Saturday, October 1, 2011

Real-life effects of WIS GOP on education

Now that the rhetoric has died down regarding Walker's union-busting here in Wisconsin, here's how it has affected me--a teacher--my students, and my school. 

The moment Walker's Act 10 took effect, my school board froze salaries, changed the upcoming school calendar (which had been agreed upon with the union a couple months earlier), canceled already scheduled, out-of-school-day continuing education for its staff, created a grievance procedure that is, in effect, settled by the district superintendent or a district-selected third party, instituted health care changes without real input from the insured, and, as of yet, six weeks into the school year, has not provided a handbook with conditions of employment to its teachers.

Despite Walker's declarations that districts will save money (despite state funding cuts), our district has eliminated some aide positions, sacrificed some curriculum updating, and reduced staff development opportunities.

As a result of district changes, my teaching time has increased, my prep time has decreased, and there are new policies to provide more and daily information on student progress and lessons (the added "transparency" will take me an estimated 30+ minutes per day, with no apparent link to improving student learning).  There are less services for students requiring additional reading help, and no specific plans or staff for students demonstrating severe behavioral problems.

My salary, including new health care deductibles as well as pension and health care payments, is down about 10%, while new state mandates require more actual work in the classroom including more identification, specific work with, and documentation for students who are below level.

Some parents, now that our state government has led the way in calling teachers (or their representatives) greedy, slobs, and thugs, voice similar opinions.  I documented in an earlier post parents cursing and hurling insults at teachers as we walked down the street in our town in a show of non-confrontational solidarity. When the local parent-teacher group's budget revealed a thank you gift for teachers at Christmastime, one parent rolled her eyes and said, "You've got to be kidding me."

And upcoming changes (should we ever be provided a handbook), will very possibly include a "pool of money" for teacher salaries, from which the subjectively determined "better" teachers will score more than their subjectively-judged "lesser" peers.  For all the district initiatives and admonitions to promote collaboration, pitting colleague against colleague for their wages certainly doesn't seem like a very collaborative or efficient or wise thing to do.

Lastly, I have been advised by a third party consultant that continuing a blog reporting my district's policies or providing criticism of state government policies so ardently backed by the locals--and identifying myself with my real name, background, or photo--could actually come back to haunt me in terms of disciplinary action (now that I may no longer have a union).

And all these individual concerns don't even include the low-income families here that are affected by cuts to programs they may utilize, or those that may not be able/willing to vote because of new voter ID laws, or a government that changes laws to suit personal agendas or kowtow to businesses at the expense of those in need, or changes in environmental policies that affect everyone's quality of life, or the deep and abiding breach of trust between a people and its elected government.

I'm unsure whether I will continue this blog.  If so, it will be under an assumed name (as advised by the previously mentioned consultant).  There are many wonderful blogs out there fighting this good fight, and I have yet to determine, with the added responsibilities and scrutiny of my job, if I have the ability to do this justice.  Until then, my state senator Grothman is still (as I have termed him before) a major d-bag, and my governor is still a liar.

Thanks for visiting over the last year.

And recall Walker.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Bad time for Bad/No Internet

Personal note: I'm having trouble finding reliable Internet service where I'm at to adequately research and post new info on this blog.  Until my next post, please continue to visit lefty blogs-Wisconsin and the scores of pro-Wisconsin sites as we count down to Senate recalls later this summer.  Thanks.  --Curt (Teacher in Cheeseland)

Monday, June 20, 2011

Predicting WI's future: GOP's b.s. claim--Vouchers work!

At this time next year, Wisconsin's Republicans will shout from the rooftops, "SEE?!!  Vouchers work!"  The numbers may look that way, but it will merely be more incredible spin from the right to their incredibly gullible backers.

Don't believe it.  It's garbage--just a natural function of the way Walker has carefully crafted the state's new private school voucher system.  Voucher (choice) school scores will go up, and public school scores will go down, but the Republicans will build their case by ignoring three vital factors.

1) Vouchers were originally set up to provide economically-disadvantaged students the chance to attend private schools, and theoretically, receive a better educational fit than they could from a public school. Results show that students from such disadvantaged backgrounds have performed much lower academically than their non-disadvantaged peers.  Compared to similarily disadvantaged students (those that receive free or reduced lunch) in public schools, choice school students generally performed the same or worse than their public school counterparts on state tests in 2010-11, the first year choice schools were even required to take the same assessments. Now, with an unlimited number of Racine and Milwaukee students from more economically-sound homes able to use vouchers thanks to new state budget provisions (the income level requirement for a family of four went from $39,111 to $74,050, if headed by a married couple), such students will tend to skew the results upward, while economically-disadvantaged students--the students in most need--will still founder. 

2) In 2010-11, about 20% of the student population of Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) had special needs.  During that same year, voucher schools in Milwaukee self-reported that 1.6% (that's one-point-six) of their students had special needs.  A lawsuit from the ACLU details these discrepencies, as well as includes alleged examples of private schools dissuading students with special needs from attending their schools.  Theoretically, then, private voucher schools can more likely cherry-pick the students that would do well in their schools, and more easily rid themselves of students that don't make the grade (including behaviorally-and cognitively-challenged children).  And, based on my conversations with private voucher school personnel, they do just that.

3) Because of additional resources and personnel required, students with special needs require more money to educate than do their peers.  With private voucher schools having fewer such students, and public schools having their large numbers of the same, thanks to Walker's budget, public education is expected to lose $1.68 billion in revenue authority and $835 million in state school aid over the next two years, according to the Dept. of Public Instruction and the Legislative Fiscal Bureau.  That means much less money for public schools, while still being required to provide more services than private voucher schools.  Do the math.  Which schools do you think have a fair shot at improving their test scores? 

An excellent example of the challenges that are faced even in urban-based, private voucher schools appears in Sunday's Journal Sentinel via Alan Borsuk. The article details the troubles at CEO Leadership Academy in Milwaukee, a private voucher (choice) school that seems to have a lot going for it--including the guiding hand of big-time choice advocate and former MPS Superintendent Howard Fuller.  Real-world circumstances in students' lives at CEO make large-scale success difficult.  So much so, the private voucher school will become a charter school , authorized by Milwaukee city government, and thus increasing its yearly per-student voucher payment from $6442 to $7445, because more funds are needed to try to effectively reach these students.

These problems don't even cover not having state-directed curriculum, employing teachers without teaching certification (they just need Bachelor's degrees--sect. 119.23-- with no training in teaching methods or the study of how children learn), requiring no educator background checks, dividing community by diminishing the importance of a neighborhood public school, and the possibility that Walker's veto pen (or his Legislature's backdoor dealings) will surreptitiously include even more cities in this attempt to destroy public education and, most vile of all, put disadvantaged urban youths at even more disadvantage.

More funding will be taken from public schools and given to private schools through the voucher program. State Superintendent Tony Evers calls such expansion of the voucher system "morally wrong."

And it is.

But, mark my words, next year, Wisconsin Republicans will say vouchers work.  And it may seem that way.

