Jul 7, 2015

Scott Walker Busted, Legislators Say Walker Aides Developed Open Records Scheme

Scott Walker refused for days to acknowledge his administration's role in the Open Records fiasco that would have destroyed open government in Wisconsin.

Today, Republican legislators finally admitted the Walker administration was hip-deep in the last-minute scheme to gut Wisconsin's Open Records law before the July 4 holiday weekend.

Patrick Marley and Mary Spicuzza report:

GOP leaders in the state Legislature disclosed Tuesday that Gov. Scott Walker's office helped develop plans to dramatically roll back the state's open records law.

Walker and his aides have refused for days to explain their role in the plan, which was abandoned Saturday after intense public outcry. Walker's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

The GOP governor's help with the plan came to light as the Senate prepared to approve the state budget Tuesday and less than a week before he is to formally announce he is running for president. (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)

Scott Walker and his office remained evasive on Saturday, saying, "When asked on Saturday if he knew the measure was included in Motion #999 before it passed, Walker avoided giving a yes or no answer while acknowledging that he was aware of the tide of public opinion opposed to it. (Jessie Opoien, The Capital Times)

An honest man would have owned up to his work. Not Scott Walker.

This is the way Scott Walker governs: Evade, run away, and obfuscate when caught.

Meanwhile, Scott Walker's office continues to operate as if his proposed open records gutting is law (Marley, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel).

Scott Walker Concealing Role in Open Records Debacle, Pres Candidacy Speech Is Next Week

A secretive, fundamentalist, and uncompromising Scott Walker claiming a political warrant from God is maintaining his silence over his role in the Republican Open Records fiasco. (Bauer, AP, Minneapolis Star-Tribune)

A watchdog journalistic organ ran a piece today indicating that Walker's silence on the GOP attack on open government won't wash, as Walker prepares his formal announcement for president next week.

By Tim Morrissey, Public News Service:

"Bill Lueders, president of the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council, says his organization wants to know exactly who was behind last week's move to gut the state's Open Records law – something he will aggressively pursue.

Lueders says the measure, inserted in the state budget bill late at night just before the long Independence Day weekend, brought immediate, harsh, and nearly "universal" pushback.

The item was approved by the 12 Republican members of the powerful Joint Finance Committee, over the protests of the committee's four Democrats. Lueders says no one has said where the initiative for the proposal originated.

"The responsibility for this, we know, goes much deeper than just the people who came up with these horrible ideas," he says. "My intention will be to litigate this. I will sue them if they deny me access to that information." ...

Governor Walker has said the proposal will be discussed as a separate measure outside the budget bill.

Lueders, who adds he was gratified by the swift public response to the proposal, describes it as a "frontal attack on Wisconsin's history of open government." He says his organization will continue to delve for details.

"We know that 12 members of the Joint Finance Committee did vote for these changes, knowing full well how devastating they would be to Wisconsin's tradition of open government," he says. "I think all 12 of those people really ought to be held accountable."

Jul 6, 2015

Veterans Appear at Peril in Scott Walker's Budget

Tim Russell, Scott Walker and Brian Pierick
"Don't think for a minute that Walkergate
or its effect will end ... ."
The Wisconsin political world knows Scott Walker doesn't think too likely of veterans, treating them as props from whom his political cronies can embezzle $10,000s. (Bice, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)

But Walker's budget coming out of the Joint Finance Committee has Walker apparently aiming at "needy veterans programs."

Budget Item 40 reads:

Veterans Affairs - Assistance for Needy Veterans Program Eligibility. Delete all provisions in the bill relating to changes in eligibility for benefits under the assistance for needy veterans program, as the administration indicates that the provision, with the modification adopted by the [Joint Finance] Committee at the request of the administration, is unnecessary to accomplish the Department's intent. [via Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel graphic from July 4, page one editorial]

Vague but Scott Walker's record with veterans is terrible, hence this is concerning.

As for Item 41 below, readers' guess is as good as mine.

With Walker's tendency to play games with veterans and other peoples' lives, Walker may swoop in with a partial veto, have a flack send out a PR, and declare himself champion of veterans.

Nothing in Joint Finance Committee Motion 999 is there without Scott Walker's consent and awareness.

Stay tuned.
What is Scott Walker up to now with veterans?

