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2011: My Year in Review (the Good, the Bad, and the Incredibly Sad)

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Everyone’s doing a “2011 Year in Review” column; at some places, like Shiny Book Review, this makes more sense (there, we did a “best of 2011” piece; check it out here).  So I thought I’d do one, too, incorporating most of what went on that’s fit to print that made any sort of impact on my life whatsoever.

Note that as Shiny Book Review has already been covered, I’m not going to say much about it here; I enjoyed posting reviews in 2011, and I will continue to do the same in 2012.

As far as fiction writing goes, I estimate that I wrote about 150,000 words on various projects.  I completed a new chapter and a half of CHANGING FACES; this will be finished in 2012.  I wrote a new chapter and revised five chapters of KEISHA’S VOW, an ELFY prequel set in 1954.  I wrote a new chapter and a half and revised six chapters of AN ELFY ABROAD, the direct sequel to ELFY.  I did my best to find an agent, but found no takers.

As far as editing goes, I was pleased to edit six different books — one on conventions and careers, four medical books (including one anthology), and one science fiction novel.  More editing is planned for the New Year.

Now, let’s get to the month-by-month breakdown of other events.

January 2011: 

New Republican Governor Scott Walker takes office, turns down federal railroad funds (following through on his election promise to do so), vows to work with everyone, etc.  (Too bad that last was all talk.)

“Joey Maverick: On Westmount Station” published at e-Quill Publishing (with Michael B. Caffrey).  This is the first piece of writing in Michael’s universe sold in over five years; I wrote over half of this story, but it continues to go under Michael’s name as an editorial decision by e-Quill’s publisher as it’s a continuing series.  (I’m sure Michael wouldn’t have approved, but there’s nothing to be done.  My name is on it as the secondary writer and there’s a permanent link to this story on this blog’s sidebar.)

Green Bay Packers blow through post-season, winning the National Football Conference championship.  Will represent NFC in the Super Bowl.

January 8:  United States Representative Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) shot in the head by crazed gunman; she miraculously survives and recovers.  Several staff-members and innocent bystanders killed, including U.S. District Judge John Roll.  Gunman in police custody.

February 2011: 

February 6:  Packers win Super Bowl XLV. 

February 11:   Scott Walker vows to eliminate collective bargaining for all public employee unions (including teachers, nurses, and snowplow drivers, among others) except for fire and police personnel.  A firestorm of protest follows; the fourteen Democratic state Senators (“Wisconsin 14”) flee the state in order to deny the Legislature a quorum to keep the Republican-dominated Senate from passing a companion bill to the quickly-passed bill from the Republican-dominated Assembly.  The “WI 14” state their reason for doing this as the only way to educate the public as to what this bill will do to the state; more protests ensue.

March 2011: 

Gov. Walker and his allies, including Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) and Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald (R-Horicon, brother of Scott F.), take to the airwaves urging the WI 14 to return to Wisconsin so Senate Bill 10 (eliminating collective bargaining for all public employee unions, even though the teachers, nurses, etc., have all vowed publicly to take paycuts and give back vacation days and pay more for their health and life insurance providing collective bargaining is left in place) can be passed.

March 9:  Senate strips all financial provisions out of the bill, allowing it to be passed without a quorum.  Only Dale Schultz (R-Richland Center) opposes this bill, saying it goes too far; the Senate passes this motion 18-1.

March 12:  WI 14 returns to state to loud acclaim from most; some vow to recall their sitting state Senators from both parties.

April 2011: 

Milwaukee Brewers start their season.

Vinny Rottino starts season with New Orleans Zephyrs of the Pacific Coast League (affiliated with the Florida Marlins, prior to the Marlins’ name change).

JoAnne Kloppenburg loses state Supreme Court race to incumbent David Prosser by less than 1/2 of 1% of the vote.  Recount commences.

April 21:  Recall petitions filed for nine Senators, six Republicans and three Democrats.  Elections scheduled for three different days; the first is held in mid-July.

May 2011:

Rottino has a fantastic month for the Zephyrs. 

Brewers are still rounding into form. 

Looking forward to recall elections. 

Receive praise but no sales for three separate pieces of writing.

May 1:  Osama bin Laden killed, at long last.

May 23: Recount confirms David Prosser as winner of state Supreme Court seat.  JoAnne Kloppenburg decides not to sue; eventually seeks seat on state’s Appellate Court.

June 2011:

Observe my ninth wedding anniversary, the seventh spent alone since Michael’s untimely death in 2004.

Waiting avidly for recall elections.

July 2011: 

Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder, and Rickie Weeks elected to represent the Brewers at the All-Star Game.  Braun is on the disabled list; does not play.  Minor controversy ensues as closer John Axford, having an excellent season, is not named to the All-Star team, nor is Brewers ace Yovani Gallardo.

Observe my late husband’s birthday even though, were he alive, he’d have taken no notice of the event.  (Michael counted unBirthdays instead, as there were a whole lot more of them, thus more to celebrate.)