But not to the kids who need it most.


Photo from FoxNews

Thursday, June 16, 2011

WI GOP Senate: Dissing the Dems, education, and "forsaking" the next generation

Like ducks at a shooting gallery, Democratic amendments to the Walker budget--this time in the Senate--are being shot down one after another (watch the carnage at WisEye.org).   Yesterday (and early this morning) Assembly Democrats went 0 for about 40 in getting any amendments into the budget.  Now it's the Senate's turn.  So far, the first amendment (read highlights here), which included repealing provisions that loosen child labor laws, was tabled by GOP Senators.

It was the second amendment, though, that brought the declarations of Sen. Robert Jauch (D-Poplar) that as far as responsibly educating the next generation the Republican majority was "forsaking them, forgetting them," calling the Republican plan the "most anti-education budget" in the history of the state.

Instead of the unfathomable $800+ million cuts to education, the second amendment asked for repeal of expansion of choice/vouchers, restoring $356 million to K-12 funding, repealing elimination of funding for programs dealing with students with gifted and talented needs as well as numerous other useful and successful educational grants and programs.  Jauch provided examples from rural districts in which the educational gap will widen as a result of the new budget. He also suggested that $250+ million in corporate tax breaks could be better used in educating the children of people working in those corporations.

Jauch called out fellow Senator Alberta Darling (R-River Hills), saying she claims to have never voted for an anti-education budget, but, in essence, she was doing it up big time today.

Sen. Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee) pointed out that with such cuts to education, Milwaukee would stand to lose $182 million, with none of Walker's "tools" to fix it because Milwaukee's teachers and elected officials came to their contractual agreement even before Scott Walker became governor.  Taylor claimed (and I can't see how anyone could dispute it), "We're setting up failure for the largest school district in the state."

Jauch said the amendment would counter the budget provisions that he termed, "Anti-public education, anti-teacher, and anti-Wisconsin values."

And then the GOP shot it down.

Info and quotes from Wis Eye Assembly Bill 40  televised debate, 6/16/11\

AMENDMENT UPDATE:
#3--Repeal changes to Badger/Family/SeniorCare: SHOT DOWN
#4--Increase transparency, reduce political appointees: SHOT DOWN
#5--Restore funding for commuity services: SHOT DOWN
#6--Increase funding for busing, pedestrian and bike projects: SHOT DOWN
#7--Restore funding for environmental issues (inc. recycling): SHOT DOWN
 #8--Repeal collective bargaining changes: SHOT DOWN
Visit the WisPolitics Budget Blog for great amendment summaries/updates

(10 PM): SENATE PASSES BUDGET (no amendments)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Unbelievable quotes from yet another unbelievable WI day

With Wisconsin's Supreme Court giving the go-ahead for the gutting of collective bargaining, there were plenty of unbelievable things popping out of the mouths of those in Madison on Tuesday.

"We conclude," reads the majority decision of the State Supreme Court's ruling on the collective bargaining bill, "that the Legislature did not violate the Wisconsin Constitution by the process it used." 
Rep. Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) said, "The majority of the Supreme Court is essentially saying that the Legislature is above the law."  And Barca's right.  Lower courts (including that which is presided over by Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi) were presented with evidence and had already said, "Yeah, you broke the open meetings law."  And for those that purport Sumi was merely advancing her own agenda, why would she have said the same bill could be passed immediately--with no questions--if the Republicans just posted the meeting properly and took another vote?  Or why would she have dismissed other cases against the bill's passage?

Rep. Jeff Fitzgerald (Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald's kid brother) said, "We didn't violate any rules.  We upheld the Constitution all the way through..." 
Maybe the Supreme Court agrees with you, Representative, but certainly Republicans violated the spirit of the law. Even the Walker-backing Milwaukee Journal Sentinel said in an earlier editorial that the Republican argument to the Supreme Court was "bizarre"--that even locked doors with but one member of the public as witness constituted an open meeting.  As was the meeting decried by the Walker-backing Wisconsin State Journal.

Alberta Darling weighed in with her latest version of "Here's why I should be recalled," by laying the mess in Madison on Sumi and not the Republicans: "(Sumi) stepped all over the people of Wisconsin.  You think of all the chaos and discord that's gone on in this Capitol as the result of her decision...To me, it was despicable."
Um, excuse me, Senator?  The chaos was called by Sumi's action? Not by Republicans stripping collective bargaining? Not by Republicans cutting funding to schools and social programs? Not by Republicans courting business in Wisconsin at the expense of its people?

Perhaps the most remarkable came in the written declaration of Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson, pointedly directed at her majority-voting colleagues: (from JS Online):
... the majority has "reached a predetermined conclusion not based on the facts and the law, which undermines the majority's ultimate decision."  The majority justices "make their own findings of fact, mischaracterize the parties' arguments, misinterpret statutes, minimize (if not eliminate) Wisconsin constitutional guarantees, and misstate case law, appearing to silently overrule case law dating back to at least 1891."
In other words, she's accusing her colleagues of neglecting the proper execution of their duties--very strong words from the State's Chief Justice.  I'm guessing she wouldn't have uttered those words unless she had sound basis to do so.  For even more of Abrahamson's criticism, visit the Wisconsin State Journal article here.

Unbelievable.  And we're only six months into Walker's regime. Hopefully, it's halfway over.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Surprise! UPDATE:Supreme Court doesn't care whether open meetings were violated; budget repair is law

Fox 6 Milwaukee read from the statement of the Court (I guess that's what it was) that Republicans did NOT violate the open meetings law (Please see FINAL UPDATE below) --so I guess the collective bargaining bill is law.  Gosh, who'dathunk the WI Supreme Court (aka David Prosser and the Conservatives) would have ruled that way?

FINAL UPDATE: I'm not changing all the subsequent "Updates" here (to keep the integrity of what I've already posted, such as it is), but there obviously was some confusion about the Court's actions among a lot of sources.  As it stands right now, it appears that the Courts did say the committee of legislators was NOT subject to open meetings laws, making Sumi's actions (and those of any lower court) void. (JS Online)

UPDATE 1: The law was upheld because the Court said Sumi did not have authority to void it, so it will go into effect.  However, it still seems pretty evident that the Republicans likely violated the open meetings law, but, unfortunately, the Court didn't even consider that. 

Since the process of the bill's passage into law still is still sullied because of the undecided open meetings question (which actually Sumi said there was a violation), it makes it all the more laughable to read the hot air of Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald: "We've been saying since day one that Republicans passed the budget repair bill correctly, so frankly this isn't much of a surprise. We followed the law when the bill was passed, simple as that." (Wisconsin State Journal). 

Yeah, keep telling yourself that, Fitzgerald.


UPDATE, PART 2: It seems even the Court has trouble making a clear decision. 

From the Wisconsin State Journal:  The court, however, declined to step into the dispute over whether the March 9 conference committee meeting violated the state's open meetings law, leaving it to the Legislature to set its own rules.
"In the posting of notice that was done, the Legislature relied on its interpretation of its own rules of proceeding," the court wrote. "The court declines to review the validity of the procedure used to give notice of the joint committee on conference."