Jul 5, 2015

Scott Walker Should Explain His Role in Open Records Scandal

Scott Walker refuses to acknowledge role after Walker and Republicans back down on killing Open Records Law

Updated - Scott Walker's office operating as if proposed open records gutting is law (Marley, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel).
 ---
Scott Walker should release all papers, memos, emails and other communications and chronicle all of his and his administration's communications with Republican members of the Joint Finance Committee regarding the Republican effort to gut Wisconsin's Open Records law.

Following an unconvincing prepared statement, Scott Walker is offering silence to the Wisconsin people on his and the Republican effort to gut the Open Records law just before the July 4 holiday weekend (Hall, WisconsinWatch).

Walker's and Republican legislators' proposed evisceration of the Open Records law, [through a motion by the Wisconsin legislature's Joint Finance Committee (JFC)], provoked broad and blistering criticism of Walker and the Republican Party, including a front page editorial by Wisconsin's right-leaning and largest daily on July 4th (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel) (Caffeinated Politics).

The right-leaning Wisconsin State Journal writes of this appalling Republican attempt to codify corruption and secrecy: "Any politician who continues to support similar attacks on Wisconsin’s open records law in the future will never receive the endorsement of the State Journal."

Moreover, this newspaper will use every investigative mechanism and journalistic capability possible, including seeking opinions of the court, to shine an even brighter light on legislative action. Our readers should expect no less of a free press."

Walker backed down, declining to shed light on any authorship and raising more questions than he and the Republicans answered, as legislative Republicans and Walker issued a joint statement (Spicuzza, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel).

Wisconsin's Open Records law helps citizens track legislation and special interests, shining a light on campaign donors who push for public law for their own benefit, against public interest.

So who was the culprit? JFC member, State Sen. Leah Vukmir (R-White People). A PRWatch piece certainly has her as a suspect. Scott Walker signed off the secrecy provisions, as noted by State Sen. Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton), as did all 12 Republican members of the JFC. (Punzel, Wisconsin State Journal)
Leah Vukmir

The Open Records law has been a thorn in the side of Scott Walker and Republicans who have taken a sledge hammer to openness in government, impartial watchdogs, academic freedom and non-partisan state services.

"Public access to governmental records is a key component of an open government. Most of our contact with government decision-making comes in the form of governmental records. The public has a right and responsibility to monitor these decisions and hold government accountable for their decisions," notes Midwest Environmental Advocates (p.2).

Public access is even more important when legislative Republicans hold no committee hearings and slip in radical changes to state government with no debate or public notice.

Walker said in a statement that the Joint Finance Committee's effort to enshrine secrecy "was never intended to inhibit transparent government in any way."

Scott Walker isn't fooling anyone, but a town hall-style, question-and-answer session (which would be Walker's first in Wisconsin) is surely called for to explain why this proposed destruction of government transparency was even contemplated, when and by whom.

Jul 4, 2015

Happy Independence Day for Phil Ochs

Rehearsals for Retirement - Music and Lyrics by Phil Ochs (1969, A&M Records)

The days grow longer for smaller prizes
I feel a stranger to all surprises
You can have them I don't want them
I wear a different kind of garment
In my rehearsals for retirement

The lights are cold again they dance below me
I turn to old friends they do not know me
All but the beggar he remembers
I put a penny down for payment
In my rehearsals for retirement

Had I known the end would end in laughter
I tell my daughter it doesn't matter

The stage is tainted with empty voices
The ladies painted they have no choices
I take my colors from the stable
They lie in tatters by the tournament
In my rehearsals for retirement

Where are the armies who killed a country
And turned a strong man into a baby
No comes the rabble they are welcome
I wait in anger and amusement
In my rehearsals for retirement

Had I known the end would end in laughter
Still I tell my daughter that it doesn't matter

Farewell my own true love, farewell my fancy
Are you still owing me love, though you failed me
But one last gesture for her pleasure
I'll paint your memory on the monument
In my rehearsals for retirement

Jul 1, 2015

Republican AGs Want Right for Donors to Pollute Waters

Even as Wisconsin under Scott Walker eviscerates state protection of our waters from polluters, the Wisconsin Department of Justice is joining Republican state attorneys general to stop enforcement of a U.S. clean water rule.

Enjoy the water this weekend, because if Republicans get their way, clean water will become a dying memory.

