Dec 20, 2014

State Journal's Dee Halls Blows John Doe-GAB Piece

Wisconsin John Doe Statute
What is the Wisconsin State Journal (Madison, Wisconsin) newsroom doing to its reporter Dee Hall?

Hall is typically a solid and occasionally brilliant journalist but errs and misreports badly in today's Page One piece, "GAB didn't OK secret inquiry, records say."

Hall's reporting is uninformed, contrived and is constructed in the manner of a GOP operative's.

In fairness to Hall, uninformed reporting in Wisconsin on the John Doe probes of criminality associated with Scott Walker and his former staff is on a par of the low-grade journalism put out by Gannett Co. and Wisconsin's rightwing propaganda mill, the Wisconsin Reporter and other GOP organs.

The piece reports on the release of Government Accountability Board (GAB) documents, ordered by a Waukesha County judge at the request of rightwinger Eric O'Keefe of the extremist group, Wisconsin Club for Growth.

Writes Hall:
The state Government Accountability Board’s top officials proceeded with a secret probe into coordination between Gov. Scott Walker’s campaign and conservative political groups for months without authorization from the six retired judges who run the board, court records unsealed Friday allege.

The documents filed by a target of the investigation also allege that the board voted to end its involvement in the probe in July but that staff continued to work on it.

The records add ammunition to Republicans in the state Legislature seeking to overhaul or abolish Wisconsin’s elections and ethics watchdog agency.

Some corrections:

Target

There are no targets (ala federal grand juries and many other state grand jury systems) in Wisconsin John Doe proceedings until a probe determines individual(s) are to be criminally charged and served with a probable cause warrant.

Wisconsin John Doe probes investigate if and by whom crimes may have been committed when conflicts of interest, practical difficulties (such as stonewalling) and protection of privacy is judged imperative by a district attorney(s) and a supervising judge, per Wisconsin statute, who determine that reasonable suspicion of criminality merit further investigation in the above circumstances.

For Hall to refer to Mr. O'Keefe as a "target of the investigation" is an error in reporting, and one which furthers the GOP PR line that the John Doe probe is a "witch hunt" though the fact is the John Doe probe that has determined Scott Walker is at the center of a "criminal scheme" is being run by Wisconsin constitutional law enforcement officials who are publicly proclaimed to be Republican and Democratic, and who are sworn officers of the sovereign state of Wisconsin.

Knockdown

In the ninth graf, readers are treated to the knockdown by "David Deininger, the retired appeals court judge who chaired the board during the launching of the John Doe investigation, defended Kennedy and the GAB staff Friday."

"Deininger was skeptical about the assertions made in the complaint. He said he didn’t recall exactly when the board was made aware of the investigation, 'but something of this magnitude would have been brought to our attention at the earliest opening.'"

'They would know this would have been something the board needed to be up to speed on from the get-go,' Deininger said.

He also vouched for Kennedy and Becker, saying impartial administration of election laws was their 'modus operandi.'"

Deininger's quote demolishes Hall's piece and should have killed it.

Omission

Hall quotes Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) and another Republican without mentioning that Vos and the Republicans have already insisted publicly on direct gubernatorial appointments to the GAB, a partisan power grab of which Hall is certainly aware.

Hall opines "The records add ammunition to Republicans in the state Legislature seeking to overhaul or abolish Wisconsin’s elections and ethics watchdog agency," as though the proposed dismantling of the non-partisan agency has not been part of Republican machinations in the manner of Walker's appointments to the Wisconsin Judicial Commission in 2012, picked by a corporate lobbyist (Millhiser, ThinkProgress).

Tell me Hall could not get a jurist or elected officeholder to describe Vos' nonsense as a power grab on the record. Hall omits what is common knowledge of the GOP's aversion to the GAB or any independent agency that would hold GOP officials to account for criminality and corruption.

There's more, but Hall blew this piece, and the Republican Party of Wisconsin can celebrate the news columns of the Wisconsin State Journal once again.

Dec 18, 2014

Color-Brave Approach on Race Is Color-Stupid

Police reformer/humanist David Couper has a talk out today by Mellody Hobson worth a listen because Hobson, as do many progressives, makes the mistake of failing to acknowledge that race is a "dangerous myth" (Ashley Montagu) and racists are—at best—foolish.