From WisPolitics: A brief description on the court's site said the court concluded the Legislature did not violate a provision in the Wisconsin Constitution that the doors of each house shall be open except when public welfare requires secrecy.

From JS Online: The court found a committee of lawmakers was not subject to the state's open meetings law, and so did not violate that law when they hastily approved the measure and made it possible for the Senate to take it up.

I'm sure it will be all sorted out, but it still smells.  There are numerous challenges outstanding against the collective bargaining law, including "bad faith" negotiating claims (which Walker knows something about  from his days as Milwaukee County Exec).  It's a long way from over.

Monday, June 13, 2011

More slime from WI GOP: Call for "extraordinary session"

For only the tenth time (and the first since 1993), Wisconsin's Legislature will be meeting in "extraordinary session," this time to pass Walker's state budget.  Extraordinary session, according to the State Legislative Reference Bureau can be called by the Legislature to "focus its attention on specific legisltion it wants to expedite." 

And there's nothing the Republicans would love to do more than get this business-loving, people-hating budget passed (including, it now looks like, Walker's stripping of collective bargaining) before they could lose the Senate majority following this summer's recall elections.  In extraordinary session, regular rules can be suspended, and according to Rep. Mark Pocan (see Pocan's YouTube explanation in yesterday's post), debate and amendments can be limited, and Democracy, really, is stomped on.  Senate Chief Clerk Rob Marchant, however, says it would neither limit amendments or debate, but would allow quick preliminary approval from each house on the same day, and then only require a simple majority, instead of two-thirds, to advance the bill.  Regardless, this budget does not seem to require emergency-type passage.

 Assistant Assembly Minority Leader Donna Seidel (D-Wausau) said she was concerned about the use of the extraordinary session to pass the budget. “It appears to be part of their strategy that anything can happen and anything can be rushed through with little or no scrutiny,” she said (JS Online).

Yeah, it sure does look like that, doesn't it?

You can read a great summary of the "Budget Basics" from DefendWisconisn.org (thanks to Solidarity Wisconsin). Or, if you're well-versed in politispeak, you can review the entire budget here (thanks to Steve Hanson at Uppity Wisconsin).

Protestors will be out in force.  My union, WEAC, is calling for membership to join protests  (11AM on the Capitol Square and 5:30 PM at State Street corner) of a budget that includes severe cuts to education, local government, the environment, and the poor.

Oh, yeah, and collective bargaining.

Extraordinarily power-hungry, greedy, and compliant Republican legislators call for an extraodinary session.  Come to think of it, I guess that's not so extraordinary at all.

For an extraordinarily detailed and informative site about all things budgetary, check out the Wisconsin Budget Project (thanks to Becky and Mark for the link)

Sunday, June 12, 2011

More GOP dirty tricks on tap as WI budget looms?

It promises to be a busy week in our state capital.  Perhaps even "extraordinary" (more on that later) as Walker's budget comes to the floor. Walker's right-hand puppet and chief alarmist, Administration Secretary Michael Huebsch (the man behind the collective bargaining bill) told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel last week, "We are anticipating, we are preparing for the height of what we saw in the early part of March. A mass crowd that actually rushed the Capitol." Huebsch continued, "I am preparing for that. I hope we never get to that again."

The protests have been honest reaction to dishonest practice.  And that about which Huebsch espouses would not happen without things such as illegal meetings, legislation passed in the middle of the night, content of bills not shared (with the populace or even with other legislators, for goodness sakes).  The people of Wisconsin are too intelligent, too dedicated, too rooted in the tradition of fairness throughout our state's history not to protest against injustice.

But it sounds like the Republicans may reach into their bag of dirty tricks again, through something called "extraordinary session," in which normal channels of debate and legislative process can be circumvented to rush through legislation. Here's the Friday video blog of State Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Madison) with a great explanation (thanks to Jenny at WEAC's facebook):


So don't worry Mike Huebsch, there will be protests, just as there were several dozen protestors at a Walker business schmooze on Friday, just as dozens of souls camp in Walkerville every night in our capital.  How intense those protests will be, however, I think will pretty much depend on you and your friends, especially if they put in collective bargaining restrictions.

You know, it's possible the protests just may be extraordinary.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

A different take on Walker's GOP

Introducing a new page here at MisLeading Wisconsin: Not Necessarily the Blog, a satirical, “Onion”-like feature about our friends in Madison.  The page tagline is “The first paragraph is actual news, the rest…not so much.”  Page author jh’s self-description: “I’m part Tina Fey, part Jon Stewart, part Irish, and a tiny part Dutch, from my mother’s side.”   Seeing as it’s running on this blog, I realize that any recommendation is self-serving, but I think it’s pretty funny.  Hopefully, you might, too.  Thanks for checking it out.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

WI Republicans ARE up for sale

An enormous bombshell hit Madison Republican legislators today, the revelation that one of their own, Rep. Chris Kapenga (R-Delafield) said in a note--not suggested, but said--the reason firefighter and police unions aren't subject to upcoming collective bargaining changes is that "the unions have bought out several people and we can not get it put through." (from Daniel Bice of the Journal Sentinel). That phrase, once again, is "bought out."

Bought.

Out.

When given a chance to clarify his note, Kapenga said he stood by his statement. And it's an incredibly serious accusation.  Kapenga is saying Wisconsin policy-making is, in fact, up for sale.  And that his party is the one that's selling it.

What would be the upside for the Republicans? Walker's initial excuse for excluding police and firefighter unions was supposedly to ensure public safety.  But could it be payback for endorsements from Milwaukee's powerful police and firefighter unions (two of the few that backed Walker's gubernatorial bid)?  Coincidentally, there have been a couple major isues recently that have benefitted those departments: Senate Republicans seemingly going against their standard line by promoting pay for suspended police officers , and the GOP proposal to end residency requirements for, hmmmm, Milwaukee police and firefighters.

With earlier corporate giveaways--some, such as Walker's JobFundsNow, even too much for staunch Walkerites like Sen. Glenn Grothman (R-West Bend)--it's easy to see how people could believe Wisconsin's policy-making may be up for sale. 

Now, even one of the Republicans' own says it's so.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Sure, it's illegal, but we're WI Republicans!

Another week, another likely illegal proposal from the Republicans.  Now, to add to the indignity of not being able to find work, the Joint Finance Committee endorsed a proposal (in the budget, mind you) to require the unemployed to pee into a cup, so to speak.  If a drug test is failed, or if the individual even refuses to submit to this affront, unemployment benefits could be suspended for a year (JS Online).  A spokesman for the US Labor Department said, "Requiring a person to take a drug test as a condition of eligibility is not related to the 'fact or cause' of a person's unemployment and would raise an issue under federal law."   And, in the same article, the ACLU rep says such testing should only be related to business or health or safety-related issues.

