition to the legislation inspired large protests from residents around the state this year.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka was quoted in this same article as saying:

“One message rang loud and clear tonight in Ohio and across the country: those who spend their time scapegoating workers and pushing a partisan agenda will only strengthen the resolve of working people,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “From the very beginning, it’s been clear that Gov. Kasich, and indeed many politicians, were pushing an agenda that was about politics, not about solving our nation’s problems or creating jobs.”

Ohio Governor John Kasich (R), who worked hard to keep Senate Bill 5 on the books, was quoted as saying that he needs to “take a deep breath,” though his concession speech was gracious.  From the same HuffPo article:

“The people have spoken clearly. You don’t ignore the public. Look, I also have an obligation to lead. I’ve been leading since the day I took this office, and I’ll continue to do that. But part of leading is listening and hearing what people have to say to you.”

(An aside:  hear that, Gov.  Scott Walker (R-WI)?  Heed Kasich’s message and you might be retained; no matter what, you will be recalled.)

Someone the HuffPo article describes as “a spokesman for the International Association of Firefighters, who was not authorized to speak on the record,” had this to say:

“Kasich ran on a platform of growth, and his first thing is to give tax breaks to the rich, increase the pay of his staff significantly — while at the same time, he’s trying to cut the firefighters and police and teachers and nurses. It’s an overreach,” he said. “They went a little too far, and what’s happening here in Ohio is another step in what happened in Wisconsin.”

So that’s it; the people of Ohio have spoken.  Senate Bill 5 has been defeated.

May the happy dance commence.

Written by Barb Caffrey

November 9, 2011 at 12:30 am

WI D Legislators Pro-Jobs; WI Rs Dither; Scott Walker Recall Starts Nov. 15

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Last night at the Roma Lodge in Racine, WI, there was a jobs forum sponsored by the Wisconsin AFL-CIO where four state Democratic legislators showed up — Representative Robert Turner (D-Racine), Representative Cory Mason (D-Racine), Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha — also a former United States Representative for district 1, which includes Racine and Kenosha), and Senator Bob Wirch (D-Kenosha).  The Democrats listened patiently to the concerns of Racine residents, which included the following comments (pulled from this article from the Racine Journal-Times):

Barbara Rankin of Kenosha, 78, told the four legislators that of the sixty-six people in her family, only four have jobs that pay over $10 an hour.  “Jobs shouldn’t be that hard to get,” she said.

According to the Journal-Times article, person after person stood up to talk about their problems with jobs.  They mentioned looming cuts to the Racine bus budget, the need for a casino in Kenosha (or something to replace Dairyland Greyhound Park, which closed at the end of 2010), and the need for greater funding for technical colleges, which also got their budgets cut as part of the Scott Walker budget bill earlier this year.

This is why Scott Walker needs to be recalled, folks, in an nutshell; Walker’s done nothing to help Wisconsin workers find jobs for nearly a year, yet he ran on a “pro-jobs” platform.  I’m tired of Walker “talking the talk” but refusing to “walk the walk,” and the other Rs in the Legislature are obviously taking their cues largely from him.

Now, what are the other Wisconsin Rs doing in response to this?  Not a whole lot.  Senator Van Wanggaard, R-Racine, recently killed a bill that would’ve prevented the state’s main utility company (WE Energies) from charging customers for faulty meters, despite this bill being proposed by another member of his own party, Mike Ellis (R-Neenah — also the President of the Senate). 

Yes, that’s right — Wanggaard voted against consumers.  Against the people of his own district.  (Why am I unsurprised?)

Wanggaard has also recently drafted a “jobs bill” — as in, finally in October of 2011, nearly a full year after he was sworn into the state Senate, he’s finally figured out that we’re in a jobs crisis.  That the City of Racine, the area he currently represents, has consistently had 13% to 14% reportable unemployment for the past three years or more (those of us working part-time don’t count on that; those of us who’ve fallen off the unemployment rolls also do not count) — of course, Wanggaard will soon represent the counties of Racine and Kenosha, who aren’t doing so bad, due to the 2011 state Legislature’s gerrymandered map; perhaps that’s why Wanggaard doesn’t care too much about the City of Racine as he knows his days as its Senator are numbered?

Now, apparently Wanggaard had this jobs bill on his mind for at least a month, as I was able to find a reference to it back to September 12, 2011.  And much of it, I actually agree with (from the Milwaukee television channel’s Fox 6 News report of the same date):

Sen. Wanggaard’s proposal would provide help for hiring. The plan would give businesses a $5,000 tax credit if they hire someone unemployed for more than 60 days and keep that employee for more than a year. Rep. Wanggaard says, “We can’t continue to throw money at things that aren’t working. We’ve got to think outside the box.”

I agree.

Going on, Wanggaard also says that the current situation is “unacceptable.”  Again, I agree.

But was he at this jobs forum?  No, he wasn’t — and my guess is, he probably did know about it as courtesy invitations usually go out to both sides.