The pseudoscience of 'investigation' of race as a scientific concept is making a comeback as the Republican Party needs its Nicholas Wades and Jason Richwines to present their finding that not only is racial classification significant in analyzing the phenomena of "race," but the races have different intellectual capacities and character inclinations that ought inform public policy.

Ms. Hobson proffers that in fighting racism we should be "color-brave" instead of "color-blind" because this topic is apparently uncomfortable to the racists and other know-nothings.

Gee, why would the white party of segregation, dehumanization, racism and anti-immigration need Wade and Richwine ("a disciple of Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray"), the Heritage Foundation and the resurgence of nineteenth century anthropology?

Ms. Hobson should consider the question; one hopes the answer is obvious.

Dec 17, 2014

Scott Walker Embarrasses with Foreign Policy Comments

Scott Walker offers foreign policy
insights on Cuba
With the news President Obama will "chart a new course in U.S. relations with Cuba that will engage and empower the Cuban people," Scott Walker offered his comments.

True to form, Scott Walker has already proven himself a lightweight and the 2016 campaign has not taken shape.

Said Walker on the new Cuba policy:

"I think it's a bad idea," the Republican governor told reporters in the Wisconsin state Capitol. "I don't think there's been any noticeable change toward making that a more free and prosperous country.

"No matter who the president is, no matter what party's in charge, consistently we've said in the past if you want to have a more normal relationship with the United States, you need to show you're committed to the same freedoms and rights that we have here in the United States," Walker said.

Asked if he believed Saudi Arabia was a free and open country and what he made of the United States' relationship with that country, Walker said: "They're making a few moves right now but those are things that can be easily altered, at least in terms of Cuba. In terms of Saudi Arabia, we haven't — those are things I guess folks at the federal level would ultimately have to comment on in terms of whether its consistency or not. The difference I think with Cuba is that's a policy the United States has had for some time. To change that, I think there has to be substantial change in terms of the positions that the Cuban government has." (Marley, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel) (emphasis added)

No, Scott Walker, you do not think.

Industrial Dairy Threatens America's Dairyland, U.S.

At some point in the near future look for the PR mavens of industrial agriculture to assert liquid cow and swine manure are good for you and your children and that pathogens are beneficial.

This is because of the ascendency of industrial agriculture model (concentrated agricultural feeding operation (CAFO)) and the somnambulistic nature of American political culture.

Watch this space next week for a particularly appalling account of poisoning from a CAFO from Wisconsin.

In the meantime, I recommend the following account of a massive liquid manure spill in Door County, the Cape Cod of the Midwest, by John Bobbe in the Wisconsin-based Cornucopia Institute (Dec. 15), and a story breaking that organic foods are not so organic in a comprehensive fraud investigation of CAFOs masquerading as organic small farmers, also appearing in the Cornucopia Institute (Dec. 11) revealing "... a systemic pattern of corporate agribusiness interests operating industrial-scale confinement livestock facilities providing no legitimate grazing, or even access to the outdoors, as required by federal organic regulations."

Dec 15, 2014

Scott Walker May Get Iowa, Then Drop Like a Concrete Block

Political prognosticator Charlie Cook says Scott Walker could be a "break-out star" in the January 2016 Iowa GOP caucuses, (Noble, Des Moises Register), along with other Midwestern governors, Mike Pence and John Kasich.

Not sure exactly what break-out star means but the Iowa GOP caucus attendees do love rightwing extremists who have virtually no chance of winning the presidency.

Just ask President Ron Paul (2012), President Rick Santorum (2012), President Mike Huckabee (2008), President Pat Robertson and Gary Bauer. You get the point.

DesmoinesDem of the Bleeding Heartland writes me: "I think Scott Walker has the potential to do very well in the Iowa caucuses. In fact, if I had to bet on any one candidate today, I would guess he has the best odds of winning the caucuses."

Unlike most of the Republican governors who are considering running for president, Walker hasn't taken any deal-breaker moderate positions, such as supporting Medicaid expansion (like John Kasich) or the DREAM Act (like Rick Perry)."

Good enough for one in four voters of the Wisconsin electorate as Walker has achieved, and good enough for the Iowa GOP caucuses is not the pinnacle from which a campaign produces a break-out star in modern presidential campaign history—just a push forward of the Republican Party's clown car.