And this is in the same week in which running fake candidates in recall elections may not be illegal, nor are once-GOP-criticized late night meetings  to approve things such as vouchers in Green Bay, and in the week the lock-step conservative Supreme Court may not find open meetings violations illegal

Whew!  That's a busy week.  Even for Republicans.

And it's only Tuesday.

Monday, June 6, 2011

WI Supreme Court: If I were a betting man...

Well, the WI Supreme Court started hearing arguments as to whether or not it should take on the collective bargaining atrocity of Walker and his pals.  And, if they do, hmmmm, which way would they rule?

Not surprisingly,the four conservatives on the bench banded together during the hearing (to be fair, as did the other three justices).  But, surprisingly to me, it doesn't appear they were challenging how the bill was advanced in an illegal meeting, but rather they were challenging Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi's order blocking implementation of the bill as law. Conservative Justice Michael Gableman asked, during what the Journal Sentinel called "aggressive" questioning, if a judge can stop a law from being published, could a judge stop a senator from even introducing a bill?

That just sounds ridiculous, doesn't it?  Wasn't this about the legality of the bill's creation and passage in a violation of the open meetings law?  If the meeting wasn't legal, would anything else matter?

Walker's Deputy Attorney General Kevin St. John actually did address the issue of the open meetings law by basically saying the open meetings law doesn't apply to the Legislature, which was echoed by conservative Justice Patience Roggensack's comments. St. John went on to mention that the Legislature has the right to lock doors, and that even letting in one member of the public would satisfy open meetings requirements.

Either way this falls, it's a scary thing--the Court agreeing with this, or the Legislators in power actually believing what they say about open meetings.  Attorney Lester Pines, who is representing State Senate Minority Leader Mark Miller (D-Madison) says, “I don’t hold the view that the court makes its decisions solely based on ideology.”

I wouldn't bet on it. 

And, at this juncture, I'm not sure it would even matter.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

JS article catalogs Walker's Feb deceit

Words including mistake and firestorm greeted Walker's plan to destroy public-sector unions back in February, and the Governor didn't care.  The deceit of the measure, along with behind-the-scenes info and candid reactions from many in the midst of it, can be found in a riveting article in this morning's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "Budget confrontation rocked the state and beyond" by Bill Glauber, Dave Umhoefer and Lee Bergquist. I just don't understand how Walker backers can't see him for the slimeball that he really is.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Walker planning Sat., June 4, visit to Rock County farm

Walker will appear tomorrow morning at the Rock County Dairy Breakfast at the Daluge farm on Highway G between Janesville and Beloit. Visitors to WEAC's facebook are hoping to provide a "welcoming committee." Non-Walker-related info about the event here.  I can't make it, but give my best to the guv.

UPDATE: SAT. 1PM--if you were at either of Walker's farm visits today (in Iowa or Rock Counties), please leave a comment about what you saw.  THANKS!

WI teachers: Paying union dues IS important

I haven't posted in a week because, due to some family sadness, I couldn't feel the passion.  Our 30 year old niece went into hospice care, and quite frankly, I couldn't see the importance of my little blog compared to that immense sadness.

Today, I got an e-mail from a first-year teacher who logically wondered why teachers should continue paying union dues despite unions having been emasculated by Walker's collective bargaining "law." Without minimizing our family tragedy, I realized that other things do matter, and, if nothing else, I want teachers reading this to understand that continuing to pay union dues is unbelievably vital for the sake of our students, our profession, and our state.

Here's my reply:
I can understand the saving money aspect, especially with all the extra money the Republican legislature is making public workers pay (that no one else has to).  Recouping that $800 is awful tempting.

As a matter of fact, even in our district, there are veteran teachers who are questioning the necessity of paying union dues if the union has such little power.

I guess the biggest thing for me is that the money goes towards lobbying and people who make sure our voice gets heard--both for teachers and for education.  If union payments stop, there's a very good chance the pendulum would never swing back towards us (or even towards the middle) regarding salaries and procedures that have been negotiated fairly between teachers and elected officials over the years, but would very likely continue to swing towards more payments from, and fewer rights for, us.

And it's not just about us and our salaries/benefits, it's about providing a voice for what's in the best interest of student education--Walker has proposed almost a billion dollars in cuts to education, and has increased programs to diminish the institution of public schools (including increasing the voucher system, no limits on the amount of kids in computer "virtual" schools, not using the same tests every public school and teacher will be judged on, not even requiring teacher certification in charter schools).  Without a continued and unified presence, education--and the teaching profession--will be severely limited in the future.  To be honest, in my opinion, salaries and benefits will continue to slide, because they will be allowed to slide--as will things such as "specials" and extra-curriculars--and our kids (not just us) will be in a lot worse shape because of it. So, even if unions are severely crippled because of Walker's plan, again, in my opinion, it really is important to keep the unions intact, and that pro-education voices continue to be heard in Madison and in the nation (and in our community).


But my thoughts are still elsewhere.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Scraps from Master Walker's table

While corporations feast at his taxpayer buffet, Walker and his pals have agreed to give back to education roughly a scant $100 million of his originally proposed $842 million in cuts over the next two years.  For those keeping score at home, that's a paltry 12%, despite an extra unexpected $636 million now forcast from increased tax revenues over those two years.  Meanwhile, the same Republican-heavy budget committee decided to increase road funding by $160 million, including moving $9 from title fees currently going towards the environment to roads.  Using the scraps from the master's table comparison, doesn't starving the animals just make them meaner?

Stay tuned for the recall elections.

When Wisconsin bites back.

Out of touch in Wisconsin

Like many state Republican legislators, I, too, will be pretty much out of touch with Wisconsinites for the next couple days.  I'll be without phone, television, or Internet.  No, it's not Gilligan's Island, so regular posts should resume in a few days.  Meanwhile, remember to check out the "Links Worth Your Time" over to the right (because they are), and the always interesting and informative "Lefty Blogs" below that.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Walker's "shoot-first" decision-making: the gift that keeps on giving

Walker's been out of Milwaukee County for what seems like forever, but his shoot-first, above-the-law actions there could yet cost the county millions in back pay for excessively mandated furlough time.  The Wisconsin Employee Relations Commission found the county negotiated in bad faith with its employee union and its furlough decision now could cost Milwaukee County up to $4.5 million.  The Commission says the county should have upheld a tentative agreement with the union in 2009, but then-County Exec Walker disagreed.   He attempted at the time to also institute a 35-hour work week for county employees to cover what he said was a $14.9 million shortfall--the County Board voted to rescind Walker's order when they declared the deficit was grossly exaggerated by Walker (Walker's number was more than three times the actual $4.5 million projected shortfall).

His arrogant actions have continued as Governor in making decrees that include numerous policies that are facing--or those on which he flipped because of--legal questions: collective bargaining, voter ID, additional furloughs for state prosecutors, to name a few.