Vinny Rottino makes the AAA All-Star team for the first time since 2008.

July 19: Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay) is easily retained in his recall election.

July 31: Debt-ceiling crisis legislation is signed by President Obama.  Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) claims victory.  Most people unimpressed; Congress’s approval rating falls to new lows, and the President’s approval rating takes a hit, too.

August 2011:

Observe my birthday, though my best friend Jeff is many states away and my husband is long dead, so I wonder what the point is.

August 9: Two Republican state Senators, Dan Kapanke (La Crosse) and Randy Hopper (Fond du Lac) are ousted in recall elections.  Another four Republican state Senators, Alberta Darling (River Hills), Robert Cowles (Green Bay), Sheila Harsdorf (River Falls) and Luther Olsen (Ripon) are retained.

August 16:  Both Democratic Senators up for recall, Bob Wirch of Kenosha and Jim Holperin of Conover, are easily retained.  Status of nine recalls:  Two Rs lost their seats, while four Rs were retained.  All three Ds were retained.  Wisconsin state Senate stands at 17 Rs and 16 Ds.

September 2011: 

Vinny Rottino’s fine AAA season is rewarded by a September call-up from the Florida Marlins.  He plays in several games, mostly as a pinch hitter or in the outfield.  Gets a few hits.

Occupy Wall Street (soon to be Occupy Everywhere) movement starts.

Tenth anniversary of 9/11/01. 

Observed the seventh anniversary of Michael’s last day of life on 9/21/11. 

Late September: Jeff falls ill but does not go to the doctor. 

September 28: Milwaukee Brewers win first National League Central division title in history, make post-season play for first time since 2008.  Hopes are high.  John Axford sets single-season saves record with 46 and most saves successfully converted in a row with 42.

October 2011:

October 7:  Brewers win first post-season series against Arizona Diamondbacks (3-2).

mid-October:  Jeff is taken to the hospital and is quickly transferred to the best specialty hospital in Northern Colorado.  Bacterial endocarditis is the diagnosis.  I don’t find out about it until he’s been in the hospital seven days (fortunately he told a good friend there how to get a hold of me).  He nearly dies on the table due to open-heart surgery, something I don’t find out until nearly two days afterward.  He’s unable to talk for nearly two weeks and is mostly unresponsive to stimuli.  Death seems near.

October 16:  Brewers lose National League Championship series to eventual World Series champs St. Louis Cardinals; I’m more obsessed with Jeff’s condition and say so.

October 20:  Moammar Qaddafi, dictator of Libya, killed.  This, too, barely registers.

November 2011:

Jeff slowly starts to get better, regaining his powers of speech and mobility.  Cannot read well, which vexes him as a longtime, avid reader — and cannot write or create, which vexes him as a writer.  He improves so much he’s transferred to a long-term rehabiliation place (I talk with him every night he’s able, which basically is every single night).

However, Jeff only lives for four days after he’s transferred to rehab; in our last conversation on November 11, he tells me he’s exhausted and wondering when he’s going to get better, though he’s mostly upbeat.  Inwardly, I cheer that he has enough energy to mildly complain; I look forward to our next phone call, which was to be on November 12 at 7:45 p.m MST.

November 12:  At 7 p.m. MST, Jeff has a massive stroke and is taken back to the specialty hospital.  I don’t find out about this until November 13; all I know at the time is that Jeff hasn’t answered his phone, and I’m not able to get anyone at the rehab place to find out why.

November 13:  Get call from Jeff’s brother, Randy; Jeff is dead.  The stroke killed him.  His parents were with him when he died. 

None of this comforts me at all, as I’d been hoping somehow to get out to him to visit and cheer him up. 

His death, which a few weeks ago had seemed imminent, now seems like an extremely bad joke made by an unloving, uncaring Deity; Jeff had worked so hard to regain his speech and mobility, and could reason and think.  His personality and most of his memories were intact.  He deserved a lot more time, to fully recover, and for him and I to be able to see each other, bare minimum.  To say that I find this monstrously unfair is a severe understatement.

November 15:  Wrote a poem for Jeff, in memoriam.  I hope he’d have enjoyed it (poem is below).

November 21:  Jeff would’ve turned 48 today, had he lived.  Instead, his memorial service is called in Fort Collins, Colorado, and I’m unable to go due to financial considerations (I will regret this to the end of my life, and probably afterward). 

I start to slowly come to terms with the fact that the best friend I’ve ever had, save only my late husband Michael, is dead.  (Jeff was my staunchest supporter as a writer and poet who gave well-thought out, helpful criticism.)  I find out that Jeff was writing a novel, which he’d never shown me (though he had shown me six in-progress short stories, various pieces of non-fiction, and other writing, all of it excellent), at the time of his passing.  Now, none of his writing will ever be completed.