Going back to the Journal-Times article I referenced above, Rep. Cory Mason said this situation is awful:

“It is a sad state of affairs in the United States of America, where you can work full time and still be poor,” Mason said.

I agree, wholeheartedly.

At any rate, the recall of Scott Walker will start on November 15, 2011.  I plan to be out there on the first day getting signatures, because I believe Walker has failed — failed on jobs, and failed as a Governor, period.

And while I do not know when the recall of Van Wanggaard will start, whenever it does, I’m going to be right there, too — because to me, it’s flat unacceptable that Wanggaard hasn’t done any better in the ten months he’s had in office to get any new jobs into Racine City (or County).

Odds and Ends: WI Voter ID Law Problem, Writing, and Nyjer Morgan

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Today’s one of those days it’s easier to write about a whole bunch of things, so let’s get to it.

First, it was big news yesterday when a top aide to the Wisconsin state transportation department told the staff at the Wisconsin Department of Motor Vehicles not to give out free IDs, which are supposed to be given out due to our new voter ID law, unless people ask for them.   State Senator Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton, made sure to make this public as soon as he found out about it, and stated on MSNBC’s “PoliticsNation” with Al Sharpton today (Friday, September 9, 2011 to be exact) that he found this extremely distressing news and would be meeting with the appropriate people next week to get to the bottom of this.  I also know from my friends and fellow Wisconsin political activists that this will not be taken lying down; no matter what Governor Walker’s hand-appointed aide says, those IDs are supposed to be given out for free or that law should be called what it is: a newfangled version of the older “poll tax.”

That said, we also have a problem here with the Milwaukee Brewers, and it’s not how poorly they’ve been playing (though that’s not been pleasant, either, as this article points out).  Brewers OF Nyjer Morgan had a dust-up with St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Chris Carpenter on Wednesday evening.  After Carpenter swore at Morgan (which he now admits to doing), Morgan spit tobacco and swore at Carpenter before getting ejected.  After that, Morgan took to Twitter in his alternate “Tony Plush” persona and poked fun at Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols, calling Pujols a “she” and “Alberta” in the process — the reason for this apparently, is because Pujols immediately came to his pitcher’s defense and instituted a base-clearing incident that came whisker-close to becoming a brawl.

For now, Morgan is mum about it, which makes sense.  (See the most recent JSOnline article about it for details.)  All he’s willing to say is that he’s “glad it’s over” and that he doesn’t lie (the last in reference to Carpenter admitting he swore at Morgan), which is a good thing because what’s important overall for the Brewers is the entirety of the team, not just one player. 

Mind you, I like Morgan because he plays hard, he seems like an interesting character, and he isn’t “muzzled” as so many of today’s baseball players are.  He speaks his mind and I find that refreshing; I also don’t blame him for getting upset with any of the St. Louis players because there’s been some bad blood between the Brewers and Cardinals for years.  I don’t condone it, but I do understand why in the heat of competition someone like Morgan might go overboard.

Here’s hoping Morgan can do what Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports suggested yesterday in this article:

Those guys in the clubhouse who love T-Plush and love Nyjer Morgan more, it’s maybe a good time to think of them. They haven’t come this far to blow an Achilles’ trying to keep Alberta Pujols from tearing off their center fielder’s limbs.

(from further down in same article)

. . .  Morgan isn’t alone anymore. He has a franchise to consider. He has teammates who need him, as much as he needs them. He has a season to play out and a World Series championship to play for.

All of that is true and I hope that Morgan will listen.

And last, but certainly not least, I wrote 2300 words in a new paranormal romance story that has re-started after a nine-year lull because I finally figured out how to get it done — take it from a different character’s perspective, and this character just so happens to be an angel.  Before, this particular story was stalled because I didn’t have an older, wiser viewpoint in it; now I do, and it’s one I hadn’t expected.

As this is the first fiction writing I’ve been able to do in the last two or three weeks, I’m very well pleased.  Let’s hope I’ll be able to do more later this evening, and that the editing I’m about to get started on won’t shut off whatever it is that lets me write.

Robin Vos, R-Rochester, Wants to Limit Recall Elections Rather than Push Job Creation

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And here I thought I’d said all I possibly could about the need for Wisconsin recalls, when wouldn’t you know it?  There’s something new to be said due to Wisconsin Assemblyman Robin Vos, R-Rochester, as he wants to limit recall elections.  Vos calls this initiative “recall the recall elections.”

But why is he more worried about this than job creation, you ask?

You see, Vos is a far-right Republican who started saying in public only after two Republican state Senators were recalled from office and replaced by Democrats that the Wisconsin state constitution needs to be amended.  His new bill, which probably will pass the Republican-controlled Assembly and possibly pass the Republican-controlled Senate, would limit recalls to petitioners who “give a specific reason” like malfeasance in office or an actual criminal conviction — and that’s just wrong, especially considering Vos didn’t start making an issue of this until after Republicans Randy Hopper and Dan Kapanke were successfully recalled and replaced on August 9, 2011.