Iowa Republicans being Iowa Republicans would give Wisconsin State Rep. Scott Krug (R-Nekoosa) respectable numbers and Krug, an inveterate liar and avid factory farm (CAFO) supporter (huge in Iowa), is so dull he makes the lightweight Scott Walker look like the intellectual equivalent of Noam Chomsky.

So, while Charlie Cook is right about Mike Pence and Scott Walker's prospects in Iowa, Cook may want to add that Iowa Republicans are not representative of the United States electorate.

Dec 14, 2014

Proposed Liquid Pig Manure in Lake Superior Spurs Opposition

Lake Superior Water Trail- Threatened by Proposed
Massive Factory Pig Farm CAFO
Bayfield and Ashland County Residents Are "Extremely Concerned"

Updated - "A proposal to establish a large-scale Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) in the Town of Eileen in Bayfield County is one step closer to being a reality now that Reicks View Family Farm LLC has officially purchased approximately 560.6 acres in the Town of Eileen for $1,237,500," reports Amber Mullen in the Ashland Daily Press (Wisconsin).

The proposed CAFO is the first CAFO proposed in far-Northern Wisconsin in a move that many fear is the beginning of a large-scale incursion of industrial agriculture into the region.

Opposition is already growing.

"We met in the Town of Bayfield yesterday. There were about 20 residents from Bayfield and Ashland counties, including a man with the Bad River Band. People are extremely concerned about the negative impact on their economy and their health and the life blood of their communities—Lake Superior—if this CAFO goes through," said Lynn Utesch of Kewaunee County and the clean water group, Kewaunee Cares.

The residence of the meeting in Bayfield is located about a half-mile from Lake Superior.

The Lake Superior Water Trail (LSWT)
is a network of mapped access points
and recreational resources along
Wisconsin’s Lake Superior. The CAFO
would be located in just southwest of the land
jutting out into Lake Superior on the upper-right.

Utesch made a 10-hour, round trip drive to Bayfield from Kewaunee County out of concern that the swine CAFO would devastate the pristine beauty of the area as has already happened to Kewaunee County located on Lake Michigan.

"The spray irrigation of liquid pig manure is an inherent practice of swine CAFOs," said Utesch. "The volatility of liquid swine manure and the ammonia smell, its range and the effects of this practice alone make this CAFO siting unthinkable. What this will do to the water is worse."

Any visitor to the far northern region would agree, but several workers of the hotel where Utesch stayed had no idea about the proposed CAFO siting.

Residents and Utesch hope to change this.

Dec 13, 2014

For All We Know

Woke up hearing this song and it lasted all day. Recorded by The Carpenters, in a sense among the most political bands because of their sincerity and the genuine aspirations for love.

Anyway always dug this song, For All We Know (Karlin, Royer and James):

Pig CAFO Farm Moves Forward—Sited Close to Lake Superior

Bayfield County Wisconsin - Future Home
of massive swine CAFO generating
millions of tons of liquid pig shit


Updated - In the annals of stupidity and greed, the proposed GTAC mine in Iron County (Wisconsin) will have to take a back seat to the proposed swine CAFO (concentrated agricultural feeding operation) in Bayfield County.

Bayfield County is the northern-most county in Wisconsin and juts into Lake Superior, site of pristine inland lakes and streams, and near the Chequamegon National Forest, the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, the Bad River watershed and Native American habitats in the ceded territory. [A legal challenge is expected on that basis of protected habitats in the ceded territory, a swath across northern Wisconsin.]

The Iowa-based Reicks Pig Farm LLC maintains the corporate farming model, and this model does not call for a show of hands or concern for the environment.

Corporate farming is predatory and devastating to the environment.

A County resolution for a 60-day planning moratorium of the swine operation failed this week. (Mullen, Ashland Daily Press (Wisconsin))

Scott Walker has given the go-ahead to virtually any type of devastation imaginable as Wisconsin's DNR is now a functional adjunct of the Republican Party of Wisconsin.

Those looking for a get-away to the great Northwoods, the Apostle Islands and Lake Superior soon are going to have try Minnesota and Michigan instead because the Reicks operation's corporate headquarters—located 300 miles south in Iowa—does not share the pedestrian environment and health concerns of northern Wisconsin that up to now has been spared the siting of CAFOs.