Walker's actions follow the credo that it's easier to ask for forgiveness than it is to ask for permission. The only difference being, asking for forgiveness isn't even anywhere on his radar.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Green Wisconsin takes another step back

Wisconsin is open for business, unless that business has something to do with being Earth-friendly, that is.  A new legislative proposal, Assembly Bill 146, would prevent the expiration of ""energy credits" that encourage Wisconsin utilities to develop their own renewable energy.  Instead of focusing efforts on increasing production of renewable energy in Wisconsin, the Senate okayed last week importing electricity from a Canadian dam and counting it toward meeting our state green energy goals. 

Sen. Gaylord Nelson
This, coupled with continued hostility from Republicans towards wind turbines has, as Sen Mark Miller (D-Monona) says, "driven the development of wind energy out of this state..." In response to the state's lack of commitment to green energies, WE Energies has already canceled solar energy programs and there is concern that this bill could make a Madison-area wind farm currently under construction "the last renewable energy project in Wisconsin for years to come." (Thomas Conent of the Journal Sentinel).  Large-scale wind-farms have already been dropped earlier this year and here in the proud home state of environmental visionaries Sen. Gaylord Nelson and Aldo Leopold, land preservation, water pollution standards, and recycling programs have been seriously diminished or destroyed by Walker and his minions.

And, incredibly, it just keeps getting worse--which isn't good for our state, and certainly isn't good for our planet.

Photo of Gaylord Nelson from wilderness.net

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Why did the WI Republican cross the road...?

This sounds like a bad joke, but it's not.  The Milwaukee Common Council voted Tues. to allow residents to keep chickens if and only if the chicken owners get permission from all their neighbors and also pay for a permit.  The Wisconsin Senate Judiciary Committee votes Wed. to recommend that the state allow residents to keep concealed guns without any training or even obtaining a permit of any kind (previous post here).

That means, in the very near future of our state's largest city, it will be more restrictive to keep a chicken than it will be to keep a concealed weapon.

Does that sound right to you?

Monday, May 23, 2011

Hell freezes over! Grothman disses Walker plan

Lucifer's probably strapping on his ice skates right now.  In what seems like an absolutely stunning move, my senator, Sen. Glenn Grothman (R-West Bend), called Governor Walker's "Jobs Funds Now" program "the most dubious giveaway I've seen since I've been in the legislature." (JS Online)

Um, and he's right. Walker's plan (to create jobs, of course), as described by Kathleen Gallagher of the Journal Sentinel, "would provide hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks to insurance companies, while giving control of a $250 million fund to out-of-state financial management companies that would not have to pay back the fund's principal and would keep up to 80% of its profits."  I think that's like giving money to your rich brother in the hopes that he'll give some of it to the other brother that really needs it.

Grothman cited similar failed Republican legislation from 2003 in his testimony to a joint committee last week.  The mere fact Grothman (as conservative and anti-everything as any Wisconsin legislator since possibly Joe McCarthy) was the sole objector out of 26 people testifying, really is amazing.  It's gotten me to thinking one of two things: He's got a hidden reason for doing this, or the guy from over the weekend missed doomsday, but not by much, for surely this has to be one of the seven signs of the apocalypse. But, don't get me wrong, Grothman is still a major d-bag, even if he once-in-a-while rightly criticizes Walker.

When Grothman (who called protesting teachers "slobs)" reinstates education funds, collective bargaining rights, money to too-many-to list programs to help people and not business, and then changes his deplorable views against women, single mothers, and minorities, then he'll deserve real credit.

UPDATE (8:15 PM): In response to some inquiries, Grothman is (unfortunately) not up for recall in this very Republicanized district. My apologies for not mentioning that in the post.
Read more about "Jobs Fund Now" at Democurmudgeon or from any of probably three million bloggers today.


Photo of Gothman from politifact.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

WI: Sat.'s Doomsday passed, other doomsdays loom

The predictions of a May 21 apocalypse have come and gone, but in Wisconsin, we'll see some doomsdays of our own in the coming days.

Wednesday will be doomsday for true democracy.  The Voter ID (suppression) bill, one that will require photo IDs and new residency requirements, will be signed into law that day, a law Walker hails as a measure that "will go a long way to eliminate the threat of voter fraud," despite virtually no evidence that such fraud is even committed. 

Will it stop people from voting?  Ask Senator Taylor of Milwaukee (her impassioned speech is here).  Ask the thousands upon thousands of Wisconsinites (some estimates say 20% of state voters don't currently have the required ID) , especially minorities, the elderly, those in rural areas, and the poor, who don't have photo ID , or won't be able or likely to obtain one (read a previous post here).  Ask my 78 year old mom, who doesn't anticipate renewing her drivers licence in a few years and joked with a stinging bit of truth, "I'll have to make sure I get my photo ID, though, so I can vote."  Or talk to my disabled and virtually housebound friend if he's even going to be able to stand in line at the DMV to get his.

Doomsday comes Monday for the integrity of state agencies.  Walker will be signing into law a vast increase in the powers of Governor (which Democrats called a power grab), in which the Governor can make rules for state agencies.  The law will strip such powers from agencies including the Department of Public Instruction and the state Department of Justice, which will, among other things, reduce the effectiveness of the Government Accountability Board (which oversees government ethics and elections).  Elected State Superintendent of Schools Tony Evers wonders if it's even Constitutional (to which I'm certain Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) would state, as he's had to do to a plethora of recent underhanded Republican actions, that it is).

And doomsday for statewide safe drinking water will be Monday, too, when Walker officially repeals the requirement that communities disinfect their drinking water (although most still will).  Despite evidence showing the desirability of such a requirement, Rep. Eric Severson (R-Star Prairie) asked "Why don't you want these communities to make their own choice on this?"

So maybe doomsday wasn't Saturday, May 21.  For a lot of things in Wisconsin, the doomsday prediction wasn't far off.

And, unfortunately, there looks to be a lot more of them in our near future.

Walker photo from minnpost

Friday, May 20, 2011

WI Court recount over, Prosser wins: What now?

The "Immaculate Election" is complete. With the recount now over for the Supreme Court race, it appears David Prosser retains his seat over off-the-charts-underdog JoAnne Kloppenburg whose 200-vote, April 5, election-day victory miraculously turned into a 7,316-vote deficit because one-time Prosser aide and current Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus forgot--she forgot!--to count some 14,000 votes from heavily Republicanized Brookfield in Waukesha County (previous post here).  And, amazingly, it just happened to benefit Prosser, the candidate in this non-partisan post that the Walker administration brazenly said would best help advance its agenda.

Although Kloppenburg gained only 306 votes during the recount, the far greater impact was that of restoring faith in the state's election system and its officials.  Kloppenburg said in her statement at the time of the recount request, "We must restore trust and confidence in the integrity of this and future elections."

So, what happens now?  Does Kloppenburg go to court to challenge the recount?  Her camp isn't saying.  Blogger Cieran (writng at the Daily Kos), however, tracked nearly 5,000 votes that were suspicious due to things such as improperly sealed or registered ballot bags, so it appears there could at least be a possibility of some tainted ballots.  In the Journal Sentinel, however, former Supreme Court Justice Janine Geske implied that kind of challenge would be a very tough battle.