I reflect upon Jeff’s compassion, which was probably his strongest and best quality besides his high intelligence and creativity.  I reflect upon the fact that six years ago, I had no idea our friendship would grow to the point that he was my acknowledged best friend . . . who knows where it would’ve gone, had he lived?  (Now, I will never know, and that’s a sadness I can’t even begin to express, were I to write from now until the end of time.)  I’m grateful for the time I had with him, but I really wish there had been more of it because if anyone deserved more, it was Jeff.

I wonder, again, what the point is, when I can’t even get to see my best friend before he dies, then can’t get to his funeral, either, when I dearly wanted to do both things.  (Financial considerations be damned.)

Other stuff:

November 15:  Recall petitions to oust Gov. Scott Walker, Lt. Gov. Kleefisch, and Racine’s state Senator Van Wanggaard (all Rs) are filed.  I’d been looking forward to this for months, but due to Jeff’s death, it barely registers.  Did sign the recall forms and get a few signatures, as Jeff was very strongly in favor of all of these people being recalled (we talked of this on November 11, and he’s the one who brought it up — as I said, his mind was intact and it was sharp); I tell myself that he’d be happy I was doing something I’d looked forward to, and try to be content with that even though I know I’ll never hear his voice again.

Ryan Braun wins NL Most Valuable Player award.  Prince Fielder departs in free agency (is currently unsigned).

Vinny Rottino signs a minor league free-agent contract with the New York Mets; he will be invited to Spring Training.

December 2011: 

December 13:  Play first concert in thirteen years as a member of the University of Wisconsin-Parkside Community Band; I play a lengthy, extended solo in Valerie Coleman’s composition, “Roma.”   My sister is in the audience, and says I haven’t lost a thing.  (I like to think that both Michael and Jeff were listening, too, from wherever they are in the positive afterlife.  I hope they were pleased.)

mid-December:  Ryan Braun accused of taking performance-enhancing drugs; he appeals this decision and proclaims his innocence.  (For the record, I believe him.)

December 17:  North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il dies.

Just before Christmas:  Federal government plunges into yet another crisis when House of Representatives initially refuses to extend the payroll tax cut.  Speaker Boehner adamantly defends his party, which includes many hard-right Rs self-identifying as “Tea Party” members, but is eventually talked around due to public statements made by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), former George W. Bush advisor Karl Rove, and a strongly-worded Wall Street Journal editorial advising him to just give in already.  Congress adjourns and goes home for the holidays.

Winter holidays commence; once again, I wonder what the point is.  The present I’d bought for my friend Jeff gathers dust as I can’t bear to put it away, nor can I part with it; the musical composition I’m working on to commemorate Jeff’s life and death is, at best, half-finished at 64 bars.   I’m told by a couple of poets I respect that my poem for Jeff won’t stand alone, thus has no chance of independent publication — which is why it’s here, so you all can read it and think about it, instead.

Note that this is a very formal way of writing, which is quite different from my usual, free-form style.  I wanted to impose some sort of structure on my shock, which is why I came up with this particular poem.  And while I believe this is among the most important pieces of writing I’ve ever created, it’s something I profoundly wish I’d not have had to do — much less this soon.

Here goes . . . but before I forget, Happy New Year, everyone.

*********** POETRY SEPARATOR ***********

“A Poem for Jeff Wilson — in Memoriam”

by Barb Caffrey


One who seeks is

one who asks

the questions that

no one else dares.


One who seeks is

one who finds

the answers, which are



One who waits is

one who looks

for love, creeping

in unawares . . . .


One who waits is

one who hopes

for light, which breaks

the dark forever.


One who waits is

one who seeks

out answers, or

merely himself.

——– written November 15, 2011

WI Rs sue to put Recalls in “New” Districts: Ds countersue

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Folks, this takes the cake.

I live in Wisconsin — more specifically, I live in District 21, which is comprised of the City of Racine and most of Racine County.  We are recalling our state Senator, Van Wanggaard, who was voted into office in 2010, took office in January of 2011, and has served as my state Senator for eleven months.

However, the state’s Republican Party has decided that the recall of Wanggaard should be held in the “new” District 21 — which is comprised of the vast majority of Racine County and Kenosha County, while the cities of Racine and Kenosha are lumped together into the “new” District 22.  There is a federal lawsuit that is pending in this case, because the “new” map amounts to gerrymandering on the part of the Republicans — most particularly with regards to Van Wanggaard’s district.**

Or, to be more blunt, Wanggaard is helped more by this new map than is any other candidate facing a recall election — the other three Senators facing recall at this time are Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau), Pam Galloway (R-Wausau), and Terry Moulton (R-Chippewa Falls) — and that’s the main reason why the Rs want the “new” map rather than the old one in place.

See this link for further details:

A relevant quote from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel article referenced above:

A group of Republicans has asked the state Supreme Court to require any recall elections for state legislators to be conducted in new districts, a move that would favor their party.