Welcome to Wisconsin: Open for Devastation and Pollution:

Dec 8, 2014

Is Lake Superior to Become Another Lake Erie

Updated - A massive swine (pig) Concentrated Agricultural Feeding Operation (CAFO) proposed in Bayfield County threatens a region known for its pristine inland lakes and streams, Chequamegon National Forest, and the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore in Lake Superior.

America's Dairyland is currently imperiled by the proliferation of Concentration Agriculturally Feeding Operations (CAFOs) mostly by massive dairy operations.

Now, Big Ag is taking aim at the Northwood's region of Wisconsin, specifically Bayfield County, proposing a 560-acre swine CAFO in the Township of Eileen, next to Ashland County and some 15 miles from Lake Superior.

The University of Wisconsin Extension held a workshop last week to inform residents of the health and environmental risks of the proposed swine CAFO, as well as the weak state regulatory framework of CAFOs, although reportedly not described as being weak. (Mullen, Ashland Daily Press (Wisconsin))

Writes Joshua Yelle, (Western Illinois University) in an unpublished paper citing Dr. John Ikerd's The Inevitable Economic, Ecological, and Social Consequences of CAFOs:

The environmental damages that CAFOs have caused are nearly impossible to put into a numerical figure that the average individual would be able to grasp and comprehend. The primary detrimental effects that CAFOs produce consist of water pollution, air pollution, animal welfare concerns and the mismanagement of waste. EPA findings have suggested that waste generated by CAFOs have polluted over 35,000 miles of river and contaminated groundwater in 17 states (Ikerd). Pollution on a large scale such as this cannot be blamed on just individual CAFOs but is actually the result of irresponsible management across an entire industry which has a documented past of reckless pollution and disregard for environmental concerns in general.
Disregard for environmental concerns describes Wisconsin under the Scott Walker administration that has gutted the state's own Department of Natural Resources as a functioning regulatory body.

The question for residents and businesses up in northern Wisconsin is: Will this area relying on tourism and the pristine quality of the region as a value in itself allow the area and another Great Lake to be devastated like Lake Erie and Lake Michigan in Kewaunee and Door counties by not stopping this proposed CAFO owned by the Iowa-based Reicks View Family Farm LLC. (Family farm name is a sick irony.)

Just a small family farm Reicks would have you believe, a farmer that would make a walk up to Bayfield County every morning. Here is a link to their "values."

Many Big Ag owners try to escape even the weak regulatory apparatus by owning 999 animals, one less than the 1,000-animal necessary for an operation to be a state-sanctioned CAFO.

The future for America's Dairyland looks bleak as the Walker administration calls for more production and less regulation in its 30x20 initiative.

Said Gordon Stevenson, runoff chief for the DNR (2001-2011):

"Manure management is essentially the same as it has been since the Middle Ages; untreated manure is disposed on untreated on the landscape. We have already seen severe public health consequences from these practices and I am certain that we will see more. Much of Wisconsin’s environmental protection efforts with agriculture center on nutrient management planning. Many of my former colleagues have labored long and hard to persuade farmers to adopt the NRCS 590 Nutrient Management Standard. The problem is that 590 is not a water quality standards, it as an agronomic standard that seeks to optimize crop production. Plus evaluation of a farmer’s compliance with that standard is somewhere between difficult and impossible."

Consider the Parable of Smithfield Foods. In 1936, a family built a small hog slaughtering and packing plant in Smithfield, Virginia. Their products were very good, the plant grew and town of Smithfield came to be known as the Ham Capital of the World. During the 1980s, the company vertically integrated. In plain English, that means they not only owned the processing facilities, but they figured out that if they controlled the production of hogs as well as processing they could be more profitable. By the end of 1998, Smithfield owned not only multiple packaging plants but 460 large hog farms and had contracts with 2,100 other pork producers 12 states. Smithfield Foods had become the number one pork producer in the United States and was growing internationally.  They continued to grow, aggregating the assets of American pork production into larger and fewer blocks. Next time you go shopping, checkout the pork products. You will see labels like Morrell, Farmland, Armour and others. Smithfield owns all of those companies and multiple others. On September 26, 2013, Smithfield Foods and all of its holdings were sold to another company for $7.1 billion. [Bittman, NYT] The name of the company is Shuanghui International Holdings Limited.[Shuanghui changed its name this year to the: WH Group (BusinessWeek)]

"Yes, a company from the People’s Republic of China now owns 26 percent of all of the assets of the American pork industry. This is the largest single Chinese purchase to date of American assets. China has successfully established an offshore economic colony on American soil. Let’s leave Virginia and Beijing and return to Wisconsin. We have dairy CAFOs in Wisconsin that are in the process of aggregating the assets of Wisconsin’s dairy industry into larger and fewer blocks. Any of those blocks can be bought and sold. I don’t believe I need to spell out why I told you the Parable of Smithfield Foods."