If, on the other hand, there is evidence of something more sinister, shall we say, either behind the handling of ballots by Nickolaus or courtesy of some other improprieties, things could get interesting.

To be honest, though, even without a smoking cannon here, the more this stays in the headlines, the more energized the anti-Walker base will be as recall elections come this July. And if this lasts beyond August 1 (when the next Justice term is slated to start), there will be a vacant seat if the collective bargaining bill then comes before the Court, which could lead to a 3-3 tie, in which case, the Journal Sentinel reports, "a lower court might have the last word."

The recount may be over, but the excitement may have just begun.

Photo of Kloppenburg from timesunion.com

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Sen. Taylor's incredible speech on WI's voter ID/suppression bill

Senator Lena Taylor (D-Milw) gave a speech for the ages on the Senate floor today regarding that which the Republicans passed as Voter ID.  Taylor hearkened back to Wisconsin laws barring voting supression as far back as 1849, and her very emphatic points include a passion and a real grasp for the truth behind this heinous Republican bill: to disinfranchise voters, especially minorities and the poor  (read an earlier post here). 

Republicans set an unbelievable and unconscionable one-hour limit for debate on the issue.   They were also met with cries from the public of "Shame! Shame! Shame!" as they left the chamber, something, quite sadly,  they must be getting incredibly used to by now.  Eight Democrats refused to vote, and that bastion of democracy, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau), reassured the people of Wisconsin that he was "confident the photo ID requirement was constitutional," something he, too, has gotten incredibly used to saying as of late in defending the underhanded politcs of his party (check out today's proceedings in the full  JS Online article by Patrick Marley).

And many thanks to Stacy B. who tipped me off on "another mind-blowing speech by Lena Taylor."

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

WI GOP moves: Change of heart, calculated, or scared?

Are state GOP "breaks" with parts of Walker's agenda the result of a change of heart and ideology (a break from the wealthy rule of plutocracy), or are they a calculated move (ask for a whole lot more, so merely a lot more doesn't seem so bad), or are such moves a response because Republicans are scared from the real threat of losing recall elections?

An unexpected $636 million windfall from tax revenue has helped shed more light on the true motives of the GOP.

We can rule out the first, it's no change of heart--the entire Republican legislature sided with Walker with no reservations for virtually the last few months.  Given the chance to use the $636 million to reduce the cuts, Walker and his legislators immediately said (and I'm paraphrasing here), "Not gonna happen."

How about the second option? Remember not too long ago when oil companies jacked gas prices way past $3, so all of the sudden, $2.50 didn't seem so bad?  Maybe Walker asked for these cuts (such as SeniorCare, BadgerCare, education, recycling, farmland preservation, local governments, mass transit, for example), so when he'd have his loyal legislative minions request some restorations, they assumed people would say, "Thank goodness they restored that...Maybe they're not so bad, after all, those Republicans, hey?"

But it's obviously disingenuous.

The Walker regime can pass--and has shown it will pass--whatever law it wants, no matter what the public says (witness 100,000 people protesting at the capitol against "budget repair," and the illegal--or at least unethical--way it was pushed through the Assembly).  Walker and his pals have shown time and again they don't give a crap about anything except appeasing big business and dismantling the Democrat base (witness Voter ID  and union-busting).

So, that leaves us with door number three.  Successful recall elections are a very real possibility--ones that could turn the Senate and eventually turn out the Governor.  So, now, out of nowhere, Republicans say the $636 million should be used to reduce some cuts, even in--you've gotta be kidding me--education, the institution they've virtually accused of sucking the state taxpayers dry (witness Fond du Lac's recall-bound Senator Randy Hopper now pleading for restoring education funds).  Somewhere, one of the Republican think tank (a very shallow tank, to be sure) said, "Um, you know what?  If we all get voted out of office, those dirty scheming Democrats are going to cheat by trying to change the rules we set up.  Maybe we should throw them a bone to get them off our tails." 

And that bone right now is in the form of SeniorCare and recycling, among others.  Although I am very happy these cuts look as though they will be reduced, I, for one, (and now one of a not-so-silent majority) am going to do whatever I can to make sure we stay on their tails until democracy, and not plutocracy, once again governs our state.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Finally! Wisconsin gets some positive coverage in national media

Don Gorske of Fond du Lac was celebrated because tonight he ate his 25,000th Big Mac! The first day for his obsession was also May 17--in 1972--when he ate nine of the double decker burgers.  Now, maybe finally we can get Scott Walker and the Republicans off the front page. 
Thanks to the AP article in the Washington Post and to the FdL Reporter.  Photo at right is of Gorske's 18,000th Big Mac, from an unknown few years ago.

Brief Newt in WI update: still on for Wed.

Former Speaker and current presidential candidate Newt Gingrich is still slated to host an "open house" near LaCrosse tomorrow night (Wed.) at 6:30 PM, according to a spokesperson this evening from Drugan's Castle Mound Country Club in Holmen , where Gingrich will appear in the "Grand Norway Area."  The event is open to the public, and while it appears there will be no speech, there will likely be opportunity to meet and greet the former Speaker.  Oh, it will also include a cash bar and appetizers (although it was unclear whether or not the appetizers will be free--most likely with public workers having to pay their fair share).

Gingrich is in the midst of a primarily Iowa campaign swing, during which, according to the Des Moines Register, he's "targeting "Obamacare" and promising to eliminate or reduce taxes, mostly for businesses"  (that's a surprise, right?). It's thought that Gingrich has to also assuage conservative angst on character issues which arose primarily from his own marital infidelity  (with eventual current third wife Callista) as he railed about then-President Clinton's infidelity with a White House intern.

Tonight (Tues.), Gingrich is in Minneapolis as the main speaker at a $100+ plate dinner for the conservative Minnesota Family Council.

Wednesday's event in Holmen is about 20 minutes north of LaCrosse, at Drugan's, a site that has hosted Gingrich events before, with owners Mike and Mary Drugan having known for many years Gingrich's current wife Callista, who grew up in nearby Whitehall.

If you go, give my best to the Newtster.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Walker brings the Fonz on board


 Governor Walker has come up big in his pledge to boost the state's tourism industry.  His Department's new "Picture the Fun" tourism campaign travels back to the '50's with the announcement that Wisconsin tourism has brought aboard "The Fonz" actor Henry Winkler from the 1970's TV sitcom "Happy Days" in a 2011 ad to promote the state.  I think it's possible Walker thinks he's Fonzie--viewed as cool and able to solve everyone's problems. Comparing Walker to the bronze Fonz in downtown Milwaukee, it's hard to tell whose head is harder.




Photo of Walker on a Harley from http://www.flickr.com/photos/theaudioslave/

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Republicans screw WI's teachers yet again

I'm a teacher, and I'm pissed off.  Wisconsin Republicans are going directly after my profession again, and they don't seem to realize (or care) that their moves directly impact kids.  The stripping of collective bargaining, overnight mandatory pension and health "contributions," insults, and almost $1 billion in cuts to WI's education aren't enough, now teachers are going to be disciplined on how their students perform on a one-shot standardized test. 