Republicans who control the Legislature drew new legislative and congressional maps this year to account for changes in population, and they explicitly wrote in the law that the maps were not to take effect for elections until November 2012.

Now, Democrats are trying to recall four Republican state senators, and Republicans want any recall elections to be held in the new districts, which would make it easier for them to hold onto their 17-16 Senate majority.

Going on, this article points out that the new R plaintiffs are being represented by Michael Best & Friedrich — or as the Journal-Sentinel puts it:

. . . the same firm that helped GOP lawmakers draw the maps and write the law that said they were not to go into effect until November 2012. In all, taxpayers paid $400,000 to Michael Best and the Troupis Law Office for their work on the maps.

So, did you catch all that?  The Rs are trying to “have their cake and eat it too” by filing this lawsuit, and are doing so under the auspices of the people who made up the terrible maps (that are now in litigation) in the first place.

I view it this way, folks: my own District 21 voted Wanggaard into office in 2010.  We are the only people who should have the right to recall and/or retain him — not the people in the “new,” largely ruralized District 21 that may or may not ever come to be (as there are some really big problems with that map).  And we are the ones who should make this choice — no one else.

For the Wisconsin Republican Party to do something like this isn’t just disingenuous.  It’s downright disgraceful. 

Because think about it, just for one moment; if the Rs were that confident in themselves, or their message, why would they be resorting to political trickery like this? 

Short answer?  They wouldn’t.

This is yet another reason why we must recall and replace Van Wanggaard.  Because if he were an honest and ethical person, he’d not want this lawsuit; instead, he just wants to hold on to his job.  And that’s just not a good enough reason to be a Senator to my mind — not at all.

Instead, this lawsuit is yet another reason as to why I keep saying, “Throw the Wisconsin Rs out!”  (Or if you use Twitter, the shorthand form #ThrowWIRsOut works quite nicely, too.)


** Thus far, there are at least two lawsuits in progress.  One was started by the Latino advocates Voces de la Frontera, and is a federal lawsuit.  And the Ds have vowed to countersue in both state and federal court over these “new” maps . . . all I know is, most of the time in WI, the only way maps get drawn is by impartial observers to do it because the process is just too contentious, else.  That’s why I am for a similar process to the one used by the state of Iowa, where the political theatre is absent and the work gets done without all this sturm und drang.

Wisconsin State Journal’s editorial about recalls falls down on the job

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Folks, I am livid after reading this extremely biased, slanted staff editorial by the Wisconsin State Journal, one of the best-known papers in the state.  The WSJ has the nerve to say that recalls are bad because they extend the election cycle, and when, pray tell, will it end?

Well, I’ll tell you when it’ll end.  When we finally have some responsible people in government who stop behaving like Wisconsin is their personal fiefdom and that the rule of law need not apply.  As Grant Petty, writing for Madison’s alternative paper The Isthmus, wrote in his response to the WSJ editorial:

It was not simply that I disagreed with your position.  I disagree with other publications’ positions all the time without necessarily feeling insulted by them.  The straw that broke the camel’s back for me was that you had once again ignored or grossly oversimplified deep and important issues affecting Wisconsin while basing your position on superficial ones.

Petty goes on to say later on in the article that many things have caused the people of Wisconsin to recall their legislators (especially those of the Republican variety); these things include, but are not limited to:

  • The lack of transparency in government, for the rule of law, and for the constitutionality of our courts by our elected officials.
  • Creating new obstacles to voting in traditionally Democratic demographic groups (minorities, the poor, college students, elderly who don’t live in nursing homes)
  • What Petty calls “blatant pay-to-play favors” for major campaign donors (including the one railroad exec. who pled guilty to an illegal campaign contribution of $49,000 to Scott Walker)
  • A state Supreme Court that Petty calls a “rubber stamp” that was “bought and paid for by Wisconsin Manufacturing and Commerce,” a lobbying group that traditionally backs Republicans and conservative ideology. and
  • Last, but not least, the overarching inaccuracies of the vote going back at least to 2004 in Waukesha County; Petty describes several troubling aspects of the vote in the 2011 judicial race between Justice David Prosser and challenger JoAnne Kloppenburg that changed the outcome of the election, starting with Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus’s finding of 7500 votes over a day after the election had supposedly ended and continuing on with problems with the voting machines and electronic tape malfunctions that were never explored or explained (including one where the totals inexplicably read March 30, 2011, not April 5, 2011 as they should’ve; Barbara With, who observed the Waukesha County recount, explicitly made sure the Government Accountability Board knew about this and testified as to what she’d seen and heard and entered her picture of the faulty tape into evidence, yet the GAB, again inexplicably, refused to believe or accept this and left this testimony out of the official record).