Big Ag could not care less about the health of the Great Lakes. Big Ag owned by China even less so.

Dec 6, 2014

Citizen Ystad: CAFOs Threaten Tourism, Golf Resort and Tax Revenue

Proposed Massive Golden Sands Dairy,
 in Adams and Wood Counties, Wisconsin
"In centrally located Adams County, (property) values tumbled 20.3 percent, the most of any county in the state," according to a Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance report released in August. (Carlson, Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune.)

In Wood County, property values stayed flat.

Because tourism, recreation and lake homes are abundant in the region, the Taxpayers Alliance's report was troubling to area residents, many of whom blame the proposed massive Concentrated Agricultural Feeding Operation (CAFO) by the Wysocki corporation.

Even as construction of a proposed multi-course Sand Valley Golf Resort is proceeding (Lawder, Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune) and an area hotel is planned, existing CAFOs and the Wysocki CAFO would exceed the "carrying capacities" of the central sands to absorbs the 10s of millions of liquid cow manure, said Gordon Stevenson, former runoff management chief for the DNR (2001-2011), in an August interview here.

The public posture of Michael Keiser Jr. who is running point on the resort project is effectively let's see how one course does and decide how to proceed on that basis.

The threat to surface water and aquifers by CAFOs still has many in the area shaking their heads because they see the successful operation of Sand Valley and the proposed massive CAFO as mutually exclusive.

Put another way, residents fear that the 10s of millions of pathogen-laden liquid cow manure and liquid cow manure lagoons that would dot the region do not mix well with the proposed high-end golf resort.

An open letter to Gov. Scott Walker from Don Ystad, retired business consultant, resident of Rome and opponent of the Wysocki CAFO proposal follows.
---
Governor Walker,

Think about the recent reports of the E Coli poisoning of a visiting family in Door County just a few weeks ago and the negative effect on Door County tourism if this persists. The E Coli strain was tied to cow manure, not surprising since 30% of drinking water wells are unusable because of high nitrate levels in neighboring Kewaunee County where there are 15 dairy CAFOs. This is a dangerous trend for our tourism economy, not to mention the health and well being of our citizens and visitors. As a citizen of Rome facing the possibility of an 8,000 acre, 5,130 cow dairy CAFO right next door in Saratoga, I'm concerned for our future. As a community with a healthy and vibrant recreational tourism industry based around our existing lakes, Arrowhead golf courses, Tri-Norse ski jumping facility, Dyracuse ATV park, new Wisconsin Trapshooters state facility and now the Sand Valley Golf Resort, will we face the same future with drinking water wells polluted and our visitors sickened by agricultural runoff?

Coming from a dairy farming family, I support the reasonable growth of family farms. But Rome and neighboring Saratoga are population-dense, existing communities with a solid history of commerce as an established residential/recreational area providing revenue to Wisconsin's tourism industry. Adams County ranks 15th in tourism revenue in Wisconsin and the Rome/Saratoga area contributes $20 million annually to area businesses. The Town of Rome contributes nearly a third of the total tax revenue to Adams County. Allowing an 8,000 acre dairy CAFO to insert itself within this existing recreational community can only lead to our decline. Your intervention is needed to preserve these communities and allow tourism revenue to grow as Sand Valley Golf Resort attracts visitors from around the country.

Thanks,

Don Ystad

Dec 3, 2014

Mega-Factory Farms Threaten Wisconsin Waters, Bayfield County Now Eyed

Bayfield County, Wisconsin - Proposed
site of new CAFO that would vector millions
of tons of liquid cow manure into Lake Superior
A water-polluting CAFO is planned in Bayfield County in Wisconsin's most northern county that juts out into Lake Superior (Mullen, The Daily Press), the massive Great Lake that will absorb much of the liquid cow manure discharges with predictably tragic consequences

Corporate 'CAFO' entities have largely replaced the small family farm in America's Dairyland with catastrophic consequences.