As state Assemblyman Cory Mason (D-Racine) said in the Racine Journal-Times article on 8/10/2011 (note that date, please, as it’s one day after Hopper and Kapanke were recalled and replaced):

“This is the most self-serving piece of legislation we’ve seen so far this session,” said Rep. Cory Mason, D-Racine.

I agree completely.

Then, Mason went on to say that:

the right to recall state elected officials is a constitutional guarantee and Vos is proposing to limit that.

“I understand the motivation behind it,” Mason said. “But it seems more about keeping a Republican majority than protecting Wisconsin citizens’ constitutional rights.”

Vos pointed out in the above-quoted article from the Racine Journal-Times that an amendment to the state Constitution requires two separate, successful votes in the state Legislature, then the voters of Wisconsin will get the opportunity to vote the amendment up or down.  But a recent poll from the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Survey Center pointed out that 78% of Wisconsinites surveyed — an overwhelming majority — believed that recalls are a good thing, while 50% — half the electorate surveyed — believe that the then-current recalls of Wisconsin state Senators made them feel better about Wisconsin politics.  Which would surely make getting the public to throw out recalls as a way to remove a legislator much less likely, now, wouldn’t it?

State Assembly minority leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) had this to say about Vos’s proposed amendment:

“On Tuesday we saw two Republicans who ran on a message of creating jobs, yet spent a session pursuing an anti-middle class agenda, being removed from office by the voters who felt betrayed by their actions. The results of the election should serve notice to all politicians that they cannot ignore the will of the people.
“Floating this constitutional amendment the day after successful recall elections that held legislators accountable appears to indicate that Republicans are frightened that future actions to hold them accountable will also be successful.
“We must encourage and build on the amazing outpouring of public involvement in democracy that we have seen this year. The people of Wisconsin deserve to know that we are listening to them and responding to their concerns.”

Then Barca reinforced the whole “job-creation” issue with this comment, also from the WisPolitics.com article quoted above:

“The first bipartisan bill should address the vital issues of job creation, job training and improving public education in Wisconsin.”

And Barca is far from alone.  Overwhelmingly, the American people as a whole (not just in Wisconsin) want politicians on both sides of the aisle to concentrate on jobs as this recent poll from the New York Times and CBS News shows.  As this poll pointed out, people are extremely frustrated with the United States Congress and a record 82% of people disapprove of them because most of the folks who are “on the ground” in America know that creating jobs is the only way to cut the budget deficit in the long run.  It’s also the only way to have a healthy, prosperous society, as the recent poll said: by a ratio of two to one, more Americans believe that job creation, not deficit reduction, is what American politicians should be talking about.

So as you see, it’s not just in Wisconsin that joblessness is an issue.  Even brothers of members of Congress are not immune, as recent comments by Representative Maxine Waters (D-California) and the actions of Republican Rep. Allen West (R-Florida) have shown.  West sent his brother to a job fair in Atlanta, and he’s admitted doing so in an e-mail response from his office to Ed Schultz’s “The Ed Show” on MSNBC.  This should be a link to the segment on Ed’s show last night that discusses the whole issue; note that West is the only Republican member of the Congressional Black Caucus, which supported a job fair in Atlanta, Georgia, yesterday.

But job fairs and unemployed people are not found only in Atlanta, which leads me back to to Governor Walker and Wisconsin, as the July unemployment numbers in Wisconsin went up to a seasonally-adjusted 7.8%.  Some of this may be due to the fact that many people finally received unemployment after federal Extended Benefits were accepted earlier this month by the Wisconsin Republicans in the state Legislature after being out of benefits since April 16, 2011.  (The Democrats had wanted to approve the benefits as soon as they were aware they were available, probably back in June of this year, but as the Republicans control both halves of the Legislature, the Ds had no power to bring a bill to the floor.)

Why is this noteworthy?  Well, only a month ago, Walker was all over the news crediting the “Wisconsin Miracle” as in June there had been a net increase in job creation, even though Media Matters debunked this — so the fact that the July numbers were bad just underscored how dubious the previous claims were.

I don’t know what the answers are.  But I do know that focusing on limiting recalls in Wisconsin is not the way to create any jobs.  Because the only way to “limit recalls” in the future is simply this: legislators from both parties need to be responsive to their constituents, including focusing on job creation rather than stupid and petty crap, rather than insist they’re right until they’re blue in the face no matter how many people tell them they’re wrong.

If Walker was a truly gifted politician, he’d realize this and start dialing his rhetoric — and his actions — way, way back in order to avoid his potential recall.  While the Wisconsin Rs should distance themselves from Vos’s bill as most of us in Wisconsin know that the Rs also pursued recalls of Democratic Senators — they just didn’t manage to get any of them out.  This means that any vote on “recalling the recall elections” will look extremely hypocritical at best, which will make every single member of the Assembly who votes for this vulnerable to being voted out in November 2012.

But my guess is that most of the Wisconsin Rs, including Walker and Vos, will continue to insist they have a “mandate” and that they’re right, until they’re all voted out by a disgusted Wisconsin electorate.