Note that all of this — all — is why most people in Wisconsin, including a sizable minority of Walker’s own party, remains livid regarding the conduct of our current crop of public officials (mostly the recently-elected Walker and many of the Republican officeholders who are being recalled, including State Senator Alberta Darling).  Petty said it extremely well, and I only wish that I’d have written this summation myself; this truly is why Wisconsin is upset and has recalled an unprecedented number of people (remember, before this year, only four people had ever been forced to run in recall elections, with two of them holding their seats while the other two, including my former Republican state Senator George Petak, R-Racine, lost).

As to why the WSJ decided to write a slanted, utterly biased editorial?  Who knows?  But I do know that whenever I read their paper online in the future, I will keep their partisan slant in mind and judge their reportage accordingly.

Other than that, I agree with Petty’s contention that we should be far more concerned with out-and-out election fraud in this state because we’ve apparently had problems now in Waukesha County since 2004 and nothing, but nothing, has been done about them and apparently nothing, but nothing, is going to be done about them because apparently the political powers who now run the state (all three branches of government are run by Republicans, remember, as I’ve stated before) like it the way it is even though most of the rest of us emphatically do not.

And that, my friends, is not only sad.  It’s shameful, and should not be tolerated in what we so euphemistically call “a democratic state.”

Violence in the workplace — is it ever right?

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Folks, it’s 2011, and I thought the answer to my title/question was always, “No” unless we were talking about something like World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE).  Yet now I’ve heard the wildest array of excuses made on behalf of Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice David Prosser, who may have grabbed fellow Justice Ann Walsh Bradley by the neck on June 13, 2011.

Here’s a link to the first story that broke in the Wisconsin area:

And here’s a link to the story regarding the two, ongoing investigations into what, exactly happened:

A relevant quote from the latter:

Two agencies are investigating a claim by Supreme Court Justice Ann Walsh Bradley that Justice David Prosser put her in a chokehold earlier this month – an allegation Gov. Scott Walker on Monday called extremely serious.

Ah, but Scott Walker refused to say what, if anything, should be done just a bit further into the article:

Asked if the reports about Prosser’s behavior, if true, merited his resignation, Walker said: “I don’t even want to go down that path . . . other than to say that just based on the allegations that were made, I can’t overemphasize how serious I think the situation is there. Until we know what happened, I don’t think it’s best for anybody for me to comment on what the next step is.”

Now, I can guarantee that if the countervaling story that the Republicans have put out (that Justice Bradley somehow came at Justice Prosser and that’s why he put hands around her neck; this is the, “The victim is always to blame!” argument, in a nutshell, which I find both revolting and disgusting) is true, Gov. Walker would be calling for Bradley’s head on a platter and impeachment proceedings against her would probably already be underway in the Legislature.  But as we’re talking about another Republican here — Prosser, as we all know, was once the Republican Speaker for the Assembly (Wisconsin’s lower house) before former Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson appointed Prosser to the bench — they’re going to proceed with caution in order to keep Prosser there as long as they possibly can.

Mind, nothing has been proven yet, and Prosser is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law — but if the facts are as Bradley has alleged (that Prosser put his hands around her neck in a chokehold), then Prosser should resign and seek immediate medical treatment for his anger management problem — bare minimum, that’s what he should do.

Now, as for a little political commentary: I am astonished and disgusted that anyone, ever, would try to say that violence in the workplace could be condoned due to a “hostile work environment” — that is, the Republicans don’t like it that much of the public is angry over what’s happened since Walker took office and instituted his new unpopular program (which he didn’t campaign on and didn’t warn anyone about beforehand).   And the Wisconsin Supreme Court, though it has four Republicans/conservatives to only three Democrats/liberals, apparently feels the heat of this even though the Rs have the advantage — so apparently, because it’s such a difficult work environment, to some, what Prosser did in “defending himself” was justified, even though no one as of yet has all the facts in this case.

So, I want to ask this question: is it ever right to allow violence in the workplace?   If so, under what circumstances would you allow it?   Does political ideology really make that much of a difference to you as to whether or not someone should put hands on another inside the workplace, much less a man allegedly trying to choke a woman?  (When most men are much taller and heavier than most women?)

I’ll be interested in any logical response to this — because so far, I’ve heard absolutely nothing that makes any sense with regards to defending Prosser’s alleged conduct except the rather weak, “It’s not like you think.”  That’s just not good enough, unless we want to turn back into a nation of brutish thugs — and if that’s what you really want, as Yogi Berra once famously said, “Include me out.”

Written by Barb Caffrey

June 27, 2011 at 11:09 pm

John Nichols said it best: in WI, no checks, no balances, exist.

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Folks, all week I’ve resisted the impulse to post anything after the recent “victory” by Scott Walker and his allies on the Wisconsin Supreme Court.  Please see this article from John Nichols at the Capital Times, who agrees with me that after this week’s decision, no effective checks or balances to the power of Gov. Scott Walker (R) may be seen to exist.

Then, see this extraordinary decision by the WI state Supreme Court, along with the incendiary dissents of Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson and learned, scholarly judge N. Patrick Crooks.