This is part of the state's proposed new education "reform," which also includes increased charter schools (which haven't been proven to be more effective)--with lax teacher requirements, no income restrictions for participating families, no caps on participation, and not the same required standardized tests as public schools. (Click here for a great article about such detriments and corporate connections).

So, why is this a bad idea? Let me count the ways. Standardized tests aren't really accurate measures of what all kids have learned. Some kids don't do well on one-shot paper-pencil tests.  Some students excel in areas not fully covered by testing (I've got a student who will be the next Stephen King, but his creative writing is never so assessed). Some kids are at a disadvantage because they haven't had the same experiences or backgrounds (I'm required to give an elemenrtary assessment that includes canoes--which if a kid doesn't know that word, they have a problem). 

Kids--just like adults--also have bad days. Imagine if all jobs were dependent on how your production was on a particular day--nevermind that you just had some problem with your family, or the neighbor's party kept you up all night, or you have a touch of the stomach flu.  Your performance on this particular day is the one that counts, And then imagine your boss got paid or judged on your performance for that day alone.  If the state government had that requirement, in light of the nine looming Senate recalls, Walker wouldn't be drawing a salary.

Some years, some groups of kids learn better than others. If I was judged on the smart, enthusiastic kids I have this year, I'd be rich, I guess.  If I was judged on the performances of an unmotivated, not-as-academically-bright class from a few years ago--a class with which I had to work even harder--I'd now be unemployed.  And that same group, sadly, has had difficulties throughout their school careers, despite the best efforts of some very good and dedicated teachers.

And just for argument's sake, how do you judge a class on a standardized test?  Do you give the blame to the current teacher, or the previous teacher?  The one before that?  The "inadequate" experience they had in Kindergarten?  And how about the fact that not even all grades have standardized testing?  Which, by the way, some non-public schools won't even be required to do the state standardized test ever.

And how does this affect students? 

If the impetus behind this is eliminating bad teaching and removing bad teachers, this process will do exactly the opposite.  In lieu of creative thinking and problem solving, students may very well spend their time getting ready for this paper and pencil test.  Bad teachers will look good.  Bad teaching will look good.  Test scores will look good.  But the kids will be much worse off.

Instead, reform the teacher evaluation processes, provide resources for schools, don't tie the hands of public schools by paying students to go elsewhere.  Give a better chance for students--and teachers--to be successful.

And make those changes in an inclusive way--don't just have corporate interests, or those fearful of getting axed by the Walker administration, on such a panel.  This isn't a slam against college drop-outs, but I don't want one in charge of running our educational system--just as I wouldn't want the guy who didn't finish med school doing my heart surgery.

Whew.  Thanks for letting me get that all off my chest.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Newt's Wednesday Wisconsin visit could be fun

Bigtime Walker-backer Newt Gingrich, one week removed from officially announcing his Presidential candidacy, is coming to newly hostile territory in Holmen this Wednesday at 6:30 PM.  The La Crosse Tribune reports the former House Speaker will be visiting Drugan's Castle Mound Country Club in Holmen, about 20 minutes north of La Crosse, near the hometown of Gingrich's third and current wife, Callista.  And I can't imagine the visit will go unnoticed--by the media, or by anti-Walkerites near Holmen.

Gingrich called for Americans to "help" Walker  in February, describing the Madison protests as "a campaign of intimidation and cowardice, (in which) the government employee union bosses and the Democratic Party that is beholden to them, are trying to thwart the will of the people." 

We'll see what the "will of the people" really is.

La Crosse is ground zero for the recall effort.  Current district Republican Senator Dan Kapanke is very vulnerable (he won his 2008 by a scant 2%).  The area's 94th District Assembly seat was recently won by Democrat Steve Doyle, an upset considering it had been held by Walker crony Mike Huebsch from 1995 until earlier this year when Walker appointed him to be his Secretary of Administration, the right-hand-man post in which Huebsch was the chief author of the anti-collective bargaining bill.

Clearly, the will of the people has changed, Newt.  I can only imagine that if people stood outside Walker's Wauwatosa home in February, greeted Paul Ryan with jeers at town meetings, and even came out to join Walker when he went fishing, for goodness sakes, it's likely you're going to get a front-row seat to that change come Wednesday evening.

Have a nice visit.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Voter ID: Republicans 1, Democracy 0

Couched in the guise of preventing "rampant" voter fraud, Wisconsin's Republican Assembly approved the voter ID bill late Wednesday night, making it just an inevitable skip through the Senate and on to Walker to bring this further attempt at Republican-fueled, apparent world-domination into law.

It's not necessary and it's not a good idea for the voters of the state.  Republicans know this.  This is a calculated move to make a variety of voters--college students, the elderly, minorities, heck, anyone most likely to vote Democrat--less likely to vote.  According to research presented to the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board earlier this year, "ethnic and racial minorities, high school and college students, senior citizens and disabled, women, and those with low incomes" are more likely not to possess state-issued, photo identification.

A UWM study from 2005 found about 23% of those Wisconsin residents age 65 and older, don't have a state photo ID (177,399 people).  Nor do approximately 100,000 Wisconsinites from age 34-65.  That's a lot of people left out in the cold.

College students could use a college ID, if it had their current address on it, which no UW system school presently provides.

When you bring minorities into the equation, voter ID seems downright racist.  According to the same UWM study, Milwaukee County had only 47% of African American adults and 43% of Hispanic adults with valid drivers' licenses.  The rest of the state came in at 85%.

Even in Indiana, where folks claim voter ID is working, those without ID are more likely to be Democrats that Republicans due to accessibility, familiarity and comfort with bureaucratic red tape, fewer resources, and less knowledge of political processes.

And the fraud won't even be prevented.  It's thought that such a measure would prevent people from voting as someone else, but not one of the 20 voter fraud cases from Milwaukee County in 2008 were even of that variety.

Oh, yeah, and it'll cost in the vicinity of five million dollars, likely with additional costs per year.

So what does it sound like: a really necessary idea advanced for the good of the people, or more of the same self-serving legislation advanced for the good of the Republicans?

As echoed through the Assembly chamber to protest this bill on Wednesday afternoon, "Shame, shame, shame!"

For a visual take on this deplorable issue check out this Phil Hands cartoon of the Wisconsin State Journal.

Pardon the interruption...

Blogger was down for a day.  Regular posts should resume shortly...

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

One recall in the Hopper

It's official. The recall signatures are valid. Senator Randy Hopper (R-Fond du Lac) better start updating his resume.  Although several GOP State Senators are vulnerable in upcoming recall elections (i.e., Alberta Darling of River Hills, who won by only two percentage points in 2008, and Dan Kapanke of La Crosse, where part of his district recently toppled the longtime tradition of Republicans in the Assembly), none seems nearly as ripe for the picking as does Hopper.