Pathogens in millions of tons of liquid cow manure annually are being vectored into Wisconsin rivers, lakes and aquifers and the solution by the Scott Walker administration and his Big Ag campaign funders is to accelerate the destruction.

Wisconsin is approaching the point where swimming in rivers and lakes will become an exercise in risking your very health as the carrying capacities of liquid cow manure in major geologic regions in central and eastern Wisconsin have been exceeded with severe contamination of drinking water.

The abandonment of beaches on Lake Michigan in the summer is now common in northeastern Wisconsin as Ecoli and other pathogens make the tourism and recreation industry of Wisconsin imperiled and health concerns from the water in Kewaunee County has become so bad that a full one of three tested water wells are too contaminated to draw safe drinking water and parents have to use bottled water for such simple family concerns as washing out a child's scrape or minor cut.

This week the news is more alarming as Scott Walker has rewarded his campaign special interests by firing the eminent George Kraft, Professor of Water Resources and Director of the Center for Watershed Science and Education at UW-Stephens Point from the Wisconsin Groundwater Coordinating Council, and replaced Dr. Kraft with Stephen Diercks, a Big Ag honcho, a special interest that rewarded Walker with $Millions. (The Political Environment)

Meanwhile, with massive Concentrated Agricultural Feeding Operations (CAFOs) proliferating, the northern part of Wisconsin has been spared the siting of CAFOs partially because of protected national forests.

Last month comes news that a CAFO is planned in Bayfield County (Town of Eileen) in Wisconsin's most northern county that juts out into Lake Superior (Mullen, The Daily Press), the massive Great Lake that will absorb much of the liquid cow manure discharge with predictably tragic consequences.

Educational and clean water groups are mobilizing and establishing allies with other clean water activists as the political conspiracy of silence is leading to the great waters of Wisconsin becoming dangerous and polluted as Big Ag pockets the money in exchange for the health of our grandchildren's clean and safe water and the bagging of money via Big Ag by Wisconsin politicians led by Scott Walker as he sounds off about running for president.

Dec 2, 2014

Time to Name the Names and State the Facts—Racism Is Alive and Virulent

Came across a Facebook posting by a former exec director of a Madison, Wisconsin non-profit praising the cop who hugged a young black man at a protest against racism on the west coast.

Couldn't resist noting that a simple act of kindness and decency by a white cop treated as extraordinary indicates much about our political culture and it isn't good.

Certainly hugging young black and brown men is eminently preferable to shooting them to death or throwing them in prison but that this 'let's move forward' reaction to the murder in Ferguson gaining currency in some white liberal circles is appalling.

As Natasha Hakimi Zapata writes in The Guardian and Truthdig: Why That Moving Photo of a Cop Hugging a Boy at a Ferguson Protest Is Bullshit.

Writes Zapata:
Like a supermarket Christmas ad, this photograph taken at a Ferguson protest in Portland, Oregon, feasts on a moment of truce and peace amid the anger. What nonsense. It is one moment among many, and the choice to look at it and celebrate it is clearly a choice to be lulled by cotton candy. It has got more than 400,000 Facebook shares. Each one of those shares is a choice of what to see and what not to see. In the context of the completely unresolved and immensely troubling situation, not just in Ferguson but across the United States, where Ferguson has opened wounds that go back centuries, this picture is a blatant lie.
This is a lie.

But there is truth in the 100s of protests across the United States.

In arguably the most brilliant piece on a political news show, the Lawrence O'Donnell Show, I have ever seen. The St. Louis district attorney's office has two prosecutors who should be investigated for misconduct for their affront to justice and law during the grand jury proceedings.

In Ron Kuby's piece in in the New York Daily News.

From the U.S DoJ and White House.

And in the hearts and minds of 10s of millions of Americans, not among them the Republican Party that relies on racism as a foundation.

Racism is an American as apple pie and its staying power over the bodies and lives of minority Americans remains an outrage.