Now, as for what I feel about all this?

After several days of reflection, I’m spitting mad.   I believe that the four Rs on the court — including two who seem heavily tainted, Michael Gableman and the recently re-elected David Prosser  — have not done the people’s business here.  Further, they’ve made a mockery out of the whole “separation of powers” that is inherent in the United States Constitution and re-affirmed in the Wisconsin state Constitution — these four Justices appear to remember, always, that they are conservative Republicans first, and Supreme Court justices second.  And, apparently, being a conservative R seems to trump everything else.

Justice N. Patrick Crooks, a renowned legal scholar, said on p. 11 of his dissent that:

The ready availability of a direct appeal by aggrieved parties makes this all the more puzzling. The majority does not really come to grips with the obvious fact that an appeal is an available remedy here. As many of the parties to these cases have argued, it would be a simple matter for an aggrieved party to intervene in this matter and file an ordinary appeal, which would proceed the usual way.

In other words, there was no need to create a precedent here, but the four Rs on the court did just that; they set aside Dane County Circuit Court Judge Maryann Sumi’s ruling in total, because they felt Sumi had overstepped her authority — yet her ruling was detailed, thorough, and took months to decide.  Whereas the Supreme Court of the state of Wisconsin took only a few days.

Abrahamson’s dissent (most relevant parts quoted in Nichols’s article) is stinging, but Crooks’s dissent is even worse in a scholarly, non-argumentative way.  Crooks seems completely dismayed with what’s occurred here; he doesn’t get it, and if people as knowledgeable about the court as Abrahamson, Crooks, and Justice Ann Walsh Bradley don’t get it, I suppose it’s not too surprising that I don’t get it, either.  (Nor does Nichols seem to understand why the four Rs did this, except for purely political, rather than legal, reasons.  While I hope that isn’t the case, it surely doesn’t look good at this time for those four conservative Justices.)

* * * * *

UPDATE:  Blogger Rick Ungar of conservative Forbes magazine agrees with Nichols, and me, that this ruling is seriously messed up. 

Relevant (unfortunately rather lengthy) quote:

While the State of Wisconsin has a lot on its plate in the recall department, I’m afraid they now have little choice but to consider taking a look at some of their Supreme Court Justices for similar action.

Not because the court handed down a ruling that will make people unhappy – but because the people of Wisconsin now have every reason to believe that their Supreme Court has been corrupted and their opinions subject to invalidation.

Make no mistake. This is not about a judicial philosophy with which I might disagree. Reasonable, learned judges can – and often do – apply the law to a fact situation and come up with different opinions and they do so in the utmost of good faith and their best understanding of  the law.

However, the minority opinion issued yesterday in the Wisconsin Supreme Court did not charge mistaken application of law. The opinion charged perversion of the facts and the law to meet a desired result.

If this is true, this is court corruption at its absolute worst and the people of Wisconsin cannot permit this to stand.

Amen, brother!

* * * * * end update * * * * (Now, back to our regularly scheduled posting.)

Really, there was no need to create a precedent here; the Supreme Court should’ve taken its time and decided this case solely on the narrow merits — did the Fitzgerald Brothers (Jeff in the Assembly, Scott in the Senate) break the Open Meetings Law, or not?  Justice Sumi said they did; the three Supreme Court dissenters appeared to believe Sumi had done her job thoroughly and that more time needed to be given, by them, to figure out whether or not Sumi’s judgment was inherently flawed.   But those four Rs apparently believed there was no need for deliberation; Scott and Jeff Fitzgerald said the case needed to be decided by Tuesday night, and thus, perhaps not so coincidentally, those Justices decided that case by Tuesday night.

This is why the recall elections are so important.  Right now the Court (judicial branch) is in the hands of the Republican Party, the Governorship (the executive branch) is in the hands of the Republicans, and the Legislature (legislative branch) is also in the hands of the Republicans.  This is too much power for any given party, and it must not be allowed to stand.

That some Republican Senators, like Alberta Darling (who will face a recall election on July 12, 2011) and my own R Senator Van Wanggaard, seem to think this was a good result and have said so, quite loudly and vociferously, just shows how out of touch they are.  And how badly they need to be recalled, because they just aren’t listening to their own constituents, the people of the state of Wisconsin.

We know that times are tough.  There would have been hard choices to make, economically, this year for any Governor, and any Legislature.  But the choices being made thus far have disproportionately affected the low-income folks, the disabled, children, senior citizens, and the unemployed.  This is no way to run a government, and it is not the Wisconsin way to throw people out just because right now they are ill, or injured, or have no money, or can’t give you a campaign donation.

Whoever our elected representatives are, regardless of their respective offices, they should be trying to do the best they can for all the people of Wisconsin.  Writing a budget that cuts $800 million from the public schools and gives tax breaks to rich people so they can send their kids to private schools is plain, flat wrong — yet people like Darling and Wanggaard believe that’s the right way to go.