When it comes to your children's health and clean water v. industries' right to pollute, Republicans take industry every time.

From the Wisconsin Dept of Justice (Republican)

WISCONSIN FILES LAWSUIT ASKING COURT TO OVERTURN BURDENSOME ‘WATERS OF THE UNITED STATES’ RULE

MADISON — Attorney General Brad Schimel (Republican) today announced Wisconsin has joined eight other state Attorneys General in a lawsuit asking a federal court to strike down a new rule from the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that unlawfully expands the federal government’s regulatory reach over local streams, lands and farms. Eleven other (Republican) states have filed a parallel lawsuit.

The rule, known as the “Waters of the United States,” would extend the EPA and Corps of Engineers’ regulatory reach to an untold number of small bodies of water, including roadside ditches and short-lived streams or any other area where the agencies believe water may flow once every 100 years.

[Say Republicans]: This rule could have dire consequences for homeowners, farmers and other entities by forcing them to navigate a complex federal bureaucracy and obtain costly permits in order to perform everyday tasks like digging ditches, building fences or spraying fertilizers. Failure to comply with this new regulatory scheme could result in substantial fines.

”Wisconsin already has strong clean water regulations and these proposed duplicative regulations will serve only to harm farmers and landowners by substantially increasing costs and delaying permits,” [the Republican] Schimel said. “This overreaching move is yet another example of the EPA exceeding its constitutional authority to the detriment of our state.”

In the complaint filed June 30, 2015 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia, the Attorneys General of West Virginia, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, South Carolina, Utah and Wisconsin argue the final rule put forward by the EPA and Corps of Engineers violates the Clean Water Act, the Administrative Procedure Act and the U.S. Constitution, and usurps the States’ primary responsibility for the management, protection and care of intrastate waters and lands.

While the Clean Water Act gave the EPA and Corps authority to regulate “navigable waters” – defined as “waters of the United States” – Congress made sure that states would retain their constitutional, sovereign responsibility over non-navigable, intrastate lands and waters. The U.S. Supreme Court has twice rejected the agencies’ attempts to expand their authority (in Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County v. Army Corps of Engineers and Rapanos v. United States). However, this latest rule written by the two administrative agencies gives them virtually limitless power over these waters.

The complaint asks a federal judge to declare the rule illegal and issue an injunction to prevent the agencies from enforcing it. It also asks the judge to order the agencies to draft a new rule that complies with the law and honors States’ rights.

A copy of the complaint is available at here.

Hate and American Domestic Terrorism

Today's Republican Party is so intimately tied to white supremacy as to be seamless, and there are plenty of bystanders.

African American church in South Carolina, Previously Burned Down by The KKK, Is on Fire, reads a headline (Legum, ThinkProgress). After Charleston, Black Churches Targeted by Arsonists Across the South (Covert, ThinkProgress) reads another. Police Investigating Fire at S.C. Black Church Once Burned Down by KKK (MacNeal, Talking Points Memo)

This is 2015 not 1958, but that's just chronology.

Hate lives on, the legacy of racial slavery lives on. "When the wolves of hate are loosed on one people, then no one is safe," writes Ralph McGill 56 years ago.

"Let us face the facts. This is a harvest. It is the crop of things sown," observes McGill castigating the cowardly preachers and politicians of his day after temple, schools and churches were bombed and burned.

From the Fitchburg, Wisconsin Common Council to Scott Walker to the Republican Party presidential candidates: Stop preaching hate now; and to the bystanders [that would be Fitchburg]: Get off your ass.

A Church, A School
Atlanta Constitution, Oct. 13, 1958

By Ralph McGill

Dynamite in great quantity ripped a beautiful temple of worship in Atlanta. It followed hard on the heels of a like destruction of a handsome high school at Clinton, Tenn. The same rabid, mad-dog minds were, without question, behind both. They are also the source of previous bombings in Florida, Alabama, and South Carolina. The schoolhouse and the church were the targets of diseased, hate-filled minds.

Let us face the facts. This is a harvest. It is the crop of things sown.

It is the harvest of defiance of courts and the encouragement of citizens to defy law on the part of many Southern politicians. It will be the acme of irony, for example, if any one of four or five Southern governors deplore this bombing. It will be grimly humorous if certain attorneys general issue statements of regret. And it will be quite a job for some editors, columnists, and commentators, who have been saying that our courts have no jurisdiction and that the people should refuse to accept their authority, now to deplore.