Hopper won his 2008 seat in a virtual dead heat with Democrat Jessica King of Oshkosh (a 180 vote difference out of more than 80,000 cast), who will face him in the recall election.  Recall petitions gathered more than 150% of the signatures needed to bring the election (more than 23,000), tentatively slated for July 12. 

And Hopper's personal problems likely won't help him either.  Last year, Hopper's wife issued a public statement to Milwaukee's WTMJ that declared her husband of 25 years had moved out and was having an affair with a Republican aide.  What makes it even more interesting is that the aide, Valerie Cass, was given a job in the Walker administration,  a hiring the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Daniel Bice reports may have been less than transparent.  For good measure, there were even unsubstantiated reports that Hopper's wife had signed one of the recall petitions.

And so it begins.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Concealed guns for everyone!

Republicans are about to turn back the clock--to 1872, the last time it was lawful to carry concealed weapons in the state (great background here).  That means the stressed guy in the next cubicle, the angry road-rage hothead you just accidentally cut off in traffic, the drunk who's picking fights in the bar could all be packing heat.

And it gets better.  A current Republican-sponsored bill would require no permits, no background checks, and no training. (JS Online article here).  But the bill does have the stringent requirements that someone walking around with a loaded handgun in their Jockeys be at least 21 years old, not a felon, and not have been ruled mentally incompetent.  Thank goodness, huh?

I admit I don't know an awful lot about the issue.  My post was late tonight because I was doing some more research on it.  It seems a lot of the pro-concealed carry argument comes from the seminal Lott-Mustard study of 1997 showing that concealed carry correlates with lowered crime (because, as Lott says, "criminals are uncertain which potential victims can defend themselves").  However, there are studies reviewing the same statistics and coming to the conclusion that concealed carry actually increases crime (one example study here).  Unfortunately, I couldn't find any reputable studies from the last ten years that backed either side. 

To be sure, Wisconsin is one of only two states (along with Illinois) that does not allow concealed carry.  And even Senator Russ Feingold backed a Republican-sponsored proposal in 2009 that would have allowed concealed carry into Wisconsin if it was legal in someone's home state.

But that doesn't make it right.

And they figured that out already back in the days of Billy the Kid..

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day from Governor Walker

Governor Scott Walker said today he has "great respect for mothers, I really do."  Shortly thereafter, he announced that today mothers will have to contribute 50% of their brunch costs saying, "It's time mothers pay their fair share."  Walker went on to remark, "It gives kids the tools to balance their budgets" and that "Most mothers would be happy to get this kind of deal."  Walker also promoted his "Mother Recognition Program" to acknowledge the fine work they do in working with the children of our state.  It's a program, as Walker stated, designed to "highlight the most outstanding mothers with public recognition."

Friday, May 6, 2011

Republicrap: Turds from the Capitol

Just a fun, few days from the Republicans have provided a steaming pile of news. 

1. After preaching how important law enforcement is before and during his election, Walker announced last month he'd impose layoffs to state prosecutors because they wouldn't agree to furlough days.  Walker stayed with that completely contradictory stance, until another took center stage:  he realized that he didn't have the legal authority to do so.  So, today, Walker flipped again and said, "public safety is a top concern of my administration and thousands of Wisconsin families that cannot be disregarded. For this reason, we will ensure that prosecutors are not furloughed and receive the funding necessary to pursue justice."  Now, please understand, yesterday this wasn't important at all.

2. Wisconsin's own Reince Priebus, the Republican National Chairman says the Wisconsin vote in 2010 was, indeed, a mandate to act.  That's a mandate in a governor's race in which a three percent swing would have swung the election the other way.  In Milwaukee in 2008, the people of the city voted for a "sick leave" ordinance , 69%-31%.  That seems like a mandate.  When the ordinance even passed a court of appeals, that's when Walker and his pals went to work.  Igonoring this mandate, Republicans passed a bill which Walker signed into law to make such local ordinances illegal (because Walker said it would be bad for businesses).  Milwaukee Democratic Rep. Christine Sinicki called it "a slap in the face to the people of the City of Milwaukee."  If you're scoring at home, a 5+% gubernatorial victory is a mandate to do whatever you want if you're a Madison Republican, while a 38% margin, legally upheld victory on a local ordinance can just be made illegal if it doesn't fit in with the Republican agenda.

3. My personal favorite: As you no doubt know by now, Governor Walker--after eliminating collective bargaining and passing legislation to purposely break public unions; after his legislators called public workers all sorts of nasty names including slobs, thugs, and greedy; after mandating wage cuts of around 8% only to some public workers (with no discussion, by the way), a package he implies his bartender brother would love to have--has just announced a program to recognize outstanding state employees. As Journal Sentinel columnist Jim Stingl writes, "Wow, this could be one awkward awards ceremony."

News from the last few days also includes the serious charges of fraud in recall petitions, fast-tracking open-pit mining in ecologically fragile areas (original post from Uppity Wisconsin), and a guilty plea for illegal campaign contributions from a Walker backer who amazingly says he didn't realize he did anything wrong, even though he also made illegal contributions to Walker's campaign in 2005!

I thought the aroma I smelled was the result of the springtime fields of nearby farmers. 

I guess I was mistaken.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Lies and more lies: Recall Petitions against Dems fraudulently obtained?

Democrats have challenged recall petitions filed against three Democratic State Senators due to widespread allegations of fraud.  Senate Minority Leader Mark Miller (D-Monona), in a press release today (and reported by Tim Tolan in JS Online), said that the collection of signatures to recall Sens. Dave Hansen of Green Bay, Robert Wirch of Pleasant Prairie and Jim Holperin of Conover, "shows a pervasive pattern of election fraud committed by the shady out-of-state organization hired by Republicans to collect recall petitions."

CLICK HERE TO WATCH SEN. MILLER'S PRESS CONFERENCE

Republicans farmed out signature collection to Kennedy Enterprises of Colorado, some of whose employees reportedly used measures to collect signatures that included hiding the true purpose of the petition, and even spouted outright lies (according to the Daily Kos, lies such as circulating petitions among Indian peoples claiming they were for "tribal rights").   Some signers that had been named outright denied ever even signing such a petition (Wisconsin State Journal).

And this isn't just a couple of signatures, or the deceased father of a Democratic Representative (as was found to be the case on a Wirch recall petition earlier this week), reportedly thousands of signatures appear to have been obtained in this manner.  The Daily Kos has specifics of many of the charges, which, to be honest, are numerous and, in some cases, astounding.

Get ready for the desperate spin from the right that Democrats signed the petitions fraudulently to discredit the recall efforts.  But what makes more sense--that a mercenary company whose employees reportedly got paid per signature did whatever it could to obtain as many signatures as possible (with no real concern or connection to the voters or issues in this state) or that the Democrats flew way below the radar, filing incredible numbers of false signatures without allowing enough true signatures to be collected alongside them?

Let's just say, based on their recent track record regarding lies and deception within our state, I'm not betting on the Republicans to come out on top.