The only thing we can do, as voters, is educate ourselves as to what our representatives are doing.  And then, if we disagree with them, as we have the power to recall our duly elected representatives in Wisconsin if we feel they are failing to do their jobs by listening to us and acknowledging our concerns in some way — then, it’s time to first recall them, then vote them out.

Those of you who have a Republican Senator, if you disagree with him or her, kick your Senator to the curb.  And if you have a Democratic Senator who is up for recall, and you don’t agree with him — then you also have the right to vote him out.  But I’d rather you concentrated on the folks who have proven they aren’t listening — the Republicans, who control all three branches of Wisconsin state government at this time — and re-install the checks and balances we depend upon by voting in someone new in those races against the six Republican Senators.

Voting the Rs out is the only way — the only way — to guarantee that your representatives, Dem or R, will start to listen.  Because if the people of Wisconsin send a message by voting out those who aren’t listening, that should finally make the others listen, or be voted out in turn.  (And yes, Van Wanggaard, I’m looking squarely at you.)

Odds and Ends — including the End of the WI State Supreme Court race

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I have so many different things to discuss right now that I’ve decided to make this an “odds and ends” post — otherwise known as a “quick hits” post.

The first is that the race for the Wisconsin state Supreme Court has come to an end as JoAnne Kloppenburg conceded.   The recount, which I viewed from the beginning as a mandatory one due to the closeness of the vote and the chicanery going on in Waukesha County in particular, brought her a few hundred votes closer to David Prosser but not nearly enough for her, apparently, to keep on fighting despite the hundreds of irregularities and errors found in Waukesha County alone.  Ms. Kloppenburg is a very good lawyer and knows the law regarding recounts much better than I do, so she must’ve felt that it was unlikely she’d win a court case, so prolonging the race any further made no sense to her.

My reaction to all of this, however, is that while I found out by observing the recount in Racine County for a day that our election proceedings here are on the up-and-up, I really think the election was stolen and that Ms. Kloppenburg was the true winner.  I cannot prove this, and it’s possible no one will ever be able to prove it — or maybe someone will after the fact, as some observers did in Florida after the Bush v. Gore incident, or in Ohio with the numerous problems there in the 2004 election — but it’s how I feel.

I also feel that the state of Wisconsin has missed out, because Ms. Kloppenburg had an outstanding record and would’ve made a great judge.   Republicans, especially of the Scott Walker variety, liked to paint Ms. Kloppenburg as a “liberal,” but what she really was happened to be an independent, someone who’d worked for both Republican and Democratic Governors.  We needed a centrist on our extremely polarized Supreme Court, and we didn’t get it — what a terrible day for Wisconsin, and what an awful thing to have to say . . . but it’s all true, and it’s sad.

Now onto a happier update.  Vinny Rottino hit .373 in May for the New Orleans Zephyrs (the AAA affiliate of the Florida Marlins); this was after suffering a 1-for-26 slump to start the season.  Rottino has stolen 7 bases, being caught stealing twice; he’s hit 20 RBI, 2 HR, has 10 doubles and one triple, and his current on-base percentage is .407.   Rottino now appears to be playing every day in right field and is playing excellent defense and a fine overall game while putting together another quiet, but good season as a contact hitter.

Here’s a story from that was written on May 15, 2011, about the Zephyrs and the hot-hitting Rottino in particular:

Vinny Rottino continued his hot hitting Saturday night, and New Orleans Zephyrs relievers continued their shut-down pitching.

The result was a 5-4 Zephyrs victory against Tacoma at Zephyr Field.

Rottino, who has reached base in 21 consecutive games, drove home the go-ahead run in a three-run rally in the sixth inning and also scored two runs.

And here’s what Rottino had to say about it all, especially his 1-for-26 start:

“I never panicked,’’ he said. “That’s the key. I’ve gone through spells like that before at the beginning of the year. … Now I feel pretty good at the plate, just waiting for the pitcher’s mistake. That’s the main thing.’’

Rottino’s game is similar to someone like the Brewers’ Nyjer Morgan; he’s speedy (though not as speedy as Morgan), he plays excellent defense and has a strong arm, and he’ll rarely make mistakes on the basepaths.   Rottino plays all positions except pitcher and second base (unlike Morgan) including catcher (though he’s more of an emergency catcher due to taking it up late) and would be an asset to any major league team whose General Manager is using his brain today.

Finally, there’s the Milwaukee Brewers update.  They actually won their first game against Cincinnati last night and Corey Hart hit yet another home run, raising his season total to five.   Hart’s still not all the way back to last year’s All-Star form, but he’s looking good in the outfield and is hitting steadily now, with some power . . . though I’m a big fan of Hart, the best thing about the ’11 Brewers is that so far, their pitching has been anywhere from OK to outstanding, with Shawn Marcum and Randy Wolf in particular pitching much better than expected.  (Yovani Gallardo is still a little inconsistent, though his last two-three games have been great, and Zack Greinke is still rounding himself into form.  As for Chris Narveson, while he’s a very nice man and can pitch, he’s had some really rough outings lately.   And I keep thinking the Brewers would’ve been better off to keep Chris Capuano, who’s doing well for the Mets despite a 3-5 record because of how poor the Mets are playing as a team.)