It is not possible to preach lawlessness and restrict it.

To be sure, none said go bomb a Jewish temple or a school. But let it be understood that when leadership in high places in any degree fails to support constituted authority, it opens the gates to all those who wish to take law into their hands.

There will be, to be sure, the customary act of the careful drawing aside of skirts on the part of those in high places. "How awful!" they will exclaim. "How terrible. Something must be done."

But the record stands. The extremists of the citizens' councils, the political leaders who in terms violent and inflammatory have repudiated their oaths and stood against due process of law, have helped unloose this flood of hate and bombing.

This too is a harvest of those so-called Christian ministers who have chosen to preach hate instead of compassion. Let them now find pious words and raise their hands in deploring the bombing of a synagogue.

You do not preach and encourage hatred for the Negro and hope to restrict it to that field. It is an old, old story. It is one repeated over and over again in history. When the wolves of hate are loosed on one people, then no one is safe.

Hate and lawlessness by those who lead release the yellow rats and encourage the crazed and neurotic who print and distribute the hate pamphlets - who shrieked that Franklin Roosevelt was a Jew - who denounce the Supreme Court as being Communist and controlled by Jewish influences.

This series of bombings is the harvest, too, of something else.

One of those connected with the bombing telephoned a news service early Sunday morning to say the job would be done. It was to be committed, he said, by the Confederate Underground.

The Confederacy and the men who led it are revered by millions. Its leaders returned to the Union and urged that the future be committed to building a stronger America. This was particularly true of General Robert E. Lee. Time after time he urged his students at Washington University to forget the War Between the States and to help build a greater and stronger union.

For too many years now we have seen the Confederate flag and the emotions of that great war become the property of men not fit to tie the shoes of those who fought it. Some of these have been merely childish and immature. Others have perverted and commercialized the flag by making the Stars and Bars, and the Confederacy itself, a symbol of hate and bombings.

For a long time now it has been needful for all Americans to stand up and be counted on the side of law and the due process of law - even when to do so goes against personal beliefs and emotions. It is late. But there is yet time.

Jun 30, 2015

America’s Long History of Racial Fear

By Stephen Kantrowitz

Calling [the June 17] shootings in Charleston a "tragedy" makes this explosion of murderous violence seem like an accident. It isn’t an accident. It is the legacy of an excruciating history that began with racial slavery and continued through the post-Civil War campaign to maintain white supremacy – a campaign that has persisted to the present day and which shapes how many white Americans think about and respond to black Americans.

At the heart of [the Charleston] violence is America’s history of chattel slavery, a labor system built on violence, in which all whites were effectively authorized to do violence to African Americans in order to keep them at work and prevent them from challenging their enslavement. But this brutal system also produced rebellions. Whites – even those who never owned a slave – lived with the fear that that racial order might be turned upside down, destroying everything that they held dear. In other words, whites attributed to blacks the same desire for domination that they themselves were exercising. It is no accident that the alleged shooter is reported to have said: “You rape our women and you’re taking over our country.”

The history of chattel slavery, upended in the Civil War, was followed by the history of Reconstruction, a moment during which America’s racial hierarchy was unsettled, and black people were able to claim a measure of political and civil equality. But the moment was a brief one. White conservatives all over the South, abetted by many white northerners, denounced the new interracial Southern governments as exactly the “world turned upside down” that they had feared during slavery. They overthrew those governments by force and fraud and set about reconstructing white supremacy as best they could without the law of slavery as a foundation.

The Reconstruction years thus gave way to another history: the continuing struggle by white supremacist activists to create and enforce Jim Crow’s exclusion, segregation, and lynching. This struggle took a lot of work, and it required that whites remain intensely fearful of blacks. One of the greatest victories of white supremacy in this era was to persuade whites that they confronted an epidemic of black men raping white women. Despite overwhelming evidence that this claim was unfounded (especially as revealed by Ida B. Wells-Barnett), the fantasy that predatory black men routinely victimized white women became the justification for lynching. Those fears may have run deepest in the South, where the great majority of the black population resided well into the twentieth century, but they found a home in the North and West as well.