Nov 27, 2014

Hope for the Innocent

Who killed Sarah?
Update: "Police clearly had 'tunnel vision' in building a case against Penny, another common feature in wrongful convictions. Witness David Zoromski, who reported seeing a suspicious man standing by the open passenger door of a parked pickup truck exactly where Sarah's body was later found, was told by a Dane County Sheriff's Deputy, 'What you saw is all very interesting, but we have a suspect and it doesn't fit.' The man seen by Mr. Zoromski matched the description of the person Penny said she saw Sarah talking to near the Taco Bell at East Washington Avenue and North Oak Street in Madison, after she dropped her off that night. Police identified him and knew he was a convicted felon with a long history of violence toward women -- but they never followed up on this lead."
- From Who Killed Sarah - To support this innocent woman.
---
An innocent women, Penny Brummer, sits in the Taycheedah Correctional Institution located just outside Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, convicted of first degree murder in 1994.

One problem among many with the case is that there is no physical evidence connecting Brummer to the murder of Sarah Gonstead, no murder weapon, and no witnesses. And no motive.

The case is an array of contrived theories, conjecture, and unadulterated bigotry predicated upon the fact that Brummer is a lesbian, hence the murderer of Gonstead (Berry and Berry, Who Killed Sarah?).

Penny Brummer is serving a life sentence for first-degree murder after being convicted on circumstantial evidence, a sentence handed down with apparent joy by former Dane County (Wisconsin) Judge Patrick Fiedler, now a partner with Axley Brynelson, LLP, after several decades of prosecutorial work in service to the Republican Party and his career.

Fiedler should never have allowed the trial to continue with the paucity of evidence presented.

But Fiedler is not known as a human rights activist, just a GOP hack who is making a lot of money over the lives of victims of the sick judiciary.

"They didn't look at (Penny), they just looked at it as let's get another gay person off the street," said Nancy Brummer, Penny's mother (Pabich, WMTV).

A few years back, Madison writer Bill Lueders visited Brummer at Taycheedah.

"Something's got to happen. God's not going to let me sit here for something I didn't do. I feel he's guiding somebody out there to help me," Lueders wrote, quoting Penny Brummer.

Not God, certainly not former Dane County Sheriff Rick Raemisch (1990-1997), now passing himself off as a prison reformer in Colorado (Goode, NYT).

Raemisch used the occasion of WMTV's piece (Pabich) on the Wisconsin Innocence Project's effort (following work by Wisconsin's Innocence Consultants) to exonerate Brummer to offer this lame, conscience-free statement: "We can place the suspect and the victim in the west end of Dane County at the time the suspect says the victim was being dropped off." (WMTV)

That's compelling. Wonder how this logical wizard, Raemisch, sleeps at night.

DNA Testing Ongoing

Fortunately, the Innocence Project is expecting more results of ongoing DNA analysis soon.

Reports WMTV's Pabich: "The DNA results are expected in the next few months. We (spoke) with the foreman of the jury that convicted Penny. He says he didn't want to talk about the situation 20 years ago and doesn't want to now. I did ask him if he still stands by the decision they made 20 years ago. He said that's a really difficult question."

Dane County DA's Office and Cause for Hope

The current Dane County District Attorney is Ismael Ozanne, and the office is now (to my mind) guided by facts and justice.

Ozanne has made public statements that his office will cooperate with the Innocence Project.

This is an unusual commitment by district attorneys in wrongful conviction cases.

In light of the growing prison-industrial complex of American society and case after case of innocents behind bars, I asked Ozanne point blank when he was running for Attorney General, "how much does the imprisonment of an innocent weigh on you?"

Ozanne's response is a source of hope for Penny Brummer: "No prosecutor should want to have innocent people who have been wrongfully convicted stay in prison. If evidence is brought to the attention of the authorities demonstrating that a mistake has been made, the interests of justice demand that the evidence is carefully reviewed and the individual should be released if exonerated. As Dane County District Attorney, I have worked with lawyers from the Innocence Project, and will do so in the future. While these decisions are largely at the discretion of the DAs around the state, I would work with them as attorney general, providing resources and advice in these situations. The ultimate goal of the system is not simply to secure convictions, it is to do justice."

The most recent piece by WMTV did not interview DA Ozanne but if he lives up to the above statement, he would be working with the Innocence Project to review the case against Brummer, and with new DNA evidence free her.

Any decent human being ought to hope for justice; Penny Brummer can only pray and wait.