So that’s it for updates . . . what I’d encourage you to do is to keep your eye on Rottino (when he finally makes it to the majors to stay, that’ll be one of the best human interest stories of the past several years as he’s now thirty-one years old and has been the apparent victim of what I like to call “age prejudice” as most teams would rather look at a really young guy than an older one with a steady batting eye and a steady presence in the field), keep an eye on the Brewers (especially their pitchers), keep an eye on Capuano, and watch for the upcoming Wisconsin recall elections in July.

Statewide Recount in Judicial Race ends today; Waukesha County’s vote total is in

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Today, the necessary recount for the April 5, 2011 Wisconsin state Supreme Court judicial race has ended as Waukesha County has finally finished recounting the votes.  David Prosser still won Waukesha County with a similar vote total to his previous, though JoAnne Kloppenburg picked up 310 votes statewide; as previously written here, and elsewhere, Ms. Kloppenburg won the rest of the state of Wisconsin (though she didn’t win every county, overall, she was the winner) while she lost, and lost big, in the reddest Republican county in the state, Waukesha County.

This means that unofficially David Prosser has won the election by just over 7,000 votes according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.  Please see this article for further details:

Here’s a relevant quote:

Waukesha County finished its recount Friday, two weeks after the state’s other 71 counties completed theirs. The county next was to deliver its totals to the state Government Accountability Board.

In Waukesha County, the results showed both candidates gaining votes – 68 more for Prosser, 19 more for Kloppenburg – yielding a net gain of 49 votes for the incumbent.

The board, which oversees state elections, plans to certify the totals on Monday, board attorney Mike Haas said. Kloppenburg would have until May 31 to file a lawsuit over the results.

So there it is; because of repeated and extensive problems in Waukesha County, including torn bags, bags without proper numbers (poll workers write totals and usually then bags are supposed to be left undisturbed until/unless there is a statewide recount), and ballots left in strange places (the worst of these issues wasn’t in Waukesha; it instead was in Verona, which is in Dane County — there, ballots were left out of a bag and on a table, reason unknown), the vote totals reported in Waukesha County remain suspect.  While there also were problems in other areas in the state, Waukesha County’s violations were by far the most egregious, starting with County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus’s problems in getting the proper vote total for Brookfield notated into her computer until 36 hours after the April 5, 2011 election ended.

I don’t know what Ms. Kloppenburg and her campaign manager, Melissa Mulliken, are going to do.  But if the problems in Waukesha are as bad as I have been led to believe (I am a member of a group called Election Integrity, which has been giving unofficial first-hand results from observers in Waukesha County and elsewhere), they may indeed file suit and I wouldn’t blame them at all.

Everyone wants to believe that elections are fair and are conducted on the “up-and-up.”  But we’ve found since Nickolaus’s eleventh-hour revelation that there have been severe and systemic problems in Waukesha County for years, with nothing whatsoever having been done about it for whatever reason.  This has made me seriously question whether or not we really do have fair elections in Wisconsin despite observing on April 27, 2011 in Racine, Wisconsin for the Kloppenburg campaign and believing that Racine County’s elections, themselves, have been conducted fairly.  (Note if David Prosser’s folks had asked me to observe for them, I would’ve done it, though I proudly cast my vote for Ms. Kloppenburg in the April 5, 2011 election.  I firmly believe Ms. Kloppenburg’s credentials, working for both Republican and Democratic Governors as one of the state Assistant Attorneys-General, are outstanding, and I believe that if she is ever freely and fairly elected in Wisconsin, she will make an outstanding Justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court.)

The whole question now is, has whatever happened in Waukesha County tainted this entire election?  (In my mind, that answer is a clear “yes,” but I don’t know how that would work in court.)  And have there been enough problems in Waukesha County to warrant tossing out that entire county’s votes and making them vote again?  Because that possibly would be the fairest way to go about it, with many observers in every polling place in the county, to make absolutely sure that every legitimate vote (for whomever) is counted properly.  And Kathy Nickolaus, if she hasn’t resigned or been recalled by then, should play no part in this, just as she played no part in the state-wide recount . . . her job performance has been proven to be amazingly weak — and I don’t say that lightly — and she should count herself extremely lucky to have been gainfully employed, much less making $67,000 a year, considering how much she appears to have screwed up during her tenure on the job.

I believe this recount was a mandatory one — the only thing the state could do to restore any faith in free and fair elections — and I know the problems in Waukesha County have been proven to be extensive on a variety of counts.  The only thing now is to see how it plays out, and I promise you, I will stay on this story and post updates as appropriate.