As Jim Crow began to crack beneath the blows of the post-WWII black freedom movement, politicians drew on that history to sustain white racial domination. Scare campaigns against the Civil Rights Movement promised that civil and political equality would unleash black men’s alleged sexual ambitions and, once again, overturn a well-established racial hierarchy. The power and persuasiveness of those arguments helped explain the residential segregation and redlining across the North that lies at the heart of so many of today’s inequities. It lay behind the differential sentencing laws for powder and crack cocaine and undergirded the fearful discussion of “super-predators” in the 1980s and 1990s. It is still used to justify the overwhelmingly disproportionate police scrutiny, arrest, and conviction and incarceration of African Americans.

America’s long racial history of imagining blacks as fearsome, criminal, and bent on political and sexual domination has never gone away. This is not because the fantasy is real, but because it has played such a powerful role for hundreds of years. No wonder that it is so readily wielded as a weapon, whether through cynicism, ignorance, or ruthlessness. No wonder that its murderous version of history was so easy for Dylann Roof to find and embrace.

Dylan Roof’s murderous night is not simply a South Carolina tragedy. It is an expression and a consequence of American history – a history that the nation has hardly reckoned with, much less overcome.

--Stephen Kantrowitz is Vilas Distinguished Achievement Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the author of several books, including Ben Tillman and the Reconstruction of White Supremacy. (Chapter One, New York Times) (Book Review; Dew, New York Times)

[- Used with permission from author; from We're History -]

Jun 27, 2015

Scott Walker Implies He'll Try to Repeal Fourteenth Amendment


Even as couples cheer the historic Supreme Court win for marriage equality (Opoien, the Capital Times), Gov. Scott Walker said he's calling for a Constitutional Amendment that would repeal the right to marry acclaimed by the Court yesterday.

"The states are the proper place for these decisions to be made, and as we have seen repeatedly over the last few days, we will need a conservative president who will appoint men and women to the Court who will faithfully interpret the Constitution and laws of our land without injecting their own political agendas," Walker said in a statement. "As a result of this decision, the only alternative left for the American people is to support an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to reaffirm the ability of states to continue to define marriage." (Opoien, The Capital Times)

The statement provides more evidence that Scott Walker knows virtually nothing about the United States Constitution, an interesting state of affairs for a man who wants to be president.

The claims of equality by marriage equity advocates are so overwhelmingly supported by the Court in Obergefell v. Hodges, it is inescapable that the right to marry is now a fundamental liberty. (It was before.)

Scott Walker or anyone else cannot now wish away the fundamental liberties of marriage protected by the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses, cited by Justice Kennedy, without repealing the Fourteenth Amendment, a protector of individuals' rights against bigoted state government.

Walker's Constitutional Amendment would of course never pass.

But Walker's animus towards gays is the very irrational societal and state force from which Obergefell v. Hodges protects individuals' liberty.

Walker's proposed Constitutional Amendment, (I would love to read the language), is posturing for the bigoted vote, but Walker's proposal also reveals him as a rube on the eve of his announcement for his run for the Republican Party's nomination for the presidency

Such an Amendment would have to repeal the protections in the Fourteenth Amendment, namely the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses that as noted shield individuals from states and bigoted forces that would ban interracial unions and same-sex marriages. In fact, whole sections of the Constitution would have to be rewritten for Walker to achieve his stated objective to take away citizens' liberty and give it to the states.

"A first premise of the Court’s relevant precedents is that the right to personal choice regarding marriage is inherent in the concept of individual autonomy. This abiding connection between marriage and liberty is why Loving invalidated interracial marriage bans under the Due Process Clause," writes Kennedy.

Its no accident Justice Kennedy cited Loving v. Virginia (1967) numerous times throughout Obergefell.

In the sweeping win in Obergefell v. Hodges, the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses cited by Justice Kennedy make clear that the Constitution's fundamental rights apply with equal force to same-sex couples as for different-sex couples.

This fundamental right to marry cannot be destroyed by a state because political interests in the state hate gays, anymore than racists can anymore stop black folks from marrying.

"No longer may this liberty be denied," Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote for the majority in the historic decision. "No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were." (Liptak, New York Times)

Don't look for Scott Walker's idea of a Constitutional Amendment to advance, but Walker did manage to reveal himself an ignoramus from Wisconsin.